No one talks about the fact that trauma never truly goes away.

Every year leading up to Halloween, I secretly hope that it will be different this time. That maybe, this year, I’ve done enough work in therapy or been sober long enough to finally make my demons disappear, because I am an optimist.

And every year, despite my best efforts, the darkness creeps in.

The holidays are a huge trigger for me. For the past 20 years, my sadness and anxiety begins around Halloween and slowly ramps up until after New Year’s.

Every. Fucking. Year.

It’s like clockwork, which is something I don’t understand and likely never will.

It starts with the dreams. Then there’s the inexplicable lack of energy and isolation that I always assume is due to an oncoming cold, or maybe an overindulgence of Halloween candy. And then, out of nowhere, the heaviness, a profound sadness that I can’t explain, and when I try to, I get angry.

I’m angry for being sad. Who wants to be sad during the most joyful time of the year? NOT THIS BITCH.

I’m angry that this weight is still there, after so much work! So many books and journals and countless hours with my therapist, EMDR and letters I was told to write but not actually send, inner child mumbo jumbo and group therapy and service work.

It is still there.

The sadness persists.

I’m angry because every year, I have to admit to myself that what happened to me not only blew up my life, but also rewired my brain because trauma does that. I’m angry that no one told me that trauma never goes away; you can’t work it off like stubborn fat. You can’t pay someone to freeze it off like a wart. You can’t ignore it. All you can do is learn how to live with it.

I drank for years to blot it out, and despite years of refusing to acknowledge the elephant in the room, the effects have bled into every single part of my life. My trauma affects how I parent, my reactions to the people around me, and my marriage. It deeply affects my marriage, actually, because it turns out that it’s really difficult to be a partner when one has no self-worth. For the record, I have self-worth now, but during the holidays it takes a nose dive: all day long, I battle irrational thoughts. It’s the worst.

This entire post is me acknowledging my feelings instead of ignoring them and expecting them to go away, and when they don’t, reaching for a package of cookies since I’m sober now and I don’t have vodka in the house.

Instead of drinking vodka or eating cookies, I’m telling the world that what we do and say to other people matters. Our choices have a ripple effect. I obviously can’t change what happened to me, but I do have the power to change how I cope with the aftermath for the rest of my life.

I drank to numb the pain of being a victim. I DID NOT WANT TO BE A VICTIM. Shudder, gross, ew, no. That sounded, and still sounds, like the weakest shit ever. I’m not a victim, but I do have ongoing issues with post traumatic stress disorder that I’ll likely battle for the rest of my life.

My demons don’t have to define me, and they don’t have to ruin my entire holiday season. While I may never be completely normal during this time of year, I don’t have to drink because of it. What I’m supposed to do, I’m told, is be kind to myself. I am terrible at this.

Yesterday, that looked like buying a 7.5 foot tall Sunkist orange, pre-lit Christmas tree and paying extra to get it here ASAP.

Today, instead of drinking a Monster Zero to power through my day, I took a nap.

I let my 7-year-old fix my hair.

I’m putting my experience out there so that other people can see that recovery is possible. It’s not easy–God, it’s not easy–but it’s the reason why I’m able to be a mom and a friend and a human being who can make a positive impact on the world instead of being a vapid black hole of unhappiness.

If you, like me, are struggling and just sort of treading water to make it to the end of this brutal year, I just want to tell you that it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it, and these difficult feelings will pass, and the sun will come out again.

Via @adamtots on Instagram

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“BUT MY RIGHTS!” and other excuses for being a terrible person

There was a time long ago, before I got sober, when I truly did not care what other people did as long as it didn’t directly affect me. I was self-centered, which is pretty typical for a white, middle-class, stay-at-home mom.

I had blinders on. Purposefully.

After I got sober and started working on myself, things got real uncomfortable, real fast. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you’ve heard me talk about how early sobriety felt like someone ripped off my steel armor and skinned me alive in broad daylight. I felt like a newborn mouse — fragile, hairless, blind, and disoriented.

But I didn’t give up, even when it felt like I wasn’t going to make it; even when I had to deep breathe through my day, taking it five minutes at a time to keep myself from jumping through a window or getting loaded. I’ve put in the work, and it is the hardest work I’ve ever done. Not just getting and staying sober, but the excruciating emotional labor of unearthing the why. Why I want to self-medicate. Why I want to self-destruct. Why I never felt good enough.

Ugh.

This stuff is heavy and exhausting and it’s cost us thousands and thousands of dollars in therapy bills, but I can finally tell that it’s paying off because I’ve managed to stay afloat during the Worst Year Ever: 2020. This is the year that put all of my progress to the test, and so far, I seem to be passing because I’m still sober, my marriage is intact, and I’m not incarcerated. Yet.

The downside to emotional health is that I’m so unbelievably and fully aware of ALL THE THINGS, and then I have to find healthy and appropriate ways to process my feelings about said things. Today, I shall blog as a way to process my feelings about what I like to call the “but my rights!” people.

The “but my rights!” people don’t want to wear a mask because they don’t believe in science and they think that COVID-19 is just another version of the flu. They don’t want to be told that they have to put on a mask before they enter a store, because keeping the pandemic under control is infringing on their Constitutional rights. Somehow, they manage to put on shoes and, I assume, undergarments, but the line is solidly drawn at donning a mask.

These are the same people who don’t flush the toilet in the Target bathrooms and probably also can’t be bothered to wash their hands, but who am I to make assumptions? I mean, all I know about them is that they really do not care about other people.

The “but my rights!” folks are the ladies who hover over the toilet and spray their pee everywhere and then just leave it, because who cares? That’s what a janitor is for! They’re doing that person a FAVOR! They’re ensuring the janitor has a lot to do!

The “but my rights!” people are the men who don’t bother to aim their urine, the ones who throw McDonald’s cartons on the ground and leave used condoms in the neighborhood park. The “but my rights!” people don’t clean up behind themselves, and they don’t teach their kids to be aware of other people because let’s face it — other people don’t matter.

The only people that matter to the “but my rights!” people, other than themselves, of course, are:

  1. The NRA
  2. Their Pastor
  3. Jesus Christ
  4. Millionaires

These are the same ones who claim that racism doesn’t exist because it hasn’t actually impacted their life. The “but my rights!” people find each other and form a pack that others are rarely allowed to enter, keeping them insulated from having to think too much about … well … anything.

I can’t imagine being so entitled and wrapped up in my own privilege that I would argue against wearing a thin piece of fabric over my face to protect other people from MY germs. It’s selfish. It’s disappointing. And finally, I’m using that behavior as an example of what NOT to do when I talk to my kids about being a good citizen. Wearing a mask is literally the least we can do, and yet, that seems to be too big an ask for a large number of people down South, where I live.

But my rights!

That’s interesting to me. Mostly, because wearing a mask been proven to save lives, and also because it’s not hard to wear one. I mean, it’s not super fun, and it can be annoying, but so are sports bras. And I know adults can handle it, because all of my children are capable of wearing one.

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This is Why Women Seem Angry.

My friends and I have a working theory that women generally run out of fucks sometime after midlife and that’s why there are so many old women roaming around who simply do not care. I’ve long wondered when I would stop worrying so much.

That time has arrived.

We believe that our fucks ran out ahead of schedule, and the reason why has three main anchoring points.

ANCHORING POINT ONE: The last 4 years.

“What do you mean, Harmony?” Allow me to clarify. THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF LIVING IN TRUMP’S AMERICA.

I have lost respect for so many people. Social media provides a place for literally everyone with internet access to state their opinion and now I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are surrounded by racists, people who don’t think racism is a deal breaker, people who grandstand about wanting to close abortion clinics (but don’t want to care for the women and children who are in need), hypocrites, bigots, and religious zealots who cloak all of these things and more under a coat of righteousness.

Clearly, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the past 4 years have been depressingly eye-opening, horrifying, and my circle of people continues to grow smaller — which is a good thing. Before 2016, I was living in an alcohol-induced fog where it was easy to pretend that nothing was wrong. I didn’t want to look at anything that made me feel uncomfortable feelings.

That’s gone now. I’m awake, and I’m sorry it took me so long to get here.

ANCHORING POINT TWO: The pandemic.

I mean, what else is there to say? The isolation, the fear, the outrage, the pressure cooker feeling of being in a house for months with three children, only to realize (months later) how much I actually enjoy being at home all the time with my kids BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE IS STUPID.

“But that seems harsh.”

Yeah, it’s actually not. Because a lot of people actually die of this virus. Over 180,000 and counting just in America — and if you try to tell me the CDC cannot be trusted then just do me a favor and never, ever return to this website again because you are shitting on the expertise of every scientist and doctor who have devoted their careers to finding the best ways to care for YOU.

Back to why I hate the general public: why would I want to go anywhere when people don’t even believe that Covid-19 is a real thing? Those dumb motherfuckers could sneeze or cough their ignorance onto one of us and we could become asymptomatic carriers and infect my mother or one of my in-laws and then they would end up dying alone in a Covid unit and we wouldn’t even be able to have a funeral.

So, yes. The pandemic used up the remainder of the tolerance I used to have.

ANCHORING POINT THREE: Racial issues.

See my previous blog post.

Now, I realize this all sounds very gloom and doom and perimenopausal, but it’s actually quite liberating.

For example, I put a Biden/Harris 2020 sign in the front yard. My husband is still arguing that Biden isn’t the best choice and he plans to vote third party, but don’t worry, I’ll keep working on him.

In the meantime, our sign blew over in the wind so I went out to stand it back up. Two doors down from us, a tree service was removing one of our neighbor’s rotting trees. There were about 7 (white, very strong-looking) men standing around on the sidewalk staring at me while I adjusted my sign. I looked over at them and waved hello.

Not one of them waved back.

They just stared — not with interest, but with disgust and possibly disbelief. I actually delighted in knowing that I was ruffling their feathers, because yes, I am a white woman who refuses to accept our current administration’s vision of “Making America Great Again.” In fact, it turns my stomach.

While I’m sharing about things that turn my stomach, I’ll add to my list the people who think it’s okay to shame women who visit Planned Parenthood.

“Why is that, Harmony? Have you had an abortion?”

No, thankfully I have never had to make that impossible decision. However, I believe that Planned Parenthood is an important organization and here is why: when I was in my early twenties, not in school, and working a minimum wage job without insurance coverage, that is where I had to go in order to get a prescription for birth control pills. It was $80 to see a doctor and it was a struggle for me to scrape that money together.

Also, every other woman I saw in the waiting room was white, just so you know.

Had I not had Planned Parenthood, what other choice would I have, really? I’ll tell you. I would have had to depend on my partner to always wrap it up, and I wasn’t willing or able to believe that he would. Most men from my generation were brought up to believe that birth control is the woman’s problem and their thought process ends there. Kind of like how dinner is also the woman’s problem — same school of thought. As an aside, my sons already know that where their ejaculate goes is actually their responsibility, but that’s another topic for a different day.

Some people would say I shouldn’t have been having sex outside of marriage, and to those people I’ll say this: that archaic, Bible-based idea is something I one hundred percent reject. I won’t even have the discussion.

Had I not had Planned Parenthood and I did accidentally end up pregnant at that really stupid age, I would not have chosen to get married before I was ready to, nor would I want someone else to decide for me whether or not I was going to carry a child. Because no one can make that decision for another person.

Even people who think they are ready to become parents (exhibit A and B, Harmony and Robbie) aren’t ready to become parents. People who never wanted a kid in the first place? Those children are the ones who truly suffer. I hope that all of the staunchly pro-life people out there can find a way to band together and figure out how to give unwanted babies safe and secure homes, because the government has FAILED AT THIS.

(See also: the foster care system.)

So back to the fact that I am out of fucks. The longer this pandemic drags on, and the more people continue to refuse to do basic things like put on a damn mask to keep other people safe, and the more I notice how people mistreat those who are different or speak about them in a way that’s really not okay, the less I care about what any of those people think.

And it is awesome.

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Not Here to be Your Bitch

After a solid couple of years where I managed to mostly avoid drama in my personal life, I had a major falling out this week with my extended family.

Normally I wouldn’t write about something like this on my blog because it involves blood relatives who have not given their consent, but in this particular situation I think it is important to talk about what happened because it is so common — especially given our current social and political climate.

The event, which is a really nice way of saying “the crazy fight with my family on Facebook” was a result of years — a lifetime, really — of unspoken, clashing opinions about everything from politics to boundaries, until it all came bubbling to the surface in one of those spectacular social media trainwrecks that cause people to pull over onto the side of the road so they can safely upload screenshots to Reddit.

So, what happened?

Well, it’s a lot to try to boil down into a digestible explanation, but essentially I am related to people who do not understand how racist they truly are. Or maybe they do know, deep down, but they keep it sorta tucked away and ignored because they have the luxury to do that.

This relative is one I don’t know very well, but when he sent me a friend request on Facebook months ago, I accepted it. I have a sneaking suspicion that he extended that request because he enjoys the company of the rest of our family and probably, erroneously, assumed I share his views. And the thing is, this is typical — right? All of us are just trying to make it through the day. We are all human beings with our own thoughts and feelings.

But his comments. Oh, his comments. Just so much increasingly offensive racism. At first, I engaged. Then, I stopped and chose to ignore. That was a lot easier. I wondered, should I unfriend this guy? But I didn’t, which I now regret, because I have never censored my social media accounts. If people fight, they fight. If they call me names, I don’t hide their comments. I let the chips fall, because I am not in the business of trying to curate my image or the image of my family. That would make me a fraud. 

Additionally, I’m in weekly therapy to unlearn codependency. This is an important thing to note because through a lot of intense work I have come to understand that I am not responsible for anyone else’s words or actions. Only mine.

One day, I received an email from a woman of color who took the time to school me. I didn’t like what she had to say because she was calling me out, and it stung. She said, “You call yourself an ally, but you won’t even deal with your own family.” She’d lost respect for me, and the longer I sat with it, the more I realized that she was right.  

Over the summer, I started a job with Upworthy writing branded content. Shortly after, George Floyd was killed. The protests started and my work shifted in nature, giving me the opportunity to interview and really dig into the major racial and social issues in America. 

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

My non-white friends raising boys have different conversations with their sons than I have with mine. For them, it’s terrifying when their husband leaves the house at night to run to the grocery store. They dread the day their children learn to drive. My friend with a LGBTQ child was outed by kids at school. My son’s friends. My daughter’s friends. My friends. Their fear is legit; the things Maverick comes home and tells me that other kids say, the things they think, drives the point home.

“Why are kids so hateful?” People ask that all the time. 

It’s because they’ve learned it. Full stop.

We are faced with a choice: perpetuate the problem, or address the problem.

***

On the day that Joe Biden announced his running mate, I posted a Facebook status about how much I look forward to voting this November. Most of the comments were from friends who are similarly excited to restore some semblance of sanity to the White House, and other friends had questions about why I am voting for Biden rather than Trump. 

But then, here comes my relative, dropping racist comments. After months of ignoring him, I snapped. Now, let me be clear: I REIGNED IT IN when I addressed him. I did not say so many of the things I wanted to say so many of the times he commented and called me a “baby killer” (because I think women deserve the right to make decisions about their own bodies) or a “libtard” (I’m a registered Independent).

This time, when he started, it wasn’t about political differences. He was insulting me and my family, because his comments were about race.

Racial issues are not political issues. Why are we mashing them together? 

I don’t understand how we got here, but I do understand one thing: calling out my white relative was my responsibility. You’ve heard the saying “get your people,” right? That’s what it means. 

I called him out and my family lost their ever-loving minds, publicly, for all to see. They called me a hypocrite. They said I don’t understand where I come from. They called me elitist, and said I just don’t understand tongue-in-cheek humor.

They said I should be ashamed of myself.

Apparently, I failed to fulfill my family role and shield my racist uncle from the consequences of his actions, and they are very disappointed in me. As a recovering people pleaser, I didn’t enjoy it. My nerves are shot, my stomach is upset, and I’m fairly certain I’m giving Robbie nervous diarrhea. But also? I sleep really well at night.

The family dysfunction explosion was so bad that all kinds of people texted and emailed and said “WHOA.” And I was like, “YEAH.” The shock and awe was hard to pinpoint: was it because of what I said or because of what was said to me? No way to know for sure, but no matter how you look at it, the situation sucked.

I love my family, and what I am about to say is complicated, because while I do love them, I am also so deeply disturbed by their thought processes that I’m not quite sure I ever want to be in the same room with them again. Which leads me to my next point: just because someone is related to you, doesn’t always mean they should be in your life.

The hill I chose to cut off my family on is the hill of white supremacy. They don’t know that they’re white supremacists because they refuse to acknowledge that it’s even a thing.

If I didn’t have children, I might not be bothered by racial issues, but guess what? I am a mother who has a responsibility to do the right thing. In the words of a friend, I am not here to make other people comfortable. And neither are my children.

Maverick is almost 12. He’s got a diverse group of friends. They talk about stuff. He has questions. We dig. We talk, because brushing it away or shutting down isn’t communicating and teaching — it’s actually the opposite. When I got sober, I leaned in real hard to being uncomfortable almost all the time. Because frankly, if I don’t teach my three children how to go out into the world and establish their boundaries, how will they ever be happy, joyous, and free?

They won’t.

Robbie and I teach our kids that if someone makes a comment that is inappropriate, it is okay put up your hand and say “That’s enough.” It lets the other person know that you have a boundary. That you aren’t willing to participate. If enough people would just SPEAK UP, maybe, just maybe, something would change. Maybe if enough white people said to other white people, THAT ISN’T OKAY, then we might be able to heal this unfathomable rift in our country.

But, if white people are not willing to acknowledge the problem, the problem only grows. If I shut my mind to the experience of other people and refuse to acknowledge my part in the perpetuation of racism, then my kids will absolutely continue the cycle. Nothing would ever change. 

I only have one life. I want to make it count.

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My Attitude Is The Best Attitude

Please note: I’m writing this post for posterity. In the event that I don’t survive the remainder of 2020, because there are so many hurdles left before Christmas, you guys — so many hurdles — I want to be remembered for my upbeat, can-do attitude.

** Robbie is reading this right now, wondering who I’m talking about. “Upbeat?” “Can-do attitude?” YES, ROBBIE. I AM UPBEAT. I AM THE MOST UPBEAT. **

Part of why I decided to go ahead and have “Trump” and “Pence,” (the two largest of my family of hemorrhoids) removed along with “Betsy DeVos” (the uterus, duh) is because this year is already terrible so let’s pour some more misery into this flaming fire, shall we? I am an all-or-nothing girl, so when things seem pretty bad, I like to ramp them up to nearly intolerable. That just makes sense to me.

Today I had my pre-op appointment. My surgeries are Thursday morning, bright and early. But here’s the important part: I learned during our discussion that Tammie, the nurse, talks to her dog breeder in Alabama more than she talks to her own son. The also instructed me not to shave any part of my body from now until after I return home from surgery.

