Not Returning To My Regularly Scheduled Program

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Feels like my life just took a break for a special announcement. When I got home from the hospital, I was thinking about how on TV, when there’s an interruption in programming for a special announcement, when it’s done they have the canned “We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.” I thought, yeah, now I can get back to my routine.” Then I realized that may not be the best idea.

Went in to the hospital for chest and left arm pain. I had also been throwing up, so after G-I tract meds did not relieve the pain, they tried nitro. When that removed the pain, they decided to keep me for more testing. The good news was that all the blood test showed no heart attack. They did a chemical stress test, and the next day a resting stress test. While waiting for those results, they gave me Prilosec to see if the pain was simply referred pain from a G-I issue.

The Prilosec actually helped quite a bit. Everyone expected the stress test would come back completely normal and I would go home and follow-up with my primary. But the stress test had an “irregularity.” They could not definitively say if there was a problem with the heart or not, so we decided to do an angiogram to make sure.

The good news is that, structurally, everything looked really good with the heart and nothing was clogged. As a side note, however, there were indications that I’ve had high blood pressure for a while and should start treating that with my primary doctor.

That all started Monday night, and I came home on Friday. I have started on blood pressure medication, but I’m thinking there needs to be more changes. Making that decision is the easy part, but where to start?

Obviously, I need to up the meditation to reduce stress, as that has lagged quite a bit. We’re also going to join the YMCA. But there’s more I need to do.

My house stresses me out. So, I hired professional to help, and this week she is coming to the house to help me start decluttering . Circumstances (two moves and a car accident that had me sidelined for several months) contributed to my home being out of control. I’ve tried on my own, but I need help.

I have visions of a clutter-free home where I can sew medieval garb, paint with watercolors, and bake fresh bread  at will. I can imagine all the family members helping with the upkeep and care of the home, dishes, and day-to-day cleaning. Then we’ll all be smiling and sitting around a table playing games to all hours of the night and life happily ever after. Right?

Well, one little step at a time. My heart is strong, and I want to keep it that way for many, many years to come. It’s never to late to try something different. Today I’ll make one small step towards a healthier me.

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Why Secrets Keep Us Sick

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It’s pretty common around people in 12-step programs to hear, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Honesty is stressed. Telling our secrets, even if it’s just to one other person, can set us free. But what is it about keeping secrets that keeps us sick?

Humans need connection. Keeping secrets make us feel separate, disconnected. If I’m keeping a secret about something I did or something that happened to me, I’m actually believing that if you knew this you would know how sick and disgusting I am and I would be alone.  Therefore, I will bury this secret so deep that even I will forget about it. Denial can be a life-saving coping skill at times, but eventually, it will kill us.

It makes me wonder if the ’cause’ of many people’s relapse is the secrets they are keeping. See, secrets are usually about shame. As Brene Brown puts it in her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” shame is believing that “something about me, that if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection.”

So the key, it seems, is learning that this thing, however bad it is, does not make me unworthy of love and connection. It is letting go of that thing that makes all the difference. Letting go of the shame and accepting this thing as part of me is how I become whole. I accept all parts of me, all of my experiences, all that I am.

If it’s that simple, why do we still keep secrets? For the most part, it’s fear of being vulnerable. When Brene Brown talks about vulnerability, she describes it as doing something even when there are no guarantees.

When we are vulnerable, we feel connected. Doing the 5th step is all about vulnerability.  But sometimes, we need professional help to be vulnerable. Even people with a lot of time in the program often find the need to seek outside help.

If we’re afraid of vulnerability, speaking without knowing what the reaction will be, then often a therapist can help. It is their job to hear you and be accepting. It is their job to help you through it. When you talk to a therapist, it’s like side-stepping vulnerability because you have a guarantee that you will be OK even if you tell this horrible secret.

And that is how we become whole.

So, my message is this: If you are keeping a secret that you swear no one will ever know, please find a way to let it out. You are worthy of connection. You are worthy of love and acceptance. Otherwise, your secret could very well kill you.

Please, Share Your Healing Gifts

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I was feeling a little restless earlier today, so decided to try meditating. I just closed my eyes and practiced being, letting go of the need to do anything. Just being, aware, breathing, until I truly felt a calmness, a centered-ness.

I remembered when I was in the trauma room right after the car accident. I was writhing, trying to somehow get away from the pain. There was a moment when it was just me and a male nurse. I think he might have been new.

He asked me something like, “I can lead you in a guided meditation if you’d like?” Continue reading

Sunday Quote: Progress vs. Change

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People want progress, but they don’t want change.  –Eva Burrows (1929-) Australian; Leader of Salvation Army

I laughed when I first read this. You know, how other people complain about change rather than embrace it.

A common saying around 12-step rooms is, “if nothing changes, nothing changes.” This quote above, however, puts that phrase in a peculiar context. I thing of “progress” as something distant, a lofty ideal, an inevitable by-product of human civilization. But how does progress happen? Continue reading

Coping With Pain

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Since the surgery a few weeks ago, I’ve been managing the pain with prescription pain killer. (Yes, that can be controversial in 12-step rooms, but I’m taking as prescribed, administered by my husband.)

Anyway, when he came in earlier tonight to give me a pill, we got distracted by something else and we both forgot about me getting the meds. I was reminded about an hour later when the stabbing pain in my ankle started.

He gave me the pill, and I tried to relax to wait until it took effect. My son was acting out, swearing, yelling, etc, so I was having a hard time relaxing. I finally asked my husband to shut the door to our bedroom so I could have some peace.

That’s when I remembered to follow my breath, Continue reading

Coming Out Publicly About My Sobriety

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Personal anonymity can be such a controversial topic. For me, I think everyone who met me knew that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol, so why should I worry if they know that I’m clean and sober?

Of course, that’s just my experience. I’ve never been in the corporate world or had any position where someone’s prejudice might affect my career.

Today, for the most part, it just doesn’t come up. I don’t hide it, but I don’t have a sticker on my forehead saying “Recovering Alcoholic.”

My biggest issue with anonymity was with my participation in the Society for Creative Anachronism. I love medieval reenactment, but was a little anxious about how prevalent alcohol was. A couple friends and I started a group called “The Empty Chalice,” a clean and sober household within the SCA (you can find us on Facebook).

The point, much like in this reblogged post about ‘coming out in sobriety’ was to be a safe haven for others who may be seeking recovery. It’s also a place for people who just don’t like loud, drunken debauchery (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Bottom line for me: If you drink, go for it; it doesn’t bother me. If you want to stay sober, I will do anything I can to help.

Walking in Sober Boots

Coming out publicly about my sobriety has changed my life. I wish I could tell you that I’d planned it out, that I gave it careful consideration, that I’d done it with a complete understanding of what I was getting into, but I can’t. That would be a lie.

I maintained another blog for several years that had almost no focus (surprise, I was a complete mess drinking all the time…) and one day, I just posted that I’d been sober and going to meetings as a way to get the word out to my friends. Over the next few weeks I posted a few more times and thought a lot about whether to keep these posts as part of the old blog or to start a new one. When I had the clarity that I had a lot to say about my journey, and that my journey would be…

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What’s Missing?

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It’s been about 3 weeks since the accident. Everything is OK, but there is a growing sense of unease. It may just be the medication, boredom, or sick of being in my bed and healing.

But there may be something else going on, too. The first thing I read this morning was a blog post from Seth Godin. In the business sense, he talked about how to best benefit the customer. This particular line stood out: “… focus on being of service.” Continue reading