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New Year, New Decade

Hi Turningpointct!! 🙂 Happy Holidays to everyone!

As this year and this DECADE comes to an end, I thought I’d give a little update filled with cat pictures 🙂

Before the cat pictures, I must just say that I am really feeling the energy shift of going into a whole new decade. I was reflecting the other day about this past year alone and it was full of bittersweet moments. One thing I’ve realized and finally came to fully believe is that I am worthy of love and respect – and that I am allowed to make better changes for myself, regardless of how it affects others. I am committed to making this next decade be years that I enforce boundaries, advocate for myself, and follow convictions I have in my heart – again, regardless of how it affects others.

 

In 2019, some pretty amazing things happened:

  • I broke free from a religion that was starting to pull me away from God, not closer. I found a church that is safe for me and I feel as if I’m re-learning who God is to me.
  • I moved into an apartment with my best friend. We’ve created a safe place to call home together.
  • Speaking of the apartment, we obviously had to get a critter! Meet Pebbles!
  • Pebbles was sad that Jen and I worked long hours … so then there were two! Meet BamBam!
  • They became best pals after some hissing matches 😉
  • And even partners in crime!


  • This year, I graduated college!! I started with the intention of just simply starting ONE class. Two years later I have a certificate and a degree.
  • I was humbled this year by being recognized for awards, traveling the US for presentations, meeting some of my biggest inspirations, and being included in so many beautiful community events.
  • I started a new job! I’m working for the agency that I received treatment from – Recovery Network of Programs!! I went from client .. to employee !! I can’t explain how much I love working for this agency and how honored I am to be surrounded by such incredible leaders, coworkers, and colleagues. And of course I just had to get involved with anything and everything I can. I joined the book club and the outreach committee!
              
  • This year I had to let go and grieve friendships, relationships, trauma, and much more. I had some deep wounds created and old scars ripped wide open. Although some scars are going to be permanent; I must remember that they are still healed and shift my perception from loss to gain. I gained new friendships, new insight, new healing, and most importantly; I found a new sense of worthiness that I have been yearning for my whole life.
  • On December 2nd 2019 I celebrated FOUR YEARS in recovery!! Four years I haven’t turned to some form of opiate as a solution to whatever I was feeling, thinking, or doing. I don’t have even have the words for the gratitude of my recovery today. Can’t wait to do it another year !
  • I also have been building something special with someone special. Eric, you are such an incredible person and I’m so grateful to be your girlfriend. Every day you teach me something, love a part of me I didn’t expect anyone to, make me laugh, listen to my every word and thought, and allow me to be me unapologetically. You marvel me daily and I’m looking forward to continuing our journey together!

 

So that is my yearly wrap-up! I can’t wait to read about yours and your plans for the next year. Remember to celebrate the small successes – even if that just means waking up today.

Disconnecting for a Connection

What is disconnecting? Is it when you detach with love? Terminating a relationship? Isolating yourself? Unplugging an electrical device? Is it rejection? Not having a bond with something or someone?

Many times, people assume that someone who is disconnected find themselves in a difficult and challenging place to be. This can definitely be true, but what if disconnecting can be healthy and form a different connection?

When I have felt disconnected to the people, places, and things that help me stay sane, I start to get pretty down. I start feeling each of my insecurities creep into my mind and heart to convince me that I either don’t deserve the connection, or that it’s lost because of me.

Being disconnected can be very dangerous for my recovery and overall wellness – mentally and physically – however, it can also be extremely helpful, when used the right way; when I disconnect in order to connect.

One way I do this is by going to the beach and I shut out my thoughts and ground myself by using all of my senses to connect with the beach. I’ll disconnect my phone, my racing thoughts, my rapid heart rate, my loved ones, my responsibilities and allow myself to be vulnerable so I can connect to the calmness that the beach brings me. When I do this often, I’m able to balance the other connections in my life and have the strength to mend the disconnections in my life that I’m unhappy about.

Another way I’ve been disconnecting to connect is by getting to a quiet place, getting on my knees, and closing my eyes to start praying. I’m disconnecting any distraction so that I can build my spiritual connection. When I do this, I’m able to stabilize my emotions and welcome healing.

I’ve also been disconnecting electronics. I have been actually for once turning my phone on complete silence – no vibrate, nothing. When I do this, I’m able to enjoy the moment I’m in and be more in that moment. Sometimes, the moment is simply being alone. Sometimes I disconnect with others because I’m taking time for self-care. I’ve been realizing lately how important self-care really is.

This tool that I’ve learned and put into practice has had amazing benefits:
-the symptoms of my anxiety and ptsd have been more manageable
-I am able to take full advantage of EMDR Therapy
-My self-advocacy skills have increased tremendously
-I feel more empowered
-I feel confident in my ability to say no
-tasks are less pressuring and overwhelming

How will you disconnect to build a connection? What does that look like for you?

What are you proud of from 2018?

Hey guys! It’s 2019!
Pretty cool, kinda.

Some people seem to really care about New Years, it signifies a time to reflect and commit to change. Other people think it’s BS. And some don’t really care too much!

However you feel about New Years, it’s always good to reflect on time that’s passed and recognize strides that you have made.
My favorite quote when I was in the midst of a lot of struggles was,

“I may not be where I want to be but thank God I’m not where I used to be”

We don’t have to leap from ditches to mountain tops to recognize our power and strength. And sometimes it’s not even steps that deserve recognition, sometimes it’s staying right where you are, because it can be really hard to not fall backward, and good enough is good enough.

This New Years Eve, I laid in bed next to Willow while she slept and realized the changes that occurred over the past year. I thought about the pain, fear, and excitement I felt, and how hopeless I was at times. I realized how far I have come by looking back for a few moments. And it felt good, and it made me feel proud of myself. And I didn’t feel bad saying that.

So, what are you guys proud of from 2018?

I’m proud of myself for starting school, taking the leap to “real” employment and beginning the process of getting off of disability and SSI, moving, admitting to myself and a few friends that I was depressed, sticking with my path even when it was scary and painful and uncertain, trying every day to be a good mom, working hard, getting certified as a SMART recovery facilitator, Recovery Coach, and a Recovery Support Specialist, starting the path to getting my licence, and beginning to throw away things that I don’t need.

Let’s congratulate each other on our success in being here, even when it’s really hard work.

In Everything Give Thanks

Thanksgiving: A holiday where most families get together and share what they are thankful for while breaking bread. When I was using, Thanksgiving and many other holidays were awful. I would be rushing around trying to meet drug dealers and put myself together enough to show up for my family. They all would know that something was wrong with me, but would just give me a gentle reminder that I am loved and that they hope everything will be ok.

I don’t think the chaos of those holiday mornings are described well enough with the word ‘awful’. I would wake up in deep withdrawal.. vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, chills, aches, and extreme anxiety. Most of the time I would wake up with no money in my pocket because it was spent the day before on bags of dope that I would swear to save for the holiday morning. But once they were in my hand it was, “I can do these now and I’ll figure out the morning”. The morning was NEVER figured out and I knew this, yet I kept doing it.

Out I would go to steal something or rob someone. Scrambling to not get caught, usually outside in the cold, all while still experiencing withdrawal symptoms and only intensifying as minutes pass. Once I would finally score some money, the next mission was to find a drug dealer that was ‘around’ on a holiday. See, drug dealers are not always these guys that just sit in a house all day selling drugs. Many of them have families that need to see them too. I can’t explain the feeling of doom that takes over when all phones are off when you are trying to score. So then you have to go into neighborhoods that you know have people available and hope you score something that isn’t completely fake. All the while, your family members are blowing up your phone asking where you are and you’re already an hour or two late.

Today is the third Thanksgiving in a row that I will be celebrating while in recovery. This morning I have woken up healthy, besides a slight cold. I woke up with my best friend at my house after a sleepover. My mom is cooking and preparing the Thanksgiving meal. My dad is making breakfast and my brother is on his way over. I’m not reaching over for a needle. I have money in my bank account. I know that everyone in my family is in good health. I will be spending the afternoon surrounded by my loved ones and will be arriving on time.

Three years ago today I went upstairs in my bedroom while my entire family was over for Thanksgiving to complete a suicide attempt by a heroin overdose. As raw as that is, it was reality for me. So this morning I wake up with slight panic because it still feels real. I can feel all of the terrible emotions I had felt that day, I can literally feel them. But then I realize.. I’m not there anymore and that day has passed. I can’t believe that it has been three years. I’ve never had this long of recovery before. I’m in awe every day of God’s mercy and grace in my life.

I’m thankful for three years.
I’m thankful for my family.
I’m thankful for my best friends.
I’m thankful for my boyfriend.
I’m thankful for my cats.
I’m thankful for my career.
I’m thankful for my education.
I’m thankful for my co workers.
I’m thankful for my boss.
I’m thankful for my church.

& I’m thankful for so much more.

Today, I am also thankful for me… the courage that sparked inside me to stop that suicide attempt and ask for help. I’m thankful for making the call to treatment centers despite the immense amount of humiliation, fear, and shame that comes along with it. I’m thankful for the counselors that didn’t let me quit.

Little did I know that what I planned to be the end of everything, was the start to a journey of hope I’d never imagine.


In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Free-Write: "Null."

Perhaps if I could infect those G R E A T E R than myself
I would feel a little worth more than the useless L E S S than myself,

It was similar to a beggar seeking yet another bottom of an endless bottle.
It was similar to a beast clawing its way back for another needle.
It was similar to a misanthropic nurse who pulled the tourniquet too tight and left you to suffocate.

Maybe if I watched them seize enough,
If I watched them grapple unwittingly,
Wantonly,
Stupidly,
For all these things long enough,
Maybe I would understand then,
They’d told me.

Did they,
Each of them who told me to pass a bottle or one needle too strong,
Forget that I was raised by the same lies &. same faces?
The same tender hands that would sooner be fists &. gauntlets than a kind touch?
The same swirling voices that spoke so beautifully in a tongue of miasma that was laced with false promises?
The same accusations &. screams that gaslight my terrors throughout the years?

“Addictive personality”,
I think,
Can mean many things these days.

It will not mean I will fall to their plight,
I will not be marked down on some crumbling epitaph in the same manner.

I believe it means they are all too engaged in this pretense of “vulnerability” I exude,
As false a claim as this is,
And if they really wish to see what M E N T A L is,
They have yet to see it.

If they want to taste morphine, they will have it;
Slow like a kindling burn aching in their souls and marrow.

If they want to have heroine, they will have it;
Cauterizing every atrium and ventricle in them until they are fit to burst at the seams.

… Laughable, at best, to compare my own personality to drugs
However,
A misanthropic nurse has to do what they do B E S T.

Recovery Month Videos

We want to see your videos for Suicide Prevention and Recovery Month! Check out Eliza’s video of why she fights for recovery and post yours here! We will share them on our facebook and twitter (if you want!)

Rest in Peace, Mac Miller

Today the artist Mac Miller passed away. He was 26-years old.
Mac Miller openly suffered from addiction and mental illness- candidly talking about his struggles in interviews and breaking down the walls that create stigma.
He was a talented musician, and impacted many young people with his music and his soul.

The tragedy of another young person, lost to addiction is a heavy weight we must carry as a society.
It seems recently, that we are losing celebrities at an alarming rate.
Through tragedy, a platform is opened- in which we can gather together and speak loudly about these things which have been forbidden.

With addiction, suicide, and mental illness ringing loudly in our ears- we must remember those we have lost. And move forward- not in silence, but in strength- with knowledge gained from their lives and their pain- with lessons to speak up and ask questions.
We must commit to caring for each other- no longer is it possible to look away from mental illness and addiction- we are so clearly surrounded by it- so clearly suffering from it, or not, but know people who are. So now, we must rise together to change the conversation and break the stigma which has silenced us for so long.

As for Mac Miller, I hope deeply that his family feels the love and support they need to get through this time- and I hope they feel comfort knowing they have the support of many others who have gone through similar loss. I hope he is at peace and that he rests in peace.

R.I.P Mac Miller



Plans for the Fall

August is almost over… HOW?!

summer

It’s almost time to kiss Summer goodbye, and say hello to wonderful, amazing Fall!
I love the Summer, but I love the Fall so much.
Still, even though I love the Fall, and I’m no longer in High School, the end of Summer gives me a knot in my stomach… I get so nervous and anxious, no doubt because school was so anxiety provoking for me as a child and teenager, and Fall often meant depression, anxiety, hospitals… a lot of pain.
With time, my love for Fall is beginning to come back into the forefront when I realize Summer is nearly over- but I still cannot escape the dull lull of anxiety that sits within my and grows bigger as leaves begin to change and nights become long.
It’s also kind of sad!

fall

So, how do you guys feel? Are you happy/sad/nervous/etc? What does Fall mean to you and what are your plans this Fall?
If you struggle with this time of year, what specifically do you struggle with? What makes it better?

We are here for you all during this seasonal transition and transition back to school!

4 Phrases I’m tired of being told when I’m struggling

I have been inspired to write this after coming across a similar article and from people that I have been recovery coaching. Although people say things with a good intention of encouragement, they don’t always realize that what they are saying can cause the opposite effect. So, I’ve gathered some phrases that people have said to me (and others) that aren’t very helpful and what would be more encouraging to hear instead.

