Sunday, May 22, 2016

Judgments

Thinking back as far as I can remember, dating back to my early childhood sitting in church with my super cool older cousins, I have placed judgments on people based on nothing but their appearance. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but I grew up in a family that placed an emphasis on being somewhat clean-cut and that first impression. Or at least that's the conclusion I came to believe. I can remember bragging to my middle school friends that I had clothes from American Eagle and had blonde highlights in my hair just like my older cousins. First impressions and appearance have been a big deal for as long as I can remember.

Here I am, 28 years old, and still find myself subconscioulsy placing those first impression judgments on the people around me.

What are you wearing?
How does your hair look?
What kind of shoes are you wearing?
Are they brand name?
Did you get off public transportation?
Or did you drive to work in your Audi?
Do you have tattoos or piercings?
How much do you weigh?
Do you appear to be in shape?
Are you alone or with people?
Are you good looking?
Are you smoking? (Heaven forbid)
Does your style match mine?
Or appear to be different?
Why is your hair blue or purple?

There are a million questions that run through my head when I first meet someone. And, thanks to my upbringing, it can be difficult to interact with people. Not only do I develop a fear of those who look different than I do, I also develop a fear that I didn't measure up and people around me will instantly be judgmental of me, too. Exactly the way I do to them in return.

Being a person in recovery, as you can imagine, this has made my life unnecessarily difficult. Not only do I place judgments on the people around me, I also find myself judging myself and the person I have become. Without fault, the questions begin -

Is what I'm wearing too preppy?
Do the people around me relate to me based on their first impression of me?
Am I too shy to interact?
Will they think I'm stuck up because I'm shy 
and afraid of what they might think of me?
Do I relate to you?
Are you safe?
Do you understand me?
Am I good enough to be your friend and fit in with you?
Do you like what I am wearing?
Do I look like someone who could be your friend?

If you couldn't tell already, my mind races like this 24/7.
It is exhausting.
It keeps me sick.

Over the past 9 months I have lived in six different recovery environments and here's what I learned - 

Addiction does not discriminate.
Eating disorders come in all different shapes and sizes.
The label on my t-shirt means nothing.
How much money I make is irrelevant.
The family I grew up in,
no matter how perfect they might be,
can't fix my issues.
Alcoholics don't always live on the streets.
Or drink out of a brown paper bag.
Heroine addicts are some of the most beautiful people I will ever meet.
Criminals deserve love and belonging.
Age is just a number.
Felons are just like me;
trying to find their place in this world.
Trauma and abuse during childhood often leads to addiction;
But not always.
I am living proof and evidence of this.
I am a child of privilege and I'm still a person in recovery.

Every single day, multiple times a day, judgments happen. Let's be real. When was the last time you walked into a public environment or looked yourself in the mirror and didn't place a judgment? It's a difficult pill to swallow. 

Subconsciously, throughout my life and recovery I have been placing these judgments. The reality is, however, they have gotten me nowhere. Here's a challenge -

Try to relate to the next person you meet without that first impression. 
Try to look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow when you get ready for work 
or the day and not judge your waistline in those pants. 
If you are my family, try not to judge that kid based on his baseball knowledge. 



After a simple conversation with my favorite dad today, I realized just how much I placed those judgments. This morning at an AA meeting I had a girl sit next to me who could have easily placed judgments on me, but decided to be welcoming instead. People are people. Not everyday is a good hair day or a best first impression. Sometimes stepping back and removing myself from judgments is hard work. But, sometimes, it is beyond worth it and I am surprised beyond belief.



Let's take a moment to really go beyond that judgment
and see people for who they are.
Let's take a moment to step outside ourselves
and understand not everyone has the same upbringing.
Let's be okay in our own skin
and be the person who we are meant to be,
addiction/eating disorder and all.


Progress.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Self-Sabotage


self  [self]

noun
1.  a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality: one's own self.

sab·o·tage  [sab-uh-tahzh, sab-uh-tahzh]

 noun
1.  the act of destroying or damaging something deliberately so that it does not work correctly.


