Five Things I Realized on my Journey to Recovery

Most of my recovery path started behind a keyboard.

Clear minded for the first time in longer than I wish to remember, my brain eagerly absorbed all there was to learn about addiction and recovery. Countless hours navigating the latest trends, epidemics and tragedies of the thousands of lives lost from this forbidden curse we call addiction. And just as much time was spent wandering through the myriad of pathways to recovery I never before knew existed.

But in no way would I recommend doing recovery alone. Isolation leads to what they call in treatment, stinkin’ thinkin. That deceitful little voice in your head that says everything will be alright so long as you just have one. I listened once, which was reminder enough that my brain no longer understands moderation.

1. Recovery thrives in community.

Perhaps with a sober mind, I discovered we actually enjoy creating meaningful relationships with others. Especially with people whose story looks like ours. Relating to someone with the same sorrow and heartbreak. To cheer them on with every milestone and pick them up when they fall. It’s nothing short of empowering. Especially when they begin to like themselves. And the same thing starts happening to us.

Friendship today is so much more than getting drunk together in a bar. Meaningless conversation bringing nothing but the passing of time while the poison erases the pain. I never understood the significance of “community” until I found an online recovery group where I discovered people who really were just like me. Similar stories, but various paths in how they got there. There’s a relief from the pain with support from “the broken” that a loved one’s embrace might never reach.

2. A discovery of a lost passion.

A relatable tribe allows us to seek a lost treasure perhaps only those in recovery truly find. A forgotten passion buried deep beneath the pain of our afflictions. A revival of our inner child, the one who loves to dance in the rain and finds joy in the unearthing of anything new. Discovering recovery blogs and online publications reminded me of the comfort I once found by writing away the worries of my broken past.

Starting my own blog helped me process the pain until shame and regret released their

stronghold. It keeps me focused on how far I’ve come and less tormented by my shaky past.  Laying to rest the dreaded nightmares and delving into dreams where my destiny awaits. My strongest tool in recovery has been reconnecting to my younger self. I’ve restored my joy by writing about the hopes of tomorrow instead of drowning sorrows of yesterday with a swig of a drink.

3. Using our passion to pay it forward.

Time in recovery can lead to complacency if not followed by action. I found myself thrusting about in stagnant waters, eagerly desiring to flow forward but not knowing how. Reaching beyond the solitude of a journal, I haphazardly plunged into the realms of public blogs and online publications, hoping my still small voice might someday reach the ears of the one who needs to hear.

And I don’t write as the face of a societally defined addict. I’ve never tried heroin and I haven’t been addicted to pain meds. I’m not homeless nor have I been jailed for my behavior while under the influence. But I write as a college educated woman who once seemed “normal” to the outside world. Balancing a career, marriage and play dates until one day I no longer could. The one who eventually slipped through the cracks after an episode of depression with a toxic combination of anti-depressants and alcohol that grappled with my sanity and temporarily misplaced my reason for living.

I know I’m not the only one whose fallen into the depths of hell while stuck under the curse of addiction. So in a hopeful way of giving back, it’s for the ones who see themselves in my story that I write.

4. Recovery must be nurtured in order to thrive.

I consider myself blessed to have finally found recovery, so I hold onto it with all my might. It’s far from a goal I check off my ‘to do list’ and move on to the next. Rather, it’s a continuous cycle of engaging in support systems and embracing new methods that enhance my life purpose. It’s a constant renewing of my mind, fueling of my body and soaking of my ever healing spirit.

And in nurturing who I am in recovery, I’ve discovered a love for myself I never thought possible. A love that allows me to forgive myself, provoking admiration not shame. A long awaited acceptance that breeds courage to not only survive, but to thrive in my recovery.

5. My recovery journey is ever changing. 

What worked for me a year ago is far different than what I strive for today. But the tools I’ve gained over these past 3 years are just what I needed in those moments.  So I take what resonates, leave what doesn’t behind and carry on. I have a feeling that’s the part of recovery that’s a constant regardless of our specific path. It’s a personal evolving journey that never ends. And for me, no “happy hour” compares to living in the present moment in recovery, embellishing all I love in my new life with renewed focus.

