Sobriety, Depression, and Answered Prayers

It’s been a while! I haven’t updated my blog for quite a long time, for various reasons. Yes, I am still sober. No, I have not been going to very many meetings in the last year or so. That’s not because I am no longer focused on my recovery, I am. I’ve just found that after five and a half years, there are some other ways that I “practice these principles in all my affairs.” That said, I do want to get back to writing about recovery here, and I hope that those of you who used to enjoy reading this blog will get back into the groove with me.

So, there’s been a lot going on in my life in the last couple of months, some truly awesome things that I never thought would happen, despite the fact that I prayed about them daily. But first, I want to go back a little bit further–to spring of last year.

It was the beginning of about a year of pretty significant depression. There wasn’t a terrible crisis or any life-changing happenings that caused me to be depressed. In fact, from the outside looking in, everything looked great. Before my bout of depression really got started, I was doing ok. Well, as ok as a recovering alcoholic with PTSD and chronic depression can be. I had ups and downs, but for the most part, the ups far outweighed the downs.

My freelance writing was going well, I had happy clients and was usually busy, but not overwhelmed with work. I had no complaints about my husband, Austin, and my step-son, Benjamin–they were, and are, the absolute best. We had a vacation coming up, a road trip to the south to visit family and friends, and I was thrilled! I love road trips and love everyone we were going to see.

Then, I did something simple. Something that people do all the time without having a meltdown.

I mailed a birthday card.

Such a common act, yet it took me weeks to decide to do, and days to work up the courage to walk to the mailbox and, with teary eyes and shaking hands, drop it into the outgoing mail slot.

My daughter, who I had not seen since she was 14, was turning 20. I’ve written about her on this blog more than once. You can go back and read the details, but to put it simply, we became estranged after I went to treatment for my alcoholism. In the beginning, I tried to maintain contact, but my attempts failed and I wasn’t strong enough to force anything. I hadn’t sent any cards or letters for years, and I was terrified to do it then. But I did. And then I waited.

I tried to not have any expectations. I thought that it was likely that I wouldn’t hear anything in response. After all, I had to send the card to the last address I knew for her, my mother’s, even though I knew she didn’t likely live there anymore. Would my mother even give it to her? I didn’t know. But I had this tiny piece of my heart that felt hopeful. I had been waiting, praying, and hoping for six years and I finally did something, I reached out. But I knew that one birthday card couldn’t make up for the time that had passed, and it couldn’t make up for the hurt that I caused, and it likely couldn’t compete with the horrible things that my daughter was told about me (most true, some not) by my family members. And it didn’t. I heard nothing.

The silence made me realize two things. First, that I could no longer live without trying to reconcile with my kid. Second, that I hated myself for letting her get away in the first place. It was the latter that made my depression spin out of control. While I spent time Facebook stalking to see pictures and what was happening in her life, the self-blame and depression over our estrangement only got worse. How had I let this happen, and would I ever have her back in my life?

I started therapy again and I saw my psychiatrist, who changed up my antidepressants. I worked on the guilt I felt about being a mother without my child in my life and tried to resolve myself to the possibility that we might never reconcile. Just as I began to climb out of the pit of my depression, it was May again. Should I send another birthday card? Should I leave the whole situation to God and my prayers? Again, I struggled with what is usually an easy decision. In the end, I made my trek to the mailbox and dropped another card into it.

I tried not to have any expectations or to obsess about whether my daughter would even get the card. I tried to leave the whole situation in God’s hands and prayed, not for reconciliation, but for the strength to handle whatever the outcome was–even if it wasn’t what I wanted.

And then, just a little over a month later, I got an email. Not from my daughter, but from her husband. Before I even clicked on the message, I started to cry. Somewhere, deep in my heart, I knew that this email was going to give me the opportunity to reconnect with the young woman who I hadn’t seen since the beginning of her teenage years. And it did.

A week later, with some gentle nudging from my new son-in-law I suspect, my daughter made the decision to see me. I can’t even begin to put into words the flood of emotions that hit me at that moment. It was pure joy, a kind that I had never felt before. My prayers of seven years were finally answered.

Kari and me.

Since then, we have been getting to know each other again, first with baby steps, and now with all the enthusiasm of two women who had been living their lives with a piece of their hearts missing. My heart is full and I am overjoyed.

