The Secret Keepers (reblog)

runningonsober:

Nearly all of us carry secrets and shame from our pasts. Here, Karen urges you to shine on a light on childhood sexual abuse and assault and any trauma from your past that may be keeping you from healing.
She writes: “But sometimes, we keep the secret because we’ve never truly acknowledged to ourselves the effect it has had on our lives. … The secret we’ve kept is filled with lies. Not just lies we were told but lies we believed about ourselves as a result of what happened to us. Those lies get so compounded that eventually, we stop questioning them. We just believe them. We believe we’re to blame, we believe we’re unclean, we believe we’re unworthy, we believe we’re broken, unlovable, shameful, untrustworthy. We believe that’s our true nature. And since we don’t want people to know what we really are, we hide, we lie and we numb and armor ourselves.”
Read this and then share it with others. You could be helping someone who really needs the help . . . maybe even yourself.
Thanks everyone, Christy

Originally posted on Mended Musings:

secrets

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to ask you to share this post. Reblog it, share it on Facebook, tweet it. Someone out there needs to hear this message today. Even if you think you don’t know anyone who has been abused. Even if you don’t read the entire post.

About a month ago I was asked by Dawn at WTF words, thoughts, feelings to contribute an essay for an anthology that she and Joyelle are creating for parents who are survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse (learn more at https://www.facebook.com/TriggerPointsAnthology).

I submitted my essay but I also want to shine a bigger spotlight on this project because I fear that they may not get many submissions. Not because it’s not a worthy cause or because there aren’t enough people out there to contribute but because survivors of abuse are secret…

View original 1,196 more words

Advice Too Good to Not Share (on quitting drinking)

You know how sometimes you read a blog comment that blows you away? You think to yourself, Dude, this comment is awesome, I hope everyone reads this. But then you know that while lots of folks read comments, not everyone does, especially not if they’ve already read or commented on the post. And then you get kind of bummed out. But then you remember, hey, this is my blog and I can post (almost) anything I want; I can let my readers know how awesome the comment was, and then you’re happy. And then you realize, duh, you can even share the actual comments in a totally new post, and you get even happier.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

In last week’s post on “Advice to Someone Quitting Drinking,” I asked if you had any advice or suggestions for someone giving up alcohol. And your responses were–yes, I know I overuse this word–awesome. I hope you’ll to stop by to read all the comments, but in case you get busy or only read via email, I wanted to spotlight a few of them for you here. (A special thank you to Thirsty Still whose brilliant comment inspired this post. I encourage you to check out her blog; she’s one of my favorite sobriety bloggers.)

I’m still working on that upcoming “Tough Love/Angry” piece. It’s coming along. I’m trying to balance “raw and authentic” with “compassionate and mindfully–yet not overly–edited” without losing any of its original intent. (I may just say f-it and post the “shitty first draft” (want more Anne Lamott? and more?) with a disclaimer and be done with it if I feel I’m losing too much in the editing process.)

And . . . I’m seriously considering setting up a new page (like my about page or resources page) specifically for all of your shared advice and ideas. So if you have some advice on quitting drinking, feel free to add it here or on last week’s post.

***

From TS at Thirsty Still:

I also get angry around some of the oh so gentle relapse talk. Not that I want to scold someone who relapses. That would be pointless. But when it happens and there are no hard questions, then it starts to look like, “Oh well it’s hard and sometimes being sober just doesn’t happen.” But I think being sober is something you do. It never ‘just happens.’ When people relapse, often from just reading their posts you can see that it’s coming. They have changed their minds about being sober, or lost their commitment. I know last year, before I started drinking again, I had started to find all the “sober bullshit” really irritating. Instead I fell into “booze bullshit.” Having quit again, calling myself on my own bullshit is important. Recently I got bored with blogs and sober stuff again, but I have seen myself doing it and I thought: No! You keep doing this, or you go to AA or find some way to keep this sober gig going. Or you will drink again. And one thing I do not want to do is drink again.