One of the most difficult themes to tackle in my recovery has been this idea of self-sabotage. On a daily basis, and sometimes multiple times throughout the day, I find myself stuck in patterns and behaviors that are not beneficial to my overall well-being. Most of the time I am not even conscious of what I am doing. Some of the more obvious self-sabotaging behaviors I act on include restricting calories and drinking; however, there is an endless list of not-so-obvious behaviors I will be working on for most of my life.
 
About two months ago I wrote this as a part of an e-journal to my therapist:

"My list of self-sabotaging behaviors include -
Social media distractions
Ditching calories
Procrastination
Being passive
Avoidance
Unhealthy relationships/boys
Judgments 
Picking out the differences rather than the similarities
Not reaching out when I need help
Drinking, obviously
Changing up my meal plan
Overspending
Trying on clothing that no longer fits
Setting super high expectations for myself 
Comparing myself to others
Reliance on external items for self-worth
Minimization, denial, justification 
Wearing a mask
Poor sleep habits - NAPS
People pleasing
Not making friends
Isolation
Dwelling on the past and things I can't change
Sneaky behaviors 
Obsessive thinking
Indecisiveness
Attempting to control the future 
Playing the victim
Relying on my parents for money
Making assumptions and not looking at the facts

What do I do in my life that isn't self sabotaging? I'm all about instant gratification and distractions. This list makes me feel overwhelmed. Some things have gotten better. It's definitely a start. Self-sabotage is a defense mechanism for me. It keeps me sick and I'm afraid of what it means for me to be healthy. Yuck. And it's scary that there are so many different ways for me to get away with it. Basically if I'm not being 100% transparent then I'm engaging in self sabotaging behaviors."

That's some deep stuff for a week night e-journal entry.  

I continue to engage in these behaviors because they act as a distraction from my reality. In a moment of discomfort, taking a good look at myself and becoming vulnerable is much less appealing than avoidance, people pleasing, and engaging in my old, sneaky, and comfortable nature. I am a huge fan of instant gratification; therefore, self-sabotage usually feels right and holds a significant purpose in my daily life, making it feel impossible to completely remove it forever.

I like to think of self-sabotage as the conflict between my healthy mind and my addictive/sick/disordered mind. Most of the time I like to think of myself as an intelligent young woman, even though I participate in these not-so-helpful behaviors. For me recovery is much deeper than following my meal plan and remaining sober. Recovery is about doing something that makes me incredibly uncomfortable on a daily basis because self-sabotage begs me to remain stuck, but comfortable.

  Addicts, myself included, are people who, at some point, lost a part of themselves, and now have a hole they have to fill with anything that eases the constant feeling of emptiness.

This is where self-sabotage swoops in to save the day.

Learning to step outside of my comfort zone and act against destructive patterns can feel overwhelming at times. However, I like to think of it as a new beginning; a new shot at finding joy. Letting go of self-sabotage means not being afraid to embrace new surroundings, new energy, new people, new opportunities. It means accepting my body the way it is and being gentle with myself during this process. It means filling that void with self-compassion, rather than self-sabotage.


Progress.



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Relapse Part II

A little over three years ago I wrote a post on relapse. At the time, it was difficult for me to accept the common phrase, "relapse is a part of recovery." By thinking I was allowed to relapse, that meant I was setting myself up for failure. Now that I am a few years down the road I feel a little silly and naive thinking I would never relapse. It was a good thought at the time, but sadly, the majority of us are unable to flawlessly make our way through our first attempt at recovery. My younger self was expecting and hoping for perfection; yet I am human and the furthest thing from perfect. 

To pinpoint an exact moment when my relapse began is impossible. However, there were several red flags that I chose to ignore. Looking back, the list of relapse red flags is quite extensive:

I stopped seeing my therapist.
I bought a bathroom scale and was weighing myself regularly.
I began drinking regularly and in secret.
I became codependent in a relationship.
I was constantly wearing a happy-face mask while longing for true connection on the inside.
I was comparing myself to my peers.
Sneaky, manipulative, and perfectionistic behaviors returned.
I began relying on external things for self-acceptance.
I became numb to my emotions.

The list goes on and on.

