Tag Archives: addiction

I am just one person.

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Today was a pretty rough day in my house.  Our 3-year-old cat died from a sudden and rapid kidney failure.  We realized last night she may not make it through the night.  Sadly, my daughter was tired from an outing last night when we came home and fell asleep before we realized there would be no chance for her to say goodbye.  This cat was special to the two of us.  She was found abandoned before her eyes even opened, and together we bottle-fed her and nursed her into a healthy, albeit very devilish little kitty.

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So, when my daughter woke up today, Maddie was already gone.  I watched my 12-year-old sit on the floor with her pet and stroke her soft  fur.  She quickly made her a necklace of bright-colored string and tied it around her little neck.  She lovingly touched her with tears flowing the entire time.  She said her goodbye in her own way, and it was heart wrenching to watch as a parent.

When I logged on to Facebook, still feeling pretty sad, this was the message that awaited me from a friend: “Just so you know: you are one of the nicest people I know, and you have made my life better just by being in it.”  This friend had no idea what had been going on in my house, in fact I hadn’t talked to him in the past few days. It was just random.  One of his friends had posted the status “Just in case you need to hear it today: go out of your way to make someone’s day. Give them a simple compliment and watch their day turnaround.” and he decided to do just that.

This reminded me of a meditation from last week.

Just for Today – October 13

“Words cannot describe the sense of spiritual awareness that we receive when we have given something, no matter how small, to another person.”

Basic Text p. 100

Sometimes it seems as though there is so much wrong with the world that we might as well forget trying to make a difference. “After all,” we think, “what in the world can I do? I’m just one person.” Whether our concerns are so broad that we desire global peace or so personal that we simply want recovery made available to every addict who wants it, the task seems overwhelming. “So much work to do, so little time,” we sigh, sometimes wondering how we’ll ever do any good.

Amazingly enough, the smallest contributions can make the biggest difference. To gain more from life than an ordinary, plodding existence requires very little effort on our parts. We ourselves are transformed by the deep satisfaction we experience when we lift the spirits of just one person. When we smile at someone who is frowning, when we let someone in front of us on the freeway, when we call a newcomer just to say we care, we enter the realm of the extraordinary.

Want to change the world? Start with the addict sitting next to you tonight, and then imagine your act of kindness multiplied. One person at a time, each one of us makes a difference.

Just for today: An act of kindness costs me nothing, but is priceless to the recipient. I will be kind to someone today.

When I read this meditation last week, I thought about all the friends I have who are making such a difference right now.  I have some pretty amazing friends in my life right now who are fighting to make this world a better place.

Sometimes it DOES seem like we’re banging our heads against the wall.  Other days, like the one in this video, are just amazing.  Sometimes when I think about the incredible friends I have and the things they are accomplishing, I think that they must have something I do not.  I think they are making a difference and I wonder if I am capable of that.  This meditation reminds me that making a difference doesn’t have to be global.  Sometimes you just need to be that one person who makes a difference to one other person. 

Today, my friend was that person.  “Just so you know: you are one of the nicest people I know, and you have made my life better just by being in it.”

Thank you.  I needed that today.

 

I am not unlovable.

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I remember being 9 and finding out my cousin had a part in the movie “Annie”.  I was so excited for her, we were like sisters!  I memorized the soundtrack to the movie, and could be found wandering around at school and daycare with my Walkman on, singing at the top of my lungs.  The reaction of many kids I knew was that I was “too weird, too different, too everything”.   I stopped singing out loud.

September 30
Being Ourselves
“Our real value is in being ourselves.”
Basic Text, p.101

Over and over, we have tried to live up to the expectations of those around us. We may have been raised believing that we were okay if we earned good grades in school, cleaned our rooms, or dressed a certain way. Always wanting to belong and be loved, many of us spent a lot of time trying to fit in – yet we never quite seemed to measure up.

Now, in recovery, we are accepted as we are. Our real value to others is in being ourselves. As we work the steps, we learn to accept ourselves just as we are. Once this happens, we gain the freedom to become who we want to be.

We each have many good qualities we can share with others. Our experiences, honestly shared, help others find the level of identification they need to begin their recovery. We discover that we all have special gifts to offer those around us.

