Sunday, April 3, 2016

Addiction .. it is NOT a choice

Preface: The content of this blog is based on my own opinion, experience and research. Some of you *may* not like it, you may not agree, you may hate me afterwards,  I will say this, all of that is ok. I'm just starting a conversation about a topic that typically takes "a wrong turn at Albuquerque" and then is followed by a slide down the rabbit hole into the depths of ignorance.  I am NOT an addiction professional, I am, however, someone who has walked this walk and can talk MY talk.  Everyone's story is different, but typically starts off the same.

A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook the other day:

This particular friend was sharing something he believes to be true. He is entitled to his opinion, he has also endured a lot of loss surrounding our current heroin epidemic.  I commented that I disagree, I wasn't nasty about it and didn't even say he was wrong, who am I to tell him how to think?  I simply stated that I disagreed, wholeheartedly, with him.  Other people, took to the side of offense with this post, the comments that came out of this one simple meme were, in some cases, ignorant.  In other cases, rude. But in most cases, uneducated.  For as many lives as heroin has taken, particularly in this area, it is likely that many of these uneducated commenters have never dealt with the reality that is "Addiction."

Here is my story.  I am NOT an addict.  I am someone who has loved an addict.  I've dealt with addiction in my life long before I realized what it was, but I will start my story at a point in time when it got real for me, which wasn't till the end of the chapter.  Bear with me while we venture into the unknown of what may come out here, as I'm not even sure myself.

