Addiction

REMAINS OF THE DAY

As an actor, I had to pretend, imitate, hide, steal, keep secrets, and even transcend. I created believable characters and delivered Oscar-worthy performances.

Ooops, wait a minute . . . did I say, “Actor”?

I meant, “Addict”.

“As an ADDICT I’ve learned to pretend, imitate, hide . . . “.

Although, after 40 years of addiction I’ve become quite the actor. I was so good that when I stopped acting, there was no one left. There was no one remaining. I’d lost the central character . . . me.

It’s said that addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can begin recovery. Trouble is, I didn’t recognize rock bottom even when I slammed into it.

I thought it would BE like in the movies; when the alcoholic wakes up face down in a ditch, with no memory of how she got there.

I never embraced a ditch, but I did pass out face-down in a bowl of Fruit Loops once.

And I thought it would LOOK like in the movies; like the crack addict with sores and discolored teeth who eventually blows up her house while brewing chemicals.

Although I never had sores or blew up the house; I did lose a lot of teeth, and I did set the sofa on fire by falling asleep with a cigarette in my hand.

The tragedy is that I never saw the similarities between them and me.

As a result, I co-failed in marriage, spent a lifetime in a foggy buzz, and lost most of my memories. I was constantly using drugs, pursuing them, or desperately trying to hide my addiction to them.

My addiction was accessible, convenient, socially acceptable, and kind of legal. And it only required two things: my willingness and a reliable drug dealer.

And I had both.

I was lost and floundering, and he was greedy and available. So together we entered into a relationship in which neither of us acted or looked the part.

We never spoke in drug code on the phone, or met in a dark alley in the hood, or in the bowels of inner Detroit. And my dealer wasn’t paranoid, dressed in Goth black, or covered in tats and piercings; and his pants did NOT hang below his butt.

Nope. He was confident and clean-cut.

And he wore white.

My dealer was my doctor.

And my addiction was to prescription drugs.

*

I took my first pain pill when I was fifteen years old and suffering with a migraine.

Three things happened:

  • I felt the buzz of codeine.
  • My addiction switch was flipped on.
  • I lied about feeling relief because I already wanted more.

It was that quick and easy.

Over the next 40 years, I lived on a daily cocktail of medications prescribed for pain, muscle tension, anxiety, sleep, depression, and seizures.

And because of the migraines, finding a dealer doctor was easy.

As with all professions, there are good doctors and bad ones. The good ones won’t prescribe pain meds if they aren’t truly warranted. They will work with you to reduce pain and eliminate or control the cause of it.

And the bad ones won’t. They won’t take the time. But they will take a quick moment to write a script and take your money.

I don’t blame my doctor for my addiction, but I will say:

“I couldn’t have done it without him”.

Now, four years later, I take full responsibility for my health, behavior, and life. I volunteer my history of addiction to my doctors because once I do, there is no turning back. And every time I own it, I’m a little proud; because I’m reclaiming myself.

I don’t oppose mainstream medicine or the legitimate use of prescription drugs. Pharmaceuticals save lives, manage diseases and disorders, and relieve pain. If I could tolerate an effective bipolar medication, I would take it in a minute. And if I was having surgery, I would take pain medication during my recovery.

But my pills ceased to be for pain and morphed into a crutch and a habit.

There was always a reason to take one; if I was insecure, upset, depressed, or even just bored. And I was not discriminating about what I ingested. I quickly discarded the inconvenience of discrimination, along with my dignity, judgment, and self-confidence.

As long as I felt . . . better. Or numb.

I didn’t know about bipolar disorder and self-medicating, or about masking and delaying grief, and I didn’t know about addictive personalities or that it can be genetic and run in families.

I couldn’t be an addict . . . because my drugs were prescribed.

“These are needed”, they said.

And I was hurting and without tools to cope with the pain of life or death . . . so I pretended to believe them.

And I took a pill.

And another.

And another.

EVERY SINGLE DAY, for years.

I don’t know what spurred me, but I slowly weaned myself from one medication at a time until, eventually, I stopped taking all ten medications (Do this under the supervision of your doctor!).

