Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, family, friendship, happiness, health, Holidays, Learning, Life, mental illness, Musings, People, recovery, twelve step

Thanks-Giving

Hi, guys! I started to make this a post for my other blog, but quickly realized this one belongs here, where my story has played out over so many years. I have a different voice, and a different story, and a different history here, and this one should live here. So here goes:

I woke up this morning a little put out that I’d had time to clean the whole rest of my house, but no time to clean my own room- the one place that should be my sanctuary, right? I felt bad that I had put myself at the bottom of my own list. Dumb, but that’s just my brain, trying to find something to be unhappy about. I was feeling a little better about life once I sat down here, in my neat, clean living room, sipping a hot cup of coffee fresh from the sparkling clean coffee pot (I even remembered to run the coffee pot through the dishwasher! I’m so proud of myself!).

I hopped on Facebook to see what I’d missed since bedtime, and I happened upon a post from…the brother of a friend of a friend. We don’t know each other in real life, but we’ve been social media buddies for a number of years, and…over the past couple of years, I have witnessed a slow and steady decline. Posts that are cryptic, yet somehow also overly personal, alarming and worrisome, but no real information being given. About a week ago, he posted a video detailing his woes, and I wondered what was happening. Was it a mental health crisis?

Today, I saw his post and I understood. He wrote about his recent struggles with addiction. He has lost all hope. He feels helpless, lost, alone, worn out, confused about where to turn.

An hour after that post went up, he posted a check-in at a hospital. It didn’t say for what, but I hope that someone there can guide him towards help. Of course, once I knew what was going on, I could no longer just lurk around and keep quiet. I sent him a message, told him I knew exactly how he felt and what he was going through. I encouraged him to find an NA meeting and ask for help. I told him not to believe the things his brain was telling him, but to listen to his heart and soul, because they were crying out for help. And I told him “One year from this day, your life can be completely different. You can be whole and happy and surrounded by family again.” I told him to reach out to me and I would help if I could.

Boy, did that take me back. As much as I try to separate myself from that part of my life, as much as I long to leave the past behind me, it is part of me. My life, those years and years of addiction, were not just a small part of my story. That was who I WAS, that was my identity, for the bulk of my adult life. I was other things, too. But before anything else, I fed my addiction. Before my children, before my family, before my job, before my bills were paid, before I made any other decisions, I fed my addiction. I cannot tell you the number of holidays I missed completely or ruined by showing up. I cannot tell you the number of moments I lost or stole from others. I couldn’t guess.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be where I am now. Right here, in my fuzzy pajamas, on Thanksgiving morning, in my own, clean house. My mom sleeping in Camryn’s bed on clean sheets, Camryn sleeping in my bed. And me, clean. Not worrying about how much dope I have left or how I’ll get more or when I’ll be able to sneak off to use more. Not angry for no reason, not making everyone around me walk on eggshells to keep from setting me off. Not making everyone sick with worry, but afraid to say a word.

There are not words to describe to you how grateful I am to be whole and here. I have gotten far enough away from my old life to forget, sometimes, how big of a deal that is. I have wanted to get away from it. But at times like this, when I see that pain in someone else, when I remember precisely how that felt, I am glad to remember. It makes the things I was griping inwardly about seem very small and petty, and shifts my perspective to one of gratitude, intense gratitude, and joy.

It took me a long, long time to get here. I had to work very hard at it. I suffered so many set backs and failures along the way. But I never gave up. I kept trying, and it paid off. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so eager to close the door on the past. Perhaps it is important to remember who I was, so that I can appreciate fully who I am today. Today, at least, this seems to be true. I have never been more thankful to be me than I am right now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems today and need help, you can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for guidance.

There are also NA and AA meetings in almost every town in the world. You can google “NA world service” to bring up links to anyplace you might be, and you can find hotlines manned by members who can tell you where to catch a meeting today.

Don’t suffer a minute longer than you have to. Reach out. Someone has been where you are and understands. Trust me on that. You are not alone.

Posted in adventure, anxiety, health, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, Musings, People, random

40 Minutes a Pin Cushion

pin cushion

I have thought a lot about trying acupuncture, but it’s always been one of those fleeting thoughts where I don’t remember later to follow through. Well, last week, I was sitting here working and feeling pretty fed up with the worry and anxiety nipping at me incessantly. I googled “Does acupuncture work for anxiety?” And spent a few minutes reading several different articles. The basic consensus seemed to be, especially in the very scientific articles- “Yes, it seems to work. We can’t really figure out why, but it does.” Which I found both amusing and encouraging. I figured I really had nothing to lose by giving it a shot (oh my God, no pun intended) and I turned to googling local acupuncturists with good reviews.

