The Irony of it all.

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I was just thinking and thought I would share with you guys.

Isn’t it ironic that in early addiction we tend to live in the future. We are living fast, we want things now, we are rushing around in a hurry to have fun and find more, more, more.

In late addiction we tend to dwell on the past. We dwell on all of the past. We dwell on things going as far back as childhood and work our way right up to all of our recent misgivings, shortcomings and mistakes.

In early addiction we are thriving off of a false sense of reality. The truth that we knew is fading and is being overtaken by a facade.

In late addiction we begin to see the truth of what our lives had become and we grow weary and tired of chasing the facade.

In early Recovery we are afraid that we aren’t worthy or strong enough to turn things around for the better. We dwell on the fear of the unknown, and we worry anxiously if we will have the strength to hack it.

In late Recovery when we are stronger and our lives have changed. We spend the majority of our time trying to encourage and convince people to take the first step; from a very similar place we were just standing, terrified.

In early Recovery the truth scares the crap out of us.
It is that fear that keeps us in hiding.

In late Recovery that truth that we discover about who and what we really are is what fuels us, keeps going, and keeps us out there trying to help others.

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Addiction Destroys Families.

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Yes addiction destroys families. Why?
A not-so-formal reason would be because everyone succumbs to an unnatural role in the system. You get involuntarily swallowed.
You either become an overachiever, angry, an addict yourself, a codependent, a doormat, an enabler or a combination of many.
Nature, nurture, psychology and temperament of a person decides where you might fall..
but let’s just say- we aren’t talking about a ‘typically’ evolving system to be entangled with, with typical happenings and experiences.

Trying to make a broken system work or to repair it can take years. It takes work and it takes people doing their part. That hasn’t exactly happened in my system, so I have tried to do a lot of  separating the illness from the person on an individual, case by case basis.

Today, I am sharing a more personal post, because I need to get it off of my chest.

So I am an addict in Recovery. Although, I don’t identify myself as such during a casual introduction. I am just a completely different person. Typically, I tell people who specifically ask that I can never use drugs or take any type of narcotic again because that imprint in my brain is there, and will never ever leave….but I am not an addict. I am …just Brittany.
(Obviously, I am not ashamed, or I wouldn’t have a very public, and very personal blog).

I can aptly understand the difference between my rational decisions and the ones that I made that I don’t remember making at all.
Most of my decisions hurt me, or someone who I loved. I know what it is like to care, but not enough to change, because of the control that my addiction had over my person.
I also understand that I was and am still responsible for those decisions, regardless of whether or not I can remember them or not.
I appreciate that I have been forgiven by (most),
and have been given the chance to repair relationships that I destroyed and have been able to build many strong and healthy relationships over the past seven years.
I appreciate that people have accepted that I made poor choices as a result of my addiction to drugs.
So I am grateful that so many people have separated the old me, the addicted me-
from the new me. I am not my ‘disease’.

As the daughter of someone who is gravely mentally ill, and who is now really sick from illnesses stemming from a lifetime of crack addiction, I had a really tough time accepting that the disease and the person were two different things.
After years of immature and apathetic anger toward my mother as a human being, I have found a way to hate her diseases and not who she may be underneath as a person that God spent time creating.
I have found a way to overlook the fact that she has been ‘checked-out’  for the majority of my existence on the planet, missing out on the gifts of motherhood.. including my childhood wedding, the birth of my two children, and who has double-crossed me, and who has made physical attempts on my well-being and safety on more than a half-dozen occasions.
I still choose to adhere to boundaries;  keeping my distance physically, and keep contact to a minimum because of the physical dangers that she poses,
but I can overlook these things because I know that she is mentally, physically and physiologically sick.
I do understand that poor decisions were made that negatively affected me as a child and young adult, that had nothing to do with me.
I can separate the illness from what person she has left.
Even if that small percentage is not who she really is. I guess I will never know, but have come to real peace with that.

Now, as a sibling of someone who is an active alcoholic, I am having a really tough time with this separation of person/illness thing. I am still not sure exactly why, but anger probably has a lot to do with this.

This person physically violated my personal space and could have really done some damage if things had been given the chance to escalate and I had not acted as quickly as I managed to.
There is no memory of this incident on this person’s part.
Hence, there has been no apology or recognition.
No accountability, no response and no acknowledgement.
Do I need these things to forgive? No. I don’t.
I do, however, need these things to make sound, rational decisions about whether or not my life is in danger, or more importantly, the life of my kids.

Here is my dilemma;
frustration on two fronts.

As a person who is trained as an addiction counselor, I know what the textbook answer is. I get it. However, logistics and science aside, psychology aside-
I am still left feeling frustrated and I am left looking like and sometimes feeling like the ‘bad’ guy. (Or more so, misunderstood cold-hearted woman) 

I am just a person who doesn’t play around with interrelational boundaries when it comes to personal relationships.
After years of counseling sorting out my shitty childhood,  my own drug addiction, mistakes, jail visits, resentments, shame, guilt and anger control problems…
I am not going to budge no matter who you are.
—->If you aren’t healthy for me to be around, well, we probably won’t be seeing’ each other.

However, in my family this translates to this:
If we aren’t perfect people, if we aren’t “Christian”, if we don’t jump through Brittany’s hoops- we don’t get to be in her life.
Nothing could be farther from the logical truth.
To me, their interpretation is an emotionally driven assessment of my decisions, but they aren’t logical.
That is a selfish way to perceive how I choose to live my life.
I don’t know anyone who is perfect. My life is completely full of imperfect, loving, kind, people (and I am one of those imperfect people).

I just have a severity of dysfunction where I try to draw the line.

I ask that my safety be respected and that my children don’t ever EVER witness anyone being hauled off in cuffs, being beat up, cursed at, spit at, so f*cked up they can’t walk or speak.. or worse.

To me, that standard is something my children DESERVE.
That is what they will get as much as I can control it.
It is not something that I will settle on or compromise with, simply because I am living proof of the damage that can be done to a developing psyche after witnessing such things.

Not doing it.
Sorry.

I do wish that things were different and that I could be like everyone else.
I wish I could turn a blind eye too.
“He was only waving a pistol around belligerently, because he was drunk.”
“He did have his hands around my throat but only for a second.”
“I know sometimes things get out of hand, but the police are only a phone call away.”
“He didn’t mean it…..he has a good heart.”
“You have done similar things, Brittany.”

Here is what is not my idea of a holiday get together:
Sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for facial expressions or any other clues that will tip me off in enough time to get my ass and my kids in the car asap.

The second part of my frustration comes from being formally educated in this realm. That and I am a die-hard Recovery supporter.
It is so easy for me to support and encourage other people. This is one case that I simply can’t and it goes against what I feel like my ‘calling’ is.
I know this particular person needs support. I also know that I am definitely not in any position to be a part of that group. I call bs when I see bs (and when I do work outside of my home, that is the type of counselor I will be too).
There is way too much water under our bridge and some obvious anger directed right at my forehead.
I also understand that abandoning this person could be the very real end of a life that has so much potential, so much talent and so much good buried deep in that huge heart.
So of course I don’t expect everyone to follow suit, or to give up on him like they think that I have.
I just get (way too)  frustrated watching people sweep things under the rug.
There is no real recognition of an actual problem and addiction as a real disease is scoffed at and taunted as a joke by the main supporters that he has in his life.
That is frustrating to watch. It is hard to watch when he falls (literally and figuratively), because each time there is a car accident, a fall in a fire, a hallucination, a suicide attempt, a tazing by the police, an arrest, a hit and run or anything else….I just want to scream. Also note: that switching or replacing a drug for another isn’t exactly sobriety and is certainly not Recovery.

So there you have it.

I just purged six months of my own inner dialogue with the internet.

Life is not always clear-cut. We all make decisions everyday with the tools and information that we have. I pray about this and am trying my best to be better with my empathy for this person.
Maybe, it will just take time just as with my relationship with myself has.
My relationship with God has and changes every day.
My acceptance of my mom’s life choices have taken time and perspective.
This too, will take some time.

I am going to do my best to not feel guilty, and to remind myself that God knows my true motives. My decisions aren’t meant to be understood, accepted or agreed upon by everyone– and that’s going to have to be alright.

 

 

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You’re a Great Mom.

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If I fall asleep during this post, I guess it won’t get published like I had hoped, because I wanted to share what is on my heart this morning. 

It is 9:05 a.m. and I can barely keep my eyes open.
By all mom standards, it is one of those days.
I am listening for my washer to stop, keeping one ear open for my flu sick tween, and have a loosely made tentative ‘plan’ for my Tuesday that includes making phone calls and other miscellaneous errands.

I am also so grateful to be almost 30 weeks along with our 3rd boy, but I don’t sleep anymore. We are at that point.
Last night, our oldest boy began throwing up at around 3 a.m.
………..Not that I had fallen into REM sleep by then, but it was feeling pretty great to lay down in between trips to the bathroom.

The struggle is real to get my off-centered, gravity-challenged behind out of bed, due to SPD (which is always worse at night)
…..but when I heard the pitiful sounds of someone small in my house getting sick, instinct told me that is exactly where I needed to be.
We have been up and down a half-dozen times since the first round at 3 o’clock, and by 7 it was time to get our 2nd boy fed, dressed and happily on the bus to Kindergarten.

Needless to say, this Tuesday is not unlike many of your very own Tuesday mornings. 
I have a news feed full of tired mommy friends who are also dealing with sleepless nights for one reason or another due to sicknesses, illnesses, diseases, and other random sleep-stealing culprits.

I don’t do this mommy thing any better than any one of my friends.

Some of them work outside of the home, some own their own home-based businesses, some work from home, others don’t work according to the typically accepted definition of ‘working’ - but I think we all do our own thing, with our own children, within the confines of our own family dynamics and we do our best. 

Admittedly, I enjoy reading an occasional witty, crude humored blog post from one of the ever so popular mommy bloggers who so eloquently use their sarcasm and what they call ‘realism’  (which to me translates to negativity most of the time)
to describe many of the scenarios that I described above to help other moms not feel like they have to paint pictures of mommyhood with “butterflies and roses” all of the time,
and encourage women to opt to be more ‘real’ about the ups and downs of being a mom…..

Well,  I am all for ‘real’ okay. 
But I am also for staying positive and grateful, and nice. 

We can’t cultivate a healthy type of thinking or mindset by saturating our news feed with cynical but popular (and funny) mommy blog posts all of the time
…………..or by joining Facebook groups of that are swarming with adultsize, judgmental mean girls.

Here’s what I am feeling like I see way too much of: 
**Moms maliciously critiquing other moms for the most ridiculous (none of their business) things.
(Such as: cloth diapering vs. disposable, daycare vs. other, breastfed vs. bottle fed, binky or no binky, co-sleeping or not, attachment parenting or something else, working outside of the home or staying at home, natural birth vs anything else, adoption vs. fostering………etc. etc. etc.)
**Viral blog posts about motherhood that are funny, but always so negative.

That type of mind-set is certainly not what fuels me, doesn’t help me push through a hard day and is not ‘realistic’ to me.

I am not saying that sheets that have been pottied on or bathroom floors that have remnants of 3 am puke on them are in any way, beautiful.

Or that gaining knowledge, info, advice or wisdom from other (nice) mommies is a crappy thing.

Here’s what I think is ‘real’.
We are moms. Quit complaining. It isn’t always pretty. Things don’t always go as planned, We don’t always look pretty and we don’t need to.
Not all days are what many would consider ‘fun’ but that isn’t what it’s all about in the end anyway.

It is about creating a life with these people who look to you for that love – that love that they somehow know you have to offer unconditionally.

It is an important part of who they have become, and who they will blossom into as young adults. So, in all seriousness everything that we do, whether we are feeling recognized or appreciated at the time, matters a whole helluva lot.