Today, I still take pills. The ones I need; for thyroid and migraine (a migraine med, NOT a pain med), and Xanax for sleep or extreme anxiety.

I’ve been clean now for four years.

Boy, what a different world.

It’s all brand new. And I’m doing everything for the first time.

Now, without any fog to act as a buffer, I’m living in a world FULL of people with issues. It’s difficult, as I’m still finding and developing tools for coping and interacting with them.

Sometimes, I miss the warm fuzzy fogginess of codeine. Things seemed easier. Nothing really touched me. When I felt things, it was dreamlike.

But I’m awake now.

And that means I’m seeing all of life’s beauty for the first time. But I’m also feeling my bipolar disorder; acutely. And my grief. And now, living an inactive, disabled life has become much less tolerable. It was easier when I didn’t care.

But getting clean makes you care. It also makes you restless and uncertain of your next step.

Yes, I’m awake now. And I have a small window of opportunity to try to live an entire lifetime . . . again, the right way.

Why am I sharing all of this?

Because America is suffering from an epidemic of addiction.

Prescription drug addiction is the #1 addiction in the USA today   (NOT marijuana, alcohol, or heroin). There’s an estimated 20,000 prescription drug-related deaths annually.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

  • START AT HOME by setting an example. Watch your child’s behavior. Be diligent. Keep all medications inaccessible or you will become your child’s drug source should they become curious or depressed.
  • BUCK UP. Feel life. It’s okay to be sad or experience pain sometimes. When physical or mental pain persists or interferes with your quality of life, THEN it’s time to visit your doctor.
  • STOP SHARING your pills. Your friends may become addicted or have a bad reaction. You might be well-intentioned, but that’s not the way to help.
  • BE WILLING TO DO THE WORK OF LIVING healthier. Whether that entails diet, exercise, quitting smoking, stress management, or physical/psychiatric therapy. Seek natural and alternative therapies.
  • DON’T SELF-DIAGNOSE. You’re not a doctor and your friends aren’t either. And however educated, they don’t know your medical history; online information is ambiguous at best, and every patient is different. Consult a doctor.
  • OVER-PRESCRIBING DOCTORS WILL QUICKLY OFFER YOU PAIN MEDS. It doesn’t mean you have to take them. You can “just say no”. If pain meds are needed, remember that they’re not a long-term solution.
  • RECOGNIZE your addictive personality or family history.
  • BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LIFE. Dr. Random doesn’t care if you live zoned-out and in a stupor. Protect and contribute to your quality of life.

This is 2014 and there’s a new addiction in our country.

It’s lured us with its legality and promises of a quick fix for whatever ails us. With the pop of a pill, we don’t have to feel even remotely uncomfortable ever.

But is that what we want?

And is that the legacy we leave our children?

I spent 40 years spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I wasted a lifetime.

Don’t you.

Rewrite the script to your life story. If you don’t know how, find someone who does and ask for help. There are plenty of us around.

I was nearly 50 years old when I stopped hiding from the pain of life and took my first baby step towards change. And then I took another. And another. I shed the dealer. And the addict. And I stopped playing the victim.

And when the fog cleared, I looked around. I thought that there was no one left. But I was wrong.

I’m directing my own movie now. And at the end of the day, there IS someone left.

Me.

I remain.

And that’s a start.

Categories: Addiction, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , | 45 Comments

ABOUT ME & MY JOURNEY

In this blog I bear my soul. I’ve suffered some rather traumatic family losses in my lifetime and have overcome some rough stuff: the loss of my only child; an infant son, a 40-year dysfunctional, (but comfortable), relationship with grief, suicide and drug addiction in the family, and everything from quitting a 35 yr smoking habit, to overcoming prescription drug addiction, to my challenges with bipolar disorder. smiling glasses allieGOOD

Now, at the age of 54, I’m facing a whole new world through clear eyes! Everything is fresh and exciting, and challenging and scary . . . and I’m embracing it all!

