G – Grieve (The Old You)

Grief
Grief (Photo credit: tombellart)

Grief.  It’s one of those things that is hard to let go of and hard to handle.  We grieve loss: Loss of people, places and things; loss of pets. But did you ever consider grieving over yourself?  I’ll bet you never quite looked at it that way.

Recovery is a rebirth.  We come into the rooms, the doctors’ offices and the out-patient programs beaten and broken. We are torn, tattered and abused; looking for something or someone to save us.  We’re either meek and mild or loud and brazen.  Some of us are a little of both.

When I first got sober I was a little of both. I was kind of shy (especially around women) and I dressed provocatively, stuck with the men, pulled up at meetings blasting my heavy metal.  I needed to be noticed. I needed that attention to flip that self-worth switch on inside.  Seeking outside validation is classic in alcoholics and I was (still am!) a classic alcoholic.  I made all the conversations about me (I was really good at this!).  Gosh, I could go on forever!

This self-seeking behavior (definitely a character defect) went on for years until one day…

I got serious about my program.  I started hitting six meetings a week.  I got another sponsor and actually talked with her and did step work with her.  I listened at meetings and even started sharing at some of them.  I started hanging with the women, giving my phone number to newcomers and even hung out with these chicks outside of the rooms. What was happening to me?!  Who was this woman who stared back at me in the mirror every day?  I didn’t know her, but I liked her.

She was different.  She didn’t want to wear “hoochie mama” clothes anymore; felt comfortable around other women.  She liked the image in the mirror.. sometimes.

Yes, I still blast my heavy metal but I definitely notice a change in me.  So do a lot of other people.  I like who I am these days.  I no longer hide behind the insecure mask of “LOOK AT ME!”  I know that sounds strange, but insecurity leads to external validation which is a band-aid that never heals internal wounds.

And I did take a moment a couple of years ago to grieve the old me.  I sat down in a park with my journal and nature and wrote a letter to myself.  I said, “Goodbye, Old Darlene.  There are some parts of you I shall miss, but ultimately, not much.  This is my new path, with my new life and a new me.  I’m sure you’ll visit sometimes, Old Darlene, and that’s okay, but you cannot stay.”

Have you ever given any thought to an “old you” and “new you?”

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Keeping It Real

serenity
serenity (Photo credit: dragonflaiii)

So I was watching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) this morning and there were all these fascinating episodes that dealt with “self.” Like, how we treat the self, how outside events impact the self and so much stuff I went out and bought a book by one of the people Oprah was interviewing.  “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer.  The book is to liberate us from a contained self-image.

Based solely on the interview, the information I gathered from the show and snippets of the book I scanned, I have hope that this book will break me through my final barrier… me.

I have always tried to keep it real.  I’ve tried to remain grounded in all I do, say or feel along with trying to be there for anyone who crosses my life path. But there are these things, these feelings, that get in the way on a consistent basis.  And when I let my head get the best of me, I am no longer keeping it real per say, but getting sucked into a myopic array of disillusionment which takes me back to that dark room of self-loathing.

Yeah, pretty messed up stuff.  The more messed up part of all this crap is that I project this putrid bile onto other human beings.  Instead of just being in a moment or looking at things for what they are, I tend to read deeper into whatever is going on and then I project my thoughts, insecurities and the like others.

This leads to:

  • self-doubt
  • self-loathing
  • insecurity
  • feeling less than
  • depression
  • self-sabotage
  • resentment

That is a pretty hefty list of awful feelings, ideals and all around yuckiness.

Lately, I have been way up in my head.  This is a tough place for me when I am trying to live a life of peace.  My head is not peaceful.  It is constantly chattering, whispering and telling me rotten things.  I believe these things.  I give my thoughts weight and that is when the horrible list above comes into play.  I used to drink and drug to get rid of these thoughts and feelings.  Drinking and drugging is not an option for me.

