Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, family, Life, recovery, twelve step

Things I Forgot to Remember

Death has been an unrelenting presence in my life over the past year, which is very, very unusual for me. Beginning with the loss of my beloved friend Joe in August of last year, then his dear friend Che, just a few weeks ago- Che, who spent countless hours on the phone with me after Joe’s death, listening to all of the stories I have to tell about Joe, that I suddenly needed to re-tell to someone who knew him… and sharing his own with me. Then, in the late hours of July 5th, or perhaps the very early hours of July 6th- we don’t know for sure yet, but oddly enough, every member of our family found themselves awake at 3:30 in the morning on July 6th- my darling uncle, Louis Earl Fulton, passed away. His life was not an easy one. One day, I will tell his story properly, but I want to do it right, and I want to have all of the facts straight first, though I will tell you this- due to an accident with a drunk driver when he was just starting out into adulthood, his lot in life was hard. He suffered, for the bulk of his years on earth, with a busted up body and what I would guess as being trouble from a traumatic head injury. Over the past several years, his health seriously deteriorated, and he had many falls, broken bones, and other injuries. He suffered from seizures, and I think he even had a stroke recently, but honestly, there was so much going on that I would have to ask my mom to be sure. The fact is, he wasn’t doing well. So you would think that his death would be less of a surprise, and maybe in some ways it wasn’t shocking, but…when someone just dies at home, and they haven’t been in the hospital or particularly sicker than usual, it really is a shock.

This blog is not going to be about him, because like I said, I would rather honor him by writing his story correctly, and I can’t do that without getting some help from my mom-she was alive when his accident happened, and I was not yet. I will tell you this- his given name was Louis Earl, but I haven’t heard anyone call him that since my grandmother was alive. His nickname (one of them) was Fizzle, because he was born on the 5th of July (get it? He fizzled out! My grandfather had a strange sense of humor) and, coincidentally, he died, near as we can tell, on the exact same day, many years later. There will never be anyone like him- there will never be anyone like any of the people I have lost this past year- and nothing I know brings a person into sharper focus than their death. And nothing slaps you out of your own miserable funk like the loss of a life that belonged to someone precious to you.

For the past month, or maybe even longer than that, I have been struggling like crazy with myself…upset about things like: hating my job because it is boring, hating myself (low-key) because I am not perfect, wishing I had better friendships, wondering why I am still single, wishing I could connect in a more meaningful way with my youngest daughter, and…this is the one I didn’t even want to write about or admit out loud to anyone who could talk some sense into me…wanting to quit being in recovery. I wanted to quit. I wanted to start drinking again, and I was really, really close to throwing the towel in. Closer than anyone but me knows. I felt like I was missing out on something. That my life wasn’t fun enough because I couldn’t go out and have a drink. That maybe it would be easier for me to deal with men if I could just relax a little bit, like everyone else does.

My uncle died on the day that my daughter was going out of town with her father for the first time in over a year- so I was already incredibly anxious without the addition of a death in the family. I took the rest of Friday off, and I cried and cried and cried. I cried so much that by the time I went to bed, my head was pounding. I woke up on Saturday morning with eyes that looked like they had been bitten by mosquitoes, or injected with saline. But I had made plans with a girlfriend earlier in the week to go hiking and hit a morning meeting, and she is notoriously hard to pin down, so there was no way I was cancelling. I pulled myself together, worried that I would be too somber to be any fun, but I went anyway. I needn’t have worried. We had a nice hike, and plenty to discuss, and it was just what I needed. We almost didn’t go into the meeting afterwards, but we did, and again, it was perfect. I came home afterwards, ate a massive amount of food, and fell asleep the way you can only when you are grieving and exhausted- face down on the mattress for four solid hours. When I woke up (which took a good hour of just sitting, staring into space) I knew instinctively that being still would be a bad idea, so I grabbed my dog and went for a long walk on the beach. That night, I went to another meeting.

Over the course of my 48 hour weekend, I managed to hit four meetings, hang out with two good friends (one of them twice), go to the beach two different times, and take two solid naps. I did something I had never done before in the course of my recovery- I doubled down on what was good for me, and sidestepped an almost inevitable relapse. I was reminded that both life and recovery require my active participation in order to work the way that I need them to. I can’t just sit here and cry about what isn’t working- or, I can, but it isn’t going to do me any good at all.

