Author: Brittany

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

 

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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.

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“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?

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

Guest: Trey Dyer-Drugrehab.com Author

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Where Do Teens Find Drugs?

Check Your Medicine Cabinet

Teens can encounter drugs in a number of ways. At school, with friends, from drug dealers — these are all possible avenues for teens to find drugs. However, most teens do not have to leave their home to find drugs these days. A trip to the medicine cabinet has become the fastest and easiest way to get high.

The medicine cabinet is a one-stop shop for teens looking to find an easy high. Prescription drugs such as painkillers, ADHD medications and anti-anxiety medications are highly sought after by teens. To make matters worse, more Americans have unused prescription medications in their homes than ever before, which many experts attribute to the rise in prescription drug abuse.

“As America faces an explosive prescription drug abuse problem, parents need to be aware that their family medicine cabinet and the internet have become today’s back alley drug dealers,” said Michele Leonhart, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in the DEA resource guide Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Abuse Medicine.

Prescription drugs are the most widely used substances among illicit drug users behind marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2010, 26 percent of first-time drug users started by abusing prescription drugs.

According to multiple studies, including research from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, as many as one in five teens have used prescription drugs to get high in their lifetime. One in 10 teens has used over-the-counter cough syrup or cold medicine to get high.

Rates of teen opioid abuse are particularly alarming. According to the DEA, 10 percent of teens say they have used a pain medication to get high in the past year, and 6 percent say they used a pain medication to get high in the past 30 days.

How Do I Keep My Teen from Abusing Prescription Drugs?

Prevention is a lot simpler than most parents or guardians think; it does not take an army of DEA agents and drug counselors to prevent your teen from abusing prescription drugs. There are four simple precautions you can take:

  1. Take inventory of your medications:
    Knowing what medications you have in your home, the amount and where they are located can help you keep track of whether your teen is stealing prescription drugs to get high.
  2. Dispose of unwanted or unused medications:
    Forgotten or old medications are prime targets for teens looking to find an easy high. Prescription drug disposal sites at places such as police stations are becoming more common and allow people to safely dispose of unused medications that could fall into the hands of teens.
  3. Lock up your medicine cabinet:
    Teens cannot steal prescription drugs if they cannot access them. Locking up your medicine cabinet is an extremely effective way to prevent prescription drug abuse in your home.
  4. Talk to your teen about the dangers of prescription drugs:
    Often, teens believe that taking prescription drugs to get high is safer than illicit drugs. It is important for parents and guardians to teach their kids from a young age that prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illicit ones.

 

Taking the steps listed above and having open, honest conversations with your teen about the risks of substance abuse can help your child stay healthy and drug free.

 

trey-image Written by: Trey Dyer

Trey Dyer is a writer and content creator for DrugRehab.com.  He is a proponent of substance use disorder treatment. When Trey is not working, he can be found surfing, hiking and fly fishing.

 

Sources:

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2012, August). Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Abuse Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/prescription_for_disaster_english.pdf

Johnston, L. et al. (2016, September 6). Marijuana use continues to rise among U.S. college students; use of narcotic drugs decline. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pressreleases/16drugpr_complete.pdf

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. (n.d.). Preventing Teen Abuse of Prescription Drugs Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/consumers/parents_preventing_teen_rx_abuse.pdf

Doubting God & Making My Faith My Own

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Yesterday I was digging around looking for an application for certification that I had misplaced. (Because there is nothing that makes more sense than being a housemommywife with credentials that I won’t actually be using.)
I found the application, along with (a quarter, yes.This is a small portion) of my hand-written notes from back in the day.

At the time they were written, I had made the big move from being an apathetic, empty, angry, deity denying, God-loathing person, and had moved somewhere closer to believing that there could be something or someone more.

I wasn’t ever a passive person and being sober didn’t change that. There was no way I was the kind of person who was just going to accept that this Jesus, who I had heard so much about, was real or that the Bible was “truth”, just because other people told me to believe it. I was a thinking person. (Yes. Even people who think can get addicted to drugs. True story.) I was not a person who was going to be pushed into believing something unless I actually believed it.

Although Jesus’ words were already penetrating through and touching some of the darkest, most hidden parts of my person. I didn’t just want to feel it for myself, I wanted to ‘know’.
I needed to know.

I was filled with hope and wonder, and doubt, fear, and uneasiness. But instead of running away, I chose to find out more. So, I followed where my ego led, and together we stepped out in ‘faith’ and fact checked God. I spent a fair amount of my free time analyzing, over-thinking, over-analyzing, intellectualizing and learning.

And as I Googled the absolute shit out of every single version of Christianity and other world religions, and as I studied and read and wrote and compared and contrasted core beliefs, missions, and their histories, something incredible happened.

