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Sunshine, sand and second chances

It only took 854 miles to clear my head and heart.

It only took 854 miles to clear my head and heart. You see, it was already too late to turn back. I had given my 30 day notice to my landlord. I had given my 30 day notice at my job. I had already packed up my little 2 bedroom apartment. The past 18 months of my life leading up to this

very moment, I had noticed little shifts begin to happen inside of me -

and in my life around me. My kids were grown. My career was ho-hum. My relationship with the man I thought I was going to marry had just broke right down the middle. Even my closest friendships seemed to have faded quietly into the background.

I knew that God had clearly prepared me for this. Time and again he had breathed encouragement into my spirit about pulling up the tent stakes in my life. He continued to speak to my heart through a sermon on the radio or words in a song. Heck he had even used people in my life to confirm truths I already knew deep down inside. So even with all that, why was I sitting on my bare floor with nothing but a wall of packed boxes to stare at, crying? This was supposed to be exciting, right? This was supposed to be my fresh start, my new life I was about to step in to, my new happy. If that was true, then why did this feel so... not good? Why did I feel like I was being served my last supper instead of coffee & waffles on a brand new bright sunshiny day? Because endings don't always feel good. They're not supposed to.

I have to be truthful when I say there are a lot of moments gone from my memory during that time. I remember certain friends and family members coming by to say goodbye in person. I would be moving around bent over with my hips and back in so much pain from filling, lifting, moving, and pushing boxes for hours into the night once my work shift ended and I mostly remember being watched while my visitors would share about why they thought it was- or was not, a good idea for me to leave. I remember being lectured, put down, cried at, questioned.. I even remember someone who I thought to be a very close friend sit in my recliner and bawl her eyes out over an ongoing saga of being mistreated (not abusively) by the man she was literally throwing herself at, while I was packing boxes. Now don't jump right to thinking I was being an awful friend packing boxes while she was sitting there crying. I did interact. I did console her. And I did tell her again the very same things I had been telling her over the past year or longer about the insanity of clutching onto the ankle of a man who doesn't even want you. Funny thing is, that is what kept me packing those boxes that night. Although she never did help me pack one single item, the sole reason she came by that night, God did give me a very clear picture of my previous months- years to be more honest, and how I had been holding on for dear life to the ankle of a man who couldn't seem to kick hard enough to loosen my grip.

In my last week or so before the move nothing, I repeat, nothing went as I planned. Actually, I take that back. The last day I spent at work went exactly as planned. I clocked in, worked my full shift, turned in my badge and got my paycheck. Easy peasy. Everything else... well, that all went to sh*t. The PTO payout I planned on didn't happen in the amount I calculated. The savings I had so carefully put aside was drained- and not by me. My credit union bank card that I needed for the trip, had to be cancelled and re-issued due to suspicious fraudulent activity- remember the ankle I was clutching onto? I couldn't afford a moving truck so I had to rent a storage unit in the town I was leaving from. I didn't have a job lined up. Heck, I didn't even have an apartment ready for me when I landed. In the very beginning I had felt so prepared, so sure of every step and every decision. Now, I just felt like my entire life was falling apart and I couldn't even manage to pick up one of the pieces. Hear me when I say this, girlfriend, that is how you know it is God!

When the time came, I fortunately had my little sister there to help me scale down what was most needed of my belongings that would fit into my trunk and the backseat of my car. She took me for coffee when she could tell I was veering into the ditch emotionally. I know she didn't want to see me leave since she had just returned to the states herself, but she did everything she could to encourage and support me in my decision to go. That has always stuck with me. And although my son was an adult out living his traveling life it was hard on my heart to close the door to his safe space to always land when life became too much. It was hard to leave family members too since I had just spent the last six years living in the same town after being away for 16. But the day did come, and we did load up the cars, and with a heavy but expectant heart, I followed my daughter and her guy right out of Oregon.

Just before we crossed the border, I lit my last cigarette. As of this moment as I am writing this I have not lit another for 7 years, 4 months, 29 days, 8 hours, 10 minutes and 30 seconds- and counting. Happy lung dance for me!! Was it

a smart decision to quit smoking at one of the most highly stressful times I could have faced? Probably not. But I needed to do something, even just one thing, to feel like I could get my power back. And quitting smoking turned out to be that one thing. It was not easy, not by a long shot. If anything, all I wanted was just to light one more to take the edge off of my fear and anxiety. But I didn't. I just made a choice to keep looking forward. 854 miles later we touched down in Tustin, California. I had absolutely no idea what I was going

to do other than sleep on my daughter's couch until I could find a job. Sounds pretty solid for a single, unemployed, broke, 43 year old mother of two adult children and 2 cats, don't ya think? I am sure you can see now that my self confidence was on the floor and my faith in this whole 'pull up the tent stakes of your life' seemed like nothing more than a big load of spiritual crap. Fortunate for me, my daughter and her guy's roomie had moved out without a word while they were in Oregon, so that kept me off their couch and landed me in their spare bedroom. I cannot even put into words how those first few weeks felt. Part of me was so excited for change, possibility, newness, a do-over on life. But the other part of me, the part still clinging a bit to the ankle of the man I just put 854 miles between, felt a bit broken, and discouraged, and lonely. I must have questioned my sanity a hundred times over. I asked myself most nights when I was trying to close my eyes what the hell I thought this big life change was even going to do for me. I felt like I had just made the biggest, most profound mistake possible- by uprooting and moving my life to California. This big life change turned out to be exactly the place God needed for me to be!

