Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Holiday Reflection

Christmas brings up a lot of memories and emotions for me as my family and friends commune with food and gifts and celebrate life.  I am so amazed today as I reflect on this past year and feel loved, comfortable and joyful.  I have spent many holidays with bitterness in my heart and in overwhelming fear.  Today my heart is open and my life has become filled with new opportunities.  I would never have guessed this life for me nor could I have made it possible.  I know that what did make it possible was some amazing women showing me how to be a woman of integrity and to walk with grace, my family that is my rock and teaches me to never give up and that no obstacle is too large to overcome, my recovery community that doesn’t kick a man when he’s down and welcomes every person with open arms, and my husband who continues to forgive my shortcomings, shares belly laughs with me and treats me with dignity and love as his partner in life.  In and through all of these is God who is loving, forgiving, gentle, frank, powerful, and ALWAYS present.

This year I’ve found a slower pace to life.  I finally learned that I cannot do everything and even admit that I don’t want to.  I don’t need to solve anyone’s problems nor am I able to.  I took a small step back from the front line and let the rest of the world hash out their troubles on their own.  I was of course ‘nudged’ into this support role with an injury and some pain that prevented me from doing a few things.  Funny though, I don’t think I missed out at all.  My year’s been super full and I have come to enjoy the down times so much that many of my rougher days have been the ones where resting just wasn’t an option. 

Anger arrived this year.  I didn’t count on recovery bringing both positive and negative feelings to the surface, but it did.  I figured I had enough depression and angst, so getting clean and sober would just add happy stuff.  Well, I was wrong.  I found out that I can be quick to anger and once angry a cycle takes over that I’ve yet to stop.  It runs its course as a kind of tantrum and I emerge with an emotional hangover and a few apologies to make.  I usually become upset by all sorts of little tiny things that just aren’t going my way.  Then, I blame someone for all the hardships in my life.  Then, some yelling and tears and finally the emotional melt down.  The truth is I can see that I work myself up to these ‘episodes’.  I generally am over tired and in some physical pain to begin with that I don’t admit or take care of.  This leads to me feeling sorry for myself, which leads me to self-righteous thinking and to believing that I’m not getting what I need from anyone or anything.  Finally, I land right at irrational anger.  Oh boy.  Where did I get the ball rolling? It’s easy to see on paper.  Probably should have just put some ice on my neck and napped for a half an hour.  Ha! 

I continue to see that I love love love people.  As far as I know, the energy I get from enjoying the company of friends and family is like no high in the world.  I can remember the opposite being true just a few years back.  The mere thought of family gatherings made my stomach turn.  I didn’t want to face any of them.  I was filled with shame and guilt and fear.  Today, I am inspired and awakened by the people around me and this year was packed with loved ones gathering and celebrating: Easter, my wedding, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and any old day in between. 

Most of all, a bit of stability has entered my life in 2011 and it feels so good!  I’m not bored.  I’m less tired.  My life has more options than ever before.  I am showered with love on a daily basis.  I know pain and don’t have to suffer.  I am provided for no matter what, no matter what.  Most things I recognize as neither good nor bad but just as they are.  A wise woman had me write down and carry with me this quote, “It is what it is and that’s just the way it is.”  I don’t have to wonder or ask why tragedies happen or why some people seem to have it so easy.  I just don’t know and never will.  God knows and God is good.  I truly believe that everything in this world happens for a reason and that my purpose is in the acting and the giving, not in the thinking or receiving.  No reason has been reason enough for me to take a drink or drug, to bury myself in food, to cut my own body, or to hide in an institution.  My options today are wide open, but my solutions are God driven.  One day at a time, all year long, all life long, I will continue to seek.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The best medicine

I love to laugh.  It keeps me in touch with the simple things in life, replenishes my spirit and just feels good.  Here are ten laughter-filled moments of my past in no particular order.

