To the Family That Still Suffers..

“If I’m helpless tell me now
Tell me now
And I’ll stop trying to figure it out”

~John Mayer~

Have you ever had a week that just ate you alive and spit you out? If you didn’t have to raise your hand, Congrats-its 2021-you have officially lived in a bubble. Life is filled with its ups and downs. We have to feel the glory to know the defeat and all that jazz.

My sleep tank is pretty empty, my journal has been furiously written into, footsteps beaten into, more serenity prayers to count and so much more. While I was stress cleaning the house today (that IS an entirely different topic for another rainy day!) I had so many thoughts cross my mind that I knew the universe was telling me to get it out there. You see at the end of my stressful week placated with a large drinking festival and overtime at work; I stand with my battle wounds at the end of the finish line still sober.

GRATEFUL to still be sober.

I had a serious overlap of recovery and relapse and the “addict that still suffers” happen before my very eyes. I also had a new sub sphere of recovery I hadn’t thought about before occur to me. The families that still suffer.

I came into a situation where in my line of work an individual had need due to a water damaged cell phone and more in the early am hours. As well as needing replenishing of gin and tonics prior to 8 am. He was asking staff to help him locate his brother (who is locally known in the area.) At first the length I went to was to tell others to “not judge” out of nothing but fierce loyalty to those I see still struggling. Then I mulled it over, this individual asked me for help, the internet is accessible, I know who he is asking for, I just had a nagging gut feeling I owed the brother a phone call.

So I trusted my gut. I called the brother and as politely as I could reintroduced myself and only revealed that his brother was here and his cell phone was damaged so was looking to try to connect with him. What I got on the other end of the phone was a grateful sigh followed by polite feedback on how to move forward. I was told the family was looking for this person and had combed the town hospitals and jails in desperation.

The empathy in my heart exploded and my mind swirled back to a different time. A time when I was sitting in the Bear River Health Treatment Center, and after a really intense group session I was overcome with remorse and called my Mom. I couldn’t believe that I had been so selfish when I chose alcohal over family and literally had my poor parents, Aunt Susie, and so many others worried sick for days that turned into weeks on what the ill fated outcome could be. As soon as she picked up the phone, I started to cry and told her how sorry I was for everything I had put her through and after what we had just been working on I had to call and tell her that.

I still rememeber her response.

“Its in the past, all I want is for you to move forward and be healthy and happy.”

I had forgotten until this past week the intense hell the addict that still uses or the alcoholic who still hasn’t surrendered yet put their family through. We call recovery and the recovery community a WE community. You have others to help you get through it for a reason. Its like having the largest, international extended family ever. The same is for addiction. Its not just a solo person it can take down. The entire family suffers.

So for me, from here on out, whenever I silently pray for the addict that still suffers, I will add on the family that still suffers. Weeks good and bad come and go. I’m forever grateful that my family can now sleep well knowing I am okay.

I hope and pray you can all do the same for yourself. As for me, I am going to work on better sleep habits, longer runs, and as always I am here if you need me.

“Good Enough for What?”

“And if I’m being honest
I’m not always as tough as I seem
And I can have my moments
Where words can get the best of me
And the ones that I say to myself
Are the ones that hit the hardest”

~If I’m Being Honest, Kaitlyn Bristowe~

What words do you hear in your head on repeat daily?

For so many of us; its version of negative self-talk. Something someone has said to us that stuck in a place of time of intense healing or need of character affirmations’ not assassinations’ and it just…well STUCK. The human nature tends to believe the very worst about ourselves during our very best days. Matthew Perry just admitted during the much famed FRIENDS reunion the amount of pressure he felt to always be “on” make others laugh, perform, and how paralyzing it was for him. The people that were around him daily had so much empathy for him. They had no idea. My heart hurt for him. I got it. Those isolating thoughts that lasso us into just “one more drink” in the early days of our addiction.

I’ve been there. I’ve always been the “not good enough” girl in my own mind. Its horrible, damning, isolating, leads to searching for something to numb and more. We snap at the things that people don’t understand. We seem like we have it all together. Its exhausting.

I share all of this because I’m in a place now where I’m sober, exploring my demons that lead me to drink in the first place, and able to reach out and listen to others. This past week alone with others has been eye opening, emotional, and so incredibly transparently reveling that others suffer from this too. People suffer in silence an perform at a perfect 10. Its heartbreaking. I get it and so have been there. They take on so many burdens, negative words, emotions and more and manifest it unto themselves.

