Monday, June 26, 2017

In response to Jody's post of 6/26 - "I Speak Because I Can"

Jody I think you should be commended for “pushing back” against the stigma and engaging ignorance. When reading the comments my 1st inclination was “don’t even bother trying to talk to someone who doesn’t get ANY of it”. And in all honesty that might have been what I would have chosen to do, were i in your place.

In reality, giving up on trying to explain my issues to people always made me feel WORSE! Kind of like “Never mind” and crawling back into a hole. I have great admiration for your willingness to confront and counter and try to educate.

As far as the attitude you dealt with from this person I would state the obvious to them: Be careful about opening your mouth about things you know little to nothing about. Until you walk in another person’s shoes, blah blah blah…

BUT..here is what I’ve witnessed. There are people who will not understand, but take you and your trauma at face value and TRY to imagine your issues. Then there are people who will (as this person did) attack. The ones who attack are often in denial of their OWN past issues. They THINK they have gotten over whatever is in their pasts, when in fact, it affects them DAILY. Their attitudes, their worldview, their habits and fears, their relationships. Everything. In reality, they may be very much like you, but choose to bury it and live in DENIAL. I know people like this and their view of EVERYTHING is warped. Their spouses, kids and friends suffer because this person refuse to look in the mirror. And they should be! It can be scary. But it can also be necessary.

Often it is not a trauma victim’s actions that are tools for “seeking attention”, but rather the person who attacks them in this manner, who is looking for people to notice them.
The bottom line for me is: Don’t attack Jody for having the GUTS to dig into the past that someone else created for her. She’s looking to heal from it. Don’t feel bad if you don’t have the same fortitude. Most people don’t. Most people won’t look outside themselves for help either, because they THINK they are in control and they know best.

The past is NEVER just the past. It’s the foundation that we had to build our current lives on and we usually don’t choose it. Our coping mechanisms and survival instincts can be faulty because of it. We can make terrible life choices based on our past, that will affect our future if left unchecked.

Bless you, Jody, for having the “balls” to look at it head on and take action most people would run from.

WA

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ya just never know....

This is totally off the cuff, but still.....

I've said in my podcasts before that I've adopted a new rule in life through recovery: If someone says something that touches my heart, I'm gonna tell 'em.

The funny thing is, it's not so much that I have "trained" myself how to do this. I found that it's something within me that I've always WANTED to do! It comes naturally. The reality was that I needed to give myself PERMISSION to do it. I had to understand that doing this isn't "stupid" or "sappy" (well...).

The amazing (also shitty) thing about any combination of mental or emotional issues, along with substance abuse, at least in my opinion, is that our perception of reality is distorted. If we see the world in unhealthy ways, we have a tendency to see ourselves just as inaccurately. We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others.We think we have to be tougher that we think we are. We have to be smarter, or calmer. More balanced. Sometimes we finally give up and create some type of protective shell to insulate us from that world that we inaccurately see.

We withdraw.

We self-medicate.

We do both.

Again...not giving ourselves permission to just interact to OUR comfort level and get off of our own backs if we don't seem to "measure up" to what others do...or SAY that they do.

We need to move in healthy directions. Note that I didn't say "get there overnight". We need to MOVE TOWARD healthy thoughts and directions. Sometimes those directions come from the most unlikely places. It could be something as simple as people sharing their struggles as opposed to telling you how to fix yours. When you run across these conversations at a party, or on social media, at church or at work, try thinking, "OMG ME TOO!" instead of, "Oh you think THAT'S bad, look at what I've been through!"

We don't have to "one up" another person's pain. Nor do we have to elevate someone else's importance above and beyond our own. We just need to BE. We just need to share. Ya just never know. The other person might need to hear those thoughts today. You might brighten someone's mood. You might be reminding them that they are not alone. You might be telling them that they are necessary.

Share!

Do it in healthy ways. Try not to verbally vomit on people. At first anyway. lol. Get to know them a bit first.

And if someone says something that reaches you..... Resonates with you...... Tell them.

It doesn't have to be earth shattering. Then again, some of the simplest things you share about you, might just be a huge moment for me.

Ya just never know......

Peace,
WA


Thursday, July 28, 2016

ACOA Characteristics and Self-Identity

While recording a podcast I needed to look up the characteristics of an ACOA or an Adult Child of Alcoholics. For whatever reason I clicked on a link that I didn’t recall seeing before. The wording was a bit differently and seemed more “broken down” or specific. I liked the way it was articulated, but I was suddenly overcome by some of the things that were staring me in the face. Things that I know in general, but the way it was presented, while I’m going through a transition in my work life, hit me pretty hard.




