Let me briefly preface the following tale of upheaval and discord by apologizing to my readers. It seems that I have a nasty habit of dragging my feet to compose and publish anything until chaos abounds. The name of my blog is “Truth Scerum” because my goal was to be unabashedly candid while detailing the events of my journey. I seem to have a fixation with the belief that truth must have an ugly gloss on it. After all, it’s not called the “ugly truth” for nothing, right??
Not all of my experiences are ugly or chaotic, however, so if I’m truly being honest, I have dropped the proverbial ball on this one. Of course, admitting that there is a problem is the first step towards fixing it….meaning, I’ll put forth the effort to record the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Goddess.
Now, let the chaotic retelling of my most recent truth – begin…..
In the brief span of 2 weeks, all 3 of my little shenanigators have moved back under my roof. All in all, it was a fair trade. I gifted my Mom my brother and his clan (girlfriend and 2 littles) and they came with every scrap of junk they had filled my house with while they lived rent free for 9 months. In exchange, I received my own kids with all their belongings. They had been staying with her while my infamous court battle ensued.
This exchange took place after I removed all their kids’ toys from my spare bedroom and set them up in the living room. My brother’s girlfriend/baby-mama threw a fit that rivaled one of her 3 year olds and declared that I was attempting a coup and had laid claim to everything in the house. (“Everything” being the spare bedroom I needed for my own kids to move back home) Apparently she was confused when I allowed all of them to move in and came to the conclusion that I would be content to smash all of mine and my kids belongings into my bedroom upstairs. I still haven’t figured out where she thought we were all going to sleep, after all, she’s not exactly a genius and may have simply thrown together a shoddy addition sentence.
Either way, she had a meltdown and I proceeded to kick them out. You should know that up to this point I had been politely requesting that she help me clean that room out while reminding her of the fact that the living arrangement we made was only temporary while I went to a long term program and got a solid recovery program together. After almost 4 months of asking politely, I warned my brother and his girlfriend that if they insisted on dragging their feet about the play room I would take matters into my own hands and clean it out to make room for my littles to have a bedroom.
I have a nasty habit of abusing sarcasm and this may or may not have added to the amount of steam that was emanating from her ears. In my defense, when someone is nice enough to open their home to you and let you live there rent free for 9 months, one might assume that when the owner of said house finally requests that you move your crap so they have adequate space to move back in you might want to move your crap! Again, they are not exactly brainiacs. I love my brother but if you Google “big dumb animal” and click on “images”, you’ll see an entire collection of photos that resemble the poor kid. Worse yet, if you keep scrolling, his girlfriend is also depicted. They are that couple who lives by the code: “ignorance is bliss.”
Long story short: they decided that my request for adequate space was asking too much, threw temper tantrums, and removed themselves and their collection of nonsense from my house. This was actually a blessing because now the house is pristine! My son has his own room upstairs while my daughters share the one on the first floor.
I was able to move both of the desks and the white board up from the basement and created little study spaces, one upstairs and one down, so they have areas to do school work. All my kids are in elementary school and they attend the morning session. Every Wednesday they have off for teacher conferences due to the pandemic so having those specific areas to get their school work done makes all the difference.
Part of the chaos I speak of is the responsibility I have this year to act as their teacher for the second half of the day. They each have homework to complete which is usually unheard of in Kindergarten and 1st grade but is necessary due to current circumstances. I have to juggle getting them on the bus at 8:30am, getting them off the bus at noon, arranging their lunch so that they are fed in 30 mins flat once they step foot off the bus, followed by online tutoring sessions at 12:30. Then the homework portion of our day begins.
I have my kitchen and my living room back which allowed me the room necessary to create the study space downstairs. I can finally sit on my couch and enjoy my quiet time after the kids leave for school or go down for the night without having to stay holed up in my bedroom 24/7 with the walls slowly closing in. That being said, there isn’t much quiet time to be had now that my kids are all back under my roof.