So my advice is, first, get some help. Blogs can be helpful, but for me, that only worked when they helped me make a personal connection with a real person. Like [SL at] Sober Learning, I kept going sometimes because I’d said to someone else that I would, and they believed even if I didn’t. Belle’s 100 day challenge was a huge help to me, not because of her advice, but simply because she was there and emailed me back and she seemed to care, even when I wasn’t sure I did. And blogs were helpful when I jumped in and commented and made connections with people, who were helpful and kind when I needed that. I might still try AA. But whatever I do, I need people. If you’re quitting drinking, my guess is you’ll need people, too.

And my other advice is this: forget motivation. Motivation is a myth. Motivation is just a word that describes continuing hard effort. There is no ‘magic motivation juice’ that gives you the energy you need to do the hard work of quitting. Yes, you have to want to quit. But that’s all you need. That, and some help.

(full comment)

 ***

From SL at Sober Learning:

I then needed human contact, and got up enough nerve to go to AA. I love my home group. Not all of the AA stuff fits for me, but I like being with people who are the same as me. People who can’t drink, can’t moderate, and who are willing to work every day of their life to remain sober.

The blogging world, the numerous websites devoted to being sober, the Twitter world, the Facebook groups, all of it helps me to stay focused on my sobriety.

If someone had told me last year that I would be comfortable sober, and not want to jump out of my skin at the thought of NEVER drinking again, I would have told them they were nuts. It is hard work, and you really have to want it, but I believe that anyone can do it. Like running up a hill, put your head down, and lean into it.

[. . .]

Sober really isn’t a hard concept, it just means DON’T DRINK, you really have to want it though, you really, really do.

(full comment)

***

From Karen at Mended Musings:

There is a cost for every piece of armor we put on and for every numbing behavior we make a part of our lives. Alcohol, drugs, buying things you can’t afford, toxic relationships – you name it – there’s a cost to it all. The problem is that when we’re fully armored up and numbed, we lose our ability to think for ourselves. We lose our imagination, our creativity and our confidence. There’s even a cost for recovery because when we fully accept responsibility for our choices, thoughts and behaviors, we lose the comfort of believing that a substance or thing can make our lives better. Personally, I think the cost is worth it. I drink occasionally but I needed to stop completely for almost 3 years in order to even be able to recognize what I needed to heal. No one, whether they’re an alcoholic or not, can see clearly if they’re constantly numb and armored.

If there’s a voice in your head that tells you to stop drinking, listen to it. It’s the only voice you can trust and it will never, ever go away until you listen to it or you’re dead. Don’t worry about tomorrow or forever because when you learn to listen to what your heart tells you, it tells you more and more of what you need to hear.

(full comment)

***

From Liz at Living With Autism:

For me, quitting involved changing ALL my routines; I had to create an entirely different life for myself to avoid the associations. That’s probably the key thing I did. It was tough, especially with an autistic son who loves routine. But I think that was part of my problem – like Dylan I had routines to manage anxiety but mine were way more damaging than his.

(full comment)

***

From Josie at The Miracle is Around the Corner:

Here’s my best piece of advice for the person who is starting on day 1 of sobriety: forget any timelines beyond the very day you are living. Can you make it through the rest of this very day without picking up a drink? If not, why not? What people, places, or things are preventing this? Then solve those problems, and don’t drink. Go to bed, wake up, and repeat this process, and I promise you, it will get easier over time.

(full comment)

***

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment last week (read all the comments). Feel free to politely add your own suggestions or experiences below. Hopefully I’ll get the new “advice” page up by the end of this month and before the holiday season kicks into full swing. -christy

* Note: Although AA is mentioned, RoS does not endorse one recovery program or process over another. I believe there is no single right or wrong program, as long as it works for you. Other programs include (but are not limited to) SMART Recovery, WFS, LifeRing, SOS, and EATS: Eat ALL the Sugar (ok, so I made that last one up). Feel free to share what worked for you in the comments. If you’re looking for help, check out my resources page.

 

On Tough Love and Advice to Those Wanting to Quit Drinking

Once in a blue moon, I’ll get an email from someone who is thinking about giving up alcohol. Most times they just say “thank you for your blog,” but sometimes they actually ask for help or advice. I received one such email this weekend, and it came at a very interesting time.