I’m so done doing it.

I refuse to allow myself to be a part of anything that eats away at: myself, my self- esteem, my spirit, my recovery and my authentic self. I refuse to buy into the words I have been called this week meant to take me down: useless, lazy, selfish, self-centered, and more. I also refuse to watch anyone get taken down when they aren’t able to fight for themselves. Kicking someone when they are down is criminal and makes you weak. I have a bit of my Grandma (TT) Geraldine in me-don’t mess! I am who I am in this moment doing the best I can, and I am inclined to believe that the rest of the world is as well.

So for now, do what Ellen DeGenerges says, “Be Kind to One Another.” People are already playing tapes on repeat and suffering from things you know nothing about. For so many that I love; your kindness is what may help keep them sober and serene for that day. (seriously.) Words matter and so do you.

I love you all and am always a phone call away.

Love always, Kate.

“Get Feisty!”

What do you hide that scares you to not talk about?

I know for me for MANY days, weeks, months, and may be even years it was the broken pieces of my broken past littered with trauma, addiction, healing, and moving on.

In the beginning, I wanted to be the poster child for everything I had going on to heal from. It helped me feel connected to others. I was LOUD and PROUD. Then somewhere in the dark and twisty parts of my life story, I got quiet and retreated. (I call these the shame pockets Satan wants us to dwell in.) I have had some odd reminders lately that have pulled me out of these pockets.

I was able to talk about my life, my moments, my own path, my own healing, my own recovery, my own trauma to look someone in the eye and let them know they weren’t alone more than a few times in the past week. I explained to a physician while talking about a very dibilitating migraine issue that NO NARCOTICS and “sorry I get very fiesty about my recovery!”

I loved the response back, “Get fiesty! Its YOUR recovery and your life!” I was not expecting that response. I mumbled something back like, its not something I have ever had a problem with, but I just don’t trust my brain. I also got the response, “You shouldn’t, you have a disease we need to treat and nuture too.”

Nuture.

Wow.

“I said thank you so much for saying that” (then damn near cried when I had a moment alone…)

I am grateful for the checkered path of a very cumbersome week that pulled me out of my comfort zone. There are no coincidences in life or God’s plan (in my opinion.)

I am not sure where my pathway is for this moment, but I want to say this.

We are all human. We all have our own stuff. Some of our rock bottoms and trauma are so incredibly jagged and scary. That doesn’t mean you have to be alone or that another human being can’t connect with you. I care. So many people in this world care.

You are a worthy, blessed, incredibly human being.

And I am always a phone call or text away….even with a migraine.

Love Thy Neighbor

“All you need is love…” ~The Beatles~

Aren’t we supposed to say “hate the sin, not the sinner….?”

I’ve noticed a trend lately. There appears to be a whole new entity of “isms” and prejudice(s) present in our country. Its not about being red or blue, but one side of the aisle of the other but more. I have witnessed pure hatred between people who consider themselves decent, law abiding, some Christian, people towards people who voted differently than they did the last election. Hate towards a person simply because they voted differently than you.

I am talking hate, disgust, contempt towards one another. Severances of friendships. Lack of understanding. Just labeling of another person and assuming they are BAD or a supporter of (insert.) I know of families split, and friendships ripped apart. I could keep on going.

This is a new “ism” in my opinion. This is not loving thy neighbor. This is hating someone based on how they voted. Aren’t we a country united on the belief that this shouldn’t be happening at all anymore? Freedom of so many things, religion etc. If you were to gossip with your friend that you couldn’t stand so and so because they were practicing a religion different than you, a different ethnic make up you would be a bigot or racist. This is a slippery slope folks and not much different.

In order to grow and not be where we are at, we have to talk about the uncomfortable in the moment of reality. We have to stop seeing things from our own lenses, and own jaded media outlets (and they are all jaded and adding fuel to the fire…another topic…) No more finger pointing.

So lets all embrace one another. This past year has been ROUGH! I am sitting in a newly reopened public space wearing a mask. A year ago when this would not have been my norm seems so far away. So lets imagine where we all can be a year from now. Will you have learned from your friends? Had meangingful conversations? Opened your mind and heart up? Mended wounds? Disenganged from hurtful social media?