Motherhood is always changing— but what never changes….is that we, women,  were created especially for this mommy role; and that is beautiful all of the time. 

We have the ability to keep pushing on despite unforeseen circumstances, being completely exhausted, being in pain, running on fumes with two-day old greasy hair and no recent sleep that qualifies or that falls into the category of anything considered decent. 

We are capable of so much and have so much love to pour out with no questions asked.

While we should definitely maintain our sense of humor about the less ‘beautiful’ side to the ‘joys’ of motherhood, rolling with the punches…

it is SO important to keep a healthy and positive perspective.
It IS a beautiful thing to be gifted the responsibilities that we have taken on in the form of being a mother, and a wife.

To my mommy friends out there please remember that what you are doing is so important.
We don’t always have to have everything together, everything clean, everything washed, ironed, organized, folded or put in its place…and not all mommy opinions spewed to us by other mom’s are one’s that we are obligated to share in, or one’s that we should take to heart. 

We just need to remember how important we are to our individual family unit.

Keep in mind that I am not writing to shove my views or ‘advice’ down your throat or to make you feel guilty if you don’t smile while you steam mop your kitchen.

I am not some mythical domestic mommy goddess….

I just wanted to remind all of my mommy friends how awesome,  important and capable they are.

So when you look into the mirror, don’t define the kind of mommy that you see by any other standard than what God sets and the one that you were made for. YOUR own family.

 

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Practicing Recovery

The real lifestyle changes that Recovery has to offer will have the opportunity to begin and become active parts of our new lives:
when we choose to close our apps and decide to power off our laptops; and get to work. 

I know not everyone has meetings available in their area, or the type of meeting that you may prefer isn’t always offered close enough to you.

I understand that inspirational pages, pictures, posters, quotes, sayings, and blog posts can be instrumental and pivotal in helping you to keep going and to keep a positive mindset.

I get that connecting with groups and individuals on Twitter and Facebook can help you gain a sense of community and support.

I also understand that it can be scary to go ‘out there’ and try to interact and live what we are learning.

You see, I began my Recovery without a support system. I have since built one, all based off of the very list that I just typed.
I have met SO many supportive people online.
Many inspirational and informational pages on social media definitely give me that kick in the as* that I need so often, and much of what I read helps to ‘keep me going’ or to help me to stay positive, continually moving and looking toward the future.

I also own an inspirational page, so obviously, I COMPLETELY believe in the power and importance of having community, camaraderie, support and a good & healthy flow of information, data and encouragement.

But I also know that talking in chats & scrolling past pretty posters with positive sayings or quotes alone, simply isn’t enough to grow and maintain lasting Recovery.
Not by itself.

These things should be a PART OF our Recovery.
These things should be SUPPLEMENTAL. 
These things are very important, but are just pieces of the integrated puzzle of what should be a tailored plan that we have for our new life.

Alone, utilizing these valuable (yet incomplete) resources –
simply won’t cut it.

We have to unplug and IMPLEMENT the things we learn.
We have to KNOW, but then we have to go out and DO. 
We have to put our knowledge and beliefs into PRACTICE.

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Otherwise, we aren’t growing. We are sitting in neutral, filling our minds to the brim with information and warm fuzzy feelings as a result of hitting ‘like’ and ‘share’ continuously.

Let’s mesh our online head-knowledge
with our everyday lives; put our Recovery into practice.

‘Recovery in Action’ doesn’t have to be this messy or complex thing…

There are small things that we can do on a daily basis that can help us implement action into what we already know we should be doing.

We tend to think that ‘normal’ is some combination of being busy, having important jobs and staying sober.
This is not the same thing as working Recovery.
Remember. Recovery is life-long journey of maintaining a healthy, active and progressive lifestyle. We are moving at our own pace here.
We cannot avoid ‘busy’.
And on the other hand we can take on too much to avoid working our Recovery.
It is easy to be sober and to make sure that you stay busy busy.
Whether we are talking working long-hours, taking care of children or a family, managing a home or being in charge of three Recovery pages online- it’s still not the same thing as working your personal Recovery.
Make sure that each day you take some time for yourself. Find your center.
Make sure there isn’t anything that you could cut out of your schedule.
Reassess your progress honestly.
Do you need to let go of a commitment? Is everything that you have taken on (on top of family, and a 9-5 completely necessary? Is it doing more harm than good? Etc.)
Don’t allow yourself to make excuses about not having enough free time to have a little bit of alone or quiet time.
**If it is 5 minutes or 15 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Fit it in.

GO for your goals!
It is nice to read about ‘letting go of the past’ or ‘reaping what you sow’
but it is another thing to put yourself out there, and go for whatever ‘it’ is for you.
I don’t care if you simply want to put your brave pants on and join an exercise class,  if you want to submit the transcript to your first book to a publisher, or if ‘going for it’ just means that you are going to put in three resumes or applications per day, every day, until you get a j.o.b.
The voices in your head truly hold no power if you take charge. The past may never stop whispering completely, but a great way to kill it, is to move forward by taking action- even if you are taking baby steps!
**Do it!

If you are changing your people, places and things….
try this:
changing your people, places and things.
This one gets me every time.
People love to hit ‘like’ on this one, and I believe, truly understand how important this is.
It is something that Celebrate Recovery, NA and AA all call attention to specifically.
It also seems to be a hard one for people. (It was for me as well, in the beginning.)
But this one definitely needs action to back it up, because believing it will never be enough to reap the positive effects of this principle.
-If you use to drive down a certain street that is close to a seller’s house- find a new route. If you have spent years in a bar, restaurant or other ‘spot’ – don’t go there anymore.
-Go through your phone. Delete EVERY SINGLE number in their of ANYONE that you use to use with, buy from or party with in any capacity. I don’t care if you have known them since second grade. Buh-bye (at least for a while).
-Use the block feature on Facebook. I am serious. People are nosey. Most notice that you are changing, and don’t want that. Sometimes people will stick around to invite you to things you shouldn’t be going to, or to continually slip that mindset into your news feed. It does matter and it does have an effect on you whether you want to admit it or not. Just reading about what their doing, or places that they are going can negatively impact your thoughts. Get rid of it all.
-Throw away ashtrays. Throw away lighters, coolers, wine glasses, bongs, or anything else that might get those wheels in your head turning.
**If you are truly behind the notion that changing people, places and things in your life will help ensure your sobriety and recovery, do the scary thing- and actually change them.

Be honest and be nice.
This is also another popular and simple notion.
It is much harder to do out in the real world.
But it helps you grow, and will help you to gain confidence in the new you.
If you walk out of Wal-Mart, look down at your cart and realize that your bottled water is sitting there at the bottom, not-purchased…and .even though it is cold, you are tired and it would be a long annoying walk back inside, and another annoying wait in a customer service line- walk yourself back in there and pay for the water.
Be nice to people. This one is still hard for me, but offering grace to others is something that is important to our recoveries too. We have asked for forgiveness and are trying to make amends and live as new people. The not giving a fuck attitude is out the window. Try holding a door open for someone, and not caring if anyone has held one open for you today. Say something nice to someone, or choose not to huff and puff or curse if you are forced to wait behind a 93-year-old woman who insists not only on writing a gosh forsaken check, but who also has to tell stories to the cashier as she records her spending in her log book.
**Learning to treat others kindly, being honest at all costs, and offering a tiny bit of grace to others when we have been offered insane amounts of it can go a long way in helping us to grow and change little by little as we go about our everyday, real-world lives.

That mindful thing.
We all support and like those posters and pictures that encourage present living or mindfulness.
Living in the present doesn’t mean being reckless or dangerous.
It can mean trying to embrace or purposefully create some moments of mindfulness for yourself. It can mean the simple act of noticing things that you hadn’t ever taken the time to before you are living more intently.
So the next time you are rushing, slow down. Nothing comes from rushing aside from stress. Notice the sunrise on your way to work. Take it in, even if only for a second. If you are at a stop light on your way home from work, take some time to soak in the sun setting. Watch the snow fall for a few minutes, gaze at it untouched- and breathe in the crisp air.
Watch your kids play for a few minutes, take in their little laughs and smiles.

This one hits me close to home. I still get teary when I have these intense moments with the earth and all its wonders and all things that God created. He gave so much for us to take in, it is overwhelming. Sometimes, Recovery shows us how lucky we are to be alive. We notice all of the blessings surrounding us that much more. I am just blown away that I missed so much for so long.

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To go.. or not to go?

To go or not to go? That is always the question during the holiday season.
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If you are in Recovery, the holidays can be hard.
Each individual has various levels of coping skills, time in Recovery, different triggers, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses.

There are too many variables to post an all-encompassing, accurate, blanket answer for everyone in Recovery who cannot decide if a family holiday gathering is right for them, right now.

So I think it is safe to say that ideally, you will have a wise sponsor, friend, accountability partner or someone else that you can confide in to get a little bit of guidance from on this matter.

Here are some things different situations that I came up with that might help a little bit if you can’t decide whether or not it is a good idea to show up at your family Thanksgiving this year.

****Hypothetical situation:
The mere thought of spending time with your family makes you feel like you want to use your d.o.c? You start to think of where you can go to get some or who you can call “just in case”  (Drug of Choice, the one that almost killed you, the one that you are trying to stay away from)
*Do you go?
If the thought alone is enough to get you worked up, thinking about using, and physically/emotionally vulnerable, stay home.
Maybe it’s too early for you and there is work to be done to ensure that you are strong enough to make it through regardless of the reasons that you are already feeling unsure right now.

 

****Hypothetical family situation #1:
You have a supportive family, but they don’t understand addiction. 
They love you but think that you are cured. It might annoy you or irritate you to be asked ridiculous questions, or to feel like addiction is thought of as a weakness. Maybe, their lack of understanding is insulting, despite the fact that they care and are open to forgiving you, love you and accepting you back into the family. *There is not any drug use or drinking happening at this family affair, simply a lack of understanding of what you went through and are still navigating.
*Do you go?
For this situation, I say go. Spend some time with your family. The only way to help them to understand is to share your story with them. Maybe take it slowly, share little bits at a time if asked. Always answer questions honestly, and lovingly. Try to remind yourself that not everyone has a healthy family to go back to or one at all. So, as annoying ask the misconceptions or lack of knowledge can be, it is something that you can work with and over time, more people might begin to see addiction in a new light. Because of you taking the time to invest in answering their questions.
If educating themselves seems like something they sound interested in, direct them to Al-anon or a helpful website that they can read. Don’t give up on them, they didn’t give up on you.

 

****Hypothetical Family Situation #2:
Same love as above situation, same acceptance, same forgiveness.
However there is a lack of empathy for your disease, or respect for the possibility of a lapse for you as a result of a lack of knowledge on the part of the family.
You are an alcoholic. Knowing this, many will still be drinking despite the fact that you are going to attend, but they will not hound you to drink. They are loving, yet naive.
*Do you go?
For me, this would depend on your personal progress in Recovery.
You need to be honest with yourself here. Are you strong enough to be around alcohol?
Can you go all day long, watching other people pour it into their cups or pop off the tops of their ice-cold beer, without caving?
Have you been in situations like this prior to this Thanksgiving holiday? How did you do?
This is where rigorous honesty comes in.
This risk is not to be taken lightly, and shouldn’t be played with. Not when your sobriety is hanging in the balance. But you cannot hide forever.
If you know you are strong enough and have tools under your belt, I say go.
When you leave that gathering sober, you will have a whole new confidence within yourself. You will see that your hard work is tangible, and that you are capable of so much more than you thought.

 

****Hypothetical Family Situation #3:
Same as above situation – identical. 
EXCEPT- they will pressure you intermittently all day long to drink. 
They forget that you don’t and cannot drink and will ask repeatedly.
*Do you go?

