Sunday, May 22, 2016


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.


Monday, May 9, 2016


self  [self]

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]

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
Being passive
Unhealthy relationships/boys
Picking out the differences rather than the similarities
Not reaching out when I need help
Drinking, obviously
Changing up my meal plan
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
Dwelling on the past and things I can't change
Sneaky behaviors 
Obsessive thinking
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.


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.