This is why I bought the book.  My thoughts (and yours) are so automatic, I never question them.  You’ve heard the saying, “I think, therefore I am.” UGH!!! How awful is that? I certainly do not want to be what I think!  My twelve-step program helps ( a lot!) but lately I just feel like I need an added tool.

As I go through this book (highlighting sentences and paragraphs like I always do) I will be updating my blog with what I have learned and if any of it is making sense.  It made sense on Oprah’s show, therefore, I am sure it will make sense.

Also, I signed up for 21 Day Meditation Challenge.  It is free and looks like a lot of fun.  Check it out!

How do you battle your demons?

That Damn Heart On My Sleeve

Heart on Sleeve!
Heart on Sleeve! (Photo credit: Caro’s Lines)

It’s true.  I am an emotional, loving, caring, forgiving human being who seems to never remember that it is NOT all about me and I should NOT take everything to the life-giving, all loving heart that is in my chest and on my sleeve.

I have a hard time handling any kind of rejection.

You wanna hurt me?  Ignore me.  Pretend I do not matter.  Treat me like one of the rest.  That shit hurts.  It hurts deep.

Maybe I am the “sensitive artist type” or I am just sensitive period.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I love with all my heart and I just reveal myself (the real me) time and again and I get shit on and it hurts.

How do I be someone else?  How do I turn into this magical, mythical creature that never gets angry, hurt, upset, jealous, resentful or bruised?

This is the question I want answered.

Why do I do this?  Why do I pour my heart into everything?  The risk is always there and I know this.  But I give my heart anyway.  Over and over and over again.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel the hurt, the pain, the agony of rejection or dejection.  But then, I remember:

It is good for me to feel these things and sort them out. Because the moment I decide I can no longer handle feeling these feelings is the scary moment I might look to pick up a drink.  After all, not being able to handle my feelings was a huge part in my alcoholism.

So…

  • I journal.
  • I go to a meeting.
  • I talk to my friend, Heather.
  • I pray.
  • I think (this is not good).

The final thing I do is give it to God.  I have so many little papers in my God Box: things I want, things that bother me, people I cannot help.  All kinds of stuff.  I put those little pieces of paper in my God Box and then forget about them.  After I say a prayer and put my written thought in the God Box, I forget about it…

For a little while…

But, me being me with this heart on my sleeve, my head starts to mess with me again.  Sometimes I think wearing my heart on my sleeve is a huge character defect.  However, a lot of people (including my former sponsor) has told me it is an admirable trait.

Hmmmm…

How are you at handling your emotions? 

Surviving A Brain Injury

National Brain Injury Awareness Month
National Brain Injury Awareness Month (Photo credit: Army Medicine)

So, March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month (I just found this out yesterday).  Let’s add that to the seemingly endless list of “celebratory months of awareness.”  This one hits me at a personal level, however, because in 1996 I suffered a brain injury as a result of an overdose and almost died.

Now some people would say, “big freaking deal, you od’d!”  Well, the thing about it is that I did not want to wake up from an intentional overdose that I told no one about.  There was no letter, no teary-eyed phone calls.

I was twenty-three years old, frightened and disgusted.  I did not want to wake up.

But I did wake up.  I woke up and have been a different person since then.  I am not sure exactly what day I woke up as I have no recollection of any events immediately preceding my overdose, my hospital stay or my journey home.  I only know what my family tells me and then the snippets of flashbacks that float into my head from time to time.

My family told me it happened on July 19, 1996.  My 6-year-old daughter Sarah found my dead body.  911 was called and EMT’s worked on me for thirty minutes before they felt a pulse.  I was rushed to Frankford Hospital in Philadelphia and apparently was in a coma.  I don’t remember. Sometimes I think I remember, but then I realize that I remember what people have told me over the years, and in some warped sense those stories become twisted false memories.

I have a brain injury.  So at times I have issues with differentiating fact from fiction.  I have issues remembering things period.

When I overdosed (and died) I was not getting oxygen to my brain.  This affected the part of my brain that holds my short-term memory.  My long-term memory is intact, but my short-term memory is forever scarred.  If I can get information from my short-term to my long-term, I have it forever.