God used my doubt and reluctance.

He waited as I sifted through all that I felt like I needed to, and he patiently and gently answered all of my questions. He took it all and he gave it back to me shiny and new and bigger than anything I could have dreamed of. I felt in awe when I heard and read more of His words, and they did feel so so sweet and refreshing to my soul-like no other advice or motivational prompting I had ever endured encountered.

This is where I realized that on my quest, I had somehow actually developed faith in God, through the words and life of Jesus. I came out of the other side with pages full of notes, facts, practices, and miscellaneous information; with belief, hope, and a faith to call my own.

I don’t believe for one second that God is against education or thinking people or people who have questions or doubts. Not at all.

He knew that I needed to come to my own conclusions, so that I could see for myself that there is a difference between knowing and feeling; between probing, comparing, contrasting, and memorizing facts, and experiencing your own, personal, true faith through Jesus’ words. 

So. After I reminisced and took some time to laugh at the older, younger, version of myself, I let my toddler stomp all over my notes. He played & crumbled them up before he proudly carried them to the trash can like a big boy.

Like with several other components that I have picked up along my recovery journey, these notes served their purpose an it was finally time to let them go for good.

Guest: Marc- Afflictions Eclipsed by Glory

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It is my belief that everything happens for a reason.

A belief I was intrinsically born with I believe yet brought to fruition by my faith in a power that is greater than myself. My belief in all-powerful, all knowing, and all loving power that I myself, choose to call God!

My creator, my healer, my wonderful counselor and best friend, but most importantly, “My Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

It is through this belief that I have come to the conclusion that all my years of suffering in active addiction wasn’t for not. That all the pain I caused those who loved me most, had to be for a greater purpose. That all the people I lied to, cheated on, and stolen from, must somehow in the long run benefit in some weird way from the chaos that the world once knew as my life!

If I had to choose one person, the God had created to walk the face of this earth as the most influential in my life. it would be a man I have never met before, or even seen a real photograph of, and who some may even try and argue is simply just a figment of my imagination, but I beg to differ.

That man would be an author such as myself, but I consider him to be the greatest author of all time, the Apostle Paul. The original gangster, one of my God’s very own messengers to all of the humanity and quite possibly the second greatest man to ever dwell on this planet.

In a collaborative effort with the likes of many other great writers, they published a book. Hundreds of years ago if not even more than that, and in that book, in one of the many letters he penned in it, a few sentences he wrote have profoundly affected me more than any other-other piece of literary prose.

He wrote ” I have been pressed down, but not crushed. Persecuted not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed. I am blessed beyond the curse, for his promise will endure, and his joy is going to be my strength.” 

Those two sentences for me sum up my journey from the depths of hell, swimming in the lake of fire of my active addiction. To the almost too many to even count blessings, that have occurred in the past six months of this journey into long-term, productive and healthy recovery.

It states to me that all though I was seriously pressed down by an addiction to mind and mood altering chemicals, that I have survived and I am alive. I was not crushed but definitely dealt with my fair share of persecution due to the enormous stigma that surrounds those who suffer from a Substance Abuse Disorder in today’s society.

I was not destroyed, even though I overdosed one time and tried taking my own life on more than one occasion. And that I am blessed beyond the curse of being a miserable, homeless, selfish drug addict who could not even stand to see the sight of his own face in the mirror.

Now off substances for some time, and back into my right mind am able to see that promise that Paul talked about. A promise that if I stay focused, motivated for change, and surrounded by a network of healthy support people who have my best interests in mind, that I too will attain the prize of Joy that he so strenuously mentions above.

That joy, that feeling of excited expectedness you have when you wake up in the morning eager to see the blessings that this new clean and sober life has to gift you creates the strength to keep on keeping on.

The strength to dive deep within your soul and begin to open some of door’s you have padlocked shut. The strength to tell those you hurt and those you love that “I am so sorry for the things I did in my past that caused you grief.” The strength to stand up, walk in front of the mirror and look yourself in the eyes and say ” you know what, I forgive you!!”

Be blessed you all and remember; I love you!

Marc Mcmahon is a published author, motivational speaker on addiction, and Soldier in a war to cripple the disease of drug addiction. Recruiting as many new soldiers as possible to launch an all-out assault against substance abuse. Join him in his fight. Together we can be an unstoppable force that makes this disease cringe every time he hears our boots marching towards him for battle!

4 Ways To Avoid Your Baggage, That Won’t Help You

bags

Baggage. We all have it.
How full it is, what it contains, and how willing you are to unpack it depends on who you are.
And I learned the hard way, as I do most of my life things, that unpacking the bag is more wise than some of the alternatives….

