Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the tag “Mid-Life Recovery”

Befriending Fear-Based Gratitude

Last week my brain experienced a head-on crash.

From one direction came grief on the date of my older brother’s birth. He died way too young and far too soon. From the other direction came the heart-breaking news a dear friend with long-term sobriety had relapsed.

Like an EMT first on the scene, I assessed the situation of mental mayhem and thought-strewn debris. Initial instinct was I focus my attention out instead of in.

After a deep breath and bit of prayer, I sought guidance from a woman whose recovery I admire. She suggested I launch into the initial protocol for someone in relapse. I took those actions only to receive no response.

The implied denial and resistance evoked all kinds of emotion within me. I know there are absolutely no guarantees for this kind of thing. The monster of addiction lurks around every corner just waiting to grab hold in moments of vulnerability. This means no matter what weapon I yield the demons surrounding someone else are not mine to overcome.

I’ve known this truth for years yet I simply cannot deny the human element. I do care and I am sad and yes, really scared. Even though I believe we have a Higher Power watching over us I’m just as fallible as the next person. The God I pray to will allow me room for question and doubt, welcoming me to experience feelings of heartbreak as I bear witness to another loved one falling prey to the monster I abhor.

What amazes me most is when the dust settles I feel grateful for this experience. Is that selfish? Is this perceived benefit stemming from someone else’s pain and shame and guilt and remorse somehow wrong? I don’t think so.

Just like my brother’s death, my friend’s relapse is a not-so-gentle reminder of what can happen if I start to think the very basics of what has kept me in a healthy place don’t make sense anymore.

These instances of fear-laced gratitude catapult me back to core principles such as honesty, faith, integrity, acceptance, humility, and service. I consider how, when stemmed from desperation, I finally became willing to take suggestions and subsequent action. I thank God I surrounded myself with people who offered me direction and guidance when I had none at all.

when its too much

No one has the answer for someone in addiction hell. All anyone offer is an answer or what worked for them and now provides practical experience for others.

I hope my friend in struggle gives me an opportunity to share what helps me when I feel off-balance and why I push myself to remember sacrifices made when I chose alcohol and the scale over vacations and celebrations. I’d remind us both of the sorrow and pain I could not share with friends and family because I feared their judgment more than I feared the long-term consequences of my health.

I’d verbally recall what I missed when physically present but mentally lost. Countless moments my mind would drift from what was right in front of me to panic and fear-based anxiety. I’d shut down to avoid what I thought required of me. Those silent sometimes paralyzing feelings took precedence over people, places, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

If those recollections don’t ignite a perspective shift, I’d divulge the truth of how I didn’t fail others nearly as much as I failed myself. Even today as I promote the ideas to focus forward, pay forward, and move forward, I am equally prone to question my choices and consider when I’ve failed myself.

I’d finish by reminding my friend the very same thing I tell myself every day. The only thing I’m assured of is what’s right in front of me. The decisions I make in the moment have tremendous impact on how I’ll feel hours from now. Choices and the consequences are mine, good or bad.

Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to say some of this. Until then I’ll let the dust of destruction and chaos settle to allow me grace and befriend my fear-laced gratitude.

A Moment to Breathe..

Have you had the bone-chilling experience to witness people’s negative consequences only to realize you were somehow spared from the very same? Is there a lesson to learn in that universe-provided mirror? After a deep breath and strong exhale, jot down what comes to mind. As your gratitude emerges please consider leaving a comment below or share this post and your experience via your favorite social media site. 

“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.

 

Turning Point: A Beginning or An End?

Have you stood at a turning point in life and wondered how you got there? At this stage haven’t we experienced enough of life to instinctively know which way is best? Why, after so many breathing hours, do we feel utterly paralyzed when in that spot of uncertain decision-making?

If you’re anything life me turning points are where I’m asked to ready myself for the end of one thing to begin something new.  Truth is, I’m not a big fan of ending what I thought was working for me nor do I welcome the start of something new because I don’t like uncertainty and change.

However when I stood at my most significant turning points I was acutely aware they showed up to save my life.

