I am writing to you wrapped in blankets, cradled on a hammock under pine trees, in the middle of an East Texas forest. The air is chill, the sky is deep blue and my cellphone has zero bars. Zero. It’s bliss. You have permission to mildly hate me.
I brought myself to a retreat in the woods to welcome my 45th birthday. I’ll skip the deep thoughts on how I have wrinkles and zits, occasional tantrums and wise bits as I enter the second half of my forties. There are no deep thoughts other than I love where I am now. Now is good.
I want to share a story with you today. It’s a story of addiction and transformation.
Exactly 4 years ago, in November of 2015, I brought myself to this very same retreat to celebrate my birthday. Ok – “celebrate” is a stretch. Truth be told I was here in a desperate attempt to survive what had become a caged life. You see, after 5 years of sobriety, I had relapsed back into drinking and I could not find my way back into recovery. My two-hour drive to the retreat site was a monologue on the 100 reasons why I should not drink that weekend (please note it was a “yoga and wine” retreat - WTF was I thinking?). I had a bottle of Cabernet by my yoga mat within an hour of arrival - and spent the rest of the weekend mildly-to-wildly drunk. I sang Shakira ballads, ugly-sobbed and passed out in the very hammock from which I write to you now.
A year later, in November of 2016, I came back to this retreat. Newly sober, recently separated from my husband, I was a shell of a human. As much as I wanted to blame him for my pain, deep down, I knew my marriage had been lost to my drinking. I remember wondering if the other women could see my bleeding heart. They couldn’t. They were here to drink rosé and have a weekend away from the “hubs and kiddos”. Wrapped in a blanket of otherness, I found my way to this hammock and penned-out the curriculum of the retreat my heart needed. One where women could really show up, broken as fuck, bleeding and lost, without their city masks. One where we could drop shame, speak from soul, and claim the baby-steps back home. Within a week, I’d paid down the rental deposit for the retreat site, and the Goddess Retreat was born.
I had overlooked one little detail. I’d never led a retreat. I’d never taught. At the time, I wasn’t a coach or a teacher or any of the things the world tells us we need to be in order to help others. The world, however, didn’t get the memo I didn’t quite give a fuck. I was a recovered alcoholic. While I didn’t have a badge, I carried scars of transformation and a bucketful of hope - and in my book, if you recover from an addiction, you can pretty much do – well, anything.
I asked God to step in, swallowed my panic, and got to work.
In August of 2018, ten beautiful women showed up this site for the very first Goddess Retreat. We talked, shared, opened, healed, danced around fire and howled under the moon. We shared our wounds and planted new seeds of life. These women left thinking I’d given them a gift – little did they know what they’d done for me.
It is November of 2019, and I am back at this sacred site. For my birthday. On the hammock. Under the same canopy of trees. A thousand moons and a million things have happened.
One day, this past year, my son woke up a grown-up and left to college. I found a business partner. I built a seriously badass website. I landed the dream speaking engagement. I have interviews and podcasts and adult-stuff in the books. I am turning 45 and I am starting to feel like maybe – just maybe, I will figure this out. But not today.
Today I give myself permission to be brave and honest. To admit that since my son left home, I’ve been karate-chopping my way out of the “empty nest” more than a little. Avoiding silence with lots of busyness. Putting my wholeness in somebody else’s hands. Bringing drama through an old relationship. Tapping out, tapping out, tapping out. The further away from my heart, the less I would have to nest that fucking emptiness.
I welcome my alone-ness, which needs not be loneliness. Honesty does its magic and my blanket-tamale feels warmer. I am ready to find my voice and the rhythm of my heart in the silence. I am ready to re-discover who I am after 19 years of single-parenting. I am ready to continue owning the transformation of my life.
I sway in the hammock and cry a little. Sing a little. Let my heart bleed a little. Embrace my addict’s heart with love – more than a little. I take a deep breath, inhaling the world, and recognize how much I have been numbing out - and what a perfect place I am in to start.
I swallow a mild-wave of panic - and then I remember. I look around and think of me, 4 years ago. Today.
I smile. I am an addict in recovery – and I write stories of transformation.