This one is long and cathartic and very step #4ish. Don’t read it… I just need to write it.
I’ve had two people in the last week ask the same thing… “Have you forgiven yourself for your past?” I answer quickly, “Yes,” I say, “I’m forgiven. It’s my past,” and I move on with a joke and witty transition to another topic because the truth haunts me and I don’t want to talk about it.
You see, I needed a Savior because I was desperate for absolution. I needed forgiveness. I needed a power greater than myself to say my sins were forgiven because my sins were too great to not be punished. I guess there are people in the world who have little guilt. I suppose there are those who have never done anything so bad they feel deep, enduring regret, but regret and remorse for what I’ve done haunts me, every… single… day.
There are things I’ve done, things I’ve never admitted, I need to confess. There’s a particular part of my life that possibly reflects the sins of my youth. I have two choices. Hide, hush, not say anything, whether it’s right or wrong to do so, or, breathe it all out, for once, whether right or wrong.
I choose to breathe it out.
So here goes…
I have failed as a mom.
I’m not talking the little mom regrets most mothers with good intentions have. I have failed my children miserably and I am watching helplessly as one is letting his life nose-dive and fear if I had done different it wouldn’t be this way.
We’ve all seen them, the kids we know are the way they are because their parents are the way they are. I’m that parent. I wish I wasn’t, but I kinda think I am. I tried hard not to be her, but I was, and probably in this very moment I am. I am utterly, completely alone and lost and clueless to know what’s right and I stand back and watch and fear it is largely my fault.
It’s no secret that I was a methamphetamine user in my past. I’ve adamantly professed that I didn’t use while I was pregnant.
The truth is… That’s a lie. I’ve lied all these years. It’s time to confess…
The truth is… I stopped using when I had the pink line on a stick in my hand. I knew good and well with both my boys long before I peed on that stick that I was pregnant. I just ignored the truth because I wasn’t ready to believe it.
With my oldest I was “only” smoking weed, popping pills and drinking. I suspected earlier with him and quit using earlier with him (except for smoking… I smoked like a chimney the entirety of both my pregnancies). I probably used some sort of illicit drug or alcohol for the first six weeks of his gestation.
What else can I confess? I was prepared to abort him, but by the grace of God, his biological father demanded that not happen. If for nothing else, I respect that man for that one demand. One of my absolute most favorite humans in the history of the world is a known entity because that man (really only a boy at the time) demanded I not terminate the pregnancy. I owe him my eldest son’s life and my utmost gratitude.
My second born, third oldest child, wasn’t so lucky. By the time he came along I was knee deep in a mire of methamphetamine addiction I was powerless to control. I had birth control pills that I took sparingly. When I realized I’d skipped a day or week or however many I’d missed I caught up in one day and told myself it was cool. That, coupled with rolling days of tweaking and partying and crashing and surprise, surprise somehow I missed periods.
I figured it was the meth or missed-and-caught-up-pills and ignored the facts. Honestly, at that time in my life I was so messed up and fried I cannot remember the sequence of events. But I remember the bathroom I was in when I expected my period for the second or third time and it didn’t come. I knew what I didn’t want to know. And so… I peed on the thing and wasn’t surprised when the line showed up.
I hid it though, from everyone but the father. I was a mess, with a blind child already. We were a joke of a couple bouncing from house to house, family member to family member, jail cell to jail cell. The last thing we needed was another kid. And yet, I was knocked up. Again. Idiot! What a colossal failure I was, at life, at everything.
I’d like to say I quit with my second son right there and then, after eight or maybe possibly twelve weeks gestation. In truth the meth and weed did stop. But I still smoked, and one time, around five months gestation, when he was still a hidden secret, I drank a shot of blueberry schnapps from someone because to have turned down the shot would have been too obvious.
That’s horrible. I did drugs while I was pregnant. I’m the worst of the worst. Can I forgive myself for that? Do I have the right to? Maybe I could … if my kids turned out OK, but that’s a big, fat ????? that only time will tell.
