The Birth Of The 3 Amigos….

This was the first time I really realized that life needed to change, for both me and the kids. Reading it, now that I am out of that situation, created a lump in my throat. I remember the shame, I remember telling friends and family he and I were out celebrating, I remember feeling so defeated and pathetic. Reading things like this keeps me away when the guilt is being laid on thick.

Recovery.

A word that, to me, has always signified a physical healing. That word brings images of cancer patients, bald heads holding signs saying, “Last Chemo!”; or spinal trauma victims walking for the first time again. Maybe it’s my medical background or maybe it’s my logical mind, but I could never wrap my head around this as an endeavor of a heart, mind and soul. An endeavor that I needed to embark on as a self-proclaimed Chronic Codependent. That was until December 31, 2015.

Here I am, sitting at the bar in our family room, eating MacDonald’s for dinner. It is 6pm on my 33rd birthday. I am alone with my 2 small children for the 6th year in a row. For my past 6 birthdays, I have celebrated with tears, feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and heartbreak. He has celebrated with cocaine.

The weeks leading up to my birthday every year, He asks me what I want to do to celebrate. For years I would excitedly make plans to celebrate with romantic dinners or nights out with friends, but this year was different. When asked I replied “nothing”. I knew my wishes would not be granted, so why try? I waved my white flag and gave up.

Putting on a brave happy face, I make plans with my children to ring in the new year. We will finish eating, get into our PJ’s and watch movies cuddled up on the couch. I’ll set my alarm for 1145pm so we can watch the ball drop together on the couch wrapped in the softest blankets and accompanied by our most favorite stuffed animals.

“We are The Three Amigos!” I tell them through misty eyes and a quivering smile, “we are a team!”. My son is confused, my little daughter doesn’t grasp that Daddy is not home yet again.

I smile. I hug them. I kiss their precious faces. Outside, I am a happy outgoing and loving mother; inside I am a wilting flower.

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I Don’t Know Who You Are, But I Am So Sorry….

Saturday night was hot, humid and disgusting. The air so heavy, thick and dirty. Finally, we welcomed the thunder storms to remedy the negative environment. As the storms calmed to a steady rain, my babies fell asleep, so innocent and peaceful. Looking at them swells my heart and warms my soul. I know deep down I am making the right decision to protect their lives and do what I can to stop this cycle of addiction that has plagued his family for generations. For the fourth time this week, I fell asleep next to my 4-year-old daughter and slept soundly through the night.

Sunday morning woke me up early with a cool breeze and bright sun. Saturday’s heaviness was washed away. I gently snuck my arm out from under my little redhead’s body and tiptoed down the hall, scooping the dogs up and out the deck door. Just in my nightshirt, I was cold. I walked my fur babies around the backyard and into the bright 6am sunlight. The bumblebees were at work early in my mother’s rose of Sharon bushes. As I stood and watched them, I breathed the clean air in deeply and welcomed the warm sun on my face. These little fuzzy beings worked so hard and with such purpose; I wonder what is going on in their little heads and realize that for the first time in what seems like an eternity, the life of a bumblebee is the only thing that is going on in mine. My life was so full of “what ifs” that I never got to enjoy the here and now, constantly needing to cover-up and parent a 40-year-old while caring for 2 young kids was an exhausting 24/7 job to say the least. Today was clearly a turning point in my journey, a new day on this adventure.

Over the course of the past 7 years the universe, or cosmos, or my higher power, or whoever is up there was sending me signs and messages. Early on, they were quiet and subtle and I effortlessly brushed them to the side, but as the years flew by they became louder and louder and more obvious. Even when they were screaming at me, I heard, but ignored them. Every time things were going well and I would say to myself “this is great, things are going to work out after all”, but shortly after, something would happen to show me that it wasn’t, in fact, going to work out. Tuesday’s event was preceded by a wonderful 2 days away in the mountains, where we relaxed, kayaked, hiked and made out passionately while the sun settled in the background. 24 hours home and whoever is looking over me threw Tuesday in my face. I listened to Tuesday’s message, I acted on it and I haven’t felt this good in so very long.

I continued to appreciate these bumblebees working so very hard on this absolutely perfect Sunday morning. Even on a Sunday, working their tails off. Sunday, the day of rest, day of worship. Worship, reflect, pray, give thanks for blessings. When was the last time I took the time to do these things? Thinking about my healthy, happy babies still innocently sleeping upstairs, this beautiful morning and the fact that I am still alive and breathing, I realized that I have not taken any time to appreciate or thank my higher power for my blessings. I guess that I will have to change this today.