The way I’ve seen this example in the past is: Overreact to changes over which they have no control.
The way I see this worded in the above article is: Tendency to see everything and everyone in extremes, when under pressure….


There are other examples but this is the one I’m choosing for now.


When I look back at my life of anxiety and codependency, even before alcoholism, I see someone who overreacted. I didn’t have the internal “thermostat” to regulate my external reactions. Part of that, I believe, is “defective wiring” in the form of a chemical imbalance of the brain. The other portion was the environment during my formative years which, if nothing else, fed into that chemical imbalance. Adding fuel to the fire.


Remove either of these and I might be more highly functional that I am thus far.


In my current work situation, I think I’ve finally come to terms with it being just a “bad fit” for where I am in life now. I have become increasingly aware over the last couple of years that I am seeking order rather than chaos. Or to put it in more common terms: peace instead of drama. In a recent podcast I likened it to my alcohol use: I NEED sobriety, but had a craving for alcohol. By comparison, I think God has shown me that I NEED peace, but crave chaos.


This “revelation” was no small thing, either. I don’t want to be someone who seeks out drama. I don’t want to be a person who sees “everything and everyone in extremes” Thinking that this might be true is disheartening and humbling. At the same time, I avoid other people’s drama like the plague!


  • I am also a nervous extrovert who would just as soon isolate.
  • I am passive in my expression of feelings WAY past the point of being healthy, but when I decide I’ve had enough, I can get spun up pretty quick.
  • At this age I can speak calmly, when upset, but I can feel my voice shake and my face twitch.
  • I’ve been told (and I believe) that I am a “black and white” thinker, but my mind finds a million ways to over-analyze and ridicule myself for everything.


I’m a walking friggin’ contradiction!!!!


I usually have to breathe and back away from this kind of thing. We are ALL susceptible to this kind of run away thinking. Especially those with anxiety/depression issues. Addicts too! Many times we self medicate BECAUSE we can’t get our minds to slow down.


I don’t want to be this guy. It reinforces what I’ve heard over and over again in recovery and have paraphrased as: Being sober is only a PART of being sober minded. We have a lifetime worth of crap to overcome and it doesn’t happen overnight. I know that. I try to give myself grace.


For whatever reason, overreact to changes didn’t hit me as hard as seeing everything and everyone in extremes. I really do think this is something I need to look at, but it would be much easier to look at it if I could convince myself that it was everyone else’s problem!


This is the blessing and the “curse” of recovery for me. If I can look at everyone else and recognize their garbage, then I have to be able to look at my own or be a hypocrite. Looking at it, dealing with it, recovering from it and being free of it, is what brings peace. It brings serenity.


Serenity can beat addiction.


Addiction can come from anything.


It’s referred to as compulsion.


I need to work on these compulsions of thought. Of judgement.


Here is how I choose to combat this. I need to back off of myself and the world at large and look at what my Higher Power has said that I am…..


  • Bought with a price; I belong to God - 1 Cor 6:19-20
  • I am God’s workmanship - Eph 2:10
    • I was being prepared long before I knew it (same passage)
  • I am a minister of reconciliation - 2 Cor 5: 17-21


Those are from Freedom In Christ Ministries www.ficm.org


One of the most significant things I saw on a popular bookmark this ministry has created, especially as it pertains to this topic is:


Satan’s lies tell me that my behavior tells me what to believe about myself. So if I overreact and get angry and seem people in extremes and show little grace, I’m screwed up and a “bad person”. But that’s not me!!! I love people until they give me a reason not too!
Well, next to Satan’s lie, there is a comparison column called God’s truth.  The truth is My belief about myself determines my behavior. SO it stands to reason that if I go off of my opinion of myself, I’ll see what a mess I am. All of my faults will take the forefront and any good that I do will be either pushed into the background or will never even come to mind.


Thing you wouldn’t do that?


Try it sometime. With someone else holding you accountable, try making an honest pro and con list of who you have been to this point in your life.


WHen making an honest assessment of who you are, you will mostly likely come up with a ton of faults and few good qualities, if you are an ACOA. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you will soon find that you have a pretty bad outlook on yourself. Almost everyone else in your life gets a pass, in your estimation, but not you.


So how do you combat this? Stop trusting you assessment of your worth. Yes you can make a list of deeds and misdeeds in your life, but you cannot assess yourself objectively. That’s God’s job. HIS assessment can be trusted. He says, you have done A and B and C. He’s glad that you can own up to it. Not so He can say, “Told you so”, but so you can see reality and then HE can tell you, “you did those things, but there are reasons. Not excuses. Reasons. There are hurts you have been through and hurts you have caused. You live in a fallen, screwed up, imperfect world.You were raised by flawed, inperfect people. You admire flawed imperfect people. In your work and school you were influenced by flawed, imperfect people. You cannot trust another person’s assessment of your worth or who you are. I alone can.