I had to end the way in which I was leading my everyday in order to assure there would be another one.

Let me explain.

Thirteen years ago just after the morning sun rose, I sat alone in my bedroom with a glass of wine in hand wondering if my husband’s request I be gone when he got home was for real. I stood up, walked to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize what I saw in the glass.

I was at a powerful turning point.  I needed to either continue down the deceitful path as an active alcoholic and lose everything emotionally important to me, or turn the other way and get the help I couldn’t give myself.

I turned down the path of help and didn’t look back.  I chose to end what I feared I couldn’t do without to begin what I feared I could not do.

Six years later after decades of struggling with food and body image issues I walked past another piece of glass reflecting back a woman I couldn’t comprehend as me.  In that instant I woke up to how the nutritional choices I’d made (or lack thereof) year after year had taken a tremendous toll.

I was at another equally powerful turning point.  Either try to un-see what I saw or become willing to do the work I intuitively knew was necessary to get well.

My life today proves I chose wisely.

However life doesn’t stop placing me at turning points just because I made a few right turns!

Each day there’s opportunity for me to choose to condemn rather than praise, fester in resentment rather than accept situations for what they are, make assumptions rather than ask pertinent questions, or worse turn my head to what needs my attention.

I’ve learned the changes I need to live authentically won’t occur if I wobble with trepidation and fear down a new path.  I need to remain willing to keep going because if I do, change willingly comes toward me.

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A Moment to Breathe….

Are you standing at a turning point in your life?  Are you resisting a decision that scares you?  What’s holding you back?  Just for today maybe you cease analyzing, projecting and fearing what lies ahead long enough to realize why you’re standing at the turning point in the first place.  Is there something you need to learn where you stand?  Often by acknowledging what keeps us stuck is the very thing we need to get unstuck! Feel free to leave a comment here or share via your favorite social media network.

The Ring

A few months ago a staff member of the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Community Outreach program contacted me to write an article for publication in their Parents Family Network magazine, Making Connections. The subject matter was intimacy and eating disorders.

Although I’m not one to share rather personal information, I accepted the offer believing some aspect of this topic would spring to mind. In a haze of contemplation I found myself mindlessly staring at my wedding rings when all of a sudden the winds of wisdom blew through me. Suddenly my fingers flew rapidly over the computer keyboard like a well-choreographed dance to create what was eventually titled, “The Ring”.

I thought I’d share the original piece here as I believe the message is worth repeating.

Intimacy is a connection; a sense of silent knowing of the thoughts and feelings of another which radiates from deep in the heart. 

This winter was a never-ending request for patience. Mother Nature’s relentless cast of wicked weather caused many in my neighborhood to stay indoors and fall prey to the drying effects of recycled heat.

Each night during our somewhat forced hibernation, I applied lotion to my moisture-deprived hands. One such evening my husband asked if I’d apply some of the healing salve to his hands to help relieve dry skin and some tension. I smiled in agreement as I carefully removed his wedding band from his finger to our nightstand, as lotion can play havoc on jewelry.

The next morning I noticed his ring was still there. In split second timing, I felt an immediate rush of emotion race through my heart. The pang I felt was not for the day I slid the gold band on his finger, but the day he slid the ring off.

I took a deep breath, sat down on the side of the bed, closed my eyes, and remembered the time I thought our marriage was doomed.

Before I found the courage to face the truth behind my eating disorder, my life was nothing more than a string of lies stretching from one person to the next, with me in the middle. I lied about my lies, praying to keep everything straight. What did I tell people I ate? How can I get out of the dinner party we’re supposed to attend? Can I delegate myself to run the mid-day business meeting while everyone else eats lunch? Is there a way to excuse myself from our aunt’s dinner table to find out what her scale tells me?

My need to control my body weight, shape, and size became far more important than how my actions could affect others. I didn’t know how to exist without being in charge of when a fork met my lips.

Aside from me, the person who suffered severe consequences of the eating disorder was my husband. After thousands of second chances and promises I’d eat better, in 2008 he told me very calmly yet clearly that I needed to leave our house and get help. Although I tried to peer through his emotionless eyes, I could not see the compassion I’d relied on for years. He had enough of my lies and, in my mind, me.