Some people can boldly say they did the best they could and their kids turned out bad or good and they can own that they at least did right by their kids. I can’t say that. I failed my kids before they were even born.
And after… Still failed… My second son was born August 15th 1998, I was drunk and high the first night home, August 18th or 19th. I didn’t quit using for nearly a full year. These boys, these innocent kids went through so much. They were powerless to protect themselves from our binges, our fights, our moves and parties. They were victims, collateral damage. And now I am haunted by the fear that I messed them up.
I got my free pass in May of 1999. I can’t explain it on human terms. All I can say is I knew one night in May of 1999 that God was giving me one chance to be free of my addiction and I took it. I had no withdraws, none of the stuff that should have followed an addiction like mine, only a drastic and dramatic change in lifestyle.
I let go of everything that was behind and pressed on to a new and clean life. I took my boys with me.
I was a mess but for once we stayed in the same house for more than a few days or weeks and stayed in an apartment I paid for, by myself, for months. It wasn’t a perfect time but it was a walk into functional living. It was a time for me to break free from abuse, addiction and blame and for the first time own my life and put others ahead of me.
Up til then, I blamed my life, my choices, my sad state on my upbringing. When I surrendered my life, and pledged my fealty to Christ, for once Someone mattered more than what I wanted in life. In that transition, I realized that it wasn’t “just” Christ that mattered more than me and my wants, my boys did too.
There was great power and responsibility in being their mommy. For once I didn’t want to just be better than my other drugging acquaintances, I wanted to be a good mom. Honestly, I had no clue what that looked like. There was a therapist that came to see me and my boy every… single… week. No matter where I was staying, where I lived, she came, she taught me how to work with him. I have always been academic, even at my lowest point, so I applied the techniques but I started asking questions after I got clean and saved. I wanted to know what good moms did. I wanted to be a good mom for my boys.
I listened to her. I checked out books from the library. I found ladies at my new church that I thought were good moms and asked them how to be a good mom. I took my boys to parks and watched the other moms and picked out the good ones and did what they did, said what they said. I wanted to be a good mama. And I tried. And I prayed that my mistakes, my sins, my drug use and fights and parties wouldn’t damage my boys. And I moved on.
I don’t know if I was able to forgive myself. How does one forgive that? The closest I could get was that Christ died in my place. I deserve death for putting my boys through that. It was so bad sometimes and I put them through that… and I didn’t care. They had no choice.
I just moved on and hoped and prayed my past would fade away.
I thought it did. I gave myself a year to be just me, Jesus and my boys. To figure out who I was in Christ, who I was without a man, who I was clean and sober and as a mom. And then when the year was done, I was ready for a man.
You see, I prayed for a man like The Leaver… specifically like him. I saw him with my friend and I thought he was such a good man. I didn’t envy her, but I remember praying for a man like him for my husband. And then, like a fairy tale, like a sign from God, two days after my year to be alone, he came and knocked on my door. Their relationship had ended and he was standing at my door. I thought it was meant to be. I thought he was the man for the rest of my life. There were differences, difficulties, things to sort out, yes, but there was kindness and love and a promise of safety and companionship forever. He also looked at my boys, with a gentle smile and wanted to be the father they didn’t have.
It worked well enough. We were a good family, honestly the kind of family I wished I would have had growing up. Dad went to work and came home to a wife waiting for him, unless I was working. He played with the kids while I made dinner then we ate together, did the bedtime ritual and yeah… it was good. Did we have flaws yes, faults, plenty, but good and godly and fun and full of life and faith and love of nature and natural living.
There were times with my oldest when he’d have horrific temper tantrums. We didn’t understand them, no one did, and I was so afraid someone would think we were hurting him that I recorded most of his fits. They happened at school too and so I worried less but I feared it was because of how I did him wrong those first few years.
There were times with my step-daughter’s mom we fought about time with us vs. time with her. It wasn’t good for any of the kids. I still wish she could have been with us more. But that’s not the way it played out and I was a reformed junkie pulling my life together so what could we really offer?
