Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the category “Long-Term Addition Recovery”

Finding the Path from Justifying to Testifying

As an avid reader, writer, and speaker about life before and after recovery from life-threatening addiction, I appreciate the use of carefully placed words. The hope is that the tale takes anyone interested from point A to point B with little confusion and, with any success, a connection. I learned that when I testify, there is no need to justify.

On the other hand, as a woman in long-term recovery, I appreciate those private moments when I witness the use of messy, scattered, nonsensical words spoken by someone who reached a point when their need to justify and deny turns into a need to testify and accept the truth.

I know that need from the inside out. For a long time, I tossed the details of my actions after one too many drinks and not enough food into a justification blender. My hope was that what poured out would make sense to those I prayed would listen.

Before I uttered a word, I silently practiced those well-mixed stories to assure they validated my chaotic, self-focused, emotionally disruptive behavior. I thought, once said, they would protect me from the judgement of others and shame from myself.

I believed justification and fabricated rationalization were my strong suit. I believed my use of manipulative words would alleviate vulnerable moments and emotional pain. I believed all that until one day none worked. People didn’t stop to listen, they started to disregard my means of denial. Those woven pieces of untruths were finally only believed by me.

Couple Silhouette Breaking Up A Relation

This was my turning point. This was when my need to testify and accept the truth became stronger than my need to justify my behavior by denying them with lies. When I turned that corner, my whole outlook on life changed.

No one could take that alternative path for me. Yet everyone who led the kind of life I wanted, free from unhealthy actions and behaviors that required justification, showed me the way. I listened with rapt attention to their testimonials, each laced with a sense of peace that was magnetic.

Today, my intention for writing and speaking is to offer the same kind of testimony that promotes the possibility for overcoming whatever keeps someone from living an honest life.

What pains me most is when I see and hear nonstop justification from people who are clearly struggling. The ripple effect of their denial is heartbreaking mostly because they can’t, as I couldn’t, recognize how far and wide that goes. I don’t hear their fictional account of what happened. I hear their cries for help.

I can’t walk the path from justifying to testifying for them but, if they are willing, I can show them the way.

A Moment to Breathe

Do you ever find yourself creating rationale for actions taken or words spoken? Do you wake up in the morning with a sense of fear that what happened the night before requires some back peddling? I have too. When that happens, take a few slow deep breaths to settle down those racing thoughts of doom. Nothing said in desperation will unwind yourself from those fears. Take a few more deep breaths and then, slowly, consider your options. Sometimes that includes a call with a trusted friend to account for what happened and then, together, you can create that next right step. 

 

I Don’t Have Time

Why, during the last few weeks of every year, do I feel as though I can’t catch up with myself? I rush from place to place and project to project hoping to cross one more item off the holiday to-do list. I forget more than remember and I talk more than listen.

I convince myself I don’t have time for a spontaneous cup of coffee with a friend, an extra few minutes of (much-needed) sleep, or another chapter of that spellbinding book.

The reality is, I don’t have time because time has me.

Without intentionally doing so, I give the tick-tock of time that kind of power over me. Why do I let this happen? When did this start? Do other people struggle to satisfy time expectations like I do?

I shudder to think how familiar these questions are. I asked them years ago because I thought I had a drinking problem and issues with food and body image when, in fact, alcohol, scales, and mirrors had me. I manipulated and rationalized everything to avoid treatment or well-considered amends or self-care. I thought I didn’t have time for such things until my time almost ran out.

time-post-opt-1

With barely a moment to spare, I found the kind of help I desperately needed. During those early days, I begged for time to create the kind of life I have today.

In that process I found out why time is a precious commodity and must be respected as such.

The idea that I don’t have time is as dangerous for me as a drink of alcohol or fork unfilled. I cannot allow myself to believe that time is an enemy with power to determine what I’m capable of or what my priorities are.

If that’s where I am today, something needs to change and that something is my perspective.

Thank goodness I have a proven, practical experience solution for what keeps me from a healthy life. I must become willing to let go of the must-do’s and should’s and expectations so I can be present for people, situations, and things that truly matter.