I’m sorry if this is sort of all over the place- I don’t feel like I am explaining myself well at all, but there is so much to what I am feeling, and it’s all jumbled up. The bottom line is, my uncle’s death helped me to remember what I had forgotten- that life is so precious, that while I am here, I need to rejoice in the gifts that I have been given, and they are many- my health, my beautiful children, my job which provides so well for me, and my recovery which is the only reason I have all of the other things. I will not dishonor myself or my wonderful life by giving up on that. I have all of the ingredients, but it is up to me to make something worthwhile out of them. Today, I will choose to do just that.

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Posted in anxiety, Depression, Life, Mental Health, Musings, random

Thoughts From a Difficult Brain

I have been having some trouble with my head lately. The last time I wrote, I told you I was feeling restless, and it’s still true- restlessness paired with discontent can quickly boil over into a gummy mess of self loathing. I am trying to avoid that. I’ve sat here and written parts of several posts that I decided were entirely too whiny, and I was too embarrassed to publish them. I have nothing to complain about, really. Or at least, that is what I tell myself- that because I have a particular set of circumstances that might be a little less troubling than the circumstances of “some people” (whoever they might be), I am not allowed to dislike anything about my life.

Although I realize on a certain level that is bullshit- my feelings about my life are absolutely valid, no matter how good I might have it- I also understand that complaining is pretty useless. So I am not going to do that. What I am going to do is tell the truth, and the truth for me is- I struggle with my moods. I am not moody enough to warrant medication, nor is that something I want for myself, but it is a struggle nonetheless. I have a mind that will seize upon an unpleasant thought and spin it into an astounding and terrible scenario, and it can propel me into anxiety the likes of which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy- if I had a worst enemy, which I don’t think I do. Anyway, I believe this is called “catastrophic thinking”, and it is part of having anxiety, which I thought was something I suffered from occasionally, not something I “had” until I said this to my therapist, and she actually started laughing. I don’t think your therapist is supposed to laugh at you, but I forgive her. Apparently, I’m an anxious person. You know, I masked every single thing about my actual personality with drugs for so long, that I am still figuring out who I really am. Or who I am now, I guess.  So yes, I am anxious. I am moody. I am very hard on myself, most of the time.

But lately, this has all morphed into this weird blah-ness, this kind of “meh” feeling, and it just sucks. Half of me wants to run off and have this big, juicy, adventurous life, and the other half of me is like “Just watch TV, Courtney. There’s no point in having to put on shoes.” And of course, I am making it sound funny so that it doesn’t sound that bad, but in truth…in truth, I am grappling with some dangerous thoughts. Things like quitting my job, which would not be in my best interest right now, and quitting recovery, which might not be in my best interest ever. Sigh. I don’t know what is going on. Perhaps I’m having a mid-life crisis? Is that applicable for women? I don’t want to run out and buy a street bike and date a blonde half my age, so…it’s hard to say.

So, rather than do anything drastic that might shake up my life a little more than I am bargaining for, I am going to go back to the things that have worked for me before. I am going to do the things that make me feel good by default, such as- going to the beach. Going to the gym (it really does feel good after you actually get there). Eating less bacon- I know this sounds counter intuitive, but trust me, too much bacon does not a happy girl make- it’s one of those pleasures in life that needs to be spaced out a little bit. Also, clearing my space- I swear to God, I accumulate possessions at the speed of light. Oh! And that’s another thing- stop compulsively ordering shit I don’t need off of Amazon. It’s just another attempt to self-soothe, I know this, and yet…no, I don’t need anymore books right now!

I am capable of great happiness- I think we all are. But the trick, I think, is realizing that no one feels perfectly happy all the time. And maybe some of us feel the bumps in the road a little more than others, and that’s okay, too. But the big truth is, we are all responsible for creating lives that feel good enough for ourselves, and when life doesn’t feel good, we have a responsibility to ourselves to fix it, or to figure out what isn’t working and make adjustments. I am impatient, so I want everything to be better RIGHT NOW- I want to throw it all away and start over. Oh, I’m having a bad week? Well, obviously, I should quit my job, move across the country, and become a homesteader who makes her own soap, right?

