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 

“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

 

I Love Me Some Yoga Pants….But I’ll Never Be a “Wine Mom”

Seems to me everywhere I look I see that some form of Mom happy hour is happening. Wine is the new most popular drink of choice. Maybe it’s because wine is “classy.” Perhaps it’s because wine is stronger than spirits but not as “bad” as hard liquor. Maybe it’s because wine is delicious. The self-indulging of wine at the end of a rough day may be harmless to some. To those of us with alcohol use disorders, it is playing with fire.

I’m just going to say it. Motherhood sucks at times. Sometimes I’m on top of the world and deserve a prize. Other times, I’ve earned nothing more than a participation trophy. On my worst days, I quit. I have literally told my children that I am done being their mother. Not one of my most stellar moments, but I was at my wit’s end. I have two girls, ages 8 and 12. When the premenstrual hurricane blows in every month, the three of us are affected by the barrage of estrogen and hormonal outbursts. Before I was sober, I would grab a “mom drink” at the end such a disastrous day.

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Seems to me everywhere I look I see that some form of Mom happy hour is happening. Wine is the new most popular drink of choice. Maybe it’s because wine is “classy.” Perhaps it’s because wine is stronger than spirits but not as “bad” as hard liquor. Maybe it’s because wine is delicious. I did love me some wine back in the day. My social media is filled with all types of sarcastic memes encouraging Moms to drink as the day goes to shit.

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The self-indulging of wine at the end of a rough day may be harmless to some. To those of us with alcohol use disorders, it is playing with fire. Unfortunately, society still sees the alcoholic as the bum on the street and not the mom next door. Most people don’t realize that you can be an “alcoholic” and not be physically addicted to alcohol.

A lot of people fail to realize people that it is medical personnel that diagnoses alcoholism. Counselors and psychiatrists generally diagnose symptoms of alcoholism as an Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD. The very presence of 2-3 symptoms in a 12 month period can lead to a diagnosis of a mild alcohol use disorder or AUD. Some of these symptoms are as simple as a craving and taking alcohol in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended. Drinking wine to cope with a sucky day of parenting is dangerous for everyone because the behavioral impulse can lead to an AUD, even in mild form.

Drinking as a coping skill just doesn’t work. This isn’t something I learned from a textbook, it’s something I learned from experience. I tried escaping my failing marriage and kids in a bottle on several occasions. It started with one glass of wine or one beer. It ended with me completely intoxicated each time. The very things I was trying to escape were the trigger for my anger while I was intoxicated. I never really “escaped” life while drunk because it just brought the feelings I never processed back to me, 10 fold. Then I became the angry wife and mom.

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There’s nothing glamourous about waking up with regret. There’s nothing glamorous about being told about the awful things you did to your family the night before during a blackout. There were many occasions I could have had my kids taken away from me while I was drinking wine. There were instances in which my husband would be totally justified in leaving me because of my inappropriate behavior while drinking wine.

Fortunately, we found Jesus and I found sobriety in time to save our family. I had struggled with a severe AUD for decades before getting help. I suffered for years in part because I didn’t fit the “alcoholic” definition that society projected. I wish I knew then, what I know now.

I write this with the hopes that some moms who are participating in this “wine-o after the kids are crazy” behavior; that they might consider the fire they are playing with. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of responsible adults out there that do not struggle with an AUD or alcoholism, and if you’re one of them, go on and do your thing. If you’re on the fence about whether the behavior is a problem or not, it probably is.

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So, I say with complete gratitude that I will not be getting off my wagon to indulge in a glass of wine after a crappy day of parenting. I do love some yoga pants, a messy bun, and some good ole’ Target browsing though. I made a promise to my kids to never have wine again, and they come before fitting in. I’ve found that the days that are the suckiest, are the most rewarding if you don’t give into the false lie of escaping into a bottle. Self-care comes in many forms.

On the sucky days of motherhood, sometimes I lock myself in my room for a mommy time out. Don’t knock it till you try it. Sometimes I just need a good long bubble bath with candles. Usually, it’s an adult oriented television show (my faves right now are The Walking Dead, The Americans, and This is Us….) and a dessert that will do the trick. The hardest part is choosing to process the situation with the kids instead of escape it.

I choose to discuss each problem as soon as the storm has passed. Even during the worst meltdowns, a child can throw at me, it’s worth it. Yesterday in my child’s anger I was told I was a horrible mother, and she was going to call the police because I wouldn’t give her the fast food she didn’t deserve. She went on to slew angry slurs at me for a good 30 minutes, in the car where I couldn’t escape. When I pulled into the drive I craved a glass of wine. If I wasn’t an alcoholic I could totally justify having a glass, which only pissed me off more.

The thought quickly faded as I stepped inside and felt the safe haven of my home. Then she finally broke. I heard her praying after we got home, and begging God for a do-over. Shortly after, she came to me and apologized and asked me if I could ever forgive her. “Of course,” I said. “Nothing you do could ever make me love you less, and I’m proud of you for making the right choices.”

The right choices aren’t easy, they’re often the last thing we want, but the rewards are often magnificent.

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