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.

 

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Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Blogging, inner peace, Learning, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery

Punishment Enough

punishment enough

I have been cursed with a guilty conscience, thanks largely in part to living a lifestyle for many years where I usually was doing something wrong. I mean, nothing major, for the most part, but generally, just the way I lived, it was all very secretive, very sneaky. I got in trouble with people all the time and it was normally very much my own fault, and so…I developed a habit of feeling pretty bad about myself.

This has not changed, despite the fact that I am very much a responsible, productive member of society these days. What it amounts to is that I tend to be a lot more nervous and worried about making mistakes than perhaps your average person- as a matter of fact, I don’t allow myself any room at all for messing up. When it inevitably happens that I do, I am very, very hard on myself. I expect the worst consequences despite the fact that people have almost always been more forgiving of my screw-ups than I anticipate. Basically, what I’m saying is, I’m kind of a wreck. When things are going smoothly, I am okay. But throw one little issue into the pot, and the entire trajectory of my thoughts goes rapidly down hill. I obsess. I am consumed with worry. I feel really, really bad about myself. And I have had it.

I’ve had it with my attitude about myself. I’ve had it with my inability to just let things unfold, and my refusal to have any faith in myself. I’ve had it with my catastrophic thinking, and more than anything else, I have had it with fear. Even as I write this, I have a little thing hanging over my head that is causing a major disturbance in the force, and my poor fear-poisoned body feels tight and uneasy and anxious. I woke up with that old, familiar heaviness, that sense of dread that I know so well. I’ve had enough. I have to let it go. So, here is what I have to say to myself-

Dear Courtney-

Life cannot be lived while curled in the fetal position, not even the figurative fetal position. You don’t have to be afraid. Everything is going to be okay, even if it doesn’t go the way you have planned. You are safe. You can rely on me. I am not going to let you down. You can’t enjoy the awesome adventure of life if you are holding on so tightly to all of this fear. You can put it down. No matter what happens, you will figure out a way to navigate it. You always find the silver lining, always, eventually. Try to remember that. You are a good mother, a good friend, and a good person. The past is over with. You are allowed to leave it there and move on. Your life was punishment enough. Stop beating yourself up for being someone you bear no resemblance to anymore. That girl was sick and sad and desperate for help…and you saved her life. Give yourself credit for how far you have come. You have been through so much. It’s time to start enjoying the life you have managed to create. So hold your head up, and let the chips fall where they may. And never forget that I love you.

Love, me.

I know that got a little weird, but I needed to say those things to myself. Now it’s public, so I can’t take it back. 🙂

Here’s to lighter hearts and lighter loads to carry. I’m ready to leave some of this baggage behind and skip a little bit. Happy Friday!

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, spirituality, twelve step

Being in Recovery

find yourself.png

Edit: Something I should definitely add, in the interest of not alienating people is this- there is 12-step recovery, and there are other types of recovery, as well. But ALL recovery means DOING THE WORK to be a better person than you were when you were using. If you are not actively engaging in the process of figuring out why and how you wound up where you are, then that is not recovery. If you are still using any substance to change the way you feel (and I’m not talking about anti-depressants here, to be clear), that is definitely not recovery. For ME, that means the traditional NA, AA, twelve step path. For you, it could be faith based or whatever floats your boat. But recovery is a specific thing, and you are either doing it or not. It’s not a halfway thing. THAT is the point I was trying to make.

Something that REALLY bothers me a lot is when people say they are “in recovery” when what they mean is that they stopped using a particular drug. Listen: You are not In Recovery if you stopped using meth or heroin but you still smoke weed or drink. You are not even in recovery if you practice abstinence completely, but you have never been to a meeting. Being in recovery (for me, for instance) means attending 12-step meetings regularly, and working those steps, with a sponsor. You can say you are clean, you are sober, or anything else like that if it pleases you. But don’t say you are in recovery, because you just aren’t.

