Author: Brittany

Four Scary Things That are More Manageable in Recovery

Long before I developed an addiction to prescription medication , I abused drugs and alcohol regularly to make things in my life easier; to make the things I perceived as scary, a little less scary.

As with every other paradoxical surprise that seems to come with sobriety and recovery truths, this one is right up there with the rest of the ironies. Clearly, the recovery gods have a sense of humor.

Here are four things I considered to be way too painful to face head-on without the aid of any substance to take the edge off of my anxiety ridden fear, and in the end, the joke was on me.

In every instance, I have found that these life things are more bearable, manageable, and much less scary to face stone-cold-sober.
Equipped, but sober.

Off we go:

  • Tattoos. Holy of all holies. Someone should have told me that I was causing myself more suffering than what is actually necessary to get some ink. I am completely sure I would have listened. In all seriousness, though,really. I got my first tattoo as a drunken sixteen-year-old, with a group of my girl friends, in the back room of some shitty town house by a strange some guy named Dink. I thought I was probably going to die for that illegible “Chinese” symbol. The subsequent four, although professional, were equally harrowing and intolerable.Since sobering up I have been tattooed over a half-dozen times and each experience was dramatically different from my escapades under the influence. My tattoo artist mentioned that sometimes, depending on which drugs you take, they can have an opposite effect of what you are going for, enhancing the senses, thereby enhancing pain perception.
    Who knew?
  • Pain. The emotional kind. Not a remarkable notion that as a person in recovery also happens to be a recovering runner. Surprise! Running is especially tiring. So while I believed the age-old misconception that my keys to happiness were likely hiding somewhere in a pain-free realm, I missed all of the good stuff. I was so busy and focused on numbing my wounds, digging around somewhere on the surface for elusive joy.In reality, happiness for me has been found within the tending to my wounds, and allowing others to help, and you can’t go all in and do either of those things while you’re running.
  • Emotions. The positive & negative kind.  I thought I was doing myself a favor by habitually avoiding any kind of emotion. I had no idea what I was actually doing at the time, other than desperately trying to avoid unwanted discomfort. Positive emotion smelled of vulnerability, and negative emotion shook memories I had laid to rest without a proper goodbye. I convinced myself that if my life looked and felt ‘good’ on the outside, then surely, that meant I was ‘good’ enough and that I was ‘normal’. Then, I would be happy and afterward, I just might fit somewhere.Sober living in recovery me has learned that managing emotion is essential to human living. I am a living, feeling being. Avoiding emotional discomfort provided temporary relief, and living in recovery taught me to appreciate the walk through whatever season I am in. Which also means, there are no short cuts to anywhere worth going. Even if that means the way I have chosen is more scenic, terrifying, or demanding, breaking me or pushing me to my limits.
  • Stress. Of all kinds. Learning to relax has always been a desire of mine. Whether it was a cigarette or a bottle leaving my lips, or a pill disintegrating in my mouth, I have always craved and looked forward to that feeling of decompression. Shutting off of my wondering, racing mind has always been a problem I didn’t know how to solve without pills. Of course you can imagine my continued disappointment, waking up every single morning disappointed, with a headache pounding on my face, only to face another day that reflected the redundant format from the movie, Groundhog Day, circa 1993.For me it helped to learn that anxiety and depression were a pretty big thing for me, active and destructive in my life, having gone ignored, unknown, and unmanaged for so long. So while my life is not perfect, smooth, predictable, or stress free, I find comfort in knowing that I can face hard things without escaping for the short-term, as I searched for long-term alleviation.I don’t want to mislead you. Tattoos hurt, but they aren’t unbearable. Stress can be suffocating, but there are so many other alternatives to relaxing besides downing wine. Emotional pain pierces parts of who we are, with an uncomfortable reach, but it can help us build character and resilience. And letting ourselves feel emotion does require a level of vulnerability from us that most definitely can feel paralyzing, but avoiding the waves is avoiding opportunity to grow into the next version of who God created us to be. We don’t get to grow without the experience. It’s all just part of it.

    Most importantly, it’s all hard life stuff. It’s not always enjoyable. But it is always rewarding to conquer our old beliefs, our old assumptions about who we are and what we are capable of facing. And don’t ever forget, you won’t be conquering your fear alone. We’re out here.

Update from Brittany


(That photo isn’t mine. I didn’t create it. I don’t own it. Credit to anon.)

Hello! Where have I been? How have I been? How have YOU been?

I have been slacking big time here, I know.
It has been so hectic and life things are making me tired.

Our house is on the market and playing the ‘you have a two-hour window to deep clean and arrange your house (that you and your family of five still live in) for a showing’ game. Huge shout-out to those who have gone before me, did it without complaining, who also survived to live long enough to actually sell their house. The most interesting part is not dropping everything on a dime and making our home look less-lived- in, it is that we have fixed, painted, and updated every single thing that has been on this long-time-running, 10-year, abandoned to-do list.

Also, my book has become this massive, all-consuming of energy and thoughts kind of thing. It has taken over, absorbing every slither of creative energy I have in the greatest way, every single day. Even in the car I am writing on a notepad because I have this chronic issue of forgetting things seconds after they the thought comes into existence.
Several weeks ago I printed the completed first draft after having spent the greater part of a year trudging along writing my bare bones version.  Not to brag, but it only took me a full year to complete. But hey, it has been typed, printed, and it exists. Boom shakalaka.
And because I am a basket case, I almost cried when I felt the warmth of the freshly printed paper in my hands. I have spent the last few weeks rewriting, redrafting, (with the help of my adorable toddler) and living right in the middle of a story I am so excited to share. Soon I’ll be revising. I have to say developing a writing schedule and a ‘Book Page’ have both helped me to stay on track and to be more accountable. If they had aspiring author meetings, I’d need one because of who I am as a person. I need people asking how things are going and keeping me in line. Maybe I am just conditioned that way, or maybe, I am lazy. We’ll never know.

With more consistent writing, the house being on the market, my husband travelling, my brother being in a mental-health facility (but thankfully, no longer on the streets) miscellaneous things at church, and then the regular, everyday life things that happen when you have three children involved in school stuff, and sports, my poor blog baby has definitely been neglected.

But I have a ton of things I still need to tell you. Next up, I am feeling like I want to share about Halloween. I keep seeing all of these conversation topics centered on Halloween-esque sober entertainment. And I know it matters. There are young people and single people out there who need alternatives. That’s important. But what do you do if you are middle-aged, with children, and also married? What is our alternative?

That’s next up here.

I hope you are all well and still sober, and if you know anything right now, know that you have worth, value, and are capable of doing hard things.

 

 

Teen Suicide

Tuesday, Oct 10th was the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day.

I am a person in recovery from addiction and I am still learning better ways every day to embrace the latest version of who I am, post-trauma. I have suffered and survived through postpartum depression three times. Every day I still dance with general anxiety and always look forward to seasonal depression, but still try to be a strong advocate for the marginalized and still-suffering.

But as World Mental Health Day approached this year, I kept quiet here.

I did take time to reflect and to let myself feel the gratitude I have for Grace and for the people who have reached into my life personally throughout my journey.

I felt overwhelmed as I thought about the blessings, the helping hands, the invaluable advice, listening ears, knowledge and the generosity that I have been given over the years as I navigated what ‘wellness’ meant to me, as every part of who I am has been effected by mental-disorders directly, and indirectly.

But this year as World Mental Health Day approached it was our community of just over 96,000 pressing on my mind and heart.

As a whole it sort of feels like we are all left feeling this massive and gaping sensation of helplessness, not really knowing what to do with the weight or the damage from the impact that experiencing crisis often leaves people with.

On September 29, 2017 and again on October 9, 2017 our community lost two high school students to suicide. 

Parents here are feeling uneasy, weary, and afraid.
People are sad.
Students are fearful and confused.
People want to help but no one really knows what the next right thing is.

Of course our counselors in the school district have been rallying and working overtime with staff and students. The online presence feels positive and empathetic and for the most part people are doing their best to keep the forum open. Our local community organizations have reached out and are working to reach out and offer support and resources.

The first life tragically lost on September 29th was a 17 year-old senior.
Students at the high school heard a gunshot around 7:50 a.m and the school immediately went on lock-down. She died shortly after arriving at the hospital that morning as a result of her self-inflicted wound.

On the evening of Monday, October 9th, another student from the same school took his life off-campus. (His information and the details surrounding circumstances are protected and his family has not released any statements)

I know that there are community discussions taking place and the city will soon hold an open session for parents and caregivers.

People are wondering what to look for and how to know.

They are worried that they are missing signs and symptoms, or that maybe they are overlooking them or confusing them with what they think are just ‘typical’ teenage mood swings and angst.

Everyone is terrified that their family could be next.
Imagining what the two families are experiencing is unimaginable, but that is why we are all so scared. It is because we feel a teeny-tiny minuscule slither of what it could feel like.

As a mom of a fifteen year old boy, that is exactly where my mind went as well.
The what-if’s.

Despite my experience, despite my training, despite anything factual I know in my brain.
What if I miss something. What if I am not asking the right questions. Am I asking enough questions? Do I pay close enough attention? Do I need to do more, be more, provide more, know more?

At the end of the day as the initial panic of news like these two tragedies fades for those of us on the outside of the tragedy. We are back at the grind going through life with our teens.

Sometimes it is really hard to clearly see what we should or shouldn’t be doing or looking for or saying.

And you can tell a parent until you are blue in the face that we cannot control everything,
we cannot fix what we don’t know, or we are doing our best.

But even so most of us will still feel hyper-vigilant about our personal parental responsibility. We will feel like we need to do a better job paying attention to the intricacies & subtleties & even the confusion that the teenage mind presents us.

Because as we all know, history shows us that even the parent’s who seem to ‘have it all right’ have still experienced tragedy.

Bad things still happen.

So what can we do?

Instead of recounting to you what we did…(mostly hugs, tears, asking and answering questions and offering  deliberate gestures of reassurance of his value and worth and that he has no reason to ever ever ever feel weird or broken or wrong if he needs extra help with anything and have vowed to keep this conversation going)

I will just share a few websites and remind you that our teens still need us. They are close to adulthood and often they like to act like they don’t need us, but they do. They so need us. Hug them. Ask them things. Watch them. Listen to what they’re not saying.

The Parent Resource Program:

Offers stats and common myths and signs and symptoms for parents

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 

Offers 24-7 support for anyone with concerns, questions, or ideation

HelpGuide.org:
Parent’s guide to teen depression

Teen Mental Health Video:
Education for teens and parents

Sobriety Doesn’t Always Feel Good, But it Always Feels Right.

I had coffee with my mom this week at my house, in my kitchen. I fed her and we talked for a couple of informative, surprisingly uneventful hours. She says that her case worker and counselor are two of the most friendly, knowledgeable, and responsive that she has ever had. (Praise the Lord for that). I can see that she has made so much progress with her current team of clinical support people. They treat her like a person, and that is a really (really) big deal.

I listened as she explained that most recently she has found herself struggling with new boundaries that she has had to create between herself and my brother. Her new landlord will not allow him to stay with her and she cannot afford to risk her housing allowance by sneaking him in and out. She has had to turn him away at night several times this month. According to her he visits her house frequently, and most of the visits have gone smoothly, but that is where the line has to be drawn. He cannot stay with her. She has driven him around town and has dropped him off at various locations. From a mens group home in the city that he has since left, the library, at St. Luke’s hospital (because they have hot coffee and public facilities that he was able to use), and on a different day she took him to the lake. He has shown her a few of the places that he sleeps at night, one of those places is a makeshift fire pit down by one of the local lakes. The other, between railroad ties underneath a bridge in the city.

She began to cry as she struggled to explain that she has been counting the nights, “He’s been out there this time for 32 days, Britty,” she said. She looked directly into my eyes. I didn’t know what to say, or how to respond. I looked down at the table.  She continued, “How do I know if he has enough underwear and socks, and he keeps losing his backpacks. It bothers me that he doesn’t have a phone. His ribs are broken, but he still ‘keeps a smile on his face, and it’s getting cold. He is going to be cold.”

Sometimes I feel like a such a coward because I don’t want to know anything at all. As if it is wrong to not have details. I feel like the more I know the more I want to help and to fix and to intervene and save the fucking day. The more I know the more difficult it is to combat feelings of wanting to drive around town for hours, searching for him.

Other times I feel like a fraud for not revealing to her or anyone else that sometimes I too have nights where I can’t catch my breath I cry so deep, and so hard for him. My heart feels shattered in the specific space that it holds especially for him. It’s like some  vacant rental space that I am not willing to let go of, and no one else can touch it. It’s like this deep  vacuum carved out specifically to encapsulate the pain that I refuse to give away, pain that I won’t talk about, pain that is often misunderstood. I keep it close. I keep it tucked away there.

It took every ounce of strength I had to keep it together while we sat across from each other. She is his mom. She is speaking about her son. Can I even begin to imagine what her pain must feel like? I pray that I never find out.

Naturally, as she spoke I removed myself creating just enough emotional distance so that I appeared to be outwardly empathetic. As I listened to her describe his heart, I slowly sank away inside of my mind. As she described how he still smiles and tries to make her laugh, I remembered that I really missed hearing his voice, and so I dug even deeper.

The wedge I so carefully protect that acts as a barrier between my life and the lifelong connection I will always have with my younger brother bared down even harder on my lungs.

It felt hard to breathe.

Her sadness made my self-protection feel inhumane; my operating as detached from him, began to feel trivial all over again.

This is the raw part of me, the part of my life that whispers to me that I am not normal.

It’s a voice that has always given me the false impression that somehow, I don’t belong.

These hidden parts of my pain are the dark spots that seep through to the surface, reminding me of something very important.

My sobriety is maintained largely, by giving these parts of my story a voice.

By standing up to them.

By calling them out.

The shrink when light touches them.

As I attach recognition and feelings and raw emotion to them, I am acknowledging that I am human.

I am imperfect. Life is messy. It’s okay to have messes.

I don’t have to hide. It’s okay to come out. If not, this is that same sticky, detrimental voice. It is the one that held my face down under the water. The one that would let me catch a glimpse of the sunlight only to sweep my legs from under me. It is the one that kept me living within the lie that I am not worthy. The one that wouldn’t save me from being on fire if it were holding a glass of ice water.

As I sit right now I am standing face to face with pockets of time where my throat feels like it is probably closing, when it isn’t.

Where the sun is harder to feel as the darkness hovers creating shadowy places.

Incredible sadness lingers behind every word that I speak. Every smile. Every song lyric. Every prayer.

A new wave of tears moves closer and closer to the surface with each breath of cold, crisp, Fall air I breathe in.

Sometimes I start to feel guilty for taking advantage of the opportunities that my own sobriety has offered to me, and the beauty that God’s Grace has given me the chances to recognize over and over.

I push away the questions and thoughts that start cycling. Where is he? Is he alone? Is he hungry? Does she have anyone or any friends or people to talk to? Is he afraid? What does he think about when he walks around all day?

So this is just me. Letting it all air out, giving it a few shakes, making it stand out in the open against some daylight.

Not so I win and the shadows lose, but so the dark parts know that I am not afraid.

This is pain.

To feel pain is to know and experience love, and to love is to feel and connect.

To connect is to embrace vulnerability and authenticity.

And for any of that to manifest means that I am sober, and this is what sobriety is sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Paradoxical Truths of Life, Faith, and Recovery

Absurd and practical paradoxical truths.
They’re everywhere.

