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Healing

The word Healing has always held such a strong connotation for me. To heal; meant to be free. It meant being empowered, relieved and whole. I fought being healed, and I have fought for healing. I have stayed locked in the prison of my own comforts, slowly deteriorating from hiding from the sun. I have been angry, looking to be healed. Begging and yelling at the world to fix me. I have healed others unknowingly, and hurt them in the same breath.  It is my journey to heal, and to be healed, I can only surmise that being the reason such a beautiful thing has become such a strained fixation.

My own healing has been a journey.  There are no other words to describe the non linear course that my life has taken, riddeled with obstacles, boundaries and fear. I have tried a million and a half ways to heal, and I am always looking for another one. As someone who wants to help others, I have always found some sort of obligation to sift through everything, and present the world with truths. I continue to learn everyday, however one thing remains clear and unchanging. We are all mystical, unique indivudals, and their is no cure all. No one method will work for everyone, because that is the beauty of us all being on our own paths.

My intention for this blog is two-fold. I would like a place to share what I find in the world, to the world around healing. However, I also intend to use this as a place to find inspiration. Hope can come from many sources, and with a diversified approach to healing, perhaps even the most far removed can find connection, hope and strength here.

Sending Gratitude IMG_0423

 

 

 

Clean Time

I just celebrated a six-year anniversary. An anniversary marking six years of being free of the addiction that created so much havoc and dis-ease in my life. Six years abstinent of the chemical hooks that promised me brighter days, and led me to darker corridors.

While yes, I am proud. I do take a moment to honor where I was, and where I am now. How impossible it felt then, how real it is now. While that may be true; The marking of  time passing, the keeping of clean time and the celebrating of anniversaries is, in the end, pointless at best. Potentially even harmful for the stigma as a while.

Let me take a minute to explain.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well isn’t that the whole point? To maintain clean time and achieve abstinence? ” And I could answer, “Is it?”

Is the point of recovery to collect chips, amass clean time and stay abstinent as long as we can? Is that the point?

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I think that we have to start looking at recovery starting much sooner, then the day an addict stops using or an alcoholic takes their last drink. The decision to get clean, the moving from denial to acceptance about the intensity of our use I would argue is just as much of the process of recovery.

A large group of recovered addicts and alcoholics share anecdotes of terrible, life-changing events that wake them up, that move them. Referred to in some recovery cultures as “rock bottom”, it usually is an unforseen and traumatic consequence to their use that nearly forces them to stop using. In those instances, those catalytic consequences produce change. Aren’t they a part of your recovery?

The timeline of our recovery, so strongly persuaded my societal standards, is in my opinion much to short and limited. I think that it’s time we start to acknowledge that recovery is happening for everyone in their own time. Those recovering more slowly than others, those shadowed by chronic relapses and those who oscillate slowly from denial to acceptance; They are all in recovery. Even if they haven’t stopped using.

It’s equally important to note that the keeping of clean time can be potentially dangerous. What if we acknowledge that keeping clean time, perpetuates this competitive, comparative society that we are in?

The whole concept of clean time is one that has the capacity to really compound the guilt and shame found so prominently in active use. What if we started to look at recovery individually, like we do with everything else on our path? Would that potentially allow in for some more grace and compassion?

Untitled designThis is not to dismiss, discount or discredit the monumental achievement that is finding and maintaining abstinence. What a hard road it is to commit to being and maintaining sobriety. Those who manage, deserve to celebrate the life that they have regained, and the progress made.

My suggestion is that in our conversations about substance use, we begin to explore our culture around clean time. What if our culture focused instead on the individual crowning achievement that is each step in the recovery journey?

 

 

Public Schools & Substance Use

Public Schools & Substance Use

Public school. It’s where the bulk of the American populus will spend the majority of their childhood and adolescence. It’s often our first experience outside of the home, where we meet our first friends and where we first begin our integration into society. It’s estimated by The Center for Public Education that most students spend between 900-1000 hours per school year in school.

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With so much time spent inside a facility, with the same kids, teachers and administrators, one would believe that someone is surely keen on the signs of an at-risk adolescent. However, that is increasingly not the case. Consequentially, the school system’s ability to intervene and treat a serious substance use and/or mental health concern is almost nonexistent.

