Thursday, August 28, 2014

What I was like

“How does someone like you become an alcoholic?”

Growing up I was warned about the dangers of alcohol, but I also believed the lies of addiction.  Alcoholics were supposedly weak, unintelligent, and lazy people. Those words didn’t describe me, so I thought it could never happen to me.

How Alcoholism Begins

The first time I drank, I did it to stop people from calling me a “goody-two-shoes”.  The drink was a Southern Comfort and Cola mix. I wasn’t impressed, but drank it anyway and didn’t get drunk.

After a few parties I realized how wonderful alcohol was. It relaxed me, making me feel socially invincible.  I relished the unfamiliar sensation of confidence and casually sought drinks at every opportunity.

From the beginning alcohol caused me to act out of character and I often had regrets. Yet it never occurred to me that I could just not drink. I always thought, “I’ll do better next time.” It would be years before someone would tell me that mindset is a trademark characteristic of alcoholics… “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

What Alcoholism Feels Like

Have you ever gone on a roller coaster and instantly regretted it? You change your mind just as the ride begins and it cannot be stopped.

That’s what my drinking was like.

I drank to manage stress. I drank to manipulate others.  I drank to change my personality.  I drank to get drunk.  I drank to forget. I drank. I drank. I drank. My alcoholism was characteristic of my environment.  An officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, I embodied the stereotypical sailor: drunk in port, hung-over at sea, and cursing in between. Binge drinking and blackouts were my motto, and if you couldn’t keep pace with me, I didn’t want to hang with you.

Not all alcoholics are binge drinkers, just like not all musical instruments are made of brass. We have different habits, favorite watering holes, family baggage, and psychiatric conditions. But we do have one thing in common. We are powerless over our drinking once it starts… just like the terrified roller coaster passenger.

The Desperation to Get Sober

As any therapist or addiction specialist will tell you, and addict has to want to get sober in order for treatment to do them any immediate good. If they're not desperate for change, the information gets tucked away in the back of their mind - and saved for a truly desperate moment.

At the end of my drinking, I didn’t want to get sober but I didn’t want to keep living either. When I was awake I wanted to die, and when I was drunk I was out of control. The combination terrified me. I couldn’t understand my feelings because I knew deep down that I didn’t want to die.

My life was saved because I voiced these feelings. The Coast Guard placed me in psychiatric care. My mother and sisters flew 3,000 miles … Dad would check on me a few months later. 

While in the hospital being treated for depression, a therapist interviewed me. She asked if I was willing to do anything it took to change the way I felt. I said yes. She prober further adding, “Even if that means not taking another drink for the rest of your life?”

And I said, “Yes.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

15 Signs You MIGHT Be An Alcoholic

You might be an alcoholic if...

1. Your friends have ever had to close out your bar tab for you because you passed out in a bathroom stall. 

2. You are relieved after you puke because that means you can drink EVEN MORE.

3. You pre-game before the pre-game ... and maybe you top things off with a nightcap. Or two. 

4. While nursing one glass, you're thinking about the next drink you want to order. 

5. You've ever tried to hide a black-eye you can't explain from the night before.

6. Morning afters usually require your friends to fill you in on all the silly/dramatic/angry/crazy sh*t you did the night before. 

7. Embarrassment or shame from your drunken activities makes you want to drink.

8. You drink to wake up.

9. You drink to celebrate, and to mourn, and to forget, and because it's Tuesday, and because ... sunshine.

10. Social situations are AWFUL ... unless you have a drink. 

11. It's difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of exactly how many drinks you have in a night. Or how many it takes to get you drunk. 

12. A friend has ever said they don't like you when you're drunk. 

13. You've ever thought "I just want this feeling to stop" while drinking and you kept drinking anyway. 

14. You do things you would never EVER do while sober. 

15. Hangovers and being drunk have ever made you late for, or mess up at, work. 

Notice, none of these had anything to do with:
  • age
  • race
  • gender
  • job description/status
  • education level
  • financial security
  • hometown
So, while most Americans imagine alcoholics are homeless people wearing trenchcoats and carrying brown paper bags ... those are just the "Hollywood alcoholics".  

Alcoholism can affect anyone. 

Are you one of us? 

Take the test

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Are you lookin' at me?!