So at the age of 46 I entered a residential treatment facility hundreds of miles from home. One of the recommendations was to engage my husband in family therapy. Knowing he was not one to talk about his feelings as well as his less-than-enthusiastic thoughts about me, I suggested including him would be a rather bad idea. Thankfully my therapist had previously encountered situations like ours and asked if she might contact my husband to convince him otherwise.

After about an hour, which felt like a thousand, she reported that he was willing to help but was very clear about the boundaries he required. He wanted assurance she would manage expectations for my return home. Although the challenge to heal both myself and my marriage was daunting, I was determined to recover them equally.

Three months later I emerged a renewed woman, anxious to celebrate the new “me” with my husband. The merriment soon faded when I noticed his left hand was bare. Over the years the only time he would remove his ring was to play golf. The snow on the ground was a good indicator the band was not in his golf bag.

The explanation I received for the ring removal is one I hope never to hear repeated; what the ring represented to him wasn’t true anymore. The words pierced my heart like a hot knife through butter. I melted in shame, fear and disconnect.

I realized there was nothing I could do other than commit to my healthy recovery. Every day, I followed the suggestions of my nutritionist and therapist, while staying connected to like-minded people striving for a similar transformation.

In time, my consistently healthy actions spoke louder than any words I could have  strung together. The circle of trust our wedding rings represent re-emerged, leading to the replacement of the precious gold band on my husband’s finger.

Coming back to where I sat on the edge of my bed, a tear fell slowly down my cheek as my eyes opened. I grabbed the ring from the nightstand and walked to where my husband was reading the morning paper. When I gently slid the gold band back on his finger he turned to me and said, “I knew something was missing. I’m so glad it’s not you.”

I cherish the intimate connection we share, offering words spoken in silence through things like the touch of a hand or a circle of gold.

Lessons Learned in the Curves

For a very long time only straight line solutions existed for me. When I’d worn out a pair of shoes I got new ones. When I the guy I was dating started showing signs he wasn’t good for me I’d break up with him while seeking another. When the car ran out of gas I’d stop to refuel.

In other words, acknowledge the problem, solve immediately, and move on.

Surely this same systematic route would be the way I’d overcome alcoholism and an eating disorder. My “problem-solution-move on” theory of navigating life would be the plan. However what I found was, yes I had a problem, yes there was (and still is) a solution and yes I would move on. The only difference was no one would guarantee me that path would be a straight line.

Thankfully I stepped forward on the trail anyway. Fast forward many 24 hours of one-day-at-a-time later and I’m here to report we learn our best lessons in the curves.

The road to Heart tree

I’ve experienced countless bends, some wider and rougher than others. Here are a few I moved through early on.

Curve #1: When I received my now cherished book of direction, I was also given a recommendation to read only the words written in black if I wanted answers to overcome my problem. Wonderful! I opened the book, went right to the table of contents, found a chapter titled “How It Works”, and flipped to that section. I assumed everything written before was just research-y stuff that wasn’t necessary for me to review. I figured wrong. Not only was I wildly confused by the language (explained in previous chapters), the solution the chapter title claimed to offer was not clearly defined.

Course Correction: As someone suggested, I talked with a woman who seemed to have a life that made sense without the use of unhealthy coping behaviors. Per her gentle yet firm direction I circled back and read that book from the very first page behind the cover. I’ve since read and reread the pages with intention, willingness and gratitude. I continue to find words that shift my perspective and overwhelm me with hope.

Curve #2: People told me if I followed the guidelines posted on the wall at support group meetings, I’d find the kind of freedom I sought. Great! I reviewed the directions listed, determined which were inapplicable and silently calculated when I’d be done with the whole thing. I’d soon learn time was (and still is) irrelevant and to date, few who have found themselves free from addiction consider themselves “done.”

