A “keep it simple” girl in a truly complex world

When I entered into the residential treatment center, I remember a counselor telling me that I had “analysis paralysis”.
It would seem, after I’d pondered it a bit, that she was saying that I thought too much.

“Think think think”

…a sign at the meetings read. An oldtimer liked to tell the Newbies, “That doesn’t apply to you!” I didn’t know what he meant by that, but I was pretty sure I didn’t like it.

I had always been told, before, that I should think as much as I could!
“You’re such a smart girl! You could get straight A’s if you just applied your…(mind).”
But now that they mentioned it, I reckon it hadn’t done me a whole lot of good.

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Think thunk thank

“My best thinking got me here”

They told me to keep it simple; don’t overthink things. Considering the sh*tstorm that my life had been, they had a really strong arguement.

So, how am I supposed to stop thinking?

Thankfully, they began helping me to slow down the “Freight-train Brain”, as Dad used to call it. I found that giving my mind something simple to hold onto, like the Serenity Prayer, for example, was often enough of a distraction to keep me from mentally running myself into a ditch. I never got to be an Expert Meditator, but by listening to the Oldtimers – even the one who said that saying didn’t apply to me – I eventually got into some good habits that allowed me to “comprehend the word serenity” and even to “know peace”, however briefly. Listening to music that wasn’t connected to the old life was helpful, as well. It gave me something safe (positive lyrics) to think about, that kept my brain occupied. And my mind needed a complete overhaul, really. I was “bankrupt” in sooo many ways by the time I was ready to climb down from the throne of my life.

Simple isn’t the same as imbecilic.

After having worked on it for a couple of decades, there are many times when I mention to someone (outside of the fellowship) that I like to keep things simple, and the look on their face says I must be a complete moron. I have to smile to myself, as I recall the saying “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” Over-analysing everything in my life (cos if I can understand all of it, maybe I can control it!) certainly didn’t find me a lot of happiness. I’d really rather be happy. And that’s as simple as it gets for me.

Posted from my cabin in the thunderclouds.

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Insane is the new normal

I was thinking about how our childhood family experience shapes our worldview.

“Children learn what they live”

For example, when I was very small, there were some things at home that were almost daily occurrences: Dad would get angry (0 to enraged in about .5 seconds) and stomp and shout, Mom would try to make him happy and usually cry, and I would get beat. Oh, and I had about 10 minutes in which to finish crying, or else I would be given “something to cry about”, as if the belt hadn’t been reason enough.

(Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks)

The next family that I got to spend time with was that of my  first serious boyfriend. Over the course of our relationship, I got to see a very different family dynamic:
Around the dinner table, Mom & Dad (who lived with 4 teenaged daughters and a son) would be conversing with the kids, when one of the girls would become emotional and leave the table. Mom and Dad kept talking calmly with the rest (of us), and even if Dad got a bit irritated, (maybe raising his voice a little) Mom never cried and nobody got hurt.

Deer in headlights

I’m positive that as soon as emotions began to intensify, at my bf’s home, my eyes were as big as saucers. I felt the blood rushing through my body in “fight or flight” mode. I was paralyzed with fear, waiting for the yelling, and for my bf’s Dad to take off his belt. I wonder if they could see the scared child at their table?

What’s your normal?

You’ve heard the old saying “Normal is a setting on the washing machine”. But, really, what is the norm at your place? My home today is a lot more like the second family from above, than like my childhood home. And, can I tell you, that it can  still freak me out when my husband raises his voice? (I know it’s nothing to be afraid of, as he’s nothing like my Dad was in that respect, but the little girl inside me has not forgotten her “normal”. Not by a long shot.) And I’m genuinely fascinated by “functional” families.

I observe children a lot, especially when they’re with their parents. Sometimes I know the adults, and sometimes I learn about the adults by watching how their kids act and react with them.

