Author: Brittany

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 starts 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.

Jumping When You Are Ambivalent about Recovery & Life Change

I can remember feeling comfortable living the way I was living. Of course, I wouldn’t describe my life as full or my feelings as content or joyous, because it was all the exact opposite. Still, I was comfortable being there. I mean, there was zero possibility of letting anyone down.

Not even I could manage to fuck-up being a fuck-up.

I continued to lived in that comfortable place for a few years, and at a certain point (one that could be described as one of the most dire, lonely, empty times of my life), the idea of changing began to look and sound really, really good to me.

Not plausible, but good.
Not likely, but still, good.
And that was a step in the right direction.

Even after I felt motivation to move toward change, I still took my sweet time, struggling &  battling within myself. I was reluctant to put any kind of intentional effort into initiating any sort of real changes. I could best describe it as a confusing, permanent state of confusion; in an ambivalent head space that affected every area of my life.

What I projected on the outside did not match how I felt inside. (Or maybe, at some point toward the end, I looked just as confused, disheveled and miserable as I felt on the inside. That’s probably right).

I wanted to feel connected and people to care about me.
But I also wanted to be left alone and for people to stop asking me questions.

I wanted to feel genuinely happy and free to be myself.
But I was also afraid of sorting through the buried pain.

I tried to do everything that I could to feel alive, to remind myself that I was still a human.
Yet I continued to hide, numbing every human feeling that I possibly could.

I wanted connection. I wanted to be seen and heard and felt and needed.
But I also wanted to be left alone and for people to stop asking me questions.

I wanted people to hear my silent screams and to see the pain in my eyes.
But I also wanted people to leave me the fuck alone and stop asking me questions.

I wanted to feel what triumph, normalcy, calm, victory, and contentment felt like.
But I also didn’t have an ounce of personal confidence in my body.

I wanted other people to believe in me and to see that I could change.
But I couldn’t believe in myself, and didn’t believe that I was capable of changing.

I was stuck and I didn’t know how to move forward.

I felt like I was swaying back and forth all of the time from feeling tired, depleted, and sick of letting myself and my son and the people who loved me down, to feeling too afraid to fail yet I yearned for rest and change.

Now I understand that my ambivalence stemmed from my own internal fears.

I feared that I wasn’t good enough to have real friends or relationships, or deep connections.
I feared that I wasn’t strong enough to live a sober life, and I feared that maybe I just wasn’t good enough to deserve a new lifestyle.

Two things really helped me get un-stuck, so that I felt comfortable enough to begin my recovery journey:

A solid, healthy support system.

For me that was my boyfriend, his mother, and my home group, Celebrate Recovery.
Motivation is a key to change, it is multi-dimensional, and it also fluctuates. I needed to have people all around me to encourage me and to be there for me when I felt my confidence wavering, or when my self-doubt started to crush me.
No old friends, or people whose intentions weren’t pure or unselfish. Just a bunch of people I barely knew who were ready to talk to me, who wanted to speak love into my heart, and not talk at me. People who didn’t have any motives other than wanting to see me experience freedom and peace so that I could be the woman and mom that I desperately wanted to be.

I learned something important, that I hadn’t realized before: that change is a process.
This is simple but it helped calm my reluctance to try to give recovery a shot.
I went in with the understanding that I wouldn’t accept this help I was being offered and somehow magically wake up the next day with a clear sense of self, and zero feelings of uneasiness. I would wake up the next day expecting to feel the pain that I knew was coming, but I would wake up with a plan. I would wake up knowing that I was working on my new life. I would wake up and I would start making small changes. I would make new decisions, and different choices. Everything that I was going to do would be better alternatives to what I was used to. Nothing was going to be perfect, just better. Knowing this truth made the whole thing feel more do-able and a lot less overwhelming.

Some call it a leap of faith or taking the plunge.
Call it what you want.
It is just this huge space of the unknown, where most of us jump because it is all that is left.

If you are on the fence, I highly recommend getting down, and gearing up for the jump.
It’s better over here.

 

Hard Work Always Pays Off, Sometimes In Unexpected Ways.

Steps  8, 9, & 10.

I believe it is smart to continue living out these steps in my day-to-day life. Not only to maintain my sobriety, but my maintain my integrity that reflects my values as a person and the strength of my interpersonal relationships.

If you need a refresher, here are steps 8-10:

8.Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

10.Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

As we choose to live out these steps one choice at a time, we are basically saying that we are sorry. We are going to try to live in a way that truly reflects who we are, and not just for everyone who we have hurt, but also for ourselves, because we have decided that we love and value who God created us to be.

Last Friday night around eleven o’clock p.m., I was on my way home from a night out. My evening was full of hardcore, small-group, Bible discussion. Sober status: Sober af, per the usual.

I was less than a block away from my driveway when I got pulled over.

I am no stranger to the flashing lights, but most of the flashing lights that I encounter these days are seen from my vehicle pulled off of the right-hand-side of the road, as they speed by on their way to the scene of an emergency. I have only been written one ticket in the last ten years and it was a speeding ticket. (Much like the ticket that I knew I was going to receive on this particular Friday night.)

I was expecting a ticket because I was knowingly & confidently coasting at 35 in a 25, but I’ll be honest. I am not a fan of 25 mph unless I see children, cyclists, animals, or a funeral procession approaching, and on this cold, dark, late Friday night, I saw nothing of the sort. It was just me, my music, and my frozen hands. (The heat in my car is hit and miss and that night it was missing).

And I can’t say that I cared too much about getting pulled over. I am grateful that Grace has reached so far into my life that I have morphed into a law-abiding citizen. I am equipped with a legal, valid, driver’s license, valid, up-to-date insurance, no warrants to freak out about, and I’m also white, (so there’s that).

I was really annoyed and disappointed with myself for not seeing him sitting in his regular hiding spot. Dammit. My fingers were beginning to feel hot and tingly, so whatever was going to happen, needed to happen swiftly. Like supa-speedy fast.

So we went through the regular protocol.

He asked me if I was aware that I was ignoring the 25 mph signs posted, and I politely told him the truth. That yes, I was fully aware that I had been ignoring the signs posted.

