A little history not repeating

This post is long overdue.

It has been sitting on the backburner of my mind for a while.

I was put on performance review at work because of my actions within two months of starting my new job.

There is a restriction on cell phone use at work because of the nature of the information we have access to. I disregarded the rule on a pretty frequent basis and got busted repeatedly.

I also tried really hard to control who my team lead was going to be once I was put under review because I wanted to be evaluated fairly.

I made other mistakes which required asking for guidance and approval in specific cases and did neither.

Not a series of actions I am proud of.

In typical fashion, my body spoke my mind and a host of not so mysterious ailments started appearing such as sinus headaches from irritation, insomnia which speaks to fear, guilt and not trusting the process of life, migraines from a dislike of being driven and resisting the flow of life according to Louise Hay. I started calling in sick and not showing up to work which is yet another pattern that has operated in the past.

When I was 22 years old, I was put under performance review when I arrived at my unit after graduation because of a series of actions and trouble I got into in my last year after I was sexually assaulted at military college. These actions were a normal response to the trauma I had experienced and had to pack into a box and shove deep down.

I naively believed the words of my commanding officer that I would be evaluated fairly despite my past actions. I busted my ass for a year and was denied a promotion that came automatically because I was doing work above my rank due to operational requirements. I had therefore not been evaluated doing work at my rank level and they wanted to extend the period of my evaluation.

Perception is everything and I was in a time in the military when officers ate their young. I was also in a big boys club, where a woman had to be twice as good as a man to be considered half as much. I went into a massive depression, which is anger turned inwards, and was released medically a year afterwards.

I did not have the tools at 22 years old to deal with any of it. All of a sudden my past came flying into my present when I was put under performance review at work. I no longer knew what was real and what was the past. I transposed a situation from the past into my present and operated from that place. That is post traumatic stress disorder.

I went on short term disability when I contracted Covid and was down with the virus for three weeks. I white knuckled my way back to work and lasted maybe a week and a half before I went on short term disability once again.

This time I did things differently and asked for help.

I sought the help of a counsellor through my employee assistance program, leaned into my sponsor in my 12 step program and reached out to a friend who is a life coach.

I was wallowing in victim mode. Knowing full well a pattern was repeating in my work place yet again and feeling powerless to stop it.

I worked on grieving with my EAP counsellor. A lot of people get stuck between anger and depression in the five stages of grief.

I grieved the parents I have. I grieved what I thought my life would look like and came to acceptance of what is. I grieved for the little girl who had to grow up too fast in my family and who lived through actions no child should ever be exposed to. That is a truck load of grief.

I processed my anger, rage and sadness at my parents with my sponsor.

My life coach friend reminded me of what I already knew deep down but had lost sight of in my pain. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees when you’re lost in the woods. We did an inventory of work experiences and pulled out the common threads.

In recovery this is called a step four. I did a step five with her by sharing my findings with her.

They boiled down to patterns from my family of origin: over giving, over achieving, insufficient support, a problem with authority, any kind of feedback is taken personally, a lack of boundaries, not trusting myself, trying to control through being defensive and fighting.

I am to seek guidance when I need support. To trust myself because once I do, I will trust others more easily. To surrender versus trying to control.

My personal boundaries at work are to not gossip, that my personal life stays private, to stay positive and to reframe from the negative to the positive on a consistent basis.

I have an affirmation I use when I need to: I am learning, I am well, I’ve got this.

My return to work has gone better than I had hoped.

I am being given a fresh start. I am being retrained which is a gift because I am absorbing more the second time around. I wake up excited to learn and have fun with the people I work with.

It is nothing short of a miracle.

I am grateful that I learned a long time ago to ask for help. I bring courage to the work that needs to be done to unpack my past, process the feelings and grow. It is not for the faint of heart.

I am proud of myself for creating an experience at work where I get to show up fully, make a difference and be happy.

It is a first in my life.

Alone but not lonely

A guy I dated briefly from my past popped up out of nowhere this weekend.

Having gone through the wringer a year ago with the exact same situation, I was cautious to say the very least.

It’s funny how the Universe sends us people to deliver lessons isn’t it?

I waited a full 12 hours to answer his text. One of my first questions was what had prompted him to message me after four years.

He said he had come across my profile on Facebook and wanted to see how I was doing.

He suggested getting together for a drink, to which I replied I no longer drink. He then suggested we go for a walk.

I told him that men from my past stay in my past.

I am no longer the person I was four years ago. The work I do in recovery along with my own insatiable desire to learn and love of personal development work ensure that is no longer the case.

He proceeded to tell me he wasn’t looking for anything serious but instead wanted to enjoy life with someone he knows. To have fun instead of always being alone.

I said if I were to let someone in, it would be serious and because I saw potential.

Can you see the mismatch? Not two people who are on the same page whatsoever. However, his comment stuck, at least the latter part of it did.

It stuck because it resonated deeply.

I am tired of doing everything alone and would definitely like to do more with someone I know and have fun while doing it.

First aha moment.

The second was a harder lesson to learn.

He disappeared mid conversation on more than one occasion via text. I cannot stand that behavior. Manage expectations and communicate.

As my bestie said: “If you were standing across from me engaged in conversation with me and had to leave, I would expect you to have some common courtesy and express that.”

I guess it’s not a given in the world of communication via text for everyone.

Marc is 13 years younger than me.

I let him in four years ago because in some respects he is an old soul. In others, not so much. In this instance, the age gap became apparent.

I believe people come into our lives for a reason, season or lifetime.

Marc came into my life for a reason. He was a soft place to land after I was fired from a job and publicly shamed in local newspapers. I was at fault and screwed up on a large scale.

We had fun skiing once and he was a nice distraction from the shame and humiliation I felt after that event. That was the extent of things.

After all, I am Natalie, a woman who keeps her cards close to her chest. A fortress on an island, surrounded by a moat and turrets. I don’t let just anyone in.

My gut tells me how far to let men in and just how much to unveil.

I don’t remember how much I revealed to Marc and it doesn’t really matter because it’s the past and what is done is done.

Fast forward to the weekend and after stating exactly what I was looking for and knowing we were not on the same page, I find myself compulsively checking my phone to see whether he’s responded.

By Sunday I was pissed. At him, but mostly at myself.

Because my bestie suggested that maybe both he and I had evolved in the four years since we had seen each other and to keep an open mind.

My friend and life coach suggested that life is better shared and what was wrong with hanging out and having fun with someone? I could not come up with a reason.

Marc explained that he isn’t within a foot of his phone at all times like I am.

Fair enough.

By then, the damage had been done. I am recovering from one of the worst cases of sinusitis I have had in a long time.

Sinus pain is related to frustration according to Louise Hay and boy was I frustrated.

It was no longer about Marc, I got frustrated at myself for laying down my need, waffling and being so needy that I expected someone to respond.

None of the above mentioned behaviors are wrong.

They are all normal. They are about asking for what I want, being open to input from others and changing my mind and expecting common courtesy and respect.

I realized I needed to give myself what I expected from Marc.

I needed to give myself attention and care instead of expecting someone else to.

That is exactly what I did today.

I nursed myself through the excruciating pain in my head.

I have a big brain and am hard on myself. Easy does it Natalie. No one is perfect, we are all learning and it is about progress not perfection.

This is one of the many reasons I am in recovery. To undo the harsh patterning I grew up in and then internalized.

What is truly uncanny is the timing of all of this.

A year ago today I was getting involved with another guy from my past, I fell hard for him and learned painful and necessary lessons.

I can say there definitely is progress here.

I am alone but I am not lonely. I have come to truly know myself and enjoy my own company. I want someone to make my life easier, not harder.

I’ll know when that person shows up.

Thanks Marc for the lessons, be well.

Love never dies

I attended a celebration of life for yet another classmate from military college yesterday.

I had not seen Mike since I was posted out west in Edmonton. We crossed paths while I lived in single quarters for six months.

He died at 47 years old leaving behind another classmate of mine, Holly and his beautiful 11 year old daughter Lilly.

I remember when Mike and Holly started dating in 1994 when both Mike and I transferred to the Royal Military College in Kingston. They were the cutest couple.

Holly spoke beautifully yesterday on their property in the country on the outskirts of Ottawa.

They were obviously soulmates. She described looking into his blue eyes and being lost and they both just knew. So very beautiful.

I got to learn about Mike’s life yesterday.

The celebration of life was a potluck because Mike loved food and poured his heart and soul into the dishes he made. He had over 500 cookbooks. Holly and Lilly went through them and put over one hundred aside to keep. Guests were encouraged to take a cookbook home.

I was on the fence as to whether to go in the morning.

I asked myself what would love do? The answer was easy. Go.

My love language is also food. I offered my cooking to Mike and poured my heart and soul into a beautiful orzo salad with fresh corn, cherry tomatoes, fried zucchini, feta cheese and basil from my garden. The salad was dressed with a home made vinaigrette. It was a work of love and art.

I had no way of letting Holly know I was coming. I texted a classmate who lived in the area asking if he was going. He said he would show up.

Holly recognized me right away.

It was a beautiful celebration of life. There was a table with the guest book, a copy of one of Mike’s favorite recipes for guests to take home with them along with some sheets of paper to write a memory for Holly and Lilly.

I dropped my salad off on the groaning table of food. The kitchen was manned by some very capable ladies.

I stood by the table with a clipboard in my hand trying to think of what to write.

As people arrived, I took people through the procedure. It was lovely to see people sitting and writing their notes.

Soon enough, classmates arrived. One of Mike’s roommates from recruit term showed up having driven in from Kingston. I had not seen Steve since we graduated in 1996 so I launched myself into his arms for a big hug.

My lovely friend Sébastien, who was also one of Mike’s roommates during recruit term showed up. More hugs.

One of the ladies who took charge of the kitchen had also gone to college with us and graduated after us came out with a basket for the cards guests were bringing. She checked on me and made sure I was drinking fluids. It was a scorcher of a day. Hot with a humidex in the thirties.

Another classmate of ours Kris showed up and soon there were four of us who had started and done five years together. More hugs. It was lovely to stand there catching up.

There is magic in the air with these people.

We look after each other and care. We are leaders. We do.

We went through hell and back together and had so much fun too.

As Holly took to the microphone and shared about Mike, we stood next to each other and listened.

I learned about Mike’s life. How he was a humble person. How he loved. How he did greats acts through food. I learned about Mike and Holly’s life together and about Lilly.

At one point, I looked around and saw the community of people who showed up. He was so loved.

I looked up to the sky and knew Mike was right there with us.

I stood rooted into their land barefoot listening, grounding in to the earth for strength and support. I heard a crow call out towards the end. Crow is a very powerful shamanic totem representing the birth point of creation, magic, an omen of change, strength, transformation and personal integrity. Seems fitting doesn’t it?

When things wrapped up I sat with a clipboard and a sheet of paper. Again, I was challenged with what to write until I brought myself to the present moment.

This is what I wrote:

Holly and Lilly,

Holly your words today were so beautiful. You and Mike were obviously soulmates.

I am so glad the community of support you have around you held you and saw you through all of this.

They will keep holding you and your beautiful daughter Lilly through the waves of grief that are sure to come. Keep reaching out.

Love through food always.

Mike will always be with you both.

I brought a vegetarian cookbook home with me. It’s a great cookbook, I have been sitting going through the recipes today feeling sad knowing I had to write this post.

Rest in peace Mike, you were one of the good ones.

A few good men

This is an overdue post that has been percolating for the past couple of months.

I went back to the Royal Military College in Kingston for my 26th reunion with my classmates at the beginning of June. We missed our 25th reunion because of the pandemic.

I went to my 20th reunion six years ago, it was the first time I had the courage to show up.

I attribute that courage to recovery and the work I’ve done on myself. Before then my life was too much of a mess to feel like I could show up.

I remember my former roommate bursting into tears when she saw me walk into the room. I gave her a big hug and told her I would have showed up earlier had I known how she felt.

That’s my disease. The itty bitty shitty committee that feeds me stories and lies and likes to keep me down. It likes to remind me I’m not worthy, that I’m broken and not enough. Those thoughts are what feed it and keep it alive.

It takes a lot of work on my part to rewire my brain. To remind myself that indeed I am more than worthy, what’s more important is that I always have been. Even before recovery and all the tremendous work I have done and keep doing on myself to be a better person.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Some of my classmates are generals now and drive luxury vehicles. I’m happy for them and their success. As a counsellor reminded me lately none of that matters. What matters most is the work of the heart. The hard earned peace I have in mine and the serenity that continues to grow the more I work my program.

Not everyone wakes up in life. Some do and choose not to do the work.

I am not one of those people.

I was reminded at my reunion of how great some of the guys I went to college with are. They give the best hugs and are truly happy to see me. It doesn’t feel like 26 years have passed and we pick up right where we left off.

I’ve gone to university and not felt the ties I have with these classmates.

We went through so much together, some of us were together for five years at college, others two when I transferred to the college in Kingston.

I organized a get together for dinner and breakfast while we were in Kingston. It was great to sit down and catch up with each other.

These guys are such great men.

After my trials and tribulations in the dating world, it did me a world of good to hang out with them and remember the quality of men I went to college with. I had the best boyfriends when I was in the military.

This post is for them.

Thanks for reminding me that there are indeed good men out there.

Ghosting

Lets talk about ghosting shall we?

I have been ghosted a few times lately. Not sure what is in the water.

Regardless, it’s cowardly.

I met a great guy a few weeks ago on his birthday. Everything was going well or so I thought until one day I didn’t hear from him. He gave a bogus excuse and that was it. I told him I wasn’t going to run after him and let go.

I don’t understand this behavior. It’s cowardly and screams of fear. I can’t be honest and upfront with you so instead, I’m going to run away. What the hell?

I pulled stunts like this when I was a sick puppy, fully in my disease. Not anymore.

I have the courage to tell someone when things aren’t working or something is bothering me.

The same scenario happened a few nights ago.

I was texting back and forth with a guy, things were going great. We were laughing and having a good time until things got weird and he unmatched with me on the dating app after texting for an hour and a half.

I’m all about free will and it’s perfectly okay to change your mind but have the decency to tell me.

Behavior like this makes me angry and I feel sorry for these guys who lack a backbone, balls and common sense and respect.

Man up.

I don’t like that expression but in this case it’s fitting.

It’s hard to stay hopeful when men pull stunts like this.

It’s discouraging to invest in someone and open up to them only to have them dismiss you with no explanation.

Let this be a reminder that courtesy and respect are always de rigueur in dating and human relationships.

If you can’t bring those elements to the table then stay out of the game.

As for me, I’ve shaken myself off, am moving on and doing my best to stay positive.

I still have hope.

Love

Love.

What is love?

I mean the elusive, rare and true kind.

I sometimes wonder if I have ever felt it for another man. And then I remember the pain when it was gone and realize it must have been there all along.

Love: supportive, present and true.

What does it mean to you?

A hand on the small of my back, a hand holding mine, a hand on my leg as we sit at the table. Physical touch is my primary love language. Will you do those small gestures for me if you love me?

Be present when we’re together, show up fully and live with me. No matter what we do, give me the gift of your time. Quality time is my second love language.

I wonder if I can add these lines to my dating profiles?

Will it make a difference? Will I somehow weed out the right one with these words?

I have a list. Doesn’t everyone? Of the qualities they look for in another.

Despite my list, I’d like to think I’ll know what he feels like.

I felt it last summer, ever so briefly, with someone I loved.

His voice felt like home. Finally, after all these years, I felt I had arrived home.

I can’t explain this phenomenon anymore than I can put words to describe what it felt like.

Home.

Maybe that’s what my person will feel like: home.

I did not expect my life to look like this.

Single, with no children.

Life is unexpected and painful. Yet still I hold out hope for my heart.

I hold out hope for love.

Another one bites the dust

Dating is hard.

I don’t understand how it is so difficult.

Maybe because I’m in my late forties, have done and keep doing the work and have standards.

My bestie keeps saying I’m so close and it frustrates me.

Why?

Because I look around and see others who are in couples and wonder why not me?

The last guy I dated was a great guy from Newfoundland straight out a twenty five year marriage. All the red flags went up with this knowledge.

I learned the hard way how important it is to be able to be with myself and to like my own company. To be okay with being alone.

You can rationalize and say you were alone in a marriage but it’s not the same as sitting with yourself and liking the company you keep.

There is such a thing as the fruitful darkness. The exploration of your soul and the shadow work that goes along with it.

Some can do this in relationship, others like me prefer to do the work on my own.

I developed a urinary tract infection on the Easter long weekend after having sex with him for the first time. I was pissed and it ruined my weekend. According to Louise Hay, a urinary tract infection is about being pissed off at men and blaming others which funnily enough, is exactly what I did.

He got triggered because he was the target of undeserved anger from his ex wife and my anger felt similar.

Whatever we had did not recover.

