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Just for Today

Hi guys,
These past few days have been okay for me. The internship at Turning Point was a great opportunity for me, and it also allowed me to confront some of my own demons as well as helping others acknowledge theirs.
A few weeks ago, we were brainstorming ideas for a podcast and we came up with the following title: Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness. The idea was to look back on our childhoods and think about parts of them that had seemed normal at the time, but that we now realize were early symptoms of our mental illnesses. Most of the time, I am perfectly fine talking about mental illness, but this time, I felt small and lonely, just how I had felt when I was a kid. This was my first time feeling emotionally triggered by a discussion around mental illness. We recorded the podcast, and I was okay, and we all moved on. (You can find the podcast in the media room archives).
Except I had therapy last week, and I was talking to her about it, and she said, “Why do you think it made you so uncomfortable?”
I had no idea what to say. She suspected that I had some demons lurking in my subconscious, that were preventing me from comfortably talking about my mental illness growing up. So, she asked me a question that forced me to confront the demons.
“What would you say to your younger self, knowing what you know now about your mental health?
I immediately started crying. I was crying, so I don’t remember all of what I said, but here was some of it:
you have a mental illness.
it’s okay.
you are not alone.
there’s nothing wrong with you.
it’s going to be okay.
i am crying again writing this (don’t worry they are tears of growth and self-acceptance;) ) but I got so emotional because that was exactly what I needed to hear when I was little. When I was a kid, I felt so alone, I felt like there was no one else like me in the whole world. it meant so much to comfort my younger self, to both offer and receive words of hope and healing. we often tend to be very critical of our younger selves, thinking that we didn’t like who we were at a certain time. it can be helpful to ask yourself why. forgive yourself, and heal yourself, one step at a time, just for today.

The Beginning

The scene is all too familiar. I am in bed, paralyzed by my anxiety and held down by my depression. I’ve been here too long but I am still tired. I think about the outside world and instinctively pull the covers over my head until there’s darkness and silence again. I close my eyes tight and hope that sleep will come soon to get a break from my mind.

Would you have thought that this person is in recovery from reading this? Probably not. Recovery is painted as the other side of the fence where the grass is finally greener or the place beyond the finish line where you stand on a podium and receive a medal for all of your hard work. This image we have in our head couldn’t be further from reality. Recovery is ugly, it is difficult, it is uncomfortable. It presents a whole new set of challenges that you never could have anticipated before embarking on this journey.

And please, don’t get me wrong. Mental illness and addiction is no walk in the park. It is a dark and lonely place. It is insidious because it doesn’t take the things that give you joy away from you, it just makes you completely disinterested in those sources of joy and even resent their existence. You suddenly look around you and find yourself in a world that you can no longer recognize and you start to forget that your life was anything more than the personal hell you are experiencing. You have withdrawn yourself from everything and everyone that you have cared for or about and you find yourself alone. This is absolutely fucking terrifying. All you are left with is your mind which feels toxic and unwell. It tells you that you are no good, unworthy of those things or people that brought you happiness. And the worst part? The worst part is you believe it.

But, despite this happening to you, there is something inside of you that makes you keep on fighting. So that’s what you do. You fight. You tell the people who have still stuck around you what has been happening. You go to therapy and find out a lot about yourself that you had been holding down. Soon, you begin to catch glimpses of the person you used to know, someone who isn’t plagued by their own mind. But, mental illness is not that simple. It won’t release you from it’s grasp even if you really want to get better and return to your life. It takes grit and determination to drag yourself back up everytime that you are pulled back down by it. This is recovery. It is doing what is uncomfortable for you because of your illness and doing it anyway because you know that on the other side is the life you have been dreaming of.

This is my story. I have been battling chronic depression, generalized anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, dissociation, and self harm since I was 15 years old. After 7 grueling years of trying just to survive, I can finally say I am in recovery. Not too long ago I didn’t even know you could be in recovery for mental illness. I thought that my life would be a relentless challenge, and I didn’t see any way forward. The most I could handle was surviving another day. After a stint in a psych ward, years of therapy, medication, dropping out of art school, and barely holding a minimum wage job down, I am here. I think of my future and I have hope, plans, drive, and determination. I am working at my dream job and I feel more like myself than I maybe ever have done.

However, this is not where my recovery story ends because despite the hope, the healthy coping skills I have learned, and the wonderful support network around me, I still have to consciously make healthy choices for myself. At every turn I am confronted with making a choice that feels comfortable for my mental health, or the choice that I know will be difficult but that will help me in the long run. Believe me when I say that choosing the uncomfortable option is not easy, but I like to think of these decisions as turning point moments, because I know that with every decision I can be brought closer or further away from my goal. Something as simple as drinking water can send me into a tailspin some days because even though the action of it is easy, it takes all the might that I have to choose myself rather than my illness. I have to remind myself that my illness is my enemy and I should not be catering towards it. It has taken everything away from me before and it will do it again if I do not continue fighting it.

At the beginning of this year, my boyfriend and biggest cheerleader was deployed with the US Army and I began setting myself up to reinforce my healthy habits to deal with the challenge up ahead. I started my job here at Turning Point CT, journaling everyday, going to the gym regularly, going on hikes with my dog, and regularly practicing yoga at a local studio. I began to feel in a position where I could handle this upcoming 9 months, if I was only able to keep the momentum going. Little did I know that this plan was about to be turned on its head during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. Suddenly, I was bound to my bed like I had been in the midst of my mental illness. I was forced to be isolated like my mental illness had done to me. On top of all of this, my anxiety is screaming at me telling me that I can lose someone I love and care about. I was shaken to my core and experiencing real grief for those all over the world dealing with this global trauma. I felt myself slipping into my mental illness again. So I had to scramble and figure out all new ways of keeping myself on my path to recovery. I still haven’t figured it out yet, but I am trying to be gentle with myself while I do.

So I hope that you will join me in my recovery journey while I continue fighting this fight. I am going to try everyday to do something that shows myself that I am still here, showing up. Somedays the only thing I might be able to do is make my bed, or make sure I have fed myself enough food and water. Some days might be bigger and I manage to fall back on healthy coping skills rather than unhealthy ones during a panic attack. What I am saying is, that recovery is not a straight line because it requires constant effort. There will be times where it looks like I am not making progress, but even a small step forward is still a step forwards.

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.

A New Chapter

Hi TurningPointCT  Welcome to the next chapter!

I haven’t been on here in some time, so I think you’re all due for an update! I have some new blogs on the way, so stay tuned for my normal style of writing.

So it was a bit of a bittersweet good-bye to my position at TurningPointCT… I’m still involved, but I’ve ventured onto a new chapter! I am now the Recovery Liaison for Recovery Network of Programs (RNP). RNP has 19 different programs and several levels of care for people seeking recovery for addiction and/or mental health disorders.