Listen, I am not trying to downplay what anyone is doing to better their lives. If you can stop using hard drugs and find that you are someone who can drink responsibly, my God, that is GREAT for you, more power to you! But please, don’t confuse that with real recovery. It isn’t. Let me explain to you why that is-

Recovery is a lifestyle. It means committing yourself to something that is serious, time consuming, and really hard at times. My drug of choice was amphetamines. Do you know how often I toy with the idea that, because of that fact, maybe it would be okay if I drank occasionally? It crosses my mind a lot. Despite the fact that I have factual evidence that every single time I have been a responsible drinker it has eventually led me back to drugs at some point, I still continue to battle with these thoughts here and there. Maybe this is not the case for you, and hey, high freaking five on that. But it has been my experience that this is what we call a “yet” situation. I am not prepared to gamble with what I have earned.

Here’s the other thing: through my prolific years of drug use, I learned something really important. Addiction is not just about the drugs, and the shameful things that happen to us and because of us while we are using. It’s really about the people we are, the behavior we exhibit, and the deep seated self-loathing that basically all people with addiction issues have in common. People who have problems with addiction have problems with loving themselves. When you take away the drugs, the problems are still there. The drugs or whatever it is you are using to control the way you feel, and the way you show up in the world, are a symptom, they are not the real problem.

Recovery is how we get to the root of that problem. It’s like manual labor of a the spirit- there’s a lot of heavy lifting and digging, a lot of time spent in the dark with all of the things you fear the most. When you are in recovery, you make a decision to face all of the things you are terrified of looking at, and to do that, you have to dredge shit up, shine light on it, pick it apart, and learn how to dispose of it properly. And you do every bit of it with NOTHING to take the edge off, NOTHING to dull the pain, even when it sounds so good, you could almost cry.

recovery

Let me tell you, it’s a struggle sometimes. Do you know how hard it is to date when you are in recovery? I don’t have the option of loosening up with a drink, and thanks to my general anxiety over who I am, this would be welcome on a date, let me tell you. Do you know how much of a weirdo I feel like when I try to lightly gloss over the fact that I don’t drink to a guy who just cannot compute the concept? “But why?” he inevitably asks, or “You don’t drink EVER?” And it feels like I have grown another head, but you definitely don’t want to lead with a horror story of WHY you really don’t drink. And yes, I could just say I’m allergic to alcohol (lies) but, you know, I’d rather just not.

My point is, recovery is a very specific thing. It MEANS something to the people who take it seriously. The ones who are fighting to grasp it, to hold onto it, to incorporate the principles into their everyday lives. We aren’t just trying to stay clean, we are trying to use a set of instructions to become the best people we are capable of being. And it’s HARD, but it is good work, and it has rewards far beyond what I ever expected to receive. So please, respect the word recovery. And now, I shall get down off my soap box. Carry on.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, faith, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, Musings

Being Human

being human

Last week was ROUGH. You may have notice my absence here, you may not have. I think I threw out my “Three things” post, and that was about it. I just wasn’t feeling it. I wrote a really angry post on Friday morning, but opted not to publish it, as it just didn’t feel like who I want to show up in the world as. Angry me is not the best me. So I left it. The event that happened to inspire the anger happened, and I can’t change it. Suffice to say that human beings are fickle and misguided sometimes, and they are prone to doing things that will disappoint you. Some humans are more prone to this than others. When you know this about them, it’s kind of on you to proceed accordingly. I forgot that, and I got a solid reminder. I am practicing acceptance, and will try to forgive but stop forgetting. I forget too easily. Sorry for the vagueness- I hate when other people do that shit, and here I am doing it. The sum of the matter is, someone hurt my feelings and went behind my back, and I am trying to deal with the situation with a modicum of dignity and some wisdom, rather than my normal routine of utterly blowing up, seeking revenge, and making everything three thousand times worse. I am trying to change.

