Tag: recovery

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.

I’ll Have What I’m Having.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

One more unsolicited opinion:

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

We are all on the other side supporting each other.

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

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

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. 

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)…

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.

 

 

My Birthday, Pregnancy, & Morning Sickness.

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I turned 31 yesterday.

I got a beautiful necklace and ring from my husband and children, along with some useful home-made coupons from my boys….that I will definitely be utilizing before they expire.

Or, they will sit in a drawer looking all cute until I move them to a keepsake box so someday I can re-read them in all of their cute and thoughtful glory.

I got a new, soft, much-needed pillow and some chocolates too.

But most important- my boys went above and beyond showing their thoughtfulness and love for their mama.
My husband made sure that I didn’t have to cook or wash any dishes either.
All around it was pretty incredible.
I live with a pretty great group of men. 🙂

Today also marks my 10th official week of pregnancy.

We still haven’t made a formal public announcement (via Facebook)
My blog platform (and I have nice & kind readers…thank you!) is really the only place that I have mentioned it at this point and we have already told our close immediate family, but for the next couple of weeks, we are keeping it as quiet as possible.

My first appointment is August 12 and that will be an exciting day!

I haven’t worried too much about things developmentally but I am ready to SEE that things are cooking well….and I am so ready to HEAR a heartbeat!

My morning sickness is really just waves of nausea on and off all throughout the day.
Some days are great and I feel like I must be in the clear, and then the next day, it’s back again.
Fatigue is the same.
It is definitely not as bad as it was in weeks 5, 6, 7, 8 but it is still creeping up on me here and there.

I haven’t gained any weight yet, but I am bloated!
I have also had vivid dreams, lots of them and mostly odd ones.
I will spare you the details of them but I am normally one of those people who cannot recall a dream the minute that I attempt to recall a dream….it just vaporizes. These- I can smell the smells, feel the feelings, and remember details. So, that’s been interesting 😉
We also have names for both a boy, and a girl already….I’ll do some name droppin’ in about 10 weeks or so when we know if this little beautiful life is a he or a she…

It’s back to school time- and for us that means a lot of squashing of doctor check-ups, dental check-ups, closet cleaning and shopping  into a few short weeks. It is an exciting time at our house.

All and all guys I am blessed. I hate using that word- I really do.
(it is overused and sounds very holyish.)
So forgive me if it sounds cheesy.

🙂 I reflect a lot.
Part of my Recovery (the LIFE that I LIVE now)
requires a ton of reflecting and it doesn’t just happen on days like today- my birthday.

As I sat back on my birthday, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed; with love, and with thankfulness. No more celebrating by getting trashed and making the entire evening about me, me, me. No more chasing happiness.

Yesterday was just a simple & true celebration of a life that God has allowed me to create, with people who I love, who love me back- and who support me.

There aren’t any better gifts than that for me,  aside from having the opportunity to  experience true rest at the end of a day.

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. 

 

Your Journey.

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This is a book that I just finished.  I really enjoyed it.
It is probably really old. I am not sure when it was published, because I didn’t look. I found it in a huge pile of old books that were going to be thrown away.

I am sharing a few excerpts that I personally benefited from reading, but there are many many more that I have highlighted so you’re welcome for not making you read all of them.

I wasn’t interested in reading this because I felt lost. I really just like to learn about things that I don’t know about. I think it’s important to know why I believe what I believe and I like to have answers to questions that I have from wise, insightful authors.
I also like to challenge myself and am curious about  the diversity and foundations of other world religions and cultures.

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“In The Journey, you can investigate answers from three major perspectives—modern secularism, Eastern philosophy, and Christian faith—and form your own conclusions. If you or someone you know is engaged in a quest for faith and meaning, The Journey can help you find answers worthy of your time and commitment.”

If you are interested in buying this rather old, but still completely relevant book from 2001-
it is on Amazon for decent prices brand new and for —change (like change you can find in your car, change) for used copies.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Journey-Meaning-Trinity-Series/dp/1576831604

 

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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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.

 

 

 

 