I remember one time, I’m not sure why, but my youngest boy made me so mad I backed him up against a wall when he was probably 7 or 8. I was yelling at him, maybe I did it before and don’t remember, or maybe that was the first time. He doesn’t look like me, but his eyes reflected the way I felt when my ex-step-dad used to yell at me. I stopped yelling, mid-sentence, and promised him I’d never do that again. And I walked away. I didn’t finish the lecture, whatever it was about, I just apologized for yelling like that and walked away.
Then, after all those years of doing wrong, of mending and figuring out how to “do it right” I, we, got to the place where we could give back. We decided to be foster parents.
Michael. Michael Jonasson was our first boy. I failed him. His brokenness, the abuse he suffered, his behaviors were too much for us. So this little boy, this sweet little man, who was entrusted to us to help heal and keep safe was thrown back to the system because we couldn’t do it.
It devastated me. I’d tried so hard to be better for my God, for my boys, for my husband, for this little innocent 6 year old who was, like my boys, a victim of his parents drug addiction, and I failed. Once again I FAILED. It killed me. I worry over that boy to this day. And I don’t even know how old he is, maybe 12. He’s why I’ll never change my phone number. My address, my name, my life may change but maybe one day he’ll call me the way I called that one number I memorized.
Then came our oldest. From the moment I read her report from the state I felt a connection to her. I can’t explain it but I did. I wanted her. We got her. It was supposed to be temporary and then life changed on her. Drugs gripped her mother by the throat and she was suddenly in need of a forever home, as were her sisters. Without praying, I worked with the state to bring the girls together.
That one decision ruined everything. It was a tragedy of Shakespearean proportion. Kids, doing more than kids should ever know how to do, got caught in the act. We reacted in panic. The state reacted according to WACs and RCWs forgetting common sense like it didn’t matter. Our girl and the sisters were ripped from us and thrown to the system. I cannot speak for the sisters, it appears they have happy upbringings in forever homes but for our girl, she ran away… and so did we.
The pain and the humiliation of it all, of having a child that did “that,” or housing children that infected our own, and of losing our girl was too much for our fragile relationship.
The family unraveled.
We were never the same. How can you be the same after that?
We got counseling for our kids who were involved. The foster agency we worked with did some family counseling but we were broken and didn’t mend.
We had a chance to run and we did.
If you have to run, might I highly recommend Leavenworth to run to! What a beautiful place! I mourned losing Arlington, my church (Christ the King – Arlington), my volunteer activities and friends but I LOVED, still love Leavenworth. You can’t be there and not feel at one with the Creator. It’s a place of such beauty and majesty. It’s a place of escape. A vacation destination, a shelter at the feet of the mountains and a place of refuge. With God, and in the shadow of the Cascades, I mended but my children struggled.
I was so wrapped up in my own healing I neglected them. It’s hard to be a parent. I was more focused, I think, on running from the shame and finding our girl than focusing on the three kids I still had.
I tried to look the part, be a good mom and do the right things. But time after time I felt like, still feel like, my actions and motives are questioned. I felt like I couldn’t do parenting right, no matter how hard I tried. My blind one was still unhappy, my spirited one was still getting into trouble, the tension between the “ex” and my, now, ex-husband caused drama every time my step-daughter was with us and our girl was still a run away.
We were a farce of a family. Or maybe not. Maybe everyone could see the reason the kids were the way they were was because I was a failure as a wife and mom.
And then our girl came back. It should have been a “happily ever after” and it was for a bit, then the youngest boy acted out, The Leaver wanted him gone, I resisted but then acquiesced. We adopted our girl while our boy was essentially a runaway.
We were a farce. A failure of a family. The commissioner swore us in as parents to one child as another was lost to us.
