Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the tag “Recovery”

How One Day at a Time Saves Me One Day at a Time

The statement that can yank me from mental chaos to calm contains five simple words. They are, one day at a time.

Don’t be fooled. Things weren’t always that way for me.

For the majority of my life, if something when awry or scared me, the last thing I thought would help was time. Instead, I did whatever necessary for immediate change. I had no desire for the sit back and wait idea. Regardless of possible consequences, if there was a problem, I fixed that problem, and moved on.  I couldn’t run the risk that what I feared could happen, would happen.

That came to halt when the emotional after effects of what I hope was my last drink of alcohol hit me like a hurricane. Fear, sadness, guilt, shame, remorse, and lack of control swept me up and tossed me around like an upended snow globe. I crawled my way to rooms where sobriety wisdom filled the air. Surely they had the quick-fix solution for my emotional pain. Each person I asked smiled and suggested I keep my focus only on how to not drink that day. That seemed absurd. How could I possibly get through a whole day with those hand wringing, heart-racing, tissue-deep feelings without the relief I knew a glass of my addiction would ease? Yet I made a silent commitment that I would attempt anything to end my relationship with booze.

I tried what I then doubted, and love what still works.

ODAT Blog Post 6.5.17

As time went on, that need for that one-day-at-a-time concept showed up more and more often. I heard those words when I questioned that never-again idea about a future glass of wine or the occasional mixed drink. Back then, I could not fathom a birthday, a wedding, or any other celebratory event without a drink.

Although I did my best to conceal the shudder of my shoulders, the wise woman who knows me better than I know myself provided a bit more intel about this one day at a time notion. She explained that how I feel one day may not be how I feel forever. My ability to handle forthcoming situations would change as I work to better understand myself one day at a time.

I did the work which then felt impossible, and love how the knowledge works for me.

Then came the challenge to understand why three meals and two snacks a day made sense. That’s when people wiser than me suggested a few words to enhance that one-day-at-a-time concept. They suggested I focus my attention on one meal at a time,

Armed with what I knew worked and what I hoped would, I reconstructed my one day at a time mantra to include the words, one meal at a time. That alone got me through some very dark days.

Yet, life goes on and things show up. On the surface, some appear almost too much to bear. A situation may arise that pings the memory of how a glass of wine quenched my fears or a skipped a meal fueled a need to control my imperfections. That’s why I need more than a one day or one meal at a time reminder.

For example, a few weeks ago, I sat in silence among hundreds of people inside a church I know well. Each time, a celebration of one’s life filled with words they don’t hear but we do. On that particular day, my gaze was set on a woman left alone in the first pew. She sat upright with grace hoping the beautiful blue dress worn would mask her weary, emotionally drained body. Soon the young children she shared with her husband that we were there to honor would sit beside her once their pallbearer duties ended.

When I passed a tissue to the person next to me, she tearfully asked how anyone could possibly deal with the loss of a spouse so young. I responded with words that seem attached to my every exhale. I whispered, “I suppose one day at a time, maybe even one breath at a time.”

That’s how I roll these days; one day, one moment, one breath at a time. This is my life line when everything starts to feel like too much.

Once offered as an idea to shift my focus from too much alcohol and not enough food, the meaning behind this one day at time concept not only saved me from two near-death addictions, the words now save me from myself.

A Moment to Breathe

We all see the one day at a time quote on plaques, paper weights, and notecards, yet have you ever breathed in the true intention behind the phrase? Have you considered the value of that when worry takes over or anxiety is through the roof? Maybe your thoughts live in days ahead rather than where your feet are. Take a deep breath, look around, and ground yourself in the right now not in the what if. Focusing on one day, one moment, one breath at a time is how you could get from where you are to where your next right step is needed. I hope you can relate to some of this. If so, please comment below or share via your preferred social media site.

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

I Don’t Have Time

Why, during the last few weeks of every year, do I feel as though I can’t catch up with myself? I rush from place to place and project to project hoping to cross one more item off the holiday to-do list. I forget more than remember and I talk more than listen.