Growing up, I hid each part of who I wanted to be.
I abandoned my own desires and quieted my ideas and ignored my own needs. I tucked away my fear and pushed my pain down and hushed feelings of sadness.
My moves were calculated, and dictated by trauma.

My philosophy was pretty simple.

I just took all of the stuff that I couldn’t hold or handle, and I moved it. It was my quick-fix/out-of-sight, out-of-heart approach that I thought was helping me. I wasn’t intentionally saving it all of this stuff for some rainy day or hundreds of group therapy sessions in my mid-twenties.

I truly had no idea that repressing was not the same thing as processing and that hiding and avoiding wouldn’t have the same effect on my life and my future as acknowledging and confronting would.
I was sort of just aiming for the safe, warm fuzzies.

As I tucked it all away, it was being kept secure and intact in a figurative bag.
And you better believe that my baggeth had definitely runneth over.

It was a dark and ugly bag. Bursting at the seams because it had filled it for so many years, it had become so heavy and I knew in my heart that soon, I would not have the choice to take another step, even in my preferred direction: backward.

I would have done anything to avoid having to unzip that bag and open it up. Anything sounded better to me than confronting its contents, so I avoided it for as long as life would allow me to. 
On my road of self-discovery, I have discovered a few ways of handling my own baggage, that believe it or not, won’t actually help.

Here are four:

Hiding the bag.
I managed to hide hundreds of pills from myself over the years to make sure that I wouldn’t lose them, only to never, (ever) find them again. Yet I couldn’t manage to hide this bag for one nano second. It too bulky so it wouldn’t fit anywhere and no matter how many fistfuls of pills I ingested, I knew exactly where it was. I couldn’t forget where I tried to hide it. Insanity. It made me feel insane. I became hyper-focused on this game particular game of hide-and-seek not admitting to myself what I already knew: I wouldn’t ever win.

Ignoring the bag altogether.
Surely it wasn’t there if I told myself that it wasn’t.
I just told myself that the bag didn’t matter and if it did actually matter, or if it were meant to play any significant role in my actual life, it wouldn’t be in the bag in the first place, now would it? I labeled the contents of the bag ‘garbage’.
I could ignore trash easier than I could my truth. Here’s what I wasn’t expecting: Truth is always louder in the end, and it always comes out on top. Truth wins.

Shifting the weight of the bag.
This tactic was pretty reliable for a while, and it worked until it just couldn’t.
Sort of like if you had numerous bank accounts and also a money moving issue, with too much coming out and not enough going in. Eventually playing catch-up wouldn’t cut it, and the problem would explode, exposing the lack of available funds in your account and your inability to cover your ass. In my case, I ran out of stamina and shoulder room. Shifting and moving and changing positions was tiring.

Pawning it off onto willing shoulders, or any shoulders that weren’t mine.
It was like a game of hot-potato. I got rid of it as quickly as I could the second it was back in my hands to the person closest to me, who was standing with their arms out, willing to play the game.
This one was my favorite, go-to approach of ignoring the bag. Although the bag was still attached to me, these innocent gems carried it for me so that I could no longer feel the weight, and there is no better remedy for my conscience than volunteers who asked to carry my bag for me.

I will be the first to admit that it took quite a bit of time after I got sober for me to accept that this bag was mine.

I hated that it was mine and that I was responsible for it and I hated that I felt stupid and embarrassed for denying that it was mine for so long. But after some convincing, I realized that taking ownership of the bag was pretty important.

Accepting that no one else would, could, or should unpack it, was half of my battle. The other half of my battle was the actual unpacking part. I was terrified and unsure of my unpacking abilities. I had to allow the loving, caring, people who were in my life to stand beside me and hold the bag open. I had to believe them when they said that there was beauty packed deep inside, but it was my duty to bend down and scoop out the contents of my bag, one item, one memory, one mistake, one regret, and one tear at a time.

Ten years of recovery and my new life is contingent upon a process that reflects this same process.

I have had to continually live on faith, not knowing if I am going to actually find the beauty in the hard things. I have to accept the love given to me and I have to continue to do the work that I need to do in order to move forward.

And my bag?
Still not empty.
You heard me.

I am still unpacking.

I am still pulling out one thing at a time, dusting it off, and googling the shit out of it to make sure I am handling it correctly. (Kidding)

I am still digging and processing and healing and learning about myself. I have also come to the realization that I am not happy or grateful for all of the things that I have experienced but I am grateful for the lessons that my experiences have taught me.

And one of the most important lessons that I have taken away from all of this is that my personal freedom, and my ability to live and thrive and move forward, was not a result of my initial decision to try recovery.

I didn’t find freedom the second that I made the decision to live sober.