 

It begs the question: What responsibility does the school system bare, in the development of substance use and mental health issues? Should we be holding them more accountable for the overall welfare of our youth?

 

Reflecting personally, it is impossible to place full responsibility for my substance use on any one individual, entity or experience. I know that responsibility ultimately falls on myself, there is no shirking that one. However it is fair to question the adults who claimed some sort of responsibility over my safety and welfare as an adolescent. Now as a mother, I feel it even more justified to question the establishment that will become a second home to my son.

girls on desk looking at notebook

Anecdotally, I can recall my own experience of the school system being pretty disempowering. My perception of that time, (while obviously tinged by the dark lens that is teenage angst and emotion) was that I was just another body in a seat, another statistic, another test score.

 

As I crossed the graduation stage, I was extremely disheartened. I was one of twenty or so of my friends that was actually graduating. High school. In suburbia. Several of my friends, when showing signs of substance use, a dysfunctional home life, mental health issues and general at-risk behaviors – were given two options: They were told to drop out, or they would be expelled. Needless to say, they were all now lumped into the statistics of high school dropouts.

My own experiences when confronted with known substance use, too were of the same caliber. I was disciplined, but no one ever intervened. Suspended and sent home, but never asked how I was doing. I took such disciplinary actions in stride, pleased with the idea of a week off a school to check out.

 

Even thinking back on the actual education that I received about drugs it’s incredibly obvious that the school systems are still operating from a misinformed perspective. One week in eighth grade DARE, one week in freshman health (to get out of a gym credit; not mandatory) and a day in psychology. All abstinence based education, generic and unreceived. It was an insultingly typical “drugs are bad” conversation, with a bunch of uninterested teenagers. Real effective.

 

A whole article could be written outlining the many different ways that the American public school systems have failed our youth. Even more time could be spet dissecting the impact this current administration is having on our school system. But, that’s not where my interest lies. I am more interested in outlining it’s failure in terms of mental health and substance use.

The basic environment, ecology and social structures in public schools is one that is not conducive to the overall well-being of our youth. I shouldn’t be the first to point out the inherent cliques and social hierarchy that comprise the high school experience. Hormones, self discovery and newly acquired autonomy create a breeding ground for anxiety, depression and mental illness.  NAMI offers some startling statistics about our youth today:

  • One in five children aged thirteen to eighteen will have or currently suffer from a mental illness
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth aged ten to twenty-four
  • Eleven percent of all youth aged twelve to eighteen suffer from a mood disorder

 

Although those above statistics are indeed startling, here is where I am prompted to call on the school system for being more accountable: Fifty percent of all youth with a mental illness begin by aged fourteen, and seventy-five percent by age twenty-four. That means that our youth are showing symptoms of a mental illness throughout their high school years with little to no intervention. Even more startling is the fact that  fifty percent of youth older than fourteen years of age, will drop out of school.

 

So if the school is concerned at the very least about high school dropout rates, they should care about substance use and mental health. If we want our youth to graduate high school, we have to be concerned about their mental health. It is non-negotiable. 

 

 

Just One Mom’s Story

The story from my mom’s perspective.

By Laura Whitlock

Just one mom’s journey through her child’s addiction

I didn’t want to know

Black spirals on tin foil. I didn’t understand what they were. It looked like someone had taken a black magic marker and drawn spirals on square pieces of tin foil. The spirals were perfectly drawn. The tin foil was an exact square. But what were they?

I found this art work in my daughter’s room or back pack… I don’t remember now. I took a photo of it with my phone and sent it to my older daughter, thinking she would know what it was. The phone immediately rang and she told me that it looked like her sister was smoking heroin.

That’s when I knew.

That’s not when I should have known.

I should have known when the property manager at the house she was renting told me that her roommate reported that my daughter was using heroin. “If she were my kid, I’d want to know,” she said. But you see, that’s not true for most parents. It wasn’t for me. I made excuses. The roommate is just bitter because they had a fight, I told her.