When he came back to my window after running my name and license plates, I was fully prepared to sign my ticket and be on my way. But there was not a ticket in his hand.

No ticket.

Officer: (After approaching my window with a half-smirk) “You have been pulled over before, correct? It seems that you have had quite a few run-in’s.”

Me: (Trying not to let shame creep in and sink me down beneath my vehicle.) “Yes sir. I have, but all of that was a long time ago.”

Officer:  “Tonight I am going to let you go with a verbal warning. As a resident here, can you do me a favor and drive the speed limit?”

Me: “Wow, yes. I can do that. Thank you sir. Have a nice night.”

Me after he is pulling away: Hold on a for just one second. What?
First, thank you, sir. (Speeding tickets are expensive and stressful).
Also, sir. Thank you for referring to the most stressful, hopeless, most expensive, time of my young adult life, collectively, as “run-in’s.” (That makes it all sound so much more pleasant).
Lastly, did I just get out of a speeding ticket because of all of the trouble I have been in the past? (If that isn’t something that I can consider “full-circle” then I don’t know what full-circle is).

I just sat for a few seconds and let it soak in. I breathed out a sigh of relief, and then I began to laugh hysterically.

Really, life? Really?

I am sure that the officer was trying to be kind and do me a solid, or maybe he just didn’t want to mess with the paperwork, or maybe both. But regardless. He couldn’t have known how many years I spent digging myself up from underneath the mountain of legal woes that I was convinced would smother me and send me to my slow, agonizing, early death. Poor me.

This why after ten years I am still bursting at the seams, filled with joy and gratitude. Completely filled. Full.

After all of the time I spent in early recovery wondering if the changes that I was making mattered.
Wondering if I would ever benefit from the work that I was putting in.
Asking myself if it would ever get any easier or better or if it would really turn around.

It is amazing to continue to reap and harvest from actions and choices sown so many years ago.

But that is how my personal experience with life recovery has gone so far. Every turn is a new surprise; a new, fresh, blessing. I feel like grace is always offering me a new positive, from a once dry, depleted, empty, deserted head & heart space.

You harvest what you plant, whether good or bad.
Proverbs 14:14, (CEV)

I Want To Be Supportive Of Others, Without Getting Distracted

nfsitpy

I won’t force you to listen to my personal top 50 song list of 2016, the things that I am most grateful for, or my complete goal list for 2017.

I just want to share one of my personal goals that I am carrying over into 2017.
It is to stop allowing the comparison game to take up space in my mind. I made progress in 2016, and this year, I am going to do a better job of supporting other people without getting distracted from what is important to me.

And I know I am not alone in this….

You read something and immediately begin to wonder if what you have just written sucks. 
You can’t help but wonder if you are blogging often enough.
Is your viewpoint relevant anymore?
Are your topics current?
Are your stats high enough?
Is there enough traffic?
Why aren’t you being interviewed?
Is your site as busy as his or as exciting as hers?
Have you participated in as many podcasts as she has?
Did he attend more yoga conventions than you did this month? 
Do you need to find more summits to network at?
Have you even started writing your second book yet?
Are you self-publishing or do you have an agent or a publisher? 
Are you not interacting enough?
Have you been sharing enough?  
Why does it always feel like kissing ass instead of real connection? 
Do we need to scrap our whole site and hire a professional designer? 
Are our networking connections even real?
Is what I am doing important?

This list could go on and on.
And don’t get me wrong, no one pushes these feelings on me. I do it to myself. But this is real shit that I feel from time to time.

I love and appreciate connections on social media and I am happy to know that I am not alone. There are people out there who understand. They get it. I appreciate all of my friends who do support my blog and I am driven to keep going by the feedback from the people who tell me directly that I have inspired them to keep living. That fuels my heart like nothing else.

But I am ALWAYS reminding myself that God has a specific plan for my life, and I only cheat myself when I allow my mind to trick me into thinking that what I have to offer isn’t important or isn’t enough. 

Blog lists, ranks, re-tweets, shares, likes, or LinkedIn connections can feel nice, but realistically they are not sufficient substitutes that can accurately gauge anyone’s sense of self-worth, relevance, or importance in this world.

For me, my identity is found in my relationship with God.

His will and plan for my life is what really matters, and at the end of the day, I know that I am who God says that I am, and I am capable of doing the uniquely personal things that He has carved out for my journey. For 2017, I am going to prayerfully and more consistently remind myself of these things.

I would urge you to embrace your own goals and not to lose sight of what is important to you.
Periodically unplug.
Remember why you started.

And always support other people doing their thing too.

It is our job to keep ourselves on track, pushing toward our own goals, and to encourag other people along while they are working toward theirs.

Happy New Year. 🙂

I Don’t Miss Faking My Way Through The Holiday Season

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You know what I don’t miss around the holiday season?

Faking my way through gatherings in an attempt to live up to the expectations of others, and to look and sound as sober and happy as everyone else seemed to be.

I would make an exhaustive effort to fit by faking my way through what I thought was a pretty decent premeditated plan, that I was always sure would get me through. And it was always the same with me. I tried to ‘fit’ by blending in. By blending, I really mean that I needed to disappear.
Every holiday event, gathering, or get together went something like this: 

