Heartbreaking, Joyful Inheritance

Yesterday turned out to be a good day (which was surprising, considering how it started).

After finishing my post, I got off my duff and went to the gym for the first time in more than a week. It was discouraging to see that I’d lost a lil’ bit of my edge — i.e. my target heart rate was reached at lower levels of effort than before — but it felt good to move (something I’d been blatantly avoiding).

I didn’t want to get on the scale (because I feared my week of fast food and junk snacks had gone directly to my thighs); but I did it anyway. It turns out, I’d put on less than half a pound. It wasn’t a loss; but it still felt like a win, all things considered.

I shared yesterday’s blog post with my husband — which he read while on the road to Phoenix — and it served as both an apology, and a window into what I was feeling. When he returned in the evening, he apologized for not having invited me to go with him, and gave me a great big bear hug. (I also later received a killer lower leg massage — to relieve pain from shin splints and plantar fasciitis — which Mitch excels at giving!)

But the true joy — and heartbreak — came with a visit from my son, Bug (a nickname that he’s had since he was a lil’ guy). A visit I was in a good mood for, thanks to my early morning efforts to sort myself out.

Bug inherited his quick, dry wit from Mitchell; and he can always make me laugh. After a time though, he grew a bit melancholy; and when I asked him what was troubling him, we had a long conversation about how his anxieties and Pure-O (a rare form of OCD) are affecting his relationship with his girlfriend.

The Sins of the Mother, Visited on the Son

As I’ve mentioned here before, I come from a long line of persons affected by mental illness (addiction, especially); and as such, I feel responsible for my son’s mental health afflictions. (He, too, has struggled with alcoholism.) It’s really hard to watch your child grapple with struggles similar to your own… and to be helpless when it comes to soothing the effects of their own mental health issues. The best I can do is to share my own experience with him; and often, it does little to quell his anxieties.

What I may not have mentioned before is that (in addition to being a lil’ nuts) I am a serial cheater — something that Bug and I have talked about, at length, in the past.

I have never been in a relationship in which I didn’t cheat. (Mitchell — thank the universe — is the only one that ever loved me enough to stick around in the aftermath of such deceit). As such, I taught Bug very early on to be wary of women and their wily ways. I thought it would serve to protect him; but instead, it planted a seed of mistrust in his partners — a mistrust that he carries with him to this day.

I apologized for this, as we conversed yesterday; and he explained that he appreciated our talks about sex and women, but that he also believed they started too soon. (I started talking to him about sex and relationships when he first started asking questions at around nine-years-old.)

I then told him that though I have loved him with an unbridled ferocity since he first lived in my body, his father and I were too young — and very ill-prepared — to be effective parents. To which, he gave me the killer smirk that I have always adored, and said, “No shit, Ma; but I know you did your best. You’ve gotten a lot better, by the way.” (Score! πŸ˜‚)

As has he. Bug is a smart, funny, good looking, die-hard romantic (qualities that he inherited from all of us — me, his biological father, and Mitchell). He has struggled with addiction, and has managed to find a way to drink like “normal people” — for pleasure, and not for black-out escape. He has grown in maturity, has returned to school, and even bought dinner for Mitch and I last night (something I’ve never been able to do for my own parents πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ).

His current girlfriend is also very different from his ex-partners. She’s wildly independent — both in spirit and finances — and she doesn’t seem to need him like the other’s have. (He’s very fond of a “project”, and is always try to fix people for the better.)

They’ve gotten very close; and Bug feels as if he’s finally “settling in” to their relationship. So when his girlfriend went on vacation this past week, Bug spiraled into a rabbit’s hole of fear and anxiety based on his previous relationship experiences. (i.e. “When she comes back, maybe she won’t want me any longer, Ma.”) But, as I pointed out to him, he was dealing with that anxiety in a much more healthy way than he would have chose to in the past.

I wasn’t able to soothe my child into a place of serenity (a curse of parenthood, if ever there was one); but I was able to help him sort his thoughts, and to examine whether or not his fears were justified. We talked about not viewing his current relationship through the lens of past experience; and by the end of the conversation, we had worked out the particulars of the conversation he hopes to have with his partner about his anxieties.

Bug was also able to cuddle up with Tocho-Bear (our rescue pup); and there has never been a stressor too large for our fuzzy lil’ guy to somewhat pacify.

The Best and the Worst of Us

We all inherit traits from our families; some of those traits are fantastic, and some of them far-less-so.

It’s disheartening to watch your child make the same mistakes that you did, and to be able to do nothing about them. It makes you heart-sore to hear him explain how your household and relationship dynamics have affected his own; and to not be able to provide advice on how to change said dynamics (because you’re still learning to navigate them yourself).

Becoming a parent also gives you a new perspective on your own parents. In my life, it has brought me closer to my folks; and I often call them up just to apologize for having done to them what my child now does to me (a curse and a blessing bestowed upon all children who have their own child).

Bug has taught me the power and freedom of forgiveness. When we fight, we fight as my parents and grandparents did before me — with passion, and (sometimes cruel) honesty; but we also bounce back more quickly, and we don’t harbor resentment toward one another.

I have learned more from my child than I probably taught… and I look forward to the next obstacle that allows us both to grow in some positive way (as yesterday surely did).

Soundtrack: “The Greatest” by James Blunt

For Bug… who has surpassed my dreams and expectations in every way.

“I feel that you deserve a chance to know the truth and to be better than…

…and people will try
To take you down too
But if I was a betting (wo)man, I’d put all my money on you…”

Don’t Tell Me I Should Do Something Either

Weight Loss Endeavors No. 10

(Side Note: I apologize for posting late this week. I encountered an issue with WordPress yesterday, and just gave up in my frustration. Next week, I will be posting on Thursday per the usual.)

Last week I chose not to set any goals in stone (i.e. write them out). Why? Because just as I will go to any lengths to prove you (or myself) wrong when I’m told I can’t do something; similarly, I will go to extreme lengths to demonstrate that I don’t have to do something. (While this mindset is common in addicts, it is not unique to addicts. My husband — who is as equally stubborn as I am — confronts opinions and advice much in the same manner.)

