Tag Archive | recovery

Mother’s Day Reflections—A Quickie ;-)

“It seems odd to celebrate one’s mom is just one day. Someone so important should be celebrated every day.”  Anonymous, because he’d prefer it that way.

I have seven gorgeous children who are the light of my life.  Six are adults, and one is just 7 years old.  They are truly amazing, though I admit to a bit of bias.  To say that they are accomplished is an understatement, and that includes the 7 year old.  While their accomplishments are good for bragging rights, they are their accomplishments, not mine, and their accomplishments are not what makes them so special.   As I have always said, I wouldn’t care what they did as long as they are happy doing it.

What makes them so amazing is their personalities, and their character.  They are kind and generous.  They are loving and they are funny as can be.  They can laugh at themselves, and no one can get me laughing faster, or harder, than my children, with my sisters coming in at a close second.  They help me laugh at myself, and we have those family stories that are hilarious to us every time.   We have a secret language of movie quotes that we all understand, and can use to convey a variety of thoughts and emotions.  “Keep the change you filthy animal,” means “I love you,” or “You owe me nothing, it’s a gift.”  We’re all a little nutty, in a good way, of course.  We we are all together, the room vibrates with love, hot conversation, and tons and tons of laughter.  Individually, we are all quiet people, and true introverts, but together we are a gaggle of kindred spirits knowing we are fully home.

However, their greatest gifts lie in their ability to forgive, and to move forward, and to recalculate life, and the people in it, as needed.  This is what means the most to me, because I have required forgiveness more than most mothers.  I have required forgiveness again, and again, and again, and each time it’s been freely given.  They’ve forgiven the years of drinking, and my inability to be there for them properly.  They have forgiven the times I was physically absent due to rehab stays, or jail stays, or prison.  They have forgiven lavishly, with no lingering resentments, and they have moved forward in their view of me as I have recovered.  In many ways, we have been growing up together and they have been as patient with me as I have been with them.  They love me unconditionally, as I have loved them.

Yet, for many years, because of all of the guilt and shame I dragged around because of my perceived poor performance as a mother, I lagged behind them both in my forgiveness of myself, and my ability to recalculate who I am today, as opposed to who I was 10 years ago.   I have been forced to stop and look at myself through their eyes, and actually feel their words, not just hear them.  They did not become who they are today in some miraculous vacuum.  They remind me of this often, and of course, their father has played a role, the older kids having seen the worst, and the youngest having been spared most of that.  Because of my children, and God’s grace, which underpins all of this, I have been able to forgive myself, and I am getting up to speed in the recalculating of my view of me.   I thank God every day for these precious people that He trusted me to care for and love, flawed as I am.

My own mother died over 24 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  Although we had bumps in our relationship, by the time she died, we had reached a place of deep friendship.   She was always the first person I wanted to call when anything happened in my life, good or bad.  Now, I am blessed to have three women in my life who are both friends, and mothers to me.  One woman spoils me silly, and is a grandmother to my 7 year old, though there are no blood ties.  Another is chock full of common sense, and tells it like it is.  She loves to cook, too, like I do, so we share recipes and new food finds.  The third woman is the one to whom I can cry my eyes out, and I discover a bit more of myself every time I talk to her.  There is reciprocity in all of these relationships, which is what makes them so special.

But, the best mother that I have now is myself.  In the recalculating I have had to do—the seeing myself as all of these other very special people see me—I have come to realize that I can, and should, give every wonderful gift to myself that I give to others, and that others so richly give to me.  Knowing that God has fully forgiven me, as have all of the people who matter the most to me, I realized that it is more than a little arrogant not to forgive myself, and treat myself with the love and kindness that I deserve.  What a tremendous gift that has been, and it’s one that will remain.  I am blessed beyond words, and I wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Day’s.  Mothers come in may forms–our own mothers, our children, our friends, our sisters, ourselves.  Even if you have no children, you can celebrate and honor the mother within you today.

