Category: Addiction

What’s It Like To Be Sober?

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

Because moving can feel risky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s What I Thought I Needed To Be Accepted

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

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

She wanted to belong.

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

Here are 3 of ridiculous things that I believed wholeheartedly:

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

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

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

It happens the other way around.

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

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

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

According to my calculations my life was completely fucked up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in the end we are left with nothing.

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

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

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

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

We come as we are.

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

5 Things I Learned From My First Blog Baby

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

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

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

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

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

So I wrote for a couple of years.

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

And I healed.

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

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

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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Could Have Died In My Safe Places.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Have Your Time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was my time.

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

It was just my time. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is it. This is my time.”

Happy Birthday.

I Care.

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This so-called “F*ck-it Bucket”.
How does this work and where would I find one at a decent price?

-Asking for a friend. 🙂

I think I used to believe that I owned one of these buckets. This was back when I also tricked myself into embracing who I thought I was or had to be, and that person was the emotional equivalent to an armored tank. That or a hollowed-out lava rock. Something like that.

Present day me will not chuck any of the things into a figurative bucket that has gained a pretty rockin’ reputation for being the ‘easy way’ to get rid of f*cks given.

And remember, it’s not because I haven’t tried it.

It isn’t that I think there is something inherently wrong with people who are capable of committing to saying ‘f*ck it’ and leaving it all there in the bucket, where they put it.

It’s because I have lived that way and it didn’t work out.
My f*ck-it bucket and I have amicably parted ways.

Here in the land of the living I have learned that I can say matter-of-factly that I actually have a lot of f*cks left to give about a lot of things and denying this is counter-productive to personal growth in all its forms.

Yes, I even care and think of and occasionally worry about things that may not merit or deserve to grace the presence of my sacred f*cks.

But I can certainly appreciate the idea behind and usage of the bucket. It holds its contents and keeps it separate from other things.

I also understand need and yearning and strongly desiring release; to be able to let go of something and move forward without feeling the weight of whatever is in that bucket.

To just keep going without looking back.

But it’s the looking back part that tends to ignite internal struggle thus defeating the whole idea and intrigue and convenience of a f*ck-it bucket.

Personally, I prefer things to be more analyzed scrutinized —-organized.

I like having a plethora of buckets available.
I might toss this or that into one of these, or something similar:

#1: The ‘when to let go’ bucket
#2: The ‘when to hang on’ bucket
#3: The ‘take your time and evaluate the things that are in my control’ bucket
#4: The ‘be vigorously honest about the things that I cannot control’ bucket
#5: The ‘I am so grateful and humbled for and because of these things’ bucket
#6: The ‘I have chosen to forgive’ bucket
#7: The ‘things that I am sure of’ bucket
#8: The ‘remind yourself that you are healed, forgiven, and not your past’ bucket

The truth is that I care too deeply and feel too immensely in general to utilize a f*ck-it bucket correctly. I can’t toss it in and neuralyze my memory like it never mattered because f*ck-it.

But I can remind myself of a few things.

I have done all that I can do, and now it is in this bucket over here.
And because I myself am a miracle, who was once thought to be a throw-away person who would or could not ever make any real change, I know that there is always hope for something different to happen or come from this situation. There really is always hope.

But in the mean time, I don’t have to carry it around.

My sobriety and my life that I live every day in recovery from drugs, alcohol, and trauma. It has shown me what it means to admire and embrace my own authenticity and from that, I have learned to be mindful of what is mine to carry and what part of the load I can put down.

I have been introduced to the value of facing my issues, small and large, rather than pushing the hard things aside.

And I have benefited immensely from living as my authentic self and even from fumbling around, tripping all over my feelings.

Because I am a feeling being and know that’s okay.

I Can’t Have it All.

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

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

But that’s not how it went down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Was A Terrible Sponsor.

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

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

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

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

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

Whichever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I truly wasn’t ready to be a sponsor.

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

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

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

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

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

Not just…one.
Not just…mine.

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

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

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

 

Accept Not Fix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is crap.
It’s all crap.

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

completely unwilling to do anything except- accept

That’s okay.
It really is.

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

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

Looking Back Isn’t The Same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

……I hope so. 

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

……..I hope so.

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

……..I hope so. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can close my eyes and I can see her.

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

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

That is all that I ever truly wanted.

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

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

I hope not.

2 Reasons to Fight Stigma:

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For years (way too many) people have been allowed to freely assume, to judge & generalize, and to categorize & marginalized the people out in the community who struggle with addiction.

This is called stigma.

We (people who have struggled with addiction) are finally standing up to tell people that it’s wrong.
If you have allowed yourself to be conditioned by the old school hype, you’re wrong.
It’s all wrong.

For so long people haven’t had any reason to change how they view addiction.
People haven’t had to understand why this issue is so important.
They haven’t found themselves in a situation to care enough about something that hasn’t touched their lives.
Well, for decades, they haven’t. 
But it’s beginning to change.
It has started to creep closer and closer to their families.
To their churches.
They have a friend, a co-worker, a niece, a friend of a friend.
It is begun to seep into their world and it is starting to affect them personally.

And that is exactly what it takes sometimes.
Sometimes, it takes a personal brush with something real, to wake up a community.
This happens, one person at a time.

What people are starting to realize is that the old, washed up, sad excuse of a definition of what and who a drug addict  person struggling with an addiction is,
has been a misleading, appalling way to view an epidemic that has killed so many people. 

Here are some things ‘drug addicts’ have been labeled:
Losers. Worthless. Street People. Senseless.
Low-Life. Junkies. Drunk.
Here is the online thesaurus lists as synonyms for the phrase ‘drug-addict.’
Just for kicks, here’s one more.

Why does this need to change?
Two important reasons.

First, people die because of this stigma.
No. Stigma is not directly responsible for the deaths of these people. 
But do we know how many of them were too afraid to speak up or reach out?
Do we know how many hid in fear of being found out by family or a boss, a friend, a peer group or a team at work?
Do we know how many may have just needed a tiny bit of encouragement but instead, we met with a nasty comment or a dirty look?
No we don’t.
And no, it isn’t your job to baby people who are struggling with something.
And no, I am not saying these deaths are your fault. I am simply saying that I know for sure at least one of these deaths could have been prevented, and maybe, just maybe, we could have unknowingly played a part in that.

Second, the people who live through an addiction aren’t anything like what stigma says they are.You might just be surprised to find the types of people who are living sober lives in your community. We are everywhere. We probably work right next to you.
We are friends with you or maybe your children.
We are your neighbors, your nurses, your counselors, your artists, writers, musicians, advocates, business owners or your teachers.

So please. 
Before you judge, consider listening to that voice in your heart that tells you that you could be wrong.
You just might have been conditioned to think a certain way about a certain group of amazing individuals who you really don’t know anything about when it comes down to it.

I understand that it is so much easier to wash your hands of something that, if you’re lucky enough, hasn’t personally effected you (yet).

but you just might find that you have been missing out of some REALLY amazing people.

My Personal Decision to Shed the “Addict” Label

Often, addiction as a disease, is compared to diabetes.
People will say that people with diabetes aren’t being stigmatized for their condition.
And you’re right. I agree with that.

People develop it.
Sometimes it’s random, other times it is a lifestyle combined with genetics.

What would happen if you met a person, let’s call her Jane.
Jane has developed diabetes, but has it under control and is managing her condition well.
She has a diverse plan full of helpful dietary and fitness tools along with a support group as her health regimen.

It has been over 6 years since Jane has had complications with her diabetes!
Congrats, Jane! You totally rock. Well, maybe you, maybe your hp, maybe Jesus. Maybe both, or neither. Which ever you prefer. Congrats in a humble way, Jane.

