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It Takes a Village to Raise an Addict

I started saying I never wanted children around age fifteen. It’s not that I didn’t like kids, I adored them, and they adored me. I was great with kids and made a great aunt and babysitter. I believed myself to be far too damaged to ever pass that DNA on to an innocent child. This was a lie I carried with me.

I was an addict long before I picked up a drug or drink. I was selfish, self-centered, dishonest, and unhealthy from an early age. I knew I couldn’t stay clean long enough to be any good to myself, let alone a baby.

Thank God I found recovery when I did.

Imagine my surprise when, with 60 days clean, I found out I was pregnant. My fiancé and I were using protection, but on my 30-day clean date (God wink!) we forgot. So, now I am a mommy in recovery. Lies shattered, dream realized. My daughter was born on my 10-month anniversary.

Being a mommy in recovery has been so emotional. Being pregnant and newly clean was really hard on me emotionally. Being sleep deprived and confessing the true nature of all your wrongs is well…interesting. A teething infant at a meeting is an experience. A toddler at a meeting is always a good time. No matter what, with some help with a team of other mommies in recovery, I’m doing it.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes one to raise an addict as well.

Many experienced mommies were happy to lend a hand or shoulder to help me, and I am happy to help other mommies today.

Staying clean does come first, but I can take it further today. By practicing the principles I’ve learned, I can be the best mommy I am capable of being every day and shed the damaged picture I’ve always had of myself.

I’m simply, beautifully flawed.

This post originally appeared in September 2013.

You Are Not Alone

My head wants me dead.

It’s something I live with everyday. There is a battle within me:  a war between my alcoholism and my drive to live a life without something that will kill me slowly, painfully, and without dignity.

There are days when I can’t breathe because I am so overwhelmed with the responsibility that comes with having to fight against a disease that is cunning, baffling, powerful, and patient. Its insidiousness is frightening and quite honestly, I wonder, often, if this is a fight I can win. Then I remember that it’s not just me in this fight.

I am not alone.

Suddenly the disease of addiction loses its power. Every day I have a choice. I can remember that I am not alone, or let this thing kill me.

That is my reality.

I was not a “functional alcoholic,” nor was I the variety that had fun. When I drank, I did so to blackout. Drinking took me to a lonely, barren, and solitary place and I embraced it. I was not living, I was not present, and I was suffering on purpose because I believed that that is what I deserved.  I cannot blame alcoholism for my life choices or the rock bottoms I found myself in time after time, but I can’t blame myself either. What does blame do? It serves no purpose.

What I CAN do, is take responsibility.

Drinking was my solution, and I allowed alcoholism free reign. I allowed my life to become empty, and for myself to become a slave to alcohol. I didn’t resist the compulsion. I didn’t resist the desire to make myself and those around me suffer. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t think I DESERVED any better. Today, I know better.

The moment I reached out for help, my life began to change. Reaching out saved my life; a life I didn’t think was worth saving. Today, I am not the person I once was. I am not a slave to the disease of alcoholism. I don’t allow the compulsions to dictate my life. I believe that I am worthy of a good life, and I have a solution. I was the one that kept me down, sick, obsessed, and at the mercy of alcohol because I didn’t know any better. I know now.

If you are reading this, and are still in the grips of active addiction, know that you are not alone. I have been where you are and felt that hopeless, helpless, sick resignation. I have felt that despair that sucks you in so deep that a drink seems like the only way to deal with it. I have felt so alone and isolated that there couldn’t possibly be a way to be free, to be understood, to feel happy and whole. I have been there. I have been in that hell and can tell you one thing with certainty.

If you reach out, if you ask for help, it will get better.

It’s the hardest damn thing you’ll ever do; coming from that dark place into one of hope and recovery, but it will be worth it.

You are not alone. Hold on, the pain will end.

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Embracing the Language of My Recovery

As we begin to release alcohol from our lives, we are inundated with words laden with underlying messages. Some words bring shame and stigmatize us, others empower and enlighten us. Some just don’t fit. What most people don’t tell you as you embark on this journey is that you are in charge of the language that shapes your story.