I was upfront with him and told him he needed to spend time alone and do the work before he got involved with anyone else.

He in turn said he’d met me too early, that a relationship with me was supposed to happen down the road.

He really was a great guy. He showed up for me when things went sideways at work. He was present, empathetic and kind.

He decided to continue dating and told me he has since met someone.

This meeting someone else felt fast and rushed. Nothing good can come from that. To me they are the actions of someone who doesn’t want to be alone and sit with themselves.

I wish him well.

I’ll say again I want to be someone who has done the work. This man showed up for me in an incredible way but I could not get past what I wanted.

It’s hard to stay hopeful when this sort of thing happens yet I need to remain hopeful.

A long time coming

This post has been a long time coming.

It is also one I didn’t think I’d ever write.

I received the assessor’s decision on my claim as part of the class action lawsuit against sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.

I have been awarded the maximum payout of fifty thousand dollars for the class I applied for.

Meaning I also experienced the highest level of damages, which are severe and long lasting psychological and emotional harms.

There is still another assessment coming for another class I applied for.

I felt a weight lift when I read the assessor’s letter.

At the same time, fifty thousand dollars does not feel like enough to make up for a lifetime’s worth of impact that single event has had on my life.

Writing that claim was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. It took everything I had to get through it. I was surprised at my body’s reaction when I sat down to write. The shaking would not stop until I settled in.

The assessor’s letter mentioned the feelings of guilt, lack of trust, and difficulties with romantic relationships and employment I have experienced. Along with ongoing problems with PTSD, depression, anxiety and addictions for which I have sought professional help.

I remember asking my bestie what to put down as a number for the financial impact of that event. She suggested I take my salary back then and multiply it by 26 years with no promotions or inflation indexes. The amount came out to 1.3 million dollars. It was a sobering moment as I sat there in shock at the number.

As grateful as I am for the payout, which I was not sure I would get given the lateness I applied, it does not feel like enough.

I am part of the restorative justice piece where I get a chance to speak my truth with those who are hopefully in a position to do something about it.

I really hope true, meaningful change happens in the military as a result of all of this.

I also hope to find a measure of peace once I have told my story so I can finally let go and move on with my life.

When death comes

I found out late last night that a classmate of mine from military college died.

He was my age and larger than life. Always laughing and joking with an easy smile.

Cancer took his life.

Today my heart is heavy and I am sad.

Sad for his wife who is also a former classmate and now a widow and for their kids who no longer have a father.

My sadness goes beyond his death.

It makes me think of my life and how well I truly live it.

How well do any of us truly live our lives fully?

I’ve spent so much time feeling stuck, surviving and as a consequence, certainly not doing a very good job at living.

It’s only been recently where I have felt less shackled by events from my past and better able to truly live.

I feel like I have a lot of lost time to make up for but there is no such thing as a guarantee that I will get the opportunity to do just that is there?

I’ve been walking a lot today and thinking of him. Tears inevitably come. If cancer can come like a thief in the night, what guarantee do any of us truly have?

The truth is we don’t. Nothing in this life is guaranteed, let alone time.

I will go to his funeral tomorrow and celebrate a life well lived. I will hug his widow and cry.

I will make a promise to myself that I not spend so much energy on things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

That I will instead be grateful for and make the most of the time that is given to me.

To fully relish and inhabit the small joys that life offers me.

The voice inside

You know the one.

The one in the audience waiting for me to trip up and fail. Waiting to speak to me and tell me all the things I didn’t do right. The one who is constantly pointing out what I can do better.

You know the one.

The one who keeps me up at night. Who goes over my mistakes and tabulates them. The one who makes me feel not enough.

You know the one.

The one ridden with guilt and shame. The one that wants to keep me small and quiet

What I choose to do with that voice is up to me.

I can choose to listen and take to heart what it is trying to tell me or I can stop the wheel from turning and question its validity.

Both can be true.

I didn’t come here to be quiet and small. I came here to live and to live means I’ll inevitably make mistakes.

The mistakes are the gifts if I can turn them into lessons. That’s where the wisdom comes in.

The voice inside me telling me I’m not ever going to be enough. The voice has an insatiable appetite for the good in me.

The voice wants to make things dark so it can thrive. What if instead, I let the light in? And with the light, truth.

What then?

Would the voice be as strong then?

Only light and good can negate the voice that feeds on the dark shadows.

So when the voice comes, I’ll know to turn my face to the sun instead and stay way from the dark clouds.

The voice can be my enemy like it can also be my greatest ally.

Let my voice lift me and make me stand taller.

Let my voice fill me with light and joy.

Let my voice help me instead of hurt me.

What will you do with your voice?

Dating 101

I dipped my toes back into the dating pool at the end of January.

The guy I met online was too good looking for his own good.

Don’t you love the voices in your head that say: “There’s no way I’m in his league.” The guy was a serious gym rat, he had impressive guns.

Turns out I was just his type. I was a little stunned by this and it took me a while to wrap my head around it all.

In typical Natalie fashion, we ended up in the bedroom much too quickly.

There are certain questions that need to be posed before anyone takes their clothes off. Like are you clean of STIs? What about protection?

Turns out this guy was so eager he showed up on my doorstep with no condoms, things should have come to a screeching halt then. I mean there are other ways to get off other than intercourse but still.

It’s important to note that in times like these I lose my voice. I attribute it to the sexual assault and losing my voice in a major way that night.

I did have the courage to pose those questions but I let things go where they should not have and a precedent was created.

Valentine’s Day rolls around and I plan an elaborate meal. I remind him about condoms and that’s when things go sideways fast. Next thing I know we’ve gotten into a disagreement and I cancel dinner.

Over condoms.

I don’t care that you don’t like them. Who does? It doesn’t matter, they are a requirement.

Having had to terminate a pregnancy due to sheer stupidity on my part, getting pregnant by someone I barely know is not something I want or should have to worry about.

As my bestie so rightly said, the answer to the question about condoms should have been: “Yes I’ve got it covered.”

Not “well you should have taken care of getting some if you wanted me to use them.” Um no, just no.

We are in 2022. I could not believe we were even having a disagreement over this.

The relationship did not recover. I was pissed and less than impressed. I proceeded to go out on a date with someone else just to cleanse my palate.

On that date I realized what was missing. We chatted about politics and the recent occupation of the city by protesters. My brain was incredibly turned on.

I didn’t have any of that with condom guy.

To me attraction isn’t based on physical appearance. Sure it’s a factor but much more important is whether I’m able to carry on an engaging conversation on a variety of topics. I’ll admit I am a sapiophile.

I had fun on my date and it wasn’t just the Jack Daniels talking. Nothing came of it and my clothes blessedly stayed on. Thank God for small miracles.

I tried to revive things with condom guy but too much damage had been done.

When I tried to talk about it, I was mocked for making a mistake that night. That’s dangerous territory and so not okay.

As a dear friend said: “Natalie you need to be with someone who has emotional intelligence, is mature and knows how to make a woman happy.”

It’s really as simple as that isn’t it?

Wish me luck.

A year in review

2021 was one of the hardest years of my life.

It is said that the body’s cells regenerate fully every seven years. Well hopefully they’ve all gone through the wash, rinse and spin cycle and are good for a little while.

The year began with healing from an injury: a severe case of plantar fasciitis. It took months of physio and rehab. My foot is still not the same, not sure it ever will be.

The injury meant a change of careers from retail, where I worked on it for the last six months of 2020 and made the injury so much worse. Chalk it up to a former high performance athletic mindset of pushing past pain and high pain thresholds. Major lesson learned: honor yourself. When it hurts, stop.

I gave notice in May after being on sick leave since January. I am incredibly grateful for the social benefits in this country, not sure what I would have done without the income. Retail has never been well paid.

I started looking for work in January at about the same time I started counselling. I was again in an anxious low. I was introduced to dialectical behavioral therapy which helped along with my wonderful counsellor. I needed shoring up because I had an incredible task ahead of me.

I am part of the class action lawsuit against sexual misconduct in the military and I had a claim to write which was causing me massive anxiety.

It was a major hurdle in my wellbeing and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I finally summoned the courage in October, wrote my claim, consulted with the class lawyers about my case and filed.

I went for a swim after I hit the submit button. I will never forget that swim. It was Friday, October 15th.

I left it all in the lake.

Whether my claim was good enough, the outcome and the payout. All of it.

If I stay attached, he wins and I again give up my power.

No more.

My summer was not easy by any stretch. I had to set a boundary 47 years in the making with my parents asking for space after a call with them almost landed me in the hospital. Brutal but necessary.

I met and fell in love with a great guy over the summer. He was my litmus test. In town for five weeks, I thought he’d be a great test. I never thought I’d fall in love.

I learned more big lessons. I was incredibly guarded when it came to men. No one made it in past the fortress walls, moat and turrets of the island that is Natalie.

To finally let someone in was huge. I felt both held and free and so loved.

It took me a couple of weeks to mend my broken heart only to have my past come knocking.

I do not engage with men from my past for a reason. Men were a good time and not a long time back then.

I guess my Higher Power had plans for me to learn more hard lessons.

Turns out the man from my past, whom I chose to let in, had a problem with alcohol. I’m in recovery because I grew up in an environment affected by alcohol. I am primed and wired for people like this man. My brain lit up like a freaking Christmas tree around him. I could cut the attraction with a knife. I fell hard and fast.

I was going to fix him and be the one to walk him to his first AA meeting. All my years in recovery went out the window and I became obsessed with him.

I was like the crazy person I had been with my ex who was also an adult child of an alcoholic.

It was frightening.

It took me three months to extricate myself from it all. To put him back into the past where he belonged.

I learned a number of valuable lessons, and very humbling ones. First, no matter how long I’ve been in recovery, I am incredibly attracted to someone with a drinking problem. I realized I am not his Higher Power and need to allow him the dignity of his choices. He became my singular focus: I woke up and went to sleep thinking of him. I was completely obsessed.

He was like the best kind of drug but also the worst. The kind that left me feeling high and then terrible about myself.

I was able to mend fences with my parents at Christmas. I reached out after organizing a program day of sharing. Christmas is bittersweet for me because of the incredible memories my parents created for me.

I spend most of my Christmases alone now, the pandemic making it even more necessary which is hard. Speaking to them again after five months was the best Christmas gift.

2021 may have been one of the hardest of my life but it was absolute gold in terms of lessons.

Inside the ache

Inside the ache

Inside the ache.

It’s where the heart of the matter resides isn’t it?

It’s where the truth lives.

It’s where the hardest lessons are learned.

Inside the ache.

It’s where my best work comes from.

How do you feel when you’re inside the ache?

Since I’ve been in recovery, I have never been fine again.

I have been terrified, exhausted, sad, angry, depressed and full of anxiety. I have been amazed and awed, delighted and overjoyed to bursting.

I have been alive.

We can do hard things, like be alive and love and lose.

The ache is not a flaw, it is the club house of the brave. It’s where all the lovers are. Anyone who has loved and lost, who has said goodbye to a loved one or welcomed a newborn into the world.

The ache is love.

Inside the ache.

I’ve spent my fair share of time inside the ache.

Curled up in my heart cave, licking my wounds. Retreating from the world to self soothe.

Inside the ache.

I have loved and lost and been overcome with sadness and grief, until the pain lessened and I was able to rejoin the world once again.

Inside the ache.

I have sat with parts of myself. The dark and sacred parts. The parts of me that I don’t want the world to see.

Inside the ache.

I have grieved a hundred hurts both big and small. Sat with myself and looked at the pieces of me I don’t want to see.

Inside the ache.

I have looked at myself in the mirror and accepted both the good and the bad. I have made peace with myself. I have come to love the person I have become.

Inside the ache.

I have built a home where I can go anytime to rebuild, strengthen and come out not stronger but softer and, more me.

Inside the ache.

I have been alive.

Resurfacing


It’s been a while since I’ve written.

That usually means my mental health has gone sideways again.

Sure enough, right after celebrating my bestie’s birthday, I crashed.

I could not stop crying and weeks of darkness and fear followed suit.

Fear because after almost a year, countless applications and a few job interviews, I still did not have a job lined up. Time was running out with my employment insurance claim ending.

My new sponsor keeps telling me I need to do a better job trusting my Higher Power. That when I find myself worrying, know that my Higher Power is already working on it.

That proved to be the case, once again.

A friend on social media checked in and asked how I was doing. I was honest with her and told her how scared I was. She came up with a job lead for me.

The next thing I knew, after speaking with her partner about said job opportunity, I was interviewed and given a letter of offer. Training starts in a week.

After being at home for a year it will be good to be back amongst humans again.

The job isn’t what I expected I would be doing but I guess life truly happens while I was making other plans.

On the love front, things have been understandably quiet yet there seems to be a glimmer of light and hope on the horizon.

It is brand new and I am still pinching myself over it all.

It would be refreshing to be able to talk about a happier subject won’t it?

Stay tuned…

The gift is in the feedback

Early on in my sports psychology classes I was taught to look for the lessons learned. I am an optimistic person by nature and look for the good. Later on in neuro linguistic programming training, I learned there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.

A much more gentle and softer approach than failure.

I engaged with someone from my past knowing full well within 48 hours what it was and that I really needed to walk away. 

Did I? No.

I learn the hard way it seems. 

There are those who learn from listening and watching others and those who live through their lessons.

I am one of the latter.

I am a kinesthetic learner. I learn by doing. 

It was evident when I was ski racing. I would listen, watch a demo and then feel it out on my skis. Integrating with every repetition until it was in my body and became second nature. 

I still learn this way with humans, especially if I have invested in them and care. 

“I believe I needed to make certain ‘mistakes’ to learn critical lessons I am not certain I would have otherwise learned. I cannot let my past interfere with my ability to trust myself. I cannot afford to function with fear” wise words from Melody Beattie.

I have learned to be mindful of whom and what I engage with. My energy is too precious to be poured into just anyone or anything. 

It took me going through pain and my codependency rearing its head to learn a lesson. I intellectually knew this interaction would not work for me yet I kept trying. Why? 

Because it’s what I learned in my family of origin. Does it work for me anymore? 

No.

I had to go through the process of learning the hard way yet again. 

The lessons mined are gold. Absolute gold.

I still have a primary wound with my father, the first male in my life. To attract someone like this man and to be attracted to him makes this fact obvious.

I have not been around anyone with active addiction since I came into recovery. My father has enough respect for me to not drink the way he does in his homes around me. He is fully aware of and supports my recovery.

My brain lit up like a freaking Christmas tree around this man from my past. 

A freaking Christmas tree. 

My genetics, despite all the work I have done, proved that this disease is alive and well in me. We can arrest our diseases, not fully be recovered from them. That is a hard truth and one I was reminded of.

My codependency came out full force. It was frightening. I over functioned, over compensated, trying to fix, control and make things work.

I went into some kind of variation of a past self and the crazy that goes along with it.

My serenity and sanity need to be protected at all costs in recovery, at all costs. 

My sponsor reminded me that we can help those who want to be helped. What is help? According to our program traditions it is based on attraction rather than promotion. I am not an evangelist for a 12 step program. That’s ego.

I walk a path and do my best to live my life according to the principles of my program. My actions speak for themselves. Words are empty without action. I do my best to embody this new way of life.

I was reminded once again that I really need to trust my gut.

I need to be wary about whom I am attracted to for precisely the reasons stated above. I knew this fact yet I chose to ignore it.

I do not need more hard in my life. I want gentle, easy and soft.

I had to go through this experience knowing in my head, moving through my heart to finally land back in my gut. I knew. I knew all along yet I engaged.

Never again.

In the end, I chose to stick to my values, and honour my needs and wants. 

After all I have been through and the work I keep doing in recovery, I deserve better.

During all of this I went out on a date. We could have been two sides of the same coin. A man who had done an incredible amount of work on himself. A peaceful buddha like person. A lovely human who cared and was attentive. He was just about everything I want on paper.

Was I attracted to this man? No.

What’s worse is I was bored. I could run circles around his brain. That is not ego, it just is.

I wanted the intellectual match I had with the man from my past. I wanted the stimuli I felt when I engaged with him. If that’s not addiction I’m not sure what is.

My best friend suggested I like chaos. That the man from my past caused unrest and that is what I was drawn to.

I thought back to my summer love. He and I aligned, there was little unrest other than to deal with some of the demons from my past. He held space for me. I felt safe, free and loved. He listened so well and I knew he had my back.

I compared the two experiences.

Alignment versus attachment.

I was two different people in each experience.

With the man from my past I did not feel held. In fact I kept being held at arm’s length in an attempt to create space because he knew the impact he was having on me. I was stonewalled. His attempts to stay on the surface and inability to go deep for very long were painful. In the end my feelings were invalidated and I was gaslit. Shades of my family of origin.

Two very different experiences.

In the end I chose myself. 

He wanted to stay friends. I do not need more friends. The friends I have are grounded in program and those who aren’t in recovery are doing the work and live their lives along the principles of program.

