Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, Blogging, inner peace, Life, Musings, random, recovery

Guilty

guilty

I’m a guilt hoarder. I just realized that this morning, and of course, as usual, I think it might be the root of all my problems- and maybe yours, too. What in the hell is a guilt hoarder, you might ask?

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like- I hold onto guilt way past the time when I should probably let that shit go. I’m still feeling bad about things that happened ages and ages ago, and how does this serve me? How does it serve anyone, really? Short answer? It doesn’t. The guilt I haul around with me everywhere is soooo old, it’s as if it belongs to a totally different person (because, honestly, who the hell is the same person now that they were 10 or 20 years ago?), and it adds nothing of any value to my life. I think it’s time I let it go.

Here’s the thing- as I have discussed repeatedly throughout my posts, I started using drugs at a very young age. I really threw myself into that role, my friends. I was dedicated. That was my identity for such a long, long time. During those years, I did a lot of things I am not proud of. I hurt people that I loved dearly. I was a terrible friend. I said awful things, and treated people poorly, in general. Some of the things I did, I might not have done had I been older and wiser and had an ounce of empathy in me- But I wasn’t, and I didn’t, and that is all there is to it. I just did what I wanted to do, and never thought beyond that. Did I have remorse? Yeah, I did. But unfortunately, that didn’t keep me from repeating it all over again. I was incapable of seeing beyond the immediate, and that was how I lived.

That’s a lot of years of uncomfortable memories to walk around with. I’m sure there are people walking around in this very town who think some pretty unpleasant things about me. But guess what? The joke is on them, because they could never, ever, be as hard on me as I am on myself. Neener-neener. And I know more about the true scope of my behavior than anyone else ever could, so, again…in your face, mystery people who walk around hating me.

Oh, also? Those people probably don’t exist. There is no one sitting around talking about what a nightmare I was twenty years ago. This is all part of the elaborate torture-scape my brain has constructed over the years, just to mess with me. People move on. They have their own shit to deal with. They let go of things, eventually.

You know how I know this? Because people have done terrible things to me, too, and I swear to you that not one of them pops readily into my mind as an example. I could think of something if I tried hard enough, but why would I? It doesn’t matter anymore. My friends are still my friends, even when we don’t talk for years, and when I see certain people, I’m not mad at them. I’m happy to see them! I feel joyful about their successes in life, and marvel at the way things have changed for them. Sometimes, I feel a little bit worried that their lives haven’t changed that much, and I hope for better things for them. And honestly, the shitty things that happened? They seem kind of funny to me now. We were kids, and we were all doing the same shady shit, and that is all.

So why can’t I extend this same love and forgiveness to myself? Why can’t I look back at 25 year old me and think “God love her, she’s lucky she made it out alive!” or even “She just didn’t know what she was doing, that’s all- if she had known, she would have done better.”

An even better question would be, why can’t I look at 43 year old me and think “Wow. Look at what you have done with your life! You are not at all the person you used to be. What an amazing person you are!” Man, I wish I could say that to myself and really believe it.

I’m sure that drug addicts don’t own the rights to guilt- although we sure do give ourselves plenty of reasons to load up on it. I’m sure lots of people walk around with this weight on their shoulders.

What I really want to know is, how do I get rid of it? I deserve my own forgiveness, so how do I do it? Is there a workbook I can fill out, or a doctor I can see, is there some magical incantation I can say three times during the full moon while I sage myself? Because sign me up! I will do it.

Unfortunately, I think what I have to do is accept that I cannot change the past, and stop rehashing it. Stop unpacking it. Stop dragging it with me everywhere. Remember that I am no more the wild girl I was at 20 than I am the child I was at 10. Those were parts of my life, no more.

I have a lot to be proud of, and so many reasons to love who I am today. Living in the shadow of memories of the past is keeping me from growing the way I should. Today, I will work on accepting myself, forgiving myself, and loving who I am now.

