Author: Brittany

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

3 Things I Have Learned About Breaking Cycles of Dysfunction

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Most of what was supposed to have been my childhood was actually just me, walking around pissed, in disbelief that my life was actually my life.

The rest I was just hyper-focused and centered on pre-planning my actions & reactions, and surviving day-to-day on an emotional and psychological level.

I had no idea that I was actually just one of many. There were dozens of people stuck in this cataclysmic wind-tunnel that we so graciously called our ‘family’. But it was what we knew.

My life post-acknowledging-trauma has been frustrating and blissful, but mostly dedicated to putting fragmented pieces of my past back together, (only to trash most of everything), and desperately trying to conjure up and salvage old memories in my quest to prove to myself that they actually exist and that I did have some positive experiences. And unlearning. Significant amounts of unlearning, but even more learning than unlearning.

I took a course a few years ago called ‘Family Systems’.

We were asked to dig deeper into our family histories, with a goal of gaining a clearer perspective that biological influences and environmental factors have on entire family systems and how cycles impact succeeding generations.

(I felt that I had already got my money’s worth after I learned that families are in fact, systems. News to me.)

I created my first-ever family genogram.
And ladies and gents, it got weird.

To be able to sit at my kitchen table and see generations of dysfunction, mental-illness, drug-addiction, substance use disorders, codependency, and enabling,  spelled out on paper and carefully color-coded was telling and it felt eerie.

But there it was in all of its dysfunctional, unhealthy, generational glory. My very own hand-drawn, neatly color-coded family tree staring me in the face, begging to be analyzed.

This particular project changed my perspective on generational toxicity. 
Here’s how:

It forced me to look at the people in my family more objectively.
It was like creating art and having to take a step back to take in the entire picture. Somehow that helps the artist to create balance or cohesion or to gauge what direction they need to go in next.  Sometimes when you are deeply connected to something and focused on certain areas or spots that are more important to you, it becomes difficult to see what it is in its entirety. Seeing it as a whole, as opposed to honing in on specific areas can change everything that you feel about the whole thing. This is what happened for me. I took a step back, and all of the details that I didn’t understand or know where to put, finally made sense.

It affirmed one of my deepest fears.
Shit. It was up to me. I am the one who can change things for my kids. Me. I am almost sure I probably cycled through the stages of grief realizing that it was my job to allow God to work through me and impact my life, and my children would be the recipients of the gifts of these changes.
So there I stood, in my kitchen, holding the ball in my court armed with information and experiences that allowed me to make new, fresh, smarter choices. I knew things people planted above me on this tree didn’t have the privilege of knowing and there was no going back. I felt an immense amount of pressure and relief at the same time. What a blessing it is to have the choice to make these changes, despite being one of the scariest privileges I have ever been gifted.

I realized that breaking cycles isn’t as complex or as scary as it sounds. 
It was pretty clear to see on paper just how seamless the transition could be when passing the torch of dysfunction & unhealthy habits down to the next, innocent, unsuspecting generation. But it wasn’t as scary and complicated to begin as I had thought. I have learned that we can single-handedly break generational cycles. And by single-handedly I mean one decision and one reaction and one adult parental choice at a time. I mean with the help of faith, friends, mentors, resources, and healthy relationships. One choice at a time with the hope of looking back one day, and hindsight showing me that the little things were actually the huge things, and that carefully tending to their foundation and working tirelessly to show them unconditional love, authenticity over perfection, moderate consistency, fun, and providing a safe, reliable, solid, landing-place was what I knew how to do, with what I had at the time.

So maybe for today, believe that you can do this. If you are like me, you will fall and get back up, you will be more consistent some days and less on others, you will doubt your abilities from time to time, but you will keep working because you are going to be the one to change the trajectory of this thing.

 

How To Get Through Halloween Sober.

halloween
Before I became addicted to Benzodiazepines and tirelessly & unsuccessfully escaping my life, I was a self-categorized professional ‘party girl’.

Ahhh. The life of ridiculous, careless, over-indulgence.

What a glamorous thing. 

Long before my physiological-self needed its next high to start any given day, my false-self (ego) needed to remain active at all times, as long as I was awake, to serve as my reminder that I was still alive, relevant, and not as lost as I felt on the inside.

