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Posts Tagged ‘recovery’

Deep breath.

Sharing my story takes a lot of deep breaths and the ability to dig deep so that my experiences may have a purpose. Perhaps I can heal myself from some of my pain and perhaps I can help someone else to realize they can do hard things too.

When I dig deep, I am doing the spiritual work that allows me to emerge as more whole. My writing nurtures me through the narrow pathways and towards my freedom.  My writing opens doors so that I can walk through them. And on a good day, my writing has the power to make a difference to others by inspiring others to face their own narrow places. Even though many of us feel alone, we usually aren’t.

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what
I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear.”
~Joan Didion

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I always believed that I would be nothing like my mother. My mother was too sick and violent to nurture me. Mental illness and substance abuse ravaged her life from my earliest memories.  A long time ago I learned that substance abuse tends to run in families. And in my case, it seems to have run deep. My mother is not the only close relative I have who suffered with crippling addiction.

My family history has always lead me to monitor my drinking.  If I saw myself starting to binge drink, I would simply stop until I could resume drinking more responsibly. I started this behavior as far back as when I was a teenager.

If I am really honest with myself, I’ve always known that I have the propensity towards addiction. From the time I was 11 years old, I started smoking and ingesting any drug I could get my hands on. It was easy for me to access the drugs back then because I looked older and my father was in the record business. Opportunities for getting high surrounded me at every turn. And since I was never someone to back down from a chance to disconnect from the dark realities of my life, I was in good shape.

This lasted until I was nearly 17 years old when I woke up and realized that if I didn’t stop myself, I would become my mother. I am not sure how I had the will to stop, but I did. In part, I tried Alcoholics Anonymous along with some therapy. In the end though, I found new ways to distract myself from life. I took up running, I wrote, I did a little art, and I never looked back.

Drinking was another story.

Over the years, I have watched myself navigate some really tough times when I turned to drinking. Life’s roller coasters were hard to endure at times.  Besides the “normal” headaches of living, I experienced nine miscarriages, a horrific birth experience that lead my first child to the NICU, followed by other serious illness for my sons, a rocky marriage, a dying father, multiple broken hearts, and perhaps the hardest one of all, facing the demons of my childhood. I never drank when I was in a good place. But as soon as life challenged me, I turned to the only thing that could calm me – alcohol. Alcohol gave me a place to go so that I could place a blanket or a shroud of darkness over my intense sadness.

And it worked. Until. . .

One day, I realized that I couldn’t stop.  It started when my doctor made an unwanted diagnosis and told me that I should only drink occasionally and not more than a glass and a half of alcohol at a time. I couldn’t wrap my head around that concept. What is occasionally? And what is a glass and a half? I loved whiskey, so what would a glass and half be? Five shots, maybe six . . . I wasn’t a wine drinker, although I did like the taste of good wine. But when I wanted to numb my feeling, it was whiskey or vodka that I turned to.

Love of truth puts you on the spot.
~Naropa Institute motto

Up to that moment in time, I had always been able to make any necessary lifestyle or dietary changes when advised by a doctor or other healthcare practitioner.  Previously I had three major diet changes. The first was when my then ENT realized that sodium was exacerbating my hearing loss. The second was when I stopped eating regular breads, cakes, and pastas when I found I had celiac disease. And third, was giving up sodas when my nephrologist informed me that sodas were probably the cause for my horrible UTIs, otherwise known as urinary tract infections.  In each of the three occasions, I was given the advice and simply stopped. And except for soda, I didn’t look back. And even now,  I am back on track when it comes to drinking soda.

Before the doctor told me not to drink, I was absolutely AWESOME at navigating what I call non-negotiables in my life.  I had always been able to quickly make the necessary lifestyle changes that would ultimately lead to healthy transformation for me.

When we take an honest and fierce inventory of ourselves, it isn’t too hard to discern truth. If I had never been significantly challenged by removing gluten, sodas, and sodium rich foods from my diet, why was I unable to occasionally drink alcohol.

amazing sunrise

Sunrise in Topsail, NC courtesy of Wendy Delson

Wham!!!!! I woke up!

I couldn’t stop because I had become the nightmare I feared most. I had become a drunk like my mother. OUCH!

But here is the good news, I am not my mother. Almost as soon as I realized I was out of control, I called three of my beloveds and shared that I was quite literally stuck in the deep end and unable to swim; I was drowning. The more I drank, the more I wanted out of this life.  The other good news is that I didn’t go as far as to make a plan. I just wanted my emotional pain to go away.

