Making God Laugh

For the past couple of months this day has bothered me…knowing it was coming bothered me.

Today is just another day.

Today is just another anniversary of my birth.

This day is really no different than any other day in the year, other than today, I am another year older.

I really have not struggled much with getting older.  Most years I embraced my new year, my new age.  And I really celebrated my day.

But this birthday has been hard for me….. not in the “holding my breath” hard that my 51st birthday was.  But hard in the realization of what this age means for me.

There have only been a couple of birthdays that were hard, REALLY hard for me.  And it may surprise you to know it wasn’t my 30th or my 40th or even my 50th birthdays.  Those were milestone birthdays I embraced and celebrated.  Those birthdays were the dawning of a new decade for me.  A new stage of life.

No, those birthdays did not bother me.  20 did.  20!  I dreaded turning 20 because I was no longer a “teenager”.  I had to be an adult.  (Never mind that I had gotten married 2 weeks before I turned 20! And had my first child when I was 20!).  I was not ready to be an adult, a full adult.  I felt I had been robbed of my teenage years and did not want to let go.  So, yes, turning 20 was hard.

But not nearly as hard as my 51st birthday.  And you can read how that birthday impacted me here.  That birthday was the catalyst for my blog.

Today I turned 55.  And the past couple of months leading up to this day were hard.  I was not looking forward to my birthday, even thinking maybe I should skip it because if I skip it then I don’t really turn 55!  Yeah, right!  It was what this birthday represents, that it really, truly means I am more than halfway through my life that made this day hard for me.  My goal to live to my 100th birthday, is closer than I want and arriving far more quickly than I want.  This year means that there is only 45 years of living left to do and that is going to go fast.  Why it didn’t hit me until this birthday, I am not sure.  But it did.  And hit me hard a couple of months ago.  I know that I am so blessed to have reached this age.  Many do not get here.  My mother did not.  But it is still slightly difficult for me today.

The realization of where my age is now, had me reflecting on what I have accomplished in my life.  All those dreams and ideals of my childhood…what happened to them?  What had I accomplished?  How have I really made a difference in this world?

Before you stop and answer any of this, bear with me a minute here—

You see, I had grand plans for my life.  I believed that what I had experienced in my childhood meant that I was here, that God placed me here on earth, to make a difference on a grand scale.  I wanted to become a Social worker to help abused children.  I wanted to become an advocate for all those children who had no one to speak for them, all of those who had no voice. I saw myself sitting before the United States Congress, speaking on behalf of all those abused and abandoned children.  I envisioned that I would be a part of drafting policies and laws that would protect children.  I saw myself meeting with my Governor, with US Representatives and Senators. And I saw myself meeting the President and discussing policies to benefit abused children.  I believed I would achieve great things and have a huge impact on a grand, giant stage.

And I planned to do this all while raising my own children, because being a mother was one of the things I wanted most in my life.

Well, here I am celebrating turning 55 years old and the only thing that materialized that I, as a young girl, had dreamed, planned and envisioned for my life was to become a mom.  The rest didn’t happen.  I never stood on a grand, giant stage, literally or otherwise.  And I never had a huge impact on hundreds of lives.  that realization is what made this birthday harder.  I am running out of time.  I have lived for 55 years and what have I done other than to get married, follow my husband around the world and raise our boys?  More than half my life behind me and what have I done?

And then this morning I woke up and realized some things, had a shift in my thoughts that made this day easier…making aging easier.

Yes, as a young girl I had BIG ideas and goals, who doesn’t?  But life does not always go the way we plan. And well, I think God was a little amused with me.  You know the saying “Want to hear God laugh?  Then tell him your plans.”  Yes, I had told God what my plans were, and I heard him laugh a little.  God had a plan for my life that looked very different than the one this young girl envisioned.

And that life God had planned for me was better than I could have ever imagined.

