Day 14 of HIKMT’s 25 Ways in 25 Days to celebrate Christmas.

Today’s Tip is sent in by Carla Marotto

The only time I remember really enjoying Christmas is when I was a little girl and my parents and other relatives would shower me with presents and money. I never really knew the true meaning of Christmas until I was older. When I was asked to write something for this series, I heard that still always present voice in my head saying, “people are going to read it and criticize whatever you say. And even if they don’t criticize you, you’ve got nothing anybody wants to hear.” I don’t know where it came from, but instead of giving in to that voice, I said, “let me pray about it, and I’ll get back to you” So I prayed and thought on it, and what I came up with is this…

I have been given another chance at a life that is so much more than I could have ever hoped for. I’ve been graced with sobriety for what will hopefully be my last time, and the least I could do is write a few words with the possibility of someone being able to relate to me or get some hope. Whether someone is dealing with trying to get clean or staying clean, I know it’s hard this time of year. These days my struggles usually always surround not having enough money to buy my 12 yr old twins the things they want. It’s the same stuff all kids their age want, but they don’t understand that I’m a single mom, and we’re all living on one income. My kids’ dad left detox, got drunk, and intentionally walked into traffic two years ago and killed himself. The guilt I have around taking my kids away from him when they were 3 months old cripples me sometimes.

I often wonder if I had stayed in Florida and not come home to Boston if he would have eventually got sober again? Then there’s the guilt I feel because they never had their dad since I left him. So, I try to fix my guilt and their feelings of abandonment by buying them. I’ve lost many friends and family members to this disease. I just mentioned their father’s suicide, which was a direct result of alcoholism. Prior to meeting their father, I lived with a man who overdosed and died in our home. I was in recovery, but he wasn’t. I came home from work one day and found him. A few years later I had left Florida and moved home with my mother and brother who was also a Heroin addict. I had since relapsed but was on a Methadone clinic and trying to find my way back to the rooms. It was hard to go to meetings being honest about being on methadone because I felt judged for “not really being clean” as most recovering addicts would say at meetings.

On my twins 4th birthday, and we were having people over for a party that day, so I went to wake up my brother to drive him to the clinic. I was calling his name, but he just wouldn’t wake up. Life for me and my kids spiraled out of control from that day until 2015. My poor kids suffered so much because of my addiction. Thank God they still had their Nini, my mother. She was 68 then, but she took very good care of them when I couldn’t. When she died in 2011, we were devastated, but I was able to cover my feelings with alcohol and drugs. My kids really had a hard time dealing with losing her. I had an 8 1/2 yr stint in recovery before having my kids, and I saw how wonderful life could be.

I did little to no work on myself, and looking back, I don’t know how I stayed clean as long as I did. I got a sponsor so I could say I had one in case someone asked me. I went to a few step meetings, but I didn’t follow the program. I stayed sober on the fellowship alone. For years my life got really good on the outside with all the “stuff” a new home, job, car, trips, but I walked around with that sense of unease and discomfort that I knew could be fixed with a few drinks or a bag of dope. It was inevitable that I would use again. During those almost 9 years I went to meetings just about daily, I made a lot of good friends in recovery, but the day came when nothing could keep me away from a drink or a drug. I told myself it would be only once and I would come right back to meetings and start over. That’s not how it went down at all.

I spent the next twenty years in and out of detoxes never managing to put 30 days together. I had no idea that entire eight years I was clean, my disease was untreated and getting stronger and stronger. My life is so wonderful today that it’s hard to believe it was just 16 mos ago. I didn’t want to live anymore, but didn’t have the courage to kill myself either. I was the only thing left in the world that my kids had and look what I was doing to them. I had since lost them to the state. This time there was no family to step and and take over. I was at the jumping off place that’s talked about.

I couldn’t live with alcohol and drugs, yet I couldn’t live without them either. Heroin was taking over and detox beds were scarce. I was used to just making a call, doing an intake and getting admitted. This was torture. I had to keep calling back only to hear that there still were not any beds. I started calling 911 and the ambulance would come take me to the ER. I thought maybe if I did it this way, it would be easier but it wasn’t. I would go to the ER, they would evaluate me, then after I sobered up a little, they would send me home. I did this for a week to all the ER’s near me and some I hit twice. The last time I was in the hallway of the ER, on a stretcher for 3 days going through withdrawals with not even a curtain covering me. It was so humiliating. My hair was matted, I had no shoes, I don’t know the last time I showered or changed my clothes, and naturally everybody was looking at me. I hadn’t eaten in God only knows how many days. I remember I was so hungry. I saw them bringing food to other patients who were there for issues other than addiction. They would feed me last after every single patient had been fed, and they were so horrible to me. I could feel their eyes burning through me as if they thinking, “look at her; she doesn’t even deserve to eat.”

I hope I never forget the way I felt those 3 days in the ER. I thought they were getting me a bed someplace because this was the longest anyone had kept me. I had been assessed by the BEST Team and thought I was just waiting for a bed to open. Then the doctor told me I was being discharged and was there someone that could come get me. Was he trying to be funny? First of all everybody had long since disowned me. All I had was my kids, but I didn’t even have them anymore the state of MA had custody. Secondly, how could they send me home? Couldn’t they see I was literally dying, begging for their help. I couldn’t go home again to do the same thing. I didn’t even have any money or any way to get right. I was out of plans. There was no way I could go home. So I said the only thing I could think of, “if you discharge me, I’m going to drink a bottle of bleach, and my death will be on your watch. Next thing I knew I was sectioned to a locked psychiatric ward. It wasn’t a detox, but it was safe and I knew at least I could buy some time until I could figure something out. The withdrawals were awful coming off of methadone, heroin and alcohol, but it was better than being out there.