Where do you want to be a year from now? What is ACTULLY in your realm of control?

You actions of kindness, respect and more. I am so serious when I say this. You don’t have to agree with everything, everyone, and may be upset about the election or possibly still celebrating. Neither makes you a better or worse person. It makes you a person who made a choice.

So what choices will you make? Will you go shovel the walk for your elderly neighbor or not because their political signs tell you your have differing politics? Hold open the door for the person still wearing the whomever 2020 pin different from you at the grocery store? Will you put away the judgement and go back to looking at a person as a person.

We were commanded a long time ago to love thy neighbor. I could think of nothing more fitting for Valentine’s Day week.

Spread the love.

You might be surprised.

Connecting the Dots…


“Is it getting better, or do you feel the same?”

U2, One

Ever run into a somewhat complete stranger who gives you a jolt of nostalgia? I recently had a run in with someone who recognized me from my past career at Michigan State University. The person lives locally and while I was working at my current job, looked at me and said, ” wow, you have such a familiar face!” (Insert eye rolls I swear I have an evil doppelganger running around…I get this one a lot. Also, as a person in my recovery I don’t ALWAYS WANT to be recognized for my past moments ….) “Did you used to work for MSU?” was the follow up.

Gulp.

Sure did.

Serenity….

If I am being forthcoming and transparent, I have been struggling a bit lately. I sometimes wonder a lot of things. I have lived in Northern Michigan and now have called it home for about a year now. What’s my actual place here? (I think.) It has been a whole year, do I have the roots down I had anticipated? (Hmmmm…) Life I had dreamed of when I relocated up here? My mind things horrificially insecure thoughts sometimes. Do I belong here? REALLY belong? Would I be missed if I left? Who am I today versus a year ago? I hate the insecure thoughts.

The thing of it is I moved to a new area during a pandemic, started new employment, a new relationship, new lots of things, but did I really feed my soul with connections I crave and needed? NEED? I tune into my former church from downstate and sometimes cry thinking about attending with my gals from Wings of God. Those times were so precious and fleeting to me. Why didn’t I honor them more. We never really seem to know when the “good ‘ole days” are right in front of us and instead always yearn for more.

I am so guilty of this.

I have also forgotten about all of the positive parts of my past so many times. I think what I tell myself is that I’m a terrible person for becoming an alcoholic. I don’t deserve nice things of a fragment of what I used to have. This blocks out any joy from reflecting back. All it really feeds me is bitter tasting medicine and sadness.

I forget I have knowledge, happy memories and more. I forget the happy memories such as spreading joy on the RHS Celebration Team, gaining confidence and friendships with Toastmasters, happy tears as I watched my students graduate, the LITERAL blood, sweat and tears I put into my eight years at the State Room.

I forgot and forget I matter. My connections matter to where I have been and where I am going to go. Brene Brown talks about all the dots in our life connect us to where we need to be. This resonates with me. Dr. Brown nails it. Sometimes we don’t love the dot we are on nor possibly see the link from the past.

If I am being totally forthcoming and honest; the sting and aftertaste of my former life can surprise me at times. Its a palette I had perfected that now lingers in my throat acidic and raw.

It hurts.

Feeling disconnected and isolacted can hurt. Craving things you used to come by so naturally hurts. Things like : female church fellowship, coffee dates with friends, community, committee work and more. Some of it is COID-19 to blame, some of it is my own undoing.
We are WIRED for connection for fucks sake (yes I swear.) So why feel guilty for craving it???

Surely I cannot be alone here.

Does anyone else ever glance back and smile/cringe at the same time?

“Shame is the Gremlin…”

“Shame drives two big tapes: 1) Never good enough…and if you can talk it out of that one…. 2) Who do you think you are?”

Dr. Brene Brown, Shame Ted Talk

I overslept this morning. Overslept to not be late for anything but my prearranged plans of my own deemed perfection. You get up and do 1000 things before work and BOOM you are queen of the world, your day, your recovery you name it. Also, might I add, that when I say I overslept I woke up around 8:15 am to tell a friend I wasn’t going to be able to make a work out class. I didn’t lay around all morning, I wasn’t being a slob kabob. I just literally rested longer than I intended to.

So now what?