1. “You must not be really giving it to God” or “you aren’t praying/reading/attending church enough”… basically something along the lines of criticizing and assuming how my Christian walk is going. This is said to me on days that I’m struggling with my mental health. It’s not helpful because if you think that I reached out to a human before the Lord, you’re very wrong. Not only have I read, prayed, attended services, but I’ve literally laid on the floor, sobbing, begging Jesus for peace and strength. And you better believe I thank Him for having an answer I don’t have. No one should have to defend this.

2. “But you’re in recovery now, so why do you still struggle?” You would be surprised how often I hear this. I hear this whenever I tell someone that I’m having cravings/urges/temptations, or when I’m just having a rough day. Just because I am sober doesn’t mean that when I’m going through a difficult time I don’t think about getting high or am tempted to give up the fight.

3. “Don’t forget where you came from.” UM HELLO I HAVE PTSD IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO FORGET! Sheesh, I WISH I could forget! Guess how often I’m reminded of my past? Every single day, multiple times a day. I just don’t necessarily act on the reminders, with the exception of things that are nearly impossible to control: panic attacks, flashbacks, and stomach aches.

4. “Just try not to think about it, just ignore it.” If ignoring triggers, urges, emotions, and thoughts were that easy, I would be out of a career.

There are more helpful statements to say to me in contrast to the ones listed above. Not only do they show validation of how I’m feeling and what I’m experiencing, but they also show some empathy. Sometimes just simply reminding me that you are there for me and that my emotions are real for me, can be so soothing and comforting. People seem to be worried that this is ‘enabling’ behavior, but it’s not. It’s reminding me that I am not alone and that I’m not crazy, I’m simply human, and most importantly: it is going to be ok.

1. Instead try, “I’ll be praying for you” or “Can I pray for you? Can we pray together”. For my spiritual friends, I know that your first thoughts are often accusing me of not doing enough in my spiritual walk. Try being a part of growing my faith by encouraging prayer WITH me. Giving me some comfort verses are also helpful, after I vent. Don’t forget to remind me that greater is He in me than in the world.

2. Instead try, “I’m here for you during difficult times”. Because the struggles still come and are difficult to face in recovery, gently reminding me that you are near is so helpful.

3. Instead try, “I’m proud of you and how far you have come”. I’ve noticed that whenever I post something that I’ve accomplished, people are quick to remind me to remain humble instead of acknowledging a victory in my struggle. Being proud of the work that God is doing in my life is much more helpful.

4. Instead try, “This will pass.” or “I’m here with you.” Again, reminding me that I am not alone. Maybe suggest a time that you have witnessed me accomplishing something or getting through a struggle. Saying something like, “I know this is difficult, but I’ve seen you get through tough times and I know you can fight through this” is not only encouraging, but it shows that you believe in me, because chances are, in that moment, I don’t believe in myself.

Is there something that someone has said to you that isn’t helpful? Is there something you would rather be told instead? I’d love to hear about it!

World Breastfeeding Week

This Week is World Breastfeeding Week.

Breastfeeding has been a major part of my life for the last 17 months. Since the day Willow was born, and to this day, I have breastfed her.

Whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason, I have responded to my beautiful child’s wants and needs in the most natural and intuitive way physically possible; by breastfeeding.

This journey has taught me many invaluable lessons about both myself and my relationship with my daughter.
Becoming a mother is a transformation. It’s a journey, and my own transformation is something I have talked about many times on my blog.

Before Willow was born, when asked how I was going to feed her (formula or breastfeeding) I said I would breastfeed, and thinking back I don’t remember why exactly, other than it seemed the only option- at that time primarily for financial reasons.
As I learned more and more about what my journey would entail and about why people breastfeed I began to realize that I was truly making the best decision for both myself and my daughter.

The beginning was hard. It was more than hard.

Willow had a really bad latch. I was tired, depressed, lonely, in an un-supportive and abusive relationship, and essentially alone. Willow wanted to eat over and over again. And for long stretches of time. It seemed as soon as she finished she was hungry all over again.
I was not myself, my body did not belong to me, and I was so so unbelievably exhausted.
I cried a lot.
I fell asleep sitting up at night, holding willow and would wake up terrified but thankful she was still in my arms, nursing.
I left Willow latched even when it hurt (mistake) because I just wanted her to eat and fall asleep.
I made many mistakes, and was confused about so much.

I had so much room to grow and learn but often felt so hopeless and alone, I would just blindly go forward, unknowing of what laid ahead.
But I wasn’t alone.
I joined Facebook groups. I talked to friends of mine who breastfed, or wish they did. People commended me, they validated me, and one person in particular (who was with me from early in my pregnancy, there when my daughter was born, and after) who educated me and supported me consistently and oftentimes when I needed it more than anything else.
And I kept going, even though there were times I felt desperate to stop, perhaps for just a day, or a moment, or a night- to share the vast responsibility of growing, birthing, and feeding this small amazing person who brought me to my knees and changed my life.

Then, incredibly, and like many other aspects of motherhood, it got easier. Not immediately, and not overnight, but slowly and surely and then suddenly. Suddenly, breastfeeding was the easiest part of motherhood.

Suddenly, my confidence in myself and my ability as a woman and a mother was incredibly affirmed and increased. I am amazing, I made it through long enough to reach a place of ease in something I once considered giving up.
I set goals, and wandered through, eyes closed and arms outstretched. Even when I fell into pits, and found my way out. And when giving up was an option I kept going.

I remember, hoping, wishing, to make it, to not give up. Reasoning that I would make it to at least 6 weeks, then at least 3 months.
And then, it was just a part of our life. An amazing, incredible, and valuable part of our life.
Now, at seventeen months strong, I can say with confidence that we are going as long as my daughter finds comfort and need in breastfeeding – even if its years and years from now.
And I will never feel shame for lifting my shirt in public to feed and comfort my child.

And one day, she wont need or want to nurse. But that day is not today, and I hope that it is not tomorrow. But if it is, and when it is, I will be there, holding her hand, and we will forever have the bond that began in my womb and continues to grow every single day.

We stand with you, Demi

I think a lot of you know, early this week Demi was treated for a suspected overdose and brought to a hospital.
Her family has denied that the overdose was caused by heroin.
I have loved Demi Lovato since I was fifteen.
At a time when I stayed up until 5 am on a daily basis, alone, isolated, and battling thoughts and urges that brought me to a place of desperation and fear I found comfort. I realized that Demi Lovato had been struggling with a lot of similar things.
I began to listen to her music, watch videos and felt a sense of companionship by this seemingly happy, funny, and cheerful girl who loved her sister and friends but still continued to fight inner demons, despite how happy she looked.
This was the first time I truly felt like I was not alone.
I wrote her a letter describing what I had been going through, and thanking her for helping me. I drew a picture of her.
I re-read it again and again but never sent it. My shame and fear convinced me it was stupid.
But I never stopped feeling connected by the experience of mental illness and addiction to Demi Lovato. I never stopped listening to her music, watching her videos, and thinking of her and the ways she managed to empathize with me from the other side of the country.

And now, in a time when she is struggling more than she has in recent years, I am here with her.
Perhaps it matters very little, but regardless, I stand with Demi.
I send her love and healing thoughts and hope she knows that she matters so much to so many.

Get, well soon Demi.

How has this affected you guys?

I think, despite the way it may feel, stigma is beginning to slowly melt away. We are speaking more and more openly about mental illness and addiction, thanks to people like Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, and Logic.
Recent publicized suicides and overdoses make it nearly impossible to turn the other cheek to mental illness and addiction.

Despite how much our demons try to convince us of our isolation- we can never forget, we are not alone

Newport Academy Adventure Camp

Newport Academy is having a experiential therapy summer camp for teens!

This is the part of the Summer that can start to drag a little, when the lack of structure gets “boring” and perhaps can lead to slips in recovery.

Well the good news is that there are two summer camp sessions for teens to engage in therapeutic and recreational activities for 2 weeks!

Activities such as paddle-boarding, hiking, volunteering, and more will make up your days if you are interested!

If you would like a safe haven for the remainder of your summer, then contact Newport Academy
Or you can register with Robin Seymour at 203-644-4605.

The camp runs Monday through Thursday from 9:30 am- 3:00 pm
The first session is from July 23- August 2. The second session is from August 13-23

This is a great way to have a safe, fun, and structured remainder of your Summer!

"Just For Today"

Here’s some dirt to chew on, I haven’t gotten any sleep at all last night, I’m feeling a little drowsy but I’m not at the nodding off point yet. My work is about 25 minutes away, I decided I would go in early today, and leave earlier since I had to drop off a package and then drive to work when traffic is supposed to be bad. Well I should’ve went home because it’s 8:30, I thought I’d get here around 9:30, and no one’s in the office. Screw me, right? But you know what? It’s fine, no biggie, I’m here, we’re doin this, I’m taking you guys down with me. So I want to talk about something really inspiring I heard at my NA (Narcotics Anonymous) Meeting last night, and yes the “thing” is applicable even if you don’t have a drug problem. The topic we were sharing on was “Just For Today.

What I had to share on that topic went something similar to this: Because of my generalized anxiety I had to teach myself not to look too far into the future, that doesn’t dismiss setting goals for some things, but not to focus on things out of reach that will cause me unnecessary worry. Take it day by day, tell yourself just for today. In NA we say,
“JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on my recovery,
living and enjoying life without the use of drugs.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in someone in NA who
believes in me and wants to help me in my recovery.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have a program. I will try to follow it
to the best of my ability.
JUST FOR TODAY, through NA, I will try to get a better
perspective on my life.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be unafraid. My thoughts will be on
my new associations, people who are not using and
who have found a new way of life. So long as I follow
that way, I have nothing to fear.

But sometimes, you don’t have the capacity to handle the day, sometimes you need to take it hour by hour, or maybe even minute by minute, and that’s okay. You do whatever you need to do to keep your disease tamed.

Willingness
The shares that really spoke to me were people talking about how they were having a bad day, or a bad few days, or a bad week, or even couple of months. At first I thought, “jeez, what is it that time of year or somethin??” but what they all ended with was… “but you know what? I didn’t use” or “I’m still clean”, and that shit is powerful. I want you right now to think of yourself in the past, present, or future, having had dealt with or are dealing with a difficult situation(s). Now I want you to think of an unhealthy behavior you use as an outlet, maybe it’s drinking and drugging, maybe it’s hurting yourself or others, maybe it’s internalizing your emotions and pushing them on yourself, whatever. Final step, think about how it would feel to talk about all the shit you’ve been through, and finish with “but I didn’t XXXXXX”, think about how proud that would make you feel. If you need living proof take me for example, I’m 17, and for years I just couldn’t get my shit together, and when I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired, I heard someone share a story that went like this, “my son of 22 got into a tragic car accident and died, my son of 18 got into a motorcycle accident and he’s a paraplegic for the rest of his life now, and just two months ago my wife told me she was leaving me because she was in love with another man. This all has been in the span of the last ten years and I haven’t picked up a drink” (and remember, that “drink” can be substituted with any behavior or substance). That man told that story without a tear in his eye, he stood up there and shared that all to a room of people who want to get better, and did it without a pout or a frown or a sigh, he showed true strength and resilience. It was after that story just last year that I heard the “pop” of my head coming out of my ass and I thought to myself “I want that…I want the strength to be able to handle the inevitable events that will occur in my lifetime without the fear of falling into a deep dark hole powered by my habits and emotions”. And so those people sharing reminded me of that powerful experience and I can only HOPE some of the newcomers in that room last night felt what I felt about a year ago.

“Stare too Long” – Corrosion of Conformity
“Walk With Me In Hell” – Lamb of God
“Closer to the Heart” – Rush

The days I dreamed of in prison

I was driving to work the other day and a song came on the radio. I got so excited, turned it up, and danced while driving (yes, I’m definitely THAT person).

After about 30 seconds into the song, a wave of emotions started coming over me, then I was instantly reminded of prison. I was not only reminded, but I felt as if I was really there again. I could smell the scent of bleach that was often lingering in the air. I could hear the sound of people talking and the keys clanging as correctional officers walk through hallways. Then it was as if I almost heard a girl that was housed down the hall from me say, “Ally stop listening to music we have to go!”

The song that came on the radio was a song I listened to on the radio I had in prison. We had an AM/FM radio that had awful reception. It was one of the few tools I had to be able to have a sense of freedom in that place. I was able to put my headphones in and drown out the emotions and thoughts that I was experiencing. But that song… I would get so excited when it would come on the radio and would sing and dance and drive my cellmates and ‘hallway mates’ CRAZY. We didn’t have the option of putting a song on repeat or hearing it whenever we wanted; it was only when the radio DJ decided to play it.

I used to dream of the day that I could hear that song whenever I wanted ‘on the outside’.

I dreamt of many days that I hoped to have when I was out of prison. The day I would be able to:
-shut a door in the bathroom and be able to use the restroom in privacy
-have a real breakfast outside in my backyard
-wear clothes that made me feel beautiful
-wear makeup
-go out to dinner
-watch a movie with my family
-go for hikes and walks

And the list goes on…

I don’t know if it’s part of my PTSD or what, but when moments happen, little or big, I immediately think, “I remember when I would dream about this day.” I don’t know why I go back to that place so often, most of the time unintentionally. Sometimes I wonder if my mind maybe blocked out a lot of experiences I had there. I heard one time that your mind will literally not allow you to fully experience a situation in order to protect you from trauma. I don’t know how much I believe that because the trauma was definitely there. But I did handle it differently than I think I would if it happened right this second. So maybe, just maybe, my brain did some protecting and now it starts to flare sometimes.

