Prior to marriage and kids, I was a free spirit. I didn’t care what happened tomorrow, only today in this moment. Worries were drowned out by going, going, going and only letting it bother me for a short time period. Being careless with my life was normal and I constantly sought the next adventure once one ended, even if that adventure was something as small as a house party to crash. Uninhibited by anything and trying everything was how I got by. Until it all crashed around me. And I mean everything.
I was a high school drop out, I was hooked on drugs and drinking went right along with it. Hiding it from everyone, at that point, was pretty easy for me. I’d been doing it for years and by the time I was seventeen, I was in a tailspin and knew it was only a matter of time before I went over the edge. Being that reckless, impulsive person, I jumped ship, or should I say plane? I went 4,772 miles from my home and all my comforts to Hawaii; to a place I’d never been, just to try and straighten out my life. The joke was on me though. Just changing locations didn’t kick the drugs or drinking. It didn’t change how impulsive I’d become, I mean I’d just hopped an ocean knowing exactly one person there. I married my once really good friend thinking it was a good idea. We knew it was more contractual than anything else. He wanted money, I wanted away from Washington. It was a terrible idea and it led to more drinking because everyone knows sailors can party with the best of them.
I remember my eighteenth birthday pretty well, sort of. I remember we decided a house party was a good idea and I remember my favorite drink at the time, a screwdriver, was constantly full and in my hand. Everyone kept topping me off with more vodka and not adding any orange juice. By the time I noticed, my drink was pretty much clear. I was drinking straight vodka and I wasn’t even twenty-one! I was partying like I’d just hit the big 2-1. My friends, help them, encouraged it because we all were messed up. We all had our problems and my ex and I had just gotten married, so we were not only celebrating that, but my birthday. That vodka story is only one of many from that night. And out of all the people that were at that party, I still speak with one and he’s a very good friend who has thankfully, seen me through a lot of crap. That was the first big binge I went on in Hawaii—It was hardly the last.
My ex went out on deployment and things changed between him and I. He accused me of many things, spread rumors about me around his ship and became verbally abusive. I wouldn’t stand for it and I told him I wanted a divorce. That was less than six months into our marriage. Again, we knew it was a mutually beneficial arrangement, but nothing was worth what he was saying to and about me. Shortly after, I started talking to Josh and he asked me out for months before I eventually agreed to meet with him. In those months that I got to Hawaii and when I met Josh, I enrolled myself in college and of course, partied like I didn’t give a crap about anything. Which I didn’t, even my schooling wasn’t that important. I was pulling straight A’s even being half coherent. Clearly, I had control of my problems and school, right? I was fooling myself and lying to everyone while doing it.
Fast forward a few months, Josh and I met and started dating. I ended up dropping out of college (at least that was for legit reasons) and got a job. I met with his friends and his friends were bikers. Hardcore, cut-toting, throw-people-in-a-pineapple-field bikers. They were awesome. Go figure I’d find a guy that was not into drugs, but who had friends who lived in them. One night I was at my house and Josh asked me to come see him. Where I was and where he was was a good 30/40 minute drive and on an island, that’s a long way. I was already a few beers deep and drove to see him anyway. I can’t remember half that drive, just that as soon as I got to his house I started drinking again. Thankfully I didn’t hurt anyone. Soon after Josh went on deployment and all his friends watched over me while he was gone. They provided unlimited drugs and alcohol. They gave me comfort when I went through a miscarriage and before I go any further I want it on the record that the minute I suspected I was pregnant I was doing nothing. My habitual drug use had no determining factor in why I miscarried. But I did miscarry and Josh was gone. What did I do? I retreated into those drugs even harder.
I was also starting to have problems with my PCOS, I was developing cysts and they kept rupturing. Which is extremely painful and the only way to manage them is to take pain killers. Therein started another problem for me. They were persistent and I landed in the ER many times. I can at least say that yes, the drugs were nice, but I was experiencing real pain. I’d get ultrasounds of my ovaries and you could see what had happened. There was physical proof of why I was in as much pain as I was. Once Josh got home we married and moved into our own home. A home that I medicated myself in, day in and day out. For the first few years of our marriage I was blasted and Josh, never having really been around drugs like this, had no idea. In those years we experienced a few more miscarriages and they fueled my need for escape. Until one day it was enough.
