July 18, 2010

The red wine is for the skillet, for cooking, for mushrooms, for steak.
It is not for me.
It is not for me.

I am standing and pretending I’m unaffected, handing out bread next to the skillet and its chef, downwind of the smell of the wine.

To the people who curve in a line like ants, coming for food, I repeat, bread? bread? bread? would you like some bread? bread? bread?

And I’m thinking, wine wine wine, even while I try to focus on other things, like the serving gloves I’m wearing, my hands sticky and hot, and the faces smiling and thanking me. For the bread.

wine wine wine…

Of course there is irony here. The bread and the wine, this doesn’t escape me. This thought reminds me to beg for serenity. This thought, of bread and wine together, not alone. So I say the prayer and kick at the dirt with my sandaled feet.

That bottle of red wine is sitting in arm’s reach wrapped in a brown paper bag, and every time it’s poured to the sautee skillet- glug glug glug, the smell, so strong, it fills the humid air and blows across my face. I hold my breath and turn my head but I can’t get away from that smell. It is crawling up my chest and wrapping its way around my throat and then squeezing.

I love that smell while it begs to take the life out of me.


Suddenly, I walk away without a word, even though I’m a people-pleaser and I want to give the dinner guests the bread and I want to help. But I can’t, because the tears are coming and I’m humiliated as if I’m standing there naked. I can’t shake the feelings any more than I can shake my skin to the ground. I hate feeling out of control but this is what happens and I start to beat myself up…

I sit with my hands on my knees and my head bent, sobbing, staring at the plastic floor of a service truck, the one that became my shelter when I fled. And I wonder why we have to be so weak to be so strong. I want a break and a moment of freedom for free.

I tell my parents and my sister. I say, it’s the wineI just didn’t know it would be that hard. I just can’t stop crying and they show me love and hold me up with words. I hear my Dad say that there’s no shame in this, that it happens to him, too. And then I finally feel the shift that comes with knowing that someone knows exactly exactly how you feel. I drive home with this, my dad’s last words as I walked away, in my head and heart…It does get better, he said.

Sometimes I just can’t wait.


The house is perfectly still and quiet, empty. I sit down and think and cry and then I hear a soft knock on the door, a tiny hand with knuckles to wood, and my boys come in. They smile and laugh and tell me about their trip to the store. I choke back tears at the love for them and in them, standing right there in front of me, bouncing. They hop from foot to foot and throw themselves at my lap. They don’t know what this feels like, and their not-a-care-in-the-world energy fills the room.


The tornado sirens start to blast and wind like I’ve never seen starts to blow. We are rushing around suddenly, grabbing blankets and the radio and the phones and calling the dog to follow us to the basement. I’m thinking of safety for my bouncers, instead of the smell of wine.

The people are still out at the festival, where I was serving bread, with the hundreds of tents and three stages and the wind and rain and wine. I think of all the people there and I feel the panic rising in my chest again and find the strength to stay calm for my boys. I tell them quietly why we’re in the basement and what the siren means. They wrap themselves in blankets on the floor and we listen to the words flowing from the speakers. We call my family to see if they’re okay, still out there with hearts of service, taking care of people, running for cover. They’re are in a camper in the wind, waiting and praying and hoping for all the people.

The storm strangely passes then, tornadoes touching down around us but not here, the wind falling away like a whisper.

There is a sudden stillness.

I carry my weak and weary body up the stairs and look out the windows. Light is breaking through the clouds and the grass and trees are acting like nothing has happened at all, dripping rain pitter-pat like applause.

My family starts to appear one by one up the stairs and back to normal. I ask Miles where his brother is and he says he came up, too. He sits down with me to watch the radar, and a few minutes later Ryan asks from the other room if Asher is with me. I shoot up from my chair and say that I thought he was with him. I slow-motion-realize that he’s still downstairs. And then I hear it, the distant sound of crying.