I know Jane does not look in the mirror every morning and say-
“Oh, hey Jane. You have diabetes. Don’t forget you have diabetes. It can kill you. Be careful Jane.”

Or when Jane meets someone new or introduces herself to a new friend or co-worker, she is not like-
“Oh hey, I am Jane. I have diabetes. Well, I do but I eat healthy and I exercise, go to the doctor regularly and really don’t have any issues with it anymore, but 6 years ago I did, and I could in the future- but only if I chose to start slacking on my personal health and wellness and really just changed most of my lifestyle but it is a possibility. I think it always will be, but it is great meeting you.”

Maybe that’s going too far for you but I don’t think it is.

I think that Jane looks in that mirror every morning and she is so excited to have this full, healthy, awesome life and she is damn proud of herself for pulling it all together and learning to live in a new and different way that was, at one point, completely foreign to her.

Jane has grown and learned so much about herself and she knows, believe me, she knows that things could change in the future if she doesn’t stay committed, but Jane is not diabetes.

Jane has a condition but that is not her identity. It is something that she experienced that she will never forget, something that changed her forever, and it changed how she sees other people forever.

She will always do what she can to help other people who might be in the situation that she was all of those years ago.

Anyway, that is just how I think about it.
My brain might not make sense to you, and that’s okay.

This has been a long process for me to get to this place.
I know that I have always had a problem with the word.

I know that some people out there feel like I am adding to the stigma by refusing to identify as an addict. Many others are feeling empowered and are inspired to finally be hearing someone else voicing a similar (yet unpopular) view point as theirs.

For me, rising beyond what society has always (ignorantly) assumed an ‘addict’ is,
is exactly the opposite of adding to the stigma associated with addiction.

I am not an addict, I am a person who struggled with an addiction, and now I do not.

I might always have a brain that will be susceptible to developing an addiction if I am not mindful and vigilant about maintaining my physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological health, but being an ‘addict’ is just not something that I focus on every single day.

My new lifestyle that I have gotten used to is composed of all of the things that I need to continue on this path in sobriety. I have healthy people in my life, I am content and I  am so grateful to be alive to experience all of this.

I have learned that it is my job to take care of me.

Wearing the label of drug addict to me means that I am what society has concocted it to be.
I am nothing like what is (sadly, and unfortunately) typically regarded as a ‘drug addict’.

It is important, in my opinion, to do our part to chip away at the stigma.
It is our job to live lives that reflect the EXACT OPPOSITE of what society has deemed ‘drug addict’.

We are all so much more than that, and we deserve to live free from being suffocated and categorized.

We are managing our lives.

Here are two old posts where I brushed on this topic a tiny bit:
http://discoveringbeautiful.com/deepthoughts/
http://discoveringbeautiful.com/heres-an-idea/

5 Common Roadblocks in Recovery

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You know that saying “Nothing worth having comes easy?”
When it comes to being a newly sober person this couldn’t be more true.
A person who is has become chemically dependent on a substance has a tough road ahead when it comes to long-term sobriety. They will need a strong support system behind them.

Here are 5 common road blocks people come face to face with on their quest for living a sober life:

1.) The initial battle with the clock.
Why do they tell us to live one day at a time?
Mostly because when you are detoxing or trying to stay sober, one hour can drag on so long,
to us it feels like a week.

Our body is screaming at all times with zero breaks, it is asking for more.
Sometimes people give into the immense pressure.

In the very beginning stages of sobriety we are fighting like hell. You might not be able to see it, but it’s happening.

We are doing our best to figure out what to do with our feelings, our emotions, the physical triggers, and quieting the psychological triggers without any substances.

It’s like an insane bundle of hot mess, squished inside of a physical body,
a body that is watching the second-hand make its way around all of the numbers, in slow motion.
We can hear it move, we feel it move, and it is moving very slow.

So time can feel like public enemy number one when you’re newly sober.

2.) The fear is overwhelming.
We are afraid that we won’t be able to make it and what that could mean.
We are afraid that we have screwed up way too many times.

There is a real fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown.
Fear of letting people down.
Fear of having to face the past.
Fear of having to face all of these people who are rooting for us, after we let them down…again.
Fear of not being strong enough.
Fear of not knowing what to do next.

 

We are afraid because we don’t have any idea how we are going to face all of it.

3.) We have unrealistic expectations.
We are used to living fast and have become accustomed to instant gratification.
We ended up trading quality of life for a now, now, now way of living.
Most of us assume that positive change will happen as fast as our lives fell apart.Unfortunately, this is not the case and frankly, we start to lose any hope that we might have found when things don’t start to look as pretty as we would like, as fast as we would like.And although change occurs the second that we make the choice to change our lives,
we don’t have the luxury of feeling or seeing any of the changes instantly. So we immediately think that sobriety isn’t working or isn’t for us.Sometimes it can seem easier to revert back to believing that we just aren’t capable,
rather than continuing the hardest, longest, walk of our lives.

4.) Our mistakes loop continuously in our stream of subconscious thoughts.
It might take us years to gain proper perspective to see the damage that we have really caused while we were living the way that we were living,
but don’t assume that we don’t know that we have made a long list of mistakes and have hurt a lot of people.

We know.

This is a huge part of the reason that we keep using when it doesn’t make sense to other people.
We can feel the shame deep in our bones.

Many times, we stay sober just long enough to be reminded of how shitty we are or have been, and all of the harm we have caused, and then, we have heard enough.

5.) Unresolved trauma whispers to us.
Often our emotional baggage and our scars are quieted by drug abuse.
This abuse is what has turned into a this monstrous thing that we are now attempting to gain control of and eradicate. We want to be free of it, and from the pain underneath the surface.
We have experienced things that no one should have to go through.
We are forever changed, and rightfully so.We still have not allowed ourselves to process these things that have left imprints on our lives.
Our hearts are tightly bound with bitterness, resentment, sadness, and often, rage.We keep holding onto these feelings because if we let it go, none of it really mattered. If we choose to forgive, it means that we think it was okay. It feels better to keep it with us, because that way our perpetrator is being punished.

Because we have not accepted, faced, and sorted through the damage the aftermath of our experiences will continue to replay in our mind.

In order for healing to begin and for us to make forward progress, we have to make the courageous choice to put this away.

For good.

By trying to understand the hurdles that many people face in early sobriety, I think that we have a clearer understanding of just how tough this road can be for them and we have a better perspective on what our roles as supporters should look like.

I’ll Have What I’m Having.

 

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) offers this definition of Recovery:

“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual
achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”

My personal journey through sobriety and long-term recovery has changed many times over the last eight or nine years.
It is interesting to look back and think about all of the different turns and paths that I have taken when it comes to my own journey.
My first few years were spent in Celebrate Recovery. Over time, I would begin to feel like my personal needs were changing. So naturally, I would begin to change what I was doing.
At some point things transitioned and I moved over to focusing mostly on the principles of Al-anon.
Presently, I only attend Al-anon occasionally- meaning when my stress or emotional levels are screaming for it.
I still love everything CR stands for, but I don’t go to Celebrate Recovery often. I don’t  benefit from doing step studies at this point. In the future, I would love to be called to lead a small group or start a new CR somewhere, and I am already pumped about the mental health additions being implemented into the program. If I am asked or am feeling pulled toward a particular thing, I will speak or share with groups, but I don’t go anymore on a regular basis.

My point is, this is my life; my recovery.
I go day to day living out my personal sober journey and adjust my sails as needed.
For me that means that I maintain with Jesus as my guide; He is my sustainer, and my source of strength;
I try to be mindful of things and make sure that I am always moving in a direction that resembles a forward motion.

and my Recovery doesn’t look like yours. 
Yours, should not look like mine.