No…no, I don’t think that’s how this is going to go down. I think, today, I will just start with taking a walk, washing the dishes, and being a little more gentle with myself. And maybe tomorrow, we’ll see where I’m at. Maybe tomorrow, it will feel a little better.

Posted in advice, anxiety, Goals, Learning, Life, Musings, People, relationships

Know Your Worth

know your worth

My anxiety is at an all time high this morning. I have tried everything I can think of to bring it down a notch, but nothing is helping…and the thing is, I know why.

I woke up this morning with the full weight of my truth weighing me down. Here’s what it is: I KNOW MY WORTH.

The minute you become aware of your worth, placing yourself in any situation where you are not receiving exactly what you deserve becomes incredibly uncomfortable. It can manifest in so many different ways, I could sit here at this keyboard for the next three days straight giving you examples. I don’t have that kind of time, and neither do you. So here’s the condensed version:

When a little voice in the back of your mind whispers “I don’t know about this…” Girl, listen.

When your gut is all knotted up and you feel nothing but hesitation, pay attention.

When every single little thing about a situation is problematic, that is the Universe, my friend, letting you know that THIS IS NOT FOR YOU.

If you do not know your worth, you need to figure it out. Ask yourself what your priorities are, what you value, what you want in your life. Imagine yourself in your happiest scenario, and start laying down a path towards that. Because if you don’t know, if you aren’t aware, then you are going to become a victim of your own poor judgement, and base some important life decisions on a weak foundation. Think harder, look closer, dig deeper.

Above all, remember- this is your one precious, beautiful life. Be careful about what you allow in, and vigilant about what you allow to go on within it. Don’t be afraid to have standards, boundaries, and a real healthy relationship with the concept of “Nope!”. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, worry about what YOU think. And never be afraid to change your mind, or admit to yourself that you made a bad call. You don’t have to stay committed to a bad idea.

That’s my little smidgen of advice for the day. Carry on. 🙂

self worth

Posted in anxiety, Blogging, family, kids, Life, motherhood, parenting, People, random

Conflicted

conflicted
Which would leave me with nothing, unfortunately.

 

 

This seems to be a theme in my life right now, this being conflicted. That weird line between what you want and what you should do. The person you could be, with a tiny bit more effort, and the lazy ass you are- not YOU, I’m sorry, don’t leave. I meant ME, the lazy ass I am.

It’s occurring in all areas of my life right now, and I don’t know what to think about it, what cosmic lesson I am supposed to be learning. I know it will come to me, but right now, it is very early, and I’m only on my first cup of coffee, so even if there was some clarity available I’m not sure I would be able to grasp it just yet.

Here’s a good example: I have court this morning to determine the amount of child support I will be receiving. The judge has recommended a sum of about 600 dollars, which I have thought all along was more than fair- I don’t know how many of you guys raise children, but it’s not cheap. And it’s not just about me buying her clothing, or toys, or outings. Take that stuff out of the picture, and it’s still so. much. stuff. The weird foods I would never buy, the lunches I pack daily, the rent for a bigger house, the laundry, the day to day expense of raising a kid is exorbitant. Jesus, the gas money alone I spend on driving her all the way across town every day to a school that has a better rating! I mean, 600 bucks is fair. To me.

This morning, I woke up and thought for the first time what that would be like for Camryn’s dad. Okay, he is terrible with his money, and he has made some really bad choices in his life in general, but more specifically, he has some tax stuff going on and back child support for his older son. On the other hand, he makes really good money, and I have no idea why he can’t pull it together. Seriously, like what the fuck is he doing? So where is my responsibility in this? Do I agree with a reduced amount because he can’t figure out, at the age of 50, how to run his life? Or do I hold out for what his kid and I deserve, because he is responsible for half of her life and that’s just how it goes? I’m not poor, I’m not struggling, but I have given up ten years of my life with this guy, helped him out, given him chance after chance to pull it together. I just don’t know. I’m very torn. And my hope is that I won’t have to decide, the judge will do it for me.