If I slow down, step back, and breathe deep, I’ll find plenty of time to:

  • Listen
  • Offer a hug
  • Hold a door
  • Reach for the hand needing reassurance
  • Make that phone call, write that letter, or knock on that door
  • Spend a few extra minutes with a newcomer to recovery
  • Tell people who matter that they do
  • Walk slower
  • Ask for help
  • Breathe deeper
  • Get quiet
  • Look up

Perhaps the problem isn’t that I don’t have time, but that I forget how much time means to me.

A Moment to Breathe

How often do you hear yourself say that you don’t have time? Whether said out loud or in the silence of your mind, the story you tell yourself about how much time you have often proves harrowing. Take a deep breath and consider how you navigate your time. Do you feel spontaneously free to accept an unexpected opportunity, or over-scheduled and exhausted? If the latter seems more realistic for you, perhaps a shift in perspective is necessary. Remember, your time is yours and thus, only you will ever have the power to choose how that time is allocated. Now, take another slow deep breath and rewrite today’s plan that will suit you and your peace of mind.

The Power of Inspiruption

When was the last time you heard or read something that shot a powerful bolt of inspiration through you? Maybe there was a quick turn of your head to listen closer, or a rapid eye-race back a few paragraphs to assure what you read still rests on the page. For me, the disruption to my train of thought is so sudden, the only words to bounce the walls of my mind are, “Wait. What was that?”

My arms tingle, my mouth goes a bit dry, and I scramble to grab a pen and capture what I mentally took in. In that instant, I feel a heart-to-heart connection to the words, the person sharing them, and the intention for which they are offered. Then, after silent recalibration, everything I thought about a certain subject shifts.

I call this experience an inspiruption. I am inspired to such a degree that my whole sense of what previously made sense is now disrupted.

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No doubt I experienced these kinds of sharp-turn realizations earlier in life. Teachers, authors, friends, bosses, even conversations overheard in strange places, pinged me to reconsider things.

Yet never with such intensity than the inspiruptions that led me to gather up the courage to put down my (hopefully) last glass of wine and pick up my first healthy and full fork.

Once in the arms of recovery, I heard the words that to this day can send a shiver through me. Someone looked me straight in the eye and said, “Yeah, me too.”

That small sentence is, perhaps, the single most important recovery blanket of hope and comfort for anyone in recovery. When the sentiment is wrapped around someone filled with fear and doubt and shame, what happens next is an inspiruption of profound measure. The body language cannot be mistaken. Facial muscles relax, shoulders drop, and fists unclinch. I’ve seen this happen right before my eyes and, for me, is nothing short of a miracle in motion.

Many moments of inspiruption have occurred since the day that reaction was mine. These days I surround myself with people and pages that wake me up, pull my breath, or push a tear beyond the walls of my pride; all indicators that more light must shine on a subject subconsciously left dim.

If I chose to disregard these moments of inspiruption, the opportunity for change might be lost. I’ve come way too far and gone through way too much to start denying  what is undeniable.

This is why I strive to keep my ears and eyes on guard in preparation for the next moment of inspiruption. Practical experience proves that when they arrive, what I do next is sure to powerfully change me for the better.

A Moment to Breathe

What came to mind when you considered my initial question? Did something happen as a result of that moment of inspiration? Were you overcome with excitement or startled by fear? If the latter, my suggestion is that when—not if—this happens again, take a deep breath and allow yourself to peak around the corner. What awaits might be a solution for something you never thought possible. Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences as a result of inspiruption here or as you share this post via your favorite social media site.

 

 

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.

fearcasting image 1

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.  

 

Seeing Something Old with New Eyes

When was the last time you’ve rearranged a closet, the living room furniture, or the selves of your mind? Seems when I allow myself the time for those things I become grateful to see them differently or reconsider what I’d long forgotten.

This shuffling of perspective also happens when I’m recaptured by books read years ago or even pages reviewed last week.

For example, I recently came across an image of a beloved childhood story about a toy rabbit’s quest to become real.

Velveteen Rabbit original cover

The need to find a copy of this book was immediate. When I turned the first page to immerse myself with the story my heart skipped a beat. The left to right movement of my eyes slowed a bit as I tried to see past the collection of tears formed. The messages of right living seemed to leap around and off the page like the rabbit at the center of the story.

