Working with Angels

I remember once, at a group home where I used to work, celebrating the fact that a client actually used the toilet instead of her chair. The next time wasn’t quite as spectacular, but there for a minute, we were All-Stars. 

When I went off to work I jokingly (or not) told my hubby that it was a good day if I didn’t get poop actually ON me. That night, I told of the amazing feat of my lady actually using the bathroom facilities for a change. I knew he wanted to support me, but his face had kind of a blank look whenever I shared this kind of news. Fair enough. I didn’t fully appreciate the goings-on at his place of employment, but I was glad to see him happy. Probably the same way he does me. 

Sometimes when I’ve had a client with me out in the community, people have said something like “It takes a special kind of person to do that kind of work.” I appreciate it. I guess it does take a special something to do this work, but no more special than any other job that requires a lot of emotional weight-lifting, along with the usual physical manipulations of assisting an up-to 250 lb. infant/toddler go through their daily activities…

I mean, everything that an infant or toddler relies on their parents for, our clients depend on us to do for and with them. There’s kind of an inside joke among myself and my co-workers, that the bosses get us to start working there for super low pay, knowing that we’ll fall in love with our charges and basically put up with (no pay increases ever) any Managerial shenanigans so that we can be sure the clients are getting cared for by people who genuinely care about them. It’s the Hotel California trick. 

When we moved across the country last year, I was of course really sad that my older boy wasn’t coming with us, I still am every day. But he assured me that he  was a Big Boy and didn’t need me anymore.  So I gave him the benefit of the doubt,  and we moved. 

But deep inside of me, where I hadn’t even realized they were hiding, were my feelings about leaving behind “my” (non-verbal) little client. I really love working with the individuals who don’t speak. Possibly because of my personal experience in having to read body language as a child, and also because I know that they are the most vulnerable of any people group. 

The lady I had been working with before we moved was just as close to being an actual angel as I’ve ever seen. It’s not that she was beautiful by society’s standards, but her spirit shone through. When she was happy, her entire body shook with joy. And she was happy a lot when I was there. She loved going to church with me and her roommate, and the people at church fell in love with her, too.

Some of the other staff at the group home would get irritated with me because when she saw me come in, the world stopped and she did her kind of lurching goose-step over to me and hugged me fiercely. She watched for me to arrive, and would have hugged me all day if I would have let her. It was really nice. Like having a daughter, I suppose.

But then we had to move. Leaving that  sweet little girl behind was more difficult than I’d expected. Times when I’ve been home-sick, her smiling face has always come to mind. 

I know she is ok. The staff there are very compassionate and capable of caring for her, complicated medical issues and all. But I’ll probably never forget her, and I can’t wait to see her in her perfect new body in Heaven…

I was back home briefly over the summer, and the first thought  was to go see my special friend. Then I thought it through. And decided it would be selfish as hell for me to stop by & then leave again. So I didn’t go by the house where she lives. 

I know for sure that the rewards of this field of work are monetarily minimal. But the intangible rewards can make it surprisingly easy. I’m amazed when I think of the trust I’m given, when caring for my clients. Whether it’s pushing a wheelchair, coloring a craft, changing their pants/diapers for the umpteenth time or going through the “feelings” flash cards again, it is a privilege. 

Just another phenomenal blessing of sobriety. 

“And for that, I am responsible.”

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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.

Life on Life’s Terms

I’m  a pretty simple person. I find it difficult to express myself with my small-ish vocabulary. But having found how therapeutic writing is for me, write, I must. Because if I don’t take care of me, I’m no good to anyone else.

My phone rang…

Last night I received a call from my firstborn. He had just seen his Cardiologist and called to let me know how his appointment went.  He told me that later that evening he would be getting an MRI on his brain. To determine whether or not he had a(nother) stroke last week. This may be the 2nd stroke for my 23 year old son. Here’s his post on FB, from the Children’s Hospital:

James Whitcomb Riley’s Children’s Hospital

“​Idk which has changed more, me or this hospital. I remember the stuffed animals, the hustle and movement of doctors, the laughs of kids that were getting better. Now there are no stuffed animals, the halls feel large and empty, and it’s just worried parents sitting on benches or chairs staring at phones or their coffee. Maybe I’m just seeing it with(out) the magic. I used to come here and be so happy cause it meant I was gonna get better. Now I come here and feel the dread that I won’t leave.”

