Thursday, September 27, 2018

Links, Books, Quotes, and AADP

Even in the harshest of conditions...
In March, I began feeling stronger about working on my healing and recovery.

The team, knowing my thirst for knowledge, talked about Co-Dependency, Boundaries, using Affirmations (I begin my day writing a positive affirmation about myself),  and Grounding, among other topics. As I searched for their recommendations, I began to delve deep into the shelves at the library, soaking in the many words and comfort I found in the plethora of books I found there.

There were many, of course, but the ones that really stand out as being an immense help were: 
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I LOVED and was totally inspired by Mackenzie Phillips 2nd book, Hopeful Healing, and then read her 1st, High on Arrival. Rewired by Eerica Spiegelman stirred me so much, that for the first time EVER, I veritably got serious about what I was taking in, and genuinely did the work, dug into the questions I needed to ask myself, and proudly had some small epiphanies. As with Rewired, Recover by Stanton Peele, PhD, put me to work. It was fucking hard!! Yet, I persisted, and began to make some progress in understanding myself.

I began taking notes in CAB, learning about REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), and working through the ABC and CBA worksheets they had available from the SMART Recovery program. We spoke a lot about IB’s (Irrational Beliefs), Dealing with Urges and Cravings, and Early Recovery among MANY topics each week.

I began to hear phrases, words, and quotes that stuck with me, and I repeatedly wrote them out in the notebook I carried to group: “It takes 21 Days to create a new habit”, “healing at a cellular level”, “feelings aren’t facts”, “If life doesn’t go right, go left”, and Mama Facilitator’s favorite, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, which was her segue to pull out the Safety Cards. At first, I carelessly wrote them out, and carried them close as suggested. It took some time before I truly found the value in them, and I continue to use the many I have now created. I highly recommend creating your own!

I began dipping my toes into the actual SMART  Recovery meeting with my new friend Teeny in April. Though I knew no one else, I felt instantly at ease and comfortable when I walked in for the first time. The group topic often, coincidentally, aligned with what we had worked on in CAB, which I found incredibly helpful. I was able to really cement the ideas inside myself, making it easier to re-wire some parts of my brain and create new thought patterns and beliefs!

I was starting to get so excited about getting healthy and changing my life!

I was doing a lot of intense, hard-work, as I continued to drink. Until, I made a CHOICE not to. I had finally attended the Orientation for AADP, placed myself on the wait-list, and got ready to WAIT. And WAIT.

As I mentioned in my last post, “The feedback I received around me was, of course, over the moon positive and proud. I, however, was doing some tricky thinking in the background. One of the requirements of attending AADP is to be clean during the 8 weeks of the program. That little voice inside taunted me, telling me that no one would ever know what I did upon leaving group each day. With a laugh, I, finally, caught and corrected that thought. I would know. The joke, and the consequences, would only be on me. I announced that I would be easing off until I got the call, and then I would quit."

“Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thankully, my drive to get healthy was activated BEFORE I got that call, and so I had become intentional in my daily activities, preparing myself for what lay ahead. I quit drinking.
I  worked hard with my books, engaged in learning and healing, identified and enforced boundaries (for the first time EVER), and whatever else I thought might be helpful!

I was at 18 days without a drink when I finally did get the call that I would be starting AADP, and I was STOKED!! I was becoming more clear and positive in my thinking, and was trying quite hard to quit the "stinking thinking" voice that was attempting to intimidate me.

Finally I made it!! My first day, I was early (as usual), and my apprehension instantly eased when I discovered a familiar face who I'd met in CAB a while back. That first day was everything I'd hoped for and more. The immediate connection I felt to the 3 others who began that day (another beautiful friendly face from CAB), the seniors that were so accepting and helpful, and the 3 kick-ass facilitators blew me away. 

I knew that I was finally where I needed to be, and I was raring to get started!