The days that I dreamed of in prison seemed so far away, sometimes impossible to achieve, and as if they would never come. I can now say that I’ve experienced so many of these days and more importantly, ones that I didn’t believe were in the cards for me.

So if there is a day, or moment, that you are dreaming of happening; stay encouraged, it will come. But make sure that you try to live those days more than once. Go on two hikes, not just one. Go out to dinner more than once. Do something that you dreamed of weekly or monthly if you can. Just keep dreaming, keep pushing and your days will come.. and you will experience them in a way you never imagined.

My Humiliation is Finally Over

The other day I took my last drug test for probation.

I know it may sound strange to be proud and happy about this, but I am for so many reasons.

When I take a supervised drug test for probation, this is what happens:

I walk into the facility having to use the bathroom SO bad because I’ve been holding it in so I can actually pee when I get there. I have to sit and wait (about 10-15 minutes) for a female to take the test. But why would a female have to take the test? Because this is a supervised test. Aka a complete stranger is going to watch me pee.

Thankfully I’m not “pee-shy” as they call it, which is probably due to me having to use the restroom literally three feet away from someone’s bed when I was incarcerated. But ladies… if you’re on your menstrual cycle you better believe they watch you when you need to practice hygiene for that. Aka this stranger watched me while I changed my tampon. Awkward.

I’ve been on the other side of this situation; the person supervising. It’s awkward for this role as well, but I’m tired of hearing professionals say, “it’s just as awkward for me, as it is for you.” … Ummm… it’s really not. It’s so much more awkward and humiliating for the person taking the test. The person taking the test is not getting paid to do so. The person taking the test does not have to have their privacy invaded. Oh, and the person taking the test doesn’t get reminded of all of the things they did wrong and why they are there in the first place each time doing this. And then they will turn on the water from the faucet as if that’s supposed to work some magic. Yeah, right. And please don’t have a conversation with me while I humiliate myself because I cannot concentrate on carrying on a conversation with you while you stare at me pee and change my tampon… just saying.

I’m also tired of hearing, “but you know the results are going to be negative, so you have nothing to worry about.” Really?

Every time I take a drug test(negative or not), my past comes into my mind like wildfire. A negative test result does not eliminate the humiliation of the process. I wish people would respect that more, especially providers. It’s not that I’m worried about the test results. Is the anxiety of the whole process increased if I know the results will be positive? Absolutely. But whether it’s negative or not, I’m anxious of the thoughts that come creeping into my mind before, during, and after a test. I’m anxious about the humiliation of the whole process. I’m anxious about the judgement, discrimination, and stigma that comes along with the process. There have been several times I have been looked down upon because I was on probation, there to take a test.

The harsh thoughts that my mental health disorders flood into my mind are awful. I try to shut them out (it’s a daily thing), but they’re there and they are NOT always easy to ignore. Sometimes I’m unable to eat or function the best that day (work, school, social life, home life) because the whole process has an aftermath effect. It really didn’t get easier for me as I continued taking them (weekly for 9 months, every four months for three years).

I try to change my perspective into something positive as I usually do, but it’s definitely difficult. The thoughts still come and the emotions still follow. I try to look at the situation with gratitude. I’m thankful that I’m sober. I’m thankful that I’m not in prison. I’m thankful of where I am in life. I also allow it to be a moment of humility. But there is a difference between being humble and being humiliated. 

Quora defines the difference of humility and humiliation:

Humiliation is the act of being humiliated by something or someone, so in a sense, it’s embarrassment or self loathing. Humility is the understanding or will to accept yourself and to not be egotistical or arrogant, not to mention being accepting.”

So I guess it’s a mixture of both for me.

But now, to end on a positive note, I’M DONE TAKING THESE SUPERVISED PEE SESSIONS!!!

I did three freaking years of them and I can finally close that door. I am still on probation, but the next test would have been scheduled when my probation time had already elapsed. I’m looking forward to being able to post about probation being terminated in July. Until then… I’ll be enjoying shutting the door of every bathroom I go into haha.

humiliation

Forgiving My Younger Self

Last night, as I was just about to fall asleep, an anxious thought invaded my mind. Then several others came flooding in right after. I tried to ignore them, but they were so strong. Mainly, they were specific memories of times during my active addiction that I completely broke my morals; all for drugs.

I kept reassuring myself by saying, “No, Ally, you weren’t in your right state of mind. You were in a bad place. You aren’t there now. You don’t do that now. Focus on now.”

But depression and anxiety (and for my faith followers: the enemy) doesn’t want you to be reassured. It doesn’t want you to be calm, to let go, to focus on the positive. Instead, more invasive thoughts came in to add onto the pain of the already existing thoughts. Did they keep coming because I was fighting them?

So here’s a breakdown of the thoughts in a dialogue form:

Starter thought: “Do you remember the time you (insert memory of the time I degraded myself)?”

My fighting thought: “No, Ally, you weren’t in your right state of mind. You were in a bad place. You aren’t there now. You don’t do that now. Focus on now.”

Invasive thought #2: “But you still did it. (insert degrading name-calling: whore, stupid) You can’t take that back.”

My fighting thought: *deep breaths* “I did it, I’m not proud of it, I’m still in the dark with that time and I’m not like that anymore.”

Invasive thought #3: “But does your boyfriend know about it? What do you think he would think? Does your mother know about it? What do you think she will think? I’m sure this will come to light eventually and you know everyone will judge you and definitely leave you.”

My fighting thought: *trying to ignore the lump in my throat* “I don’t think he cares much about my past. I think I’ve told him about this time, but now, come to think of it, I don’t know if I have told him. Am I being dishonest? My mom would be disappointed, but she has my back. Jen. Must text my best friend Jen. She will reassure me and comfort me and not judge me.”

Notice how I already started to entertain these invasive thoughts?

Shortly after texting my best friend, the tears came, the guilt came, the shame came. Stupid thoughts, stupid anxiety, and stupid depression had me all in my feelings. The enemy is pretty smart; he knows exactly how to trip me up.

That one dark memory reminder caused me to remember and think about several others. I started beating myself up and feeling awful for things I had done.

And then I realized: I need to forgive that younger me.

So Dear Younger Me,
It’s not your fault. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you better. All of this will be for a reason one day, you’ll see.

Signed,
A Much Wiser You

So although I may be a little uneasy still about the choices I made when I was younger; under the influence or not, I can’t let them destroy the current choices I have. I can’t change the past. I repeat, I cannot change the past. But I can do something today. I can do something in the future. I can protect that inner child of mine. My guard might be up a little extra until these emotions relax a bit, but that is ok. It is ok for me to have to do some extra breathing. It is ok for me to write out my feelings. It is ok for me to lean onto my best friend. It is ok to remind myself that God has forgiven me.

Is there something you need to forgive your younger self for today?

The Anchor

Have you ever had something appear in places that brings you comfort? Maybe a ‘sign’ of some sort to let you know that God, your Higher Power, or maybe your loved one who passed away is near?

I’ve been having an anchor follow me around and appear starting a little over a year ago. I know, without a shadow of doubt, that it’s God or the Holy Spirit telling me, “I’m here”.

I was never one to believe in ‘signs’ or anything like that. But I definitely believe that God has a way of showing me (and others) that He is near, He loves me (and you), and to keep my (and your) eye focused on Him. Maybe not so much a ‘sign’, but Him using a person or thing to grab my attention to make sure I heard or saw very clearly that He is near.

This anchor and I met without itself as an object. The first time I met this anchor, it was through hearing all about it. I listened to a guest preacher at my church (which happened to be a revival week- talk about being revived!) preach a message on how no matter the storm you’re in; the peace of God can hold you steady. Although you may move a bit and sway around, tossing and turning out on the raging sea, He’s got you, and He doesn’t just have a light touch on you, He’s holding you in place, strong, just as an anchor does.

I’ve heard sermon after sermon about anchors and all the different ways you can use an anchor to make a message. Each message about an anchor I always found so beautiful because they all boiled down to the same point; God is faithful.

This one specific message caught my heart in a different way. I was in a place in my life that I was unsure if I was in the right place, doing the right thing, going the right way. And it wasn’t even about my ‘right’, but I wanted to be in God’s ‘right’, His path.

So, because of that service, I found a peace in an anchor. I became in love with how an anchor represents Him.

I started looking up every bible verse about anchors. I started studying why the word was used and what its’ context was. Then I came across this verse:

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:19

That verse spoke to me and I remember praying, “Lord, please help me to remember that You are my anchor, no matter what storm I’m in.”

Then I met the anchor in person, as a tangible thing. I was at a store and saw rearview mirror decorations. I saw that there was an anchor that you could have dangling from your mirror. I immediately bought it and put it on mirror and thought, “when I can’t drive (spiritually, emotionally, literally) or I have no idea where I’m going, I’m will look at this anchor and let it be a reminder who really has control of the wheel.

I had no idea that this metal anchor hanging from my rearview mirror was going to have so much influence on me. I notice that I tend to have my ‘alone time’ and ‘I need to break down and cry time’ in my car. It’s a place where I am alone, can migrate to a different spot, can put myself in a helpful surrounding, and can cry or scream as loud as I need to. But now I had something with me in the car; this anchor. I don’t find it coincidental that on the moments I was tempted to pull into the Projects and relapse or consider self-harm or not show-up to where I was going (discouragement seemed to be the common theme here), I glanced at this anchor and not only was I reminded, but I felt the peace of God. It reminded me to pray, to stay strong, to push through, or sometimes to just hold on tight and remember that the true anchor is doing everything to keep me from drifting away.

After those moments, anchors started appearing everywhere. But I noticed that they would appear in three different (or all of them combined) scenarios:
1. When I’m extremely discouraged
2. When I’m being faithful to something God put on my heart
3. And when I’m on the fence of trying to figure out if I’m doing the right thing or on the right path

Allow me to be more specific:
I saw an anchor after every single time I shared my recovery story.
I saw an anchor after every single work-related event I would be a part of.
I saw an anchor after telling someone about God’s love
I saw an anchor after saying no to self-harm, relapse, and any other self-destructive behavior
I saw an anchor when I kept the faith that no matter the situation, God is always up to something good.

I literally saw anchors appear places and many of the times, they were only visible in my exact spot that I was standing or sitting.
Let me just tell you about a time that an anchor appeared and then you tell me what you think.

I was invited to speak to a youth group. They wanted to hear my story of recovery because many of the teens had been struggling or knew someone that was. This was a BIG youth group; 115 teens to be exact. Earlier that day, I received news that an old friend had passed away from an overdose, a mother was calling me frantic that her son was missing after leaving treatment, my ‘best friend’ was missing and I was being told she was prostituting for heroin, the guy I was in a relationship with told me that ‘he just needs a break from me’, and I had many other personal concerns going on. Basically, everything that could go wrong that day was going wrong, but EXTRA wrong.

Do you actually think that I had the energy or desire to go and speak to teens about how fabulous life in recovery was? Definitely not. I didn’t want to be a fraud. I didn’t want to get up in front of them and be all YAAASSS RECOVERY! Meanwhile, deep inside, I am not feeling fabulous at all.
But I guess that’s where the “faith-it till you make-it” part comes in.

I will never forget how much I complained on my way to speak to this youth group. I was filled with anger, frustration, and pain. Before walking into the room, I prayed as I usually do before speaking. I asked God to clear out all of the clamor in my mind and help me speak to these kids. I remember I even told God that I didn’t want to speak to these kids because I was feeling drained and hopeless.

I stood up in front of these teens and shared my testimony. It was difficult at first because of a combination of nerves and everything going on that day. However, as I kept speaking, my nervousness went away and that peace I long for from God came.

Just as I finished saying my final words to the teens, they started clapping. I thanked them for welcoming me as their guest and I glanced at the youth group leader to turn the conversation over to her control. Just as I was extending my hand to pass her the microphone I was using, my heart stopped at what caught my eye. This microphone was in my hand for the past 40 minutes and I didn’t see it; God didn’t want me to see it quite yet. Maybe it was a test of faith, I’m not so sure…

The manufacturer who made that microphone had its name and logo on the microphone.
“Anchor” with a picture of an anchor.
That was the name of the manufacturer.

I chuckle when I see an anchor. Sometimes I cry. But I always feel a peace and know that He’s right here, never left, never going to leave.

I continue to find anchors where I go and they continue to make me laugh and smile when I see the interesting ways God allows me to see them. I’ll never forget when I went to speak to students at a High School and as I was waiting at the security desk to finish making me a name badge, a student approaches me and says, “hey Miss, do you like my new belt?” The belt had anchors lined up all over it. Coincidence? I think not. Or the time I went to speak at another high school and as I was walking through the hallway, a kid had cut in front of me and she had an anchor-print backpack on.

My mom sings at my church and I’ll never forget a song she’s sang many times called, “The Anchor Holds” I am so glad that my Anchor always holds.

