Anything is Possible!

With Love, Hope, and Perseverance


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My Life: Black and Blue…

Please read this powerful story of survival and ongoing recovery from PTSD written and lived by Bipolar Lili

Bipolar Lili

I didn’t retire from law enforcement, but I worked the job long enough to bare the internal scars. I loved my job and I did it well. I was passionate about ensuring people got the help they needed and knew what the next step was. I treated everyone with respect.

I believed it was better to communicate and take the extra time than to rush through a call or investigation. When I arrived on scene, it was usually that person’s worse day; especially when I worked in the homicide unit. I have witnessed and absorbed more trauma than I should have. Death walked with me everywhere I went. After a while dealing with death seemed easier than dealing with life.

I excelled at work, yet failed in my home life. I could easily identify and counsel abused women at work, but didn’t recognize it in myself. I thought it was…

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Good News Tuesday 4/7/20: Recovering from COVID, Koala Release, Walking Against the Odds, and Shifting Focus

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Seeking Balance One Tuesday at a Time

Recovering from the Virus

It’s emotionally staggering to read how many people have died from COVID-19. Reading about recoveries offers hope. 292,188 people have recovered from the virus. John Hopkins University has a dashboard showing the numbers of cases, deaths, and recoveries around the world.

104-year-old William Lapschies is one person who has recovered. A World War II veteran from Oregon, William recently celebrated his birthday with a socially distanced party.   Here’s William’s story.

First Koala Group Released Back in Australia

The non-profit group Science for Wildlife released 12 koalas (plus one pouch baby) back into their natural habitat in the Blue Mountains in late March. The release happened after the group studied the area and determined enough growth had taken place to support the animals. Here’s the story from Independent. 

Ten Year Old Walks with Spina Bifida

John Harvey was born with spina bifida. Against the odds, he worked hard to learn how to walk. The following video  shows John’s determination and perseverance. Enjoy!

(There might be a brief ad.)

Companies Shift to Make Health Care Supplies at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

The 300 acre space known as the “Can Do Yard” during WW2 is earning that name again. Over 500 companies responded to New York City’s call for help to manufacture face masks. I heard this story on NPR and hope you enjoy listening:
https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/04/06/navy-yard-brooklyn-medical-factory

Got good news? Please share in the comments!


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Good News Tuesday: Prepare to Be Inspired

“If you do something wrong to my animals, I will catch you.”  ___Vimbai Kumire

A female anti-poaching unit protects elephants in Zimbabwe.  Many of these women are single mothers or survivors of abuse. My heart cheers with hope for them, for their courage and dedication. In this video, you can see how important their work is to them.

Fighting the monster of addiction also takes courage. It’s harder than most people realize. Crystal Champ gave her baby to a hero, but Crystal is a hero, too.  In this video, she’s been sober six months.

 

Good news is happening all over the world.

The world needs to see it.

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Theo’s Story

As September is “Recovery Month,” I’m sharing this story based on my interview with a man who has become a respected friend.

broken window black and white

Some of us remember it as “The Blizzard of ’89.” To Theo, it’s the night he almost froze to death.

Not technically a blizzard, the storm was an anomaly for the Carolina Coast, especially on Christmas Eve. He’d quit his job at Dupont to drink liquor and sell blood. He’d been arrested 66 times for child support. The money was supposed to be taken out of his check, but it’s hard to hold on to a job when you keep getting locked up.

On that Christmas Eve in 1989, he walked to the club on Orange Street and got hit in the head with a bottle by a man trying to rob him. Theo stumbled into the cold and headed toward Ann Street and the place he called home.

The house had no electricity, no water, and no heat. Windows of broken glass allowed the frigid night air to permeate every room. But he figured it would be warmer than sleeping outside. Theo wrapped himself in whatever coats and blankets he could find and fell asleep.

He woke up shivering in the middle of the night and saw snow blowing in through the window.

“Lord, let me go to sleep and not wake up,” he prayed.

 

Theo had never prayed such a thing before. Even during his three years, six months, and 11 days in prison he’d always found enough hope to stay alive.

