Yes, I have scars.

When you think of scars, do you consider them flaws, or signs of damage or vulnerability?

I did for most of my life. I have some scars that are quite apparent, and more which are not. One of the more obvious (to me) would be the scars from where my ear was re-attached when I was about 18. Yet, in reality, I wear my hair up most of the time and I can recall literally no one noticing it. The closest I’ve come was recently when a co-worker mentioned that I had only one earring in that ear. She hadn’t noticed that it was because the other earring hole was too close to the edge of my lobe, due to the scarring, to realistically put in an earring; just that there were 2 earrings in one ear, and only one in the other.

I read a post recently that talked about the Japanese art of mending ceramic flaws with lacquer mixed with gold, silver, platinum, copper or bronze, so that the repaired item is more beautiful than the original. Sometimes the broken area is replaced with a right-sized piece of another piece of pottery, making a quilt-like appearance.

It’s called “Kintsugi” or “Kintsukuroki”. I’m sure you’ve seen examples of this, if you’ve ever been to an art museum or looked at a National Geographic magazine.

This got me to thinking about my scars. Like most of us, I have both external and internal scars, as we all have. Is it a cultural thing, that when we see a scar, we see a flaw? And is a flaw necessarily a bad thing? According to Kintsugi, the scar is simply a part of the items’ life experience, not bad or good. But once it’s been repaired, the damaged area actually adds to the beauty of the original.

Then there’s the western culture of throwing damaged items away and buying new ones.  The spiritual philosophy of Kintsugi is one of awe, reverence, and restoration. Kind of like how the Japanese traditionally honor their elderly, and embrace all that they can offer. And America, well, does other things. Not the least of which being how in our culture aging is made out to be a dreadful, almost accursed thing. God forbid a woman let her hair gray naturally or not buy the best wrinkle-removers she can find!

Anyway, it has me thinking about my perspective. Some people say that scars are a sign of something that DIDN’T beat them. That’s good, right? It’s not untrue, is it? But I (maybe you, too, I don’t know) was sold a ridiculous bill of goods that said that scars are imperfections, need to be hidden (there’s a cream for that, you know), and certainly will disqualify you from being picked first for…anything.

Where are you going with this, Ab? I’m glad you asked.

Traditionally, for whatever reason, people wrestling with alcoholism, addiction, and/or mental illness have been considered defective, or broken, at best. So, ok, I’ll give you that. I, for one, was fairly shattered long before I discovered how to self-medicate. But not broken beyond repair, as I discovered. Drugs & drink were the Scotch tape that held my ceramic heart and mind together. The cracks and chips were incredibly obvious, and the tape did no more than keep the pieces in the same locale. It didn’t make me functional.

I consider my Higher Power to have taken the broken shards of my being and fit them all together again. He used the gold and silver of the Steps, Spiritual Principles and the folks who came before me to hold me together, and the result became more beautiful than anyone could have foreseen. The shiny veins of gold and silver make what was once a plain vessel to be even more valuable than before it was broken.
I was convinced that the wreck that was me when I came into the Rooms would never be much more than a leaky clay pot, if that. God has taken my brokenness and turned it into something closer to what He intended me to be. All I had to do was hand the broken pieces to Him and let Him reassemble me. The beauty is demonstrated when I reflect the Light He shines on me. I can reach out to offer others the tools for living that have been freely shared with me, and I have the scars to prove that I’ve not always been this way.

I’m 2019 Abbie. I approve this message. God continues to amaze me by His mercy and grace.

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One grrl’s story (Part 1)

 I am an adult child of an alcoholic/addict, a codependent, a survivor of domestic violence, and I qualify for most 12-step programs. Additionally, I have endured many years of depression, ADD, OCD, and PTSD. Today I am an OVERCOMER. This is my story. 

What it was like… 

Angel? Maybe.