What’s really cool about my new job is that I’m the first of this project that I am a part of. RNP partnered with Optimus Health Care to bring more services to their clients and patients. Basically, I’m mainly stationed at one of the Optimus Health Care locations and when a patient comes into the facility to receive general medical care, they are given a set of questions and depending on their answers, I get involved. Once someone indicates that they are in need of either mental health care and/or substance abuse treatment, I engage them and try to get them enrolled in treatment.

It’s really exciting because I have so much flexibility with my job role. RNP supports the involvement I have with CT and local communities, so they are encouraging me to still do public speaking and be on committees and whatnot. One thing I love about RNP is that the leadership are inspirational women that have had a huge impact on my life, as well as members of my family. Sometimes I get to bounce around to other agencies and site locations and spread the news about our new “Primary Integrative Care Team” aka the PIC Team 🙂 So if you see me all around Bridgeport – I promise I’m there for good reasons 🙂

But here’s a little secret: I was once a patient at RNP. I used many of their services throughout my active addiction years and still utilize their services. I went from being a patient to an employee! A blog on that is in the making!

So that’s an update on my professional life. My personal life has had some major changes as well:

1. I moved into an apartment with my best friend Jen earlier this summer!
2. I graduated college – check out the blog on that here
3. I changed churches & am shifting my spirituality pathway- stay tuned for a blog on that
4. I found out I’m not as weak as I thought I was

Wait, can we just go back to number 4 … I found out I’m not as weak as I thought I was.

This summer, I’ve learned that the weak, broken, bruised woman I thought I still was; is not me. Since so many big changes happened in such a short time, my mental health was starting to be neglected. I was becoming so absorbed in everything and I had quickly labeled myself as some awful things. I couldn’t be happy for myself because I was allowing other people, places, and things be the decision-maker of my emotions and thoughts. For someone living with PTSD, having no control is one of the worst feelings and can trigger a spiral in my thinking process.

So long story short, it bubbled to the surface and the only word of defense I was able to come up with was: No.

Little did I realize, this was going to be the beginning of using a word I was afraid to use my entire life.

Once I saw that I CAN say no, it was a ripple effect. I was “no this” and “no that” for everything. E V E R Y T H I N G.

It felt so empowering. I felt in control. I felt peace. It started off with little things, then the big things came. I said no to men. I said no to helping someone when I mentally couldn’t. I said no to pushing myself when I knew it wasn’t safe to keep pushing. I said no to plans that I couldn’t uphold. And ready for this… I said no to things that I simply just DIDN’T FEEL LIKE DOING.

I may seem cold, but it was the best way that I felt I could shake my fears and insecurities and start becoming my own woman.

So anyway, that is some updates for now. I’ll be posting some cute apartment pictures soon! Jen and I living together is literally a constant sleepover with my best friend. Plus, Luca basically lives with us too, so it’s nice always having them with me. There’s never a moment that we aren’t laughing – or eating lol

I love you all and to the one that’s reading this that is struggling at saying ‘no’ — start with small, manageable things and then keep going– you will be surprised how it will create a ripple effect. I hope you all keep watch for my upcoming blogs about: my new spiritual path, becoming an employee at a place I was a patient, more about my PTSD, and lots more!

<3

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?

Long time, no see!

Hi everyone! It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote in this blog.

What’s kept me away?
• I started school and became a full-time student (I made honors last semester!)
• Willow and I left the shelter and moved into our own apartment.
• Willow turned TWO.
• I’ve been taking on more responsibilities at work and I’ve been working hard in school.

There are a lot of days that I’ve been happy and hopeful and staying afloat with a lot going on.

There have also been a lot of days that I’m busy all day. When I wake up early and stay up late and I’m exhausted and stressed. And that has been hard.

But I’m also staying afloat, in fact I’m doing well, too. Not all the time, of course, but still, I’m not giving up. If this were a few years ago, normally in a time like this, I wouldn’t be ok. I’d run at the slightest feeling of defeat, self-destruct then hide away.
At a time like this, I would be doing the worst I’d ever done, again.

But, I’m not. I’ve been doing better than I remember being for a long time. And I’m so grateful for that. I feel like I have found who I always was underneath the things that glued me to the floor.

Every so often though, I feel scared. Scared because I know I have so much at stake, and because I know I have come so far.
I wonder, sometimes, why am I ok? I wonder not if but when I will fail?
Then I remember the same things that scare me also help me be ok. They motivate me, support me and remind me to keep working. I think about the things that make me want to be ok.

I think about Willow, about being able to do more than just function, about being hopeful for our future, about school and my job, and I think about peer support. I think about the things I went through, the journey of shifting between the fine lines of patient and peer. About getting to speak with people who I understand, people who are struggling through high school with depression or anxiety or while fighting with their family every night. I think about how much peer support and the opportunity to use my story to better empathize with others, which have helped me be ok in times like this.

And I even though sometimes I feel scared, anxious, or doubtful – I feel good about continuing to move forward. I don’t feel tempted to stop, or give up, I feel excited to see what comes next; that fills me and keeps me going forward through fear and doubt.

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

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!)

Recovery Month

Hey guys! September is recovery month- and that means that we get to celebrate the incredible changes our recovery has welcomed into our lives.
This is also our chance to reach out to those who are struggling, who have not yet realized how to begin the lifelong process of healing and growth.
In the wake of many recent overdoses and suicides, this is an incredible time to break stigma, celebrate life, and help those who are struggling.

What is the best thing in your life after recovery?

I am finally able to move towards the many goals I’ve had for years and years. When I was struggling, I knew I wanted to be different, I knew I wanted to go to school, to be happy, succeed, work, and more. Yet, I believed it wasn’t possible. I thought I was doomed to a life of “sickness”. And the times I tried, and wasn’t able to continue were only evidence of my inability to grow. Yet today, I am breaking the stigma attached to many of us. I am happily raising my daughter, going to school, and working- something that several years ago I thought would not be possible.

Share your hope and why you love recovery with us.

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



FREE Recovery Coach Training!

This October through November TurningPointCT.org Project Coordinator Ally will be facilitating a FREE CCAR Recovery Coach Training for young people aged 16-29.
Every Saturday from 10am through 5pm (we will provide lunch) we will gather at the Smilow Life Center in Norwalk and learn skills that will help us support people with their recovery and help us to manage our own lives and recovery as well.
If you are interested in attending and becoming a Recovery Coach, email info@healthymindsct.org and tell us why this matters to you and how you plan to use your certification.
Space is limited, so please apply as soon as possible!
See you in October!
Recovery Coach Flyer JPEG

Hike at Lake Mohegan!