I settled on one that not only had good reviews but a cool name- Rikke Blessing. I mean, how could you go wrong with a name like Blessing?! I called, left a message explaining my situation, noting that I’d read through her reviews and saw that most of hers were related to helping people with fertility. I emphasized that I was most DEFINITELY NOT interested in getting pregnant, but could she do anything about my anxiety? Please?

She called back right away, and explained that acupuncture was very good for anxiety, and that she could for sure help me. I was very excited. The things I’d read online were extremely promising, and as you well know, I’ve been pretty desperate to get on with my life. So we made an appointment, and yesterday, I showed up, not really knowing what to expect other than some needles getting jabbed into me here and there.

We talked for a while first, and I asked questions about why she believed acupuncture worked. To my surprise, she didn’t mention much about blocked energy-maybe that would freak some people out? Not me, but there was no way she could know that. Instead she talked about nerves and dopamine and neural pathways and hormonal imbalance and perimenopause. She also asked to look at my tongue. I wasn’t prepared for that. Hahaha. Oh, and she recommended that I consider giving up coffee. I told her I’d think about it. I’m thinking about it right now, as I sip my coffee. I mean…coffee is the only thing I have left. I might cut back. But giving it up completely for 21 days? That seems so…incredibly horrible.

Finally, it was time. I hopped on the table, minus my shoes and socks (note: if you decide to try acupuncture, maybe shave your legs and trim your toenails. If this sort of private failing makes you uncomfortable. I’m way overdue for a pedicure, and had a days worth of stubble on my legs.). She swiped me here and there with alcohol, then, just like that, the needles went in. Now, I am not someone with any sort of fear of needles, so I was never worried about this part. But even if you are, I can promise you that these needles are so tiny and flexible, you literally feel nothing. The only one I felt was the one on my forehead- the third eye, she called it. Apart from that, I honestly couldn’t even tell that I was being stuck.

The only part of the whole experience that I struggled with was the length of time I had to lay still. Now that I know I will be there for a good forty minutes, I will be prepared. There was beautiful music playing (Liquid Mind, if you want to look it up) and a little ocean wave sound machine off to my left, and if I’d been on my stomach, I might have dozed off. But, me being me, about 20 minutes in, I started to wish my phone was nearby, just so I could make sure that no one needed me for anything. Like, what if there were an emergency? My ringer was off. Would I be able to hear it buzzing with all this music on? So then I decided to check my watch to see what time it was, except that when I did, I knocked the dixie cups that were covering the needles in my stomach off, which meant I couldn’t put the blanket back over me…sigh. I think I probably need more than one session. I got the cups back on the needles, re-covered myself, and decided that, just for this one time, maybe the world would keep turning without my attention. I closed my eyes, and tried to relax.

Now here comes the weird part- I felt the difference immediately upon leaving the office. I was as calm last night as I would have been after a massage. It was absolutely comparable to that feeling, or the feeling you get after a good workout, once you calm back down. Or even a really good session of meditation. I felt very, very able to keep myself from becoming irritated, which is a huge part of what anxiety looks like coming out of me- very quick to snap, very quick to lose patience. I helped Camryn with her homework last night without once losing my cool- and if you could see the one man drama show that comes out of her during homework, you would understand why this is impressive. Four pages of homework, and I never once raised my voice. I did have to take away all devices for the evening, but I did it calmly and without malice. It was just- “sorry, no devices tonight. We’ll try again tomorrow”. Honestly, I’ve never been so proud of myself after homework, and that is saying a lot. Oh, and I slept like the dead last night, too. I didn’t wake up once in the night.

I am 100% looking forward to going back. I don’t have any idea whether it is working because it really works, or if I only think it works because I want it to so badly- but at the end of the day, does it even matter? As long as I feel better, and I really, really do…who cares? I’ll be a pin cushion any day of the week if it helps me. Only next time, I think I’ll just make sure my phone is within reach. Just in case of an emergency. 🙂

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, People, spirituality

Did…did Oprah Just Change my Life?

Glennon

(This is longer than usual, I apologize. But I needed to tell this story)

As you all know, I have been struggling like crazy (no pun intended) with my mental health recently, specifically an anxiety cocktail that includes obsessive thoughts, hyper focus on far-fetched illnesses, and catastrophic thinking. I would not recommend this cocktail to ANYONE.

