Tag: addiction

Teen Suicide

Tuesday, Oct 10th was the 25th anniversary of World Mental Health Day.

I am a person in recovery from addiction and I am still learning better ways every day to embrace the latest version of who I am, post-trauma. I have suffered and survived through postpartum depression three times. Every day I still dance with general anxiety and always look forward to seasonal depression, but still try to be a strong advocate for the marginalized and still-suffering.

But as World Mental Health Day approached this year, I kept quiet here.

I did take time to reflect and to let myself feel the gratitude I have for Grace and for the people who have reached into my life personally throughout my journey.

I felt overwhelmed as I thought about the blessings, the helping hands, the invaluable advice, listening ears, knowledge and the generosity that I have been given over the years as I navigated what ‘wellness’ meant to me, as every part of who I am has been effected by mental-disorders directly, and indirectly.

But this year as World Mental Health Day approached it was our community of just over 96,000 pressing on my mind and heart.

As a whole it sort of feels like we are all left feeling this massive and gaping sensation of helplessness, not really knowing what to do with the weight or the damage from the impact that experiencing crisis often leaves people with.

On September 29, 2017 and again on October 9, 2017 our community lost two high school students to suicide. 

Parents here are feeling uneasy, weary, and afraid.
People are sad.
Students are fearful and confused.
People want to help but no one really knows what the next right thing is.

Of course our counselors in the school district have been rallying and working overtime with staff and students. The online presence feels positive and empathetic and for the most part people are doing their best to keep the forum open. Our local community organizations have reached out and are working to reach out and offer support and resources.

The first life tragically lost on September 29th was a 17 year-old senior.
Students at the high school heard a gunshot around 7:50 a.m and the school immediately went on lock-down. She died shortly after arriving at the hospital that morning as a result of her self-inflicted wound.

On the evening of Monday, October 9th, another student from the same school took his life off-campus. (His information and the details surrounding circumstances are protected and his family has not released any statements)

I know that there are community discussions taking place and the city will soon hold an open session for parents and caregivers.

People are wondering what to look for and how to know.

They are worried that they are missing signs and symptoms, or that maybe they are overlooking them or confusing them with what they think are just ‘typical’ teenage mood swings and angst.

Everyone is terrified that their family could be next.
Imagining what the two families are experiencing is unimaginable, but that is why we are all so scared. It is because we feel a teeny-tiny minuscule slither of what it could feel like.

As a mom of a fifteen year old boy, that is exactly where my mind went as well.
The what-if’s.

Despite my experience, despite my training, despite anything factual I know in my brain.
What if I miss something. What if I am not asking the right questions. Am I asking enough questions? Do I pay close enough attention? Do I need to do more, be more, provide more, know more?

At the end of the day as the initial panic of news like these two tragedies fades for those of us on the outside of the tragedy. We are back at the grind going through life with our teens.

Sometimes it is really hard to clearly see what we should or shouldn’t be doing or looking for or saying.

And you can tell a parent until you are blue in the face that we cannot control everything,
we cannot fix what we don’t know, or we are doing our best.

But even so most of us will still feel hyper-vigilant about our personal parental responsibility. We will feel like we need to do a better job paying attention to the intricacies & subtleties & even the confusion that the teenage mind presents us.

Because as we all know, history shows us that even the parent’s who seem to ‘have it all right’ have still experienced tragedy.

Bad things still happen.

So what can we do?

Instead of recounting to you what we did…(mostly hugs, tears, asking and answering questions and offering  deliberate gestures of reassurance of his value and worth and that he has no reason to ever ever ever feel weird or broken or wrong if he needs extra help with anything and have vowed to keep this conversation going)

I will just share a few websites and remind you that our teens still need us. They are close to adulthood and often they like to act like they don’t need us, but they do. They so need us. Hug them. Ask them things. Watch them. Listen to what they’re not saying.

The Parent Resource Program:

Offers stats and common myths and signs and symptoms for parents

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 

Offers 24-7 support for anyone with concerns, questions, or ideation

HelpGuide.org:
Parent’s guide to teen depression

Teen Mental Health Video:
Education for teens and parents

Go Out There and Give a F*ck

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

-Asking for a friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever. You can name them what you need.

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

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

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

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

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

As a COA, Can I Honor My Parent?


Traditionally I write tributes to all of my surrogate “moms” for Mother’s Day, thanking the countless women who have impacted my life by sharing their stories, wisdom, tips, tricks, secrets, encouragement, and advice, helping me to fill in what has felt like an excessive amount of domestic and relational inadequacies. Or, I write about my gratitude for living as a sober & present mom to my own children.

 This year, Mother’s Day, 2017 is dedicated to my biological mom. 

I have been struggling with how to portray her in my upcoming, soon-to-be self-published book, Trauma Queen. As to be expected with any long-term goal, countless hours have been dedicated to this project so far.
Large portions of my writing time has been me, blankly staring, stuck in a rhythmical pattern of cognitive dissonance, torn between bursting to tell the whole truth and nothing but, and also not wanting to deliberately humiliate someone who is not well.

How can I honor someone who has elicited so much destruction?
How do I portray my truth honestly and honor my passion for truth-telling without crossing over into condescending story-telling?
How can I allow her the dignity that she deserves simply for being a human?
How do I describe her illnesses without contributing to stigma?

I began my search for answers by looking in the Bible. Honor, (as a noun) means to value a person highly. We are asked to honor specific people, and our parent’s are included in that group.
To value her highly I had to learn to respect her as a human being.

So what I have tried to do is embrace a mindset that seeks to honor her.

Not to erase what she has or hasn’t done. Not by ignoring the damaged that she has caused, or the births, baby showers, weddings, and birthday parties she has missed.

I have simply chosen to love. To love is to put someone else’s well-being on my radar screen. To love is to accept her for who she is.

For a long time I had nothing decent to say of her. Not playing a part in perpetuating social stigma wasn’t on my radar, and neither was treating her like a human being.
I habitually called her by her first name, and just so that she was absolutely sure she didn’t deserve my respect, I would laugh along with my brother, as we tried to think of as many synonyms for “crack whore” as we could.

After I got sober I began tackling my long list of amends and tallying up the destruction I had already begun to ignite in my own son’s life.
I started to see just how humany we all are as humans. God we’re all so fucked up; we are all learning as we go, and my mother was no exception.
Slowly, I began to develop empathy for her in what had been the coldest, darkest, empty parts of my heart that I had reserved for so many years before.

Because we are still estranged (in order to maintain my own mental stability, and my physical and emotional safety), the way that I honor my mother might not look or feel or be typical but there are still ways that I am trying to do live it out.

I began to learn to honor her the only way that I know how to honor anything else that I don’t fully understand: 

I starting digging.
I put pieces together.
I probed and sought and dove and asked questions until I felt sure I got close enough to the bottom to be able to propel myself back to the surface to catch my breath and reassess.
I learned and educated myself hoping to better understand the whole situation.