It’s amazing, the good things that sobriety can bring. Lost relationships can be restored. Broken hearts can be mended. Lives can be reconnected. I know that if I had not stayed sober, I wouldn’t have an opportunity to be a mother to a daughter again. I would have lost any chances of that. Recovery isn’t easy, it takes patience, strength, and faith, but good things do come of it. Believe me, I know.

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What Recovery Has Taught Me About Acceptance

What Recovery Has Taught Me about Acceptance

There are no two ways about it, we all have things that we wish we could change. I think this is especially true of those of us who are in recovery. We wish we could change the past, things we said or did, or we wish we could change our current circumstances, progress, or feelings. In recovery though, we quickly learn that not all things are changeable. The Serenity Prayer tells us we need to “accept the things we cannot change,” and we do need to do that – for our sanity, peace of mind, and emotional sobriety.

Acceptance has played a huge role in my recovery, and I have seen the difference that it has made in the recovery of others. When we live in denial and unacceptance, we can’t grow and heal, and that makes sobriety even harder than it already is. It makes us feel stuck and unable to move. But when we live in acceptance, we are better able to stay sober, live happily, and be fulfilled.

Recovery is a time of continuous learning, bearing with it many lessons. Sometimes those lessons are absorbed quickly and easily, but other times they are hard-fought and seem to take forever. The lesson of acceptance has often been the latter for me, something that I have had to work hard to have – that I sometimes still have to work hard to maintain. I’ve learned a lot about acceptance along the way though, and when I remember the following things my life is better, my recovery is stronger, and my outlook is happier.

It is what it is. There are so many things that are out of our control. The faster that we learn to accept that things are what they are and that they’re just the way they are supposed to be at the moment, the faster we will know peace. I have to remember this when life gets me down and I am wishing for different circumstances; something that was very difficult for me in early recovery. I would see other people in recovery who had longer sobriety than I did, and they were happy and spiritually fit, and I wanted to be in the same place. Clearly, that wasn’t possible, and I had to learn to accept that my own progress was right where it was supposed to be.

It’s a process. Acceptance doesn’t come all at once. Nothing could be truer than that when it came to accepting my past. I wanted so much for my past to be different – before, during, and after my active drinking. The fact that I couldn’t change any of it, no matter how desperately I wanted to, was hard to swallow, even though the pain of wishing was causing me to suffer. Acceptance of my past only came gradually, bit by bit, even though I became willing to try to be accepting. I had to be patient with myself and my recovery, and I had to celebrate even the smallest amounts of progress.

You don’t have to like it. I really hated it when a therapist said that to me about acceptance. She explained that acceptance doesn’t mean that you condone what happened to you or that you approve of how you handled it. You don’t have to like the things you become accepting of, you just have to do it. It makes perfect sense that letting go of the things that cause anger, sadness, or regret would improve my life, but it was still hard to hear, and equally hard to do.

It’s healing. When you learn to accept the things you can’t change, some miraculous things happen. You begin to see that you are able to cope in a healthy way, no matter what life throws at you. You are able to be mindful – in the present moment, not regretting the past or worrying about the future. You can handle stresses that you didn’t use to be able to. You are able to stop falling into old behaviors that no longer serve you well. You can deal with strong emotions and develop deeper relationships with others. You become emotionally sober and feel optimistic about life. It’s a beautiful and healing progression.

Acceptance in recovery has taught me that I can live life on life’s terms. I don’t have to live at the mercy of my past, and I don’t have to be overly concerned about the future. I can live here and now and know that I am right where I am supposed to be.

When Mother’s Day Hurts

Usually when I write a post on this blog, I write it with the hope that what I have to say will be helpful to someone else. I write it hoping that someone who is going through what I have gone through, whether they are in recovery or not, will be able to see that there is joy and fulfillment on the other side of life’s challenges. This is not one of those posts.

This post is being written with a very heavy heart. A broken heart. One that, despite the fact that I live a glass-is-half-full life of recovery from alcoholism, feels empty and sad tonight.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I will not be spending it with my mother or my daughter. And that makes it hurt. No, neither of them have died, they just aren’t in my life. But the grief is still very, very real.

When I began trying to get sober six years ago, my family washed their hands of me. My daughter, who was 14 at the time, went to stay with my mother while I went to treatment. When I got out of rehab, she didn’t want to come home. I couldn’t make her. I had so much guilt and remorse that making her do something that she didn’t want to wasn’t something I was capable of. It’s my biggest regret–one that I think will never go away.