So now my stinkin thinkin sets in and I have deemed that any linear plans for what is supposed to happen in my world today are ruined. I failed, surrender the white flag, “you suck, KATE!” your day, weekend, image, and more are off track from here on out. I hate when my mental state is like that. I hate that my thinking goes back to the mind of a fall down drunk who can do nothing right. I challenged myself to reset my mind with the help of a loved partner, a few devotions, calling my sponsor, praying, and finding a way to make it to my nail appointment.

This is where I made a decision to try to reset my day. To follow what my program teaches me that I can have bad moments, and they do not have to turn into bad days. I plugged my headphones in while I was in the nail salon, and tuned into a Brene Brown Shame Ted Talk. (And yes, I apologized to the staff for listening to my own self care instead of conversing ….whole other topic for another day…really…)

As she always does, Brene smacked me right in the face. I’m operating on my biggest trigger that “I am not good enough and nothing I do can be.” I hate being in this place. It makes me defense, hypervigilant, constantly overthinking about what I should be doing, what conversation should I have had. There is no self forgiveness nor turning it over to God or those who care to help me in these moments. Its full on recoil and mind assault.

Shame is a bitch. She calls us the worst names. She is self inflicted, and if you believe in any type of Higher Power as I do today, she does not need to dominate any of your thoughts. Tell that Gremlin to take a hike and do something that resets your body, mind, and soul. I grabbed my Sadie bug for a quick walk taking in the beauty of Fall, nature, God’s creation, a happy doggie smile, and the faith that God is with me and urging me to the best version of myself.

Not today Satan.

I still remember…

Yes, I’ve been a bad guy
Been higher than the blue sky
And the truth is I don’t wanna die an ordinary man
I’ve made momma cry
Don’t know why I’m still alive
Yes, the truth is I don’t wanna die an ordinary man

“Ozzy Osbourne, Ordinary Man”

So as many of you know I strive to keep it real. And real I will keep it. I have been struggling lately. Waking up to the crisp smell of Fall used to be one of my favorite things in the world. My Dad has Golden Delicious apples planted outside near their home on the 40 acres of land I grew up and call home. To walk outside with a cup of coffee and breathe in was like taking in the beauty of nature, God’s creation, and the scents Yankee candles strive to capture. That smell and the beauty of Fall foliage decorate with Halloween decorations was always one of my favorite things on Earth. My Dad did the best job with Halloween and all things Fall and football. Nostalgia and all just bring me joy.

So I have to sadly state that the very same favorite things that used to bring me comfort are LITERALLY causing me pain. October 21, 2015 took something from me. I had to fight for my life at the hands of assailant. An assailant who took it upon himself to assault and beat me to the point that I probably wasn’t meant to survive. I spent two years in a booze captured anger with anyone that crossed my path. I hated myself for surviving. I refused to look in the mirror hard (my left side of my face was scarred and beat up pretty bad at first.) I was just angry.

I then had a blessing cross my path. I allowed myself to open up my heart and my mind to EMDR therapy in Fall of 2018. My mind and body awoke. I remembered details from that day and evening buried deep in my subconscious. My insomnia was lifted. My anger towards God instantly was released. I thought all was well and I could move on.

The thing is my brain and body remember. Every time I take a whiff of my favorite Fall day I get triggered. I have been waking up daily with pain in my left side of my neck that is unbearable. It triggers migraines, it kills…my chiropractor is at a loss for my regression physically but I know why. Its mental.

And I have to go through it to heal myself and move forward.

I share so openly because I know other women are hurting. I know people resort to my best mechanism of looking “pretty and polished on the outside” and hiding what is literally killing you inside. I hate every part of this process. I always have wanted to be a put together person with nothing messy inside. I can’t run, hide, or drown this out with alcohol. I know I have to feel every part of this and move forward. There is a very important book published called “The Body Keeps Score” Its all about neuroscience and how our body physically remembers things.

It makes so much sense to me.

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (p.97)”

I have no idea what God wants me to do with my physical pain….but I have to remember I am alive. I am healthy. I am well. I cry now at the drop of a hat because I am feelings things. I will get through this and I will be okay.

I had a conversation with someone lately about judgements and condemning people to hell. I stated back its not my place and I am here on this Earth to love people….not judge them. (thank you Karina from Wings of God for teaching me that….) I think may be I need to stop judging myself and just embrace it all. My body, mind , and soul remembers. I will never forget. I will never be the same.