Do you have something that you see or maybe hear? Is there a comforting item or noise that you experience?

anchor

Bearing the Bang of the Bells

It was July 2014 and I was being transferred into a new building to be housed in. I was put in the back of a van and driven through the York Correctional Institution’s back roads. This was the first time I was able to see the entire campus and was able to see the difference between the high security and low security sections. I was leaving high security and entering into low security which I was very happy about. Rumor had it that I was able to have my cell door open and I was able to roam around the building for many more hours of the day. Another bonus rumor: I was able to go outside every day.

I arrived at the new building I was to call home and the Correctional Officer looked at me and said, “well, looks like they put you in the building with the drug addicts. So that must mean you are here for drugs and alcohol huh?” I shook my head and walked up a few steps to the brick building. After being let into the building, my senses were igniting. I heard a sound that gave me a sense of comfort immediately; laughter. True, genuine laughter. I saw that the wall had painted letters on it, spelling out, “God is good, all the time”

My heart felt an easiness the second I read that. I knew with every bit of my heart that God was right there with me.

After settling in and meeting the other women, I got the scoop of what this building was all about. It was a program building for women that were incarcerated because of a substance related crime. AKA DUI’s, DWI’s, Possession, Sale, etc. There was structure, schedules, mentors, “friends”, counselors, recovery meetings, and group therapy. This was my first taste of what rehabilitation would be like.

On weekday mornings, the entire building met in a room and we had “morning meeting” which consisted of a meditation, sobriety anniversary recognition’s, announcements, etc. In order to get the room settled and prepared for morning meditation; a counselor would take hold of a black rope string that had two bells on each end and ding them together to make a “calm ringing bell” sound. It would get our attention and when meditation was over, they would ding it again. If we got too rowdy, they would ding the bells together to bring the attention back to the subject.

For 6 months, I would listen to those bells. I hoped that I would never hear that specific bell noise or see their unique design ever again. Not because I didn’t enjoy the program, because I did, but because the constant feeling of being in captivity and confinement lingered over me, despite the good times that I did have in that building. Those bells reminded me of those feelings and all of the pain that came along with incarceration; to my family and to myself.


First semester of college, pursuing a degree in Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counseling, August 2017. I was so excited for my first day of classes. I hadn’t been to school in 7 years and I was happy to be in a place in my life where I had recovery, employment, and kicking The Monkey’s ass.

As the classroom fills and the professor arrives, I was chatting with the people around me awaiting for class to begin.

And then I heard it.

DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING.

The. Bells. Were. Back.

PTSD IMMEDIATELY. HEART RATE ELEVATED, TREMBLING STARTED.

You have GOT to be kidding me. These damn bells were back in my life.

And again I heard, DIIIIING.

It was THE EXACT bells, design and all, that was used at YCI.

Immediately I had a flashback of sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs with the prison uniform of a maroon tshirt and baggy jeans. I could see the sea of women with maroon shirts on and I could hear the keys clanging as the CO’s walked by.

Breathe, Ally. Breathe.

It was a little humorous to hear my classmates enjoy the method of the professor getting our attention and to settle us down. But for me, it wasn’t pleasant.

I’ve had this professor for 4 classes so far and she uses them in each class. Each of her classes are 3 hours long. Dinging, dinging, and more dinging.

As I got to know the professor, I gained an admiration for her and her professional experience. She told the class that she does work at YCI and I immediately wished that I had known her while I was there; she would’ve been a tremendous help for me during that time.

So, during a break, I decided while few of my classmates were in the room, I was going to face my fear of the bells. I picked up the string and banged the bells together. My heart filled with gratitude and my eyes filled with tears. I left the room and went into the restroom to collect myself.

I immediately found a place to lower my head and close my eyes to pray. I thanked God that I was able to bang these bells again, in a completely different mindset and situation in my life. Three years ago I had to bang these bells as in inmate, feeling trapped, ashamed, and discouraged. Now, I was able to bang them and listen to them as a full time college student, feeling brave, empowered, free, and safe. I used this as a moment to reflect and embrace humility. It was a moment that I was able to relieve the anxiety that came with the noise of the bells. Although it still brings me back to YCI sometimes, I’m now able to bear the banging of the bells.

How I Had Thought Heroin Cured My Anxiety

Wake up, pray, deep breathing, wipe sweaty hands, notice how much they are shaking, tell myself I’m good enough, and then attempt to get out of bed.

That’s just one version of part of my daily morning routine, in recovery from a heroin addiction.

Morning routine in active addiction:
Wake up, grab needle, grab heroin, shoot up, and go about my day.

Notice no prayer, no deep breathing needed, no sweaty hands, no shakey hands, no convincing myself of self-worth, and easily able to get out of bed.

Heroin not only helped quiet my anxiety, but it completely eliminated it.

The second I felt anxious, one bit of heroin erased it. No rapid heartbeat, no shakey and sweaty hands, no irrational thoughts and beliefs, no intense amount of fear and panic, no loss or shortness of breath, etc etc etc.

My favorite thing that heroin solved was my thoughts of truly believing that I am worthless and not good enough for everything and everyone (no matter how many times they reassured me of my importance). All of the self-loathing went away.

But when I wasn’t high and just maintaining my habit, those thoughts came stampeding into my head and worked their way down to my heart.

The same heroin that eliminated those thoughts ended up bringing worse thoughts in.

It was no longer “you’re not good enough, you’re a terrible person, you’re ugly, blah blah blah”.. now it was “your family hates you, you ruined their lives, you ruined your own life, you’re a junkie, you look sick, you’ll never get sober, you’ll never have a job, you can’t have a job, you can’t have a family, you can’t get married, no one will love you, etc etc etc”

The worst part is that most of these thoughts were now completely true. I most definitely couldn’t get a job, I ruined my life, I was a junkie, I looked sick, etc… So all those thoughts that used to be gone with a shot of heroin, was now worse, true, and destroying me even more than before.

The thing that I thought was the cure ended up being a poison.

Although it was poison, it did have some purpose, so letting it go was a little bit of a grief process. Now, being in recovery, when those thoughts come, I can’t help but wonder if the poison would be worth it to shut the thoughts and emotions down.

But then I remember that I have found a cure for the poison and the thoughts that works perfectly for me.

That cure is my faith. God, Jesus, prayer, scripture, church, my Christian friends and family, my bible study.

I’ll never forget when those thoughts came creeping in and anxiety was paying a visit for the first time since I no longer had heroin. Man, it was scary. I literally thought, “How am I going to cope with this without heroin?”

2 years and 2 months later, I’m coping with it without heroin.

Prayer helps the most. Grounding exercises help. Squeezing a stress ball helps. Essential oils help. WoodWick candles help. Baths help. Work helps.

I had to accept my anxiety, I had to accept my depression. But acceptance doesn’t mean I like it or want it or will be chained or controlled by it. It means that I simply acknowledge its existence and learn how to function with it.

There are absolutely very difficult days. There are days that I go to work late, that I struggle through homework, that I have a couple of panic attacks before doing what I had to do, that I let the negative thoughts live in my head and travel in my ear for hours, that I have mood swings, that I lash out on the people that love me the most, that I use dry shampoo instead of washing my hair.

But, those tough days end, they pass. Sometimes it’s a prayer that helps them pass. Sometimes it’s my best friend telling me how valid my feelings are and how beautiful I am. Sometimes it’s hearing my mom’s singing and watching one of our shows together. Sometimes it’s hearing my dad say, “sweet dreams honey” at the end of the night. Sometimes it’s my boyfriend saying in a soothing tone that he loves me. And a lot of time, it’s my cat sitting on my chest and purring, begging for attention.

I learned that recovery doesn’t solve or eliminate everything. Being a Christian doesn’t solve or eliminate everything. I have a cross to bear, I have struggles, I have weaknesses, I have defeats. But faith, my sobriety, my loved ones, my passions, my purpose, my dreams.. are what turns these difficulties into beauty and make them bearable.

heroin

A Healthy Body

Well guys I’m adding another thing to balance and work on in my life; having a healthy body.

Notice I didn’t put losing weight? So losing weight is definitely my mission, but I’m trying to re-word it so
it doesn’t sound hurtful for me. So instead of “weight loss goal” I’m saying “a healthy body goal”.

I have struggled with my body, my health, and my body image in many different ways.

I once had a healthy body, but ya know what I definitely didn’t have? A healthy mind and a healthy
heart.

I used to make the outside look all put together because I didn’t want anyone to know what was going
on on the inside. I didn’t want people to know that I had self esteem issues, was self loathing all of the
time, thought I wasn’t good enough for anyone or anything, had mental health disorders.

So, I would fix up the outside in hopes that it could just cover up the insides. And it worked, until I
completely broke down and continued to hurt so deep inside.

Then I added drugs to the mix of things. As if getting attention from the wrong people, places, and
things weren’t already super high, now I had to be high with hopes that the insides would be fixed and
benefit the outside.

It didn’t; it made everything, inside and out, WAY WORSE.

I became severely underweight and my insides? forget it, they were completely shattered.

So once I got sober, I fixed up my insides and for once in my life, these past two years in recovery have
blessed me with the insides finally being at a point of true healthiness. But because I needed to care for
my inside as my top priority, my outside got neglected. So now I have the inside good and the outside not
so great. I was hating my weight gain.

Besides others making hurtful comments, and I mean VERY HURTFUL COMMENTS, I made the most
hurtful comments to myself. The self-loathing began and it started to get dangerous.

I do anything and everything to protect my recovery and mental wellness. If I sense anything to be a danger, I handle it immediately so I don’t jeopardize my recovery that I worked so hard to have. My body was becoming a danger to my recovery.

So here I am, starting my wellness journey. It’s a little overwhelming and sometimes discouraging because I feel like I’m balancing and maintaining so much already. But, I’m determined. I’m determined to take care of body, improve my wellness, and most importantly; protect my recovery.

I have started my healthy changes and within one week, I’m starting to feel so much better, both physically and mentally!

Today I Matter

These are just a few of the faces that addiction has taken. They are someone’s child, parent, brother, sister. Recovery is available, and it is possible. Reach out and get connected today. ❤️

Check out the video here!

Comfort Cat

Pete the Cat & Me

Have you ever had a pet or some creature that made you feel as if they were your best support? I have.

I grew up with cats and always loved them. I had cats that played and cuddled and even let me push them around in a stroller I had for a doll.

The two cats I have now, my son and daughter, Pete and Zenny, have a special place in my heart — all because they loved me when I felt as if no one else did.

They don’t judge me and they love me no matter what state I’m in emotionally or physically.

I’ll never forget when I picked up Zenny. I found her online and I fell in love with her picture. When I had arrived at the woman’s house, Zenny was far from the little kitten I saw in the picture – she was MUCH more grown up. I’m not gunna lie, I was a bit disappointed because I wanted a baby kitten, yet here was a cat that was at least two years old. There were big, loud, barking dogs surrounding her and the second I saw the fear of the dogs all over her sweet face, I couldn’t leave her. She was now mine.

We bonded instantly and she couldn’t do anything without me by her side, including eating. She followed me around the apartment and when I would go to the bathroom she would sit outside the door and meow until I opened it.

As perfect as it sounds, we had our troubles, well at least I did. Zenny had been a witness to a terrible time of my life; my heroin use. I would keep her shielded from seeing anything, but she knew. Then I remember when she walked in on me shooting up and I felt terrible. I remember I looked at her and apologized over and over that she had to see that. The second a tear fell, she rubbed against me and loved me no less than she did before.

I remember when I was going through intense withdrawal, she tried to do anything to help me feel better. She definitely helped.
My poor baby girl saw her mom in the worst state, but she still loved me so much. I’ll never forget when she was laying on me the night before I went to prison and I kept apologizing to her over and over and promised her that she would be safe with my mom (her GiGi).

Zenny

Many of you may be thinking that “it’s just a cat”…. SHE is NOT just a cat. She was my comfort and she treated me better than any human did. When I had to leave her for 9 months my heart broke, but she became so attached to her GiGi which made me feel happy to know that she was more than ok.

Zenny bonded with my mom so much that she sleeps with her every night and doesn’t come near me much. I’m sure she resents me, but GiGi reassures me that she’s forgiven me. It hurts my heart a bit that she lost her bond with me, but I guess it’s another reminder to stay away from drugs so I don’t lose my baby.

Then, Pete came along. I’ll never forget how I was BEGGING my parents for another cat. I begged God for another cat. I begged anyone to get me another cat.

Sure enough, Pete came strolling into our backyard one day and made himself comfortable on the patio furniture. He was an all black cat just like Zenny. He was a stray, but had no idea that he was about to be adopted as my son.

I had just had a relapse and I remember looking at Pete’s sweet eyes and saying to him, “I’m not sure if you’ll like me very much, I’m a drug addict.”

So clearly, I have an insecurity with people liking me, but now I also have it with animals. smh.

Pete ended up becoming my best pal. During my relapse he comforted me and once I got sober, he definitely showed me he was proud of me, especially when he cuddled up against an award I had.

