judge a person

“You can never truly judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in another man’s shoes.” 

THE ASSUMPTIONS WE MAKE AND THE PEOPLE WE JUDGE

We assume we know people’s lives by the mere glimpses they show us. We think we know someone based on the brief encounters we exchange on our way to work or when we bump into each other. The playdates where we talk about our kids. The smiling family photos on Instagram. The superficial exchanges we have over text. The times when we politely ask how someone is doing and they say that they are fine. That isn’t someone’s full life. We shouldn’t judge a person by what they choose to share about their life. It is what they allow you to see. 

Take me, for instance. Most people would describe me as peppy, outgoing, bubbly, happy, and exuberant. That is a part of my personality, but there is so much more to me that people don’t know (unless they read my blog, that is).  

In reality, I feel fearful most of the time, I’m quite shy, I have social anxiety, and I am afraid to tell people about my past. I care deeply about others, and I also feel deeply. I put my heart and soul into every post I write, and I grieve for the childhood I never had. Each time I write a post about my past, my vulnerability takes a huge toll on me.  I put my stories out there to try to break the stigma and shame associated with it, and it saddens me that some people I consider friends have not reached out to me about these private and traumatic details. 

I typically show people the side of me that is full of life and contentment; the parts of me that are filled with loneliness and anxiety I tuck away when I am around others. Although talkative and engaging in groups, I am usually exhausted emotionally after a social event. I’m a true introvert, although you’d probably never know it.  

DON’T JUDGE A PERSON BECAUSE THERE IS ALWAYS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

happiness on the outside doesn't show pain on the inside

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I am not putting on a show when I’m around people. We show different sides to ourselves around different people. I am simply showing one side, and that is a genuine part of who I am. However, there is so much more that doesn’t get seen. There is often much more to someone than meets the eye if you get to really know them and don’t turn away. 

Never judge a person unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

I have gone through hell and back, but I learned at a very young age to keep my pain to myself based on others’ reactions.  Many have gone through their own suffering. They have experienced loss, divorce, miscarriages, bullying, loneliness, depression, and pain.  Most of us keep that part a secret, because society has taught us to “tough it out” and “stay strong”.  The people around us feel discomfort about those situations and don’t want to acknowledge them, so those that are struggling often don’t share the full extent of their pain. As a result, it is easy for those of us who are suffering to look around at others and feel inferior. We live in a world where everyone appears to have it all together. I call bullshit.  

I wrote a post about always being grateful, but not feeling grateful this Thanksgiving. Many understood the point I was trying to make and told me how much they appreciated it. It warmed my heart when I was told they felt less alone and more accepted because of my post.  Others commented that we should always be grateful. I was also told that I shouldn’t write about this topic on a public forum out of respect for those that enjoy the holidays and who do feel grateful. 

IT’S OK TO NOT FEEL JOYFUL DURING THE HOLIDAYS

My response to that last statement is that those who are miserable over the holidays should have a platform to be understood. The suicide rate is highest during the holidays because of feelings of isolation and depression.   I am by no means telling others who feel gratitude and enjoy the holidays that they shouldn’t feel that way. In fact, I hope people who are able to do so have a wonderful holiday season.  I sincerely hope my words will not dissuade someone from enjoying their holidays or feeling grateful. However, I pray my writing will help someone feel less alone and more understood.   

Let’s take it a step further. I agree we should be grateful.  However, in my opinion I don’t believe we should always FEEL grateful. For example, I didn’t feel grateful when I wasn’t allowed back into my house and slept in the mudroom the entire night.  Whereas we all have something to be grateful about, some of us have lived through horrors that many cannot begin to imagine. We have no right to tell others how to be or feel. 

Don’t judge a person unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. 

FEELINGS SHOULD NEVER BE JUDGED

your feelings are valid

Feelings are never right or wrong. They simply are what they are. Others may not agree with our feelings, but that does not make our feelings any less valid. Yet feelings are often met with resistance. We are told to suck it up, count our blessings, remember that it could be worse, and sent the underlying message to not speak our truths. Our truths may be different than others, but we are entitled to voice them. Our pain, our truths, our stories- they are all unique and all deserve to be respected and heard. 

We shouldn’t judge a person unless we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. 

We must stop assuming, and we must start spreading kindness and empathy.  I write this blog and use my platform for all those who have suffered and haven’t had the support of others.  Let us accept that we all have our own unique journey. Let us not perpetuate the shame and pain others feel during this time of year or at any time of year.  

GIVE A VOICE TO THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING

Let us start acknowledging the sorrows that exist around us, instead of trying to micromanage those feelings. We must stop ignoring and minimizing what/how others feel.

Those people that exude confidence, but feel lost, this post is for you. The children that put on a brave face at school, but go home and cry because they are being bullied, this post is for you. The people who try so hard, but feel so very lonely, this post is for you. For every person who has so much more going on than meets the eye, this post is for you. For every person that is struggling with the stigma of mental illness, this post is for you.  On behalf of those who are told to be strong no matter how much their heart is breaking, this post is for you. This post is for me too. 

This holiday season, and moving forward, I hope we will stop assuming and start reaching out more.  It is often the ones who seem the happiest that are suffering the most. People are more likely to show different sides to themselves if they feel safe doing so. Let’s be a safe person for others. 

Don’t judge a person unless you’ve walked in their shoes.

Don’t sum a person up by their smiles and laughter. Instead, talk about topics of sustenance. Reveal matters that others wouldn’t know by common banter, and give space for others to do the same.  If someone bravely shares something private and difficult to share, express kindness and empathy. Do not turn a blind eye to their pain or tell them what they should or shouldn’t say or feel.  

Life is hard enough. Choose kindness.  We don’t know what burdens people are carrying, but we can help them unload that baggage if we assume less and open our minds and heart more. 

 

don't compare yourselves to others

THE CYCLE OF COMPARISON

It is a common inclination to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes the comparison game gives us the push we need to strive harder, but often it makes us feel like we are lacking. If we see someone driving a better car, we want an upgrade. We feel shame about our smaller home if our friends have a bigger house.  If we see kids sitting in a restaurant calmly listening to their parents, we wonder why our kids don’t behave that way.

It is a never-ending-hamster wheel of wanting, envying, and seeking. The more we compare, the more we want, and the more we feel shame. It seems that no matter how hard we try, what we have is never enough to satiate us. There is always someone who has done it better, gotten more, and seems to have it all together. We fall short at every turn, and it isn’t a good feeling.

THE DANGER OF COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS

danger of comparing ourselves to others

Insecurity is something I struggled with for most of my life. As an adult, it is a daily struggle. It is easy for me to feel like crap when I look around at the women who have 3,000 Facebook friends, put up endless photos of get-togethers with their girlfriend, and take exotic family trips. As a child I believed I wasn’t good enough, and that narrative repeats its vicious cycle when I fall into the trap of comparing myself to others.

I know that many of us struggle with feeling that no matter how hard we try, it just isn’t enough. We envy the seamlessness of other people’s lives, and wonder why we can’t have it all together. We feel like failures. I feel like a failure.

The truth is, we are all losers once we enter the comparison race. The bigger, better mentality sets each of us up for failure every time.