  • Became hyper-focused and compulsive. Continuously check your eyes and complexion in any and every reflective surface to make sure you are still blending nicely with the regular, annoying, happy, folks.
  • Consistently and purposefully enunciate all of the your words, and the sounds and syllables in your sentences when communicating. It’s what they all do. It sounds so sober.
  • Always open your eyes extremely, almost weirdly wide when someone is speaking to you. You are officially sober looking, and paying attention. Also, only blink occasionally.
  • Never doze off sitting upright. It scares them and could spark whispering and suspicion and it’s only downhill from there. Sleeping while smoking is also frowned upon.
  • Eat the food. If you can’t eat make a plate and sit where eating is taking place and blend. Take a bit or two and throw it away (always plate facing down.)
  • Periodically disappear. But act surprised when people start asking where you have been. Your confused reaction will help to kick-start them second guessing their own judgment, which gives you at least two more opportunities to slip away for alone time.
  • Always avoid the loud-mouthed well-meaning family members who think they have sober radar. They only stir things and cause drama.
  • Become combative if they begin to sense that you might be high. Confront them. How dare they accuse you, again? I mean, who do they think they are anyway?
  • Always be sure to announce that you have to leave early to make sure you get home in time to sleep for that job interview that you have the next day. You have that job interview to make them stop asking questions about what is happening in your life.
  • Never forget to make rounds. Ask people for gas money to get to your interview that you don’t actually have. They really wouldn’t want you to miss it, now would they?
  • Bail before you forget to enunciate and watch how you are walking. Those are two signs that the night is about to get even better.
  • Call as many people as you can. Only people who might want to ditch their gathering for a bar, too. When they don’t answer, call them again.
  • Most of everyone is sick of being around you. So go home so that you can not think about how much you wish you could be annoying and happy and sober like the people you just had to escape from.
  • Spend a few hours crying, wondering what is wrong with you and why you can’t do normal things and why you are always alone.
  • Drink more, chain-smoke cigarettes and search and re-search your apartment to find ‘those one pills in that cellophane’ that you hid for later.
  • Fall asleep sitting up in the hallway looking for said pills.
  • Wake up the next day unsure whether you made it to that gathering or not? Probe. Search your memory bank for fragments of the prior day and try to piece together what happened. Mostly try to remember if you found ‘those pills in the cellophane that you hid for later’.

Holy hell.
That was exhausting.
It is safe to say that I don’t miss any of that. I don’t miss feeling like I need to melt away into nothing in order to escape feeling like a fuck-up.

Being around people who seemed to lead content, calm lives, forced me to become more self-aware of how empty I felt. Maybe that’s why I preferred hiding and faking my way through. It wasn’t so much about being around them, as it was how I saw and felt about myself when in their company. 

Hiding, after it has become a lifestyle, can feel so powerful. It is like the hold it has over you cannot ever be broken; like it would take a miracle for you to push through. I want you to know if you are reading this, that breaking free is possible for you.

I walked into the idea of living an authentic life completely terrified to look and see who and how I had become. I had tried and failed at rehabilitating myself and my life countless times.

My consensus was that I had been running for too long and it was too late for me. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or how to be. I had no idea where to start. It was just too much.

But, by the Grace of God, I stayed alive long enough to take the first step anyway. I wish I could tell you that it was magical and easy, but it was magical and terrifying and difficult.

The good news is that while early recovery can feel sucky, and unstable, and like it’s just not working, it is not hopeless and exhausting.

Somehow it works itself out as you plug new things into your heart and your mind. The long piled up list of things that you never dreamed you could get through, or find the strength to face, will eventually be dealt with.

Through the sorting process, you will learn about who you are and what you are capable of.  You will gain confidence and your heart will mend. My mind is still playing catch-up, but I know for sure our hearts mend. 😉

And while time passing doesn’t heal, it does teach us about who we truly are. God paves new paths for us to walk and all that is required of us is to agree to keep moving forward, making one healthy, new choice at a time.

I am still so grateful to have celebrated my tenth sober Christmas this year, and I am looking forward to my tenth New Year’s Eve of doing NOTHING.

By nothing, I mean a lot of important somethings.

I won’t be searching, driving around, searching for willing babysitters, money that I don’t have, or for specific drugs or people. I won’t be faking my way through any gatherings, and I won’t be forcing myself to attend parties that I don’t really want to go to in the first place.

I also won’t be waking up a special hatred for myself on Sunday morning.

The only thing I will feel guilty about on Sunday morning is how many carbs I consumed from all of the Pinterest appetizers that we are making, and the only ‘plan’ that I have had to make this holiday season have been detailed grocery store lists.

God is good.

 

Coffee at Midnight, Please Send Help

nfsitpy
On my way to the coffee pot at midnight.

Rest assured, this particular walk of shame was exactly as it should be. I made sure to mutter that sweet, negative self-talk to myself as I tip-toed down the hallway so not to wake the small, sugar-filled humans. There is no way I could let myself forget how foolish it is to allow caffeine to drag me around by the balls.

“Again?”, I quietly said to myself. I continued the sarcastic brow-beating as I walked to dump a filter of old coffee grounds from my antique coffee pot: “Jeez. Is there anything that you aren’t working on? Wtf. Hi my name is Brittany and I can’t moderate COFFEE. Can you really have this many struggles? Anxiety, some fucked up form of ptsd from several bouts of traumatic things from so long ago that you can’t even recall them in detail, long-term memory loss, drug addiction, drug-dependence, people pleasing, co-dependency, enabling, and you still don’t sleep and now you have headaches when you don’t drink coffee….”

Yeah.

All of this while walking to the trash can, waiting for one 8 ounce cup of coffee to save my life, within a four-minute drip-brewing window. (Want to be friends? 🙂 )

And I know.

I shouldn’t be responding to the beck and call of any substance, not even the caffeine in my coffee.

And really, this whole situation is surprising to me because I have always played on the other team. The one opposite of the things that stimulate my central nervous system, but hey.

People change.
I’ve changed.

But as I sit here in my chair impatiently waiting for my coffee to cool enough to where it won’t scorch my taste buds off of my tongue, I can’t help but smile to myself.

I am still so damn mean to myself sometimes. Seriously.
It is just coffee. It’s not like I am beer-crawling through my kitchen at midnight on a Tuesday to find a cold place to sleep.

After drastically cutting out my coffee, for over a year now I have only had one cup of coffee a day. And according to the internet, I am not going to die from this dependence. A face-headache is probably as bad as it’s going get for mama. Google says this: Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and regular use of caffeine does cause mild physical dependence. But caffeine doesn’t threaten your physical, social, or economic health the way addictive drugs do. (Although after seeing your monthly spending at the coffee shop, you might disagree!)” 

What a relief.
Huge shout-out to Dr. Google for saving the day again.

