Flying Solo with You: Collectivity Versus Competition

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Could our way of competition and capitalism be leading us to isolation and depression? I search our city streets and I see a myriad of frenzied people often using tense and terse words, elbowing others for their tiny turf they’ve claimed. Horns are honking and the homeless are shouting expletives. Under the bridges of the bustling city, a plethora of tents form the silhouette of a starlit campground, “if only”! Humanity is in a hurry and  borders on depravity, definitely distracted. It is loud, busy, and not at all welcoming.

I don’t know if I’m that different than others, but the homeless always capture me, nearly grabbing me by the collar, choking my spirit. It cuts me to the core that we have fellow humans living alone, outside, in the harsh elements. This discomfort has been growing inside of me, spurred on by the numbers of homeless that spill onto the streets, which seem to be increasing daily. I can’t get past the growing numbers of disheveled people, holding signs in desperation, begging for a slice of the pie. No one wants to face the elements, often alone, for even one day, let alone in the dead of Winter. No matter if it is drugs, disability, mental illness, job loss, or any other unfortunate situation, having to be homeless seems inhumane.

This leads me to the space that inspired me to write this entry. Therapy was difficult today. I was given the task of thinking about the prospect of “flying solo”, without my family’s weight on my wings. I acknowledge in many respects that I have allowed the family stuff to stunt my own personal growth. I got wrapped up in a situation that I had little control over. Although my family dynamics will most likely remain unchanged, I can work to take control over my life and take better care of myself spiritually and physically. I accept the task of doing so. Still yet, there was something growing larger inside of me all day. Something that left me angry and inconsolable and, at one point, crumpled up on my bed, crying.

The world we are living in is hard and harsh. And honestly, more specifically, I feel it is our American culture that is causing a lot of the alienation that is leading to the pain that results in drug use and certain mental illness in the first place. And, so, I will have “fly solo” because in our culture it makes sense to do so. However, there is a larger part of me that is literally screaming in frustration that we are doing it ALL WRONG! I do believe self- care is important and that each individual is ultimately responsible for their own happiness, still yet, we are missing that our community needs its own form of “self care” and healing. Turning inward and healing oneself only can bring us so far. We have lost our sense of community and responsibility to one another. Connection to others is what brings us the greatest satisfaction.

My mind begins to spin thinking of all the aspects of community that has been eroding over the last several decades as greed related to unbridled capitalism has reigned. Less people are engaged in art, dance, writing, music, theatrical performances, etc. There are communities that lack employment opportunities while at the same time their school systems are lagging behind. Places where drug problems are more prevalent are paralleled with poverty and poor educational systems. Often these places have less parks, theaters, community centers, etc. Sadly, these places often have less treatment facilities available and transportation to and from treatment is non-existent. In certain rural areas, churches can be a source of refuge and connection, but often times are divisive and judgmental. People who long for connection feel uncomfortable seeking help from entities whose standards feel unattainable or foreign to them. Community often seems elusive and unattainable.

People outside of these situations feel that individuals in those areas need to just “seek help” if they are using. I can tell you from personal experiences with my family, they do not have access to transportation, most do not have a phone, and the hospitals and other treatment facilities are often too far for them to access. If you couple the logistics along with the fact that they have always lived chaotically with drugs in the picture (except when they were much younger), it becomes more apparent how difficult it is for many of these people to actually ask for help. Most people who are addicted deny having a problem and if they finally do decide to seek help, it is nearly impossible to attend treatment without a car (outpatient). The only rehabs nearby are waitlisted for several months. Access to treatment is very limited due to so many needing help. It is the same story for mental health treatment in certain areas. And sadly, I feel this is a common theme in many areas across the country.

So, again, this leads me to overwhelming frustration and sadness regarding the sad state of affairs our country is currently in related to treatment for both substance use and mental illness. We have a public health crisis on our hands and many of us have loved ones (or possible ourselves) that have been negatively impacted by the lack of care for so many struggling. This leads me back again to the homeless. Some of these beautiful people are lost in the system due not receiving care. They are recipients of trying too hard for too long and living in an area with higher unemployment rates. Some people get trapped into homelessness. Once you no longer have an address, a phone, access to showers, etc. employers “look over you” and you can no longer land a job. The saddest story related to unemployment that I can recall was one when I was filling out an application for a job at a fast food establishment long ago when I was in college. I knew they were still hiring at the time and I watched as a middle-aged man came in and asked if he could fill out an application. He was disheveled and looked “homeless”. They immediately turned him away. I remember watching him make a few statements in desperation, trying to convince him he was worthy to at least apply, but they turned him away based on his looks. Well, he might have been on the streets and was trying to get a job. I’m 46 and that exchange, with him walking out with his head down, defeated, was heartbreaking to watch. It crushes my spirit today telling it, as it did on the day I experienced it.

I just feel that we need to do better to invest in our community, not just ourselves. There is too much competition and not enough connection and collectivity. It may seem like a “pipe dream” to some, but I believe if we took care of each other, we would all benefit in the end.  The current model where everyone is exhausted from working harder, not smarter, to “get ahead”, has actually caused alienation and a host of other problems. I realize I am barely scratching the surface of what would actually have to change for this to be achieved. I only know that we are living in times where we are pulling away from each other, instead of bending towards each other and this, in time, will break us. I think we are seeing that already.

