Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Archive for the tag “fear”

The Hallway of Change

Most of us know that change is constant because life is ever-evolving. Some people thirst for change and there are those, like me, who dig heels in deeper with a belief that what’s comfortable is just fine. Why switch from the well-hummed rhythm of daily life to learn something new?

Needed change rarely happens without some level doubt and resistance and silent stories that loop in our head about why change isn’t necessary.

I wrote and rewrote those everything-is-fine stories with hope the end would turn out better than what others predicted.

Sure, I drank too much, ate too little, controlled more than necessary, and stayed purposely silent in shame when I could have spoken my truth. That way of life didn’t make sense to anyone but sure did to me.

I knew what would happen when I engaged in things I shouldn’t and perhaps even more important to me, how to circumvent consequences. That well-choreographed dance of unhealthy behavior went on for years until the curtain went down and no one clapped. Self-destruction does have an encore.

For reasons I can only speculate and now quite grateful for, I grabbed that handle on the door marked change rather than the one which indicated my final resting place.

In truth, I stood at the door that promised change for a while. I thought a spec of courage would be enough. I fiddled with the doorknob only to drop my hand. I lingered there until one day I coupled courage with willingness and turned the latch all the way. I’d be a liar if I said there wasn’t part of me that hoped a lock would keep me from what I feared. However, once change comes calling in a way I can’t deny, no lock will keep me stuck.

What I didn’t know then but I certainly do know is, an immediate change wasn’t on the other side. Just because I passed through the door wasn’t a guarantee of something different. That much-needed step out from the fog of fear only led to the hallway of change, not into a complete change that I presumed would meet me there.

Although I could see a door in the distance, I couldn’t yet understand what the attached sign read. I considered a turn back or even investigation into a side door of escape. Yet, what echoed in my ear was that if I did, all the misery and shame and loneliness and fear I once felt would return in an instant.

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So, there I stood, listening to the whispers hope and suggestions sprinkled like raindrops from kind and patient people who surrounded me. At times I shut my eyes tight, crossed every finger, and prayed that one of those people would take those hallway steps for me. I learned that’s not how the process works.

Personal change is an inside job, not someone else’s outside fix.

I breathed in what others suggested and embraced any required work for the change I desired. In time, I reached that once distant door only to face even more hallways and farther doors.

Matter of fact, I’m in one of those hallways right now. Even with years of practical experience that proved perseverance, willingness, and asked for help are the means to get from one end of the to the other, I still do not like being in the hallway of change. Not at all.

I feel like a newcomer in recovery, searching for that easier, softer, way toward a hoped-for sense of comfort in new surroundings. I find myself inspecting crevices of the hallway for a quick solution for my unease. Funny how I act even though I learned long ago that what I want, isn’t always what I need.

So, I pause. I find a welcoming spot in that hallway. I breathe. I look around. I listen. I wait. I listen a little harder. Then, when I feel a bit more confident in my next right step, I’ll make my way closer to that distant door.

I may not get there right away and that’s okay. What’s important is that I pay close attention to what I learn along the way. Once embedded, those nuggets of wisdom will influence my approach when life presents me with the unexpected and I find myself in another hallway of change.

A Moment to Breathe

Are you standing at a door of change? Are you hesitating? Maybe you turned the handle and now stand between the door you closed and the one that offers something new. Before you do anything, breathe. Slow your thoughts. Breathe again. Remember, whatever you face, wherever you are, this is not what you’ll face or where you’ll be forever. Put your focus on that next right indicated and head down that hall. Breathe again. You’re on your way. 

I’m interested in how you answer the above questions and if this post influenced your perspective. Feel free to leave me a comment below or share the post with your thoughts via a preferred social media site.

 

This is Just Your Right Now, Not Your Forever

I’m so ashamed.

I hate being here.

I miss him.

She hates me.

That hurts.

I can’t let that go.

I’m so embarrassed.

Why me?

Why not me?

I failed.

I’m scared.

I feel so alone.

I want to go home.

I don’t know what to do.

Those sentences, and many like them, reflect a time when I found myself tangled up in an inability to control what I wished I could. Those moments of sharp-edged emotions seared clean through me. I believed there was no other choice than to grit my teeth and hang on tight.

Time stood still when I didn’t know whether what was happening would end soon, or if what I expected might arrive. Fear, embarrassment, rejection, and shame paralyzed me. I searched for anything that offered a quick-fix release of those feelings. While today I have healthy, reliable, proven options to recalibrate and course-correct negative thinking, that certainly wasn’t always so.

For decades, I relied on an untreated addiction to instant relievers. From a never-ended glass of wine to a sketchy relationship with food to manipulation and lies, the examples of their use are endless. I glossed over what hurt with what helped me believe I wasn’t.

Yet the day came when the magic of that immediate gratification stopped. The consequences of them became unavoidable. I had no choice but to feel the pain and shame and unbearable truth of what I hoped I could avoid.

Then, someone said something that shifted my perspective. The following words helped, and still helps, to exhale when I don’t even realize I’m holding my breath.

“Alison, this is just your right now, not your forever.”  

That sage suggestion brings about an immediate sense of calm. I’m reminded that what I feel in any given moment is not how I’ll feel next year, next month or, maybe even within a few minutes. Every blink of the eye and beat of the heart offer opportunities for reconsideration or alternative perspective. We never know when an overheard word, a small gesture, or note of music might bring about an ah-hah moment that could help push away an unwanted feeling and bring about change.

You can get through this

However, even after all these years I’ve heard and reminded people about right now versus forever, I sometimes forget their value. The list of examples whereby this wisdom saved my sanity is long and ever-growing. Even as I type this, situations are simmering that require I repeat those words in a mantra-like fashion.

Seems when emotions run high, what makes sense runs low. This is why I surround myself with people who help me find that middle ground. They remind of the importance that I feel every feeling I once ran from.

I don’t run. I stand strong because I now know that whatever hurts, scares, or belittles me, they are only my right now, not my forever.

A Moment to Breathe

What causes your fear of the truth? Are you reaching for things that offer a quick fix? Will a short-term choice lead to a long-term consequence? Before you do anything, take a slow deep breath. Take another. Is there another option? Can you acknowledge that what you feel right now won’t last forever? If you doubt that’s possible, try this tactical example. Find a pen and piece of paper. Jot down what you’re feeling and the circumstances that led you there. Tuck that piece of paper away and make a note to re-read what you wrote a few days from now. My sense is, the truth will be revealed that how you once felt about that situation changed. Practical experience is our best teacher.  

 I’d love your thoughts on this topic. Please leave a message below or feel free to share this post with your practical experience via a 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.

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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. 

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.

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