This Ache Until Easter

Art by Loretta Saladino, click to visit her on Etsy

Art by Loretta Saladino, click to visit her on Etsy

Every spring, it happens the same way.

As Dave and I walk our dog Edmund around the block in the morning, we spot the signs and pause. The bulbs are coming up. The white crocus that looked to be barely budding yesterday is in full bloom today.

Sometimes, when spring comes early like this, it makes me feel a little panicked. I worry that it will snow, and all this hope will be cut short, will prove premature. I want to ask the fat robin in my yard, “Are you sure? Is it safe?”

A few days ago, for no good reason, a friend brought me some unopened daffodils. They looked like nothing, plain and green. I cut the stems and put them in water in a pretty copper pitcher on the island in my kitchen.

I knew what would happen. But that didn’t lessen the shock the next morning when I stumbled downstairs half-asleep and intent on nothing but coffee and—Bam! Yellow glory. So bold and bright it took my breath.

Spring came early in 2007, too.

But first, there was the winter of 2006. In November, Dave and I moved from Oregon to Colorado Springs. Moving always sucks, I knew. But I didn’t know that the following six months would be the darkest of my life.

That winter, my alcoholism took me to new lows. I drank to blackout almost every night. Often, I jotted notes while drinking so that in the morning, they could help me pretend to Dave that I remembered some of what I’d done or said the previous evening.

Near the end, during March of 2007, I woke up in the guest room a lot. I would have no memory of how I got there. Obviously, my husband and I must have had another “dumb drunk Heather fight,” as Dave had come to call them.

I would stumble into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror, at my puffy face, swollen eyes, my smashed hair, and my heart would fill with hate. Until the end I held onto the hope that I could hate myself into changing.

Now, every year as April nears, I ache. Some mornings, I can’t decide if my heart hurts—or if I’m mistaking stabs of joy for pain. I feel like I could cry over the blue of the sky. I feel fragile, tenuous, whip-lashed by hope.

These are anniversary feelings, I know. Deep in my soul, I’m remembering a collision that happened seven years ago. On April 4, 2007, the darkest days of my life smashed head-on into my brightest.

Like the daffodils in my kitchen.

Like spring come early.

This was the day I first walked into a treatment center to get help for my alcoholism. But I almost didn’t make it into the building. For a long time, I sat in my car in the parking lot having panic attacks.

Maybe that’s why I feel this funny ache in my chest every spring when the anniversary of that day draws near. It’s scary to remember how close I came to turning back—to losing my marriage and maybe my life, to missing the miracle.

When you lay death and life right next to each other like that, the way spring does, you see it more clearly: how violent God’s love is, how risky his timing, and how close on the heels of despair hope starts rising.

And always this ache until Easter.

 

 

*If this post seems familiar, you’ve been with me a while. It first ran in March of 2012. This weekend, I was feeling the ache again… and so I’m reprising it. 

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the props on the art, and have a Happy Spring.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That line about despair…my son was arrested today. He is my oldest..1 of 7. 4 children….mess upon chaotic mess…I am slipping tonight

  3. a soberversary is special and congratulations on yours! I understand that bittersweet feeling so well because I remember how dark and cold it was before my own spring (well, technically my soberversary is in August so it was more like suffering the depths of hell before getting drenched in a cool river, but you know what I mean). That collision that you’re talking about still amazes me and I thank God everyday for giving me a life that allows me to fully appreciate the light and the dark.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Love the line…hate yourself into changing….it struck a chord

  5. Thanks for this, Heather. My heart aches for many reasons today…and I pray for the growth and hope of spring to come and stick around…not getting dashed by a quick return of a torturous winter. So glad you have an anniversary to celebrate and contemplate.

  6. I loved reading this, and I am looking forward to some daffodils and brightness in my life now. As I typed that, literally, the sun came out from behind a cloud. Crisp shadows on the ground only highlight to me that the sun has returned. Maybe there is reason to hope.

