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!

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Grand Canyon Rim to Rim 2018

Today I am letting my husband guest write this blog.  Here is his story…in his own words and in the pictures he, my son and my daughter-in-law took.  Still so proud of them!

“The Physical punctuated by the Beautiful”

49 IMG_3800 copy copyI checked my watch. 5:15 am.  Not bad, only 15 minutes behind our scheduled start time.  We adjusted our headlamps and backpacks and then stood three abreast as my wife snapped a quick photo to record the start of the adventure.  Only moments before, we all had exited our cabin on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, looked skyward, and wondered at the incredible number of stars blanketing the dark pre-dawn sky.  At 8,200’ in elevation, this less-visited part of the park was the perfect place to stargaze, if only for a few moments.

The thermometer was just dipping below freezing at the North Kaibab trailhead, so we donned our hats and gloves and then said goodbye to my wife.  My youngest son, daughter-in-law and I would use the trail to cut across the canyon and my wife would drive the four hours around to the south rim to pick us up once we finished.  Our Rim-to-Rim journey would start in the dark, and we’d have to make swift progress to ensure we wouldn’t finish after sunset.

The three of us headed down the trail, my son in the lead with my daughter-in-law and I close behind, all of us armed with our trekking poles and backpacks.  We disappeared into the forest of tall pines, yellow aspens and red maples, each illuminated by our three headlamps.  We headed towards our first stop on the trail, the Supai tunnel.  As we descended 1,400’ over the next 1.7 miles, we could see the headlamps of hikers farther down the trail glowing like fireflies.  We stopped briefly and then passed through the tunnel and pressed on towards Roaring Springs. 

We crossed over Roaring Springs canyon using the Redwall footbridge and followed the narrow trail carved into the redwall limestone. 

05 waterfallA little ways down the trail, we could see and hear the water rushing out of the cliffside on its way down the canyon to form Bright Angel creek.  As we pressed on towards the Manzanita rest area, we enjoyed the first hints of sunrise as the very top of the canyon glowed bright in the day’s first light.  We arrived at Manzanita before 8 a.m., having descended 3,600’ and 5.4 miles of trail.  My son was setting a great pace, but I was starting to worry that the soreness I was already feeling in my feet might become an issue with over 19 miles to go.  We all shed a layer of clothing and I adjusted my hiking boots in the hopes of achieving some relief.

From Manzanita we headed towards the Cottonwood campground, crossing a footbridge over the Bright Angel creek.

As the trail tracked along creekside, we enjoyed a riparian environment of cottonwoods, reeds and willows.  We arrived at Cottonwood campground having traversed 6.8 miles and descended from 8,200’ to now 4,000’ in elevation.  We took a short rest and refilled our water.  It was now around 9 am.  We had a long, relatively level stretch of 6.8 miles to get to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. 

This would be the longest uninterrupted stretch of trail, as this section enters the inner gorge.  The trail winds through rock that has been dated at over one billion years old.  With massive cliffs and incredible beauty, the trail along the gorge was striking.  This stretch is also known to be unbearably hot during the summer months with temps well over 100 degrees, but on this October day we enjoyed sunny skies and only about 60 degrees.  We had a time goal to meet however, so we rested infrequently.  At one short stop, I was enjoying a quick snack (a Clif bar ironically) along with my son and daughter-in-law when suddenly we noticed several rocks splashing in the gravel just a few feet in front of us.  I made the mistake of looking up at the cliffside to see where they were coming from just in time to see gravity pulling another small stone straight at me.  With no time to move, I took the blow right on the forehead.  While keeping my sleeve pressed against the wound to stop the bleeding, we all quickly picked up our gear and moved away from the stony cliffside.  The kids helped clean the small gash on my head and we slapped a Band-Aid over it.  Wrong place, wrong time I thought.  Though I was glad it was only a minor injury.  I was also glad the stone had hit me and not my son or daughter-in-law.  This trip had been my idea from the start and the thought of either of them being injured along the way would have unacceptable to me.  The stone had my name on it, and I was OK with that.

07 phantom ranchWe passed over several more bridges across the creek before finally making it to Phantom Ranch.  At about 2,400’ in elevation, it is the lowest point on the trail. It was just before noon and the ranch was a warm 70 degrees. We quickly found an open picnic table and settled down for some lunch.  The kids grabbed a small snack from the tiny canteen and we rested and ate lunch.  We had covered almost 14 miles of trail.  After just under half an hour which included time to change into fresh socks, we packed up and prepared for the last 9 miles of trail.  Before leaving the ranch, I took time to read one of the historic signs on the way out.  In 1913, Theodore Roosevelt had stayed right here, back when it was known as Rust’s Camp.  So cool to think we were walking the same ground as TR.

We headed out of the ranch and past the Bright Angel campground.  Before long, we were at the Colorado river and the Silver bridge.  By far the largest bridge on the trail, it is only used by hikers.  Mule trains cross at the Kaibab bridge just upstream. 

We crossed the muddy Colorado (which is Spanish for “colored”) and start to parallel the river downstream on what is known as the River Trail.  Vertical walls of rock rose over 1,000’ on our left as we followed the muddy river, even passing through a small area of sandy dunes.  The trail led us to the River Resthouse where we took a short break before heading up the Bright Angel trail.  The trail here follows Pipe Creek.  The lush creekside environment and its tiny waterfalls made for a pleasant distraction as we started our slow climb towards the Bright Angel trailhead, still 7.7 miles and 4,400’ away.

My feet were no longer sore.  I really hadn’t noticed when they had stopped bothering me.  Instead sore shoulders and a sore lower back accompanied a slow fatigue.  But there was no stopping now, and ever since we crossed Silver bridge I knew that we were going to finish.  I just didn’t know how long it would take us to reach the trailhead.  I did have a goal in mind however, to finish in 12 hours and 59 minutes or less.  That kept me moving.  My son and daughter-in-law were kind enough to let me take the lead and set the pace.  Though I knew that they could cover the last 7 miles of the trail faster than I was hiking, I was very happy to have their company and to stick together.  Months ago, I had originally planned a solo hike on this day, not knowing that anyone would want to join me.  When the kids volunteered to come along after I mentioned my plan in a phone call, I knew the hike would be much more memorable with the three of us making the journey and my wife as our support crew.