See, I’ve had a “tough love” type of post in my drafts forever. Well, since last November, and a year is a pretty long time to be mulling over a blog post. When I say “tough love” I guess I mean it’s more of a rant; I’d seen a lot of people slip, and everyone was so sweet and lovey and nobody was asking the tough questions and denial was everywhere and it just made me angry. But then I felt bad about feeling angry. I felt like I must be a mean cruel-hearted bitch to even be having those feelings. So I sat on the post. For a year.

I finally resurrected that post last week in the midst of insomnia after a friend mentioned she felt “a responsibility to make sobriety look good.” My first thought was, why? Why on the earth would someone put that pressure on themselves? And in doing so, are they selling a false bill of goods? Because some days sobriety looks anything but good.

Then I started thinking about all the other things we may “say” and if those things are totally honest, and then I thought about the things we don’t say, and I wondered why we didn’t say them (like my feelings of anger . . . surely I’m not the only person who has ever felt that way? But no one ever writes about that side. Why not? Fear of coming across like a mean cruel-hearted bitch?)

The post itself turned into a long-winded ramble-fest on sobriety’s ugly truths, or at least my thoughts on them. I sent it to a couple of friends, and they both said, in essence, “say what you want to say, it’ll be fine.” Which I took as, they hate it. So back in the draft folder it went.

Until I got an email this weekend asking for advice. I was tired, cranky, and sick (probably from catching a bug on the plane ride back from my mom’s dad’s). Since I figured she found me via my raw, f-bomb loaded, Bukowski-inspired “So You Want to Quit Drinking” piece, I didn’t hold much back in my response to her. I was excessively direct and honest. And I figured later that I probably scared her away.

But I didn’t.

Instead, she replied back. She was appreciative of my response, and she said that I was right. She said she was going to quit drinking.

And then I decided two things: 1) that I would again resurrect that blog post, and say what I wanted to say, even if it hurt some feelings. And that 2) with her permission, I would share the emails I sent my new friend, in hopes they may help someone else out there. She wholeheartedly agreed, saying that if they helped just one person out there, it would be worth it.

So here they are… her notes are paraphrased for the sake of privacy. My notes are mostly verbatim, as are any typos (again: insomnia, sick, and iPhone).

She and I both hope they help you.

***

Hi Christy, I found you as I searched the internet for help and advice; I feel I was meant to find you. I’ve been with my husband since high school, and we have three children together. My husband drinks nearly every day, and can be quite controlling. Me, I’m totally out of control when I drink. I drove drunk last night to buy a bottle of wine. I’m so unhappy in my marriage and I feel I have no one to talk to. It’s a living nightmare, I feel like my life is crumbling around me. Any advice, greatly appreciated. –  Thanks, “Seeking” (name changed)

*

Hi S, sounds like things are pretty tough right now. So sorry. I know that nobody will quit drinking until they’re ready to quit. You can’t worry about your husband, you just have to worry about you. If you are driving drunk, you have got to cut that shit out right away. 1) you get caught, they take your license away and down the line they’ll take your kids too. 2) you could kill someone, someone else’s kid. Could you live with that?

Plus I mean your kids deserve their mom to be present and sober. Mine died 3 years ago and I miss her every day. You would probably kill for your kids…so kill your demons. When you drink, you feed them. You make them stronger. You give them control. So stop.

It’s not easy, I know. Especially if you are physically addicted to alcohol. If you are, you may need medical help because you will go through withdrawal. There are meds that will help make it easier to manage.

There are good resources out there–I have a blog roll. Belle at Tired of Thinking About Drinking helps a lot of newly sober. She can pair you up with a sober pen pal. And on my resources page, there’s a few phone numbers and links for help. I’d try an AA meeting. The face to face support is so important. Its a good place to start and they have them globally.

Don’t quit on yourself. Don’t quit on your kids. Don’t quit on your life.