I could feel my eyes widening, like REALLY REALLY WIDE, as Tammie talked.

Me and my Hibiclens.

“Um … Tammie? Can we circle back to what you just said about not shaving?”

I can’t.

I can’t not shave my armpits for, let’s see, 4 days. And I told Tammie this, very plainly, making sure my eyes were adequately expressing my level of alarm. I negotiated with her and was awarded permission to shave my pits but nothing else for the remainder of the week. The rest of the instructions — Hibiclens, enemas, whatever — didn’t faze me. I breezed right through, because administering two enemas back to back on Thursday morning before the sun comes up is no big deal. But prickly armpits? NOPE. Not having that.

Like I said, I have a wonderful attitude.

Speaking of attitudes, I wanted to tell you guys about my venture into the Land of Botox. I turned 40 in December. Then a lot of really stressful personal stuff that I’ll eventually write about, but can’t yet because I’ll scar my kids for life, happened.

Several days later, our world was upended by a pandemic, so by April I was really feeling terrible about my face. Now, I realize that is vain and shallow, but I was stuck at home 24/7 with the kids while my husband continued to work and every time I looked in the mirror, I just looked exhausted. Which I was.

But I don’t want to actually look as miserable as I feel inside, so at my friend’s behest I made an appointment with the best cosmetic dermatologist in town, Dr. Zedlitz of Z Dermatology. Now, I’m not telling you about her because she asked me to (she doesn’t even know me, she only injected my face one time, but SHE WILL GET TO KNOW ME, BELIEVE THAT). I’m telling you so you’ll know exactly what I did to make myself look well-rested when I am, in fact, not well-rested at all.

First, I got IPL which is this treatment where they put goo on your face and then run over it with a laser. The light attaches to pigment, so any dark spots, hyperpigmentation, or redness is drawn to the surface. I looked like a spotted disaster for like a week and then it all flaked off and revealed really remarkably even skin.

After my IPL, I walked down the hall for Botox. Dr. Z talked to me about “the look” that some women have when they’ve gotten too much work done and how it’s really important to her as a doctor and AS AN ARTIST, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT SHE IS, to avoid “the look.” She will flat out refuse to inject a patient with anything that will give them “the look.” I think her exact words were “I don’t want anything to do with the look and I don’t want people associating me with the look.”

What I’m driving at here is how important it is to find a doctor who understands that cosmetic shit is supposed to make you look BETTER, not like a plastic robot.

So anyway, she parked Botox between and all around my eyes and a little in my forehead, but I learned during my visit that my eyes are deep set and my forehead is short which is an unfortunate combo for someone with a wrinkly forehead. As far as my forehead goes, there’s not much they can do and that is why some women choose to get bangs when they are approaching midlife. See also: Britney Spears.

It’s now been about 3 months since I got it all done and I’m really happy with the results. I’m supposed to go back for another round of IPL after summer has ended, and after that I’ll likely have something done to get rid of the scarring on my chin from years of hormonal cystic acne, and then I can just focus on keeping up my very intense twice a day regimen of retinol and vitamin C.

Oh, and sunscreen. All the sunscreen.

I used to think women who got their face lasered and/or other cosmetic procedures done were wealthy. That is false. Robbie and I aren’t wealthy, and my decision to do this right as the world is basically imploding might have been a bad move financially, but know this: if I’m going down, I’ll go down looking damn good.

Also, I’m a grown woman and I can do what I want.

Within reason.

Ish.

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Let’s Discuss Butt Stuff

I promised you a special post dedicated to my upcoming hemorrhoidectomy, and today is your lucky day. Gather round kids, it’s story time!

After debating over how much detail to share about what, exactly, is the matter with my asshole, I’ve decided to start with this: a customer service representative from the hospital system where I’ll have my surgeries called me to make sure I am aware of the deductible amount that we’ll be responsible for.

But before she got into the exact dollar amount, she tripped over what I was having done. I think her words were “partial hysterectomy and … ** trails off unintelligibly ** “

Me: Yes, I’m having my uterus removed AND AN ASSHOLE REPAIR. Let’s call it a “butt job” just for fun.

Her: Oh my! That sounds …

Me: Like your worst fucking nightmare? Yes. Mine too.

Her: I was going to say that it sounds painful.

Me: It will be.

Her:

Me:

Her: Okay, Mrs. Hobbs, have a wonderful day.

Just so we are clear, I’m having two unfortunate procedures done on the same day because I don’t have time to recover from two separate unfortunate procedures. The uterus needs to go and my two hemorrhoids need to go and yes, I’m terrified. I cope with terror by oversharing.

People don’t like to talk about their assholes, I’m finding. Robbie had to ask for a couple days off work so he can keep an eye on me, and he told his co-workers “Harmony is having some woman stuff done.” Uh, actually, I’m having one woman thing done and the other thing is a human being thing, but he didn’t want anyone to ask questions.

“Why not? Are you embarrassed of my asshole?” I asked.

He totally is.

Now I want to talk about fears, because I have a lot of them. First of all, according to my Gastroenterologist, “no one gets hemorrhoid surgery without serious painkillers.” Even with the pain meds, he warned me that it will, and I quote, “feel like someone is stabbing you in the anus with an ice pick for two weeks.”

I corrected him. “You mean, it’s going to feel like someone is stabbing me in the asshole for two weeks.”

“Yes, it will feel exactly like you’re being stabbed in the anus.”

“You mean the asshole.”

“Whatever you want to call it.”

“I’d like to call it the asshole.”

***

I was probably born with a weak asshole, but childbirth absolutely wrecked it. If it never bothered me, I would be content to ignore it; however, when we went on vacation in January 2019 and I missed out on zip lining because I was in the belly of a Carnival cruise ship where the hospital is located, that did it. I CANNOT LIVE LIKE THAT. It is, like my doctor says, “a quality of life issue.”

I’m afraid of the pain, obviously, but I am also afraid of the painkillers. I’ve never enjoyed taking painkillers, recreationally speaking, but I know myself well enough to realize that the combination of pandemic + painkillers + actual pain is not great for someone who is a recovering alcoholic. My anxiety over relapsing is worse than my anxiety over the actual recovery process itself, which is saying a lot.

My way of coping with the fear of relapse is to talk about it incessantly. I’m locked in a self-propelled cycle right now where I stress myself out and then wish that someone would shoot me with a tranquilizer dart to put me out of this self-imposed misery.

Asher had his tonsils and adenoids removed last week and took pain meds for a total of three days. The remainder of the Hydrocodone is sitting in our fridge. I envision guzzling it. Then I tell on myself. The vision goes away only to boomerang right back when my anxiety ramps back up.

Someone emailed me recently to ask if I am on medication for anxiety and depression. GIRL, YES. 100%. Five stars. Highly recommend. Super grateful that I was already doing this pre-pandemic, because WOW, guys, the world is really imploding out there.

In conclusion, no one talks about butt problems and if I tried not to talk about my butt problems I would feel ashamed of my butt problems and most likely relapse in one way or another. I don’t want to relapse, so I’ve named my hemorrhoids “Trump” and “Pence” and they have got to go.

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Removing Body Parts During A Pandemic

Okay … having Asher’s tonsils and adenoids removed during a pandemic was not actually a “nightmare.” It was an intensely stressful experience that likely aged my appearance several years.

The nightmare was the part where our recently-paid-off, 2-year-old refrigerator stopped working and Robbie had to run out and buy a mini fridge literally the night before the surgery so that we’d have a place to keep our popsicles. But before that, I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with a Customer Service representative from LG. During that time, she took down my name, address, phone number, email address, the model and serial number of the refrigerator, and the information on the repair company who told me the compressor was out.

Why did giving LG that information take almost an hour?

GOOD QUESTION.

The second part of the nightmare occured when Robbie (pictured below) dropped me and Asher off at the house after his surgery and immediately went shopping for a new refrigerator and did not return for the better part of the afternoon.

It took much longer than anticipated because Robbie is in sales and therefore he takes no bullshit from sales people. I genuinely feel sorry for the sales people who come into contact with my husband. He not only takes their tactics, twists them around, and somehow turns the situation in his favor, but he can also do math in his head at a startling speed and often calculates the prices two steps ahead of the person who is supposed to be “helping” him.

After spending a significant amount of time dealing with a salesman that Robbie later deemed to be incompetent, he took our business elsewhere to Best Buy where he found a unicorn of a fridge with all of the things we wanted for a way low price because someone stuck the wrong price tag on it. Until it is delivered, we’re making it work.

This thing is housing all the ice cream.

Asher is 8 years old. He is a quirky conundrum — delightful, but puzzling. He requires patience like all children, but I’m learning that there is a very specific brand of patience that he needs from me and it’s the kind I don’t come by naturally.

He is a quiet little guy. He shuts down if people are too loud, look too long, press too hard with questions, or are in any way aggressive. So that’s tough, because I am kind of aggressive when I’m under stress. It’s one of my biggest hurdles as an adult because when I’m agitated, I just want to burn shit down. I am extreme. I’m working on it, so moving forward, let’s just call it “passion” and “energy,” okay?

Right now, during the pandemic with all of the uncertainty which is another thing I don’t deal with very well, I have to work really hard to stay calm and even and kind and keep my voice at a normal level instead of screaming WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCKING HELL IS HAPPENING NOW at my laptop or cell phone screen.

Because I have passion and energy.

I was prepared for the worst. I expected Asher to hemorrhage from the throat or come out of anesthesia throwing up and I thought everything at home would be terrible.

None of those things turned out to be true, thank goodness.

He’s been a really, really easy patient. His brother and sister have been SO sweet and kind and my belief in our ability to raise good people is bolstered.

We finally figured out that mixing his pain meds with Sprite is the easiest way to get him to cooperate. He’s been eating a tiny bit, mostly ice cream, smoothies, and yogurt, but mostly he’s just drinking water because my second biggest fear after throat hemorrhage is dehydration so I push water on him passionately and energetically.

I’d like to give a shout out to my friend Jess, a working mom of 4 whose husband also works in the car business and is not home much, for bringing that yellow ice chest full of ice to our home. I wanted to hug her, but instead I smiled and waved and prayed that our family doesn’t end up giving her family the virus.

I prayed both passionately and energetically, so I’m sure it worked.

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Do You Want To Build A Deductible Snowman?

This morning during the short drive to summer camp, Maverick and I were talking about the virus. We all know which one. I don’t need to type it out.

“If an 11-year-old can understand the importance of wearing a mask, what is wrong with all of these adults running around without one?” His face reddened with anger.

WORD.

He’s worried about his grandparents and his great-grandparents. My kid, who already suffers from anxiety, chews his fingers until they bleed. He can’t understand how anyone would refuse to do something as simple as wearing a face covering in public, an act that shows respect and concern for our fellow humans. I mean, I don’t get it either — I have no explanation to offer him.

In our house, we believe in science. We have spirituality, too, although we don’t have a name for it — I tell the kids that something looks out for us, and I call that power God. Even though I’m unsure of God’s location or gender or even how much of the Bible is rooted in reality, I know there is a God, I know I am not God, and therefore, I do NOT need to know the details about how God chooses to operate. Because at the end of the day, why does it matter?

So back to the virus. There are countless conspiracy theorists out there producing countless conspiracy theories and I just don’t have the energy to even.

Guys.

There is so much actually happening … how do you have the mental capacity to come up with this extra stuff that may or may not be going on behind the scenes? Every time I start going down a rabbit hole online I get like 2 pages in and I’m like, NOPE. Just nope. Don’t have the bandwidth. Can’t. Real life is already crazy enough, I cannot handle additional crazy.

I cleaned my office this week and came across a few Christmas presents I never got around to wrapping or gifting to my friends. I think nothing could EVER BE MORE APPROPRIATE.

Speaking of bitter, our 8-year-old, Asher, is having his tonsils and adenoids removed tomorrow. I’m not bitter about that — I’m actually excited for him because he hasn’t been able to breathe properly since infancy. I thought it was allergies, so we had him tested. It wasn’t.

Then I thought it maybe since he shot out so fast at birth, maybe something was defective in his facial structure? Like, can that happen? Reddit says it can.

Anyway, multiple tests and scans later, we learned that his adenoids are enormous — what does that even mean? I plan to find out tomorrow. Are we talking golf ball size? — and blocking his nasal passages.

The part I’m bitter about is this: my husband picked our health insurance plan and I’m sure he pragmatically selected the cheapest one because that is how husbands are, and our family deductible is an actual pile of money. By that I mean I could withdraw said money from a bank, but I’d have to get a loan first, and I would have such a large pile that I could lie down on the floor in it and make a deductible angel.

Since Asher’s surgery is really important, because hello — our kid can’t smell anything — I figured 2020 should be the year that I finally address my messed up asshole.

The asshole repair deserves its own post. You’ll have to wait for that one.

(It will be worth waiting for.)

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I Mathed Today

Um, guys?

I write this from a very low (emotionally speaking) place where I ate half-baked brownies for lunch.

Today’s afternoon meltdown was triggered by a conversation I had with friends, via text, about herd immunity. Now, let me just say, I am by no means a medical expert, mathematician, or analyst. I’m just a mom who has taken to feeding her children microwaveable popcorn for dinner, because I am too busy clinging to my sobriety to think about preparing balanced meals.

I took the time to do the math and realized that in order for America to achieve herd immunity, approximately 65% of our population has to be exposed to Covid-19. We are currently at about 7%. SEVEN PERCENT.

And how long will it take to get to 65% at the rate we are going? FIVE FUCKING YEARS.

I will be 45 years old in 5 years. Maverick will be driving a car. So this means that I’ll have to keep being mad at people not wearing a mask for the next half a decade? How will kids get educated if they’re trying to learn in chaotic or abusive homes? And more importantly, how will the next generation do better if they aren’t getting an adequate education?

It’s like everything that was already super wrong with America warped into overdrive and it is all colliding together to create the Biggest Clusterfuck Ever.

People are out there acting like nothing is amiss. Uh, EVERYTHING IS AMISS. Our President is Tweeting about the CDC … I can’t even coherently tell you what he said today because it is just that crazy. You just need to see it with your own eyes.

Okay, Donald. YOU DO THAT.

Listen. I am a registered Independent so I feel like I can say this: we have no leadership. The shit has hit the fan and it’s slinging all over us and WE ARE JUST SITTING HERE BEING COATED IN POOP.

I have no solution. I am merely stating facts.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post and I felt so much better when I was finished, so I am going to commit to writing here again as much as possible because there is something about knowing I’m not alone. Other people have crazy lives too. We are all wondering if other people feel like they are being covered in poop.

I think the shitastrophe is probably the thing that binds us all together. But it smells, you guys. Like … REALLY, REALLY BAD.

PUT ON THE MASK.

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Pandemic Parenting

I’m one of those annoyingly literal people who struggle to comprehend abstract ideas, so the concept of a pandemic is like, really hard for me to understand. Everything has a beginning and an end, yes? But we have no idea when this thing’s gonna end?

Bullshit.

I do not accept.

For real, give me an end date. I need to put it on my calendar.

I’m wearing a mask. I’ve been wearing a mask, and the people who claim that they can’t mask up because of their “rights” make me want to scream. Sometimes, I do.

I don’t bring the kids anywhere that I don’t absolutely have to, and when I do bring them out in public, they are also masked. They’re also kids, so it doesn’t really matter that they’re masked because they shove their fingers underneath the mask to dig around in their noses, so there’s that.

We go to the pool. I go to yoga, keeping my mat sort of away from other people. In a desperate, dark moment, I signed all three kids up for a variety of summer camps which they’re attending on a rotating basis, giving each child a week at home with just me while the other two go to camp.

I am walking the squiggly line of following the rules and keeping myself sane because parents, the only way we are going to make it through this nightmare is by taking care of ourselves.

I have always said I could not homeschool.

I never should have said that.

The truth is, I can homeschool, I just don’t want to. I don’t want to with every fucking fiber of my being. My entire system rebels against the mere thought of it. Absolutely nothing could possibly displease me more, except for the idea of living without electricity. And yet, here we are! WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.

I’m resentful. I’m bitter. I hate everyone and everything, A LOT. But this post isn’t supposed to be about my irritation. This post is about self-care.

We will not make it to the end of this journey if we don’t put ourselves first. I don’t mean “after the kids start school.” I don’t mean “once Maverick gets braces” or “once I lose 15 pounds” or “after Asher’s tonsillectomy,” which are all actual excuses I’ve given.

I mean today. Now. Right after you finish reading this blog post, you need to take care of yourself. Take a bath. Lock yourself in a room and watch all 5 seasons of The Affair. Pluck your eyebrows. Organize your underwear and throw out the raggedy ones. Set boundaries and stick to them. Feed yourself things that will boost your immune system. Go outside and breathe.

If you think my ideas are stupid then just think of something not harmful that makes you happy and go do that thing. Ignore your family. They will be fine.

Last week I managed to attach magnetic eyelashes to my face and went to dinner for the first time with my husband since Valentine’s Day. It was nerve wracking and I feel like it should have been more romantic than it was, but he’s been working like 72 hours a week and neither of us are great company right now, just FYI.

I’ve seen articles about mom rage in a pandemic and I’m like damn, that’s me. That is all of us. We’re going to all explode into bloody pieces if we don’t figure out how to mother ourselves so we can turn right back around and be a not shitty mom to our progeny.

My therapist has been on my ass about self care for 3.5 years. I blow it off — I don’t know why. It’s HARD to learn how to genuinely care for a body that I abused for so long. When I think of self care, I think of vodka and cranberry and a crushed up Adderall, but that’s because I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict and my thinking is warped.

Actual self care is softer. Gentler. Easy on the liver. Most of it sounds boring, I know. But if we don’t do it, we’re going to lose our shit and I don’t mean in the comical way. This situation is a pressure cooker, both on a very nuclear level (in our homes) and on a majorly large scale (the entirety of America) and I don’t want to see it get any worse. And yet, somehow, it is.

Welcome to 2020.

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Sobriety is tough right now

A producer from Nightline reached out a few months ago and asked if I’d be willing to keep a video diary of my daily life as a mom hanging onto my sobriety while in isolation.

The piece they created and put out into the world is ACCURATE. I’m so, so grateful that I was able to be a part of it.

If you need help, reach out. Tell on yourself. Trust me, you’re not alone.

Parenting Quirky Kids During A Pandemic

Last night, I leaned against the counter in our hall bathroom with my arms crossed, watching my 11-year-old brush his teeth.

I choose to watch him mostly because if left to his own devices, he only cleans the right side of his mouth, completely forgetting about the left. Kids on the spectrum — who also have ADHD — are like that. It took me a long time to understand and accept this behavior as something other than carelessness.

As he brushed, I noticed that his height likely surpasses 5 feet and made a mental note to measure him. He’s all arms and legs; even though he’s one of the youngest in his class, he will never be the smallest.

Out of nowhere, he blurted, “Sadness is going up, isn’t it?”