One day during the weeks leading up to this birthday, my oldest son and I had a conversation that helped me to shift how I was thinking about the difference I have made in this world and just what I have accomplished.  He said to me that I had kept him alive.  I had fought for him to get treatment.  I had fought for him and fought with him, to get that help.  My son told me I was the reason he was alive today. Those words out of his mouth at that moment stopped me in my tracks.

I held my breath at the memory of all we had been through.  I held my breath remembering the pain, the fears, the worry.  I held my breath at the realization of just how close we came to losing him.  I held my breath as I saw just how far he has come and where his life, our life, my life is now.

The tears flowed.  My heart swelled.  I did not realize the impact I had had on his life these past few years.  I did not know what difference I had made.

We don’t always know when we impact another or how we impact another person’s life.  We don’t always know the difference we make.  Those small steps, the little things that mean something to another human being are not always recognized by us.  Maybe it is the smile we give someone.  Or maybe a kind word.  Maybe it is holding a door, or a kind, understanding look.  Talking with someone.  A meal.  Being vulnerable with others.  Maybe it is just listening.  So many ways.  So many small things that can have a HUGE impact on another person.  And maybe even changed a person’s life forever.

Maybe, those are the REAL grand gestures.  Maybe those moments are the REAL giant stage from which we make a difference in the world.

I have always believed and strived to live my life with the thought that helping JUST ONE person means I have made a difference.  If I could help just one person, then I was doing something.  And I hoped that by helping just one, then maybe I was making a difference in this world.

My son made me realize that maybe, just maybe I have done that.  At least when it came to his life.

God did not put me on this earth to use a giant stage for grand gestures.  That was for the Oprah’s, the Gates’, the politicians of the world.

I was put here for a smaller stage.  God put me here to make a difference on a smaller level.  One moment at a time.  One person at a time.

And that realization changed my thought this past week.  I still had a hard time this morning knowing I was now 55.  But it wasn’t nearly as hard.

I realized I am living the life I was meant for, the one God had planned for me.

And I am going to live each day to it’s fullest!  I decided that this year, 2020, would be about living each day because that is all I really have.  I am going to live each day in the moment, embracing all that life has to offer!

After all, I only have 45 more years, which doesn’t seem like much to me until…..

I realize that (when including leap years), I really have 16,436 days left to live.

And 16,436 days is A LOT of time.  A LOT of days to live.

I can do A LOT with 16,436 days!

Farewell 2019…. Welcome 2020

It is the last day of 2019.  The last day in this decade.

Wow.  Time has gone by so fast this year.

Tomorrow we wake up in a new month, a new year and a new decade.

I have spent the past few days reflecting on this past year and asking myself what I want out of the year to come.  I have a birthday coming up that is bothering me (I will write more about that as the day nears).  For now, today, I want to focus on my reflections…..saying good-bye to 2019 and hello to 2020.

The past few years were stressful.  And 2019 had some stressing moments, too.  But compared to the years before, well 2019 was quiet…. relatively quiet anyway.

Things are well with my family today.

There is light at the end of the very long tunnel for my oldest son.  Finally!  (more coming on that)

My youngest son is embarking on new and exciting adventures and living each day with his beautiful bride (our amazing daughter-in-love), who herself has accomplished great things this year with a lot of hard work!

The kids are all good.

My husband and I are enjoying this phase, with a little less worry in our days.  I resigned from my job at the beginning of the year and focused a little on me and a lot on my family.  That was a good move for me.

Yes, 2019 was a good year.  (mostly, anyway)

But the year went too fast.

I found that I did not spend as much time in the moment as I had planned for 2019.  Sometimes things happen.  Life gets in the way and I lose focus.  A good year can still have its moments—and curve-balls can still be thrown, even in a good year.

Yet, here I am.  And I am grateful the all the good that came in 2019.

