Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the tag “blessings”

Grateful for What I Wanted to Forget

You know those storage boxes neatly stacked in your closet, against the walls of your basement, or in your garage? If you’re anything like me, you usually pass them without notice. Even if they sometimes grab our attention and the idea of going through them seems wise, our minds search for something else, scratch that, anything else as a better option.

Yet the other day, for reasons I know now but didn’t then, I gave those boxes a second glance. Hours later I found myself surrounded by the contents of ones marked Treatment & Recovery, or painful reminders of the woman I once was. Page after page documented the truth that I didn’t have a firm grasp of how to navigate life. Back then I desperately wanted something different I just didn’t know how to find my way. I tried everything I could think of to change.

As I rummaged through preciously kept letters, medical reports, and personal notes that verify the reality of what was, I wondered why I held on to such things. Perhaps I packed them away to conceal my victim story. Maybe I kept them from eyesight to symbolically erase the need to acknowledge what I’d done to distance myself from those who love me.

However based on the need to tilt my head so tears that blurred my reading could fall, I hope subconsciously I thought one day these precious reminders would lead me to feel an amazing sense of gratitude. If that was the case, mission accomplished.

Of course some details clearly written in black are sharply remembered and some seem gently reassuring. Yet they all prove one thing, what I went through then was necessary to become what I need now.

My marriage, then dangling by a thread, is now strong and grounded in partnership.

My finances, then in disarray between what insurance didn’t cover and the work I didn’t have, are now comfortable and provide what I need.

My relationships with others, then distant or non-existent, are now strong and mutually beneficial.

As I sat atop a self-created paper carpet with tear-stained tissues clutched in my hand, I reflected on other marvelous things that resulted because I chose recovery instead of death even if still alive. From the first day I asked for help my progress back to health was slow and steady. Inch by inch, day by day, often breath by breath I progressed based on suggested steps that worked for others. The formation of these boxes served as indication of change from a life of chaos and shame to one that makes sense.

If the top-of-the-hour rhythmic bell from my old-fashioned clock hadn’t chimed, I’d still be there now. However time marches on and so do I.

I placed the top back on the last box and thought that while the mental trip through my past was not intentional, the diversion was purposeful. Those words, written when I had no idea what would happen next, now ignite my compassion for the woman who sits alone wondering how to shift away from the mess of her life.

Those papers mark my entry to transformation and now they serve as reference guides. When women quietly share the same things I once felt, I easily connect with their confusion, denial, fear, anger, sadness, shame, guilt, remorse, deflection, deflation and barely recognizable traces of hope.

I tell them why I clung to the last and worked on the rest.

I’ve learned that recovery is possible and quite probable for anyone willing to examine their past because doing so unveils lessons for their future.

If they do, maybe one day they’ll unpack boxes and feel grateful for what they now would rather forget.

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A Moment to Breathe…

What’s inside the boxes you walk past? Are you avoiding the contents because of what they contain?  Do you fear the memories will prove painful or more than you believe you can bear? Take a moment to breathe and reconsider if what’s inside might ignite encouragement for how far you’ve come, what you’ve accomplished, or what you’ve overcome. The possibility that hope resides in those boxes collecting dust seems thrilling. Who knows, maybe that’s just the hope you might share with someone today.    

11.24.15 Blog Option #1

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. 

Learning Lessons I’d Eventually Need to Teach

Before I sought help to address how much I drank and how little I ate, I practiced self-pity on a daily basis. The moment my alarm went off in the morning I’d find reason to validate why the world was an unfair and unjust place to exist.

I’d quickly consider the next available innocent victim who could fuel my insatiable need to validate why people and situations were intentionally trying to ruin me. Back then if you gave me a minute of your time I’d take an hour. Endless dramatic tales tumbled from my mouth layered with rationale and reasoning why everything and everyone kept me from the kind of life I expected.

I remember how rejected I felt when suddenly my phone calls weren’t returned or a conversation awkwardly changed subject. I couldn’t understand and silently questioned what friends were for. Aren’t they supposed to always help me when my chips were down? How rude to think their lives are so much better than mine and couldn’t be bothered with my issues.

In those days if you acted that way toward me, I would return the favor times ten. If you turned your back on me, well then you’d forever see only my back. That’s just the way I rolled. Took me years to understand that cavalier attitude coupled with a belief I had control over those relationships was nothing more than an illusion. In truth I had no control. I simply couldn’t see how my nonstop whining and complaining drained people. For the kind souls who stuck around longer than most, my endless resistance to suggestions they offered eventually pushed them away too.