So not setting goals was an experiment of sorts. Would I do better without feeling as if I had to do something? As it turns out, yes I would.

Eating More Than Once

I did much better on this front over the past week. After my workouts, I ate a piece of fruit and a Kind bar. Usually, this occurs around noon… so between then and our evening meal, I didn’t eat anything else. Lunch is something I still have to work on; but, hey, any progress — no matter how small — is still progress.

Rein It In

Mitchell noticed that I was having greater difficulties maintaining my workout schedule as of late, and suggested that I take it a little easier on the cardio the days that we lift. He explained that only thirty minutes of cardio is required for a “decent” workout, and asked that I try fifteen minutes before lifting, and fifteen minutes after (versus my twenty minutes before and thirty minutes after).

Of course, having a deeply engrained need to push the limits, I protested. Eventually, we settled on twenty minutes before and after (with a five minute cooldown in the after part). To my surprise, this did not diminish my sense of accomplishment. On the contrary, it seemed to make my workouts a bit more enjoyable. (Point to my husband.)

He also asked that I take a day of rest if I felt pain and/or the precursor of an injury. I rolled my eyes, and sighed deeply, but agreed to give it a try this week; and I did take a couple of days off when I rolled my ankle in the Walmart parking lot πŸ™„.

Don’t Give Up, Just Turn It Down

Core lifting still proves to be more difficult than upper and/or lower body lifting. Perhaps it’s because I’m much more fluffy than I should be, maybe it’s just that my core is subpar, or it could be that I’ve never had a great sense of balance… regardless, I tend to consistently hit a wall after this particular workout.

This past week, I was halfway through my twenty minutes of closing cardio when my body started to protest; but instead of just hitting the emergency stop and giving up (like I normally would), I decided to turn the speed on the treadmill down and continue on.

Granted, I felt dismayed at this (because I’m a perfectionist) at first; but in the the end, finishing the workout was a better feeling than giving up would have been.

Weigh-In History

Thursday, August 4th: 266.4 lbs
Thursday, August 11th: 263 lbs
Thursday, August 18th: 264.2 lbs

I think the loss that occurred between the 4th and the 11th was due to the fact that we replaced my usual evening snacks with healthier choices, while the gain between the 11th and the 18th was most likely a reflection of the less-healthy choices I made while trying to quit vaping.

I still have junk food in the house; but I have been a little better with my portion sizes. Once the junk is gone, I plan to return to the healthier choices I was making the week before last.

Workout Review

This past week I increased the speed on the treadmill (3.2 mph), and the target heartrate (144) on the recumbent bike — both by tiny increments, but tiny increments will eventually add up.

Thursday, August 11th

Bike: 30 min 6.43 miles 212 cals burned
Treadmill: 35 min 1.81 miles 260 cals burned

Friday, August 12th

Mitch was with me on this one.

Bike: 20 min 4.41 miles 145 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Upper body 55 min
Treadmill: 25 min 1.28 miles 183 cals burned

Saturday, August 13th

I overslept, and made the decision to skip my workout in lieu of spending the day in Tubac with my family. Mitch and I had a really good day, ending with a lovely dinner with my mother-in-law.

Sunday, August 14th

Mitch was with me on this one.

Bike: 20 min 4.74 miles 161 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Lower body 55 min
Treadmill: 25 min 1.28 miles 183 cals burned

Monday, August 15th

Bike: 20 min 4.45 miles 147 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Core 25 min
Treadmill: 25 min 1.24 miles 179 cals burned

Tuesday, August 16th & Wednesday, August 17th

Intentional days of rest, nursing my rolled ankle and diminished mental state. (Being without nicotine proved to be too much of a battle, and I have resumed vaping. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ)

Once a Dragon, Always a Dragon?

I posted earlier in the week that I was trying to quit smoking. I managed to go ninety-two hours without nicotine, before I broke.

Unfortunately, without my one remaining bad habit, my uglier cravings began to surface as well; and since my drinking was devastating to my family, I decided that it was okay to continue smoking (the lesser of two evils).

Someday, I might be able to quit… but right now, I’m just enjoying the last of my vices, while trying not to judge myself for carrying the family curse of addiction.

The Winds of Change

The week ahead is going to be a challenging one. School resumes on Monday; and this is my first semester back on campus (versus taking courses online). I’m not sure what my course load is going to look like homework wise — though one of my professors has already assigned forty pages of reading prior to the first class, so I imagine he’s going to be tough — nor how tired trekking across campus is going to make me.

My hope is that I can continue to workout at least five days each week; but I’m willing to allow some leeway as I adjust to the new schedule.

I have discovered that this sort of self-kindness — rather than being self-judgmental — leads to better mental and physical health. Thus, I will do my best to reside in serenity (blissfully soaked in nicotine), regardless of what this week may bring.

Soundtrack: “Rx” by THEORY

Nicotine is the only way I “medicate” these days; but once upon a time, it was much, much worse…

Damned Either Way

Saturday evening, while playing a game on my computer, I reached out in the dark to grab my mod… and knocked it clean off the coffee table. The tank shattered; and I shorted-out a brand-new coil (which was, unfortunately, my last). I was doomed to be without nicotine for at least fifteen hours, because the vape shop I frequent doesn’t open until noon on Sundays.

The next morning, Mitch timed our gym visit perfectly. We would finish up just in time to land on the front stoop of the vape shop at exactly 12 p.m. (My husband doesn’t like being around me when I’ve been without nicotine for an extended period of time. Its absence tends to make me moody.)

But then? A funny thing happened.

I noticed that my resting heartrate (which the equipment measures when you sit down to start your workout) had fallen fourteen points. It was below 100 beats per minute — something I haven’t seen since I began working out over a month ago. My cardio heartrate (at the height of my workout) dropped six points. I also found that I wasn’t having as difficult a time breathing as I normally do. Sure, my breath was still strained at the peak of my workout; but not nearly as much as it usually is.

