Mom Off Meth

By: Betsey DeGree

I am trying not to live so hard. I have four children, two dogs, one husband, a tortoise and I'm a recovering addict/alcoholic. I am also the wife of an addict/alcoholic with PTSD. I am an unorganized perfectionist, who is being public with my struggle to save my own life, which in turn saves my family. I hope this helps. - Betsey 

You can learn more about Betsey at her website, Mom Off Meth.

Continuing the Cycle – of Recovery

Nov 06, 2014

With daughter: Betsey with her daughter before addiction hit.Being the mother of teens and tweens while in recovery is pretty much terrifying.  It is like waiting for a scary monster to come get you: you are sure it is coming, but you don’t know when.

I have four of them.  It’s especially frightening because I started my career as an alcoholic and addict pretty young.  Now, working as an alcohol and drug counselor and raising this kid-crew adds even more nervous fuel to my fear fire. 

Luckily for me, I was given the opportunity to face this fear when my first kid was fairly young.  I found out she was drinking, because we have always had an open line of communication.  When the words came out of her mouth that she liked to drink, I thought I was going to throw up, grab her and never let her out of my sight again

For awhile (and probably deep down, still) I was deeply disappointed with myself.  I blamed myself as a parent. I had screwed her up.  But the truth is, our children have their own journey.  And sure, I most likely added some serious issues to her pile of troubles, but it is her pile now. 

I could have made her stay home forever.  I could have never let her out of the house, and made her and the rest of our household miserable.  But I didn’t. I talked with her and her friends.  I talked to other parents (not always a wise choice if they aren’t touched by recovery, trust me). 

I worried a lot.  I reached out to my recovery community, talked to them, and took care of myself.  To some, it seemed selfish and maybe like terrible parenting, but I knew I couldn’t lock my kid in a dungeon.  Keeping myself well was key, and forcing recovery on a teenager rarely works.  It is a painful and scary process.

So, I did nothing really.  I kept the lines of communication open, and paid more attention to the little things.  I stopped giving her money. I waited for her to make the decision about whether she had a drinking problem.  No matter how young they are, it isn’t up to us.  Sure, we can intervene and send them to treatment.  But I was waiting to see if she would decide for herself. 

Which she did. She figured out that she couldn’t drink like her friends.  She couldn’t have a few drinks.  She blacked out, every time.  It started to scare her.  And thank goodness for that. 

Her drinking cost her some serious things.  She lost some friends, a bit of her reputation, and gained a lot of confusion and heartache.  Things I know all too well. 

To have her look at me with tears in her eyes, and say, “Mom, I just want to be able to go to a bonfire and have a few beers like everyone else, but I always take it too far,” was tough.

Oh sweetie, do I understand that.  And it breaks my heart. 

If, as a teenager, I would have realized that my relationship with chemicals was going to cause so much trouble in my life, I would have been devastated.  I wouldn’t have wanted to stop yet.  I mean, who isn’t devastated when they come to terms with the fact they are alcoholic?  It pisses off the part of our brain that tells us to drink.  And while in high school … well it is tough.

My daughter agreed to go to treatment. She was one of the youngest kids there.  It was hard for her, but she did it. She graduated, as a senior peer who people looked up to.  It did a lot for her confidence. 

When she was home, she was willing to go to meetings and find a sober community for herself. 

And there lies the problem.

There isn’t much of a youth recovery community where I live (and I am in Minnesota, a.k.a., Minnesober).  There are some sober schools left, although the waiting lists are long because there aren’t enough spaces. There aren’t teenage meetings, and there aren’t groups.

I looked high and low.  There are “young people’s meetings,” but they often have 20-somethings there, who look like grown adults to a 15-year-old.  I brought her to one of my meetings for awhile, but she needed to find sober friends her age.

With that, her desire to remain sober became more challenging. I wanted to be her best friend and help her, but lets face it, teenagers need other teenagers. And we as a sober community need to figure out how to help these kids.  

Raising teenagers is harder than I thought. It is harder than having toddlers by a long shot. I have three more to get through. I know marijuana is waiting at middle school, and I know who is doing it. It is a double-edged sword to have your kids tell you everything. Some stuff I feel like I don’t want to know, because it is too terrifying. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. My kids tell me everything (well, probably some of everything), and all I can do is set limits, be open and try not to freak out.

Our recovery journey isn’t over yet. We have a family who lives in recovery. If one of our loved ones falls off, we are a light that can show them how to get back on track, or let go with love.

That is the greatest gift I have been able to give as a sober mom: I can show my kids it is possible.

The last 8-ball. ...

Oct 01, 2014

The last 8-ball. ...

It was never going to be my last 8-ball until I got help. I was lucky:  I could see a bottom rushing up to me that I didn't want to hit. So I decided I needed treatment.

My own family didn't understand that I needed to go to treatment. I mean Hazelden? They thought that place was only for the rich and famous; and why did I think I deserved to go there? (I really was asked that question.)

I had to hustle for the copay, and it took some convincing on my dad's part to let me go to that treatment. I'm so grateful he agreed. 

When I checked myself into Hazelden, I started questioning if I needed to be there. Even though I couldn't quit on my own, I forgot this when I walked into the doors.

The fear of admitting I could never use drugs again was awful. I felt like people there were worse off than me, and that maybe I had made a huge mistake. I was judging their problem against mine.

But I stayed. And after awhile, I began to see that my drug use earned my spot there. It was about the inability to stop on my own.  It was about how crazy my life had become because of drugs. It was about my life.

It was easy for me to stay because I needed the break from my family and the food was so good. All I was responsible for was keeping my room neat and making my bed and a few chores on the unit. Totally worth it in my eyes. And whatever our motives are for going to treatment are just fine. Not to mention, I learned a ton about addiction, and myself. 

It seems that when many of us get to treatment, we are unsure: unsure we need to be there, unsure that we can do it, unsure how recovery will fit into our lives, unsure of how our loved ones or friends will react if they know.

The good news is that we don't have to be sure of anything. Who is ever totally sure of anything? The only thing I was sure of was that I couldn't go on living in that chaos of drugs. 

I would love to say that I have been sober since Dec. 27, 2007, the day I entered Hazelden. My recovery didn't go that way, however.  I needed to do more "research," as they say. So my new date is Aug. 23, 2010. I haven't felt like doing anymore research since that date, and for that I am so grateful.

Becoming comfortable with “normal”

Jul 29, 2014

I've arrived. I’ve graduated, been employed. Chaos is gone and normalcy’s in place.

I'm bored. 

And this is how I know I am still addicted, because this is the feeling that is most unsettling to me, and my biggest trigger. I've got my ducks in a row. My kids are busy with friends, sports and a bunch of other things that will work themselves out. I've worked on letting go of so much, that I worry about little. I don't have a significant other, but a roommate. I have a life like a lot of people have, some of whom are healthy. 

My time is still filled up. This is the first evening this week that I didn't have something going on. I saw my friends last weekend. But that balls-to-the-wall, stress-filled wonder-life that I had when I was going to school, with all the pressure of homework hanging over my head, while my family went through crisis after crisis, is gone... for now.

I am not suggesting that I will create a crisis, (which is what I COULD do). I'm not going to start using drugs, or have plastic surgery or get a boyfriend to create some drama...although the last two could be fun!  I just get incredibly bored with normal. I still haven't worked out being comfortable with it. 

I know this is an issue for people in early recovery.  And it can be an issue for us all the way through.

Since I've been sober, this is the most "normal" (I hate that word when used to represent a life) I have been. This is the most normal I've ever been. And the most free. So THIS is the test for someone who has that little nasty addiction illness living in her brain. If one wanted to NOT practice "one day at a time," one could wonder how am I going to proceed normally, without messing it up?  

I look a lot at the scars I have on my thighs, right above my knees. I was smoking meth out of a glass bubble (sorry to trigger the tweakers) and I dropped it and tried to catch it between my bare legs. Needless to say, it burned me really bad. And the scars are still there. But I didn't break the bubble, so it wasn't in vain.  I have those scars, and my faint scars on my arms from my mad arm-picking days. I can look at those and remember what the wrong kind of chaos can bring. 

The folks I work with come in drowning in the wrong kind of chaos. I can smell the fumes of their addiction. I can see the sad, sick, desperate twinkle in their eyes. I get a rush from that. I don't know if that is good or bad. But it certainly is a reminder that although my "normal" might seem boring, it is so much nicer than quitting again.  And most certainly better than the wrong kind of chaos. 

That is how I get through "normal."  Besides, I'm sure a storm is a-brewing right around the corner. 

And its name is grad school...if I get in, that is. 



Hey haters, I graduated: (The haters are in my head.)

May 08, 2014

I graduated and it meant a lot to those who love me most. I know my kids are proud (well, almost all of them) and I know the ones who saw this as an inconvenience will get it someday.  It means a whole lot to me.  

Here are my babies.  I'm so happy they came.  With my personal stuff that's going on between my husband, Bob, and me, and also my 13-year-old who is mouthy and misinformed about who is in charge, I had a VERY hard time feeling excited. But I got there.  

My dad couldn't come. He has his reasons. And none of them really matter much; it's cool. I saved him the pain of long speeches and about 900 people walking across the stage and shaking all the higher-ups hand. He will give me money. That usually helps heal that wound. I slightly wish he wanted to see me do it, but he is proud of me. He did call me during the ceremony, because he forgot it was going on. Also, his breathing isn't great. He would have had a hard time walking all the way to his seat. (Don't smoke, kids.)

I wasn't even going to walk the ceremony because I thought I was way too old and that it might be nerdy. (My own instructor called me a nerd.)  Then I decided that I wanted my kids to see it and know that even though I'm middle-aged, this type of thing is possible, especially IN RECOVERY.

There was a part of the ceremony (which was LONG) where one of the many speakers asked the supporting family members to stand up, so we could applaud them.  Bob was the first on to his feet. It was the fastest I've seen him move in a long time. I do thank my children. I have been absent this last semester and it shows in my kids.  Bob did the best he could and I was grateful for that. 

My beautiful sister was there too, along with a group of ladeies who are my rocks. They’re like Band-aids that always make me feel better. They are wonderful friends. They love me, too. I know it because they sat through that long ceremony.

I'm pretty lucky.  


What a difference respect makes

Feb 01, 2014

In my life, I never imagined that I would be working (well...interning) at a hospital, in a mental-illness, chemical dependency, locked unit. I never thought I'd have a hospital badge clipped onto my shirt that makes the door open on that locked unit. It also lets me out. 

What I have learned since Jan. 13 of this year has blown my mind. Remember I have written about trying not to be angry at men?  And how angry I sometimes felt about the abusers?  And how I want to teach my boys different?  Well, my perspective still holds to what I will teach my kids. But I'm working with men now, something I didn't think I ever wanted to do. 


When I started school they would always ask us, "What population do you want to work with?"  My answer was always "in a residential woman's treatment facility."  

Well my eyes are opening to a whole new world. And I love it. Not so much the people's situation, but what I have learned about myself in this short time.  I can look at someone who in society's eyes and my own eyes have done some pretty violent, scary stuff, and still deal with what is in front of us at the moment.  Not what they did, or where they came from, but what we have now.  And that is addiction. That is my part.  

Maybe they are court-ordered to be there, or nodding off from some kind of drug maintenance or taper, but I see them. And although, I'm not sure it's going to be this time for them, it might be. And I'm able to have compassion and root for people who have not only been abused, but are abusers. 

There are many mental health professionals on this unit to help with this process and they have their part and I have mine.  It is like a one great big team where everyone is concerned for the patients. I have only seen respect from staff to patients.  Never shaming or criticizing.  No matter what.  They just don't do that at this facility.  It is absolutely patient centered.  Humans deserve that. 

It isn't just the patients that I'm enjoying working with. The staff at this place rules. My supervising counselor is the best.  

I'm a lot to handle.  I have trouble shutting my mouth and still struggle with professional boundaries. But it is okay here, because they are forgiving and they are helping me see where the lines are. Have I crossed them?  Um…it's me we are talking about here.  But I'm getting it.  And we do have a lot of laughs.  Mostly appropriate. Hospitals are a fun place to work.

It feels great to be in a place that not only respects me, but shows respect for all people who get walked through those locked doors. Because everyone deserves to feel that way.  It has done a ton for my confidence to be able to work in this field. Because I was beginning to doubt myself. I won't do that anymore.   

Legalize drugs and use the money not for a war, but prevention and recovery

Jan 09, 2014
I know what I'm about to say isn't the popular vote of many people in Drug and Alcohol Counseling field that I am going into.  But my position on the "war on drugs" is to legalize them.  Completely, and all of them.  
The fear of legalization is that we will have many more addicts than we did before. The fear is that people will be more apt to try drugs without the barrier of the law; that people will die; that our children will have easier access.  Some of that may be true.  All of that may be true. 
I can tell you right now, my kids can buy weed today easier than they can get booze. That's because alcohol is sold in a store where you need I.D.  For weed, all you need to do is know a guy, who knows a guy.  And you can be as young as you want.  
Almost everyone I know has tried weed.  Different drugs have different or greater stigmas. Weed has the least, right?  Many people have tried cocaine.  And many people have been offered cocaine and said no, because that is a line they won't cross.  I polled my Facebook friends a long time ago and asked them if Meth or heroin were legal, would they try it.  It was a unanimous no.  But legalizing drugs could change the culture of that for generations to come. Or, it might not.  
The fact that drugs are illegal, is a barrier that a LOT of people won't cross, because they don't want to go to jail.  If it were legal, would they try it?  People don't do drugs, because they don't want to. Or they are afraid of them, and rightly so.  I didn't give a shit whether the drugs were illegal or not.  That part of it never crossed my mind.  I was afraid when I was driving with it in my car, but not enough to stop me from doing it a few times a week.
Now, if we look at places like Mexico and the 50,000 people who have been murdered by drug cartels in the past maybe eight years or so (that number could be wrong, I just know in 2010, it was like 50,000 people, so I am sure it has risen) we can wonder why that is.  The United States is the No. 1 consumer of all the drugs in the world.  It is our addictions, demand and excess of money for those drugs that fund and create violent criminals, who kill innocent people.
So my question is this: Why do we as Americans think our people are so much more important than the rest of the world?  Why is our worry of what MIGHT happen to our citizens, more important than what IS happening to the citizens of Mexico, because of our drug use?  If we legalized drugs in this country, those criminals who torture, murder and are billionaires from our hunger for drugs, go out of business and have no control.  But because we are afraid of the mayhem that might happen if we legalize them, we would rather ignore this horrible fact that people are constantly murdered, kidnapped, raped, etc.  
We hear on the news of mass graves, children being shot in the head, families missing ALL OF THE TIME!  
The answer is simple. Legalize it. The government controls it; taxes the hell out of it; puts that money into prevention and treatment. I believe that even if this ends up killing more Americans, it is our problem. We are putting the problem on innocent, poor people in Mexico who are terrorized by the drug cartels that we fund.  And it is just another form of greed, fear and bullshit.  
Drugs are cheaper, better quality and easier to get than ever before. What we are doing isn't working. Something drastic has to happen. I know the country isn't ready for Meth shops. What a strange world that would be.  But we cannot ignore what our drug use does to the rest of the world.  And we could actually benefit, as a recovery community from the funds that would come from legalizing it.
I just asked my friends in Colorado how it is going, if they have changed their drug habits, or if they are serving weed at their dinner parties.  I will wait for their answers.  I bet they don't change a thing.  




When your meeting gets sick, or you get sick of your meeting

Dec 20, 2013

Now that I am on a glorious break from internship and school, I can go back to my old "stay-at-home-mom" status until Jan. 13.  A whole month of what my life once was. Boy, is this nice.

Now I get to attend my daytime meetings again. I get to attend meetings again, period! I had been skipping them often because the nights that I COULD go, my family needed me and I needed them.
It feels great to be back into the old swing of things and with my people. Absolutely great.
Not totally, though.
The meeting that I consider my "home group" has dwindled. There was a time where it was more than 60 people strong: young, old, intelligent, brilliant, sisterly, recovering women who weekly came together and supported, loved, and accepted each other. To me, it was a sacred and special place.
Something has gone terribly wrong in that group. It has gotten sick. This happens in meetings. And when it does, it is time to take a break or move on.
I counted recently and the meeting had dwindled to 22 women. So I don't think that I am the only one who notices that something is just not quite right.  What a bummer.
Meetings do get sick.  We put personalities before principles. We are human. And when this happens, the feeling of positive recovery shifts. At least for me.
Sometimes people become divided with the way a meeting should be run; sometimes there is gossip. Sometimes people exclude people from things and it becomes more of a popularity contest than anything else. Some people think they are in charge of the meeting.  And some people, like me, need to move on.
Am I guilty of any of the above stuff?  Sure I am. I am human. You know when you split up into smaller groups and your number happens to match up with that one person who talks forever and it never has anything to do with the topic or step?  Sure I have made myself a 3 when I was a 2.  Not nice, but true.
Gossip? You know I can. I try not to. We are progress, not perfection. Rumors? I try to avoid those like the plague. Dishonesty of our actions? No. I plead ignorance. I try to treat everyone with respect (unless you are that talker, and then I just go to a different room).
At my favorite, dwindling meeting, we all meet for lunch after. This week we decided where we were going and I announced it to a group. One of the people turned to the person she was standing by and said, "Oh no, now can't go there."  
I am a big girl. I can handle that. She can go wherever she likes to lunch. I have had my horrible thoughts of come-backs and revenge. I mean, how rude. I, of course, made it about me and was terribly offended.
But with a little rational thinking (yes, I CAN do that sometimes), I've decided that it is possible that she wanted to go somewhere alone with the other person so that they could talk without the pressure of, A) sitting with the big group, and  B) trying to talk over me. (Again, about me) 
It is a bummer to me that the meeting has changed so much over the almost six years that I have been in and out of that place. Some of those women are sick, some go back out, some die, some just leave.
Change is okay but it doesn't always feel right. And what I think about that meeting is my business and what anyone thinks of me is theirs.  
Here is my suggestion for those of you new to the program: You are not going to like everyone you meet at a meeting. Everyone at the meeting is not going to like you. People will say and do stupid things, just as you might say and do stupid things. This does not mean the meeting is all bad.  And it certainly doesn't represent "the program."
There is still much you can take away from any meeting. There is also the choice to move on.

I went into a liquor store

Dec 02, 2013



My dad is a very generous guy. I think we can all agree. If you are down and out, he will help. Unless you are my beautiful sister. But I'm not going there today. 

He takes me to Costco. I don't have my OWN membership at Costco. It's not that I CAN'T have a membership there ... well ... that's a lie. I can't have a membership at Costco. I owe them money for a bad check from years back. I've been black-listed from getting a membership. They don't want me, man.

I fully intend on paying them back as soon as I can. They are on my "list." Recovery is a process.

Anyhow, the other day he offered to bring me there to buy a coat for one of my kids. They have cheap, warm coats there. So I was down for that. I only needed one. 

We ended up buying a ton of stuff: grapes, oranges, chicken pot pie, sweatshirts, coffee, and on and on. 

I really, really, really love Costco.

As we were leaving, he wanted to go into the liquor store part. (He first asked them if they had any free samples, they did not.). 

Maybe it shouldn't feel weird for me to walk into a liquor store, but I am here to say, it does.

The liquor store smells the same wherever you go. That weird smell. It has been awhile since I have smelled that smell. It bugged me.

This doesn't mean I can’t go into a liquor store. It just means that I feel like an alien in there. Like, it's so strange to be around all of those bottles that could ruin my life. 

I've been in bars since I've been sober, been around people drinking at parties. None of that bugged me. But the liquor store, that pissed me off a little. 

I walked down every isle of that place (it isn't very big.)  I looked at everything they had. All the different beers, vodkas, wines (I HATE wine, but still...)  All of the new and different stuff that I will never, ever be tasting. 

I looked in everyone's cart to see what they were buying, trying to figure out who might have a problem. (I judge like that, sorry.) I was looking for those people like me. If you buy your booze in bulk at Costco, I'm wondering about you.

I'm mostly kidding about that. 

My dad treated himself to some Coronas and some other beers (he has a lot of company and likes to be stocked). We checked out, and we left. 

I drove home with some self-pity working in me. I don't get to try the different flavors of the different alcohol that constantly comes on the market. Sure, it's just for today. But let's face it. The goal is never.

I don't drink like normal people. I break out into drugs (ha ha, old joke). So I live a sober life, which allows me a home, an education, a family and choices. 

If I try new types of booze, I give up my choice to work as a counselor, to be a good parent, to live a life I am not ashamed of. If I drink, I walk away from some pretty great choices.  So my pity-party didn't last long. 

