Dear Struggling Mama
I want you to know that I get you; that you are not alone. I want to encourage you to give yourself the chance to get through whatever you’re going through however you need to, and know that it’s okay to lean on me. I hope that if you’re feeling like the water is too high, you will reach out, connect, and let someone love you through your moment. I want you to understand that you are lovable, no matter what, and stronger than you know.
Whenever something incredible happens in my sober life, I think of how many times and how badly I wanted to give up. I think about the worst times drunk and sober, and how I was 100% certain I’d never survive them — that they’d change me into someone I wouldn’t recognize.
And they did.
Those moments turned me into the woman I am today; a kind and compassionate person who understands desperation and has experienced the miracles of hope. Today I am a woman I would not have recognized 15 years ago, and also one I would have avoided.
I have always feared the unknown. I literally hate its guts.
I enjoy the illusion of control. It is one of the symptoms of the trauma cards I carry around with me daily. Those cards were all I had when I got sober, and I didn’t want to let them go. One of my favorite “life skills” has always been, “fuck this.” I thought perhaps if I didn’t care about anything, nothing could hurt me. I believed that was the only way to control the pain I had already experienced and avoid future hurt. I have attempted to hide myself behind alcohol, drugs, sex, relationships, gambling, shopping, gossip, YOU NAME IT.
I have pretended to be anything and everyone I am not to shield myself from rejection and discomfort – mine and yours. I have remained stuck and stagnant in a million different ways, and I have perfected the art of self-deception in order to believe I was happier because I was “safe.”
Over the past 15 years of sobriety, I have hit a trillion bottoms in all sorts of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings about myself and other people. I have found scattered pieces of myself all over and have, at times, handed them to another woman and asked her to help me figure out what to do with them.
Those moments have strengthened me. They have armed me with incredible facts about myself that I get to sift through every day and decide what to keep or discard. It is because of those wretched moments that I know how brave I am – that I have the power and ability to fight. I am a better woman, wife, mother, friend, and advocate because of them.
They are my humanness, where I have found incredible compassion and empathy for others. They have made me an easier person to talk to, to relate to, and to trust. I didn’t know my pain had purpose, but if I could go back in time and support myself through it, here’s what I would say:
“Please be kind to you. You are doing the best you can with the tools you have. You are okay even when you’re sure you’re not. Trust yourself. Your gut is usually right on, and in the future you will refer to it as your “God voice.” You will gain shit and you will lose it, and it will all have a positive impact on your life — even if it hurts. Trust in process. The swing of the pendulum always slows in the middle. Enjoy the calm, but don’t stay there too long. There is always more to learn, and the opportunities to grow are endless. You are worth every action taken to improve your situation, whether you feel it or not. Make mistakes, and forgive yourself wherever possible. You are only human, and being human is hard. There are people waiting for you to share all the lessons you’ve learned, and everything will make sense in time, I promise.”
If you are experiencing one or ten of these moments, and you think you’ll never be free — if you keep finding yourself in the same horrible spot and cannot for the life of you figure out how you got here again — if you’re struggling with feeling worthy of the action necessary to make your life or situation better — please know I understand.
Your life and struggle has purpose beyond anything you can even imagine, and someday – if you don’t give up – it will all make sense. Some day, you will meet a woman who is 100% sure she is all alone in the world and believes that no one could ever understand her pain or journey. If you don’t give up, you will be there to assure her that you do.
You ARE worth it, Mumma. YOU ARE SO WORTH IT. If you just can’t bring yourself to believe that today, that’s okay. Please believe that I believe, and know that you are loved.
Julie Maida lives in Massachusetts with her amazing husband and three children. She has been in abstinence-based recovery since May 2, 2000.
Julie is eternally grateful for all the gifts of recovery and fiercely determined to advocate for, and connect ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals. She writes about mothering with mental illness at juliemaida.me.