Jessica Barone is celebrating one year of sobriety from alcohol and cocaine. She is a military spouse of 11 years, married for almost 14 years, mother of four, college student, and freelance face painter.
Expectations, heartache, and an inability to cope, eventually lead to her downward spiral with drugs and alcohol. When God told her to go to rehab, she listened.
Today, she has learned to accept things as they are, and knows that with love, anything is possible.
The Myth of Happily Ever After
We often believe that one day, when we get that job, or we find that person, or we accomplish that goal that we’ll be able to finally kick back and say we made it.
Now we can live happily ever after.
Of course we do. Story books have promised us this all our lives.
But happily ever after is a myth.
Life will always be challenging. Our dream job will soon become tedious. We may find that person, but after the sparks fade, the relationship becomes work. If we get what we want, we crave the next big thing. It’s the illusion of a perfect future that keeps us from being happy now.
A Military Spouse in Sobriety
Jessica’s life was always in upheaval. With constant moves and deployments, the day her husband could leave the military was the light at the end of the tunnel that would make all the sacrifices worth it.
The problem was that once they went back to civilian life, things were challenging in a whole new way. Jessica discovered that at the end of the tunnel was another tunnel.
Jessica fell apart and drowned her hopelessness in alcohol and cocaine.
When she got clean, she knew that she had to stop waiting for some future mirage of happiness. She had to learn to appreciate the present moment to live in the light.
Now she is one year clean and studying to be an addictions counselor at the very same rehab that saved her life.
by Jessica Barone
What happens when you expect something—anything? From personal experience, I can tell you what happens. You make an assumption and your perspective becomes closed. There is no other option than what is “supposed” to be. Sometimes the expectation will actually play out but more often than not, it doesn’t. And when the assured dream has failed, the focus is now on the shortcoming and the failure itself. This is negative thinking. Negative thinking gives way to depression and eventually the loss of hope. My hope was once lost and in turn, I was lost in hopelessness in the form of alcoholism.
I took the road less traveled compared to many of my friends. If you asked 18 year old me what I would be doing at 19, the LAST thing I would have told you was getting married. Love has a way of falling into your lap when you least expect it. My husband decided he wanted to serve our country and became a United States Marine. I said goodbye to my parents and followed him to flight school. I followed him everywhere; Virginia, California, Florida, North Carolina, and Okinawa, Japan. We built a beautifully hectic life together. Four kids, a dog, thirteen moves, and countless deployments would make any relationship hectic. He was strong, and I was strong. We had to be. It’s what that life expected of us. There wasn’t time for weakness. If he were weak, lives were in danger. If I were weak, our whole world at home would crumble. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t ready for war because war was ready for him. It didn’t matter if I was tired, alone, and afraid. I had to be the rock. And I was for 11 years. We both were. But I held onto the hope that one day things would be different. One day he wouldn’t be gone all of the time. One day I wouldn’t have to worry if it was his helicopter that crashed, or why I hadn’t heard from him in days. I wouldn’t have to worry about handling every single detail involved with keeping a family of 6 together. One day I wouldn’t have to be so strong for everyone else. One day I would get the help I so terribly needed. One day….
And then that one day came. It came at a time I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. I had never felt more alone than when I was thirteen hours time difference between my parents and his. Of course there are supports groups in the military for things like this, but sometimes you just need to be with the people you love the most. My husband came home from work one day, and after 11 years in the military he said he found an opportunity to get out. The one day had finally come. By this time, my drinking to cope had already begun. Looking back on those days, its funny how I didn’t see it then. The rock I had been all day would crumble to sand after I put the kids to bed. I had drank in the past, but this was different. This time it was an escape. I have heard before that when people drink, they are either trying to feel something or to trying to stop feeling something. I think I was doing both. I was trying to stop feeling weak, lost, stuck and trying to feel anything but that. I was self medicating to escape from the pain of my environment. I began to no longer find the beauty in the worst situations. That wasn’t like the real me at all. There was an underlying need not being met that I was unable to fill without having a drink. But what did I need? What was I expecting to happen that would take it all away? When my husband presented me with the opportunity to leave the Marine Corps, I thought that was it! Things would be better! I would be better! I would have help! REAL help for the first time since I could remember! And just like that, we moved back to the civilian life in Northwest Connecticut.
Why weren’t things better yet? We had been home in Connecticut for two years and my drinking only got worse. I was flirting with depletion and struggling to change my mindset from years of bad coping habits. Things were not what I thought they should have been. Turns out, I was never going to get help with the house and the kids. At least not the kind of help I wanted. My husband was away for so long that he couldn’t possibly know how to magically reintegrate himself back into the family. He didn’t know HOW to help and I didn’t know how to communicate what help I needed. What seemed simple to me wasn’t so simple to him. I suppose it would be like thrusting myself into the middle of a war zone and expecting perfect results. There were lots of arguments. Lack of communication, anger, and years of trust issues led me deeper into the drink. I could not help but wonder what hope I was holding onto for so many years. What the hell happened to my light at the end of the tunnel? Our marriage wasn’t any better; I wasn’t any better. Everything was worse. THIS WAS NOT HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!
Depression became my past, anxiety became my future, and I was living in a constant state of both. The rock I had once been had not only crumbled, but was dampened and turned to mud. On a night that I can only describe as hopeless, I heard through the noise of expectation. It was time for a mind shift. As Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” I knew I couldn’t do this alone. Through a support system that I am forever grateful for, that mind shift happened. I began to remember happiness. I began to have peace in chaos. Through honesty, open mindedness, and willingness, my perspective changed. The bars and chains that had kept me from living in the present moment began to dissolve. I remembered who I was under the fog of a present-less existence, and that we are all only as needy as our unmet needs. I remembered when life started to get me down and the moment I let it. And then I realized where the downward spiral began. Everything was resulting from let down expectations. My idea of what was supposed to be kept me from living with mindfulness and awareness. I couldn’t possibly see anything outside of my focus on the imaginary end result I had so artfully created. I believed that the light at the end of the tunnel was my peace, never realizing that I was consistently living in the tunnel’s darkness, forever on a trek to the light. I slowly began to train myself to always live in that brightness– to always be at the end of the tunnel, right where I needed to be, regardless of what it looked like. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have an expectation.
Through expecting, I was holding myself back. In the past, I never knew what I wanted to be outside of a wife and mother. I felt that I should know. Today I find myself with comfort, relief, and the lifted burden of assumptions. I want to be a part of the recovery process that saved my life and my peace of mind. While I don’t know where this career will lead me in the future, I take comfort in the fact that it’s okay not to know. As the serenity prayer says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I’ve learned the difference between expectation and hope. I hope I can be a part of another person’s journey into recovery. But for today, I have peace.
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