Ten Things I Learned from Rehab and Life After Treatment

I can’t believe it’s been six months since I wrote a blog post. Six months of distractions, overcoming obstacles, and following what feels right for me despite others’ opinions

Last February I was still working a nursing desk job, one that I enjoyed my coworkers and the flexibility, but the hours I spent getting the boys and myself ready and out the door, then shuttling Dillon to school 7 miles north of town, turning around and driving 37 miles to Logan’s daycare, and then driving across town to work were wearing on me.

Something else was calling  me, but it seemed impossible. I honestly felt doomed to repeat this routine for the next 4 years until Logan was in school. I tried going part-time at my desk job, but that still didn’t feel right. I found an RN job 20 miles north of our house-a small town hospital where I do everything—ER, acute care, observation, and skilled and long-term care. This felt a lot better, but still things weren’t quite right. I decided to get my own apartment to see if that would help. I could stay at the apartment so I didn’t have to commute on the days I worked 12 hour shifts. That felt a little bit better, but still I didn’t feel right.

Talk of divorce came up more and more often. Nate was at the end of his rope with my drinking and I was just at the end of my rope.  I was drowning my anxiety and sense of dread and overwhelm with Chardonnay. Family members were concerned and reaching out, but I carefully ignored them. This continued until the beginning of April. I had tried quitting on my own and quickly realized I couldn’t. I was up to 5 Black Boxes of Chardonnay a week and if I didn’t drink, I would get shaky, sick, and extremely anxious. I had a routine where I would drop Dillon off at school and start day drinking on my way home. On the mornings I worked, I would cut myself off at a certain time the night before and then start drinking again once I was off work.

With alarm and self-loathing, I admitted I needed to get help. Nate came and got me from my apartment, helped me find a 30 day treatment program, and let me stay with him until they had an opening a few days later.

April 15th I took Dillon to school, then frantically tried to find something to drink. It felt like I was losing my best friend, security blanket, life jacket. Desperately I looked around until I found a Twisted Tea and a little Crown Royal. A few hours I checked in. I remember sitting there, desperately wishing Nate would answer the endless questions the admissions woman was asking. My heart was racing and I felt like I could easily pass out from adrenaline. We finished and Nate and I said good-bye as I was led to the nurse.

After giving a urine sample, changed into scrubs, my belongings taken, and my vital signs/assessment completed, I was taken to my room where I would detox. It was a surreal feeling, but as I looked out the window, there was a dragonfly sticker attached to the window. I’ve written before how dragonflies and butterflies feel like the Universe is telling me everything will be okay.

I was started on a high dose of Librium (like long-acting Ativan; a sedative) and detoxed for 5 days. I don’t remember much from the first 3 days—barely eating and doing little but sleep. I remember having dreams of trying to open my eyes but they were too heavy and I could only get them half open. My blood pressure was 163/90 something when I checked in—a shock as I have never had high blood pressure.

On the fourth day I started to participate in activities/group and went to the cafeteria and ate with the others.  This program was strict about no fraternization between sexes. We slept on opposite sides of the hall, couldn’t go outside and smoke together, weren’t allowed to be in the opposite sex lounge without a treatment assistant present, and took separate vans to AA meetings and outings. There were 12 other girls but quite a few of them graduate that first week so I didn’t get to know them well. Everyone was friendly to me but there was drama between other girls that ended once some of them graduated.

Once I was done detox’ing I was allowed to wear street clothes and make phone calls at certain times. After wearing scrubs non-stop for almost a week, I was so thankful to have my clothes back and feel like me again. We had a strict schedule from wake up time to lights out that kept us busy. Counselor education, small groups, group check-ins with the treatment assistants, recreation, and sharing/listening each others’ life stories became our norm.

Sharing the life story was one of the more difficult parts of treatment, some for reading it out loud, and others for processing it afterward. I didn’t mind sharing my life story, but I wasn’t ready for the feelings of shame and self-judgment that overwhelmed me the next 48 hours. I remember sitting in the back of the van with two other girls and being unable to contain my emotions. This was slightly horrifying for me because I hate crying in front of people, but I couldn’t help it. Suddenly I couldn’t help laughing, because all my life I’ve only cried out of one eye, leaving one side of my face splotchy and red and leaving the other looking normal. The idea of going into the AA meeting looking like Two-Face gave me the giggles and as I explained my bizarre mood swing they couldn’t help laughing. The girl sitting next to me, this brilliant woman younger than me, who was street smart and hard as nails tough and had gotten caught up in using and selling meth and other drugs to make ends meet, gently squeezed my hand and sat by me. We became close and I learned so much from her—what a stripper baggy was, and some of the horrors she’d encountered in her experience with drugs.

