Author: Brittany

Detroit Muscle. A novel by Jeff Vande Zande.

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I would like to bring some attention to a new novel about addiction called Detroit Muscle.

Written by author Jeff Vande Zande, he brings you the story of 20-year-old Robby Cooper; an OxyContin addict just out of rehab and trying to put his life back together. In the end, it is a story of triumph over addiction.

Here’s what people are saying:

“You will be drawn into his fictitious world and will easily resonate with all of the subtly placed topics weaved throughout Robby’s story. Detroit Muscle touches on the real issues that affect families who are struggling to navigate issues brought upon them by a loved one’s addiction. Things like codependency, generational patterns and struggles, losing and rebuilding trust, facing hard truths, the eventual triumph and hope that come gifted with recovery, and everything in between.”

From what I have read this book has a little something for everyone. It offers a fresh perspective, and shines a light on the very common, human aspects of addiction. It does a really good job at chipping away at many of the preconceived ideas about addiction ad the stigma associated.

If you are interested in learning more, reading reviews, or purchasing this novel, click here.

There is also an incredible, in-depth review published here.

Personally, I like the idea of fiction work relating to addiction.
It seems like a nice change from the norm.

It is always a good idea to gain a new perspective on a subject, especially a complex one that is emotionally strenuous and difficult to understand at times.

I can’t wait to read the rest of this one.

Happy reading, friends.


Amends & Unexpected Blessings.

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When my grandma passed away it hit me hard.

From the time I was a little girl she was my bestie. My one constant. My rock.
But as I got older our relationship changed.

Slowly it became less and less about our inside jokes, the back and forth, the one liners, laughing until we both had tears streaming down our faces, our late night trips to Long John Silver’s where we would dance and ring the bell obnoxiously before we left, or talking about religions, politics, our favorite books, authors, and boys until the wee hours in the morning.

Our dynamic became contingent on strings.
Strings that she desperately tried to take hold of and wanted to control as I dangled them in front of her face to keep the chase alive.
Eventually she ran out ways to help me and she became tired of me sucking her dry of all of her resources and all of her energy.

Because she had become my enabler. 

The first few years of my newly formatted sober life didn’t feel quite right to me and it wasn’t just because I had to push the reset button psychologically and physiologically.

I needed her and I looked to her for everything. I depended on her and I missed her. I felt like one of my body parts was missing and when I looked around I felt like I had abandoned everyone, but most notably, my grandma.

But I just wasn’t ready to dive back into that part of my life.
We had become unhealthy for each other and I didn’t know how to approach integrating my new life with the old one that she represented to me. So I never really did.
Not like she wanted anyway and not like I could have (or should have).
We talked on the phone occasionally and I visited a handful of times and that is where my fear left things.

And then she got sick.
She had struggled for years and she had held on for as long as she could hold on but this time was different.

When I walked into her hospital room that last time I studied her face.
I stood silently next to her for a few minutes, alone.
Those minutes felt like an eternity.
I watched her labored breathing. I studied her face and her hands and her hair.
She opened her eyes one time and made eye contact with me and for that minute, I studied her blue eyes.

And I knew.
I felt her exhaustion and I knew she was tired.
But not just tired, she was ready.

Admittedly, I selfishly panicked as many people do when they suddenly realize there is no time.
There is no more time left to attempt to repair or mend what has been broken.
There wasn’t any more time. I wasted all of the time.

She would not know how much I had missed her and she would never hear me tell her why I felt like I had to stay away.

I still miss her. I live in the same city where she and I made many of the memories I talked about. I drive down the streets that she used to work on and live on, I shop where she used to shop and I run into people who knew her from time to time. I drive past our Long John Silver’s and the corner where her house sat, and I see the fences that she and I painted together.

So of course she crosses my mind every single day.

But here’s where I might lose you.

I talk to her sometimes when I am alone.
I tell her all of the things that I wished I could have been brave enough to tell her when she was still here.

That I was so afraid of what might happen to my life if she were back in it.
That if our relationship began again, I had no idea what that could mean for my sobriety and I was ashamed for feeling that way.
I was embarrassed that I felt weak when it came to letting my family back into my life, as they were and still are my biggest stressors and my number one triggers. They steal that secure, safe feeling that I have found with my life and shake it to the core.
I tell her that I miss her and that I am sorry. So so sorry.

I hope that she knew that I was just trying to be my best self, and nothing I did was to purposefully hurt her.

I look at her old photo albums often and last night after my husband and the boys were asleep I dug them out but I had a plan when I walked into the room. I am currently writing a post about how amazing my experiences were growing up backstage at the community theater. I would watch my grandma and her friends and cast mates rehearse and I met so many amazing people. I was digging for some of the cast photos and my grandma in costume for the post and I found them.

But of course as I sifted through years of memories I couldn’t help but reminisce and I ended up sitting on the floor with photos all around me.

As I was packing the books up I found a stack of papers that had my grandmother’s distinctive writing on them. There were several print-outs from Ancestry dot com (she was adopted so it didn’t surprise me that she had researched her family tree) and it looked like she had jotted down notes on the backside of most of the print-outs.

There was one piece of paper that I held in my hand and studied a little bit longer than I did the others and my eye was drawn to what looked to me to be like two lines that seemed odd; out-of-place and not quite flowing with the rest of the notes.

ALL of the notes that she had written were names and dates, first names, last names, nick names, birth dates, and numbers.  And then -these two lines. The ones that didn’t fit with the rest of the information on the page in any conceivable way that made any sense.

When I read the words “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on his gentle breast”
I forced myself to exhale and then I smiled and I closed my eyes and I wept.

Not a pretty cry either, a big ole’, thank-you JESUS ugly cry.

I thank God for those words and that I noticed them.
Maybe I noticed them because I was focused and it was quiet in the house, and it was just the right time but I *needed* these words.

It hit me almost immediately that not only were those words out-of-place on the paper, they didn’t match how she spoke or what she talked about, or the music that she listened to.

So I did what I always do when I need a fish bowl of random, but plausible answers:
I asked Google.

The first page of results led me to believe that I Google was on the right track.
Here’s what I discovered:

 Safe in the arms of Jesus,Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels
Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea.Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations;
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials,
Only a few more tears!

Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge,
Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages
Ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience,
Wait till the night is o’er;
Wait till I see the morning
Break on the golden shore.

 (Lyrics found here)

I don’t really know what else to say, to me, those words answer a thousand questions for me and comfort me. I think it’s best to just leave this one here for now.

Where Are We

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Our right to bear arms has become more important than baring one another’s burdens.

Picking people apart has trumped picking people up.

Our desire to be right has overridden the importance of doing the right thing.

Our opinions being heard is drowning out the voice of the minorities cries.

Our insistence on speaking to hear ourselves talk has taken precedence over speaking truth.

Justifying hatred for the accused has defeated seeking justice for those who have been wronged.

Our freedom of speech has trampled on the freedoms allotted to others who are our equals.

Romans 12:12~Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

I Can’t Have it All.

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When I forcefully managed to spit out a very quiet and unsure ‘yes’ in reply to the question:
“Do you want some help?” I may have been bubbling over with reluctance that pressured me to hesitate and accept help with the same apathy that I approached each day with, but I was also really, really, tired.

In addition to the color black representing my level of motivation, I wholeheartedly believed that my only real problem was staying sober for any significant blocks of cumulative time.
I was convinced that if I could figure out how to not do drugs, I would be fine and everything would naturally fall into place.

But that’s not how it went down.

I did try to quit on my own. I really did. From the outside it probably didn’t look like I was putting much effort into life change, but in reality I had tried fixing myself and cleaning up my life at least a dozen times (and failed) . Every single time all that I found was just another bogus, useless thing that I wasn’t good at.

And so I ended up with a long list of weak, fraudulent, and less than dependable tactics that didn’t help me. I had no idea just how weak they were. Not only were they not successful, they didn’t even come close to being strong enough to win the battle that I geared up to fight through every day.

I wanted sobriety.
I wanted a simple, easily applied solution to very complex, deep-rooted problems.
And what I got was a complete rebuild.

This was more than teaching my body not to rely on a scheduled dose of daily narcotics, which I was sort of expecting it all to be about.

This whole thing, (recovery) has been about being able to discern what is a priority in my life, and what isn’t; to be able to decipher where my responsibilities begin and where they end, and to accept what is and to trust and allow what isn’t to float away.

This journey has been really hard. I won’t ever forget the sweat and tears that I put into all of the forgiving, uncovering, accepting, realizing, submitting, and learning.

But despite the work and even after feeling the warmth from the light that had managed to creep in and breathe me back to a real life human being, I still have work to do. I have realized that I am a huge, messy, imperfect, piece of unique work, created by a God who loves me and all of my imperfection so deeply I can’t even comprehend it.

I have also learned that I may not ever have it all at the same time but I have exactly what I need for the season of life that I am in.

Even though I will never be able to remember the things that I have forgotten or that were washed away somewhere out wherever the memories go when they are mixed with Xanax and Budweiser, I can experience and remember the memories that I have made every single day that I have been sober.

And it seems that I can’t stop certain flashes of memories that might *try to forever haunt me. But I can remind myself that those experiences or choices do not make up the sum of who I am today, nor do they have power over how I identify as a mother, as wife, as a friend, a daughter, or, as a strong woman.

And no. I cannot run and hide from the negative emotions that I experience (and I have been told that I cannot throw or hit things either) and I shouldn’t hide under my covers hoping that when I come out everything will be alright. Because in order to experience and allow myself to completely feel the positive, good, amazing, I don’t want to forget this stuff, I have to face the hard things too.

And I also know that I can’t have the blocks of blank, black, dark holes in my memory back. They are there because I relied this mechanism to keep me safe. I consider that a blessing, but I also know that for me that means that I maybe I won’t ever be successful when it comes to recalling some of the real emotions or feelings from some of the better times that I know, actually happened (evidenced by Polaroids likely taken by one of my wonderful amateur photographer grandparents)

But that’s okay.
Because I can’t have it all.

