Finding Your Joy

What brings you joy? That’s a simple question that can be difficult to answer. Is it working in the garden that soothes your soul? Or teaching a child how to fish? Or is it sketching a landscape? Or maybe working on a car is when you’re in The Zone. Or perhaps it’s caring for an elderly person? There is no limit to the places and ways that we can do things that make our hearts sing. The trick is in finding out what it is that does it for you.

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Happy happy joy joy

The thing is, as a recovering person, having joy as a part of my daily life wasn’t something that I had ever considered. Joy, as in, “I can find joy in my vocation”. What do you mean, I can go to work doing something I love? Noooo, that’s not people like me.

The World is My Oyster (on the half-shell)

But, it turns out that it CAN be a reality, even for a lower-middle class, former alkie/druggie. The question is, what are you willing to sacrifice to get there? Going back to school is absolutely not easy when you’re working and managing a household. BUT, what are the rewards that will come after you’ve achieved that Certification or Degree? I know that when I was a single parent, more money in the bank would have made all the difference. Single parents are stretched more than Stretch Armstrong, and finances are only a part of it. And education seems to be a strong start to getting ahead monetarily.

High School Lessons, 20 years later

I had never really known about setting goals and then figuring out how to get to them, little by little. I mean, like most of us, I wanted to win the Blue Ribbon without ever running the race. But once I got wind of the possibility of ME actually being more than I thought I could be, the wheels began to turn. I sought through prayer and meditation to find what my Higher Power’s will was for me. Then I began to investigate how I might be able to make that happen. God certainly will help us, but we have to do the footwork. Nobody came up to my door and offered me a grant so that I could go to college. BUT, once I started the ball rolling in that direction, doors began to open. It makes sense that God would want us to be educated when possible, considering that one of the wisest men in the Bigger Big Book said that there’s nothing better under the sun than finding pleasure your labors.

Ask, Seek, Knock

I’ve been told that it’s much easier to steer a vehicle that’s already moving. I think that applies to doing God’s will. If I am seeking counsel from people wiser than me, and following suggestions, after a while finding His will for my life won’t be such a mystery. In the process of looking for His will, I found that He has put desires in my heart that He wants to help me accomplish. However, I have to do the footwork. The first step being NOT PICKING UP for one day. Then repeating that, tomorrow.

Keep it Simple. It works!

In my early sobriety, God’s will was a huge mystery to me. How was I supposed to know what was God’s will and what was MY will?? I was such a manipulator that it was my normal to lie to myself and believe it. All day every day. I began to understand that each day that I don’t choose to relapse, I’ve done God’s will, at least in that aspect, for that day. That’s a LOT more than I ever did His will while I was out runnin’ and gunnin’. So that was my starting place.

Not my will, but Thine.

After doing the footwork for a few days, weeks, months, I began to find my joy. I sought out ways to get assistance going to college, and I waited. Some days it was like finding bread crumbs on a white beach. But I knew that if it was God’s will, it would happen, if I didn’t give up. And so it did. I returned to school after over 20 years away, and had a blast learning about the academics of Substance Abuse Counseling. I felt more fulfilled than I could remember feeling in a long time. In fact, I began to comprehend the word serenity!

Joy comes in many different vessels. What will yours look like?  While happiness is fleeting, joy is what lasts.
So, how about you? Have you found your joy, yet? It’s not too late.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

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30 days and done

There’s an idea, a fairy tale, if you will, that’s been going around. It may have even begun before Alcoholics Anonymous found the solution for alcoholism. The story goes something like this: go to treatment for 30 days (or however many meetings your Judicial Scholarship requires), and then go home and return to life as normal. I’m pretty sure this myth is perpetuated by pre-recovery alcoholic/addicts, and also the family members who desperately want things to go back to “the way they were”. That does sound good, doesn’t it?

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Stick with the Winners.

When I was first clean, my Mom had a big house with a very pretty bar in the basement. I mean, a pool table, big screen tv, and little lights behind all the bottles. She said to me, more than once, something like “it’s too bad you’re not drinking anymore, since we’ve got this fully-stocked bar!” She didn’t know. She’d never seen me in all of my drunken, belligerent, sloppy, (and eventually) semi-comatose glory. I assured her that she really DIDN’T want that, and that if I did have a drink, there wouldn’t be enough for me, anyways.

But I get it. I can imagine that most social drinkers wish we could join them for, oh, I don’t know, a half a glass of wine (AS IF), now and then. This is just one more aspect of sobriety in which we have to help educate them. It’s NEVER going to be like it was again, unless you look back to way before we ever took that first drink. Even then, the only real similarity would be that we weren’t drinking. The “ism’s” would still be there.

