Posted in Blogging, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, random, Uncategorized

Little Stories

I’ve let so many days pass in between posts, and it’s mostly because in the mornings, when I usually sit here to write, I’ve been drawing big, empty blank spaces where the words usually are. I just sit here, staring at the screen, waiting, and nothing comes. Instead, when I am driving, or working, or sitting on the toilet five minutes before I have to run out the door to work, I think of these great posts that I will start, you know…tomorrow. Only tomorrow comes, and I can’t remember what they are, and the whole cycle starts again. So today, while I have a little time, I’m going to try to round up some of my scattered thoughts and tell you what has been going on. Here are some little stories:

Not My Story to Tell:  Lately, it has occurred to me that sometimes there are things I want to write about that involve other people in my life, and those people might not want me to write about them. As an overarching rule, I don’t generally censor myself when it is directly impacting my life, but…when it comes to certain people, such as my daughter or my mother, I just can’t. If you were to scroll back through all of my blogs, you would see that has not always been the case, but…you know…I’ve changed a lot. This is one example of that, I guess. That I now understand when it is not my story to tell. Maybe someday, in some other way, but…as much good material as those two give me, they need to know their secrets are safe with me. I reserve the right to poke a modicum of fun at them, and celebrate the good things, of course.

Emotional Hangover: This past week, I experienced a 24 hour period of great stress. The funny thing about me that I am just figuring out is that I am GREAT while the traumatic event is happening. It’s when it has passed that I completely fall apart. And it doesn’t always look or feel as if it is related to what I just went through, either. The day after the storm had passed, I found myself suddenly worried to the point of paranoia over my youngest daughter. For the record, she had nothing to do with the stressful situation, and so I couldn’t understand why all of the sudden I was in a near-panic state over her safety. It finally hit me what was going on, and being able to understand it helped me let it go. But I also went to bed at like six o’clock for two nights running, and I am still, several days later, not quite myself. Which leads me to the next story…

Extra Sensitive: I shy away from the word “empath” simply because it is thrown around quite a bit with lots of connotations that I am not 100% comfortable with…which is actually kind of funny, because I may not be comfortable with claiming them (psychic phenomena, gifts, powers, all that woo-woo stuff) but I am totally into all of it. I just don’t think they are necessarily linked, always. I think everyone has the ability to sense things they cannot see, but some people have just honed those abilities out of self-preservation or even just intentionally. I know that people who have grown up in homes where it benefited them to be on their toes at all times, living with volatile adults, are often extra sensitive. I think I fall into this category. I love people, but I prefer to be alone. When I am with friends, large groups exhaust me. And when I am around someone who is not okay, it drains the life right out of me. I can generally tell when someone is lying, and I sense how someone is feeling no matter what they say to the contrary. Again, I don’t think this is truly unusual, aside from how much it affects me. This is the thing I need to work on. I think it is interesting, though, to think about how the energy people give off impacts other people. I once, long ago, was with a friend and three people who had just done something terrible showed up at his house. I had no idea what they had done, but the energy rolling off of them was the worst I had ever felt. It was like a black fog. I will never forget it as long as I live.

On a Lighter Note: This past week, I have been working hard on my online Tarot course, and I LOVE it! I’m so excited to learn all about each card and what it is supposed to mean. I’ve worked my way through the minor arcana, and will be starting the major arcana today. Fascinating stuff! I love learning new things, and the idea that I will be able to do readings for myself and friends without consulting the book for every card is just so awesome to me!

Also, I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I decided two weeks ago that I was done dieting and tracking my food and obsessing over all that shit. I even deleted all my tracking apps (except fitbit, because it’s too fun). So far, this has not worked in my favor. I’m giving myself one week to get my shit together, and if I can’t start eating like a normal person and not hoovering everything in sight like I have a free pass, I’m going to have to start tracking again. Loving myself does not mean gobbling my way straight into obesity.

So, there you have it- that’s a little of what’s going on with me, and what’s been on my mind this week. Hopefully, I’ll get back into my blogging groove and be back here really soon. Until then, have a wonderful day!

 

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Posted in beauty, Blogging, inner peace, Learning, Life, love, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People

A Tiny Little Revolution

alan-cohen
courtesy of Alan Cohen. Thanks, mister.

Let me describe my day for you: I woke up at four a.m. and poured myself a cup of fresh, strong french roast coffee, fixing it so that it was creamy and sweet, just the way I like it. I sat out on my front porch and sipped it, listening to the crazy birds singing in the trees- yep, they are singing away even at that hour.