Before I knew it I was slightly below my weight range and was either drunk or hung over every single day. Although my weight was not drastically below where it needed to be, I began relying on calories from alcohol rather than food to maintain my weight. I thought if I painted a perfectly put together picture on the outside, nobody would catch onto my inner demons. It worked for a short period of time and honestly, I never thought I would fall back into old habits. However, not only did I fall back, I fell into a deeper hole than ever before. I had completely lost myself.

Relapse became a part of my recovery.

Luckily, however, I can now view relapse as the biggest teacher in my recovery. I like to think of relapse as a seed; it has planted a lesson within me and I can use that lesson to grow greater than ever before. The truth is, sometimes we lose battles as often as we succeed. The key though, win or lose, is to never stop fighting. 

Usually if something hurts, it is a teacher. Pain has been a consistent trend during the past twelve months of my life. But I think I have finally reached a point where I can use those feelings of sorrow, fear, shame, regret, and anxiety as fuel. If I allow myself to be teachable, these past twelve months could easily transform from the most agonizing to the most significant and empowering months of my life.


Relapse can be a part of recovery.
And today I am learning to not only to be okay with it, but more importantly, use it to come back stronger than ever. 

Progress.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Everything But My Name


During the past eight months I have...
Called 4 different treatment facilities home.
Shared a room with 17 other women.
Lived with approximately 65 other people.
Lost and regained almost 50 pounds.
Spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday in treatment.

If you would have told me eight months ago this is what I traded my senior year field work in for I probably would have bought a plane ticket and left the country. At the time, I thought my first 21 day treatment stay was the end of the world. I remember begging the program director to let me leave early because I didn't think I needed to be there (haha).

One of the women I lived with in my second treatment facility said, "Recovery means changing everything but your name." She was right. Sometimes I get impatient with myself thinking I should have this figured out by now; that one treatment center should've been enough. However, when I allow myself to think about it, changing everything but my name is a process and would take any normal person an extended period of time. Not to mention, I was super resistant to any kind of change during the first four or five months (and still am at times). Looking back, when I first began this process last September, I honestly didn't think I had a problem or needed treatment. That statement is comical now. As my cognitive and emotional health slowly returned, I was able to see the seriousness and life-threatening consequences my actions could have easily caused. Not an easy thing to face. Staying in denial was easier than facing my truth, which is why I remained in a state of oblivion for so long.

This morning I spent a couple hours reading through old journal entries from the past eight months. I think it's safe to say I went a little crazy at times. It hasn't been an easy road. Some of the journal entries gave me a good laugh. Some of them had me reaching for a box of tissues. I found this quote in one of my journals...

"The length of your recovery is determined by the extent of your injuries.
And it’s not always successful.
No matter how hard we work at it, some wounds might never fully heal.
You might have to adjust to a whole new way of living.
Things may have changed too radically to ever go back to what they were.
You might not even recognize yourself.
It’s like you haven’t recovered anything at all.
You’re a whole new person with a whole new life."
-Erin Brown

These past eight months have had their ups and downs. My recovery has been far from perfect and I've had to learn a few lessons the hard way. Sometimes I get so angry and impatient with myself because I have this disease. Sometimes it feels easier to crawl back into bed rather than face the day. Sometimes I curse normal people out for a walk with their loved ones because there were times when I couldn't even go outside without permission. 

But sometimes, I feel grateful for all of the people I have met along the way and people who can relate to my daily struggle. Sometimes I realize how important it has been for me to heal in a safe environment. Sometimes I look back and think of the lifelong friends I have made. It's horrifying to think about where I might be without this experience. I know I have a long road ahead of me and I am far from where I would like to be, but I am no longer in treatment. Today I have the opportunity to make decisions for myself and to practice what I have learned from four different treatment centers. Today is the next step toward changing everything but my name. Today I can say I survived the hardest part.

Progress.



Saturday, February 20, 2016

I Have a Choice...


 


Five out of the past six months of my life have been spent in three different treatment facilities and I'm still not done. More than likely there will be another treatment stay in six weeks when I finish my current program. That is my reality right now. This process is overwhelming because I am both terrified of losing this battle and I am terrified of fighting it.

