hello.

i am a writer, mother,
wife of recovering addict
+ more. 
addiction is a family disease. 
healing + telling my story 
through moments + light.

So, here I am. No name, no face, no age, no city. I write anonymously to free myself from judgement of the people I know. I am working on letting that go, too, but until then – just words on a page. Telling my story. To you. I’m not expecting to change lives, and I don’t believe one’s life purpose has to necessarily do that. A connection is all I can hope for. If you’re searching, maybe you will find hope in these words and know that you are not alone.

read more about why i write.

connect. say hello. share your story – ofmomentsandlight (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Learning to trust.

Learning to trust my husband again required detaching the man from his addiction.

I trust my husband when he’s in active recovery.
I trust the love and the work we’ve been putting into our marriage, our family and ourselves.

I don’t trust the addiction or when my husband is in active addiction.
I don’t trust myself when he’s in active addiction.

Addiction brought lies and betrayal into our home and turned my husband into someone I no longer knew or trusted.
His addiction turned me into a person I don’t want to be.

“Trust your gut,” my therapists would tell me, again and again.
So I did.
When I had a bad feeling about something I was often right.
I proved this by checking his phone while he slept.
He would not admit anything without proof.
Text messages, location history, phone numbers.

His phone became my source of truth.
Because it proved my gut feeling and was the only evidence I had, I felt it was the only thing I could trust.
I needed it to move forward.
I began checking it obsessively.

I don’t want to be the wife that checks her husband’s phone behind his back.
He can’t trust me and I’m not true to myself when I do.

So through our recovery process we have made small steps forward.
Now I ask to see his phone if my gut is telling me something is wrong, which is not often anymore.
In early recovery, which he is still in, it’s our way of establishing accountability.
We also have an app that allows me to see his location.
In the beginning it was just me seeing his location, but now he can see mine and it’s become more of a convenience for both of us.

But I check it every day, and if it’s ever not working, or when he got a new phone, I’m on him right away asking him to get that location app up and running.

When fear and triggers and addiction took over, it was my only source of truth, and so I still hold on to it.

I don’t know if I’m willing or able yet to give this over completely to my Higher Power by letting go of this phone access.
But I’m working on it.

Progress, not perfection.

I came to Al-Anon two years ago with no trust or faith in a Higher Power.
So yes, that phone was my only truth.
My safety net.

But phones break.
They get lost.
They can be turned off and hidden.

Higher Power can’t and won’t.

Two years later, and I trust the Higher Power of the stories, experience, strength and kindness in the people I’ve met in Al-Anon, in Al-Anon literature and in myself.

I’ve seen the progress that my husband and I continue to make.

I trust that if I keep coming back, showing up for myself and others every day in different ways, it’ll keep working.

Step four: filling empty spaces.

The calendar went around the table, and I passed it as usual, but not before pausing and looking at the next week’s topic: Step four. I had been thinking about signing up for the lead, but not on step four. Someone else who had actually worked the step could take that one.

By the end of the meeting, still no one had signed up. As I walked out the door, T called my name and asked if I would do the lead. “You would do such a great job,” she said. “I’ll sit next to you and help lead the meeting.”

My Higher Power speaks to me through the kind people I meet in Al Anon. She gave me the push I needed. Later that week, she texted me: “Thank you for offering the lead and I’ll help you along. We just share our experience, strength, and hope of step four. Don’t be concerned with having “worked” the step in some formal way. Higher Power gives us the words and those always speak to the hearts of the members. See you Tuesday and feel free to call me.”

I am so grateful to be a part of this community. Below is my first Al Anon lead.

Step four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory.

When I first signed up to do the lead for this week, I wasn’t sure about what I would talk about. I haven’t “formally” worked step four, so what could I possibly have to share that would be helpful to others? (And by “formally” working a step, I was thinking of someone who worked with a sponsor to physically write out their moral inventory.) But after encouragement from members of this group and thinking it over more, I realized that we all work the steps in different ways. There is no right or wrong way. And I have been weaving step four into my everyday life since I first came to Al Anon. I hope my story today can bring you strength and hope where you need it.