In my opinion, when it comes to being in “Recovery” there are really only two
central requirements: 

1.) You have to cultivate humility.
This is true for all of us.
We can’t really move on if we don’t have a realistic view or opinion of ourselves.
We really need to know who we are, what our limitations are, what we need to work on, what our needs are and what works and what doesn’t in order work the rest of our recovery.
We can’t do these things if our grandiose view of ourselves causes us to come to the conclusion that we don’t feel like we have any room for change or need for improvement; this hinders us from admitting our wrongs, or our faults, and eventually we will just be right back where we started.
Stay humble.

 

2.) Remain willing.
– Willingness to learn.
In order to grow, we have to be open to learning. We can learn from mentors or really anyone with wisdom to share. Read things. Look things up. If you have questions, ask. Keep pushing new information in, and all of the old crap, that doesn’t work (evidenced by the pile of mess that became our lives) will be overwritten with new stuff.
-Willingness to accept.
We are willing to accept things that we can’t change. We accept what is. We learn to accept the consequences of our actions despite whether or not we like them or if it makes us feel warm and fuzzy. We learn to accept feelings; positive and negative. (That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or pretty, it just means that we accept what we are experiencing at the time.)
-Willingness to examine.
Listen. Our way might work, but there may be a better way. Or, a way that is better for us. We have to be willing to take some time to examine things; things we can work on, things that we are doing pretty good with and things that we might need to talk about .Examine it all, regularly, and honestly. Get to know who you are.
-Willingness to take care.
Taking care of ourselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally will go a long way toward our sobriety and our overall recovery. Rest, sleep, eat good things. Have some quiet time; force some time into your life to reflect or do whatever it is that you need to do to recharge. Do that.
-Willingness to communicate.
This one is tough, but can be the difference between the beginning of a breakdown or facing some hard things and continuing moving forward. It isn’t easy to voice what we are feeling, or needing, or interpreting, but we really need to learn to do this. Don’t keep things all bottled up, unanswered, unspoken, or just simmering somewhere. You will get better at it with implementation & practice.
-Willingness to interact.
Your support team. My support team was small, it still is and they weren’t the people I was expecting to make up what is now, the best support team eva. We have to learn how to let ourselves interact a little bit. Get back out into the world, so that we can learn how to function as an integrated part of society like the worthy and respectable human citizens that we are. We can do this.
Willingness will keep you moving in the right direction.

One more unsolicited opinion:

We have a common thread.
It is so cool to think that we have experienced the same types of feelings, and have been in eerily similar trenches where where the darkness feels the same.

We are all on the other side supporting each other.

We wait to encourage the next person who rises their head above that darkness; who are scared to death to peek out over the horizon.
We are there. when they dig their way out. 

Let us try to focus more on this commonality,
because it is much more important and powerful than any of the differences that we may have.

Dear Young People.

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You just can’t see it coming.

This was me.

Before stealing.
Before juvenile court.
Before jail.
Before lawyers.
Before counselors.
Before programs.
Before isolation.
Before suicide attempts.
Before overdoses.
Before tickets.
Before judges.
Before emptiness.
Before probation.

 

A junior in high school.

-I had just won an award for a photo that I entered into a photography contest.

-In the coming weeks, I would excitedly order my class ring.

-4 months from when this photo was taken I would order my cap and gown &
would complete my A+ volunteer hours required to receive my two free years of community college.

-7 months from when this photo was taken I would be turning in all of my books to my school counselor, choosing to drop all of my classes.

Soon after, I would be kicked out of my family home for repeatedly not respecting or following any rules.

Months after leaving my house, I would be moving on to harder drugs.

How quickly life can change.

Every single choice that we make, is important.
What I casually chalked up to a phase, would change the course of my entire life.
Every unhealthy choice that I made, drove me further and further down into my very own trench.

I chose to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and I really thought that everyone did.
Everyone else seemed to be able to handle their alcohol, and I thought I could handle it too.
Other people were just having fun, yet my fun always seemed a little bit different than theirs.

I couldn’t have foreseen what was to come.

My lifestyle, my choices, the people I chose to let into my life-
it all became something I didn’t recognize anymore.
After a few years of living this way, I became someone else; foreign to myself.
By the time I realized that I had dismantled my entire existence,

it was too late.

No one plans to become addicted to something.

We think it can’t happen to us.
Young people cannot imagine the potential damage & seriousness of ‘experimenting’…

My goal in sharing is to help support #NationalDrug&AlcoholFactsWeek, (#NDAFW ) 2016.

There are ways that we can help our young people, and we can be a part of helping to decrease the chances of them making unhealthy, life-altering, potentially life-threatening choices. 

Please click here or here if you would like to learn more! 
We can all help in some way.

 

*And for the record, I wouldn’t change my journey for anything. 🙂
When you know better, you do better and that’s all that you can do!

6 Things to Remember in Early Recovery

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Recently, an anonymous person wrote to me and told me that they were interested in giving rehab another try, but they didn’t think that they could do it.

Sobriety was something that she had tried a few times, and thus far, she has relapsed every single time.

But she is motivated to try again and feels like she has people to prove wrong,
despite the fact that a loved one in her life told her that she will never be able to stay sober, and should ‘give it up’ already.

For the person who is struggling to stay sober:
On top of your addiction slowly morphing you into someone that you don’t recognize inside and out,
stealing your soul piece by piece,
pushing you into isolation and destroying your relationships, self-worth, feelings of value or importance to anyone or anything here on the planet-

most of the time it will also deprive you of lifelines.

And when you are finally ready or willing to reach your hand out for some help, everyone is gone.
The only one waiting there for you is God.

Since he cannot drive you, it is likely that you’ll end up having to walk your ass to treatment
because at this point, no one will take you seriously.

People who were in your corner have either given up on you,
or you have exhausted their faith in you.

No one there to share your excitement.

Nobody believes that this time could be your time.

You have incinerated the bridges to everywhere.

Whatever is one step below feeling invisible, it’s that.
This can feel like that.

So to you, the person who is ready to change- please remember these things:

1.) Most of the people who love you will come around –eventually.
Addiction hurts our relationships by destroying trust.
Our unpredictable behavior and decisions that we have made have undoubtedly caused stress, strife, and hurt, among the people closest to us.

2.) Repairing any relationship takes time. The relationship with ourselves and with others.
Time isn’t a healing thing, it’s a revealing thing.
It doesn’t heal the wounds on either side, time allows us to work through the pain and rebuild trust.
Time allows us to create a new path, and a new history with people.
Give.it.time.

3.) Not everyone will come around, but you still won’t be alone.
Some people may choose not to forgive you. They might feel too hurt, others might feel like it is too risky.
Other people are automatically weeded out of your life because your circumstance has changed. Let those people go.
Regardless, this particular issue falls under the category of things that we cannot control. We cannot control people.
The people who stay, are meant to stay. The ones who choose to leave, were not meant to travel this part of your journey with you. God always delivers. There will be people in your corner, even if they aren’t who you thought would be there.

4.) You have to focus on you.
This isn’t about other people. This isn’t a game of who to prove wrong. This isn’t about anything right now other than you choosing to change your life. This is a brave and courageous thing that you are doing.
This is you time. It is selfishly you time. The result of you taking the time to focus on getting (clean or sober or dry or whatever you want to call it)  will be your chance to renew those relationships when it is the right time.
First things first.

5.)  Just because this didn’t work the first time (or second or third if that’s the case)
doesn’t mean that this time isn’t your time.
Sometimes we like to tell ourselves that we have already tried everything.
We have failed.
It didn’t work.
We ‘already tried’ meetings, counseling, treatment, we already know all of the facts, stats, and information.

