Monday, November 26, 2018

3 years free. . . One day at a time

From my journal. . . 3 YEARS TODAY.  .  .

I am grateful for my sobriety today and I pray for an understanding of God's will and the courage to listen to and follow His voice. 

Three years ago I didn't pray at all.  Three years ago I was a couple of weeks away from a 17 month prison stay. Three years ago I was defeated, alone, addicted, and full of despair.

Today, I am sober. More importantly, I am in long term recovery as I celebrate 3 years of God doing for me what I could never do for myself. One day at a time and just like that He kept his promises and opened up the door to so many more promises that are represented in this picture.

When I started this journey I had no idea what promises were and by the grace of God I now do. That's why I keep going back. That's why I give praise to God. That's why I say thank you to everyone who played a part, said a prayer, turned their back, opened their arms, or held my hand.

I'm grateful today for so much. My family.  My friends.  My recovery community.  My career.  My life.  My Bible (that thing has been with me since Prison and is worn out). My Three Year Coin (which I thought was impossible back on November 26, 2015).  And, for me. I'm grateful for ME.

One day at a time.

If you're struggling it's okay, help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

17 months of Grace and then some. . .

17 months may not sound like a lot of time until it’s broken down like this:  it’s 517.084 days which is 12,410.014 hours which is just a lot of time to be anywhere, especially in prison.  To be isolated.  To be alone.  To be trapped with the same person who got you in this mess to begin with.  17 months is a long time to do anything or be anywhere, especially in the prison of the mind…
We have all seen movies that attempt to portray prison.  Movies such as The Green Mile, Escape from Alcatraz, or my personal favorite - - The Shawshank Redemption.  I like to think of myself as a little bit like Tim Robbins’ character, Andy Dufrane, when he said in his letter to Red, “Hope is a good thing…maybe the best of things.”  Trust me on this one, there is not much hope in prison but my similarities with Andy Dufrane are better left for another day and another blog.  None of the movies listed here do prison justice.  One cannot capture the cold of prison.  A darkness such as prison is only seen by experience.  The smells cannot be described through the lens of a camera.  The emotional loss, feeling of isolation, and smell of captivity is mind boggling.  It is a place that can best be described as Hell on Earth and that is putting it nicely.  That too is better left for another day and another blog.
I am grateful that I only did 17 months in prison because of all the negatives of that place and that experience, I wasn’t there long enough to lose me, to become institutionalized, or worse yet, become a part of that dark system of oppression and captivity.  Sure, I spent over 80 days in solitary confinement.  Certainly, I ate food barely fit for animals three times per day.  I wore every article of clothing I owned all winter long because my dorm was kept at a balmy 40 degrees – did that.  Also, wore nothing but boxers most days from June to September when the dorm would reach comfortable temps of about 120 degrees on a cool day.  It’s a lovely place really.  A great place to get treatment for my disease.  But that too is left for another day and another blog.
One of the positives about my 17 months in Plainfield Correctional Facility was the relationship I was able to heal with my then ex-father-in-law, now father-in-law, Jim Botkin (man that’s a lot of hyphens). Jim was not at all pleased with me and I was not at all excited about his first visit with me in prison (sorry Jim).  Visits are controlled by the offender and I could have denied him access to see me, but I didn’t.  I knew that I wanted to begin to heal relationships and why not start with the hardest.  Why not begin with the man whose heart breaks for his only daughter and three of his six grandchildren?  As I read in one of the books he sent me by Joyce Meyer, why not begin where you are?  That title, Begin Where you Are, and that phrase dictated my transformation then and still does today. 
This blog is not only about mine and Jim’s relationship that became a firm foundation of my faith, my recovery journey, and my life, it is about the power of a strong support system.  In recovery, we know that nothing happens alone but relapse.  Recovery takes work from a lot of people.  Those battling the struggle of addiction must work hard but so do the family members, the friends, and the loved ones of those in recovery.  Trust, forgiveness, courage, and perseverance are not just words, they require a ton of work.  Work through pain, hurt, and brokenness.  Those words take grace and faith in God. PERIOD.