His cuddles at night were everything when I was having a tough night. I’ll never forget one night I was up sobbing. I was about 30 days sober and I felt like a failure. I was overwhelmed with the guilt of hurting the people I loved and I felt so hopeless that I would one day make everything better. I was curled up on the floor with my back to the edge of my bed, head in my arms and covered with tears. I kept asking God, “will it ever get better? Will I ever be ok? Does anyone love me?”. Although I did have people that loved me, the guilt of hurting and disappointing them consumed me and I felt worthless. Then I felt a soft tail brush up against me and Pete stretched his paw out and touched the tears on my cheek. I picked him up and he started licking the tears away. Every single time that I cry, even when I think I’m alone, Pete knows. He senses it. He always comes running to me and he will lay on top of me and paw and kiss my face until I stop crying, or at least relax.

So these animals are not just animals to me. They are therapy. They are my babies. They give me a sense of importance.

My comfort cats.

Snuggles with Pete

Two Years!

I made it to two years in recovery!!!

December seems to be a big month of dates for me to celebrate, along with the holidays.

December 2nd marked 2 years in recovery
December 8th marked 3 years of being released from prison

I was curious as to why I should celebrate the fact that I hadn’t been back to prison or jail, but after learning the data of recidivism and watching so many people I knew either go back or get re-arrested, I realized that I fell into the small category that didn’t. Not only that, but I’m living proof that the Corrections Officer that told me that once I have a “number”, I will always have a number and I will always be back because prison is a revolving door, is wrong.

To get back to that data, since it’s pretty shocking, here’s where I fall into the data:

I’m part of the 32.2% that DID NOT get re-arrested, part of the 23.1% of drug offenders who did not get rearrested, and the 30% of women who did not re-offend.

Those stats are scary and as I was looking them up, I found out that the US has the highest rate of incarceration (2.2 million incarcerated. Louisiana incarcerated 816 per every 100k people in 2014 and is aka “the WORLDS prison capital”).

What are your thoughts on that?

I have the privelege to serve on the CT Alcohol and Drug Policy Treatment Subcommittee, where I surround myself with some powerful people in CT as we figure out ways to better CT (or DMHAS refers to it as promoting high quality effective treatment and reducing barriers). I mean yeah, we do that, but sometimes I get angry at these meetings because you discover the lack of humanity and compassion in some of the most powerful people in CT. Like in all honesty, put some commissioners and politicians and CEO’s of some places, that swear and promise they are “doing the best they can at serving CT residents and improving services”, in prison for 24-48 hours and I GUARANTEE they would put action to their words. In fact, you don’t even need to do a mock incarceration experiment, but instead put ONE undercover officer in any of CT’s prisons and that would make a difference.

Thank God for the courageous people that advocate. Many of those advocates have been people who have been incarcerated themselves or have been impacted by a loved one’s incarceration.

Rant over.

Anyways, TWO YEARS OF RECOVERY!!!

Very grateful to be celebrating this milestone!

Although I celebrate, not every day was a celebration. There were several times I faced loss and grief, temptations and trials, confusion and frustration. In times of weakness (which I experienced often), I fell to my knees and was reminded that when I am weak, He is strong. I didn’t make it here alone. God is always there and He blessed me with encouragement and love from my family, friends, church family, co workers, my colleagues and supervisors, and of course my pets. My family never stopped praying for me when I was sick and have shown the testimony of the power of prayer.

And to the families who courageously share their stories of their loved ones… you inspire me daily to fight the good fight. Thank you for being brave, so that in moments of my weakness, I can find bravery too. Thank you to the people who believed in me to share my story to crowds I never thought would listen.

Thanks to recovery, I no longer am suicidal, I finally have self confidence I never believed would exist for me, I have a career that blesses me with witnessing miracles, I’m a full time college student again, and I can be the daughter, sister, and Godmother that my family prayed to have back.

If you are reading this and are struggling, or know someone who is, please never lose faith, don’t doubt yourself, and remember that you are worth healing and recovery.

Faith-it Till You Make It

Time for me to switch up my usual story-writing technique and just give you guys the unfiltered version of Ally today. Not to say I’m not authentic in my other posts, but today it’s time to just tell it like it is. P.s. Why am I defending myself? The struggle of a self-esteem/anxiety issue is real, man. Ugh, anyways…

Have you ever heard of the term, fake-it till you make it?

As much as I feel as if I do that, it doesn’t sit right with me…

I’m not faking. I’m not good at faking. Why do I have to fake anything? Why can’t I just be?

So what is it that I’m feeling? Am I just putting on a good face? Am I simply putting aside my stuff so that I can focus at my task in front of me?

Or am I practicing faith?

Yeah, faith. That’s it.

I’m holding onto the faith that I will get through whatever feeling or situation is at hand. I’m “faithing-it till I make it”

Today is Wednesday and on Saturday, I will have two years in recovery. This is the longest time that I have ever been able to maintain my recovery since experimenting and abusing substances.

YAYYYY, right? Well, yeah, but it hasn’t been so “yay” for me lately.

So as many of you know, The Monkey is my addiction talking. He definitely has a love-hate relationship with anniversaries.

He loves to use them to try to stop them from even existing.
He loves to try to convince me that they are not worth celebrating.
He loves to try to use them as an opportunity to prey on my weaknesses.
He hates when I celebrate them, he hates when I continue in my recovery. And he hates when I don’t fall.

Literally for the past few weeks I have been overwhelmed. Someone had told me that it’s really common around the time for a recovery anniversary to be feeling this way. I’m definitely not some singled-out person, but MAN, it’s been difficult.

Let’s start with school. (pause: I’m already fighting the good fight by staying in school. Ally 1, Monkey 0)

Since I’m studying to be a Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor, take a wild guess of what I learn throughout the day: Drugs. People using drugs. How people use drugs (yes, actual videos and images of people getting high).

I can either have the perspective of:
A) Wow I’m so glad that’s not me anymore, I can’t wait to go out there and help people!
B) I could totally do that and no one would know.

You guys all know which perspective came from The Monkey right?

I was able to shake that off. I’m not gunna lie though, it was tough. EVERYTHING HAS BEEN EXTRA DIFFICULT THESE PAST FEW WEEKS. I mean, after watching a video of a young girl shoot up heroin (aka me two years ago), you’d think I would be like eww… but The Monkey, my addiction, wants me to focus on the head nod the girl gets, the way her eyes close as she falls into a world of relaxation and calmness.

Thank God (really, thank you Jesus) I focused more on the other parts of the video: the part where she couldn’t get a vein, the part where she was dripping with sweat and her hand was shaking when trying to inject because she was in deep withdrawal, the part where she sold her body to purchase the dope, the part where she waited hours for the drug dealer. Those parts kept me sober. (Ally 2, Monkey 0)

Work has been fine. Work is always great actually. My supervisor snuck a sweet cheering-me-on message on my calendar for me. My co-worker is encouraging me to celebrate. My colleagues are congratulating me. Speeches have been a bit tough. Standing in front of hundreds of people trying to make recovery look happy is difficult when deep inside you have The Monkey screaming at you saying, “YOU AREN’T SH*T!!!!!”

But remember what I said before, I’m Faithing-it till I make it.

Social life/home life: My family is the best, they really are. My mom was so empathetic towards me when I told her how much pressure I feel like I’m under. My dad is his usual uplifting spiritual self. My friends are great, the few I have (ew, did you hear that passive aggressive complaining I just did, smh!). Not gunna lie, I’ve been a hibernating bear lately. But I like to call it self-care. Cozied up in my super cozy-themed room watching a show with snacks (specifically Smartfood Popcorn falling into my shirt) and my furry son Pete, is literally the best.

But, I’ve definitely been extra cranky. Definitely snappy. Definitely rude.

I’m so sorry to anyone I’ve been cancelling plans with and have been snappy and sassy and just straight up evil towards.

Well, phew, that was quite the venting paragraphs.

If you skipped over a lot, here’s where you want to pick back up.

Those moments I’m feeling: overwhelmed, agitated, hateful, pressured, not good enough, worthless, useless, hopeless, and filled with sorrow…

I have to stop and think, “is this from God?”

It isn’t.

But God, I feel like this because blah blah blah blah blah”

Again, no matter how justified I am in a worldly sense of my feeling, God’s not giving me that.

He may allow it, but, what the enemy meant for evil, God allowed for good. (Genesis 50:20)

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

“But God WHYYYYYY why do I have to feel like this?! It’s overwhelming, I can’t do it, I’m going to break” – said me, billions of times.

Because no matter what, God is always good. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same “good God” that I claimed He was when He lifted me up, held me tight, grasped my hand to guide me, and blessed me with recovery (and a job, school, family, food, shelter, etc) ….

Is the same “good God” that is allowing me to go through this trial, this temptation, this discouragement. When I am weak, He is strong. “Greater is He in me than in the World” (1 John 4:4)

But how do I see His goodness, when I’m being proud by being selfish and consumed with my own stuff, struggling to get through even just the seconds of the day?

Faith, humility.

(and sometimes mixed with some of my stubbornness because I’m not perfect)

God allows storms in our lives for so many reasons. Some we may never know, but some become known in ways we would never have imagined.

I never thought that my addiction and all the pain that came along with it, was going to happen to me so that I can help someone else.

I have to remember that these feelings that I hold onto don’t need to be stuck on me. I can give them to God and hold onto the faith that He will get me through them.

I thank God that He always, always gets me through every temptation, trial, barrier, and harmful feelings. He’s in the healing business, not hurting.

So as my two year anniversary is a few days away, I’m gunna continue to faith-it till I make it, because that’s truth, that authenticity.

Faking something doesn’t seem right, because you are really doing it, even if it’s just externally or even internally.

No matter how many different ways my addiction tries to stop my anniversary, recovery has a different plan.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

Learn the Facts about Heroin and Opiate Use and the Benefits of Narcan!

When: November 8, 2017 from 12PM to 1:30PM

Where: Greenwich Hospital Noble Conference Center

Register to learn about Heroin and Opiate use, and the benefits of Naloxone (Narcan).

Falling In Love With Fall

recovery fall

Fall is usually a difficult season for me. As much as I love the season itself, it comes with some tough memories.

Fall was always the season during my active use that things would get chaotic. I was either scrambling to get into a detox, get warm clothes, try to keep warm, and make sure I had a roof over my head. When you’re using heroin, the cold weather is NOT good.

On top of the scrambling, two fall’s ago I was actively using and I had lost a baby due to my using. I also admitted myself into detox after that had happened.

So this whole idea of fall is NOT my favorite. I’ve been trying to make new memories and made new ones last year, but it’s still a difficult season for me.

I always remembered it as the season of trying to get sober too.

Well here I am, today marks 1 year 11 months in recovery. 30 days until I hit my two year mark!!!

So this fall season, I’ve filled up my days with over 30 speaking opportunities! I’ve also been busy as a full time student (studying to be a Alcohol and Drug Counselor), and I’ve been spending a ton of time with family, friends, and a special someone 😉

My family and I went apple picking, went through a corn maze, and got to visit my aunt and uncle who I haven’t seen in about 10 years!

One big thing that’s happened this fall was my mom and I speaking at the high school that I had graduated from! It was so cool to be back a my old high school and most importantly, to be speaking with my mom! The students really connected with her because a lot of times, teens (and people in general) think that it’s all about them and that their actions don’t affect anyone but them. My mom and her experience had proven that to not be the case. My mom was severely impacted by my choices and my substance use disorder. Students had approached us afterwards and they had also approached the school counselor saying that hearing how my mom was affected really made a difference to them!

So as much as I don’t like fall, I love how recovery has taught me how to love it and to forgive the past fall memories. I don’t forget them, not sure if I ever could, but I definitely am learning how to change my perspective.

Fall is becoming good again for me. Recovery is teaching me how to appreciate new things. God has been blessing me with opportunities to make new memories and remind me of His grace.

I’m so looking forward to next fall. And I’m especially looking forward to my two year anniversary! Almost there!!

A Day at the Courthouse

As my morning alarm went off and I slowly got out of bed, my anxiety started to kick in. I was getting dressed and heading to Bridgeport Superior Court and all I could think about was the last time I was there, three years ago.

On April 1, 2014, I was sentenced to prison because of the consequences of my heroin addiction. Part of my sentencing included 3 years of probation. I had already completed two and was now eligible for “early termination”, which meant that I had a chance to be let off one year early. Aka, no longer being property of CT’s judicial system.

As much as I would like to say that I had outstanding performance, unfortunately I didn’t. In fact, in my personal life, I completely failed. I had relapsed after a year of sobriety which led me into a four month long relapse. During that relapse, I had experienced the deepest amount of sorrow I had ever been in, and I’ve been in some deep ones. According to probation standards, I was to remain sober, not have possession of any firearms, complete community service, and to not get arrested again. I had done everything but remain sober. Probation had record of a positive urine toxicology test and had told me to “come back in 30 days with a clean test and this test will not cause any violation”. I had already been off of all substances, but the reason my test came out positive was because I still had marijuana in my system after I had left my detox treatment facility. So, staying sober, I came back in 30 days and gave a negative test.

I should have known better that probation keeps record of everything and that every record will affect me, some way or another. Although I did not get an official probation violation, that positive test resulted in probation making a recommendation to the court to continue my probation and NOT grant me early termination.

That’s fine, I understand, I technically didn’t keep the requirements of probation.

However, what I did after I sought treatment for my relapse, was substantial. I became an advocate for recovery, maintained continuous recovery for almost two years, started working in the addiction recovery field, started school full time, and received recognition and awards for the advocacy I was doing. I even had an offer to work with the CT Department of Corrections, but I could only accept the position if I was granted the early termination. Probation was holding me back and becoming a barrier in many aspects of my life.