I am not interested in surrounding myself with anyone else.

They say you are the average of the five closest people around you. I am a quality friendship person and not a quantity one.

My inner circle is small, close and I love them fiercely.

They know everything about me, love me and have my back.

It took me a long time to cultivate the person I am today. I love deeply, I let myself be known by safe people and I let myself be loved. 

I have been given a life thanks to recovery, principles to guide my life, and a set of tools to live life on life’s terms. I have been given a family by choice that loves me.

So many gifts that are priceless.

The power of emotions

I grew up in an environment where I was not allowed to feel.

Raised by parents who did not know how to feel their feelings. Children where to be seen and not heard my mother often said. 

My feelings, when I had them, were minimized, made fun of and invalidated.

I have learned that you cannot give what you do not have.

A generational characteristic, addiction, trauma from their own childhoods, all possible reasons for the way my parents were and still are. God forbid anyone should be open, honest and feel or talk about anything that is real in my family.

There were a few feelings I saw my mother display: anger or sadness. She took her anger out on my brother and I. I will not go into the details but it again comes back to what you grew up in and have let fester. Cold, all business, stiff upper lip was and still is my British mother’s way.

I would walk into the places she worked, hospitals and nursing homes and be told over and over again what a wonderful nurse she was. I would be furious. Why couldn’t she be a better mother?

My father was absent, forever working. We saw him weekends on the ski hill in the winter and at the lake in the summer.

I vividly remember as a child waking up and noticing the lights and television on, my father asleep on the couch after coming home late and drinking. I would shut the television off, so my brother and I would not be further disturbed.

In recovery I have come to know all these truths to be the hallmarks of the family disease of alcoholism.

It is not on my parents anymore, it is on me. When I point the finger at someone, how many fingers are pointing back at me?

I still have anger and resentments despite being in recovery. A resentment is hoping the other person will die and pouring poison down my own throat. 

I have a lot to be angry about.

My program gives me tools to go in and look at all of it. Determine my part and make an amends if necessary.

I wanted my parents to be something they did not have in them to give. The platitude of them doing the best they could really does apply, however, it does not by any stretch negate what happened.

It is on me to make sure I live better.

Program has taught me so much. It has given me a life of integrity by cleaning up the wreckage of my past. Tools to live life on life’s terms. 

It is said the 12 Steps prevent suicide and the 12 traditions prevent homicide.

I can attest to that being the truth.

I still struggle with my mind going to dark places after years of my brain going there. I could not cope with the pain and wreckage of what I perceived my life to be. I lived with impossible standards and was hard on myself. That just put me right back into addiction and is not helpful.

I definitely played with the idea of homicide in a  former relationship. I had very little tools and we were both sick adult children of alcoholics.

This disease is one of the soul. It is a soul sickness of always wanting more because of the void.

I will be in recovery for life. I know how distorted and dangerous my thinking can get in a split second. My mind is not a safe neighborhood to walk in alone. 

This disease is powerful, cunning and baffling. It is also progressive and very patient.

Not being allowed to feel growing up primed me for my own addictions.

It was not until I began my healing journey in addictions that I was told I had to feel my feelings. The path from the head to the heart is the longest to travel. I had to unpack all the times I was angry, sad, and felt shame. Not easy or pleasant by an stretch. I was afraid to feel my feelings.

My counselor at the time told me that my body would know what to do. That it would not last forever and that I needed to feel so I could move through it all. 

I swam in my feelings. I came to believe after all the years of living frozen that they were primordial. 

In recovery one of the promises is that we will come to know the vastness of our emotions but we will not be slaves to them. Powerful words.

I still get lost in my emotions after years of being frozen and having them locked down.

My emotions are powerful. They have had a major impact on my body. In Louise Hay’s incredible book You can Heal your Life, I was able to see exactly how much they have affected me.

They have seemingly done a number on me once again.

I have been dragging a severe case of plantar fasciitis for a year and a half. My body keeps getting injured and is not healing. 

I had live blood analysis done and saw the impact working angry and stressed for the past two years has had on my body.

My immune system is shot. My white blood cells are low and tired. My lymphatic system is not working properly and my liver is not doing its job detoxing. The result is massive inflammation which is why I am not healing.

That is the breeding ground for things that are scary.

The results took my breath away.

I made the connection between anger and my liver a few days later, according to traditional Chinese medicine they are linked.

That is all on me.

I allowed my emotions to get the better of me once again and impact my body.

I can list all the reasons behind the injuries in my body. I have an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid that literally means I do not accept myself. A fear of moving forward with my foot injury. A lower back injury about a fear around money. A shoulder injury around the sexual assault. The list goes on.

Now this. My poor body.

I sat and grieved after the news. 

Why am I so hard on myself? Why do I keep pushing past pain? I do what I know until I know better. I know better yet I keep doing.

I grew up in hard. I want soft. 

I want to treat myself with the love, compassion and grace I so richly deserve.

Easy does it Natalie, easy does it.

Trust yourself

“Trust yourself.”

Profound words spoken in a director’s office in my last contract three years ago, by a woman I looked up to. “You let your feelings get the better of you.” More gems. This woman read me like a book.

Trust yourself.

When your gut speaks to you. When you see the red flags. When you feel off in your body.

Trust yourself.

When you know it is time. My brain can rationalize itself out of any situation. My heart is full of feelings. Feelings are not facts. 

Where do I need to go to trust myself? Deep within. My body knows. My head and heart overlap layers. I have always known.

I grew up a sensitive and empath. Knowing I was a healer. Feeling things and knowing them on a deep level before they came true. I did not want the gift.

I saw and knew things and could not handle them. I would flee into the forest as a child with my dog to process and lose myself until I felt more grounded.

Mother Nature has always held me, she is my higher power. I go to her when I need to come home to myself. I intuitively know what to do. I always have.

Have I listened to that inner knowing my whole life?

No. 

I packed on layers of higher education, I love my big brain. I love learning. I have a fast brain, I work at the speed of Natalie, others can rarely keep up. That’s not ego talk, it just is. I go deep into research on topics that I am passionate about. 

Humans and the way they are have always fascinated me. I have dedicated much of my energy to continuous personal growth and development. I will be a life long learner.  

I am a manifesting generator in Human Design. I see the end goal and can manifest it, I just need to get out of my own way. 

That is where ego comes in, limiting beliefs and all the negative tapes from my family of origin. They stop me in my tracks. I have let them get the better of me over and over again.

This year has been one of the biggest in terms of transformation in my life. I burned down my life as I knew it a year ago.

My body knows. It tells me when I am off.

It gave me plantar fasciitis to stop me working retail, the injury represents a fear of moving forward. I was stuck, afraid, working in a toxic environment trying to make the best of it, knowing I was deserving of so much more. 

It took a pandemic and a lock down to make me stop and look at my life, to see what mattered most and what I knew I wanted. 

The first lock down became the biggest wellness retreat of my life, I threw myself into my recovery with extensive online offerings, feeding my brain, heart and soul. Reconnected with my favorite yoga teacher and was able to do classes with her remotely, something I would not be able to do given the geographical limitations. Walked early every day which is where the injury started and nourished my body with good food. I loved myself really well.

I had an anxiety attack knowing I was going back when the world opened up again. 

I went back into the retail environment for another six months. Working on my feet, pushing past pain every day. Afraid of a virus and people. Working angry in some shape or form with a person who was a hybrid of my parents. Insecure, controlling and who sucked the joy out of the place.

That is not a life.

It took another lock down to stop and get the care I needed for my foot. I am grateful for the health benefits I had. Rare are those who get benefits in retail as my physio wisely pointed out. Again the Universe was looking after me.

I grew up watching parents who tried to make things work. It is something I have integrated. What is not meant for you will not work, no matter how hard you try. I have had to learn this lesson over and over again the hard way, in relationships, work situations and life.

Trust yourself.

From leaving a job that did not work for me, to putting a boundary in place with my parents this summer asking for space, to knowing the healthiest love I have yet to experience with another man, and to living through an experience with another that was shades of my past.

So many hard yet beautiful lessons and gifts. 

The path continues to unfold. 

I can thank the last man for the writing I have been doing, I show up every Sunday morning and write here. I know I have a book in me. I have known since I was young.

As I keep doing what I love, writing, painting, deepening my yoga and meditation practices, and starting work in mediumship; I know I am on the right path.

Trust yourself Natalie, you’ve got this.

The death of a dream

How do you grieve something that didn’t come true?

How do you reconcile the pain in your heart with nothing in your hands?

How do you come to terms with your anger and sadness at addiction for being the thief it is and stealing from you the people you love?

I have more questions than answers. My heart aches and my soul is tired. 

I threw everything I had for two months at the beautiful man from my past who rose up out of nowhere to come back into my life again.

I sit still pondering the lessons. 

I am incredibly angry and sad at the disease of alcoholism. It has taken so much from my family and loved ones. It continues to steal people I love and turn them into hungry ghosts. It eventually kills them.

Cunning, baffling, powerful and very patient are the words commonly used to describe this insidious disease. 

Addiction is alive and well in me, I did not escape the family genetics. It is in check thanks to a Higher Power and recovery. By the grace of God go I, truly. I would no longer be here had I not found a 12 step program, a family by choice and a new way of living. 

Between the developmental, sexual and relational trauma I experienced and addiction, it’s a heavy load to carry without help. 

I was an excellent addict, I truly lived for the highs. I did not care about my life and played Russian roulette with it. Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse was my motto.

Look for the evidence of a Higher Power in your life, mine had her hands all over it and I am so very grateful. I do a ton of service work in my recovery program; I hold major positions because it keeps my selfishness and self centredness in check. I get to give back what was freely given to me.

If I am able to help just one person find the rooms of recovery and the serenity I have found within them, then my job here is done. 

I give back because it fills my cup and makes me feel part of something bigger than me.

Back to this beautiful man.

We finally spoke via video for the first time in two months. 

For two months, he held me at bay because he could not deal with my emotions and the pain he saw there because of his presence. 

The wound activated was not about him but about the first male relationship in my life, the one I have with my father. Because of the experience, I got to mine, expose and heal more pain, more insights and precious lessons.

A healing journey is not linear, it is spiral shaped. Lessons will keep showing up if we do not do the work to process, accept and integrate them.

As much as this hurts right now, I am deeply grateful for the experience. 

I was able to know, trust and accept everything I saw in the very beginning of our interaction during our call. My love will not put red flags down, no amount of love will.

I am the most challenged by acceptance and letting go in my recovery. One of my very first sponsors said that I had incredible awareness but would fly into action without accepting which often led to misguided actions as a result.

I was able to see that he cannot handle emotion or going deep. Why? Because in active addiction you cannot feel your feelings or go deep. You are a surface person. Until the substance is removed, the trauma unpacked, the feelings felt and the work done you are still not whole.

I will be in recovery for the rest of my life.

I am still recovering parts of myself that I don’t remember, lost or misplaced. It truly is a beautiful journey. The promise: to live happy, joyous and free.

I do not live like this every day by any stretch. The burdens I carried and the weight of the world on my shoulders are gone because I have a process to clean them up daily, and tools to live by that help me live life on life’s terms. It’s a beautiful thing.

The conversation we had was honest about what we both need and want and more importantly, what we are able to give.

I had to go through the anger, hurt and pain I felt towards him to make an amends and surrender. Only to discover that love existed once all those feelings were cleared. How could I not love him? Anger and love coexist, they are a double edged sword.

I have surrendered yet again because I have reached acceptance, as painful as it is.

He does not want to stop drinking, he has lowered his consumption and is instead practicing what some call harm reduction. It’s not ideal but it is what it is.

No amount of love will make a person stop drinking. Self-love will and I cannot give that to him.

I remember the moment when I burned down my life seven years ago. I said the words: “I love him but I love myself more.” Those are powerful words. The words needed to take action and make important changes.

I left a partner who is also an adult child, a little girl I loved more than anything and a home that had been all I knew for 16 years. I experienced further loss in my beloved furry familiar of 14 years who did not survive the move, and died after five months of moving into my home. I then lost my holistic health care practitioner later that year. The man who had been my rock prior to finding recovery. 

I lost everything I knew and loved.

Into the fire I went over and over again. Burned to ashes, broken, grieving with a pain I did not know was possible. My cat’s death was the worst pain I have ever felt. He was my protector, my love and truly bonded to me. My beloved familiar. 

Yet here I stand seven years later in the midst of yet another powerful time of transformation. It is said that our cells completely regenerate every seven years. I feel this deep in my bones.

I am being stripped of everything anew. The landscape of my life looks nothing like it was a year ago. I am grateful for all of it. I feel like a caterpillar in a chrysalis being turned to mush. 

For now I will mourn this relationship. The dream I had in my head of what was possible.

It is both a gift and a curse to be someone who sees the best in people, who believes in change and is an agent of transformation. 

He is grateful for my presence and having turned his head with regards to his drinking. 

That was my part in all of it.

I am hardwired to be attracted to people like him with addiction. My brain lights up like a Christmas tree. I have learned to choose my battles. I know all this intellectually.

But my heart. 

My heart hurts as tears run down my face.

Time and faith heal all, and this too shall pass. 

Be well, love.

Standing on my own two feet

Three months ago I put a boundary in place with my parents after a phone call with them that almost landed me in the hospital.

That boundary was 47 years in the making.

My mental health was fragile. I was going through another low and had pushed the call for weeks because I wasn’t at my best. 

I felt judged, shamed and certainly not loved on that call with them.

I set myself up once again, magical thinking that somehow my parents would be able to show up for me emotionally, hold space and meet me. An impossible ask for someone with a drinking problem and a codependent fully living with active diseases and no recovery.

Amidst the pain and crazy of that call, I heard my father’s words:“It’s your life.”

Two weeks later I set my boundary asking for space via email. I would communicate with them through those means when I had to and that was it.

A severing of ties where I give up my power over and over again. Enough is enough. I’m so very tired of being the hero daughter and playing a part that no longer fits. 

The freedom was magical.

I felt peace and gratitude thanks to my Higher Power, 12 step program, the love of my sponsor and friends that I was able to write and hit send on that email.

The response I received hurt, there was no accountability instead there was blame which is a hallmark of addiction and an acceptance of my wishes. 

I had to let go and live once again.

It is on me that I have run to my father with everything over the years. Not trusting myself to make my own decisions. Giving up my power so freely.

I have had some fairly serious health issues surface in the past week and have had to go to my parents to unlock funds that are held in trust for me.

Can you see the codependent ties?

I had to tell my father I wasn’t looking for his input or advice and was going ahead with my holistic treatment plan, trusting my holistic health care practitioner and my body’s ability to heal.

Finally after emails back and forth, I laid out the pattern I am actively trying to fix and have lived in and operated from for years.

I know my parents love me. They are acts of service people according to the Five Love Languages. Their actions over the years speak volumes to their love for me. 

From driving from Prince Edward Island to my home on their anniversary, to help me move out of my former home into my new one when I was overwhelmed and completely frozen part way through. To my mum staying with me while my relationship with my former partner dissolved and I lost the little girl I loved more than anything. To ensuring my brother and I are financially set up in our own homes. 

I may not have been loved the way I wanted to be but I was and am loved.

As I sat in my car after getting out of the pool and swimming laps, drafting the email to my father explaining how I needed to stand on my own two feet. Telling him I loved them both with tears running down my face, I surrendered. 

I hit send and dissolved into tears. 

His response a few days later was what I expected. My father has been my greatest cheerleader, he has always been my go to parent, supported me and been the voice of reason.

He is an incredible leader, worked in crisis management and still is very driven.

I remember him once telling me that I needed to stay calm when the storm was raging around me at work. I thanked him for being that port in a storm.

I need to trust myself, remember who I am and stand on my own two feet and have faith life will unfold as it will.

In recovery I have learned we don’t always get what we want but we do get what we need.

Surrendering and admitting my powerlessness instead of controlling, fighting and trying to shape anything beyond my finger is a recipe for madness.

I want peace, love and abundance.

The Universe has once again, like it did seven years ago, stripped me of everything. Humans renew every seven years, all of this is divinely led.

All of it.

My job is to trust myself, have faith and do the next right thing. That is all I have to do. 

Easier said than done at times but I know I am right where I need to be and life is unfolding the way it is meant to. 

Breathe Natalie, you are looked after and you have got this.

Wish me luck.

A heartfelt amends

The beautiful man who walked back into my life exactly two months ago today has left a profound impact on me.

I am fascinated by humans and our interactions with others. Human relationships are the study of my life. It is how I came to study psychology. I wanted to better understand myself, my family and more importantly, help others. 

I am grateful I took a sports psychology class, followed my passion of athletics and helping amateur athletes. I am exactly who I needed when I quit ski racing at 16. A woman with the lived experience of the demands of ski racing, the pressures to perform and the incredible internal landscape that came along with it. 