I am still the same bright eyed child my Dad took Trick or Treating in the country. I am still the same person that loves and cares about every single person I meet. My body is challenging me….but I am still me. I am a survivor and a fighter. I love God, Ryan, my family, yes my Sadie Bug and so much more. I am triggered but I will get through it.

You will too.

Healing and grief are never linear. We are all born with God sized holes in us. Turn it over to whatever you believe in. I do it daily and I know that someday I will have peace when I smell October and everything Fall. I have tears falling down my face as I write this but that’s okay. I am feeling things. You can’t numb it all out…(thank you Brene Brown.)

I love you all and I KNOW we will all be okay….

Unpolished You

“What am I doing wrong? I don’t know

Now what’s the matter with me?

Am I right? Am I wrong?

I must try to be strong.”

I Don’t Know, Paul McCartney (Egypt Station)

Who were you before the world got its hands on you?

If that question doesn’t make you stop and gasp for air for a second I don’t know what will. I recently saw a longer quote (see image tied above) by Emily McDowell that is in reference to finding yourself buried under the layers of conditioning put upon ourselves to achieve perfection and mold us to who we think we should be. Blame society, peers, employment norms, social norms, images we get shoved down our throat 24/7 of how beautiful, thin and happy we should be and blah, blah, blah.

I can relate to this statement wholeheartedly…..and…well…it hurts.

Part of my living and breathing program in recovery is to be open, honest, vulnerable, and to own my shit good and bad. To own my resentments. I resent myself for building an identity that I had to be perfect. I blame no one for it either, but saying it out loud and acknowledging it takes the power away from it. I don’t know where I got this on going idea that life was never “good enough” if I wasn’t dressed perfectly, always appeared happy, and always working hard at something. No room for feelings or humanness. Perfect opportunities to backslide into a glass turned into boxes of wine countless times to fill the void of never feeling good enough at anything. Excuses compounded with justification with behavior I am not proud of. Lash out, recoil, and cry it out alone. Apologize, slap on another mask to appear normal. Push start and repeat the cycle.

Who was I really before the world got its hands on me?

I remember being a curious, hyper-aware, and sensitive little girl. I also remember being told many things that stifled away that energy and made me feel bad at a young age. I remember hearing in school (kindergarten) that “big girls don’t whine or cry.” This had to have manifested in me somehow. I really remember taking this one to heart. To the point that I had a vivid memory at the age of 6 years old of walking into my parents room behind my 4 year old sister one morning to my Father telling me that my Grandma Weber had died. My sister started bawling and reached out for comfort. I stood there in a daze, stoic. I remember the words in my mind “big girls don’t cry” and pinching my arm hard to make sure I didn’t. I held it in until I was alone later. So my very first experience with grief was stifled, suppressed. It hurts my heart to go back and admit that.

I’ve carried that through most of my life. The ability to suppress things. I am either strong, stoic and capable (“perfect”) or I completely come unglued and ugly girl cry or yell. There was never an in between. A perfect recovery soldier, model citizen, or a spiraled out of control drunk. Put together perfection or a complete mess.

Its exhausting. I don’t know how to sit still and just be very well at all. Yesterday I had to spend some downtime resting due to an allergy flare up and I hated it. I felt lazy all day. I snapped at loved ones, was on edge, and even made myself go for a walk. Its all about achieving things on a to do list for me when I’m not feeling myself at times. Achievement based living isn’t the way to be. My body needed rest and I listened to it? Who am I trying to impress anyways?

Part of why I share all of this is I know I am not the only person that feels this way. We live in this societal world where perfection and overworking is awarded and taking time to care for ourselves often isn’t. (Listen or read some Brene Brown for further reference.) I see it everyday and I am very guilty of it myself. Checking off certain boxes doesn’t heal you, it covers up what hurt you in the first place.

So how is there relief once you recognize this?

I believe we are all born with a God sized hole and with God as my higher power I need to learn to turn it over to him more instead of grasping for more control. I was told today to “turn my pain into purpose” during an online counseling session. Its okay to feel things as a person and be as human as you need to be. I love people like that. The ones that keep it real. Its okay to nap, rest, cry, laugh, go without make up, eat ice cream, and enjoy life. Its okay to not be at a perfect 10 all the time. The perfectionist in me wants to scrap this blog and put it in my skelton closet of drafts. Why? Because it may not be as pretty and polished for the world as it should be.