Just for today: My experience in recovery is the greatest gift I can give another addict. I will share myself honestly with others

When you learn from an early age that who you are inside, secrets and all, is not pleasing to other people, you learn to hide that person from others.  There was no one standing behind me as a child telling me that I could be anything I wanted to be and that who I was inside, the very essence of me, was awesome and amazing.  Instead, the messages I got loud and clear were more like “I saw you lying in the ditch pretending to shoot cars with a stick. That’s SO weird.” “Why are you always getting in trouble? What’s WRONG with you?” “Why are you darker than other people, but you’re not black?” “Don’t be such a baby!” “Don’t tell these secrets, no one will believe you because you lie.”  Well, you get the picture.

You learn early on to try to emulate other people, mold yourself to who you think they want you to be, all in a search for the one thing everyone really wants: to be loved.  That need to be accepted and loved is a strong one in people who don’t feel it freely given in their life.  It can lead to some scary places in life, some heartbreaking places. In many cases, it can and does lead to addiction and mental health issues.  Which only compounds the guilt and shame and belief that you will never be good enough for anyone.  As a rational adult, I can see that this “hole” in my heart was caused by  emotional hunger.  Even in the worst of my addiction, I was able to recognize this and have worked hard not to let this cycle repeat with my daughter.  But I couldn’t put my finger on how to fix this.  Some say fill that hole with God, others attempt to fill it with many other things.  Nothing I tried over the years ever worked.  I see now, why that is.  All of these experiences I had taught me to dislike myself, eventually taught me not to love myself, which in turn left me believing that I was unlovable.  When you feel unlovable, there isn’t a person on earth who can make you feel loved.

“It’s much easier to love yourself when you are being yourself.” When you have spent a lifetime trying desperately not to BE yourself, one day you wake up, sober up, and realize you don’t know WHO you are anymore.  You lose that essence of you.  That can be an overwhelming realization, paralyzing even.  When the only voices in your head telling you about yourself are completely negative, it is time for a clean sweep.

I have learned some things about myself over the past few years. Not about the things that have happened to me in life, or about the things I have done in my life, or even about the people who have been in my life… about ME.

  • I am still here, so apparently I am pretty resilient and strong.  I work every day to believe this, because it is true.
  • I have a kind heart and I care and feel deeply.  This is not ALWAYS a good thing, because it can lead to more hurt.  But what I have learned about myself if that I would rather feel even the pain of life than to not feel at all, because the joy and love of life is so worth it.
  • I have a wicked sense of humor at times.
  • I am a good person. I don’t need other people to tell me this, or to tell me the reasons they don’t think it’s true.
  • I am a good parent.  Now, don’t ask my 12-year-old about this, because I promise you will get a snarly 12-year-old response. But I know the truth.  I know that my child is kind, smart, brave, and loved.  I see the results of my parenting every day, coupled with the essence of who she is, and I know that I am a good parent.

This is only a sampling of the things I am learning about myself.  The fun part of trying to get to know yourself again is the experiences along the way. I have people in my life who love me and accept me for exactly who I am.  I am not the lost person anymore. I am not the sum of my experiences. I am so much more than my past or than opinions of other people. The most important thing I’ve learned is this: I am not unlovable.  I am deeply loved, flaws and all, by the person who matters the most and can fill that hole: ME. 

“Today- this moment- I am free.”

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Yesterday I returned from a camping trip with middle and high school Girl Scouts.  I love these trips because I get to know the girls better, I get to hang out with other women crazy enough to spend their weekend with teenage girls, and I get to see the girls learn and grow.  We all come home dirty, exhausted, and happy.  I never feel quite so mentally at peace as I do on the drive home.  Last night, I sat down with my meditation for the day, and I realized why.

September 29
“When we stop living in the here and now, our problems become magnified unreasonably.”
Basic Text, p.96

“Just for today” – it’s a comforting thought. If we try to live in the past, we may find ourselves torn by painful, disquieting memories. The lessons of our using are not the teachers we seek for recovery. Living in tomorrow means moving in with fear.

We cannot see the shape of the secret future, and uncertainty brings worry. Our lives look overwhelming when we lose the focus of today.

Living in the moment offers freedom. In this moment, we know that we are safe. We are not using, and we have everything we need. What’s more, life is happening in the here and now. The past is gone and the future has yet to arrive; our worrying won’t change any of it. Today, we can enjoy our recovery, this very minute.

Just for today: I will stay in the here and now. Today – this moment – I am free.