You can do this.
-Christy

*

Thank you so much for replying, what you said is so true. I feel sick to my stomach from what I did. Drinking has made me someone else I don’t recognize anymore. I want to be me again. I’m going to see if I can get a sober pen pal. This is the first day of me doing a u-turn and heading back down the right road. Thank you so much, S

*

You are so welcome. I know how hard it is. Alcohol saw me through a lot of difficulties in my life, it was my best friend for a while. But then it turned on me, and like you said, it turned me into someone I didn’t know or like. I too got very angry when I drank, like it was the only time it could come out.

But in time you learn better ways to manage anger. You get better at saying what you mean. You realize that life is so short, you may as well just be honest with others.

Belle does what she calls the 100 day challenge. Try that. Stop drinking for 100 days and decide then. I know I personally had to remove alcohol forever from my life, had to remove it as an option, but that forever word can be scary. So try 100 days to start. Go from there.

Maybe this week I’ll do a short post on the topic. Would you be okay if I mention your email? I would just generalize it and would not mention your name, but I would include my reply to you. Maybe it could help some others, maybe someone will offer suggestions. Figured I would ask if that was okay, again your privacy will not be violated.

I’m glad it feels different for you! I think when it’s time, we just know.

Starve your inner demons. Slay the dragon.

If you pray, try that. Or maybe just pretend and talk to the universe. It’s surprising how much that seems to help.

Wishing you all the best,
Stay in touch,
Christy

*

Hi Christy, Of course you can mention what ever you like. If it helps even just one person then it’s so worth it!

***

I hope this does help someone; thank you S for inspiring this post.

What advice or words of wisdom would you offer to someone who was thinking about quitting drinking? (You can share as an ex-drinker, a current drinker, or even as an affected family member; all are welcome.) Is there a program or a book or a blog that helped you? Anything you wish someone would have told you? Feel free to share, politely please. And meanwhile I’ll get to work on that other blog post. -christy

.

Feel it All, Part II (and a thank-you)

How to describe this week’s post? I guess it’s more of a continuation of last week’s “It’s Not a Shrine or Anything,” hence the Part II title. This is a bit looser, a bit rawer, a bit free-write-ier, and written in the midst of a close friend’s visit–insomnia. Rest-assured (no pun intended), my mood is fine, no worrying necessary. Free writes are just moments in time when I expel the noisy thoughts in my head, hoping that maybe if I get them on paper, sleep may be my reward. 

I am so honored that my “Shrine” post was Freshly Pressed by WordPress.com. It’s a special kind of feeling to have your words shared with a larger audience, and I was so incredibly touched that I could share my mom with others. It makes me happy, and I like to think it would make my mom happy too. I’m truly grateful to you for reading and to WordPress for sharing my work. Words–both reading and writing–can have such healing power; thank you for helping me heal. And if you can see yourself in my words, I thank you for allowing me into your own heart, and I wish you peace and healing as well. 

***

It is Tuesday and I am vacuuming. His cell phone rings, but I don’t answer it. It rings again, so I turn off the vacuum, and carry the phone to my dad where he is washing his hands at the kitchen sink.

It’s his doctor. I linger in the other room, empty the vacuum cleaner–mostly dog hair–careful not to hover.

“Everything okay? Just checking-up?” I ask, when he hangs up.

“No, pathology reports.”

“Oh?”

I pause then and the pause is long enough to fill with words. But I don’t. I just lean against the door frame to the kitchen and wait.

“Gleason score of 9. Pushed into other areas. Lymph nodes negative. High risk for recurrence.”

I zero in on ‘lymph nodes.’ Cling to any silver lining. “Well that’s good about the lymph nodes,” I say.

“Just have to wait and see.”

“Yep.”

I restart the vacuum, my thoughts drowned out by its noise.

***

“What does your gut say about the number?” my empathetic friend asks gently.

“Nothing really. Usually I get feelings, but not this time.”

I had no clue about Gleason numbers. A nine is relative; good if the scale is out of 100. Not so good when it is out of 10.

She doesn’t tell me though, kindly letting me hang on to my illusions for just a bit longer.

And I don’t ask her.