She and I would later have a cigarette and talk about treatment. I joked it felt like hell at the moment, but she wisely told me it was purgatory. Having grown up in a Catholic school, she explained to me purgatory is where your soul goes to be purified before moving on to heaven. I loved that parallel—we were in purgatory so we could move on from these negative thought processes, addictions, and past traumas and live a better life.

I became incredibly close with some of the girls. Once I graduated, it felt like nobody else but the people I’d gone to treatment with could quite understand my experience. It was hard and overwhelming to try to explain it all to everyone. It was so much easier to not interact with family and friends and just do my own thing.

Before I went in to treatment, I googled other blogs to see if there were any insights or advice I could use about checking into treatment. I kept a mental list of things I wish I would have known before checking in:

Things I wish I would have known before checking into treatment:

1) Don’t be ashamed of drinking/getting help. Checking into treatment felt like I was a failure at first, when really l needed help with my thought processes, negative self-talk, and taking care of the invisible garbage bags I had been carrying with me since childhood.

2) I would have packed a lot differently. I wasn’t allowed to keep my books or Tarot cards. Anyone who knows me knows when I pack I tend to bring a lot of books. Instead I would have packed more clothes so Nate didn’t have to bring me so many things.

3) Take care of financial matters beforehand. I really wasn’t in a frame of mind to think about this, but when bills were due and I had no internet access to get my debit card number (my purse and wallet had been packed away when I checked in) it was a pain to have to get the number to my bank from Nate, call them, explain what was going on, and get him the information. Call anyone who you might have loans with and explain what is going on. I wish I would have done this for my student loans a lot sooner. I was able to get a few payments deferred until I got back on my feet.

4) Work your own journey. Being a nurse, it was hard for me to not go into ‘nurse mode’ and just be a patient. I had to realize I couldn’t make things easier for people, and I wasn’t there to work. I learned later from my counselor how codependent I can be. Other people being sad, angry, or upset makes me uncomfortable. Instead of giving them the space to process their own journey, I was trying to make it easier for them so it would be easier for me. This wasn’t fair to them or myself, and I’ve since learned it’s okay to allow others to express their emotions without needing to mother them.

5) Treatment is a lot like a detention center (I realized this after watching a Netflix show about low-security female incarceration). I was told where to go and what to do, everyday and all day. We couldn’t take food back to our rooms, we couldn’t use the phones until we ‘leveled up’, we couldn’t pass notes. From 8:30 to 9:00 our day was mapped out with counseling sessions, small groups, etc. At first it was frustrating having someone tell me what to do all the time, but it helped me develop more discipline.

6) There will be drama. When there are that many people with serious addiction issues living together, there will be issues and squabbles that come up. Cliques still develop, just like high school. I tried hard to get along and be friendly with everyone. I really enjoyed learning how to smudge with one of the Native American women, and one of the older patients became like a mom to me. Instead of letting things others did frustrate me, I tried to think of their side of things. Sometimes they hadn’t learned any other way, other times they had experienced horrible things and couldn’t help the victim mentality the had developed. I tried to not judge others. It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes things come out wrong and people get offended. If I realized I’d genuinely upset someone unintentionally, I explained what I meant, apologized, and left it at that.

7) The treatment assistants are not your friends. Everything you say and do will be repeated back to the other treatment assistants, counselors, and staff. Treat them respectfully, but unless you want everyone else knowing, don’t talk about things you’d rather keep private. Don’t vent about the program or other staff to them. It’s too easy for things to be misunderstood and misconstrued.

8) Keep an open mind. I hated having to go to an overly zealous Christian movie as our outing. While I still don’t agree with having certain religions spoon fed to me, I enjoyed spending time away from the treatment center, especially when we were able to get Dairy Queen after.

9) Manage expectations. If you don’t have expectations for others or situations, you won’t be bummed or upset. Now if someone makes me a promise, I think, “If she shows up, great. If not, no big deal.” I’m not counting on anyone else to make a situation better. Once I learned to go with the flow and not resist or try to control things, I felt so much more relaxed.

10) Your emotions will be all over the place. I had never heard of PAWS before treatment (post-acute withdrawal symptoms) but it’s real and I still forget about it, until I catch myself asking, “What is wrong with me?” When I read the symptoms, I realize I’m PAWSing. I also learned to recognize when others are PAWSing and to give them a little grace when they have an outburst or don’t seem like their usual selves.

Two weeks after I graduated, Nate and I realized treatment wasn’t going to fix much of anything with our marriage and mutually decided to divorce. I moved out of the house into my apartment. The first time I had ever lived on my own. We are sharing custody of the boys until the divorce was finalized. There were a lot of frustrating moments, but when I felt overwhelmed, I thought about the boys and what would be best for them and that helped me dissolve petty feelings and anger more easily.