(I wanted to share what's been working for me, and so I gave you some of my favorite info! I hope you find it helpful/useful. I hope that you feel inspired while you forge your own path, remembering that you are never alone)
(And don't worry, I'll have a ton more links to share with you as I go along!! The interesting stuff, the surprising, the helpful and useful, the funny...)

See you soon!! ;)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Seeds Planted in the "Rabbit Hole", Fertilizer, and Other $hit

2018 began deep inside the “Rabbit Hole”, blanketed beneath the familiar fog of bleakness. All things (behaviors) considered, I had survived the holiday season.

I was fully immersed in isolation. I still hadn’t found the drive to clean and organize my home; not specifically the dirty, gross messy, but there was stuff and things and paper and more STUFF everywhere. That vicious cycle was in motion; shame around the mess, which led to feelings of weakness and defeat, which circled back around to shame. I did only what was necessary; whatever was needed in terms of taking care of my daughter, but I easily cancelled my own appointments and plans, and certainly didn’t take care of myself.

The team did their best to bring me back around, but even they began to wonder if I needed more help. And so, I began hearing MCFD (Ministry of Children and Family Development) referenced as a possible, “helpful” option. Of course, that scared the shit out of me. I already had issues with authority, was working on healing from abuse (CONTROL), and the Mama Bear inside roared protectively. We had already been through so much, I could not and would not allow any kind of “intervention” like that into our life. I couldn’t do that to my girl.

Yet, I was relentless and reckless in my drinking.

February came around, and a few of the many seeds the team had planted began to germinate.

I soon began going to CAB again. Inside, I was ashamed, and was sure that I would be judged when I walked back through the door. Of course, my anxiety was irrational. There were a couple of familiar faces that were pleased to see me back, and I quickly realized/remembered that these were my people, and I was happy to see them too. We were in the same boat, different positions of course, but the empathy and understanding instantly put me at ease. It had taken about 5 months, but I felt close enough to comfortable with one of the girls that had initially started CAB shortly after me. We were both content in our isolation at that point, though we knew we would need to expand if we hoped to stay the path to health and happiness. We would need support. One day, I reluctantly asked if we might exchange numbers, specifically noting that I was not ready for meeting for coffee, having phone chats, or making a new friend. This would be a strictly texting relationship, with the purpose of supporting one another, “just in case”. We had both let out a HUGE sigh of relief upon noting this, for she felt the same way! LOL That was the first of many GIANT steps I began to take.

The seeds continued to germinate, but the conditions were still not quite right.

I was really enjoying the Smart Recovery tools that were being presented in CAB. It was so freeing and inspiring, to be part of open and honest conversation about all of “our shit”, and actually feel heard AND understood.

(My new friend seems to come up with THE BEST anecdotes in our groups. (perhaps I’ll call them Teeny’s Words of Wisdom!) What we call “our shit”, she suggests we consider “fertilizer” instead. Makes sense to me! Yeah, there was a lot of dirty, mucky stuff, but it helped me GROW!!)

There was also a lot of conversation about AADP (Adult Addictions Day Program). It was an outpatient program, that took place over 8 weeks, full days, teaching coping and (what I consider LIFE SKILLS) recovery information and tools. There was a ton of positive feedback about it, and I was seriously intrigued (it sounded similar to the pre-employment program I had completed the previous Fall, with an obvious different focus) by it. I was also very intimidated by it. As was with CAB, I was agonizing over the stigma, real or not, that I would face were I to take part. Besides, as I looked at my list of excuses, there was just no way it was an option for ME.

I had another appointment with a member of the team in which MCFD was brought up, and then another suggestion: REHAB/DETOX. Had I ever considered it? No! No I had not! I didn’t need REHAB or DETOX. That was for other people. THEM. Not someone like ME! I wasn’t THAT bad!