I believe that you can take any one thing that you feel a prejudice for, and you can dissect the whole thing until you understand your own heart that much more. It is my experience that the results will surprise you.

Learning about who she was has helped me to learn to honor her. I can separate my personal experiences with her from who she is as a person. By allowing her to break out of my box, it’s like I have set us both free.

Here’s an outline of what I have learned about her:

  • a young girl who had a mentally ill, undiagnosed biological father, and a step-father who was an abusive alcoholic
  • a rebellious, confused, pre-teen who was diagnosed with bi-polar
  • a brave fifteen-year-old pregnant girl, who considered adoption for so long, that she bonded with the adoptive parents
  • a sixteen-year-old new mother who decided that she couldn’t part with her brand-new, five-pound newborn, who walked to Sonic to work everyday to provide for her
  • an eighteen-year-old woman with two babies, trying to balance motherhood, a new crack-addiction, and mismanaged mental-illness
  • a twenty-three-year-old mom with three young children, the third who would pass away after three months
  • and a twenty-four year old who struggled with addiction, mental-illness and relationships, who became so distraught and grief-stricken and ultimately, emotionally paralyzed.

She lost the rest of the pieces of herself that had been holding her together after the death of her child, my youngest brother.

So as I continue to write, I continue to dust off my perceptions about her, hoping to help others see and feel what mental-illness does to a person. It is all very real, and it is certainly not a moral failing or a personal choice or any reason to degrade. Having a front row seat to an uncontrollable fading mind will provide you with more than enough evidence to draw certain conclusions.

I am doing my best to honor who she is in that way and am hoping to shed a light on some relevant truths about the struggles of having co-occurring disorders. I pray that if the book ever land in her hands, that she not slink down in shame, or feel overwhelmed with regret. And I hope that she knows that she has nothing to be ashamed of.

Yesterday at church I added a photo this photo of us to the slide-show. My mom doesn’t look like other mom’s. I secretly feared that people were going to judge me, or see me differently. I wondered what people would think when my photo slid across the screen.

But my anxieties and emotional investment exaggerated how awkward it would actually be for other people to see this photo. I sat smiling from ear to ear, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the silly & sweet family photos that popped up on the screen.

When ours  appeared, tears immediately welled up in my eyes.
It was huge.

It was a my proclamation.

Including her solidified my desire to honor her.
It was a fist bump, between my mother and I.
It was me saying “I see you, and I am not ashamed.”
She is part of my story and I am not hiding part of me to comfort parts of other people or to serve my own fears.

I just want thank her.

I know that she did the best that she could with the resources and knowledge and ability that she had. And I have learned that is truly all that any of us can do. And for the rest of it, there is Grace.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Recovery Experts

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This is a very well researched article on RecoveryExperts.com.
There are many Recovery experts & advocates who had the opportunity to contribute to this article,
and I was honored to be one of them. Here is an excerpt:

“The Drug War has lasted for decades and accomplished little. Thousands of individuals get hooked onmultiple abusive substances every day, and many wind up in prison for nonviolent crimes. Worse yet, the black market for illegal substances is gigantic and thriving. Many in the US today are wondering whether or not there is another way to end addiction.Today, a growing number of advocates and concerned citizens have raised their voices.”

Please take the time to read through this piece in its entirety, here: 

https://recoveryexperts.com/rebuzz/roundups/experts-pov-is-drug-war-the-solution-or-there-are-other-options

Recovering Out Loud.

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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. 

Guest: Alexandrea- Choosing to Live a Sober Life

I’ve never written about this.

Most of the people in my life know nothing about it, yet here I am, penning an entire article about the dirty little secret my family adamantly ignores as much as possible.

Whenever we gather, there’s an elephant in the room. I grew up with him.

For the first decade or so of my life I didn’t even know he was there. All I knew was that there was something that kept my mother’s side of the family disjointed and angry. Over the years I managed to catch tiny tidbits of the stories; little pieces of information I was never meant to know, but I learned anyway. I got in trouble quite a few times for being in “grown folks business.”

What I learned was this:

  • At some point, my mother and her many siblings were placed in foster care before going to live with her grandmother.
  • There were hushed accounts of molestation and incestuous rape that everyone skated around and avoided like the plague.
  • My mother and her siblings were subjected to severe abuse, including being locked in a closet, burned, beaten, and left unattended for days at a time.
  • My grandmother was addicted to drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

 

None of these things made sense when I was younger; it wasn’t until my teenage years that I began to really understand.

When I was eleven I met a woman named Queen for the very first time. She was introduced to me by my cousin as ‘auntie Queen’ and I remember feeling uneasy around her whenever she was around, which honestly wasn’t often. Queen dressed strangely- always in at least three layers of clothes. I recall thinking it was so strange that she wore a beat-up old coat in the middle of Florida summers.

 

I remember my mother being upset that I had been around Queen but not really understanding it. She was so angry; there was furious yelling like I’d never heard before, and my home was hardly a silent one. I remember being told to never be alone with her or another recently introduced member of my extended family- an uncle.

 

I remember being alone with that uncle. I remember suddenly understanding why I was supposed to stay away from him.

 

When I was about 14, I was blindsided by a revelation: Queen was not my aunt, she was my grandmother. It made no sense to me, then, but looking back it should have. My mother and I called the same woman grandma- of course she was actually my great-grandmother. Her name was Virginia and she was a powerhouse, the loving and gracious. I miss her dearly at the strangest times.

 

My mother sat me down just once to explain what happened in her childhood. She told me about the neglect and abuse she and her siblings endured at the hand of their mother, under the influence of drugs and a (then undiagnosed) mental illness. She told me about taking the brunt of it as the oldest in order to protect the younger kids. She terrified me and broke my heart in one go.

 

Not long after that, my mother left. In the middle of the day, she was shipped off in the back of a police car and immediately Baker Acted. She had written a letter to a friend, confessing that she was on the verge of suicide. She told her friend she would take my brother and I with her, so we wouldn’t suffer without her. Her friend saved our lives by calling the cops before we ever got home from school.

 

To be honest, I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t.

 

That began a tumultuous period in my life, filled with powerful emotional pain and confusion as my mother was in and out of mental health hospitals, trying to finally deal with the demons in her past. I remember being so angry; so terrified; so lost. I harbored that anger for a long, long time. To be honest, I still haven’t been able to address it with my mother, even though I am no longer angry. I have abandonment and trust issues, and a gnawing fear for my own mental health because of what happened through my childhood and teenage years.

 

That’s the saga of Queen. That’s what addiction does- even generations removed.