I still want to know what cake-flavored vodka tastes like. Really, really badly. 

Kind of like when I bought that hairless dog, just to see what she felt like. (Long story and a bad move, just like the cake-flavored vodka would be.)  

I'm good and grateful with my gift of choice. It is a gift.  That self pity took me off guard. It lasted about an hour. I talked to a friend about it, and we are all good. We are all good. 



Talking to my kids about drinking and drugs

Nov 12, 2013


Wouldn't it be easier if they stayed this little?


You would think that I would maybe have this great perspective on talking to my kids about drinking and using drugs. Shit, I'm a in recovery AND finishing up my degree in DRUG COUNSELING!  Well, when it comes to my own kids, it is harder than I thought.

I am not an idiot.  I remember high school like it was yesterday, (remember, I'm still 16 in my head and I am kind of jealous I am not invited to the parties.) So yeah, I don't expect that they are going to be the FOUR kids who abstain from all substances, bad choices, sexual behavior and so on. Did I just give them permission by saying that?  No.  But I understand what they are up against.

My oldest is going into tenth grade. Sophomore year. My sophomore year, my mother was dying of cancer.  That was probably the year I did the best in school.  And I don't remember drinking too much or smoking pot.  I really tried hard to be a "good girl."

I know that the parties are starting for her. I know that the kids are starting to sneak booze into the parties. I know my kids have to make those decisions we all had to make. I know the curiosity is there. And I know what can happen once they decide they are going to do it, or they are not going to do it.

And if they decide to do it, how are they going to do it?  Are they going to drink until they can't walk?  Are they going to slam drinks so fast because they haven't decided how to pace themselves?  Are they going to be able to pace themselves?  And do I talk about pacing themselves at all?

I decided yes.  The conversation that I had with my daughter is that underage drinking is illegal.  If caught she will have those consequences.  That should be the thing I worry about the most.  But I am of a different breed and those legal consequences aren't what terrify me.  It is that any of my children have this disease, that could bring them down the dark road.

Is it reasonable to think they aren't going to drink at parties? No. So I talked about the way she might drink. Can she go to a party and not lose control if she drinks? Does she get wasted every time? Does her friend have to take care of her constantly? Can she have fun if she isn't drunk? These things are things she needs to pay attention to, if she decides to drink. And if she finds that she cannot control her drinking, or that it is a full-time job to control her drinking, she might consider whether drinking is a good idea at all. 

And never, ever, get into a car with anyone under the influence. I will always pick them up with no questions asked. I hope they take me up on it. Your kids can call me too!!

This is all I can come up with on how to talk to my kids about these things. I discuss the dangers of pills, cough syrup, ecstasy, huffing, all of that. I hope my children say no to those things.  And to drinking too. But if they are going to do it, we talk about how they do it. 

And I will have a basket of condoms in my cupboard. All different kinds. No questions asked, and always full. Gross. But it will be there, if they need it. Oh my God I hope they don't ever need it (yeah, right.)


We should start a camp

Nov 04, 2013
When I was a kid, my family sent me to camp each summer. Either basketball camp (I remember how bad I sucked), Girl-scout camp (I never made it past a Brownie, but still went to the camps), horse camp, and a few others. We also went to a resort called Viking Trail Resort in Alexandria, Minn., for a week every summer. I have so many awesome memories from all of that stuff. 
I've tried to do some of that for my kids. It has been hard becaause 1) I have a lot of kids, and 2) we were using through a lot of those years and could not afford it. I've been lucky to get a camper to use and we have taken some trips. But not every family coming out of addiction gets the chances I've had. I know how lucky I have been to be able to make some good memories with my kids.  
 I want to start a camp for kids whose lives have been affected by addiction. Or maybe a retreat for families near the beginning (or later) of their recovery. It  would be like the one put on by Project Sanctuary for military families (GREAT organization). I've been lucky enough to be a guest twice to that retreat, and it was awesome for my kids. For grown-ups, too. 
You see, parents who are addicted usually don't put away money for kids camp OR family vacations. And those newly sober OR who have been in recovery awhile often times have royally messed up their finances. We don't often have money for camps for our kids,  or trips with our families.I know there are other ways to make good memories to add to the bad ones, but a week away is such a good one. 
It would be awesome to put kids and families together in a place where they can enjoy nature, have some fun, and reconnect. A place where kids can be around other kids who know what it's like living in a world where nothing is certain, and let-downs and empty promises are just the way it has gone. 
So where to begin?  Small right?  I know we have YMCA  family camps in Minnesota. But what else?  And how do I fundraise?  Any ideas or help are welcome. I asked Heather Ehle, the woman who founded Project Sanctuary, how she began. She said small. She started with one family, and grew from there. Now I think they take like 20 families once a month up in the Rocky Mountains. They've been doing retreats for six years and have grown like crazy. It's an amazing vacation and it runs by donations. They have licensed counselors there and a staff of volunteers who treated us like royalty. 
So I'd obviously want to keep it around our great state of Minnesota. Well ... maybe Wisconsin. Like my friend Heather at PJ said, "keep it simple, make it easy to find, fun activities, and make sure there is decent lodging."
This idea has nagged at me for a year. If anyone has an idea, or a bunch of cash, or wants to help me think about this, what a great thing this could be. Maybe I sound like an idiot. But I know my family grew at the retreat we went to and also the trips we've taken.
For many different reasons. I would love to give that to families in recovery; just some fun. 
On a side note, I asked my dad to maybe help, but he wants the kids to work first. Like in a corn field because he's not going to be the "fun guy."  We have a different vision. It's not a work camp dude, that's illegal. 
Who is in?

Using dreams: Common yet disturbing

Oct 31, 2013

This might be too triggery for you tweakers out there, so look away or go talk to someone if this bothers you. 


Using dreams are common. I've heard many people talk about them and even get pretty shaken up by them. I've had them in treatment and early recovery. I haven't had one in awhile: Until this morning, when I woke up at the end of the worst using dream I have ever had.

I'm so grateful it was only a dream. It was so real and so awful. 

I was in two different places. Alone in the apartment above my dad's shop and then locked in my bedroom, terrified. I could hear the crystal drop into the glass bubble, I burned it and watched it melt. I could see the smoke and I took a hit.  I could taste it. I could feel the high. I could feel the guilt and the terror of what I was doing -- of what was going to come of it. Bob wasn't with me, the kids weren't around. 
I felt all of the feelings.It felt so real. I didn't know how I would tell Bob because I knew he would want to use and we would soon be back to throwing our life away,  just as easy and quickly as that. And then I'd never be able to quit.
I don't ever want to quit again. Ever. 
Then I thought about counseling. I would have to wait and be TWO years clean before I could come in contact with a client. I had just screwed up everything. 
It was (is) terrifying to think I could bring down my whole family so easily. But I kept smoking. In my dream, the more I worried about it, the more I pulled my thumb back on that lighter. How true is that of addiction, even in a dream?
Why can't using dreams ever be having a blast, out at a bar, dancing and seeing live music with my old friends, without all of the isolation and shame?  Obviously because using isn't ever like that for me. 
I'm cool with that. 
Using dreams happen. I don't know why. I don't believe they are saying anything about the quality if one's sobriety. Maybe it comes from all of the drug histories I hear at work? But it did leave me feeling icky.
Actually, I'm glad these dreams do happen. It's a great reminder that dancing with drugs will leave a train wreck the lives of everyone I love. Including mine. No thanks. 
What a day to wake up sober. The relief I felt when I opened my eyes and realized it was only a dream. Phew!!  I don't ever have to live like that again, nor does my family. 

Is it ever too soon to talk about advocacy?

Oct 20, 2013

I suggested that the movie “The Anynomous People”  as something the staff should see when it is in town and possibly something they could buy to show the clients at the treatment center where I am interning.  I described the film and how strongly I feel about this idea and message. No one really listens to the intern.  

I suggested to one of the "higher-ups" that it might be something they should buy and show to the clients.  He had actually seen the film, but felt it was too much to put on a person newly in recovery.

He believes that the responsibility of sharing your story when you aren't ready might be too much; that people need to get their feet on the ground first. I get his point. Folks need to take careful care of themselves first by getting off drugs, gettng over withdrawal, and getting used to changing behaviors before they can take on the responsibility of advocacy.  The thought of banding together to share our stories out loud  can be overwhelming.  Hey, life is overwhelming when you first get clean.  The littlest things can seem so big.  The littlest things ARE so big. So do people need to get a little bit well first? Time under their belts?  Most treatment centers, who welcome speakers in recovery want those speakers to have at least six months to a year of recovery before they are allowed to speak. 

I've heard people speak who had a week sober and believe their voice is just as important. So although I get where he's coming from, I am not so sure I agree with him.


I think that a film like “The Anonymous People,” or any information that reflects that there are SO many people in recovery out there, is a message that people in treatment need to hear. Why? Because they usually believe there is no life without drinking or drugs: no friends who don't use, no life without drugs of choice.  


And that is not so. That is totally not so. 

Do they need to run out of treatment and start telling their stories to everyone they see?  Only if they want to. They certainly shouldn't be ashamed to do that.  


So if just to show them that this is what is happening, that organizations are out there fighting to make it easier to get well, is important. It helps newcomers see how this whole thing can work to help us ALL get and stay well.


Movements and ideas like the one communicated in “The Anonymous People” might offer some connections that newly sober people so desperately need and decrease the shame that generally comes with early recovery.

This is exactly what Bill W. did in the beginning of his recovery. It worked for him. 

So is it ever too soon?



I Know What I Now, and Not What I Don't

Sep 13, 2013


This is my boy digging a hole for one.  

Kind of like what  many of us do with our lives while using.  


I am a student for drug and alcohol counseling, but I am no expert.  I'm an addict, just like many of you. The difference is that we are all in different spots in our addiction and our recovery. 

Like it says in the book, and like we hear in the meetings: I may want what you have (in your life of recovery) and you may want what I have. It's a program of attraction. You like the way my life has improved and I like the way your life has improved. That is where the possibility comes alive when we are down in that dark hole of addiction. This is where we can start to relate. This is where the hope is.
Since that piece about me aired on CNN, I've had an outpouring of support (some weirdo mean people, too, but mostly people who can relate). And I've heard from quite a few who are still suffering, desperate to find a way out. Most want to find a way out that doesn't hurt. Many just don't know where to start. 
Pain-free doesn't always exist. If you think about it, with most diseases there is pain in either the active disease, or in the recovery. Either can be better or worse than we imagine. Everyone's road is different. The beginning of recovery can hurt. It's uncomfortable. It can seem impossible. But thankfully, we can see people who have done it and know it is possible.  
A few folks have asked if I could help them in some way, or if I could tell them what to do. I take that question very seriously. Each have stories that are coming from a place I know all too well. If I thought I had the exact answer for everyone, I would love to tell them what to do. But I can only share what has worked for me. And also, that I know for sure that recovery is possible, for everyone. I know better than to think I can save people. (The ego I could have.)  I don't have a magic easy answer. This is a disease, and diseases often suck.  
The truth is, the best thing I can say is there has to be a great level of willingness. Sometimes we have to make some very tough choices to get clean. Leaving our kids for awhile; letting our loved ones know our secrets, if they don't already; the possibility of a someone we love leaving us; our job might be lost or postponed; loss of pay; or maybe we can only afford or have coverage for some shady treatment centers that feel maybe like a circus. These are tough choices, they are brave moves, and often times, the are what saves our lives. And what's more important than that?  Sometimes we have to put everything down and start over.  
I know for myself, I put a ton of excuses in front of going to treatment and getting clean.  I couldn't leave my kids. I couldn't let my family know. Bob couldn't handle the kids if I was gone. I didn't want to hear the "god" stuff in the 12-steps. I didn't want to face the shame of what I had done.  And holy crap they are going to take my CELL PHONE!!!  I don't like the counselor, I don't like the chores. I don't like the feeling.  
It wasn't until I came up with the willingness to just put my recovery before all of that other stuff, that I could do it.

And like they say, whatever you put in front of your recovery, you will either destroy or lose anyhow.  That is the truth. 

So for those who have reached out to me, thank you for trusting me with your stories and for taking that tough step to ask for help. There are some good resources on teh website.  And anyone can ask me anytime. I will always try to point you in some kind of direction.


Stories heal

Sep 06, 2013

I'm not going to mention names or pat myself on the back. But here is a story about why it is that we need to (if we can) share our stories outside of the 12-Step rooms. 

I started this blog to save myself. I love to tell stories and here is a place to do that while working out problems, connecting with others, all of that. 

While connecting, however, I reached a woman from my area who couldn't stop drinking. And it was taking its toll on every aspect of her life. She was ready to stop. She ran across this blog, reached out to me, met me at a meeting, put herself into an intensive outpatient program, asked me to sponsor her (I've done a shitty job and will take no credit) and today she received her one-year medallion.

(I wasn't even there because I'm at the camper. That's how awesome I can be.)

My point is this: She may have found recovery anyway, because she was ready, and she was willing to do what she had to do. But the day my blog popped up on her Facebook page, for whatever reason, was the day she saw someone who like her was a mother, a wife, and who was at one time out of control and made it back.

She had the courage to reach out to me and ask me how I did it. And I told her. And she did it and continues to do it even when life isn't full of rainbows and sunshine.

So this is what can come out of stepping out of the shadows of recovery. We show people that it can work. Finding and hearing the different ways people have done it, and then hopefully finding what works for you.

I'm not sure how many people we can save by sharing. I get the honor to know that my story helped one person -- and her family. 
She did the work. I got to watch and be proud. I love you woman!!

I can (still) dance

Aug 26, 2013

Up until now I was fairly sure I would never really dance again. Like, I haven't gone out dancing in years. And I used to love to dance. Dance dance dance.


But of course, as I left the house less and less due to drugs, lack of sitters, and then being afraid of the world, we didn't go clubbing much. Or ever.


And also since I haven't been invited to a wedding in years, I haven't had the chance to dance. Nor have I wanted to. I was pretty sure my moves without booze were gone for good. And I just accepted this part as my sobriety is more important than dancing.


Bob was the best man in his little brother's wedding recently. It was a beautiful ceremony with a mix of Buddhism and Christianity. I loved watching Bob's brother and his wife, who are so in love, get married at such a beautiful place, at the MN Boat House, downtown St. Paul, on Raspberry Island, on the Mississippi River. Best ceremony I've ever been to. His wife has the coolest family.


I really wanted to show my kids a good time. The youngest two had never been to a wedding.


So I danced my ass off. And I did it without one single drink. People were drinking HEAVILY all around me, It didn't even bother me. I was on the floor with my kids all night long, showing the kids you can still have fun without drinking.


I was sweaty and breathing hard. It was so much fun. It reminded me that I can still party hard. Just sober. If you think I'm full of it, I promise you I am not. It was just as much fun sober. This is the kind of stuff that makes me so happy, because I didn't think it was possible. It is possible. 


Even Bob got out there for an eighth of a song. Not the way we used to do it, but nothing really is anymore, right?  Big day for a guy who struggles with anxiety at that level.


My 12 year-old claimed that his "dance moves are so spectacular, that it puts people into a vortex that they have trouble getting out of." So he was a wallflower


We were outta there by 10:45 p.m. But most people were. That's probably because it was a Sunday night. The wedding party were still rocking when we left.


I hope I get invited to more weddings. Because I love to dance, but I'm getting a little old for da club, yo. 



Being drunk is fun ... until it isn't

Aug 02, 2013


At the camper this weekend we had lots of choices as to what we could do to entertain ourselves. There was the Big Ships in Duluth; there were some roller derby girls in Moose Lake; there was a fair in Willow River; or there was the karaoke right at our campground. My boys chose karaoke. 

Here is the thing about seasonal camping. There is a HUGE drinking culture. And I mostly don't notice because people aren't really rowdy or out of control. But I'm sitting here right now, in a huge room of people (obviously being super social because I'm blogging about it as it happens), who are drinking. Singing their little hearts out. Most of them I would classify as drunk. 

People are having a great time. I've seen some spills, some stumbles, but mostly just a festive group.  My boy just turned to me and asked, "Mom, does being drunk make you giggle?" 

Well, yes. It can. These folks are sure making it look like a hell of a lot of fun. And let's face it. It is fun; unless you end up like me. And how do you know this when you are 10 years old?  You don't. 

But, in order for me to sing karaoke (my boy thinks I sound like Adele when I sing, which proves that love is also deaf), I know for a fact being tipsy would help. So in this instance, drinking probably looks like more fun to them than being sober. I blamed it on being shy, which is true. I don't know these people. And I'm certainly not going to grab the microphone and sing sober to a bunch of drunk people. I'm not that gal. So hopefully the kids will know it's because signing in public isn't my thing, rather than I'm a boring sober person.  Because the first one is true, certainly not the second one. I hope. 

The last time I took the mic alone for karaoke was 1991 in New York City. I used to live there. (Did I ever tell you that story?  It's a good one.) And it was one of my last nights there before I was to board the Greyhound for the trip home. 

I couldn't make it there, and I barely made it anywhere. 

ANYWAY, I got up (WASTED, mind you) and sang "Daniel" by Elton John and dedicated it to my best friend Daniel, who was sitting in the bar. I started sobbing on stage, but kept on singing. It was a real show, I tell you. The crowd called me Sinead O'Connor.  I've never been up to sing alone again, and I'm totally cool with that. I can die without it. For real. 

Anyhow, I suppose my job now is to show my kids that being sober is just as giggly and fun as being drunk. I think I do an okay job of that. But there is something different about that kind of acting crazy fun vs. being sober. It was fun. Until it wasn't. 

Aside from this, this campground isn't too wild. By 10 p.m. all is very quiet. So there is plenty of fun to show them. But we are in need of some more music (not karaoke) and raging sober fun. So I'll need to work on that for sure. 


Look Mom! We're on TV

Jul 24, 2013
Well THIS isn't CNN. I mean, I am not going to talk about any news other than my own news. Which is that I was ON HLN Evening Express last night.
You remember I talked about being interviewed? The producer, Michael Timmermann, and a photographer came to my house and spent the day with us.
Super nice guy and very respectful of our story. He didn't say shocking about me, or my kids, to grab people's attention, like some past local newspapers. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. And I appreciated tht the most. 
I think this story was more recovery focused, as he promised. That really is what the news should be talking about. And he did that. He's ahead of his game, in my opinion!
I always hope that I will stick to the experience, strength and hope for anytime I am asked to speak. And this time I accomplished that.
People always ask me, "Why do you agree to do this?"
And people always ask me if I get paid. I don't. I have no idea why my story catches the attention of news folks. But I feel like if I am asked, and my motivation is to share the message and reduce stigma, then I need to do it. 
AND they let me write the whole piece below the videos. I really liked that part. But for God's sake, don't read the comments.  There are some sad folks out there.
I didn't get to see it on HLN Evening Express because I was in class BUT I guess Bob Forrest from "Celebrity Rehab" weighed in on my story after. I am so bummed I missed it!
The folks that have reached out to me because of this already have taken my breath away. I'm going to answer everyone. Thank you for sharing your stories with me and supporting this issue. We matter and we can change the way we are helped.
And thank you Michal Timmermann with two n's. You showed what I wanted to show.

The truth is, AA isn't the only way

Jul 15, 2013

I've been skipping my meetings lately.  I rarely go through this, as I think I've mentioned before, but it happens.  It has gotten me into trouble before and it usually leads me down the wrong road.  I am almost at three years of sobriety, I can't decide what my deal is.  I seem to find excuses upon excuses not to go.


It could be said that it is my disease, or "slick" as they called it in treatment, trying to lower my defenses. Then my mind will tell me, "Hey girl (in my head, I use Barry White's voice), you can skip that meeting today.  You have too much to do and you know you don't need it."  


My deep-rooted desire to use drugs will do this to me, so that I become vulnerable for relapse. Because I am, after all, a disease-filled recovering addict.


But I'm wondering if it's something else this time.


I have been known to also act like a complete asshole without going to my meetings.  My old behaviors creep back in.  I don't feel good inside. Something feels off.  But lately, that hasn't been happening either.  I don't feel crazy.  I'm feeling pretty good.


I've been terribly busy with sports, kids being around, and all the things I wished for while they were in school.  (Oh my God, bring back that yellow bus.)  The new camper has been taking up plenty of my time and I do still have to find a second internship.  My house is forever messy, and my excuses for missing meetings are plenty.


And then there is this whole movement regarding anonymity going on right now.  What it means, how it is used, and how it can hurt. Mostly how it is misunderstood.  How sharing our stories is so important for those who are in the grips and especially those who aren't in the grips of addiction.  How it will help normalize this disease so that more people can get help; so that everyone understands that this can happen to anyone.