In my early months years sober, I stayed at Mom’s place a few times. She asked me once “How long do you have to go to those meetings?” And I told her what I’d heard from The Winners: “Until I die from something else.” That mindset helped to keep me clean/sober.

The fact of the matter is that the initial 30-60-90 days are primarily to get most of the chemicals out of you, and get you started on the right path. I don’t think there are any successfully recovering folks who didn’t continue to make drastic changes in their lives for a very long time, after.

So, my friends, if you’re thinking about getting rid of whatever you’re addicted to, I hope you’ll keep this in mind: as long as you want to feel better, and as long as you want to hate yourself less & less, and have people begin to trust you again…That’s how long you’re gonna have to live this New Life. If you’re good with returning to the lifestyle of your last several drunks (or whatever), then just do sobriety half-assed, don’t get committed to it, and hang around the same people you used to. That’s a recipe for all the misery you once had, and then some.

I’m only saying it because I care. So, to re-cap: Treatment does not equal recovery. Judicial Scholarships are not given out as the absolute solution to alcoholism, addiction, codependency, or any number of other addictive behaviors.

They told me in The Rooms something to the effect of “You didn’t walk that deep into the woods in one day. It’s going to take a while to find your way back out.” Another saying (we really do have a ton of them) is that “Time takes time.”

So, I hope this has been helpful. It’s a sign of progress when the newly clean/sober individual goes to a meeting every day, or meets with their counselor frequently. It really is a Good Thing.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

Survivor.

This is the perfect follow-up to the last post about “stigma”. A bit more inight as to what it’s like…

beautifulkindofthoughts

It’s not easy. It’s never been easy.

Depression is not just any sadness. Sadness is a small type of reaction happening in daily basis. When the person is having depression, it interferes their daily life and normal functioning. Sadness is only a small part of depression. Some people with depression may not feel sadness at all.It’s like wishing you did not get up the next day. It’s like segregating yourself from everyone not wanting to indulge in any conversations or going out associating with anyone. The feeling of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. It’s losing appetite or binging on food having weight changes. The thoughts of death and suicide lingers in the mind.

Anxiety is not just a normal panic attack. It’s the feeling of suffocation when you are in a crowd of people. It’s the trembling hands that restrains yourself from meeting new people. It’s the feeling of constant…

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Mental Illness and Stigma

There’s a lot of talk these days about the “Stigma” surrounding addiction, and mental illness. Just the other day I saw a story on social media telling of some heinous crime that was committed by a “mentally ill” person. Again. No wonder the world thinks of us as entirely dangerous. I suppose the fact that the Stigma is being discussed is encouraging, but perpetuating the untruth that folks living with mental illness are dangerous certainly isn’t helping anyone. Consider for a moment, a definition of “mental illness”:

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The Mayo Clinic:

Mental Illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions- disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior…many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

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So, many people have concerns from time to time. Personally, I have had concerns about others, many times, but they tell me that mentally ill people don’t usually see themselves as the crazy ones.  And don’t get me started on the “Nature vs Nurture” theories. In my own experience, while living with a seriously disturbed individual, it became necessary for me to think like the person in order to (safely) communicate with them. I had to speak the language, which in turn caused residual mental issues that I had to overcome once I was away from them.

I’m sure most of the Stigma comes from just not knowing any better. When the world gives you the same (informational) menu every day for years, it’s difficult to consider that it’s been wrong all this time. I’m not a Mental Health Professional, but I have studied it for as long as I can remember. Initially my interest came from wondering why my perceptions appeared to be so different from everyone around me (because they were), but then the curiosity turned to trying to understand the folks that I interacted with on a regular basis.

For example, I was told that many years ago that my Dad was diagnosed as a Sociopath. I’m positive that’s why in my memory he never had anything good to say about Mental Health workers in general. As it turned out, Dad was the product of an abusive home, and he struggled with several issues, depression and addiction being a couple. I know that he had the Ism’s of alcoholism/addiction for as long as I knew him, and those may have, in fact, been the behaviors that caused people to think he was a Sociopath.

Another thing that causes me to ponder the Mental Health diagnoses is the multiple official diagnoses which have been changed or even removed altogether from being considered to be a “disorder”.  So, does that mean that being crazy or not just depends on the time period in which you are seen by a diagnosing physician?  Consider this:   

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM” is considered to be the reference for characterization and diagnosis of mental disorders. It’s had numerous adjustments since it’s inception in 1952.  In the first edition of the DSM, there were 102 “broadly-construed diagnostic categories” , and by the time the third publication of the DMS came out in 1980, there were 265. When the DSM-IV was released, there were 297 diagnosable disorders…. (from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Someone said that the bottom line definitions of a mental disorder was behavior outside the realm of socially accepted behaviors.  That, in a general sense, sounds about right.

