As many of you know, I am a single mom to a magnificent 16 year old son. Although I have been married (twice), I have never really stopped being a single mom. In other words, I have always been in charge mentally, emotionally, physically and financially of my son. Which is my privilege.
2016 was a rough year for my son. He had to see me go through my relapse from sobriety, he was exposed to lots of fights between my husband and I, and eventually he also had to pick me up from the ground when my husband left and I was left to rebuild a life. It was not a fun year for either us, but especially for him.
So this year, I have decided to do everything differently. On Jan 1, 2017 I vowed that this would be the best year of our Dallas life. And so far, its going great. My sobriety is back on track. My recovery is allowing for me to re-discover, re-define and re-value me as a person. My relationship with people and life is blooming. And of course, I am super focused on enjoying my son in his last highschool years. With that in mind, I planned for a wonderful ski-trip for Spring Break. It was expensive and a more reasonable person would have not done it, but I did.
I planned, organized, researched, booked and reserved every detail with the perfect dance of a seasoned producer. Ordered clothes. Borrowed ski-gear. Found the best deal. The planning alone was a masterpiece. My first great trip with my son. Oh, the joy.
And when the trip finally arrived, my expectations were incredibly high. While my son had never skied, he is an athlete and I was sure he would catch on in a minute. I was so thrilled. And off we went. The first stop was Denver, and we started off the trip by bumping into singer Dave Matthews at the airport. From there, we rented the perfect Colorado car (an awesome white jeep) to drive through the Rockies. Our travel to Boulder was absolutely perfect, and the visit to the University of Colorado was exciting and fun.
And we finally arrived to our final destination, Vail. Oh, the dream. I grew up going to Vail as a child, back in the old days in which daddy footed the bill and money was nothing but Monopoly paper. The idea of being able to bring my son there was truly a bucket-list item; and I was making it happen. And so we arrived. The first night was amazing. The trip was going great. We shopped, dined and laughed like two teenagers. I was licking my chops with anticipation of us taking 2 days of ski-lessons and then tearing the mountain in skis.
Before laying his head to sleep that night, my son coughed a little. I frowned. And fell asleep.
“Mom, I don’t feel well” – he said the next morning. Oh, no. “It must be the altitude, baby. It will go away by mid-day”, I said. But it did not. By the afternoon, he was burning up in fever. I ran to the Vail Medical Center, in the middle of our Sunday. “It’s the flu”, said the doctor. Oh, no. My son never gets sick. Ever. Ever. “You will be fine tomorrow for skiing, surely”, I said – playing it down. But he wasn’t. So I delayed the first lesson by a day. And he was not great the next day, either, so I pushed the schedule again. All the while breathing patiently, and fighting waves of sadness and frustration. It was not fair, it was not fair.
The next day, I wrote a post about living life on life’s terms (you can find it in the past issue of this blog). I prayed. I hoped. And the next day came, and he went up the mountain, but felt awful. And then we had a bit of time of normalcy, where hope crept in and for a second all was well. Until the next morning, when the malaise would return. One full week we were there, and not a single day did he feel well. And yet, every day had a few hours of smiles and glory, among the fever, nausea and flu.
Days went by, and toward the end of the trip I had a choice to make. I could either fully push into the idea that the trip had sucked, and that it was a failed experiment and that I had wasted my hard-earned money very unfairly (which would be completely justified, as a general overview for sure) – OR – I could choose to see the complete opposite side of the coin.
Oh, crap. How beautiful that the thought to contemplate my options had actually presented itself to me. Before, I would have just naturally defaulted to seeing the shady, whiny, sad version of the story. Before. Before my recovery.
Listen, I am not trying to pat myself in the back by saying that I am now Mother Theresa. I am not trying to say I have been showered with divine Grace. I am however, pointing out what I define as the true meaning of recovery. I now have the ability to chose my feelings, my version of life, my reaction to what happens. I now see that its not what God does TO me but FOR me. God, Life, Universe. Whatever it is. I now can be in charge of my perception of things, of events and of how I feel about them. Isn’t it glorious?
And yes, I still felt pain in my heart for the opportunity of a vacation at 100% gone more than a bit South.. but at the same time… I got so close to my son. We spent so much time together. Not a single fight. Not anything but love and patience and care…and yes, laughter and enjoyment and pure love and tenderness. So I took all the bad moments and looked at them straight in the eye. I did not shove them under a rug, I just gave them the right size. Not too big, not too small. The right size. And then I took a look at the great moments – and realized how many they were. Much more than the bad ones, actually.
The more I reviewed them in my mind, the brighter they became. And as I squeezed my eyes under the impossibly blue sky, that day before the end of our trip, I started to get overwhelmed with feelings. Oh, those pesky feelings that come with recovery; the ones that we used to stuff so deep down our throat that they come to the surface with glee at the first chance they get. Oh, those little suckers that tear up my eyes even as my lips are curled into a smile. I let them free. Tears of gratitude and happiness streamed down my cheeks.
I had had a week in Vail, in the most expensive dream ski destination, and spent most of my time taking care of a sick kid instead of racing him down the mountain. And yet, it had been perfect. Just perfect. I released all the tightness in my chest, all the little words that danced like purple gnawing demons right behind my ears, and just let go into the beauty of my crazy and wonderful time with my son. I felt cheated no more. I felt grateful. For every moment. For every look. For every smile. For our health (the one we cherish only when its gone at times). For the medicine and the laughter. For it all.
Life does not have to be perfect to be perfect. My imperfect trip was exactly how it needed to go, and exactly what it needed to be. Nothing more, nothing less.
This is what recovery feels like. It feels like serenity. It feels like acceptance. It feels like bending in the shape of life without getting bent out of shape. It feels like pure gratitude.
And last night, back in Dallas which is our home, my son put ME to bed with noodle soup. I had finally succumbed to the flu myself after our week together. “My Chiquita” he said, as he poured me lemonade and kissed my forehead. And I felt like he was the adult and I the child; and my eyes filled with tears and I realized how lucky I was, for this is the beautiful, perfect imperfect life I get to live in recovery, shared with this beautiful human being I have the honor of calling my son.
Pamela is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach & Educator. She has been in recovery since 2009, and is a passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding addiction. Please share this post via the channels below or anyone in your life who may benefit from a little information about drinking and recovery.