Addiction, coaching, Giving, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Wellness

The correct way to grieve

There is no correct way to grieve and I have done it all.  Grief is different for everyone. It’s also different for each person at different stages of their lives. I was reading some fan posts about a show I watch in which one of the fans was not happy with how the main character reacted to the death of her husband compared to when she had thought her father had died. This fan felt that because the characters reaction wasn’t a breakdown into tears her love wasn’t as real.

I can tell you that I have had a handful of significant deaths in my life, and I have reacted to them differently every time. Some of the differences are based on their relationship to me, some of them have been because of my age. Some of the differences are just because the more loss you have; the more you get used to it.

My first major loss was my grandmother. She had dementia for many years and when she died I was very sad, but I also had felt like I’d been losing her for a long time. I was in my 20s and that death was more about facing my own mortality. She was the first member of my family that I really knew that died. It was the first time that death really hit home. I went a little nutty about how my life was not going anywhere and I wasn’t married with babies.. and the whole deal. I ended up running off to Vegas and marrying the guy that I had been dating for about a year. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great guy, but we should not have gotten married and after a couple of years and the grief passing we faced that truth and divorced.

My next major death was my mother. One would think this would have been the worst, but it wasn’t. I hadn’t seen my mom since I was a kid. She was schizophrenic and her being in my life was just too hazardous. She had moved to Georgia when I was about 12 and I had very little contact with her while she was there. A few years later she moved back, off her meds, and causing problems. I decided at that point that a mother should not be hurting her children, and that if she were in her right mind that she would agree with me. I never saw her again.

My father googled her every once in a while just to keep me updated. One day, in my mid 30s, I came home to him telling me that he found her obituary. She had died the year before… and I missed it. That was tough. Growing up without a mother was always hard. She didn’t help me pick out my prom dress. She wasn’t there to give me advice on dating, or tell me not to get married. She had never been a part of my life, but I always knew that she was out there, and that gave me a little peace. Maybe someday she’d get herself on track and look me up… but that day never came, and now it never would… and with that I just closed a chapter.

A few years later, 2015, was the worst year of my life. I woke up one morning to find my father dead in his bed. He had been sick for years, which is why I had moved home, but I wasn’t expecting that. His death crushed me. I found him and tears, screaming, horror. It was the worst experience of my life. It was exactly something that you would expect. My son was only 2 at the time, and I had to put on a brave face around him, but there was a lot from that year that I don’t remember. I was on auto-pilot. I had to clear out my dad’s stuff, take over his business, put in order all of his life.. and I did.. because I had to.. but I don’t know how I did it. And I don’t remember most of it.

In that same year my dad’s longtime girlfriend died.. on  my birthday. She was older and had been sick for a while, but that didn’t make it any easier. Losing her was like losing another parent. She was a link to my father. To my childhood.. Hell, she was the one who knew everything about everything. She was my go to in life when I had real questions… now, who was going to be there for me?

A little over a month later and right before Christmas my dog ran out of my front door and was hit by a car right in front of me. And not just hit.. hit, knocked to the other side of the street.. ran over.. then ran over again and dragged away. Some people don’t understand the impact of losing a dog, but for me this was like the proverbial straw… I had to choose. It was either going to destroy me, or I was going to use it to strengthen me. It was 2 days before Christmas and I had a 2 year old sitting in the house waiting for me. I held my breath, cleared up my tears, and did everything that I could to give him the best Christmas that he could ever have.

That was almost 4 years ago, and for a long time the worst of it was over. I was getting on with my life. I could only do what I could do and I was learning everything that I could about helping other people. To me, helping others made me feel better.

A few weeks ago a new phone call came in. This time it was my son’s father. He had been an addict. He had been clean for almost 2 years… he was my best friend.. on his sober days… and August 14, 2019… he was dead. My face went white with that call, but I did not shed a tear in that moment. I looked at my, now 6 year old, who was playing with a friend and I thought, “I need to be as strong as I can… for him”.