I wanted to make sure I’d heard him right, since he was talking with a mouthful of toothpaste, so I asked him to repeat the question.

“Sadness. It’s going up, huh? Because of the virus.”

That is when my child looked at me with genuine concern and asked if the rate of suicide will increase because of what is happening. Because of the number of businesses closing their doors. Because people are losing their homes and their livelihoods and their loved ones.

Oh.

I had to answer him honestly. I told him yes, he’s right, a lot of people are sad and a lot of them are ending their lives. I think I tacked on some stuff about the importance of mental health and how there is ALWAYS a better way out, that there is ALWAYS hope, even if it feels like there isn’t, but I’m sure I bungled that part up because of what I’m going to go over with you in a moment.

So, he’s not the kind of kid who blissfully be-bops through life, and he’s also not the kind of person who is willing to accept what you tell him at face value. He’s going to sniff out a lie — or even a glossed over, watered down version of the truth — like nobody’s business, and if he thinks you’re not telling him the whole truth? HE WILL NEVER LET IT GO.

I don’t even try to skirt issues anymore; I address them directly and to the best of my ability. Maverick just knows things, no matter how much I try to wish away his level of awareness. He notices every slight change in my mood, even when it’s imperceptible to others. All that hyper awareness is exhausting — I should know, because I’m the same way.

Before the pandemic suicide rate discussion took place, we’d survived a typical evening at home.

The first time I typed out that sentence, I’d used the word “enjoyed” instead of “survived.” That was a lie, so I changed it.

My husband arrived from work around 7 p.m. I was hanging by the very last shred of my sanity after helping our 8-year-old assemble his Nintendo Labo. I peaced out for a walk to clear my head, slash, talk myself out of running away from home for good, during which I discovered one of our neighbors (an elderly man wearing sweatpants) playing bagpipes on the sidewalk.

The music was so hauntingly beautiful that I captured it with my phone, although I stayed far enough away so that he wouldn’t be in the video clearly enough for people to know who it was because I’m polite like that.

When I got home, our 6-year-old was insisting in her screechy-screech voice that we all participate in something I can only describe as Hobbs Masterpiece Theater — she wrote a script, we all had lines, and there was singing and dancing involved.

Then there were baths and pajamas for the two younger kids, the usual reading/playing/screaming for no reason combo that our children love so much, an episode of our favorite show, cuddling with Robbie, and at the end of all of that, exhausted, was when I stood in the bathroom with my oldest.

The discussion with my son happened at the end of a very long day of pandemic parenting. And this is why all of us are so beyond over this shit.

Not our kids. We love our kids. But the confinement, the isolation, the “distance learning,” “crisis schooling,” mask-making, scary news bullshit? DONE. WITH. IT.

None of us are doing great. I mean, maybe some people are, but I don’t know those people. Every parent I know well enough to have an honest conversation with is slowly dying inside from the agony that is modern day parenting and working whilst isolating because there is a pandemic out there.

So, if you are wondering if you’re the only person out there who is struggling … you aren’t. (Insert something uplifting here, like “WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!”)

Deep breath.

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A Dry Pandemic

Last week, I shared how the pandemic is affecting my recovery journey on Good Morning America. (Read the full story and watch the interview here!)

Of course, a lot of the things I told Deborah Roberts during our interview didn’t make the cut, and it dawned on me that maybe I could write it all down here, for anyone who might need to hear it.

Let me start by saying that the situation we find ourselves in, A PANDEMIC, is literally the worst. The worst. I am not okay and I don’t want to make it seem like I am — however, I’m not drinking and everyone in my immediate family is healthy, and right now I think that is all we can ask for. The bar for being at “an acceptable level of not horrible” is dreadfully low. In fact, when the producer from GMA called to let me know the segment was airing the following morning, she said, “Hi Harmony, how are you?” And without thinking, I responded, “I’m fine!” followed immediately by “NO ONE I LOVE IS DEAD YET.”

Now that we’ve established that we are all simply doing the best we can to make it through the day, I’m going to share how I’m handling this thing I like to call the Dry Pandemic. It is survival of the soberest. And can I just say, having all my wits about me right now feels almost painful.

Source unknown, but I edited #2 to apply to myself.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times during this thing that I’ve considered drinking. In times of extreme stress, I automatically revert back to my old ways of coping. My knee jerk reaction to a pandemic is not to meditate, pray, or look for ways to help other people. My knee jerk reaction is to drink, and not like a lady. I mean draaaaaaaaaank. Some people in recovery say that the desire to drink has been removed, but I have not experienced that phenomenon. The miracle for me is that even though I might want to hole up in my bedroom with a gigantic cup of alcohol, ignoring everyone and everything, I have the tools today to make different choices.

Being sober does not mean the absence of thinking about drinking (or eating CBD gummy bears). I THINK ABOUT IT, I JUST DON’T BE ABOUT IT. I’ve thought about doing all kinds of things that could take the edge off of what feels like an impossible situation, including running away from home, but the difference is what I choose to do with those thoughts.

First, I acknowledge that they are there. I don’t ignore them or try to stuff them down, I say Hello, crazy idea. How’s it going? And then I immediately tell someone my thought before it has time to take hold. Almost always, when I verbalize something out loud like “I think Robbie might actually have a second family instead of a job,” I am able to hear just how ridiculous it sounds. But, if I keep it to myself, giving it room to grow into a giant clusterfuck, chances are that I will end up hurting someone else or myself.

The benefits of being stone cold sober during the worst health crisis in the history of ever are ever-evolving, but here’s what I’ve got thus far: as long as I continue to take care of my own emotional health, I can continue to help my kids make their way through this without further damaging them. But if I drink, ALL I will do is damage the people that I care about the most.

For today, everyone in recovery is doing the impossible. No matter what happens: loss of loved ones, livelihood, home, and security – we refuse to go back to our old ways of thinking and living. A saying I hear often in the rooms of recovery is “My worst day sober is still better than my best day of drinking.” And it’s true. Because when I was drinking, I hated myself.

If you have the willingness to change, there is always hope. You are never alone.

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Easter Sunday 2020

I’m copying this from my notes and saving it here for posterity.

Someone, we don’t know who, filled eggs with candy and put them all in our front yard. How fun! An Easter egg hunt!

It wasn’t until the kids dumped the eggs onto our living room floor that they discovered the ants.

Friends, this was when I made coffee and silently returned to the bedroom.

There are ants living in my house. Our living room rug appears to be moving because there are so many of them. This is fine.

Robbie vacuumed the ants out of the rug. Maybe.

Now my parents are in our front yard hiding eggs. Do we tell them about the ants? No, we do not. We let them have their fun because they have been stuck inside their house for weeks and they are bored.

I am not bored.

HAPPY EASTER!

Well, It’s Monday Again

Because when there are no words, there is almost always the perfect GIF. Hello from Groundhog Day #31.

I got some backlash for my latest post, which you can read here if you missed it. If you’re offended by a lot of profanity, I’d advise you to maybe skip that one. Listen close, cats: I love my children. Really. I also realize that I’m fortunate to be married to a man I still enjoy being around. We have a roof over our heads, and I know this won’t last forever. That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be mad about it.

My challenges are mostly due to the fact that I’m

A.) Trying to remain sober, while

B.) Raising two children with very different, very challenging, issues. Plus a third kid.

These facts do not mean it can’t be done. In fact, the reason why I share my experiences is to hold myself accountable as well as help other women in a similar situation see that there really is hope for anyone who is struggling with any kind of addiction disorder. If you don’t struggle with addiction, it might be hard for you to understand why LOSING THE THINGS THAT KEEP ME TOGETHER while at the same time PARENTING CHILDREN WHO ALSO LOST THE THINGS THAT KEEP THEM TOGETHER feels so damn impossible.

If you have not been in this position, please don’t chastise me for freaking out about it, because all that does is make you an asshole.

The thing is, that the feeling of impossibility is actually probably a lie. The truth is that deep down inside of me there is a strength that I can tap into — but only if I choose to.

Every day, I get to make that choice.

So, in the spirit of choosing to be okay when very few things are actually okay, here are a few things that are bringing me joy — or at the very least, a chuckle? — during this very challenging time.

  • This post from McSweeny’s, OMG. Funniest thing ever.
  • I’m growing plants! This orchid has been with me since November, and I just bought the rosemary plant. So far, so good. I’d like to branch out to growing things in the yard, but I’m paralyzed by the fear that I’ll invest a ton of time and energy and then everything will die. Suggestions are welcomed — I live in South Louisiana, so the climate is tropical(ish).
  • I found a bra so comfortable that I went back and ordered two more. Dillard’s is having a great sale on loungewear, and since that’s what I’m living in now I decided to stock up. My curvy sisters, may I present the Natori Bliss Contour Wireless Bra. I am a 34 DDD and am forever in search of support and comfort. This bra is so comfy that I SLEEP IN IT.
  • Videos of hedgehogs as pets. Just trust me on this. I spent several hours watching hedgehogs taking baths, hedgehogs taking foot baths, hedgehogs playing in their spinny wheels, and on and on. My friend Rach (of the blog RachRiot) has a pet hedgehog named … wait for it … Quillie Nelson. Read all about it here, if you are so inclined.
  • Bob Dylan. The calmness of his music makes me happy.
  • And finally, we made names for our alter egos. Example: when Pepper loses her shit, we call her Janice — as in, “Uh oh, Janice is here. Everybody scatter!” Something about referring to our Quarantine Selves as alter egos makes us laugh, and laughing is exactly what we need right now to get through this thing.

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The Great Depression Reboot

It was during the second re-start of Asher’s time out timer, during what is now becoming a daily ritual of tantrum throwing, when I looked on social media and learned that the Governor of Louisiana expects the “stay at home” order to last THROUGH THE END OF MAY.

It was during the fifth re-start of Asher’s time out timer (yes, you read that right. It’s a thing and it sucks) that I was like, wait.

It was then that I started to panic.

The realization sank in: I get at least six. more. weeks. of ritualistic tantrums and emotional volatility from my middle child, and heaven only knows what my oldest has up his sleeve because he always finds new ways to shock years off my lifespan. There is just really no telling what kinds of awe-inspiring things I have to look forward to, but I feel fairly certain that all of them will involve damage to my home or my psyche, and not necessarily in that order.

Please note that if you’re thinking to yourself, Harmony, all that negative thinking will only produce a negative outcome, you can go right on ahead and fuck yourself. Take that annoyingly positive thinking of yours and get the hell away with all of that bullshit because I am not fucking negative. I’m fucking human and I’ve sucked it up long enough, do you hear me? I have been holed up in my house since March 13 with these children and I am doooooooone. ALL OF US ARE DONE!

We have crafted and put together puzzles and watched all the movies. We went on bike rides until one day everyone including me threw a fit a street away from our house and all the people came out onto their driveways to look at the spectacle that was the Hobbs family.

Today we tie-dyed t-shirts — fun, right? WRONG.

Tie-dyeing was what prompted Asher’s hour-long temper tantrum. Why? Who the fuck knows! Certainly not me! All of my children are regressing. I am regressing. I want to curl into a ball on the floor and eat freshly baked cookies and blast gutter rap and growl every time anyone comes near me like a feral grizzly bear basking in her own filth.

I am a woman in the prime of her life who cannot leave her house. I have rachet hair and raggedy nails and feet that badly need professional help, but it’s not my personal appearance that is the problem, oh no.

It is the fact that I have no escape from my family.

HELP ME ESCAPE MY FAMILY.

Look, I like to believe that I’m a persistent, stubborn, hardy person who can handle a whole lot of shit, but this **gesturing vaguely around** situation is about to send me over the edge.

I remember when I was a kid, seeing older folks doing peculiar things. I’d ask my mom, “Why does Grandma crumble up Saltine crackers and mix them with ketchup?” Or, “Why does so-and-so’s grandmother hoard dinner rolls in her purse and steal Sweet N’ Low packets from the Piccadilly?”

“Oh … she lived through the Great Depression,” was usually the answer, although I didn’t fully understand what that meant until I was much older. The Great Depression made able-bodied men leap from the tops of buildings, or shoot themselves in the face. Just the title of that dark period of American history lets us know that it freaking sucked.

Kind of like 2020.

This event, and whatever else is to come, is what will shape us. In another 40 years, when all of this is behind us, I’ll be the type of geriatric who refuses to remain confined in her room or her home, no matter the size or level of comfort. I won’t give a rat’s ass about any so-called lack of transportation, just get me OUT OF HERE, SHIRLEY, and into A PUBLIC PLACE WHERE I CAN BE AROUND STRANGERS. And be fast about it. I’m not getting any younger.

I love my children dearly, but we all like each other so much more when we get a small break every once in awhile. Just a teeny tiny bit of time away. Just one little trip to one place. Which is why, in the year 2060, old people will FUCKING REFUSE to go home.

They — I mean, us — will be unfreakingstoppable. Don’t believe me? That’s sweet. We will be out all hours of the night dancing on top of tables, probably topless. The police will have to pick us up and drive us home to our families, who will breathe sighs of relief to see us home safe and sound. And they will say “Thank you, officer, for bringing her home safely from shopping again,” before exchanging a conspiriorital look of you know how all of these folks who lived through 2020 are. They’re about half a bubble off plumb, if you know what I mean.

Yep.

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Can We Really Do This? Pandemic Edition

Remember back when 2019 was a little intense and all of us looked forward to 2020? We had no idea what was coming, bless our little privileged hearts.

But it’s fine. Really. Everything is absolutely fine.

Remember when I almost relapsed last summer on diet pills because I was so stressed, and I swore I would never again stay home full time with the kids? I had no clue that was just a teeny, tiny preview into what was awaiting me: full time isolation with my three children, without access to the things that I grew to depend on for my sanity and well being, WITH NO END IN SIGHT.

Making the best of it!

Last summer seems like a breeze compared to this. What the hell even is this? I honestly can’t decide, because my thoughts and feelings shift minute by minute. Sometimes it feels like a gift, a blessing, something divinely orchestrated to open my eyes to the simple joys that I spent so many years drowning out before I got sober. Other times it feels like a dystopian nightmare, like we’re on the verge of societal collapse and there is no way any of us can do this if this virus doesn’t kill us first.

Can we really do this? Or are we, the American people, too soft, too spoiled rotten? Someone said that an Amazon employee tested positive for the virus, and now people are freaking out that Amazon might stop delivering things like bike helmets and creamy peanut butter to our doorsteps.

You fools took all the creamy peanut butter in my town and all that is left is extra crunchy. Peanut butter manufacturers should know by now that nobody likes that extra crunchy shit, you could just as well buy a can of peanuts and smear them on bread, because that’s exactly what it tastes like. The same people who are buying up all the good peanut butter are more than likely the ones hoarding toilet paper, because greedy people are like that. It’s cool, though, because I bought up all the fiber supplements, so the joke’s on you, motherfuckers.

No one knows when — or if — school will resume for the 2019-2020 academic year. None of us were aware, when the kids climbed into school buses or cars at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13, that they wouldn’t be returning the following Monday. We can’t tell our kids for certain when (if?) they will be able to see their friends or teachers again, let alone when libraries and parks will reopen.

I’ve started focusing on reminding them that their friends are safe in their homes — just like we are! — because my kids are only friends with people who come from intelligent homes. And what I mean by intelligent is that the adults in the household can comprehend basic instructions and aren’t out shopping together as a family and then crowding around a food truck afterwards, touching everything.

That’s just stupid.

We are all doing impossible things all day long, trudging a minimum of 6 feet away from each other up a slippery hill. And YES, it is all too much. Way, way too much. I don’t have the answers, people. I am only here to validate our immense and bottomless angst.

Via @happyasamother on Instagram!

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Removing Dip Powder Nails At Home

When the kids and I quarantined ourselves 11 days ago, my husband continued to go to work. He’s a Sales Manager at the biggest Chevy dealership in town, and for whatever reason, car dealerships are considered necessary during a pandemic.

First of all, who the hell is out buying cars right now? You do not need a new car. You need to stay at home like the rest of us who want this horrible self-isolation thing to end ASAP so we can get back to regular life. No, I’m not wallowing in self pity at all, shut up and mind your own business.

Robbie says he is thankful that he still has a job, because people are being laid off right and left. The rational side of me is thankful, too. The irrational side, which sometimes finds me eating chocolate icing directly from the container while I cry on the floor of my closet, is royally pissed.

When it sunk in that nail salons, hair salons, and other such things were closing up shop for an unknown period of time, my first thought was oh shit, my roots, immediately followed by oh shit, my nails.

If you’ve never had dip nails before, allow me to explain. I’ve been a nail and cuticle biter for as long as I can remember. Gel manicures tend to last two days at the most, and any attempt to do my own nails produces a result that looks a lot like that of my children.

My therapist was the one who told me to try dip nails. After the first time I did it last summer, I was hooked. It didn’t matter what I put my hands through, the manicure looked amazing. It’s like concrete, so there’s no way to pull it or peel it off — awesome, right? Except when there’s a pandemic. Then it isn’t awesome at all.

Reader, please join me as I embark on a journey into the unfamiliar territory of do-it-yourself tutorials. I hope you’re excited, because I can hardly contain myself.

You might be wondering why my face looks a little … off. Well friends, I realized several hours too late that I’d only filled in one of my eyebrows. If that doesn’t sum up my entire existence at the moment, I don’t know what does.

The materials I used in the removal process are as follows:

  1. 100% pure acetone
  2. Aluminum foil
  3. Heavy-duty nail file
  4. Cotton balls
  5. Glass bowl

This situation reminds me a lot of the time I decided I could give myself a bikini wax at home: arrogant and misguided.

I told myself that surely I could do the removal just like they do in the nail salon, which was a lie, of course. I’ve already explained to you that I’m not even capable of painting my nails decently, so I think we all know how this is going to end.

Here are the steps:

  1. File off the top layer of each nail
  2. Soak a cotton ball in acetone
  3. Put cotton on top of fingernail and,
  4. Wrap with aluminum foil.

My right hand was easy because I’m left handed. I really struggled to do my left hand, so my kids stepped in to help. I’ll let you guess how that went. After realizing this wasn’t quite going according to plan, I ended up taking all the foil wads off my fingers and sticking my fingers into a bowl full of acetone.

I soaked until I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers, then pulled my hands out of the bowl and used a rough paper towel to wipe off the melted dip goo.

Repeat eleventy hundred times, and you get this:

After cutting my nails and filing the remainder of the dip off (that’s a lie, I totally gave up on filing and decided to just live with it until it grows out), I found a cheerful shade of polish that adequately covered the black spots that I still have on my fingers.

So, yeah. I’m pretty anxious to be released from isolation/social distancing so I can once again let the professionals work their magic, but until then, I’ll be sharing the wonders of DOING IT YOURSELF DURING A PANDEMIC!

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A Homeschooler I Am Not

Ok, look. I’m going to level with you: the past few weeks have been harder than anything I’ve gone through in my life, and that’s saying a lot.