Hey everyone!

Come join us for a hike at Lake Mohegan in Fairfield, CT! We will be meeting at noon and start hiking at 12:30. Come have a free lunch afterwards too!

hike at lake mohegan

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

Voices 4 Hope

Voices 4 Hope is a peer run website that (similar to us) aims to connect young people with mental illness to each other with the goal of living happily and independently. They also use Young Adult peer voice to drive research and create new treatment that are helpful to the people who know most- the ones with lived experience!
Sounds cool, right?
Check them out!

National Disability Awareness Day 2018

Hi guys! Today (July 16th, 2018) is National Disability Awareness Day.
Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes; they affect people in a multitude of ways, and can be invisible or obvious.

The most difficult thing that I faced when being labeled as ‘disabled’ was my perception of my self and my ability. I had spent a great deal of my youth with large aspirations and goals, and believed I was capable of achieving them- however being told that I was unable to do certain things convinced me, I was truly incapable of “normalcy”. Now, in recovery, I am beginning to see myself in another light, I’m making friends with myself and the person I want to be, and I feel closer to happiness than I have in years. I’m grateful for the gift of self-reflection and the strength and will to change. And without the years I spent believing I was “less-than”, I would not have the incredible sense of empathy that I am so grateful to be able to use in my life.

If you or someone you love lives with a disability- today is your day. Recognize the strength you posses, congratulate yourself for the strides you make, and know you are capable and worthy of anything and everything.

What is the most difficult part of having a disability? What are you grateful? Has your disability given you any gifts?

"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.

Stress

Stress.

I have been stressed.
Not every day, and not all the time.
If my stress were a rock, I would be small but very dense and very heavy.
Small, rigid, bumpy, sharp, molten lava.
Bouncing around in my pocket all the time.
Some days it feels so heavy that my hips hurt and my gait is off.
Some days I forget it’s there until I bump my leg against something and the rock digs it’s raged corner into my thigh.
And then I feel like falling over.
But I can’t- and so then I become sad- no, angry.
Hot and heavy, scared and tired. My chest gets tight and my breath becomes hot and thick. So that it weighs down my chest, and constricts my lungs.
I feel suddenly as though I am drowning.

And then I lose it.

Maybe for a moment, because someone needs something from me.
But how dare they need me, don’t they know there is molten lava in my pocket?
Of course, they don’t know, it’s too small to see.
Although, maybe they notice it ripping a hole in my pants, and they ask me if I’m ok, with a certain sincerity that rips my heart from my chest and makes my knees heavy. And then I just want to cry.
And then it becomes an ocean.
An ocean with huge waves and I’m stuck in quicksand being pummeled by huge gusts of cold, salty water.
And my eyes are red and burning, and I cannot see.
My lungs are full of salt and water, so I cannot breathe.
My mouth is full of sand and seaweed, so I have no words to say.
And I’m too scared to figure out how to move.
So like a deer in headlights, I let myself get hit by a car.
And I see it coming but cannot move or speak.

I am alone in a crowd.

A crowd of people who feel the same way as me.
But its all a big secret, and so together we all feel alone.
Then one day I find a word- or all the words. And I find someone to tell.
Maybe they are the right person; they give me goggles, so I can see through the waves. And give me a snorkel, so I can breathe. They show me my feet and tell me how to pull myself from the thick, sticky sand.
And they cannot stay with me the whole time, but maybe they can sit with me on the shore while I catch my breath.
And then the sun can begin to rise, and the mist may clear and life begins to feel ok again.

But it always seems to cycle.

And soon again, I’m drowning.
Or maybe not always, but often enough that my knees are bruised and my elbows are scraped from falling again and again.
But I feel ok for just long enough to catch my breath.
And one day, I hope, I will have my goggles and snorkel with me always- and I won’t need someone to bring it to me. My legs will be strong enough to carry my small, heavy rock. My thigh will be calloused enough so that when my molten lava hits it, I do not fall over.
Until then, I feel happy to know there are lifeguards on the shore, and that some days my rock sits quietly in my pocket and I’m able to forget that it’s there.

And there are other things that make me feel strong and steady and very happy.

Like Willow.
And I’m not always perfect, and sometimes she throws my rock in my face and I melt into the ground and grow into a monster. And when the rock shrinks back into my pocket I feel so sad and guilty.
But I can hug her and say sorry.
She always seems to forgive me for being imperfect. And I’m learning how to forgive myself.
She seems to feed me a steady stream of light and love, which gives me strength and makes me feel safe and happy.

And I tell myself again and again,
“I will be ok, I will be ok”.

Willow Moon, my sun my moon  and my stars.

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

M.I.A.

Hi everyone!

I’m so sorry I’ve basically been missing in action since April 3rd… ack. Well, I have some good excuses for you all! Just kidding, not excuses.

I have been so incredibly busy so, let me share some of the things that have been going on for the past month for me.

The big thing is that in April I began a 6 week training to become a Recovery Support Specialist. Around the same time that this started, I had to complete my distance training to become a SMART Recovery group facilitator.
(I finished the RSS training last week! This week is my graduation. It was a great training, and I learned a lot and shifted my thinking in many ways about the mental health system and how we are affected by it. )
The first week or so of April I was doing about 15 hours a week of RSS training, and trying desperately to finish the SMART training AND commit 20 hours of work to TurningPointCT.org! And, as I shared Willow started walking and I felt crushed by my commitments and all the time I was spending away from her.

Then, there was the infrequent, but very

important commitment I have to the Youth Advisory Board (about 10 or so hours a month for a group geared towards ending youth homelessness).
And, I was asked to speak at a Gala for Child Guidance in Stamford, where I received services as a teenager. Which was exciting and poignant considering the person who helped me there passed away unexpectedly about 2 years ago. (I wrote about it here). But it was also overwhelming, and stressful, and a time commitment considering I had to write and edit my speech and do every other little and big thing involved in a large speaking engagement (buy clothes, practice, scope out venue, freak out). It was my first really big speaking event, where I had to really write out my speech, and not just ‘wing it’.

Then, my brother told me he was leaving his job and apartment in D.C. much faster than we all thought, and that he had about 2 weeks to pack up and find somewhere to go with his dog! This was in the middle of April. So, unexpectedly, Willow and I got on a six hour train ride to Washington D.C. and spent 3 days with him! It was amazing and so much fun.

The end of April was filled with Fresh Check and Wellness Days, a few exciting things having to do with grants, and prep for Mental Health Month! Which, in case you don’t know is May! This past week was my last crazy week, for a while I hope.

