Cigarettes and Tequila

I started smoking again the night my husband tried to kill himself.  It was around 3am in the ER and my friend, Rosario (who refused to leave me alone no matter how many times I told her she could go home), had the “warm” blankets you get in a hospital piled on top of a Sharps container.  We were trying to make pillows as we tried to sleep sitting completely straight in our metal and vinyl and plastic chairs. The thought came to me like a lightning bolt.

“I’m going to start smoking again.  I think I deserve it.”

Feel free to judge, but smoking on my front porch has felt like a lifeline these last several months when there is no one in my club at all.  No one I know is in the my-spouse-tried-to-kill-himself-and-lived-club. No one is looking to join. Just me and my cigarettes and the front porch and Jesus who I think is still pretending He doesn’t see the smoke rings around my head.

But the fact of the matter is this: A nuclear bomb went off in my family. Everything was flattened. Every inch was leveled. And we have been left with some hard truths.

First, your family is not ok if one member is not ok.  Your family is not functioning if one member isn’t functioning.  The rest of you can make a million concessions and put bandaids on problems, but until you’re willing to say someone is not ok, you’re just stuck. Communication is a life saver.  And I have said 882 times since January, the older you get, the more life is made up of hard conversations. Have those conversations. Have them when you hate what the other person is saying, or you can’t believe it, or you feel like your head might explode. Have the hard conversations. Avoiding crap serves no one.

Next, I often told folks these last 20 years, “Corey is the glass is half empty, and I am the glass is half full.  We balance each other out.”  Hear me now: You cannot balance another person out.  They are a whole person.  You are a whole person. They have to become balanced on their own. You cannot do it for them. They cannot do it for you. You can want to balance them with your whole heart, but, again, they are an entire human. Counseling and medication are a very real part of our home. Anti-Depressants are real. Saying you’re not ok and making an appointment with your counselor is real too. And these realities are game changers for someone who needed more than I could give him. Although our glass analogy was really cute for two decades.

Also, the trauma from someone’s past cannot be erased by their present.  Hear me on this. A person can move on and grow and learn and begin to recognize their triggers.  A person can be healed. But in my personal experience healing looks a lot like knowing and vocalizing when you’re not ok. It looks like management on some days. And for Corey it looks like knowing the trauma from his past can still pop up on random holidays, or when a family member sends you pictures of your abuser, or when your abuser  says you deserved what you got…or tries to guilt you into feeling sorry for THEM. And I think I kept thinking our life, our present, could make his past obsolete. I wanted to not be dealing with someone who’s entire life was impacted by the trauma of his childhood.  But it was. And it is. And at some point, my trying to make him be happy because of our current happy life just wasn’t going to work anymore.

We are four ½ months home from the hospital.  I want to wrap up this story for you in a pretty little bow…with a life lesson and some Jesus attached.  I want to tell you my kids are unscathed and unscarred.  I want to tell you I’m not a mess.  I want to tell you I quit smoking. Some days I feel stronger than I have ever felt in my life, and some days I feel like I can’t find a place to put my feet…there is no solid ground anywhere…and I’m steering a yacht clearly underwater and I have one oar…and I won’t give up. 

So, if this story looks anything like your story…If this story makes you have to breathe in and out a whole bunch…if you have ever sat and stared as your entire life went up in flames…on a random Wednesday while you made dinner…This is just me saying that you’re not alone.  This is just me saying that I don’t have any timeline or flowchart or theorem to make the hurt and the sadness end.  And this is just me saying I see you.  You did the best you knew how. And I believe in better days…full of honesty…full of hope…and full of wholeness for all of us.

I have a glass of tequila and a cigarette waiting for you if you need a front porch to sit on…I’ll make some room.  

