“Surrender” to Win

 I was contacted a while back, and asked to view a short (14:04 minutes) film and consider sharing it with my readers. I watched it at the time and I knew it would be very helpful to many of my Tribe, and probably eye-opening to many others. 

I just watched it again, and added it to my “watch later” list on YouTube. It’s that kind of piece, in my opinion.

I don’t believe in coincidences, and I’m not organized enough to have had this pre-planned; so, on this, the last weekend of 2016, I offer you this short film. Please, tell me what you think of it, and share it on any social media you use. 

Next, a Q & A with Mark & Chris, the Executive Producer and Director of this award-winning video. 

What do you think? Is it true to your experience? Do you relate to the feelings portrayed? 

Written in my apartment above the Tea Room. 

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Just don’t drink. Or use, or hurt anyone!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing some more emotions coming up than usual, for me. I mean, the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s time of year is almost universally difficult for many of us to get through. 

I’ve been thinking of when I was younger, like maybe middle-school age or less, I had a conversation with my Dad in which we talked about me being depressed. I think I’m really not alone in the kind of reaction I received: “You? Depressed? (Laughter) What do you have to be depressed about, little girl?! You have a nice home, food, clothes and 2 parents who love you!” And he wasn’t wrong. But he wasn’t entirely right, either. 

As a very small child I learned to be “PERFECT”, because when I stepped out of line -even accidentally- I was going to pay a painful price. Dad had a hair-trigger temper, and he punished me with his belt when he was ANGRY. I was terrified of his anger my entire life, and even now I have a lot of anxiety when a man raises his voice in anger. 

I later learned that I had had A.D.D., which looks different in girls than in boys. I was called a daydreamer, or space cadet. I got in trouble for talking all the time, and it was next to impossible for me to get all my supplies and homework to where they were supposed to be without forgetting or losing something. 

At the time, these traits just infuriated Dad, because he was sure that I “had to be doing it on purpose”. Then I heard “stupid, lazy, doesn’t pay attention, lazy and doesn’t even try”. 

I was reminded of that situation when I heard recently of a relative of mine, in reference to his teenager being depressed, saying things like Not going to medicate and Counsellors are a waste of money. It really bothered me to hear that, because that kind of thinking has cost far too many people struggling with addiction and/or mental illness their lives. If you see that your child is miserable, with no obvious reasons for it, why wouldn’t you do whatever it took to at least find out WHY? 

News flash: mental illness and addiction are things that our kids are PRE-DISPOSED toward. It’s not an entirely hereditary issue, but it makes the odds of developing addiction/mental illness go up about 100%. It has been proven that children with untreated mental illness are several times more likely to develop a dependancy to drugs or alcohol.  And, p.s., telling someone to “suck it up” or “snap out of it” DOESN’T WORK. 

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Ok, back to the holidays. When I think of Christmas, I think of family get-togethers with lots of food and presents and all the adults getting hammered.  I don’t really remember much about my earliest Christmases, because PTSD. 

I used to have my ideas about what I’d like to happen, memories of what had happened in the past, and fears of how it was more than likely going to turn out, as I walked in the door. I knew what to expect, but not how to protect myself or my sobriety.


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Someone gave me some simple definitions once:

Anger: I’m not getting what I want.

Fear: I might not get what I want.

Resentment: I didn’t get what I wanted.

Those are possibly overly simplistic in this scenario, but they do fit.

Most of us have had unpleasant and difficult childhoods. I’m not trying to put the blame on our parents; they did the best they could. They may have come up in the same kind of dysfunction, or worse. 

The truth of the matter is that we learn the family “script” as children watching how the adults do things. If nothing changes, nothing changes. 

When we get together with old friends or family during the holidays, it may be with apprehension and great reluctance. Nobody knows how to push our buttons like family. Oddly, when we start making positive changes in our lives, those are the folks who may be the most resistant. It’s kind of like the family has a script with everyone’s roles established. Everything goes as usual until someone doesn’t read their lines. 