Has this little book always contained such beautiful descriptions of how life works, what becoming REAL means, and why being different isn’t so different after all?

The answer is yes but the reality is the story hasn’t changed I have.

The intention of the narrative, the stuffed rabbit’s journey from what he thought he was to what he becomes, mirrors what I’ve gone through over these past many years. We both turned ourselves inside out revealing truths about who we are and how we are best suited to interact with the world around us.

Examples of this are:

– Don’t be convinced no one is like you because you assume they haven’t struggled as you did.

– Pay attention to those who have the kind of wisdom and practical experience you would like to one day have.

– Watch what happens to people who are reluctant to smooth their rough edges formed by unhealthy coping skills and behaviors. Keep an even closer focus on those who resist what persists.

– Change is wildly uncomfortable. We squirm, question, fantasize, or even rationalize how great things were before. Yet if we keep doing the next right thing in healthier surroundings we come to find enjoyment in our new lifestyle and manner of living.

– Comparing yourself to others won’t help make sense of things. Nothing will come from the assumption that you’ll feel better on the inside if you fix, manage and control your outside to mirror theirs.

– Allow the love of others to settle comfortably within. Soon you’ll come to love yourself and the need to “look” a certain way will eventually fade away.

– When you love someone you become willing to take whatever action steps necessary to help them. This only works if what you offer is in the best interest of that person and not yourself.

– Accept when the time comes to move on.

– Humility is the cornerstone of right living as the very wise Skinned Horse character describes in the story.

skinned horse image 2

You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are REAL you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I used to consider a good day as one when addiction had my full and undivided attention. Back then rationale for unhealthy actions never wavered. I wouldn’t allow myself even an inch of wiggle room for reconsideration or change in perspective. Once I’d read, seen, or heard something I was done. Case closed.

That is not my life today. After much emotionally challenging self-investigation and a detailed, brutally honest review of past experiences, I came to believe open-mindedness might be of benefit to me.

The next time I’m asked what helped most to overcome addiction, I’m going to think of my little rabbit friend from that cherished book and reply, “When I finally became willing to see something old with new eyes.”

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A Moment to Breathe…

Take some time to think about what you might see new again. Consider your relationships or that project you just can’t seem to finish. Do you need someone’s help or a different perspective to better understand the situation? The benefits you receive may far exceed your resistance to ask. I’m interested in your feedback. Feel free to leave a comment below or share your thoughts with this post on your favorite social media forum.

Mind the Gap

You know how some random song stays with you long after hearing the first note? What about the phone number from that TV commercial you’ve seen once too often?

What’s so interesting about these mind invasions is how quickly I’m reminded of a time or place when I first heard the song or jingle. I think about the people who were around me and what I was doing. Sometimes I welcome those memories and sometimes do not.

I wonder if these methodical melodies embed themselves for a reason. My sense is they do.

When I was in London one phrase was heard almost daily. The words have not left me and hopefully never will.

Like most metropolitan locations, the exact square-mile city offers various forms of transportation. Of particular preference for me was the underground train system. My cherished prepaid pass allowed quick access to zip from one end of England’s capital to the other. Rarely did I wait long for next train to whisk me toward another exciting (albeit touristy) destination.

the tube

Once inside I dodged fellow travelers prepared to exit at the next stop. Perhaps some people get easily frustrated by this kind of jockey-for-position dance but when I heard “Excuse me M’lady” the British accent warmed me like a welcome blanket on a cold day.

When the train would slow in advance of the next station an enchanting, non-intrusive message filled the air to caution exiting passengers they “mind the gap” between the train and the platform.

As the value of my prepaid rail card lessened my confidence for exit-safe foot placement increased. However I became quite fond of the recorded gentle reminder because as the words settled in they began to mean something far more.

How many times have I stood oblivious to what was lurking in the small space between where I am in life and where my next right step will lead? I spend countless hours in contemplation of pros and cons whether to stay put or move forward. Yet I wonder why I put far less effort into consideration of emotions hidden in the small crevice between here and there.

Before I transitioned away from a life of too much booze and not enough food, I launched myself from one situation into another without any concentrated thought of emotional ramifications. I moved in reaction to them not in response of them.

