Summer is beginning and I was thinking back to last year. June 2012 – I was at the beginning of some difficult changes at my job. I knew things were going be different, but I had no idea how different. I was excited about the beginning of summer as I always am. I was looking forward my brother visiting from Texas. I was planning a trip to see another brother and a special friend up north. I was in good physical health. I had great friends and was building some new friendships. By the end of summer, I had resigned from my job, started the process of ending my marriage, decided to go to college, and my world was turned upside down.
I haven’t had a full time job since summer ended last year. I am searching for a part time job and hope to have something in place in the next couple of weeks. I want to take time this summer to play, relax, and rebuild my health after fighting upper respiratory problems since January. I will turn 62 in August and begin collecting social security. I will taking some online summer classes at school. I am beginning to realize that I am getting older and may need to make some life adjustments. I have a sense that once again summer will bring change to my life.
I am ready for some summer sun, beach time, walking barefoot, and seeing what my summer story will be like this year.
I was 15 when I got my first purse. It had a long strap that allowed it to hang at my waist. It looked like something a hippie, flower child would have. My grandmother bought for my trip to California. A small wallet held my new driver’s license, a card with emergency numbers and $10.00 emergency money. My passage into womanhood had begun.
As a young wife beginning my working career, I made the switch to more grown up and conservative purse. It held a wallet along with a brush, lipstick and my checkbook. As I added children to my life, my purse became much larger. Style was not important. Cheap vinyl and many pockets were all that mattered. It held the basics and crackers, a small bag of Cheerios, Kleenex, band aids, and an assortment of small toys. I always had paper and pen to entertain the kids. The onset of panic attacks in my life added a bottle of Valium to the mix.
As my life became complicated and I slipped into addiction, my choice of purses changed as well. I needed much larger bags now. Style wasn’t as important as functionality. The wallet held the usual items as well as rolling papers. Mini bottles of booze along with cigarettes and a lighter were required items. Breathe mints, eye drops, bottles of pills, and spare deodorant were needed items. Organization was lost and things were thrown into the bag without thought.
After sobriety, life changed along with my purse. I still preferred larger bags with lots of pockets. Over time, I became more courageous and chose vibrant colors and designs. Now the more essential items were my meeting schedules, antacids, and candy. My wallet once again contained money, a checkbook, pictures, and credit cards.
Today I carry a smaller satchel type bag. I have a huge wallet that holds all the basics along with 20 key cards for discounts stores. The wallet comes with a detachable strap so I can carry it alone. A pill box is a necessary addition. One of the most important things in a purse is an outside pouch for my cell phone. Inside the purse is a phone charger, extra hidden car keys car, a small notebook to capture ideas for writing and a variety of pens. Since I am a college student now, I also carry a huge backpack/book bag .
I wonder what my purses will be like in the coming years. I am getting older and I am sure the changes in my life will bring changes in my purse and the treasures inside. I imagine I will always own a purse even if I don’t get out much. It holds so many things that are important in my life. They say that to dream about a purse represents secrets, desires and thoughts that are being closely held and guarded. It symbolizes your identity and sense of self. You know, I think that might just be true.
Life On Life’s Terms
“Being sober isn’t just about not using. Being sober is about the joy a life of clarity and living by spiritual principles can bring. There is nothing greater than that. Forget drugs….. Forget everything. We are living to experience the undiluted amazement of life on life’s terms.” Tweak by by Nic Sheff
I finished reading the book “Tweak” by Nic Sheff. It was intense to say the least. It is the story of his life of addiction and recovery. There were times it was very difficult to read because I “felt” his pain. I understood his struggles with recovery. It doesn’t matter what the drug of choice, addiction destroys you from the inside out. It takes your spirit hostage first and then attacks your mind. It leaves you with a body that has been taken over by the alien force-addiction.
I am quickly approaching my 26th sober anniversary/birthday. In recovery, we celebrate our “belly button” birthday as well as celebrating our sober birthday. I haven’t celebrated the past few years. I acknowledged it and even wrote about in my blog. Please understand that I am truly grateful for my sobriety and all it has meant to my life. I just haven’t celebrated.