So six months later, I can honestly say I feel better than I have in years. I know a lot of my family don’t understand my decisions, and that’s okay. I know I’m doing the right thing by listening to my intuition, trusting the Universe, and following my heart.

I saved this post as a draft…I wrote it a few months ago. Reading it over, I have to add number 11:

11) For the love of all that is holy, stay off dating websites. Tinder is not your friend. Don’t jump into another relationship. Being newly single and sober is terrifying, but jumping into a rebound relationship complicated things so much more for me. Now not only am I dealing with tying up loose ends with my divorce, I also have to process this epically failed relationship, the guilt of hurting someone, and the realization of just how bad my blinders were.

 

 

 

Runaway Bride

I think I’ve been looking at being single all wrong since I started dating, in high school. Since that first boyfriend, I don’t know why I’ve been so afraid of being single. Maybe because I was afraid of being alone? Why was/am I so afraid to figure out who I am, on my own? In brutal, embarrassing honesty, I haven’t been single longer than a few weeks since then. I wrote a poem in my diary once, and one line has always stuck with me. That I feel like a runaway bride for the thousandth time. A play on Julia Roberts’ movie, Runaway Bride. Each time she takes on the likes of her current hubby, without realizing what she really enjoys for herself. Except she’s smarter–she realizes her mistake before she hits the altar. Two failed marriages and a few long term relationships later, I can count the months I’ve been single since I was 16 on one hand.

Maybe I’ve been looking at being single completely wrong.

For the first time in my life, I don’t have to answer to anyone. I only have my boys to consider when making decisions in my life. If I want to plan a trip in December, I don’t have to rationalize my reasons for going to anyone.

This realization gives me hope and honestly, is exciting. I started realizing what resonates with me while I was married to Nate. My spirituality has always been important to me, even when I was seven years old. I sacrificed it multiple times to appease whomever I was with and instead took on the hobbies my hubby was passionate about. Like snowmobiling and ranch life with Nate. I love the spirit of horses, but I’m just not a cowgirl. I wrote a poem once…cowboy, don’t take me away. A twist on a Dixie Chicks song. I love the open night sky, but I don’t like being so far from town.

I’m finally following the beat of my own drum, and as hard as this year has been, I know I’ve grown more in the last six months than I have in the last sixteen years.

I don’t know if I’ll ever marry again. I don’t really care right now. I might not have a boyfriend to text throughout the day, but I have so many friends who I can reach out to…friends that I met in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. I’m realizing the people who have come into my life that I’ve never fully appreciated and am so grateful as they reach out with their support as I shamelessly over share on social media.

My motto that I unearthed when I first started this spiritual awakening holds just as true today as ever–cotby and townlys. Concentrate on the task before you and the One who’ll never leave your side. If I keep myself from future tripping about things I have no control over and just focus on being in the present…if I just trust that my god will work everything out for the best as long as I follow what feels right, I will be okay.

I’ll be more than okay. I will finally be able to build a life that feels right.

Butterflies & Dragonflies Let Me Know I’m All Right

Sitting on the lawn with my tarot cards. I felt called to meditate on them, to learn them more. Instead of doing a reading, I decided to choose one card. After putting them in order, I asked the Universe to guide me to the right card to study. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked down and saw this:

It’s hard to see but a strand of my hair was a caught in the deck. Carefully I found the card and looked at it.

I knew Aces stood for beginnings. Cups for water. I studied the picture but not a whole lot jumped out at me until later. Instead I opened Robert Wang’s book, The Qabalistic Tarot and read what it said.

“We begin the process of accelerating our own spiritual development, or return, by the invocation of our own Kether. This Kether unconsciously guides and directs us. The very act of calling attention to the “Light above our heads” brings about a subtle activity on the Inner Planes. It is a conscious affirmation of the Personality in manifestation of its mutability, and that the source of all true life is above. As the very Universe begins and ends with Kether, so all work of spiritual development, whether meditative or ritualistic, must begin with an invocation of the Highest.

The God name in Kether is Eheieh meaning “I Will Be”, a name which has been likened in its sound and meaning to breath.”

The Hebrew letters for Eheieh are read from right to left. After thinking about this card and then meditating, I wrote the following in the margin:

*manifesting “I Will Be” – Eh heh ye – giving breath to an idea…bringing an idea into existence

The Hebrew words are read from right to left. The first letter, Aleph, has no sound– it’s a “silent letter”. The second and fourth letters are Hey, and the third is Yod.

“Thus when any Ace appears in a divination, it stands for great power.”

The more I study this the more my mind is blown. Shirley Peterson’s The Secret Science of Numerology gave me a way to connect all the dots. Everything in the Universe is made up of wavelengths of energy. Elements are the same, whether on Earth or the Moon, or the Sun.