My freedom has been found inside of my baggage.

I found my freedom inside of the pain; in believing in myself.

I found my freedom within my personal belief, that I could, by God’s Grace and through His strength, move through all of the hard things that I had believed for so long, would kill me if I faced them.

The Experience of Love

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Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. 
― Richard Rohr

Why is love so scary? Maybe it’s because it asks us to be vulnerable before it delivers.

Addiction destroyed me. It ravaged my entire life and it took out everything that I had left. This would be the last phase of a long list of self-destructive habits that I had adopted; my last stop before I met an untimely death or an on-time life change, and the difference between the two would be my choice to make.

So I crawled away from drugs and alcohol with my life, and a deep seeded desire to experience rest- not knowing if I would make and certainly not believing that I deserved it.

But it was this destruction that opened a new door for me.

It ripped me apart just enough to create slithers of cracks in the shell that I had lived in. The walls that I had built as a child to keep the danger and fear and instability at a safe distance were beginning to weaken. I was raw and vulnerable and cut open.

And Hope crept in.
It was finally time.

I  was apprehensive to fully embrace the belief that I was capable of change, and truthfully, I wasn’t sure that I would be strong enough to hack this sober living thing despite desiring freedom so badly I could feel it in my bones.

As I listened as other people who, just like me, had been in the place I was in, I realized that they knew how I was feeling. They had been where I had been.

They made it out to tell about the other side.
And that gave me hope.

Entertaining this new hope, would change things.
My hope turned into love, and I was in for quite a ride, because love is a game changer by nature.

Hate and Love ARE mutually exclusive. 

I hated myself. I hated my choices and my past and my childhood and my mistakes.
I hated people who had peaceful lives, who could love, and smile and who looked annoyingly happy.
I hated that I couldn’t get anything right.
I hated who I saw in the mirror.
And I hated that I couldn’t seem to feel anything else but hatred.

Hope and love grow and unfortunately they don’t deliver the instant kind of gratification that I had grown accustom to.

It is actually really hard to transition to the comfort of a life filled with hatred to an unknown world filled with the vulnerability that love requires. It is a process of learning and stretching and shedding and growing. It asks that we choose to have faith and to trust that love will actually change things.
We are asked to set down our old way of seeing the world and the things in it, and walk away.
It asks that we just keep walking.

But over time this love smothers everything and it will cover all of the old things.  We will actually start to believe that love is as powerful and life-changing as we had heard.  And then, we begin to believe; in ourselves, and in others, and in hope.

We get excited because it is all real and as terrifying as it feels, it is ours.
All because of a hope that led us to leap into faith so that we could experience love.

And we know that the greatest of the three, is love.

 

What’s It Like To Be Sober?

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September means that National Recovery Month has come around again.
Maybe for you that means that the extra circulation and publicity and open sharing will get your mind reeling. You have heard all of these things before and while many of them sound appealing to you, you are afraid.

Because moving can feel risky.

It can be scary, and it’s almost always costly.
It means uprooting from everything that you know.
It means that you are choosing to leave behind all of the familiar routes and back roads and short-cuts. You are voluntarily waving good-bye to your comfortable paths and there won’t be any more trips to your go-to places.

But it can also be brilliant. It can be the breath of fresh air that your soul has been yearning for.
Here’s what life is like in the sober state:

You never thought It’d be you.
Never. Not in a million years.
But you are excited.
And you aren’t alone, because we all feel this way here.
It is very similar to island, beach-front living, or having a day job that is truly living your passion.
Every single day you wake up surprised.
Yes. This is actually your new home.

There are a ton of ways to get here, don’t worry. 
You may have taken your time to make this move, and like me, you may have gotten lost on your way in a few dozen hundred times. Maybe you got turned around somehow, or you bailed at the exit before the right exit, or maybe some moron gave you cardinal directions. But none of that matters now.
You found it.
Now you know that there are several ways to get here and yours wasn’t necessary the wrong way, it just wasn’t the fastest route. Some of us prefer scenic, and that’s okay.

Move over other indigenous, unclassified language. 
You are part of a community that resembles a big melting pot of diversity. We don’t all speak the same dialect but we do understand each other. We get it. Twelve-stepper or not, chances are, you will know what ODAAT means and you do your best to choose person-centered words that empower, that don’t play into the discrimination of you or your fellow neighbors. We try to take care of each other here.

We just aren’t into walls. 
Walls really aren’t our thing, not on an individual level and they won’t be popping up, dividing this community either. We are pretty into loving our neighbors and we avoid division for the sake of the whole. We won’t stand for it. We happily take in the displaced wanderers who are seeking shelter and support,  and we prefer to be close to those who are in need. For anyone who is choosing to make this place their home we want you to feel safe. You finally have a place to land.

