Over the past few weeks, I’ve been digging through my house trying to find items to sell in an upcoming rummage sale. Most of the items are my daughters, and as time has passed and she has accumulated more and more things, our home has started to feel slightly claustrophobic. Still, I’m having a hard time letting a few things go.
Last night, I was doing a final sweep through our basement when I came across a box of clothing from 2012 – my daughter would have been 2 years old then. Suddenly, I felt the immediate sting of regret that accompanies my memories of this time frame.
When my daughter was 2 years old, I was sick…really, REALLY sick. This would have been the time in our lives where I was at the height of my addiction. In 2012, my health was quickly fading as I entered the end stages of alcoholism. I was only 28 years old, and I was slowly dying. It was also a time when I would have been physically present in our home, but I certainly wasn’t present as a wife and mother.
I found myself stopping as I pulled each outfit from the box, pressing them to my face, looking them over, tracing each design with my fingers, smiling stoically as I tried like hell to remember my daughter wearing these things at that age.
Throughout my recovery, I have learned that there is one thing my sobriety can never give back to me – lost time. Some days, I still find myself wishing I could have that time back – as if time were something tangible I could grab onto.
I can never give that time back to my daughter either, and that’s what hurts the most – but I can give her all of my days moving forward – and there lies the silver-lining.
As I was looking through the clothing, I began simultaneously searching through my phone for pictures of her wearing each outfit. I became OBSESSED with finding those photos. At the time, I didn’t understand why I was so frazzled! They were just clothes, after all!
I realized today that the reason for this sudden obsession was simple. You see, I don’t have to search for pictures of my daughter wearing specific outfits after the age of 4, because I can remember them all. Those memories, the ones formed after I got healthy, are etched into my brain as if they just happened yesterday. They are fresh, and bright and sparkly. They shine!
I don’t have those same memories from when my daughter was 2 years old, and I never will. The memories I have are muddy, and gray and stained with tears and despair. Every time I feel that I have come to accept this fact, every time I feel that I have truly forgiven myself, I stumble upon something that reminds me of who I once was and I hate that woman all over again.
I sometimes replay past events over and over again in my head until I recognize the need to break that cycle of obsession. I could literally torture myself with the mistakes of my past. I try not to do this anymore, and I have really worked hard to move past it, but every once in a while I still like to give myself a good emotional lashing.
It’s times like this where I need to take a moment to remind myself how far I have come. Hating the woman I used to be, does nothing for the woman I aspire to be. Sure, I was capable of some pretty shitty things in my active addiction, but I’ve been capable of some pretty amazing things in my recovery. I cannot afford to let myself forget that.
Here’s what I know today. Honesty equals courage. I understand that I do not have the ability to rewrite my past, and to be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure I would want to anyway.
My mistakes, as well as the consequences, all led me to the where I am today. And today, I am a good mother, a devoted wife, a hardworking employee, and an honest friend, sister and daughter.
I don’t have to put all of my energy into trying to manipulate other people’s perceptions of me. I do not falsify information and I take responsibility for my actions. I have integrity.
Today, I have the ability to advocate for myself, because I know where I have been and how far I have come. I know my worth, and I see the value in others. I can be an advocate for those who struggle too, because I have witnessed miracles in my recovery. Miracles!
Recovery is sooo much more than “just saying no” – it’s about learning to live a full life. It’s taught me how to participate in my life again. I am present every moment – the good, the bad, the boring and the painful. I no longer crave an escape, because I’ve built a life I enjoy living.
I have faith that a power greater than myself will place me right where I need to be, when I am ready to be there. A huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders the moment I realized I have the ability to let go.
What an extraordinary gift I have been given – the gift of living. ❤️