The Life List: Condensing your Story for Sharing 

I could write a memoir of my life story so far. Problem is, who would read it? I’m not famous. I’m socially awkward and wouldn’t know the first thing about sales or promotion. I know though, that I’ve got a story to tell. 

I know because I have a belief in the divine. The things you return to time and time again, like writing, are not coincidental. We return to our purpose. Writing gives my life a pulse, and puts my heart out there into the world. 

Without further ado, I present to you my life story in a list. The “life list” is easy to read, yet powerful. It is minimal but effective. Check it out and consider sharing yours….you never know who it might inspire, touch, or encourage. After all, the greatest commandment is to love one another…even if it means making yourself completely vulnerable. 

I’ve survived:

An absent (addicted/alcoholic) father

Sexual abuse 

Teenage pregnancy and miscarriage 

Opiod addiction 

Ecstasy addiction

Depression

Anxiety

War (I was in OIF1)

PTSD

Emotional abuse

Alcoholism

Rage and anger issues 

Being physically aggressive 

Suicidal ideation 

Marriage separation 

Grieving a parents death

Social anxiety 

I’ve survived because of:

Jesus

God 

Purpose and calling 

Protection 

Celebrate Recovery

Alanon

AA

Friends

Family

Sponsors

Accountability partners

Battle buddies 

My daughters

My husband

Marriage therapy

Counseling

Psychiatry 

Medications

Coping skills

Stamina

Self will

Stubbornness

Resiliency 

Most importantly…I’ve survived because of the love of others and the father

Consider sharing your “life list” below in the comments. 

Stay sober my friends,

Rachel 

Triggered: When music takes you back to the dark times.

The news of Chester Bennington’s death hit me hard. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t write about it until now. I realize what happened inside me when I heard the news, but it didn’t come to fruition until I found myself in my doctor’s office.

Rockstars often go before their time, it really shouldn’t shock anyone anymore. But it still does. Often times, it shocks us because we connect with their music on an emotional level. Sometimes musicians are the only ones with the words or rhythms that describe the mess that’s going on our heads. This connection leads us to bond with those we never even met.

“Do you know what may have triggered your Anxiety/PTSD?” She asked, with genuine care and concern in her voice. My eyes filled with tears. I tried to fight it but it was out of my control. My heart knows what triggered me. “It’s stupid” was all I could mutter. “It’s really, really stupid” I said again. The room was now a blur, my vision was compromised by tears. I felt alone, vulnerable, and helpless. I took control again, and told the doc, “There’s this lead singer of a band. He killed himself. Since then I’ve listened to the music and it took me back to some of the darkest days of my life, and I’ve had a hard time bringing myself back. That’s why I’m here.” She turned back to her computer and began typing a prescription, but only after expressing empathy for all I’ve been through (please don’t judge, my meds are not narcotics and prescription meds are an entirely different article) .

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The news of Chester Bennington’s death hit me hard. It hit me so hard that I couldn’t write about it until now. I realize what happened inside me when I heard the news, but it didn’t come to fruition until I found myself in my doctor’s office. I was desperately seeking relief from anxiety and PTSD symptoms that were triggered by listening to the music created by Linkin Park. The music took me back to two periods of my life that I’ve worked really hard to overcome.

I listened to the first album by Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory, while I was in the midst of drug addiction. I had a miscarriage my senior year of high school. I abused the Vicodin prescribed to me to deal with the emotional pain and trauma I experienced from the miscarriage and social rejection/isolation. I listened to this album on repeat for what felt like months, while I was secretly snorting pills in my room. Listening to the music reminds me of the tingle in my spine from the Vicodin that I loved so dearly at the time. Hence, the trigger.

