Recovery After Relapse

 I have gone back and forth trying to decide whether or not I wanted to share this post.   I have been  a people pleaser most of my life and I didn’t want any one to be angry with me. Others will stop reading.  BUT there may be one or two who will be encouraged or know recovery is actually possible.

My first time in recovery, I shared with everyone.  I didn’t care who knew because NA and the people I met saved my life.  They helped me to learn about me which made me confident.  Some would say I got cocky, since after two plus years of daily meetings I walked away from the program thinking I was “better” and was healed.  I was given back all of the tangibles in my life – family, a career, a house, car and so much more.

If you read my blog regularly, you may have noticed I have referenced my relapse and my walk back into recovery.  Pride and ego gets the best of me as I worry about what people will think.  BUT there may be someone out there who needs to hear this story….

When I started blogging in 2013, I shared the story of my addiction. The story of getting clean in 1991 was a blessing.  I was blessed with many years in recovery – from drugs.  Of course, I now know I substituted work for my drug of choice.  I became a workaholic – and some wondered if I cared more about my clients then I did my family.  As a workaholic, I had an occasional glass of wine figuring I had things under control.  Little did I know, it was the beginning of making a total mess of my life again.  See, I forgot one simple thing from those early meetings – a drug is a drug is a drug.  The truth is, anything we become obsessive about is a form of addiction.  So, as I worked for many years at a job I loved; I was able to “manage” my work – addiction.

When for health reasons I had to give up my crazy commute (4 hours a day round trip) and a job I loved – I was lost.  I had no real identity or at least I didn’t think so.  The first year wasn’t bad.  I worked on my direct sales business, and collected unemployment while I looked for something close to home.  The truth was being 54 with LOTS of experience was not an appealing trait for most employers.  All they saw was someone who was “older” and who they thought would quit when a better opportunity came along.

Over the next 7 years, my life would be like a roller coaster ride.  Taking jobs to fill the void and pay the bills.  But each time, my MS (not yet diagnosed) reared its ugly head, and I had to give my notice.  During 4+ of those years, not only did I struggle to find a job but I endured endless testing to determine what was going on health-wise with me.

Financial unmanageability was starting to wreck havoc in my life without a steady income.  MS started affecting my memory, my moods, my balance and my life. The unmanageability throughout my life got worse.  No steady income.  An inconsistent commission check from my direct sales business.  Using credit cards to pay for things or to shop or to keep up appearances.  Drinking wine to relax.  The old behaviors and feelings from my early days of using came back really fast.  Stuffing my feelings again.  Feeling like I didn’t belong.  Feeling alone.  Feeling like a victim.  Feeling unworthy of anything.  Playing the comparison game and never winning.  Being self-centered (I want what I want when I want it).  Angry. Letting pride rule. Jealousy.  All of those things I thought I had dealt with long ago.

See, the reality was I gave up the drugs but I never really worked on me.  I substituted work for drugs.  I identified as a Social Worker.  I identified as mom.  But I never identified as Hope – the person.  Looking back, I was happy with my life BUT I don’t think I was ever really happy with me!

One year ago, I walked back into the rooms of NA, I felt as broken and lost as the first day I walked into the rooms on October 26, 1991.  I have learned so much in the last year.  This year has been a turning point in my life…. you would think at 62 I would have finally gotten it together. LOL.

Are things perfect?  No but they are getting better.  I am learning to like me for me.  I still tend to play the comparison in my business but it is getting better. I am working on re-building broken relationships. I am building a network of strong women who I can lean on.   I am learning to accept my MS diagnosis and truly believe #mswillnotdefineme.

Why am I sharing this?  I want to help someone else who may be struggling.  I am coming face to face with my inner demons so I can move on from the past and embrace the future.

Have a blessed day!

My Battle With Pride

An Unhealthy Sense of Responsibility

 Raise your hand if this is you…………. Do you feel like you have to deal with things, even things you have no control over?  Do you take blame for things even if you were not responsible?  Do you act independently when making decisions, even if you don’t have the “authority”?
Many would say those who “take responsibility” make successful leader but what happens why you take ownership of not just your tasks but everyone else’s?  There is actually such a thing as over-responsibility.  We know if you are managing people, a workload, or a household, not much gets done if you don’t take responsibility on a daily basis.   BUT when you become “overly responsible”, you could be sabotaging your schedule, your effectiveness, and the people around you.
As I wrap up things before heading out “super early” tomorrow morning for a week of my “pink bubble” with my daughter…. I am feeling overly responsible.  I am stressing and all of this stress is for things I have no control over!  I can set things up but the rest is in God’s hands and the hands of others.

