Posted in adventure, advice, anxiety, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, Musings, People, spirituality, women

Gentle

gentle
From The Desiderata

Gentle is my word for today. I will try to be gentle.

Not only with others, but most of all, with myself. I am my own worst critic, always thinking back to some awful thing I did in the past, or worrying about things that I might do wrong down the road, rarely able to give myself any credit for the beautiful life I have provided for myself, here and now. I am forever berating myself for almost every little thing I do- and even when I do it right, I could have done it better.

So today, I am practicing being gentle with myself. Every time my mind starts galloping off into the future or flailing away uselessly at the past, I am gently bringing it back, to right here, right now. This morning, I was morbidly imagining myself with some life-threatening illness, worrying about how my children would fare if I should die. I had to pull myself back- Courtney, you are not dying in a hospital bed. You are standing at your sink, washing your daughter’s water canteen, absolutely healthy. You are fine. You are fine.

Yesterday, while I was meditating, I was having trouble with the sheer volume of my thoughts. There were so many things my anxious brain needed me to acknowledge right NOW. All of the sudden, I had this immense compassion for myself. An image popped into my mind, unbidden, of big me holding little Courtney in her arms. I ran my hands down 7-year-old-me’s back, and could feel the little knobs of my spine, the little angel wings of my shoulder blades sticking out. I told myself “it’s okay. Shhh…it’s okay.”. I don’t know where that image arose from, but it was powerful. The little girl in me needed that hug, that acknowledgement so badly. I may be a grown woman now, but that child is still in there, somewhere. And if it is hard to be gentle with me, perhaps I won’t struggle so much being gentle with her.

Here’s the thing- I want to fully inhabit my life. I do not have a desire to be bound by all the rules and dogma that I have either grown up with or invited in myself over the years. I want to be free. And all of this is brand new to me- it’s like I woke up two weeks ago and started questioning every single thing I believed to be true. I am starting at zero, trying to figure out who I am, really, and how I want to show up in the world going forward.

And the very first gift I choose to give myself today is this- be gentle. Be gentle with yourself, and with those around you. Let other people have their thoughts and feelings and perspectives, and choose to walk around them- let things be. Just like I told little me in that meditation yesterday…Shh…it’s okay. Everything is okay.

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Posted in anxiety, Depression, friendship, health, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, People, relationships

Looking for the Lesson

So, I have to go in for my next rabies shot this morning. Even though I’m like 99.8% sure at this point that neither the cat nor I have rabies, I figure I still might as well finish what I started. Who knows when a furious raccoon might charge me as I’m walking to my car at 5 a.m., right? And when/if that happens, I’ll have a super power- the rabies vaccine, POW! Bite away, you frothy mouthed trash demon. Can’t kill me! Well, unless you sever an artery or something with your fetid claws.

As you can probably tell, I’m feeling a little less terrified and a little more back in reality than I was. Do I feel sheepish at all? Eh, maybe a tad. But listen- I am nothing if not a hypochondriac, and if I hadn’t gone ahead and handled this, I’m sure I would’ve only prolonged my misery and panic. Anyway, even though the odds of that cat having rabies were pretty low, what I may not have mentioned was that she WAS in some sort of altercation with another animal the week prior, and we do have a dearth of raccoons and skunks that frequent our yard. Those animals are notorious for carrying rabies, and the cat wasn’t vaccinated, and ALSO, there have been rabid animals in our county withing the past year. So…still, a bit (like a big bit) of an overreaction, but for me, too much knowledge, paired with a big imagination and a healthy dose of anxiety equals a real bad scene.

Thursday morning was the day of my rapid unraveling. It is now Sunday, and I am not yet 100% myself. I continue to wake up jittery and nervous, I’m avoiding my normal routine of coffee, coffee and more coffee ( I just stick with 1-2 cups, rather than endless), and everyday tasks such as changing my clothes and accomplishing anything much have been a bit beyond my reach. I did change from my pajamas into regular clothes yesterday, but they were the same clothes I wore the day before that, so…not really an accomplishment. It’s not like I was out rolling in mud or anything, but still. I finally began to feel almost regular by about noon yesterday, yet in terms of energy and drive I am still flagging. I’m sure such a rapid increase in adrenaline in ones body, along with whatever else might be happening, causes a big crash. I’m just speculating, but it seems logical.