Firstly, there is always someone who is better at what you doing, who looks better in those pair of jeans, or whose hair never gets frizzy no matter what the weather. With the number of people on the planet, it doesn’t take that much looking around to find someone who will have what you want, will do it better than you, and will look better while doing it.

comparison is an optical illusion

Secondly, most of what we see in life is the ultimate optical illusion. The smiling faces on Instagram, those women who step out of the car looking like they are ready to pose for a magazine, the people who seem to float through life on a cloud of ease…. things are not always as they seem. What if that woman suffers from body issues? Is it possible that the person who seems to have it all together goes home and cries every night? Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, so what you are seeing is simply what others choose to let you see. Sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side because it isn’t real grass.

I am proof of that optical illusion. I know that people assumed I was a happy kid who got good grades and seemed to have my head on straight. They had no idea I was getting abused and cried myself to sleep most nights. Others didn’t know that I have a terrible memory and had to write down every detail on flash cards and spend endless days and nights studying to get my good grades. They didn’t know that behind that smile was a huge void of despair and anxiety.

Comparing ourselves to others is something we all struggle with, but if we think about it, it’s a waste of time and energy. At the end of the day, it will always make us feel badly about ourselves. What happens as a result? We feel inferior to others and try to figure out a way to feel like we’re good enough.

Ever wonder why there is so much mom shaming? Why kids bully other kids? Why people insult one another? Is it because we are all such terrible people? Sure, there are some rotten apples; however, a big root of the problem is that people lash out and make others feel badly about themselves in a desperate attempt to feel better about themselves. There is a reason why envy is one of the deadly sins. It is an epidemic, and it seems to only be getting worse.

HOW TO STOP COMPARING OURSELVES

What is the alternative? Stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself…to yourself.
Unlike comparing ourselves to others, trying to be the best versions of ourselves is healthy and productive. Instead of being paralyzed with shame and envy about a contest we can never win, we can try to make our own grass greener.

comparing ourselves to ourselves

The only power we have in this world is over ourselves and our lives. Instead of focusing on others, we can wake up each day willing to learn and grow. Striving to be the best versions of ourselves doesn’t mean striving for perfection. It means understanding that we have faults and fears and insecurities and weaknesses, but we can give ourselves a gentle nudge to work on our own issues and find comfort and acceptance within ourselves.

From personal experience, I can assure you that this is no easy task. There are days I wake up and feel like with every turn I take, nothing goes right. My child isn’t listening, my husband and I can’t see eye to eye on things, and l feel like my life is spinning out of control.

It is a daily struggle to remember that I cannot control any of life’s moving pieces. I can only work on myself, and that means falling down, making mistakes, and picking myself up and trying again. I will always have to work on myself because I am a constant work-in-progress.

Comparing ourselves to others, albeit painful, requires no effort. We can simply point our finger at others and tread in waves of despair. To take a cold, hard look at ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and figure out what we can do to make ourselves feel better? That takes hard work, courage, awareness, and lots of perseverance.

WINNING THE BATTLE BY LOSING THE COMPARISON WAR

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, and sometimes it is not. There is nothing any of us can do about that. I cannot change the hardships I faced, and I have to accept that there will always be things I lack. What we can do is have the strength to work on the parts of ourselves that we can change and try our best to give ourselves grace and compassion along the way.

Therefore, I am conceding the comparison war. There will always be someone who does something better than me and does it effortlessly. As hard as I try, there are some things that will always be hard for me. There will always be people who have things I can never obtain.

The good news is that each day gives me a new opportunity to be a better version of myself than I was the day before. I can try my best no matter what others have or what I lack. Although I may not be the grand prize winner, I can be the winner of my own contest just by entering. I am playing the cards I was dealt to the best of my ability, and that is good enough for me.

being bullied and the lessons i learned

my middle school discomfort

Middle school is not a time of my life that you could pay me to revisit. I think most adults would agree that those years are tough. Your bodies are changing, your hormones are wild, and you are starting to have a grown-up body while still having a child mind.  The potential for being bullied is extremely high.

Junior high school was particularly hard for me for a myriad of reasons. I was unhappy with who I was as a person, I didn’t have anyone I could turn to for support and comfort, and I felt no sense of safety. I felt hopeless, unloved, and felt very much alone. Although I was a bright girl and got accepted into a school for gifted kids based on my IQ and writing ability, I had absolutely no self-confidence.

my friend, the bully

say not to bullying

In truth, there were many kids in that school who were sweet and probably looking for a friend too. I had classmates whom I could (and should) have chosen to surround myself with. Instead, I gravitated towards a girl who did not treat me the way one treats a friend. She appeared confident, but in hindsight I think she lacked confidence as well. Just as moms will shame other moms to feel better about themselves, she verbally bullied me to feel better about herself.

She was friends with another girl as well, and the two of them would laugh together while she poked fun at me. One day I was told she didn’t like my bow and it was babyish. Another time I was ridiculed that I reminded her of Minnie Mouse because of my high voice. You name it, she teased at me about it. Whether it was the way I wore my eyeshadow (honestly, I still don’t think I wear it properly) or the clothes I wore, she never ceased an opportunity to tease me. 

In a nutshell, I was bullied by a girl who claimed she was my friend. Now this was in the 90s, when bullying was in a completely different form. This was long before the world of cyber bullying, where kids could taunt you behind the protection of a computer screen. No, this was the old-fashioned way; up close, personal, and fully standing by the words she chose to throw my way. 

being bullied by myself

don't be a bully it starts with me

Victims of verbal bullying are usually told to not give the bully any power. The advice given is to tell a teacher or ignore them because bullies are typically cowards. I was in a different situation. I had two bullies: this girl and myself.

My “friend” might have said hurtful things, but I did nothing to stop it. This is not a situation where I was powerless. She also was not hurting me physically. She used the power of her words to inflict pain upon me, and I chose to say and do nothing. I never once told her that I wouldn’t associate with her if she made those kinds of comments. When she laughed at me, I never walked away. In fact, I never even told her that her words bothered me. Instead, I often laughed it off. She might have been the one throwing the dagger, but I was the one stabbing it into my own heart.

why i didn’t walk away from being bullied

Looking back, I didn’t say anything for many reasons. For one, I had a complete lack of confidence in myself. My self-esteem was so low that I felt I deserved it. I didn’t believe that I should have someone in my life who valued my feelings and treated me well. I was already being abused for years by this point, and in some messed up way, being treated badly was my normal. It was all I knew, and all I believed I should know. It’s why I picked her in the first place. She reinforced my belief that I was not worthy or enough. In my mind, there must have been something wrong with me to be abused by my mother. Therefore, why shouldn’t this girl treat me badly as well?

Another reason I stuck around was because I convinced myself on some level that she was my friend. As I’ve mentioned before, what is even harder than being abused is admitting to yourself that you are being abused. The same applied here. I wanted to believe that this girl really was my friend, and that her actions were somehow justified.

Lastly, I was terrified of standing up to her and having nobody. I would rather associate with someone who was teasing me than be by myself.  Nothing was worse than feeling that. It didn’t occur to me that the moment I accepted that kind of treatment from her, I was alone.