My relationship with my mother wasn’t great. Not ever. And if I’m honest with myself, I know that I could never have gotten and stayed sober if I had remained in a relationship with her. I’ve done a lot of grief-work around the relationship that I wish I had with her and I no longer yearn to rewrite our history. But on some holidays, especially Mother’s Day, it still makes my heart hurt.

Before I started drinking alcoholically, I had a great relationship with my daughter. We were close, we were happy. We talked and laughed and had fun. I loved being her mom. She truly was my everything. Booze changed that. I wasn’t able to be the mother that she needed, and she did what she had to do to take care of herself. I cannot blame her for that.

I know better than to try to stuff my feelings, I have to let myself feel sad tonight and tomorrow. There have been tears and I know there will be more. I miss my daughter. There is a space in my heart that can only be filled by her. It doesn’t matter how great everything else is, or how much love I have in my heart for others, that space will remain empty until we reconcile. And that might not happen. Ever. That hurts.

I wish that when I had come home from rehab I had known what I know now. I wish that I had been as strong as I am now. I wish that I could’ve shown my daughter that even when you screw up, you can rebound; that even when you’re an alcoholic, you can get better. And I wish that she knew that no matter what my drinking caused me to do, I never stopped loving her.

I think about my daughter every day–there hasn’t been one that has gone by that I haven’t. But the pain I feel on Mother’s Day is just a little bit worse. A little bit deeper. A little bit more intense.

I know that tomorrow is just another day and that I will make it through it. I thank God that my sobriety isn’t threatened, and I’m grateful for all the good people in my life. But, right now, I just need to be sad.

 

 

Thank God for Progress

One of the things that is talked about a lot in the rooms of recovery is that we need to strive for progress, not perfection. It’s not about becoming the perfect ideal of ourselves that should be our goal, instead, it’s just that we continue to get better over time. Whatever that “better” means to each individual is up to them–maybe it’s in how self-aware they are, how they react to difficult situations, how much time they spend thinking about drinking, or whether their relationships are growing as they want them to. We look for progress in the areas of our choosing and we celebrate our personal growth.

I think that paying attention to progression is huge in recovery. In fact, my husband and I make it a point to talk about the progression that we have both made since becoming sober and taking care of our mental health. We both have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, in addition to being alcoholics in recovery. That’s a long list of issues, yet I think that to most people who we meet, we seem pretty “normal.” Of course, those who know us know the truth–we’ve worked really hard to get where we are today. So when we are able to actually see the progress that we’ve made, it’s a victory.

Today, I got to see our progress in action, both in our recovery from drinking and in how we deal with challenging situations. We got into a car accident. It wasn’t serious, no one was injured, but it left our car undriveable. This may not seem like a big deal to many of you, perhaps just the type of inconvenience that occasionally comes up in life. But just a few short years ago it would have been a disaster of catastrophic proportions.

Let me explain.

First of all, had it been five years ago, chances are good that I would’ve been drunk at the time. That means that when the nice, older lady smashed into our car I would’ve either dissolved into a puddle of tears believing that the end of my world was upon me, or I would’ve been so angry that I would have yelled profanities and punched her. And even if I wasn’t drunk when the accident happened, I definitely would’ve been after.

If it had been just three years ago, I would’ve been sober but still cleaning up the wreckage of my past–and my husband still working on his too. That means that we likely wouldn’t have had insurance, a valid registration, and maybe even a valid driver’s licenses. That alone would’ve been enough to throw me into a downward spiral. While I wouldn’t have gone out and gotten drunk, the reality is that I would’ve had a meltdown and catastrophized the whole thing, become anxious about how the car would get fixed, how we would get to work, and every other car-related thing you can imagine. Not to mention the fact that we would’ve been cited for our irresponsibility with licenses, insurance, and registration. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

In either of those scenarios, I would’ve been in meltdown mode for a good long while, then in isolation mode, and then finally depression about my horrible misfortune. I would have been in a tailspin for who knows how long.

Today however, it was much different. I didn’t meltdown, I didn’t want to drink, I was nice to the poor lady who hit us, and I didn’t have to be afraid of getting into trouble when the police came. It was so much different than it would’ve been only a short while ago.

It was actually just the type of inconvenience that occasionally comes up in life. Imagine that.

I call that progress.

Why Do Some Make It While Others Don’t?

It’s been a while! Life has been busy and this blog has suffered, but I’ll save the update on life for another post. I feel like I need to write about something else right now.

