Christine Rapsys

Live with a grateful heart. Love and be loved.

Living My Best Life 5 Years Sober

It’s been 5 years since my last hangover, 5 years since my last blackout, 5 years since I’ve added to my long list of remorseful drinking behaviors. Drinking alcohol wasn’t just a problem in my life, it was destroying me from the inside out. It’s been a long haul, but worth every discomfort, every challenge and every revelation to have the chance to really say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’m truly living my best life.

Since stepping into sobriety, each year has been better than the last. Year one forced me to face my vulnerabilities, and wake up to the fact that YES, I could in fact live without alcohol (and even have FUN doing it!). Year two took the obsession to drink away and gave me a new purpose in life. Year three proved that the promises of the program really do come true. Year four allowed space for all the dreams my husband and I had for our lives to come to fruition. Year five has allowed me to let go and let God.

I can’t tell you what it was exactly that changed me. Which person, which meeting, which step, which meditation, which reading, which day… I don’t know. It’s a wild combination of God’s grace, and the people he put in my path to help me along the way. All I know is that AA works. Prayer and meditation work. I wouldn’t have made it this far without the program. I consider myself one of the “lucky ones” to have kept my faith in the process, and not left before the miracle happened.

Sobriety is so much more than just living without drinking or using. It’s taking responsibility, being accountable and being willing to get uncomfortable, so healing can take place. Healing can’t occur by hanging onto our baggage. And we most certainly need help from others to sort through all the years of baggage we’ve picked up along the way. Hanging onto baggage is like piling boulders into a backpack. At some point, you just have to lay ’em down. You have to lighten the load before it breaks you.

One of the main cornerstones of sobriety is about being willing to squash your ego and pride enough in order to see what your part is in all the baggage you carry around. This is difficult for a lot of people because they don’t know how to see their part. But YES, we all have a part to play in all the experiences of our lives.

Sometimes it’s not your fault that something went wrong, but you have to open up and look at it with unbiased eyes. This is part of letting go. And letting go frees up room in your heart for all the beauty and peace that is waiting to lovingly hold you.

I tried to “let go” decade after decade, essentially on my own. All that happened was I dove deeper into my addiction. It wasn’t until I made the choice to have faith in a power greater than myself that things turned around. Sobriety is like gutting out your insides, and refilling them with hope and love.

You don’t have to carry around all your shit for the rest of your life. Unless you like doing that, than by all means… But eventually your shit will kill your spirit, and prevent you from any chance of really being happy. There is a solution.

In the last 5 years, I’ve also learned a lot about suffering. All of us suffer. Addict or not. Every human being suffers. Bad things happen that are out of our control. But it is what you do with that suffering that will determine your level of contentment in life.

Many people choose to focus on all the bad stuff that happened to them, the bad stuff they did, and how they wish they could change it. Or they focus on how horrible other people are and how they wish they could change them. Either way, this thinking keeps them stuck. This thinking stays in a loop on replay, keeping the focus on anything other than fixing themselves. Thus they stay victims, and I believe at the root of all suffering is hanging on to this victim mentality.

To let go, to heal, to finally be free, is a choice. It is a choice to give up the idea that you are a victim. The world is not a bad place. The world doesn’t owe you anything. Everyone makes mistakes. There are miracles and love and joy everywhere. The problem might just be what you choose to see and what you choose to focus on. This is everything. The last 5 years of my sobriety summed up.

Of course, I have to catch myself sometimes, when I start to crawl down the rabbit hole. My life experience hasn’t always been rosy, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. And I know today that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was, while I was living out my addiction. The old stinking thinking tries to pop up every now and then, and my mind likes to challenge me. But after 5 years of continuous sobriety, I can spot it clearly now, and I have the tools to get back on the right track.

Today, for the most part, my life is a lovely mixture of wild joy and peace, because I’ve chosen to make it so. Because I’ve chosen to open up, forgive myself and others, and let the light of the spirit in. I’ve worked hard to kill the hateful addict I used to be, and in doing so I’ve rediscovered who I always was and who I’m meant to be. All I hope for my life is that I can be a positive example for my boy. If this is all I ever do, I’d call it a success.

The Only Thing You Have to Change is Everything

In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month and the millions of people, past and present, who’ve struggled with the disease of Alcoholism.

I used to think all I had to do was stop drinking. I thought once I got rid of the drink for good, my problems would disappear. It was obvious that every time I got on “the wagon” my life got a little better, so I’d tell myself I had to commit. I thought I could really do it this time. But after doing it my own way, time after time, I got drunk again. My problems reappeared, and I’d justify my drinking once again.

The real problem wasn’t the drinking itself, it was what brought me to the drink in the first place. I could never stay sober on my own for any real length of time. A few days here, a week there, a month, six months, but no matter what I tried to do replace the drinking, I’d pick up again. What I would come to realize after getting sober for the last time, is that no human power (including myself) could relieve my alcoholism. My drinking was but a symptom of a deeper problem, and that problem was me.

From the beginning, I knew I was different. I never felt like I fit in, and I blamed everything and everyone else for my problems. Whether it was my situation, my family, my friends, a boyfriend, school, my job, my coworkers, the government, etc…. If I was sad, mad or glad, I found someone else to blame. Even for my own happiness (talk about a lack of confidence). If I wasn’t blaming others, I was playing the victim card, I wasn’t “good enough”, “pretty enough” or “smart enough”. I’d been “mistreated” and blah, blah, blah. With every emotion came a reason to drink. And I’m not talking just one drink or a couple drinks with friends – my drinking meant a binge and a full on blackout. Every. Single. Time.