A certain sadness comes this time each year. Birthday and anniversaries bring reminders of the past. I think about my life before recovery. We keep the memory “green” to remind us who we used to be. The promises from the Big Book say, “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” We share our stories to keep the memories alive for ourselves and to share with others. We share not only the story of our addiction but also the story of hope and faith through recovery.
I am also reminded of the people who are no longer here to celebrate my journey. Before Jan died, she was such a big part of my recovery and celebrating each year. Her memorial service was held just a couple of days before my anniversary and the two seemed intertwined. I think about my “Papa” Paul who died just last May. Stan, Tommy, Mikey, Rachel, JoJo, and more all died sober. I can’t begin to list those who died because they couldn’t stay clean and sober.
I miss the people who have been through so much with me in this journey and now live so far away. Donna has been with me for 25 of those years. Cathy has been there for 22 years. One is in Vermont and the other in Nevada. Peggy, Juana, Jack, Dee, Ann, Mary, Jess, Mark and more are all scattered across the country. I know they will be with me in spirit but I want to hug them, laugh with them, see their eyes…..
I know someone is going to quote the Big Book page 449 so let me do it first.
Acceptance is the answer to ALL of my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation- some fact of my life- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept my life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
I write this knowing full well that I need an attitude adjustment. I decided to write this and share it in spite of that because this is where I am today. I know what I need to do to get that attitude adjustment. I need to focus on acceptance. I need to make a gratitude list. I need to reach out and do something for someone else. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts today. Here is one last quote from Nic’s book:
“And though I have done many shameful things, I am not ashamed of who I am. I am not ashamed of who I am because I know who I am. I have tried to rip myself open and expose everything inside – accepting my weaknesses and strengths – not trying to be anyone else. ‘Cause that never works, does it? So my challenge is to be authentic. And I believe I am today. I believe I am.” ― Nic Sheff, Tweak
Keep It Simple
Scott Peck wrote in the Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Life is filled with complicated questions. “Why?” is the one that comes to mind most often. I wonder if knowing why something happened would really make it easier. If I knew why my friend died, would it hurt any less? Would I miss her any less? If I knew why parents and grandparents were the kind of people who would hurt a kid, would it really matter? Why did I become a drunk? Does it really matter why I gained weight ? Why did I get sober when others can’t? Why did I survive so many obstacles and come out in tact and with my faith when other didn’t ? I don’t have answers for all those “why” questions. “Why” often seems like searching for a treasure box only to find it empty.
I wonder if my time would be better spent accepting that life is filled with mystery and things we will never understand. Maybe my friend was right after all. Whenever something happened that just didn’t make sense she would ask, “what is the lesson you are supposed to learn from this?” As much as I loved her, I often wanted to throw something at her when she would ask this. Here is what I usually seem to learn in those times: Take the next step, do the next right thing, love the people in your life, and trust in God (whatever you may call God).
Something I Have To Share
I reach out my hands because I have been there.
I haven’t written a blog post since last week. I started writing several times only to discard it. No words seemed right after the events of last week. I will say that my heart breaks for the families, friends, and community of Newtown. I decided to wait until closer to Christmas and share some of the joys of the season and to share the lessons and treasures of this past year.
However, something happened today that made me change my mind. This afternoon I saw a facebook message from a friend offering her prayers and condolences to the mother of a 15-year-old young man. As I read the posts of the past day, I realized the young man was only a couple of weeks older than my grandson. I didn’t know him but he was part of the group of boys that grew up in scouting in our community. I looked at his picture as I read the words from his mother, “The autopsy reports it was an apparent suicide by hanging. No one noticed any signs of depression. It was such a shock to us all.”
I am writing this post because I was once in a place of such darkness, pain, anger, fear, and loneliness that I tried to take my life. I was helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t see a way that my life would ever be anything different. When you are that depressed the world disappears and makes no sense. It is as if you are in a bubble and no one can see you or hear you or get to you.