I feel weird about the majority of folks in meetings being ashamed of their disease, so ashamed that they keep it a secret. I don't live like that, and I don't want my kids to ever feel ashamed of me. So I am hung up a little.


I'm not getting close to renouncing AA.  This is to not say that AA isn't important.  Because so many of us get sober through the 12-step program and stay sober through it. I met people there who don't use drugs at a time where I needed to learn how to do that.  It saved my life. Plus, most, if not all, of my friends are there. That's who I hang out with. If I left, would they still want to hang with me?  And the steps are a blueprint for a way of life that could benefit not only those who struggle with addiction.  It could benefit everyone.  It's brilliant. 


Another problem I am having with AA at the moment  is that I hear over and over in those rooms about ANYONE else who sobers up without AA, "Well, they are a dry drunk then." Or "You can't be happy, joyous and free without AA."  


I basically hear over and over again that the  12-steps are the ONLY way to lead a fulfilling life after one stops using drugs, alcohol, or whatever. That is just not true. In fact, it can be damaging.  And for those folks in those meetings who don't succeed in AA,  they might not understand that there are other roads to recovery. That they are not a failure. And that this isn't the end-all program. If it doesn't work for you, then try something else. 


I always want to cross-talk when someone says something like, "He never went to AA so he is hanging on by a thread." Hey, I've said it about Bob. It isn't always true. 


For me, these rigid rules and maybe even the blinders that it's the ONLY way, were very useful in me staying sober.  I needed to believe that this was do or die. I didn't have time to mess around with a bunch of other programs or bullshit. It worked for me. And it works for me. 


So I guess, while I'm learning about other paths to recovery, breaking our silence, and being super busy having fun with my kids, my meetings are becoming less important. Maybe not less important, but easier to miss. 


This week I will go to my meeting, out to lunch with my friends, and appreciate all of it.  But I do feel different about it. Hopefully it's my education and not my slick. For now, I'll keep coming back.  


The biggest ... the baddest ... who cares?

Jul 01, 2013




Some people get off on talking about how much booze they could (can) handle or how many days they stayed up straight without sleeping.  Like they've won or something. I know I've done it myself, but it still drives me nuts.

In the grand scheme of things and compared to many others, I really wasn't in the horrific throws of meth addiction for as long as some people. I definitely had abuse issues with substances (and bouts of addiction, if that makes sense) my whole life, but the fast and furious, total-take-down, no-turning-back, of the meth and cocaine addiction lasted a few years for me. For others, it lasts for decades: They're likely the toothless people you see in the fear-selling photos, on billboards and the internet.
I've mentioned before: I was a picker of the skin. I didn't believe I had "bugs" in my skin. I'm smarter than that. But I did believe that I had SOMETHING in there, like maybe an ingrown hair, or a sliver (which was not really there), that needed to come out. But not a bug. I mean come on, I'm not crazy ...

The other day on Facebook, one of the recovery pages I follow, posted one of those shocking pages of "the faces of meth." I commented on the photos that not everyone looks like that. I looked like the photo with this post. I remember this day. It might have been spring or fall, but not that cold out and I was sweating my ass off. But I always had to cover up, even in the summer. And I had to wear TONS of cover-up make up, even on my arms. I still do today (make-up on my face, not winter gear in the summer). And if you look closely, you can see the bumps on my face. But not like what you see in most "faces of meth" covered by the rest of the world.

Showing those shocking before-and-after mug shots on "faces of meth" does nothing to promote recovery. There was proof in the comments of other readers: They were "horrified" and "disgusted." Is that what is important to know about this disease? I don't think so.

Meth is scary. It is my biggest monster; the thing I fear most. But it isn't us at our worst that we should be looking at. Will scare tactics stop people from trying it? I wish, but I doubt it.  

There should be more photos like Shanna White; her before and after photos. Those are the photos I wish people would show.

So I commented the same thing myself and others say all of the time, "This does nothing to promote recovery, it only perpetuates the shame and stigma of addicts."

A few people called "bullshit" on my comments. I didn't respond. Can't get into Facebook fights with strangers. I save that for close friends and family.

So here is my point:

What always shocks me about threads of conversation about addiction is that many people in recovery start their responses with, "I was addicted to meth for 150 years, so I know more than EVERYONE."

That is such bull and a terrible way to start a discussion. Some people often claim to be the worst addict or the worst alcoholic. They spent the most money and lost the most teeth. Egos running wild.  Especially on these websites. Well... everywhere, I guess.

There is a difference, in my opinion, in sharing your story of struggle and recovery vs. trying to be the biggest, baddest, winner of all drug addicts. I think it could send a message to people who didn't lose their teeth, their house or their kids that, "well, maybe I wasn't that bad and I could try it again?"  

It's not about how much more you've done in one night or how much money you spent. It's about when you crossed over that line where you could not figure out how to stop. Some people need to lose everything before they will even consider they have a problem. Some people, like me, lose a lot, but can see that what's left to lose isn't going to be worth it.

This isn't a pissing match. It's a disease.

This Mom Off Meth's been blogging for a year!

Jun 14, 2013




A whole year has passed since I started this blog, "Mom Off Meth."

How did that happen? I was only going to do this for a summer project last year. Well, I'm still doing it. What does it mean? I have no  clue.

Since I started writing, I've had a shit ton of life changes, lessons, growth, some steps backward, along with the forward ones. But who hasn't?

I've said this a few times, but I'm saying it again: A friend of mine (who no longer speaks to me, ironically enough) asked me one day, "Do you read blogs?"  
I said, "No, but I've thought about starting one."  
She told me to get some food to make turkey wraps and she'd be over the next day for lunch. She came over, we decided on the layout, colors (red is my favorite color, in case you wondered), and title.  She helped me with a writing schedule.

When I first started writing, I wanted to blow my wad (yeah, I just said that) right away and say EVERYTHING at once. I wanted to post multiple times a day. I so badly didn't want to stick to the schedule.
I was so excited, I wrote everything fast and furiously. I had posts lined up and waiting. I had decided NOT to write on the weekends and it almost KILLED me. But my wise (and no longer speaking to me) friend told me to CHILL OUT; there would come a time when I had nothing to say.  
And she was so right. So, if you are still reading this blog, friend who started it with me but doesn't want to talk to me anymore, again I say thank you. You set me up with something that has been a good deal for me, of which I followed your rules very closely for the first few months, and have since just winged it.  But it all works. I think. 
For me, this whole experience has been a positive one. I never imagined that anyone would read what I have to say; that they wouldn't make fun of it (well, I'm sure behind my back there might be some fun-making); that they would ever like it. I've connected with some folks, even made some friends through this blog. I've had people ask for advice or just appreciate the way I honestly talk about addictiton, recovery and the rest of this life. It has helped me sort some stuff out, given me confidence, and some opportunities I would never have imagined. 

The pain my kids went through as they learned more about my story was tough. No more secrets here at home now.  And sharing our stories might someday ease the shame of another family. My kids are proud of that.  Because this is an ugly, life-wrecking disease, but we recover. Families recover. It does get better. And we are good people. 
I thought this blog was going to be funnier. I am pretty funny, in person. (I know I just sounded like a complete tool.) But it's turned out to be more about life than humor. Sometimes it's funny, but mostly real.
It has given me complete assurance that going into the field of addiction is the absolute right thing for me to do. It sparked a passion for advocacy and to do my part (even if it's tiny)  in changing the way people view us, and to be another voice of many that say "recovery works."

So although I sometimes feel like I'm running out of things to say, I will keep writing here. Someday I might get my act together enough to turn it into a book. But I procrastinate on that nearly every second. I think I need help with that project. 
Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your comments, support, listening to me talk about some of the same stuff over and over. Just thanks.

Must-see recovery cinema

May 29, 2013

Hey, I saw the movie "The Anonymous People" recently. The Minnesota Recovery Connection hosted the event at the Walker Art Center. It inspired me, making me more excited about going into the field of addiction than ever before.  It made me want to help more. And I will.

Greg Williams did a beautiful job directing "The Anonymous People" and the messages are clear. We need to stop treating people with a chronic health issue like criminals. It isn't humane. It costs our country billions of dollars. And it doesn't make sense.

The general public belief about what addiction is needs to change. The way to change this is to be willing, when we are ready, to tell our stories without shame. Then we become proof that treatment works. Recovery works. There are 23 million of us. All roads to recovery are different, just like all roads to recovery for any disease are different. No two people are the same.

I met the humble-and-approachable Williams at the event. He recognized my name from here and Facebook. That was super nice. It gave me the awesome chance to prove that I am super awkward in person -- and maybe a little too overly excited and nerdy about some stuff. I wouldn't doubt if he was a little creeped out.

(I'm kidding. But we are probably best friends now. You know how I get.)

Here is my hope for an important film like this: I believe "The Anonymous People" can change members of our society's minds about addictive diseases. In the 300-seat theater where I saw it for a special screening, most folks there were in recovery, work in recovery fields, or had been touched by recovery. Of course we want to see this film. Yet, Williams' film is one that "the rest of you" need to see. It is the public perception of this disease, not that of those afflicted by it, which needs to change for treatment to become available; for criminalizing to stop.

Some of you might not believe that this is a disease. You may find it hard to understand that when I use one drug or drink, my old brain takes over in a way that I can't stop using. And unless I get some help, my family suffers; I suffer; I stop contributing to society; I start to hurt people. I steal. I lie.

If you can't believe that, this film will make you reconsider. And if you don't want to believe that, then still go see this movie.

Recovery services are available to some of us, and I was able to go to one of the best treatment centers available when I was ready. I had good insurance and people were willing to give me money for the remaining co-pay. So instead of getting caught and put in jail, I was put on the road to recovery.  

Not everyone has this opportunity. Not everyone is so lucky. And that has a lot to do with the stigma and shame of the disease. So we need to start talking about how recovery has worked in our lives, and change the minds of people who look down on us. See this movie, and you will understand so much better why.

CNN interviewing me? Who'da thunk?

May 07, 2013


I had an exciting and crazy day last week. CNN came to my house. Yes, CNN.


The only time I thought something like that would ever happen to me is if I killed a bunch of people, or stole a bunch of stuff.  Thank goodness it wasn't for anything like that.  It was so exciting.  Wow!!

I was contacted through Twitter by this nice man, (I won't mention his name unless he says it is okay), because he had run across my blog. He wanted to talk to me about doing a story about how recovery is possible, how my blog has been helpful to me, and where I am at now.  Can I say no to something like that?  


In August, I'll be sober  three years. I'm a baby in this process. But my life has dramatically gotten better in these past few years. I have purpose, direction, and LIFE that I never dreamed of really. That is what he wanted to share, and exactly what I wanted to share. Recovery is possible, it takes what it takes, and we shouldn't judge people by their struggle.

Those of us in recovery hear other people's stories of recovery all of the time. But the regular "normie" folks don't. And maybe they have a private struggle, or have a friend, or a family member that they need a better understanding of what this all means, so they can stop being hurt and angry all of the time. Maybe they need to hear what we have to say so that they can feel comfortable to speak up, get help, offer the right help, understand resources available, or just not hate on or shame us addicts and alcoholics.

There is a movement going on right now and there are a whole bunch of us trying share our stories so that we can  remove the shame and the stigma surrounded by recovery.  Not just the addiction part, but the recovery part. I want to be able to say that I did my part to help stop it. I am honored, absolutely honored, to be asked to be a part of it.

Just so you know, I am writing this right now with a camera on me and two CNN folks standing behind me, filming this as I type. ... cool and very awkward!  But hey, I'm getting something written!

I can only speak for myself. I don't represent the way to recover, 12-steps, counselors-in-training or any of it. I am just telling my story, of my life, and how it has has gotten better.

This is what I've learned about myself and being nervous: I don't remember anything that I say. I hope I kept it on the recovery side.  But we will see.

My daughter did a great job, as well, and is happy to help me tell our story of recovery as a family. I am so proud of her.

I have more to say about this idea of sharing stories. I will talk more about that later. Also, I don't know where or when it will air.  There are some VERY exciting recovery type stuff coming up in the near future, and I plan on telling you all about it.

Billboards spreading a toxic message

Apr 15, 2013
This is Charlie Sheen and it says, "The radio home of @#!*ing Crazy"
This is Lindsey Lohan and it says "The Radio home of the train wrecks"
It must be the TMZ of radio for the Twin Cities. I can't really speak to the programming, because I have never listened, and I don't think I will.  Besides, I really am picky about the voices of the talk-radio folks.
But this isn't a post about voices on talk radio. It's about these billboards: They're just plain mean and awful. Every time I drive by, I want to cover them up. Yeah, addiction makes your life a train wreck. Yes, it makes you act crazy. But don't make fun of people for how they behave when they could be struggling with this disease. It isn't funny, it isn't cute and it doesn't help anyone.
So I sent them an email. And it made me feel better.
"As a person in long-term recovery, and a person who puts myself out there about my addiction, your billboards with celebrities, such as Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen, with the title "Home of the train wreck" are so offensive, shaming, and continue the stigma of addiction, that those of us in recovery try to fight each day. 
Addiction is a brain disease. If these people had cancer, or diabetes, would they be on your billboard? But because addiction causes people to behave in a bizarre way, you make fun of them. You are making fun of sick people. And it is horrible.
There are 23.5 MILLION people in long-term recovery in this country. Why don't talk about that? You only perpetuate the shame and stigma of addiction. Which only keeps people sick and afraid to get help.
Not to mention, we have a bullying epidemic right? How are those billboards NOT bullying? Those are people. HUMANS. And you are publicly humiliating them. What does that teach kids? It's okay for YOU to bully, but not them?  
Betsey DeGree
(It never hurts to put down the blog address right?)
I got this response, in which deleted some things, as they were personal to the person from the station who sent it:
Dear Betsy, 
Thank you for your thoughtful and reasoned note regarding our billboards. 
First and foremost -- we are a pop culture station and we comment - whether you are a fan or not -- on pop culture. 
Divorce is also tragic, but we have a billboard that refers to Tom Cruise's recent split from his wife Katy. 
They are not meant as serious social commentary. They are meant as commentary on pop culture events. 
I appreciate your message and understand how you could see it that way.  I have empathy for addicts -- to a point. 
If, in fact, addiction is Lindsay's actual issue. As opposed to utter narcissism. 
However -- and this is definitely an "however" -- I will disagree with you on one score. We are NOT mocking Lindsay's seeking treatment -- if in fact she's sincere.  Her track record would indicate that she is not.   
She was ordered to treatment by the court after misbehaviors too numerous to begin to outline that have landed her in court repeatedly. We are mocking the ridiculousness of her years long criminal track record. 
The addicts I've known need reality checks on their behavior and its impact on their lives and those around them. Our billboard isn't designed to be that reality check for Lindsay -- it is however a statement of fact based on her behavior. 
Lindsay will never see our billboard. 
I do though hope her family -- or some concerned friends, prevail on her to change her ways and get the help she needs. 
If it's an addiction -- there's abundant help available. If it's simply poor choices and self-absorption -- well there is help for that too. 
I apologize if this board offends you. It is not a lack of empathy for addiction and people who need help and sincerely seek it. It's a lack of empathy for the bad behavior of celebrity. 
Thank you for taking the time to write me. I hope you have a great week.
Oh boy, do I disagree with her.  So I sent a reply.
Thank you for your reply. I really appreciate that you took the time to answer me.
I am aware that there is lot of the help out there for addicts and alcoholics, as I am graduating with my Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counseling from Metro State, and will spend my time working in the field. 
As an advocate for recovery, I have a few points. 
I understand that you are a pop-culture station. I know a ton of people who listen and love your programs. I feel like those billboards maybe don't represent your station, from what I understand. Some of them are cheap shots. That's my opinion.
Divorce isn't a diagnosable disease. But addiction/alcoholism are. No one dies from divorce (too often, anyhow.)
Listen, Lindsey has had plenty of chances to get help. She also has been given breaks that us average folks don't get. This could actually kill her. If I were a celebrity, with different consequences, and unlimited funds, I might be dead. It would be so hard to recover with that celebrity lifestyle. All of the parties, pressure, money, access. This story seems to repeat itself for so many addicted celebrities.  Their bottom is too often death. 
I have four kids, a house I can lose, all of these consequences to face. I feel like it's easier for me to recover, than it is for them. 
And if Ms. Lohan has true narcissism, which is a personality disorder, listed in the DSM-IV, a mental health issue that is almost impossible to treat, then that wouldn't be her fault either.
It's not impossible for celebrities to recover, it's just my opinion that it is much more difficult. There are plenty of people who are celebrities that do recover. Check out They always have good celebrity recovery stories.
Recovery, as you have probably seen in people you may know, is a long process. It has its ups and downs. People struggle and succeed. It takes what it takes. If it takes her 10 more arrests and 20 more treatments, then that's her course of recovery. We only learn to manage our symptoms for this chronic illness. For some people, it takes a lot to get better. Some people never do.
Lindsey or her family may not (hopefully) ever see the billboard, but my kids do. I do. All of us in recovery do. People who need help do. We are trying to change the conversation about addiction and recovery. So we can remove the shame, and help more people.
I just really believe that people with addiction problems (and in my opinion, most of Lindsey's behavior is due to this), deserve compassion. It is a hard road. In fact, all people deserve compassion. Just everyone.
I do appreciate your response and conversation. Have a great day.
Betsey DeGree
People are a long way from understanding and accepting mental illness and also addiction. Clearly, the powers-that-be at that station are not on board. But mostly, it is the public humiliation that bothers me. I know celebrities put themselves out there. But no one deserves to be made fun of, especially when we are trying to teach kids and adults not to bully.
When we look at our kid's Facebook or Twitter,  do we want to see people calling them "train wrecks," "crazy," or "fake?"  No. So nowhere should this be okay.
Anyway, that is my take on it.  I just gave that station some free advertisement. I hope they appreciate it. 

Who you see here

Apr 09, 2013

One of the things about the meetings that I go to is that you can feel safe that no one is going to blab that we have seen you there, or talk about what you say.

"Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here."

Here, here!

Or at least, we aren't supposed to. A few conversations slip though the cracks. Even though we know it's wrong, we are human.  And mostly, except when it is human gossip (nOT me...well), it is done out of concern.

It is important to know that I (we) would never run into Sally from the P.T.A. at the grocery store and tell her that you have started at our 12-step meeting. I talk about my own recovery out loud, to the outside, but I would never talk about anyone else's in that way.

The stuff we might say to one another is if we notice someone isn't there for awhile, if  anyone knows where he or she is. Maybe we would say, "Oh I saw her at Wednesday night's meeting and she seems fine." Or we might say, "She came late and left early Wednesday night and she seemed a little out of it."

Or if I were to notice a behavior change in one of my friends, I might bring it up to another friend: worry about it, talk about it. To me, this isn't gossip. OR maybe it's well-meaning gossip, done out of caring and loving my friends in the program.

These conversations do not happen during the meetings. They usually are during fellowship before or after the meeting. And I am not saying they are right. They just can happen.

The beautiful and problematic thing with having a big group of alcoholic and addicted friends in recovery, is that we grow to love each other. Sometimes we leave. Sometimes we come back. Sometimes we don't. When you've been going to meetings with another person for a few years and they go back out there to do more drinking and drugging, it is hard. But it is a reality.

When I first walked in (before the trip to Hazelden), one of my biggest fears was that I would see someone I knew. I wasn't so concerned about people knowing I liked to drink. It was the stigma of the cocaine and meth that scared me. That I was asking for help, shamed me even more. I just didn't want to see anyone I knew (other than the woman I knew who brought me there), because that was too personal.

Well, I did see someone I knew. And obviously, to protect that person's anonymity, I won't be able to tell that beautiful story here. But I will say that the thing about seeing people we know is that they are there, too. And they are usually very happy to see us when we stroll in. It actually can help with their recovery, as the newcomer always does. They might know little about us outside of those rooms, but that can be very helpful. In my case, it was a huge gift and helped our family through some hard stuff.

So, that is all I have to say about that. We protect the anonymity of our fellows in the program. It is a safe place to come.

Asking for help is hard, but -- well -- helpful

Apr 02, 2013

It takes time to get your act together.

So be patient.

For instance, sports. My kids play sports. And it is expensive. It's $210 each for baseball and $320 for Lacrosse. The equipment for this Lacrosse is insane. This is a rich kids' sport, for sure.

Football is the best program in our town, because they put a $200 cap on the family. So no matter how many kids you have, you pay $200.

I knew hockey was out of the question, so we didn't even teach our kids to skate. That sport is ridiculous, and not for kids who come from broke families. Holy cow, those parents pay a lot! There is something wrong with all of it, really.