Or it’s like if you are dancing with a partner and you change dances mid-song. They’re going to want you to go back to the dance that you’d been rehearsing, even if it does look bad and feel worse to the dancers…

Anyway, it’s late and I’ve got to work tomorrow. 

I encourage you, if you’re doing anything tomorrow that gives you that old familiar pain, to plan ahead.

Be sure you have Recovering folks #s on you, don’t forget to pray in the morning and more, and keep your expectations low. Don’t expect yourself to walk through a bunch of drama and come out serene and beaming. Likewise, don’t expect anything from your family that’s not realistic for them. 

If Uncle Frank likes to have spiked eggnog starting at breakfast, then maybe it would be helpful for you to decide how to deal with him before you get to the party. If your Mom feels the need to treat you like a 10-year-old even though you’re 50 and have grown children, it could be a good idea to practice setting boundaries beforehand. And if you know that everyone will be sh*t-faced by 9pm, make your excuse when you arrive, (like I’ve gotta catch a meeting @ 8) and then it won’t seem so abrupt when you bolt out the door. 

Posted from my treehouse in the woods. 

Life on God’s Terms

I am not, by nature, a patient person. Never have been. The evidence of my having grown some small semblance of patience is seen in my children: still alive, not maimed…

It’s interesting how patient I have learned to be in certain instances. For example, our neighbor has a roaming hen named Goldie. (I haven’t met a mammal yet that I didn’t love. Sure, some were easier to love than others, but overall, I love being with animals.)

Goldie is semi-tame, I guess, in that she will come close enough to take cat food from my hand, but she won’t let me touch her. I have positioned my hand in such a way that my fingers graze her breast feathers when she’s taking the food from me, and they’re so soft. As it gets colder outside, and  she is noticeably cold, I wish I could hold her and get her warm, but so far, she’s not ready. So far.

 In the case of winning over an animal’s trust, wild or just skittish, I have deep wells of patience.  I think it’s because of my own difficulties in trusting people. Heck, when I was just 9 or 10, I set out to win over several feral kittens. It took a little while, but not too long. And it was very gratifying when they finally allowed me to pet them. 

So, why does it come so easy to me to wait for a positive response from a chicken, yet waiting for God to move…not so much. 

I think the difference may be in KNOWING the desired outcome versus NOT knowing much about what the goal is actually going to look like, when it’s met. I know that I can very likely get Goldie to trust me. She’s already come close to hopping up the steps into the house! But, while I am convinced that God has my best in mind, it’s hard for me to know whether I will recognize His best when I get there. 

I’m thinking about currently waiting to be moved into a place (career) where I can put down roots and flourish. There are a couple of different things I am skilled at, but I guess my problem is WAITING for God to move everything/me into the BEST position. 

I have had 3 different employers in 2016, and I am longing to work somewhere that I can put my skills and experience to the best use. I have seen in my life proof of the verse that says that if I delight myself in the Lord, He will give me the desires of my heart. Yes, this is a thing I know. 
I just hate waiting. I’m sitting at the starting late revving my engine…and sitting…and sitting. 

The good news is, my trust is in the Lord. I wish He would  work in MY time frame more often, but none the less, I know that if I  don’t die from the an-tici—-pation, it will turn out to be perfect. 

And the fact of the matter is that His timing has always been perfect. 

Why Do We Procrastinate The Things We Want Most?

Hey, gang, it’s time for another WONDERFUL Guest Blogger! As you know, I only share the best writers with you all, and this girl is no exception. Without further adeau, I give you Christine Hill

Why Do We Procrastinate the Things We Want Most?

By Christine Hill

I think one of the most useful skills that I learned in college was how to write a 10-page paper in one night.

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That’s right. I was one of those students. The major pity is that I kept getting away with it, so I really didn’t have much incentive to change my ways. Now that I’m an adult and there are certain things that simply CANNOT be put off (like the rent check) I’ve learned a little bit more self-regulation. But procrastination is still something I struggle with.

20% of the population considers themselves “chronic procrastinators.” And because it has such a major impact on job performance, tapping into our potential, and creative power, it’s the subject of an awful lot of research. For business start-ups and managers, especially, it can be difficult to decide when to “pull the trigger” and just put an idea into action. Amidst all the research, I think the most effective insights into procrastination are detailed by Tim Urban, author of Wait but Why.