I remember the last day of junior high school. I asked a few people to sign my yearbook, and she was one of them.  She actually wrote me a nice message that she hoped we’d always be friends. I then wandered around the hallways; I had nobody else to talk to and nobody asked me to sign their yearbooks. My confidence was non-existent, and I felt completely and utterly alone. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believed I didn’t deserve to have anyone, and that is exactly what I got. I spent three years at a school, and I left without a single true friend.

Insecurity Can be Felt at any Age and No Relationship Should Tolerate Bullying

insecurities are felt at any age

I don’t want you to think badly of this girl. In fact, we are friends on Facebook, and she occasionally likes my posts. I hold no ill will towards her whatsoever, not because I’m in denial, but because I think she was lost too.  I think she was a child who had her own struggles and made poor choices. Should she have teased me? No. However, if I didn’t speak up and show respect for myself, then how can I expect her to respect me?

There is a bigger lesson to this story then the teasing of a young, incredibly insecure girl. Those who lack confidence can be people of all ages.   We will all at some point inevitably have an encounter with someone who will say things at our expense. These people can be co-workers, romantic partners, friends, and even family. The same insecurities that prevented me from speaking up as a child prevents others from doing the same, regardless of age or relationship.

Some things cannot be prevented. I am not speaking of those situations where victims are truly powerless. There are some tragedies in life that confidence and assertiveness will not deter.

How We Stop Bullying Ourselves

When someone mistreats you, teases you, or says something that makes you feel badly about yourself, you have a choice. You can choose to allow those words to hammer away at your self-respect bit by bit, or you can choose yourself.

I don’t know what would have happened if I would have spoken up and said that her teasing was hurtful. I don’t know what she would have said, but I know I would have felt empowered. It took me many years to get to a place where I could defend myself. Today I have so much compassion for that little girl. I know that I simply didn’t have it within me to set those boundaries and believe that I deserved better. I cry for that little girl quite often because I know now how worthy she was and how unfair life was to her. In turn, I also know how cruel she was to herself.

I share this story not to elicit sympathy. I spill these sad words onto the page in hopes that someone who reads this will recognize that love and kindness are the most precious gifts you can give someone. They can save someone else, and they can save yourself. Give your children one more hug and remind them that you love them. Remember to be kind to yourself. Reach out to a friend and let them know you care. Boost confidence instead of tearing it down.

We cannot change how people treat one another, and there is much cruelty in this world.  However, if we can love wholeheartedly and remind those we love that they are worthy and deserve better, perhaps they will start to believe that for themselves. 

Our obligation to Speak Up

We also need to be cognizant that if we are being mistreated, it does not matter who the person is on the other side. We have an obligation to speak up. If we cannot do so for ourselves, we must do so for our children. Otherwise, we are sending the message to our children that they can treat others that way, and in turn, others can treat them that way. For the sakes of our children, it must stop with us.

My daughter was taught from a young age that teasing others and allowing others to tease you is never okay. She knows bullying comes in many forms, and that they all are painful.  I try to instill in her that she should treat herself and others with respect

I pray that she feels the love and safety that I didn’t feel as a child. If the day ever comes where she is bullied or disrespected, I hope she will have the courage and confidence to do what I wasn’t able to do.

 

ungrateful thanksgiving

my ungrateful thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is typically a holiday that I look forward to each year. It is a day of slowing down, spending time with those you love, and showing gratitude for the blessings we have in our lives. This year is different. It is the year of my ungrateful Thanksgiving.  

Life is comprised of a series of responsibilities. Our goal is to do the best for ourselves and the ones we love while keeping our sanity intact. Between taking care of my daughter, tackling household chores, paying the bills, and fulfilling any other life obligations, it is easy to forget to stop and smell the roses. Thanksgiving is a reminder to halt, look around, and breathe.

Although I am always grateful for what I have, this Thanksgiving I cannot stop and force myself to feel gratitude. I am not going to sit with my husband and daughter and act like Thanksgiving 2020 is the same as the one we celebrated the year before and the year before that. That would be a lie, and an insult to all we endured this year.

It is important to note that feelings are fluid. Both loss and gratitude can be felt simultaneously, but sometimes one is more predominant based on life’s circumstances. For those of you who are struggling with embracing your gratitude, I hope my words bring you reassurance.

global coronavirus pandemic

global pandemic

The pandemic caused the world to come to a complete halt. It eviscerated everything that we once considered normal and routine. Schools shut down, people were left without jobs, many got sick, and quarantining became our new reality. COVID-19 has taught me the importance of not taking anyone or anything for granted.

Contracting COVID is like playing a game of Russian Roulette; you simply don’t know what the severity will be and the long-term effects it will have on your body. Despite our masks and safety precautions, I worry that we may unknowingly catch this virus. I worry about my dad who lives in New York and is almost 70. Each time we get a package and each time we bring grocery items into our house I worry. I try to not worry, but to not take this virus seriously is even worse than worrying.

I know firsthand the devastation that this pandemic caused when my husband’s grandmother and parents got COVID-19. His grandmother, my daughter’s Great-Grandma, was one of 250,000 casualties to a virus that shows no mercy. My in-laws are now long haulers who still show symptoms 6+ months later. Our family will never be the same, and what we once had can never again be. I am ungrateful this Thanksgiving for the pain my family has had to endure.

political division in the united states

political division

This is a year also surrounded with hate and ignorance. Too many people of color had their lives ended by those that we trust to protect us.  Too many families had to bury loves ones for no other reason than the color of their skin. Racism continues to shatter an already broken world.  

The political division in this country has torn us apart as well. Instead of the leaders of our country coming together to bring some semblance of stability and safety amidst the fear, there is a civil war among the parties.  There is no bi-partisan agreement to try and help the millions of people that were laid off or furloughed because of the virus.  It is impossible to turn on the TV or watch the news without the constant reminder that our government, like its people, are in shambles.

I cannot exchange lists of gratitude while there is a tornado of fear, hatred, and death that has swept up our nation. Despite my gratitude, I will not do so in the memory of my husband’s grandmother and 250,000 others, and I will not do so when there is so much uncertainty and pain surrounding us. Instead, this Thanksgiving I will embrace my ungratefulness. 

A New Type Of List during my ungrateful thanksgiving

The holidays under normal circumstances can be painful for some, but now those feelings are stronger than ever for even more people. I don’t believe it is helpful to tell others to focus on what they are grateful for if they are overwhelmed with grief and sadness. It makes them feel pressure and shame, and it is okay for gratitude to sometimes take the back burner.

Therefore, this Thanksgiving will be the first time our family will not state our list of gratitude. Instead we will pause and have a moment of silence and prayer. We will reflect upon this year and the loss and loneliness we each feel. We will then each share lists I never dreamt we’d make on Thanksgiving- our lists of sadness, fear, and confusion.

ungrateful thanksgiving

This ungrateful Thanksgiving we will give our daughter an opportunity to express her feelings and voice her concerns.  We will discuss the uncertainty of that day and the days that will follow. We will acknowledge the harsh reality of the world we live, and the harshness people have brought to one another.