Many months, and relapses ago, a counselor I was seeing recommended a church down the road and promised they would welcome me; unlike the closer Roman Catholic church whose secretary read me the riot act for not being married- but that’s another story for another day. I reluctantly left my bumblebees and returned to the still quiet sleepy house. I fired up my laptop and plugged the church name into the search engine. It quickly popped up and my eyes were immediately drawn to the worship times on the bottom of the screen. “945am, 1111am and 600pm” I read out loud. “1111am…” I repeated. 1111 is a time I see on the clock every day at least once, at times its while I’m thinking about my dad or I’m praying my patient is going to be okay. 1111 is a time that I relate to a higher power and I related the fact that one of the worship times is 1111 to be a sign (or a push) to go to this place.

Eventually, my bed-headed little loves emerged from their slumber. I put them on the couch in front of the TV with breakfast and told them about the day’s activities. My plans were met with resistance, but I told them they didn’t have a choice because I was going and they cannot be left at home alone. “Fine, but I want a reward for going!” replied my son as he went into all the terrible things about church- the uncomfortable seating, the up and down, the hot building. I pushed back, said that life is all about trying new things to better your life and if you do not like it after trying then you simply do not have to do it again. “What if this church is like lobster???” I said. A few weeks ago, my son was on vacation with extended family when he, a bit reluctantly, tried lobster for the first time. He loved it and cannot wait to try it again. “Ok fine!” he said, folding his arms and marching to my brother’s old room, now his, to get ready. “Yeah, fine!” said my daughter who goes along with whatever her fabulous big brother says, “can you help me get dressed now?”. The three amigos (the nickname for the 3 of us I came up with during a particularly difficult time) then suited up and headed to hang with Jesus for the morning.

“First time worshipers parking?” my son read as we pulled into a spot across the parking lot. “THERE’S A PLAYGROUD!!!!” my daughter squealed. People were swarming everywhere, groups chatting throughout the parking lot, in front of the entrance and in the playground. I gathered our things and we emerged cautiously from the car. I took my kids by the hands and made my best attempt to confidently walk into the building. The smell of fresh brewed coffee and laughter filled the air. “Good morning!” a little bald old man exclaimed, “What a fabulous looking family we have here! It’s name tag Sunday and they are right there for you to fill out” he pointed to the right of the entrance to a fold out table covered in Sharpies and name tags. “Great, name tag Sunday, picked the perfect day for our first visit. So much for my plan to stay incognito.” I said sarcastically out of the corner of my mouth. The name tag table was manned by two cute-as-a-button elderly ladies. “Welcome! What beautiful children you have!” one said as she handed them bags full of coloring pages, crayons and fruit snacks. I quickly filled out our name tags and thanked the ladies for the goodie bags. I looked to the left, there was a little café area with baked good and coffee, and to the right were a set of large double doors manned by two older men.

The men greeted and welcomed us warmly. “Sit where ever you like! He’s this week’s newsletter” one said handing me 3 pages stapled together. No pews, instead there were many rows of padded office chairs. I picked the first 3 chairs in the last possible row, closest to the exit just in case we need to make a quick break for it. I was looking down at the newsletter when I hear “Well hi there! Welcome to our community!”, looked up to see a tall blonde with a beaming smile in front of me. I shook her hand and she introduced herself as the Pastor’s wife. She handed me a coffee mug full of business cards and info on the church as well as a pen. “You’ve been mugged! All of our first timers get a mug and this info. My husband’s card is in there, please call or email him with any questions”. I guess I didn’t need to be parked in the first timers spot to be pegged as a one. She said that she hopes we enjoy the service and to have a “spectacular day” before taking the stage as part of the band. “I really like that lady!” my daughter whispered into my upper arm.

Our next visitor was a very tall 60ish year old man, “Hey partner! I see you have 2 beautiful ladies on your arm!” He nudged my son and winked at him. My son gave a little smirk and fake giggle. The man moved to the side and behind him was a plump middle-aged woman in a very bright teal dress. “Hello! I’m this fresh man’s wife and I run the education department” she said through a smile so huge I thought it would devour her entire face. “Only a few more weeks until Sunday school starts back up! Here’s my card, please call me with any questions or to get these precious loves signed up” she patted my daughter on the head as she walked by. “Enjoy the service!” she exclaimed over her shoulder. “People sure are friendly around these parts” my son said making us laugh as the lighting changed and the band began to play.