Thank God there was one person who still took my calls. What started off as yet another self-pitying sob-fest ended up being the call I’d long needed to make. I had no idea what asking for help meant or where that would lead me. I didn’t care. I just wanted out of the horrific situation I’d landed in. I had yet to accept a need for addiction recovery because that would mean never drinking again or controlling the number on a scale. However when I made that particular phone call I would have done or said just about anything to rise from the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual bottom I’d reached.

All I wanted was to forget what had happened and move on. I had no desire to recap my actions with a complete stranger and I most certainly was not going to talk about what I thought. Just point me in the direction to learn how to drink normally and eat without altering the clothes I liked wearing.

I wasn’t sent to that class. Instead I found myself directed to a place where people allowed me to vent but would not allow me to wallow in the problem. I thought I’d hear things like, “Oh honey, why of course you drank and didn’t eat. Under those circumstances, what other choice did you have?” Instead I heard, “Oh is that all? Yeah, I felt the same way and did the same things but they never helped.  Matter of fact, my best thinking got me here.”

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As much as I tried to find them, there were no innocent victims willing to validate why having a drink or controlling what number appeared on a scale could ease the pain I was feeling.

The days of dressing up for a pity party were lessening to the degree people continued to ask what benefit I got from hearing my wild narratives. In time I learned to stand on my own two feet rather than my tales of woe. I found great value from reconsidering situations from a perspective other than mine.

Fast forward many 24 hours without a drink or the need to control my body weight, shape and size. These days I try to live according to what I believe makes for a peaceful, caring and compassionate co-existence with other people. I do my best as a supportive wife, friend, sister, daughter and co-worker.

Yet life has an interesting way of bringing me back to the very place I once stood. Only now I often stand on the other side. Today I’m given opportunities to experience the person I was through the words and actions of someone else.

When those situations appear at my doorstep I’m not facing a resurgence of regret and shame for how selfishly I behaved. Instead I feel a deep desire to thank the people who walked away, changed the subject or stopped taking my calls.

For the most part I hang in there with people who continuously try to attain validation I won’t give. I believe I have a responsibility to keep my hand outstretched for those who may want to shift from an addiction-fueled existence to a life that makes sense. I simply can’t look the other way when someone is clearly in need of help. However sometimes the help they need may not include me.

There are times when I need clarity about the kind of support I’m offering. Am I helping or hindering? Am I enabling or encouraging? These are important questions to ask, perhaps the very same ones people who cut me off asked themselves long ago.

I now know I needed people to disengage with me. Had they not I would have continued my search for even the slightest degree of sympathy and validation for another drink or another step on the scale to confirm I remained in control.

A week ago I was unexpectedly reminded of my manipulative days. I found myself in a situation whereby I made an extremely difficult yet necessary decision to gently move away from someone who asked for help as continuously as she found reason to keep on doing what she’d been doing.

After receiving yet another of the hundreds of alcohol-induced phone calls from this woman, I heard a click of the phone confirming she’d hung up on me. In that moment of deafening silence I felt pushed one inch too far.

I felt a strong sting from her behavior perhaps to experience precisely how I had treated others so many years ago. I wondered if I now faced having to make the very same kind of decision they did, one which ultimately saved my life.

Unsure of what I could be my next right step, I chose to calmly separate myself from the situation and thoroughly consider my options.

As I often do in these moments of uncertainty, I called the one woman who knows me better than I know myself. After sharing a detailed review of what occurred she helped me realize the conversations with my friend were clearly not in anyone’s best interest. If she stood by her intention to make a change, something needed changing.

I circled back to my friend whose words were once my own. I clearly yet calmly stated she reconsider what has long been suggested and seek the help she professed to want.

I willingly let go so she might grab hold of the same freedom from addiction I’d experienced all those years ago.

Perhaps she’ll soon learn the very lessons I now have the privilege and honor to teach.

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A Moment to Breathe….

Are you helping or hindering someone’s recovery?  Are you finding yourself caught up in the need to fix, manage and control?  Are you willing to let someone go for them to get well?  Can you disengage with love to maintain your own sense of self?  Have you had to answer these often very difficult questions?  How did you navigate these rough-edged situations?  Please post your stories here or as a comment when sharing this blog on your favorite social media network.  

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