We are locally owned, operated & are completely self-sufficient.
That means there is so much room for adaptation and growth. We are a moving system pushing out so much energy, we keep things moving and functioning and advancing at insane rates.
We are film-makers, writers, artists, authors, counselors, sober parents, doctors, cashiers, small-business owners, anonymous people, loud people, and so much more. We are alive and kicking and producing and are so not hyper-focused on what we do, but on who we are and how we can help each other, help other people.

Welcome to the sober state, population 23 million……… and counting.

Guest: Simone- I Knew I Would Never Drink

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Before I was even old enough to drink, I knew I probably never would.

I remember the exact moment I made that decision; more accurately, I remember the exact moment that decision was made for me. I was 15 years old, it was a Sunday morning, and I was cleaning vomit out of the carpet with a toothbrush.

Everyone in my family liked to drink.

My mother drank, my father drank, and now that he was of the legal drinking age, my sister liked to drink too. She had always drank, ever since high-school, but now she didn’t have to hide it as much.

My sister had come home that night (or morning, depending on how you look at it) at 3 a.m. covered in vomit and completely delirious. I only woke up because I heard her yelling at the door like some combination of words would force it open. When I was finally able to get her inside the house, she immediately collapsed into a heap on the floor. She slurred something to me about this “being the right house,” but I ignored it, attributing it to what was undoubtedly a serious case of alcohol poisoning. It took strength I didn’t know I had to pull her up the stairs to her room, and when I laid her down on the bed, she instantly threw up.

The sun was already coming up, and at this point I was already awake, so I grabbed an old toothbrush from the bathroom cabinet and got to work. As I was scrubbing her leftovers out of the fibers of the carpet, I wondered how this day could get any worse. At that exact moment was when I heard it.

The sound of shattering glass erupted through the house. Strange voices from outside yelled in “If you’re inside, come out with your hands up!” It was all a blur. I flew down the stairs, my father’s door swung open, we ran outside and were met face to face with four officers and three police cruisers parked on our lawn. In the moments that followed, my sister was dragged out of her bed by two police officers and tossed on the hood of a cruiser with her hands cuffed behind her back. Since she couldn’t, they explained what happened. She had driven home drunk, and pulled into a house three doors down the road. She had broken in, found her way to a couch, and fallen asleep on it, but not before throwing up on it. The neighbors had no idea who she was, and as such called the police, who had visited every house until they heard reports of her entering our house.

Lucky for her, the neighbors didn’t press charges.

When my sister was finally conscious, the first thing she did was walked over and apologize. She paid for the couch and the lock on the door, which she was surprisingly able to break. When she came back, my dad and I were waiting for her at the kitchen table. Before we could say a word, she started crying. She told us how the alcohol had gotten away from her. She told us about a pill addiction she had been hiding from us for months. I looked at my father, whose face was one of stern confidence but also clearly holding back tears. After a long silence, my father got up and left the room without saying a word. My sister and I sat in silence at the table. In between tears, I could make out “sorry”. I knew she meant it.

My father returned with his laptop opened in his hands. “It’s not going down like this,” he said quietly, almost to himself. “Rehab. We’ll pay.” My sister, her head still in her hands, nodded silently. We spent the day looking up places all over the country. We found alcohol rehabs in Maine and some California drug rehab centers, but eventually settled on a local outpatient treatment. She went every day for a month, not missing a single meeting. Without my sister’s commitment, my father’s compassion, and the generosity of my neighbors, the situation could have been far worse.

It’s been a decade, and my sister is still sober.
I still don’t drink.

I think back to that moment, now over ten years ago, as I watched where alcohol had taken my sister, and how much worse it could’ve been.

I’ve never been happier to be sober.

Simone Flynn blogs about addiction, recovery, mental health, and wellness.

Here’s What I Thought I Needed To Be Accepted

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From my kitchen I could hear the television in our living room. I caught the end of an interview of a young woman.

I listened as she tried to explain why she had been bleaching and lightening her skin. She described what it felt like to experience feelings of inadequacy and when she began to view herself as ‘different’ and why she equated that with not being good enough.

She wanted to belong.

I could relate to this person on so many levels. There was a time that believed that I had to be anything but ‘me’ in order to belong.

Here are 3 of ridiculous things that I believed wholeheartedly:

1. Living from the outside-in was the only way to live.
This was a place where physical appearance ruled my perspective on everything.
The size of my boobs or the smoothness of my thighs or the level of my tan or the length of my hair had nothing to do with who I was a person, but you couldn’t have convinced me otherwise.