If I didn’t go out on a Friday night, or make it to ladies night Thursdays, or celebrate every single American holiday printed on my 12-month wall-calendar, I would double-over, cringing with anxiety, as I imagined all of the things I would miss if I stayed home. Also, staying in also meant I would be plagued with the overwhelming task of boring myself with my own company and having to endure my deep-seeded hatred of alone time. No thanks.

Halloween was no exception.

In my teens, Halloween meant having bonfires in geographical places where they weren’t allowed, nasty ass keg beer, hanging out until the wee hours of the morning with the same group of people, and hopping around from house party to house party until it was time to drive drunk to Taco Bell at 3 a.m. Amazing. Memories to be cherished.

As I got older it meant scrambling to dress my son in his costume long-enough to take a few photos and dump him off with his grandma so that I could go and celebrate Halloween as I should, and as I deserved: like an adult at a bar until it was time to argue with whichever bartender dared yell ‘last call’ in my face. At which time I would probably try to fight he/she, until I had to be physically removed.
Fun fun. Wouldn’t want to miss all of that.

Toward the end of my days living in active addiction hell on earth, Halloween mostly meant driving around all day having to endure shit conversations from older men selling Xanax, scoring as many as I could, for under seven dollars a pill, and going home to eat them all, smoke pot, and drink alone by myself all night. Those were the days years. (Said no one ever.)

So I can relate.
It is hard to stay sober on Halloween so here are a few things to remember:

-You don’t have to have a “Happy” Halloween.
You just don’t. It’s okay to not feel super excited about being sober on a holiday. It is fine to pass on passing out candy, or to turn off the lights and ignore the entire thing. It is not okay to trick yourself into believing that drinking or using is what you need in order to have a ‘happy’ Halloween. We all know that it doesn’t work. Have a sober Halloween, not a happy one.

-Sometimes it can feel like you are missing out on everything.
You aren’t missing anything and deep down, you know you’re only missing the same ole’ same ole’. And remember, you are not missing anything if those things are going to hurt you and you are important to you now.

-You can start to talk yourself into believing you are being left out.
Don’t buy it. You are choosing to opt out, because you are committed to taking care of you. You are making strong, wise, choices because you are on a mission. You are changing.

-Like you can’t deal with the emotions that you are feeling. 
Emotions and feelings are mean girls sometimes. Anxieties and fear and worry are strong little britches. They’ll relentlessly bully and harass you until you feel like you need to break in order to make it go away. But you don’t need to hide anymore. You are feeling it and facing it, but you don’t have to do it all alone. Call someone or reach out to any online resource out there, or go to a meeting, any meeting.

-You can talk yourself into buying the lies that one more time won’t be that bad.
Yes, going out to party ‘one more time’ is a really, really, terrible, bad idea.
End of that story.
You’re welcome.

-No you aren’t irrelevant or boring or lame.
You matter and you are important. You are valued and worthy, and exactly none of that is related to your proximity to the nearest Halloweenie fun fest.

-Yes, you can do other things.
Read a good book or go buy a magazine, scroll through Pinterest, watch a movie, go to the store and buy ice cream or Oreo’s and milk, take a long walk, go to the gym, buy a bunch of shit on Shutterfly and go to sleep early, or make a list of all of the reasons that you really want to stay sober and why.

-The truth is not what you think, so be vigilant.
Your body might be craving routine, your mind might try to force you into your old way of thinking, but keep reminding yourself not to believe the hype.
The truth is if you give in now you will just have to start again. You already know that you will end up in a place where you don’t want to be, and where you aren’t happy or healthy or at peace.
The truth is, you are changing your life and it’s hard to transition from one version of yourself to the next.

Don’t Give Up

Music speaks to me in a unique way and I loved this song the very first time I heard it on the radio a few weeks ago.

Today is first time I have had a chance to watch the ‘official’ video for this song. I sat this morning with tears streaming down my face as I watched and listened, drowning in gratitude. I thanked the Lord for His grace and mercy and healing. I have been allowed the freedom to let go of that little girl who used to take up residence inside of my head and my heart, and I have accepted forgiveness, and have forgiven myself for being that mom pleading with the garbage disposal. I am beyond thankful that I crossed paths with Celebrate Recovery and found God. He gave me the strength to walk down some of the ugliest, messiest, most painful roads on my search for closure, healing, and contentment.

