High School and My Perfect Storm

If you’ve read my blog up until now, I am picking up when I entered High School. Up until now I’ve developed a taste for alcohol, I’m thinking about drugs, I’m actively puking every time I eat and I pretty much have given up hope that I will be anything special at the High School level. Forget that I’ve always had good grades and could continue on to be a great athlete. My mind was inching towards a deep dark depression and I created the perfect circumstances to fuel it, I created my perfect storm.

In comes the first “real” boyfriend. He’s a senior, I’m a freshman. He breaks my heart, I become more crazy and so on. The little details are too much for one sitting. He’s a straight arrow and I’m just getting nestled in to exploring more stuff that takes me out of myself. I try pot for the first time during this year, I’m smoking cigarettes everyday and I already know school is not going to work very well for me. The relationship thing, with the beautiful senior guy that I couldn’t breathe without, catapulted me into suicidal tendencies. Not the band, but you get what I mean.

By the summer after Freshman year I’m ready to go. I’m not playing around anymore. I have an older brother who can get alcohol, his friends like to party with me, and I’ve dissolved into the background from anyone who once knew me as a popular cheerleader, president of the 8th grade class or athlete. I wasn’t a cheerleader anymore, I threw in the towel before high school so I didn’t really have an image to keep up. My bulimia was basically sucking my will to live and my poor parents were faced with the lump of a daughter. Of course I started to blame the fact I was adopted because there was no way I could relate to my parents. They just didn’t have these problems, they didn’t act the way I did. I shut the door on them. But, that same year, Sophomore year, I did ask them to help me. Off to the Psychiatrist and straight to an inpatient program for adolescents.

Everything inside of me was screaming for help when I got to that place. But once I was in, and they locked the door, I was screaming to get out. I remember watching my parents and my brother through a tiny window and through a locked door walk out of the building. I stood there frozen, more scared then I’d ever been. Asking why is this me? Why am I not like them?

I had acquired someone who seemed to genuinely care about me before I ended up there. He was so nice, too nice because I couldn’t have people being nice to me. I was awful, a bad kid and a bad daughter, and I certainly wasn’t worthy of love. He sent me roses, my first dozen roses and I stared at them. They were the only pretty thing I had at that point in my life. I put them on the dresser in the room I shared with another sick girl. She didn’t like that they locked our bathroom door so I couldn’t puke. I don’t blame her. She had her own problems.

A month went by and I cried and manipulated my way right back out of that treatment center. It was there that I was told I was an addict and it was there that I decided I wasn’t so bad. The night I was released I went to celebrate with my friends. I stole the bottle of wine (that was being used as a centerpiece) off the table we were eating at. I am only 15, I am only a sophomore but I am already a full blown alcoholic.

The rest of high school is a blur. I partied and drug both my parents through hell. Thank God for guilt because that is what helped me to graduate. I couldn’t bear the thought of telling my parents after all I’d done, that I wasn’t going to graduate. So in between my first tumultuous relationship with my heavy metal guitarist boyfriend (whom I both loved and hated) I grasped at straws and worked every angle. Six months before graduation the worst happened, we found out my mom had cancer. I worked even harder to graduate. But it did nothing for me. Once I broke free of the chains of high school it was even darker. I found better drugs and she was dying, and I was quickly succumbing to my addictions. Her sickness was all the excuse I needed.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Shame of Addiction; Yes it’s Possible!!

For many years after I first decided to put down the drugs and the alcohol (and all my other demons), I would return to my familiar habits often because of shame. Doesn’t make sense does it? As a mom it was much easier for me to drink away all the messes I made rather than stay sober and stick it out. I had so much shame and guilt for the life I was leading. I felt a sickness in my stomach every time I looked at the faces of my sweet boys. When we get sober things start to happen. Feelings start to creep in and reality is a son of a bitch. Our natural response to feelings is to not feel them at all! Sometimes getting sober is like getting naked and running into a near freezing lake. It’s shocking, it’s uncomfortable and we just want to get out!

Whatever path we go down to recover,  first we must stick with that icky feeling long enough to start working through the wreckage of our past. It can be done! Little by little we can live right and slowly make amends to people along the way. Some programs will have you work the steps, or maybe you have another route. Whatever your path, once we give it our all to right our wrongs we can begin to forgive ourselves. For me I belong to a recovery group and I use my God to guide me. For you maybe it’s church, counseling or another form of recovery.