Back to Jim.  Jim came to me at my lowest and put aside his own pain, hurt, and anger and became one of my best friends in recovery.  He became more than a father-in-law, past or present.  He became a friend who believed in me - - wait for it - - even when I didn’t believe in me.  During that 17 months this is a part of what he did for me.
·       Visited me every two weeks for 1 ½ hours (including a 3 hour round trip drive).
·       Mailed me magazines
·       Sent me at least 6 – 8 books a month
·       Mailed me over 400 pictures of my kids, dinners, vacations, cars, houses, furniture, Christmas Trees, flowers, you name it.  Just normal stuff you wouldn’t understand let alone appreciate until you didn’t see any of those things for 17 months.  I mean the fastest I went for 17 months was as fast as my feet could take me… think about that
·       At least one long letter a week detailing everything in his week, my family’s week, and in the week of Marion. That same letter would go unappreciated unless you walked a mile in my State Boots
·       More greeting cards than I can count
·       ICARE packages (I cringe just saying that word) but thank you
·       STAMPS
·       Did I mention books?  I was able to once again become a voracious reader and I forever grateful for that gift.  I didn’t read a lot of books in the local crack houses.
Above all, he gave me HOPE.  HOPE that I had not seen in years.  HOPE that says where I am doesn’t define who I am.  HOPE that only comes from a place of brokenness, acceptance, and surrender.  HOPE for a new life.  HOPE for trust.  HOPE for forgiveness.  HOPE for love and HOPE for recovery.  I say to people in recovery all the time that “YOU ARE A ROCK STAR!”  I say that because I know the original rock star and it’s Jim.  His support was unexpected and undeserved.  His support was GRACE upon GRACE upon GRACE.   Jim and I talk about how our story remind us of the prodigal son and I guess it’s kind of true.  That story never made sense to me until I was gone for 17 months.  I also now identify with more than one person in that famous Biblical Story.  I am grateful for this new understanding.
To the real point of this blog I go…
I was struggling the last couple of weeks and last Saturday Jim showed up with a letter and… you guessed it… a book.  The letter started off with “I don’t see you as much as I would like” (okay…tears)”and that he knew that I was struggling, and he thought the book by Louis Giglio - - Giants Must Fall would help - - and it did.  That book and my experience of GRACE upon GRACE upon GRACE with Jim reminded of these truths:
·       I am worth Jesus to God
·       What matters most is that I understand that I move in God’s strength…not mine
·       I just need to listen to God
·       Help comes in unexpected places and from unexpected people if we do the right thing and follow God’s plan
·       17 months is a lifetime to some but to me it was the start of my freedom from the real prison… ME.
I leave you with this from Louis Giglio: “But freedom happens in the light.  Jesus is the light of the world, and he works most powerfully in us when we bring our brokenness and hurt, or sin and our drugs, into the light of his Grace.”

If you are struggling, it’s okay…help is only a prayer away.  

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Mom in recovery - - Tia Brewer's story

I can remember the birth of each one of my kids like it was yesterday.  I can remember sneaking into their rooms late at night, just to watch them sleeping.  I can remember their first days of school, birthday parties, vacations and proms.  I can remember swim meets, cross country meets and baseball games.  I can remember getting countless hugs for no reason, Mother's Day cards full of gratitude and three kids who were PROUD to have me as their Mom.  I can't remember the day when this "thing', this addiction snuck into my life and began its attack on my family.  

What I DO remember is the way I began to be more distant from my kids, claiming that I was "tired" or "stressed out" and just needed to be "alone".  I remember becoming more and more unable to control my anger.  I remember nodding off at ballgames because I had been high for days and finally came down.  I remember locking my son out of the house, in tears, begging to come back inside, just so he wouldn't see get high.  I remember my daughters coming to my door in tears after hearing rumors that I had overdosed.  I remember my daughters begging me in the ER to get help.

