Who am I, really?

I’ve been wrestling with this question- well, not really wrestling, more like thumb-wrestling-for a while, now. And I will likely be thinking about it for some time in the future. 

OK. Who am I?

Obviously, I’m a person in long-term recovery. That’s been pretty well established. I’ve been a Mom (for a while), a student, a Recovery Coach, a Direct Support Provider, and countless other nouns. But, my question remains the same: who am I? 

Do you know me?
I am a middle-aged Caucasian woman, a brunette, and not as tall as I once was. But that’s just the things you can see. 

I’ve been married, divorced, homeless, thought I was a tree for a moment, a miserable young adult, and a frightened child through it all.

I am an advocate for those who have no voice, and for those who do but are afraid to speak. I am a Believer in Christ, although I don’t represent Him as well as I could, which is why I’m reluctant to mention it. I know people (myself included) have often judged the Lord by how His chosen behave. I hope no one looks at me as anything but an example of His grace and mercy. For real. Even on my best days, there’s nothing good in me, save the Spirit of God.

Where do I fit?

I’ve been considering my place in the world, basically, since I was abruptly released from a certain position…one that had me smiling every single day. One where I KNEW I was right where I was supposed to be.

The situation (the termination, frankly) had me convinced that it would be far too risky to ever get a job again that meant THAT MUCH to me. The devastation and loss I felt were palpable, and lasted for weeks.

Life goes on…

I am a writer, a joke-cracker, and a Wounded Healer. A deep feeler if not so much a deep thinker. 

I believe that there are still people that I will be allowed to help, that want to learn how to live clean and sober. That’s really all I want to do, but it’s gonna have to be God’s time. 

Practicing the principles in all my affairs.

For now, what I absolutely must be is willing, honest and open-minded. I am grateful for the things God has given me, and equally grateful for things He’s taken away. 
Honestly.

Who am I? I’m a person. A weary traveller. In long-term Recovery. Former alkie/druggie, current mental health consumer. Trying to figure things out. In some ways, I am you. ūüôā 

Tell me, who are you, today?

Y.E.T.s

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I don’t think I’m the only person who listened to people talking in meetings and did a mental checklist: “haven’t gone there, haven’t done that, etc.” At that time, I was still trying to figure out whether I was really in the right place.  

I remember hearing women in treatment with me talking about things they’d done to support their habit.  They said things like “I’d be looking over at the pipe (in the middle of *the act*), thinking ‘just a little while longer, baby’ ” I could imagine that, but I hadn’t gone to that place, yet. I think it was the codependent gene plus NO business savvy whatsoever that kept me from that particular business. I envied the women who had been financially compensated -however slightly- for their wares. I just wanted to be ‘loved’. I suppose that was my weakness. 

In retrospect, I’m grateful that I wasn’t quite that hard, because I know how people become that way. I’ve been through enough self-destructive and emotion-numbing experiences, without adding even more, thanks. 

I hadn’t gotten any DUIs, YET. I hadn’t gone to jail (for more than a few hours), YET. I hadn’t subjected my children to the horrors of a using parent (only because I wasn’t blessed to not have kids while I was using), YET.  I hadn’t been in any vehicle accidents while under the influence, YET…

The Oldtimers told me to listen for similarities. I had put myself in dangerous situations. I had been in abusive relationships. I had lied, cheated, stolen, and murdered. I hadn’t thought twice about cheating on my mate, or about taking yours (just because I could was reason enough). I had driven when I could barely make out the lines on the road. I had awoken on the side of the road where I’d finally given up on finding my way home. I had placed the addiction ahead of my love for anyone else in my life. I hadn’t considered that the entire time I was living in direct opposition to my own values and morals, I was damaging my own spirit. I had no idea the depth of the devastation of my heart and mind, wrought from the years of “not caring”. 

I had become so much less than human. By the time I was done, I really felt like a bloody pile of flesh. And I volunteered for the vast majority of it. It was what my master required. But I digress.
The Old Farts in the Rooms told me that “YET” stood for You’re Eligible, Too. So, if I continued on the trajectory I’d been on, I was most assuredly going to sink even deeper into the depravity that I had heard about, and more. 
Today, I can apply the YETs to my life in a very different way. I haven’t gotten a degree YET. I haven’t become a Grandmother, YET. I haven’t travelled out of the country sober, YET. I haven’t been an “Empty-nester” YET. I haven’t been a home owner, YET. 