I wish there was a judge around to help me with these other things that are bothering me. Like, when i’m sitting here right before I’m off work, and I want to go to the gym, but I also want to binge watch The Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix. It would be so great if a judge would bang her gavel and say, “I order you to 90 minutes at the Wellness Center, Ms. Duncan!” And I would have to slink off in shame to find clean gym clothes. Or when I am typing up a really heartfelt but probably damaging text message at five in the morning, before I’ve had a proper chance to wake up and think things through, the gavel bangs and a booming voice fills the room-“I order you to set that phone down and do not pick it up again until noon!” Okay, okay. My finger hovers over the send button a moment longer, then I think of the consequences-how terrible I’d look in an orange jumpsuit, or how people might laugh at me as I picked up trash along the freeway, and I walk away. Wouldn’t that be kind of great?

As it stands, all I have to guide me is my conscience and my brain, and we all know none of that shit functions properly. Too much, or not enough…that’s my lot in life. Welp, I probably ought to go start getting cleaned up for court. Maybe I’ll ask the judge if she’ll consider some side work. 🙂

 

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, escape, Life, random, recovery, twelve step

Slip Slidin’ Away

slippery slope

Sometimes, I forget who I am. I get a little too relaxed. I walk around my home without seeing how incredibly blessed I am to get to live here, in a house I can afford, where my daughter has her own room, and I get to have my dog, and I have a big old yard, and TWO bathrooms. I just get caught up in living my life without seeing how amazing it is. Same thing goes for my career- I can be whiny about my job, I get lazy sometimes, completely oblivious to the fact that the rash decision I made 13 years ago to go to night school, the credentials I gained, and the amazing opportunity I was handed when I was hired at the hospital where I still work today, changed my life. Completely transformed it. I’m not saying this is unusual- no one walks around in a state of constant gratitude. At least, no one I know.

But one thing I would do well to remember is the reason I get to keep the wonderful life that I have. The one thing that would save me, should the house go away, or the job wasn’t mine anymore. That thing is my recovery, and I haven’t been doing much for it lately. I really need to remind myself that if I didn’t have all these days in a row of not just being clean, but being clean and working on the person I am, working towards steadily getting better than I was before, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this right now.

Life can and will keep changing right before your eyes, and it is easy to get swept up in this thing or that thing, and let your focus change. I think that during those times, it’s pretty normal to stray from the path and wander off, but…do I think it’s a good idea? Nope. I think, in reality, when you feel yourself getting off track, you need to double down on the things that anchor you. I do, that’s what I need to do. I should be specific here, I am talking about me, about my life right now. I need to be closer than ever to my program of recovery, not just saying the words, but actively.

Listen, I am not in any imminent danger, but…my thoughts have been a little squirrely lately. Which, of course, is how it always begins- right in your head. I have been wishing for something to take the edge off, or blur the edges at least, just a little bit. I want something that will make me less…less worried about how ME I am all the time. Because I am messy and nervous and insecure, I think way too much, and take things pretty seriously, believe it or not. And my brain has been telling me stories about how much more fun I could be, how easy it would be, the exact way that I could lay all this heavy shit down and just fucking relax already.

Thankfully, I know my brain to be a liar. I know my brain, sensing discomfort, will do just about anything to make that feeling go away. I mean, my brain has been lying to me for yeeeaaars. So I don’t have to listen to any of it. I know there are no shortcuts in recovery, and there are certainly no days off. Not even when you could really use a drink or two. As a matter of fact, all these years that I have put in? This is sort of what I’ve been training for- the day when I really longed for an escape, or an easier way. This is the test I’ve been studying for this whole time. I’m not about to fail, not now.

I made a choice, I made a commitment, a long time ago, knowing there would be times in the future that it would be hard to keep that commitment. There have been these times in the past, and I kept at it, and I wasn’t sorry. There are always two paths, and I know where one of them leads me- I’ve been down it about as far as a person can go and live to tell the tale. The other one, well…the other one I don’t know as well. But I have a feeling that the woman I want to be is somewhere along it. So I think I will stay on that path. I think that is the wise thing to do.

slippery

Posted in anxiety, Learning, Life, love, Musings, People, relationships

So What About Love?

locked heart

A year ago, my therapist sort of reprimanded me about “neglecting major aspects of my basic human needs”. I think this was a really nice way of telling me I needed to get laid, although I didn’t inquire further. I didn’t want to get into it, so I just said I wasn’t ready to deal with that when I had allll these other things going on, and we moved onto whatever it was we moved onto. Maybe she was just talking about dating or something, but it sure sounded like she was implying sex. It made me very uncomfortable.