I made one last phone call that night to a friend.
She said, “I can’t do this. I can’t go down this road with you anymore. I love you, but I will not go any further with you unless you get help.”
She gave me the phone number to the crisis hotline and begged me to call them. The one person I thought would care turned her back on me. After taking moresome pills and downing a half bottle of Southern Comfort, I picked up the phone and called. The woman on the phone that night saved my life.
Things didn’t get better overnight. I became part of a twelve step program. I got therapy. I eventually started on medication. I learned to let people into my life and talk when I was angry, scared or lonely. I made a mess of things from time to time, but I learned how to clean up my messes and not make the same mistakes again.
That was almost 26 years ago. Life still has ups and downs. Life still gets messy from time to time. Life still hurts more that I can bear sometimes, but I know what to do. I have repaired relationships with family and have better relationships than I ever imagined possible. I have friends that I love and cherish. I have support any time I need it. Oh, and that friend who “turned her back on me” that night is still my friend and I thank her from time to time for the gift she gave me.
If you are reading this and you have thoughts of suicide or you live with depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.(or you know someone who does) PLEASE reach out to someone. I know it is hard. I understand it is one of the most difficult things in the world to do. I realize the phone weights two tons when you think of calling someone. I know that you believe in your heart and soul that no one will care or understand.
Just hear me when I tell you that there is hope. Even if you don’t believe me, do it anyway. There is help. Call a family member; Call a friend; Call your pastor or member from whatever faith group works for you; Call a doctor or therapist; or
Call the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine 1-800-273-TALK(8255) Chat is available. Veterans press #1 http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Online Chat support from To Write Love on Her Arms… www.IMALIVE.org The first online network with 100% of its volunteers trained and certified in crisis intervention.
The truth is, just talking to someone, explaining, sharing, venting, being listened to, can often give you a temporary reprieve. Talking to someone can temporarily change your perspective – Human contact changes the brain chemistry & opens that emotion “pod” of pent up emotions for temporary relief – and it may not be what they say, but just the exchange of emotions like empathy, compassion, & concern.
Will they cure you – no. Will they take the pain away? Maybe ease it for a little while.
Even if you know you may be upset or suicidal again soon, just give it a try.
Even though non-depressive humans won’t really know exactly how you feel — Let them try to help the best they can. Talk to them, let them listen. Most of them are not even getting paid. The only reason they are there is for you. They may not always say the exact right thing, but they are hoping that somehow they can help you make it through a difficult time, to live & fight another day.
Taken from http://suicide.com/suicidecrisiscenter/whycall.html
My Baby is Turning 40
How is that possible you ask? I know-I don’t look a day over 40 myself. I certainly don’t feel old enough to have a son turning 40 tomorrow. It was devastating when I turned 40, but this seems even bigger. His birthday gives me reason to stop and reflect.
I remember finding out I was pregnant. I was 20 years old and had been married for 2 years. My husband was very excited about having a new tax deduction. I was excited and TERRIFIED! I had no idea how to be a good mother. I certainly had fine examples of what not to do.
I had a list of things I would never do. I was not going to be like the people who raised me. I hesitated to call any of them parents. I lived through abuse of every kind as a child, two sets of alcoholic parents, abandonment, fear, and almost always felt alone in the world. I wanted to provide my children with love, encourage them to be individuals, support their hopes and dreams, and give them a safe and loving home.
I went to the library and read every book I could find on parenting. I read about everything from breast-feeding to disciple. I read about physical care and emotional well-being. I even had to read about the birthing process. The only thing I really knew was how to get pregnant.
My son was the most amazing baby. He slept through the night at 6 weeks. He wasn’t fussy or colicky. He was usually happy. He said his first words at 6 months and could sing all of “Take Me Home Country Roads” at 18 months. He would sneak away from me at the store and head to front desk area. He would tell the clerk that his parents were missing and ask for candy while he waited for them to find us. He was outgoing and everyone loved him.