The message is, “stop carrying the guilt, deal with it, then get rid of it.” Today, I can ‘almost’ look in the mirror everyday without that shame. I’m still an alcoholic and addict. I’m not sure I’ll ever look and say “Wow, you’re the greatest”….BUT, I no longer wake up and hate myself for the mistakes I made when I was using and drinking. I stopped beating myself up and it has allowed me to move forward in my recovery. I look at my boys now, who both are wonderful and I say “I had a part in that.”

So You Think You’re Different?

No doubt one of the most offensive things said to me in my early recovery turned out to be one of the best. I was at a retreat surrounded by people who were all participating in their recovery. We were surrounded by beautiful mountains and the fresh air of Lake Tahoe. I went for a hike with the person who said the most offensive yet profound thing I’ve ever needed to hear. I was going on and on (and probably on) about all my troubles. I was lost in all the reasons why my life was so hard. This other person patiently waited for me to be through, listening to every word. When I was done he simply replied “you’re special darlin’, but you ain’t unique.” WHAT?! I couldn’t believe my ears.

I’m sure I turned a few shades of red, somewhere between fury and embarrassment. I tried to refrain from either ripping his head off or curling up into a little ball. My ego felt like a balloon that got popped, out came all the air. I was left deflated. It was years before I looked back on that day and found gratitude in my heart for those words. I once thrived on my problems, they made me who I was. I didn’t know what to do without them. I thought I was cursed and never stopped to think maybe God gave me those problems to one day overcome them and help someone else.

Some things that happen are much bigger than just a problem, like losing a loved one. But even in those times if we don’t have a clear head, someone to call and people to share our struggles with we cannot face our problems. Bathing in our problems will never be the answer. If we continually think we are different, we will find every excuse not to face what’s in front of us. Look to those who have gone before you in recovery or in life in general. Letting go may not be as easy as it sounds, but the power it gives you to be free of your pain is worth a try.

“Recovery is not a place we arrive, but rather a state of being”……… Jean Irvin

 

My Three R’s: Recoil, React, Run

I spent most of my life avoiding anything that made me feel uncomfortable. Panic attacks prevented me from reaching for a lot of things in my life. Couple those panic attacks with drugs, alcohol, and tumultuous relationships and I had the perfect circle of sickness going. The affect that had on my children is a whole other story (which will be told) but for now I’m going to talk about my three R’s: recoil, react and run. Those three things used to be my only set of coping skills. The recoil part of me stemmed from my youth. Recoil is what I used as a little girl to avoid any type of feeling. React came to me when I started to weave the web of my addiction. And run was always there when I made a mess and couldn’t fix it, particularly with the relationships.

It’s no secret that addicts and alcoholics tend to seek out those as sick or sicker to hang out with. I know for me anyone in their right mind (no offense to those of you who stuck around) would have dropped me like a hot rock. In my B.C. years (before children), I sought out the ones who could “rock-n-roll all night and party everyday” (thank you K.I.S.S. for the song). That song was a light-hearted way to define my life, and in fact reminds me of someone that will remain nameless (she was one of the ones that stuck around and I love her to her core). So at this point I’m 19 (ish), my mom is dying of cancer, and I am a full blown addict and alcoholic. I am now reacting to all of life’s circumstances that I do not know how to deal with.

Here comes run, I remember the first time I did this in the literal sense. I was working for the company my dad worked for for many years. He helped me get this fabulous job and I’m sure he hoped that I wouldn’t mess it up. But, I messed it up in the biggest way possible. I had a meltdown in front of a young supervisor and I walked off the job. I raced home in my little red truck and proceeded to sketch out some type of note explaining to my parents what a piece of shit I was and that I had to leave. Talk about guilt, I had to run because parents like mine didn’t deserve a daughter like me. I fit as much of my stuff in the back of that little red truck and I left for no where.