That quote up top came from my 20 year old son…  I am sure I’ll stop crying anytime now 😉  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Resilience and Life’s Hard Knocks—What Keeps Us Growing

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after a misfortune, blessed with such an outlook, resilient people are able to change course and soldier on.”   ~Psychology Today~

 

Today, resilience has been on my mind.  Why do some people seem to thrive and grow and keep moving forward despite unfortunate life circumstance?  The answer is that they possess a quality called resilience, that springy, bounciness that has them back up on their feet quickly after a fall, dusting themselves, and moving forward stronger than before.  Resilient people are the Timex watches of the world; They take a licking and keep on ticking.  Resilient people are beautiful, and I know a lot of them.  I am a resilient person, too.  They do not turn to anger, and bitterness, and blame of the world, and everyone in it, when life is less than ideal, either by uncontrollable circumstances, or because of their own mistakes and poor choices.  Resilient people do not just take lemons and turn them into lemonade.  No, instead they make a lemon mousse with a blueberry coulis 😉

What constitutes resilience?  In a nutshell, it is the ability to cope with unfortunate life events without getting dragged down to too long.  Resilience comes more easily for some people, both emotional and physical resilience.  Some people are just born more naturally optimistic, positive, and flexible.  Some people learn resilience along the way, as life provides more experiences from which to recover.  Age plays a factor in resilience, as does experience at surviving and thriving.  When we’ve been through a lot, and we’ve kept going, and remained hopeful, and optimistic, and see that behavior works better than blaming or negativity, we develop more traits associated with resilience.

Yes, resilient people have certain traits.  First off, they are aware of their own emotions, and what causes them, and they learn to manage them.  This may take more time for some, especially the managing part.  I was always aware of my emotions, and generally aware of where they were coming from, but learning to manage them took, and still takes, time.  I am a sensitive, and fairly reactive, very expressive person.  However, I am also easy going.  As my sister says, “For a high strung person, you’re incredibly easy going.”  It’s true.  I don’t sweat the small stuff, and the older I get, the more I realize most of it is small stuff.  “It’s not the end of the world,” is a phrase I say out loud many times a day.  Trust me.  It’s really not.

Resilient people persevere.  They do not give up often, or easily.  I often liken myself to one of those blow up clowns with sand in the bottom.  You punch them and punch them but they just pop right back up.  My ability to pop back up time and again is because I never lose hope.  I often say that I am a “Hope springs eternal” kind of gal, and that’s true, too.  Resilient people, no matter how low they go, always have hope that tomorrow is going to be better, so they keep pushing forward towards that tomorrow.

Resilient people are internally focused.  What that means is that, instead of looking out at the world, blaming and shaming finger pointed at anything and everyone who crosses their path, they know inside that they are in control of their lives, their choices, their outcomes.  This isn’t done with perfection, or 100% of the time, and for many their are occasional missteps where the locus moves to the external, at what’s happening to them.  However, the resilient person won’t stay in the external for long.  They will go back inside themselves, examine their role in what’s going on, and begin problem solving.  They will find a solution, often through a change in their own attitude, or behavior.  That is why resilient people grow from mistakes, and poor choices and behaviors, and from life itself.

A resilient person will always find a bright side to any circumstance.  We are positive, optimistic people.  At the same time, perhaps because of this life view, resilient people have good support systems of friends, family, and others who are like minded, and who help shore them up during those experiences in life that we label “bad.”

Resilience is essential to recovery, whether it be from alcoholism and addiction, loss, trauma and abuse.  It’s my belief that everyone is in recovery from something, whether it be a job loss, a bad work evaluation, a divorce, or a stubbed toe, and bad traffic on the way to work.  Resilience allows us accept even undesirable outcomes, forgive, move on, and finally let go, usually coming out better and strong for the experience.  Resilient people are bright, shiny, and sparkling.  The don’t hold grudges, and they do not look back for too long.  They are not trapped by their past, a slave to their present, and they don’t worry a lot about the future.

I don’t know if I emerged from the womb a resilient person.  I think I probably had the traits on the delivery table.  Life’s hard knocks began early, and I learned some pretty crummy coping mechanisms along the way, though they are probably what kept me alive.  I’ve done anger, and blame at points in my life and I HATED how that felt.  I never could hold a grudge 😉 I have always had hope.  I have always known it was going to get better.  I have always kept going even when others thought it impossible, that I’d never make it through alive this time.  I have learned how to be more resilient with each tough experience, and with each tough experience I have become more myself.