So, I decided to attend my probation hearing with letters of recommendation and proof of my progress since that last test, in hopes that the judge may decide to cut me a break.

I was dreading going to that courthouse. My last memory of that place was me leaving in handcuffs and being sent away to a correctional institution. I was addicted to heroin, extremely underweight, and had no hope or purpose for my life.

I walked up the steps of the courthouse and waited in the line as people went through the metal detectors. Hearing the buzzing of the detector started sending me back to the year that I was in and out of that courthouse fighting this case. At every court date I was either high or in withdrawal.
I went through the routine of coming to court as if it was second nature, which was a bit disappointing for me. It was pathetic to me that I knew how to navigate the court house and system so well because I was a defendant so many times. I bee-lined around people looking lost and went to a bulletin board that hung all of the docket numbers of that day and which court room they were going to be in. I found my name and proceeded into the court room. Of course it was the exact court room that I had gotten sentenced in and hauled away in handcuffs.

I sat on the wooden bench and then the waiting began. Court is full of waiting, no matter what court house you are in or what you are in court for. As I waited, people began to fill the court room and defense attorneys were pulling their clients aside to speak with them.

Instantly every single dreadful memory came back to me at once. I then heard a door located on the side of the court room open and I knew exactly why it was being opened; a prisoner was being transported to a different section of the courthouse. Then, a panic attack started coming on in full force. At first it started off with general anxiety, but the second I heard the chains of the handcuffs, full panic mode set in.

“Breathe, Ally, breathe. This is totally normal. This isn’t you. You are walking out of here today no matter what. Everything. Is. Going. To. Be. Just. Fine.” I said to myself.

Knowing that the judge was going to be approaching the bench at any moment I couldn’t get up and leave. So I dropped my head and began to pray; my go-to for extreme panic situations that I literally cannot get out of.

After finally bringing myself to a sustainable level of anxiety, the judge approached the bench.

My name was called and I approached, with each step remembering all of the times I had done this.

The judge looked over my letters, looked at me and said, “Wow. Miss Kernan I never see this. Unfortunately, many people that come in here with a case like yours, do not make it. You not only changed your life completely, but you now help others. Based on the substantial amount of information that I am seeing, I have no issue with terminating your probation.”

She then turned to the prosecutor and asked if he had any objections.

The prosecutor said, “I absolutely have an objection. She is a FELON. It shows she has a dirty urine on her record. I cannot agree to this, AT ALL.”
My heart stung as he emphasized “felon” and “dirty urine”. Even the language of that term alone is unprofessional.

The judge then looked at me and said, “What do you have to say about the urine result?”

I replied, “Your honor, I had a relapse which probation has record of. I take full responsibility of it and that’s why I came here today, despite probations’ recommendation to continue my probation because of that test result. I’m here to advocate for myself in hopes that the court can reconsider and grant the early termination so I can further my career in the addiction recovery services.”

The judge said, “Well I see your progress and I don’t think this one test should hinder you. I want to grant early termination,” she then looked at the prosecutor and said, “Again, I think you should reconsider and you should take my recommendation. This woman has no purpose of staying on probation.”
The prosecutor would not come to an agreement and the judge had to continue my probation because of it.

Aka… I was to continue probation for another year.

The judge apologized to me and even expressed her embarrassment for the state’s inability to agree with her recommendation. That alone was humbling to hear.

So although I was disappointed that I had to continue my case, there was so much to be grateful for that day:
I was still in recovery.
I was walking out of the courthouse with no hand-cuffs.
I was sober in the court room!
I was healthy.
I was even mistaken for an attorney!
I had shown a judge that recovery is possible.

But most importantly, God is still in control and was the entire time. That fact alone kept me in so much peace. Instead of complaining, I changed my perspective.

Recovery teaches me to change my perspective on situations and people. Being a Christian teaches me to have thankfulness in every situation.
I am so thankful that I am still in recovery. I am so thankful that I will continue to never allow probation be a barrier to maintain my recovery and help support someone else’s.

This experience also taught me more about the judicial system and made me think of new things that I can advocate for.

I’ve been blessed in my road of recovery and if I made it this far on probation, I can absolutely continue!

And one last thing I was thankful for: I faced a place that I thought would forever haunt me; sober.

Dreaming Again

I’ve written on my experience with “drug dreams”, but I have never experienced a drug dream as bad as I had recently.

This drug dream I had the other night was strange in so many different ways. It started off with me looking for a missing young female addict that a parent needed help finding (and hopefully getting into treatment). I went into an abandoned house that I had used in before where many addicts hung out to get high and sometimes even live in. While looking for this missing girl, I walked into the kitchen and saw someone that I had used with in my past. He was sitting at a table and was shocked to see me.

“Damn, don’t tell me you’re back here using again. You were doin’ so good!” He said.

“No, no. I’m looking for someone, have you seen her?” I asked.

“Nope. She hasn’t been here for a couple of days. So, while you’re here, have some, for old times’ sake.” He said, while showing me a line of heroin he had out on the table.

“No thanks, I’m ok. Reach out to me if you run into the girl, ok? Her family is worried about her, they just want to know she’s alive.” I responded.

“Well, I’ve got plenty so if ya change your mind, it’s here.” He got up from the table and said goodbye to me as he left the house. I knew better than to believe that he hadn’t seen the girl, since many addicts lie to cover up hiding someone. I needed to search the rest of the house before leaving. As I passed by the table, I glanced at the heroin he had left for me. I told myself “no” as I kept walking. After searching the other rooms, the girl was no where to be found. Walking by the table on my way out, I stopped and looked at the powder again. Don’t do it Ally.

I sat down on the chair at the table. Maybe I can do it, just this once.
That was the thought going through my mind as I sat at this table. Just sniff a little, don’t shoot it, we don’t need an OD. Plus, a little sniff won’t really count.

I grabbed a $1 bill, rolled it up, and sniffed the line that was calling my name.

I felt the slight burn of the powder go up my nose and tasted the heroin as the drip went down my throat. Shortly after, I became light-headed and felt a warmth throughout my entire body. I was high. I relapsed.

“Oh my gosh. What have I done?” I said aloud. I couldn’t believe that I had just done that. Almost two years of sobriety – GONE. The guilt of this one quick moment overwhelmed me. “I’m gunna have to start all over, right back to square one again.”

I went home and laid on my bed immediately, hoping to fall asleep as soon as possible to just forget all that had happened.

—————————————————————————————

And then I woke up. In real time.

Well, let me change that. I didn’t “wake up”, I JUMPED out of my bed, heart pounding and out of breath.

For two hours, I couldn’t figure out if that was a dream or reality. It especially didn’t help that my dream ended by me going to sleep in my own bed. I started frantically blowing my nose, looked in the mirror to see the size of my pupils, and looked at my phone to see who I had last spoken to.

“Did I relapse?” Was the question flowing in my mind. My anxiety and confusion was so overwhelming, I had to get answers and solve this problem. Once I had taken steps to confirm that this was a dream, I finally started to calm down.

I sat in my bed wondering how this dream even came into existence. A lot of things that happened that day of the dream had come out through the dream. For example, there was a parent who had a missing daughter who was an addict and asked for my help. The other addict in my dream had reached out to me that day congratulating me on my sobriety. I also had a discussion with someone about “square one” and “starting over”. So although the events of my day manifested itself into a chaotic nightmare, I was still very bothered by this dream. But why? It’s not real.

I was bothered by this dream because it was unlike any other drug dream that I have ever had. All of my other drug dreams, I had never felt the drug and the high like I had this one. I also had never felt such an overwhelming sense of guilt in the other dreams that I got high in. I was also so angry that The Monkey found his way in my dream too.

But ready for the real, raw truth to the aftermath of that nightmare?

“Hm, getting high once doesn’t seem so bad,” was the thought that crossed my mind for a microsecond.

Thank God I didn’t act on that thought. But even just that thought, broke my heart. I became so angry and upset with myself for that thought even being in my head. Like, why? I’m doing so well, that dream scared me beyond explanation, I work in the recovery field, my family would’ve been devastated, my friends would be so disappointed in me… why did this thought even have existence?!

I felt so uneasy for the rest of the day because of that thought. Instead of being proud of myself for not acting on the thought, I beat myself up for thinking it.

I decided that I was sick of feeling like this, so I called my friend and vented. After our conversation, I realized that I need to give myself a break.

I was getting mad at myself for being human.

I’m starting to learn that I can’t be so hard on myself, especially when I’m being human. I need to find the good in every situation and see how God is always good through it too.

I reflected on my feelings, my dream, my aftermath of the dream and realized that it was to keep me humble, prepare me for a real-life situation, and to remember that I am only human.

Every Three Weeks We Have a 9/11

chasing the dragon panel

Last night I had the opportunity to share my story on a panel alongside some incredible people! We had shown the film, “Chasing the Dragon” and had a discussion afterwards.

The audience consisted of nursing students from St. Vincent’s College and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, CT. They were all SO interested about the topic of opioid abuse and they were passionate to be part of the solution!

As grateful as I was to be a part of this panel and provide vital resources that these nurses needed, I was SHOCKED when I heard a comment that another panelist said.

“Every three weeks we have a 9/11”

Meaning, every three weeks, the amount of overdose deaths are equivalent to the amount of deaths that occurred on 9/11/01

I’ve heard and experienced so much regarding addiction and the opioid crisis, so something never shocks me. However, this one did.

Maybe it was because I remember 9/11 and the horror of it.

Also, I thought it was kind of interesting. When 9/11 happened, so many resources were created and became available for family members of victims and preventative strategies.

I feel like for the opioid crisis, there is still so much more this country (both citizens and government) can do to tackle this epidemic.

I did realize some similarities though.

STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION, Both with the opioid crisis and with 9/11. People judged and made assumptions that anyone from the Mid-East were a terrorist or supported terrorism. In the opioid epidemic, people judge addicts, people in recovery, and family members.

Another similarity I noticed was that memorials were made. I’m seeing a lot of remembrance quilts, vigils, and walks throughout the country. The same things happened for the victims of 9/11.

This fact that the panelist said hurt me because HOW IS THAT FACT STILL NOT ENOUGH TO DECLARE A NATIONAL EMERGENCY?!

Anyways, I would love to know your thoughts on what I heard.

I’ve included an article about this statement and trailer of “Chasing the Dragon”

Every Three Weeks

A New Identification

I remember on April 1, 2014 I received an ID…

It was about 10:00 PM and I hadn’t gotten sleep in days. I was sitting on a metal bench and had cold metal cuffs around my ankles that had a chain that went up my legs, wrapped around my waist, then attached to cuffs around my wrists. I had been bound by these chains and cuffs for the past six hours on a long bus ride that stopped in and out of courthouses throughout the coast of CT.

“Allison Kernan… Al-li-son Ker-nan!” Came a loud voice. My name was being shouted and pronounced as if I couldn’t understand English.

“Here,” I said. As I tried to raise my hand, the chain quickly tugged at my wrist to remind me that I couldn’t extend my arm past my ears.

“You’re next, inmate. Step to this white line.” The man with the loud voice commanded.

Inmate. Inmate. That was how I was going to be addressed for the next year and a half. As much as I tried to convince myself that this was a sick and twisted dream that I was in, I knew it was reality and mentally, I was blocking every emotion.

I shuffled to the white line and a corrections officer came and unlocked the chains and cuffs attached to my body. I stretched my wrist and was relieved to finally be able to walk normally without being bound by metal. I was then instructed to look into a camera as they quickly snapped a photo of me. After having my picture taken, I was instructed to go into this room that had a row of showers. There was a female corrections officer standing outside of a shower and a naked young woman trying to cover herself. She was being strip searched and after the search was done, the officer shut a small curtain and told the woman to shower and handed her a uniform. The officer looked at me and called out, “NEXT!”

She pointed her finger into the shower, directing me to step in it and give her every article of clothing and jewelry. I had heard her yelling at the other women to move faster, so I quickly stripped every article of clothing off and handed them to her.

“Open your mouth. Lift your tongue. Shake your hair. Turn around. Bend at your waist. Spread your cheeks and cough. Now wash yourself with this shampoo.” The officer commanded, as I followed each step. And yes, “spread your cheeks”, is exactly what you think it is. It’s supposed to reveal if a person -I mean, an inmate– is trying to smuggle contraband through internal cavities. When the officer held up the bottle of shampoo, I cupped my hands as she pumped out an orange liquid. It was a shampoo that will kill and prevent lice. She quickly shut the curtain and let me know that my uniform was outside of my shower.

I had less than 60 seconds to “shower”, which mainly consisted of rinsing this orange goop out of my hair. My hair is SO thick, so I’m positive that I still had this stuff in my hair as I got dressed. My new outfit was now a maroon t-shirt, baggy jeans with an elastic waistband, undergarments that were three times my size, a grey sweatshirt, thick socks, and slip-on shoes that had no laces. I followed the other women that just finished their showers and we were put inside a room with another metal bench. I heard my name being called and as I approached the officer, I was handed pale green bed sheets and a badge that the officer clipped just beneath my left shoulder. I went back into the room I was sitting in as I waited for the rest of the women to finish the processing procedure.