When he was 4 years old, his little sister joined the family. He has always loved his little sister. He nick named her “Coochie.” I have no idea how he decided on that name. He loved to carry her around and dote on her.
Life didn’t turn out the way I planned. The effects of my childhood, undiagnosed PTSD, anxiety disorders, and clinical depression took a toll. My marriage was not a good one and that added to the problems. I started drinking as a way of escape and trying to find a sense of normalcy.
My children never saw me drink nor saw me drunk. I hid it well. I started to make poor choices for my life. At the end of my marriage I was sleeping on the couch. My kids came to me and said that my daughter was moving into the room with my son (and his bunk beds) so I could have her room and sleep on a bed. It broke my heart. I knew I had to make changes. However, I made the wrong changes. I moved out of the house and tried to be a good mother living apart from them.
I don’t need to share all the details of that time, but my husband filed for divorce and asked for physical custody of the kids. I was allowed to have them every other weekend and one night a week. The pain was too much to bear and I used drinking more as a way to escape. I made another bad choice to move to another state and try to start my life again. You can run away but you always take yourself and your problems with you. Eventually I found my way into therapy and recovery.
The next years would be very difficult. Living so far away from my children made healing the relationship a daily struggle. My daughter did return to live with me but my son did not. He was in high school and stayed to finish. We would have highs and lows in our relationship over the next few years. I know he felt abandoned just as I had so many years before.
In 12 step programs of recovery, we are taught not to regret the past nor shut the door on it. We are taught that our past made us who we are today. My past created a path for my way to a relationship with God that I never had before. I understand those things in my head; My heart is another story. Tears still come from time to time when I remember the days of missing my children. I still carry shame and hurt from that time.
My son turns 40 tomorrow and I couldn’t ask for a better relationship with him. He is an amazing husband and father. He has a strong faith and we share our thoughts and ideas about that. We are able to talk about the past with understanding. He has an amazing wife and is father two of my grandchildren. They are both a joy in my life.
A few years ago, he gave me the best birthday present I could ever imagined. He bought tickets for us to go to Charlotte, NC and see the Panthers and Redskins football game. Of course, he was wearing his Panther’s blue shirt and I was wearing my Redskins’ burgundy and gold shirt. We stayed overnight and enjoyed the time talking, laughing, and enjoying each other.
This summer we took a day trip to Charlotte to see the movie premier of “Blue Like Jazz.” The movie is based on a book by Donald Miller. We both love the author and book. These rare moments give us time to talk and continue to grow our relationship.
My son turns 40 tomorrow. I still call him Teddy. His big boy friends call him Ted. I am his Mom and I am allowed to call him anything I want. He is still that precious baby boy, inquisitive toddler, and bright/gifted little boy to me. He always will be.
Happy Birthday, Teddy! I love you with all my heart.
None Of My Business
“What other people think of me is none of my business.” was a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady (1933 – 1945) and reform leader.
I know it is none of my business, but I am a people pleaser and I want everyone to like me (even if I don’t like them so much) and think the best. I want to defend my life and choices if someone doesn’t agree or challenges me. I get angry when I feel judged or misunderstood.
I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about something my therapist calls “baskets.” She says I only have to be concerned and deal with what is in my basket. What people think of me is in their basket. I need to stay out of other people’s baskets, even if I don’t want to.
I was reminded of this quote and these lessons yesterday. I stayed quiet during a conversation in a group even though I had personal experience I could have shared. I knew I would be judged because he conversation including judging others who had similar experiences. I might have been able to offer some insight that could have been helpful, but chose to allow “what they might think of me” to control my actions.
When I become preoccupied with what someone else might think, I don’t share my honest self and voice. I have given up too much of my life to “them.” I got lost and had no idea who I was or what I believed. Truthfully, if I try to make everyone think the best of me, I am going to disappoint everyone at some point in time.