I have broken down a few times. My son has seen me cry, and knows how sad I am about Da being dead.. but I am holding it together. Not because I didn’t love my son’s father, but because I still love my son.. and I still love me, and I know that the best way for me to work through my grief is to help others. I have been writing about my experience with death, with addiction.. with loss. I have been helping out with my son’s school, and extra-curriculars. I have been attending to my son’s father’s final estate.. I am going to attend a wedding this weekend.

I am doing all of this because I love my grandmother, and my mom, and my dad, and my Mary, and my dog, and my son’s father… and my son, and my life… and the best way to make all of life worth the pain that comes with it is to keep loving and keep living. I live for all of those that I love that can’t anymore. I am teaching my son to do the same so that one day he will live for me when I’m gone… in the way way future. Because I plan to live and love and help others as much as I can for as long as I can.

Addiction, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Wellness

My relationship with an addict

Relationships are complicated. That’s nothing new, Facebook has a prompt for that. Add to it any outside influences and they become dizzying. When my son’s father was alive he was my best friend. He was also my Kryptonite and my biggest antagonist, depending on the day.

He was absolutely the sweetest man that you could ever meet. When we were together we could practically read each other’s mind. We were completely simpatico. When other people were around us they saw us as a great couple and couldn’t understand why we had such issues. He was my rock. The person that I knew that I could depend on forever.

When my father was sick he was there for me on more than one occasion to clean up the mess while I helped my dad. When my car broke down he handed me the keys to his and told me he’d take the bus till mine was fixed. If anything needed moving or repairs I knew that I could call him and he wouldn’t think twice about doing what was best for me and our son. Two weeks before he died he asked me to pull into the local car wash and proceeded to vacuum, scrub, and shine my truck up. He was a Godsend… until he wasn’t.

My son’s father was an addict. When he was clean he was the best person that I knew. When he relapsed he was a danger to himself and others. He assaulted my father. He assaulted his mother. He kicked the dog. He punched holes in the wall. He never laid a hand on my son or me, but that was mostly because I made sure that we stayed out of the way until he was sober enough and then I would tell him that he had to leave.

When I talk about my son’s father people can’t understand that he was both people. 20161119_193651.jpgThey can’t understand how that sweet man that they met could do such horrific things and they can’t understand why I would ever let him back. the problem was that he was both people. He was like Jekyll and Hyde. His illness.. and yes, it was an illness.. caused him to lose himself. Once he relapsed he became the drug. Sometimes this was convenient. When he overtook his suboxine he became a fun, playful, cleaning machine. My house was spotless. He’d run around and play chase games with our son.. things weren’t actually that bad. At times I would overlook it. I knew that he wasn’t capable of  making good choices in that state and never left our son alone with him, but it was like a buzzed parent at a family cookout.. it was fine once in a while.. until it wasn’t.

Unfortunately with addicts once they got the taste the use changed from once in a while to get a buzz.. to constantly booming and zooming. I would always have the conversation with him after the first relapse, after a while I learned his mindset. If he admitted to the lapse there was a good chance he’d hop back on the wagon and we could continue as planned. If he denied it, then I knew we were headed for trouble. Regrettably it took way too long for me to figure this out. We had years of back and forth. Years of him promising to stay sober. Years of him being amazing only to bottom out eventually.

The more conversations that we had the more I realized that he had no real intention of changing his ways. I have been studying, learning about, and working in the field of behavior therapy for years now. I started to help understand myself, then to help others. I understand that we are who we believe ourselves to be. We are our thoughts. We are who we surround ourselves with. If we believe that we are screw ups.. we will be screw ups. My son’s father was a drug user. He believed himself to be a drug user. He surrounded himself with other drug users. His thoughts, humor, and beliefs revolved around using drugs. He often told me that he didn’t believe in the AA reasoning that once an addict you could never use again. He believed that he just had to figure out a way to control his use.