I removed what the officer had clipped onto my shirt to see what it was. My heart sank when I read what was written on this laminated paper.

“STATE OF CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
YORK CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
INMATE NAME: ALLISON KERNAN
INMATE # 402446”

These were the words, along with my birth date, admission date, height, and weight that were written on this card I was holding. Along with the words and numbers, the mugshot picture they had taken previously was printed on it as well.

I was officially an inmate, a convict. And this was now what I needed to use as my ID. I had to keep this ID clipped onto my shirt on the left side of my chest during all movement throughout the prison. I looked at the picture and the words and an overwhelming feeling of regret came over me. I couldn’t believe that just one try of a drug would eventually lead me to this moment. I stared at my eyes in the picture. I was broken. I was a heroin addict, convicted felon, and now; inmate.

————————————————-

“Alright, sit right over there on that stool and give me a big smile!” The photographer said.

I did what was told and waited patiently afterwards.

“Here you go, ma’am. Welcome to Gateway Community College.” He said.

A blue lanyard held a plastic card that I put around my neck. I exited the college campus, got into my car and shut the door. I took off the lanyard and looked at the card. My heart filled with emotion when I read what I was holding

“Gateway Community College
Student Name: Allison Kernan
Student Number: 01460700”

August 1, 2017 I received an ID, But it was nothing like the last one.

That last one was my inmate ID; listing the name of the correctional institution, inmate number, and mugshot.
Now I’m holding my school ID; listing the name of the college, student number, and smiling photo of myself.

I broke down in tears of gratitude for the faithfulness of Gods promises. As I held this new ID, my hands shook because all I could picture was that old ID I held in that jail cell. I looked at this new ID and immediately had a flashback to that moment.

As of August 1, I am a full time college student again. Addiction robbed so many things from me, one being my education. I dropped out of college in 2010 because I’d rather pursue heroin than a college degree. As crazy as that sounds, it sounded completely logical in the state of mind I was in at the time.

Well Monkey, you haven’t robbed it from me. You tried, but God showed me recovery, mercy, and hope.

I’m back at school now, pursing a career in drug and alcohol counseling, so that I help the same way people helped me.

I’m doing this to show that we do recover.

And most importantly, I’m doing this because God is faithful. I can’t explain to you how many barriers I faced for a simple school application and registration process. Every single obstacle, from little ones — like appointments and paperwork getting lost… to big ones like financial aid not going through and my schedule not being able to work — came my way. What could have gone wrong, went wrong, AND WORSE! But through prayer, scripture, sermons, and relying on Gods ability to make the impossible become possible, those barriers crumbled and God made a way.

Time and time again, the Lord continues to show His faithfulness to fulfill the plan He has for my life.
And I thank Him for providing the people to make this all happen. Had it not been for my family and friends, I would’ve given up at the first barrier I faced.

All of the times that I continued to fight the good fight, take it one day at a time, and not pick up a drug NO MATTER WHAT, has led up to this very moment.

I am SO grateful for what God and recovery has brought me.

Lamar Odom Coming Out About His Addiction

So I came across this article about Lamar Odom coming out to the public about his addiction. I was really impressed by his courage and his story! I was able to relate to it and things that he went through. I also related to the support and encouragement he had always gotten from his mother.

What are your thoughts?

https://www.theplayerstribune.com/lamar-odom-done-in-the-dark/

Faith

“I don’t think I can do this.”
I whispered these words as the feelings of defeat and discouragement came over me. I dropped my head as tears started to fall from my eyes. I was sitting on the edge of my bed and started to lose the strength of sitting upright. As I slid off my bed and found myself on the floor, I cried out to God for help.

The past few weeks before this moment, my anxiety was in full throttle, my job had become very stressful, my best friend was incarcerated, and many other things were going wrong. As they say, “when it rains, it pours”, and I was drowning. The downpour began when I got the call that the guy I was in a relationship with no longer wanted to be a part of my life. I was devastated. How were we talking about ring styles and searching for places to live together one day, and then the next day we are breaking up?

With everything else that was going on in my personal life, this was the brick that made my load officially too heavy to carry. I didn’t want to show up for life. I did not want to put on that mask that everything is ok, when I felt like it was far from it. The Monkey was so loud, telling me all the benefits of getting high would be. He told me of the pain I wouldn’t feel, the sleep I would be able to get, and he reminded me that he was always there for me when I wanted to feel better.

The loudness of The Monkey’s voice was so overwhelming that I had to cover my ears thinking it would muffle the sound. Unfortunately, The Monkey’s voice is in my head and it doesn’t quiet down by plugging my ears. I prayed, I grabbed my bible, I called people in my support network, I journaled, I put on music, I put on the TV, I did anything to distract myself from feeding into the things The Monkey told me, because he sure sounded convincing.

So, what was left to do? Give-in to his ideas? I couldn’t. I wanted to so badly, but I HAD to fight the good fight. “Whatever you do, don’t pick up” was a quote running through my mind. I laughed at every quote and any encouragement that I was being told. It was almost impossible for me to believe that I wasn’t going to give-in to this stupid monkey in my head.

Then one word came to mind; faith. Have faith.

Faith? How was I to have faith to get through these situations I was facing, especially with my anxiety and depression in full throttle? How do I create faith when I can’t find the courage to create it in the first place? What is faith?

Faith is defined in the dictionary as, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something” or “belief that is not based on proof”.

In the Bible, faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 saying, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Having faith can sometimes be the most challenging thing for me to have in recovery, especially when the tough times come. I basically have to somehow believe that God will make a way and I will be able to get through this, even when I can’t see any way possible for that to happen. However, there is evidence I can see, which is all the times that God has gotten me through those tough times. There are times when The Monkey tries to convince me that God runs out of grace and that God won’t pull me out of the fire.

However, faith tells me different. Recovery tells me different.

If I have just a tiny bit of faith, it really can move mountains. Just the act of not using, is a form of faith because I’m still holding on, still fighting the good fight. Even if I’m on my bedroom floor breaking down, I’m still practicing faith. Every SECOND that I don’t pick up a drug is practicing faith. I’m holding onto the promises that God gives. I’m holding onto the trials He’s already gotten me through. I don’t even need the size of a mustard seed of faith for Him to help me and give me strength, most of the time it’s so much less than that and God still blesses me for it.

When the fire comes, I let it refine, mold, and shape me. It’s not easy, but faith makes it bearable. When the storm rages, I hold onto the anchor that keeps me. I increase my recovery and decrease my addiction.

Now, because of faith, I was able to get through another trial SOBER. I learned from each difficulty I was facing in that moment. What my addiction wanted for evil, God allowed for good. Recovery was practiced and The Monkey was silenced again.

Sex addiction – Need advice!

Hey!! I desperately need help. Please don’t judge me wrong.

I have been hooked to chatting with men online. I started it when I was lonely but later on, I found it very much interesting. I have been in 3 or 4 online relationships. We used to call at night and ends up with sex. I have found myself addicted to sex and I think I should undergo sex addiction treatment.

I have a boyfriend and he doesn’t know about my online relationships. I feel guilt over the situation but I’m not so happy with the sex life of my boyfriend and me. He tries his best to satisfy me in bed but is unable to do so. I can’t let him know that I’m addicted to sex. So I’m looking for sex addiction help from a clinic in Vancouver. Is anyone here with a similar situation? How did you overcome your addiction?

Fear or Love?

“In life, you are driven by either fear or love.” I heard someone say. It was such a powerful statement for me. I started reflecting on how easily I can get caught up in fear, rather than love.

I started the process of going back to college. As I began the application process, I became discouraged about the whole idea of school very quickly. This discouragement turned into doubt, then the doubt turned into despair. My addiction was feeding me lies, or even half-truths that turned into lies. I started believing the lies for a bit. My mother then noticed how I went from being really excited to go back to school, to suddenly completely losing my drive. She called me out on it. She asked me why I was doubting myself and becoming so discouraged. I recognized it and then decided to dig deep to find out what exactly was going on with me.

I was afraid.

I was afraid to go to back to school. I had fear of doing it sober, fear of the new school scene, fear of failure, etc. I was being DRIVEN AWAY from school by FEAR! Five minutes before starting the application process, I was DRIVEN TO school by LOVE! So, I had to focus on that part; love. I love recovery. I love helping people with their addiction. I love watching the transformations and testimonies addicts have.

Now, I’m starting to recognize that when I’m feeling a certain way about a person, place, or thing, I need to figure out which feeling it really is; fear or love. A lot of times other emotions stem from that, like anger. I’ve also noticed that with me, sometimes pain turns into fear, or even the other way around.

So, I ask you this… are you driven by love or fear?

Love has always gotten me in the better place I want to be. I also constantly remind myself that the Bible mentions to NOT BE AFRAID 365 times. So, for each day of the year, I can read a verse that reminds me to not be afraid and instead; love.

One verse that I recite often when I’m feeling anxious and afraid is found in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

LOVE. A SOUND MIND. Exactly what I need to focus on!

Drug Dreams

Often in recovery and sobriety, addicts experience something called a “drug dream”. It’s a dream that involves using, being high, and/or getting the drug. I’ve experienced many different versions of these dreams and often wake up in a panic, wondering if it had really happened or not. I remember one time it took me over an hour to figure out if I had relapsed or not and my anxiety was intense. After I’ve realized that it was only a dream, the feeling of relief would take over me. The gratitude of realizing that it was in fact “only a dream” would keep me humble in my recovery, too.

Although I would be relieved that it was a dream, I sometimes would be feeling “off” throughout the next day or two. The scene of the dream replays in my mind over and over. Unfortunately, drug dreams also can cause urges to get high and be a huge trigger. I’m grateful that when I first experienced a drug dream, I had a ton of resources to help me get through it. My best coping mechanism is prayer. I would hit my knees and pray for God to remove the unwelcomed desire. Sometimes I would struggle throughout the day and maybe not be as cheery as I normally am, but I didn’t use which was the most important thing. After praying, I would call someone in my support network and be honest about the dream and how it was making me feel. That honesty would be a great help because I was avoiding suppressing the emotions that the dream made me feel.

I recently had a drug dream, but this time the dream went different. It wasn’t me getting high. Instead, I was in the city that I used to get my drugs from and I ran into an old dealer. Even after telling the dealer how my life is different now and that I no longer use, he placed a few bags of heroin in my hand discreetly and said to me, “Here, take these. Just in case you change your mind.”

I held the bags in my hand and walked away. I put them in my pocket as I walked down the busy street. The Monkey came to me in my dream and was trying to convince me to get high. I battled with The Monkey and was refusing to get high, but I kept the bags in my pocket. I started to think that maybe just one time I can use.

Then my dream went a direction a drug dream rarely ever goes. I gained some courage and grabbed the bags out of my pocket and walked over to the closest storm drain. With so much anger, I threw the bags down the drain and walked away. I was so mad at myself that I kept the bags for the short amount of time that I did. I woke up shortly after destroying the bags.

I couldn’t believe that even in a dream, I resisted the temptation of getting high and ultimately didn’t use. I was so relieved when I woke up and I felt empowered. I felt a sense of confidence in my recovery because I could remain sober, even in that state of mind.

That dream made me reflect on my progress of recovery. I was so thankful to God for staying so faithful to His promises and always being there for me. I’m still in shock that I fought the temptation in my dream.

Sobriety vs Recovery

I’ve learned throughout my 15 years of experience with addiction, whether it be from being a family member effected, personally effected, in active addiction, in recovery, or working in the field, that there is a HUGE difference between sobriety and recovery. I could’ve sworn they were the same thing, but I realized just how different they are and how it can be applied to literally anything you are going through. However, I’ve realized that I can’t have sobriety without recovery and I can’t have recovery without sobriety.

Sobriety, to me, is removing the substance that you’re ingesting and addicted to. This substance could be anything; fear, self-hate, drugs or alcohol, violence, etc. So, for me, I ingested drugs. Once I removed the substance, I was sober. My physical body started to feel so much better. I was gaining my senses back and my sleep pattern was becoming a normal schedule. As much as those were good things, my mentality and spirituality now needed to be nourished. It was great for me to be “sober”, but now what? There had to be more than just not ingesting harmful substances.

So, I started my journey of “recovery”. Sobriety is still its own beast, it’s not something simple to maintain, especially after you do the research on the science behind addiction and how it effects the brain. Anyways; recovery. Recovery is the most beautiful way of life that I have ever discovered. It’s literally a whole new way of living. I removed the substance that I was ingesting so that I can start to work on the deep stuff that was buried inside me, the stuff that was making me reach for the drugs in the first place, subconsciously or intentionally. Recovery is A LOT of work, but it’s worth it. I had to dig up all the pain, sorrow, confusion, and hate that I’ve suppressed and address each one. As tough as that sounds, it was even harder doing it WITHOUT a drug. I had to address and FIX these issues in SOBRIETY. Impossible? No. Difficult? Immensely. I decided to tackle one issue at a time. When it started to get deep and painful, I reached for my Higher Power before a drug. I prayed, memorized scripture, and cried out to the Lord. I also used another powerful tool in my Recovery Chest; my sober network. I would lean on my mother and other family members for support. I also would call my sober friends and cry in their arms. It wasn’t always easy to do the right thing, but I wanted to test doing the right thing before doing the wrong. I knew where the wrong thing would lead me. I knew the result of using drugs. I didn’t know the result of “the right thing”, which made me a little curious. The curiosity led me to recovery, which then led me to true joy.