I convince myself I don’t have time for a spontaneous cup of coffee with a friend, an extra few minutes of (much-needed) sleep, or another chapter of that spellbinding book.

The reality is, I don’t have time because time has me.

Without intentionally doing so, I give the tick-tock of time that kind of power over me. Why do I let this happen? When did this start? Do other people struggle to satisfy time expectations like I do?

I shudder to think how familiar these questions are. I asked them years ago because I thought I had a drinking problem and issues with food and body image when, in fact, alcohol, scales, and mirrors had me. I manipulated and rationalized everything to avoid treatment or well-considered amends or self-care. I thought I didn’t have time for such things until my time almost ran out.

time-post-opt-1

With barely a moment to spare, I found the kind of help I desperately needed. During those early days, I begged for time to create the kind of life I have today.

In that process I found out why time is a precious commodity and must be respected as such.

The idea that I don’t have time is as dangerous for me as a drink of alcohol or fork unfilled. I cannot allow myself to believe that time is an enemy with power to determine what I’m capable of or what my priorities are.

If that’s where I am today, something needs to change and that something is my perspective.

Thank goodness I have a proven, practical experience solution for what keeps me from a healthy life. I must become willing to let go of the must-do’s and should’s and expectations so I can be present for people, situations, and things that truly matter.

If I slow down, step back, and breathe deep, I’ll find plenty of time to:

  • Listen
  • Offer a hug
  • Hold a door
  • Reach for the hand needing reassurance
  • Make that phone call, write that letter, or knock on that door
  • Spend a few extra minutes with a newcomer to recovery
  • Tell people who matter that they do
  • Walk slower
  • Ask for help
  • Breathe deeper
  • Get quiet
  • Look up

Perhaps the problem isn’t that I don’t have time, but that I forget how much time means to me.

A Moment to Breathe

How often do you hear yourself say that you don’t have time? Whether said out loud or in the silence of your mind, the story you tell yourself about how much time you have often proves harrowing. Take a deep breath and consider how you navigate your time. Do you feel spontaneously free to accept an unexpected opportunity, or over-scheduled and exhausted? If the latter seems more realistic for you, perhaps a shift in perspective is necessary. Remember, your time is yours and thus, only you will ever have the power to choose how that time is allocated. Now, take another slow deep breath and rewrite today’s plan that will suit you and your peace of mind.

Feeling Broken? Find the Glue of Me Too

While driving alone, do you find yourself mindlessly scanning radio stations hoping to find something, anything that grabs your attention?

I sure do.

I’ll tap that seek button until a few notes of a song or words of a news story grab enough of my attention to satisfy that sound void in my car.

A few days ago I followed that routine on my way home from a support group meeting. My final radio stop was NPR perhaps because the lead-in for the next story warned of graphic content. When I hear a teaser like that, my curiosity kicks in.

Little did I know that what I was about to listen to would pull me from my usual post-meeting thoughts straight into the life of a woman who shared what she described was her turning point story.

As filmmaker and visual storyteller, Barbara Weiner, unfolded details of what happened to her thirty-one years ago, I didn’t feel connected because of them, I felt connected because what she went through to accept them.

The cadence of her voice was startling familiar. She spoke of perfectionism, the fear of exposing parts of her truth that would shine a light where she felt bruised and ashamed. She spoke of a desperate desire to appear put-together so others would see her life in order when inside she felt scattered, disordered, and alone.

As her story reached the point where a turnaround was looming, she spoke of how she found someone who, after hours of conversation, made a promise that she would not be abandoned no matter what was in that emotional box she neatly packed away to avoid falling apart.

That confirmation safety-net allowed her to step out from behind the curtain of shame she believed protected her from feeling what she was terrified to acknowledge. As those words tumbled from her mouth faster than she’s imagined they could, she felt relief from the release.

And that was how she began to heal.

In time she took her whole, unedited, for-mature-audiences-only story to others who needed to share their own. She paid attention with intention to what they said regardless of circumstances because that wasn’t the point. What mattered was the freedom shared once the truth was told.