Two years ago I finally said enough was enough. He was out of my house for the third 20160824_1621336336102776872690226.jpgtime, and back in jail for assaulting his mom when I told him that he had to go to re rehab. Not a 2 week or 30 day dry out, but a real program that really worked on the heart of his issues. He refused. His mother agreed that as long as he had dried out and promised to stay sober that was all that mattered. I knew that one of these days things were going to go to far and I didn’t want my son or me anywhere near it.

I talked to a friend of mine who handled family law and asked him to start the process of setting up monitored visitations. I told him that as much as I loved him and wanted our son to know the good parts of him I couldn’t risk him harming us as he had other. At first he agreed.. then he didn’t. It was a long battle with many court sessions. I did my best to work with him and he did his best to keep his drug screening information out of my hands.

During that time I had to concentrate on every bad thing he ever did. It was the only way that I could keep from caving. I knew that he was living in a sober house. I knew that he was doing well at school and at work. I knew that he was acting like the man that I loved, but I also knew that it was temporary. It was always temporary.

Two weeks after we signed the final court papers my son’s father overdosed. People don’t know how to talk to me about his death. They don’t know if I’m relieved or if I’m sad, and to be honest I’m both. It sounds horrible, but I know that he was never going to be clean. After he died his father cleaned out his car and found a bottle of supplements people use to get high that don’t show up in a drug screen. No one knows how long he was using them, but the bottle was almost empty so it wasn’t something new.

I never wanted my son’s father to die. I loved him with everything that I am, and my son worshiped him.  Losing him has cut a piece of our heart out that will never be repaired. But he overdosed twice in two days. The first time he crashed his car putting not only his life in danger but everyone on the street with him as well. The next night he overdosed in his room in the sober house all by himself. Had I let him back in. Had I given in to our love for him and his love for us our son could have been in that car.. or could have been the one that found him overdosed.. dead…

I was the one who found my father when he died. He was 65, and died from complications from diabetes, and I was 39.. but that’s a visual I will never get out of my head. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.. especially a small child.

I loved my son’s father and I will miss him forever. A huge part of my life is over now. But I am so grateful that my son is safe from the damage that he unleashed with every bad decision that he made. Relationships are complicated, but when you love an addict, if you’re not careful.. they could be deadly.

Addiction, bullying, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Homeless, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Wellness

Why is mental health so taboo?

My mother was schizophrenic. I have been dealing with mental health illnesses my entire life. I can remember people asking me why my mother wasn’t around when I was little and I always told them. “Oh, she’s schizophrenic, she couldn’t take care of us so our father did. But she did the best she could for as long as she could.”. I would get all kinds of responses. I would get the shock and awkward, “oh… I’m sorry… I didn’t know” or the “oh wow, that must have been so hard for you” or just the blank stare of not knowing how to respond.

I always found this to be strange. I mean, they knew that my mother wasn’t around. They knew there must have been a reason for this. It’s like they would have been ok if I had said, “oh she died of cancer” or “she was in a car accident” or something along that line. My mother was mentally ill. This wasn’t her fault. This wasn’t something that could have been controlled any more than had she had cancer, but for some reason people treat it like it’s something to be ashamed or afraid of.

My son’s father was an addict. He was clean when we got together and we had many good years together before his demons caught up with him and he relapsed. His problem was also that he was mentally ill. He was almost 30 when he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. He had some serious issues. He could never get out of his own head. No matter how much people tried to help he couldn’t overcome his horrific thoughts.

I have spent most of my life studying and learning about how the brain works and how to help create a better life in your own mind by strengthening certain neuropathways. He had many therapists who tried to encourage the same behaviors, the problem was that by the time he was diagnosed his neuropaths were pretty damaged. He had been self medicating for so long he didn’t have a healthy arrangement left.

I am a believer in medication when needed, but I also believe that it’s a band-aid to help take the edge off so that you can do the real work with thoughts and actions. We are our brains. Our emotions come from chemicals released in our brains.. our thoughts activate those chemicals being released. He had an overwhelming amount of “stress” (cortisol) hormones and low amounts of “happy” (dopamine) chemicals in his brain. He would try to fix that with drugs, and for the short term they would help, but he had no one to help him through the rest of the process when he was younger and still forming.