With the help of these three beautiful souls, I was able to move forward. The first two were Ricky and Eudice, my brother and sister-in-law. My brother got the first call a couple weeks before I understood the full picture of what alcohol was doing to me. He was the person I called when I simply wanted out of life. He listened and I knew I wasn’t alone. A couple of weeks later, I reached out to my sister-in-law who gifted me with her wisdom; she reminded me that my self-awareness was a gift and that I could do hard things. AND finally, I reached out to my beloved friend Joseph who met me at a coffeehouse and without judgement held space for me to share my brokenness; he then offered to take me to my first AA meeting in decades.

As I sat in that first meeting, I was aware that I was in the right place. I left the meeting knowing I had to stop drinking, but not yet willing to do the work to get there. So two weeks later, I started drinking again. For two evenings in a row, I was back to my old ways of drinking late into the evening and then being 100% functional in my daily life. No one, except my sons knew that the only way I could quiet my sense of overwhelm was with multiple stiff drinks throughout every evening.

On the second morning after my drinking binge, I understood that I needed help. My health depended on me to stop drinking.  So, I did what I had to do, I reached out to my friend Joseph and I started going to meetings as much as possible. It was a few weeks before I understood that I was an alcoholic. Initially, I told myself that as soon as I learned to navigate anxiety, I would be able to drink without being excessive. But today, I know better. I am an alcoholic.

While drinking never got in the way of my actual work or functioning, it did impact my life. As the years wore on, I couldn’t quiet my mind at the end of a tough evening unless I downed a few shots. And whenever I was away at a training or retreat, I was one of the people that drank all night long and into the early morning hours. I did this because I didn’t have to be any place until morning. I loved the sweetness of those nights.

Today I am doing the work I need to do. I am sober with the help of AA and all it offers.  Plus I am surrounded by loved ones who are holding space for me to show up as myself. And through it all, I am learning that I don’t have to hide behind a mask, I can be me with all my intensity and rawness.

Onward with love, light, & blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Living Out Loud: A Thriver’s Journey. If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, AND if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space
between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
― Maya Angelou

Music was a huge blessing to me as I sought reprieve from the nightmares of my childhood. It gave sweet moments to get lost in my own cocoon and to momentarily hide from the explosions that threatened life as I knew it.

drumming with dogI nearly always had music playing; I could never get enough. And because my father was in the record business, he introduced me to all the popular music, hot musicians, and and all the records, cassettes, and eight tracks I could possibly want to hear.

 

Even as I left home in my late teens, my love of music never left me. Once I reached my middle to late 30s, I added drumming and chanting to my sweet repertoire of music. 

This new love affair came at the perfect time. It was during my late 30s that the pain of my childhood came roaring back to me when I was recovering  some long forgotten memories. The new wave of despair could only be quieted when I was chanting or drumming.

The good news is that now that I am just entering my mid-fifties, I have found a new rhythm to navigate my traumatic childhood and I still love music! Music will always be my refuge during the hard times and fuel for healthy living too.

What music inspires you on your darkest days? I am always looking for new musical inspiration.

Onward with love, light, and blessings,
Chava

PS: Thanks for reading what will likely be part of my memoir which at this point is being called, Thriving: No Option. . . . If you like what you are reading, please take a moment and like it on WordPress or any social media site, And if you have feedback, I’d love to hear it.

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“You are more powerful than you know;
you 
are beautiful just as you are.”
~ Melissa Etheridge

Reflection Time Selfie

Growing up, I was often referred to as fat or retarded. The insults were absolutely soul crushing; my spirit was a punching bag that was beaten down at home by my own mother and sometimes by the neighborhood kids. For the first third of my life, my self-esteem was quite literally pulverized.

Over the next third of my life, I learned to accept who I was and to trust the journey that I was living.  I made a choice to thrive and to accept where I was standing. I never wanted to look in the mirror, get on a scale, or have my picture taken.  I didn’t really believe in myself, but I learned to reach out of myself and make better choices. I pushed myself academically and physically; I made and kept amazing friends.  During this time, I faced life and death at regular intervals. I absorbed  tremendous loss while also getting a glimpse into the person I was capable of being. I grew up a lot, had two beautiful sons, and started to find my voice.

The last third of my life, to date, has been profound. I have recovered horrid memories, loved and lost, found my voice, and discovered my many hopes and dreams. (A bucket list is being created as I type.) I have embraced change and accepted the woman I am. And at every turn, I have grown to love who I am and to see the many truths that make up who I am today. I have made tremendous mistakes, faced some deep sadness, experienced ecstatic joy and daily contentment.