I am a person who can very easily become distracted and obsessed over all things linear, logical, balanced, and simplified.

I am also someone whose recovery has benefited most from these seemingly contradictory nuggets of wisdom.

How’s that for paradoxical?

My growth happens inside of the unknown, in the midst of facing the things I fear.

I am at my best when my eyes are open, facing the culprits lurking behind my anxieties.

The truths that scare me, the ones that don’t make the most natural sense to me, are the ones that hold my most meaningful discoveries about myself and the world around me.

What my recovery program and my walk with Jesus have asked that I give up, give away, let go of, walk away from, tweak, or to stop doing altogether, have always led me right into the eye of unfamiliar territory.

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, or if you are living a life built on recovery principles and are committed to being of service in sobriety, I know that you have experienced the exhilaration that manifests as a result of the ironies I am talking about.

Somehow the paradoxical ingredients always deliver and help us on our walk.

They aren’t meant to aid us in an escape from our old ways, or to rid our lives of our delusions or destructive patterns, they show us a new way to think, a new way to see, and finally, a new way to be.

From the gate we are actively learning and slowly begin the process of replacing old torn and tattered ways with new ways.

It doesn’t take long for us to realize that they’re all around us, everywhere, everyday. They hold so much wisdom, and can become the solid pillars that serve as strong components in our new lives.

There are hundreds of paradoxical examples in the Bible, but here are eight that I plucked out: (NIV, NLT translations)

  1. Each time he said, “My Grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.
    (2 Corinthians 12:9) When we are weak in ourselves we can be strong in the Grace of Jesus. We can do hard things. We can heal. We can move forward.
  2. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  (Matthew 16:25)  When we give our lives to purposeful living in who God created us to be, to live a life of service, we discover our real purpose.
  3. Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
    (Proverbs 11:24)  We are blessed when we give freely to others. We reign by serving.
  4. If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.
    (Luke 17:33)  Our spiritual life of faith is even more important than our physical life here. Ironically, if we let go of the need to control in faith giving God the control, our lives here reflect a thirst-quenching, crazy exciting kind of spiritual freedom. We will be given a better life than we ever imagined having, only after we lose it.
  5. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18)  Wisdom is valuable, and pursuing knowledge is encouraged, let’s just make sure we aren’t chasing our old ways of thinking. We can’t value the world’s standard of thinking and God’s ways at the same time.
  6. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  (Matthew 23:12)  Humbling ourselves helps us to stay grounded. There is a fine line between feeling confident in who we are and exalting ourselves above others. In recovery pride always comes before our falls.
  7. I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
    (2 Corinthians 12:10)  We don’t have to identify as poor, weak, or passive. But it benefits us to recognize that in our own strength, we fail. When we choose to depend on God, His power will sustain us and help us to be the most effective and useful as we do valuable and lasting work. We find strength through our weakness.
  8. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. (Romans 6:18)  Every single one of us are all serving something or someone who we identify as a master in our lives. We can choose to be a slave to our fears, our doubts, shame, our drug of choice, or we can be slaves to reckless hope, love and service. What consumes our thoughts, controls our mind, and what controls our mind, usually dictates our actions.

     

     

    There are so many recovery paradoxical examples. Here are a four from the list of the “12 Laws of Life Recovery,” from the Life Recovery Bible:

    1. Powerlessness will result in Strength. 
    Powerlessness and hopelessness or helplessness are not the same thing. We can be powerless without being helpless, just as we can be able to do something, but not capable.

    2. Surrender will result in Victory.
    Surrender, historically, signifies defeat. In recovery it means that we are finally willing to yield to something else by giving God our surrendered life.

    3. Sacrifice will result in Fulfillment.
    Sacrifice sometimes holds a negative connotation, as if we are giving up something reluctantly. But it can also be fulfilling. In recovery and faith we learn that true fulfillment comes from sacrificial giving and serving.

    4. Confession will result in Healing.
    Confession just sounds painful, doesn’t it? I used to view it as My very first moral inventory didn’t kill me, but the anxiety preceding probably could have. I was terrified of myself. I was filled with fear of what people would think if my dark areas were illuminated, what this Jesus guy would think. And this is the place where my healing picked up the pace and I felt more confident than I had ever felt up to that point in my sobriety.

     

    Here are a few of my favorite psychological/emotional paradoxes: 

    1. In order to step forward, sometimes you have to take a few steps back. 
    I don’t know about you but I benefit from reflection and ‘the pause’. If I try to run too far ahead, nothing helps more than taking a step back.

    2. What we dislike in others likely indicative of a trait or quality we disapprove of in ourselves. 
    Carl Jung. Thanks bro. Projection is a subconscious thing that self-realization can really help us with. Awareness of our personality can help us cultivate self-knowledge and when we start to recognize our own places, we stop focusing so much on everyone else’s.

    3. The person with the over-inflated, egocentric personality is actually over-compensating or avoiding feelings of weakness. 
    This one promotes a false sense of control or dominance to overcompensate for feelings of inferiority on some level.

    4. The quieter a person is the louder they are.
    I am a tiny bit (a lot) socially reserved, but I will tell you a secret: There is always a lively, imaginative party going on in my head, some story formulating, questions brewing, lists forming, and notes being taken.

    These are only a handful.

    Blessings are often found within the linings. The answers we seek can be found in our everyday, routine encounters and interactions. They’re there, just take the time to look for them.

    The wisdom found inside of paradoxical theories can feel like the most perfectly yoked marriage between rationale and a dream.

Go Out There and Give a F*ck

images

“This so-called ‘F*ck-it Bucket’.
How does this work and where would I find one that isn’t defective?”

-Asking for a friend.

I used to believe that I was a proud owner of one of these buckets.

Back when I lived my life as a girl with emotional capacity comparable to an armored tank.

Present day me: Not a huge believer in the so-called “F*ck-it bucket.” And holy hell it isn’t because I don’t think it a useful idea. Of course there are some things that I’d love to chuck in a f*ck-it bucket.

But after many unfortunate years of trying to forge a normal relationship with my f*ck-it bucket, we have amicably parted ways. Here’s why:

I have come to believe that this mindset was one (of many) components that fed my perpetual cycle of addiction. 

1. I couldn’t operate “f*ck-it” responsibly.
Surprise. As-per my usual, I cannot half-do anything. I could not ever just simply toss a few things in here and there. No, no, no. My brain would have me believe that in order for my bucket to matter, to really exist, I’d have to dump ALL of my f*cks into the bucket. Why else would I even use such a thing? Throwing things into this bucket would seem fun, easier, and useful at first. Give me a week and I could show you how to make this bucket idea into a mentality, and then a full-blown lifestyle choice. It’s what I do.
Go big or go home.

2. It gave me a false sense of control over my emotions.
For me, a “f*ck-it” became another destructive tool I kept in the top shelf of my took-kit. F*ck you, f*ck him, f*ck her, f*ck it all, really. I could take it or leave it, no matter what “it” was. I associated this with being strong, and pretending that I was strong complimented my false sense of control. It made me feel secure, like I had my shit together, when in fact, none of my shit was together.

3. It encouraged my ego.
Ego is the opposite of authenticity. I felt like such a badass when I didn’t give a f*ck. When I denied myself connection I felt empowered, yet woven into the fabric of my being I had a heart that cared. I felt deeply. I actually gave a lot of f*cks about everything. I screamed to be noticed, but walked around giving the impression that I liked being unattached. Unbeknownst to me, I am empathic. Essentially, I was suppressing the most natural part of who I am. As I fed my ego, I denied my true self the chance to feel and to live and to be seen. Living in a constant state of ambivalence was exhausting.

4. It aided and abetted my chronic need to isolate.
Nothing annoyed me more than hearing what I should have been doing instead of what I was actually doing. So, I walked around like I didn’t give a f*ck. I treated people like I couldn’t have cared less if they were in my life, out of my life, either way, I didn’t give a f*ck. This made it so much easier for me to live my life on my own, without having to hear lectures, well-intentioned advice, or having to endure too many misguided guilt trips that were intended for good. I wanted to be alone, and throwing everything into a f*ck-it bucket really helped people to see and to feel that they weren’t wanted or needed.

I know that I took this to an extreme level. To me, saying “f*ck-it” means something. To me, this means that in order for it to belong in that bucket, there is no connection, care, or after-thought. It is cut and dry, and then left alone. I think that if you are capable of throwing trivial life things there, more power to you.

But if you’re anything like me, and aren’t willing to gamble, just create more buckets. I can appreciate the idea behind and usage of the bucket. It holds things in place and keeps it contained and separate from the other things. Totally useful, and personally, I prefer things to be more analyzed scrutinized –organized. I like the idea of having a plethora of buckets available. I might toss this or that into one of these, or something similar:

The ‘when to let go’ bucket
The ‘come back to it later’ bucket
The ‘take your time and evaluate the things that are in my control’ bucket
The ‘things that I cannot control’ bucket
The ‘I have chosen to forgive’ bucket
The ‘things that I am sure of’ bucket
The ‘remind yourself that you are healed, forgiven, and not your past’ bucket
The ‘things I am still processing’ bucket

Whatever. You can name them what you need.

The truth is that I care too deeply and feel too immensely in general to utilize a f*ck-it bucket correctly.

The truth is, I am more empowered and badass these days, simply by recognizing that I am feeling being. I know that I care and feel deeply. People matter to me. My feelings get hurt, sometimes so much so that my heart aches. Relationships end. Things change. I see and feel who I am and have learned to honor what her, the person God created me to be.

And actually, it feels great to have a lot of f*cks left to give.

So go out there, and give a f*ck.

“Being sober, and being off drugs,it’s a strange feeling. And I get real scared when I’m out here sometimes. I get real nervous about it. I wanna fuckin’ run! You know, I look out there, I say, “SHIT! IT’S SCARY!” But I say, “Fuck it. Go through it. Just feel the experience. Just fuck it.” ‘Cause if I had some drugs and shit now, I wouldn’t give a fuck. I’d come off stage, and I still wouldn’t give a fuck. Then, by the time you’re fifty, after a lot of not giving a fuck, you miss part of your life. They’ll say, What happened to your life? “I didn’t give a fuck.” -Richard Pryor

Why To Consider Ending a Friendship

I wouldn’t say that forming new friendships post-sobriety has been easy, but the ones that I have developed are the most rich I have ever experienced.

Recovery has proven over and over again to offer a multitude of exceptional promises, ironically these promises are delivered only after we let go of the assumptions, the control and the worn-out ideologies that we have convinced ourselves are imperative to our survival, (despite them being the very things that were killing us).

The promises deliver gifts to our lives that we weren’t even aware we needed and fill voids we didn’t know existed.

The same has been true for me in the area of connection, vulnerability, and specifically: friendship.

I have made a lot of progress. Stepping out of my comfort zone and allowing my messy, reconstructed-self to be seen, heard, and embraced has gotten easier. I show up without masks, as-is, and wide-open.

By allowing my imperfections and eccentricities to live on the surface I have inadvertently invited the right people into my life.  “Don’t change so people will like you, be yourself, and the right people will love the real you,” is one of my favorite anonymous quotes that I think sums it up nicely.

It’s a really scary idea to let yourself be seen and heard in all of your disorganized, blemished glory. It is also just as difficult to allow people to fall away if they don’t like what they see.

But it is usually always what is best for everyone involved if it happens organically.When people aren’t a part of your next chapter, or you theirs, it is not necessarily always the result of fault of either party.

Last month I had to come face to face with the fact that a nine-year friendship had probably run its course. Actually, I am positive that it has.

It still feels fresh and sort of odd to talk about, but on the other hand honoring and recognizing truth, no matter how difficult or weird, always feels insanely euphoric to me.
And I like euphoria. It is a deep breath of fresh air that to me, and it compounds a sense of freedom even in the midst of pain or a tough transition. It’s a complicated and beautiful space.

It’s okay to have bumps in a friendship, even necessary and expected. Friendships among humans are going to messy. We all have our faults and what friends do, is we accept these things and we love our friends hard anyway.

But what happens if you start to see red-flags? What do we do when red-flags transition into indicators that it’s time to break-up with a friend? I tend to gauge things on a “healthy” or “unhealthy” scale. If anything becomes too toxic, and unequivocally tips the scale over on its side, it’s time for it to go. It’s time for me to move on.

With this particular friendship the red flags began sprouting here and there. I began to take notice of the massive amounts of gossip happening. 

Not just the small stuff, but about the important, personal, confident stuff. And the more she talked about other people’s marriages, their life choices, husband’s, behavior, and even their personal financial decisions, and as I listened intently to her harsh critique’s, assessments and inventories I started to realize that I was also probably subject to this kind of peer review too. That “Oh my gosh she probably shares my personal stuff too,” realization. I began to second guess the things I had already shared with her in confidence about my marriage, our struggles, and even the battle that I was going through with my mental health.

There was also a consistent and very blatant insensitivity to my feelings.

I am not highly sensitive, as much as I am empathetic and aware. I think there is a difference. For a long time I looked past the differences and distinct stances in completely different corners in the realm of politics, social justice, and other topics that are usually considered controversial, that this friend and I had, and I always appreciated hearing an open and honest viewpoint from ‘the other side’. I really did.

But I began to notice that we had several disagreements that seemed to feel personal and more serious. It felt like she would use unnecessary digs to win an argument that I thought was a discussion, no matter what the cost. Other times it manifested into her sharing something hurtful with me, and it felt like it was being done for no other reason than to get a reaction. And just like that it would be over, there would be a subject change, and we would move on like nothing ever happened. I would hang up the phone or drive away from the restaurant we had eaten at feeling angry and confused with a “What just happened?” sort of feeling.

I remember one particularly intense phone conversation that began simple enough, and somehow we began talking about the allegations and disgusting truths that had surfaced of Josh Duggar’s sexual abuse. I can remember her distinctly saying “It’s bullshit!, kids will be kids.” “Young boys are curious by nature,” she said. “It happens all of the time, people need to get over it.”

For obvious reasons I was appalled, but even more so personally. She knew that I would react to her comments, and she knew that I had been molested at a young age by a person much older than myself, but who was technically a minor.

He could have been curious too.

Regardless, she knew I would react and that I would never even consider agreeing that a teenager violating your body (whether you forgive them or not as the Duggar sisters claim that they do) is okay, and most definitely not normal ‘curiosity’.

To this day, years later, I still don’t understand her lack of compassion for me as her friend. I also cannot fathom what positive motives were behind a need to specifically negate any responsibility to the ‘curious teen boy’.

Another time during a face to face dinner, (also the most recent) I asked her why she had gone so long without calling me, only to call me out of the blue to list off juicy information about my family that I wasn’t privy to (because we are a mostly estranged family).

Her response floored me.

Her motives were pure, I was assured. Despite what it looked like or felt like to me or how quickly the gossip was delivered, she did not realize how much it would hurt me knowing that I had been left out of important family health-related news. She didn’t know that telling me that my sister had gotten married might not be something to spring on me in the way that she chose to. She had no idea that it was going to be rough for me to hear. She had no idea that I would silently begin to cry in my car, realizing that I had missed a major milestone in my sister’s life, and there was a possibility that my grandma was very sick.

As for not calling me for so long, she reminded me that I had in fact, mentioned that I was really struggling with postpartum depression after having Max, and she really just thought that I was probably maybe still battling depression. She didn’t know.

It was just so hit and miss with me, and also, she really just never knew “what or who to expect anymore” when we talked.

In hindsight, she was right.That’s fair. I was battling with some fierce postpartum. I had a lot of support and I made it through, thank God.