 

The damage isn’t limited to my corner of the family. Though my mother has proven strong enough to forgive the woman who never asked for it, most of her brothers and sisters were not able to do so. Three of my mother’s siblings developed substance abuse disorders. One of my aunts- a twin to my uncle- died due to HIV complications after contracting the virus through needle sharing. I ache for her daughter, even though she is older than I am.

 

Virginia, the woman I will forever call my grandmother, died three years ago. I haven’t seen Queen since the funeral; she’s now living with one of my uncles and his wife.

 

As far as I know she has been sober for at least a decade now. In a weird way I’m proud of her, yet I feel like she is a stranger. I don’t know if she thinks of me as anything different. I’m not sure I want her to. But I would be lying if I said she didn’t play an important role in my life, even if she was absent of much of it: she is the very reason I lead a sober life.

I’m sure she never imagined her life turning out the way that it did. For my grandmother, my mother, and yes, even for her, I am doing the best I can to make sure I don’t follow her.

 

 

Meet Alexandrea:

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Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. Through her work with Harbor Village Rehabilitation in Miami, FL she has garnered valuable insight and experiences which she applies to her work and personal life. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.  

I Don’t Belong In a Church

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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.

 

Reflections From a Visit with Mom:

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I had lunch with my mom on Thursday, October 15, 2015.

We had only really seen each other a handful of times since our last big hoorah in March of 2006-
and on that particular St. Patrick’s day we both ended up in adjacent jail cells.

Fast-forwarding to our next big hoorah, that happened on February 16, 2014,
1 year and 8 months ago.

That was the day of my late grandmother’s visitation, or celebration of life; and we had quite an afternoon.  (It was terrible, but you can read more about that visit HERE)
That day could have played out much like our past encounters, except that last time, things were different. Mostly due to the fact that I was sober. Also because I had one of my children with me, and something about working a Recovery, growing, learning, and forgiving, had really tweaked my soul.
In February of 2014, I experienced one of her episodes – and I reacted a little bit different from I had in the past. Even though I was left a tiny bit traumatized and it really almost triggered a legit panic/anxiety attack, I managed to not react.

I guess it was the first time I had really experienced an episode while I was sober and not utilizing one of my cognitive escapee techniques.
That time I lived the moment, I processed it, and moved on with my life.

So our most recent visit was uneventful. Well – it was definitely not boring or quiet, but it also wasn’t violent or threatening, so, I guess I consider it a major win for us.

Judging from our visiting patterns, it seems that we see each other on average, once every year or so, depending on the severity of drama encountered at last visit.
After each experience, I do try to reflect.

This most recent visit I took away a few new things, and I am okay with what I learned.

I can appreciate that I am not sitting here writing about my anxiety as a result of the visit. This time we both managed to end the day feeling pretty positive.

Here are 2 things that I took away:

* I have to accept what is, for exactly what it is.

She had no recollection of our visit from last year, nor did she understand why we hadn’t seen each other in over a year.

Ah, this.
Yes,  I recognize this.
The memory loss, or loss of time, phenomenon is one that I talked about in support groups for years. For a long time, much of my deep-rooted resentment stemmed from my anger toward her for this very reason. How in the hell does someone treat any someone, more specifically, someone who you spawned, in the way that she has acted toward her children, and manage to not remember any of it?

I had to learn to apply what I know. What I know is that I am only responsible for me.

Change in this situation, or in our relationship, will only happen if I am the one making moves.
It has come down to doing my best to understand even more, and educating myself about her personality, condition, traits, and patterns.

I have had to force myself to accept that her dissociative behavior hurts, but isn’t personal.
It seems like it is targeted directly towards me, but in reality, it isn’t  chosen or intently thought out -it is impulsive and triggered by things that don’t have anything to do with me.

In and in a perfect world, she would hold herself accountable and her brain would understand that she cannot hurt me with her hands, or with her words, but this isn’t a perfect world.

Our visit last year was one that seriously re-damaged my bandaged up wounds, and threw me off my game; however, it was not on her radar, whatsoever. Didn’t happen. No ill-feelings for her to do with or handle, just the confusion over why I disappeared again.

An incident that nailed our relationship coffin tightly closed until I came around to feeling safe around her, didn’t affect her in the slightest.

But utilizing what I know, has really helped my healing process this time. I am not trying to change anything but myself, and how I choose to deal with things as they stand.
I also understand that when I put myself in certain situations, I need to be ready to accept what happens. I know what the possible outcomes are, and I am able to make a conscious decision to cross certain boundaries, or not.

*I am learning to appreciate that she is different, and possesses good qualities that were drowned out during the more chaotic years.

She isn’t afraid to do everything under the sun, that is considered socially unacceptable; and something about it makes me smile.

So what use to mortify me as a child, is now pretty entertaining.
The older that I get, and the more that I learn about myself, the more I see why it isn’t so bad that she goes against the grain.
(Like all the grains).

-She isn’t afraid to wear exactly what she wants, despite season or color. If she likes it, screw it. She’s wearing it. It doesn’t matter if it is a child’s tiara from the thrift store, with a matching wand,coupled with a denim purse, or a very sparkly lanyard, and lots of costume jewelry. She is not afraid to express herself with what the mood suits.

Maybe it isn’t the fact that she is bold in the fashion department that I like, it is the part where she doesn’t even notice people staring, nor would she care if she did.
I need more of that.

-Age is nothing but a number. It really makes no difference to her. She  laughs too loud, she yells in what other adults have deemed ‘quiet places’ (like the bank lobby), she skips through parking lots, and she gets really excited when she see’s shiny things and birds flying.
Yes, it is funny and I give her crap about it when we’re together, but I like the freedom that she feels.

Maybe it isn’t so much that I like that she sometimes deliberately breaks what adults have adopted as ‘typical’ behavior, but again, what I like is that she is herself, no matter where she is or who is watching. I think I can always use that reminder; something that I learned in Recovery. It is always alright to be myself, and I am okay with who I have to offer the world.

-Even in her situation, she thinks of and gives to others. 
She talked and talked about others. Praying for other people, trying to do her part to give what she can to others, and had a bag full of things for my kids.
Granted, she has little to give, and the things for my kids weren’t gender specific or age appropriate, but her heart meant well, and her motives were loving.

It isn’t really that she gave silly things; it was that she isn’t really in an ideal position to give, by my standards, and she gave anyway.
I think that is something that I can learn from.

This visit was perfect considering alternatives.

I want to learn to do things more unconventionally, and radical. One-hundred percent…

Maybe not on her scale, but a smaller, more muted scale
that rests on the same fundamental principle:

We should live life and be exactly who we are, authentically, and unapologetically. 

This isn’t really me praising her for perfection, or erasing all that has been done.
This reflection is really about my learning to take what she does have to give, and trying to pluck out hidden positives that may not stand out.

This is much better for me, and my own mental health, instead of focusing on all of the typical &  traditionally passed down things,  that she simply cannot offer.