Which, if you knew me at all in real life, you would probably find this amusing. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, some kind of prude. I mean…I don’t think I am. Or maybe I am, now. I certainly didn’t used to be! But…the truth is, I am not the way I used to be, and in many ways this is a good thing. In other ways, I am still grappling with how to integrate certain things back into my life in a healthy way. One of the things I just haven’t quite figured out yet is men. I don’t know how to (Oh my gosh, if you guys could see how squirmy and weird I am being right now, just writing this, you would laugh at me) do it. I mean, I know how to do it- I have two children, for Pete’s sake. I’m not talking about THAT. I’m talking about the whole thing- meeting someone, dating, having some kind of relationship. Falling in love. Doesn’t it seem weird to think about falling in love in your 40’s? To me, it kind of does.

In any case, I have some pretty intense hang ups when it comes to this entire part of my life. One of them is that my last relationship just fucked me up. I don’t know how to put it more politely than that. I would really like to think of myself as a bit more resilient than that- that I could survive a dysfunctional mess like that, learn from it, and move on. And in a way, I guess I did do that. I learned a little too well, and moved on. Alone. And stayed that way forever. I have seen friends of mine go through break ups, feel heartbroken, and move on to find happiness again. I have done that myself in the past. But for whatever reason, this time I just retreated from all of it and I never ventured back out again. I really, truly admire people who jump back in and risk their hearts again. I think it is the bravest thing in the world, and I am in awe of that bravery. In my case, I told someone how afraid I was of being vulnerable, and how afraid I was of being hurt, how afraid I was of trusting them, thinking that if they knew this, they would be kinder to me. Instead, they did the very thing I feared the most, and I can’t forget that. What I should have seen was that if I was that afraid to trust them, I shouldn’t have. I should have known that, and I didn’t. I can’t forget that, either.

Another thing is my daughter. She is seven years old and she has never seen me with anyone except for her dad, and we broke up when she was four. Well, we broke up when she was 1,2,3, and 4, but permanently when she was 4. I was seeing someone for a while after that, but she didn’t know, and it was someone I had already dated off and on for YEARS, so I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. So I don’t know how to navigate dating with a young daughter, either. I mean, I have done that before, too- don’t forget, I have a 20 year old and I dated PLENTY when she was little, but…I don’t want to operate the way I did before. I am truly out of my element with all of this.

flirt

Probably the biggest stumbling block for me, though, is ME. Ugh, I hate to even say this, but I am so weird about everything! I am just not my best self when I am in a situation that has any romantic possibilities at all. I get anxious and uptight and uncomfortable, I think too hard and talk too much, and just generally become a giant bummer. It would be funny if it didn’t suck so badly. I don’t have the option of having a drink to take the edge off, and I truly don’t know how the hell people date without some kind of substance in their blood stream. I just paused to think about what to write next, and realized that my shoulders were raised almost to my ears. That’s how tense this subject makes me.

And this is how, over and over again, I come back to the conclusion that I’m not ready yet. I’m not there, I don’t want to, it’s fine, I’m fine, forget it. To be honest with you, I am really great on my own. I have this routine that I am happy with, I do what I want when I want to, it’s easy. I do not harbor any illusions that I need a man in my life to be complete- I am complete already. That isn’t the thing at all. The thing is that I wonder…wouldn’t it be good to have someone to love? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to turn to, or to talk about my day with? Wouldn’t it be cool to have a partner in all of this, someone who was there for me, who helped me hold it all together? I know I can do it on my own- I pretty much always have done it that way. But wouldn’t it be amazing to know I didn’t have to?

