I am a classic over-doer. In the TV show Family Ties, Michel P Keaton was a self-professed overachiever. I wish I could say that was me, but that would entail that I actually achieved something. Whereas all my life I would over do things to the point of burning myself out. Even as a child.
I lived in an alcoholic home with an alcoholic father. You could say life was messy. The rest of my family – my mom, sister, and brother – had pretty series health issues. I on the other hand was “healthy” and “smart”. It’s kind of difficult to get approval and support from people who are miserable and wrapped up in their own more important challenges. I get this now, but as a child I would just DO more. If I just cleaned MORE, if I just helped out MORE, I could get their approval and they could be happy. When I realized that wasn’t working, I retreated. My bedroom became my sanctuary. My dog was my companion and would keep me company as I pretended my life was normal. As I grew older I practically lived at my friend’s house as I approached my tween years or we would say that we lived on our own at my house since no one was ever really “present”.
When I look back at my father’s alcoholism, I don’t recall it being discussed. Just whispers in the dark. Those whispers were because of his DWI’s, loss of license, and the effect they had on the family – mainly my mother. Support in the form of a 12 step family program was never sought out to my knowledge or offered. If we didn’t talk about it somehow we could make it not exist.
But it did EXIST – big time. My father’s drinking lead to him being incarcerated for vehicular homicide. As a consequence, not only was he not physically present during this time he was “away”, it stressed our family business, finances, my mother, everything. We eventually lost the business and the house. I can recall the embarrassment of seeing our Lincoln Town Car getting repossessed. I was 11 and I didn’t understand the full picture. I hadn’t even known any details until a boy in my homeroom shouted out that he read in the paper that my dad killed someone. O-M-G….I wished someone would have just killed me. But still I didn’t talk about it. Not even to my best friends.
It’s hard to explain complicated and disappointing situations to children. I get that. How we as adults want to protect them and the ones they love. The confusion and uncertainty of not understanding what was going on had a profound effect on me. I was like a zombie all through my middle school years. I was called airhead and klutz because I was so out there and would trip and fall all the time because I wasn’t paying attention. In 8th grade I received “Class Dreamer” and was actually proud that other people saw me.
When I was 14, my father died an early death in a tragic accident. It only took a few years for me to find the comfort and ease of drugs and alcohol. I quit my extra-curricular activities and sought comfort in boys, hanging out with friends, marijuana, and alcohol.
Depression and anxiety disorders run rapid in my family. Once again while it was never discussed, you can’t miss it. All my life I would have these ups and downs – but I could explain them. If you lived my life you would be depressed and anxious too!
Finally in my thirties, my own trifecta forced me to actually make a change. Out on disability due to back surgery in the summer of 2009, I was laid off. It didn’t take long for me to see how difficult it was to put down the pills and alcohol. I was able to quit the pills and even put down cigarettes, but the alcohol and marijuana were just too difficult. The depression and anxiety were awful. I knew I needed help. I was tired of going through the same cycle over and over. I had spent months up and months down. I knew that my mom and my sister had experienced the same thing.
My husband would look at me in disgust and then reach for a beer. Ding! Ding! Ding! Isn’t that the same thing I saw night after night in my own home as a child? For my daughters sake it had to stop here. In order to give her a shot at a life better than mine, I had to break the cycle. I was on medication, why wasn’t it working? Upon seeing a therapist, it was explained to me that the drugs and alcohol I was using was suppressing the effects of the medications I was on. Really? She told me she could not help me as long as I was self-medicating. Whatever happened in that office that day propelled me into a life beyond my wildest dreams.
I entered into an intensive outpatient program and while it took me some time to accept my alcoholism, I loved the program immediately. I loved the structure, support and acceptance. How everything was out in the open and we could finally talk about it – whatever your IT might be. It was like a dam had opened, 30+ years and I no longer had to hold it in or even hold it together. My family had a harder time seeing it. I was the “smart, healthy” one. Miss Perfect.
In recovery, over doing is still a problem. I can say with confidence that I am also an over achiever and a finisher! I have gone into business on my own and have become a certified yoga teacher. It’s funny because all of my adult life I have been asked if I am a teacher. So now I am.
The cycles of depression and anxiety still occur, but I have the tools to work through them. I am able to see the dips and crests more clearly and sooner. Instead of months it only lasts a few days before I am on the up swing again. For this I am truly grateful. Because I am clear headed I am able to recognize patterns in my life. No more black outs or questioning how I got from here to there.
This awareness has allowed me to truly thrive in recovery. I see a learning experience in everything. There is nothing negative anymore. I am no longer a victim. In sobriety I have started a successful pet sitting business, received my certification to teach yoga, and am also a fitness coach. All of which involves helping others.
The 12 Steps have been instrumental to my recovery. I have developed a Yoga of Recovery class; supporting each step with a sutra from the spiritual principles in yogic philosophy as well as a chakra to be able to work our bodies to balance out energy. Approaching our emotions on a physical component is very empowering.
I love being authentic. I no longer deny my emotions. I let them flow. It’s the only way I am comfortable and free. I spent so much time in life pretending and denying what I knew was true. Now I don’t have to. My ability to do this, to be free with my words and feelings…helps others give themselves permission to do the same.
Recovery is beautiful; it is such a gift and as such should be shared openly and freely. I am not anonymous because I love sobriety and the life it has allowed me to live. I dedicate my life to helping others in service and gratitude.