Posted in acceptance, self-care, sobriety, trauma

Understanding the Past

Good morning everyone! It is a very crisp 27 degrees this morning! I am sitting outside on our heated porch, with two snuggly pups, listening to the birds.

I read a great post today where the writer was discussing people who call themselves “damaged goods”. I remember when I use to laughingly say that when describing myself to others. Back then, I would tell perfect strangers my worst truths upon meeting them. I’d rather just get it out there, up front, and see if they would stick around. It wasnt worth it to put in the effort of getting to know someone and have them leave once they found out my faults.

Can you imagine thinking you were so flawed that no one would want to be your friend if they really knew you? Some of you can relate, I am sure. People never did turn me away when they heard my flaws, though. In fact, my vulnerability to open up and share personal details almost always resulted in people being even more drawn to me. Funny thing, then I would push them away – “clearly you are a bad judge of character- so I shouldn’t count on you”. I really didn’t think much of myself.

As a child, I was surrounded by abuse, neglect, addiction, and enablement. I never knew my mother, and the family that I did know always hurt me or let me down. I grew to rely on myself. I am a survivor – strong and capable. I am far from perfect and have a long way to go, but I am NOT damaged goods. I use to think I was, but just because irresponsible and unhealthy people treated me poorly does not mean I am damaged. Their actions and poor behavior reflect on them, not on me. They have their own problems and illnesses. They did what they did as a result of that, not because I deserved it. That doesn’t mean I forgive them or can even completely let go of the past (yet)… but I do see it for what it is now.

It is hard as a kid to understand that people have a ton of baggage, and their actions toward you can be weighed down by that baggage. As an adult – as someone who has made mistakes because of my own baggage – I get it a little more, now. Sure, I have never done what was done to me – but I have certainly done things I regret and treated people ways they didnt deserve. We all have.

Today, I can honestly say that I am a good person. I am worth knowing. I bring value to life. It took a lot of soul searching, therapy, addiction, and sobriety to get this far – but here I am.
Posted in addiction, recovery, sobriety, social anxiety

Thankfully Sober

Happy Thanksgiving y’all! Today is day 1 of our vacation! Me and Hubby are celebrating our 3rd year of marriage this week! It is hard to believe I have been sober for A THIRD of our marriage! It’s harder to believe that I drank for TWO THIRDS! I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! I am thankful I found Hip Sobriety and This Naked Mind when I did. To be honest, who knows how much Hubby would have put up with if I hadn’t! I am thankful that he stood by my side while I found my way! A lot of people in my life didn’t.

I’ve been thinking about addiction and mental health a lot lately. I didn’t choose to have debilitating anxiety and when people learn about it – they dont blame me at all. I also didnt choose to become addicted to alcohol. In fact, I had been taught that only “some people” become addicted to alcohol -so I had no reason to believe it would be me, but it did happen to me.

When you hear people talk about addiction – they always blame the addict, not the product that hooked them. We as a society drink…everywhere… all the time. We drink to celebrate. We drink to loosen up. We drink to be social. We drink to have fun. We drink to unwind. We encourage everyone to drink, and tell people they are no fun if they dont. Then when one of us becomes unknowingly and unwantingly addicted…we shun them. We shame them. We blame them. That makes it nearly impossible to ask for help.

No one sets out to be addicted. No one wants to crave a product that no longer serves the purpose it use to. No one wants to be unable to control their use. No one wants to physically become dependent on a chemical that changes their brain and body for the worse. Everyone just wants to be happy and cope with life the best they can.

We are told that alcohol is a great tool, and then it betrays us…and then everyone blames the drinker, not the addictive drink?! I guess that’s how the world use to feel about smoking. Funny how we finally see nicotine for what it is – but dont see the similarities to alcohol.

Well anyways, this is all to say – that even in a world full of drinkers…that may never truly understand me…I am thankful to not be a drinker. I’d rather be misunderstood and living this amazing, new, and shiny life…than be bonding over a fake chemical reaction from booze.

For anyone struggling with addiction, or having a hard time being sober in this crazy booze-soaked world….it gets better and it IS worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT. I know how hard the holidays can be when active in an addiction. While it isn’t your fault that you are addicted, you are the one who needs to reach out to get help. If not now, then when? There are options and people to turn to: Smart recovery, Refuge recovery, AA, Hip Sobriety School, and This Naked Mind are just a few to get you started. Hang in there and know you are not alone.
Posted in self-care, sobriety, social anxiety

Two Social Weekends Over!

Good morning, everyone! It’s 8am and hubby has left to go fishing. I am sitting in my happy place with a lap full of dog and one of my favorite views. The minute we stepped in the cabin yesterday, I could feel all of the icky, stressful week just melt off of me. This is totally my sanctuary.

The last two weekends, we had visitors. The first weekend was Jan and Bob (who I wrote about last time) and then the next weekend were two important friends of my husband (who I had never met).