“…they are composed of basic molecules of energy. The ancients say this energy is made of God Himself: being the Creator of all there is, He had to create from the energy of His own ideas and the material of His own Being…each invisible force has its own set of vibrations, starting with low frequency domestic energy…sound, radio, television, radar waves, microwaves, infrared rays, X-rays, and gamma rays, all invisible around us but powerful when harnessed (Peterson)”.

I knew instinctively I wanted these Hebrew letters tattooed on my arm. To remind me every time I look at my arm to think of what I want to bring in to my life and who I want to be as a person. Yet I wanted to add another component to the tattoo. I had heard about ‘unalomes’ and I loved the idea.

“The unalome symbol represents the path to enlightenment in the Buddhist culture The spirals are meant to symbolize the twists and turns in life, and the straight lines the moment one reaches enlightenment or peace and harmony. The dots at the end of the symbol represent death, or the moment we fade into nothing. There are multiple designs for unalome tattoos, or you can create your own and add your own elements, such as the lotus flower to represent new beginnings.”

From https://www.yogiapproved.com/life-2/yoga-tattoos-their-meaning/.

Instead of a lotus flower, I wanted a dragonfly. The summer of 2017 I was struggling with post-partum depression after having my son in December 2016. I was drinking more, and so overwhelmed and depressed I couldn’t see how things could possibly get better. My mind was so dark that I had started to believe there was no way out. The idea of slipping away became more and more enticing, to the point I had thought about how I would do so. I didn’t mention how I was feeling to anyone.

My dad had put together a fishing trip for my family, and normally I would have been enjoying myself. But my nerves were so frayed with anxiety, and I was so tense and brittle I felt like I could easily snap. During the first day of fishing with my dad, we were in his boat, fishing. Dragonfly after dragonfly landed on my pole, on me. They were blue and beautiful. Mesmerized, I watched them. I felt like they were a symbol for something, so I looked it up.

“In almost every part of the world, the Dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization.

The dragonfly is iridescent…the magical property of iridescence is associated with the discovery of one’s own ability by unmasking the real self and removing the doubts one casts on his/her own sense of identity.

They can be a symbol of going past self-created illusions that limit our growth and ability to change.

The dragonfly has been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings and change for many centuries. The dragonfly means hope, change, and love.

https://dragonflytransitions.com/why-the-dragonfly/

My brother pulled me aside and after he asked what the hell was going on with me, I opened up and told him everything. He convinced me it was okay to get some help, and there was no weakness or shame in needing an antidepressant. His sage analogy made sense to me as a nurse; “It’s no different than your brain having an infection. You just need an antidepressant for a little while.” He gave me a hug and I felt a little lighter, a little bit better. I laid on my dad’s boat and stared at the night sky for a few hours that night. I made an appointment with my midwife that week and started taking an antidepressant to get me through until I figured out why I was so unhappy. This memory is just one of several that include dragonflies giving me hope.

I told my boyfriend I wanted to get a tattoo. That afternoon. I had gotten one before on my wrist from a local shop, and I told myself if they could get me in I was going for it. I called and they told me they’d had a cancellation and if I could be there at four, they would be happy to help me out.

Getting the tattoo didn’t hurt at all. Once it was done, I looked at it and loved it. The artist commented the stress of doing this tattoo might have taken a few years off his life, which surprised me. I thought it was a pretty easy, simple tattoo, not realizing the fine lines meant no room for error on his part. That he would realize the significance of this tattoo for me and take such care meant a lot.

Whenever I see this tattoo, I think of my goals for myself, my future. It reminds me I’m a journey, and it’s not always going to be straight and easy…there are and will be difficult times, but if I keep my faith in my spirituality and try to be the best person I can be, it will always be okay.

Reckless Decisions & Divine Messages

One of those mornings. A decision made on a whim that looking back now, makes me realize everything happens for a reason. And also maybe I should be a little more careful. I don’t always need to test limits.

Nate ended up staying home today, so when it was time to take Dillon to school, I asked Logan if he wanted to go with or stay with Daddy. He chose Daddy, to my surprise. He usually loves going places.

I loaded Dillon up and took him to school, stopping to talk to his teacher. She mentioned something interesting. On a whim I went to go look at it, despite the heavy snow on the rarely used road. Meh, there’s tracks, Black Betty (my Jeep) can handle it. Later Nate pointed out that they were tractor tracks and snowmobile tracks…

Black Betty did great until it was time to turn around. I could have just thrown her into reverse and floored it with the 4WD but for some reason I went to turn around…and was stuck. 4HI, 4LO, nothing. I needed help.

I have no phone service from mile marker 11 all the way up to mile marker 40, in Fort Benton. Yet at mile marker 27 I had just enough of a signal to call Nate to come help me out. He told me to make sure the exhaust wasn’t blocked by snow (oh yeah…that would be good to check…) and that he’d be there in a bit.