With each breath, I am becoming the best me that I can be. I have chosen to live life fully, to reach for my dreams, and to honor the beautiful person that I am. Most importantly, I have accepted that I am a work in progress and that is ok.

On most days, I can look at myself in the mirror and I don’t cringe when I see myself in a photograph. And on better days, I may even love a photo with me in it. Dark days are few and far between. My family of choice reminds me that I am loved while my children, my brother, and my sister-in-law treasure me for the person I am. I am loved. And some people even see me as beautiful. As for me, I am mostly content with the person I am in this moment. I love writing, chanting, drumming, and pushing myself to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Approaching my 50th birthday is profoundly freeing. I am willing to reach for what I want knowing that my best laid plans may evolve as I do the work. In front of me is a door that is wide open and waiting for me to step across the threshold. I am both afraid and excited to be taking this trek. I no longer fear being alone, but I’d welcome true love again. Mostly, I am striving to take care of myself, honor who I am, and to make a difference in the both my community and my world. I want to have a positive impact as a mother, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a writer and an activist.

In preparation for my 50th birthday this coming February, I am choosing to share my journey towards living more fully.  My guess is that I may have moments of stumbling with this format and the process, but in the end I will land on my two feet – I always do.

I feel blessed. Every moment I have lived has helped to create my foundation as a woman and human being. Today there are many doors wide open and paths calling my name. With a full heart,I am embracing journey towards 50 years old and beyond.

In closing, I want to share a prayer written by Alden Solovy that resonated deeply and helped me prepare to openly journal my journey towards 50.

Regarding Old Wounds
Daughter of man,
Son of woman,
Children of compassion and sacred secrets:
Your wounds are deep,
Your losses crushing,
Knife on flesh,
Hammer on bone,
Burning your heart and searing your eyes.
Why do you invite them back
To chastise your days
And torture your nights?
Why do you love these old wounds,
Holding them so dear?

Son of celebration,
Daughter of ecstasy:
Cast off your doubts,
Banish your fears,
Exile the pain of time beyond your reach.
There is beauty in your past,
Wonder in your future,
And holiness in each new moment of life.

Come you children of G-d,
You witnesses of suffering and grace,
Lift your heads from your hands,
Raise your voices in song,
Lift your lives in service,
And rekindle the light of compassion and love.
Then, your lives will become a blessing,
A well of hope,
A river of consolation,
A fountain of peace.

Blessed are You, G-d of forgiveness,
You renew our lives with purpose.

© 2010 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.

Thanks for walking through the door way with me. . . . .the best is yet to come. 🙂

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July 24

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was falling in love with myself.  For the first time in my life, I have come to accept where I am, my own unique beauty, and the many realities that are me.  There is no man telling me that I am beautiful; there is no job that affirms my self-worth; and, I am a human being with deep loss and a violent past that has made me who I am today.  I am a mother, a sister, a friend, and lover of life; I am a woman.  And through it all, I have grown to deeply love who I am and how I walk in the world.

My entire childhood was surrounded by the barrage of angry words and mannerisms that showed me of my unworthiness.  One of my first memories was when my own mother tore my pajamas off and beat me.  She was the one to tell me that I was fat and ugly; she was also the person who believed that I was ‘retarded’ and limited in every way.  While I had a loving brother and a loving father, they never could make up for the damage that penetrated my earliest days.  And yet, knowing that I was loved was still a blessing.

Protection rarely came as I prayed and hoped it would, but it did come.  As a young girl, I was sexually abused at the hands of a neighbor and then raped by a man that was supposed to protect me from my family.  He didn’t.  Violating a child at any age can rip her spirit and shred it into nothing more than confetti.  And yet, even with those realities, I found my footing with an amazing therapist, a loving brother, and a strong inner core.

I grew up; I am still growing up.

A white picket fence has never been part of my life.   That doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience a loving family as an adult or many precious experiences throughout my life.  I am truly fortunate.

My body has been both my protection and my tormentor.  It has kept me safe even as it has suffered pain and defeat.  Each scar is very real.  While I have birthed one amazing baby (who is now 21 years old), I have lost at least 9 pregnancies by treating each as a toxic impurity that needed to be destroyed.  Thanks to the universe, one child survived.  A C-section, a hysterectomy, many laparoscopic procedures, exploratory surgery with a resulting appendectomy are part of my many physical scars.  And then there are the scars that no one will ever see, unless I choose to share.  Yet my body did protect me.

Chava with her first fruits

Chava with her first fruits

My heart beats strong; it has supported me at every turn.  My heart allowed me to run non-stop as a teenager and young woman; by running I was able to leave the world of drugs and stupidity behind me.  Each and every heartache could have destroyed me, but my writing kept me alive and gave me the room to sort out my pain and heal.  The strength has always come from my heart and allowed me to soar as a human being.