After writing my previous blog post, I basically had a 48-hour meltdown wherein I cried, stamped my feet, and felt sorry for myself. My body felt like it was filled with lead. I had the overwhelm, big time, and my kids were even more anxious (read: hyperactive, emotional, excitable, awful) because their mother couldn’t seem to get it together.

Eventually, I got ahold of myself. I mean, this pandemic isn’t going away. I have no control over an invisible virus. So I’m going to focus on what I can control: living through a pandemic while in recovery for alcoholism, in isolation with my three children, for an unknown period of time. Because WOW.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, slash, writer, for almost 8 years now. To go from what used to be our normal life, to 24/7 parenting without access to libraries, parks, other children, zoos, the swimming pool, or anything other than our own home and yard, is CRAZY DISORIENTING. I mean … you know. We all know. I don’t have to explain to any of you how hard all of this is, because you are already there.

Part of me feels ashamed to complain, because I’m aware that millions of people don’t have it as good as we do right now. My husband is in the car business, and right now vehicles are considered a “necessity” along with hospitals and groceries, so his work load isn’t slowing down anytime soon. And as much as I worry about him going out there into the wild where the viruses live, and as bitter as I sometimes feel because he gets to leave for work and I do not, I’m thankful that we don’t have to worry about our livelihood (at least, not yet).

For 12 hours a day, and it’s just me and the kids.

At first, I tried to homeschool them. It sounded like a good idea. Routine is always good for kids — how hard could it be to carry on what their teachers were doing with them before schools unexpectedly closed down?

WRONG.

It turns out that stressed mothers are terrible teachers. I was stressing myself out as well as my children, so we just … well, we stopped. There was no big announcement, no dramatic throwing in of the towel, I just fucking quit doing it.

And guess what? Nothing horrible happened. My kids didn’t become dumb overnight. They’re still learning, just in a different way. Today we went to a pond and threw out food for the turtles. We’re cooking, cleaning, and learning how to work together under duress. I’m trying really, really hard not to yell.

It’s a work in progress.

My greatest challenge is that I am trapped with my kids during a time that I would absolutely LOVE to numb out, maintaining my sobriety without access to the 12-step meetings that have been such an integral part of my recovery, and surrounded (virtually, not literally) by people who are conditioned to cope with Bad Things by drinking. This is Louisiana. We are famous for our ability to roll with the punches and do it with good cheer, because we’re loaded all the time.

This is what I found myself writing to a woman who is 142 days sober and struggling with the isolation/motherhood problem:

Hi! Mom of an 11 year old boy with Asperger’s and ADHD, a 8 year old boy with ADD, and a 6 year old girl here. First of all, YOU ARE DOING GREAT. None of us are doing this perfectly or even that well, but if you are sober and your kids are loved and safe, then give yourself a huge pat on the back! You are demonstrating every single day what it looks like to love yourself so that you can truly love them.

Now, isolation and motherhood are both huge triggers for me, so this is what I’ve found helpful:

1. Telehealth sessions with my therapist (if you don’t have one, this is a GREAT TIME TO GET ONE). I’m scheduling them weekly. I know cost can be a problem — look for a counselor without all the fancy letters after their name. There are plenty and trust me, they’ve got mad availability right now.

2. Reaching out to all of my friends so I don’t feel alone. I use Zoom, WhatsApp, and Marco Polo, in addition to all the regular ways of communicating.

3. HARD exercise. Wear those kids out! Wear yourself out! Get the anxiety out of your body by doing something outside in the sun or even a Zumba video inside the house. Just move your body, sweat, and get the kids to move too. I cannot stress enough how crucial physical exercise is to my sanity/sobriety/mental health. Hard exercise is the only thing I’ve found to keep my anxiety at a manageable level right now.

4. Give your entire household grace because what we are doing is BATSHIT CRAZY and HARD AS FUCK, DO YOU HEAR ME? We are doing the impossible, and doing it sober. If someone would have told me this is what I’d be doing in 2020, I never would have believed them. But I am. We are.

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The Covid Diaries

Two weekends ago, Robbie and I took the kids to “Cat Video Fest 2020” which was basically just a feature-length compilation of cat videos shown in the classy theatre downtown, and it was there that I saw my friend Gwen.

Gwen reminds me of a hummingbird. Her petite frame and wide-eyed curiosity is almost ethereal, and she always hugs me hello and asks me about my writing. I’m not sure how old she is — maybe in her 50’s or 60’s — but I know she doesn’t have children and she likes to read the newspaper every morning.

Today I’m thinking about Gwen because two weekends ago when we sat in that theatre with the very close together seats, sneezing and coughing and leaning all over each other, none of us had quarantine or lockdown or viruses on the brain. We were thinking about cats hiding in brown paper bags and kittens in mittens, blissfully unaware that our lives were about to be TURNED THE FUCK OVER.

Arrogance, and possibly denial, kept us from considering the fact that a pandemic, Covid-19, would be here. Something about the way we live our lives keeps us from believing that whatever is happening over there could ever actually happen where we live.

Before the viral panic descended upon us, I was wrapped up in the politics of our local public school system. I was busy worrying about whether or not the locker rooms at the kid’s school had appropriate window coverings. I was focused on helping our new principal get the surveillance cameras fully functioning.

I was dealing with the individual challenges of my kids, which have recently become overwhelming. I ramped up my own therapy in response, trying hard to listen to my therapist when she said “Harmony, you need help.” She said it was time to hire someone, maybe a college kid, and I started looking.

But then schools shut down.

And now I am home with my three kids, indefinitely. No playdates. No gym. No library, no seeing grandparents, no playing at the park. Robbie is still going to work. There is no toilet paper to be found. I have a dip manicure that is over two weeks old and I’m not sure when I can go have it removed. My face is breaking out. The kids are anxious. I am anxious.

I’m trying to lean in. I am sober. I can think of this time as a gift. I can try to enjoy my home and my kids and be grateful that I don’t have to go anywhere. I can make gratitude lists, and try to make the best of it, and work on my spiritual growth.

BUT Y’ALL.

I’m in recovery for alcoholism — which 100% ramped up when I became a stay at home mom, even though I wanted to be a stay at home mom. One of my biggest triggers is being stuck at home with the kids because I had no idea how awful it is to be stuck at home with the kids.

Yesterday reminded me.

It is terrible.

I miss the gym. I miss everything I used to do to make myself feel sane. I feel like a whiny bratty baby for complaining, but one glance at social media reminds me that we are likely to be on lockdown soon because all of you idiots refuse to stay home. We are all in the same boat, fellow Americans, and half of you insist on poking holes in the sides because you don’t believe in science.

And so, my friends, I leave you with this. Because Pepper is ALL OF US.

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How To Know If What You’re Doing Is Right

“It seems like motherhood is a big source of stress for you.”

My therapist shifted in her seat as she waited for me to respond, uncrossing and re-crossing her legs. I wondered if she was starting to get that tingly feeling that happens just before a limb shuts down.

“I would say so, yes,” I said quietly.

Early recovery is, hands down, the most uncomfortable experience of my life. I have a heightened awareness of the way my thighs rub together when I walk. I feel the heaviness of my breasts. I feel empathy for other people in a way I did not before I got sober, and my mental clarity allows me to comprehend situations that I would have previously written off as impossible. I can feel every creak in my left knee and I have a deep, primal need for simple carbohydrates.

I feel changes in the air, like a golden retriever with his head hanging out the passenger window of a car, except with a lot less joy. Golden retrievers probably don’t have to take stock of, and come to terms with, their emotional baggage. Dogs don’t get addicted to mood-altering substances.

My journey from co-ed Christian boarding school — where pantyhose was not a merely a suggestion, but a requirement — to a full-blown alcohol and prescription drug addiction, was slow but steady. The thing about high-functioning alcoholics and drug addicts is that they seem so pulled together. High-performing, ambitious, gregarious, successful — all of those words described me. But eventually, with all forms of addiction, cracks began to appear.

The psychological aspects of addiction often prevent the user from being aware of or even admitting that there’s a problem. I fell into this category. I’ve long prided myself on my ability to be honest; after all, the tagline on my website reads “honesty and insanity in one fell swoop.” Honesty is kind of my thing — and I was honest about everything — except for the extent of my drinking. Oh, and the pills. No one needed to know about that.

Sobriety feels like nakedness. It feels like someone stripped away my garments and left me standing on a stage in front of everyone I know and love, and people are slowly, kindly, offering me things: a scarf here, a glove there. I’m re-dressing myself, and it’s a painstaking, humbling process. Merging motherhood — a task I don’t take lightly or for granted — and recovery feels so gargantuan, so crushingly impossible, that I can’t allow myself to think past the next 24 hours. Allowing my mind to wander too far ahead leaves me breathless and panic-stricken, and so, upon the advice of others, I just don’t do it.

I used to drink to cope with the stress of parenting. Now, without alcohol, I don’t know how to exist, and I especially don’t know how to be a mom. My default coping mechanism was always wine, and if I happened to be pregnant, I had no choice but to turn to food. Now I understand why I gained over 50 pounds in each pregnancy. I’m an alcoholic; take away the alcohol, and my body craves sugar.

If my middle son fell and busted his lip open, I’d calmly take care of him while telling myself that my reward would be a few glasses of wine after I got him patched up. If my oldest son was having an epic meltdown, I’d walk away, get a glass of wine, and return to him feeling calmer and more in control. When babies were teething and crying and fussing, I held it together until my husband got home — that was my rule, another adult had to be present — and then I would start drinking. I didn’t stop until the stress went away.

Towards the end, the stress didn’t leave until I lost consciousness.

In recovery, I have to walk myself through the day like I’m a small child: What’s the next right thing to do? Take a shower. What’s the next right thing? Get dressed. And so on and so forth.

Think I’m lying? Try destroying your body for 15 years before entering a 12-step program. I literally have to retrain myself in every aspect of my life.

The big, daily question I ask myself is — how can I care for kids when I can’t even care for myself?

The answer is slowly and deliberately. Minute by minute. Thoughtfully. Carefully. I ask for help. I accept help. I breathe more deeply. I sleep better. I meditate. I laugh a lot more.

I’m LIVING.

Getting sober while parenting small children is very difficult. But you know what’s worse? Trying to parent as an active addict. As hard as this journey can be, my most challenging sober day is a hundred times happier than a typical day as an alcoholic. I know this because I’ve experienced both.

“I love being a mother,” I told my therapist. “I think I just don’t know how to do it right.”

“You’re doing it,” she said.

So it’s right.

This essay was originally posted on Babble.com before Disney shut it down. Also, if you liked this post, then you should follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

A Desire To Remember

My 40th birthday is the day after Christmas and I am in full on, midlife-is-nigh, panic mode.

None of the things I wanted to have done by now are finished. I don’t have a publishable book. I don’t have a literary agent. I didn’t get my face lasered or my boobs lifted and I didn’t lose 20 pounds — so basically, my 40 is NOT the new 30.

My 40 is forty.

Hemingway was chock full of excellent advice, it turns out.

And I thought I’d made my peace with that, honestly. I’ve read some comical pieces about midlife. I joined an enormous Facebook group dedicated to women over 40. I found a few designers who manage to make sensible shoes look not depressing. I’ve stopped shopping in the Juniors section.

I bought eye cream and I use hyaluronic acid and some kind of prescription-level stuff that I think should have erased my hyperpigmentation by now. I remain mystified as to how my forehead wrinkles could possibly be deep enough to collect dirt — and while a very big part of me wants nothing more than to get Botox, there is a still, small voice in the back of my mind that whispers it’s poison, you idiot.

But the concerns I have about my looming birthday screeched to a halt today when I had another one of those awful moments where I realize I’m missing time. There’s this movie — the latest in the the long list of them, because this seems to happen every couple of months — that I have no recollection of seeing. But I watched it, with Robbie, apparently, in our home, at the end of 2016.

Before I got sober.

I do not recall any part of this. How is that even possible? For a slightly obsessive, Type A personality, missing something — anything — is troubling. I freak out when I misplace a pair of socks or an earring; losing time and memories, or in this case, an entire movie, is … what is the word I’m looking for?

Terrifying.

How much of my life have I missed? How many moments did I drink away, and what did I do or say when I wasn’t really there? The harms I’ve done that I don’t know about are what haunt me.

I’m on the precipice of turning 40 years old and I’m grasping for the shreds of what is left. And as I’m hanging on to those pieces, they’re evaporating. This is a very melodramatic way to address a missing memory, but it’s the only way I know how to convey the fear. I’m afraid of my disease. I’m afraid that it will win. I’m afraid that I will one day stop working so hard to stay sober, and instead make the decision to blot out my life.

There is not a cure for alcoholism or drug addiction. I will never be “fixed.” All I get is a daily reprieve, 24 hours of sobriety at a time, which is contingent on my own willingness to depend on a power greater than myself. If I forget, or stop being willing to do the (uncomfortable, hard) work, or if I cease to be honest with myself, or if I simply have a real bitch of a day, it could all come crashing down. We are all one poor decision away from drinking so much that we don’t remember it.

Maybe part of becoming 40 years old will include a desire to remember.

I’ve forgotten enough of my life — I’d like to remember the next forty years with intense and utter clarity.

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The Reluctant Blogger

My therapist and husband keep reminding me to write. “You’ll feel better if you write about it,” they tell me.

Will I? Because quite honestly, the thought of sitting down and dumping my thoughts on paper sounded like much too great a task. It would be so much simpler, I rationalized for months on end, if I just continued to ignore it all.

Eventually — today — I reached a point of such substantial discomfort that I unhappily broke my laptop out of hibernation. So, hi. I’m still alive, sober, and struggling.

Life does not get easier when one stops numbing her emotions, just so you know. Life continues on just as it always has, it’s just that I’m very much aware of it.

I have a hard time during the holidays for a lot of different reasons. The worst part is the inexplicable sadness that sweeps over me, at a time when I feel like I’m supposed to be jolly. I spent many years ignoring/stuffing/numbing my feelings and blaming other people for “making” me feel this way. If only XYZ had not happened, if only I’d done ABC differently, maybe I wouldn’t struggle so hard during the time between Thanksgiving and mid-January.

Well, here’s the truth: trauma changes a person.

Forever.

No amount of time or having good things happen can completely erase the damage that’s already done. There are things that can lessen the effects, and there are plenty of coping skills that can help a damaged person live an emotionally healthy life, but at the end of the day we are all still broken inside.

Most of the women you know and love who suffer from addiction, have a history of trauma. So when people say things like “Why are you so sad? You have a great life!” my blood pressure shoots way, way up. Yes, I do have a great life. I’m incredibly grateful that I found a way out of the darkness, one day at a time. I am one of the very few, which is why it continues to be so important to me to talk about it — because if you’re still breathing, there is still hope that you can overcome whatever obstacles were dropped in your path.

But.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. None of it is easy. And while most of the time I am not bitter or angry, around this time of year I get real bitter and angry. I used to drink those feelings away, but now I simply carry them, feel them, accept them.

It is not anyone else’s problem to fix. I have zero control over the past or other people. What I DO have control over is what I choose to do with it all, and every day I get another chance to make different choices.

Today I’m choosing to air out my struggles, if for no other reason than to make someone else feel less alone in theirs.

I went to NYC to film an episode of the Mel Robbins Show, where I had the opportunity to talk about addiction and trauma. I don’t have an air date yet, but I’ll let you know when I do!

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932 Days Sober

I have been in recovery for 932 days.

They say that alcoholics are fortunate because we get to experience two lives. There is Before I Got Sober, which wasn’t exactly the lying-in-the-gutter-covered-my-own-feces kind of bad, but was quickly heading there, and then there is the second part of my life.

This summer, a whole lot of crazy opportunities started falling out of the sky. I was in The Washington Post. I was on the radio. ABC brought a crew to my house and filmed for 12 hours. I spent a lot of time talking to Deborah Roberts.

It’s generally considered positive for amazing experiences to rain down upon a person who is trying really, really hard to do the next right thing, so imagine how confusing it was for me to feel empty and paralyzed.

I wanted nothing more than to hide out in my house, speak to no one, and forget I ever loved writing. I wanted to change my mind on all the things. I wanted to take it all back, undo the improvements and hours of therapy and self healing.

And while I didn’t consciously think that drinking was a good idea, my fallback for every uncomfortable feeling is STILL, after 932 days, to numb out.

“I feel like if I walked into a greenhouse full of marijuana plants, I’d probably start grabbing fistfuls of leaves and cramming them into my mouth,” I told my therapist. “Can you get high from eating raw pot leaves?”

So here is the deal: the addict part of my brain doesn’t want me to get better. She wants to keep me sick. She doesn’t want to help other people. She knows that the more I tell on my disease, the harder it will become for her to destroy me. That part of me flares up, big time, whenever good things happen; she whispers in my ear that it’s not real, that somehow I’m fooling everyone, I’m not qualified or worthy enough to actually succeed.

Sometimes, I believe her.

But, on the day I told my therapist I wanted to cram unprocessed marijuana into my mouth just to see what happens, she pointed out to me that secrets like that one are exactly why I need to keep doing what I’m doing. Yes, it is SO UNCOMFORTABLE AND SCARY, OMG. Yes, it’s possible that I could royally fuck it up in a very public way. Telling the world about recovery means that I have to fully commit to sobriety. There is no going back. I am all in.

And that, to a person like me, is the scariest thing in the world.

Here is a link to the piece they wrote about my story on ABC.

Here is the short segment that aired on Good Morning America last week.

Tonight, the full episode will air on Nightline. I don’t feel ready. I didn’t do the things I wanted to do beforehand, like hire a web designer or finish my book proposal or … or … or. But, like my friend Audrey reminded me, I would never feel ready. So here goes.

It’s DEBORAH!

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Thank You, Jenny

Bigotry, in all of its forms, is a learned behavior.

This thought weighs heavy on my mind today in thinking about *Jenny, a person who worked with the Kid’s Orchestra program last year at the K-8 public magnet school my children attend.

Jenny looked like she may have been transitioning from male to female, and I liked her immediately. She was the one to call me one evening when my youngest, then 5 years old, got sick with a stomach virus during Orchestra practice. At first I was taken aback when I met her, mostly because this is the Deep South and the LGTBQIA (I hope I did that right … I’m awkwardly stumbling through educating myself on these issues, so that I can hopefully educate my children and show them how to be an ally) communities are seriously underrepresented in these parts.

I noticed Jenny mostly because she was different, but I didn’t say anything about her until one evening at Orchestra pick up when all three of my kids piled into the car laughing about something.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

They were laughing about Jenny. The children in their Orchestra classes couldn’t figure out what gender she was, and it sounded like they were making fun of her.

It was mid-winter, and the sun dipped below the horizon. And while the thermometer told me that it was only 57 degrees, I could feel my body heating up, smoldering with an emotion I couldn’t immediately identify. I slowed down, pulled over onto the shoulder, and rotated my entire self so that my children had a clear view of my face.

