Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the tag “purposefulness”

Grateful for What I Wanted to Forget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Moment to Breathe…

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

11.24.15 Blog Option #1

Unexpected Reminders Keep Me Grounded and Grateful

Have you ever experienced a time when seemingly out of nowhere a conversation shifts sharply from one subject to a shared experience you were emotionally unprepared to address?  Wow is that interestingly awkward.

My sense is this kind of communication topic-hopping shock stems from either distance between past situations and present day, or because I’ve taught people I’m unaffected by the truth of my past. Regardless, I admit there are some moments of my not-so-charming past that remain fresh in my mind.

I know time does heal most wounds. I’ve tended to many of mine leaving no scar for an observer’s eye to meet. Yet when even a microscopic emotional connection to what happened floats into present day, I’m immediately taken back to the scenes I wish to but can’t forget.

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. 

Mind the Gap

You know how some random song stays with you long after hearing the first note? What about the phone number from that TV commercial you’ve seen once too often?

What’s so interesting about these mind invasions is how quickly I’m reminded of a time or place when I first heard the song or jingle. I think about the people who were around me and what I was doing. Sometimes I welcome those memories and sometimes do not.

I wonder if these methodical melodies embed themselves for a reason. My sense is they do.

When I was in London one phrase was heard almost daily. The words have not left me and hopefully never will.

Like most metropolitan locations, the exact square-mile city offers various forms of transportation. Of particular preference for me was the underground train system. My cherished prepaid pass allowed quick access to zip from one end of England’s capital to the other. Rarely did I wait long for next train to whisk me toward another exciting (albeit touristy) destination.

the tube

Once inside I dodged fellow travelers prepared to exit at the next stop. Perhaps some people get easily frustrated by this kind of jockey-for-position dance but when I heard “Excuse me M’lady” the British accent warmed me like a welcome blanket on a cold day.

When the train would slow in advance of the next station an enchanting, non-intrusive message filled the air to caution exiting passengers they “mind the gap” between the train and the platform.

As the value of my prepaid rail card lessened my confidence for exit-safe foot placement increased. However I became quite fond of the recorded gentle reminder because as the words settled in they began to mean something far more.

How many times have I stood oblivious to what was lurking in the small space between where I am in life and where my next right step will lead? I spend countless hours in contemplation of pros and cons whether to stay put or move forward. Yet I wonder why I put far less effort into consideration of emotions hidden in the small crevice between here and there.

Before I transitioned away from a life of too much booze and not enough food, I launched myself from one situation into another without any concentrated thought of emotional ramifications. I moved in reaction to them not in response of them.

The repeated message in London’s underground warns of possible danger if caught in a manufactured platform gap. The fissure I need to watch out for is the one between what’s comfortably safe and what’s safely uncomfortable.

How interesting. Both require I pause and be mindful of potential consequences while at the same time act as a shield to protect me from possible emotions I’m not prepared for.

Just as no one wants to get caught off guard with their foot stuck between a soon-to-be-moving train and the platform, I don’t want to get caught off guard by unwelcome emotions when I exit a place considered safe.

This is why I cherish the embedded message from London. The words remind me to not only watch my step but to watch my emotions if I don’t mind the gap.

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A Moment to Breathe…

Are you thinking about what next right step might be for you? Are you contemplating a change but resisting the forward motion? Look down. What’s in that gap right in front of you? Does an emotion need your attention before taking action? I’d love for you to offer your thoughts here by leaving a reply or share this post via your favorite social media platform.

Until then, take a moment to breathe.

 

 

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.

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