His prison time started in 1966 when he was convicted of armed robbery while serving in the Navy. He’d been drinking heavily and hanging out with the wrong crowd again. On a five-day leave, he planned to spend time with family in North Carolina and caught a ride from the Florida base with his buddy, John. They partied along the way but ran out of money in Georgia where John decided to rob a gas station and landed them both in prison.

Working on a road gang in Georgia, Theo was charged with insubordination and ended up in the hole for 15 days – naked, in the dark, on concrete. He got one meal ever four days. Even then, he didn’t lose hope, though he did lose 20 pounds during each of his three stays in the hole.

After a year of incarceration, Theo wrote a letter to the newspaper about conditions at the prison and was interviewed by the press. Shortly after that, he was transferred to a larger facility that held over 4000 prisoners.

prison fence

“There was a killing every day.” Theo recalls. “I didn’t know if someone was going to stab me in my sleep or set me on fire.”  For the first three months, he just sat on his bunk and watched. He noticed some inmates reading, writing letters, or making crafts (handbags and wallets) and started doing some art himself – painting portraits and making handbags to sell to relatives back home for spending money. Trying to stay out of trouble, Theo gravitated toward the creative crowd. Watching all the killings going on, they realized how many prisoners didn’t know how to read or write. So, he and a group of 8 to 10 inmates started a group called, “The Barons of Goodwill.” They helped fellow prisoners read and write letters. Theo believed this was his turning point.

While in prison, he took courses in electronics and welding. He started writing a book called, Choices by Chance, but since it was about life in prison, the guards confiscated it along with some of his poems and paintings. With about seven years left on his 10-year sentence, Theo was in an accident on the road gang truck which left him with 3 broken ribs, 27 stitches, and a busted shoulder. They released him from prison a couple weeks after the accident.

He planned to stay sober and live with his parents for a while. But three blocks from the bus station, he ran into old friends drinking on their front porch. He was drunk before he got home. He told his mom over and over that he was sorry. This was his first clue about the cunning, baffling nature of alcoholism.

Theo got a job welding at a factory and did stop drinking. But after about two years, he thought he could drink a little.  First, he only drank on his days off. Then only after work. Eventually, he was drinking before work, then during lunch. He’d stop drinking off and on, but over time, his disease got worse. In 1983, he married a woman who also drank heavily. They argued a lot. On Valentine’s Day, he saw a TV commercial for a treatment program asking, “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?” He called the number and his wife listened in on the other line. When he hung up the phone, she came out and shot him four times in the stomach and legs. He decided the relationship was over. After that, Theo didn’t drink for a while, but he still hung around with the wrong crowd. He started a roofing company, but hired people who were just like him. “working to drink.”

In 1989, Theo got locked up on his birthday over child support. He went to an AA meeting to avoid the fighting, drinking and reefer in the prison dormitory. He remembers one of the men in the meeting sharing he had 20 years sober. Theo didn’t believe it.  “You’re a liar,” he told the man. Someone told him to “shut up and listen.” The next time he went to a meeting, he just listened.

Theo got out of prison in October of ’89. A friend invited him to an AA meeting at Good Shepherd where he’d gone to the day shelter. He saw some guys he used to drink with there, which tweaked his interest in the program, but he continued to drink off and on. His addiction to alcohol grew stronger with each episode.

On Christmas Eve of 1989, the years of misery, broken relationships, and doing time came bearing down on him. Theo woke up to a blanket of snow on Christmas morning. He had to do something to get warm, so he walked to the day shelter knowing they were closed. The man who lived across the street from the shelter was shoveling snow. Theo thought he recognized him from meetings and asked to borrow a shovel to remove snow from the shelter sidewalk and parking lot. The work kept him warm for a while.

Then, Theo walked to the liquor house which was open. He was no stranger to drinking in the morning. But today was different. All he wanted was to be warm. When the woman asked him what he wanted to drink, he said he wanted something hot. She gave him some of the stew she’d been cooking for her husband.

Theo never drank alcohol again after that. He spent much of his time at the day shelter where he could get lunch, shower, and wash his clothes.  A counselor there named Ann knew he’d had a drinking problem and must have seen a change in him. One day, she asked him to come into the office. She asked him a list of ten questions.

“Does drinking interfere with your relationships?”

“Yes.”

“Has drinking ever caused problems at work?”

“Yes.”

Theo answered yes to all ten questions.