So, yes, I am flying solo away from the devastation that addiction caused for my family. I acknowledge I am powerless to help them. I have a heavy heart because I know too much has to change to have real impact in the lives of those I love. The area they live in is economically depressed, lacking services, transportation, etc. I hold this knowledge in my heart and it is heavy. I pass by the homeless and I see the faces of those I love in them. I see people who have tried and perhaps they did not get the right tools growing up, or they are disabled or mentally ill, or have an addiction that has never been adequately treated. I see people who have trouble competing in a system that is difficult for even healthy people, who often end up with physical diseases, a heart attack or stroke, from refusing to never taking a break. We are all tired and disconnected. I do not have the answers, I only know I hope one day to find some way to contribute. I only wish we could create a “softer place” to land when struggling occurs.

I am searching for community and connection. I will heal by flying solo, but I will soar when I finally connect to others in that freedom! I’ll continue to search for ways to connect. The potential and power to heal lies within us collectively, not in competition.

 

 

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Let Me Be Light!: From Trauma to Snowflakes & Lighthouses

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I’ve been stewing all day. Heck, actually, I’ve been stewing all week. It was at some point in the day when the snow outside began softly falling that I grinned, ear to ear, amused that I had been granted my little wish. Something as simple as a snowflake would provide the shift needed to escape my cage and cause me to contemplate taking a new path. Admittedly, I’ve been too tired and exhausted to push forward. I’ve been halfway hoping that someone would just carry me to the place I long to be.

The cold, dark days of dreary drizzle had blended together, blurry and boring. Restless, I sought stimulation and solace in the darkest of places where the sun doesn’t shine. I ran back to an unhealthy preoccupation where I clung tightly to the familiar misery of desperately trying to win a rush. Ah, how the simple act of gambling serves as the perfect parallel of my life, always waiting and wishing for the crumbs of love to fall, like waiting for the buzzer sound that means I’ve won a few free spins. I’m so starved that I was nearly picking crumbs off of the dirty floor, devouring them, and scouring the surface for more. If only I could get a bonus or two, I reassured myself, I’d be sure to be back on top! It comes and goes and I am never satiated. But, every now and again, I win just enough to distract me from the love that’s leaving me, always leaving me, as time slips away and I make no move to seize it. Looking back, perhaps the one who is leaving me the least of the crumbs, is myself.

As the snow continues to fall today and the ground became completely covered, I’m struck by its stark beauty. This blanket of white is accompanied by a bitterly cold wind and still, it seems so peaceful and serene. It is soft and new, changing the entire landscape with millions of snowflakes stacking up and sticking together, altering the reality of those experiencing it. We rarely get much lowland snow here in the Puget Sound region. A snow can lift you into anther realm, one of childlike joy, intrigue, and playfulness. My spirit easily becomes light, like the snowflakes drifting sweetly and slowly to the ground.

Those who have struggled with a trauma disorder know that life can be anything but light or carefree. Often, trauma binds you to maladaptive ways of coping that continue to keep you trapped. It’s difficult to let go of these coping mechanisms because in times of trauma, they have made you feel safe, so much so that releasing them feels an impossible and incomprehensible feat. At one time, these maladaptive ways meant our survival and therefore it makes sense that we struggle to let them go. Often, they are ingrained in us so deeply that we forget they are only a mechanisms, not a personality characteristics. These old patterns have little power over us except for the power we gave to them long ago.

On a personal level, I have been unwilling to “give up” my obsessive thoughts and compulsions relating to my trauma because it feels unsafe to do so, as if I were “letting down my guard”. What if I stopped fighting? I often have felt no one would care & in some cases this has been proven true, and yet, I’m slowly realizing that when I never leave the battle, the battle never leaves me. I have been sincerely trying to escape, but I often chain myself more tightly in the process, perpetuating a false sense of security that inevitably leads to my demise again and again. This downward spiral is going to take quite a bit of strength and perseverance to totally break free. I’m still not sure it will ever entirely happen, we’ll see.

Unfortunately, the maladaptive ways of coping will further trap you and re-traumatize you. It’s a cyclic beast that can render you depressed, anxious, exhausted, and even in physical chronic pain. And it does this so cunningly, without your awareness or permission. The cycle continues while you operate in very limited ways that “promise” you protection and safety. Some stay stuck and stagnate, others become increasingly more sick and will even be re-traumatized by engaging in patterns that unknowingly welcomes the trauma back into their lives.

Over the past couple of years, my trauma was recently triggered and intertwined with the trauma that my niece endured. I felt guilty during the times I remained silent when I could see her suffering so. Her trauma lead me to compulsively engage in desperate behaviors of continually checking up on her with the insistence that she receive the opportunity to get the help she needs. She now is nearly disabled from drug use, suffering from a mental illness, and is potentially facing time in jail. I spent the last two years trying to “save her” and it only resulted in me becoming more isolated from her and my family. Her nuclear family is very dysfunctional, and to be realistic, she probably does not have the best chance for recovery.