But that is the trick.  Getting from the short to the long.

I can’t remember:

  • people’s names.
  • directions.
  • what I read.
  • what people said.
  • grocery lists.
  • how I got where I am.
  • how to get home.
  • and tons of other crap that I forgot.

Now, this is par for the course for a lot of people.  But not for me.  It was never for me.  And now it is and some days I am fine and other days mortified because I feel like an ass.

I once wandered around the parking lot of the Willow Grove Mall for an hour because I could not find my car.

I once wandered around the floor of the Pep Boys Headquarters for almost an hour because I couldn’t find my cubicle.

I once drove around aimlessly for two hours because I got lost, stopped to ask for directions, and got lost again.

The list goes on and on, like I said.  But of course I forget all that stuff and I don’t remember anything unless it’s in my long-term memory or by association.

These days, I am a little better.  The doctors told me to do brain strengthening exercises like puzzles, reading, writing and stuff.  I write a lot and the other stuff I do, well, when I remember.

Do you know anyone that survived a brain injury?

We Are Not Perfect

Perfection (Sandra Bernhard song)
Perfection (Sandra Bernhard song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More so in the last ten years than any other year there seems to be this strive for perfection.  People want the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect nose, boobs, butt… I could go on forever.  And don’t sit there like you don’t know what I’m talking about, because you see it, too.

Wake up people!  There is no such thing as perfection… none.  So strive away and kill yourself if you must trying to make it, do it, write it, sing it, draw it or look perfect. 

IT. WILL. NEVER. HAPPEN.

But what we can do is strive for perfection.  We can always do better, be better, act better, write better, think better, talk better, love better, work better….. we can always be better.

As an alcoholic (which translates to a sick mo-fo) one defect that plagues me to this day is the defect of “having to be perfect.”   So in a sense, this blog post is written to me along with the rest of my awesome readers because I have been feeling insecure for the past week or so.

Insecurity is my warped devil.  It tells me I will fail at everything.  It tells me I am never good enough or anything else enough.  I have to smash that devil with the hammer of hope.  I have to tell myself that, “yes, I do have flaws, but my flaws are what make me the beautiful human being I am.”

Some days I believe it, others not so much.  This is where my program of recovery comes in to play.

When I compare myself to others, I fall short every damn time.  “She’s this, she’s that. He has this, he has that. Theirs is better.  When am I going to get my just desserts?!”

When I compare myself to myself, I excel every time.  This time last year I was living somewhere else, in a different (loveless) relationship and depressed.  I was overweight (one of my ‘I never’s’) and feeling like total crap.

I made a conscious effort after a mild epiphany to “Strive For Perfection.” And must keep in my mind I will never attain it, but striving for it will and has helped me continue my progress.  Some days I have a mild setback, other days I kick butt!  In the words of Dori in “Finding Nemo” – JUST KEEP SWIMMING.

We are as perfect as our imperfections…

Do you strive for perfection?  Are you a perfectionist?  How do you deal with the demand for perfection in today’s society?

Coping In Sobriety

Clean and Sober
Clean and Sober (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first got sober, it was pretty easy for me.  I’m not bragging, but I had hit such a low point that I figured getting clean and sober might well be worth a shot.  The one thing I hadn’t discovered in my new sobriety was ways to cope with life on life’s terms. This was definitely something I needed to figure out quickly.

See, life just kept on happening to me. It didn’t matter that I was clean and sober, or that I was trying to do the next right thing.  It didn’t matter that I was making a valiant effort to see my kids, to stay away from people, places and things or that I was working a rigorous twelve-step program.

My car still broke down, I still got yelled at by my boss and I still had (very) bad hair days.

Of course I would go into the “poor me” cloud.  “Hey, I’m doing the right thing… what’s this crap all about?” I had this grandiose sense of self (huge ego!) that since I finally started to do the right thing (after years of doing very wrong things) that I should get a reprieve of sorts and nothing bad should ever happen to me ever again.  Ever.