I say IF you go, have your own car, a friend’s number who will be more than happy to come and pick you up, a route to the nearest bus stop, a number and some cash for a cab or an awesome cousin, brother, etc. who will run you home with left overs if you need to get out asap.
It is tough to go where there will be alcohol, even if the people love you, accept you, and forgive you. In Recovery, emotions are a tad irregular and it is hard to keep anger/temper under control. This, mixed with the temptation to have a drink and have it offered to you all day long persistently, is a dangerous combination.
One ‘sure’ or ‘ya’ can ruin your progress, hurt peopl,e or worst case scenario…
take your life.

 

**Hypothetical Family Situation #4:
Tons of great people. No drugs, alcohol will be around, consumed by others who don’t get drunk or belligerent. Of those great people, your cousin (or relative etc.) is also in Recovery, but you are both in very different stages. You have both gotten into some trouble together before, and in the past bad things happen when you two are together. There is also the possibility of violence erupting if that person slips.  
*Do you go?
Remember, you have learned that you are only responsible for you. Your program requires you to be honest with yourself. You have to face the facts. That person may slip. They may try to cause you to lapse. Are you ready to face that situation head on? Do you have a plan to deal with that if it comes up?
If so, I say go.
Again, you are only as strong as you believe you are. You can’t avoid and run from these kinds of situations, you work through them. If you are comfortable enough to face them, and understand the true reality of what you could be walking into, it is a risk but one that you are ready to handle. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced or swayed. Walk in with confidence, keep your distance, and walk out with your integrity.

 

****Hypothetical family situation #5:
Drama, drama, drama. The family has conflict and most of it has always been unresolved. Sometimes things are calm, but a lot of the time there is fighting going on. Not just friendly banter or light bickering, but the possibility of fist fights, tears, raised voices or police. There is also alcohol and drug use.
*Do you go?

No. You don’t go. You go with a friend to their family get together. You find a church that is hosting a big to-do, maybe find a shelter that you can serve at or even a meeting and a dinner to go to. If all else fails, order out or cook your own turkey and watch Netflix. 
I have dealt with years of the above scenario. I know it hurts to distance yourself from it and above all, your brain wants to keep stressing the fact that ‘this is all you have’ or ‘this is your blood’ and you have some sort of obligation to fulfill here. 
I disagree. If it severely messes with your freedom (having no warrants, a clean record, no fines, no court dates, no bounty hunters looking for you etc) It isn’t worth it. 
If it destroys your serenity, that peace you have found…the storm inside of you is calm, feeling positive and is on the right track, it isn’t worth it. 
If it poses a risk to your personal physical safety, no explanation necessary. It is not worth it. 
Listen, we are trying to live new lives. That doesn’t automatically mean cut your family off. But if they pose a high risk to every part of your well-being, inside and out….
Don’t go.

 

 

If you decide that ‘to go’ is your decision-
always have a plan b.

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3 Things that I am grateful for.

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In Recovery we are taught to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness.
This helps us to begin the process of living in humility;
balancing living mindful, presently, and in the now yet not ever forgetting the trench in which we were pulled from, and the people who were there to help save us from ourselves.

The balance part is pretty important because you cannot move forward or gain your footing in your new life if you are stuck in the past. You cannot take advantage of a new life if you are rehashing the old one every chance you get, even after you have gone through the process(es) of healing, grieving, making amends and are on the road to a more positive mindset.

On the other hand, you cannot live in humility if you allow yourself to simply forget or you choose to minimize just how desolate your situation had become, and how much you needed help. Living humbly requires us to hold in our hearts, the truth. God uses people to save others, and thank the Lord we were saved (however you were reached, through whatever means you were).

It took me a few years to unpack, and to fully let go of my past, releasing its power.
I moved and worked through each step, some more quickly than others.
But as God worked in my heart and my life, and I completed my program, I feel like I was in a place to try to embrace this new life I had been given.

Here are  3 things that I am grateful for today, after almost 8 years of living as a woman in Recovery from drugs, alcohol, co-dependency, enabling and self-depreciation: 

1. That I was given a NEW life.
Not a ‘second chance’ at life, because I would’ve blown that too..
(and if we were counting how many ‘chances’ I have been given, well…let’s just say the count is well beyond two chances or opportunities to start over.)
The chance to start with a clean slate is exactly what I needed. God’s grace provided me something that I obviously did not deserve, after blowing my ‘second chances’ dozens of times.
So a new life, a new me and the choice given to me to embrace this opportunity, is something that I am forever grateful for. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about who I was, who God has allowed me to become, and that there is always room for growth just blows me away.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new one has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

2. Perspective.
I am grateful to have the ability to see things from different sides, angles and positions. Not really talking about empathy here, but the simple notion that I understand that things look different from different points of life and from different people’s shoes. This is why I am so grateful for my family.

-My immediate family of 5:  I have three beautiful boys that I cherish. I see how God used my poor choices and the broken road that I created for myself, to help me to love these boys so hard and so much more than I would have ever if I hadn’t made such a mess of things. Every day is different and has its’ unique challenges, but I know that parenting three boys is a challenge that I am meant to have.
My husband. Looking back, I never would have guessed that we would have cleared the hurdles that we have, together. Sure. We knocked a lot of them down and fell on our faces along the way, but guess what? We are still kicking a** and running together. We are strong and God has shown me how our hearts come together in a perfect way, perfect for one another.

-My extended family: perspective has definitely done a wonderful job of revealing purpose. It is my belief that we are all on a journey and we are all figuring things out as we go. We all make mistakes and there really is no reason to hold onto bitterness or anger over the mistake of people who are simply trying to navigate life just as I am.
I am not sure that there is any good reason to carry any of that around.
The truth is, perspective has also show me that family, is not black and white.

-My church families, inherited family, friends and the rest:
Perspective has shown me that if looked at in the right mindset, the term family can be used pretty loosely. If we allow ourselves to open that door to our hearts a little bit wider, our hearts can hold a lot more than what we like to try to limit it to.
Love is a vast, rich, deep thing. If we let it in, God will pour it through the most unexpected places.
So, I am so so grateful to have so many people in my life, and our lives who care, love and ‘show up’ .

I would have never thought of it like this if my perspective hadn’t changed so much over the years, and it is only because of God’s love and the way that we are told to extend and accept love, that I was able to warm up to the idea that love is limitless and we shouldn’t constrict what we allow into our lives when it comes to people who truly care.

You must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

(Colossians 3:12-15)

3. The ability to feel. (negative AND positive feelings)
This one may seem odd to you ‘regular’ people ( ;-) ) who aren’t in Recovery.
Using self-soothing coping mechanisms for so years as a child stunted and muted anything that I might have had to feel, face or confront.
This tactic translated pretty nicely into my adolescent and young adult years, as I still used my poor coping tools.
My drug use was a poor and insufficient substitute for coping and dealing with the reality in front of me. Whether self-created, or inherited, or both,  I didn’t have the guts or sufficient tools to open my eyes, lift my head and accept anything real.

My sobriety, my Recovery and my relationship with God have all given me my the ability to feel again.

*God heard my desperate cries and knew my desires to get well.
He not only saved me, but helped me find my soul for the first time. I felt like a person; like I was seen.
This was probably one of the first times in my life and one of my first experiences with  true joy (even if this tiny glimpse of light was just a predecessor of the struggle I would have ahead of me to feel anything more).
However, this is also what catapulted and revived my heart just enough, because of this shred of light, I knew there had to be hope for even…..me.

*Sobriety helped my brain to decompress, slow down and have a little breather.
After a year or so, feeling anything again was fantastic. Every emotion felt new.
I began to feel the powerful waves of inconsistent emotion that most of us in Recovery experience, but it felt good to be reassured yet again, that I was alive, I could feel again and that meant there was hope.

*Recovery has helped me to appreciate feeling. Although I still have emotions that I am more comfortable with than others, I am able to recognize what I am feeling and can accept it.
I understand that it is natural to feel the good and natural to feel the negative emotions as well. I am grateful to know that it is more important to try to maintain control over what we DO with the feelings, rather than trying to push away feeling altogether.

The most interesting part of the journey back to feeling and away from living completely apathetic and numb is that the joy and the happiness is far more vivid and incredible than I had imagined.
The negative and the more tough days or situations can get ugly and aren’t fun, but they certainly aren’t anywhere near as ‘low’ as the ‘low’ that I lived in for so many years.

So is there really a down-side??
There really isn’t when you are living.
___________________________________

I am grateful to have the opportunity to share with you guys.
I love everyone who supports me crazily opening my life up to the internet, hoping to inspire hope in someone else.

We are put here to share and spread love, and because of God’s love for us, we have the opportunity to make the choice to do just that.

I am also grateful to live in a country where the biggest consequence that I might have for sharing my heart with you guys, might be a few nasty comments, an un-follower or two (or 100),  or being made fun of for loving and following the one true God, that is deemed ridiculous or illogical by the standards of some select people groups.

Not too high of a price to pay, and for that, I am grateful.

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Something to remember:

 

forgiven

“Well, the past is playing with my head
And failure knocks me down again
I’m reminded of the wrong
That I have said and done
And that devil just won’t let me forget….”

“My mistakes are running through my mind
And I’ll relive my days in the middle of the night
When I struggle with my pain, wrestle with my pride.
Sometimes I feel alone and I cry.”

“When I don’t fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere
When I don’t measure up to much in this life
Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of Christ…”

“And in this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am…..”

“Well, I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
‘Cause I’m forgiven…”

(Lyrics of Forgiven, by Sanctus Real)

 

 

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Being strong and courageous.

Dark-Gray

Being a strong person can mean a lot of different things to different people-
but it doesn’t  always have to mean holding it all together despite what may be going on around us or what we might be going through.

I think many of us condition ourselves to hide or shy away from letting the walls come down.
We hide behind the facade of what others perceive as ‘strength.’
We like the idea of showing the world how ‘strong and courageous’ we really are.
We get too wrapped up in looking strong, or maybe too wrapped up in how weak showing vulnerability would look to the outside world.

Other times we might believe that to be strong means to show no emotion, to not allow ourselves to cry, or open up to anyone about what is going on in our lives.
(just in case that too, would make us look weak)

Whatever we have to do, to ‘look strong’.

In Recovery, we are taught the importance of personal growth on a consistent level, and that includes practicing accountability and staying in touch with, balancing and recognizing our emotions. This is important because we have to keep our lives transparent; and if not between us and God…..then who are we going to share our most vulnerable feelings with?

When we allow ourselves to face the truths that come with being imperfectly human…
and we trust God with our innermost dealings…

we open the door for our relationship with God to grow like CRAZY.
He knows some days are more rough than others, and we know how ridiculously brutal and tiring it is to act like things are always perfect.

It takes strength and courage to allow our faults to be made known on any level. 

Now, I am not saying that it’s okay (or healthy) to become hot messes of walking, seething, blubbering whiners, overflowing with negativity.  

I am simply saying this: 

*It’s okay to be afraid of sharing, even if it is just between you and God. The most important part is that you give it a try. You will be surprised at how much of a weight is lifted as you grow closer to him. You begin to see that you can open up and it is okay.

*Sometimes, the strongest people are the ones that allow themselves to show their shortcomings and vulnerabilities. By sharing with God, you will begin to see that it is fine to be comfortable being imperfect and gradually, sharing with others doesn’t seem so insane.

*The strongest people know their own weaknesses, and learn to recognize if & when they need to reach out for help. It isn’t healthy to pretend….in any area of your life. It is simply too much work, and too much stress. So, being strong really isn’t about looking perfect.

*It is okay to let your guard down. There is no shame in knowing who you are, and how much that you can handle at once. We have to stay humble, straight-forward and transparent- or we definitely aren’t moving forward…and if we aren’t moving forward, then…well we are backsliding by default.