Never too late to begin again

Let’s just try to keep in mind that kids really do learn what they live. If they’re learning pain and fear, alcoholism or addiction, or how to turn their pain inward, let’s knock down our wall of denial and help them to find healing. We can help them to create a happy normal. As adults, it’s our choice, isn’t it?

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.

Service Work and Gratitude

Good Spiritual Morning!

So, this morning I met up with a new friend (from Celebrate Recovery), and dropped my boy off at her place to hang out & go swimming with her son. Then I followed her to an AA meeting, all before work. This required me being up and out of the house by shortly after 6am. (INSANITY, right?!) So, of course I was running late, and then my gps SUCKED, so we drove in large, gas-wasting circles, and ended up getting to the meeting when it was about halfway through. (Grrrrrrr.) 
I left the meeting 5 minutes early in order to get to work on time (yes, I do want a gold star for my Incredible  Adulting Skills), and was feeling somewhat less tense than before, by the time I pulled into the parking lot. I should mention that even though being late is definitely a part of my DNA, it still causes me great anxiety when I’m late for something as important as work.  
Work went along like it usually does, with 20% of staff doing 80% of the work, and the usual drama and high-tension, running around like chickens with our heads cut off…

“I love my job I love my job I love my job” annnnd deep, slow breaths…

Time to relax, right?

After I left work I was able to check my text messages and voicemails, and I discovered that my son had gone to the hospital with his new friend and his Mom. Something about a new medication for siezures…but I’m not sure what happened. The look of fear on her 13-year-old son’s face said a lot.

Rolling with the changes

So, now I’m sitting at home watching.”Daddy’s Home” with the boys and thinking about what kind of pizza we want to get. Thankful that, today, I am able to see a need and follow through on meeting it. One more blessing of sobriety. I may never see the boy again (he isn’t usually with his mom), but today I was allowed to be a positive force in his story, however briefly.

Grace under pressure?

The thing is, this kind of day is the kind of thing where my past experiences come in handy. I’m not great in the ordinary, average day-to-day stuff. I wish it wasn’t so, but the truth is, I generally handle crisis with relative ease. I truly wish it wasn’t so.

Which reminds me

Did I mention that I met my new counsellor yesterday? She’s nice enough and seems to know her stuff. We talked about CBT and how that would mean me having to do homework. Ugh. My son, of course, informed me that I will be doing my homework. Smart aleck kid. I will do it, but I don’t have to like it. Just gotta keep my eyes on the prize: peace, serenity, self-confidence. I deserve all of those things, and I will work for them.

Thanks for listening. You really do rock. image

What’s your week looking like, so far?

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.

Day 1,085: Twenty Questions

THIS. RIGHT HERE.

Off-Dry

I saw spiked seltzer at Whole Foods last week: yes, water with booze in it. It reminded me for some reason of those online alcoholism self-assessments. Imagine if one of the questions were “Do you buy alcoholic water?” If you answered yes, you’d skip all the remaining questions and go straight to a page that said “YOU IN DANGER, GIRL.”

I don’t know about you, but I always found those quizzes pretty easy to game because they were so focused on big external consequences: jail, divorce, job loss. My drinking never led to those things–just, you know, a blunted heart and shrinking life, which in certain circles just look like adulthood. My own Cosmo Quiz for Progressive, Life-Ruining Addiction would have looked something more like this:

  1. Do you drink every day?  Y/N
  2. Do you frequently have more than 1 drink in a day? Y/N
  3. “One drink” is a) 5 liquid ounces; b) 5 liquid…

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Never lost a thing

Most every time I’m with a group of sober people, someone talks about the things they lost because of their addiction. “I lost my kids, my spouse, job, my truck, my self-respect, etc., etc., etc. to my drug of choice.”

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Poor me, pour me

Really?

I gotta say that I agree with what an oldtimer used to say about that. He said “I never lost anything because of my drinking. I traded it all. Nothing was more important to me than that next drink, so when the disease demanded that I give away my family and my job, I agreed.”