I’d like to start with a reading from Courage to Change, page 55:

Isn’t it exasperating to go to the grocery for an item, only to find the shelf empty? Fortunately, grocers can correct that situation by taking inventory to learn which shelves need replenishment.

The same is true for me. A fourth step inventory illuminates my own empty spaces, my shortcomings. This doesn’t have to be a painful or scary experience. I don’t have to pass judgment on an empty shelf, but unless I take the time to become aware of it, I won’t do anything to fill it, and the problem will continue. By taking inventory, my empty spots can be filled with the help of the remaining steps. I experience the healing power of these steps whenever the formerly hurtful circumstances recur while the pain that I once felt does not.

I believe if we don’t take action to fill our empty spaces with something positive – if we don’t replace the fear with love – resentment begins to grow there, instead.

When my husband was in active addiction, I had a lot of anger. I felt like I was doing most of the work when it came to caring for our child. On the weekdays, I’d get our son ready for daycare, drop him off, pick him up, feed him, play with him, give him a bath – while my husband slept, “worked late,” found some reason to leave the house or spend time in the garage. On the weekends, I’d wake up with our little one while my husband slept in. When I tried to wake him up, I yelled. “Wake up! I’m doing everything! This isn’t fair!” It typically didn’t end well.

As many of you know, sobriety doesn’t solve all of our problems. Our moral inventories are still there, the empty shelves waiting to filled, and no one can fill them but us. My husband got clean, and resentment grew in that angry, empty space.

I remember one Saturday morning, standing in the kitchen, the dishwasher open in front of me. I had just put all the dishes away, and the sink was full of more dishes to load. At my legs, our little one, asking when I would be done. A Sesame Street CD played in the background. Laundry tumbled in the washer downstairs. A to-do list building in my head. Upstairs, my husband’s alarm clock blaring for the last half hour. Him, in bed, sleeping, oblivious.

The anger began to wash over me – the same old thoughts of “this isn’t fair, he’s never going to change, I’m doing everything, I’m all alone, it’s all his fault.” But I didn’t want to feel angry anymore. I didn’t want to go upstairs and yell at him to wake up. I didn’t want to let him sleep and be angry the rest of the day, punishing him with my silence. I had been through all of that before, and it didn’t help. It didn’t help us move forward. The anger held us back.

I cried. The anger moved through me. It turned into sadness, confusion, a feeling of being overwhelmed and alone. I just wanted help. I just wanted him to be with us. I allowed myself to feel and accept these the feelings as mine to face. Then, I released them, and I went upstairs.

I didn’t yell. I replaced the anger with communication, and I told him I needed him. I needed help. It was all too much for me and I couldn’t handle it anymore. Would he please wake up and help me?

He responded better to that. And with love, compassion, communication, came perspective. I realized – he’s trying. He’s clean. He’s working on his issues and he’s not perfect and he needs help, too. He doesn’t want to sleep all day and miss out on his family. And so, with time, it’s getting better. We take it one day at a time. We have breakfasts together on the weekends now. We have a weekday routine in the mornings and evenings, tag-teaming the drives to and from daycare, dinner time, bath time, bed time. I don’t feel like I’m going at it alone anymore. We’re on the same page, doing it together, moving through each day with the same loving rhythm. Our son is four, and starting to feel big emotions. Rather than dismiss them, we are teaching him how to identify them, to know that they’re okay, and to release them. I suppose it’s never too early to start making your searching and fearless moral inventory, right?

As I prepared for this lead, I kept coming back to this: Step four is all about self love. It’s about loving yourself no matter what. Love yourself enough to recognize and celebrate your good qualities. Love yourself and allow yourself to feel, accept, and release the negative. Know that you are not your feelings, or thoughts, or behaviors. Self doubt and self hate have no place in your path forward. Love yourself enough to let go and let your Higher Power guide you. You are enough. Just ask your Higher Power to help you fill the empty spaces with what you already have within.