A vivid dramatization of the procrastinator’s struggle is the subject, both on his website, and in his TED talk. Check it out below. It will strike a dramatic chord with anyone who has found themselves panicking the day before a major essay is due.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arj7oStGLkU

Because so many people tend to procrastinate, it can be hard to share a one-size-fits all solution. Instead, I’m going to share a few different ways to look at it, and you can decide which one strikes a chord for you:

Connect with the Future Self

One study at Stanford monitored the neural pathways of subjects when they were asked to envision themselves, a stranger, and their future self. For some students, envisioning their future self was much closer to envisioning a stranger than to envisioning their current selves. Others felt a closer kinship and continuity with the future self. Can you guess which group held the worst procrastinators?

Many behavioral theorists believe that procrastination is caused by a disconnect between the current and future self. We prioritize immediate gratification over long-term rewards. There are a few ways that you can trick yourself out of this mindset, though. A study at USC found that when people phrase future plans and deadlines in terms of days rather than months or years, they’re more likely to take action quickly. For example, 3 months away feels a lot farther than 90 days or less. So, in order to connect with your future self, or overcome the divide:

  • Think in terms of days, or even hours.
  • Be realistic about your future expectations.
  • Make a habit of visualizing your future self and the consequences you’ll need to deal with.

Focus on One Step at a Time

Another study on procrastination observed that students procrastinated less if the deadlines were closer and the projects were smaller. In other words, dividing a big task into a lot of little tasks can motivate you to get a project done better. This might sound really obvious, but the science–and the actual implementation of it–is always more complicated than it seems at first.

Breaking down a large task into numerous small ones takes advantage of our natural tendency to value immediate gratification over long-term results. After all, it’s hard to look forward to the reward of working out every day when it could take months for you to start seeing results. However, if you start anticipating a reward that you get with every workout, it can be a lot easier to motivate yourself. Even the rush of completing a task can activate our brain’s reward center. So, in order to use your natural instincts to your own advantage, try breaking down large tasks into small ones with lots of deadlines. Instead of getting overwhelmed with a colossal task, take it one step at a time.

Confronting Fear

I saved this approach for last because for me, it’s the most striking and motivating. It boils down to one cold hard fact: we procrastinate to avoid pain. To be completely blunt, procrastinators let their life be ruled by fear. Look back at the Wait but Why illustration. Only when the fear of turning in nothing overwhelms the fear of turning in something crappy (i.e. the Panic Monster kicks into high gear) does anything get done.

Phil Stutz and Barry Michels shared an excellent parallel to help procrastinators overcome the habit. They theorize that every procrastinator procrastinates simply in order to avoid pain for as long as possible. Think about the things you put off; they’re unpleasant things that you don’t want to face. It’s a social situation that could be awkward, a time that you risk rejection, something that will require effort and sweat from you. Phil came to know the star runner on the High School football team and came to learn something profound. This boy wasn’t the star runner because he was better at running. He wasn’t stronger or faster than anyone else. He was the best because he ran toward pain instead of trying to avoid it.

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He knew that when he tackled someone, it would hurt for a minute, but afterward, he would feel on top of the world! So he learned to run toward pain because on the other side was his actual goal.

Megan Mcardle posits an interesting theory in her article “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.” She points out that kids who were good at English class tend to have a “fixed mind-set” instead of a “growth mind-set” and believe that tests and challenges aren’t a way to learn new things, but rather it’s a way to sift people into their fixed values. Therefore, the true fear behind procrastination is that ultimately, we’re not enough, and now it will be proven to everyone.

Therefore, when you’re tempted to procrastinate, you need to ask yourself one simple question: are you going to be ruled by fear?

Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in all its forms. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from human psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon.