I once had a job where I felt like my boss was always talking down to me. He'd start all meetings with what felt like a grade-school  level summary about why we were there. Every facet was described in painstakingly explicit detail. 15 minutes later...or something like that... we'd actually get started.

One day, I complained about this to a co-worker. His response was, 
"Becky, did it ever occur to you that he does that for himself, and it has absolutely nothing to do with his opinion of you?"
No, of course it hadn't. 

It felt like such an obvious and egregious offense toward me, specifically.  He was treating me as a child for a reason. I was so caught up in these judgments that I failed to consider what other reasons he might have for speaking on such basic terms.'s not about me. Hmm. That's something new. 

This was not my first realization that I had a tendency to be selfish, although I've not ever been selfish in the same way most people generally think of that personality flaw. 

Remember, selfishness and self-pity are opposite sides of the same coin. 

I'm selfish because I naturally gravitate towards negative self-thinking. On a basic level, I think of myself as an annoying, awkward, unlikable person whom other people merely tolerate. As a result, I always assume that people's frowns, bad attitudes, or general disposition has something to do with me. In doing this, I allow my judgments about myself to influence my relationships with other people. 

Basically, I usually assume other people's thoughts, actions, and words revolve around me.
Which is totally self-centered and not true, btw. Most people are in fact thinking about themselves.  All the time.

So, to maintain my sanity, and adjunctly my sobriety, I have to find a way out of this selfish thought pattern. 

To do that, I have to establish a new thought pattern.
Today, I am choosing to not let that happen. 
Today, I choose to be happy with who I am. 
Today, I do not assume that other people are thinking about me. 
Today, I accept that other people's moods have nothing to do with me.
Today, I realize that other people's opinions of me are none of my business, OR my responsibility.  
Today, I am grateful for my sobriety. 
Today, I am overwhelmed with love from the community of sober friends surrounding me.
Today, I see beauty and synchronicity in all areas of my life.

There. That should do it! ... for today.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What DOES depression feel like?

Imagine for a moment... are in complete darkness. There is no light, no sound, no wind, or smells. Holding your hand in front of your face, you see nothing. You speak but your voice fades away without echo.
Stepping forward to find a wall or a door, you trip over uneven ground.  But when you crawl back to find what made you trip, you feel only a surface as smooth as glass.
You try to stand to keep looking for an exit and somehow weights have been added to your body, pressing down on your shoulders. The added pressure throws you off balance and makes you feel weak. You try to knock them off, but your hands find only air. 
A long time passes as you struggle to walk, trip, and stand over and over again.  
You don't know how long you have been here. 
You don't know how long you will be here. 
You only know the quiet desperation ripping you apart from the inside...begging for it to end. 
You can only feel the utter loneliness in your soul created by the dark void around you. 

This is how depression felt to me. 

How do you explain that to someone? 

Struggles (like the invisible weights) create the sensation that our problems are unreal. We don't even know if we can trust what we felt because it's intangible with no obvious connection or cause. 

In a day and age where everything has to have evidence leading to a cause, how do we explain ourselves in a way that others will listen? 

Depression tells us we are totally alone and our situation is helpless. 

Not having evidence to the contrary, we believe it. And sometimes, we give up because there are only two ways out of the dark void:
  1. Death
  2. Asking for help

Why don't people ask for help?

When you're depressed, it's kind of like being on the reflective side of a one-way mirror... Other people can see and hear you, but you can't hear or see them. It's impossible to know if anyone can hear or see you...or if they even care. 

And what you don't know, you fear. So instead of imagining your friends and family hugging, loving, and supporting you - instead you imagine them as callous and indifferent towards your problems. You anticipate their judgment and critical gaze. 

Fear of the response of others, and not knowing how to verbalize and justify emotions are huge contributing factors which deter individuals from seeking help for depression. 

What can we do?

A lot, actually. 

First and foremost, stop judging people who seek mental health treatment. I mean, stop with both the negative and pitying statements. Pity implies that someone is weak and somehow less than you. That you see yourself as stronger or better than someone receiving mental health treatments. 

This could not be further from the truth. 

When you find out someone is getting help, congratulate them for taking that step. Acknowledge that it's challenging and takes a great amount of courage to ask for help. 