I’ve been looking for the lesson in all of this- that’s just something I’ve always done, since I was a very young woman. I try to figure out what I am supposed to be learning from the thing that I am going through. Right now, I am taking from this that the effects of stress on me, mentally, will eventually come boiling to the surface. It is up to me to put my foot down and protect myself. That stupid and trite saying about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first absolutely applies here- I was trying to help other people when I have been seriously in need of some care, myself. My body, my brain, my spirit- they all got together Thursday and declared a state of emergency. I had no choice but to listen anymore. So, even if the thing I did to care for myself seems strange & over the top, it was a rational reaction to the crazy feeling inside of me. I honored myself by listening, even though I was embarrassed and scared.

Another thing I am learning from this is stop looking for help in people who refuse to be available to you. When you reach out to someone and they are not able to hear you, stop reaching out to that person. The toll it will take on your already vulnerable self is devastating. I have been incredibly sad about the rejection I felt from not one but two different people I have tried to reach out to, lately, and I know that added to the mini-breakdown I’ve had. But you know what? I found exactly what I needed, and BECAUSE I was so desperate at that moment, I did something unusual for me, and I kept reaching out. I called my friend Donna, and she came immediately to take my daughter so I could go to the hospital, EVEN THOUGH she thought I was out of my mind (not wrong) she humored me because she could see that I was hurting. She then brought my daughter to me at the hospital so they could examine her for bites or scratches, and after that, took the cat to the SPCA.  My boss, who is amazing and so supportive, sat with me on the phone at least four times and listened to me cry and told me it was okay to feel how I felt, and it was okay to not work, just to try to get better. My Ex, who I have a difficult relationship with at times, is currently sleeping on my couch so that I feel safe, and so I can have hugs, and also, so he can help with our daughter. I have incredibly good friends who go above and beyond for me. I don’t have billions of them, but I have a few really good ones.

Yesterday, I dropped off a few little gifts for people that weren’t expecting them. My neighbor who’s had a really rough few years, my boss who ought to have expected it…that went a long way in cheering me up. I really fell apart, you guys. I’m putting myself back together. I don’t think I will be exactly the same person when all the puzzle pieces are back in place. I don’t think I am supposed to be. I think maybe that’s part of the reason we fall apart to begin with- so that we can come back a little differently, and maybe a little better, than we were. Maybe that’s the lesson.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, alcoholism, anxiety, Blogging, Depression, faith, family, Goals, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, twelve step

Reflecting on After The Party

party's over

Did you know that I have been writing this blog for 6 years now?

Sure, I haven’t been consistent…I mean, this blog is a lot like my real life in that way. As true to form as could be, I have been sporadic, I can’t follow a theme, I don’t stick to the subject at hand. I guess that is the one way I am consistent- by being totally inconsistent. Well, dammit. Now I’ve said the word “consistent” so many times that it’s started to sound weird to me.

Anyway, here it is. I have pretty much laid out my life and my truth here through a lot of shit over the past six years. I struggled mightily with my addiction, and I kept writing through it. I told on myself, sometimes I tried to make it look prettier than it was, sometimes I thought I’d succeeded, and then…looking back, the truth is pretty clear to me, what a mess I was. I don’t know if I had anyone else fooled. It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that I kept going. That, throughout all of those years, I never stopped trying and I never lost hope. I was scared sometimes…I lost my mind many times, and lost myself, but I somehow never totally lost hope. I knew that I could do it, I just knew that I could. And look at me now…three years and some change into this latest foray into recovery, here I sit, still clean, still hanging in there.