I was born in a small Midwestern town. When I was a very small child, we moved out to the country near a Pennsylvania Dutch (think: Amish) community where we stayed until I was about 8. My Mom and Dad were the typical 20-somethings of their day, kind of a mix of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” meets “Green Acres”.  Dad was a charismatic salesman – winning awards left and right – selling, among other things, encyclopedias (kids, ask your parents what those are), while Mom was the Stay-at-home Mom that every little girl of that era was expected to become.  She was outstanding at it: cooking delicious meals, sewing our clothes, and taking care of the home, and of us.  My earliest memories are of our farm, where we had a large yard and a big, old house. I used to go down the street to the neighbor’s place and play with his pigs, and I even had a pet pig for a time. I thought I was living the good life.  

When I was 5, I started attending kindergarten.  I enjoyed going to school and meeting other kids. It was a relief to not be expected to be perfect, like at home. Dad was “strict” and quick with a belt. He had all of the “ism’s” before he ever began drinking alcoholically, and I would do ANYTHING to please him. For the record, I know that dad never maliciously hurt me. He genuinely thought he was doing what he was supposed to do. He was raising me the way his Dad had done him. 
  
When one of my classmates asked me if it was true that we had a (gasp!!) tv at our house, it went around the classroom quickly. After that, I was aware of being “different”. When I was an adult a Dr. told me that I had A.D.D., which explained a LOT of things about my childhood. In Kindergarten, I began to be teased about things over which I had no control (A.D.D., at this time). One day I went home crying, after being teased and called names, AGAIN, Mom took me in to tell my Dad, expecting him to make me feel better, I’m sure. He was in the living room with some friends, and instead of giving me a hug and comforting me, when we told him why I was so upset, Dad laughed at me. A lot. 
I was devastated.  Unlike the bruises left by his belt, that was a wound that never healed. 

My brother came along when I was about 7, and by the time I was 8, Dad was telling us goodbye, and to me, “take care of your Mom and brother”.  Mom stood by the front window for months in her housecoat, waiting for him to come back. He never did. Dad wasn’t interested in the responsibilities of having a wife and kids, and so he divorced Mom and freed himself. However, no matter where he went, there he was. 

By then, I was about to enter 4th grade. Without Dad’s income, we had to leave the nice big farmhouse. We moved a total of 4 times that school year. Until that time, schoolwork had been pretty easy for me, but after Dad left and we moved away, my grades suffered, predictably. It’s challenging, being the “New Kid”, and I was an easy target for bullies. I desperately wanted to be liked and accepted, so I made up stories about myself in an attempt to impress my peers. At one school, I said I was an Indian Princess, another, I was on the popular PBS show “Zoom”, and at yet another I claimed to be a Martial Artist. That one turned out badly, when the class bully asked me to show her some moves. Thankfully, we moved again soon after that. 
We eventually landed in Indianapolis, and Mom bought a house in a small town just outside of the city. I went to a nearby religious school for a couple of years, until Mom was no longer able to afford it. (Child support was sporadic at best.) During my stint at the religious school, I continued to get into trouble for lack of impulse control, forgetting homework assignments, and talking in class. Let’s just say that I became well acquainted with the paddle. 
So, with the finances getting tighter, still, I began attending the local public school. The teachers at the new school were understandably frustrated with me (distractibility, impulsiveness, and forgetfulness, etc…). I was bullied more often than not, and my grades had continued a downward spiral due to the emotional and mental…differences I had developed.  I know, now, that Mom was too exhausted from her 2-3 jobs to have much energy left for PTA meetings, but at the time, I just felt alone. She worked her ass off to provide for us, and Dad was almost nonexistant in our lives. 

Around age 13, I started to wonder why I felt so different, inside. I felt abandoned from any family and I didn’t have any friends. Anxiety was my constant companion and self-worth was practically non-existent. I discovered a paperback book that gave me some insight. The book was about a teenage girl who had two different sides to her personality, and how she went from bubbly and gregarious, one day, to sullen and wearing only black clothes and showing all the signs of depression, the next. The book was called “Lisa, Bright and Dark”, and it gave me a little bit of understanding of what I had been feeling. While not diagnosed for years after that, unbeknownst to me, I had stumbled onto what part of my problem was: I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and depression. 
Several years later, I was diagnosed with depression and began taking an antidepressant. Up until that time I’d thought that it was normal to feel the way I did. I thought everyone was dreary and felt like Eeyore every day. After I had taken the medication for a while, I was stunned one day when I went outside and saw that THE SKY WAS BLUE! The birds were singing like something in a Walt Disney movie! It was amazing! I don’t recall why, but I stopped taking the medication after not too long. Looking back, it may be because we couldn’t afford the medication or possibly we thought that I was “cured”. 
But that’s not how it works. 