Words shape our personal narrative. From the time we are children we are conditioned through words to believe certain things about ourselves. Our language enables us to shape or be shaped by the world we live in. As a child, my mother told me every night, “You are a good person.” To this day, amidst all of my struggles, I still believe these words.

Relapse. Lapse. Slip. Powerless. Self-Empowered. Disease. Disorder. Can never. Will Never. Never have to. Alcohol Free. Sober Curious. Sober. Alcohol misuse. Alcohol abuse. Alcoholic. Addict. Dry. Recovery. Recovered.

There is a dark history to the words we use related to substances. The language dates back to a time when words were taught to us through the lens of the church’s view of morality. The language of addiction and recovery was shaped by a cultural paradigm of sin and immoral behavior. New language is emerging daily, and we have to choose how we engage with it. Is it threatening or useful? Are we defensive or inspired? How do you feel when someone uses language different from your own?

My own story is a tapestry of 20 years of alcohol use and misuse mixed with periods, long and short, of no use at all. I have participated in a variety of support groups, therapy and communities. Some have helped me immensely. Some have hindered me from taking ownership of my behavior. The language of shame, disempowerment, and confusion has been a big part of my journey. The roller coaster of my life never got low enough to justify a staggering disruption—instead, my recovery has been a slow burn.

It is only now, maybe because I am older, maybe because I’m more confident, that I feel able to rid myself of language that is not useful to me.

I no longer feel the need to bend to fit into a predetermined mindset. I am finally owning my journey through my language: the good, the bad and the ugly.

I feel it is my responsibility to help other women walking on this path to figure out how to heal themselves. I want to be supportive with my words without piling my baggage on someone else. It is because I have finally embraced the language of my recovery that I am able to stand on firm ground.

What does your story say about you? We each have the ability to create it. Word by word.

Katie Jones is a friend, wife, and mom of three amazing teens. She considers her recovery a discovery and constant process of lifelong learning. She is a social worker, spiritual director and has a Masters in Catholic Theology. She finds in her mid 40’s she enjoys early bedtimes, yoga, walks by the river, loads of coffee, reading, podcasts, and ridiculous reality TV. Her ultimate goal in writing is to become vulnerable enough to possibly open a space where words spark loving curiosity in herself and others.

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I Don’t Like Being A Mom and That’s OK

I have always felt kind of lackluster in my mom jeans. Maybe it’s because I was unprepared when I first joined the club, or perhaps because it was unplanned and “mommy life” didn’t fit into my newly sober five-year plan. Possibly, the love for motherhood really isn’t in me as it seems to be in other mamas—I do all the things good mothers do; I feed, bathe and dress them, brush their teeth, and love them deeply. But I don’t like being a mom—though truly—the why of it all is unimportant.

I don’t believe these feelings make me a bad mother, I’m a great mom, especially for boys; I can joke about wieners, boogers don’t bother me, and girl clothes are puzzling.

However, while I cherish my children, I don’t like being a mom. Maybe this was a self-discovery made too late, but either way it revealed itself to me.

A few months after I had my second son I began to uncover a new passion for my life—a passion that didn’t include sleepless nights, arguments with a three-year-old, endless cleaning and having not a minute alone. But when it comes to motherhood, my passions don’t matter, my boys are more important.

Somewhere between finding my passion and potty training my toddler, I’ve lost sight of motherhood.

I found myself a mother of two, not wanting to be a mom at all. I had taken the first four years of my sobriety to build up this woman, and now I wanted to live as her, I wanted to be her, yet being her seemed impossible.

As I uncovered these feelings I quickly understood it wasn’t a phase and I began to cradle this unhappiness. I wholeheartedly believe that as mothers we don’t have to like motherhood, but I overlooked my ability to choose how I react to this disdain and I began to wallow in it.

