These words wake me, knocking at the door of my subconsciousness. I'm growing used to this phenomenon, of my brain gently nudging me awake as it chews on thoughts like a puppy on a bone.
It takes me a moment to get my bearings; it is still dark out. The bedside clock reads 3:15am. I hear a plane, a low grumble followed by a powerful roar as it prepares for takeoff.
Ah, yes. I'm in Los Angeles, at an airport hotel. Later this morning I'll embark on a three day journey full of learning, laughter and love.
But for now this fledgling day is quiet, calm. The pre-dawn darkness settles over me, and I try to return to slumber.
Drinking. Knock. Motherhood. Knock, knock. Recovery. KNOCK.
With a sigh, I push sleep aside. What is it? I say, not unkindly.
I lie quietly in the dark and let them in. This is how it happens, sometimes. These thoughts will not leave me alone until I sit patiently for a spell, and listen .
When you're asked to describe who you are at the core of you, they say, you reply that you're a mother in recovery.
Is that all? I reply. You woke me up at 3:15am with this earth shattering bit of information?
It's 6:15am east coast time, they say, in their own defense. And you need to think about this: you're a mother in recovery. It's important.
But there's nothing new here! I whine. What am I doing awake at this hour?
You'll see, they reply.
And, eventually, I do.
A mother. In recovery. The two things that are the core of me, that sustain me, give me hope and meaning, are the two things I fought hardest against.
Being a mother did not come easily to me. I didn't give birth to a child and flowing maternal instincts simultaneously; it was a long, hard road. Motherhood, in a nutshell, scared me. The world that had felt so certain, so mine, was now fraught with worry and danger, like it was made of glass. One wrong move and everything would shatter.
The fear I felt was primitive, consuming, and brand new. And I was going to be a mother for the rest of my life? Would I ever feel like myself again? Confident, full of swagger, able to tackle any challenge without reservation? It didn't seem possible, in the early days, as I looked into my baby girl's eyes and saw pure love. I didn't know how to give her that kind of love, because I was gripped with fear.
Drinking was the mortar to the cracks opened up by fear. Fear of love, fear of loss, fear of not measuring up in this baffling new world of motherhood where the tests were endless and the results never revealed.
I fought getting sober long and hard, because I was terrified. Terrified of what life would be like if I had to feel that fear all the time, without my anesthesia. I could not imagine life raw and unedited. Drinking made me feel in control of the fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Becoming a mother made me understand just how little control I had over anything, and I never, ever wanted to face how that made me feel.
In early recovery - for at least the first entire year of recovery - I had to face that fear head-on. As I emerged from my self-induced cocoon of darkness and isolation I wondered, yet again: will I ever feel like myself again? I couldn't drink to create confidence and swagger anymore. I couldn't drink to find access to love without fear. And I was going to have to do this for the rest of my life?
With time I learned to surrender to fear. I didn't have to be a perfect mother. I didn't have to think about the rest of my life; I just had to think about today. I learned that fear won't kill me, that pushing through fear was worth it, because the treasures I have found on the other side are boundless.
I always wrote - I have the dozens of bound journals as evidence of all the endless words that spewed forth.
It's just that I never had anything to say.
And now here I am in Los Angeles embarking on an adventure I never could have imagined during those dark days. I'm here because embracing motherhood and recovery, the two things that filled me with the most fear, have breathed life into me. I can love without limits; I feel full of creativity, passion and hope.
Pushing through the fear allowed me to find my writer's pulse. It was trapped deep inside me for so many years, and now beats out a slow, steady rhythm.
I'm here to commune with creative, passionate women - to pull up a chair, listen and learn. I'm new to the table, but I'm no longer afraid that I don't measure up, because I was the one creating the endless tests where the results were never revealed.
When fear was my co-pilot, I didn't stand a chance.
There, you see? the thoughts say. Don't you feel better? Now lay your head back down and rest.
You have a big day.