I left that appointment to attend CAB. My mind left twisting and twirling, I drove there completely awash in tears. I immediately located one of the group facilitators. She quickly reassured me that I was ok, and certainly didn’t appear, from what she knew of me, and what she was seeing in that moment, to be in need of Rehab or Detox. The sense was that it was more of a suggestion to aid in giving me that solid couple of days without alcohol in my system, as well as a safe place away from all triggers, with an intent to, hopefully, possibly, finally, gain some clarity.

It wasn’t long afterwards that I began to seriously consider signing up for the AADP. And then, I found my way to the required orientation, and placed myself on the wait list in March.

The feedback I received around me was, of course, over the moon positive and proud. I, however, was doing some tricky thinking in the background. One of the requirements of attending AADP is to be clean during the 8 weeks of the program. That little voice inside taunted me, telling me that no one would ever know what I did upon leaving group each day. With a laugh, I, finally, caught and corrected that thought. I would know. The joke, and the consequences, would only be on me. I announced that I would be easing off until I got the call, and then I would quit.

I carried on as usual.

Easter and Spring Break came, and my daughter went South (BC, not Mexico!!) with Grandma and Grandpa for vacation. I planned to use the time to myself, perhaps “wisely”. I requested space from my boyfriend during that time, to work on me. For the first time in my life, I spent time being closer than ever to myself.

The seeds were growing!

The day before I had to travel to pick my daughter up, I decided I was done. I decided that I didn't want to drink that night, and attempted to stop myself from making plans to drink while I was away. Although that was a major accomplishment of it’s own, I don’t think that I really took myself seriously.

A couple of days later, while I was away, a semi-estranged friend contacted me out of the blue. We had met during the extremely unstable time leading up to the end of my marriage. While we became close quickly, it was a very unhealthy and toxic friendship, so we eventually stopped seeing each other. We rarely socialized without alcohol, and a LOT of it, and she was also doing a bit more than dabbling with various drugs.

When she announced that she was coming up on 6 months clean, I was blown away. In my state of judgmental and assuming beliefs about others, I had NEVER envisioned her as someone with the strength and courage to stop using. She genuinely sounded different. Good different. Positive for the first time since I’d known her. She was even encouraging as I told her that I was approaching the path to recovery myself. I was inspired, reassured, validated, and grateful beyond words after that conversation; though it took me a few months to thank her!

It was as though our conversation cemented everything I knew I NEEDED to do. I had finally given myself permission to do the healing I deserved and needed.

I started the Day Program about 2 weeks after that conversation, and finally crawled out of that damn rabbit hole.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Change?! MY?! Addictive?! Behaviors?!

Last year at this time, I was beginning to see the validity in the suggestions I had been hearing from my team and others. I realized that, I had to fully focus on my healing and recovery, which I desperately needed to do; for myself, and for my daughter. Which meant that I had to stop homeschooling my girl. I finally, and reluctantly, decided to enroll her in school. I felt like I was giving up, as though I was weak because I couldn’t get it all under control. But, big surprise, I AM NOT SUPERWOMAN! (That was a hard one to accept! LOL) Amid the feelings of grief and loss that I had over this transition though, I also began to give up the twisted sense of control that I thought I had, and the many excuses that I was desperately clinging to.

With my daughter in school, I now had the time and opportunity to attend this CAB (Changing Addictive Behaviors) group the team had been encouraging me to try. I was beyond nervous, and my anxiety was through the roof again as I prepared myself to go.  Many irrational thoughts bounced around my mind, excuses and reasons as to why I shouldn’t and couldn't go. I mean seriously? Me? Attend a GROUP?! People? Strangers? Talking about my feelers? HOW was this going to be good for me?! I had many fears surrounding the stigmas held about Mental Health and Addictions, the people I might see, specifically and generally. I was also full of my own expected and perceived unreasonable judgments about others.