After I had my fill of the quiet and the not-so-quiet, after I had seen enough of the tiny little crescent moon, I came inside and said good morning to both my beautiful black kitties and my sweet black lab. I sat down at my computer and worked through a few lessons on the tarot course I am taking, pausing often to take copious notes. I read through a little of my work in progress. I had some more coffee. I read for a little while.

When the sky started to lighten up outside, I lit my candles and my incense, I got my cushion, and I sat down on the floor to pray and meditate. When I was done, I stretched lazily, grabbed my book, and poured myself a very hot, very bubbly bath. I stayed in there reading until my fingertips did not look much like fingertips anymore. I threw on my bathrobe and jumped back in bed, snoozing for another hour, give or take.

After Camryn woke up, we threw on whatever clothes looked decent enough, and Lucy (the lab), Camryn and I jumped into the car and headed to the beach. We walked and walked, finally stopping at the rocky end, where we lingered for a while, picking up shells, and standing in the gentle, icy water, while seaweed wrapped around our legs. Camryn saw a cairn and asked what it was, and I explained to her that people built one in memory, sometimes, of people they loved. She wanted to build one for my friend Joe, so we did. I was delighted that she thought of it.

On the way home, sandy and salty and filled with the calm of the ocean, we stopped at the best bakery on the peninsula and got a few croissants, a coffee for me, and a coke for her. I am sitting here now, at my desk, as the sun streams through my window, writing this to you. I don’t know how to adequately describe to you the peace inside my heart, the calm assurance, the gratitude. It is at once enormous, and completely, perfectly, normal.

I wrote recently about the shift that occurred for me, the way that I was suddenly able to see my body as something more than just some object to be admired, or, more upsetting, to be judged harshly by the eyes of others- and even more harshly by ME. Suddenly, I saw my body as the vehicle for my soul, perfect even with its imperfections, perfectly functional, ever faithful, strong as could be. From that moment forward, there has been an almost comical domino-effect of changes happening, one after the other. I don’t know the words one would use to describe something like this, and right now I don’t even want to try to find them, but suffice to say…things are…I am…changing on a fundamental level. Some deep, deep shit is just resolving itself. I am just over here, watching it happen. Enjoying it.

So what does that mean? Well, it means that I am pausing, all the time, to search for that feeling of connection to the energy that is just pulling me along, when I am open. It means I have stopped saying anything demeaning to myself, about my appearance, or any other facet of my being. It means I do weird stuff, like close my eyes and feel the sun on my face, and the wind, and smile because I am not worrying about tomorrow or yesterday, I am here, now. It means I don’t always know where my phone is anymore, because I don’t care. It means I am not tracking my food, obsessing over calories, or beating myself up for not being driven enough to work out regularly. Consequently, food tastes MUCH better without the extra guilt sauce, and I have gotten more walking in than I have in months.

I’ve decided to leave myself alone, for once. Just simply live and enjoy my life without the guilt and she really should’s and shouldn’t s. It’s so easy, and so simple, and so kind…and yet it FEELS revolutionary, to me. My own quiet little revolution. A little love affair with myself. How perfect. And now, I’m going to read my book and take another nap. Enjoy your day!

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

Sad News

I sat down here this morning to write how sorry I was that I haven’t been keeping up lately, to tell you that I have been so happy, and my life has been so joyful and full of so many good things, that I didn’t want to break the spell by trying to explain it all. That is what I intended to say to you all this morning.

And then I received an alert on my phone that Anthony Bourdain had died, at the age of 61, from suicide, and…you know, I’m feeling much more somber now. That’s two in one week, you guys- two that we know, personally, among many, many more, I’m sure. First Kate Spade, and now Anthony Bourdain. Two people whom, I imagine at least, have all of the things we think would make our lives “perfect” if only we had them, right? It struck me this morning, as I thought about it, that perhaps all the success contributed in some way to the problem. Like, if you have everything you ever wanted, and you still feel terrible, you still suffer with depression, anxiety, whatever mental illness plagues you- wouldn’t that make it even worse? I don’t know, I’m just speculating. I imagine that it would. I just know that I am especially sad about the loss of Bourdain. He was truly one of my favorites.