As a parent, I want to assuage my daughter’s fears and kiss her pain away. This Thanksgiving I cannot. What I will tell my daughter is that I have faith in humanity.  I believe that there will be a future Thanksgivings where we will celebrate what we are grateful for, and what we will be most grateful for will be the change that finally took place.

emotional abuse

This post is incredibly hard to write because I am sharing something private and very painful. This story of emotional abuse is not one from which fairy tales are born.

a cautionary tale about surviving emotional abuse

I wish I could say that I had a happy childhood, but that would be the furthest thing from the truth. I grew up with a mentally unstable mom who was narcissistic and had Borderline Personality Disorder.

At a very young age my role was to listen to my mother’s marital problems, as she and my dad were always arguing (sometimes physically, but most of the time it was screaming at one another). I developed a very codependent relationship with her. It was my job to listen to her problems, support her emotionally, and take care of her. I did not set any boundaries with her, as I felt my well-being and safety were completely contingent on my mother’s well-being. When she was upset or wanted nothing to do with me, I felt worthless.

I wanted nothing more than my mother’s approval, and as a result I would parrot a lot of what my mother said to me and try to emulate her. My father was very resentful of this, and growing up he was angry at me most of the time. As a result, I grew up feeling that my father didn’t like me or care about me.

my punishments were psychologically damaging

psychologically damaging

At the age of 8, my mother started throwing me out of the house when she felt I misbehaved. The first time this happened it was dark outside, and I walked a block to a nearby park and sat on a bench. I felt helpless, unloved, and discarded. My father came out at some point and told me I could go back inside. The memory of sitting on that bench for the first time will forever be etched in my mind.

This became my mother’s go to way of punishing me. The amount of time I wasn’t allowed inside varied from minutes to many hours. I felt unsafe and incredibly degraded each time I had to leave and then beg to come back inside. It made me view the world as a very scary place. I had nobody to protect me, and I felt very lost and alone. I could not understand why the person who was supposed to look out for me was the one who was hurting me.

My father was complicit and would follow my mom’s instructions. I always voiced that what was being done to me was wrong, but my mom would tell me that I brought it on myself by not listening to her.

codependency and the cycle of abuse

stop the cycle of abuse

My mother was abused as a child, and in turn, my mother abused me. I vowed that the abuse would stop with me. In order to end the cycle of abuse, I had to face all of the horrors I endured so I would know what to never do to my child. I vowed to give my child the love and support I never got, and make sure she knew she was loved unconditionally. I go into more details about this in my post about parenting.

My parents divorced when I was 24, but as an adult, I still had the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I completely enabled her behavior and set no boundaries. This pattern of codependent behavior was so dysfunctional that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm my mother down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay. We were the definition of codependency.

Shortly after my parents divorced, I met my husband, Matt, on Jdate. He was the first person who I felt loved me unconditionally. With him I finally felt home. We got engaged a year after we met and married the year after that.

my husband’s addiction

A few years into our marriage we decided to start a family. I got pregnant, and my husband became terrified that I would miscarry. He started drinking heavily, and once I found out about it, he moved onto pills. Due to my husband’s battles with substance abuse, I spent the first 4 years of my daughter’s life raising her by myself.

We moved to Atlanta to get a fresh start, but soon after I realized he was abusing drugs again. I reached out to a therapist that specialized in addiction. I didn’t want my child growing up in that kind of environment.

My husband and I went to the therapist together, and for the first time someone besides me told him that he was an addict and needed to get help. It was the wake up call he needed, and he bravely made the decision to seek treatment. My husband checked himself into an outpatient rehab center. He received individual and family counseling and learned heathy coping strategies. He has been clean and sober for the last four years. You can read more about my story of loving an addict here.

going no contact with my mother and ending the cycle of emotional abuse

I have a wonderful daughter who I love more than life itself. I have been a Stay-at-Home-Mom since my daughter was born. In school I advocated for my daughter to get a full assessment (and subsequently, an IEP) due to numerous symptoms including inattentive behavior, difficulty processing instructions, and poor short term memory. Brielle was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). I decided to homeschool her to give her the support that she needs. My daughter has made huge strides, and I’m so proud to be her mother.

I went no contact with my mother two years ago. I did not want to subject my daughter to the same pain, confusion, and heartbreak that I went through. Brielle needs to know that love isn’t something that ebbs and flows based on a person’s whim. It is something that is everlasting, and a mother’s love should be unconditional.

My entire childhood was spent feeling my identity was taking care of my mother. I managed to break free from that, but somewhere along the way I forgot who I was besides being a wife and mother. I wanted to have something that I did which was separate from those two roles and just for me.

the internal scars of emotional abuse

not all scars are physical

Very few people knew about my abuse, and it was typically glossed over because people felt uncomfortable about it. I decided that I wanted to reach out to foundations for abuse survivors and use my love of writing to try and help others. What started out as writing about abuse for monthly newsletters soon turned into my blog.

I always felt that what my mom did to me was wrong. It took adulthood to grasp that what she was doing was abusive. Emotional/psychological abuse is often taboo and harder to recognize by others because the scars are internal. There needs to be more light shined on emotional/psychological abuse so that there is never a doubt that abuse comes in many forms. The lack of openness and education about this made it easier to see my mother as a wacko rather than to see her as abusive. There isn’t enough widespread knowledge about the numerous ways abuse can rear its ugly head.

For most of my life, I felt intense shame about what happened to me. I felt scared and anxious all the time. I went to numerous therapists to figure out how to get “fixed.” I tried medication, hypnosis, brainspotting, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Somatic Experiencing.

Different therapists told me that I needed to accept myself to heal and grow. This made no sense to me, and I felt frustrated and confused. How could I accept myself and change at the same time?

acceptance and compassion were keys to healing

One day a lightbulb went off in my head. I realized that I needed to show compassion to all parts of myself and accept that the damage that was done to me was not my fault. I finally understood that anxiety and fear does not define me. Just as my daughter’s ADHD and SPD do not define her, my anxiety and fears do not define me. I am defined by the person that I am. I am proud of the person that I am. That is something that can never be taken away from me.

I am sharing my story because I want to take my horrific past and use it to support and help others. My hope is that something good can come out of something terrible. It doesn’t make what happened to me any better. I am taking control over my life by speaking about it.

Many cannot relate to what I endured, and I am glad for those who are unable to do so. That said, all of us have gone through some sort of trauma. I want you to know that you aren’t alone. We don’t get to rewrite our past, but we get to decide our present and future.

Emotional and psychological abuse leave scars that only their victims can see. They are there nonetheless. I hope reading my story will encourage you to reach out and tell someone yours. With advocacy and awareness, we can give a voice to those invisible scars.

firsthand account of COVID-19 and long hauler effects

covid-19 has caused a world of chaos and fear

This is an exceedingly difficult time. I have put this topic off for awhile now, but I have come to the realization that burying my head in the sand will not make it go away. We are living in a world of chaos and fear due to COVID-19. Things that I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams are now our harsh reality.

A few weeks ago, I sat with my daughter in a Trader Joe’s parking lot while my husband picked up a few items. People were walking around, faces hidden behind masks. I watched the employee at Trader Joe’s give each person that entered and exited some hand sanitizer and hand out masks to the customers without one.