As we exited the gym, Mitch said, “Goin’ to see the boys, yeah?” (The vape shop I visit is run by a group of really nice young men that have been there for a long time, and know us well; thus we have dubbed them “the boys.”)

And kind’a to my own surprise, I said, “No? No. Nope, we don’t need to go see the boys.”

“You’re really going to quit?” my husband asked with trepidation.

I told him about my observations in the gym; and said that I honestly wanted to try.

Mitch raised an eyebrow and said, “Okay, on to Walmart for hard candies then.”

So that’s what we did. We went to Walmart and stocked up!

An Addict is an Addict…

Yesterday (out of desperation for a hit), I tried to prove that Sunday’s observations had been a fluke. I went to the gym, determined to see that my resting heartrate was back up over 100 bpm; but it wasn’t. It was maintaining at around 93. Damn it!

I kind of thought my breathing had returned to its former state of more labored; but I was also looking for an excuse to start vaping again (See?! Not smoking really hasn’t made a difference!), so that could have been entirely psychosomatic.

It’s been sixty-three hours — with dozens of hard candies consumed — since I last hit the mod; and I feel like I have bugs crawling under my skin. I want to vape so bad that I can think of little else.

Sunday wasn’t this hard.
Monday wasn’t this hard.
But today? Today, it just f*cking sucks!

Maybe it’s because I realized this morning that I have a spare tank buried away in my supply drawer and know that if I really felt like it, I could jerry-rig the battered coil. (It’s amazing how much ingenuity addicts can harness for a fix. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ) I truly could get it to work… and I’m struggling not to.

When Mitch called just a little while ago, I explained how disconnected and agitated I feel (but didn’t mention the tank and suppressed ingenuity). In response, he pointed out that I’m going through withdrawal. He also offered to stop by the shop on his way home from work for new supplies, if I really needed them.

And I want him to… but I also don’t want him to. Ya’ know? Because the absolute truth of the matter is I don’t need nicotine. It’s not like my lungs will suddenly stop working without it; on the contrary, they’re likely to work much better in the absence of my dragon-like vape-cloud inhalations… but goddam it, do I want it.

What In the HELL Was I Thinking?

I don’t know if I can honestly go through life without an active addiction.

Every time I give one up, another one seems to take its place. I gave up pills for booze, booze for food, (some) food for nicotine… and have suffered from a shopping addiction in the past.

I’m tired of my bottomless need for something costing my husband money — especially when I can’t explain why I’m so empty without it (and in truth, am also empty with it).

Honestly? I understand addiction better than most. I know why I am the way I am; but knowing the why of it all doesn’t change what is.

I’m forty-four years old, and don’t know if I have the strength to truly change in this department.

I enjoy smoking. In truth, I always have… but sixty-three hours (without it) is a lot of time to throw away.

I don’t know what I’m going to do…

Forgive Yourself, and Find Your Inspiration

Weight Loss Endeavors No. 8

Oy! That’s really the only way to describe how I’ve been feeling the past couple of days (as you could probably discern from my lack of writing).

I’ve been working out at least five days each week since early-mid July, and I’m just not seeing the results I had hoped to on the scale (or in my figure).

It took me years to put the weight on; so I know that it will probably require the same to take it off… and that’s just depressing (and discouraging) as all hell. Especially when you consider an addict’s mentality: Instant gratification is never fast enough.

Which, of course, leads right into the binge-eating cycle. Scarf a bunch of tasty carbs, and I immediately feel more satiated (literally and metaphorically speaking)… only to later feel like more of a failure. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Journaling for Better (and for Worse?)

I keep a journal record on my phone (through the Quillo app) of all of my workouts; and it does make me feel better to look back and see all that I’ve accomplished. Unfortunately, it isn’t always enough to keep me motivated.

I take some time off (as I have over the past couple of days) — for a variety of reasons — and it’s always difficult to get moving again. Thus far, I’ve been able to fight the desire to surrender (and return to my former habits); but this week, I just can’t seem to harness the drive required to overcome.

I’m really disappointed in myself for not being able to change my eating habits in any sustainable way. Even when I do eat during the day, I still find myself binging at night… and it just sucks. Mostly, because I’m still consuming more calories than I expend (at least, I’m 90% certain that I am); which means I’m not going to see any real change. If anything, I’m working to maintain — rather than lose — the weight.

So I started wondering if keeping a food journal would help… and then thought about the shame it might cause. Wouldn’t that be worse for my mental health? Or would it inspire a more responsible accountability? Hell if I know… and since I don’t l like uncertainty, I just haven’t tried.

Pretzels, Oranges, and Muffins… Oh My!

Mitchell and I have started buying healthier alternatives, when it comes to snack foods. Instead of binging on Krispy treats and chips, I’ve began snacking on pretzels, oranges, and whole wheat English muffins… but I’m still eating too many of them.

We did stock up on a bunch of fresh vegetables; and Mitch has been diligent about cutting them up and portioning them out to facilitate eating during the day, if I so choose to… but I don’t always choose to.

I’m eating more often — on occasion — but I just haven’t found the necessary motivation to do so on a regular basis; and I don’t really know why.

If They Can Do It…

My beautiful blogging friend, Ms. Annemarie at “Seclusion 101 with Annemarie” has been challenging herself for twenty-five weeks to be more health and fitness oriented; and reading her posts about it has been a huge inspiration. (You can read her latest post here.)

As with most challenges in life, they seem easier to face when you know you aren’t facing them alone… even if you live in different countries.

But of course, it can also be frustrating to feel as if you aren’t living up to their example (and Ms. Annemarie is an excellent example); and that’s kind of where I’m at this morning. I feel like I just can’t; and knowing that I can isn’t necessarily enough to make me do so… and then again, I don’t want to disappoint my most inspirational readers; so maybe I should just suck it up and get out of this damn chair. 😜

When I Don’t Write

I’ve never been good at expressing my feelings vocally. For whatever reason, I just can’t properly sort all the shit in my head, until I sit down and write.

