Category: Addiction

16 Paradoxical Truths of Life, Faith, and Recovery

Absurd and practical paradoxical truths.
They’re everywhere.

I am a person who can very easily become distracted and obsessed over all things linear, logical, balanced, and simplified.

I am also someone whose recovery has benefited most from these seemingly contradictory nuggets of wisdom.

How’s that for paradoxical?

My growth happens inside of the unknown, in the midst of facing the things I fear.

I am at my best when my eyes are open, facing the culprits lurking behind my anxieties.

The truths that scare me, the ones that don’t make the most natural sense to me, are the ones that hold my most meaningful discoveries about myself and the world around me.

What my recovery program and my walk with Jesus have asked that I give up, give away, let go of, walk away from, tweak, or to stop doing altogether, have always led me right into the eye of unfamiliar territory.

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, or if you are living a life built on recovery principles and are committed to being of service in sobriety, I know that you have experienced the exhilaration that manifests as a result of the ironies I am talking about.

Somehow the paradoxical ingredients always deliver and help us on our walk.

They aren’t meant to aid us in an escape from our old ways, or to rid our lives of our delusions or destructive patterns, they show us a new way to think, a new way to see, and finally, a new way to be.

From the gate we are actively learning and slowly begin the process of replacing old torn and tattered ways with new ways.

It doesn’t take long for us to realize that they’re all around us, everywhere, everyday. They hold so much wisdom, and can become the solid pillars that serve as strong components in our new lives.

There are hundreds of paradoxical examples in the Bible, but here are eight that I plucked out: (NIV, NLT translations)

  1. Each time he said, “My Grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.
    (2 Corinthians 12:9) When we are weak in ourselves we can be strong in the Grace of Jesus. We can do hard things. We can heal. We can move forward.
  2. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  (Matthew 16:25)  When we give our lives to purposeful living in who God created us to be, to live a life of service, we discover our real purpose.
  3. Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
    (Proverbs 11:24)  We are blessed when we give freely to others. We reign by serving.
  4. If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.
    (Luke 17:33)  Our spiritual life of faith is even more important than our physical life here. Ironically, if we let go of the need to control in faith giving God the control, our lives here reflect a thirst-quenching, crazy exciting kind of spiritual freedom. We will be given a better life than we ever imagined having, only after we lose it.
  5. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18)  Wisdom is valuable, and pursuing knowledge is encouraged, let’s just make sure we aren’t chasing our old ways of thinking. We can’t value the world’s standard of thinking and God’s ways at the same time.
  6. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  (Matthew 23:12)  Humbling ourselves helps us to stay grounded. There is a fine line between feeling confident in who we are and exalting ourselves above others. In recovery pride always comes before our falls.
  7. I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
    (2 Corinthians 12:10)  We don’t have to identify as poor, weak, or passive. But it benefits us to recognize that in our own strength, we fail. When we choose to depend on God, His power will sustain us and help us to be the most effective and useful as we do valuable and lasting work. We find strength through our weakness.
  8. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. (Romans 6:18)  Every single one of us are all serving something or someone who we identify as a master in our lives. We can choose to be a slave to our fears, our doubts, shame, our drug of choice, or we can be slaves to reckless hope, love and service. What consumes our thoughts, controls our mind, and what controls our mind, usually dictates our actions.

     

     

    There are so many recovery paradoxical examples. Here are a four from the list of the “12 Laws of Life Recovery,” from the Life Recovery Bible:

    1. Powerlessness will result in Strength. 
    Powerlessness and hopelessness or helplessness are not the same thing. We can be powerless without being helpless, just as we can be able to do something, but not capable.

    2. Surrender will result in Victory.
    Surrender, historically, signifies defeat. In recovery it means that we are finally willing to yield to something else by giving God our surrendered life.

    3. Sacrifice will result in Fulfillment.
    Sacrifice sometimes holds a negative connotation, as if we are giving up something reluctantly. But it can also be fulfilling. In recovery and faith we learn that true fulfillment comes from sacrificial giving and serving.

    4. Confession will result in Healing.
    Confession just sounds painful, doesn’t it? I used to view it as My very first moral inventory didn’t kill me, but the anxiety preceding probably could have. I was terrified of myself. I was filled with fear of what people would think if my dark areas were illuminated, what this Jesus guy would think. And this is the place where my healing picked up the pace and I felt more confident than I had ever felt up to that point in my sobriety.

     

    Here are a few of my favorite psychological/emotional paradoxes: 

    1. In order to step forward, sometimes you have to take a few steps back. 
    I don’t know about you but I benefit from reflection and ‘the pause’. If I try to run too far ahead, nothing helps more than taking a step back.

    2. What we dislike in others likely indicative of a trait or quality we disapprove of in ourselves. 
    Carl Jung. Thanks bro. Projection is a subconscious thing that self-realization can really help us with. Awareness of our personality can help us cultivate self-knowledge and when we start to recognize our own places, we stop focusing so much on everyone else’s.

    3. The person with the over-inflated, egocentric personality is actually over-compensating or avoiding feelings of weakness. 
    This one promotes a false sense of control or dominance to overcompensate for feelings of inferiority on some level.

    4. The quieter a person is the louder they are.
    I am a tiny bit (a lot) socially reserved, but I will tell you a secret: There is always a lively, imaginative party going on in my head, some story formulating, questions brewing, lists forming, and notes being taken.

    These are only a handful.

    Blessings are often found within the linings. The answers we seek can be found in our everyday, routine encounters and interactions. They’re there, just take the time to look for them.

    The wisdom found inside of paradoxical theories can feel like the most perfectly yoked marriage between rationale and a dream.

Go Out There and Give a F*ck

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“This so-called ‘F*ck-it Bucket’.
How does this work and where would I find one that isn’t defective?”

-Asking for a friend.

I used to believe that I was a proud owner of one of these buckets.

Back when I lived my life as a girl with emotional capacity comparable to an armored tank.

Present day me: Not a huge believer in the so-called “F*ck-it bucket.” And holy hell it isn’t because I don’t think it a useful idea. Of course there are some things that I’d love to chuck in a f*ck-it bucket.

But after many unfortunate years of trying to forge a normal relationship with my f*ck-it bucket, we have amicably parted ways. Here’s why:

I have come to believe that this mindset was one (of many) components that fed my perpetual cycle of addiction. 

1. I couldn’t operate “f*ck-it” responsibly.
Surprise. As-per my usual, I cannot half-do anything. I could not ever just simply toss a few things in here and there. No, no, no. My brain would have me believe that in order for my bucket to matter, to really exist, I’d have to dump ALL of my f*cks into the bucket. Why else would I even use such a thing? Throwing things into this bucket would seem fun, easier, and useful at first. Give me a week and I could show you how to make this bucket idea into a mentality, and then a full-blown lifestyle choice. It’s what I do.
Go big or go home.

2. It gave me a false sense of control over my emotions.
For me, a “f*ck-it” became another destructive tool I kept in the top shelf of my took-kit. F*ck you, f*ck him, f*ck her, f*ck it all, really. I could take it or leave it, no matter what “it” was. I associated this with being strong, and pretending that I was strong complimented my false sense of control. It made me feel secure, like I had my shit together, when in fact, none of my shit was together.

3. It encouraged my ego.
Ego is the opposite of authenticity. I felt like such a badass when I didn’t give a f*ck. When I denied myself connection I felt empowered, yet woven into the fabric of my being I had a heart that cared. I felt deeply. I actually gave a lot of f*cks about everything. I screamed to be noticed, but walked around giving the impression that I liked being unattached. Unbeknownst to me, I am empathic. Essentially, I was suppressing the most natural part of who I am. As I fed my ego, I denied my true self the chance to feel and to live and to be seen. Living in a constant state of ambivalence was exhausting.

4. It aided and abetted my chronic need to isolate.
Nothing annoyed me more than hearing what I should have been doing instead of what I was actually doing. So, I walked around like I didn’t give a f*ck. I treated people like I couldn’t have cared less if they were in my life, out of my life, either way, I didn’t give a f*ck. This made it so much easier for me to live my life on my own, without having to hear lectures, well-intentioned advice, or having to endure too many misguided guilt trips that were intended for good. I wanted to be alone, and throwing everything into a f*ck-it bucket really helped people to see and to feel that they weren’t wanted or needed.

I know that I took this to an extreme level. To me, saying “f*ck-it” means something. To me, this means that in order for it to belong in that bucket, there is no connection, care, or after-thought. It is cut and dry, and then left alone. I think that if you are capable of throwing trivial life things there, more power to you.

But if you’re anything like me, and aren’t willing to gamble, just create more buckets. I can appreciate the idea behind and usage of the bucket. It holds things in place and keeps it contained and separate from the other things. Totally useful, and personally, I prefer things to be more analyzed scrutinized –organized. I like the idea of having a plethora of buckets available. I might toss this or that into one of these, or something similar:

The ‘when to let go’ bucket
The ‘come back to it later’ bucket
The ‘take your time and evaluate the things that are in my control’ bucket
The ‘things that I cannot control’ bucket
The ‘I have chosen to forgive’ bucket
The ‘things that I am sure of’ bucket
The ‘remind yourself that you are healed, forgiven, and not your past’ bucket
The ‘things I am still processing’ bucket

Whatever. You can name them what you need.

The truth is that I care too deeply and feel too immensely in general to utilize a f*ck-it bucket correctly.

The truth is, I am more empowered and badass these days, simply by recognizing that I am feeling being. I know that I care and feel deeply. People matter to me. My feelings get hurt, sometimes so much so that my heart aches. Relationships end. Things change. I see and feel who I am and have learned to honor what her, the person God created me to be.

And actually, it feels great to have a lot of f*cks left to give.

So go out there, and give a f*ck.