I went back and forth about how I felt about having visitors at the cabin. This cabin is half paid for with the money I use to spend on wine & vodka. This cabin represents so much about my sobriety and my new focus on self care. Did I really want to share it with family that stresses me out or with strangers? And what about alcohol? This cabin has never had a drop of alcohol in it (at least since we bought it). Its never had a hangover in it. Would someone drinking in my sober sanctuary ruin it? Some friends counseled me to forbid alcohol in the cabin, but then I’d have to tell them about my reasons for not drinking – and tbh, that is not something I share with just anyone. Some friends said we should just skip the cabin, and I considered that too, but even though Jan and Bob drive me insane…I also really wanted them to see the cabin. For some reason, I am forever trying to show them I turned out an ok adult.

So anyways, we did the cabin thing with both sets of visitors. With Bob and Jan, it was really tight quarters. They brought SO MUCH STUFF to a 700 square foot cabin! That’s totally “them”…go visit people and be as inconsiderate as possible. They didn’t drink at all the entire weekend, though. It was a surprise to me because literally every photo they post is a photo of alcohol. Alcohol is heavily intertwined in their reality. I don’t know if they just don’t enjoy drinking around non-drinkers or if they are trying to be respectful. They just know we don’t drink, not my situation. Honestly, most people think we don’t drink because hubby can’t drink on his medication. And while that’s true that he can’t – the reality is…I don’t drink because me and alcohol have had a 20 year abusive relationship, and hubby doesn’t drink because he is supporting me. The weekend with Bob and Jan was tough. I was pretty tired and was happy to reenergize after they left.

The next weekend with hubby’s friends – let’s call them Mike and Wendy – was AMAZING. I thought it would be difficult. I was going to be alone with Wendy the entire day while hubby and Mike went fishing. I imagined my social anxiety running the entire day. I thought of every single way I could fuck up the day. I imagined saying all the wrong things – or even worse – sitting around in that horribly uncomfortable silence that always leads me to bring up the strangest topics out of desperation. “Isnt it weird how socks have such an annoying hem right on the toe”? Seriously – 42 years and I haven’t come up with a list of NORMAL topics for this situation yet?!

All that worry and stress and yet the day was perfect! Me and Wendy went to the spa, then shopped, and then talked for hours. And we talked about politics, race, immigration – any “off topic” topic for talking to strangers…we talked about it! It felt so good to have a conversation with someone I was aligned with. That’s rare where I live. But get this…Wendy brought wine to the cabin! Fucking wine! Ugh! But honestly, it was fine. Since I told her I didnt drink, she just put it away until dinner time. At dinner, her and her hubby killed the bottle pretty fast. I could see her eyes glaze over just halfway into her first glass. I saw the fast drinking and the heavy pour…and I wondered if she doesn’t have even more in common with me…but who knows.

It’s funny how different the two weekends were. I had family with me one weekend – and I was stressed, tired, and felt tortured. Then I had perfect strangers with me another weekend and had the best time. We didn’t feel crowded in the small cabin and it just felt relaxing and good. That’s the thing about social anxiety – you prepare for all the potential terrors, but rarely do they come true. I almost always come out feeling completely different than I go into it. I wish I could get my logical self to explain that to my irrational self!

Happy Fall! It is really beautiful today, and I have two dreaded social weekends over and behind me!

Posted in Uncategorized

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is such a tricky thing. I’ve written a little about my upbringing – I was born to a 14 year old mom and 21 year old dad. My dad struggled with alcohol (among many other things), and my mom was a teenage runaway. I was raised by my very old grandma for most of my childhood – and the occasional relative whenever she was sick, and I couldn’t stay with her. Me and Grandma…we were poor, we were different, but we did the best we could. My dad was in my life off and on, and I never met my mom.  Thanks to my dad, I was exposed to so many ridiculous things as a child.  I frequently sat in the passenger seat of the car as my dad drank beer and filled the passenger floor with beer cans. I watched my dad pass out from being drunk.  I endured sexual abuse as a kid.  I was brought to bars and strip clubs – in fact, I had a stripper try to take me away from my dad once because she felt he was being such a bad father!  I was around my step mother having an affair, and I had to see my dad in the hospital …almost dead… because my step-mom’s boyfriend shot him. All of that shit…all of it…I understand for what it is and have made peace with. But there’s this whole other area in my life that I just can’t seem to get over. It comes and goes, it always hurts, and I really don’t know why.