In the last two years, I sat with my hands tied behind my back, shouting from the sidelines, as others neglected to help her. I watched while the system failed her. The last few years have been particularly tough on me, watching a young individual whom I love struggle in so many ways knowing I could do little to help her. The invalidation and neglect she was receiving, painfully reminded me of the times I have felt invisible and abandoned. The fight to “save her” metaphorically became the fight to “save myself”. I launched war in my family and it was brutal and messy. At the end of the day, the dysfunction continued and little has truly changed in the family.

Through the chaos and drama, I came to identify myself as the scapegoat and certain historical patterns finally made more sense to me. I stepped back, not really wanting to see the unhealthy patterns of others, but determined to accept the brutal truth, even if it was painful. This process left me alone and abandoned in the storm, clinging to any semblance of sanity as I watched the devastation before me ensue and the denial others practiced in order to avoid the truth. In reality, certain members of my family had already abandoned themselves years ago by surrendering to an aggressive and ugly addiction that robbed them of so much. They’ve been tightly bound to their negative coping mechanisms of addiction and chaos to numb the pain away. Their lives are going in fast forward, often in a blur, without truly smelling, tasting, or seeing much of anything. I’ve been angry and ugly in my relentless quest to help them, but in my heart I know it’s time to truly ‘let go” and forgive. I’m searching for softness to return to me. I long to feel light, like the snowflakes floating freely to the ground.

Healing from trauma appears to come in waves. It seems that I get swept out to sea over and over again. Perhaps this desolate see is just too alluring, pulling me in over and over again, crashing upon the shore, leaving me weary. I know I am nearly ready to shed the lifeguard vest and let go. Perhaps, I’ll find a cliff high above the ocean where I can sit far away from the shore and listen to the waves crash in the distance. Feeling this vast and foreign space around me, I will be able to scan the horizon for incoming storms and will shelter myself, avoiding another shipwreck. And in time, I’d love to morph into a lighthouse, solid and full of hope. One that stands in strength, peacefully warning sailors of perilous waters, with its penetrating light, piercing the darkest of night.

 

 

 

Waiting No More: It’s Time to Drive!

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I’ve spent a lot of time waiting.

I’ve been restless, at times, desperately desiring to be completely satiated, longing for validation and visibility.

I waited a whole decade consumed by the desire to be passionately loved. I gave every ounce of my being to this fruitless pursuit, determined that one day it would yield the commitment desired from this individual. The commitment never came. In fact, the more I pursued and pushed, the more I lost myself. Losing him was letting go of the long held belief that I wasn’t good enough.

I waited for several years for a sincere apology and a gesture from a family member that communicated reconciliation was desired. I waited for certain family members to heal and recover from their addiction enough so that they could not only care about themselves, but they also could care about and connect with me. I waited years while we argued, knowing that the arguing was all that I had left. There was no true desire from them to know me or connect with me. I waited for years, grieving, often raging and demanding change. I only ended up alone and alienated. Little has changed in their behavior which has landed some of them permanently disabled, while others, potentially facing jail. I still am grieving, but I have given up on “waiting”.

I waited many years for my career to “take off”. I waited for someone out there to reward my hard work, experiences, education, etc. In the last decade, my work potential has been overshadowed by my disability of Bipolar 1, ADHD, and C-PTSD. Working with a disability complicated things and has temporarily placed my career goals “on hold”. I am currently not employed. I waited to land that “awesome job” and when I did finally achieve that goal, it was quickly thwarted by my disability. I got sick with several respiratory illnesses and was prescribed prednisone, a steroid, that inevitably caused a mania. I requested accommodations and then took a medical leave. When I returned from the medical leave, which was actually encouraged by my supervisor, I was terminated from my job without the opportunity to work with accommodations in place. I was devastated and have still not bounced back from the discrimination I endured. I waited for years to find the job that would provide security and pay well and as soon as I found it, I lost it.

I waited many years to be free from anxiety and depression. I thought perhaps a combination of therapy and medications would one day set me free from my struggle. I am still waiting on my complete freedom from the symptoms I have endured related to my disability. I am still not completely free from certain habits and symptoms stemming from trauma that I have experienced in this lifetime.

I have had an unraveling of sorts in this lifetime: failed marriage, failed career, failed engagement, a loss of family, a loss of employment, and the inability to have children. I have lived with a mental illness that often has stripped me of my dignity and distanced me from others. I isolate a lot because interacting with others can be difficult especially if I am working. When I did work, it took all my energy, leaving me feeling depleted. It was during these times I really needed the safety net and support of family and a solid relationship. Instead, as I struggled to maintain work I was often drained further by having to fight for love from my family and my partner. I was fortunate to have the support of my ex-spouse in the process and my mother. Still yet, I often felt overwhelmed and alone. I had waited a very long time for something to “work out” and I felt “let down” by the world. I was deeply depressed and this went on for a very long time.

In losing so much, I discovered that I was left with me. Over time I have let go of what was making me “hard” and I am now peeling off the layers that have hardened me. I’m exposing my fleshy fruit, my essence raw and vulnerable.