One time…

  1. I woke up at 7 o’clock on my bedroom floor with my head on a seventh grade science book and panicked.  I rushed into the kitchen and began making a bowl of cereal in tears.  I had fallen asleep studying for a big science test and was not prepared.  My family was sitting at the kitchen table and asked me what I was doing.  I replied, “I’m making breakfast!”  They asked me why and I excitedly said “I’ve got to get dressed and I’m going to fail me test today!”  Then my dad said something and I began to yell.  I don’t remember what I said but halfway through I realized that my dad was still home, everyone was eating dinner, I was still in my volleyball uniform and finally… it was 7 o’clock AT NIGHT.
  2. My sister and I decided we were going to measure our bodies from head to toe, head to chin, just the neck, shoulder blade to shoulder blade, groin to ankle, feet, hands, reach, nose, knee to hip.  You get the picture, everything.  Turns out my legs were an inch longer than hers.  Her torso was two inches longer than mine!  The visual was too much and we were in fits of laughter.  My mom was too as she observed the spectacle.  Oh and we were sixteen and seventeen at the time.
  3. I was driving my carpool to soccer practice as a high school senior and we stopped to get iced water at a drive through.  As I pulled out and took the sharp right turn onto the street from the drive through lane, the waters began spilling.  I tried to stop the drinks from spilling but did not stop the car.  We ended up all the way over the curb and back into the drive through lane, perpendicular to the window this time.  I waved at the clerk who was only about two feet from the front of the car, backed up onto the busy street and went along to practice. 
  4. I felt that knowing my best friend was taking a run meant that I should take the opportunity to drive alongside her through town and sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler as loud as I could accompanied by my stereo on full blast.  Nice.
  5. My mom and I got into an incredibly intense sword fight with our empty wrapping paper cardboard.  It was pretty hard core until we couldn’t continue due to not being able to breathe and having to use the bathroom.
  6. My brother and I spent a summer in one of the most boring cities in America, a college town with no summer life.  We decided our best option one day was to count our steps to the fast food restaurant where we got soda daily and the movie store.  To this day it’s the most talked about thing we did all summer.   I can’t remember how many steps it took us but I remember it was a good time.
  7. The first week on my college campus, my friend and I ran into one of the school’s basketball players in the bookstore.  I only knew his name was Hans because my friend was freaking out about how cute he was and told me to talk to him.  Well, of course we made sure we got in line directly behind him and I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hi, you’re Hans and I’m Franz, nice to meet you!”  No idea what I was thinking but the look on his face was classic and my friend, of course, was mortified.  It was seriously like I was in a movie the first day of classes a couple days later and he sat down next to me.  He looked at me and just shook his head.  Awesome.
  8. There was a cereal commercial on TV during Christmas time where this little kid would string the cereal for the tree and talk about it.  One of his lines was something like, “I love these little crunchy little cornballs.”  Well, my sister and I found this completely adorable with his little boy learning to talk voice and one day my sister broke out the line… at the McDonalds drive-through order intercom.  The whole carpool was in the car and she says, “Hi, can we have four vanilla yogurts on those crunchy little cornball cones?” with the accent!  Oh man, even writing it I can’t stop laughing.  Years of entertainment.
  9. When I was in seventh grade I was a lecture during the school mass.  Unfortunately, so was my best friend and we talked throughout the whole mass on the altar.  As the whole school was being escorted back to their classrooms, the eighth grade teacher found me and while pointing right at my face yelled, “You were a wart on the sanctuaries nose!”  I didn’t laugh right then but when I got back to my classroom I was brought to the front and told to apologize to the class.  I got the giggles so bad I couldn’t do it.  Of course it didn’t help that I started by telling my classmates what the teacher had said.  Maybe I was being a bit defiant.
  10. My dad came to pick me up from my last final the last day of my last year of college.  He had been packing up the car while I was in the exam so we could take off across the country right away.  I came out of the building and there was my dad open arms, the biggest smile on his face, a bloody forehead, a dirty and bloody shirt and torn up sweatpants.  He was cheering for me “You did it!  This is my daughter, she’s a graduate!”  Well, it so happened that a big football player approached the steps to the building while this was going on.  In the flurry of excitement my dad just got a glance at him and noticed the all too cool fashion the football player had going on with one leg of his sweats rolled up over his knee.  My dad stopped pointed and exclaimed, “Nice legs!”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Never never never quit

Many times in my adult life, my goals and dreams just seemed unattainable.  I would become overwhelmed with the number of steps or obstacles in the way of a goal, and would decide to quit and dream another day.   A lot of years operating this way and I had lost my desire for all things new and had gained enormous shame, guilt and regret.  Along the way I told myself I was a survivor having been dealt a tough hand.  I told myself that the success I had achieved in my childhood was brought through my incredible talent, toughness, drive and perseverance but I could no longer measure up due to tragic circumstance.  I didn’t want to admit or even think that I had become a quitter.  It took a lot of pain and complete desperation before I could see that.   The truth was I had been blessed with natural talent but that was where my success story began and ended.

