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.

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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. ­čÖé

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 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.

Posted in anxiety, faith, family, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

Calm Inside the Crazy

be here now

Sometimes I think I just shouldn’t leave my house. Or read the news, like, EVER. Seriously, days like today really bring home the phrase “Ignorance is bliss”.

What might be bothering you, Courtney? You might be asking yourself right about now. Well, let me enlighten you- In the very immediate sphere of living, we have a massive flu outbreak here in my little corner of the world; yes, I realize it’s probably also in your corner of the world, but I’m not there, I’m here, and I’ve suddenly become very preoccupied with remaining healthy. The flu sucks ass, for one thing. The last few times I’ve had it, it knocked me on my butt, and I HATE being sick. I am such a massive whiner when I am sick, and there is no one around to take care of me, plus I have to miss work, and I am always treading the line of disciplinary action for one reason or another. Aside from me, if my kiddo gets sick, she gets REALLY sick, like, asthma-inhaler-wheezing-no mom anywhere can sleep when her kid can’t breathe- kind of sick. I work at a hospital, and it is banana’s up there, I am not kidding you. We are breaking records, and not in a happy way. So there’s that. (And yes, we had our flu shots, but they are only about 10% effective this year.)

Going beyond that a little bit, we have fucking Donald Trump for president. I still can’t even believe I am typing those words with any degree of seriousness an entire year later. After my hope that our country were smarter than that had been crushed last November, I came up with the paltry little hope that maybe he wouldn’t be able to screw things up that bad- I mean, we have a series of checks and balances, right? This is a democracy! How bad can it get?

The answer to that is still unfolding, but I can sum it up in one word- Bad. Or three words- really fucking bad. I guess before I got my hopes up I should have factored in Twitter, eh? I mean, can we all agree now that this is not going well? Can someone make him stop antagonizing North Korea? Can we please get a grown up with some sense in there to help out? Because I am feeling very, very nervous about things.

I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to die in a nuclear holocaust. I don’t want to keep reading about the scary, crazy weather happening ALL THE TIME, EVERYWHERE. I’m frightened. I’m frightened, and overwhelmed and pissed off because I have no control over ANY of this shit. None of it.

So what can I do, then? First of all, I can remember that I am here, right now, not sick, not in the middle of a war, and that I am safe and okay, in my own little home. I can be present right now, which is the only time that really exists, right? Deep breath, in and out. I can choose not to look at the news- either on TV or on my phone. Let it go. There is nothing I can do about any of it right this very second.

Most importantly, I can remember that I have faith, not just when things are wonderful, but also when they are scary or dark or weird- you either have faith or you don’t, right? I have to remember that I trust that God, the Universe, whatever you choose to call it- that there is a plan and I don’t have all the information, and that is okay. Whatever happens, I trust in God, period.

And finally, uncertainty is ever present, whether we are conscious of it or not. This only underscores the fact that we need to wake up and be as grateful for our lives RIGHT NOW as we would be if we knew it was all ending soon. How loving would you be, how easily would you forgive, how much more would you savor the small things, if today was your last day? I mean, it changes everything, doesn’t it? And that is really kind of sad, isn’t it?

Sigh…I needed to get that out so badly. Stay healthy, warm and close to your fallout shelters, my friends. Jesus, I hope that last part isn’t necessary.

Posted in beauty, escape, family, kids, Life, love, People, random

Don’t You Wanna Dance?

dancing

Good morning. Hopefully, I can get my thoughts down on the page, here, in some sort of cohesive manner- I slept fitfully last night, with a stuffed up nose that kept changing sides, and a rotten headache, to boot. I finally got up fifteen minutes before my alarm went off and used my new espresso maker for the first time…so, I am exhausted, over-caffeinated, and loopy. This ought to be entertaining, at the very least.

One of the things that has fascinated me since I first began to notice it, is the weird way you can divvy people up into two groups when it comes to certain things. For instance, there are mustard people, and┬ámayonnaise people-not all of them are hard core, but if forced to pick one or the other, there is a clear division. There are Coke and Pepsi people. Furthermore, there are Coke and Diet Coke people, and there is a whole subgroup of Dr.Pepper people. (Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that when you tell a Dr.Pepper person that his drink of choice is not available, they almost unfailingly will then ask “Do you have Root Beer?”. I am not making this up-ask any waiter or waitress if this is the case, and they will tell you it is.) There are dog people and cat people, night owls and early birds, readers and illiterates (Kidding!), and there are dancers, and those who do not dance.