I would like to announce that I had a little breakthrough yesterday. It actually started out to be a terrible day. I woke up anxious already, but I couldn’t figure out about what. I felt shaky and nervous and weird, and all I’d done was wake up. So of course, my anxiety is looking for something to hitch its wagon to. I see my brain start searching it’s data banks for the nearest fear it can blow out of proportion.

And let me tell you, I am just fucking sick of this shit. Pardon my language, but my GOD, this gets soooooo old. So, I sit down to pray and meditate. I send up an urgent prayer to God- please take this, please help me, HELP ME. And then I choose my meditation for the day- I love the calm app, and if you struggle to meditate, I cannot recommend this app highly enough. Guided meditations for every conceivable thing, plus you can choose your music, and the woman’s voice is incredible. Anyway, I chose one I’d never seen before…I just had to look it up, it was called “Investigating Anxiety” and let me tell you, it was one of the hardest 13 minutes I’ve ever sat for. She asked me to call up my anxiety, to feel it in my body, to sit with it. It was like opening up a fire hydrant and just letting it blast you in the face. But I did it. I sat there, with the knot in my gut and tears rolling silently down my face, and you know what…it didn’t kill me. For that time, it was just a very uncomfortable feeling. For some reason, I feel like that limbered me up a little bit- like I was looser, and less clenched, and so what happened next was able to get in, I was able to hear the message I was meant to hear.

Let me explain what I mean: I have noticed, throughout my life, that when I am desperate and asking God for help, God is listening to me. But I need to be open to the answers. Until I am open to the answers, I am not going to be able to receive the help even when I am begging for it. When my anxiety is full throttle, I am so shut down, just trying to make it through every minute, that short of appearing in the flesh in front of me and shaking me, I am not picking up what God is laying down- and for the record, if the idea of God makes you uncomfortable, just fill in that space with whatever word you use. (WOW that was a run-on sentence. My apologies) I really don’t think it matters.

Anyway, I was feeling a little less knotted up after my meditation, and when I returned home after dropping Cam off at school, I started listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast. I started last week, and had moment of clarity listening to Brene Brown, which was so funny as I have struggled to get through her books…but something about hearing her speak got the message through. Anyway, yesterday, I trusted that I would find the right episode and chose Glennon Doyle, whose name I’d heard, but knew nothing about. She said some stuff about addiction, that it is a place where sensitive people hide because they learned early on that the cost of love and pain were too much. It blew my mind. Wow. There was more, but trying to convey it all here would be impossible- I didn’t take notes, I just let the message into my heart. After that, I listened to two episodes with Iyanla Vanzant- again, heard the name, know nothing about her. Let the message flow into me.

I couldn’t tell you the exact things I heard, but I can tell you this- I remembered a few things that my anxious mind was keeping from me. Things like, oh yeah- I believe in a benevolent universe, and I have a God in my life who loves me. That you can’t bank worry to keep you from future pain- it doesn’t work like that. And that sometimes bad things do indeed happen, but that is true whether you choose to live in fear of them or not.

But it wasn’t exactly what was said, I don’t think, that really got me. It was more like…my mind and my heart opened up because I was thinking in a different way.  The guests and the questions and the stories were like WD-40 for my mind, helping the wheels to start turning, getting me thinking again. And right in the middle of all of it, I opened up a notebook and wrote a letter to myself. I’m not going to share it with you here, but my therapist had asked me to write a letter of self-compassion last week, and I balked like no one has ever balked before. Just, YUCK. No. But lo and behold, I pulled it off yesterday. It didn’t even start off that way, but that’s where it ended up.

The thing is, my anxiety is not really about my fear of something happening to me, or to my children. My anxiety is really about me not being able to forgive myself for my past. It’s about me not thinking I deserve the blessings I have today, because I am just a mean-spirited ex-junkie who just got lucky. It’s me waiting for the jig to be up, for God to take it all away. My anxiety is me, telling me I am not good enough. That there must be some mistake.

But I have worked really hard to get here. I overcame my addiction, and even though it didn’t seem hard to me, it must have been- how many other times did I try and fail? How many years did I sacrifice to that monster? So, yeah, it didn’t seem hard but maybe that’s just because I have a good perspective about it and I chose to see the beauty in it. And perhaps it looks like I have a cushy job- even to me, sometimes. But I show up day in and day out and I try to do my best. I struggle A LOT. The point I am trying to make is that the same brain telling me I am not good enough is the one telling me I just got lucky. Yesterday I saw the flaw in my thinking. I do deserve my life. I do deserve my kids, and the love, and the happiness. And yes, awful things may come. But do I have to ruin all my happiness while it is good? No. No I do not.