There really is hope and healing and life after being in a state of complete brokenness.
Please keep holding on, and don’t give up hope on yourself.

Zach Williams, Chain-Breaker Lyrics:

If you’re been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside
There’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all searched for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
When there’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify, testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify

If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

nfsitpy

When You Finally See That Everything Is Not Fine

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Generational addiction is complex and ugly.

While it isn’t a hopeless thing to come back from, it is impossible to mend relationships if no one is willing to take a look at the truth, especially if you are talking about unraveling years and years of effects of trauma, abuse, codependency, enabling, addiction, and mismanaged mental-illness.

So not every family trying to interact with each other after dealing with addiction and its ramifications make it. We don’t all kiss and make up. We don’t all attend group counseling sessions or family rehab visits or collaborative therapy or accept apologies or offer or accept forgiveness.

It’s a hot fucking mess express, and everyone knows it.
And sometimes, it just stays messy and no one wants to touch it.

There are no unicorns, no rainbows, no positive quotes. No hugs or family selfies.
There is disconnection, and minimizing, rationalizing, denying, justifying, and distorting. It’s frustrating.

And I totally get it. 
I know how good it feels to push away the raw, real, shame-ridden truth for as long as you possibly can, and those defense mechanisms are helpful truth shunning aids.

They trick your mind and your heart into feeling like things aren’t as bad as they actually are; into believing that ‘everything is fine’ when in fact, all of the things are anything but fine.
And they do great work. 
You can use them for as long as life will allow, or, as long as your own truth will allow. Defense mechanisms are most definitely one of those things that work until they can’t anymore.

But there is no grey area to linger comfortably in.
They either work or they don’t.

So sometimes when you commit to living authentically, you have to walk away.
You have to space between you, and Pleasantville.

Maybe, like me, you have to throw your hands in the air and scream:
“Everything is not fine. No matter how many times you say it is or band-aid it all up, it still isn’t fine.”

So you make new choices.

You decide to do what is best and healthiest and easiest for you to live with every day and you own it.

You believe in the choices that you are making.

You choose to face the pain of walking alone because it hurts less than pretending.

You gather up your pieces of what is left and you keep moving forward.

You stay open to possibilities, but you refuse to allow old mindsets to hold you down.

And you wrap God’s truth around your heart tightly, and you cling to His track record in the restoration department.

The end.

Dear Younger, More Naive, Critical, Me

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In case you need a reminder today: It’s going to be okay. You are not a failure.

Lapse, relapse, messed up, slipped up, fucked up, wrong choice?
It doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve sobriety.
It doesn’t mean that you will always just mess up.
It also doesn’t mean that you have failed and you should shelve the idea of attempting a new lifestyle.

I won’t bore you with the specifics in relation to all of the times that I lied to myself and cheated my sobriety and fucked up early on in my recovery.

Or how many times I sat surrounded by that cozy familiar feeling of numb, staring blankly into space as I listened to people who were telling me that I was loved and that they could see me, as I secretly pondered how much I didn’t deserve to be there hearing those things.

Since I sincerely don’t love giving direct advice, here is some that I would have whispered into my own ear:

You are changing your entire life. Calm down and slow down a little bit.
Listen. This is all new. You changed jobs, friends, locations, and your life is no longer recognizable. Your new normal will feel weird for a while and you will probably be uncomfortable and scared.
Maybe you aren’t sure that you will ever get used to it all, but you will.  It might take a long time to warm up to all of the new things, and for those new things to become your normal things, but they will. It takes time. Also, when you are in the midst of all of the changes you probably won’t be able to see how your small changes are important and it will be frustrating. You will have no idea how significant or incredible the small victories actually are, or how huge their role is to the process. Try to calm down and let the things play out, because I can assure you, they all matter.