The group was small, consisting typically of 2 facilitators, and about 4 or 5 of us clients. I immediately felt comfortable with both of the facilitators, one a comically serious, chatterbox, and the other a down to earth, peaceful, wise mama figure. Despite the intimacy found in a smaller group, I felt very uncomfortable. Each session began with a brief check in, which I consistently glossed over, only sharing how I currently felt that morning, and occasionally suggesting a topic. I totally avoided acknowledging where I was in my “clean time”, because I didn’t have any; though I was certainly not alone in that. I typically showed up hungover. I began to have a sense of relief in the comfort of being among people who not only GOT my fucked up ways of being, they too HAD these thoughts, patterns, behaviors! I listened avidly, absorbing bits of the Smart Recovery tools that they shared, even taking a few worksheets home to "work on". Still, I shared very little about my own journey and struggles. I was too afraid, and fully immersed in shame and guilt. I felt like a fraud.

While I always felt a sense of peace and acceptance after attending CAB, I still easily, and readily succumbed to the many excuses I was able to create in order to NOT attend. The team continued to gently push and encourage me to go, but I still wasn’t ready to commit to myself, to dive into my healing and recovery.

I needed to get honest with MYSELF before I could begin to share my truth with anyone else.

The months grew darker, literally and internally, as we came in to November and December and the holiday season. My motivation lessened, the Rabbit Hole became a dangerous place of comfort, and there I set up camp, prepared for, and anticipating the warm blanket of numbness. 

I stopped going to CAB and fully immersed myself in dangerous behavior, depression and drunkenness.

I Finally Joined The Team

I have had an amazing and dedicated team of Nurse Practitioner's and a counselor (along with a few other wonderful clinicians and supporters in the clinic) working with me for about 4 years. I am so full of gratitude for their commitment and belief in me, even when I couldn't find it within myself. 

I initially began seeing the team after the volatile separation from my husband, for health and safety concerns and issues, and I believed I was ready for counselling support. I knew that nothing I’d been doing thus far had been working for me; my life was out of control, and I didn’t know what to do anymore. I needed to do something different. I had little faith in counselling and zero interest in anti-depressants, but as I sought Ativan for my anxiety, the team convinced me to give anti-depressants another shot as well.

Again, nothing stuck, and I quickly fell back into my usual methods of “coping”, irrational thoughts and behaviors. I created a new “normal”, immersed myself in others, drinking, and working enough to cover my ass. I, somehow, managed to home school my daughter, successfully. We were rarely home, as I preferred the company of my “little village”, the quiet of the country, the lack of perceived
 expectations and demands, the complete distraction from my life, and all the things that desperately needed healing inside of me.

The anxiety began to creep out of control shortly in the month before my friends heart attack, and afterwards, I instantly fell apart. I had a desperate “need” to be helping and taking care of others, to have some sense of control, and to distract myself from my thoughts and feelings. I completely sacrificed myself, my life, my role as mama, the relationship with my daughter,my physical and mental health… I used up all of my resources and fuel, everything I had in me.

And then there was nothing left to give.

I couldn’t function. I couldn't sleep, but when I did, I suffered from violent and horrific nightmares revolving around my ex-husband. I had anxiety and panic attacks so intense I believed, truly, that my heart was going to fail me. There was no medication that was helping the intense pain, pounding, and racing in my heart. I was sure that my heart was going to explode. I was paranoid about dying, and stopped taking Tylenol, Advil, and anything for colds or sinuses, convinced they would give me a heart attack. I started having trouble going anywhere because the panic and anxiety attacks were too severe. The tears wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t breathe. My skin crawled, from the inside out. I trembled like a leaf. I couldn’t stop my mind from frantically racing. And I just couldn’t be around people; which, of course, added more stress to the already unhealthy dynamics within my relationship with “the boyfriend”.

I had no idea what to, I knew there was no way I could continue the way that I had been. I needed help.

I went back to the clinic, my team, begging for help. I was “finally ready” to do whatever it took, "arms wide open", to deal with everything I needed to. Anything to get “healthy and happy”. I got on board with finding an anti-depressant, all of the heart tests, breathing tests, all kinds of tests, beginning to learn about grounding and mindfulness, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and I explored my marijuana use. Whatever they began to throw at me, I was willing to try.