I’m sorry this is so long. I needed to get this off my chest. The thing is, I am not magically cured. I just believe I needed to stay with those feelings until I got the lesson, and now things will, hopefully, begin to improve. In the meantime, I am going to keep asking for help and looking for the message, and really try to let go of fear and enjoy my life. So thanks, God. And thanks, Oprah. LOL. You’re the best.

Posted in anxiety, health, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, mindfulness, Musings, People, women

Not Myself

frustration

It has now been exactly one week since my massive panic attack, and I am still not myself.

I am okay, I guess…but I wake up every morning to a racing heart, to a stomach that is clenched as if waiting for bad news, or a swift punch.

This is NOT ME. This is not the way I wake up, the way I am. I hate it and I don’t know what to do to make it stop. I’m doing all the things I normally do that have helped me before- rest and meditation, exercise and prayer. Nothing seems to keep the moments of pure anxiety away.

It is very hard to pretend to be okay when you are anything but okay. But when you are a mom, it is important to at least try. The thing is, when I am very anxious, I am concentrating so hard on just trying not to let things spin out of control that I have little room for anything else. My patience is worn so thin. This is not the way I want to be living my life.

And I can’t help but think…what is this about? First, a panic attack at the end of December, then another one at the beginning of February. Before that, years and years and years since the last one. What is trying to come up? What is it that is asking to be healed? What am I missing?

Crazy to think that my own mind might be hiding something from me, or that my own consciousness is choosing not to understand something, but I can’t help but wonder- is this really just a fluke, or is this an opportunity for resolution? Resolution of some pain or some wound that I am just not seeing? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just bat shit crazy, but I’d like to believe that there is a reason. I’d like very much to know what that reason is.

Today, I am just going to try to be patient and loving with myself, and with others. I am going to remember that I can survive my feelings, even when it doesn’t seem like I can. I have a perfect record so far of withstanding every single one of them.  I am going to take my dog for a walk, and if the walk doesn’t feel like enough, then I will run. I will run until all this nervous energy dissipates, and if it comes back, I will find another way to discharge it. I will tend to myself. I will continue to work through this. I bet there will even be moments today when I am happy, as there have been every other day.

But I am still not at all myself. And I really want to be again.

Posted in adventure, fun, Goals, inner peace, Life, living, Musings, People, random

BIG Dreams…

Big-dreams

So, yesterday was amazing. I have to admit to you, I had my doubts- spending three hours at a spa for someone as restless as I am started to seem a little less like a luxurious indulgence and more like a possible torture situation the closer I got to it. I know how dumb that sounds, but I can’t even stand going to barbecues that aren’t rigidly structured, because just sitting around talking to people with no firm end time makes me want to run and hide in the bathroom. I thought I would go crazy sitting in a little room with a private hot tub and sauna for an hour…like, a whole hour?! Hahaha! Just goes to show you how dumb I can be, because I could have stayed in there for WAY longer. Of course, in all honesty, I was happily floating in the hot tub, looking out the giant, floor to ceiling open window into a private garden with a freaking water fall, you guys, and I was typing away on my phone nearly the whole time. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s what I wanted to do, so it was perfect. My allotted time was over before I knew it.

Then I put on the little robe they provided me, threw all my stuff into a bag they gave me, and walked, steamy and barefoot, down a little hall and into a waiting room. I was given a little rack of essential oils and told to pick two for my massage and facial, so I sat there and smelled every single one, and finally settled on jasmine (my favorite scent of flower, hands down) and lavender, which is just the ultimate essential oil…I mean, I know it’s so played out, but that shit smells amazing. Anyway, I was ushered into the massage room, and to be honest with you, it is all a happy blur after that. I was in there for two full hours. I had a full body massage, focused foot massage, a hot oil scalp massage, and an aromatherapy facial massage.

When I left that place, I was not energetically the same. All that relaxation, from the start to the end, had shifted me into a totally different place. And I know that that’s the whole point of doing something like that, but did you ever stop to think about how strange that is? That by letting someone rub away the knots in your back, the soreness in your neck, the weird cramp in the back of your thigh, it can change your entire energy? That’s wild. I noticed that I was moving a LOT slower on my way back to the car. It took me like 30 minutes just to get my shit together enough to drive away.

