Posted in Addiction, adventure, faith, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery, spirituality, women

1,825 Days

On this day, five years ago, I woke up and chose to stop putting drugs into my body. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it both is and isn’t a simple thing. You have to understand, and I know it’s hard if you haven’t lived it, but…when you are deep in the throes of addiction your brain tells you stories, and, because it’s your own brain talking to you in your own voice, and because you are very sick and things aren’t right inside of you, you no longer have the discretion to discern the truth from the lies. Your brain tells you that you can’t just stop on a dime- you have to plan ahead, you need to wait for the weekend, you just need to finish off the rest of the dope you have. You’ll have to call in sick, you need someone to help with the kids, tomorrow would be better, next month would be better. It’s going to be so hard. It’s going to feel so bad.

The truth is, you only need to be ready. Before you are ready, nothing will make it work. And nothing can force you to be ready until you arrive there on your own. That place looks different for everyone.

I want to share a part of my story that I’ve been reluctant to speak about for a couple of reasons; I am not in recovery, not in the traditional sense, anymore. One year ago in February, I made the decision to leave the 12 Step world and live life as a free agent. I was terrified, honestly. I had found myself thinking, for quite some time, that I wasn’t comfortable with defining myself by my addiction anymore. I was tired of rehashing the sordid details of my former life in order to identify with the newcomer. Healing from something while reliving it constantly began to feel counter-intuitive. I had done everything that was asked of me, all of it. Service work, step work, meeting attendance, and I felt I was at a crossroads- it was time for me to start sponsoring women or time to move on. I agonized over this decision. I worried that my brain was lying to me again, that I would leave and somehow, though it seemed impossible to me, wind up on drugs, right back where I’d started. But I knew that in order to sponsor women in their most vulnerable time, I had to be committed. I had to buy what I was selling 100%. Lives were at stake. And that made my choice pretty easy. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell someone there was only this one way to live for the rest of their lives because I no longer believed it was true. So, I left.

At first, it was really weird. But, once I found my footing, I realized this choice was the right one for me. I thought I was endangering myself by walking away, but what I did was…I set myself free, and gave myself permission to live my life the way I chose. I trusted myself to make good decisions. And it was the most loving thing I have ever done for me.

The reasons I have been hesitant to share this are not far-fetched at all. I would never, ever want to encourage another person to follow me out of recovery. Every one of us is different, and I think that, scared as I was of breaking from the norm, I knew in my heart that I was done with dope. I knew I wasn’t going back to that life. So, I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, you know?

The second reason is…I don’t want to take away from the fact that I have accomplished something fucking marvelous. I know what my friends in recovery are going to think about this, because I thought the same exact way- pretty sure I even wrote a rude blog about it here somewhere: It only counts if you do it THIS WAY. Well, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true for me. You know what is true? That my life is not ruled by substances of any kind anymore. That I don’t have to hide or lie or feel ashamed of myself because of the way I am living. That, in the past five years, I have made fundamental changes to my life that have allowed me to become the woman I had wanted so badly to become. The woman I was afraid I had lost all chance of ever being.

So no, I am not in recovery anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that this morning, when I woke up and thought about what that number meant- One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days- I wasn’t overwhelmed with gratitude. I thanked God profusely and sobbed because my life is so incredibly beautiful. The freedom, the healing, the changes…they are so precious to me. The difference between who I am right now and who I was on this very day five years ago is profound.

When I shared that I didn’t go to meetings anymore with a friend of mine a while back, she said to me “Oh, so you’re cured?” in that “tone” one can get when they think they know something you don’t. Today, I would like to say this- I might not ever be cured completely, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m free. I’m not afraid of myself anymore. I trust me. I’m so proud of myself. And nothing anyone else thinks about the way I move through life can change that.

So, happy anniversary to me.