I won the lottery as far as God-given gifts are concerned.  From the start, I had a personality that craved kinesthetic stimulation; I was good at most things I tried; I was naturally bright; I liked people so they usually like me; my family nurtured all my needs and encouraged every dream I had.  Later, my story was that I was misunderstood and had been pushed too hard to do things I didn’t want to do, I was emotionally repressed and the equivalent of a trophy child.  My story was total crap.  I created my drama and my hardships, but through the years I leaned on my story for comfort in times of failure.  Therapists were excellent at co-signing my bull shit.  I developed the lie and made it so believable that I came to believe it!  I hurt and bled by it!!! 

The progression of all this was sadly simply.  The first time I threw up intentionally it was a conscious decision and I had a plan.  After vomiting, I would call my best friend and tell him in order to get more attention from him.  At the time, the attention I wanted more of was on the friend level.  At sixteen, I had the same angst that most sixteen year olds had.  As everything and everyone around me was changing and developing at the same time, it took focus and attention away from me.  Life showed up with a few deaths of loved ones, two at their own hands, and I felt lost and alone.  All I wanted was a little more attention and some comfort from my peers.  So when I told my friend what I had done and received disappointment and a stern lecture instead of sympathy and understanding, I was really angry.  I didn’t tell anyone else.  Instead I made another decision to throw up more, believing that if I did and it became frequent enough my friend would have to notice and care.  

I knew nothing about addiction and certainly had no idea that I would soon be a bona fide addict.  Within two months I knew I had lost control and could not stop puking.  Within a year I had started drinking.  Within two years, I knew I was an alcoholic, a bulimic, and majorly depressed.  I became isolated and angry, and I could not cope with life.  My solutions didn’t make sense to me let alone other people.  The next few years drained me of any usefulness.  It went a little something like this: I’m uncomfortable in my new school and struggling to make new friends.  Bring me home and let me rest a semester.  You tell me I can’t dive.  Lock me in a psych ward.  I’m failing school.  Send me away.  You sent me away.  I'm never going back to school.  You say I have to go to work when I’m depressed.  I quit!  You don’t love me and you think I’m mean.  I’m an awful human and I hate you too!  I have no friends and my family is always worried.  I want to die!  You want to help me.  You can’t. it’s too late.  I’m hopeless. 

Thirteen years after that first decision to vomit, I considered my choices: end my life or continue to live my miserable one.  My trips to the psych wards and rehabs had become normal.  For me it was easier to be institutionalized than it was to function in the free world.  ‘Hanging on’ for another few years just didn’t seem possible.  By no virtue of my own, I managed to hold on just long enough.  

Almost three years ago, a woman came into my life and taught me how to show up and be present every day for days and days in a row!  I learned how to act better than I felt, to do what I said I would do, and to put one foot in front of the other no matter what.  Somewhere along the way, I developed a sense of perseverance.  I gained my spirit and my self-esteem back through right actions.  I lost the shame, the guilt and have no regrets.  You see, what I didn’t know back when I was lost in it all was that all was not lost.  I didn’t know that I could and would accomplish more in this life than I could even dream up.  I didn’t know that one step would bring me to a new point of view with new strength and new purpose.  When I went back to school and was close to getting my degree, my brother kept telling me to just get a win.  I didn’t realize that this idea would carry me through almost all of life’s challenges.  Take one step and be amazed at what the next one will look like.  By receiving my diploma, I opened my future to a whole new life and all new dreams.  From there I began another journey which spring boarded me into another and another and another.  I got sober and had no idea what I wanted to do or be, but I found that answer too.  The woman that taught me so much three years ago said this, “I have never found my purpose by thinking about what my purpose is.  It’s only in taking some action and doing something that I realize I have a purpose”.  It was through my actions and the little wins that I found all my dreams were possible.

Today I dream big and keep my purpose simple.  I try one day at a time to do the next right thing, to seek and share my truth and to never never never quit.  Every day I find time to love, laugh and pray.  It’s a dream come true.