This doesn’t mean ignoring the feeling of others. I don’t want to say or do things that are mean or hurtful. I just don’t want to hide my voice or dishonor who I am in order make you like me or approve of me. I still worry about what you think about me, but I am spending much less time in that part of my brain. I am learning to speak the truth, share my voice, and be an honest, authentic me.
In the Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse tells the Rabbit about becoming real.
Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘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.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
This blog post is part of NaBloPoMo. The theme for November’s NaBloPoMo is blogging for blogging’s sake.
Move Number 56
No, not 56 moves in my life, just since I was 18 years old. The moves include 7 states and 25 different cities. I don’t know how many there were before 18, but I did live in the same house from the time I was 7 until I was 18. And before you ask, no, we were not military.
My first husband changed jobs or went to school just about every year. After my divorce and time being a practicing alcoholic/addict, I moved several times. Recovery brought new challenges included major moves. Divorce added to the numbers. Some moves were temporary while looking for a place to live. Looking at the number of moves, you might say all were temporary. Moving from a temporary situation to a longer term place was exciting. The dream was always the same; I wanted to live in a place long enough to have the Christmas tree up a second year. It didn’t happen very often.
Moving to a new city was the most frustrating. Finding the grocery store, new doctors, registering kids in school, feeling isolated were all part of the move. Up until the past few years, calling family and friends long distance was expensive so calls were on Sunday afternoon and kept to ten minutes. Letters were the best way of keeping in touch before email. I made the decision to make acquaintances and not friends. It was too difficult to keep starting over.
There were some moves that were devastating. I moved from South Carolina to Baltimore, Md. after a divorce where my husband had physical custody of my children. I was heading towards my bottom with my alcoholism and addiction. I left to escape the pain of living and with the smallest glimmer of hope that I could change things. It would be four months before I found my way to recovery.
Leaving Baltimore after three years in recovery was overwhelming. I was leaving the people who had become more than friends. They had helped me get and stay sober. They had cried with me, laughed with me, watch me grow, and supported me in so many ways. I remember standing at the doorway as I left my therapist office for the last time. The tears were burning my face as I struggled to catch my breath. We hugged one last time and I walked away. My daughter had come back to live with me and I was moving to provide a better life for her.
This move was different. I was ready to leave a difficult marriage. I moved into a home with my daughter and son-in-law. We have lived together before and are comfortable together leading our own lives in the same space. I don’t have a three bedroom house with all my stuff. I have given up and let go of a lot. This is home now and I am at peace and comfortable. I haven’t been able to say that for a while.
I have lived in many houses and apartments over the years. Some of them were home while others where just places to eat and sleep. I grew up in a house with my grandparents. It was never home. I spend a great deal of time at my friend Carol’s house. That was home and that was family.
I spend a good deal of time with my friend and her family. Her home is a place I call home as well. Her family is my other family. When I leave her house at night or she is driving home from another destination, we have always text each other. A couple of weeks ago I texted her and said, “I am home…no I am at my house. I just left home.” Perhaps a cliche but we both agreed that “home is where the heart is.”
I feel blessed and grateful to have a place to live that I can call home. I have adult children and grandchildren that I call family. I also have my second home and family. I have a circle of other friends and a church family who make up a larger community in my life. I hope I don’t have to move too many more times in my lifetime, however I am sure I will move again. I just hope it isn’t too soon.
Big Toothed, Wart Covered, Fire Breathing Monster
I am a writer. If you follow my blog you know most of my posts are about my life. You might also know that I have an overactive and creative imagination. It is a tremendous asset for writing but a curse in living life. I have written about fear and worry in posts and shared it on my Facebook status from time to time. In a recent Facebook status I posted about fear, comments ranged from “fear is from God” and “fear separates you from God.” Those seem to be diametrically opposing statements, so I will follow the sage advice of another comment, “Maybe you should make up your own mind, just saying.”