Many times, I have to write about a fight with Mitchell in order to come to a place where I can explain it. In fact, he often finds that reading the blog gives him a much deeper understanding of where I’m coming from.

It seems ridiculous that I can’t speak as well as I write (and I don’t often think that I do that very well, either)… but I can’t.

I also can’t feel as well as I write… and when I find myself in the rabbit’s hole, I often refuse to write (self-sabotage is something I’ve always excelled at); but when I do find the motivation to do so, all of my bitching and whining and hesitation and isolation seem petty and small.

Thus, I find myself (once again) a lil’ more inspired to get out of this chair simply because I’m reading about others who have done so — and I’m writing about wanting to be more like them — and if they can do it, then damn it, so can I!

Today, I will get out of this chair… if only to truly show my appreciation for Ms. Annemarie and all that she has accomplished.

Soundtrack: “House With No Mirrors” by Sasha Sloan

“See You in Valhalla”

Eclectic Media Outlet No. 2

It’s been awhile since I wrote one of these posts; but I hope to start incorporating them into the blog more often… because films (and other media) play such a large — and beautiful — role in my life.

“See You in Valhalla” (2015)

“See You in Valhalla” is a part of several of my film collections — addiction, dysfunctional families, indie films, and suicide.

The Draw and Decision to Own

My father has stated, on more than one occasion, that he would like to have a Viking funeral when he dies; so any title that refers to Valhalla — or Norse mythology — quite naturally intrigues me.

Going in, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this film… but ultimately found it to be one of those quietly brilliant movies that very few ever saw. (I have yet to encounter another cinephile that has seen it.) After viewing it the first time, I went online and purchased a hard copy immediately… and it will stay in my permanent collection.

Synopsis and Personal Meaning

“See You in Valhalla” is about a family that has lost a son — and a sibling — to suicide (albeit by proxy… but intentional proxy).

Magnus — a character with a soul plagued by meth addiction — returns from a Viking rehabilitation colony with his girlfriend, only to find that she cannot stay sober. When she later dies from an overdose, Magnus charges over to the dealer’s home and kills him with a sword. He is shot in the process, leaving behind a suicide note for his family… who are left to deal with the fallout.

Families are Complicated

When his sister, Johana (“Joe”) sees the story on the evening news, she turns to her boyfriend — explaining that the “Viking Guy” is her brother — and says, “I need to go home. I need to go home, right? That’s what you do after someone dies. I can’t believe I have to deal with these people.”

“Who?” her boyfriend inquires.

“My family.”

“Do you not like them?”

“It’s very complicated.”

Now, originally, I saw this film before my own family lost my younger brother, Nicky, to suicide; but after that tragic event, this scene is one that I have a deeper understanding for.

Families are complicated — dysfunctional or not — and sometimes when you need them most, you’re not really sure that you want to “deal” with them.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is the first time that the family — reunited in grief, after years of not having seen one another — sits down to dinner. The conversation dissolves very quickly into old hurts and renewed resentments; but Brent and Jarret Tarnol (the writer and director) do a brilliant job of infusing humor into dark subject matter; and this scene is no exception.

After the fight at the dinner table, Joe later tries to explain to her father’s girlfriend why it’s so hard for her to return home, “It’s every scar, every bruise. You know. Every stupid f*cking memory is… it’s here.”

Oh, how true that is… but every wonderful, warm, sparkling memory is also imbued in our families; and we often so quickly forget about those, in the face of tragedy.

β’Έ Tarnol Group Pictures and ARC Entertainment

The Blame Game

Another poignant moment in the film is when Don, the oldest sibling, has an emotional breakdown and screams at his father, “Magnus was f*cking self-destructing in front of your very eyes, where the f*ck were you?!”

When a family loses someone to suicide, there is — unfortunately — a lot of blame thrown around. It’s easier to be angry at the people that are still standing, than it is to be with the person you’ve lost.

There are so many unanswerable questions… and all you want are answers. You don’t just blame the people around you; you also blame yourself.

Michael Weston (“Garden State”), who plays Don, does such an excellent job in this scene that — even if you haven’t lost someone close to you to suicide — your heart feels as if it’s been ripped from your chest and thrown to the floor.

Strength in Weakness

Addiction is a tumultuous disease, because you never truly escape it. You can learn to cope with it, to live with it, to somewhat control it… but you’re never free of it. Sobriety is something that you fight for, or something that you lose. There is no inbetween.

There is a passage from Magnus’s journal that describes this beautifully:

“Our rehabilitation was over, and it was time to face the world ahead. These modern Vikings showed us their tools of sobriety. Our life is no longer controlled by substances. We’ve rid ourselves of bad habits and vices, but I reckon to see no difference between fantasy and reality. But a true Viking, no matter how trapped he may feel, must face dragons head-on no matter the consequence. This is the Viking way. Never give up. Never submit. Never surrender to any man or any thing.”

Magnus manages to not surrender; but cannot handle the pain when his girlfriend relapses (and later overdoses).

There is a saying in the rooms of the Anonymous, “You will step over bodies in your journey towards sobriety.” And unfortunately, most of us find this to be true. I have lost my brother, and a number of friends, to addiction… and it sometimes makes you question the why of it all.

Later in the film, as the siblings gather around their father, he shares his favorite passage from Magnus’s journal, “A wolf is always strongest when he’s with his pack. Every day a dire wolf dies, but the pack must stay together. And when they do, in the end, they will prevail. The tighter the pack, the stronger the wolf.”

This is a beautiful synopsis of how a family survives the tortuous pain of losing a loved one before their time.

My own family has stuck together in our grief. They are my source of solace and refuge… because only they can understand the dark cloud that has followed me tirelessly around, since losing Nicky.

The Moral of the Story

What Brent and Jarret Tarnol convey through the subtle beauty of this film is that home is one of the most painful — and most healing — places we have to go.

