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How Do I Deal with My Mom Dying?

A little while back, during one of her wonderfully vulnerable moments, my best childhood girlfriend asked me, “How do I deal with my Mom dying, Rae—how do I get ready?”

It was the most painfully real question anyone had ever asked me, and I’d never felt more honored in my life.

She asked me for a reason: when we were just thirteen, I was the one watching my mother die a little bit more each day. I was the one shopping for a black funeral dress on what should have been the first day of school my eighth-grade year.

I was the one left having to figure out how the HELL any girl is supposed to live without her mother.

She was asking me because she remembered. She witnessed it all. She knew—if anyone had an answer to her question—it was me. She trusted that whatever answer I gave would be authentic, worthy, and genuine. It’s beautiful to know that someone has that amount of confidence in your character—in your ability—in your heart.

This is what I told her:

I wish I had a manual for you, I really do. Nothing would be better than some clear-cut step-by-step directions for us to follow through the life-altering biggies. But unfortunately, if they exist, I don’t know them.

I will tell you the truth because no one told me. It ate away at me for years before I realized it was natural and forgave myself. It’s OK to wish for the agony that you are already experiencing to be over. It’s OK to desperately want to not be in this gross space between wait and dread. It’s OK to plan for the future without her. It’s not unusual to make plans when we’re facing the death of someone whose existence has been so crucial in our everyday lives. It’s OK to look forward to what life has in store for you “after”.

You need hope now more than ever. You need to believe that even though life will never be the same when she’s gone, there are still wonderful and beautiful times awaiting you. And then, you need try to leave it at that and be here now. Try your best to deal with whatever is front of you—moment by moment.

I believe my own grieving process began before the actual death occurred. I’m glad I didn’t fight it. I’m sure it was my minds natural way of assisting me through the trauma without completely losing my shit (key word here is COMPLETELY).

I honestly can’t say one was worse than the other (my life in waiting, or my life when it was over)—they were just uneven timeframes of different kinds of terrible. I don’t think I ever could have really prepared myself for either.

There’s no way for a daughter to “practice” losing her mother. At any age.

It’s what you don’t want to hear: “It just takes time”. Little by little, day by day. It takes sisters. Tears. Daddy. Screams. Friends. Children. Music. Words. Seeing the sun still daring to rise each morning without your permission, and finding the strength within yourself to follow its lead. It takes opening your mouth when you’re not OK. It’s about allowing the shitstorm swirling around in your guts and heart a way out.

You’ll make room for the better things coming. And they ARE coming.

It takes boldly blurting out questions like the one I’m answering now. It takes a whole lot of love and understanding from others. I can’t offer you simple instructions, or a quick way to end your pain, but I can promise you that I will always—ALWAYS—have an abundance of both love and understanding available to you. Through all of this, and anything else. Because that’s how we do life. And death. And everything in between. Together.

Please always reach out to me. And I’ll do the same (you know I will). We can’t save each other, but we can damn sure stick by each other’s sides while we’re saving ourselves. We’re wise enough and humble enough by now to know that we are never burdens, just best friends who need and love each other fiercely.

I love you so much. And you might not believe it, but you’re going to be OK.

Recovery Is NOT A Competition

As part of my recovery process, I was asked to look up the word “recover.” I had used this word many times in my life, but its meaning in the dictionary was an eye-opener.

Recovery: To return to a state that once was.

I remember being both amazed and moved by the simplicity of this definition. It was not specific to a disease or symptom, and did not mention any one way to get “there.”

Recently, one of our Sober Mommies was told by someone in a 12-step program that she should not consider herself, “in recovery” because she wasn’t in 12-step. She was told that because she doesn’t attend meetings, she is “headed for a relapse.”

This baffles me.

What I am not going to do is take anyone else’s inventory, or judge the person who offered the blanket statement to my friend. That would be hypocritical. What I am going to say is this:

Recovery is whatever you decide it is. There is no one way to find peace.

Sober Mommies has featured the stories of women who have long-term sobriety in the arms of online communities and have never stepped foot inside a meeting. It has featured stories of women who attend meetings weekly, monthly, or once.

For those who embrace them, 12-step programs are wonderful, and they work. However, it would be silly to assume that 12-step is the only way to get and stay sober. If you visit our resources page, you will find many paths to sobriety, harm reduction, support and recovery that are working for many.

It saddens me that someone might use their recovery as a basis for judging someone else’s path. In my opinion (which is just that), any amount of sobriety, or reduction in harm should be celebrated, NOT scrutinized. Sobriety is a personal choice, one that is between an individual and no other human power. I do believe that having other people in our corner is helpful to the process, but support can and does come from many places.

Recovery is not a competition, it is not a game, and there is no score keeping.

How can we complain about the stigma and judgment associated with addiction and recovery if we are treating each other this way? I am really struggling to understand why someone would say such a thing to someone who’s making strides to change her life.