Anyway, I stayed there 21 days, and when I got home, I started doing the things I hadn’t done the first time around. I got back into the 12 step fellowship, started working the program, and when I wasn’t doing that, I put all my energy into getting my kids back from foster care. It was so lonely without my kids. My living room/kitchen floor was literally wall to wall beer cans and filth. It wasn’t fit to live in. I don’t even know how I cleaned the house when I got out of detox. I was still so weak from methadone withdrawals. It gets in your bones, and I’m older now. I don’t bonce back the way I used to. I talked to my kids on the phone for 2 months before they finally did come home. We had a lot of work to do rebuilding what I allowed drugs and alcohol to tear down.

Every time I was away from them, they worried about if I would be drunk when they got home or woke up. My daughter would make me cross the street if there was a liquor store we would be passing because she thought it would make me want to drink if I walked by one. All the promises I really meant, but could never follow through with, rebuilding their trust. For a long time while I was active my kids became my mom. They took care of me. It’s painful to even think about all that, but slowly their trust in me returned.

I really meant it when I was saying it, but something would come over me and I’d have no effective mental defense against taking that first drink, shot or pill. Well something was different this time. There was a sense of desperation I don’t think I’ve ever felt before and something inside of me knew that if I didn’t maintain sobriety this time, my life would be over. And as much as I hated what I had become and what I had done to my life and the lives of my children, I wanted to live. I wanted to be sober. I wanted to make my children happy and keep them safe.

God gave me a job to do with TJ and Gabbi, and I hadn’t done a very good job up to this point. I was hopeful that I could be the mother and person God intended me to be and I have not had more than a fleeting thought to drink or use in almost 16 mos. The desire has been removed. I only think about it in the sense of what a miracle it is that I’m sober today. My children trust me. They don’t worry about what condition I’ll be in when they wake up. I’m here waiting for them when they get off the school bus everyday. If I make a promise to them or anyone else, I keep it. They know if I’m around active addicts or alcoholics, it’s because I’m trying to give back what was given to me. I know how hard it is to struggle trying to get clean especially after having a relapse, but there is hope, and there are people who are willing to help you get there.

I also know how hard it is for some addicts/alcoholics around the holidays. Sometimes being around certain family members makes people want to use for various different reasons. If you have to be around family, make a plan ahead of time. If you’re going with someone, set something up beforehand so that each of you know if it gets uncomfortable, you can make an exit.

I wouldn’t put myself in danger around a lot of drinking in early recovery if I didn’t have to. I just wouldn’t go, or I would find a way to leave asap. If you beleive in 12 step fellowships, they have meetings around the clock beginning Christmas Eve all the way through Christmas night. I did a lot of that the first time around. Go easy on yourself. Only do what you can do. If you have kids, I know how that is, they want everything, but you can only do what you can do.

I can tell you from experience that more than anything our kids want us there with them both physically and emotionally. That truly is the best present we can give our children. I’m hoping addiction stops with me. I hope my kids never have to experience the incomprehensible demoralizion of addiction that I did. I know there’s a high chance my kids could have this disease since both me and their dad have/had it, but I also know the chances are a little slimmer each day they see me sober. I also know should either of my twins fall prey to this disease, God willing, I will be available to show them the way to recovery. I have seats saved next to mine just in case.

Lastly, I just want to say, it is literally just me and my kids. The rest of my family has died except for the few that haven’t spoken to me in years. I try not to focus on missing those that have passed. I want to make my kids happy. I’m getting my kids a puppy for Christmas this year. They’ve been wanting one for a few years, and I feel we’re on solid enough ground to bring in a new addition to our family this year. I’ve got so much to be grateful for, and number one is to wake up Christmas morning with my children next to me and not have to worry about how and where I’m going to cop dope on a day when everyone else is celebrating the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!

Daily Reflection:

Getting people to like you is merely the other side of liking them. –Norman Vincent Peale

What does it mean to like other people? It means giving respect and attention to their opinions and perspectives on life. It means respecting their feelings, attitudes, and values without passing judgment or trying to control them. Clearly and simply, liking others means letting them be who they are and celebrating their individuality. Openly expressing fondness for a friend is affirming for both people. Our expressions are gifts that will multiply for us when we’ve been honest and unselfish, free from ulterior motives. We all want to be liked. And we’ve heard many times that to have a friend, one must be a friend. It’s a formula that takes only a simple decision each time we share with another.

My actions will determine whether I’m liked today.

Shortcut to the Spirit of the Season:

Letting the holidays shine. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16.

The light transforms us. Staying in the light keeps us focused on what we need to do during our time on earth. The first Christmas light was a star placed in the sky for the wise men to follow. It lit up the first Christmas in a grand way, announcing that God had come to earth. What was true 2000 years ago, is still true today: nothing reflects the glow of faith like the lights of Christmas. Today Christmas lights are on every street corner. Take a deep breath, pause and enjoy the lights. Don’t rush by. Savor the experience. Having a childlike attitude while looking at each display. Imagine you are seeing everything for the first time. Don’t hold the light inside your heart and mind. If a display moves you, stop and leave a thank you note for those whose hard work helped remind you of the wonder of the season. After all, sharing light with others is an unselfish act that brings joy to the world.

This year, take another long-forgotten tradition to heart. For centuries, children were taught that the lights on the tree represented a prayer that needed to be answered. When you see the lights on a tree, pray for someone who has a need. Remember those who are suffering, for those who have no joy this season, or for those who are facing a difficult issue. Let the lights prompt you to recall the problems of others and when possible, help them carry their heavy load. In a very real sense, the glow of billions of Christmas lights remind us just how much the babe in the manger has changed the world and is still changing the world. This holiday, revel in the light.

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