So each season for whatever sport, I do what feels like groveling and ask for scholarships; for soccer, baseball, football, and now lacrosse. I have either made payments, or asked for scholarships. I did it when I wasn't sober and now I do it while I am sober.

And every year I have to do this, I think, "Well, next year we will have more money." But we never do.

I usually can get help with at least half of the cost. Sometimes the whole cost. But with four kids, I understand that they can't give it all to us. I am grateful for whatever amount we are able to get help with.

I've also had people give me their old equipment. Thank goodness. People are great. I will always take whatever help I can get when I need it. And I will return the favor when I can.

Hopefully, the year after next will be our last year of asking for scholarships. The following year, I'll be done with school and working as a drug and alcohol counselor. Obviously I will never be rich with cash, but I will have a job that I'll hopefully love. And I will be able to afford sports, without taking from the scholarship fund. (I hope.) That is worth everything.

Since I've been so open with my recovery and my addiction, when I ask for these scholarships I am sure that some people think we are losers, who put ourselves in this situation. (This is most likely in my head.) They could be saying, "Oh, well maybe if she hadn't done all of those drugs, she wouldn't be in this situation." Or maybe, "If Bob got a job, they could afford it."

If I hadn't done those drugs, I might not be in this situation. But then, I wouldn't have this disease of addiction either. I would love that to be true. Then again, recovery is pretty amazing, so I'd miss out on that, too.

The good news is, I am making a comeback; climbing out of the hole of addiction, mental illness and separation takes time. So if you are in my boat, or being pissed about someone else's boat, know that all we can do is our best each day.

Sometimes that means asking for help, even when it is hard to do and makes you feel like a fool. Let me tell you, my kids are grateful, too. So thanks to all that help us.
Recovering life takes time. The ego and the pride can get us stuck.  I have found throughout all of this that people genuinely want to help. As long as they see me doing the right thing, they want to help me succeed. What a kick-ass thing that is.

The importance of making meetings

Mar 26, 2013
I really appreciate it when people wish me luck in my recovery, or tell me to "keep up the good work." It does, however, also make me pause.
Don't get me wrong: There is some luck involved and some good work that has to be done to remain drug and alcohol free.  It is not always the easiest thing to do.  But for me now, it is the easiest thing to do.
Last night, in class, we had to do Rule 25 assessments (tool used to asses folks in possible need of treatment and services) on each other in class.  We were given characters to play for our classmates to assess.  I was given a 50-year-old methamphetamine addict recently arrested for a drug distribution charge. Although I never dealt (I tried a few times, but couldn't stop doing product so I could make any money), it wasn't too far of a stretch for me. When the questions of the withdrawal came, and why I continued to use, I was able to really feel that feeling from way back when. The exhaustion, the hunger, the utter sadness. That was a LOT of work.  I really couldn't manage that now with the life I have going.  And I want to keep the life I have going.
There is and should be a fear of complacency that can come with recovery.  If I get too comfortable and stop doing the things that make recovery possible and simple, then I will for sure fail.  Like this week, for instance, I couldn't go to my Saturday meeting because the tile guy was coming. And I couldn't go to my Wednesday meeting because my kid was sick. And let me tell you, the universe, my thinking, my family, my perception all suffered.  My kids fought more, and I stressed more.
I usually make meetings my priority.  I cannot remember a time (other than when I went to California) that I missed a full week of meetings.  I try to do two or three a week, and always do at least one. This week, I have done none.  So the whole world looks messed up. 
Now, if I continued not to make meetings and not do the things I am supposed to do to keep my recovery in check, I can see how things could quickly fall apart.  And then I might think, "Well, I might as well use."  I am not saying that this is where I am thinking now, but the increase in chaos when I don't take the time to take care of myself and get into those rooms is measurable.  It doesn't take long for my brain to forget how to cope, and I need to be around my people.
So guess what?  I can't write anymore, because I need to get myself into the shower and get my ass to a meeting.  I know what works for me, and I am so grateful it is that simple.

A PSA announcement from your friend in recovery

Mar 13, 2013

I've been having this same conversation with a lot of folks lately, and so I thought I'd try and explain something to the folks out there without an alcohol or drug problem. A little public service announcement, if you will. 

All of us in recovery have the choice to keep our substance problems and recovery to ourselves. We can ourselves remain anonymous, and it is no one's business but our own that we can't drink like the rest of you -- or that we choose to live without drinking.

Did you know that because people freak out at the thought of us having a problem with alcohol (or drugs), some folks will go to great lengths to hide their sobriety?

Because they are afraid of the reaction of others, they might work harder on hiding their sobriety than they did at hiding their drinking. There is more shame with saying you have a problem with drinking than there is with just drinking. Crazy right?

I hid my using like crazy; not my drinking, but my drug use. So when I first got sober, I said it was for alcohol, which confused people.  

When I disclosed the drug problem, they were shocked. Then after thinking about my behavior, it made perfect sense to people.

Some of the things I've heard people do to hide their sobriety are:

  • Pouring pop (soda, for all you non-Minnesotans) into an empty beer bottle or can;
  • Mixing drinks that look like they could possibly have booze in them;
  • Pouring grape juice in wine glasses;
  • and so on. 

We do this so that you don't look at us weirdly, or so that you don't think we have this disease.

Some people ask us, "Can't you have just one?"

The answer is NO. 

"Can't you just taste this for me?"  

The answer is NO. 

They might say, "Do you still have to go to those meetings?" 

For many of us, the answer is YES. 

And the old,"WHY aren't you drinking?"  (usually shouted in one's face.)

Super comfy. 

The first or 20th time around alcohol for some of us of is scary, and causes anxiety. We are always worried about what you are all going to think. (Not to mention we are desperately trying not to drink.)

For me, that is mostly (like I said in my last post) because of the way I make other people feel. If I want to drink, I am going to drink. I'm not here to make you feel uncomfortable. So if we could all just accept that some of us aren't going to drink, and move on with it without the attention, then maybe this could all go back to normal. 

So if someone says to you, "I'm not drinking today." Or even, "I've decided to quit drinking," try not to act shocked, nervous, or talk them out of it.  

You have no idea what led anyone to making that decision. A supportive, understanding person is what we need. Maybe someday people will be able to say, "I'm in recovery from drugs and alcohol," 

just as easy as they can say, "I am in remission from cancer." Maybe they won't be met with that look that says. "Oohhh, you are one of them."

Just a thought.

Oh, and one more thing. If you have a drinking problem and we make you super uncomfortable because we no longer drink with you, that is for sure your problem, not ours. We are not here to judge you. But we are here to tell you how we quit, if you need us to.  


(I obviously woke up a little ranty today...)

Is it really any fun to be sober?

Mar 06, 2013


Many of us, when we first stop using, wonder how sobriety will fit into our social life.

Lucky for me, I had completely alienated myself from most of my friends at the end of my use. So I didn't have to change who I was hanging out with.  I just had to find SOME people to hang out with. My only friends were meth and my husband. Both things were sick, and not really giving me anything that was good for me.
(Note: Throughout my using history, I quit many times, sometimes stringing along one, two and even three months of sobriety. I had a small collection of 1-, 2-, and 3-month medallions from all of those tries, until I gave them back to a meeting to be reused. I really think about my history as two major tries/lengths of sobriety.  The year or so I had after I went to Hazelden (1); and the last time I quit, in August 2010 (2).)
When I got out of treatment for sobriety run No. 1, I wasn't sure what I was going to do for fun. I resolved that I wasn't going to have fun anymore. Those rock-and-roll times with my longtime friends were going to be a thing of the past. Not that they were out drinking in the bars that much anymore, but even if they were, I was no longer going to be able to go with.
In my case, at that point, people were surprised that I had a drug problem. And when I said I was an alcoholic, they were like, "What?"  
"Well you don't have a drinking problem," some people said. "I drink more than you do."  
Or , "I didn't know you were using that much."
After I got out of treatment, when I went to to social settings where alcohol was served, I felt like people treated me like I was an alien. (This was not always a reality.)
There was a lot of, "Are you okay?" or "Is this (holding a beer in my face) bothering you?"  
During family functions, my loving people would say to me, "You can't have any of this!"  Trying to be smart-asses, and doing a good job.
None of that bothered me. What bothered me was that I was making them uncomfortable with my sobriety. It didn't make me want to use, but I wanted them to just not feel bad about me being sober. I didn't want their sympathy about being sober. Because it isn't a death sentence. I got the feeling that some people feel bad for those of us who decide to live sober.  Like, "that poor woman."
One weekend at a cabin with my girlfriends, they went to the bar and I stayed back at the cabin, reading. I was the designated sober cab, which was totally fine by me (but looking back, not a wise choice.)  I did leave my Alcoholics Anonymous book out on the kitchen table, for when they woke up the next morning. I thought I was so funny and clever. They thought so, too. (Girls, you know that was funny.)
I did leave that weekend feeling a bit sorry for myself, though. I didn't believe I could have fun yet. I was conditioned to think that drinking was the only way to have fun.
The truth is this: From the beginning of my sobriety, I felt like there was no way I was going to have fun again. And if I am going to compare it to those rare nights, let's say at a local bar, listening to a great band, or maybe at a friend's house playing cards, having a lot of laughs and the perfect buzz, I will honestly say that I haven't totally found that here.
But when I drink or use drugs, I rarely if ever have nights like that anyhow. I end up too high and too scared to leave the house. I am locked in my bedroom, picking my skin. I will never have those perfect buzz nights again, because I can't stop using to stay in that "zone." (Trust me, I've tried.) I always go too far. Every time. 
And now, I don't need it.
Today my fun is more whole. I went to a birthday party yesterday where there was a large group of friends from the program. There were some Normies, too.  We friends from the program sat in this person's living room and laughed until our stomach hurt. We had a very good time. These are some dirty-minded, super-funny, good people in sobriety.  
And I didn't make a fool of myself.  
Today, I'm not looking for more drugs because I did them all yesterday. I remember what I did and said. I didn't have fun yesterday because of the buzz I had, or the amount of drugs I did. I had fun because I was with some super women, with good senses of humor, clear heads, and wise minds. 
I had real fun.

Boundaries are for suckers. Oh, wait ...

Feb 25, 2013


The word "boundary" feels like a bad word to me. It feels like something that wants to trap me.  

I feel like I should be able to say what I want, to whom I want, about what I want. I cross personal boundaries often. I get too personal. I ask too many questions. I try to fix, manage and control. I like to get into your business. 

I am working on these things, when I remember, as they pop up. But sometimes it's too late. 

Take my kids for instance. I really struggle with letting them deal with their own problems, without getting involved. I wouldn't consider myself a helicopter mom, but maybe I have hovered too closely around certain things.

My daughter and her peer issues in the past six months really have tested my ability to use healthy boundaries. I've gotten into slightly heated discussions with 14-year-old girls, and I've gotten into it with some of their parents, too. I was trying to get my point across, and freaking out internally (and slightly externally) when I couldn't. 

Why? Because I become certain I can cross the line, go over there, and fix stuff. 

I would blame it on having the "mama bear" in me take over. But really, I just crossed lines that people shouldn't cross, because I felt like it was my place to do so. 

Did it help anything? Not really helpful at all. Did it feel good? Oh my god, it was agonizing. Will I do it again? ... Son of a bitch, do I have to change everything?

My sponsor pointed out some brilliant stuff to me the other day. Many parents would fight to the death for their kids to protect them. And we think we can fix everything. I lost my mom and that protected/protector relationship at 16. I had no one to help me through anything. No one helped me deal with her death. No one helped me with my friend drama, my boy problems, nothing. 

This isn't a pity party, but I was completely out of control of all things inside and outside when I was my daughter's age. I had no one to guide me. And I didn't know how to make that feel okay. I didn't know that things would ever be okay. So I am trying to make sure my kids have help. That they know they aren't alone. 

I try to control the outcome to spare my kids the horrific pain that growing up causes. And that isn't something that is always good for any of us.

(My sponsor is a genius right? You'd all be so lucky to have her. But that would take away from my time, so find your own.)

I cannot protect my kids from everything, because they won't learn their own coping skills. (Well, they have learned to cope with me and my freak attacks, which really, if you think about it, is a gift that I continue to give them.)

Of course, this is Alanon matter. And I am listening to people. But applying it is where I trip. It feels right to rescue, but in the process I rob them of the opportunity to learn how to survive.

For the record, my daughter has dealt with this past six months better than I would have ever possibly handled it at her age. And things have worked out pretty well. I didn't need to stick my nose in any (much) of it, really. 

My kids have a lot to teach me. They are some of the most well adjusted folks living in this house. 

Somewhere, I know, there is a line between where I let them know that I'm here for whatever they need, and where I block their way. Those lines are hard for me to see, because love and my instinct to protect makes them blurry.

Please don't try to convert me

Feb 12, 2013


Nothing bugs me much more than people trying to convert me to Jesus.  

I don't want to offend anyone. I'm glad you have Jesus, if you do. I'm glad you believe and have faith and it is everything to you. I'm glad that you have found what you needed through Jesus Christ. I mean this in the most serious way, without an ounce of sarcasm.


If Jesus fills up your life and makes you a better human being, then I am grateful you have Jesus. 

In our 12-step program, there is a lot of mention of God being the way to relieve the desire to drink and use drugs.


The men who started this amazing journey for those of us who follow believed in God. They thought being able believe in God was an important part of this program. Something to be of service to, something greater than ourselves and something to trust in.


And may I remind you, they also urged all alcoholics to find a "God of your understanding."


They did this, I believe, so that people like me had somewhere to go. Because this program can work for anyone. (Not saying it does work for everyone.)


There is a good story in the Big Book on how this came about. I'm sure it saved so many people because they didn't discriminate against those who didn't have the exact belief system as the AA founders. I know it saved me. I was told that my God could be a tree if that's what I wanted. God just couldn't be me.

Now, I have a higher power. I have something that works for me. It wasn't easy for me to find, and it wasn't easy for me to trust. I believe this struggle did make the 12 Steps harder for me. I wasn't ready to turn my will and my life over to something I couldn't feel, see or trust.


How could things work out for me if I didn't believe?

I tried to force some kind of belief system onto myself, and it didn't work. It wasn't until I stopped over-thinking it, and let the whole "higher power" thing happen, that I was able to find something greater than myself.


My higher power isn't a being, a God, a dude in the sky. There aren't any sons of my higher power to worship or follow. And if my God has a gender, it's most likely a woman,


My higher power resides in a faith that by doing the next right thing, the right thing will come to me. It is the feeling I get in those rooms of my meetings. It is the good of the group, the good of the earth, the good of the universe.


I have a hard time describing my higher power, but it is bigger than me and that is all I need. 

I believe Jesus was here and walked this earth. I just don't believe he was the son of God. Rather, it seems to me, he was a super liberal, groovy cat who helped a lot of people; a very charismatic man.

One day, awhile back I was out to lunch with some members of my 12-step group. I mentioned that I don't believe in "God."

Assuming that it meant I didn't have a higher power, one woman told me to, "Keep coming back." 

I know that people have strong opinions about their God. Wars, countries, laws, and deaths occur in name of God. I always remember that when people are trying to push their beliefs onto me. And I am confident enough in my own belief to be able to stand on my own two feet about it and not feel inferior.


I also understand that people who care about me, and have a strong Christian faith, do not want me to burn in hellfire. I can't hate anyone for that! But people telling me, "It will happen for you, Jesus is patient," is nothing short of annoying.


My higher power and my beliefs are just as important to me as the God of their understanding is to them. I don't tell people they're crazy for their beliefs. So having my beliefs dismissed as inferior is offensive. 

Don't get me wrong: Most of my friends are Christians who never say boo to me about believing. Or anyway, they gave up a long time ago. And I love them all.


I don't hate Jesus. We just agree to disagree. And that's cool.

Back to the Moment

Feb 04, 2013

Today's task was sorting through 50-plus thoughts and sentences sitting in the draft folder for my blog. I meant to elaborate on them later. As I review them, and the posts I've actually published, I realize that some snippets did get more attention. Others, I just forgot where I was headed with them. So on this day, it's time to look, delete, or write.


Whoa! Since I started this deal back in June, I have been through some major stuff!  And it isn't exactly the stuff that I've gone through that strikes me, but my reactions to it.


If I didn't know better, I would think that maybe I am suffering from bipolar disorder.  Seriously. My swings are extreme, as are my perceptions of the same exact situations from one entry to the next.


Except I know that I'm not.


I was diagnosed bipolar shortly after coming sober off of cocaine, which produced similar symptoms. As I gained more sober time, however, I weened off my medications and have had no real symptoms.  My highs and lows are situational, like most people's. And if I pay attention, I can relieve them on my own.  People with true bipolar disorder cannot do this, so that counts me out.


Also from these past attempts at blog posts, I can see that despite my little spin on the road of anger and self-pity this past Sunday through Thursday, I'm making progress.


I have stabilized. I was elated when I started this blog – the writing and connecting with people. I took trips, had summer off from school, life was good. Then there was the deal with Bob, money troubles, and the pain of giving up what I thought our life was going to be like once I sobered up.


Kind people have reached out to help me; my dad and his generosity jump to mind (I didn't order the bras) and the transformation of my home. There was the deal with my daughter and her "friends" from school. Her grades at her old school, and her success at her new school.


Life is a bit of a damned roller coaster: We all gave ups and downs.


Though I react strongly, my attitude, happiness and sadness is directly linked to people, places and things. As much as I try, I can't control people places and things. And while they have been controlling me, I'm slowly learning not to let them.


Lucky for me, I have a program that helps me with this stuff. My sponsor wants me to start working Steps One and Three harder. She says I don't quite have them. I feel like I get them, but need to become better at practicing them.


Going back through these drafts and posts has made me realize that I have a lot of work to do. I need to slow down, let go and take life a moment at a time. I need to decide what is my part and let go of what isn't. I know better, but it isn't easy to do.


Recovery takes practice. And I have sometimes forgotten to practice. So at this moment, I will exhale, let go and begin again to practice.


Until the next great or awful thing-of-the-week happens.  



Betsey DeGree

Mom Off Meth

Seeing the Miracles

Jan 22, 2013

Being a part of the recovery community, I certainly have seen my share of hurt, disappointment, and losses to this disease. I've watched people relapse and although I am still quite new with 882 days sober, I’ve known some to die. I've seen people attempt treatment multiple times, only to drink every time they get out. And when they do walk through the doors again, I am always happy to see them, no matter how bad they have messed up. I was shown that same love, and I know what it meant to me.

In my ever-widening circle of friends that have supported me, I think of a pair that I want to share with you. I will not use their names to protect their anonymity, but I love these women, and I love what I've seen happen between them in the last year. I have their permission to talk about this here.

I'll start with Mary (not her real name.) She is a 36-year-old single mother of a 7-year-old beautiful boy. Mary is an alcoholic of the most serious kind.  Before going to treatment, she walked through the door of one of our Twelve Step meetings. She sat next to Clara, a beautiful woman who is always welcoming to the newcomer. Clara gave her a phone list and told her to keep coming back.

Mary continued to drink and ended up in treatment shortly after that. She did her 28 days at Hazelden and drank again the day after she got out. She drank for a week straight. During that drunk she pulled out the phone list, called someone on it for help. The first person she reached said she couldn't take any sponsees at the moment, which is a bummer, but totally OK and does happen.  

That might stop someone from trying again, but Mary didn't stop there. She then called Clara who told her to call her when she was not drunk, and she would be happy to work with her. Mary ended up in the hospital, almost dead from a pre-existing heart problem. She was tired of living like that. That was her last drunk. She has been sober since 11/11/11.

That is magical, but it doesn't stop there. Mary's marriage was falling apart, as her husband was chaotic. As Clara and Mary worked together through the steps, Clara saw the stress this caused on Mary, and told her if she needed a place to live she could come live at her house. She would always have a roof.

Let me be very clear here. Mary was doing the work to remain sober. She came to meetings, worked with Clara, as she would have with any sponsor. She had over four months of sobriety before she made the call. And in March of last year (Clara's birthday), Mary called and said she needed to take Clara up on her offer.  Her husband was being extra cruel, and she needed to get out of there.

Clara is in her 60s. She lived alone as her grown children live out of state. She is very active in Twelve Step groups and a solid figure to the community. I don't want to say she is Mother Theresa, because she would smack me. But she is just one of those people you want to hang around. I like her because she laughs at almost all of my jokes. So, I know she likes me. You know my theme, I need that shit.