 

Our gift from the universe.

Little m turned 4 in February, and he ended his last day of being 3 with an epic 45-minute meltdown because he didn’t want to brush his teeth. M and I chalked it up to m being sick the few days prior, thus out of routine, and a long day of birthday party-ing and after party-ing. “Maybe he’s getting out all of the 3-year-old tantrums that he never had before he turns 4,” I joked as M and I sat in our bedroom, waiting it out and listening to little m cry in the next room.

Since that night, m has had countless tantrums and whining episodes for reasons including, but not limited to: wanting to watch TV right now, having to wait too long, not wanting to get dressed, not getting to listen to Darth Vader’s theme song for the millionth time, etc. You know, normal reasons for a 4-year-old to whine.

Except m rarely whined or threw tantrums before this. He usually listened to us after a brief time out or having some space to just cry. Then after getting it out of his system, he’d come to us and say sorry or just be ready to move on. So these consistent whining episodes and tantrums were fairly new to us.

I  always tell M that our son is our gift from the universe, and not in the same way all children are gifts. By four months old, he was sleeping through the night and we didn’t have sleep issues since. He eats all his vegetables – sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli – and loves trying new things like roasted seaweed snacks, oxtail stew, hot sauce. He doesn’t cry when he gets shots. He says please and thank you and puts his away his dishes after every meal. Every one of his babysitters has commented on how easy he is. At mommy groups, I often feel left out because everyone else is complaining about their children. I stay quiet because I don’t want to be the mom with that perfect kid.

“The universe knew we had a lot of shit to deal with,” I’d say to M. “So it gave us little m and said, ‘Look. Here’s the easiest baby in the world. He’s impossible to screw up. Just make sure he stays alive at the end of every day while you figure out your mess.'”

The moment little m was born, there was a shift in our relationship. The massive transition to parenthood was hard on us, M especially, and when placed on top of two lifetimes of not knowing how to love ourselves, we began to slowly crumble. Our son came into our lives and introduced a new kind of love, an energy so strong that it was able to hold us all together while everything else fell apart. For the most part, m made parenting easy so we could hold our family up while recovering the fallen pieces of our ourselves, our marriage, and build back our foundation.

And now, 4. M and I have reached a place where we can communicate our fears, celebrate the small wins, practice gratitude for the present moment and how far we’ve come. It is here, quite loudly, that little m is telling us he needs us – more than he ever has since his newborn days.

So we are listening. We put aside the articles and books on addiction, recovery, spirituality, marriage, and started looking for resources on child discipline.

The “counting to three and sending to time out” method had worked when m was 2, but now we are put off by the idea of sending him to be alone without addressing underlying issues. Communication has been so critical to our marriage, and we want there to be communication between all three of us. We want to find an approach that will let m know what he’s feeling is okay, and we are here for him while he struggles with difficult feelings, while not “rewarding” unacceptable behaviors by just giving him what he wants.

Not giving him what he wants. This is where I have struggled because doesn’t he want attention when he’s behaving this way? Aren’t we giving him what he wants and reinforcing his behavior by paying attention instead of sending him to his room?

I’m starting to learn that the answer is no. What he wants is more TV, or to skip brushing his teeth, or basically to just get his way. He wants control. What he needs is our attention. His whining, his crying, his meltdowns are his way of saying “I am feeling something, and I don’t understand it, and I can’t control it, and I need you to help me right now.”

Oh, sweetie. I’ve been there.

// Deborah MacNamara, How to get to the bottom of whining via Motherly

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

Let sadness in…

Release…

“Emotions are like waves … There are calm, rolling waters and there are storms that arrive and pass. In the boat, you’re together and you ride the waves. If you stay calm and present, you can navigate, and know the storms (intensely strong emotions) are a normal fact of being on the water, and they always pass.” // Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright, Now Say This: The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma

This too shall pass…

As I read more and more the different ways to address children’s behavior, what resonates most are the approaches that most align with what I’ve learned in my own healing process. Surprise, surprise, right? But what does surprise me is how much they align, and the incredible timing of it all.