In this blog, I share (purge) my past experiences, however painful, raw, or revealing. And I share new adventures . . . both emotionally and physically out in the world. I take you into the world of bipolar disorder . . . or maybe to the local cancer center to meet cancer patients who heal through their art, or to an art gallery exhibition, to the local park to snap pics, or maybe downtown to our wonderful City of Detroit!

I’m on the cusp . . . of change.

I believe in celebrating the people and places around me. I will seldom vent, rant, or approach something in a negative way. If I don’t enjoy an art show, or a new business, or a new artist, I simply won’t blog about it. Anything else is just too easy. I look for the good, the funny, the kind, the loving, and the inspirational things; and they are EVERYWHERE! I hope to make you laugh, or cry, or maybe even think about things a bit differently.

So, please, join me on this beautiful, incredible, painful, and amazing journey called life. And please, share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment on my blog! Also, to “Follow” me on my journey, just enter your email address in the “Follow” box and you will be notified by email each time I post a new blog entry.

Thanks for visiting! Be safe. Be careful. And please . . . remember to be kind. xoxoJulia

*Blog content & photographs © 2013 by Julia Kovach, unless otherwise noted.

Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

PLEASE, MISTER, CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE?

PLEASE, MISTER, CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE?.

Categories: Addiction, Family, God/Spiritual, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Love, Mental Health, Suicide | Leave a comment

BEING BIPOLAR

I’m bipolar.

But, don’t worry. You can’t catch it.

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder (also called Manic Depressive Disorder), that causes my moods to swing between really high and really low, to a degree that interferes with my daily functioning and quality of life.

You might be thinking, “But everyone has their ups and downs.” For you, a high mood might entail a lot of laughter at a party, island hopping while on a vacation,  or even the rush of winning at the slot machines.

My high is manic. It is actually like being high and can feel quite wonderful. Euphoric even. It includes the aforementioned ups, but it goes way beyond that to obsessive-compulsive behaviors – like racing thoughts, the inability to stop thinking or to control the images in my mind, and irresponsibly impulsive spending, promiscuity, rapid rambling speech, little to no sleep, and illusions of grandeur.

Having bipolar disorder feels kind of like surfing. When I’m in a manic state it is fast, wild, and an adrenaline rush. But not something that can be sustained or controlled.


What you consider to be a down or depressed period might entail feeling disinterested, moody, quiet, annoyed, or sad and teary.

But my depression lasts from several weeks to several months and involves isolation, self-neglect, and suicidal thoughts. As low as I have ever been, I have gone lower. I’ve learned that suicidal people don’t want to die; we just want our pain to stop. We just run out of steam . . . and hope.

The crash of depression.

The most difficult thing about being bipolar?

The loneliness. My racing, tormented mind. Being dismissed. Not having someone in my life that is brave or patient enough to love me.

Bipolars require medication. Usually an anti-depressant coupled with a mood stabilizer. But other drugs work too. And the right one can change your life. I’ve had some bad reactions and side effects and have been unmedicated for quite some time. So my time between the surfing and the crashing consists of a constant struggle just to function and “stay even”. It means endless and exhausting paddling.

This disorder often manifests in destructive or violent behavior. The social stigma of bipolar violence stems primarily from the behaviors of those untreated and unmedicated. Just as with any disease, there are degrees of affliction and degrees of management.

Between my mania and depression lives an aggravated state that I call, “EXTREMELY ANNOYED”. I wrestle with it everyday. It can be brought on by many things; loud sounds, harsh smells, bright or flashing lights, pushy or bossy personalities, unexpected circumstances or disruptions, or even minor pain. Sometimes I just awaken annoyed with myself. Honestly.

When I’m triggered, it feels like an intense frustration that begins to build and build. If I do nothing, it will escalate, until it finally explodes into a loud exchange or outburst.

But I don’t do nothing.

I’ve learned that when my brain REACTS, I need to RECOGNIZE my prickly feelings, and RESPOND. I can’t control what people around me say or do. I can only control the way I respond to them. So I’ve learned a few tricks to navigating these bipolar waters; like breathing, visualization, distancing myself from someone, or if necessary, removing myself from an environment or situtation.