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The second album carried me through a portion of my deployment to Iraq. I was now in the Army as a Military Policewoman (oh the irony), and I was “outside the wire” in a war zone on constant missions with the infantry and scouts. Meteora was what I played on repeat this time. I was clean, sober of course, but struggling with the realities of war. Not only was I struggling with seeing humankind at it’s worst, I had a husband there with me experiencing the same thing. Hearing these songs after the breaking news of Chester Bennington’s suicide triggered my PTSD.

Here’s the good news though. I truly believe we are forged by the fire. The fire of these triggers will not consume me like they have consumed so many. While Chester Bennington’s suicide remains a tragedy, it’s a wake up call for those in recovery. Smooth sailing will never last. Triggers will happen and we must face them instead of turning away, which only leads to depression or relapse. Then the depression and relapse leads to suicidal ideation. See the cycle?

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Music is a powerful tool. It can heal, if you let it. It can also trigger repressed memories, situations, and emotions. The musical trigger is often a surprise. Part of a good recovery plan is dealing with those triggers as they come. I have someone in my life who could see I was struggling and encouraged me to get the help needed to get out of the dip, and keep moving forward. A good accountability partner or sponsor can help you recover from triggers too. The key, is to know thyself, and to reach out. I guarantee there’s someone there to listen, even if it’s just me.

I do believe Chester’s soul is resting in peace, and I continue to pray for his family and fans. Tragedy always has the possibility to turn to triumph, this is where hope is born. The triumph in this case is not his life decisions of course, but the impact he has had on his listeners who are in recovery. I hope his death allows those in recovery such as myself, to identify triggers and heal.

In the words of Bono, “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

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“The Talk” with my Tween: How my Teenage Pregnancy went from Tragedy to Triumph 

Once upon a time I was a pregnant teen. I didn’t know it then, but my path to self destruction had only just begun. It wasn’t until I found recovery that I came to terms with the loss and suffering I endured as a result of my poor decision making. Read about how I turned that tragedy to triumph and used it to help me explain the birds and the bees to my own daughter.

The sun was shining through the tall oak trees, the grass tickled our bare feet. My 12-year-old and I had just settled under a tree. The weather was impeccable, warm with a slight breeze to cool the balmy spring day. We were watching the little one do her second day of swim class. I was reflecting on the nerve-wracking tryout, and the many years of swim classes it took to get us here. I was feeling pretty darn proud as a mother. I was so grateful for this opportunity to teach my little 8-year-old that hard work, natural talent, and dedication pay off in opportunities like this one.

Suddenly, my perfect little mommy world stopped spinning, and what came next was a thunderstorm of emotions. My perfectly satisfied mommy moment was interrupted by my 12-year-old girl mouthing the words, “so, there’s this boy.” I was instantly spinning in a vortex of racing, panicky thoughts. This girl has never been boy crazy. As a matter of fact, she never even liked a boy singer until this year. Oh crap. This is it, this is the moment where I have to explain love and lust and everything in between. What do I say? What do I hold back? Where do I go from here?

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She went on to tell me about how there’s a boy she likes and they’ve been hanging out at school since the beginning of the school year. “He’s really cool” she tells me with confidence. Apparently the boy plays soccer and shoots guns (please don’t go all liberal on me, we’re from Texas and yes, it’s a sport) and they have “so much in common.” Then she asked it. “I was wondering if we could go out.” Ugh. My heart sank as I realized I was about to become the enemy instead of the mom friend she was looking for. “Well….” I replied. “First off, I don’t make any decisions without talking to your father first, you know that.” The look in her big ole’ round eyes told me she was almost regretting telling me. I followed up by asking her what it means to “go out.”

She was actually tickled by the question. She told me she really doesn’t even know what “going out” means, but she feels that’s what you’re supposed to do when you like a boy. I asked her what the boy thinks “going out” means. She couldn’t answer that either. I told her to him, it might mean holding hands and kissing, while to her it might mean talking and hanging out after school. She then understood the importance of defining it before committing to it. I also reminded her that her parents are crazy old combat vets, and fully capable of taking care of any boy who hurts her. I felt good about it. I felt like I handled it well. Deep down, I knew it was time.