So find your passion. Connect with like minded people to build them up. Become stronger for it. And keep moving forward with that childlike freedom that brings enlightenment only someone in recovery truly understands.

A freedom I now long for daily that would have never been found in a bottle.

From Fury to Freedom at Pinnacle’s Peak…

Where do you go from pinnacle’s peak?

Shuffle with sheep, who lead you astray?

Wander in wilderness where dark horses dwell?

Or stomp the stampede of regret and sorrow

Leaning on promises of the Mighty Warrior

You alone were built to become?

Shame now worn as a badge of honor

Lingering only in the shadow of your mind

Gone but not forgotten

Your past but a detoured journey strengthening your soul

Leading to hope and promises of tomorrow

A light from the darkness that will always prevail.

A Brave Warrior whose blade, now laid to rest

Possessing divine protection which cannot falter

Soars above with wings like eagles

Emerging from flames of fire

Afraid no more, your story be told

From fury to freedom, alive evermore.

For Jordan 2/2018

God Permitted Tantrum

lamentations-2-19

 

Reality rushes in like a raging storm

in the darkness of the night.

Lashes of lightning penetrates peace

of a previously sound slumber.

What could have been will never be

the questions remain unanswered.

The fairness of our lives unfair

yet still we must move on.

Why me, why us, why this, oh God?

Have we not yet suffered enough?

Is there purpose for our pain, oh God,

And in this, must we still trust?

With hands held high I give to You,

the madness of my mind.

The tantrums of my sorrowful soul,

The rage I leave behind.

 

via Daily Prompt: Tantrum

Sea of Eternal Love

A rivulet of youthful yearning innocently morphed

into a vast sea of eternal love.

The tangible chapters washed away prematurely

by the crashing waves of choice and time.

The arrows launched, forever reminding the earth

of the charismatic impact of his perfectly imperfect existence.

Now confirmed in the shadows of our Lord’s embrace,

A husband and father whose love glistens with the shimmering ocean,

awaiting joyfully in the heavenly realms of evermore.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/rivulet/

Your Love Forever in my Heart

Love Hold

This article was originally published in The Mighty on 2/11/18.

Today marks four months since I held your hand for the last time this side of heaven. My heart aches for your hugs, the only comfort from the storm that raged in our lives your last six months with us.

But you are not gone. Even though my tears flow daily, and few moments pass when you’re not on my mind, longing for the time we mistakingly thought we had to watch our dreams come to pass, you are far from gone. For your love lives forever in our hearts.

But oh, do I miss you. More than words can say. Your contagious laughter. Your eyes that smiled when you found joy. And even when cancer stole half your physical body, you were still the most beautiful man I ever met. I hope in heaven you believe all the good others saw that you never could.

I struggle in keeping an eternal mindset of being forever reunited in the daily demands of life without you. Fear of loneliness, regret and wishing we could turn back time overpowers my mind in weaker moments. But the Lord in His strength somehow gets me through to the next day. And I am closer to Him now than I’ve ever been before.

And our boys. What amazing blessings are they? Direct descendants from God. The ones mentioned in your legacy book who taught you what it is to love. Time will only tell the impact your loss will have on their lives. But how can we not give thanks to Jesus, in His infinite wisdom that surpasses our understanding, for bringing the angels helping us along this difficult path?

I hope in heaven you get to see us, and know our hearts are still one because of the love we share. I hope every milestone of our boys’ lives we sense your pride for all they accomplish. I hope with future business or spiritual endeavors I make you proud. And I know the right path as guiding lights of heaven detour from darkness.

I can’t wrap my mind around decades without you beside me. Or can I understand your final command to me. The one you fought with every ounce of life you had left to speak. Your final words before you put the mask back on to breathe for the last time, and after confirming to our boys you saw Jesus. The best legacy a man can leave.

“When I go, you let go.” What does that mean, exactly? And why was it so important as your last message to me? Will I ever understand? I just don’t know. But I love you so much. From the depths of my heart, love that connects us soul to soul. And that I know, is forever in my heart. The part of you I will never let go.

“What You Should Know Before You Say ‘Addiction Is a Choice”

What You Should Know Before You Say ‘Addiction Is a Choice’” was published on The Huff Post 12/21/2017 and The Mighty 7/11/2016.

Written by Kel B.

