I am trying to sort out my experiences and thoughts to better understand how to move forward and not stay stuck in the past.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


We had a Wellness In-service day, today, (no school for the students because of elections) and it was wonderful!  There were three Keynote speakers and then we had the option of going to a morning session of our choice and an afternoon session.  The first speaker was a nutritionist. She had so much information.  Like, you have 75 trillion cells in your body and what you eat determines how effectively they work for you.  You should only have 50 grams of sugar a day.  She broke the information down into everyday language. She said a lot of the same information that I've heard before, but the way she personalized it made it finally hit home.  She started by talking about how snacking has become like a fourth meal and then listed all of the ways we incorporate snacks into our day as well as our kids' days.  She talked about how many chemicals are in our foods.  And that one by itself may not be harmful, but no one has done a study on how all of the additives and chemicals react with each other.

She said that the four bad ingredients are: sugar, chemicals, fat (the bad kind) and salt.

She said that there are two kinds of eating that get you into trouble: head eating and heart eating.  Head eating involves stress, being busy, being late, situations like that  when you just start nibbling at something even though you're not hungry.  Heart eating is like emotional eating, you're sad, upset, frustrated, and eat to comfort yourself.  She suggested not keeping a food journal, but an emotional journal instead:  Why are you eating when you're eating?

She explained that the reason you can eat a whole dish of brownies is because sugar does two things to your brain.  First it increases endorphins (makes you feel good) and second, since there is no real nutrition in candy and pastries, your brain tells you to eat more to get that nutrition and so you eat more of the sweet stuff. 

She advised to look for nutrition dense snacks like eating Fritos instead of Doritos. Also that protein and good fats (avocados, nuts) make you feel full.  Her ten favorite snacks are: hummus, popcorn (popping it the old fashioned way on the stove with a little healthy oil in a pan and then drizzling it with real butter), almond butter, salsa, nuts, yogurt-plain with cocoa powder and Stevia added if you need to sweeten it, fruits, veggies, protein bars-those with the nuts sticking in them, and a few cubes of cheese.

The other speaker I liked talked about Reflexology.  It deals with the feet and how, according to her, the feet mimic the body and by manipulating and massaging the feet you can heal the body.  She used to work in the oncology department of local hospital and now has her own practice. She was amazing. I'm making an appointment! :)

Then a few of us walked the track.  It was a great day.  I feel so renewed.  I really needed this!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Triggers and Excuses

I was talking to my daughter. Most of the time when we talk about alcohol and that whole bundle, she gets defensive and angry. The talks don't usually go well and that has been a concern for me; her not being comfortable with confronting the problem, I think, helps to keep her anchored there.  Anyway, this time was different, though I kept my antennae up looking out for those first signs of annoyance on her part. I didn't want this talk to blow up, so I was prepared.  I gingerly prodded her with questions.  Some for my benefit (my persistence to try and understand the mind of an addict) but most for her's--trying to have her see the 'enemy's' deceptions.  We talked about her triggers.  Her two big ones are her ex-boyfriend and her dad.  It's like a family tree. Those two are the first and then from them, others branch out, until everything starts looking like it could be a trigger. 

Trigger.  I use that word a lot at work.  Since I work with students with emotional disturbance, I need to know their triggers, too.  I didn't really think about the word, though, until after we were done talking. 

Triggers on a gun are benign until you pull them.  Once pulled, there is no stopping that bullet.  My daughter is like that bullet.  Once her trigger is pulled, she moves straight toward her target--alcohol, well, maybe the real target is numbness.  Regardless, she hits the bull's eye every time.  She has become a very good shot.

Talking to her, about the triggers, I asked her why she can't have some kind of arsenal of backups to prevent her from pulling the trigger.  Being aware of the trigger is one thing, pulling it is another.  (She has admitted to going onto Facebook and checking on what the ex boyfriend is doing.  'Why!?' is always my response.  "I don't know," is her's.  She knows. I think she is hoping to see a big:  "I want you back" sign addressed to her.  Instead, she sees his new girlfriend.  Bang.

So, then, if someone isn't going to look for reasons to not pull that trigger, is the trigger now, not a trigger but an excuse?  I asked her this.  She didn't answer me, but I know she was thinking about it.