Bury the shoulds, bury them 60 feet deep instead of 6. Listen to your favorite music, connect with someone you love, get outdoors, write out some feelings and do something that makes you feel like an unpolished version of yourself today. I can promise you, that you are worth it and it will help you along the way.

The real, unfiltered, make up free, post work out me with my hair in braids. Zero masks. Gratitude to my partner Ryan, who makes me feel beautiful each and every day just the way I am.

Repent and Give Grace

"Maybe it's time to let the old ways die...

It takes a lot to change a man

Hell, it takes a lot to change."
Bradley Cooper, Maybe Its Time (A Star is Born)

glennondoyle

How long should one be punished for something they did?

When we are children and teenagers our parents are the people we look towards as authority to structure around us what “appropriate” punishment looks like. Authority is a supreme ruler. It leads us to believe that we can be condemned or be “bad” due to behavior. Labels and condemnations are scary, harsh and can often provoke shame. Shame keeps us sick. It prevents us from healing. It fosters resentments, bitterness, negativity, hurt, codependency, perfectionist, and addictive behavior. I personally believe the worst form of this is self condemnation or when I label myself as something and think I deserve to sit there and sit in its misery.

The thing is though that both Biblical ways and in my recovery world I have been taught that God grants us grace! “But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” A footnote I found for this scripture was the following,  “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” This deeply resonates with me. My secrets of shame kept me sick for a long time. They kept me silent, helped me put on a mask of perfectionist hell and appear to the outside world that all was well. Reality was; I was desperate to drown myself in a vast pool of Chardonnay. Fuzzy, out of touch with reality, floating away from existence. This pushed me further from God (my Higher power if you didn’t catch that yet…), my true loving relationships with people, life, being present in the moment, and enjoying the blessings of today.

 There is no grace or forgiveness in drowning yourself in anything. Its suffocating and everything that happens in darkness truly does come to light. Grace starts with self forgiveness and letting go of self-condemnation. We are all imperfect sinners (Romans 3:23) and have to slowly start to realize we can slowly forgive ourselves, start showing up  daily, and doing the best that we can. There is no perfection in life. There is effort, loss, love, happiness, sorrow, and so much more. Count backwards from 10 with a deep breath and forget about what it is you are beating yourself up about. You are right where you are supposed to be in this very moment. Growing, hurting, learning, loving and being the best person you can be. What you would want for anyone else.

Grace is defined by courteous goodwill or simple elegance when you look up the definition. Start looking at yourself with goodwill and put away whatever self imposed shackles you put on yourself. I am not the person sitting her today that I was when I was deep in a spiral of shame and alcohol. Believing I was, kept me from moving forward and steered me towards the next relapse. Sorry, but not today Satan! In order to self forgive, I do believe you must repent. Repent means you ask for forgiveness and don’t repeat the same behavior again or change it. So do this for yourself today. If you are mad at yourself for something, or find yourself negative self talking to yourself in some way, stop. Ask for guidance from your higher power and change these patterns. It won’t be easy, but guess what nothing worth having in life IS easy! 

I no longer get out of bed every day wishing for an easy day. Doing hard things, repenting, reflecting, forgiving, and granting grace move me forward to a better place. As my favorite author Glennon Doyle says, “we can do hard things.” Do the hard things and grant yourself some grace today.

Embracing the Swirls of Pink and Gray

What would you respond if I asked you point blank, in front of an audience of hundreds what your spiritual awakening in life was? Oh, and completely caught off guard and with coffee spilled across your previously favorited shirt. On the spot…on your marks…get set…and GO! Answer on the spot what your most vulnerable, private, and spiritual moment was with your most down to Earth authenticity.

If you are like me your mind goes to a place of panic and a million different excuses to get myself out of doing anything that intimate or deep in public. I, however, was asked to speak on what I felt about spirituality and my own spiritual awakening recently. I happily agreed to be a part of this day conference with the thought that I was going to be on a panel of judges evaluating speakers talking about spirituality. THIS is why you ask questions before you agree to volunteer for things. (I could be a smart ass and spell out why the word assume applies here…)

So I showed up. Dressed the best I thought a person presenting in a classroom should in a dress I felt comfortable in yet put together. I took time to do my hair and make up with a tad bit more care than I spend every rushing every morning for 10 minutes. I even bought those fake eyelashes everyone is wearing these days and took my time to apply them to look as Hollywood glam for a Saturday in Kalamazoo as I could. (The real story here is that the left one kept kinda coming undone like a bat winking at the world and this was NOT the look I really pulled off that day.) I swallowed a small army of vitamins and antibiotics to keep my disgustingly deep cough and bronchitis at bay so I could speak clearly.