I am a mayonnaise eater, Coke drinker, cat person (sorry Lucy, I love you, I do), early bird, reading non-dancer. I can give you pretty simple explanations as to why I am most of those things, but I can’t tell you why I don’t dance.

Because the thing is, I really, really WANT to dance, when I am out and about and other people are doing it. Gosh, it looks like so much fun, and people nearly always smile when they dance, as if there is nothing else in the world they would rather be doing. There is nothing more amazing than watching a great dancer do their thing…like, seriously, Chris Brown? Yeah, I know he’s got some issues with anger, but put that aside for a moment, if you can, and watch the dancing…I mean, how in heck does his body move like that, and with apparent ease, a perfect expression of joy? And Justin Timberlake? I mean, c’mon, there goes the whole myth about white dudes and┬árhythm, for sure.

But I’m not even really talking about people like that, that are professionals, famous, polished, trained. I’m talking about just every day normal people who, when they get on the dance floor, become this other thing, totally into the music, unaware of the world around them and totally unconcerned with the crowd. Wow, I admire them so freaking much, and I am envious, I really am.

You know who I am even more envious of , kinda? The dancers who get out there and are just as into it as the people around them that are great, only these dancers just suck, bad. Only, they could give a shit less, because for them, it’s not about being great or impressing anyone, it’s about having a wonderful time. I suspect that some of them may have no idea that they are really bad dancers, that in their own minds, they are on fire, but no way every last bad dancer I’ve seen is completely in the dark. They just don’t care.

I am not brave enough to fall into either of these┬ácategories, and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. I don’t think I am really a terrible dancer- I won’t dance in public, but I assure you, I have done plenty of it in the privacy of my own home- mostly alone, but sometimes with friends or my older daughter, and they didn’t seem horrified or embarrassed for me. I’ll admit, I’ve danced in front of a mirror or two, and I’m alright.

Yet get me out in public, and I start hyperventilating the minute I start to sense that people in my group may be wanting to dance…because, inevitably, one of my girlfriends eyes will light up at the start of “her song”, she’ll grab my hand, and say “Oh my gosh, we HAVE to dance.” And I am always the killjoy that is all, “Um, NO, we don’t…you go.”. And on it goes, her begging, pleading, bargaining, me digging my heels in and finally exclaiming that I have explosive diarrhea as I high tail it to the ladies room. When I come back, my friend has found another friend to dance with, and I sit and watch, wishing I was out there, too.

It’s so funny, because I am an extrovert in every way but that one. If you were to ask someone else to describe me, self-confident would most likely be in the top three. But when it comes to dancing, I am the eternal seventh grade girl, terrified of being asked, of not being asked, and of all of the people in motion around me, who are clearly better people than I. I feel like my inability to enjoy dancing is the peep-hole into the secret, rotten truth about how insecure I really must be, and it’s impossible to hide when there is music and a crowd.

Twice in my life, I have danced joyfully in public. The first time was at a country-western bar that I sneaked into with a fake ID when I was twenty. I don’t remember much about the night, aside from learning why it’s never a good idea to take your whole paycheck with you into a bar, and that I danced. The boy who asked me was big and ungainly, and he had big sweat rings under his arms, but he seemed nice and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I told him I didn’t know how, and he said “That’s ok, I’ll help you.” And this big old ungainly dude literally swept me off my feet. I don’t think my feet touched the ground, he whirled me and swung me and, somehow, his grace rubbed off on me. I will never forget that night. Well, that part, anyway.

And the last time…the last time was at my boyfriends brother’s wedding, and everyone was having so much fun. My daughter wanted to dance so badly she was barely sitting in her chair. “Go!” I told her. “But I’m scared.” She said. I saw that longing misery in her eyes, and when I told her not to be afraid, I knew I was in big trouble. How could I ask this of her and yet refuse to be an example? So I took her hand, and out we went onto the dance floor, and we danced as if there was no one else in the world. It is one of my happiest memories, and for her, I’d do it again. I never want her to look back at her life and wish she’d just gone ahead and danced…like I do, sometimes.