I sat in my car outside the building, this Saturday in December.
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Wondering if the time would ever come, when I wouldn't have to pick him up from yet another institution in a town far away
“This isn't about you. Remember, this isn't about you.”
I closed my eyes for a minute or two. My mind, re-finding its center. Holding my key chain tightly in my hands
“Just for today, Mom” He'd always remind me. “It's all we really have anyway.”
But what about all the hurt? What about the years of addiction? What about the ripple effects it's had on every .. aspect .. of .. my .. life? Of the lives of everyone in our family, for that matter
“You need to put it away, now is not the time. This isn't about you.”
I opened the flap of his Christmas present and took out my pen. One of my favorite passages, God's call to Abram. God's promises of incredible blessings, and a reminder that through him (Abram), so many others will also be blessed as well
“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and though shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12: 2-3)
I hope one day he's able to experience the incredible love a parent has for their child. My hand kept writing
“Blessed (you are) to be a blessing (never forget to be). I love you more than you can ever know.”
I slowly tied the string around his new bible
Took a deep breath, and made my way toward the front door
After seven years of practice, the drill is all too familiar. I wait to be buzzed in, my name recorded on a sheet of paper below the other visitors of the day, and wait in the hallway
To the casual observer, the facility wasn't anything special. A nondescript building in a part of town that certainly wouldn't be described as affluent. The fabric on the visitor's chairs was faded and fraying, the twenty-year-old carpet could have stood a good vacuuming, and the walls a shinier coat of paint
This was a place where lives were being rebuilt, and just like the building's facade, it wasn't always pretty to look on the outside. But if you looked a little closer, if you looked with your heart, on the inside something beautiful was underway
Smiles from people passing by, along with a bit of small talk. “How could I have forgotten people are always so nice?”
A huge Christmas tree full of sparkly ornaments. “Sometimes I wish we put up a tree during the holidays.”
Smells of dinner cooking wafted my way. “That sure smells good.”
Music played in another room. “Will I ever tire of Christmas jazz?”
A father played a game with his two young children. “What courage to exercise visitation while staying at a homeless shelter.”
A man stopping for a few nights on his way through town, over the past months, he'd walked 1500 (!) miles. I hear he's originally from Alaska; I sure hope he set out in the summertime.
Stories ran the gamut, always beginning with something lost, and the promise of a new beginning. “Could I do it? I mean, would I have what it took to start my life over with literally nothing? I'm not so sure I'd do it with this level of grace.”
We shared coffee and a tasty treat
“Does he know I could sit and talk to him for hours? One of the very few people I can really be myself with.”
I've often wondered how we navigated those dark years, he and I. They weren't the kind that comes along, make a quick exit, and let you recover with relative ease. No, these were instead a special darkness unto themselves, the kind hell that pulls up a chair in your home, offers you a drink, and asks are you happy? Are you comfortable? How long do you want me to stay? Should I unpack? Should I forward the mail? The kind from which you'll never be the same.
We talked of sobriety
Him: “I'm not using, learning how to managing my emotions in other ways.”
Me: “I haven't been eating cookies at the co-op every day.”
How we're spending our days
Him: “I'm learning, reading, and working next week. Trying to be the best person I can be”
Me: “I've taken on a new project at work and a leadership role. A next class is beginning soon. Oh, and I'm writing, lots of writing lately, and trying to be a better me.”
How's your heart? Are you happy?
Him: “I'm happy, and so thankful for everything I have.”
Me: “I'm happy, and guarding it with everything I've got.”
Rebuilding a life
Him: “What can I do to have other people to see me differently? How do I prove I'm not the same person I was a year ago? Five years ago? They won't answer my messages, take my calls, or reciprocate if I reach out.”
Me: “No way am I the same as I was at 20, 30, or 40 for that matter. There are a few people from those seasons that turn the other way if they see me at the grocery. I want to run to them and say ‘but look; I've changed, everything is different now.'