Now as I look toward the coming year, I am thinking about what that year will mean for me, where I want to be, who I want to be.  As I have shared in the past, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  They don’t work for me.  Instead I challenge myself, I make the year about growing and becoming a better version of me, I have a yearly mantra.

And that is what I have been contemplating.  This next year is hitting me a little hard.  Age can do that sometimes.  So, I am thinking that after all of the years spent taking care of everyone else, this new year will be about me…. being a little selfish and making the year about taking care of me…. about living each day to its fullest.

There is a quote out there that speaks to me every time I see it—not sure where the quote originated (I have heard a few names) but it is a powerful one—

“You only live once?   False!  You live every day!  You only die once.”

Yes!  This!

All I have is this day, this moment.  I am not promised tomorrow.  Yesterday is gone.  Today is what I have.  And do I want to waste it?  Do I want to wallow in my worries?  Do I want to stay stuck in the past?  Or continue to fear what may or may not come tomorrow?  Thinking and living for yesterday or tomorrow means I am missing out on today, the only day I truly have…..

And I do not want to waste it!  Absolutely NOT!

I have always been one who strives to live in the moment.  I have not always been perfect at it.  The past few years had me living in the worry of the past and the fear of the future.  So, 2020 is going to be the year that I really, truly live each day, while putting the past behind me and keeping the lessons I have learned.  And by letting God take care of tomorrow, trusting that He has it and He has me.  All while I am focusing on now, this moment, this day.

And I am going to LIVE each day.  Embracing all that each moment, each experience has to offer—I am going to thrive in the chaos and the calm, the quiet and the noisy moments that show me I am alive!  My mom didn’t get to do that. But I get to…  I cannot waste a single moment, a single day.

Each day is a gift to be treasured.  The good, the bad, the mundane.  Each day is one more day I get to enjoy–one more sunrise, one more sunset, one more day filled with minutes to treasure and the people I love.

By living each day, knowing it is my day…a gift from God, I will be saying yes to adventures, and I will not let fear stop me.  I will get to enjoy all things because I will be present, here now.

2019, you were a good year, much better than the previous few years.  And tonight, I bid you farewell.

And I welcome 2020— the year I will live even more mindfully than I already do.  The year I take care of me!  The year that I will remember that I only die once, but I live every day!

After-all, today is the only day I have!  I won’t waste it!

2020 will be the best year yet!

Christmas Comes Early to Our Home and Hearts

I love Christmas.  And yes, Thanksgiving is this week and I enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

But I LOVE Christmas!  I wrote about my family Christmas’s in 2016 here.  That year was made special because my son and now daughter-in-law were home for Christmas.  2016 was the first time in 5 years that both of my boys were here and it had been 4 years since spending Christmas with my youngest son.  So I was happy.  And it was a good Christmas….. but there were some underlying stresses that made it difficult too.

Hopefully, my youngest son did not see how much of a struggle it was for me….for my husband…. Christmas that year and the year before and the year after were difficult to say the least.  Like so many families across the country, we had our stresses to deal with, our burdens to bear.  And sometimes life is difficult, especially during the holiday season.  I really think that it is only because we love the Christmas season so much and all of the magic it brings that we were able to celebrate at all.

Christmas 2015 was the beginning of the chaos with my oldest and I didn’t want to celebrate…. But I did because I had always promised myself that no matter where life took me, no matter what was happening or who I was missing, Christmas would still be celebrated, I would still decorate and bake and sing and shop and so much more.  So I did.  Despite the pain and chaos.  But that year, 2015, I actually started to put away the Christmas decor on Christmas eve.  I was done.  It takes a lot to get me to that point and I had never been there before.  But there I was.  Done.