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What I wasn’t expecting to follow-up with was the conversation about the birds and the bees. She went to a sleepover that next weekend. Her and her friends went for snow cones, and the boy was there. Then they hung out at the lake. My immediate vision was her embraced in the water in his arms, being young, in love, and carefree. I had to talk myself back to reality. She’s 12, not 16. She’s not the girl I was. She would never do that. She’s not interested in that. Is she? I realized now I had to have “the talk” and I was completely overwhelmed once again. I was overwhelmed because once upon a time I was a pregnant teenager.

It was after I tucked the little one into bed that night, and kissed her sweet innocent little cheek, that I realized I had to have the talk with my tween…like right now, it can’t wait. I knew it was time to tell her about my teenage pregnancy, and the baby I lost to miscarriage. I knew this moment was inevitable, and I knew the situation would be used for good someday (as God promised). Part of my recovery has been making peace with the past, a past that involved a teenage pregnancy my senior year in high school. My teen pregnancy was a consequence of drug and alcohol use, and bad decisions with bad guys. Ugh. I still shudder at the thought of it. It’s only by the grace of god, that girl I used to be is a foreign stranger I don’t know anymore.

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Then the words just fell out of my mouth. I told her I was pregnant in high school and that I lost the baby to miscarriage. She was shocked. She followed with all kinds of questions, “If you had the baby how old would it be now?” “Would you have joined the Army?” and followed with “Wow, you wouldn’t have had me because you wouldn’t have known dad if you still had that baby!” She figured out the consequences of my poor decision before I had to explain it. I did tell her that I made a terrible decision, that it nearly cost me my high school diploma, and it cost me my reputation and cost me a lot of friends along the way. I told her how humiliating it was to have to leave school pregnant, then go back without a baby, all the while rumors flew all over the small town.

I told her that tell her I know more than she does, not because I’m an adult, but because I have really been there. I told her she could trust me and I trust her to come to me with these feelings. I didn’t tell her I was already in alternative ed. for skipping school before I ended up pregnant. I didn’t tell her about the opioid addiction, or the ecstasy addiction that resulted from the pain of losing a child at a young age. I didn’t  tell her about being an alcoholic. All these things are left for future conversations when the time is right. My story isn’t over, it had only just begun.

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The moral of the story is this, if I hadn’t found recovery when I did, I wouldn’t have been able to use my story for good. When you’re in the middle of an inventory or amends step, God’s timing sucks. It isn’t fast enough, and it takes entirely too long. You have to remember, on the other side of that inventory and amends, the pain you endured will be used for the good of others. No matter how grisly the truth is, no matter how difficult the forgiveness process is, no matter how deep or intense the grief is, God is there, and his timing is perfect (though never convenient).

After this conversation with my daughter, I realize that instead of walking in shame and anger over my past mistakes, I walk in wisdom and freedom. I walk with a sense of wisdom and freedom that the next generation can learn from. They don’t have to make the same mistakes I made. The chains have been broken, just as God promised.

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Through sobriety and recovery, my daughter gets to witness God’s redemption from my sinful past. Recovery has also remade the little girl inside me, and she blossoms each time I share my story. How cool is that?

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Stay sober my friends.

-Rachel

 

That Day I Cussed God Out….and he Healed My Father Wound.

Today I write about the father wound. It’s a wound all too familiar for many people. The father wound has always existed in humankind. It’s nothing new. It exists because mankind is fallen. We are all far from grace. We all make mistakes in parenting. It goes way back to Adam and his decision that “knowledge” was more important than his father’s warnings. Adam’s son Cain was so upset by the rejection of his offering to his heavenly father God that he killed his brother. And the cycle of father wounds continued all the way to the present generation.