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

Thoughts From a Difficult Brain

I have been having some trouble with my head lately. The last time I wrote, I told you I was feeling restless, and it’s still true- restlessness paired with discontent can quickly boil over into a gummy mess of self loathing. I am trying to avoid that. I’ve sat here and written parts of several posts that I decided were entirely too whiny, and I was too embarrassed to publish them. I have nothing to complain about, really. Or at least, that is what I tell myself- that because I have a particular set of circumstances that might be a little less troubling than the circumstances of “some people” (whoever they might be), I am not allowed to dislike anything about my life.

Although I realize on a certain level that is bullshit- my feelings about my life are absolutely valid, no matter how good I might have it- I also understand that complaining is pretty useless. So I am not going to do that. What I am going to do is tell the truth, and the truth for me is- I struggle with my moods. I am not moody enough to warrant medication, nor is that something I want for myself, but it is a struggle nonetheless. I have a mind that will seize upon an unpleasant thought and spin it into an astounding and terrible scenario, and it can propel me into anxiety the likes of which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy- if I had a worst enemy, which I don’t think I do. Anyway, I believe this is called “catastrophic thinking”, and it is part of having anxiety, which I thought was something I suffered from occasionally, not something I “had” until I said this to my therapist, and she actually started laughing. I don’t think your therapist is supposed to laugh at you, but I forgive her. Apparently, I’m an anxious person. You know, I masked every single thing about my actual personality with drugs for so long, that I am still figuring out who I really am. Or who I am now, I guess.  So yes, I am anxious. I am moody. I am very hard on myself, most of the time.

But lately, this has all morphed into this weird blah-ness, this kind of “meh” feeling, and it just sucks. Half of me wants to run off and have this big, juicy, adventurous life, and the other half of me is like “Just watch TV, Courtney. There’s no point in having to put on shoes.” And of course, I am making it sound funny so that it doesn’t sound that bad, but in truth…in truth, I am grappling with some dangerous thoughts. Things like quitting my job, which would not be in my best interest right now, and quitting recovery, which might not be in my best interest ever. Sigh. I don’t know what is going on. Perhaps I’m having a mid-life crisis? Is that applicable for women? I don’t want to run out and buy a street bike and date a blonde half my age, so…it’s hard to say.

So, rather than do anything drastic that might shake up my life a little more than I am bargaining for, I am going to go back to the things that have worked for me before. I am going to do the things that make me feel good by default, such as- going to the beach. Going to the gym (it really does feel good after you actually get there). Eating less bacon- I know this sounds counter intuitive, but trust me, too much bacon does not a happy girl make- it’s one of those pleasures in life that needs to be spaced out a little bit. Also, clearing my space- I swear to God, I accumulate possessions at the speed of light. Oh! And that’s another thing- stop compulsively ordering shit I don’t need off of Amazon. It’s just another attempt to self-soothe, I know this, and yet…no, I don’t need anymore books right now!

I am capable of great happiness- I think we all are. But the trick, I think, is realizing that no one feels perfectly happy all the time. And maybe some of us feel the bumps in the road a little more than others, and that’s okay, too. But the big truth is, we are all responsible for creating lives that feel good enough for ourselves, and when life doesn’t feel good, we have a responsibility to ourselves to fix it, or to figure out what isn’t working and make adjustments. I am impatient, so I want everything to be better RIGHT NOW- I want to throw it all away and start over. Oh, I’m having a bad week? Well, obviously, I should quit my job, move across the country, and become a homesteader who makes her own soap, right?

No…no, I don’t think that’s how this is going to go down. I think, today, I will just start with taking a walk, washing the dishes, and being a little more gentle with myself. And maybe tomorrow, we’ll see where I’m at. Maybe tomorrow, it will feel a little better.

Posted in anxiety, Blogging, family, kids, Life, motherhood, parenting, People, random

Conflicted

conflicted
Which would leave me with nothing, unfortunately.

 

 

This seems to be a theme in my life right now, this being conflicted. That weird line between what you want and what you should do. The person you could be, with a tiny bit more effort, and the lazy ass you are- not YOU, I’m sorry, don’t leave. I meant ME, the lazy ass I am.

It’s occurring in all areas of my life right now, and I don’t know what to think about it, what cosmic lesson I am supposed to be learning. I know it will come to me, but right now, it is very early, and I’m only on my first cup of coffee, so even if there was some clarity available I’m not sure I would be able to grasp it just yet.

