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Music Contest

Hey guys, check this out! If there are any musicians interested this is an awesome opportunity!

If you’re a musician between the ages of 14-18, you’re invited to submit an original piece of music that celebrates life above the influence or brings attention to the real-life consequences of substance abuse. 1st place winners receive tickets to the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards® and related events! Awards also include tickets to Vans Warped Tour, cash and other prizes!.

Check out the details here!

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.