I hope, Dear Reader, that you are fortunate enough to find this to be true in your own life.

Enough

I read a heartbreaking post this morning entitled “A Never Ending Nightmare” (written by my dear friend Ms. Alana at “Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On”).

The sentiment that “I am not enough” is a common theme in the lives of those who have experienced trauma and come out on the other side… which is ironic; because if we’ve managed to survive the horrors of trauma, shouldn’t we feel like warriors versus feeling less than? But sadly, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

When you add mental health disorders on top of trauma, those feelings run even deeper. For me, it’s often a matter of wondering why I can’t curb the behaviors that accompany my mental health issues. “If I weren’t so weak, I could control this shit,” is an internal lie born of external stigmatism.

Hell, there’s even sigma attached to mental health disorders through our health insurance providers — mental health is kept apart from physical health, with a different set of rules and parameters (and often, with separate and more costly co-pays). It’s no wonder we feel “less than” when compared to those who are fortunate enough to escape the pain and isolation of being diagnosed as “mentally ill”.

Then, throw addiction into the mix — an issue that eventually condemns a person to a prison of their own making — and you have the makings of a perfect “I absolutely suck” storm of thinking.

My Limitations Don’t Define Me

It’s taken me a long time to realize that I have very real limitations — both mentally and physically — that other people don’t. It’s taken even longer to come to accept, and honor, those limitations (and I don’t always do it well… it’s hard not to judge yourself in comparison to others).

Mitchell plays an important role in this, because he never judges me (not intentionally, anyway) by what I cannot do. He’s proud of me when I’ve managed to do the simplest of household chores and/or errands; and that makes a huge difference. He’s also the voice of calm reasoning in the midst of my “crazy” episodes.

Just yesterday, I weighed in at the gym and found that I had gained 2.8 lbs. I worked out anyway; but I was distraught by this “failure” (even though my routine is getting easier, and I’ve been able to increase my efforts). Afterwards, I called my husband and broke down into tears.

“What the hell? I’ve been working out five days a week and I’m gaining weight! This is ridiculous. Dr. Taylor’s not going to believe that I’ve made any effort at all to control my weight!”

“Baby, calm down. You look thinner. You’re moving more easily, and you’re accomplishing more outside of the gym. Muscle weighs more than fat, and you’re building muscle. This is going to take time; and you can’t measure everything by the numbers on the scale.”

“How the hell am I supposed to measure then?!”

“You measure by what you’ve accomplished. The rest will work itself out in the end. Trust me. You’re doing an excellent job, Honey.”

I still felt dismayed; but I dusted myself off and tried to get through the rest of the day… something I probably couldn’t have done without Mitch’s support.

This past week, I also went to the grocery store — twice! — after the gym and picked up easy-to-make dinners, so that Mitch wouldn’t have to stop on his way home and try to plan meals; and he was thrilled by this. However, on the second day, I wasn’t able to do much more following said errand. I’d gone to the gym, had run around town in the blistering heat, and was exhausted by the time I got home.

It took real effort to throw myself into the shower; and after that, I was spent. I didn’t get any laundry done… and more importantly, I did not judge myself for this.

It’s important for me to recognize when I’ve done something I wouldn’t/couldn’t normally do, no matter how small… because in doing so, I start to realize what I am capable of doing.

Sure, my capable might not live up to someone else’s capable… but guess what? Someone else is not me, and I am not them. We’re not better or less than one another; we’re just different. (And if we weren’t different, what a boring f*cking place this world would be.)

Reading Between the Lines, When There’s Nothing There

I find that I often read much more into a situation than is actually there.

A while back, after an intense argument between Mitchell and myself, I took out a notebook and wrote down what Mitchell had said in one color of ink, and what I had heard in another.

It turns out that most of what I was angry about was in my own damn head.

Mitch had made a benign comment about me putting something back in the refrigerator incorrectly, and what I had heard was, Are you really this stupid? How many times do I have to tell you how to do something before you get it right?! Jesus, Lady! Get your shit together!

Similarly, if someone looks at me when I’m out in public, I always wonder what in the f*ck they’re thinking. What? You got a problem with me? Bring it! You have no right to judge, Buddy! And in all actuality, they’re probably not thinking anything about me at all.

It’s that internal critic — a symptom of trauma and mental health issues — that makes the external world a hostile place; and I have to remember to try and keep it in check.

I’m Not Broken, I’m a Limited Edition

I have encountered monsters that tried to break me; but they didn’t succeed, because I’m still here. The bastards haunt my dreams because they have lost their power in the waking world… and the nightmares they are a part of are nothing more than an illusion of memory. I vanquished them once, and I will do it again — as many times as I need to — in order to free myself from their spectral grasp.

Sure, my brain might work a lil’ differently as a result of the actions of these monsters… but I am not broken. I’m a limited edition; and that makes me more valuable, not less.

If I have more cracks in the glass than most, that simply means that I have the capability to let more light into the darkness.

I am more than enough… and that “enough” has grown with time, distance, and experience.

And no one has the power to take that away from me… because I do not grant them permission to do so.

Dear Reader, you are enough… just the way you are.

Soundtrack: “Enough” by Delta Goodrem, featuring Gizzle

Personal Boundaries

The Trials, Errors, and Triumphs of AA (No. 1)

Not surprisingly, when most of us in the proverbial Anonymous programs enter the rooms, we have a deeply flawed sense of what personal boundaries are. It’s not uncommon for us to come from dysfunctional families, to have underlying mental health issues, and/or to be victims of trauma… all of which skew the lines of “healthy” boundaries.

This past week, I received a phone call that reminded me of my early days in the program… and the unacceptable lengths I was willing to go to in the name of “sobriety”.

Like many folks these days, I don’t pick up numbers I do not recognize; but my voicemail message states, “If you are a friend of Bill’s, please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as possible.” That way, members of AA know that I am also a member. If someone leaves a voicemail, I do check that (almost always) immediately.