In January 2012, I was sitting in a family meeting at an inpatient rehab facility, my very first family meeting, there would only be two, but this was the most significant.  In walks the counselor, she stands up at the podium, doesn't even try to get everyone's attention before beginning her talk.  She says "I want everyone in here to hold up both hands and make fists, for every statement that applies to you, put up one finger." I thought, "ok, I'll play along." By the end of the 10 question series I had all but one finger up.  She looks around the room and says "congratulations, you are all co-dependent."  This was my rock-bottom, if you will.  I am not someone who gets sucked into this type of life, or so I thought.  
Backtrack a few years, to February 2008.  This is when I should have started to realize that I was involved in something that could go before me, undetected, not because I didn't want to see, but because I was uneducated.  I was uneducated in something I didn't know I needed to be educated in.  Drug abuse.  I was out of town with the addict in my life, where it was revealed to me that there had been cocaine use, heavy cocaine use, for the entire year prior.  You'd think I would have seen signs, I would have known what was going on right under my nose (pun not intended) ... but no, I was CLUELESS! because I was uneducated in this subject.  My immediate response was "how am I going to help this person?" (it's what I do, I'm a fixer, I help people, I fix people). I was reassured that it had stopped but that this person needed help staying away from it.  I thought "I can do this, no problem", remember, I'm a fixer, I fix people.) This led me down my rabbit hole.  It turned into lie after lie after lie.  It turned into sneaking around behind my back, it turned into broken promises.  It was bad.  I didn't know how bad it was, until one fateful day.  It was, honestly, the biggest eye opener I had ever had (we'll get to it in a moment.)
From here, we'll fast forward to January 2010. By this time, my eyes were opening wider and wider with each passing day.  I had a baby with this person, my life changed, my priorities shifted and I started to see, little by little that this was not how I wanted my life to be. January 2010 brought the DWI, it brought my taking my 6 month old daughter out into the freezing cold temps at 3:30 am to go pick this person up from the police department after having been arrested for having blown some crazy number over the limit of an aggravated DWI charge (the equivalent was something like 20 beers in an hour - CRAZY, right?) At this point, I knew the problem had gotten far out of control and would need some kind of external help (keep in mind, I'm a fixer, I fix people).  This began the 2 year journey of outpatient rehab facility failure, AA failure, therapy failure, ultimately ending with the failure of the inpatient facility.  Throughout this 2 year span life had gotten extremely out of control.  There was one person that tried to help the addict in my life reach sobriety.  This person had been sober for many years (I can't remember the exact number of years, but it doesn't really matter) and instead of asking the addict this question, turned to me and asked me "what are you doing for your own recovery?" I thought, quite angrily, "MY RECOVERY? I am not the addict here.  I don't need help." I was wrong. Remember how I kept saying "I'm a fixer, I fix people"? Well this is where I needed the most help.  It was suggested that I go to Al-Anon, support meetings for the friends and families of addicts. I went to my first meeting, walking in there thinking that I was doing it to "help the addict in my life", as most people do.  When I walked out of there, I was no longer walking into a meeting to help the addict in my life, I was walking in to my next meeting to help myself.
I will say this, 12 step programs are life changers. They save people by the way they change people. My first meeting, I was running late, I almost didn't walk in the meeting, but a kind person, also running late, smiled at me and said "you coming in? I'll walk in with you." (I'm sure he knew that it was my first meeting). I sat in a room of people who were there for the same reasons I was.  One girl, who would quickly become my sponsor, was the key that kept me coming back to meetings. She gave me her ODAT (One Day At a Time) book and inside of it she gave me her phone number.  That one gesture is what made me come back to my second meeting and she was there, again and again and again.  I only went to that particular meeting a few times, as I was able to find a smaller, more conveniently timed meeting that I began to attend.  Through these meetings, I learned that the only person that I could fix was me, and THAT was the most important piece to my entire puzzle (remember that eye opener I referred to above, this was it!!!).
Even with the program in hand and my rather successful go at living one day at a time, even one moment at a time, at times, I still ended up co-dependent.  This was a shocker to me.  I needed this drama in my life to survive, no, actually I was manipulated into thinking this was the case, without knowing that was the case.  And so we come back around to January 2012. Immediately following this meeting, I realized this was the beginning of the end, this was my rock bottom. Having realized that I had become co-dependent was my rock bottom.  Nothing was going to change in my life, unless I chose to make changes. That change came in March 2012, when the addict in life no longer had control over me and I released this person from my life.  I had finally realized that I had to do what was best for ME, not US. I had to take my life back from spinning out of control, I had to allow the sunshine to come back into my life.  And so began my recovery.  Long after I thought I had started.  My recovery began when I took my life back. When I made the change to push it all away from me.  It ended up being the most momentous change of my life.
You may be asking what happened to the fixer in me.  Here is the simple answer, it's still there, but instead of fixing others, I fix me. This is the truth of recovery.  Recovery comes when you start fixing yourself.  I realized that the fixer in me was also the enabler. The fine line between being supportive and being an enabler is so fine, it is often unseen.  Parents and loved ones almost always fall into the role of being the enabler, without even realizing it.  I stopped being the enabler. I stopped providing a place for the addict in my life to manipulate. I stopped being co-dependent. I stopped thinking that I could save this person, that I could stop this person from making poor choices. I stopped thinking that this person's rock bottom could be determined by me.  The addict in my life had to do all of that for himself. I cannot say, even to this day, over 4 years later, if this person has stopped using. I've been told that he has been sober since October 2012, it's not my place to decide if it's true, I cannot judge his life based on the past I know. Actions speak louder than words. You learn this when you have had an addict in your life. I will not comment on the afterlife of the addict in my life, as I cannot honestly comment on whether or not his sobriety is true. That's on him. That's his life. That's not my concern. Not even when my daughter is in his care.  Because I cannot fill my brain with thoughts of what he is choosing to do, that is co-dependency, a life I left behind 4 years ago.  As long as my daughter comes home unharmed and happy, I choose to believe that the right decisions are being made while she is there.  I have no grounds to think differently unless that changes.

This is what I know about addiction, it is NOT a choice.  It is a disease.  If you can partake in recreational drinking and drug use and NOT be consumed by it afterwards, you are lucky.  A person who has a chemical imbalance in the brain is not so lucky.  The unfortunate part of this is that oftentimes, one is not aware there is a chemical imbalance until it is too late. I will say it again being an addict is NOT a choice. Starting the journey to use drugs and alcohol, those are choices, we can all agree on that (I hope, anyways).   Understanding how your body reacts to the overuse of drugs and alcohol is something that is rarely considered.  Underlying reasons that cause people to turn from occasional use to abuse go undetected, frequently, because society is unfair, society bullies, society doesn't offer the option for someone to make a mistake, society thinks they are fixers. Society thinks someone whose brain has been affected by the use of drugs and alcohol can just "STOP." This is not the case.  Below is a side by side comparison of the brain, on one side it's a normal brain, next to it, a brain on meth. These structural changes to the brain are oftentimes irreversible. This is not an opinion that I have, it is scientifically proven.