Guess what?

None of that matters.

Successful sober living is a long term lifestyle change-
it means different things to different people,
and it is not all about logic and reason.

We can logic and reason ourselves to death and still be addicted to something.
We have to have our own spiritual and emotional cooperation in addition to ‘knowing’ what we need to know.

This time could be the time that your heart and spirit have caught up with your head knowledge.

Telling ourselves that we have exhausted all outlets is just another excuse to keep using.

6.) It is okay to believe in yourself.
Remind yourself that there are over twenty-three MILLION people living sober lives in recovery, FREE from drugs and alcohol.
Not all shout it from the rooftops, but we’re out there.

We are everywhere.
You are not alone.

 

Recovering Out Loud.

recoveringoutloud

I have received a ton of positive and uplifting feedback in reference to the “guest posts/shares” section of this blog. 
I really wanted to take a second say thank you, and share my thoughts on why its important to share our stories as people who are living in recovery from drugs and alcohol. 

Among all of the unanswered questions and despite all of the conflicting scientific research that we have regarding the origin of addiction,

there are some simple, general things that we do know and can agree on when it comes to helping others who struggle with addiction or early recovery.

Without getting too detailed…

Here are a few things that we know:

We CANNOT:  
*We know that we cannot ‘save’ other people.
*We have come to accept & understand that we cannot ‘change’ other people.
*We are aware of the fact that people have to do the work themselves for lasting change to occur.
*We are not responsible for the progress (or lack of) in anyone else’s journey.

We CAN: 
*We can pray for them.
*We can befriend people who struggle; treat them ethically (ya know like other humans)- with fairness, respect, and dignity.
*We can support them by listening or being there for them in other simple ways (that are in within the limits of our personal boundaries.)
*We can encourage them to keep going.
*We can choose to recover out loud.

That is what this post is about.
What exactly does it mean to recover “out loud”?
It actually sounds pretty scary to a lot of people.
But it’s really just another tool that we the option to utilize
as people who are living healthy lives in recovery.

It basically means that you are sharing your story- in some capacity,
in hopes of helping another human -in some capacity.

It can look different with each person who participates, and can mean a broad range of things.
There are countless ways to participate and it is all up to you when it comes to the details.

It isn’t necessarily shouting out your story to every single person that you bump elbows with. (People in the grocery store, in your apartment elevator, the stairs, on your lunch break etc.)

It doesn’t have to be you standing in front of a large group of people from your local community giving an honest account of all of the mistakes that you have made and what steps you have taken to redeem yourself.

Could it mean those things? Yes.
But it could be that you choose other ways.

-You might not want to share within your local community.
-Maybe you prefer online only.
-Maybe you want to talk with individuals only.
-It could be that you feel most compelled, connected, or comfortable speaking with people of the same sex.
-It may be that you only want to share online as an anonymous person, or under an alias.
-A lot of people’s hands are tied, due to their occupation/job security/career which is completely understandable.
-Others are fear stricken; unable to even imagine what it would be like to be ostracized from within their family, their community, or social circles.
-Many people are completely okay with sharing in a meeting as an anonymous person only,
and have have every intention of keeping it that way.

and that’s all okay.

For whatever reasons that you choose not to share,  or however you choose to recover out loud…
I just want you to know that I completely respect your choice and your right to do things your way. 

In my opinion, what it looks like to recover out loud
should be just as personal of a road as your road to recovery has been.

It should be a tailored, well-thought out, perfect -for- you kind of thing.
Your version of recovering “out loud” definitely needs to be cohesive and fit with your particular needs, wants, wishes, desires, and overall comfort level.

If you are curious or interested in taking a step toward living a loud recovery- but don’t know where to start or what to do, I would encourage you to take some time and really look at what, if anything, you feel comfortable with.
Start there. Just entertain all of your options. Give it some thought.
Almost everyone I have met in recovery is just bursting at the seams with stories of hope, and everyone has a special story that might be THE story that helps someone.

Remember that you can start super small, you can go at your own pace for as long as you want-
and you can make adjustments at any time, if or when you feel its necessary.

Although we all have different ways of coping,
different ways of relaxing, meditating, recovering,  embracing serenity- 

and we also completely different ways of recovering “out loud”……..

The IMPACT that we can have on another person is similar:

*We will help another person to hold on and to keep going a little while longer, until they can figure out how to do the next right thing.

*We will all be surprised on how powerful our voices or actions can be in the life of another.

*Our hearts will be forever changed when we step out into a land of vulnerability-
and are met with support, love, and with gratitude from strangers who have been in hiding, who just really needed to hear that they aren’t in fact “the only one’s” ………..

and we truly never know what another person is need of and what they will hear, feel, read, or see that just might encourage them to push through.


Merry Christmas from Discovering Beautiful!

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Discovering Beautiful isn’t about outer beauty. It is a bunch of writing shared from my heart to yours.
My blog emphasizes the beauty that is nonexistent &  unnoticed when living an empty life addicted and hopeless.
Sobriety and Recovery both allow us to embrace life.

Because of God’s Grace, we are alive, and are given a second chance; a chance to start over.
We are transformed from the inside out. We understand that beauty, true beauty, comes from the inside.

When we are free from addiction, we can finally SEE, FEEL, EXPERIENCE, & REMEMBER all of the small things.
We see the beauty in people.
We feel the beauty that life has to offer.
We create new memories to cherish.
We can laugh again.
We are able to enjoy simplicity and finally embrace calm.

But life with God, or with sobriety and recovery certainly don’t offer perfection to you..
I am definitely not a perfect mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, writer, advocate or encourager…

What these things DO offer is permission to live authentically, and in freedom.
I am free to be imperfect. I am totally okay with learning and doing better tomorrow.
We are free to love ourselves and to embrace this new  chance at life.
We can accept our past and are completely free to move forward.

So this holiday season, I am thankful to have another year sober.
I have another year full of memories with my family.
I am another year further away from the old me, and my old life.

I have memories that I  can & will remember, and these things are engraved in my boys hearts too.

We are marking the very first Christmas of our 3rd baby boy,
and are continuing our traditions with the older boys.

Sometimes I can’t even believe that this is my life now.
I am still in awe of how much things can change in a short amount of time, and just how much life there is left to live- even after you feel like there is no way out.

I wish you a Merry Christmas to you and yours,
from our crazy awesome, loud, messy, fun, hilarious, imperfect little clan;  The Shelton’s. 

I Don’t Belong In a Church

CelebrateRecovery3

I have been reflecting on my time and my experiences with Celebrate Recovery, and although I don’t attend meetings anymore, there are so many things that this program taught me.

It is okay to be *exactly* who you are inside of an actual church:
During one of the very first large group sessions that I attended I heard a testimony. I had never met anyone who had overcome drug-addiction and lived to tell about it which was extraordinary, but
when I heard the word cocaine thrown around, along with hearing about extramarital affairs,
I legit thought that was it for all of us. I was already convinced that my I might actually burst into flames just by being in there in the first place.
I had an uneasy feeling that right there in that big room with the pews, (which I later learned is called a sanctuary) we were definitely breaking some weird illuminati-ish code, or some historical or religious law of some kind, for sure.
Maybe lightning would strike us dead sometime soon.
I really didn’t know how God worked but that guy speaking was talking about using drugs and cheating on his wife.
C|R taught me that the church is not for perfect people, but more so, the why of that is what was most important. We aren’t called to, asked, or expected to be perfect – just willing.
The more I heard about God, and learned about who this Jesus was as a man and what that meant for a person like me, the more I realized that the church could be my home too.
I learned that it was more than alright to be honest about who I was, where I came from, and the things that I had done…. it was necessary. It was necessary to understand why I need Jesus in the first place. In Celebrate Recovery you are allowed and encouraged to come exactly as you are, and without any of your masks.