There was a lot of singing of Christian rock songs, the words flashed across the large screens behind the band on stage and the spectators sang along enthusiastically. Song number 4 ended and the Pastor took the stage. He talked about his week away at a Christian music festival for quite some time and then got down to his sermon. “Everyone in this room has been hurt by someone at some point in their life….” My ears perked up. He continued to talk about different reactions to hurt and ultimately discussed forgiveness. He talked about how holding on to something will weigh you down and instead of it hurting the person who hurt you, it will damage you both mentally and physically. It was the first time ever that I connected with a sermon and felt like I was the only one in the room. I hold onto each and every relapse for dear life and throw it back at Him constantly.

The service ended and we filtered out with the rest of the congregation hoping I would blend in and make a swift escape. That was not the case at all. “Good morning! Well, afternoon now!” a voice boomed from behind us. A man in a salmon colored short sleeved dress shirt hopped in front of us. “My wife told me you are new to us and I wanted to introduce myself and thank you for joining us” he said with a smile. “I hope you enjoy this beautiful day, make sure the kiddos visit the playground before you head out!” he exclaimed during an inappropriately long handshake. “Thank you, Pastor, we enjoyed ourselves” I said with a smile and pushed forward to the open doors.

The cool fresh summer air felt great on my anxious skin. The playground to my left was empty so we made our way over. The kids played and laughed together as I soaked up the sun on the park bench nearby and reflected on the morning. My little ones were soon hungry and we headed to our car. Once doors were shut, they took turns telling me their favorite parts of “our new church”. “Everyone is just so nice to me” my daughter said, “and there is a killer playground!” she added. “I like the comfortable seats and fruit snacks” my son said. Both of them agreed that the band was a great addition to the service. Once we were back to our new home, I emailed the Pastor to thank him and the congregation for welcoming us in our time of need.

I sat on the deck that night, breathing in the chilly air that reminded me of Autumn. I thought about how I felt “urged” to go to church and how I felt the sermon was tailored for me. I thought about all the times I felt like someone or something was sending me signs and messages over the past 7 years. I thought about my dad, up in the stars, and how he always said, “Everything happens for a reason”. I felt good. I felt calm and full of life. A feeling that is new and unfamiliar, but so satisfying.

I don’t know who you are, but I am so sorry…. I am sorry I did not listen to you, I am sorry you had to try so many times to show me the light, I am sorry that I have not made attempts to connect with you until now and I am so very sorry that I have not introduced my children to their spirituality. I promise, whoever or whatever you are, I will do better. For myself, for my kids and for you out there in the cosmos, I will listen, worship and care.

Self Esteem Feels Like….

It wasn’t a new plan; although he thought it was a spur of the moment and irrational decision. Anyone who is a seasoned codependent veteran soldier will tell you to have your exit strategy, hold it close like a precious secret and use it when you have reached your breaking point. I have never had one and flying by the seat of my pants was heightening my anxiety with each relapse. He would literally disappear into thin air and my thoughts would jump from subject to subject, but in the background, there was always that gut wrenching statement- “I am stuck”. Three simple words that turned my stomach and made my heart race. The thing is, I didn’t have an exit strategy because I felt (and still feel somewhat) like I couldn’t go it alone. I felt that I couldn’t support myself, I couldn’t support my kids alone, I would disappoint people, that I would look poorly in the eyes of others and that no one would want me. There it is; my biggest struggle, a self-esteem that wasn’t just in the toilet, it was in the waste water plant 27 miles down the road.

I don’t know exactly when I formulated my plan, but it slowly came together in my head over the course of a few months and the more puzzle pieces that I fit together the stronger I felt. Truth be told, it felt weird to have a sense of empowerment. The beginning of July 2017 I emailed a mortgage broker to schedule an appointment. “Hi, I am in the market for a home for myself and my two children. I am a single mother” I typed. A month before my escape I was already identifying myself as a “single mother” and it felt good. He replied quickly, expressed how he would love to help and added this to the end “P.S. I was raised by a single mother and will do whatever I can to help you!” He will never know how that one sentence lit a spark in my soul.