It took 135 applications, countless go-no-where interviews, and borrowing money from my daughter's guy to cover my room rent before I landed a job. That did not pump up my self confidence on any level. The money I was counting on to get back from my deposits paid down on my Oregon apartment did not happen, they actually kept that money and demanded more. The man who promised to get treatment and chase me with his son in tow to California decided he would rather be in a relationship with someone else, announced publicly to everyone on Facebook but shared silently with me. I remember hitting this emotional brick wall face first at full force when I found out. I secretly used my daughter's iPad when she was at work, and I would use her Facebook account to stalk his Facebook account. It was nothing short of humiliating how desperate I had become that I had sank to lying, hiding, even stalking just to know the truth. Over, and over, and over again. Imagine, the sun is shining. I am in beautiful Tustin, California. There are flowers blooming outside my window. Families are swimming and barbecuing in the community pool patio right outside our front door. My cats are stretched out on the bed soaking up the warm sunshine. And I am crying like a hysterical teenager writing 'I HATE YOU!- 'I HATE YOU!'- 'I HATE YOU!' with colored markers on a large sketchpad, letting my tears drop and welt up the paper as my anger pushed me deeper and deeper into despair. All while the whole world was going on just outside my window, I was completely and utterly falling apart. As hard as it is to admit, all I wanted at that moment was to return to the life I had before I packed that first box. I didn't even care that I would get my life back exactly as it had been before I left.

To say that I hated my life, and that I hated myself, is an understatement. I was so distraught that as I drove the freeways back and forth I had visions of what it would feel like to be hit by oncoming traffic at full speed. I had so many dark thoughts that kept me up at night, and that didn't seem to fade when the sun came up. Of course, I didn't want to do something like that to my kids. And even deep, deep down I knew I didn't really want to die. But that didn't stop me from obsessing about it. Every day- most days all day, I tried to convince myself that if I just wasn't here anymore, if I could just stop breathing, then I wouldn't hurt like this. And it did make sense in my mind. I just couldn't get it to connect with my heart. Some might say I was just a coward, willing my life to be over without the courage to end it. And, maybe I was. But I had to fall just deep enough, to a place just dark enough, that God could quiet my pain. Envision this place I have entered into in my spirit, my mind, my heart- so full of hatred, darkness, loneliness, and despair, and I reach out to an old friend for love and support. Anyone who knows me, really knows me, is very aware that sometimes my words can come out all botched up and blade out- even when that is not my intention. My close friends and family know this about me. They may feel the sharp blade in my words, but then they somehow manage to realize that my words don't match my heart. They listen differently- and they don't stab back with a larger knife. That did not happen when I reached out to her. I needed someone to be on my side, to remind me that my life was good, and important, and better without him in it. Instead of reminding me how special I was, she reminded me of how much he meant to her. That their friendship meant just as much to her as our friendship. Just a few helpful tidbits to keep in mind. She only knew him because she knew me. Her and I had been friends long before he even came into the picture. I was not the one who had lied, robbed, cheated, and abused- he was. Yet, she put me in my place at one of the darkest moments in my life. Instead of realizing I was clinging for a lifeline, she saw me blade out, and pulled out a larger knife. And that was pretty much the end of that friendship. Not because she chose him in that moment, but because she didn't choose me.

So, here I am. Drowning in the dark night of my soul. There is no more daunting of an emotional space for me to be in than drowning. Water and I have always had a love-hate relationship. And I was nothing short of drowning. I was honestly at that point of 'do I just let the water and darkness suck me under and just give up' or 'do I make a choice to fight against the water and push back, and flail, and try to surface even if it is only to take my last breath'? I. Decided. To. Fight! I met a woman for lunch that I had only met once before. She let me cry about my cancelled rental deposits, my lack of friends, my broken heart, my money woes, my no-job status, my living with my daughter and her guy as a grown-ass woman, my pain of leaving my son behind, my fear of death- but more so, my fear of life. She did not judge me, she did not offer me money or a job, she did not tell me how to fix the mess I was in. She simply listened with love, paid for my lunch, and pointed me in the right direction. And for the rest of my days I will be forever grateful for that lunch invitation. It wasn't long after that day that I walked myself, with knees about to give out under me, up that long stretch of stairs and through the larger than life front doors of Saddleback Church and into Celebrate Recovery. That night- it saved my life.

For feeling as alone as I had, suddenly finding myself surrounded by at least 300 complete strangers, I felt somehow less alone. The music was nice, it helped to bring a calm to my spirit that had been missing. The speaker was engaging- although to be honest, to this day I cannot even remember much of what was shared since my mind and heart were so clouded and just.. sad. I attended the newcomers group and listened to the different stories of addiction, abuse,

codependency, and of hope.

The following Friday I went back. This time I walked up those stairs with an air of hope that my man would still come around, that someday soon- really soon, him and his son would be there to climb those stairs beside me. It took many, many Friday nights before I was able to recognize that for what it was- false hope. I can look back now and realize that, if anything, at least that false hope kept me climbing those stairs. One Friday night my eyes were finally opened to the truth. I wasn't there for him, or for what I thought could happen, or even what I had been secretly praying God would make happen. I was there for me. Just me. That is when my real recovery started to happen!

You see, God pulled up the tent stakes in my life, urged me to travel 854 miles south, lovingly allowed me to plummet into an even darker place than I had ever been, just to let me feel his love for me. Yes, a job came through. Yes, I made great friends and even was blessed with new CR step-sisters. Yes, I learned a lot about hope, forgiveness, & healing. Yes, I started to see the sunshine instead of the dark night. I learned a lot about myself, like how I loved the sight of high rises, sprawling shopping malls, freeways (I know!), palm trees, sand, seeing Ferrari's at stop lights, meeting new people. But the biggest, most life-changing thing that God did, was to help me learn how to forgive myself. And how to love myself. And it only took 854 miles to get me there <3. #celebraterecovery #abuse #depression #faith

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