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

Archive for the category “Support System”

Feeling Broken? Find the Glue of Me Too

While driving alone, do you find yourself mindlessly scanning radio stations hoping to find something, anything that grabs your attention?

I sure do.

I’ll tap that seek button until a few notes of a song or words of a news story grab enough of my attention to satisfy that sound void in my car.

A few days ago I followed that routine on my way home from a support group meeting. My final radio stop was NPR perhaps because the lead-in for the next story warned of graphic content. When I hear a teaser like that, my curiosity kicks in.

Little did I know that what I was about to listen to would pull me from my usual post-meeting thoughts straight into the life of a woman who shared what she described was her turning point story.

As filmmaker and visual storyteller, Barbara Weiner, unfolded details of what happened to her thirty-one years ago, I didn’t feel connected because of them, I felt connected because what she went through to accept them.

The cadence of her voice was startling familiar. She spoke of perfectionism, the fear of exposing parts of her truth that would shine a light where she felt bruised and ashamed. She spoke of a desperate desire to appear put-together so others would see her life in order when inside she felt scattered, disordered, and alone.

As her story reached the point where a turnaround was looming, she spoke of how she found someone who, after hours of conversation, made a promise that she would not be abandoned no matter what was in that emotional box she neatly packed away to avoid falling apart.

That confirmation safety-net allowed her to step out from behind the curtain of shame she believed protected her from feeling what she was terrified to acknowledge. As those words tumbled from her mouth faster than she’s imagined they could, she felt relief from the release.

And that was how she began to heal.

In time she took her whole, unedited, for-mature-audiences-only story to others who needed to share their own. She paid attention with intention to what they said regardless of circumstances because that wasn’t the point. What mattered was the freedom shared once the truth was told.

Eventually she found her broken pieces held in place by those connecting stories and now, when she stands back from her own, she sees the beautiful mosaic of her beautiful life.

Broken pieces #1

I’m grateful I get that. I’m grateful I get her. I’m grateful I get the process.

On a daily basis I have the privilege to listen as others empty pockets where they’ve kept their secrets and broken pieces. Through that interaction, I give them, and myself, permission to heal.

Their stories, pasted with mine, lock together what felt broken. We’re bonded by the strong and powerful glue of “me too.”

A Moment to Breathe

Are pieces of you that feel broken? Are you wondering like Humpty Dumpty once did, that if long-held protective parts of you were to fall, could even the greatest of friends and family put you together again? Take a slow deep breath and consider if maybe they aren’t meant to. Maybe the ones who are meant to help are those who will you in the eye to confirm they’ve stood where you stand. Find them. They are out there. All that’s required is to start talking. Those who have what you need will listen, nod, and offer you two words that is the glue to fix your broken pieces. They’ll simply say, “me too.”  

Please, Make it All Better

There are some expressions that grab your heart and won’t let go. These are the messages of desperation. Whether the words are said directly or seen in someone’s eyes, the reaction is immediate. Drop everything and help.

Try not to console a tearful little one whose just-skinned knee or bad dream seems never-ending. Try not to open your heart to tissue-shredding stranger, sitting alone in a hospital waiting room. Try not to pick up the pushed-to-the-floor books owned by that kid who is bullied in school.

teardrop 2

I don’t know about you, but in those tender moments, when eyes are raised to mine that say without words, “please, make it all better,” I just want to crawl into their moment of panic and do just that.

This is the way I felt recently as I sat with a woman who had the remarkable courage to walk through the door of her first recovery meeting.

My connection with her was assured well before she offered a wobbly, brave-fronted description of the circumstances that led to our conversation. I didn’t need convincing that she and I are cut from the same cloth. That look of desperation I not only saw, but felt.

When the situation called for me to share a bit about what first brought me to a room like the one we sat in. Her tears fell in rhythm with my words. Before long, the head-nodding signaled to me her sense of connection was now mutual. When I finished, she raised her head and, through eyes I saw once in my own mirror, silently said, “Please, make it all better.”

As a writer I challenge myself to avoid using the word “it.” Long ago, someone who’s writing career I deeply admire suggested that my reader deserves more from me. She explained that, when tempted by the word “it,” to remember I can’t make the assumption they’ll know what I mean.