My stinking thinking kept me stuck in a cycle – the emotions – the drinking – the blackout – the hangover – the promise to never drink again – then again the emotions – the drinking – on and on again. Before I knew it, I’d become a full blown alcoholic. Pickled. Sure, I’d say I drank because I wanted to, but the truth was, I needed to. I couldn’t even handle talking to people without a drink in my hand. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that it hurt not to drink. Most of the time, I drank alone at home. Late at night, when I was good and lit, I’d text people to come party with me (because, everyone parties on a Tuesday night, right?) If no one wanted to party, I’d get angry. I’d fight with my husband. I’d hop on you tube and watch sad videos as I tearfully drank myself into oblivion. In the morning, I usually didn’t remember the things I’d said and done. I’d blame the alcohol and vow to never drink again, only to fail miserably. After the hangover lifted, I’d be right back at it. I’d try it one more time. It was a sad existence to say the least. That’s the baffling part about addiction.

When I landed myself in the rooms of alcoholics anonymous for the first time, I was 26. After a bout of destructive drinking with my boyfriend (who’s now my sober and loving husband), we decided to try AA. What I saw was a room full of old men and people court ordered to be there for one reason or another. What could a 26 year old woman like me with nothing other than an underage drinking ticket ten years earlier have in common with these old drunks? Why was I sitting in a church basement listening to them? Certainly, I couldn’t be as bad off as they were? But then I started to listen and I heard something. I heard their struggles and I related to them. It was through them that I heard my own story being told. You see, alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. It is a spiritual sickness that can only be made right by allowing a higher power to take the lead. I like to call my higher power God. But it can be anything you want it to be, as long as it’s not you.

I was lucky to begin my journey of recovery so young. However, after this first meeting it took several more years of beating myself up out there for me to finally wave the white flag. After a series of unfortunate events created by my own madness, I found myself completely broken, standing on the rooftop of my apartment building in LA, vodka in one hand, a cigarette burning in the other, contemplating jumping off. I realized in that moment, that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t know what to do. The alcohol stopped working long ago and I was lost. I prayed to God with all I had to help me…. He lead me back to the rooms.

At one of the first meetings I went to in LA, I noticed this young man, long sandy-brown hair, his profile a spitting image of my late brother, who was killed in a drunk driving accident when I was 15 (right about the time when my drinking career really took off). My brother was only 21, and though he wasn’t the driver, the reports showed that he still died drunk. As I sat quietly in the back of the room, tears streaming down my face, looking at that young man, this feeling just came over me. It really broke me. My brother didn’t get the chance to be sober, but here I was. In that moment, I felt his spirit, and I surrendered. I was going to do whatever I had to do stay sober. No more “poor me, pour me another”. So I listened. Meeting after meeting, to people just like me, sharing their experience, strength and hope. I too, found hope.

Early on, when I was willing to share parts of my own story, I usually cried. After decades of trying to mask my pain with alcohol and drugs, it was no surprise that I would start to have real feelings. Even if I only got out a few words before the waterworks started, people thanked me for sharing. They were kind. Many of them with decades of sobriety. I wanted what they had. So I did the work. I walked the road. And I did it for me.

Someone once said “the only thing you have to change is everything”. It’s taken time and space, but I know what this means now. I’ve learned how to say no. I’ve learned that I can’t control how others feel about me. I’ve learned how to be true and honest with myself, including loving all of me, good and bad. I’ve learned to see my part in my own story and accept my life as it is. I might suffer from alcoholism, but it doesn’t have to define me. I’m still the soul of that curious little girl from Wisconsin. At my root, that will never change.

I’ve learned that my life wasn’t as bad as my mind perceived it to be. Many of my fellows have gone through unimaginable pain, the worst of things you could imagine, yet they’ve faced their great battle and won. Every experience gives us the chance to learn. Change and evolution of the self takes time. Changing the way you think, feel and act is no small feet. But you can’t solve your problems with the same mind that created them. It takes a village.

After I got a sponsor and took the twelve steps, clarity really came. The healing I longed for all my life started to take place. After awhile, I no longer craved a drink. It’s a miracle really. All I ever wanted, prayed for and needed in my life happened in recovery. Learning about resentments and their place in my drinking was enlightening. Over time, I learned how to forgive others and how to forgive myself. This was the most healing part of all. Of the twelve steps, I had to take every single one in order to let go.

This blog post isn’t meant to promote AA or any other recovery program, this is just my experience and what it took for me to pull my head out of my own ass and make the changes I needed to make so I didn’t jump off a rooftop. The transformation I’ve undergone didn’t happen overnight and I’m still a work in progress. Life has ups and downs, I still spin out and get moody, but I see the gifts of my program every day. I take it one day at a time and no longer look at my life with sad eyes. My story gives me hope for others.

Today, I am truly grateful for my life, and grateful for all the people who’ve helped me on my way. From the old guys in the church basement in Duluth, to the old timers and youngsters at the meeting halls in LA and SCV. To my sponsor for helping me find my way. To my husband for walking the road with me. To my family for supporting and loving me anyways. For all the tears and anguish I had to walk through to make it through some of the tough steps. I’m grateful for the people that told me the truth, even if it hurt to hear it. It was worth every part of it.

Changing everything is more than just changing your location, who you hang out with, and what you do with your day. To recover, you have to uncover everything, all the uglies inside of you. Surrender doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. Alcoholism is a disease. A disease of the mind and the heart. I believe it is a spiritual sickness. Not a religious sickness – a spiritual sickness. A void in the soul that can only be filled by the spirit. My sobriety is dependent on my spiritual condition, which takes daily maintenance. I know that if I don’t continue to work and fight for my sobriety, I might lose it. And I don’t ever want to lose it. The joy and love I feel today is genuine, it’s not enhanced by drugs or alcohol. I am finally free. Recovery is real and it is everything to me.