I remember hearing that Mary had moved in with Clara, and my first reaction was, "Oh god, Clara is being so codependent." That is what a nosey, judging bitch I can really be. Mary was working hard at her recovery, doing a great job, Clara had the room, and so it made perfect sense. I'm glad no one asked my opinion at the time.

Now, for most people living in a town-home alone, having a child and mother move in with you is a huge risk. No matter how good of a person you are, having people in your personal space for any length of time can really be awful. For some reason, these three fit together with ease. That is such a rare and cool thing.  I have been so impressed by this.

The drama queen in me REALLY waited for that to blow up. I can truly be a cynical, creepy gal. I waited and waited for one of them to talk shit about the other. To talk about how the boy leaves his toys around, or how one of them ate the other's food. But there has been none of that. There has been a relationship like one you don't see very often—of utter respect, acceptance and admiration. If anyone deserves this to work out, it is the three of them.

I have watched Mary blossom in the Twelve Steps. From someone who hardly spoke, never came to lunch, and shrunk into her chair, to someone who leads meetings, sponsors people and has crawled up and out of her hole. I've seen the wonderful mother she is and has always been. She is so strong. Of all of the crap that has been handed her way this past year with this divorce, she has remained level, accepting, SOBER, and grateful. I learn from her every single time she opens her mouth.

This is the miracle of working the Twelve Steps.  She has done it exactly how it was meant to be done.


Why did I cross the line?

Jan 07, 2013

I think for many people like me, we have to find a reason for everything.  Why did I become a drug addict? Why did I find happiness in recovery? Why can't everyone? Why can some people party all through college like raging alcoholics and grow out of it? Why can't others? 

For many people—especially those who don't follow a religious faith— there has to be a reason for everything. I tried to figure out why I am an addict for a long time. Is it because my mom died? Because my dad always put his work in front of us? Because they made me move in 8th grade? Because I have never felt good enough? Because I was always chasing a good feeling to cover up the bad feeling inside of me? Because I just REALLY like to party and it got out of hand?

I usually settled on the reason that I was a bad person that couldn't do the right thing, even if it was easy.

Now I understand I'm not a bad person. I just crossed a line that once a person like me crosses, I can never go back. 

That line means I can't taste that new flavor of vodka (those cake vodka commercials kill me a little) or the like. And that's OK, because I am not like the "normies" who can. It will never be worth it. 

I don't know why I crossed the line. Well ... I do. I have a disease in the choice part of my brain. Once I take that first drink or drug, the choice part of my brain goes crazy, and I will choose to use drugs and alcohol over everything else that seems reasonable. Like caring for my kids, caring for myself and paying my bills. 

I survived the holidays. Drinks and parties were flying. I don't have a job, so thankfully I didn’t have an office party. And I don't really get invited to parties anymore. If I do, it's normally my sober friends. Which is cool. We always have fun. 

I’m still a little cloudy as to why I was able to find comfort in recovery, and some people can't. I was able to get to that place. I am no better and no worse than any other drug addict or alcoholic. Why was I able to follow direction and see this better life? Some people do all of those things, and still don't make it. Why does this feel like I'm being fulfilled, but some people can't? I know why I'm an addict/alcoholic. I don't know why I love recovery and not everyone does—even people who WANT to be sober. They don't love it. 

Like I said earlier, I still use food, TV, all of that. I have been really focusing on that this past week, but also being gentle on myself because I'm going through such a rough patch. I'm grateful for my sobriety because it’s giving me hands of people reaching out to support me. No one would have done that if I was using. 

I just wish everyone could get it.

2012: The most honest year of my life

Jan 04, 2013

I couldn't have imagined what 2012 was going to be like. But I'm not a fortune teller, so that makes sense.

A good friend of mine, (I can't remember WHICH friend) once told me that years are either full of questions, or full of answers. I had some years go by that were full of serious questions and some full of answers. This year was full of both. But at the end, I actually feel resolved. 

I have struggled, as usual, like always. And I ended the year with so much change and so much to look forward to as well. 

I am excited for 2013. I can't be sad about 2012. I traveled three times, was on TV four times, the newspaper twice and the radio once. I was honest about my addiction to my family and basically the world. I was honest about my recovery, my life with my husband and outed my family to everyone around town and beyond. It changed my recovery and made it stronger. It wasn't always easy for us, but we are all stronger for it. And although my marriage is where it is at, it is the best place for everyone. 

I started writing this blog. A friend kept telling me to write. I am glad that I had the courage to do this because it sure seemed scary at first.

And maybe it is little, and maybe it is self-indulgent, and maybe it is whatever. But it has helped me. And besides myself, I know I have helped at least ONE person, because she is now my sponsee. What is better than that? Not much.

The person I have been the most honest with this year is myself. I am the baby of the family. And although I lost my mama young, I was spoiled. I usually want everyone to solve my problems. 

I have faced my limits in my marriage, as a mom and as a person. I have examined my fears, my pride, my shit. Well, you know. 

And what I have learned this year is that I can trust myself and do stuff on my own. I have lived with such a chip on my shoulder. Such a "poor me" attitude. I have bitched and been angry about so many stupid things. (I still do, but I am getting better.) For instance: We never had Christmas lights on my house, because Bob never wanted to do it. It never occurred to me to just do it myself. Instead, I was just irritated with him. This year I put Christmas lights up with my daughter. 

It looks like this:

Yeah fucking right! Can you imagine? 

It really looks like this:

I never thought I could make it through Christmas break with the kids off of school alone and not go crazy. I have almost done that. (But it ain't over yet folks. They are driving me NUTS! That's okay though.)

I never thought I could clean the garage alone, clean the furnace room alone (yes, I'm still talking and bragging about it), clean under the stairs, fix the vacuum, hang a picture, etc. I helped trash this house, most of the holes in the walls are from me when I was using, and so I can fix this shit. (Well...I'm getting some help with that.)

My downstairs toilet was broken, and I knew it was the chain inside. I shut the water off to it like a plumber, until I could go to Menard's and buy a new one. Then it occurred to me that I could use a paper clip. I fixed it. 

Who am I? Bob Vila?

I have been living with these roles in my head here, with a dude that didn't want to (couldn't) do his part. Because he is too sick, of course. So I have been PISSED off. Feeling sorry for myself, takes a LOT of energy. I have been exhausted and paralyzed for YEARS because of it. 

I actually talked myself into the "I shouldn't have to do that" bullshit and believed it. I'm not trying to put poor Bob down. It's not his fault. But this stuff wasn't getting done with him around, and it took having him leave to make me lose the idea that I needed him to do it. 

So I have gotten off of my ass and done some of it myself. And it doesn't mean that I don't need people, because I have a lot of people offering to help me, which I need. But it means that I CANNOT feel helpless. I am not a baby. I am a grown-ass woman, and it is time I start seeing myself as such. Honestly. 

So come on 2013. I will graduate from college, get a job, be a grown up, and who knows what else. I can't flipping wait. 

Happy New Year to all of you! 


I won't be a drinking Debbie Downer

Dec 24, 2012

God I wish I could write something happy. But I just have to say it real. Like Fat Amy said in Pitch Perfect, "I'm just not living if I'm not 100 percent honest."

This is my therapy for today. 

I missed two of the three meetings I usually try to go to this past week in the name of cleaning and Christmas. So here is an example of where my thinking goes. This is NOT the time in my life for me to slack off on my program. 

I'm going to honestly say that I've never wanted to drink so much since I've been sober. Not use meth. But I'm no fool, drinking always leads me to other drugs. And really, as William Cope Moyers says, a drug, is a drug, is a drug. 

For some help to get through the pain and agony of a separation, many people would have a glass or two (or 8) of wine to take the edge off. That would be nice. People go celebrate the holidays, go to the parties that are invited to. They let loose, forget their troubles and get wasted, party, escape from their reality for a while and just go wild. 

While people are posting the fun, drinking holiday party pictures on Facebook, I'm posting before and after pictures of how I cleaned my furnace room all by myself, like a big girl. 

Check it out though...right?

It would be fucking great to numb this. People who are not in recovery from addiction get to use stuff like Zanax, weed, wine, beer, bars.

People in recovery get to use people and the Twelve Steps (or however they roll) and trust that things will work out with the help of a higher power (universe.) Working the steps and talking, talking, talking to the wonderful people who will always listen. 

Oh and we get to live a life free of hangovers, lying, hiding, barfing, stealing and people trust and love us again. But you know...we don't party like you so...

Drinking during stressful, painful times can be like putting ice on a sore knee. Or taking ibuprofen. I know what will dull it, but that stuff ruins my life. 

We get to feel our feelings, work through them and walk through them. And sometimes that sucks. Not to say that everyone who ISN'T in recovery doesn't do this. I'm just saying that when things get really painful, I have to (get to?) 100 percent feel it. I can't cover it up with a few glasses of wine (I hate wine, so can you see what a drunk I am?) 

I am a really slow learner. I don't behave the way I should. I don't have patience. I want this to feel better NOW and to go away. One day at a time seems impossible. But it isn't going to go away now. And from what I can see, it won't for awhile. 

So I'll reach out to Bob. To stop the pain. But that never, ever works. He's too sick, and I'm too angry and sad. We can't help each other. That is using the wrong people and it’s something that I CAN'T do. Because it seems natural to me that he'd be the one to make me feel better, since I'm allowing him to be the source of my pain. That is the wrong thing for me to do. Alanon man, I have to dig deep into Alanon. 

Can you imagine if I was drinking and reaching out to Bob or anyone else? That would be a full-blown catastrophe.

I am talking about drinking right now, to save my life. I am not trying to scare anyone. I am not going to drink today. I went to a meeting yesterday, and I am going to one tonight. I've been talking to people and am being honest about this. I am going to call my sponsor and a bunch of other people today. And each day I'll promise that to myself. 

This is a stressful, festive, very difficult time for many alcoholics and addicts. Be aware of the ones you know and love around you. Be mindful and be respectful. We didn't ask for this. We fight daily, and sometimes we have to fight with superhero strength. For me, this is one of those times. I can and will succeed today, with the help of others. 

Thanks for listening to her another Debbie Downer episode of my life. I feel better already.

In sickness and in health

Dec 17, 2012

I've been married for 20-and-a-half years to Bob. It has been wonderful. It has been horrible. And it is over.

Bob has left the building. He's moved out. He's gone.

We have been through a lot together—over half my life. He has been my family. We were in love for so much of it, but it's different now. He isn't capable of it, and I'm not capable to be without it. Plus, I get so mean and disappointed with him, it isn't fair. He is a good man, and he deserves better.  I am a good woman, and I deserve the same.  We have grown up together, but we have not grown together. We grew apart.

It's hard to be in recovery at different speeds. My counselor at Hazelden said the cards were stacked against us. I did not believe him. He said statistics show that we would either relapse together, or divorce. I thought he was crazy and I was hell-bent on proving him wrong. Key word there is, "I." At that time I didn't know about all of Bob's other demons.  I thought we were just good old-fashioned drug addicts. Remember, I wanted to be the recovering couple that traveled the world, helping others.

Now, I will be known as the bitch who left the mentally ill, United States veteran. Even though it was something we both wanted.

When I was told to say, "In sickness and in health," I pictured cancer, paralysis, something else. Not life consuming mental illness. I am not the one to handle this. Especially alone.

You see, if he had cancer or paralysis, there would be more help. People would be more interested in helping our family with his illness. There would be ramps built, fundraisers held, family support. People would come help us fix the damage done here, care for the kids, all of those things. But because he can walk and talk and doesn't need chemo, people think he is fine. Because he can still smile, and go to a restaurant, people think he is fine.

He isn't fine.

And folks with mental illness don't always want to take the steps to get better, because it seems too hard. So they will tell their family they are "better" or "fine." And people believe it. People want to believe it.

So, it all falls on my lap. The kids, the house, the plans, his appointments, the fear, the food, the decisions, the fun, all of it while he lays in bed, skips appointments, never goes to meetings and gets medicated. I did not have a partner here, I had a responsibility. And one that was defiant. I can't put my kids through watching this sad marriage anymore.

We need light in our lives. We need a functioning home with things that work. We don't need arguing, pain and resentment because as much as I know in my soul that I need compassion and acceptance, I am mostly filled with resentment and rage. I resent PTSD and addiction and what it has done to ME. It has left me a single parent with a very sick man that I cannot be responsible for anymore. I have one life to live. I'm not that girl.

I wanted to make this the best separation ever. But it is obvious that something like that is a dream. I worry about my beautiful kids. I just keep reminding them that anger comes from fear, and it's OK to be afraid. We are still a family and we both love them. Change is hard, but I am here to help them through it.  Even though it's only been a few days, they are softening their anger. They are sad. I'm so sorry about that.

Separation is hard on them, but so is living with parents who are always unhappy together. I have to show them how to move on in a loving way. I couldn't do that with Bob.

I am still choking on my anger because I am scared about money. I have to tell myself not to text him because I always end up spewing how much he screwed me over. Me. The person who is going to be a counselor. I have to take this one day at a time. Yesterday, and the day before, I lost that battle. Today is a new day. I might try giving away my phone.

Did you just laugh as hard as I did? Give away my phone ... I'm hilarious.

We will try to remain friendly enough to stay married until I'm done with school. Hopefully, this won't be something that will be held against me. I moved my internship up one semester. Originally, I didn't want to do it in the summer, because the kids are off of school. But time is more important, because it means freedom and being able to support myself.

Betsey DeGree Mom Off MethI would love to move out of this broken down, dark, depressing house and into a bright, fixed, new (to me) house. A fresh start. But I will stay here (even if my in-laws live on my street) because it makes the most sense.

I will find a way to get the lights fixed and more put in (it's so dark and depressing here), the holes patched, walls painted, the trim around the baseboards and new doors installed, the cupboards fixed so I can use ALL of them. The railing indoors is broken, and someone could fall. Closet doors broken. The burnt linoleum replaced in the kitchen. The cut and moldy linoleum in the bathroom. A new shower because I think it leaks. Downstairs bathroom doesn't work.

I hope that didn't sound too much like a pity party. I am sad, but also relieved. I wanted him to try and get better so we could live happily ever after. I wanted to help other Vets together and have this amazing life. That is what I wanted, not what Bob wanted or was capable of.

We've both overcome a horrible addiction, but he really never wanted to be sober. He did it for me and he resented me for it. He is sober now, but now it is up to him. I hope he can find some happiness in recovery and that this split brings us both the peace we deserve for ourselves and our kids.

I'm hopeful about my end.

Covering up the pain monster

Dec 10, 2012

I'm addicted to everything. It can be so frustrating to me. I get addicted to everything that helps me not feel bad or helps me ignore those things about myself that I need to change to stop feeling bad. 

I have a gambling problem, I'm codependent, I am addicted to food, people, shopping (well, that welfare stint cured me of that), cigarettes, my iPhone, TV (specifically bad-for-women, Bravo TV) coffee, you name it. If I can use it and overuse it, I will. If it can distract me from life, I will do everything in my power to be distracted. So, when I say "I'm in recovery," I mean "from drugs and alcohol," because I am not in recovery when it comes to many of the above mentioned. I still struggle. 

We still struggle with mixed emotions.Smoking was easy to stop. They never taste good without booze or drugs. Sometimes, I still have one with other students during class break. But I always borrow one. I never buy them. My kids have never seen me smoke, and I can take it or leave it. I'm super lucky like that.

I rarely go gambling. If I do hit the casino — and by the way, never go with recovering alcoholics; you'll never get out — I immediately feel out of control, and spend more than I intend. Every single time. I rarely admit how much I lose. If I HAD money to gamble, I'd have more of a problem. If I can't spend at least $500, I just don't go. Again, thanks welfare. Problem solved. 

Fun fact: Did you know that gambling stimulates the same part of the brain as cocaine? See, we are not that different. 

I'm not ready to talk about my iPhone. Let’s just say that when my kids do an impression of me, I'm always staring at my phone.

I battle with food. I often feel absolutely out of control. I have been losing some weight, but VERY slowly. Like maybe a pound a week. It is a battle. The more I try to change my eating habits, the more I want to eat the wrong thing. Let's face it, it’s the holidays! Yesterday I got chocolate covered pretzels and fudge from some friends for Christmas. While these treats were for my kids, I was alone in the car with them. I didn't win. I am really going to start looking at this in a different way. 

I am in the end-stage of my marriage. Between that and the stress of the holidays, it is hard not to want to make the pain go away by covering it up with other stuff.  I am ready for this part of my life. But it is also important that I take care of myself — not to use drugs, food, booze, gambling, or misuse people to help me through this. And not to try and cover it up. Pain is growth. I'm growing. 

I will rely on my friends in AA and the people who love me to be there for me — and they will. Yesterday I called a lot of people. I picked up the phone and called just to chat through the rough spots. Not even so much to solve the world's problems, but to just pass some time if I felt anxious. That is using people who love me, the right way. That's what the program gives me. 

I will take this holiday one day at a time. I will be gentle on myself. As usual, I have a lot on my plate. But I plan on handling it. I'll make mistakes, forgive myself, and move on. 

I will talk more about that later.  

As for my iPhone, you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. Or wait until I'm ready.

10 things I’ve learned going through this journey of life

Dec 03, 2012

I hate the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I mean, I HATE it. 

I don't really know where I want to be tomorrow or even later today, especially since I change my mind so often and I have so many other lives to consider. I have never known where I want to be in five years. I never think that far ahead. There is living in today, and there is not giving a shit about tomorrow. I think I for sure have lived in today a little TOO literally sometimes. Not a bad thing at all, since I'm still here and things are fine. 

How about: I still want to be alive? That would be nice. 

Today is my 42nd birthday. Forty-fucking-two. By my calculations, I have about three years left until I get cancer and four years left to live. I better make them count. In five years, all I want is to be alive. And IF for some reason, I step out of this library (I am pretending to do homework) and get hit by a bus, this post is going to be FREAKY and sad.

I better knock on wood. 

Most times, I am pretty freaking excited about the road I am on. That is saying a lot because I am sure, for once in my life. I feel pretty good about what I am doing for myself right now. I have school, I have this, I have friends, I have my home, my kids, my dog, my health. I have a whole shit-ton of stuff to be grateful for.   

If I look back at the last 42 years of my life, I start to have a bit of a panic attack thinking of the years I have let go and what I could have done with them. What would have happened if I understood that I am smart, funny, worthy, and can accomplish stuff? Of course, I would do the parts different where I hurt people. But the rest of it, I wouldn't change.

Here are some important things I have learned during this journey:

1) Listen to my older sister. That bitch is always right. (Sorry Wendy, you're not a bitch)  But if I had listened to her, well ...

2) Parenting is full of soul-lifting joy and intense feelings of love and wonderfulness. It is equally filled with intense feelings of fear, and gut-wrenching pain. That never gets better. NO ONE TELLS YOU THAT.

3) Comedian Mark Lundholm  says: "First thought wrong." Always, when faced with anything emotional, my first thought is wrong. Good or bad.

4) If I were to do anything differently, I wouldn't be as smart as I am. I learned a shit-ton of stuff the hard way. No one learns anything worthy the easy way. That's what I think. I will probably do a bunch more stuff horribly wrong, so think of how smart I'll be once I'm dead!

5) I am lucky. I am like the person running toward the garage door as it is closing, and just getting under it before it shuts. (Before they had all of those safety sensors.)

6) Late is way better than never. 

7) If you make sure most of your friends are a good 20 to 30 years older than you, you ALWAYS feel young. 

8) I like to tell people I am 52, because they think I look fucking great. 

9) I am never going to "get there." I am going to just always be "going there." That is where I need to be cool.

10) I don't have the power to fix anyone, as much as that kills me. 

Life LessonsSo, this year I am going to work on compassion and tolerance for my husband's condition and patience for my family. I forget those two things every single day. I often remember to have self-pity and anger, but forget the important stuff. When I do forget, I need to forgive myself and try again. Unlearning old habits and first-thought wrong, isn't easy. Some days I SUCK at it! So, if I am doing a bad job, I only forgot. So I'm on the right track. 

So in five years, I want to be doing the same thing I am doing today—continue on this path of making myself better. What I want for my family is for Bob to find some peace in his mind and to feel some purpose. I lost him along the way. I hope for him that in five years, he has found himself again. And I hope that in five years, we have figured it all out. For now, I'll just stick with today. And today, is a pretty good day. 

My dear friend Deb (I THINK it was her) dropped off these beautiful flowers for me for my birthday. How lucky am I? Thanks, Deb.

To get far, it’s time to listen up

Nov 26, 2012

ListeningIn early sobriety (Rounds 1, 2 and 3) I was very ready to be the best sober person around. I learned so much in treatment and there was no way I was going to fail. I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about AA and its founders. I wanted to read ever addiction/recovery memoir that was ever written. 

