Dear 2014 Me

I wish I could go back in time and give 2014 me a hug. Let her know that everything she’s been through, everything she’s fought for, all the tears and fears and doubts will one day be worth it. Let her know that she is loved, and she is most certainly strong enough.

Four years ago today I walked out of maximum security jail after being incarcerated for six months. My mother, father, brother, and friend Lisa were waiting for me in the lobby. I will never forget the sound of my mother’s sobs as she held me.

At this point in my life, I was almost 19 months sober. I had lost everything, and had to move in with my mother. It would take another 2 ½ years for me to be able to drive again, and I had resigned from my job. Despite my master’s degree, I was terrified that no one in my profession would take their chance on a felon. I was scared and my self-esteem was in the toilet.

Five days later I wrote this on my blog:

I am slowly adjusting to life post-incarceration and am reveling in simple pleasures: sunshine and fresh air, real coffee, walks with my dog, fresh fruits and vegetables, being able to hug friends and family, sleeping in a real bed with a pillow, wearing my own undies, etc. While I am grateful to put the past six months behind me, there are still many obstacles looming on the horizon. I’m scared and hope I have the strength to get through all this. One day at a time right?

Dear 2014 me: You’ve got this! Keep fighting and never give up. Your life will be amazing. YOU are amazing.

I got through it all by taking baby steps. Baby steps don’t seem like much at first, but soon you look back and realize you survived a marathon, and then a triathlon. Only these distances are not measured by speed, but by dedication and perseverance. Four years later, every bump in the road, every time I’ve struggled to keep my head afloat in shark-infested waters, it’s all been worth it.

In the meantime, there’s no end in sight. The work remains, and I strive to keep moving, to stay sober, to keep learning more about myself. I also have a hell of a time doing it! Life today is a blast. I wish I had the strength to do all this work before I hit my bottom, but that’s how my story goes. This is a hard time of year, so please reach out if you need to. Also know that it will get better and better.

Dear 2014 me: The best is yet to come! Trust me.

Weak Spots

As most of you know, this past year has been a constant transition period followed by transition period followed by transition period. I am currently adjusting to my new life on my own, a new job, and another (partial) loss of freedom by being unable to drive. The past four weeks have been another “Look Ma, no hands!” rollercoaster ride emotionally. With change comes anxiety, vulnerability, depression and moments of weakness.

Life would be so much easier without Facebook, wouldn’t it? I wish I could sever the ties completely, but I can’t. Being incarcerated was both a blessing and a curse when it came to human contact. I was no longer a slave to my phone and to social media, but it was harder to get a hold of people via letters and expensive phone calls. There were so many periods where I was so depressed that I couldn’t write letters. And then I felt guilty for friends spending exorbitant amounts of money for 15 minute phone calls just so I could rant or cry to them. Towards the end, phone calls and visits were too much. I went through with them, but it seemed better to isolate myself completely. Hearing a voice over the phone or seeing a face through a glass window left me despondent and missing them more. It was painful.

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Facebook. Sigh.

Last night on Facebook, there were some photos of a few people that I love dearly. They were sitting on barstools at my old hangout, pints in hand, with big smiles. I had an overwhelming urge to be sitting there next to them, drinking away my anxieties, feeling that warmth and instant happy wash over me. To have effortless conversation, to not feel like the shy awkward one, to be with my friends in that setting again.

I was jealous. Jealous that I couldn’t be there, jealous of their fun, jealous that for most of them, they can go out and remember what they did the next day. It was a really shitty feeling.

Friends, I know what I need to do, but I also needed to vent with people who understand. Thanks for being here with me.