Depending on whose information you believe, one-in-four or -five American adults experiences a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.  So, if I work in an office with, say 20 other individuals, and I consider myself to be mentally healthy (Duh. I’m not ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!), then that means I’m working beside a pretty good amount of crazy -and potentially  lethal, according to society- people! Wow! How do people find the courage to leave their houses?!

My suspicion, and, remember, I’m not a Professional, is that the larger part of adults today, in our country, are living with a whole lot of unnecessary duress and discomfort between their ears. Most will never see a Dr. about it, and do you know why that is?  Because it would mean that they were, I don’t know, flawed? Less than perfect? Oh, that’s right, anyone who has a mental disorder must be a danger to themselves and others. I almost forgot.

What if the disorder is Depression, which seems to be the most prevalent? Those folks aren’t nearly as likely to hurt you as they are to hurt themselves. Like 99% more likely to hurt themselves.

What about Anxiety? Look up the stats on Veterans and suicide. PTSD is in the Anxiety family.

Ok, how about Bipolar (once known as manic-depression)? Or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Or Borderline Personality Disorder?  Or Schizophrenia? Oh, I know, what about people like “Sybil” from that old Psych 101 film? Unless all that I’ve read or heard is wrong, these people are much more likely to IMplode than to EXplode.

While I will grant you that many of the people acting out violently in society may have some kind of mental imbalance or disorder, most of the individuals with a diagnosed mental illness will never be a danger to anyone but themselves. If you don’t believe me, ask the 4 or 5 people in your office.  

Physical & Mental Health in Sobriety or “You’re not the boss of me!”

Someone said that the opposite of addiction is community, and I can see how that is true, to a certain degree. But I believe there’s more to it than just not isolating and finding your tribe. Heck, gangbangers have community, and they’re probably not anti-addiction.
I think and feel that the opposite of addiction is compassion, creativity, growth…whatever is the opposite to destruction.

“It’s a Selfish Program”

When I initially began to learn this New Way of Living, they told me it’s a selfish program. That was kind of confusing!
It did begin to make sense, after a while: I can’t do anything for anyone else unless I first take care of myself. I must maintain some kind of mental and physical health before I can be equipped to care for anyone or anything else.
Eating healthy(-er) food, seeing a Dr. on a regular basis (including Dentists), wearing clothes appropriate to the environment, and getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night are the basics. Remember “H.A.L.T.”? Never get too Hungry, AngryLonely, or Tired. Three out of the four are things that are completely possible for me to do, even if nobody else is around, and eventually, I discovered that even Lonely was actually an inside job.

I’m thinking of folks in my life who, for whatever reasons, don’t tend to do well with taking their medication as directed. If they’re anything like me, there is a possibility that their reasoning goes something like this:

“Why should I take this? It’s not gonna get me high.”

Or, “I d on’t feel any different whether I take them or not…” With many medications, the effects may not be noticeable for several days or weeks, so it can seem like a good idea to not take them. Don’t let the Itty Bitty Sh*tty Committee between your ears talk you into doing something (else) that you’ll regret.

I know what’s best for me

Famous last words, right? For whatever reasons, during my time in recovery, I’ve tried to wean myself off of certain medications MANY times, only to get about a week or two into the process and discover that my life got super uncomfortable pretty quickly  when I tried to play Dr. God. My closest companions at the time, once I got down to, say, half of the doseage I was suppposed to be taking, would implore me to start taking them again. I didn’t argue much because I was feeling anxious and hopeless and lethargic, etc., etc., etc. I dream of the day when I can (with a Dr.’s help) actually be med-free, but I know that I owe it to my kids and my husband to keep taking them. For now.

Because I love you

I’ve been around depressed people with children and seen how not involved in their lives the parent is, and how irritable, and chaotic and…I want better than that for my boys. God knows they’ve been given a tough enough road to hoe without my self-will adding more to an already less-than-perfect situation. So, I can tell you without any hesitation that one of the ways that I demonstrate my love for my family is by taking care of myself. I don’t want to go to the shink, but I do, for them. I don’t want to  have to depend on the Pharmacist and insurance and…but I do, for them. I REALLY don’t like being dependent on medication for my mental health, as well as my physical health. Seriously, what alie/druggie welcomes someone telling them what to do? I want to go to each of these wonderul Professionals and tell them that they’re NOT THE BOSS OF ME! Except, I guess for now, they kind of are, to a degree. Sigh.

In summary

So, in order to have sustained recovery, I encourage you to make those Dr.s appointments and KEEP THEM, and figure out how to get your meds and TAKE THEM. You don’t gotta like it, ya just gotta do it. You will be glad you did. And so will your friends and family.

Posted from my cabin in the woods.