Well, I read a lot, but I wasn't the very best recovering person out there. Let’s face it, no one is or should aspire to be. I had missed a big step in recovery. Listening. 

I would go to my one, sometimes two meetings a week. I would listen to the topic or the step we were on. But in the smaller groups, I wouldn't be able to really listen to what each person shared, because I was too busy thinking about what brilliant and profound thing I was going to share. I never really thought about what I could get from other people's shares. I was only worried about what I could give, and how good it would be — like I had all of the answers. Silly me.

Click here to check out "Five ways to listen better"

And if any of those ladies tried to help me with ideas on how to handle my home life, my thinking, my program, well, they were wrong and couldn't possibly understand what I was going through. If they talked to me about how to handle Bob or the kids, I wouldn't even hear what they were saying because I was too busy thinking up a response to explain why I had to keep doing things my own way. I respected them enough, but my issues were different. I wouldn't call them much because I didn't want to hear them "tell me what to do." Or, I didn't want to do things any other way but my own. 

No one (well, not many) ever told me what to do. They just shared their similar and sometimes not so similar experiences with me, as examples of what worked for them. I often missed those examples. 

I also didn't start figuring out how to stay sober until I listened to them and followed direction. I always say now, “Do what you are told.” (Well ... for recovery-related stuff).

I was told more than once, with love, to "Shut up and listen." At the beginning, I was mortified by this. Now, I get it. It saved me. 

I am a talker and I will often interrupt you, to talk about me. Old habits die hard. My favorite subject is me. Even when I am sick of me. Lately, I've been pretty sick of me. I think if you asked most people who write a blog about themselves what their favorite topic is, it will hands down be themselves. Makes sense right? 

I am about to enter into a career where my job is to listen—listening with every inch of myself. Listen for and to everything thing that is being said. Not to think about what I'm going to say, what experiences I have had like theirs, what I'm going to make for dinner or why are they wearing that shirt. I am supposed to listen to all of it, in the present moment. Openly and actively listen. For someone like me, this takes such hard work. 

The greatest thing about my path is that I get to practice listening all of the time at meetings. I can't cross-talk and respond, or use my share to talk about what someone else was saying. I'm not there to give advice or to tell them what I think. (Unless of course, someone asks me.) Then I stick to what works for me. 

Listening is a skill. I have whole classes on it. Thank goodness for that because I learn a lot more when I shut my mouth, and focus my brain. I still stink at it, but I'm learning.

Thanks to you all, because in recovery we need each other

Nov 19, 2012

I want to say thank you. 

Thank you to those who have said a kind, supporting word to me when I wavered about being completely honest. To those who have sent messages and emails, called, and helped me. Those that have listened to me talk about this stuff over and over. Who watched me question myself and my motives. The kind comments on this blog, the connections on Twitter and Facebook—thank you. To my sponsor, my dear friends, my dad and my sister, thank you. 

Be Grateful in RecoveryThank you for reading this blog and understanding what I am trying to do. Mostly, I just vomit my life upon my keyboard because it feels good. But also, I am trying to be a part of the movement of people starting to see addiction as a public health issue, not a moral issue. I forget that when my shame takes over, but we do not have to be ashamed. (I know I sound like a broken record.) Thank you for loving me even after I shared my deepest, darkest secrets.

After hearing recovery advocates like William Cope Moyers speak, or Greg Williams — creator of the film, The Anonymous People — or Sean Morrison who traveled through the U.S. to collect and write about people's recovery stories, I know I am just trying to be a small part of that club. I want to help remove the stigma and shame surrounding addiction. And hold my head up while I help share the message of hope that we recover, and we can do anything. 

Every kind word or hopeful message is so important. (This gal still needs to be liked, right?) And when I read to my children what people have written to me, they are proud to be a part of this too. They aren't really impressed by any attention I get. They see me as one big nerd. My son says to me, "Hey mom, next time you are on TV, don't wear so much make-up. You look like a New Jersey Housewife on Bravo." Well, I am pretty sure my TV fifteen minutes are up. That was fun though!

Let me share with you some of the amazing responses I have had. Honestly, this is what makes me stay sober, and so happy about where I've been.

From Amanda after a newspaper article about me came out:

"I can feel your anxiety in this post. Please know that you are doing a GREAT thing here. My parents never managed to find recovery. My dad was dead by 50 and my step-mom is dying. We always had Christmas and Thanksgiving, but only because the town would drop boxes of donated gifts and food at our door. Three of my dad’s four other children dropped out of school when I left, becoming addicts themselves. Two of the 3 are now clean, healthy functioning parents themselves. I never touched meth for that reason in and of itself. It tore my family to tiny poisonous bits. I carried so much guilt for leaving even knowing that it wasn't my fault. I attempted suicide when I was 13 after some BS I went through with my parents (dad and stepmom). I just wanted them to listen. Even more, I wanted so badly to hurt them for what they were doing. As you can see, fortunately thank God, my plan failed. Unfortunately they still didn't hear me. They didn't 'wake up'. They didn't 'open their eyes'. But I did. And I think I became even stronger and smarter for it.

Your children are so f---ing lucky to have you. They may not see it now. YOU might not see it now. But I do. So many children in this world aren't that lucky. I've seen so many families ripped apart by meth, and even when it’s so clear to everyone else, they can't see it, they keep ripping deeper. I've seen my own cousins abused physically and sexually in foster care. I've seen them face worse in their own homes. I've seen them turn into users and abusers themselves, and I've seen them when it’s too late ... in the county coroner van. Last year, I lost my cousin to drugs. His baby will never know what his daddy was, who his daddy was, and my aunt is STILL USING.

I can tell this newspaper is messing with your head. I can see your doubt. Think about it, then let it go and move on. If people are talking shit, well then good. They can be ignorant assholes all they want. Don't let them live rent free in your head. What you've done, what you're doing, is SO MUCH GREATER and they can't possibly take away from that. Ever. And one day soon, I hope your kids realize the full extent of what you're doing for them now. I wish my parents had done it for me and my siblings."

That is so sad and amazing. I hope you find some peace with that. It sounds like you are. The disease is ugly. The recovery is beautiful. I appreciate so much that you shared that with me. It helps me more than I can explain.

I have had people reach out on Twitter and ask me how I did it. How did I get and remain sober? I've had people right here in my town contact me on Facebook and I got to meet them at a meeting. And some of them are still coming!  I am not trying to take credit for saving anyone because that isn't what I am doing. But I am making connections with people who need it. I need these connections too, because it helps keep me sober. 

We need each other.  

From that guy in the train station, to the girl on Twitter who just wants to stop going to detox, to the addict right here who has to stay sober for herself and her family, we need each other. 

The best part of being in school and this whole journey is that I get to spend the rest of my life making connections with recovery and recovering people. I never imagined that I would get to be a part of something so important and meaningful. I never thought I would be here. 

An old family friend emailed me the following message. We once did business together, and I imagine I was confusing to work with since I didn't pay my bills and most likely lied a lot.

"I have known your family since I was a kid. When I read that you opened your heart to all of us in the newspaper a week ago, I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you that I believe you have the right attitude about life, addiction and its illness. My family has suffered greatly from the same situation and my brother, who was 22 at the time, is forever gone. You have a wonderful family. With your perseverance for solid ground, know that children are resilient and will be OK. None of us will ever become the perfect souls for which we strive."

Those are just a few that meant a lot to me. There are many more where this came from. I know that what other people think of me is none of my business, but when people think good stuff, it is hard not to be glad. 

And FYI, this is my 101st post from the “Mom off Meth” blog! I should run out of shit to say any minute or I'll just keep repeating myself. I cannot believe I'm still doing this. Thank you.

Too much?

Nov 12, 2012

White Bear newspaperThe last article in the paper really made me feel sick. What does telling this story do to my kids? How can I help them through it? Is it worth it? Is it the right thing to do? Should I have waited until they were older?

All of these questions swirled around in my head. There is more than one way to look at everything. To really not be ashamed of myself and to help them with their shame, I have to walk the walk, as well as talk it. Like I've said before, I usually do parenting the hard way.

The article was posted on the newspaper's website Thursday night at 10:30 p.m.  I read it right away, and didn't sleep all night. Friday, I couldn't eat (rare), hadn't slept, and it actually felt a little familiar of days gone by. The sick feeling in my stomach was super strong. I was very, VERY anxious. I was filled with fear and regret.

My boys weren't thrilled that I told the story of that last crash. But as I mentioned before, they are stronger than many kids because they've had to be. I may have a chronic illness, but I am not stupid. I would have worded it differently had I written it myself, but papers must sell I guess. I made it clear to them that the events of that night saved our family. They should understand that. I am very sorry and also very grateful.  I live my amends with my kids every day by staying clean and present. They are all incredible people.

I took them to Nickelodeon Universe at Minnesota’s Mall of America to ride the rides the day the article came out. They didn't have school that day, and we needed to get out of the house. Buying their happiness?  Maybe, but we had a great time.

The word "meth" makes people nervous, uncomfortable and scared. It is scary. But the word "beer" doesn't make people as nervous. I realize that beer is legal, but alcoholism is just as tricky and dark as drug addiction. And one is no worse or better than the other.

Many of you asked if my kids have had therapy. We did have some family therapy and some of my kids went to individual therapy. We are not in any therapy as of the moment. Well, their dad goes. (Well, when he doesn't skip.) At the moment, everyone is doing fine. I may start them again now that sports are over for the winter. More therapy never hurts. I'm undecided.

In spite of when we were actively using, we still enrolled them in sports, we still had Christmas, and we still did their homework with them. We still kissed and hugged them. I'm not saying we were great parents. We were dead behind our eyes and trapped by a drug. We fought constantly when we tried to quit. We were not the parents we truly are. sad days and bad feelings about their parents are still healing for them now. The disease of addiction is hereditary. It is genetic. But to see your parent recover is just as powerful as that. Even if some of that recovery (Bob's dual diagnosis of PTSD) is slow. They know first-hand what drugs can do. They also know what recovery can do. I can't be ashamed of any of that. Do I wish I didn't put them through that?  Of course I do. But I can only live today. We have all walked this road together.  And if we can help another parent, kid, addict, then we can feel good about that.

Thankfully, I am on this side now. I am in recovery. I play catch, color, cook dinner. (I suck at it, and we eat a lot of pizza). I go camping, snuggle, laugh, and love.  I help them when they need help. They are as happy as any kid on our block. It's not perfect. But who is?

The boys play football and baseball.  My daughter is starting her hybrid online school right this minute. We don't constantly talk about all things recovery. You can let your kids visit. We won’t fill their heads up with anything heavy. We do have a lot of fun around here, and it gets better every day.  

Drag him kicking and screaming, or just drive him when he is ready

Nov 05, 2012

Here is my second favorite topic besides myself, Bob. For the record, he reads these and approves them when he is the topic. I would never talk about him here in a way that meant to put him down. I just want to share honestly and this stuff is the truth. went to two meetings on Saturday. I always need them, but I did the second meeting with Bob — not something that happens EVER and not something that I push.

I can't drag him to meetings, and lord knows I have tried. I don't like to bring him to MY meetings because those are MY people. Selfish? Yes. And finally, he needs to figure this out without me, the control freak.

I used to try and demand that he go to meetings. Remember how we were going to be the best recovering couple of the world?  I think I forced him to go for a good six months in 2008. Like threatened him to either embrace it, or get the f out.  

Surprise, surprise! That didn't work. Since then, he has hardly gone. His reasons are many. I won't go into them, but if he were my sponsee, I would think he was looking for a reason to NOT get better and still use. Not that meetings are the ONLY way to recovery, but that is what works for me and I just feel like the connections made there would really help him.

I am addressing his addiction here today, not his PTSD because he gets therapy for his PTSD. He doesn't do much to recover from his addiction. Scary, huh?  It has been hard not to try and control the shit out of that this time around. This is me, staying in my own stuff, just wishing he would try it. 

The last few weeks, Bob has had a hell of a time — anxious, depressed, and paralyzed in this house. He rocks back and forth, you can see the anxiety. It is like he has electricity burning through him all of the time. He can't relax, but he can't move.

I know. This is really, REALLY downer shit. It IS sad. We live with this sadness, all of us. After his doctor's appointment last week — with his raised medication prescriptions in hand — we had a good chat. I asked him (again) if it possible to try looking at the addiction side of his illness and treat it with meetings?  

You see, it is frustrating to me that no one is addressing his recovery from addiction, or the lack of care he is putting into his recovery. This is the ONE thing he hasn't tried. He sees his therapist once a week, but there are no group therapies available to him through the VA.  All they do is medicate — over-medicate. 

They can't make him go to meetings any more than I can. But they could try and at least talk about his addiction—talk about recovery from addiction. Get him connected with other people. Address the obvious f---ing elephant in the room. 

Is this codependent of me? Yes, but I am his caretaker. The one who makes sure he does what he is supposed to do, because he can't do it for himself. So, I am in a tricky situation. I can get too wrapped up, but his PTSD, anxiety and depression means he needs more help than an average addict. 

We discussed that since there are no group therapies, and that the isolation makes him anxious, why not take advantage of the hundreds of Twelve Step meetings around our city each week for FREE?  Even if he doesn't want to buy what they are selling (in my opinion, freedom.) He agreed, but needed me to go with him. I was more than happy to do so.

I am not suggesting that meetings will solve Bob's issues. What I am saying is that it might be an important piece of his recovery that has been left untreated. And at this point, why not try? 

It wasn't easy for him, but he did it. I hope he goes again. He did wake up Sunday a little happier. I will go with him until he feels comfortable going alone, if he asks me to.  I think he will be able to do that sooner than later. 

I am not certain he liked it. I am pretty sure he didn't. But like "they" say, you keep going until you don't HAVE to go; you keep going until you WANT to go. 

If he found what I did, man would that be great. If he finds something different, that’s great, too. But I still have hope for him. At least he is willing. I can't ask for more than that.

Now she gets it

Oct 29, 2012, here I sit in the observation car with my daughter. She is reading a book on her iPhone (awesome). I believe she is reading Go Ask Alice, just like I think I did at her age. 

We are day one into this trip to L.A. to appear on “The Ricki Lake Show.” The train is cool. We are both pretty good at chilling, and so that is what we do here. I can tell I am going to get on her nerves, and I think that is hilarious. I’m funny like that.  

Last night while waiting to board, I was talking to her about the timeline of my using history. She was unaware of the length of sobriety that I have. I was unaware that she was unaware. So, we had an impromptu timeline conversation.  

If my life depended on my being quiet, I would die. Of course, I was trying to keep it down because we were talking about meth for god’s sake. But even so I talk loud, even when I whisper.   

I noticed this young man who kept looking at us. He says he overheard me say “disease” and “timeline.”

I could see that he was jumpy and nervous. He didn’t LOOK like a drug addict that YOU think you would see. But I knew right away what he wanted to talk about. He asked me if I would tell him what the disease was that I had. I said: addiction.  

Right after that, the train started boarding. I thought he was a passenger with all of his bags. Now, I realize that the young man was most likely homeless. He quickly stood up as I was trying to get my things together to board. He walked up to me and asked what my drug of choice was. I told him. He said, “I’m struggling. I can’t quit. How the hell did you do it?”

A part of me thought he was trying to either start asking for money, or if I knew or had any shit. But the look in his eyes told me different.      

I think I speak for many people in recovery when I say we LIVE FOR THIS SHIT! For me, it is for two reasons: First, I could see that monster staring me in the face. I saw that man trapped inside that dark, drug addiction. I felt it, man. I saw it. It scares me to death. I don’t envy that guy for where he is. I am however grateful that our paths crossed, so I can be reminded of the desperation.

Second, I also saw some resolve in his face. I don’t think that after our little chat he ran to the nearest treatment bed he could find. But maybe he did. I told him to get into treatment if he could. If he couldn’t do that, find the nearest Twelve Step group and start going, listening and doing what they tell him to do, especially if he didn’t want to do it. That’s what worked for me and it is still working today.

I wished him well and told him that if I can do it, anyone can do it. He was super thankful. It felt like a moment. 

I didn’t really notice my daughter’s face or pay attention, but I looked at her and her jaw dropped. She said: “That was the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life.” She felt it too and he couldn’t come at a better time. 

It is hard to wrap your head around the “disease” part of addiction.  It is hard as a kid to understand how your mom and dad could do that to the family, and it is hard to not take it personal. It is personal. It hurts kids horribly when their parents are addicts. That isn’t really saying anything profound.  

What was profound of that moment was that my kid saw the desperation in this man’s face, and she saw me have the hope as if I could have given him a wrapped gift with a big box of hope in it. She saw me do that. And it was simply by talking honestly and openly about my addiction and how I recover. Even if there is the ugly part of the disease that hurts people, there is this part that helps.  

I saw her own shame that comes and goes about her parents go straight to amazement, pride and compassion. She wanted to take that guy with us (um …. No, hon.) and save him. That little 5-minute connection changed her view on my addiction and let her see what we do on this side.   

Mean girls suck

Oct 22, 2012

Ah, to be a 14-year-old girl again. I wouldn’t trade my anything to go back there. maybe to switch places with my girl so she didn't have to go through it. It is so painful to watch them go through the hard stuff. Just as much as you love your kids, you hurt for them. And there is no amount of Al-Anon that can help you when it is your child who is being mistreated at school. It is so freaking painful.

This week I did something I never thought I would do. I pulled my daughter out of high school and told her she would never have to go back. I have never felt more relieved about anything in my life. I just knew that I had to do something.

My beautiful daughter used to have many friends. These friends were the girls in school who pretty much ran the show. They talk about each other behind each other’s back, diversity is a BAD thing, and you better not be caught dead wearing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, or being yourself. Personally, I am glad that shit is over.

My daughter is outgoing, beautiful, super funny and got in with the crowd. Despite her loud-mouthed, recovering drug addicted (and maybe a little crazy) mom and PTSD veteran father, she made friends. It is amazing how some 14-year-old girls lack compassion and empathy. In fact, they will take anything that is different about you, and turn it against you.

Her dyslexia has pushed her very behind in school, and she is in special education. But I can assure you that she is the wittiest, smartest cookie on the block. And despite those things, she rose above socially. She just doesn't read or compute numbers the way that the schools are set up to teach her. So, she has struggled. I have tried everything to get her comfortable at school and it hasn't worked. So, we are going with different plan.

Even with this struggle, her behaviors (although not always perfect) have been fine.

There are a few situations where her behavior wasn’t perfect. She started a food fight in seventh grade and was suspended. I was pretty pissed about that because it was the last weeks of school and I was more worried about my free days being numbered, and she was stepping in on my freedom.

In sixth grade, a little boy said something nasty and sexually harassing to her, and he ended up on the floor as she kicked him. She was also suspended. I took her out for ice cream. Don't talk like that to women, little dude.

The biggest heartbreak has been her best friend. Throughout grade school and mostly middle school, she has decided that my daughter gets on her nerves. That she is too hyper. That my daughter is too annoying. So one day, out of nowhere, last spring, she told my daughter that they were not friends anymore, and that was that. My poor baby was so hurt by this, because it was out of the blue. As much as she tried to fix it, the more she pushed her away.

She is a loyal friend, like me. She holds on to friendships like I do. She was crushed. The girl hasn't tried to talk to my girl since. In fact, she has told everyone that my daughter is a stalker and obsessed with her. One by one, the other girls followed. It was like losing a family member. And then everyone.

The more she tried to figure out what happened, the more they pulled away.

These girls tweet about her eczema; they tweet about her learning disabilities. And when they found out she was leaving school for good, they tweeted this.

Mean girl, you have been misinformed.

They have parties and don't invite her. She was dumped three days before homecoming (AFTER we bought the dress) because the boy had to go duck hunting, and forgot. It has been really painful to watch.

My girl has always stuck up for the underdog.  This year, when another girl was being bullied my daughter ate her lunch in the bathroom with her, so she wouldn't have to be alone. She was going to switch schools with another girl because the other girl wasn't doing well at that school. Um ... I think I see codependency living here!

Now both of those girls are the meanest to my daughter. It is crazy, like out of a movie, and we are so done. My girl may be a little codependent, like her mom, but there are plenty of good people in the world who will be good friends. These aren't her people. So we are OUT!

I know some of you (mostly those related to me) will be worried that I can't do this. Remember, I am sober now and I can do this. We found a hybrid internet/homeschool/campus school for her to attend. My niece graduated from there last year. I will get her enrolled next week.

All I can say is that this hurts. But it would hurt worse if I was still on meth. I am so grateful to be sober during the hard times. How the hell could I handle this if I was worried about getting high? I can be here to help my family and even though it is hard, I am being the parent I am supposed to be.    