I don’t currently have a job. I’m single and living with my ex-spouse for support. I don’t have a home. My bank account is empty. My family relations are strained and I primarily am only connected to my mother, my step-father has never been too involved and my sister and her adult kids are all estranged from me due to the conflicts and chaos that  addiction has caused. My ex-spouse is a great friend and support. And, I have my dog, Gracie, who is very loving.

Losing so much is teaching me to be more humble and to appreciate what I do have, not just in possessions, but in talents, skills, and experiences. I’ve been stripped from what I felt was needed to feel valued and visible. I’m learning to define my self worth, not by the expectations placed from society, but more on the intangibles that define me.

I waited for years for someone or something to “show up” for me. I watched while others got married, had careers, and shared photos of their cute kids on Facebook. In ways, everything I had longed for was perpetually being displayed by others. I wasn’t jealous of their good fortune, but I often wondered why things had not worked out for me. In the end, it wasn’t in the cards. This is what I am learning to accept and in doing so I am slowly opening up the world that is mine. I am no longer grieving what I never had or lost. Instead, I am accepting the hand I was dealt, with curiosity, and am ready to discover this world embracing my reality wholeheartedly. I have always acknowledged some of the blessings that being single with no children has afforded, like ample time to travel and engage in leisure pursuits that I enjoy.

I have decided I am tired of “waiting”. I am letting go of all the people and things that were keeping me stuck. I am showing up for myself. I’m determined to awaken to the present and accept with grace and gratitude each moment. I sincerely want to fill the space that is mine.

It’s odd to think that in losing so much, that I am actually finding myself. This fills me with excitement and joy because I know it is what I have been searching for my entire life. I know intuitively that this is the greatest gift with the most returns. Investing in myself will only yield positive results.

I have so much more work to do, but now I have the right person in the driver seat, ME!! I’m not waiting around for others to call the shots or to determine my emotional state for the day. I genuinely want to be happy and want to be responsible for my happiness. I realize I will struggle from time to time, but healing is happening and I am grateful!!

 

 

 

 

Fractured Family Tree: The Scapegoat Lets Go

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I went down “that path” again. I knew in my gut what was waiting for me. Still, I went anyway, carrying that last bit of hope, protected deep inside me. I was still holding on to a lovely memory that has since become more clear over time that it wasn’t even real anyway. It was always this way. My family has been fractured, disconnected, and unhealthy.

I was the one in the end that became visibly sick, and in time raged, demanding more. And I am the one now, becoming well, sometimes still raging, and ready to “let go”. It’s very hard. Everything inside me wants to throw another all-out tantrum, demanding an answer for why my family is unable to heal together. It’s lonely. I’m sad and hurting. Still yet, I must face the truth, cry it out, grieve, let go of the “dream”, and accept what is.

This is the only way, because staying in the fight means certain death, for me. I’m not strong enough to stand among all the devastation, watching people I love lose everything, while devaluing me. I have meant nothing to certain people in my life. I can’t stay in a space where people defend and enable the deep neglect and abuse. I am unable to remain where I am character smeared, gaslighted, and lied to on a daily basis. I need to remain very distant from those who enable and allow the abuse. Some are too sick to see what is really occurring. I see it and it has made me very sick to try with everything inside me to awaken people when they would rather sleep. And so, I have watched the people I love lose everything to addiction and narcissistic abuse. The neglect has been so great that five kids, now adults, are not working: 3 are disabled (two due to drug use), 1 is facing jail, and the other refuses to work or get her GED even though she has a baby. No one in the home, six adults, work and they have a toddler in the home. I’m not even scratching the surface of all the chaos and drama that has occurred over the past decade due to the drug use, but it has been extreme. Trust me.

I’m left feeling empty. Another Christmas passed with the chaos related to addiction. Another Christmas where I did not receive a “Merry Christmas” text or a “thank you” for the presents I bought. Another Christmas where my Mom enabled the behavior and I am left unsupported.

It is time to “let go”. I went down that road with the last shred of hope slipping, like sand, through my fingers, racing to find my family. And the sand quickly disappeared, blown away by the storm that has raged on for years. I can’t chase it anymore. It was the last bit of hope I had and I couldn’t hold onto any longer. I had to let go.

I’m alone. And yet, I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Our family tree has been splintered and diseased for a long time. I grew very sick and I knew in order to save myself, I had to cut limbs and shed certain branches, otherwise I would perish. Sometimes, I still feel I may perish. This hurt both physically and emotionally. I’m not breathing, my face is numb, and I’m holding my breath from how it hurts. I’ve been called “dramatic” in my effort to wake people up. And yet, two of my sister’s adult children are now disabled due to addiction. They will more than likely never work, never have children, never live on their own. I am avoiding details, because I ultimately am trying to stay closer to the center. Still, I’m bewildered as to how I lost my whole family and no one there can “hear me”. It’s a nightmare, but one I have been living for so long that I need to “wake up”. I cannot remain in the space any longer. I did not create it and truth be told, I am not welcome by anyone in it. I’m relatively invisible, drowned out by the larger players. I’m forever “little Amy” and “the little sister” and have not yet been seen, nor respected as a separate entity from the family unit.

