13 simple ways to be mentally strong

…and 13. Keep turning it over to God.

Posted from my happy place.

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I didn’t know what I didn’t know

My Dad told me that getting sober is about growing up. One of the first things that I can remember becoming clear to me in those early days was that I didn’t know everything. The next step seems to have been realizing that it wasn’t important for me to be RIGHT. That’s been an on going lesson. 

When I became a Mother, I knew that I had no idea how to care for my child. I’d worked at Day Cares, and even become a certified Nanny at one point, but in the position I found myself when I became a parent,  I realized that I was pretty much clueless. I knew how to put on a diaper, sure, but there was so much more about which I had no idea. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now, almost 24 years later, I am convinced that I have no clue. By the grace of God my boys have turned out as healthy as they are. 

When I began working the steps with my Sponsor, I was apprehensive, having heard lots of those who’d come to the rooms before me talking about their struggles. Of course, I hadn’t begun my Stepwork, so I thought those people were a bunch of cry-babies. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I soon found out. 

When I was still calling the shots in my life, in Party Girl mode, I was always looking for something new. Something exciting. For a long time, the chemicals were enough to bring me to new and exciting lands (if only hallucinatory). After a while that wasn’t enough, so I chose more exciting places and more dangerous people with whom to run around. I suppose it was the adrenaline rush along with whatever drugs I used that made for an acceptable escape from the mundane and the depression that was a constant companion. I knew how to create distractions for myself, even if they were increasingly perilous. I was untouchable. 

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. 

Of course one can only live in that level of (drama) for so long before it starts to catch up with them. I don’t recall anyone talking to me about my drinking or using, but I suspect that’s just because I’d decided that wasn’t going to hear it.  More than likely, there were at least a couple of times that folks cared enough to try to get through my hard head. But I was skating along with relative ease, at the time. I refused to see the place that this lifestyle was taking me. I suspect that much of my cavalier attitude regarding the impending crash-and-burn was due to my complete lack of self-worth and my confidence that the hell I was living in was unavoidable.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know. 

I’ve been unable to avoid the political sh*t-storm in recent weeks, try as I have. This post was prompted by learning the truth about a situation that had been sold as a seriously unfathomable act by a candidate. The original information wasn’t (clearly) reported as having been (spun) by their adversary, so I took it as the truth. It was pretty outrageous. I thought this person was as big a scumbag as I’d already decided that their opponent was. Then I stumbled across the truth. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
It’s my own fault. I’m too comfortable hearing about unethical behavior to actually look into it, to find the truth. Laziness, I guess. But as the Day of Reckoning draws nearer, I’ve begun to concede that I ought to gather some information before I go pull a lever. I lot of times in the past I’ve been able to just watch for my associates (politically in-the-know people) to summarize the facts, and go from that. But this time it’s just not that easy. I’m beginning to know what I don’t know. Once you know a thing, you cannot unknow it. As much as I prefer to be ignorant about the goings-on of the “powers that be”, I’m coming to believe that not only is ignorance NOT bliss (crazy, right?), but that ignorance in these matters may give me something else to answer for in the Grand Scheme of things. And that list is already WAY TOO long for my liking. 

Let’s get busy and learn about the people who are vying for control of our great country. Four years in the hands of an idiot has proven to be more costly than we the people can afford. 

Do you REALLY want to?

…drink? Smoke? Snort? Shoot?

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Really?

I didn’t. I had exhausted my options.
I had run down every highway, every street, every back alley that I came to, in my desperate attempt to Get. Away. From. Me.
But when I looked at that angelic face, that beautiful, tiny boy, I knew in the depths of my heart that I could not have both him and drugs. My running days had come to an end.
Sure, I talked about running. I kept a pair of running shoes just inside the front (and, let’s be honest, also the BACK) door of my mind for an incredibly long time. However, there was one thing that had become abundantly clear to me on that day, when I realised that I was completely drained…I did not want to drink, or use, again.

“we gotta get out of this place”

That’s not to say that I didn’t want to escape from reality. Oh, no, I didn’t say that.
I’d awakened from so many years (while using) of being at a dead run…and each time I got a direct hit, be it a sexual assault, or an unhealthy relationship, or some other kind of intense emotional trauma, I had vaulted over the place where anyone else might have thrown a white flag…and ran faster.
My days of hiding, by way of chemical means, had finally come to a screeching halt.