And yep, I still battle with depression and it is hard. It’s really hard sometimes.
I am thankful for the people in my corner who cheer me on and love me through the harder days and darker times.

Also yep. She is spot on. I pulled away from her and she really probably didn’t know who or what to expect from me.

Between my lack of trust toward her prompting me to take a few steps back from any deep or personal content, and also that pesky depression, fuck. Truth be told I probably didn’t even know what or who to expect from myself some days.

It was just time, you guys.
Time to close this chapter.

Admittedly, I am not the best or some kind of hybrid, classic representative of what an ‘ideal’ friend should look like. I am just not.

I am not consistent and maybe, probably, or even likely, I am a bitch sometimes.

I also suck at returning phone calls, although I do well to answer texts. I hate to shop in groups and I don’t drink. I am slow to trust, and even slower to open up.

But recovery has shown me a few things about what I am.

I am more of a long-talker kind of friend. I want to walk and talk. I want to know how you are and who you are and where you are. I want to know how you are feeling and what is going on in your world. If you are sick, I do care. If you need a ride, call me I will come and get you. If you need a hand to hold, hold mine. I eat with you, drink coffee with you, laugh with you, cry with you, and you can be just as messy and blemished as I am without worrying. I don’t expect perfection from my friends and I don’t keep a creepy scorecard on my nightstand.

I am a person who has worked hard to accept that not only is it okay to respect and love myself enough to not exemplify doormat qualities, it is healthy. I am a person who knows that toxicity has a real effect on my psyche and how I feel. I am a woman who has opinions, I am a person who can only honor God, by cutting out crap that doesn’t do me any good, because in turn, I can’t do Him any good if I am entrenched in negativity.

So if you, like me, happen to be brand-spanking new to friendship sabbaticals or friendship break-ups, I think certain things are important to remember. Here are a few things to consider:

*Keep it clean.
Don’t share names or deets on social media.

*Take some time to grieve.
This was a real, meaningful relationship.
Recognize that it hurts to face an ending.

*Don’t play games.
Stifle any urges that you have to lash out or play the blame game or attack that friend. It is just what it is at this point. Things weren’t working for you, and chances are, she might feel the same. Cool.

*Remember you.
This does not have to be about them or what they did or said or didn’t do. This is about you, what you need, and what you tolerate. Your needs, not their shortcomings.

*This is not about being sad or angry or regretful that something is changing or ending.
Realize that this is about making room for productive, positive, healthy relationships in your life, and maybe even hers as well.

*For me I want to serve God, honor who He made me to be, and bring glory to Him.
I can’t do any of that if I am enmeshed in toxic, unhealthy, situations that are only making me question myself, question who I am, second guess everything, and over analyze. I operate and function at my best when things are chill and calm and uneventful. Learn to let go of what doesn’t need to be held anymore. Let go of what drains you.

Note: Still not sure about this part of it yet. This has been a lot to process thus far and from here, I will navigate the ‘how-to’ part of ending a friendship.

Perfectionism In Disguise

After I finished the last chapter of the first draft of my book, Tales of a Trauma Queen-Saved By Grace, I sat back in my chair and thought, “God my life used to suck.”

I say that knowing how much better this thing has become. I say that, having an understanding of the significance of developing wisdom, resilience, and coming through extremely crappy (mostly self-inflicted) situations, a stronger, bolder, more-whole individual.

My childhood was actually pretty lousy and I know I had nothing to do with the level of the its lousiness.

However, the years where I became personally responsible for the decision-making, (believe it or not) were even more atrocious than my earlier years. My parents didn’t intentionally destroy my sense of self. But I took unraveling what was left of myself to advanced levels of destruction.

As a child I was angry. I can’t really recall having other emotions. I was already sick and tired of being sick and tired from never quite fitting anywhere, from jumping through hoops, always having to quiet myself, having to hide behind masks, and the countless failed attempts at silently blend inside boxes that gave people the idea that I was ‘good’ and ‘normal.’

As a teen I squandered my young adult years stumbling around from job to job, from abusive relationships to toxic relationships, from one-night-stands to friends with benefits, from drinking liquor at 8 am to wake myself up to eating pills all day to stay awake, searching for some elusive feeling I couldn’t name.

I ended up with nothing and still didn’t actually belong anywhere.

I had been searching for a specific sense of something in all of the wrong people, places, and things. Hindsight, in all its glory, has revealed the obvious: Subconsciously, I wanted to find a safe place to land. I wanted so badly to believe that I mattered. I longed to be seen. From childhood to my young adult years, one thing was consistent. I had always felt too ashamed of myself to reveal who I was, to lift my head, or to land long enough to allow any sort of authentic relationship building to evolve.

Instead, when I walked, I walked with my head down.

If genuinely pursued, I ran for cover to the comfort of my dark places, and I lived my life buried deep inside of a facade that never actually felt like it was my place to be.

I didn’t have any standards because I didn’t deserve to have a voice.

I let shame berate my spirit until it suffocated and was no longer.

It’s easy to make choices that don’t make sense to other people when you don’t make any sense to yourself.

Along this winding road that I call my recovery I have learned that addiction was a symptom of my trauma and shame. It represented the same desires I had always carried with me. Drugs hushed the need to belong. They made running feel right. They helped me to forget that I didn’t have any real connections. They helped me to cope with pain and the unknown feelings of discontent that I never fully understood.

I am only ten years old in the recovery world.

For me that means that I have only been sober for ten short years, (minus several Tylenol PM stints lost in dreamland).

And since addiction recovery has eaten up a large chunk of the decade, I have only scratched the surface of this trifecta of fuckery that I have uncovered. It includes my experiences with trauma, the coping mechanisms I developed because of them, and the after-effects I am left with.

One of the most recent revelations that I have been reading and learning about is that shame is really good at disguising itself in many forms.

That sneaky, underlying feeling of never being good enough has always followed me around.
And today, it lives on as a form of perfectionism. Perfectionism operates under the same shame-fed voice that used to fuel my need to escape. It is still a part of that dark part of my mind that tries to convince me that I am only acceptable when I am ‘good’ or that I am only worth being loved if I have all of the things checked off. I have also come to understand that it is a form of self-abuse, and is just another attempt to present an illusion to the world.

The other, bigger-part of this revelation is that like other aspects of shame based feelings, shedding light on them is the main goal. It is where my power is.

When I speak my truth and when I voice my feelings, shame disintegrates. It has no choice but to loosen its grip on my spirit.

I know for sure that I am a perfect storm of mess and great things, and I also know people love me anyway. Most importantly, I love and accept myself as the work in progress that I am and I believe that when my God says I am worthy and valuable, because of Him, I am.

So for now, take that, perfectionism.

 

Step One: Three Parts, One Intricately-Simple Proclamation


I like to buy different versions of step-workbooks, and I still occasionally study them and work through them. It helps me inventory and track how I am feeling by proposing the same questions in different formats. Sometimes it reveals questions that I didn’t know I had, other times it will reveal a hidden pothole I have overlooked, other times, it feels more like a review. But self-examination keeps me close to my authentic-self, and to truth… and these things are part of the personal tool-kit that keep me sober.

As I sit here after ten years of sobriety and only five years post trauma revelations, I still tend to feel pulled to speak directly to people in early recovery. I often write as if I am speaking to the newbie, the chronic relapser, the unsure, the skeptic, or to the timid.

It still amazed me to be reminded of how convoluted and sticky and challenging early sobriety is.
How strenuous it feels and how courageous a person has to be to walk into this fight voluntarily, without having any fight left. I vividly remember my own struggle and my own reluctance that stemmed from my fear of failing and a lack of confidence in my abilities.

 After we’re in the groove of recovery it can be so easy to forget how step-one alone is a taxing and monumental accomplishment.
Take a look:

“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction (alcohol, compulsive behaviors, pain, problems) and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

One small step, (except it is really a three component directive with three demanding assumptions).

*Part 1: We.
No biggie. You have been comfortably & miserably isolated for so long, but now you are asked to step into something called We.” Even American Ninja Warrior plans a course with gradual difficulty. Right out of the gate we are expected to challenge our inner loner. For most of us, (I know for myself), this was torturous and terrifying.

*Part 2: Admitted we were powerless.
We are admitting defeat. Despite being depleted of our sense of worth or self-decency, we tend to hide a slither of pride in allowing ourselves to think that we had some control of this thing. This part asks that we publicly, outwardly, and openly admit defeat and deny our old way of thinking, and that we stop trying to prove to the world that we are in control.

*Part 3: Admitting our lives have become unmanageable.
Shit, if we hadn’t already completely humbled ourselves, we are digging deeper here. Yes, we admit and accept our powerlessness. Now this is us saying that we cannot handle or fix this thing. We are admitting that we cannot band-aid it any more. We are revealing to the world a truth it already knows: Despite really, really, wanting to show the world that we are self-sufficient, we don’t actually have it all together.

I think it is safe to say that most of us courageously approach this step without the ability to fully comprehend the gifts that are coming our way as a result of our willingness.
“Willingness will result in Growth.” (Life Recovery Bible)

God is faithful and will always give everything we give to Him back to us, except when it lands back in our lap it will blow our mind, and it also won’t look the same.

*Part 1: When we step into “we”, we receive support, love, and guidance. We are introduced to the value that lies within a tight-knit community. The Life-Recovery Bible lists these things in its Twelve-Laws of Recovery, telling us that “Connection will result in love,” and “Surrender will result in victory.”

*Part 2: Admitting that we are powerless is the first step in acknowledging a false ego, pride problem. We can’t recover if we truly don’t believe that we are desperately failing through our self-empowered attempts to clean up our lives. The gifts returned for our admission of powerlessness as listed in the Twelve-Laws of Recovery, via the Life Recovery Bible, tell us that “Powerlessness will result in strength,” and “Humility will result in honor.”

*Part 3: We will quickly begin to see that admitting powerlessness isn’t a sign of weakness and it certainly does not make us a victim to our circumstances. This part helps us to clearly uncover how detrimental pride has become in our lives, and it helps us to embrace the idea of living as a human vessel filled with God’s power, shining for others to see the hope that we have found.

I have heard time and again regarding the Twelve-steps, that there are no quick-fixes when it comes to life or life recovery, specifically addiction recovery.
To that I say, “no shit?”
These are not twelve quick & easy to implement steps or twelve magical steps. They are twelve challenges packed full of layered and foreign elements that push against the grain of prideful, self-sufficient human nature.
And there are twelve of them.

It is a brave feat to attempt. Not only do we make the intentional, audacious, choice to give them a go, we do it in front of a group of people.

When I see or hear of someone celebrating a week of sobriety, six months, two-years, or ten, I get excited and I feel proud.

And it doesn’t matter whether a person purposefully practices a twelve-step format or not. I know and recognize their personal sacrifices, their bravery, and their accomplishments.

So if you are considering going all in just know that it will be worth it.

Everything that you give up, walk away from, or trade, will be returned ten-fold.

All that will be given away will be given back.

What God asks that you dig up or get rid of will be replaced.

Everything sown will reap miraculous results.

If you don’t feel seen or recognized, know that God sees what you are doing.

If you aren’t sure if you are brave enough, oh’ my word, know that you going to be okay if you take a chance on yourself.

If you feel like your accomplishments are too small or too little to matter, don’t believe those lies. Tiny steps are steps, and small victories are victories and you are going at your own pace, and that’s okay.

You are courageous for choosing to face your truth, and for being willing to allow God’s truth to challenge and change you.

Be a Wise Builder, Do Those Things


I wrote a semi-emotionally driven post about people, ego’s, and how the entitlement felt by some to feel compelled to condemn the recovery program’s followed by other’s that are different from their own, seems to run deep these days. Today I want to expand a little on this subject.

Yesterday I re-read the parable of The Wise and Foolish Builders Jesus talked about at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. (Found in the book of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 24:27).

Here’s what it says:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (NIV)

**************************************

We’re all familiar with the ‘great crash’ and I am also positive we all experienced some version of the storms that life has to offer.

The verses above, for Jesus followers, simply means that it isn’t enough to hear the words and teachings of Jesus, but that basically it is wise to build our lives on upon the essence of who God is. Our lives are built the rock. The God who is all-powerful and unchanging. When storms come our way, when the waters rise, when winds beat against us, we stand sometimes terrified, but still courageous. We might sway, but we won’t slide to the ground. We might fall, but we aren’t going to crash. Our lives are structurally sound and the strength we possess through Him will be revealed by the storms of life.

In a clinical sense, for people in the recovery world, this same idea is supposedly widely accepted and praised. It is a very simple idea: Do what works.
It could be some version of a tailored concoction of online or in-person meetings, out-patient or impatient rehab, prescription medications, patches, meditation, strength training, cardio, reading, writing, cooking, sewing, yoga, continued education, volunteering, painting or other creative en devours.

Ultimately, your cocktail is balanced and selected to best fit your life, your personality, your needs, and your recovery goals.

So, if you are growing, working, striving, thriving, learning, and maintaining your sobriety, and improving your overall mental health and wellness—-

DO THOSE THINGS.

Are these the things that ensure you that you will stay sober, that you continue to grow, that you stay committed to being healthy, that provide you with confidence that your house is a home that will remain standing after a storm?

Yes?

DO THOSE THINGS.

Have you updated your goals according to your progress, your program according to your needs and abilities, your self-care checklist and regimens according to your personal development, and are you still seeing gradual improvement and momentum in whatever you call or consider your ‘program’?

DO THOSE THINGS.

That is all.

Learning To Pursue Growth Instead of Taking Short-Cuts

I was terrible with early recovery.

Had my sponsor, my support people, or God, been rigid or judgmental they would have given up on me within my the first few weeks.

I can’t tell you that I tried out meditation, that I intently wrote in my journal regularly, or that I sat quietly for periods of time trying to seek a power greater than myself.

I did try to challenge my thinking one inconsistent loop at a time, I jotted down my erratic feelings and emotions when paper was within my reach, and I spent a lot of time making deals with God.

Still drowning in self-righteous pity, what I actually spent the better part of my first year sober doing was a lot of crying. A lot of snotty, sobby, mourning ensued as I tried to ride the influx of mood swings that came in waves more erratic than my urges to pick up a drink or a bag or bottle of something.

I worried, sometimes even more than I let the tears fall. A lot of time was spent talking myself back from the ledge of my own doubt and fear several times on a given day.

In between I worked the steps, I did my homework, I read a lot of non-fiction true crime (every single one at our small local library), and chain-smoked cigarettes.

My early days were messy.
Really, really, messy.

And slow.
Very slow.

I can remember being in the thick of the muck and the mess and not being able to see clearly enough. I didn’t know which way I was going, and sometimes, I didn’t even know if I was making any real progress despite doing the ‘next right thing’ over and over and over and over again.

I often felt sad and alone, frustrated and defeated. I would second-guess whether or not I could keep going. Or if I should, especially if I was working so tirelessly, even if that only meant breathing some days, yet I felt like I wasn’t moving forward.

I wanted to see and to feel and to taste results.
I wanted to feel proud.
But most of all, I wanted it faster.
I wanted it now.

Maybe I was seeking incremental happiness.
It is the soft and cuddly to the touch and it’s the fleeting kind that you can’t quite get your hands or heart around. The second you touch it, it evaporates.

It is the kind I was most acquainted with.
Maybe I hadn’t realized exactly what was coming my way.

Unbeknownst to me, I was actually working toward being a person who pursued growth intentionally. I was trading brief bouts of this incremental happiness for something more rich, strong, and long-lasting. I was trading shaky, weak, and frail for something heavy, solid, and tenacious.

