Archive for the Recovery Category

“…on a break”

I didn’t intend to go on a 3 month hiatus. However, I probably should have started that hiatus intentionally about 3 months or more before I stopped writing. Or I should have just stuck with fiction. Because I was not well.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

I was in a funk for a while. Okay, to a certain extent I still am, but I am no longer the “batshit crazy” I was. And it was one of those things I saw coming, but not entirely clearly. I let a couple close friends in on what was going on with me to the extent I knew because there was a certain aspect of it that I have been through before. I know that after a period of high stress, when I start coming down, I’m going to have panic attacks followed by depression. I have not ever been through that cycle since getting sober. So when I started having the anxiety, I started reaching out. It didn’t seem as bad as the panic attacks of the past, but I have not forgotten how bad that depressive period I had 5 years ago was. Never before nor since has life been that dark. Thank goodness.

In the meantime, I just wasn’t snapping back. One of my friends told me that we didn’t necessarily have to search real deep to find the cause, and I told her, “I’m not afraid of going deep, but I don’t know where to start digging.” Granted, this was my first holiday season since my mom died. Naturally some of the funk was grief, and I was on a heavy stress cycle for several months following her death. I got emotionally involved in the election, feeding on fear and outrage and what I viewed as hypocrisy that I felt was my duty to expose. (It’s not.) And then the election did not turn out as I expected leaving me to eat a lot of the words I was saying.

I sat down and tried to write just after the New Year. I have no idea what prompted me to write the following, but I am sure it was to point out something I saw in someone else rather than taking care of my own side of the street.

I can abstain from drinking, but if I am miserable, desiring the escape that drinking gave me, I’m not sober. Without the “spiritual awakening,” I am just a dry drunk going through the motions and never finding peace. With that attitude I can never do the 12th step because I can’t carry a message I haven’t really received.

Ironically, I got a call the following day from a friend who was checking on me, and she asked me if I thought I might be on a dry drunk. I answered that the thought had crossed my mind, because that was about the point the light start to flicker as if it was about to come on. After we hung up, I texted one friend and asked for prayer for the digging I was about to do, and another to see if she noticed anything glaring from my behavior that might indicate a blind spot. Within a day or 2, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was indeed on a dry drunk and had been for quite some time.

Dry drunk is a slang expression infamously known in the sober community. It describes a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways.

I’ve been known to spout out the statement, “I’d rather do hard stuff now than to do the work of figuring out why I drank again after the fact.” I still stand by that statement, but I was so far off track with my program that I went right back to Step 1. I looked at what happened, and I had stopped doing most of the things I did at the very beginning. Not all at once, but one thing here, another thing there, until I was barely working a program at all. I went back and started doing the basics again, and it’s getting better. I still backtracked the progression, and identified the first cause: I decided that I got it. I thought I had the program figured out, I had my alcoholism defeated, and I could chill and coast. Well, once I think I’ve got it is when I’ve lost it. And it happened not long after I had a year’s sobriety. It became complicated when life started happening and hitting me with major life changes like a separation and death of a parent. Because I wasn’t doing the everyday basics, I started running out of steam because I was no longer operating on a firm foundation with the help of my Higher Power. I was white-knuckling and had more than once incident where I was just about to drink.

I’ve looked at those instances where that obsession to drink returned, and I’ve wondered how I was able to not drink. Like that last Thanksgiving with Mom when she was in the hospital. If I’d had to drive by Petit Jean Liquor one more time, I was going to stop. I had already planned it out and knew I could pull it off without no one knowing. No one would have known. But the thought occurred to me, “I’ll know.” Despite the fact that I called no one under such “noble auspices” as not wanting to interrupt anyone’s Thanksgiving, I didn’t drink. Note: I should have called someone. About a week and a half before this past Christmas, I was on my way to work on a Friday morning when I recognized that feeling I used to get when I was drinking and I knew I was going to drink that day if I didn’t do something. I made a call that day and answered the greeting with “I want to drink.” But I didn’t. I know that may or may not make sense. I didn’t want to drink more than I wanted to drink, but I was craving that escape. That numbness. I didn’t drink, and I made it to my 3 year anniversary a couple of weeks ago, if by the skin of my teeth.