“Being sober, and being off drugs,it’s a strange feeling. And I get real scared when I’m out here sometimes. I get real nervous about it. I wanna fuckin’ run! You know, I look out there, I say, “SHIT! IT’S SCARY!” But I say, “Fuck it. Go through it. Just feel the experience. Just fuck it.” ‘Cause if I had some drugs and shit now, I wouldn’t give a fuck. I’d come off stage, and I still wouldn’t give a fuck. Then, by the time you’re fifty, after a lot of not giving a fuck, you miss part of your life. They’ll say, What happened to your life? “I didn’t give a fuck.” -Richard Pryor

Step One: Three Parts, One Intricately-Simple Proclamation


I like to buy different versions of step-workbooks, and I still occasionally study them and work through them. It helps me inventory and track how I am feeling by proposing the same questions in different formats. Sometimes it reveals questions that I didn’t know I had, other times it will reveal a hidden pothole I have overlooked, other times, it feels more like a review. But self-examination keeps me close to my authentic-self, and to truth… and these things are part of the personal tool-kit that keep me sober.

As I sit here after ten years of sobriety and only five years post trauma revelations, I still tend to feel pulled to speak directly to people in early recovery. I often write as if I am speaking to the newbie, the chronic relapser, the unsure, the skeptic, or to the timid.

It still amazed me to be reminded of how convoluted and sticky and challenging early sobriety is.
How strenuous it feels and how courageous a person has to be to walk into this fight voluntarily, without having any fight left. I vividly remember my own struggle and my own reluctance that stemmed from my fear of failing and a lack of confidence in my abilities.

 After we’re in the groove of recovery it can be so easy to forget how step-one alone is a taxing and monumental accomplishment.
Take a look:

“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction (alcohol, compulsive behaviors, pain, problems) and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

One small step, (except it is really a three component directive with three demanding assumptions).

*Part 1: We.
No biggie. You have been comfortably & miserably isolated for so long, but now you are asked to step into something called We.” Even American Ninja Warrior plans a course with gradual difficulty. Right out of the gate we are expected to challenge our inner loner. For most of us, (I know for myself), this was torturous and terrifying.

*Part 2: Admitted we were powerless.
We are admitting defeat. Despite being depleted of our sense of worth or self-decency, we tend to hide a slither of pride in allowing ourselves to think that we had some control of this thing. This part asks that we publicly, outwardly, and openly admit defeat and deny our old way of thinking, and that we stop trying to prove to the world that we are in control.

*Part 3: Admitting our lives have become unmanageable.
Shit, if we hadn’t already completely humbled ourselves, we are digging deeper here. Yes, we admit and accept our powerlessness. Now this is us saying that we cannot handle or fix this thing. We are admitting that we cannot band-aid it any more. We are revealing to the world a truth it already knows: Despite really, really, wanting to show the world that we are self-sufficient, we don’t actually have it all together.

I think it is safe to say that most of us courageously approach this step without the ability to fully comprehend the gifts that are coming our way as a result of our willingness.
“Willingness will result in Growth.” (Life Recovery Bible)

God is faithful and will always give everything we give to Him back to us, except when it lands back in our lap it will blow our mind, and it also won’t look the same.

*Part 1: When we step into “we”, we receive support, love, and guidance. We are introduced to the value that lies within a tight-knit community. The Life-Recovery Bible lists these things in its Twelve-Laws of Recovery, telling us that “Connection will result in love,” and “Surrender will result in victory.”

*Part 2: Admitting that we are powerless is the first step in acknowledging a false ego, pride problem. We can’t recover if we truly don’t believe that we are desperately failing through our self-empowered attempts to clean up our lives. The gifts returned for our admission of powerlessness as listed in the Twelve-Laws of Recovery, via the Life Recovery Bible, tell us that “Powerlessness will result in strength,” and “Humility will result in honor.”

*Part 3: We will quickly begin to see that admitting powerlessness isn’t a sign of weakness and it certainly does not make us a victim to our circumstances. This part helps us to clearly uncover how detrimental pride has become in our lives, and it helps us to embrace the idea of living as a human vessel filled with God’s power, shining for others to see the hope that we have found.

I have heard time and again regarding the Twelve-steps, that there are no quick-fixes when it comes to life or life recovery, specifically addiction recovery.
To that I say, “no shit?”
These are not twelve quick & easy to implement steps or twelve magical steps. They are twelve challenges packed full of layered and foreign elements that push against the grain of prideful, self-sufficient human nature.
And there are twelve of them.

It is a brave feat to attempt. Not only do we make the intentional, audacious, choice to give them a go, we do it in front of a group of people.

When I see or hear of someone celebrating a week of sobriety, six months, two-years, or ten, I get excited and I feel proud.

And it doesn’t matter whether a person purposefully practices a twelve-step format or not. I know and recognize their personal sacrifices, their bravery, and their accomplishments.

So if you are considering going all in just know that it will be worth it.

Everything that you give up, walk away from, or trade, will be returned ten-fold.

All that will be given away will be given back.

What God asks that you dig up or get rid of will be replaced.

Everything sown will reap miraculous results.

If you don’t feel seen or recognized, know that God sees what you are doing.

If you aren’t sure if you are brave enough, oh’ my word, know that you going to be okay if you take a chance on yourself.

If you feel like your accomplishments are too small or too little to matter, don’t believe those lies. Tiny steps are steps, and small victories are victories and you are going at your own pace, and that’s okay.

You are courageous for choosing to face your truth, and for being willing to allow God’s truth to challenge and change you.

Be a Wise Builder, Do Those Things


I wrote a semi-emotionally driven post about people, ego’s, and how the entitlement felt by some to feel compelled to condemn the recovery program’s followed by other’s that are different from their own, seems to run deep these days. Today I want to expand a little on this subject.

Yesterday I re-read the parable of The Wise and Foolish Builders Jesus talked about at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. (Found in the book of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 24:27).

Here’s what it says:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (NIV)

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We’re all familiar with the ‘great crash’ and I am also positive we all experienced some version of the storms that life has to offer.

The verses above, for Jesus followers, simply means that it isn’t enough to hear the words and teachings of Jesus, but that basically it is wise to build our lives on upon the essence of who God is. Our lives are built the rock. The God who is all-powerful and unchanging. When storms come our way, when the waters rise, when winds beat against us, we stand sometimes terrified, but still courageous. We might sway, but we won’t slide to the ground. We might fall, but we aren’t going to crash. Our lives are structurally sound and the strength we possess through Him will be revealed by the storms of life.

In a clinical sense, for people in the recovery world, this same idea is supposedly widely accepted and praised. It is a very simple idea: Do what works.
It could be some version of a tailored concoction of online or in-person meetings, out-patient or impatient rehab, prescription medications, patches, meditation, strength training, cardio, reading, writing, cooking, sewing, yoga, continued education, volunteering, painting or other creative en devours.

Ultimately, your cocktail is balanced and selected to best fit your life, your personality, your needs, and your recovery goals.

So, if you are growing, working, striving, thriving, learning, and maintaining your sobriety, and improving your overall mental health and wellness—-

DO THOSE THINGS.

Are these the things that ensure you that you will stay sober, that you continue to grow, that you stay committed to being healthy, that provide you with confidence that your house is a home that will remain standing after a storm?

Yes?

DO THOSE THINGS.

Have you updated your goals according to your progress, your program according to your needs and abilities, your self-care checklist and regimens according to your personal development, and are you still seeing gradual improvement and momentum in whatever you call or consider your ‘program’?

DO THOSE THINGS.

That is all.

Learning To Pursue Growth Instead of Taking Short-Cuts

I was terrible with early recovery.

Had my sponsor, my support people, or God, been rigid or judgmental they would have given up on me within my the first few weeks.

I can’t tell you that I tried out meditation, that I intently wrote in my journal regularly, or that I sat quietly for periods of time trying to seek a power greater than myself.

I did try to challenge my thinking one inconsistent loop at a time, I jotted down my erratic feelings and emotions when paper was within my reach, and I spent a lot of time making deals with God.

Still drowning in self-righteous pity, what I actually spent the better part of my first year sober doing was a lot of crying. A lot of snotty, sobby, mourning ensued as I tried to ride the influx of mood swings that came in waves more erratic than my urges to pick up a drink or a bag or bottle of something.

I worried, sometimes even more than I let the tears fall. A lot of time was spent talking myself back from the ledge of my own doubt and fear several times on a given day.

In between I worked the steps, I did my homework, I read a lot of non-fiction true crime (every single one at our small local library), and chain-smoked cigarettes.

My early days were messy.
Really, really, messy.

And slow.
Very slow.

I can remember being in the thick of the muck and the mess and not being able to see clearly enough. I didn’t know which way I was going, and sometimes, I didn’t even know if I was making any real progress despite doing the ‘next right thing’ over and over and over and over again.

I often felt sad and alone, frustrated and defeated. I would second-guess whether or not I could keep going. Or if I should, especially if I was working so tirelessly, even if that only meant breathing some days, yet I felt like I wasn’t moving forward.

I wanted to see and to feel and to taste results.
I wanted to feel proud.
But most of all, I wanted it faster.
I wanted it now.

Maybe I was seeking incremental happiness.
It is the soft and cuddly to the touch and it’s the fleeting kind that you can’t quite get your hands or heart around. The second you touch it, it evaporates.

It is the kind I was most acquainted with.
Maybe I hadn’t realized exactly what was coming my way.

Unbeknownst to me, I was actually working toward being a person who pursued growth intentionally. I was trading brief bouts of this incremental happiness for something more rich, strong, and long-lasting. I was trading shaky, weak, and frail for something heavy, solid, and tenacious.

This morning my oldest boy and I did a micro-Bible conversation, sort of on-the-fly. (I really like to call them conversations, not studies).

As we got settled at the kitchen table the rain started pouring down and we could hear thunder in the distance. The room was darker than usual and still smelled like syrup from the healthy-no-organic, non-made from scratch box waffles I fed my kids earlier that morning.

We just sat and casually read through a few parables in the Gospel of Matthew. (One of my favorite parts of conversing with my teenager is hearing his voice. I always want to know how he is feeling, what parallels he is making, what does he take away form what we are reading, this, does he understand who Matthew was talking to, and did what Jesus was trying to get across resonate with him in any way personally).

Anyway, as we sat and talked, highlighters in-hand. He listened to me, I listened to him, and we took turns reading. We compared, contrasted, and discussed two passages of scripture.

Even though Jesus was speaking specifically on false teachers and how to recognize them, we discussed how Matthew 7:20 and Galatians 5:22 could be connected and plugged into our lives.

