Author: Brittany

Guest: Simone- I Knew I Would Never Drink

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

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

Everyone in my family liked to drink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve never been happier to be sober.

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

Here’s What I Thought I Needed To Be Accepted

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

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

She wanted to belong.

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

Here are 3 of ridiculous things that I believed wholeheartedly:

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

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

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

It happens the other way around.

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

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

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

According to my calculations my life was completely fucked up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in the end we are left with nothing.

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

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

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

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

We come as we are.

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

5 Things I Learned From My First Blog Baby

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

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

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

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

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

So I wrote for a couple of years.

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

And I healed.

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Could Have Died In My Safe Places.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Have Your Time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was my time.

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

It was just my time. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is it. This is my time.”

Happy Birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

And the choice is always up to us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it wasn’t until the truth finally clicked:

I am a trigger for him.

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

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

Lots of anger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taught to Love?

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I know now that some of the experiences that I encountered during my younger years were definitely purposeful and thought out, but I wasn’t aware of any of it.

All of it had an impact on how I view prejudice and labeling and still affects how I see other human beings.

When I stayed with my grandma, (which was as often as I could pull off) she would pack our time together full of as many things as she could so that I could ‘experience life’ as she put it. Of course I had no idea what she was talking about but it sounded like fun.

Looking back it was obvious.
She wanted me to see that there were good things in the world.
Fun things. Positive things. And mostly, funny things.

Humor was her escape & the arts were her passion.
I really enjoyed gazing into her world and getting away for a while.
He life revolved around reading and writing and creating and living in the world as a force for something unapologetically good.

The plays that she wrote and produced were charismatic, witty and hilarious as were the ones that she was cast in. Sometimes at rehearsals I would peek in and watch everyone getting into costume, perfecting their make-up and going over their lines. I would walk around and take trips to the pop machines and I liked hanging out, observing everyone. There was a lot of commotion, but overall it was just a fun environment to be in.

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My grandma was always busy but never made me feel like I was in the way. I was always close to her in proximity whether she was a cast member, if she was bossing other people around, if she was emcee, or involved in some other capacity.

Some of the most fun I have ever had in my life I had watching and being with her and her friends.

I came to love these people. Over the years her friends became familiar faces to me and eventually, felt like family. I had been acquainted with and close to and around several openly gay men and women for years before I even knew what gay was. I had no clue that some of my grandma’s best and closest (and most treasured, trusted, loving and loyal) friends also happened to be gay.
None.
Probably because it was never mentioned because it never came up because no one cared.

We didn’t have discussions like that.
I wasn’t shielded or protected from anything because I wasn’t in danger. I never felt threatened or weird or unsafe or anything. It was a nonissue so there wasn’t anything to take note of. I had seen so much musical theater and community theater and drag queens tearing sh*t up and I was completely oblivious; I truly had no idea that there were people in the world who might not appreciate single one of these amazing, talented people. I really didn’t understand it.

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There was a lot of traumatic stuff that I experienced as a young person.

I might not have had morals and values instilled into my heart in a pointed and purposeful way and I wasn’t taught about religion and I had no idea who Jesus was and no one who I grew up around really cared about praying before they ate a meal or thanking God for daily blessings.

I also know many people could say that sadly, I just didn’t know any better or that I didn’t have a compass to guide me along as a young person, so I was just floundering around without sound judgment.

I really can’t disagree with any of that, actually.
I was floundering and I didn’t have a leg of moral truth to stand on.

And I am not advocating for that parenting technique for obvious reasons.

But the one aspect of my upbringing that was consistent and that I am truly & deeply thankful for?

No one took the time to teach me to hate anything or anyone for any specific set of reasons.

I suppose that is one major perk of spending the majority of your time as a child with a primary caregiver who had other things to do besides instill things in the small people who mostly got in the way… 🙂

If my grandmother were still here I would tell her that I get it now.
It all finally makes sense.

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I understand why she encouraged me to play on a special needs softball team as a child.
I can see why she fought so hard and patiently jumped through ten-billion hoops strategically set up for people like her to fail, so that she could open up her day care center that would allow her to serve the special needs community AND the typically developing children in ONE facility.  I finally see why she was so adamant fighting for inclusion for people who don’t have a voice that is loud enough.
I see why she fought the city council when they told her that she couldn’t paint flowers on the outside of her home, simply because it was part of the historical district.
I finally get why it was so important to her to put up her annual ‘public’ volleyball net and croquet.
Or why she was combative with people who told her that she was ‘too old’ to line dance or have neon lights underneath her car.