Recovery has allowed me to be present for my boy, the light of my life. <3

You got this, Mama

They say things like, “everything changes”, ” there is nothing like the love you feel”, and “it’s hard”. You nod your head in agreement, as if you know what they mean. But really, there is no way to prepare yourself for everything motherhood entails. Sure, you can read books, go to classes, talk to other mamas, even baby sit your nieces and nephews. But nothing will prepare you more than jumping right in. You’ll develop a “mama brain”, and eventually grow to love that “mama brain”. Your heart will know exactly what your child needs and how to provide the love that only a mother can. Motherhood is all consuming, all knowing and all about a mama’s overwhelming capacity to love another human being. It is crazy, beautiful and oh, so worth it.

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While I was pregnant, I would love on my dog, not knowing how I could possibly share my love with another baby. Fast forward to the moment my son was born, the love I had for him was everything life was made of. It was everything I was made of. My Lily dog took her rightful place in the family. It’s not that our dog’s can’t be like our children, but there is something distinctly different about the love for a human child. The human child is like a part of us. Like, I would cut my arm off for my son.

Taking care of a newborn was hard, taking care of a toddler is harder, and taking care of an older child, I’m sure will come with it’s own set of challenges. What I know for sure though, is that no matter what happens, and no matter how times I feel like I’m failing, I know that this love will carry me through it all. If nothing else, I know that I don’t have to be a perfect mother, nor should I strive to be. I just have to be good enough. Good enough means that I always love and care for him, keep him fed, keep him warm, and allow him to experience people, places and things. Yes, even those places that might make me uncomfortable (like, downtown LA for example). It is my responsibility to show him the world and love him unconditionally, even when he makes mistakes. Life is about learning. As he grows up, mama grows up too.

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For all the mamas out there who are new or seasoned, it doesn’t matter if you think you’re not doing good enough or you think there aren’t enough hours in the day. Look at all you’ve accomplished so far. Underneath that mom bun, behind those tired eyes, is the strait up, essence of all that a woman was meant to be. Look at your beautiful child and know you’re the reason they are here, you’re the reason they’re so independent, you’re the reason they play and dream and love others. And you might be the reason they change the world someday. Stop and take a breath. Notice the little things in the smallest moments. The most important part of your job is just to love. Don’t worry. You got this, mama.

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Healing from Addiction

Some days are easy. You wake up, you feel good, the sun’s shining, and life seems to be going along in your favor. Others days though… Other days are a battle. Negative, racing thoughts running around in your mind. Nothing seems to be going your way. You feel so anxious and uncomfortable in your own skin that your not sure how much more you can take. Then those thoughts sneak their way in. “I don’t want to feel this anymore. I just want a drink.” This is the dilemma. The curse of addiction that never goes away. Even after getting sober, it hides deep within, doing push ups, just waiting for the right time to strike. If only we could reach for that old familiar remedy… If you’ve been doing the work, hopefully your next thought is “No. It won’t help. I’ve been down that road before.” You make it one more day.

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Addiction is tough. It’s a disease of the mind that doesn’t discriminate. It can take down the wealthiest or the poorest, the strongest or the weakest, and everyone in between. It is relentless. For those who suffer, if they’re lucky, they’ve beat themselves up enough to seek recovery. Others break the law and end up being court ordered, or worse. Either way, putting down the drink or the drug is only the first step. Sobriety is a lifelong journey. It’s filled with countless missteps, potential relapses and a whole lot of fighting just to survive. The path to sobriety is marked by accepting some brutal truths about yourself, and many aren’t ready to face that. For those that are, and are successful in maintaining long term sobriety, the rewards are endless.

But why is it so hard to stay sober? Because us addicts are unapologetically human. We obtain wounds in childhood that manifest in different ways as we got older. We may have been hurt by someone, or simply inherited these “flaws” from our ancestors via DNA and genetics, as well as cultural and societal constructs. We might never have felt like we fit in, or maybe we just never felt loved in the way we needed to be. Maybe we weren’t taught appropriate ways to cope with uncomfortable feelings. We watched people bigger than us cope by yelling, running or using drugs, alcohol or other means to relieve the daily struggles of life. Some addicts come from seemingly well adjusted homes, yet the same thing happens. Some children grow out of a dysfunctional homes and get by just fine, others get trapped in a downward spiral of anxiety, depression and ultimately… addiction. Children are extremely vulnerable. Upon conception, and throughout their lives, they are a result of their experience. Body, mind and soul. For parents, and those who plan to become parents, this needs to be considered at great length.

No one wants to admit they are powerless. No one. No one wants to think they are defective, because that would mean they have to be wrong about things, and who likes to be wrong? But that is the bottom line. Even though it’s not our fault that somewhere along the line we were wounded, we made bad choices in an attempt to heal our wounds. Choices that came at a cost. These choices brought us further away from the healing and happiness we so desperately longed for, and caused us to hurt others along the way. These choices we have to own.

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Healing is a process. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. The end result of true sobriety is, most definitely, authentic joy and happiness. But to get to that place, you have to admit you are pickled, realize you have no where else to hide, and do the work. Trying every day to be better than you were yesterday. You have to be diligent about meditation and prayer. Eventually, you’ll have more good days than bad days. They say it’s about progress, not perfection. Thank God! Perfection is over-rated anyways.