So, I was left to fend for myself, as far as finding some kind of relief. When I was about 15, I found the answer to all of my problems. 
I had babysat for a neighbor and he paid me with a bag of weed. EUREKA! I was about to find what life was all about. It’s always been interesting to me, how that panned out. I somehow fashioned a kind of a joint from the bag and smoked it with my best friend. She didn’t get anything out of the pot, and so she decided that it wasn’t interesting to her, and she never tried it again. I, on the other hand, also got nothing out of it, but my reaction was entirely different. I was pretty sure that there HAD to be more to it than that, and I went about finding out what all the hubbub had been about. Soon after that, I was hanging out with an older crowd and through that association I was introduced to (much more marijuana and) alcohol. I don’t know if I was born an alcoholic, but when I tasted that drink, an alcoholic was born. I never drank for anything but the feeling. It tasted like fire, at best, and I was violently ill 9 times out of 10, but it took me out of me, and away from the pain that I was so familiar with, so it was worth it to me. Not long after that, I began taking diet pills, in excess (of course) and then graduated to acid before I was out of the 10th grade. In high school, I remember (kind of) smoking pot or doing acid before class as often as I possibly could. Lunch money wasn’t used for lunch after 10th grade, like, ever. 

I should mention that around my 15th year, Dad started taking some interest in us again. Maybe Mom got ahold of him because I was being such an absolute b*tch to her, but I don’t know. I know that the teen years were really bleak for me, and I did my best to share the misery with her.  Between ages 16 and 22, I moved in with my Dad and step Mom when I couldn’t stand living with Mom any more, and then back to Mom’s again when I realised how Dad ran things. I went back & forth between the two for several years. Problem was, wherever I went, I was there.  While living with Dad, I wasn’t able to come and go with the freedom that I’d enjoyed while I was under a one-parent household. I was actually clean for a year or so a couple of times while living with them. While in school I was allowed no outside interests, save church Youth Group, and I had no friends. I was allowed to do nothing but work on homework (usually 3-4 hours a night after school) or housecleaning (averaging 6 hours a day on the weekends) while living with my Dad and step mom, so my grades were actually pretty good.  Needless to say, with that kind of restrictions discipline and responsibility, I ran back to Mom’s house as soon as I could. 

The period from 10th grade until I was 27 is largely a blur. I can fill in some of the blanks from the few pictures taken then, but otherwise, like so much of my childhood, those memories are nonexistent. After discovering the magical transforming powers of drugs and alcohol, I spent as much time as possible pursuing these necessary forms of escape. 

As my addiction progressed, as many of us do, I was more and more inclined to do things that were against my moral beliefs, (what morals much as I had) because these things seemed to lessen the “soul sickness” that was so much a part of who I was. Stealing from Mom when I didn’t have enough to buy drugs, acting out sexually in order to feel “accepted” (and because that was the only value I felt I had), and of course, lying just about any time my lips were moving. These were all part of the requirements of my addiction. Using, drinking, and boys were the only things I’d found that could stop the fear, self-loathing, humiliation, and sadness, however temporarily. 
When I was high, feelings of rejection from Dad weren’t as painful, and my feelings of worthlessness and never being “a part of” weren’t as pronounced. I was able to ignore the depression and pretend to be “having a good time”  when I was under the influence. Many times I found myself in dangerous predicaments, and I was assaulted more than once. So I used more. 

What happened… 

Joy, Rapture & Terror or, How I Learned to Survive Extreme Feelings without Drink or Drugs

Good news & Bad news

Ok, kiddos, there’s good news, and there’s bad news, about getting clean/sober. The good news is, you’re gonna be able to feel GOOD again, in all the various forms “good” comes in. And the bad news is…well, I hate to be the one to have to break this to you, but the bad news is that you’re gonna start to feel the gamut of BAD again, as well. Yeah, I’m sorry. The thing is, if you want to feel the GOOD, you also have to feel the BAD.
Now, I’m not gonna tell you how to navigate the tsumani of emotions that are gonna hit you all through your first year or so of sobriety, like the biggest roller coaster in the world. I’d like to, really I would, but the simple fact is, I’m just not qualified. It’s only by the grace of God that I’ve made it this far. What I am gonna do is share a few tools that have been very important for my survival, when the big storms have hit.