I should have known when she went from the ace culinary school student aiming for perfect attendance and top grades, to drop-out. Must have been too stressful, I told myself.

I should have known when we went on vacation to the Jersey shore and she had episodes of depression and endless sleep. She misses her boyfriend, I told myself.

I should have known when she got fired from her job at the pizza place. I should have known when she got fired from several other jobs. I should have known when she wrecked her car. But, I didn’t want to know. How could someone I love so much be in such a dark place? She’s so smart. And so beautiful.  And funny.

And addicted.

I finally fully accepted that my daughter was addicted to a drug that will most likely end her life, months after I should have known. I didn’t want to know. If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have to deal with it. I wouldn’t have to lay awake at night, tracking her every move on my phone, just so I knew she was still alive. I wouldn’t have to kick her out of my house for using drugs. I wouldn’t have to fight with my partner about her, even though I knew she was right. I wouldn’t have a knot in my stomach every time my phone rang and it was my daughter, or worse, someone I didn’t know, like the police.

If I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have to try to fix it. Or soften it somehow.

You just have to let her hit rock bottom, the people in group would say.

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Really? Rock bottom for heroin addicts is most often death.

Yes, I can do all those things to help myself. Be strong! Set boundaries! Don’t enable! You can’t cure this. It’s not your fault. But I couldn’t let myself stop trying to save her life. I love her. Unconditionally, I love her.

And, I love myself, too. I didn’t know how I could endure the pain if she died. I started to prepare myself for this eventuality. This is something that parents of addicts do but they never talk about it. They steel themselves for the call, or the knock on the door, that robs them of their child. It was a fear that I carried around every minute of every day.

Should I let her hit rock bottom? Here’s the thing about rock bottom. You never really know what someone’s rock bottom is.  I did everything I could to keep her alive and safe. Things I thought were surely her rock bottom weren’t. I’m not sure she had a rock bottom. One time she told me that she didn’t want to be an addict, but she didn’t know how not to be an addict. She didn’t know how to stop.

Someone told me once that going through withdrawal from heroin was like having your head held under water. Every cell in your body fights the withdrawal. Every cell wants heroin. I can’t imagine how that feels. And I can’t imagine how anyone could just decide to stop using one day without help.

I did everything I could to help her. I paid for her and her boyfriend to go to a methadone clinic. Didn’t work.  I took her to counseling.  I kidnapped her from her boyfriend’s clutches when I heard she had been raped by her drug dealer. (Surely that was rock bottom! Nope.) We had an intervention and she finally agreed to go to treatment. And she got out. And she relapsed. And she went to treatment. And she got out and went to sober living. And she relapsed. And she went to treatment.

But this time, she didn’t relapse!

The last time I saw her on drugs was six years ago. I put her on a plane to Nevada to a different treatment center. I held her in my arms and we both cried. I didn’t want to let go. And I committed the memory of her walking through security to memory. I didn’t want to forget what she looked like. I can tell you what she was wearing, what the color of her suitcase was, which security line she was in.

img_0231And she did it! She chose to live. She gave me the greatest gift a mother could ask for, more time to love her unconditionally.

The one thing that got me through it all was the one thing I did know. God had a plan for her.  And God was there for me. He was there for me on the countless sleepless nights. He didn’t mind my ceaseless praying and pleading. He knew. He knew what I didn’t know.

I am so proud of the woman she has become. She now works to help others who are addicted. Because she knows.

My Shadow

My shadow

As I continue on my own path of personal development- I wanted to share a piece I wrote. I am in great exploration now of my shadow self, and I invite you to read the following with an open mind. There is a symbiotic relationship when we act in vulnerability. 

 

Treading carefully pace by pace

Down the  path of life,

Constantly haunted.

My darker, shadowy projection dragging on the ground behind me.

Unshakable & unyielding,

Attached.

Fear keeps me from ever really looking back at  it.

The unknown prevents me from investigating too deeply.

Not my shadow.

I will run from it

Numb it out

Cover it up

Manipulate, maneuver and manage my way around seeing it.

The farther I run,

The more tired I become.

Fatigued, hurting and desperate.

I have to look at it. I have to confront it.

I summon all the courage, the strength I can.