Course correction: I shared my skip-to-the-finish-line plan with those whose recovery I still admire. Their reaction was quite clear. If my goal was to attain foundational change and sustainable growth I’d be best served to take my time and not skip anything. I’ve since learned the value of slowing down, easing back on the recovery throttle, and continuing my studies of the true intention behind the words on the wall.

Curve #3: I believed I could do this recovery thing all by myself. I had no fight left in me to defend why and how I’d messed up my life. I figured with a good read of the book I was given there would be no reason for me to share the truth about who I was, what I’d been doing with my life and why I felt so hopeless. Then one day all that changed when someone said, “Yeah, I thought I could do this thing on my own until I realized my best thinking got me here.

Course Correction:  After several attempts to say something during a support group meeting I suddenly heard my voice betraying a long-held confidence. In a split-second, shuttering moment I braced myself for the request I step out of the room because what I said was too horrific for anyone’s ears. Instead I looked around and saw nodded heads offering words like, “me too” and “you’re in the right place.” When tears started steaming down my cheek I heard what I hope to never forget, “Don’t worry Alison, we’re going to love you until you learn to love yourself.” That was a stand-still moment which is forever embedded in my heart. Those generous, supportive, compassionate words taught me recovery is not a self-help program.

Although the twists and turns have often felt dizzying, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I can’t wait to experience the next life bend because in every curve is a lesson I’ve yet to learn.

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A Moment to Breathe …

What has helped you to course correct a venture off your path?  What lessons have you learned along those curves?  Feel free to leave a message here or as a comment when sharing this post via your favorite social network.  

What’s Really Meant When Saying “Yes, but…”

I recently called a friend to talk with her about a choice I needed to make. I’ve learned through the program of recovery how valuable perspective beyond my own helps assure I’ll do the next right thing.

However there are times, like this one, when I already know what I want to do yet I go through the motions anyway.

Bad idea.

Sure enough things didn’t pan out the way I had wanted. When I ran into my friend, I had to fess up about the result. This is pretty much how that conversation went:

FRIEND:  So how did everything work out?

ME:  The outcome wasn’t so great. I went ahead with my original idea.

FRIEND:  I thought you agreed to go in the other direction.

ME:  Well yes, but…

What I said after the word but proved irrelevant because the quasi-rationale I offered served no other purpose than to weakly justify why I did what I did.

To note, this is not new behavior for me. Several years ago I treated myself to a recovery renewal weekend at the center where I sought treatment for alcoholism. The focus of the weekend was to look deeper into our own recovery process and uncover areas that needed improvement.

A man I highly respect for his acute insight and interesting perspective led one of the more powerful sessions. When I had an opportunity to share a bit about myself, this man I admired interrupted me mid-sentence and asked I stop talking, stand up and begin again.

As a slow-to-change perfectionist, I stood up, took a deep breath and launched back into my story. After uttering about four sentences, he stopped me again. This time he asked I take three physical steps backward.

Admittedly I began to wonder if this guy wasn’t actually nuts and not such a genius after all. However out of respect I did what he asked. I took three steps back and waited for my next instruction. When there was nothing but silence I turned to face the man I questioned and saw him smiling back at me. He took a deep breath and said, “Alison, many times in your story you reference saying “yes but” when others were trying to help you. What happened when you said those words was you moved away from what the universe was pulling you toward.

Yep, I was right.  This guy is a genius.

YES BUT with crossout

Thinking back when I was actively drinking, many people feared for my life as they watched my actions become dangerously unhealthy. Countless times they gently (or not so gently) suggested I consider sobriety. My response was often something like “Well maybe, but I’m under so much stress at work and a few drinks takes the edge off”, or “I guess, but at least I don’t drink as much as some other people.

Eventually I paid more attention to the words I needed to hear and got sober.

A few years later when the behaviors associated with an eating disorder escalated, those same people expressed concern. Once again I found myself in the throes of the “Yes, but…” verbal dance, clutching to the hope whatever I cobbled together in the latter part of that statement would somehow convince others I didn’t need help. I said things like, “I know I should take a break for lunch, but I’m swamped with work and don’t have time” or “I typically eat more for dinner, but I had a big lunch.