But somehow it's not that easy; sadly, it's never that easy. You just build a different life, without them in it, it's all you can do. Besides, miss them like crazy.”
I drove home that night in the dark, no radio, just my thoughts
I've spent more time with him in homeless shelters and addiction centers than I'd ever care to know. No doubt, it's life unedited, at times raw and very real. People struggling at what is often their bottom. It's always true that it's not until we're at our lowest of places, that there can be a shift in our spirit, and we emerge changed.
Every time and I mean every time I walk away, I'm in awe of their gratitude, their bravery, and how very fortunate I truly am for the life I have
I can't help but wonder
What if all of us could put aside all of our hang-ups? Offering the same grace to others that we'd want to be extended toward ourselves? What if we realized we too aren't the same people today that we were at 18 years old? And thank someone who, along the way, chose to see us in a different light.
What if all of us gave the nod to our own hang-ups and addictions? The things that help get us through, our glass(es) of wine in the evenings, shopping, sugar? Living under the world's definition of social acceptability doesn't mean we're any better.
What if all of us really realized how fragile this life really can be? The safety of the bubbles we live in can just as easily be broken? And we just may need some help to pull ourselves up again one day
What if all of us truly took it to heart? Pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones, and really went out into the world to make a difference? Realizing efforts don't have to be grandiose to touch a life
What if we returned that friend's call? You know the one? S he was in a less than idyllic marriage for a very long time, something she wasn't proud of. Eventually, she left him, rebuilt her life, and is completely different now
I'm positive you'd enjoy her company over a cup of coffee
What if we took a minute to ask someone how their day was? Do you know the one? He used everything and everyone he could for several years, something he wasn't proud of. Eventually, he decided to rebuild his life and is different now
Guaranteed, there would be some wisdom to impart, in both directions
As the evening drew to a close, we parted ways with a hug
“When was the last time I got to hug him? When he hugged me back? I wish I could remember”
Two kindred spirits who've been to the brink, together, and also alone; saying good-by on the front stoop of a place offering a sanctuary of peace for those brave enough to rebuild their lives. I can't help but wonder if we ever stop rebuilding.
It went unspoken, the reverence for how incredibly blessed we truly are, no matter the place we lay our head at the end of the day. Each having experienced life's gentle pull on their heart, and the willingness to follow wherever it may lead (messy though it may be)
Each hoping to be a blessing to someone else along the way
As I pulled into the driveway that evening, I couldn't help but smile. Kitties and puppies greeted me at the door, my husband and I caught up on the day over a glass of wine, and a bit of chocolate pudding
I've done chocolate pudding many, many ways over the years. Especially when the kids were little, and it's nearly always good. But from this day forward, if I'm lucky enough to have you come over for dinner and something chocolatey seems like a fitting dessert, this is the recipe I'll be using
It from the whimsical Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook by Mollie Katzen. The text and the drawings by Mollie herself. The pudding completely caught me off guard, in the best way possible
The key here is good chocolate, then a gentle touch bringing a short list of common ingredients together. Along with a bit of patience required to let the pudding cool and set. The last piece makes all the difference. Time in the refrigerator allows the pudding to set into the most wonderful chocolate cloud imaginable; the consistency of whipped frosting.
You'll want to use good-quality chocolate in the 60-80% range: semi-sweet to bittersweet. Aside from the chocolate, you're only adding a milk, cornstarch, a few tablespoons of natural sugar, and a drizzle of vanilla. So don't skimp on the quality of ingredients here, there's really no place to hide.
~ Adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen
Simple, Perfect Chocolate Pudding
- 6 oz chocolate, shaved (see notes above)
- 2 - 3 Tbsp natural sugar (Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado)
- 2 cups milk (low-fat, nut milk, coconut, or soy all work great)
- fine grain sea salt
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the chocolate, sugar, and milk.