They say: Addiction is a choice and you should just stop.

I do not understand the belief held by some that one chooses to become addicted. If addiction is defined as a compulsion to do something or behave a certain way repetitiously regardless of the negative consequences, I find little logic in anyone doing this by choice. Especially if it interferes with the well being of one’s life or hurts the ones we love.

My education and experience tells me addiction doesn’t start out as an act beyond our control. It begins in a slow, progressive notion and we often don’t even recognize its enormous growth until well beyond the awareness of many of those around us. Which, for a time at least, we will adamantly deny.

At first, we try something meant to give us a pleasurable experience and we enjoy the way it makes us feel. We like the giddiness of that first glass of wine after a stress filled day, or that rush of excitement in a winning hand at blackjack. And then we do it again and achieve the same results. And eventually, like it enough to create meaning around it. 

We organize birthday barbecues and football parties where consuming large amounts of alcohol is an acceptable way to “celebrate” the occasion. We plan “family” trips to Vegas yet don’t see the outside of those dark walls for days because we are one step away from hitting the jackpot.  Euphoria and fulfillment and the broken promise of happily ever after are just beyond our reach.

We ignore the onlookers who frown at our behaviors and we discount their judgment as simply not knowing how to “have fun” or live on the edge. What we don’t realize is our behaviors have stopped being “fun” long ago, and we are wickedly close to falling off the edge, but we are forever chasing that euphoric feeling that swept us off our feet in the honeymoon phase of our distorted relationship with addiction.

What we also fail to recognize in our blindness of addiction is that not only are we continuing to do it because of the the way it makes us feel, we are equally doing it for the way it makes us not feel. Research is only growing about addictions being a common yet detrimental escape from the unwelcomed experiences of our past. An incomplete mourning for the loss of something or someone meaningful to us that subsequently changes the direction of our life path.

An unexpected death of a close family member or friend, a difficult divorce, an unwanted move or loss of a job can all take considerable chunks of well being out of a previously unscathed being. These adverse experiences can happen in our childhood or as an adult and can weaken our whole existence and life motivation. Especially when those around us are equally effected and unable to help mend our pain because of their own.

It is of no surprise anxiety and depression frequently intertwine in the tumultuous relationship with addiction. And so begins the infinite cycle of turning to our addictions to numb the pain, which further inflames the anxiety of our choices and fuels our depressed state of being. Only causing us to turn toward our addiction all the more.

Soon we learn to escape our fears and insecurities with our addiction because we feel forcefully giddy and excited about what we are doing at that moment that brings us pleasure. And we create misconceptions — that somehow we will achieve ultimate satisfaction and perpetual happiness. Or at least we won’t think about the pain. At least not today.

Eventually this relationship with addiction evolves from giving pleasure and avoiding pain to becoming a necessary evil to merely exist. The compulsion sets in and our minds become fixated on our unquenchable urge for that next drink. Oftentimes, our bodies develop a physical dependence we can no longer ignore. So we drink to stop our hands from shaking. We do it to feel “normal” again, at least enough to function in our daily routine. We gamble away that last dollar to suffice the unattainable desire to double our wins. To win back that lost tax return that was meant to pay our mortgage. To get back that feeling of euphoric satisfaction and enjoyment we felt when we first met our addiction.

In the end and without help beyond ourselves, addiction overpowers us with a curse that becomes so strong, nothing and no one in our own innately selfish-driven world can stop us from it. Not our spouses, our children, our parents, our failing health or our careers. Not one thing can stand between our addiction and our mind. We have succumbed to a curse that is larger than us and it becomes stronger than our ability to make any choice to stop. We stand to lose it all and that still might not be enough to stop the insanity. The curse destroys all that was good in our lives and renders us hopeless for a better tomorrow.

Therefore, what they should say…

Addiction is a disease that needs help to recover.

According to multiple health reports published within the National Institute of Drug Abuse and Harvard Health Publications, researchers now recognize addiction as a chronic and reoccurring disease that changes both neurological brain structure and overall cognitive function. This transformation happens as the brain experiences a series of chemical changes, beginning with recognition of pleasure and the lessening of its effect with continued use of that which once gave us enjoyment, and ending with a drive toward compulsive behaviors attempting  to sustain it.