09 devils corkscrewWe continued to head up the trail towards our next stop, Indian Garden.  We hiked up the switchbacks appropriately named the Devils Corkscrew and then up through an area of pancaked sandstone called the Tapeats Narrows.  At one point, I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that I didn’t even notice the single deer grazing about six feet off the trail.  Fortunately, Daniel did notice and we stopped for a couple of pictures.  Finally, after 3.2 miles and over 1,300’ of elevation gain, we had made it to Indian Garden. 

Indian Garden was a beautiful section of the trail, with massive cottonwood trees and fed by several springs, it was certainly a garden among the desert trail.  We rested there for a while, finding some empty benches directly next to the water source.  Here we met two gentlemen who were “running” rim-to-rim-to-rim, over 46 miles!  They had passed us on the North Kaibab trail shortly after we started and here they were coming down from the Bright Angel trailhead on their way back to the North Rim.  A journey that they expected would take them to 10 or 11 pm, more than 17 hours from start to finish.

After a short rest, we headed out for our next stop, the 3-mile resthouse.  We were now only 4.9 miles and just over 3,000’ down from the south rim.  It was 1.7 miles between Indian Garden and the resthouse which included a 900’ elevation change.  Just prior to the resthouse, we hiked up through another series of switchbacks known as Jacobs Ladder. 

10 3 mile resthouseAnother short break, and then we pressed on towards the 1.5-mile resthouse.  Up another 900’ of elevation and about 50 minutes of hiking and we had made it to our final official rest stop.  I had cell service for the first time during the hike and sent my wife a quick text “ETA 5:45 – 6:00 p.m., all are well. Luv u. C,” so she would know we’re on the way.

    It was just after 5:00 p.m. when we left the resthouse and I was feeling every bit of the previous 22 miles of hiking.  The last mile and a half proved some of the most difficult steps of the journey.  As we climbed over 1,000’ of trail, I found myself needing to stop about every 10 minutes.  We hiked through one small tunnel as we approached the rim.  We knew we were close when we started seeing more tourists who had hiked a short way down the trail for better photos.  I chuckled inside when I thought of their short journey compared to the over 12 hours we had been hiking. 

11 tunnelAs we passed through the last short tunnel, and by more tourists, with only a few hundred yards left to go, we finally spotted my wife up at the top.  She, of course, had seen us much farther down the trail with the benefit of her camera and had been busy capturing the end of our journey.  I was very happy to see her—she was a sight for sore eyes and tired bones.  We made our way over the last few yards of our hike and arrived at the top of the south rim. 

We had been hiking for 12 hours and 50 minutes, and the sun was still 5 minutes away from disappearing in the western sky.  On top of the rim there were hugs and big smiles all around as well as a “we’re done!” photo.  We had descended 5,700’ over 14 miles of trail down from the north rim to the bottom of the canyon and then climbed over 4,300’ over 9.5 uphill miles to reach the opposite rim.  I was exhausted but happy—it had truly been a journey of the incredibly physical punctuated by the absolutely beautiful.  

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A Solo Adventure

It was dark.  REALLY dark.

We were on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was 5 am.

Hundreds and hundreds of stars twinkled in the dark, pre-dawn sky.

49 IMG_3800 copy copyThe time had finally come for me to drop off my husband, youngest son and daughter-in-law at the trailhead.  They were going to do the Rim-to-Rim hike in the Grand Canyon.  And they wanted to get a very early… before the sun comes up… start to their hike.  The three of them planned to complete the hike in one day.  Yes, one day!  Before they even started I was proud of them.  Very proud and a little jealous of their adventure together.

My husband had been planning this hike for quite some time.  And originally he was going to go alone.  I was relieved when he asked our youngest son and daughter-in-law to go with him.  This meant he wouldn’t be alone and I would worry just a little less about him.

As I left them at the trailhead and drove back to our cabin, the darkness and silence intensified how alone I felt.  I know I have said this before, being alone and doing things on my own is outside my comfort zone.  Being alone brings back all the emotions and fear of my early years, when those who were supposed to take care of me, left, leaving me alone.  The feeling of abandonment, the fear of being left alone, the fear that those I love will leave and never come back… those feelings come rushing back.  I know that I am not alone, but those feelings send me into anxiousness and are the basis for the discomfort and fear I have when I am faced with being alone.  And the darkness only intensified those feelings as I drove away, leaving three of the four most important people in my life at that trailhead.

Back in the parking lot of the lodge, I stepped out of the van to walk back to the cabin.  It was dark.  REALLY dark.

And I was alone.

Our original plan was for our oldest son to come with us and for him and I to drive together to the south rim to meet the other three.  But just a few days before we were to leave, the doctor at his clinic said he couldn’t go with us…. They would not give him the medicine he would need while we were gone and he would have to go to the clinic every day….

It is funny sometimes (or maybe not) how I am forced by circumstances beyond my control, to step outside my comfort zone, to discover what I am capable of…. and to learn about me.

So the plan changed.  I was going to be alone on the drive to the South rim…. Only about a 4-hour drive, but the cell reception is little to none on the route, which made me nervous…. There would be no talking to anyone while I was driving, no connections to anyone…. Just me on the open road…. Alone.

So, here I was, in a very dark parking lot needing to walk back to my cabin.  Did I mention it was REALLY dark?  Like I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, dark?  Thankfully, I had my cell phone, so I turned the screen on to help me see the path and find my cabin.  I spent the next couple of hours talking to myself, wondering how the three were doing on their hike and working up the courage to get into the van and drive to the South Rim….. telling myself it was an adventure and I should find a way to enjoy it.