Feelings won’t kill you

When I got clean, as you may already know, I was 3 months away from giving birth to my first child. I really didn’t expect to have a child, ever, and I was awestruck to have been given the opportunity to love this tiny person in my belly. So, when he came into the world, I felt joy, rapture, and terror – and no, I couldn’t tell at all which was which. I cried happy tears like I can’t remember crying before. It was so glorious. Birth. Wow.
Then, just a week later, I felt the worst feelings I’d ever known. That was when I seriously wondered if my heart was going to explode, or perhaps IMPLODE. Those days and nights in the Children’s hospital were like none I’ve experienced before or since.
Those days are the reason that I can tell you quite confidently that feelings can’t kill you.

What’s the answer?

What I discovered is a fool-proof recipe for getting me through extreme feelings without drinking or drugging. You may do it differently, but this is how I’ve made it through elation and heartbreak, more than once. I write it here in the hopes of sparing someone the destruction that can happen if you’re not aware of how serious a predicament you’re actually in.

Emotional Survival Plan

First, let your support system know what’s going on, and especially how you’re feeling about the situation. Putting on a brave front at this time is for idiots. Yeah, IDIOTS.

Next, get on your knees (doesn’t have to be literally, but you know, in your heart and mind) and make contact with the Higher Power of your understanding. Talk, cry, wail (that’s usually my favorite) or shout. Just let it out. You will be amazed at the results.

Now, call in reinforcements. Your parents, your Pastor, and anyone with whom you have a spiritual connection. Call them and ask for their prayers, whatever that may look like. The more the merrier. And don’t minimize your situation! If having them with you (whether phyically or in spirit only) is crazy important to you, it’s gonna be the same to those who love you.
In my experience, I went to 12-Step meetings when I could. Within The Rooms of Recovery I found a safe place. At my most frightened, most confused, most vulnerable , I can go into a room of others like me and know that I’m safe. I can scream and curse if I need to, or I can sit quietly and listen. It’s ok, there.

Sometimes, if someone is in the hospital, it may not always seem feasible to go to a meeting. But consider this, especially if they’re not likely to know if you’re there or not, for just an hour: if you don’t take care of your sobriety, you’re going to be worthless to the others that you love who are in the fear, pain, sorrow, etc that you’re in. And then they’re going to be concerned about you and trying to do damage control on your mess….you get the picture?
So, let’s do everyone a favor, mkay?
Do whatever you must, to ensure your sobriety, and then take care of whatever you are able.

Good times, bad times, ya know I’ve had my share

People talk all day long about how things like a break-up, or job loss, or illness can lead to a relapse. Well, listen closely, and please hear me when I tell you that it’s just as easy to fall prey to the addiction when things seem to be wonderful.
Heck, even non-alcoholic/addicts will be watching out for you when the shit hits the fan. It’s almost a given that you’ll need to step up your vigilance during stressful times.
But you –yes, YOU– be on guard for the happy, shiny, glitter-filled times. Watch out for “what could go wrong?!” days, and the “top of the world” days.
There’s good reason why alcohol (and addiction) is called “cunning, baffling, and powerful”.

Hungry Angry Lonely Tired

I’ve been dealing with those 4 in varying amounts for the last few days. They’re not strangers to me. I feel like a weathered war veteran when it comes to “h.a.l.t.” That certainly doesn’t mean I’m exempt from tripping up when those 4 come around, but it means that maybe I’ll figure out what the problem is and find a remedy before I feel a (self-imposed?) crisis coming on.

The happy ending
…is at the end of the day, whenever it is that your head hits the pillow, and you’ve gotten through One. More. Day. Successfully. Sober.
And that, friends, is how I manage.
How about you? Do you have a go-to for overwhelming times?

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.