Trust the process…

M and I had to do our own suffering, feel our own emotions and then let them go, learn how to talk about and focus on what lies beneath rather than the behavior or reaction that might be bothering us. It’s like we’ve been training for this the past few years. And now, our recovery is steering us in the right direction so that we can connect with this little human and teach him about the love, empathy and communication from which our family now grows.

 

Lean in and pray.

The summer of 2017, M relapsed. And by relapse, I mean he went full force back into using regularly and lying to me about it. After a weeks’ long stay in rehab that past December, months of intensive outpatient and nearly a half a year of clean, hopeful progress – we were back to locked doors, missing money, refusal to open up and be fully transparent, suspicions, fights, tears.

I had coffee with my friend S that summer, someone from my old food blogging days. Although we were not the closest of friends, we could always open up to each other so easily about the deep stuff that had us wondering about the everyday world and the relationships we keep. She had moved out of state but we still got together for coffee now and then when she came back in town.Her faith in God was something that I once ignored about her. Not because it turned me off, but I realized we might never be the friends that I thought, or hoped, we might be because of this difference in values. I didn’t believe in anything. I didn’t believe that God didn’t exist, but I didn’t welcome him into my life, either. I didn’t think I needed him.

So we had coffee and caught up on writing life, motherhood, navigating adulthood. Before we started saying our goodbyes, I opened up to her about my current struggle. I had been thinking about it during the entire date, wondering how to say it – just blurt it out? My husband is a recovering addict and our marriage is hanging on by threads and I feel very alone and confused and scared and the everyday that I once celebrated so much has now become my own struggle. There is no good time in a conversation to bring it up.

But I said it briefly – M had been in rehab, and it brought me to searching for something higher. I told her I admired her own strong faith, that she could just put her life in the hands of God and knew it would be OK. I had had one brief feeling of spirituality, of believing in something larger than me, in Japan, standing before a giant sitting Buddha. Was that what I was looking for? Does God exist in different forms? Is he the image of a man, or is he the energy all around me? I didn’t know. I felt like I was chasing something and I didn’t even know what it was or if it existed.

Lean into those questions, she said. Ask him for a sign.

I hadn’t prayed in a long time. I decided to try.

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. // Al-Anon Step 3

I liked the idea of praying, but a part of me felt like I didn’t have a right to do so. Because I’d rejected God for so long, how could just ask him for help now that everything is falling apart? Because I’d always judged people who found God this way – who couldn’t figure out a way to solve their problems themselves, so they just relied on God to fix it, and tell them what to do, and answer all the questions that they didn’t know how to face themselves. And if I did ask him for a sign, how would I know? Would I just be looking at everything after and thinking, is that it? Is that Him? If I did believe in God, did he have to be in the form of a man, and Jesus, or could I continue to believe that he is everything around me, that he is the energy flowing through me and my breath going in and out? Could it be what I wanted to believe, or is it another way? Is that what he would show me?

Lean into those questions. Ask him for a sign.

I didn’t know how to pray. So I wrote a letter.

Dear God,

I’ve been avoiding your name. I’ve been asking lots of questions, and searching, and buying books and not reading them, and meditating, and feeling like I’m forcing spirituality onto myself while also remaining doubtful and pushing away for fear of being a phony and a hypocrite and weak.

I want you. And I’ve been avoiding talking to you because a part of me does not want to be a person who prays. But a part of me wants to embrace prayer.

I need help.

Life is hard, and if I believe that we are all connected somehow, that the breath of life that flows through that tree that I’m looking at through the window also flows through me, that you are that life, that you are everywhere, not just some man looking down at me from the heavens above, listening to me, but that you’re wind blowing through the leaves and birds chirping and the blue, blue sky, and my son’s laughter, and the light shining through the window – then I have to be able to look to you for help.