We don’t have to have the same problems in order to connect.
Celebrate Recovery asks that we take a few steps back to see the bigger picture.
When we walk through the doors of a C|R meeting we are seeking a safe place; a shelter from our storm. We may not have all be experiencing the same storm, but we are all there in search of relief.
We all took different scenic routes to come to this place where we find ourselves walking through the doors of a meeting. Loss, grief, sadness, emptiness, anger, resentment, emotional exhaustion all feel the same when you look up and find yourself buried in an inescapable trench.
And we can all relate to the feeling of not having control of our lives anymore, and not having an idea how to begin to try to put the pieces back together again.
For one reason or another, we cannot live the way that we are living any longer, and that is a feeling that we can all relate to.

Despite what lawyers, family members, probation officers, police officers, teachers, a guidance counselor and even some random strangers had said to me at one point or another throughout my roller coaster ride it was actually possible to turn things around and start over again. (Thanks)
I don’t know how many times I heard the phrase “your slate can been cleaned” in the first handful of meetings I attended.
I sang unfamiliar (Christian) songs and uttered the words “white as snow” more times than I can remember. It took awhile for me to connect the dots. I really did not get what white snow had to do with God. I didn’t know who Jesus was, that he was referred to as the Lamb, that His blood meant anything to me personally or that all of these things were connected. What I did understand at the time is that a clean slate sounded pretty good to me. Hearing about this clean slate opportunity really did speak to me deep down inside of the black emptiness that probably use to have my soul in it. It was like an answer to my innermost desires that I couldn’t put into words. I wanted to get rid of all of the things that I had been walking around with for so many years. So I was totally open to hearing about this clean slate thing and maybe kept going back to see how exactly we could make that happen.

Although I had no idea at the time, I was unpacking a little bit each week. With each tear shed, and with each step I took, I was waking toward a cross that I didn’t understand. 
Eventually, I came to a place where I just said- I want my slate to be wiped clean. I want to start over.

Somehow, believing that it was a possibility even for me, sparked a tiny bit of hope. I still hadn’t accepted Jesus at this time, but I knew that these people had something that I really wanted; unwavering peace and brand new lives.

My ‘home’  group is Celebrate Recovery (C|R). It is 12-step, Christ-centered program. Although this program is similar to AA & NA, there are many distinct differences too.
(If you would like to read more about Celebrate Recovery, click here or here.)

December, 2016 will make TEN years since I walked through the doors and into my first meeting.
(I made a video about it that you can watch here if you are interested.)

This was where I navigated through the 12-steps.
This is where I sought weekly refuge after each hellish sober week that I got through, and some that I didn’t make it through completely sober. It was my safe haven for a long time. It was a place where I slowly (and mostly reluctantly) trudged through the bulk of my muddy past.

 

Hot Mess, Party of One.

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October and November were uncharacteristically difficult for me.
Like really crappy.

I mean we all have stress, and we all have our fair share of ‘lifey’ kinds of things that are always happening. Hell I know and have been praying for some families who are really struggling with some serious things right now.

But I also know that we *all* have days that we just want to be alone or need to be alone, for whatever reason.

Sometimes there is just too much stuff to try and attempt to balance, even if it is not life-threatening or mountain-moving kind of stuff…

Obviously, I am not one to give up and just quit.
But I have finally come to the realization that I am not, in fact, She-Ra, Princess of Power.
And guess what? That’s okay.

I accept that I am just a person who can only handle so much but I still struggle with reaching out and talking to people when I am having a tough time.

I would be one-hundred-million percent more comfortable walking into a CR meeting and sharing my troubles or current situation(s) than I would picking up a phone and calling a friend.

Believe it or not, I never (like, ever) share a lot of personal things with anyone in my ‘real’ life
(and by real I mean people who I don’t see face to face; aka, not cyber friends) with the exception of my husband.

Which is sort of odd…
(odd because I spent years openly sharing my character defaults with random strangers, or odd because I air most of my past and present personal failures and mistakes on a public blog kind of odd)…..

But some of this is because I like to write, journal, and reflect on things alone.
Some of it is that my life has been in shambles before; at one point completely void & shredded.
I always seem to feel a need to remind myself that ‘this is not ‘shambles’ and to suck it up.
A little bit of it is that I tend to not want to burden anyone or bother anyone, or make it seem like I am complaining -especially when I have a truck load of blessings in my life.
And then a lot of it is that in my experience, it can sometimes feel that many people actually enjoy hearing your weaknesses or when you are barely keeping your head above water.
Lastly, a huge chunk of it is because there are times that I could share my heart until it was purged of all of the stressors or things weighing heavily on my thoughts and still not felt any real peace or relief.
I feel that there are just some things that only God can pull you through and the rest is unnecessary background noise.

A tinge of postpartum has lingered and surrounded my head for a while.
I have felt like it wasn’t ever going to ease up. I say a tinge because on a scale of one to ten, I was probably pushing five, but it still felt like five gazillion pounds.
(I don’t mean to insult anyone who has experienced severe postpartum by saying I have experienced a ‘tinge’…like that’s even close to medical terminology/diagnosis)

but what I experienced this time around after baby number three, has just been different from my other experiences. I have really just felt ‘off’ and super teary, and very sensitive and then very void at other times.

So, add that in the normal day-to-day AND things like:
-Our family dynamic changing and trying to rearrange what an average day looks like around here (tentatively, of course)
-My oldest son having issues with a particular (bullyish) kind of situation at school,
-Middle son starting a brand new sport
-My husband being out-of-town or working every weekend in October,
-Personal familial boundaries being rocked at their comfortable core by life sucking relative situations (probate/estate kind of matters)

I just started to feel suffocated.

I literally stopped in the middle of my work out about a month ago to pour out old wine that I knew was in the basement refrigerator.
I went the safe route only because old nasty garage freezer kept catching my eye. In my experience if an inanimate object ‘catches your eye’ …that is called a red flag.

Anyway I knew. I knew while I was pouring out the wine that I needed to re-center. I needed to un-plug, and I needed to consider that my mental state wasn’t picking back up where I left of before my pregnancy began.

I have learned that I have to allow myself to hit the reset button; unapologetically.

I know that it is okay to take some time away from whatever (for me it was social media)
to refocus on my core priorities, and essentially, get my sh*t back together.

I have to step back and remind myself of how big our God really is.

I have to remind myself that certain people in my family have to be watched carefully. They possess the ability, if power is given, to suck the positivity right out of my soul.
And also, to remind myself which responsibilities are mine, and which ones are not.

I have decided that I am going to force myself to let people in. Well at least one person. I suppose periodic updates are in order, so I will have to get back to you on that one.

Reflecting on why my self-care regimen is so important to me and my vitality feels good. I am reminded that I have to always continue to do what is best for me and what makes the most sense for my person, and obviously, my sobriety.

Things are coming back around and I am finally feeling like a ‘me’ that I recognize again.
The rest of the things will work themselves out eventually, all things do. I am going to do my best not to over-think every possible outcome and allow things to just- be.

Looking forward to spending our holiday break together eating good things, hanging out and making memories as we celebrate Jesus’ birth and Max’s very first Christmas holiday.

Thank you for reading, friends.

Interesting Article…

genes-environment-choices
I read this article today.
It centers around the theory that if a human person was born into an ideal/healthy environment regardless of whether or not there were drugs offered or available, they would be less likely to become addicted to that drug; in essence, preventing them from becoming an addict.