I kept my voice low and even.

I asked how they would feel if Jenny heard them talking about her right now.

I asked how they would feel if they felt different inside like Jenny, and overheard their friends referring to her or her appearance in a negative manner. What would it feel like, I wondered out loud, to know that you are different but to be told by everyone around you that “different” is bad or shameful?

My kids looked at me with wide eyes.

I wasn’t mad at them. I wasn’t mad at the other kids from school who were talking about Jenny. I was mad at the lack of education these kid’s PARENTS have experienced. Ideas about other people — color, sexual identity, religion, even political affiliation — are largely based on nothing more than asinine assumptions and a significant lack of education.

So thank you, East Baton Rouge Parish School System, for fostering a diverse learning environment for my three children.

Thank you, Target, for hiring LGBTQIA employees.

Thank you, Kid’s Orchestra of Baton Rouge, for hiring Jenny. Having her in my kid’s lives opened up an extremely valuable, powerful conversation in the car during our drive home. Because when you know better, you do better.

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* Not her real name.

We Got A Puppy

A new school year begins tomorrow, and as usual, I am ill-prepared.

My sons don’t have the new belts I promised them. My daughter has a fever and will be at the pediatrician’s office in the morning, rather than taking first day of school pictures with her brothers. Also, the bottom of her hair looks like something chewed on it but we had to cancel the appointment I’d made for her trim because of the aforementioned fever.

The state of Louisiana changed the car seat requirements and two of my children are to travel in booster seats that we do not have yet because I haven’t had time to go to the store and buy them because WE GOT A PUPPY.

A PUPPY.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m like 99% sure it was a horrible, horrible mistake, but her name is Daphne and she’s really cute. It feels like I have a lot more kids now, which isn’t really the life I was hoping for when I agreed to this. I honestly had no idea how much work a puppy would be. Holy shit. Literally.

Every summer with my kids feels like the longest stretch of time imaginable until it is over and I have time to reflect on how little time we have left before childhood ends and adolescence — the Wild West of parenthood — begins. Maybe I got a dog because I’m subconsciously not quite ready to not be needed anymore, despite what my conscious tells me every time I find a new puddle of pee.

Tomorrow I will send a 6th grader and 3rd grader off to school while I cart my 1st grader to the doctor. I am not ready. I am never ready. The difference this time is that I’m not punishing myself for it.

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When Good Things Are Scary

When something bad happens, everyone waits for an alcoholic or addict or anorexic or cutter to relapse. The people who care about the person in recovery hold their breaths and pray, fingers twisted behind backs. They whisper and they watch.

Will this be it? Is this the last straw?

More commonly though, and perhaps less understood, is how recovery can become equally tenuous when good things happen. I am as terrified of success as I am of failure. I purposefully aim low because underachievement feels safer somehow. If the stakes are low, the return is low, and most importantly, so are the risks. Keeping the world at arm’s length means that I never have to FEEL anything, like disappointment, embarrassment, or sorrow.

Holding people at arm’s length means that I never have to be hurt by them or have my trust broken. My life-long fantasy is to envelop myself in a cocoon where I never have to feel any kind of discomfort ever, ever again. For a long time, alcohol did that. It was a blanket fresh out of the dryer, coating me in warmth and the illusion of safety, all while it slowly destroyed my life.

The crazy thing about addiction is that when something amazing happens, at first I experience normal feelings like elation and excitement. But then the dread arrives, like an unwelcome neighbor or member of the family that you wish didn’t know where you live, and proceeds to remind me of every possible thing that could go terribly, terribly wrong.

Fear. That one emotion colors every thought and action unless I bust my ass doing all the things I’ve learned in recovery in order to make that fear my bitch.

Good things are happening that I did not orchestrate and I am terrified. Today I actually laid down on our bedroom floor in the fetal position and stared into space until Robbie asked what I was doing. I mumbled a reply and just laid there, watching his feet move around the room, wondering how he was so calm all the time when THE WORLD FEELS LIKE IT’S BURNING TO THE GROUND.

The world is not burning to the ground.

I eventually got up and forced my body to move around the house as though I am not absolutely, one hundred percent scared out of my mind. Somehow when I make my feet walk and my hands function, the rest of me falls in line after a little while of me pretending to not be freaking the fuck OUT.

Just because good things happen, I do not have to regress into my old patterns of behavior. Drinking a pint of vodka will not make my fear of success or failure any less of a problem; in fact, it would only magnify it. All I can do is step through a door when it is opened, and remind myself that I’m no longer in charge because I was terrible at it (and damn near killed myself).

Harmony is not in charge. The Universe is in charge. Deep breaths. All the cookies.

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That’s When The Magic Happens

You know, for almost 2.5 years I’ve been focusing so intensely on staying sober that I forgot how to blog. Also, nothing was funny in the least and I wasn’t terribly excited about dumping all my dark thoughts out onto the internet for the entire world to see — but I also wasn’t okay with editing myself to make it seem like everything was fine over here.

Everything was so NOT. And I think y’all are smart enough to know when someone is bullshitting you.

So here we are. I have so much to tell you that I don’t know where to start, so in true me fashion, I’ve created a list.

  • A journalist from The Washington Post contacted me several weeks ago. She found me online because I talk so openly about recovery, and we had a nice long chat. A few days later, Pulitzer finalist Edmund Fountain showed up at my door on behalf of The Post to take photos, and now we’re friends. You can read the story in the paper here.
  • To be clear, I don’t understand the “sober curious” movement. I’m an alcoholic. I’ve got no need to be “curious” about abstaining from alcohol — for me, it’s a matter of life and death. However, I’m happy to discuss addiction, recovery, and life as a sober parent all the live long day.
  • KCBS Radio in San Francisco contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to give a live interview in like, two hours. I’d never been on the radio in my life — what could possibly go wrong? (It went great, I’m told by those who listened. I have no idea what the person on the other end of the phone said or what I said in response. It was a total blur.)
  • Two days later, I joined my friend Franz Borghardt, an attorney and sometimes radio personality, on Talk 107.3. We had fun chatting about how weird it is to get sober in a very public way. Also, it’s important to note that it was very early in the morning and I don’t think I’d had enough coffee before I got there. I was concerned about being jittery, but next time? ALL THE COFFEE.

There are other exciting things happening that I’m not ready to share yet, and the reason why I’m bombing you with all of this is simply to say HOLY HELL, THIS IS CRAZY.

***

At the same time all of this other stuff was happening, Health published a piece I wrote; you can find it here. Warning, though: it’s a dark and lengthy read.

The part that isn’t in print is that I started out the summer with my kids feeling extremely swamped and overwhelmed. Poor planning on my part meant that for the first time since I got sober, we weren’t putting any of our kids in summer camp. Now, before you cast judgement, I’d like to point out that two of my children have various forms of ADHD and/or Asperger’s Syndrome, which doesn’t bode well for an unstructured, relaxed sort of summer.

My personality type and the fact that I’m in recovery makes it difficult for me to cope with certain types of stress (read: motherhood). This is not a cop out, it’s almost verbatim what my therapist instructed me to tell my husband when he asks why we’re saving money for next year’s summer camp tuition.

Here’s my 7-year-old, Asher, refusing to walk. He literally scooted on his butt all the way out of the indoor trampoline park, into the parking lot, down the sidewalk, and into our car. This is motherhood.

So far, I’ve managed to make it through this experience unscathed, still sober, and without causing any major damage to anyone in my house. BUT, I almost relapsed. Not on alcohol — on my first love, phentermine.

I wrote the piece that was published in Health because I HAD TO WRITE IT. If I didn’t, if I kept the thoughts inside and didn’t get them out in front of an audience (even if that audience is just my writing partner, Audrey), then eventually my brain would trick me into doing the exact thing I’ve worked so hard not to do.

The article ran. I hung onto my sobriety. And that’s when the magic happened, as it tends to do when we live authentically. Crazy how that works.

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Summer: All About Acceptance

There’s a passage in the recovery world that I adopted as my own personal mantra almost as soon as I was sober enough to understand it.

” … Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed,
it is because I find some person, place, thing, situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.
I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world
as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.” 

This summer is turning out to be nothing much more than an endless exercise in practicing acceptance.

For example, I have to accept that all of the neighbors within a 5 house radius can hear me screaming things like “I TOLD YOU, DO NOT PEE ON THE SLIP N’ SLIDE!” or, “I KNOW THAT’S PEE THAT YOU’RE PLAYING IN RIGHT NOW!” or, “YES, IT DAMN WELL IS PEE, I SMELLED IT MYSELF JUST TO MAKE SURE!”

I have to accept that my children sneaked out of the house while I was in the shower and tried to sell sandwich baggies full of chopped up fruit and vegetables — food from our refrigerator that we were gonna eat — to anyone who would answer the door. They were also barefoot in their pajamas, and Asher wasn’t wearing underwear.

When I emerged from my bedroom, the kids were super excited to share with me that they’d already earned $5. Oh, and also that I needed to go to the grocery store because we’re out of food.

I must accept that Maverick sometimes runs around naked and screams obscenities in the morning before his meds have kicked in. I wish he would stop; one day, he might. Until then, I can either yell at him until my throat feels sore, or I can simply accept it and move on. I choose to move on.

I’ve been forced to accept that my husband, who has not exercised ever in our entire 16 year relationship, started working out three mornings a week like six weeks ago and already dropped like 20 pounds. WTAF. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super proud of him and his biceps are really quite impressive, but REALLY? I’ve gained and lost the same 4 pounds for the entirety of 2019.

And so, when my children are outside screaming like they’re being skinned alive for no reason at all and I am stuffing my face with the chocolate-covered Rice Krispie Treats that I swore to myself I wouldn’t touch, I repeat to myself for the fortieth time acceptance is the answer to all my problems and immediately count the days until school starts.

30 days.

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Stories of the Brave

Photo credit: Anthony Pierre, Jr.

When my friend Anthony contacted me and asked if I would be willing to tell my story of recovery for a project he’s doing, my initial reaction was ABSOLUTELY NOT.

But then I sat with it for awhile.

And he kept pestering me.

And my therapist asked me why I was avoiding doing things that would be helpful to other people. She called it what it was: laziness and fear.

Not long after that, a clairvoyant in New Orleans called me lazy.

All these people calling me lazy really struck a nerve; I’ve always prided myself on being a hard worker, a hustler, a woman who gets shit done. Why was I working so hard to avoid sharing my story when all I’ve done for the past two years, 4 months, and 9 days is tell my story?

I finally figured out that my issue was lack of control. As a writer, my comfort zone is writing and publishing, not TELLING OUT LOUD and having someone else write. I lose control over the narrative when someone else creates the words. What if I look stupid? What if I let this person take my photo (he’s talented AF, by the way, and I knew that going in, but still) and I look fat or wrinkly or just plain ugly? What if, what if, what if?

It boils down to this: if I really want to help people, then I’m going to have to get over myself. So I did. I lowered my walls and I got out of my own way and now my story can be found here.

After that, in another, unrelated event, I was contacted by a reporter at The Washington Post. A (Pulitzer finalist, very impressive and legit) photojournalist came to my house and followed me around for almost 5 hours and now there is going to be a story that I did not write and I have not seen the photos for, IN PRINT NATION WIDE on Monday, July 8th. (The online version will be out tomorrow, just FYI.)

I’ve been invited to come down to the radio station at 107.3 and talk about all of it. I’ve never been on the radio before. What if I sound stupid? What if all of Baton Rouge judges how I sound at 6:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning?

To say I’m afraid would not do my state of mind justice.

I’m going to do it anyway. Not for myself — if it were up to me, I’d stay home in bed, stuffing my face with Sour Punch Straws and spiraling into deep self-loathing. I’m going to push myself because my therapist asked me to, because other alcoholics ask me to, because my editors ask me to, because my Higher Power asks me to.

As long as I’m being asked, I’ll show up. That is recovery.

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A Slow Rebuilding

Getting sober fucked me up.

Before I stopped drinking, I wrote prolifically for a number of online publications. I was briefly a staff writer for Scary Mommy, one of the most well-known sites in the parenting world. I was asked to interview for magazines and podcasts.

My essays were published in three actual books. Editors called me on the actual telephone. Being in demand gave me the opportunity to negotiate my rates – and I got what I asked for. I made money, sometimes a lot of it.

And then, I got sober.

Stopping my work in order to focus on recovery is the greatest gift I could ever give myself. Yes, I’m afraid I’ll never be successful again. I’m afraid I’ve lost my edge, possibly forever. There was a very specific drug and alcohol combination that fueled my work – a lot of creatives can probably relate to this – and when that combo went away, so did my inspiration.

The past two years have been full of growth and grief and renewal. I am afraid that I’ll never find my way back to where I was, but also, I also never want to go back to where I was.

Louisiana State Capitol observatory deck, Baton Rouge, La.

School is almost out for the summer, and I will officially have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and a 1st grader living in my house. Pepper, who will be 6 years old in a few weeks, was barely out of toddlerhood when I entered recovery. She and Asher, my younger son, were too young to remember what it was like before I got sober, THANK GOD. That just leaves Maverick, who remembers everything.

5th grade awards ceremony.

“Did you drink when you were pregnant with him?” he asked us over breakfast one morning, nodding his head over to his brother.

Robbie choked on his coffee.

For the record, I did not.

***

This is the first year that I’ve had it together enough to order yearbooks for the kids.

This is the first year that I ordered school pictures on time and the check did not bounce.

This is the first year that I’ve taken my children to a school fair. Not only that, but I had cash in my purse to pay for whatever they wanted. A SCHOOL FAIR. BY MYSELF.

This is the first year that I don’t feel crippling anxiety when I see summer break looming over the horizon.

I am learning how to be okay, how to not ruin this moment by obsessing over the future or agonizing over the past. I am present in body and in mind, for the first time in my entire life.

When I say that getting sober fucked me up, what I really mean is that substance abuse steamrolled or exploded or otherwise crushed me into teeny, tiny pieces, and it’s been a very slow, deliberate process to rebuild from almost nothing.

After all, sometimes the best thing to do is to just knock it all down and start over.

Downtown Baton Rouge.

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What Wedding Vows Would Look Like If We Were Really Being Honest

Our wedding day, October 9, 2005.

I feel very fortunate to be happily married to my husband of 13 years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could go back and re-write our wedding vows if I had the chance. When we planned our wedding in 2005, I looked up “traditional wedding vows” and copied what a million other couples have been repeating for hundreds of years. And if I’m being honest, the oaths were junk.

Don’t get me wrong — I meant every word. It’s just that, at age 25, I didn’t actually realize what “in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer” truly meant. In my mid-twenties naiveté, I assumed it meant that if God forbid one of us lost a leg or a lung or something, the marriage wouldn’t automatically dissolve. Sounds great! I’m down.

The thing is, we didn’t have two dimes to rub together when we got married, so agreeing to stay in the marriage if we ran out of funds was no big deal. For richer or for poorer? Sure, no problem.

But over the years, my definition of what marriage really means has changed significantly. If we were to renew our wedding vows today, I’d want them to be much more specific in nature. You know, have ’em get at what holy matrimony really entails.

They’d probably look a little something like this …

I promise to love your family as my own.

Let’s be real: I’m not only accepting this man to have and to hold until the day that I die, but also his FAMILY. That means their congealed holiday recipes, outstanding warrants, biting goats, and religious beliefs. That means I promise to ignore Uncle Jimmy when he pees off the back porch and I’ll turn a blind eye to Cousin Willa Mae’s kleptomania. If you love them, I will tolerate them … I guess.

Sidenote: I got really lucky with my husband’s family. NOT ALL OF US ARE SO LUCKY.

Wedding shower, circa 2005.

I pledge to love you even when you start snoring like a freight train.

If you’re in this thing for the long haul, sleeping in separate bedrooms may be in the cards. I swore we would never be those people, but alas, we totally are. After several sleepless years, my husband was forced (by me) into having a sleep study done and was prescribed a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to put an end to his atrocious snoring. By this point, I was so desperate for rest that it didn’t matter if it looked like he was wearing a gas mask to bed. As long as the deafening rumbling stopped, the marriage could continue.

I will cherish you in ugliness AND in beauty.

I look like an entirely different person at bedtime. I remove my contacts, don coke bottle glasses, pop in a mouth guard, insert earplugs, cover my eyes with a mask, and smear goop all over my face. Basically, everything about me says “KEEP OUT.”

Robbie didn’t marry this version of me — the person he married would barely allow him to see her without a generous coat of concealer and mascara on. But this is what marriage has done to me. It’s made me comfortable. I literally let it all hang out, and that’s not a bad thing … it just needs to be addressed in the vows.

Present day shenanigans.

I’ll honor our vows even when I regret marrying you in the first place.

Because trust me, that day will come. It might be a fleeting thought that pops in and out of your mind, or even something you allow yourself to dwell on. The point is, I made a commitment, and “for better or for worse” is directly referencing the fact that I routinely find toenail clippings on the floor. There’s also the pressing matter of who forgot to write “coffee” on the shopping list. YOU SAW THAT WE WERE OUT, ROBBIE. You know I cannot function without at least two cups — are you trying to kill us all?!

I will love you even when you suck.

Sometimes I burp a lot. I cover all the bathroom counter space with random products that are supposed to make me more beautiful. I made fun of him after his vasectomy and later on found out that he really did have a complication that was not funny at all. He’s fine now, but I still felt like a jerk.

I narrowly avoided rehab in 2017. I dragged him to multiple counseling sessions. I blamed him for things that were clearly my fault. I nagged, manipulated, criticized, and eye rolled him. I took the last cookie so many times, and also broke into his candy stash (and blamed it on the kids).

All of this is basically what it means to be married, but this is the kicker: he continues to love me in spite of me.

So yes, I will take Robbie to be my lawfully wedded husband, until death do us part. He is the only person on this planet who knows what I truly look and act like in the morning and he still chooses to live here.

“A partner who supports your dreams and your healing is a priceless gem, a heaven in human form.” – Yung Pueblo

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Teaching My Kids How To Be An Ally

(This piece originally appeared here, written as part of an anti-bullying initiative for Disney/ABC.)

Parent-teacher conferences are right around the corner, and to be honest, I’m not sure what I’m going to discover.

Are my kids measuring up to their potential (whatever that is)? Is my 5th-grader showing his work on math tests? Is my kindergartener learning how to hold her scissors properly? Does my 2nd-grader assert himself?

But most importantly: Do my kids stand up for others?

I was picked on a lot as a kid. Almost everyone is, at one point or another, which is the main reason why I’d never want to relive my childhood if given the chance. But this is why issues of bullying are never far from my mind.

Looking back, it wasn’t so much the bullies that hurt my feelings the most — it was the kids who stood by silently, complicit in the act. The kids who saw what was happening and could have stepped up and said something — anything — but chose not to because my pain wasn’t worth risking their own.

