Monthly Archives: February 2018

I would never be with an alcoholic

That’s what I said to myself, all those years ago when I (practically) crawled into my first Al-Anon meeting.

“I would never be with an alcoholic.”

I was engaged to a man who drank. Whose drinking bothered me. Whose personality changed (in a not nice way) when he drank.

My life was most certainly, as they say, unmanageable.

I had lost strength in half of my body. “A viral infection of the nervous system” the doctors called it, after they gave me an MRI and ruled out a stroke. I was only twenty-four and quite young for a stroke, but I had lost strength in half of my body.

A cousin suggested I go to Al-Anon, and I went. But all that was running through my head as I entered the church and found my way upstairs to the meeting room was, “Tell me if he’s an alcoholic. There’s no way I would ever be with an alcoholic.”

I would come to learn that alcoholism is a self-diagnosed disease, and it was my fiancé’s place to label himself an alcoholic…or not. I would also come to learn that there was every reason I would be with an alcoholic.

My grandfather had been in AA for the last four years of his life. My father and grandmother liked to comment that he was nicer then “because he finally found friends.” My father drank and drugged nearly every day – at least as far as I was aware of – and yes, his personality changed when he did. (He often became nicer.) Oh, and did I mention I was raised in a cult and that, in many ways, I raised myself.

In short, there were numerous reasons why I would be with an alcoholic and very few reasons why I wouldn’t.

I remember the shock as this dawned on me, slowly over the weeks of attending meetings. I remember my first Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting – that I attended by mistake. As they read their laundry list of characteristics of Adult Children, my jaw dropped and my brain buzzed with recognition. Nearly every, if not every, characteristic they listed was something I felt. Didn’t everyone feel these things? We are frightened by anger and any personal criticism; we judge ourselves harshly and have low self-esteem; we get guilt feelings if we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others. Didn’t everyone feel these things? They were so true inside my mind and heart, I didn’t even know they were there. They were so true to the core of my very being, I thought they were simply a part of being human. Not a part of being human when you haven’t had the chance to grow in an atmosphere of love and nurturing – a part of being human overall.

I remember the love and acceptance I found in those rooms, and the people who understood me in ways I’d never felt understood before. I remember the countless individuals who offered me hugs and their phone number. I remember listening to people say, “getting involved with an alcoholic is the best thing that ever happened to me,” and I remember thinking how insane they must be to say that.

Getting engaged to an alcoholic and getting knocked to my knees was the best thing that ever happened to me – well one of the best, because now there’s my husband, my kids, and my book about to be published – because it was my first step to realizing I needed help and my first step to finding help and healing.

“I would never be with an alcoholic” I used to think. “Aw honey,” I think now, “you would and you did. And thank god you did.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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I amaze myself

There. I said it. It’s not only weird and amazing that I can feel it and admit it to myself, it’s outrageous that I just said that out loud. To, I hope, a lot of people.

I am blessed to be in Colorado skiing. It is beyond beautiful. It is beyond breathtaking. It is beyond mind-blowingly gorgeous.

But what astounds me more is what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.

And that I’m confessing to it here.

Yesterday I willingly chose to ski a black diamond. (For those of you who don’t know, a black diamond slope is the almost hardest slope to ski – there are double black diamonds – and a black diamond out West is harder than one on the East coast. The mountains are higher and harder here.) Not only that, but I also picked mogul runs (hard runs with hard bumps on them) again and again.

And I had fun.

Now, let me explain my relationship with skiing to you. My first time on skis, the ski patrol followed me down the mountain and asked me if I wanted a ride on their snowmobiles. I had fallen so many times, I didn’t have the strength to get back up. Or to not fall again. And the mountain was closing as it was getting dark.

It was tempting – a ride on a snowmobile would probably have been fun, and I was so, so, so exhausted – but I was too stubborn. No way I would let someone help me.

My first time on skis, I knocked my ski instructor over as we got off the chair lift. “Lisa,” he said to me, “I haven’t fallen getting off the chair lift in ten years.”

Over the years, I’ve skied more and more with my family. And I’ve come to at least somewhat enjoy it – as long as I go slow on easy runs. But my relationship with skiing is tenuous to say the least.

Now, let me explain my relationship with trying new things to you. I suck at it. (Or at least I used to.) My perfectionism would always kick in, and I’d hate myself – and lambaste myself – for not being able to do whatever it was that I was learning. Even though I was learning. I gave myself no room for error, for not being able to, for acquiring a skill that I’d never had before.

So, I’d ski and suffer, because I couldn’t ski well. And I certainly wouldn’t try a black diamond, or a mogul run, and not be able to do it. In front of other people. And fall? No way. It was not okay for me to fall.

How do you learn if you don’t fall?

So yesterday I amazed myself. I amazed myself that I willingly skied black diamonds and mogul runs. That I looked for more black diamond and mogul runs to try. I amazed myself that I actually skied the runs at least somewhat well. My butt never hit the ground.

I amazed myself that I let myself do something that I could possibly fail at. Or suck at. I guess all my years of preaching to clients about failing forward and allowing ourselves room to try new things and mess up along the way are perhaps sinking into my own brain.

And I’m amazing myself that I’m admitting to all of you that I skied the runs well, and that I amazed myself.

I guess I’ve changed. And am constantly changing and growing.

That’s really cool.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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This breath. Just this breath. This breath is all I need.

It’s really that simple. What else do I need?

I think I need so much more. I look outside – and inside – for something to soothe me. Or something to excite me. I look for meaning, connection, purpose. I look for healing, comfort, ease. I look for someone to make it all “better” for me.

But all I need is this breath. And this one. And this one.

Because in each conscious breath I am grounded. In each conscious breath I realize I am whole.

With each breath I simply note that I am alive, and – perhaps because I’ve trained my mind and soul to do so – with each breath I see joy and beauty. I feel love and peace.

I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I don’t have to heal from yesterday. I can be in this moment, and know that – at least for just right now – I am okay.

As I share with clients, again and again, I do believe our fears and reactive tendencies are safety mechanisms. My need to read the environment and “handle the situation” (even when I’m not in a “situation”) is a learned behavior that kept me safe when I was young. There was turmoil and danger around me. I was, at least in some ways, threatened. With parents who didn’t seem to put my welfare first (or second…or anywhere high on the list), I learned to be always on guard.

And I’ve learned that I don’t have to do that – or be that – any more. I’ve developed a new learned behavior. It’s called breathing.

Just this breath. And this one. And this one.

I’ve trained myself to breathe and relax. I’ve taught myself to breathe and notice that I am safe – or if I’m not, to do something about what’s going on that comes from mindfulness, wholeness, and love, rather than from fear. I’ve realized, and I remember, that pushing against against my fear only makes it worse. That criticizing myself for reacting only makes my reactions stronger. That fighting my need to fight only makes me need to fight more.

I’ve compassionately disciplined myself to allow each breath to calm me. To look for beauty so that I can open my eyes and mind to more than what I’m reacting to. To take a breath. And another. And another. And let myself know that all is well and I’m okay.

This breath. Just this breath. This breath is all I need.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

Photo by Spencer Watson on Unsplash

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