I watched all of this and sadness flooded over me. Sadness that this is the world we must live in and a world my 8-year-old daughter now sees as normal. I am still at a loss that a pandemic has turned our world upside down, and there is no end in sight.

Each of us has been impacted by the pandemic. The changes in our lives are undeniable. My family and I have experienced firsthand the pain that this virus has caused.

a firsthand account of how the coronavirus destroyed my family

My husband’s grandmother and parents all got sick from COVID-19. His grandmother unknowingly exposed his parents to it when they brought her into their house. Since that day at the end of March, our lives have not been the same. I asked my mother-in-law and father-in-law to write about the horrors that this virus has caused them. This is their story:

On March 24th, my mother suddenly got very sick from what was called at the time a “no big deal” virus. She had to be sent in an ambulance to St. Barnabas Hospital after deteriorating within a span of 24 hours. Before she got into the ambulance, her last words to me were, “You’re not going to leave me alone?” I had to lie to her because we were explicitly told that we were not allowed to go to the hospital to see her. Nobody was able to.

My wife and I knew that we were also positive for COVID-19, and my mother was left alone in a strange hospital without any family by her side. 36 hours later she passed away. Every day since, and probably for the rest of our lives, we will hear my mother’s last words and my lie back to her.

To make matters worse, we couldn’t attend her funeral. My sister, brother-in-law, son and Rabbi were the only ones allowed to be there.

long hauler after effects

covid long hauler effects

It has been exactly 6 months since that harrowing day, and my wife continues to have lingering, sometimes debilitating health problems due to COVID-19. These problems consist of severe nausea, extreme fatigue, chest pains, and headaches. Some days she only has one, other days she has them all. There hasn’t been one day in the past 6 months where she has felt 100% “normal.”

Since testing positive and quarantining, my wife has gone to almost every specialist out there. She has also had almost every test currently available to diagnose what is truly going on. All have come back negative. We are consistently being told that these are lingering effects from COVID-19, and with time things may improve.

I also have daily problems that began since I contracted COVID-19; fatigue, sensitivity to light, headaches, and the most frustrating one of all, something I can only describe as “brain fog.” That “brain fog” turned out to be Focal Onset Seizures located in the left side of my brain, most likely caused by the lingering effects of COVID-19.

My concern right now is for our “long haul” effects. My wife and I are far from alone with this Long Hauler syndrome. Tens of thousands of people, collectively known as “long haulers,” have similar stories to ours. They have also been suffering for multiple months, alone, unheard, and pummeled by the unrelenting and unpredictable symptoms that COVID can cause. “It’s like every day, you reach your hand into a bucket of symptoms, throw some on the table, and say ‘this is you for today,’ says David Putrino, a Neuroscientist and Rehabilitation Specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital who has cared for many long haulers. Of the long haulers Petrino has surveyed, most are women. Their average age is 44. Most were formerly fit and healthy.” (The Atlantic, August 19, 2020)

long haulers paying the price for early pandemic failures 

It has been suggested that in the United States alone, which currently has almost 7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, there are probably hundreds of thousands (potentially more) Long Haulers. These people are still paying the price for early pandemic failures.

Many Long Haulers couldn’t get tested when they first felt sick because at the time tests were scarce. Others were denied testing because their symptoms didn’t conform to a list that we now know was incomplete.

living in a world of uncertainty

Please understand that COVID-19 patients can potentially experience long-term damage. That damage is not confined to just their lungs, but also their heart, immune system, brain, and elsewhere. These long-haul cases and their effects might last for years, whether they were originally mild or severe.

Yes, age can and does play a role into the severity of COVID-19, but it does not discriminate because you are younger. If you are young and get a milder form of COVID, that does not mean that you will not suffer long term effects, maybe for the rest of your life. We must continue to take this virus seriously, because even if you get a mild form or are asymptomatic, you can pass it along to someone who might react to it much differently. My wife and I contracted the same strain, yet exhibit completely different symptoms.

Wear a mask, socially distance yourself from others, and wash and sanitize your hands. Doing these few basic, medically proven tasks will save lives while keeping yourselves and your loved ones safer.

living in a world of uncertainty from covid-19

Their story is a mere glimpse of the horrors of COVID-19. As a result of this pandemic, I have had to explain to my child why her Great-Grandma was suddenly taken away from us and why her Grandparents are sick from their long hauler symptoms. I have had to explain why she can’t have playdates and why we must be diligent about washing our hands. I have had to remind her to pull her mask up and cover her nose the few instances where we have been around others.  We have a responsibility to keep ourselves safe because not everyone is able to do so.

uncertainty and confusion

My heart breaks for my daughter and for all of us. The isolation and fear are crippling. The one thing that is certain is that we are living in a world of uncertainty.

My daughter asks me so many questions, and I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does. With all this tragedy and fear, I have also learned an unspoken truth. We literally do not know what tomorrow will bring. This pandemic is bigger than any of us, and it is humbling, so very humbling.

I wish I could write something that would bring meaning to all of this, but I cannot. I am at a loss for words as much as each of you. Nothing I do or say can make the fear and confusion go away. I hope my in-laws’ devastations can bring some perspective.

i will no longer take anything for granted

Love may not be enough, but it is what I cling to now more than ever. We cannot take anyone or anything for granted. It is the only truth I can give; the one lesson that I have learned from all of this loss due to COVID-19

Remember what matters before you kiss your children goodnight. Spend one more minute reading that book you enjoy. Give your spouse one more hug, and let your loved ones know how much you cherish them.

The problems we once thought were insurmountable are now insignificant in comparison. I hope that something good can come out of all this pain and fear. I pray that we can remember what truly matters and keep this newfound knowledge in our hearts and minds when the dust settles.

We have no choice but to accept that this is our new reality. Therefore, I am going to let my load of dirty clothes get a bit larger, I am going to reach for my husband’s hand instead of the broom, and I am going to snuggle with my daughter passed her bedtime. In our world of endless questions, love is my only answer. That is the only certainty that gives me light during this darkness. I hope it brings some light to each of you too.

my story of living with an addict

Surviving a Loved One’s Addiction

The serenity prayer is a crucial part of recovery meetings. It is of equal importance to those of us that love someone who is an addict. To watch a loved one destroy themselves and their life is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced. My husband, Matt, bravely shared his story about addiction on my blog. It is important to understand that addiction doesn’t just affect the life of an addict; it affects the ones who love the addict just as much.

My husband always liked to drink. I was never a big drinker, and I’m a lightweight. One drink for me, and I get tipsy. It was amazing to see how much my husband was capable of drinking at one time. I love to dance, and when we were dating, we would go to clubs (ah, the memories of once being young). I knew Matt was part of a fraternity in college, so when my friends noticed how much he drank and inquired about it, I just chalked it up to him having a high tolerance for it. He got drunk on our wedding day, but so did most of the guests there. It was a celebration, after all.