If you stress whether people in your life will hold up their end of a task, so you step in to take on tasks, you are being over-responsible. Yup, I have been known to do this…

Do you suffer from any of these signs of over-responsibility?

1. You behave as though everything and everyone depends on you.

I’m not sure if I developed this trait as a child during a time of family struggles or if it came years later during my days of addiction BUT this is me.  Pride gets the best of me sometimes.  We are we are the one with all the answers, fixing every problem. Do you define yourself by this ability?

2. You answer questions for other people, instead of letting them answer for themselves.

If this is you, be honest with yourself. Why do you do it? If you stopped, what would happen? Whatever your answer, it’s the issue it’s time to address.  Thankfully, this is something I have already addressed in myself.  I love hearing from others.

3. You consistently remind the people in your life of their own responsibilities because they aren’t responsible enough to remember on their own.

OUCH!  There is a difference between harassment and gentle reminders of daily responsibilities.  Do you keep up with your schedule – and everyone else’s. I have a hard enough time lately keeping up with my own due to health struggles so others have stopped relying on me so much.  Have others in your life stopped taking responsibility for their schedule because they rely on you?  Do you hear more often than not “You never told me,” “I didn’t know,” or “Just tell me what you need me to do”?  Time for them to take responsibility for their own life!

4. You consistently do for others what they can do for themselves.

Yup, this is me.  The proverbial people pleaser!  Instead of reminders, do you just do it?  Are you stressed because of it? Have people stopped asking for your help because they just want help? Lending a helping hand is wonderful but when you take on responsibilities which aren’t yours; you stunt the growth of others not allowing them to live up to their potential. So instead of helping, you’re doing just the opposite.

5. You avoid confronting people as much as possible.

I am not good with confrontation (remember I am a people pleaser!)  So when you have to get others to change their behavior, it can mean strained conversations. Do you refuse to confront issues? If so, you might be allowing others to be irresponsible just to avoid having a conversation about boundaries.

6. You are resentful people feel entitled to your generosity.

You’ve been over-responsible for so long people in your life have come to expect it. You’ve trained them to rely on you for things which should not be your responsibility. And deep down, you now resent it. This is the sign which indicates the problem has been going on far too long.

So, here is my challenge:  Use the signs to identify when and who you are “overly-responsible”.  Consider both your personal, community and professional life.  Be honest with yourself.  What steps are you going to take to share the responsibility?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Money Lessons

“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy.” ~Proverb

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The back to school rush is on!  It has been a few years since I had to get Belinda back to school but I still remember the struggles.  I was a single mom who struggled to make ends meet.

Are your kids going back to school?  Have you just lost your job?  Have you left a job to start your own business?  Or are you unemployed and receiving assistance.

Think about YOUR bad money situation.  The time when you had to carefully watch your spending.  You weren’t able to afford simple luxuries like McDonald’s or a Starbucks coffee.   You worried about how to make ends meet.  Maybe you have a dream that you thought was impossible.  The kind that scares you to the core, makes your palms sweat, and your heart beat faster? Yep, that’s the one.8496580A0000

I have been there, done that and still sometimes seem to live paycheck to paycheck.  The reality is that we need to look at those times as blessings with LOTS of valuable lessons in them.  I know it is hard when you are struggling and you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel BUT believe me there is a light.  You just need to focus on the end and enjoy the ride in between EVEN when it is bumpy.

Here are some lessons that I learned along the way:

1. You connect with people.

When we lack money, we become more dependent on others.  It can be a painful experience, but it can actually help you strengthen your connections. Allowing others to be there in moments of difficulty isn’t always easy (hello, pride).  When you share your vulnerability with others, you give them permission to do the same and you make deeper connections.  Build stronger relationships.

2. You realize your fears were overblown.

Let’s test your fears.  List all of the worst things that could happen if you don’t have enough money (or whatever your fear is).  Write them all down in detail.  It may look like this:

FEAR told me that I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent, so I’d end up on the street. I’d lose all my friends, I couldn’t afford to go out, so I’m at risk of starvation and potential death.