I was no longer excited about birthdays or holidays or vacations.  All those things took time and money that I didn't have anymore because of the time and money my addiction demanded.  I had people in and out of our house that were no more than strangers.  My kids noticed the changes in their mom.  They cried, they got angry, they begged and pleaded and threatened to never see me again in an effort to get ME to admit that something was HORRIBLY wrong.

I would love to tell you that seeing the PAIN I was causing my kids woke me up and I stopped.  The TRUTH is, I saw the pain, I felt disgusted with myself for causing the pain, and then, I would keep using.  I had NO HOPE.  I had no answers.  That's the INSANITY that comes with addiction.  Repeating the same behaviors OVER and OVER again, expecting different results.  Believing that SOMEHOW I could spare them the pain this time, but changing nothing, doing NOTHING different.

In 2016, I went to treatment the first time, after going into drug induced psychosis.  I was gone for 12 weeks.  My kids supported me, they cheered me on, they believed me when I said I would do anything to stay "clean" and be their Mom again.  I came home, didn't do  ANY work in recovery, and nine months later, I had relapsed, worse than I was before.  In April 2017, I had simply resolved myself to the reality that I would likely die, alone, estranged from my children, and USING.  At that point, I had no contact with either of my daughters, (they had told me if I didn't get help they were DONE) or my 10 year old son, (his dad had to keep him away from me so he was safe), or my new granddaughter.  I was no longer the "mom" I used to be.  I had become a woman who didn't deserve children at all!!

May 26, 2017, I went to jail.  A criminal.  My kids had to bear the embarrassment of that.  Their possessions, their pets, their home were gone.  I wasn't there for birthdays,  I wasn't at ballgames.  I wasn't there to give advice, or cook dinner or just watch them sleep at night.  After 56 days in jail, I went to inpatient treatment for 21 days and then on to sober living and IOP from August to December.  It wasn't until my last week in treatment that I saw my son for the first time since April.  He was scared to see me, he didn't want to be alone with me.  He was angry.  Most of all, he wanted to know, "WHY I LIED".  He told me he couldn't trust me.  My daughters and I didn't speak until I had been in sober living for about a month.  They both told me they couldn't trust me and did NOT want to hear apologies or how it would be DIFFERENT "this time".  

While I was in treatment and sober living, I began to accept the 
FACT that I am an addict/alcoholic and MY way of living was NOT working.  How did I know?  I was BROKEN, MISERABLE, and ALONE.  I was in PAIN!!  For the first time, I took RESPONSIBILITY for the pain, fear, and distrust that I had caused my children.  I started to DO what other people in 12 Step programs (who I saw living MEANINGFUL lives with their kids), were doing.  MOST importantly, I came to believe that a POWER GREATER THAN ME could RESTORE me as a woman and a mom.  That by DOING THE WORK in recovery, THERE WAS HOPE to restore my family and my children's trust in me.

There have been easy days and hard days in recovery.  Some days the work seems to be too much.  Sometimes the thoughts I have scare me.  Sometimes the memories I have make me sad and ashamed.  Sometimes I am tired and overwhelmed and angry that I am an addict/alcoholic.  On those days, I go to a meeting or talk to another person in recovery who reminds me MY HARDEST DAY IN RECOVERY IS EASIER THAN ME EASIEST DAY USING.  

TODAY, I got to take my daughter coffee at work and see her SMILE and LAUGH while we talked.  TODAY, I got to watch my son play his basketball games and FEEL they JOY and GRATITUDE inside me when he HUGGED me in front of everyone.  TODAY, my oldest daughter TRUSTS ME to watch my granddaughter and newborn grandson.  These are all things I will gratefully REMEMBER, only because I am in RECOVERY!!!

When I first got sober, I thought the 9th Step Promises were just a list of platitudes made up to trick people into recovery.  What MY life is LIVING PROOF of is that The PROMISES are REAL!  They are, in fact, PROMISES that are coming TRUE.......IF I WORK FOR THEM!! 

If you are struggling, it's okay... help is only a prayer away. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Lessons in recovery . . .