Ultimately, I guess I am excited that I am making progress in this area. It is not easy loving someone who isn’t mentally well, who is suffering in many different ways. It has taken me a long time to forgive her for her actions that affected my childhood, and it has taken just as many years of learning about mental illness and the after effects of long-term drug use to understand more of who she is today.

I have a feeling it will take more than one positive visit for me to see more of her and less of the illnesses, but I will take the little bits revealed here and there. I also have a feeling that as the years go by, things will change as all things do. I can only try my best to handle what is, right now.

Thanks for reading, lovelies!

It All Boils Down To Staying Honest With Ourselves

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I said I would tell you how things went after I left the hospital. 

Maybe it doesn’t ever completely ‘go away’.
It goes, somewhere, but not ‘away’. I know that is not a super sciency explanation, but this is a real-life, true to every day explanation.

Like if our brains were old farm-houses. Our old addictions or our addictive patterns would just live in the attic, and no one would ever visit them. Or, if our brains were Clark Griswold’s home from the movie Christmas Vacation, our old addictions would be staying out in the RV with uncle Eddie and his nasty ass dog.

That is, until we invited them back in the warm, clean, cozy part of the house.

The first few days were fine. I took my script like a reasonable, rational, responsible adult without being supervised like a gigantic baby.

After one week of taking Percocet every four hours I remember walking in the kitchen feeling good. By good, I don’t mean high, I mean well.
Pain free and I hadn’t taken any pain medication that day.

So I walked to the cabinet and grabbed the bottle of Percocet from the top shelf and I literally stopped myself and looked out my kitchen window. I stood there and I knew right then that I needed to flush them.

And that was that.

I wasn’t in enough pain to justify ‘needing’ them at that point so I did what I knew I needed to do.

The actual flushing part got pretty weird.

I didn’t really want to flush them and I tried to justify not flushing them, because of course, maybe, what-if, the pain returned and I flushed them?

I literally had a full-fledged conversation with myself in the bathroom hovered over the toilet.
My mind had made up reasons to keep them ‘just in case’ with things that would have sounded very close to actual ‘logic-and reason’ if I wasn’t a rational, sober, honest, adult.

Ultimately, I dumped every one of them (even the few that I had considered keeping)
and flushed the toilet. Too close to the fire, Brittany. Too close.

Conclusion:
It ALL boils down to what I choose to do.
Every step of the way I had choices to make.
I had tools to take advantage of and they were my responsibility to utilize and to practice.

Those principles that I memorized all of those years ago?
I had to practice them.
I had to implement and honor them.

(and for the record, baby is almost 6 weeks old and we are both doing great)…

Addiction Destroys Families.

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Yes addiction destroys families.
It destroys all of nouns in its path if they are within reach.

It’s hostages are usually people, but relationships, mental health, physical health, emotional health, a person’s business, someone’s career, overall stability, and wellness are almost always banged up too. You name it. If it’s in the way, it either moves, or gets sucked in.
Period.

Everything adjusts trying to fit naturally into a system that is no longer functioning in a natural way.

Addiction injects a level of intensity that overrides what most people are wired to handle on a day-to-day basis.

Basically, anyone close enough to even look like they are involved or invested in the family, gets involuntarily swallowed.

Even the people who are quick to create distance hoping lessen their chances of being damaged by this health crisis still find themselves struggling internally with some level of guilt and anxiety relating to their decision to create boundaries in the first place. They are usually the ones sitting in a chair in Al-Anon, in disbelief.

Each person within the family system will be affected in a different way,
and how it changes a person depends on many different variables.
Things like severity of trauma endured, mental wellness, personality, temperament, birth order, ability to cope, etc. Some people call it nature, some nurture, others a combo of the two.
Whatever you view it as doesn’t change one this one thing.

Addiction.Destroys.Families. 

Wishing or hoping to forcefully make a broken system work
-doesn’t work.

Repair and restoration are sought after long-term side effects of every person within that system healing as individuals. Over time the goal is to heal as a unit. It can take years and most often, families struggle as they strive to find a healthy balance of reconciling the past, and embracing the here and now without enmeshing the two.

But there is good news is:
Change happens one person at a time, one mended heart at a time.

You are in charge of you, and only you.
At any time, you are allowed to choose to be the one who stands up to fight against this powerful & convincing lie, the one that has been telling you that there is no way out.
The one that you have believed for far too long.
The voice that has whispered to you that you aren’t strong enough for something like this.

No, the destruction cannot be erased and the past cannot be changed.

But even if you feel like you are the one who has done the majority of the damage,
or despite being the one who likely contributed most to the brokenness of your family spirit…

You can still choose to change.

You are still a capable person who is in charge of whether or not you are walking toward something new.

Restoration and healing are still waiting for you.

You can still commit to rebuilding things from exactly where you are.

You can still be where this cycle stops.
It can all come to an end right here with you.

One healthy choice at a time.
OHCAAT.

 

 

 

 

The Complacency Trap

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Ahhh. Complacency. We have all heard about it. I am almost positive everyone goes through a phase where they couldn’t even imagine themselves falling into an infinite loop of nothingness; and that place that isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ but it isn’t effective or healthy either.

Complacency is to recovery what bystanders are to injustice.
No, maybe you didn’t speak up or do anything wrong, but the real sum of the problem can be found in your chosen inaction.

I don’t think that we all need to be overly critical of ourselves, that isn’t healthy either.
What I do think that we need to avoid is the trap of becoming people who aren’t self-aware.
To be self-aware simply means that we have an accurate view of ourselves. In order to obtain a view of oneself we have to be willing to honestly evaluate ourselves often.

In early recovery we are taught (in most cases) that personal accountability and taking responsibility for our actions is a huge and courageous step to take on our journey. We can’t really fix anything if we will not allow ourselves to embrace our role in all of it.

Even as we enter the long-term or maintenance phase of our recovery, we will still have to hold ourselves accountable and we will still have to face things.

Avoiding complacency will still be on our radar and is based on the same principle that worked for us in the beginning, but it will look slightly different.

No matter where we are in our sober lives
or how much sober time we all have
or which recovery path works for us,
there are a few things that we should all do to avoid complacency:

*We should assume that we ‘finished’  evolving, changing, learning, growing, discovering or stretching ourselves.

* We have to realize that if we are not working on anything at all, we are slowly digressing in some way, even if it isn’t immediately noticeable at first.

*We need to travel at a pace that works best for us.
Having mentors or guides is wonderful, but keep in mind, yours is still a unique journey to you.

*We cannot hide.
This would include hiding from things like mistakes, missteps, or feelings. It is just best to own our decisions and to face our what we’re feeling.

 

We don’t always have to be thinking or analyzing every single thing that we think, feel, do and say every second of every day in an obsessive or compulsive way.