Has any of that happened?  Is it really going to happen?  Our minds imagine everything that can go wrong, and builds up our negative expectations.  The reality is rarely as bad as we imagine it will be.  Most of the scenarios exist in one place only: our imagination.

3. You tap into your inner strength.

When things around you are uncertain and unstable and life isn’t easy, you simply have to tap into your inner strength.  The only thing that you can control is YOU!  It is inside YOU that you can draw true and lasting strength.

4. You become more grateful.

When was the last time you were grateful for the little things – the ability to go for a walk, watching the sunrise/sunset, or playing in the park with the kids.  Maybe you can’t afford material things or things that others take for granted, BUT you are blessed.

Happiness isn’t derived from what we can buy, but from the gratitude and appreciation we gain from our own experiences.  Each day is a gift.  Good or bad, each day is a blessing.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

The Treasures God Longs to Give a Mom

1c72e184b26b691d71737c8ad0adda93Thank you ALICIA BRUXVOORT for today’s words of encouragement….

“I don’t even know who I am anymore,” my friend moaned as we sat side-by-side on a park bench at the end of a long summer’s day. “It’s like these kids are stripping away the old me, and I just feel hollow inside.”

She jostled the baby on her lap and dabbed the tears streaking toward her chin. Then she turned her head to gaze at our crew in the sandbox.

“We’re gonna make the biggest hole ever!” exclaimed one of our preschoolers, as he plunged his chubby fist into the gritty grains. The other kids echoed his enthusiasm and dropped to their knees to dig.

My friend stared at the cavern in the sand, and my stomach churned with empathy. I pulled my friend into a one-armed hug and tried to formulate a comforting response. But my thoughts were quickly interrupted by a squeamish squeal.

“Eowww! There’s garbage in here!” My daughter waved a dirty drinking straw in the air and flung it over her shoulder.

Sure enough, the deeper the kids dug, the more debris they discovered. Their gritty fingers unearthed soggy brown leaves and grimy grey rocks, twisted twigs and long-forgotten gum wrappers.

And that’s when I realized that my experience of motherhood has been a bit like a dirty sandbox dig. Simply put, motherhood is an unspoken invitation for God to excavate our souls.

I never knew what lurked in the depths of me until I became a mother.

I didn’t realize the expanse of my own impatience; I wasn’t aware of the parameters of my pride. I didn’t recognize the breadth of my selfish ambition or the width of my weakness, until God asked me to lay down my life for the children He’d entrusted into my care.

Let’s face it … kids expose our hearts on a whole new level. And in His infinite wisdom, God our Maker uses the daily demands of motherhood to excavate the garbage in our souls.

Selfishness? It’s uprooted piece by painful piece each time we rise in the dark of night to feed a baby or comfort an anxious child. It’s unearthed every time we hold a bucket in front of a sick child, mop a muddy floor or tackle a tower of dirty laundry.

Perfectionism? It’s shaved sliver by sliver as we trade firm abs for stretch marks and spotless windows for smudgy handprints; as we stumble through grocery aisles with spit-up on our collars and wailing ones on our hips. It’s steadily shredded as we embrace our tweens’ goofy mannerisms and our toddlers’ peculiar fashion sense.

Pride? It’s uprooted every time we admit that we don’t have all the answers and we can’t do it all. It’s eradicated when we choose to listen rather than lecture, to compromise rather than control.

It’s humbling — this heart dig — and harrowing at times. It can leave a mama feeling insecure and confused, conflicted and strange.

But what if this soul excavation is more than just an identity crisis? What if it’s a holy hollowing?

Our key verse, Ezekiel 36:26, reminds us God is in the business of making things new — including our hearts. He’s committed to scooping out the impurities within us so we have room to house more of His Spirit, a greater portion of His love.

The process may be painful, but here’s the good news: When God empties us, He doesn’t leave us that way. He offers to fill our purged places with something new. God’s excavation is always intended for transformation.

The chasm in the sandbox resembled a moon crater, and the kids stood back to admire their work. Suddenly, eyes brightened. “Hey, that hole’s big enough to hold treasure now!” a little digger declared.

And in an instant, our scoopers turned into scavengers. They scattered across the park in a flurry of excitement and began to search for hidden treasure.

My friend shuffled the sleeping baby in her arms and flashed me a subtle smile. And as our kids filled that huge hole with playground pearls, I wondered if a mama’s soul excavation is just God’s merciful way of carving out more room in her heart for the treasures He longs to give her.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!