03/29/2015 10:52 EDT | Updated 05/29/2015 05:59 EDT

My Addiction Shaped the Woman I Am Today

Business woman looking over the city at sunrise.
Ezra Bailey via Getty Images
Business woman looking over the city at sunrise.


We had a dance party last night.

Liam and I, blasting some Macklemore and leaping around, him laughing hysterical at my crazy moves, me impressed by his smooth ones.

We both read our separate books for a bit, discussed tomorrow's breakfast, and I tucked him in, sneaking back in later to cover up the arms and legs akimbo and kiss his sleeping sweet self, revelling in the sound of his rhythmic breathing.

It sounds idyllic. It is.

Every day like this I squeeze my eyes tightly shut and send a message out into the universe--"Thank you, thank you, thank you." Around my wrist, I wear an engraved bracelet, a quote by the poet Mary Oliver: "Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed."

I hope somehow by these reminders, these messages of gratitude to whatever got me to this place, that I remember and continue to hold on tightly to now. That I never, ever forget what my life used to be. What got me here.

It wasn't always like this. Shortly after Liam was born, I fell deeply into post-partum depression and debilitating anxiety (a condition that had touched my life before, but struck me now with a whole new level of Grade A bleakness). Despair. A black hole that my husband, my family, and all the booze in the world couldn't save me from.

I am sharing this story because I own it. I am responsible for what happened in my life. Other recovering addicts tell you not to regret the past -- but I will always regret the pain I caused my loved ones.

I was a mom -- but I wasn't present all the time. I wasn't reliable. As the years passed, I became less so. What non-addicts seem to struggle with understanding is why my love for Liam and my husband, my family, couldn't overpower the darkness -- and I cannot explain it. What other addicts understand is -- no matter how much you love your child, no matter how much you want to be well -- it simply doesn't work like that.

I am sharing this story because I own it. I am responsible for what happened in my life. Other recovering addicts tell you not to regret the past -- but I will always regret the pain I caused my loved ones.

What I do not regret is this: my struggle shaped me, and changed me, and helped me become the person I am now. That is, a woman that seeks progress, not perfection. A woman who knows that no matter how far down you go, you can come back, a mother that has earned her way back into this precious boy's life, and learns every day how to parent better. How to live fully. How to right wrongs.

Last summer I returned from a year away in British Columbia getting better, getting sober, and set about trying to build a life. My son didn't trust me. I knew he loved me, and he knew that I loved him immensely, but I could see hesitancy in his eyes when he looked at me.

Addicts create out of the blue mind-blowing chaos, and part of being sober around people you love is letting them see that you aren't going to spontaneously combust.

That you aren't going to burn their house down (in a figurative sense). Actually, probably literally as well. And steal their car while they are distracted trying to put out the fire.

Patience. And love, so much love. Taking a look at when a disagreement occurred and see how I could have handled it better. Providing structure. Learning how to do these things.

Every day with Liam is a glorious (and sometimes tumultuous) adventure. He passes between my ex-husband's house and mine easily and happily. Having re-plummeted (with joy) into full-time motherhood with Liam at age ten (now 11) I realize he is no longer the little boy I could absolutely protect and shelter.

He is at a brand-new, challenging, thrilling age, and I am often at a loss, consulting books, emailing friends -- asking the men in my life how to handle these things. I lost my father at age 17, and my grandfather last year (and I never got the brother I always wanted) so it is a strange journey into the wonderful, often gross, funny world of the middle years that I have embarked on alongside my son.

My own version of The Wonder Years, occurring in our apartment.


I attend recovery meetings at times. Sometimes, in the sharing portions of the meetings I go to, instead of sharing on the topic of the day, a person will simply say: "This is where I'm at today..." and give us a glimpse into their world at this moment, ever-changing, unpredictable and beautiful. Sometimes incredibly hard. Sometimes full of joy.

This is where I am at today:

My son is waiting to show me a sketch he made of airplane he is reading about (he is deep into "Unbroken", having been forced by his mother to read the book before seeing the movie.) I will tuck him in, and go spend a few hours doing homework for the English degree I am working on.

Tomorrow we will begin again, we will embrace what comes to us, make mistakes, laugh, get dirty, learn, grow. 

This is where I am at today: blessed where I stand.


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