A couple of days ago, my husband and I went to a meeting. We met a friend of ours there because he had expressed that he wanted to stop drinking. These types of moments, where I truly get the opportunity to be one alcoholic helping another, are the moments that I live for. There are so many blessings in getting to share my own experience, strength, and hope–especially hope–with someone who is facing the same struggles I once did.

The meeting did not disappoint. Our friend got a 24-hour chip, tears were shed as he shared his desire to stop drinking, and others expressed their support and encouragement. It’s a beautiful thing when any newcomer makes it into the rooms, and it’s even more beautiful to see people who, when in active addiction, couldn’t be bothered by anyone else’s problems, jump in to help a fellow in need.  esh

That’s not the end of the story, though. While we were at the meeting (it’s not one we normally go to, so we knew a couple of people there, but not many) a man sitting to my right who was clearly distressed, was invited to speak by another member. I thought that perhaps he was going to share that he had relapsed and was back in the rooms now, he had that drawn, sad and guilty look about him.

But that’s not what he shared. When he spoke, his eyes filled with tears, he told the group about his daughter. She was also an alcoholic and had been to that very meeting with him the week before. He went on to tell us, voice shaking, that his daughter had died the night before and that following the meeting he had to go claim her body.

It was only when he said her name, that I realized I knew her. She had been a student at the college where I worked. I knew that she struggled with alcoholism, we had spoken about it a lot during her time there, and while she wanted to get sober for good, it seemed it was something she just couldn’t manage. She was a beautiful, intelligent woman, who had a lot of life in front of her, and now she was gone–due to alcoholism.

I was saddened, as was my husband as he knew her too. And that old familiar question, the one that pops up every time I hear about someone dying from addiction, came to mind. Why do some of us make it, while others of us don’t?

When I think back to my own early recovery, which had at least a hundred false starts, it makes me wonder what it was that finally clicked and has helped me stay sober for the past several years. What is it that made my last drunk my last drunk? I wanted to stop drinking for a long time, and I made many attempts that failed. Why was the last one the one that, so far, has stuck?

I can list off the things that I think have contributed to me staying sober like willingness, honesty, forgiveness, acceptance, asking for help, rehab and AA, God, having a sponsor, being vulnerable, and the list goes on. But I feel like I had those things (at least a lot of them) the first hundred times I tried to quit drinking. So, what was it that changed? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the combination of all of those things on the list, maybe it’s all about timing, maybe it’s about being so tired and worn out that there just is no way to go on the way you have.

I really wish I did know the answer. If I did, I could share it with my friend the newcomer to make his path easier. And maybe I could have shared it with the young woman we lost to the disease. I would share it with everyone! Shout it from the rooftops! But, the truth is, I don’t know.

What I do know, is that you can’t give up. You have to keep fighting for sobriety and recovery until it finally sticks. You have to do the work. And it is work, and it is hard, and it doesn’t end. You have to keep doing it to keep the new life you have in recovery. That I know. That’s what I have to do to stay sober. And while it has gotten easier, I don’t let my guard down, not ever.

The meeting that day had so much hope and so much sadness–at the same time. I was so encouraged that the young woman’s father was there, at a meeting, less than 24 hours after losing his daughter. He was showing everyone there, including our friend who is just starting out, that you can make it through really tough times without drinking. I was also encouraged by the way that other members reached out to our friend with their own experience, strength, and hope. I know that he was touched.

I’m still left wondering why some of us make it and some of us don’t. Maybe I’ll never know the answer. But I will keep sharing, keep working, and keep having hope. And if that helps even one person, then it will be more than worth it.

Some Basics For Building A Spiritual Practice To Support Your Recovery – Guest Post

I’m excited for you to read this guest post from a fellow recovery writer, Rose Lockinger. Every piece of her writing that I have read has been an inspiration to me; I think it will be for you, too.  Enjoy!

~Jami

praying

When I first got sober I was so confused about spirituality and religion. Having grown up with parents who were missionaries I was introduced from an early age to a religion that I didn’t understand and a God that I felt was rather impersonal to me. I thought that most religious people were hypocrites and at the time I had trouble separating the idea of religion from God. I had finally hit my bottom both emotionally and spiritually and for me rock bottom was a beautiful place to start my new life.