This morning my oldest boy and I did a micro-Bible conversation, sort of on-the-fly. (I really like to call them conversations, not studies).

As we got settled at the kitchen table the rain started pouring down and we could hear thunder in the distance. The room was darker than usual and still smelled like syrup from the healthy-no-organic, non-made from scratch box waffles I fed my kids earlier that morning.

We just sat and casually read through a few parables in the Gospel of Matthew. (One of my favorite parts of conversing with my teenager is hearing his voice. I always want to know how he is feeling, what parallels he is making, what does he take away form what we are reading, this, does he understand who Matthew was talking to, and did what Jesus was trying to get across resonate with him in any way personally).

Anyway, as we sat and talked, highlighters in-hand. He listened to me, I listened to him, and we took turns reading. We compared, contrasted, and discussed two passages of scripture.

Even though Jesus was speaking specifically on false teachers and how to recognize them, we discussed how Matthew 7:20 and Galatians 5:22 could be connected and plugged into our lives.

And I was reminded of my early recovery.

Impatient is an understatement if I were thinking of ways to describe my personality back then. Not only did I loathe having to feel things, I hated having to wait to feel good. It was painful. I had to wait as what I once knew my life to be, to fade away and become something unknown. I had no idea what was coming next and it felt like unbearable.

But behind the scenes, and amidst my restlessness, He was working.
His Grace bridged the gaps and filled the holes between my fear and my hope for some kind of future. Despite my hesitation to make baby steps in the right direction, He was still there.

Job 14:7-9 tells us this:  Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays  at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling.

I began this recovery journey as a rotted-out stump. Not the kind that you could trip over and scream an obscenity. More like the kind that you can accidentally run over with your lawn-mower and not really worry about your blades, because old, dead, rotted wood crumbles between your fingers.

I was a rotted stump who was also in a hurry, stalking my own mind, and pestering my creator as He began His work in me. As we worked I pressed on, annoyed and admittedly, skeptical.

Even still, behind the scenes my roots were taking hold deep within the ground.

Although I couldn’t see the process taking place, my life was beginning again.

I couldn’t see them yet, but I was being prepared to sprout new life.

I was in deeply lost in the process of learning to trade my demanding world-view, the right-now off-brand of happiness that never satisfied, not just for delayed gratification, but for a life-changing lesson on the importance of humbling of myself and not taking short-cuts.

Matthew 7:20 tells us: By their fruit, you will recognize them.  Galatians 5:22 goes on to tell us that The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus gave us an amazing picture to work with and to refer to. I know that even now I tend to rush things. I want to learn faster and to know more. I appreciate gaining wisdom and understanding and how I can be better.

These verses remind me that growth is a process.

If, like me, you started your journey as an old dead stump, it is going to take what can feel like an eternity to see the fruit of your labor. I expected to get sober and look out to see vast amounts of citrus waiting for my enjoyment.

But that isn’t how it all works.

It’s a long, winding, learning experience that is ours.

My roots took hold and are strong and solid.
My stump took its sweet time but has sprouted one branch at a time.
My tree is still a toddler, and is still learning and growing.
Occasionally an ice-storm will come along and put too much weight on my branches breaking a few here and there, but I know that God’s word says that is okay. I’ll be okay.
Sometimes my fruit is consistently forthcoming and other times it is bruised and hardly recognizable, but that doesn’t mean that I cut the tree down.

There’s always hope, always room for new things, and as long as we’re breathing and living here on this planet, there is always time and opportunity for regrowth.

So don’t give up, friends.

Early Recovery & Sober Mom Guilt

I had a birthday Saturday and I have to say turning 34 is just as cool as turning 33 was.

As far as I can tell, as each sober year comes and goes this life stuff is going to continue to get better and better. Apparently, another hidden perk of my recovery has gone unnoticed. I am aging with an expanding sense of wonder and excitement, even as the hair on my head is showing preliminary signs of making me a sliver fox before my fortieth birthday. But again, it’s all good. I’ll take it. I’ve earned it. Also, I sort of like silver.

My oldest son celebrated his birthday eleven days before mine. Each year as he starts to get excited, as he begins the countdown, I get so excited for him. I am enthusiastic about his plans, and  I listen intently to him as he describes his specific dessert recommendations.

When he was younger and I was in the throes of early recovery, I spent a lot of time trapped in my own self-made pool of guilt, imprisoned by embarrassment and shame.

I can remember wondering if I was good enough to be his mom.  I wondered if he would be resilient enough to bounce back from the kind of person I used to be. I didn’t really know if all of the effort I was pouring into him would even make a dent in the damage I felt I had done to his spirit. I also worried that he might hate me for making so many mistakes. He was only four when I began my quest to find my own place in the sobriety world.

I am not winning at adulting or parenting, that’s for sure. I also don’t claim to have it all together as a mom. I am no expert.  But I am currently winning the battle between me and the plague that is infamous mom guilt.

Looking back, I realize why I used to worry so much.

Being a mom is sort of a big job. It’s important. I knew that.

With sobriety being so new to me and having to feel my feelings being introduced into my life, I just wasn’t sure if I was strong enough.

What an intense thing, right?

Like, here’s this child. You love them more than your own life with every single fiber of your being. But, you may have completely screwed him up for life, but maybe not. You could have, but maybe not. We’ll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, just keep trying. Give it your all, every single day. One day, you will see the fruits of your labor, or maybe not. No one really knows.

I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and not just with sobriety or with my feelings. I didn’t know how to do much of anything. I felt like a twenty-something-year-old who had just recently been plopped onto this planet from a different realm. Everything felt foreign to me.

Being a mom felt as natural as breathing air to me. Loving my son, easy-peasy.
But believing and convincing myself that I was good enough to be a good mom? That was a different story. Trying to understand or wrap my head around the idea that I could build new memories and pave new ways with him? Not easy-peasy.

But as much as I worried, I read.
I learned how to cope my fears with prayer, my Bible, meetings, and phone calls to women who were much more wise, patient, and introspective than I was capable of being at that time. I learned something: Self-doubt can sabotage our brains. Shut it down with truth and remember, sometimes it will take someone speaking it to you in order for you to be able to see it.

With as much skepticism I was dealing with, I tried to be optimistic about the future.
Let’s face it. With uncertainty, also comes a blank space open for opportunity. When it came to whether or not I deserved to be a mom, or whether or not someone else could do it better, or if I could hack it, I committed to burying myself in God’s word anyway. No. I still didn’t know if I could do it, or if I was good enough, but I decided that I was going to be optimistic. I would continually ask God to show me. Show me something; anything I can use. Help me to believe that I matter and that I am capable. And He gave me answers. With him, I am strong and capable. Because I know Him, I know I am worthy and valued. Little by little, my shame was silenced with Truth. I learned something: Self-doubt is like a chameleon. It takes the form of whatever thought process you are in and it tries to eat it alive. Don’t let it.

As I continued to face negative consequences for my actions well into my sobriety, and as I took responsibility when I needed to for choices that I had made, I reminded myself that God builds new things.
He transforms. Renovation is sometimes necessary. Not just the changing of the old things, but ripping apart the old things and building brand new things. I was not just changing my life, I was changing the trajectory of my son’s life. We were building new things. Building takes time, and I did my best to remember to be patient through seasons where I lacked vision and understanding. I learned something: You can experience negative things and still, simultaneously have some really great things growing in your garden. It’s true. You always have to clean up the messes that you make, but it can only detract from the progress that you are making if you let it.

I know how hard sobriety can be on a mom’s heart.

We tend to easily believe that we are really bad mothers, rather than, we have made a lot of unhealthy choices, as mothers and that we’re forgiven. And then we go on to think that we aren’t capable of learning how to do things differently.

But we are. We can. You can.

And no, we can’t go back to change what has been done, or what never got done, or to make up for what has been lost. We don’t get to change the past, or erase their memories, or see the things we missed, to remember the things that are lost in our brains, or say that because it was forgiven it was right.

But remember.

Kids just need our consistency, our love, our attention, and for us to make them feel all of the things that we desire most too. To feel noticed, to feel important, to feel connected, to know they are valued, that they are worthy, and are irreplaceable.

Also: they probably don’t have a list of our mistakes under their mattress. They just want us. The best gift that we can give to our kiddos is showing them the power of God in our lives, through the way that we love and lead and live. The rest will fall into place.

For me it feels like I blinked and my sweet four-year-old who I thought I had hurt too deeply for him to go on and lead anything that resembles a ‘normie’ life recently turned fifteen.

He is very much a well-adjusted, sweet, thoughtful, smart, mouthy, fifteen-year-old whom I trust and am in awe of. I have to say, he blows my fifteen-year-old self out of the water when it comes to his level of personal responsibly, understanding of the importance of accountability, self-awareness, and personal goal setting. I shouldn’t forget to add that he loves me and we have built an incredible relationship.

We are still pressing on, and I have no idea how this will all end up playing out. I really don’t. I know we have not crossed into adulthood and the future is unknown, but I do know that I have learned to trust God through this, and to enjoy the process. And the future is shiny and bright.

I want other mommies out there who might be struggling to believe that things can and do and will get better. Little by little it does. It really does. Also, you CAN do this.

Don’t Let The Ego Take Over

For a growing number of people in our society sober living isn’t only for people who have already developed a dependence or a Substance Use Disorder. It is common for people choose to cut alcohol out of their lives altogether but they don’t have to, they want to.

They are living sober, but they don’t consider themselves to be ‘addicts’ and they aren’t quitting because they are stuck in what feels like is eternal hell-fire, flirting with their death. Many feel some of the negative effects of alcohol or have been grazed by its horns and have decided it might be time to let it go for good.

Here are some of the typical explanations you might hear from people who fall into this particular category:

They might be…..
fed up with face and stomach bloat
tired of battling unwanted and necessary weight gain
slightly discontented with the face puffiness associated with ingesting toxins
aiming to set a different example for their children or loved ones
having health or medical concerns or complications
sick and tired of the misery connected to experiencing recurring headaches or hangovers
annoyed and completely done playing the societal acceptance game or having to endure the pressures within their social or processional circles
or maybe, they’re just simply not feeling their best or like they are operating at one-hundred-percent

These people have sobriety stories, and they are important and worthy of telling and sharing.
Just because they didn’t hit rock bottom, lose their homes, custody of their children, all of their possessions, everyone’s respect, or their jobs, doesn’t make their stories irrelevant in the recovery world.
And we all know too well that any kind of lifestyle change is uncomfortable on some level and doing any kind of personal, internal renovation isn’t a walk in the park either. So props (don’t hate on my nineties vocabulary) to the people who fall into this category. Positive change is always worth the risk, but it’s never easy.

*********************

Then you have other sub-categories of sober living. In the category I belong to, we are also people in recovery. We are also living sober lives, and like the group above, we also chose our recovery. We wanted to change our lifestyle, and we desired to live healthier lives as better versions of ourselves.

But we are people who (for one environmental, physical, biological, or emotional combination or another) did develop something more lethal and toxic than an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. We cut it out of our lives because that choice was a choice between living or dying drunk.

Here are some of the explanations you might hear from a person in recovery from a life and death relationship with alcohol:

They might be…
Terrified. Their health has deteriorated rapidly and doctors have given them warnings.
Exhausted. Body trembling, blood vomiting, head pounding, heart throbbing, tired.
Ashamed and embarrassed
Feeling hopeless and empty
Stripped of everything that once meant something to them
Ostracized from friends, family, and any real connection or meaningful relationships
Homeless
Spiritually bankrupt
+in addition to the list of the first group

********************

So let’s cut the bullshit already.

We’re all adults here. This isn’t a lunch table. Maybe this is the perfect time to say, “what works for some might not work for others”.

Blah blah blah. We all say that (ALL of the time), and everyone loves to see and hear themselves quoting it, but that doesn’t seem to be how we actually treat one another.

Clearly there is much to be defined and clarified and learned. Here is a tiny teeny bit of clarification from my perspective.

First:
Let’s talk 12-steps. The twelve-steps aren’t for everyone, but they have worked for thousands and thousands of people who are alive and well because of them today. No. Not everyone needs them or agrees that they are ‘still relevant’ or understands them, but for people like me (and countless others), I thank GOD they exist. I am glad they were there when I needed them to help guide me through the days of my early recovery where every second felt like hell on earth, and I am still just as excited that they exist, as they are still active and living in my daily life today ten years later. While they are now also compounded with reading books, reading blogs, following Jesus, drowning in writing, lifting weights, and embracing my life- I would still love it if people would just back the fuck off of my twelve-steps. They work for those who want to work them and at the end of the day, that is all that is relevant. People’s opinions, columns, reviews, blurbs, or egocentric internet comments cannot take away the power they hold for the people who want to work them.

Second: 
Sobriety is a broad term and it is important to remember that there are a number of important differences between the two groups of people I described above. HUGE distinctions; dozens of intricate, woven, complex, contrasts.
*It’s important to note: NONE of which make one group better or less than the other.
But what these differences DO mean?
Different starting points. That matters. Differing needs, motives, recovery approaches and processes. What that all looks like, what works, what may not, what seems appealing or appetizing, and what doesn’t. All of it. Not the same. Like not even in the same hemisphere.

The one thing that both groups and everyone in all of the other sub-categories found within the sober living community is this: we all want to experience our life. We have all chosen change. We all want to try. We are all willing to learn and to work. This mostly means that we want to live healthy, full, rich, present lives.

I am not sure any of that includes undignified bashing of the experiences of other people, most of whom we don’t even personally know. I cannot simply declare that yoga and a vegan diet didn’t help Sally in and through her recovery, just like Sally cannot tell me that Jesus and the twelve-steps didn’t save my life. Suzy wouldn’t be able to convince Jimmy who is throwing up blood and experiencing trimmers, that he should just skip medical detox and head straight to AA, and Jimmy’s ego shouldn’t ever tell Suzy that she’s delusional for believing that a life coach and some magic tea will save her ass next time she walks past a bar. It might.

So this is me, vowing to self-reflect any time I feel an urge to gouge Sally’s eyes out, shove my recovery program down Jimmy’s throat. I am going to try to do my best to remind people who this thing is all about excavation. It is a personal journey and a very personal process that we have been given the opportunity to do together. We’re all uncovering who we are, and learning to feel confident in our new skin.

We can all benefit from humbly taking a few giant steps back. Whether or not you belong or have ever been a part of a twelve-step program, you probably know that the first step is admitting- and it’s time to remind ourselves that we don’t actually have the answers for everyone else and our opinions don’t speak truth into existence for others.

With that, I would like to congratulate every single human who is reading this who has taken the brave step toward a better, different, or healthier life. Change is really, really, hard. Sobriety is hard. And believe it or not, despite the feeling that we’re in the battle of the recovery blogs, the lifestyle coaching, the recovery coaching, the peer coaching, the exercise gurus, the fit living, the clean eating, the meeting goers, the meeting bashers, the twelve-steppers, the religious, the more spiritual, the cliques, the people in the cliques who don’t believe in cliques, the top 10 whatever lists, the quiet recover-ers, the out-loud recover-ers…………

We really are ALL in this thing together. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are doing it wrong based solely on the fact that you aren’t doing it like they are.

When They Ask Why You Don’t Drink, Answer Them

If you could be internet famous for over-complicating possible various social and situational outcomes, then I guess I would be famous. Probably. And probably along with a lot of you. I know I am not the only person who deserves a whole sheet of gold stars for being over-analytical.