Today, I am celebrating resilience, and resilient people.  Without God and resilience, I would not be here today.  If you are a resilient person, celebrate that today, even if you’re in the middle of yet another storm.  If you’re not the most resilient person in the world, you CAN learn resilience!  It will take work, but it will be worth every moment of it!

 

On Forgiveness of Self…It’s Key

I am a writer.  I wrote this the other day and I have to put it somewhere for now.  Take good care of it 😉

I am a recovering alcoholic.  I have been sober over 8 years, and I love every day of my life now, which is some form of major miracle to my mind, both the sobriety and the sheer joy and happiness.  I love who I am today, and I believe that I am finally the woman I was meant to be all of my life.  That this has finally happened at the age of 52 carries with it certain sense of poignancy, though I try not to dwell on what life might have been like had I found myself sooner, or more to the point, never surrendered myself in the first place.  However, I intellectually know that when trauma and sexual abuse happens to a person at the age of 4 or 5, that person is in no solid position to decide what they surrender or do not.  This is especially true if there is no supportive adult to guide the child through, or someone to simply bother to acknowledge that it happened in the first place.

Did you notice that?  Did you notice that as soon as I began to talk of sexual abuse, and a person, not a child, being 4 or 5, that I switched from writing in the first person to the third person?  Amazingly, I caught it instantly, which I think means that what I know intellectually is moving ever closer to my heart.  To that place of actually feeling the pain, rather than just having the knowledge that something happened that should not have. Since tears are rolling down my cheeks, I know I am feeling, not just thinking, which I am so very good at doing.  Think, think, think… Maybe I can think the pain to death, though that has been wholly ineffective to date.

I was sexually abused repeatedly at the age of 4 or 5 by my mother’s best friend’s 16 year old son.  I have a sister that is 13 months younger than me.  It was when he began to go after her as well, that’s when I went to my mother and told her.  The abuse stopped and not another word was ever spoken about it–ever.  Through my growing up years, I had to see this man time and again, each time our families got together.  I don’t know that if my father ever even knew, and since both my parents are long dead, I will never know.  Now, this is something that I have always known–that this happened to me.  But, who is, or was, me?

Until a few months ago, I never realized that the little girl who was molested was me, and that I was only 4 or 5…a baby, a tiny, little, defenseless, child.  Little 5 year old Ann.  I see her in snapshots looking so childishly smug, as if she knows all of the secrets of the world already.  There’s a certain air of superiority there, also.   I believe that, in my mind’s eye, I saw that little girl, me, as a perfectly capable mini-adult person who should have done something to stop all of it sooner.

Because I had failed then, I gave away myself in order to take on the role of the buffer for the world.  A buffer steps in protect others from pain.  A buffer gets beat up a lot.  A buffer learns to feel no pain, because if she did, it would hurt too much.  And that is what I did.  I learned how to feel no pain in a great variety of ways.  I was the buffer for 47 long, excruciatingly painful years.  It makes me so sad to see that now.  So sad for me as a little girl, and a teenager, and a woman.  I lost a lot of life being a buffer, and that hurts in ways words simply cannot capture.

At first, dissociation was my main trick, and I was especially good at it.  There is very little in this life that I undertake that I do not do especially well, expect for life itself, maybe.  When I found alcohol, it was like an answer to a prayer.  Something that took the pain away, and was socially acceptable, up to a point.  Of course, because if I am going to do something, I am going to do it extremely well, I reached that point, and passed it by many, many miles.  And now I am flogging myself with key strokes for not knowing another way to deal with my pain, or for putting a stop to the drinking before such a huge toll was taken…on me.

Certainly, many others were hurt, my children, especially, but for the most part, they seemed to have healed, or are healing, and have moved beyond it.  It’s me that’s stuck and oh, so mad at the person I became.  I don’t even what to think about that person, or believe that she ever existed.  I have hated her for years now, and hidden her, but she is long gone, so, in truth, it has been me hiding from her—long dead, and gone.  Just like I have been hiding from my anger at my mother, who set me up for such a life of pain by her coldness, detachment, and her absolute insistence that I be strong, and never shed a tear, no matter what happened to me in my life, because somehow it was always a reflection on her.

