Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the tag “insight”

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. 

 

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.

 

 

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

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.

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.

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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.

Recovery Isn’t A Self-Help Program

Imagine if you could wake up one day with answers to all your problems. In theory that would be ideal. In reality that will never happen.

Yet for some reason I tried very hard for a very long time to do just that. Each plate of food pushed away certified I was in control of things. Each glass of wine put to my lips fortified the belief I could not only solve my issues but yours too. I’d find the answers. I’d orchestrate the solution. I’d be my own “go to” person.

Yet inevitably the day came when there were no more answers, solutions, or overall direction. I had no idea where to turn because I’d shut out everyone who tried to offer input.

For reasons I may never know, I did listen to one person. She pointed me toward the door that led me to my recovery.

Yet old habits don’t die easily. Always a rather strong-willed woman, those early days in recovery were rough. I wasn’t all that thrilled with the idea I’d no longer be in charge or able to forge my way to overcome addiction. All my defiance led me to a solid understanding of a very simple fact.

Recovery is not a self-help program.

Period. Full stop.

I need the insight and practical experience wisdom of people who walked the same path so I can better understand myself and the world around me.

This is why I really enjoy spending time in conversation with women whose recovery I deeply admire. There’s a rhythm to the words we share, bending and weaving though things like, what’s new to what’s causing emotional disconnect to what’s really going on. Collective solutions offered in teamwork fashion are often quite calming even if the subject matter does not pertain to me specifically.

I’ve learned recovery isn’t just about giving up an unhealthy behavior or two. The process of recovery includes accepting the idea other people not only want but actually can guide me through this thing called life.

Recovery is not a self help program

I need help to unwind the truth from what I’ve long tried to defend, deny or deflect. The wise friends who create my ever-growing circle of support wrap me in a warm blanket of wisdom, woven together using individual pieces of practical experience.

When in the middle of uncertainty, fear, or unsettling feelings I tend to shut down and hide in my head. Unless I open my heart to the people who have proven their trust these vulnerable times can feel never-ending.

Here are few examples when I’ve felt this way.

  • The first days, weeks, months without alcohol and with proper nourishment
  • Sitting in a funeral home trying to make sense a loved one’s untimely passing
  • Emotionally difficult discussions with a loved one
  • Hearing a doctor deliver difficult words
  • Waiting for a response to confirm or deny if what I’ve written is worthwhile

When I’m in the throes of emotional confusion, my impulse reaction is to escape the uncomfortable, sweaty palm, hand-wringing state. Many moons ago my solution was several glasses of wine without much food. The mental numbing I’d experience gave me the illusion of short-term relief yet there was always, and I mean always, even more layers of disconnect and insecurity.

Today I have other far healthier options to support me if I find myself setting unattainable expectations, over-thinking the smallest of details, or projecting what may never be. One such option is the choice to turn to those who once stood where I stand. The suggestions they offer allow me to widen my perspective and I receive their input with gratitude rather than resentment.

While recovery is not a self-help program, the program certainly does helps the self.

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A Moment to Breathe …

Are you still struggling to maintain control of your recovery or move forward via an unguided path? Are you desperately hoping a plan of self-regulation will help to avoid the perceived rough-edged requirements others have suggested? If so, you might want to try talking with those who have the kind of recovery you long for. While no one has the ability to “fix” you, there are so many reasons to believe they just might help you.

 

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