When’s the last time you gave up something central to your life?  I started with the food I consume…specifically sugar.  I made it 16 hours – but I was asleep for 8 of those.  How many people do you know that can even stick to a New Year’s resolution?  Before I graduated college, I would have told you that I had rarely met a person with the motivation, determination, or perseverance to really accomplish those kinds of goals, and make them last.  I suppose I had never really encountered people engaged in recovery at that point – because it doesn’t even compare. 

I started taking classes in college about drugs, addiction, and counseling.  I knew I wanted to “help” people and change lives.  It was impossible to predict that I would be the one with a major life change.  My first experience started with a class assignment: make it to a few AA/NA meetings.  I entered that building thinking that I would observe (and probably feel awkward), take some notes, write my paper, and go on with my semester.  The last thing I expected was how unbelievably welcoming each person was – just thankful to be there.  Being able to see the support, drink the coffee, and hear the stories was the first clue for me that I had so much more to gain than to give.  

Almost instantly my question shifted from:
“what do I have to offer?” to “what do I have to learn?”

Perseverance.  Patience.  Persistence.

Support.  Spirituality.  Strength.

Courage.  Commitment.  Community.

I had never encountered so many inspiring people in my life.  I wholeheartedly believe that an entire room full of well-groomed celebrities delivering perfectly written speeches could be silenced with the words of one person in recovery.  I know I was.  When things are going completely wrong for someone in recovery, do you know what they do?  They come prepared with gratitude lists.  I struggle to not let a cold cup of coffee ruin my entire morning, let alone be THANKFUL.  I was in a room full of people supporting one another.  I can’t even get online without seeing judgmental comments flooding meaningless posts, but I was surrounded by love from perfect strangers just trying to push each other (and myself) toward better lives.

           Well-meaning people (at least I think some of them mean well) crowd my Facebook timeline.  Controversy about addiction.  I could read a thousand articles and seek a thousand opinions, but nothing compares to being quiet and really LISTENING to someone’s story.  At the end of the day I could give up sugar for a day, exercise for a week, and attempt to establish routines in my life…but they are routines in my life.  Someone in recovery is building a whole NEW life.  I have yet to encounter someone that gave up drugs and said “there…fixed.”  I meet people who are changing who they hang out with, where they go, what they do, and how they live.  They do all of this WHILE they deal with the past.  

I have heard strength through the sound of a voice cracking, holding back tears, facing another day.  I have seen people get clean despite the world fighting against it – despite the community fighting against it.  I have witnessed courage as people walk away from past friends, family members, and loved ones because they know it is the only way to change their life.  I quickly learned that it really does not matter how someone got to addiction (trust me though, if you had half the experiences some people in recovery have had, then you might have chosen a similar path).  What matters is the fight.  No one fights like someone pursuing recovery.  Fighting their past, the day, the drug itself, the situations, the people, and the judgmental Facebook comments.  I have been wordless on more than one occasion as I encounter people working full time, raising families, and continuously striving toward one more day clean.  One day at a time.

People in recovery inspire me because I have never had my life completely wrecked by drugs and I still struggle.  I have never had to rearrange my entire life and start over and I still struggle.  I have never had to make choices half as hard as someone in recovery and I still struggle.  If the world’s view was correct, then never picking up a drug should have determined that my life would be easy and simple, but I still struggle.  I sit in my struggles, and I let them bring me down.  We all do that some days.  But my life has changed in big ways - because I go to work and feel more inspired than any song, book, or movie could instill in me.  I go to work and I meet fighters, warriors.  It makes me want to stop giving up when life gets inconvenient.  I want to work harder and be a better person because I have met some of the greatest people in the world.  I want to be strong and thankful and patient and nonjudgmental because those are the kind of people I am surrounded by each day. 

I want to love God louder because I’ve seen the miracles of a spiritual transformation in SO many lives.