It looks nothing like I thought that it would. In some ways, it is so much better, and in other ways, it’s just…underwhelming. It’s just life. I don’t wake up every single day ecstatic that I am not using drugs anymore, over the moon that I get to be sober another day. I wake up and wonder why I can’t seem to get my laundry folded, or why “other people” (whoever they may be) have their shit together so much more completely than I do. This is REAL life…and real life is not an Instagram feed or the things we post on Facebook, it’s not even the happy face we put on for the world. Real life is not the highlight reel, it is the piles of shit on the kitchen table, the lost keys, the sitting on the toilet and realizing there is no toilet paper and there’s no one home to yell to for help. Real life is what is happening to everyone, all the time, around and through all the beautiful moments. Because I am clean, I get to be a part of that.

But because I wasn’t clean for so long, I am still, even at 43, even with all this time clean now, adjusting to this reality. I am also dealing with the weird personality tics- such as: low self-esteem, poor coping skills, boundary issues, people pleasing, isolating tendencies, anxiety and probably a little depression thrown in to spice up the pot- that most likely led me to going all in with my addiction in the first place.

Basically, I thought that getting clean would be the solution to all of my problems. What I have learned is that getting clean was the first major obstacle I had to clear to start dealing with a bunch of other problems. My addiction is just a symptom of other, much more deeply rooted bullshit. And now I am trying to fix myself.

This past few years have been HARD. But, on the flip side of that, they have also been, hands down, the best years of my adult life. Easily. I mean, I could just cry thinking about it. I have healed so many relationships that were deeply wounded. I am so close with my mom, and so incredibly close with my daughters. I can look anyone in the eye, at any time, and not feel ashamed of who I am. I have stopped being so angry. I have learned how to hear myself, sometimes even before I speak, and my words don’t have to hurt people anymore. Because I am not in pain on a deep, soul-level anymore, I don’t have to lash out and make sure everyone around me is hurting, too. On the contrary, I spend a lot of my time trying to show the people I love that I love them. I think about ways I can make their lives better. And if you understand addiction at all, if you’ve been there yourself or if you’ve witnessed the destruction wrought by an addict that you love, you understand how monumental that is. I no longer hurt or destroy everything that I touch.

I no longer hurt or destroy everything that I touch…I needed to say that again. Because I don’t ever want to be that person again, and yet, even knowing what I know, I have been STRUGGLING lately. I have wanted to give up. To quit being in recovery, to quit going to meetings, to just have one fucking little drink. Because I want to relax. Because I feel like I need something outside of myself to help me let go a little bit. Because alcohol was never a problem for me, so why can’t I just have a glass of wine? Or a beer? Or maybe a shot of tequila for old times sake? I just want to be NORMAL.

But you know what? I am not “normal” in the way I think of normal being, and I know this. I know that if I have a drink, it might be just a drink for now…but eventually, it would turn into something far bigger than I could even try to control. And you know, next time, I might not be so lucky. I might not make it back. So, here I am, reminding myself of one of the overused but oh-so-appropriate NA sayings…just for today. Just for today, I can not drink, right? I don’t have to think about forever, or even tomorrow. Just today. I know I can do that.

I started this blog because I wanted to write something funny and relate-able and real that other people in my position could find themselves in. I wanted it to be a success story, and an inspiration, and most of all, I wanted to be honest. I think I have done that. I’m not about to stop now, whether 500 people are reading, or only two. My life isn’t always pretty or fun, but I can promise you that it has been much, much more meaningful after the party ended. And let’s be honest- the party was over long before I ever found my way home.

 

Posted in Blogging, faith, family, Life, mindfulness, Musings, random

Tired

tired

Just a super quick check-in post to let my wordpress friends that I am doing okay, despite my silence these past few days.

Mother’s Day, my last post, was an emotional one for me. I spent a good chunk of the morning crying over years that I lost, and trauma I still carry in my heart. Most of the time, I don’t carry those things so close to the surface, but sometimes they emerge, and I deal with them as best I can.