Christmas 2016 found me exhausted.  I had spent weeks trying to find treatment for my son, navigating the mental health system and the justice system and I was emotionally exhausted and completely drained.  But there I was on Thanksgiving weekend, decorating like I always did.  I played my favorite Christmas music.  I baked.  But my heart wasn’t there.  I was exhausted.  And overwhelmed.  And at one point I just wanted to skip Christmas….me!  The Christmas person.  But my son was coming home and it would be the first Christmas my now daughter-in-law would spend with us, so I kept doing the things that made it Christmas for my family and my wonderful husband picked up some of the slack for me and took over some of the things that were overwhelming me…  I was excited to have my family together and am so thankful they were all here or I may have completely missed my favorite holiday.

And then last year, Christmas 2017, was hard for all of us.  We had been spending months with the fear that my son would have to go to prison…. And how in the world would I be able to do Christmas with him there?  Thanksgiving weekend, I again got out the décor and ALL of my trees and decorated.  It was my distraction from the pain and stress.  We found out in the middle of December that year, that he would not be going to prison and that should have made for the best Christmas…. But the stress took its toll and for the first time EVER I slept through most of Christmas eve, getting up after 8pm.  I just wasn’t into it, still.

BUT this year is way different!  In every way!  My son is doing well.  He has been getting the help he has needed.  There is no court to go to.  There are no lawyers to talk to.  There are no emergency visits to psychiatrists needed.  The stress is so much less.  Things are good.  REALLY good!

So in October, yes before Halloween, when my husband started singing Christmas songs, I thought someone had taken over his body…. What?  Where did my husband go?  Who is this guy, disguised as my husband?  My husband loves Christmas too, just not as obsessively as I do, so this was very strange!  Usually my guys won’t let me play Christmas music until Thanksgiving and then I get the “eye-rolls” from my guys when I say the only music allowed in the house or car is Christmas music.  But here was my husband singing Christmas songs.  And it was October!  And then we would go shopping and he wanted to see the Christmas decor….and we bought some….in OCTOBER!  IN OCTOBER!  Then there were the days my husband would run out to do an errand and he would come home with more Christmas decor for inside and outside!  What happened to my husband?

surprises

All the years of being married to me finally rubbed off on him!

outsideMy husband started decorating the outside of our house the first weekend in November.  I was shocked.  And very happy!  He was making me laugh and smile and we were having fun!

And I started to decorate inside too.  Just the rooms that did not have the fall decor, those insidewould have to wait until after Thanksgiving.  It has made me really happy to decorate.  We started playing our Christmas music a couple of weeks ago and we started watching hallmark Christmas movies then, too.

Christmas was coming early in our house and in our hearts.

I couldn’t figure out why we started so early this year (we never start before Thanksgiving) or why my husband was so into it…. Not until my son asked if I had an extra tree that we could put in his room….. he had NEVER wanted a tree in his room….. of course I had a tree for him!  He says that we are so into Christmas this year that he just wanted to give us a little gift and have the tree in his room to participate in the Christmas spirit.

And that is when it hit me.

This year the stress is gone.  He is stable.  We are all feeling good right now.  The chaos is minimal.  Compared to the last three Christmas seasons, well this has gotten off to a near perfect start!  We have all come a long way this year.

And that is why we are all excited about Christmas.

I hadn’t realized the toll the past few years had taken on us or on our joy of the Christmas season.  I hadn’t realized that it had affected my husband as much as it had affected me.  Or the effect on my son.  And I was pretty good at hiding my lack of Christmas joy from the world outside our walls.  I was trying really hard to find it in the midst of the chaos, but just couldn’t get all the way there.

But we are REALLY excited this Christmas season.  There is NO faking it!  We are ready for the magic.   We are ready for the spirit of the season.  The lights.  The smells. The goodies.  The events.  ALL of it!

So, yes, we started early this year with our decorations.  My friends think we are nuts.  So do our neighbors.  And I am more than okay with that!

Our jumping into Christmas early, isn’t about skipping any other holidays or trying to rush the season.  Our early Christmas spirit is ALL about wanting to enjoy it…. ALL of it…… and ALL that we missed the past few years.

joy

 

This year Christmas has come early to our home and our hearts!  My heart is happy and full of joy!