I have driven farther distances by myself in the past.  To Colorado from Louisiana.  To Virginia from Alabama.  Across the mountain passes in Washington.  Yes, I was capable of doing this much shorter drive.  But each of those longer drives was about getting to my destination while only stopping for gas, food and restroom breaks.  And on each of those drives I was alone, but not really alone, as I was able to talk to my family and friends through the Bluetooth while I drove.  Ahhh, technology kept me close to others and kept me from feeling completely isolated and alone.  But this drive I would not be able to use my phone.  There would be no calls to others to keep me company as I drove.  And I wouldn’t need to stop for gas on this drive.  I decided in my conversations with myself that morning, that this drive needed to be different than those in the past, if I was going to enjoy it and make it an adventure.

Finally, it was time for me to load up the van, check out of the cabin and get on the road.  My heart was racing as I started the engine of the van and put it into reverse.  It was the stepping outside my comfort zone, doing something different that created the discomfort for me.  I like routine.  I like comfort.  I like the known.  And I like the safety of others being around.

But true personal growth only comes from pushing myself out of that safe place.  Realizations, learning and healing come from stepping outside my comfort zone.

And so I pushed myself and off I went.

The morning was beautiful.  The day before had been cool, cloudy and rainy.  This morning, though cool, was sunny and bright.  A perfect day for a drive.

I turned on some music and drove.

I wasn’t far down the road when my heartbeat slowed to normal and I began to take in, REALLY take in, the beauty around me.  There was more snow and the white covering the trees was beautiful.  Calming.  I saw deer feeding in the meadows.  And the glowing yellow and orange leaves of the aspen trees made me smile.  The scenery had me turning off my music and rolling down the window.  I was present in that moment.  Smiling.  Laughing.  Talking to myself.  And enjoying the beauty around me.

And then I realized just how much I was enjoying the “me” time.  I was enjoying the time alone.  The time with nature.  The time to think about things, to work through things and to realize how much I like me.

As I drove down the road, I talked with God.  I talked with my mom.  I talked with my mother-in-law.  There was a lot of open road on this drive.  And a lot of time to think and figure things out.

I drove down the open road, the wind blowing through my hair and my thoughts were the only music I was listening to.  Yes, I knew where this fear of being alone came from.  And yes, I understood how the choices made by the adults in my young life had deeply impacted my adult life.  Understanding the impact and how it still manifested in my life meant I could now change my response.  I realized on that open road that I could either let that fear and the emotions from my childhood continue to affect my life or I could take it for what it was and use it to make my life experiences even greater.

And in that moment I chose to be in the moment…. To know that as long as I had me, I would never be alone.  That yes, people leave, but that doesn’t mean I have to be alone forever.  I have my husband.  I have my children.  I have my extended family.  I have my wonderful friends.  And I have God with me, ALWAYS!

I chose, in that moment, to enjoy this solo adventure.

I stopped at the viewpoints.  I had never stopped to sight-see when traveling alone.  I pulled off when a pullout came along.  I got out of the van.  I took pictures.  I looked around.  I breathed.

It was pure joy!

It took me a little longer than planned to make it to the South Rim, but that was because, this time, I was enjoying my time on the road.  I was having fun.  I was stopping to see the beauty surrounding me.  I was taking it all in and enjoying the adventure!

I finally made it to the East Entrance on the South Rim.  I was proud of myself for taking some time to enjoy the day, not just to get to my destination.  And it didn’t stop when I entered the park.  I pulled off at the viewpoints.  I got out of the car.  I stood on the rim of this amazing canyon and looked down into it, wondering where the others were… were they enjoying their adventure?  Were they having as much fun as I was?  Maybe, just maybe I could see them…..

And I wondered at the beauty from God!

This was a healing and empowering adventure for me.

114 20181009_164425_HDR copy copyFinally, after many stops I arrived at our lodge for the night in the Grand Canyon Village.  I managed to get us checked in and everything in the rooms.  And then I planned to rest for a while…. But I wanted to continue my adventure, so I headed back out to explore more of what the Grand Canyon had to offer me.  Eventually I found my way to the parking lot next to the trailhead where we planned to meet.  I explored the area for quite a while, taking in the splendor of the Grand Canyon.  I was amazed and awed by the colors on display in front of and below me.  Nature’s art at its finest.  And then I made my way back to the trailhead.

I stood above the trail, watching as person after person made their way up the trail to the top.  I was watching for my three.  Hoping to see them soon.

133 IMG_3919 copy copyAnd then I saw them!  I yelled in excitement.  The people near me laughed.  Relief took over as I watched the three of them make their way on this last part of their journey.  I was not alone.  And when they finally reached the top, I hugged them.  They did it!  An amazing accomplishment for them—23.5 miles and many thousands of feet of elevation change, all in 12 hours and 50 minutes.  Wow!!  They did it!  I was so very, very proud of them (still am!).

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And though my accomplishment was not as physically demanding, I realized I was proud of me too.  I stepped outside my comfort zone, though I really did not have much choice.  But I did it.  And I found a way to enjoy my adventure instead of just getting from one place to another.  Instead of letting my nerves and discomfort keep me from enjoying the moment, I embraced it!

I stepped outside my comfort zone and in the process found that I can have fun on my own.  I can enjoy the world around me even when I am alone.  And the world around me, especially the natural world, is worth spending time in, with or without others.

And being alone does not mean I will ALWAYS be alone.

Each event that causes me to step outside that comfort zone is an opportunity for me to learn, to grow and to heal.

It just takes a leap…..

I look forward (with a little trepidation) to my next solo adventure.

Just keep swimming…..

This past June I asked the members who attend my Weight Watchers meetings to set a summer goal and asked them where they wanted to be when September arrived.  Goals help to keep us focused and give us something to strive for.  And summer can be a difficult time… routine changes, kids home, travel, visitors, hot days and so much more can make summer a challenge when on this journey of weight loss and improved health.  So I asked them what would make them feel successful this summer and set the goal.