23 replies
      • Donna Rich
        Donna Rich says:

        Thank you Jackie. I have chronic pain and became disabled after a surgery on my spinal cord at age 48. My life has been turned upside down. I lost a job I loved, I lost the ability to walk. My pain is so horrible it’s like someone poured gasoline on my legs and threw a lit match on them…and the pain is 24/7 for over 7 years. I appreciate your honesty. I have similar struggles as you but they’re not my story to tell, someone else. How do I make it? I read scripture, I cry out to God, my family, friends and faith sustains me. I’ve had very hard moments. Lots of surgeries and 8+ weeks in the hospital. I honestly wouldn’t still be alive if it wasn’t for my hope in Jesus. God bless you on your journey. I can sit on your porch. I gave up drinking and smoking but I can listen.

        Reply
  1. Kc
    Kc says:

    I am not going through what you have but I’ve been Corey and it’s been horrible.But you can make it through! I’m praying for you!

    Reply
  2. Abi Fourie
    Abi Fourie says:

    Thank you a million times for writing this. Must be one of the most “abnormal” pieces to write, but I’m glad you did as you’ve certainly made me feel closer to “normal”. I’m sorry you’re going through this. Thank you for being raw and real. Xoxo

    Reply
  3. Carole Henehan
    Carole Henehan says:

    Oh Jackie….. I see you, I hear you. I’m a little bit further out from the nuclear blast. The life I dreamed of and hoped for sucked wind and left its shadow on the wall 19 months ago.

    Your words could not be truer and I hope and pray that others are as moved as I have been.

    I treasure your honesty and transparency. I must confess that I have considered taking up smoking again but so far just pretend smoke or take a really deep breath when someone else lights up. Ahhhh.

    Sending you hugs and an invitation to sit on my porch and smoke and talk. And maybe have a glass of wine or tequila. And be.

    Reply
    • jackiehooks
      jackiehooks says:

      I just might take you up on it and you can breathe in really really deep every single time I take a drag…and I bet we would laugh a little through all of our tears…

      Reply
  4. Kara
    Kara says:

    Wow. This, Jackie, is extremely moving.
    I am kind of in awe reading it. Thank you for sharing this—it means a lot. Much more than I would have thought. ❤️

    Reply
  5. Cherri
    Cherri says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My husband has talked about suicide from time to time. He has said he wants to die or he thought about hanging himself and we talked about it but I don’t know what to do. It isn’t often, just when he’s feeling the most frustrated, powerless, or bullied by life. He wasn’t able to find a counselor with our insurance. He is in a bad mood a lot lately and I don’t know what to do. I feel like I am running out of patience so I avoid telling him that he is looking at things the wrong way.

    Reply
    • jackiehooks
      jackiehooks says:

      Thank you for being vulnerable and writing this…Honestly, I would seek professional help…counseling…together or alone…I promise that and medication have made a world of difference in our lives.

      Reply
  6. Sally
    Sally says:

    This. All this. This is the honesty and rawness that not just the church, but the entire world needs. Thank you. I may not be in your same boat, but I’m her with an extra paddle anytime.

    Reply
  7. Michele
    Michele says:

    I hear you and wrapping love around you. Sitting on my patio in solidarity with you and journaling to find the light in the finite details of the day’s gifts.

    Reply
  8. Brandi Homs
    Brandi Homs says:

    Wow…I so appreciate your transparency in such a dark place in life. It’s hard to be vulnerable in a “perfect world” but your light is shining through the darkness. So brave of you sharing your story as it will no doubt help others. And when I think of you, I immediately think of the word “serve.” You serve others with your hands, feet, and words. What a blessing you are!

    Reply
  9. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    This is just wildly inspiring. I identify with so much of this on so many levels. My family carries very similar (but also different) traumas and pains, your strength and vulnerability in the way you share your heart gives people the invaluable gift of not having to feel alone.

    Reply
    • jackiehooks
      jackiehooks says:

      Thank you so much for this…and it was C.S. Lewis who said, “We read so that we know we are not alone.” I try to write so that no one has to feel alone…I appreciate your words more than you can know…

      Reply

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