I am now blessedly in recovery and will be for life. It is the foundation for my life, gives me tools to deal with life on life’s terms and has given me an incredible family by choice. I am no longer alone and not terminally unique, there is great comfort in knowing my people get it and allow me the space and dignity to process, come up with my own solutions and remind me to live fully.

I know all of this on an intellectual and heart level, however, I also need to give myself the grace I would give to a newcomer or sponsee who got lost in the woods. Being hard, driving forward and not being good enough is what I grew up in. I want soft, gentle and loving. It takes time to unravel and undo patterns and coping mechanisms that have kept me safe for years prior to finding the rooms.

It is easy to operate in a vacuum. Our stuff gets put to the test on the road of life in our relations with others. Nothing triggers our characteristics, good and bad, like relationships.

I grew up with a fixer, a master puppeteer who in the name of love tried to shape both my and my brother’s lives. Control is not love. I know he meant well but they were his desires and his dreams, not ours. I am forever grateful to him for coaching me, for being a technical delegate at my races, my strategizer and cheerleader.

He would stand next to me and tell me what I needed to do to win. I won, over and over and over again thanks to my body, my skill, my drive, discipline and determination. Honed over repetition, hard work and blood, sweat and tears. 

I remember practicing in the backyard at night. My dad had built a start hill because I was still standing in the gate at races when the wand opened. I would come home from school, change into my ski gear and in the back light practice my starts until I got them right. Eventually the pressure came to be too much from holding everything inside, a coach I could not relate to and the external parental pressure. I cracked, which given the circumstances, is completely normal.

I am not unlike my father. Driven, with an incredible work ethic and need to always do better. It is exhausting at times. I have had to temper those characteristics with balance, contentment and being good enough. Yes I want to achieve but I also want to live. We are human beings not human doings. I will not mold myself to live into some outdated notion of what my life should look like.

I can rest. Rest in knowing in this moment, just as I am that I am more than enough. What’s more, I always have been. Loving, full of life with the biggest heart, spirit and smarts. There is a naivety to me which I love, I believe in the best in people, I believe in a better world for all of us. I believe in change, I believe in new ideas and creativity. I have always believed I have been put on this earth to be the best version of myself and to be of service to others somehow, to heal. To love fully, to be loved and to live.

Every day I show up to the best of my abilities with as much loving kindness as I can muster and attempt to find balance while I ride the waves of life.

Back to this beautiful man and his many gifts and lessons.

I fell into the well known role of fixer with this man. Give me a problem and my natural instinct is to fix. I had to take a giant step back from him and do some writing around our program’s 12 traditions which help guide us in our relationships with others. 

My life became unmanageable and I had to admit my powerlessness, back to step one with the focus placed solely on me. Not easy for a recovering codependent. It will be the work of my life to pull back the focus to myself, maintain limits and boundaries.

As I moved through the traditions I saw how every single one had been trespassed. 

I was self righteous believing mine was the only way and did not treat him with the respect he deserved. I did not keep an open mind and fell into judgment. I did not treat him with unconditional love. I did not practice live and let live and be considerate of him. Healing is love, I did not have respect or compassion at all times for him and trust he was and is doing the best he can. I did not accept that everyone will seek the help I have found. 

I made him my Higher Power and became obsessed. There were no boundaries, it is not my job to fix him and offer unsolicited advice. I am not his Higher Power and needed to give him the dignity of taking responsibility for himself. I lived in the tenth tradition and became aggressive and defensive instead of loving him without getting involved in his personal decisions and situations. Instead of preaching, I needed to respect his right to make choices and grow at his own pace. Finally, I’m not sure I did a very good job of protecting his anonymity by keeping his confidences and respecting his privacy. 

When I was finally given airtime to lay all of this down with him, I crumpled at tradition ten because I realized I had done to him everything my father did to me. If my father were ever to make an amends to me this is exactly what they would look like.

Another piece mined, brought up to the light, to be examined, fractured and healed. 

I made a three part amends which is what I have been taught to do around how he must have felt. I then asked him to forgive me and further asked what I could do to make it right.

He forgave me. 

All I felt was relief, sweet blessed relief. I no longer needed to carry all these rocks that were dragging me down. Our relationship has shifted since. I love him and care for him. I was able to tell him as much and to hear the words spoken to me in return. 

I want to be friends with him which is a new concept for me instead of cutting him out of my life which is old stuff from my family of origin. I have no idea what that looks like. It will unfold the way it is supposed to and I will live into the answers.

A heartfelt amends was made, and its sweetness, lightness and peace are truly beautiful.


It is in letting go that you receive

The past month has been incredibly challenging in all facets of my life. From affairs of the heart, to my service position in my 12 step program, to finances and life. No part has been left untouched.

The Universe has sent test after test after test, like a set of waves that keep coming. As soon as I think I have any kind of buoyancy, another one comes and it’s all I can do to tumble along with the wave and come up for air, gasping for breath before another hits.

I have had to deal with incredible challenges in my service position, from a member taking my inventory and telling me how I don’t measure up. To another who threatened legal action because of groups’ double vaccination requirements. It’s been way too much. It has tested me on the deepest of levels, made me question my sanity, worth and why I’m even doing this role.

The first hit was my home group leader who decided after participating in a discussion with me during a meeting that I was lacking respect. We say in recovery when you point a finger at someone, three are pointing back at you. It brings the focus back to where it belongs, on you.

I did what you are supposed to do in recovery when you are called on the mat, I reviewed my conduct. I was out of sorts, exceptionally late to the meeting, my sinus hurt and I wasn’t as patient as I could have been. I called on guidelines that weren’t in place to respect the container that is created during discussions. It is incredibly important to respect them in order to create a safe space where people are free to share with no interruptions, no advice giving and no commenting. 

To be given the space to be truly heard is such a gift.

I grew up in a family where I didn’t feel heard or seen and my thoughts and feelings were invalidated. Having that container in place is very important to me in meetings. It is a vital and sacred space in our recovery.

An adult child trait is taking things personally, I did my best to detach from this person but at one point I crumpled and broke down triggering a deep wound from my childhood where I was judged within an inch of my life. 

I took a moment to collect myself, fighting the impulse to run. Breathing, I calmly said that it is only necessary to say things once, that my tone may have been off and if an amends was necessary then I would make it.

When they go low, you go high. 

The challenge is in the letting go. It is in letting go that you receive.

I sat with everything afterwards, angry and upset. 

I pour my heart and soul into my service position, I love my program and my family by choice. This program has saved my life, given me the foundation I was looking for, taught me how to take life on life’s terms and given me tools to deal with life. It has blessed me with a family and friends I love beyond anything I could ever have imagined. It has given me what I needed, not what I wanted and a life that will only get better and better if I show up honest, open and willing to do the work.

It took a dear program friend to help me bring the focus back where it belongs, to myself. I was hurting because this interaction reminded me of my mother and how she knew to stick a knife where it would hurt most and twist it. Another piece healed and released.

Deep breath. It is in letting go that you receive.

A few weeks later I was notified of an angry caller on the telephone answering service upset because of double vaccination requirements, threatening to storm the doors of a meeting. I hit the books, contacted the group representatives and identified the traditions at play. I offered my support and doubled back to the member who took the call to make sure she was okay. 

The fun continued when the member contacted me directly and threatened legal action. Escalating and wanting to speak to our area delegate. More chaos and madness. I went to my wise, experienced service advisers. Consulted with them and went to the delegate directly first.

Meanwhile my insides churned. My power chakra got activated, I lost sleep and my precious serenity went out the window. The sheer volume of anger, threats and disrespect are not something I am comfortable with. Again I had to look at myself. I could see the situation from the member’s perspective however all of that was lost to the way it was presented.

I was able to right size myself, give it to the delegate to consult with her advisers and let go. 

What got activated in me? My primary value of safety. I didn’t feel safe in the home I grew up in. I do my best to create safe containers during business meetings, especially when we tackled this topic because I knew it would be a challenging one.   

That week I sat in my meeting with my home group, explained the situation and cried. This is not Al-Anon and we are all volunteers doing the best we can. My family by choice held me, comforted me and helped love me back into myself.

Deep breath.

It is in letting go that you receive.

The gifts I have received from these two experiences alone are worth their weight in gold. I’ve healed parts of myself that get triggered in the hopes that next time it won’t hurt as much or have such an impact.  

Deep breath.

It is in letting go that I have received.


Remember who you are

The last month has been challenging, I have been tested on so many levels and felt like I was drinking from a fire hose at times. The Universe kept delivering experience after experience to truly shake my foundation.

My whole life has changed in the past year, the landscape is completely different.

I am recovering from a severe chronic case of plantar fasciitis which showed up in the first lock down a year ago from the mileage I was walking in shoes that were done. The injury represents a fear of moving forward. This is how the Universe speaks to me if I avoid the message, it comes through my body. I was in a dead end retail job, knowing full well I was worthy and capable of so much more. 

I’ve been recovering from the injury and had to give notice after my physio told me this would only re occur. My foot still hurts after nine months of physiotherapy, it’s still got a lot to say.

Time to reinvent myself once again.

This year has been incredibly challenging but also filled with so much growth.

I have had to put a boundary in place with my parents, a need for space after a terrible phone call this summer almost landed me in the hospital while my mental health was fragile. They have never been able to meet my emotional needs or be there for me in ways that mattered. How do I keep expecting things to change? Magical thinking. That boundary was 47 years in the making. I have felt more peace and freedom since. I am so very tired of being the hero child in a family with active alcoholism and the crazy that goes along with it.

I fell in love with a beautiful man. I finally let someone in and the experience was the most incredible gift of healthy love I have ever felt. When two souls align it’s magic. I felt both held and free. It cracked me open and made me realize what was possible after all the work I have done on myself in recovery.

I reconnected with a man from my past I met when I was active in my disease. Still not sure why the Universe brought us together other than to test my values and beliefs. Maybe it’s to show me how much I’ve truly grown. That connection activates me like nothing else, it’s potent, heady and addictive. I’ve realized how my brain lights up because it’s familiar.

Yesterday I finally completed a huge piece needed to move myself forward and release the past. I am part of a class action lawsuit against sexual misconduct in the military. 26 years ago my life was forever changed after I was raped. The man stalked me for two years prior to the incident and kept coming after the assault. It only stopped when he graduated. 

That event impacted me deeply.

I was an incredible athlete, I packed on weight and wanted to disappear. I have struggled to maintain a constant weight since. The level of fear I felt when he knocked at my door and kept knocking is something I don’t ever want to feel again. Holding my breath and wanting the earth to swallow me whole.

I lost a piece of myself that night. 

My relationships with others and men were deeply impacted. Trusting humans after trauma becomes difficult. I have yet to figure out how to successfully be in relationship with another man.

My ability to hold down jobs for any length of time was challenged, I was consistently underemployed. If I had a good job, I self-sabotaged, not feeling myself to be worthy. I calculated the financial impact of that event. I multiplied my salary as an officer without inflation or promotions by 25 years. The amount was 1.3 million dollars. It was sobering.

The circuitry in my brain fried and my ability to handle stress became challenging. I was in and out of psychologists offices, unable to handle life. My own addictions came out to play for years after the event. I played Russian roulette with my life. Live fast, die young and leave a good looking body were my motto. I was self centered and self seeking, self-will run riot. If a good man came along, I didn’t know what to do with him and would sabotage things, usually by sleeping with someone else. 

I developed PTSD from the event. I cannot handle crowds, I always need to have an escape route and be on the periphery. When I walk in the woods, if a man comes along my brain automatically goes to how I’ll take him down. I don’t even want to put that energy out there let alone act upon it. 

The need to feel safe has become my primary value in life when it used to be freedom.

Yesterday I finally used my voice and laid to rest the demons and ghosts from the past. I don’t care about the financial payout. All I ever wanted was justice and to be able to tell my story. It’s why I get so upset about injustice, nothing turns me into a warrior more that seeing inequality and unfairness.

Now I can let go and trust that whatever happens is what is meant to be. There is so much peace in that belief. This weight that I have been carrying for years can be put down to rest and I can feel a little more free and breathe a little more easily.

As my body shook and anger streamed out of me while I wrote my statement, the winds howled outside and I kept breathing, kept going, pushing to get this done. Seven documents from my medical file have been added to support my claim: doctors visits, HIV tests, psychology and psychiatry reports. I will consult with the legal team before I hit send.

Tears are rolling down my face as I write these words.

Peace at long last. Blessed sweet relief. I have reclaimed yet another part of me and I am so damn grateful.

I firmly believe events happen for us and not to us and that if your Higher Power brought you to it they’ll get you through it.

Remember who you are Natalie.

Powerful, beautiful, worthy, strong and soft with the biggest heart.

Remember who you are sweet one, remember who you are.

In the realm of hungry ghosts once again

There’s an expression in French: “Jamais deux sans trois.”

Loosely translated: never twice without a third time.

As a sensitive and empath I pay attention to what the Universe delivers to me, in my world there is no such thing as coincidence. I usually receive messages in threes. 

If that’s the case, maybe this man from my past and I will intersect once again.

Pain can be transformational. I know this from my own experience, my pain led me to recovery and a 12 step program, however, I know this isn’t the case or the right fit for everyone.

Gabriel Gabor Maté wrote an excellent book on addiction based on his work in Vancouver’s Lower East Side titled In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.

I am a recovering hungry ghost.

This beautiful man is a hungry ghost. 

Maybe if my recovery was stronger, I would be better able to help him. I remember saying to him in one of our conversations that it’s important in the first year of sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous not to get involved with anyone romantically as it will jeopardize your sobriety.

I did not heed my own advice.

He reached out after seven days of do it yourself sobriety. Alcohol and any substance or addiction is a symptom of the deeper work that needs to be done. The layers of pain, trauma and ick need to be unpacked. It takes incredible courage, strength and willingness to uncover everything, sort through it all and let go of what doesn’t serve you and reclaim the pieces of yourself. 

The goal is to make yourself whole. It is not work for the faint of heart by any stretch but the promise of living happy, joyous and free truly exists. It’s not some fairy tale goal, it requires work every day to show up and live to the best of our abilities.

In the 48 hours I interacted with him, I again went to my people. I spoke to a friend in recovery about harm reduction which was his goal. It’s not ideal, works for some and I need to respect people’s process. 

Yet the obsession, ruminating and fantasizing on my end continued. I had to keep pulling the focus back to myself every time. I could feel myself getting sucked back into the realm of hungry ghosts.

My dearest and closest friend in recovery kept me real and said I was obsessed with his drinking. “Trust me no one can stop drinking for you and you will never win the battle with alcohol.” True story for him and one he lives with every day with a peace and serenity I do not possess.

This man from my past asked me to keep things on surface topics because his little experiment was going well. I cannot stand surface conversations. Let’s talk about the real, deep stuff that matters shall we? I’m an enneagram four. Did you expect anything less? I also realize the importance of it not being heavy and intense all the time. 

It harkens back to my family of origin who talk about surface stuff all the time because they don’t know how to feel their feelings and don’t have the emotional language to voice them. That’s one of the legacies of addiction. 

There is incredible resistance and friction when we try to change others, it’s also really not fair to them. It places me in a position of being self-righteous which is a definite shortcoming of mine. I don’t want to be right, I want to be happy and free thank you very much. I stated my job was to accept and love him no matter what.

This is what happens when two people do not align. When wounds, attachment styles, and chemistry based on pheromones gets activated. That my friends is not love, it’s a toxic trauma bond. Warning signs are: intense chemistry, instant attachment, addictive love, explosive fights and make ups, thinking I can save them, anxiety inducing, feeling chronically unmet, sacrificing my needs for them and very difficult to leave. 

I barely made it out of a six year relationship based on a trauma bond, it almost broke me. Blessedly the experience led me to recovery.

I did not respect his need for keeping things light and so we got into it via text. It felt like we were speaking through each other in two different languages. I felt spoken down to, not respected and certainly not heard.

Behind every action there is a positive intention. I know he doesn’t want to be a problem for me. I shared the deep processing I had been doing around our interactionship. The full moon was an emotional one and I was feeling all the feels for a couple of days afterwards which is normal for me.

Whatever this is between us has affected me deeply. Fortunately I now have time in recovery, common sense and self preservation to know when it’s not a good fit.

I went against three people’s advice in recovery and re-engaged with him. In recovery we are not in the business of giving advice unless it is asked for which is what I did. I remember one of my first sponsor’s words: “Where do you want to put your life energy?”

This experience has taught me to hold tight to my values, beliefs and convictions. It was a test and I passed. I’ll embrace the lesson and let go of the wisps in due time. I so richly deserve healthy love, affection and attention.

Right now my heart is still hurting. I know this too shall pass.

I hope he finds his way out of the realm of hungry ghosts. There is so much light, love and laughter to be found amongst the living.

When the past comes knocking

A few weeks ago the past came knocking at my door in the shape of a man I used to know.