Have you ever read a headline or title of a story or a post or an anonymous question that goes something like this: “How to respond to people or how to explain why you don’t drink?”

I cannot tell you how many articles and stories I have read surrounding this (non) issue.
What should we say to people when they ask?
Should we have a speech printed out in our lapel pocket like we’re at the Grammy’s?
What IS the right answer here and why do we all care so much?

This is just one of the many hot button issues that I have given way too much power. My early recovery years were definitely plagued with questions like, “What will they think?”, “Will they understand?”, “What if it changes how they see me?” and my brain would turn to mush as it flooded with self-doubt and sleep robbing antigens.

I am all-for utilizing any opportunity presented (in the right context with the right intentions) to pounce on the genuine interest or authentic curiosity of a friend or acquaintance who has a goal of gaining more understanding of me as a person, or of people who have struggled with a substance use disorder. I usually don’t ignore or shy away from an opportunity to educate, raise awareness, have a deep conversation, or chip away at the ole’ stigma we talk so much about.

But I also want to help you understand that it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks about our responses to the inquiries. There are not any right or wrong answers.

I used to field this line of questioning with having them,  (and only them) in mind. I would put them first. I overlooked the fact that I had choices. I disregarded how I felt, and what I needed. For so long I put their comfort first as I worried about their expectations and their assumptions or concrete ideologies, instead of thoughtfully considering what was good for me. Instead I made it complicated and messy and stressful on my heart and spirit.

Tonight I was sitting in Panera eating dinner with a friend. As we small-talked essential oils, seasonal depression, and gut wrenching anxieties, I casually mentioned to her that no, I don’t take psychoactive substances for anything.
(note: and if you happen to please know that I think that you are brave, amazing, and also it’s none of my business so don’t worry about me asking you to explain your decision).

Watch this:
Me: “I just don’t take prescription psychoactive substances.”
Her: “Oh, okay. Why not?”
Me: “I just don’t. I can’t. We don’t mix well.”
Her: (Blank stare) “So there’s this other oil I want to tell you about too…….”

Wa-la. There you have it. That is how it usually goes.

Listen. I get that when you have a white-collar job, or any job, you worry. Having doubts or feeling uneasy about what to say and how to say it is understandable, especially if can mean losing your job (which for the record, it shouldn’t).

And I understand. Sometimes not knowing how someone will react, or whether or not they are willing or able to understand us more can be terrifying.

But that cannot cause us lengthy periods of unnecessary stress or anxiety. Not anymore.

No longer should you worry or wonder or ponder or replay reaction outcomes in your head. We can’t. Not for our old friend, our new friend, our oldest friend, our family, loved ones, acquaintances, or that one Facebook friend who has a perfect life, or for the vast majority of people who think things like “wino-clock”, “it’s five o’clock somewhere”, “wine yoga”, and  “wine painting”, are cute and funny.

I cannot imagine going up to people in a restaurant bar to check and see why they are drinking, or bursting into a wine painting bridal shower and casually demanding that they tell me why they are drinking, or asking my friend to help me to understand why she is drinking. 

I don’t. I wouldn’t. It’s none of my business, and unless I could foresee an actual problem, I am just not an asshole who thinks I deserve to have answers to my burning questions about the personal decisions made by other adults, who are adulting.

So if you’re an over-thinker (like me) please know that when it comes to this issue, we need to answer for us, not them.

We tend to put too much pressure on ourselves to conform to ridiculous societal norms and expectations. 

I am not saying to avoid this topic altogether, or to disrespect the people who ask, or to throw water in faces, flip tables, flip people off, or scream fuck da’ police from your moving car.

I am just simply saying that you should speak up for yourself by forming a response that fits you. 

Speak for you, not to comfort them.

It is brilliant and liberating and freeing and amazing to confidently respond by revealing how much or how little you want. Reveal it all, reveal nothing, but most of all, just remember that it usually goes over much faster, smoother, and much less intense than we imagine it going.

And if people do reject you or distance themselves from you because of an answer or response that fits you, it’s probably for the best anyway.

How I Learned to Stop Living Crisis to Crisis


If I were re-writing and tailoring the first half of the classic Serenity Prayer to speak to my former-self and the way I lived my former-life, it would go something like this:

Brittany, c’mon already and grant yourself some strength, 

to desperately avoid the things you cannot change; 
courage to continuously hide from the things you could easily change if you tried; 
and enough energy to blame shift long enough to forget about your most recent self-created emergency.

Living one disaster at a time; 
enjoying one traumatic moment at a time; 
accepting your steady stream of conscious & subconscious crises, as the only pathway to continue feeding your tedious, tiresome existence; 

Naturally, addiction won’t allow you to have any peace of mind and definitively not any calm states of ‘being’ but long before my life became all about my drug abuse and eventual addiction, I was comfortable riding the waves with crisis-mode turned on. (Click here if you are interested in learning more specifically about developmental trauma and excessive attention seeking behavior).

I was the kind of young adult who grew to love seeking out toxicity. I actively pursued people, places, and things that weren’t good for me, and if I did have anything good within my grasp, I would begin the process to sabotage. If something became too messy or had expired and could possibly be let go, I would purposefully tighten my grip. Back then you could have found me crawling around in the dark earnestly seeking dry land, hoping to god I might catch my breath. I was slowly drowning myself with waves of mostly avoidable scenarios and calling it stress. I felt most comfortable living among rapid gains & losses with really high-highs, and what felt like the lowest, lows imaginable. My day-to-day life looked and felt like an unpredictable super-cell waiting to make landfall with about as much predictability that is offered to our modern day meteorologists. And in my life there never seemed to be enough time to recoup. No time for emergency clean-up before the next storm began to develop. Yet, in the midst of it all I never understood why I couldn’t get it together.

Often, crisis-seekers in recovery such as myself don’t actually have a cut and dry, easy-fix, kind of issue to deal with. More like a complex set of emotional and behavioral issues that need to be drawn out, sorted, and managed. But as it is with recovery from anything, we all know the first step to begin healing, solving, or managing any condition is to first acknowledge that you are negatively effected by it. That is what sobriety did for me. It gave me a long awaited opportunity to catch my breath.

So, while I don’t have any fool proof tricks, tips, or advice when it comes to finding the secret to finding balance in life and I won’t even pretend to think that I have all of the answers, I do know that living crisis to crisis isn’t healthy. I do know that it can be turned around.

Here are 4 things that helped me to change my life from living in a constant state of emergency, to living a full, messy, dysfunctional-on-a-normal-level, life:

 

  • I began to ask myself hard questions
    In the beginning of the undoing, I had to purge. I cleaned mental and physical house, so-to-speak. I got rid of excess toxic stuff. All of it. I cut ties, connections and phone cords. I created distance, boundaries, and rules. I had to prune and weed and make my garden a little less cluttered so that I could see what I was actually working with.
  •  I took the time to listen to the truth tellers
    You know who they are. They’re there and it’s likely, they always have been. Until now they have been snuffed out by unwillingness but the coolest thing about people who truly love and care about you, the ones who are actually interested in seeing you change and thrive, is that when you are ready, so are they. During my early recovery (and even now) I don’t seek wise counsel from myself. We only know what we know from our own perspectives at certain times in our lives. First, I go to the Lord. I seek out the advice or wisdom of women who walk with God. I get with people who don’t believe in ulterior motives or self-selling. These people are typically the most candid, straight-forward, advice givers especially when I need to be called out on my own crap, or if I am not sure if I am making the right decision.
  • I learned things but then I put them into practice
    So often I meet people who know things. They have all of the facts. They say the right things. They have the pamphlets memorized. They have stored information. I used to know a lot too. I learned that knowing isn’t enough. I have learned that you have to take intentional steps to get to where you want to go. The only way to actually replace a learned behavior and turn it into a staple in your life or a building block in your new character traits is to practice it. Use it. Plug that shit it. Do it. Be scared. Screw up. Do it again. Just keep trying. Keep doing it. It can’t become a part of your life if it’s not a part of your life.
  • I continued (and still do) to reassess my motives
    Why am I doing this? What do I want? Who am I doing it for?  Will this help or hurt?
    In my revised version of the Serenity Prayer, I tried to show you how I sought all of the wrong things in all of the wrong places. I sought advice. I wanted wisdom. I needed direction and strength but all directly from myself, the most depleted source I had at my disposal. My decisions needed to be made for the right reasons. I have to remember what I actively pursue matters. Am I seeking peace and calm as much as is in my control? It’s always good to start the decision-making process with truth.

I always (like a lot) say that contentment has by far been my most favorite perk of recovery. I am not sure I realized just how much my soul and my body and my mind and my spirit needed to find a landing-place. I don’t have to fight. I don’t have to run. I am finally okay with just being.

Deliveries, Deliverance, and The Trials of This Life


I heard drone delivery is being tested by Amazon. My mind immediately went to a future sky peppered with boxes or bags full of our wants and needs, and our sweet cargo dropping at our front doors. Not only will we have the option of shopping from the comfort and privacy of our own home, we will be able to have our purchases air-lifted faster, and without emitting toxins into our atmosphere right to our front door. Majestic.

Let’s not forget that in the 1950’s (and probably much earlier than that), people could actually have bottled milk, eggs, butter, or bread, from local dairies and creameries delivered to their porches. But back then deliveries were made by actual humans. As time passed, other methods became more convenient, cost-efficient, and practical, but to me, there is something so cool and special and awesome about the care one must invest to hand deliver milk and other dairy to the same people every week. I think it would have provided very personal, relationship and community building opportunities. So, minus the drone technology and speed, this was basically the same thing that Amazon is re-thinking, right?

The computer-animated movie Storks is another shiny example of my fascination with hand delivered cargoI have watched it several times with my kids. Somehow until today I had never cared enough to dig deeper into the stork/baby delivery story, but apparently, it’s an ancient myth/legend kind of thing. According to Wikipedia this myth was popularized by a 19th century story written by a man named Hans Christian Anderson. Regardless of the origin (that I still can’t seem to make myself care more about), babies, in my opinion, are the most special deliveries that have ever been or will be delivered. And at some point, some people somewhere thought this stork/baby stuff was fascinating and whimsical enough to pass down through the generations. I agree. In the make-believe realm of the front-door special delivery biz, the stork and baby concept is most definitely the OG.

For whatever reason the idea of having something delivered directly to our front door is something we all like whether it is an age-old legend like the storks, something simple like having fresh dairy hand delivered to our doors, or getting an Amazon delivery notification.

Maybe the storks remind us to imagine and to remember not to take life so seriously. Maybe the allure with Amazon is the convenience, or the lower cost on most products. Maybe the times of the milkman represent more interpersonal connection and less fear of strangers on our doorstep.

Or what if it’s all of that, and then some. What if it is also that we are all inherently different and unique, yet we all really like to feel like we matter, like our needs are being met, and we are consistently fulfilled, full, and most importantly free.

Most of us will all undoubtedly get to a place where we will require more substance and strength than any feel-good, ancient urban myth, small talk on our porch, or brown box with Amazon Prime tape stuck all over it can offer to our lives.

At some point, we’ll need deliverance. Some real, raw, deep, personal, please help me delivering.

God is in this business. He doesn’t always throw what we need or want on our front porches and He’s not so much a direct competitor of Amazon, dairy farmers, or storks, but He is The deliverer.

Always has been and he’s still in business.
As per-His-character, He’s a next level deliverer:

Psalm 107:6
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

Psalm 18:2:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

Psalm 34:17:
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Psalm 34:4
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

The good part is He makes it just as simple the 50’s and the days of the milkman. We just believe what He says and fix our gaze on Him.

The life-changing stuff is almost always hand-delivered privately. It will be placed in our lives in a way that can never be explained by mere logic and always arrives through conduits we aren’t expecting. Maybe not by drone or stork, but He makes it known, that He gets it and he’s right here.

Deliverance for us could be as simple as walking with us through our current mess, but knowing that we aren’t alone it. It could be providing us courage or strength. Maybe our deliverance will come in the form of a new willingness to offer forgiveness, or to let go of something,  a noticing our newly developed level of self-control, or having a desire to get up tomorrow morning.

He will use people, places, and things to draw us near to Him and He will call us out from under our strongholds and bondage. He will rescue us time and again from danger and affliction, (and if you’re anything like me), he will save you from yourself by reminding us that we have a direct line to him. 

He delivers gifts, and they’re completely free. He freely gives us access to His resources. They’re free. He opens up doors so that we might experience His freedom, and live or lives boldly, never forgetting what we have been delivered from, and who delivered us.

Living a Life of Evidence

Our actions will always produce a trail of evidence that reflect our inward status.
Always.

In school we learned that successful addiction treatment outcomes (and by successful I mean treatment plans that are put in place and any kind of forward moving progress is being made) are always marked by identifiable variations of measurable, outward change.

Of course it matters how you feel and what your deepest desires are, and what your motives and intentions might be.  But clinical progress is measured by evidence and evidence is tangible stuff you can taste, smell, see, or touch and keep track of on paper.

Regardless of who you are or where you have been or how slow you go, the inward changes that we are consciously making as regularly as we can will undoubtedly manifest and become something solid and huge and powerful in our lives. There will be no way you can miss them.

I try my best to carry this same method and message with other facets of my personal life. Not just in relation to drugs & alcohol, but in how I interact and treat other human beings. A lot of this recovery stuff, actually translates seamlessly into what is actually just regular everyday life stuff.

If I say that I want to be supportive of people who are struggling with a substance use disorder, or if I want to be a part of breaking through stigma associated with mental health issues, or that I want to love like Jesus and show the love and compassion that He showed people who society deemed and discarded as the ‘less thans’ or ‘damaged goods’ during His time here…

How do I get there?

If the cure to darkness is light, how can I help reflect The light to those around me?
If the key to despair is hope, how can I share hope?
If supporting people who are feeling burdened by shame means accepting them, how can I show them love?

If these are my desires and are a reflection of my values,feelings, priorities and goals, what does that actually mean?

What do these things look like within the context of MY life?

I am most definitely a fan of the all or nothing, the black and white and the doing and not just saying. Mostly because of my being a COA and possessing certain characteristics, evidenced by my perfectionist personality traits and a pressing need to have consistency and trust. I like to consider myself to be a do-er and not a talker. It’s safer.

So to me the only major difference between talking of wanting something or having a desire to be more of myself in certain ways, lies right in the depths of the doing..

Yet, even the perfectionist that lives in my bones knows that I won’t ever get all of these things ‘right’. Life in general is messy because of all of the humany qualities that are major stumbling blocks on anyone’s pathway to peace, or quest for illusive balance. There are always roadblocks when rolling out even the most thoughtful, well-intentioned life plans.

Hell, I know for sure and have accepted that these ducks of mine will never end up in a pretty row and will probably always show up late. My ducks are the neony, fluorescent type and will always be representative of the kind that toddler has tossed out of a bathtub across a bathroom somewhere.

But that is not going to stop me from trying every single day, to live out the answers that I have within my heart to these various questions.

Our everyday lives are basically just one huge reflection of our most coveted values, priorities and goals. And we do not have to lead perfect lives to live lives packed full of wall-to-wall evidence, and we don’t have to get all of the somethings right every time. There is no such thing as not qualifying for this kind of stuff.

So, here’s to living a life full of evidence.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16

 

Carrying The Message

The Dead Sea.
Not only the lowest place on planet earth, it’s one of those places where for years and years it has been given to. It has been continually fed fresh, lively, healthy things from other rivers and streams from the mountains in the area that make their way into this body of water. An over-abundance of good has been provided. But there are no exchanges. No cycling, and no natural flushing.
Nothing, but receiving. And because of that nothing lives in the Dead Sea.