The chaos continued…just as everyone was finally settling in and getting comfortable with the new status quo, I lost my job. Due to COVID, they decided that they didn’t want to stay open at night and my entire schedule consisted of working overnights. First and second shift were fully staffed already so the obvious trade-off was to let me go. Now I have three littles that are completely my responsibility and no gainful employment to speak of. My precious quiet time became the only time I was able to fill out job applications and peruse my opportunities on “Indeed” without disruption.
Thankfully, I found a merchandising job rather quickly that paid $4 more than I was making at the gas station and merchandising is something I’ve enjoyed doing. Another gleaming example of how I manage to thrive in chaos! And yet, this blessing adds to my chaos because of the strict school schedule I described earlier and my tasks as their teacher as well as their sole parent.
Let me stop there and say that while I’m describing these chaotic experiences, I do not think my situation is in any way unique. I am acutely aware of the many other families, especially one parent families, that are experiencing the same level of anxiety due to the thought that you are now responsible for your child’s education. Maybe that’s why I thought it relevant to write about.
It took about a month for me and the kids to finally get synced up and fall into a groove which allowed everyone to complete all their assignments on time, go to bed on time, and not holler and scream at each other every step of the way. To be honest, it was mostly me doing the screaming while they were dragging their feet to sit and concentrate long enough to complete just one of the five tasks they had been assigned for school.
With much patience and even more frustration once the patience wore thin, the littles sit and get the work done with a minuscule amount of fuss-faces. Just in time for me to start a new job with a new schedule and begin traversing the rocky terrain of getting acclimated with an entirely new schedule all over again.
Meanwhile, Dumb and Dumber (my brother and his girlfriend) sneer at me each time I walk into my mother’s house, Christmas is fast approaching and all three of my kids are asking for every toy advertised. Their school attempted to teach them about gratitude which I hoped would return their little feet to the ground. We created jars and cut paper strips which were supposed to hold something they were thankful for.
The deal was simple: take a slip of paper and write one thing which you were thankful for. This exercise was supposed to happen every night for a week. The first night we sat at the table with blank strips in front of us, every single one of them sat, pencil poised above their papers
Not one spoiled child of mine could conjure up an ounce of gratitude. To top it all of, I’d made their favorite meal for dinner, grabbed the dessert they had asked for, helped them build their tin foil boats for their school project about the Mayflower, and filled up the bathtub so they could set sail with their creations. When I witness their complete ignorance of how blessed they are I feel grateful and frustrated all at the same time. Grateful, because I don’t want them to worry about adult problems and frustrated, because I believe they should at least have an idea of how much they have when compared to other kids who aren’t so lucky. When you’ve never known poverty, you don’t have a conception of how much you have.
Once I explained this to them and described some simple, everyday things they take for granted that other children go without, it was easier for them to understand the concept of gratitude. While I was leading this little educational expedition, a lightbulb of my own went off.
For some reason, it occurred to me that my blog presence did much the same thing my littles had done while they sat dumbfounded at the thought they might have something to be thankful for. Even though my main intention when I began posting was to be as honest as I could about what trials I was facing, a portion of what I was experiencing was lost due to my misguided attempt not to sugarcoat my life.
When I see all those smiling faces in the meticulously chosen, perfectly cropped, and edited photos on my Facebook feed, my stomach turns. Not because I don’t wish happiness for my friends, but because I wish my friends to experience a range of emotions. That’s the only way we grow, mature, and eventually adapt. It’s the only way we are able to learn lessons and become better versions of ourselves.
Leaving the hard parts out doesn’t make them any less real, it simply means we haven’t been honest in our portrayal of our lives. My entire premise for this blog was based on the idea that I wanted to lay everything bare, create a space for other people who might be struggling with the same things. However, I am not being truthful when I leave out my blessings; those things I have to be grateful for. There’s plenty of room for conversation about those things too and they are just as important, if not more, because those things didn’t come easy so they should be celebrated even louder and with even more confetti!
