Today I woke up with five years of sobriety. Five years is a long time, and yet, in reality, it’s a blip. All I have to do is look at photos of my kids from five years ago to see how long it has been since I had my last drink of alcohol. Tate was only two-years-old, thumb in his mouth, still putting together sentences and not yet potty trained. Lucy was a first grader with two loose front teeth and she didn’t have her glasses yet. Today they are seven and eleven, and the years have gone by faster than I can imagine.
I woke up today waiting for what to say, what to write, how to express how incredibly significant this milestone is to me. But honestly, the words didn’t really come. I always forget how these anniversaries sneak up on me, the emotional and mental weight baring down until I have a moment of clarity and remember “ah yes, this is how I always feel on my sobriety birthday.” I tend to need solitude, space and rest. Days like today are where my introversion really shines. I crave my bed and the comfort of myself. Sometimes I wonder if this is healthy, this need to be alone, but today I realize it’s what refuels me to go out into the world that isn’t always the easiest for those of us who struggle with living life on life’s terms.
Five years ago I was miserable. I’ve written about that day quite a few times (here and here for example), so I don’t really want to rehash it all again. I think I’ve reached the point in this recovery journey where my focus is more on what is better now, as opposed to what was awful before. I know for a fact that the last few years would have never happened if I hadn’t found recovery. I was so lost, so alone and so utterly self-conscious about the state of my life, there is no way I would have taken the risks that have gotten me to where I am today. I certainly wouldn’t be working in advocacy again. I definitely wouldn’t be able to be there for my kids in the way I’m able now. I surely wouldn’t have a marriage at all.
In the last five years my life has exponentially grown to a point where sometimes I look around me and simply cannot believe it’s real. My life used to be very small. Now my life is bursting at the seams. Sometimes I look at my calendar and have a slight panic attack over how full it is. But then I remind myself that my life is full because I choose to fill it with beauty and love and goodness. I choose to work for myself, building a business I love. I choose to be involved in my kids’ school and activities. I choose to work on my marriage and my relationship. I choose to spend time with friends and family. I choose to fight for causes I believe in. I choose to be a human who participates in the world around me. That wasn’t always the case.
I am imperfect, and I still mess up all the time. My life didn’t magically become a fairy tale just because I stopped drinking. But it definitely stopped being a nightmare. I rarely feel regret these days, which is a gift I never knew I needed. Living my life as an honest person is challenging, but it sure beats pretending to be someone I’m not. I don’t have it all figured out. I guess I thought I would by this point, but now I realize no one really knows what they are doing. We are all just apes, flying through space on a tiny planet that feels massive to us. We are all making it up as we go along, and not just those of us who happen to struggle with drinking or shopping or drugs or [insert coping mechanism of choice here].
So, what do I have to say about five years? It’s wonderful. If you are new to the journey, I’m sure five years feels like a lifetime. And it is…but it’s also just a few revolutions around the sun. A glorious blip. And when I think of the last five years, I don’t think of “not drinking.” I think of all the things I got to do. I remember all the moments I didn’t miss. I see my daughter’s first ice skating recital and my son’s first school play. I think of the time I picked up the keys to my very first studio or the art show that was packed with a line out the door. I remember marching in Washington D.C., lobbying on Capitol Hill and testifying at the Kansas statehouse. I see several trips away with my husband, and hours in counseling, re-learning how to be a partner. I remember sharing my story with teenagers in a drug treatment center and getting emails from friends and strangers saying “me too” or “I need help.”
I get all of those memories because five years ago today I woke up sober and every day since I’ve done the same. What a gift.
All of the images in this post except for the one of the kids were taken by Kymberly Janelle. Thank you, my friend, for capturing me at this stage of my recovery. It’s so appreciated and I’m forever grateful.
If you want to learn more about my story of recovery, I suggest listening to a few interviews I’ve done on the subject here and here and here. And if you are worried about your own drinking or someone you know needs help, please reach out. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No judgment. Just love.
A few weeks ago I was invited to return to the annual Power Summit that the ONE Organization holds for volunteers and leaders. This was my second year attending the summit, and I have to say, it was pretty nice knowing what I was getting myself into this time around! Last year I was super overwhelmed and had no idea what was happening. I was also extremely nervous about meeting with our legislators on Capitol Hill, which we do on the last day of the Summit. This year I felt prepared, excited, but not nervous at all!
Another aspect that made this year awesome was having another team member from Kansas with me! I’m the Congressional District Leader for ONE in KS-03 (if you’re wondering what district you live in, you can check here), which means I lead all volunteer activities in our area. Last year I was the only person from Kansas to attend the Summit, so it was a bit lonely, but this year I had my incredible volunteer Rachel with me! She is such a gift and I’m pumped for us to do some amazing work this year.
The Power Summit is a three day training conference for ONE volunteers, which culminates in “Lobby Day” where we all go to Capitol Hill and share why certain issues are important to us as ONE members and constituents. ONE is a global advocacy organization of over $9 million people who are working to help end extreme poverty and preventable diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. We work with legislators and governments to get bills passed that help the poorest people in the world, and our focus is in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are not a “boots on the ground” organization, and we do not raise funds. We use our voices and our influence to convince those in power to do the right thing, and feel that the best way to help is to get legislation passed to empower communities to help themselves. We are non-partisan, and work with legislators from both sides of the aisle.
This year most of our work is focused on the 2019 U.S. Budget and a new bill that was brought to the House floor on Lobby Day, called the BUILD Act. Did you know that less than 1% of the U.S. Budget is allocated for foreign aid? And with that small drop in the bucket, we are able to save millions of lives? It’s incredible! It’s so important that this budget is not cut, as this money not only saves lives, but it keeps our country safer by stabilizing developing countries and economies. Did you know 11 of our top 15 current trade partners in the U.S. are former recipients of our aid program? We want to continue that trend, creating opportunities to increase trade by providing aid.
There is a lot more work to be done, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to not only participate, but create real change with ONE. I would love to have you join my team! It’s easy, just send me a note at email@example.com if you’d like to become a part of this movement!
I feel like life has been full of amazing and joyful moments lately, I’m often overwhelmed by all the goodness in my life. And this DEFINITELY falls under the category of GOODNESS! In January, we were blessed with the birth of our brand new niece, Charley Paige. Have I mentioned how much I love being an aunt? Because it is simply the best. I became an aunt for the first time 18 years ago, but I still get a happy feeling in my heart when I think of a new niece or nephew to love on.
I’ve taken a bit of a break from family portraiture, but I couldn’t resist sneaking off to Western Kansas to photograph the newest addition to our family and shoot some video as well. I loved being able to capture these moments with sweet Charley, who has already changed so much since we took these images! It’s incredible how fast these little people change and grow, and I think it’s so important to capture these fleeting moments if we can. Because we all know that with a new baby in the house, we’d never remember them otherwise!
I’m so excited to see my in-laws, Ashley and Adrian, take on parenting for the first time! It’s such a beautiful, messy, fun, exhausting ride, and they are just at the beginning. So much love and laughter is in their future, I can’t help but smile every time I think of it!
If you’re interested in capturing family or newborn images on film or in video form, sent me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information…I’d love to work with you!