I had the secret bank account, the appointment with the mortgage broker and I was starting to organize the house so that when the time came I could grab and go. I would make it through the holidays for the kids and start my home search. The little pings of guilt would sting deep in my gut, but this new-found strength would sucker punch it right back down. Confident in my plan, I went about my day to day activities like I had nothing to hide, until Tuesday night happened.

Rushing home that night my head was a sea of thoughts, one in particular floating in and out of my mind several times- “This is not my plan, everything is not in place”. And just like that, the strength I had built, was crumbing. What choice did I have? By the time I reached the stop lights at the intersection for our road, I had my amended plan and I felt like Superwoman. I would stay calm tonight, wake in the morning and bust ass out of that house with my kids. We would stay at my childhood home, go to my mortgage appointment in 2 days and get a house as soon as we are on our feet.

That’s just what I did. It caught him very much so by surprise and the police did need to be called (why the hell did he come home early today of all days???), but I left and I smiled as I exhaled 7 years of a rotten relationship away; the home we shared fading from view.

Thursday morning; I woke up at my mother’s home, in my childhood room with baby blue walls, my sweet redheaded daughter sleeping next to me. I got up, showered and dressed. I gathered my pay stubs, W2’s, 2016 tax return and put the mortgage broker’s office address in my GPS. Great, I was already going to be late. I grabbed my coffee and flew out to my car. “Why am I even going to this meeting?” I said out loud to myself. “I’m a joke, I’m going to be back in that house in a matter of days”. I dialed the mortgage broker’s office number and left a message that I was going to be “13 minutes late per my GPS”.

Pulling into Portsmouth on a bright sunny summer day is nothing short of breath taking. The clean ocean air flooded my car from my open sun roof. I flew past the mortgage broker’s office distracted by the stunning views on the sea ahead. I guess I lied, I was 15 minutes late by the time I walked into his office. I apologized for my lateness and plopped a pile of unorganized papers on his desk.

“Have a seat and let me see what you’ve got here”. I sat down, an empty chair to my right. “That would be my husband’s chair if only I could nail one down”, I thought to myself. I twiddled my thumbs as he riffled through my taxes, paystubs and pulled my credit. “How do you think your credit is?” he asked while plugging my info into the data base. “Terrible, I lived with a drug addict for 7 years. When he was sneaking money to use, I had to choose to feed my kids or pay my car payment” I replied. “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I hope that I can do something to help you” he sincerely said looking away from the computer and into my misty eyes. I choked a sob down, “don’t, you’re going to look like a weak idiot” I said to myself. I sat there quietly feeling ashamed because I was sure I was here wasting this guy’s time. He hit enter on his expensive looking Apple computer and widened his eyes when the screen lit up.

“Oh my God!” he looked over at me with a smile. “Dude, you are fine! So fine! Your credit is perfect and you are good to go. Call a realtor today and get to looking for a home $275,000 and under” he exclaimed to my disbelief. “Really? For real? I could afford a home myself? I don’t have $20,000 to put down or anything” I replied. My hands were now tightly folded on his desk, knuckles white. He put his hand on mine and gently said “You are a single mother of two kids, there are programs to help you out and you more than qualify for 0 down payment with closing costs rolled in. You could buy a home today with only the money needed for inspection”. He typed up a letter to show my preapproval and ushered me out into the bright sun, “Keep in touch!” He waved as my feet hit the hot sidewalk. I stood there in disbelief staring at the waves rolling in until the sun burned my shoulders.

Self-esteem feels like the summer sun beating down on you. It is warm and it is empowering. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt powerful. I could take care of myself, I could provide for my children and I did not need to go back to the drug addict to grin and bear a life of worry and uncertainty. My eyes broke away from the sea and up to the sky. I took a deep breath and strutted to my car like a supermodel on the catwalk. This was the day I realized that I was not garbage, that I was not the low man on the totem pole and that I did not need a man by my side in order to take care of business.

July 14, 2016….

It is quite the humbling experience to look back through your old journals. This journal, in particular, was my favorite; its metallic green and pink cover worn and faded from hiding underneath my mattress. It was my best friend for so long, my confidant. She holds my deepest and darkest secrets and feelings. She holds the despair of a woman whom I’m trying to leave in the dust….

There are days I look at myself dead square in my eyes and ask myself the question, “Is this really my life? Am I really parenting a 38-year-old man right now?!”.

This life is completely different than the one I had envisioned- the partnership, the white dress, the kisses goodnight, the trust. This life is the definition of anxiety. This life is torture.

