Alison's Insights

Accepting Mid-Life Addiction Recovery One Slow Deep Breath At A Time

Archive for the category “Emotional Growth in Recovery”

Are You An Emotional Fearcaster?

When something is about to happen that you’ve never experienced before, are you instinctively stress-free and calm?

If so I salute you because in most cases, I’m not.

What’s interesting is that I don’t fear the situation, I fear the assumed associated emotions. I lament about my ability to handle possible feelings of failure, rejection, inadequacy, confusion, remorse, or that I’ll somehow feel flawed, helpless, inferior, lonely, or flustered. Sometimes the list can seem endless. This is what I refer to as emotional fearcasting.

Just like the weather forecast is a prediction based on current conditions and not a guarantee of what will occur, I consider emotional fearcasting in the same manner. I forecast my future emotional state based on my current emotional condition and if what’s next feels uncertain, I’m mostly likely in some state of fear.

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Instead of trusting a proven past of getting through tough times, I make sweeping assumptions and react rather than respond. I start to panic based on what I imagine rather than breathing in what I know.

Years ago my sought-after solution to calm my fear was a glass of wine combined with numeric verification from piece of metal that I was in control. That is not my solution today. Now I create a plan of action for myself not a plan of attack against myself.

Over time I’ve learned each day offers me an opportunity to learn new things about the world, life, and even myself. If I’m capable of that, then there’s every reason to believe how I feel today could change by tomorrow.

This is why I cannot possibly have a lock on how I’ll feel emotionally down the road. My perspective will have shifted even if only in a very slight way.

For example, when I started this blog. I feared no one would read one word I wrote. I was certain the comments offered would shame me for my lack of literary perfection, word choice, or grammatical expertise. I thought my experience with recovery wasn’t relevant for more than a handful of people. I anticipated failure rather than acceptance and held myself hostage in self-doubt.

None of that came true.

Then I think about the fearcasting I did before college, my first corporate job, marriage, and recovery. I pre-felt all kinds of emotion and feared my inability to manage them once they showed up. However when I finally met with each experience, what I felt was nowhere near the anticipated drama.

I’m most kind to myself when I stay open to the flow of things rather than resist them. If I trust my proven past to help predict my emotional future, fearcasting isn’t for me.

I hope to remain open by taking deep breaths while depending on a forecast for weather not fear-based emotions.

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A Moment to Breathe …

Are you experiencing an emotional fearcaster? What story are you telling yourself about what’s around the corner, down the road, or sometime next year? Are you relying on past emotional experiences to mentally describe how your future ones will turn out? Take a moment to breathe and contribute your thoughts with a comment below or when sharing this post via your favorite social media site. 

My Age? Well, that Depends. How Am I Reacting?

Have you ever shown up to a family function only to leave as a much younger version of yourself?  I sure have.

When out-of-town family members come for a visit there’s always a get-together. Maybe two. I arrive feeling connected and collected but then something happens and suddenly I’m a wobbly teenager lacking the sense of self-confidence I carried through the front door.

This type of mystical age transformation is not new and something I’ve tried to better understand about myself over the past several years.

In the early stages of recovery many suggested I take a good look at who I am from the inside out. Soon what once made sense didn’t and what didn’t make sense started to. One of the more challenging concepts to accept was that most who battle addiction stop growing emotionally when they first feel a positive jolt from using the drug or behavior of choice.

I felt insulted by even the suggestion this could apply to me. I was a grown woman, successful in the eyes of many in my profession. I’d managed multi-million dollar pieces of business, got married, bought a house, invested in the stock market, and traveled the world. Now I’m to believe that because I started drinking and investigating ways to attain a body not meant for me at 13 I’m emotionally stuck at that age? I don’t think so.

But then I remembered my commitment to those guiding me. Based on their suggestion I dug a bit deeper. How had I reacted to tough situations? Was I more tantrum-like than calm? When in a tough relationship conversation, did I push for the last word or raise my voice to take control? How often did I give a laser-burning stare then turn my head with angry snap and storm out hoping the dramatic exit would dominate? Did I deflect, deny or defend my behavior rather than calmly interact with a problematic issue?

