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I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, said the Lord. Isaiah 66:9

It was just before my 42nd birthday. Two years prior, I had quit my corporate job as a Vice President at one of the top book publishing companies, sold my home and took a chance on moving abroad with hopes of a new beginning. It was loud. It was proud. It was a bit naïve. And it was also necessary. {I could have done without the Page Six article and the death threats that followed, but so be it, it makes for great storytelling!}

Some might say I lived out my ‘midlife crisis moment’ on the backdrop of the move and leaving everything familiar behind, but had I not been willing to take that chance and risk failing miserably, I may never have found the courage or clarity I needed, and certainly would never have come to recognize my strength and take back ownership of my life.

Everything had to fall apart so it could come together exactly as it was meant to be.

{July 2013: Minnesota, United States}

I kept looking around, thinking the door would open and he would be there.

I was standing at the front of the church back in my home town, on display in front of my family and a room full of familiar faces I had known my entire life, but the one face I wanted to see was nowhere to be found.

I forced myself to smile while fighting back the tears. The part of me that grew up dreaming of happy endings kept thinking he would come through those doors. But as the minutes passed, the reality that he wasn’t coming began to set in.

He didn’t show up that day.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to be alone with the pain and hurt I was feeling in that moment. Instead, I did the only thing I knew to do, I kept moving forward.

It was the day of my daughter’s baptism. Leaving me at the altar would have been far too simple.

Years before, we exchanged wedding vows and what followed was a chaotic struggle that destroyed my marriage, and nearly destroyed me.

{November 2018: New South Wales, Australia}

This isn’t happening.

This cannot be happening again. Not here. Not now.

Why God?   

The sun was shining, glistening off the glass of the front deck. I could smell the ocean air and feel the salt on my face. It was calm. It was peaceful. It was beautiful. Life was falling apart around me but in that moment, I closed my eyes and everything felt right.

When I opened them, I noticed a school of dolphins fishing just off the shore by the rocks in front of the house. I stood and watched. We had only just moved into the beach house a few months before and while watching the movements of ocean life quickly became a favorite pastime, there had never been dolphins. It was the first time and at a moment when I was desperately seeking guidance and clarity.

I felt lost and alone in a foreign country, not knowing what to do and questioning how this became my life. So naturally, I went to Google.

Dolphins are a symbol of protection and resurrection. They possess a deep inner strength that prepares them for tumultuous water.

The moment felt divinely orchestrated. I was at peace. I knew I had only one choice.

3 weeks later, standing in the Sydney airport with family and a man I no longer recognized, I left Australia with my children. A journey that began as a family of four setting out on what was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime, with hopes of a fresh start, returning home as three and completely starting over.

Everything changed.

Watching someone wither away into a version of themselves that is unrecognizable, is excruciating. Even harder, is realizing that by staying with them, you will eventually find yourself in the same position – unrecognizable. The disease of addiction steals the very essence from another human being, emptiness consumes their eyes as they fall deeper and deeper down the proverbial rabbit hole, and there is nothing you can do.

It leaves you teetering a line between trying to help someone and giving yourself up in the process, or loving yourself enough to own your value and reclaim your life. To see the truth and no longer run from it.

Addiction had been stealing moments from my family for years leading up to the day my children and I boarded that plane headed for home. I had been picking up all the broken pieces of our life and gluing them back together, time and time again, not realizing those jagged pieces were cutting away at me as I desperately tried to hold them all together.

I stayed for 9 years and 7 failed attempts at rehab until the one thing I wasn’t willing to give up was at stake. Myself.

The reason I stayed, eventually became the same reason I knew I needed to leave. I needed to break this cycle. My children deserved more. They also deserved me whole and present, as opposed to constantly trying to make up for what was missing in our lives. I had to face the reality of someone fighting demons I could never fully understand and that time and time again, those demons won the battle. I had to accept that the only thing I could do to change any of it was to change myself, to make choices for my children and I that were difficult, but that were right.

I had to accept the reality that it simply wasn’t enough.

This is a story from the other side of addiction, the chaos and destruction left behind for family members to navigate through and the hard choices that follow. This is a story about rebuilding your life from the rubble left behind. It is about learning to love again.  It is about acceptance. It is about growth. It is about moving forward even when it hurts. It is about creating the life you deserve.

These moments are real, they are raw, they are painful, they are vulnerable and in a world where we are conditioned to share only the perfectly manicured versions of our lives, these are the stories behind the smiling faces. The mess behind the smile.

This is my mess. All the broken pieces, shattered and unraveled.

It took moving abroad and giving up everything for me to finally see the truth.

I had to undo everything I thought my life was supposed to look like. I got really honest about the broken pieces. I learned to let go and simply live again. I learned to trust. And I remembered I was strong. I remembered who I am.  

It took everything falling apart. All of it. My life and everything I thought I knew, Divinely Unraveled and it was exactly as it needed to be.

                                                            ***

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