This has not been the best week ever. I am dealing with some things that make me feel uncomfortable, angry, and scared. But I know that I am growing, because I grow the most when I feel the worst. I have every reason to believe that I will come through these current trials stronger than ever, but for now, I have to be okay with sitting with my discomfort. It’s just part of life. You can’t just stick your head in the sand forever, and ignore your problems- that’s the way they grow bigger! I am still learning, and even though this is a lesson I have learned before, I guess I didn’t learn it well enough because here it came again.

Thankfully, my mom is still in town, and I got to spend a really nice evening with her last night. This has been a rough few years for us- me working through a lot of stuff that happened a long time ago, and her trying to be patient with me, and trying to understand. There was a time, not too long ago, that I worried our relationship would never be okay again. But I realized this morning that my fears were unfounded- I felt exactly the way I want to feel with my mom last night: Safe, loved, understood. We laughed and visited and just hung out, and it was so nice. Now she is getting ready to head home, and I find myself wishing she could stay here forever, so that I could see her all the time. I really love my mom.

To sum it all up, I’m just tired this morning. The kind of tired that comes from being bombarded with too many feelings, too fast. It drains you, doesn’t it? But I know it is only temporary, as everything always is, and that I am truly doing everything that is within my power to fix what is broken. No matter what the end result is, I will know I did my very best. That’s really all you can ever do, isn’t it?

 

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, faith, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery

Strength

strength

I have always thought of myself as someone who is strong- not physically strong, although I’m no slouch in that area, either (being a single mother for most of your life will help you develop muscles, trust me) but resilient, tough, capable, able to lift myself out of difficult times and situations.

Yeah, but… I’m just sitting here this morning thinking- if I created all of the difficult times and situations in my life, does that really count as being strong? I mean sure, I eventually got myself out of them, time after time after time, but…what does that say about my character, that I created so much drama and strife and upheaval? Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of myself for never giving up, for always trying to fix whatever I had broken. And I realize that I had issues that had issues, that with all the shit I was hauling around inside of me, there was no way I could have been any other way than I was until I got help. Still…

I view strength very differently now. It is no longer necessary for me to aggressively assert my “strength” by acting out or being demanding or dominating the conversation (although I do still get carried away when I am talking sometimes). I have kids, so I still raise my voice a little more often than I would like, but I don’t feel the need to when I am speaking to another adult. As a matter of fact, when my temper gets away from me these days, I feel the opposite of strong- it makes me feel diminished and weak. Funny how we change over time, isn’t it?

You know what I see as my strengths now? My ability to keep showing up, even when I am so tired of it all that I want to throw the towel in. Strength is knowing that I am just having a moment, and it’s going to pass.  Strength is taking a deep breath or five before I speak, because I know I am too angry to be reasonable. My greatest strength lies in my consistency, and I am reaping the rewards every day because my life, finally, is not an uphill battle. The decisions I make now are generally made more with the future in mind, rather than for instant gratification. And because I have made a lot more good choices lately than poor ones, I have the added and unexpected bonus of being able to trust myself. I can’t think of anything more bad-ass than feeling confident in your own capabilities. It feels really, really good.

Two years and 341 days ago, I was a very different person. I knew I was a mess, but thankfully I didn’t know how much of a mess I was. It would have been overwhelming, and I don’t think I would have been willing to face all of it. But in a perfectly timed fashion, each new layer of bullshit was revealed to me just as I was ready to see it. I am not done yet, but I am much, much better off than where I started. The strength to stay in recovery, to keep going even when I really just wanted one fucking little…whatever was available to just make me RELAX already…that has to be the single most important show of strength that I have ever displayed. Without that, none of these other revelations would have even been possible. This entire journey has been fueled by my recovery, and that is the truth.