Eventually she found her broken pieces held in place by those connecting stories and now, when she stands back from her own, she sees the beautiful mosaic of her beautiful life.

Broken pieces #1

I’m grateful I get that. I’m grateful I get her. I’m grateful I get the process.

On a daily basis I have the privilege to listen as others empty pockets where they’ve kept their secrets and broken pieces. Through that interaction, I give them, and myself, permission to heal.

Their stories, pasted with mine, lock together what felt broken. We’re bonded by the strong and powerful glue of “me too.”

A Moment to Breathe

Are pieces of you that feel broken? Are you wondering like Humpty Dumpty once did, that if long-held protective parts of you were to fall, could even the greatest of friends and family put you together again? Take a slow deep breath and consider if maybe they aren’t meant to. Maybe the ones who are meant to help are those who will you in the eye to confirm they’ve stood where you stand. Find them. They are out there. All that’s required is to start talking. Those who have what you need will listen, nod, and offer you two words that is the glue to fix your broken pieces. They’ll simply say, “me too.”  

My Age? Well, that Depends. How Am I Reacting?

Have you ever shown up to a family function only to leave as a much younger version of yourself?  I sure have.

When out-of-town family members come for a visit there’s always a get-together. Maybe two. I arrive feeling connected and collected but then something happens and suddenly I’m a wobbly teenager lacking the sense of self-confidence I carried through the front door.

This type of mystical age transformation is not new and something I’ve tried to better understand about myself over the past several years.

In the early stages of recovery many suggested I take a good look at who I am from the inside out. Soon what once made sense didn’t and what didn’t make sense started to. One of the more challenging concepts to accept was that most who battle addiction stop growing emotionally when they first feel a positive jolt from using the drug or behavior of choice.

I felt insulted by even the suggestion this could apply to me. I was a grown woman, successful in the eyes of many in my profession. I’d managed multi-million dollar pieces of business, got married, bought a house, invested in the stock market, and traveled the world. Now I’m to believe that because I started drinking and investigating ways to attain a body not meant for me at 13 I’m emotionally stuck at that age? I don’t think so.

But then I remembered my commitment to those guiding me. Based on their suggestion I dug a bit deeper. How had I reacted to tough situations? Was I more tantrum-like than calm? When in a tough relationship conversation, did I push for the last word or raise my voice to take control? How often did I give a laser-burning stare then turn my head with angry snap and storm out hoping the dramatic exit would dominate? Did I deflect, deny or defend my behavior rather than calmly interact with a problematic issue?

The answers to these questions were certainly eye-opening.

There was no denying the truth. I had managed most of my adult life as an emotional teenager.

younger and older self

Clearly there were changes to make, parts to nurture, and memories to reconsider. What I learned from that investigation helps me to respond better and assure my words, actions, and reactions match my age.

However every so often I find myself in an emotionally triggering moment when a look on someone’s face, or the loud sigh from another, can launch me back to an early version of myself with a drink in one hand and a fork at a far distance from the other.

This is the moment for a slow, deep breath. The simple but important pause allows my younger self to step away from reacting so my more mature self can step in and respond to assure I’m taking the next right one.

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A Moment to Breathe…

Do you relate to any of the questions I posed when facing troubling situations?  Is there any possibility for disparity between your birth certificate age and your emotional age?  To consider this idea, find some quiet space and jot down whatever comes to mind. I’ve found keeping these thoughts in my head causes them to endlessly cycle, get more intrusive and eventually seem too big to handle. Another helpful option is to talk these things out with others who may feel the same way. Feel free to use the space below or include your thoughts when sharing this post via your favorite social media site.  

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

What Does “IT” Mean?

When I finally admitted to the need for help and leave the cavernous existence of a wine and bathroom scale obsession, I wasn’t at all prepared for what lay ahead. I just wanted directions to course correct my life.

To confirm, I knew I needed help but still desperately wanted to keep drinking with little concern for nutrition. At the time, I would have handed you my wallet and the password for my credit card to have one more day quietly inside addiction isolation.