And I was reminded of my early recovery.

Impatient is an understatement if I were thinking of ways to describe my personality back then. Not only did I loathe having to feel things, I hated having to wait to feel good. It was painful. I had to wait as what I once knew my life to be, to fade away and become something unknown. I had no idea what was coming next and it felt like unbearable.

But behind the scenes, and amidst my restlessness, He was working.
His Grace bridged the gaps and filled the holes between my fear and my hope for some kind of future. Despite my hesitation to make baby steps in the right direction, He was still there.

Job 14:7-9 tells us this:  Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays  at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling.

I began this recovery journey as a rotted-out stump. Not the kind that you could trip over and scream an obscenity. More like the kind that you can accidentally run over with your lawn-mower and not really worry about your blades, because old, dead, rotted wood crumbles between your fingers.

I was a rotted stump who was also in a hurry, stalking my own mind, and pestering my creator as He began His work in me. As we worked I pressed on, annoyed and admittedly, skeptical.

Even still, behind the scenes my roots were taking hold deep within the ground.

Although I couldn’t see the process taking place, my life was beginning again.

I couldn’t see them yet, but I was being prepared to sprout new life.

I was in deeply lost in the process of learning to trade my demanding world-view, the right-now off-brand of happiness that never satisfied, not just for delayed gratification, but for a life-changing lesson on the importance of humbling of myself and not taking short-cuts.

Matthew 7:20 tells us: By their fruit, you will recognize them.  Galatians 5:22 goes on to tell us that The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus gave us an amazing picture to work with and to refer to. I know that even now I tend to rush things. I want to learn faster and to know more. I appreciate gaining wisdom and understanding and how I can be better.

These verses remind me that growth is a process.

If, like me, you started your journey as an old dead stump, it is going to take what can feel like an eternity to see the fruit of your labor. I expected to get sober and look out to see vast amounts of citrus waiting for my enjoyment.

But that isn’t how it all works.

It’s a long, winding, learning experience that is ours.

My roots took hold and are strong and solid.
My stump took its sweet time but has sprouted one branch at a time.
My tree is still a toddler, and is still learning and growing.
Occasionally an ice-storm will come along and put too much weight on my branches breaking a few here and there, but I know that God’s word says that is okay. I’ll be okay.
Sometimes my fruit is consistently forthcoming and other times it is bruised and hardly recognizable, but that doesn’t mean that I cut the tree down.

There’s always hope, always room for new things, and as long as we’re breathing and living here on this planet, there is always time and opportunity for regrowth.

So don’t give up, friends.

Early Recovery & Sober Mom Guilt

I had a birthday Saturday and I have to say turning 34 is just as cool as turning 33 was.

As far as I can tell, as each sober year comes and goes this life stuff is going to continue to get better and better. Apparently, another hidden perk of my recovery has gone unnoticed. I am aging with an expanding sense of wonder and excitement, even as the hair on my head is showing preliminary signs of making me a sliver fox before my fortieth birthday. But again, it’s all good. I’ll take it. I’ve earned it. Also, I sort of like silver.

My oldest son celebrated his birthday eleven days before mine. Each year as he starts to get excited, as he begins the countdown, I get so excited for him. I am enthusiastic about his plans, and  I listen intently to him as he describes his specific dessert recommendations.

When he was younger and I was in the throes of early recovery, I spent a lot of time trapped in my own self-made pool of guilt, imprisoned by embarrassment and shame.

I can remember wondering if I was good enough to be his mom.  I wondered if he would be resilient enough to bounce back from the kind of person I used to be. I didn’t really know if all of the effort I was pouring into him would even make a dent in the damage I felt I had done to his spirit. I also worried that he might hate me for making so many mistakes. He was only four when I began my quest to find my own place in the sobriety world.

I am not winning at adulting or parenting, that’s for sure. I also don’t claim to have it all together as a mom. I am no expert.  But I am currently winning the battle between me and the plague that is infamous mom guilt.

Looking back, I realize why I used to worry so much.

Being a mom is sort of a big job. It’s important. I knew that.

With sobriety being so new to me and having to feel my feelings being introduced into my life, I just wasn’t sure if I was strong enough.

What an intense thing, right?

Like, here’s this child. You love them more than your own life with every single fiber of your being. But, you may have completely screwed him up for life, but maybe not. You could have, but maybe not. We’ll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, just keep trying. Give it your all, every single day. One day, you will see the fruits of your labor, or maybe not. No one really knows.

I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and not just with sobriety or with my feelings. I didn’t know how to do much of anything. I felt like a twenty-something-year-old who had just recently been plopped onto this planet from a different realm. Everything felt foreign to me.

Being a mom felt as natural as breathing air to me. Loving my son, easy-peasy.
But believing and convincing myself that I was good enough to be a good mom? That was a different story. Trying to understand or wrap my head around the idea that I could build new memories and pave new ways with him? Not easy-peasy.

But as much as I worried, I read.
I learned how to cope my fears with prayer, my Bible, meetings, and phone calls to women who were much more wise, patient, and introspective than I was capable of being at that time. I learned something: Self-doubt can sabotage our brains. Shut it down with truth and remember, sometimes it will take someone speaking it to you in order for you to be able to see it.

With as much skepticism I was dealing with, I tried to be optimistic about the future.
Let’s face it. With uncertainty, also comes a blank space open for opportunity. When it came to whether or not I deserved to be a mom, or whether or not someone else could do it better, or if I could hack it, I committed to burying myself in God’s word anyway. No. I still didn’t know if I could do it, or if I was good enough, but I decided that I was going to be optimistic. I would continually ask God to show me. Show me something; anything I can use. Help me to believe that I matter and that I am capable. And He gave me answers. With him, I am strong and capable. Because I know Him, I know I am worthy and valued. Little by little, my shame was silenced with Truth. I learned something: Self-doubt is like a chameleon. It takes the form of whatever thought process you are in and it tries to eat it alive. Don’t let it.

As I continued to face negative consequences for my actions well into my sobriety, and as I took responsibility when I needed to for choices that I had made, I reminded myself that God builds new things.
He transforms. Renovation is sometimes necessary. Not just the changing of the old things, but ripping apart the old things and building brand new things. I was not just changing my life, I was changing the trajectory of my son’s life. We were building new things. Building takes time, and I did my best to remember to be patient through seasons where I lacked vision and understanding. I learned something: You can experience negative things and still, simultaneously have some really great things growing in your garden. It’s true. You always have to clean up the messes that you make, but it can only detract from the progress that you are making if you let it.

I know how hard sobriety can be on a mom’s heart.

We tend to easily believe that we are really bad mothers, rather than, we have made a lot of unhealthy choices, as mothers and that we’re forgiven. And then we go on to think that we aren’t capable of learning how to do things differently.

But we are. We can. You can.

And no, we can’t go back to change what has been done, or what never got done, or to make up for what has been lost. We don’t get to change the past, or erase their memories, or see the things we missed, to remember the things that are lost in our brains, or say that because it was forgiven it was right.

But remember.

Kids just need our consistency, our love, our attention, and for us to make them feel all of the things that we desire most too. To feel noticed, to feel important, to feel connected, to know they are valued, that they are worthy, and are irreplaceable.

Also: they probably don’t have a list of our mistakes under their mattress. They just want us. The best gift that we can give to our kiddos is showing them the power of God in our lives, through the way that we love and lead and live. The rest will fall into place.

For me it feels like I blinked and my sweet four-year-old who I thought I had hurt too deeply for him to go on and lead anything that resembles a ‘normie’ life recently turned fifteen.

He is very much a well-adjusted, sweet, thoughtful, smart, mouthy, fifteen-year-old whom I trust and am in awe of. I have to say, he blows my fifteen-year-old self out of the water when it comes to his level of personal responsibly, understanding of the importance of accountability, self-awareness, and personal goal setting. I shouldn’t forget to add that he loves me and we have built an incredible relationship.

We are still pressing on, and I have no idea how this will all end up playing out. I really don’t. I know we have not crossed into adulthood and the future is unknown, but I do know that I have learned to trust God through this, and to enjoy the process. And the future is shiny and bright.

I want other mommies out there who might be struggling to believe that things can and do and will get better. Little by little it does. It really does. Also, you CAN do this.

Don’t Let The Ego Take Over

For a growing number of people in our society sober living isn’t only for people who have already developed a dependence or a Substance Use Disorder. It is common for people choose to cut alcohol out of their lives altogether but they don’t have to, they want to.

They are living sober, but they don’t consider themselves to be ‘addicts’ and they aren’t quitting because they are stuck in what feels like is eternal hell-fire, flirting with their death. Many feel some of the negative effects of alcohol or have been grazed by its horns and have decided it might be time to let it go for good.

Here are some of the typical explanations you might hear from people who fall into this particular category:

They might be…..
fed up with face and stomach bloat
tired of battling unwanted and necessary weight gain
slightly discontented with the face puffiness associated with ingesting toxins
aiming to set a different example for their children or loved ones
having health or medical concerns or complications
sick and tired of the misery connected to experiencing recurring headaches or hangovers
annoyed and completely done playing the societal acceptance game or having to endure the pressures within their social or processional circles
or maybe, they’re just simply not feeling their best or like they are operating at one-hundred-percent

These people have sobriety stories, and they are important and worthy of telling and sharing.
Just because they didn’t hit rock bottom, lose their homes, custody of their children, all of their possessions, everyone’s respect, or their jobs, doesn’t make their stories irrelevant in the recovery world.
And we all know too well that any kind of lifestyle change is uncomfortable on some level and doing any kind of personal, internal renovation isn’t a walk in the park either. So props (don’t hate on my nineties vocabulary) to the people who fall into this category. Positive change is always worth the risk, but it’s never easy.

*********************

Then you have other sub-categories of sober living. In the category I belong to, we are also people in recovery. We are also living sober lives, and like the group above, we also chose our recovery. We wanted to change our lifestyle, and we desired to live healthier lives as better versions of ourselves.

But we are people who (for one environmental, physical, biological, or emotional combination or another) did develop something more lethal and toxic than an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. We cut it out of our lives because that choice was a choice between living or dying drunk.