I get out of bed everyday purely for the kids, I stay purely for the kids, but is staying in the pool of misery helping or hindering? Am I raising addicts? Am I raising codependents? I lay awake at night with those thoughts running through my head over and over and over again.

Do I run now and fight the custody fight? Do I stay until the kids are legal adults or at least old enough to care for themselves if he doesn’t come home?

Questions that swim in my head like the proverbial shark feasting on my positive energy and happiness, leaving paranoia and anxiety in its wake.

I look worn. I feel worn. This man has sucked the life from my body; and I have allowed it.

And Here I Am Again….

It is all so familiar; the cottony soft floral sheets between my fingertips, the baby-blue walls, the creaky yet barely worn hardwood floors. This is the third time I have come here running from my problems, hoping with all my might I will dust off the debris, regain my self-esteem and walk out of this place a new woman. Unfortunately, with my prior attempts I fall immediately back on to the same old worn pathway, full of deceptive hopes and dreams. My heart and soul always knew the truth, but my piss poor self-worth pushed the facts aside and hurled my body forward.

It’s been 7 years, long and tumultuous, where I dug my nails in so hard to hold on they are bloodied. Time and time again the cosmos sent me signs; signs that I was not in the right place, I was not with the right partner, my children were not surrounded by an environment they should be. I could feel my guardian angels sighing with their faces in their palms each and every time I would stay or go back or let him back. Physically, I could feel the heavy weight of defeat dragging down my soul; it took my breath away, I was literally drowning while my feet stood on bone dry ground.

It was a Tuesday evening, I was working, when I finally listened to my higher power screaming from the heavens. A call from my child, “Mom, I don’t know where Dad is”. I attempted to sound calm and unfazed as I ripped the scrubs from my body and fled the hospital, sandals half on. It was the longest ride home and every traffic light laughed in my face, turning red as soon as my car came into view. I prayed to my Dad through tears. I prayed the kids were okay, I prayed I get home in one piece as I flew down the roads at unsafe speeds, I prayed he did not return home high and angry that a child is interrogating him as he walks through the door. Horrible things flew through my already ADD-clogged brain- “fire, robbers, kidnappers, drug dealers….”

I pulled into the driveway at 1045pm to see a completely dark home. His two cars parked in their usual fashion. My shaky hand found an unlocked front door and I was quickly jolted out of my head by our two barking dogs. Deep breath, and another. I climbed the 5 stairs with deliberate foot placement like I was scaling a mountain. TV on, shades drawn, him in the recliner wide-eyed and glistening with sweat as the AC shot a chill over my skin. He was not alone on that recliner- his longtime friend, cocaine, raced through his system. “Where are the kids?” I asked attempting to disguise my anxiety as best as I could. He looked in my direction, replied “in bed” and quickly looked away. The dilated pupils were unmistakable after 7 years of studying his behaviors both sober and not. “Our son called me at work and said you were gone”, I could feel the anger rising up my throat, hot and volatile. “I ran to the store for 15 minutes”, this time he did not turn to face me and his voice trembled. Like a cold gentle wave cooling the sand on a scorching summer day, a calm came over me and I exhaled away the hate I wanted to spew. I walked down the hall, verified that both of my precious children were still breathing safe in their beds and I went back to the couch to sleep in my clothes and makeup. There was no need to lay awake and review today’s events or continue to ponder how I was going to play my hand.

0530am came quick. The front door that my anxious right hand opened so nervously the night before slammed shut as he ran out to work. Why in such a hurry? He wasn’t late, just very guilty and like he had so many times before, he was avoiding me like a deadly contagious disease. I got up, made a cup of coffee, let the dogs out and plopped down on the couch with my phone in hand. Confidently, I dialed the phone number I have been dialing for 22 years and a familiar voice cautiously answered. “Mom, I need to leave with the kids today. Can I please come home?”

And here I am again…. I am at my Mother’s house; a home I moved into with my family at 12 years old and have tried to leave several times only to boomerang back. The baby blue walls I painted when I moved back in at 23, pregnant and fresh out of an abusive relationship. The wood floors were put in during my failing engagement; a relationship that started out as an extra marital affair and ended with him cheating on me. The floral sheets, those were new when I returned in 2014 sick and tired of dealing with drug relapses. What’s new this time? Hopefully some self esteem.

I am The Chronic Codependent, and this is The Story of a Doormat’s Road to Recovery.