Society is judgmental of addiction, of any kind. One cannot simply "stop" once the brain has been altered.  The brain begins to adjust to these alterations, forcing the body to think it requires this change. Addicts have to fight, long and hard, against all the odds (because they have lost the trust of everyone who loves them) to stop using.  An addict cannot choose to use another drug in order to stop using their drug of choice, this is what will become the gateway drug, something that will ALWAYS lead the addict back to their drug of choice (again, proven scientific facts, not my opinion). We have been shaken to our core by this recent heroin epidemic. Too many lives lost.  Sadly, by the time someone realizes they need help, and are able to ask for it, it could be too late.  This epidemic needs to come to an end, unfortunately, the cost has already been too high and will continue to rise.  Parents need to have real discussion with their children about drugs and alcohol and their correlation to addiction. It needs to be bigger than "drugs are bad" or "just say no". Parents need to become educated, they need be informed. The younger generation need to be educated, and informed about this.  Sweeping it under the rug is no longer an option. If you aren't having the conversation with your kids about the effects of drug, alcohol and addiction, chances are someone else is, and by the means of peer-pressure. I don't know about you, but I don't want my children learning about drugs, alcohol and addiction by means of using. Have the talk. Make it informative and make sure it is well received.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Project 52: Week 3. Time.

It's funny how people seem to always take time for granted.  Some people even expect that there will be time to do the things that they want to do but don't have the money or time to do them now.   But then one day *poof* they've missed that opportunity.   People are too busy going here or there, spending money they don't have on things they don't want to spend it on, wishing it were the weekend and dreading it when it's Monday.

It's true, I wish everyday for it to be Friday.  And even though I wish today was Friday, I didn't waste time wishing THIS day away.  In fact, for the first time in a long time, I actually just stopped my car and took a photo of a scene that I see every day and say "Oh, that would be so pretty snow covered" and I've made an excuse to NOT stop and grab that photo ... oh, I gotta get home, it's too cold, it's snowing too hard ... etc.... well, today, I decided to stop and smell the roses ... figuratively speaking, of course (although a beautiful red rose coming out of the snow certainly would be a fabulous photo opp).  It literally took me all of about 2 minutes and I felt good about myself because I finally did it.  There are so many scenes that I see that I say "that would make a beautiful photo" and don't stop.  Why???  Well, it's simple ... I'm usually on my way somewhere else and just don't have the time.  Or do I?  Well, will it REALLY matter if I'm a few minutes later then I anticipated?  Anyone who knows me well enough, knows that the answer to that question is a resounding "YES" it matters ... because I'm punctual, and rarely late for anything.  And being even 2 minutes later then I anticipated just throws everything off .... but it doesn't have to.  This is just a character flaw of mine that hopefully, someday, I'll be able to overcome.

I'm going to make myself a promise...  whenever I have my camera on me (which, just for the record, I have been carrying with me everywhere I go for the past 20 days) and if I see something that is appealing to my eye and I think to myself "that would make a beautiful photo", I'm going to stop and take that picture.  As long as it's a safe stop -- there is this one shot off of the thruway that I would just LOVE to shoot, but it really isn't a safe place to just stop and take a photo .... not to mention the fact that with my luck, I'd probably get ticketed by the cop who's having a REALLY bad day!!! LOL

So above I mentioned how I stopped and grabbed that photo .. well here it is:

It is at a little bed & breakfast out by where I work.  And I just LOVE how this turned out!!! I hope you do too!!!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Project 52: Week 2. Patience.

I've felt for a very long time that I was blessed with my youngest daughter to teach me the fine art of patience.  I've got over 5 years of lessons from this child (including my pregnancy with her) and I still feel as though I have yet to actually learn patience.

I often wonder if patience is something that can be learned or if it really is something that comes from within, because there are days when I feel like I've got nothing left to give.  Those are also the days when I remember to stop and take a step back, take a deep breath and just be.  I have got to remind myself that she is, in fact, my exact replica, which is probably a large part of the reason why I find her so hard to handle at times.  This child is the epitome of me, only magnified by about 100 times.

I went and took some pictures of a creek nearby my house tonight.  The creek is jammed up with ice, people had to be evacuated from their homes due to the flooding and yet the water underneath the ice looks so calm, so peaceful.  It is just patiently waiting for the ice jams to release so it can flow free again.  I think that perhaps, patience is just that, the ability to wait for that moment of clarity so you can be free from the jamming thoughts that often come with a tough situation or person that has tried your patience to every extreme.