I am incredibly wary when this happens. I am not the same Natalie I was back then. By the grace of God I have found recovery.

That Natalie was stuck in an endless loop of pain. In my disease, I used men for a good time, not a long time. I did not know how to be in a relationship to save my life. If someone good came along, I sabotaged it usually by sleeping with someone else. I didn’t know who I was or what trust, love and commitment even looked like.

I only knew what had been modeled in my family of origin and ended up repeating a similar relationship. Stuck with another adult child of an alcoholic trying to make things work while slowly breaking myself. I developed a thyroid autoimmune disorder when I lost my voice in that relationship, my body literally started attacking itself. 

I kept trying to make things work because that is what my parents did. The Universe severed my Achilles tendon and forced me to stop trying to move forward. I had to sit with myself, in my pain and ask for help. My first rock bottom. Fortunately an angel in human form had already entered my life by then and she helped me find the rooms of Al-Anon. 

Here I am in recovery all these years later believing I am solid in my new foundation. Enter the Universe to deliver a test to see just how strong I really am.

My memory has wiped a lot of my life back when I was in my disease thank goodness. I did remember this man though for some reason, mostly because of his beautiful car and how fun it was to drive.

So when he popped up via Messenger wanting to be friends, I asked him if he was serious. You see we had never been friends according to my recollection. He was someone I had fun with, period.

As I explained how I was not the same person, he filled in the gaps in my memory. When it comes to men from my past I am an island, surrounded by walls with moats and turrets. No one gets in.

We ended up texting back and forth for a couple of hours. I found the whole interaction more annoying than anything else but I also wondered why the Universe was sending him back into my life again.

A couple of weeks later, I reached out to him again. This time with pictures of my new hair, wanting some male attention. I really need to be careful about what I ask for.

A day later he responds and again we spend another two hours reconnecting via text. This time I enjoy the connection and hop onto a video call with him later which lasted four hours.

Again I think nothing of it other than a really great chat with a super smart, funny and empathetic man.

We reconnect again via video a couple of days later and spend, get this, nine hours on a video call. Everything I learned about limits and boundaries in recovery goes out the window on that chat. I wanted to cut it short after a couple of hours to have dinner and do some yoga, I could feel he wanted me to stay. As more time passed, I was the one who didn’t want to go.

I threw everything I had at him in the form of tests and he leaned in to all of them. We covered Chinese astrology, the Five Love Languages, the Enneagram, north and south nodes in western astrology and finally my personal favorite, your top five values. He was a trooper and I liked him for it, he blessedly asked at one point to talk about pop culture. I suddenly remembered you cannot be intense and deep all the time.

Two people with addictive personalities obsessed with each other. It was heady and you could cut the attraction between us with a knife. I had not felt this intensity of desire in a very long time.

That’s when the alarm bells started going off. I know my brain has not rewired itself enough through recovery and consequently I have learned to be wary of whom I am attracted to. 

In the cold light of day and with distance I could see the patterns. I grew up with a father who was a high functioning person with a drinking problem and emotionally unavailable. My ex was whip smart, funny and emotionally challenged. You cannot feel your feelings with active addiction.

It is not good when a man reminds you of your ex is it?

I grew increasingly unsettled. My precious serenity which I have worked so hard for in recovery and need to protect at all costs was gone.

I threw myself into processing it all by swimming in the lake. I clocked an impressive amount of mileage in the space of a week. 

This beautiful human lives in Burlington, Vermont. It was the perfect fairy tale in my mind. I like my life here and it’s only a four hour drive away. I could see us spending time together skiing and having so much fun. I enjoy my space and having a man around 24/7 at this point in my life would be a major challenge. The prospect of being in relationship with this man seemed like a good one. 

I was all in until I wasn’t.

We went over the 20 questions of Alcoholics Anonymous together on our second video chat, I spoke about the program and the promises found if you work the steps. Given what he shared with me, I knew he had a drinking problem. Addiction runs in families and I could see all of it so clearly. 

A dear program friend asked me if I was taking his inventory. I was stunned. Here I was again going into fix it mode because I care about the guy and now I am invested. Believe it or not, I even said I wished I could walk into an open AA meeting with him. That is exactly what newcomers say when they come into the rooms of Al-Anon. I am not his Higher Power.

I lost sight of my recovery and got caught up in a maelstrom just like that. 

By then he knew I was affected, my wellness went sideways and I was caught up in what it felt like all those years ago to be in relationship with someone who was not well. My emotions were all over the place, all I did was obsess and try to process what was happening.

Not good.

He tried to create space between us to let the dust settle. All that did was activate my abandonment wound and I got angry. A person in a relationship doesn’t get to unilaterally decide when we communicate. I communicate a lot, him not as much.

No one likes being in limbo. In that time I spoke to my people. Again the angel in human form I mentioned earlier helped set me straight. I knew she was the one I needed to speak to, she is a grateful member of AA and has been in recovery longer than I have.

The first thing she said to me is you cannot save him. The challenge will be to help him if he wants the help, to stay solid in your recovery and not get hurt. 

By that point, I knew I did not have it in me to do any of the above.

It is important to note that not once did I ask him if he had a desire to stop drinking. Unbelievable. Where did the Natalie with years of recovery go?

I had to go right back to step one and admit I was powerless over alcohol and people and that my life had become unmanageable once again.

I ended things as honestly, directly and as kindly as I could. Program taught me that. I am not strong enough in my recovery to be involved with someone with an active addiction. By no means was this an easy decision for me to make. I went back and forth on it for a week but I knew deep down what I needed to do.

He would not speak to me via video chat so unfortunately all of this went down via text. I care deeply about this man but I have stayed far too long in relationships with men for their potential. No more. Oxygen mask on yourself first.

I knew in my body this decision was the right one but I was still unsettled. The grief I felt afterwards was incredible. Like a dam broke, I knew I was grieving for the Natalie that abandoned herself over and over in the arms of men who did not give a shit about me.

I practiced contrary action and honored myself this time.

I spent a year and a half with a man who had a drinking problem while I was at university. I stayed a week and half in this iteration. Huge progress thanks to my recovery.

When the past comes knocking, will you open the door?


Love leads us back to ourselves

I was given an incredible gift this summer: love.

I got involved with a beautiful human from the west coast who was in the area for five weeks to visit with family.

I remember pausing when I selected his profile on the dating app, and thinking do I really want to get involved with someone who will only be in town for a short period of time? I considered how well written his profile was which is quite rare and selected him.

Little did I know that taking that small action would lead me to falling in love with him.

He chose mine in return and we started texting, two hours later we got on the phone with each other for another two hours. I remember feeling very much at ease with this man. 

The next day, in true impulsive Natalie fashion, I went up to the cottage where he was isolating in Chelsea. We spent four hours together and the feeling of comfort and familiarity only grew.

He decided to continue isolating after our encounter which gave us the opportunity to speak to each other every day on the phone. I’m incredibly grateful for that time period because I tend to be impulsive by nature and can often jump without thinking things through. I’ve learned through recovery to follow my gut and really listen to the inner leanings of my soul.

I wrote out a list of characteristics I was looking for in a partner a while ago, however I knew how it would feel to be around that person. His very voice felt like home and his nature was incredibly calming. I tend to hold my breath, to be up in my head a lot and to be activated. As soon as I heard his voice on our calls, I felt like I could take a deep breath again. His energy instantly soothed me.

Our histories came out during those calls and connecting with him became the highlight of my days. It didn’t seem to matter what I threw at him, he handled all of it. As codependents, our stuff comes out in relationships. Sure enough as I got triggered, I was able to pause in the space between stimulus and response and not react. Instead of reacting I chose to respond as much as possible.

The old stories from my life that came up were incredible. But I also saw how I had grown in my awareness and my ability to accept my wounds and furthermore, ask for what I needed. I am a big communicator because I’ve lived in environments where there was a lack and can see the benefits of doing things differently, especially in relationships.

I got up into my head about having a man come into my home, two years and a pandemic have indeed left their mark. By then we ended our calls by saying we loved each other and I trusted him, however, my ego had other plans for me in the form of nightmares. This dark entity with glowing eyes held me down in my bed on the morning before we were to see each other. It was terrifying given I have premonition dreams and have been sexually assaulted. It took a lot of compassion to work through and overcome the fear. Safety is my number one value for a reason. Again he was able to hold space for me and love me, he did this over and over in our time together.

The few days we had together kept getting better and better. He was the first person I came to with everything for over a month. 

The day invariably came when I said goodbye to him after dropping him off. It’s like a dam broke, I could not stop the tears streaming down my face. We spoke about staying friends once he went back home but I have no experience with being able to do that with someone I love so I had to let go. Not an easy feat for me and the one action I struggle the most with in my recovery.

He was a bright spot and a safe place to land where I felt both held and free. This experience is the healthiest form of love I have ever felt. That in itself is the biggest gift.

I didn’t realize how much of an island I was when it came to men, especially when my mental health goes sideways. I shut down, wall up and go into a container and only let a select few people in. I practiced contrary action with this man. Something I’ve learned in program because I wanted to live. I feel like I don’t do a very good job of that.

He wants me to stay hopeful and open to love which is beautiful isn’t it?

Endings aren’t easy for me when feelings are involved. Knowing that everything invariably comes to an end is one thing, practicing non attachment and letting go is another.

It took me a solid two weeks to grieve, I allowed myself to feel all the feelings and let them move through me. I practiced extreme self care. I could not have gotten through that time without my bestie, who let me vent, cry and process with so much love, wisdom and kindness.

I am beyond grateful for the gift of this experience, it cracked me wide open and allowed me to feel love and be loved in return.

In the end love never leaves, it simply transforms itself into another form doesn’t it?

Ease and Grace

I’ve been on sick leave from retail for twelve weeks to try and heal a severe case of plantar fasciitis.

This is the worst injury I’ve had to deal with. Why? Because I have high pain tolerance and I didn’t help myself by pushing past pain for months working retail by any stretch.

The former high performance athlete mentality of pushing through pain has not served me.

I’ve been doing physio for twelve weeks, have had my foot taped and been doing my rehabilitation exercises diligently. There has been some improvement but it’s been very slow. Frankly a bone break would have been faster to deal with.

This has been a great lesson in patience. It’s also been a lesson in mindset.

I’ve had to adjust to being injured and consequently changing my habits. I need to stay off my foot as much as possible which isn’t easy now that spring has come.

I’ve come up with words that have helped me try and reframe my mindset: ease and grace.

Giving myself ease and grace means not standing in a driveway for an hour and a half talking to a friend, instead of taking the chair that was offered. It means not running all of my errands on the same day and therefore taxing my foot.

Giving myself ease and grace also means letting myself off the hook mentally with my to do list, it means allowing myself to rest.

I’m tired of dragging this injury, I just want my foot to heal so I can get back to walking and being active.

It means changing what I do for work. No more retail for me, my body simply cannot handle it anymore.

Hoping to see more light at the end of the tunnel soon.

From the darkness to the light, yet again

This post has been percolating for a while. Why?

Because I’ve gone through yet another mental low and I’m so very tired of them. I’m also somehow feeling like I’m not measuring up because I haven’t yet figured out this pattern that seems to be on repeat throughout my life.

I fell into this low on Sunday November 8th. I remember the time frame like it was yesterday because I’d just come off a high the day before from organizing a virtual 12 step program day with a stellar lineup of speakers. I’m not sure what thought I had that precipitated the descent but I remember spending most of the next day in bed reading, full of sadness and anxiety. I told myself it was the low after coming off the high but the cloud persisted. It’s like the curtains went down and everything dimmed.

These lows tend to last for about six weeks and sure enough, I felt myself coming out of the fog by mid December.

I can only describe these periods as hell. I feel sad, depressed and full of fear and anxiety. This pattern feeds on itself and becomes a shame spiral. The old family of origin tapes start playing about how I’m not measuring up and I’m a failure. I go into this container and only let a few people in. It takes everything I have just to show up to work and get through the basics of life needed to survive.

It’s like Dr Jekyll and Dr Hyde. There are two different personas. One who shows up full of life and the other who is full of fear.

I’ve come to understand after many conversations that this is most likely the family disease of alcoholism playing out.

It’s no wonder I’ve been misdiagnosed as being bipolar in the past.

I spoke to my doctor about my mental health given my family history. My doctor has known me for 22 years and my mother was a former patient. Her advice was to go to those closest to me and find out whether I’d made enough changes in the past few years in my life with recovery. I had more questions than answers after those three conversations. I chose my go to person in program, my sponsor, and my former counselor whom I hadn’t seen in a year.

How much is enough change? Change is hard to quantify. Is this a biological occurrence or the result of years of distorted thinking? Impossible questions.

My doctor suggested a medication to treat bipolar disorder which her patients have had success with. However, medication takes dosing and time to figure out the right level that is most effective. What was most disturbing was that if I came off the medication too quickly, I could die. Great, so you’re going to give me a weapon when I’m already having thoughts of wanting to die?

Instead I focused on increasing my dose of vitamin D, started light therapy and leaned even more into my program.

By the grace of a power greater than myself, I was called by the organization I go to for counseling. I had been on a waiting list for months and a spot with a new counselor opened up. Truly divine timing.

My counselor and I started our way down the healing path together. We align in that we believe that thoughts elicit feelings. She got me to start focusing only on thoughts that lead to good feelings. I began an appreciation journal about what I like about myself and any memory or situation that elicits positivity.

Eight weeks later I am becoming more and more aware of where my brain goes. I am able to catch myself ruminating in the past, in negative thoughts or ending up in the unsafe neighborhood that my mind can be. I am learning to bring myself back to the present moment and stopping thoughts that don’t serve me well. I take a deep breath in those moments and tell myself out loud to stop and instead focus on what is in front of me.

It’s fair to say I live in my head a lot. Embodied practice through yoga brings me back into my body by focusing on breath and movement. Another tool I often use is to instead focus on what I’m grateful for.

One of the 12 gifts of my 12 step program outlined in our reading materials is that I shall come to know the vastness of my emotions but I will not be a slave to them. I’m obviously a work in progress because I still feel like a slave to my emotions.

My sponsor reminds me that feelings are not facts and that I can take what I like and leave the rest.

I spent years being told not to feel, so now I do my best to honor my feelings as they pass through my body but not linger in them. I try not to create a story around them and follow a thread that leads to some rationalization in my big brain.

All of this is so much easier said than done.

It takes continued effort, repetition, time and patience to undo patterns of thinking that have been operating for years.

All I can do is take it one step at a time and hope for more and more light.

Musings

I sat on a pop up patio on the weekend and felt content and happy. Despite a let down with a potential date who happened to be in a relationship. Who does that?

You know they say that when a person shows you who they are, believe them. I kick myself for not doing just that. Yet another lesson learned. When it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

I had gone out the night before with a dear friend. It felt good to get out despite us both wearing masks amidst a pandemic. We get along like a house on fire and picked up right where we’d left off over a year ago.

Sometimes a girl needs to get dressed up, go out with her fanciest mask and have a few drinks in good company.

I’d been to the Westboro farmers market in the morning, my usual outing after yoga and a program meeting. Followed by a delicious sandwich from Dirienzos and some window shopping in Westboro.

I sat thinking amidst the colors of fall that in this very moment I am blessed. I may not be in my dream job and it may be time for me to move on and I may not have a significant other by my side but despite all of this I am content.

These moments don’t happen very often but when they do I revel in them. Don’t get me wrong, I practice gratitude on the daily but this felt like a moment of peace.

And who doesn’t want more moments of peace in their lives?

Three strikes

It seems I’ve managed to strike out three times when it comes to online dating in the past few days.

If nothing it makes for good blog post material.

I spent a day at Calabogie Lake last week. I feel as though I’ve missed out on summer this year somehow. So I decided a beach day was in order.

I reached out to a guy I had met online when I was searching for my first boyfriend on Facebook. The guy had the same name as him and we ended up chatting off and on over the last year. It was a funny story of mistaken identity if nothing else.

He met me at the beach and we hung out for a bit before I packed up for the day. I found him more attractive than what I had seen online of him so I was pleasantly surprised. He had never hidden his interest in me. A cuddling session ensued and we parted ways.

It wasn’t until I checked his Facebook profile afterwards that I saw he was in a relationship. I was disappointed, angry and hurt. I hate feeling used and it took everything I had not to reach out to the woman he is in a relationship with. Because who wants to be in a relationship with a guy who feels another woman up?

No one.

Second batter up was a guy I had connected with online in May. Younger than me by almost a decade with three young children. Based on those reasons alone normally I’d strike this guy from my roster but we started chatting and I liked him. He was extremely busy running several business and seemed to have no time. I decided he had no time to be in a relationship. Plus I have a history of getting involved with unavailable men and this guy had that in spades.

I cut off ties with him and then reached out to him while I was on the beach. We ended up texting for four hours the next day. Things got pretty hot and heavy fast. He made some claims about a future that were carrots in hindsight.