During our conversation, I listened.  In the past I would jump in, in my panicked way, trying to shake her with words.  Not this time.  This time I really listened and I didn't have to try.  A few weeks ago, when I started to think differently, I found that listening to her was easier for me.  The benefit of listening was to be able to counter her reasoning, but do it in a non-threatening way. She has a very analytical mind.  Mine is geared toward the arts, hers toward the sciences.  My rationale is that if I can word things in such a way that make sense to her, maybe she can begin to see things as they are and not as her sick thinking has distorted things. Did it work?  I don't know.  The conversation was calm, though and the triggers and excuses seem to be locked away, for now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Causalities of Addiction

I was at work, yesterday, walking back from the library.  It was a prep for me, so my students were in other classes.  The halls were quiet, muffled talking vibrated from behind the closed doors I passed. I like that part of school, being a silent observer of the pockets of learning.  I like watching the kids get excited about something new or finally understanding that elusive idea. School is fun.  That's when I had my own epiphany, right there in the hallway.  It was like an invisible magician pulled a black scarf off of me and ta-da, I saw myself clearly for a few seconds; I had that clarity of thinking moment. The thought:  I have a good life.  Yes, I have worries. I could use more money. My weight isn't where I want it yet, but in general, I have a good life. A terrific son who is successful. A beautiful daughter. I have great friends. A good job.  Wonderful opportunities have come to me. I work with amazing people.  In addition to my day job, I'm an adjunct professor at a local university. I love working in the garden and writing. I enjoy taking black and white photographs. My dogs bring me joy. I've worked hard and it's paid off.   But I don't normally acknowledge that.  I have been so wrapped up in my daughter's life, I lost track of my own.  I have been living my life in the shadows, trying to find and reclaim my daughter's life with her. My life has been a causality of addiction.

As I walked down the hallway, I saw in my mind's eye, myself as a shadow, moving quickly and purposefully through my daily routine; no color, no taste, no fragrance, just movement.  I realized that I have been viewing my life in black and white, like the first scenes of The Wizard of Oz.  In the hallway, I landed and stepped out into a colorful Munchkin Land. 

The brain is amazing in how it works. As I walked, all of the causalities of my daughter's addiction popped out in my mind, like the Munchkins meeting Dorothy:  Being present in my son's life, my daughter's friendships, her self-worth, her hard work, her planned future, my thinking, all of those hopes and happiness.  Addiction has been looking in it's crystal ball and scenting us with poppies so that we have been living in an exhaustive, gray fog.

I need to find my way 'home,' and I want my family to follow me.  That's what I want.  Once we're home, we can all go to our separate futures, but I want us home and safe in our own beds, again.  I want to wake up and see the life we were living, before this tornado hit.  That's what I want.  I want it all to have been a bad dream. 

But I know it's not.  So, like everything, the hard work is waiting.  We are shifting to a new level of understanding.  I do have hope and am seeing my daughter working to change.  I'm stepping back, but we're moving forward. Today is a new day. It will be good. I will stay focused. I am determined to continue changing  my thinking, though, I wouldn't turn down some ruby slippers and a bucket of water if they were offered.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Do You Heal?

I liked who I was growing up.  I was shy, but other than that, I had good friends, a good attitude about who I was; I had a great childhood.  I moved through life easily.  I remember thinking that (and being grateful that) my life was easy.  We weren't rich. My dad could be strict, but I loved my childhood. Innocent, fun, and adventurous.

I started losing myself when I got married.  I thought I was marrying the last nice guy.  I made excuses for his anger, "He had a bad day."  I felt uncomfortable about how he talked to his mother, but she wasn't very sincere, so I thought maybe he had a good reason.  Little doubts and questions were quickly brushed over because I didn't have the experience to see it as anything else.  To make some very long 18 years, short, he ended up being very emotionally abusive (his dad and brother were alcoholics--a totally alien experience to me--his mother was an enabler--a what?).  And physically abusive on occasion (though he always had a reason to rationalize his behavior choices).  So, not knowing or understanding the ramifications of a family like that, I just concentrated on my children and overlooked a lot.  I shouldn't have done that. He was not a nice person. But, not knowing what to do I did what I knew.

