Recovery Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

When having an addiction and being recovery are mentioned, many assume it is from drugs and alcohol. The truth is, there are dozens of things and behaviors people are addicted to and are in recovery from (yes, I know this is Wikipedia, but it’s a locked .org entry lol). And in my belief, no addiction is silly, nor an excuse to behave badly, nor one more serious than another.

All stories of recovery and hope are featured here. There is no recovery discrimination policy; all are welcome. I have featured my nutritionist  friend, Sheila Amir, on here before and I am happy to do so again today in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week. She did an amazing interview with another fighter and advocate in recovery, Janelle Teta. Janelle’s story is one of heartache blooming into triumph and inspiration. I hope you enjoy and feel as empowered as I did after reading.

Re-blogged with permission from the author, Sheila Amir, at www.nutritionsheila.com:

Instead of arguing what constitutes a “true addiction”, or that recovering from heroin is harder than from binge eating, I vote we all life each other up with praise and continue our fights. I’ll be here to help share your recovery story, and would love to do so when and if you are ever ready. I’ll continue to share mine as well…

Be Good, Do Good

Chelsea

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Posted in addiction, eating disorders, mental health, nutrition, recovery, self help, self improvement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eff You, Heart (aka Detaching with Love)

Last Wednesday morning I woke up to a missed call and voicemail from my dad, then saw and opened a text message from each parent that let me know Chad had been in a car accident. He was ok, it wasn’t life-threatening. My dad also attached the news story which included a photo of his car. It was laying smashed on its hood in the street, with vehicle parts scattered like sad, silver confetti (uck, even writing this now is drumming up some anxiety, sorry nails for picking apart your beautiful manicure).

Seeing that photo made me lose my shiznit. Immediate tears flew into my eyeballs, and I started pacing around my room on the verge of a panic attack (ok, maybe had a little one that lasted like 30 seconds). But then my heart started catching up with my head: nobody was seriously hurt, it was ok. Stop freaking out, you’ll scare Andy. Don’t project wild scenes of chaos that will never even occur. Get it together. Breathe. Repeat until calm.

Now, pre-recovery Chelsea would have lost it way to the extreme. There would have been bawling, snot everywhere, and probably some drooling too. Followed by me insisting I had to get to Chad’s side ASAP, getting in the car, and crying all the way to him. Proceeded by me obeying his every request while helping him not face reality to the best of my ability. Everyone and everything would have been on hold until I fixed Chad’s situation. Yea, super healthy, right (blushed face emoji)?!

I am so extremely elated the Detachment Fairy came along and whacked me upside the head (think Carol Kane in Scrooged) because I was totally out of control with that impulsive behavior. Not only the rushing in with my sparkly enabler cape on, but also somehow managing to feel utter guilt and shame for something I had nothing to do with nor caused whatsoever! Those days were tiring.

Detachment is something I really suck at doing, but I’ve gotten much better, with a lot of time and practice. It is incredibly hard for me because I care deeply for the people I love, and I hate seeing them hurt in any way (I blame being an emotional Cancer mostly lol). I always want to do anything in my power to “fix” whatever happened to them to cause the hurt. I knew Chad made a mistake. I additionally knew he was going to be fine, and that I needed to give him the dignity to face and deal with his own problems. He’ll never get what he supposed to out of situations if people keep taking care of his business. But thinking of him alone in the hospital with his head split open did a number on my heart.

It was a hard day. I felt terrible I wasn’t there to be by his side, but I know he’s also learned that everyone needs to do what’s best for him/herself and not to manipulate situations. Dragging our 10 month old son on a five-hour car ride, then to sitting in a hospital for hours on end wasn’t going to happen. It was not an option.  Didn’t mean that I did not love Chad, or was teaching him a lesson, or didn’t care. And I know he knows that, that’s the beauty of us both having our own programs to work.

I have learned that I cannot run to the rescue and “fix” every crappy situation. Not my business, not my place. It doesn’t mean I can’t have empathy for others, and be there not to serve them, but simply as a listening ear or hugging arms. I don’t have to make phone calls, run errands, or cover up lies because that is being taken advantage of and doesn’t help either party involved. I had to learn to let go of people’s’ problems. I didn’t cause them, and I sure as hell have no business trying to control the situations. It got to the point where being the f*!k-up police was no longer fun; I didn’t feel very important anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, detaching with love doesn’t mean I’m some hardcore, stone-cold beeotch. It simply means I love you, but I can’t get all up in your dramz because it stresses me out and makes me forget about me. And I have learned I am pretty damn important, too, and deserve my sanity and self-respect. Do I still get emotional? Yes, very much so. But I can reign it back in fairly quickly these days.  I still cry and feel sad, but I think that’s mostly human nature to care and want good for loved ones. The difference is I don’t take it personally, think I have to make it all better, then feel like a failure if the problem isn’t solved or recurs.