Let me tell you about my father wound. This wound ran so deep in my heart and soul it was part of my identity for decades. It was a wound that couldn’t be cured by running away. It couldn’t be cured by sleeping around for men’s attention. It couldn’t be cured by drugs or alcohol. It couldn’t be cured through co-dependence. It couldn’t be cured through isolation and depression. It couldn’t be cured by the obsessive striving for success. It couldn’t be cured by the becoming a control freak. It couldn’t be cured through anger and anxiety. It couldn’t even be cured through therapy and medication alone (though they were helpful). No. What it took was a relationship with my heavenly father to cure the broken relationship I never had with my earthly father.

Let me explain. My parents divorced when I was 5. My father had been abusive and controlling of my mother. We went to a safe home after we left for a while. I was confused and didn’t know how to share my feelings, so I stuffed them. I swallowed my feelings and went through the motions for the sake of others. This was a pattern I would continue until it nearly destroyed me as an adult. I was confused because I wanted to love the man we were leaving, I missed him. He was broken, but I missed him. He wasn’t involved after we left. He had one chance for visitation and he messed it up. There was one occasion we received gifts for Christmas but I was so rejected that I threw them away. The stage was set, the roles were cast, and I would be given the part of the girl without a father.

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I felt rejected. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt unloved and unwanted. I was young, and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of love. I didn’t attend Sunday school; I didn’t attend church for many years. I didn’t know “God the father” was an option. I began my journey toward God as a father in the chapel of a Catholic church. It was in the silence that he awakened my spirit. It was when I was reading a book full of testimonies from the nuns that work a youth outreach shelter on skid row. The stories of the displaced children resonated with me. I began to ponder, that if God could love these kids making all these bad choices, maybe just maybe, he would love me too. Maybe he was my father after all. Little did I know that this reading on runaway youth would inspire a short-lived runaway journey of my own.

I was in middle school and was desperate to escape. I was convinced I had lived long enough in the streets of Detroit that I would have the “street cred” I would need to survive. Who was I kidding? I was just a crazy little white girl from northern Michigan now. I wanted to go somewhere bigger. My father wound had convinced me I was the biggest reject at school. In my delinquent mind, it was his fault I was binge drinking alcohol in the 6th grade while other kids were doing productive recreational activities. It was his fault I was hooked on cigarettes, not many other 6th graders understand the depth of nicotine withdrawal, so I was isolated. I hung out with the other “rejects” and “loners.” I felt less than, so I became what I thought was less than. I convinced someone else she needed to run with me. I had the accomplice, the plan, the food and supplies, and the journey had begun one afternoon after school. We had taken a path that ran parallel to the highway and walked a full 7 miles. My young feet thought they might just fall off and die. We came across a factory and decided the next thing to do was hitch a ride with a trucker. We could have been murdered and dumped somewhere. But we weren’t. We were picked up by the police and taken to the station after making it to the next town. Our God is a good father, he had plans for our lives, and we were protected on our ignorant journey.

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I spent the next decade trying to earn attention from boys. Once again, I was that little girl, setting myself up for the rejection I felt I deserved. I kept men at an arms distance and kept them emotionally detached. This behavior led me to a teenage pregnancy that defined my relationship with God. I kept the baby but soon miscarried. When I reached all the humiliation and pain I could handle, I then committed the ultimate sin. I told God he gave me a shitty father, and that he himself was a shitty father, and I didn’t need him in my life anymore. I then filled the void with pain killers and club drugs till I found myself in the bottom of a ketamine hole on the bottom a dingy motel floor. It was then that I cried out to him again.

He should have told me to piss off. I certainly deserved it. But that’s not who God the father is. Through sobriety, I learned he is the ultimate father I felt I never had and he was there all along. God is a gentleman, and he will not intrude in your most sinful moments unless you ask him to. I scraped up enough faith to do something with my life. I joined the Army to travel and go to college. I went to war instead. I also met the man of my dreams, the one God designed for me. The costs of war took their toll on our marriage and I was once again begging God to step up and be part of my life again. I had this pattern of using God until something resolves then putting him on the shelf for use at a later time. Long story short, my father God restored my marriage. He did it by introducing me to his son Jesus. What a good father indeed.