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I am not saying that her life was perfect or that she had it all right or she didn’t make mistakes.

But I cannot disregard or ignore what she got right.

I recognize that she did all that she could do to stand up for the rights of other people, and she refused to waiver.

When people told her what or who or why she should be something or anything other than what or who she wanted to be or why she should fold or bend or back down, she never did.

That’s not an easy thing to do.

From a young age I watched her tell people that she didn’t care about what was ‘normal’ she cared about what was ‘right’ and people didn’t always appreciate that.

She was a notorious boat-rocking lady who was either loved and accepted or passionately hated.

There never really was an in-between.

If I can continue to learn anything from people who pave the way it is that the road is bumpy at first.

It is the more difficult road to walk.

It takes guts to do new things and to stand for things that might not be the kinds of things that people are ready or used to standing for. It is uncomfortable sometimes and it isn’t always pretty.

But we have to stand anyway.
Today more than ever.

Whether it is race or murder or injustice of any kind regarding any issue- love wins.
Love wins it all. It always has. It is the greatest command that we have. Love God and love others.

Matthew 22:36-40

 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

 

Building Walls vs. Creating Boundaries. What’s the Difference?

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In college (I am a former drug-addict who dropped out of high-school and finally started college at the age of 29 and I am still not done yet I will have my degree when I am one-hundred) I learned that a lot of the therapeutic process is self-revelation. Asking open-ended questions and allowing people to answer some of their own questions, is valuable. (And why counselors don’t give advice, but help with guided conversation.)
Often, what will happen is people will talk and explore their feelings and come to realizations about their lives and their experiences just by sharing. Sometimes, we have to find our own way through things even if other people can already see them.

I had a  quick conversation on Sunday morning with a friend, and it may have been short one, but it was full. Definitely one of those times where I feel like God gift wrapped a particular sentence just for me knowing it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time.

To sum it up, I mentioned that I feel like I don’t open up to share because I don’t like to let people in too close. I am more of a surface skimmer when it comes to many of my relationships and I prefer to keep most people at a certain, generic distance.

And this friend reminded me that
“Walls are meant to keep people out but boundaries are meant to keep us safe”….

I just stopped talking.
Nothing like spoken truth to shut me up.
It all hit me like a ton of bricks.
I felt excited and surprised.
(Sort of like Doc does in Back to the Future when he has an epiphany and says: “Great Scott!”)

Yes and yesss and all of the yes’s! 
Why had I not made these obvious connections before?
Two things hit me.

1.) “Oh’ my gosh, JUST- like- drug use!!”

*A wall built up around me might be meant to keep me safe but what it does is it ALSO hinders my ability to experience close relationships with people.
It might help to keep the unhealthy or toxic people far away from hurting me but it also keeps out the positive opportunities to form close relationships and friendships.

*JUST LIKE my drug-addiction. JUST LIKE my life of running from pain.
It was all originally meant to keep me safe and to ensure that I wouldn’t have to feel any of the hard things that I was terrified of facing.
I couldn’t feel the negative emotion BUT I ALSO ISOLATED MY LIFE FROM ANYTHING GOOD in the process.
In the end, I COULDN’T FEEL ANYTHING.

2.) Building walls is not the same thing as setting boundaries. 
(repeat.)

All too often I confuse the walls that I build (and knock down and rebuild) with creating and setting healthy boundaries.

Even though both are used to make me feel secure, ultimately, that is not how they both end up working in my life and within my relationships with other humans.

Walls keep me isolated.
Boundaries keep me safe.
Walls keep me hidden.
Boundaries give me freedom.
Walls keep everyone out.
Boundaries keep the right people out.
Walls distance me from everyone.
Boundaries distance me from toxicity.
Walls ask me to stay closed off.
Boundaries push me to open up to my comfort level.
Walls only allow me limited interaction.
Boundaries open the door for limitless connection.
Walls prevent me from experiencing the richness of my relationships.
Boundaries reinforce my self-confidence and urge me to embrace and exhaust the potential in my interactions and connections with others.

There are so many distinct differences between the two and I really *really needed the reminder.

One thing I have learned is that I will *always* have more to learn and I am humbled that I still haven’t forgotten this important piece of information.

And I am grateful to have wise, patient, honest, people in my life.

I Couldn’t Open the Door.

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The day after Mother’s Day I heard a knock at my front door.
And then almost immediately, my door bell rang.
I quietly stepped to the front window and peeked out and I heard the doorbell again.

