Monday, February 18, 2019

I hate addiction.

I have been avoiding writing this blog post, because I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult, and because it felt like my words would undoubtedly come up short. I mean, how can a person possibly write enough words to honor someone who was magnificent, but left this earth entirely too soon?

It's impossible!

So I guess I'll just do what I do best, and lay it all out there: addiction sucks, and I am d*mn sick of it taking away people I love.

I got in trouble when I spoke blatantly after my father's death two and a half years ago. I openly wrote about how he was, for lack of a better term, a drunk who'd vacated his responsibilities as a father and grandfather, and ostracized himself until his sad end. I was bitter about how my father's life came to a close, and I told people as much. I told them to sober up and fix their relationships before it was too late, and not everyone appreciated being told that.

But I have had too much loss in my life, and too much hurt in my life, and too much grief in my life at the hands of addiction, and I am ready to climb the walls because of it. Truly. I feel like I could bite my laptop in half, with how angry and sad I am. I lost my father to addiction, long before he actually died. I lost my first marriage to addiction. I lost a relationship with my sibling in part because of addiction. I was a foster mother to children who'd been abused and neglected by addicts.

Most recently, I lost one of my very best and oldest friends. Much like my father, the loss began years ago...and only became official because of actual death this last week. And much to my surprise, I am gutted by this loss. Angered and bewildered and shook to the core by this loss, and it's not because I was so naive to think that she was on the straight and narrow--I've known for years that she was headed down a path that I would absolutely not be following--but because I know, with every cell in my body...that this was not the way she was supposed to go out.

Nope. She was too epic for this kind of a goodbye. She was the kind of person who saw raggedy, strung out, homeless bums on the street, and scolded me for being judgmental. She always told me, "They could clean up. They could get their act together, and be amazing. You don't know. People can change." She saw potential and humanity in every, single person she encountered, and she was willing to fight for their right to be better. She was a humanitarian, in every sense of the word. Helping people, lifting them up, giving them food/clothes/rides/money/a place to sleep. She forgave. She prayed. She rescued. She gave second, and third chances. She believed in every single person she met, and knew their worth was great.

But the cruel irony is, my friend never, ever saw the same potential in herself. She spent her whole life thinking of herself as the dented can of peas on the shelf at the grocery store. The one everyone passes over for the shiny, new cans. The one nobody wanted. That was how she saw herself, despite being willing to put everything on the line to rehabilitate everyone around her.

It started by being born with a birth defect. One so painful and troubling that she suffered and dealt with it's side effects her entire life. Literally 42 years of pain and discomfort, in addition so the social torture that came from being different. She used pain killers religiously, as a means to function like a normal wife/mother/woman, which eventually (after decades of use) grew into a stronger, more frightening dependency.

The last few times I saw her, I could see the difference in her demeanor and her behavior. Her physical appearance started to change. She looked harder, grayer, gaunt. She avoided certain questions and topics. We went from talking about everything to talking about surface level bull****. She wasn't herself. She wasn't the friend I treasured.

It was so troubling that I pulled away. Like I said, she was headed down a path I could not follow. I'd been down it with my ex-husband, my father, my sibling, friends...I couldn't deal with it. So I bailed. We went from being deeply connected, and utterly loving each other in the deepest way two women could be connected (think Idgy and Ruth in Fried Green Tomatoes,) without actually being in romantic love... to texting or messaging every few months or so. My affection was still there.... but I had to maintain space.

I will literally regret that for the rest of my days.

She slipped deeper and deeper in her addiction, eventually turning to illegal drugs, and becoming a full blown junkie. I wish I could scream this to the whole world: That is not the beautiful, loving, epic human being she once was!

She went from loving, attentive soccer mom, to an empty shell of the epic human she'd once been. This was not the girl who befriended me when we were 17, and nobody in my new school liked me. This was not the girl who'd sat on my parents deck until sunrise one night, sharing her entire birth defect/multiple surgeries/social torture story, then listening as I shared how my father had pickled himself while my mom battled cancer, and how I'd never fit in anywhere I'd ever been, including my family. We were both misfits, and we didn't belong anywhere, except with each other.

But she was no longer that person, and I couldn't deal.

From what I am told, she spent her last days stealing from family members, lying to everyone who loved her, going in and out of jail, and burning every bridge she'd ever had...before succumbing to an illness made deadly by a weakened heart from drug abuse and hard living. Her family is inexplicably sad, but also angry and hurt. They're not surprised by the way her life ended, but at the same time, completely flummoxed.

I am utterly heartbroken.