Good News: I got the job I wanted so badly! I felt I could really make a difference since I grew up in the system. As always, there is bad news that follows close on the heels of my good news.
Bad News: Without my own car, I’ve been lucky enough to borrow my Mom’s. My brother’s car broke down the same week that I got offered the position I wanted so badly. Now my entire family is attempting to share one vehicle and get to our respective jobs, kids’ appointments, our own appointments…etc…
To make a long story short: I had to pass on my dream job and take the nearest opportunity to my house which is a gas station. I cringe even saying it now. Mostly because I’ve worked so hard to be able to work at a job that is fulfilling as well as pays the bills. I feel like I’m stuck settling for something less than what I deserve….AGAIN.
There is a happy ending in all this! I learned a long time ago that the absolute best approach to any disagreeable situation is to keep a positive attitude. I went into my employment opportunity with an open mind and it turns out that I like the job. My shifts are busy so the time flies by and I’m by myself a majority of the time so I get to throw my headphones in and put the store order away. My previous experience merchandising comes in handy because a huge portion of the job is following a store layout for where items are located to put them away.
The manager values my experience so I ended up getting paid a good 1.50 an hour more than I expected. I’ve even had the opportunity to work at least one shift a week that is straight overtime. The more money I make, the faster I get a vehicle. As far as stepping-stone jobs go, I definitely could’ve done a lot worse.
I write a lot about gratitude and can honestly say: I lucked out with this job and I’m truly grateful that I was lucky enough to land something 8 minutes from my house that pays well, surrounds me with other good people, and allows me to do a job that I’m equipped to do which showcases my talents and ambition.
With sacrifice comes reward….I had a trip planned for me, my ex wife, and the kids. We were scheduled to leave tomorrow and stay until the 11th. It’s a cozy resort that has an indoor water park for the kids. We usually go every summer and with the COVID shutdown we weren’t able to until now. I was worried that starting this job would force me to cancel. The manager was willing to work around the time I needed to go away this week!
This was the icing on the cake! There really is something to be said for being grateful for what you have and keeping a positive outlook.
Graduating the treatment center and moving out has been both spectacularly freeing as well as frustratingly inane at the same time.
For example, tomorrow is Saturday and I want to hit a Big Book meeting and meet with the Sponse to get some work done. Normally I’d have to jump through 6 hoops to get this on my weekly schedule at the last minute. Sometimes I’d have to use this time with my Sponse as my free time for the weekend. Due to my recent transition, I am free to attend and not claim the entirety of my weekly freedom for recovery purposes.
At the same time, when I had down time before I had classes to attend. Nowadays I have to sit with myself. For those of you who struggle with mental illnesses and substance use issues as I do, you understand the severity of what it’s like to sit with oneself. I have a way of making myself a moving target of sorts. This belief that if my body is busy, my mind will be okay is lacking these days.
Of course, this might also be a win for me. Having time to sit with myself has proven difficult and also illuminating. For example, I had to sit down and create a new resume. Up to this point I’ve been a merchandiser. My entire work history is chalk full of sales and merchandising experience. While creating my new resume and sitting at my computer quietly, I came to realize that I wasn’t happy being a merchandiser. There was nothing holding me there. So why was I settling for a title that I’m not even proud of.
I began developing a resume that highlights all the educational experience I have in the recovery field. After all, I was working with AmeriCorps up until my car accident and my title while working with their organization was “Recovery Coach”.
Since revamping my resume and getting in touch with that little voice that you’ll only hear if you’re sitting quietly, I’ve been invited to interview at a few residential places which focus on recovery and rehabilitation. I’m finding out that even though I haven’t been offered a position yet, I am growing and learning new things about interviewing and how to best present myself and my educational and experiential experiences.
Finally, I was contacted by a group home looking for a youth counselor. They reached out to me! I grew up in a group home setting so I’m familiar with what one has to go through to get to a place like that and what it feels like to be away from your family and friends, moved to a new school, and swallow an entirely different set of rules and guidelines.
