Letting go of shame

I had something of a breakthrough, about 6 weeks ago, when I was being interviewed for a volunteer position on their phone lines.

I’d applied 2 years ag0, and had gone through all the steps and was in the final interview stage when I revealed that I’d been hospitalized 3 months prior.    That was a problem because they have policy that you can’t volunteer if you’ve had a psych hospital admission in the preceding 2 years.    I can understand that – they want to make sure you can handle emotionally, difficult calls.   So I’ve been waiting out the 2 year period, and as soon as I hit that milestone reapplied.

My interview this time, was with the same woman I’d interviewed with 2 years ago, so she dispensed with a lot of the preliminary stuff.

And then she asked the question: “Can you tell me about an emotionally distressing time in the past 2 years and tell me how you handled it”    I almost laughed, I had so many experiences to call upon.

But I decided to talk about the bankruptcy, and my drinking and shopping problems, and not being able to keep my apartment and having to move into transitional housing.

I told her I’d coped by getting professional help re the bankruptcy,  writing a lot, my on-line support groups and calling on friends.   I then told her I was in a much better place now – sharing an apartment and finishing school.

Her reaction was to say that was a really good example of resilience and recovery.

But the big deal reaction that I had was I’d felt no shame when I was telling my story. I was a tad embarrassed, since I really should know better than to ring up 44,000 in credit card debt.    And not feeling shame was the worst.

I think I’ve carried shame around with me, most of my life, and certainly it’s been one of the major themes for me, since starting this recovery journey in 2006.

And ever since that interview, I haven’t felt ashamed.   I’ve finally reached the point in my addiction that I was already there with mental health.   It’s just part of my story.  It doesn’t define me.    And if someone wants to judge me on my past, that’s out of my control, so I’m not going to sweat it.

It’s so nice to finally be able to just say that I’m ok with being me.


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I think I’m becoming ok, with who I am.

In my last post, I wrote about how my psychologist said she wished I could get to the point where I accepted who and where I am, and just be ok with it.

I think I got my first taste of that this week.

A couple of  weeks ago I had an interview to volunteer with the Distress Centre.   I’d interviewed with them 2 years ago and had been told at that time, that I’d be a great fit, but I couldn’t be accepted because I’d been in a psych hospital in the preceding 2 years.     Since then, I’ve been volunteering elsewhere and I’ve been waiting out the 2 year period until I reapplied a few weeks ago.

The woman doing the interview, didn’t have that many questions for me, as I’d been thoroughly interviewed 2 years ago.    What she really wanted to know is what I’d been doing in the past 2 years, and how I’d handled any intense emotional experiences.    In the context of a job interview, this would have been completely illegal, but they need to know that volunteers are stable and able to handle the intensity of calls, so I was ok with it.

And surprisingly I really was ok.   I told her about my bankruptcy, losing my apartment and having to move into transitional housing, my struggles with staying sober, dropping out of school in 2013, and 2014 and my struggles with finishing school now.

And I was ok.   I didn’t turn red.   I didn’t stammer.   I didn’t minimize.   I didn’t try to excuse things.    I just gave the facts, in all their ugly glory.

And she didn’t treat me like a social pariah.   She said it told a story of real resiliency.   I’m not sure what reaction I was looking for but that wasn’t it.   The main thing is I didn’t feel bad.

I guess I’m becoming ok, with being me.


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Just “Be”

I was in my session with my psychologist earlier this week, and we were talking about the expectations I put on myself around work and school, and where I should be with my life at my age.     I tend to put pretty heavy expectations on myself, and so feel tense and frustrated a lot, which then leads me to thoughts of drinking or abusing my meds to numb out.

My psychologist, who has heard this before, kind of sighed, and simply said, “I really wish you could put your expectations aside, and just be, be happy with who you are, right now.

I agree with her, but easier said than done.  But I am trying.

This is where mindfulness comes in.    I’m getting better at the practice so that there are periods in the day, where I can just shut off the worry and the anxiety and just be 100% in the present, and it does help me.    I just need to do more of it.

So one of my goals for the year, is to just be.   And to be ok with that.


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When your Dr. tells you it’s the end of the road

I had a very discomforting conversation with my addictions Dr. on Fri.    I was telling her how much I wanted to drink, and that the desire was being fulled by anxiety around returning to school to finish a post graduate diploma, and pressure from my roommate to get through the course and get a good job, since I’m carrying the bulk of the expenses – I’m ok with that by the way.

We were talking about how whenever I go back to school, or start a new job, I almost always relapse and she said I needed to get to the bottom of whatever the fear was, so that I could stop self-sabotaging myself.    I agree with that, and do think my drinking has a large element of self sabotage to it.