When I looked out, I could see my mom standing on the porch.
I stood there peeking through the blinds and I watched as she nervously shifted her weight back and forth. Her arms were swinging from side to side. She was anxious.
A few seconds passed and she rang the door bell three consecutive times and she stepped back down to the sidewalk. She looked around and then she lit a cigarette.

I really couldn’t bear to watch her facial expressions as she began to realize that I probably wasn’t coming to the door, so I backed up and sat down in my chair.

I felt conflicted as I always do.
I wanted to open the door and then another part of me wanted to hold my breath until I knew she was gone.

My anxiety started to make itself known and I began asking questions.
What was she doing here?
What did she need?
Was she in trouble?
Why didn’t she park in the driveway?
Was she hiding something?
Was she alone? Is she angry?
What if I answer the door?
What kind of person am I?
Why is this so difficult?

I absolutely hated every second of that she stood out there. I hated that she probably didn’t understand why I didn’t just open the door, embrace her, and invite her in for a tour and a cup of coffee.

But I just couldn’t make myself open the door.
I had no idea what would have happened if I did and that pretty much sums up the extent of our entire relationship from my birth up to this point.
I have never had any idea what was going to happen next.
(I would like you to meet reason number one why I battle with anxieties, control, and balance issues as an adult.)

Opening the door would be too risky.
She makes me feel unsafe and somehow her presence makes me feel unsure about everything. I know it’s irrational, but that isn’t the point. It feels like I am standing on shaky ground that could crumble beneath me at any given moment. Just because my heart sank as each minute passed that I knew she was standing there doesn’t mean that my head believed that opening the door was a good idea.

This internal battle is a tough one and it really always has been. Since I have been sober boundaries have been an integral part of my sobriety and recovery. I learned how to live a healthy life keeping toxicity at a safe distance.

But while it has made more sense over the years and I have gained more perspective on why my health and well-being is so important to me as a wife and mother, and as a woman in general, it doesn’t mean that it has gotten easier. It is indescribable to have to wrestle with what feels like a natural inclination.

I have tried to take this last month to just allow myself to process the feelings that I have been experiencing, quietly.
I kept how I was feeling between me, and God and I didn’t verbally share until two nights ago. When I finally did (out loud) I cried like a baby, and not because I hadn’t faced the emotions, but because there is something about saying it out-loud that just makes it hard to get out.

My head and my heart may not always agree but that doesn’t mean that either is necessarily wrong. I just have to remind myself that the boundaries that have been put in place are for protection, not to harm anyone.

For me one of life’s toughest lessons has been accepting that right thing is almost always the most difficult option.

This is just one of those situations where all that I can do at this point is remind myself that God is good. He is so good to me.

He has helped me to accept some of the harsh realities that have entered my life and my heart. I do my best not to over-analyze the situation, because I cannot change it.
I don’t spend all of my time worrying or beating myself to death or drowning in guilt anymore.
I have also been given the perspective that I had always sought.
I have the confirmation that I need and while I do doubt my ability to always accept my situation with as much grace as I have been given, I never doubt God’s ability to get me through the things that I face.

I also have hope.
Sometimes when we close a door another door opens.
Other times it is meant to stay shut.
But the best thing about doors?
We have options.

They don’t have to stay closed indefinitely.

You Had Me at Free.

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I hit up the annual neighborhood garage sales and came home with this sad little table.
I was looking around the stuff in the driveway and walked past this nightstand. It had a sticker on it that said 10$. Although I thought it would be nice to get rid of the old school one that we had I really didn’t want it bad enough to spend a whopping 10 whole dollars. I saved those buys for things that I knew I ‘had’ to have.
On my way to the car I heard a man shout “If you want that table it’s yours!”
I turned around and I saw a man standing there with his wife next to him, and both of them were laughing. They told me that they *really* didn’t want to move it back into the garage and that If I was willing to take it…it was mine.

So of course I loaded into the car.
And I knew that I could give it a little bit of love.

Boomshakalaka.

Boys Bathroom Project

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This project has kept my ‘spare’ time pretty busy for the last few weeks.
Max is cutting teeth and his napping and sleeping schedule has shifted, and the boys are home for summer, but I have still tried to squish in a couple of the more simple projects on my list.

This is the boys bathroom and I really just wanted to freshen it up. I don’t mind dark wood but it feels heavy because there is so much of it throughout the house. So I decided this would be a good place to get started. I began by sanding and painting the trim, I moved on to the vanity, and sanded and painted the closet doors and updated all of the hardware.

