What a year. I know I’m not the only one to express how emotionally draining this past year has been (and continues to be, although there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel). It’s been a lot, and I know that it’s been a lot for everyone. I love writing these every year because they give me a chance to really reflect on where I’ve been, where I am, and how I’ve managed to make it one more year in this recovery journey. I’ll link the previous years at the bottom and I love that this blog has been around long enough that I’ve been doing this since I had five years clean.
My clean date is May 20, 2010, so today I have 11 years clean and sober. No drugs, no alcohol. It’s a journey that I think gets a little easier as the years go by, but not so easy that I can forget where I came from. I think nothing proved that more than after I had Remy at the end of last year. For the first time in about five years, I found myself increasingly preoccupied with thoughts of how easy it would be to escape. I was spending more and more time in my head reminiscing about getting drugs, using drugs, and everything I romanticized about drugs. It was getting harder for me to “play the tape through,” so to speak, and spend equally as much time remembering the consequences of my addiction. I was angry that those who didn’t suffer from addiction were able to cope with substances that I couldn’t.
I never felt like I actively wanted to use, but I was uncomfortable with the amount of space everything was taking up in my head, so also for the first time in five years, I logged on and went back to NA meetings. One of the benefits of the pandemic has been that many things have become virtual. This includes 12-step meetings, and while this format may be difficult for someone new in recovery, it was perfect for me because I could attend meetings anywhere in the country. This meant that I was able to log in and reconnect with the same people who were there for me when I got clean 11 years ago. From my little upstairs desk in North Carolina, I was able to see and talk to the people who helped change my life two states north in Maryland. It helped me so much, and talking through what was going on in my head helped those thoughts and preoccupations slowly start to fade.
We moved halfway across the country while I was pregnant with Remy. We were in and out of our current house as we waited to close on it and then carried out some big renovations. My second pregnancy brought a lot of emotions to work through as they found out I had a complete placenta previa and then a suspected accreta where my placenta turned out not to be attached at all. This time, I had wanted to work with the midwife group and try for a vaginal birth (VBAC), but instead spent the second half of my pregnancy with more doctor’s appointments than I could count, a chance I may lose my uterus, and a vertical incision that went from above my bellybutton to my bikini line. Remy was five weeks early and spent two weeks in the NICU, so I had to learn how to deal with that. My physical recovery was much harder than my first c-section and this time I needed the help of narcotic pain medication, which I stopped as soon as I felt like I could handle the discomfort of a healing incision and still watch a toddler.
It took me almost five months to bond with Remy. There were tears and there were also periods of numbness where I felt like I was simply going through the motions. The contrast of a tiny premature baby with a blossoming toddler was hard for me and I often felt pulled to play with Miles over her because I felt like he could give back while a newborn takes for so long. We got through it, even though it took longer than I expected, and now I crave her company and she’s the happiest baby who melts me with every smile. Watching her and Miles interact has me really excited for their life together as siblings.
When I write it all out, it seems like a lot. And it is — especially sprinkled in with a global pandemic, a volatile election, and civil unrest. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. One thing that I like to remind myself is that we are never given more than we can handle. Sure, sometimes it may feel like we are, but somehow we make it. We make it and we look back and say “wow — I did that.” Sometimes the only way out is through, and each of us are doing that — one step at a time.
Another thing that’s important for me to reflect on is that I wouldn’t have any of this if I hadn’t gone through what I went through. I thought my future was as a pharmacist, but when every opportunity for that was taken away, I had to make a new future. And this is it. This life, this partner, these beautiful children. I didn’t need drugs and I still haven’t needed alcohol eleven years later to live my life and that’s a far cry from the broken girl who couldn’t fathom going to weddings or parties or simply existing without drinking.
Life is hard — this is something I wrote in last year’s post at the very beginning of the pandemic. It can be so hard. But each one of us is stronger than we give ourselves credit for.
Thank you all for letting me be here to share these years with you and for listening. You’re a big part of why I’m still here and why I continue to share. I’m not sure it would mean as much to me if no one was listening.
If you’re still struggling in this space, I see you. If you’ve tried and relapsed, I see you. Recovery is hard, but it is worth it. You’re worth it. Please don’t give up.