Of course, now that I’m older, I understand why. I’ve certainly been silent and complicit before myself. It takes courage to speak up, especially when doing so might jeopardize your social status. Staying quiet means staying on the bully’s good side; being loud will only draw attention. There’s always a feeling of relief when you aren’t the one being called names in the lunch line, and when it isn’t your backpack being thrown into a lake.

The thing is, there will always be bullies. There aren’t always allies.

Being an ally requires more than just empathy, and I want my kids to know this. It means being willing to be brave, to act with and for other people simply because it’s the right thing to do. In large and small ways, I try and instill in my kids the value of fighting for justice. I just hope these lessons stick.

In our house, there is a combo of neurotypical and neuroatypical children. Our oldest has ADHD, anxiety, and high-functioning autism. Our younger two are not officially diagnosed with anything, but each have their unique sets of challenges and eccentricities. My husband is a rumpled, absent-minded mathematical mastermind, and I’m a recovering alcoholic, neurotic writer.

Basically, our entire family is quirky, and none of us pretend to be perfect. As a result, our day-to-day existence revolves around kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and the ability to say “I’m sorry” whenever it’s warranted.

My kids have grown up intimately aware of the fact that there is always a lot more to people than what we can see on the outside. They know that sometimes, what people need most is a big hug or a super comfy bed to take a nap in, but also, sometimes people don’t have access to either of those things, and it’s our job to understand that.

So we talk about the fact that everyone has challenges. Sometimes we can’t see them. Sometimes they’re not pretty to look at. Sometimes they’re even uncomfortable to be around.

The important thing is that they are learning to be allies, whether or not they ever call it by that name.

Of course, no parent wants their child to be the bully — or worse, be bullied themselves. But I want to take it a step further and give them the confidence and the tools to step up and stand up for other kids who might not have the same.

After school, I ask my kids if they noticed anyone who seemed lonely or sad that day. When one of them mentions social drama, I ask questions. What did you do when you saw Allie getting picked on? How did that make you feel? Then I use real-life situations to point out ways they can help their peers.

At the end of the day, I try not to put pressure on my kids to solve the world’s problems, because that would be an impossible expectation; but it’s important for them to understand that part of being a good human is helping the other humans within your orbit.

And because I want to raise the kind of people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, I’ve learned that I have to be willing, as a mother, to let them speak their minds. Frankly, it’s exhausting, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

It is my highest hope as a parent that my kids will be gutsy enough to say, “Nope, that’s not okay,” when they spot an injustice. I want them to be friendly enough to say “Hi, new kid, you can sit here,” or “Stop picking on her!”

I want them to understand that saying something can change the course of a person’s day, or even their entire life.

I can’t control whether or not my kids get teased or picked on at school, and the reality of that is painful. But my job as a parent isn’t just to make sure my children know the difference between right and wrong; it’s to make sure they’re gutsy enough to actually open their mouths, speak up, and refuse to be a part of the problem.

If I can pull that off, then my job here is done.

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Things I Would Have Blacked Out Over

I don’t always get the luxury of writing about a profound experience right after it happens. Usually, I’m stuck in traffic or in the middle of an important task and by the time I get freed up to write it down, the inspiration is gone.

Creativity is like that. Elusive. My husband doesn’t understand how I can write prolifically for years, and then all of the sudden arrive at a screeching halt. Believe me, if I knew how to fix it, I WOULD. This is why artists cut off their own ears.

But this morning, I had a thought. Where is my God Box? I really hate the name. God Box sounds like something I might have been instructed to make in my uber conservative Christian elementary school, except that I was taught that we don’t put God in earthly containers. That’s sacrilegious. “Thou shalt not make a box and put me in it.” It’s in the Bible, you heathens.

Nope, the God Box is something I learned about in recovery, an idea given to me either by a sober mentor or my therapist, I don’t remember which, to help me learn in a very simple way how to turn my issues over to a Higher Power. Most of my problems were directly connected to the fact that I didn’t trust anyone or anything to run the shit show I called a life, but in recovery they told me that the reason my life was a shit show was because I was the one running it.

Oh.

I honestly believed that the reason I drank and took pills was because of everyone else. This, I know now, is what every alcoholic or addict believes — that if I just had more security, if I had more love in my life, if I could just lose 20 pounds or erase the wrinkles on my face, if my child wasn’t sick, INSERT WHATEVER THING THAT IS BOTHERING YOU HERE, then I would no longer need to drink.

Bullshit.

So, in order to learn how to turn things over, I needed a box that would be hard to open. I needed to be able to write down a concern, fold it up, and cram it into a locked container. I decided to use a piggy bank. For months, I crammed my worries into that box and felt like an idiot doing it. The thing that kept me going though, was that it actually made me feel better and it’s not like I had any better ideas. Even now, two years into this thing, my default solution is STILL “Your Grandmother died and your family imploded? Let’s get a round of shots!”

I literally have the thought, I let it pass, and then I move on to a second, more sane, idea. That is re-wiring.

I stopped needing the God Box when I successfully rewired my brain to be able to let go of the things I cannot change. I don’t remember when that happened. It was a gradual shift, just like everything else — but this morning, it occured to me that I had no idea what was in that box or where it might be located, and suddenly consumed by the fear of someone in my family finding it, I began a frantic search.

The box was in my closet.

I opened it.

It was stuffed full of scraps of paper.

I pulled out the paper.

I stared at the pile for a very long time.




Every single concern that weighed so heavily on me, things that I definitely would have blacked out over, have somehow been resolved. Not because of anything I have done. Not because of my intense orchestration and manipulation of people and events. Not because of my intellect.

No. My issues got better because I got out of my own way. It’s a gift and a miracle and amazing and I don’t know how any of this works, exactly, but I know that it definitely, totally does.

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A Disease No One Wants

Last night I went somewhere I didn’t want to go and sat in a room full of people I don’t know and did a thing I did not want to do.

I felt afraid and out of place. I had to park in an adjacent parking lot in a questionable part of town and walk next door in the twilight, carrying my enormous (high-quality, fake) Louis Vuitton, angry at myself for not remembering to switch purses. My eyes nervously scanned the uneven parking lot as I crunched through gravel in Converse sneakers, grateful I’d at least had the wherewithal to put on appropriate footwear before leaving the house.

Walking into a detox center alone on a Tuesday night is not high on my list of fun things to do. I’m probably supposed to say that I love being around the newly or not-yet-sober, but the truth is, few things make me more uncomfortable. I can smell the vodka and stale cigarettes and what bothers me isn’t the smell of those things but the fact that I miss them so much that admitting that right now is making my mouth water.

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I walked in like I’d been there a thousand times before — pretty ironic considering the last time I was there, I swore I’d never go back — and while I outwardly appeared unbothered, on the inside I was a wreck. I wanted nothing more than to run back to my car, go home, crawl under the covers, and ghost everyone who would inevitably call, asking what happened. I wondered if it would be a better idea to flake out and just go back to drinking. Somehow that idea sounded a lot easier than my current situation, if only for a moment.

I’m not sharing this with you to generate praise for forcing myself to follow through with my commitment to show up to a place I did not want to be, to sit among other alcoholics and tearfully tell a tiny part of my story in front of what felt like a thousand strangers while fighting back anger over the fact that I — we — have this disease.

I’m telling my story to help people understand what living with alcoholism or drug addiction is like. The amount of strength and courage that sobriety requires is far beyond what I am or will ever be able to do on my own. I can’t take credit for anything other than willingness, and even that is fleeting.

Last night, I got myself there via car, and an unseen force put my ass in a chair. If left to my own devices, I would be high right now. That’s just how it is.

Sometimes I find it hard to genuinely share my thoughts, because they just seem so dark and serious and I’m ashamed of the depth of that darkness. Like whoa — no wonder I used to drink. I’m ashamed that I am always one breath away from a rehab facility, ashamed that I could easily be one poor decision from imprisonment or some other form of embarrassment or despair — but the truth is, we all are. It’s just that when I come face to face with people who are literally living my worst nightmare, I am forced to face myself.

Maybe that constant reminder of my own fragility is a gift.

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Cloudy With A Chance of Sadness

I installed an app on my phone to count the days because I couldn’t trust myself to do it. Even now, 1 year, 11 months, and 25 days later, I still find myself questioning whether I got the date right — was it the 26th of February when I took my last drink, or the 28th?

The pills were the first to go; my stash ran out in late December. For the first time in longer than I could recall, I started a new year with only alcohol (and Zoloft) to lean on. There is little I remember from that time other than the terror of having to face myself.

I’m rolling up on two years sober and I’m sad. I’m grieving, still, for a life I once had; even though that life was hollow and riddled with anxiety, constantly haunted by unaddressed pain and trauma that I shoved down deep and covered with layer upon layer of old and new resentments until it was impossible to tell flesh from bone from maggot.

Self-awareness is a good thing to have but it requires a lot of emotional stamina. I loathe feeling sad. I worked really damn hard to avoid feeling anything but happy for a very long time, so it’s hard for me to accept that sometimes, part of the human experience involves being sad. I want to explain it away, validate it, erase it, busy it into thin air. POOF.

Grief doesn’t work that way. Grief hangs around until it is properly addressed.

They say it’s important to acknowledge milestones in sobriety so that the people behind us can see that recovery is possible. When my good friend hit her 2-year milestone a few months ago, I was ecstatic for her. “HOW DO YOU FEEL?” I shrieked, hopping up and down and clapping my hands in the parking lot.

She felt similar to how I feel today: moderately glum, with a general feeling of is this really all there is?

Yep.

Even in the midst of this current bout of free-floating sadness, I am proud that I’ve come this far. The hesitation comes from knowing that I am an alcoholic/addict who will have to actively participate in my recovery for the rest of my life in order to remain sober. I can’t allow myself to think ahead, or it suddenly feels impossible and I start to shut down.

People who self-destruct always grieve the Thing That Destroys Them. I’ll never quite understand why.

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I spend a lot of time sitting and listening and sharing these days.

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How To Make Anyone Uncomfortable

There are so many things I’ve bungled up due to arrogance.

My daddy used to say all the time when I was a kid, “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity.” I’m not sure where that quote originated — maybe the Bible, or perhaps my grandmother — but either way, I was raised to be humble.

Sometimes, in therapy, I express frustration that my parents didn’t constantly pump me full of baseless pride. Wouldn’t life be easier if I never called into question my body mass index or abilities? My impostor syndrome would cease to exist.

The thing is, though, that it would not have mattered what my parents did or did not do, how high or low my body mass index or education level is. It wasn’t until I entered recovery that I learned that alcoholics and addicts have a special kind of misplaced narcissism imprinted into our DNA. We are a walking, talking contradiction.

God bless the people who fall in love with us, because for someone who is so needlessly terrified of everything and everyone, I’m a very arrogant person.

There was the time that I tried to give myself a Brazilian wax at home, assuming that arming myself with online tutorials, how-to videos, and the best hot wax Sally’s Beauty Supply had to offer would suffice.

“It will be fine!” I chirped to my friend. “I’m going to play Christmas music and rip it all out.” I get it done at European Wax Center all the time — how hard could it actually be? I mean, I have a Bachelor’s Degree.

“Okaaaaay. Call me when you’re done.”

I never called. The pain was too great.

Arrogance is what made me think that having a large brood of children would be easy. It’s what made me leave my job to stay home with the kids. It fooled me into believing that disciplining small humans would be a piece of cake. It tricks me into thinking I can stop eating my feelings by my own sheer will.

It is also what made me think, stupidly, that taking a 7-day cruise with our children would be in any way restful.

Most recently though, arrogance landed me squarely in the office of a Colon and Rectal Surgeon. When he walked in, I smiled brightly, shook his hand, and announced that I was there because I need surgery. He looked surprised, probably because who in their right mind would be peppy and cheerful about having a hemorrhoidectomy?

ME. I WAS. After years and years of dealing with indescribable pain and Issues That Nice People Don’t Discuss, I’d reached the end of my rope. A rectal exam couldn’t possibly be that bad, especially after everything I’ve been through, right? At least, that’s what Google (and my misplaced arrogance) told me.

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In our latest Hobbs & Hayworth video, I shared with the world that I’m gonna have ass surgery.

It absolutely was exactly as bad as they say. Holy numbing gel, nothing about that was acceptable. I could no longer make eye contact. Why would anyone do this FOR A LIVING?!

“I can see why you want surgery,” he said, after my pants were back on. “Ten years of THAT? You need to have it done.” He went on to inform me that for a minimum of 2 weeks after surgery, it will feel exactly like someone is stabbing me in the anus with a knife. By then, I was too invested in the situation to back out — a rectal exam will do that to a person — so I went ahead and put myself on the schedule.

Sidenote: butt issues make everyone uncomfortable. What is more awkward than blurting out that I’m an alcoholic to a room full of drinkers? Saying I HAVE TO HAVE HEMORRHOID SURGERY. That one hundred percent wins the award for Making Any Situation A Weird Situation. Keep that parked in the back of your brain, should you ever need to make people cringe.

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My favorite piece of rectal humor.

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Blurt Sharing: My Kids Are Aspergery

Okay, look — I have a lot of words and I’ve been sitting at my computer trying to form them into readable sentences, but nothing is coming out right, so … I’m just going to do what I like to call “blurt sharing.”

Do you ever do “blurt parenting?” I think I read that term on Facebook somewhere — one of my smart writer friends said it, I think — and it basically sums up my life. I don’t have time to form sensible paragraphs. When I’m in parent mode, I’m seriously outnumbered and outmanned in every way, and the best method of dealing with that is blurt parenting. Here’s an example:

(IN CARPOOL LINE AT THE SCHOOL)

Me: “Hi, kids! How was your day?!”

(All three of my children are yelling over one another, trying and failing to get a word in edgewise to tell me ALL OF THE THINGS)

Me: “OKAY, STOP. HERE. SNACK.”

(Kids make cookie monstery sounds)

Me: “We’re going in order. Pepper, you start.”

(Someone interrupts)

Me: “WAIT YOUR TURN.”

(Spitballs flying)

Me: “NOPE.”

Me: “STOP.”

Maverick: “I have an inflamed blood vessel under my tongue … is there such a thing as a tongue hemorrhoid?”

Me: “You’re fine.”

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Now that I’ve introduced you to blurt parenting, I can move on to the actual thing that prompted me to write today: Asher, our cat-obsessed, overly clumsy, endlessly kind-hearted 7-year-old, is on the autism spectrum. There’s really no way to say that other than to blurt it. I have two children who are, as their pediatrician puts it, “Aspergery.”

It was only two years ago when we learned that Maverick, now 10, has what used to be known as Asperger’s Syndrome (before someone revamped the DSM-5 and made Asperger’s part of the overly-general “Autism Spectrum Disorder.”).

Robbie and I have always suspected, slash known, that this day would someday arrive. We have extraordinary kids with extraordinary abilities and challenges, and there is no shame in identifying what makes them who they are. Also, it’s suuuuuuuuuper fucking hard to parent children who are different, so I feel the same relief now that I felt when Maverick was diagnosed — a giant feeling of “OHHHHH … that explains it.”

And now, we know what to do.

When I met Robbie Hobbs, I found him fascinating. I didn’t marry him for stability or security (although he now offers me that), or because my parents wanted me to. I didn’t marry him because I was pressured into it. I didn’t marry him because it was expected or arranged or agreed upon by people other than ourselves.

No. I married Robbie because he was interesting. Every experience was an adventure, and still is. And then, I was given three extremely quirky children to raise to adulthood, and I could not be more grateful.

For what?

Why am I, a recovering alcoholic with not that much money, raising two kids on the spectrum, plus another child, plus two cats that I never really wanted, while my husband works long hours, GRATEFUL? How can a woman drowning in responsibilities and challenges be happy about it?

My gratitude is the sum of moments like the one I witnessed several evenings ago, when Maverick pulled his siblings into the living room and read aloud the books he was given by a dear friend when he was first diagnosed with autism. As they listened, I saw Asher’s body melt into what appeared to be a palpable feeling of understanding and relief. Pepper, who is only 5, listened quietly.

A few minutes later, I turned around to see Asher standing behind me, clutching a dog-eared copy of All Cats Have Asperger’s. 

“Maverick said I could have this,” he whispered, almost reverently, before running off to display it on his bookshelf. Mav shrugged it off — “It’s no big deal,” he said — but it WAS, because it showed that we’re all pulling for each other, as a family, and the best part is that I noticed. Sobriety has given me that, the gift of noticing.

It’s easy to forget that a diagnosis is just that: a diagnosis. It’s simply a tool to help us navigate complicated things. Asher is struggling to make sense of the world, and the right help will ensure that he will grow into the very best version of himself.

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My Husband Cannot Make Me Happy

I’ve been sitting on this thought for awhile, trying to figure out how to frame it into easily digestible words, but I think I just need to blurt it out: it is not my husband’s job to make me happy.

It is not his job to make me feel any kind of way. Robbie Hobbs cannot make me feel valued, pretty, thin, smart, or like I’m good enough. Sure, he has the power to hurt my feelings — and if he tried to purposefully insult me, I’m sure he could do some damage — but thankfully, I was fortunate enough to marry a man who does not intentionally hurt the people that he loves.

Somehow, I grew up with the idea that my partner is supposed to complete me. Since I wasn’t happy on the inside, surely I’d be happy once I found my soulmate, right? I would finally feel COMPLETE.

No.

Years after falling in love and marrying the man who is now my husband, I am finally beginning to wrap my mind around the concept of happiness being an inside job. For nearly 15 years, I’ve been looking to Robbie to make me feel complete. What I mean by that is, I expected his eternal adoration and undying love for me to patch up the cavern inside my soul, and when he failed to do this, I got mad at him.

“You don’t communicate,” I’d say, which of course actually meant “You are not accurately communicating your undying love and eternal adoration in a way that will fix my soul, and therefore you are falling short as my husband and life partner.”

“I don’t feel like you love me,” I’d complain, after lashing out to piss him off and then waiting for a negative reaction which would, to my dismay, confirm my hunch that I am unloveable.

“You act like you’re bored with me,” I would tell him, which was my way of saying “I want you to believe that I’m such a magnificent creature that you are unable to tear your gaze away,” even though we all know that if he actually behaved that way, I never would have married him in the first place.

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MY FAVORITE PICTURE EVER.

After years of saying I feel unloved, no matter what he said or did to demonstrate that he did in fact love me, he got tired.

Because WHO WOULDN’T? I’m exhausting.

The reason why I felt lonely in my marriage (and in general) was because I was asking a human to do something that isn’t humanly possible. A man can’t make me feel worthy. The scale can’t make me happy. Money can’t make me feel complete. Look around — there are people all over the place chasing happiness, and it doesn’t work.

So, I can no longer say that Robbie Hobbs makes me happy. He is a wonderful man and husband, and I’m so glad we picked each other, but he is just a very important person in my life who brings me an abundance of joy. He’s not the keeper of my worth.