Just this week I was telling a friend about my first drink. How I was given that “way of escape” in the verse I quoted at the beginning. A big, wide door that I could have walked through without drinking, and without losing a friendship. To this day I don’t know why I decided to participate. I don’t know why I kept drinking when that first drink tasted so bad. I eventually came to love the effect of alcohol more that I cared about any moral implication of drinking the way I drank. What I do know, though, is why over those months when I wasn’t putting forth much effort towards working my program is how I kept from drinking in spite of myself.

God’s mercy and grace.

There is no other explanation for why I didn’t drink. Because I was half-assing the program (if that much), I had no mental defense against that first drink. I’m a firm believer in free will. I don’t believe that God forces anyone to do anything against their will even if it is in their best interest. But at the same time, I have no doubt that when I took that 3rd step the first time, surrendering without reservation, turning my will and my life over to the care of God, that even when I tried to take my will back, He kept me sober by doing for me what I could not do for myself. Or perhaps the better way of saying that is that he kept me dry while my life got more and more unmanageable knowing that the unmanageability would eventually hurt enough to take action to get the serenity back.

The edge of insanity

“Very few people could stay sane in your home. You are not a failure.”

Drews, Toby Rice (2011-03-30). “Getting Them Sober, volume one — You CAN help!” (“Getting Them Sober” Book 1) (Kindle Location 1445). Recovery Communications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

CapeFearOverlook-WM-Smaller

“I was standing on the precipice. Something had to give or else I was going to have to numb more often.” I was standing in a friend’s kitchen when I had that epiphany. Granted she had said something that flipped the switch so that light could come on. But at that moment, I realized just how close I came to losing it – completely.

Truth is, I had already lost it. It just hadn’t become apparent to anyone else. My bubble of control of my carefully crafted public persona had burst and I couldn’t get it back together. It’s probably safe to say that bubble was cracked and extremely fragile from the get-go. Lord knows I was sick before I ever took that first drink.

Lately I’ve been pondering why. Why when I hit that wall and fell apart did I reach out for help instead of turning to my old standby of numbing and escaping? I mean, I did, but not what I would have done had I not sought out therapy and group support. Why was I able to get that honest with my doctor?

I think back a few years to a periodic reinvestigation I went through for work. It was by far the worst one I’ve gone through. It occurred to me during that process just how isolated I was. I didn’t look at it that way exactly. I just looked at it as a red flag that I didn’t have any kind of a social life outside of work. And since I had been considering going back to church anyway, I decided that going to church would keep me from looking so isolated. Because I had an appearance to maintain. We found a church we liked, and I was able to make enough friends that I could list a few for my next reinvestigation and wouldn’t look like such a loner.

I always laugh when I think about that one. I listed Petra as a reference, and then I turned around and told her my junk. Of course at that point in time, I didn’t dare tell her everything, but a lot. I hadn’t set out to make “real” friends. My goal was my typical not-too-deep friends. (Which I differentiate from shallow.) Molly and Karyn got all up in that inner circle too. Actually, Molly is the root of that whole circle. She is the one who wouldn’t let me sit quietly on the sidelines observing. This might seem like I am digressing, but those ladies, Sarah, and Jessica (whom I don’t know quite as well as the others) played a key role in the beginning of my journey back to sanity.

Although I still had to hit bottom.

But it became real easy to get real with Petra and Karyn. Not surface-level, but “Hey guys, here’s my junk! I’m depressed and my marriage is a wreck!” I couldn’t train for 2 half marathons with Karyn and not end up in some deep conversation. I still say it was all Molly’s doing. She “forced” me to help set up for VBS with Petra and Brittany. Heck, she somehow managed to talk me into being the music leader for that VBS. She got me running by talking me into joining a newly formed local running club. She wouldn’t have asked me to lead the music if I hadn’t managed to become one of the worship leaders on Sundays. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t joined the worship team due to an intense prodding in my gut. The girl who quit the youth choir in high school because she wasn’t going to do a solo ending up leading worship? That’s doesn’t compute.

None of it computes.