Luckily, I have learned several new tools along the way that have helped keep me safe. The first time I was in treatment for an eating disorder four years ago, I gained the weight but I barely scratched the emotional surface. I did the best I could at the time, but didn't dig as deeply as I needed to for life long recovery. Here are a few things I am focusing on this time around in order in order to fully engage myself in the process:

Emotional Honesty

I have spent my entire life wearing a mask in order to achieve a false sense of belonging. Depending on the situation and group of people I was around, I wore a mask to adapt to that situation and fit in with that group of people. I have been doing it for so long that I lost track of who I really was and what I wanted out of life. I felt like if I was making those around me happy then I would be happy. Emotional honesty has forced me to take off that mask. It has been incredibly difficult work, and more often than not, it isn't pleasant for the people around me. However, slowly, I have begun to see the benefits of having my inside emotions match my outside actions. Struggling my way through this part of my life and being real about it makes me human, not crazy or a bad person.


Similarities vs. Differences
A huge part of the reason I have been in multiple treatment centers is because I get caught up in picking out the differences between myself and the other patients. While I was in substance abuse treatment I told myself I didn't look like an addict so I didn't need to be there. Many of the patients there had come from jail or were homeless, but I was still functioning in my daily life, so I clearly wasn't that bad. I had a loving family and didn't experience trauma as a child, so I couldn't relate. I picked out the differences and effectively justified why I didn't belong there. Sure, it was effective, but more importantly, it also kept me in denial about how serious my addiction and eating disorder had become. Over the past several weeks, I have been working extremely hard to become aware of when I pick out those differences and put up that wall. It feels overwhelming at times because I do it so often; however, the more I share those moments with my therapist the more we are able to process it and dig a little deeper. It's not easy to admit I have put myself on that pedestal for so long, but facing it and picking out the similarities rather than the differences will be crucial moving forward.

Playing the Tape Through
There have been several moments I have wanted to give into cravings or be symptomatic. Sometimes in the moment giving into that craving feels like the only option because fighting it off requires doing the opposite of what I have done for more than a decade. Sitting through cravings and urges feels unbearable in the moment. However, if I allow myself to "play the tape through" and think about the consequences that will follow if I have a drink or engage in eating disorder symptoms, it helps bring me back to reality. At this point in my life the consequences are extremely high, but it's easy to lose sight of that when those cravings hit. Playing the tape through is frightening, yet effective. The consequences simply are not worth risking all of the hard work I have put into my recovery this far.

Reaching Out
This one has always been difficult for me for several reasons. Reaching out to a supportive friend or a therapist means I have to tell the truth. I have been consumed by my lies and sneaky behaviors for so long; being vulnerable and sharing what is actually going on with me exposes me. Often my thoughts feel so absurd and illogical that it feels embarrassing to share them with others. Normal people don't think the way I do, right? Fortunately, I have been proven wrong in regards to the way "normal" people think. By opening up and sharing when I am struggling, I have been given the opportunity to connect with like-minded people. People who can relate. Viewing reaching out as courageous rather than a sign of weakness, has allowed me to feel empowered. Vocalizing my cravings and sneaky behaviors squashes the likelihood of acting on them. As the old saying goes, "You are as sick as your secrets." The more I allow those thoughts to fester and grow, the worse off I am. Reaching out over the past several weeks has changed my entire outlook on recovery.


One of the best gifts I have given myself is to remember when people say "recovery," they typically think of returning to how they were before the addiction or eating disorder. But there is no going back. It is irrational to believe simply gaining the weight or remaining sober is enough. It's about reinventing myself. In order to live a happy, healthy, and addiction or eating disorder free life, I need to become something completely different from what I was before. One of the girls I was in substance abuse treatment with always said, "You have to change everything but your name," and she was right. 

I have a choice.
I can either give into my old ways 
or I can challenge myself daily and rebuild my life.
Today I am grateful to have the skills and the ability
to choose the more challenging road.

Progress.





Friday, October 30, 2015

"Bad Kids"


About two months ago I attended my first ever Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Without ever attending any type of twelve step meeting, I had no idea what to expect. This particular night we attended an open speaker meeting. It was an opportunity for an individual with a substantial amount of recovery time to share their story with the group. Sounded painless enough.