Maybe this is just another puzzling paradox found within the sketchy parameters of addiction recovery.  

Maybe that’s why when we remind ourselves to pause and take it all in,
we can smile even when we think about the fact that we will never (ever) be able to have it all-

because the gifts that this life produces as a result of making healthy choices, show us every single day that we already do.

Hate.

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We talk about everything around here and I mean everything.
I take having an open discussion policy pretty seriously in our home and for us, it just works.
My boys know that if they have questions, they can ask them without feeling threatened or nervous. It is so important to me for them to truly learn how to ask for what they want and to ask questions when they have them. I believe that there is a difference between being told what to do and obeying out of fear and doing what is right because you understand why it is right, if that makes any sense.
I simply like them to know the ‘why’ behind the reasons that they make decisions. .

Of course I have answered questions about the terrible things that are featured every evening on ABC’s, World News with David Muir.

And I have briefly explained and have also lectured and talked extensively about hate, and how it ruins everything it touches and how nothing good (and certainly nothing that will bring glory to God) comes from forcing your views on other people’s lives and killing them, or hating them, or picketing them to death if they don’t comply or change to suit your comfort level.

And mother f*ck (hits hands on table) it has only been a few days since I sat my boys down at our kitchen table and explained in a lengthy, very generic, non-specific & age appropriate way what they should do and how they should handle themselves should they ever happen to walk past a human being laying on the ground in a semi-conscious or unconscious state. (It was sort of just a review, but basically, I wanted to hear their thoughts on what the morally sound decision would be.)
And thank gosh they had thoughtful, brilliant, empathetic, sweet, smart, caring, mature, and ethical responses.

And this morning, I found myself again, trying to explain away hate.
Very real, very close-to- home, hatred.
And in case you didn’t already know, you can’t actually do that.

As I tried to speak to these tiny souls that I have the privilege of caring for my throat started to burn and tears welled up in my eyes.
I did my best to take deep breaths as mind scrambled for the easiest words that could help my kids make some sense of this recent tragedy…but it just wasn’t happening.

It is never easy to explain things that you don’t understand or cannot comprehend, and it is not easy to make a child feel that they are safe when you are faking it, because frankly, you don’t feel safe either.

So I just told the truth.

I told my kids that I don’t have any answers would make it make sense because it was a senseless act, and that I have nothing new to say aside from that I am just so so so sorry.
I made sure to tell them that hate has been and always will be a powerful and destructive entity, and it hurts people and that it is responsible for the death and destruction of so many people.

It also breeds like mold.

All day today I couldn’t shake feeling internally conflicted and angry.
I fumed as I scrolled past hateful, righteous, entitled tweets, posts, and comments that even dared mention gun rights, gun laws, or people who happen to be gay’s personal human rights to socialize in public.

I felt angry that I actually have ‘friends’ who I truly don’t know at all. I felt frustrated that I never recognized these qualities before today.

I felt angry that I didn’t have answers for my children and that I didn’t actually feel like I was making them any safer or more secure.

I was furious that I felt helpless and angry that I couldn’t actually ‘do’ anything or make anything better in any way.

I felt angry and like everything that I did or wanted to do or wanted to say all day long was a waste of time in light of what was happening; all of the tears, the pain and anguish, the people searching and waiting for answers, and those who are mourning.

I have been feeling angry that I don’t feel more guilty for being a free, educated, white woman in a country that has offered me every opportunity imaginable. Guilty because I don’t have any real or immediate threat to my life or my well-being. Guilt because I don’t fear for my life every single day because of who I am, for who I love, or for believing in God and sharing my passion for Jesus with others.

I wondered why I didn’t care that the shooter was Muslim, documented, undocumented or wearing a giant bunny costume. I just didn’t care.

And then I felt angry at myself for feeling like praying wasn’t ‘enough’ when I actually believe that it is one of the most powerful tools available.

And tonight, I have been sitting here looking at this cursor blinking for at least an hour.
In silence.

I have been contemplating what I really am doing here and if I am really making any difference whatsoever, anywhere. And even if I am, I can do the math.
My little amount of ‘good’ isn’t making a big enough dent.

And as I sat, I began to realize that it was exactly what hate wants:
Silent people unwilling to do or to feel or to believe in anything.

-It wants us to stop teaching our kids about love and peace.
-It purposefully mistreats, abuses, and marginalizes.
-It’s goal is to drag us down and take our light with it.
-It wants us to judge and label and tear down and avoid.
-It wants us to stop encouraging each other and mentoring and loving other people.
-It wants us to stop believing in hope and change and unity and equality.
-It divides, it draws lines in the sand and in lines, and on buses and in restaurants.
-It gasses people and burns them alive and skins them and beheads them.
-It blames and accuses and gossips and argues and trolls.
-It invades locker rooms, and bathrooms.
-It provokes us and moves us to boycott companies.
-It tells us we’re standing for what we believe in and that right is more important than kind.
-It convinces us that accepting is synonymous with approving.
-It ensures us that our way is the only way.
-It injects itself into even the most well-meaning hosts, and manifests into something that grows out of control and then, it moves on.
Hearts are then left completely void of the ability to feel and no one seems to feel the impact that hate has anymore and in the end we will have justified hate by using religion as a scapegoat to under gird naivety, fear, ignorance, and the unknown.

The only choice that we really have is to choose to believe that each one of us really can make a difference. We have to keep believing. Alone we might be going against an impossible tide but together we can move mountains.

And for myself personally, I have to seek God for the peace and security that my bones were aching for throughout the day today. I have to pray for patience to deal with the inconsiderate, apathetic people who actually buy the crap that hate is selling and I have to cling to my God who tells me in John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

So please.
Let this terrible hate crime not split us apart and push us backward even more than before.
Let it piss us off and give us incentive to rise up together and to stay strong in our beliefs and in our knowledge that hope is real.

Goodnight world.

The One With Glitter is Perfect.

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Maybe I am just the only adult around who doesn’t actually like seeing their first name enough to see it plastered anywhere besides, well….
repeatedly scribbled in my Lisa Frank notebooks or maybe my journal with the cute little pad-lock and mini-key.

I am in the minority because I am interested in buying products geared toward adults that *don’t* hold, contain, store, or open alcohol.

I really am just not understanding the connection between the alcohol obsessed culture that we live in and also mass producing products for adults that have our first names painted, or stenciled, engraved, glittered or lighted directly on the actual product.

I am definitely not cool enough for products such as these.

I missed the boat and am now floating around somewhere in minority-ville, with all of the other people who have multiple hobbies and interests and zero interest in drinking.

And for the record I don’t hate people who drink.
I also don’t love glitter but I don’t hate people who do.
I don’t even hate paint or stencils or my first name.

But maybe I am somewhere out there in the land of the uncool, and I am sick of the marketing that is obviously directed toward the younger crowd.

As a 32-year-old mother of 3 young people I can say with a fair amount of certainty that those cute little shot glasses with names printed on them…aren’t geared toward people like myself or my husband who already know we like tequila and who also *love* our first names but don’t actually need it written directly on our shot glasses.

They are for younger people who think drinking is so cool, almost as cool as like a second job or a fun hobby. People who are still young enough to be okay with having their first name printed on actual things that they own in the cabinets of their apartments. These cheesy alcohol holders also make cheap gifts that are most definitely going to be utilized and gracefully accepted without any worry if the gift will be liked or not.

But maybe it would be so cool to see marketing that didn’t include pushing the tired agenda.

That same tired agenda that perpetuates the allure of drinking, that makes it seem so cute and fun, like the weekend obsession and social crutch that it has become.

Maybe it would be nice to see other things equally obsessed about shoved through the eyes & down the throats of our youth.

Every single person who I personally know who can also handle the occasional margarita with their dinner or a few beers as they grill something or watch something sporty, (or whatever responsible drinking looks like)

does not also own a small cabinet full of shot glasses with their names painted on them in glitter.

We can just go ahead and file this one with the complaints that I have about the ridiculous wine obsession that has now become the norm, all of the “I don’t get drunk I get awesome” slogans printed on things, and the influx of other sad & popular products inspired sleazy branding similar to Urban Outfitter’s tactics.

And the real problem stems from the greed of the morally bankrupt peddlers in charge of this stuff, who are more than okay with capitalizing on young people anyway. The apathetic attitude that has developed regarding issues related to substance use and abuse  is evident by the hate people spew on the internet every day and the very real lives that are being cut short out here in the real world.

I will just continue believing that I am super cool in my sun-glasses that I cannot drink anything out of, that don’t in fact, have my name painted directly on the outside of them, but are equally as “bad-ass.”

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Just Us. No Apology Added.

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Okay.
I will go first.
I will admit that I have felt this way *so* many times online.

I have had that feeling. I share something raw and real on my personal page and immediately feel a little bit anxious. I find myself wondering how they (usually meaning ‘friends’) might react?

This can quickly lead to self-doubt and then before you know it you are sitting there questioning the validity of your own personal feelings.

This is not a post about leading a life dictated by our indicators, aka, our feelings.
It’s not an anthem written to my fellow empaths, or a declaration of independence aimed at empowering people to shove their opinions down the throats of other people.

This is simply about being comfortable around the people who are in our lives.

Comfortable enough to share how we are feeling, without fear of judgement constricting us to an isolated, confined, restricted, lonely area.

While I do my best to be respectful of everyone in my real-life & day-to-day interactions, I am not hyper-focused on whether or not I offend people.

I don’t worry about if I am accepted or not, or if everyone likes and approves of me.

I don’t second-guess sharing things with my friends when we visit or meet for lunch or talk on the phone.

And believe it or not, I am a nice person who also doesn’t take that jumping through hoops of fire crap to gain approval from anyone in my ‘real’, everyday life.

I have spent a decent amount of sober adulthood learning why personal boundaries are not only valuable, healthy, and necessary but are also required if we are to learn to be comfortable in our own skin.

I have redefined what I consider non-negotiable qualities for people who are in my inner circle, and agreeing to agreeing with me on everything isn’t even one of them.
Basically, let me be me, you do you. I trust you, you trust me. Fist bumps all around.