So, why haven’t I talked about my bipolar disorder before this?  

Because talking comes at a cost. I’ve been prejudged, discounted, and dismissed.

I’ve been embarrassed because of the social stigma and ridicule; like when I hear someone say, “She went bipolar on me.”

Admitting it, has cost me a date or two and a few friendships. People are scared by what they don’t understand.

And because people don’t understand what they can’t see and sometimes say stupid things; like I look so normal that I must be mistaken. I guess I don’t act crazy enough. Ha ha. And if they should get a glimpse? They run. Fast and far.

And why am I talking about it NOW?

Because in the U.S., six million people have it. And 1 out of every 5 bipolars will successfully commit suicide.

Because people who have it hide and suffer silently.

Because there is hope. Although there is no cure, the right medication and treatment can help us function better in our lives, and most importantly, prevent self-injury and suicide.

And because at this age, I just own who I am. It is what it is. But being bipolar isn’t who I am; it’s what I have. I am a fairly intelligent person who is not only funny, but also kind and compassionate. I’m a woman, writer, and a good friend, who happens to have bipolar disorder.

There are many celebrities and incredibly artistic people who have come out as bipolars.

“Creativity is closely associated with bipolar disorder. This condition is unique. Many famous historical figures and artists have had this. Yet they have led a full life and contributed so much to the society and world at large. See, you have a gift. People with bipolar disorder are very very sensitive. Much more than ordinary people. They are able to experience emotions in a very deep and intense way. It gives them a very different perspective of the world. It is not that they lose touch with reality. But the feelings of extreme intensity are manifested in creative things. They pour their emotions into either writing or whatever field they have chosen.” Preeti Shenoy, Life is What You Make It

 

This is the face of bipolar.

    ME SMILING

Me, Julia Kovach.

And here are a few of my famous friends who also suffer with bipolar disorder.*

*Information gathered from Google states that all of the above individuals were diagnosed, are self-confessing, or are believed to have suffered from bipolar disorder before it was medically recognized.  **All images from Google. Copyrights to their rightful owners.

Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Inspiration/Motivation, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , | 91 Comments

OUT OF THE DARKNESS

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I attend a community walk called, “Out of the Darkness”, at Lake Erie Metro Park in Brownstown, Michigan.

“Proceeds from this event benefit the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to those suffering with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.”


SUICIDE CLAIMS MORE THAN 38,000 LIVES A YEAR. Did you know that? Think about that number for a minute . . . 38,000 lives every year.

Every 14.2 minutes, a person successfully takes their own life. And every minute of the day, a person attempts to take their own life. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And it is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.

This event is personal to me because in 1996, my sister, Chris, took her own life. She was 38 years old. I still struggle with this loss, and the grief and torment that accompany it. And due to my struggles with bipolar disorder, I have come dangerously close to losing myself (1 of every 5 people suffering with bipolar disorder takes their own life).

From left: My sister, Chris, and me, as children.

*
Intelligent and compassionate Gerri Asam Trager is the organizer of the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” for the downriver area. She and her amazing band of beautiful volunteers are the primary reason for this event’s huge success.

Gerri Asam Trager, on right. (Photo taken from AFSP Downriver Out of the Darkness Walk, Facebook event page, by Bob Eccles).

*

It is a cloudy, chilly day, but attendance is high, as are the spirits of the organizers, volunteers, and walkers.

  

*

This beautiful woman, Jaqueline Worthey, a poetry reader, graces the stage by reading a special poem every year at this event.

 

*

We are blessed with the kind and compassionate, former Detroit Lion’s football player, Eric Hipple, who speaks to us straight from the heart.

 

After losing his own 15-year-old son in 2000 to suicide, Hipple now travels the country and gives speeches to High Schools, Youth Groups, the U.S. Military, and Corporations, on suicide prevention and Mental Illness. His book, “Real Men Do Cry”, published in 2009, discusses his playing career with the Lions and his experiences with depression, grief, and suicide prevention.