I’m blessed beyond measure. I know that my Tribe is there for me, and I know that I don’t have to EVER go farther down on that elevator than I had when I got off. The Program taught me to be grateful. And I surely am, today.    

Taking a Break

I’m thinking of taking a leave of absence from Facebook. I know, I know, many of you are saying ” good idea!” and the rest, well, you’re busy looking for stimulating new posts on your news feed. Yeah. That’s how I waste so much time, every day, as well. It’s been a while since FB really gave me that first rush, and I’m feeling like I’m chasing the dragon. I know the signs.And the thing is, I can only ignore them for so long before it begins weighing on my mind. 

There are, in ANY given day, SO MANY things I could be doing, instead of scrolling, scrolling, always scrolling…

A friend of mine advised me recently to “just write”. I’ve traded that sacred time for getting a  FB fix. I have things around the house that won’t get dealt with unless I do them. They’re waiting for me to re-prioritize. 

It’s interesting, that I didn’t have much problem cutting back on tv. I suppose that might be related to the impersonal nature of the all-seeing eye in the living room. I mean, occasionally, there are things on Facebook that are specifically for ME. But how often does that actually happen? Not so often. 

I’m not going to deactivate my account, as I’ve done before, because that takes everything of mine down, I think. But I have taken the FB icon off of the front of my phone, and I am going to be aware of how much time I’m giving to that time-suck. Really, what if there was another way that I could get info from ONLY the people that I want to hear from? And just the things that pertain to me? 

Oh, you mean like email? Or, maybe, text messages? 

I’m not going to say how long this will last, because really I’m not willing to commit. Posts here will still show up on my feed, so I hope you’ll come by here and let me know what you think of them. ūüôā 

But, for now, just for today, I’m taking a break from Facebook.  I have a Book that I need to be spending time reading. I need to spend more time in conscious contact with my God.

What about you? Do you ever feel like social media is ruling your life? Have you ever taken a break? How did you feel? 

FTW

First. Thought. Wrong.

Within the first 6 months of my sobriety, I had a crash course in powerlessness, and all I could do was give it to God. At that time, my relationship with Him was, well, dubious. I began, then, to understand that I had better keep my heart linked to Him in the calm(er) times, because when “life showed up” I would need to have a straight path to His throne.

No self-pity for me, thanks

When I told people about my baby’s medical condition, some of them would get a pitying (my perception) look on their face. I can appreciate that, now. I mean, what are ypu supposed to say/do in that situation?
At that time, however, I had learned to compartmentalize my feelings about it. I don’t know how much I ever stopped doing that, even after living with the situation for this long.

It’s not about me

My mindset, during that awkward moment when the person was feeling sorry for me (again, my perception, at the time) was matter-of-fact: My baby is fragile, and my existence at this time is entirely about caring for him. I didn’t have time for my feelings in the matter. I also didn’t have the energy for dealing with my feelings. They were irrelevant. It was Not. About. Me.

Not feeling can’t be a fulltime thing

That’s not to say that I never let the feelings out. I cried a lot at the Children’s hospital. And I cried and cussed at meetings. A lot. Because it was safe, there, to feel.

I had someone ask me “Don’t you ever wonder ‘Why me’?” And that is a thing that I’ve wrestled with, for sure. The answer I found, for me, is “Why not me?”
At the women’s treatment facility where I lived when I had B, there were a LOT of babies. Perfect and beautiful. My baby was beautiful, to be sure…but why did we get dealt the sh*tty hand?

Roll them dice

I have concluded that terrible things just ARE. I’m certainly no better or worse than the women who were blessed with healthy babies. Sure, some things are the natural consequences of poor choices. And other things are just a roll of the dice.

but God

But I haven’t gone through a minute of it alone. I’ve run back into His waiting arms. And I continue to do so. It’s all I can do.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

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. ¬†

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.

(Podcasts are my new addiction) “I Really Want To Do This”

This may just be my new woman crush, just cos she’s got the guts to make a podcast, write a book, and, you know, make it all look easy!

Listen to Ep 01 | I Really Want To Do This by High Wire Girl Pod #np on #SoundCloud

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.