And then she dropped the bomdbshell.    She said “you can not afford another relapse.”   I guess I looked a little taken aback and she said that one thing she took away from AA when she was attending it, was the idea that I might have another relapse in me, but may not have another recovery.    She doesn’t think I have another recovery in me.

My last relapse was pretty bad, even by my standards.   I had a partial seizure, and stopped breathing at one point.   I’m still not sure how I got out of it.   But I did.

I have I guess what you’d call a somewhat cavalier attitude towards relapse and drinking.   I figure if I choose to drink, and I do believe it’s a choice it’s mine to make and if I die, I die.   I’m not afraid of death.

However she said the next time you relapse, odds are your going to walk in here with yellow skin, heart problems, or a cognitively impaired brain to the point where you’ll have to be parked in a long term care facility.    Those things all scare me.  Because that’s not how i want to die.   I’m better than that.

So today is another day in choosing not to drink.



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Happy New Year 2015 – My motto, “No Quitting”

Gosh, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted.    It’s been a weird time with lots of ups and downs.       But, as I said to my addictions Dr., and psychiatrist in my post Christmas meetings, I didn’t drink, I didn’t OD, and I didn’t try to kill myself, so on balance it was good.

Now you might think, that’s setting the bar kind of low, but for me, it’s actually pretty good, since those are all things I have done in the past, with some regularity around holidays.

So now it’s 2015, and I have some big and scary goals.

#1 is going back to school, and finishing my forensic accounting program, so that I can write my Certified Fraud Examiner exams.     I had to do a psych withdrawal last year, my profs all know that, and I’m afraid of being judged when I go back.     I’m also afraid that they won’t be willing to act as references because of that, and that I won’t be able to find a job on graduation.    But I can’t let my fear get in the way of being successful, I just have to make it to class 3 days a week, and do the work, an odds are I’ll do well.   I just have to keep saying no to fear.

My #2 project is writing my book.   That’s really big and scary because it means looking back and sharing honestly my struggles with alcoholism and mental health and a lot of it isn’t pretty.    Some of it is a story or receiving great help, but it also has a lot of my screw-ups including a few that landed me in the hospital.     I still haven’t decided if I’m going to publish it under my real name or a pseudonym.     Will have to see how the fear factor is at publication date.

But my most important goal, is not engaging in self destructive behaviour.    I can’t afford to relapse.    I don’t want to OD, well I do, but I don’t at the same time.     I really want to avoid trying to kill myself.   These are all hard because they’re my go to behaviours.   I have to think through them, before I get to healthy coping mechanisms, because healthy just doesn’t come easily to me.

So I’m going to keep up with my rehab activities that are useful to me, continue knitting and playing my harp, and continue writing.

And most importantly, I’m going to keep telling myself “Don’t give up.”


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Cravings & Mindfulness

I don’t know if anyone who isn’t an alcoholic or addict can fully understanding the insane, overwhelming power of craving for their drug of choice.    It’s not rational.

I’ve been struggling a lot in the past few days with really intense cravings to drink – well really to do anything to change my mood.    I can give you a million reasons why drinking is bad for me, why my life is better without it, but my body and primitive brain don’t listen to reason.    They are literally screaming out for alcohol.

I don’t want to romanticize the drink, but I can taste that first burn in your mouth that whiskey gives you, and then settles into a smooth warmth, I can feel the slight burn as it goes down my throat and then the warm glow I get after a few sips.

The problem is that I don’t stop there.   Because my cravings aren’t really about alcohol – alcohol is merely the most effective means to an end.    What I want is oblivion, total numbness, I want the blackness of passing out.    I’ve joked with my treatment team, that when I think of relapse, it’s not “just one drink”, it’s “just one bottle.”

And if I can’t have alcohol, I seek other means of escape – shopping, that’s a bad one for me, although I’m now so broke, it’s not an option.    And so I’m tempted to abuse my psych meds, and sometimes I admit that I do, just to get an escape.

So what am I running from?   My feelings.    My sense of grief over my Mother’s upcoming anniversary of her death, loneliness, feelings of failure at not having been able to work now for several years, fear of not finding another job, fears of winding up homeless and the 100’s of other worse case scenario, my mind can take me to if I let it.

And so I have to keep coming back to mindfulness, the present, and my breath.   Because if I’m focused on the here and now, that makes the cravings easier to deal with.


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Feeling Sad – miss my Mom

I don’t write about my Mom a lot.  It’s too emotionally hard.   But lately I’ve been thinking about her and crying, a lot.     When I think about her I get a warm nice feeling, as I remember doing stuff with her when I was a little kid – especially our summers at the cottage together, and it’s nice.