Yet when I opened my eyes to how easily I’d earned a seat in a meeting of recovery, I determined I’d be well served to sit down and listen.

After a few people spoke, my mind raced with questions I didn’t have enough nerve to ask out loud. Even though my head spun in query I didn’t dare turn my head to the person next to me and say, “So, how does this thing work? I just have to quit drinking and eat better, right?”

When I found the courage to speak with someone privately I asked, “How am I supposed to know if I’m making any advancement in recovery?” The response wasn’t an answer but more of a riddle, “You’ll know it when you get it. Just do what’s suggested to you. Don’t worry. Hang around here for a while and before long you’ll get it.

After thanking her for offering me time to chat, I turned and headed straight for the door. I didn’t want to let fly out of my mouth what screamed in my head. “What the hell are you talking about? Stop with these deeply intuitive portions of information! What is ‘it’? My life is literally hanging by a thread here. Why must you now torment me with these half-baked answers? Please, I beg of you, just tell me in very general terms, what must I do or ask to get through this godforsaken maze of information. I’m sorry but I don’t find what you’re telling me sufficient at all. And what’s with, ‘Do what’s suggested and you’ll get it’ game of mystery? Get what from whom? Is this really how this program works? Is this just an endless game of breaking the code?

When I was able to self-talk my way back to the willingness I’d promised myself I’d stick to, I took a much-needed deep breath, slowed down my racing thoughts and started to listen. I heard things like, “Bring the body and the mind will follow” and “Listen for the similarities not the differences.” Those suggestions seemed easy enough so I did. I carried on as though I knew what I was doing. After all, I had plenty of practice playing the game of pretend. I’d spent a good majority of my life trying to figure out how to blend in without ever asking how. I didn’t want to wear the badge of ignorance so I’d pretend to know what I very much did not.

What wasn’t so easy was figuring out to get “it” and be over the ever-present, piercing need to feel numbed out.  Yet I forged ahead if for no other reason than to prove to myself I’d found “it”.

In time I unwound the triple-knotted, wet shoestring tied around two simple letters making up the word “it”. What I revealed was the solution for achieving foundational, sustainable, long-term recovery is not a thing, but rather a shift in perspective. My heart, mind, and soul had opened to an understanding of how life, for me, made sense without the overuse of a substance or unhealthy behavior. No one could have told me what my “it” would come to mean, I had to create my description.

Fast forward 10 years.

I’d handed the piece of writing I’d worked on for a better part of six months to a friend who is well-respected in the literary field. After an impressive 20 years working with editors, publishing houses and skilled authors, I entrusted her with the dubious job of editing what I’d poured my every emotion into writing.

After a few days of nerve-racking fear she’d suggest I toss the whole thing and take up knitting, she handed my document back with these words, “There are a lot of people out there who will benefit from reading what you’ve written; perhaps even thank you for providing them the hope they too might course correct their life. In turn I thank you for allowing me the privilege of offering some suggestions to make your words shine. All this needed was a bit of polishing.” 

After a hug of gratitude and a promise to take her every recommended edit to heart, she turned to me and said, “One more thing. As you write, always ask yourself, what does “it” mean.

Upon noticing my look of immediate confusion she continued on by saying, “The reader deserves a more thorough understanding behind that two-letter word. There is always a better way to say what you mean. Don’t ever make the assumption your reader will just somehow know.” 

As soon as I waved goodbye, I dropped the edited document on my desk and got to work. I spent the next several days going piercingly through every line of the double-spaced, 12-point type, 90-page document transforming every single use of the word “it”.

Guess what? She was right. Each revised sentence exploded with more meaning. I felt an almost immediate connection with the reader, believing their eyes would trail my words and feel a friend by their side rather than some distant writer. I was providing them a far better opportunity to understand “it”.

Like my writing efforts, the only way I could have recovered from an obsessively hopeless state of mind, was by digging deep to find the right words and eliminate confusion. No one could do for me what I needed to work through for myself. Only I could awaken my understanding of what “it” means.