Guest: Tom- Acknowledging Alcohol Abuse

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Hi my name is Tom and I am a recovering heavy alcohol abuser/possible alcoholic (I can’t say I was alcoholic or not because I never got evaluated).It all started when I got back from Afghanistan in 2007 and I felt the need to drink a lot because that is what I thought everyone did when they got back from their deployment.At first it was okay and there didn’t seem to be any problems, but then somewhere two or three years later I just couldn’t control how much I drank anymore. I still thought that nothing was wrong and that I was just being “normal” like everyone else and I felt that if I wasn’t drinking then I wasn’t being normal.
 So in late 2010 I had an episode where I drank 8 beers before I went to the bar, I did this all the time and thought that is what everyone did, and then 6 pints of really strong beer at the bar. Probably totaling somewhere around 18 beers if you add up all the ounces and alcohol content that night. So I got home and the next morning I had the usual hangover symptoms and thought everything was fine. It wasn’t until around 3 pm when I was on my way to college that something didn’t feel right.
My right side of my face and right hand became numb and I thought I was going to pass out. I started to throw up real bad and for like a few hours this numbness and feeling sick went on and hyperventilating. I went to the hospital and I almost went in, but I was too embarrassed to go in. Luckily somehow I made it home and in a few days I felt better. If I drank anymore that day I probably could have died.
You would think that would stop me from drinking, but a few weeks later I was back at it. I never drank that heavily again but I drank about 10-12 beers once every 2 or 3 days up until the day I said that is enough of this lifestyle. I am happily 4 months sober at this point. . (Sober date of September 16, 2013)
Here I am today, luckily, 4 months sober with the help of everyone around me, my running club (I now run 3-4 times a week, which is a way better high than alcohol ever was), and Brittany’s blog (which by the way rocks!!!)
What I am trying to say is NEVER GIVE UP HOPE!!There IS life after addiction or substance abuse.If you are reading this and are near giving up hope or feel like you are not worth it, believe me, YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!If you feel like you want to end your life or getting close to it, there is SUPPORT AND HOPE out there and we all think that YOU ARE WORTH IT.Whether you believe in a God or not, that is okay. What I can say is that God has surely helped me personally and now I read the bible every day. God truly does love you and has no partiality for anyone. No matter what you did in your past, He really really really loves you. All you have to do is love Him back.
KEEP GOING BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!

Guest: Rob- Celebrates 2 Years in Recovery!

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    “My name is Rob Kelly, I am an alcoholic and addict!
    Today January 10th 2014 I celebrate 2 years clean and sober, this is the longest I have been clean and sober since I was 12 years old, & I am 51.”

    For me the journey into darkness began after being physically and sexually abused.

    I sought to fill the hole inside me with alcohol, drugs, sex, a successful career as a teacher, coach, and contractor, my marriage, as a parent, and an active Church member.

    Gradually I lost them all and I put a hand gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger… the firing pin dropped and hit the primer… nothing happened…

    I didn’t realize it but God had a plan for me.

    The pain and darkness, the desperation, the self loathing spiraled out of control.
    in total surrender I cried out to God!!!
    Help me, I cant live like this anymore, I want whats real!
    If you are real you have to show me!!!

    From that earnest plea, that small act of faith, God did respond in a way that changed my life.

    Today I have a peace and serenity in my life that comes by the grace of God, Jesus His only Son is my Lord and Savior and I have been redeemed through the salvation he supplies.

    There is hope in him, please know this.

    This is a very abbreviated version of my story.

    If I can share my story anywhere or help you or a loved one struggling in darkness please let me know.

    Remember my God always responds to faith. I am given a daily reprieve based solely on the maintenance of my relationship with the God that created the universe and breathes stars into being!!!!

    Thank you for letting me share.

    Rob.

    (If you would like to contact Rob, feel free to comment below or request his email address. You can do so anonymously)

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.

The Husband Series: A Boring Future.

 

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At this point guys- we have gone from dating, to him realizing that I had a serious problem, us having massive fights and emotionally driven issues that led to my eventual decision to try to get sober and learn about Recovery.

At the point where I began going to meetings- I was figuring out who I was and why I used so much and how incredible life could be sober.

I also felt like this photo! Yes it’s funny, but as I changed I really went through a time where
I didn’t feel like myself anymore

– and among many other things–

I worried that my Zach would not
like the ‘new’ me.

Husband thoughts part 1- The Realization

My husband’s journey through my addiction and recovery.
It breaks my heart to go back and think about all that I put him through, but living this life in the now, we can both see just how much this experience bonded us and our hearts together in such a spectacular way, that if we can get through what we have already- life might throw us curves but we are in this game for the long haul.

So it begins.
We went through a long list of questions and had long discussions about specific feelings and times in our lives. This series of posts will encompass these conversations, and various others that we have had over the years.

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***On recognizing the ‘problem’:

After a few months of dating, it became pretty apparent that your drinking and pill use was not normal. The way that you acted was not like a typical young 20 something just ‘having a good time’. It was much more than that.

You slammed your finger in your car door and barely noticed, there were times that you would fall asleep while we were talking and there were other signs that I noticed.
There was a time where you fell asleep on the side of the highway because you couldn’t stay awake, and you went to jail (the first of many times)
Another time multiple people had called in about your reckless driving and you were apprehended until someone came and picked you up.
On a different occasion, I was at your apartment and bail bondsman came over and started pounding on your door, and you went to jail then too.

This was all while we were dating. I was like what the fuck have I got myself into?
This girl is crazy and also, irresponsible. lol.