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, health, Life, Mental Health, Musings

Realization Dawns

anxiety

Recently, I was wrapping things up with my therapist, and just before we were done with our session she said something like- “Oh, well you have anxiety anyway, so that makes sense.”, and she said it so matter of factly, and I was a little bit offended for some reason, like, pssshh- I get a little nervous sometimes, but I wouldn’t say I have anxiety! Which is so funny, now that I think about it, because…I obviously HAVE anxiety. I must have been in a really good phase or something, because her words kind of wounded me. I just don’t think of myself that way.

That’s the tricky thing about MY particular set of mental peculiarities. I am not anxious all of the time. It comes and goes with me. There are certain situations which trigger massive anxiety, and once my thoughts start spiraling out of control, it is very hard for me to pull myself back into logic and reality. One of those is, clearly, my children. There have been times when it was worry about my health. Occasionally, I will obsess over losing my job or having to move. But all of these are pretty manageable except for the one about my kids. That is my big-ticket item, the one that I can make myself physically ill over.

So, when things are going along nicely, and our routine is well established, and nothing weird happens, I forget that I even have anxiety. Because, technically, when I have nothing to be anxious about, I kind of DON’T have anxiety. But that’s the thing- there will always be times when things don’t go as planned. I can’t control every single situation so that it works for me, and I really shouldn’t have to. Sometimes people’s phones die. Sometimes they are running late, or they lose track of time. These little tiny things, innocent, average, every day things, can make me lose my mind. When I can’t reach my little one’s dad because his phone is on the charger, or she is at the fair with a family friend who lost track of time, I don’t think “Oh, they’re fine.”, I think “Well, I better get in my car and go look for the wreck they were in”, only in a more screamy voice.

Anyway, I am in a lot of private groups on Facebook, and the other day I joined several more- groups for people with anxiety. After I had my meltdown on Tuesday, I just thought maybe an anxiety support group might help. So I joined three. Last night, a girl posted that she had been obsessing about a pretty unlikely health worry, and that she knew it was silly, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it, and she couldn’t stop pacing, and she was exhausted, and I reached out to her, and so did a lot of other people, with stories of their own, and with…well, support. Here’s the thing: Not one single person said “Oh, come on, that is so ridiculous! Of all the things to worry about, you think you have THAT?” Which, if it were any other group I am in, that would have been said. Instead, at least three other people confided that they had shared the exact same fear at one point, and others shared similarly unlikely worries. Everyone got it.

And I woke up this morning still thinking about that. That not only did I totally get where she was coming from, but everyone in the group that spoke up did, too. And that is when it hit me- I TOTALLY have anxiety. These people are my people, because they get it. When I am freaking out, even when I know I am being crazy, I just can’t stop being scared. Fear literally takes over my body, and will not listen to reason.

And here’s the deal- this is not a new thing, not at all. I started having full blown panic attacks at the age of 17, sometimes as many as five, six, or seven every single day. I didn’t know what they were, so I thought I was either going crazy or someone was poisoning me. The only problem with the poisoning theory was that I was around different people all the time. So instead of realizing that this was improbable, my poor, sick brain assumed that everyone was trying to kill me, and I just stopped eating food that anyone else had touched. Do you know how difficult this is? I lost a ton of weight, and my mom said something like “My god, you look like you are dying of cancer.” Which, of course, gave me a whole new set of worries to obsess about.  Honestly, the only reason I pulled myself out of that mess was because I got so sick of worrying all the time that I just said “Fuck it, I can’t live like this anymore- if I’m going to die, so be it, but I have got to eat.” And I just threw all caution to the wind and ate at Denny’s. From that day on, I stopped having panic attacks, and thought I was cured.

But…here I am, at 43, realizing that it never really went away. I masked it for many many years with drug abuse, and now I am discovering that it has been here all along. It was just covered up. I am so lucky that I can talk about it to the people around me- my boss knows that I get weird, sometimes, and she is super supportive. And I am sort of the quirky friend, the crazy co-worker, the funny-but-super-high-strung one. Being the oddball is kind of my thing. I’ve made it into a bit of a joke, I guess. Because it make it more tolerable, for me and for everyone else, too. Which made me forget, or not notice, that it is real. The moments when I want to cry because I’m so scared, when I can’t sit still, when I can’t breathe, when I can’t slow down my fucking insane thoughts- that’s not funny at all.