So why is Facebook any different?

I had to take a step back and think about why I felt so different on my personal page.

Why have I actually compromised my own comfort and why would I allow myself to refuse to commit to sharing my own feelings or my own thoughts?

Mostly because I wasn’t sure how my text would translate after I over thought it for way too long, or how it will be read, or if it would be over-read, or mistaken for a request for approval, or misinterpreted, or translated wrong in Portuguese slang..or from someone summiting Everest.. or..

 

And way too often I will open Facebook to see strong, beautiful, courageous, people starting a post with an outright apology for feeling a certain way.

To me that means that *before* they decided to publicly share their own personal thought, they had already anticipated being attacked or judged and that negatively affected their comfort level when sharing her feelings with her ‘friends’.

To share what is on your heart without worrying about what people will think is in fact, ballsy.
It is scary. Very.
But it is also very important.

Our friends need to see that we are all carriers of very human, imperfect qualities that make us unique people, and I think we all simply want to know that we aren’t alone.

So remember, your feelings are valid and your feelings do matter.

No more whispering “What if they won’t understand this” to yourself before you click the share button on a post.

I challenge you to just be you- without an apology attached, and I promise to keep working on it too.

If these people are our friends, they can also handle what we have to say, and get this:
If we have solid and supportive friends who are even remotely kind humans, they will probably show us some love or support even if they don’t understand or agree with what we have to say, right?

And if they can’t or don’t, I vote that you take a stroll through your ‘friends’ list
and CLEAN HOUSE BABY.
Clean that -ish right up.
Buh-bye.
Don’t let the door hit ya on the way off of the good ole’ friends list.

Keep people around you who encourage you to do just that, to be – you.
I still have to be nudged from time to time to come out of my funk so that I fully embrace all of myself.

Even the parts that make me feel vulnerable.
Life’s too short.

There’s no time to hide.

 

Addiction, Sobriety, & Ten Years Together.

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May 22 of every year is special, simply because we made it.
I am not sure how, but we did.

I can’t sit here and say that when our story began it was ideal or even close to something healthy but regardless, it started and our story kept on going.

It is nothing short of a modern-day miracle that we are still speaking to each other.
How we are even friends today who love and respect each other is beyond me (in a very literal sense).

Of course our relationship didn’t start out in a healthy or normal place.
I wasn’t either of those things and had never been.

And as for him He was still processing and coping with (drinking away) the recent death of his dad. But we came together, and bam!

We became one giant black hole of all things dysfunctional with fun sprinkled in between.
This was ‘us’.
Which was great, because that is what I was accustomed to anyway.
Except that he wasn’t abusive, or controlling, or dealing anything illegal and I liked him anyway.

In reality the very real contrasts between he and I were important, and really, should have kept us very far apart.

He didn’t come from generations of dysfunction or unhealthy living. His family dynamic was pretty healthy and included sober people, established boundaries, a family business, lakes houses fun memories, annual family vacations, and even a long-time pastor in the mix. None of this means he came from perfection by any stretch, but for his family, it did mean that there was balance and tradition and love, and bonds that were created.

And while he may not have been grieving & dealing with his dad’s passing in a healthy way, and while he did drink a lot …..he wasn’t (and isn’t) an alcoholic.
He did own his own business and was also a home owner. He even paid his bills on time and by all accounts, was a typical 26 -year-old bachelor.

As for me? I looked normal on the outside and I did that on purpose.
I always had, actually.

From a very young age I got very good at dressing the part of ‘normal’ or what I thought that ‘normal’ looked like. One the inside I was truly just a shit storm of rage, navigating life aimlessly, doing my best to fit wherever I could fit while secretly I was really seeking some kind of relief or acceptance or validation, or probably all three. We didn’t have a family dynamic. Wait. We did, but it disconnected and patchy and was contingent on codependency and helping each other in the worst ways possible.
I did have a few fun memories tucked away and had taken vacations with my grandma. But most of that was done because she felt so guilty and responsible for the way that things turned out for my brother and I, and I thank her for those experiences. But if a few vacations could have reversed trauma I probably wouldn’t be here sharing this story at all, and honestly, I hate that she felt that way.

By the time I crossed paths with my now-husband, I was a 22-year-old high-school drop-out, working, single-mother of one, who was also addicted to prescription medication, who also preferred to work at a bar to feel a tiny bit more justified about habit of drinking every day by noon.

Oddly, I was able to spew false confidence like nobody’s business and  I also aspired to be something someday without actually believing that I was capable of anything.

But somehow our paths crossed.
And by somehow, I mean I was a bartender and he liked to drink with his buddies.

A match made in heaven we were.
Totally.

Not really.
And the truth is, I didn’t even attempt to reciprocate any interest in him for the first couple of months and after we did start dating, I didn’t even think about sobriety until we were together for a solid six months.

It took eight for the idea to stick, and for my recovery to officially get off of the ground, or out of the ditch, or whatever.

Eight months.

That doesn’t sound like a long time.
Except that it is in terms of addiction. It’s can feel like a lifetime for everyone involved.

Day-to-day living with someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol, or essentially, addicted to escape as quickly as possible on days that end in ‘y’ feels like a form of self-torture.

Eight months of me lying or wiggling out of telling the truth at every turn.
Eight months of not really knowing where I was or if I would show up or if I would disappear or if I would come back.
Eight months of me being in court or in and out of jail or getting pulled over or being picked up for one thing or another.
Eight months of a lot of drama and the unknown.

It would be like riding a roller-coaster that you have never been on without a seat-belt.
Sort of like white knuckling every single day and only being able to exhale when they were sleeping right next to you, but at the same time you can’t sleep because you have to make sure they are still breathing, yet you are still grateful that you actually know where they are.

Like that.
Dating me would have been exactly like that.

As a healthy sober person who is sitting here typing this post I can tell you with one-hundred percent certainty that I wouldn’t have put up with my sh*t.
I would have left and I would have left a long before eight months, probably before eight weeks, and maybe even after eight dates.

I am glad he didn’t.
Because he is obviously certifiable.

But when I ask him what his problem was his answer always surprises me even though I have already heard him explain himself over and over again in different ways.

It really wasn’t that he felt sorry for me.
He had seen a glimpse of ‘me’ and somehow felt that I was hurting and pretending.
So I guess he saw me sober once or twice, probably in the morning.
And apparently, I wasn’t as great at hiding my pain or how much I was hurting as I had thought.

Somehow, he was able to see the very human parts of me and found them to be likable, and even, worthy of love.

He has told me that he could see how much I was trying every day to keep it all together and how much I struggled to balance my family situation with my own, and how much I struggled to keep them separate and also how much my compartmentalizing wasn’t working for me.

Funny how things look from someone else who has a sober, healthy vantage point, right?

It is so much easier to pinpoint where the problems and solutions might be hiding when you are looking in from a distance.

It is much more difficult to see a way out of the maze when you have been spinning around in the dark tunnel year-after-year and have lost all sense of direction, like you are stuck in a bad adult version of pin the tale on the donkey or something.

But he was standing outside, in the light, without all of the weight of the past or the drama and the confusion.

And instead of trying to fix me or change me, he handed me off to a group of people who led me into recovery, and helped me to face and uncover my own truth for myself.

Anyway, here we are celebrating year ten.

Instead of trying to convince myself that this whole thing began with an intricate web of perfectly timed coincidence all strung together I choose to believe that God had his hand right in the middle of my broken road and He helped it all come together in a way that could only be explained by His Grace.

My marriage is an imperfect but healthy living and breathing thing.
I am so grateful to know what it feels like to endure ups and downs with another human, while remaining loyal and accepting, and excited and connected at the very same time.

It’s the coolest thing.
So here’s to ten more.

Guest: Andrew-From Alcoholic to Workaholic

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How do you define success?

In my opinion success is not the amount of money I make, the car that I drive or the clothes that I wear.

Success for me is being 8 years sober, running a growing business that employs deserving people, and providing a great service to our clients.

**I have never shared my story on the internet and I think it is about time.  

My family and I immigrated to Southern California from Colombia in 1986. My childhood in SoCal was great. My parents were both very hard-working and provided my siblings and I a good upbringing.

But I was 12 years old the first time I got drunk.

As a Colombian, our family parties are awesome.
Everyone eats, dances and has a great time.
Often that ‘great time’ is accompanied by a little anise-flavored drink called Aguardiente.

We were at a family party and the adults were taking shots of this strong-smelling drink. Being the very curious kid that I was I wanted to know what it tasted like. After multiple rejections from the man passing the shots around he finally became inebriated enough (and annoyed enough) to give me a shot…and then another… and another.

I loved the feeling.

It made me feel more confident.
I danced salsa all night long with my sister and cousins. From that day on I understood that alcohol made me feel less insecure, therefore I drank whenever I got the chance.

-At 14 I smoked marijuana for the first time. I took it and ran with it.

-At 19 I was introduced to meth and the beginning of the end of that chapter of my life.

-At 23 I was incarcerated in Idaho on drug related charges for two years. I was near my rock bottom.

While incarcerated I was introduced to a program called Alcoholics Anonymous.
At first, I would go to meetings just to get time out of my cell for a few hours. Then I found out about Narcotics Anonymous and started going to those too…for the same reason.

I wouldn’t speak, I wouldn’t share, I wouldn’t participate; I truly believed that it was a bunch of B.S. and that I didn’t have a problem but it didn’t take long for some of the stories that I heard shared to strike a chord.

A story that really killed me inside was one from a psychiatrist, who was three years in on a five-year stint for a third DUI/hit and run.

He recounted how his alcoholism fueled his rage one night at a local bar. He got into a verbal altercation with his wife, which led him to getting plastered at a local bar, which ended with him surrounded by cop cars after running over a brick wall.

The story really wasn’t what actually struck a chord, it was what he said after.
He said that while locked up he had come to a conclusion about his anger. He said that he was just a soft 13-year-old boy who gets his feelings hurt easily. He said, “if we dissect backwards we can all come to that same conclusion: rage spawns from anger, anger spawns from hurt, hurt spawns getting your little f****ing feelings hurt.”

