(This entry contains talk of suicide and addiction.)

Back in 2005, I wrote a short but earth-shattering (to me) post that revealed I was 9 weeks pregnant. I wrote, in part:

Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of confusing feelings about becoming a parent. I’ve spent so much time thinking about it, wishing it were easier, wishing I knew what I wanted, what the right thing to do was. Trying to pull apart the water-clouding issues of my age, JB’s own feelings, and, well, the unbearable cuteness of Leta.

God, everything about parenthood and pregnancy felt so confusing and terrifying to me back then. I was not the kind of woman who always knew she was going to be a mother. I was the kind of woman who secretly believed she had no fucking business being a mother: that was the dark swirl underneath my parenting ambivalence.

I linked to Heather Armstrong’s blog in that announcement because Heather’s writing helped me feel like I could do it anyway.

The comment itself just references cuteness, and that was relevant: Heather was a talented photographer who shared some of the most adorable baby photos I’ve seen. My ovaries! — you know.

But it wasn’t just the aww factor: the way Heather wrote about parenthood made it relatable to me, even though I was not yet a mother. She was funny and she was real and even though I had devoured Erma Bombeck and Shirley Jackson it was Dooce.com that helped me feel like parenting was accessible. That it was not somehow reserved solely for a certain type of person. That it was of course life-changing but also that you would still have your life, you would still be you, potty mouth and all.

I’m writing about this because I have been thinking of Heather since the news of her death.

Let me say that we were not friends. In fact, we had a couple of unfriendly interactions over the years. I didn’t continue to love her writing as time went on, but I’ll tell you this: I never stopped reading. When she wrote about her battle with alcoholism, I felt a very conflicted desire to reach out — but I never did, and now I never can.

I wish I were a better example of sobriety and not someone who literally had to go to rehab for something else entirely after quitting drinking, but it’s also true I have not had a drink for almost exactly ten years. I wish I could have shared my experience with her, the story of how and why I drank and the still-ongoing process of letting go of the shame. I wish I could have told her how much alcohol took the self-hatred I already had and made it unfathomably worse. I wish I could have told her that addiction is a real motherfucker that will never go away, it’s just like that movie It Follows, but time brings distance and empowerment and relief.

Every recovering addict has a heart full of anvils. Other addicts know; we share our stories as a way of saying we understand this weight, we carry it too. I don’t know that it lessens the load so much as it can help a person take a much-needed deeper breath.

Years ago, Heather Armstrong was a little ahead of me in parenting, and she helped light the path. I was a little ahead of her in sobriety from alcohol, and I wish I could have done the same.