Then The Leaver left. And I was left with two phrases #1) “You are an alpha female” and #2) “Good luck”
So I tried to take charge, power through it and keep together the joke of a broken family that we were. I tried to make dinners and sit at the table and read the bible with only 3 of 6 people who made up our “blended” family.
I tried to enforce rules and insist on propriety. I failed.
I tried to keep our house. I failed.
I tried to keep our town of Leavenworth. I failed.
I tried to keep the youngest intact until he was 18. I failed.
I tried to smile through it all and have faith that it will all work out. I AM FAILING. I AM A FAILURE.
I can’t do it. His hurt, his defiance, his pain, his need to be his own man is too strong for me. I fail. He’s not 18 and I’ve let him go.
He doesn’t live with me anymore. I’ve tried. As God as my witness, with everything I am, I promise I've tried. And I’ve failed. I’ve studied, I’ve applied, I’ve listened to advice, I’ve prayed, I’ve searched scripture, I’ve consulted friends, the law, the state and what I come up with is I AM A FAILURE. I cannot parent my child. He is gone to me.
I hope and I pray that like his eldest, adopted sister before him, like his eldest (only) 100% blood related sibling, like his adopted-half-sister after him, like his mother, he chooses to fight for what’s good and right.
The thing is … maybe I don’t forgive myself. Maybe I do. I fucked up! BAD! I can’t take it back. I can’t erase my past or make it disappear no matter how far I run, no matter how much “good” I do. I fucked up! I’m sorry. I’m sorry to my boys. I’m sorry to Michael. I’m sorry to the sisters and my girls but I can’t take it back.
What I know is the four children I claim as my own are remarkable kids! They are bright, super intelligent kids, young adults, actually. They are able to separate my mistakes from their own choices. They are able to sift through the mistakes and see the motive. They know their mama loves them no matter how much I failed. I pray to God they know I love them and since I gave my life to Christ I have done my best to be the best mom I could be.
Have I forgiven myself? ???
Is my forgiveness contingent on my kids turning out “OK” despite my failures? ???
Can I forgive myself? ???
This fearless and moral inventory stuff sucks… and yet the thing is, with all of this... I CHOOSE life, I CHOOSE Christ, I CHOOSE to make tomorrow better than today, I CHOOSE not to give up, not to grow weary in doing good, not to quit. I am strong, I am brave, I am FORGIVEN! I don't know how it all plays out, all I know is that since I decided to do it right, I've done my best and I have repented of my sins. To my children... I am sorry. To anyone that has seen the farce of a family or a mother I presented... I am sorry. Since July 1999, with God's help, I have done my best. I can only pray I am seen for who I truly am since then... and that my kids turn out ok despite my failure.
I am a writer.
It’s what I do for fun, it’s how I best articulate the thoughts and ideas that skip around in my mind, it’s a descriptor of me. I wrote stories for fun before I was published and somewhere along the way I came up with the idea that it would be great fun to share my words, stories, characters and, well, if I’m being completely honest, pieces of my soul with others. Each story is part of me. I hesitate to compare them to my children … but in so many ways they are exactly like children.
An idea, like an egg lying dormant, begins its journey to a womb swelling with potential. My blood flows, my body reacts to the gentle undulations of involuntary and subconscious primitive drives to build a place for this thing, yet unrealized to grow… and then…. Oh yeah, OH yes! It comes to me… the muse, the sweet stirring, pulsing, rhythm of the muse! In a moment of rapture, I know and believe in the story! This idea and a creative spark that can come together and create something beautiful!
Sometimes it comes to nothing but a sweet moment of inspiration, but other times it gestates and grows, over days, weeks, months (and in some of my character’s lives), years ….
And in due time… something beautiful comes to fruition.
These aren’t silly fancies I come up with in a single moment. These are hours upon hours of sweet, secluded time and attention, love and loss, inspiration and invigoration. I love them, these stories of mine and the muse. I love to share them and hear people say they love them too. But before I shared a word, before I was “published” before I knew another single soul would believe in them like I did… I still loved my stories, my characters and my writing.