***

But it is a f’ing Tuesday; bad news always arrives via Tuesdays. How can such good news on a Monday be followed up with such a harbinger? It doesn’t seem right or fair. The news must cancel each other out. But surely one has more weight.

My mom is weightier than any bad Tuesday news. So I open the door to mom’s bubble and climb in. I curl up along the curved edge. The outside world is blurred from in here. The feeling is not unpleasant. I sleep and dream of my mom. We are visiting Niagara Falls. We’re going on the boat ride in the plastic rain coats and just as we get wet there is a knocking at the bubble door.

Go away!

Knocking…

Go the fuck away! (Who is this cursing person I’ve become?)

Knocking…

Fine. I rouse and go to the bubble door. It’s the Grim Reaper.

She doesn’t live here anymore. You called her number three years ago. Are ya here for me? Cuz I ain’t interested. I say to the clad-in-black figure. (And who is this ain’t-saying person I’ve become?)

“No, not to worry. Just take your time. Close your eyes. I’ve come for him. A courtesy call really. I’m a courteous guy.”

Well Death you’ll have to take a number. He ain’t here. He’s at the doc’s. Don’t you have minions working at the hospital?

“Yes, but his Gleason score is 9. Those are my calls. I get the 9s and 10s. Our VIPs. Like your mother.”

Leave her out of this.

“Why?”

Because. She’s too good to pass through your lips.

Death fades away. I close my eyes and dream.

 

***

There comes a time when you want to scoff and laugh in Death’s face: You think I care? You’ve already taken it all from me when you took her. I don’t care anymore. Sure yeah okay I can enjoy ice cream and smell roses and devour oxygen like candy. I can find love in my dogs’ kisses and a set of words from Mary Oliver and a hug from a friend or my husband. But between you and me, Death? I have already moved on. You have no dominion, no impact, anymore. You’ve already won. You broke me. Are you happy? I can’t even drown my sorrows, I have to sit and feel it all. But you know what happens when you feel it all? You get stronger. Your skin thickens. You grow scales. I don’t bruise anymore. I just get angry. And numb. So what, Death? You can’t hurt me. I feel it all, and I don’t care. I have you to thank for that. You made me who I am.

 

Do you know what you’ve done for me
You made my branches grow
Now they can play with the wind
And they can carry the snow

And they can feel
Feel it all
Yes, they can feel,
Feel it all

~ KT Tunstall, “Feel it All”

It’s Not a Shrine or Anything

My mother’s purse has not moved in three years, seven months. It sits on her desk, beside her computer monitor. A spider web forms a bridge between the purse and screen.

Insurance forms, business cards for hospice workers, and hospital bills are strewn haphazardly across her desk’s surface.

Books on real estate management and lung cancer and knitting, a Bible too, all layered in dust. Words abandoned, no longer helpful or needed.

Frog figurines she collected over her last twenty years are lined up on a desk shelf. They too enshrined in dust. Someone once told Mom that frog stood for “fully rely on God.” I didn’t think she was religious, but she seemed to like that idea. I wonder if that’s why she kept collecting them.

Greeting cards are stacked next to receipts and sticky notes and peppermints and nicotine lozenges. I recognize several of them, including one I sent after a girls’ vacation to the Grand Canyon. I used my corporate bonus to fly us first-class, even rented a convertible for us to drive. We called it our Thelma and Louise Get-Away. It may have been indulgent, but I don’t regret a single dime. You can’t take it with you.

Now, don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy

~ Kansas, “Dust in the Wind”

Most of the sticky notes are phone numbers. Doctors? Clients? Friends? I want to call each number to see who answers. “Did you know my mother? What did you talk about? Did she seem happy? Please, tell me. I am trying not to forget her.”

***

“Yep, I saw those on her desk,” I say to my dad about some old medicine bottles. “I thought about tossing some of that stuff out, but I didn’t know if you had left it there on purpose. Or something.”

The “or something” hangs in the air for a moment, as if time is deciding whether or not to pause. It decides not to.

“No,” he says. “I just haven’t gotten around to it. It’s not a shrine or anything.”