From that same website:


Satan's lie - Your identity comes from what you have done. God’s truth - Your identity comes from what God has done for you.


If I can find more peace by listening to God’s assessment of me. Then, over time, I can not get so keyed up of feeling like I’m failing. Either in my job, with my kids, or at home. Then I can combat seeing everything in extremes, because I can lay aside my unrealistic expectations of the world and people around me. This takes pressure off of me. This allows me to not feel a compulsion to control or be perfect all of the time.


Zoom out. Look at what God thinks and stop grading yourselves on what you perceive others are thinking about us. You are too close to you to evaluate yourself. Others have an imperfect perspective of you as well.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sad pride..

Haven't been on here for writing purposes in awhile but for some reason, sharing this in on a post rather than a PodCast seems more...well...comfortable.

Yesterday, while doing the most mundane things in the kitchen, I realized in a very powerful that I miss my dad. Now that may not seem like much of a revelation, but it's something that I have to look at and don't really want to.

Growing up my dad and I never got along. I was always the high strung kid who he didn't understand. I was just being me. What did I know? I held a lot of resentment toward him my whole life because of his drinking and the fighting and dysfunction that went on in the house. I didn't want my friends over to my place because I was fearful of being embarrassed by him. I didn't like anything about him back then. I had all of the normal issues a boy has with his dad, but also the "normal" issues that a kid has with one alcoholic and one co-dependent each for parents. It's nothing new. It's just as painful if you're the first kid who has to deal with it or the millionth. It doesn't set me up as being special or someone to be pitied. It's textbook. Typical for my environment of origin.

Something that recovery has taught me is to let myself mourn a loss. Some days I just need to mourn this situation. I always had sympathy for my father because he was in poor health by the time I was born. The most vibrant years of his life were behind him by the time he became a father at 40. I never complained or begrudged that fact. It's just the way it was. There might have been a few things I didn't learn how to do as a youngster because he wasn't able to show me, but that didn't seem to be a point of resentment. I think for me the resentment came from desperately WANTING to be ON his side for the way life had treated him, but I couldn't. Because he was a mean alcoholic at times and a silly alcoholic at times. I never knew which one I would get when I came home from school or on the weekends. Pair that with a mother who taught me fear in most all situations and I can see where my anxiety and self-doubt comes from. One says be overly cautious and withdrawn. The other is boisterous and outgoing and a bit of a drunken hard ass. A kid's head is on an automatic swivel and we absorb everything.

I didn't understand my dad until I got sober myself. By then he was long deceased. I learned that I was repeating his behavior and crawling into a similar hole filled with silent misery and chose to stay there because it was what I knew. I didn't know the depth of the his sorrow or shame. I didn't understand any of it until my mother was preparing for his funeral and while trying to explain who he was to the pastor, she said, "He just didn't have a very good life."

Pfft!

It's all true and I know it is. Truth is truth. Regardless of what the world tries to tell us. But how we deal with that truth, emotionally, is as varied as the clouds in the sky. It's what causes us to WANT reality to be different. But it's not. It is what it is. If I bend reality to my liking, I stunt my growth again. I deny myself the opportunity to deal with life on life's terms.

Sobriety has taught me that I don't want to come to the end of my life and have someone say those things about me. Yes I'm anxiety filled and have panic attacks and spent the majority of my adult life stunting my emotional growth through the abuse of alcohol. I can't fly or travel very well. Driving is still a challenge at times. But I am employed. I have a great family that is getting better. I continue to recover with Christ as my Higher Power and I assist others in their recovery. Regardless of where someone is spiritually, I try to come alongside them and "practice these (recovery) principals in all of my affairs".

These are things my father never learned. I can resent that I wasn't taught how to live. I can become angry when the arguments and fights come flooding back to me. A lot of those learned behaviors I have perpetuated on my loved ones in the intervening decades. Abstaining from alcohol doesn't cause all of those behaviors to go away. In many cases it just clears the way to be able to work on the REAL issues without any obstructions.

But there are other times. Times when I don't picture his angry face. I don't see the tell-tale swagger and the bloodshot eyes that used to inform me we was drunk before I even entered the room. I picture...my dad. Whom I love. I hated that love most of the time. It made me feel weak. I needed to toughen up. lol. That's funny.