Except for one thing.

I was resisting any conversation about my relationship with the booze. I had endless excuses and stories to offer instead: “I quit before, I can do it again”. I was just in a “rut”; I could and would eventually pull myself out.  I just got stuck in the “routine” of it sometimes. It was a “bad habit”. I'd say I was "aware" that it was an unhealthy relationship. I was just on the roller coaster while I slowed down. I'd get the drinking back under control “soon”. “I’ll think about it.” It was always later, tomorrow, next week, next month; never RIGHT NOW.

After receiving much prompting from my team, that Summer I started (and graduated) a 
Pre-Employment program for women through the Elizabeth Fry Society. I learned new skills, tested myself strongly while earning several certifications, and took in a whole lot of, I guess, personal growth?, classes.  I was feeling good about myself, remembering my strengths, and confident that I was finally making some bit of progress.

It had taken about 6 months, but my anxiety began to come down to a manageable level, and I was feeling proud of myself while in the program, but the unhealthy thoughts/behaviors and dependency on alcohol continued to slip further out of control. 

The boyfriend and I struggled, and continued our tug o’ war dance; but he was also a huge support in many ways. He helped with my daughter, cooking, other parts of daily life I struggled with, he was a positive influence regarding my irrational thoughts, getting me out to nature, out to do things, he often suggested that we have a "tea night", or plans for a night with no alcohol... But, I became resentful, wanting a partner in crime, not another person to hinder and question my ways. I began to feel like the rebel again, pushing back at the perceived sense of authority. I rarely wanted to do any of the healthy things he suggested, aside from fishing (but, of course, we usually took a few beers for that) and if he suggested a sober night, I would laugh and head straight to the liquor store.

The program ended, and aside from the team and my daughter’s counselor, the only people I saw were my daughter, the boyfriend, my brother and his girlfriend. I was losing momentum, shutting off and stepping towards isolation again. As Summer wound down, I became increasingly nervous, aware of the tendencies I have towards deep depression in the Fall and Winter. 

I started to consider my relationship with alcohol; remembering the times I had stopped, how I felt, the positive effects, so desperately needed, that would come if I cleaned up... I began to slow down, even going a week or so without a drink. Each time I drank again, I fell deeper into darkness, finding it harder to reach the light. Yet, I was still not willing to consider or discuss QUITTING forever.

But, my curiosity began to pique when my team gave me information about a group that they thought would be helpful. It wasn't specifically for alcohol, drugs, or gambling, it was for ANY type of addictive, destructive behavior or thought patterns. In my need to keep alcohol out of the scope, I COULD recognize the many other addictive behaviors and patterns that were a problem for me. I was very unsure and afraid. All sorts of crazy thoughts raced through my mind.

The team had successfully planted a seed.

I finally agreed to go to CAB (Changing Addictive Behaviors).

Friday, September 21, 2018

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

It was around this time last year that I fell into the “rabbit hole”.

From very early on, I had never taken the time to know myself, I didn't learn any of the skills and tools to handle anything that occurred in my life. I was like a zombie really, just moving mindlessly through my life. I expected things to be ok, to just work out, get better... Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll be ok, this will all be over, I'll do better, I'll be better... Tomorrow.

I have spent my life living on the edge, moving from one crisis or trauma to the next. There didn't seem to be any respite, perhaps a glimmer of hope once in a blue moon, but it never lasted. Of course, without doing any of the work I needed to do, and without an ounce of self-care, self-love, or self-respect to support any type of healing, it never would. I just carried obliviously onward, continuously slipping into the rabbit hole, pulling myself a few inches out, until the next thing happened, when I'd slide back down to the bottom.