Patience is a virtue ... work in progress.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Project 52: Week 1: The Abstract Life

Abstract: "existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence".
"The High Sorcerer"
© 2014 Christine M. Wallace

I once felt as though my life was just going thru the motions, and not having any real purpose.  I thought I was happy when I wasn't, then when I knew I wasn't happy, I tried to convince myself that things would get better.  It became a vicious cycle of battling for an inner peace that I craved so very much.  It wasn't until I was given a book "One Day At A Time" (or ODAT) that I really began to realize that my life is what I had made it.  Pure Chaos.  I realized that I needed to stop blaming this one for that and that one for this and start looking at myself, because, much to my own surprise, I was the only person I had control over.  Yes, I am a control freak, or rather, I use to be.  I now know that there is only person I have the true right to be a control freak with ... myself.

"Come to the dark side"
© 2014 Christine M. Wallace
"Fly Away Little Birdie"© 2014 Christine M. Wallace
I've run circles around myself and making my life this unimaginable place that seemed quite abstract, like I was stuck in a maze that I couldn't get out of.  Then I stopped. Looked around. Took a deep breath. And took action.  Action for myself.  I finally admitted that I was not happy, I admitted this to myself because let's face it, I'm the only one that really cares if that is truth or not anyways. Because at that point in time, the only person that mattered to me, was me.  Because if I was happy, my girls would be happy and life would be wonderful.

I then spent the next several months looking at life thru my lens.  Yes, my camera is where I found my inner peace.  I started to find a passion that I had buried so deep even I thought it was gone.  I started to look around and all I seen was art in everything.  I even started to see something in the most abstract of pieces.

© 2014 Christine M. Wallace
This past week I was looking for some interesting projects that I could do in my studio, since it's winter and I live in Buffalo and you never know if one day to the next you'll be able to bear the cold weather and go outside looking around for a photo to take,  I came across this project that was supposed to turn out like a tye-dye type of design.  So I thought, hey, I have these tools ... let's give it a try.  Only, I didn't really get the tye-dye results.  Instead, with a little cropping and some other minor manipulations in an editing program, I  got some amazing abstract images.
© 2014 Christine M. Wallace

 The images presented in this post are my results, and honestly, I never expected to get these results when I looked at the images on my viewfinder, but in each image, I see something very different.  I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome - and the fact that I was able to create an abstract photo, which look very much like a painting.

**Artist Note: The photo manipulations that were done, were simple curves, levels and/or desaturation changes, nothing else was altered in these images.**

The fact of the matter is, no matter how abstract you think your life may be, you can always find your purpose among the chaos, so long as you just take the time to look deep enough to see the truth that is being held within.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflections of another year gone by

Another year comes to an end and new one begins, however, it is really just another day passing by.  January 1st is sort of a soul searching date, when many people make resolutions for what they want to accomplish in the upcoming year.  I've never been big on making resolutions, of course, I've never been big on making promises to myself that I honestly don't see myself being able to keep long term, things like going to the gym 3 times a week, losing weight, eating better, etc. I do, however, like to set goals for myself.  Goals based on what I learned about myself the previous year.

I have three goals that I would like to try to attain this year:
1 - Take one photo a week (Project 52) and post it on Sunday
2 - Write one blog post a week, also posted on Sunday
3 - Shoot one project a month

These seem like fairly attainable goals, however, I always seem to get a good start then one thing leads to another and I've got excuse after excuse as to why I wasn't able to get it done.  Well, 2014 is my year to TRY to get it done.  52 pictures, 52 blog posts and 12 projects .... I can do this.  I know I can!

Every year I seem to learn a little more about myself simply by paying close attention to my choices and how they affect my life.  In 2013, I learned a few things that have helped me make some big decisions, both personal and professional.

1 - I've learned that, for me, my passion cannot be my "job".  I seem to lose that spark I have about photography when it has to be my "job", that which pays all the bills and has to make ends meet.  So, I can say that I gave it an honest try at making photography be my sole source of income, and while I determined that is not the route for me, I do not look at it as any kind of failure.  I want to be able to offer my talent as a photographer because I want to, not because I have to.