I got out and looked. Sure enough the snow was almost covering the exhaust. I’ve seen patients with carbon monoxide poisoning and I was grateful Nate is level headed enough to remember to remind me of this.

I got back in and waited. Finally I decided to turn the engine off to save gas. I was toasty warm anyway. Several minutes later I went to start the engine and the battery was dead. Whaaa? Could anything else possibly go wrong?

Eventually Nate arrived after having to dig through his shop for the ball we use for the Jeep. Only he couldn’t find the tow rope pin so we just had to cross our fingers. When I told him the battery was dead, he explained leaving the headlights on in this cold weather kills the battery quickly. Oh. Good to know.

He was able to get the Jeep pulled out most of the way and went to turn around so he could jump her. A few minutes later I could hear him yelling.

I ran over and he was frantically throwing snow on the engine–it was on fire. I didn’t think, just started throwing snow. There happened to be some clumps and I threw them up to him. He was able to reach down and put the snow right on the fire and put it out.

As we headed home to get his farm truck, who I like to call Clifford (he’s red and a great truck) I started visualizing my morning prayers. We made it home, 7 miles away. I immediately took Logan inside while Nate looked at his blue truck. I went downstairs and with gratitude said my morning prayers the right way.

As we got in, there on the floor of the red truck was the pin for the tow rope Nate needed. I knew everything was going to work out. As we headed back, Nate said he knew it was a fuel line leak and it was probably a good thing it started on fire there, with snow available and not on the highway somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

We jumped the Jeep and Nate gave me some pointers on getting out of the snow–I was panicking when it would start gaining traction–don’t stop, just keep going!!

We loaded up and Nate jokingly (or maybe seriously, lol) asked me to please stick to the main roads. As I drove home, the radio station was on 95.1 for some reason and the volume was up. I rarely listen to the radio and I never listen to talk shows or sermons. It was some religious station out of Havre. Yet something the preacher was saying caught my attention.

He was talking about being stressed, and how people tend to freak out and try everything in their human power to make things better, with no luck. Really, they as mere humans, don’t have the strength or wisdom to know unless they trust God. He mentioned Isaiah 30:15, which Isaiah has always been one of my favorite books.

“In quietness and trust is your strength”

I don’t need to try to figure everything out, to worry about the future. I will be strong enough to face whatever comes my way, because if nothing else, I can be quiet and trust Him.

And always remember my morning rituals, no matter how busy or distracted I get.

What a morning…

Soul Journey

Brain zaps. Vestiges of an antidepressant I want so desperately to be free of. The worn Band-Aid I no longer need but can’t quite bring myself to rip away quite yet… Insomnia. Random pictures sketched and water colored, paper soaking up rich pigments of fleeting ideas. The images flow out of my subconscious as I let them go… Finding my way in a world I haven’t quite found my sea legs yet it continues to captivate me daily.

Random moments of exquisite beauty. A “dangerous” thistle in a transplanted field of grain. She belongs here, they don’t…yet we pluck her away before she can take over. Never mind the bumble bees and butterflies she helps to thrive. Her demure beauty captivates me as her angry thorns juxtapose the radiance of her violet down. A siren call on a late summer night, catching my eye as I wander by. Society says she shouldn’t be here, but I can’t let her go.

She remains in my sacred room. She has a purpose.

Listen. Be quiet. Follow what resonates. Stop following the mindless drivel that plagues my existence. These songs, these words, my lonely thoughtful meanderings. My mind wanders until finally I lose my self-imposed shackles and let myself free. Dancing beneath diamond studded Milky Way skies, grass beneath my feet and the chill as my dance partner. I’ve never felt so alive as I do in these moments. An ancient melody calls my name and I must follow. The sweet cows bellow as they keep our tune. I don’t know where I’m going, and I don’t know why. Yet I follow…it’s the only thing I really know is right.

They say I should follow societal norms, be meek and obedient. They say. I tried to listen and obey yet nothing ever felt so wrong. My heart and soul tell me otherwise…

Songs that resonate so deeply my jaw aches with unshed tears.

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I’ve built my life around you…

Can you accept my in my allness, my fullness? Will you still love me when I’m not the person I was 10 years ago? If it means I’m healthier, happier, more radiant and whole? Or would you rather I be the empty wine-soaked soul trudging through the days and nodding as I smiled meekly and obediently as I was did back then?

We were born before the wind, also younger than the sun…the Bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic…

There is so much more out there, so much we don’t know, or understand. So much more than the sitcoms and daily news. There is an entire life to be explored, and countless who have gone before us to show us the way. Those with open minds and hearts will see, and find this amazing path…

super omnia, caritatem <3

Benefits of Meditation

Running nowhere fast

Endless hamster wheels in rat races

Won by no one

Why?

What’s the point?