Handle yourself with more care and stop with the picking.
Just stop. You are over-analytical and critical are there are not strong enough words to describe how harshly you handle yourself. It is okay that you are not meeting your own unrealistic expectations and unattainable goals. You are shedding skin that you have lived in for over twenty-years. This process is painful. You expected sobriety to be the answer, and while it is the first step toward peace and freedom, it is only the first step in the right direction. Keep pushing through. Keep rewriting and overshadowing your old beliefs about yourself and about what you thought your experiences and choices meant. You get to choose what happens next.

Recovery changes and it isn’t as black and white as people think.
There’s grey. The  grey is where the magic happens. It’s where the lessons and learning and navigation take place. When you make a mistake or forgot to journal, or if you miss a meeting, or lose your temper, or slip up, or feel your old ways of thinking or coping creeping back to the forefront of your mind, that doesn’t mean that you throw everything else out the window.
Your progress still matters. Don’t discount all of the days and weeks that you walked through the doors of the church sober with your homework done. Don’t overlook all of the times you came straight home from work or that one time that you turned your car around and decided to come back home instead of going where you weren’t supposed to go. Don’t believe that since you slipped up that you should completely derail. You haven’t failed, you messed up. And that’s it.
Now you stand up and you own it, and admit it and you keep moving forward.

3 Powerful Things I Have Learned In Recovery

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Funny, amazing, beautiful, painful, crazy awesome things happen when you allow God to disassemble your entire life and the person who you thought you were, and allow transformation to happen.

I am not sure if I have gone through so many internal overhaul’s because I got sober at a young age, or because until that point I had never truly cared about the importance of self-discovery, or because I get bored easily. Probably a combo of the three, but nevertheless, I have learned a lot along the way so far and I know that I am not anywhere near the end of the learning process. 

Here are a few unexpected things that I have learned along my journey:

I don’t know.
I don’t have answers. Not about my recovery and most definitely, not about yours.
Instead of rollin’ up on my upcoming ten-year chip overflowing with intellectual, shiny, advice or with some cataclysmic, overabundance of wisdom, it’s the opposite.
I realize with humility that I really don’t have answers, I only have personal experiences.
I have at my disposal, an arsenal full of weapons that work for me and a storage shed crammed with a long list of stuff that didn’t work for me that I continuously try to empty.
I have trial and error, and a lot of trial but probably a lot more error.
I also have the wisdom gained through face planting experiences, from falling over the bumps in the road, and from making lefts when I could have chosen to take a smoother route with what would probably be a better, healthier vantage point.

And also, several days per month I question my own strength, sanity, abilities and purpose. So I humbly remind you, it’s okay to not know all of the things all of the time.

Proceed with caution in the presence of Chronic Advice Philanthropists.
Online, or in close proximity to me. Bye Felicia them all day. They are givers. And no, there isn’t anything wrong with being a giver. But too much of a well-intended not-so-good thing triggers my internal alarm bells. Red flags everywhere.
I am all for people helping people. I am all for information & knowledge sharing and encouraging other people.
But in my experience there is a fine line between telling people how they should feel, and explaining to them what they should be doing and how it looks very similar to the advice giver’s path – and listening to someone and allowing them to talk about their problems, and guiding them or simply allowing them to experience the gift of self-revelation through expression.

Guidance or listening ears = good. People telling you what you should be doing or that what you are doing breaks golden recovery program rules = back away slowly.
Taking advice that is not meant for you will only smash you into uncomfortable corners that you don’t belong in, onto roads that weren’t meant for you to travel on. By embracing truth that isn’t meant for your walk, you will only end up on yet another detour, taking the long way back home. To find your true self.

Here’s what I would advise that you do when it comes to how seriously you should take direct, pushy, judgmental, blanket, forced, advice:
Don’t.
The end.

Looking back at your past won’t always be that interesting.
I really wouldn’t have believed you if you would have told me that some day I would get to a place where looking back wasn’t a necessity, but rather, something that helps me to help other people.

It is not longer about standing in awe of how much I have overcome, it is about showing others how far they can move.

It’s moved away from me moving away from my painful past, and has me walking closer and standing by other people to remind them that they are capable of moving away from their old way of living and thinking and doing and being. It’s about reminding them that they can also learn new things and embrace a newer, healthier, version of themselves.

This shift in mindset wasn’t a conscious or intentional effort on my part, it just sort of happened.