So, what, then?

Facing my past fears and traumas was really too much to consider while I was being inundated with a whole different kind of drama (new Mom, baby in ICU, etc., etc.), so I had to find other options.
I discovered (archaic, to be sure: it was the early 90’s, after all) video games, and the   benefits of Mel Brooks movies, and chocolaet ice cream, and tattoos, among other things.
I didn’t want to use. I just wanted to check out for a minute. So I found other ways to distract myself.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly

At some point, I came to realise that the Promises, were, in fact, materializing for me. Some days, it felt like I was engaged in a war just to breathe, and other days, things would slow down and I got to taste of serenity, briefly.

It takes a village

I will forever be grateful to the women in the Program who walked with me those first months and years. They showed me how to live life, in all of its blood and chaos, on life’s terms, and then they encouraged me as I learned to walk again. No more running. I might jog now and then, but running is not in God’s plan for me, today. And I’ve discovered that His plan for me is always good. Always.

Posted from my shack by the creek.

Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing

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Beware, little lambs

I just wrote a long post about a Newbie in sobriety and an older person who’s attempting to take advantage of her, and then erased it. Thinking of the emotional train wreck most of us are when we first get clean and sober, it’s altogether too easy to fall into a trap.

Nothing New Uunder the Sun
When I first got clean, I was sexually harassed by the Dr. who was supposed to be helping the women at the treatment center where I was being treated. I never told anyone at the time, because, honestly, who would believe a drug addict over a “respected” citizen? No doubt he was counting on that, and my only regret is that I didn’t speak up so as to possibly spare the next women coming behind me. At the time, it was the sort of thing that I’d gotten used to (sexual abuse/harassment) so much that it was “just another day” when he said those disgusting things to me. The same kind of scenario is going on with my friend: he’s a “model citizen”, and taking advantage of her vulnerability.

Books and their Covers
Prior to treatment, while in my addiction, I used my “womanly wiles” to get by at times. Heck, that was the only value I had, and the only way I knew to get something that resembled love, if only for a little while. However, I wasn’t usually as slick as the ones I was trying to manipulate, and ultimately I was always the one who got hurt.

Hurt people, hurt people
My friend is being sexually harassed in front of her child. He has already been damaged (seen) enough; he doesn’t need to learn more ways to behave inappropriately toward women. But I can’t do it for her. I can validate her feelings that “something’s not right”, and I can encourage her to set boundaries. And most importantly, I can pray for her.
That’s all I can bring myself to say, now. I’m going to go do some cleaning and blow off some energy. I know it’s difficult learning to stand up for yourself. I completely get it, boundaries are REALLY a foreign concept. It just brings back so many painful memories, and I want to help my friend to avoid them…