Silence.

Breathing in, and out.

I’m in this moment

Right here, and now.

Trying to make my world around me

Just as I need it to be.

Distractions.

‘I should’s’ roll around my mind;

Empty beer cans in the bed of a pick up

I’m worn thin

Saltwater taffy, stretched in all directions.

Diminished, pulled to a wisp

By everything I don’t know to not need

Listen.

There’s silence.

Don’t try to fill it

Just feel it

Silence

Home.

Everything is better through their eyes…

“…It’s easy to feel like your present situation is how it will be forever, when it’s viewed as negative or not favorable.

When it’s a positive time, it seems to fleeting before fading away to monotony or more difficult moments.

Yet when I look back on my now 34 year old life, whether in journal entries or looking at pictures with my grandmother, I feel I’ve so far lived a pretty blessed life. I might not have always been able to wear the expensive clothes or have the newest car, but that’s just materialism anyway, and doesn’t mean anything.

My family might not be perfect, and there may have been a few holidays with tense undercurrents for whatever reason, yet when I look back on them, I don’t remember the mild discord as much as I do feelings of gratitude of the many memories we share.

If I had it to do over again, I would remember to take pictures in the monotonous moments. The Cribbage game played to pass the time, grandkids sitting on their grandparents lap, eating ice cream. Doing the dishes together, then playing the worst game in the world, Aggravation, just so my dad could gleefully toss our marbles off our spot and watch us try to catch it before it landed on the floor.

Maybe I’m more of a pessimist than most, but I find it easy to dwell on the negative and lose sight of my blessings, something I’ve been working on over the last several months.”


I wrote the above back in September, after looking at some photos with my Grandma. I wasn’t quite ready to publish it for whatever reason. But after re-reading it now I can see how I’m progressing…I might still be a little too pessimistic at times, but for the most part I’ve realized that life is what I make of it, and if I don’t like something, change it. If I can’t change it, accept it & maybe try looking at it with a new perspective.

This holiday season it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by all the things I *should* do. There is that word again–should. Who says I need to do all these things? If they don’t resonate at the moment I’m not going to force it.

We have the Christmas tree up. The train that goes beneath is completely derailed thanks to a very active 2 year old, and per usual our house looks like a toy bomb just detonated, but the boys are happy, and healthy.

Instead of looking at my overwhelming to do list, I’m going to look through their eyes. They don’t care if we miss a few traditions. Santa is coming! <3

The video is best if you have the sound on 🙂

Speak Your Truth, Even if Your Voice Shakes

I’ve chronicled my struggles with drinking and cough syrup ad nauseum. But why do I struggle with feeling like I need to self-medicate? Why do I look for easy ways out to numb myself, to stop feeling, stop thinking? What if I was doing it because I was afraid to admit who I really am?

At first I thought it was just because I had made it into a habit, and when I was bored it was just what I did. And then I realized no, that wasn’t it.

Then I thought it was from old emotional wounds and I was drinking because of this. This didn’t feel quite right, either.

I knew when I was chasing my spiritual side, my formerly unquenchable urge to drink diminished. In fact, it was the last thing I wanted. I had to relinquish the fear that I wouldn’t feel as connected spiritually without the cough syrup, but with my husband’s steady encouragement and support, I realized the need for over the counter cold medicine to feel something spiritually was a lie, too.

So as I peeled back all these layers, I found myself with a new truth, an uncomfortable truth to say out loud, but one that resonates so deeply within me I can’t deny it.

My Christian faith was so good for me, to me, for so long. It gave me the glimpses of something deeper that kept me searching for more, for my truth. Some moments of prayer and worship were ecstasy, while some things I struggled with, deep inside. Like a good Christian I stuffed them down and told myself I was being tempted, that it was sinful to feel this way.

Until I gave myself permission to let go of every preconceived idea I’d been taught of good and bad, right and wrong. I recalibrated my inner compass to follow my soul and not my brain.

I started connecting the dots. Hebrew is a magical language, based on numbers. It goes so much deeper than this, but there is a reason sacred texts were written in Hebrew. It lent a deeper meaning to the words, the letters even. Numerology? It’s directly connected to Hebrew. Shirley Blackwell Lawrence spells all of this out for me in her book The Secret Science of Numerology.

I keep following the breadcrumbs. Pythagoras (faint memories of high school trig come to mind, and I still remember a2+b2=c2) was on to so much more. These written words, when spoken, become vibrations. Sound waves. Just like music. And then she explains how there is a mathematical synchronicity between music notes and the color spectrum. Red is C, Orange D, Yellow E, Green F, and so on (Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, 911). She goes on from there and explains how it is all connected. God and science. Numerology and Hebrew, Tarot and astrology.