Three weeks ago he took a drug to help him feel better. He never woke up from that. I had to explain to our 6 year old that Da “took a drug to make him feel better, but it was the wrong thing to do” and now he’s gone. I have since had to tell others, family, friends, co-workers, teachers at school…. and I’m always honest. My son’s father overdosed. Most people are very supportive. Some are shocked. They had no idea that he was struggling with addiction. He didn’t “seem the type”.

That’s the problem with mental illness. It’s so taboo that people assume that it’s only the homeless people living on the streets, eating out of trash cans, and yelling at the sky who are mentally ill. No one can accept that it’s the mothers, the fathers, the teachers, the comedians… and whomever else.. the everyday people that fight the good fight everyday to appear “normal”. No one wants to be labeled “crazy”. No one wants to admit their short comings.

My father had diabetes… his body was unable to produce a specific chemical needed to keep him alive. He went to a doctor. He got help. He could talk to people about it and there were therapies and a whole industry of products to help. My son’s father’s body didn’t produce the correct chemicals needed to keep his brain in balance and it was a shameful “problem”. We need to stop treating mental and physical illnesses as different things. We need to stop shaming the “crazy” and the “junkies”. My father had insurance and went to the diabetic clinic constantly for treatment. My son’s father had insurance that no one would take for his “rehab treatments”. Believe me.. I looked.

Maybe if people looked at my son’s father as a person instead of his disease he could have received the help that he deserved. Instead my son sat quietly at the service as everyone around him talked about what a “great guy” his Da was and what a “shame” it was that he died… but still.. no one wants to help the addict. They just want to SHAME.

 

 

Addiction, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Wellness

I am an opiate widow

I was not actually married to my son’s father. We were planning to get married. Before our son was born we talked about it. We were saving for a wedding, but we decided that at my age (36 at the time) having a baby was more of a priority than a ceremony.

Neil and I had been together for 3 years when our son was born and we had been happy. I mean we had issues as every other couple did.. some more some less, but we had been through it all together and we were in it for the long haul. God, I was so in love with that man. He was absolutely the sweetest guy you could ever meet, and it’s not just me. Everyone who knew him agreed.

He was, however, an addict. I knew this about him. He had been very upfront about his past. I had met him through friends and had even dated him briefly a few years earlier when his drug use was very prevalent, but that life wasn’t for me. When we reconnected we were both very clear that the drugs had to stay in his past.

After I got pregnant his anxiety started to go haywire. He had real trouble adjusting to the idea of being a father. It’s not that he didn’t want to be. He was also very excited about the “idea” of it. It was just the reality of it that scared the crap out of him. He had never really had a great role model as a parent in general and had no idea how he was going to manage the responsibility of being a dad, work, school.. all of it.

He started to have slip ups when I was pregnant. They weren’t often and he always promised that it wouldn’t happen again. He wasn’t using opiates, but he would mismanage his anxiety medication which gave him a different kind of high. When our son was born via c-section I made it clear to the nurses that I did not want any pain killers and that I was perfectly content with Motrin. They were not.

Without my knowledge they slipped my son’s father a script for Vicodin “just in case she needs it”. Well, I didn’t need it. I never saw that script, until I found the empty bottle in the trash. He filled it without my knowledge, and ran through the bottle like candy.

We spent years going back and forth about his drug use. He was mostly sober more than he was actively using, but he just wasn’t capable of ever really staying away. He was in and out of the house depending on his use and it really hurt and confused our son. It was about 2 years ago when I had to put my foot down. Up until this point I’d only ever seen him use pills. I didn’t know how far it had gone and how bad he had gotten. He dropped a needle out of his pocket in front of our son and when I pointed it out he acted as if it were no big deal.