Humility doesn’t begin to describe the journey you take when you make the slightest attempt to see someone’s point of view, walk in their shoes, or sit with them where they are.  Thankful isn’t a loud enough word to express how I feel about the people in recovery I have encountered and how they have changed my life.  I would encourage anyone to start supporting other people in their fight, and to take a second before making judgments about people you don’t know – make that your New Year’s resolution and see if you can make it last (like someone in recovery).  
If you are struggling, it’s okay…help is only a prayer away.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Peace, Love & Light - - Casey Anne's Story

How I found myself...

So, I grew up in the amazing small town of Fairmount, where everyone knows everyone and what they're up to. I lived with my mom and my 2 sisters. I am the oldest, so I was, whether I wanted to be or not, responsible for helping with my sisters. My mom worked a lot to give us what we needed. So, I did my best to pick up the slack as I could. I grew up faster than I should have, and my mom soon became more of my friend than my mom. I kept my grades up, didn't get in trouble much outside being mouthy to my mom, and started living a double life.

In Jr. High around 14, I began smoking pot as often as I could which quickly became every day. I started smoking because I liked the way it felt, and it was a social thing. it went downhill from there. Smoking, drinking, tripping on acid, sneaking out- you name it. Most of high school was the same. I still maintained good grades and graduated with academic honors. My first love and I broke up shortly after that and my world was crushed. I started spending a lot of time with some "new/old friends".

This was 2003 and the first time that meth made an appearance in my life. It quickly took ahold of me. I began helping make it and sell it. I was never home so mom said I had to be home more or find a new place to live. So, I moved out to Anderson and a new set of problems popped up. I found myself taking Xanax daily and taking ecstasy every weekend. in my mind it was all ok because I was holding down 2 jobs, paying bills, bought my own car, etc. I took a short "vacation" from meth too. But not for long. Some of those same friends wanted a reunion run. 2 weeks later I'm not working at all. After a couple of months, I was couch bouncing and sick. I was pregnant by my "meth-cooking" partner and totally freaked out. So, I went home to Fairmount and Grandma. I was only 20 years old and a complete mess. I wasn't ready for a baby. I decided to have an abortion. MY heart broke but I did it. I stayed home and stopped using most of the drugs.4-25-05 one of my best friends was in a car accident and died. He had one sibling, an older brother, (I’m fast forwarding a little) who I spent every day from the funeral on with. That December he asked me to marry him and in January I found out I was pregnant. We got married in March 2006 and in August my son Andy was born. Things weren't easy at home though. His anger took a toll on me. At my 6-week checkup after having Andy I found out I was already pregnant again. Dillon was born July 2007. Our marriage was full of tension to say the least. I was broken down mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was scared and wanted out. I cheated on my husband. I hated myself as much as I felt like he should hate me. I couldn't allow him to forgive me, so I moved out. In 2008 we were divorced. I was a disaster. My Dr. put me on Xanax. it wasn't long until I was sick without them. I was living with the same person I cheated on him with. In 2009 I got pregnant. I tried to be happy about it, but I couldn't. So, I drove, alone, to Cincinnati to have an abortion at 20 weeks along. Yet another thing to hate myself for.  So, since I was "damaged goods" I found myself back with my ex-husband. By this time, I'm strung out on pain pills, Xanax, and find out I'm pregnant yet again. I kept this baby because it was his. Our relationship was awful. But even though I was pregnant I was staying numb. In Feb 2011 Jon was born. Fast forward to 2012 I divorced the same man for a second time. Off to the races after that.

Bad choices in men and drugs left me with a giant opiate habit and boyfriend from hell. 2013 enter heroin. I instantly fell in love and stopped caring about anything else. I took my 3 boys to their dad and didn't even show up to the custody hearing. the next 3 years were all a blur of violence, drugs, health issues, and pure terror at times. I began doing whatever necessary to make sure I was high. I started "boosting" and I was good at it. So good that in 2015 I arrested for the first time. 6 weeks later I was released from jail and things got worse from there. In 2016 I was arrested again and took a plea for Drug Court. A great program I wasn't ready to accept and work for. in 2017 I was terminated from the program and sentenced to prison to do the rest of my time. that day I hit my rock bottom. I was sentenced to a therapeutic community to participate in a recovery program. it was there were I found myself and hope in my future.