I run downstairs to find him in the same place he was before, scared, prepared for a blowing wind that destroys. My heart breaks and I lift him up and ask him why he didn’t come upstairs. He says he was too scared and I feel so out of control. I set him down after wiping his tears and telling him the storm has passed, over and over and over. I follow his little boy body up the stairs and I tell him I’m so sorry.

He says, “It’s not your fault, Mommy…and it’s not my fault, eider.”

I look at the back of his head with its soft white hair as he says this, and there is a stillness in me. I know that he’s right, about more than his young heart and mind can even begin to understand. It is not my fault. It is not my fault. It is not my fault.

The storm in me is like the storm in him while the storm moves over us.

Sometimes, all any of us can do is pull the strangling fear off our naked skin, to be a comfort to each other, clothing each other with words and bread-giving hands and arms for wrapping and laps for bouncing.

Until the storm passes, and the stillness comes.



togetherforgood July 18, 2010 at 8:04 am

Heather, this is breathtakingly beautiful. Thank you for it. :)

MollyinMinn July 18, 2010 at 8:09 am

Amazing how things sometimes happen around us that magnify a moment, isn't it? I am sorry and you are strong. And we are all glad that, on so many levels, you are all okay.

cristina July 18, 2010 at 8:10 am

you brought me to tears with your honesty and strength.

Ann Imig July 18, 2010 at 8:32 am

Me too–tears. Wow. This blog is your mission. It really is.

Kate Coveny Hood July 18, 2010 at 9:30 am

Lovely and brave (just like you).

Erin July 18, 2010 at 9:53 am

I thought of you last night. Isn't that weird? I was getting stuff together for Tommy's party, and I thought to myself, If Heather were coming, I wouldn't have any wine there to be kind to her. Because OF COURSE it is hard and strangling and scary for you to be near wine. If it wasn't, you'd be some sort of superhuman. And though I think you are super, I think you are also human… let yourself be human, baby girl. Let your body and your mind heal from this disease at its own pace–and if you're never okay enough to cook with wine? Well, that's okay. It just is.

Denise July 18, 2010 at 10:00 am

I am crying. Tears and even gasps of breath, so touched by your grace and sadness and strength and pain.

Such brittle, aching words. Haunting. With the grace of your honesty, you make it easier for me to be a person. A real, live person.

Still crying. Sending love.
xo, Goose

Karen July 18, 2010 at 10:03 am

I adore your writing and I applaud your courage. So much rings true in my battle with panic. This is golden. You're doing better than you know. :)

Em July 18, 2010 at 10:16 am

beautiful post. thank you for sharing. This week is Water Festival where I live and it's a huge drunk festival basically. Last year before I got sober, Waterfest was my last "hoorah" so it's kind of tough for me this week especially with my husband who drinks and his family in town for the festivities. But I'm just going to be strong :)

Alita- Da Mainiacs July 18, 2010 at 11:00 am

One day at a time.

I was standing with you cooking in that suffocating heat and the wine scent echoing in the air. I wouldn't blame you one bit for the need to run away from that. Fast! It does indeed choke.

Thank you for sharing.

"Not Telling" July 18, 2010 at 11:35 am

Beautiful. What your dad did for you? You and the other bloggers who write the truth about all of this are beginning to do that for me. You're right, it's the power of someone who knows exactly how you feel.

Binkytowne July 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

That must have been really difficult, all of it, and you made it through. I hope you are extremely proud of yourself. You did all the right things for you and for your family. Well done mama.

Molly July 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm

He is so right. It's not your fault. and like Erin said, if you get there you get there, if you don't… that's totally fine too. and completely understandable.

Lindsey July 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Oh, I know these storms – I am sorry you are in them now and hope that a calmer time comes soon. But as we both know, there will always be storms … Thanks again for your gorgeous, graceful words.

Casey Freeland July 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This is so powerful. And you are a brave one, a giving one to share it with the world. It should be published in the Times.


Robin July 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Oh, what a day, what a day.

Corinne July 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

You made it through :) That's the important part. You did it!
Thank you for this. It's not easy, but it helps to know that it's not easy for someone else as well. And know that you're not alone.