Men liked me, and for a while, I thought a couple of them truly loved me.
I may have accepted and ignored physical abuse and emotional abuse but I felt loved. The men boys who I chose may have been emotionally unavailable and mostly project men for my own fixing pleasure, but they wanted me.
I thought that this sick dysfunctional cycle that I was stuck in, was love.

Why I was wrong:
It took me around twenty-five years to understand that feeling good on the outside cannot seep into my soul and change how I feel on the inside.

It happens the other way around.

Change starts in our heart and manifests and changes us on the outside.
We do have a glow and it’s full of self-love and confidence.
That’s beauty.

And when we realize this and allow ourselves to experience it, not only do we grow exponentially but we are able to set higher standards for ourselves. Our definition of love changes forever.

2. I thought that I had to fit in with everyone else in order to matter. 
I was around seven-years-old when I looked around and noticed that my world didn’t quite match everyone else’s. So I began to take meticulous notes. I would use them to compare and contrast and berate myself.

According to my calculations my life was completely fucked up.

I didn’t really have a plan but I did know that people couldn’t know about my real life.

Why I was wrong:
I started to believe that in order to fit I had to be just like the rest of them or as close as possible. So for me, that meant denying who I was and where I came from and what I was experiencing and how I was feeling. I denied all of it and refused to believe that I could be good enough the way that I was. I couldn’t belong or be accepted if people knew that I was broken and damaged. In order to deny all of those things I had to pretend a lot.

And on my quest to fit with everyone else I lost myself.

3. I didn’t deserve anything that looked or felt like consistency or healthy.
Much like that young woman on television I had one constant voice of reason who did try on numerous occasions to sit me down and tell me that I deserved more. That I was loved and smart and capable of awesome shit.
(my grandma)

But I was not able to see what she could see.
I didn’t know that person that described.

She saw qualities and potential that I still had no idea existed, and it annoyed me.
It made me feel angry that she kept trying to force me to look.

Why I was wrong:
I felt like I had to fill certain criteria in order to like who I was. It took me quite a few years to see that there is so much value in all of my weak areas and a lot to be gained from mistakes and none of those things dictate my value or capabilities as a woman.

So many of us begin our decent into that hollow, dark, empty place that we are all familiar with by believing that we are not good enough the way that we are.

Or that where we come from or where we find ourselves is too embarrassing or not normal enough to make the cut that society will deem as acceptable.

At some point we trade any authenticity for belonging at all costs.

We don’t believe that boldly owning our battle scars could possibly be as effective or as powerful as sweeping them under the rug and shamefully hiding their existence.

And in the end we are left with nothing.

We don’t even feel accepted or like we belong.
It was all for nothing.
We are void of connection to self and others and we have no idea why or how to get back up again.

But we can, and we do. 
And when you’re ready to reach out, you will be introduced and welcomed and loved on in a realm that you might not have believed actually existed.

It is one full of people who are welcoming and loving and wiling to connect.

These people are like us.
They desire real, raw, meaty, relationships that have only one requirement:

We come as we are.

So if you’re new here please know that you are accepted and you belong somewhere.

5 Things I Learned From My First Blog Baby

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I launched my first blog, Forgiving Bizarre, back in 2011.

This was my first header photo.
Okay, not completely mine because it was composed of several bad ass photos that I stole from Google images, but mostly mine.

And because the name alone wasn’t enough to let my readers (*cough, no one) know that I meant business when I said I had been through hell, I decided to go the ‘tell all’ route when creating this gem.

This art represented my life experiences and how I was feeling. When I look at this now I can see all of the pieces of my past and how they correlate. Each photo that I carefully chose represented a specific piece of my still-wounded, mushy, heart.

Yes I had been sober for 5 years, but that didn’t mean that I knew how to move on from having a parent addicted to crack, or a childhood filled with the repercussions of her seemingly insane choices, I had no idea how to move forward without my family, without any acknowledgement of my personal victories and without their support. I felt lost. And for some reason, I couldn’t’ see past this pain.

So I wrote for a couple of years.

Everything that I wrote, I wrote with equal parts passion, rage and sadness. I screamed and cried and I wondered and over-analyzed and cringed.

And I healed.

I shared it all and I voluntarily turned it loose into this realm that I was still getting acquainted with.

And it rocked.
It changed things.
It helped my heart to mend and my mind to see more clearly.

And then one day I woke up and decided that I was done.
It was time to for me to move forward.

So I did.

I didn’t transfer files.
I didn’t copy or save any of my blog posts.
It was all just gone.

I bought my new domain and felt confident that it was more fitting and applicable to my new outlook on life.

I went from Forgiving Bizarre to Discovering Beautiful and I truly haven’t looked back in regret one time.

I learned some things through this process and I want to share them with you.