Thank you, mama

Yesterday I went to an event that I almost didn’t go to…. But God made sure I went. Something inside me said I needed to go to hear what my friend had to say when she spoke to a group of women at a breakfast.  I now know it was one of those “God Winks”.

I am so glad I was there.

The emotions inside me. It was as if in those words my friend spoke, there was a message from my birth mother… a message of love.

Before finding my birth family, I had often thought about what I would ask and what I wanted them to know. And when I finally found them, I was able to do just that.

But with my birth mother I was not given the opportunity to ask the questions or to say what I wanted to say to her. She had passed away in 2007, just four years before I would find her siblings.

There have been times these past few years that I have been angry with my birth father, had he just given me the information I asked for about my birth mother, instead of denying our relationship, I would have found her before she passed away…. But the past cannot be changed. So, I have moved beyond the anger and forgiven him. My birth father did what he needed to do based on his own family situation and for that I cannot be angry with him or fault him. We all do what we need to do in the place we are at that moment. And when he finally acknowledged me and gave me the info I needed, I was finally able to find the answers I was seeking.

My birth mother had been searching for me. She never forgot about me and my sister. She loved us. And wanted to find us.

So yes, I have answers.

What I haven’t been able to do, what I have been denied is being able to say to her the things I have longed to say my entire life….

And yesterday I realized I needed to do it, even if it was through written word…. Written to her but for me.

So here, is what I want to say to my birth mother today—

birth mom and meDear mama,

I have always known I was adopted and I have always wondered about you. Where were you? Were you okay?

But mostly I wanted to be able to tell you, that I understand.

I am a parent now and even though I am not sure anything would have made me give up my boys, I understand now the tough decision you made. And that you made that decision out of love for us.

For years I didn’t understand…. couldn’t comprehend how you could have dropped us off at Social Services and told the social worker you didn’t want us…. And then wouldn’t say good-bye to us. Now I understand. It must have been incredibly painful for you to leave your babies in a stranger’s hands. The pain must have been great. Your courage in doing what you believed was best for us was incredible. I admire your courage.

You did what you thought would give us the best life and safest life. I admire you for that. Thank you for loving us enough to realize that in that moment of your life you could not guarantee us that safety.

And I want you to know that yes, I have the best life. I am married to my high school sweetheart, a man who takes great care of me. And I have two wonderful boys who are now grown men. Being a mother has been my greatest blessing.

My life wasn’t always easy, but I did have a mother who loved me unconditionally. She held me when I was hurt and scared, she comforted me, she made a big deal out of every birthday and made sure I knew right from wrong. My mom made sure I knew I was loved and wanted. And my mom gave me a foundation in faith that has carried me through the toughest times.

I want you to know that I thought of you often and wondered. Every year on my birthday, I looked up at the stars and wondered if you were thinking of me too. I now know you were.

I want to thank you for giving me a foundation of love my first three years of life. A foundation I know helped to form who I am today. I know you loved me. And I loved you.

You were my first mom, my birth mom. And you gave me a wonderful gift of this life I have now. I don’t know what life would have been like if you had not given me up for adoption.  But I do know that the life I have now with the man I married and the children I love with all of my being, I would not have any of this without that decision you made all those many years ago.

A decision you made out of a deep love for your children.

I want you to know I hold no anger or bitterness. I would not change anything, other than to have found you sooner so I could say all of this to you in person.

And I look forward to the day when we are reunited in heaven. I know you are there with my mom and the two of you are sharing stories and that she is thanking you for the gifts you gave her in her two daughters.

I forgive you!  I love you!

Thank you mama!

 

Fathers Day

Today is Fathers Day. A day to remember and honor Fathers everywhere.