Coping with a Loved One’s Addiction

Fast forward to us finding out I was pregnant. We were on cloud nine. I knew Matt was afraid of me having a miscarriage (we knew many couples who sadly went through that), but I reassured him that I was okay, and the baby was okay. I thought everything was fine until one day I saw him pouring alcohol into an iced tea bottle. Warning bells started going off in my head. I was three months pregnant and knew that behavior like that wasn’t okay. I told him that he needed to stop. He said he would stop, and then a few weeks later he got drunk again. He wandered to my father’s house, and my dad had to take him home. This time I put my foot down. I said if I ever caught him drinking again, he would have to leave. There was a child being brought into the world, and it wasn’t safe for a baby to be around that. I thought that was the end of the story. Little did I know, it was just the beginning.
 
I have severe insomnia, and I take medication to help me sleep. There was only one prescription I could take that wouldn’t hurt the baby. All of a sudden, I noticed those pills were missing. I asked my husband about it. The first time I asked he said he accidentally dropped the pills in a sewer on the way home. Once he said the pharmacy must have not given me enough pills. My favorite lie was when we flew to New York; he told me that airport security must have taken them, and it is quite common for them to do so. I knew nothing about addiction besides what I had seen on TV, and we had a baby on the way. I wanted more than anything to believe that he was telling the truth.

lies and deception are the hallmarks of addiction

lies and deception are the hallmarks of addiction

On August 3, 2012 we gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. It should have been a magical time in our lives. It was anything but. Matt was always sleeping through Brielle’s cries, he was not hands-on with her, and I was taking care of our baby all on my own. By this point I had actually caught him with pills, and I knew that he had a problem. Here I was, a new mom with a little baby, and my husband was getting high. Each time he would say he would stop, but it always started up again.
 
This went on for more years than I care to admit. When he stopped taking my pills, he started using others that he obtained on his own. I tried to reach out to loved ones for help, but nobody wanted to see him as an addict. Their denial made me feel helpless and completely alone. He was so convincing that sometimes I questioned if I was losing my mind, and the problem was me. I had no support and I prayed there was something I could do to make him see the light. I tried talking, I tired yelling, I tried crying, I tried pleading. Nothing I said or did made a difference, and I was the only one fighting for him to get well.
 
My husband had seen several therapists during this time, at my request, and he convinced each therapist that there was nothing wrong. I remember one time that some pills went missing, and Matt swore up, down, and sideways that he had nothing to do with it. I requested Matt’s permission to accompany him to his next session, and I was shocked that his therapist said that he believed him. My husband was a great manipulator (as most addicts are), and he was incredibly convincing. Years later, he admitted that of course he had taken those pills, and he lied to me and the therapist. He was able to fool almost everyone, but he couldn’t fool me.

acceptance and ending codependency

acceptance and ending codependency

My daughter was getting older, and I didn’t want her exposed to this. I had two choices: (1)- I could accept that this was what he was going to do, and I had to find a way to live with that (2)- I couldn’t accept that and I had to walk away. As much as I loved my husband, I knew this wasn’t the kind of life I could accept for my child. I made an appointment with a marriage counselor who specialized in addiction. Since he wasn’t listening to me, and nobody else had backed me up, I hoped that a stranger could make him see that he needed help. I made it clear to her that I was prepared to leave him if speaking to her didn’t work.
 
That fateful day we met with this therapist, and for the first time, someone backed me up. I felt a combination of relief and fear. Relief that I wasn’t crazy to believe that he had a problem, and terrified that it was actually the truth. The therapist did something only I had done. She listened to him tell his story, told him that he was full of baloney, and that I was prepared to leave him if he didn’t get help. I’ll never forget the look on Matt’s face. It was the first time that someone besides me had told him that he needed help. He had everyone else convinced that he was fine, including himself. Now he had two people holding up mirrors in front of his face, and there was nowhere for him to hide.

The Journey to recovery

the journey to recovery

My husband agreed to go to an outpatient center. He went three evenings a week for three hours each time for four months. Matt hadn’t been active at all in my daughter’s life because of his addiction, and now he was not physically there as well. My then three-year-old daughter kept asking me where her Daddy was. I told her that he was sick, and he was going somewhere to get better.
 
There were nights that the outpatient program allowed family members to attend. I went to those meetings and took notes. There was so much about addiction that I didn’t know. I learned that the brain of an addict sends signals that their addiction is necessary for survival. Just as he needed food and water, his brain made him think he needed those pills. I had never understood why he wasn’t able to just stop. I now understood that addiction was a disease, and one that couldn’t just be turned on and off.
 
My daughter and I were there the day he graduated from his outpatient program. She didn’t know any specifics, but I told her that her Daddy was trying really hard to get well. She and I both applauded for him as he got his completion certificate. My dad accompanied us there so he could take Brielle out of the room when Matt gave his speech. I couldn’t be prouder of his hard work and determination to stay sober.
 
I don’t know what it feels like to have an addiction, but I have tried to educate myself about it as much as possible so that I could support Matt on his journey to stay sober. The biggest lesson I learned was that you can’t force someone to get clean. You also can’t force someone to stay clean. This is a choice that my husband makes every single day, and it’s a choice that I never take for granted.

Sobriety is a choice 

I am so proud of my husband for accepting that he is an addict, but I am not responsible for his sobriety. It is incredibly difficult to not try to “help” someone stay clean. There have been times where time has lapsed between him attending meetings, and as much as I want to tell him to go to one, I know that it needs to come from him. An addict can’t stay sober because you want them to. They have to do that for themselves.
 
Loving an addict means that sobriety is never a certainty. Matt knows that I am always here to listen and support him, but I can’t make him stay clean. Only he can do that. It is a scary road for a loved one of an addict. The harsh reality is that at any point the rug can be pulled out from under me. It is very terrifying and heartbreaking to not have control over that.
 
The biggest piece of advice I can give to someone who loves an addict is that as much as the addict loves you, he or she will always choose their addiction over you until they reach rock bottom. Addiction is a disease that messes with an addict’s mind. You can’t make choices for an addict, but you do have the power to make your own choice; you can choose to stay with that person as they are or you can choose to walk away. As much as you love that person, you can’t make them stop their addiction. Sometimes walking away will be the rock bottom necessary to get help. Sometimes it isn’t.
 
I can’t control the choices Matt makes, but I can control what I expose to my child and to myself. Take care of yourself and your children. Give love and encouragement to the person who is trying to stay sober, but don’t try to force sobriety. You will never win that battle.
 
Loving an addict is not easy, and we often don’t get recognition or support. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Just as there are support groups for addiction, there are support groups for loved ones of addicts (Al-Anon). Speak to a therapist, educate yourself, and work on yourself. Use the serenity prayer to help you on your journey through loving an addict.
Going No Contact With My Mom

the toxic relationship with my mother

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I talk a lot about awareness and acceptance. They are crucial for healing from trauma, and they are crucial to properly advocate for your child. My husband was able to get the help he needed to get sober when he closed the door on denial and chose awareness and acceptance. Awareness and acceptance are also necessary components of a healthy marriage.  I had to accept that I had a toxic relationship with my mom. As a result, I had to figure out a way to survive no contact with her.

My mother is many things to me. For a long time, she was the center of my world. I wanted more than anything to get her approval. I believed that somehow she would become the mother I needed if I kept believing and trying.
 