If the Dead Sea were a person they might live a somewhat isolated, desolate, life with imbalanced relationships, never realizing that they were holding the key to unlocking their own joy all along.

I believe that I am the happiest that I have ever been in my life. This very season. My small, imperfect, messy, perfect for me life. I see that to love means to get off my ass and take action;  to move and to do, and to let others in. To show love and to share what I have learned. To invest. To allow myself to receive, but also, to be vigilant about my own level of giving freely. A revolving door of the giving and receiving of love.

Both the Bible and The Twelve Steps place specific emphasis on the importance and value of carrying important messages to other people. It is obvious that we aren’t supposed to tuck these life-changing messages in our hearts, without sharing them with other people:

  • The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) 
    You do not have to identify as an Evangelical in order to share what God has done in your life, or to point other people to Jesus. For Jesus followers, we can do in so many colorful ways and just as many simple and subtle ways. We are all really just a bunch of regular people, doing spectacular work through the Grace and Strength provided to us, through Jesus, to being glory to God. Sometimes fun, sometimes taxing, always soul-replenishing, consistently worth it, constantly rewarding, but always requires us to step into the unknown. It takes action on our part. We have to accept the challenges.
    I can’t imagine just sitting back and basking in the beauty of how God’s Grace has changed my life. He healed my broken-heart and he bound my wounds. But eventually I felt like I had to woman-up and rip the band-aid off. I had to break out of my comfy shell and share some of the love that has been poured into my life. I had to let the scars show the evidence of His healing. I had to uncover them all and share what has happened. It’s not a secret anymore. Keeping it covered would have only ignited an ego infection underneath my tightly wound bandages.
  • Carrying The Message.
    Celebrate Recovery Step #12:  Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
    Narcotics Anonymous Step #12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
    Alcoholics Anonymous Step #12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
    I can’t keep going back to the safety of some room, seeking that one comfy chair, in that familiar church basement that I have dubbed my own, to tell the same stories over and over to the same people.
    As we share hope with others who desperately need it, we increase our own faith in hope. When we invest in others, we deepen our relationship with ourselves, and with God at the same time. It is the weirdest most fulfilling process I have ever experienced, aside from watching my children grow, learn, and accomplish things.

Love always begs us get off our asses, doesn’t it? The Great Commission tells us to GO and step 12 tells us to CARRY.

And I don’t know about you but I don’t want to become a pool of oily, salty, stagnant, tucked away, love. I want to keep cycling, to keep it moving, to keep flushing, and to keep pouring into others. It is unhealthy for me and useless to God and His plans. At the very least, we need to be open and willing to move, whether it is to GO or to CARRY, if that is what we are supposed to do.

 

As a COA, Can I Honor My Parent?


Traditionally I write tributes to all of my surrogate “moms” for Mother’s Day, thanking the countless women who have impacted my life by sharing their stories, wisdom, tips, tricks, secrets, encouragement, and advice, helping me to fill in what has felt like an excessive amount of domestic and relational inadequacies. Or, I write about my gratitude for living as a sober & present mom to my own children.

 This year, Mother’s Day, 2017 is dedicated to my biological mom. 

I have been struggling with how to portray her in my upcoming, soon-to-be self-published book, Trauma Queen. As to be expected with any long-term goal, countless hours have been dedicated to this project so far.
Large portions of my writing time has been me, blankly staring, stuck in a rhythmical pattern of cognitive dissonance, torn between bursting to tell the whole truth and nothing but, and also not wanting to deliberately humiliate someone who is not well.

How can I honor someone who has elicited so much destruction?
How do I portray my truth honestly and honor my passion for truth-telling without crossing over into condescending story-telling?
How can I allow her the dignity that she deserves simply for being a human?
How do I describe her illnesses without contributing to stigma?

I began my search for answers by looking in the Bible. Honor, (as a noun) means to value a person highly. We are asked to honor specific people, and our parent’s are included in that group.
To value her highly I had to learn to respect her as a human being.

So what I have tried to do is embrace a mindset that seeks to honor her.

Not to erase what she has or hasn’t done. Not by ignoring the damaged that she has caused, or the births, baby showers, weddings, and birthday parties she has missed.

I have simply chosen to love. To love is to put someone else’s well-being on my radar screen. To love is to accept her for who she is.

For a long time I had nothing decent to say of her. Not playing a part in perpetuating social stigma wasn’t on my radar, and neither was treating her like a human being.
I habitually called her by her first name, and just so that she was absolutely sure she didn’t deserve my respect, I would laugh along with my brother, as we tried to think of as many synonyms for “crack whore” as we could.

After I got sober I began tackling my long list of amends and tallying up the destruction I had already begun to ignite in my own son’s life.
I started to see just how humany we all are as humans. God we’re all so fucked up; we are all learning as we go, and my mother was no exception.
Slowly, I began to develop empathy for her in what had been the coldest, darkest, empty parts of my heart that I had reserved for so many years before.

Because we are still estranged (in order to maintain my own mental stability, and my physical and emotional safety), the way that I honor my mother might not look or feel or be typical but there are still ways that I am trying to do live it out.

I began to learn to honor her the only way that I know how to honor anything else that I don’t fully understand: 

I starting digging.
I put pieces together.
I probed and sought and dove and asked questions until I felt sure I got close enough to the bottom to be able to propel myself back to the surface to catch my breath and reassess.
I learned and educated myself hoping to better understand the whole situation.

I believe that you can take any one thing that you feel a prejudice for, and you can dissect the whole thing until you understand your own heart that much more. It is my experience that the results will surprise you.

Learning about who she was has helped me to learn to honor her. I can separate my personal experiences with her from who she is as a person. By allowing her to break out of my box, it’s like I have set us both free.

Here’s an outline of what I have learned about her:

  • a young girl who had a mentally ill, undiagnosed biological father, and a step-father who was an abusive alcoholic
  • a rebellious, confused, pre-teen who was diagnosed with bi-polar
  • a brave fifteen-year-old pregnant girl, who considered adoption for so long, that she bonded with the adoptive parents
  • a sixteen-year-old new mother who decided that she couldn’t part with her brand-new, five-pound newborn, who walked to Sonic to work everyday to provide for her
  • an eighteen-year-old woman with two babies, trying to balance motherhood, a new crack-addiction, and mismanaged mental-illness
  • a twenty-three-year-old mom with three young children, the third who would pass away after three months
  • and a twenty-four year old who struggled with addiction, mental-illness and relationships, who became so distraught and grief-stricken and ultimately, emotionally paralyzed.

She lost the rest of the pieces of herself that had been holding her together after the death of her child, my youngest brother.

So as I continue to write, I continue to dust off my perceptions about her, hoping to help others see and feel what mental-illness does to a person. It is all very real, and it is certainly not a moral failing or a personal choice or any reason to degrade. Having a front row seat to an uncontrollable fading mind will provide you with more than enough evidence to draw certain conclusions.

I am doing my best to honor who she is in that way and am hoping to shed a light on some relevant truths about the struggles of having co-occurring disorders. I pray that if the book ever land in her hands, that she not slink down in shame, or feel overwhelmed with regret. And I hope that she knows that she has nothing to be ashamed of.

Yesterday at church I added a photo this photo of us to the slide-show. My mom doesn’t look like other mom’s. I secretly feared that people were going to judge me, or see me differently. I wondered what people would think when my photo slid across the screen.

But my anxieties and emotional investment exaggerated how awkward it would actually be for other people to see this photo. I sat smiling from ear to ear, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the silly & sweet family photos that popped up on the screen.

When ours  appeared, tears immediately welled up in my eyes.
It was huge.

It was a my proclamation.

Including her solidified my desire to honor her.
It was a fist bump, between my mother and I.
It was me saying “I see you, and I am not ashamed.”
She is part of my story and I am not hiding part of me to comfort parts of other people or to serve my own fears.

I just want thank her.

I know that she did the best that she could with the resources and knowledge and ability that she had. And I have learned that is truly all that any of us can do. And for the rest of it, there is Grace.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, Living ODAAT


Is it possible that living one-day-at-a-time was an approach designed for all of us to live out our best, most-balanced, most productive, healthiest lives?

Maybe it was never intended to only be a go-to prescription, custom-fit & dispersed only to those of us living lives in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Or only applied to the lives of people who are purposefully recouping from admitted inner-struggles with things like profound amounts of fear, worry, anxieties, and other more specific disorders.

I feel like it is reasonable to assume that we are all supposed to be grabbing life by the horns, in twenty-four-hour (or less) increments.

But what if you’re a person who has never even come close to being in the depths of a trench, or have never been stuck in a place where it is imperative to your survival that you acknowledge your areas of weakness?

And what if you are a person who is still somehow coasting along living your day-to-day life with your masks fully intact, and thus far you have somehow miraculously escaped having to quarrel with life on life’s terms, face down on hot pavement, begging God to save your life?

Even so, I still think that maybe all of us are supposed to be embracing the one-day-at-a-time mentality.

Not because we all need a program, but because we all struggle and experience hurt.

And also because life really doesn’t care whether we proclaim a membership to a certain group or club or program, it doesn’t matter whether we are willing to admit that we aren’t actually in control of everything or not, and none of this requires that we publicly acknowledge that we have too much to handle in order for it to feel like we might have accidentally been given too much to carry on any given day.

A few Sundays ago we took communion at church, which is not a regular thing for our non-denominational church. That morning, our pastor spent some time during his sermon drawing parallels between some of the important things Jesus said to his disciples, our need as humans for emotional & physical daily sustenance, and how this all relates to bread.

What began as simple note-taking during this particular sermon has developed into a few days of tiny epiphanies, and me over-thinking bread in general.

Throughout the Bible, the cooking, serving, offering and eating of bread always holds significance and has specific meaning. But for the purpose of this post, we’ll focus here:

  • Jesus told his followers,  “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) During Biblical times bread was important to every day life. It was expected at meals, was used to show reverence and respect for dinner guests, and as daily sustenance; a companion to feed large families daily meals.
  • Wikipedia tells the internet that “bread is considered a staple food, and throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture.” Bread has been a food companion and has held a prominent place in secular and religious culture for a long time.
  • The Serenity Prayer  suggests to us that Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; and accepting hardships is the pathway to peace.
  • The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer says:  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. For Jews back in the day, bread was a staple in their diet. Jesus wanted the people he was talking to, to understand that they needed Him, everyday, like they needed food. For survival; that He would provide to them everything that they needed to make it through any given day.
  • We are also reminded in Matthew 6:34:  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. To me that sort of sounds like a suggestion to live one-day-at-a-time.
  • Groups like AA share slogans among the rooms that encourage the ODAAT life approach: “One hour at a time.. One day at a time.. One step at a time”, and  “Wonderful things happen, one day at a time”.

Maybe we are created to live focused on the day at hand, relying on God to provide for us our needs for the specific day we are living.

He made it pretty clear and simple.
He is what we need and we need him every day.

He is our (low-carb, reduced calorie, whole grain, with zero artificial ingredient) miracle bread that we have been searching for. Except that his offer is completely free to us, and one-hundred-percent accessible, and within our reach in this lifetime. (Unlike our seemingly unending quest to find the most recent, relevant, most popular, usually fleeting, American ‘make me skinny and magazine like’ bread).

I’ll be honest.

Some days I am feeling like I am absolutely killin’ it, living one day at a time. Living my dream. Living in freedom. Living sober, but more importantly, living authentically. I know that it’s okay to acknowledge that.

But it is also important to affirm that on other days, I can feel like I am crawlin’ through the day-to-day, resisting the comparison trap in all realms of life, living one sippy-cup spill, one irrational toddler or teenager meltdown, or load of laundry at a time.

But either way – I have access to what I need and I know that I am just a messy human living my life. I can only live through exactly what I am living through at any given moment, and that’s okay. I have exactly what I need to do it and I am certain of the hope that I have.

So relax. Take time to appreciate and acknowledge gratitude for easier days and eat your daily bread. It can mean the difference between hopeless and hope-filled on the less than easy days.

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I’m Not An Alcoholic, But I Live Sober Anyway


Passover is one of the Shalosh Regalim, or Three Pilgrimage Festivals. On the eve of the first day of Passover each spring Jewish people around the world partake in a feast known as the Seder. The celebration is an opportunity for families to enjoy a meal while honoring Jewish prayers, history, and traditions. Each of the eight main foods served at the feast hold great symbolic significance.

This past Monday evening I had a cool opportunity to attend a Seder dinner. And yes, if you know me or have read anything here, normally I would politely pass and choose not to attend intimate gatherings such as these, due to crippling internal anxiety that plagues my brain and physical body any time I consider committing to attending any kind social event, but I am doing my best to overcome anything connected to my “normal”.

I have come to believe something: It is really important to my mental health and wellness to understand that I am a messy human, but a human nonetheless; created with a longing for connection and a for a sense of belonging. I know I belong, so that is a non-issue, but I have to remind myself that I need connection like I need oxygen. Isolation for me is  nothing but a self-destructive tactic that delivers nothing it promises, so pushing myself to walk circles outside of my concocted realm of comfort is essential to my well-being.

During this meal a group  of over twenty-five adults and children sat together around several rectangular folding tables in the middle of the hostess’ dimly lit living room. I nervously sat in my chair with my middle son sitting on my lap. I sat, eyes closed, clinching my son’s little hands as we listened to our pastor recite Jewish prayers in Hebrew, with English subtitles.

I was so excited to start eating (and not just because I hadn’t eaten dinner and it was after 7:30 pm), but because the apple concoction called charoset that sat on our plate looked particularly delicious.
(I also knew that the pastor’s wife brought it, who was sitting directly to my left, and she makes a mean Caesar salad so I knew it would be yummy).

As my son and I worked together to pack spoonfuls of charoset onto our piece of matzah that we broke into two pieces for our makeshift charoset sandwich step, I asked “What is in the charoset?” Through the thick of the background noise I only made out the “wine & chopped walnuts” part.

My son immediately set his matzah sandwich on our plate and I could feel his disappointment as he leaned his weight back into me. I quietly breathed a deep sigh of relief (and scolded myself that I hadn’t asked about ingredients before this meal began). Due to the most recent epi-pen injector recall, we were left without ours for a short window of time. Our pharmacy had informed us that due to the recall, our prescription would be on back order. This is never an ideal scenario when it comes to life threatening allergies, and in our case, a life-threatening nut allergy. So charoset containing walnuts would be a ‘no’ for my son.

I had about thirty short seconds to decide if I would pick up where my son left off on his matzah sandwich. It wasn’t until after my first big bite, that I realized that charoset is a cold dish and that maybe it wasn’t heated to a temperature that would allow wine used in the preparation to evaporate.
But I cleaned my plate anyway. I tasted the apples, the cinnamon, the walnut, the honey, and nutmeg, and it was absolutely delicious. If she were to have mentioned adding crushed Valium or sprinkles of Xanax in the ingredient list I would have had to made a different decision, because if not, I would most definitely be waiting for a bed to open up at the nearest facility and my life would expeditiously crumble to very small fragments.

As we wrapped up our evening by saying our good-bye’s and giving hugs, the woman who brought the charoset said “Whoa I smell alcohol” and leaned into the empty dish tucked under her arm that once contained the ooey-gooey goodness. So naturally, I had to lean in and take a deep breath too, and boy did it reek.