It would be so much easier in life to set out to either love someone or hate someone and only have to do one or the other. Most times, we don't get off that easy. We live our lives in the gray area. Maybe that's why so many of us are "black and white" thinkers. Emotionally we are forced into gray areas so much that we DETEST it! We want something to be sure of. I'm telling you that nothing of this earth will give you that, but I digress.

I morbidly joke, these days, that he is the only member of my family of origin  that I can relate to. I "get" him now. Since all of my so called family is either dead or ignoring my existence, I really miss him. As much as it pains me to say so, I miss him.

I sometimes think that the past never hurts me anymore. I think about all of the fights and struggles and cold shoulder and slamming doors and....just all of it. I think, "It's over and done with."

I sometimes forget that I did understand on some level, who he was underneath and how I felt about him when I was a teen and things were at their worst. I forget about...Luke Skywalker.

That's right. In 1983 I saw Return of the Jedi in the theater. We never had any money growing up, so I saw the 1st Star Wars movie as the 2nd half of a double feature at a dollar theater, when Jedi was on it's last legs at the movies. On some level that Vader/Luke, father/son battle touched me. When Luke finally beat his father into submission, not with swashbuckling, smooth efficiency, but with all of the tact of someone beating another guy down with a baseball bat, I saw how rage took Vader down to literally his last few breaths. Remember? Vader looked pathetic laying there. Then the Emperor tried to goad Luke into finishing Vader off and taking his place. Luke backed away. He said "Never", and tossed his light saber aside. "I'll never turn to the dark side", he said....

Then those words that gave me chills that day and have ever since. Because of some kinda pride in his father. His love for a man he really didn't know? One who had seemed to never do a caring, loving thing in his whole life. At least as far as Luke knew. He said,"I am a Jedi....like my father before me."

Might seem silly, but it gets me. Every horrible thing Vader ever did....forgiven. His son was there to scream in the face of evil.

Well my dad was no Jedi and neither am I. Maybe the only thing we had in common was hate for ourselves and a love for alcohol. Maybe I get to recover and he didn't. But there is a pride there and a longing to hear his voice. He's not that different. I'm an alcoholic too. So their is a kinship and understanding there that I don't have with anyone else in my family. It was a screwed up, weird, confusing, unhealthy relationship.

Why should the healing thoughts be any different?

WA

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Denial - Don't pass it on

As I mentioned in my PodCast last week, I look back in ...awe? Frustration? Resentment? Gratitude? at the fact that there were warning signs of my anxiety problems on the mid 70's. And from what I've read, there were diagnoses, if not "good" treatment options at least as far back at the early 80's. There are probably a dozen different outcomes that could have still taken place, had anyone in my family known where to look. Honestly, many might have been worse than what happened. Still, it makes me wonder.
 
Because what happened was -  nothing. So there is reason to wonder.
 
Before I let myself go too far down that rabbit hole, though, I always have to remember that to maintain my serenity and subsequently, my sobriety, I need to not engage in the blame game.
 
If I'm going to do unto others as I would have them do unto me (Matthew 7:12), I need to recognize that I have made mistakes that have dearly cost others, as well. I need to understand that in the same set of circumstances as my parents, at a time where the stigma of emotional or mental issues was even greater than today, I might have chose to live as they did - in denial.
 
In fact, in many ways it wasn't a conscious choice on their part. It was simply living by the rules of the house that they either created out of some type of necessity, or had created for them earlier in life. People don't KNOW what they don't know. I couldn't expect them to know terms like panic disorder, chronic anxiety or toxic relationships. Words like co-dependency or enabling would have sounded like "head-shrink non-sense" to them. They didn't know the correlation between substance abuse and the effects on their kids. No clue.
 
Granted AA and AL-anon were around before I was born and The Gospels have been around for more that 2000 years, all telling us the same things -  Live in reality. Stop thinking you can do it all on your own. Just because you're angry, doesn't mean you're right. Your past has a lot to do with your pain.
 
Nowhere, in any of our secular or faith based recovery are we told that if we ignore the problem, it'll go away. And rightfully so. That's not reality. Just because many choose to believe that lie, doesn't make it any more plausible.
 
If I choose to be a victim, I can live in denial and be in pain all of my life. I can figure out ways to blame it all of someone else, if I choose to. Or I can cast aside the confusing crap of who had what responsibilities and when and just accept that I must now be the one to break the chains of denial. My life goal- Leave this generational line better than it was when I entered it.
 
Denial is not just a obstacle when it comes to substance abuse. It comes in the form of "I can't" or "I won't". It shows itself in "At least I don't use drugs" or "I just have a bad temper" or "We're all basically animals", "I'm still hungry", "I'm still fat", "I don't make enough money". "If my kids would just behave.."
 