Three years. Not even three yet, almost three. In almost three years, my life has been completely changed for the better. Do you know how fast three years goes by when you are still getting loaded? In like five minutes, no kidding. So anyway, if you are new to all of this, and you aren’t seeing the results you want, I encourage you to hang on. To really devote yourself to the process of self discovery and healing, and just keep going. The day will come when you are so much more than you ever even dreamed you could be, and it will all have been worth it. Stick around for long enough to see your definition of what strength is be totally, irreversibly changed. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, family, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery, Uncategorized

Routine Devotion

 

safe

My daughter, the older one, is obsessed with growing things right now. She moved away, out to the middle of nowhere, where she has to hike a mile just to get phone service, and…I’ll be honest with you- I didn’t think she would last a month. I really didn’t. No Instagram? Ha! That was her life, when she was still in town. Well, that was months ago now, and she’s still there. Instead of posting pictures on an app and trying to get followers and likes, she’s started planting things in the ground and saying things like “germinate” and “zones 4-9” (I’m not fucking around, she actually said “these grow really well in zones 4-9” when I spoke with her yesterday. I don’t even know what that means, but I was too surprised to ask) She has made a dozen raised beds, and every other day I get little seed packets mailed to my house with her name on them. All she talks about is her plants.

I think it is pretty amazing. I’ve only had two house plants survive life with me so far, and one of them my cat used as a litter box, so it actually died. Which I guess makes it one plant. I don’t know what kind of plant it is, but it got so big I finally had to move it outside because I don’t know how to deal with it. So I might be down to zero pretty soon. In any case, my point is, my kid has thrown herself 100% into gardening right now.

Last year, she was 100% into beach glass. Beach glass hunting was always my thing, and I dragged her with me mercilessly when she was little. She hated it, and hated the beach, because…well, because I was so into it that it made it a burden rather than fun for her. So imagine my surprise when she started hitting my favorite spot last year and bringing home stuff that was way better than anything I ever found. Day and night, she was beach glass hunting, bringing home piles of beautiful glass and pottery. For Christmas, I bought her sifters and scoops. About a month later, she was over it.

And I thought oh my God. She is just like me.

I have that, too. That thing where, when I like something, I throw myself into it to the exclusion of everything else. Of course, for me it manifested in some really unhealthy behaviors, but…honestly? It could be anything. I have done it with drugs and I have done it with online shopping. Okay, fine, I still do it with online shopping. But I’m getting better. And I really will read all those books, eventually. I’ve heard people in meetings claim their drug of choice is “more”, and I understand that. It doesn’t have to be a substance, it can be anything you do to excess, which for me can manifest itself as anything that feels good. It doesn’t matter what it is.

So I created this routine for myself. It keeps me on track, it keeps me focused, it keeps me safe. I get up early every day, I write. I pray and meditate. I deal with my job as a mom, and I deal with my job that pays my bills. I go to the gym, I walk the dog, I make the food, blah blah blah. It’s not exciting. But it addresses all the things I need to address, and it’s familiar, it’s comfortable, and it’s…safe. It’s SAFE. Like, who makes that their top priority in life? What happened to me?

I was just telling my best friend yesterday how backwards I am right now because my routine has gotten a little disturbed over the past week or so. My mom has been in town (they are “camping” in the most luxurious trailer I have ever seen in my life outside of TV. I’m not kidding, it’s like a condo on wheels) and I’ve been trying to make sure I see her as much as I can. I have…well, I’ve been…lets just say there are some other things going on in my life. No big deal, right? Except for me, sometimes even little changes, even good things, can be overstimulating and throw me for a loop.

But I’m in such a good place right now that I can see it- I can see what is happening, and why I am feeling kinda off, and so I understand it and can make adjustments- to my attitude, or to my behavior, and know I will be okay. I can choose to be more flexible without losing myself completely in the process. Because I think that is what I am most afraid of, and why I am so devoted to my routine- I’m afraid of losing the rhythm that makes my life work. Because when I have gotten off track in the past, it has been disastrous.

I am not my past, though. And life isn’t supposed to be all about following a routine, and being safe above everything else. If the things that keep you safe also keep you from people you love, or from doing anything new, are you even really living? This week I am going to trust that I can still do all the things I need to do to keep my life running smoothly, and make room for all the things that make life worth working so hard for. And I’m going to enjoy every second of it. So there.