Soccerbelle July 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I love how children carry the strongest truth inside themselves and then share it just when we adults need to hear it.

Hope July 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm

This was hauntingly beautiful to read.

Laurel July 18, 2010 at 8:52 pm

i know i've said this before but just to reiterate lest you feel like others don't get it…

we ALL have our "demons". those things that try so very hard to pull us back. on some level, i believe God set it up that way…or rather allows it to be so now. those demons require us to overcome and find a strength we couldn't find without them.

you are a REMARKABLE woman and your honesty with your journey will bless countless people…not just those who read your blog but those in our lives who are impacted because of those who read your blog.


~Kathie~ July 18, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Oh what a storm! Beautiful, honest post–thank you so much for sharing!!

Lori A. July 18, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Found your blog. Love it.
Lori (married to the hot one)

江桂宸江桂宸 July 19, 2010 at 8:14 am

pleasure to find such a good artical! please keep update!!..................................................................

Christine July 19, 2010 at 8:14 am

I am profoundly humbled by your writing. Your words give me chills and make me ache to hug you.

You are a strong woman. You can do this. You really, really can.

Adventures In Babywearing July 19, 2010 at 9:58 am

I read this last night via email and am now able to comment. I felt the blood flow in this one, Heather, I'm hurting for you, but proud, so glad to know that you have shaky moments like me, too, that although you are struggling, you are coming out on top of this struggle. You are so special.


Becky July 19, 2010 at 10:28 am

Oh Heather. This post was amazing. Just like you. SO REAL! Thank you for sharing. You are amazing. I know I always say that but it's because I mean it.

Love you.

CaJoh July 19, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I hear your mentions of "Stillness" and am reminded of the term "Stillness-illness". It is where you are in constant motion, then when that motion stops you feel like you are still moving.

So glad that you have the strength to endure and to wait out those storms which pass your way.

Pamela July 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

you didn't cave.
good for you.
and you're right: it isn't your fault.

Mary July 19, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Heather… its through your honest words that I don't ever forget where I have been. When you were describing what it was like to be passing out bread while obsessing over the wine brought me right back to times that I have been in that situation. More that once. It is hard, so painfully hard. I too have walked away from being a people pleaser and dropped to my knees because I couldn't do it. I'm not going to tell you that these moments disappear but I will tell you that it does get easier. Be proud my friend!

Elaine A. July 19, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I'm sure that was really hard for you Heather…

I love the way you weaved all of this together. SO beautiful to read…

Maggie, July 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Ouch. This one hurts.

Maggie, dammit July 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Crap stupid phone. That was me up there. Grr.

deb July 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I was speechless, reading this earlier.
and really , still am.


Dawn July 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Love the honesty. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa Page Rosenberg July 19, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Beautifully written.
Beautifully handled.
And your dad is right.
All beautiful.

Cynthia July 20, 2010 at 1:14 am

Darn it! You have me in tears again- and I'm not really a cryer. Beautiful!

And I am so proud of you. You weathered a huge storm. You overcame not only your want of the wine but your desire to people please too- get a cape girl because that is hero worthy!

Lee Vandeman July 20, 2010 at 9:09 am

Oh Heather. This is you sister. At your friggin' best. In all kinds of ways. Not just the writing way but the human way…the you way. Your life is so full and I feel it when I read it.

Can not wait to see your face and squeeze your soul…


Kimberly July 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm

"…so strong to be so weak." Oh my yes. That's it. That's it exactly. Lee spoke my own thoughts more eloquently than I ever could. This is you. This is beautiful and real and right. You're not just making yourself strong, you're strengthening everyone around you in the process.

Lora July 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I just found your blog. Amazing, the whole post reads to me like a long beautiful poem.

Mrs4444 July 25, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Beautiful. Profound. Powerful. Thank you. I'm going to link this up to this weeks Saturday Sampling.

Amy Sullivan July 31, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Your writing is amazing. Your struggle so real. Thanks for sharing…I know of several who struggle like you do. It makes me understand their journey just a little more.

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