On Wednesday I went to UCONN in Stamford to speak in front of a philanthropy group called IMPACT Fairfield County to help Supportive Housing Works (who I do the Youth Advisory Board through) with the final step of a huge grant process, then I went to New Canaan to thank The New Canaan Young Philanthropists, which are an awesome group of young people, for awarding us with a grant! Then, Thursday I took and passed my RSS final exam! Then the rest of the week was committed to prepping for the mental health walk on Saturday and the Gala speech Saturday evening!

And guess what everyone! I made it! I survived this ridiculous marathon of a month and feel so strong and confident and am so proud of myself and Willow for coming through.

I feel so happy and confident, and yesterday, I had the best lazy day ever with Willow. And I am happy to be back at work, with my ‘normal’ commitments, and feel excited for my graduation Wednesday and everything else that is to come in the near future.

Willow and Harry in D.C.

Me, Willow, and our friend Kelley at the Mental Health Walk!

Me at the Gala before giving my speech!

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?

Today, I Was Triggered

Today I was triggered.

It happened early in the day. I woke up tired, so tired. But I was happy, I was ok.
I looked out of my bedroom window. My small bedroom inside of a shelter, where I sleep alone with my daughter.
It wasn’t raining, just wet, it was dim and the air looked wet. It looked so comfortable.
I blinked, not a normal quick blink, the type that lasts years and years and sends images of memories running through your head. I was in Redding, waking up for school, living with my mom and my brother.
And for a moment, without quite realizing it, I became sad, so sad.
My eyes got heavy, and my mind became wet with thoughts and feelings.

Then, in the shower, with soap all over my body, the water pressure slowed gradually until nothing came out. I stood there for a few moments, trying to wash the soap off myself with the final, cold drips falling from the pipes.
Willow smiled up at me and reached to be picked up.

While we were getting ready Willow began to cry. She whined, and reached, and yelled a few times. She wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was.
I made a conscious effort to keep hold of my patience and not become upset with her. We both just felt a lot and needed a moment.
So we sat in bed, half dressed, and read a few books and had some quiet time.
By the time we were ready, we both felt a little better.

Then, leaving a few minutes later than I intended, I stepped outside.
Again, I was triggered.

The air was filled with a smell and a feeling and a look that filled me with a feeling of memory.
Someone came from behind me and hit me in the back with a bag of feelings and thoughts and half-memories.

Nostalgia.

The memories weren’t whole; they were feelings that were happy and sad, and thoughts that were too fuzzy to really be thoughts. No actual memories came. It was a feeling of memory.
As I walked, I felt somber.
I was also really content. The air smelled so good, and I felt very mindful. I enjoyed the foggy air, and I felt calm and able to observe everything around me.

Suddenly, I would feel sad, or have an intense longing for something, although I wasn’t sure what for exactly.
I would look at a building, one I see every day, and it was as if I had just noticed it was there. Suddenly, I would be clubbed with this feeling of memory.
I saw the water through the buildings and felt a strong urge to wander.
I felt no urgency or sense of time, almost as if I had been suspended into my own universe, within the outside world but separated by a strong sense of awareness.
Or something like that.

As I continued to walk, I thought about how I felt, I wrote about it in my head.
My contentedness grew into a subtle happiness. I felt so calm.

The wind blew my hair over my eyes and nose. The smell of shampoo filled my nostrils.

Again this wave hit me.
No actual memories.
But the bodily sensation of being somewhere I wasn’t.
The nostalgia.
A vague mixture of happiness and sadness.
And many thoughts I couldn’t quite place or identify.

Today I was triggered.
And I’ve never quite handled it so well, and I’m so glad I was.

Spring is almost here! To celebrate, here is Willow destroying nature. (P.S. I do not pick flowers or disturb nature, someone gave this to us)

Uncomfortable, For Now.

**I posted this blog on March 23rd, and accidentally deleted it while editing** Repost**
March 23rd, 2018

I hate where I live.

Yesterday, as a group, we were told that we would be on lockdown. For three weeks. Three weeks trapped in the house, being punished for the actions of the other women I live with.
I feel angry, so incredibly angry.
And I want to scream and be juvenile; I feel the strong urge to act out, show them how stupid and senseless this is.
But I am trying so very hard to resist this urge.
I am reminding myself that what is most important, is my daughter, and her wellbeing. I am going to remind myself that she will not realize how unhappy I am unless I show her. But I am struggling.

I live in a shelter, and I am constantly being judged based on the assumption that I have wound up here by some wrong-doing I have committed.
In reality, I came here as a result of domestic violence.

I lived in my own apartment, paid my bills, and had a savings account.
And then my relationship changed. Or maybe it didn’t really change, maybe I just woke up one day.
My awakening happened so gradually that I rejected each sign that I should leave.
And when I tried to look at it, it was only for a moment.

Slowly, the savings account disappeared. My belongings were taken or broken. I was convinced that my friends and family were horrible and no good for me. And I was no good, too.
I was promiscuous, crazy, a druggie. I flirted with everyone I spoke with. Said too much, was so embarrassing and stupid. Dramatic. I was so lucky to be loved by him and would never be loved by anyone else. I was so hard to love, I wasn’t too likeable. He was special for putting up with me.
And sometimes, I was a good mom, I tried my best, even though I was usually still bad. I was good company sometimes.
I believed it all, and never questioned it.

He handed me a mask, and I taped it to my face without any thought. At some point, I forgot it was just a mask.
Then I realized I was unhappy, and as I realized one thing was off, it all suddenly came slamming down in front of me.

And then something scary happened.
It wasn’t the first time.
But it pushed me out, I had been looking for a good excuse to leave anyways, but this was a reason to run.
And so I did.

I looked back a lot at first.
And now, months later, I feel happy. I’m feel proud. I am beginning to feel like myself again.
I still see him, talk to him, I still think of him as my friend, sometimes I think maybe I love him. Sometimes I hate him, so much. But things feel weirdly normal, and I am ok.

I cannot wait to leave this place, this dark angry place. This shelter is hard to be at.
But I remember that nothing lasts forever.

I remember staying up late at night, crying, laying next my sleeping baby because I felt so trapped. And I wanted to escape, and get out but I didn’t know how and I didn’t even know if I had the right to feel that way. And then, slowly but suddenly, I did. I set my intention, and I left. And I know that nothing lasts forever, and that is especially true for things that are painful and uncomfortable.

Life is not supposed to be good always.

And it is not bad always, and it won’t be. One day soon, Willow and I will wake up in our own bed, in our own home and we will be happy and comfortable and at peace.

(My beautiful Bear a few months ago around Christmas)

Spring is coming!!!

So it looks like Spring is staring to kick Winter’s butt a little more each day! (Whoo-hoo get out of here Witner!!)