When I finally admitted defeat I found myself in a church full of strangers hugging me and welcoming me, as if they had known me forever. I remember thinking to myself, “what a bunch of weirdos.” It was during worship one night, though, that my soul was touched and I finally came undone. I was in a program called Celebrate Recovery. I didn’t know what I was there for. I just knew I was a broken sinner with a dozen different hurts, habits, and hang-ups that needed to be fixed. I thought my marriage was over, I even had a lawyer. Back to that moment of worship. I began to see a vision of the hand of Jesus reaching out to me. He smiled and told me “come along little one.” Here I was, a grown woman, and this guy Jesus was speaking to the broken little girl in me. He knew that underneath every hurt, habit, and hang-up, was the father wound. He knew I wouldn’t be right until that was made right with my creator. I trusted him, he led me to the cross, and I surrendered that wound once and for all. Or so I thought.

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Flash forward a couple of years, and I was back in the middle of an alcohol relapse. My career wasn’t going in the direction God had planned, and my marriage was once again weak. We were living, but not really living. God had been put back on the shelf, even after his son intervened on his behalf. What a wretched sinner I am indeed. I was feeling terrible about my walk with my heavenly father when I got the call. I got the call that my father had passed away. Not only did he pass away, but he passed away 4 months prior. There was no memorial service, no funeral, no body, and no grave. There was nothing. I had to do the research and the medical examiner contributed his death to depression and alcohol dependence. I was numb for a good month. Then the emotions came. Grief was a tidal wave of emotions. I cried more than I ever had in my life for a father I never really had. I made attempts through the years to reconnect, and it never worked. I thought I had time. I was wrong.

I found myself on the floor of my bedroom in the fetal position one night. I was absolutely devastated. I was cussing my dead father out. “You couldn’t even die right, you fucking jerk.” Yeah. I said it, and I didn’t even regret it. What came next was even worse. I cussed at God for leaving me. I cussed at him for disappointing me. I cussed at him for taking him before I got another chance. I told him once and for all, to piss off. I questioned if he was ever there at all. Was it all just a fallacy of my imagination? I was afraid it was all make believe. I felt absolutely abandoned and I considered ending my life. I was once again the worthless little girl, only I was all grown up, and had little girls of my own looking up to me. I begged God to show me his presence. It was more of a challenge than a request really. My daughter knocked on my door to check on me. She entered the room and the thought of death fled. What a selfish, terrible thought to have had. She saw the pain on my face, a pain I could no longer deny, and she held me. Here was my baby girl, comforting her grown mother. It dawned on me suddenly all at once.

She was Jesus in the flesh. I called out to him and he showed up. God sent his son to save his girl, and he did so through this little girl in this moment of surrender. He was showing me that that little girl inside me was capable of healing and helping others. So, that’s what I’m doing with my life. I’m helping others who have had the same walk. My father wound left me with one hell of a scar. I can’t say it’s healed or finished, about the time I do, grief comes in with buckets of tears to remind me I’m not alone. There is a process to healing, it is slow and methodical. It is difficult and it is painful. It is the road less traveled, but it’s a beautiful journey. What happened next was a miracle. My father’s body came back to me in the form of ashes and I planted them into a tree. This tree is now growing on my property. How good is our heavenly father? Only he could make that happen. Only he can take death and create life with it.

I’m obviously not formally educated in theology. I leave that to the professionals. I simply choose to share my story. That’s the structure of the bible anyway, right? It’s a combination of books, of stories, of testimonies that tell of his promises and healing…and to think, it all began with Adam. Check out the Father’s Love Letter below, it has all the biblical reference you need to confirm the love of our father, God. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out. All the healing you could ever want is on the other side of fear.

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