She did terrible things to me, and as an adult I realized those things were abusive.  I understood that my mother is toxic. Yet, I have fond memories of her too. In some ways, the good memories made it harder to accept the truth. I have memories of her singing songs to me, rubbing my stomach when it hurt, and playing games with her.

When Brielle was born, I was determined to be the mother to her that I never had. Still, I hoped my mother could be a part of my life and part of my child’s life. After all, she was my mother, and she was Brielle’s grandmother. Although I hated what she had done to me, I loved her.

the straw that broke the camel’s back

Several times over the course of Brielle’s life my mother got mad at me, and she would stop talking to me. As a result, she would also stop talking to Brielle. I warned her that this couldn’t happen. Brielle deserved consistency, and it wasn’t healthy to have her in and out of Brielle’s life. It was confusing and painful to try to wrap my mind around that when I was a child, and I didn’t want that happening to Brielle.
 
Two years ago my mother and I got into an argument. On that fateful day she told me she didn’t like me and wanted nothing to do with me. I felt like a knife was plunged into my heart.
 
I reminded her that Brielle was a child. There was no way she could see Brielle without making some sort of arrangements with me. She refused to communicate with me and sent me an email threatening to sue me for visitation rights. As angry as this made me, it also made me incredibly sad. She would rather take me to court than be cordial with me for the sake of her granddaughter? I knew on a rational level that her behavior was erratic at best, but knowing that my mom would go to such lengths to avoid me made me feel like the problem was me. What was wrong with me that my mother could just throw me away? Why did I have such a toxic relationship with my mom?

my decision to go no contact

After decades of wishing upon a star for my mother to love me, I looked at my innocent child and had to face reality. My mother would never be someone I could count on for emotional support. My mother is toxic and is incapable of unconditional love. If I allowed her in Brielle’s life, it was inevitable that she would do this to Brielle too. I had to figure out a way to survive no contact with my mom.

toxic relationship with my mom

It was important to remember that even though my mom would eventually reach out to me (this wasn’t my first rodeo with her), this wouldn’t change the fact that my mother is toxic.  I defriended her on Facebook and removed her from my email and phone contact list. Brielle knew that her grandmother was constantly in and out of her life. I had to explain to her that that kind of behavior is unacceptable, and I wasn’t going to allow that. One day I might tell her about my horrific childhood, but for now, I want her to know as little as possible. I had my innocence ripped away from me as a child, and I am determined to not have that repeat with my child.

estrangement was my only choice

My mother texted me a year ago. She said she missed me and Brielle. It took every ounce of strength to not respond. I’d like to say that I decided to go no contact with my mom because it is what was best for me. Although that is true, the reason I had the courage to do it was because of Brielle.  My toxic relationship with my mom would translate into my daughter having a toxic relationship with my mom too. I am surviving no contact with my mom to spare my daughter the pain of loving someone who cannot love her back.
 
There are moments of weakness where I think about the fact that my mother is getting older. I feel a wave of sadness that my mother is now a stranger to me. Guilt absolutely creeps in from time to time, along with grief. I am mourning the loss of the mother I had and the loss of never having the mother I needed.
 
It is a personal decision to go no contact, and everyone is entitled to decide what is best for them. For those of you that have gone no contact with someone who has brought you tremendous pain and suffering, I hope it brings you some comfort to know that I understand how hard it is to make that choice. I also recognize the bravery and strength it takes to do this.

Surviving No Contact

Surviving No Contact

I am proof that surviving no contact is possible.  The biggest piece of advice I can give you when making (and continuing) this choice is to ask yourself if this person is capable of change. The definition of insanity is making the same choice over and over again, expecting a different result. I realized that I was acting insane for being on this endless roller coaster with her, and hoping each time that it could change, that she could change.
 
Going no contact was a hard pill to swallow. I will never have the mother I so needed. It took decades of denial for me to get to a place where I was aware and accepted that she cannot be a mother to me in the real sense of the word. My mother is toxic, and having her in my life would only bring pain to me and to my daughter. I will never allow anyone to do that to my child, even if the perpetrator is my own mother. To give my daughter the childhood that she deserves, I had to close the door on the person who destroyed mine.
 
I have had to accept a lot of hard truths in my life. Sometimes it took some time for me to get there, and other times I looked awareness and acceptance straight in the eyes. What I’ve learned is that you can’t reach the light at the end of the tunnel unless you are willing to walk through darkness. I never claimed that acceptance and going no contact is easy. However, like Robert Frost said, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Living Sober: Addiction and Recovery

Hi, my name is Matt, and I’m an addict. Even though I’ve been living sober for over 4 years, I need to continue to be vigilant every single day. See, addiction is a disease that will never be cured. It will never go away. I will always be an addict. 

Up until now, I’ve only told my story of addiction and recovery to a select group of people (my wife, sponsors, and group meeting members):

my active addiction

It took me a long time to admit that I had a problem. Sure, I liked to drink. When I was in college, I was drinking, taking drugs, and partying all the time. “It’s college, that’s what you do,” I told myself.

Once I met my wife, we would go out and have drinks. I always was the one who had the most to drink. So what if her friends asked why I drank so much? It was only on the weekends. My wife and I had a Sunday ritual of having a glass of wine. My one drink would quickly turn into three or four. “I don’t drink every day,” I would tell myself. Living Sober

When my wife became pregnant, I was afraid of something happening to the baby. That was all the trigger I needed to start spiraling downward. It started slowly, having two or three vodka sodas on a Sunday night. Then it became Sundays and Thursdays. Then Sundays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes I would hide it, and sometimes I would be out in the open.

Fast forward and it was happening on a regular basis, and I was hiding it all the time. I hit my first rock bottom one night when I was so drunk, I walked to my father-in-law’s apartment. I don’t remember any of this, but on the way back home, I threw up all over the place. My father-in-law had to take me home because I could barely stand up.

changing substances

When I kept getting caught drinking by my wife, I turned to pills. I learned that taking Ambien many hours before sleeping would allow you to become euphoric. Pills were much easier to hide than alcohol. You go to the doctor, get the prescription, fill it at the drug store and keep it hidden. One pill per night turned into two, then three. Always waiting for the next night to come. Always counting how many pills I had left and how long I had until I could get another refill.

Those numbers never worked out in my favor. I would get caught, make promises to stop, and then start up again. Hiding and taking pills, night after night. When I ran out of pills, I would manipulate my parents into sending me some or stealing from them when we visited their house. I would do almost anything to get my fix.

After a while, I was getting bored of the downers and decided it was a good idea to take ADHD medication. See, that’s not totally a fabrication. I do have ADHD. I have a very hard time concentrating and paying attention to things I don’t like. It made it simple to go to a doctor and get those medications: Vyvanse, Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin. It didn’t matter to me which one, they all worked the same.

One a day became two, then three. There were days where I would take two in the morning and two in the afternoon. There were nights that I was so jittery from the medication that I had to get some air because I felt like I was having a heart attack. It didn’t matter. None of those feelings mattered as long as I could get what I wanted, when I wanted it. It was easier for me to walk around in a completely numb state rather than feel any negative emotions.

living sober

That’s the funny thing about addicts and alcoholics. It is a disease, and one in which we really do not have much control over. The stigma has always been, “why can’t you stop?” or “if you love me, you will stop doing it.” It’s not that simple. What I’ve learned over the years is that most addicts take things to numb themselves from the realities of life. We are not capable of processing and handling anything other than happy feelings and thoughts. One sniff of negativity and it’s off to the races. In truth, addicts are some of the most sensitive people around. It hides underneath the fake façade of drug haze and numbness.

