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.

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

When life knocks you down...

When life knocks you down you have two choices.  To fight back or stay there.  It is up to you.  No one can help you back up and no one can force you to change.  These are things you have to do on your own.  You either want to make changes or you don't.  It's that simple.  If you choose to want to make changes, then you must take it one step further and take action on your plan of change.  Because without a plan and without action, there can be no change.

There is not an ounce of my being that does not want to continue growing to become a better person then I am today.  Every step I take will never be two steps behind, because, to me, every step is a lesson on my journey.  I cannot stop moving forward, it just isn't an option.  To give up on my hopes and dreams, on my life, would be the ultimate let down.

I am a healer.  I try to see the potential that every person has to offer and I try to help them see it within themselves.  I don't always succeed. And that's ok.  I do, however, in the process along the way, learn little things about myself.  They are usually the ugly things that require my immediate attention to change.  The point is, I recognize, I admit, I plan change and I take action.  I try to practice what I preach, mainly because I do not want to let myself down.

I am a nurturer.  I take that which is broken and mend it back to health.  This is a fault.  A BIG fault.  Why? Because I usually end up getting hurt in the process.  I open my life to people who need a temporary place to lay their baggage until they overstep their boundaries.  Then, I must evict them.  This makes my heart ache because for the most part these are the people who are, for lack of a better word, fake.  And it's not me they are lying to, it's themselves.  Be true to thine own self and your path will be paved for you and planted along the way will be like-minded people to keep you moving steady ... good OR bad.   So meanwhile, while I am being a healer and seeing the best in someone, they are lying to themselves and just feeding off of my nurturing until the brick wall goes up, fooling no one but themselves, and turning out to be the exact opposite of what they say they are.  It is a bitter truth.  However, a truth, it is.

I am never going to stop being me, I will always be a  healer and a nurturer.  I do suppose one day that I will stop allowing fake people to enter into my life, however, until I learn the lessons that I need from me allowing this to happen, carry on, I will.  Learn from it, I must. Continuing to grow, there is no other option.  Another thing that I will never change, is the lack of understanding and respect that I have for people who do not find joy in life, who just give up and run from everything when it gets a little tough.

Friday, March 8, 2013

a journey into a new me...

Jan 2012, I realized I became the sum of a very tough game, codependency.  Little did I know this until one fateful day when I was asked a series of 10 questions and I answered yes to NINE of them!!!!  It was at this exact point in time when I KNEW I had to change.  Codependency, for those who are unaware of this term,  is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, and I had become that, or maybe I was that all along, it was just at that point in time, it was taking a negative toll on my life.  So, I began making the necessary changes I felt I needed to make in order to release myself from this way of living.

In 2006, I met a person who I would allow to pull me into a life of insanity.  I believed I loved this person with my whole being.  I felt that I had finally "gotten it right."  On the exterior, and to most everyone else, things seems great.  It wasn't until 3 years later that I realized what was happening to me on the inside.  I wanted to make this work, I didn't want to be the person, who, yet again, walked away from another relationship because things had gotten difficult.   Life had become a whirlwind of emotions, lies and pain so great I didn't even know it was pain.

For years I had been involved in relationship after relationship where I had become the victim of abuse, sexual, emotional, mental and physical.  Of all the abuse, emotional and mental abuse is the worst.  Once a manipulative person realizes that you are vulnerable or even naive to what is happening, they just sink their teeth right in and hold on tight.  There are days when you can see that things are what they seem but then you are so afraid of being strong, you forget how to be, until it becomes inevitably necessary.

I'm not too proud to say that I joined Al-Anon, an organization, based off the steps of AA, to help family and friends of alcoholics who have nowhere else to turn and are ready for change.  I had thought about going for many months prior to actually going, and it wasn't until a friend, who had been sober 17 years at the time, had suggested I go that I decided it was time.  So off I went.  I was running late for my first meeting, I was so nervous that I almost didn't go in.  But, I did.  I was greeted with smiles, but felt very much like an outsider.  I had no idea how this was going to help me help my loved one who had a problem with his drinking.  And there in lies the truth.  I THOUGHT I was there to help him, but when I walked out of my first meeting, I wasn't walking into a second one to help him, I was walking into my second meeting to help ME.  I would never had even returned for a second meeting if another girl, who would quickly become my sponsor, hadn't done one random act of kindness.  She gave me a book, THE book, One Day At a Time (ODAT).  This book has been like the bible for me.  Her kindness in giving me a book that she no longer used was the reason I returned.  She gave me her phone number along with the book and invited me back for another meeting.

The one thing that I honestly learned from Al-Anon meetings was how to live one day at a time and how to live by the serenity prayer.  Once you can truly understand and accept that there is only ONE person you can change, YOURSELF, you start to look at things differently.

The Serenity Prayer:
"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."

"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change" -- oftentimes, this is as far as I can even get into it BUT, even if I am struggling with my anger, emotions or anxiety, as long as I can be reminded that I cannot change anything that is not controlled by me, it puts me back on the right path.  It is often difficult to even accept that you cannot change another individual, especially when you think you know what is best for them. The only person you have control over is YOU.  Learning that was my greatest accomplishment.  It also helped me learn to live one day at a time.  I cannot control what is going to happen tomorrow, until tomorrow gets here, so why cloud my mind with what if's?  I just live.  For today.  For this moment.

I live a life of no regrets.  I do not regret any decision I have made, I do not place blame on any other person for what has happened in my life.  What has happened on my journey called life, has happened for a reason. All of it.  I embrace the lessons that are put in front of me, and more importantly, I learn from them.

This past year has been my freedom.  Freedom from a life of insanity, negativity and allowing others to bring me down to a point where I don't even know who I am.  I do not take much personally anymore, especially when I do not know what has happened in another person's life to bring them to where they are.  Their burdens are their own, I cannot carry another person's worries and burdens for them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I learned...

How incredible it is to say that you've learned something, not just in knowledge, but more-so about yourself. Life is a journey, a journey through your own elements.  You see things differently through your own eyes, you hear things differently through your own ears.  You taste, feel and smell everything differently.

Sometimes I really do wonder if we are stuck in the matrix.  We are guided through every day, believing that what we are told, just is.  For example, the color red, to me is a deep but bright hue that is next to the color orange on the spectrum of colors, however, how does that explain what it looks like?  I could say, oh well, an apple is red, (but not all apples are, either) and I would just believe that we see red the same because we are taught to understand that an apple is red, an orange is orange, a banana is yellow, so on and so on.  Completely elementary, I know..... BUT there's the expression "Well, what do ya know, ya learn something new everyday", right?  Well, let's take that one step further and try to learn something new about ourselves everyday.

As an individual, you are growing each and every day, based on your experiences of yesterday.  It can something as little as noticing that you are reacting just a little differently to a situation that arises frequently, or something as big as you finally letting go of that one thing that is holding you from your true potential.

So what did I learn yesterday?  I learned that people appreciate.  It's as simple as that.  And you should appreciate.  Appreciate everything for what it's worth TO YOU!  NEVER undervalue your sense of appreciation, as it is unique to you and only you.  No one else can ever understand your true sense of the appreciation you have for people, places and things that surround you.

Sending love, light and happiness to all my readers!

I appreciate you all more then you could ever realize!!!