My psychological road trips are much less frequent and less necessary.
Obviously, my story (and all that entails) will always be a part of who I am, but it is not as pronounced as it used to be. The best way that I can describe it, is that as time passes it fades, it’s status has officially shifted to low-key.  It’s not as vibrant or relevant as it once was.

Most importantly, it has lost its power to dictate how I view my person. It has lost its power to influence how I feel about my capabilities, and my worth.

And I am really kind of digging it.

I Am The Child Of An Addict & I Am A Former Stigma Supporter

stigma
If anyone understands what the ramifications of guilt and shame associated with the relentless, ignorant, shaming of another human being feels like, it would be me.

Guilty.

I was twenty-five before I realized that maybe, maybe my mom wasn’t actually just a batshit crazy woman, doomed to forever be an infuriating, selfish person.

Seriously.
I am a former-stigma pusher.

When I was young, jumping on the popular bandwagon of the ill-informed people felt natural to me. I wanted to be normal and to live normal and to know what the fuck normal felt like. I didn’t want people to think that I was okay with how things were, because I wasn’t.

I wasn’t able to comprehend the complexity of our situation. I didn’t understand her, or her ‘chosen’ lifestyle choices, or her adult decisions that weren’t adult at all, all of which completely ruined my not-so-hand-picked childhood.

As a teen, I was just a bitter, egocentric, wounded young woman who had no desire to learn about her or the ‘why’ behind the curtain. I didn’t care. I knew enough and there was no story or sickness or explanations that were going to be logical enough for me to feel like she deserved to be excused for how my early life went.

But in the last 5-10 years we have actually been given specific, more accurate diagnoses.
They have explained away the majority of what experiencing my own addiction still hadn’t.

Her particular situation was and is so complex and sticky and messy, and is not as much her fault as it is her illnesses that have been amplified and worsened by long-term addiction and under or mis-diagnosis.

Looking back, one of the greatest, most fresh, ripe, vital resources that laid the groundwork for some of my own deep-seeded toxic shame (that I would later unpack after I became addicted), was the shaming and judgment that I endured indirectly, (oopsie) as people boastfully voiced their self-righteous opinions about my household.

Throughout my childhood, many people publicly and privately shamed my mom.

And the more I watched as she was taunted and shunned, and gossiped about, and the more rumors and snickers and whispers were spread, the more it began to devalue who I was.

And the more I hated her.
And the more I blamed her.

All of that played a crucial role in how I began to identify and how I saw my value as a person.

Lately, there has been a ton of public criticism of parents and caregivers who have overdosed in front of children or minors.

So, as a child of an addict, AND as a former judgmental asshole, here are a couple of things that I want people to know:

Those kids? They FEEL it all.
Like, ALL of it.

If we care so much about the suffering, health, well-being, and future of the children who are a part an addicted family, remember: before you sprint to and inject your opinions into the comment area, or within the confines of your own day-to-day interactions, do so with a little bit of mindfulness and maybe, even compassion.

Children feel emotionally connected to their caregivers and that means that what you say about their addicted or ill parent hits them much harder, and deeper than you might think.

They feel every one of your harsh, cruel, critical, degrading comment that you blindly shove their way, and they will wear your long-stares like an awkward, warm, microfiber blanket wrapped tightly around their still developing self-image.
 

Your judgment will not change things.
You are keeping them down, right where you believe their parents are:  below you.

Unless you have been in that place you probably can’t imagine what they are already going through. They are trying to process things that move faster than they can go, that are far more complex than their brains can comprehend, and that are more damaging than an F5 tornado ripping through a mobile home community.

Addiction means maladaptive everything; irregular thinking, feeling, coping, seeing, and finally, being.

These children are over-compensating and are hyper-focused on looking like the rest of us. They spend a lot of time not being children, but running around in their own minds trying to sweep things up, hide and cover things and trying to decide if it is time for fight or for flight.
It would be a pretty accurate consensus to say that the deck isn’t stacked in their favor.

And guess how much your judgment of their caregiver or loved one does for their actual situation or how they feel or their odds of learning life skills and acquiring tools to acknowledge, process, reflect on and overcome their life experiences?

Exactly zero.

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