To me God, and religion were synonymous and to separate the two was blasphemous and impossible. But then I was introduced to some simple ideas when I first got sober that really helped me to get over a lot of my resentments towards God and start to build a spiritual practice of my own.

The first thing that was introduced to me that was revolutionary to my way of thinking was that I could have my own relationship with God. This relationship meant that I could relate to God the way that I wanted to and that I didn’t have to talk to him, or her if you like, in thousand year old prayers that I didn’t understand. I could talk to God the way that I wanted to.

I was also introduced to the idea that no two people can have the same relationship with God, so any way that I chose to partake in this relationship was fine. I remember the first time that I heard this, I was blown away. The person said to me, think of it this way. You have a relationship with your mother and your father has a relationship with your mother as well. Your mother is the same person, but the way that the two of you relate to her is very different. This was something that I could get behind and it helped me to break some old thoughts that I had about God and create new ones that made more sense to me.

One of the first spiritual practices that I started to do was prayer. In the beginning they were very simple prayers and that was all that was needed. I would wake up in the morning and ask God to help keep me sober throughout the day and when I went to bed at night I would say thank you God for keeping me sober.

My sponsor told me that was all that was necessary for me to make a start. I didn’t have to have long drawn out conversation with him, or speak in tongues, but rather I could just say please help and thank you.

From this point my prayer life has evolved over the years but the basics remain the same, I speak to God like he is a friend and I don’t make things too formal. Sometimes I get on my knees to pray but most of the time I do not and I believe that God is okay with that.

Another spiritual practice that I began to integrate into my life was meditation. I will admit that I am not the best with this one and my meditation practice is sporadic at best, but when I do meditate I once again try to keep it simple.

In the beginning I could not sit quietly for very long and so I would try to meditate for just 5 minutes at a time. I would go on YouTube and find five minute meditation music and then I would sit and focus on my breathing. This is a very simple practice to incorporate into your life and the benefits of meditation are widely documented by psychologists and doctors.

Another great spiritual practice to help support my recovery is journaling, or inventory taking depending on how you look at it. On the surface this may not seem like a spiritual practice, but I assure you that it is. Not only does journaling act as a form of meditation, because writing actually slows the mind down, but the basis behind journaling is self honesty, which is among the most basic of spiritual principles.

The ability to accurately see yourself and your actions is a great way to grow as a person and in your relationship with God, because I believe that we cannot relate to God as someone other than who we are. This is why for so many years I could never feel his presence because I was always attempting to be someone else. I was dishonest and caught up in my addiction and so I couldn’t see to find him.

Lastly, and this is an important spiritual practice to try to incorporate into your recovery, is helping others. Helping other people, whether that is in recovery or out of recovery is just about the most spiritual thing that a human being can do. The act of giving of yourself not only makes you feel good, because altruism does feel good, but it also gives you purpose and direction. Purpose and direction is something that many of us lacked when we were in our addictions, and I found mine in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous by helping other people. Helping others makes me feel closer to God and I always sleep better at night when I know I have helped someone that day.

If you are just making a start in your recovery and you are worried about building a spiritual practice of your own, remember to just take it easy and keep it simple. Spirituality does not need to be complicated. You don’t need to meditate for an hour a day and perform rituals to talk to God, but you can simple just talk and sit quiet for as long as you can. These are the things that I did in the beginning and they really work, so give them a try and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.

                                           _____________________________________________

roseRose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find Rose on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

 

A Must Read for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

A must read for survivors of childhood sexual traumaI read another great memoir, and I want to tell you about it. Hungry for Touch, A Journey from Fear to Desire, by Laureen Peltier, is a book that chronicles Laureen’s treatment for PTSD. Let me start by saying that this is not an easy book to read. In fact, some parts are just downright heartbreaking and painful. I found that I had to read it in small doses, and still I became emotional while reading it, more than a handful of times.

So you might be wondering why I am recommending this book, if it’s such a difficult read. The reasons are many: it’s real and honest; it gets to the heart of what sexual trauma, PTSD, and therapy feel like; it’s relatable; and ultimately, it’s hopeful. Those things outweigh the tough time I had reading it, by far.

“How does it make me feel? The memory is so old, almost thirty years have gone by, but it still seems like yesterday. It’s the kind of memory I store in one of those chests at the bottom of my mind, but now I can’t seem to put it back.”

The way that Laureen describes the memory of her childhood trauma, and subsequent breakdown, is so familiar to me. I also had a long period of time where I was able to stuff negative memories far away from my consciousness, and then, all of a sudden I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when the wheels came off for me, when I absolutely had to deal with the past or let it slowly suck the life out of me.