We are us, and that’s okay.
Being aware of this is just another freedom truth brings.

So take some time each day to have a conversation with God.
Have a few if you want.
Share openly and honestly about how you are REALLY feeling, what you REALLY want to change, what you REALLY love, what you are REALLY thankful for and what you TRULY need.

It’s okay to be strong, courageous AND vulnerable. 

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Support Systems in Recovery

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I am definitely a fan of ‘alone’.
I am a true introvert, and not by popular, new-age, twenty-first century, because it’s cool choice.
It is simply who I am.
I am not anti-social. I love the people who I am close to, I enjoy speaking and meeting new people and I am encouraged by engaging with readers and talking with other women.
I simply need breaks occasionally and can certainly physically feel the need to regroup and re-engage with self afterward.
My years of struggling with addiction sent me into a black pit of unhealthy isolation, and there was a time where I preferred nothing more than to be all alone with my shame, guilt and continuous running from myself.

When I decided that Recovery was my only option, and my only way to keep my life- I hated everything that it required. Everything. Every little thing.
In addition to truth being a necessary component, so was interacting with and opening up to new people.
It took me quite some time to even consider, but over time it became crystal clear to me why this component could make or break a person’s progress and personal development in their Recovery.

Here are some things that I have learned along the way.
5 Benefits of utilizing a support system in your Recovery:

1. Secrets get us into trouble.
Addiction banks on self-deceit and denial. Secrets are the gift that keep on giving when it comes to a compulsive behavior. Secrets promote shame and shame shuts us up and has the power to keep us isolated.
It is imperative that it all comes out. Anything from our past that we are still hiding or have pushed deep down and anything that we presently struggling with needs to come out.
We need to have someone wise and trustworthy listen to us, and if necessary, provide us with feedback so we can work toward clarity. Over time we will begin to recognize our own thought patterns, our own tendencies and will be able to separate the truth from the lies that we have grown accustomed to believing about ourselves.
We cannot learn to do this sitting alone at home, in isolation. There is proven therapeutic value in open sharing with a trustworthy person.

2. Addiction will prey on our weak moments. 
(And we can just expect to have weak moments in early Recovery).
We know sobriety is a requirement for Recovery. In order to grow in Recovery – sobriety has to come first. It is a great thought, and obviously a huge step to choose to live a sober life….but there has to be a plan in place to maintain sobriety.
We cannot assume that when tough moments come or we are stuck in a hard place making a judgment call, that we will have everything under control. Chances are, we won’t. Drugs affect the thought process of every addict, regardless of intelligence level. We have to force ourselves to reach out, to make that phone call, to drive to a meeting, talk to your counselor, call your sponsor, and reach out.
Sometimes in the more intense moments, if left up to ourselves– we can quickly be deterred and will allow ourselves to be talked back into self-deprecating behavior.
Often, another perspective or a listening ear is all that you need to get you back on track in a weak moment.

3. Growth springs from personal experience and learning from others. It doesn’t matter which Recovery program that you choose-any good program will encourage regular involvement, whether online- or in person. Alone, we only know what we know. Alone, without any outside interaction or involvement there is zero room for growth.
We remain humble by choosing to be open to learning from our experiences and the knowledge of others who have been where we have been. We are far better off and have an increased chance of developing and growing in our own Recovery if we decide that we can learn a lot from others.

4. The right people will keep us honest. Having even one or two people who you regularly interact with who will lovingly call you out on your bs, is a great thing. We have to have people around us or involved in our lives in some capacity that if needed, will encourage us to re-examine our ways. This is a pretty important thing to have in Recovery. As annoying as it can be, and as much as we tell ourselves that this isn’t a necessary piece, it is needed.

5. Building new relationships are a great way to embrace the new you.  It is difficult to believe that we are capable of doing this ‘new life’ thing. New relationships offer us a new start. We begin to see that we are capable of having full, healthy relationships with other people. It is a nice feeling to have a new network of people who know exactly who you are, and accept you as is. It is comforting to have real friendships based on trust and balance, and not shaky or scandalous foundations. Our new relationships are built on firm foundations of mutual respect, and this helps us to continue growing in our recovery. It helps us to believe that we are in fact, living new lives in different and exciting ways. It becomes clear to us that we have in fact changed and are capable of so much more.

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5 Benefits- Living One Day at a Time.

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I believe that in Recovery, we should definitely have long-term goals etched out in our minds. We should have a rough idea of somewhere we would like to be, somewhere we could see ourselves, something that we would like to accomplish in our lives in the long-term as sober humans.

For me, early Recovery was enough- my only long-term goal was to be at peace.
Vague, I know, but that is all that I envisioned. I wanted that life.
You know, where I would be happy with the simple things- able to enjoy simple days, plans or no plans, excitement or no excitement. I was just tired of chasing the idea contentment. I truly just wanted to ‘be’ …and I wanted to be alright with it.

So you could say that my personal long-term goal was a loose, definitely open for interpretation, and not exactly mapped out with specific routes to get me to ‘that place.’
But I had vision.

Overall, It is important to have some kind of idea of where we want to be in the future, what you are working toward, and who you are striving to be – regardless of how specific it is or not.

In early Recovery we are told to focus on the twenty-four hours that are in front of us, and those hours only.
Why are we told so many times over to live and plan for only one day at a time?

How can living one day at a time be beneficial?

1. At this point, staying sober is priority #1.
You don’t need to get overwhelmed. Early Recovery means fresh emotion. It means emotions will be running high, and emotions that are running inconsistently. It means feelings will come that won’t make any sense, and most we won’t know what to do with. Our minds are playing tricks on us. Our bodies hurt and aren’t understanding this new change. We may have legal or professional issues to handle as well.
It is important to avoid adding any extra, unnecessary or avoidable stress.
Extra stress will make staying sober that much more difficult.
By focusing on staying sober today only, it will feel and look do-able to us.
We can agree and commit to this.

2. We are learning how to value ourselves. 
By setting daily goals and striving for small changes
(likely only noticeable to ourselves and God at this point)
we begin to see that we are in fact capable of change; albeit, small change.
We are setting new and attainable standards for ourselves and the way that we are choosing to live our lives. Each day that we take on with intention, we continue to live as this new person.

3. By slowing down, we learn to rely on God throuough each day, moment to moment if need be.
We live one day at a time, and for most, one moment at a time.
We learn to slow down.
We learn to analyze ourselves in our environment.
We take a long hard look at our reactions, how we interact, how we respond to others, how we treat others.
We learn to take the time to pause and take note of these things.
We ask for help from God when we need it and if that means right in the moment, then so be it.
We take the time later in the day to recount to ourselves and God the things that we fell short on that day, and the things that we surprised ourselves with. Sharing our heart with God, sharing the good and the bad of our day with him – will help us to see that we have instant access to God, whenever and wherever we are. We begin to see that he is real, and cares about our individual situation.

5. We begin to appreciate and value hard-work over instant gratification.
We haven’t had many experiences with the fruit that hard work can produce in our lives. Instantly being pacified has been what we prefer for along time.
We got use to having what we want, when we want it, by any means necessary. Having to put in such hard work, waking up determined and focused on the present 24-hours, helps us to see the value of working hard for something. We begin to see why the easiest way is not always the right way, the best way, the most healthy way and certainly– not the most rewarding.

(These are my own opinions based off of my personal experience. This is how I feel I benefited from focusing on today only, and how by doing this, I was able to meet my long-term goal without losing focus and embracing the ‘now.’)

Things will get a little bit easier every single day.
We make mistakes, but we know that tomorrow, we are going to try again for the next 24-hours that we are given.
We can only get so much accomplished in one day.
This is why they say that Recovery is a personal journey. We aren’t racing.
No one’s experience is exactly the same, and we are not in competition with anyone.
We are figuring out who we really are and embracing a new thing.

This is a long-term commitment, with long-term goals and long-term generational benefits.
We will meet our long-term goals by committing to each day with everything that we have.

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Addiction requires Dishonesty. Recovery requires Truth.

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We have to pay particular attention to how honest and truthful that we are in Recovery, holding ourselves to crazy high standards in order to ensure the best possibilities for ourselves and our future.

Why?
Because active addiction requires a lot of consistent dishonesty.

One of the only areas left that an addict can manage maintaining any level of consistency with is being dishonest.
Whatever substance has a tight grip on the addict is telling them all of the many reasons why it is okay to utilize all of these manipulative techniques.
It all makes sense at the time & all feels completely legit.

*Here are some ways addiction perpetuates lies.  
An addict will: 

Lie to themselves.
They will lie about their present condition, their abilities, self-worth, value, potential or need to change; minimizing, rationalizing or intellectualizing what their lives have become……

Deny the need for help from a force more powerful than themselves.
Often, an addict denies a need for any outside help whatsoever, claiming to have control over their choices, or lives. Others, (like myself) mock and scoff at the idea of a God at all- especially one that can help ‘them’…

Lie to others.
When the drug completely takes over their person, and devours and chips away at any human decency that they have left, interpersonal relationships that may have once been important to them-can quickly mean nothing and become expendable selfish resources and nothing more. Nothing really matters anymore at a certain point, besides their own desire to use. Lies, manipulation, cheating, stealing, and all other small, big or dangerous lies fall into this category. All ruin relationships that we may have had with others, whether personal, casual or business related relationships.

*Here are some ways that any Recovery program requires truth.
Recovery will: 

Ask us to get honest with ourselves.
For the first time in a long time, we will look into a mirror and see a person. We will see what we have become and we have to decide to swallow that hard truth and begin work right there, from where we are at that moment. We decide to dedicate ourselves to not changing the truth of our lives or the choices that we have made up until that point…but we dedicate ourselves to creating a new truth about ourselves. We commit to vigorous honesty in our thinking and evaluating our daily actions, mistakes, and victories; and we will to work in 24 hour increments.

Ask that we recognize that we cannot help ourselves and we need God’s help.
In order to do this, we have to be honest. We have to take an honest look at where we are, and how we got there. Without God’s help or direction – this is where we ended up. Without His power to look up, we didn’t have any hope or strength left to start this Recovery process.
We have to willing to admit that we have to look to His power and seek His strength in order to be able to work and handle working a program that is so raw and requires so much honesty,  like the one addiction recovery asks for and requires.

Help us to learn to be honest in all of our interactions and dealings with others.
As we begin to understand and value the importance of honesty with ourselves and with God, we will see how this can change and possibly repair our relationships with others.
Whether or not we are able to ‘fix’ broken relationships won’t be as important as the benefits that we will gain as human beings in Recovery, as we do the right thing-one person, one interaction, one conversation and one situation at a time. That is all that we can do, but there is tremendous healing and potential for personal growth as we go through each day intentionally and honestly. Our integrity begins to rebuild within our inner parts and we start to believe that we are in fact, respectable and worthy people in society. We begin to see that we can change and make decisions that we don’t even expect from ourselves. We begin to allow that first seed of Hope to grow, and we see that if we keep working a little each day- great things start to happen.

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This new life is more than I imagined….

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For me, part of my healing along the way has come from being transparent and honest about my ‘story’.
Finally allowing myself to take an honest look at my childhood, to feel that pain instead of being ‘strong’ or sweeping it somewhere deep inside of my psyche really helped me to have the freedom to move forward.
Taking responsibility for my own actions and decisions as an adolescent and young adult, and again, allowing myself to be saturated in real life raw emotion regarding those decisions really helped me to begin to grow and move on in my Recovery.

I share my ‘story’ here, the reader’s digest version—hoping that someone else will read it, and think….hey. I am not alone. Cool. (at the very least)…
It helps and comforts to feel that we really aren’t the ‘only one’s.’

Oftentimes, severe dysfunction can cram you into a small box, making you feel like you are all alone.
In reality, chances are, you are certainly not walking a road never been traveled on.