I may not think about my alcohol intolerance often, but all it takes is a whiff of whisky or wine to remind me that there is absolutely nothing lost in my life from my decision not to drink, despite not being an alcoholic.

I was a dependent pill-aholic and am a former, (quite crafty) escape-aholic, but never quite made it to alcoholic. Alcohol and I never bonded; it was never anything more to me than an enhancer, a filler, or temporary cheap substitute.

Yet still, somehow, my body is one-hundred-percent intolerant to its gaggy essence, causing me to feel physically ill and queasy the second it penetrates my nasal cavities.

But maybe every now and then  I need a reminder of how amazing the cold tiles used to feel on my body on the floor of my bathroom in my old apartment, after a night of puking up my insides.

Sobriety to me has become about truly enjoying my life as a sober person and not continuously pining away for an out, any kind of escape from the day-to-day, or having the false belief that everything is more enjoyable when I am drunk or some version of high.

So I decided a long time ago, that despite my not having “biblically sound” evidence to support my theory that this unexplained intolerance is likely just another undeserved gift from God and a result of Grace living, I am okay with the not really understanding it part.

It works for me.

Don’t You Dare Give Up

Maybe you are only an hour in.
Or a day. Or three months.

Maybe you hate what sobriety is feeling like right now.

You aren’t sure if it is for you.

Maybe you are trying to tell yourself that you can’t hack it, because you aren’t strong enough.

Early recovery can be hard.
Really, really hard, and most often in the beginning of changing your life entirely you will wrestle with nauseating amounts of skepticism.

Tonight, I am talking to you.

I can remember fighting within my own mind and feeling defeated having to constantly break up disputes between my heart, my head, and the shadows that seemed to lurk in every corner of my life adamantly reminding me of who I had become and all of the mistakes that I had made.

I know what it feels like to be utterly lost.
Having to feel the pressure and weight of the dissonance I was experiencing between my wanting a brand-new, rebuilt, different life, and also feeling like I had been robbed; stripped of an identity that fit nicely until it began to squeeze the life out of my eyes. I wanted to rid my body of this thing that tightened its powerful grip around the threshold my existence and at the very same time I had no idea how to live any other way.

I have raw fear.
I was a girl who ended up somewhere unfamiliar and frightening, left to wander around not knowing what to take and what to leave behind with questions looming in my mind like, “Who the fuck am I anyway? and “How did I end up here?”

I struggled with disconnect.
I knew my desires didn’t match my impulsive feelings, my habitual go-to’s and cravings didn’t match my true desires for my life and my future, and my overwhelming self-doubt didn’t match up with my dream of one day experiencing real & lasting inner peace.

I wasn’t any match for the anger and wound emotions that I would go through.
I clearly recall raging with anger, crying, and screaming as I did what I could to dig my heels in sobriety.

I didn’t know if I was doing enough of the new stuff.
I saturated my time with as much routine and new information and self-care remedies as I could manage to swallow, hoping that something would stick and I would start to feel as if feeling was a thing that I might actually get on board with.

I remember the struggle of fighting with exhaustion.
I had no idea how to fall asleep. I had zero knowledge of how to quiet or slow my racing thoughts. How would I ever overcome or manage my excruciating anxieties about what the next day might bring. What if it got even harder?

I experienced the agonizing uncertainty of knowing only that I knew nothing definitively.
Aside from being completely certain that I couldn’t go on as I had anymore, I had no idea if I would be able to figure out how to live as a sober person.

For me, there was a 100% chance that nothing was going to change if I wasn’t willing to stick with making any changes, and just for the record I was not good at sticking with things. Follow-through and I were not acquainted.

Drastic life-change takes some time to get used to and specifically regarding substance use disorders, it can FEEL like a lifetime of struggle, like years of planting before we can see any new harvest.

But the small changes that we make every day will begin to make a huge difference in no time.

So tonight, or tomorrow, this week, or this month, if you are feeling unsure of yourself, just keep pushing.

Please don’t believe the lie that you can’t do this, that you are simply too late, that you have fucked up too many things, or that redemption for you, your heart, your soul, your relationships, or your reputation, is not a viable option for you.

You don’t get to decide that.

Because God says that you matter.
You are loved. You are seen. You are important. You matter.

There is not one thing that you have done, said, broken, stolen, smoked, crashed, burned or neglected that can take away God’s grace that is freely offered to your story.

So please don’t give up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGYjKR69M6U

Shame.


Strong emotions connected to an all-to-familiar brand of deprecating shame were recently reignited within me. And this recent spike of shame also brought with it the kind of nasty, heavy, weight that prefers to bear down directly on top of my shoulders.

I tried to self-talk my way through and I also attempted to take and utilize some of my own advice. Despite my effort, I still began to feel overwhelmed with preoccupation; allowing doubt to barrel roll through my mind and circle back around again and again until my mind felt as if there wasn’t any room for rational thoughts to form.  It didn’t matter how many distractions or diversions presented themselves as alternatives throughout the day.

Reeling (and also out of realistic ideas) I chose a project from my to-do list after deciding that keeping myself busier than normal would be a productive way to combat feelings of shame, assuming it would do the trick.

So I spent several late nights this month painting the interior of our house. I would start painting past my boys bedtime ensuring that it would just be me, my crappy-yet-comfortable painting attire, a podcast of some kind, my roller, and a few brushes.
(Solid recoup recipe if I have ever heard one).

The week I chose to begin this project just so happened to be offering up beautiful, warmer-than-usual temperatures. The weather allowed for open windows as I painted and I would occasionally close my eyes, slowly breathe in the cool night air, and let myself take in the breeze sweeping through my house.

I listened to a dozen of Beth Moore’s audio messages from her app as I worked and took occasional breaks for deep breathing. Each message lasted for around twenty minutes. Many of those late nights I would start to laugh to myself as I thought about Beth Moore. Here she was preaching, with her gaze fixed upon a live crowd packed full of thousands of eager, teachable, women, yet somehow I still believed that she was speaking directly to me, and just for me.

This week-long project provided my spirit a much-needed introspective time-out. Physical labor doesn’t sound like an opportunity for restoration, and most wouldn’t categorize interior painting as R&R, somehow the quiet and calm that I experienced during these blocks of alone time provided me with a fresh perspective.

Ten years in recovery and what I truly needed most was to get back to the raw, natural, basics.
Nothing fancy.
Nothing habitual or ritualistic.
None of my usual, supplemental, go-to tools.
No special acronyms, no advice, no Dr. Google, no slogans, no music.
No vibes or light or fluffy stuff. No noise.

In the middle of a storm the most effective, fool-proof way out is to take refuge in the only one who can command the sky. He alone is my shelter. His word brings deep healing within my bones. I just needed to lather my whole spirit with His words, bathing in His truths about who I am.
I needed unadulterated, concentrated Jesus- served straight up. Or forget the chilled part, let’s just do Jesus, neat. (Preferably funneled or shotgunned -let’s even skip the cute glass.)

When I initially began painting I know that I went in feeling disappointed in myself. I felt physically weak and defeated, and was dragging close to the ground spiritually from having spent so much time feeling like it was necessary to continually quantify my current value as a human being on a old-scale.

I can’t, or won’t, tell you that I was somehow able to walk away from the firm grip of soul-wrenching shame without having ripped open old scars. Believe me. If these particular emotional scars were visible, I would have already bled out.

I will tell you that I was able to wrap up this project feeling hopeful and optimistic; that I walked away from this endeavor still fully aware that I will always be a woman who has a past littered with brash, negligent, defiling choices regarding sex, intimacy, and relationships with men- but am also moving forward feeling replenished, reminded of my purpose, and even more determined than ever to encourage other women to live their own truth.

I was also reminded that if the enemy cannot use our disbelief in God as a weapon, our disbelief of our value will be the next best target. If we are quick to believe that our past defines our purpose, and holds power over our vision, or that our worth or potential is rooted or dictated in or through anything other than the solid truth found in Jesus and His definition of who we are, we are vulnerable to believing the lies that tell us that nothing that we do or say or have to offer is useful.

Please hear me.
Listen.

Shame generates this feeling within us that tells us that we need to hide and we have to refuse to live in that space. Don’t believe for one second that a rough past means that you ‘deserve’ to be pushed aside, living quietly in a dark corner of the earth somewhere, or if you’re like me- somewhere perpetually beating yourself for decisions made when you were sick and not well.

I will not hide or allow myself to feel forced into hiding.

So, if you happen to be struggling with shame associated with your past, decide that you will walk forward with me as we take responsibility for our choices and stomp the whispers of shame into the ground with the truth that we are armed with about what kind of people we really are.

And then we will sit back and watch it all become smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirrors of our mind and less and less relevant in our present.

Struggling With Feelings of Inferiority & Shame

Maybe I am the only person who feels this way, or maybe, that is habitual isolation at its finest, trying to convince me that I must be the only person that this happens to. I am safe to assume my hunch, and that is, I am definitely not alone in this.

So you know you are doing well, there’s no question about that. You are healthy, your life is stable and mostly consistent. You are still making progress in your recovery, and hell. You’re sober. By all accounts, (and compared to your track record) you are winning at life.

But as time passes you begin to realize that you are not just in recovery from becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. You are in recovery with your why. With the how and most important, why you got to that place.

Now sometimes it can start to feel like you are just might probably in recovery from everything. You know that you are composed of blood, cells, skin, organ systems but also, cushioned layers and layers and layers of messy, overlapped, hidden, well-placed shit?

Is there even a group for this?
Does anyone know?

As an adult child of an addict, I am in recovery from childhood trauma. Things like experiencing abuse & neglect, being immersed in violence, inconsistencies, and mostly just having a front row seat to the life that drug-addiction offers. There was also a death in my immediate family before I was ten years old, divorce, and other unfortunate things that statistically meant that I was almost  a perfect candidate for some of my most favorite vices.

And trauma, has lots of fun after-effects. For me those are things that fall under the umbrella of codependency, struggles with vulnerability & interpersonal connections, several anxiety disorders, and boatloads of perfectionism and issues with control.

Want to be friends? 🙂

But wait. There’s even more. Imagine:
Each of those primary core-issues has a bratty little baby. These little baby sub-issues weasel their way into facets of your life such as: your parenting style, your personality type, your thinking style, and your interpersonal relationships.
These kinds of things also factor into your dysfunctional relationship with substance abuse and your likelihood of developing a toxic relationship with psychoactive substances.

It’s like this huge, fucked-up family word-picture all within the confines of my pretty little brain.
Welcome.

So last week I saw a person from the uglier part of my past at a sporting event. That was all it took. A glance in the wrong direction and one second of accidental eye contact and boom. I began my decent back to the dark corner that I felt like I deserved to belong in. Feelings of shame that I had long since admitted, confronted, and made peace with bubbled-up and reemerged.

This week as I processed the unexpected dose of my shameful past, I wrote about intimacy & that shame. I also began making this long list of things that I still need to work on, and all of the reasons why I should feel humiliated.

But I realized something. That is the process, the one right there. When I internalize and isolate myself into this head-space. This is how I get sucked back down. I have to use what I know and what I have learned. I can’t react the same old way to an old problem. I cannot let a wave of negative feelings and emotion negate and invalidate the progress that I have made in my life.

I was surprised at how quickly the lie that I am too messed up to love, or too complex, or way too different to relate to anyone, tried to monopolize on my slump, and move right back in. I could have easily initiated the process of ostracizing myself from connection, community and support,  pulling myself away from love and from the opportunity to be cared for and embraced by people who understand, and who know what I am feeling.

And alone, I am even more prone to believe that I might actually be unlovable, or that maybe I am actually doing this recovery thing wrong. That after all of these years of renovation, my character might be shiny and new, but my heart still can still feel raw, defected, and bruised.

After a few days of unsuccessfully internalizing how I was feeling I talked to my husband about it. I began to write about it, and I read God’s word. I sat and read much-needed reminders about redemption, and about Grace, Love, Forgiveness, and Imperfection.

This isn’t so much about hiding from or forgetting the things I have done or who I used to be. This is about using the new stuff and operating from my new space, from the things that I have built.

Part of believing God’s story that he has for me is choosing to believe his truth instead of the tired, worn-out lies that tell me that I am not good enough, that I am too messed up to fit anywhere, that I am not different that I was and that I am all alone and no one would understand.

This is about choosing to believe that I am renewed, restored, redeemed, rebuilt. Not just to distance myself from the deplorable decisions that I have made, or to run from the repercussions of those choices, but because I believe that I am strong enough to face those things with dignity and confidence.

So if you are anything like me and can relate to some of these feelings, please know. You aren’t alone.

There is nothing odd or weird about having things from the past pop up and try to act as road blocks in your path. I will remind you, as someone reminded me: you are to use those as stepping-stones, to move forward. They are only road blocks if you use them as such.

God’s got this. Forgiven means forgiven.
Redeemed means just that: Redeemed.

So rest a little bit easier knowing that the strong, fleeting feelings, or painful flashbacks, or very real triggers, or regretful memories, or other people’s opinions of you cannot take those gifts of Grace away from you.

And as Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

 

Trauma, Intimacy, & Sobriety

My sobriety. It is where healing in more than one area of my life began. Because of it, I have found the courage to uncover dark, buried, forgotten, and unknown hurt that ultimately lead to my drug problem, and eventual addiction.

But if you were to pour over the 200+ posts of mine here, you wouldn’t be able to find one specifically dedicated to my experience with childhood sexual abuse, my impulsive decisions as a young person in relation to sex and intimacy, or my struggle as an adult woman to embrace healthy sex experiences.

Connection, sex, and the subject of intimacy have been major front-runners in my self-renovation process and life-recovery. These are areas that have been under construction since day one, and although I have made significant progress, renovations are yet to be complete ten years later. It has taken me years for me to gain an understanding of my own struggles regarding sober sex, vulnerability, developing friendships, and the importance of allowing myself to truly connect within interpersonal relationships.

I have asked and answered questions like these:
Why have I struggled so hard with intimacy? (Vulnerability has never been not my friend)
Why didn’t I ever allow myself to connect with anyone? (For my own self-protection)
How was that related to my drug addiction? (Substances were the one place I let my guard down)
Did my fear of intimacy dictate my impulsive choices? (I welcomed superficial connections only)
Why didn’t I set my standards higher? (I was unable to see or gauge my own value)

Childhood trauma ignites unique feelings & mechanisms within the minds and bodies of small people. We learn to self-protect in ways that work. It feels like living in continuous rush of adrenaline, a feeling of panic, and always with grandiose expectations of we are certain is lurking around the corner. We are always prepared in anticipation of what might be next and we might not be able to pinpoint what to expect, but we are ready nonetheless.

Just to be extra-safe, I created additional safe-guards that I placed outside of my heart and walls were built around my mind. Maintaining control became my focus. I correlated control with comfort, and developed an uncanny ability to compartmentalize and compress.

Put simply, all of my focus placed on preparation & assurance of protection meant that I was out of reach. I lived my life on autopilot. I walked around without the ability or desire to absorb anything real or meaningful. No such thing as living in the moment. No one was allowed to get close. No one really knew me. My relationships and friendships were superficial at their very best. No one saw me anything other than what I was willing to reveal. No one effected me or my feelings in the slightest. Better safe, than ever vulnerable.

But it never mattered how many walls I built, or how much distance I put between myself and others, or how many guards protected my heart, there it was:

A deep desire to feel connect and to be loved.
A desire to feel necessary and important and valued.
A desire to be seen and needed.

Because of my past experiences and the systems that I put into place and practiced,  I couldn’t connect with anyone on an intimate level.