I didn’t have the greatest examples for a father. My birth father walked out when I was a year old, leaving my mother, who was pregnant at the time, and me. My first experience with trust and fatherly love. And my adoptive father, well…. abandonment, abuse…. not a great example. My second experience in my young life with trust and fatherly love. Neither of those men showed me what a father was supposed to be and both taught me to distrust men.

You know that Kelly Clarkson song, “Piece by Piece”? I don’t know how, but she knew what my life was like and she sang that song as if it was meant for me, too. I know sadly, that many others can relate as well.

I had friends with dads who were good men, but I still didn’t trust them…. And I still didn’t believe that I would ever find that man who would be a good dad….

Until I married my husband and saw him with our firstborn.

My husband and I were just kids ourselves when we became parents. We were scared. I did not understand that saying “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad”, until that moment that I saw him hold our oldest son, tears in his eyes, and then five years later when he held our youngest son with tears in his eyes. Yes, my husband was that someone special.

He showed me what a dad should be, could be, and was.

My husband was a career Air Force man and yes, the Air Force had to come first. He was deployed, sent far from us for trainings, worked long hours… yet he still managed to show our boys just how much he loved them!

When he was away from home he would send postcards and letters just for our boys, letting them know what adventures he was having and how much he missed them and loved them. He called just to talk to them and when email came about, he would send them notes in emails. Our boys knew their dad loved them, even from far away.

Then there were the nights when he would put our oldest to bed, while I was taking care of our youngest. He would read to him, but more often than not he would climb onto our oldest son’s top bunk with him and they would look at the map of the world hanging on his wall and discuss geography. And then when our youngest was old enough, he would read to both boys before they went to bed. Precious time spent between a father and his sons.

My husband was always finding ways to exercise our boys’ minds… through history, traveling places, and math games on long road trips. He taught them both to do math in their head, quickly (man, I could never keep up with the three of them) and the boys soaked it all in, loving those times with their dad. As the boys grew, he would have deep conversations with them about everything and anything. I loved to sit and listen to their conversations, even when they were way out of my understanding. Watching them interact filled my heart with such joy.

He taught them to love the outdoors and traveling, spending hours planning amazing adventures for our family from the weekend camping trips to the multi-week road trips. He taught them both to skip rocks and the three of them skipped rocks in multiple countries and many states. Adventures were found everywhere he took our boys.

My husband spent many weekend afternoons taking the boys to movies, playing catch with them, reading with them and creating things with them. He coached their baseball teams when the Air Force had him home for the season. He attended their games, school programs and listened to their many hours of musical practice. He took them four-wheeling in the hills when we lived in South Dakota and planned fun things to do with the kids when I took off on my mother’s weekend getaways, NEVER saying or feeling like it was a chore to spend time with our boys.

My husband showed me and my boys that dads stay… that dads hug…. that dads are tough and soft…. that dads love unconditionally!

Was he perfect at parenting? No, but who is? My husband was the best dad I could have ever asked for. So today, I honor the man he is, and the dad he is.

My husband showed me through his actions that a man can be a dad, that a dad is involved with his kids, loves them unconditionally, and never leaves. And he showed me, that a dad builds his children up rather than tearing them down.

He has been the rock in our family, supporting each of us at our times of need. He has dropped everything and flown to see our boys when they needed him.

There are many times I wish that I had had a dad like him…….. and I am so grateful that my boys have had him as their dad.

I thank God every day for this man! And I am now and forever will be in awe of the dad my husband is!

I took the leap and trusted this man and I could not have asked for a better parenting partner or dad for my boys!

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2017 Reflections

In a few short hours it will be a new year here in Arizona.

The end of a year is a time of reflection…..what went well, what didn’t….the joys, the sadness, the challenges, the losses and the lessons learned…..all reflected on during these last few hours of the year.

I have been more than ready to let go of 2017 and move into 2018. This year was difficult and filled with many challenges. I spent more time in courts and doctors’ offices than I care to ever do again. I spent a lot of time talking to medical, psychological and addiction professionals while trying to navigate a very frustrating system. And I have learned a lot about myself, my strength, my capabilities and about my family during this past year.