We have all experienced some level of let down, dysfunction, regret and overall hurt or disappointment in ourselves or happenings with our childhood. It helps to find people who have similar stores. Hope is one valuable gift that definitely keeps on giving.

I always say, like so many others that if my story helps even one person…
and I have heard from at least one beautiful human since this story was published, and so…I am thankful for that! God uses people to help people.

I had the opportunity to share my story here.

http://www.heroesinrecovery.com/stories/new-life-imagined/

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Healthy & Happy.

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18 weeks today! We’re almost halfway there. I just have to say that I am so grateful for this journey!!! God is so so good people.

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Choosing to go public.

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When I first had the idea to blog, I simply needed to vent. I needed to get things off my chest and needed an outlet that offered my complete freedom to do so. I loved the freedom that the internet world offered to me. A platform to speak my mind and share my truest, most raw feelings in an honest and uncut way.

It did help and I was so surprised at how much healing took place in my heart simply by being truthful and brutally honest about ‘what is’ , ‘what will be’ and what I can and cannot change.

After that first year, I felt like I was in a good & healthy enough place to reach out and extend a hand to others who have had similar struggles.

I had done so in group settings for many years, but I wanted to share my story on the internet.
….And not the sob story of a traumatic childhood sprinkled with a few happy times, lots of neglect, mental illness, alcoholism, drug-use and feeling supremely misguided…
but MY story.

The story I now saw for what it was, accepted, took responsibility for, struggled through and now owned as all mine. 

This story was one that stemmed from me not knowing how to deal with the aftermath of my childhood. I made a long, long list of poor & unhealthy choices as a young adult and I created my own story-totally separate from the one I was given at birth and it was all my own doing. My story isn’t drastically different or more important than anyone else’s, but the more people realize that they aren’t alone, the more Hope people have.

**It felt a little crazy at first, to even consider telling this story to anyone else—out loud.
I had shared my story privately with people who I trusted in group settings…
but CHOOSING to shout it all out to the world in a very public way–was scary, foreign and definitely a leap into the unknown.

**When I decided it was time to start my blog over in a new direction, shining a light in a broad area that specifically focused on healing, growth, Recovery and embracing your individual journey,
I did so knowing that all of my ‘dirty laundry’ per say, would be hung out for ALL to see.
I knew that most of my posts would be derivative of my personal experiences. By any typical standard…pretty risky clicking that ‘publish’ button.
So -why?

I know and understand that publicly sharing personal stories of addiction isn’t for everyone. I know many people who prefer to keep it quiet and move on with their lives, serving in other areas. I am all for people doing what is best for them, using the strong points that they have. Sharing publicly isn’t for everyone, and shouldn’t be.
But I was never really on the fence about it.

For me my mission quickly became ALL about the bigger picture and less about what people might think. 

I come to a place in my life where I was completely comfortable in my own skin.
There was just something about going through hell and back, owning my mistakes and getting through to the other side that helped me to grow stronger, and feel more confident about the woman that God had created me to be from the mess that I was.

(Plus, I had always been that girl with her middle finger up not really caring what people thought anyway, so let’s just say- I took that attitude and decided to use it for something good. Something that I feel matters and something that definitely requires an attitude that says- I don’t really care what you think of me, I am committed and that’s that…but without all of the hostility or false confidence. ;-) )

So in other words, the opinions of others definitely weren’t going to hold me back. 
Societal stigma was nothing compared to the importance of the bigger picture that kept telling me that there are thousands of people out there struggling to be heard. People who were ashamed, embarrassed, and struggling to find their own voice.  

You see, the only way that the public opinion will change, is if the majority is one day able to see that there really are humans out there living in the world, who have been down to the depths of society, and have actually lived the lives of the ‘throw away people’ (as society generally categorizes addicts) and have come back from that place!

So I decided that with God on my side, all of the stigma and hatred (or fear)
was not going to stop me or hinder my persistence in reaching out to people or telling very real stories about the very real statistics. People do recover.

So ya. There are times when I wonder if someone’s opinion of me will change or be tainted if they see my blog url on the bottom of an email. It may not be in my benefit all of the time, but that’s okay.

My story is my story and is my reality. I believe it is the gift that God has gifted to me, uniquely to reach out to a people group – and I don’t intend to stop doing what I can to help others any time soon.

I believe in people helping people and God urging us to use what we have to do-
in various ways.

So – that is why I choose to share my story.

And really, I should THANK YOU GUYS. I receive positive and encouraging feedback from my readers and my facebook community. I hear that sometimes I utter things that encourage you and that friends is what makes it ALL worth it. 

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Well hello familiar stranger.

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When my grandmother’s house burned down, the photo albums were MIA for a long while. It took awhile to dig through the remnants of her belongings that were salvageable to gather them all up. Many made it through, but a lot were damaged by smoke or water, and all of them smell like mold and mildew.

I (thankfully) was able to pick them up and look through all of the albums. I am excited that I get to make copies before sending them off to their rightful owners.
I use to sit for hours with my grandma, going through every single photo, every detail and every person and place that each photo was taken.

It was nice and familiar to be able to sit and look through all of the pictures.
So many memories.

I came across a few of me that I didn’t realize existed, and definitely don’t recall taking at all.
One of which is the one I added to this post.
I felt tears well up in my eyes when I first saw this.
When I look at it, of course, I know it is me…and I can remember this time frame in my life –but that person is long gone.

I am sharing this today because the back of the picture tells me it was taken in 2005 when I was 22—
and that was my worst year.
I was the most sick I had ever been, and  the most desperate.
I was the most alone that I had ever felt and had never experienced hopelessness, self-hate or fear like I did that year.

It was the year that I realized that I was no longer in control and my life certainly reflected that fact. Thus began the long battle and my road toward Recovery.

So this #TBT is for anyone still struggling. SO much can change in a short period of time. It has been about eight years or so since this photo was taken, but as they say, it took me many years to get there, and it has taken just as many to put the pieces back together. Lifestyle change and healing takes time!

God pulled me out of a self-created and perpetuated hell that I had no idea how to get out of or away from.
My eyes aren’t empty, my heart feels again and my bones have meat on them. I can rest at night, I eat, I have relationships with humans and I have been given the opportunity to start over.

No matter how many years that go by, I am not sure that the strong emotions will ever subside when I think about where I could have easily been, where I came from, where God has brought me to and who he has helped me believe that I am.

I just want other people who might be struggling hard right now to know that things do get better.
Don’t be afraid to reach out; it promotes the process of the beginning of healing and learning how to live in a new way.
There is always hurt before healing and the fear that stems from the shame that we have been living with for so long desperately tries to keep us right where we are.

The courage that you have to find is that to break away from what you are use to and what you believe about yourself, and to try to trust someone who tells you that you CAN change and that you ARE worth it-
even if YOU don’t believe that yet- there are people out there who do. 

Keep going!

Brittany

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The 12 -steps & Recovery.

I ran across this article from 2011 on Promises Recovery website.
I am sharing directly from their page, and I think it is beneficial for anyone who is in Recovery.  Here is the link to full original article:
(http://www.promises.com/articles/work-the-steps-in-recovery/)

**Working the Steps Promotes Essential Values

It has been said that each of the 12 Steps incorporates an essential value.
As you work the steps, you become more practiced in helping your healing process.

You learn by doing, by being active in working the steps.
Of course, there is no “official” list of values associated with each of the steps. You can ascribe any value you choose to any of the steps and it will be perfectly appropriate. What matters is that there are values that you begin to incorporate into your life of sobriety the more you progress in working the steps.

This listing of values pegged to each of the steps is not the author’s. (*Credit goes to Earnie Larsen, who, together with his sister and co-author, Carol Larsen Hegarty, wrote the book, Now That You’re Sober: Week-by-Week Guidance from Your Recovery Coach.)
We’ll list the values identified by the Larsens, along with our commentary on why they’re important in recovery.

  • Acceptance: Step One – You could just as easily say honesty is a value associated with Step One, since you need to acknowledge what is really going on in your life as you work this step. You admit to yourself that you have an addiction and choose to no longer deny the ramifications of your self-destructive behavior. Acceptance is a prerequisite to moving forward in recovery.
  • Faith: Step Two - Certainly we are all powerless to overcome addiction on our own. When we work Step Two, we come to recognize that there is a Higher Power at work that fosters our ability to climb out of our addictive past and make steady progress in our goal of recovery. To actively work this step, we need to open up to the idea that there’s something infinitely more powerful at work in the universe than just ourselves.
  • Trust: Step Three – Faith, which may be associated with Step Two, goes hand-in-hand with the value of trust so intertwined with Step Three. You cannot go forward in faith of a Higher Power and do the work you must without trust that you will have the strength and courage and wisdom to keep on going. Trust also means that you learn to step outside yourself, end your isolation, and begin to extend yourself to others.
  • Honesty: Step Four - Closely aligned with acceptance (the value associated with Step One), honesty requires that you peer inside yourself and scrutinize what you see there. Addiction masks many character defects, but being clean and sober allows you the opportunity to peel away that mask. Doing something about glaring faults and self-destructive behaviors requires rigorous honesty first – and continuing to work the steps.
  • Courage: Step Five - How do you build connection with “God, self, and another human being” that Step Five encourages? It takes courage, for one thing, and courage is not a value many in early recovery have in abundance. Still, you’ve come this far, so you have some measure of grit and determination. Courage is another word for what it takes – and, you’ve summoned up quite a bit so far on your journey.
  • Willingness: Step Six - Being open to learn a new way of life without the masks of addiction means having the willingness to make further progress. At this point in your recovery journey, you may come face to face with things that you find troubling or even dangerous from your past. But you can’t hope to end your isolation and connect with others if you aren’t able to progress further in this step. Allow yourself the willingness to push on – despite how uncomfortable or disquieting your revelations may be.
  • Humility: Step Seven - The world is so much more than each of us and our immediate concerns. Once you start working Step Seven, it helps if you feel a sense of humility. None of us is, after all, God. Therefore, none of us is perfect. Humility allows us to accept and own that there is a better way to live our lives other than remaining trapped in our addiction.
  • Forgiveness: Step Eight - Months and years of addiction have kept you trapped in destructive and self-destructive behaviors that hurt many others besides just you. As you begin the tough work of Step Eight, you need to find within you the power to forgive yourself and others for all that has happened to cause harm due to your addiction. Yes, you need to own the responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions. And, yes, you need to do something about it. But first, embrace the value of forgiveness – which makes working Step Eight that much easier.
  • Freedom: Step Nine - Now that you’ve identified and accepted responsibility for the wrongs that you have done to others, making amends brings along with it an incredible benefit – freedom. Once you have lightened your burden by making amends, your soul feels lifted. You have a sense of well-being, an almost tangible sense of goodness and light – and you feel empowered to keep going, to keep working the steps in recovery.
  • Perseverence: Step Ten - You’ve come a long way by the time you reach Step Ten. In some respects, it’s getting tougher to make further progrss working the steps. You need the endurance of a long-distance runner, since you may hit the wall at any time. It is often at this point in recovery when you realize the value of perseverence. You know your ultimate goal: effective long-term recovery. You also know that there are many obstacles that rear up along the way. At any time, you could come smack up against the urge to slip back into addiction. Stick with your resolve. Keep working the steps.
  • Patience: Step Eleven - An awful lot of water has roiled under the bridge since you first set foot on the journey of recovery. It helps if you acknowledge that you don’t always know what’s best for you, that perhaps, it’s your Higher Power or the God as you know Him that can help you through the tough times. The steps you work day in and day out may not reveal a payoff that you can readily see – but they are working in your favor nonetheless. Strive to cultivate the value of patience – which can help see you through periods of indecision or confusion.
  • Love: Step Twelve – When you arrive at Step Twelve, you may be tempted to think that all your work is done. In some respects, however, this may be the toughest step of all. Achieving effective long-term recovery requires that you give of yourself to others. In essence, it means that you recognize and accept the value of love as integral to true recovery. Looking at this another way you could say that recovery is love gained, whereas relapse is love lost.