When I was 13, I moved in with extended family – let’s call them Bob and Jan and their son Jimmy. Bob and Jan took me in when I needed it so badly.  They got me out of my dad’s house and into a good neighborhood, good school, and a somewhat “normal” life. I owe what my life has become to Bob and Jan. But the thing is –  even though it was a better environment – that time in my life is still a giant source of pain for me.  All my life, I never felt like any place was my home. I was always sleeping on a couch, sharing a bed, staying in a guest room, or moving somewhere new. Bob and Jan’s place was no different. I was living in a guest room, and I was a source of resentment for Jan and her son Jimmy. Jan was always angry with me and constantly told me how selfish I was. Now don’t get me wrong – I WAS selfish -I was a teenage girl. They are always selfish.  I was also a kid who grew up neglected and abused and always had to take care of myself.  The only thing I knew was self.  Jan argued with me, argued with Bob about me, and took Jimmy’s side in everything.  I never felt like I had the right to speak up or stand my ground – it wasn’t MY home…it wasn’t MY family. I’m sure Jan expected me to understand how much more of a burden I caused by them taking me in, but how can any teenager understand that? I’m sure she expected me to just happily accept my upgraded life and keep to myself. But I was a teenager…a traumatized teenager. She tried to force me to face issues before I was ready, she was angry that I wouldn’t, and she wanted me to just get over myself. She was never abusive, but she wasn’t loving. She never showed she cared, even though I’m sure she did in her own way. She always seemed in a competition with me – a competition I didn’t know how to play and didn’t want to be in. Back then, all I wanted was to be loved unconditionally… and all she could offer was conditional love. All I wanted was to belong, to have a home, and to be a part of the family… and all she could offer was a guest spot.

Fast forward 20 years – Bob and Jan adore me and speak proudly of me. They refer to me as their daughter. They visit me and my husband, and we have a good time together. Me and Jan have meaningful conversations and have a lot in common. From the outside, we seem like we have worked through a few difficult years. And the thing is – up until last year – I thought we had gotten past it all (mostly). Then last year, I decided to quit drinking and EVERYTHING changed.  I mean everything.  Things that had nothing to do with drinking changed.  For some reason, all of my relationships were back up for review.  For some reason, everything I thought I knew …was wrong, different, or changing – including me and Jan. Without wine, suddenly, I hated Jan. When I thought of Jan, I just thought “how could you treat a broken child like that”? It’s like I am hurt all over again. Even though I never really drank to avoid things – daily drinking does that, doesn’t it?  I basically spent my 20s-40s in a perpetual cycle of work hard all day long, then drink wine all evening long.  When did I ever have time to actually address my feelings about anything?  I guess I didn’t.  I guess that’s why it’s still raw and painful and shitty.  But how do you deal with all the past stuff? Stuff from 20 years ago?  I don’t feel like she owes me anything. I don’t even feel it’s necessary to discuss the past with her.  It’s something inside of me that needs to be resolved and nothing she can do or say will do that.  I just don’t know how to process old feelings…how to let go…how to forgive.  Maybe it’s just a time thing?  What do you guys think?

Posted in Uncategorized

Everything Isn’t Always Perfect…and That’s OK!

When I was drinking, I led two separate lives. There was the life that everyone on the outside saw, and then there was the life that I actually lived on the inside. This is also how I view my life with an anxiety disorder. Everyone on the outside thinks I’m put together, but on the inside it takes a lot of medication, CBT, and other internal work to not lock the doors and never leave the house. I think this is also how many people feel with other mental illnesses.

I was not what society tends to think of when they think of “an alcoholic”. That’s because society has a completely inaccurate view of what that means. Unless you have struggled with alcohol or know someone who has – all you have to go by is advertisements, TV, and movies. We all think people with alcohol struggles are homeless …or cant keep jobs …or are the falling down drunk at the bar …or some other example of what is really the absolute end-game of addiction. There are SO many stages long before that happens. Unfortunately, because we don’t know that – a lot of troubled drinkers can continue their unhealthy relationships with alcohol for a lot longer because they have those examples to lean on. “I cant be an alcoholic, I work. I cant be an alcoholic, I’m responsible”.  The whole world believes we should be able to “drink responsibly” and magically consume an addictive substance using just “self control”. Meanwhile, alcohol makes you feel better (at first) when life is a little shitty – so why wouldn’t you use it to help get by? Then you play “Russian roulette” with the addiction-odds for the rest of your drinking career.

There are SO many people who struggle with substance use…so many people with anxiety disorders, depression, and other illnesses. Suicide rates, bullying, and mass shootings are climbing. These are all signs of people struggling to get by and not having the proper coping mechanisms. We don’t know how to recognize problems. We don’t know how to cope with them. We don’t know what to do once we realize we have them. So often, we see everyone else’s perfect lives and compare our reality to their carefully molded and Facebook-edited lives. We think we are broken because we don’t see anyone else broken. We think we are broken because no one else admits they struggle too. We think we are hopeless because we don’t know how to escape our issues, and no one else seems to have them.

We need to talk about our lives. We need to admit the good and the bad. We need to learn about the things our friends, family, and community are facing. It will never change if we keep hiding our problems. It will never change if we pretend nothing is wrong.