Riley Children’s Hospital circa 1993

Change is inevitable
In the past couple of years he’s been having lots of palpitations and other painful events, which means trips to the ER on the regs, with a crap ton of feeling anxious and concerned about the future…not to mention the time he’s missed from work…

What can I Do?

So, I’m giving serious consideration to how good of an idea it is for us to live 8-10 hours away. When we moved here about 15 months ago, it seemed like a Good Thing all the way around. There is no question that it’s been  a blessing in many ways, but at the same time, God didn’t indicate how long we were to stay. 

God, grant me the serenity

Between my Mom living alone and losing her eyesight, and my baby spending more and more time in hospitals, it’s getting more and more difficult to feel good about being So. Freaking. Far. Away. 

Courage to change the things I can

I’m gonna have to seek God’s will…hard. Cos knee-jerk reactions are seldom, if ever, part of His plan. And moving cross-country is no small feat. The older I get the less I feel like packing everything up and beginning again. 

And the wisdom…

Thank God we have never had to go through any of this alone. God and His angels are always right on time. My trust has to be in Him, coz one more time: I’m powerless. 

I feel like this post is even more jumbled than usual, and I’m sorry for that. I needed to write this down, and get it out. I know that today, I will weather this storm, because I’ve withstood as bad or worse. And because I’ve seen and experienced God’s faithfulness, I am convinced that this, too, shall pass. 

Have you had to deal with powerlessness as pertains to your children? Or a family member’s declining health? Please share your E,s, & h in the comments below. 

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ 

I have learned many little tricks to assessing where my head is, I mean, whether I’m thinking like I did in the Old Days or thinking with my “right mind”. I was taught early on -maybe you’ve heard this, too – that my mind is like a bad neighborhood at night: I don’t want to go there alone. I knew intuitively (?) from the get-go that I could not trust my own thinking. 

When I arrived at treatment, I had gone through everyone I’d known and come up with the following:

I couldn’t trust my parents

I couldn’t trust women

I couldn’t trust men

…and finally…

I couldn’t trust myself.

So it was easy for me to grasp the concept of “I no longer have a drinking problem. Now I have a thinking problem.” I definitely needed to re-learn how to think.

You can’t think your way to sober living…

While I was in treatment, IOP and residential, I began to learn about the different styles of “Unhealthy thinking” (ie Stinkin Thinkin). The list is fairly long, so I’m just going to touch on a few, here, followed by an example or explanation of my understanding of what it means. 

1.    Personalisation – also known as hypersensitivity – This involves blaming yourself for any and everything that goes wrong, even when logic tells you that you’re only partially responsible, or even not responsible at all. This kind of thinking has you feeling guilty WAY too often, and apologising when you have nothing to apologise for. One common example of this is when you blame yourself for someone else’s poor choices. 

I am responsible for everything inside of my skin. I can’t control anything outside my skin, with the possible exception of my kids, and, really I’m pretty powerless over them most of the time. 

2.    Catastrophising – this is when a person makes mountains out of molehills.  Another way of saying it is “pole-vaulting over mouse turds.” Teenagers are great for this sort of thing, and since we tend to stop growing emotionally when we begin our addiction, that can cover we in addiction recovery as well. This reminds me of a boyfriend who always told me I was too dramatic. I had no idea what he was talking about, but now I do. The best way I have come up with to stop this kind of thinking is to take my emotions out of it, and look at the situation with only my mind/logic/intellect.  (I do this at times with sarcasm, I think. Probably not the best approach, but it helps ME.) After that, I usually will go to the EXTREME possible outcome, which is just ridiculous. For example, I work with a woman who does this. Last week she had a hangnail that she’d picked, and although it wasn’t bleeding, it was (a hangnail, remember, so pretty tiny) raw-looking. She showed it to me and did her hyperventilating act, and asked me  in her trembling voice if it was going to be alright. I told her we’d probably have to take the finger off.  Sarcasm might not have been the best response, but I think you get the point. I put a bandaid on it and she is still alive as far as I know, and still has all of her digits. 