From an unrecognized number, I was left the following message (by far, one of the more bizarre calls I’ve received in the program):

“Cassie, this is [Anonymous]. We met in a meeting about a year and five months ago. [The caller also left a description of themselves.] I’m in a tight spot, and I need your help. I need three cartons of Newport Menthols, a half-dozen bags of Doritos, and a couple of two-liters of Diet Coke. This is my address…”

I returned the call and explained that I was available for emotional and sobriety-related support, but was not an Uber Eats delivery driver. (Said member also “has no money”, and expected a favor “for having been a friend of Bill’s for more than twenty years.”) In response, I was met at first with pleading (for “just the cigarettes then”) and then with a “F*ck you, Bitch!” (at which point, I said “That is unacceptable and abusive language, and I am now ending this call). Moments later, this member called again, leaving a message with a longer sundry list.

What. The. F*ck. This is not what we do in AA. (So I set a boundary, and blocked the damn number.)

To be clear, if I have an established relationship with someone in the program — and they actually are in dire straits — I won’t hesitate to help. I’ve bought groceries, gas, and other necessities when friends are in need; but I no longer acquiesce to requests such as the one above — friend or not. However, it took me a damn long time — and learning some really hard lessons — to get to this point: the point where I can give a justified “No!” to someone without feeling any guilt.

Busy is Not Necessarily Sober

My first year in the program, I ran around for folks like a chicken with my head cut off. If I was asked to do something; I did it without question. I drove people around (and not just to and from meetings), I lent people money, I bought food and cigarettes for other members, and I babysat everyone’s children.

These things were a blessing in that they kept me busy; but they were not conducive to working towards emotional sobriety. I was always exhausted; and the more I did, the more I gained a reputation for “being helpful” (or “being a sucker”, depending on how you look at it πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ), and the more I was asked to do.

It took a total breach of my trust — and the strong words of healthier members — to break this cycle.

Taking Advantage

Mere months into my sobriety, I was helping a young woman in the program to get to and from meetings. Occasionally, we also had coffee or a meal together (for which, I always paid). I also assisted her with filling out the paperwork to receive state-sanctioned health insurance, because she desperately needed mental healthcare assistance.

Over the course of several months, I would be called to her home (by her guardians) on more than one occasion to help deal with violent outbursts and suicide threats (during these events, I routinely called the local crisis response team). Eventually, we were able to get her placed in an intensive outpatient program; and I continued to take her to and from meetings.

Then one evening, while attending a meeting together, this young woman stated that she had left something in my car and asked for my keys. I gave them to her; but she never returned to the meeting. Figuring she had opted to stay outside and smoke cigarettes, I stayed for the duration. After the meeting, I went outside; and she was no where to be found.

I walked to my car and found the keys inside on the driver’s seat; but the young woman had taken everything that was in the car — cigarettes, various items in the trunk, a small amount of emergency cash from the console, and all of my CDs. (In hindsight, I’m grateful that she didn’t take the car as well.)

When I later shared this story in a meeting, women who had decades of sobriety pulled me aside and explained that I needed to get my shit together… that trying to help everyone with everything when I didn’t have my own house in order yet would always lead to negative consequences.

And that’s when I really started working the program.

We Are Not Slaves, Laborers, or ATMs

I have seen “sponsorship” go completely awry during my years in AA.

I have witnessed members utilize newcomers for yardwork, housework, and errand running. Not in a casual “let’s keep you busy” kind of way; but in an abuse of power.

There are sponsors who take over the finances of those they profess to be helping — taking advantage of the naivete of newcomers. (Side Note: Sponsorship should never be a relationship of profit.)

Being asked to help set-up a meeting — making coffee, putting out chairs, distributing literature, etc. — is perfectly acceptable. Being asked to wash someone’s car? Not so much.

Thirteenth Stepping

While there is no “thirteenth” step in twelve-step programs, “thirteenth stepping” refers to members taking sexual advantage of newcomers. This is why it is strongly suggested that you work with someone of the same sex — to avoid (dysfunctional) transference.

Admittedly, I fell victim to this myself (and feel abysmally stupid for having done so). Like many women in the program, I entered the hallowed halls of the Anonymous with a strong distrust of other women. I have always been a bit of a tomboy, and had closer friendships with men than I did women. As such, I was drawn to males in the program rather than females. (Old patterns die hard.)

Needless to say, it didn’t end well. The boy (because I have come to realize that he was not yet a man, emotionally speaking) that I had a short-term sexually intimate relationship with went on to talk about said relationship in meetings all over town… and it nearly stopped me from continuing in the program.

Fortunately, shortly thereafter, I met a very strong group of women with healthy sobriety… and have not worked with men in the program since.

That’s not to say that I don’t have friendships with men in the program now. I do; but they are healthy friendships with very clear personal boundaries.

Healthy Sobriety

Nothing about sobriety is easy… and it’s a lifelong commitment (albeit, only twenty-four seconds, minutes, or hours at a time).

Step-work — when done “correctly” — helps us to rediscover who we were before addiction consumed our lives. It should lead to a healthier self-image, substantial self-confidence, and emotional serenity and safety. (Which is not to say that we will be serene for the rest of our days… but we learn to cope with difficult times — and difficult people — in healthier ways.) Ideally, it also helps us to find a new direction, and a deeper purpose, for our lives. And most importantly, it helps us to establish and maintain personal boundaries. It teaches us to appropriately use the word “no”.

So if you are a newcomer to our Anonymous programs, trust your gut instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, or is causing you undue stress, don’t be afraid to pull the drawbridge up and bar the gate.

Watch, and really listen, to people in the meetings. Gravitate to members with strong sobriety that you admire. Make sure that they “walk the walk” rather than just “talk the talk.”

Members with strong sobriety live full lives. They are contributing members of society — both inside and outside of the rooms. They are self-sufficient and will not ever insist that you do something untoward. A sponsor should empower, not belittle you.

Remember too that every single person in the rooms is an addict. The only thing we truly have to offer you is “our experience, strength, and hope”.

May you find “an easier, softer way” to sobriety than I did.