From the moment we arrive at camp, I feel the weight lifted.  There is no time to worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  Camp life takes my full attention, therefore I am completely in the moment. I am free to enjoy the beautiful setting. I usually have my camera out, capturing memories for my girls and myself.  I do not own a smart phone, so I am not connected to the world outside of camp.  I like it that way, in fact my girls aren’t allowed to bring theirs either.  In this super-connected world, they need some peaceful, “in the moment” time too.  They have to interact with each other face to face, without the aid of electronics, without the pressures of media, without the stress that being teen girls can often bring.  It is good for them, it is good for me.  (Really need to do this more often!)

This weekend, my meditation was watching one girl from another troop, as she attempted climbing the 55ft tall Phoenix Tower. This child was new to her troop, and her interactions seemed a bit awkward with troopmates.  Early in the morning, I found myself hoping this girl would have an amazing experience.  The first challenge we came to was the tower.  I watched her, completely in the moment, as she started to climb.  She got to the first level and couldn’t figure out how to get over the beam. The facilitators gave suggestions, she chose one to follow and pushed on.  Up to the next level, where she seemed to get stuck again.  Again, she listened to those with experience and pushed on.  This went on until she reached the platform on top and struggled to pull herself up on it and stand.  The look on her face was priceless! Her troopmates, my girls, and I were all cheering for her at this point.  I’m not sure she even heard us.  The beaming smile on her face was completely HERS, and coming from inside.  This was HER “in the moment”.

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As we prepared to leave yesterday morning, we circled up and went around the circle telling our favorite activities or memories from the trip.  When it was my turn, I turned to this girl, looked her in the eye, and told the group, “My favorite memory of this weekend was watching T climb the Phoenix tower.  I loved your determination when you started.  I admired your ability to take direction to help you overcome the times you got stuck. You showed such perseverance when you kept moving until you were on the top.  Your smile from up there was my favorite memory of this weekend.” And that smile just BEAMED back at me as I spoke.

When I am completely in the here and now, I am free to enjoy these moments.  I can also learn so much when my mind is free from worries of the past or future.   These girls have been a big part of my recovery.  This weekend, a 12-year-old reinforced my belief that with a little determination, some help from people with experience, and perseverance, even the most awkward of us can do what we set out to do.

Today – this moment- I am free.  It feels good.

The Days I Can’t Stand Other People

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Yesterday I woke up mad at the world.  Yes, I have those days. Most people do not see those days, because we’ve been taught to put on our “public face” and respond to questions like “How are you today?” with answers such as “I’m good, how are you?”  Some days you really feel more like, “I feel absolutely horrible, and can’t figure out why!!”  Yesterday was definitely more of the latter. The problem with having a tendency toward obsessive thoughts is that the longer you sit alone with those thoughts, the stronger they grow.  That public face starts to chip away, usually with those who know you best. Before you can get it under control, suddenly everyone you know is annoying you in some way.

So I woke up yesterday, still tired.  Sleep and I are still not BFFs, no matter how much time I try to spend with it.  Not the best start to a day, when you really just want to go back to bed.  Then I discovered that I was nurturing the beginning of resentment toward a friend from the night before.  So, I did what any good, flawed person CAN do… I watered it and fed it just a tiny bit.  Next thing I know, that friend is sending me a message, “What the hell did I DO to you in the past 12 hours??”  I am apparently NOT the Queen of Subtlety I would like to think I am.  My friend is also not the Patron Saint of Reason when confronted.  Here we sat, with our defects on the road between us like road blocks.

The difficulty with this kind of situation is the tendency to look at the road between you and another person, see the road blocks you’ve both thrown up, and throw up your hands in defeat.  The road blocks seem insurmountable when you look at them that way.  The only way two people can get through it unscathed is to look to that first thing on the road and determine what you can do about it.  The issue closest to you on the road tends to be your own, but it is all too easy to look down the road at the other person’s issue and place the blame there.  Because blaming yourself is just not fun.