Before I got sober, I saw the world as a sad and painful place. Sure, there were times of light, but they were usually fueled by drinking or using. Sobriety was the only way to peel the cloud away, so I could see how lucky I actually was. I found that most of my perceptions about people, places and things were wrong. As the light of sobriety flooded in, I started to smile more. I didn’t have to take myself so seriously. I woke up without a hangover. Every. Day. I finally felt free and learned to enjoy “normal” things without having a drink in my hand. I learned that LOVE is ACTION (and what that really means). I’m a survivor. One day at a time.

Sadly, many people lose their battle with addiction. They leave behind parents, siblings, lovers, children, family and friends to grieve. Addiction is ruthless. Choosing recovery doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong. It is the road less traveled. It saves lives. It repairs families. What could be better than learning to love yourself just as you are and coming to believe that you are stronger than the lies your mind tells you? Because you are. You matter. You’re not broken and you’re not alone. And someone else needs to hear your story.

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Keep Faith

It was a Thursday morning. August, 10th, 2000. I remember it like yesterday. My dad called, obviously crying and distraught. He wanted to talk to my mom or my brother. Neither were home, so I just kept asking what was wrong? After a long pause he said, “Bob’s gone.” I threw the phone down and burst into tears. Every family’s worst nightmare had become our reality. The middle child of five, had passed away. Our family would never be the same.

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My big brother had been killed in a drunk driving accident during the early morning hours. My brothers friend was driving drunk, took a corner too fast and the car wrapped around a tree. My brother’s friend survived. My brother wasn’t so lucky. Just another seemingly harmless night of drinking out with a friend, ended up taking his life. He was 21.

For our family, the world had been shaken upside down, and our hearts completely shattered. We just wondered why? Why would God allow this to happen? My mother was heart broken and lost for a very long time. No one should ever have to lose a child. I didn’t completely understand her pain, until I became a mother myself. Losing a child has to be the worst kind of loss there is. During this time, we all did our best to be there for each other, and to be there for our parents.

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Losing someone you love, especially someone so young, really tests the faith. In the days that followed my brother’s death, I experienced a grief so deep that I questioned my faith. This wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. But after we made it through the funeral and set out on the long journey afterwards, something magical happened…

All of us grieved a little differently. And as most people do, in an attempt to keep our loved ones close, we all shared stories and found a way to appreciate the things he loved. The outdoors was the greatest love of his life. So, a week after his passing, on a quiet, sunny morning, my step-brother and I cast fishing poles off the dock at our parent’s cabin. For no apparent reason, a white bird had landed on the roof. Initially, I thought it was a sea gull or something, which was a little strange for this deep out in the woods of Wisconsin. I walked up to take a closer look. It definitely wasn’t a sea gull. It was a bird I’d never seen before. We called my mom to come outside to look at it. She knew in her heart exactly what it was.

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As any youngsters would do, we tried throwing pine cones at it to get it to fly away, but it didn’t move. It just stayed there and watched us. We got a ladder and tried to feed it some popcorn. It let us get close enough to touch it, and as I reached out, I just remember it’s eyes. A beautiful brown, just like my brothers. I decided not to push my luck and touch it, but in that moment, I knew what it was and what it was here for. It was a message from above.

This dove, a bird of peace, stayed with us for almost an hour. When we had all had the chance to realize what it was, it set sail into the forest. It was so beautiful. Gracefully, as quickly as it came, it was gone. But what it left us, will never be forgotten. I still believe it was my brother’s spirit, coming to let us know he was alright, and we didn’t need to question our faith ever again. For whatever reason, Bob had to leave us, but his spirit would be with us forever.

Even though none of us have seen that dove again, we always remember. To this day, we still feel Bob’s presence at different times. During times of sadness, as well as times of joy, everyone who was touched by his life will have stories to tell. Different moments when they felt touched by his loving presence. When we’re out in nature, or just sitting around doing nothing at all, he shows up. For me, I feel him most during my moments of quiet meditation. In my mind, I visit him near the river where we laid his ashes. Once a sad place for me, has become a safe retreat.  There are other places too. Places all over the world, where I can see him standing next to me, or holding my hand when I’m struggling. I know he watches over all those who loved him.

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I’m glad I waited 18 years to write this, because this summer has been a particularly tough one for many in our extended family. Several people have lost children. A cousin of mine lost her daughter in a tragic accident, and another cousin lost his seven year old to a relentless brain cancer. It’s so hard to understand how God’s spares some and takes others. It’s so easy to feel angry and question a God who would allow these things to happen. But, in those times of great unrest, we have to remember the gifts and the miracles we have seen.

Grief tends to leave you reaching for an answer and someone to blame, but ultimately you’re left with no answers. I don’t think it’s in our realm of comprehension to ever understand. I know that ache so deep in the heart left after losing a loved one feels like nothing will ever heal it. Grief is something we just have to walk through. One day at a time. After awhile, time does have a way of healing the hurt, so we can go on to see the blessings taking place all around us.

Keeping faith allows the heart to stay open enough to notice the little miracles. In times of tears, times of joy, and times of deep thought. If our heart is open, we will feel our loved ones spirit touch us somehow. So, don’t struggle. Keep faith. Trust. Hang on to your memories. As time goes on, the pain will ease, and it’s okay. It’s okay to feel okay again. All the beautiful memories will remain. Smile, and keep them alive in your heart, until you meet again.

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40 Day Social Media Detox

The decision to break free from social media was something I had been contemplating for a long time. I’d already slowed down on my usage since my son had been born, because, duh, who got time for that when your caring for a new baby? Some days I might not even make it on to check my notifications. But other days, I felt I spent too much time scrolling. Not to mention the times I’d grab my phone and go directly into one of my social media apps without even a thought. When my son saw me on my phone, I felt guilty about it. Not because I was neglecting him, but because I’m a role model. What was I teaching him? That a phone is the most interesting thing in the world? That’s not what I want to teach my boy. There is so much more to life.