The answers to these questions were certainly eye-opening.

There was no denying the truth. I had managed most of my adult life as an emotional teenager.

younger and older self

Clearly there were changes to make, parts to nurture, and memories to reconsider. What I learned from that investigation helps me to respond better and assure my words, actions, and reactions match my age.

However every so often I find myself in an emotionally triggering moment when a look on someone’s face, or the loud sigh from another, can launch me back to an early version of myself with a drink in one hand and a fork at a far distance from the other.

This is the moment for a slow, deep breath. The simple but important pause allows my younger self to step away from reacting so my more mature self can step in and respond to assure I’m taking the next right one.

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A Moment to Breathe…

Do you relate to any of the questions I posed when facing troubling situations?  Is there any possibility for disparity between your birth certificate age and your emotional age?  To consider this idea, find some quiet space and jot down whatever comes to mind. I’ve found keeping these thoughts in my head causes them to endlessly cycle, get more intrusive and eventually seem too big to handle. Another helpful option is to talk these things out with others who may feel the same way. Feel free to use the space below or include your thoughts when sharing this post via your favorite social media site.  

 

Why Asking for Help Wasn’t My First Right Step

Have you ever wondered why, no matter how rationally phrased in your head, the idea of asking for help seems about as reasonable as asking for a snake bite?

Somewhere along life’s way I told myself a story that asking for help meant failure, weakness, and a lack of intelligence. The older I got the more I believed this fictional description if I needed the assistance of others. I went to far as to drop projects if the challenge was too great or the outcome would seem less that perfect.

However no one gets through life without some guidance and I’m certainly no exception. The difference for me was I’d silently pray for guidance rather than ask. When someone would offer unprovoked direction I’d smile, thank them kindly for the “reminder” and move on without any idea of what I needed to learn along the way.

This was exactly the approach I took when the whispers about how much I drank and how little I ate began to filter in. I heard only what I wanted to acknowledge and filtered the rest to suit my comfort zone. If someone mentioned I do something that hit too close to home, I’d consider their words as expressions of judgment and therefore white noise.

Upon reflection I knew I’d hit my “bottom” when I finally became willing to listen for the message not just the words. Yet asking for help didn’t seem possible for me. In truth, I didn’t even know what to ask for.

So I didn’t ask for help I listened for hope.

I paid attention to people who talked about how they achieved what I was (literally) dying to attain. I desperately hung on every word spoken by those who somehow found their way from struggle to freedom and from fear and shame to a place of peace and balance.

More specifically, I sought out people who looked at ease with themselves. I listened for how they spoke of their recovery and in between their slowly distributed words, I watched for a chance to witness their sort of relaxed exhale.

In other words I noted the directional messages offered by people who had what I wanted, a life that made sense.

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So my suggestion for anyone struggling with the suggestion they ask for help, seek out those who seem to have what you want, ask them how they got there and pay close attention to their message not just their words.

I’m grateful for my resistance to asking for help because that led me to take my first right step. This simple shift in perspective led me to the directions I needed to get well and saved me from myself.

To this day I still listen to what has worked for others because I’ve learned why asking for help isn’t my first right step.

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A Moment to Breathe…

If you’re having a hard time with the idea you need support, believing the more you do on your own you’re somehow proving you’ve got your life together in a mature manner, perhaps you might consider the benefit of seeking someone’s practical experience instead.  Listening with intention to someone proven trustworthy who experienced the same or similar kind of challenge may lead you down a path to achieve the freedom you desire.  Maybe you’ve done just that and would like to share that how this kind of action was the key to unlock you from self-imposed prison. If so, please leave a comment below or via your favorite social media site. 

Reflections of Change from Tattered Pages of Well-Read Books

Don’t you love inspirational books that seem pointedly written just for you? There’s something oddly magical and not at all creepy when reading words you felt sure the author wrote after spying on you in your darkest hour.

I love those kinds of books as I never tire of their uplifting, reassuring, and thought course-correcting messages.  Better still is the opportunity to share them with those I believe might feel the same.