*

We are then introduced to the lovely and extremely talented, NEENUH. There are no words to describe her beautiful voice.

Connect with Neenuh on Facebook. She performs solo shows (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica) around Downriver, MI. Search “Neenuh” on YouTube and you will find uploads of her videos.

*

And we are delighted by the amazing talent of Fiddler, Mick Gavin, who plays onstage AND along our walking path. Wonderful!

Gavin was born in Co. Clare, Ireland. Since the 1970’s, he has performed concerts with many traditional Irish performers in the Chicago and Detroit areas. Mick now teaches Irish fiddle throughout the Detroit metropolitan area. Three of his students took 2nd at the All-Ireland in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002.

*

The 3.5-mile walk begins on this gorgeous Autumn afternoon.

 

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Even the canines walk the walk!

  

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Afterwards, we are treated to hot food and refreshing beverages, and a safe place for good conversation. There is also a raffle which offers terrific prizes of food and services generously donated by some of our local restaurateurs and merchants.

We bond over our losses and experiences, but join together to celebrate life . . . and bring about change.

AND OUT OF THE DARKNESS . . .

. . . COMES HOPE.

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For information or to make a donation, (donations for walks can be made thru 12/31/12 for this year), contact:

GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter. Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.

If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss

*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 800-273-TALK 8255)*

Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Photography, Physical Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Friday is my birthday and I’m turning FOUR YEARS OLD! Yay me!

HUH?

That’s right. I no longer celebrate the number of years since my birth. I now celebrate the number of years since my rebirth; the years I’ve been nicotine free.

 

I smoked 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day for over 30 years; it’s no wonder no one believed that I could quit. If I was awake, I had a cig in my mouth. Every move I made, place I went, and thought I had, was based around taking my next puff. And no matter how long or hard I sucked, I couldn’t seem to get enough.

 

It was exhausting.

People say you have to want to quit, to be successful at it. But I was pretty comfortable in my addiction, until the day I caught a bad cold and learned I had emphysema. I didn’t want to quit. I had to.

 

I decided that if I was going to war with this addiction, I needed to prepare for battle. So I did my research and armed myself.  

 

I requested information from the American Cancer Society and joined their phone counseling program. I was advised to set a quit date and chose my birthday.


Then, I told people about my plan. The guy at the store where I bought my cigs actually laughed.

I learned about visualization and how to imagine possible weak moments, so I would know what to do and could combat them when they actually happened.

 

I also learned about the voice of addiction. You know those thoughts that have you toying with the idea of smoking just one cig? The thought that says you can quit tomorrow instead? That thought is your addiction talking. Ignore it. That voice still whispers in my ear on occasion, but I silence it.

“Sorry, dude, shut up.”


I started on the medication Zyban which is taken WHILE you quit and can help reduce withdrawal symptoms.    Amazingly, my cigs started tasting mucky and I put them out sooner. 

 

The night before quitting, I cleaned the ashtrays, scoured away the smoky smells, destroyed all remaining cigarettes, and stocked my refrigerator with TONS of healthy food.

 

Some previously purchased tools included a pair of walking shoes, my first athletic bra, and an MP3 player. I awoke that first morning and reached for the cigarette on my nightstand. It wasn’t there. 

“Oh, *%&$! It’s gonna be a loooong day!” I whined.

Then I got up, laced up, and went for a walk.

This obnoxious, but well-intentioned four year old has a list of THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO DO while you’re trying to quit smoking:

DON’T OVER-THINK IT! Don’t try to imagine the rest of your life without cigarettes, or even the rest of your week. Just take it one day at a time.    

DON’T ANTICIPATE THE WORST! I envisioned myself draped on the sofa crying desperately for one more puff, while being slammed with wave after wave of cravings.

They say that cravings last no more than 20 minutes, but I’ve never had one last longer than the time it takes to get a tasty snack or lace up my walking shoes.

 

SOMETIMES, DON’T LISTEN. I’ve been told that heroin users who try to quit using have a higher success rate than smokers do. Now WHY ON EARTH would you tell me THAT?! I’m sure it was said in the spirit of support, but that’s why we smokers don’t even try to quit. We think it will be pure torture.