And so, me, who is finally almost free, is still a subtle slave to these two dead women.  Had my mother been able to love me, and accept me, and care for me, in the way that I needed when I was 4 or 5, and every year after that, perhaps the second women, that part of myself that I am looking at today in the hopes of finally forgiving, well, she may have never come into existence.  She wasn’t, my mother, able to do any of those things, and I cannot change that.  She loved me very much.  I know that.  I was also a great disappointment to her, as well.  I know that, too. More than I know that she loved me.   I wasn’t smart enough, in the right way, for her, or strong enough, or whatever enough.  Or, maybe, I was too much of it all, smart, strong, talented, and pretty.  Maybe it was that she hated me for… Whatever the case, because of her, always cloaked in disappointment at her life, and some great internal misery none of us could reach, I have spent my life, both the parts prior to her death and after, trying to prove something to her.

I have been trying to prove that I am worthy, maybe, but I picked a funny way to prove that.  Or, maybe I wanted her to know that her pain had become mine, and had tripled in size and it was eating me alive, would she please come rescue and protect me now?  If it got bad enough, and it certainly did, would she finally reach out a hand to help me up?  Would she finally love me just as I was, so flawed and so in pain?  Would she hold me and comfort me and tell me it was okay.  That I was okay?  Of course, that was my 5 year old magical thinking, and it never happened.

The other day, my seven year old asked me what was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life?  How could I possibly choose, I thought?  Molestation, incest, rape, abuse, alcoholism, prison… I gave him a believable answer, and he told me that the worst thing that ever happened to him was when his Dad wouldn’t let his sister take him to Funtown, but took him himself.  I know full well when the worst part of my life was, it was a year midway through my 5 year relapse.  It was the year where the woman I do not want to look at was alive, and well, and fully running my life.  She was finally out in the open, so to speak, and it made her mad, and uncomfortable beyond words, so her actions spoke the most loudly.  She was trying to kill the pain, and her and I in the process.  That she did not is yet another miracle.

That year, I drank constantly.  I had lost my kids to their father because of my drinking, and the pain of that was unbearable. I was living alone in a strange house, having lost my house, and I was so cold all of the time.  Her, me, us, lost a baby at 9 weeks while I had been sober for 6 months, and after, we fell apart.  In some ways I wonder now if she was trying to save me from the man I was involved with at the time, who would years later become my sociopath husband.  I know now she was seeing what I did not want to see.  I have flashbacks every day from that time.

It was a horrid time when I would blackout for days at a time in the upstairs bedroom, to wake up completely naked, bedding torn off of the bed, covered in bruises and a rash, large knots all over my head.  I shook too badly to light a cigarette, or dial a phone for help.  I could not move my computer mouse smoothly enough to find out what time and day it was.  I’d find realtor’s card on the kitchen table and know that the house, which was on the market, was shown while I was blacked out.  I would find myself getting into the car with the express purpose to get drunk while driving.  I wrapped my car  around a tree in a blackout and ended up in the hospital.  Another time a friend could not reach me, and an ambulance came to my home and dragged me out of bed, again naked, and screaming, while my friend cried and watched.  I was in the hospital for days, not knowing what day it was, save for the note on the chalk board.  I didn’t eat.  I could not walk normally.  My arms would not swing by themselves, I had to force them to do it.  I was weak and spent hour upon day upon month sitting at the kitchen table just staring, even when my kids were over.  My hair was falling out.

I was back in the hospital again, days before I was to enter a rehab, having fallen and broken my nose in a blackout.  For three weeks after that, they, the hospital, the detox, and then the rehab, wondered if my brain would come back enough for me to live a normal life.  Amazingly, it did.  Amazingly, after another rehab, and two jail stays, and a 6 month half way house, I finally got sober, but she, the one who was trying to kill us, lived on, this time, feeding on shame.  She had plenty to eat, even when the rest of us didn’t.  I was getting stronger, and her far, far, weaker.  What finally killed her, the protector, and the queen of dissociation?  I believe in was the arrest that led me to spend six months of the last year in prison.

That was the last straw, and I woke up and looked around at the abuse I was suffering through yet again, and I took control, finally.  I got mad.  I said enough is enough, and I remember every single day since that day.  That’s a real first for me who has entire years in my life completely missing.  It was in prison that I finally knocked down the walls to the bunker that had held me, the 5 year old me, prisoner for 47 years.  That child is a part of me now, and I can feel her pain, and love her properly.  But what of this extremely strong, extremely angry, extremely protective, and extremely self destructive, woman who is dead, but not buried?