1) What we want and what we need aren’t always matchy matchy.
I wanted a blog. I wanted to write things that could help other people.
But what I needed was to continue to heal and I needed to give myself some time to grow before I could do what I wanted.

2) Finding a healthy way to release bottled up emotion can be your unrivaled new bestie.
I did not anticipate the healing that would take place in my life as a result of writing openly and honestly, holding nothing back and not giving two fucks about what people might think about my feelings or my experiences. I have learned that true, real, raw, healing-power is proportionate to our willingness to be crazy honest with ourselves, and loyal to our need to validate our feelings.

3) Don’t steal photos.
It’s not classy.

4) You can’t rush your journey.
It is going to unfold as it may and you have to work with what it is. I am not saying that you don’t have the power or choice to bust your hiney and work work work to move things along, but keep in mind that balance is the key that unlocks peace and a plethora of other life things. Learning to enjoy the season that you are in can mean the difference between happiness and contentment and gratitude, and feeling tired and cranky and misunderstood.

5) It’ s okay to start where you are and work with what you have.
I had a domain name and a desperate need to purge 24 years worth of drama, pain, and other nasty, negative, toxic stuff. We all begin somewhere and you cannot ever move from where you are or work toward your dreams or your goals if you are fixated on not looking ridiculous. I always tell myself that I have definitely looked ridiculous in my day, (many times) and none of them were when I was crushing my goals. Also, sometimes when you feel like you are flailing or floundering or not doing it like everyone else is, you are actually doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.

I Could Have Died In My Safe Places.

 

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Since sobering up I have traded my daily quest for temporary freedom for something with more meat on it; something deeper. Something less transparent and more enduring.

When I was at my darkest I sought out freedom on a daily basis.
It was a frail, wimpy, expensive, kind of freedom. But cheap was fast, easy, and familiar to me.

I associated being physically and emotionally distant from any place that might contain other humans with my definition of freedom. Being anywhere that I could isolate myself without anyone fucking with me or asking me questions or encouraging me to change? Boom. Freedom. Winning the race against my own thoughts and seeing how quickly I silence my internal, perpetual, self-deprecating shame fests? More Freedom.

Obviously I had missed the mark in my search for freedom, but it took me a long time to recognize that my daily quests weren’t as much about freedom as I thought. It was about honoring and comforting the little girl inside of me. Refusing to abandon coping mechanisms that had always delivered. I did what I had to do and in return, I was given another safe, temporary place to hide.

When I chose to say yes to recovery, I chose to say good-bye to that girl. I chose to embrace the woman who I am, who God created me to be.I chose to believe that there really was something better out there or even better, inside of myself and every bone in my body excitedly anticipated what my first taste of real, lasting, freedom would be like.

My true freedom came when I began to believe that I didn’t need to hide anymore and as I discovered why I had spent my entire life taking refuge in various forms of hiding, and that is where I found my healing.

I could have died hiding.
But I didn’t.

The grace of God carried me right through the unknown, right into the realm full of feeling human beings. It is nice here. It isn’t perfect but the imperfections make it unique. It isn’t the same every day but the unexpected parts are what make it mine. It doesn’t always feel good but it is how I know that I am alive. It isn’t enough to break me because I have already felt what broken is. And here, there isn’t a guarantee that I will know wtf I am doing at any given moment and I am not sure that I don’t look ridiculous fumbling around from time to time,  but it’s proof that I am still trying.

I can rest more easily knowing that I am a strong woman who can overcome hard things. The most freeing part of this entire process has been coming to believe that I can learn to face the things that come my way, without hiding.

And you can too. If you are in a place that you don’t recognize or don’t feel completely comfortable with don’t turn around. Transition isn’t always super smooth. Change takes time. Learning new ways and embracing and practicing more healthy approaches to handling the ups and downs that life throws at you isn’t easy. Every single day you are moving further away from that old version of you, right into the path that you were meant to be on.

 

Have Your Time.

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I turned 33 today.
33 non-recovery, biological years old.
That means have been in recovery since I was 23 + a fistful of months.

People often make comments about how cool it is that I got sober at such a young age.
And I have to humbly agree. It is pretty cool.

Experiencing spiritual death & emotional and psychological depletion doesn’t really leave you with much. After bankrupting myself internally I began working on my physical exhaustion.
Because, why not?

Young, empty, impoverished, and exhausted.
And out of ideas.

This is where I found myself.
Or where I realized that I had lost myself.
Either way, it was my time.

I had been carrying around weight that had not ever been mine to carry.
I had believed my ill-formed assumptions about who I was and what I was capable of for too long.
I relied on my anger to keep me in perpetual turmoil and stuck in a cycle of self-loathing.
I was tired of drawing strength from resentment and bitterness and unforgiveness.
And the after-effects of the trauma that I had experienced were winning.
They had conquered every single aspect of who I had become as a human being.