Here are some of the explanations you might hear from a person in recovery from a life and death relationship with alcohol:

They might be…
Terrified. Their health has deteriorated rapidly and doctors have given them warnings.
Exhausted. Body trembling, blood vomiting, head pounding, heart throbbing, tired.
Ashamed and embarrassed
Feeling hopeless and empty
Stripped of everything that once meant something to them
Ostracized from friends, family, and any real connection or meaningful relationships
Homeless
Spiritually bankrupt
+in addition to the list of the first group

********************

So let’s cut the bullshit already.

We’re all adults here. This isn’t a lunch table. Maybe this is the perfect time to say, “what works for some might not work for others”.

Blah blah blah. We all say that (ALL of the time), and everyone loves to see and hear themselves quoting it, but that doesn’t seem to be how we actually treat one another.

Clearly there is much to be defined and clarified and learned. Here is a tiny teeny bit of clarification from my perspective.

First:
Let’s talk 12-steps. The twelve-steps aren’t for everyone, but they have worked for thousands and thousands of people who are alive and well because of them today. No. Not everyone needs them or agrees that they are ‘still relevant’ or understands them, but for people like me (and countless others), I thank GOD they exist. I am glad they were there when I needed them to help guide me through the days of my early recovery where every second felt like hell on earth, and I am still just as excited that they exist, as they are still active and living in my daily life today ten years later. While they are now also compounded with reading books, reading blogs, following Jesus, drowning in writing, lifting weights, and embracing my life- I would still love it if people would just back the fuck off of my twelve-steps. They work for those who want to work them and at the end of the day, that is all that is relevant. People’s opinions, columns, reviews, blurbs, or egocentric internet comments cannot take away the power they hold for the people who want to work them.

Second: 
Sobriety is a broad term and it is important to remember that there are a number of important differences between the two groups of people I described above. HUGE distinctions; dozens of intricate, woven, complex, contrasts.
*It’s important to note: NONE of which make one group better or less than the other.
But what these differences DO mean?
Different starting points. That matters. Differing needs, motives, recovery approaches and processes. What that all looks like, what works, what may not, what seems appealing or appetizing, and what doesn’t. All of it. Not the same. Like not even in the same hemisphere.

The one thing that both groups and everyone in all of the other sub-categories found within the sober living community is this: we all want to experience our life. We have all chosen change. We all want to try. We are all willing to learn and to work. This mostly means that we want to live healthy, full, rich, present lives.

I am not sure any of that includes undignified bashing of the experiences of other people, most of whom we don’t even personally know. I cannot simply declare that yoga and a vegan diet didn’t help Sally in and through her recovery, just like Sally cannot tell me that Jesus and the twelve-steps didn’t save my life. Suzy wouldn’t be able to convince Jimmy who is throwing up blood and experiencing trimmers, that he should just skip medical detox and head straight to AA, and Jimmy’s ego shouldn’t ever tell Suzy that she’s delusional for believing that a life coach and some magic tea will save her ass next time she walks past a bar. It might.

So this is me, vowing to self-reflect any time I feel an urge to gouge Sally’s eyes out, shove my recovery program down Jimmy’s throat. I am going to try to do my best to remind people who this thing is all about excavation. It is a personal journey and a very personal process that we have been given the opportunity to do together. We’re all uncovering who we are, and learning to feel confident in our new skin.

We can all benefit from humbly taking a few giant steps back. Whether or not you belong or have ever been a part of a twelve-step program, you probably know that the first step is admitting- and it’s time to remind ourselves that we don’t actually have the answers for everyone else and our opinions don’t speak truth into existence for others.

With that, I would like to congratulate every single human who is reading this who has taken the brave step toward a better, different, or healthier life. Change is really, really, hard. Sobriety is hard. And believe it or not, despite the feeling that we’re in the battle of the recovery blogs, the lifestyle coaching, the recovery coaching, the peer coaching, the exercise gurus, the fit living, the clean eating, the meeting goers, the meeting bashers, the twelve-steppers, the religious, the more spiritual, the cliques, the people in the cliques who don’t believe in cliques, the top 10 whatever lists, the quiet recover-ers, the out-loud recover-ers…………

We really are ALL in this thing together. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you are doing it wrong based solely on the fact that you aren’t doing it like they are.

When They Ask Why You Don’t Drink, Answer Them

If you could be internet famous for over-complicating possible various social and situational outcomes, then I guess I would be famous. Probably. And probably along with a lot of you. I know I am not the only person who deserves a whole sheet of gold stars for being over-analytical.

Have you ever read a headline or title of a story or a post or an anonymous question that goes something like this: “How to respond to people or how to explain why you don’t drink?”

I cannot tell you how many articles and stories I have read surrounding this (non) issue.
What should we say to people when they ask?
Should we have a speech printed out in our lapel pocket like we’re at the Grammy’s?
What IS the right answer here and why do we all care so much?

This is just one of the many hot button issues that I have given way too much power. My early recovery years were definitely plagued with questions like, “What will they think?”, “Will they understand?”, “What if it changes how they see me?” and my brain would turn to mush as it flooded with self-doubt and sleep robbing antigens.

I am all-for utilizing any opportunity presented (in the right context with the right intentions) to pounce on the genuine interest or authentic curiosity of a friend or acquaintance who has a goal of gaining more understanding of me as a person, or of people who have struggled with a substance use disorder. I usually don’t ignore or shy away from an opportunity to educate, raise awareness, have a deep conversation, or chip away at the ole’ stigma we talk so much about.

But I also want to help you understand that it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks about our responses to the inquiries. There are not any right or wrong answers.

I used to field this line of questioning with having them,  (and only them) in mind. I would put them first. I overlooked the fact that I had choices. I disregarded how I felt, and what I needed. For so long I put their comfort first as I worried about their expectations and their assumptions or concrete ideologies, instead of thoughtfully considering what was good for me. Instead I made it complicated and messy and stressful on my heart and spirit.

Tonight I was sitting in Panera eating dinner with a friend. As we small-talked essential oils, seasonal depression, and gut wrenching anxieties, I casually mentioned to her that no, I don’t take psychoactive substances for anything.
(note: and if you happen to please know that I think that you are brave, amazing, and also it’s none of my business so don’t worry about me asking you to explain your decision).

Watch this:
Me: “I just don’t take prescription psychoactive substances.”
Her: “Oh, okay. Why not?”
Me: “I just don’t. I can’t. We don’t mix well.”
Her: (Blank stare) “So there’s this other oil I want to tell you about too…….”

Wa-la. There you have it. That is how it usually goes.

Listen. I get that when you have a white-collar job, or any job, you worry. Having doubts or feeling uneasy about what to say and how to say it is understandable, especially if can mean losing your job (which for the record, it shouldn’t).

And I understand. Sometimes not knowing how someone will react, or whether or not they are willing or able to understand us more can be terrifying.

But that cannot cause us lengthy periods of unnecessary stress or anxiety. Not anymore.

No longer should you worry or wonder or ponder or replay reaction outcomes in your head. We can’t. Not for our old friend, our new friend, our oldest friend, our family, loved ones, acquaintances, or that one Facebook friend who has a perfect life, or for the vast majority of people who think things like “wino-clock”, “it’s five o’clock somewhere”, “wine yoga”, and  “wine painting”, are cute and funny.

I cannot imagine going up to people in a restaurant bar to check and see why they are drinking, or bursting into a wine painting bridal shower and casually demanding that they tell me why they are drinking, or asking my friend to help me to understand why she is drinking. 

I don’t. I wouldn’t. It’s none of my business, and unless I could foresee an actual problem, I am just not an asshole who thinks I deserve to have answers to my burning questions about the personal decisions made by other adults, who are adulting.

So if you’re an over-thinker (like me) please know that when it comes to this issue, we need to answer for us, not them.

We tend to put too much pressure on ourselves to conform to ridiculous societal norms and expectations. 

I am not saying to avoid this topic altogether, or to disrespect the people who ask, or to throw water in faces, flip tables, flip people off, or scream fuck da’ police from your moving car.

I am just simply saying that you should speak up for yourself by forming a response that fits you. 

Speak for you, not to comfort them.

It is brilliant and liberating and freeing and amazing to confidently respond by revealing how much or how little you want. Reveal it all, reveal nothing, but most of all, just remember that it usually goes over much faster, smoother, and much less intense than we imagine it going.

And if people do reject you or distance themselves from you because of an answer or response that fits you, it’s probably for the best anyway.

Deliveries, Deliverance, and The Trials of This Life


I heard drone delivery is being tested by Amazon. My mind immediately went to a future sky peppered with boxes or bags full of our wants and needs, and our sweet cargo dropping at our front doors. Not only will we have the option of shopping from the comfort and privacy of our own home, we will be able to have our purchases air-lifted faster, and without emitting toxins into our atmosphere right to our front door. Majestic.

Let’s not forget that in the 1950’s (and probably much earlier than that), people could actually have bottled milk, eggs, butter, or bread, from local dairies and creameries delivered to their porches. But back then deliveries were made by actual humans. As time passed, other methods became more convenient, cost-efficient, and practical, but to me, there is something so cool and special and awesome about the care one must invest to hand deliver milk and other dairy to the same people every week. I think it would have provided very personal, relationship and community building opportunities. So, minus the drone technology and speed, this was basically the same thing that Amazon is re-thinking, right?

The computer-animated movie Storks is another shiny example of my fascination with hand delivered cargoI have watched it several times with my kids. Somehow until today I had never cared enough to dig deeper into the stork/baby delivery story, but apparently, it’s an ancient myth/legend kind of thing. According to Wikipedia this myth was popularized by a 19th century story written by a man named Hans Christian Anderson. Regardless of the origin (that I still can’t seem to make myself care more about), babies, in my opinion, are the most special deliveries that have ever been or will be delivered. And at some point, some people somewhere thought this stork/baby stuff was fascinating and whimsical enough to pass down through the generations. I agree. In the make-believe realm of the front-door special delivery biz, the stork and baby concept is most definitely the OG.

For whatever reason the idea of having something delivered directly to our front door is something we all like whether it is an age-old legend like the storks, something simple like having fresh dairy hand delivered to our doors, or getting an Amazon delivery notification.