Get it?

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A Moment to Breathe…

What are the “it’s” in your life?  Can you be your own editor and find a way to better express what “it” means? Or, if you’ve had an experience when rethinking your words helped to better connect with someone please share this with me!  Simply scroll down and leave me a message in the “Reply” section.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to breathe in this message from me.  

Whatever You Do, Don’t Get Creative!

A friend recently celebrated his first significant recovery milestone. While listening to his words of excitement, infused with a bit of disbelief he achieved such an accomplishment, I was instantly reminded of the day I shared similar news.

I don’t really remember what I specifically said, perhaps something about my gratitude for help I received from others who only asked I do the same for someone else one day, or for my appreciation of the overall program of recovery. I’m willing to believe I also referenced the importance of being patient because I needed (ahem, still need) a lot of that. I hope I acknowledged my sponsor, Lord knows she deserves every little peck of grace from God for the relentless phone calls and questions about how to put one foot in front of the other. I remember the applause following what I said, the smiles from around the room, and the slow, gentle tears that fell from my eyes as I tried to focus on the miracle of the moment. Yet perhaps the most significant memory from that day were words whispered during a congratulatory embrace from someone whose recovery I still deeply admire.

He said, “Congratulations. Now, don’t get creative.”

Not knowing what in the world he meant or how to gracefully disengage from our brief conversation, I thanked him for the good wishes and quickly moved through the door and out to my car fearing he’d ask my thoughts on his comment. Back then I was rather intimidated by anyone with long-term recovery because I had an invalidated belief they were silently testing my knowledge of the many phrases and underlying principles of a 12-Step program.

Even though I escaped without finding meaning behind what my friend said, I definitely wanted to crack the code before running into him again. Thankfully my sponsor had become a trusted resource when struggling with what I felt were dumb questions.

After reiterating the situation and my friend’s ensuing comment she smiled, took a deep breath and said, “Oh honey, that’s simple. He was suggesting you consider what you did to get from where you were to where you are now. Whatever those things are, obviously they’re working for you. If that’s your positive formula, don’t get creative and start thinking about how to do things differently. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll keep getting more grounded in your recovery.”

I’ve never let go of my friend’s congratulatory suggestion. I don’t want to find out what might happen if I stop doing the same recovery-focused action steps I took when I began this life-changing adventure.

As my mind circled back the joyous atmosphere surrounding my new friend’s recovery milestone, I pondered this idea of not getting creative in other areas of my life.

I’ve been married for a long time, almost 15 years. If you are unfamiliar with my full story, multiply what you know of the recovery process times two. Our marriage has been able to withstand my emergence for not one, but two life-threatening addictions. Yes, ebbs and flows certainly prevailed, and to a certain extent still do. However through a focused, steady approach to heal our addiction-blanketed relationship, we set a firm foundation from which everything else is now based. To date, we haven’t found sufficient reason to change even the smallest of things that has worked to bring about a smile when angry, a calm when in fear, and a sense of reassurance when feeling close to falling apart.

We dance in the kitchen for no reason at all and we’ll probably keep dancing to music heard only in our hearts until we breathe our last breath.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of practice trying out what works and what doesn’t in places like work, around the neighborhood, family gatherings and even sitting quietly with my own thoughts. I’ve uncovered what’s needed for me to feel at ease despite whatever chaos swirls around. Seems to me I’ve been given plenty of reason why I needn’t get creative and consider changing what’s proven to work.

I wouldn’t have imagined those few words offered in encouragement many years ago would leave such a profound mark. Initially meant to help me stay on track to maintain healthy recovery, the intention behind those words have proven invaluable when faced with the many uncertain turns my life has taken.

choices

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A Moment to Breathe

Take the time to consider examples of what’s working for you.  What are the things you have done to achieve that comfortable process.  Do you ever wonder if there might be a way to create a different path to reach the same point?  Well maybe there is one, but why spend time trying to fix what isn’t broken?  

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