It’s a new day…

God only knows what’s in store for  “we the people”, but I’m excited. I’m so ready to stop the…sadness, sickness, anger…among other things that can be helped with just a bit of effort.

I am grateful for the liberties that this country affords us as it’s citizens. There are many countries in which people are being slaughtered for the crime of owning a holy book. Literally. Women and men made to watch their children’s suffering before they become the object of tormenting, the likes of which you can see on Criminal Minds.
I am grateful to be able to wear what I like and travel alone without being questioned or worse. 

I thank God for His never-ending mercies. He is a just God, but He prefers to show mercy to repentant hearts. 

I am grateful to be able to show affection to those I love and care about. 

I’m grateful for a husband who’s encouraging,  a hard worker, funny, quick to forgive, gentle when necessary and an ex-Navy Seal. Never have I felt safer in every way. He’s just one more example of my God’s compassion. 

So happy together

I am grateful for friends who agree with me as well as friends who don’t. 
I’ve lived long enough to know that things aren’t always what they seem, and sometimes that’s a GOOD thing. 

I’m grateful for being freed from the bondage of self, the chains of addiction, and from being a slave to sin. 

Thank you for reading, and for praying for peace. Let’s try to be kind to one another. 🌷

From my cabin in them thar hills. 

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Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Here’s a news flash: getting clean/sober is difficult. Right? That’s what many alkie/druggies will tell you. And, not unlike the feeling you get while preparing to jump into frigid water, once it’s done and over with, it’s not as scary as you may have thought.  

In the same way that our minds magnify the anticipated discomfort of the chilled water on exposed flesh, our addicted mind launches a massive campaign to convince us that going without our “medication” will be bad at the least, and more likely, downright unbearable. 

Truth is, there may be moments in early sobriety where it  does feel unbearable. And, there will also be moments that can only be described as exhilarating. 

You will never know how strong you are until you test yourself.

In my personal experience, when I have considered jumping into water that is anything but warm, the biggest motivation is that there is someone already in the water calling me to join them. If they’re encouraging me to come in, there’s one thing I can be sure of: it didn’t kill them.  

The primary reason that I don’t WANT to feel the water is simple: I have some recollection of the last time I was immersed in cold water, and it was absolutely NOT in my comfort zone. Nope. Not even close to it. Similarly, the times when I’d gone without any mood-altering chemicals were also uncomfortable in a BIG way. 
It was only after concluding that it was the only viable option, that I decided to stop using. The way I approached it was like learning to swim after finding myself in the deep end of the pool. Since I wasn’t doing a very good job (at life) on the shore, it seemed like a no-brainer that I should do what I was told by those who had been keeping their heads above water for a while. I learned to keep some distance between myself and other Newbies, because they could easily pull me under and cause me to drown. 

Staying in close contact with others walking the same path has been crucial to my recovery. In my experience, the statistics are true: 1/36 of us will STAY sober. It could be even less than that, I don’t know. But keeping my butt in places where I was continually reminded of what life was like before, saved my life. And being around old-timers gave me such hope and inspiration. 

If you think about it, we have very selective recall. I need to be taken back to how it USED to be, and hearing other people sharing about how it was terrible and horrific for them, just like it was for me, proves to me that even with slight variations on the theme, it’s still gonna SUCK. 

Anyway, it’s not easy to radically change every aspect of your life. It’s scary and uncomfortable. Easy would be staying with the status quo, not rocking the boat. Similarly to victims of domestic violence, the KNOWN insanity is more appealing than the UNKNOWN, cos, really, what if it’s WORSE? I’ve been there. 

If you’re miserable enough where you are, you will eventually break through that fear, and get the hell out. You don’t have to wait until you’ve been traumatized and scarred to allow yourself an opportunity to see if perhaps there is Something Good out there waiting for you. 

Even if you don’t know how to swim, I know of a LOT of people (myself included) who will be happy to lend you a life raft. Just let us know that you’re about to jump, and we will be there to help you hold your head above water. 

Written from my cabin in the mountains.

July 25th

​July 25, 2016

16 years ago today…

…my youngest child came screaming into the world. Oh, wait, maybe it was ME that was screaming. At any rate, my baby is 16 today. So many things have happened in 16 years. When he was born we were living in the Florida panhandle, loving the life, with a pier behind our place for fishing. Then we moved back to Indiana, where E has remained for most of his life. There were several moves while in Indiana, for financial reasons, mostly. The last place we lived was a small town about halfway between Columbus, IN and Indy. I think it has 2 stop lights. 