In spite of some of my challenging experiences, the parts of me that were once full of pain have become filled with beauty.  When I was a little girl, my mother chopped my beautiful hair off (perhaps for a reason, but I don’t recall).  Over the years, my hair has become a part of me that I have grown to love.  The texture, the curls, the wildness are all part of what I have grown to see as quite stunning. My body has received emotional and physical beatings at every stage of its life until now; today, I have come to not only accept all of my parts, but to see how precious and lovely they are.  And finally, I do not see myself as brilliant, I used to hate that I couldn’t figure things out like other people.  I wanted to have a mind that could do whatever I needed to do, but today I have learned to ask for help and to figure out that which I can.  In fact last night, I learned how to add a Hebrew keyboard to my iPhone.  I know that seems like small potatoes to some of you, but to me it was huge.  There is nothing about me that is retarded, there are things I can do well and things that I have not yet mastered. The very facets of my life that had once caused me pain have actually become what has helped me find my inner and outer beauty.

Over the years, I have learned to treasure who I am.  My writing has allowed me to touch people in positive ways and to make an impact for good.  My dreams to positively affect people are coming true over time; I have people in my life that I value and that value me.  And today, my dream of growing my non-profit called My Second Foundation for adult thrivers of childhood trauma is starting to take shape.

I am finding my inner and outer beauty.  Today, I look at some photos (mostly selfies) and see a beautiful woman.  I am a little stunned that I can see myself as beautiful.   I no longer cringe when I see all the photos of me.

While I would love to have a career that will financially sustain me as well as give me the opportunity to be fully me, I am strongly aware that my job doesn’t necessarily define who I am.  Today, I help people in ways that I never knew I could.  As a care-giver, I help people at the most challenging time in their lives as they are aging and sometimes losing their mental abilities; I do make an impact for good.  This is not what I ever planned to do, but it is a blessing that I can be where I am today.  And today, I have been given windows of opportunities to do things that allow me a greater understanding of me and what I hope to one day accomplish.  I am not bound or limited by the expectations I once had.  In fact, I know that when I take a new position in Jewish education, non-profit work, or in something I have yet to see coming my way – the decision will allow me to be impactful and to touch lives professionally or as an activist.

 

Doors have never been closed to me; they are and have always been wide open.  I just have to be aware of the opening and to decide which side of the door I should stand or whether standing in the doorway is exactly what I need.

I love being loved, healthy relationships, and feeling beautiful in another person’s eyes.  AND I know that while I treasure that, I don’t need someone else in order to see each and every square inch of me as loveable, precious and worthy.  (OK, I’d love to lose my double-chin and it is time for me to deal with the excess arm fat, but neither of those things makes me cringe.)  My body, all of my body puts a huge smile on my face because all of it is part of who I am.  I feel blessed to have the ability to care for myself and to work on whatever parts of my body I want to.  While I want to have a man to hold and treasure me for who I am, I don’t need another person to label me in order for me to have self-worth.

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

Yoga gives me many of the tools I need to create a stronger and healthier yesod (foundation).

My vulnerabilities are also part of who I am.  I am far from perfect.  My writing gives me the space to develop my ideas and share the real me.  I look forward to the time when I can financially and physically return to a regular schedule of yoga with a class that is safe for me to grow physically and spiritually. I’d like to lead a chant group or another spiritual group so that I can share all the tools that have made me who I am today; I am deeply introverted even if people see me as an extrovert.  I struggle with the fear that I won’t be articulate or that I will be laughed at for my spoken words.  As a young girl, I needed 9 years of speech therapy in order to be fully understood.  Whether I like it or not, that is still part of who I am.  My voice matters and I love sharing who I am through my voice – written or spoken.  I hope that I always continue work on myself and be the best that I can be.

I am who I am because of the many parts of my life that made me that way.  Today, I have a beloved family consisting of my sons, my brother and his family, and friends that love me for who I am and who I also love.  I am beginning to realize that I don’t have to be anything less than what I am with each of the individuals that I call my family.  There are also other people in my life that have taught me valuable lessons at every step, not all are friends; but each person has impacted me deeply.  I am blessed.  The people around me are a reflection of exquisiteness that can be found within my essence; perhaps I have grown to be as charismatic as those I adore for who they are.

I am emerging as a butterfly after feeling surrounded by a loving cocoon called life.  I am thoroughly beautiful, inside and out.

Arms spread

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