My time spent at Madison Correctional facility was life changing. I attended classes, meetings, bible studies, etc. I started to soak up all the knowledge I could, and I was clear headed for the first time I can remember. I broke myself down to build myself back up. I had to look at myself and the part that I played in every situation I found myself in through my life. I learned who I was and who I didn't want to be anymore. my relationships with my friends and family started to rebuild. I became honest, willing and open minded to everything. Recovery saved my life. It has given me every opportunity in the world to have and be all the things that I am capable of. For the first time in my 33 years of life I believe in myself!! I have faith that my higher power has a plan for me and that I am worth the second chance I've been given. no matter what I've been through in my life I'm still here. that means something. I've made a vow to myself to always remember where I've been, but I must stop living there. I live in today because that is what I need to do.  Every day I get a new 24 hours to make it the best that I can. today I am a week shy of being 20 months clean. God has seen fit that I can string a few 24 hours together for some time now.

Please always know that no matter how bad you feel it is or that you have done too many bad things to make a change, that its always possible. There's always someone else out there who understands exactly what you're going through. The therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel. 

Much love y’all! Stay strong & trust in something bigger than yourself.

Peace, Love & Light

-- Casey Anne 

If you’re struggling, it’s okay…help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Why can't you just quit. . .

Why can’t you just quit?  What’s wrong with you? Don’t you love me?  Don’t you love your kids?  Why aren’t you working today? Are you trying to kill yourself…?  Why can’t you just quit?  Why can’t you just quit?  Let me help you… cool, just give me a $100.00 – and the cycle continues until death, institutions, or jails come knocking on our doors.  And, on nights like this one the thoughts come rushing back into my brain…without recourse, without thought, without care of my close to 3 years of sobriety.  Thank you crack.  Thank you, Meth.  Thank you, heroin.  Thank you, beer.  Thank you, _________________.
If you are struggling with addiction or in recovery, you have certainly heard those words before.  More importantly you have felt their sting and been unable to do anything about it but feel judged, worthless, and misunderstood.  They have been told to you by friends, SCREAMED at you by parents, and spoken through the tears of ugly crying by your partner and children.  I have experienced all first hand.  If you are a loved one of one of us, you have sat up frustrated, worried, and scared all night long on more occasions than we both care to admit. You have sat up, hoping to just have one more chance to say these things to us, and we have used all night hoping to never hear them again.  You have prayed to God that you will hear our voices and see our faces just one more time.  You have sat up wondering if I am dead.  Praying I am tucked away safely in a jail somewhere.  Wishing I was five years old again, so you could try and fix me and help me avoid this life, this struggle, this pain, and my addiction.  You would give anything for that just like I would give anything to put down this bag of dope and come home.  BUT, YOU CAN’T, and I CAN’T. 
That’s the power of addiction…you can’t save me, and I can’t find that five-year-old anymore - - he’s gone - - I am gone. 
Am I just the drugs and poor decisions that continue to direct my life to choose the very thing that’s killing me over everything else…home, family, job, heath, self-respect?  I can’t take this anymore.  SOMEBODY SAVE ME FROM MYSELF
This blog is going to EXPLAIN NOTHING.  It will answer NO QUESTIONS.  It is just me up all night again.  Tortured by my past, haunted by my life, and chased by my addiction.  That’s what you will never know if you are “normal” - - there is no cure for this.  I can be close to 3 years sober and still want to get high, forget it all, and just check out - - judge me if you want (you have before).  Pray for me if you wish.  Run away and look the other way if you must.  Just know this feeling, these thoughts, this internal strife is why I couldn’t just quit!!!  My disease was bigger than me.  It was greater than the life you saw for me.  Now do you see??  My disease is a monster and I, the daily meals.  I didn’t choose this life…IT CHOSE ME.
IT’S quieter now.  IT’S a whisper.  IT was a daily scream.  IT still screams at nights, on drives, at home, at work…everywhere at times.  I need love.  I need support.  Hold me.  Watch me.  Really watch me.  Tell me I am doing good.  Forgive me when I go off or get quite because I am likely dealing with IT in my head again and just trying to survive for one more day.
I know that IT was killing me and you in the process, but my disease was more important than YOU and ME and sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep IT still is… Why can’t you just quit is the dumbest thing ever said… now you know.
This is me - - almost 3 years sober struggling through one more day and recognizing that even today, I hate my disease.  With God, hard work, great support, my sponsor, and the love of my support system, this gets easier, but it is always there.  Today, I am grateful that I can write about the emotions of it all and NOT USE.  My disease is strong but just for today, I am stronger with my God.  Today, I pray that you never have to say, and I never have to hear why can’t you just quit again.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Faces and voices of Addiction . . . a sister's story.