All people have a breaking point, regardless of how patient and understanding.  My breaking point was slow, but consistent.  I started paying more attention to those mental red flags.  One straw after another (it would take a book to write about all of it) piled up until that final last one.  I filed for divorce.  That two year process was very stressful.  I was working full time, going to graduate school during the evenings and raising my two children. He was not nice during that time.  (No surprise, there).  Anyway, I signed the divorce papers on a Friday evening and the next day, graduated.  My children were there to watch me receive my diploma.  I was graduating from more than school.  It was a good day. 

It has been 11 years since I signed those papers and I'm still stepping out of that mindset that I can do whatever I want whenever I want.  Make a decision about the house, my life, my future.  It's such a process.  I don't think I can explain it clearly enough.  During the years in marriage, I tried to hold onto my situation mentally, because I was, "so bound by my commitment."  He travelled a lot during the marriage which is what kept us together.  When he came home, I thought things would be different, but no, things never changed.  After the divorce, close friends were able to help me see how much I put up with.   They did comment on things before the divorce, but I must have found comfort in the excuses, because it didn't motivate me to leave. 

During that time is when my daughter developed the eating disorder.  I didn't comprehend it, so my mind fell back to dealing with situations I understood.  That prevented me from getting my daughter the help she needed.  I still blame myself.  She was young, not too engulfed in the disorder, maybe my quicker action could have prevented all of this.  I struggle with that.  Now, embedded in my mind are the memories of what the drinking has done.  I still, if I allow myself to think about it, get physically ill.  I am grateful that no one was hurt. I'm grateful that the situations she put herself in because of the drinking, miraculously were turned around so that nothing too serious came of it (death or jail).  That always made me think that her future was still waiting for her.  Someone stronger than me was looking out for her.

I am stuck, though, in those fears.  I want her to move on and have a good life, but each time I think about that for her, those horrible memories seep up in my brain and I get mentally paralysed. The, "What ifs" arise and my mind runs with them.  I find my mind and thinking returning to the kind of thinking I had during the divorce. I do only what I absolutely need to do: get up, go to work, pretend all is well, only to come home and fall asleep.  We go to the gym, not as frequently as I should, I admit.  I try to get things done around the house, but I find that process well, a huge process.  The basics get done, but not the big stuff.  I want to move, but need to clean some things out, and that doesn't happen quickly because I'm so exhausted when I get home.  So, my question is, how do you heal?  I've talked to people, read until I'm cross-eyed, prayed, stayed quiet, and all I seem to be doing is trying to drown out the memories that are taunting me below the surface of my thinking.  How do you put those memories to rest so that you can move on to create new memories?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Different View

Things are different here.  I don't usually like using the word 'things' (too vague) but it applies, here.  Things are different.  I can't put my finger on any one event or item, but the over-all feeling here is different.  It started a little over two weeks ago.  We have been looking for another dog.  A miniature pinscher.  My daughter has wanted one for a long time-years.  She was casually looking for one, but they are expensive and hard to find in the newspaper ads or even pet stores, plus they are usually very expensive. We have two dogs already, a doberman/lab mix and a beagle mix. Both rescued. Both very sweet and gentle dogs. So, two weeks ago, it was a Sunday and I was going to go get a paper.  My daughter went online and amazingly found a miniature pinscher.  She called. He and a female had just been brought into a shelter about an hour away from us.  The female had been adopted. It was a beautiful day, so we took the trip to meet him.  On the way, I told my daughter, who had been sober for a while, that she needed to stay sober and work at it because if she got the dog, it would be her responsibility.  Also, I had that second doctor's appointment and asked her to go with me because I was a little nervous that something might be wrong.  "Yes, yes," to all of this.  We meet the dog. Make plans to bring our other two up for a meet and greet on Monday and to make a long story short, everyone got along, and we adopted, Dexter.  I came home on Tuesday and that feeling started in my stomach.  (Truthfully, even before I came home, I started feeling something, but brushed it away because she finally had the dog she'd been wanting for so many years).  But, yes, I was dumbfounded that she had bought alcohol!  She went upstairs at one point and  I found it.  I left it where I found it, went upstairs, saw that she was sleeping and closed the door.