Our family tree is fractured. The historical cycle is splintering and breaking, falling to the cold, hard ground with a thud.

I remember a few years ago, I was shell-shocked. I was constantly running from distraction to distraction. I was in a tumultuous relationship with a Narc who was abusive psychologically, emotionally, and physically. I was gambling a lot. My anxiety was “off the charts” and I felt trapped. I began to plead and beg to heal. I set the intention in my mind that I would “wake up” and heal from whatever had me running. I did not realize the work ahead of me, nor the lonely and sometimes dark road. I did not know that carving out my self esteem would mean getting in touch with the anger inside where I was left and abandoned by certain people in my life. Why was I not enough for them? I had to realize that I was enough for myself. The angry rages were in part defining my worth. Because, some of those I loved were continually in words and actions telling me I was insignificant. I realize it is a sickness. I am very sad for that. Still yet, I do not deserve to stay in a space where I am unwanted, unloved, and unappreciated. Nor, do I deserve to stay where people I love are not getting well because others who are older and have power are blocking their growth. The one person I feel that can help is also sick and chooses to enable instead. And, I am devastated, angry, and sad.

The family tree is fractured. And I have tried to not be overly revealing, but it is important for this process to be shared. People are sometimes too loyal to their families and hesitant to divulge too much information. Is this keeping our world from truly healing? When the family unit becomes toxic and a danger to others in the family, should  we not seek help? The loyalty might be keeping us stunted. My sole purpose is to promote growth. Yes, I have some guilt for “over”sharing. But, I feel compelled to write my truth and the trauma surrounding my life. I want a complete way out of it. And, I would be thrilled if any of my family members found a way out as well. I have lost hope. It’s been too long of a road. I got on the road again and was quickly back in the quicksand, sinking, with no one holding my hand.

The family tree is fractured. I will remain distant so that I can process my anger and the trauma leading up to the fracture of the tree. I invested a lot of time and energy and now I must let go and invest in myself. It was another mistake and I regret going down the road, yet again. I thought I was ready and able to “handle it”. I saw the destruction and burned in anger from the lost connection. I burned in anger from the loss of potential in the lives of those I dearly love. They are no longer recognizable. They have lost themselves and my Mom is lost in enabling them to foster a fabricated connection. She is lost and I am sad she is not able to help me. I would have been ecstatic for one of my nieces or nephews to make it out.

The family tree is fractured. I’m going to do everything this time to stay away. Their addiction became my addiction as I tried to salvage anything from the fire that swept through the forest, burning everything down in it’s path. Hope is dangerous. I really need to pick up the pieces of what is left of my life and rebuild. My life is the only thing I can control, anyhow.

This is and has been hard. I am grieving. Everything I thought about healing has been turned upside down. I do well for awhile and then have another storm. I’m realizing through the storms how to build better shelter around me for the next. My skin is hardening. My spirit softening, but I’m still not fully there, ready to completely accept the loss and “what is”. I have always been living in somewhat of a fabricated fantasy and healing is exposing me to the harsh elements, but somehow demonstrating to me that I am strong.

I hate the mistakes and messes I make when raging, but I see there is value in them as I am standing up for myself and learning boundaries. I still am super stubborn in setting a boundary and in not doing so I get burned very badly. Boundary setting is new for me as I always let everyone and everything in and have been used a lot. I don’t feel I ever learned to protect the space around me. I do feel guilty and sad for how things have ended, as it was ugly. But, I am beginning to feel that when you are in a toxic situation it does not matter how it ends, just that it does indeed end. I have stayed too long, always coming back with apologies, because I left in a brutal way. The cycle begins again and I am caught up in it. The abuse has been brutal and I deserve safety. Also, they deserve my absence so that in time maybe they will focus on getting well. My presence did not matter to some of them anyway.

The tree is fractured. It now stands alone in the stark winter air. There are stars filling the sky and it feels less alone and more peaceful. There is so much space around me. I needed this space. I’ll sit with this for awhile. Healing is hard & messy, but we are all worth it.

 

A Letter to Those Enabling Addiction

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Dear Enabler,

You’ve often given in and helped your loved one struggling with addiction. This temporarily relieves the addict from experiencing the natural consequences related to their drug use. It may temporarily relieve you of your guilt associated with their use.

Enabling communicates, indirectly, to the addict that you feel they are unable to execute independently to manage the ups and downs of their life. It absolves the addict of their responsibility to take care of themselves. If children are involved, and watching, they are learning that you and others will step-in and take care of them when and if they choose to engage in dangerous and destructive endeavors. There may even be those children watching in anger, wishing you would step in, creating consequences for the using parent. Drug use in the home on any level pulls the parent away from the child leaving the child isolated and alone. One cannot be fully present when using. Enabling only continues to further isolate children in the home, cultivating an environment of alienation. And it communicates to the child that there is truly no hope. If you or another adult or family member is enabling a parent’s addiction, please know in doing so that the child becomes invisible and unimportant. The addiction continues and the child is absorbing the toxic environment which is skewing their perceptions. Reality become distorted and you may be serving to silence the concerns of those surrounding the addict without truly realizing you are doing so. Enabling is another form of accepting the addiction. It allows it to continue.