Soundtrack: “NO” by Meghan Trainor

It’s Not “Just” a Food Addiction

Recovery & Weight Loss Endeavors No. 6

The past two days have been dismal for me. I binged, and binged again, on junk food — cheeseballs and crackers, cookies, Krispy treats, candy, etc.

This problem isn’t a simple one. It isn’t a matter of will-power alone. It also doesn’t come down to it “just” being an addiction.

I’m on medication for night terrors (that I get absolutely zero sleep without) that has an “increased appetite” side effect. Between my two doses (one at six in the evening, and one around eight in the evening), it’s as if I’m stoned on weed and have a terrible case of the proverbial munchies.

I also have IBS; so I avoid eating during the day (especially if I have plans) in order to mitigate the chances of having an attack. Thus, by early evening, I’m famished; and I eat much faster than I should (and crave sugar and fats due to low blood glucose).

Mitch and I do not have healthy eating habits, either. We’re both procrastinators and rather poor planners… which leaves our evening meal on hiatus until we’re both starving, and more likely to run out for fast food.

What Hasn’t Worked

Stocking the Fridge

We have tried filling the refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables (things that by and large Mitchell does not eat); but often, they end up spoiling instead of getting eaten.

Why? Because I hate preparing food; so if Mitch doesn’t take the initiative to cut things up and portion them out, I tend to ignore what’s in the kitchen. (I also have an essential tremor that makes handling knives a difficult feat.)

That isn’t to say that my husband is at fault. On the contrary, I need to take some initiative in this department. I should take more responsibility for my own dietary habits; but Mitch has been in control of this for so long, that it’s become a (somewhat necessary — see the tremor explanation above) habit that’s hard to break.

Making Vows

I have tried writing out my intentions — hoping to make them harder to break — to no avail.

It’s all well and good to type “I will limit myself to one sugary item after our evening meal.” (As I did in Thursday’s post.) But by the time seven o’clock rolls around, I’m frustrated with myself for not having eaten better during the day, and that “the house is on fire, might as well let it burn to the ground” mentality sets in.

Counting Calories

I shared in an earlier post on the blog why this particular tactic doesn’t work for me.

The F*cking Endless Cycle

I’m extremely agitated by my inability to reign-in my binge-eating habits.

I cannot fathom how I found the strength to give up booze and narcotics, yet can’t manage to put down the donuts and potato chips through my will alone.

After a binge, I wake up feeling ashamed and disgusting. Often, I also feel physically taxed and sluggish; which is exactly how I felt when plagued with a hangover.

You would think that wanting those feelings to go away would be enough to prevent the actions that precede them; but instead, I find myself stuck in the hellish cycle of addiction (albeit, a less nefarious addiction than the ones I’ve managed to keep in check this past few years): eat irresponsibly, it takes an emotional/physical toll, feelings of shame fuel negative self-image, there is a loss of hope and some self-flagellation, reach for (false) comfort in the very thing causing you distress. Rinse and repeat.

Not “Just” an Addiction is Still an Addiction

One of the hardest things about overcoming addictions is that they mutate. Why? Because “addiction” is born of maladapted coping mechanisms. It’s a (somewhat “diseased”) way of thinking… and changing one’s way of thinking can be an extremely difficult thing to do.

In addicts, negative underlying emotions fuel the desire to rid oneself of them through any means necessary… to feel something different.

In my case, I’m trying to “outrun” feeling undesirable — to fill the one missing piece (i.e. a sexually intimate connection with my husband) in the puzzle of my life.

I couldn’t fill it with alcohol. I couldn’t fill it with opiates. I couldn’t fill it with affairs. And now? Now, I cannot fill it with food.

I Should Know Better By Now

After years of self-reflection in the Anonymous programs, you would think I had better tools to cope with feelings of self-destruction; and I do… sort-of.

I have friends that I can call when I’m feeling “restless, irritable, and discontent” — but I still struggle with actually doing so. (Mostly, because I’d rather listen to their problems, than to bleed all over them with mine.)

I know that writing helps me to sort out negative emotions, and leads to finding the flecks of glitter among the ashes of darker thoughts… and that I can do (as I am now).

It seems to me that I must start treating my binge-eating as an addiction (rather than just a bad habit) — even when there are other factors at play; and for me, unfortunately, that means finding a healthier addiction to replace it.

I’m working on it…

Soundtrack: “Recovery” by James Arthur

Move Over, F*ck It Hamster!

Weight Loss Endeavors No. 5

I am totally unmotivated this morning. I did wash my face and brush my teeth upon awakening; but I haven’t showered since Tuesday afternoon, and have yet to return to the gym (haven’t been there since Friday) and/or my chores (which I abandoned Monday).

It’s a bit odd to have apathy linger this long… especially when I had a good day yesterday. Bug (my son) came over in the early morning to do his laundry; and we had a very nice visit. Rige-o (my baby brother) called in the afternoon just to chat (a rare treat); and we had a great conversation full of laughter. Mama texted me throughout the day; and we also had a fun conversation. Mitch came home after work and did the dishes himself; while we joked and poked fun at one another.

So what the hell is my problem?!

The First Law of Physics

“An object will remain at rest or in a uniform state of motion unless that state is changed by an external force.”
– Newton’s Three Laws of Motion

I’ve been at rest (though some of that rest was beyond emotionally taxing) since Mitch and I had our fight on Sunday morning.

This is not to say that Mitchell is at fault. On the contrary, he has asked “Are you going to the gym?” every day, before leaving for work. And my response has been, “No, I don’t think so.”

Instead, I’ve sat in the recliner — day after day — binging “Shameless” on Netflix, while occasionally corresponding with friends.

I haven’t been eating during daylight hours… which turns into shame-inducing sugar binges after our evening meal. (Last night, I ate a box of Crunch ‘N’ Munch toffee popcorn, a Mr. Goodbar, and a bag of Skittles. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ )

When we visited our primary care physician on Tuesday afternoon, I weighed in at 266.9 pounds — the heaviest I have ever been — and one of my liver enzymes is out of whack due to obesity. (Causing me to think, What the hell is the point of working out if I’m not seeing any results on the f*cking scale, and my fat-encrusted liver is being uncooperative?!)