It was a gorgeous day in Santa Cruz yesterday. I mean, it couldn’t have been more beautiful out. All the trees downtown were full and green, and the sun was shining. Santa Cruz is such a cool place anyway (aside from the soul crushing traffic, but I didn’t have to be anywhere, so it was no big deal) with the big old Victorians around downtown, interspersed with cute little bungalows, and so many gardens in full bloom. As I turned up Lincoln, heading back to the freeway, I was thinking “Man, I would love to live here.”, and I suddenly remembered a very specific dream I used to have…not a sleeping dream, a goal-dream. I even wrote it down, and all these years later, it popped into my head, clear as a bell.

Here it is: I had sold a novel that I’d written for a LOT of money, like, tons- possibly even film rights, who can say? Anyway, I had bought this amazing, gigantic, beautiful home, right in the heart of Santa Cruz…it had shining hardwood floors, and a staircase with a fancy carved banister, and the front door was made of heavy wood with a little window in it, criss-crossed with iron. In the back of the house, I had an office with a big desk right in the middle of the room, and if I turned my head I could look out into my back yard, where the sun was shining and little white butterflies fluttered around the flowering bushes. I got to sit in that office every day JUST TO WRITE, and people paid me to do it. And, because I worked right there in my house, I didn’t even need to worry about the stupid traffic…even the super healthy grocery store was within walking distance, so maybe I only busted my car out for the occasional off-hour jaunt, who knows?

I remembered all of that in the space of just a few seconds, and it made me think automatically of the novel I am working on now, and wonder “is it good enough?” I don’t know…but could it be? Yeah, I think it could. All of the sudden, my head was so clear, and I was so relaxed, and I realized that I could have all of the things I wanted- it didn’t seem far fetched or crazy or any of that. It made perfect sense. I’ve been so busy living my life for the past ten years- and it has been an amazing ten years, don’t get me wrong! Everything about it has been important and meaningful, and things that I HAD to experience and grow from and get through. But I had to put my big dreams aside to deal with some soul-growing stuff, and now I’ve done that. I’ve done that, and haven’t known what to reach for next, because it is just my nature to want to keep reaching. I don’t remember a time when I haven’t been working towards a goal. That’s just what inspires me.

So here I sit this morning, relaxed and happy, just relishing the thought of all the wonderful ways my life might go. Will it all come to be? I have no way of knowing that for sure…but it feels amazing just to entertain the possibilities. For right this second, that is enough. Have a wonderful day!

 

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 Addiction, advice, Blogging, fun, Goals, Learning, Life, Musings, recovery

Three Things

3

As my daughter sits here, eating cereal more slowly than a sloth, I figure I have 15 minutes to do my weekly list. Here are 3 things on my mind this morning:

  1. I am really enjoying WordPress right now. I find new blogs to follow every day, and it is exciting…I have to remember not to get caught up in the rat-race mentality. The purpose of my blog, really, which started out as a way to keep me accountable on my quest to better myself as I grew older, morphed into a sort of journal, and finally became a way for me to talk about my addiction and recovery- that is the purpose of my blog. I do care about “likes” and “follows”, of course I do. But at the end of the day, if each blog finds its way to one person who needs to see it, if one person feels like maybe there is hope after reading my words- that’s really what this is about for me. When I remember that, I enjoy this whole experience a LOT more. I might even do a list of my favorite blogs soon, if I can get my shit together enough to do it.wordpress
  2. This past week has been rough for me. I have been trying hard to take care of myself, but I consistently bite off more than I can chew, and it hit me this morning that I need to remember that I am trying to enjoy my life. If the things I am doing are making me miserable, I am not doing it right. It’s great to have goals, but it’s important to pay attention to the way you feel while you are out pursuing them- if it feels like shit, knock it off. I’m not saying give up the minute things get hard, but if you are really unhappy, you probably aren’t on the right track. That’s where I’m at, anyway.enjoy life
  3. And finally, my favorite Podcast this week is Two Girls, one Ghost. If you like spooky stories, you are going to binge the F%#K out of this one. I am a huge fan. Those girls make my workday bearable. If you are into podcasts and like ghosts, black eyed children, etc., you will enjoy them immensely. Check them out!Two_Girls_One_Ghost-Annes-Version-Draft-6
Posted in Addiction, faith, family, Holidays, inner peace, Learning, Life, love, mindfulness, People, recovery, relationships, twelve step

This Christmas…

 

Christmas

I am sitting here, at 5:24 a.m. on Christmas Eve, full of excitement and nerves. In just a little while, my oldest daughter and her boyfriend, who may as well be my third child, are going to be here to spend the night and wake up on Christmas morning with our little family (EXCITED!). Tomorrow, my mom, stepdad, and uncle are coming here, to MY house, to spend the day and have Christmas dinner…HERE. With ME! (NERVOUS!)