The devastation of enabling doesn’t only impact the individual being enabled or their children. It spreads to other family members who see the problem and decide to intervene in honesty and concern. These people often are met with great resistance from those enabling who will justify the actions of their enabling. This inevitably causes serious conflict and can over time erode what used to be relatively healthy relationships. Enablers are often in denial, not only of the depth of destruction caused by the addiction, but also of the devastating impact their denial and enabling has caused. The addict continues to use, the enabler continues to enable, becoming increasingly defensive. Sadly, relationships are lost to protect the bond between enabler and addict. The addict needs the enabler so that they can continue to use, while the enabler needs to enable to feel needed, to relieve guilt, and to protect the semblance of connection with the addict. The bond between addict and enabler is protected, while the addict’s children (adults or minors) as well as any involved family members are left grappling with the loss of family bonds.

If you are enabling, this is the devastation it can cause for those around you. Protecting someone you love from the natural consequences that addiction creates for them, often increases the duration and severity of the illness. You may be buffering the addict from the unpleasant consequences of their illness which may have otherwise lead them to seek help. If nothing else, your actions communicate to others in the family, especially the children that may be involved, that their safety and emotional well-being is second to the enabling of the addict. This will further alienate the children and more than likely they will feel no other choice than to assimilate and use along with the addict in time. They may not be able to verbalize it, but a part of the child may wonder why they were not valued enough to be protected from the chaotic lifestyle that addiction creates. This may haunt them into adulthood, causing mental health issues of anxiety and depression. There truly are serious and long lasting consequences from the addiction and the enabling. The illness is complex and so very difficult to navigate, so please, seek the help you need.

Most of us do not know how to effectively cope and deal with loving someone who is in the throes of addiction. It’s so very hard. It is a serious and persistent illness. If you or someone you love lives with a serious physical illness, you would stay on them to get the treatment they needed in order to heal. An addiction is a complex illness, involving both the physical and mental. Addicts needs aggressive and intense treatment early on to give them the best chance to recover! You may not be able to convince them to get help, but enabling them often buys them additional time to continue using. These individuals are often so sick they need others to confront the addiction that they hide and lie about that is literally killing them. They have lost connection to themselves and are unaware how badly things have become. Deep down the person knows that the damages are piling up and this causes increased using to numb themselves from the pain & guilt they feel has become unmanageable. The end of your enabling could help them stop so they can heal and recover. You will be helping them return to the self they lost in the cycle of addiction.

The children of addicts often become alienated, depressed, and will sometimes choose the path of addiction. It is a way to bond with the mother/father who has made it known all along that their addiction takes precedence over the relationships in their life. Children will decide to use to gain closer proximity to their addicted parent, longing for some type of bond. Using is a way to assuage the pain and assimilate with the culture of drug use in the home. If you are awake and listening, you will hear the concerns from the children in the home. Sadly, there is usually an enabler that communicates in actions and words that the addict is the most valued of the family unit and the concerns of the children will be silenced. Those enabling will swear up and down they do not display preferential treatment, but their actions and defenses to those who confront in any way the addiction, confirms to others that the addict is most protected and valued. The enabler, often a parent, needs to feel needed and must relieve himself/herself from the guilt associated with the reality that their child’s life is completely out of control. Too many enablers become enmeshed and are unable to separate themselves from the illness and what it has caused. Enabling actually takes an adult who could be effective in helping an addict and instead places them in a position where they are another obstacle to the addict’s sobriety and recovery. This is why it is so important if you are enabling an addiction to get the help you need to deal with the addiction in a healthier way. It’s okay to not know how to deal with the pain and fear of addiction, just please seek help from a trained therapist to help you navigate things more effectively. Losing one child to addiction is a tragedy. Enabling may lead to losing an entire family, the addict and those who confront the addiction.

Enabling can take many forms. It is not only giving money or financial assistance. Enabling can serve to protect the addict by not addressing their abusive and neglectful behaviors that are eroding the family unit. It can pave the way for the addict to neglect his/her children by being enabled to continue using in the home. When others confront the devastating behaviors of the addict, the enabler will often jump to the defense of the addict. If an addict lies or manipulates to financially exploit or even to isolate others who confront their addiction, the enabler will feel compelled to “jump in” and call you a liar and a manipulator. Enablers are skilled at shutting down the behaviors of those who confront the addict they are protecting, even in some cases the children of the addict. This leads to complete devastation in the family unit. Everyone is isolated, sick, and alone while the bond between addict and enabler is strengthened. Ironically, the person who should be isolated and confronted, the addict, becomes supported while all other members are devalued and isolated. The addict is happy knowing he/she has an ally in their enabler and the rest of the family is left completely eroded, annihilated. This is exactly what the addict has longed for: to continue using without being confronted.

When families are fractured by the addiction and the enabler remains defensive and in denial, the addict is in an even more dangerous place to use without interruption. The children of the addict feel hopeless as their voices have been drowned out and silenced. It’s acknowledged by the family unit that it is the addict who is valued, believed, and validated. Why bother, the child will say.