I had to tell him that he was no longer welcome in my house, not even for a visit. I couldn’t risk him bringing that garbage into my house, and I definitely couldn’t risk my son being the one who found him ODed in the bathroom. I ended up taking him to court over visitation and telling him that if he wasn’t going to go to rehab… I mean a real rehab, not a 2 week or 30 day dry out.. that he needed to have a monitor assigned to make sure that our son was safe around him. That I just couldn’t do it anymore. He was pissed.. and devastated.. and heart broken. We all were, but I had to do what was best for our son.

We went back and forth about lawyers. He wasn’t willing to do anything. He moved into a sober house and would occasionally call our son to check in, but for the most part he told me that anything more was none of my business and he wasn’t going to pay to see his kid. After 6 months his lawyer finally got him to agree to the monitoring and was able to see our son, now 5, again every other week for an hour. It wasn’t much but I was happy he was willing to work with me and our kid was thrilled to have his Da back.

It would be almost another 6 months, so a year in total, before we made it into court. I agreed to let him do an  outside court appointed monitor instead of the monitoring building and he agreed to do 2 hours a week. We proceeded to go back every 3 months to renegotiate the terms and as he proved he was sober longer I agreed to allowing more and more privileges.

In December of last year we finally had a conversation. A real conversation about what was happening.  No lawyers just us. He blamed me for fighting him on everything, and I reminded him that the only thing that I had asked was for him to prove his sobriety. That he and his lawyer were the ones that wouldn’t even sit down and have a talk with me and my lawyer. That I just wanted us to get to a place where we could be amicable, and have visits go back to how they were, but I needed to know that we were actually safe. He wouldn’t give us that.

He was shocked. He had no idea that my lawyer and I were trying to set up actual conversations.. his lawyer kept all that from him so we would keep going to court and she would keep getting paid. He told me that everything he had done. The sober house. The drug tests. The therapy. It was all for me and our son, and that he just wanted his family back. I knew he was telling the truth. I knew that he loved us as much as we loved him. I also knew that I didn’t believe that he had really cleaned up. I knew that he was still hiding things and not understanding my point of view.

He always told me that he didn’t believe in the AA theory that an addict could never use again, and that he just had to figure out a way to use recreationally. When we first got together I didn’t understand what it meant to be an addict. After 10 years I’ve come to realize that there is no middle ground. I told him that he couldn’t come back to us the way that he wanted to. I told him that we love him, but that he wasn’t safe the way he was, and I wasn’t going to risk our child on his promises. He didn’t like it, but he respected it.

We both moved on.. for the most part.. we both started seeing other people, but we were both clear with the other people that we saw that we already had a family. That we were each other’s life, love.. and everything. I think we both hoped someday we could make it work. After a year and a half I finally agreed to letting go of the court appointed monitoring as long as I was there to make sure he was ok at the start of the visit. He was now allowed to drive him, and take him on certain activities on his own. He didn’t. He wanted me there. He wanted his family together. Our son wanted his parents back together and would often ask when Da was moving home… and bring our hands together in an effort to make us hold hands. It was very sweet, and very innocent.. and no one fought it, but no one encouraged it. He and I both knew we were a long way off, if ever.

I don’t know what would have happened if he’d stayed sober. No one will ever know. His demons won out in the end. On August 14, 2019, 2 weeks after we signed the final custody papers I got the call that he ODed in his bed overnight. One of his roommates at the sober house found him the next day. He was gone.

I was never married to Neil. I wasn’t even with him at the time of his death, but I was his family. I was his person.. and I was his widow long before the last hit killed him. Opiates stole his life. They stole him from us. I am an opiate widow, because opiates killed my family.

 

coaching, Law of Attraction, Motivation, parenting, Wellness, women

Creating your own life

I have spent the last decade plus reading, watching, and learning as much as I can about the nature of reality as explained by everyone from Priests, Physicists, Psychologists and Self Help Gurus. I find all of them have a certain amount of credence, and to be honest most of them sat pretty close to the same thing. Reality is what you make it.

