December 20, 2009

Loooong Year In Review

One of the lessons I have learned through many years in recovery is not to compare myself to others, only compare myself to myself. Each year I write a little “year in review”. After writing about 2009 I took a look back at the one I wrote for 2008. I think this year was much more of a struggle. A lot of great things have happened, but the last two months presented pain. I look forward to 2010 because I am still convinced that from great pain comes enormous strength. While there are some days in the past few weeks I have felt there is little hope, I am grateful that I have so many memories to hang onto and the experience of having made it through tough times before.

So…here is my year in review:

January 2009 was eventful. Mom was doing very well but chemo was back on the calendar. The tumor had returned. She faced it as she confronted everything in life, head on and with force. I was enjoying my career. I had been asked for the second year in a row to conduct training in South Texas with a great group of counselors. I was also involved with the Nova conference for the fourth year in a row. It was a great time catching up with old collogues and meeting new ones, as well. My sweet sonshine turned 8. He had a bowling party with many of his classmates. In attendance were also his dad, Aunt and grandmother. Toward the end of the month I started a rather rigid eating and exercise program as a result of what my doctor thought was a problem with my heart.


In February my son began preparation for his first communion. He had his first reconciliation ceremony. I began my pre-practicum class. This class helped me realize that not only was I really in graduate school but it would soon be over. I spent Valentine’s Day with my two true loves, my son and my mom. I also enjoyed going to Austin for the Texas state TAAP board meeting on Legislative Advocacy Day.

March was exciting. My little sonshine got to spend part of his Spring break with grandmother and down south with his dad and aunt. This was also the month that my sister and I took our mom to San Juan Del Valle to a healing church she had always wanted to visit. It was a very long trip but we had so much fun. I don’t think I have laughed that hard before. I enjoy those memories so much.

In April my son was asking questions about his first communion that had me picking up the phone to ask my favorite catholic connection, my mom, many things. We all enjoyed Easter held at my mom’s house. Since last year she was not able to do it for the first time in more years than I could remember, this was very exciting. Toward the end of this month I also got out from under the expense and burden of being a homeowner. I moved into a very cute apartment. While I thought I should have been sad about the move, it was actually very cathartic to pare down my life and decide what I really needed to hang onto.

In May mom visited for mother’s day. This was the weekend my son had his first communion. It was very exciting for us. His dad, godmother (Aunt), godfather, Aunt and Uncle also attended. He felt like a star and was treated like it!

When he got out of school in June he spent the first week of vacation with grandmother. When I picked him up we took her to her house at the coast where we spent several days. This was the first time we had been there since he was six months old. It was a great time. Before we headed home we went to mom’s family reunion with her. I took my nephew to see my favorite band, Cold Play. Two weeks later we went to my sons first official Bohemian dance. We enjoyed it so much. To this day we refer to it as the “chicken dance”. Mom enjoyed watching all of the kids do the chicken dance so much that she ordered a mechanical chicken that plays the song and does the dance! My sonshine enjoyed several week-long day camps during the summer but his favorite was in June when he attended the Dallas Mavericks basketball camp. Although, not a fan of the Mavericks, I embraced it just the same!

In July I was able to take mom to chemo for the first time. A job usually left to my sister, I was able to lend a hand. It felt really good to be able to do this with her. She had so much strength and faith. I didn’t miss a weekend of visiting her in July. We had a lot of fun and family together time. The entire family got together for the Fourth of July. We had a great barbeque that culminated in all of us sitting around that familiar table in mom’s kitchen recalling stories from childhood. I can still see her sitting there laughing with us.

August was a very joyful month. On the first I celebrated sixteen years recovery. I was asked to be the secretary of the State TAAP board, I handed over the duty of President of Dallas TAAP to the new president, took a week-long vacation, spoke at the NAADAC conference in Salt Lake City, Utah (an incredible honor), and finished my Master’s degree in Addiction Counseling. What a month. My sonshine started third grade, his dad graduated college, we made our usual “Heller trek” to the Colorado river and we had a great end of the month cookout at my brother’s house to celebrate.


September brought the beginning of my doctoral program and the smell of football! We rode with my brother and sister-in-law to watch my nephew’s first college football game of the season…and it was the rainiest game of the season, too. We attended a recovery month event at Bauchman Lake where my son sold an entire box of chocolates for his school. He sold two more the next weekend when we visited my mom’s and attended two more football games. Before the college ballgame the family went to their traditional Mexican food restaurant and had a cake for me for my birthday. My son had text his dad that he thought his mom needed a GPS at some point when I was lost because I really needed one and that is the gift I was given. It was a very helpful gift literally, but I never knew how in the coming weeks it would also apply so figuratively.


October brought about even more change. I turned 40. I was actually excited about that event. I feel that I have learned more in the last 20 years than I ever would have believed. I was very prepared to be 40 and energized about it. I spent weekends with mom. I went to some football games. Me, my sonshine and my sister went with my mom to see an oncologist on the 23rd to learn about the radiation she would begin on the 28th. All seemed hopeful. Both doctors talked about how well she was doing. She didn’t start radiation. On the 25th of October she had a serious car accident on her way to church. She spent 16 days in ICU before passing away.

On the 13th of November she had a beautiful Catholic funeral. When I came home from her funeral I found that the company I worked for 15 months shut its doors. I no longer had a job. I spent the week of Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. My brother’s church had a mass in my mom’s memory, ironically, on the 15th anniversary of my father’s death. November was a difficult month.

December is nearing its end. I am aware Christmas will not be easy. I have missed one Christmas with my mom since the day I was born. That was in 2000 when I lived in Germany and was expecting my son any day and could not fly. Dealing with the loss of my mom is difficult. I feel like I have lost home. There is a void with her being gone that will never be filled and I don’t intend to try to fill it. I just hope after I move through this process there will be many lessons.

A long year full of memories.

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