And then I did what I asked them to do and I set a summer goal for myself as well.  This summer I wanted to focus on what would get me back on track, help me feel more in control and help me to continue improving my health….physically and mentally.

20180528_072329_HDR copyThis year we got a pool in our backyard… really we had an entire yard built for us, pool and so much more.  The pool has been my calm place, my meditative place, and my active space.  I love the water.  Our pool is 31 feet in length so that I could swim laps.  I love to swim the length of our pool over and over.  It is so soothing.

It was while I was in the pool that I decided on my summer goal—I would swim the length of our pool 100 times.  When I set the goal I was swimming 10 lengths and then pausing before doing another 10.  So, okay, goal set!  It may take me all summer….maybe into the first week of September, but I was going to do it.

A month into the summer I got up early one morning and swam 70 lengths of the pool… 70!  This was going to be easy to hit my summer goal.

And then I went back to 50 lengths.  It was hard to keep track of the laps in my head and starting out it sounded like a lot to do.  But I was still enjoying my swim time.

In July I joined a team to participate in another challenge that got me walking again and had me figuring out how many lengths in the pool I would need to do to swim a mile—170!  That was too many!  85 lengths for half a mile was more achievable and would help me get to my summer goal, so I started swimming a half mile in the mornings…. Not every morning, but some.  It felt good, but boy was I tired by the 85 length.

A quarter of a mile was more achievable for me, so that became my normal swim.  And then last week I checked in with my members to see how their summer goals were going…we were now in our last month of our summer goal.  And that is when I realized I still had not met my goal.  I had until the end of the month to achieve the goal of swimming 100 lengths of our pool… 3100 feet!

Yesterday I didn’t have a chance to get in the pool, so I decided last night that I would get up and swim early this morning and just add 5 lengths to my half mile for a total of 90.  Okay I could do that!  It was just another 5 beyond what I had already shown I could do.  And then by next weekend I could hit my goal.

This morning I got up early and stepped into the cool water in our pool.  I needed some way to keep track of these laps because 90 was a lot and I knew I would get lost in my thoughts.  And really, 90 seemed like way too much.  How would I do this?

Determined to do this swim, I grabbed 9 small rocks from our yard, 1 rock for every 10 lengths of the pool.  Okay, looking at the rocks, yes that seemed doable.  And I began to swim…. First 10 and a pause to move one rock to another area.

And I swam another 10, moving another rock.  Wow, this was easier than I thought.  I was focusing on 10 at a time and I didn’t need to count higher.  Each rock I moved meant I had done 10 and then I would say I could do another 10.  I kept going and before I knew it I had more rocks in the done pile than in the need to do pile.  That was motivating.

Finally, I moved that 9th rock!  Done.  But I could do 10 more to hit my goal.  I know I can…. So I did another 10.  100 laps, 3100 feet, more than half a mile!  I was so thrilled to have achieved a goal I had set for myself…..

And then I thought well, how many for a mile….. okay let’s see what I can do.  And I grabbed 7 more rocks, not really expecting to get to 170 lengths but I was going to go until I was too tired to go any farther…. And I swam, focusing on 10 at a time and moving a rock after every 10.  After moving 3 of those rocks, having now completed 130 lengths of my pool, my mind was telling me that I had already gone beyond my goal, did I really need to continue?

Yes, the mind is powerful and my mind, my doubts, were working to get me to stop, to be happy with what I had achieved.  I had reached my summer goal a week early and didn’t need to do more.  And yes, I was very happy with myself at that moment, but as I moved that 4th rock, I said, just 10 more….. and I kept going….. just 10 more…..

rocks 2And then I moved that last rock.  I had done it!  1 hour and 15 minutes after starting, I had completed 170 lengths in my pool and 1 mile!!  I DID IT!

Not only did I hit my summer goal, I crushed it!  I pushed through my thoughts of stopping and completed something I wasn’t sure I could do.  I kept going.  And it was because I broke the bigger goal into smaller goals.  Saying I was going to swim 100 laps seemed daunting, but 10…well that I could do.  And when I reached that 100, I was able to push myself outside that comfort zone beyond what I thought I could do and go farther, 10 lengths at a time.  Just 10.

Weight Watchers is about more than counting points and losing weight….so much more.  Because of Weight Watchers I have learned so many skills, changed habits, discovered just how much I can do, and found a belief in me that my younger self never dreamed was possible.  I am grateful for all that I have learned and continue to learn through my journey with Weight Watchers, becoming the best and healthiest version of me that I can be.

Setting goals keeps me motivated and gives me something to strive for.  And when the long-term goal seems too big or too far away or unreachable, setting a smaller goal makes it more achievable.  And that is what I did this morning, just 10 at a time and all those 10’s added up to a BIG 170!!  Reaching goals, well it feels AMAZING!  It gives me a boost in my confidence and has me feeling like I can take on anything and conquer it!  IT may take some time, I may not be perfect at it, but I will get there. One step at a time, one small goal at a time!

I will get there by taking that leap….. one small leap at a time!

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Today is the 102nd birthday of our National Park Service, so in celebration I thought I would share another one of our adventures to a National Park… Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.

My husband has always been an adventurer and loves to explore near and far.  So when he said he wanted to take me on a day trip to some ruins he had researched, I thought, okay let’s go!

On Aug 11, 2013, we loaded the car and headed out early for another adventure.

entrance

The drive was long… 3 hours to get to Chaco.  And the last 16 miles of the drive was on a gravel road.  Yes, a gravel road.  This was an out-of-the-way, you REALLY want to go there, park.  And we wanted to see it.

Chaco Canyon was inhabited by the ancestors of the Hopi, Navajo and the New Mexico Pueblo Indians more than 1000 years ago.  The Chacoan people began using this canyon as a cultural center in the mid-800’s and for 300 hundred years it was inhabited.  There were many Great houses built by and for those who stayed here or just traveled through.  These Great Houses were used for ceremonies, storage, burial and hospitality among other things.  This valley was the cultural center for hundreds of miles.   