I have accepted that maybe there will always be a small, shitty voice in existence that takes up a tiny bit of my head space and will forever whisper to me that I am not doing enough, that I am not good enough, I am not working hard enough, or am not doing ‘it’ quite right.

But I have also accepted that I get to choose what I tune into. Because there is a louder voice that I discovered.

It is one that I had to excavate like some rare dinosaur fossil, but it has been unearthed. And once dusted off, you can’t re-earth it. Those are the rules.

And mine feels more like home to me than any house has ever made me feel.

I have taken time to get acquainted with this voice, and have come to understand it. This voice is strong and powerful. It knows the truth about who I am deep within my resuscitated soul. This voice also kicks the ass of, and easily drowns out the noise of the negative one. (The one that is still relentless in a quest to try to shove my face back down into the mud.)  This is now the same mud that I stomp in on the way to the coffee pot at midnight. 

From time to time (or once a day) I might get sucked in for a few minutes, but I am anchored in God’s truth of who I am and what I am capable of. I know that I am always going to be a work in progress, and I am okay with that. But I am also going to stay committed to allowing myself to become. I am going through the changes as they happen, and I am enjoying (or sometimes not) the growth as it changes me.

I am not, nor was I ever, and I won’t ever be, defined as a list of things or symptoms or blemishes.
And sometimes I have to remind myself of that. I have to go toe-to-toe with my perfectionism. There is no end destination here on earth. No finish line to cross. We are all  just learning, becoming and picking up pieces of ourselves as we go along.

Sooooo.

I am not going to shame myself for needing a cup of coffee.
Not today tonight.

Be nice to yourselves, loves.

 

 

 

Creating Tradition Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

nfsitpy

A few weeks ago during a small-ish ladies event, for our conversation starter activity we were asked to finish this sentence: (Out-loud. One by one.)
“It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without…”  

Since I shelved the art of lying to try to sound as ‘normal’ as possible, years ago, for my response I chose to go with a blank stare, and added, “I don’t really know, I have never really thought about it, maybe…macaroni casserole?” as my answer.

Really. Macaroni casserole? Nice.
It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without macaroni casserole. 

I talk a big game about the importance of breaking generational cycles, so as I over-analyzed my response after I got home that night, I knew for sure that even if a long list of specific, handed-down family traditions didn’t flood my mind in relation to Thanksgiving, (because there aren’t any in my family) we have been working on building new things for our children, within our family.

I have just been focused on other things. In my ten short years of sober time I spent the first five in complete awe that I was somehow still alive in the first place to enjoy the blessing of being around on the holidays. The last five I spent in awe of how present I am actually capable of being and how exhilarating and fulfilling it is to be able to retain memories and recall them later.

So maybe instead of macaroni casserole, I should have said: “Being alive is pretty dope and I also think it is cool that I can remember making memories with my family and friends.”

For people who grew up drowning in dysfunction and inconsistency, building holiday traditions worth passing on can feel impossible to accomplish.

As a young adult I was on a mission to change things for my oldest son. I can remember how overwhelming the idea of ‘breaking generational cycles’ felt to me. Hadn’t I already ruined him? I had already exposed him to the same things I was exposed to. The idea of change just felt too big. Here I was already blindly stumbling around adulthood, still learning to navigate in healthy ways. Never-mind plugging in new traditions for my son to pass down to his kids or leaving a legacy behind on this earth someday that is worth a shit. It felt like too much to sort out.

I was pretty surprised (and relieved) when I realized that any and all drastic life-change happens the same way: One new, different, healthy choice at a time. It wasn’t as complicated as I was making it.

I knew that in order to make a drastic turn in a new direction, I had to commit and stick to making small changes, even if I couldn’t see things changing.

Over time, just like with my recovery from drugs and alcohol, my reality began to shift and suddenly I was living my new normal.

I still get excited talking about how much impact the culmination of small choices can have on our lives, and by default, the lives of our children.

So don’t lost heart. Don’t give up.

If you are making purposeful choices, then you are actively chipping away at generational dysfunction. Even if you can’t see it now, gradually, over time, you will begin to see results. The past doesn’t matter. What matters is you are building the new things.

For me, I know that I am not trying to offer my children a perfect mom. (Anyone who knows me knows that I am comfortably flawed and not pretending to be super mom). I can’t give them a life with no pain, hurt, or life’s inevitable ups and downs.

I have just chosen to try to saturate them with as much love and as many new options as I can, (and holidays and memories that are obviously lacking things like police sirens, violence, arrests, fist-fights, or people who are inebriated and puking on their own shoes).

So today I want you to try this with me.
Answer this question with your own answers:


It just wouldn’t be Christmas without……
Everyone (4 boys) making fun of me for putting the tree up so early.
(It’s become an annual thing)
Baking cookies together on Christmas Eve
Taking the kids to choose a gift for each parent
Reading the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve
Everyone wearing Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve
Driving through our local festival of lights together
Watching our favorite movies over and over, but saving The Christmas Story for Christmas Eve
Going to grandma’s house Christmas morning after breakfast

Whatever your response, no matter many you listed off-
Those are your family things. 
Do them again next year, and they are now your family’s traditions.
Those are the things that your kids will look back and remember, and most likely, do with their kids as well. 

The best part is, you can start anytime, anywhere and it is never too late to start plugging new things in. You can start small. Maybe every Tuesday you will cook tacos, or every Friday you will order pizza. Take a walk around the block on Wednesday nights, start going to church together on Sundays, cook pancakes on Saturday mornings, play a board game on Sunday afternoons.

There are so many different ways to build new things within the walls of your home and the hearts and minds of your kids. There really are no wrong answers and the only requirement is you continuing to try. The more good you plug-in, the less impact power the negative stuff will have.

And no. This isn’t the answer to end generational drug-use that seems to plague families. (Families like mine.) But this is a small, easy, free way to begin to change direction.

So let’s continue to change things and please remember that you aren’t alone in this thing.

Tips For The Holidays

I was asked to be a part of an expert panel for a Facebook live event put on by the ever wonderful, Beach House Center for Recovery.