Because… I am a writer.
Some people fish... I write!
Booktrope was one of the best things that ever happened to me! Getting published was exhilarating! I still remember Jennifer Gilbert asking me what else I had in my inventory when I was pitching "Waiting on Justin" to her at the Write on the River conference. I still remember where I was when I got the email from Jesse James with a contract for me to sign (and how I literally got weak in the knees, and bowed down to thank God)! I still remember when my first book came out and the JAG students, my mom and near and far away friends came to celebrate the moment with me! Seeing the work out there, that I created, on display for all to see, did something to me! And then Booktrope said they were shutting their doors. I get the reasons, but for me, it changes everything. Obviously I can’t handle rejection so trying to submit to publishers or agents at this time in The Middle is a bad idea. So the option is to get my rights back and self-publish. But it’s all so overwhelming. All I want to do is write. I love writing. I don’t want to make it a chore. I want to feel the spark of new life, the joy of a growing creation kicking and moving inside me. I want to scream when the time comes to finish and I want to be in awe of the finished product. It’s so hard to know how to do that now that everything has changed.
Some people in my trope were upset Booktrope closed their doors, but most seem to have rebounded faster than what I’m able to do. I’m afraid the whole thing will make a passion and a favorite past-time turn into a poison that will kill the muse. I don’t want to lose my love and passion for writing. It’s one of the things that makes me, me. With everything else I’ve lost lately, I can’t lose myself. If it means I write for the sake of the muse. So be it…
In time my books, stories and characters will expose themselves to the world again, but I guess for now they will be for me, and me alone, to love and cherish.
There are many things in the Bible I don’t understand but one part I’m absolutely 100% in disagreement with. 1 Corinthians 15:19 says: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, makes me feel like my faith is only good for a future hope in an after-life with Christ. It sounds like choosing to be a Christian is a sad, sorry choice that leaves me to be looked upon with pity.
Why would the apostle Paul write that? Why would he think if our hope was only for this world we ought to be the most pitied of all people? I suspect it’s because he was who he was. I suspect many of my brothers and sisters feel the same way. I suspect for them; the words are true, this life is less than what they can imagine in heaven. This life is full of pain and sorrow, rules and restrictions. I don’t fault them for their ideals, but for me, maybe for all recovering addicts, if only for this life I have hope in Christ I’m not to be pitied, I think I ought to be admired.
Let me explain…
Seventeen years ago this month, I was a drug addict, a pretty bad one actually. I smoked weed daily, most days multiple times a day. My rule was, as long as I wasn’t doing it in the same room as my infant and toddler boys I was being a responsible parent. It wasn’t just weed either. There were random Coke parties, with a little Crack thrown in for good measure, there were pill parties… I still don’t know what I took at most of those. Then there was Meth, ohhhhh, how I loved those beautiful chunky rocks that cut into the perfect powdery lines of heaven! The rules were a little more flex with Meth. As long as I wasn’t smoking it, the kids couldn’t get a contact high, and it’s not like a blind toddler or innocent infant even knew what their mom was doing anyway, right?! So most of the time I was in another room, but I’m not going to lie, there were times, I was shoving something up my nose with my kids or someone else’s in the same room.
That wasn’t so bad, really, that was the good part! The high, the deep thinking, sensual feeling, all night tweaking, goosebump-having, heart racing, body shaking, highs were quite lovely. I loved them. I craved them. I needed them. I was devoted to them. They mattered more than my boys, my family, my friends, my safety, my self-respect, more than anything. I would lie, cheat and steal for my fix. … and then the crash or the end of the stash always came.
I hated that… being out, fiending, knowing I needed a fix that I couldn’t get. Knowing what would come without it. Worrying, crying, fighting, screaming, begging for more. Swearing to myself and a God that, at the time, I questioned existence in, that I’d get clean and never, ever, ever do it again… after this one last time. Always after this one time.