Six overdoses over the weekend and one of those I witnessed in my neighborhood while I was out for my morning run on Saturday.  When does this end?  There is so much pain and anguish in this epidemic.  I work daily with people who struggle with this mental illness / disease and I don’t have anymore answers than when I started down this career path a year ago. Even my own addiction is making less and less sense to me, but it helps me remember where I was so that I can relate to where my friends in recovery are in their own journey.  I don’t normally blog through the week, but I was pulled to this blog tonight by my friend, mentor, and person who started this blog for me, Diana Gardner.  Diana posted the following letter on Facebook and I asked if I could share it because it touches all aspects of addiction, love, and the search for recovery.  The following is the voice and face of addiction and I hope you all share this on your pages because messages like this will give others hope, even if for a moment.  

I was heartsick to learn of the death yesterday of one of my former students, Sara Beach.  Another tortured victim of drug addiction.  Both Sara and her sister, Allie, were extra special, not just good students, but good people.  Kind, thoughtful, full of insight.  And so, it didn't surprise me to see the beautiful tribute Allie Bratten wrote for her sister.  She tackles an ugly subject with grace and heart.  These precious people we lose to drugs still deserve to be honored and their lives celebrated, not just defined by their final act which cut their life short.  Allie's message is one for everyone who has been touched by a loss due to addiction. With her permission, I am re-sharing it.  God bless this sweet family.  " My beautiful sister is no longer with us in this earthly life. I have dreaded this day for most of my teenage and adult life and have been minutes away from writing this post more than once in the last several years. Yet somehow, now that it is here, I cannot accept it. My sister suffered long, and she suffered hard from addiction fueled by mental illness and this may be what some of you remember her by. Not me, I remember the one who never stopped believing in me, even when others did. I remember the kind and loving sister, the one who held my hair back when I was throwing up with morning sickness at 17 years old and had no one else, I picture her blasting lil boosie on the radio, dancing to the cha cha slide in the family room, chasing my kids through the aisles of stores playing trolls, taking me to the store for surprise make overs and buying me everything with what little money she had because she thought I deserved it. Texting me just to say she loved me.

I have also spent very dark hours of my life calling hospitals and jails looking for her when she was missing or trying to find a treatment center over and over again that would look beyond just her addiction and treat her mental illness. So many highs and lows that truthfully, we rarely knew stability. But she was my sister, my big sister and that was the life we shared together. No one will know me like she did, I’ve lost the person that has walked through the same life as me and has known me and loved me every second of my life. I find it hard to breath knowing she’s not living this life with me anymore. Even in her times of sobriety life was so hard for Sara and her mind and heart were never at peace. I know in the deepest of my heart she is being held by the Blessed Mother now and playing games with my two children in Heaven, telling our Nanny all about life and my three babies here on earth.

I selfishly don’t know how I will survive this life without you in it Sissy. Because even the times you were at your lowest and we went months without speaking, if I had needed you, you would be there. That is a comfort I will never again know, but I do know you are pain free now and loving us all from the arms of God. Forgive me for times I fell short in being your sister and please know all I ever wanted was for you to live healthy and to be surrounded by the love you always showed me. You were kind, you were beautiful, you loved deep, you were my big sister.