I was reading the devotional book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young this morning. She was talking about worry and anxiety. She said that in time we become, “god of our fantasies.” That statement sent my mind into a whirlwind of activity. I knew exactly what she meant. Instead of looking at life situations by accepting the facts as they are and then praying for strength and wisdom, I look at the situation and recreate it in an Alice in Wonderland kind of existence. Let me give you an example.
I get a flat tire. I pull off the road. I can’t change the tire myself. I am going to have to call someone. What if no one is home or can’t come? I could be sitting here for hours. I am going to miss my appointment in any case. I can’t afford a new tire and they will probably tell me I have to replace two of them or the car will be out of alignment. The spare tire is probably one of those doughnut tires, and I can’t drive long on that. I won’t be able to get to work and will make everyone angry. I will probably lose my job because of this. What if someone comes along and tries to rob me while I am waiting for help? What if someone comes to help me and the doughnut tire is flat? I am sure a big-toothed, wart covered, fire breathing monster will come and eat me.
That fantasy can keep going if I let it. The fact is I have a road service plan that will come and change my tire or tow the car if necessary. Yes, I may have to buy a tire but many times it can be patched with little or no charge. But I can’t think of those logical, rational solutions because I am fighting off monsters.
I am not exaggerating my fantasy fear life. At least that is how it used to be. I have learned a lot about letting go and trusting God. No, God isn’t going to magically fix the tire, but prayer does help me chase the monster away and deal with the reality in front of me. I am dealing with some difficult situations in my life. I occasionally find myself drifting into that fantasy thinking. When that happens I share those thoughts with a trusted friend or family member. I ask God to help me stay in today and not wander into the deep, dark, scary woods. I pray the prayer of the fictional Father Tim, “God, remove the spirit of fear from me.” I remove myself as the god and creator of my fantasies.
I don’t plan on giving up creative and imaginative thinking. I am a writer after all. If you come across some villains or ferocious creatures in my stories, be assured they are not real. When I come across challenges and fearful things in my life, no matter how real, I don’t have to turn them into monsters or evil beasts to be slain. I will remember that God has promised a “happily ever after ending” to my life, and that is not a fantasy.
A family member had surgery yesterday. As expected, he was sent home with pain medication. The medication came with normal warnings about not using it with alcohol, don’t drive, etc. What I read next on the instructions made me do a double take. I read it again just to be sure I had not misread this. Here is the instruction sheet he was given. Be sure to read the line in the middle of the “pain medication” section. You will see that it says, “You will not get “hooked” to your pain medication.
The pain medication prescribed was hydrocodone. Here is the information about this drug.
National Library of Medicine-Hydrocodone may be habit-forming. Take hydrocodone exactly as directed. Do not take a larger dose, take it more often, or take it for a longer period of time than prescribed by your doctor. Call your doctor if you develop a strong desire to take more medication than prescribed.
Hydrocodone Help-Hydrocodone is an opiate drug that is commonly prescribed to treat pain. It is a sedative that produces feelings of calm and euphoria and has the potential to cause dangerous addiction. It is important for someone who has developed an addiction to hydrocodone to undergo professional rehab treatment. However, there are some myths about that treatment that can prevent that person from getting the help he or she needs.
Medicine.Net- GENERIC NAME: hydrocodone/acetaminophen. BRAND NAMES: Vicodin, Vicodin ES, Anexsia, Lorcet, Lorcet Plus, Norco. DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Hydrocodone is a narcotic pain-reliever and a cough suppressant, similar to codeine. Hydrocodone may be habit forming. Mental and physical dependence can occur.
I could list more references but you get the idea. Did I mention that the prescription was a hefty ten day supply for a minor surgery? This medication was given at a VA hospital where many of the patients already have issues with addictions. Yes, if you use the medication exactly as prescribed and for only a short time when the pain needs to be managed you probably won’t have problem.
I am confused and concerned by this. I understand the need for pain medication, especially after surgery. I do not understand the need for that much medication and a”non warning” label telling patients they will not get hooked. I am not sure who to write to express my concerns, but I will be researching and sending a letter to someone.
Have you seen anything like this? What are your thoughts?