I never even knew I was interested in a job opportunity like this. Somehow, I feel as though this is my passion! I interviewed over the phone with the talent acquisitions person and got invited to shadow a partial shift sometime next week. All of a sudden, I have a yearning to be a part of this team and to be able to assist young women who are surviving in a world that is very different from most other kids their age.
Looks like sitting with myself really has paid off. Lesson learned! I’ll have to let you know how the job shadow goes and wish me luck. I’m really interested in this position now. Can’t wait to get involved at this level.
The other writing goal I manage to get in everyday is a gratitude exercise that helps me realize how many beautiful moments I’ve had over the course of a day. With four simple questions, I am able to turn my entire night around if I’m struggling to be in a good mood.
1. What touched me today? When I picked up my son from summer camp, he excitedly handed me a picture that a little girl had drawn for him with a message that read: “best camper ever”. The fact that he wanted to share that with me was awesome.
2. Who or what inspired me today? This WordPress site inspired me more than anything. I’ve been attempting to write a blog post for so long and not knowing how to come up with something brilliant enough to post. After reading some of the posts that came up on my feed, I realized that all I need to do is write whatever I write normally and post it.
3. What made me smile today? My daughter was getting dressed after being in the pool and she put on a shirt that had the word “MOM” written on it with two hands which were making the heart symbol around the word. She made it a point to run to me and show her me the shirt. Of course I was smiling widely!
4. What’s the best thing that happened today? I got to see my boyfriend which was unexpected because I don’t usually get to see him until the weekend. Obviously it’s a combination of all the things that touched me, inspired me, and made me smile that make up the best moments in my day.
Upon receiving the Judge’s decision regarding my TPR hearing (termination of parental rights), I was ecstatic! He chose to award guardianship to my Mom while we worked toward reunification. DCYF refused to increase my visits from once a week for 2 hours. I was confused at what kind of sense this could make if we were now working towards reunification. This morning I found out they motioned the court to reconsider the decision to dismiss the TPR.
Immediately, I contacted my Sponsor. Not because I wanted to use but because I have no idea how to calm myself down and my first impulse is to leave nasty messages on voicemail machines throughout DCYF which will ultimately heed no positive responses. She reminded me to go back to the basics which involves asking myself 4 questions:
1. Have I thanked my Higher power for the blessings I have today?
2. Who can I be of service to today? Who can I help?
3. What meetings am I going to attend today?
4. Who can I bring joy to today?
I am powerless over DCYF and their evil spawn of an attorney, however, I am not powerless over how I choose to live my day and interact with those around me. If I am doing the next right thing, I have nothing to worry about. This is how the program works.
Today I am lucky enough to be at my brother’s house where I was invited to celebrate my nephew’s first birthday. I wouldn’t have these blessings in my life if I didn’t have recovery. The rest will take care of itself regardless of any brain power I waste trying to change it.
They say in order to remain in recovery, we must step over the bodies of our friends that don’t make it…
Talk about desperation!!
I’ve stepped over almost every friend I had when I came into recovery. I finally reached a place where I believed there was no one left to lose. There was grief, of course, over those I buried in order to keep moving- but also a feeling of relief- with no one left to mourn, there is also no more pain from losses.
My wife and I used a donor in order to conceive our youngest, Olivia. His name was John. He was found in a puddle of his own blood. He had a brain aneurysm due to an overdose. He was Olivia’s biological father and even though we never planned to tell her my mind automatically transported me to a place where clarity was glaring. All of Olivia’s parents are suffering from this disease and I definitely don’t want to be responsible for leaving her an orphan. John was the father of another daughter which he and his girlfriend conceived. They are now both deceased due to untreated substance use disorders and she is in foster care.
The good news here is that I graduated the Cynthia Day program today and I am moving into a transitional living program that will allow all of my babies to transition into the elementary school and get comfortable with the area over the summer.
I am doing my part to treat my addiction and walk a clean path. They deserve no less!!