When I closed the door, something else closed in me.  She had her dog and knew about the doctor's appointment, but she still bought alcohol.  The week passed and I never went into her room.  Never checked on her. I usually do that, afraid I'm going to find her dead.  But that week it was as if she wasn't here.  I was sitting in the yard while the dogs ran around thinking and it truly was like a light bulb flashed on.  My daughter is always saying that she isn't happy. She just isn't happy.  We've talked in the past about how happiness is how you view life and it does require work at times.  Sitting there, watching the dogs play, it hit me, it's not that she isn't or can't be happy, she doesn't want to be happy.  Everything about her life has the ingredients of happiness, yet for some reason, she chooses not to be happy.  Self sabotages, even.

That Friday, she came downstairs and said that she wanted to talk (a first).  She talked and I listened. She said how she's tired of living like this (heard it before). She apologized for not going to the doctors with me (a first). She apologized for breaking her word about the new dog (a first).  When she was finished, I told her what I realized about her happiness.  She didn't comment (a first).  Then I asked her when her last drink was.  She had said about 14 hours ago (a first, stopping on her own).  I asked if she had anymore alcohol left, she said about 1/3 of a bottle.  I said, 'Well if you are serious about stopping drinking, you'll dump out the rest and begin new, now.  She just sat there for a minute and I got up and left the room.  I heard her go upstairs and come back down.  She handed me the bottle.  I said, "I'm not dumping it, you need to do this."  It was like she was detaching an appendage.  She stood there for a minute and as she walked into the kitchen, it looked as though it was physically straining to walk with that bottle, open it and empty the remaining poison in the sink (a first).  She took a deep breath when it was over. 

So, things are different, now. I don't know if I'm more accepting, have given up, more hopeful, have 'detached' in some way,  I don't know the feeling, I just feel different, which means I have acted different, and 'things' are different.  I feel 'lighter' which is a nice change from feeling like I'm enveloped in a black web that I can't break free from. 

We are doing okay, now.  So far so good.  She has said she wants to go back to church.  So, maybe my pulling away has brought her closer to wanting a better life for herself.  I don't know. I just know that the difference here feels clean and is starting to look a little brighter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Divine Intervention

A tragic accident happened at work on Tuesday.  During fourth grade lunch, a huge pipe that runs across the length of the cafeteria ceiling fell. Two teachers (one, a friend of mine) and seven students were hurt. All were taken to the hospital, all had been under a section that fell, all but three were treated and released. Three students stayed over night with more serious injuries, but are expected to recover.  It happened in seconds. No warning sounds, no dripping water. My friend was standing there, and all of a sudden she was on the floor yelling to get out of the room.  The cafeteria workers, other teachers in the area, nurses, and custodians were the heroes. Everyone pitched in.  I work with an amazing group of people. Humble heroes.  The cafeteria looked like a scene from a movie. Water from the broken pipes was flooding the floor, tables were cracked an broken, children were stunned and wet. Blood was swirling in the water and smeared on the tables.

Yesterday, we had to report to the middle school.  Students had an early start to spring break and were off.  As a staff, the principals reviewed and debriefed us.  It was good to get all of the stories together and form a clear picture.  The incident was bad, but it could have been much worse.  We are on a five day rotation schedule. Tuesday was day two which meant a large section of the students were going to be outside at recess, playing. The teacher in charge of that was not there, however, for whatever reason, another teacher walked into the cafeteria and said that he would take them out, so they went outside; and the weather was beautiful contrary to the damp, cooler weather we have been experiencing. The pipe had fallen across that entire area, that fortunately, no children were sitting.  At another major collapse, a student had just thrown up at the table, and so the other students moved.  Again, no students but the table had be cracked by the falling pipe. There were several other stories of how someone had made a different decision which moved them into a position that made them either safe or nearer to help.

If this was the day and hour and minute for that pipe to break, I believe, after hearing all of the stories, that Divine Intervention prevented a more serious tragedy.  God in is the public schools, even if He isn't invited.  He is watching over.  Schools are a safe place, with an established, comfortable routine. That incident, though, is a reminder that tragedy can happen anytime, anywhere. So, the other lesson: Don't take life for granted.  Appreciate each day and use it to the fullest; at the very least increase your appreciation and decrease your criticisms. 