If we can’t support each other, who will?

photo credit: AMERICANVIRUS

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I Used to Need Wine to Endure Motherhood

There’s no more cracking open a bottle of wine, sipping it to relax while I cook dinner. There’s no more stepping away to hit my vape pen, returning with bleary eyes and a goofy smile. There’s just me, my daughter, my husband and more of myself.

I used to need “help” to both enjoy and endure motherhood. I lived my days waiting to drink or smoke to take the edge off.

I didn’t know how to face all the stress of being a new mom. I thought I was relieving my anxiety. Numbing allowed me to get through the fits of crying and the sleepless nights. I had so much grief, rage, guilt, and shame I was lugging around. I thought weed and booze allowed me to carry on with some semblance of a life.

I justified this, of course. I medicated myself with pink wine and purple weed, though other colors and flavors would do just fine. I didn’t see a problem with smoking some weed during the day and having a few drinks at night. Even when it turned into every single day and night, I still found ways to rationalize it.

What I didn’t realize until it was almost too late, was that all that self-medicating was making everything worse. Even though the tequila or wine or gin would take the edge off in the moment, it led to more depression. Even though marijuana made life with a baby bearable for a few hours it made me more anxious. It made me more exhausted than I already was from the sleep-deprived reality of early motherhood. After a few months, I found myself in a cycle of weed, alcohol, and coffee.

The cycle spiraled into severe depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

The panic attacks became more frequent and extreme. My self-loathing soared to unbearable, suicidal levels. Alcohol and marijuana no longer did much to suppress anything. The can of worms was open and either I had to face it, get some help and get sober, or lose my mind or my life.

It didn’t get better overnight. I stopped and started again a few times before I found my way to true sobriety. I found a great therapist that helped me understand the cycle. She helped me to understand what I was actually feeling. I found anger, rage, grief, trauma, shame, resentment, sadness and so much more. I had to process my feelings to get through the need to cover them up with addictions.

I also learned mindfulness meditation, which was one of my biggest saviors. Meditation worked better than the alcohol and pot and without side effects.

Then I started going to recovery meetings and quit for real. Parenting got so much better after I got sober. Not right away though. At first, I hit a serious period of boredom. Life with a baby without alcohol or marijuana seemed so bland.

The stark reality of the mundane was hard for me. But over time I learned to find enjoyment without any substances.

Now that I am sober, I don’t have panic attacks anymore. I am way less anxious in general, and when I do feel anxiety I know how to work with it. Depression is almost non-existent for me now. Even though I still feel tired often, I am not exhausted. It’s manageable, and I know how to recharge myself.

I’m a better mom now, too. I am more present, patient and kind. I am better able to process my emotions and in a better mood more often. I have more energy. I enjoy our time together and show my love for her more. I am more responsible and available. I’m not trying to escape—I’m here.

I don’t need alcohol or drugs to endure parenthood, to get through it, to cope with it, to escape from it. This is my life, after all, and it will be for a very long time. Instead of “using” to mask my emotions, I let myself actually “feel.” I talk about it. I write about it. I dance about it. I even sing about it. I work on it in therapy.

Learning how to deal with my emotions instead of faking it with wine or weed is the most important thing I’ve ever done.

I don’t have to numb to make it through the day. I get to give my daughter my full attention. I’m giving her the childhood that she truly deserves—one with a genuinely present, calm and sober mother.

This post was submitted by Flow Belinsky.

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Everything Will Be Okay

I’ve always been a very mushy, romantic, optimistic, look for the “God” in everything, kind of person. After losing my stepfather, learning that my biological father has terminal cancer, and losing my unborn baby on my wedding day all in the last two years, I’ve become a bit cynical.

Ok, let’s be honest…I’ve become an angry, resentful, hopeless, terrified, hormonal mess. I have trouble referring to myself as a woman in this grieving process (whatever that is) because I have felt more like a wounded child this past year than ever before.

When I got sober seven years ago, I truly believed that if I did the steps, told the truth, became a vegan, found the love of my life and had babies, everything would be okay.

I experienced real pain and loss before I entered recovery, but I was sleepwalking through life. I was checked out and drugged up, and had not a care in the world. Fear would crop up and I would immediately push it down and take another hit of whatever was in front of me that would properly fill the void.

Fast forward to a few years ago, I’m sober, telling the truth most of the time, a macrobiotic vegan, and in a relationship with a boy who “loved me, but couldn’t be in a relationship with me, because he wasn’t ready.”

I made it through photography school and moved into a Christian commune in the Catskills. I sort-of found Jesus (memorizing biblical creeds and dressing modestly while abstaining from anything sexual before marriage and eating organic food counts, right?).

I worshipped, sang my heart out, and made beautiful life-long friendships. I fixed all physical ailments with clay packs and homeopathic creams, all the while ignoring a sweet, yet powerful voice within me telling me to go home. I had literally tried “everything,” and none of it had provided the awakening I so desperately wanted. I knew in my heart that the only thing I hadn’t tried on this journey was the 12-steps. I finally got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and I began going through the work.