Because you are life.

And I don’t know what it is you do – make things better? Tell me the answers? Give me a sign in the form of thunder and lightning, some clear vision that floats out of the sky, or maybe something smaller that falls into my path and just works somehow?

I realized that the one thing I haven’t done is let go.

Surrender.

To finally put my faith in you.

To stop trying to answer the questions myself and to let you tell me.

To be completely vulnerable, and to talk to you, and ask you for help, and admit that I don’t know the answers, and that if you’re everywhere and everything, then it will all be okay.

Please give me a sign. And I will be yours truly.

Celebrating progress, not perfection.

It’s been a few months since M’s last slip. Things have been gloriously ordinary around here. People ask “What’s new?” and I’m practically giddy when I tell them, “Nothing! Not much going on here. Just the everyday routine, every day.”

But what I really, really want to tell them are the small wins. Like, “M’s been coming to bed earlier.” Or , “We’re really making progress in our couples therapy sessions.” Also, “We have breakfasts together on the weekends now,” and “He’s quitting smoking!” Or even just, “He made it another day fighting the demons. He won today.”

While it might seem very strange for some people, when you’re living with someone in recovery, these small wins can mean everything. Especially when three years ago, our home was filled with resentment, uncertainty, feelings and hurt and worries unspoken and unheard. In Al-Anon, there is the slogan Progress, not perfection. It taught me perspective – really acknowledging how far we have come from sitting alone in those dark holes to climbing our way out, one step at a time, and finding our way back to each other and ourselves. We continue climbing every day.

It’s hard in this age of social media, where everyone is sharing the “perfect” things – celebrations of birthdays, marriages, a first house, a new job. A pregnancy announcement. A check-in from vacation. And attached to each post, a thread of congratulatory comments, hearts and likes and high fives, virtual hugs and pats on the back to let the poster know – Yes! This is worthy of being celebrated! We see you and how great you are living the life that everyone says you’re supposed to live.

And they are worthy of being celebrated! But what about the things that happen in between the big, happy moments? What about real life? The small, ordinary wins that look like nothing but took everything to achieve? How do we celebrate those?

It’s hard. I don’t like saying “I’m proud of you.” For some reason, it makes me feel separate, as though I’m saying it from above, looking down on him as he climbs. When what I really want to do is climb into the hole with him and cheer him on, and shine a light pointing up, so that he can see a little clearer and climb a little higher.

I don’t want to post on Facebook about what time my husband went to bed last night or our latest couples therapy breakthrough. Because it’s not even about the likes and the comments and the pats on the back. It’s about opening our eyes and noticing. Shining that light every day by saying, “Hey, I see you. I’m so happy you came to bed with me last night. It means a lot and I can feel us getting stronger, better. It feels right.”

Yesterday was the first day in 18 years that he did not have a single cigarette. When he told me, I hugged him. Told him it was amazing. And that we should celebrate. Tonight, we’re going out to eat at our favorite restaurant, out little family of three. We’ll get ice cream for dessert.

Let’s lift each other up. Let’s share our stories, our struggles, our big wins and small wins. Let’s celebrate.

It’s the smallest steps, the ones we take when we’re alone and unsure and afraid, the ones we take even though we can’t be certain we’ll make it to our destination because we’re learning, slowly, that maybe there is no destination. It’s just a constant climb, and not always up. Sometimes sideways, a couple of steps down, a pause to wait for the fog to lift before making the next step. These are the ones that are often the hardest to take, and the ones that are most important to celebrate.

And if we fall, the universe is there to catch us.

Relapse, recovery, resilience.

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A week ago, M used again.

As the weekend approached, I had a bad feeling. M had plans to be gone most of the weekend, hanging out with friends as their favorite band played at a local venue three days in a row. I was feeling anxious about solo parenting. I took Friday off to have time to myself, clean the house, run errands, so I could focus my attention on little m the rest of the weekend without feeling overwhelmed with house work.

I was not worried about M using.