So, yes, I am ready to move on and leave all of this behind, looking forward to continued progress and continued healing.

I have been writing in my journal a lot these past few days, as I reflected on the past year…..writing a lot about the pain and fears….the loss of my friend….the challenges that faced my son and my family…..and then my thoughts started moving in another direction.

You see, living through this past year, well it was always with me, there in the back of my mind as I tried to enjoy the moments and time with my family and friends….addiction and mental illnesses and all that goes with them hang over our lives like a storm….always waiting for the next round. And even when things were going well, it was hard to not notice it hovering there, in the corner waiting to strike again. And that is what I kept writing….. and still it hangs there….but……

As I sit here reflecting on the past year, my thoughts are moving in different direction. The joy is beginning to outweighing the pain. There was much to celebrate this past year. There were happy times, even in the midst of immense pain. There was joy, travel, adventures, family time, and a wonderful wedding. And there were moments….tiny and large….when the joy took over…… small times when I could leave it all behind and just enjoy……

This slideshow has some of the moments from 2017 that brought me joy…..and the highlight of the year was the wedding of my youngest son to the love of his life, the one time in 2017 when I was able to leave all my fears and worries behind and really enjoy the celebration for a few days.

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And that is what I want to reflect on now, in these last few hours of 2017….the joy, the happiness and bright lights found in otherwise dark days. And as I move into 2018, I am looking forward to more light, more joy, more moments of happiness and lots of healing.  And I will remember, that even in the midst of the storm, there is always a rainbow…a light at the end of the day.  There is always something to smile about and to enjoy if I just take the time to notice.

I don’t make resolutions anymore, because, well….I am NOT good at keeping them. So, instead, the past few years I have focused on mantras and mindsets…..challenges, really, that help me to continue to grow and learn and help me to continue moving toward a better version of myself.

To that end, 2018 will be the year I continue to step outside my comfort zone, to try new things and to say yes more! My focus will be to “live in the moment, present and mindful” and to “let go and let God”.

I will continue to look for those moments that not only bring a smile to my face but make my heart sing….even off-key!

And I will continue to take the leap and just breathe!

Shouldering the Load

How much weight can one person’s shoulders carry?

The past couple of years, and specifically the past 21 months have shown me just how strong my shoulders are…..and how much stronger they are when the load is shared with another and when I trust in God.

March 2016……my husband’s birthday weekend, one of the worst weekends we had had in a really long time….years actually. That weekend, we couldn’t reach our son. He didn’t come home. He didn’t answer his phone. And after a couple of days, we decided to try tracking his phone through our carrier…..and that is when we discovered his phone was more than an hour from us, so I called again. This time it was answered by a stranger…..my son’s phone had been found on a garbage can in the parking lot of a casino and the person took it with them. We spent the next few days talking with the police, and driving….hours of driving trying to find our son….up and down every lane in the parking lot of the casino where his phone had been found, looking for his car……hours driving city streets in areas we knew him to have been……hours texting and calling his friends and no one had seen or heard from him……and many sleepless hours. And then we feared the very worst, we would never see our son again……..and then he called. Relief. And anger when he told us his crazy story.

That weekend began 21 months that showed me just how strong I can be. The beginning of months of disappearances and worry. Months of having him home then asking him to leave. Months where weeks at a time we had no idea where he was, or if he was alive or dead. Months of fearing the knock on the door and the ring of our cell phones. Months of dealing with the darkness of addiction. Months of dealing with the justice system…arrests, court appearances, probation visits…….

And today, finally, relief……

My son has been under the threat of prison time since last April, when the system decided to file more charges from earlier arrests. And those charges started months of stress for him and for us…. Probation violation and the nightmare that followed in Yavapai county, then the threat of prison. In September, my son decided not to accept the plea deal to go to prison….. and he opted for trial.