Growing up I’ve always had a fascination for Tarot cards and numerology, and the spiritual world. I just could never reconcile the two worlds (the esoteric/occult with Christianity) without feeling like I was doing something wrong. Blackwell’s book was the key I needed to reconcile the two and to let myself give myself permission to explore what really rang true for me.

Once I let go of my preconceived ideas, it was like the Universe just opened to me and I was realizing new truths everywhere I went, meeting people to guide me on my journey without even consciously seeking them out. A podcast (Weirdly Magical) listened to on my way home from work brought me to Lou Edington, someone who gave me so much of her time and attention as I was trying to figure all this out. When she did my astrology report, everything was so spot on, things I’d never told her or even my husband, she revealed after a glance at my chart. She gave me the encouragement to follow my heart’s desire with my art and nursing career, and gave me insight as to how I could reconcile the two (art therapy). She gently helped me come to my self-realization that I am not happy being a desk nurse, and this isn’t where my gifts lie. With this realization I spoke with my ever patient boss and told her I knew last year this desk job wasn’t a good fit for me and asked if I could work the floor as a registry nurse. I start Monday, and I am so excited.

I met a local woman who while looking for sage, who on first glance, felt like home. Kindred spirit, I found myself confessing everything of my spiritual journey as she nodded and smiled and showed me where the sage was.

A few weeks later, she helped me figure out what white sage looks like in the wild, and it turns out we have it growing everywhere on our property!

I started doing things instinctively. My husband couldn’t figure out my sudden aversion to plastic and wanting to compost, and watched with curiosity as I traded in my wine libations for tea.

I researched whatever called to me and felt right. I had my little diary, that I call my “Will o Wisp” diary, and would write down anything someone suggested, or that I read (it was my breadcrumb diary…the universe throws things at me so quickly I can’t keep up…)

This is the same diary that I looked back on recently and realized something that left me breathless. I never paid much attention to eclipses. But hearing Lou’s podcasts and reading her posts, that were so spot on, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. So I looked up where I was for each eclipse.

The first eclipse, of the year? In February? Was February 15th. The night I found Kelly Rae Roberts’ art class and decided to quit drinking, and inadvertently launched into finding my way back to my spiritual journey path. I was blown away. I had felt the need to chronicle my thoughts in this blog, and as I look back, finding my religion back then, reopening the door to my spirituality that I had kept so carefully locked away for over 7 years…

I started to realize there is a reason I always wanted to go into medicine. I’ve always felt called to be in medicine. When people asked I would tell them I wanted to be a librarian, an author, and a doctor when I grew up. I love the idea of being a healer, and have built up my stockpile of herbs bought from a local organic store and a local wellness store to research and study. Growing them is another story (except basil and aloe…I’m convinced they can pretty much grow themselves).

I bought books on Tarot, numerology, astrology. I don’t have the patience for astrology, and I find I don’t like hearing what’s coming up—it leaves my mind feeling muddled and overwhelmed–but I love looking at my diaries and reconciling everything afterwards.

I love my Tarot cards, the High Priestess, the Empress. I did my Tarot spread, asking what was coming up for me in the next 3 months. The final card, outcome, was Death. How fitting. Not death in the physical sense, but death in the way that I am being emotionally, spiritually reborn. I’m no longer a slave to my addictions–for the most part. I still fall down at times, but the times in between stumbling are getting further and further apart–and as I get better at recognizing my triggers–my moments of weakness, and then learning how to work through them, the less of a hold my addictions have over me.

The universe led me to the most amazing art therapist who seems to understand me better than I do myself.

My go to book for insight is Women Who Run with the Wolves. It’s so deep I can only read a little bit at a time, but then when I digest it it’s exactly what my soul needed to hear, and I realize the answers are all within, if I can only quiet myself and be still for a moment.

I find amazing Facebook groups that resonate so deeply, and meet fellow women who I connect with on an inexplicable, primitive level. Rewilding for Women is amazing, and I adore the women who I Zoom with on Thursdays, one of which who sent me sand from across country for my abalone shell. I receive a friend request from another girl who is planning to move back to Montana and was also in the Rewilding for Women, and she suggests a book. Women Who Run with the Wolves. I can’t help but laugh as agree with her how great of a book that is. I suggest Paulo Coelho’s Brina and The Witch of Portobello. Both books left me breathless and feeling so inexplicably close to something that I can’t quite explain.

She suggests another book–Witch. Unleashed, Untamed, Unapologetic.

I read the Kindle sample, then order it. It strikes something so deep, and visceral. The same feelings I had when my mom told me my sister and her were going to Salem, MA next month for a tour, and invited me to go with. I found myself finding a dirt cheap airplane ticket, and talking with my husband about going. I can’t really explain it, but it’s as if I’m being drawn to go and I need to see this, hear this story for myself.

But what about the negative connotations? The judgment? Condemnation?