Environment #1.
I have a father who struggled with alcoholism.
My mom struggles with mental illness(es) and drug addiction.
I saw a lot of interesting and violent things. My childhood definitely included things like inconsistency, trauma, uncertainty, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
I was excitedly using a step stool to pour my grandpa’s rum and Coke by the time I was 5.

-As a teen, when faced with decisions like whether or not to smoke pot for the first time, whether or not to drink, steal, lie, or abuse other drugs.
I don’t even remember hesitating or attempting to question it.
I really thought that it was a normal part of having fun and that all young people experimented in some way.

Before I knew it, my entire life was dismantled.
Boom, I was a drug addict.

Environment #2:
Let’s just imagine that I was removed from my family of origin and adopted into a stable, healthy, typical environment as an infant.

The only police lights that I ever saw weren’t at my house to handcuff one of my parents.
My basic needs were met every single day, and I felt loved.
I felt secure.
I learned to develop goals.
I was able to develop a healthy sense of self.
I was free to be a child, be imaginative, fun, and creative.
Trusting adults was okay.
I didn’t have to do anything other than be a child.

I don’t think the study in the linked article above was stating that addiction isn’t possible in an ideal environment.
I think the point was more that when given more opportunity to grow and learn, and develop as a person, (or a rat)
the less likely a person would be to try drugs at all for any reason in the first place.

I agree. I think that I would have been less likely to pick up and use for the first time if my environment would have been different. As a parent, I have studied enough prevention information to understand the basics.
I also believe that being raised in environment #2 would have allowed me to develop different coping skills, and having less trauma to process would have probably meant that I wouldn’t have sought out a form of escape from my mind and from buried pain.

I also believe that I would have still ended up addicted to something, even if I was raised in scenario #2, if I chose to use for whatever reason. I really do. I have observed my own behavior and thought patterns, and I find it pretty insane that my brain does what it does and thinks in the way that it does.
I can’t prove the science behind my personal theory that there are some kind of genetic links to this thing, but I do think it plays some role, in addition to the outside variables like environment, based off of my own experience.

At the end of the day there are just so many different reasons that a person picks up a drug and uses.

I definitely think that the ‘why’ behind our decision to use for the first time, more often than not, stems from something emotional going on inside.
It could be a pain, hurt, loss, unmet need or diagnosed mental illness. Maybe it is as simple as wanting an escape or just being curious.

Some people who use become addicted and some don’t.

The ones who do also have a lot in common, regardless of where they came from originally.
We all end up in the same place, on similar rides.

Lives are destroyed, souls are emptied, and voids keep widening. Every piece of that person, their emotional, physical, psychological, and mental health are all shredded until there isn’t anything left to shred.

 

Tis’ the Season to Al-Anon.

To-love-an-addict1I really enjoy having the freedom to put my thoughts -well, somewhere; writing is like my personal therapy.
My brain, even though I am sure on a scan it would be lit up all funky, blotchy, and likely considered ‘dysfunctional’…

is somehow still full of ideas and deep things that always seem to be circulating and brewing regardless of where I am or what I am doing.

My routine, routinely changes. That’s something I can count on.
Although I am somewhat of a crazy list making person who enjoys the illusion of control that my lists allow me to hide behind…

I know that I can arrange and personalize this juggling act to fit our lives, but the day to day will always look completely different than what I envision in my head when it comes to planning or scheduling, or balancing.

So lately, my writing world has come down to a battle of ‘blog or sleep’
and sleep is winning.

I am happy to say that things are settling down and look semi-reasonable.
I am more than ready to spew and piece together random thoughts to share with the internet again. 

Our little family of 5 is doing well. We are happy and healthy, and crazy and loud.

We enjoy this madness and especially love the long weekends, yummy food, and extra family time that the holiday season gifts to us. 

And yet there’s this nagging feeling in the back of my mind, amidst all of the fun and memory making.

*There are people in my family who will spend the holiday season alone. 

Obviously it is unfortunate and sad year round, but it’s just super sucky during the holidays.
There really is not one way to deal with something like this.

In my mind it seems like it is always shifting around these thoughts:

On one hand:
My head knowledge tells me that I have drawn boundary lines that I know are the safest and most reasonable choice for the mental healthy/physical safety/future of my kids.

The flip side:
I am also a recovering codependent enabler who has spent countless hours learning to differentiate being an empathetic lover of all things ethical and human,
and being a chronic ‘helper’ with an incessant need to scoop these people up and dust them off every time they might have to experience a self-fulfilled consequence.

As a person who has struggled with an addiction:
I definitely spent more than enough time all alone with nothing but shame and deafening silence to comfort me. I know how alone, loneliness can feel. 

Then again:
I also know that I isolated myself and at some point in the ordeal, I began isolating on purpose. Although I was very lonely, I had also got to a point where I felt like f*ck anyone who doesn’t accept me for what I have become. (Or who doesn’t have cash or anything for me to pawn).

So in truth, spending time with me only ended up hurting people who loved me,
because I wasn’t ….me.
They wanted to see and hug and help a person that they remembered.
They wanted to just see if I would come out even for a little while.

Yes. It hurts thinking about it.
It hurts knowing that they fight within themselves still continues.
It is hard being the one having to make decisions that are rational and healthy to fit into my new life.
I have times that feel almost unbearable knowing that my decisions seem so heartless and irrational to others, despite my understanding that I am doing the right thing.

Knowing that we cannot fix them or
take steps for them tears me up –but isn’t the hardest part. 

It is the knowing and watching part.

Watching as they continuously and tirelessly cycle through shame and use
we can still see shadows of potential wrapped up in the destruction.

We know that God has something spectacular to give to them. It is easy for us to see all of the things that they cannot imagine for themselves.

So this holiday season if you are going through the motions, I say don’t.
Don’t just go through the motions.

Try to allow yourself to embrace and enjoy the season with people that you love, who love you, and who you are able to make memories with. 

Love your sick/hurting family member in whatever way you are personally able to handle and in a way that is in fact helping you both and not destroying the both of you.  

We can only love them.

We can’t do it for them, and it’s okay to believe that. 

 

It gets better.

What-happens-in-the-past

My life began to change almost 10 years ago.
I last attempted suicide & sobriety almost 10 years ago.
I have been in Recovery from drugs and alcohol for almost 9 straight years.
I was baptized 7 years and 8 months ago.

One of the main things that my Recovery revealed pretty quickly was the importance of looking at the stuff that I had been running from for so long.
I was so stuck and deep down I knew that moving forward wasn’t an option unless I faced it all.

I tend to categorize my ‘past’ into two parts:

1. The childhood raised by an addict/abuse/neglect/wtf kind of trauma stuff
2. The choices that I had made as a young adult
(a long long list of mistakes, crimes, and other sad/careless things)

I am talking particularly about #2 today.
It is the part that forced me to accept the consequences for all of the choices that I made between the ages of 15-22.

I did my best to make amends.
I accepted responsibility for my actions and choices whether I remembered them or not. 

I tried to reach out and repair relationships,
and I made the harder choices of which ones to let go of for good.

I think I assumed that I would be able to move forward, completely free from that part of my past. 

Over the years life has shown me  (insert evil laugh)
that more often than not, I will have to face this part of my past (as well as the first part I mentioned) more than once, and that while I am free in one sense, I am also deeply connected to the choices that I made.

This means that  might pop up at any given or least expected time.

This can happen regardless of whether or not we have completed certain steps, how much sobriety time we have, or despite how many times we move location, change inwardly or outwardly, how many times we apologize, and no matter how much we attempt to push it away.

It just does.