When I finally began to understand how my own expectations were negatively impacting my most important relationships, I finally began to heal. No one on this planet can do this work for me, or make me comprehend it fully. It had to happen organically, as I became ready, and it’s required a hell of a lot of hard work on my end to keep my shit in line.

OUR PEOPLE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO MAKE US HAPPY, YOU GUYS!

We are supposed to find our happiness on our own, ON THE INSIDE. What a revelation! I’m probably the last one to figure this out. Oh, well.

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I’m Back, Bitches!

At the behest of my therapist and everyone else who knows me well enough to understand the tortured artist inside, I’m finally writing again.

I have a love/hate relationship with my blog. First of all, I’m a writer, not a blogger, but actually that’s not true because I AM A BLOGGER. I HAVE A BLOG, DUH, GET OVER YOURSELF, HARMONY.

Additionally, I am a mommy blogger which is a phrase that literally makes me shudder every time I hear it (blech). And guess who put herself in that category by

  1. Creating a blog — and,
  2. Putting “mommy” in the title?

Me! I did!

So, rather than continuing to ignore what is clearly my calling, I’m choosing to lean into it. Here I have a well-documented journey of the past 8 years, the better part of which I thought other people were the root cause of my distress. To be completely honest, I’m embarrassed because now I know better and I want to do better. I constantly fight the urge to go back and edit, erase, and alter the not-quite-right things I said about myself, my husband, my kids, and my life before I got sober.

The thing is, people understood what I said then, and strangely, people understand what I say now. I’m not going to go back and change anything. We are just going to keep moving forward, together.

Speaking of therapy … I need therapy more now, as an almost-39-year-old woman, than I ever did in my teens and twenties, yet this is the time in my life when I have very little free time for anything. Almost everything is like that: ass backwards.

Last year, my therapist gave me an assignment: I was to fill out four sets of questionnaires and bring them back to her. “That’s no problem,” I told her as I gathered them into a stack and placed them neatly in my purse. “I’ll bring them back as soon as I’m done.”

The minute I left her office, picked my three children up from different locations, and arrived home to a kitchen that was still dirty from breakfast 10 hours earlier, I forgot about the worksheets. Motherhood has a way of stomping all over whatever it is that I’m trying to do on the side, not in a mean way, but in a larger-than-life, grimy manner that is actually sort of charming when I’m not busy feeling like I might die trying to keep up with it all.

There’s beauty in the chaos, but I’m neurotic and chaos makes me crazy. Not figuratively. Literally.

A few weeks later, I arrived at my 6:30 p.m. therapy appointment unshowered and covered in whatever popcorn ceilings are made of. My husband and I were renovating his childhood home, a small ranch with dark wood paneling and loads of potential; I’d ducked out early to make it to my appointment.

“I’m sorry I look like this,” I apologized.

“Harmony, you are going to have to learn some self-compassion,” my therapist said. “You are entirely too hard on yourself.”

And that is why I’m in therapy — because I’m too damn hard on myself, because motherhood makes me want to drink and because I’m not the kind of person who can drink a glass of wine and put the bottle away, because I’m an alcoholic and because I can’t do anything in moderation and because if it wasn’t alcohol it would be work and if it wasn’t work, it would be money and if it wasn’t money, it would be fitness or bingeing and purging or something else that would distract me from feeling my feelings and thinking my thoughts.

Some people spend their entire lives running away from themselves. Sometimes, not one other person is aware of their struggle, or maybe everyone is, but no one ever says anything. The real tragedy is the people who never stop running away. They die feeling that unsettled feeling of incompleteness, or blaming everyone around them for their discomfort because they are unwilling to face themselves.

When I got sober, I made the conscious decision to face myself. I stopped running, slowing down to a jog, then to a walk, and finally I just stopped and sat down in the dirt. Therapy is slowly but surely giving me the instructions I need in order to learn how to function without a drink in my hand. I’ve been parenting from a sitting position for damn near two years now, and I have to say, it’s not half bad.

One afternoon, I tackled the pile of mail on the kitchen table, piling bills and things that I needed to take care of on top of my calendar. I made a separate pile of junk that needed to be tossed, and feeling quite proud of myself, I filled out half of the worksheets from my therapist. By the end of it, I was exhausted. Feeling and thinking wears me the fuck out.

My then-4-year-old dragged the kitchen garbage can over for me, and I let her help me throw away the pile of trash.

“I’m big like you, Mommy,” she said, her blue-green eyes wide like dinner plates. “Can I wear mascara now?”

I went to therapy. I have a habit of sitting in the parking lot layering more and more makeup on before I go in. It’s nerves, I think, and possibly a fear of judgement. I want so much not to look like someone who is sitting in the dirt. I want my insides to match my outsides and vice versa.

“Do you have those worksheets I gave you?”

My head snapped up. “The worksheets! I finally filled some of them out,” I said proudly. “I’ll bring them next week.”

When I got home, my husband met me at the door. The boys wanted to kiss me goodnight, they’d been waiting up for me to get home. I climbed into my middle child’s top bunk with him and whispered the Lord’s Prayer. We both like the ritual of it, and he doesn’t ask me deep philosophical questions like his older brother, so it’s easy.

“You look pretty,” he whispered.

I didn’t feel pretty.

Later, I remembered the worksheets. I looked everywhere for them, my husband helping me overturn every drawer, surface and stack that they could have possibly gotten mixed into. I was terrified that my oldest child had found them and read them. I looked in my car, in my husband’s car, in all of my bags.

Then, it hit me.

I threw them away. Or, my daughter threw them away, when she was “helping” me sort the mail. I completed, and then threw away, my therapy assignment. The irony is not lost on me.

The most important lesson I’m learning now is to embrace progress, rather than perfection. Sitting in the dirt is progress. Trying is progress. Sobriety is progress.

Here’s a photo of Robbie and I at a Christmas party. My dress had pockets. He didn’t really say that he wanted to do butt stuff, but I’m almost certain he was thinking it.

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How To Raise An Ally

Parent-teacher conferences are right around the corner, and to be honest, I’m not sure what I’m going to discover.

Are my kids measuring up to their potential (whatever that is)? Is my 5th-grader showing his work on math tests? Is my kindergartener learning how to hold her scissors properly? Does my 2nd-grader assert himself?

But most importantly: Do my kids stand up for others?

I was picked on a lot as a kid. Almost everyone is, at one point or another, which is the main reason why I’d never want to relive my childhood if given the chance. But this is why issues of bullying are never far from my mind.

Looking back, it wasn’t so much the bullies that hurt my feelings the most — it was the kids who stood by silently, complicit in the act. The kids who saw what was happening and could have stepped up and said something — anything — but chose not to because my pain wasn’t worth risking their own.

Of course, now that I’m older, I understand why. I’ve certainly been silent and complicit before myself. It takes courage to speak up, especially when doing so might jeopardize your social status. Staying quiet means staying on the bully’s good side; being loud will only draw attention. There’s always a feeling of relief when you aren’t the one being called names in the lunch line, and when it isn’t your backpack being thrown into a lake.

The thing is, there will always be bullies. There aren’t always allies.

Being an ally requires more than just empathy, and I want my kids to know this. It means being willing to be brave, to act with and for other people simply because it’s the right thing to do. In large and small ways, I try and instill in my kids the value of fighting for justice. I just hope these lessons stick.

In our house, there is a combo of neurotypical and neuroatypical children. Our oldest has ADHD, anxiety, and high-functioning autism. Our younger two are not officially diagnosed with anything, but each have their unique sets of challenges and eccentricities. My husband is a rumpled, absent-minded mathematical mastermind, and I’m a newly-sober, neurotic writer.

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This is us. And yes, my oldest is definitely giving you the bird.

Basically, our entire family is quirky, and none of us pretend to be perfect. As a result, our day-to-day existence revolves around kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and the ability to say “I’m sorry” whenever it’s warranted.

My kids are growing up intimately aware of the fact that there is always a lot more to people than what we can see on the outside. They know that sometimes, what people need most is a big hug or a super comfy bed to take a nap in, but also, sometimes people don’t have access to either of those things, and it’s our job to understand that. So we talk about the fact that everyone has challenges.

Sometimes we can’t see them. Sometimes they’re not pretty to look at. Sometimes they’re even uncomfortable to be around. The important thing is that they are learning to be allies, whether or not they ever call it by that name.

Of course, no parent wants their child to be the bully — or worse, be bullied themselves. But I want to take it a step further and give them the confidence and the tools to step up and stand up for other kids who might not have the same.

After school, I ask my kids if they noticed anyone who seemed lonely or sad that day. When one of them mentions social drama, I ask questions. What did you do when you saw Allie getting picked on? How did that make you feel? Then I use real-life situations to point out ways they can help their peers.

At the end of the day, I try not to put pressure on my kids to solve the world’s problems, because that would be an impossible expectation; but it’s important for them to understand that part of being a good human is helping the other humans within your orbit. And because I want to raise the kind of people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, I’ve learned that I have to be willing, as a mother, to let them speak their minds. Frankly, it’s exhausting, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

It is my highest hope as a parent that my kids will be gutsy enough to say, “Nope, that’s not okay,” when they spot an injustice. I want them to be friendly enough to say “Hi, new kid, you can sit here,” or “Stop picking on her!”

I want them to understand that saying something can change the course of a person’s day, or even their entire life.

I can’t control whether or not my kids get teased or picked on at school, and the reality of that is painful. But my job as a parent isn’t just to make sure my children know the difference between right and wrong; it’s to make sure they’re gutsy enough to actually open their mouths, speak up, and refuse to be a part of the problem.

If I can pull that off, then my job here is done.

 

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The Consistency Key

I have behavioral problems. Not with my kids — with myself. I just cannot seem to get my act together. 

Since becoming a mother a decade ago (First of all: WHAT? Second of all, I’m old), policing my own behavior has been a huge challenge. All of my energy goes to being a consistent parent, which is great, right? Of course it is! Parenting experts always stress the importance of consistency because kids thrive under steadiness and uniformity; it brings a sense of stable predictability to an often unpredictable world, blah, blah, blah.

Even adults prefer consistency, which is why my husband predictably has to use the bathroom at the exact same time every morning, just when everyone is trying to cram into the bathroom to brush their teeth for school. In response, I predictably roll my eyes and let out huffy sighs to let him know how irritating his predictable bathroom schedule is.

OK Google, make me skinny.

If only it were this easy.

When it comes to dealing with the people I live with, I’m relatively constant, but when it comes to me, a human being with vices and a love for simple carbohydrates, it can only be described as dysfunctional mayhem hidden beneath a highly-functional exterior. The only things I’ve managed to do consistently as an adult involved eating something I shouldn’t be eating when I’ve already gained a few pounds, or spending money that I don’t actually have at the worst possible time — like when bills are due and our account is already in the red. Sure, I’ve got a few redeeming qualities, but as a general rule, I have a long and well-documented history of a self-sabotaging inability to stick with anything that could be classified as healthy.

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I almost skipped going to an NFL game because I was so freaked out by how my legs looked in this dress.

I’ve experimented with every type of diet and exercise available. I’ve owned a ThighMaster, a NordicTrack, rollerblades, a mountain bike with matching helmet, and dumbbells. I have belonged to a multitude of gyms, danced or huffed along with many different workout routines on a multitude of medias, visited yoga studios, cleansing centers, psychics, and therapists. I’ve had a witch doctor in Alabama inspect my fingernails. I’ve spit into a glass of cold water first thing in the morning. I have tried pills, shakes, “dry brushing,” saunas, and massages.

I’ve been a runner and I hated it. I’ve been a swimmer and I almost drowned. I’ve kickboxed, weight trained, raquetballed, and rock climbed. At 38 years old, I’ve tried everything short of plastic surgery to radically change my body, and guess what? I’m still the way that I am. My body likes to be how my body is, and I’m inching closer to accepting that, except for one tiny detail that I’ve failed to mention.

Consistency.

I don’t have it.

Amid all the things I’ve done (keto, Whole 30, vegan, diet pills) to make myself look and feel better, I’ve struck gold with a few. Yoga, for example, makes me feel amazing. My body operates on a much higher level when I eliminate sugar. I absolutely love diet pills, but that’s apparently a really unhealthy thing to get hooked on. So is, unfortunately for me, vodka.  

After hitting bottom nearly 2 years ago, I got sober and ate many pans of cookies and gained a bunch of weight and then I lost some weight and gained it back again. Why is it so hard for me to just be healthy? The thing I’ve missed this entire time is consistency, which is something I didn’t realize until my last therapy visit.

“Why is it so hard for me to take care of myself? It’s EXHAUSTING.”

“Because you’ve never done it consistently,” replied my therapist. “You do great for awhile, start feeling good, and then BOOM.” She slapped the arm of her armchair with an open palm, to demonstrate, I assume, my face slamming against pavement. “Up and down, up and down. That’s how you’ve been living your life for a really long time.”

My eyes widened as I absorbed what I was hearing. It’s true, for certain — I’m a yo-yo dieter, and up-and-down caretaker of myself, and I’m never consistent. In sum, I do whatever I feel like doing, and expect things to magically change.

“You self-sabotage.”

“I do?”

“Um, yes.”

There’s a lot that I am consistent with, though, like my self-loathing. I’m consistently anxious and unhappy with my physical appearance, which leads me full circle back to my original point. If I’m unhappy with myself, and I have the tools to make an improvement, then WHAT IS STOPPING ME?

We tend to pin the blame on our families or our workload, and while those are certainly valid scapegoats for the most part — aren’t almost all American mothers overworked? — it’s mostly just us women avoiding taking care of ourselves the way that we take care of our families. I don’t know why we do it. I have no idea why most moms, myself included, have no problem spending money on a child’s ballet lessons even if said child does not even enjoy said lessons, and yet we can’t seem to bring ourselves to pay for a massage or a gym membership. Or, if we do, we feel guilty.

I’ll leave my kids in the care of someone else so I can run errands, but I won’t leave them to go for a run.

I’ll take my son to the dermatologist to have a wart taken off of his thigh, but I don’t make myself an appointment for a weird mole on my face.

I put breakfast on the table in the morning and make sure my family is fed, but I’ll fail to feed myself. Later on, I’ll hangrily shove processed garbage into my mouth and wonder why I keep doing this to myself.

I don’t make time for self-care, because self-care has never been a priority. I have it backwards. Instead of caring for myself first, I care for everyone else and then run out of steam. There is nothing left. I gave it all away. Then, I act like a raging lunatic and blame it on hormones and then I look in the mirror and wonder where the real me went.

There’s a lot of damage for us to repair, I think, and it has nothing to do with cellulite or wrinkles or body fat percentage. The fixing needs to start inside us, and slowly radiate out. We have to amend the belief that we come last. We have to unapologetically reclaim ourselves. No one is going to tell us it’s time to do it, and no one is going to give us permission. We need to give ourselves permission.

Now is the time to find consistency: within ourselves, for ourselves, because I’m the only me I’ll ever have, and the more I take care of her, the more I like her.

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Hello From The Other Side

Hey, guess what? School is back in session, which means all three of my children are in school for 7 (SEVEN!) hours a day, and I have the luxury of taking a full, uninterrupted, breath.

Once I got past the initial stress of throwing my kids into a brand-new school (all three of them miss their old friends) and adapted to this particular school’s carpool line situation (not enough space for two carpool lines, and yet it’s happening, so, terrifying), I quickly settled into my new life as A Person Who Has 35 Hours Per Week To Do Things. Just so you know, I’m really good at it.

Things are funny again, which is probably good news for those of you who have stuck around here for awhile. For those of you who are new, let me break it down for you:

  1. I used to be funny
  2. I got sober
  3. Nothing was funny anymore

I’d kind of leaned into the idea that perhaps nothing would ever be comical again ever and maybe this was just going to be the new me. Maybe Sober Harmony was going to be like a depressed clown — sort of funny, but mostly not. 

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Thankfully, after working really, really hard to do the things that I have to do to continue growing as a human being, I think I’m seeing life for what it truly is. Just don’t ask me to explain that part yet.

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Becoming Well

This year is supposed to be my year of Becoming A Well Person.

Last year was all about getting myself dried out, staying sober, and remaining afloat — which, by the way, took a literal team of people constantly supporting and pushing me forward. I still have days that are just as difficult as the dark, early days of sobriety, but overall, it’s becoming easier to function in society without feeling like I might have to jump out a window.

comfort-zone

Becoming A Well Person is a lot harder than I imagined it would be, although that’s probably not a shocking revelation coming from an alcoholic. The hard part isn’t figuring out what to do. It’s actually doing it. For whatever reason, people like me (and there are way more of us than I initially realized) are really, really terrible at taking care of themselves.

We are the unwashed, the martyrs and the passive aggressives, the alcoholics and the pill-poppers, the doctor-shoppers and the compulsive gamblers. We starve our bodies, cut our arms, eat until we’re sick and swear we’ll never do it again. We punish ourselves in a million different ways; we’re either overly done or not done at all, and unless you’re one of us you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

So.

Most of the time, the things I need to do in order to be well are often the very things that make me want to wear my frumpiest flannel pajamas, curl into the smallest ball possible, and shove store brand chocolate chips into my mouth. The thing about doing the deal is that it takes an awful lot of energy. It would be a lot easier to just stop trying. I could park myself at home, let the shit pile up around me, yell at my kids, stop doing the things that help me hold my life together, eat nachos or whatever the hell, and do what comes naturally which is absolutely nothing. It would be glorious, until I let it go for too long, as people like me tend to do, and then before I know it I would be doing lines of cocaine off the coffee table at 3 a.m. wondering how I let myself get here again.

Early this morning, I had an appointment that I’d already procrastinated for entirely too long. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed when the alarm went off, in fact I did not get out of bed until a full 20 minutes of Instagram-scrolling later, but I finally managed to drag myself and my kids out the door even though I was in a fasting state as directed by the nurse — no coffee, no breakfast, full on suckage. I dropped the children at Grandma’s and drove myself to the doctor, where I waited and waited some more and finally I had a checkup and blood drawn and even a tetanus shot.

I didn’t want to do any of that, and I’m pretty sure the good people at the medical center could tell, but the way this thing works is that I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other until I was free to exit the building and then I realized that it felt really good to do the right thing. Doing the right thing doesn’t end in 3 a.m. mistakes or trips to rehab. It ends in looking in your doctor’s misty eyes as she tells you how profoundly refreshing it is to have a patient who genuinely wants to be well.

That patient is me.

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Fistfights At Brunch

Two summers ago, I spent an inordinate amount of time making myself beautiful in a hotel room in Baltimore, Maryland.

I was there for a blogging conference with my friend Audrey. On our final day, before returning back home to Baton Rouge, we headed to a nice brunch with a group of smart, influential women. I wanted to make a good impression, and the best way I knew to do that was to walk into the restaurant looking like I just stepped out of a hair salon. Because that makes sense.

