“See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me.” -R. Daltrey

Hello, family! 

I’ve missed you so much!

I began a job several months ago, doing what I do 😉, and haven’t been here (primarily) because I have to be very careful about what I talk about. 

I’ve been able to get to at least 2 meetings a week, and it’s been an unbelievable blessing.  Left to my own devices, I don’t spend time with other people. After my current employment began, I was reminded of the things I had been missing by isolating.

I missed seeing other miracles and being seen as one, myself. I missed the feelings of being “a part of” and acceptance. In isolating, I was not where I was supposed to be.

Now, I get to use every gift God’s given me, each time I clock in. I expose my scars and bandage up client’s, every day.  The Big Book says we “will not regret the past”, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be completely THERE, but there’s no question that it’s the painful experiences of my past which allow me to come alongside those “still suffering”. 

They say that the Human Services field has among the top burn-out rates of any occupation. I can see that. With that in mind, I daily pour myself out in the name of (love) lifting up individuals that, to be honest, most people wouldn’t even want to talk to. I know that God has placed me where I am, and I am full of gratitude for being used by Him. I actually get paid to share my experience, strength and hope with men & women who have none of their own! 

Is it always a cake walk? Oh, heck no. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been beat up, by the end of the day. I reckon that’s why they call it “work”.

I truly don’t have words to adequately describe how it feels to see the flicker of hope in their eyes, when they realise that they’re not alone, and that someone understands and cares. 

So, that’s a synopsis of my last 6 months. How have you been?  

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Just don’t drink. Or use, or hurt anyone!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing some more emotions coming up than usual, for me. I mean, the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s time of year is almost universally difficult for many of us to get through. 

I’ve been thinking of when I was younger, like maybe middle-school age or less, I had a conversation with my Dad in which we talked about me being depressed. I think I’m really not alone in the kind of reaction I received: “You? Depressed? (Laughter) What do you have to be depressed about, little girl?! You have a nice home, food, clothes and 2 parents who love you!” And he wasn’t wrong. But he wasn’t entirely right, either. 

As a very small child I learned to be “PERFECT”, because when I stepped out of line -even accidentally- I was going to pay a painful price. Dad had a hair-trigger temper, and he punished me with his belt when he was ANGRY. I was terrified of his anger my entire life, and even now I have a lot of anxiety when a man raises his voice in anger. 

I later learned that I had had A.D.D., which looks different in girls than in boys. I was called a daydreamer, or space cadet. I got in trouble for talking all the time, and it was next to impossible for me to get all my supplies and homework to where they were supposed to be without forgetting or losing something. 

At the time, these traits just infuriated Dad, because he was sure that I “had to be doing it on purpose”. Then I heard “stupid, lazy, doesn’t pay attention, lazy and doesn’t even try”. 

I was reminded of that situation when I heard recently of a relative of mine, in reference to his teenager being depressed, saying things like Not going to medicate and Counsellors are a waste of money. It really bothered me to hear that, because that kind of thinking has cost far too many people struggling with addiction and/or mental illness their lives. If you see that your child is miserable, with no obvious reasons for it, why wouldn’t you do whatever it took to at least find out WHY? 

News flash: mental illness and addiction are things that our kids are PRE-DISPOSED toward. It’s not an entirely hereditary issue, but it makes the odds of developing addiction/mental illness go up about 100%. It has been proven that children with untreated mental illness are several times more likely to develop a dependancy to drugs or alcohol.  And, p.s., telling someone to “suck it up” or “snap out of it” DOESN’T WORK. 

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Ok, back to the holidays. When I think of Christmas, I think of family get-togethers with lots of food and presents and all the adults getting hammered.  I don’t really remember much about my earliest Christmases, because PTSD. 

I used to have my ideas about what I’d like to happen, memories of what had happened in the past, and fears of how it was more than likely going to turn out, as I walked in the door. I knew what to expect, but not how to protect myself or my sobriety.


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Someone gave me some simple definitions once:

Anger: I’m not getting what I want.

Fear: I might not get what I want.

Resentment: I didn’t get what I wanted.

Those are possibly overly simplistic in this scenario, but they do fit.

Most of us have had unpleasant and difficult childhoods. I’m not trying to put the blame on our parents; they did the best they could. They may have come up in the same kind of dysfunction, or worse. 

The truth of the matter is that we learn the family “script” as children watching how the adults do things. If nothing changes, nothing changes. 

When we get together with old friends or family during the holidays, it may be with apprehension and great reluctance. Nobody knows how to push our buttons like family. Oddly, when we start making positive changes in our lives, those are the folks who may be the most resistant. It’s kind of like the family has a script with everyone’s roles established. Everything goes as usual until someone doesn’t read their lines. 

Or it’s like if you are dancing with a partner and you change dances mid-song. They’re going to want you to go back to the dance that you’d been rehearsing, even if it does look bad and feel worse to the dancers…

Anyway, it’s late and I’ve got to work tomorrow. 

I encourage you, if you’re doing anything tomorrow that gives you that old familiar pain, to plan ahead.

Be sure you have Recovering folks #s on you, don’t forget to pray in the morning and more, and keep your expectations low. Don’t expect yourself to walk through a bunch of drama and come out serene and beaming. Likewise, don’t expect anything from your family that’s not realistic for them. 