It was my time.

I had run out of rope and burned down all of the bridges.
I had backed myself into a corner that I couldn’t hide in for one more second, because if I had, the darkness would have suffocated me completely. My self-hatred would have just finished the job that my desire to run from my pain had started.

It was just my time. 

No matter how old or young you are doesn’t matter.
When it is your time it is your time.

Even if you can’t seem to feel anything else you will know when it is your time.

So don’t let your biological age get it twisted in your mind.

*There is no such thing as too young or too damaged to choose to live a sober life and to start to get to know who you truly are deep inside of your core.

*There is no such thing as too old or too damaged to choose to live a sober life and start to get acquainted with who you truly are deep inside of your core.

We all start from the same place regardless of our age…….
and that is the place where we find ourselves ready. When it is your time.

We all end up finding out the same truths and experiencing the same miraculous grace and celebrating the same excitement….
and that is that we aren’t permanently broken and the pieces can be put back together to create something so inherently unique and beautiful. When it is your time. 

So please. Be proud of your decision to make a change.
Don’t give up on yourself and don’t allow the noise in your head convince you that you shouldn’t get to have your time.

You are strong enough to make the choice to change and you get to say:

“This is it. This is my time.”

Happy Birthday.

Why I Keep My Boundaries and Why We Can’t Be Friends

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Something I have learned through my experiences with my family and their ongoing addictions and my own struggles with addiction and substance abuse is when it comes to implementing and honoring boundaries….

All of it resides in a beautiful, flexible, gray area.

And this area is meant to provide a safe place but things there aren’t permanent. They are there sort of leasing short-term lots; like a camp ground for the shitty things that we don’t know what to do with, so we just do our best and continue on knowing that everything in the gray area can be re-evaluated at any time and assessed to fit what’s most current.

Things can then stay there or we can take them and move them and change them.

And the choice is always up to us.

I haven’t always fully understood this but that is because it has taken time.

For a long time, creating a boundary within a relationship or a friendship always felt so concrete. I believed that because I made a decision, that meant that I had ruined any possibility of a future relationship.
*(And yes, sometimes cutting ties and burning the bridge to the ground is what’s up. It is what is best for everyone and in my experience, it can be therapeutic and positive.) But that isn’t the only option and it is not always obvious as to what ‘the next right thing’ is going to be.

So when I got a friend request on Facebook from my brother last week it through me through a loop. I was surprised to see it in the notifications because it has been around six months since we last spoke.

Without thinking it to death, I sent him a message that said I wasn’t trying to offend him or make him feel bad, but I am not sure that we’re ready to be friends. I added that I hoped he was feeling well and that he was alright.

And that was it.
For now that is all that I have to give.

But it is also all that I should be giving to him.
He doesn’t need to be my friend right now.

Not only are boundaries okay.
Not only are they (not) permanently fixed , set constrictions.
They also aren’t always set because they are what’s best for US.

I have watched and felt and observed our dynamic over the years that I have been sober.
For some reason my brother and I cannot be in the same room for long periods of time.

Too much of my own sober time has been spent perpetually wondering what I have done wrong or what I could maybe do better or different, and where the rage and impulsive behavior comes from when we are together. I am always left feeling confused and sad and hurt.

But it wasn’t until the truth finally clicked:

I am a trigger for him.

It’s that simple.
And right now, he doesn’t recognize it.
Until he is in a place where he is ready to confront that, we can’t be friends.

Seeing me and being around me obviously stirs his emotions and buried issues and negative feelings that he has in his heart and mind that cause him pain and anxiety and anger.

Lots of anger.

How badly do I wish I could just explain this to him and have it click?
But that’s not how it works. I know that.

I believe that he needs and deserves connection because he is valuable.

But it is wrong to believe that I have to be that person to connect with him or that I am a good candidate to help them feel connected.

Because in this particular instance, I am not. I am not the person for the job even if I want to be and it doesn’t matter that I feel like I am over-qualified for the job.

It’s God’s job.
There is no doubt in my mind that He will provide the right people who will walk alongside of my brother when he is ready for that walk. And when it is my time to walk I will walk alongside of him, gladly.

I know that one day we will have to come face to face with some hard things that he has buried. I am also positive that some day I will need to apologize for a long list of things that I have done indirectly and purposefully and unknowingly, and I am ready to ask for his forgiveness so that we can learn to move past the water underneath the bridge of reconciliation.

I am open and willing to do that when the time comes.

Until then I am going to try to stay out-of-the-way and do my best not to become another hindrance to an already difficult and bumpy road.

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