And I didn’t sleep that night.

At that moment I realized that I had an alcohol problem.
I had an addiction problem.
I had an anger problem.
A personality problem…a life problem.

It has been 12 years since I heard those words from the psychiatrist and I can still remember them all. From the tone of his voice to the smell of the jail issued soap I used that morning.

AA and NA helped me get through my jail time. I was able to have a daily routine and stick to it. I had a great sponsor, support from other inmates, and was able to go to two meetings a week. Then I was released and I was both happy and apprehensive. I had not been out on the streets AND sober, for a very long time.

After multiple relapses, multiple AA and NA meetings I decided to check myself into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Idaho. That got me back “on the wagon” for a while, but fell off again.

When I was 26 years-old I was broke and feeling ashamed and guilty.
I decided that I had to focus my energy on something else.

I moved back to California and to make a long story short I found myself selling knock-off perfume on the street. It was a multi-level marketing company that gave you knock-off perfume on consignment, and then you had to go out and hustle.

I became obsessed with being the best salesman I could be and after 2 months I was 10 pounds lighter, and attending AA and NA meetings regularly;  I had my own office in Fremont, California, training others on how to go out and hustle perfume.

I purposefully mentioned the 10 pounds I lost to accentuate my new obsession.

I became so focused on growing the business that sometimes I wouldn’t eat. I had no real friends, and I wouldn’t even call my parents.

I had traded drugs and alcohol for…work.

At the time I was introduced to Jeffery Combs’ book Psychologically Unemployable (Jeffery is also a recovering addict). In the book there was a part that said not to confuse addiction with passion.

That there’s a fine line between being a workaholic and a passionate entrepreneur.
I sold the business and moved back down to my parents house in Southern California.

Now 28, living at my parents house, I was working at Target and felt passionless.
Luckily I was able to find a great AA/NA community close by and my sponsor at the time gave me a task.

He told me to go sign up for a class at the local community college. I really didn’t want to do that, but he said that it was not a suggestion, that if I wanted to continue working with him that I had to go take a class.

A week later I was at the Saddleback Community College campus looking through their course catalog. There was nothing I was interested in, until I saw a course called intro to website development (HTML). I thought, “I like computers and websites…why not?”

Three months later my room at my parent’s house was full of HTML and website design books. After a while I decided that I could make a business out of it. I had already overcome my fear of sales (selling perfume on the streets to strangers) so selling website design to local businesses would be a cakewalk.

And 8 years later  here I am.

I now co-own a website development agency.
I have a staff that I feel are like my family, and as a matter of fact, my brother is part of the team.
We are currently based out of Medellin, Colombia. Ironically, my parents left Colombia seeking a better life for us and I’ve come back to Colombia with that better life trying to help the local economy, while helping businesses in the U.S. with their online presence.

Once sober and committed to my sobriety, I didn’t try to become an amazing developer and build the next Facebook; instead, I evaluated my strengths and passions and decided how I could best utilize my skills to build a business that could employ people and help businesses.

Early in my sobriety I felt like every little step I took was all about me, and in a sense it was. I mean everything you do early on has a big impact. Every single step you take, every single piece of homework your sponsor gives you, every piece of literature you read is all about you and your recovery.

But after a while, you start to realize that there’s a bigger reason for your sobriety.

Whether it’s to help your parents buy a house and retire, provide your children with a great life, work at a company and help it grow, or start your own company and employ people who depend on you, there’s a larger importance to your sobriety other than just your own well-being.

You may not see it now, but everything you are doing right now will have a greater impact in the future.

Good luck and thank you for reading.

Andrew was born in Bogota, Colombia, but was raised in Los Angeles California. He is a recovering addict / alcoholic with 8 years of sobriety under his belt. He is also an entrepreneur, the proud owner of RedDoorStudios.com.co.

 

I Choose My Family.

This week, May 15-21,  is National Prevention Week.
That means it is time for SAMHSA’s annual “I Choose” project.
This photo represents my ‘why’.

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I got sober because I wanted to live.
I have stayed sober because I have learned that sobriety offers so much more than sobriety.

I continue to choose sobriety every day because my children deserve to experience consistency.
They deserve stability and they deserve to feel a level of comfort that makes them feel safe & secure.

Choosing sobriety has made me a more present, interactive, attentive, mama and to me there is nothing more important than showing my children how valuable, and awesome, and loved they are.
And someday I think that they will fully grasp the depths of my love for them and their beautiful spirits, and the joy that they bring to my life every single day, even on the more tough, unorganized, and messy days.

Sobriety has given me the opportunity to absorb my life and to remember moments like that one in the photo, and all of the other memories that I am making with my husband and our family.
I remember all of the tears, the smiles, the silly times, laughing until we cry, every nerf war, the afternoons spent running around, every grocery store trip, the bumps, scrapes, and wrestlemania bruises, and everything in between.

This is the most important gift that my sobriety has given to me.

Grace is an amazing thing.

Church on Sundays.

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My personal recovery has many components, and my relationship with God is a big one.
I have only considered myself “spiritual”, and connected with God on some level for around 8 years now.

Somewhere along my journey I decided that going to church each week is what was best for me as an individual and I truly felt it was the best thing for my kids.

We have had a tough time finding a church that fits us.
Some were too big, some way to small, some felt too cold and modern for our taste and others were stuck somewhere back “in the 1900’s”, as my kids would say.

The one’s that didn’t fit were ‘bad’ they simply didn’t fit well enough for us to give it a go.
And just to be clear, I am not bashing any church.

I’m not a huge fan of bashing things that I don’t necessarily agree with or ‘like’-
maybe with the exception Westboro.

Anyway, the church that we ultimately ended up calling ‘the one’ isn’t perfect.
But that’s why I am sharing this.
I love it because it is real.
It is a place where you can be authentic and messy, and —you.

Here are the top 3 reasons that I truly appreciate the church that we go to:

1.) Our pastor regularly talks about, touches on, or mentions, real life issues.
So we fill the nicely lined chairs on Sunday mornings.
We all sit there in anticipation.
We wait to start singing. We are waiting to hear more about Jesus, and we want to know how this can help us in our day-to-day lives.
And you know, I can guarantee that every person sitting there is trying desperately to focus solely on the sermon, shutting everything else off for that hour.
We are pushing all of the other ‘stuff’ away; all of the heavy loads of crap that we carry, all the random problems, the more serious issues, the physical pain, the emotional instability, the financial uncertainties, we do our best to push it all aside, and just be, for that hour.

Every single sermon I have heard preached in our church has a sliver of light fixed on issues that are effecting the real people who are fill the chairs sitting out in front of the stage.

There are words and phrases used that we all get, that we all understand.
Things like addictions, clinical depression, hopelessness, jealousy, perfection-seeking, self-defeat, sadness, worry, stress, brokenness.

While the core of all of the messages center on the hope that we find through God’s word and the life, and works of Jesus- there is also another message being delivered.

*There is no shame in coming to church on Sunday – especially if your life isn’t perfect. You have nothing to be ashamed of, our church isn’t an exclusive club- it’s a hospital for broken people.

To me this sends an even bigger message to the church body.
The pastor doesn’t consider himself any different from us.

And that’s pretty damned refreshing.

2.) The pastor + team are authentic. 
Not sure I need to elaborate further on this one.
I appreciate real people. Other people like real too.
Everyone can feel & appreciate real transparency and authenticity.

It’s nice to see that even people who are gifted and called to ministry are also still imperfect human beings.

No front, no holier than thou-ish stuff.

Just a worship team that loves to rock out.
A women’s ministry that actually, really, get this: loves and encourages other women.
A men’s ministry that actually talks about real life issues men face.
Children’s ministry that is completely focused on loving on the little people.

Just real people, doing real life, with other real life people.

3.) I am still waiting to hear a prosperity focused message.
It isn’t boring snooze fest, but it also isn’t simply just a show put on to entertain and desperately keep us coming back.
There are always legit narratives used that compliment a biblically based sermon, but we don’t have to hear political crap, or watered down prosperity bull that consistently fills my love of self tank.

I am not sure I have ever left without at least laughing once or twice, but I have almost never left feeling like I was probably, maybe about to win the lottery so that I could go and buy that unicorn and the black on black Range Rover that I deserve.
Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with purchasing unicorns or nice cars, because there isn’t.
And there also isn’t anything wrong with instilling hope in people.
But the messages of hope that I prefer to hear are based off of things God did and Jesus actually said. I pretty much dig that.

So if you happen to be looking around for a church to call home, I am sure that you can find one that fits your family too.
Keep trying.

I Was A Terrible Sponsor.

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To live out my step 12 I felt like I needed to be of service. I did practice the principles I had learned in my affairs but I felt like it needed to be more.
I had to reach out and I had give back.
It was important to make myself available and I felt like it was also my duty.
The very least that I could do.

and so I did.
I did, and I shouldn’t have.
Step 12 wasn’t for me, well, not in the traditional sense anyway.

One year sober just wasn’t long enough for me and if we’re being honest, it is safe to say that I did more harm than good when it came to trying to be a sponsor to anyone.

Thank GOD there were (only) two young women who had to deal with my over-inflated, grandiose view of my own sobriety and my own path that I used to get there.

At one year sober I can remember feeling so proud of myself and excited, invigorated, and determined; I felt like I was ready to jump out there and save the world!
Or, any one of the new bodies who walked through the doors of our next meeting.

Whichever.

I was so full of gratitude I cried every single time I thought about my new life.
I still did homework. I still went to meetings every single week, and at that time, I was also sharing my story at churches and co-leading meetings at the treatment center downtown.
Busy, busy, busy.
Giving back, giving back, giving back.

Giving back was good. It helped me to gain confidence and each time I told my story it provided a little bit more closure for me. Over time my story became less and less about the negative and the addiction and more and more about good things;  like sobriety and reflection, and coming into my own and embracing who I am.