Most of my days include time spent with those who battled or are still fighting the insidious disease of alcoholism and the endless mental trap of an eating disorder. Often I find myself talking about how these personally touching and hope-filled books awaken my spirit and provide me courage to believe I’m not alone in my thoughts and actions.

One such day I received a comment I found rather interesting. In so many words my friend said, “I used that same book during my early recovery and found it very helpful back then.” While I understood the intention of the comment, I shudder to think I’d come to the point in my life where I’d find no need for inspiration just because I’ve overcome that which held me hostage in mind, body, and spirit.

Some messages simply never grow old.

What I read years ago were the words to help me understand what I believed were my problems, an eating disorder to control my life and the need for alcohol to numb me from life. I had yet to realize these two means of escaping from reality were not my problems, they were my solutions. I used those behaviors to fend off situations I didn’t want to deal with and the emotions tied to them.

The solutions I seek today are certainly different yet I refer to the same inspirational messages I read years ago to help me find what I search for.  I don’t believe I’ll ever be done reconsidering ways I’m navigating life or harbor any thought that what I absorbed through the written word back then wouldn’t still be relative for me now.

Certainly as I’ve change so has my perspective on timeless messages of inspiration. Everyday left-hooks push me to reawaken what I thought I knew.

My well-stocked bookshelves hold works of authors who became trusted friends when I was in early recovery. In silence they confirmed someone understood and supported me when I doubted my every thought.

This is precisely why when those less-than-confident days show up I call upon those cherished friends by cracking their well-worn binders and unfolding dog-eared pages to feel their embrace through a combination of consonants and vowels that still ignite hope as they once did.

Well Worn Books Option 2

I find this re-reading process powerful because even though my intention for seeking inspiration today isn’t the same as before, the words still provide similar encouragement. How amazing to realize that while what appears on those printed pages hasn’t changed, I have because of them.

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A Moment to Breathe …

Are the books sitting on your shelf holding words that might still move you? Perhaps you’ll find what appears on those pages will offer inspiration you didn’t know you needed! Maybe you’ve already had this experience and are reading this with a renewed sense of how valuable dog-eared pages and books with rubber bands around them truly are. If so, I’m curious to know what you found new when reading through your wisdom-filled eyes.

Unexpected Reminders Keep Me Grounded and Grateful

Have you ever experienced a time when seemingly out of nowhere a conversation shifts sharply from one subject to a shared experience you were emotionally unprepared to address?  Wow is that interestingly awkward.

My sense is this kind of communication topic-hopping shock stems from either distance between past situations and present day, or because I’ve taught people I’m unaffected by the truth of my past. Regardless, I admit there are some moments of my not-so-charming past that remain fresh in my mind.

I know time does heal most wounds. I’ve tended to many of mine leaving no scar for an observer’s eye to meet. Yet when even a microscopic emotional connection to what happened floats into present day, I’m immediately taken back to the scenes I wish to but can’t forget.

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During the past week, two people I love dearly spoke with me about their experience when I had one of my alcohol withdrawal seizures. As they talked I did what I could to assure my outward expression was open and willing to listen. Yet on the inside my blood ran cold as I took in each word.

In equal measure they told me the sound of my husband’s fearful screams on that frightful day are still quite clear when collectively the thought was they were watching me die.

Even though I lived though millions of moments since then, all I need is this kind of reminder and I’m instantly thrown back to when my physical self begged for the kind of help my emotional self could not verbally express.

The intention of what my loved ones said this week were not to hurt me or berate me for my past however their words broke my heart into a thousand pieces for the woman I was and those who experienced her.

No matter how hard I try I cannot wish for the facts of my past to show up differently today. In addition, I have no control over how others recall the days when I was slowly killing myself in the silence of too much alcohol and not enough food.

For a very long time I did all I could to keep from being reminded of what my life was like then. I would have rather spent countless hours in an attempt to empty a swimming pool with a teaspoon than to sit through 5 minutes of truth about my life with untreated alcoholism and an eating disorder.

I don’t feel the same today.