“Give it away, give it away, give it away, now”

He said “I didn’t lose my wife, I knew right where she was- at my neighbors house! She left me because I wouldn’t stop drinking or acting a fool. I can’t blame her! I didn’t lose my house. It’s right where it’s always been. I didn’t lose my job, or my self-respect, or anything else.

I traded it. All.

I was such a willing slave to my addiction that I’d trade anything it demanded. My first and only concern was keeping the addiction satisfied, so when spouses, jobs, dignity, self-respect…got in the way of my addiction, I did whatever it took to keep reality from sneaking up on me.

Goods returned

As I began to get sober and worked (WORKED) on changing my perceptions, slowly these people and things were returned.

The choice is entirely up to you.

So, listen when you hear someone (or yourself) taking about how many things the addiction took from them, I hope you’ll remember this truth. We never lost or misplaced the things that make life sweet: we traded them for the drink or the drug.

I am in control of what I keep today, and I’m not willing to give the good life away.

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.

How to Cope After Orlando While Sober

 

A very timely and wise admonition. Addiction will use ANYTHING to get a foothold in our lives, even after considerable clean time.

The attack at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando on Sunday is deemed the worst act of terrorism on American soil and the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in our nation’s history. How do we recover fr…

Source: How to Cope After Orlando While Sober

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Outta control!!

I think that one of the most universal ingredients in addictions of all sorts, is a desire for control. Sometimes just an iota of control, and sometimes absolute omnipotence.

Miss Jackson sang about it

When I was a younger girl, I had some symptoms of OCD, as well as an eating disorder. (I wrestle with body dismorphic disorder, still) As I grew older, I became aware of the kind of relief I gained when I did my ocd things. It was a time and an activity that I could control. Same with the food. There were other motivations, of course (for the ed), but it all came back to attempting to have some kind of control over my life.

Control what?

I suppose what it boils down to is trying to control the emotional pain. In my case, I was undiagnosed with depression from a young age, as well as the residual effects of having a rageful and quick-tempered parent. As a child of a child of an alcoholic, I had no control over much of anything until my parent’s divorce, and then I was left to fend for myself a lot of the time, while babysitting my younger brother. Yes, it was an average family situation as far as I could tell: Mom worked herself ragged, trying to provide for us (she did a great job, really), I watched my brother every afternoon, and Dad was only around often enough to keep Mom on edge. And no child support, to speak of. Pretty normal, right?
But I digress.

“I wanna make my own decisions. When it comes to livin my life…”

I wanted to be The One in control. Thankfully, I found the answer when I was about 15-16. My non-medicinal numbing activities weren’t completely doing the job, so when I was given an opportunity to “check out”, I jumped on it!

Oh what a relief

In one year’s time, I discovered Maker’s Mark (sicker than a dog, throwing up all the way home – what a glorious night!!), and after babysitting for an older schoolmate’s brother, I recieved a small bag of (skunk) weed in payment.
I’d stepped throught the looking glass, at that point. If I couldn’t control my life, I would begin finding various concoctions to help me stop being aware of it all. Somewhere between my freshman year in high school. and the end of sophomore year, I’d gotten more comfortable in my position in life. When I was high, the continual bullying didn’t hurt as much. After a few drinks, it didn’t bother me as much that my Dad had walked out on me.
Lunch money was never used for lunch; it paid for diet pills, maybe, unless I stole them. And the vast majority of money that passed through my hands – it was never much, mind you, but good drugs were cheaper then – went for pot or acid.
My peers at school began calling me “the acid lady”.

Today, I’m powerless.

The more I remember that “me having control” is an illusion, the easier my day goes. It’s difficult knowing where to draw the line, sometimes, especially as a parent. But besides the parenting gig, I’m content letting God be in charge. Shoot, I wish I wasn’t supposed to be navigating the waters in the role of Parent, a lot of the time.

What can I control?!

Only the stuff inside of my skin. That can be a daunting enough task, thank you.

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.