I am going to have a house full of the most important people in my life, and I could just cry over how happy it makes me. Every single year before this, I either had to drive three hours to spend a hurried Christmas at my late Grandparent’s home, or I opted out, and stayed home, missing everyone. I know that not every year will be this way- sometimes I am going to have to go to them. But this year, I made my mind up to stay home, and I wasn’t going to budge. And I am so happy that everyone is coming here. My uncle never goes ANYWHERE, so this is a really big deal!

I want to make it as special and warm and happy as I can for everyone, and lets be real- I am not exactly the hostess of the year. I’ve been known to run and hide in the bathroom when someone unexpectedly shows up at my door. Or stay very, very still until they go away. So I keep finding myself getting bunched up with anxiety, worried about the state of my home (i’ll be cleaning like crazy for most of today) or how small my house is, or how shoddy and fur covered my couch is, or…but you know what?

None of that stuff matters. If it matters to certain other people (cough-my mom-cough) then I need to remember that that is her shit, not mine. My job is to do the best I can, but more than that, to enjoy my family. So that is what I am going to do. I have managed, for the first time in my life, to make it through this hectic season with love in my heart and a smile on my face. I have been as generous and thoughtful and kind as I know how to be- even when no one was around to witness it. I have kept my program of recovery in mind, and tried to behave accordingly because I want to be a good example- this one fell flat many times, but the point is, I am trying. REALLY trying. Because I want so much to have a happy life, not just a happy Christmas.

But really, what it comes down to is this: I have decided I WILL have a wonderful Christmas, so that is what I have set about creating. I can’t absolutely control the outcome- first of all, no one ever can do that, and secondly, control is the very thing I am working on relinquishing- but I have done all the things I can, both inside of me and out, to invite the best outcome. And I have made up my mind to enjoy whatever comes.

One thing I know for sure is that my family has given me the best gift of all just by agreeing to show up. I feel pretty freaking loved.  Which makes it SO much easier to get into the Christmas Spirit, you know? It stopped being about what was under the tree for me a LONG time ago. Sometimes, it wasn’t about anything, and I couldn’t feel much besides stress and irritation, relief when it was all over. But this year- this year is very different. I think for the first time ever, my head is clear enough, my heart healed enough, that I can access the things that matter most of all during the holidays- Love, Family, Peace, Hope.  It’s been such a long road for me, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s so nice to be right where I am.

I hope all of you get to have something like this feeling I have today. If not today, then very soon. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.

Posted in advice, family, friendship, humor, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random

Why the World Needs You to be Happy.

 

peaceconflict

Yesterday, I went a little nutty when I found out that a dude from Liberia brought Ebola over here. I went a little nuttier when I found out that he went to the ER and TOLD THEM he had just traveled here from Liberia, and they “failed to communicate” this  to the doctors, who then sent him home with antibiotics, where he exposed a shit load…okay, several, at least- other people to this deadly disease. I mean, I was a little overboard. I was upset that something this stupid happened, I was upset that someone else’s stupidity basically opened up a big can of worms for (what felt like, to me, at that moment) the entire United States. I was upset that we are even allowing travel to and from Africa right now- I mean, it’s kind of a bad idea, don’t you think?  I was so upset, I had to go home and meditate after work before I picked up my daughter, because I knew my turmoil would just color everything I did that night, whatever my intentions.

So, I did that, and I came home, and we had a pretty below average night. I spent most of it reading “Orange is the New Black” (yes, it was a book first, apparently), and being blown away by how poorly the prison system is run. Yet another thing I can do nothing about, at least immediately.

Do you kind of see where I am going with this? There is shit going DOWN in this world, all the time, everywhere, that is OUTRAGEOUS. That is unjust and unfair and horrific, and heart wrenching. Wars and plagues, suffering. Rampant abuse of power. The way that it is presented to us, you would think we live in a totally chaotic and soul-less society, that extinction could very well be where we are headed…and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. C’mon, admit it- you have thought that, quietly, a time or two, when you watched the news too many days in a row.