I showed up and there was a large room filled with strangers and some familiar faces with a large stage and a microphone. This was when I realized with a sinking feeling that I was going to be up there speaking in front of all these people within the hour.

Shit!

I would’ve felt more comfortable with being there in my underwear with acne medicine spotted all over my face at that moment. So I plastered a smile that doesn’t move at all to appear as normal and okay with this realization and scanned the room. I spotted the breakfast goody table. This prompted me to immediately ditch my protein smoothie and cruise right over to a Diet Coke and a sprinkled donut. ( Because carbonation mixexd with sugar and carbs cures all, right? )After eating the frosting off one very amazing donut and swigging down half a can of Diet Coke I was able to take a deep breath.  I could have pulled aside the guest who asked me to speak and said my cough was too aggressive to speak on stage or I could face the reality that I was imperfectly here and do my very best. After all, I was here to talk about the very fact that my upbringing and beliefs of the world being so rigidly black and white were my blockade against any spiritual connection for years. I was here to tell my story and my understanding of spirituality. I took a deep breath and pushed aside the urge to inhale the top of another doughnut for false sugar superpowers.

My story.

My truth.

MY spiritual awakening.

So I put my big girl panties on.

Imagine a person that didn’t even believe in a spiritual awakening being asked on the spot to do this exact thing. If I didn’t have my cue cards and sugar induced new found courage, would I spiral into a shame circle and clamor into sweat? Mind blank? For many others the very word spirituality would trigger a memory of Sunday school or Catechism class.  Anxiety and humor could make the mind trickle to pockets of smartass humor of mockery of spirituality to images of SNL church lady portrayed by Dana Carvery. The Hanukah song sung by Adam Sandler as well as reflections of Tammy Faye Baker are not my premise here.

In order to tell my view, I need to go back to my own personal dimensions of how I viewed the world pre-full blown alcoholism. Light years before I had a clue as to who I could be in recovery. Before I had an inkling of who the hell I even was.

******NEWSFLASH****

I STILL DON’T SO BEAR WITH ME!

Nearly all of my thinking in life has been in shades of black and white. Most of my worst thinking was done in the context of severe black and white when I was still very sick. (Just ask those who have known me for a hot second.) For me it was stringent and clear cut. It was either the beginning or the end. Chicken or the egg. You turn left or right at the crossroad. Ying to Yang. The start or the end of something. No in-betweens. I have concluded that part of this stems from my solid Catholic upbringing. This way of living and being was that you were either good or bad. Period.

This is why I was such a flaming hot mess when I first approached sobriety and recovery. I fell flat on myself so many times. You either are good and accomplish recovery or you are bad and fail. There was no in-between, just categories. You get better or your don’t. This is the same lens I viewed healing from trauma and couldn’t figure out for the life of me WHY I couldn’t get it. I was doing everything I was supposed to. It took every single painful relapse and failure to realize that just as healing cannot be linear, neither can recovery.

The very lens of black and white I self-imposed on my life was what I viewed my own spirituality and religion. Two separate ways to identify myself to seek God, my Higher Power, a connection and more then that a purpose. So this is the scary part with the truth of my story comes out and I must share. I always have known how to fit into the “good category” of life. I knew how to earn merits of accomplishments from the start of elementary school when marks determine your worth of good or bad. A’s are good and less than that is not. I know how to push myself while running a race to the point of excelling past the person I seek to beat. I know how to work obscene amounts of hours, put on a brave face, and have everything appear to be in “perfection” or in the good category.

Then I suffered horrible trauma. My life was forever uprooted. Everything I had worked so hard to project that I was good and had a purpose in this world was shattered. I didn’t know how to cope so I allowed myself to be pulled into the time out category of life. I drank to numb and not feel. When I was numb I didn’t care that was no longer good. I felt worthless, ashamed, and completely alone. Yet the progression of my disease proved that I couldn’t even be a “good alcoholic” and hide it anymore. There was never enough in the bottom of a chardonnay bottle and I never felt numb enough. I was a fallen angel or disgrace.