***Why did you not run for the freaking hills?

I already knew I loved you. The times that we had eating together, and just hanging out- when you were still sober or not as bad- I enjoyed being with you. You were a fun girl. So thoughtful and funny. When you were using, it is like you were a different person.
There was just something about you, and something in me telling me not to give up on this person just yet.

Later on after we moved in together, I began seeing even more of the addiction’s seriousness.
Living with you opened my eyes up to your world.

There was a lot of lying- not coming home when you said, not getting off of work and coming home for hours. You were evasive and defensive when I asked you where you were or what you had been doing.

There were so many other things that happened, but it all accumulated and I started to understand that this was a serious problem.

***How did that make you feel?

I was confused. I come from a family that has never really experienced true ‘addiction’.
We drink and have fun, but no one is dependent or addicted.

I did not know anything about addiction, that it was a real thing and a disease.
I thought people like that made the choice to ruin their lives and act like idiots.
So, I was close-minded for a long time.
Willpower and the sheer motivation to change was what I thought was the only necessary ingredients to change or stop.

I was ready to love this woman, and quickly learned that she did not know what that looked like or felt like. Not adult, mature —love you for you kind of love.
I loved her and was ready to fight.

I had no idea what I was up against…….

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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History of Addiction

I watched this series of videos and I was entertained. I know not everyone will appreciate or enjoy listening to long stretches of the historical aspect of addiction and recovery but I know a lot of you will be just as intrigued as I was watching this series!

Here is the link to the first one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaBSm8-BcDY

Each Day Is New.

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For years I started each day with overwhelming sense of disappointment that I woke up…again.
I never looked forward to the chase, but I’m not sure that anyone really does.

My overall attitude had developed into knowing that today would be just like yesterday:
‘Same shit, different day’ and it was just the way I mentally prepared myself for how much the day was going to suck even before it really had a chance to begin.

When the chains that were squeezing the life out of me snapped, this kind of thinking was one of the first things to go.

Obviously, I didn’t develop a new life philosophy or overall attitude toward life overnight, but I did not think about not waking up.

I began to wake up focused on that sliver of hope that I had found, that I could actually do something better with my life. Over time, I adopted a different attitude and a new line of thinking.

I try to remind myself every single morning that each day is new.
Every single morning I am further away from my old life.

I am one more day away from that struggle that I can so vividly remember,
but that I am so intently living opposite of and these are things to be grateful for.

Science tells us that positive emotions broaden our sense of possibilities and can open our mind.
This allows us to build new skills and resources that can benefit all areas of our lives.

Positive thinking produces feelings that cause you to feel happy & expectant of more good to come.

Negative thoughts lead us and drive us too.
They can drive us right back into isolation, and they will continue to dominate our mind until we are intent on combating them.

We can begin to believe that our options are limited and our outlooks will become more narrow.
We can start to feel weighed down and moving forward or making progress can feel too difficult.

It is a nasty trap to fall into and a hard place to get out of.

Anyone who knows me wouldn’t describe me as a morning person.
I have been trying to force myself to turn into one for a few years now, but it really hasn’t worked well. I can’t force myself to wake up and work out before everyone else is awake, and I don’t typically speak to other humans until I have had at least a sip or two of coffee.

Despite the fact that I am not a chipper morning person, I still know how important my thoughts are, especially at the beginning of a new day.

I know that nothing good comes out of dragging all of yesterdays stuff into today or assuming before the day has a chance to begin that it is not going to be decent one, at the very least.

Of course I have days that are more rough than other days, and some days I can feel life smacking me in the face, but like they say my worst sober day has nothing on my best day when I was living my life chasing something that I could never catch.

So every day I try to start by reminding myself of all of the things that I am blessed to have.
I remind myself that I have choices.
I am an imperfect person with an imperfect, but full, sober life.
I love myself and I love the people who are doing this thing called life with me, and I am alive. 🙂

His compassion never ends.
It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction.
Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins fresh each day.
LAMENTATIONS 3:22-23

 

 

Fall 17 times, Stand up 18.

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One of the first books of the Bible that I ever read (or understood)
was in the book of Romans.
Romans 7:18 was the first thing that I memorized.
(Naturally, I had to get it tattooed on my body.)

Verse 18 goes like this:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

It continues in verse 19 to say:
For what I do is not the good I want to do;
no the evil I do not want to do-
this I keep on doing.

Wow, right?!

This is the best way  to describe what was happening in my life at during my darkest times.

I kept trying to do better and I kept falling on my face.
Over and over and over again.

Deep down I wanted to do better or to be better, but I just kept digging deeper and deeper and falling further away from what I wanted to be until I just gave in.

The whole theme of my downward spiral was basically my well-intentioned desires
being over powered by underlying pain, unmet needs and sub-par coping skills
as I was living a life contrary to my very quiet conscience that desperately tried to make itself heard despite being smothered.