And of course I wanted people to know that sobriety was a possibility for them too.
That recovery was a real-life actual thing, that could be done no matter what they had done.
That this program worked and there were real-life people to relate with and they really cared.

But none of this means that I was ready (or cut out to be) a sponsor.

I can remember my sponsees sharing their struggles or experiences with a relapse with me and I wondered why?

Why they hadn’t just taken my advice?
Why weren’t they listening?

“What in the absolute f*ck is wrong with them?”
“What a waste of their time, damn, our time..”
“They can’t be doing their homework.”
“Maybe they just don’t want it bad enough”
“Something isn’t going right and that something is them, not doing their part.”

Those are actual thoughts that I am ashamed to say that I had.
As we met every single week I would make a beeline for the table of snacks and coffee to get the hell out of the room for a few minutes.

Why wasn’t this program working for them the way it had for me?
Obviously because they weren’t working it correctly, that’s why.
That had to be why. I felt so annoyed.

It all makes more sense now, almost nine years later.
What was happening was that they were simply being honest with me and with themselves.
They were just sharing their experiences, and instead of being met with kindness they were met with disbelief and contempt.

How completely awful for them to reach out for help or guidance, and in return they get someone who closes the door on them for being who they are?

I truly wasn’t ready to be a sponsor.

Aside from sharing my story the only thing I should have been ‘giving back’ the first few years of my sobriety should have been hugs, smiles, knuckles, or any other morally supportive hand gestures that are in existence.

-I was still not emotionally regulated or stable enough to be relied on as a form of solid support. In my case sobriety didn’t equal stability. Obviously, I don’t think that sponsors or support people need to be a picture of perfection, but stable should definitely be a requirement. Most sponsor/sponsee relationships are some of the first new & healthy dynamics that a person in recovery will build. I wasn’t ready to be that or to offer that to any vulnerable someone’s yet. One day I would welcome their calls and other days I didn’t want to come out of my bedroom, let alone talk on the phone or meet for lunch. Blah.

-I hadn’t developed a whole lot of empathy for others at one year sober.
I am still a straight shooter, but not a straight shooter who lacks empathy.
Yes there is a difference.
The level of cold that I used to be was dangerous to a newly sober person or anyone remotely interested in recovery. I was forward, honest, and direct all right. All necessary qualities, but I needed a large cup of empathy and a few heaping tablespoons of balance; balance between being direct, and also lovingly able to spit out truth without being totally condescending with my delivery.

-I hadn’t yet done life with other people in recovery.
The main difference between how connect and encourage people now and how I did things at one year is simple.
I know more people.
I have met people from all walks of life, from all different programs, and people who are anti-program everything.
I have friends who like me, love God, and others who are atheists in recovery.
Some use counselors and therapies, others use essential oils, some rely on meditation or travel or medications, and others like myself rely on prayer and the Bible, and fellowship.

There are about a billion self-care techniques and combinations out there that we can use to maintain sobriety.

Not just…one.
Not just…mine.

The whole recovery process really isn’t all about the program we choose.
The program itself is merely a blueprint to help guide.
The program (if you look at all of them) are meant to prompt self-discovery and to reinforce certain bottom lines depending on which program you are a part of.
There are all different paths to one goal, and that is to figure out why we do what we do, hence, discovering who we are.
Recovery is truly about self-revelation.
Addiction is about hiding from the truth.
A sponsor should be there for their sponsees to help them through the  transition from one to the other until they ready to move forward on their own. To be there for them to be loving, kind, honest, and trustworthy.

Today I know:
*I can’t save everyone and I know it’s not my job to save anyone anyway.
*My personal recovery isn’t worthless if I am not sponsoring someone else one-on-one. I am raising three kids. That counts.
*My sobriety isn’t meaningless if I don’t go to meetings regularly. I go to al-anon now. That counts.
Because like I said, this isn’t about following the strict guidelines of any program.
It is about self-discovery and maintaining balance within ourselves.
So, of course my ‘program’ isn’t going to look like yours, and that’s okay.

I also know:
*My step 12 may not look like yours. You may not even care about step 12. You may not even know the steps and that’s okay.
*I still don’t sponsor people, and that’s okay too.

 

Guest: Jay-Acknowledging his Codependency

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Codependency has a lot of different faces. The phrase that sums up my experience is that
“I’m happy when you are happy, and when you’re in distress, I feel unregulated.”

At just under a year sober I had learned that my girlfriend had relapsed and wasn’t doing too well. We would see each other regularly and never spoke about whether or not she was using. I trusted that when she wanted help she would ask for help, but it broke my heart and I wasn’t as cool as that statement might make me appear.
I worried a lot.
Each time my phone rang I thought it would be someone telling me that something terrible had happened. I created anxiety in my life by trying to be prepared for the worst at all times.

Eventually she asked for help and I brought her to detox.
We weren’t sure that she would stay more than the night but she made the decision to go and I would sleep well that night; or so I thought.

The funny thing about the mind is that it can control the body. At 11 months I was having panic attacks, I was losing focus at work and I was sleeping in broken patterns throughout the night.
Today it’s easy to see in hindsight that I was waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop– I was waiting for the worst case scenario and I was sleeping lightly because my mind was preparing my body for its “fight or flight” mode, and plus, if I were awake I could rush to her rescue.

For over two months I slept like this.

I became tired throughout the day and kept my ringtone on the highest volume.

During conversations with friends I would scour for service, refreshing my connection to make sure I hadn’t missed any calls or voice mails. I didn’t trust that the universe was taking care of her and I stopped meditating.

In a couple’s session her therapist had mentioned a theory she had about our behavior.

She suggested that I was the sick one because I wasn’t being treated for my own illness.
I thought, “Here we go, here it comes. Jay is always wrong. Everyone warned me about couples sessions.”…I felt like I was set up in a position where I would never be right and I would never win. I tried to switch the focus back to the treatment she was or wasn’t getting, and how this would affect her discharge plans.

The therapist said to me, “You’re trying to control this conversation just like you’re trying to control her treatment plan. In codependency, one person takes control and the other person allows the control. Your fear is that if you let go of that control, you will lose her. Her fear is that if she doesn’t allow you that control, she will lose you. Have you ever asked her what she wants?”

Boom.
She was right.

I went on to explain how wrong she was, that I was in recovery and I had the experience and insight that I knew was helpful to my girlfriend. I had the cheat sheet with all of the answers.

She didn’t shame me or try to prove me wrong. My girlfriend simply smiled because she had heard the truth and knew it to be spot on.

Her therapist waited for me after our session and gave me a handout on codependency and emotional regulation.

It explained a lot.
It was difficult for me to see. It was difficult to admit.

I hadn’t realized these methods weren’t effective. I was becoming a teacher rather than a supportive boyfriend. I wasn’t listening anymore because I was preparing my response. I always thought there was a perfect combination of phrases for any situation that could dissolve any conflict or confusion.
I found safety within this line of reasoning.

What a difficult pill to swallow to learn it wouldn’t work any longer.

Everyday I meditate and talk to my network of support and try to set the tone to go with the flow of things rather than holding on too tightly to what I believe. For my meditations I began using mantras like “everything is as it should be” or “go with it.”

Acceptance is one of those things that I needed to commit to. It’s hard to accept because it’s hard to let go of my defenses. For me, acceptance today means that my happiness isn’t derived from the happiness or well-being of my girlfriend.

My happiness is derived from the effort I put into being happy and healthy. For me.

Codependency can be subtle or it can be painfully obvious.

An outside perspective with someone you trust is a sure fire way to discover how healthy and helpful your communication techniques and relationship style is. The most important thing isn’t to be discouraged if you’ve found you’re skewed to the codependent side.

The important part is realizing what the problems are, and being willing to work work on letting go of them.

Your relationship will only grow if you allow it the space to do so.

Jay is 27 years old and has been sober for over 1 year.  
He is an alumni at Atlas Recovery House, a non-12 step-based program in Los Angeles, where he also works. In his free time he likes to play music and enjoys going to concerts.

 

Just Being.

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Discovering that I have the freedom to embrace exactly who I am in a very organic & authentic way, without feeling a need to conform to restrictive expectations from anyone in my life, has been one of my favorite effects that my recovery journey has had on who I am as a person.

(And if I do accidentally have people who have somehow managed to wedge their way into my small circle that aren’t able (or willing) to try to accept me for me, it appears that I have been ignoring them for quite some time.)

And I don’t want to mislead you:

1.) My choice of embracing who I am and not putting energy into worrying if people like me or not is not the same thing as everyone liking me.
Believe me. It’s not. (and that’s okay).

2.) I would like to be a more social person despite the fact that I am still particularly anxious and awkward in many situations. Liking myself and but having friends who love me for me doesn’t mean I have morphed into a social fairy who enjoys large groups, small talk, or feeling vulnerable. It simply means that I get better every day and I like me. I am grateful to have people in my life who like me as is; countless flaws, sketchy past, and sarcasm included.

But feeling comfortable in my own skin has been a rather slow but meaningful process of becoming.
It took me a long time to make the connection between how getting to know myself, unpologetically embracing who I am, and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to connect with other people, all directly effect each other.

Growing up in an environment as chaotic as the one that I called home didn’t leave me any time to handle much more than surviving. It took a lot of my energy to repress traumatic experiences and I didn’t have time leftover to invest in other areas of my life. I completely skipped vital phases of child development. Things like developing a healthy sense of who I was or learning to be friendly with other humans didn’t register with me and my scale of importance. I didn’t place any value on building meaningful relationships with others, especially not with the one that I was supposed to have with myself; I was also reluctant to open up to people and had a tiny bit of a problem trusting other people for anything.

So building a close relationship with another person was out of my carefully created and controlled comfort zone. Thanks but no thanks. I didn’t have time to worry about who I was.
And I knew that I didn’t fit anywhere so I changed like a chameleon depending on who I was around; always worrying that people could somehow see the dysfunction that i was a bi-product of. Which led to me feeling like I just didn’t fit anywhere and so, I hid.