When I finally realized I could no longer convince anyone, including myself, why denying my body proper nutrition made sense, I sought the help I needed.

After a great deal of time reviewing my past I’ve come to understand anything I said after the word but kept me stuck in a complicated and dangerous web of deception, lies and isolation.

I’m not alone.

Very often people try desperately to make sense of what they’d rather resist. The “yes, but…” crossroad phrase is said to offset small changes needing to be made and sometimes when faced with critical, heartfelt decisions.

One such experience took place when by brother was kept alive by machines after he suffered a heart attack and subsequent brain injury. In a closed-door meeting, several highly acclaimed doctors suggested our family consider his quality of life if he remained in that state. Out of fear and clinging to any vestige of hope, most of the family responded, “I understand, but what if you tried something else?” Looking back there was a strong belief whatever followed but would be a viable reason to avoid the kind of decision no one wants to make.

Ultimately we each heard our own inner voice of reason, yielding to enough acceptance of the situation to simply say, “I understand.” No further words were necessary.

I suppose that’s the bottom line. When I find myself using the some variation of the phrase “Well yes, but”, I’m actually trying to justify why I don’t want to do, think, or say what’s rational, reasonable, and sound.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this very same thing or maybe you’re thinking, “She might be right, but…

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A Moment to Breathe…

Think about the last time you found yourself trying to justify questioned behavior. Did the “Yes, but …” statement find a way into your conversation? Can you now recognize the words said prior could have led to a better choice? Leave a comment below or when sharing this post on your favorite social network.    

 

Peeling Back the Layers

When I was young, I was fascinated by the Matryoshka dolls or the Russian nesting doll sets. I enjoyed discovering one the little wooden figure inside another. According to tradition the outer layer of the set is a woman and the smallest, innermost doll is the baby.

Matryoshka doll Image 1

Little did I know this would be my experience moving through the process of recovery; peeling back the layers of my adult self to reveal what has been fully, solidly true for me from the beginning.

When I said the words, “I need help” I was actually pulling apart the first doll, the outer “grown up” protective version of me who dared never let anyone know who I really was. The stubborn, stop-at-nothing-to-get-my-way, willful and power-hungry me would dodge emotional inquisition with an abrupt turn of the heel or twist of the shoulder assuring no one could get too close. If by chance someone did, I’d swiftly pull my protective shield tighter so my tears and pain of not being understood, accepted and valued wouldn’t be seen. The tighter the shield the louder the messages in my head.

Never let them see you break.

Head high.

Power on.

Have a drink to relax.

No one will notice.

Skip the meal.

Shrink from the truth.

Never let them pull you apart.

Oh how I resisted being pulled apart. I had no idea how much I needed to shed layers to open up and understand how and why the real me could emerge and be free.

In a very profound sense, I had to peel myself all the way back to the solid center where I might reconsider stories I told myself through the years about what a successful life would look like. The process was not easy, fast or in a straight line. The foundational changes I’ve been able to achieve were born from devoted attention to the next right step toward a life that makes sense.

Those who have bravely walked this recovery path before me advised eventually more would be revealed to me about me. I initially feared the idea because I simply could not imagine going any deeper than I already had.

Yet as time goes on I’m finding there is more, much more. There’s one particular story I’ve recently found myself having to reconsider.

This is the story I’d long told myself about money.

Yes, financial layers are tricky and often transparent. One yields security, one status. Another offers shelter and then another, identity. So what happens when these layers begin to shed?

I’ll tell you what can happen. Just like the realization I could change the story I told myself about needing alcohol on a daily basis or why I had to obsessively manipulate the size and shape of my body, I’m finding I can move beyond the story I’d told myself about money and what is real worth.

Do not misunderstand! I am not suggesting I enjoy the daily discussions in the kitchen about what we can do without. This is not the preferred breakfast table conversation but the necessary one. I don’t like this particular phase of the life I share with my husband but I know from experience what I don’t like might very well be just be what I need.