Then one night, I glanced over at my sleeping toddler and it was it as if time stopped. I watched him suck his tiny fingers and observed my little baby, who had found his hand and blankie as a way to self-soothe almost three years ago. Eventually, the finger sucking will stop and he will forgo his blankie. Ultimately, time will take it all. And like a brick to the face, I was hit with remorse—I am wasting a significant amount of time.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t love motherhood, I do love my boys, and that is enough.

By focusing on all the things I might be missing, I was wasting what is right in front of me. I was missing sticky faces and dirty feet. I was missing the way their a little eyes gaze up at me with love because I am their whole world. I was wasting games of make-believe and opportunities to create giggles. I was passing up chances to teach, to build core values and strong character traits. I wasn’t observing their excitement, I was merely noticing their messes. I wasn’t listening to their stories, I was patiently waiting for them to move on. And there’s nothing more heartbreaking than that.

So here I sit, a mother disliking motherhood but loving my boys more. For the first time in months, I am seeing my boys, truly seeing them in the way they deserve.

I’m not going to throw away my new found passion and strongly built self—I will find a way to be her.

No longer will I throw pity-parties and wallow in the stress of motherhood—I will allow myself to live in its presence. We can coexist—this new woman I’ve built—and the mother I am.

Mamas if you’re like me, caught between two worlds, remember—we can do it all and be it all—for we are women and we are mothers.

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When Rage Hits Home

My daughter had my son by the hair, jerking his head back and forth and screaming in his face, her own face contorted with rage. When I ordered her to her room, she threw herself down on her bed, sobbing.

My son was crying. “She hit me!” he wailed. “She hit my head,”

I’d heard it too, down the hallway as I rushed out into the living room. She had been slapping his head with her open palms, screaming herself hoarse.

After I checked to make sure my son was okay, I walked down the hall to my daughter’s room. I could hear her sobs through the door. When I went into her room, I saw her curled in a fetal position. When she turned her tear-streaked eyes to me, all I saw was pain.

I didn’t know what to say, so I climbed into the bed next to her and curled my body around hers. She shook with sobs, shivering even in the warmth of the house. I felt tears prickling the backs of my eyes, because my daughter has dealt with trauma. She has dealt with emotional neglect.

She has dealt with a parent who also has explosive rage. Me.

Although I don’t get physical with my children, I have done very harmful things in my anger. Because I have a mental illness. Because I used to drink. And because I have trauma too.

“I can’t control myself,” she finally sniffed. She took a shaky breath, her voice much too heavy for her mere six years. “I get so mad, and I can’t stop.”

I exhaled, rubbed her back. “I know, baby,” I said. “You know I do…because Mommy gets that way too.”

How many times have I screamed at my children in my own rage? Because they fight. Because they get too loud. Because they disrespect me. It’s not all the time, it’s usually when I’m at my most vulnerable.

I’ve asked the therapists—my own and hers—and no one has the answer I’ve been seeking: What do we do with all this anger, this pain? How do we keep from hurting the ones we love the most?

The tears were thick in my eyes now. “I love you so much,” I said, my voice cracking. “And I’m going to keep on working with you, just like I work on myself. We’re practicing right now. We’re learning. We don’t have to be perfect.”

“I’m a bad kid,” she said.

Years of self-hatred surged in me. I remembered all the reasons I despised myself growing up.

“No. No, baby, that’s not true.”

“I don’t wanna be alive anymore.” Her eyes closed, as if willing it to happen right in that moment.

“No,” I said again. “That’s your brain telling you lies.”

I told her she was amazing, that her pain hurt, but it was beautiful. She was beautiful. We talked about all the things she does right. When we were done, she went into the living room and told her brother she was sorry. They wrapped their arms around each other and sat down on the couch to watch Netflix, their sides touching.

We have never been a “nice, normal family.” We’re full of darkness and anger and pain. But as we gathered around the table that night, munching our gingerbread cookies, I realized “nice” and “normal” aren’t nearly as important as the Joneses make them out to be. Through that darkness and anger and pain comes understanding, acceptance, and love.

I can’t change the past. The trauma will always exist there, for all of us. But together, we can affect positive change. Together, we can break the chain of trauma in our family—one beautiful moment at a time.

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