This past May, I lost my mom to alcoholism and addiction. In truth, I had lost her before that—long before that. But the shock of it was no less jarring. The timeline went like this: I picked up my 24-hour chip at a meeting on the 18 with my husband by my side. She went into the ICU on the 21, and at 5:00 p.m. on the 23, she died.
She lost her battle, and I lost her.
I am no stranger to addiction and mental illness. I lived the first three months of my life in a NICU in Boston, and as a result of a traumatic birth, developed anxiety that felt physical at times. I spent my childhood very fearful and tried to squelch that fear with alcohol in my early adulthood.
I lost myself.
Luckily, I found recovery in 2008 and have been falling down and getting back up since then. This go-around, and there have been many, I have a bit over seven months of sobriety. I can say with absolute assurance that my involvement in recovery has changed my life for the better. Although I have relapsed many times, I’ve been lucky enough to make it back into sobriety. This time, as with every time, I hope to stay there.
On August 30, my one-year wedding anniversary, I discovered I was pregnant. It was my first pregnancy, and over the next month I felt every emotion in the book: fear, joy, anticipation, and intense anxiety like I’d never experienced before. Couple all of these emotions with the grief I was feeling about my mother, and you’d probably understand why I felt overwhelmed.
What if I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be?
What if something happened to my child? How would I get through that pain?
What if I messed up my kid forever with my own messed-up-ness?
Yesterday, an ultrasound showed no embryo, only an irregular sac. I am not sure, but I might have absorbed the fetus back into my body, just as I will have to absorb this experience and make it part of my story.
My husband and I struggled through the day together as best we could. He bravely went to our house inspection while I stayed in bed, numb and mute. And just like that, the universe gently removed my anxiety and replaced it with emptiness.
In situations like this, I often ask myself, “What are my choices right now?”
I go through them one by one.
Live in fear.
Live in acceptance.
Over the past eight years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have these choices. Before recovery, I didn’t feel like I had any choices to make. Watching my mom die from this disease felt like another message from the universe, a dark and foreboding one. Keep drinking, and you will end up just like her. So since then, it’s been therapy, meetings, and sharing honestly. On that day in May, my choices disappeared once more, and two paths—the one I could take and the one I had to—grew very, very clear.
Today I have these questions to answer:
How will I deal with this double-loss without numbing?
How will I walk through pain sober?
The answer is: as humanly as possible. Meaning: soberly, messily, weepily, angrily, with no grace at all times, and with immense grace at others.
I will always have questions, but now I have yet another choice to make: Embrace them and find myself or run from them and lose myself.
I am choosing to live, to struggle, to overcome, to slip, to fall, and to rise. I am choosing to show up and be counted, not lost.
I am choosing to be found.