I expected this:

But it never happened.

DON’T EXAGGERATE! You’re not solving the problem of world hunger or curing cancer . . . you are choosing to stop an addictive behavior.   Nothing more.   Just make up your mind, put on your big person panties, and do it. And don’t look back. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF! You can do ANYTHING! Be your own superhero. Afterwards, you’ll live in a healthier world that you created for yourself and you’ll be amazed at your newfound confidence.

 

So HOW AM I DOING FOUR YEARS LATER? Well, my smoking dreams have long ceased, as have my daily cravings; and my idle hands have discovered more productive activities. There are many days, and sometimes even weeks, when a cigarette never even crosses my mind. I would’ve never thought that possible.

 

There have been those of you with questions for me. Many a wrinkled, weathered face has coughed, gagged, huffed and puffed as they inquired with concern about possible weight gain. Quite familiar with this excuse, I peer through the haze and smell of the ashtray . . . and smile at the irony.

 

“Yep, I’ve gained some weight. So what. “

 

So what if I’m a bit chubbier due to my incessant new habit of popping grapes and consuming large amounts of cheese; I’ll tackle that or adjust it . . .  all in good time. At least now I’ll have the breath, the energy, and the time, to work it off and to work it out.

 

Sometimes those first few baby steps can be a bit wobbly.

But I’m standing stronger these days.

 After all, I’m a big girl now. I’m turning four.

**************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

(For information on quitting smoking, visit any of these sites, see notices in your newspaper, or call for free programs provided by your local hospital. Also available: hypnosis, acupuncture, the nicotine patch, smoking cessation programs, or support groups).

National organizations and Web sites

Guide to Quitting Smoking: AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETYwww.cancer.org/Healthy/…/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/index

QuitNet
Web site: www.quitnet.com Offers free, cutting edge services to people trying to quit tobacco

Nicotine Anonymous Toll-free number: 1-877-879-6422 (1-877-TRY-NICA)
Web site: www.nicotine-anonymous.org For free information on their 12-step program, meeting schedules, printed materials, or information on how to start a group in your area

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health
Toll-free number: 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
Free quit support line: 1-800-784-8669 (1-800-QUIT-NOW)
TTY: 1-800-332-8615
Web site: www.cdc.gov/tobacco Free information on smoking and health; phone hotline for people who want to quit

National Cancer Institute
Toll-free number: 1-800-422-6237 (1-800-4-CANCER) for cancer information
Toll-free tobacco quit line: 1–877–448–7848 (1–877–44U–QUIT)
Web site: www.cancer.gov
Direct tobacco Web site: www.smokefree.gov Quitting information, cessation guides, and counseling is offered, as well as state telephone-based quit programs

American Lung Association
Toll-free number: 1-800-548-8252
Web site: www.lungusa.org Printed quit materials are available, some in Spanish. Offers the tobacco cessation program “Freedom from Smoking Online” for a small fee at www.ffsonline.org

 

Categories: Addiction, Holidays/Birthdays, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

NEW GROWTH

While at the checkout counter I saw a rack of these. How interesting.

This small packet has planted an idea.

Later I discover this at another store. It is a Sunflower Grow Kit.

 

This kit contains everything needed to successfully grow a sunflower. It includes the pot, seeds, growing medium, and instructions. I must supply the water, sunshine, and attention.

“Too bad they don’t sell People Grow Kits”, I muse as a new thought begins to take root, “but they don’t need to. I have within me, my own little Grow Kit.”

I possess all that I need to change or begin anew at any time I choose. It starts with an idea and the desire; the seeds of change.

And it’s all up to me.

I can’t just toss something into the dirt and wait for a flower to sprout. That’s like wanting a better life and expecting the wishing to make it so. No, it requires thought and some work.

I am responsible for gathering the necessary tools. I must prepare myself to be the dark, rich soil from which all things will grow, and choose healthy, loving people who will help nourish me. God will provide the light and the life.