I was just thinking the other day about how several people I know who grew up in similar legalistic Baptist environments as I, and walked away wanting nothing to do with Christianity. Sure, I walked away, too, but I always felt called back.

I’ve been through a lot of doubt and blaming God, and the doubts and blame have always boiled down to wrong beliefs about His character based on wrong teaching. I’m even no longer willing to go so far as to call it false teaching because I am less inclined to attribute malicious intent and instead give the benefit of the doubt that it’s just lack of discernment because we naturally expect our pastors and teachers to be humbly teaching us truth.

So why was I drawn back? Why didn’t I lose faith and hope? Why, when my carefully constructed and controlled world fell apart, did I not give up, give in, and self-medicate myself into oblivion?

Grace.

Grace blows my mind. There is no reason whatsoever I should have been delivered from my self-destructive attitude and behaviors. Nothing I did to deserve deliverance.

Just grace.

Laws do no transform hearts. Legalism doesn’t provide any protection from temptation. Rules don’t heal broken hearts nor do they sooth deep crushing pain.

Oh, but grace.

Grace will turn a heart of stone into living flesh. Grace will turn self-centeredness into love – genuine love – for “the least of these,” and not because of what the “least” can give them.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

And grace will restore you to sanity even when you are sure you have passed the point of no return.

Onions and old wounds

“I’m so afraid of the way I feel.” – Lindsey Buckingham

StairsToNothing-WM

Some days are rough. When they string together into a season, it really sucks. Some days I just want to stop feeling. Except I don’t. Lord knows I’ve done enough numbing.

I know that healing is painful, and slow. I know that sometimes you have to push yourself through the pain because that is part of the healing process too. Like when I had my appendix taken out. I was sick as a dog for a week prior to the surgery. I mean, it ruptured, so, yeah. I was BAD sick by the time I had emergency surgery. It is a miracle that I wasn’t sicker. I was exhausted, hungry, and sore after the surgery. I didn’t want to do a thing except lay there drugged up wishing someone would leave a donut close enough for me to reach even though I wasn’t allowed to eat. But my mom made the nurses make me get up out of bed and walk no matter how much I complained about the pain. Not because she wanted me to hurt, but because that was just part of the healing process – getting up and moving forward.

Once upon a time, I broke my wrist. I was in 5th or 6th grade. It was a playground accident, and it was a complete accident. I would even go so far as to call it a freak accident on a seesaw. I told no one because I knew that if my dad caught wind, I would be held solely responsible for both cause and effect. Obviously it wasn’t a bad break, but I found it really hard to get through basketball practice with minimal use of my left hand. The physical pain was mild compared to the emotional pain I expected to receive. It’s probably why I have such a high tolerance for physical pain now.

Hiding an injury from a parent out of fear of punishment for getting hurt in an accident is not normal.

The kids and I were heading home from the dentist last week, and I had some road rage going on. Big surprise to anyone who’s ever had to ride in the car with me. Anyway, Jamie says, “I don’t think I have ever experienced road rage.” I said, “Good. I hope you don’t.” After a bit more discussion she said, “Well, it is a lot easier to be mad and yell at someone when you aren’t face to face with them.” Could it be that a childhood of helplessness and unresolved anger is behind my road rage?

I had to get the pimp car fixed last week. It was something I didn’t think I could fix, but the tow truck driver was confident I could have done it myself. Anyway, after fixing the harmonic balancer (fancy name for crankshaft pulley), they recommended an oil change (it was really low), and coolant flush (coolant was really dirty). I declined having them do it because 1) I already had the oil and filter purchased to change the oil, 2) I’ve flushed coolant before and can do it myself, and 3) I look for any ways I can to save some cash. Well #2 was a huge mistake. I managed to break the petcock. Not so bad that I can’t work around it, and it still works, but still. It was frustrating and I bitched to Petra who proceeded to tell me that I don’t have to do everything myself even though I am capable because I don’t have anything to prove. Um, yes, I do. It’s irrational and insane, but yes, it is almost a compulsive need to prove that I am capable of doing it all and am not “stupid” and “irresponsible.”