“It’s like you’ve been following me around or something,” he told her.

“Do you want some help?”

“Yes.”

Every place was full. But Ann told him, “If you don’t drink, come back Monday.”

On Monday, every place was still full. But on Tuesday, there was an opening at Stepping Stone, a halfway house for alcoholics and drug addicts. After the interview, they told him to come back the next day with his stuff. “He won’t last three weeks,” he heard someone say. But Theo lasted seven months.

It wasn’t easy at first. There were all kinds of men at the halfway house. It helped to remember he’d lived with a diverse group of people in the Navy and in prison. Theo’s three years of military service and three plus years in prison, helped him adjust quickly to the structure and routine of morning meditations and going to three meetings a day. At first, he didn’t listen at the meetings and focused on eating cookies and drinking coffee. Then, one day, this guy came up to him and said, “I’m your sponsor.”

“I didn’t ask for a sponsor,” Theo replied.

“My sponsor said you need a sponsor.”

The man turned out to be Theo’s sponsor for the next 25 years, until he died.

Working the 12 steps, Theo learned the real him, not the monster he used to see in the mirror. “I had to learn to forgive myself – to make amends to myself,” he said. All his life he’d felt like the fifth wheel, like he didn’t belong, but when he went to AA, he felt like he belonged. He’d thought that God didn’t want him, but realized that God had led him to AA, and that God had never left him. He knew that it was time to stop taking and start giving back. He knew this might be his last opportunity.

praying hands

As Theo stopped blaming other people for his shortcomings and taking responsibility, he learned that he was “the author of all his tragedies.” He learned that he had to get real, that he couldn’t run from himself and had to face up to things.

Over the next few years, things fell into place. After the halfway house, he worked regularly as a welder, in apartment maintenance, and as a longshoreman. He fixed up the house he was born in, the house where he slept on that snowy Christmas Eve. Then, in 2014, Theo married a preacher. They had dated for a few months way back in the 1960s when he spent his free time in clubs and on the street. She didn’t go to clubs, didn’t drink, and focused on work, so the relationship didn’t work out back then. They finally reconnected after Theo got sober and she showed up at his church.

Throughout his journey, what made a difference in Theo’s life was the company he kept. He’s tried to impress this upon his sons, telling them to watch who they hang around and to do positive things. “If the person you hang around goes to jail or Yale, you’re going too,” he says. Theo says he’s met the best people in recovery, some of them even in prison. In recovery, he’s met people who are honest and working on the same goals. He’s developed friendships that transcend age and race.

Today, in his early seventies, Theo is “semi-retired.” He fixes up houses, tends his garden and gives his home grown produce to older people at church. He’s been teaching Sunday school at his church for the past ten years. He buys books at thrift stores and gives them out at church, to people in recovery, and on the street. Theo attends meetings for himself every week and goes to the prison every Sunday. He sponsors some men there, remembering that his first meeting was in prison. When an inmate doesn’t believe he has 17 years of sobriety, he doesn’t tell them to shut up, but he does tell them to listen. He tells them to look around for a sponsor and to get a “home group” when they get out, a group that can become like family. He tells them to stay in recovery.

hawk in flight bird (2)

 

(All photos in this post are from Pixabay.)


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Black Belt Codependent Interview Series – JoAnne

A big THANK YOU to Terri Randall for this interview about my own codependent journey and recovery. I just bought her book, Journey of a Codependent. Looking forward to reading it!

Journey On Strong

Today’s interview is with JoAnne, a retired addictions/mental health counselor and a woman who also walks this journey of codependency. She recently published her first book, “Trust The Timing: A Memoir of Finding Love Again”, which can be found on Amazon.  Please be sure to check our her blog, Anything Is Possible, as she shares her journey and inspires others!

Want to share your story and encourage others? If you are interested in participating in the Black Belt Codependent Interview Series, please click here and complete the form.


JoAnne…

Tell us about yourself.

In January, I retired from a 30 year career as an addictions/mental health counselor. Now, I focus on writing and art, and just published my first book, Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again.

How did you know you were codependent?

It was in the late 80s, when I started attending…

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Carrie Fisher is still teaching me to be brave.

carrie-fisher-quote

“If you pretend something long enough, it comes true.” Carrie Fisher

These quotes about confidence and pretending remind me of the expression, “Fake it til you make it.” When we do that, we’re pretending with a purpose. We’re being brave in spite of our fear.