It is hard for me to remember what depression feels like when I am no longer in it- I have only had a few bouts of it, but that was enough for me. But I do remember that when I was deeply entrenched in it, I could not remember what it felt like to be happy. And more than that, I could not imagine ever being happy again. Worst of all, I believed that all the memories I had of a time when I was happy were lies. My brain was so sick and sad that I honestly believed that I had never really been happy in my life. So, I don’t know…I don’t know how long I could have kept going that way, what my thoughts might have looked like after too long. And I don’t know what it’s like to be truly suicidal, either. There have been times when I thought I might not try to move aside if a truck jumped the curb, and there have been times in my addiction when I really felt my family would be better off without me, but…I never considered killing myself, not really. So I don’t know, and I’m glad I don’t. I guess my mind is just trying to wrap itself around this latest loss, trying to understand, and…you know, I don’t need to, I guess. I can just be sad.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel qualified to even guess about this, let alone write about it. But it would be weirder, maybe, if I didn’t. After all, I was a huge fan, and I am terribly sad about this news. I wonder what was going on inside his head, what must that have looked like to make such a final, permanent decision. How awful things must feel if death looks like the best answer. Again, I’m glad I don’t know. I wish it was different for him, and for Kate, and for Chester, and for Chris, and for the millions of other people whom I do not know but have come to the same end. I hope they all find the peace that they sought.

I am not going to write about my happiness this morning, but I am not going to feel guilty about it, either. This poor world…it needs all of the light it can muster.

Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, random, relationships

Let Go of Everything

breathe

Today is the last day of my life that I will ever be 42. Forty-fucking-two, you guys. Holy shit! Tomorrow, I will be FORTY THREE. I honestly had no idea that in your forties, you could still feel the exact same way that you did in your 30’s and even in your 20’s. Maybe just a little more cautious, and a little less willing to paint your own toenails or pluck your own eyebrows- this is the luxury of having a bit more financial stability and less of a desire to stay up past nine in the evening, meeting friends for expensive drinks. You can pay someone else to groom you. I am only half way joking- this is one of the most enjoyable things about getting older for me. That, and getting to enjoy the full scope of Amazon Prime. I love that shit.

Anyway, for some reason, I always thought that 42 would be this landmark year for me. I actually looked forward to it for a really long time, and now, here I sit, almost done with the age…and nothing pointedly significant is jumping out at me. I didn’t get an agent (nor did I try, so that might be part of that problem), I didn’t have a New York Times best seller (also, didn’t finish my novel yet, so that could be why), and I am not rich beyond my wildest dreams (although this has been a great year for me, financially, so…). So what does that mean? Has this year been a failure because no giant big deals are jumping out at me?

Nah. This has been the best year of my life so far. I’m still clean. My mental health is outstanding- like, I am probably more stable now than I’ve ever been. My physical health is incredible. My parenting game is top-notch. My bills are all paid. My recovery is strong. I am closer with my family than ever, and I have some wonderful friends. My life is in really good shape.

But the best part is the ease of it all. What I mean is, I’m not afraid of living anymore. Like, I finally learned how to stop trying to make everything turn out exactly the way I wanted it to, and let whatever is supposed to happen, happen. And this small thing, when someone is the caliber of control freak that I am, is not really a small thing. Do you know how exhausting it is to constantly try to manipulate every possible outcome in your favor? If you do, you really need to hear this, because…I think I finally figured out the solution. Just let go. Let go of the outcome, and enjoy the ride. You don’t have to insert yourself into everything, you don’t have to put up a false front, you don’t have to do anything…just let things go how they will go. It’s literally the most magical thing ever.

I don’t mean stay in your pajamas and stop showing up for work. You still have to show up. But some things you don’t have to do? Okay, well- you don’t have to suffer fools. Let them go…show them the door, even. You don’t have to keep anyone in your life that doesn’t deserve to be there. You can definitely let go of people that suck. You don’t have to explain yourself, either. If you are done with someone, chances are they know exactly why you feel the way you feel, so BYE. You don’t have to apologize for your feelings. You don’t have to beat yourself up for being human. You don’t have to let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. You don’t have to let YOU make you feel bad about yourself.

And here are some things you can do: You can love yourself, exactly the way you are. You can love yourself, and still want to change a few things. You can let people into your life that make you happy. You can let those people go, if they want to go, and it doesn’t have to mean anything is wrong with you. You can be proud of yourself. You can tell that mean voice in your head to shut the fuck up. You can decide you are pretty fucking great, and defend that decision as if your life depends on it, because it kind of does. You can just be who you are, and relax.

I may not have done all of the things in the past twelve months that I expected of myself, but I did a lot of things that will help me get to where I want to be. I did some deep, deep, inner work, and it has given me back far more than I invested, honestly. Sitting here, writing this, I have so much peace in my heart. I am so okay with who I am. Flaws and all. It’s been a pretty outstanding year.

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.

 

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.