Perhaps an even bigger problem for me was that before I knew it, I was comparing my insides to others outsides, wondering why I didn’t have whatever it was THEY had at that moment. Leaving me wondering; why does social media make me start questioning my own life? The reality is that I’m blessed and grateful for everything I have, and the people I get to share it with. Life is a journey of choices, and my hubby and I have worked very hard to get to where we are. We continue to work to manifest our dreams and practice patience with what is, instead of what we would rather it be. Our life is unique to say the least, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Being a stay-at-home mama, while working on a writing career is hard work. Certainly a blessing, but not an easy path. Literally, every second is precious. Needless to say, social media wasn’t helping me stay disciplined or use my time wisely. It was time to get some clarity, and here are five things I learned after logging off for a solid 40 days.

1. You can get more work done.

I’m convinced that Facebook and Instagram are there to divert us from doing anything actually productive and meaningful in our lives. How many times have you thought about doing something you’ve wanted to do for awhile? Like pick up an old hobby, call a friend, work on that project, meditate, etc.? But instead of getting started, you opened up one of your social media apps. By the time you put your phone down it’s time to start dinner, go get the kids, etc… The project has to wait around, yet again, for another day… Social media is a trap, once you’re in, you’re not getting out. Logging out and uninstalling the apps is the only way.

When I wasn’t connected, amazing things happened. I finished another round of script revisions, spent more time playing with my son, completed some projects around the house, and checked things off my to do list that had been on there for far too long. Of course, there were things I still didn’t get done, like making more phone calls and meetings with people, but it’s about progress, not perfection. I felt a sense of accomplishment for the things that I did get done, and that’s what matters. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

2. Life in the digital world goes on without you.

I guess this goes without saying…

3. Life isn’t based upon how many likes you get.

Of course it’s nice to get likes. It’s heart warming to see that people care about you and the things you do. It’s actually a wonderful feeling that, unfortunately, gets forgotten in the real world sometimes. What I’m saying, is you need to look inward too. Taking the time to just be with myself, my son and my life was refreshing. It gave me the opportunity to get some perspective on all the things I’m truly grateful for. It gave me time to just be. It was quiet. I didn’t feel like I had something to do. No anxiety about going on and seeing things I didn’t want to see, or missing posts. No comparing, no judging. It was just like the good old days when you actually had to leave your house to do that.

When you’re offline, there isn’t as many people patting you on the back. If you’re lucky, there are some that do. If not, tell yourself you’re special and you have something to give, because you are and you do. Don’t forget to give yourself some likes too.  “There’s no one in the world like you.” – Fred Rogers

4. The most important things in life aren’t found on a screen.

Computers and the internet might be the tools of our time, but they certainly don’t change the very nature of our being. The need for physical connection and love still out way the superficial nature of the digital world. People who physically connect with others on a regular basis live longer. Happiness can only be found when these things are tended to. I know that the smile on my son’s face, his laugh, and his touch are the most precious parts of my existence. Kissing and loving on my husband, my son and our dog is everything to me. Not one moment should be taken for granted. What I’m getting at is that the next time someone calls, answer it. If you pass someone on the street say “hi”. If not for yourself, do it for them. You never know if they are lacking the physical connection that makes our lives meaningful.

5. You can’t stop the waves of the future.

The internet is an integral part of learning today. It can do some truly incredible things. It allows entrepreneurs to create the businesses of their dreams, giving opportunities to millions of people to do what they love. It helps solve crimes and brings families together in times of need. It’s a necessary tool of our modern world. Just ask Google! Social media is part of this new system, like a wave, with all it’s ups and downs.

What I Learned

My 40 day social media detox made me realize I can’t stay away forever. For me, living over 2000 miles away from most of my loved ones makes it hard to stay close, but distance doesn’t change the fact that I still need their presence in my life. Not seeing those beautiful faces everyday, makes me miss them even more. So scrolling upon a picture that makes me laugh, or brings joy to my life in that moment, is not a bad thing. As everyone grows older, facebook and instagram might be my best chance to feel connected. To feel like I’m a part of their journey, and they’re a part of mine.

In conclusion, social media can be an easy escape, it’s certainly addictive, and can be incredibly annoying. BUT there is something wonderful about being able to stay connected to people all over the world with just a simple click. It’s awesome to live during a time when being connected to others who share the same interests, ideas, and inspirations is as easy as reaching for your phone. And we’ve all shared a thought out, hand typed note with someone we love on facebook, and it didn’t cost a thing. Sure, stores like Hallmark might be closing down all over the country, and stamps might become obsolete, but the world is evolving, whether we like it or not. And it’s a beautiful thing.

We can always find someone who’s life we admire, who seems like they have it all and nothing can bring them down. We might wonder why our own life seems to be falling apart before our eyes… Realize that they struggle too, even if it’s not out there for everyone to see. Everyone has challenges in their life. No one is exempt. That’s what it means to be human. What social media can do is give you the chance to brighten someone’s day by sharing positive messages as well as sharing with someone when things might not be alright. Keep it light and you might inspire others to do the same.

Balance

There’s a balance, like all things in life. It’s up to every user to figure out how to use the internet safely, for their emotional and physical well being. Taking a break was good for me, and I’m sure I’ll take more breaks periodically. I’ll probably find myself scrolling aimlessly over and over again, because I’m not feeling those script revisions or that house work. I’ll see posts that make me mad, make me laugh or even make me cry. I’ll probably want to delete my account at times, but ultimately, I won’t. The grass isn’t greener without any social media. So, go ahead and scroll, feel free to unfollow posts or people who irritate you, but when the day ends, love them anyway. The world needs more love.