I need to tell you all, that during the time I was trying to get this post up, the biggest problem I encountered was, you guessed it, procrastination. (Thanks, God!) I guess this is a timely message for all of us. And P. S., Christine, I am a firm believer in the power of a pint of ice cream to make all things better. 🙂



And the tears come

Every month, for the last three or so, someone whom I cared about has died. I can’t even remember further back than that, but it seems to be pretty much on the reg, now. It’s a part of life, right? People die. People are born, and then they die. The Bigger Big Book says that each person is given about 60-70 years to live. Maybe more if you’re a truly amazing individual. But that’s really not the norm for the kind of people that I am acquainted with. The folks in my Tribe usually don’t make it past 40 or 50. Out of the last three to die, one was in his mid 40’s and the other two were right around 50.  

So, here’s the thing that prompted me to write about this: I don’t feel much of anything. I mean, one of these folks was a fairly close relative, and the other two had been important in my life at different times. Shouldn’t I feel…sad? I think intellectually I know I am sad, but emotionally I’m pretty well distanced from that pain. 
When I entered Treatment, I was all up in my head. I had a full-on case of Analysis Paralysis.  Someone told me that I did that to avoid feeling anything unpleasant. It took me a little while to become more aware of what I was actually feeling, and I think part of that lesson involved noticing the signals my body gave me. For example, when I’m initially anxious or stressed, my stomach aches. If I ignore it, the stomach ache moves on down my digestive tract. When I’m afraid I get tensed up and instinctively begin looking for an exit. I had come to distrust myself (and wear a mask) so much of the time, that I completely ignored these signs of my mental upset.  


I was in my teens I think, when I decided that I wasn’t going to cry anymore. I didn’t know it then, but I’d been depressed and struggling with PTSD for years, so crying had been part of a normal day for me. So, I concluded at this time that I wasn’t going to let anyone make me cry. God knows how, but I didn’t cry for more than a year. People died, relationships came and went, but I did not cry. I felt like I had grown callouses around my heart. Eventually I did allow the tears to escape, but even now, they are more difficult to access. There have been times when I was terrified and grief-stricken, but the tears only came for about 15 minutes at a time. Then they stopped. 


This concerns me.


It’s no secret that I have been taking medication to alleviate the depression for many years. I have been grateful to escape the darkness that lurks in my mind via Medical Professionals and pharmaceuticals. I remember telling someone who was considering trying meds for depression that they made me feel “appropriately”. As in, when it was a sad occasion, I felt sad, and when it was a happy event, I could smile and laugh. 
Before the medications, if it was a sad time, I was sad, and if it was a happy time, I was slightly less sad. Eeyore was of course my spirit animal.

I try to keep in mind that there are always many factors to consider when trouble-shooting my emotions. The biggest factor I can come up with now is that I’ve become more aware of PTSD symptoms when they crop up. I’ve figured out several scenarios where I am very much going to be uncomfortable and that I need to try and avoid. That awareness is helpful. It also makes it easier for me to see when others may be having the same issues.


So, in the process of self-examination, each time I learn of someone who has been important in my life dying as a result of this disease, I don’t really feel anything.  The last person, I was shocked at first, but that was just because I thought she’d dodged so many bullets already that she’d never die. And then when I thought about times that we’d been together – and there were ALWAYS shenanigans involved – I couldn’t really work up any feelings.  Same basic situation with the person before her, but we had been friends during childhood…nothing. Before that was my Uncle. 


Brett was a couple of years younger than me, and for as long as I could remember, up until I was 16 or so, I would spend at least a week with him on Grandpa’s farm. We were very much like brother and sister. We swam in the lake, fished, caught nightcrawlers for said fishing, climbed trees and even cleaned out an old pig house (like a very small shed) for a fort.  Brett was where I learned the amazing skill of rolling off of the top bunk directly onto the bottom bunk. Those were the days. As I think back, I miss that period of my life. I miss the carefree time out in the country, being as much of a tomboy as I could stand, and knowing that I was a part of
I’m not sure if that all even has anything to do with my uncle, necessarily. I am saddened to think of my innocence then, and how far I ran to the opposite extreme in my active using…years. Maybe it was the fact that I could count on, every summer, getting that break from my reality.  