What we do have to do is have embrace this life, while maintaining balance and regulation.

We can let go a and enjoy all that God has gifted to us, but that doesn’t mean let the weeds grow and get out of control until we can no longer see our gardens.

We don’t have to tend to it compulsively,
but we cannot allow ourselves to get in the habit of looking the other way either.

 

 

Writing Exercises

 

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In Celebrate Recovery there are a lot of homework assignments in the participant guides ask you  to write down specific thoughts and feelings about specific times in our lives. Maybe times where we have been hurt, things we have not yet forgiven, times that we have made poor choices, or beginning to keep track our personal daily inventories… (and DOZENS more).

These exercises help us to SEE where things went wrong,
evidenced by certain actions and feelings that we remember or associate with the certain events that we write down.

This helps us to pinpoint and recognize a problem, admit our own role in relation to said problem, and then we move even further- we learn how to be mindful. This means that we choose to not make that same choice or to have the same reaction in the future pertaining to the hurtful event or memory.

When we choose to sit down and invest time in uncovering our truest and darkest secrets….
these writing homework assignments become life-changing exercises that can bring immense healing to us.

There are many exercises for dealing with anger management, tracking positive and negative emotions, and for making strides with overall emotional regulation.

Writing exercises are typically used to help someone with a substance use disorder
to SEE and to recognize their own patterns of behavior.

This way, we learn to stop the downward spiral before it begins, and to consciously implement and use new tools as a response, replacing our old, destructive, reactions.

For me personally, I have benefited from paper/pen exercises to help with clarity.
Any time that I am feeling lost, spread too thin, confused on a certain issue, or I am simply compiling a gratitude list, I get out a real-life pen and a piece of paper.

Writing my gratitude lists out by hand, taking a daily inventory, writing, or simply jotting down prayer requests for others, has really become one of my strongest allies over the years. It’s like I have trained myself to be held accountable and to confront anything that might even look like it could be packing itself up, heading for storage.

By performing these acts of self-care it helps me to stay centered and grounded, and strengthens my relationship with God.

It is so cool to me to look back at how powerful something that seems like such a small change in my life could end up having such a positive impact on my recovery journey.

 

 

Living Free.

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Freedom for me, came when I came to believe that a power greater than myself, could restore my life and sanity. That power that has shown me to be much greater than myself, is Jesus. Because of this relationship that I have:

My mind is not as gullible.
Yes I am sober and the fog has lifted, but the shame perpetuating whispers are no longer given power.

My heart is no longer chained down.
No more relying on a heavily saturated organ of hate, guilt, bitterness, and anger.
It is free to accept love, to give love, and to be vulnerable.

My body is free.
No longer does it do the grunt work as a vessel to self-mutilate.
No more working against myself. Healing has set in and I am slowly being repaired.

My spirit has a home.
I am connected with God and do my best
(though colossally failing regularly) to follow him on the daily.
My spirit is not lost, or controlled by this need to roam;
repetitively seeking, trying, filling, refilling.
My spirit is resting in this freedom.

My soul found its peace.
I am free to be me, live a life embracing this journey here on earth. I am able to face myself in the mirror without shame, with a smile that surfaces from thankfulness and humility. I know where I will go when I die, I am going to live on, because He lives.
That, enables my soul to feel a sense of rest and peace, allowing me to embrace this life full throttle, head on and with .………intention. 

Yes. Living in freedom feels good.
(Damn good, like song worthy, scream at the top of your lungs with grateful and enthusiastic, deep down, stomach wrenching Joy worthy kind of good.)

This freedom.
For me, my life has been reconstructed; not just revamped, but systematically demolished by my own doing -and rebuilt by His grace.

Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean negligence. 
I enjoy this freedom and am humbled that I have been provided an opportunity to live this life in a new way.

My snapped chains – I threw them in the trash. 

There is a freedom that comes with Recovery,
but with freedom, comes responsibility.

There must be some structure to live a life that gives something back for other people. 
and I’ll tell ya right now, Recovery from anything will not continue, grow, progress or flourish………………………… by accident. 

 

12 Ways to Help Kill Your Addicted Loved One AND Lose Your Sanity

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1. Every time you talk to them, be sure to remind them of how they are wasting their life away by making stupid & idiotic decisions that make no logical sense. Remind them that if they were not stupid, they would be able to see that.

2. Be sure to base how much they love you solely on how often they lie, drink, use or relapse.

3. It’s always a good idea to take them at their word.
After all, they do love you and most people don’t lie to people who they actually love, if they really love them.

4. Always take it personal when they don’t tell the truth.

5. If they wreck a car, be sure to buy them a new one.
You don’t want them to have to walk anywhere or endure the extra stress of having to pre-plan, figure things out or have to rely on themselves to get to work, meetings or the grocery store. Haven’t they been through enough?

6. If anyone…..and I mean anyone… tries to help you by giving you pointers or advice when it comes to dealing with your loved one- you should cut them off quickly. Shut it down.
YOU know your loved one best- there is not any way that anyone else could possibly understand them the way that you do, or be able to help them or handle them quite like you can. No.one.

7. Don’t ever educate yourself about addiction or alcoholism.
What literature, study, science, or any other type of research is going to dictate how you handle your life with your sick loved one?
I mean, this is real life and it is absolutely preposterous to think that learning could help you in any way.
Your situation is unique.

8. Always pay them in cash.
After all, they have to live too. If they do an odd job or help out to earn some extra money for ‘living expenses’ never pay them with a check or tangible items. They don’t have a way to cash a check and they don’t always know exactly what they will need – paying in cash just ensures that they have funds available that are most convenient for whatever might come up this week. Why would you want to make their lives so difficult?

9. Always blame yourself.
If you were good enough, smart enough, strong enough and more in control – this would not have happened.

10. Buy them drugs one last time every time.
It might really be the last time they use. If you don’t buy them, they might commit a crime to get them or degrade themselves to obtain them.
Plus, they are just so uncomfortable when they don’t get to use and it is totally ridiculous to allow them to flounder and get angry without their drug of choice.

11. Always avoid boundaries.
If you have to check receipts, pat down pockets, go through drawers, take off work, stay up all night, call hospitals and county jails, put the taxi hat on and completely dismantle your existence, personal goals, hopes, dreams, emotional stability, mental health and sanity—to make them temporarily happy….by God- do it! It is just a small sacrifice for true love, and you’re committed.

12. Always place blame and direct your hatred & rage toward the other people in the addicts life, who have broken away and set boundaries.
They do not care enough about them and it is clear that they never did.
If they cared, they would stick around and sit next to you in the front row of the ‘I am killing myself show’- right there with you. But where are they? They aren’t there. They say they’re tired and exhausted and cannot do any more for them. Ha, right. But you’ll show them. You are going to stick around much longer than anyone else has. Because, well….that’s true love.