Then I came across yesterday’s meditation in Just For Today:

September 26
Seeing ourselves in others
“It will not make us better people to judge the faults of another.”
Basic Text, p. 38
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How easy it is to point out the faults of others! There’s a reason for this: The defects we identify most easily in others are often the defects we are most familiar with in our own characters. We may notice our best friend’s tendency to spend too much money, but if we examine our own spending habits we’ll probably find the same compulsiveness. We may decide our sponsor is much too involved in service, but find that we haven’t spent a single weekend with our families in the past three months because of one service commitment or another.
What we dislike in our fellows are often those things we dislike most in ourselves. We can turn this observation to our spiritual advantage. When we are stricken with the impulse to judge someone else, we can redirect the impulse in such a way as to recognize our own defects more clearly. What we see will guide our actions toward recovery and help us become emotionally healthy and happy individuals.
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Just for today: I will look beyond the character defects of others and recognize my own.

This is how the miracle of recovery works sometimes. You see exactly what you need to see, when you need to see it.  As friends, we both made the choice to let our walls down a bit and walked away unscathed, stronger even.  We both recognized our part in the misunderstanding and agreed that we all have our issues, we just learn and grow… This may seem like no big deal to some. But when you’ve spent your life learning disordered ways of communicating and thinking, being able to step back, breathe, and find a good way through those thoughts is HUGE!

Today I am grateful to have friends who help me learn and grow.

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Related articles

http://recoverytable.blogspot.com/2011/06/character-defects-seven-deadly-sins.html

http://personalityspirituality.net/articles/the-michael-teachings/chief-features/

http://jftna.org/jft/

 

“What Am I Supposed to Do With That?”

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Understandably, my first blog post  https://theslowthaw.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/the-slow-thaw/ might have caused a little confusion among those who know me or who have gotten to know me since I have been sober.  I received a ton of support from the people I knew would support me, but I also recognize that there are probably some friends and family who just don’t know what to say so they remain quiet.  Their reactions tend to fall under a few categories:

1) “Wow! I had no idea! (and have no idea what to say to that)”

2) “Maybe I didn’t really want to know THAT much about you.”

3) “How did I NOT know this about you??”

4) “How should I treat you now that I DO know?”

These are just an example, but a few thoughts that I’d like to focus on. For EVERY SINGLE PERSON who read my first blog, the answer to the title question here is simple:

Nothing different.

I didn’t tell these truths because I wanted attention, needed excuses, craved understanding by others, or any other reason that involves changing how other people see me or react to me. My reasons were much simpler than that. I originally wrote that blog without intention to publish it, just to share with a select group of blogger friends to see if I was getting my thoughts across the way I wanted. That was a big step for me.  Then I found out that a young girl I know was having her own secrets, and was ashamed to tell those of us who love her.  Knowing how shame and guilt can eat away at your soul, it breaks my heart to know someone close to me is sitting thinking they are alone in their struggles.  A mutual friend of ours said to me “Do you ever wonder how many of us  have the same type of stories? I do. You and I have lived mirrored lives in so many ways both before and afterward. Why should we be surprised to find other young women that are mirrors as well? I am sitting here w/a lump in my throat after reading that thinking ‘Damn girl, you too huh?’. We’re everywhere…we’re mothers and daughters and lawyers and clerks and everything in between.”  I knew then that I needed to post that blog, if for no other reason than to let people know that we ARE everywhere.  If not for other people showing me their humanity and flaws, I would never have written that first post.  Guilt and shame are THAT strong. Which leads me to another belief:

Experience, strength and hope are that much stronger.

If you are worried that I will bare the worst of my experiences here, that is not the point of this blog.  No one needs to know every sordid detail of everything in my life.  There may be times that I disclose something for the purpose of showing the strength and hope that followed the experience.  THAT is the purpose here. Life does go on. Everyone faces their own challenges.  My challenges may be different from yours, but they also have given me strength and hope that I would have never believed I possessed in this lifetime.  For that, I can’t wish them away. I can’t change my past, and as hard as that is some times, it has made me exactly who I am in this moment.  For that I am grateful.

So, if you are still stuck on what to say or do, a few final thoughts.  I am still the same person I was last week. The only difference is, I was a little more honest with you this week.  Isn’t that the way people who care about each other should act?  ❤

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The Slow Thaw…

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     One day about 2 years ago, I sat down to try to figure out how on earth I was going to lead a group of middle school girls when I felt like I had been such a failure at that age myself. This was not an active choice that I made, wanting to make a difference in the life of girls. This group had suddenly found themselves without a leader and seeing that they were at the age that girls tend to drop out of activities like this, I volunteered. So I sat down one day and in between checking Facebook and google, I began to find words like girl-empowerment, self-esteem, body image, and media literacy. I started to fall down the rabbit hole of the issues that girls today face and realize that my own daughter was only a few years away from the age of these girls. My eyes started to open on the subject. But more importantly, a slow thaw had started that I had no idea would change my life.