As we drove into the park, where the road was finally paved, I couldn’t help but wonder about those early people who lived here…. And how they lived.  This was such a harsh desert environment. 

Our first stop, as always, was the visitor center where we were able to see and learn a little more about these long ago people. 

We then drove further into the park, stopping at Pueblo Bonito, the largest of the Great Houses here in Chaco Canyon and it was impressive.  In its heyday, Pueblo Bonito had 500 rooms and 16 kivas (ceremonial rooms).  We were able to walk in and around the ruins, seeing for ourselves the incredible architecture of those ancient people who used sandstone to build their buildings and kivas and then held it all together with mud mortar.  Incredible!  And enough was still standing for us to see and imagine what a magnificent building this Pueblo must have been. 

We explored Pueblo Bonito for quite some time and then walked down to the next Great House, which was smaller.  This one, Kin Kietso, had at one time 100 rooms and 5 kivas.  It was easy to imagine the people wandering around here, socializing, trading and celebrating. 

After exploring the ruins, it was time to go on a hike…. To the top of the mesa above the ruins… where the park ranger said there was a great view of the canyon and the pueblo ruins.  And she was right.  But…

She didn’t tell us that the hike was so steep or that it was a trail from an ancient trail to the top.  Talk about fear of heights!  Of course, I had imagined the trail going up would be like most trails we had hiked in the past and be a path to follow, well maintained and though steep, fairly uneventful.  And then I saw this…. 

And I told my husband there was no trail.  Really, where was that trail?  It was just rocks with no safety holds…. Ummm…. We started up.  It started off okay, there was a path to follow and then…..

When you see huge rock walls with cracks in them, you ask yourself when will the day come that that rock sheers off (and I was just praying today was not that day)…. and never think that oh, yeah, lets hike through that crevice in the rock….what?  And that is where the trail took us.  When we got to that point we stopped for a minute (I needed to figure out how I was going to do it, as my heart was already racing and my head felt light from the height and knowing that one wrong step, one loose rock and there I would go, falling down the cliff-side…).  While I was gathering my courage, we were joined by a young father with his kids.  He was from the Laguna Pueblo and had brought his children here to show them their ancestral heritage.  Today, Chaco Canyon is a sacred site that is revered and honored by the Hopi, Navajo and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and they often come to learn and connect with their ancestors.  And that is what this young father was doing with his children.  He told us a little about his life in the Laguna Pueblo and a little of his heritage and then the five of us finished the climb.  My husband and this young man helping me and the children up and over the rocks, through the tiny crevice and onto the top of the mesa.  At the top we said goodbye to this nice young family. 

mesa top trail down

And then I looked at my husband and said there is NO WAY I am going back down that path.  NO WAY!  I was still shaking and had to sit a minute to calm my trembling legs.  We had forgotten to bring the map with us but we remembered that the map in the visitor center showed that there was another way down at the other end of the mesa, which would mean a longer walk back to the car but that was okay because it would be on flat ground. 

We had each brought a bottle of water with us, I had my camera and there was a marked trail.  Did I mention this was August in New Mexico?  In the middle of the day?  On top of a mesa with no shade on a bright sunny day? 

Off we went.  I was determined to find less treacherous, less scary way off of this mesa top.

The views were absolutely spectacular.  We could see forever.  And looking down on the Great Houses allowed us to see just how enormous they really were and the amazing architecture.  The view was worth climbing up to the top for!

mesa top are we going down yetWe followed the path….. and followed the path….. and began to wonder when we might start going back down…. This was pretty flat.   And then we came to a spot where we started to descend, it was a little scary but nothing like the climb up…. And then the descent became gradual…. And then we started to go back up again?  What?  Okay, we should be going down by now….

By this point I was hot!  The sun was beating down on us.  I had finished my water.  My husband still had some of his.  Good thing!

We continued following the path until we found ourselves right back where we had started… right back to the spot where I said I would NOT go down.  Crap!  It was the ONLY path down from this mesa and I couldn’t stay up there…. We had just finished my husband’s water but there was more water in our car, waiting for us in the cooler.

I began to panic.  I was shaking.  I was petrified.  I knew how steep that path was and that one wrong step would mean certain death…. But I had no other choice.

So with my husband guiding me down, we began the descent.  And YES, it was just as frightening as I thought it would be.  I was holding back the tears.  DANG, that was a long way down. 

And then we made it.  I wanted to kiss the ground!  But we were hot, sunburned and thirsty. 

Back to our car for some cold water and a look at the map to see how we missed the way down on the other end…. Oh….. there was no other path down.  Had we known that we would not have hiked the mesa top and then we would have missed the views and the fun we had.  I am glad we didn’t know before we hiked.  

We did learn that day, though,  to always take a map with us and to carry more than one bottle of water each when hiking in the middle of the day, in the summer in the southwest.  That could have gone terribly wrong for us.  God was watching out for us that day!  

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is worth the many miles it takes to get there.  To see ruins from more than 1000 years ago and to imagine what life was like back then, and to see the harsh environment was worth every step taken on our hike.  After visiting Chaco Canyon and learning about the Chacoan culture I can’t help but admire the people that lived there over 1000 years ago, their creativity, their strength and their resilience in such a harsh environment. 

That summer day in August, 2013, we went on an adventure to learn about the past.  We drove 6 hours round trip and spent 4 hours walking through the ruins and hiking atop the mesa.  At the end of the day, after hiking 5+miles, 17,000+ steps and up 39 flights of stairs, this girl was VERY sore, exhausted and sunburned….. It was an AMAZING day! 

We would love to go back again and see this amazing cultural center and piece of our countries history.   But I think I will stay firmly down in the valley next time….been there, done that and I don’t need to do that climb again!

And we checked another National Park off our bucket list!

 

Paralyzing Fear

Anxiety….

I am sure I am not the only one who has felt anxious…you know that heart racing, butterflies in the tummy, sweating and sometimes nauseous feeling.  Yes, I think most people have experienced anxiety at some point in life.