What are your favorite things to do in the Spring?!

I love just sitting outside when the sun is warm and the air is cool, its so relaxing and refreshing.
I wish I had my bike, too, because I love that.
I can’t wait to take Willow to the park and go for walks every day again! Of course we still do that now, but it’s a little less enjoyable.
Long days are the best.

What are your plans this Spring?

Anxiety Chart

Hey everyone!

I came across this blog post about how someone living with anxiety who struggles to explain her anxiety to her peers/family/loved ones. She talks about how frustrating it is and how people don’t seem to understand the actual condition. So she decided to make an “anxiety chart” to help explain her anxiety. I looked at it and thought it was AMAZING and described it PERFECTLY. Here’s the article in case you want to read it: https://themighty.com/2018/03/anxiety-chart-help-other-understand-anxiety/

And here is the anxiety chart (let me know what you think and if you think it can be or is helpful!):
anxietychart

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

Thinking About Everything and Nothing

Friday, March 16, 2018
Life is weird. It’s horrible and wonderful and fun and scary and exciting and sad. All of that is loosely wrapped into a pattern of wrapping paper that you don’t chose, that doesn’t change the contents it holds or matter much, but is what many people will judge us based upon, without looking inside. Then we throw in feelings; lots of feelings. Thoughts, too- which are different from feelings, but maybe they are exactly the same. I’m not sure. There are also experiences, both good and bad. Whether we perceive them as positive or negative, they happen, and they change us. And they help us and they hurt us: and supposedly we have control over that, but I’m not always quite sure of that. Then there’s time. We can’t control it, have little understanding of it, and are unaware of how much we have. And time changes and it changes us- constantly. It’s like this river that can grow into an ocean or shrink into a puddle suddenly and without clear cause. And finally there’s uncertainty; lots of that.
We are thrown into life holding these packages that grow and grow, or maybe they stay the same for a long time, or maybe they shrink; we don’t know, or at least I don’t, and usually we don’t even know or understand what’s inside of them. Then we are sounded by millions of other people and their packages and their feelings and confusion. And we are constantly bumping into them or holding their hands or pushing them away. That’s mostly what life is made of. I think.
Sometimes I think my anxiety or my depression or whatever it is: something in me that I don’t like, but should probably try to make friends with, forces me to try to define things. So constantly, I am attempting to place reason upon the unreasonable. This futile attempt to define many small things, alongside the one big thing- life- is not good for me. I mean, maybe it’s not all that bad. Sometimes I come to a reasonable understanding of something. Or maybe it gives me a unique lens to look at life through. But I think more often than not, it either causes me to romanticize that which is unhealthy or sad or negative; or it causes my mind to run in circles, chasing its own tail, desperately attempting to catch something that will never reach my fingertips.
But I am not all bad, and neither is life, or the people in it, or the packages glued to our palms. And today is a beautiful day, and spring is coming which fills me with happiness and hope. Recently, I got a new camera, and that means I can be creative again, which I used to be able to do constantly. And Willow and I had a beautiful night and morning today. I cannot wait to bring her for a ride on her new tricycle-thingy. And I’m happy and content, and the sun is pulling the sorrow from my skin and replacing it with hope. Right now I am happy, for the most part, and today is a good day. And all I can ever ask is to be good enough, and anything after that is extra. Someone I love told me that, and I like to hold onto things which make me think of people I love, and I like to think of life in lose but concrete ways, if that makes sense. Because even though everything is always changing and always will, right now it is how it is and that is ok.

Fighting with time

Willows’ Birthday Week

February 21, 2018

Every night, since the day Willow was born, I have nursed her to sleep. For almost 1 year, no matter where we were, what we did, or what was going on, chest to chest, we would lay down together and willow would nurse until she fell asleep.
Tonight, Willow fell asleep without nursing. We laid in bed together, calm, tired and peaceful. Willows cheek on my chest. We looked at each other and spoke softly and touched each other’s faces and smiled for almost 30 minutes until Willow fell asleep.
These small moments of independence are incredible. In that, they are painfully difficult to experience and simultaneously exciting and wonderful and amazing to witness.
This beautiful small person is doing what all small people do; which is to grow up and change at an alarming rate.
And I am left only one option, which is to hold on to a rope which is constantly running through my hands, knowing one day I will have no choice but to let go of it.

February 22, 2018

Willow will be one on Monday. I am filled with this gut-wrenching feeling.
Although I am incredibly happy and excited, I am filled with sadness and guilt.
I look at her, and she looks exactly the same as the day I lay in a hospital bed in New Haven, and a wet naked newborn was placed on my chest. But then, I blink. And suddenly, she’s not an infant, not a baby, she’s a young girl. I see her face and the world behind her bright eyes. Her fierce spirit shines through and pierces my heart.
I feel like throwing up. I look back at pictures of her months ago and suddenly realize that she has changed so much, and so quickly.
It feels as though all these changes have happened slowly yet suddenly; somehow each time I turn my head she changes, yet most days it’s so subtle that I don’t realize it’s happening. Then one day I’m looking at my newborn baby, but she’s not really a newborn; she’s almost a toddler, and I fall to pieces wondering how time has flown past me without even realizing it.
And I cannot get time back- when it leaves me it’s gone forever. My baby is both the youngest she’ll ever be again and the oldest she’s ever been. Each moment I’m suspended in this incredible fight with time. Watching my child grow, joyfully as I am in awe of what a beautiful little person she is. And fearfully, as it is constant and fast and terrifying.

Guilt sets in as I ask myself,
Am I taking it all in? Am I really appreciating this relatively small amount of time I have with Willow? Or am I constantly rushing? Ignoring life and constantly finishing ‘tasks’. While my focus on what matters blurs and I hone in on things that sneak into my vision; drudging forward, while pushing aside small moments that may slip through my hands like water flows surely through a stream?

Thankfully, I have one thing that returns power to my shaking hands.
That is, that I know of time. I know of time, and it’s constant flow, I know of the pain it will cause if I handle it incorrectly.
And I have power. Power to change the way I look at life, change the way I prioritize everything that “matters”. I will hold my mistakes tightly- I won’t let them slip pass me, with the intention of self-love. No, I will carry them in my pockets, and pull them out when I need a reminder of who I want to be and what is truly important. And someday when they become dead weight, I may let them go.

And to my beautiful girl, for whom my heart beats,
You are the most important thing in my life. The love I feel for you is strong enough to cause my heart pain. I know that may sound silly and odd, but one day you may understand. Happy Birthday, Willow Moon.