“Okay,” I say, digesting his words. “Maybe I’ll go through and clean up her desk then.”

I want to ask him why he hasn’t touched anything on her desk, it’s been over three years. But I stop myself. After all, this is only my second time home since she died, I have no room to talk. He’s been sick too. One can only fully process one mortality at a time.

I have this vision of Death having a “Take a Number” dispenser, like at the DMV and New York delis. “One death at a time, folks, take a number. We’ll get to everyone. Now serving number . . .” the Grim Reaper’s assistant announces, bored and monotone and snapping gum, over the intercom system. All the ticket numbers are blank.

***

I sit in her desk chair — black faux-leather, high-backed, cast rollers, I was with her when she bought it — after I wipe it down with an old rag. I look at the dusty rag and wonder how many of her dead skin cells I’ve just wiped up. I briefly consider saving the rag.

I pull out her keyboard tray, rest my fingers on the letters, and absently remember her nails clicking away emails. The printer, which is beside the monitor, which is beside her purse, has two sheets of paper resting in its output tray. I reach over and take them out, expectantly, like a child at Christmas. Was this the last thing she printed? Was it a letter to me? Some sort of message, a sign?

One sheet is a receipt for Pajama Jeans, dated 3/7/11. I remember the package arriving, my dad calling the Pajama Jeans folks on the phone. “The reason for return? She died yesterday.” After a pause, “thank you.”

I wonder if the Pajama Jeans customer service rep ever thinks about that phone call. Or maybe people use death as an excuse all of the time to return items. I also wonder if Pajama Jeans are as comfortable as Mom hoped. I keep thinking I’ll order some, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

The second sheet is another receipt. This one for a necklace with a mustard seed pendant. It is dated 3/19/11; Mom died on 3/21/11. It is the last thing she ordered.

At the bottom of the page, the company’s logo and a biblical passage:

. . . if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. ~ Matthew 17:20

I knew a girl in college who had a mustard seed taped to a page in her Bible. She took me to her church; she wanted to help me find Jesus. I wasn’t looking for Him, but I’ve never forgotten how small that mustard seed was.

I doubt either receipt is the symbolic letter I was hoping for. I know I spend a lot of time looking for signs that don’t exist. I set the sheets back on the printer.

A small spider creeps along the desk, it’s not much larger than a mustard seed. I take the dust rag and press down on the spider, just like pressing a pause button. Somewhere, a number is called.

***

I want to ask my mother if she had faith. As small as a mustard seed? Larger? What did she believe in? Or Whom?

There’s so much I want to ask her. I miss picking up the phone to call her, I miss our little talks. What’s the recipe for your Thanksgiving corn soufflé, Mom? What was your health history when you were my age, when I was too self-absorbed to even remember your doctor appointments? Does high cholesterol run in our family? What’s the name of that book you wanted me to read? Why frogs?

And the bigger questions. How did you cope when your mom died? Were you at her side? How long did her desk sit untouched? What was the last thing you said to her? What was the last thing she ordered? Was she happy? Were you? 

***

I am still sitting in her chair. I don’t know how much time has passed. I finally understand why some families cover the deceased’s furniture, photographs, and mirrors–and books and frogs and cards and sticky notes–with large sheets. The sheets make it easier to not stop and stare, to not lose track of time. The ghosts live under the fabric instead of on the surface beckoning, begging to be remembered.

We all live in haunted houses, rooms full of memories, coated with layers of dust and longing. Some of our ghosts live in our hearts. But you can’t put a sheet over your heart, I’ve tried. I do go through repeated cycles of flash-freezing my heart though, then I slowly thaw it out again. Ghosts are immune to the cold. And to spiders and dust and pause buttons. Nothing kills them, except forgetfulness.

I sit a bit longer, write about her, talk to her–tell her that I miss our little talks–anything to keep her ghost alive. I’m not ready to forget her. I’ll clean up tomorrow. Or the next day. It’s not a shrine or anything.

 

 

You’re gone, gone, gone away,
I watched you disappear
All that’s left is a ghost of you

~ Of Monsters and Men, “Little Talks”