When I miss her not so much.

The past few nights, I feel like I’ve been ripped in half with missing her, and I’m bawling my head off.   I may be 45 and functioning reasonably well as an adult, but in my head I”m a 13 year old, screaming “I miss my Mommy.”    Naturally when I cry, even though I’m screaming inside, I’m totally silent, because when I was 13, I couldn’t really cry – I had to function.    I think I may finally beginning to deal with the grief, I couldn’t handle as a kid.

The fall is a hard time for me emotionally – something I only connected to her death, in the past 10 years.

In late September she was told that the cancer was back and she refused further treatment.

In October she was basically home dying.    I remember sitting on her bed talking to her when she was too weak to get up, and playing the piano for her, when she was strong enough to lie on the couch.

She died in Nov.   I can never remember the exact date – I always have to look it up.    Sometimes dissociation is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes not so much.   All I knew, until I made the connection was that each November I got suicidal.    At least now I know the cause so it’s not quite as unmanageable.

So, now, since I’ve stopped drinking, I typically try to do something nice that reminds me of her, in a good way, on the anniversary of her death.    Since we cooked and baked a lot together, I’ll probably bake something.

And keep crying.


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When saying No is the way to move forward.

Last weekend, I was supposed to start a 3 day intensive residential treatment program.    I decided at the last minute not to go.

There were several issues, but bottom line it came down to I was sick of treatment.    I’d been in an IOP program 5 half days a week since May 5, and ended it, the day before the residential program was due to start.

The night before I was set to leave, I started having massive panic attacks and my social phobia was flaring at the thought of being with 17 other women 24/7.   Attending would have also meant being away from my writing and my on-line support communities, which are incredibly important to me, since it was a strictly no internet facility.

So I called and cancelled.    And I felt a huge sense of relief.

I talked to all the treatment professionals at my rehab.    They were initially freaked out, but calmed down once I explained my reasoning to them.     I met with my psychologist and went over my plans for the week, and then my subsequent involvement in the rehab.    I needed a week off to simply regroup and do normal stuff, like knit, clean, shop and read.

I’ll still be heavily involved in my rehab, beginning next week, but on a much reduced schedule, one that will leave me more time, to work on my knitting, and playing my harp, and other things that I enjoy.

So yes there is a thing as too much treatment, and sometimes the best realization is that you can say no.


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Reflections on my arm

I’m looking at the inner part of my forearm.   And I see faint white scars.

They are carved there, by blood and tears.   A testimony to the time when I only knew how to express emotional pain by cutting.

I look at them, and I am simultaneously back then and here.   I remember each crisis – each meltdown, each tear than accompanied the blade.   And I grieve.

But I am present.   I see my past.   And I have longings to revisit it.   To feel the instant relief that the blade brings.   But I am beyond that.   I have grown.   I have survived.   I have learned to live without seeing blood.

Occasionally like this last weekend, where I’ve had to make tough decisions, it’s harder and I feel the call to self-injure more strongly.   But I intentionally don’t keep razors at home.  So I’m left with a poor substitute of scissors or a line I dare not cross into knives.

Fear keeps me safe.   I will not cut, for I do not know where it would end. And that scares me.

Enough to keep me looking at my scars, and seeing them for what they are.  Bright white reminders of my pain.


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Do I love myself?

Each week as part of my psychotherapy, I write about my feelings and reactions to one of Women for Sobriety’s 13 statements.    This week’s statement was #10 about giving and receiving love.

This is something I struggle with.

I know absolutely that my mother and grandmother loved me unconditionally, and in his own way so did my father.

But somewhere along the way, due to circumstance, I lost that feeling of being loved, and believed myself to be unlovable, a belief that was simply reinforced as my drinking got worse.

Somewhere along the way, that belief changed to I am likeable, due to overwhelming evidence from my friends and people in AA and Women For Sobriety.

But I still struggle with love.

I know when I love.   I love (platonic) some of my friends, and I love my harp teacher’s dogs, and I feel like I’m receiving love back from them.     But it’s hard for me to take in.

But mostly I still hold myself back from feeling and expressing love, because it makes me feel too vulnerable and afraid – I have to keep my wall at least partially up.

Even writing this post feels a bit scary, because it’s admitting that I don’t yet completely love myself.    And it makes me feel lonely that I have so few people who I truly love.

And I wonder if I’ll ever get over the emotional / physical hangups that sexual abuse as a child left me with, to a point at some time in the future where I’ll be able to entertain the idea of romantic love.   The thought alone feels really scary.

So for now, I’ll just have to stay with I’m likeable.


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