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Living with Less

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To be happy: the greatest of all human desires since the beginning of time. Everything we have worked for has been in our conquest for greater joy and meaning. But to find greater joy and meaning? I believe it comes not from acquiring more, but from living with less. Living with less of all the things that don’t serve a purpose and breaking free from all the physical and emotional traps we too easily confine ourselves to.

This isn’t always an easy task, however, especially since it’s been engrained in us from a young age to want and need more STUFF to fulfill our ever growing needs. We’ve wanted stuff since before we can remember. As we journey through adulthood we still want stuff. Whether it’s a bigger house, better clothes, the latest trendy gadget out on the market, etc. When we scroll through our facebook or instagram feeds it’s hard not to compare ourselves to others, thinking “I need to do that” or “I want that”. But what is it that we really NEED? Do we really need a bigger house? Do we really need a new phone? Do we really need to buy that (whatever it is thing that we’ll use a few times and forget about it) that they advertise so well? Or do we need to downsize all the CRAP that is taking up our space, preventing us from living free and allowing peace and happiness to evolve in our lives?

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Welcome minimalism! A lifestyle designed with the idea that less is more. When we rid ourselves of the stuff taking up our precious space and time, we allow room for all the things we need, like more relaxation, more creativity and more love. This often takes time and careful consideration, because we have to figure out what it is that serves us, and what doesn’t. This isn’t only about material possessions, but that is a good place to start.

For me, the decision to let go of the old and NOT replace it with something new was relatively simple. As I sat down in my big comfy recliner (which I’m definitely keeping btw), I just looked around at my home. The walls painted the same old dark poopie brown they were when we moved in (they’ve always felt a little bit like they are closing in on me), my son’s toys scattered all over the floor, a heaping laundry basket, the counter top cluttered with junk and mail that needed to get thrown out, and a sink full of dirty dishes that I’ll admit, somehow kept finding their way up out of the sink and across the counter top. Needless to say, my environment was a bit chaotic and it overwhelmed me. I had been feeling depressed for months and I said to my husband, “Ya know, we should really think about painting.”

Thankfully, our little toddler helped pave the way, because of his abundance of curiosity and endless energy, he’s always ready to “help” mama. Whether it be dishes, laundry, putting away groceries, sweeping, mopping, cleaning up his toys (then throwing them back on the floor)… well, you get the idea. What this has done, is now when he reaches for things like the dishwasher door, instead of redirecting him, I open it and we put the dirty ones in, or we put away the clean ones. For the past couple weeks, there hasn’t been a counter top full of dirty dishes that I try to ignore. I’ve decluttered the mess. We’ve been doing the dishes after every meal and the kitchen has been staying clean. Amazing.

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My wonderful husband and I both agreed the dark walls had to go. We looked at some minimalist homes online and decided to go with an off white shade called Writer’s Parchment by BEHR (how fitting). Ryan did the rolling, while I did the taping and the trim. It took three and a half days, but what a difference it’s made. Our home is so much bigger and brighter. We joked that I should write a book called: “Problems in your marriage? Just add a coat of paint!” This endeavor allowed us to joke around and reconnect, while improving our home and breaking up the monotony of the day to day.

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I also kept going through closets and drawers ditching all the stuff that seems to have just moved from place to place with us over the last decade. Over the years, we’ve gotten rid of a lot, but it still seems we have so much. How is it that we’ve accumulated all of this? Well, it’s not rocket science. We are programmed to accumulate things. Minimalism is the path to deprogramming that way of thinking. So I ask one simple question: Does it serve a purpose? If it doesn’t – it goes to Goodwill. If I’m not sure, it goes in storage. Once the house is at the point we want it to be, then we’ll tackle the garage (which has quickly become a cluttered mess in itself, but hey, we’ll get there).

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I took all the unmatched photo frames down from walls and tables and decided to put the photos into a photo album for my son to view whenever he wants. Old knick knacks with sentimental value went into storage. I kept my angels out (they are sentimental and have a purpose to me). I got rid of clothes and shoes I haven’t worn in years and managed to cut my closet in half! It’s only a start, but it’s awesome. This minimalist overhaul has been a lot of work, but also very freeing. It’s not something that can be done in a day, nor does it have to be. We take it one day at a time, letting go of more and more as we go.

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The story of my life has always been about trying new things, while desperately searching for my place in the world. I think this story is at the core of all humanity, but none the less, I like to think of it as uniquely mine. I’ve realized over the years, and more and more since becoming a mama that the most important things in life aren’t things at all. In the end, less really is more. Less stuff means more room for love. And more love brings more happiness. It’s that simple.

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Transformation Within

Becoming a mother changed everything. Yep, everything. I don’t even poop alone anymore. Most days consist of waking up at the call of my little one, feeding, playing and snuggling. There’s all the chores, errands and care of our little Lily dog, while also trying to fit in time to meditate, write and work on some of my other entrepreneurial efforts. It’s busy, exhausting and sometimes feels like Groundhog Day. But the glittering shine in my son’s eyes, his smile, his laugh, his gentle spirit and pure innocence are infectious. I wouldn’t change our ordinary life for anything.

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Being a recovering addict that still struggles with anxiety and depression, getting pregnant and becoming a mother came with a unique set of challenges. Going from addiction to a life of sobriety is nothing to be taken lightly, but neither is the transition from woman to mother. When my husband and I conceived, I didn’t know what to feel. I remember almost a feeling of confusion, like, is this real? Is this my life? My reality? It seemed daunting. Throughout my pregnancy though, there was a shift. It was physical, mental and spiritual. More was revealed about the direction of my life, and I’m confident a higher power was at work.