Maybe the storks remind us to imagine and to remember not to take life so seriously. Maybe the allure with Amazon is the convenience, or the lower cost on most products. Maybe the times of the milkman represent more interpersonal connection and less fear of strangers on our doorstep.

Or what if it’s all of that, and then some. What if it is also that we are all inherently different and unique, yet we all really like to feel like we matter, like our needs are being met, and we are consistently fulfilled, full, and most importantly free.

Most of us will all undoubtedly get to a place where we will require more substance and strength than any feel-good, ancient urban myth, small talk on our porch, or brown box with Amazon Prime tape stuck all over it can offer to our lives.

At some point, we’ll need deliverance. Some real, raw, deep, personal, please help me delivering.

God is in this business. He doesn’t always throw what we need or want on our front porches and He’s not so much a direct competitor of Amazon, dairy farmers, or storks, but He is The deliverer.

Always has been and he’s still in business.
As per-His-character, He’s a next level deliverer:

Psalm 107:6
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

Psalm 18:2:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

Psalm 34:17:
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Psalm 34:4
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

The good part is He makes it just as simple the 50’s and the days of the milkman. We just believe what He says and fix our gaze on Him.

The life-changing stuff is almost always hand-delivered privately. It will be placed in our lives in a way that can never be explained by mere logic and always arrives through conduits we aren’t expecting. Maybe not by drone or stork, but He makes it known, that He gets it and he’s right here.

Deliverance for us could be as simple as walking with us through our current mess, but knowing that we aren’t alone it. It could be providing us courage or strength. Maybe our deliverance will come in the form of a new willingness to offer forgiveness, or to let go of something,  a noticing our newly developed level of self-control, or having a desire to get up tomorrow morning.

He will use people, places, and things to draw us near to Him and He will call us out from under our strongholds and bondage. He will rescue us time and again from danger and affliction, (and if you’re anything like me), he will save you from yourself by reminding us that we have a direct line to him. 

He delivers gifts, and they’re completely free. He freely gives us access to His resources. They’re free. He opens up doors so that we might experience His freedom, and live or lives boldly, never forgetting what we have been delivered from, and who delivered us.

Living a Life of Evidence

Our actions will always produce a trail of evidence that reflect our inward status.
Always.

In school we learned that successful addiction treatment outcomes (and by successful I mean treatment plans that are put in place and any kind of forward moving progress is being made) are always marked by identifiable variations of measurable, outward change.

Of course it matters how you feel and what your deepest desires are, and what your motives and intentions might be.  But clinical progress is measured by evidence and evidence is tangible stuff you can taste, smell, see, or touch and keep track of on paper.

Regardless of who you are or where you have been or how slow you go, the inward changes that we are consciously making as regularly as we can will undoubtedly manifest and become something solid and huge and powerful in our lives. There will be no way you can miss them.

I try my best to carry this same method and message with other facets of my personal life. Not just in relation to drugs & alcohol, but in how I interact and treat other human beings. A lot of this recovery stuff, actually translates seamlessly into what is actually just regular everyday life stuff.

If I say that I want to be supportive of people who are struggling with a substance use disorder, or if I want to be a part of breaking through stigma associated with mental health issues, or that I want to love like Jesus and show the love and compassion that He showed people who society deemed and discarded as the ‘less thans’ or ‘damaged goods’ during His time here…

How do I get there?

If the cure to darkness is light, how can I help reflect The light to those around me?
If the key to despair is hope, how can I share hope?
If supporting people who are feeling burdened by shame means accepting them, how can I show them love?

If these are my desires and are a reflection of my values,feelings, priorities and goals, what does that actually mean?

What do these things look like within the context of MY life?

I am most definitely a fan of the all or nothing, the black and white and the doing and not just saying. Mostly because of my being a COA and possessing certain characteristics, evidenced by my perfectionist personality traits and a pressing need to have consistency and trust. I like to consider myself to be a do-er and not a talker. It’s safer.

So to me the only major difference between talking of wanting something or having a desire to be more of myself in certain ways, lies right in the depths of the doing..

Yet, even the perfectionist that lives in my bones knows that I won’t ever get all of these things ‘right’. Life in general is messy because of all of the humany qualities that are major stumbling blocks on anyone’s pathway to peace, or quest for illusive balance. There are always roadblocks when rolling out even the most thoughtful, well-intentioned life plans.

Hell, I know for sure and have accepted that these ducks of mine will never end up in a pretty row and will probably always show up late. My ducks are the neony, fluorescent type and will always be representative of the kind that toddler has tossed out of a bathtub across a bathroom somewhere.

But that is not going to stop me from trying every single day, to live out the answers that I have within my heart to these various questions.

Our everyday lives are basically just one huge reflection of our most coveted values, priorities and goals. And we do not have to lead perfect lives to live lives packed full of wall-to-wall evidence, and we don’t have to get all of the somethings right every time. There is no such thing as not qualifying for this kind of stuff.

So, here’s to living a life full of evidence.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16

 

Carrying The Message

The Dead Sea.
Not only the lowest place on planet earth, it’s one of those places where for years and years it has been given to. It has been continually fed fresh, lively, healthy things from other rivers and streams from the mountains in the area that make their way into this body of water. An over-abundance of good has been provided. But there are no exchanges. No cycling, and no natural flushing.
Nothing, but receiving. And because of that nothing lives in the Dead Sea.

If the Dead Sea were a person they might live a somewhat isolated, desolate, life with imbalanced relationships, never realizing that they were holding the key to unlocking their own joy all along.

I believe that I am the happiest that I have ever been in my life. This very season. My small, imperfect, messy, perfect for me life. I see that to love means to get off my ass and take action;  to move and to do, and to let others in. To show love and to share what I have learned. To invest. To allow myself to receive, but also, to be vigilant about my own level of giving freely. A revolving door of the giving and receiving of love.

Both the Bible and The Twelve Steps place specific emphasis on the importance and value of carrying important messages to other people. It is obvious that we aren’t supposed to tuck these life-changing messages in our hearts, without sharing them with other people:

  • The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) 
    You do not have to identify as an Evangelical in order to share what God has done in your life, or to point other people to Jesus. For Jesus followers, we can do in so many colorful ways and just as many simple and subtle ways. We are all really just a bunch of regular people, doing spectacular work through the Grace and Strength provided to us, through Jesus, to being glory to God. Sometimes fun, sometimes taxing, always soul-replenishing, consistently worth it, constantly rewarding, but always requires us to step into the unknown. It takes action on our part. We have to accept the challenges.
    I can’t imagine just sitting back and basking in the beauty of how God’s Grace has changed my life. He healed my broken-heart and he bound my wounds. But eventually I felt like I had to woman-up and rip the band-aid off. I had to break out of my comfy shell and share some of the love that has been poured into my life. I had to let the scars show the evidence of His healing. I had to uncover them all and share what has happened. It’s not a secret anymore. Keeping it covered would have only ignited an ego infection underneath my tightly wound bandages.
  • Carrying The Message.
    Celebrate Recovery Step #12:  Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
    Narcotics Anonymous Step #12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
    Alcoholics Anonymous Step #12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
    I can’t keep going back to the safety of some room, seeking that one comfy chair, in that familiar church basement that I have dubbed my own, to tell the same stories over and over to the same people.
    As we share hope with others who desperately need it, we increase our own faith in hope. When we invest in others, we deepen our relationship with ourselves, and with God at the same time. It is the weirdest most fulfilling process I have ever experienced, aside from watching my children grow, learn, and accomplish things.

Love always begs us get off our asses, doesn’t it? The Great Commission tells us to GO and step 12 tells us to CARRY.

And I don’t know about you but I don’t want to become a pool of oily, salty, stagnant, tucked away, love. I want to keep cycling, to keep it moving, to keep flushing, and to keep pouring into others. It is unhealthy for me and useless to God and His plans. At the very least, we need to be open and willing to move, whether it is to GO or to CARRY, if that is what we are supposed to do.

 

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, Living ODAAT


Is it possible that living one-day-at-a-time was an approach designed for all of us to live out our best, most-balanced, most productive, healthiest lives?

Maybe it was never intended to only be a go-to prescription, custom-fit & dispersed only to those of us living lives in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

Or only applied to the lives of people who are purposefully recouping from admitted inner-struggles with things like profound amounts of fear, worry, anxieties, and other more specific disorders.

I feel like it is reasonable to assume that we are all supposed to be grabbing life by the horns, in twenty-four-hour (or less) increments.

But what if you’re a person who has never even come close to being in the depths of a trench, or have never been stuck in a place where it is imperative to your survival that you acknowledge your areas of weakness?

And what if you are a person who is still somehow coasting along living your day-to-day life with your masks fully intact, and thus far you have somehow miraculously escaped having to quarrel with life on life’s terms, face down on hot pavement, begging God to save your life?

Even so, I still think that maybe all of us are supposed to be embracing the one-day-at-a-time mentality.

Not because we all need a program, but because we all struggle and experience hurt.

And also because life really doesn’t care whether we proclaim a membership to a certain group or club or program, it doesn’t matter whether we are willing to admit that we aren’t actually in control of everything or not, and none of this requires that we publicly acknowledge that we have too much to handle in order for it to feel like we might have accidentally been given too much to carry on any given day.

A few Sundays ago we took communion at church, which is not a regular thing for our non-denominational church. That morning, our pastor spent some time during his sermon drawing parallels between some of the important things Jesus said to his disciples, our need as humans for emotional & physical daily sustenance, and how this all relates to bread.

What began as simple note-taking during this particular sermon has developed into a few days of tiny epiphanies, and me over-thinking bread in general.