I definitely had to dig my heels into this commitment, but I refused to let myself back out. I am proud of myself for following through on my word. I showed up. Small victories are still victories.

This really was a fun collaboration and I am blessed to be a small part of such a cool, diverse, community. Please click here, and take a few minutes and listen as we talk about relapse. 

No Thank-You, Anxiety

 

anxiety

Ten years ago I think if you would have asked me, I would have told you that I believed that I was an outgoing, people-oriented person. Never-mind the fact that it only took three or four various types of Benzo’s carefully carelessly mixed with any amount of cheap alcohol to render my central nervous system inactive just enough, that I felt like I could interact with other humans without bolting or vomiting…but viola.

After the chemicals dissolved into my bloodstream, I was gently catapulted right out of my metaphorical, safe-place. I would be temporarily transformed into a person who I thought I liked, who was also likable. Deep beneath my scar tissue I was obviously a fucking blast. This way, I was friendly and interpersonal, yet zombie-like and unable to decipher real connection from shallow interaction.

For years living this way satisfied my deep longing for connection. I thought I was filling my empty spaces. Isolation became this sad, empty, arena that I mistakenly thought was my happy place.

Sober, not only have I learned to embrace who God made me to be even if that person pushes the barriers of what it means to be imperfect, my empty spaces are filled and I understand true connection.

Among other characteristics, qualities, and quirks, I am a confident, introverted, personality type who is also supremely awkward, and inept in particular social situations. Overall, I am a person who prefers to escape, and in short, I struggle with some co-occurring anxiety stuff. If I can even smell conflict, confrontation,  or any situation that makes me feel like it could be considered ‘high-stress’ I just prefer to disappear.

My life is calm and I am happy to say, drama free. My boundaries with my family ensure that I am not in any immediate danger, I don’t get screamed at or threatened anymore. No fist fights, no yelling matches, nothing. My relationships are safe and typically dysfunctional.

And it’s beautiful.

Over the years (special thanks to counseling and my healthy boundaries), I have learned about why I experience anxiety and what (mostly who) triggers it. My anxieties have lessened and aren’t as widespread, but there are a few areas where it will still try to rule over and suffocate me.

For instance, I have no problem getting up and sharing my story with large groups. Churches, treatment centers, small groups, meetings. Totally fine. I am confident and even excited to have opportunities like that. I can have a one-on-one conversation with a friend, and can manage having the passing, pleasantry type of interactions just fine.

But when I am thrown into any situation involving an unknown, (e.g., ice-breaker ‘activity’ “Let’s go around the room, state your name, or why you’re here or your favorite _______!”) one by one, in front of a large group of people, or am invited to be a part of a discussion panel or a podcast, I instantly freeze up.

The same feeling washes over me if I am introduced to a stranger and then abruptly left alone, standing there expected to carry on the conversation. (e.g., “Oh, hey Jill, this is my friend Brittany. I just think you two have so much in common!”)

No. No and more no.
Please, just stop.

“Maybe, if I sit still enough or quiet enough, they will skip right over me.”

“Which path can I take from here to make a break for the bathroom in the most unsuspecting, casual, way?” (as if anyone really gives a shit if I get up to use the restroom).

“How can I get out of this?”

If I fail to actually morph into an inanimate object, which most of the time I doesn’t happen, I will stay and participate or try to carry on the conversation for exactly the least amount of time that is socially acceptable.

And somehow I don’t actually die.

I will sweat and my mind and heart will race so rapidly that I have to fix my eyes on something to avoid vomiting, but I try to breathe deep and remind myself that although my feelings and the tingling sensations are very real, my anxieties aren’t logical. It isn’t real, and it will be okay. I am not in actual danger and all of my red flags need to chill. But I still feel terrified,out of control, and have to fight through every natural instinct that still lives within me not to run away.

Sometimes when it is my turn to respond out-loud and unplanned in a group setting my answers take what feels like three whole minutes to come out of my mouth before I start talking. I might mix up my words or stumble around trying to come up with an answer, and if there’s food involved you can bet that I will always shake just enough to drop pieces of lettuce on my shirt as I try to look as calm and casual as whoever I am sitting next to.

If I had to try to explain it to someone I would say it’s different for everyone, and anxiety by definition is a normal phenomenon. It is when you have a disorder that it becomes difficult to manage and to navigate, and even harder to help make sense to those who have never experienced it.

For me it is like a tiny, raging, internal battle for control of my attention. On the outside I might just look like a shy or uninterested person with drops of salad dressing on her shirt who can’t carry on in intelligible conversation.

On the inside I am overwhelmed and distracted by all of the red flags that are unnecessarily popping up warning me of ‘unknown’ things happening; warning me of impending danger that is too close. My body is gearing up for take-off as I silently work to turn off the engines against its wishes.

So. I still find myself battling old demons from time to time, but at least my life isn’t actually in imminent danger so that is something to be grateful for.

And listen.
I struggle.
And I probably look stupid, or maybe that is my anxiety talking.
And I know at times I am misunderstood.
And sometimes I want to wear a sign or hand out cards so that people would stop asking me why I am “so quiet.” (Nope, just talking myself into staying, thanks.)

But most importantly I push myself. I want to quit. I want to run and hide, but I don’t.
I go to ladies events,  holiday parties, birthday parties etc. I play board games with our family that force me to stand up in front of all of them and look really, really, ridiculous and vulnerable (Quelf).
And sometimes I hate it.

I have to talk myself out of staying home, or not participating, or making excuses to avoid going EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Not because I enjoy self-torture, but because I know what my track-record looks like when I choose isolation over interaction.

It’s a dangerous game.

I also know that I cannot make any progress if I don’t make some attempt to try.

I might succeed, and by succeed I mean make it through from start to finish without leaving.

And sometimes I skip one event or invite but try to make it to the next thing.

But I go at my own pace. I go.

I deep into God’s truth and I hold onto the reassurance that His strength is sufficient. I use that strength to resist giving my internal fears one nano-second more of me, my life, or my opportunities to build and engage in my relationships, than I have already missed. I have buckled, and I have given in, and I have cowered in fear, I have hidden, and stayed down, too many times throughout my life for far too long, and have missed so much already.