Maybe it was good ‘ol fear laced with impulse (my usual go-to), or maybe one too many Hail Marys. Maybe it was the man I had met before I moved to the commune; the one who loved me unconditionally and entirely had finally got through to me. Either way, God intervened, and I went home.

That was two years ago.

I married a beautiful man who loves me unconditionally and entirely.

We are perfectly imperfect and messy. We are stubborn and prideful, far from vegan, and inappropriate spiritually flip-flopping mongrels, but he was made for me.  I believe we were created to walk this weird, painful and heartbreakingly beautiful path together. On the day of our wedding as I was experiencing the most painful and terrifying moment of my life, miscarrying the tiny miracle created by our love, my husband disregarded that, “you’re not allowed to see your bride before you say your vows” rules, and held me in his arms with a strength and love I had never felt before.

I have no answers, even though I spend most of my days trying to find them. What I do know, the only thing I know, is that love is real and whatever you have to do, however you must get there, is ok.

There is no right path to Love.

Freak out, sleep around, do the steps, don’t do the steps, yell at God, curse the truth, I’ve done it all. No matter what you do, you are worthy of Love and you will find it eventually because it is inside of you, waiting for you.

It always has been.

The past two years have been the most difficult of my life and my recovery thus far; and through it all, I stayed sober. Trust me, there were days that I wanted to run far away and grieve alone until the cows came home, but I stayed, and I sat with it. I felt it all.

I know today that in my eyes, I will never be perfect. Fear will continue to crop up, and life will continue to happen. As long as I keep showing up, reaching outside of myself, helping others, and staying true to that beautiful little voice inside of me, I will grow…and everything will be ok.

This beautifully honest post was submitted by Allycia Waxman.

Photo credit: Alison Pharmakis

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I Had to Learn to Cope Without Numbing

Addiction and mental illness plagued my family. Although I dodged it until the end of my sophomore year, alcohol became my closest confidant in college. I had several minor arrests in college and by age 20, I had my first DUI.

At 22, I met my future husband, who shared my appetite for alcohol. In March 2012, we got married. He got a DUI Memorial Day weekend that year, and we continued to drink. By June he was having seizures. With the seizures, my husband lost his driver’s license, his job, and his will to live. I had never heard of alcoholic seizures and we didn’t think of it as the cause.

Our lives continued to spiral downward. Medical debt mounted as we were both uninsured. I was often missing work, too hung over and depressed to crawl out of bed. Our lives turned into a nightmare.

I got my second DUI the day before our one-year anniversary and spent the night in county jail. I couldn’t admit to my alcoholism, but I knew my mental state was unhealthy. I finally sought counseling for the first time. This was my first step to recovery.

In October 2013, my husband went to a sober living house in Texas. I stayed home to get sober on my own. We knew we were extremely codependent and we had to detox apart.

It was then that I finally uttered the words “I am an alcoholic.”

My mother stayed with me as I attempted to wean myself off alcohol. After a long night of tears and vomiting my mother had enough. She poured my last bottle of vodka down the drain.

We were unaware of the dangers of quitting cold turkey without medical supervision. I had a seizure within 24 hours and spent the next five days in the ICU. The doctors said I had the liver of an 80-year-old. I knew if I returned to alcohol, it would kill me.

My husband returned home six months later. We didn’t know if we still loved each other, let alone liked each other, now that we were both sober. It was strange and uncomfortable, but we were thankful to be alive. His seizures had stopped days after his last drink. Both of our liver enzymes returned to normal.

I was eventually able to wean off my anxiety medication under a doctor’s supervision. I started the meds towards the end of my drinking, to cope with crippling panic attacks. I drank thinking it eased my anxiety and depression, but now I realize alcohol only made it worse.

We both had breathalyzers in our cars for the next five years because of our DUIs. They were expensive, but they kept us accountable. My husband is still active in AA today. It gives him stability and accountability.

My anxiety and introversion meant I could never get into meetings. Instead, I used counseling to develop some healthy coping mechanisms. I was eventually able to return to my long-time job.

Slowly we began to piece our lives back together, sober.

I became a mother in October of 2016. Our son was originally due on my three-year sobriety date, but I was induced a few days early. What a gift.

The following December I lost my cousin to suicide. Instead of turning to the bottle, I immediately returned to counseling. It helped me to cope with his death and postpartum depression. I continue to go biweekly.

In 2018 we suffered a miscarriage but I managed to cope without numbing. Over the years I’ve found solace in painting, gardening and running. I’m now pregnant with a little girl and I hope to instill in her the confidence I never had.

Becoming a mother in sobriety has its own challenges but I know I would not be alive had I continued to drink. Everyone finds sobriety in different ways. Whatever the road is, know you are worthy of it. In sobriety, I have never been greeted with more compassion and understanding when sharing my story. These are the things that keep me sober.

Rebecca Morse is a wife and mother of one son, with a daughter on the way. Art is her passion and the outdoors breathes life into her.

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