Disclaimer:

This list is clearly not formulated for public use or serious guidance.

It is a parody of  *some (only a few!) of the colossal mistakes that i have made loving family members to death. (or quite close)

As a former co-dependent of a 25 year crack-addict/mentally ill parent and a younger brother (who I would love to love to death),

These traits, thoughts, habits and beliefs (and many more) are some that I have experienced first hand. These are ALL THINGS THAT I HAVE DONE OR THOUGHT.

10 Tips: For Friends & Family of Someone Struggling with an Addiction

These are just things that would have helped me when I was struggling.

Here are 10 randomly concocted tips that I have come up with: 

1. Express empathy for them, directly to them. 

2. Avoid arguments with them whether they are sober or not. (this creates a high-emotion situation and doesn’t do anything besides creating an urgency to use for the addict)

3. Be honest and direct -in a loving way.
(Don’t use their past mistakes to berate them and beat them to death emotionally. They’re already bankrupt in this area, and you cannot kill em’ twice.
Instead, use truth- encouraging and positive statements about how valuable and worthy they are of so much more.)

4. If you set a rules or boundaries, clearly state them during a sober time, and stick to them.

5. Help them create relapse trigger lists, (environments, people, places, etc) and help them understand how it connects.

6. Make them a list of meetings in your area. Have them choose at least one to attend regularly. Go with them if you can. (Show support)

7. Treat them like they are human beings. They may be making poor decisions and may not be trusted, but still deserve to have thorough explanations for rules, demands and expectations and respect.

8. Help them make the connection between their goals for changing their lives, and what they are doing to make that happen. (going to meetings is a good step in the right direction toward a goal, completing book work or step work is another example, changing their phone number, avoiding triggers etc.)

9. Sporadically hug them. (:-) ) They might hate it, but they will love it at the same time.

10. If you are more interested in their recovery than they are, something needs to change. If you are working harder and are more dedicated to what should be their work- reevaluate your approach. (Never ever give up on them. Offer support and kindness. Hugs, tear wiping, etc….but you are not to do work FOR them.)

A Pill To Cure Addiction?

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I’ll have TWO! 🙂

When I saw this picture, I literally laughed out loud- hard.
I so identify with this.

I have spent a long time learning.
I know I am a new person and I have changed my habits, thoughts, and environment.
I have achieved goals and have new standards, morals and ethical values.

But

No matter how many years that pass.
No matter how many days I am sober.
No matter how much I dive into, embrace, and accept my new identity.
No matter how how far I am from that old person who I used to be.
No matter how focused my thoughts and life are on Jesus and His will for my life.
No matter how hard I could try to describe to you, how much my heart and life has changed-
No matter how much time I spend loving my family, my friends or my passions-

It is there.
and it is still waiting.

That is just MY truth.
It is a part of my truth anyway.

Maybe I will always be that person who always wonders what ‘two will do’…
But that is not who I am. My past is a part of my story, a small piece of this huge thing that I am blessed to be a part of.

So while I will always stay mindful of the power that it all had over me at one point in my life,
I don’t spend every day reminding myself of those days.
I spend my days enjoying all of the gifts that I have been gifted in sobriety.

 

 

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Christianity and Science.

There haven’t been any supernatural phenomenons curing me of this sleeping monster.

Jesus saved my life.
Gave me life. Forgave me.
Having faith in Jesus has allotted me power and strength to
break free from my strongholds and keep away from substances..
to build a new life..
to find a new identity…
to have a new hope…
to hunger to learn more and more…
and to feel joy & true contentment

But I am not cured.

I want Christians (and I say that lovingly, I am a Jesus follower too)
and other people who lack knowledge or who simply refuse to attempt to understand what happens when a dependency develops to understand something:

There is such a thing as science and you cannot argue with that.
(if you do, you get to be the delusional one)

It does exist and like it or not, our brains are scientific things, made by a God who is smarter than us but who created sciency people who are much smarter than me….

There are chemicals, and tiny scientific complex operations that happen inside of our heads.

It is totally possible to screw things up in there, and it is possible to be freed in Jesus, liberated and saved by the hope that we find in Him, through our faith and His grace….

and he still may not choose to push the reset button on our brains.

We may just learn to coexist with a condition. Or we might just use brain and behavioral based therapies to embrace the new life that Jesus gave us.

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Our Thoughts

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Our attitudes are shaped by our thoughts and feelings.
Remember, we have choices.
Choose to believe the crazy notion, that positive thoughts can lead to happy moods and better days.

One day at a time.

Motivation is what gets you started, and habits keep you going.
Forming new habits take time.

Keep working hard and don’t give up!

One day you will look back and be so amazed at the life that you created by making different and new choices.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude

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Can you remember that cheesy 90’s drug prevention commercial that no one actually learned from?
“This is your brain.” “This is your brain on drugs.”
(*cue egg frying sounds)

Imagine a heart exploding, and a voice like Dennis Haysbert’s, “This is your heart. This is your heart on God’s Grace.”

That’s sort of how I feel.

Just when I feel like my heart and soul could not possibly feel more excited to be alive- and able to give back, I learn something new about the way that we are all wired as humans and I am giddy all over again.

The more that I am learn about Human Anatomy & Biology and the affects that psychoactive chemicals have on us after they are put into our bodies, I can’t help but melt with gratitude and curiosity. It is only God’s grace that has kept me alive through so many different situations.
As I sit here I can say that I have barely scratched the surface of the human brain, and the central nervous system and the heart… and I can confidently assure you that technically speaking, I should not be sitting here typing this.

No way.
But here I am. Living.

Also, equally important, here you are. Sitting there. Reading this.
Yes.
You.
I am glad you are here, and not just because you are here reading my blog post, but I am happy you are still here living your life here on this earth.

Our journey’s are so much bigger than I think most of us are capable of really realizing; we have a huge opportunity to make an impact on our communities and to leave our stamp on the world and family that we will leave behind someday.

Just wanted to share my gratitude.

And I hope that you are able to see that you are here for a reason.

 

Sobriety: One Size Fits Most?

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I just read an article written by a clinical psychologist named Gerald Shulman,
who has been in the addiction field, in some capacity, for over 50 years delivering and supervising treatment.

Here is an excerpt from his article in Addiction Professional Magazine
It’s not 1960 anymore; A more balanced model is needed to optimize recovery potential today.

“I have arrived at the conclusion that recovery for many is a three-legged stool.
The seat of the stool represents recovery.”
“The three legs represent: *Psycho-social treatment: 12 step treatment, trauma care, motivational enhancement, cognitive-behavioral therapy etc.
*Recovery support services: group therapies, reading and writing assignments, etc.
*Pharmacotherapy (med assisted treatment)”
“One of these alone, is usually not adequate to bring about Recovery for many addicts.”