Being brave is one thing Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia had in common.

In  Star Wars, Princess Leia battled the evil empire. In real life, Carrie Fisher battled insecurity, addiction, bipolar disorder, and of course the expectations of Hollywood. At the age of 19, she portrayed a strong, intelligent, no nonsense woman of power in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope.” I watched that movie in the theater at least ten times in the late 70s when I was about 21. I was one year older than Carrie who died on Tuesday, December 27th. Like many of my peers, (boomers/sci-fi fans) I thought of her almost like friend, especially after I started watching her interviews.

As she got older Carrie grew wiser. She wrote books which have been on my want-to-read-list for years. I still look forward to reading them. In her interviews, Carrie is hilarious in that feisty, authentic way smart women get when they no longer care so much what people think of them – something I aspire to. I love that she performed her autobiographical play, Wishful Drinking, barefoot.

As Princess Leia and as herself, Carrie Fisher influenced me in ways that I am not even aware of. I do know that she made me braver and still does. As I process my grief  (and consider my own mortality) I’m imagining her cracking jokes and exploring life in a galaxy far far away.

I wish her a good voyage.

In the following interview, Carrie started talking about recovery more in the second half if you want to skip the baring all part.

And in this next interview with Oprah, she talked about her family, electroshock therapy, and healing her relationship with her mother who she partially credited for teaching her to be strong.

After writing this, I read that Carrie’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, died the day after her daughter and that she said she wanted to be with Carrie. As a mother, I understand.  I understand about the worry, the tension, and the closeness of that complicated bond. I’m glad they were able to talk, to come to a better understanding of each other. Now, I hope they are at peace.


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Contact Highs, Trauma, and Recovery: Addiction Conference Highlights

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Can a person show up positive for marijuana on a drug screen just by being in the same room with people smoking the weed?

The opening speaker at Wednesday’s addiction professionals conference says no. But he wasn’t clear on the cutoff levels/sensitivity of the test used in the study. I believe it’s possible, though the smoke would have to be pretty darn thick. After all, people have been know to get a contact buzz from being in the same room with someone smoking, right? Of course, It’s been a very long time…..

I did get a natural high with my high school girlfriends during our reunion last month. I was the only one not drinking, but I laughed, giggled and almost choked on my own silliness, all drug and alcohol free, which was my goal. I also won the trivia game which I like to think I won because I remember stuff I studied in high school, and I am smart in some things, not just because I was the only one sober.

But back to the conference that finished up yesterday. Our closing speaker was Austin Eubanks, an injured survivor from the Columbine shooting. His story was moving and powerful. I even got teary-eyed when he told us about how his best friend was killed in the library. It turns out that Austin became addicted to pain pills which were easily accessible after the Columbine trauma because he was shot in the hand and the knee. But he got more pain meds than he needed and used them (without realizing it) to numb the emotional pain of the trauma.

Austin was clear that he does not want to prevent anyone from getting the medication they need, but he also said that it would have been better for his doctors to realize he was using pain pills to cover up the emotional trauma which took him years to process starting in a therapeutic community on his third treatment episode. One way to minimize that risk, is for doctors to screen people coming in for acute physical pain to find out if there is also emotional trauma they might be trying to avoid. Recovery is about learning how to cope with challenges with support but not with illicit drugs. It’s way complicated. But one of the best things is that Austin encouraged those in recovery to look closer at the issue of anonymity. A person should not publicly reveal membership in a specific 12 step program, but Austin said that if you’re in recovery, be “loud and proud” about it.

Kids and Adults need to know that it’s okay to choose not to drink or drug, and that there is support for working through trauma. Recovery is not easy, but worth it in the long run.

Today’s Stream of Consciousness Prompt was the word, “screen,” brought to you by Linda HIll at:

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Oct. 15/16

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!