I am begging you- don’t buy into that shit. Do not do it. We are all at risk, every single day, when we are bombarded by the stories we hear on the news, and on social media, and plastered all over the internet- even the less reliable stories that are repeated to us in the break room at work, or in our cubicles, or wherever we are. Try to temper it with a bit of your own reality.  Take a look around you, right here, where YOU are, right now. There is still hope. It’s not all bad, man.  Shit has been going on, and going wrong, since the dawn of time- if you let it eat you up, if you let it infect your heart, you are out of the game, and we need you. We need you pretty desperately.

How many opportunities do you have, on a daily basis, to do something that makes someone else feel good? Before you say “Not very many”, think about it. Because I think we have endless opportunities, every single day. I am not talking about huge things, like finding a cure for Ebola (although I would really appreciate that, personally, if you could) or even big stuff, like volunteering, which I am sure we would all love to do, but don’t always have the time or even know how to get started. I am talking about just going out into the world and not being an asshole. Not riding the ass of the car in front of you because you are late for work, but slowing down, instead, and chilling the fuck out. I am talking about holding the door for someone, letting the person behind you in line with one item cut in front of you, not saying “no”, automatically, to the dude with the “please help” sign in front of the store.  I am talking about smiling at someone, paying a totally random stranger a compliment, saying sorry and thank you when appropriate…and even when not really necessary.

I am talking about going home, and insisting that your children spend a little time talking to you over dinner. This requires that both you AND them put your phones and Ipads away. I am advocating creating a small pocket of the warmth and tradition and connection that we all complain are absent from our lives and from the world. It won’t fix everything, but my God! We have to start somewhere, right? And we need to be happier, we need to smile more, we need to have the peace in our hearts that comes from knowing that all is NOT lost, don’t you agree? Because when all of us have lost that…without that…we are truly in trouble, my friends.

So, you have your instructions for the day- go out in the world, smile, be happy, don’t be an asshole. Try not to get Ebola. Check back here frequently for further instructions. Thank you.

Posted in Addiction, escape, family, Goals, inner peace, kids, Learning, Life, love, People, random, Uncategorized, writing

The Truth

prayer2I wanted to share with you a something I wrote weeks before I got clean, not because I think it is so great, but because it sums up perfectly the sense of desperation I experienced in my “before” life. I am so glad that I have written things like this, so that when I grow forgetful, as I tend to, there are reminders everywhere to help me see the light. I think it is remarkable that I am where I am, again, intact, thriving, happy. I am not proud of the things I admit to here, but they are the truth for me- or were. I can’t help but think my prayers were answered. I hope these words find the people who need them most, so that they know they are not alone, and that there is ALWAYS hope. Enjoy:

prayer (1)

 

Today, just a little bit ago, I was coding a chart for the cancer clinic (I am a medical coder, and I work from home 90% of the time) for this man less than ten years older than my mom. This poor guy- he has cancer everywhere. His throat, his bones, his lungs, his liver…it isn’t good. I don’t need to be a medical professional to know that. When I finished with his coding, I stopped, bowed my head, and said a little prayer for him. This is not at all out of the ordinary for me, honestly. Even when I am in the office, if something I see in a patients chart is particularly awful or scary or sad and overwhelming, I will do the work, then pray, and no one is any the wiser. I just feel like it’s what I want to do, they need it, and it certainly can’t hurt anyone, right?

Today, my prayer for this man was simple- Dear God, please take note of this man, he is very sick, and he is probably very scared, he may feel a little hopeless, I don’t know, I don’t know him. But if I were him, I may just feel like there is nothing good left for me, in my fear. Maybe he is not a nice man, and people don’t care about him. Maybe he is a great man, with great faith, and many people love him and have had their lives touched by him. Either way, lord, he is your child and you love him- please put your hand on him today and let something good come into his life, give him hope, or peace.” That is as close to exact as I can get you with my prayers, especially since, I don’t know about you ( how you pray, or even if you pray at all, let alone for random strangers) but my prayers aren’t spoken aloud, they are thought and felt as much as they are spoken telepathically, only inside of my head. So there is quite a bit going on along with the words. At the end of this prayer, though, rather than stop, my prayer pulled a fast one on me, changing direction. Here is the rest:

“Oh yeah, and while you are putting your hand on people, how about reaching out to me, God? I am not doing so well, over here. I realize I have every single thing I need to have a happy, good life, but I need help, God. I need you to pull me out of this sickness causing me to lay waste to every happiness in my control. It isn’t just me, God, I am affecting so many other people, ruining their happiness, changing their lives…my babies, my girls, God. I never want to hurt them, and I can’t stop. Time is going by so fast, and I feel like I am just stuck here. Please help me, God. Please, please do something. Get me out of this. Every single thing I am doing is wrong.”