Then last year we moved across the country to the place we currently reside. I suppose it’s easy to forget how difficult the teen years are, because our brain is able to “forget” extremely difficult periods. At least mine is. I know that when I was 15, I had just begun to investigate what would be the “solution” for what ailed me: alcohol and drugs.  There wasn’t much talk, back then, at least where we were, about eating disorders and depression in teenagers, so it’s understandable that nothing much was done. I presented as a teen full of angst, I’m sure, moody as hell, and unhappy with the world. Dad diagnosed me with the “poor me’s” which is likely what he heard growing up. Maybe my attitude problem was an actual illness, that could be addressed and gotten past. But nobody thought that way, then, and there. 

I’ve told my son that as miserable as he may be, he ought to try to imagine feeling like that every day instead of occasionally, and without any medication to regulate his brain chemistry. I’m sure if I lived today as a teenager, as much publicity as self-harm and suicide get, I’d be right on that bandwagon.  What better way to lash out at uninterested parents, or worse (and usually the case), to try to release some of the emotional pain growing inside? 

I’m told that one of the things that causes people to self-harm is the way that the chemicals in the brain respond to pain, with endorphins or dopamine, or whichever of those feel-good chemicals. That makes sense. Internal, or external, we’re going to find some way to escape the pain.
So, moving to a new place at 15 years old, might not be a big deal for a well-adjusted, emotionally stable (is there such a thing, at 15??) kid. Considering the things that life has handed him, I think my boy has adjusted as well as anyone else in his circumstances would.  

Moving at this time was one of those “jump and know that God will catch me” things. I’m not gonna say that I don’t think we were supposed to move here, as hard as it has been. I mean, really, things are tough all over, right? My husband and I believe that God allowed this move, if not willed it. And before we moved, I specifically asked the boy if he was ok with it. He said yes (3 months of summer break was a motivator). If we’d have known then what we know now, I’m not sure any of us would have agreed, but move we did, and getting settled, we are. 

So, my boy is celebrating his 16th birthday with his big brother, back in Indiana. I know that’s probably the best gift he could have received, as much as he loves his Bubby. 
********************************************************

Update: My boy came back home, and I, for one, was READY for him to be back. It was nice having the place to ourselves, but much nicer having him here. At HOME. 

I’m glad E got to hang out with his brother, and one of my best friends, and my Mom…I know he had been “homesick”, and really looked forward to the trip. But I’m also pretty sure that his dreams of how a visit “back home” would be, weren’t too close to how things actually went. 

So, now, I have a 16-year-old again. I wish things had been different when my elder son (B) was 16. I was an emotional trainwreck,  then, and it seemed best for B to go stay with my mother for a time. The continual fighting between the two boys was like plunging a knife deep into the back of someone who’d already been beaten to a pulp. It tore my heart out, and I just didn’t know what else to do.  I have deep regrets about that period of time. I know I did my best, but my best at the time seems to have been pretty poor. 

In spite of me being such a mess, B has grown up to be a tremendously sensitive, insightful, and compassionate individual. He lives with some of the same inner dragons as I do, and I see him working it out. I’m proud of the man he is becoming. And I pray for him.

My younger son is a Highly Sensitive Person, and by that I mean he feels things more intensely, (including textures) and even his hearing is much better than most.  He is thoughtful and caring and smart to the extent that it’s a handicap. E is the guy that his friends come to when they need a shoulder to cry on. High School is super challenging, as it is for everyone, but I know he will find the strength to rise above the difficulties. And I pray for him. 

I thank God for each of my children, every day. And I pray that He will lead and guide them as they continue to find their way in the world. 

UPDATED Update:

Since I haven’t gotten this posted yet, I want to add some more…

In spite of everything else, this school year looks to be better than last year for E. He’s finding his people, and involved in something that he loves. I’ve changed jobs recently, from one that I loved my co-workers but couldn’t live on the money, to a place where I’m not sure about the co-workers (not that it matters) but eventually we will catch up on the bills and be able to LIVE again.  And it’s the same kind of work that I was doing at the last place. I know how to do it. It’s caring for people that seemingly no one else cares to, or wants to care for. To be fair, it’s not something everyone CAN do, I guess. 

But, here we are. I’m growing fond of our new home. My son appears to be less unhappy here, and my husband enjoys his work, and also he’s making progress in the corporate ladder-climbing thing. So, I’ve been slacking on my writing, and I thought I’d get this up while I’m thinking of it.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

…Life on God’s terms…(Part 4)

​As my baby grew, we found our “normal”, which involved frequent check-ups at the Children’s Hospital, and close monitoring of his development. 
In the year 2000, my second son was born, and I juggled one more little bundle of energy/joy, along with my “miracle baby”, who was by then 7. Not long after #2 came along, I was living the life of a single-parent, and the insanity returned for me. (The continual stresses of single-parenting brought my mental illnesses to the forefront, and once again I went to a Dr. to get help managing them. My sons deserve the best I can give them, and if that means I have to take medication to help me function, then so be it.) I didn’t know much about raising ONE boy, let alone 2! And as they grew, it became more of a challenge. I failed many times as a parent, but I’m learning to accept that that’s par for the course.  I concluded years ago that anyone who says they’ve got “no regrets” either has no children or a selective memory.