My first real anxious moment that stuck with me was my first day on my very first job, at the age of 14.  I had applied to work as a maid in a hotel in the beach town my family lived in just a few months after losing my mom.  I was sitting there in the lobby area on my first day, surrounded by those who had worked there for some time and a couple of other new employees.  And I was nervous.  Really nervous.  My heart began racing, my body started shaking, and suddenly the world around me became a tunnel and started to fade….I was going to faint….that made me panic…. So I slowed my breathing, taking deep breaths and focused on one person…. And slowly, the world came back into focus and my heart slowed.  I was able to get through that moment of intense anxiety…

But not everyone can.

There have been many other moments in my life that have made me feel anxious.  And when anxiety inducing moments happen, I just push through it and breathe and I am okay.

But not everyone is.

I believed, like many believe, that anxiety was momentary, that it was a sign that I was stepping outside my comfort zone.  Pushing through and doing the thing that made a person anxious was the way to deal with it.

So when my young son (my first born) showed signs of being anxious, well I just encouraged him to push through it, take a deep breath and do it.  So many fits of anger and uncontrolled emotions filled his life when I tried to force him to “just do it”.

I didn’t realize the debilitating effect that anxiety had on some people.  On him.

If I knew then what I know now, how much different would my son’s life have been?  How much different would the life of my family have been?  How many fights would we have prevented?  How much stress would we have avoided?

Thinking back now and remembering, I can see those moments, the stress and the effects the anxiety had on my son…. I just didn’t know it all those years ago.  How could I?  No one I knew suffered, or maybe it was that no one talked about it.  We all were told to just “suck it up” and do it.  And that is why I am sharing today what I have learned and what may have been different had we known all those years ago what we know now.

So many times, my son fought going to school…. Oh the fights to get him to go when he was young, and the “mommy I am sick” moments were many.  So many times, he would drag his feet, often ending up in tears when we tried to get him to get moving for many events.  The times he would be sick to his stomach before having to perform in a band concert or speak to a group, go to school, go to the doctor, or when meeting someone new.  The hours, yes HOURS, of crying when he was too young to really verbalize is fears when going to bed.  Everyone told us to just put him in bed and let him cry… they didn’t know that the crying would not stop, for hours, not until I went in and sat with him, reassuring him that all was okay and promising to stay with him… then the crying stopped and he would finally sleep (for a bit anyway).  The difficulty he had with every move we made with the Air Force and the difficulty getting him to get out and join other kids in our new locations were moments of stress for him, often leading to emotional distress, an upset tummy and isolation.

So many times I missed the signs.

Because I didn’t know.

In October 2016 my son decided he was tired of the anxiety medicine and the addictive and dangerous side-effects, so he asked the doctor to titrate him down, slowly, until he was no longer taking the medicine.  He was sure that the anxiety wasn’t as bad as he thought and that it was the fear of the seizures when taken off the medicine that would cause the anxiety and panic attacks.  So he felt if he was weaned off the medicine, slowly, he could overcome the fears and then life would be easier.

It took a year to do.

The first week of October 2017 was the first time in over 13 years that my son was no longer taking the anxiety medication.  He was so proud of himself.  And he had hope for the future.

And then…

It became difficult.  The anxiety was coming every day, stronger each day.  The anxiety was real.  Not imagined.  Not created from a fear of not having his meds.

For the month of October 2017 into the first half of November 2017, we watched our son’s mental health deteriorate.  The anxiety was so debilitating that he could not look us in the eye.  He could not get out of bed.  He could not talk on the phone.  He could not shower.  He could not leave his room.  He could not sleep.

My son was fading away from us, sinking deeper and deeper into a hole.  He kept trying to explain to us what he was feeling, but it was so hard.  He couldn’t live in his own skin.

Here was my son, who had been through treatment, was not self-medicating and was off all mental health meds.

And we were losing him.

We were beyond frightened.

When he began to express to us that he now understood why some take their own lives…. Well, we knew we had to do something.  We had not been through all that we had been through to lose our son now.  Losing him was not an option!  Not when we finally had him back from the grip of drugs.

We got him in to see a psychiatrist who was hesitant to put him back on any medication, because he was an addict.  (and that will be part of my coming blog on the problems and difficulties and brokenness with our mental health system).  The Psychiatrist then asked my husband if he was worried about our son going back on the anxiety meds…. And my husband’s response was that he was more scared of what would happen to our son if he wasn’t put back on the medication.  And so they started our son back on his meds, just a much lower dose.

I never knew until that month and a half just how debilitating anxiety is for some in this world.  There is no “just getting through it” or “sucking it up”.  It is real.  It is a fear that is so deep that the person cannot move beyond it.  It keeps them isolated.  The fear paralyzes them.  And they cannot stop it.

I asked my son recently what it was like that month and a half, how he would describe it and here is what he said

“It was like I was collecting phobias.  I was constantly having a panic attack and everything around me became something to fear.  I would fear that spiders and bugs were going to attack me in my sleep so I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t leave my room for the fear that something would get me.  I couldn’t do anything to stop the panic.  Nothing!  I kept thinking I was going to have to live with this constant panic attack and kept fearing I would have to live in a hospital for the rest of my life.  I kept thinking it would never end so maybe it would be better to not live any longer.”

This breaks my heart.  This makes me realize just how debilitating anxiety disorder is.  I didn’t know.  I wish I had.  Maybe, just maybe, things would have been different….

That month and half in the fall of 2017, showed me what my son has been dealing with his entire life and has given me an understanding I did not have before.  An understanding that now has me being more patient with my son when it takes him a little longer to get moving, when he needs a moment to catch his breath, when he just can’t do it today.  I now understand and I am learning new ways to help him through it and to make it easier for him to do the things he needs to do, without the pressure from me…. Things I wish I had done when he was younger.  Maybe then he would have learned more of the coping skills he so desperately needs now.  Maybe then he would have felt supported.  Maybe then I could have provided a safe place for him to share his worries and learn to find strength in the midst of gripping fear.  Maybe, if I had known what I know now, we would have been able to get him the help he needed all those years ago….