Laureen’s story is different from mine, she became unable to allow any man to touch her as a result of her abuse. In my own story, I ended up at the other end of the spectrum–promiscuity. Both results stem from a need to feel in control, I think; something that neither of us had previously. But both are destructive to the soul and needed treatment.

Hungry for Touch takes us through Laureen’s treatment, alternating with her memories of the past. Reading of her abuse was disturbing and saddening. No one should have to go through what she did, especially a young child. Her treatment was a mix of traditional EMDR therapy along with some unconventional therapies that she and her doctor collaborated on. It wasn’t an easy road to get started on, despite Laureen’s desperate wish for healing and mental health. In the beginning she said this about not being able to let go:

“But I don’t know how to let go. I only know how to hold on: hold onto the pain, hold onto the fear, hold onto the lies. This is the cage I’ve built for myself. It’s a safe and secure cage. I know every corner of it, and I know I can’t be harmed in it because I won’t let anyone inside with me.”

That fear of letting go is often so strong that keeping ourselves imprisoned in it seems like a better option than risking dealing with it and having an unknown outcome. But, with hesitation at times, Laureen presses on and continues her treatment, striving toward her goal of completing it and letting go of her fear of physical touch.

As I said, this is a book that ultimately offers readers hope. It’s tough to read, but it’s definitely worth it. Keep in mind that it may bring up emotions and triggers if you are a survivor of this type (or any, really) of trauma. Read with care–for yourself and for all of the others who have gone through sexual abuse.

You can buy Hungry for Touch here.

Getting Through Brief Dips

A couple of weeks ago I had a week that really sucked. Ok, not the whole week, but at least a few days. I was grumpy with PMS, I screwed up some writing I did, my house was a mess, and I was having a lot of anxiety. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and my inclination was to close the blinds, shut down, and hide. That’s not what I did, but it’s what I wanted to do.

I was in a “brief dip,” and I was uncomfortable.

My stepson’s counselor introduced me to the term “brief dip” a while back. It refers to when you’re facing some sort of challenge to the status quo and you have to deal with the discomfort of negative emotions. It’s learning to sit with those feelings, and feel them, without trying to stuff or ignore them. The counselor was talking about them in reference to my stepson, telling us how important it is to allow him to go through these brief dips without us intervening to fix things or telling him to get over it.

The concept of sitting with negative feelings and dealing with them rather thanDip sign stuffing, isn’t new to me. I learned a lot about it in treatment, and I have gotten better about putting it into practice. But, as I sat and listened to the counselor talk about it, I realized that the reason I had so much trouble with it (enough that it contributed to my active alcoholism) was that it was something I never learned when I was my stepson’s age.

When I was a kid, brief dips weren’t really allowed in my house. Either my parents fixed things for us kids, distracted us so we were able to ignore negative feelings, or told us to get over it. Any of you who read my blog regularly know that I don’t have a relationship with my family at all now, and that my relationship with my mom growing up was always contentious. However, I think that she did the best she could with the knowledge she had at the time; she just didn’t want any of us kids to be uncomfortable–ever. I get that now. That doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I had been taught to deal with my negative feelings earlier, but I don’t blame my mom for wanting her kids to feel happy all the time, I think that probably all parents want that.

That fact is though, that we can’t be happy all  the time, and I certainly wasn’t a couple of weeks ago. It was a crappy week, and I wanted to check out. The only upside was that now I have a name for times like that–brief dips. I like that because it reminds me that it isn’t permanent, or even long-lasting. It’s brief. And it’s just a dip, it’s not bottomless. I just had to deal with the feelings, continue to put one foot in front of the other, and keep going, and I would emerge on the other side. And that’s exactly what happened. Did I suffer a little while I was down? Yes (and I’m sure my husband and stepson did too). Do I wish that it hadn’t happened at all? Yes. But I’ve noticed that my brief dips are not as bad as they used to be, and I never stay down and depressed like I used to. That tells me that I am making progress, and that’s what counts.

 

 

Recovering, or Recovered? Which am I?