What we once found to be pleasurable in its infancy is altered within our brains to result in a compulsion for utter destruction in the part of our brain we rely on for emotion and pleasure. Our brain is no longer functioning the same way as before we became addicted. So we act on our compulsions because pleasure becomes impossible without intensifying our addictive tendencies.

This alteration in our brain and resulting compulsion is real, and when intermingled with the weakening grip on our addiction and all that once had meaning in our lives, it destroys. And it knows no social, racial or economic barriers.  It can creep into the least expecting community, impact whole cultures and span multiple generations. Whether it be personally impactful, or through the far reaching ripple effect that results because of it. Ultimately, no one escapes unharmed. Addiction is that strong.

But there can be hope. Hope that there can be change.

To say addiction is a choice and not a disease that needs help is only further perpetuating the stigma that has carried on for decades, and for many, has contributed to loss of time spent having a life worth living. Or worse, of living any life at all.

To say addiction is a choice and not a disease that needs help is only further perpetuating the stigma that has carried on for decades.

Recognizing addiction as a potentially life threatening disease that requires continuous effort to recover successfully can allow us to make a much needed paradigm shift in our morally judgmental way of thinking. And to dispel the assumption that all those who suffer continue to do so by their own choosing, can begin to awaken the possibility that recovery exists. But it can not be done without a sincere commitment to end the stigma that at times prevents many from venturing toward the narrow path of healing.

I believe this commitment may include reaching beyond the current treatment models with floundering success rates and incorporating additional unorthodox and holistic methods that are slowly gaining more acceptance in the professional recovery communities. We can begin to focus on tailored recovery modalities because no longer can we assume that the traditional ways will always work for everyone.

My personal and still very raw experience with addiction and recovery has yet to be shared, but there is no doubt in my forever recovering mind the addiction that was in my path was not there by any ounce of my own choosing. My path to destruction came upon me as the horrific and overpowering curse that it was and mentally stole a mother from her children for 18 months of their lives I can never get back. It rendered me helpless for weeks on end and ultimately ended the career I had spent 15 years building for the person I mistakingly thought I wanted to be. It swallowed my joy and buried deep into my unconscious mind all that I once loved. It changed the unscathed child I yearned to be and morphed me into a monstrous entity my conscious mind will never want to know. 

Regardless of what society continues to say about addiction, my personal truth will always be I didn’t willingly choose addiction. Rather the disease of addiction chose me. And it was only through the brokenness of my entire being and the insanity of my disastrous mind that I found the miraculous help and saving grace that gave me strength to overcome my addiction that almost became stronger than my will to survive.

This post first appeared on Kel’s Penzu.

To The One Who Still Suffers…

My son recently broke his collar bone. The trip to the ER brought a daunting flashback of my hellacious self before I quit drinking.

My exhausted body shamefully slumped in a wheelchair, gasping for every breath and trembling from withdrawal in the middle of an overcrowded room. Alone and ashamed. Eyes fixed to a spot on the floor, my lame attempt to ward off those well known judgmental stares.

In recovery almost two years, I knew better than to allow myself to get lost in that memory for too long. I couldn’t do that to my son, who now more than ever, needed his mother.

Instead, I comforted the one who had never broken a bone. I held his hand as the doctor spoke of surgery. I made decisions about his care, and medical staff valued my opinion. I never once left his side while he underwent one of the scariest experiences of his young life. This never would have been possible as that lost and hurting soul, barely grasping to existence, not so very long ago.

So to the one who sat alone while slumped in the corner of the ER while I waited with my son, with dark sunken eyes and that familiar lost stare, I saw your pain and understand your desperation.

I want you to know that you matter.

And please don’t give up the fight.

There’s hope for a better tomorrow, where you’re no longer alone as addiction steals your desire to live another day.

I know this to be true, for once upon a time, I was you.

Having a life where I’m there for my son in his time of need has been the the most wonderful gift I’ve ever received. And it surely came from a power greater than myself. I once became lost in the depths of addiction hell. But I mattered enough to the One who breathed life into my soul to receive the amazing gift of recovery. And so long as you believe this to be possible, keep fighting and never give up, I know so can you.

Sincerely,

A Forever Grateful Mom in Recovery