To rid myself of my three R’s I had to identify them. I had to find new ways to cope and to do that I had to tell someone my deepest darkest secrets. I’ve spent many years searching for sobriety and peace of mind and realized that for me I have to use many different avenues. I tried to stay in one place and kept digging myself a deeper hole. Once I opened up and started to accept all the parts of me that needed to change, I opened my heart and my mind to healing myself on all levels. I have a deep spirituality but that is something no one could teach me. For me it’s my foundation. I know I will never be “fixed” or “cured”. My favorite line I’ve ever heard regarding drug and alcohol addiction is “you can turn a cucumber into a pickle, but you can’t turn a pickle into a cucumber.” So, to sum things up, I’m a pickle.

 

Celebrate

  • balloons                         “Recovery is not where we arrive, but rather a state of being”…….JeanIrvin

    For many years, even after the demons settled, my mind was still wired to be negative. I remember times I’d actually make a list of everything that sucked. Yes, I’d make a list of “have-nots” – I didn’t know that being positive was even possible. Part of me also felt like I didn’t deserve to be happy. I was damaged, my inner voice would say “it’s too late for that.”  I often fought the feeling of happiness.

  • It has taken many years of being clean and practicing a new way of thinking to finally celebrate. I’ve learned to pat myself on the back and find joy in my accomplishments. My self-talk has improved and I no longer tell myself how unworthy I am. These practices have made a profound difference in my ability to cope in spite of the realities of life.

    Learn to celebrate! Write down all your haves” and forget your “have nots.” No matter how big or small, celebrate all the moments that are a result of your journey in recovery.

Everyday Resolutions

There are many people feverishly posting New Year’s Posts and spreading their new found enlightenment across the web. I am happy for them that they are so full of vigor and can plan out a new year in its entirety. As young as 16 I remember resolving not to drink anymore. Yes, at 16 I knew I had a problem. However for me, it’s never worked like that. First and foremost my anxiety is driven by the thoughts I have of the future. If I don’t stay grounded and focus on what I’m doing NOW, those small fears grow into huge monsters.

Another reason New Year’s Resolutions never worked for me is the pressure of deciding I will be someone else when I wake up tomorrow. I learned early on that I am far too sick and broken to find over night, what I have been actively searching for my whole life. Each day I wake up is somewhat of a resolution, but on a daily basis. It’s not because I change the calendar to a new month and year.

Each morning I wake up earlier than the rest so I can pray and meditate to ground myself. I must remember I only have this day and I can handle whatever happens, without reaching for a release. Meditation and prayer is such a personal thing, and I don’t know what works for everyone. Maybe we can think of this as a daily resolution… “I resolve not to drink today” or “I will do something to help someone else.” I do know back when I started this morning ritual, I really wasn’t sure how it would pan out. I have always wanted to see what I was going to gain before I ever tried anything, I have always chased a quick fix. There’s nothing quick about this process, at least not for me, but I have never been worse off for getting up and doing it.

“Recovery is not where we arrive, but rather a state of being”…….JeanIrvin

Dear Bulimia

girlBulimia came to me when I needed it the most. It was the release I needed from my fears. It took me by the hand and said “we can keep this a secret.” How does one decide they will eat an overabundance of food then stick their finger down their throat? None of that sounded appealing, but yet it became a part of me. I remember watching a movie and the girl was bulimic. In the end the girl died, but all I saw was a girl who used bulimia to control her weight and then release her guilt. So, there we go, that’s how my mind rearranged things to make sense. I started to “eat my feelings” and then purge them after almost every meal. This all started at the age of 12.

The food was like me telling myself I could do whatever I wanted, and it filled me with good feelings. It started to fill the hole that I was somehow born with. But the purge, OH THE PURGE, that was the control. I controlled what I was doing, I could eat as much as I wanted and I could get rid of it too. In with the good, out with the bad. Each night after dinner I’d slip straight  to the bathroom, purge, then brush my teeth.

Bingeing in front of others never happened. I’d wait until my parents went to bed and I’d eat and eat. I could eat pans of brownies and boxes of cookies. The longer I did this the sicker I got. From the age of 12 to 15 this continued. By the age of 15, and after I started my other demons; smoking, drinking and drugging  – I told my parents. I told them because I knew I needed help. I only knew I needed help because my parents were good parents, and I lived in a home where these type of strange behaviors didn’t take place. My bulimia and I stayed friends for almost 12 years, until I finally said good-bye.