- Heat gently, whisking frequently, until all of the chocolate has melted and the mix is uniform
- Remove from heat
- In a bowl, pour in about half of the hot mix, along with the cornstarch and a pinch of fine-grain sea salt
- Whisk vigorously until all of the cornstarch has dissolved, then whisk this mixture back into the saucepan
- Keep stirring as you cook the pudding over very low heat for 8-10 minutes more, or until the pudding is thick and glossy
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla
- Transfer the hot pudding to a serving bowl or to individual cups
- (Note: to avoid a skin forming along gate top, lay a sheet of waxed paper over the surface
- Chill completely before serving
Love it mom. So sad but so true.
Love you Sweetie .. Hugs from afar
I came for chocolate pudding but found so much more. Thank you for this beautiful piece.
Kelly .. thank-you
Catching up over some chocolate pudding sounds like a good plan to me. My husband usually catch up on the day when we go to bed, but I like your way better.
I think, in a way, addiction IS about you. Addiction affects the entire family. Thankfully, lives can be rebuilt and true, none of us are the same people we were 20 years ago. We all should all keep an open mind and an attitude of love.
Such beautiful words and such an emotional read, it has really resonated with me today of all days. Thank you for sharing something so personal. Although on the other hand, your beautiful photos haven’t helped my cravings for the chocolate pudding I can’t have!
It’s every true that it’s more important how we see and not how we look. Sometimes, we need to take time, see things in perspective and appreciate people for who they are and what they mean to us. It’s a much better world with that. And yes, the chocolate pudding looks really yummy.
Love how the chocolate pudding looks like the ying and yang, kinda represents both the good and bad in life as told in your story.
This post is so much more than chocolate pudding. Sure, it looks amazing, but a look into your life is inspiring.
You are a great mom. My late husband was 14 years older than I, and when I met him he was 4 years sober. But in the years before, he was in and out of treatments and put his mom through a lot. I thank God everyday that my kids know that their dad was an alcoholic and so far haven’t even tried alcohol. My daughter is 22 and my son is 19. I do worry about my son because his personality would be much more prone to it, but all I can do is trust God to take care of it. Thanks for sharing.
You cant beat a good simple choccy pudding along with a cup of hot chocolate with marshmellows 🙂
I think we’re all different than we were and each year we grow a little more. Some grow for the better, some for the worse, but the key is to just keep going and asking God for help along the way.
This is so beautiful, and very emotional! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, none of us are the person we were five years ago, or even a year ago. I know that I will never be the person I was in my teens, or in my twenties, and I think realising that about other people is so important.
My husband always talks about his Mom’s chocolate pudding. I always try to make it but I don’t think it’s that good so I want to try this recipe. Thank you.
Your post brought tears to my eyes. So much truth in your words. Going to need to eat that chocolate pudding for comfort after that 🙂
This sounds amazing. I have a teenage daughter that loves anything chocolate, but also happens to be vegan. So, as you can imagine, she doesn’t get to indulge very often. I’ll have to try this out and surprise her sometime.
by the way, this is one beautiful blog post. So much emotion, and very well written.
Lovely thoughts. If only we could look past of often hastily drawn conclusions about other people and try to understand what they are going through. We’re all here for such a short visit why not make each other happy. This chocolate pudding seems like a delicious start.
wow, simple yet soooo delicious looking! Would love to try this out!
I do hope that his friends pick up the phone and realize that he has changed. I admire how far he has come, especially as I know how difficult addictions can be and it is obvious he is a changed man. You are a great mother and he is lucky to have such a wonderful role model in his life x
This was such a great read. I saw that semi-colon again today. I’ve never given that much importance to the semi colon until it was given a new meaning. Sometimes we just go about our day, immersing ourselves in work trying to make a living and forgetting how it is to live. This has to change. You’ll never know how a simple smile, a pat on the back, a hug, and a “How are you today?” can save a life. Have a blessed rest of the day.