After my son was born, lingering feelings and questions about the past seemed to resolve, something deep within me changed. My heart softened. Being overwhelmed with such a deep love for my son and a feeling that the best years of my life had just begun, I realized that nothing stays the same, nor should it. Everything changes, everything evolves. People change. Each moment needs to be cherished for exactly what it is. Wasting time in the past or future is unavailing. By letting go, the universe can set into motion what is to be. By not trying to control it and staying in the moment, true freedom exists.

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When my back is aching, my eyes barely stay open and my mind heads into it’s old habitual thinking (which it inevitably does at times) I stop, take a breath, and thank God for my life. I quietly remind myself to take nothing for granted. In the blink of an eye it could all be gone, and as time goes on, my son will grow up and spread his own wings. Someday he won’t need me so much, and I know I will miss the days when he did. There is so much to be grateful for. My son is healthy and thriving. To me, his light is brighter than the sun and brings with it everything that is good in the world. My husband is happy working from home, doing what he loves. The rest of my family is loving and supportive, even though they may live far away. I have a new found love, respect and understanding for my own parents, which has helped me to finally appreciate how much they’ve always loved me… As a sober stay-at-home mom, I’ve never been happier. Happiness comes from within. It took a very long time to learn that. Everything I’ve ever wanted is right here and the future is luminous. For right now though, in this very moment, these little hands are tugging at me. It’s playtime again. 🙂

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Finding purpose

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What is my purpose? What is God’s plan for me? How do I move forward? These questions have plagued me all my life. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s that constant inner dialog that keeps our dreams trapped inside. Our light muted. For me, as all my other “accomplishments” came and went, the love of writing and looking at the world through a lens remained. Though I haven’t always had a camera, my eyes grab images and they tell a story. In the past, I never took this seriously as a career path. Who the heck goes around observing the world and writing about it for a living?

Throughout my younger life, I floated from job to job. I’ve had over 20 positions in the last ten years! Not because I’m incompetent, but because none of them felt like ME. None of them gave me a sense of belonging or purpose or joy. Deep within, I just knew my purpose was to do something different, something that would heal my wounds and be a source of inspiration. In order to do this I had to face my fears and go down the road less taken. Fear is my number one offender, but deep down I knew surely, there had to be a way for me to find what I was so desperately searching for. Other people are using their passions to support their families everyday. So why can’t I?

When I got pregnant, my whole life changed. My interests changed, my body changed and my thoughts changed. It felt almost as though I was going through a transformation. A transformation that was just the beginning (more about that later). My job working with developmentally disabled children became increasingly difficult. I was at a crossroads. My husband’s work was enough to sustain us, so I quit my job. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy each moment of my pregnancy, and as the months passed, discover my purpose as a mother.

My son is my greatest teacher. He teaches me more about loving, living and enjoying each moment than I ever thought possible. I’m learning to just “be”… Be Tristan’s mama, Ryan’s wife, an intuitive being, a student of life, learning one day at a time to see life as it is, rather than how I think it should be. This is ME.

For others who struggle with traumas, addictions, grief and self doubt – I’m with you. I know how it feels. I also know there is path to healing the wounds of the past and finding your way to health and happiness. We weren’t put on this earth to be miserable! Really, we weren’t. Recovery is possible, no matter what a person’s back story is. More importantly, happiness is possible. The central desire of all human beings – to be happy. Is it easy? No. But is it possible? Yes. We just have to get out of our own way, and learn to challenge thoughts that keep us stuck. Once we get into the groove of making positive changes in our lives, the opportunities are endless.

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Tristan’s Birth Story

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When I look back to a year ago, I didn’t know how much my life was about to change. It was April 11th when the hubby and I decided to take a journey down ‘let’s try to have a baby’ road. All it took was one time. Yep, God decided to bless us with a baby after getting jiggy once upon a Monday night… I missed my next period and sure enough, we were pregnant!

As I stared at the stick, the first words I uttered were “Oh my God.” When I showed my loving husband he said, “You drew it in.” Nope, we’re going to be parents, babe! We were really surprised, but so happy. After taking the path of sobriety in 2014, we knew that this was part of God’s plan for us. Time to prepare and move on to the next chapter of our lives.

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From the very beginning, I knew I didn’t want to give birth in the hospital. Praise God for modern medicine, but hospitals freak me out. The fear of that big fat epidural needle sticking in my back scares me more than the fear of pain. Plus, I didn’t want people I didn’t know in my birth space telling me what to do. Despite people saying things like “get the epidural!” or “just schedule a c-section”, I wanted a different experience. Being 32, healthy and low risk, meant I was a good candidate for an out of hospital natural childbirth. My intuition told me that this baby was meant to have a peaceful water birth.

Our midwife was amazing. She made us feel comfortable from the very start. We met with her and she set my mind at ease. She would take the position of my main care provider, including one hour prenatal visits and be there during the birth. She could even draw my blood at the birth center for all the testing throughout pregnancy. The most important part was that she explained that birth was all about mindset. It’s about surrender. Women have been giving birth naturally since the beginning of time. If a woman is left alone in her own space to feel the power within her, she can usually birth her baby safely, with no interventions. The midwife is there to keep monitoring baby and mama and make sure everything progresses as it should. If she has any doubt, we transfer. The body is amazing and it knows exactly what to do. “Have faith in your body and your baby,” she said.