I’ve reached a point where I have gained back all the weight I had lost and now need to either lose some weight or buy bigger clothes. I am opting for the former. I went to the doctor Monday because I had some paperwork for him to fill out for my insurance, and I needed a couple of prescriptions redone. Especially when the nurse reminded me I have asthma and I looked at my inhaler that expired over a year ago. My doc told me not to beat myself up over the weight gain as it is a normal reaction (physically and mentally) to what has gone on over the past few months. And now I can rein myself back in and “eat an apple and go for a walk” instead of binging on carbs and sugar.

4 years ago, he suggested a 30 day no-starch diet to break my addiction to carbs. Of course, I was also running regularly then too. So I decided to put myself back on a healthy diet high in vegetables and fruits. And running when the weather is nice enough. Twice in the past week I have gotten a bunch of veggies to roast. (Fiber is my friend. Seriously.) But my veggie prep time is slow. I am clumsy with a knife, so I can’t rush. My left hand has enough scars. But, I digress. Jamie decides she is hungry whenever I am doing this slow prep work and gets in the way while bitching about how slow I am and how I’m doing it wrong, and blah blah. And it really, really pisses me off.

It’s a trigger.

Once upon a time, I decided to make a bologna sandwich. I was maybe 12 or 13. Old enough to do it myself. It was during summertime so we had fresh tomatoes, and I was going to slice a tomato for my sandwich. Well, Daddy peeled everything, including tomatoes, so I proceeded to peel the tomato as that is what you do when it’s all you know. He walked in as I was doing it and had a conniption over how much of the tomato I was taking off with the peel. He went on and on and on until I melted down and just grabbed my sandwich and ran out to the barn sobbing with the sandwich I no longer wanted.

I vowed to never ever peel another tomato again.

And when Jamie starts bitching while I’m prepping, I relive that tomato incident all over again, which of course means I am very snippy with her.

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to heal from all those old wounds, not to mention how on earth do you?

You may believe that if you begin to cry you will never stop.1

I remember wondering “How broken do I have to be?” Now I am wondering just how broken I really am. I like fixing things. When I fix a light, a car, mower, or appliance, I feel empowered as if I do have some semblance of control over the world around me. There has been so much helplessness that fixing material things makes the broken parts of me not seem so terrifying. I can look at myself and say, “You know what? You’re not stupid. You can fix stuff. Not everything, but a lot of things. You pay your bills on time, and when you don’t, it’s not intentional. You’re not a failure.” And that works until I get tired from going wide open like I’m Superwoman.

That’s when I feel the wounds of that broken little girl.

That’s when the that old familiar voice starts in. “You’re in over your head. You’re a fraud. You’re about to fail big in front of everyone and they are going to point and jeer.”

I know it’s a lie. It’s just hard to fight your mind when you’re already tired and worn down – when you’re still hurt.

Psalm 13 New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

1 Woititz, Janet G. (1983). Adult Children of Alcoholics. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc p198

I used to think ___ but now i think ___. #OutofSortsBook

Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts, released last week. She is doing a synchroblog with a writing prompt about how and why we have evolved in our beliefs over the years. I’m all about a writing prompt, even if it takes 3 days to write. Ha!

LetMeOut-WM

I think so differently about so many things now, I don’t even know where to begin.

I always felt torn between 2 extremes. I either felt so utterly broken that I was beyond hope, or I felt like I had all the answers and was in the fast lane with the saints on the stairway to heaven. I think the self-righteous arrogance was a coping mechanism to deal with the massive inferiority I felt. I would find people whom I was “better than” in order to feel better about myself. Of course that was only when I was sober.

Truly, underneath any bravado I put up, I always felt less than. Not good enough. As I wrote about not too long ago, “If I couldn’t ever measure up to my dad’s standards with my behavior, how could I ever hope to measure up to God’s standard of absolute holy perfection?”

I thought I knew who God was, but I really never saw Him for who He really is.

For many years I did not consistently have someone in my life speaking truth to me about the character and nature of God. That means I definitely did not have someone reminding me of the Good News – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I forgot that I couldn’t earn my way to God.

I had neither a dramatic falling away, nor did I have a dramatic return. I had a gradual descent into a breakdown where something had to give. Things started to change from the time I realized I was having a breakdown.