Wow. What a way to open up to your readers. Very touching and very raw. Thanks for sharing not only your story, but the recipe for chocolate pudding as well. It’s been a comfort food since I was a kid
This is so deep and so insightful, it is a beautiful read. Thank you for sharing such raw emotion. We all change and grow, and more love and understanding without judgement is what this world needs.
This is a wonderful read. It hurts to be ignored, and even if you have turned our back on the bad things that happened before, it seems like people cannot see the “new” person. They have judged harshly. As if people do not have the capacity to rectify their mistakes. This is the reason why I want my child to maintain open communication with me, regardless of her age. A mother can never turn her back on her child.
Wow, such a powerful post. Addiction is a nightmare for everyone involved. Knowing what people go through is heartbreaking. And I agree with the other readers – mothers have a special bond with their babies – no matter the age.
Saving this pudding recipe for later for sure.
I absolutely love your post and not because of chocolate (not a fan). Very insightful read and very relatable. Yes, I am not who I used to be 5 or even a year ago…. I just have to remember that I am enough and there are people who love me just as I am ❤
Ps. You gained a new follower.
Addiction is a disease that affects so many people, not only the person drinking or doing drugs. There is so much about it, things to learn for the future. All you can do it be ready to be there for them as they decide to recover and to to rehab. Your words are so heartbreaking but true.
On other topic the recipe looks yummy.
I’m sure the chocolate pudding from it’s looks and from seeing the ingredients, method etc would be delicious and yummy food for all. However, what you shared prior to going into the chocolate pudding in my view was infinitely more valuable. What you described is food for thought and more so, food for the soul. You write beautifully and are extremely genuine and vivid in such a touching situation – one we could all learn something from. This is something I got a lot from personally. Thank you most sincerely.
That is a hard question to answer, the one where you ask us if we offer “the same grace to others that we’d want extended toward ourselves.” I want to say that I would and have but looking back, I don’t see where I have. I definitely want to change my motives and heart going forward.
Addiction is something many people just don’t understand. Part of my schooling was related to understanding addiction and I am so thankful that you shared your story in such a raw way. Addiction is about so much more than drugs and alcohol. It’s about the people and the wide array of emotions that go with it (among many other things of course). Thank you for sharing. P.S. the pudding looks delicious!
Wow, simply beautifully written. I don’ t know if people will ever understand addiction. This is a very touchy post and I am proud of you for sharing, we can only move forward with prayer, no matter what that mom bond will always be there. As for the pudding, I think my boys would like this recipe , but I’m just not a pudding gal! Great post!
Addictions impact the entire family, noone is left untouched. This was very personal and thank you for sharing it, it made me cry.
This was really sweet. Ive never experienced addiction in my family but I dated a guy who’s aunt was an addict and it would stress everyone out. It was particularly hard on him because she was the young aunt who he once looked up to and got caught up.
I am touched by the story !!! How gracefully you connect the Pudding its more worth !! This chocolate Pudding looks absolute fabulous and easy to made !!
I’m not very good in the kitchen, but I will swing this recipe by my girlfriend who loves to bake. Hopefully she’ll make it for me, it’s been forever since I’ve had chocolate pudding. Reminds me of home
I reached here to look for a chocolate pudding! But this was so much more than that. Thank you for sharing it.
I know that when I ask a person how they are doing, I really am hoping to hear more than the word fine. I think that it’s important to try to connect to another human being and not just ignore them. We have all been in down moments sometimes. oh… and it’s a great recipe too! looks delicious.
Wow, We came expecting a simple recipe and took back the essence of a bittersweet life experience. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece.
I always ask the people around me, how they are doing. It’s really important to connect with the people you care about. Especially those people, who took care of me when I was feeling down. Great read anyways! Love the chocolate pudding!
Well that is just beautiful. What if, right? What if we had another chance to show people that we’re so much different now. I think it’s possible if the world was more forgiving. Sigh. Chocolate is always good though especially in pudding form. YUM! What a way to calm an uneasy mind.