Life is a gift. During this Easter/Passover season what a poignant reminder of how precious life is.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Choosing the Ride

I'm trying to think more positively. It's hard. Always, something negative tends to sneak in and slowly that positive, bright thinking becomes gray and weighted down until, my new thinking becomes my old thinking and I'm right back to where I started.  So, I try, again.  It's like being on a mental Ferris Wheel.  I get on in the morning, I am thinking positive, my mind and attitude start to rise, I'm at the top, feeling like this is going to work, something happens, then something else, and pretty soon,  I find myself back circling around and then pulling into the platform I stood on in the morning--back to square one.  

I was thinking a lot about this waiting for the new blood work. I do think attitude is important. I do think thoughts (and words) are very powerful.  So, I don't want to drag my thinking down, I really am trying to keep the faith and know good is around me.  For some reason, I started thinking about the German class I had taken in high school.  I had four years of German.  It was very structured. I always envied the Spanish and French classes.  Someone was always dressed up or eating something good.  We did none of that.  The closest we came as a class to something fun was on Friday, we would have conversational German and have dialogues with a partner.  That was in junior high. I had a woman teacher and she was all business. I don't remember seeing her smile--ever.  In high school, we had  Herr Miller.  He was thin and wiry with blonde hair and glasses that were too big for his face.  He was always happy.  He smiled a lot and never seemed to sit still.   He let us have Christmas parties that consisted of pop and listening to German beer drinking songs (yes, this was a public high school--much simpler times).  He was a very kind person. The rule in the class was that you always had to speak German. I don't remember why, but he gave us nick names. I don't remember any but the one he gave a friend of mine. Her name was Carol, but for some reason he called her Die Carol.  Die (pronounced like the letter 'D')  is the feminine form of 'the' in German.  So, of course, we all called her that. It was an inside joke.  For Christmas, I decided to get her a T-shirt made that said 'Die Carol'.  At the mall there was a booth that would make custom T-Shirts.  I was with a friend and asked the kid there to print 'Die Carol' on the shirt.  He looked at me kind of funny, but laid out the words on the shirt.  He turned for my approval, I smiled and said yes.  He printed the shirt.  When he handed it to me, he said,  "Why do you want to put 'Die carol' on a shirt. Don't you like her?"   "Die Carol?  What was he talking about?  This said, "Die Carol...it was German."   And then I saw what he saw.  I remember I started to laugh and become almost apologetic.  "No, no, it's German. Kind of a joke-nick name kind of thing. It means The Carol.'  He slowly nodded his head.  I took the shirt and left.

I was seeing things in German.  He was seeing things in English. Our own perceptions blocked out the other's view.  The same word, different meaning and pronunciation. From the foundation of my thinking, I only saw one view, one alternative.  From the T-shirt guy's view, he only saw one solution, one definition.  My view was as a friend.  He saw me as an enemy.  That was a powerful lesson.
More powerful, though, was how I didn't see the word as anything but the German version.  I was that focused.  So, using that memory and focus, I'm going to try, again, today to remain postive, regardless of what might happen (see, already I'm preparing for the worst).  But, today is going to be different.  I am choosing not to ride the Ferris Wheel.  Instead, I'm going for the roller coaster.  A little faster, a few ups and downs, but I always end up with a smile and a thrill of being alive.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Scare

I had a health scare.  So, added on to my job, my daughter, and all of the other little stresses, came this 'threat.'  It knocked my brain into the Numb Zone.  I functioned, but didn't really 'feel' or experience anything because in the back of my mind was, "This is it." 

I am rarely sick. I've never had anything wrong with me. The only times I've been in the hospital were to have my children. I don't take medication (except for ibuprofen for my knee), don't drink, smoke, I eat healthy, and yet the blood work I had taken in February said that there may be something wrong. The doctor called (yikes) and asked me to have the blood work redone in four weeks. So, I clipped that worry onto the invisible chain attached to my ankle and dragged it around with me.  I retook the test the morning of my birthday. Last Thursday, I went to see the doctor. Of course, the new blood work I had taken never arrived at the office. I assured her I had it taken, they made some calls, and it was faxed over.

Good news, I'm back to normal.  Whatever the reason, a virus, stress, who knows, the counts settled down, and I'm okay.  It has taken me the weekend to 'recover.'   My brain is fully working, again. I can  now focus all of my worries on something else! :)    Honestly, though, I am so tired of being afraid.