My heart sank when I immediately recognized the speaker from my past. I had gone to grade school with this person and knew he began using at a young age. To be terribly honest, he was one of the kids my goodie-two-shoes gang and I made fun of and looked down upon. I did not grow up with access to drugs or alcohol, and therefore, did not understand why anyone would go down that path. He hung out with the kids my parents told me to stay away from; the "bad kids."

So there I sat fifteen years later listening to the so-called "bad kid" teach me about how to recover from addiction. To say I was humbled is an understatement. Pinpointing a single emotion to that night is impossible. I was dumbfounded, ashamed, nauseous, mortified, confused, and most importantly incredibly proud of this young man's journey. I had been shaken to my very core. Suddenly not only did I have to interact with these "bad kids," but I had to look to them for guidance and support.

As I am writing this, I realize how judgmental it sounds and I apologize for that. At the same time, however, I think it is important to note the way I once thought is not uncommon in today's society. Simply put addicts are wrongfully seen in a negative light.

For those of you who have followed my blog in the past, you know I primarily wrote about my eating disorder recovery journey. Over a short period of time I gained a substantial following and felt a sense of belonging. Although it might have been a bit shocking at times, talking about my eating disorder publicly did not feel socially unacceptable. 

Here I am, however, a few years down the road tackling an equally devastating and challenging form of addiction but feel suffocated by the social stigmas involved. I have been hesitant to post this for awhile now, but this is a disease people die from every single day; not something to be quiet about or shy away from.

As a child I was taught to believe addicts are somehow “bad kids.”
However, now that I am white-knuckling through my own sobriety and recovery,
I am finding these so-called “bad kids” are my soulmates.

Addicts are remarkable people.
Addicts fight a war within themselves every single day.
Addicts are stereotyped and discriminated against.
Addicts are beaten down and made to believe they are weak.
With all odds against them,
addicts do live healthy lives in recovery,
and for that,
I am grateful.


Progress.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Honesty. Openmindedness. Willingness.


Honesty.
Openmindedness.
Willingness.


Three of favorite words.

With the exception of about three people, not including my parents, most of you think I have spent the past month at my old eating disorder treatment center for a "booster." Meaning my weight was down a few pounds and old self-destructive thoughts were creeping their way back into my life. Which is only partially true.

Here it goes... I was in a three week program for substance abuse here in my hometown. Some of you might be thinking, "omg, finally," and some of you might be a little surprised.

Both are okay. 

With this decision brought the loss of my senior year internship, giving up my apartment, the end of a relationship that brought several joys to my recovery, and several other raised eyebrows.  To say I was lost and in complete shock is an understatement. Here's the thing about entering substance abuse treatment as someone who has only indulged in wine - I've never done drugs, I don't smoke cigarettes, and I've never even seen weed in real life (giggles allowed). Most of my fellow patients had done time in jail or lost their kids as a result to hard drugs. I was out of place and struggling.

I never took the program seriously.

Here I am a week out of treatment wishing I could go back.
Wishing I could have a re-do.
Wishing I could take advantage rather than spite the people around me.
Wishing I wasn't so damn judgmental.

Forgive me, but I've always had a stereotype of what it means to be a drug addict, regardless of my social work background. Regardless of the fact that I have struggled with a behavioral addiction (anorexia) for most of my life. Who am I to judge these people?

On one of my first days we learned the acronym HOW.

Honestly.
Openmindedness.
Willingness.

There were several nights when staff members asked if I had opened up and begun accepting the program. In all honestly, I usually rolled my eyes and questioned how I could even fit in with these people, let alone get "on board with the program." I had been through treatment before, done this work, and was a little insulted they didn't understand I wasn't a hardcore drug addict. Deep down I probably knew I needed to be there, but my acceptance level was zero.

Here I am one week out of treatment and wishing I could move back in. I might have said and done the right things to get out, but it did me zero good in the long run. Even though I grew up in an upper-middle class family and had all of my needs met, I still belonged there. I was no different than anyone there.