So no thank you, anxiety.

I might not be able to get rid of you completely in every area of my life, but I will continue to fight through you every single time.

So I encourage you, not to do what I do or to think how i think, or to believe how I believe, but only to challenge yourself a little bit.

Challenge your old ways of thinking or and your comfortably uncomfortable ways of reacting.

Whatever a tweak or a change or a step in a progressive, healthy, direction looks like for you, safely within the confines of your life, do that.

Take tiny little baby steps, but push yourself out there a little bit further than you ever have. If you’re anything like me you will get discouraged, you will take one step forward and ten steps backward, you might get salad on your shirt, or trip over the carpet on your way to run to any other room than the one you are in that has people, but even so, decide those things will not be the reasons that you decide to quit trying altogether.

Because inconsistency is not synonymous with failure. 

Be nice to yourself as you are transforming. Life and change and growth is hard enough.

(Note: As a former substance abuser of all kinds, and a person who spent years addicted and dependent on prescription medication, I choose not to medicate myself for my anxiety disorder(s). My mental health is important, but I do what is best for my life as a whole. It is a personal choice that is best for me. However, I am not advocating for the ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ technique and barreling through without medication, especially if medication can benefit you and improve your quality of life. I am, however, always an advocate for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.) 

 

Here’s To 10 Years of Digging Out

tenyears
This is the month that I acknowledge that I have made it to my ten-year mark.
Ten short years in recovery. No more squirming around searching for a place to land. It’s completely fulfilling here and I am still just as grateful as ever to live in this head space.

It has been a long decade of ups and downs, as I still continue learning more and more about myself and unlearning lies that I believed for too long about who I am.

Over the years, there has been a significant amount of shedding and loss, but also so much gained and gifted.

Here are:

  • 10 things I have lost (Because I chose recovery):
    1. My desire to people please at the expense of my personal identity and mental-health status.
    2. An inherent need to continually escape from difficult emotions, conflict, and endeavors.
    3. My deep-seeded belief that I am permanently damaged and not as worthy or good.
    4. The heavy blanket of guilt related to my long list of parenting mistakes that plagued me for years.
    5. A need to be needed in order to feel validated and relevant or important.
    6. Any desire to cultivate or tend to relationships that aren’t honest, solid, healthy, or authentic.
    7. The mistaken idea that my false ego was rooted in something that resembled confidence.
    8. My belief that I didn’t need anyone or that I was fine walking through life in isolation.
    9. A level of comfort living closed off from any deep, personal, relationships or connection.
    10. My ability to wallow for too long within the realm of a ‘poor-me’, victim mentality.

 

  • 10 lessons I have learned (Through healing in recovery):
    1. No matter how much you want to help, you can’t change other people.
    2. No matter how much sober time we have, we never earn the title of:  Sober Police.
    3. Family is so much more and deeper than a simple biological connection.
    4. There will always be at least one asshole who refuses to accept the new, updated, version of you.
    5. Implementing and applying is just as, if not more important than the learning and absorbing.
    6. There is a tiny bit of wisdom to be found even in the programs you don’t necessarily agree with.
    7. Sobriety is about choosing alternatives to unhealthy coping or relaxation go-to techniques.
    8. It really will not work if you refuse to accept and own the ugliest parts of your truth.
    9. Slogans can be annoying and redundant, but they can also help at the right times.
    10. Self-care is the most pressing & important aspect of long-term recovery, & relapse prevention.

 

  • 10 ways I have been taken by surprise (The gifts of recovery):
    1. It’s not as complicated or as impossible as it seems in the beginning.
    2. Sober living isn’t synonymous with easy living. This is hard work; a lot of hard work.
    3. Despite feeling uniquely fucked up, there are actually a lot of people who will ‘get’ you.
    4. You may not stay on the same recovery path forever, it will change..as it should, as you grow.
    5. The stressful days really aren’t ever as terrible as the worst day you had in your previous life.
    6. You will be amazed at what your mind and body can do and how much you actually can change.
    7. Letting go and forgiving isn’t actually the same thing as forgetting the experiences that shaped you.
    8. Forgiveness takes up a pretty significant piece of the self-healing pie.
    9. Balance is key to every recovery component. (e.g.. feeling proud, creating boundaries, giving back)
    10. How much of your slack God will gladly take up and carry for you if you give him your heart.

There are still so many things that I am uncovering about myself. As I learn and grow and expose myself to different people and experiences, I am finding that I appreciate a new aspect of choosing to live sober over and over again. Things are always changing and it keeps it interesting. Maybe this is preciously why gratitude isn’t something we have to look too hard to find when we are living on borrowed time?

Here’s to the next ten.

Surrounded By Truth

nfsitpy

In group settings (group meetings, Bible studies, etc.) I am usually pretty quiet.
I observe, listen, and take it all in and am usually pretty reluctant to speak for one reason or thousands of introvertish anxiety ridden reasons another.

But when something new clicks my child-like excitement won’t allow me to sit still. If it registers as awe-inspiring on my internal scale I am compelled to speak up when it’s my turn. And then I quickly become an inquisitorial, annoying, probing, question-asking group member. I cross my fingers and hope that people won’t start tripping over each other on their way to the exit. I just enjoy the learning process. Maybe excessive curiosity is a character defect?  😉

Around 6 years ago I was about 4 years sober, and still considered myself a brand new Jesus-follower. I had (and still have) a tough time remembering what I read in the Bible and was still learning the ‘basics’. I had only recently discovered that the books in it were actually divided into different categories. Did everyone already know this?

One of my first Bible studies I attended was a study on the book of Daniel by Beth Moore. (Which was amazeballs, btw).

At that time truth was only beginning to mean something to me. It was definitely a new way of attempting to operate my new life.

During those years I actually spent most of my personal alone time uncovering and trying to sort my own personal truths from my past, facing my present truth-despite it being equally messy and ugly and painful, telling the truth in all of my everyday interactions and dealings with other humans, and sharing bits and pieces of my truth with others with a hope of helping someone.