In other news, this dance I have been doing with depression- good Lord, it gets old. It’s not bad enough for me to stop showering, but it’s just bad enough where I will skip other little things- I don’t bother putting on lotion, I don’t bother brushing my hair. Rather than dealing with laundry, I’ll just wear the same clothes I had on the day before- it’s not like I did anything, anyway. It’s this weird thing where I am always wondering, am I supposed to lean into it, or do I fight it? Do I let myself feel how I am feeling, or do I “act as if”, plaster a smile on my face, and fake it like crazy? There’s this fear that if I let myself rest here too long, I won’t ever be able to get back up again. It’s hard to know how to care for yourself properly when your instincts are all screwed up, and you aren’t really sure you can trust yourself. So, I have been doing a little bit of both things- resting a little bit more than usual, and as soon as I can, I get up and do as much as I am able to. It seems to be working. I definitely got less than usual done this weekend, but I did get more done than I expected.

I’ve had a chance to talk to a few different people about the way I’ve been feeling and what I’ve been going through, and each one of them confirmed that they know exactly what I am talking about and have found themselves dealing with the same things- if not right now, then recently. What I got out of that is that maybe this is just part of growing up, growing older. You think things will be a certain way, and they aren’t, and it’s hard on our spirits. I think we have this idea that when we reach a certain age, everything evens out and life gets easy- I know I, at least, always sort of pictured life this way when I was younger; “When I accomplish a), b), and c), everything will be just right…” But that isn’t how it works. There are growing pains at every age, and I think they are made harder by the inevitable cynicism we pick up along the way. Call it wisdom or knowledge if that makes you feel more comfortable, but the fact is, as we age, we learn unhappy truths and it can fuck with feelings of hope and happiness. That can be hard to deal with.

So what, then, are we to do? Well, we just keep going, just like I am doing, and try to deal with our uncomfortable feelings the best we can. Try not to let it shut you down completely. If you just can’t do another thing, give yourself a break and binge some Bob’s Burger, for levity, and recharge your battery. “Act as if” a little, and say “Fuck it all” a little. Take as good of care of yourself as you can, and forgive yourself immediately for what you can’t quite do. But definitely do what you can.

Listen, life is hard sometimes, but it is also beautiful- it can be beautiful and hard at the same time, even. You might have to look a little harder to see it, but it’s all still there. Today, my intention is to push myself a little more than I did yesterday because, so far, I am feeling a little better…but that could change, and I am not going to be mad at myself if things don’t go as planned. I’m going to treat myself like a good friend who is going through a rough time (because essentially, that is what I am) and act accordingly. I am going to look for the beauty. And I am going to allow myself to be this weird little human that I am.

Posted in anxiety, Blogging, Depression, family, funny, Goals, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting

Three Things- Welcome, March!

three daffodils

I woke up this morning with the three things I wanted to write about already in my head- unfortunately, as often happens, they have completely disappeared. For all I know, they were stupid things anyway that only seemed to make sense because I was half asleep. That’s kind of how my early morning thoughts generally are- they seem brilliant until I’ve had a cup of coffee, and then I’m like “What the fuck? That is utter nonsense!” Too bad I can’t remember what they were, they might have been good for a laugh. Anyway, I have at least two I can share…maybe the third will reveal itself as I go. Here goes:

  1. Depression. Can we talk about this for a minute? It often feels to me as if I am constantly on the cusp of slipping into depression, or just over the line into it, and struggling to either keep myself away or get myself all the way out. This week has been extra bad in that respect, and I hate it. I wake up every day with the intention of trying harder, doing better, getting more done, but the fact of it is…when you are truly feeling depressed, it’s very hard to accomplish much. Or anything, really. I think…I think I might be dealing with this the wrong way. I want so badly to just snap out of it through exercise or positive thinking, or even desperate prayer. I don’t have TIME to be depressed. I have shit to do. I don’t have any reason to be depressed, either. My life is good. Well guess what? That’s not how depression operates, and it doesn’t care how good your life is, what your schedule looks like, or if you have time. Much as I hate to admit it, it might be time to talk to someone about this. Sorry for being a bummer.
  2. March. It’s freaking MARCH already. I love spring, and would be pretty excited if I wasn’t feeling particularly shitty this morning. Also, it’s pouring down rain here right now, which we need so badly in California, but also, I feel like the weather is mocking me. I’ve decided that for the month of March, I will go mostly meatless. That’s my theme for the month- Mostly Meatless March. I say mostly because I’m scared. I’ve never tried to go without meat for an entire month, and I might forget, or freak out. I’m going to really try, though, to be a vegetarian for a month and see how it feels. Who knows? Maybe I’ll love it! Maybe I’ll lose twenty pounds! Maybe I’ll go vegan, and talk about only that for the rest of my life! (Note: this will never happen. I love butter and cheese WAY too much).
  3. Well, Camryn just gave me my third thing. She just stumbled out of bed, with her hair standing up straight, and her cheeks all flushed. “What are you doing up?” I asked her, looking at the clock which read 5:49, “It’s way too early!” “The cat woke me up.” She said, climbing into my lap.”She had her arms around my neck.” “Oh, she was giving you a hug.” I replied, giving her a hug of my own. “Yeah, or she was trying to secretly strangle me.” I laughed so hard, you guys- this is an ongoing thing in this house. Our girl cat, Rose, adores Camryn, but you know how cats show affection…sometimes they get a little mean about it. They get so wound up when you pet them that they scratch you, or knead you a little too hard. Camryn is convinced that the cat is trying to kill her. Sometimes she’ll scream for me from the other room to help her, and I run in to see what is wrong, expecting blood or broken bones, only to find a little girl with a cat lying peacefully in her lap. “She’s starting to scare me!” Camryn will whisper. Wouldn’t it be awful if the cat really was being a maniac, but every time I walked in the room she acted all sweet and innocent? Maybe I should install cameras. 🙂

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope you have the best day possible under whatever circumstances you are dealing with. I certainly intend to. Talk to you soon!

 

Posted in Addiction, Depression, Goals, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, recovery

The Upswing

the upswing
Picture found via google images- I wish I knew who to credit!

Last week, I struggled through some uncomfortable and unwelcome feelings. I wrote about them, the way I write about everything, and I said I knew that what I was going through was just part of life, and that I would feel better soon, the way I always do. But the truth is, every single time I go through those down times, I worry that I am going to get stuck there and that I will feel that way for a long time. Maybe forever. I don’t know why I think that however I am feeling at any given moment is how I always feel, and will always feel, but I do tend to believe this on a certain level. It’s weird. I think I should know myself better by now, but I do need to remember that I am not quite three in recovery years, so I am still figuring out how to operate this life and this person.

One thing I have learned is that I do need to wallow a little bit when I am down. I think everyone probably needs to honor themselves in this way- rather than just power through and act like everything is peachy, go ahead and lay around for a day or two. Spend an entire day watching movies On-Demand, refuse to participate in anything taxing- be that a trip to the beach or a trip to the bathtub, you decide what works for you. Just treat yourself like the unwell creature you are, why not? It might not be the flu, but it’s still a valid thing, that mental bullshit we go through. But I do encourage you to put a timer on this wallowing. We cannot wallow for too long, or it can turn into something else. Something bigger and uglier and much harder to control- at least, that is my fear. I have been legitimately depressed a time or two, and I have a healthy fear of it. I’m pretty sure that if depression were coming for me, there wouldn’t be much I could do to avoid it- it’s a chemical imbalance, obviously, and it happens to people who are doing all the right things, all the time. For me, however, a person who lives entirely too much in her head, I know that my attitude has a lot to do with how I feel. So, I allow myself a brief reprieve, and then I mobilize.

Once I have thoroughly assessed my situation via the wallow, I go into my Handling Business mode. This phase is not the easiest to prod myself into, but once I get started, it’s on like Donkey Kong (do people even say that anymore?). Friday, I decided that it was time to get my shit together, and yesterday was Handling Business day. I went to the gym. I got my eyebrows done (they look amazing, by the way. Seriously, I took a picture of them to show the next girl who does them because I want them to always look this good.) and went grocery shopping, stocking up on healthy foods for the week. I did three loads of laundry, including folding and putting away. I cleaned my kitchen, and my living room, and still managed to take a nice, long, hot bath…I even shaved my legs. That may not sound like a lot to you, but you would think differently if you had seen my kitchen. The stove top alone needed like 30 minutes of attention with a Magic Eraser.