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Rx

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I recently accompanied my husband on his consult for unexpected outpatient surgery which is now scheduled for the middle of this busy month. When the doctor mentioned post-op pain meds, my dear husband shook his head. When questioned about this, he said he didn’t want any narcotics. The doctor said he’d prefer to write the script, just in case, since the pain meds can’t be called in. But he also indicated that it’s possible my husband will do okay with just over the counter pain meds. This led to a discussion about the whole dilemma of pain medication and my experience of being prescribed way more pain meds than needed for relatively minor surgeries or injuries. My experiences as an addictions counselor have likely added to my frustration.

During the consultation, I appreciated learning more about the prescriber’s perspective: doctors who prescribe less than the standard amount of pain meds, in this case, 30 pills (!), are more likely to be harassed, yelled at and even threatened by patients. They lose patients and can’t stay in business.

What’s a doctor to do?

After hearing this, I’m not as sure as I used to be. And I’m glad I don’t have to be the one between that rock and the hard place.

One solution would be to have more disposal options for unused medication. We’re learning that it’s bad for the environment to flush unused medications, and keeping leftovers around, “just in case”  increases the risk of addiction or pills falling into the wrong hands. Though Opiate/narcotic addiction is a particularly bad problem where I live, we only have two medication drop off events per year. Of course, there’s always the burial in a container of damp coffee grounds, which may be the best option we have right now.  Hill

I know this is a complicated issue. Some people legitimately need a lot of pain medication. But it’s a slippery slope for those with substance abuse and addiction problems.

 

 

Which reminds me, that recovery can be pretty good where I live, too. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, there are all night  AA meetings, called Alcathons. These open meetings start at 6pm and run on the even hours until noon Christmas day and New Year’s Day ending in a shared meal. Narcotics Anonymous usually has Narcathons which are similar. I hope these are available where you live.

Here are some links that can help you find meetings:

http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-aa-resources

http://www.na.org/

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

To all those who suffer from addiction, there is help. Recovery is possible. Find a program, then work the program, every day.  Life can get better. One day at a time. Like they often say after the Serenity Prayer:

” Keep coming back, It works if you work it, but you gotta work it every day…and night.”

To all those who do not suffer from addiction, be aware this can be a hard time for those who do. Have plenty of alcohol-free beverages at your social gatherings. Label food and drinks containing alcohol. Even a taste can be a trigger. Invite a recovering friend to go to an alcohol free/drug free event.

May your holidays be holy days, full of peace and joy.

Tree in Winter Sunset

 

 

 


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Addiction and Recovery: Some things I’ve Learned

pixabay.com. mountain climbing. 709320In my thirty years as a substance abuse counselor, the most frustrating thing I’ve observed, over and over, is that people underestimate the power of the addiction monster and the work it takes to fight it.

With a few rare exceptions, most addicts and alcoholics have to work on recovery for the rest of their lives. If done well, the work gets easier over time, and  life can be good. Not always easy, but richer and deeper, with more options and more peace.

One alcoholic I’ve worked with, who’s been sober for well over a year, still goes to AA every day. She’s learned the hard way, that’s what it takes for her. Every day, she calls her sponsor, prays and reads recovery literature or works the steps. She’s reasonably happy and able to share her experience, strength and hope with others. It may be possible to stay sober without that kind of intensity, but in my experience, it’s risky not to work a daily program.

Recovery is a process, not an event. Recovery is about learning to live life on life’s terms and creating new pathways in the brain. It takes practice.  Treatment ranges from counseling to intensive outpatient, to detox, to inpatient (if you can find one that’s affordable.) Sometimes, long term residential is what it takes. And programs are getting harder to access and more limited with funding cuts and managed care, but that’s another post, or more likely a rant.

For most people, recovery takes changing people, places and things – things like thoughts – and developing coping skills. A person who started drinking or drugging regularly in his or her teens is often starting recovery emotionally and socially as an adolescent. They may know a lot about life on the street, or how to get a doctor to write them a prescription, but they can easily become overwhelmed by feelings and relationships, the challenges of life on life’s terms.

What I’ve seen is that people who have a strong recovery support network are more likely to be successful. The people who I’ve seen be most successful at staying clean and sober are walking a path of spiritual growth. They develop a relationship with loving, caring, higher power, a power stronger than the monster of addiction.

Recovery is possible.

best may 2015

Next week, I’ll be sharing about how family members and friends can help a loved one suffering from addiction.

The climber is from pixabay: Mountain Climbing 709320

The sunset is from God.