Reality check: shit happens. I had to deal with life on life’s terms and I had to find out pronto how to do that.

The only way I could do that was to go to meetings, be around other sober people who had serious clean time and work a good program.

I learned that drinking or drugging was not a coping tool.  It just added fuel to the already out of control fire that raged inside me.

I learned that I should start writing again and that I am a pretty good photographer.  I learned my triggers and how to avoid them most of the time.  Sometimes triggers still invaded my head space (usually when my mind was idle) and I learned that the best thing to do in that situation was to call another alcoholic in recovery. Maybe they could help me.  Turns out, I was helping them just as much as they were helping me.

I couldn’t wrap my head around that one.  How the hell could I possibly help someone with years of sobriety when I was so new? Now that I have over six years clean and sober, I know how.  Because when I talk to someone new in sobriety it puts things in perspective and reminds me of the way I used to think. I no longer think that way.

Some of the ways I learned to cope:

  • Go to a meeting. Talk to another alcoholic in recovery.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Write.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Listen to music.
  • Go to a park.

I can always come back to the problem later.  Obsessing and keeping the problem at the forefront of my mind will not help me.  And trust me, I am huge on obsession.  After all, I am an alcoholic and everything is about me.

If I had a dollar for every time I asked someone “What’s wrong?” with the presumption that it had to be something I did, I would be retired and living in my dream cabin in the mountains.

See, another HUGE thing I had to learn to cope with was myself.  I had to learn that people pleasing was not a coping tool, rather a way to mask whatever guilt or remorse I was feeling. I had to cope with that.  I had to learn how to recognize the difference between actually coping and sweeping the problem under the rug or enabling someone or using other poor methods:

  • drinking
  • drugging
  • silent scorn
  • blame
  • defensiveness
  • ignoring the feeling
  • manipulation

None of these ways worked!  These were not coping tools, these were character defects that I used to hurt people to get my way, pretending I was right (when I knew I was wrong).  Because as long as I was sure other people knew I was right, I felt better, if only for a short time.

How do you cope with day-to-day life or problems that come down your road?

One Day at a Time

Image: givecourage.net
Image: givecourage.net

One day at a time.  Isn’t that really the only way we can live?  When we were in our addiction, we were caught up in our past aches, resentments and fears.  But that wasn’t enough.  We had to worry about the future!  What will tomorrow bring? Will I still have my job?  What about a place to live?

Since I am inherently skeptical, this whole one day at a time thing puzzled me.  After all, I was a being who only thought about what would become of me along with all the crap of yesterday.  Well, I couldn’t change yesterday and had no control over tomorrow.  Still don’t.  Never will.

Before I got sober, I remember thinking about never being able to drink (or drug) again.  That thought overwhelmed me to the point of anxiety.  How would I function?  Where would I hang out? What about my friends?  All of these are serious questions to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.

The first couple weeks of my sobriety were a rough lot.  I lived one minute at a time rather than one day at a time.  I could not think about the future.  Again, it was entirely too overwhelming.  And holding onto the past was what got me in such a shit storm.  So I focused on keeping my brain occupied.  I should have kept a journal, but I didn’t.  Instead I consumed mass quantities of Pop Tarts and watched the Military Channel.  I only left my apartment to get cigarettes.

But it worked for me.

Of course these days, I do think about the future and there are times when the past creeps in or I see something that brings back a fond (or not so fond) memory. But when it comes to not picking up, one day at a time, one minute at a time, even one second at a time is the best way to live.

How do we live one day at a time in recovery?

We go to meetings.  We get a sponsor.  We read approved literature. We talk to people in recovery (this is so important). We share at meetings (this is something I need to do more). We keep our minds occupied with things besides drinking (or drugging).

I have met so many creative people in the rooms of AA.  I have met many artists, writers and generally people who are doing what they want to do with their lives.  How cool is that?  Maybe they were always creative or maybe they found their creativity while living one day at a time.