Truth, truth, truth.
The epicenter of my life-transformation.

I was finally free.

At some point during a bible study discussion I heard someone quote John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.”

I felt like my heart and head could have burst open.

Something new clicked. I had a light-bulb moment in front of a room full of women who I hardly knew, and I didn’t care how ridiculous I looked or sounded.

4sazxje

“He is the truth?” I asked.

(Why didn’t’ anyone tell me?)

“HE is the TRUTH?”
“Omgosh.”
“HE is the truth!!”

It isn’t that ‘no one is home.’ Maybe all of my lights are on and I am  home, but it takes me forever to answer the door because I am blow-drying my hair, dancing with the kids in the kitchen, chasing a toddler around the house or cowering in a corner peering through my cheap mini-blinds. I get distracted by everything.

“So that means that He is the truth that will set you free, when you say the truth will set you free?”  I asked. 
Shut the front door you guys. That’s what it means to have the truth set you free.

Because I knew who He is, (the absolute truth), I was strong enough and finally able to face my truth, (the factual) side of who I was and where I came from.

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His truth allowed me to accept the gift of being able to redefine who I am, and what I was capable of doing from that point on. All because of my belief that He is the Truth.

The truth is powerful and unchanging in all contexts.
No matter how much you might try, you cannot change the truth.
It knows no bounds.
You either embrace it for who and what it is, or you ignore it and it damages you.
And often, we aren’t even aware of how much havoc it can cause in our hearts and our lives when we try to avoid truth.

Should Drug-Dealers Be Held Accountable For Overdose Deaths?

nfsitpy

I have been hearing more and more stories of drug-traffickers, pushers, and dealers being held criminally responsible for overdose deaths.

I am also a regular viewer of the show: “The First 48” and have been for almost 15 seasons now.
So basically I am an expert in criminal law and homicide investigation. 😉

In cases where people supply weapons that ultimately take the life of another person despite their intent, they are still held criminally liable for the death of that person.
The suspect who is being arrested will almost always protest as they are hand-cuffed, saying:
“I am not the one who shot, sir!” and the investigators will always respond:
“It is because of your involvement, your actions, and your part in this that our victim is no longer alive.”

Boom.
So I say, yes, yes, yes.

Drug dealers should most definitely be held responsible for contributing to the death of the people who die as a result of them selling narcotics by acting recklessly or grossly negligent when they sold the drugs that were the source of anyone’s overdose.

I dated a higher-level drug dealer for a couple of years, and another lower-level one for a few years. (And just to clarify, I am not proudly proclaiming. I actually cringed a tiny bit while typing that sentence, and not because of who they were, but because this is more dug-up, now public, evidence to the non-existent standards to which I used to run my life. I cringe because of who I was and some of the choices that I have made…but my truth is my truth. What a colorful life I have led.)

Even as an addicted, self-medicated young woman, lurking deep somewhere underneath the thick coating of Xanax, Valium, and alcohol running through my bloodstream, there was a muffled moral voice screaming at me. Telling me that it was all wrong.

There are no absolutes in the world of bullying, intimidating, and the buying and selling of drugs. No basis of right or wrong. None. 

So much of their time is dedicated to the obsessive-compulsive worry. Worry about protection of house, the product(s), and how to continue remaining inconspicuous to law enforcement.
They worry about themselves.

The rest of the time is spent sleeping with one eye open and looking over their shoulder, or counting money that isn’t even theirs.
They worry about their own well-being.

I have watched as people’s bodies fell to the ground as they were brutally assaulted.
They worry about protecting their own safety at all costs.

I saw thousands and thousands of dollars exchange hands every week. I saw enthusiastic, willing, teenage boys volunteer to ‘get rid of’ backpacks full of small things for nothing more than what would amount to a respectful street nod, a little to smoke for themselves, and a few dollars.
They worry about not exposing themselves.

Yes. It is unfortunate that people actually *choose this life.
It is one of the most selfish ways to live that I have ever seen.
Unlike addiction, it is a choice. It is a moral failing.
And most surprising, it’s not all about monetary gain.

It is also about nurturing a false sense of pride, taking care of the false-self, being looked up to by other people who are just as lost as they are, ensuring the inflated ego is fed continuously, gaining respect from people who either fear them, or who don’t even really like them anyway, and constantly seeking out external validation.

Public image or persona is much more highly regarded than character, or having any real friends, and everything is built on what the next person can do for them. Everyone is expendable and replaceable.

None of that leads to lasting, solid, human connection.
It’s a shallow life of revolving doors that never stop turning.

Not only is there no honor in making quick, dirty, easy money.
There is absolutely NO forethought regarding the well-being of anyone. 

It doesn’t matter if they see the same person ten times a day.
You won’t hear thoughtful dialogue being exchanged about whether or not a certain person has been back too many times, or who maybe shouldn’t be sold to again.
There are not conversations going on behind closed doors about how potent, pure, or dangerous any of the drugs are.
All of that is conveniently filed under the
‘not my problem’ category.

As an empath and a trained counselor, I get it. I can look objectively at these people. I can see that by choosing this lifestyle, it is a clear indication that there are some serious problems.

It obviously signifies that there are several pressing, unresolved, underlying issues within the hearts and minds of these people. The majority of people who choose this life often have painful, traumatic, dysfunctional stories. They have reasons for why they become who they became.

To that I say: so fucking what.
Guess what else they also have?

A sound mind.

They think and plan ahead.
They do complicated math.
They keep intricate, precise records.
They are organized.
Technically, they are CEO’s of a tiny (shitty) little enterprise.

So to say that they don’t understand what they are doing is absolutely ludicrous.
No one should have access to a free pass from the community or from the justice system for being of sound mind, but morally flawed.

They should have to pay the price for their role and responsibility in the decline that lead to the death of another person and in my mind, are no different than physicians who are irresponsible with their prescription pads.

Disclaimer:
I have said before I am pro-life. To me that means, among other things, that I am not a supporter of capital punishment and I believe that every life is important and of value, as long as a person is still breathing.
My being a firm believer that people should have to learn to hold themselves personally-accountable and to take personal responsibility for their actions, does not change the fact that I am a proponent of change, and it doesn’t change my belief that God can change the heart and mind of anyone despite their past.