However, in this case, I don’t think I need to elaborate for you. I doubt there is any misunderstanding in the context of this situation. Everyone has, at some time in their life, reached a point where no solution seems viable. When someone hits what they believe is their bottom from overuse of some unhealthy substance or behavior, the “it” that brought them to that point doesn’t need further detail.

So, I locked eyes with her and said; “No one has the answer to make your situation better. However, if you are willing, there are a few suggestions that, if you do them one day at a time, you might make things better for yourself.” After a bit more conversation, we shared hug of support. I watched her walk away with, I hope, a desire to return.

I’ll always stop to wipe a small one’s tears, hold space for a friend who received terrible news, and welcome a newcomer with a smile and an open mind because maybe, just maybe, in those non-verbal moments of connection I can help to make it all better.

A Moment to Breathe

Are you silently pleading for someone or something to make things all better? Are you hoping a rescue team is waiting around the corner to hear your plea for help? Perhaps now is the time to take a slow, deep breath and consider if what’s needed is to take an action step. Put meaning to your “it” and share those worries with a trusted friend. Even if they can’t make the “it” all better, they might help you feel less alone while figuring things out together.

Connecting to Disconnecting and Reconnecting

I was recently honored with a request to create a post for The BE Program. This online educational self-help and professionally supported plan focuses on transforming your relationship with food and your body as an access to creating a truly extraordinary life.

Using the compassionate and dedicated leadership of The BE Team, Dr. Jennifer Nardozzi, Dr. Stephanie May and Sara Nowlin, hold the vision for The BE Program to create a world where women are powerful and peaceful in their bodies and their lives.

These women have individually and together profoundly touched my life. I deeply admire their collective wisdom and believe with all my heart they will impact lives of many women for years to come.

I’m grateful to connect with The BE Program community and privileged to share part of my recovery story.  The writing process allowed me time to reconsider the benefits received when I disconnected and then reconnected with myself inside and out.

From Disconnection to Reconnection

I’ve traced back decades to my childhood and have yet to identify a time I felt truly connected with food, my body, and the world around me.

Early memories of any connection with food were as a means of comfort. I deferred my focus to what was on my plate to avoid the day-to-day challenges of an emotionally sensitive little girl.

Even at such a young age, I had grown tired of trying to fit into what I thought others expected of me when I knew deep down I could not. My self-soothing solution was more food than was healthy for a me.

I also struggled with asthma. The racing and erratic efforts to inhale and exhale, coupled with a strong desire to eat in the same manner, kept me from taking those soul-deep breath connections to feel calm and connected with myself.

At the tail end of 7th grade I had enough of the teasing at school about my weight. My parents didn’t know what direction to take so we met with a nutritionist who established my first meal plan. Over the following summer months I refocused my eating habits and food choices so when I walked through the doors at the start of 8th grade, instead of teasing I heard praise.

Right then the light bulb went off.

I immediately connected acceptance and validation to a changed body weight, shape and size. What I didn’t realize was that same moment began my 30+ year disconnection from any healthy relationship with food, body image and the world around me.

During the next three decades I slowly spiraled down a path of twists and turns to assure my outer self met the criteria for praise while my inner self cried in shame. My recipe for self-soothing went beyond behaviors associated with an eating disorder. I also developed a pattern of daily drinking to aid in my need to escape all the negative silent chatter.

In time what had once been just a few drinks to “take the edge off” turned into fully engaged alcoholism. Thankfully a strong, supportive 12-Step recovery program helped me connect with sobriety yet without the additional crutch of alcohol I fell even deeper into my use of unhealthy eating disorder behaviors.

Then in 2008 at the age of 46, I entered an eating disorder residential treatment facility to combat what became a life-threatening situation.

The facility I chose was hundreds of miles from home. I needed to completely disconnect from everyday life so I could reconnect for a holistic, healthy return.

During my three-month stay, I was able to understand why reconnection with food is a process. At the beginning the mere thought I’d suddenly appreciate and enjoy a regular meal schedule seemed absurd. I had yet to understand how unrealistic the notion I’d somehow instantaneously change both body and mind after living for so long in such an unhealthy manner.

Once home, the real recovery work began. I surrounded myself with others who understood and supported the progress I’d made during treatment. This reconnection with friends I thought I’d long-lost helped to maintain accountability for early recovery day-to-day challenges and continue to support me all these years later.

The healing necessary for foundational, sustainable change isn’t just about disconnecting from unhealthy behaviors, but reconnecting with all aspects of life including my own.

 

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