It seems like such a simple act, to help someone. But, enabling goes further by not only affirming the lifestyle choice in action, but defending the addict when others point out the damaging behaviors exhibited by the addict. The enabler will never admit to affirming addiction, but what they fail to acknowledge is that the addict is clouded by a chemical substance and the bond developed between the two is fabricated, not one of integrity. What an addict wants is to use and what an enabler allows is a way to continue using. I am not implying in any way that enabling causes the addiction. It’s a way to allow the addiction to continue with less consequences and it can create problems in familial relationships as the unhealthy bond between enabler and addict is strengthened, leaving others isolated and feeling hopeless.

Enablers are often in denial that the addict is voraciously lying and manipulating to cover up the devastation of their use in order to gain access to their drug. In active addiction, the true person is blunted and caught up in a cycle of using and withdrawing and will justify saying anything to gain access to the drug they seek. It is not personal and they will lie and manipulate to anyone able and willing to give them what is needed to access the drug. So, yes, the addict will lie and manipulate and an enabler will become defensive and point fingers back at those confronting the drug use. They will defend and shut down communication, using any type of tactic from shift-blaming to gaslighting to ensure the confronter knows it is pointless to even approach the subject with them again. Their goal is to protect their need to feel needed by the addict, to absolve themselves of guilt, and to strengthen the bond. The madness is that years will pass by and nothing will change and they will still sit, not only defending the addict, but silencing those who wish to confront. Addiction is a mean illness, no doubt. And it may seem by not enabling that you are denying a sick person help. Again, a trained counselor can give you ideas to help your loved one get the help they need.

Enabling is extremely damaging to the family unit and to the addict, as well. No one gets well and it becomes a hopeless situation, that often is left to it’s own demise.

I wrote this as a result of being involved with an addict and an enabler of whom I still love very much. The situation erupted, eroded, and deteriorated. I’m dealing with the aftermath and repairing the relationship with the individual who enabled. I’m uncertain if the addiction is still an active one and am taking the space and time to heal from the strain and stress that it all caused in my life. I am learning to develop stronger boundaries while working on accepting “what is” to avoid the devastating consequences of having unrealistic demands for both the addict and enabler.

If you are affected by addiction in your family or are currently enabling an addict, stay strong, and get the help you need. It is a true illness.  The addiction usually cannot be beat without significant help. Take care of yourself first.

I hold hope in my heart. I know my family has struggled as much as I have. And I feel that the person who was using and her children could benefit from counseling. But, it’s no longer my job or place. I have disengaged and am sharing from a place of love. Addiction is a very harsh illness. I hope the future brings so much hope for those struggling with addiction and their families!

In strength & love,

Amy

Making Snow Angels: Forgiveness and Freedom

baby beanie child childhood
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Please, stop the rain.

Turn these heavy, wet drops into snowflakes, blanketing the muddy and messy mistakes of life.

If it’s going to be a cold day, at least lighten my step with a lovely snow. Frame the chill with beautiful evergreen trees, heavy with the snow that the branches lovingly hold.

Once the rain turns to snow, I become like a kid, giddy, and trusting the process, embracing the world once again.

I’m surrounded by falling snow like a figurine, suspended, in a snow globe. I’m no longer clenching fists and jaw and I relax a little, turning toward the gentleness of life. Everything takes on a new, fresh identity. Even the cold seems welcoming and joyful.

The stillness and softness of the snow unwinds my tensed up shoulders & body. I begin to forget the harsh cold and bitter rain. I’m suspended in softness that is serene and peaceful.

Please, stop the rain and make it snow. I’d like to fall into the snow packed ground, making angels, while grinning ear to ear, staring at the starry sky.

Let me be light, like a snowflake. I’ll slowly ride a current of wind to the surface, where I’ll gently land with all the others, blending and covering the forest floor. And in that space I’ll commune with millions of magic raindrops that have blanketed everything in our path, turning frowns into smiles that erupt often, into laughter that playfully cuts into the cold, still night. Some will glide effortlessly along our surface with sleds and skis while others will watch from frosted window panes, mesmerized by our glorious ability to transform a dismal day of rain to a masterpiece of raw beauty.

Let it snow and let me be light.

Take this rainy night and transform it into something snowy and bright.

While it falls and covers the exposed and hurting earth, let it hug the hurt in its completeness, leaving nothing untouched by it’s snowflakes that sparkle by moonlight, shimmering like diamonds.

I’m falling back into you, making angels, and catching snowflakes on my tongue. I’m forgetting that I’m no longer a child and instead twirling, eyes wide open, taking you in completely, laughing joyfully. No one is with me in this space of snow and self forgiveness.

You’ve reminded me once again with your dramatic entrance that everything can change in an instant and it can be magical and transforming. You’ll soon be gone, but I’ve taken a recharge from you. It’s another reminder to let go and be light. Twirl and laugh more often. Even if you are alone in the cold and still night.

In all the storms I’ve weathered, I embrace a snowstorm with excitement and adventure.

So, let it snow. Let it be a blizzard. Let it blanket the earth in forgiveness, melting away grief and sadness when it exits in warmth.

Welcome Winter, I hope there is a snow storm brewing. I’m waiting in joyful anticipation. Let it snow.