And in the mean time, the two of us are GOING TO CALIFORNIA to be on The Ricki Lake show. It is perfect timing for her and the rest of the girls in this small town place can suck it.  We are OUT!

Every day triggers

Oct 15, 2012

A while back I wrote about gardening being a trigger for me. Sometimes I don't even know where or when my triggers are going to be.  I really don't have them much. Triggers are different from cravings.  I don't crave, but I feel like I could really fuck up quickly by acting on a trigger. They come hard and fast.  That scares the shit out of me, which is a very good thing.

For instance, Bob and I went out to lunch last Friday (I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but you know, my birthday and all). We walked in and were waiting to be seated. There, lined up on the counter was all of the bottled beer — beautiful bottles of fall ale; hard ciders.  My face was the same level as those colorful, delicious 12 ounces of SHIT THAT WILL MAKE MY LIFE FALL APART.  But what runs through my mind is, "It is only the glass that stands between me and total ruin. BE CAREFUL!"  Like one could burst open and land in my mouth.  Then self pity ran through my mind. I always see the newest flavor of booze, beer, cider and just wonder what it TASTES like. And I feel sorry for myself for a moment, because I am not a normal, grown-ass woman who can have a beer.

Of course, I also know how to play the tape all of the way through. One taste and I'll be driving by the dealer's house JUST to see if he by chance still lives there, and we know what happens after that. I end up watching dirty movies, locked in my room.

And by the way, I went to TWO meetings on Saturday. 

Speaking of the dealer — because of my school schedule and rush hour, I sometimes take the back roads to class to avoid the freeway. This puts me driving by the road that leads to the road that leads to my old dealer's house. I honestly don't drive down the road exactly. But I honestly have to pay attention so that my car doesn't suddenly turn in that direction. It is like there is a monster living inside of me that will take over if I am not totally on guard and careful.  It is that crazy in my head.  I wonder if he moved, I wonder if he is doing yard work and then I keep driving.

Again, I run the tape through.  And I really just have these thoughts quickly and they pass.  But I think I will never be safe from the addict that lives inside of my brain.  I am glad I have a lot of help to hold on to the good life.

Also, there are simple things like lighters. I lit some candles in my house as I cleaned it the other day. I don't smoke cigs. Well, I don't BUY cigs. Cigarettes (nicotine) are the ONE thing that I can have ONE of and my brain doesn't want to give up my kids to get more. Cigarettes haven't always been like this for me. I used to be SO addicted to smoking. But since quitting drinking and meth, they don't taste as good. In fact, they taste shitty.

Here is where the addict in me shows her stupid head.  I still smoked for a LONG time, and will still smoke on occasion, EVEN THOUGH they taste bad.  How stupid is that? I will smoke one before AA, or during break at school, but I never buy them anymore. The last time someone offered me one, I turned it down. So weird. I don't smoke anymore and it wasn't even hard to quit. I just stopped doing it because I couldn't make it taste good.  And I tried HARD to make it taste good. Then, I forgot to keep smoking., writing that makes me want to buy some smokes. Thank goodness I'm in bed and its 6:45 a.m., because this girl ain't moving.

Back to triggers and lighters — lighters were a HUGE problem when smoking meth. You can't smoke meth without lighters. You can't light the glass bubble with rubbing two sticks together. We never had enough lighters. We bought them by the packs and they would run out so often. Bob would go to Walgreen's at 3 a.m. because we ran out. I am sure the clerks there had NO idea what he was up to. I am surprised he had the guts to go. I wasn't moving.

So, when I want to light a candle or the grill (I suck at grilling), I start looking for a lighter. That act makes me think of using. Where's the lighter, where's the lighter?  Bob still has a lighter hidden so we have one (behind the picture, above our mirror in our bedroom) when we need it. Putting my thumb on the lighter and lighting it, makes me think of using. I get very triggery with lighters.

Going to the bank triggers me. We could never pull out enough cash from the ATM to get our drugs because it wouldn't allow us to, so we had to go to the bank. Central Bank in Minnesota is probably the best bank in the world. No shit. They let me keep my account open with a negative balance for over a month before they shut us down. Then they let us open an account once we had our shit together.  Those people would cheer when we brought our account up above a negative balance and were nice enough to take us back. I don't think ANY bank would have done that. You just don't get personal service from banks like that. They gave us another chance.

Because of this, we have no check cards, credit cards or even an ATM card. So when we want cash, we have to go to the bank the old-fashioned way.  Also, the way we did when we used. So sitting in the drive-thru, I used to wonder what they thought about me pulling out so much money, so often. I figured they thought I was gambling, but maybe the scabs on my face told a different story.  Anyhow, now I don't have to hide my face. I can look them in the eye. And I know that I am buying groceries, not drugs.

Anyway, those are some triggers off the top of my head. That is the chronic part of my disease where, if I don't take careful care of it, I can get VERY sick.  I combat it with my medicine of people, meetings and reading that beautiful Big Book.

Image courtesy of

We need to talk about sex

Oct 08, 2012

For those of you who are related to us, look away now. Trust me. This could fall under the TMI category.

I promised I wouldn't discuss politics (yet), so here goes sex.

This is pretty personal shit and so if you don't comment on it, I am going to feel like I've said too much and then I will die. So please, don't kill me and freaking say something. isn't something I discuss with anyone, my sponsor or even my friends really. So, it makes perfect sense that I would put this on the Internet, right? You have no idea how lost I am in this department. But if I ask around to other marriages, I think am not alone.

This part of recovery no one talks much about, but it is important.

I have always been a “yes” girl when it comes to sex because sex and love have, for me, been the same. I logically know this isn't true, but couple my need to be liked with some booze or drugs, and you get yourself a girl that will go all of the way. I always felt that if you want me in bed, then you must want me and I must be good enough. Once upon a time, I put out for my friends. Before I was married, I put out quite a bit. And now that I look back, it was a product of my alcoholism and codependency. 

Plus, I really like sex. It is fun right?

This followed me into my marriage. I felt this same need to be liked and accepted from Bob. He was more than happy to be the guy that made me feel liked.  But after Bob and I were married a few years and the honeymoon was over, the sex died down. You know: every day … five times a week … three times a week … once a week … once every two weeks, and so on and so on. Then almost never. I couldn't figure out what was going wrong with ME. Being me, of course, I felt unloved. 

Then the kids, jobs, being tired — all of the things that you might hear other couples say — started happening and we just weren't making time for that anymore. Not to mention, there was the PTSD monster that I didn't know existed, living with me. I had no idea. 

But I missed it. I missed being wanted and I missed feeling loved because I couldn't find love in the everyday things like eating dinner, going for walks or just hanging out. I wanted sex because I confused it for love. The intimacy of it was what made me feel worthy. If no one wanted me, then what value did I have? 

I spent years thinking that the lack of sex in my marriage was my fault. I got too fat, I was no good, I didn't look like a porn star. I was undesirable. I held (and hold) HUGE resentments about not being wanted. I was like, "I am down for anything dude, are you crazy?" It made no sense to me.

I would listen to other women say stuff like, "I told him we could have sex for a week if he cleaned the garage." Or, "I get so sick of him asking me for sex, and me feeling guilty for refusing." What? That shit didn't happen in my house and I felt awful because of it.

I learned in therapy, that our lack of intimacy could be because I am too controlling … and motherly. No one wants to have sex with a controlling, bitchy mother. Unless that’s your thing, but I am not married to a man like that and I'm not into that shit. Like I said before, I run stuff here. I have to and really have always had to. So this role, although perfect for a control freak, is a role that someone had to take to make stuff happen around here. I was allowed it, and punished for it. 

THEN something magical happened. Drugs. Cocaine and meth do wonders for your sex life. Well ... except when you lose your house, business and almost everything else. But for me, to have that attention — what seemed like love — was the most attractive thing that meth did for me. It made me feel wanted and loved by a man again. It made me feel sexy and in control — all of the things I imagined other wives felt because their man wanted them. And I was willing to throw everything away, just to feel that. 

Then of course, there is the fact that I am a drug addict. So, then I was doing it because I wanted to stop feeling like I did when I wasn't doing it. It was a big, snowball mess. Bob and I fed off of each other in such a toxic, sick way. 

This is a very horrific disease, addiction. It comes in all forms and makes you do awful things. 

So, when I said goodbye to meth for good, I knew that I was also going to be saying goodbye to the sex life that came with it. I think that there are people out there who relapse because of this fact alone. Going from being wanted back to unwanted is sad. It is hard to imagine that sex will never be the same again. And to be completely honest (and why stop now) I am not sure it ever will be. There are so many factors in our marriage that are struggling at the moment; this one is on the back burner. All of life’s stresses together really change things. I believe we will get our groove back someday. But for now, I am just getting more recovery under my belt and focusing on me. 

Sex and drugs are so tied together for us, that it is scary to go there. And since you are asking, we CAN do it, but it just isn't the same. And it is always a trigger. It is always a reminder of getting high and locking the door. We have gotten past a lot so far, so I think we will get past this.

OK, if you know me personally and see me on the street, let's pretend I never said any of this, cool? Let's pretend you don't read my blog. Let's just keep this life and my real life separate. That way I can be honest without feeling like a goofball.

I think this is important to talk about, especially for couples who used, and recover together because so many things in the relationship change. Sex being a big one.

I really feel like I've just shown you my underwear drawer.

My other sick and loving half

Oct 01, 2012

I wanted this part of this blog to be funny.  But reading below, I can see it isn't.  Just read it, and we will get to the funnier stuff eventually. 

I have a strong personality.  And by strong, I mean, I am a control freak who needs a lot of attention who can also be pretty mean. I can also be very awesome. I manage everything in my house, to include the good times. When I am not home, nothing gets done. I spend a lot of time trying to accept that. I am pretty comfortable with the controlling role, because it's where I've always been.

I've been married to Bob for almost 20 years. He is the exact opposite of me in many ways. He controls differently than I do. He controls me so that I'll do everything, by doing nothing. I want to tell everyone what to do, and he wants to be told. But I resent him for it, and he resents me. We are a match made in heaven. have four beautiful children, live in the suburbs and once upon a time, we appeared to have a perfect life. Our addictions were always inside of us and would rear their ugly heads on and off, throughout our life together — obviously, resulting in both of us going to treatment. 

In the beginning of 2008, when I got sober for the first time, so did Bob. We tag-teamed into treatment, me going first and then he went once I got home. I was so excited. I was thinking we were going to be the voice of recovering couples. I thought we would be Big Book banging, super-freaks. I thought we would travel the country and speak about recovery and how we did it, together. People in my meetings tried to tell me to stay in my own program. But I knew better than EVERYONE. No one there understood why it was so important that I keep us both sober. We were unique and we HAD to be sober together.  I didn't understand why it was so important that I keep only myself sober. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I had nothing to do with his program. 

Guess who relapsed?  Well ... after a year of me trying to make him a happy Twelve-Stepper, both of us. 

He was diagnosed with PTSD in September 2010. He served in the Marine Corps and was deployed twice. He has a dual diagnosis that is really consuming. He can't work, and sleeps quite a bit. This PTSD is a completely different world.  I thought drugs were the big monster — a monster for sure, but not his only one. He is sober today and getting help for his PTSD. 

This has been and will be a long road. I have tried everything in my power to make him a happy, sober man. Guess what? That has never been my job or my purpose. All I can do is work hard at my own recovery and hope someday he can figure this out. His battle is different than mine, and it's his own.

For a control freak, this ain't easy. 

You Might Be Codependent If ... you relapse because you can't make your husband like sobriety, you are worried people will hate this post because it isn't funny OR in your codependent part of your new blog, you ramble on about your husband's issues. I still have MUCH work to do.  

I am a liar y'all

Sep 24, 2012

If you have known me prior to Aug. 23, 2010 chances are, I have lied to you.

Well, to be honest — and let's all not pretend — if you have known me since, there is a pretty good chance I have lied to you, too. But the lies would be different now and thank goodness for that. 

The bold-face lies that I told to keep up the appearance that we were OK and not using drugs, or were taking good care of our kids, were huge. Like the reason my skin was so full of scabs was because I spilled bacon grease all over myself. Or I had a rash. Which, recently, right after I went on ABC News to say I was a druggie, I really DID have a rash, no lie! I was terrified people were going to think I was back on the sauce. But people believe me, even when I'm lying, I must be really good at it. 

I would lie about why I was losing so much weight. Told people I was exercising, cut out pop, carbs or just watching what I ate. My metabolism will probably never be good again. 

I would lie as to why we couldn't come to anyone’s event because we were "sick" or had other "plans." The only plans I had was to smoke meth locked away in the room with Bob, and do what we would do —which was listen for the neighbors (Bob thought every night they were listening to us), pick my skin, watch TV and make out. It was a sick existence. 

I would lie as to why my kids' friends couldn't' come over, mostly because our house was so trashed. Oh, and because I didn't want to have my time interrupted. I needed my kids to go to sleep at night so I could stay up and do what the above paragraph explained.
I would lie about why we were so broke. Make up stories about bills, or make up stories about sudden expenses. Most of those weren't lies, but why we were in that situation, was a lie. 

I lied to people I met, to people I knew before, to people I didn't want to know. I lied to everyone, everyday, and all of the time. I lied about my education, I lied about my jobs, my business, my everything you could imagine. I embezzled money from my father, from my business, and really, from my own kids because I spent money that belonged to the family. Sometimes I just lied make myself feel better. 

I even lied when I got sober. At first, I told my dad it was only alcohol. Then I slowly let the cocaine story come out and as you all know, the meth story came out, in full, when I was on the radio and TV. Right around the time I started this blog, June 12, 2012, is when the honesty of my using history came real for everyone. And as I have mentioned before, I have had mostly support, but a few mixed reviews. 

I was under the assumption that one addiction made you a worse person than another addiction. Glad I grew out of that belief. Addiction is all the same, man. Don't let it fool you.

I lied at first that Bob was the only meth addict. I was trying so desperately to get him sober, because I wanted to fix him, so I could stay married to him. I wasn't taking care of myself and it wasn't working for my sobriety. 

My sister and my dad were mildly bugged about my lying. They said, "but you told me it was only once." Or, "I asked you if you were on meth, and you said no." My lies stung them a little. But when I pointed out that drug addicts lie, and that I am a drug addict, they understood. I don't know many people stuck in their active addiction who don't lie all of the time, if not to everyone around them, than to themselves. It is in the handbook that they pass out when we sign up to be drug addicts. It says, "You must lie to EVERY LIVING THING."

I thought it would be great to write in this post, and add the most recent lie I told ... honestly. And I can't remember it. I am not saying that I don't still lie. I think I lie to my kids all of the time like, "No, we can't do that because we won't have time," when I know it is just something I don't want to do and I don't want them to freak out. Stuff like that. I might lie about why I break plans with you, or why the cookies are all gone. I might lie about that stuff. But I don't remember doing that in a very long time. That is pretty powerful to me because lying comes easily and naturally to me. 

The difference is my lies now come out of convenience for daily stuff.  My lies before were to protect my big bad secrets. If I look closely, I still have secrets. But the ones I still have are buried so deep, I can deal with them later ... right? When I am ready.
I still struggle with gossip and talking smack about people. That feels like lying. The allure to do this in the moment is still there, but I am more aware of it than ever. It doesn't feel good. And I try to not do it anymore. Go ahead and laugh, girlfriends of mine. I am working at it ladies. I am.  

Here it is again; another gift of recovery. I can be honest and not worry. If I don't want to do something with you, I just say that I don't feel like it. And if you have a problem with it, then that is not my stuff. I own it; it feels good. There is nothing going on in my life that I have to hide, cover-up or try to pretend isn't happening. I don't have to lie about anything. I probably still will, but I don't have to! 

I am trying to live honestly, without hiding. It is so much easier this way.

Inpatient? Outpatient? What worked for me.

Sep 17, 2012

Before meth, there was cocaine. That was the drug that first took me down, and led me through the doors of Hazelden Dec. 27, 2007. put myself into treatment, because up until that moment, no one knew about my dark little secret. I knew my days were numbered before they did. No one knew that we had been using cocaine for years. No one knew we were alcoholic (well, they might have). Or that we had our lives turned upside down from using substances. I had been trying to stop using for a year. I even went to an outpatient treatment that summer and stayed sober for 3 months. Then "we" decided we could drink a few beers at a Louis Black stand-up show. (Thanks for nothing, Louis). We had our dealer coming before we cracked a beer. And the comedy show sucked, because I had to "pee" like 15 times during the whole thing. 

For the next 2-and-a-half months I was right back, even worse than when I left off. I used even more because I always thought "this is my last time so I have to make it BIG!" I just wanted the endless madness to stop. 

I decided around Dec. 12 that I needed to change everything. I called Hazelden and had a phone evaluation. They said I qualified. No shit. An eight-ball nearly every day qualifies a person. I wasn't setting any records with my using, but I couldn't stop, and I couldn't keep going.

Of course, since I was the one calling myself in, I was the one calling the shots. I had been about 24 hours sober when I made that phone call. I told them that there was no way in hell I was coming in before Christmas, and that I would be there on Dec. 27. They said that was fine. I had every intention of staying sober until I went in. The woman on the phone said that wasn't a good idea,  that I should use until I got there. I was like, "You want me to do what?" I guess they wanted me to detox from the booze and coke under the care of a doctor. That was the best news I had ever heard!

I managed to buy Christmas presents for my kids. My dear friends brought me a Christmas tree and decorations since I didn't have the mind-set to do it. They came over and put it all together for me. I will never forget that. They knew my worst secret and still wanted to help. Christmas was rough, but I made it. 

Calling my family and telling them I was going to treatment for cocaine was a shocker for them. My dad and sister knew something bad was going on with me. I could tell they never imagined it was drugs. My brother lives in another state, so he didn't know anything either. They were freaked, but accepted it and supported me right away. 

I pre-arranged help to come every night with friends and family so that Bob could attend outpatient treatment. I had a calendar with who would show up for what shift and so many people helped. I KNEW we were going to get sober together and live happily ever after. I worked hard setting it all up. And people rallied for us. 

I actually had a hard time lining up the amount of cocaine I would have to last me perfectly until I left. I sure as hell didn't want to buy too much and have to leave it here with Bob because damn it, he was going to get sober, too. So I actually had to save a line (I wanted to make sure I failed the drug test when I was admitted) for over a day, so I could snort it right before I went. That isn't an easy thing for a raging drug addict. I snorted the line, slammed three beers, and had my friend pick me up. 

That goodbye to my family was rough, but I was so relieved. I knew it was the right thing to do. It broke my heart to leave my kids. They were super sad. We had age-appropriate talks about what I was doing. At that time I told them it was alcohol that was my only problem. I figured the drug thing will come later. And it sure has. I now know that it makes no difference what I am addicted to. One substance is no worse than another.

I wasn't afraid to go to treatment. Like I said, I make friends easily. I really loved the detox unit, because I was able to sleep for days. Not to mention the food is incredible. And I really got to take care of myself, although my cholesterol went up a few points while there. But no shit. This girl likes to throw down. 

I learned there that I had blown out a hole in my septum from snorting so much cocaine. I won't go into detail on how nasty it was as my nose healed at Hazelden. This, my friends, is why meth was so appealing to me later. My nose is broke. Snorting drugs HURT. I couldn't figure out how to smoke coke without wrecking that expensive stuff. So once I relapsed, I found that smoking meth was easier. Makes perfect sense to this drug addict. 

I knew I needed to learn what they were teaching and I did learn a lot. Hazelden is a wonderful place. Although I relapsed after my trip to Hazelden, I still carry with me a lot of what I learned there. Not to mention the great fellowship. I think any treatment center is great, if the person is ready. And for me, inpatient is what really helped. 

Anyone out there who is toying with the idea, don't waste anymore time. Just do it. A month or two or SIX, is worth your whole life. It seems like a blink of time now. Like "they" say, anything you put in front of your sobriety, you'll lose anyway. 

I love it when people give themselves the gift of treatment. Even if they go 10 times. It's always worth it.

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan/

What made my higher power hard to find

Sep 10, 2012

I wasn't raised to NOT talk about the three taboo dinner topics: religion, politics or sex. Well, if I was, I don't remember. My dad speaks of almost nothing else but politics. Election years are rough around these parts for folks that are on the other side of his voting preference. He believes those folks are wrong and that he can change their minds. 

I have spent a lot of time talking about all of them. And I have very strong opinions, as most do, about all three. What I am about to say is not meant to offend, enrage, or piss you off. I am only stating my truth and how I roll. I don't care how you chose to roll with any of the above mentioned, as long as you don't tell me how to do it either. Cool?
Having said that, I am going to talk about religion and my higher power. Sit tight, this won't hurt a bit. 

