LOOKS LIKE WE MADE IT!
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
She came, a little bundle of pink skin, into this world nineteen short years ago. I remember smelling her skin, brushing my cheek against hers, and kissing her soft eyelids as she slept. Where did the time go? When I close my eyes, I am in that moment like it was yesterday. My heart feels like it is going to shatter into a thousand pieces. That little bundle of joy, blonde curls and all, is grown now and leaving home for the first time in less than a week. She saved my life all those years ago, and is a key player in why I get to be here today to write this.
Almost twenty years ago, I was nose deep in my drug addiction, ready to die. I couldn’t imagine that I had ever been sober, nor could I imagine that I might ever know what it felt like to be sober ever again. It was terrifying. Then one afternoon, unbeknownst to me, I was surprised with a positive sign on a little stick and my world would change forever that day.
I found out I was pregnant with my daughter five months into it. I thought I had lost my baby a few months before, in fact the doctor had told me so. It was the perfect reason to not give a damn anymore. I had wanted that baby and had tried for so long. I stayed numb, as numb as I could get once I had lost it. Any substance I could get my hands on I absorbed and still that wasn’t enough. I was on a mission to commit a slow painful suicide. Then the doctor told me that in fact, one of my babies had held on and was still trying to be born. She was bound and determined to get here. She was on her own mission – to help me save my life.
My higher power is something I will never be able to understand, but I know loves me very much. There is no other reason she held on after what I had put her through including losing her twin – none. You see that baby was my own personal destiny – pure fate. And that is exactly the name she got when she entered this world – Destiny Kaitlyn (meaning Fate/Pure). After I found out I was pregnant I put the straw down. I walked away from the bottle and the pills and I took joy in being pregnant. To say I was excited is an understatement.
I know there are those that might be repulsed by this story, feel disgust and shame for me, even be angry. I completely understand. If I didn’t know the disease as personally as I know mine, I would too. That’s okay. Please stay with me. I hope to help you maybe see it through a different pair of glasses when you are done. If not, that’s okay too. Everyone has their right to feel as they do. If you are the mother who can identify with this, my heart goes out to you. I do not hate you. I understand you. And, if you are the mother like I was, that just found out she’s pregnant, I hope this inspires you. Hang in there. There is hope.
I found a reason to not use when I heard her heartbeat and there was proof she was really there. I got a second chance and man did I take God up on that one. I didn’t use the rest of that pregnancy (my daughter jokes today that she got sober 5 months in utero). But as my pregnancy drew closer to the end, I got scared. I started to fear her birth. I was afraid that without her in me, I wouldn’t be strong enough to not use again. So, when she was born I breast fed so I wouldn’t use. That lasted six months before it was over and I was terrified. Now what?
I didn’t know anything about recovery, nor had I ever tried it. I didn’t understand my disease, but knew I was an addict. So, I white-knuckled it for quite a few years after that. I didn’t use, but I wouldn’t be lying if I said that quite frequently my thoughts would do what an addicts mind does, and toy with the idea on how I might be able to once again. Each time they would surface, it took a moment before I realized the train of thought was off the tracks, and I would grab up my daughter, snuggle my nose deep into her neck and cry holding her.
I don’t know how I managed to walk away from the pills or powders then, but I did. However, even as years past, I would still occasionally find myself entertaining those familiar thoughts. By then, I could shake them quickly. I had been away from it long enough that I didn’t know anyone in that world anymore, nor the first thing about trying to get it. I was in college by then, married to a great man, and my family was pretty much happy and normal.
Then the Twin Towers fell and so did my life. My then husband would be called off to war shortly afterwards and I would find myself in such a state of panic that I ran to my Bishop and asked him to help me stay sober. Something in me knew I wasn’t able to do this one on my own. For ten months I was a good girl. I didn’t have one mind-altering substance during that time. I had been able to drink since using, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t really care for it. I was an upper girl. I didn’t like alcohol. I could take it or leave it. I have since heard that same statement echoed night in and night out in recovery meetings everywhere, by addicts like me. It scares me when they say that, because I know all too well that they suffer from the same delusion I did – that their problem is drugs. I want to shake them and drill it in their heads and tell them that is the lie it tells you, your disease – YOU are your problem damn it! But it won’t make a difference. It didn’t to me.
After those ten months of dry sobriety, I had one beer – that’s it. The rest is history. For the next six years I was a black out drunk, and the little girl that I wanted so much to never see one of my dark days, let alone years’ worth of dark days, was riding right beside me. I had of course lost everything but her. She held on then, like she had done all those years ago. She wasn’t letting go, but then again maybe I didn’t give her choice to.
I got sober, when I got sober. On the first night I was sober, I was crying, holding her, telling her that “it wouldn’t always be this way”.
She just just smiled and said, “I’ll do anything to help you stay sober mama”. It was then that I knew that if she was willing to go to any lengths to help me stay sober, what lengths was I willing to go to for her? That was seven and half years ago. I got sober in the knick of time she says. Had I not done so when I did, she would have probably taken a different road than she did. She tells me all the time that she was right there at the turning point between here and there. I stopped drinking right before I almost lost her. I had stopped using all those years ago right before I would have lost her when I was pregnant with her. God intervened yet once again.
Today, she is packing to leave on her mission. She will be gone for a year and a half. She has been my biggest supporter, my accountability partner, my teacher, and the last child to leave home. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time being her mother. We had a small blip, but we overcame it and as a result, both her and I are stronger for it. I would do it all over again if I could. I understand my disease now. I know what true recovery is today. I have witnessed miracles as a result of just not drinking or using and following a twelve-step recovery program. I work it daily and live it everyday. I have to and I get to. My life is a direct result of it. I won’t bore you with all the wonderful things that came as a result. I’ll let you in on that another time. This time, I wanted the reflection of me in my daughter’s eyes to be what you saw. She is a result of me getting sober, proof of a higher power, and reason to believe.
I can’t say that I’m not scared. She has been my rock for so long. In fact, I am coming to understand that I put more stock in her than I did my higher power at times. This will be the true test. As my reason for being alive today leaves home and begins her new life, my reason to be alive changes with it. I am growing once again. I know I did well. She’s perfect. But, she did well raising me too. I turned out pretty okay myself. We will both be fine, in fact better than fine. We made it this far didn’t we?
I will miss her terribly. I am a little scared about this new chapter in our lives. I’m even a little scared for my recovery. But I know today that my fears are all imagined and only have the power over me that I give them. I do the work today. I write the inventory. I get my butt to a meeting and call my sponsor. I need to stay active and working with others.
This is my story, or at least part of it. It is a part of my dark past that is in fact my best ally. Today this story is one I get to share with others and hope that in doing so, I can reach one woman, one mother, who is where I was at any point in my journey. I am done raising my daughter, but there is still so many out there that need me. Goodbye for now baby girl. Thank you for helping me save my life, so we could both have one. As you go out to help others, just know your mother will continue to do so herself. I am so proud of you Destiny. Looks like we made it!
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author.