That gratitude that washes over as we walk the neighborhood at night and see the homes aglow with warmth and coziness (cozy is a privilege) and knowing I’m right where I’m meant to be. I’m not filled with longing to be in those home any longer, for I have my own place. Not just physically but mentally and spiritually. That wave of gratitude is greater than any lie or chasing of a high or a low. That normalcy. Those pajama clad little bodies with still dimpled hands grasping for reassurance that we are safe in the dark. I get to be the one tasked with keeping them safe when not long ago I couldn’t keep myself safe. Normal. Normal. Normal.
I’d almost forgotten what guilt and shame and remorse felt like. A recent incident took me right back. It didn’t happen to me, I was a mere witness, but those feelings came back as if yesterday and not like it’s been 16 years since my last drink.
These dark nights and cozy homes remind me of what it was like. I remember that longing as if it was yesterday.
The world may be doing its best to crush in on us and fear and anger may be the closest emotions to grasp, but when I look at this simple normalcy right in front of me, I cannot help but fall into all that gratitude. Hope is coming back after the last year of devastation and disbelief. People are reaching out and voting their hearts and taking leaders to task and saying THIS IS NOT RIGHT. Resisting is powerful. It feels as though we were collectively naive a year ago and today we are warriors both bruised and bloodied, yet willing to fight because we know now. We cannot act as if we do not know. We have learned much in the past year.
Choosing hope is not simple. It is back breaking work to keep choosing hope every single day even when all seems dark.
Sometimes darkness spurs hope and gratitude. Just as I am grateful for all the terrible things I went through as an alcoholic because they got me where I am today, I am grateful for this past year of wake up calls and knowledge and shared experience, strength, and hope that has bonded many of us and given us a mission in moving forward as a country. As a collective spurred on by calling out that which is unacceptable for us, for our families, for our children. Together.
The only way I can be a part of this is if I stay sober and involved and yet manage to care for myself and my family.
I have learned much in these 16 years since choosing normalcy (whatever that is) and sobriety and myself over the hell on earth I lived as an active alcoholic.
No more scenes. No more regrets. No more shame. No more guilt. No more “what did I do last night and who did I speak to and what did I say and why is she so angry with me”s. No more wishing I wouldn’t wake up.
No more police cars in the middle of the night responding to something I’ve caused or taken part in. No more lost relationships because of my poor behavior. No more blaming everything on everyone and everything else but myself.
No more blackouts. No more blackouts. No more blackouts.
Being present in this moment, being present. Being here, with them – together – well it’s all that matters. Keeping them safe.
At bedtime each night, the questions begin and some of the most heart wrenching come after I say, “I would keep walking past every other little girl/boy in the world until I found you two” and they then say, “but what if we got lost?” And I hold back my gulps and say, “I will keep looking for you forever. I will never leave you. Ever. Do you hear me?” Short of me going full on Liam Neeson in Taken impression, I reiterate that I will never ever leave them and that I will keep them safe. But can I really do that?
When somebody uses the term, “mom-guilt”, I just laugh because what even is that? If you’re a mom and doing the best you can and your kids are well cared for and loved fiercely, what is there to feel guilty about? Ask your kids if they feel loved and protected and safe, and if they answer yes, then let yourself off the hook.
I forget things. I forget what my life used to be like. The chaos, the sadness, the guilt and shame and remorse and utter despair and hopelessness I felt is apparently never that far out of reach. And I am grateful that I can call it up when I need to remember.
I’ve worked with a lot of alcoholics through the years. It’s just what we do, by passing it on we get to keep it. I want to keep my past close and help those who want the help – there is a difference between those who need the help and those who want the help.
This life I have today is far richer than I ever dreamed it could be and if I get a reminder every so often of what it was like, I dive into gratitude for what happened, and what it’s like now. I am going to ride this hope high I have today as long as I can while continuing to pass it on. This is just the beginning. In big and small ways, there is always always always something to be done to encourage that hope and gratitude – in ourselves and each other. It’s the fuel that keeps us going.