The repeated message in London’s underground warns of possible danger if caught in a manufactured platform gap. The fissure I need to watch out for is the one between what’s comfortably safe and what’s safely uncomfortable.

How interesting. Both require I pause and be mindful of potential consequences while at the same time act as a shield to protect me from possible emotions I’m not prepared for.

Just as no one wants to get caught off guard with their foot stuck between a soon-to-be-moving train and the platform, I don’t want to get caught off guard by unwelcome emotions when I exit a place considered safe.

This is why I cherish the embedded message from London. The words remind me to not only watch my step but to watch my emotions if I don’t mind the gap.

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A Moment to Breathe…

Are you thinking about what next right step might be for you? Are you contemplating a change but resisting the forward motion? Look down. What’s in that gap right in front of you? Does an emotion need your attention before taking action? I’d love for you to offer your thoughts here by leaving a reply or share this post via your favorite social media platform.

Until then, take a moment to breathe.

 

 

If I Only Knew Then What Would Happen When

If you’re anything like me, at one point or another you believed your life would change for the better if something or someone changed first.

Somewhere along the way I taught myself there was a catch to attain what seemed desirable. I’d have to sacrifice something I had or rethink something I believed right.

If I did what as directed at home, school, or work and conducted myself in the same manner as others then surely I’d receive equal praise or reward.

If I liked what they liked, wore what they wore, disliked what they disliked, I then I’d achieve their acceptance.

If I whittled my body down to model-like shape or had one more drink to maintain the buzz, then surely I’d appear more attractive to that guy, get that job and have that fun.

If I did more, gave more, sacrificed more of my time, money or moral standards then surely I’d attain the kind of love, acceptance and happiness everyone else appeared to enjoy.

If I played the part, then I’d get the role. Open the playbill and see my name listed as the sought after girlfriend, beloved daughter, cherished sister, respected boss, irreplaceable employee, and best friend.

If I played the part then surely I’d receive the engagement ring, the promotion, or key to the cool group club in school, at work, or during social situations.

All those self-directed performances brought me to a final bow long after the applause stopped. Little did I know how near-death I’d come from endless attempts to reap rewards beyond my reach.

When I realized the curtain had finally closed I found courage to find a road toward recovery. As I followed pebbles dropped by those who walked before me, I searched for road signs to confirm how much farther until I’d reach my destination. I tapped shoulders along the way and asked for assurances or how to meet my expectations. Most smiled, shrugged those shoulders and explained no one could offer me any of the information I longed for. All they suggested was I stay on the path and remain focused only on the next step not where I wanted those steps to lead.”

I had no idea what that meant.

Throughout most of my life I planned, controlled and manipulated my way based on presumed guarantees.

The endless cycle of messages in my head convinced me if the “then” part didn’t work out the “if” part was to blame. What would happen if I did as they suggested and their recovery plan didn’t work? What would happen then?

if then cartoon image

I simply could not understand why I needed to eliminate self-imposed ultimatums. Those people who appeared to have their lives well figured out seemed pretty confident the plan they described would help me. Yet when pressed for any kind of guarantee, they were unwilling or unable to provide me the precise detail of how and when I’d achieve what they had.

My life’s landscape had twisted and turned into such personal disaster I came to believe I had nothing left to lose so I gave their blind faith thing a shot.

In time and with a consistent daily effort to stay on the path as suggested, the life I thought I needed turned into the life I always wanted. All those years spent engaged with insidious games of “if/then” or “if/when” left me lonely and confused about how life worked.

Today I’m confident every experience I’ve gone through was necessary to understand where I am today. Yet sometimes in quiet moments I can’t help but consider where my life’s path might have led if I only knew then what would happen when I took my first step toward the unknown.

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A Moment to Breathe …

Think about what “if/then” or “if/when” statements you silently believe. Are you setting yourself up for disappointment or failure? Are you searching for validation that what you truly want out of life is unattainable? What might happen if you dropped the ultimatums and just gave whatever you desire a try?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts here by leaving a comment or via your favorite social media platform. 

Until then, take a moment to breathe.

“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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