I’m not sure what the turning point was for me, but something changed and I fought not to blow that pill or down that drink. I stopped going to the hospital even though the cysts kept happening. I wouldn’t give myself the ability to get my hands on those drugs. I started distancing myself from Josh’s friends more and more until one day, I just stopped seeing them. Since then, I’ve had my drug usage under control and I can now socially drink without having any problems. I’m able to do this because I wasn’t addicted to the drugs and alcohol themselves. I was an addict for how they made me feel or not feel. They emptied me and made me a shell so I didn’t have to have any sensation to life. Once I was clean it was like I was breathing for the first time, but I was breathing acidic air because in those years I’d destroyed so much. So much. Friendships. Relationships with family. Part of my health. My schooling. It was the proverbial shit show.
But I rebuilt and mended myself in many different ways. In those days, I questioned what I’d become innumerable times and could never give myself an answer. I had no passion for life, I had no excitement for anything; I was lost. Then Kanin came along and I struggled through motherhood, questioning every move I made, every thought I had. It was a hard time in my life; harder than, I think, getting clean. Still, I survived and kept myself whole and able to care for my child. There’d be days where inhibitors sounded amazing. I persevered and never wavered from knowing that if I went back into drugs, I’d probably never escape. Fast forward 3 years and along came Aerilyn. Sweet Aerilyn—my hardest test to date.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider getting obliterated while pregnant with her. She was already going to die, what could a few drugs do to her? Even though that very thought crossed my mind a hundred times, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that maybe that one drug I took could have ended her life. Then after she died, god, I wanted to hide and go back to where I hadn’t quit the opiates. I struggled more than I ever had before, not to ruin my life or leave Kanin motherless. It’s been seventeen months since she lived and died and there are still days I lament over medicating myself on an extreme level. But I don’t. It wouldn’t bring her back and it wouldn’t solve all my problems like I used to think it would. The only thing it would do would cause more harm and not just to me. I can’t allow that.
On Mother’s Day Kanin I went out and while we were out he made me so angry. I wanted to just go home and lock myself away from him. Obviously, I couldn’t do that, so on our way home, I put on music, which is calming to me and tuned out his playing in the back. I took a deep breath and when I released it, all my anger left me. All my frustrations flowed out like the wind sweeping dead leaves from a meadow. I watched those leaves fly away and looked at the meadow to see beautiful flowers underneath. And that’s when it struck me—I’m breathing fresh air for the first time in what seems like years.
I once again questioned what had I become: What had years of drugs done to me? How had marriage changed me? What effect did motherhood have on me? What were the consequences of Aerilyn dying? How had all these events lead me to this moment in time? Did it make an impatient mother? Did it manufacture a terrible wife? Sister? Daughter? What had I become? Then I had the answer.
I have become an independent woman who’s been through hell and back. I grew into someone who can recognize the need for help with her child. I’ve evolved into a woman who knows what she wants out of her marriage; probably for the first time, ever. I learned more about myself than I ever thought I could and in learning those things, I’ve bettered myself. I’ve morphed into this person who no longer doubts herself all the time, which is huge. I’m a damn good mother. I may not be good every day all day, but my child is clothed. He is loved and has a roof over his head. He has both parents despite the circumstances and he’s happy. Even after losing his sister, he’s happy. He finds joy in things I would, without him, find odd. I’m a strong woman who falls occasionally but gets back up. I am me. The good, the bad and the ugly—I’m me and no one else. I won’t apologize for being me, either. I won’t apologize for being frustrated with my child. I won’t apologize for sometimes hating the Navy life. I won’t apologize for standing up for what I believe in. I won’t apologize for my past and I certainly won’t apologize for talking about my baby who died.
I have become more me in the past two years than ever in my life and I’m proud of that. I am proud of myself for everything I’ve overcome. I’m proud my marriage has survived the unimaginable. I’m proud of my son for going months without his father while dealing with a move and coming to terms with the loss of his sister. I’m proud of my daughter for surviving the time she did when the odds were against her. I’m proud my husband has put up with me and my bullshit for the past nine years. Mostly, I’m proud that even though I still have a long way to go, I am still going.
May 23rd our little boy will be five! Five years of learning curves and many “firsts.” Soon he’ll be going to school and once that happens, there’s no turning back. There’s no getting these past two years back that I’ve missed in my haze. But I have his future, as long as that is, to be his mother. To tell him about his sister and why he can’t walk around with his hands in his pants. Five, wow.
Three short days after Kanin turns five, I have another hurdle to leap. May 26th marks exactly two years from hearing those fateful words that Aerilyn wasn’t going to survive. Two years full of death and sorrow and joy. This day will be incredibly hard for me and I’ll want to sink back into those “drugs are easier” thoughts. But I know I can’t do that. I plan to reread this and remind myself that I am capable of withstanding this date. That diagnosis day will not define me and I will be okay.
That’s the whole point of this.