If the absolute miracle of overcoming an unhealthy need for alcohol and a body size and shape not intended for me was possible, I am more than willing to peel back another layer revealing the truth about what I actually need to feel financially sound.

Makes me wonder what’s inside the next little Matryoshka doll of my life. Armed with gratitude for what’s been revealed so far, I can’t wait to find out.

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A Moment to Breathe ….

What feels challenging for you today?  What layer are you resisting to pull back?  Are you afraid of what might be revealed or are you willing to take a look?  Are you actually protecting yourself or holding yourself back?  Please offer your thoughts here or via your favorite social network by clicking one of the links to share this blog.  

Want Sustainable Change? Stop Resolving and Start Intending.

Since the calendar flipped to 2014, we’ve gone from proclaiming grand resolutions for personal change to licking wounds of defeat for failing to meet them.

For a very long time I was one of those people. In what would seem like an instant I’d go from creating expectations starting with I have to, I will or I must to reluctantly recanting those plans. Slowly but surely I’d use convincing words to anyone within earshot about how such extremes were unnecessary or why the time wasn’t right to do them. Like most people, I thought only in very black and white terms when I sought change. If I couldn’t achieve the level of transformation initially desired, I’d lessen the goal or walk away completely.

A really interesting aspect of this annual resolution-making dance for most people is, within the same breath of firm commitment would be a silent strategy for letdown. I remember feeling comforted knowing others shared the predicted inability to remain accountable for behavior modification. However there was one very big difference between me and most other people.  Back then I was completely ill-equipped for the emotional reactions associated with real or perceived failure.

Why did I allow this to happen year after year? Why was I wildly unaware of the definition of insanity as I most certainly ended up doing the same things year over year expecting different results. While I’m not in any position to claim I’m completely sane today, I have found a way to end this every-twelve-month game of tease.

I stopped making resolutions with expectations to change and started setting intentions to work my way toward change.

I resolve to with eraser

When I became willing to claim my seat in the rooms of recovery I started to learn how dangerously delicious expectations are for someone like me. I’d always set the bar unreasonably high because I wanted to exceed probability and prove to others I would go above and beyond to accomplish what I committed to do.

I never knew how deeply rooted my need to seem perfect in the eyes of others had been. I got so wrapped up in high praise for undertaking grand plans for change I’d completely disregarded the actual, tactical steps needed to accomplish such profound feats.

The more I listened to people who had the kind of recovery I hoped to one day have, the more I realized there might be something to this idea of easing up on myself and the expectations looming around in my head. These time-generous people shared stories of how such confident beliefs ended up being equally disastrous seeds for resentment.  Eventually they found setting an intention to do the next right thing ultimately led them to attain a life that makes sense.

Bingo! I didn’t need to make sweeping changes based on what others would think of the statements made when turning the New Year corner. I wanted to have the kind of sustainable change to live a life that made sense. So I began taking the steps to get there and by doing so found what I’d always thought was my right resolution was in fact not right for me at all.

Thanks to a willingness to do things differently, I’ve been able to accomplish much-needed sustainable change.  How I’ve done this is simple.  I continue making realistic intentions to do the next right thing one day at a time, not once a year.

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A Moment to Breathe…

Think about resolutions you’ve made for 2014.  Can you re-frame the words as an intention rather than a “must do”?  This simple shift may lead you on the pathway for the kind of sustainable change you seek.  Take a moment to contribute your experience here or by sharing on your favorite social media site.

Hey Ebenezer … I Needed the Message Too!

When asked about the point at which I knew I needed help for an overuse of alcohol and understated use of food, my answer has always been a blood chilling account of harsh reality.

The candid detail serves a purpose no matter who poses the question. For those who don’t have first-hand experience with addiction, there seems some voyeuristic satisfaction from the shock factor. For those who do struggle with an obsessive, compulsive way of life, there are two camps; those silently searching for any justification they’re “not that bad” and those who find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone.

Yet after recently hearing a rather simple explanation for what hitting a proverbial “bottom” means, I may rethink how I respond when I’m asked about mine.

What I heard was, reaching bottom is the moment when one becomes humble enough to seek change.

