Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the tag “perspective”

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.

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.

silhouette-of-woman_thumb11

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. 

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.

skinned horse image 2

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.

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.

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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