The week before your birthday

Willows Birthday Week

February 21, 2018
Every night, since the day Willow was born, I have nursed her to sleep. For almost 1 year, no matter where we were, what we did, or what was going on, chest to chest, we would lay down together and willow would nurse until she fell asleep.
Tonight, Willow fell asleep without nursing. We laid in bed together, calm, tired and peaceful. Willows cheek on my chest. We looked at each other and spoke softly and touched each other’s faces and smiled for almost 30 minutes until Willow fell asleep.
These small moments of independence are incredible. In that, they are painfully difficult to experience and simultaneously exciting and wonderful and amazing to witness.
This beautiful small person is doing what all small people do; which is to grow up and change at an alarming rate.
And I am left only one option, which is to hold on to a rope which is constantly running through my hands, knowing one day I will have no choice but to let go of it.

February 22, 2018
Willow will be one on Monday. I am filled with this gut-wrenching feeling.
I am so happy and excited, but so incredibly sad and guilty.
I look at her, and she looks exactly the same as the day I lay in a hospital bed in New Haven, and a wet naked newborn was placed on my chest. But then, I blink. And suddenly, she’s not an infant, not a baby, she’s a young girl. I see her face and the world behind her bright eyes. Her fierce spirit shines through and pierces my heart.
I feel like throwing up. I look back at pictures of her months ago and suddenly realize that she has changed so much, and so quickly.
It feels as though all these changes have happened slowly yet suddenly; somehow each time I turn my head she changes, yet most days it’s so subtle that I don’t realize it’s happening. Then one day I’m looking at my newborn baby, but she’s not really a newborn; she’s almost a toddler, and I fall to pieces wondering how time has flown past me without even realizing it.
And I cannot get time back- when it leaves me it’s gone forever. My baby is both the youngest she’ll ever be again and the oldest she’s ever been. Each moment I’m suspended in this incredible fight with time. Watching my child grow, joyfully as I am in awe of what a beautiful little person she is. And fearfully, as it is constant and fast and terrifying.
Guilt sets in as I ask myself,
Am I taking it all in? Am I really appreciating this relatively small amount of time I have with Willow? Or am I constantly rushing? Ignoring life and constantly finishing ‘tasks’. While my focus on what matters blurs and I hone in on things that sneak into my vision; drudging forward, while pushing aside small moments that may slip through my hands like water flows surely through a stream?

Thankfully, I have one thing that returns power to my shaking hands.
That is, that I know of time. I know of time, and it’s constant flow, I know of the pain it will cause if I handle it incorrectly.
And I have power. Power to change the way I look at life, change the way I prioritize everything that “matters”. I will hold my mistakes tightly- I won’t let them slip pass me, with the intention of self-love. No, I will carry them in my pockets, and pull them out when I need a reminder of who I want to be and what is truly important. And someday when they become dead weight, I may let them go.

And to my beautiful girl, for whom my heart beats,
You are the most important thing in my life. The love I feel for you is strong enough to cause my heart pain. I know that may sound silly and odd, but one day you may understand. Happy Birthday, Willow Moon.

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.

Stages of life

This week I have been thinking a lot about the different stages in my life.

Luz posted something on the forum about changing your expectations of yourself, and reaching goals you may have never thought yourself capable of. She talked about what her life used to look like, and how she once did not believe she was capable of achieving “normalcy”.
That made me think a lot about my past; where I’ve come from, where I’ve gone, where I’m at now. And most importantly, how I got there, and here. What did it take to go through each age and stage of my life? Where did I go (both good and bad) that I never imagined myself going? How did it change me?

Then today something else happened that hurled me years and years into my past.

I met someone- well didn’t meet, more met again. When I introduced myself she instantly remembered me- we were roommates and friends in the hospital together when I was 12.

That was over ten years ago, and the first time (of over 15) I was put in a psychiatric hospital.
At that point in my life, it was one of the most profound experiences I’d ever had. So much happened in those 7 months (it was technically 3 separate stays, but with only a few days of being discharged in between) that shaped and transformed me.

I cannot help but find myself entombed in thoughts and memories. Reminiscing about a time in my life that was both incredibly painful, scary, and difficult; but also comfortable, safe, and sometimes even very happy. These memories are similar to falling in a rose bush. I’m surrounded by beautiful flowers, and covered in wounds. I feel a small light in my stomach, but enclosed within a deep pit full of sadness.

And then I begin to think about what happened after I left the hospital.

From there my life fell apart.
From there my journey with mental illness began; and has not ended since.
And from there I grew and changed in many ways- both good and bad.

From memories of my first hospitalization, come painful memories of all that ensued afterward; essentially my entire family falling apart both separately and together over a period of 5 years.
What each tragedy encompassed.
How it felt, and I don’t just remember the feeling, I experience it.

I am once again a 14 year old girl stuffing 200 pills down her throat.

Then, I am 16 years old, saying “no” to a 24 year old man, who was too high to listen.
I am 17 years old and waking up from a coma after a suicide attempt I don’t remember making, because all the seizures that resulted from it damaged my memory.
Again and again I am experiencing the traumas I left behind years ago.

And it’s like being beaten with a bat.
I cannot catch my breath enough to beg for it to stop.

Where am I in time and how do I find my way back here?

How do I accept all that’s happened and the place I’m at now when all I want to do I reject it and bury my mind in a deep pit of sand?

It’s so strange how things continue to change at such a rapid pace. It’s all the time and we have no say as to whether or not it happens. Against our will we are under a constant transformation that will only cease to exist when we do.

How do I swallow the fact that I once wanted to die?
That many times I tried to kill myself?
That I hurt myself every day for years?
How do I move forward knowing at one time in my life I would cry thinking about how much I hated myself?
And that at one time I was a teenager and watching my life crumble before me; terrified and powerless.

I ask how do I do this because really, it wasn’t that long ago. And really, I’m still the same person.

Except now I have a daughter and life and set of responsibilities that I was never supposed to have.  I was never supposed to be here. I don’t think I ever planned on being 22.
Yet against my own will, transformations occurred. And somehow, without my knowledge or consent, I began to get better.

What about the times that that old, familiar dark place seems most comfortable?

It’s funny how small things can begin large, unmanageable spirals. Like hearing a song, or smelling something vaguely familiar. And how simple things, like writing this blog post can begin to bring me back into realignment- even if it’s without my consent or intent.

I come back to a place of normalcy where I remember that sadness is not safety. And that I’m no longer a child, and no longer without control or power.

And most importantly, I am responsible for a little girl. Who needs me and wants me. And it’s my job to be there for her, and be good to her. And I promise to her, and myself, and the entire universe that I will not fail her and I will always try as hard as I can to be what she needs.