Give encouragement. Share your love. Empathize if you can. 
But do not be critical or pitying. 

Second, let's stop perpetuating this idea that success leads to happiness
Happiness comes from within. It's about accepting who you are, where you come from, how you live, and being grateful for it. 

Some days I feel completely inundated with distractions, advertisements, movies, music - all promoting this idea of:
"Do this! You'll have fun! You'll succeed at something and that will make you happy! Happiness is when you're the best, the smartest, the thinnest, the tannest..."
Blah blah blah... 


Robin Williams's death was tragic, but he has taught the world something important through his suicide. 
Happiness is not determined by your level of success. 
Mental health problems cannot be fixed with the same mind that is sick. 
While we may perceive successful people as someone who "has it all" and has a happy life, that doesn't mean it's true because we can never really know the inner workings of someone else's mind. 

Third, you can share this message to raise awareness of what depression really feels like

Shine a light into the void so people know their negative self-talk is a lie. Show them they are not alone.

Reach out your hand so they can hold on to something real, and trust what they are beginning to see. 

Speak up about the reality of depression so all can hear you, even those trapped in the void. Tell them you're listening. Tell them about the phone number in the picture below, and tell them that they will listen too. 

Basically, be a friend. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When you forget to wear pants to work...

Note: The comments posted to articles on this event are on the whole - appalling. While I expected to see criticism about what she did, I was completely unprepared for the judgments on her appearance. Please don't torture yourself by reading their narrow-minded and rude remarks. It will waste time you can never get back. 

I don't care who you are, if you screw up this badly, there's a much bigger issue at play than just lack of common sense. 

Clearly, she's hurting. Both before and after this incident. 
I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a person who could withstand this level of public humiliation without showing a shred of embarrassment or shame.

My heart aches for this woman. The mental picture I have of her sitting alone at her desk reminds me of how lonely and depressed I felt at my lowest moment when drinking. She needs our love, support, and encouragement - not snide remarks. I'm pretty sure it will be a long time before she can look back on this day and laugh about it. 

What is it about kicking someone when they are down that seems like a good idea?
Why do people get such a perverse enjoyment from saying negative things about people they don't know?

While I could be wrong, I suspect the same motivations behind this type of cyber-bullying is what motivates kids who pick on others at school:
If I pick on her, I will make people laugh, because they laugh at those kinds of things, and that will make me cool.
If I protect her, everyone will think that I am like her and they will pick on me too. 
I don't want to be like her, so I should pick on her to show that we are not the same.  

The other (more plausible) reason people are saying bad things about her, is because she screwed up in such a big way that they cannot imagine how/why/when they would ever screw up as badly. 
I cannot tell you how many people I have met in recovery, myself included, who did things we SWORE we would never do. We did not aspire to say and do these things, but often times we looked back on our lives and said, "how did I let that happen?"

We did so because we were drunk and addicted to alcohol. 

I am not a bad, unintelligent, or callous person because of what I said and did while drinking. 

I am a person who has said and done bad, unintelligent, or callous things under the influence of alcohol. 

None of us are perfect. We make bad choices all the time. That's what makes us human and unique in this imperfect world! Without bad choices and consequences, how would we learn and grow? 

It's what we do after our mistakes that defines our character. 

Taking charge of our lives and owning our mistakes is hard. Mainly because we have been taught that we needed to be ashamed for bad choices. My thought is that we are perpetuating the idea that it isn't okay to be imperfect. While we don't want to screw up, we should not think badly of ourselves when things don't go as planned. 

I am human. I am allowed to make mistakes. If I was perfect, I would be an angel or some shit. 

SO, if we expect to be forgiven for our faults, we should be generous with forgiving others. 

Forgiveness is not condoning or endorsing the bad behavior of others. It's simply a way to acknowledge other peoples' right to be flawed. 

If it's too hard to forgive someone right away, start by being caring to the person. Offer to help someone you need to forgive by mowing their lawn or going to the store for them when they are sick. When you extend kindness of any kind without intent for reciprocation or praise, you are practicing forgiveness because literally, the word "forgive" comes from the word "forgifan" which means: to give. 

I guess I need to find a way to forgive the twats who said mean things about Mrs. Lorie Hill.