I changed when I realized I needed help.

It began with a medical doctor appointment where I walked out with an antidepressant and a couple of recommendations/referrals for therapists. Then I not only picked a therapist, but started attending Al-Anon. While I was largely silent in Al-Anon for a while, I sat in that first session with my therapist and verbally vomited on her. I told her things that I had never ever said out loud. To anyone.

I learned first in my therapist’s office to be honest about both my present and my past. To talk about what happened, what was happening, and how I felt. And nothing would ever be the same, especially once one of my close friends told me I needed to quit drinking. And that’s when I had to get really honest.

When you grow up in a fundamentalist culture with an abusive father, you learn things about God that just aren’t true. Sure, I believed Jesus saved me, but I didn’t fully believe I could be and was forgiven. I had to revisit everything I thought I knew about God, and tear down a lot of false teaching of legalism. I had to work through a lot of resentment not just with the religion of my youth, but with God himself.

I used to think that God was just waiting for people to do the wrong thing in order to enact a swift and thorough punishment for the least little infraction. Therefore, I had to be on guard all the time to not mess up, and when I did (because we all do), I lived in bondage to shame and fear. For many years, my only relief came from a bottle.

But having been delivered from the compulsion to self-medicate, I now know that God is kind and loving and merciful. I now know without a doubt that Jesus is enough, and because of Him, I don’t have to try to earn my way into the Father’s good graces. I am fully known and fully loved. The Holy Spirit wasn’t the one filling me with fear and shame. Oh, no. It’s the Holy Spirit that reminds me who I really am – a beloved daughter of the Father.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NIV)

“It takes some effort to look like this!”

DOLLY

I had an appointment with my feelings doctor a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those where I tried really hard to direct the conversation where she wouldn’t ask me any probing questions. I failed. I should have known that I would have to leave out a significant even from the previous 3 weeks to get past that question. Heck, Petra had already asked me that question so I really didn’t want to have to answer it twice in one week. Thankfully we didn’t stay on that topic, so there was no meltdown. But she got a little more probing in another area.

She always asks me about playing with the church band, exercise, meetings, and any social time outside of those. She knows my history of anxiety and depression, and I had already disclosed a panic attack I’d had the week before. I know I am doing all the things I need to be doing to keep myself busy and not isolated. Nothing good ever comes from when I isolate. But then she asked me if I enjoy the activities I’m doing, and I said, “Yes, I really do. But it often takes a lot of effort to make myself do it.”

Someone told me once, okay multiple times, that the dread of doing something is almost always worse than actually doing it. As I told my therapist, I don’t think I should have to work so hard to make myself do something I know I will enjoy.

I think part of it is because I let myself get overwhelmed unnecessarily. Like what happened with that panic attack. Something unplanned came up that had to be taken care of right away, and was something I shouldn’t have had to take care of as it was supposed to have been taken care of 2 months ago. I was angry over a resentment that got picked at. Well, that was the evening the kids decided to both barrage me with “When are you going to teach me to _______?” That was when I walked outside, grabbed the shovel, and called my sponsor because self-talk wasn’t working and I needed someone else to tell me the same thing I was telling myself but not believing: “Stay in today.”

And, no, I didn’t bury anybody with the shovel.

But I got some probing questions which I didn’t answer. Later, though, I had a completely unrelated conversation (initially) in which I verbally vomited all over Petra, and said, “Huh. That’s what my sponsor was trying to get at earlier.” Funny how that happens.

Sometimes I forget that I am going through a very difficult season. That’s when I wonder why it is so difficult to get out of bed in the morning and get ready. Many times I sit on the edge of my bed trying to work up the motivation to get dressed for work. It’s not that I don’t want to go to work. At least not really, because I normally enjoy being at work once I’m there. I work with really great people who made me laugh and laugh hard.

There is something to be said for the effort of putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing when I don’t want to. It is, after all, what grown ups do. When I enjoy the activity that I have to put so much effort into making myself do, it is worth the effort.

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#medicatedandmighty – It’s complicated

This is it people. Two prescriptions to maintain this crazy. Wish me luck.