2 - In general, people, who are not artists, do not really see the value in art.  This may seem a bit of a harsh reality, but it is the truth.  There is no way I could, nor would I ever, compete with the package deals you can get from a corporate entity that offers photography services.  There is a real art in what I do, and sadly, a lot of people don't see the value in hiring a professional photographer, even at rock bottom pricing.  So, I've decided, I'm done selling myself out and offering photoshoots for less than what I am worth.  I've been told time and time again that I do not charge enough for my services, so, after much thought,  I've come up with pricing that I feel is fair for both myself and my clients.

3 - #'s 1 & 2 have led me to another VERY BIG decision that is both heartbreaking but also very invigorating.   I've decided that I need to move past a branded company name and market myself, not only as a photographer, but as an artist and a muse.  That being said, I have decided to dissolve the Lifetime Memories Photography name and simply just be me.  After 10 years of trying to make something out of a company name, I've come to realize that I am all I need to make something out of.  And I have. I have seen quite a progression in my work over the past 10 years that I honestly feel confident that is the right thing to do.

and last but certainly not least ...

4 - I've learned (and have been shown) that real love is so much more than what I ever could have imagined.  Every day, for nearly 16 months, I am simply amazed at how true love has changed my life.  I know I speak of it often, but, if I didn't know any better, I'd think I was dreaming and every day, I am so thankful that I have been living this reality of pure happiness and joy in my life.

2014 is going to be the start of a new direction for me ... going down the same path is no longer an option for me, it's just me, my passion and a new direction to bring to life.

I'm excited to show you all what I have up my sleeve for 2014!!!  Continue to stay tuned!!!!

Peace, Love & Light,

Monday, September 16, 2013

When your thoughts seem to be out of control...

It seems certain situations have a way of sending your thoughts out of control.  It's almost as though one minute you have full control over your thoughts, the pattern they are going, whether they are negative or positive, etc. BUT THEN ... something happens, and it's like BOOM! your control explodes and everything seems to be hectic.  It's times like this when the Al-Anon program really helps me, it helps bring me back to myself, it helps me stop having these uncontrollable thoughts that make me feel like my life is a complete disaster again.  It is unfair of me to allow myself to let others have that kind of control over me.  I am stronger than that.  I often recite the serenity prayer, sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud and sometimes, I feel like maybe I just need to scream it at the top of my lungs from the tallest building with the best reverb.

Last night I had a dream in which I was standing on some kind of scaffolding in the middle of a factory with a huge water mill and a little child was in a boat on the grates of the mill, a pool of red was below on the deck, although I don't feel as though it were blood, and my boyfriend was standing next to me and inadvertently was blocking my ability to move to the safety of solid ground and I began having a panic attack, which, coincidentally, transpired into real life, only I couldn't wake up, I couldn't get out of that dream.  I knew I wanted to, that I needed to, but couldn't until I was on the solid ground.  In my dream, Al was intently fixed on the situation of the child in the boat that he couldn't hear me talking to him, asking, practically begging him to help me and just before I was about to lose my grip he finally was able to hear me and pulled me to solid ground.

So here's the irony of this dream.... I, personally, would NEVER be out on scaffolding.  I am terrified of heights and of falling and Al would NEVER let me put myself in an unsafe situation nor would he not hear me asking him for help with desperation and fear in my voice.  I suppose that's why these things transpire in our dreams, each occurrence in a dream has a meaning, so of course, I turn to my dream dictionary to see what having a panic attack in a dream means and, surprise, surprise it indicates a lack of control and power in your life.  And, yes these situations in which I am writing about made me feel as though I needed to scream the serenity prayer at the top of my lungs from the tallest building with the best reverb, giving me good cause to be having this type of dream.

So, I have been reciting the serenity prayer over and over this morning reminding myself that there is only one person I have control over .... ME.  I just have to deal with the rest one day at a time as it comes.

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.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Cardinal Awaits...

This morning I watched two cardinals out my window, one so bright to show it's might, one a little browner, I'm sure not to be a downer.  Each chose his branch with grace, the bright one won the race, to be up higher.  He fluttered and muttered about. The brown one, still and inactive.  Once the other finally settled, a conversation, I'm sure they had, their narration not long, as the bright one quickly moved on.

Copyright 2013 Christine M. Wallace