In 2010, through the wonders of technology and a Christian dating site, I met my smoking hot husband, B. I had finally divorced from the boy’s dad a couple of years earlier, and I knew that I needed help with them. God knew exactly what we all needed; my husband is my equal in many ways and absolutely surpasses my dreams in the rest of them. He is also in recovery, and my greatest support as we walk this bumpy road of life. 

First things first…

After we’d been married a couple of years, I woke up at about 4:00am and realized that I’d had a stroke. After going through many tests at the hospital, to be certain, the Dr.s concluded that, indeed, it was an actual  stroke. I had virtually no use of my left hand for many months. Physical Therapy was not in the budget, so, I just worked my hand and stretched it out, using the other one. The main thing I attribute my healing from this situation would be the prayers of the people in the church we’d found shortly after B and I were married. It wasn’t a “lightning bolt” healing, like we (instant gratification being of course my preference) would have liked, but slowly over the course of a few months, I regained the use of my hand and now people have a hard time believing me when I tell them that I had a stroke. I just love it when God does that!

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.  
     

“To be honest…”

Whenever I hear those words, I immediately wonder, “was everything up until now a lie?” I mean, if you have to clarify that AT THIS TIME you’re telling the truth…you could be an alcoholic/addict. 

I don’t lie anymore

I’ll never forget the time I heard a guy with 30 days or so -again- say in a meeting that since he stopped drinking, he didn’t lie anymore. I’m not sure if it was part of a ploy to hook up with a new(er)comer, but he sounded sincere when he said it. 

Seriously?

 I was surprised to hear that, to say the least. Especially from this person. But, you know, that’s his stuff. (I did choke a little on my coffee, though, as I was trying not to laugh.) 

What does honesty even look like?
According to the Bigger Big Book, we don’t really know the full story of what goes on in our own heart & mind. “Cash-register honesty”, now that’s easy enough to identify, but what about…the rest of our lives? 

When I was going to meetings with Dad, where they were mostly Crusty Oldtimers (The Winner’s Circle in Lakeland, in case you’re curious), they taught me a more comprehensive way to find out what MY truth was, at any given moment. 

Checkity check yoself before you wreck yoself

They taught me to check my motives. Sounds easy enough, right?

 Here’s an example:

I want to give Joe Blow a ride to a meeting (even though my Sponsor warned me about fraternizing with the opposite sex).

What’s my motive? Obviously, I want to be a friend, and help him out. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And that may well be PART of the truth.

Check it again

They told me to check my motives again. 

What’s my real motive? Well, it’s a nice thing to do, and I’m trying to think of others first. That sounds legit. It’s most likely a part of my reason for giving him a lift.

One more time

Yep, they told me to check my motives 3  times!

What’s my REAL, bottom line, honest to God motive? Siiigh. I don’t want to do this. 

I want to do a favor for someone, so I’ll have leverage on them whenever I need a favor.

I want others to see me doing “Service Work”.

I’m so lonely, I just want someone to talk to. Besides, I have trust issues with women. I’ve always gotten along better with men. 

And finally, the TRUTH:

I don’t know how to act without a man in my life, and he looks at me like he’s interested, and my self-esteem needs some help (which he appears willing to *ahem* stroke)!

Hm. That’s a lot of work!

One thing about being a World-Class Liar for so long, is that you can’t tell when you’re lying. (We’ll talk about denial in a future post.)

So, in summary, I need to check my motives 3 times (sometimes more) whenever I think something. Because I am selfish and self-centered to the core. I even do nice things for others (altruism isn’t unheard of, even among people like us) because I GET SOMETHING OUT OF IT.

So it’s bad for me to do good?

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do for others! It’s good to be helpful. Kinda like the idea of doing a good deed and not telling anyone. 

If you were to take a younger person under your wing (say, niece or nephew) because they needed guidance that their parent couldn’t give them, that’s a good thing, and more likely to have a positive motive. 

On the other hand, if the only younger folks you’re willing to spend time helping are, for example, the kids in your church’s Youth Group – where you’re sure to get more than a few pats on the back – instead of the one that you KNOW is in a bad place, that very few people would know about, and that you could definitely help…well, you tell me what the motives there, are.

I’m never gonna get that.

Honesty is one of the strange new concepts that sobriety/clean time requires that we learn. One day at a time. Sometimes slowly…