It’s been nearly four years since I took my last drink of alcohol, and since that time I have been to literally hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It’s customary to introduce yourself before you speak at a meeting. I always say, “Hi, I’m Jami and I’m an alcoholic.” Some people introduce themselves differently, but it’s usually something close to that. A handful of times over the years, I have heard people refer to themselves as a “recovered alcoholic,” and my first thought is usually that they just don’t get it – no matter how long they have been sober. I’m probably wrong about that in some cases, they may very well stay sober and happy until the day they die. I know that people practice recovery differently, and that what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Even my husband and I have a different way of approaching the program, and we’re both still sober.

The problem that I have with using recovered instead of recovering is that it makes it Unending Roadsound final, like it’s done and over and can no longer affect me – like the chicken pox: I had it once, I recovered, and I’ll never get it again. It implies that you can be returned to the person you were before, and for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You see, being a recovering person instead of recovered one, hasn’t returned me to who I was before alcoholism, and it isn’t something that has ended and no longer affects me. It is something that goes on. Forever. I will always be in recovery, and I’m good with that, for several reasons.

One, I know that I am not cured of alcoholism. I’ve been given a daily reprieve and I have to remain diligent to not return to where I was when I was drinking actively. I know that if I grow complacent, and think that I am recovered and that alcohol no longer poses a risk to me, I’m in danger. While I no longer worry day-to-day that I am going to relapse, I am very aware that booze is still out there and that if I have even one drink it’s game on. Recovering, rather than recovered, keeps me on my toes.

Two, recovering means that I am a work in progress and that I have the luxury of continuing to work on myself, strengthening those things about me that are positive, and improving the things that challenge me. Believing that I am still recovering fosters my desire for self-awareness. It keeps me engaged in becoming a better person, not just a sober one.

Three, recovering rather than recovered keeps me right-sized. As long as I remember that I am not over this alcoholism thing, and that I am no better or worse than every newcomer and old-timer, I don’t run the risk of self-righteousness or self-loathing. Those are two things that plagued me when I was drinking and recovering keeps me away from them.

Lastly, recovering rather than recovered reminds me that I don’t have all of the answers. I still need help no matter how many days I put between me and my last drink. It’s what makes it more comfortable than it used to be to ask for help when I need it. It’s why I have a sponsor and go to meetings. It’s what makes me part of a huge fellowship of strong and courageous people.

I think, what it boils down to is that recovering, instead of recovered, is what works for me. It may just be semantics, but it puts me in the right mindset to continue on the path of sobriety and recovery. I find joy and strength and health in the process of recovering.

So, I think I’ll stay right here recovering. Forever, God willing.

Every Moment of a Fall – A Review

I love reading memoirs. I would say that they make up about 90% of the books I read. I think I love them so much because, since being in recovery, I’ve learned the importance of sharing stories. Hearing the stories that others have to tell helps me heal, and I hope that others hearing mine helps them in the same way.

I recently read Carol E. Miller’s Every Moment of a Fall, A Memoir of Recovery Through EMDR Therapy, about her PTSD recovery, and I am again amazed at the relief and healing that EMDR offers. It immediately took me back to several years ago when I was going through my own round of EMDR therapy to help with my recovery.

Although Carol’s story of trauma and mine are completely different, there is still a lot that I can relate to as she goes through the process of recovery. Her trauma was caused when the airplane being piloted by her father, and carrying her family, crashed. Carol was the only one to go unscathed physically; her mother and father were badly injured, and her sister was killed. She suffered a lot of guilt and shame being the only one uninjured, and even blamed herself for the crash for a long time.

The trauma that caused my PTSD was rape and physical abuse, so like I said–completely different from Carol’s. The feelings that we both had after are surprisingly similar though. We both suffered with our feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. We both tried to self-medicate to control the symptoms of PTSD that we were experiencing without knowing or understanding what was causing them. And out of sheer desperation, we both turned to EMDR skeptically because we didn’t know what else to do.

Every Moment of a Fall takes you through Carol’s experience with PTSD and EMDR therapy. She briefly talks about the mechanics of how EMDR works and what happens in the brain, but through her narration, you are able to see and feel what it is really like to go through the process. Little by little, as Carol works on healing, you can see the positive changes that are taking place in her–self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-worth. Her accounting of her EMDR work is honest and real, and she demonstrates that while it is possible, recovery isn’t something that happens overnight, that it takes time, patience, and perseverance.

This isn’t just a book for people with PTSD (although it will undoubtedly help them), or people considering EMDR. It’s a book for anyone who wants to find comfort and hope in the stories of others. I highly recommend it.

You can buy Carol’s book here.