Being in a Twelve Step program means that I had to find a higher power. This was no easy task for me because I don't believe in god like many people believe in god. Well, not the god that many of my American friends believe in. Here is how that may or may not have come about for me:

Growing up, we went to church and did the church stuff. I got my first communion, went to Sunday School — the whole bit. I saw church as boring and a bummer. I believed in the whole Jesus deal and everything that went with it the best I could, with what I was taught. We were never really taught about what a relationship with Christ could do for us, we were just made to go to church. There was no spirituality taught really, just another thing we "had" to do.

As I mentioned before, my mom died when I was 16. She was 47. She had lung cancer that lasted one year. She was horrifically sick that year and it took her life at such a tragically young age. That is where any belief in god, any hope that religion could help me, or any thought that I would be taken care of, left me. I knew there was no god after that. No one was in control of anything. No fucking way would a god that loved us, do that to her, or to me. I shut that door tight. I shut the door on trusting anything would ever be OK again.

When I hear people say, "My loved one's cancer is gone, god is great. It is the power of prayer. I KNEW that god would take care of us," it makes no sense to me. I can guarantee that just as many people prayed for my young mom and our family. But she got sick and died anyhow. A god didn't fix that for me at all. And I just assumed that god hated me; I felt abandoned and I walked away from any belief in a god or any higher power. Well ... there are MANY other reasons for me, but that is the one that really stopped me dead in my already wavering, faith-tracks.

So, when I first looked into outpatient treatment, I searched the yellow pages for a treatment center that DID NOT use the Twelve Steps. Because god is mentioned WAY too much in those and I thought it was a cult. "A god of our understanding" just plainly meant I was going to have to believe in god. And I didn't want anything to do with god. There was no way I was going to get sucked into that. I had trouble finding such a place where I live. So, I just bit the bullet and decided to go anyway. I was beginning to surrender, and ready to THINK about trying anything to get sober.

As I was introduced to the steps and the language, I couldn't wrap my head around a "god of my understanding." I felt like I had to have something specific to believe in. I sought out people who weren't religious in the program. I looked into all kinds of other religions or beliefs, well ... the top three, mostly. I read books by people who were atheist or agnostic and did the Twelve Steps. None of them really fit. I couldn't feel it. I felt doomed. I couldn't stop feeling like this program wouldn't work for me, because I couldn't commit to anyone else's ideas. This is another reason I relapsed. I tried to skip this part. last bout of sobriety, (and hopefully the everlasting) I have come to find a higher power. The most important thing about this, first and foremost, is that the higher power isn't me.  I am not in charge of jack shit. I surrendered the idea that I had to find THE god of my understanding. I just went through the motions of the program, practiced letting go, and tried to grasp onto the feeling of doing the next right thing. I don't have to have THE god to do this program. I just have to make it simple. I use the earth and the universe. Good energy out, good energy in. Simply put, I do the next right thing, and the next right thing will come. Even if it is a shitty thing that comes, I try to do the next right thing. It all will work out as it is meant to. It works for me.

Don't get me wrong, I do the wrong action sometimes. But I don't need to do anything but try again — to try and be a good citizen of the earth by taking care of myself and respecting those around me, one thing at a time. I feel more connected to that concept than any organized religion or a man in the sky. I can see, breathe, and love the earth on which I am standing. Also, love the people on it. Corny, but true.

I am not trying to paint a picture that I am this ultra green, earth mama, who never drinks out of a plastic water bottle, only eats local organic and has an electric car. As much as I would love to be exactly that, I am not. I just try to live fair and accept everyone (Well ... not those who judge me; I'm too busy judging them) around me. Again, never ever am I close to perfect. But that's my higher power. It makes sense to me.

Now, I know this post might cause some folks to tell me where and when I went wrong with Jesus. If you feel moved to tell me your opinion on this, have at it. I am not going to argue with anyone. And I can appreciate good discussion. There has been a LONG LINE of people, who I am close to, that have taken their turn up to bat at saving my soul. I appreciate that very much. If I believed my loved ones were going to spend their eternity in hellfire, I would try to save them too. Try and understand, as much as you believe this is true, I do not. I respect everyone’s ideas and faith, and I ask you to do the same. 

Comment or share. Otherwise I'll worry I did something wrong. 

Oh what ... now you think I need to go back to the codependent posts again? 

I promise not to discuss politics. Well ... not today, anyhow.

Image courtesy of

What makes the downs go up

Sep 03, 2012

Last week sucked. I was anxious about my son's leg being injured, anxious about the lack of money we have this month and affording school supplies, clothes AND food. Anxious that my own classes began. Anxious that my house is disgusting and I really struggle with energy, give-a-shit OR the help that I should have trained my family to give.

Also, Bob isn't doing so well. He is in a dark place and I don't know what to really do to help him. His doctors aren't much help and I get so worried. Then I get pissed. Mental health issues suck. Plain and simple. I will make sure he is safe, but it is a lot some days to not get into my own head and feel sorry for myself because I can't fix him or that he can't seem to fix him either. His recovery is at a snail pace. And I forget to remember that even a snail pace, is still a pace.  

It is just the loss of control I feel that makes me feel so out of control (brilliant right? Duh.) And going from lazy summer, to high-speed life is a hard transition. Any one if those above-mentioned issues would be enough to cause me anxiety. But all of them together is crazy. And I'm off meds! Why was that a good idea?

But then, this past week, some amazing stuff happened. First, I got a call from a friend telling me she was in treatment. I get very excited when people are in treatment. It's never "Oh no, what happened?" It is always, "YES! That's great news!" I think my screaming with joy surprised her a little. Last night I got to visit her. We went to Target and it was awesome. What a great experience. I am always overjoyed when people give themselves the chance for recovery. And when it is a friend that I already love,  it is just that much more beautiful.

Also, a local woman contacted me through my Facebook page and disclosed that she found my blog and wanted to talk about her drinking. I had the incredible honor of sharing one of my favorite meetings with her and she had the courage to not only show up, but to join us for a little lunch after. That is a very badass move and I am filled with gratitude to have been able to connect with her. So beautiful!

At this meeting that my new friend was so brave to attend, we had a guest speaker who is a famous celebrity. That never happens. Not in my Midwestern town anyhow. She was a person who was humble and grateful to be with us. It was awesome. And I appreciated her sharing her experience, strength and hope with us. She had a great story of recovery. I believe my new friend connected and related with her. It was such a great moment. If you are reading this, know that there usually aren't famous people at our meetings. But if there are, as the speaker so easily put it, we are all the same with a common disease and a common way to recover. All of us.

I also connected with some folks who are struggling with this disease of addiction and had some great conversations. We helped each other for sure. days where I get to connect with other people in recovery, are the days that I feel the less stressed out. Getting out of my daily shit and just talking to people makes all of the difference. And having three different people reach out to me, and my being able to be there for them, really helped me lose my own anxiety.  What great medicine that is. I am not saying that I solved anyone's problems, or that I'm so great that people seek out my help. But the fact that anyone would see me as having something they want, is again, not something I've ever thought would happen. The fellowship of all of us recovering is the medicine that gives me relief from my disease. Again, grateful beyond words.

This is just a random picture of my dogs.  And they always make me feel better. 

Two years ago today...

Aug 27, 2012

What can I say about today?  This day is more important to me than any holiday, birthday, anything. This is the day I was given my life back. Without this day, everything I have would be gone. 

Two years ago, I was on my first day of my sobriety. I was crashing so hard off of meth, that all I wanted to do was eat, sleep and cry. I cried and cried and cried, not because I was quitting meth and I didn't want to. I wanted to quit. But crashing from meth makes you SAD — sad, depressed, hopeless, sleepy and FULL of rage. It is the most scary, sad, soul-crushing feeling. 

Two years ago was far from my first meth crash. I had crashed off of that drug plenty of awful times. But two years ago was my LAST crash. I don't ever want to feel that sadness again. The beautiful part of sobriety is that if I keep doing what I am doing, I don't ever have to crash again.

Like I said before, my life in recovery isn't perfect. I still have my problems. I am grateful for my problems. My marriage is still very shaky, my kids still have kid problems, my money is still tight — some days suck. But I am lucky that I never think, "Meth will make this better." I am not foolish enough to believe that this won't happen to me. It might. But if I keep working hard at this, go to my meetings, hang with the winners, and help where I am needed, I know I can stay in recovery. 

My first attempt at long-term sobriety, I had decided I would remain sober for one-year. I wanted to speak at Hazelden, and they had a one-year of sobriety requirement. So, I made it. But I got complacent with my life and stopped going to meetings, was not strong enough in my program, played with fire and got burned. The meetings, the program, the people and even writing this blog, are my medicine for my disease of addiction. And I cannot ease up on any of these things, or I will get sick. Every time I have ever done that, even for a week, I have relapsed. time I decided that I would remain sober for TWO years. So, here I am. I honestly love my life in recovery so much, that I do not want to go back to that hell. I never thought I would say that I love being sober. But I love being sober. This is my path. Plus, my good friend Deb B. said that she would give me her five-year medallion once I get there. So, I have decided to make it to five years. Then I will reassess the situation. 

For those of you who are worried about that last paragraph, I can only commit to one day at a time. So we don't have to worry about my relapse tomorrow or in five years. I might decide to keep on trucking. Today, however, I will remain sober. And this is the day that counts.
I am on my way out of town, without my husband or my kids, for three nights. I am going back to the retreat where I learned to laugh sober. That experience taught me that I am funny sober, and also that other people are funny. I get to hang with my friends and meet some new ones. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. 

So of course, due to the anonymity of my Twelve Step program, I can't call out who I am thankful to for helping me get through this past two years. But you know who you are. You are my girls, and my friends. And no matter how crazy my mind gets, you bring me back down, or you accompany me to crazy-town. I truly love you all. Thanks for opening my eyes. 


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I'll take it from here

Aug 20, 2012

We went for the weekend to our camper. We have it at some relatives’ cabin near Park Rapids, Minn. It is a beautiful spot, and I love it there. In this picture, it is super messy! is often tension around family for me. I hesitated to even write this, because I don't want to make anyone feel bad. But I don't think many family members read this because they never mentioned my blog or any of my recent public displays of addiction. 

This area of my life triggers me like the neighbor thing. It doesn't trigger me to want to go get high, but to get inside my head and twist around like crazy because I feel they don't look at me for who I really am, they only look at what they think is wrong with me, what I've done in the past and focus on it. They have a hard time trusting me as a parent to do a good job. Even though it isn't their job to take over, they often try. They sometimes will interrupt me when I am dealing with my own kids, and say, "I'll take this from here." Honestly, I am not even kidding.

For the record, we get this from folks on both sides of the family.

One recent instance was when my daughter and son were swinging on a hammock. The kids had been told by me and others one-million times to not do this. They flipped over, and the crack-sound of their heads hitting the ground was loud. When I walked over there, I overheard someone say, "Is he breathing?"  Well, this got me freaked.  So, I bent down and took my 9-year-old and kissed and hugged him because he was hardly moving (though, he was totally fine.) My daughter was sitting up and I spazzed out a little on her — might have sworn; might not have. But nothing crazy, just like, "We told you to not fricken’ do that; why the hell don't you listen?" My daughter stormed off saying something like, "You didn't even ask if I WAS OK!"  

I know how dramatic this age group can be, so I just let her storm off. family members sitting there were looking at me like I was a crazy idiot. Then no more than 10 seconds later, they got up and followed my girl going as fast as they could to undermine my parenting. They told her, "Sometimes people take their problems out on other people."  They assumed that I had problems, and talking to her about doing what I told her NOT to do, was the same thing as taking them out on her. 

See?  Ramble, ramble, ramble. That stuff drives me crazy. It is subtle, passive aggressive and frustrating. I parent the way I parent, my kids are the way they are, and I LOVE THEM. And they love me. We are done with people thinking they need to fix us.

What this ultimately does to my kids is tell them that their lives aren't good enough. When they are being "fixed," it gives them a sense that they need fixing. Mind you, there is plenty of room for us to improve, and we are working at it. But recovery is a process, and we are doing it. They don't need to hear rigid rules or what other people do "better" in their families. This comes from the place of other people's need to have us be a certain way, so that they can feel good about it.  I think it mostly comes from a place where they just want me out of the picture. But that COULD be a little paranoid, (I doubt it.) There is some Al-Anon work for EVERYONE, right?

I know that they do love my kids, and want nothing but the best for our family. Our best looks different, because our road is different. This has been, and still is, one hell of a road. 

Most people who know me, are glad they do and are proud of me. Most people say nice things and support me. And there are tiny percentages who don’t, and that is where my "I need everyone to like me" brain sits. I have to let that shit GO! Just did. Yeah, right. 

Here I am, on another day, talking about people not liking me. Say it with me now, "What other people think about you is none of your business."

It feels different when it's in front of my kids, right? Ugh. I'm trying to regain respect here! 

What I believe about myself is far more important than what anyone thinks about me (if I keep saying this, someday it will feel true.)  People undermine my parenting because they see me as incapable.  At one point, I was pretty incapable. I am also alone on all things that resemble discipline or order. It isn't an easy job and I often fumble. Compared to using, I've come a long way. They may never get past it. But my kids are. whole ride home from the camper, my family laughed our heads off. We have never been closer or more together. They sang their inappropriate boob song (oh my god, don't ask.) I begged them to stop and we made the three-hour ride go by fast. We like us just the way we are and don't need anyone to fix us. 

All of this stuff is on the path of recovery. It isn't all fun and games. There is real stuff to deal with along the way. It is a family disease, so it takes time for all of us to find our spot in healing. I am willing to keep trying, and if others also do, then great.

You Can’t Make Them Change

Aug 13, 2012

The older I get, and the more I hang out with the healthier folks, the more I learn to take people for who they are. Like for instance, my dad. He isn't the kind of grandpa who attends any of the kids sporting events, school events or even stops over. He always says, "No," if I invite him for dinner, which by the way, I hardly ever do. When we see him, we go to his house. He does invite us over. He just won't come to us. I remember back when I was a kid, I don't think he came to much of my stuff either. He always worked, and still works. He always talks about how hard he works, and has worked. He loves to work and make iron railings. We got a lot of good stuff and trips because of his work, but that work was a choice. He likes working, so it isn't really a sacrifice for him. The sacrifice might have been coming to a sporting event or two.  

My point is this: That is his choice. That is who he is and I cannot take who he is personally. It makes no sense to do so. It doesn't matter if other people have parents who do things with their kids, or show up at their games. Mine does not. It isn't because he doesn't love them, because he does. He just isn't that kind of guy, which is totally cool with me. 

I think I can decide what people can change about themselves, and what would make them happier, which in turn could make me happier. They can stop worrying about name-brands, stop trying to keep up with the Jones', be happy with their size (Ha), stop controlling their spouse, stop being controlled, stop being co-dependent, stop worrying what people think, want to see my kids play sports, be fair, vote for who I say, blah, blah, blah, on and on. 

I think I know what people are capable of and what they should change. But that is crap, because I really have no clue what anyone is capable of. And I don't need to know, as long as I accept them, which sets me free.  

I have spent a lot of time wishing other people were different. I wished that they would be the way I wanted them to be, or would act a certain way. Give me the kind of relationship I believe I deserve. Letting go of that wish, need or belief has really set me free. I can do this with just about everyone.  

I still struggle with Bob and maybe a few others. Some days I am really good at it. Some days I suck at it and am angry. I know it's because I am trying to hold on to some idea of how I think he or they should be. 

Accepting people for exactly what they are capable of is probably the greatest thing I have learned in recovery — and not trying to decide what exactly they are capable of, and just meet them where they are. The days where I get this right, I am the happiest. It makes me feel the strongest because I can't get hurt by what people are incapable of doing. 

What a relief!

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Everyone Looked so Happy. Was This a Cult?

Aug 06, 2012

My first attempt at sobriety was an outpatient treatment in June 2007. (See, I forget this stuff and this blog makes me think about it). I went there three nights a week for 12 weeks. I was able to remain sober during those weeks. I was in awe of how good I felt. of the rules of the treatment was that we had to hit one of those "meetings" on our own time. Those meetings always interested me but terrified me, too. It seemed like once you committed to THAT, there was no turning back. Well, that is true, whether you remain sober or not.  If you are an addict or alcoholic, something in those rooms will strike a nerve. At least it did for me. 

A friend’s sister offered to take me to her meeting. It was right in town, not far from my house. I was afraid of seeing people I knew.  Never did I guess at THAT moment, one day I would be blabbing my addiction to the world. 

Walking in there was freaky. It is a women's meeting and there had to be about 50 women in that room. All ages, and I mean ALL ages. Lots of different lengths of sobriety, lots of backgrounds. But the thing that struck me was the smiles and the snazzy clothes. I thought that "this must be a f---ing cult" and that they were going to try and suck me in. I figured they were all trying to give my soul to Jesus. I was NOT going to fall for that shit. 
Within a few moments of being in that room, my friend introduced me to some of the snazzy-dressed cult followers. They seemed alright. No one mentioned Jesus. They were very nice to me, but then again, most cult people are nice ... at the beginning. 

I figured that they wouldn't understand the horrible things I had done. That they would put me down or try to break me down with shame. I thought that those women who had it all together couldn't possibly have gone as low as I had gone. Man, was I wrong.  After listening to them, I knew I was in the right place. 

I think because I am motherless, their attention felt good. They seemed to generally care about me, and of course they told me to "keep coming back."

Since that day, I have kept coming back to that room. They have seen me through my worst, and loved me hard through all of it. They never shamed me for relapsing, and accepted me when I was out of my mind. To say I am grateful is an understatement. 

I've said this before: there is not much about my path that I would change, except maybe the hurt I've caused my loved ones. I have many mothers now. I have such good friends. I have people who love me. And I love them back. We have so much fun. 

The best part of listening to them is not to focus on what they (or we) had done to qualify for those meetings, but to listen to how they live today. Life doesn't magically become rainbows and butterflies when we get sober. It is still life. I've watched these women lose their husbands, their children, get divorced, lose their homes and lose their jobs, all while sober. But it is how they deal with it that I pay close attention to. There is so much strength in those rooms. I have learned so much, I really feel so lucky. 

It isn't so much about learning how to stop using drugs and alcohol. It is learning how to live. If that is a cult, then I am in.

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Just Say No

Jul 30, 2012

I am in no way trying to give parenting tips, or give you any tricks. I talk about motherhood the way I see and do it — which is usually the hard way.’ve always had a hard time saying "no" to my kids when it came to almost everything. That is, of course, when I was not high or crashing from being high. At those moments I said "no" constantly.

"No" never comes easy to me for a few different reasons. First, I am lazy. Saying "no" means that I have to follow through with whatever it is I am saying "no" to, and stick with it. "No, you can't have a Popsicle." "No, you can't have a Popsicle." "Fine, eat the Popsicle." 

And unfortunately, I usually start with a quick "no," and then, change my mind — the wrong way to do it. My kids are experts at wearing me down, as I have most excellently trained them to be.

The second is my need to be liked. I want to make them happy so they will love me. I know they love me no matter what. They have made that pretty clear by forgiving me for some shitty parental moves I have made. But instant gratification has always been my middle name. 

Third, there has been a lot of guilt and shame about what my kids have gone through. Between our using and recovery, to my husband’s mental health, it hasn't been an easy road for my little squirts. In the past two years, Bob has been hospitalized and in and out of the home many times. He isn't the same dad they knew. And before that, we were using off and on. So, I get stuck on making up for all of that. So much so that we will go broke if I keep on this path. Well ...we are always broke, but I'm trying to change that. 

Something has totally shifted for me in just the past four months or so. I have started to say "no" to all kinds of things. "No, we aren't buying that," and "No, we aren't going there." And I DON'T feel guilty. In fact, it just became clear to me that giving into everything they want is actually BAD for them. I always logically KNEW this was true, but it didn't FEEL true. I thought I could make up for everything bad by buying them stuff and taking them places, when money allowed. 

So, in the spirit of changing the way things run around here with the "less is more" type living, I scaled WAY back on their birthdays. Let's just say that it didn't go over well. But I didn't feel guilty about their disappointment. I actually enjoyed their reactions because I KNOW it is good for them!

I know that I am now living a life with my kids that I don't need to feel guilty or shameful about. I am done trying to erase the past with stuff and places. I will heal the past, with living right.

It obviously isn't perfect around here. And Bob and I are FAR from on the same page with this and many other parenting issues. But I'll get to that another time.

You can follow Betsey on Twitter at @momoffmeth.

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