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you may remember that I attended a now-defunct blogging conference two summers in a row. The first summer, I loved it. It was one of those life-changing experiences that let me know I am on the right path as a writer. It made me feel like I was a part of something greater than myself: a community of creative, brilliant women who support each other.

The second summer, I acted like an asshole.

This is the truth: I have a chip on my shoulder that may take a lifetime of therapy to eradicate. There are reasons for my irrationalities that I could list here, blathering on for pages and pages, but none of it matters. Not really. On that day in Baltimore, when I was at the height of my alcoholic behavior, full of a dark anger and sadness that I couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge the origin of, I sat at a long table full of power players in the blogging world and pretended.

I pretended to be happy.  I pretended to be calm. I pretended to be sober. I pretended to be whole. I pretended to be strong and unafraid and confident — all of the things that people told me I was, but I knew deep down weren’t true, because do strong, unafraid, confident women have to drink in order to make it through an afternoon at the park?

Maybe.

The lie I’d worked so meticulously to create for myself was blown to smithereens in a very public way when a fellow writer called me stupid in front of the long table full of women. She was joking, she said, but something about her tone and the moment in which is happened sparked a rage that I’d worked very hard to keep under wraps. It was the deep bitterness I’d been ignoring for years, the one that fueled my alcoholism and my incessant need for approval. This was the heart of my need to control, my desire for perfection, my constant feeling of worthlessness, and my many insecurities.

Instead of acting like a normal member of society and laughing it off as a joke, I damn near got into a fistfight. Dead serious, it almost came to blows. Audrey told me later that in that moment, she knew we were probably going to end up in a Baltimore jail that afternoon, rather than in the airport.

Looking back, I wish that had been my low point. It wasn’t. So, I’m taking the experience of threatening to punch another grown woman in the face in front of people who now rightfully think I’m a lunatic and I’m using it as one of many examples of how addiction turns people into horrible versions of themselves.

It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.

Recently, I was invited to keynote the 2018 Women’s Health Conference in Illinois. I honestly thought they were crazy to ask someone who has never given an hour-long presentation to KEYNOTE THEIR CONFERENCE, however, the clear insanity of the situation made me realize that this was clearly an opportunity meant for me. So, I took it.

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Here I am, trying not to puke in front of hundreds of people.

During my speech, I talked about that day at brunch — how I justified my behavior, twisted the situation to make what I did make sense in my mind. How I refused to apologize or own up to my part in it, which strangely enough, is exactly what haunts me about my past. The women who wronged me have never owned up to it or apologized, even when pressed in a court room.

I’ve thought about that day at brunch a lot lately. I think about it when I catch myself judging other people who are acting like assholes. I think about it when I overhear someone talking condescendingly about her addict sibling who just can’t seem to stay sober. I think about it when I see a homeless tweaker standing under a bridge, or pushing a shopping cart full of trash.

I think about it when my son hops in the car and says “Mom? What’s a hoe?” And after I explain that a hoe is a prostitute and prostitution is selling your body for sex which is illegal, he thinks about it and declares prostitutes are bad people and I have to pull over onto the side of the road because I happen to know a few former prostitutes and they aren’t bad people at all.

The deal is, everything I once believed to be true actually isn’t, and all I know for sure is that I need to stay away from alcohol, I’ll probably never go to another blogging conference, and there is a God somewhere out there.

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I Did Not Jump Out: learning how to ride in a car with 4 other humans

Recently, someone commented on an Instagram post that she misses my writing. I never stopped — I have essays littering the internet — but I haven’t been writing here. I’m not sure why.

This site is a clear record of the crooked path I’ve followed over the years, something I regard with both a deep sense of sadness and a healthy dose of pride. Sometimes I want to wipe it all clean, hit delete, and start fresh. Sometimes, I’m too sad to come here at all. I don’t like to be reminded of the past, although it’s important for me to remember.

Making peace with who I am and where I come from is a bitch; the daunting task of acceptance, something so simple yet so freaking hard, reminds me on a daily basis that I’m better but still far from where I’d like to be.

Recovery is like removing layers from an onion. I may never reach the core.

My oldest, my muse, my biggest headache and source of inspiration. Maverick is the only one out of my three who remembers what I used to be like, before I got sober. Every so often he asks me a question like, “Do you ever miss drinking wine?”

I tell him the truth: yes, I miss it.

I might always miss it, in the way that a person misses a thing that might kill them, but missing a thing isn’t so bad if you have the right support. I take it in small bites. I miss it for a few minutes, a few times per day. But the day ends, and so does my desire to get plastered. I sleep, I feed myself properly — I’m having to learn how to do this, so I can continue to take care of myself — and I pray for the strength to creep forward a tiny bit each day.

“I’m proud of you.”

That’s what he says, when we talk about recovery. I’m proud of me, too. I’m also proud of him, and immensely grateful to call him mine. We have come so far since we were in that dark place two years ago, before his diagnosis, before we got the right help for him, and later, for me. The rest of our little family was being dragged along on a crazy — not the fun kind of crazy, the crazy kind of crazy — ride with no end in sight.

It was hell.

My hope is that the kids don’t think of that time when they look back on their childhood. The fire that burns underneath my feet to keep me moving is stoked by the knowledge that if we go backward, it would be so much worse. I don’t have the power to erase their crazy-not-the-fun-kind memories, but I can try like hell to create good ones.

This weekend was the first time I can remember when we all got into a car together and I didn’t want to throw myself out the passenger window. The screeching! The fighting! The kicking of the seats! The way Robbie cranks up the radio to drown them all out, but all it does is add to the chaos!

** INSERT GUTTURAL SCREAMS HERE **

I used to drink to take the edge off, and when I first got sober? No way was I getting in a car with everyone else unless it was absolutely necessary. THIS IS WHY MY SONS USED TO RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS.

But now, 14 months into recovery, I can handle it. The volume might grate on my nerves, but not unbearably so. I didn’t yell. I didn’t jump out of the car or call someone to come pick me up. I simply enjoyed my fun-kind-of-crazy family.

I count that as a win.

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Standing In A Snow Globe

351 days sober feels like standing in the middle of a snow globe right after a small child shook it so violently that an adult had to intervene. I am standing on two feet, which is good, but I’m also (still) disoriented and dizzy and unsure of what is actually happening and also I can’t see a damn thing because of

all

that

snow.

***

351 days sober is really close to a full calendar year and I almost feel paralyzed by everything I know. The mind is a tricky thing. It’s possible to lock parts of it up and hide the key from yourself, which is exactly what I did. I was depressed for years but did not want to be, so I found chemicals to perk myself up. I drank to deal with the emotions I wanted to avoid: fear, anger, resentment, PTSD, and heartache.

I was like this when I met my husband — he knew I had problems, but doesn’t everyone? Yes, everyone does. We married and vowed to stay with each other in sickness and in health and I guess this whole addiction thing is my sickness.

It’s easy to hide from the truth if you don’t want to see it. I believed all of the lies I told myself: I’m not good enough. Something is inherently wrong with me. I’m a shit mother. My husband doesn’t really love me.

In therapy, I described how, for a very long time, I blamed my family for causing me to believe those lies. If Robbie would just bring home flowers, I would feel loved. If only our children were easier. Then, I would know I was a good mother.  If only my own mother wasn’t so sick. I mean, that’s why I drank, right? Because I have a sick mom and a child on the spectrum and a husband who works crazy hours?

Searching for evidence to support the lies I tell myself occupied my thoughts. If I wasn’t busy thinking that I suck at life and finding examples to support this self-fulfilling prophecy, then I might actually have to look at myself, and clearly, that was out of the question.

So, no. I didn’t drink because of the people in my life. I drank to hide.

“What you just described to me is the definition of addiction,” my therapist said, when I told her how I would nitpick Robbie and blame his scatterbrained-ness, his work hours, his messiness, for my issues.

Oh.

At nearly one year sober, this is what I know: no one can MAKE me feel anything. I am in charge of my emotions. I am in charge of how I allow others to affect me. It’s like standing in the middle of a hula hoop — I can control everything inside of the hula hoop. That’s it. Everything else is outside of the hula hoop, which means it is outside of my control.

The only other thing I’ve figured out in the past 11 months is that the people I blamed for making me want to drink are the same people who loved me when I was at my lowest point. They are the ones who cleaned my vomit out of the car and the bed and went with me to the doctor and loved me, no matter how much I yelled or how unpredictable I was.

Not one of those people stopped loving me. They are living proof that the lies I told myself are, in fact, lies.

I have a lot of love to celebrate on my first sober Valentine’s Day.

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This is me. Can’t you tell?

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What I Cannot Do For Myself

I twisted my hands together, fighting the urge to pick at my cuticles as I watched my therapist’s eyes widen. She put down her pen; I bit my bottom lip to the point of pain, waiting for her to continue.

“That just doesn’t happen, Harmony.”

“I know.”

“No, I don’t think you do. I mean, I think you’re grateful for the people you have in your life. I think you know that you wouldn’t be sober today without them, but Jesus – you are incredibly, incredibly lucky.”

“I know.”

She picks up her pen; I exhale. I want to feel lucky: I’m a recovering addict and alcoholic who is still alive. I have not lost my husband or my kids. My friends still speak to me. I love and I am loved, even though a loud, persistent voice tells me every day that I am unworthy. The other shoe will drop soon, says the voice, and no one can be trusted except for my best friends, alcohol and uppers. Figuring out how to acknowledge that voice and then actively choose not to listen to it is an invisible, exhausting task that is hard to explain to people who have never had to battle with an almost constant feeling that everyone would be better off if they were dead.

I want to feel brave and fortunate and strong. People call me those things all the time – someone from my past recently called me “courageous” – but all I feel is a heaviness that never leaves, no matter how many hours of sleep I get or how many lattes I drink. Some people call it depression, but for me, it’s simply darkness. For years and years, I took uppers to snap me out of the sadness that wouldn’t leave.

It worked. No one noticed how messed up I was.

When that person called me courageous, I wanted to yell the following proclamation:

“I AM NOT COURAGEOUS. I AM EXHAUSTED AND WANT NOTHING MORE THAN AN ENORMOUS BOTTLE OF VODKA TO WASH AWAY THE PERSISTENT PAIN AND DISCOMFORT THAT I CARRY WITH ME ALL THE TIME. I AM DESPERATE TO FEEL BETTER.”

Is bravery the same thing as desperation?

***

On January 9, 2018, my dad had surgery. It was supposed to be minor – my mother couldn’t bring him, because she has virtually no immune system and is almost always narrowly avoiding hospitalization herself. I was happy to do it, especially because I knew this would be the first January 9th I faced in recovery and I needed a distraction.

January 9, 1999 is the day my life imploded. Now that I’m no longer drinking to avoid thinking about it, I’m thinking about it a lot. Here’s where I am: when those people made the decision to cross the multiple lines that were crossed, I was forced to make a series of decisions. First, I pressed charges. Second, I broke up with the man I was planning to marry and spend the rest of my life with, because I could no longer fathom a happy future with him. It wasn’t because of anything that was lacking in him as a person, or in our relationship. It was purely because he happened to be related to the kind of people who thought it was acceptable to slam me, choke me, kick me, punch me, and lick my face. I just … I couldn’t. I was done.

Maybe walking away from that relationship means they won. Maybe becoming an alcoholic means they won. If they wanted to destroy me, they were successful. Not one of them ever acknowledged what they did. Not one of them ever uttered an apology for smashing their brother’s relationship into pieces. They did what they did and pretended it never even happened, and we were left to figure out the rest. I chose to walk away from the relationship, and that is something I drank over for a very, very long time.

When I got sober, it was like awakening from a deep sleep. Like, oh! Okay. I made that decision and now my life is this. That choice led me to point A and then to point B where I seriously screwed up, but how did I get here? It’s a super involved process of turning over every rock and analyzing the how and why of my current situation. Was I sober when I met Robbie? Was I sober when we married? What about when we decided to have kids – was I sober then?

***

This year, I spent January 9 in a hospital waiting room working really hard not to self-destruct. I made it through the day – my dad went home, and so did I – but then I had to rush him back to the Emergency Room two days later.

The E.R. is a terrible place, something I can say with certainty because we spent 16 hours there before he was finally admitted. I was awake for 36 hours straight. My dad was hooked up to morphine. At a few different points, he and I both thought he was going to die.

I’m very good in emergency situations. I fold into myself, feeling nothing until it’s safe to do so. It wasn’t until I’d pitched a fit while holding a barf bag full of my daddy’s vomit in the middle of a flu-infested E.R. with a crazy man sitting in the corner yelling about how he was going to kill us all and they finally found a room for us that I allowed myself to cry.

Recovery feels like that for me. It didn’t feel safe to feel until it was safe to feel.

***

I don’t know how long I was at the hospital before my friend Kate flew in from Virginia. She was there to take care of the kids so I could be with my dad, but she admitted later on that she was mostly there to make sure I was able to take care of myself so I could take care of everyone else.

She came so I could remain sober.

My girlfriends sent food to my house and to my parents. Kate grocery shopped for my kids, bought them balloons, and assured them that their real mom would be home soon. My mother-in-law did all of the laundry, and then, Kate did it again.

“All you have to do is press the button on the coffee maker,” she told me before I fell into bed one night. “The coffee is ready to go.”

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She taught my children ballet poses.

Kate mothered me. She cooked food and encouraged me to eat it. She sent me to my 12-step meetings. For almost a week, she reminded me that it was okay to need and accept help. Her presence made me remember to keep doing the things that keep me sober.

Robbie bought a desk for my office and had it assembled when I got home. He did everything he could think of to make my life easier while I was preoccupied with getting my dad better. And really, that’s the part that touches me the most – how everyone in my life just SHOWED UP. Maybe before now, I was so walled off that I wouldn’t allow people to truly help me or love me. Maybe now I can learn how to do a better job of that, even though the voice still whispers that I don’t deserve love because I’m not good enough.

***

My 50-minute therapy session is drawing to an end, and I kind of don’t ever want to leave but I also kind of want to make a run for it and never come back. Getting better is hard work, something my therapist acknowledges and encourages me to talk about. Owning my issues will help me get better, and I really am proud of my progress, even though right now I’m pretty much constantly in a state of discomfort, shame, or self-loathing.

“Let me sum it up for you like this, Harmony,” she said, snapping her notebook shut and leaning forward. “God is doing for you what you cannot do for yourself.”

Yeah. No kidding.

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This is Kate. She is my sister.

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Learning To Swim

Every rental we’ve lived in since we left Alabama came with a disappointing bath tub.

Our town home, although small, had a large garden tub that I kept scrubbed clean. A hot bath with Epsom salts is the only thing that relaxes me the way wine does. When I was pregnant with Maverick, and later, Asher, I soaked in that tub almost every night to relax the muscles wrapping around my midsection.  As I floated, belly protruding, I could breathe.

Weightlessness. That’s what I am always searching for.

After we walked away from our mortgage in 2012 like so many other young couples who found themselves trapped in the real estate market crash, I either drank myself to oblivion or crammed my body into the dingy tub of an overpriced rental home to relax. Sometimes, I did both.

A few days into sobriety, my brain still fogged over from detox, I wondered what would happen if I sank under the murky water and inhaled.

The dense fog has lifted now, and most days, being sober feels like a heavy weight. Drinking was like a weight, too, but this is different. Life is what feels heavy. Alcohol let me block it out but did not provide an escape from my problems. Sobriety opens up the curtains and lets the light in: painful, but promising.

I voluntarily opted to birth my middle child without any pain medication whatsoever. It was an amazing, horrifying, terrible, awesome experience. There were a few points when I was absolutely certain that I was going to die, but I had no choice but to keep going. With the help of my support system, my son and I made it to the other side alive.

It was exhilarating.

That is what it feels like to be in recovery. As terribly uncomfortable as it is, I just have to keep moving forward. Neither stopping nor going backwards is an option for me.

Some days I really wish I hadn’t made the choice to get better. At this particular time in my life, with small kids who have a lot of needs, true recovery can feel like an impossible undertaking. But, just like childbirth, I have to remind myself that I’m not the first woman to do this and I certainly won’t be the last.

Recovery from addiction is painful, but it’s not going to kill me.

My addiction is what will kill me.

Merriam-Webster defines heartbreak as “crushing grief, anguish, or distress.” I define it as something I worked really, really hard for a very long time to avoid. I thought if I moved on fast enough, planned well enough, and accomplished enough, I could somehow escape it. I ran, literally and figuratively; I recoiled from it like someone might from a thing that has the potential to kill you.

I thought it would crush me if I allowed myself to feel it, so I refused to. I masked the pain with a number of relationships, walled myself off, and became an alcoholic. I met my husband and we built a life, but as much as I love him I never allowed him to truly love me.

We can’t ever truly escape the past. My story will never go away, no matter how many times I try to pretend it didn’t happen. On January 9, 1999, I suffered emotional and physical trauma followed by a heartbreak so profound that I never allowed myself to address it at all. I smashed myself back together like a car wreck survivor might if lost in the woods without access to medical care, and I never healed properly.

Just like a broken arm that never healed correctly, I have to re-break my heart in order to allow it to fully mend. There is never, ever an ideal time for heartache. I procrastinated for 18 years, but now, if I want to remain sober from alcohol, and I do, I have no other choice but to surrender.

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I am learning to swim.

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Downward Facing Spiral

I’m going through a really scary time in my recovery: processing major events in my past that my alcoholism is rooted in. Maybe normal people wrestle with terrible things that happen in their lives within a reasonable time frame, without having to hit rock bottom half a lifetime later and narrowly avoiding rehab. Clearly, I am not a normal person.

For half my life, I stuffed and avoided and blocked out and denied and channeled all of the pain and sadness into defiance, drive, and misguided attempts at controlling the outcome of almost every situation I found myself in. When I had fully exhausted myself of all those options, I turned to alcohol.

I would drink anything that was handed to me. I knew it would make everything better, if only temporarily. The liquid burned; I didn’t care. The burning hurt less than the pain inside my chest.

I’m in a really uncomfortable place. I can’t eat and I can’t sleep and I’m sweaty all the time and it sort of reminds me of my first 30 days of sobriety, except without the shakes. I’m afraid. Feelings are terrifying — I’ve spent half my life running from them — but they aren’t fatal. I have to remember that.

Trying to stay focused on today is hard for a planner. Even as a child, I would lie awake in bed at night thinking about the next day, preparing my outfits in my head, making sure I don’t repeat anything twice.

Recovery has hills and valleys. There have been times that I felt amazing and everything was great. This is not like that. Right now, I’m in a valley, a dark one, and someone stole my flashlight.

I won’t stop moving forward, but I gotta say — I DON’T LIKE THIS PART AT ALL.

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I found this meme on Instagram via @hallelujahnellie and I LOVE IT SO.

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Everything you need to know

How can I sum up the events of Election Week in the year of our lord 2020?

Here you go. Click, press play, sound up, enjoy.

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