(Read the article in it’s entirety here:
www.addictionpro.com/article/its-not-1960-anymore)

Although I (hate) the term addict, I really like what he is saying here.
It’s totally relevant and reflects what I am seeing in the world of sobriety.

Not everyone wants to participate in a 12-step program and often, if they do, it won’t always be enough to lead them to a path of wellness. We are seeing an entirely new group of people who are struggling with addiction using new drugs, having less foundation laid in their lives, and are younger onset at time of first use.

No two people have the same needs. No two treatment plans, recovery plans, or sobriety paths are going to look the same and they don’t need to in order for us to be supportive people. I think we all need to keep an open mind when it comes to support other people who are in recovery, who are striving to live their lives sober.

I will not discount your recovery –if your higher power has a name like mine does, Jesus Christ. If yours doesn’t, if it’s different, or if you don’t have one at all that’s okay too.
I will not discount your recovery — if you loathe 12-step groups, or if you love them. I started my journey as a huge fan of them and have benefited from the steps and principles, and still do. But there are things that I choose not to use, and that’s okay too.
I will not discount your recovery if you choose professional one-on-one counseling and no group therapy.

I personally relied on 12 step meetings, one-on-one counseling, adult homework, CBT, my relationship with God, and literature during the early part of my recovery and beyond.

The point of all of it is to take the desire to change, and meet it with a concoction of individualized treatment therapies that will help you to break the chains that have been holding you back for so long, keeping you from being the best version of you that you are so capable of being.

Ultimately, it is all about utilizing the resources and tools that we need to maintain sobriety and a healthy lifestyle.

Whatever you find that helps you and inspires you to want to live again, do those things.

There is NO SUCH THING as one- size- fits -all sobriety.

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Gifts of Living in Recovery.

 

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Using substances may have been some of the darkest, saddest, loneliest & scariest times of my existence, but that wasn’t where I first started to lose myself.

That started long before.
I think pain & trauma can make for fertile ground for that to happen, especially if it is not addressed.

I began hiding as a young girl.
I created masks to wear that became my safe places to hide when things became unbearable or when I really didn’t know where else to turn, so I turned inward.

I felt like I needed to hide from the drugs; the pipes, the trays, the smells, the bottles.
I cowered and hid from the violence; the drama, the yelling, the noise, the sirens.
I hid from the strangers in my living room; the men, the lurkers, the lovers.
I would imagine myself being in different places. Different houses, different cars, or different families.
I believe that I hid so often that there didn’t seem to be any benefits to coming back out again. It didn’t feel safe.

By the time that I started looking to different substances I was already a lost person.

All that I really yearned for was inner peace and calm, and some type of contentment. I just wanted all types of enough, to simply be enough.

I didn’t think that Recovery would work for me,
because I believed to my core that I was a throw away person.

But I wanted it.
I wanted to learn how to live a sober life.

The more I learned about God- the more I felt like I knew about myself,
and the more that I knew about myself through Christ,
the more I felt okay being who I was in my own skin.

I was finally able to make some real peace with my past.
I finally understood that I could not take back my bad choices, or get the time I had lost back.
I could not live on regret and I may not regain all of my memory either.
I began to understand that I was forgiven and it was alright to move forward.
I was given a sense of peace about it and felt ready to make new choices and new memories.

I was finally able to face and accept my past, and even embrace it to use it for something good.
I had a new chance to do something with my life. I was alive for a reason.
Letting God use my past for His glory, took away all of the negative power that I had given it before. 
It was now completely powerless in bringing me back down.
I was not going back there.

I want everyone who is hurting or struggling to know the truth.
You are loved and you are so so valuable.
God’s love is powerful, His love is the kind that can mend, heal, and re-create.
Through it, you can feel again.
You can love again.
You can live again.
You can look in the mirror again.

Recovery with God doesn’t mean that you won’t have to put in hard work, or learn new things.
Actually, the opposite happens. You are dismantled piece by piece, and re-built with parts that are so true to who you are. You will quickly begin to feel and believe that the cards you were dealt, and the mess that you have made of your life- are NOT the end of your story.

The struggle is real, but so is our GOD, and so is Hope,  and so is life after addiction.

God will absolutely restore every single thing that was taken from you and everything that you gave away to your addiction.

That, and much, much more.

8 Things I Wasn’t Expecting In Early Recovery

Being newly sober  was not what I expected.
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  Here are some things that I personally would have wanted to know early on:

1.  You might feel like you’re physically dying.
Say hello to withdrawal.
On a scale of one-to-ten your severity of pain or discomfort will vary, but go in knowing that your body is cleaning house. This can get ugly and it won’t feel good.
No it isn’t fun but it is a necessary part of getting to the best years of your life. You are breaking down barriers to find the new you.
Don’t give up now. You will get through it.

2. After Detox/withdrawal it gets harder.
So you conquered the first ninety-days and that is HUGE. But things won’t magically be or feel better just because you are sober. After some of the fog clears you might look around and notice that so many other things are still a mess.
Good news friends: It’s okay. Messes clean up and it will take some time. You can only clean up so much at once, so try to remind yourself of the progress that you have made and don’t focus so much on all that you have left to do. It will all get done.

3. The emotional struggle is real. 
You are so used to drugs making you feel better or helping you to not feel the things that made you feel guilty or sad or the things that acted as reminders of who you became.
Be prepared. You are going to feel things that you thought you hid away and you are going to feel things that you don’t recognize and it’s likely that you moods will be all over the place for a while.
Recovery is the opposite of everything that you’re used to, but it is going to be okay. Give it some time and things will even out a little bit more each day. Feelings are good and come and go, so remind yourself that it’s okay to feel the things, but they shouldn’t dictate your actions. 

4. Keeping busy has a purpose.
Often getting sober means that you are getting acquainted with yourself after a long stretch of time. Maybe you never knew what you liked to do to relax, unwind, or recharge. It is possible that you don’t know what recreational fun should look like for you or what kinds of things you are into. What in the hell do you do with downtime? How do you celebrate your victories? How do you curb negative thinking or a mindset that used to trap you inside of your own mind?
In early recovery it is important to try new things and to get a feel for new activities that you can inject into your new life and your new routine.

5. Reaching out can save your progress and your life.
Isolation in early recovery can tear down progress quicker than Donald Trump can say the word great or use singular expressive adjectives to exclaim disdain for his opponents. Sad!
You might not feel comfortable reaching out or ready to pick up the phone and tell someone you are having a shit day or are feeling like giving up. Hiding and concealing is no longer an option. I learned early on that my addiction was very tricky and deceitful. It won every single time that I tried to secretly battle it alone. No one is going to shame you for making the courageous decision to ask for encouragement.
Also, it is your job to speak up and to tell someone that you are having an off day or are feeling unsure of your existence or your choice to be in recovery.
Tell someone who you know cares about you and your Recovery.
Don’t keep it to yourself. 