The next day he ghosted me.

Classy right?

I have to say that kind of behavior is insulting, cruel and unnecessary.

The third strike came last night after another prospect I’d connected with online decided that things weren’t going to work out based on the fact that he felt I had too much unresolved trauma.

I’d like to insert a swear word here.

Seriously? Who do you think you are?

I have to say not doing the work to heal and resolve issues is one of the things I most reproach in potential matches.

I’m no goddess sitting on a mountain top, got it all figured out but I have done a shit ton of work to deal with my past traumas thank you very much. In fact, I continue to see a counselor and am in a 12 step program. How’s them apples?

I told him to go stuff it and said judgement was incredibly off putting.

These three strikes have left me deflated. I’m tired of looking for love. I’ve been dating since I was 18, where is he?

The message I’m getting from this is I need to take a break yet again.

Wish me luck.

Love

Love.

What does love mean to you?

My description of what love looks like has changed over the years as I’ve grown and lived my life.

My perception of what love looked like in my family of origin was skewed. I grew up believing love was conditional on outcomes. If I got enough As at school and finished first enough times ski racing somehow I’d be enough and would be told I was loved.

Love was sexualized in my home growing up and so I did what I knew to get love which led me down a very dark path. I have this alter ego, a seductress of sorts who shows up when she needs attention and love.

In recovery I learned there was a different way to love. My beautiful, sweet home group, who became my family by choice, loved me into the parts of myself I couldn’t and still struggle with. They see me with eyes of love and remind me of who I am when I most need it.

Thanks to them and the work I’ve done to recover the parts of myself I was meant to be, I’ve slowly and sometimes painfully, discovered what healthy love looks and feels like.

As I’ve been so beautifully reminded over and over again in these past weeks of social distancing, while listening to hours upon hours of program speakers sharing their experience, strength and hope through online conferences and workshops: I am a child of God.

I’ll say it again: I am a child of God.

Born perfect. With no need to be anything else but the fullest expression of myself.

That is certainly not a notion I grew up with.

It is a profound and life changing realization. The constant striving, the need to keep learning and working on myself can ease. Instead I can find that space between that need and who I am. A grace of sorts. Love for who I am exactly in this moment.

Because as program so beautifully reminds me: I am right where I am meant to be. In this moment, exactly as I am.

It’s another one of those penny drop moments where something just clicks into place and life as I know it is again forever changed.

Last night I had the opportunity to spend time with a man I love. It’s been challenging outside of program to be friends with men and not dip into the waters of sex. I have yet to master this ability.

I met this amazing human in the midst of my disease fifteen years ago and I somehow knew to draw firm lines around him. He and I were to be friends and nothing more. We lost sight of each other while I was in relationship and as my Higher Power would have it our paths crossed again afterwards.

I was so shattered after my relationship fell apart. I lost the only home I had known for 16 years, my former stepdaughter and my ex. I moved and started over. There weren’t many pieces of my old life left and nothing felt remotely familiar. Fortunately I had found recovery by then and had my people to lean on.

Within two months of this huge change, he came back into my life again to remind me of our friendship and love.

We picked up right back where we’d left off and after a while we started dating. I was a shadow of who I am now, broken and full of pain. Still enmeshed with my ex in a trauma bond. I fell into the comfort of his arms only to realize I had attracted another variation of an unavailable man. He is very good at what he does and keeps himself incredibly busy.

What did I do? I broke his heart.

A long weekend where he was working a gig, I went off to Calabogie to watch the National Wake Boarding Championships. The event was cancelled part way through due to thunderstorms on the lake. I stopped in a town on the way home and met a man I fell head over heels in love with. I’m still at a loss for words to describe what happened.

It was like something out of the movies. We met at an ice cream shop and sat for hours talking while the place closed. Neither of us wanting to leave this moment. It didn’t matter than he was in an unhappy relationship. Old me didn’t care.

You see I was a master at fixing men or so I thought. Instead I’ve learned in recovery to keep the focus on me, to deal with my own pain and allow others the dignity of their choices.

I hurt my beloved friend. I broke his heart because unbeknownst to me he had fallen in love with me.

The pain wasn’t over, as men rarely leave their partners so I in turn, had my heart broken. That was the level of chaos I caused and can still cause if I’m not careful.

Here I sit almost five years since those events and I have tears streaming down my face at the level of love this man still has for me. I don’t need to be anything other than who I am when I show up with him. There is no striving, no need for perfection, we can just sit and be. Together.

That’s exactly what we did last night for hours. Talking, listening to music, laughing till my throat was hoarse. He held me and we talked some more, and I marveled at the way he loves me.

He touches me with reverence, asks for permission and holds space with no expectations of sex. He reminds me I am beautiful and all I feel is love. Just being in that moment with him is such a gift.

As tears keep falling, I am reminded that God loves me and wants me to be happy. I am a child of God and worthy of safe, sweet beautiful love.

We all are.

What a gift.

From the darkness to the light, yet again

I feel as though I have come through yet another tunnel. From darkness to light. This pattern has repeated itself over and over again throughout my life since I was sexually assaulted.

I’ve come to live with these highs and lows in my life in the past 25 years. I’m happy to say that the lows and highs don’t last as long anymore and are not quite as devastating. I attribute this progress to the work I’ve done in recovery.

Mid January another low hit. I can see what the cause was, a program member opting out of a significant service commitment at the district level of my program where I am the chair. I was also able to observe that I had been in a high prior to that event happening. I’ve learned in program that I have choices, as do others. It’s okay to change our minds and do what is best for us.

I had gotten emotionally involved with this person. The connection was instant, heady and obsessive. When he entered the door of another 12 step program I was able to step back, love him into his decision and draw a boundary of friendship for us.

I felt very much alone in carrying his decision. I didn’t reach out to the committee I sit with. Instead I sat with his choice and anxiety spiked as to what we were going to have to do to fill his position. It’s important to note it had taken months to get him approved from other committee members.

Anxiety is what happens when my head isn’t where my feet are. Fully grounded in the present. Instead I go whooshing into the dark recesses of my mind and take it on myself. I am a failure and I can’t do this job. Old limiting beliefs stemming from my family of origin.

I saw my counselor, reasoned things out with two people who had served in my role and a trusted friend. I came to the committee with an amends for my behavior, you see, instead of stepping back and allowing them the space to hold a group conscience, I dominated. I wanted my friend to be voted into the position.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson. My role is one of facilitating. I don’t have a vote at the table and therefore I need to step back, allow the members the space to share and reason things out with each other followed by a vote. The vote needed to be done by ballot, something I didn’t do.

I allowed my ego, selfishness and power to rule the show. Not what program is about. I was humbled in making an amends to the committee members. I cried and apologized for not putting principles above personalities. It’s my modus operandi to cut and run when things go sideways. Instead I told the committee that I would see them through till June. I am finishing the previous chair’s three year service term.

Service positions are like pouring miracle grow on our defects of character. In this space and time of social distancing, I’ve been able to see how much I love service and the work I do for our program. Service has saved my life. I started six months into the program because a wise elder saw I needed something to hold onto. Here I am seven years later growing in service. First as my group representative, then as chair of our outreach arm and now as chair of our beloved district.

I’ve been listening to almost 70 hours of speakers and workshops offered online through the incredible crew behind Al-Anon Without Borders. Weekend Round Ups have been fantastic and the workshops on such topics as forgiveness, discovering choices and the values and principles behind the steps have been enlightening to say the least.

I felt like my recovery was stagnating before mid March, I’ve grown so much in these past few weeks. I’m leaning in and working on my recovery. It’s been intense and has helped shift so many pieces for me.

This feels like the biggest wellness retreat of my life. Anchored by early morning walks in the forest, sessions on my yoga mat and staying connected through many online program meetings. It’s cracked me open, given me the space and time to really stop and look at what more I want to accomplish.

I’m realigning and dreaming bigger.

Stay tuned. I can’t wait!

My impact statement

I’m part of a class action lawsuit against the Department of National Defense for sexual misconduct. The class action has been won and it is now time for me to write a victim impact statement.

I despise the word victim.

I am not a victim. It’s the last word I want to be described as or who I want to be.

I’ve been reading other victim impact statements of women who have been raped to get a sense of what is necessary to write.

It has been beyond horrific to read these stories. I truly have no words to describe the experience. The process has elicited some strong reactions on my part. I’ve opened Pandora’s box again and all these dark swirls of energy are around me filled with pain, memories and emotions.

It’s funny how the mind works. I found myself minimizing my experience compared to brutal rapes where the women were hospitalized. When I was reading the impacts the rapes had on their lives I again minimized my experience. Counting myself fortunate to not have suffered as much.

Then reality set in.

My life has been deeply affected by what happened to me 25 years ago.

My career in the military was over before it even began. I have suffered financially in that I have been unable to hold down jobs for any length of time. I don’t handle stress well, it’s like circuitry in my brain has been fried.

My interactions with people have changed. It’s challenging for me to trust. It goes without saying that my romantic relationships with men have been deeply affected.

It’s a miracle that I was able to finish my studies and go on to complete another degree and a subsequent graduate degree. I remember having to drop courses over and over because I couldn’t handle the pressure.

My body changed after that night. I packed on weight. It became a form of protection, a barrier to keep men away. I’d gain and lose 30 pounds. I still struggle with maintaining a consistent weight.

I shoved that experience in a box and buried it deep. Sure I was fortunate to speak to a psychologist after it had happened but the healing didn’t happen then.

It took years before I was able to see the pattern of that single night and the havoc it has wrought on my life. I slept with countless men in a misguided attempt to take back my power. I didn’t want a relationship. I was an island surrounded by a wall in the middle of the ocean.

I thought that if I could get my fix enough I wouldn’t have to feel the pain. I was caught in a negative feedback loop of feeling horrible and going right back out to do it again. I abandoned myself over and over again and played Russian roulette with my life. I didn’t care about myself or anyone else.

I lost myself in relationships because I had no sense of who I was. Now I did grow up in a family with alcohol and abuse so you learn to be whatever you need to be in order to stay safe. A born people pleaser, I became whoever it was you wanted me to be.

I spent years in and out of psychologists offices until I hit an addictions center and went for counselling and group therapy. It took a while and more destruction before I found recovery seven years ago. I’ve been able to continue my healing journey thanks to my Higher Power, program and my sponsor for which I am so very grateful.

The words of a dear friend of mine from program came to me yesterday as I sat in the pain: “If God brought you to it, he’ll get you through it.”

They say to look for the evidence of God, a Higher Power, the Universe whatever it is you chose to call it in your life. Looking back, He’s had his hand in all of it.

My best friend reminded me yesterday of my strength. She said I was one of the strongest people she’s ever met. It’s what others see in me as well. It helps to be reminded of this when I’m in the midst of feeling my feelings and releasing them.

I know I’m strong enough to do this. To write a statement. To do the steps necessary to present my case. No more hiding. It’s time to shine the light on this darkness for those who need to see it and to let go. I leave the outcome in my Higher Power’s hands. Whatever happens will be meant to be.

I needed to write this post before I write my statement.

Wish me luck.

Seven years

A little over two weeks ago I celebrated seven years in recovery.

That’s a big milestone. I don’t usually talk about the number of years I’ve been in the rooms because I believe what’s important is how I work my program. Growing up in my family of origin I was measured by my output and success so I choose to no longer let the number of years in recovery define me because invariably I will feel like I’m not measuring up.

In program I’ve learned I am right where I need to be. So here I am. A member called it my re birthday and I like the sound of that because I feel like I have been reborn into a better version of myself.

I remember that night walking into the room of my home group. I was broken. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I was in a walking cast, I’d severed my Achilles tendon. The Universe was really trying to get my attention by all means necessary. I was trying to make a six year relationship work with another adult child. Needless to say, everything I had tried wasn’t working.

I’ll forever be grateful to my former partner who drove me to my first meeting. He stipulated that it was the only meeting he’d be driving me to and that I needed to find a ride moving forward which I did. In program I’ve learned to look for the evidence of a Higher Power in my life. A newcomer drove me to my meetings until my walking cast came off. I never saw him afterwards; I’m very grateful for his part in my recovery.

It’s important to mention a dear friend who is in another twelve step program was also instrumental in getting me into the rooms. I’m not sure what I would have done without her during that dark time. She is still a blessed presence in my life and somehow still manages to say exactly what I need to hear all these years later.

Seven years.

In that time I went through a few sponsors, until I found the one I am with now. It’s fascinating to note that I met my sponsor at my very first Al-Anon day where she was the main speaker. I sat at her table and she took me under her wing. That’s one of the many things I love about her. Make no mistake, she’s also a black belt sponsor and kicks my ass with love when needed.

My first sponsor taught me a lot and was there for me in a way no one had been until then. I lost everything in my previous life: the man I loved, my step daughter, the home I’d had for 14 years. I lay in my bed in my new house wanting to die. I was grieving my previous life, was financially destitute and jobless. She set up a 30 day check in. I was to email or call her for 30 days. She helped me get back on my feet. She taught me about the five love languages and would frequently ask me where I wanted to put my life energy but most importantly she listened and loved me unconditionally.

The sponsor I have now came into my life when I had a really bad slip. I had spent all kinds of money I didn’t have, had packed on weight and slept around again. I had to face my parents and the shame made me want to die all over again. She got me into a family of origin program that is housed with a treatment facility up north. It was transformative and as scared as I was to go, I didn’t want to leave once my time there was over.

Seven years.

Service is an integral part of my recovery and program. I started into service very early on. A wise member saw I needed something to hold onto, she suggested the position six months in to my recovery. My home group needed a Group Representative as the previous one had not finished her three year term. I loved that role the most out of all the service positions I’ve held since. I held that role for four years, had I been told I was signing up for that length of time I would have said no. Al-Anon is a gentle program and I was able to lean on members with more time in for help. It’s an instrumental position in that it’s a link of information to the district and keeps the group informed and active in district events and affairs.

From there I went on to serve as Alternate District Representative because I had caught the bug and couldn’t see myself not doing service. I became Chair of Al-Anon Information Services which is essentially our outreach arm. Again there was no one in the role so I stepped up. They take care of sharing our program to the public through a website, phone answering service and other means. It met my idealistic need to make a difference in the lives of others.

I wasn’t able to complete my three year term as my District Representative stepped down. In our service manual it says the alternate assumes the role of the District Representative if they are unable to do so. In program I’ve learned there are no musts and I always have a choice. I stepped up and what a ride it’s been since.

This service position has taught me a lot. It’s brought up my defects of character and poked at the limiting beliefs I learned in my family of origin of not being good enough. That’s the point of service. There is no safer place to learn about ourselves and how to work with others in healthy ways than in the rooms.

Seven years and I’m grateful for all of it.

It hasn’t been an easy or linear path by any stretch. I’ve had a lot of slips but I now have tools to deal with life on life’s terms. I have a family by choice who have taught me how to love myself by loving me unconditionally just as I am without having to strive for more. Because of them I know I am not alone.

I’ve learned what true freedom from carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders for so many years feels like. I now do my best to keep my side of the street clean so I can keep feeling that way. I now know what true happiness and serenity feel like.

I’m still working on myself but I’ve accepted I am right where I need to be. I still have scary lows where I think I won’t recover but I invariably come out of them stronger having learned yet another lesson. I still struggle with complete self acceptance and self love and that’s okay. Program has taught me to go easy on myself.

I know I wouldn’t still be here if it weren’t for my Higher Power, my sponsor, my family by choice and this wonderful program. I’ll be in recovery for life. I’m so grateful for all of it and so I keep coming back, one step at a time.

Happy seventh re birthday to me.

Realizations

I went out for drinks the other night with a dear old friend. A great guy I used to date years ago. Things didn’t work out between us because he wasn’t ready and so we stayed friends. He’s a stand up guy.

As I sat there laughing my ass off, I realized THIS is what it’s supposed to feel like with someone you like. He was his usual amazing self and listened intently while I updated him on my life.

He attentively sat and brainstormed with me about my plans for the New Year and my life. It was evident in that simple act that he genuinely cared about me and my well being.

Now let’s compare and contrast this experience to the one I’m having with the guy I’m supposed to be dating. I say supposed to because I haven’t seen him in two weeks or spoken to him in a week. As a friend so aptly put it, that’s not dating. I’m not sure what it is.

The guy I’m involved with is not ready by any stretch. In fact he’s a landmine because if you expect anything more you’ll get yourself hurt.

To add insult to injury, we’d had a discussion about not seeing other people. I went and had a look at his profile last night on the dating site I met him on, only to notice he’s updated it. What’s that about?

I’ve asked him the hard questions about what to expect from him. His lack of interest since speaks volumes and when I asked him about his absence he said he’d been preoccupied. Right.

So I’m moving on. As much as I see potential, I will not date another man for theirs. Been there, done that.