A photo posted by @muthalovinautism on

That is my friend Erin Jones. Her story has just blown up over the last few weeks. It’s a story about hitting bottom, and getting help back up. I encourage you to follow her on Facebook and/or check out her blog at Mutha Lovin’ Autism. Her story is shedding light on mental health, and seeks to break the stigma associated with mental illness.

I’m standing with her.

#medicatedandmighty Standing with my friend Erin @muthalovinautism and sharing my story of needing help, and before and after pics. I might have been running regularly in 2012 and looking ok on the outside, but I was trapped in a cycle of self-medication and denial. Midway through 2013, I hit a bottom, and started getting help. 5 months after I started taking an antidepressant, I stopped drinking. 17 months later, I stopped smoking (again). 18 months later, I put on makeup and a skirt, and told my story to a room full of people. 20 months later, I weaned off the antidepressant because it gave me the emotional reset I needed along with my program to feel my feelings without fear of them and without being consumed by them and work through the pain if the issues I stuffed, suppressed, and numbed for most of my life. #throwbackthursday #tbt

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

The last time I posted, I mentioned wrestling over sharing my unsanitized story. Since then, I have added My Story to the menu above (below on mobile). Because I have reached the point that I am ready to share it. Because one thing I have learned in recovery is that I am not alone and someone else has done or experienced something I have. Which means, there is someone out there who thinks that no one can possibly understand what he or she has been through.

It’s what my Manifesto is about. It’s about letting just one other person know they are not alone. And someone cares.

And there is hope.

I may or may not be on the autism spectrum. I don’t have a diagnosis, but I show a lot of signs. I’m still not convinced that I developed symptoms that would be considered on the spectrum due to trying to cope and survive the abuse as a child. Regardless, I have never felt “normal” and came up with my own coping skills which work well for a child, but not so much as an adult. I am certain that the abuse and all the methods I used to cope contributed to my own mental illness – namely depression and anxiety.

Y’all, you can’t function “normally” when you are bouncing between the 2. Self-medicating will prolong the inevitable breakdown. Stuffing and suppressing will only last for so long before you blow up. And the isolation will slowly wear you down until you want to die. Whether by your own hand – quickly or slowly – or through recklessness, without professional help, you will find yourself in such a depressive state that death looks like the only viable option.

And I know firsthand, you can’t just pray that away.

No, you need people who have been there and back and will walk with you or just sit with you without blaming you or trying to fix you. If you have been struggling with depression and/or anxiety, you probably do have a chemical imbalance which will require medication. Years and years of stress will throw the chemical balance off because your body has been on alert for so long it doesn’t know how to not be on alert.

It absolutely is a physical, mental, and spiritual sickness. You can’t just treat one area and expect the other areas to recover also.

And you absolutely cannot fix yourself.

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The effect of focus

I’m afraid of heights. I’m not sure when I developed it because I did not have it when I was a kid. I first realized it one year when my mom and I went out to the old house at Birdtown to winter prep it. We had to cover the attic vents which required carrying the covers up a ladder and hammering them in. I got up the ladder and freaked. I couldn’t do it. Mom had to manhandle the vent on the ladder.

I didn’t get any better with ladders though I did get to a point where I could climb a ladder and do stuff, but barely, and I was terrified and hyperventilating the whole time. I had to face my ladder fear this weekend.

Half of the living room had been repainted, but didn’t get finished. Like most of the projects around the house. I finally tired of being pissed off about it and decided there was nothing stopping me from just finishing it. I had gotten more paint, and kudos to the lady at the Pittsboro Lowes who did an outstanding job of matching that paint. Labor day, I intended just to paint the one wall so I could move the TV, but it went so quickly that I did all of the room except for that small bit on one wall that is technically on the 2nd floor.

Before-WM

That was going to involve getting on a ladder and painting at the same time.

Some of it I was able to cut in from the 2nd floor landing, and thankfully that was the highest part. But still, I was going to have to get really high up on that 8 foot ladder with a paint bucket and brush…and actually paint.

There I stood, 2 rungs from the top, paint in one hand, brush in the other. I dipped the brush, wiped off some of the excess paint, and put the brush to the top edge of the wall underneath the molding. No tape. “Just hold the brush steady and cut the line.” I took a deep breath, and that’s what I did. I focused on cutting a straight line, and kept the fact that I was on a ladder secondary.