I do not think I will ever detach 100% from Chad. We’re connected, he’s my baby brother. I feel like I did fail him when we were younger, should have paid better attention, been a better role model. But I no longer beat myself up for that and allow that sick thinking to say, “See, you’re the reason he wrecked his car!” I am smarter than that now. And he has done such amazing things in his recovery, by himself and with his fellowship. Those friends are the people he needs to turn to now in crisis, not me. It’s not my place and I am totally ok with that.

Be Good, Do Good

Chelsea

Posted in addiction, mental health, recovery, self help, self improvement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

You’re Just Not That Important

 

Blank Stop Sign - Warning: Insecure Egotist Ahead. Proceed With Caution.

One of the first nuggets of wisdom I heard that really stuck with me was from a long time member, Phil. Phil is a grown child of alcoholics, so he grew up in the disease, then married an alcoholic without even realizing he was perpetuating the cycle. He went to Al-Anon many moons ago on a desperate whim, now lives the program 100%, and always has the greatest shares. He keeps it hella simple, no frills; my kind of shit. Anywho, he shared this line in a meeting three years ago, and it’s still my jam. Ready for it?

“You’re just not that important.” Holy balls. I am just not that important. Here I was thinking every time someone ignored me, or turned to talk to someone else quietly, or didn’t respond to me immediately was all due to something awful I had done. All about me. Perhaps this sounds familiar….

My boss ignored me when she walked past not because her plate was full and she was stressed, but because I must have done something terrible. Enter made up scenarios, over analyzing my every move during the past week, and sheer panic that I would certainly be summoned down and punished for my bad behavior (that I never even behaved). I am so amazing at my job, that the only reason she wouldn’t beam in my presence was because I had done something horrific.

Two co-workers turned and spoke briefly during my staff development presentation, hmmmm definitely dissecting my presentation (probably my outfit and zit, too). Wouldn’t at all be discussing where to eat lunch ten minutes before lunchtime (going out to lunch is a big deal for teachers on SD days). Maybe my fantastic information and activity  weren’t as great as I thought, but fairly certain nobody could have done it better. Enter insecurity (major ego crushing), self-doubt, over analyzing the situation, and throwing up my guard. I am outstanding, they really need to be quiet and listen. On the other hand, maybe I’m not all that great? Ahhhh, my old pal the internal conflict, with whom I battle nearly every day.

Opening the good ‘ole inbox to see yet another email from “that” person. Reiterating stupid questions I already answered in previous emails, leery of my top-of-the-line teaching skills, trying to bully me into changing a grade or taking yet another past due assignment, serving up another serving of crap excuse. Not at all trying his best to be a concerned and involved parent who is simply worried about his failing child, reaching out, and trying the best he knows how. Oops. I made it about me again.

That one simple line, “You’re just not that important,” was one of the most enlightening and freeing things I have heard to this day. It taught me to step back and look at the situation from the other side, rather than immediately take it personally and jump into defensive behavior. Learning empathy has taken quite some time, however has been one of my most important steps along this journey. I used let my insecure ego get the best of me, it made me act in mean ways to myself and others. Plus, it just felt crappy always being anxious for nothing while taking everything far over-the-top too personally. It’s tiring. And not in a good way.

In the spirit of Mr. Phil, I am keeping it sweet and simple with this post. I challenge you the next time something pops up to pause for a second, and tell yourself, “I’m just not that important,” before your next action. It sounds too simplistic to have such power, but I assure you it really is magical! Here’s to:  less ego, more awareness, less anxiety, more zen.

 

Be Good, Do Good

-Chelsea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in addiction, family addiction, family recovery, mental health, recovery | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Need an Adulting Gold Star

I giggle every time I run across someone on my social media complaining about “adulting”. “I don’t want to adult today”, or any number of hilarious memes dedicated to the subject. I laugh, but totally agree that it is rough at times. Mt. Everest-scaling-status some days (ok, not that challenging, but pretty damn tiring). And on those extra-special doozie days I really would enjoy for someone to say, “Good job for doing normal adult stuff today (i.e. brushing your teeth),” then giving me a gold star (and maybe a bonus brownie).

As you may or may not experience, adulting is on a whole new level when there is mental illness and/or addiction involved. I am guessing from the numbers (1 in 4 adults), that many of you can relate to trying to complete basic daily tasks while having anxiety, depression, or a more serious mental condition (I applaud those of you who have some super serious shit going on upstairs, 10 gold stars to you for getting out of bed today!). Furthermore, 1 in 10 adults is struggling with addiction in our country; roughly 23 million Americans! All this chaos while still trying to maintain a “normal” and productive life. Everything is more daunting, more despairing, more dramatic (etcetera, etcetera) when the brain isn’t firing all cylinders properly. It’s exhausting in and of itself to battle with yourself in your own head, then add in grown-up responsibilities, the madness!