3.    Black & White thinking – Also known as All-or-Nothing thinking. This style of thinking is where you see everything as good or bad,  wrong or right, with no in-between. The word “moderation” just doesn’t exist in an alkie/druggie’s vocabulary. When me Dad got sober he would talk about how he used to say “Moderation is for wimps!” The example that comes to mind is the way an alcoholic drinks. If you’re going to offer them one, you’d better be ready to share the rest with them. The sad and funny thing about that is, many of us relapse because we convince ourselves that we can have “just one.” How crazy is that? I never wanted one of ANYTHING, before, and now all of a sudden I was going to calmly moderate? One of anything just irritated me. The thing that helps me to avoid this kind of faulty thinking is that I force myself to imagine the thing in a gray area. My instinctual thought was “he’ll either be dead or he’ll recover” (in the case of my Dad’s surgery to cut out the cancer), well, guess what. I forgot to consider that maybe he wouldn’t die right away and he wouldn’t be healed. I hadn’t ever imagined for a second that what would happen was actually in the middle of those two things. So now I force myself to remember that gray is a perfectly possible outcome, most of the time. (Just not where addiction is concerned. Period.)  

4.     Magnifying and Minimisation – This often is a go-to for a person not actually ready to quit. You’ll hear things like “I had X, Y, & Z, but I didn’t have my favorite drug!” or “I relapsed part of Monday, part of Tuesday, and part of Wednesday.” or “He gave it to me.”From the tone of their voice, I am pretty sure this seemed like a perfectly good comprehension of the events. The reality of the situations was A), you relapsed, and it doesn’t matter on what, because any of those things could kill you or send you to prison and B), You only relapsed for “part of” those days because you didn’t have money to buy more? Or because when you were coming down you don’t consider that to be the same as being high? and C), He didn’t hold you down and force you to do it.  

As far as addiction goes, regardless of what the focus of the addiction may be- with the possible exception of food addiction, there is no middle ground. You’re either clean or you’re not. You’re either living in an addict’s brain or you’re living in a recovering person’s brain.  

OK, that’s probably enough to chew on for now. If this has been helpful to you in any way, or if you think it could help someone else struggling with an addict or an addiction, please share.  
     

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.

Is perfection even a thing?

I’ve been thinking lately about doing new things, doing old familiar things; success and failure.
One of my favorite things to say to myself (I don’t know why, but I suspect I can figure it out)is that “I’m not good enough”. Not a good enough wife, not a good enough mom, and certainly not a good enough writer to ever do more than copy & paste crap on Facebook.
Where in Hell does all that come from? Yeah, I did kinda just answer my own question.
I know that my parent’s parents had high expectations for them, according to the idea of “success” back in the 1940’s, 50’s, and so on. We’ve all seen the American Success Story prototypes, right?

image

The media (what there was, then) never showed people who were dirty, hungry, overweight, poor or mentally ill – at least not for more than a moment, (not to mention drunks or addicts) and certainly “those people” weren’t seen as having any positive qualities. Even Otis, from The Andy Griffith show, was only good for laughs and making everyone feel better about themselves. “Poor Otis…” I have no doubt that the Middle Class dream, around that time, looked a whole lot like Ward & June Cleaver’s place. Heck, even the single parents of that era had their sh*t together. Hmmm. Were there any single Moms, back then? None come to mind. Musta been too depressing to show that part of society.

So, is it any wonder that just one short generation later, we are wracked with insecurities and self-doubt?

So, here’s the flip-side of this deal: it’s false pride. (Ouch)
Yep. It’s all a bunch of “Me me me me me!” Cos, guess what?
When I stop looking at how weak and wretched I am, and remember what really matters, all that kinda fades away. Or rather, Who matters.
I’m not gonna go on a scripture-quoting rant, but I will share with you what I heard as I thought about this dark place I seem to be drawn to…
I can do all things through Him, when I let Him lead. When I am weak, He is strong, when I keep my eyes on Him, things work out.
The One Who works all things together for my good, according to His purposes, has given me so many reasons to know that He’s got my back…He’s the One who brings beauty from ashes. He loves us, the unlovely ones. Jesus said that He didn’t come for those who (thought they) were well, but He came for we who recognise our sickness, our need for Salvation, from our own mess, among other things. My favorite scripture is John 3:17. God didn’t send His son to condemn us, but so that through Him we might be saved.
I’ve gotta get a grip on who it is that tells me lies about myself: I’m not smart enough, young enough, they won’t like me, my clothes aren’t nice enough, my hair is wrong, I’m destined to live in the slums forever…
I’m not trying to say that any of those things would make me a bad person. I just want to see some kind of forward momentum from my efforts. One step forward & 2 steps back really gets tiresome. But, like I think Mother Teresa said, we’re not called to be successful. We’re called to obey.
God is well known for using weak to shame the strong, and the least of these to beat the greatest.
Ok, Lord. I’m giving it to You.
AGAIN.

Posted from my non-villa, nowhere near any hamlet.