Days sober: 377
The fear has fallen away leaving space for MORE.
Living with and loving an actively using addict was maddening, soul crushing, chaos. Prison walls closing in, life a small cell. There was only room for fear.
I never want to go back.
On October 8, 2017 my husband celebrated one year of sobriety from opioid addiction. When he first returned home from rehab, before he even stepped off the plane, the fear was intense and pervasive. It was different than pre-rehab, having evolved from fear of death and overdose to fear of relapse. So my husband came home, 45 days clean, and I continued the hard work of letting go and self care. Presently, three hundred and thirty something days later, we gaze forward to more one-day-at-a-time days of recovery, and the fear rolls out like ocean tide, our life transformed into a state of ease. There is a natural rhythm in which our daily routines and interactions have settled like dust from whipping cyclone winds, gently covering soft sheets and surfaces in an old home that is US.
There is less fear here, leaving room for MORE. More joy, more connection, more gratitude, more love, more productivity. There is also space for more despair. A different despair. Mourning for the country and the world. These past weeks my heart broke over and over again for my people and island Puerto Rico. It is still breaking. These past weeks my husband and I also celebrated 365 days clean.
Anxiety, sadness, and stress is a sleep killer.
Last night I awoke at 4 am. Not wide awake, but with heavy sand filled eyes and a cloudy head that comes from drowsiness and deprived sleep. I spent some time filling an Amazon basket with solar lanterns, chargers, and lifestraw personal water filters to send to Puerto Rico. I also wept. My sober husband lay beside me in bed asleep.
My mind finally lulled me back to sleep around 5 am with an hour left until my alarm to get up for work was set. Grief gently rocked me to slumber where I was greeted with outstretched nightmare arms.
In the nightmare, I am unpacking my husband’s backpack after our trip to Acadia, Maine. This is a very serious backpack with endless pockets. I open the bottom compartment and discover a plastic ziploc bag filled with pills. I am overcome with dread and sorrow, desperately planning what to do next. Flush pills? Confront my husband with pills? Call family first? Waves of fear roll back in, perfectly imitating past reality. In nightmare, the terror of addiction returns. Recovery, security, life, robbed from me in that one moment.
JUST. LIKE. THAT.
In September, before Hurricane Irma and Maria, Jim and I went to Acadia, Maine. We celebrated his birthday and recovery. We celebrated life.
Anticipating his one year clean date and experiencing miraculous Mother Nature in Acadia National Park, our time there was an intense experience of joy. Joy in a pure form, rare and precious.
We drove up to Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise at 4:30 am our last morning and I wrote this:
We stand perched upon mountain top. It is cloudy here. A foggy, gray mist creeps, encircling our bodies. It is divine near sky but it is cold, and the wind whips, battering exposed faces, hands, skin. Elevated above world, we pray for a glimpse of the rising sun, one small break, one ray, as we patiently wait in the dark. We are not disappointed, it just is. Then we descend mountain and travel winding roads. It is down at the bottom where we finally see the sun. Below on earth, she rises above and we realize this is where we are meant to be.
You imagine you will be reborn in the sky, but it took descent back to the earth. On earth, balancing upon rocky terrain, our feet planted in fertile soil, beside majestic green pines, and sea battered cliffs. Soaked hair and eyelashes, salty spray from turbulent tide’s whirlpools traveling between boulders. The mysterious, violent, and deep ocean waters surrounding. It is here, at the bottom, below sky and sun where we sense belonging. Connected to the chaotic, imperfect, divine, living, dying, wet, pine, muddy, salty, treacherous, grieving, wild, animal, rocky earth. Ours is not a journey in flight to heaven. It is not exaltation to sky. It is a labor—trekking upon treacherous terrain. It is kneeling, muddy knees in the dirt, palms of hands and heart down to granite earth.
Back in my bed, my husband asleep beside me, I wake up to the 6 am alarm. No bag of pills. He is still sober. 377 days sober. The only pills are left behind in my nightmare.
The relief floods my body and brain. I now see that the dream offered opportunity to revisit past trauma, give gratitude, and offer perspective. To awaken fear and then tuck it away. To once again open space for MORE. Space for joy in spite of, within, beside Puerto Rico’s despair.
A waking moment that brought sky down to earth.
This post is for the people who labor upon blood and sweat stained earth. Special dedication to my husband, everyone fighting the opioid epidemic, and to my beloved people struggling to survive in Puerto Rico.