Here are a just a handful of examples of what I am talking about:

*Having to accept my credit self-destroyed credit for the relentless little b*tch that she is.
I murdered these scores years ago, as I sucked the life out of every piece of plastic that I was given the green light to use.
I have whittled most of it away, but I still have to answer the occasional phone call which means I have had to learn to tolerate some pretty condescending creditors -one recent one who felt the need to remind me that if I was ‘decent’ I would have taken care of x, y or z a ‘long time ago’…

*I made it through the somewhat embarrassing conversations when I finally got around to attempting my second shot with college. Who knew I would have to answer questions about high-school, graduation dates, GPA’s and such? How do you skip those parts and the parts where you went to GED classes high as a kite, and waited an extra two years before taking the GED test? Or maybe that one time where you earned a few college credits right before you developed a full blown addiction?

If you aren’t actually in full throttle REM sleep by this point of the blog post, thank you for being so dedicated.
I will spare you the detailed sob stories of how crappy job applications are to fill out when it comes to my work history; ppshh, damn those pesky questions about termination history (stealing, or just being plain unreliable) or questions regarding criminal history (legit fail for me) usually ensure that I am looked over.

Sometimes I get asked if I would do things differently if I had a chance.
I always respond the same way…
Not so much.
No.
I really and truly think that my past is more than “just a story”,
but it’s actually more like the sh*t formed who I am at my core.
So I’ll keep it; all of it.

I know some reading this will say that people ‘like me’ deserve it. 
I made the choices. I deal with the reality. I get it.

And you know what, I completely agree with you. 

But today (or for the most part any other day too)

I am not writing to you.

I want to talk to the people who feel defeated-
To the people who have made mistakes, but are trying to make amends. 

Sometimes it can feel like you will never get up to see over the horizon.
Will you ever be able to catch a break?

You will.

The breaks will come, but they will come with time.
They probably won’t feel like breaks either. They feel tiny breaths of fresh air.
Time has a way of revealing new ideas from old truths to us.
We see things a little bit differently each time we look at them.
As we lock in more and more sober time, we begin to see things a little bit differently.
Including our past mistakes.
Even if we can’t see it, we gain wisdom from falling on our face.
Each time we get up a little bit more gracefully.

The best part of all of it is that God has a way of using our past mistakes for awesome things in our future and this is something that happens regardless of what people say or how they personally perceive our mistakes.

So yes. The consequences are so ours to accept and deal with  but so is how we handle this phenomena…..
The past can only really ‘haunt’ you if you let that be your experience.

 

 

Relapse Begins In Your Head.

Human-Mind-300
Recovery is a long-process because you are not simply learning how to stay away from drugs.

Of course, that’s of utmost importance.
It’s a given. It’s a start and a pre-requisite for life change.
It has to happen in order for you to move forward or to make any progress in Recovery,
but there is just so much more.

As I sit here and type, I am over 8 years in.
I have physically been in Recovery for 8 short years. 
However, I have fumbled around and messed up about 4,557,903 times
……….in my mind.

I learned a lot in school by learning about the psychology of Addiction.
It really helped me to understand my own journey with drugs, alcohol, and coming back from severe depression and negative body image.

My mind is what controls how I feel and what I do.
My perception is also relative, and is not allowed to dictate everything I experience either.
I know that internal conversation definitely has an impact my Recovery.

Here are two things that I have am mindful of on a daily basis:

*Where I let my mind wander.
The mind is a powerful thing. We can’t always dream of rainbows and butterflies and prance around with smiles on our faces…but people who are in Recovery from drug-addiction need not allow their minds to get on a negative setting.
I don’t know about you, but this spirals pretty quickly if it’s allowed. For me, it is usually guilt that leads to self-doubt and I certainly don’t need any help. I am an expert when it comes to reminding myself of what I was, or who I use to be.
I can be pretty convincing, and I know it, definitely my own worst (and meanest) critic.
That sneaky whisper of self-doubt tends to creep in and take over if I let it, and I have to be mindful to immediately combat it with the truth.
Lots of truth.

*What I listen to, who I listen to, and what advice I am going to take.
The radio, social media, tv, email. Messages everywhere. Everyone always has a message.
People often give advice and people love to hear themselves ‘justifiably’ talk about other people.
This one, like all else in our lives- we only have control over so much. We have to pick and choose very carefully if we want to stay true to ourselves.
Who I am is pretty important to how I function as a woman in Recovery, a person who loves Jesus, and as a wife, mommy, and friend. Staying true to who I am is important to me. I have lines, boundaries, clear places I will go and won’t go now.

If I lose sight of who I am, other things begin to fall as well.
I just make sure that I stay on track with who I am as an individual.

These are only two of a laundry list of things that are important in my everyday, real-life Recovery.
We all have different things we tend to focus more on as we progress on our individualized journey.

Does the way that you think impact your day-to-day Recovery? 

3 Things I want you to know:

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Three things that I would want to tell you: 

1. You matter. 
Yes, YOU.
Even though you feel like you have messed up too many times, or have gone way too far to ever be a person that you like again, you still matter.
You are a valuable, respectable, loveable, human being.
(Colossians 2:13 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Colossians+2%3A13-14&version=NLT Read it.)

2. You are not alone.
You might prefer to be alone, but you hate to feel alone.
Sometimes our minds trick us into thinking that we are alone because no one loves or cares about us. Most of the time we are alone because we have pushed everyone away and have chosen isolation. There are people out there who don’t understand completely, but they care.
There are people out there living in Recovery who care.
So much caring going on, trust me.
(Joshua 1:9 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua%201:9 Read it.) 

3. It gets better.
It does.
Right now it may feel like you are drowning and you will not ever be able be strong enough to lift your own head up for air.
You might feel like there is just too much mess and weight on your shoulders; that there is simply no way to fix all of it.
But there is.
It gets better little by little, one tiny change at a time.
I always like to remind people there are over 20 million people in the United States alone that are living healthy lives in Recovery from drugs & alcohol.
(Psalm 32. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+32&version=NLT
Read the whole thing.)

 

What Keeps You Sober?

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What keeps you sober? 

Your program? Reading Literature? Meditating on Daily Devotionals? Staying fit or healthy? Reading? Sports? Traveling? Church? Your sponsor or accountability partner?

Based off of what I have observed in the awesome people I have met in the Recovery community, it is usually a combination of several key things and there doesn’t seem to be one secret ingredient.

I have heard a few opinionated (but wrong) friends, family, and nosy onlookers over the years who love to hear themselves give this advice:

“You are just replacing one addiction with another.”  

Really now.
Are we?

I think we need to be very careful about how often we over-use and misinterpret the word addiction. If people understood what it actually meant to be, live, and experience a true addiction, I am not so sure they would use the word as an equivalent to describe a hobby, a passion, or an interest.

There are major differences.

Addiction sucks the life out of its host. It devours souls and leaves you physically and emotionally unrecognizable, exhausted, void, and out of control.

Passions or hobbies is something that you feel a deep emotion for. While maintaining balance is essential to any activity, passions can enhance healthy euphoric feelings and feed our souls and help us to build confidence. We can live out God’s purpose and plan for our lives.  These passions reflect our hearts and are an outward manifestation of what is going on inside of our minds. They fuel and empower us to keep going and to inspire others to do the same.

I recently read a quote in an article that sums it up perfectly:

“Addiction is centrifugal. It sucks the energy from you, creating a vacuum of inertia. A passion energizes you and enriches your relationships. It empowers you and gives strength to others. Passion creates, addiction consumes …”   -Dr. Gabor Mate

(From the article: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20266/i-struggled-with-addiction-for-15-years-heres-how-fitness-keeps-me-sober.html)

What keeps me sober?
Taking care of my family. Giving them the best version of ‘me’.
Blogging. Sharing what I know and what I have learned with others.
Strength training. I want to feel healthy and strong.
Embracing my new life and learning more about who I am every day. I want to live my life authentically.