Fear and shame. Underneath all the manipulation, lies, deceit, and betrayals are shame and fear. Us addicts are fearful about things we have to face in life, and we feel complete and utter shame for the choices that we made and make. It’s a psychotic cycle. If you feel shame for a choice, most people just don’t make that same choice any longer. That’s just not how it is for addicts. Those choices make us feel shameful, and because we feel terribly, we go back to the drugs and associated behaviors because we don’t have the tools to feel those negative emotions. It’s the addiction, the dark passenger in your brain, that tricks you into thinking numbing your feelings is the way to live your life. It’s a deny at-all- costs mentality, and it hurts everyone around you. My wife and child were not the priority. My addiction was. Living Sober

That’s why you can never say, “I used to be an addict” or, “I used to be an alcoholic.” There is no cure, and it isn’t something you can just “get over.” The moment your guard is let down, that’s when you are ripe for a relapse. I’ve been in rooms where there are people who have been living sober for 10 plus years that got complacent and relapsed.

You must take things one day at a time, and for the people living sober for the first time, one hour or even one minute at a time. Looking to the future is too overwhelming. Go to meetings regularly and participate in sharing your story. Part of the healing is not only accepting you have a disease, but sharing with others around you so you can help them in their journey. I notice that I get more out of the meetings when I share rather than when I don’t.

HOW I MAINTAIN living sober AFTER ADDICTION

When you are in the throes of addiction, nothing anyone says to you will make a difference. It goes in one ear and out the other. There are two ways you stop: (1) realizing that you are going to lose everything in your life that matters and hitting rock bottom or (2) death. Thankfully, I never got to number 2. It took a marriage therapist staring me in the face and saying, “You are an addict and if you do not get help, you are going to lose your wife.” That stopped me dead in my tracks, and I realized that I had a problem. I realized that I had to change. I knew things had to be different.

For many, meetings are the place where you can get comfort, support and get healthy. For me, it took having to go to an outpatient rehab center three days a week for four months to fully accept that I had a problem and I needed help. If I hadn’t gone, I don’t know where I would be today, but I do know I wouldn’t be living the life I have now.

Get a sponsor. I have never personally met anyone who has gotten and are living sober lives without a sponsor. Sponsors are people that you can call day or night for help. They will help guide you through the steps and are supposed to keep you accountable for your actions, until you are able to do that for yourself. If you need one, go to meetings and listen to people talk. They always ask the group if they are willing to be a sponsor and hands will get raised. Find someone that you connect with in their story and words.

the serenity prayer

When you are living sober for the first time, thinking that you can never drink or use again is too overwhelming and scary. It’s losing the only coping mechanism that you know, while trying to develop new and healthy ways to deal with pain, anger and despair. It’s not easy. You have to fight every single day to make sure you are doing the next right thing. When you make a mistake, dust yourself off, learn from it, and try to do better the next time. Do not get sucked back into the trap of saying, “I can’t do anything right, what’s the point in continuing living my life this way.” That is your addiction talking.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s accepting things that come your way with humility. Understanding that you can only change your thoughts and actions, not others. It means living your life in a healthy way. Making sure you surround yourself with people who are going to help you continue your sobriety, not bring you back into the darkness. It means loving yourself, loving who you are, and what you stand for.

I have made many, many mistakes living in sobriety and have done things that are not acceptable. The damage won’t go away.  I can try to learn from it and apply those lessons the next time. I continue to take things one day at a time, making sure that I do not allow myself to go back to that dark place. The place where I alienated my friends and family. I can’t make any promises to what the future may hold, but I know if I do the right thing today, it will bring me to a healthier, better tomorrow.

Emotional Abuse

psychological and emotional abuse

I started this blog to discuss the journey of motherhood. I also wanted a platform to address taboo topics such as emotional abuse to facilitate awareness and change.

I am a survivor of childhood psychological and emotional abuse. Yes, you read that correctly. Even if you haven’t been abused, we all have experienced some sort of trauma, collectively and individually. I have touched upon this topic slightly, but I’ve never dedicated a post to the full, uninterrupted, intensity of emotional abuse.

listen when abuse survivors share their story

Why? It isn’t something about my life that I openly broadcast (until now), but when I have shared it with a select few, the response I typically get is… nothing. People feel uncomfortable, so they say nothing at all and change the topic.

This is NOT the way to go. It takes a lot of courage for survivors to tell their story. Before they tell it to you, they first have to accept it themselves. That is terrifying. For many people, what happened to them brings great guilt and shame. This truth applies to any type of trauma. Somehow we feel it is our fault because facing the painful reality that we were helpless and someone did something terrible to us is incredibly difficult to accept.

Even when we accept what happened, we are terrified that others will see us differently. We feel ashamed of our experience and fearful that others will shame us.

I know that there are no ill intentions when all I hear is the sound of silence. I know many of you are stunned and simply don’t know what to say. You don’t mean to make the person that opened up to you feel alone. However, silence will do just that. Emotional Abuse

If someone tells you their story, they are choosing to let you in to the most painful parts of their soul. They are sharing their vulnerability, their horror, and their pain. What survivors of any type of trauma need more than anything is support and love.

things to say to emotional abuse survivors

I am giving you a cheat sheet of some things you can say, so that if someone trusts you enough to tell you their traumatic story, you can respond with words, and not silence:

1- What happened was not okay. Tell them that it was awful, terrible, horrible and that you can’t imagine their pain.

2- If they are receptive, offer a hug. Sometimes hugs can express the sentiments you aren’t able to articulate.

3- Tell them it wasn’t their fault, and that they didn’t deserve what happened to them. This one is huge.

4- Acknowledge emotional abuse survivors’ bravery in telling their story.  Let them know you feel honored that they chose to share it with you. As uncomfortable as you may feel hearing their story, the person telling it is feeling that way tenfold.

5- Ask them what you can do to support them on their healing journey. Don’t tell them what you think they should do unless they ask. The needs of each survivor will vary, so please don’t ask them this question unless you are prepared to follow through with their response. For some, that may mean knowing that they can bring it up again, as they see fit. For others, they may not want to discuss it again. No matter what they decide, tell them you will be there for them.

6- If you know someone who has experienced some form of trauma, please don’t be afraid to bring the topic up to them. Let that person know that you care, and you are sorry for what they endured. Don’t push them to talk about it if they don’t want to, but acting like you don’t know about their trauma is just as painful as saying nothing.

the importance of awareness

With events going on in the world today, I have learned more than ever about the importance of awareness. Awareness comes in many forms; those who need awareness that what they endured was indeed traumatic, and awareness of others to acknowledge and support someone else’s trauma.

Complacency will not allow for change, and there is so much change that needs to take place. I hope that this post brings some form of awareness to each of you, and that it allows us to take one step closer to a world of change.

What is your story? If you are willing to give a voice to your pain, I promise to listen.