2 Wildly Contradictory Views of 1 Disease (Part 2 of 2)

~~~NOTE: This is my experience, strength and hope, as a recovering alcoholic/addict. It’s not what I learned in a book. It’s things I’ve learned from folks who lived it.~~~

…so, where did we leave off? Oh, yeah. “I don’t have a problem” vs. “Oh, Hell, yes you do.”

It seems like a reasonable question, from a parent, spouse, friend, or even concerned employer, to ask “What can I do to make this insanity stop?” There’s where it gets really crazy. Why?

insanity_laughter_statue

“Shoot me now!”

Because YOU can’t do a thing to make them stop. Or even slow down. Nope. Sorry.  Look at it this way, if you could change the way their lives were going, wouldn’t you have, by now? It’s not like you haven’t done your best to “help” them!!

If loving you, the kids, their pets, their home, or even themselves (or whomever) were enough motivation to cause the alcoholic/addict to stop the insanity, they would have stopped a long time ago. Love or not has NOTHING to do with addiction (including alcoholism). One of the results of addiction, actually, is self-loathing, because they more often than not, know that they’re hurting you. But they are powerless to stop. For now.

If a good job being jeopardized was enough to get them to stop, they would have, after losing the first one. Right?  Ditto, losing their drivers’ license. Ditto, spending time in the county lock-up. Seems simple, doesn’t it? “Just quit!” or even, “Learn to drink like a gentleman!

So, addiction has nothing to do with how the addict feels about the world around them, necessarily. Sure, depression and/or countless other mental illnesses may accompany the addiction, or have become more noticeable to you since the person began to increase their consumption. Many drugs (including alcohol) mimic mental illness, eventually, after enough has been consumed. But that’s not the reason why they drink or use drugs…

I’m not going to go into an in-depth dialogue of why some folks get addicted and others don’t, or what causes addiction. Maybe in another post, but not this one.  The insanity of the disease of addiction is apparent in the behavior of not only the alkie/druggie, but also in the behavior of everyone in a relationship with them.

Today I’m hoping to reach out to the ones caught in the whirlwind of addiction brought on by their loved ones, and offer real, tangible hope.

The point is, the only one who is capable of deciding to stop drinking or using drugs, on a daily basis, is the one doing them in the first place.

What you can do, to HELP this person, will sound crazy, but consider it, please, in contrast to the ways you’ve been trying to “help” them.

*I am fully aware the this is going to sound harsh, and a lot of people involved with (us) will reject this advice across the board.*

Treat them like an adult. Let them take responsibility for their own screw-ups. Give them the dignity of finding their own solutions. You giving them is not likely to work, after all, haven’t you given them your best answers? (They have to find their own. You CAN’T do it for them.)

You didn’t pay the electric bill? Wow, that’s gotta suck. Do you need some candles? You don’t have any food in the  house? Maybe there are food pantries around that you can find. (Here’s a pb & j in the meantime. I’ll take the kids to McDonald’s, but you can pay your own way.)

You need gas to get to work? Ok, I’ll meet you at the gas station and put some into your tank. (This does not involve any money -plastic or otherwise- transferring from your hand to theirs. You go inside and pay the attendant. Or don’t: you’ll find out for yourself how that works out.)

                          ***LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO RISK THEM HATING YOU***

The problem with having children in the midst (which the alcoholic KNOWS is an effective manipulation tool-look how well it’s been working), is that they are going to suffer because of the choices their parents make. I’m not saying that you abandon the kids. Take the children out for a bite, take the children home for a sleep-over, even take temporary custody if you can or feel you must. (The fact is, if you know of neglect of abuse going on, think of what may be happening that you’re not  aware of. In the throes of our addiction, we are very talented in guarding evidence that might slow down or stop our using or drinking.) The thing is, the addict is going to look for any possible way to play on your sympathy, guilt, or love for them/their kids, to get to their prime goal: that next high. If you’re not  going to directly supply them, then they are going to find some way to relieve you of some cash.

Here’s the bottom line, dear friends: when an addict/alcoholic is active in their addiction, you are no longer interacting with the person you know and love. You are dealing with their disease. It helps me to understand the “disease” model by framing it within the realm of a mental illness. People with diagnosable mental illness act differently, don’t they? They often do things that they later regret, hurting those they care the most about, and some form of treatment is usually the only thing that will bring back any semblance of lucidity.  Sometimes therapy is enough, sometimes medication is needed for some amount of time, but ignoring it NEVER works. Seriously.

Trying to reason with a person in a bipolar/depressive/schizo-effective episode is like trying to teach a pig to sing:  It wastes your time and annoys the pig. People tried to talk to me about my consumption of mind-altering chemicals, and at BEST, they received a bored or irritated look in return.

Unless and until the person comes to the conclusion that their way isn’t working, they’re not going to seek out help. SO, since you DO love them, and you HAVE to do SOMETHING, please, take my advice:

Take care of you. Get to an ALANON or NARANON meeting, or a counselor familiar with addiction, to help you find the best way to detach from the insane behaviors and strengthen yourself. If you don’t take care of you, how are you ever going to be able to “be there” for them, if and when they come to their senses and seek help.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you. Some day, your loved one will thank you, if you actively work towards setting them free to take as much discomfort as they require, to decide to STOP. I leave you with one thought, that I heard from a wonderful lady in ALANON, many years ago:

How can they hit bottom if you keep sliding a mattress under their butt?

😉

 

 

The real cause for addiction

This is a short video that says a WHOLE lot. I would  be remiss in having this blog without including it.

The cause of addiction/alcoholism is a hotly debated subject. It seems that most people involved in the discussion have an emotional investment in either A) a loved one who is an active addict; B) a person who overdosed and did not live to tell about it; or C) their own addiction.

Rarely have I come across a conversation about addiction that didn’t end up with someone either pissed off or crying or both. Unless, of course, one of the people just shuts down and stops talking/listening. That will keep it from escalating to the point of an emotional volcano, erupting.

I suppose that those in the recovering community are the only ones who are able to have a calm discussion about this topic, because we have “lived to tell the tale”, as the old saying goes. In the case of emotional discussions, I have been A) a loved one of active addicts; B) a friend to those who have OD’d; and also C) an addict.

It’s kind of ironic how the closest people to the subject are often the ones who can talk about it rationally and calmly, while those going on hearsay or common opinion are too emotional to really hear anything true or logical about addiction.

Seeing the whirling dervish that is an active alcoholic/addict, and the destruction invariably left in their wake, it’s easy to see why those in relationship with them would be extremely emotional in their reaction. Surely any interaction with a mentally ill person would have a similar outcome. Anger, grief, shock, disgust, disappointment…sounds familiar, right?

I’m not sure where I’m trying to go with this, but I hope at least that your interest has been piqued enough to get you to take a look at the video.

Seriously, knowledge is power. Check it out. If you don’t know any addicts, now, (that you are aware of being addicted, that is), you may at some point discover that you do. And it would be great for both of you, if you were fore-armed with this info.

Danke. 🙂

What is “recovery”, anyway??

I’m involved in a research study about addiction recovery, and I thought this probably needed to be shared. I trust you’re having a sunny(ish) and pleasant(ish) day.

Definition of Recovery

Although millions of individuals and family members who are “in recovery” know what “recovery” means to them and how important it is in their lives, up until relatively recently there was no formal, accepted definition of recovery. For the general public and for those who research, evaluate, and develop policies about alcoholism and drug addiction, recovery is a concept that can sometimes seem unclear. Even worse, to the general public, the term “recovery” is seen as “someone who is trying to stop using alcohol or other drugs.” Clearly, it’s time for a change.

Essentially, recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction is a complex and dynamic process encompassing all the positive benefits to physical, mental and social health that can happen when people with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, or their family members, get the help they need.

Recently (November 2014), the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute posted its definition of recovery. According to the Group, “Recovery is a goal of alcohol treatment, and recovery-oriented systems of care are being developed to support that goal. Alcoholics who no longer drink, and are trying to pursue an improved way of living/being, say that they are ‘in recovery.’

Prior to this latest update, there were two major efforts to develop a definition for recovery. Here is a quick overview of the findings and suggested definitions:

In 2007, according to the Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel, What Is Recovery?:

“Recovery from substance dependence is a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.”

In 2005, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offered the following Working Definition of Recovery:

“Recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”

Expanding on this definition, SAMHSA articulated twelve “Guiding Principles of Recovery”:

  • There are many pathways to recovery.
  • Recovery is self-directed and empowering.
  • Recovery involves a personal recognition of the need for change and transformation.
  • Recovery is holistic.
  • Recovery has cultural dimensions.
  • Recovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness.
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
  • Recovery emerges from hope and gratitude.
  • Recovery involves a process of healing and self-redefinition.
  • Recovery involves addressing discrimination and transcending shame and stigma.
  • Recovery involves (re)joining and (re)building a life in the community.
  • Recovery is a reality. It can, will, and does happen.

In May 2011, a SAMHSA blog posting released Recovery Defined: A Unified Working Definition and Set of Principles that reflects SAMHSA’s move into a “behavioral health definition” of recovery that is inclusive of both addiction to alcohol and drugs as well as mental health recovery.

SAMHSA Working Definition of Recovery:

“Recovery is a process of change whereby individuals work to improve their own health and wellness and to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential.”

SAMHSA Principles of Recovery

  • Person-driven;
  • Occurs via many pathways;
  • Is holistic;
  • Is supported by peers;
  • Is supported through relationships;
  • Is culturally-based and influenced;
  • Is supported by addressing trauma;
  • Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility;
  • Is based on respect; and
  • Emerges from hope.

Four Major Domains That Support Recovery–SAMHSA’s Recovery Support Initiative:

  1. Health: Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
  2. Home: A stable and safe place to live that supports recovery;
  3. Purpose: Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and
  4. Community: Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

For more information visit the NCADD website at: www.ncadd.org.