Recovery 101

I’ve had some interesting conversations this week, but one of my favorites would probably be a discussion I had pertaining to the theory society has set around what it means to be “mentally ill” these days. If you really think about it, the term mental illness only serves to stigmatize and cause separation between people. For example, if I were to let’s say – get into a traumatic car accident and require an extensive amount of rehabilitation, lose my job because of it, get overwhelmingly sad because I am now forced to have other people take care of me, etc, the only way I am going to get better is to get into the mindset of recovery. Similar to this, those who are labeled with many mental illnesses simply struggle on the path to adulthood. Getting our life on the right track and figuring out what you want to do is extremely difficult, and it requires skills that not everyone has at certain times in their lives. In my personal experience, I was labeled with psychiatric diagnoses at an early age and thought that I had to conform to what society and others dictated I had to do because of my labels, but that isn’t the case at all. Just like that earlier example of the once “normal” person who just happened to get into a car accident one day, a person who has been labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis has to go through the same process of recovery in order to achieve their wellness. No one is different than any other, and no individual is immune to having to go through the process. Yes, for some it may be harder than for others, but it is still attainable. So, the question still remains- why stigmatize and signal out one type of recovery versus another???

How do you guys feel about this concept?

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!

Trying to be perfect in an imperfect world

I am a perfectionist.

 

Many people may believe that perfectionism is a good quality to have. Yet those who live with unrealistic standards and crippling anxiety understand the plight of someone who sets standards they cannot possibly reach, and the sorrow of the continuous failure and disappointment they must deal with when they believe everything must always be perfect. This is what it feels like to be a perfectionist…

When I was a little girl, I had so many ideas about what my life was supposed to be like. I thought everything had to be perfect; especially me. I had a carefully arranged and thoroughly thought out plan of what perfect was. When things deviated from that, I fell apart.
As I got older, it became harder and harder to live up to the expectations I had created for myself. People rarely lived up to my ideals. Slowly, this began to break me.
It was strange, the way I fell apart; in many ways, my demise was self-created. Yet, even with a sense of recognition, I could not stop myself. It was a cycle that I had made with my own two hands, stepped in willingly, but could not find the strength to jump out of. My brain had begun to betray me at a young age and has not stopped since.

I remember being in Elementary school, and deciding quite concretely what it took to be ‘successful’, which was synonymous with being ‘good enough’.

I had to get good grades, which meant I had to get all A’s because being good enough wasn’t good enough and in order to succeed, I had to be the best. When I graduated High School with my perfect grades, I had to go to college. But not just college; I had to go to Harvard. I had to follow the expectations I had set, and thrive within the pressure cooker I had built around myself. If I faltered in even small ways, it was a massive, unforgivable failure on my part. And worse than failure was being a disappointment, which was, by all means, the absolute worst thing I could do.

Unfortunately, the world did not follow the standards I expected it to, and I felt powerless to change it. I could not stop my mom from dropping me off to school late every single day, yet I still cried like a baby and yelled that I would never go to college if I couldn’t get to second grade on time. People would put things back in the ‘wrong’ place, and I would crumble. I, like everyone in the world, would lose control constantly. Yet, unlike the rest of my peers, I seemed unable to swallow this and move forward without first falling to the floor in a puddle of tears, or hitting my head against a wall, or screaming and screaming until my little lungs cracked and burned.
As I got older, I began to reason that if things were imperfect, out of my control, or lower than my standards, that rather than accepting the loss of control and disappointment, I would willingly fail. Willingly handing over my power was easier than having it fall from my grip, despite my efforts.

Now, I am no longer a little girl.

I still struggle with the expectation of perfection I unconsciously set for myself. Yet, consciously I fight the notion and try to set new standards.
If I ever spoke to Willow the way I used to speak to myself, my heart would shatter into a million pieces. If she ever spoke to or thought of herself in the way I used to think of myself, I don’t believe I could carry the sadness that would veil my heart. So instead of teaching her to love herself, I will learn how to love myself. She will watch her mom be kind and forgiving to herself, see how she accepts the ebbs and flows of life, and witness her open her palms to the universe to receive what is handed to her. And with time, she too will do the same.

perfectionist

My mom and me in my Great Aunts’ house in Jacksonville, FL.

perfectionist

Me, in my favorite hat

perfectionist

My anxiety due to the high standards I constantly set for myself peaked in my freshman year of High School

perfectionist

My beautiful daughter, who is and will always be perfect simply for being herself

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!

Guilt, Anxiety, and Fear: Motherhood

When I wake up it starts.

I probably didn’t sleep very well- or maybe I did and I wanted to sleep longer.
I probably got woken up a few times last night to nurse you back to sleep. There were probably a few times you were restless and tossed and turned while you tried to get comfortable.

Guilt;
I remember being woken up over and over again, exhaustion, panic because I know I’m tired and need so much more sleep than I will get. Frustrated because I so desperately want to sleep as peacefully as I imagine you do. Anger because I cannot and anticipation of how exhausted I will feel in the morning.

Fear of never being able to sleep again.

Dread;
I dread waking up in this place, putting you in daycare, being alive and monotonously going through the day.

Collapsing into a puddle, I break, I lose my patience. I’m not fully awake and not fully human. Maybe I harshly say,
“stop.”
Or angrily beg you to go back to sleep. Or worse, maybe I just lay there, don’t look at you or talk to you, just sit in a heaping puddle of uncomfortable emotions.

When I wake up, probably a little while before you did, a realization comes to me as I see how beautiful and peaceful you are. I realize the impatience that took over me hours earlier.

I’m a terrible mother- a terrible person, in fact.

I lost my patience. I scared you, upset you, and damaged you. An intense wave of sadness covers me and I feel desperate to go backward in time. A pit grows in my stomach as I know I cannot do that and must only go forwards. I want to hold you, I want to cry, I want to be perfect for you and I want to be happy with you always.

Regret, fear, dread, anger, exhaustion, guilt, sadness.
Over and over again, every day.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. There are many, many things I know; many mistakes. I wonder how much they are damaging you, and in what ways.
I want to fix them all- be perfect and wonderful and exactly what you need and want. But when I try to think of my wrong-doings I cannot pinpoint them all.
It’s looking for hay in a haystack- it’s all there and it’s all the same, and it’s all wrong. I can hardly do anything right for you. Maybe I do what I believe is good, but soon I will find it is, in fact, wrong. I have hurt or damaged you in some unknown, and therefore gigantic, way. Worst of all, I cannot take any of it back.

Paralyzed with fear but continuously pushed forward by the current of life.
I’m stuck in a riptide.

But my love for you grows each day. It’s a painful love that fills me simultaneously with joy, and a deep despair and fear.
I wonder about all the things I must prevent. All the possibilities. So much can go wrong. So many scary, seemingly unpreventable things swirling around us in this world. I want to protect you but fear I cannot.