This is why we say, "It is what it is". And that saying can be MADDNING.
 
Why? Most often because it's true and we don't want to look at it. We might find that we have a part to play in changing it.
 
Those of us in ANY kind of recovery have taken up that challenge. We don't need anyone to go back in time and fix themselves for us. We need to live in the now and look at our pasts as something that we cannot change, but we CAN heal from and not pass on to the future generation. No matter our circumstances, we all have that responsibility. We all have influence.
 
We have to choose....
 
Denial vs. reality
Denial vs. acceptance
Denial vs. help
Denial vs. hope
Denial vs. freedom
 
Our parents, siblings, spouses and friends don't make the choice for us. In fact they can't. They are just as flawed as you are. As I am. No person is LESS valuable than another. No matter what you've been told or by whom.
 
WA

Friday, March 18, 2016

Link to the 1st podcast....


AudioRising PodCast 1


So I was kinda proud of myself as I posted the 1st PodCast. It was an internal thing. Heart level. I had to get past my head. The audio wasn't what I wanted, and I had NO script at all. Just me sitting in front of my mike rambling on. Even my pop filter was AWOL.  BUT...I let it go. I LET it be anything but perfect. I had to talk myself into it, but I did it.

This may seem like a small or simple thing, but not for me. I don't particularly think of myself as someone with OCD. I used to have a seemingly mild form back when I was a kid. Eons ago. I watch my family deal with it, but it wasn't until I got into recovery that I noticed just how serious it was for one or two members of my family of origin. The way it's always been portrayed on TV is this totally debilitating compulsion; like the hand washing we all see/hear about. The germaphobic aspect made sense to me, to an extent, but I always became annoyed at my family members for getting so caught up in that stuff.

Later on in recovery, I began to notice that, when I was around them, I noticed more and more behavior that got on my nerves! Had I been raised in a culture of fear and compulsion along with the enabling and alcoholism I was already aware of!?

I guess in my case it could be called being a "perfectionist." But I'm not! I can leave a t-shirt on the back of a chair for 2 or 3 days. I can remind myself that I need to put my tools away, but forget for a week.

Yet when it comes to "putting myself out there", nothing is ever good enough.

WA

Monday, March 14, 2016

Quick observations: Looking back at a child

Sometimes I just write for the sake of writing. I decided to ask myself why and actually look and listen for answers. Once in awhile I feel as though I need to perform an "honest assessment of" myself. It's amazing how quickly and deeply I can fall back into thinking that is not realistic. As I typed that last sentence the memory of once living in a mental and emotional fantasyland popped into my head.

I remember playing when I was a kid, like all kids do. It's make-believe. It's guns and police cars and robots and starships and heroes (super or otherwise). It was riding an imaginary horse, packing everything I needed to go off into the mountains and capture the bad guys. I was the best shot ever in my head. It was traveling alone into deep space and finding ways to escape the clutches of bad people.

All in all when I look back (on those rare occasions I let myself) I see a kid that wasn't really that "different". I do remember having a feeling that people just put up with me and if they had their way they'd just as soon not have to deal with me. I'm still working on how an alcoholic/enabling home contributed to feeling that way by the time I was - ?? - 8?... 9?

I know for a fact that by age 11 I was dealing with some version of anxiety or panic. I can remember that my mind would never shut down. Especially when I was trying to go to sleep at night. I was never afraid of the dark, but I was deathly afraid of the silence. The overwhelming thought that I was going to die....someday...gripped me and would NOT let go.

One of this things that I've learned (notice how I moved off the previous topic) is that, my childhood mental/emotional state was not that far removed from other kids. The observation I make these days, is that it just lasted a couple decades too long.

Substance abuse causes a stunting of natural, emotional growth. I see that EASLIY from a recovery point of view at 49. But the alcohol abuse didn't begin until I was 18. It seems between 11 and 18 the anxiety/panic/OCD was at it's peak (well...first peak) during those years. It was post-adolescence; pre-alcoholic.

It's intriguing/maddening/aggravating/sad/exciting. Many times I just don't know what to do with the information I've had revealed.

Other times I know exactly what to do....and don't.

One thing I certain: I don't live back there in those days anymore. I have too much to do now that is productive. Ahhh yes, productive. The polar opposite of how I used to see myself in this life.

But there has to be room for that dramatic, dreamer. That kid who never did much with the stories of heroes and villains. Who always won the big one in his head, but knew nothing good could come from him in the future. Now that I know that isn't necessarily true, I sometimes feel too serious and wish that boy was as vital, energetic and imaginative as he was back then.

Wes