    I would like to hear your husband’s side of the story. I feel like quitting – and he didn’t. Maybe there is something there for me to learn.

    • I’m so sorry I missed this comment. Now I didn’t. Thank you. And I do have a post that’s a Q and A with Dave, but that’s not the whole story, of course. Turns out we’re going to start doing some speaking together I hope, because he does have a story! My, my.

  7. What a poignant, hope-filled story. Aren’t you glad you’re on this side of it looking back? Your bunch of daffodils mirrors the clusters I have springing up in my yard (sometimes in random, surprising places, thanks to the little critters of our underground world). After reading this, I will see them as reminders of the hope that we all desperately need. I’ve been married 31+ years. My qualifier and I had our first real, deep, totally honest, long conversation this weekend. If nothing else, it points to the possibility of change for the better. And just for today, that’s enough. Thank you Heather.

    • Sam, thanks so much for this honest, touching comment. You’re right! And yes, I am so glad to be looking back. In fact, when I dug it out of my archives to rerun it, reading it made me so grateful. It hit me hard all over again how kind God is and how there is always hope. Yes, for you and your qualifier, too. Sending a prayer your way, friend. Hugs. H

  8. Thank you Heather, that was so beautiful. And even though I know the story because I have read Sober Mercies three times, I still can’t hear it enough. It speaks so clearly to the pain and yet the promise of hope. Just like the Easter story! Keep letting God use you, please!!

    • Beth, oh I do hope God keeps using me. All I can do most days is sit down here at my computer and pray for a miracle–which is what it feels like when sentences come out in a row that makes sense. :) Thanks so much for your encouraging words today.

  9. Hello Heather,

    I kind of understand this ache, but for different reasons. A year ago, today, my youngest daughter found her two beloved dogs dismembered on a train track in Montana. Fifteen days from now, on tax day, it will be the one year anniversary of Ryan’s death. Was it suicide? We will not know in this life. But, when I think of the desperation that drove him to the attitude of “I don’t care,” which is necessary to play Russian roulette, I ache. I ache for my daughter’s loss and the images that will never leave her mind, and I ache for my lost foster son. I know I am a fixer, and I know while he was with us he was clean and sober, but I couldn’t fix him for good. Only he and God, could do that, and it didn’t happen.

    In the meantime, I have two major reactions to life….KILL!!! or CRY!! Today, is a crying day.

    Me

    • Nancy, your comments always get to me. I am resonating with your pain and I wish life and death made more sense on this side of eternity. I think that phrase “attitude of I don’t care” is fitting for so many. Countless young men these days can’t think of a reason to haul themselves out of bed. They don’t feel like they matter or have a purpose, which seems to me like the biggest tragedy of all, and it’s probably the most pervasive. Sending hugs to you today, Heather

  10. Good morning, Heather.

    I know exactly how you feel. I have the same experience around my anniversary date as well. Funny thing is lately I have those familiar feelings a little more frequently; when there are awesome events taking place in my life and I realize that I wouldn’t be having these emotions or experiences if I wasn’t sober. A wonderful example of that is just last week I found out that I’m going to have a second grand baby! In the beginning of my sobriety my son and his then new wife weren’t speaking to me because I had burnt so many bridges which were mostly during blackouts. Today I am building a wonderful relationship with both of them AND my precious grandson, Caleb!

    Love you Heather and so glad you’re back!

    • I love your point here. We get to feel these feelings, good and bad and all mixed up, too. That ache is a gift if I can lean into it. Thanks so much for sharing about how your recovery is bringing restoration and hope. So love to hear this kind of story. Bless you, friend.

  11. I’m so glad you were brave that day. I often say our body remembers what our mind forgets. I have those rubber band moments, the ones my body pulls me back to that remind me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I’m grateful they are consistent like Spring, reminding me that redemption is sure, not wishful thinking. Hugs to you.

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