I am Catholic. To me this means that I believe in the idea behind the Bible.. I understand that the Bible was written by humans and that humans have the uncanny ability to put their own spin on everything, but when I speak with the clergy of my church or read the Bible myself I find a pattern repeating throughout. God helps those who help them self, Jesus is said to be quoted, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”.

Physicists have discovered with Quantum Theory that nothing happens in the real world without first being observed by consciousness. That our own observations and thoughts change the way the Quantum world plays out.

Psychologists have long said that we are all to take responsibility for our own actions and that the best way to do that is to understand our own feeling and how our thoughts control those feelings. The “chemical imbalance” often blamed for the plethora of mental illness are actually sparked in part by the words we feed to our consciousness everyday. If we are constantly telling ourselves that we are useless, depressed, and our lives suck.. our brains will produce less and less serotonin and/or dopamine and that’s exactly how we will feel. If we tell ourselves we are strong, and think about all of the wonderful things in our lives that we are grateful for then we will create more and more of those “happy” chemicals and we can change the way we actually feel about life.

Self Help Gurus have said pretty much all of this under the category of living in the “Now”, the Law of Attraction, Mindfulness… or whatever catchy name we all choose to identify with.

The reason why I find this information so incredibly interesting and incredibly infuriating is that it’s true, and most people choose not to believe it. When people come to me for help they want there to be an outside influence that can change their life. They want their problems to be someone or something else’s fault. When I explain to them that their life is an accumulation of their life choices and that to change it they just have to change the way they look at life and start making better choices people actually get mad at me.

It amazes me that people would actually choose to be a victim because that way it’s not their fault than to choose to be the hero in their own story. I know that for me I will always choose to be the driver in my own life. I know that things “happen to me”. I know that my life has not been perfect and I’ve had situations arise that weren’t my fault… but I was 100% responsible for how I handled them. If I messed up.. then I am 100% capable of fixing it. I will take that over victim-hood any day.

 

bullying, coaching, Health, Motivation, Wellness, women

Nike wants to help everyone get healthy

For those who may have missed it. Nike is supporting getting people healthy. I know that seems like something that should be applauded. It also seems like the kind of thing that they’ve always done. “Just Do It” was not about binge watching your favorite show. But now they have expanded their advertising and work out wear to include plus sizes.. and apparently this is just going too far for some people.

I’m not going to discuss the negative comments surrounding this launch. There is enough negativity to go around. What I do want to talk about is the importance that people who are not healthy feel that it is also their right to get healthy. As someone who has jumped up and down the scale over my lifetime I know that it is not easy to get out there and “just exercise”. I know that when I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin it makes it very difficult to let others see it giggle at the gym.

I have seen other posts about people (usually women) who do their best to make a change to their bodies only to be mocked and insulted for actually trying. The world is extremely hypocritical in this respect. Everyone is supposed to be strong and healthy and beautiful, but they aren’t supposed to work for it. I spend a lot of time on social media and there is so much shame out there it’s amazing anyone leaves their houses anymore. I am very thankful to have a support system around me that doesn’t ridicule me at my attempts at gaining health, and also doesn’t ridicule me if I fail, but not everyone is so lucky.

What I find most interesting about the negative feedback from the new Nike wear is that it’s actually active wear. It’s actually designed for people who intend to work out. People who are fit prefer to wear such clothes because it’s more comfortable and therefore easier to keep up with an exercise routine if wearing, and yet, there are people out there who are talking about how obesity should be fought… but in the same breath say that obese people shouldn’t be encouraged to exercise. How exactly is the obesity battle supposed to be won? Diet pills?

If there are people out there who are looking to get healthy, but don’t know where to start, or feel like they’ll be shamed, I hope that they see the mannequins of people who look like them and realize that they are not alone. There’s an entire market of people just like you wanting the same thing.

All I have to add is good on you Nike! And if you’re a person who feels like you may be “too big” to exercise or “too fat” to get healthy.. Just Do It!