On this winter’s solstice, I’m setting my intentions and refuse to settle for less. We’ll see what the Universe brings.

Expectations

Expectations.

We all have them don’t we? Aren’t they part and parcel of our lives?

I’ve recently started seeing someone. I’m hopeful. The man is grounded, calm and solid. I’ve been waiting a very long time for someone like him to come around.

All of a sudden these expectations crop up. I’d like him to text me good morning and good night. I keep telling myself that these gestures are a given and that I shouldn’t have to ask him to do so. And there you have it: expectations.

The man has an awful lot on his plate. He’s in a bitter custody battle with his ex wife for his kids, he has yet to be officially divorced, and to top it all off his mom is in a home with dementia dying of cancer. Really? Could anything else be added to his already heavy load?

The last thing he needs is me adding to his already too full plate. Instead I try and be a good sounding board, not his therapist but a safe place for him to vent. At the same time, I want him to be able to have fun with me, to forget his troubles for a while.

What a hot mess his life is. I seriously thought long and hard about getting involved with him knowing my codependent nature and need to help.

It was my manager at work who told me to give him a second chance. That I could stay safely in my little cocoon or I could take a risk and jump and see what happens.

Relationships bring out our stuff like nothing else does. I’m curious to see where this takes me.

In the meantime, I’ll try not to let my expectations trip me up.

Attraction

How do you explain attraction?

I believe most would say attraction isn’t something that’s logically explained. It’s chemistry, something that operates on a baser level.

I think we are hardwired when it comes to attraction. I’ve been wary of whom I’m attracted to because it seems like the unavailable man pattern keeps replaying over and over again despite my best efforts.

I’m so over it.

Recently my forays back into the dating world have yielded unavailable characters once again.

The poster child for unavailable men was part of my world for a brief period in the form of a soccer coach from France 10 years younger than me. Now this match wasn’t meant to be a long term one, it was strictly supposed to be physical except we never ended up meeting.

He was in town for vacation but got called back home because his mother went into a coma. Dramatic isn’t it? Only in my world it seems.

We stayed in touch and texted back and forth over a month before he ended things. I knew nothing would come of our relationship for obvious reasons. Namely him being in France.

Despite knowing this, I was still upset over our split. Attracted to unavailable men remember?

The next subject who appeared was a friend from a former life I hadn’t spoken to in over a year and a half. He reached out and I waited a few weeks before responding. We met over drinks and the sparks started flying.

I genuinely like this man. It took me by surprise when he wondered how I’d be like to kiss midway through our conversation. It’s important to note that he was at the tail end of a relationship that can be best described as being on life support.

We got involved and a few days later he broke things off with his ex. I was given mixed messages during that first week. We saw each other almost every day. A week in and it was my turn to be told that he’s not the man for me. Again I was upset.

How does this happen?

The whole situation reels of codependency. It takes one to know one right?

I was told a few days ago that he’s been hooking up with his ex since they split. This happened while we were seeing a lot of each other. I was devastated and hurt.

I ended up forgiving him but my trust has been shattered. It’s not something I come by easily. More than anything, I hate that he felt he didn’t deserve better than being a doormat while he was in a relationship with this person. I also hate that she took him for granted and treated him so poorly.

As I stated to him last night they are both getting something out of the relationship they still have with each other.

The more important question is what am I getting out of my relationship with him?

I enjoy his company. We are incredible mirrors for each other in many ways. I love him and I know that feeling is reciprocated. He pushes me to be a better version of myself. Something I’ve always wanted in a partner.

I can identify with his codependency. His ex still doesn’t know I exist which bothers me tremendously. His not wanting to hurt her is his excuse.

Yet he’s hurt me not once, but twice already in a matter of a few weeks. How is that fair?

One of my most important values is honesty. How does this situation align with that? It doesn’t does it?

At the moment I’m left with more questions than answers. I’m not sure what the future holds but I know I’ll live into the answer.

From the darkness to the light

I feel as though I am coming out of a fog.

I’ve been living through several weeks of darkness. I’ve survived yet another trough. Anxiety hit towards the end of July and it took a solid month to feel better.

I’ve lived through these ups and downs since I was raped. The pattern emerged after the event. As though something got rewired in my brain.

I love the highs. I went through three months of them after I found out my mom wasn’t well. Little sleep, super productive, Natalie full of life. It’s amazing what I can accomplish during these periods.

The lows are horrible. I want to die. I have a hard time getting out of bed, showering, feeding myself and feel as though I am barely surviving. When anxiety takes hold, it paralyzes me. I feel frozen, stuck in a block of ice, unable to think clearly or make decisions. It’s an awful feeling, one I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

The good news is since I began recovery over six years ago, the lows don’t last as long for which I am grateful.

I sat down with my counselor a few weeks ago and he posited that my parents’ actions are at the root of my highs and lows. So far, as I look back over the last year, his theory lines up. It’s better than to be diagnosed as manic depressive isn’t it?

The next time a dreaded low happens, I’m to journal and evaluate how I feel on a score of 1 to 10. Not a magical cure by any stretch.

For now I’m counting my blessings that I’ve survived yet another trough. That my sponsor seems to have magical abilities and knows when I go through these periods. I’ll get a text from her out of the blue asking me if I’m hiding. That I can pick up the phone and speak with her or another dear program friend and somehow hear exactly what it is I need to feel better.

The last time my sponsor and I spoke she said I didn’t trust my Higher Power enough. That if I kept thinking this way I’d die. The truth isn’t easy, neither is my sponsor’s job. I know she’s right.

This stinking thinking is one of the demons I fight in recovery and in my life. It keeps showing up again and again, trying to get the better of me. It scares me. It scares my friends. It’s scary.

I’m not sure what I have to do to overcome the feelings that come with the thinking. They threaten to drown me.

I pray a lot when the darkness appears, I ask my Higher Power to take it away, to bring me back to the light. I invariably cry when I make this ask.

Just for today is one of my program slogans. It seems appropriate right now. Just for today I am safe, loved and okay. Just for today I choose to be grateful and happy, to see the good in my life. Just for today I am living.

Love

Someone once shared with me that they were in love with the idea of being in love. It was a penny drop moment for me. Where something profound clicks into place that helps make sense of a bigger picture.

Love.

Our families of origin mold us in our first impressions of love. It is said that we are fully formed by the age of three years old. When born we are giant sponges that suck up every vibration around us for three years and lock them into place.

That theory left me feeling unsettled. I don’t remember those years. I know that despite everything, I was wanted and loved.

This realization happened recently while pouring over family photo albums with my parents. There I was, cute as a button, in matching outfits with color coordinated ribbons in my hair. My mum was good with a sewing machine and made a lot of my clothes.

It was a reversal to what I had believed for most of my life. My mum and I have not had the easiest relationship until recently. I’m certain she was jealous of the relationship I had with my dad and made sure my life was difficult because it. That’s putting it nicely.

Anyone who uses physical, emotional and verbal abuse with their kids has had the very same thing happen to them. I’m grateful to my 12 step program for helping me heal this huge piece.

Love.

The Five Love Languages is a book by Gary Chapman and a tool a sponsor put forth. My main love language is words of affirmation and secondary is physical touch. The others are acts of service, quality time and receiving gifts.

For the longest time I struggled with my parents because they are acts of service people whereas I wanted them to tell me I was loved. I taught my dad how to hug me and tell him I love him often. I can tell it’s not something he’s comfortable with, the hugs or the I love yous but I keep doing it anyway. Along with many acts of service when my parents visit. I feed them delicious food and love them that way.

My mum recently avowed she was not good at hugging to which I responded mum you can keep practicing with me. Isn’t that beautiful? My mum and I now chat at length on the phone and say we love each other at the end of our calls. Huge shift.

Love.

I looked for it in all the wrong places growing up. Truly. All. The. Wrong. Places.

I was a teenager and hooking up with older ski and diving instructors after quitting ski racing. A wild child at sixteen. I settled down at military college and had the best boyfriends, knowing full well I had to be careful. Women are scrutinized and labeled quickly and their reputation always precedes them.

After I was raped at 21, everything changed. I wanted to take my power back and so if things weren’t working in a relationship, I’d go elsewhere to get my needs met. That pattern came out in full force at 25.

I’d left the military and it took me a solid year to figure out who I was after seven years in. A student by day, I had an alter ego at night. I was a bar fly on weekends and had a 100% batting average with the guys I’d pick to take home. Not that we ever went to my place, rarely did that happen.

I’d get what I needed and move on. Lavalife was my playground. I’d go for coffee, lunch and dinner dates. I was completely addicted to the high. I was the queen of first dates. I didn’t need the commitment of a second date, I was too busy having fun. I was a grad student, smart, fit and gorgeous. Needless to say I was popular.

Love.

Then I met the man I had an affair with for four years. He changed my life. I felt alone, different and certainly not a part of. I had all this trauma I didn’t know what to do with and had yet to find recovery.

He knew everything about me, he was present in a way my dad never was. Of course, there were daddy issues but he was this lighthouse in a stormy sea. I went to him with everything and he taught me so much. He gave me complete control over the relationship. It was a heady affair and a very hard one to end.

I was free to date other men during our affair. No wonder a relationship with anyone else never worked. He was my drug of choice. I was so busy hating him and blaming him so I wouldn’t have to look at my part.

I’ve learned in program that when you point a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you. I was able to finally end the relationship with the help of an addictions counselor after two years of group therapy and private counselling over ten years ago.

My counselor used to say you are both getting something out of this. I didn’t know what it was it was until I asked him recently after years of no contact. He said I made him happy.

It hit me then, I was very much in love with him. It was a profound moment and with it came the emotion I didn’t want to feel. Anger is easy, it’s the sadness and grief that are hard.

I’ve made peace with all of it and let it go.

He’s a part of my life. Someone who will always be there. I treasure the relationship we have even though I’ve closed that chapter between us.

Love.

Not a simple emotion by any stretch.

I say I love you often because it’s what I most needed to hear. Life is precious and short. I want the people I love to know I love them.

Love.

A word that appears often in my vocabulary. Something I want to be remembered by. I lived fully and loved well.

Love.

What does it mean to you?

Families

Families.

I believe we are spiritual beings living a human existence. Born into families to live out an iteration of our lives.

My family has been through hell and back. The family disease of alcoholism has had the greatest impact on the primary codependent: my mum.

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Cunning, baffling and powerful. It ruins lives, not just for the person afflicted but by those around them.

I’m a big fan of Louise Hay. Your body speaks your mind. When I run through the physical symptoms in her book You can Heal your Life all I see is the wreckage of alcoholism on my mum.

These past few months have been no different. My mum started experiencing psychotic breaks twelve years ago brought on by major depression.

The first instance happened on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. My mum started looking for her passport and wanted to run away from my dad. In a boat in the middle of the ocean.

None of us knew. Secrets. Another hallmark of the disease. Until my mum appeared on my doorstep six years ago in the midst of a psychotic break.

It wasn’t until my dad showed up and mentioned the first incident that the dots started connecting.

Depression’s probable cause according to Louise Hay is anger you feel you do not have a right to have. Hopelessness. The affirmation: I now go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. I create my life.

This time mum traveled from the Bahamas to my brother’s place in British Columbia and another episode unleashed itself. Lack of sleep seems to trigger them but let’s face it the root cause is 50 years of living with active alcoholism.

It’s fascinating to watch what happens during these episodes. My brother has a foreign student living with him. My mum was reading a book on the concentration camps. All of a sudden the Austrian student was out to kill her and she wanted to run.

My dad’s career was crisis management. He certainly got a lot of training in my family. He managed my mum. His love for her is beautiful to watch in these moments.

Mistakes were made in her treatment from the outset, from trying CBD and melatonin to help her sleep to listening to the ER doctor prescribe a different course of medications.

My mum showed up on my doorstep broken. The first thing she did was throw herself into my arms and cry. I held her and rocked her. I asked her if she’d be willing to seek counselling.

I see a counselor and will do for the rest of my life. Progressive, cunning, baffling and powerful are the characteristics of addiction. There’s no way I’m straying from my 12 step program, sponsor or counselling.

I watched for 10 days as nothing changed. My dad saw his doctor and he spent some time with my mum. Adjusted her medications. Meanwhile my mum was suffering.

I watched as the mum I always wanted growing up showed up. Broken, vulnerable, feeling her feelings. I watched as my dad cared for her and loved her.

Once they got to their summer residence in Prince Edward Island she was admitted to hospital. She spent 39 days in a mental health unit. On Mother’s Day she told me she wanted to check out and she was tired of supporting the family.

My mum and I have been like oil and water for most of our lives. If anything, we are honest with each other. She speaks her truth with me.

My sponsor advised me to go be with my mum otherwise I would have regrets. She said to sit and hold my mum’s hand, to tell her I love her and to ask her what she wants.

Life prepared me for this moment. Strong. Grounded and rooted in program. I had to put aside all the pain, resentments and crap and be there for my mum. The healing that came out of the whole experience was tremendous.

I used my tools. I prayed. I worked my steps. I stayed in constant contact with my sponsor and my tribe. I responded and tried really hard not to react. I educated every single health professional I came into contact with in the mental health unit on the family disease of alcoholism. I felt my feelings and let them go. I made amends to both my mum and dad.

When I asked if there was anything I could do to make things right as part of my amends, my mum’s one wish was that we be closer. My dad said that by showing up and being there for my mum I had made things right.

Things got worse before they got better. My mum slipped into catatonia. She refused to eat, take her medications, or take my calls. She wanted to die. Who could blame her?

The conversations we had during that time were powerful . We walked down the path of death together. I get wanting to die, I’ve been there. It helps me to look at what part of me wants to die when my brain goes there. I’ve lived through suicide and deaths.

My dad exercised his power of attorney and we went ahead with electro convulsive treatments. Small seizures lasting less than a minute are given under anesthesia. They cause memory loss. Her short term memory of that time is gone which is both a blessing and a curse.

The good news is that it worked. My mum came back, she showed up brighter with every call.

Shortly after her eighth treatment she was released. All I felt was sadness. During the time she was in hospital she was safe and being looked after. My mum has gone back into the vortex of 50 years of codependency and is living with active drinking. I am powerless over all of it.

My tribe keeps telling me to be the light. To make good on her desire for us to be closer. I pray every single day that my parents find recovery. They have their own higher powers and I’m not one of them.

All of this has taught me how precious and short life is. That life matters. I feel as though I’ve wasted so much time lost in the grips of my own demons. Program teaches me I am right where I need to be. Live and let live. I keep coming back to the live part.

What does it look and feel like to live fully?

For me it means being of service. Giving back what has so freely been given to me both in program and in my life. Using my gifts for the better. Living moments with intention. Being grateful for program and my recovery and the beauty all around me. Helping others.

I’ve been always been the person to ask myself how I can be of service and make the world a better place. This is me living into the answer.

One step, one moment at a time.

Ease

I can’t believe it’s been six months since I’ve written. It feels like the longest hiatus from here.

Normally I start my year with a word that encapsulates my intention for the year. I’ve been meaning to write for a while now and the word ease popped into my head this morning.

Ease.

I want ease in my relationship with myself and others, with my family and friends, and with my job, coworkers and finances.

I started what I thought was a temporary job in retail in January close to home. I needed the money while I waited for the results of a federal government job I had applied for last summer.

It’s fair to say I was depressed the last three months of 2018. I had blown a job I loved taking on too much, freaking out and having anxiety rear its head. I was tired of starting over. Of self sabotaging every great opportunity that came my way.

I wanted to die. My cat kept me alive because I could not bear the thought of leaving her. I felt like a great failure yet again. I was tired of starting over again and didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to do so yet again.

Who is responsible for burning the two great career opportunities of 2018 to the ground? I am as my sponsor reminded me. Brutal truth but much needed.

The self hate and self sabotage needed to stop. My higher power has a funny sense of humor, because during that time he brought me two sponsees. Women new to the 12 step program I belong to and who needed a guide to walk the path for a while.

I could not sit in my pit of despair if I was going to be a good example to these women and shine a light along the way now could I?

So I picked myself up and dusted myself off and walked the path with them. One decided another 12 step program was a better fit for her. I’m happy for her now but at the time a few of my character defects rose to the surface. I am challenged by letting go, I take things too personally and am very good at beating myself up. I did all those really well but again needed to focus on the one sponsee I had left.

The beauty of this program is that it’s amazing for personal growth if you do the step work, show up to meetings, and listen to others share their experience, strength and hope. I do a lot of service work within the business of the program and that helps me grow in a safe environment in learning to work in healthy ways with other members.

The sponsee that chose me to be her sponsor is a mirror of me. She reminds me very much of who I was before I found recovery. Like attracts like. She overthinks, and can’t identify her needs or her feelings. I’m so happy to say she’s made progress. She brings an eagerness and willingness to the work that inspires me and is super keen.

You have to walk the steps with a sponsee so that’s exactly what we did together starting in January. We met every week before our meeting. She went up north to a treatment center for codependency, something I did three years ago now.