New Normals

nfsitpy
In early recovery, my secondary focus was finding peace. It could have tied for first place if staying sober was even the tiniest bit negotiable as a required prerequisite before anything else could happen, but that’s not how this recovery thing works.

Finding peace had been a priority on my to-do list my entire life. I am not sure I ever truly appreciated how much I had to exert as I reacted to my high-stress life. But I knew that I was done. I just didn’t have it in me. No more expectantly waiting in ready to either resist and fight or run and hide. I just wanted to land safely somewhere.

Despite spending  years struggling with addiction, substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, and spinning my wheels in abusive relationships, I still secretly yearned for internal and external peace. But I had been caught in the net of severe generational dysfunction my entire life and I didn’t know what to do or how to change or where to start.

Recovery offered me an opportunity to begin to imagine what healthy boundaries would look like if they were plugged into my life. I wrote down what I wanted, and most importantly, what I needed. I hoped that by creating my very first set of boundaries and a list of my own long-term goals I could finally breathe.

The doubt and discouraging words from my a few members of my family echoed in the back of my mind every time I would make a change in my life: “Brittany, those boundaries of yours are great, but you are crazy if you think keeping them from their flesh and blood is good for those kids; you cannot protect those boys from everything.”

But I kept believing, and have continued to honor my heart’s desire for peace.

I admit, I completely  partially agree. Somewhat.
Boundaries are super great, I just might be a tiny bit crazy depending on who you’re asking and when they knew of me, and I cannot protect these boys from everything. Holy balls. Today, more than ever, I am very much aware that I can’t “protect those boys from everything.” Every time I think I have any kind of stable, solid, footing, adulthood and parenthood laughs in my face and I am reminded yet again of how much of everything I have zero control over.

To be completely candid (surprise) I don’t want the burden of having some illusion that I have everything under control. It is my belief that is God’s job.

My job as mommy is to love my little people. To me, loving them means guiding, teaching and protecting.

Avoiding the known, pre-existing pits and pot holes that I already know exist (because I have only recently crawled my way out of them) certainly falls within that realm of protector, included in my job description.

It is my desire, my duty, and my personal obligation to keep them from harm’s way as much as is in my power and control.

And there are definitely things  that I look at and think to myself: “Yep. We’ll just leave that where it is. It doesn’t need to come with us.” And then we move forward.

Breaking cycles or being committed to stopping unhealthy patterns is all about making different choices. It’s about leaving legacies that are non-toxic or even a little bit less-shitty than what the generation that preceded it left behind. I know I cannot offer perfection to my children. They will tell you that, ask them.

Things were unfamiliar and weird for me for a long time. In fact, even now I still have certain times where I find myself lost in my own thoughts, almost missing the familiarity of my family or the idea of my family.

Isn’t it a ridiculous notion to feel like you are missing places and things that you never truly connected to, and people who you never actually bonded with?
How’s that for dysfunction?  🙂

But my children are experiencing a new normal and that makes it all worth it.

In our home we have chosen to ditch the well-beaten (over-used, worn-out, easier) path and have chosen to take the dangerous, less-talked about, less-traveled, less-popular road. We are making our own rules, our own memories, and our own traditions.

(Which basically means that we are off-roading, and despite not being much of a risk-taker these days, the newness that accompanies the scenic route is refreshing and much more fun.)

Guest: Sonia Tagliareni-DrugRehab.com Writer & Researcher

nfsitpy

Recovery is a lifelong process that extends far beyond substance abuse treatment. Maintaining abstinence is paramount if an individual wants to lead a drug and alcohol free life.

Substance abuse treatment is difficult on patients but maintaining recovery after treatment is equally challenging. The people in recovery need to stay away from environmental triggers and learn to recognize their own psychological and emotional triggers. They also need to focus on developing healthy reactions to stress from their personal and professional lives.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the four pillars of a successful recovery are:

  • Health — Make wise and healthy decisions to stay away from substances of abuse.
  • Home — Invest in a stable, safe and stress-free place to live while recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Purpose — Partake in activities that contribute to an individual’s worth in society, such as a job, school, volunteering and creative activities.
  • Community — Creating meaningful relationships and social networks with members of the community can provide support, love, friendship and hope throughout recovery.

Abstinence from drugs and alcohol is a lifestyle that individuals need to adopt. In some cases, the living situations of former substance users are not ideal for their continued recovery from a substance use disorder. Destructive living environments can cause the former drug and alcohol users to relapse, hindering their recovery.

Transitional housing, such as sober living homes provide a safe and substance-free environment for people in recovery, allowing them to acquire the proper tools that will facilitate their societal reintegration. If sober homes are not an option, the person in recovery should seek out supportive friends and family with healthy lifestyles.

Former substance users may also need to attend more meetings, surround themselves with people who support recovery, structure their lives and avoid external triggers, including places where they used to buy or use drugs and former alcohol-consuming friends.

Managing Triggers

Managing triggers plays an important part in maintaining recovery from substance abuse.

Internal triggers are more challenging to manage than external triggers because they involve thoughts and feelings that the individual associates with substance abuse. These cues can deter recovery and lead to relapse.

Through counseling and therapy, individuals recovering from drug and alcohol abuse can learn to train their brains to dissociate their thoughts and feelings from substances of abuse. Therapists will teach them to identify triggers through questions and offer healthy coping skills to constructively deal with thoughts that would otherwise lead to relapse.

Identifying triggers is essential to recovery — the sooner a person learns to recognize and identify factors that might drive them to use substances, the greater their chances of abstinence.

Written By Sonia Tagliareni

Sonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.


Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). An Individual Drug Counseling Approach to Treat Cocaine Addiction. Retrieved from http://archives.drugabuse.gov/TXManuals/IDCA/IDCA11.html

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015, October 5). Recovery and Recovery Support. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/recovery

Polcin, D.L. et al. (2010, December). What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057870/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. (1999). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64332/#A58353

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