Living this way allowed me the wiggle room to do almost anything!
Well like everything aside from building relationships or acknowledging my authentic-self.

I preferred isolation over connecting, but what I couldn’t see at the time is how damaging this way of living was. By not being connected inwardly, I couldn’t begin to allow myself to connect outwardly; and most important, I didn’t know why I preferred it that way.
The same isolation that had once been my go-to, safe place of refuge was literally killing me.

Choosing sobriety meant giving up my need for power and control.
It asked that I leap every single day. Leaping without having an idea of an exact landing place or knowing where I was going was scary. It isn’t something that can be controlled. Sobriety just asked that I do the next right thing.

Which mostly meant I had to be around –you guessed it.
People.

I loathed the thought of having to sit in a room full of other people, never-mind that room was located inside of a church. I just hated the whole idea of having to put myself fin a situation where I would most certainly be exposed, while I was also overwhelmed with the anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen when I did these so-called next right things.

On top of everything, I was sober during all of this life-change business.

But it never failed. Every time my home group met I was always greeted by smiling faces. Over time I quit glancing behind me to see if they had mistaken me for someone else or were smiling at the person behind me.

They saw me, and they accepted me, and that’s all it was.

I started to greet them with a hug and a smile right back.

For a long time that was as deep and connected as I was able to get. 
But that was okay.

As more time passed I shared and listened and took notes, and I began to excavate parts of me that I hadn’t ever seen before.

As each piece of me was uncovered I excitedly shared the news with my small group and little by little I started to connect a little bit deeper, with myself, and with others.

I felt safe and loved, and I started to feel more and more comfortable with the changes that I had made and the discoveries that had been painfully unearthed.

By connecting with other people and listening to them share, I was learning so much about who I was.

This would end up being the place where I learned how to open up and to allow myself to be vulnerable and that is how I learned the value, importance, and power of connection.

Being comfortable and accepting of who I am is freeing, and allows me the confidence to show myself to others in a way that allows us the opportunity to form a connection, and that can lead to lasting relationships.

I have managed to find an imperfect but perfect for me tribe of friends.
Granted, many of the connections that I have made are mostly with other women in recovery who I have not actually met face to face, but it still totally counts.

The most important part about our kinship isn’t proximity anyway, it is having the freedom to be ourselves and not having to worry if that is acceptable or not.

 

A Grateful Mother’s Day

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I have taken advantage of the opportunities to learn from my addiction and my former debilitating lifestyle in all its glory; the one that deadened and demanded it have my whole person, but mostly, forcefully snatched my desire or ability to focus on or experience anything that I would perceive as good.

Being an unhealthy person overall (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) was exhausting.
It helped me to keep the traumatic & painful things at the forefront of my mind and I really didn’t know how to shut down the continuous loop that reeled inside of my head.

I was continuously reminded of the pain because I did a good job making sure that my old wounds stayed raw, and fresh. I hated who I was, but most of my underlying rage was directed very specifically toward my mother.

I wasn’t aware that the bitterness and resentment that I had been holding onto would also become the starting point where most of my healing would take place in recovery.

Loving someone who has struggled with mental-illness and addiction my entire life is comparable to the stages of emotion one experiences when they are grieving, except for its a little different.
Physically she has always been here and she is still alive today, but she hasn’t ever been, and still isn’t available. I never had the privilege of knowing her, but I have had a front row seat to watch the slow deterioration process.

So in honor of her and because of my grief,
I never really let celebrate Mother’s Day.

Despite being a young mother myself, it almost felt disrespectful to enjoy the it. Instead, I spent it mourning what I never had and what I would never have. This holiday magnified all of my negative feelings and gave me an excuse to feel sorry for myself year after year.

I would cry throughout the day wondering what things could have been like or what it might have been like to have her around, or who she might be if she was healthy or what our relationship could have been like if it was ever given the chance to develop.

I would imagine what it would be like to meet my mom for lunch or shopping. What if one day we went to get our nails done, what would that be like? Maybe she could have gone to my wedding, or maybe I should have tried to find her to come to the hospital for at least one of my children being born? What would it be like to invite her over for dinner? What does she like to eat? Then I would start wondering how she spends her Mother’s Day. Is it still traumatic for her?  Does she still blame herself for my brother’s passing?

Then I would seamlessly transition to all that I never had. I wouldn’t let myself forget that when I was a little girl I never had anyone to watch get ready, or to share lipstick with. No one to talk about adolescent girly types of things, no one to laugh with, no one to talk about boys with. As I got older I didn’t call her when I found out I was expecting my first baby, my second, or my third. My labor came and went without any contact with her or connection of any kind. Post-par-tum days weren’t any different. She didn’t know that my life had changed, and she wasn’t interested.

Just like my addiction in its organic form, this entire process was completely inward focused. I couldn’t see any of the good around me because I was so focused and determined on all of the negative things. 

But my recovery taught me how to sort through all of the negative feelings that I had relating to all of those things that I never had and would likely never experience. I learned that In order to allow myself to move forward I needed to accept what is and forgive her for what wasn’t.

And then God took it a step further.

It became so much more than acceptance, and having my feelings validated.
It was more than processing and healing.
It was more than being free and more than the ability to move forward.

Somehow I became grateful that my life went the way that it did.
Somehow I was able to look back without wanting to change it all.
I was thankful for the messes and the trauma and being the ‘unfortunate kid.’

It is why I can sit here with tears welled-up in my eyes, so thankful to be here writing this.
It is why I can celebrate Mother’s Day:

*My experiences are the reason why it is so important to me to encourage other moms to stay sober and why I want to help them to stay strong for their babies. Their kids need them. I know how much of a difference that having them will make in their lives. I also know that it doesn’t matter to a child when a parent gets sober, it really won’t make a difference to them. They will just be over the moon excited and relieved.

*My experiences are the reason why I want to be a part of fighting for people who are struggling with the stigmas that have formed around people and families with mental illness and addiction. They are the reason why I don’t believe in labels. These things make an already difficult situation so much more shameful for all involved. I fight for people who I have never met, because we are all connected in this thing, even if we’re strangers.

*My experiences are the reason why I am so grateful to be a mommy, and I am okay with being an imperfect one. My mother is imperfect and I still love her, so I know that I can’t possibly screw up my kids that bad, so I have already made a little bit of progress with the legacy that I will someday leave behind. Progress people, progress.

*My experiences aren’t debilitating anymore and they aren’t powerful in the sense that they can have me down in my bed for days in tear-soaked bed sheets.
They are powerful in the sense that they have become my purpose, and my primary motivation to love my kids so hard that they won’t ever spend a Mother’s Day trying to figure out what they could have done wrong, or different, or better.

This is what drives me to keep cheering for all of the parents out there who are in recovery.

You guys rock and *you* might not believe it yet, but you are changing the world by changing your life. We can change the trajectory of the little lives we are in charge of, and that is amazing.

You matter and changing your life matters even on days where you can’t feel that it matters. 

Our kids see us fighting to get our lives back and they will see how determined that we are- and they will begin to see their own resilience and freedom to choose.

For me, God has taken a holiday that used to have me face down in the mud, and has breathed so much new life into it, so much that I can’t put into words. His love for me has shown me how to love other people. I had a wonderful Mother’s Day with the little people who I have been loaned, and I hope that they know how much my love for them has driven me to be a better woman.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my beautiful mama friends. 

(Side-note: I am not trying to feed stigma here. I am writing about undiagnosed, mismanaged or misdiagnosed mental-illness. It is possible and very common for THOUSANDS of people who have a mental illness to live happy, healthy, productive, stable, awesome lives.)

Accept Not Fix.

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Long before I found myself in the process of self-discovery where I was unpacking and finally facing the fact that I was a codependent, enabling, doormat-ish kind of person I was reluctantly facing another harsh truth.

It was time to choose to accept help for my drug addiction.

What had held me back and what had kept me stuck for as long as I stayed stuck was an idea that I held close & tightly clung to for years. Well, it was more than an idea, it had become my belief system.

It whispered to me constantly as it served as a reminder to me every day:

Not only are you unworthy of living a healthy life, there is no possible way that you could ever repair the damage that you have done. Zero. Don’t even bother. You will let everyone down. It is all too broken, you have made too many mistakes, you have damaged your son too deeply, and you couldn’t fix any of it. Oh’… and good morning.”

The same lies that kept me up at all hours of the night, the same lies that woke me early in the morning, the very lies that compelled me to live a life in isolation, were also the same lies that preferred I stay far away from anyone reaching out to help me to see the truth.

My belief system was built on lies. I operated on these lies. I suppose I got to a point where I relied on them to sustain my way of life.

I had come to believe that the only way to change was to fix everything.
In reality, the only thing that I really had to do was accept everything.

I had to accept help.
I had to accept the that I had made mistakes.
I had to accept that I couldn’t take any of it back.
I had to accept that some of it could be repaired and some of it may never exist the same way again.

For me that meant detoxing. It meant moving. It meant changing my phone number. It meant feeling like I was totally, most likely, going to d.i.e., it meant really wanting to quit but so badly wanting peace and calm, and contentment and it meant doing it anyway.

All of that was just preliminary work that needed to happen before we (God, myself, counselor & my small group) opened Pandora’s box full of things like memory repression, dissociation, long-term effects of trauma, lack of coping skills, inability to self-regulate ..anything, clinical depression and some other complex issues.

I was a hot mess of raw pain and deep rooted unhealthy thinking with a dependency on all things no good in every single area of my life.

In order for my recovery to continue progressing, I had to, had to, had to, continue believing the truth that I chose to believe in the beginning of the process. 

I had to choose to accept what is, and I had to vow to combat my need to want to fix it all and call myself good enough.

I had to commit to stop telling myself that everything, all of the things, it all had to be fixed in order for me to be ‘well’ or to be considered ‘good’ ‘acceptable’ or ‘worthy’. 

That is crap.
It’s all crap.

It is totally fine, acceptable, and completely normal to stumble into a meeting, or a facility, or a church, or a counselor’s office, or rehab or (Insert your choice of recovery regimen here)

completely unwilling to do anything except- accept

That’s okay.
It really is.