Sometimes we all need to look at the big picture. We need to step in others shoes to understand anything about them. The smallest thing can change ones life forever. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the recipe.
This was a truly moving piece…I think every person battles their own type of addiction and some are more obvious than others, for better or for worse. I think the hardest thing to do is to try to understand the position of others..
How hard is to try to be the best ourselves who ever existed! But it’s a daily challenge that everyone has to face, that’s why I always trust in other people possibility to change for the better. Thank you because you… took me back to the December atmospheres 🙂
I love a good pudding. Even my daughters are huge fans of chocolate pudding. I can’t wait to try your recipe soon.
What a beautiful way to share chocolate and some words of wisdom. I enjoyed both very much!
This delightful pudding is always a treat and easy to whip up using common pantry ingredients. I usually top the pudding with M&M’s.
Lovely pictures of food in this article. I love that coffee picture with smoke looks like fresh hot coffee. Chocolate pudding is my favourite.
delicious to know chocolates can be made of in this way into the puddings, will give this a try via your recipe and guide and see what i can come out with.
Wow, this was a powerful post! You almost brought me to tears. Chocolate pudding brings back so many good childhood memories for me.
I loved baking and hence reached this post! But never thought the post would combine addition with the recipe. One of the friends had visit the rehabilitation centre to overcome addiction! And trust me it was not really easy! I love the frankness of the post. Thanks for sharing. Take care! Regarding the recipe, I liked the idea of using chocolate shavings rather than the cubes, last time I used cubes and it did not turn out well! Thanks for the recipe as well!
Thanks for sharing this personal post. Each of us battle with “what ifs” every day. I always wonder if I was more open as a kid, would I be different today. We just have to keep looking forward and not backward!
Really beautiful piece if writing and a really touching story. I like how you intertwined the story and memory of the chocolate moose. Really enjoyed using this
Wow. This is a powerful read. Addiction issues have never effected my family but I know others that have and they reach so much further than the addicted person. The devastation impacts everyone. It’s heartbreaking.
This is the first time I have read such a beautiful story accompanied by a delicious recipe. You should do this often. I loved the whole concept and of course the recipe. 🙂 BTW do you think this recipe will work better with milk or dark chocolate?
Wow, what a touching story. I have always wondered about the people in homeless shelters, why they are there, how they cope and how they interact with the outside world. Thank you for the insights and I wish you the best in your journey.
Beautiful photos. It makes me want to cook, even though I am not good at it LOL. Will try to cook more often and see if it turns out as good as your photos! 🙂
I am a fan of your writing, It’s like I am reading a beautiful novel though I know whatever you write is something you have experienced and lived with it. You are a wonderful mother and your son is very lucky to have you. I totally agree, we change, and that’s how we grow. I really hope your son friends pick realize he has changed. everyone deserves second chance. Good luck with everything
Really emotional and touching story!
Do you think I can slightly change the recipe and make it like a mug cake?
I’m absolutely obsessed with chocolate pudding, and I love the sound of this recipe. I also like that it includes natural sugar – right up my street! xx
Lots of love,
Marina Rosie xx
Such a wonderful and sweet story, as sweet as the chocolate pudding ?
I’m thrilled to try out this delightful recipe. It looks really good and easy to prepare. My kids will be so happy to have it as their after school snack!
Addiction doesn’t just affect the person who is addicted it does affect everyone who touches that person. It can be so hard to deal with both as a loved one and as the one who is addicted. I hope this time he can overcome his addiction and start new. As for the chocolate pudding it looks fabulous and I would love to catch up with some old friends over this recipe.
Beautifully and sweet written with fully emotional read. Thank you for sharing this sweet story.
My heart aches for you . I can only say a prayer for your and your family’s healing. God bless you all!
Btw, I will try this pudding recipe, My kids would love this!