I look at her and see that she was the exterior wall of the fortress that protected me from a lifetime of pain.  She was the buffer.  She’s the one who stepped in and took all of the hits, and absorbed all of the shocks and insults.  She’s the one who stepped onto the plane and flew across the country to take care of whichever loved one was dying. She always found a way even when a way seemed impossible.  She not only took care of me, but the entire world she knew.  She’d gotten oh so very tired.  It’s an exhaustion that I still feel.  It was a terribly thankless job.  She carried all of the pain and kept me smiling a fake smile, and moving through life in the best, muddled, way that I could.

What human could endure such an enormous amount of pain and responsibility without help from anyone?  Not me.  I never would have made it without her, and her beauty, and her strength, and her tenacity, for as much as she wanted to die, she wanted me to live.  She gave me the time I needed to grow up, and grow strong on my own, and then she just disappeared when I was ready to take over the reigns.  She is me.  She was the very best of me crying to get out, and she was the very worst, most devastated, part of me, dying inside.   I have been hating myself for weakness that was really strength, ugliness that was really pain, and behaviors that were really just attempts to get love from a woman who just didn’t have it in her to give, alive or dead.

We are one now.  Me, and that tiny, little girl, and that tough as nails woman with a heart so big that she was willing to take on the pain of the world.  That person is me, and I am beautiful, and happy, and passionate, and talented, more than smart enough, and certainly good enough.  Forgiveness I give to you now, because you are me, and I love me, and I thank you.  We made it through to the other side, and on this side is healing and happiness.   It’s going to be okay.  I am okay, just the way that I am.

 

So, here I go…

I’ve tried to blog before and it didn’t last, probably because I was doing it for a reason that was not something that was in sync with what my heart knows that it wants to accomplish.  So, I plugged away, and plugged away, and what do you know…it became a bore and a chore.  This is going to be different.  This blog is going to be all about me.  The essential me, who I’ve just come to know at the age of 52 years old.

To say that I have lived a life of extremes would be a gross understatement.  I have lived a life where I never had to worry about money, and I’ve lived in abject poverty.  I have survived childhood sexual abuse, incest, rape, and two abusive marriages, the first mostly emotional, and verbal, though I guess those two black eyes and being held captive in my home for a week when I wanted out do take it to a higher level, and the second to a sociopath.  You could say that I do not pick ’em particularly well, but I am thinking that I won’t make those mistakes ever again 😉

I am a recovering alcoholic, 8 years sober.  I have a college education, and have been on many boards and committees, and all of that good stuff.  I have also been to two rehabs, and one halfway house, and I have been in jail twice, and just got out of prison six months ago, after a 6 months stay paying for sins of the past.  While, it was not on my prison “to-do” list, I made many lifetime friends there, and found myself, as well. I have seven of the most beautiful, caring, generous, forgiving, and accomplished children on the planet.  I like to say that they turned out quite well despite me, but when I am honest with myself, I know that it is because of me to a great extent.

I believe in God, and I love Jesus Christ.  I am devoutly faithful but not religious.   I think that most of the time it is Christians who give Christians a bad name.  I work very hard to walk the talk.  To that end, I am fixin’ to start and ministry and mentorship program for women coming out of incarceration situations. I am a true introvert who does an exceptionally good extravert imitation 😉

Most people, when hearing of my life experiences say, “Oh my, what a tragic life!”  I do not see it that way at all.  I am the eternal optimist, and idealist to the core.  I love my life, and finally knowing who I am, I love myself.  I spent a lifetime trying like crazy, until it made me crazy, to conform to some elusive standard of normalcy, or perfection, or success, and I never quite got it.  Now, I honor myself, and my heart and soul.  And suddenly, because of that one big change, I find that I am no longer just surviving, I am thriving!

The world is a beautiful place and I love life!  Most day, I feel like the most blessed woman on the planet, but this wasn’t always the way that I saw things.  It’s not easy getting from pain and blame and negativity to a place of peace and radical acceptance, but I know that if I can do it, anyone can.  So, let’s saddle up and ride and get to the other side, because the other side is a glorious place!

I typed this while eating toast and jam, which I highly recommend.  I must now go get something to clean my keyboard!  Onward!