This is not the way she should've gone out. She was bigger than life, hilarious, and passionate to a fault. She was bold, loud, silly, strong, and stubborn. She was the one friend we could all count on to hold our hair back while we puked, and to make sure we didn't get ourselves into a dangerous situation while incoherent. She was the mother, the protector, the guide, the bodyguard. She believed in us when we didn't believe in ourselves. She read all my manuscripts, some dating back to when I was 18 years old, and was the first friend I told when I got my first publishing contract. She was my biggest fan. And now she's gone.

Do not think for a second that you are immune to addiction. Do not fool yourself into thinking that your social status, financial status, location, job, or church participation makes you immune to the stinging, suffocating grip of addiction. Do not assume that you've got it under control. Do not assume people don't know, or that people don't care, or that you're keeping your secret under wraps. If it can happen to my sweet friend, it can happen to anyone, and I implore you to stop right now. Get help, somehow, anyhow....because there are people who do care, who will miss you, and who will ache like I ache if you die.

I am sick of losing people to addiction. Sick, sick, SICK of it. So many lives wasted. It makes me physically ill, not even kidding.

I'm going to my friend's funeral this weekend. I am making a long, uncomfortable journey to a town I swore I'd never go back to, to be there to say goodbye to a friend I loved with my whole heart, and I am not okay with it. I shouldn't be making this journey. I shouldn't be picking out clothes to wear to her funeral. This is not how my winter was supposed to go. More importantly, this is not how her life was supposed to go.

Please reach out to your friends--the ones who have loved every last detail about you, even the ugly ones--and tell them how very much you love them. And if you're close enough to hug them, do it, and do it hard. Because you literally never know when it will be the last time you have that opportunity, and believe you me, you will regret it, if you don't.

I will never stop loving my friend. She will be in my thoughts for the rest of my life, and when I cross through the veil to the next life--at the ripe old age of 80-something, with blue hair and a gold velvet jogging suit on like we always said we would have--I expect her to be standing right there with my dad, waiting to embrace me. Fully whole, completely free. Holy crap, I am so looking forward to seeing her in perfect form.

But in the meantime, I will continue to openly and blatantly share my stories of addiction and loss. I will never sugar coat this awful, ugly disease, and I will never pretend that I don't notice if someone is suffering from addiction. Because I am sick to death of losing people I love.

Please pray for my dear friend's family and especially her daughter. They will need it, and they so deeply deserve it.


Monday, February 11, 2019

I spoke in church today...

....about a specific topic. The topic was "I Can Do Hard Things." I was asked to specifically share my family's story of how we went to South Korea for our last school year abroad, in spite of desperately wanting to stay in the USA.

Cliff Notes version for the newcomers: my husband took a job in South Korea, moving my family abroad for three and a half years. It wasn't easy, in fact, it downright sucked at times, and came to an all time head during our last year there. We'd spent the summer in the USA, and my children sobbed and begged me not to make them go back for the last school year in Asia. When we arrived, it was even worse than we expected. My teenage daughter's friendships became toxic and she suffered racism and bullying because of her religion. My son's struggled in their grade school as well. I pulled away from almost all my friendships, because of significant differences in lifestyles, morals, and standards, and was isolated and alone most of the time. We considered moving the children and myself back to the USA, and letting my husband stay in Korea to finish his contract, but ultimately chose in favor of keeping our family together, despite how inexplicably difficult it was.

I didn't mind sharing our experience. It was a lovely testimony in favor of staying together as a family, rather than living continents apart. I know that we made the right choice, as difficult as it was, because we came out of the experience of that last awful year, much closer and tightly bonded than we ever expected to be. My children know, without a shred of doubt, that their family will always have their back, and that they're never, ever alone. In the end, as we climbed on the plane to fly home to stay this summer, I knew that choosing to be together was better than being apart.

And more so than anything, I know now that...

I really can do hard things.

I mean, you would think I would have known that by now. I've seen some bumps along the road of life, some that tried really hard to break me, and I've kept going. But still....I think it took living in a toxic environment for those last 10 months abroad for me to really, truly believe that I can do hard things. That doesn't mean that by doing said hard things, they will be made easy. Nope. Our last school year abroad was awful. Literally awful. And frankly put, it literally never let up. The bad stuff just kept happening, despite having done the "right thing" and chosen to stick it out together as a family. But now I have a strong testimony that my children and I are fully capable of mucking our way through the crap life throws at us, and coming out the other side in one piece. Of this, I have zero doubts.

From here...