     The thaw started the day that I read this post, by Melissa Atkins Wardy, on her blog PigTail Pals: Waking Up Full of Awesome. When I read this post, something changed in me. This was no longer just about how to deal with these girls one day a week, but about seeing how deeply affected my life was still by things that happened to me as a child.

Do you still have it? The awesome.

Did someone take it from you?

Did you let them?

Did you hand it over, because someone told you weren’t beautiful enough, thin enough, smart enough, good enough?

Why the hell would you listen to them?

Did you consider they might be full of shit?” 

These words struck me as a description of so many encounters in my childhood that had held power over me for far too long. They dug deep inside of me and gave me the insight that perhaps what I’d been dealing with all along was a case of missing awesome. I KNOW I had it once, but somewhere along the years it had disappeared. At 38 years old, I still felt like a fraud in my own body. I felt like that pretender who didn’t fit in anywhere, that no one truly knew me as an entire person, flaws and all. I’d done a great job of compartmentalizing my life so that people only knew what I wanted them to know, and no two people knew the same exact parts of me. All I knew was that reading this, and following Melissa’s blog, made me WANT my awesome back for the first time in a very long time. 

     So I joined this community of people who wanted better in life for the girls in their life. It eventually also included issues dealing with boys. A funny thing happened along the way. In seeking to empower girls, I was learning to empower myself. I found feminism. I found my voice, and began to be more comfortable using it. My love for other people started to flow out of me, and I eventually even started paying attention to political issues for the first time in my life. I was truly in a state of awakening for the first time in my life. And yet… there were still times that I felt like an incredible fraud. I met this amazing community of women, became friends with some very talented bloggers. It made me feel good to have people to discuss and learn things with, but deep inside there was still a voice that told me that some secrets keep me apart from these women. As nice and supportive as they were, they still didn’t know ME. Because I still kept some secrets inside. 

     Except…slowly during this slow thaw, bits of me started sneaking out along the way. I told one truth to one person, and she still wanted to know me. So I continued in this manner, leaking out tiny bits of my truth along the way. Learning that maybe other people weren’t as likely to judge me as I judge myself. Seeing these brave women laying themselves out there in their blogs and even withstanding some of the nasty comments that inevitably occur on blogs. They told their truths and they were still standing. People still liked them and wanted to know them. They gave me hope that I could do the same. Not the blogging part, just the honesty thing. Oh, and I made friends. These weren’t just amazing women, but they seemed to like me as a person. That has been hard for me in my adult life. 

     Then yesterday, after having a rough emotional night before, one of these women posted a link that sent me to the Momastery Facebook page. When I got there, I saw that the writer on that site had a TED talk, so I decided to watch it. The thaw that had been happening over the past 2 years suddenly turned into a swollen dam that burst and left me crying for hours and exhausted. When I was done, there was just clarity.  

“Now what they don’t tell you about getting sober, about peeling off your capes, is that it gets a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. Getting sober is like recovering from frostbite. It’s all of those feelings that you’ve numbed for so long, now they’re THERE and they’re present. And at first it just feels kind of tingly and uncomfortable, but then those feeling start to feel like daggers….” -Glennon Doyle Melton

     So I am now on a new journey, a delayed one if you must. See, I have been a recovering drug addict for 8 years. But being clean does not equal recovering. So I will say I have been clean for 8 years. I am also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was a pregnant teenager who gave birth at 17 and placed my child for adoption in hopes of a better life for him. I battled depression throughout college and self-medicated with binge drinking and sex. I somehow made it through college and became a nurse and a mother, and eventually ended up taking drugs of almost any kind, still trying to numb the deep hole in my heart. I only got clean because I got caught, and sat for 6 years paralyzed by all of these things. Until the thaw began…

     Now, 2 years later, the dam has burst and I can’t hold it back any longer. I have reached the point that it is more painful to remain still than it is to move forward. So, I am moving forward knowing that I am surrounded by some of the most amazing women who support me and like me, flaws and all. More importantly, I am moving forward knowing that these things may be my past, but they do not have to be my future.