Add all of that up, and the sum total is this: I’m disappointed with myself, and think I don’t deserve to feel any better than I already do… which is not very good at all.

What Did I Do?

I find that when I feel like this, it’s good to take a moment to reflect on the positive things I’ve done.

So, I know it’s a little late this week (I should have posted Tuesday); but here is my week in review.

Workout Review

I did find the courage to lift on my own (while Mitch was at work) last week.

(Side Note: One of my readers emailed me and inquired about the equipment at my gym. All of the cardio and/or weight machines are produced by Life Fitness.)

Tuesday, July 19th

Bike: 20 min 4.10 miles 150 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Lower body 25 min
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.77 miles 256 cals burned

Wednesday, July 20th

Bike: 20 min 4.43 miles 150 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Upper body 40 min
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.77 miles 255 cals burned

Thursday, July 21st

Bike: 20 min 4.25 miles 159 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Core 35 min
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.77 miles 256 cals burned

Friday, July 22nd

Bike: 30 min 6.56 miles 227 cals burned
Treadmill: 40 min 2.01 miles 292 cals burned

Saturday, July 23rd

Intentional day of rest.

Sunday, July 24th – Wednesday, July 27th

F*ck It Hamster was at the wheel; and I gladly let the fuzzy lil’ f*cker drive me off my motivational cliff. Bad Cassie! 😜

Food in Review

This is seriously not a topic that I wish to review… too many nights spent sugar-binging in the midst of a self-pity party.

Goals for the Week Ahead

Ugh… do I have to?!

Yes. Yes, I have to… because if I don’t get off my duff and become the external force needed to change my current state of utter inertia, then I am doomed to continue feeling disappointed and ashamed of myself. (Is that really what I want to feel?!)

Thus, it is time to let the fuzzy in and turn on the cartoons (Tocho — my rescue pup — likes to watch cartoons in our absence). Time to once again don my workout gear, tie my hair up, and find my way back to feeling better about myself.

So.

This week I will go to the gym at least five out of the following seven days. I will limit myself to one sugary item after our evening meal. I will eat more than once a day (and snarfing a bag of Goldfish crackers doesn’t count as a meal). I will pull myself out of this damnable downward spiral and be the change I wish to implement in my life. I will continue to post weekly updates; but the day will be changed from Tuesday to Friday.

I’m getting out of this chair, I promise.

Soundtrack: “Work B**ch” by Britney Spears

Scaling the Walls

Ugh is the only way to describe the past couple of days within the confines of my marriage.

Mitch and I had a fight that went from quiet arguing to screaming obscenities to me throwing him out of the house to uncomfortable days of silence.

In the end, we were able to have a more rational conversation about the things that had transpired (i.e. normal marriage stuff, but with the added bonus of each of you knowing how to push the shit out of the other’s buttons); and agreed that as long as we’re still fighting — and have something to say to one another — then we’re still in this. Together.

Overcoming the Addict Within

My first gut reaction to having been emotionally disemboweled by my spouse was to act out.

I wanted to reach for the bottle of wine in the pantry (that Mitch keeps for cooking) and just get soused. I wanted to run to an AA meeting that I know is full of chaos and lies (and become a part of said chaos and lies). I wanted to grab my phone, reach out to an ex, and beg for sexual benefits. I wanted to take every pill in the house, and wait for death.

(Side Note: I do not wish to do these things to hurt my husband nor myself — not consciously, anyway — but to feel something radically different to despair.)

Instead, I did none of these things.

I collapsed onto the couch and cried into Tocho’s fur until he was soppy and covered in snot. I forced myself to get up and wash the dishes in the kitchen sink. I turned on a beloved television program and hit the mod like it was my last day on earth. I didn’t eat… until I did, and then went on a binge.

I don’t proclaim that these choices are “healthy” necessarily; but they’re a hell of a lot healthier than the destructive alternatives that first surfaced in response to stress.

Years into my recovery (in which I’ve done a ton of self-reflective work), I recognize the aforementioned gut reactions as extremely poor coping mechanisms for emotional discord.

I realize that thinking that way will always be a part of who I am (and I cannot control said thoughts); but acting on them is something I can control.

When I start to hear the insidious siren call of the addict within, I know it is imperative to think of the things I could lose should I answer it. Namely? My husband, my son, and my (rather precarious) sanity.

Having gratitude for what I do have helps to prevent the damage that my addicted self would do should she be let loose. (I’ve managed to keep that bitch caged for a good number of years, and do not intend to set her free.)

I will always be an addict… and I may never be able to stop the binge-eating or the non-stop inhaling of nicotine; but I would rather be a lil’ fluffy and vaping like a dragon than a careless drunk who thinks little about anything other than getting that next drink.

I would rather be fighting with Mitch over my lack of a sex-life than feel miserable about myself for having reckless sex (and yes, it’s always reckless at that point) with men who aren’t my husband.

I would rather know who I am than have no idea who I have become.

I choose to be more than my addictions.

Residual Fallout

Unfortunately — even when making healthier choices — mental and emotional stress always takes a toll.

In this most recent event with my husband, I lost all motivation. I stopped writing, stopped reading, stopped going to the gym, stopped showering, stopped corresponding with friends, ate a shit-ton of junk food, and was minimalistic in my attempts at doing the chores (I did keep up with the dishes).

This reaction to internal turmoil is a symptom of my disease… and it’s never easy to cope with.

It is beyond difficult to live with a mind that seems determined to unravel itself; and the knowledge that you will have to deal with said self-destructive mind for the rest of your life can be more than a little daunting.

I have yet to scale the walls of the rabbit hole I found myself falling into this past weekend; but I’m getting there… and really, that’s all that I can do — scale the walls one tremulous step at a time.