My point is, I guess, that I woke up this morning and realized that I really, really have anxiety. And that it’s been part of my life since early adulthood- this is NOT a new thing. It might look a little different, my fears might have changed a little bit, but the feelings? They are exactly the same. And now I get to figure out what happens next. But I have found some people just like me, and I am much less afraid.

Posted in adventure, escape, Goals, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, Musings, People, random, travel

Maui Dreams…

Napili Bay

 

For the past week, almost every night, I have been dreaming about being in Maui. I went, for the first time, back in November. The funny part is, it wasn’t even my big dream to go there- it was something my daughter wanted to do, and I just wanted to make it happen for her. I thought it would be cool, for her 18th birthday, to take her on her dream trip. I had never jumped on the Hawaii band wagon, probably because it was so crowded- the same reason it took me so long to read Harry Potter. I was so sick of hearing how great it was from everyone else that it killed my desire. Also, I am kind of a contrary person. I’m not bragging. This character defect of mine makes life mighty difficult sometimes.

Anyway, so Hawaii wasn’t about me. It was about Aisley, and making her happy, and getting to reconnect with her. It also didn’t suck to be able to talk about my upcoming trip, as I felt really grown up about taking an actual vacation. “Oh my God!” everyone sighed as we talked about it, “I am so jealous!” Or “Just wait until you get there…the air…it’s perfect…it’s life changing” and on & on. I was like, “yeah, I’ll bet.” and tried not to roll my eyes.

Well, silly me. I can’t count the many ways that I was wrong. From the minute I got off the plane, I knew the stories to be fact. The air really was special…I know, I know…how the fuck can air be special, right? But it IS. The smell, and the warmth, and the way it is always, like, the perfect temperature. How the heck is that even possible? I don’t know, but it is. I just felt like, the minute we landed, and that air touched me, tension I didn’t even know I was holding left me. There was nothing about Maui that I didn’t like. Except leaving. I really didn’t like leaving.

And ever since I have been home, I want to be back there. This past week, my subconscious has been putting on a show for me, every time I close my eyes and slip off into sleep. And when I wake up, I am homesick for a place I have only visited once, for a week. So I have done what anyone who listens to her dreams would do- I got online, I looked at jobs, I looked at houses, I discussed the possibility of moving, with everyone I know. I took a poll on Facebook.

What I noticed was, the more I thought about it, the more stressed out I was. What if I was making a mistake? What if I got there and hated it? What if the job I got there didn’t work out, and then I had left my great job here and couldn’t go back? What if the schools really suck, and the locals pick on Camryn? What if I RUIN MY LIFE and can NEVER FIX IT?! Dear God, by this morning, I was a total mess with the what-ifs and the imagined bullying of my poor kindergartner.  So I changed my mind. I thought- “what if I just stayed here, right here, for a while?” And all of the tension left my body like a fat breath of Maui air had just entered my lungs.

I’m not giving up on the idea that Maui might be someplace I call home someday. What I am giving up on is the idea that it is time for me to upend my life just as I have found some order and routine- this is something I am very good at robbing myself of. See, I don’t know what this is all about, but I can tell you that there is a pattern I can see to my life where I work like hell to create some safety and sanity in my life, to give myself a sanctuary somewhere…and then, the minute I can finally relax, I start tearing it all down again. I don’t know what that is all about, but I don’t think it’s really about me being bored. I suspect it may have something to do with me avoiding some scary truths about myself. And I KNOW that if I don’t allow those things to see the light of day, I will keep right on doing what I do, which, if I’m being honest, looks an awful lot like running, an awful lot like creating diversions.

What I am going to do is stay here, in my awesome little house, in my beautiful little town, and I am going to hang out with myself for a while longer. I am not going to make any big and life altering decisions until I am sure I can trust that I am making them with a sound mind, for the right reasons. And, in the meantime, another visit or two might be in order. Because that place really is Magical. What? It IS.