And then the month of May came…
In this month seventeen years ago I traded my sorrow, my shame, my sickness, my Pain, my addiction for a slow waxing faith in the One true King. I believe we are spiritual beings and in a God that is more than just for this life. I believe in a risen Savior that came to give us a new life in the hereafter. But I also believe that in this month, seventeen years ago He reached down, in His sovereignty, into my life. I heard no audible words, saw no visions, signs or supernatural hoopla, just a simple, silent nudging at my heart one gentle evening after I’d put my boys down for the night for yet another episode of debaucherous festivities.
It was a chance at freedom. One shot. I felt it in my blood and bones and heart and withered soul. I wasn’t out of my stash, I wasn’t fiending, I wasn’t withdrawing, it was a pretty sweet stretch for what life was for me at the time. But I knew God was giving me a chance… and so… I took it!
The second chance, not the hit.
I passed, just like that, I said no thanks. I started a new life, clean. It was a whirlwind. But if only for this life I would take Christ’s offer over and over again. See, I don't think Paul's words are necessarily wrong so much as they are spoken from a man who probably never knew addiction, but rules and legalism. To be bound to the rule of a God may seem like a thing to be pitied, unless you've been fettered to a force much more sinister and unforgiving. I was a slave, I am free now. My worst days, (there have been three that really tip the scale since choosing Christ), even those three absolute worst days are a walk in the park compared to the way I was before. If only for this life I am saved, I am grateful. I am a rare and wonderful statistic of overcoming methamphetamine addiction. It all comes down to a man dying on a cross, saving the world and one little, tiny soul that will ever and always be grateful and pledge my allegiance to Him for this second chance. May I use it well!
On to 18 years clean!
Because addiction is near and dear to my heart, it makes sense one of my real-life romances would center around addiction and overcoming. My books, as they are now, will only be on sale through May 31st. If you've meant to get them, this is the last chance as they are. I will be working to re-publish and while I'm determined I'm not super fast so it might be a while. All that to say, get 'em now or wait on me, haha!
May 5th 1996. 20 years ago. On this day one of the most influential people in my life was born and I didn't even know it. I do not know what she weighed or who was in the room but I know her momma, like me, was a struggling teen mom wondering what life was all about and how she was going to parent as the girl we both would love was learning how to breathe in and out. 20 years ago that baby's life and mine were were scheduled to intersect but not until we each faced our own demons in the eye, stared them down and decided that we weren't going to do what had been done before.
It would take nearly 14 years to meet in real-life and we've each faced struggles since then but from the moment I "read" her story I knew we were meant to be. She jumped into my heart the night she jumped out my window and whether I gave birth to her or not, whether I felt her move inside me, or watched her take her first step, or have her first day of school or not, she is my girl.
I remember the first time I saw her, sitting on a bench, face down on her phone. I remember her first birthday with us (her 13th) at the Beckwith's bible study, I remember her first cake (with us) a Tres Leches, and her first pair of footie pajamas (yes they were leopard print). I remember her 8th grade recognition and the Badger's big hugs as well as her dad's and mine. I remember the day she was taken from our house and the days, weeks and months of anguish not knowing where she was or if she was OK. And oh how I remember that FB message asking to come home, and how her dad and I moved heaven and earth to be sure she could come back to us! I remember her graduation that she worked so hard to earn and achieve on time despite her time away from school. And I'll never forget the day my baby girl welcomed her very own baby girl into the world. I treasure our firsts and look forward to a lifetime more! She's been my daughter, now I'm happy to say she's one of my closest friends too!
She's not a teenager anymore but a 20 something, living a good, honorable life. She is the kind of teen mom her mother and I should have tried to be. She loves her daughter with all she is and does what it takes to keep her girl safe and cared for. She is a good woman, a great daughter, a wonderful wife and a most amazing mama! I am so proud of her and on this, her big 20 I wish her all the best in the world. I pray the LORD will bless and keep her as she walks in the ways that are good and right for her and her family. So, Matea... HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! LOVE YOU LITTLE LADY!