During the wallow, I realized that in just a few short months, I will be turning 43 years old. This past year has been one of my personal best. I have stayed clean, and done so much work on myself. In the past three years, I have gone from total chaos and dysfunction to mostly-pretty-normal with occasional bouts of low grade chaos. I count that as a win. But there is always more to strive for, and I enjoy re-assessing my situation and figuring out where I want to go next. I have my writing habits pretty dialed in at this point, and I plan to keep on going with that. My fitness goals kind of got swallowed up (pun unintentional) over the past month, though, and I am going to get back to that. I’ve decided I want to see a significant change in my habits (honestly, I’d like to see a significant change in my body, but I want to keep the focus on my health) by the time 43 rolls around.

So there you have it- Wallow over, Upswing initiated. There will be moments of both in the months ahead, but I have my eye on the prize. Now, I am off to find some blogs about fitness and eating healthy. I’m sure I’ll find one or two. 🙂

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, faith, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, twelve step

Life on Life’s Terms

life on life's terms

 

 

I am having the hardest time ever with this post right now. This is the third blog I have started, and I am determined to finish this one, no matter how much I may hate it. Here’s the thing: I am having a shit time right now, for a number of reasons. None of them are big things, but a bunch of little things strung together, causing me stress and a general feeling of unease. I don’t feel comfortable with my life or in my body right now, and it’s bumming me out.

Here’s the thing, though. I understand that this is temporary, just like everything always is. My face has erupted like Mount Vesuvius, but…it is going to go back to normal. Eventually. I had a bunch of unexpected expenses come up all at once, but…they are going to be dealt with. Financial ruin is unlikely. I haven’t had time this week to buy groceries or get to the gym, and it sucks, but I will get back on track. It’s not the end of the world.

In my addict mind (and maybe in normal minds, too, I have no experience with living in one of those) everything is extremely black and white, all or nothing. Every time I get off track, I feel like I have failed utterly, and there will be no coming back for me. Which is ridiculous- I have millions of examples in my own life where that has not ever, not once, been the case. And yet, I persist with this wrong thinking. My mind often works against me, and it can be exhausting.

The solution? I believe it must be to just acknowledge that my wrong thoughts exist, be aware of that, and then work around them. Sometimes, I can think myself right into a corner, wedged so tightly that I can’t even move. Like, moving a muscle seems impossible, seriously. That is when I need to find the strength to haul my ass up anyway, and get some shit done. If I let myself sit in my mess for too long, that is when depression comes calling. And if you’ve ever dealt with depression, you know how hard that can be to get out of, and how scary it feels when it’s breathing down your neck. Inaction is not my friend in this situation.

I keep thinking about how, four days ago, I wrote a post about laughter, and how weird it may seem to any attentive readers that I am now writing about something quite the opposite of that. Maybe you will think I am nuts…hell, maybe I am. But here’s the thing- life doesn’t care how great I felt last week. Life just shows up, and does what it does. What I have learned in recovery is that I am supposed to be living life on life’s terms, meaning I deal with what life serves up, to the best of my ability, without taking anything to change the way I feel. This is harder than it sounds sometimes. Not the part where I don’t take anything, I’ve grown used to that. It’s the part where I cope with it well that eludes me sometimes.

I get nervous. I get scared. I feel like a lot of people depend on me, and I don’t know if I am up to the task. I retreat. I close up. I shut down.

But I always, always, always (so far) pull it together in the end. I always find a way to come out the other side of my feelings intact. I have a 100% success rate so far of not destroying my life completely, as long as I stay clean. I may not be feeling my best today, but tomorrow…who knows? Hell, later today I might feel better. You just never know. My job is just to hang in there, do my best, and wait for things to change. Because they always do, for better or worse.