But growth can be painful. And sometimes I’m like a teething puppy who constantly chews to relieve painful gums, and my development is uncomfortable not only for me, but for those around me.

At other times I am delicate and fragile and my friends are the lifelines that support me until I’m strong enough to stand on my own.

April marks one year that I am clean of the fog and sedation of unnecessary prescription drugs. One year clean . . . after nearly 40 years of addiction. It has been a year of challenge that hasn’t been easy.

But it certainly has been worth it.

“Every moment is another chance to turn it all around.” – From the movie, Vanilla Sky.

New growth is new life.   And hope.   A fresh start.

We are never too old and it is never too late.

 Photograph by Renske de Jong (from the Netherlands); amazing photographer, artist, & friend.

Categories: Addiction, Inspiration/Motivation, Nature | 29 Comments

PLEASE, MISTER, CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE?

My sister, Teri, was the eldest of six kids. She was popular, pretty, and had long, black hair that she used to iron on an ironing board to straighten, or sometimes she wrapped it around orange juice cans atop her head to achieve a perfect wave. She was beautiful, bold, and brave, and gosh, I loved her.

At the age of 17, rebellious and troubled, she hopped in her car and began her journey in search of herself and her place in the world. But after many years of wandering, some failed marriages, and an untreated mental illness, she ended up living in a drafty wooden shack, on a tiny patch of dirt, in an obscure little Texas town.

She forever struggled as a recovering alcoholic and was once a homeless panhandler. She was outside of the store begging for money the last time you went shopping; with dirty clothes, tangled hair, and a chipped, grey smile, she humbly asked you for spare change. That was my sister you turned your face from.

Most would judge her as a weak person. I do not.

She was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Because of many failures and misfortunes, she fell down often. But she would get up again . . . over and over and over. She just kept getting up. Imagine the kind of energy and tenacity that takes.

Teri passed away in 2006 of lung cancer. She was 52 years old and 34 days sober.

We are not all born equally into this world; some arrive with the odds already stacked against them; others are given no survival tools, or are beaten down by cruelty or bad luck.

So please, when you see a homeless person or someone asking for food or money, instead of judging and turning away, remember that they are someone’s child. And be kind. Be giving. Act like God is watching you.

Because HE is.

Categories: Addiction, Family, God/Spiritual, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Love, Mental Health | 15 Comments

THE RIGHT SHOES AND A BOX OF BANDAIDS

Recently, I heard, “Oh, Julia! You’re so strong! You quit smoking after 30 years, you overcame a lifetime of prescription drug addiction, you quit drinking soda, you lost so much weight, you’ve had so many losses and you’ve let go of so much pain!”

I just smiled.

“I love you, you silly fool, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Look at how incredibly WEAK I was! I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for over 30 years, I popped pills and lived in a fog to escape from life, I ate my way through 195 pounds of comfort food, and I clung desperately to my bitterness and grief. I was one of the WEAKEST people I ever knew!”

Strength is a choice.

You don’t have to be born strong, or be a rock star, or be someone incredibly noble, and you don’t have to be super extraordinary. All you have to do is decide . . . and try. And it starts with one single, tiny, baby step in the right direction. Sometimes it’s literally putting one foot in front of the other and remembering to breathe while you’re doing it.

You know what? There IS something worse than making a mistake and falling down, and that is not trying at all. Shoot, a little humiliation and a skinned knee aren’t going to stop this old gal! Besides, I’ve learned to wear humiliation pretty well; all it takes is the right shoes and a box of Band-Aids!   

So, friends, while you’re out in the world today, if you encounter someone who is a bit too loud, or kind of pushy, or really obnoxious – try to remember that those people are usually the MOST frightened and insecure of all. Try to be patient and not to judge them too harshly. Remember, sometimes being brave and being strong have to be learned and practiced. Maybe we can teach by example through kindness and patience?

And if you’re afraid . . . that’s okay, I’m standing right next to you; just take my hand.

Categories: Addiction, Grief/Healing, Humor, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 54 Comments

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