    Recovery

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12 gifts of Recovery.

 

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1. HOPE- We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
(Romans 5:3-5)

2. POWER- For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

3. CHARACTER:  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23)

4. CLARITY- Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me.
(1 Corinthians 13:12)

5. SECURITY-  What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
(Romans 8:31)

6. ABUNDANCE- And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19)

7. WISDOM- If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
(James 1:5)

8. SELF-CONTROL- But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.
(Romans 8:9)

9. FREEDOM- For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1)

10. Happiness- Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.
(Psalm 119:35) 

11. SERENITY- And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
(Romans 8:38) 

12. PEACE- I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
(John 14:27)

 

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Clarification.

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When I read this I just had to share with you guys.
I think it is important to have clarification on this issue. :-)

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Courage & Wisdom.

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Everyone goes through ups and downs in life.
(And if you have an addict in your life, there are sure to be lots of ups, downs, unpredictability, uncertainty, highs, lows, let-down, defeat and more.)

One thing that I have learned in Recovery that I have applied to my everyday life, has been learning to accepting what is.
Sometimes it is hard to accept the truth.

When you finally understand and accept that you cannot control or take responsibility for anyone but yourself and your own actions, you will begin to see things much more clearly.

This can be pivotal for anyone healing and trying to move forward.

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Bystanders.

After writing my open letter to my family members, I saw a photo posted by someone who lost their loved one too soon to drug addiction. I immediately teared up.

These emotions are so raw and real.

Family members literally watch their loved ones slip away, day by day, very slowly.
They aren’t dead but they aren’t who they once were.
They are lingering in that place between spiritual death and physical death.

We grieve while they are still alive, for who we once knew.
We yearn to see their eyes bright again.
We so wish we could hug them so hard, that they would definitely feel real love.
We want to break down those walls and rip off their masks.
We want them to feel safe with us and know that they are free to be them.
We want to scream so they will hear the truth, they can change!
We are here to support them!

None of it is heard.
It is like watching a silent movie.
Nothing penetrates that wall.
Their thoughts cycling through as repetitive  as they are, are stronger than our deepest, most sincere pleas.

I am so sorry to all of the families who have watched this happen, and who have physically lost their loved one.

This is why we are so afraid to make boundaries and keep them.
We don’t know how much time they have left, and at the same time- by not keeping any boundaries, we are chipping away at the remaining time.

It’s a strange predicament to be in, and is not easily explained.

This is where we have to be reliant on God’s truth and the truth that we know as fact, backed up by science.
We only hurt by helping, even though we feel obligated to help.
We feel like if we just sit back with our hands metaphorically tied, we are enabling their demise…when in fact, it is the other way around.

It is hard to do when your brain doesn’t understand. Your heart doesn’t want to follow, but your brain tells you ‘facts’ and ‘truth’.

We have to be on top of our emotions, to make sure that when they are ready for help…
they have someone stable and reliable to go to.

Utilize Al-anon, Celebrate Recovery, Nar-anon, and online-support groups to get you through these tough times. It is not easy for families to get through this alone, in one piece (mentally, emotionally and financially for some)

We have to be bold and courageous enough to reach out and share with others about our struggles. People help people and there are people out there who are willing to listen and help you through.

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TO FIND A MEETING NEAR YOU:
http://discoveringbeautiful.com/need-treatment/

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An open letter.

I am in need of this reminder this week, so today I am going to refresh my memory as to why good, strong boundaries are so important in relationships with addicts.

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An open letter to the addicts in my life. 

I love you both very much. I know that you don’t feel like I do and you cannot see how I could. I distance myself from you both.

Brother,
I know that I won’t help you when you need it most, and I seem not to care if you are sleeping in a filthy motel with only one paid night left before you hit the streets.

I know that last night when you were crying and grieving, I wasn’t there for you. I didn’t even call. I won’t give you rides and I don’t believe your lies anymore.

I understand how you feel like I am better than you and I don’t have time for you, and I know that you think I don’t have any idea exactly how it feels to look out into the world feeling like you are completely alone with no one who has your back.

The truth is, you have physically hurt me, and you don’t recall any of it.
I am pregnant now and I really cannot risk being around you for one second.

I love you so much, and it absolutely breaks my heart to see you hurting and in so much obvious and denied, stuffed, heart -wrenching emotional and physical pain.

I love the memories that I have of you, when you were young, silly, and care-free. You were unapologetically….you. The best little brother ever. (even though I wasn’t the nicest big sister)

I pray for you all of the time and the only thing that stops me from swooping in and saving you- giving you rides, ten bucks, another night in the motel, a shoulder to cry on—is my own well-being and safety and your well-being and safety.

I cannot  and will not allow myself to be lost in you. I cannot and will not ever forfeit my own Recovery to ‘help’ you. How in the world could I break these cycles for my own children if I was destroying my own progress by getting lost in my love for you-& choosing to helping you in all of the wrong ways?
Oh’ how I wish I could just grab your face and reach the depths of your soul for you, but I cannot.

Only you can.

I wish that you could see from a different perspective, I want so badly to force you to see how talented you are, how much you are loved, how valued you are as a family member and just how important you are to the world. You have so much to offer. You have so much life left to live.

Even now, after you have been in and out of prison, dozens of treatments, accidents, car wrecks, overdoses, health problems, developing mental health issues ALL drug and alcohol related…. over a ten year span..
—my heart and mind still tell me the harsh truth.

Only you, brother can decide that you want to change and give it all you have.
Until then, I will keep praying for you.
If or when I get that phone call that I have been expecting and dreading- It will kill me inside, but ultimately I know that there is absolutely nothing that I could have done for you.

************************************************************************************************Mom.
My love for you is much different. I love the idea of you, and the you that I have heard stories about.

I know that you think my brother is my responsibility. I am not sure why you have formed this idea in your mind, but somewhere over time- it developed into something real for you.
There is no  way for me to help you understand how much I care about my brother, I am not abandoning him - but newsflash. I didn’t give birth to him.
This way of thinking that you have had my entire life, is precisely what gave birth to my colossal, destructive, and hard to get out of role reversal & enabling issues.

I understand that you do not comprehend simplistic statements and cannot follow in conversation. I know that you don’t choose this, you simply do not have the capability of having rational thought patterns.
I know you get frustrated and you don’t see why I am not helping you to help my brother.

I can sense the anger in your text messages, and I can hear you struggling to keep it together in the 1 a.m voicemails that I have been getting.
The hatred, the antagonistic threats and the sarcasm in your voice are exactly why I am still honoring the boundaries that I have had set with you for a few years now. You still aren’t safe for me to be around.

I wish I knew of some long-term, documented study out there that has already been conducted, to help me to better understand what has happened to your brain.

The mental health issues that have been either exaggerated or have developed as a result of your continued drug use frustrate me. I don’t understand the way you interpret and perceive any given circumstance. I cannot understand you decisions. We live in two different worlds.
My main frustration stems from not being able to get through no matter which way I word things, or how patient I am.

I don’t hate you but I certainly hate your illness.

Yes, I use to yearn to know who you may have been, or maybe who you were. By the time I was born, mental illness had already begun the decomposition process...but…..

I don’t hate you anymore.
I don’t blame you for my drug use anymore. Those were my choices.
I accept what is.
I have learned about the psychology of your illness and and I completely accept you for who you are.

I have come to a peace, a place that I found after true forgiveness for you.
God has shown me what true empathy looks and feels like, and I have that for you as a human.

You truly did the best you could, with what you had to offer. What I do hate, is the idea that you were cheated out of life. Maybe, you cheated yourself because of the choices that you chose to make, but ultimately, you missed out on so much Joy.
I wish that you could feel true peace for even just one second.
That, mom, is what i struggle with presently. That you won’t ever know what it feels like to just…..be.

I want both of you to know that my decision to stay away isn’t always as easy as you think it is. It wasn’t an easy choice to make. I knew that after over twenty years of the drama, I needed a break at the very least. I needed a chance to figure out who I was, apart from the role that I had adapted to. I needed to give myself a shot, for my kids. They deserved that. 
It has been one of the most difficult decisions to stay committed to, and at the very same time, one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

I also want you to know that it is never too late to change things. People can and do recover every day. I don’t think you are throw away people. I don’t believe that you are lost causes. I think that miracles happen every single day and like I have said before- if you are still here breathing, there’s still HOPE for you. 

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Venting & getting these things out is a healthy thing to do. It helps me to sort out my emotions instead of ignoring them. These thoughts and feelings weigh heavy on my heart and sometimes it makes it tough to enjoy my own family, or be excited about my own life happenings when I know there is so much hardship going on in the hearts and minds of these two. The battles are continuous for them.

In this case, I don’t have the option to say these things to either of them and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter, and sometimes, it just isn’t necessary.

 

 

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Happy Anniversary… x2!

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As much as I loathe getting on my *personal facebook account sometimes, I really do appreciate not having to remember anything whatsoever.
(Birthdays, social events, life-milestones lol)

Having said that, Facebook has reminded me that September 13, marks my
3 year anniversary of quitting smoking cigarettes!

September 13, 2011. 

When my Recovery journey began, quitting smoking just wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. If anything, it was the very least of my problems and definitely not the most dangerous thing that I had been doing. I had no interest in attempting to quit, after all, it was all that “I had left” …….

Keep in mind, in 2006 is when the journey to get sober began. I needed to smoke.
It kept me busy. After the first year of failures, things got much better and I was completely sober. Smoking was still not something that I was ready to give up.

By 2011, I was getting sick a lot.
I would get coughs from colds that just wouldn’t go away, and also- my kids were getting older and would watch me. I hated them seeing me, and I hated them smelling me.

Around this time, my mom was given yet another diagnosis. This time it was emphysema.
It was scary to watch how quickly her ability to function normally (speaking of her lung function) spiraled out of control. I am hard-headed and typically, I am a ‘see it to believe it’ (or at least experience it for myself) type of person….but this was enough for me.
I really wanted to be healthy for my kids when they were older and when I had grandchildren. Granted, I only smoked for 13 years or so, but it was difficult. I make it sound so easy, my motives were pure and it is easy to talk about them….but quitting was not so easy. I failed more than a handful of times, gave up and started over.

Finally, I quit and prayed…prayed….prayed and took a prescription for the first 4 weeks.
After that, I was on my own.

Today- it has only been 3 years and I have times where I will think about it. That is as far as it goes. The benefits of feeling good, being able to work out and know that my body is in repair mode is enough for me to stay away.

I never thought I could do it.
If you have been thinking about trying to quit….you can email me for support if you want! (Ladies)
You can do it!

My next anniversary is our wedding anniversary. September 27.
I am excited every year….because we are still so in love and happily married. God has truly given me a man who is perfect for me. Of course…things aren’t beautiful all of the time, but I know in my heart that he is my ‘home.’ Well. That’s how it feels anyway. He’s a good dude. :-) A great father and someone who keeps me on my toes…which is what I need.

Anyway, here’s to many more smoke free and happy marriage years.

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We break Stigma!!

judgement

If you are in Recovery, chances are, you know someone who truly cannot understand how ‘people like us’ could ever allow our lives to be transformed, taken over and destroyed by a chemical or process addiction.

I have heard variations of comments like these: 
Those people are stupid. 
How could you let your life get like that. 
Wastes of space. 
They don’t deserve to live. 
Line em’ up – kill em’ all. 
These people are what’s wrong with our (seemingly perfect otherwise) country. 
We waste so much time and money on people like this. 
My taxes pay for these trashy losers. Wow. 
Just quit already, get a job for f*ck’s sake. 