6. Recovery changes ALL of the time.
You might assume that the second that you made the decision to quit and change that you will quit and that will be it. But that isn’t the reality of choosing sobriety. It changes all of the time.
Every single day life will reveal a little bit more to you. Each day you will grow and move away from the old you, as you step into your new way of living your life. As you make new friends and visit new places or meetings or groups you will change. As you implement new activities or uncover new loves for certain hobbies you will change. Every time you tell the truth and follow through you will change. As you set and reach and crush your personal or professional goals you will change. Your recovery benefits from every single thing that you do and think and say and decide. It all matters and it all pushes you closer to your authentic self.

7. Not everyone will be happy for you.
So I guess I expected people to be really happy for me. I thought that everyone would be on board and I would have a group of supporters beating down my door to pat me on the back.. but not everyone cared. There are so many people out there who will have your back and cheer you on, but they may not be the people who you expected. I have lost a lot of ‘friends’ and many of my relationships are gone, over or have changed. But I have gained a family and true, solid, friendships.

8. The other side of staying busy is learning to be alone with yourself.
This was probably one of my least favorite experiences as a newly sober woman.
Just because I was sober and wanted to learn how to embrace a calm, healthy way of living, didn’t mean that I loved myself. I still hated who I was and I had no idea when the loving myself part would happen. Over time I learned how to differentiate between my past mistakes and the person who I was becoming, the things that I could and could not control or change, and the difference between a bad choice and an inherently bad human being. I wasn’t as terrible to be alone with as I had once believed, but it definitely took some getting used to before I could look into a mirror without crying or wanting to smash my face into it.

I hope that these 8 things serve as reminders to you that you are not alone in this thing.

I may not have felt exactly how you are feeling but I can empathize with what you might be going through and I can only say these two things are guaranteed:

God loves you and is for you and will carry you and be by your side, and it all gets better as time passes.

 

Husband Q & A

Relationships. 

Let’s say you are a couple.
You love each other and value one another.

One of you ends up with an addiction and becomes dependent on a substance.
It tears them apart and dismantles who they once were.

That person that you fell in love with  is gone.

All you are left with is an empty relationship, basically completely deteriorated;
looking nothing like it use to and there is not a lot of hope in your heart when it comes to the prospect of finding him or her once again.

*You are sad, and feel lost. What can you do to get this person back?
*Is it a fruitless effort?
*Are you hurting or helping? Where should you turn?
*Who is this person that you use to know?
*Should you take it personally?
*Can you be of any help?
*Is this person who you love going to be this manipulative shell of deceit and self-absorption permanently?

These are the types of questions that ran through my husband’s head and made his heart ache leading up to the days where I smashed into my rock bottom face first, and throughout my first two years of Recovery.

This is the type of confusion that he dealt with and had to learn how to navigate through. 

My addiction did have a profound affect on him, and although I was far too busy focusing on my recovery to empathize or inquire at the time–

in the succeeding years post active addiction— he has revealed so much to me about HIS journey riding on the crazy coattails of my recovery.

While I was abstaining, detoxing, hurting, learning, growing, and changing-
He was going through his own change and was navigating a new path himself.

I am going to share that with you guys now.

As a side-note or a disclaimer of sorts:
As a professional I would never support or recommend that a person in Recovery start/begin/consider a new romantic relationship.
It is not a healthy choice to make.

In the event of entering recovery as a married person or as a person who is already committed to a long-term relationship, I would definitely set certain boundaries and limits with both parties on a case-by-case basis. Everyone involved would be learning and would need to be counseled on some level.

Every life, recovery and circumstance is completely different. What worked for us, may not be something that will work for another couple who is struggling with getting through Addiction-TOGETHER. 

What does inspire HOPE is knowing that there are other people who have made it through some of the most exhausting and trying times, and have come out the other end—
strong and CRAZY in love with the new people that we have transformed into throughout our journey together and individually.

So take what you can from it and leave the rest. 

Thank you for reading and I hope that we can inspire you to keep working and loving.

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Staying Sober Over the Holidays.

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I know that this time of year is so difficult for a lot of people who are living sober lives.

This is a time where emotions are running high and if you are from a dysfunctional or unhealthy family, it can really be a stress filled time.

Family gatherings aren’t technically social events, but they are similar.

Often we can feel pressured to drink in this setting, and being around people who you are connected with can make for emotionally charged experience.

Many people may or may not have accepted or forgiven you at this point.
You might have to deal with the cold shoulder from a few, and hard or uncomfortable questions from others.

Most people will identify these scenarios as triggers.
A lot of opportunity for triggers to pop up.

My holiday advice for anyone who is dedicated to living a sober life is pretty simple.

1. Do what is best for you.
Period. Whether that means going and hanging out for awhile, or choosing to skip it. Try not to let guilt or any kind of pressure defer what you know is best for you.

2. Do have a plan.
If you attend any holiday related festivities make sure that you have an exit plan. Commit to sticking to your plan. Pre-plan what you will do if you are feeling the pressure, or if you just aren’t feeling the environment.

3. Do try to give it a fair chance.
Obviously, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation that you cannot handle yet. But you also don’t want to avoid everything either. Sometimes living in isolation seems like it would be easier to deal with but realistically, we know that we cannot learn to handle life or test our new found skills that are lying around in our tool box if we never accept any invitations to put ourselves anywhere other than a meeting.

4. Do have a list of phone numbers with you in your wallet, in your pocket or stuffed in your clutch. These are people that you can slip into back room and call if you need some right now or if you need sound, direct, helpful advice or someone to encourage you and take a quick assessment on how things are going. (this can sponsor, a caring best friend, a group leader, a counselor, social worker, case worker, anyone really as long as they are a healthy someone who cares about you.)

5. Do listen to your gut.
If you are feeling yourself break down emotionally, physically or any other way, acknowledge those ques. You are trying to tell yourself something. Don’t brush it off or ignore it. It can cause you unnecessary anxiety and it’s really not worth it.

6. Do interact.
If you are anything like me, you aren’t very good at being social and newly sober. In my experience, this gets better over time. Avoiding having to interact while sober will only delaying the inevitable.
Practice does help us to improve in any area and this is a great time to give it a try. This could be your first shot at building healthy, honest, solid relationships with people.

7. Do accept your decision. If you choose not to go for whatever reason own that decision and value your thought out choice. Don’t allow yourself to use it as an excuse to feel down or sorry for yourself because you are alone in a holiday. With all of that said, keep in mind that you opted out voluntarily, for good reasons.

 

If it is a choice between missing out on an annual get together somewhere—-and your sobriety…..

Always choose your sobriety.

People who love you and who empathize with your situation will understand.
If not, choose sobriety anyway.

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