I’ve learned through the practical experience of others and my own that the only way to fully heal wounds of my past is to face the truth with an open heart and mind. I need to dig deep and get brutally honest about what happened so I can attain the kind of clarity necessary for me to authentically express myself.  The next step is to find someone with similar experience and talk through what may still confuse me. This vital conversation allows for accountability and the chance to better equip me when I address my past with those who hold their own pain and confusion about that time in my life.

Undoubtedly my desire to erase horrible moments I caused loved ones is profound. However I also know life experiences are purposeful. Those who thought they were witness to my last breath have since watched me take many more. In time they have found use for that practical experience when given an opportunity to support others with similar struggles.

Although these recent conversations threw me off a bit, they prove remarkably motivating.

Just prior to the walk down memory lane I was drowning in doubt and fear of failure about moving forward with one of the toughest expressions of my recovery.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I’m reminded I’m far from failure because I didn’t die. I survived.

The interactions with loved ones did more for me than I could have done for myself. I’m back to the work I feel passionate about and deep down know I’m meant to share.

Now I’m no longer fearful of unexpected reminders because they keep me grounded and grateful.

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A Moment to Breathe … 

What’s holding you back? What stories are you telling yourself that may keep you from what you are passionate about? Pay attention. There are nudges and reminders around every corner. I’d love for you to share your experience and insight with this topic by leaving a comment here or via one of social media links below. 

“God Save the Queen!” How London Saved Me Too.

Ever wonder why we get a better sense of ourselves just by stepping away from the daily grind? Sometimes the opportunity arises so we can wake up to what we’ve taken for granted, belittled, or mindlessly ignored.

For me breaking away has proven key to breaking through.

This was my experience when I sought treatment far from home for alcoholism and years later, a life-threatening eating disorder. In both instances I boarded an airplane to disengage from what I thought was justification for a bottomless wineglass and irregular meal pattern. I needed the distance from my ritualistic lifestyle to fully focus on what needed change and why.

Even after years of self-discovery and lifestyle course correction, I recently found myself in need of yet another change of geography to alter my perspective. This time the destination was one laced with excitement and wonder rather than deflation and shame.

A friend temporarily residing in London invited me for a visit. This being a city I’d long desired to explore, the idea of experiencing the sights, sounds and energy with someone I trust and admire seemed like a dream come true.

However after consideration of timing and finances and commitments spoken or assumed, I declined her generous offer. The silent jury in my mind provided verdict an overseas trip was out of the question.

Yet little did I know my rationale to stay balanced was way off-balance.

I had no idea how deceptive the words were in my deeply hypnotic, mentally written, self-published book, You Can Handle This All By Yourself.

Just like I didn’t become an alcoholic or caught in the throes of an eating disorder overnight, I didn’t succumb to the subtle effects of emotional imbalance like that either.

Years ago I struggled to recognize how desperately I needed to change. The unmanageable aspects of my life came into view when I finally put down the wineglass and picked up the fork. From those days forward I willingly and tirelessly gathered healthier options to navigate everyday situations. Yet this past year I ever-so-slowly inched my way back to believe I as “fine” while deep down I struggled with frustration and anger for what life threw my way.

Well sure enough, just as things fell into place at the right time with the right people to help me get sober and healthy, things fell into place to get me to London. Once there my amazing, caring and often “tough love” friend simply said, “OK, enough. When are you going to tell me what’s really going on. You are clearly not yourself.”

The tears flew as the words tumbled from of my mouth. She gently helped me unwind the knots of denied feelings to rewind what made sense.

Ultimately our conversation was as transforming and remarkable like all those years ago when I released the wineglass grip and number on a scale. Revealing truths I’d denied or sworn to secrecy is like a much-needed exhale after a long-held breath.

London is surely a place where God saves the Queen and this time, saved me too.

God Save the Queen Post

(At the entrance of Westminster Abbey)

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A Moment to Breathe…

Take a few minutes to check in with yourself. Listen to that quiet inner voice. What are you hearing? What are you feeling? What are you not saying? What story are you telling yourself to downplay what’s really going on? Consider leaving a few thoughts here or sharing this post via your favorite social media platform because sometimes something as simple as letting go of a thought or two is a great a way to release what’s keeping you stuck.

 

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