(*Yes. I have heard every single one of these comments come from the mouth’s of people that I love, respect and some- consider friends.)

These are people who are otherwise….nice humans.
These assumptions, ideals, ignorantly formed thoughts, and inexperienced opinions are why stigma exists at all. It is a lack of understanding. A lack of an empathetic development in their pretty little heads and for some, it is simply a big question mark that they write off much easier when they just tag us and bag us as throw away humans.

We know the truth. We know, the facts. The facts are very public these days and are easily accessible.

Addiction crosses all lines-
Seriously. The 23.5 MILLION AMERICANS LIVING IN RECOVERY cover a very broad range of types of humans. Males, females, broken homes, wholesome-average families, single parent homes, all races, all socioeconomic statuses….addiction doesn’t care who you are, where you came from or whether or not you had a daddy in your home.

(of course, the risks factors and components as to what leads up to first use or the decision to do drugs in the first place is obviously affected by all of these variables. However, once addiction sets in and drugs are introduced – it will rampage anyone’s life destroying everything.)

So, what makes people so judgy, harsh and hateful when it comes to people who struggle with substance abuse? 

The biggest one in my opinion, is a lack of education. No matter what issue you are speaking of, I am a big fan of knowing facts before you rant and rave about whether or not you think a person deserves to live or deserves another chance at life. Personally, I don’t like to join debates or movements unless I am armed with information. People tend to have a lazy approach on this issue. They know what they know and that’s enough for them.

Another…. ego.
To drop a nasty, harsh, or down-right mean opinion about the soul of another person anyway, requires a high opinion of self and the false belief of personal authority & superiority over another human….and not only that human, but a very large group of people.

Possiblity number three-a lack of empathy. Chances are, people who refuse to educate themselves about addiction, the probabitly of lasting recovery with proper support and individualized treatment….are probably people who have strong, weakly based opinions on many, many other major topics; not just this one.

If you are reading this, and you have been shamed in any way by any other human please hear me. 

Stigma is not truth. It is something that is being broken as I type.
23 MILLION PEOPLE  are LIVING NORMAL, HAPPY, PEACEFUL AND FULFILLING LIVES IN RECOVERY FROM ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS. This incredible number will not be ignored.

Stigma is an overall assumption, based off of skewed opinion of the masses who prey on weak people and are comfortable with scapegoating. It is not truth about who and what you are, no matter what you have done. 

Of course sometimes opinions hurt. They just do. 
But it still doesn’t mean that they are truth, or apply to your person. 

GOD tells us that we are uniquely made individuals, and if we are are still alive & taking breaths……we are here for a reason and that is all that matters.

**What can we do to help other people gain a better understanding?**
-Live your life in a way that completely debunks the crap they believe.
-Don’t fight fire with fire. Reciprocating hate, or judging them harshly as well will not help.
-Make friends with people from all walks of life. Most will never believe that you are an addict living in Recovery.

The best way to fight the stigma…is to continue striving toward your personal goals. To live a healthy life. Time will reveal the truth to the naysayers.

It isn’t our job to change their minds, but I believe it IS OUR JOB TO PAVE THE WAY AND MAKE THIS ROAD EASIER FOR THE MANY MORE TO COME.
WE COULD MAKE THEIR RECOVERY JOURNEY A TINY BIT EASIER, AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE- THEY WON’T HAVE TO DEFEND THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS, OR EVER–HANG THEIR HEAD IN SHAME.  

:-) We can change the world.

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Yes YOU can!

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Being one hundred percent positive that we should do something is an elusive luxury that we don’t get to have. We can’t really base our decisions on being certain of an outcome, we can only trust God and take a step –somewhere.
When we fail, we can become afraid to take a leap again. If we make a decision that doesn’t quite work out the way that we envisioned, we can get stuck in a situation where any big decision from that point on, is one that is so anxiety ridden that we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy life.
Ultimately, we have to come to our own terms with reality. That is, we don’t get to have answers to all of life’s tough questions, turns, opportunities and unknowns.

We really do have a choice, whether the decision, dream, option, offer or opportunity is big or small.

We can choose to hide or we can make the decision to try.

Fear can smother you to death, and keep you from saying ‘no’ when you need to say no, or when you simply know it is best for you or your family to decline or go a different direction.

Fear can keep you from taking a step in a direction that you have yet to travel in your life- simply because you don’t have the luxury of certainty. So many unanswered questions and variables to consider (and re-consider).

I am really not a fan of making baseless or reckless decisions without any thought backing them. I guess what I am saying here is that we should never allow fear to fuel us. It should not be allowed to be the motivating and ultimate deciding factor when it comes to our decision making process.

Failing, having to pick yourself up, admitting a small defeat, being a little embarrassed from time to time, having to muster up courage to stand behind who you are at all costs, these things aren’t really so bad.

For the most part, these are the typical results of one of our ‘leaps’ that don’t go as planned.

What is cool is that failing, if we look at it and take notes, can build character if used properly.

We can choose to use the situation as fuel for motivation to take that next step into something unfamiliar.

We learn that we are much more strong and resilient that we thought. We learn that fear, is a gigantic lie.

So, if you have a dream that have been pulling on your heart strings, consider going for it.
Wear red lipstick tomorrow if you want to.
Whatever that thing is, big or small that you are not doing because of fear-
consider taking a calculated risk.

The part of the journey that helps you build confidence and stimulates your brain to push for even more comes from the realization that you….YOU just did something that you thought was impossible. YOU did something that you weren’t certain of, that you may have even been afraid of, something …..that you have been waiting to do for so long.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

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Maintenance.

Episode-7-S02Lately I have been reading and posting a lot about the dangers and traps of becoming complacent in Recovery.
Partly, because I know that the first five years (at least) of Recovery are tricky.There are so many ups and downs, struggles and victories and you are hanging in the balance of getting too cocky, or feeling defeated and giving up. It helps for people to be aware of this pitfall.
The other part, is for myself. I, after seven years of being in Recovery, am still mindful of the dangers that complacency brings with it.

This point in my Recovery has really highlighted that no matter how far along I am in this new life post drug addiction, no matter which season of life that I am in, how old I get or how many years I have under my belt …….

I should never be ‘finished’  evolving, changing, learning, growing, discovering or stretching.

If I am not working at all, or am pushing something aside, I are digressing.
Even I don’t notice it at first.

For me, long-term Recovery is not so much about relearning how to live anymore or how to let go of the past.
The majority of my Recovery at this point is about continually evolving and embracing it, and continuing to be dedicated to giving back.

In order to improve a little bit over time, I have to allow myself to slow down and recognize some of these things. I have to continue to accept my mistakes as I make them.
This has been hard for me to regulate. I have learned that the prospect of becoming complacent doesn’t just apply to my Recovery-
it applies to my parenting, my marriage and my everyday interactions and relationships.
If I focus on one area, and not another- it creates a problem. If I work hard in one place and act like I have it all together in another, it ends up coming back to bite me.

I recognize that as a mom, wife & woman in Recovery my life is all about balance and prioritizing.
(Unfortunately, my personality is not exactly one that naturally gravitates toward balance -in many ways I am impulsive and really don’t love planning.)

I have found that to be mindful, I have to plan.
To think before I speak when I am frustrated, I have to plan.
When my emotions are running high, I have to plan before I make a decision or act.
If I snap at my husband unnecessarily, I have to balls up and apologize and think about how I could do things differently next time.
All of these scenarios require me to be pro-active.
I will (and do) mess up- but if I am active in taking a stance in my life that says I am dedicated to improving, I don’t run a high risk of becoming complacent in these areas.

Much like the weeds on our rocks outside of my house. Listen.
I will see a few and overlook them.
The next week, they are out of control and I am overwhelmed.
Then I try to convince myself that they’re not so bad, that…I actually kind of like them.
In reality, ya’ know…..in truth… I always regret not simply pulling the few from the previous week.
This nasty thought process can translate into our daily lives and interactions. It is a waste of perfectly good energy and thoughts.

Celebrate Recovery did a great job of teaching me personal accountability and the importance of being truthful with myself…..while conveying a message on the necessity of on-going maintenance. The simple tool: Writing down your daily inventory.

If we take a daily inventory on a regular basis and we are honest in doing so- we can confront problems or small issues head on.
We don’t avoid them, push them aside or act like they didn’t happen.
We write them down and stare at them.
We tell God about them and we think of ways that tomorrow can be better.
We pray about it and ask for strength to keep going and the courage to continue to look at our faults in a very real way. We can do these things, because we know that we are works in progress, and always will be.

I guess what I am learning is that we don’t always have to be thinking or analyzing every single thing that we think, feel, do and say every second of every day in an obsessive or compulsive way.

What we do have to do is have embrace this life, while maintaining balance.

We can let go a little and enjoy all that God has gifted to us, but that doesn’t mean let the weeds grow over.

We don’t have to tend compulsively, but we cannot allow ourselves to get in the habit of looking the other way either.

It is a balancing act and one that we will never perform perfectly, but we can have fun while we are doing it- and we can keep practicing.

And we should surround ourselves with people who are loving, kind, respectful and supportive of this process and it’s importance to our sobriety and continually growing Recovery.

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Writing Exercises- don’t underestimate the power of old-school.

I really like to use visual paper/pen exercises to help with clarity sometimes. 

I utilize them any time that I am feeling lost or confused on a certain issue, and other times just to remind myself of all that I have to be grateful for.

In Celebrate Recovery, there are many times in the guides that we are asked to write down times where we have been hurt, things we have not yet forgiven, times that we have made poor choices, our personal daily inventories… (and DOZENS more).

These exercises help us to SEE where things went wrong.
We can pinpoint and recognize a problem, admit our own role, and learn how to be mindful to not make that same choice or to have the same reaction in the future.
When we choose to sit down and invest time in uncovering our truest and darkest secrets….these are life-changing exercises.
Very helpful in Recovery.

In school I learned a lot about behavioral psychology and cognitive therapy.
Both of these disciplines use the same techniques for clients and offer many templates, approaches and examples for us to use as starting points as new counselors.
There are many exercises for dealing with anger management, tracking positive and negative emotions, and for achieving overall emotional regulation.
These are typically used to help someone with a substance disorder to SEE patterns and to recognize their own patterns of behavior.
This way, clients can stop the downward spiral before it begins, and learn to form new habits and responses.

In my personal relationship with God, writing my gratitude lists out by hand, journaling or simply jotting down prayer requests for others has really helped me over the years to stay in touch with Him. It also helps me to hold myself accountable for things that I really need to remain mindful of.

In any case there is just something about taking time to sit down, to take out a pen and paper, and write things down.
It is so beneficial to sit in a quiet room, silently focusing on our task to gain clarity.

For me, it helps me to balance and focus on the most important things. I am a thinker, and if I am not careful, my mind will wander and my brain will concoct ridiculous happenings – especially if I am trying to logically sort out a heart matter.

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Putting this into practice in my real life: 

I am 13 weeks along with baby #3. I am over the freaking moon excited. My family is growing and I am one of the crazies that believes that if God gives em’ to us—he’ll provide and we will adjust. End of story.
I have family that is supportive and friends who are as well. My husband and children are ecstatic.

and yet…
still, quietly, in the far right hand corner of my brain, in the darkest- innermost part- I feel this ridiculous ‘need’  to ring up my mom to share the news with her. 

Wth? Lol.
(Like I said…. ridiculous.)

And no, it isn’t some irrational, impulsive, fleeting thought in all of the excitement. It is more of a deep-rooted yearning for that bond, that I know isn’t happening this side of heaven.

For this ‘problem’… instead of wishing or praying away a drug-induced mental illness….
I find that doing a writing exercise helps me to pull things back into perspective.
(Our emotions are not always logical, right…and will not always pull us toward the best scenario for us.)