Throughout the Bible, the cooking, serving, offering and eating of bread always holds significance and has specific meaning. But for the purpose of this post, we’ll focus here:

  • Jesus told his followers,  “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) During Biblical times bread was important to every day life. It was expected at meals, was used to show reverence and respect for dinner guests, and as daily sustenance; a companion to feed large families daily meals.
  • Wikipedia tells the internet that “bread is considered a staple food, and throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture.” Bread has been a food companion and has held a prominent place in secular and religious culture for a long time.
  • The Serenity Prayer  suggests to us that Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; and accepting hardships is the pathway to peace.
  • The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer says:  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. For Jews back in the day, bread was a staple in their diet. Jesus wanted the people he was talking to, to understand that they needed Him, everyday, like they needed food. For survival; that He would provide to them everything that they needed to make it through any given day.
  • We are also reminded in Matthew 6:34:  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. To me that sort of sounds like a suggestion to live one-day-at-a-time.
  • Groups like AA share slogans among the rooms that encourage the ODAAT life approach: “One hour at a time.. One day at a time.. One step at a time”, and  “Wonderful things happen, one day at a time”.

Maybe we are created to live focused on the day at hand, relying on God to provide for us our needs for the specific day we are living.

He made it pretty clear and simple.
He is what we need and we need him every day.

He is our (low-carb, reduced calorie, whole grain, with zero artificial ingredient) miracle bread that we have been searching for. Except that his offer is completely free to us, and one-hundred-percent accessible, and within our reach in this lifetime. (Unlike our seemingly unending quest to find the most recent, relevant, most popular, usually fleeting, American ‘make me skinny and magazine like’ bread).

I’ll be honest.

Some days I am feeling like I am absolutely killin’ it, living one day at a time. Living my dream. Living in freedom. Living sober, but more importantly, living authentically. I know that it’s okay to acknowledge that.

But it is also important to affirm that on other days, I can feel like I am crawlin’ through the day-to-day, resisting the comparison trap in all realms of life, living one sippy-cup spill, one irrational toddler or teenager meltdown, or load of laundry at a time.

But either way – I have access to what I need and I know that I am just a messy human living my life. I can only live through exactly what I am living through at any given moment, and that’s okay. I have exactly what I need to do it and I am certain of the hope that I have.

So relax. Take time to appreciate and acknowledge gratitude for easier days and eat your daily bread. It can mean the difference between hopeless and hope-filled on the less than easy days.

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I’m Not An Alcoholic, But I Live Sober Anyway


Passover is one of the Shalosh Regalim, or Three Pilgrimage Festivals. On the eve of the first day of Passover each spring Jewish people around the world partake in a feast known as the Seder. The celebration is an opportunity for families to enjoy a meal while honoring Jewish prayers, history, and traditions. Each of the eight main foods served at the feast hold great symbolic significance.

This past Monday evening I had a cool opportunity to attend a Seder dinner. And yes, if you know me or have read anything here, normally I would politely pass and choose not to attend intimate gatherings such as these, due to crippling internal anxiety that plagues my brain and physical body any time I consider committing to attending any kind social event, but I am doing my best to overcome anything connected to my “normal”.

I have come to believe something: It is really important to my mental health and wellness to understand that I am a messy human, but a human nonetheless; created with a longing for connection and a for a sense of belonging. I know I belong, so that is a non-issue, but I have to remind myself that I need connection like I need oxygen. Isolation for me is  nothing but a self-destructive tactic that delivers nothing it promises, so pushing myself to walk circles outside of my concocted realm of comfort is essential to my well-being.

During this meal a group  of over twenty-five adults and children sat together around several rectangular folding tables in the middle of the hostess’ dimly lit living room. I nervously sat in my chair with my middle son sitting on my lap. I sat, eyes closed, clinching my son’s little hands as we listened to our pastor recite Jewish prayers in Hebrew, with English subtitles.

I was so excited to start eating (and not just because I hadn’t eaten dinner and it was after 7:30 pm), but because the apple concoction called charoset that sat on our plate looked particularly delicious.
(I also knew that the pastor’s wife brought it, who was sitting directly to my left, and she makes a mean Caesar salad so I knew it would be yummy).

As my son and I worked together to pack spoonfuls of charoset onto our piece of matzah that we broke into two pieces for our makeshift charoset sandwich step, I asked “What is in the charoset?” Through the thick of the background noise I only made out the “wine & chopped walnuts” part.

My son immediately set his matzah sandwich on our plate and I could feel his disappointment as he leaned his weight back into me. I quietly breathed a deep sigh of relief (and scolded myself that I hadn’t asked about ingredients before this meal began). Due to the most recent epi-pen injector recall, we were left without ours for a short window of time. Our pharmacy had informed us that due to the recall, our prescription would be on back order. This is never an ideal scenario when it comes to life threatening allergies, and in our case, a life-threatening nut allergy. So charoset containing walnuts would be a ‘no’ for my son.

I had about thirty short seconds to decide if I would pick up where my son left off on his matzah sandwich. It wasn’t until after my first big bite, that I realized that charoset is a cold dish and that maybe it wasn’t heated to a temperature that would allow wine used in the preparation to evaporate.
But I cleaned my plate anyway. I tasted the apples, the cinnamon, the walnut, the honey, and nutmeg, and it was absolutely delicious. If she were to have mentioned adding crushed Valium or sprinkles of Xanax in the ingredient list I would have had to made a different decision, because if not, I would most definitely be waiting for a bed to open up at the nearest facility and my life would expeditiously crumble to very small fragments.

As we wrapped up our evening by saying our good-bye’s and giving hugs, the woman who brought the charoset said “Whoa I smell alcohol” and leaned into the empty dish tucked under her arm that once contained the ooey-gooey goodness. So naturally, I had to lean in and take a deep breath too, and boy did it reek.

I may not think about my alcohol intolerance often, but all it takes is a whiff of whisky or wine to remind me that there is absolutely nothing lost in my life from my decision not to drink, despite not being an alcoholic.

I was a dependent pill-aholic and am a former, (quite crafty) escape-aholic, but never quite made it to alcoholic. Alcohol and I never bonded; it was never anything more to me than an enhancer, a filler, or temporary cheap substitute.

Yet still, somehow, my body is one-hundred-percent intolerant to its gaggy essence, causing me to feel physically ill and queasy the second it penetrates my nasal cavities.

But maybe every now and then  I need a reminder of how amazing the cold tiles used to feel on my body on the floor of my bathroom in my old apartment, after a night of puking up my insides.

Sobriety to me has become about truly enjoying my life as a sober person and not continuously pining away for an out, any kind of escape from the day-to-day, or having the false belief that everything is more enjoyable when I am drunk or some version of high.

So I decided a long time ago, that despite my not having “biblically sound” evidence to support my theory that this unexplained intolerance is likely just another undeserved gift from God and a result of Grace living, I am okay with the not really understanding it part.

It works for me.

Don’t You Dare Give Up

Maybe you are only an hour in.
Or a day. Or three months.

Maybe you hate what sobriety is feeling like right now.

You aren’t sure if it is for you.

Maybe you are trying to tell yourself that you can’t hack it, because you aren’t strong enough.

Early recovery can be hard.
Really, really hard, and most often in the beginning of changing your life entirely you will wrestle with nauseating amounts of skepticism.

Tonight, I am talking to you.

I can remember fighting within my own mind and feeling defeated having to constantly break up disputes between my heart, my head, and the shadows that seemed to lurk in every corner of my life adamantly reminding me of who I had become and all of the mistakes that I had made.

I know what it feels like to be utterly lost.
Having to feel the pressure and weight of the dissonance I was experiencing between my wanting a brand-new, rebuilt, different life, and also feeling like I had been robbed; stripped of an identity that fit nicely until it began to squeeze the life out of my eyes. I wanted to rid my body of this thing that tightened its powerful grip around the threshold my existence and at the very same time I had no idea how to live any other way.

I have raw fear.
I was a girl who ended up somewhere unfamiliar and frightening, left to wander around not knowing what to take and what to leave behind with questions looming in my mind like, “Who the fuck am I anyway? and “How did I end up here?”

I struggled with disconnect.
I knew my desires didn’t match my impulsive feelings, my habitual go-to’s and cravings didn’t match my true desires for my life and my future, and my overwhelming self-doubt didn’t match up with my dream of one day experiencing real & lasting inner peace.

I wasn’t any match for the anger and wound emotions that I would go through.
I clearly recall raging with anger, crying, and screaming as I did what I could to dig my heels in sobriety.

I didn’t know if I was doing enough of the new stuff.
I saturated my time with as much routine and new information and self-care remedies as I could manage to swallow, hoping that something would stick and I would start to feel as if feeling was a thing that I might actually get on board with.

I remember the struggle of fighting with exhaustion.
I had no idea how to fall asleep. I had zero knowledge of how to quiet or slow my racing thoughts. How would I ever overcome or manage my excruciating anxieties about what the next day might bring. What if it got even harder?

I experienced the agonizing uncertainty of knowing only that I knew nothing definitively.
Aside from being completely certain that I couldn’t go on as I had anymore, I had no idea if I would be able to figure out how to live as a sober person.

For me, there was a 100% chance that nothing was going to change if I wasn’t willing to stick with making any changes, and just for the record I was not good at sticking with things. Follow-through and I were not acquainted.

Drastic life-change takes some time to get used to and specifically regarding substance use disorders, it can FEEL like a lifetime of struggle, like years of planting before we can see any new harvest.

But the small changes that we make every day will begin to make a huge difference in no time.

So tonight, or tomorrow, this week, or this month, if you are feeling unsure of yourself, just keep pushing.

Please don’t believe the lie that you can’t do this, that you are simply too late, that you have fucked up too many things, or that redemption for you, your heart, your soul, your relationships, or your reputation, is not a viable option for you.

You don’t get to decide that.

Because God says that you matter.
You are loved. You are seen. You are important. You matter.

There is not one thing that you have done, said, broken, stolen, smoked, crashed, burned or neglected that can take away God’s grace that is freely offered to your story.

So please don’t give up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGYjKR69M6U

Shame.


Strong emotions connected to an all-to-familiar brand of deprecating shame were recently reignited within me. And this recent spike of shame also brought with it the kind of nasty, heavy, weight that prefers to bear down directly on top of my shoulders.

I tried to self-talk my way through and I also attempted to take and utilize some of my own advice. Despite my effort, I still began to feel overwhelmed with preoccupation; allowing doubt to barrel roll through my mind and circle back around again and again until my mind felt as if there wasn’t any room for rational thoughts to form.  It didn’t matter how many distractions or diversions presented themselves as alternatives throughout the day.