And it worked.

During-WM

I think in life we have a tendency to get so caught up in secondary issues that we are unable to do what we need to be doing. We get overwhelmed by things that are largely outside of our control so that we can’t focus on what is within our sphere of influence. It wasn’t that I ignored the fact that I was on a ladder. My safety depended on my awareness of standing on a very small surface 6ft off the floor. But my primary task was to paint a straight line, and as long as I focused on that task, I was able to do it without fear of falling.

I also had to have faith that the ladder would work as designed.

I made sure the ladder was solidly level and steady before I ever climbed it. I did not climb above the recommended highest safe rung, and stayed a rung below it. I made sure to lean my shins and knees against the 2 top rungs to steady myself. I am prone to vertigo so ensuring I had my body supported as much as I could helped to stave off that feeling of pitching. I did what was in my control, and left the rest to the ladder to not collapse.

I took the appropriate safety measures with the ladder because they were within my sphere of influence. Then I let that go and focused on the task itself not allowing myself to stew on what-ifs or if-onlys.

After-WM

Focus on the task at hand. Just do the next right thing. Be aware, but do what is yours to do and do it well without grumbling and without fear.

And don’t live in fear over things that you have no control over.

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“The needs of the many…”

I am really struggling right now. When stuff hits the fan, it really hits the fan. I’m not struggling in isolation, though. I’ve shared with several close friends what is going on. I’ve even shared it with my co-workers because that morning I wasn’t coming to work until my daughter was home, I felt I needed to tell them why.

I have been put into the position – again – where I have to step up and take charge. Only this time, I have had a little taste of sanity, and I can see how life has become unmanageable again. I’ve had enough of the insanity and uncertainty and dysfunction. I am now in a position where I am forced to make some big decisions, all of which are going to involve uncomfortable (at best) confrontation.

I also struggle with how much is too much to share publicly. I absolutely won’t put this stuff on Facebook, but technically if I put it out here on my blog, I am putting on Facebook since I auto-publish to Facebook. There’s also the little matter of not having shared what happened with family except for one cousin.

Above all, I don’t want unsolicited advice nor do I want a big outpouring of sympathy. I’ve played my own role in the dysfunction that does not leave me a completely innocent victim. There has been complicity on my part in the past that enabled things to progress to the point they have. However, that does not mean that I must maintain status quo out of misguided duty whose purpose is to keep up appearances.

Sooner or later you can no longer hide the effects and consequences that accompany the disease of alcoholism and addiction. Then you are left with decisions on whether to let things continue to spiral in a way that sucks your family down with it or to protect the truly innocent from further harm from a disease none of you can control.

This is where I am. Facing a decision that I don’t want to make. Do nothing knowing things are going to continue to get worse (as they have been) while sucking multiple people down, or I can take a stand with the knowledge that the stand itself has the potential for loss. Yet I keep hearing the voice of Spock, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one.”

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Starting Over #DoSummer2015 #DoOver

“It’s always best to start at the beginning.” – Glinda, the Good Witch of the North

I have realized something really scary. I am the most emotionally and mentally healthy person in my household, and the most mature.

15yo-wm

Right. I’m the mature one.

But while perhaps I live according to the mantra that Ouiser Boudreaux calls “A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste” far too much, there is, unfortunately, a reason why I am the most emotionally and mentally healthy and mature person in my household.

I realized my life was unmanageable and would remain that way unless I got help.

I made the decision to do whatever I had to do to change.

Sometimes I still fight it tooth and nail because I am still afraid. I spent my childhood living in fear, and it is deeply ingrained in me. What I am slowly learning, and much more slowly than I like, is that it’s ok to be afraid, and push through it anyway. Just like when I run, I’m ready to quit a quarter mile into it. But I keep putting one foot in front of the other because when I finish, I won’t remember how bad that first and/or second mile sucked. I will feel great because I kept going and finished.

