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.

_I'm a sexy motherfucker._ (2)

MERRY CHRISTMAS! If you liked this post, then you should follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!