And yet, I still felt a pressing desire to be needed and wanted.

Without having the capacity to get close to anyone on an emotional level, yet feeling a need to be seen, loved, and important, I ended up trading it all. All of me.

I traded being valued, for being desired.
Intimate devotion, for empty sex.
Meaningful relationships, for incoherent physical encounters.
Uninhabited interpersonal connection, for restrained, calculated closeness.
Commitment, for trivial, temporary, frail, companions. 

It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable enough to share this stuff with other people. I still battle immense shame that stems from all that I traded so many years ago. Shame tends to remind me that I am bruised or damaged. It can feel almost as relentless as temptation, popping up in the most unexpected places, reminding me of who I used to be. I also still struggle with believing that I am safe within the confines of friendship, or other areas of life that require my vulnerability.

Despite knowing that I still have some work to do, what’s most important is that I am certain of my value. Regardless of the fact that I walk around with so many inconsistencies and areas that need improvement, I know & believe wholeheartedly that I am worth loving. I also know that my past choices and beliefs about who I was will not be given the power to define who I have grown into. And that is something that I am not willing to trade for anything.

 

PSA.

*It is progressive, it has gotten worse and you are utilizing it more and more as time goes by.
*It seems to be gaining strength and power over time.
*Maybe it began as an emotional or psychological (or egotistical) crutch.
*It may have been passed down previous generations and now it’s yours.
*Unless there is an intervention it will probably continue to spread.
*It has tainted the way that you see the world.
*It is starting to feel like everyone seems to thinks that you have a problem, except for you.
*It is consuming your thoughts and how you see people around you.
*It has changed every area of your life.
*You have a tough time getting along with most people.
*You feel defensive and angry if someone brings this issue to your attention.
*It feels like it has been ingrained in your personality, as if it is simply ‘who you are.’
*You continue living this way despite it negatively affecting your interpersonal relationships.
*You need more and more to assert your desired level for a feeling of control or power or security.
*Lastly, you continue despite having heard the facts, other people’s experiences, or other valuable information that could contribute to you making more informed, balanced, accurate, ethical, humane, healthy decisions.

The trail of damage that racism causes within families and throughout communities, has lasting effects on everyone, especially, the marginalized humans who are our brothers and sisters.

If you or someone who you know is suffering from the debilitating, suffocating, grip of racism please reach out. The first step to changing your current situation is admitting that you have a problem within your current one. You can be the one to change the trajectory of your family, for generations.

JFT Encouragement


I am in recovery from the after effects of childhood trauma. My experiences changed who I might have been and how I operated, navigated, and interacted through my life.

For years I grieved for that little girl who had opportunities ripped out from underneath her. Anger and sadness consumed me, and I secretly yearned to bring that person back to life. I chased her, and searched for her for years, to no avail.

It wasn’t until my twenties, when I entered addiction recovery something important. One of my biggest problems was holding onto all possible hypothetical ‘what-ifs’ and something that I might benefit from was an about-face. I needed to cut my losses.

So I lit a match, tossed it behind me, and walked the fuck away.
I even tried not to turn around to watch it all burn.

It was the best decision of my life.

This is where my healing began.
I learned that there really is an art to letting go.
All we’ve got is the here and now, and our investment into our legacy. It doesn’t mean that the past doesn’t matter or didn’t happen, but it sure isn’t going to have the power to hold us back anymore.

Today I am just a human, doing human things. Being more of myself than ever before, confidently. Even if that means that my hot mess is just less messy, and more socially acceptable than it used to be.

And I might still struggle with perfectionism, high levels of anxiety, seasonal depression, a slightly distorted self-image and an urge to isolate myself, but I never doubt my worth, I don’t question my purpose and I have never regretted walking away.  

So to you.
To the person digging out of a deep, dark place, or a tough spot.
If you are clinging to hope by a thread, or you feel like there is just too much to do, too much damage to repair, or too much dirt on your pretty face, please listen to me. I want you to know something.

I am just a person who once believed at her core, that she wasn’t going to get it together.
I am just a person who didn’t think that she would ever have a normal or a calm life or ever be good enough. I thought I would always be too far behind. But I am also just a person, who by the grace of God, dug herself out.

So if you let anything in this post soak into your heart, please let this soak in:
Gradually, things can and do get better.
You matter.
Your life matters.
There are people out here who understand, who are on your side.
You aren’t a throw away person or someone who is just simply too far gone.
You keep going.
Every single day you do your thing.
Learn about yourself.
Surround yourself with people who love you, who really support you and want to see you reach your goals.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough.
Don’t let self-doubt put you back into the corner.
Remind yourself that past mistakes don’t have the power to dictate your future if you don’t allow it.
Stay away from people who aren’t taking your changes seriously.

As you go on remember that healing and cleaning house TAKES TIME.
And that is okay.
There is not a set time frame for healing or making a life change.
It’s not a race, it’s not a competition, it is a transformation.
And transformation takes time.

Self-Care In Addiction Recovery

My addiction recovery was only supposed to help me learn how-to not eat pills for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I never went in expecting anything more than to learn how to abstain from drugs and alcohol. So I began to wonder why so much emphasis was being placed on self-care and self-love when I went to meetings.

I don’t think I realized that God would place the right people and the right material smack into my path who would commit their time to showing me not only how to stop, but they would be the ones to help me to see why needed to. I would go on to learn why I hungered for a sense of escape, and they would also pass along their wisdom about self-love. A how-to, on ingesting quality food, and non-toxic people, places, and things that would provide real sustenance and nourishment to my life.

And that was it. That was the key.
Nourishment.

Everyone in recovery has heard the slogan: “My recovery must come first, so everything I love in my life doesn’t come last.” Recovery IS Self-care, and self-care is an expression of self-love.

Nourishing our lives means injecting the things most necessary for our personal growth, sustaining our health, and keeping us in good condition. We take care ourselves so that we have the best chance of not falling back into old ways.

The bible tells us that the enemy attacks hardest when we are at our weakest. The temptation will come when we are thirsty, when our lives have become dry and desolate, like a desert. Because when we become desperate for relief, we are much more likely to compromise what we stand for and believe in. And if we’re honest, when we are feeling depleted, fatigued, stressed, and unsure of ourselves, we are more susceptible to buying into bullshit. The same lies that buried us, will try again when we are vulnerable. Sort of like when a predator goes after its prey. They big cats are more likely to go for the lingering animal looks lost, who are not well-protected; the one who seems most accessible. That one will be the easiest one to pounce on, and sometimes, it could just be that particular animal just wasn’t paying enough attention to its surroundings.

I can see how this can be applied to addiction recovery.

Self-care is to our recovery, as water is to a desert. Like water to dry land, plugging in acts of self-care quenches our innermost dry places. We have to find the things that have the ability to reach deep within us, beneath the surface. The places that we cannot see. We drench those areas with acts of self-love and it absorbs into the dark spaces. Like water, beneath the ground, the desert floor just eats it up. Water saturation prevents cracking and flaking and the breakdown of the richness of the area, just like self-care helps to can help to prevent the first stages of relapse, because we are aware and mindful of our surroundings and our current condition.

That is what self-care is able to do with recovery.

I can learn all of the new information, I can arm myself with the latest and greatest, most up-to-date, most modern, applauded, factual, head-knowledge about addiction recovery, and coping mechanisms, but if I am not taking loving on and caring for myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, eventually, I will start flaking and cracking and breaking down.

Breaking free from generational strongholds and the chains of addiction is something I cherish. I have learned that taking care of myself is the sole identity of what my recovery is composed of. I am not just sober, I am living as my authentic self, in freedom.

I believe that experiencing freedom, living, and finding recovery is nothing short of a miracle. But that doesn’t mean that anyone else is going to tend to my new responsibilities. It is my job, and is a pretty awesome opportunity, to to nourish my mind, heart, body, and my soul on a regular basis. And understanding the importance of self-care doesn’t mean that I always like it, or that I have found some perfect balance. Because I don’t, and I definitely haven’t. But I try, everyday.

It is said that recovery begins when measurable goals are set. It doesn’t matter whether they are big or small, long-term or short-term. The minute you look into your future, and you set a personal goal for yourself, that is it. That is where your new life begins, and where you have the opportunity to wave goodbye to the old version of yourself, one healthy, new choice at a time, at your own pace.

Just remember to take care along the way 😉

What Recovery Taught Me About Accepting Love After Experiencing Trauma


It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Let’s talk about love….

A few years ago I believed that drugs and alcohol were the culprit behind my inability to accept love from other people. My philosophy? It was because of my addiction(s) that I had let toxic shame overcome all what was left of me, and that is why I just couldn’t let love in.

Thanks a lot drugs and alcohol.
Because of you, I became this timid, weary girl, unable to see my own worth, with zero ability to feel or accept love from anyone.

Although, deep down I felt like I didn’t deserve to be loved,
but on the other hand, I also believed I didn’t need or want it from anyone anyway.

Then on one-hand I felt like I had defiled my character into non-existence and that people ‘like me’ didn’t deserve to be respected, never-mind, loved.

And on the other hand I didn’t understand what I needed to do to garner some real fucking devotion or loyalty or consistency from at least one human being on this god-forsaken planet.

From one side of my maladaptive perspective, the culmination of years and years of poor, embarrassing choices were a direct reflection of how unlovable I really was.

And on the flip side, I lived my life in such an angry state, furious at the cards I had been dealt, that I never gave myself time to absorb the harder truth. My life, and those choices? They were mine. I couldn’t blame my parents forever.

Here are a few things I learned in early recovery about my (not-so) personal relationship with accepting love:

*Never had I been able to accept love, and I have no memory of ever thinking it was a good idea. This was a thing for me. A common theme weaved dating back throughout my 24 years on earth. Okay, or at least since the age of 4 when I can clearly remember feeling like I had landed in a house full of morons and I was obviously on my own.

*Long before I ever got high, or drunk, I was already living in a detached state, in an isolated,  lonely, place.  Every-man-for-himself is what made me happy and most comfortable. What had started out as a coping mechanism where I had no desire to allow anyone to penetrate my walls, became this empty place in my heart and grew into something I couldn’t manage anymore. As a result, I had never allowed myself the luxury and blessing of experiencing things like vulnerable connection, real intimacy, friendship, or real, soul-invigorating love. Thanks to childhood trauma, I had always been sort of cold, disconnected, and chameleonesque. And none of translates into anything exciting during adolescence or young adulthood.

*I didn’t need redemption in the eyes or opinions or memory banks of other people.
I needed to feel some love for myself, people. I needed to learn to love ME. The real me. The one who I had never really known or discovered. Instead, I buried her alive. But it was time. I had to be okay with the woman in the mirror and the heart that was still beating (by the grace of God) inside of my chest. This had to happen before I could see why love from others is so important. And God, my higher power, is what did it for me. Learning about who Jesus was as a person made such a difference to me in my recovery journey. Not only did he offer a freshly wiped slate, wiped completely clean, he also reminded me that it is his opinion of who I am that matters. My past couldn’t have a grip around my throat if I knew it didn’t have any power over who I could become. I didn’t need anyone else to like or accept or forgive me, but me. I began to smile when I looked in the mirror. I started to see myself through a brand new lens. I am worthy of love. I am a woman of God. I am valuable and precious and not even my old conclusions of my worthiness would stop me.

*Accepting love means that I can see my own value and self-worth. 
After the rush of the big wave came in, I could also see my progress with the smaller, choppy ones. I take compliments now, instead of politely sending them right back. love myself enough to surround myself with loving, nurturing, caring, affectionate, healthy, positive, people. I am still weary of the feeling of vulnerability and I am a survivor of some pretty intense forms of anxiety, but you know what? If the things that I have been through and survived haven’t killed me, I know for sure that anxiety and vulnerability aren’t going to get the job done. I am going to be okay.

Recovery. This was my place.
In a small room in the back of a church was where my life began to take a turn. It was in a small room where I accepted my first dose of vulnerable love. My first natural-high. A real sense of belonging somewhere.

It was the first time in my life where I let myself be carried, and supported.
I accepted compliments, and let encouragement in.
I began forming relationships based off of solid, pure, authentic, substance.

I accepted forms of love without even realizing what I was doing.

So I guess I could say: thanks a lot drugs and alcohol.
Because of you my whole world finally turned around, and I let love in.

Content vs. Complacent, What’s The Difference?

The difference between being a person in recovery who is content, and being a person in recovery who has become complacent, is a subtle one.

Both are formally defined with very similar descriptive words like satisfaction & gratification.

In my opinion, and personal experience with both, the subtle difference hinges on pride; and we all know, pride is a tricky little sob. It lurks close to our hearts and always seems to be an ever-present force in our lives, happy to see us face-plant.

First, let’s talk about the differences between the two:

Contentment means that you feel happy.
You feel grateful for where you are, but you are still working diligently to make improvements.
You choose to remain committed to personal growth.
You are aware of your shortcomings, but you are also aware of how far you have come.
You are proud of your accomplishments, but you haven’t adopted the thinking that you have learned all that there is to know, that you have ‘crossed the finish line’.
Feeling content is healthy.
It can push you, and can provide you with healthy, solid, earned confidence as you continue to rebuild your identity, and as you experience your new life.

Complacency on the other hand is more about being filled and puffed up with self-satisfaction.
Not only are you happy with where you are, and with your accomplishments, you aren’t interested in improving.
You are pumped up about the changes that you have been able to make so far, and you might feel so confident that you convince yourself that you can take intermittent recovery breaks.
Over time, you might even start to think that there isn’t much more to learn.
You may even have the sense that you are in a comfortable space and building from where you are isn’t necessary anymore.
Feeling complacent will start to feel like a light-weight on your shoulders. Over time, you might start feeling more irritable and easily agitated. Little by little, your weeds begin to overgrow.
But your pride is holding you back from holding yourself accountable, and the positive changes that you made begin to fade.

How can we avoid moving from contentment to complacent? 

1. Don’t isolate yourself from healthy, positive, strong, peers and outside support systems. 
It is always a good idea to keep people around you who have your best interest at heart.
This means, they will probably tell you if they start to notice negative changes or warning signs that you might be trying to forcefully ignore, or maybe you don’t even notice happening. This helps you to stay open to suggestions and it can help you to stay humble. Continuing to cultivate healthy relationships with the people in your life is a sign that you are on the right track. Consider it a personal warning sign when you subconsciously try to pull away from your people. You need this tribe of people no matter how much sober time you acquire.
Allowing yourself to be genuinely loved and cared for is always an important component to living a healthy life.

2. Keep giving back in some way. 
Do it your way, but do it.
Sponsor someone, write something, serve food somewhere, make art, just do something to volunteer your time or talent or services to the community. Nothing will keep you more grounded than serving other people who are in need. It is one of the best natural, most powerful remedies for pride inflation that I can think of.  No matter how much sober time you acquire, loving others fills your heart with a special kind of gratitude for your own life.

3. Stay open and keep moving.
Stay open to change and keep moving forward.
Stay open to learning. Stay vigilant of who you are, what your needs are, what your progress level looks like, what you see or feel needs improvement. Continue celebrating milestones and victories, but stay honest with yourself. Keep moving along but keep in mind, as you grow as an individual your needs will change. As you get to know yourself a little bit better, you will notice that your interests will develop and take on a new route. So tweak your program as you see fit and don’t be afraid to make changes. Don’t make excuses to stay the same way if life is leading you in a new direction. No matter how much sober time you acquire, always stay committed to your own personal growth. And remember to measure with your own ruler.

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