My world as I had known it began to seriously crumble shortly after moving 5 years ago. After 13 years, the abuse and violence in my marriage erupted, and I separated from my husband, and promptly fell headfirst, deep into that rabbit hole. The couple that took my daughter and I in for a few months after the explosive break up of my marriage became my best friends; we were a part of each other’s daily lives, despite the healthy and unhealthy dynamics of the relationship between the three of us was. Almost 2 years ago now, I witnessed the husband, my friend, someone very close to me, and my boss, have a massive heart attack, and subsequently pass on. After he passed, the house cleaning, deliveries, other odd jobs, and Administrative/Booking Assistant work that I had been doing with/for them for 3 years, came to a sudden end. The growing anxiety and realization of how unhealthy, co-dependent and toxic things were becoming in my life had begun shortly before he died, and afterwards I promptly fell apart. I had been tending to the needs of everyone close to me, taking their stuff on as my own, using it as an unhealthy distraction, and I had used up my resources. I was empty. I had nothing left for myself, let alone anyone else.  Panic and anxiety took over. I had a hard time leaving my house, breathing, I had severe chest and heart pains, I cried constantly, I couldn’t sleep, think, function…Out of fear and shame, I clung to the hope/”need” to continue home schooling my, then 8 year old, daughter. (Perhaps an attempt to retain some sense of (false) control?) My behaviours and thinking were completely distorted and irrational. I had no clarity. I was making horrible decisions while, of course, attempting to rationalize them. I was numbing the pain by drinking more and more, and at times of the day I never would have before. I was drowning.

A lifetime of abuse, violence, alcohol dependency, grief and loss, co-dependency, toxic relationships, taking on the role of the "victim", fucked up, irrational thinking, every other “major event” or ”defining moment” that I had ever experienced, buried, avoided, came bursting out, PTSD and GAD symptoms blew up… My entire life caught up to me. I was collapsing, falling apart, scared, and out of control.

Image result for amygdala
As I have since been learning, I was stuck in the "Fight, Flight, or Freeze" state for nearly my entire life. My amygdala had been running the show, without a break, in overdrive, which was causing a whole slew of other things to occur in my mind and body. story isn't over yet... ;)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Recovering My Writing - Healing Through Words

Hello again, or maybe for the first time!!

I've been under construction. Digging deep, and working on myself. Reading and meditation have been where the majority of my time has been spent. The only writing I was doing came in the form of worksheets, answering the questions in the books I was reading, exercises, homework...

I  have been wanting to write. I have been needing to write. Intending to write. Trying to write. Being "encouraged" (pestered!) to write by mom. There were few times I was able to get much out, and my attempt at using a journal just didn't stick. I wanted to get back here, to my blog, and share my stories. I wanted to use my writing, and this platform, to aid in my healing journey, and maybe to help or inspire your own. I attempted to establish a new writing routine. I thought about how to begin again here. I pondered where to begin my story. I just could not seem to bring myself to do it. Nothing came.

The majority of my focus has been on my healing and recovery, but I've also been working with a Job Coach on my Job Search path. I need to find work again, or go to school; something to generate a sustainable income AND feed my passions.

I told myself, despite the feedback around me, that the writing would have to wait, the blog would have to wait. I told myself there were more important things to be doing with my time. These thoughts still did nothing to get me moving, feel inspired or motivated.

The only thing I was really able to see was the work I needed to do on my healing and recovery.
(I am pretty certain most of us know what that tends to looks like...)

Until now.
I have spent a lot of time in recent weeks in Solitude. Not completely and totally, all alone by myself; I do have a 9 year old daughter, and life just doesn't allow that opportunity! Throughout my life, I have been afraid of solitude, and instead immersed myself in Isolation. This time has been different.

I have come to the point where all roads, messages and suggestions have come together, with flashing arrows pointing at a sign: FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS.

The fire within is roaring, and my gifts are wanting to expand. Writing, photography, rocks/crystals, nature, inspiring others, these are the things screaming to be heard, seen, felt. I NEED to put some time and effort into expressing these parts of me.

I realize that my story is not over, and so, there really is no specific place to begin in the sharing of it.

I must begin where I currently sit.

I must begin here and now.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...