More stress. Worry. Fear.

The last nine months had my son finally at a point that was positive in his life. He had completed intensive outpatient drug treatment. He was present and working on staying clean. He had monthly random drug tests that kept coming back clean.

But the threat of prison weighed heavily on him. And that stress sunk him deep into the dark hole of depression and severe anxiety. I was scared. We were beginning to lose him again, but this time to depression not drugs.

My shoulders were sagging under the weight of all that had happened and the weight of the fear and worry while watching helplessly as my son sunk deeper and deeper into that black hole.

And then things started to look up, positive things were happening……an emergency visit to a real psychiatrist had my son hopeful, finally being put back on medication he had been without for a couple of months. Hope. Relief.

And then a letter in the mail a few days ago, one that may have upset another, but for us…..relief. My son had gone through an evaluation for mental health services and was accepted, his mental health illness severe enough to warrant real help…..finally! Someone listened. Someone saw what we were seeing. Someone heard my son and knew he needed help. Hope. Relief. Weight lifting for all of us.

But we were still facing today, a court appearance for sentencing. The choice to go to trial gave my son another chance for treatment and not prison. They offered him a much better plea deal, one that would not send him to prison and one that dropped the charges from 2016. He accepted the new plea deal last month.

And today we were back in that courtroom in front of the judge. It was a long morning. Stress. Worry. Fear. And then my son was standing in front of the judge. And when she told him she was sentencing him to 3 years probation…..the weight I had been carrying suddenly lifted. I didn’t hear the rest of what the judge said.

Everything these past 21 months, every moment of fear, worry, anger…..every moment that sought to destroy me, to destroy my family……. It suddenly bubbled to the top…… I wasn’t sure I could walk out of there in that moment.

Relief overcame me…..

This chapter is over. And in that moment, as the weight on my shoulders lifted, I realized just how much I had carried….. and wondered how I had done it…… How did I manage to still get through a day at work? How did I wake up each morning and get through my day? How did I manage to take those trips that needed to be taken? How did I stay afloat when the weight was trying to drown me?

I have heard many times that “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” True. I am stronger, much stronger than I ever thought I was. And I can do so much more than I ever imagined. I have traveled a road I never imagined I would find myself on…… and now I get ready to help my son navigate this new road, one that is leading him toward hope….. hope for a life without drugs….. hope for a life with some meaning…… hope for a life where he does not live in fear and where he can find peace.

And I know that I did not carry this load alone.

How much can one person’s shoulders carry? It depends. I have discovered that my shoulders can carry a lot of weight, but not alone. I have only gotten through these past 21 months because of my family, who helped me and gave me strength when I thought I would fall….. some dear friends who checked in on me and gave me a listening ear, a hug when I needed it and a shoulder to cry on……. and my faith, with God by my side I can do anything, and He made sure that the people I needed were there when I needed them….. and I carried this load because my best friend, my partner, the love of my life and the father of my sons was right there next to me, helping me to carry the load and at times carrying all of us when I was too tired to keep going and then resting while I was strong.

We now have hope. We are ready to continue this next chapter, to help our son get healthy and find his way in the world.

It won’t be easy for him. But it sure will be easier without the fear of prison weighing on him every day.

These past 21 months I trusted….. and I just kept breathing…….

And for those of you reading this, who find yourself going through the storm, don’t give up…… hold on…….reach out to others….. and know that you ARE NOT alone. So many are going through this and you do not have to shoulder the load alone.

For those of you who know someone going through the storm, don’t pull away….. instead reach out to them, give them a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, let them know they are not alone. The storm of addiction is lonely and isolating and the weight of it all can crush a soul, but with support, with care and understanding, the weight can be carried, the storm can be gotten through and lives can be changed.

My hope is that by sharing my families story we have opened the minds and hearts of others so that we can support each other without judgement and stop the isolation and loneliness that comes with addiction.