So, yeah. I wonder about my lack of feeling. Is it a result of having had so many painful and traumatic experiences, that I’m just not (yet) able to open up that part of my consciousness? Is it the old standard “IDGAF” that I programmed into myself for such a long time? And then when I ponder these things, there’s the part of me that says I need to suck it up, remember there are many people who would LOVE to have my problems (I do, and feel terrible for not being more thankful), and make a gratitude list. Gratitude lists are EXCELLENT, by the way, but they’re not the end-all and be-all for overcoming these things. 


I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this sort pf thing, primarily because I’m not sure how to remedy it, and you know the old saying “You can’t think yourself to sober living. You have to live yourself into sober thinking.”


Do you have any experience with this all-encompassing numbness? Do you “know” the right feelings for situations and yet not have them? Do you think this is part of the whole “children of alcoholics watch others to see how they should feel” thing?


I don’t have the answers, and thank God I don’t have to, today. 

P. S. 

Moments after writing this, I was informed that my only friend in this state died this afternoon. It was an overdose. She had a son that was friends with my son, and another who was 4. I am feeling now. 


Written in my cabin in the mountains.

It’s a “We” program

No matter how many times I hear about someone I know dying from the disease of addiction, it still feels like a punch in the gut,  then as if the heaviest, darkest storm cloud has descended and is following my every move. 

I found out this morning that a woman with whom I’d been inseparable for a time in early recovery had died…as a direct result of her addiction. 

I remember her as being friendly, outspoken, tons of fun, and unable to stop the slow suicide that comes in a bottle, or a baggie, or… whatever. 

Back when we hung out, she carrried around with her a 64 oz.”polar pop”- EVERYWHERE, including meetings. At some point, I can’t remember when, exactly, I discovered that there was much more than Pepsi in there. 

Then a few years later I discovered that my friend was struggling to put together a few days sober. I made sure she knew that I was there for her.

When a newcomer at the Women’s meeting we both attended mentioned that this same friend of mine was Sponsoring her, I asked her how long her Sponsor had been sober and she said “a couple of years.” The truth was, it hadn’t been a week. My friend was so much like every other addict… We’re so “smart” that we outsmart the part of us that wants to LIVE. I prayed that she would find a Higher Power that could remove the obsession. 

My friend could recite the Steps, Traditions, and How it Works from memory. She knew how to welcome the newcomers, and the not-so-new comers. She made people feel “a part of”, and she was generous to a fault. 

I’m so sorry that she never won the fight. She really was a fighter, too. 

Sometimes one has to die so that others can live. At least that’s what they tell me. I’m so tired of grieving. But it’s the price we pay for loving. So I guess I’ll get used to it. ❤ May we learn from everyone whose path we cross. 

Facebook, I’m breaking up with you.

I don’t remember exactly when we met, but you instantly brought a new dimension to my life. It was like I’d found the perfect conduit for almost anything I wanted to know, and anyone I wanted to connect with. I was in a pretty sad and lonely place when you came along,  and you listened, you gave me bits of encouragement, and you helped me to find my smile again. And I felt much better with you around. You were there to bring old friends back into my life, and you even suggested people that I might like to be introduced to. Slowly but surely, I began to think of you as my go-to for any problem, or just to relieve boredom. I know you thought that all of these things were what I wanted, and for the most part, they were. 

But there was a thought in the back of my mind, nudging me toward things that I used to enjoy. Things that enriched my life and made me the kind of person that I’d only dreamt of becoming. 

Your “helpfulness” weighed on me. Your demands for attention drained me. Sure, you had good qualities, and you still do. But the scales have tipped to the negative, somehow. 

I feel like dealing with you and your incessant need to occupy my every moment has become a larger problem than I want to admit. 

We had some good times, sure, and I appreciate your being there when I needed someone. But I’m cutting the leash. The strings that kept me tied to you are not going to manipulate me any more. I just can’t afford to spend my life keeping up with you. I have responsibilities, and I have a Power much greater than you to answer to. I want to grab ahold of what’s left of my time here. 

I’m breaking up with you, Facebook. I don’t want to see you around. I have no interest in hearing about your escapades. They no longer work for me. Don’t call me. Thanks.