We are home now. We have a beautiful house in the woods, surrounded by moose and deer and a ruthless gang of turkeys that I go to battle against at least twice a week. The air here smells clean and fresh, and the people smile and shake hands and help each other. There is a hometown feeling here that I certainly didn't appreciate prior to moving abroad, and I know now that I will never take it for granted again. Sometimes you don't realize how good you had it, until it's gone. My children are still grappling with some of the residual damage that living abroad caused them--but also relishing in the incredible life experience they have that few other kids around here may ever have the chance at experiencing! I am slowly, but surely starting to appreciate certain elements of our time in South Korea. It's taking time. And I'm very bitter.

To here!

Slowly, I hope....that bitterness will wear away, and I will be able to look back with fondness. I'm not there yet, but I will be eventually.

But I am very proud to say that I....or more specifically....we can definitely do hard things. And you can, too.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

It's only 12 degrees out!

I need to warm up. Grab About That Summer to read all about the warm summer nights at Camp Chimalis....

It was all so heavy. Staggeringly, bone-breakingly heavy. I glanced around me. Both of my remaining best friends were crying, too. Even Seth and Erin watched the grownups unravel with sober, wide eyes. The last few years of my life—of allour lives—had been heavier than anybody should have to muck their way through. It felt like I was going to splinter and break under the pressure of it all.
Rachael slid her hand into mine, then reached for April. “Come on.”
I pulled my hand free. “I… I don’t want to.”
Rach slid her glasses onto the top of her head. “We should say hello.”
“I can’t.” I backed away. “I’m going to finish this bouquet.”
April tilted her head at me, a tear slipping out of her left eye. “You okay, Moll?”
“Yes!” I answered to quickly, and too loudly, and Jamie stopped walking. Pressing my hand to my chest, I felt my heart thudding so hard, I was pretty sure my clavicle would crack. “No. I just… I… it’s hot out. And I’m feeling... you know…”
“Hung over?” Erin offered from behind her veil of black hair.
“Erin, hush,” scolded April. She reached for me. “Come on. We’ll go together. We’ll say hello, and then you can go to lay down until the service.”
            “I’ll say hello later.” Grimacing as Zane opened the backdoor of the Four Runner and pulled out little Maddie, I drew a shaky breath. “I can’t right now.”
            Jamie wiped his face, watching me. “Moll?”
            Rachael hiccupped. “We need to at least say somethingto Zane. We’re being rude.”
            I bit my lip until I tasted blood. Iwas being rude. But I couldn’t help it. The air felt thick, and my skin tight. Glancing up at the dirt lot, I noticed Zane’s mother had lifted a sleeping Max from his car seat. He opened his eyes with the jostling, and took stock all of the crying adults around him before releasing a pitiful yowl.
            My chest tightened, making each pound of my heart even more arduous. The pain between Bree’s family clung to the ferns and the pine needles like cobwebs. It stuck in my mouth like a gluey piece of gum, choking me.
            Those poor, motherless babies would never know their incredible mother. That poor widower lost the one person he loved above all else. Those poor parents were getting ready to say goodbye to their only daughter. It was too much.
            Maddie joined in Max’s wails, and my stomach twisted itself into a square knot. I observed through swimming eyes as Sue took Max from Zane’s mother, and cradled him. Her shoulders shook as she rocked him back and forth, and my breath caught in my throat. Owen took his glasses off, and used a bandana from his pocket to wipe at his eyes. Aside from a couple moments where she’d lost, then quickly regained her composure, Sue had kept herself together the whole week. She and Owen were the picture of strength. But now that their son-in-law and grandchildren had arrived, their resolve cracked.
            A sob crept its way up the back of my throat, escaping with a jagged gurgle. “I’m sorry. I need to…”
            I didn’t finish my sentence. Instead, I turned and stalked into the woods. The bushes whacked against my arms and legs as I stomped towards the cabin, forgoing the actual path to cut a trail through some thimbleberry bushes. When I reached the leaning front porch, I stumbled on my way up the steps, landing on my knees. I covered my face and let the sobs overcome me.
            How was it that life went on—clouds still dropped rain, sun still shone, plants kept growing, and water kept lapping up on the rocky shore—despite the fact that someone so monumental was gone forever?
            “Come on,” a soft, warm voice comforted me from behind my back. Gentle hands took hold of my shoulders, helping me to my feet.
            Blinking, I looked over my shoulder to find Jamie, his face tear-streaked, his hair mussed, and a streak of dirt on his cheek. “I’m fine,” I lied in a strangled voice, trying weakly to move away from his touch.
            “No, you’re not. None of us are.” 

Click here to grab your copy of
About That Summer!