Why share this now, when the medication is helping, when my son is doing well and having more good days than bad?  Because I wish that the generation before me and the generation before them had talked about mental health issues.  I wish earlier generations had shared what was happening in their families, instead of keeping it secret and keeping it “in the family”.  And I want to change that for future generations.  I want to keep talking and sharing our story, my son’s story, so that others know they are not alone.  So that the young parent who’s feeling alone and judged because their child has uncontrolled emotional outbursts in public and at home, knows that they ARE NOT alone.  Help is out there.  Support is out there.

If we keep talking we can change the life of so many before they get to the point my son did or before they are no longer with us and take their own life, as my friend did.

When you see someone struggling, or you know someone is dealing with a loved one who has a mental illness or addiction, or you see the young parent at their wits end because their child is on an emotional rollercoaster, reach out to them…. Let them know you care.  Let them know you understand and do not judge.  Let them know they are not alone.

Let’s go beyond previous generations and let’s change things for future generations by talking about mental illness, educating ourselves and supporting those who need our love and empathy.

I am taking the leap and continuing to share our story……

Will you take the leap with me?

Tough love to me is……

(This is long. I apologize for that.  But I couldn’t write this without the length.  This is what I have learned about tough love and what has worked for me.  Each of us has to find what works for us and define what “tough love” means to us.)

I have been asked a lot of questions over the years about what I have done when it comes to my son and how I did it.  And I have been given a lot of advice about how to handle everything….from advice that we should send our son to a military school when he was very young to recent advice that we should have no contact with my son at all…you know “tough love”.

And I have learned a lot about myself over the past few years and about my family.  I have had to question the things I believed about mental health illnesses and addiction.  I have had to challenge my beliefs about family and tough love.  I have had to adjust my thoughts and have had to really look inside me to see what is behind my decisions and actions, what really drives them.  I have learned that tough love can come in many forms.  It is not black and white…..there is gray area there too.   And I have learned that what works for one person, may not work for another.  And that means finding what works for me and for my family, while making adjustments to actions, thoughts and beliefs along the way.  Tough love to me, still means loving my child, unconditionally.  It means letting love and compassion rule, instead of anger.

It has taken me a long time to get here to this place of understanding and compassion.  Am I perfect at it? NO.  I continue to learn.  I continue to challenge myself to see things differently, to understand differently and to be compassionate toward my son, my family, strangers and myself.

So, how did I get here to where I am today?

A lot of soul-searching!  A lot of research!  A lot of talking to my husband and to myself!  And a lot of listening!

I started to question my thoughts and beliefs surrounding tough love and began searching for answers within me when my husband and I attended a parent support group for addicts one night in the midst of our son’s active addiction.  Our son was missing and had been gone for some time and I was looking for support from those who “got it” and would not judge.

This meeting was filled with parents from all walks of life and led by a man who lost his son to an overdose.  They would understand.  We were all their because we had a child, an adult child for most of us, who was an addict.  And tough love was the topic discussed most that night. Each parent took a turn sharing a little of their story and where they were at the moment.   We listened to the others share and listened to the advice the experienced parents had for those new to the group.  Every single parent there that night said that tough love was the only way…. Even after their kids entered treatment.  They told us how they refused calls and letters from their sons in jail, telling the kids that they were on their own to deal with their consequences and would not accept any communication from them.  Not ANY! And many would not accept communication from them even when they were out of jail and through treatment, telling their kids that they would not talk to them until they were succeeding in their own life.  Then they told us that they would not help their sons or daughters who were in treatment.  When it came time for their kids to transition out of in-patient treatment, the parents told us that they would not let the kids come home, instead they had to figure out where to live on their own.  The parents encouraged each other in their tough love and encouraged the newer parents to cut off ties with their addict children and to set boundaries that the kids had to follow, with no middle ground.  I got it.  We were there, having asked our son to move out of our house and not giving him any help while he was actively using….. yes, I got it!

I heard their words and the emotions behind them.  And what I heard from these parents was anger.  Anger with their child for becoming an addict.  Anger that their kids did this to them.  And they told a new mom to stop accepting calls from her daughter who was living on the streets and using drugs.  They told her to stop letting her come home to shower and stop buying her meals now and again.  They said that doing those things would keep her daughter in active addiction… the mother cried.  I cried.

I GOT their anger.  I felt that way too.  I was so angry with my son… and heartbroken… and scared….. and maybe this version of tough love worked for them and for their families…. But I couldn’t help but worry that anger controlling my choices was not the way to help my son….. that there had to be a middle ground that included love and compassion.  I realized much of how I reacted to my son was out of anger and I was tired of reacting in anger.

Though glad we went to the meeting and grateful for my new awareness, I knew as we left that this was not the support group I was looking for.

I started to realize some things at this point—

—that tough love means still loving my son while not actively participating in his addiction.  It means helping when I can and doing everything I possibly can to help him to be sober without abandonment and it means walking away without anger when I need to.

–that tough love also means that I am not responsible for my son’s addiction or his sobriety, something very hard for me to face and accept….but I was getting there.  Tough love means letting him be responsible but supporting and helping when I am needed.

–And it meant letting go of the anger.  Separating the anger from our support and love was important in our ability to help our son.

I was asked many times from well meaning “friends” and “family” why we would accept calls from our son when he was arrested and why we would pick him up from jail or even bail him out of jail.  Well, to set the record straight, most of the time when he was arrested he was released on his own, no bail needed.  And the majority of his arrests, we were never called.  He found his own way.  Some of his arrests we did not know about until the charges were filed and he was notified of those charges… talk about a shock to this mother’s heart!