Just like that I heard the clicking sound of pieces connecting. Humility, getting honest, surrendering to the truth … yes, folks, that was the bottom I had to reach.

The account of my turning point has always been centered around how bad things were, not about the exhale, the acceptance and a need for something different. Even though I still very much wanted to have a drink every so often or maintain control over my body weight, shape and size, I never realized how desperately I desired change.

For years I masked, manipulated, and deceived myself and people around me to believe the life I’d crafted suited me just fine. I never considered the fact I didn’t look fine or behave fine or think fine or react fine. I had no conception of humility or what life might be like without a shield made of self-centeredness.

This new insight about hitting bottom was fresh in my mind as I watched of my beloved holiday movie; “A Christmas Carol” published this month by Charles Dickens 170 years ago.

Each December I’ve taken in countless versions of this classic story. I cherish the black and whites of 1935 with Seymour Hicks, 1938 with Reginald Owen and 1951 with Alastair Sim.

Seymour Hicks        reginald-owen      Alister Sim

I’ve enjoyed a few musical renditions and even my beloved story set in animation. Regardless of the stars or the background symphony of music, I never tire of the way I feel when Ebenezer experiences his remarkable awakening and how those who truly care about him respond at the end.

This year I found myself with pen in hand, reflecting with great intention to the words Charles Dickens felt compelled to share with his own. He and seemingly a great many others at the time, were aware of the dangers associated with misplaced ego and pride, the seven deadly sins, and the sharp-pointed, rough edges associated with isolation.

As Ebenezer’s friend and business partner found his way to bear witness to the catastrophic consequences of a life gone without internal inspection, I thought of how many have done the same for me.

Each time I hear someone share an experience with relapse, what happens when actions go unattended and right living becomes less important, I’m reminded of what I need to do today to assure I don’t find myself sharing a similar tale.

The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future who visited Ebenezer perhaps only existed in his mind. Those who have offered me similar insight arrived very much in human form.

I definitely could not have become humble enough to look at my life backwards with unedited eyes. I needed help from others to see more deeply into the hearts and minds of those I had hurt, avoided or dismissed. Although I didn’t want to acknowledge what I saw, I had no other choice than to accept how my actions and words pained many and how ultimately I paid the highest price; living in emotional isolation and unending fear.

Just like Ebenezer finally found his way with just a morsel of humility, I too was given the chance to course correct my ways and avoid what could have been my future.

When the final scene fades to black for old Mr. Scrooge, I’m left to believe he goes on to live a long prosperous life not of money but of good will.  On the other hand, I am only guaranteed today.

However if I continue to do what I hadn’t done before which is to remain humble in action and word, I may just get to experience tomorrow the same as I have today.

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A Moment to Breathe …

Sit quietly and think about what you may have missed yesterday, last December or many years ago.  Are you able to see the past with unedited eyes? Take some time to share those memories with those who were there. Ask what they remember from that same experience.  Bet you’ll be surprised by the alternative perspectives.  If you feel compelled, I’d love to have you post about what that was like.  You can do so below or as a comment when sharing this blog on one of your favorite social media sites.

When Perseverance Flew 150 miles to Knock at My Door

Mother Nature paid a mighty powerful visit about 10 days ago. For November in Chicago, the temperature was oddly warm and the skies were showing us colors that meant business. We knew from experience this was the time to check cell phone batteries and prepare to spend time in the basement, our most securely structured area of the house.

Yet before I get too far ahead with the story of what led to a wind-inspired gift, let me take you back a bit further.

Since elementary school, I’ve dreamed of writing a book. Two years ago I said “yes” to an author development program which helped me create a foundationally sound piece of work I’m highly proud of. This is the book I wished I had read while still tightly wrapped in the cocoon of addition, when nothing in my life made sense.

I’ve taken many steps recommended to reach my goal of publishing in the traditional sense rather than self-publish. I’ve learned, there’s nothing easy or fast about achieving this dream. There’s quite a distance between having an idea for a book and actually holding one. My experience with the process has been not only time-consuming and demanding of my writing skills, but a true test of stamina to stay motivated despite continual rejection. Thankfully many of the literary professionals who are guiding me have wisely let me move through the process without pointing out potential pitfalls.

