Dear 21-year-old Carie on July 23, 1999,
Tomorrow you are going to get married. You should. I know you are doubting yourself and this marriage and you have so many good reasons to do that. The next eighteen years of your life are going to be so challenging. You will be pushed to the edge of your sanity, your physical and mental health, your spiritual health, and your ability to love. If you knew the journey you were in for, you would walk away today. You would want to avoid the lessons, the pain, the hurt.
But if you walk away today, you will miss out on your baby girl that will come in a few years. She will be your gift. She will show you a path out of the hurt. You will do things for her that you wouldn't do for yourself. Motherhood will lead you out of the darkness and lead you back to who you really are, who you were meant to be.
You know you are in for some trouble. It isn't that you and Ryan don't love each other. You really do. But forces will come into your life that are more powerful than both of you. The two of you have similar wounds, similar heartache, and similar weaknesses. You just don't know how to overcome what is coming and what it will bring up between the two of you. You will both try so hard to get back to each other but when you lose who you are, there is no one to get back to.
You are going to hurt each other because you will both be so scared. You won't be able to see the love under the hurt, anger, and struggle. You won't be able to hear the pleas for love under the hateful words, the scary situations, and the pain. You will feel threatened by each other and do crazy things to try to win a game that has no winners. You are seeking safety and security but it won't come.
I know you will think that he hates you. He will think you hate him too. It isn't true. You just weren't equipped to handle addiction-neither of you. You won't understand why he falls to it every time and he won't understand either. You will hate yourself for believing and he will hate himself for trying and failing. Forgive yourselves, it is more powerful than love and good intentions.
He wanted to get better. He wanted to be your husband, her father and a good man. You wanted to be his wife, a good mother, and stronger than addiction. You will both fail. Miserably.
You will find help and a path out. One night you will look at your innocent baby sleeping in her crib. Her innocence will make you drop to the ground and cry. You will realize that you will do anything to protect her-to give her a different life, a different path, a healthy way to live that doesn't include the daily cycle of addiction. You beg God for help and you start to feel a fire burning inside you, a mama bear energy that says that no one will do to her what has been done to you, not if you can help it.
You leave. This time for good. You decide that what you have been hearing in recovery meeting needs to happen in your life. Words and actions have to match. No more accepting intentions in place of actions. You will go to those meetings on the best and worst days of your life. Those people will love you, love your child, and show you how to do life differently. It will save your life. You will learn what unacceptable behavior is, how to set boundaries, how to love the person but hate the disease. You will learn that God loves you and that God can do things that you can't.
You will learn to trust God with your child's life when you are forced to let her go every other weekend. God won't let you down. She will return safe. Sometimes you may have to go get her, fight for her, go to court, use the law, but she will come back safe to you every time. It will be very hard for you. Your recovery group, your friends and your family will help you through.
It will get worse. People will tell you not to believe what you see, not to believe what you hear, to deny what you know in your heart. They are lying. They are afraid too. No one can stop what is coming. Your worst fear is that Ryan will die and that she will be there and see it and forever be affected.
God protects your baby girl and she is not there, she is with you when it happens.
I cannot explain to you how hard it will be to carry her through this. She will need you to be stronger than you knew you could be. You do it and you cry later. I also cannot explain to you how hard it will be when years later, the feelings that you froze on the day that you left him thaw and you have to feel them all. How confusing and frustrating it will be to process those feeling from that marriage while in a new marriage that is fragile. Because all marriage is fragile. Add to it death, step-parenting a grieving child, work stress, normal early marriage issues, and newborn twins. Carie, you will think that you cannot make it through.
God and your inner mama bear will get you through. Once again you will do insanely hard things for your children that you probably wouldn't do for yourself. People will come into your life and show you things. Things like how to grieve, how to feel your feelings, how to know that feelings aren't facts and that they never go away until you let yourself feel them. Things like how to forgive, set boundaries, and to know that you are worthy of love without any doing or effort on your part. You will learn about listening to your body and connecting to God. You will learn that you can be okay when things aren't okay. You will learn about the disease of alcoholism and how to recover from the effects of living in it for so long.
Eighteen years from now you will be okay. Not perfect, not all knowing, not without scars but okay. You will be learning to contact God (you call her Goddess right now because that is what works for you) every day to know that you are loved, safe, and guided. You will be learning how to get love from healthy people and places and how to love without sacrificing yourself for it.
You will look at your children and your heart will burst with love and happiness at their faces. You will learn that they are gifts to you because they teach you how strong you are and how you deserve love no matter what you do or say. They love you without effort. You will protect them with a fierceness that will scare you at times. They will see it as love. It is love.
You will still be married and it will still be hard. Not because you don't love each other but because there is a lot of stuff. A lifetime of stuff that you both brought here and that needs to be acknowledged. Someday you might just look at the stuff, see it for the mess it is and just laugh knowing that you don't need a perfect space to love, just the ability to see past the mess to the heart. You are with a good man, be patient, be kind, be loving.
Listen, you've been through a lot. If you knew it on this day before your journey starts, you would run. Don't run. There was joy and gifts among all that pain. There are lessons that can't be learned any other way, you are stubborn. The feelings you will feel on this day, July 23, 2017 are worth it. You will know love, self-love, peace and joy. You will be GRATEFUL for the journey, yes grateful. You will see the lessons. You will be wise yet humble. You will be a force to be celebrated on this Earth.
So go ahead, celebrate tonight. Get dressed up tomorrow and say I do to Ryan. It will be your journey back to you. You won't regret it. Take a deep breath baby, your life is about to change.
I love you. I've got you. We are going to be okay.
39 year old Carie on July 23, 2017