Here’s a good example: I have court this morning to determine the amount of child support I will be receiving. The judge has recommended a sum of about 600 dollars, which I have thought all along was more than fair- I don’t know how many of you guys raise children, but it’s not cheap. And it’s not just about me buying her clothing, or toys, or outings. Take that stuff out of the picture, and it’s still so. much. stuff. The weird foods I would never buy, the lunches I pack daily, the rent for a bigger house, the laundry, the day to day expense of raising a kid is exorbitant. Jesus, the gas money alone I spend on driving her all the way across town every day to a school that has a better rating! I mean, 600 bucks is fair. To me.

This morning, I woke up and thought for the first time what that would be like for Camryn’s dad. Okay, he is terrible with his money, and he has made some really bad choices in his life in general, but more specifically, he has some tax stuff going on and back child support for his older son. On the other hand, he makes really good money, and I have no idea why he can’t pull it together. Seriously, like what the fuck is he doing? So where is my responsibility in this? Do I agree with a reduced amount because he can’t figure out, at the age of 50, how to run his life? Or do I hold out for what his kid and I deserve, because he is responsible for half of her life and that’s just how it goes? I’m not poor, I’m not struggling, but I have given up ten years of my life with this guy, helped him out, given him chance after chance to pull it together. I just don’t know. I’m very torn. And my hope is that I won’t have to decide, the judge will do it for me.

I wish there was a judge around to help me with these other things that are bothering me. Like, when i’m sitting here right before I’m off work, and I want to go to the gym, but I also want to binge watch The Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix. It would be so great if a judge would bang her gavel and say, “I order you to 90 minutes at the Wellness Center, Ms. Duncan!” And I would have to slink off in shame to find clean gym clothes. Or when I am typing up a really heartfelt but probably damaging text message at five in the morning, before I’ve had a proper chance to wake up and think things through, the gavel bangs and a booming voice fills the room-“I order you to set that phone down and do not pick it up again until noon!” Okay, okay. My finger hovers over the send button a moment longer, then I think of the consequences-how terrible I’d look in an orange jumpsuit, or how people might laugh at me as I picked up trash along the freeway, and I walk away. Wouldn’t that be kind of great?

As it stands, all I have to guide me is my conscience and my brain, and we all know none of that shit functions properly. Too much, or not enough…that’s my lot in life. Welp, I probably ought to go start getting cleaned up for court. Maybe I’ll ask the judge if she’ll consider some side work. 🙂

 

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 advice, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, recovery

It’s ALL in Your Head

its all in your head

 

I’m just going to go ahead and warn you right now- if you are not in the right place to hear what I am about to say, it’s going to irritate the piss out of you. It has been my experience that, when I am being negative as fuck, the last thing I want to hear is someone telling me that maybe I should change my attitude. Also, if you are suffering from legit mental illness (and really, aren’t we all, to some extent), I mean, severe depression, etc., then you are excluded. But for the rest of us, the whiners, complainers, procrastinators, and the “I feel fucked over” population, this is for you. For US, actually, since I am right there with you most of the time.

I don’t know exactly when it started for me, but I suspect it was somewhere in my mid-30’s, when I began to feel this sort of pervasive dissatisfaction with my life. Weirdly enough, if I had to point out a distinct portion of my life as the beginning, it would be around the time that everything settled down for me and stopped being so completely chaotic. You would think, wouldn’t you, that once things stopped being so messy they started feeling better, right? Not in my case. Perhaps I was so used to the chaos and upheaval that, once the dust settled, it didn’t feel very exciting anymore. I think I have written about this in the past, the way I love a good challenge, and overcoming obstacles is so gratifying for me. I have dubbed it “The Phoenix Syndrome” because I get off on rising from the ashes.

But you can only burn your life to the ground so many times before it becomes exhausting. I am 42 years old now, and the thought of starting over, picking up the pieces after wrecking everything myself- it holds a lot less appeal to me. I have evolved into this strange creature who pays her bills on time, and watches carefully her processed food intake. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that I used drugs made partially from Drano, for Pete’s sake, and now I worry about the saturated fat content in a burger. Sigh. I am laughing about this now, but only because it’s true, and super weird.