I will be making funeral arrangements tomorrow and share the details for any who wish to come.

Cheers to you, cheers to me, Big and Little we’ll always be. ❤❤

If you are struggling, it’s okay. . . help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

It takes what it takes...

I was running this morning and as my feet were pounding the pavement, I was in awe of how beautiful God’s creation is during this time of the year.  Today, the fall foliage was brilliant with bursts of yellow, red, and orange highlighted evermore by the intensity and warmth of the fiery sunlight.  The leaves crunching under my feet as I ran sounded like I was wondering through the woods and breaking twigs and sticks as I landed on each step.  The rooftops were white with frost waiting on the sun to warm them up and awaken my neighbors inside.  I have had many such runs where I was reminded of God’s power and His grace.  I have run on beaches next to the Great Lakes and His powerful oceans and on wooded trails and paved River-walks. I have also run inside the walls and suffering of a prison yard.  Wherever I have run, I was in awe of the creation of this Earth and of myself.  This brings me to the topic of today - - Gratitude.
People ask me all the time, “What is the most important thing in recovery?”  I tell them thank you for asking and that is LOADED QUESTION…
We all have heard that recovery takes honesty, acceptance, patience, humility, surrender, an open mind, and a willingness to change just one thing…  EVERYTHING. Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Who wants to join me on that journey?  Now you know why I say that people who are in recovery are simply put, ROCK STARS.  If you are in recovery or close to someone who is, you already know what I am talking about.  If you don’t get what I am saying, try this little exercise out.  Pick a sin of yours, a mistake that is causing you quality of life problems, or simply your diet. 
Got one?  Great.  Now, I need you to be 110% honest with EVERYONE about it.  I need you to accept it.  I need you to surrender it.  I need you to talk about it with another person and in a group.  I need you to keep an open mind and I need you to change it…NOW.  Oh, and if you slip up and do “it” again…REPEAT…WASH…RINSE…REPEAT.   Get my drift? 
That is just a small percentage of what recovery looks like for those working a program.  Most people (no offense) can’t make it to February of each year with their New Year’s Resolution of eating healthier, no caffeine, no polar pops (I know you are out there), or even exercising three times a week.  So, when you see friend in recovery let them know you are proud of them because they are what life change looks like and they are a WARRIOR.
Now, where was I?  Oh, yeah, recovery.  What is the most important part of recovery?  I am not sure if I can pick just one, but I do know that for people struggling with addiction to turn their lives around, it takes what it takes.  To finally get to the point that it takes what it takes, I suggest that it also takes a whole bunch of gratitude and that takes practice.  LOTS of PRACTICE.
William James wrote, “the greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”  Let me translate that.  Simply put, if we can practice gratitude on the inside, we can live a great life.  Gratitude is realizing, understanding, and appreciating that who you are is enough. And when you have enough, you have plenty.  When you have plenty, you no longer need mind altering substances to fill a void, heal a pain, or get you through the day.  Gratitude is the ultimate acceptance of who I am and who God made me to be.  If I stay grateful in my life, my prayers, my walk, and my talk, I don’t think about anything but my recovery. 
I make more gratitude lists than to do lists because the first makes me realize that the last is up to God.  I am not perfect by any means and I accept that (another foundation of recovery 😊).  The goal is not perfection but a wholeness anchored in grateful living, in knowing what I have.  Simply put, there’s only one kind of person who can recover and transform themselves and the world - - - the one with the grateful heart.
I am grateful for so many things and today I am especially grateful for this tree in my neighbors yard.  It reminds me of who I am and where I need to be every day - - in recovery.  
Today, I am stupid grateful.
What are you grateful for in this moment?  Please comment, like and share and then go like my Team Beal Recovery Page on Facebook.  Thank you.
If you are struggling, it’s okay…help is only a prayer away.

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