It can’t be any worse that the self-judgment, the self-condemnation, of living a life barely half lived, a life of half truths and feeling empty inside. With every fellow woman I meet who dares to stand tall and say she is not afraid to embrace being a female, and is not afraid to meet her deepest, darkest fears head on, I feel a little more empowered.

And when I read of what happened to millions of women years ago, and what continues to happen to women via shaming and guilt trips, and suddenly I feel a lot more empowered.

It’s only when I deny who I am that I am weak.

It might not always be easy, and society might not always understand. But I know the deep love I have for my earth, my fellow women, the children, the elderly, the broken, the hurting, and my fellow women, and if using my power to help them makes me a witch, then that is exactly what I am.

Our Suicide & Drug Epidemic

Depression and other mental illnesses are widespread in America. I could take time to link studies, but I’m not going to. My toddler will be up soon and Google is free. 🙂

I always felt things more deeply, it seemed, than my brothers. I find it interesting that I’ve always been more spiritual than they are, too. I self-medicated with alcohol, starting in 8th grade. I live in a state where alcohol consumption is prevalent, and until my mom moved out of state, I didn’t realize how out of the norm the drinking culture is in Montana.

So whenever I was uncomfortable, upset, or bored, it was easy to find peers and alcohol. As I got older, I found myself in situations that I felt ill-equipped to handle. (I wrote more about this in my previous post—Nice Girls Finish Last). As a result, I had more layers of things to work through. But drinking was easier. I tried weed, but I really didn’t like the way it made me feel. I was offered other drugs, but I think my guardian angels stepped in and I just never felt the need to try cocaine or any of the ‘hard’ drugs.

I’ve taken opioids for surgical pain, and honestly, they don’t really do anything for me. I’d rather take ibuprofen for pain, and I really hate being constipated. Looking back now, I’m grateful for this quirk my body has–that I don’t find that same high others do.

After I had Dillon, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and started on an antidepressant. I don’t really know if it helped, because I still self-medicated with wine. I do know it left me with horrible brain zaps–like someone is sticking an ice cold needle right to the center of my brain for a second, whenever I moved my head. Zap, zap. Zap, zap, zap. I looked it up and it was a symptom of withdrawal from my SSRI.

So if an SSRI was supposed to make me feel better, why did I still find it compulsory to self-medicate with alcohol? Maybe because it wasn’t an organic condition like diabetes or hypertension that could be treated with insulin or a blood pressure pill. Maybe because it’s not a physical condition so much as a spiritual condition.

Life isn’t fair, and you’re going to have painful experiences. It’s part of being human, and growing and learning. But instead of listening to my soul crying out for attention, I took the easy way out. Re-reading this, I examine this statement. It might seem like the easy way out at first, but really, isn’t this the hard way out in the end? I’m still left with everything I’m struggling with, yet now I have to deal with the hangover, my family’s frustration, and most of all, my new layer of self-disgust, my feelings of being weak and wondering why I can’t just get it together…

2018 has been eye-opening for me. It is hard to feel that restlessness, that deep discomfort even though all might be well in my life. I’m still trying to figure out what works for me. I found an art therapist whom I love and just seems to get me. I’m finding more and more amazing people in Great Falls who understand this concept of how important holistic medicine is and are so generous with their knowledge. I trust them, because of the way I feel inside as I listen to what they tell me and feel my parched soul soaking up everything they’re telling me, and because when I’m still and I listen to my intuition, I know this is what I need.

The opioid crisis? The suicide crisis? I truly believe it’s a crisis of the spirit, and if our modern medicine would look beyond just the physical body that we can scan with X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs and test with fancy blood work, if we could stop trying to Band-Aid with these slew of psychotropics with proven nasty side effects, we could be so much more effective at healing our walking wounded, and in return, heal our country, and our world.

#metoo

This video may be very triggersome. But it is so powerful and made me realize some deep, dark truths that I felt compelled to share.

As I watched this video, my first thoughts were of times I felt violated, of the stories I’ve listened to from tearful friend, and I wonder how these men could ever think this is okay to do this to another woman.

And then as I watch further, I realize I’m just as guilty.

I’m guilty of laughing at crude jokes that objectify women.

I’m guilty of judging another woman based on her outfit, a rumor.

I’m guilty of perpetuating rape culture.

I’m guilty of being silent, and in being silent, condoning this type of culture.

My #metoo hashtag isn’t my story of my experiences being objectified because I was born with an extra X chromosome.

My #metoo is because I’m guilty of not speaking up, not respecting my own sex. I’m guilty of perpetuating rape culture, a culture that says it’s okay to treat women disrespectfully.

I can’t change my past actions, but I can change my mindset right now, and make it my personal promise to gently hold myself and my peers to a higher standard so that we can change this culture to a better one.