Honestly - I am an addict. Whether I use an eating disorder or wine to numb the craziness in my brain, I'm still an addict.

Openmindness - During my first week in the treatment center, all I could focus on was my judgments. I'm sure everyone in the house hated me for this, but it's true. If I am an addict, who am I to judge anyone who has dealt with relationship, professional, or even legal problems who is also an addict?
Not cool, Kels.

Willingness - Here's the big one. Am I truly and deeply willing to accept who I am as an addict and those around me for the wonderful human beings they are? Yikes. Seems like a loaded question. The willingness to accept myself as a part of this family?! One day at a time.

This is a difficult post, but much needed. 

Hi I'm Kelsi, and I'm an alcoholic.

I hate those words, but they are part of me and my future.

The most important part of any AA meeting is the newcomer. So here I am...

Willing and ready.


Serious Progress.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good Foods vs. Bad Foods: Part 2

Just today I found this response/question from 2013 on my Freedom: Good Foods vs. Bad Foods post, which was ironically posted two years ago today. I know that thanks to TimeHop... Slightly embarrassed for not answering sooner, but here's the question...


"I was looking back on your old posts, because it usually helps when i'm having a rough day in recovery, and this post stood out. I recently met with a dietitian for the first time yesterday and ever since have felt really down. I feel like she overlooked the eating disorder part because when me and my parents left all i had was a list of things to not eat and a "clean" meal plan. Ever since I've felt pressured to live up to that meal plan but it took enough effort to get to a place where food was starting to not seem so black and white (good and bad) and now I feel like i'm back a square one. It sucks because I've been trying so hard to not restrict amounts and types of food like i did before, and i feel like the dietitian is telling me to go back to doing that. I'm so confused, and angry, and unsure of what to do because at this point i feel worse emotionally and somewhat physically, but I'm doing what she suggested. Any advice?"

And here's my rant three years out of treatment...

First of all, this is a really difficult question and I am not a doctor or dietitian, so please take everything I say in this post with a grain of salt. It's all personal experience; which can be a great thing or a horrible thing, based on the individual.

However, when I first started college and while in culinary school, I took two different nutrition classes. I took this course twice. I took this class probably five years apart and at completely different universities. HOWEVER, both classes indicated most dietitians do not have the proper eating disorder education. They are only taught a short excerpt from their text books and then move on to different macro and micro nutrients. Very few dietitians specialize in eating disorders and it's insulting.

I realize this might be controversial, as many dietitians probably feel like they can treat EDs after receiving a simple bachelors degree, but from my experience they tend to teach ED patients more harm than good.

What I'm trying to say is, if dietitians aren't given a proper education in eating disorders, they tend to teach their ED patients BAD vs. GOOD FOODS. They only reinforce the fact that, even though the patient is recovering from an eating disorder, they still need to steer clear of anything fattening, containing too many carbs, or has too much sugar. Whether dietitians want to believe it or not, this only reinforces the eating disorder by continuing those extreme habits

If an ED patient is told to eat healthy and constantly avoid "bad food," they will continue to do so; along with restrict calories and fight off cake, ice cream, and cheeseburgers, because they were told to do so. RATHER THAN EMBRACING LIFE and the different foods it might bring.

Sure, the treatment center I went to had an extreme approach. We were taught a calorie is a calories is a calorie, and it's proven true ever since. Sure, we ate nothing but frozen meals and junk food, but only did so for a short period of time while gaining weight. However, and most importantly, post-treatment I was able to attend a birthday party and eat cake without feeling guilty. I was able to attend a summer barbecue and enjoy a burger or a hot dog (even though I entered treatment as a vegetarian) without self-destruction. I can have bacon and eggs with my boyfriend for breakfast without throwing it up two minutes later. I don't need to punish myself for eating a cookie each night after dinner.

I CAN LIVE.

There were never any constraints on my diet during treatment, and as a result, I am happier and healthier because of it. Food doesn't scare me, as it would a person who is still taught good vs. bad foods from their dietitian.  

I'm so grateful for the Little Debbies and Poptarts I was forced to eat in early recovery.
Even three years later.

Progress.