But the two times we did post bond, I would do it again if I had to go back in time.  The first bond we posted was the last time he was arrested and the time that turned it all around for him and got him into treatment.  What if we had left him in jail?  What if we had told him he was on his own and refused calls from him?  What if we let anger continue to build and let the anger rule our actions?  I am not sure we would be where we are today.  We bailed him out on condition he seek treatment and he knew that if he were to use heroin or meth again, he would not be living in our home.  We had already made him move out and he had been living in his car at the time of his arrest.  So, I knew we could be tough.  We loved him unconditionally but we would not participate in his active addiction any longer.

The second time we bailed him out was after he had self-surrendered on a probation violation and his meds were withheld from him.  It was a decision we did not make lightly and one we would do again because it was his life that was at risk.  And he was clean at the time.  Why wouldn’t we continue what had been working and get him back home to continue treatment?

So yes, we bailed him out twice.  And yes I accepted calls from him when he was arrested.  I had to do everything in my power to help him get his life in control…. Because the guilt if I didn’t and we lost him would have been too great to bear.

You see, my son had a friend who was with him for months, living in my son’s car and staying with my son on couches when and wherever they could.  They were together when my son had been arrested in Yavapai county.  His friend was the one who answered my sons phone and told me he had been arrested and then released in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.  (I wrote about that experience here.)  When we finally made it north to pick up our son at the hospital, he asked if we could give this friend of his, a ride back too.  During the 2-hour drive back home, we talked with this young man.  He was a son, a brother and a father.  He grew up in another state and ended up out here with his ex-wife and kids.  He told us about his kids and how he hadn’t seen them in a while.  He told us that his parents would not accept calls from him, only letters.  And because he was homeless, they could not write to him. He hadn’t spoken to them in a couple of years.  He had gotten out of jail not too long before this.  And having no place to go, he was back living on the streets and back to drugs.  My heart broke for him and for his family as he told us his story.  He was such a sweet young man.

And I say was because 3 months after giving him a ride back here, he was found in an alley, dead from an overdose.

My son at the time was clean and getting help for his addiction.  And they had not seen each other since we had given him the ride back and dropped him off.  They had spoken a few times on the phone with my son encouraging him to get into treatment.  This young man even sent me and my husband a thank you message through Facebook.  He thanked us for our kindness and for loving Josh and helping him.  And he thanked us for giving Josh the hope of a life without drugs, just by being there for him, a hope he didn’t have.  My heart broke for him.

This young man’s death sent my son reeling….and me too.  This could have been my son….. And his friends death led my son into a relapse that eventually had him living in his car and the final arrests that would finally get him some help.

I often think about this friend of my sons and how things might have been different if he had had someone he could have turned to, someone who could have given him the chance at a sober life.  I saw messages his family posted on his Facebook page and each message had me in tears…. They expressed their guilt over not communicating with him and their guilt for not being there, just one time for him.  And they shared the anger that kept them from talking to him or helping him.  My heart broke for them.  I could feel through their messages how heartbroken they were and the regrets they had.  I KNEW I needed to do everything I could to help my son.

This young man’s story and tragic ending of his life, led my husband and I to be there that last arrest and post that bond.  Because we needed to know that we did EVERYTHING we possibly could do to help our son get better, to give him that chance at a sober life and then if he went back to the streets and if we lost him, at least we would know we did our best…. we tried everything…..

I have learned a lot about how I participated over the years in my son’s addiction, the excuses made, the reactions out of fear…. he was a master at finding the right words, the ones that would guilt me into doing what he wanted.  And how turning a blind eye and ignoring the signs, hoping against all hope that I was wrong in what I was seeing and making excuses for his behavior, only added to his ability to continue his active addiction.  And I realized that the buttons I pushed in him, through my anger and the reactions it created, were also ways I participated in his addiction and helped to keep him stuck, giving him the excuse he needed to continue his self-destructive behaviors.  Realizing my role helped me to challenge and change those thoughts and beliefs so that I could stop aiding his addiction and begin to help him recover.

I began to realize just what tough love was to me….

To me tough love doesn’t mean reacting in anger. 

To me tough love doesn’t mean punishing the addict. 

To me tough love doesn’t seek revenge. 

To me tough love simply means loving my son but not participating in his self-destructive behaviors. 

To me tough love means loving him unconditionally, but also loving myself enough to not let the addiction control me as well. 

To me tough love means setting boundaries that keep me from participating in his addiction, while still giving me the room in my heart for forgiveness and compassion.   

Tough love to me means reacting out of love and compassion rather than anger.

It took me a long time to get to this point.  I was far from perfect and still am far from perfect.  Sometimes turning a blind eye was easier than facing the truth.  And anger did rule things at times for me. Anger with my son for the lies and so much more.  Anger made some of my decisions when it came to dealing with my son.

But love and compassion took control.

Love and compassion was the driving force when we asked our son to leave our house and told him he could not live here until he was ready to get treatment.  Love and compassion led when he called wanting to come home to pick up some things and take a shower and we said he could.  Love and compassion ruled when after the shower and a hot home-cooked meal, we told him he could not stay the night, not unless he was ready to get into treatment.  Love and compassion took over and kept us from running after him as we watched our son leave in his car, not knowing when or if we would see him again.  And when he was finally ready to get help, love and compassion drove me as I searched for treatment options for him.  Love and compassion drive me now, as I continue to help him travel this recovery road, as I take him to all of his appointments, and as I work through the anger I still have.

Being a parent is NOT easy.  Being a parent with an addict son is NOT easy.  Being a parent and loving my child has NOT always been easy, but it IS easier today.

Unconditional love is the key.

My mom taught me to love unconditionally.  And I know that she is with me as I walk this walk and travel this unknown road.  And I know that God is with me, every step of the way.

This journey is still difficult.  This walk is not perfect.  I am not perfect.  And it is not about a one-size-fits-all way of dealing with our addicted loved ones.  We each need to find what works for us, define tough love for ourselves.  I am still learning and discovering and challenging my beliefs as I continue to become the best version of me that I can be and as I help my son, rather than hinder him, in becoming the best version of himself that he can be!

This journey has required quite the leap…. A leap of trust…. And a leap of faith.