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So I started reading books like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Birthing from Within, Mindful Mama, Orgasmic Birth, etc. I read birth stories, watched birth stories, made sure to eat a balanced diet, exercised and meditated regularly to ground myself and connect with my baby. The first trimester I was nauseated and pretty much exhausted 24/7. The second trimester was better. I had more energy and felt myself becoming a mama. As my belly grew, my heart grew. My husband and I found out it was going to be a boy and the excitement was out of this world (although… I already knew it was a boy). 🙂

We bought a condo and started getting the nursery ready. Everything was great, but I still had a lot of anxiety about the birth. What would contractions feel like? What would transition feel like? Could I really do it? Would everything go okay? Would there be complications? Would I need to transfer to the hospital? What if my midwife couldn’t be there? My mind raced with the “what ifs”… But I just kept meditating, bouncing on my birth ball, talking to other women and trusting God. I envisioned what the birth would be like. I kept envisioning it… Us in the birthing tub. The sunlight of the spirit shining down… I knew that it would happen exactly as it was supposed to.

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The third trimester was a little more challenging. I was getting big and uncomfortable. I had lightning crotch like crazy the last few weeks of pregnancy, and my anxiety was in overdrive. Beyond that, an immense sense of gratitude for my life. I had no issues during my pregnancy and our midwife assured us that all would go fine during the birth. Fear would only make my labor longer and more painful. “All you have to do is relax, and breath for your baby,” she said. These words were very comforting.

We hired a doula who was a huge help. She was there to answer all our questions and provide emotional and physical support during labor. She helped me to relax once the contractions finally started. And start, they did. On Friday, January 13th around 6 pm. It’s true, when they say “oh, you’ll know when it’s a contraction”, because when I felt the waves coming in, I knew. All the wondering if I was in labor before flew out the window. I was definitely in labor now. Though it was uncomfortable, I was super excited. Soon I would meet my baby boy!

Contractions were irregular until about 11 pm that night when they started coming in about every 5 minutes or so. Our doula came over. She sat with me for several hours as contractions went irregular again, so she said she would go home for a bit so my husband and I could try and rest. Having someone enter my birth space may have slowed my progression. But there would be no rest for me, soon after she left, things picked up again. By 6 am Saturday, January 14th, my water broke. Things got real. Our doula came back. The contractions were much stronger and closer together. While my husband and doula were on the phone with our midwife, getting an idea of where I was at, I was going into zombie mode, just trying to make it through each wave. It was so intense. The doula said “That’s your baby’s head pushing against your cervix. Let him know it’s okay to come down.” So I did. It was time to go to the birth center. I yelled out, “Am I going to make it to the birth center?” The doula said, “Do you trust your midwife?” “Yes,” I said. So we got things together and got in the car.

The ride to the birth center was a blur. My husband put on a meditation for me to help me through it. By the time we got there it was 8 am.  When I saw our midwife, I fell into her arms. I was in tears. This was it. No turning back. It was going to happen, and it was going to happen soon. Our midwife checked me and said, “You’re half way there.” Then I got into the warm water. For the next few hours I moved around freely, finding my flow and space to birth my baby.

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Our midwife kept checking baby boy’s heartbeat with the doppler and keeping tabs on me. Soon enough, I said, “I feel like I want to push.” Our midwife checked me. I was fully dilated and she said “whenever you’re ready, you can push.” Hell yeah! I’m ready. So I started pushing. With each contraction I pushed harder. I could feel his head with my hand and it was crazy. I thought, “Oh my God, he’s really coming!”

It was hard work. When I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, I prayed… I prayed to God to give me strength. The doula and the midwife gave me a spoonful of honey for a boost of energy, and the encouragement I needed. My husband comforted me and supported me. I couldn’t have done it without him… Then I looked up out the window. I felt the sun on my face. I prayed to God again. This was what I had envisioned. A calm swept over me. The sun was shining down on us. God’s light was surrounding us. And with one more push, baby boy’s head popped out, then the rest of him. He gently flowed into his daddy’s hands, then right up into my arms. It was 12:02 pm. He was here and he was perfect. His first cry was nothing short of a miracle. It was magic. Pure magic. Oh, the love. The joy. There’s nothing like it in the world…

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Birthing naturally in the water was such an empowering, beautiful experience. I’m so glad I followed my heart, trusted my body and chose a loving midwife to guide us on our journey. The power to bring my baby into the world was within me. The power that was given to me as a woman, a spiritual being with faith in all that I am and was made to be. I’m not going to say natural birth wasn’t excruciatingly painful, because it was. No one ever told me it wouldn’t hurt (except maybe that Orgasmic Birth book). People said there would be pain, but I could do it. My own mama always told me, “Giving birth is painful, but the moment you hold that sweet baby in your arms, you forget all about the pain.” I’m in awe of it all. Thank you for my life, mama.

So there you have it. After 18 hours of labor (6 hours active labor), my beautiful baby boy was born. Our midwife described it as a Zen birth. He was healthy and safe. I never felt like we needed anything other than what we had. Unfortunately, I had some tearing that our midwife was able to stitch up, and that sucked, but it’s a small price to pay to have my family together, happily enjoying a big oxytocin love fest!

When I look back now, pregnancy and childbirth were easy compared to the whole parenting thing… But Tristan has brought such happiness to our lives. I didn’t understand it until I experienced it. We are beyond blessed. God is good.

This is Tristan’s birth story. I understand that not every woman is able to birth the way I did. Some choose not to, while others endure complications along the way that are no ones fault. Whether it’s a natural water birth, a medicated birth or a cesarean section, birth is birth, it’s amazing and beautiful and a gift from above. Every mama is a warrior mama.

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A special thank you to Tiffany at Pure Births Pregnancy and Wellness and Cali at Tenderbees Doula Services 🙂

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