Reeling (and also out of realistic ideas) I chose a project from my to-do list after deciding that keeping myself busier than normal would be a productive way to combat feelings of shame, assuming it would do the trick.

So I spent several late nights this month painting the interior of our house. I would start painting past my boys bedtime ensuring that it would just be me, my crappy-yet-comfortable painting attire, a podcast of some kind, my roller, and a few brushes.
(Solid recoup recipe if I have ever heard one).

The week I chose to begin this project just so happened to be offering up beautiful, warmer-than-usual temperatures. The weather allowed for open windows as I painted and I would occasionally close my eyes, slowly breathe in the cool night air, and let myself take in the breeze sweeping through my house.

I listened to a dozen of Beth Moore’s audio messages from her app as I worked and took occasional breaks for deep breathing. Each message lasted for around twenty minutes. Many of those late nights I would start to laugh to myself as I thought about Beth Moore. Here she was preaching, with her gaze fixed upon a live crowd packed full of thousands of eager, teachable, women, yet somehow I still believed that she was speaking directly to me, and just for me.

This week-long project provided my spirit a much-needed introspective time-out. Physical labor doesn’t sound like an opportunity for restoration, and most wouldn’t categorize interior painting as R&R, somehow the quiet and calm that I experienced during these blocks of alone time provided me with a fresh perspective.

Ten years in recovery and what I truly needed most was to get back to the raw, natural, basics.
Nothing fancy.
Nothing habitual or ritualistic.
None of my usual, supplemental, go-to tools.
No special acronyms, no advice, no Dr. Google, no slogans, no music.
No vibes or light or fluffy stuff. No noise.

In the middle of a storm the most effective, fool-proof way out is to take refuge in the only one who can command the sky. He alone is my shelter. His word brings deep healing within my bones. I just needed to lather my whole spirit with His words, bathing in His truths about who I am.
I needed unadulterated, concentrated Jesus- served straight up. Or forget the chilled part, let’s just do Jesus, neat. (Preferably funneled or shotgunned -let’s even skip the cute glass.)

When I initially began painting I know that I went in feeling disappointed in myself. I felt physically weak and defeated, and was dragging close to the ground spiritually from having spent so much time feeling like it was necessary to continually quantify my current value as a human being on a old-scale.

I can’t, or won’t, tell you that I was somehow able to walk away from the firm grip of soul-wrenching shame without having ripped open old scars. Believe me. If these particular emotional scars were visible, I would have already bled out.

I will tell you that I was able to wrap up this project feeling hopeful and optimistic; that I walked away from this endeavor still fully aware that I will always be a woman who has a past littered with brash, negligent, defiling choices regarding sex, intimacy, and relationships with men- but am also moving forward feeling replenished, reminded of my purpose, and even more determined than ever to encourage other women to live their own truth.

I was also reminded that if the enemy cannot use our disbelief in God as a weapon, our disbelief of our value will be the next best target. If we are quick to believe that our past defines our purpose, and holds power over our vision, or that our worth or potential is rooted or dictated in or through anything other than the solid truth found in Jesus and His definition of who we are, we are vulnerable to believing the lies that tell us that nothing that we do or say or have to offer is useful.

Please hear me.
Listen.

Shame generates this feeling within us that tells us that we need to hide and we have to refuse to live in that space. Don’t believe for one second that a rough past means that you ‘deserve’ to be pushed aside, living quietly in a dark corner of the earth somewhere, or if you’re like me- somewhere perpetually beating yourself for decisions made when you were sick and not well.

I will not hide or allow myself to feel forced into hiding.

So, if you happen to be struggling with shame associated with your past, decide that you will walk forward with me as we take responsibility for our choices and stomp the whispers of shame into the ground with the truth that we are armed with about what kind of people we really are.

And then we will sit back and watch it all become smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirrors of our mind and less and less relevant in our present.

Struggling With Feelings of Inferiority & Shame

Maybe I am the only person who feels this way, or maybe, that is habitual isolation at its finest, trying to convince me that I must be the only person that this happens to. I am safe to assume my hunch, and that is, I am definitely not alone in this.

So you know you are doing well, there’s no question about that. You are healthy, your life is stable and mostly consistent. You are still making progress in your recovery, and hell. You’re sober. By all accounts, (and compared to your track record) you are winning at life.

But as time passes you begin to realize that you are not just in recovery from becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. You are in recovery with your why. With the how and most important, why you got to that place.

Now sometimes it can start to feel like you are just might probably in recovery from everything. You know that you are composed of blood, cells, skin, organ systems but also, cushioned layers and layers and layers of messy, overlapped, hidden, well-placed shit?

Is there even a group for this?
Does anyone know?

As an adult child of an addict, I am in recovery from childhood trauma. Things like experiencing abuse & neglect, being immersed in violence, inconsistencies, and mostly just having a front row seat to the life that drug-addiction offers. There was also a death in my immediate family before I was ten years old, divorce, and other unfortunate things that statistically meant that I was almost  a perfect candidate for some of my most favorite vices.

And trauma, has lots of fun after-effects. For me those are things that fall under the umbrella of codependency, struggles with vulnerability & interpersonal connections, several anxiety disorders, and boatloads of perfectionism and issues with control.

Want to be friends? 🙂

But wait. There’s even more. Imagine:
Each of those primary core-issues has a bratty little baby. These little baby sub-issues weasel their way into facets of your life such as: your parenting style, your personality type, your thinking style, and your interpersonal relationships.
These kinds of things also factor into your dysfunctional relationship with substance abuse and your likelihood of developing a toxic relationship with psychoactive substances.

It’s like this huge, fucked-up family word-picture all within the confines of my pretty little brain.
Welcome.

So last week I saw a person from the uglier part of my past at a sporting event. That was all it took. A glance in the wrong direction and one second of accidental eye contact and boom. I began my decent back to the dark corner that I felt like I deserved to belong in. Feelings of shame that I had long since admitted, confronted, and made peace with bubbled-up and reemerged.

This week as I processed the unexpected dose of my shameful past, I wrote about intimacy & that shame. I also began making this long list of things that I still need to work on, and all of the reasons why I should feel humiliated.

But I realized something. That is the process, the one right there. When I internalize and isolate myself into this head-space. This is how I get sucked back down. I have to use what I know and what I have learned. I can’t react the same old way to an old problem. I cannot let a wave of negative feelings and emotion negate and invalidate the progress that I have made in my life.

I was surprised at how quickly the lie that I am too messed up to love, or too complex, or way too different to relate to anyone, tried to monopolize on my slump, and move right back in. I could have easily initiated the process of ostracizing myself from connection, community and support,  pulling myself away from love and from the opportunity to be cared for and embraced by people who understand, and who know what I am feeling.

And alone, I am even more prone to believe that I might actually be unlovable, or that maybe I am actually doing this recovery thing wrong. That after all of these years of renovation, my character might be shiny and new, but my heart still can still feel raw, defected, and bruised.

After a few days of unsuccessfully internalizing how I was feeling I talked to my husband about it. I began to write about it, and I read God’s word. I sat and read much-needed reminders about redemption, and about Grace, Love, Forgiveness, and Imperfection.

This isn’t so much about hiding from or forgetting the things I have done or who I used to be. This is about using the new stuff and operating from my new space, from the things that I have built.

Part of believing God’s story that he has for me is choosing to believe his truth instead of the tired, worn-out lies that tell me that I am not good enough, that I am too messed up to fit anywhere, that I am not different that I was and that I am all alone and no one would understand.

This is about choosing to believe that I am renewed, restored, redeemed, rebuilt. Not just to distance myself from the deplorable decisions that I have made, or to run from the repercussions of those choices, but because I believe that I am strong enough to face those things with dignity and confidence.

So if you are anything like me and can relate to some of these feelings, please know. You aren’t alone.

There is nothing odd or weird about having things from the past pop up and try to act as road blocks in your path. I will remind you, as someone reminded me: you are to use those as stepping-stones, to move forward. They are only road blocks if you use them as such.

God’s got this. Forgiven means forgiven.
Redeemed means just that: Redeemed.

So rest a little bit easier knowing that the strong, fleeting feelings, or painful flashbacks, or very real triggers, or regretful memories, or other people’s opinions of you cannot take those gifts of Grace away from you.

And as Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

 

Self-Care In Addiction Recovery

My addiction recovery was only supposed to help me learn how-to not eat pills for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I never went in expecting anything more than to learn how to abstain from drugs and alcohol. So I began to wonder why so much emphasis was being placed on self-care and self-love when I went to meetings.

I don’t think I realized that God would place the right people and the right material smack into my path who would commit their time to showing me not only how to stop, but they would be the ones to help me to see why needed to. I would go on to learn why I hungered for a sense of escape, and they would also pass along their wisdom about self-love. A how-to, on ingesting quality food, and non-toxic people, places, and things that would provide real sustenance and nourishment to my life.

And that was it. That was the key.
Nourishment.

Everyone in recovery has heard the slogan: “My recovery must come first, so everything I love in my life doesn’t come last.” Recovery IS Self-care, and self-care is an expression of self-love.

Nourishing our lives means injecting the things most necessary for our personal growth, sustaining our health, and keeping us in good condition. We take care ourselves so that we have the best chance of not falling back into old ways.

The bible tells us that the enemy attacks hardest when we are at our weakest. The temptation will come when we are thirsty, when our lives have become dry and desolate, like a desert. Because when we become desperate for relief, we are much more likely to compromise what we stand for and believe in. And if we’re honest, when we are feeling depleted, fatigued, stressed, and unsure of ourselves, we are more susceptible to buying into bullshit. The same lies that buried us, will try again when we are vulnerable. Sort of like when a predator goes after its prey. They big cats are more likely to go for the lingering animal looks lost, who are not well-protected; the one who seems most accessible. That one will be the easiest one to pounce on, and sometimes, it could just be that particular animal just wasn’t paying enough attention to its surroundings.

I can see how this can be applied to addiction recovery.

Self-care is to our recovery, as water is to a desert. Like water to dry land, plugging in acts of self-care quenches our innermost dry places. We have to find the things that have the ability to reach deep within us, beneath the surface. The places that we cannot see. We drench those areas with acts of self-love and it absorbs into the dark spaces. Like water, beneath the ground, the desert floor just eats it up. Water saturation prevents cracking and flaking and the breakdown of the richness of the area, just like self-care helps to can help to prevent the first stages of relapse, because we are aware and mindful of our surroundings and our current condition.