I feel out of control.

But then a beautiful day happens.
You grab my checks with two soft, warm hands and look into my eyes.
Or you crawl to me, laugh, kiss me.
You let me hold you and hug you and you hold me back.
And for a moment, my fears melt away, so that I’m standing in a deep puddle, soaking wet but dripping dry. We stand alone in the dark for a moment, and my brain gives me time to love you in peace.

I realize that these moments can grow. That if I make myself a farmer and equip myself with fertilizer and pesticides and gain the knowledge to grow a garden that we can be happy. I can rake out sadness and anxiety to make room for big, bright, beautiful happiness.

I will call myself a farmer and you will be my seeds, my water, and my sun.

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

CT DMHAS Bed Availability Tool

Looking for help but can’t find anything available?

Check out this new tool that CT DMHAS has created for those looking for a place to begin their journey to recovery! This is an informational tool that is available 24/7, letting users know where a bed is available.

Any questions you may have can be sent in via the comments page.

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.

JoinRiseBe!

Shoutout to JoinRiseBe (JRB) for being such a great organization and of course for making way for young people in CT.

Join Rise Be is a peer-run initiative for young people who are in or seeking recovery from mental health or addiction challenges. JRB is dedicated to making the opportunity of recovery available to every young person in the state of Connecticut through sharing experiences to influence change on all levels.

To find out more of what they do, how they do it and/or how to get involved, check out their new website (which looks great btw) here https://www.joinrisebe.org/

“Sharing our experience to influence change so every young person has the opportunity to achieve recovery across the state of Connecticut.”

Woman’s Journey Supporting Her Husband with PTSD

Our newest story comes from a young woman who talks about her journey supporting her husband with PTSD. Learn what it is like to support people through recovery and how she has coped despite the many challenges. This is an important topic for Family Support Month. For many of us, family is the most important element throughout our recovery.

Read her story here:

Helping My Husband to Cope With PTSD

How does your family support you?

Recovery Playlist: 10 Songs to Keep You on Track

Some of these songs are unconventional recovery songs, particularly the first three. But people listen to whatever song gets them up and going. Whether recovery from substance abuse or health challenges, I believe in you, these songs send very powerful messages. Listen; hear what people are saying.

1. Labrinth – Beneath Your Beautiful ft. Emeli Sandé

“My boy loved this song miss you so much rip taylon xx…’ Dawn. 

2. P!nk – Try

“Wow. I love this song… Very powerful.”

3. Back To Black “Fifty Shades Darker”. Cover by Beyonce Knowles. While I personally love Amy, I couldn’t stop playing this version recently done by Beyonce.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DJSmZbYay8

4. Eminem – Beautiful Pain (Music Video) ft. Sia

“I love this. Been there. Wow he really hits home with his lyrics.” Robin

5. Eminem – Beautiful Pain (Music Video) ft. Sia – I have written many poems while listening to this song. I have walked in the cold listening to this song. I have cried listening to this song. Perhaps Eminem’s greatest!

6. MACKLEMORE – DRUG DEALER (FEAT. ARIANA DEBOO) OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO.

On average, I think I listen to this song 14 times each week (that’s 7 days per week, at least twice each day) – my new favorite song. I still think Macklemore is one of the most underrated artist.

7. Macklemore – Otherside Ft. Fences (Official Music Video)

“I love this song i cry when i hear it” Ana

8. Staind – It’s Been Awhile (Video)

“crazy how walking away is harder than standing still!” Eby

9. Train – Drops of Jupiter (Official Video)

“Omg……why am I crying????”

10. James Blunt – Same Mistake (video)

“I absolutely love your voice !!!” Cheryl

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 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?

VOICES: Art Expressing the Journey of Mental Health Recovery in Youth

Hey Everyone! If you will be on the Shoreline on Sunday, October 9, you might want to check this out!

1:00-3:00 PM
Branford Art Center
1227 Main Street, Branford CT

NAMI Art

VOICES is an experiential art exhibit that represents the work of more than 30 courageous and talented young people touched by mental health challenges. The goal of this exhibit is to expose and destroy the myths surrounding mental illness thereby reducing the stigma, negative attitudes and hurtful behavior toward youth living with mental health challenges. These artists are like any young person in that they long for purpose, connectedness and belonging. Additionally, like many young people in contemporary society, they also struggle with self-acceptance, difficulty sustaining healthy peer relationships, body image issues, substance abuse, self-injurious behavior and other mind fields found in navigating the battleground of adolescence and young adulthood.
You can check out the event on facebook VOICES: Art Event or here —> https://www.facebook.com/events/635382789973540/

For more information contact Ann Nelson at annnelson17@comccast.net or at
(203)-645-2689.
Sponsored by Ann Nelson Advocacy, NAMI Shoreline and Branford Art Center

What’s Up with the WARMLINE ?

Really excited to be joining the WARMLINE folks in Hartford today @ TOIVO. The young adult Warmline ,through Advocacy Unlimited, is a peer run phone support that connects young adults to community resources and offers motivation and inspiration from young adults who’ve rocked recovery. We’ll be joining the operators for an afternoon of Wii, interviews and plenty of great conversation. We’ll get the scoop on the Warmline, how it came to be, how these young adults have stayed connected, as well why they’ve decided to be a part of such an amazing initiative. Look for the upcoming feature really soon in our Features section on the website within the next week. We’ll post an announcement in the media room so be sure to keep up 🙂

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.

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

I have always loved Florence + the Machine and each album she’s released has been phenomenal.
I have a problem where I grow attached to older albums and I tend to be harsh towards newer albums until I soon become obsessed over the new album.

Florence’s album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” came out just as my best friend came home from a 6+ month treatment facility in Wisconsin. Florence is one of the many artists we blast on road trips, so it was natural for us to dissect her new album together.

Florence normally includes biblical and greek mythology references in her music and each song is full of beautiful harps, strings, etc. This album, however is full of brass instruments and is more “stripped down.” She said she listened to Taylor Swift’s advice and followed her heart on this album; it is a collection of songs of heartache from a bad relationship. Each music video is part of her Odyssey to getting over her relationship.

My favorite song in her new album is “Queen of Peace.” I included the video – the original music video is extremely intense, but there is a bit of nudity so I didn’t want to post it on here.

Queen of Peace
I purchased tickets to see her this summer (SHE’S AMAZING LIVE!!!) because 2016 has been full of tragedy and I felt this was a chance to spend time with my mother while we can. Florence has helped both of us during dark days, so it will be a nice getaway to see her in concert.
Are you going to any concerts this year? How do you connect to their music?