I had a sit-down, face-to-face meeting with my sponsor last week. I was in a huge funk, and I needed help getting to the root of what was going on. Plus, I find it is a lot harder to hold stuff back when she’s looking at me. Through the course of processing and reprocessing what was discussed, I decided I need to get back in Al-Anon. I was going to go back to my home group Friday night, but I ended up going to an A.A. meeting instead. As I was adjusting my Friday night plans in my head, and planning out when I could hit the next Al-Anon meeting, I had a thought.

I can have an Al-Anon #DoOver.

I decided I could go to the same Saturday morning beginner’s meeting that I started in, and this time do it right. You know, because I never really worked an Al-Anon program the first time around. I went determined to speak also, but I didn’t really get a chance. However, I recognized someone whom I had met nearly 2 years ago in that room when I first started, and I went and spoke to her after the meeting.

I connected.

2 years ago, I spoke to no one, and tried to quickly get out of there. I was overwhelmed. I had been crying and fighting crying the whole meeting, and I needed to get out where I could. This time, I could tell by remembering how I felt the last time that I have grown quite a bit. I teared up a little, but while it is still automatic to fight it, I didn’t put all my effort into it. But I was also able to laugh and nod my head in understanding with other shares.

I might be a beginner again, but I am no longer a newcomer.

I’m glad to have the chance to start over.

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Fake it ’til you make it

Stairs-RavenRock-WM

I hated that phrase. Because some people never seem to get to the “make it” point and just fake it. And they just fake it when it will benefit them in some way. They can talk the talk around the right people, but just don’t seem to ever be able to personally apply it to their relationships with other people.

You know, hypocrites.

The other night, I was in a situation where I had to give a really brief version of my alcoholic story – what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. I didn’t really put any time into preparing for it even though I knew I would have to give it. I just let it largely flow spontaneously. As I listened to myself speaking (which one can do when one dissociates), I heard myself saying something that I had said before, but hadn’t really heard.

“I knew how to pretend to live, but I didn’t know how to live.”

And that would be why “fake it ’til you make it” pissed me off so bad. I spent most of my life “faking it,” but not ever “making it.” From the outside it appeared I had it all together. And to an extent I did. But I was motivated by perfectionism; always striving for an unknown and/or unrealistic expectation of what success (professional, personal, and religious) really was.

Then my facade – my carefully constructed bubble of control – shattered.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. – Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 59

At this point in working the steps, I was told that God might not remove all of them, and that He wouldn’t necessarily do it right away. One of my character defects is impatience, so it was a given it wouldn’t happen immediately. That doesn’t mean He isn’t capable of removing my defects. He is. But He isn’t a genie that grants wishes the way we want it. He is a loving Father who knows and provides our NEEDS instead of our WANTS. I always want the easier, softer way.

I have found that my greatest growth comes through “suffering” rather than being handed to me.

And so, with the knowledge that that my request to have my shortcomings removed could be delayed or answered with “No,” I was told to believe they would be removed regardless and until they are, “act as if they have been.”

Fake it ’til you make it.

Finally, I realized the spirit behind it wasn’t one of hypocrisy, it was one of faith and good will. Take, for instance, my insecurity. It has not been taken away yet. Left alone and allowed to “rule,” my insecurity paralyzes me from making good decisions, or even any decision at all. Nothing gets done, status quo remains, and life becomes even more unmanageable.

But, I can “act as if” I am not insecure, and make a decision that is at best uncomfortable or at worst downright scary. As long as I don’t make a rash decision without looking at the consequences (good and bad) or take way too long to look at every thing I think might go wrong, something amazing is going to happen whether or not the decision is the correct one.

I become less afraid to make a decision.

I become less insecure.

Sometimes the worst part of a decision is the fear of making the wrong decision. Not because you can always make the right decision, but because making a wrong decision reinforces how you think about yourself.

“I’m stupid.”

“I can’t do anything right.”

Those are products of false humility which is actually just an aspect of self-centered pride.

And they are lies.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:5-9 ESV)

Motives matter. Motive is why “fake it ’til you make it” can actually work. Motive is where you have to be totally honest when you ask yourself why you are acting on a “good” behavior. Are you trying to fool other people into thinking you have it all together, or are you simply just trying to do the next right thing because it is the right thing regardless of your feelings?

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