If Uncle Frank likes to have spiked eggnog starting at breakfast, then maybe it would be helpful for you to decide how to deal with him before you get to the party. If your Mom feels the need to treat you like a 10-year-old even though you’re 50 and have grown children, it could be a good idea to practice setting boundaries beforehand. And if you know that everyone will be sh*t-faced by 9pm, make your excuse when you arrive, (like I’ve gotta catch a meeting @ 8) and then it won’t seem so abrupt when you bolt out the door. 

Posted from my treehouse in the woods. 

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.

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… 

Depression? PTSD? Whatevs.

I went to my Mental Health Dr. yesterday. I like him. Of all the men I have been in a room alone with, I think I’m the least uncomfortable with him. I don’t know how much of that is him, and how much is me, but regardless, I’m truly grateful. 

Several weeks ago, Dr. G added a medication to the one I have been taking for a while, with the intention of eventually dropping the first. My (dream?) is to stop taking the other, as well, but that may or may not be realistic. But, I trust him to make the call.

Here’s the part that stands out to me about yesterday’s appointment:

He said he doesn’t think I am depressed- clarified with the word “remission” – but that we’re just dealing with PTSD, now. I told him I can see that being the case, as the trauma began pretty young. I had a Dr. tell me years ago that I’d likely been depressed since I was 7-8. In the context of yesterday’s conversation, I wonder if I’ve not been wrestling with PTSD for that long? I know that many of the symptoms, for me, have been similar. Or maybe they just overlapped. Either way, I will gladly accept that the (not “my”, I refuse to claim ownership) depression has been arrested. There’s no question that there are occasionally triggers for PTSD that pop up. After so many years, God has allowed me to talk myself through them for the most part. 

I feel a return of hopefulness and a reduction in despair. I see the beauty around me a bit more clearly. 

Ah, Recovery, you give me gifts that I’d never have imagined. 

Have a groovy Friday y’all. Or at least, if ya don’t, find someone to talk with about it. Even if it’s your Cat.

Triggers & other purple things

Usually, when people talk about “triggers”, they’re referring to things that cause a sudden, undeniable desire to drink or use. A trigger may be a sight, a sound (like a certain song), a place, a smell, a taste, or even a physical touch. Here’s a definition:
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TRIG-GER
ˈTRIG-gr

verb
1.
cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.

“an allergy can be triggered by stress or overwork”

synonyms:precipitate, prompt,elicit, trigger off, set off, spark (off), touch off, provoke, stir up
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Often a trigger for alcoholics & addicts to want to pick up may be an unhappy or tragic memory. It can sometimes be easy to determine what’s triggering the reaction (conscious awareness), or it can at other times be something more diffucult (subconscious). The thing is that often, a triggered epidose feels like being “blind-sided”, and the only warning is a sudden, bad, feeling.

In the mornings at my place of employment, staff usually turns to Youtube on the flatscreen tv, and everyone walks or exercises to whatever music is playing, for 30-45 minutes.
The staff are a diverse bunch of people, so the musical selections can be just about anything.
Recently, I had a rather disturbing reaction to the morning tunes…

Someone wanted to listen to Prince, (his death still being so recent) so we watched his videos for close to an hour.

I loved Prince. I loved his music, I loved his mystique, I loved his dancing, and I loved how beautiful he was to look at. 😚 He was a musical genius, he was eloquent with words, and he was charming. I discovered that day, that his music triggers me.

I tried to sing along (I know more of his music than I don’t), and I watched him singing and dancing, and I felt…not great. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. It had been many years since listening to Prince’s tunes, and I do not recall having that kind of response, ever before.

It took me a few minutes to figure out what was bothering me -during which time I alternated between paying attention (I mean, IT WAS PRINCE!) and trying to distract myself, as the uneasy feeling grew in my gut.

As far as I can tell, this is what happened:
I listened to Prince Rogers Nelson from the time I was in high school until about the time I got sober, during which time I ingested a whole lot of drugs and alcohol.
The saying in those days was “sex, drugs, and rock’n roll.” Those 3 things were the whole point of life, as far as I could tell, and while I doubt anyone would categorize Prince’s work as “rock ‘n roll”, in my experience, there was a ridiculous amount of the other two going on.
During this period, his music really was like the soundtrack of my life. Most any song you could mention of his, even ones who were made famous by someone doing a cover, from (about) 1979-1993, will bring back a ton of memories. The problem being that there are a lot of those memories that I really don’t want to remember.
You might not realize this, but the life of a female addict tends to be essentially, one fearful, chaotic, and sometimes traumatic situation after another.

Apparently, on a deeply subconscious level, Prince’s music is synonymous with that time, for me…now, to clarify, I’m not saying that this situation brought up feelings of wanting to use, cos that’s not the case. If I hadn’t spend such a long time focusing on self-care, it surely could have been like that.

I felt uncomfortable that morning, even moreso seeing how everyone else appeared to be greatly enjoying the music, dancing, etc., and not knowing exactly what to do. I really wanted to leave, but equally didn’t relish the thought of explaining myself to my Supervisor. So, I prayed; I forced myself to think of music that was almost the opposite of the melodies playing, and I took a bathroom break. (And repeated)

Yes, I’ve been working with PTSD for most of my “adult” life. I don’t talk a lot about it because a), it’s become more of an undercurrent when it comes up, as opposed to the tsunami it’s been in years past; and b), I feel like the majority of (Normies) don’t put much stock into non-war veterans really having post-traumatic stress disorder. I know better, but I’m not looking to invest my emotional energy into arguing about it with ignorant folks.
So, that’s my recent “trigger” story. I know that music effects many people strongly, so I wanted you to know that it happens to many of us.

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Long live Prince

Posted from my cabin far from Paisley Park.