His absence all weekend, coming home only to sleep and wake up late, was triggering. Reminded me of a worse time, years ago, before we began the healing process. When the darkness was hovering in every corner of our home, in the air between us, hanging over words said and unsaid.

I tried to wake him up to share my feelings. We had a horrible fight. He said things that were unlike him and looked at me with eyes of disgust. His energy scared me. I couldn’t believe the words he was saying.

We tried to put it behind us. We hugged, said our apologies, and he headed out. I knew as soon as his phone location was acting up – saying he was home, not out – that something was wrong. I spent the rest of the evening on my yoga mat, breathing. Feeling my inhale and exhale as powerful as waves crashing against rocks. I welcomed the universe in.

The universe answered. When M stumbled in the house at 5:00 the next morning, I immediately checked his phone and saw that he had been searching for addresses on the west side, where he gets drugs. He tried to lie, cover it up, but it was too late.

“Did you use?” I asked.

Pause. “Just last night,” he answered.

Truth brings me hope. I hold on to the truth. I grasp it tightly, knuckles white, clinging on for the life of our family. I hold on to the truth. It brings me hope.

Relapse is a part of recovery. It’s a controversial statement, and most people see it as either true or bullshit. It seems contradictory – how can someone be recovering if they’re still sick? It provides addicts with an excuse to use, because they can tell themselves they’re still in recovery even if they keep relapsing. And probably most of all – it can be extremely frustrating for family and friends of addicts who just want to the downward spiral of drugs, lies and darkness to go away forever.

But then take a look at the definitions of relapse and recovery. According to Merriam-Webster:

Relapse is a recurrence of symptoms of a disease after a period of improvement

Recovery is the process of combating a disorder (such as alcoholism) or a real or perceived problem

A recurrence of symptoms. For me, that means going back to the cycle of lies, denial, pain. A return to the darkness. When he uses and gets back into recovery right away, I don’t even call it a relapse. A lapse, a slip, a whatever. I try not to focus on it at all.

Relapse as a part of recovery takes away the belief that a relapse is a failure. It accepts that people are human, that we all make mistakes, that recovery is hard work. Recovery is not just an outcome. It is not just about sobriety. Recovery is about healing, finding a way back to one’s true self by diving into the depths of one’s soul and making it back out alive and reconnected to light. Recovery is about living life as a celebration of that light every day. 

M does not have a sobriety date. We do not measure the quality of his recovery with how many days he’s stayed clean. Instead, we focus on growth. We practice gratitude for the small, happy moments that did not exist when he was using – weekend breakfasts together, weekday evenings flowing through the bedtime grind together, cleaning up after dinner together, long chats about what it means to be a human and a spirit. Together.

What about me? How am I doing? How do I recover?

This week has been hard. Anxiety starts to take over small moments, making it difficult to focus. My chest begins to tighten, heart heavy and sinking to the pit of my stomach, a rumbling, a churning, and I find myself heading for the bathroom, my body literally telling me to release this negative energy. I went to my first Nar-Anon meeting (I have tried several other meetings in the area over the years – a few Al-Anon, a few non-12-step programs) and it didn’t quite fit. I plan to go back to my Tuesday night Al-Anon, which is structured to share the strength and hope of our stories rather than getting sucked into the hopelessness that can sometimes enter the room when we are simply sharing the back and forth of our addicts, the constant relapses and rehabs and disappointments. I joined a yoga therapy group,  practice yoga in a light filled room every other Saturday with a small group of women, then sharing our feelings after. I write. I read. I take pictures. I try not to let fear swallow me up.

My mantra this past week: resilience. I do not see his slips as failures, as long as he gets back up. As long as he stays committed to his recovery – to living the best way he can and giving his family the best version of himself. We deserve that. He deserves that.

And I continue to take each struggle as an opportunity for growth. I prayed and the universe answered. Now I must trust this process. Now I must keep going.

do not break
to break down

break
to break open.

– danielle doby, I AM HER TRIBE