I also took the brown doors away to the land of the unwanted stuff, (the garage) and replaced them with more modern, white doors. Still have one to hang but it looks and feels better already.

I am always so surprised at how the small tweaks and changes can make such a big difference. I really like the way white feels. It is lighter and somehow makes the space feel less drab and claustrophobic.

And although sanding and painting is hard work it always relaxes me. I have found it to be therapeutic. It seems to be one of the only hobbies that I have, aside from reading, where I am able to clear and quiet my mind and not think about anything whatsoever.
And I really like seeing the results. It is always rewarding in the end.

Happily moving onto the next project which according to the messy plan in my head will be the upstairs hallway. I have always meant to get to that part of the house but we haven’t painted since we bought the house 8 years ago.

I am grateful that I have found hobbies that keep me busy and help me to relax. I encourage you, if you are reading this and are sober or in recovery, to try new things! Find some things that you connect with and that help you to enjoy being with yourself, and that can help you to relax or decompress.

It doesn’t matter if they are not as common as other people’s hobbies. The best part is that there are so many options! Get out there and try some new things.

God Has It Covered. Blended & Blessed.

My son barely knew his biological father and to this day, doesn’t remember him.
Despite those facts I still do not speak badly of or write negative things about him.

I will just keep it vague and simple.
He was young. I was young.

We were both on our way to being addicted and were both irresponsible, immature and selfish little humans.

And neither of us were prepared for parenthood.

But I changed.
He didn’t.
End of story.

There was a time where I wasn’t able to function because this particular part of my story filled me with the kind of rage that overflowed and infected every area of my life. The hatred that I had for him weighed me down and hindered my ability to focus on anything else besides my self-loathing.

I spent far too many years walking around like a zombie; confused, and wounded and for a long time, I didn’t understand. I felt betrayed, abandoned, and disrespected, but mostly frustrated.

As each year came and went, my anger continued its’ transition and eventually turned into bitterness and resentment. Those feelings held so much power over who I was as a person and they played a part in my self-destructive patterns.

It took me a really long time to heal from the pain that I experienced being a single, teenage mother.
I had held those negative feelings so closely to my heart and I did that because I thought that to forgive meant that he was given a free pass, and that his behavior would be excused.

It also took me an equal amount of time to admit that I too had a part in the story, and that I had the power to change how this whole thing could turn out for my child.

After I got sober and entered recovery, I finally felt like I could see a different picture.
I realized that in order to give my son the whole, complete, emotionally stable mother, that he deserved, I had to get to a place where I could embrace a new perspective on an old hurt.

I realized that people make choices and their choices usually have nothing to do with us.
Most often they are a reflection of their own character and their poor choices usually stem from their own personal struggles, bad habits, and strongholds that they have yet to acknowledge or conquer.

I leaped out of my comfortable place padded with hatred and I forgave.
After those chains that had been trapping me were snapped I had more room to grow.

I allowed myself to move forward and I watched and experienced the Grace that is given freely to us.

I watched as God provided for my son every single step of the way.

When my husband met my son he was four years old.
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And he fell in love with both of us.
He chose to love us both, and he chose to accept us as a package deal-
and even when I sternly said take it all or leave it all, he gently reminded me that I didn’t need to be defensive or protective, even though he understood.
He told me that he would gladly take it all, love it all, and commit to it all.
(And he had no idea what else was headed his way…)

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I have had the privilege to have a front row seat to his selfless love and have watched him live out his commitment to my baby boy for the last ten years.

He has had to maneuver and adjust and learn. He has stretched his own personal boundaries in ways that he never imagined and has pushed himself to new heights as a man and as a human.

There was a lot of work put into this transition in his own life, and it shows in his authentic bond, and the natural relationship that has formed between the two of them.

Next month, my baby will celebrate his fourteenth birthday.
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It is surreal to me, even after a decade of watching them interact. They have created this unique, one-of-a-kind, special, father-son dynamic and this is yet another testament to how amazing choosing sobriety is. It is like the gifts never stop coming.

I am grateful to embrace the emotions and to be able to remember watching their journey together. This is also another representation of the powerful, perfectly played out plans that can only be authored by God.

I just wanted to thank my husband for choosing to step up, and for providing and for offering support, direction, love, compassion, and a great example of what it means to be a father, a husband, and a man.

Happy Father’s Day Zachy.

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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

....
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.

Ribbet collage

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.

 

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