It’s a solid place to hit the ground running and a great start to your very own recovery journey that will enable you to grow into the person who you were meant to be; the healthiest version of you.

Just accept the gift of Grace, and vow to keep moving forward.
And as they say, one day you will look back, and you will be amazed and so grateful that you took that very first step…right into acceptance.

Looking Back Isn’t The Same.

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As I have stated previously, I (respectfully) choose not to identify as a drug addict but that doesn’t mean that I am not reminded on a daily basis that I am a rehabilitated person; a previously shattered, broken, empty, lost, human being currently living on borrowed and gifted time.

I am reminded of that every single day.
and every single day gratitude for sobriety spills over into all areas of my life, because that is not who I am anymore.

As a person in long-term recovery I often wonder:

“Will there ever be a day that I don’t consciously recognize that I am a person living a sober life, as opposed to being just a person living life?”

Will I always hug my boys like I haven’t seen them in weeks?
Am I always going to laugh at their jokes, or hug them just a little bit tighter and longer than I need to? (Or what they can tolerate)
Am I always going to peek in on all three of them repeatedly just to stare at their perfect, round, little faces?
It is possible that I will forever be that imperfect parent who doesn’t want to miss anything because I have already given too much away already and my dedication to relishing in every moment that my heart is able to absorb still hasn’t wavered?
 
……I hope so.

Is it likely that I will always look at my husband as if he is the only man on this planet, every single morning, reminding myself of all of the days that we have left to build new memories, as I push away the quiet reminders of all that I cannot remember or piece together, or do-over, or take away?
Will I be able to continue admitting when I am wrong, every single time, even if it always happens numerous times a day?
When I am being irrational, or have lost my temper, or said something I didn’t really mean because I was hot, tired, or hungry will I do my part to hold myself accountable?

……I hope so. 

Will I always see the hurt in other people’s eyes?
Am I always going to be able to see through a phony smile or audibly hear when tears are being held back but are just one word away from surfacing?
Will I always going to be the person who knows intimate details of the lives of young women who bag my groceries, or who spill their hearts out to me when we are standing in line somewhere?

……..I hope so.

Will I always try to make amends whenever it is possible or healthy for me?
Will my promptly’s continue to come quicker and closer together?
Am I going to keep falling on my face, over and over again?
Will I always feel this thankful to my recovery family of supporters?
Can I always embrace my strengths and keep continue being vigilant about *all of the areas that I still struggle in?

……..I hope so. 

I open my eyes every morning and I thank God for another day to try again, to get it right, or vacuum that something, or email that somebody…

But as much as I am embracing this sober life,
living out my recovery day-to-day seems to be a constant reminder of who I used to be.
That somebody who I used to know.

Every single day that I embrace sobriety, I find my mind wandering.
Time and time again I glance behind me.

But looking back doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

It doesn’t mean that I completely lose myself or dig up things that I have laid at the foot of the cross- things like resentment, shame, sorrow, or regret.

It doesn’t mean that I yearn for that old way of living or pine away for any component or characteristic of that lifestyle.

It means that I am still able to see that girl.
The one who I used to be.

The girl who thought she had to be strong all of the time, who needed to have it all together.
The one who couldn’t allow herself to let go of control of what she felt or who she felt for, who strong armed anything that felt close to concern, care, compassion, or love; the one who hid.

I can close my eyes and I can see her.

and I am immediately brought right back to where I belong.
I reassured when I am look back and catch a glimpse of that life.

Everything is finally alright.
By alright I mean real.
By real I mean I am present.
I am aware. I am living and feeling and experiencing.
I have come to a place in my journey in this life where I am finally wearing the skin that I am in and I am comfortable being me.

That is all that I ever truly wanted.

Although I seem to continually uncover new parts of who I am, and I am still utilizing the tools that I have tucked away from the recovery programs, from blogs, literature, articles, magazines, books, and now the ever popular podcasts- I have learned one very important thing-

Will there ever be a day that I don’t consciously recognize that I am a person living a sober life, as opposed to being just a person living life?

I hope not.

Trauma: Keep the Envelope.

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I got a package in the mail yesterday from a distant relative. It was such a thoughtful and kind gesture, and I really appreciate them taking the time to send it to me.

Before I opened the package, I re-read the facebook message I had received that sweetly encouraged me to enjoy the photos, and expressed that they really hoped it helped bring back some great memories.

Inside of the manila envelope I found a large stack of random pictures that were taken at various stages of my childhood.

I sat down on our porch swing that faces our back yard.
I began looking though them as I listened to my boys playing on the trampoline.

It was great seeing all of my cousins. Everyone was so young, and so adorable. Looking at the smiling faces of my grandma ,my great grandma, and other relatives who I instantly recognized put a smile on my face.

My smile faded as I could faintly hear that apathetic voice that I have intentionally and strategically buried with truth and immeasurable amounts of hours worth of self-care & maintenance.

It was the familiar feeling of disconnect.

If I hadn’t recognized the faces in the photos they may as well have been stock photos that come inside of new picture frames from a local retail store.

I kept trying to envision the specific time in history anyway.

But it was blank. 

I tried to carefully study each photo thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I stared long enough; if I really let the details in the photo sink in, surely, some kind of flashback or emotion would surface.

So I took my time.
I examined facial expressions, clothing, photos on the wall, flooring.
I closed my eyes, trying to imagine the scenario. The smells, the sounds. Something. Anything.

But nothing came.

As a sober adult who has been on a complicated, yet gratifying journey working toward being the best, healthiest version of myself for almost a decade now, this isn’t my first rodeo in relation to feeling detached.

I know that throughout my childhood, the effects of trauma seized moments from me before they even had a chance to play out.

I can recall certain instances when I visited a friend, went to school, or attended a birthday party, but what I remember are feelings, not specific memories.

I can remember feeling different.
I can remember never allowing myself to fully embrace a moment or freely express raw, genuine, emotion.
Everything that I said or did was always carefully calculated and thoughtfully dispensed.

But just as I or anyone else thumbing through this stack of photos can clearly see: it wasn’t all bad.

There were blocks of time where I had opportunities to be free, and to enjoy be a kid, but I never welcomed it or embraced them.

My experiences were always negative because of the way I operated day-to-day.
I was always busy surviving even when it wasn’t necessary.
I made my home down in the pit that I was stuck in, and just to be super safe, I was also wrapped in real fear of losing my sense of control.

So much of my life has  had been handed over to trauma.

The good news is: that was not the end of my story.
It could have been, but by the grace of God, it wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

For me, sobriety meant finally having to face the hard stuff and voluntarily giving healing permission to begin its work in my life.

Although I don’t lead a perfect life and I may not ever not rid myself of the shadows left from the scars, today I understand what I have control over, what I don’t, and more importantly, I value how little control I actually need to have.

Never again will I believe that I am nothing more than a channel created for fear, or meant for compulsion, because I am free.

So trauma, you can keep that manila envelope.

I will keep the gifts of sobriety that I have been gifted and am able to open each and every day.

And for that, I am beyond grateful.

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Guest: Midwestern Mama- Creator of ‘Our Young Addicts’

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It’s Good To Be Alive!
By Midwestern Mama, creator of Our Young Addicts.

My dad was an early riser.
Each morning at the breakfast table, he would stretch and declare, “It’s good to be alive! Good to be alive!” As a kid, I dismissed the sheer beauty of this morning ritual and squirmed at how he repeated the phrase.

Fast forward to age 49, I now understand the infinite wisdom that he expressed and why it required such emphasis. In fact, on my dad’s 80th birthday in 2009, my sisters and I presented him with a tribute of all the things we remembered growing up and his “good to be alive” mantra was top of the list.

At the time of my dad’s 80th birthday, things in my family life were turning upside down and I had no idea what twists and turns we were in for in the years ahead. From this point forward, our middle son became a focal point. Not because he was the middle kid, but because his attitude, mood and behavior was changing. It was becoming foreign to us and we were wondering what the heck was going on. We were very concerned.

Until this point, life had been beautiful.
A great marriage. Three wonderful kids who seemed to be thriving.
Prosperous careers. Friendships. Community involvement. Fun times on family vacations. A home that provided comfort and joy. Lots of laughs and family time together.
You name it. Indeed, we were blessed. Then, as I said, things started to change.

Our son was using drugs.

Marijuana at first, quickly followed by opiates including heroin. Although his grades were exceptional, his attendance record was putting high school graduation at risk. He was lying, stealing, manipulating.

We saw it, but others said it was just a phase. We suspected drugs, but did not have tangible evidence because he hid it well. It got worse and worse, and for those of you who have been through addiction first hand or as a family or friend, you know what I mean.

In short, things were ugly. Yet in spite of the ugliness, I discovered beauty. Yes, I discovered beauty and beauty saved me.

As a mom and wife, I felt responsibility to hold everything together. I was doing OK at this for everyone except myself. It felt like things were getting ready to fall apart. It felt like things were becoming unmanageable (Step One for those who embrace the 12 steps.)

I did not want things to become unmanageable, so I paused. I sought help and through this help, I rediscovered beauty in everyday life and it was more beautiful than it had ever been. This is not to say that things were not sad, mad or difficult. Addiction is all those things and witnessing it as a parent is horrific. What it is to say is that during this harrowing journey of addiction for my son, I intentionally and consciously began to embrace beauty all day, every day.

Just like my dad, beauty began each morning when I woke up. Waking up, alive and with the belief that this was a new day with new possibilities was an amazing starting point. I even began to say aloud his expression when I woke up: “It’s good to be alive. Good to be alive.” From there, I began:

  • Taking time to mediate.
  • Taking time to enjoy.
  • Taking time for gratitude.

I remember sitting in my son’s room – he was no longer living with us and was sofa surfing at the time – and feeling the morning sun come through his windows; it was warm and reassuring. Yes, the sun rose, day after day regardless of what was happening in my son’s life or my own. That, alone, was reassuring and beautiful.