Please, stop the rain.

Cultivating Self Compassion: I am Enough

woman looking at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is something forming in my conscious that sounds familiar, but has felt foreign to me until recently. It’s a seed that is growing in size, full and impenetrable. It’s resting on the collective conscious of “what is” and longing for the wisdom and strength of what has left us. My spirit gravitates toward a space that is shared between what I have absorbed and what I have chased. This new landscape is difficult to articulate, I only know it is defined by my very own view of the world, and, I trust it.

I’ve spend many years in anguish. I didn’t feel I was enough. I was never smart enough, kind enough, talented enough, good enough, organized enough, wealthy enough, etc. There was never enough of me to feel “enough”. Every endeavor was designed to be a means to an end. It was as if every activity I engaged in had to have a value assigned to it. If I relaxed completely, letting go of counting the “inventory” of successes and failures”, I’d feel anxiety and shame for letting down my guard and not fulfilling my duty. I’ve always been driven, a perfectionist, determined to excel at the activities in which I invested time and energy. One can see quickly where this is headed. Over time, I grew deeply disappointed, depressed, and anxious.

I wanted more for my life. I expected more from people. I even expected more from the world. I was downright devastated when I awakened from the dream where I had expected those around me to be kind, honest, and authentic. I did have a few people in my life who were healthy individuals. However, I had spent most of my time in conflict with those in my life who were unable or unwilling to change. I allowed these people to suck up my time, energy, emotions, and thoughts. It was my mistake. I’m still unraveling and unpacking the last few years where the trauma of my past became intertwined with the trauma of certain loved ones. Was I indeed trying to save myself by holding on too tightly to their trauma? Again, this elusive seed that is growing within me tells me that it’s all about to change. I’m often giddy and joyful, nearly feeling free. It’s a foreign feeling as I sit in the space of so many colliding and conflicting emotions, but having the ability to process without impulsively acting. This is new for me, and I’m sure I will backslide a bit, but I like this feeling a lot. I’m going to work to maintain this.

I had a session a week ago where I was talking to my therapist about the distance I have purposely created between me and a loved one to “keep me safe” currently. This person is a relative and so it might be difficult to completely remain disengaged permanently. It is someone who has hurt me quite a bit and her lifestyle continues to concern me. My pattern has often been to confront when I am concerned. This has not benefited me as the person I am confronting does not want to change. My therapist, was pushing me a bit, stating that I could be engaged on some level if “I accepted her where she was at right now”. I quickly shared reasons why I could not do so. They were good reasons. It’s very hard engaging with this person and our relationship is quite fractured. Still yet, this “push” from my therapist of acceptance bloomed inside of me. I cannot quite articulate how so, I can only say that it was another window into a different way of existing outside the “cage” I have been inside of for years.

And so, all of this has been filling me with curiosity and even joy. It’s as if I took the pliers  and gently took off one of the steel bars of my cage.

Tonight, I sat making Christmas ornaments for my loved ones. It was an imperfect process and I realized some things were a tad off. In the past, that would have bothered me a great deal. I let it go this time. I said to myself, “I don’t have to be perfect”. I noticed the tension rising: “I should redo it, it’s not perfect”. It dawned on me how most people probably would’t even notice what I saw as “imperfect”. When did my world become so calculated and precise? That isn’t the world! I instinctively knew it was not! I know the trauma in my past created a pattern of perfectionism. I smiled at myself at the thought of finally being free of this pattern. It dawned on me rather quickly that because I had placed such high expectations on myself, I extended the same to loved ones. And often if people were unable to meet them, it was a reflection that I was “not enough”. Somehow, their inability to meet my expectations was my failure. I believe this is why I have fought so hard, at times, with these individuals. Truthfully, I should have “accepted them where they were at” and retained my dignity by not fighting or pleading for their involvement in my life. It was this realization, that I’ve had before, that has now cultivated a greater awareness. It’s as if another layer has nearly been revealed and I’m eagerly awaiting for the next chapter of my life to begin!

I believe it’s a “way of living” that I have missed out on due to trauma and my continual entrapment within it. I know it starts with me and knowing that I am “enough”. I am inherently worthy, we all are. Operating from that optic alone frees me from a lot of desperate behaviors where I was relying on others to affirm my self worth. Whoops! Not a great idea as people are often totally oblivious to your struggle and have their own full plates. And then, there is the awareness that I no longer need to listen to the voices of others either defining me or telling me who I am or not. I am accepting all of me, the imperfections, the mistakes, the mess, and the comeback. I can see all the complexity and  I embrace it. I don’t have to explain it to others. I am at a point now where despite all the messes, I’m pretty proud and impressed at the way I’ve cleaned them all up! I am learning to live more in the moment and I enjoy using all my senses as I lose myself in the experience of life.

The complexity of life, the sadness and the joy, are held simultaneously in one space in my heart. I am more level as a result and joy is finding me in many places. I’m sure I will be able to express the growing light inside much better in time. I’m glad it’s been uncovered and it is glowing brightly. It was there all along, but had been dimmed by many years where I was searching. Just thought I would try and share tonight as I continue on my journey of healing from the pain and confusion of trauma. Love and light!