Logic vs. Love.
Love, or my heart (that thing that a lot of people will tell you to follow around…….and I don’t recommend that) tells me typical things..like that we’re family and she has made mistakes. She is my mother of course and it is only natural to want to call her to share news with her.
Logic tells me that our track record as interpersonal humans–is shoddy and dangerous and that it has been for 25 years now and it hasn’t shown ANY signs of positive progress.
It also tells me that I’d be setting myself up for something (no telling really)
and it’s obviously best to stay positive, keep myself, belly and family safe.

Neither really ‘wins’ …..in this particular case…. for this particular problem….

My faith has to be the louder voice.
It wins.
God’s provision wins.
Ultimately, this is what I choose to follow around.

For this writing exercise I would write out two columns.

The first column is labeled “Needs”
I would write something like:
*I want to be able to share with my mother. I want to call her. I want a strong woman in my life to care and to be there for me. (brutally honest is the only way to go. God knows your heart anyway guys)

The second column, is labeled “God’s Provision” 
I would write how God has already provided for that particular want:
*Great friends, wonderful & caring mother-in-law. I have strong, wonderful women IN MY LIFE RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE who would love to be a part of this journey with me, and some already are.

This helps me to see that my ‘Needs’ ARE in fact, being met.
God IS providing and I AM getting exactly what I need.
I may not be getting what my brain or heart wants
but God IS taking care of my need in a way that I don’t usually recognize unless I purposefully seek out his response.

This exercise helps me to see that God’s love for me is overflowing. I am not lacking anything that I might feel like I am from time to time. Sometimes, the things I may want…..just aren’t necessary or best for me.

This can be used for anything that you feel that you need or want. You can write down how God is already providing for you in some capacity to meet that need.

Hopefully it will help you, the way that it helps me!

Never underestimate the power of old-school.
The pen and paper…. ;-)

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Getting Sober vs. Staying Sober

Which was harder for you:
Getting sober ……or staying sober? 

I read this question a couple of weeks ago, and it really made me think.
I am not sure that I had ever really thought about which one was harder for me.
A few stated that getting sober was more difficult, but the majority noted that staying sober was much harder for them.

After years of recreational use and a few years of dependence and struggling with addiction –
I knew that I had come close a few times to losing my life, and a couple of times I was disappointed at my escape from death. I knew that I was tired, and I was aware of the fact that my life had spinning out of control for quite some time.

Looking back, I think that absolute worst and lowest part of my life was when I came to the realization, that I was in fact, completely out of control and that getting sober was not going to be easy. ( I really liked ‘easy’)
I did try to slow down, I tried to quit, I tried to do that whole ‘mind over matter’ thing.
Each time that I fell hard, flat on my face,
the less I cared about picking myself back up for the next try.
Eventually-there wasn’t any fight left.

Of course Addiction wasn’t fun but living a ‘life’ controlled and led around by a substance just became my norm- like the life of other addicts.

What really began to grind and tear at my soul or the internal ‘me’ that I hadn’t destroyed….
was a desire for peace.

Something, somewhere inside of me yearned, screamed for and wanted —calm.

I wanted to stop and slow down. I wanted that kind of life, that I knew other people had-
I just didn’t know how to get there from where I was.

This whole process was my attempt to ‘get sober’ at the end of it all,
and it really took its toll.
It is scary to realize that you are no longer in control and what little desire you have creeping out of you (or what was once ‘you’) —isn’t really important to the demons that have taken over at that point.

This was my hell.
Wrestling with my mind and fighting with my body.
The little time I did catch a glimpse of what I had made of my existence- I definitely didn’t want to be sober anymore and I would hide, and start all over again.

It took me a little over a year of trying to get completely sober.
That first year, I would make it a few weeks or so, then a month or two –
and then finally, I dug my heels down deep and began the real work that I had been avoiding for so long..
I did finally begin a Recovery program-

After I (reluctantly) made the choice to commit to the program, there was no turning back for me. I got a little taste of freedom and I was g.o.n.e. 
Yes! I may have spent two years struggling hard. Fighting my mind and body. Trying to expose my lies, my truths, my dark secrets- while still trying to believe that I was a valuable human being. I do remember being an exhausted, lost, confused, emotional hot mess of a train wreck.
but even those days during the first two years were 1,000 times better to me than those days that I spent trying to navigate one more day in my crazy, dangerous, empty life. 

So I guess for me, my answer would be:

Getting sober was much harder for me.

(Staying sober- ppppsshhhh.
It wasn’t easy, but it was beautiful there. At least I felt alive.)

Tell me! Which was harder for you? 
Feel free to comment here, tweet @ me, or connect with me on my Blog page on Facebook and let me know!

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How are things?

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This is a less personal Recovery post and more of a……..
just personal post:

I turned 31 yesterday.
I got a beautiful necklace and ring from my husband and children, along with some useful home-made coupons from my boys….that I will definitely be utilizing before they expire.
I got a new, soft, much-needed pillow and some chocolates too. My family went above and beyond, making sure that I did not have to cook or wash a dish all day long.
It was pretty incredible.

Today marks my 10th official week of pregnancy.
We still haven’t made a formal public announcement (via Facebook)
My blog platform (and I have nice & kind readers…thank you!) is really the only place that I have mentioned it at this point. We have told our close immediate family, but for the next couple of weeks, we are keeping it to ourselves. My first appointment is August 12 and that will be an exciting day! I haven’t worried too much about things developmentally but I am ready to SEE that things are cooking well….and I am so ready to HEAR a heartbeat!
My morning sickness is really just waves of nausea on and off all throughout the day.
Some days are great and I feel like I must be in the clear, and then the next day, it’s back again. Fatigue is the same. It is definitely not as bad as it was in weeks 5, 6, 7, 8 but it is still creeping up on me here and there.
I haven’t gained any weight yet, but am pretty bloated!
I have also had vivid dreams, lots of them and mostly odd ones.
I will spare you the details of them but I am normally one of those people who cannot recall a dream the minute that I attempt to recall a dream….it just vaporizes. These- I can smell the smells, feel the feelings, and remember details. So, that’s been interesting ;-)
We also have names for both a boy, and a girl already….I’ll do some name droppin’ in about 10 weeks or so when we know if this little beautiful life is a he or a she…

It’s back to school time- and for us that means a lot of squashing of doctor check-ups, dental check-ups, closet cleaning and shopping  into a few short weeks. It is an exciting time at our house.

All and all guys I am blessed. I hate using that word- I really do.
(it is overused and sounds so cheesy in some instances)
so forgive me if it sounds cheesy.

:-) I reflect a lot. Part of my Recovery (the LIFE that I LIVE now) entails and requires a ton of reflecting and it doesn’t just happen on days like my birthday.

As I sat back on my birthday, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed; with love, and with thankfulness. No more celebrating by getting trashed and making the entire evening about me, me, me. No more chasing happiness.

Yesterday was just a simple & true celebration of a life that God has allowed me to create, with people who I love, who love me back- and who support me.

There aren’t any better gifts than that for me,  aside from having the opportunity to  experience true rest at the end of a day.

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Girl at the End of the World.

So I am finished reading Girl at the End of the World. As I said before Elizabeth has guts, but I finished the last page thinking about Recovery.

Toward the end of the book, Elizabeth finally decided to see a therapist. They talked about typical issues one would expect to hear, when dealing with anxiety and childhood trauma.
(things like dissociation, triggers and learning to practice being present.)

Although I may not have been raised in a cult- or by parents who were virtually brainwashed, believing that they were in fact, guilting and beating their child for their own good- I understand dissociation.
I understand numbing my way through life. Children learn early on to recognize what is coming, and what they would prefer to not fully experience. I understand escaping through any means possible and as a small child, these coping skills work like magic.

I also empathize with the anxieties that Elizabeth shared with the world. Those same, magical coping skills that were a sweet, sweet refuge and a safe place as a child-
don’t exactly translate well into adulthood or day-to-day life experiences as they come.
It is difficult to shed those, to tear down the walls and allow yourself to feel safe without them.

I understand loving people who you don’t understand or agree with, I get having to learn how to create boundaries that are foreign and having to learn how to implement them as hard as that can be sometimes.

In Celebrate Recovery we learned that we are, a family.
We may not have the exact same hurts, habits or hang-ups….
but hurt, hurts the same and has the same effects on the mind, body and spirit of all of us just the same.

God’s love covers these non-specific things all the same too.

We experience healing in the same way and we want to share that hope with others who need to know that the pain can and does stop and there is healing for them and their specific hurts and deep-rooted  _______________. (fill in the blank.)

So.
It was a quick read, with relatively short to-the-point chapters, which is my kind of book….

I think that anyone who has experienced any type of trauma and has mustered up the courage to step into a life of navigating Recovery would really enjoy and appreciate what this book is about. She managed to escape, to forgive, and to hold onto her faith in the Lord through her experience.

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Books. Books. Books.

I thought I’d share the books that I am reading right now and I might do little informal reviews for each one as I finish. Not that my opinion on reading material particularly  matters, ha! I just thought It would be fun to share.

First, you must know that I am pretty bad about starting more than one book and finishing them on what you could call a slow but steady pace (unless it is one that dominates and I just cannot put it down), but that is just how I do things.

I think it totally depends on my mood, and I am only able to read a little bit each night.
( and what that really means is, like so many other mommies or busy exhausted people who are only capable of keeping our heads up and eyes open for varying increments of time at the end of each night ;-) )

I am in the midst of reading the following:

The Resolution for Women  (Priscilla Shirer)
This was recommended and loaned to me by a friend, and I am only a couple of chapters in so far. I like what it’s about. The overall feel is that it is a challenge. A pledge to live on purpose; challenging women to embrace our current seasons of life and to be present right where we are, living in a way that champion’s God’s model of womanhood.
I think this will be interesting to get through. I like books that make me stop and think about my daily life, what I am dedicating my time to, how I am parenting, how I am loving my husband and showing love to others and really challenging myself to pay attention; to live in the now. I will definitely have to share how it goes.
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Girl at the End of the World (Elizabeth Esther)
This. Guys. I am only a few pages from being done with this one. It has definitely been my ‘go-to’ choice lately. Like I said, I don’t get to read often, or don’t have the will to keep my eyes open long enough to make real progress sometimes, but this one has kept me up a few nights. Obviously, it caught my interested because I love love love memoirs, non-fiction, true-crime and such-
This has definitely provoked the welling of tears, has got my blood pumping, stirred a tiny bit of frustration and has also been refreshing and encouraging. This is really about trauma- childhood trauma, first-hand and its’ after effects. Elizabeth gives an honest and eerie account of what her life was like growing up with fundamentalist parents and grandparents. She does a great job of tying it all together in the end with her raw testimony of her progression through Recovery. I love everything about this book. Elizabeth has guts.
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A Farewell to Mars (Brian Zahnd)
I was a teensy bit weary of reading this. Here’s why.
I live in Mo., in what some call the conservative ‘Bible belt.’
I am a relatively new Christian of almost 8 years.
(New to branching outside of the suffocating conservative belt)
I wasn’t sure that I was ready for a read like this one, but I knew two things when I started reading it.
I knew (generally) what this book was about, and I knew that I could stand behind something like non-violence, love and peace.
I am just finishing chapter 7…. I cannot get enough. I enjoy reading content and information that makes me stop and think. I like having to put a book down for a moment to highlight an entire paragraph or to contemplate a concept that I had never considered.
I appreciate learning from a new and fresh perspective, from one that in my world—had been untouched.
I am looking at Jesus in a new way, that’s for sure.
Not the core truth of scripture, but Jesus as a man- and Jesus’ mission.
Applying what he stood for to our modern times, standards and way of living is what this book has really forced me to stop and do.
( I have highlighted about 25% of this book so far! Good thing it’s an eBook.)

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