A rift began between us at the beginning of May when she stopped showing up for our designated time before meetings. Life happened as it often does and I got resentful. They say expectations lead to premeditated resentments.

I have four expectations for my sponsees: attend regular meetings and find a home group, do the step work, do service work and be willing.

Simple, right? Not so much it seems.

Again my defects of character reared their head. I would spell out what I expected forgetting that she is so new and hurt that she’ll agree to anything to get what she wants. She didn’t listen to me with regards to not dating for a year after ending a relationship with an alcoholic in February. She had invested a significant amount of money in a dating service and wanted a return on her investment.

In program one of the things we learn is that we have choices and will live into the consequences of those choices. I didn’t heed the same advice my sponsor gave me after coming back from treatment. Instead I disappeared into the vortex of my former relationship for three months. I did make amends to both my ex and my former step daughter which was my intention and saw clear as day the writing on the wall that things would never work between us for which I’m grateful.

I have to allow my sponsee the dignity of making her own choices and learning from them. I became controlling and upset once she told me she would no longer be able to make our weekly appointment and meeting. I tried to micro manage her and ask when she was going to a meeting and having a program friend be there to greet her. That blew up in my face and she lashed out via text to which I responded with my expectations and told her to find and read the pamphlet on sponsorhip and look at her part.

She wanted someone to go through steps four and five with. Well it doesn’t work that way. They are called the 12 steps for a reason.

We are sitting down together this weekend to discuss things. She feels our relationship has come to an end but she’s a runner and is afraid. I keep praying that my Higher Power will speak through me and deliver the message she needs to hear.

I am grateful for a program that allows me to live my life with ease and grace. I can’t say it happens all the time but I have more and more moments of serenity which means I am growing.

It also takes me less time to move through my feelings and not be a prisoner to them. Ease and grace step by step.

 

 

 

Loss

The year is coming to an end and has been marked heavily by loss.

Death.

A very dear friend of mine ascended at the end of November. He was my rock before finding recovery. I found out about his passing on Facebook and was devastated because I had no idea he was sick.

He was a holistic practitioner and my saving grace for a number of years. He changed my life. His biggest lesson was teaching me I had a choice to be happy or sad. To go into my woundology as he called it or to stay in the now.

I don’t know how many times I saw him over the years but I always left him feeling put back together somehow. Jim I am going to miss you so much. I am so grateful for your presence in my life.

In the last few weeks another death. A dear family friend this time, a mother figure from my childhood. I’ll be attending the funeral in a week and will shed more tears for a life lost too soon.

I also made a misguided attempt at bridging the silence with my former partner by trying to be friends. Only to be told a few weeks later that he wanted no part of me in his life. More loss. I’m grateful I got to see my former step daughter for the first time in a few years.

I sit here contemplating 2019 and hoping it brings better things than 2018 did. It has not been an easy year by any stretch. I’ve lost jobs I love and have had to start over again.

I’m not sure what the lesson in all this is other than impermanence and that life is short.

I’m determined to make 2019 a better year.

Pain

Pain.

Not a comfortable topic by any stretch. Yet right where I’m at.

This post has been percolating for weeks. A combination of fear and pain kept me from writing it. Fear because the last thing I want to do is hurt my family. Pain because I’m not sure I want to acknowledge the reality of the words as they hit this page.

I went away for a week back east to PEI at the beginning of August. My parents have a summer residence there in a place that is beyond beautiful and on the ocean.

I thought long and hard before going. The last time I had been in one of my parent’s homes was six years ago and it was hard.

I figured I had a solid five years of recovery under my belt and felt strong in my program enough to visit. I certainly got checked within a day of my arrival. The visit felt like the Olympics of recovery.

I went primarily to spend time with my beautiful nephew and godson who is ten years old. Five days in his presence after not seeing him in three years for a few hours felt like an unexpected gift.

One of the reasons I also went was because one of my best friends, who was instrumental in getting me into recovery was going to be staying in the campground across from my parents’ place. I had not seen her in six years, the last time I went to the island with my former family.

I was in the ocean on the first day and was struck by how much it felt like home for me. My parents didn’t use geographical relocation as a coping mechanism growing up. We lived in two places in my younger years.

PEI was the vein that ran through my childhood and teenage years. It was the place we had some of the best times as a family. It is very much sacred ground for me.

I will not go into the details but what amazes me is how I expect every single time walking into these places that somehow this time it’ll magically be different. It’s not.

It’s worse. Whether through a combination of the family disease of alcoholism progressing in my parents or because I can see everything so clearly now. I am not far enough into my recovery where it doesn’t hurt me. It knocks me over and breaks my heart every single time.

I sit here with tears streaming down my face because there is nothing I can do to help my parents. I have to detach with love. They have their own Higher Powers and I’m not one of them.

I spoke about wanting to live and let live in my last post. Well I got much more than I bargained for in the five days I spent with my parents.

I now understand how freedom became my single most important value because the level of control in their home is crazy. It was shocking. It took everything I had to keep it together and to remove myself when things got too difficult.

I know I walked my program to the best of my ability while I was there. I did my best to stay humble and kind as my sponsor constantly reminds me. I was in constant contact with my sponsor and my best friend. They kept me sane, loved me and helped me see things from a different perspective.

No one triggers us more than our family does. I’ve learned that getting triggered means there’s an opportunity for growth for me. I sometimes wonder at what cost.

There has been further fallout from my trip back east. My brother and I are now officially estranged. It has been a one sided relationship for years with me putting all the energy into maintaining contact.

Again, I will not go into the details other than to say I do not regret any single one of my actions around my nephew. He was the bright light in all of this. My brother and his partner have done an incredible job raising a remarkable human. I truly enjoyed getting to know him.

I have been experiencing what can only be described as grief. It’s like the dream of what I hoped for my family is gone and it breaks my heart.

So I sit with the pain. I allow it to move through me because I have learned to honor my emotions. I know this too shall pass but right now I’m in the thick of it and it truly hurts.

I try and look at things from a place of gratitude. I wrote down all the things I was grateful for from this trip.

I keep praying for my family and for the acceptance to let go.

This work is not for the faint of heart and that is certainly proving to be true in this moment.

 

 

Live

It’s again been a while since I’ve written.

It’s fair to say I’ve been grieving. I burnt down a job and a work family I loved. I have an incredible capacity for success as well as strong self sabotaging mechanisms.

It’s been a little over three months. I’m on the other side now: happy, joyous and free. It’s looking back now that I see that there was a bigger plan all along. That the Universe had a lesson I needed to learn.

I’m in a better place now because of it all.

I had to go through the shit storm of sadness, anger at myself and anxiety to get to this place of feeling grounded, happy and alive.

One of the slogans of my 12 step program is Live and let live. Growing up with active addiction there’s very little you can control as you are a kid affected by the disease. There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty and so control and structure become ways of coping.

I was powerless over the drinking, although I was unaware it was an issue until much later in life, so I channeled all my energy and efforts into what I could focus on: ski racing and school. I had a lot of natural talent, was highly disciplined and a hard worker. It proved to be a winning combination.

My dad was actively involved in my ski racing career. First as a coach, despite my having a coach most of the time. He lived his dreams vicariously through me I believe. I may be wrong, however, he was also the master strategist behind me.

Ski racing is a big investment and commitment for families in terms of money and time. You live at the hill on weekends. He became a technical delegate so he could be present for me. Since I was a consistent podium finisher, he would coach me and tell me for example, to ease off on my second run because I had a lead and all I needed to do was finish. Or the reverse, that I was close behind the person who had finished first, and I was to watch for these tricky sections. He was so involved and I love him for it.

I would not have gone as far as I had without my dad. Someone challenged that thinking with the possibility that I may have gone even further had I been fueled by my own steam. It was what it was and I’m a sport psychology coach now because of it. Again the Universe had a bigger plan for me.

I’ve been through these patterns of hiding and living vicariously for most of my life. Before recovery, I would hit the wall after what I affectionately call my power phase, unable to sustain the candle burning so brightly. The longest I’ve gone is six weeks of pure drive, creativity and action with very little sleep. Fully standing in my power only to crash and hide in bed, not want to shower or eat much.

Can you see the addiction pattern? It’s alive and well in me. Shake my family tree and a bunch of people with substance abuse problems fall out. It’s in my DNA as well.

Relationships, spending and food are the big three.

I sat in my counselor’s office this week and said I was done with being a victim and sitting on my pity potty as my sponsor affectionately calls it.

I have all these gifts, skills and talents. Enough time has been spent in the dark place. It’s time to stay in the light. It’s unrealistic to think I’d be able to stay in that place all the time, however, I fully intend to do the work required in my recovery to unearth and turn into smoke these self sabotaging patterns born of self hate. Enough.

I sit here with a smile on my face and a deep sense of knowing that good things are coming my way. I’m in a job I love. This opportunity would not be possible had the door on my previous job closed.

I have hope again. I’m dreaming about the future I want and I believe with all that I am that it is possible and that I do deserve happiness, stability and peace.

Live. I’m now living the first part of the slogan Live and let live and it feels so freaking good.

 

 

 

 

Abandonment

How do you deal with abandonment?

Does it affect you or are you immune?

I experienced it again on the weekend. I have ventured back into the dating game and the object of my interest went quiet all day for no apparent reason after things got all hot and heavy the day before.

Unfortunately, it again threw me for a loop.

I get so triggered by the feeling, perceived or real. There is no legitimate excuse to disappear on someone after texting back and forth for most of the day before. A text takes seconds. Really?

Sigh, my stuff I know.

It does not seem to matter how many times this happens, the result is still the same: I go into a tailspin.

I question everything that previously happened, lose my grip on reality and freak out. Full on drama. I reach out to friends and try and rationalize things because I cannot see clearly.

It’s exhausting and despite my best intentions, this happens every single time.

Abandonment run deeps in my family of origin. I was abandoned over and over again and then I repeated the same pattern with men. It’s a vicious cycle.

I eventually heard from the guy. He had not gotten cold feet but was merely busy with his daughters. Real life.

I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m aware when it happens and that I’m getting triggered. I have a hard time accepting that it’s happening and generally spring into action from that space which is never good.

Honoring the feelings when they come up and nurturing myself through the discomfort seem like better options next time.

The path between the head and the heart

The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart. -Andrew Bennett

I remember hearing a version of this quote when I first began recovery work. I was so stuck in my head back then. Banging around in my brain all the time.

I was taught not to feel growing up. Emotions weren’t okay, there was no support for them. It was a very lonely place.

I took that learning well into my adult years, cutting myself off from my emotions. Robot-like with no way of processing feelings.

When I was finally told to feel in recovery it was like a dam breaking. Spontaneous boughts of tears. I had to process it all: the pain, sadness, anger and shame of my life thus far. No easy or small task.

It was a process. It still is. I had to go through weeks of anger and sadness, dredging everything up and exposing it to the light so the emotions could burn off.

I’m a better person now for all of it.

Even now as I continue my recovery journey and do talk therapy, spontaneous bursts of emotion come up. I had a rough week last week, teary and sad for most of it.

Instead of repressing my emotions, I now allow and honor them. Better out than in.

The path between the head and the heart may be a long one but it is the most valuable of them all.

 

 

Self-love

You’d look so much better if you would just lose 20 pounds. That bathing suit is doing nothing to hide your rolls. Your cellulite is gross.

Think of all the women in your life that you love the most. Your mom, your sister, your daughter, your best friend. Can you imagine saying these things to them? Can you imagine how you would feel if you heard someone else say it to them? Heartbroken.

If we would never say these things to the people we love then how is it okay to say them to ourselves?

We only hate parts of ourselves because we’ve been taught to believe that they’re unattractive and that we need to fix them, so let’s try flipping the script.

The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, instead of pointing out all the things you hate about yourself, start telling yourself how much you love them. Embrace those imperfections as perfection, because they’re part of you, and baby, that’s nothing that deserves to be hidden.

Our society does not do much to make us feel better about ourselves. Instead, we feel worse because of unattainable standards of beauty and perfection. Other than a Kellog ad with a body positive message empowering women to embrace all their curves, I’ve yet to see the rest of the beauty industry following suit.

Imagine how we would be if we loved and accepted ourselves fully. The world would be a very different place. There would be much less negativity and conflict and a whole lot more love.

Is self-love such a radical concept?

Try it today. Love yourself. Be grateful for every part of you that makes you uniquely you. Love on those spaces that need extra attention and be good to yourself.

What do you have to lose?

Gratitude

I have just wrapped up two sessions locally with the ski racing club at Camp Fortune. It’s the fourth winter I’ve worked with them which is pretty great.

The first session with the kids is always an information dump. I share all the tools of my trade and get the kids to think about how they will apply them.

The second session has me evaluating their implementation. I was so proud of the kids. They were each using between three to five tools in their pre-race programs such as breathing, happy place, imagery and hero pose.

I got to see the rituals they have with their parents, the words they say to themselves to get into the zone and find out the music they listen to before their races.

All in all, the sessions have been a success from my perspective. Hopefully their new tools result in good things on their end.

I truly believe in the value of what I do, not just in sport but the greater positive impact on the lives of the kids too.

 

 

Male privilege unfortunately still exists

A few days ago I ran into a former work colleague I worked with a couple of years ago. Seeing him again left me feeling uneasy.

Our last interaction outside of work had been on a ski hill on a beautiful spring day and it had left me feeling dirty. He greeted me with a hug and proceeded to grab my bottom with both hands and make a comment about how great it was. I could smell alcohol on his breath.

The behaviour was so shockingly out of character for him I was left speechless and didn’t say anything. I still went up on the lifts with him and other friends, careful to maintain a distance.

Why did I stay silent? Why did I not use my voice and call him out on his unacceptable behaviour? Furthermore, why did I keep interacting with him after what he had done?

I lost my voice, because under the circumstances, it is an easy thing to do. When I look back at my past I can see where I stayed quiet time and again, it has now obviously become a pattern.

Had bumping into each other recently and saying hello been the extent of our interaction, I may have let all of this go. However he said he still had my number and would call; I jokingly said not to bother.

He’s since called twice and texted me, leaving me feeling highly uncomfortable. Do I respond and say something or ignore him and delete his texts? I ended up doing the latter.

What’s even more upsetting is my reaching out to my former partner who knows him saying I’d wish the guy in question would just lose my number and leave me alone.

His response was shocking and left me feeling very upset.

He told me to get over it. I responded saying he obviously does not understand what it’s like to be sexually objectified. That what he did was assault and it was not okay.

He asked me if I had dealt with things directly at the time the incident had happened. I was even more flabbergasted. I responded saying do most women? He accused me of evading the question. I then proceeded to tell him we were not going to have this conversation.

I was stunned. How could he have blinders on like that? He was so wrapped up in his male privilege that he could not see how wrong on so many levels this whole thing was.

How is this kind of behaviour and male privilege still a thing today? What would you do?

 

 

 

New beginnings

I met a great guy yesterday.

After a year of not dating, which was a self imposed choice, I got really clear on what I was looking for in a relationship.

The man I met yesterday fits the criteria. We had a great time together. Time flew by and I didn’t want things to end.

It got intense pretty fast which seems to be par for the course with me.

I went to bed last night happy with butterflies at the thought of seeing him again.

Unfortunately, I had a horrible nightmare which is most likely related to having met him. I woke up and burst into tears.

This morning I still felt haunted, like the nightmare still had its wispy fingers around me. I was teary for most of the day and upset.

I told the guy I met about what happened and it has caused all kinds of crappy blow back.

My first thought upon waking this morning is we need to slow things down. Take our time getting to know each other. You know, the normal process that most people seem to be able to do but I seem to whiz right through.

We’re seeing each other tomorrow night. I’m really looking forward to seeing him again, I can’t wait.

I’m sitting here feeling uneasy with things. We texted back and forth today about it all which sucks. I really would have preferred to have the conversation in person or over the phone.

Given my history, this stuff is to be expected. I do have abandonment and worth issues which I’m really working hard on in counselling. Relationships trigger our stuff like nothing else. It’s where my recovery program hits the road and is put to the test.

I know I have a tendency to overthink. I just need to relax, go with the flow and enjoy myself. Easier said than done sometimes.

I really should have gone skiing and been in my happy place today.

 

 

 

Intention for the year

I’ve been remiss in writing lately but have been meaning to get this post out.

Every year I choose a word to set an intention for the year.

This year a friend suggested my theme. It’s all about letting go for me this year.

This piece which I love describes my intentions well, it was written by Rev. Safire Rose

She Let Go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of fear. She let go of the judgements.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go. She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go….She didn’t research the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all the memories that held her back.

She let go of all the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five step spiritual mind treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and moon shone forevermore.

Here’s to giving ourselves the gift of letting go.

I intend to reread this as much as I need to this year and apply it to my life.

Thanks Wayne xo