So…how do you get to the good part, the part where you get all of the benefits, the stuff I just listed? Hmm…well, this would be where I admit that I don’t know because I haven’t ever managed to get there, not really. I have picked the wrong guys, plain and simple. And the only way to pick the right one is to trust myself, listen to my gut, and TRY. Figure it out. Wade in with my eyes open and make better choices. I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. But I’m starting to think that maybe “ready” is an illusion, another excuse to keep myself safe. Maybe I just need to jump in and see what happens. What do you think?

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, faith, inner peace, Learning, Life, Mental Health, recovery, spirituality, twelve step

In The Middle

the middle
Photo courtesy of Google and Simplereminders.com

In April of 2015, I unwittingly started out on a journey. I thought that I was just getting clean- that I would stop using drugs, get right in the head, and live happily ever after. I could foresee nothing but sunshine and better days ahead of me, and I blindly forged ahead, completely unprepared for what I was getting myself into.

Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% sure that I am right where I am supposed to be, and that I have never done more important work than the work I am doing on myself today. But I am right in the middle of it right now, and it is hard. I am tired. I have peeled away so many layers that I spent years and years building up, all to protect this fucked up little heart of mine, and now I feel…over it. I want to retreat. I don’t want to use, never that, but I just want to go back. I want to go back to being oblivious and unaware of myself, back to just living my life and not thinking so hard about who I am, why I am the way I am, who I want to be.

I had no idea what a mess I really am. None. I didn’t know I was insecure, I didn’t know I didn’t love myself, I didn’t realize I was constantly seeking outside approval to feel validated. I didn’t know how much of my self worth was wrapped up in my appearance, I didn’t know that I had no idea how to exist in a healthy relationship, and I didn’t know that I was so terrified of being vulnerable that I had essentially cut myself off from everyone who tried to get or stay close to me. I thought I was a really awesome girl who just had a drug problem.

So this is the hard part. Now I know all of those things, but I haven’t figured out how to fix them just yet. I have to sit here, with all of this painful knowledge, and I haven’t learned yet how to heal, how to repair it. My suspicion is that it is a process, and that it will take time to get to a place where I can feel okay again, and this is the worst news possible for someone who loves instant gratification as much as I do. When something is uncomfortable for me, I will go to great lengths to feel better again- which might be why I poured drugs into my system for such a long time. I didn’t know it was a band-aid over a gaping wound. I didn’t even know I was doing it to hide a problem. I thought the drugs WERE the problem, and that the problem just happened to make me feel really good. For a minute, anyway.

I have heard people talk about the agony of waking up to the truth, and I thought they were being dramatic. I thought the truth they were talking about was something else- the way the world around us is, or something…else. But waking up to who you are, who you REALLY are, is terrifying. I mean, unless you somehow managed to make it through life without hiding parts of yourself away and losing other parts, and realizing you missed some pretty important bits of information. If that is who you are, this blog probably won’t make a lot of sense to you. And I realize that not everyone has to tear themselves down to the dirt and start over. But I had to. And right now I feel pretty raw, pretty exposed.

So, here I sit. Tired of feeling all of these feelings, but pretty sure I have to do it. Coming to terms with the fact that the only way forward is through. Trying hard to have faith that I am on the right path, even though it is scaring the shit out of me presently. I can’t un-see what I have seen in myself. I can’t ever go back, so I have two choices- I can stay right here, or I can press on. And the thing is, right here is not sustainable. Have you ever lost a filling in a tooth? You know how it feels when that nerve is exposed to everything, even air? Yeah, it hurts. It hurts so much that you get over your fear of the dentist pretty quick, and figure out a way to get that cavity fixed. Well, that’s a great analogy for my life right now. I dug out that bad filling, and even though I needed it gone, it was making me sick, right now it is painful. I just want to fix it the right way this time.

I am not without hope. I have the benefit of my recovery program, I have a few people who really love me and understand, I have a sponsor who guides me when I let her, and most importantly, I have myself, willing to do the work to get better. No, most importantly, I have unshakable faith that God, or The Universe, or a spectacular combination of all of these benevolent forces, has brought me here for a reason. That there is no way for me to fail at this, but I must be patient. I must be willing to sit here, in this uncomfortable, painful place until I have learned what I need to know. And then, I can begin to put myself back together again…or maybe that is what I am doing. Maybe that’s what all this really is.