“Recovery is not where we arrive, but rather a state of being”…….JeanIrvin

 

My Fear of Everything

The fire was a true thought, something that had never happened, yet I made it a big monster in my head. I remember this clearly on a night my parents went out and I stayed home with my grandma. I remember my mom saying “good-bye” and me wanting to scream “no don’t go, what if there’s a fire!” But nothing would come out, I just said “good-bye.” I was very young, maybe six or seven when this happened. I laid on my bed and planned the escape route and how I would get my dogs and my grandma out safely if a fire started. From a very early age my dark imagination took me places that I didn’t understand. I probably should’ve been named “Negative Nelly” because it was rare that good thoughts passed through my head.

I often worried and had anxiety, but learned very early to mask that with a smiley face. I became a daydreamer, this got me through my days at school. I had troubling focusing and sitting through class but no one would have known that. The teacher’s really loved me because I didn’t make a sound and was always pleasant. I was a good little athlete, participated in the Junior Olympics and I was on the school’s jump rope team which was always in first place. Anything I did, I did well. But, my desire to be liked consumed me and I probably tried way harder than I should have to make friends with certain kids. That was my biggest fear, not being liked. If I wasn’t liked then what good was I?

Fifth grade brought my first encounter with being shunned by other kids. It wasn’t really bullying, but rather I was all out blacklisted from my entire class? I didn’t want to go to school, I went from having friends to none of those “friends” talking to me. No one would have known unless my mom had figured it out. I never would’ve told anyone. I didn’t even know why they were doing this. By fifth grade I had already bubble wrapped my feelings to be shared only with myself and my diary. It wasn’t until my mom asked me to make a list of the girls I wanted to invite to my 10th birthday party, and most of the girls who were my “friends” were not on that list.

My fear grew into just plain fear of people and anything else. It’s taken many years to realize my fear was of people, places, and things!! All of it, like a scared little mouse. I feared making my own decisions because surely they’d be the wrong ones. I rarely said “you can do this.” My self talk was my worst enemy. Anxiety caused me to have a physical reaction to my way of thinking and I would shut down completely. This only got worse as I got older. The remorse I felt when these episodes would happen was great. These episodes caused me to walk off jobs and never go back, run away from home, skip school, and ultimately find my escape into the world of addiction.

“Recovery is not where we arrive, but rather a state of being”…….JeanIrvin

 

 

 

The First Time

bottle.jpgThe first time I ever took a drink, on my own, was at 9 years old. Oddly enough the drink was a result of “playing church”…… It’s really the only humorous part of my story. I was adopted into a Catholic family and church was never an option on a Sunday. I went, I listened, but I never really understood what was happening. I even had a beloved uncle who was a priest, but no one really explained “church” or “God” to me. I remember getting my first communion. I was on stage, people were clapping, my mom made a beautiful sash and I felt important. I also really, really, loved the sip of wine I could now take every Sunday. I looked forward to that sip. It didn’t do anything to me, it wasn’t enough, but I liked the taste. I did not know that it held the power to tear down my walls and allow me to participate in the big scary world.

Back to “playing church”, my parents were out for the evening, my grandma (who lived with us) was home but she must have been in her room. I decided to pretend I was having communion, so like any good little budding alcoholic, I took a piece of wonder bread out of the cabinet and patted it down and formed it into a circle. My mind told me that if it looks like a host that we have in church during communion, then it’s fine. It was also fine to take a glass of wine out of the refrigerator. Those two elements in hand, it was okay for me to proceed to recite what I had memorized in church. It was okay for me to eat that “bread” and “drink” that wine. What I didn’t know was having more than the usual sip would leave a warm and fuzzy feeling in my belly. What I did know, was that I liked how it felt.

“Recovery is not where we arrive, but rather a state of being”…….JeanIrvin

Lets Get Real

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So lets get real and to the point. I’m a recovering drug addict,  alcoholic and bulimic. I’m also a married 43 year old woman who has two sons, volunteers, works full-time and wakes up clean and sober everyday. Before clean and sober happened (as well as release from other addictions), I was in a place that I did not know could exist. A darkness that I was incapable of dreaming up for myself. From the age of five I recoiled at the world and when I found my new best friends (alcohol, drugs, bulimia) I had a way out, a way to escape. I’m going to share myself, all parts (of which many are not pretty)  because by doing so maybe together we can recover from our demons. For me there is only one way to recover, and that is NOW.

“Recovery is not where we arrive, but rather a state of being”…….JeanIrvin