The fight between what I somehow know was right and what we I was actually capable of doing was so real.

The struggle can tire you out pretty fast and before you know it you are drowning yourself so you don’t have to look at the mess that is your life.

I tried to get sober and stay sober on my own, by myself, many times.
Dozens.

I tried to take on my demons and in the end, I lost every single time.

This verse doesn’t remind me of my strength or my own power-
it reminds me that my ego is not my friend.
It reminds me that pride is not what keeps my recovery growing.
I don’t have all of the answers.
I know what I can handle, and what I cannot.
I know my limits.
I know that I cannot do this alone, and there won’t ever be a time where I am called to live in isolation.
That is not what we were meant to do or how we were meant to live and it is not how recovery works either.

With God on your side, nothing that comes against you will be able to take you back down to that place ever again.

When you do fall, He will pick you up.

This is how we beat that urge to give into the familiar power that has overtaken us so many times before.

This is how we win.

Recovery Is Real.

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HOPE:
1 of 10 guiding principals of in SAMHSA’s working definition of Recovery:

“The belief that #Recovery is real provides the essential and motivating message of a better future.
People CAN and DO overcome the internal and external challenges, barriers and obstacles that confront them.
#HOPE is the catalyst of the #Recovery process.”

#SAMHSA
(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

#Recovery Principals

No More Shame.

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The “No More Shame” Campaign
is designed to empower Recovery.
(learn more here: http://www.pinterest.com/treatmentcenter/nomoreshame/)

*People who have struggled with addiction and are now in Recovery are publicly proclaiming that they are not going to hide anymore.We are not ashamed of our past.

*Families are saying that they are done hiding.
They are going to speak out.

Why?

Basically, to encourage people who are still struggling with addiction to reach out and to encourage families to reach out as well. Everyone involved needs some kind of support and this movement can help.
Each one of us can do our part to chip away at the stigma surrounding addiction so that when people do find the courage to reach out, they can without having so much fear and anxiety of being pushed away.

This hits home for me personally.
I hid my entire life. I covered up- I pretended- I smiled-
I spent all of my energy hiding an addiction and a mental illness that wasn’t even mine.

I went on to hide my own addiction for years.
and I am done hiding.

I know that many would say (many in my own family included)
that addicts isolate themselves, so really it’s their problem.

I would say that in many cases, yes. That is exactly what addicts do.
They manipulate and isolate.

Part of that is shame of who they allowed themselves to become and part of that is not really wanting to hear the truth.

However, there are those who are simply afraid to speak up and are afraid of humiliating themselves or their families.
Families are ashamed to reach out or speak up. They suffer in silence and hide the addict. They follow closely behind the addict, covering up the destruction that is happening inside of their home and hearts.

Addicts are not just the people at the exit ramps holding cardboard signs.
Many are people that you see every day, struggling inside & are hiding in plain sight.
Some, struggle behind closed doors- alone.
The harsh reality is – people who are isolated and ashamed of themselves take their own lives. Many will use until their lives are taken from them.

I had not always been a hot mess. Many judged me and had no idea how I got to that place, nor did they really care. I had been written off as a loser-nonredeemable- fuck up by most people; and I believed it. Of course none of that means anything-because there are thousands of people out there who care, but I know how it feels to believe all of those lies!

I was blessed to have an amazing best friend, boyfriend; now husband who loved me back to life.
I had someone who told me that I was loved, needed and could fight through.
I am so grateful to have had that enduring support, and a backbone when I needed one of my own.
It saddens me to think where I would have been if the right people had not intervened in my life when they did. Without a doubt, I know that God constructed my scenario.
That is why I feel so strongly about loving others despite them not being perfect or living what we would call ‘ideal’ lives.

When I ‘went public’ about my past and my own addiction + recovery…
you would not believe how much support that I received. I could hardly believe it.
I was completely shocked when people started confiding  in me about their past, their addiction, or other forms of personal bondage that they have experienced.
Others have shared the struggles that their own sons, daughters or other family members have endured.
Just this week I have had three beautiful, strong and courageous people reach out to me.
I listen to their stories and problems and am so honored to be confided in.
Sometimes, that is all people need; to not feel alone.

We have to got to get to a place where loving people is more important than judging them, categorizing them and dumping them off into some labeled place in our minds that we save for those who we feel aren’t worth our time. God can’t work through us if we are picking and choosing who is worthy of our ‘gifts’ , time or our love.

There is help.
With counseling, modern medicine, therapy, and God’s restoration-
people change.
Sick people can get well.
Families can mend.
Relationships can be restored.
We can make amends.
We can hold our heads high with no regret.

We have experienced something life-changing and powerful.
We are over-comers.
We.Do.Recover.

 

 

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