So, my life settled down, and my mind began to change, and somewhere along the way, instead of just enjoying all the blessings of this incredible life I was living- clean, employed, blessed with a beautiful family, a nice house, enough of everything I needed- a little voice in my head started bitching, complaining, and feeling put out about everything, and it’s tenacity is astonishing.

This little voice never wants to do anything, and I mean anything- except of course, the opposite of whatever it is I happen to be doing at the time. If I am sitting on the couch, blissfully indulging in a Netflix marathon of Ghost Whisperer, the little voice is haranguing me because I really ought to be doing: The dishes, the laundry, or some type of meaningful interaction with my kid. Okay, so maybe the little voice is right. However, should I give in to the little voice, here is what inevitably happens: As I do the dishes, or the laundry,  the little voice will then say something like this: “You spend your whole life doing things you don’t want to do- when is it time for YOU, Courtney?” Or, in case I am playing Go Fish with the spawn, it says “You should really move this along. You could be doing something productive right now.”

In short, the little voice’s mission seems to be to make me as miserable as possible, no matter what I am doing. And, check it out, I am not talking about a psychotic break here. These are not disembodied voices that are barking directions at me. No, this voice sounds an awful lot like me, and I am nothing if not convincing. Much of the time, I buy into that shit, 100%.

And that is too bad, you know? Because the truth is, I deserve to enjoy my life. Every one of us do, to be honest. It is our God given right to be happy in this lifetime, however that looks to you. But every single time we listen to that shitty voice in our heads, we are bound to feel the opposite of happy.

So, what are you supposed to do about it? Well, this is the tricky part where I start trying to give advice about something that I haven’t mastered expertly just yet. I do well for a while, and then I backslide a little, start listening again. But I do know a little bit. Like, for instance, start noticing it. Start really paying attention to the thoughts in your head, hearing the critical voice when it starts talking. Because when you are aware of it, you can have a conversation with it. Your mind may say “You are so lazy. Everyone else keeps their dishes done, what is wrong with you?” And you can say, “I work my ass off all week long, I am the furthest thing from lazy, I am dealing with the loss of Jim right now (Ghost Whisperer reference, sorry), go away. I will deal with the dishes later.” You are allowed to defend yourself, even to yourself. My only advice to you here is that you have this conversation internally, unless you are home alone. People do tend to become concerned when you are having frustrated, one-sided conversations with yourself out loud.

Another thing you can do to combat this is to notice the tone of your thoughts, and, when they are negative and critical, redirect them. This happened to me yesterday, actually, when I was faced with the task of working in my enormous, weed filled yard. It was hot, and there was so much work to do, and I am not a big fan of manual labor of any sort. I started thinking about how much I wanted to be inside, doing nothing, and how shitty it was that I had to work all week and then spend my time off doing something I hated. And THEN, I looked around me. I was spending a sunny afternoon in my own yard, and people who loved me gave up time out of their busy lives to come help me, for free, clean up my yard. There was music playing, and kids laughing, and we got so much done! Suddenly, as I stood there, bent over at the waist, shoes and gloves full of fox tails, I broke through the spell that negativity had cast on me, and I could see the truth.

I was actually having a perfect day. I just had to be able to see it. Changing the conversation we have with ourselves, in our heads, is not easy, it is not quick, and it is not permanent. Like everything else worth achieving in life, it takes a lot of effort. But there are days now when I can nip it in the bud the minute it starts, and I always, always end up having a better time. I would guess that 90% of our experience of life is in the way we view it. If you let that little voice have too much power, you will not be able to enjoy anything. You could win an all expense paid, ten day trip to Disney World, and spend the whole time upset by how long the lines are for the rides, or worrying about your dogs back home.

So, basically- Pay attention to your thoughts. Listen to the way you are speaking to yourself. If your thoughts are lame, change them- you are not only allowed to do this, you are the only one who can. If the way you are speaking to yourself is shit, correct it. Don’t let your head talk to you in a way that you would never tolerate another person to. Remember, you are in charge of which thoughts you believe- it may not seem like it, but it’s true. The more you redirect yourself, the easier it becomes.

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. Have a wonderful day!