I gather my weapons of battle,

my tools of self discovery & my accomplices in the mission

I brace myself, almost paralized.

Both by the pain of avoidance and fear of the unknown.

It’s time.

I turn my head, bracing for the ugliest of monsters.

I am saddened to find-

it’s only me.

My hurting little girl, struggling for control.

I drop my guard, my weapons, defenses of destruction-

I drop to my knees.

 

To finally welcome her home with me.

 

The Age of Anxiety

Living in the Age of Anxiety

The Age of Anxiety

Anxiety.

It’s almost the most common mental health complaint of young people today.For most millennials, anxiety is listed as a number one complaint among mental health concerns across America. People are anxious, unnerved, worries and conflicted.  It’s something that we have begun to hear of more and more over the last decade in specific, and something that seems to continually impact more and more people.

Despite anxiety’s particular relevance in my generation,  it’s something that everyone can identify with, something that everyone experiences.

So, what is anxiety?

The most common associations with anxiety are the standard sweaty hands, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and heightened awareness. The standard imagery of a classic panic attack, is most often what we have come to define as anxiety.

While this is a typical experience of anxiety, not everyone experiences the pang of anxiety in the same way.

I invite you to take a moment of reflection, and check into what your anxiety really feels like in your day-to-day life.

Does your anxiety feel like a coarse ball of misshapen stone, sinking to the bottom of your gut?

adult-dark-depressed-262218Does it feel like indecision? A raking ambivalence that sends you oscillating from one decision to another?

Does it feel like procrastination, an avoidance of obligations that only gains in strength as the minutes tick by?

Does it feel like paranoia? Constant concern and worry that people closest to you are hoping you’ll become something else.

My experiences with anxiety have been as wild, varied and tumultuous as the feeling itself. Anxiety has always been something that creeps up on me. I never know that  it’s there affecting me, until the moment is gone or I’ve spun out of control.

Sometimes, the anxiety feels like a crushing weight on my chest, a warm ball in the base of my throat and ruminating negative thoughts cycloning through my consciousness.

Sometimes though, it just feels like a half hour lunch break and quarter tank of gas lost to indecisiveness about what I want to eat.

Both are equally as unbearable. However the pain of the former is usually painful enough to rouse some change. Some motivation to heal the anxiety.

It’s taken years to acclimate to the idea that healing from anxiety, or anything at all for that matter, takes diligence. We have to be on our toes, actively taking inventory of our emotions everyday or we lose control. The proverbial slippery slope, so to speak.

Where does anxiety come from?

It’s important to note that everybody has anxiety. Seriously, everyone experiences anxiety just as they experience sadness, anger and joy. Not everyone, however, has an anxiety disorder.

An anxiety disorder, is characterized by heightened consistent anxiety, feelings of fear or nervousness become excessive, difficult to control, or interfere with daily life. While not everyone has an anxiety disorder, it is fairly common. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 19 percent of American adults are affected by an anxiety disorder each year.

alone-angry-anxiety-236151Anxiety, over-simplified, is a reaction from your nervous system. Your body has a particular reaction to stress that is often associated to the word anxiety. When we sense some sort of danger or threat, our body reacts as a part of its normal operating structure.there really isn’t anything wrong with you for feeling anxiety.

In fact, it shows your functioning like a normal human if you experience anxiety prior to a big speech, interview, date or new experience.

This is where I am challenging the idea that you need to”cope” or “deal with” anxiety.

Instead of freaking out and feeding into the moment of anxiousness when it comes, try dropping into your body with curiosity.

Ask yourself, “What is it about this situation is making me feel this way?”

If it’s based in a legitimate fear for your survival, maybe we should look into that a little more and make sure we feel safe.

If the answer is based on just a nervousness around a new situation, use that!

Your body is naturally more alert, aware and focused when your anxious. Take that, and turn it into powerful intention.

Go to your interview quick and sharp. Use your nervous energy in your stomach to fuel a motivating conversation. Whatever. Use

Take the power from your anxiety back.

In an age of anxiety, where we all suffer from the pull, it’s our job to work on ourselves first and develop self awareness. Awareness if the first step to freedom.