2018… Where to begin? It was hands down the hardest year of my life. I dealt with things I never imagined I would deal with as I watched the person I love struggle and sink into the dark depths of alcoholism and addiction. My world as I knew it rapidly fell apart around me. I dealt with wave after wave of relapses and the turmoil that comes along with it. The year was marked by an immense amount of exhaustion, worry, confusion and heartache. I was tested and stretched in every way as I tried to navigate my way through what was happening and had to make some incredibly difficult decisions. “Hard” really doesn’t even begin to describe it all.. the shock, the sleepless nights, the panic attacks, the breakdowns, and the tears…. It was a traumatic year for everyone.
But the thing about these types of life-rocking challenges, is that they truly show what you are capable of, what really matters, and who really cares. If you look for the lessons and keep the faith, the challenges can actually make you blossom, grow, and preciously grateful.
While in the midst of the challenge of my life, I look back and am really, truly proud of what I was able to overcome. I trusted my gut and did what I knew was right for me and the boys, even in the face of immense opposition and fear. I cared for three little boys as a single parent for the majority of the year. I made sure they were safe, healthy, and happy- and I’m proud to say they are thriving! I packed up our entire house, found a moving and storage company, and managed every step of the sale of our house and our move 2.5 hours away. I spruced up my resume, tapped into my network, interviewed three places and received three offers, and ultimately landed a job with a firm I am loving and that allows me to provide for my family while still giving me work/life balance. I found the perfect, happiest little house for us 10-minutes away from my parents. I did tons of research, made lots of decisions, completed oodles of paperwork, and made it happen. I researched and visited numerous daycares and found a place my kids and I LOVE! We all agree that school 3-days a week has been beyond good for the boys. They’ve made so many friends and are learning so much. I also found a nanny for the other 2-days who goes above and beyond to help me care for the kids and the house. I got us settled in our new home and into a really good routine. I created a new life for us that is actually working and we are doing ok.. better than ok! I also read every single book I could on addiction and tried desperately to understand my husband’s disease. Though I had my bad days and though I had to set fierce boundaries, I never stopped showing love, forgiveness, and hope for the person who was turning our life upside down. I never thought I could do these things.. I truly didn’t believe I was capable of any of it, but with hope, support, and faith - I actually did it all.
Dealing with the hard also makes you appreciate the good so much more. I learned how to soak in the good even if the bad is still there. (You HAVE to learn how to do that in this type of situation). And there was so much good. The boys each turning a year older and watching them grow… the big things and little things. Swimming lessons, soccer games, first words, first sentences, first steps, catching frogs, dancing in the kitchen, playing in the rain, reading books, playing in the mud in the lot, watching the construction crew build our house, playing at the park and going for walks, saying our prayers together, the million smiles, hugs and kisses… so many moments I will forever cherish. I also loved having the opportunity to live with my parents again until our new house was finished. They were so supportive and truly helped me get back on my feet - physically, mentally, and emotionally. They and the boys completely bonded and the time we lived with them will always be remembered as such a special time. My parents, the boys and I also took a trip to southern California to visit my sister over my 35th birthday in May. One of the highlights of my year was walking down the street in Newport beach and looking up and seeing my BROTHER who flew in from Chicago as a surprise! I cried when I saw him and I still tear up thinking about it! Best surprise ever. It was so good to get away, spend time with the people I love, do something FUN, soak up the sun, and breathe. It was one of the best weeks of my life and lifted my spirits so much. Before we went on the trip was probably my darkest, hardest time. My nerves were shot, I was beyond sleep deprived. I was burned out, depressed, and fragile, but I left the trip with hope, an ignited sense of motivation, and a feeling that things would actually be okay. I also just deeply appreciate and love this new house. I’ll be honest, though I knew I had to move, actually committing to selling the house and committing to buy this new house terrified me. It was so scary knowing there was no going back and I second guessed myself a lot. But I trusted my gut and trusted God and it seriously turned out to be the best decision I ever made. ‘Home’ has always been so important to me, and this place felt like home from the second they started digging the lot. I feel like the floor plan was seriously designed for us and putting my touches on it has been a joy. We are so happy here and I’m so thankful for all the wise decisions we made throughout our whole lives that allowed me to land in this perfect house at this perfect time.
And I couldn’t have done this all without my amazing family and friends. I knew they were amazing before but wow, did people step up to help. To physically help with the boys, to help me move, and to pick up the pieces of my heart that were broken into a million pieces. My parents who just stepped right in and were my absolute rock. My sister and brother who countless times stopped what they were doing or stayed up with all night on the phone as I was crying, analyzing, or worrying. They always gave me perspective and hope, and talked as long as I needed to talk. Not sure they got any work done in 2018 but still ;) Even being hundreds and thousands of miles away, it always felt like they were right there with me. (They were!) I was so blessed by friends and extended family who booked flights and came to Cleveland to stay with me, no questions asked. They just showed up and took care of us and made us smile. My dear friends who constantly checked in on me, asked how I was “REALLY” doing, listened, cried along with me, and directed me back to the light. My next door neighbor who would pop over every couple of days to watch the boys so I could squeeze in a quick uninterrupted shower! The friends who loved on me full well knowing I didn’t have anything to give in return. The blessing in all of this is that it has stripped away the superficialities and deepened my friendships beyond measure. Even just the kind words and outreach from people who I haven’t talked to in years or the wonderfulness of some of my friends I met through this blog who I’ve talked to online but have never even met! It has meant SO much. Every thoughtful message and every act of kindness was like a candle being lit in the dark. Never underestimate the impact your kindness can have on someone- truly. Even the smallest, tiniest little things. I am truly blessed by how much light the people in my world brought to me the last year.
I’ve learned more lessons than I can even count, but here’s a few: There is good in every day and you have to choose to focus on the good. It’s really, truly, okay to ask for help. You are capable of far more than you think you are. Even at your worst, you can move mountains. You are loved more than you believe you are. Being vulnerable sets you free. In every challenge there are gifts. Allow the joy to break through the grief. Love is always the answer.
And FAITH… There is too much for me to even say on this topic and I’ll dive deeper into it all at some point in time, but two things for now 1) I seriously made it through this year by the grace and strength that can only come from God. Hands down. No questions asked. 2) I’ve never seen more “signs” from God than I saw in 2018. Too many things fell into place too perfectly. I truly believe God was looking out for me and laying out the path ahead of me.
I didn’t see 2018 coming. If you would have told me at the beginning of the year what I’d have gone through and where I’d be now, I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have imagined this in a million years. (It is honestly still difficult for me to process that this is my life.) And while the year was clearly marked by immense heartache and hardship (that I’m still struggling with, by the way), I’m also very thankful for all of the good and all of the growth that came out of it. I’m a better person because of it. A better friend, a better mom, a better me. I truly look at the world differently now, and there’s a lot more beauty, appreciation, wisdom, and hope. My understanding and view of my life and purpose on this earth is just so different and deeper now. In the sense of how much I’ve learned and grown, I wouldn’t even want to unwind or reverse things. “The gifts of grief” I heard someone say recently, and it is so true. And that is what I choose to take away from the year, the gifts.