As I was finishing this prayer, crying like a little scared girl, looking around for a paper towel to mop up my entire head with, the writing thoughts started up. I was annoyed for a second, because I can’t seem to have a meltdown of any caliber anymore without the thought of taking it down “for the book” popping into my head.

Then it hit me. Here I am, sobbing, asking God, PLEASE, for a hand, for help, for a way out…and the answer is always, Writing. Write it down. Put it on paper. Don’t let it slip away, don’t waste it, don’t think you are getting out of this without using it- what do you think you are here for, anyway? You have a problem, a really BIG problem, and you can write about it the way you can talk- so that anyone can relate to you. This is not an accident. If you don’t make this problem a light that you can shine into the lives and hearts of people just like you, or people who love people just like you and cannot understand…well, then what will have been the purpose of all these years? All this heartache? Don’t waste it.

That is, I think, what I am being told, here.

I really haven’t wanted to listen. I wanted to tell this story when I was well, rather than in the midst of the worst, sickest part. It would be an easier story to tell from there, and easier to hear. But maybe I can’t help anyone well, not yet. Maybe you need to see the whole picture, this feeble, frightened woman who still feels like a little girl most of the time, a girl who hates herself- loathes herself, pretty much, for what feels like weakness. Weakness, selfishness, greed, compulsion, darkness. All of those things are present. Callousness, cruelty, rage, impatience. Side effects. Mercurial, unpredictable, inconsistent, confusing- all accurate. Sad, broken, desperate, scared, helpless, despairing. Yes. Completely fucking out of ideas, frozen in place, terrified to ask for help? Oh yes, all of those, also. And in quiet terror, I watch the years fly by, and me, still here, missing all of the things that make up a life. Here, but not here. Present, but detached, missing all of the happiness and tenderness, forfeited to the tyranny of my mental illness or whatever it is, turning every thought into one about me- “ do you think anyone is noticing me acting weird? Am I acting weird?” “Why is she talking to ME like that, I’m fucking here, aren’t I? why are they singling me out?” “No matter what I do, it isn’t good enough.” “Oh my gosh, when can I get out of here, I need to figure out where I can do this at.” Every thought in my head, obsessing over myself. Rushing through birthday parties, ruining Thanksgiving, never letting anyone see me for long enough to talk too seriously, keeping my kids from ever relaxing or getting to know their aunts, uncles, cousins. But, you know, they have their whole lives…I mean, plenty of time, right? I’ll be better way before it even matters. Right?

But I haven’t been better. And now Aisley is sixteen. Do you know what that means? That means I waited her whole life, her entire childhood, hoping something would change, and I would get better. I stole every single chance for normal memories of her childhood, memories that even I have, in my screwed up childhood. Memories that I CHERISH. I love my daughter more than anything, but I could not refuse myself, even briefly, to give this to her. There is something so brutal and awful about that. No wonder I despise myself.

I am in a battle for my life every minute of every day. You may not know it by looking at me. I have mastered, or at least become skilled at, putting my best face forward for you. I will smile and look you in the eye, and try really hard to keep my word, show up on time, be fair and honest and decent, because that is who I want to be, and the way I want you to think of me.

I don’t want you to know that I have been a drug addict since I was nineteen years old. That I have seen and done and known about things that would horrify the average person, but don’t even surprise me anymore. I would die if you knew how unhealthy the way I live, the way I treat myself, is. I would be so embarrassed if you saw how I behaved, sometimes, towards my children, or my mother, who have done nothing but love me. I would be so ashamed if you knew how poorly I treat my job, that gives me every tool imaginable to live a prosperous life. I would be mortified if the people I work with, my friends and respected peers that have shown me such kindness, so much love and support, knew the truth. I don’t want anyone to know the real me. And it is making it so hard to ask for help, that I don’t know when all this will end. I live in constant fear of being found out, and what the repercussions of that would be. I am terrified of that, but finding the courage to get help seems almost less possible to me most of the time. The rest of the time, I am just continuing on, not improving or worsening, steady in my pursuit of…nothing. More of this. More misery and emptiness and shame.

 

I guess I need to tell this story. I don’t want you to know me this way, but you are going to have to, if I am ever going to get better. And I HAVE to get better, I HAVE to. I can’t bear thinking of what my regrets will look like if I have to look back at my whole life, and see nothing but me standing in a wasteland, refusing light years of love being handed out on a silver platter. What a fool. What a sad, terrible fool. Please, God, please let this help. Let this be the start of a tunnel out of here.

Thank you.