Beauty continued to reveal itself as my husband and I landscaped our yard and planted a garden one summer early in the addiction years. The physical labor was therapeutic as we lugged bags of mulch and dug in the dirt to plant perennials and annuals that would attract butterflies.

What Else?
I remember:

  • Bringing a picnic of favorite foods to our younger son’s baseball games in lieu of having concession-stand fare several nights each week.
  • Spending my lunch hour at park near my office soaking in the warm sun.
  • Going on vacation to hike in the mountains of Montana without much cell phone reception and relishing in the disconnection from all things digital.

The road ahead was nothing short of hard and challenging, but I sought beauty each and every day.

  • Thanking God for the beautiful sky – always a different picture from the day before.
  • Appreciating the seasons.
  • Meeting new friends through Al-anon and online support groups.
  • Challenging myself with new perspectives through reading Buddha, the Talmud, and many other philosophies.
  • Acknowledging the challenges that every individual faces, whether expressed or contained.
  • Putting my experiences into writing and sharing these with a variety of publications.
  • Creating Our Young Addicts and knowing that its mission of experience, resources and hope would connect parents and professionals concerned about the rising number of young people using drugs and alcohol.

As our son’s addiction spiraled out of control and blips of hope became mere flickers of possibility, we maintained contact with him and welcomed him home as often as he cared to join us.
This included:

  • Family meals where we held hands each with our own prayer, wish or hope.
  • Caring yet candid conversations where we shared our honest concerns about his addiction.
  • Offering help and support for our son to embrace sobriety and recovery.
  • Giving him nutritious meals, a warm shower, a change of clothes and a clean bed … only to know he’d head out the next day and not knowing when he’d return.
  • Relishing in each and every interaction we had with him because it meant he was alive and that a bright future remained possible. (Trust me, I had begun to think about his obituary because that’s how gripping his addiction had become.)

While the days and nights were dark and the unthinkable was always possible, I sought beauty; I expressed gratitude for what was and tried to let go of what wasn’t.

Fast forward to summer 2014, through many efforts at treatment, my son decided he was ready to embrace sobriety and recovery. July 11, 2014, remains one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the day that my son began his return, slowly but surely.

Through my son’s recovery, each day has offered up even more beauty than I ever imagined.

Do I look back on the addiction days as ugly? Sure, there was ugliness. Addiction is ugly. But it is the beauty that got me through it and the beauty that keeps me cognizant of today and the future. Without a doubt, as my dad said each morning, “It is good to be alive. Good to be alive.”

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Midwestern Mama is the creator or Our Young Addicts, a growing community of parents and professionals who are concerned about the rising number of young people using drugs and alcohol. Together, we share experiences, provide resources and offer hope – no matter where a kid may be on the spectrum of addiction, treatment and recovery. Together, we are the #OYACommunity.

*Connect with Our Young Addicts:
Website: OurYoungAddicts.com
Twitter: @OurYoungAddicts
Facebook: facebook.com/ouryoungaddicts

 

 

Beach House Center For Recovery-Healing

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So what I say here isn’t earth shattering- it really isn’t.
It is just a simplified version of my truth.
A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it can be to let go, and allow love in.
To learn how to love ourselves, to accept love from others, and to express love in various ways- didn’t come naturally to me.

Love has ignited all of the healing that I have experienced in recovery.

Alcohol, I’m Aware.

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Late at night, when all is calm, and our house is taking a rest, I see your face in my mind.

My heart aches for who you might be, or who I know that you are, hidden underneath all of your scars, and beneath the pain that you carry on your shoulders.

You would hate to hear that I am your secret prayer warrior.

Sometimes I cry, warm tears.
I let them stream down my face, saturating my pillow.
I say nothing.
I just let it happen.
I feel it.
I let it go, and I go to sleep.

Other times I immediately switch to a happier mental channel.
I do my best to not wonder where you are, or where you are sleeping.

I try to avoid the flashes of good memories.
The one’s of you running around in pajama’s on Saturday mornings.

Mostly because they are overwhelmed so immediately and change to the you accidentally falling into a fire, or unknowingly walking into highway traffic, or living through totaling cars.

Then, it will change to the you that I used to catch a glimpse of every few months, the you who used to still hold out a tiny bit of hope.

For that one day stretch- that you, he can only make it for so long before he is coughing up blood.

You are completely lost in him.
And then, it all starts all over again.

Realistically, I understand that I deserve to accept love.
I know that I have a right to my own happiness.
I remind myself why It is necessary for me to live my life separate from you, and raise my boys somewhere where you, well…..aren’t.

I still have times where I struggle to allow myself to embrace my new life.
I struggle to humbly celebrate my own victories as an individual.

I feel like I am leaving you behind.

So I put it away.

I tuck you safely into my heart and place you into my prayers.
I continuously push you out of my mind and put you back to a place where you can’t hurt me.

I quiet the worry that tends to creep in by staying very close to my savior, who reminds me of the truth.

You are worthy of love and redemption, but it is up to you to accept God’s gift of grace.
You have to choose to change and one day,
I know that you will.
I believe that you will.

I wish that I could hope you back to life.

I want to hug you without fear for my safety.

I want to look at your face and see life in those eyes.

I want YOU to see who you really are.  

Until then, I will continue to keep my thoughts focused on what could be; what I believe could happen for you, or anyone else’s loved one who is slowly sinking, swallowing gulps of their own poison as each day passes.

Because hope is real.

Recovery is a real place where real people turn their lives around.

People just like you.
One day, I know you will know what I am talking about.

Until then, broski.

Daniel Maurer’s, Transformation is Real

Transformation IS Real, and Daniel Maurer’s website is definitely an amazing place, packed full of all different kinds of life transformations to check out.

Take some time to check out his TIR Tat Tale’s section and read the empowering stories behind the skin art. I am excited to have been able to share the inspiration behind my recovery ink, alongside of other amazing recovery warriors.

Our Young Addicts

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I am excited to share this one with you guys. I am honored to share anything on this site, OurYoungAddicts.com. The message and mission there is inspiring and encouraging.

I am becoming more and more comfortable about talking about my experience with being a mommy/parent who struggled with drugs and alcohol. This topic specifically is one that really hits me hard and has taken me quite some time to heal from and to forgive myself for. But when healing happens, transformation happens, and for me, that means that I will feel more comfortable sharing about it. Shame is a powerful constraint, and in this piece I share how things tend to come full circle when we embrace the gift of sobriety.

Thank you for readingyou can find the blog post, Sobriety Gifts, here.

Guest: Candace- Her Weight Loss Journey!

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I was skinny as a child.
It wasn’t until the age of 8 or 9 that I really started to gain weight.
That is also about the time my mom started to work outside of our home, so she wasn’t around, and my older brother didn’t really care what we (younger brothers and myself) ate.
I was/am very much loved by my parents and family, but some things did happen when I was young and it was something I didn’t talk about.
So I used food as a way to cope.
Eating became something that I could control in my life.
Food became a comfort to me.
I loved eating but wasn’t interested in eating any healthy things.
I loved junk food, the sweeter the better. Eventually, I stopped playing sports and ended up sitting on the couch more and more

I would say I became addicted to the bad stuff; candy, cakes, cookies, chips, pop, ice cream: Sugar.

I have tried to lose weight what seems like thousands of times!
I have tried so many different ways.

Prescription medications, a few over the counter pills.
Those never worked. I never did it consistently and really wasn’t doing it for myself.

There were times when my dad would bribe me-telling me that he would buy me a whole new wardrobe if I would just lose 100 lbs. I would take the challenge, but I would only half-ass it, mostly to get him off my back. I would lose a few pounds here and there, but not enough to motivate me, and I would usually just get discouraged, and quit again.

I have had gym memberships.
I have tried the Atkins diet.
I even tried herbal teas that claimed to enhance and promote weight loss, and at one point,
My parents even had a food therapist come talk to me.

None of that worked. 

I am now 37 years old.
I have to take 3 pills, 2x a day to control diabetes and high blood pressure.
I am tired of being tired all the time.
I’m tired of being out of breath going up a flight of stairs,
I am tired of having to ask a flight attendant for the extra seat belt thing
(or just hiding my waist to make it look like my seat belt is on, even though it won’t fit and because I was to embarrassed to ask for it)
I am tired of not being able to fit on the rides at our local theme park.

For me the biggest motivation has been the prospect of adopting a child.
It almost happened recently, but fell through and things didn’t work out.
But through that experience, I realized that there are so many kids in my life who love me and who want me to stay around and that I want to be around to see my goddaughters, nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews grow up.  I want to be here to see them graduate high school and when they go of to college.
I want to see them get married. I just want to be here.

This time I know I will be successful because I am committed!
The difference is that before, I was doing it for someone else & for the wrong reasons.
This time, I am doing this for ME.

It has been about 7 weeks since I began this new journey.
My heaviest weight was 358.
I have lost 13.4 lbs total.

I have even managed to be a part of 2 birthday celebrations, and have made it through St. Patrick’s Day & Easter without giving into the temptation around me.

I have changed the way I eat and look at food. I have started to change the way that I think.
I have even started to exercise. I walk every day, I have done my first 5k and I finished it, I am signed up for more walks, one in May and the other in July.

The advice that I would give to anyone else who is trying to lose weight
is that you have to want it.
You can’t do it for anyone else.

Next, I would say change the way that you are looking at it. It’s not a diet, It’s a LIFE CHANGE.

Also, you need support.
It helps not to isolate yourself or keep it secret.
I never realized how much support I could have if I just reached out.
So many people love me and are supporting my journey.

Make realistic goals for yourself.

Do what works best for you.
For me that meant making a meal plan, and no more eating out fast-food. I try to eat a lot of veggies and fruit every day and I count calories. I have also tried out Zumba, home workouts and walking as I said before. I don’t like the gym, so I am trying new things on to see what fits.

You have to commit to this as a life change.
No one can do it for you, only you!

Everyone keeps telling me how proud of me they are, which is great.
I really do appreciate it,

but it doesn’t mean anything
if I am not proud of MYSELF.

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Candace

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