So I tried, in vain, to get into recovery for two years. I went into inpatient treatment 5 different times within these two years (over three months of  my life when you put them together) and tried so desperately to be “good again.” Yet I kept falling. My first rehab everyone thought I was a staff member there to spy on others. I took notes until my hands nearly fell off in group sessions. I read, I reviewed my notes. I treated it like a class that I wanted to be the shining star in and judged pretty much every other person there. I was just a wine drinker who took it too far after all….I was not like these other people with the real problems.  I was going to apply these principles to practice and life would be great. I would excel and never need to numb again!!!

Its hard for me to laugh and cringe with pain while reflecting upon how I felt. I would come out humbled a bit more each time and try again. I wanted to scream. WHY wasn’t I excelling at this? I knew how to do it so many areas! For me recovery was either success or failure. Relapse was failure. I was really, really good at the relapse part.

By the time I was in my fifth rehab stint I was so incredibly sick of myself and my own bull shit. I came into an entire way and self told myself that I really did not have all the answers to master this recovery thing. I took a step back and didn’t introduce myself with a laundry list of accomplishments, just as Kate. Kate, another person seeking to find help and recover from so many things in my life. Alcohol drinking really is just a physical and ugly symptom of my disease. I surrendered and allowed myself to be receptive to forms of help I was never open to before. Here, I was offered EMDR therapy to help unlock the horror of my own personal attack and trauma. The spiritual awakening from that session will forever change my life.

EMDR can be really scary and amazing all at the same time. (google it if you are unfamiliar.) What it did for me was unlock something that allowed me to let go of the biggest resentment in my life. My anger with God, my higher power, for allowing these things to happen to me. After what I will call my awakening, my body literally went in to heal mode. I slept for the soundest two hours I ever have in the past three years. I needed to.

After I woke up, I was exhilarated, I was going to take control of this awakening and grow from it. It just had to mean so much more. I spread out my notebooks, notecards, and recovery materials all over my queen sized bed trying to make sense of all of this.  I (thankfully) caught myself. I was doing exactly what kept setting myself up for failure. I was trying to control and make even my own spirituality black and white by solving it. The truth to this was there was no black and white here, and if I did that I was going to miss out on all the beautiful messes of grey and pink swirled in the middle of it.

I now am such a huge fan of the grey and pink swirly mess in the middle. Its so much easier to be there.

So I breathed and prayed to God to allow him to trust me through this process. I prayed that I would be able to feel the different layers from hot pink to soft and fluffy grey speckled white. I scooped up my materials of learning and allowed my personal journal to be my compass. I went with my gut to surprise everyone, myself included, and submit myself back to Wings of God for needed continue healing. I admitted I was broken, and finally allowed the early process of recovery to unfold. The beautiful up and down process of recovery that has allowed me nearly 200 days of continued sobriety to date.

Before I went on to stage and spoke of my process in this journey of recovery, I looked for inspiration from my own personal sheros. Women in likeminded recovery really get each other. My friend Robin calls us “sober goddesses” and I adore that. I reread what Dr. Brene Brown tells us about spirituality. “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power great than all of us and that our connection to that power and to one another is ground in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.

Dr. Brown brought us this definition to publication in the Gifts of Imperfection. “For some people, that power great than us is God, for others, its fishing. Some are reminded of our inextricable connection by faith; others by expressions of shared humanity. Some find that religion is the best expression of the inextricable human connection that is guided by love and compassion. Other believe no entity has done more to corrode that connection than organized religion.”

I work on just showing up daily personally. Knowing that I am enough, reminding myself really, and working on my own definition of spiritual fitness with layers upon layers of grey and pink. Another personal shero of mine, Glennon Doyle, states that her main spiritual practice is self forgiveness. I love this. I have learned to forgive myself daily for not understanding or know how to be “good” or perfect in recovery. I cry in the grey areas and laugh in the delight of pink goodness brought to me and do the best I can. I got up and faced my fear in the love, compassion, and warmth of an audience of recovery. Messy layers with spilled coffee, messed up fake eyelashes, and probably a few doughnut crumbs.

 

 

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Ran into a friend post speaking and that’s me on the right, bronchitis, exhausted and all!

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