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.

Ultimate Blog Challenge!

January
January (Photo credit: Deadly Tedly)

The Introduction

Happy New Year!  Welcome to the The Daily Woman.. a blog dedicated to living sober and giving life all you got!  I signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge just in time for 2013… The month of January is dedicated to living life sober, getting help, working the steps and tons of other useful information and links.

My goal is to post each of the 31 days.  😀

A lot of us wrapped up in alcoholism and addiction have made resolutions (or goals) of sobriety for 2013.  Most of these will be broken if the right help is not sought.

Now, I am not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV, but I do know what has worked for me and hope to do some sort of twelfth step work through my blog. I have reached a point in my sobriety that what keeps me sober is doing the next right thing and putting my hand out to the next still sick and suffering alcoholic/addict.

Thanks for climbing on board and Happy New Year to you all.

Out With the Old – A Time to Reflect

Reflect
Reflect (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As 2012 comes to a close… I have looked through my Penzu journal, gone through old notebooks and basically stepped back and looked at the canvas of my life.  It hasn’t exactly been a spectacular year… but then it has been a spectacular year.  I fell down a cliff on a quad, I celebrated six years of sobriety in May, I started going to Al-Anon (which changed my life!) and I ended a six year, toxic relationship never dreaming that I’d enter into a new relationship with a man who I am pretty sure was made just for me.

I read somewhere that when we order up the life we want to exact specifications, we just might get it.  Well, I seem to be on my way.

The Old:

Procrastination – Insecurity – Self-loathing – Laziness – Self-doubt – feeling unworthy in most situations.  Ahhh.. those old ugly beliefs and bad thoughts that I wish I could beat with a hammer.  However, thoughts are not tangible so I have to beat them with positive thinking!

The New:

Get it done! I am beautiful! I can and will prevail! Successful author!  I have to fake it ’til I make it – and my advice to all of you is to do the same.  Faking it ’til we make it is like a mental affirmation of determination that only we know about.  It kinda goes along with that whole “The Secret” thing.  Trust me – it freaking works.

How about you? What is your out with the old, in with the new for the coming year?

A – Z Challenge ~ Y is for You

Image: xdwebsolutions.com

That’s right.  You.  Y is all about you.  You are the most important thing. It’s you baby. You are what you eat. You give love a bad name.

I mean, how many times has it been about someone else?  You are always sacrificing for your family, your job, your pets, your writing… the list goes on!

So today – make it all about you.  If you can’t do it today, do it in the next week or two.

Find a place to go, even if it is in your own back yard, and just make it about you.

Start a page in your journal or online diary (I use Penzu – love it!) and make it all about you.  What do you want?  What would you do if there were no consequences? Where would you live if you had the choice? What is your dream job?

These are questions that should get you on a track to questioning your intent in life and really get your head spinning.  I  mean, there is only one you.  You should be nice to you.  It is so important to value yourself, if you don’t, no one else will.

Every day, I try to ask myself a hard question.

Questions like:

If this was the last day of your life, would you wan to live it this way?

If helping someone out meant a slight inconvenience, would you still help them?

It is amazing how much we get back when we give just a little.

So make today all about you.

Journal prompt for the day:

What does a day ALL ABOUT YOU look like?

A – Z Challenge ~ R is for Reinvent

sunny day
sunny day (Photo credit: jhoc)

How do we reinvent ourselves? We have to change things up. Reinventing means taking something old and making it different. We reinvent ourselves when we take a long hard look at what is going on in our life and figure out what is or is not working.
Maybe you have a bad attitude at work or maybe you wear the same damn type of clothes every single day or you read the same types of books all the time. CHANGE IT UP!

When we reinvent ourselves we are giving our self permission to step outside the box – that box of fuzzy blanket comfort – and recharge our batteries.

Maybe you had your eye on a new journal to write in that will bring forth ideas for that book you have been wanting to write or maybe there is a class that you have been wanting to take because you just know it will do you tons of ooey goodness.

I’ll tell you what.  All the nerve I possess I can thank my Gram for.  She never let me be a sissy and stay in the same humdrum routine when I was a little girl.  She taught me that if I want anything to change I have to change it.  I have to reinvent it.  I reinvent myself each day when I try something new or put a positive spin on a negative situation.

You can do it too!

The Day’s Ponder:  When was the last time you reinvented yourself?  Write down three ways you can reinvent yourself.

A – Z Challenge ~ A is for Adversity

Impossible odds make achievements even more satisfying.

Adversity: making or breaking people since the dawn of time.

How much have you overcome in your life?  After you get to know someone and quit the sappy, chitter chatter of small talk, what do you tell them about yourself? Maybe you are fighting cancer, going through a nasty divorce, battling addiction or maybe you have inner demons you can’t quite figure out and you see a doctor to help you with those demons.  None of this makes a bad person.  It makes a human being and it makes you beautiful.

I try to put some of the adversity I have overcome into my writing.  Truth is much more fascinating than fiction, no doubt.  Some of the adversity I have put (or will put) into my writing:

  • Alcoholism/drug addiction
  • Being a teen parent
  • An abusive marriage
  • Growing up poor

Isn’t it interesting that those tribulations we do overcome, that adversity, it makes us stronger and gives us layers.  Imagine if everything went the way we wanted consistently… how freaking boring would that be?

Think about our writing, your writing.  There is adversity in good writing.  There is an obstacle to hurdle, a task to complete, a mystery to solve.  A good story has a protagonist that must overcome adversity to get to the goal.

Adversity makes life.

Weird as a Whisker Wiggling Wombat

Hey Mom. This is cuteness tactic three, Mom.

I was over at Sonia G Medeiros’ blog this morning and had a great time reading about her quirky idiosyncrasies.  She talks to inanimate objects too!  Susie Lindau has some crazy things going on as well. Go check her out!

This prompted me to come out of the closet and share my quirk-o-quirkies.  I mean, we all have our little things about us.  Some people can only drink their morning coffee after  tapping the spoon on the side of the cup three times.  While others praise that same cup of coffee to keep us from feeling vexed. When I say praise, I’m talking full-fledged bowing/chanting action.

Yep.  Been there.

So … let the kookiness begin.

  • I often sing answers to questions.  My boyfriend asks, “Darlene, are we going food shopping?” and I answer in a melodic, “Yes, Andy we are going foooood shopping todaaaaay!” Melodic might be a stretch.
  • My cat LB has cuteness tactics and he has numbered them from 1 – 785. He is serious about his tactics. And let’s me know what cuteness tactic he is using at any given moment.
  • I will absolutely cut a person off in mid sentence or break eye contact if I hear music coming from somewhere.  After I pinpoint where and what the song is, my attention will refocus.
  • I cannot stand raw onions.  I find them gross in every way.  Makes sense that the raw onion is an antagonist in my next story.
  • I talk to all animals.  Yes.  I say good morning to birds, wink at squirrels and what’s up to any horses at the park or standing in a field.
  • I have an acute sense of smell.  People have asked if I am part dog, I have no comment.  Nothing can be proven. Nothing!

I could add to this list, but I want to hear from you. 😀  What are some weird/crazy/quirky things you got going on? And be sure to hop over to Sonia’s blog and Susie’s blog to read their lists.