I am very passionate about all of these things, and they fuel me. They aren’t simple ‘replacements’ for my old lifestyle for one good reason: My unhealthy habits weren’t all centered around my addiction.

I didn’t have one simple problem to beat. My complex problems centered around pain, hurt, resentment, unhealthy coping skills and unresolved emotional issues that stemmed from childhood trauma.

My passions and new interests are blessings to have uncovered. They have grown from the new foundation laid through my faith and because of my choice to get sober.

It was a long process of self-revolution to discover who I am and what I like and what sets my soul on fire.

Which is NOT the same thing as replacing one addiction for another.

 

Tell me.
How do you stay sober?
Do you have something that you are passionate about or new hobbies that you grateful to have discovered?

My Favorite Part of Sobriety,

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I was recently asked if I had to choose my favorite part of sobriety, what would it be?

I went with my immediate & initial cognitive response. The one that automatically popped into my head.

Contentment. 

That was it.
If I were to have thought about it for much longer, I would have debated, went back and forth, and eventually it would have turned into a full-fledged mental deadlock.

Obviously, I think sobriety and recovery are pretty amazing.
There are too many perks and positives to be thankful for and not enough depth to the adjectives that we have to choose from in the English language to convey how much I appreciate God’s grace, and all of the awesome humans who have supported and encouraged me through my journey.

So….Why contentment, then? 

For me, out of all the feelings of sadness, anger, rage, dissociation, isolation, loneliness, envy, negativity, hopelessness, and pity….

The exhaustion from being continually discontent is the most prominent feeling that I remember hating and needing to rid my heart of before I chose Recovery.

I can recall feeling like I wasn’t good enough from a very young age.
I needed to be more, to be different, be even better, be prettier, dress nicer, be more liked, act more normal, look more happy.
As I got older I still felt inadequate in so many ways and I chased ….everything.
I still needed to have more, get more, earn more, be better, do more.

Addiction was not any different.
I had to have more, find the best, keep searching, continue making calls, re-search my own hiding spots, plan for the next day, worry and wonder about when my next fix would come, where would it be from, would I find it, were they home, where did they go, when will they be back, do I have the money, how much is my ring worth, will I get it back…

No rest for the weary and discontent.

I appreciate the aspect and benefit of Recovery of being able to feel content and I am grateful for the blessing to have a God that fills the voids that I wasn’t able or capable of reaching or filling to satisfy my own desires.

I know that I am enough, exactly the way that I am.
I can accept I will simply not be ‘good enough’ for some people, but that’s not my problem.
I can rest my head at night.
I can live each day and enjoy the ‘now’.
I am no longer seeking, searching, striving, and repeating, myself insane.

I really cannot think of anything better than that.

Recovery Misconceptions

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Many come into Recovery looking for a break. 

Let’s face it.
If we have sought help and are considering a major life change, chances are, we are tired.

We can’t kid ourselves, though.
There aren’t any Recovery programs out there that I know of that are readily handing out free passes to new miracle lifestyles or quick-fixes for your addiction.
(aside from Passages Malibu, they have a cure…)

It doesn’t matter if you go to a resort style Rehab that offers an in-house gym, acupuncture, yoga, and tanning- or if you go through the shock treatment provided in your local prison…there is much work and renovation to be done in your emotional and spiritual world.

There really is no break.

What there is, is Hope.
What there is, is a sense of relief.

The miracle is that because of God’s Grace, we have the OPPORTUNITY to choose Recovery.
After we decide that we are ready to accept this gift, this is when the hard works begins.

We are now choosing to put our effort into learning to live well.
We have to understand that it is going to be the toughest thing we have ever attempted to conquer.
The relief comes from believing that it gets better.
As each day passes and with the more that we learn, it gets easier.

It does get better and If I can do it, you certainly can too!

Love- Hating Yourself.

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Recovery means different things to different people,
but I would bet that we could all agree that it generally speaking-
It means us, learning to live healthy, productive, peaceful, lives. 

Regardless of which program we choose to follow, partake in, or interact with-
Regardless of what our drug of choice is/was-
Regardless of how much clean and sober time you have under your belt…

It is highly likely that amidst the long list of your to-do’s..
you are working on these two things. 

Self-Love 
Self-Destruction

*We work to enhance our ability to invest in ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This means that we learn to recognize our true needs and we find healthy ways to meet those needs.

*At the same time, we are working to recognize our own self-destructive habits.
As we procure new habits, we are cancelling out the old, volatile ones.

Self-Love defined simply:
The stuff that you do for yourself, to make yourself -your best self.

What are those things?
Do you know?

Self-Destructive Habits easily defined:
Things that you do, whether you know it or not, that keep you from being your best self.

What are those things?
Do you recognize them?

Stumbling Blocks:

There are things that can hold us back in our Recovery.
We can count on these things keeping us from moving forward or making any significant progress.

There are certain things that will most definitely stop you dead in your tracks.
Without learning how to accept and process these them, you will have a really tough time and your recovery cannot progress.

Here they are:
1. Having the ‘if-only’s’ 
2. Blaming people, places, or things for what happened in our lives.

*Say Goodbye to your ‘if-only’s’.
If we had only done_____. If we had only said_______.
We have all said it.
We just cannot seem to accept ‘what is’. (or what we have created)
Here’s what we know. We can’t go back.
So much time in addiction is spent feeling regret or shame.
We replay certain things repeatedly.
We tirelessly attempt to hide from our own thoughts and feelings of shame and regret.

This is part of the insanity that is addiction.

When we are finally clean and sober, we don’t know what to do with these thoughts.
We are no longer muting these feelings. We can now hear them loud and clear.

The most important thing is what we do next.
It is important to look at what is.
As hard as it may be, we have to allow ourselves to look at things as they are.
Swallow that truth and learn to understand that from that point is what matters.

Each choice that we make right now, is a choice farther away from the ‘if-only’s’.
and that is all that we can do.

*No longer will we blame people, places, or things for what happened in our life.
The truth is, blaming another person for our choices or the situations that we find ourselves in helps us to evade any kind of responsibility for our actions. This makes addiction work well for us.
I think most people who think this way, truly believe that they would have made completely different choices if it weren’t for this person or that person.
Ultimately, a person cannot change if they don’t see their actions for what they were. If we refuse to admit that we are the source of our own detriment, we will never see our need for major change.

Just like letting go of our ‘if-only’s’ – we have to accept our blame shifting for what it is.
Another way to evade our truth.

We have to look at our current situation and allow ourselves to see how we got to that place.
In some cases we may very well have been brainwashed, manipulated, pressured, ignorant, fooled, pushed, or strung-along.  But we are still the decision makers in our own lives.

The bottom line is that our actions, regardless if they were influenced in some way by someone else….are still ours.

We have a choice.
We always have a choice.

We have to choose to take responsibility for our own actions.

When we choose to say- I am going to look my truth in the face and own it,
we gain crucial ground in recovery.
There is power in owning our choices and our real, raw, current truth. We are empowering ourselves to propel forward.

As hard as these two things might be to accept, they are such powerful tools that we can use for our future.

It is really all about how we choose to cope with ‘what is’ from now on. C
Continue reminding yourself that you are in control of your choices.

Choose to use your ‘if-only’s’ as a reminder of the lessons that you can take from your past.

Take the blame that you placed on other’s for your choices and use that to remind you that no one can push your life in a direction that you don’t want it to go in.

You can start right now. 

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