Recovery brought me a whole new perspective on life, a whole new way of living. I practice the principals in my everyday life to the best of my ability. I’m not always perfect and definitely slip, but at the end of the night I take a personal inventory of myself and where I lacked that day, I try to make up for the next day. That’s the beauty of the morning; it’s another chance to do the right thing.

You can apply sobriety and recovery in your life even if it’s not drugs and alcohol.

I also struggled with low self-esteem. I needed to get sober from this by removing the evil thoughts that would flow through my mind about myself, making me hate myself. After I started having sober self-esteem, I began my self-esteem recovery process. I again, as with the drugs, dug deep. I found out why I thought so negative of myself. I addressed my issues without allowing a negative thought about myself kill the recovery process. It wasn’t an easy task, but I got through it. I still struggle sometimes, as I do with addiction recovery, but again, tomorrow is a new day.

With addiction, you will sometimes unfortunately see someone with only sobriety. As commendable as that is, recovery is necessary. It is not only so rewarding, but it will keep sobriety alive and become long term. If an addict starts to allow old thoughts and behaviors resurface and then entertain them, it’s extremely likely that they will experience a relapse.

Some days I must visit sobriety and remove some toxic substances. Other days, I must enhance my recovery. As long as I am allowing sobriety and recovery to work together, I’m practicing a healthy way of living.

Holidays in Recovery

Holidays bring mixed emotions to everyone whether you’re in recovery or not. The holidays could be a happy family gathering, a family feud, a lonely day, or another day at the job for those who work holidays.

When I was in active addiction, holidays were a day of disaster. I would be filled with so many negative emotions, all while putting on a mask that everything was just fine. Guilt would overwhelm me when I would be strolling in late, empty-handed, dressed terribly, and with the attitude of wanting to get the holiday celebration over with.

The morning of the holiday, I would be scrambling around trying to make sure I could get enough drugs so that I wouldn’t be in withdrawal and could be able to somewhat function during my family gathering. So many lies would come flying out of my mouth when I would see my family. I would try to convince everyone that I had a job, a functional healthy relationship, a beautiful apartment, and most importantly; that I’m happy. I didn’t want anyone to know what was really going on behind closed doors. I most certainly wasn’t ready to receive any type of help, so why let everyone down by saying the truth of what my life was like? And why humiliate myself more than I already was? While a cousin of mine would be bragging about her new home, beautiful marriage, and pregnancy, I was sitting there thinking, “yeah my life update is that the most exciting thing about my day is when I get a deal on my heroin purchase. Or that I spend my day scraping for money for dope so that I can simply get up, eat, and shower. Or that it’s considered a successful day when I don’t break my needle or maybe get a little nod session.”

Although I thought I had my family fooled that my life was going great, they knew that it was all a lie. They may have not known the extent of how bad my addiction was, but they knew that almost every word out of my mouth was a lie and that I was far from fine. It was devastating for me deep inside. Deep inside the real Ally was still there, but every time she tried to come alive, Addict Ally suppressed her even more. Ally wanted to scream for help. Ally wanted to say the truth of what her life was really like. When family members would offer help, Ally wanted to accept it. However, Addict Ally was always louder. She would shut Ally up quickly and answer for her. Addict Ally loves saying no to help. She loves lying and she loves making Ally feel terrible for the pain she’s causing her family, all to keep Addict Ally alive and thriving.

That’s how my holidays for the past couple years have been spent in a nutshell.

This year was different. For every single holiday.

I spent the holidays not only in sobriety, but in recovery. I was present, both physically and mentally, with my family. I was able to enjoy the time with my family and I didn’t want the celebration to end. My family met a whole new me!

I also spent the holidays working at the sober house that I work for. I had the opportunity to show the women there that holidays can be celebrated and enjoyed SOBER! I really enjoyed the time spent with them and I’m so glad that they enjoyed their holiday as well.

I ended 2016 with so much gratitude. 2016 was an amazing year for me. I’ve had terrible years for the past 6-7 years, so I’m grateful to have finally had a good one. There were SO many times that life tried to knock me down this year, but each time I was tried, I reached my hand out to the Lord and He grabbed it. He lifted me up and showered me with His grace, love, and comfort. He directed and guided my every step and allowed me to rely on faith alone when my vision was completely blurred. By relying on faith and staying obedient to Him, He blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

I’m so excited to see what God has planned for 2017 and I’m even more excited for the upcoming testimonies this new year will bring.

Generation Found Film Screening

Attention Young Adults!!!!

We have TWO FREE TICKETS to watch the film Generation Found TOMORROW (TUESDAY DEC 13TH)! If you will be in the Norwalk area and would like to attend the screening, please RSVP with Ally by 12:00pm Tuesday, December 13 at akernan@swrmhb.org

Generation Found will be showing at the Bow-Tie Royale 6 542 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, CT at 1:00pm on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13TH
If you would like to purchase a ticket, you can do so here by 12:00pm Tuesday!

From the creators of the groundbreaking film, The Anonymous People, comes Generation Found, a powerful story about one community coming together to ignite a youth addiction recovery revolution in their hometown. Devastated by an epidemic of addiction, Houston faced the reality of burying and locking up its young people at an alarming rate. In one of the largest cities in America, several people came together to build the world’s largest peer-driven youth and family recovery community.

Generation Found takes a look at how a system of treatment centers, sober high schools, alternative peer groups, and collegiate recovery programs can exist together to intervene early and provide a real and tested long-term alternative to the “War on Drugs”. It is not only a deeply personal story, but one with real-world utility for communities struggling with addiction worldwide.

Generation Found Film Screening

The Fog

Life can be organized one minute, then complete chaos the next. As I walk down the path of life, there are so many different options of roads to follow. Some are dead ends, some are steep, some are downhill, some are twisting and turning, and some are smooth and straight. Sometimes I can get a glimpse of these roads, but other times I’m surrounded by fog. All I can see is my own feet and where I am standing at that moment. So how am I supposed to choose which road to follow? Is it faith? How do I gain the courage to pick a road and follow it? How do I eliminate any fear and anxiety?

Being in recovery, when fog completely covers your vision, it’s both helpful and fearful. All I have is today and this moment. However, it’s not always easy to concentrate on that one moment, especially when you live in fear of what will happen after you take a step down whichever road you choose. The Monkey will try to scare me and put thoughts in my mind of relapse so I can have my emotions numbed. As tempting at that can sound sometimes, I must remember, that even when there’s fog and I can’t see where the road I’m on will lead to, I know where the road of relapse leads and it’s very dangerous and life-threatening.

I sit and wonder how I will navigate through the maze of this fog. That’s when I align myself with my Higher Power. He is with me always. He’s allowing this fog and blindness from it, so that I can turn my guidance towards Him instead of my fear and my ego. When I do this, a wave of peace consumes me. Sometimes I’m still unsteady and shaking with each step I take, but when I keep my faith in His guidance, I can relax and have confidence in the road I’m going down. I solely rely on faith.

The fog that The Monkey uses as a cloud of fear, ends up being a protective blanket that forces me to live and focus on the current moment. As much as I anticipate the road and destination ahead of me, I must remind myself that all I have is today. If I focus too much on what lies ahead, I’ll miss the present moment that I’m in. Also, looking ahead can cause unrealistic scenarios and fears that can keep me stuck in the present, which turns into the past, keeping me stuck in the past. I’m also lacking faith and confidence when I entertain those scenarios and fears. I’ll miss the lessons that need to be learned and victories of those times if I look ahead and try to solve or avoid them before even happening.

Fog may consume my walk in life, but it’s there for a reason. I have to keep my focus on my feet and outstretch my hand to grasp the hand that will lead me when I am afraid to take my next step or don’t know which road to follow. As long as I ignore the fear that The Monkey throws at me, I’ll avoid the road of relapse and destruction.

The Spoon

Spoons are utensils used for eating foods like soup and ice cream. For heroin addicts, spoons are commonly used for a completely different purpose; preparing heroin to inject into their bodies. I was someone that often used a spoon. Unfortunately, even though I’m in recovery now, The Monkey loves to use this utensil to remind me of my use. If someone has a fancy spoon, The Monkey whispers in my ear, “Hey that spoon would have been good to use for shooting up, huh?”

My thought? Yeah, it would have been.

I was out to eat with someone dear to my heart the other night and he had asked me, “What is your relationship like with heroin?”

I was caught by surprise with this question. I’ve been to many sessions of therapy for my addiction and recovery and have been asked almost any question you can imagine, but never that one. He works in the recovery profession so I knew he had a good intention of asking me that question and he always challenges me, but in a compassionate way with a goal in mind.

I had to think about my relationship with heroin. I didn’t have a straight answer. My best answer was that it was a “love-hate” relationship, but even that answer didn’t feel right. I loved the physical high that heroin gave me, but I hated the physical dependency and withdrawal. I loved how it could numb any negative emotion, but I hated how it prevented me from feeling and expressing emotions that I needed to release. There are many more feelings of hate for heroin and The Monkey than love. Any feelings of love were all lies anyways. The Monkey had his way of tricking me into believing that it was love. I started getting angry and upset when I thought about how much I hate heroin for what it’s done to so many innocent people besides myself. It’s taken lives and destroyed families and loved ones. Despite all that hate, The Monkey loves to allow the feelings of “false love” creep into mind to convince me that it’s “real love”.

After describing my relationship with heroin, he then picked up a spoon that was on the table and told me to look at the spoon and tell him what I saw. I saw my reflection, except it was showing me upside-down.

“Heroin turns you and your life upside-down.” He said.

I was fascinated by this. Here was a spoon that I couldn’t help but think of it as a tool for injecting heroin, that told the story of what heroin does to myself and my life. It gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach.

This new way of viewing this spoon didn’t end there. I had gone home and told my mother about this perception. She grabbed a spoon from the kitchen drawer and sat back down at the table with it. She said, “What if you flip the spoon over, as if you were dumping out the heroin, what would your reflection look like then?”

So, we tested it out. I pretended to dump imaginary heroin out of the spoon and I looked at myself in the reflection of the bottom of the spoon.

My reflection was right-side up.

If I use heroin, my life will turn upside-down. If I dump out the heroin and choose not to use it, my life will be right-side up.

Now every time The Monkey tries to use an eating utensil as a reminder of the other purpose I used it for, I will look into the spoon and see myself in a view that I don’t want to make a reality. I will turn that spoon over and remind myself that the way I’m seeing myself is how I want my reality to stay.

And if I ever find myself with a spoon filled with this poison, I’ll remind myself that the only way to prevent myself from turning my life upside-down, is to dump it out and change my reflection to right-side up.

When I live in recovery, I learn that I can’t always change a person, place, or thing. However, I can change my perception to a view that will prevent me from using at that moment. With these new thoughts, I don’t have to feed the fear and desire of using.

The Greatest

The Aussie woman behind the platinum blonde wig has quite a story and although many people know about her success in the music industry, many don’t know her recovery story as well. If you haven’t guessed who am referring to already, I am talking about Sia Furler or as most people know her as just “Sia.”
Sia

In her early years of fame, Sia showed her face to the public and performed independently as well as with the band Zero 7. She didn’t become extremely popular in the US until her powerful album debuted in 2014 called 100 Forms of Fear. However, Sia wrote many pop songs for artists such as for Rihanna (Diamonds), Flo Rida (Wild Ones), and many collaborations with artists such as David Guetta (Titanium). So we have heard her music and her voice for a long time, but why have we not seen more of her til recently?
Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Sia struggled with balancing her mental health with the fame. She was so stressed and overwhelmed, she unfortunately developed an addiction to prescription pills and alcohol which made her spiral into a deep depression. On top of losing her boyfriend in a horrific accident in 2010, Sia started isolating herself. At one point, she was so depressed and was planning to end her life until a friend reached out to her to seek treatment.

Since then, Sia has committed to being sober and maintaining her mental wellness by keeping her face hidden from the media while still writing music for other artists and singing some of her own. She introduced a new genre of music “mystery” to world and proves how popular her music can be and how talented she is even if her back is to the audience. (Check out her interview and wonderful appearance in Carpool Karaoke with James Corden!)
Carpool Karaoke

I have the privilege to see her (or most of her) in concert at Mohegan Sun tomorrow 10/26! She has been such an inspiration to me and has helped me through some of the toughest moments in my life, as well as some of the best moments too. She has also incorporated a lot of dance in her videos and guest stars wearing the famous wig (Heidi Klum, Maddie Ziegler, Shia Labeouf, etc). which makes her music more entertaining and interesting.
Sia with Maddie

Do you have a favorite song by her? Is there another artist in recovery that you feel has inspired you?

Recovery Community Open Mic

Hey everyone! Check out this KOOL Open Mic event on June 24th in Bridgeport, CT.

Its a free event hosted by CCAR, BRCC and YAF at the Bridgeport Recovery Community Center. Please the see flyer below.
This is an opportunity for all young adults in recovery to express themselves and their perspectives through music, poetry, spoken, you name it!

The event is open to ALL… bring family and friends and get ready for a sober afternoon.