No longer are the days of typing a manuscript, mailing the masterpiece to a publisher and receiving a check promising support and a hands-free experience in becoming a best-selling author. Unless you are very well-known, have experienced a remarkable feat or uncovered a ground-breaking new theory for life, today’s traditional book publishing industry asks authors to prove their worth prior to any expression of interest.

Faster than the speed of light I launched sharply on a vertical learning curve about social media. In record time I shifted into high gear becoming followed and friended, interviewed and quoted. I’ve spent countless hours seeking ways to share what I’ve learned about changing perspective and overcoming that which I never thought possible. The effort remains endless and the rewards are very few and far between. Relentlessly I’ve been told my efforts not enough and quite frankly might never meet what today’s publishing industry is expecting.

This constant reminder of not being enough is really tough for someone like me; someone who has spent a good amount of time trying to unwind that long-held belief. Although completely counterintuitive, I forge on despite being told I might not achieve this dream of mine. Each morning I sit in front of my laptop hoping to find the motivation to believe I can do this thing, that I will persevere and prove all naysayers wrong.

Typically I’m able to shake off self-doubt with a bit of prompting from friends and family but lately even that hasn’t helped. Seems I’ve been spending more time questioning my ability than I have taking action to reach my goal.

And then 10 days ago perseverance knocked at my front door.

The winds were quite fierce that afternoon. As what has become habit after years of fallen trees and other such damage, I’m vigilant about checking our front yard.

During one such investigative peek, I noticed a piece of paper lying still on our front walk which was interesting considering the high winds. After retrieving the assumed piece of trash my husband came inside to show me what he found was actually a laminated document containing three different newspaper obituaries about a man’s passing in 2003. Upon further study we noticed the byline indicated these were from the area hardest hit by a massive tornado only an hour or so earlier.

This area is 150 miles from our house, or almost three hours by car.

Paper Flying in Mid Air

We were breathless. The gale-force rush of air had lifted this item sky-high to land at our front door completely intact despite the 200 mph winds. In an instant we were on our laptops searching for clues about his family. We were on a mission to return this treasure to the rightful owner.

During the swift investigation I realized something truly profound. All my defiant resistance to social media education was now proving infinitely important.

In no time flat I posted an image of the laminated piece to Facebook. Sure enough a few hours later, I received a friend request from a woman who I’d come to find is a good friend of the widow.

After a few written messages to assure what I had matched what she was hoping to find, my husband and I called her via speakerphone. We held our breath as she shared the status of extraordinary devastation and emotional wreckage from a seemingly brief touchdown of a vicious tornado.

She explained the widow found her house leveled at a total loss. By God’s grace no one experienced injury but the home they’d once known was not nothing but shreds of lumber. Our blood ran cold when she told us the widow’s only hope was to one day find the laminated piece containing her husband’s obituaries, the very item resting in tact on our kitchen counter.

Through eyes blurred with the tears that would leave a warm trail down my cheek, I scribbled this woman’s address while promising the document would be immediately sent for receipt the following day.

As I sat down to pen a note to the wife of the man whose life story landed at my front door, I pondered what to say about having the privilege to return what was so dear to her. In that moment I realized I was the one in receipt of a gift.

The winds had blown to my front door a tactical example of perseverance, an illustration of surviving the odds while not breaking apart.

Just like how I pushed forward during those early days of recovery when trusting the process was my only hope to leave a life of chaos and find one of balance, I can and will keep pursuing my dream. I can and will withstand the elements so one day I’ll reach the intention of my book; to provide another person struggling with addiction some answers to the same questions I asked only in silence.

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A Moment to Breathe …

No one is immune to challenges in life. We’re constantly asked to face situations and issues for which we believe seeking solutions for are far beyond our abilities. What are some ways you’ve been able to persevere through tough times?  How did something initially deemed impossible become possible?  Please share your thoughts here or as a comment by posting to a favorite social media outlet.

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