That is what self-care is able to do with recovery.

I can learn all of the new information, I can arm myself with the latest and greatest, most up-to-date, most modern, applauded, factual, head-knowledge about addiction recovery, and coping mechanisms, but if I am not taking loving on and caring for myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, eventually, I will start flaking and cracking and breaking down.

Breaking free from generational strongholds and the chains of addiction is something I cherish. I have learned that taking care of myself is the sole identity of what my recovery is composed of. I am not just sober, I am living as my authentic self, in freedom.

I believe that experiencing freedom, living, and finding recovery is nothing short of a miracle. But that doesn’t mean that anyone else is going to tend to my new responsibilities. It is my job, and is a pretty awesome opportunity, to to nourish my mind, heart, body, and my soul on a regular basis. And understanding the importance of self-care doesn’t mean that I always like it, or that I have found some perfect balance. Because I don’t, and I definitely haven’t. But I try, everyday.

It is said that recovery begins when measurable goals are set. It doesn’t matter whether they are big or small, long-term or short-term. The minute you look into your future, and you set a personal goal for yourself, that is it. That is where your new life begins, and where you have the opportunity to wave goodbye to the old version of yourself, one healthy, new choice at a time, at your own pace.

Just remember to take care along the way 😉

What Recovery Taught Me About Accepting Love After Experiencing Trauma


It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Let’s talk about love….

A few years ago I believed that drugs and alcohol were the culprit behind my inability to accept love from other people. My philosophy? It was because of my addiction(s) that I had let toxic shame overcome all what was left of me, and that is why I just couldn’t let love in.

Thanks a lot drugs and alcohol.
Because of you, I became this timid, weary girl, unable to see my own worth, with zero ability to feel or accept love from anyone.

Although, deep down I felt like I didn’t deserve to be loved,
but on the other hand, I also believed I didn’t need or want it from anyone anyway.

Then on one-hand I felt like I had defiled my character into non-existence and that people ‘like me’ didn’t deserve to be respected, never-mind, loved.

And on the other hand I didn’t understand what I needed to do to garner some real fucking devotion or loyalty or consistency from at least one human being on this god-forsaken planet.

From one side of my maladaptive perspective, the culmination of years and years of poor, embarrassing choices were a direct reflection of how unlovable I really was.

And on the flip side, I lived my life in such an angry state, furious at the cards I had been dealt, that I never gave myself time to absorb the harder truth. My life, and those choices? They were mine. I couldn’t blame my parents forever.

Here are a few things I learned in early recovery about my (not-so) personal relationship with accepting love:

*Never had I been able to accept love, and I have no memory of ever thinking it was a good idea. This was a thing for me. A common theme weaved dating back throughout my 24 years on earth. Okay, or at least since the age of 4 when I can clearly remember feeling like I had landed in a house full of morons and I was obviously on my own.

*Long before I ever got high, or drunk, I was already living in a detached state, in an isolated,  lonely, place.  Every-man-for-himself is what made me happy and most comfortable. What had started out as a coping mechanism where I had no desire to allow anyone to penetrate my walls, became this empty place in my heart and grew into something I couldn’t manage anymore. As a result, I had never allowed myself the luxury and blessing of experiencing things like vulnerable connection, real intimacy, friendship, or real, soul-invigorating love. Thanks to childhood trauma, I had always been sort of cold, disconnected, and chameleonesque. And none of translates into anything exciting during adolescence or young adulthood.

*I didn’t need redemption in the eyes or opinions or memory banks of other people.
I needed to feel some love for myself, people. I needed to learn to love ME. The real me. The one who I had never really known or discovered. Instead, I buried her alive. But it was time. I had to be okay with the woman in the mirror and the heart that was still beating (by the grace of God) inside of my chest. This had to happen before I could see why love from others is so important. And God, my higher power, is what did it for me. Learning about who Jesus was as a person made such a difference to me in my recovery journey. Not only did he offer a freshly wiped slate, wiped completely clean, he also reminded me that it is his opinion of who I am that matters. My past couldn’t have a grip around my throat if I knew it didn’t have any power over who I could become. I didn’t need anyone else to like or accept or forgive me, but me. I began to smile when I looked in the mirror. I started to see myself through a brand new lens. I am worthy of love. I am a woman of God. I am valuable and precious and not even my old conclusions of my worthiness would stop me.

*Accepting love means that I can see my own value and self-worth. 
After the rush of the big wave came in, I could also see my progress with the smaller, choppy ones. I take compliments now, instead of politely sending them right back. love myself enough to surround myself with loving, nurturing, caring, affectionate, healthy, positive, people. I am still weary of the feeling of vulnerability and I am a survivor of some pretty intense forms of anxiety, but you know what? If the things that I have been through and survived haven’t killed me, I know for sure that anxiety and vulnerability aren’t going to get the job done. I am going to be okay.

Recovery. This was my place.
In a small room in the back of a church was where my life began to take a turn. It was in a small room where I accepted my first dose of vulnerable love. My first natural-high. A real sense of belonging somewhere.

It was the first time in my life where I let myself be carried, and supported.
I accepted compliments, and let encouragement in.
I began forming relationships based off of solid, pure, authentic, substance.

I accepted forms of love without even realizing what I was doing.

So I guess I could say: thanks a lot drugs and alcohol.
Because of you my whole world finally turned around, and I let love in.

Content vs. Complacent, What’s The Difference?

The difference between being a person in recovery who is content, and being a person in recovery who has become complacent, is a subtle one.

Both are formally defined with very similar descriptive words like satisfaction & gratification.

In my opinion, and personal experience with both, the subtle difference hinges on pride; and we all know, pride is a tricky little sob. It lurks close to our hearts and always seems to be an ever-present force in our lives, happy to see us face-plant.

First, let’s talk about the differences between the two:

Contentment means that you feel happy.
You feel grateful for where you are, but you are still working diligently to make improvements.
You choose to remain committed to personal growth.
You are aware of your shortcomings, but you are also aware of how far you have come.
You are proud of your accomplishments, but you haven’t adopted the thinking that you have learned all that there is to know, that you have ‘crossed the finish line’.
Feeling content is healthy.
It can push you, and can provide you with healthy, solid, earned confidence as you continue to rebuild your identity, and as you experience your new life.

Complacency on the other hand is more about being filled and puffed up with self-satisfaction.
Not only are you happy with where you are, and with your accomplishments, you aren’t interested in improving.
You are pumped up about the changes that you have been able to make so far, and you might feel so confident that you convince yourself that you can take intermittent recovery breaks.
Over time, you might even start to think that there isn’t much more to learn.
You may even have the sense that you are in a comfortable space and building from where you are isn’t necessary anymore.
Feeling complacent will start to feel like a light-weight on your shoulders. Over time, you might start feeling more irritable and easily agitated. Little by little, your weeds begin to overgrow.
But your pride is holding you back from holding yourself accountable, and the positive changes that you made begin to fade.

How can we avoid moving from contentment to complacent? 

1. Don’t isolate yourself from healthy, positive, strong, peers and outside support systems. 
It is always a good idea to keep people around you who have your best interest at heart.
This means, they will probably tell you if they start to notice negative changes or warning signs that you might be trying to forcefully ignore, or maybe you don’t even notice happening. This helps you to stay open to suggestions and it can help you to stay humble. Continuing to cultivate healthy relationships with the people in your life is a sign that you are on the right track. Consider it a personal warning sign when you subconsciously try to pull away from your people. You need this tribe of people no matter how much sober time you acquire.
Allowing yourself to be genuinely loved and cared for is always an important component to living a healthy life.

2. Keep giving back in some way. 
Do it your way, but do it.
Sponsor someone, write something, serve food somewhere, make art, just do something to volunteer your time or talent or services to the community. Nothing will keep you more grounded than serving other people who are in need. It is one of the best natural, most powerful remedies for pride inflation that I can think of.  No matter how much sober time you acquire, loving others fills your heart with a special kind of gratitude for your own life.

3. Stay open and keep moving.
Stay open to change and keep moving forward.
Stay open to learning. Stay vigilant of who you are, what your needs are, what your progress level looks like, what you see or feel needs improvement. Continue celebrating milestones and victories, but stay honest with yourself. Keep moving along but keep in mind, as you grow as an individual your needs will change. As you get to know yourself a little bit better, you will notice that your interests will develop and take on a new route. So tweak your program as you see fit and don’t be afraid to make changes. Don’t make excuses to stay the same way if life is leading you in a new direction. No matter how much sober time you acquire, always stay committed to your own personal growth. And remember to measure with your own ruler.

Jumping When You Are Ambivalent about Recovery & Life Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A solid, healthy support system.

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

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

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

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

 

Hard Work Always Pays Off, Sometimes In Unexpected Ways.

Steps  8, 9, & 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we went through the regular protocol.

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

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

No ticket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really, life? Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By nothing, I mean a lot of important somethings.

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

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

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

God is good.

 

Coffee at Midnight, Please Send Help

nfsitpy
On my way to the coffee pot at midnight.

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

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

Yeah.

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

And I know.

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

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

People change.
I’ve changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sooooo.

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

Be nice to yourselves, loves.

 

 

 

Tips For The Holidays

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

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

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

Here’s To 10 Years of Digging Out

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

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

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

Here are:

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

 

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

 

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

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

Here’s to the next ten.

Should Drug-Dealers Be Held Accountable For Overdose Deaths?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sound mind.

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

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

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

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

How To Get Through Halloween Sober.

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

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

What a glamorous thing. 

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

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

Halloween was no exception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Give Up

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

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

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

Zach Williams, Chain-Breaker Lyrics:

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

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

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

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

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

nfsitpy

Dear Younger, More Naive, Critical, Me

i6vmsv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Powerful Things I Have Learned In Recovery

i6vmsv
Funny, amazing, beautiful, painful, crazy awesome things happen when you allow God to disassemble your entire life and the person who you thought you were, and allow transformation to happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I am really kind of digging it.

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