I have wasted away many a day in my jammies on the couch because I was too distraught about Chad, or too tired from being up the entire night before letting my mind reel with insane projections (simultaneously social media stalking searching for clues that Chad was indeed incarcerated while dead).  But I am proud to say I have come a long way over the past three years, rarely anymore (well never now that the Andy Bear made his grand entrance) do I have those days where I sit (well, mostly sleep) on the couch in my sweats because anything else would take too much effort. Now don’t get me wrong, there was a day last week where my husband gently steered me to the point of making me realize that I was wearing the same clothes as two days prior (progress not perfection, people), or the day I ate a sleeve of Saltines and bone broth (yum, make some!)  for dinner because I was pouting that he got to attend a work function sushi dinner. Postpartum brain has done a number on me for sure, it’s actually been more work keeping myself in check than learning the baby ropes, sorry I digress! Anyway, my point is that some days my mental issues take the wheel and it makes everything else such a struggle (#thestruggleisreal).

Now onto the goods: how to recognize those days and work through them. First of all, adult gold star for even caring and wanting to work at making yourself a better version of you, that takes mounds of effort alone! Second of all, I can’t and don’t do it alone, it’s good to talk to others about any issues and let caring people into the circle of nuts. Personally, I make sure if I wake up and feel off (maybe didn’t sleep well, eat enough dinner-see here), I hit my morning prayers, then get my butt up and busy. I will force myself to take a walk, actually eat breakfast, and get cleaned up (three gold stars before noon!). I work extremely hard not to get sucked in and wallow through those days because by about 5 p.m. I will feel like total poop. I usually also force myself out of my shell those days to take Andy to play with friends and get some grown up time. Even something as simple as grabbing a yummy coffee and going to the park to watch his joy while he swings. It feels as if I am swimming the English Channel (again, not really, but kind of!), but I push onward and let others’ good energy help snap me out of the funk.

As far as preventing those days when adulting with crazy brain tries to kick my ass, I have learned some days just are what they are. Some days nothing really makes me feel 100% better because I am truly overtired, under worked-out, or have too much on my plate and my brain chemicals take the win. So on those days I go to bed when Andy does with the intention of trying again tomorrow, rather than fighting a loosing battle  with my brain. It won’t be the end of the world if I wear my clothes to bed and don’t brush my teeth. Gross, yes, but not world-ending. I don’t throw in the towel completely however, I still take some inventory (thank you Step #10) and note what was missing from the day that could have made it more manageable. The usual suspects are: sat around, didn’t eat well, spent too much time on social media, and felt sorry for myself (*scarecrow singing* if I only had a “normal” brain ). I meditate on letting it go and not beating myself up for it (gold stars for taking inventory and letting it go).

I also let go of the paranoia that a day home here and there will not damage my son. We still play, he gets fed and changed; it’s me that gets beat up on those days. I am (as most of us are) an Oscar-worthy actress when it comes to hiding those days that aren’t riddled with gold stars; nobody usually knows it sucks except me and my HP. Thankfully,with constant mindfulness and work, those days are pretty far and few between. Recognize it, work at it, and I believe I can adult through any day.

And hey, if all you did today was brush your teeth and take a short walk, that’s better than nothing. Here I am to stick your shiny gold stars on your hand and hope you have the courage to tackle it again tomorrow. A final nugget to send you on your way: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”-Mary Ann Radmacher

Gold Star - Adulting Gold Star You killed that shit!

-Be Good, Do Good

Chelsea

 

 

 

 

Posted in AA, addiction, Al-Anon, family addiction, family recovery, mental health, recovery, self discovery, self help, self improvement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

At Least He’s Not a Heroin Addict

During Chad’s first year of rehab, I was super grateful that he was “just an alcoholic”. Sure, he popped pills now and again, but mostly it was “just drinking.” In my head alcohol wasn’t that scary. Almost everyone drinks, it’s legal, and I figured would take years of abuse to actually kill a person (see some awakening stats here). I felt terribly bad for the families of hard drug users; most of the people a few years older than Chad were in recovery from heroin. I just assumed they started out that way, and had never been able to “kick the habit”. Ahhhhh, smell that naitvete!

I remember praying, literally thanking God, that Chad was not a heroin addict. Because we know they all die. Alone. In some hotel room. At least that is what pop culture and movies had taught me. With being “only an alcoholic”, it felt safer somehow. I hadn’t yet learned about the progressive nature of addiction, nor witnessed the disease in its full wrath.

Fast forward six months. Chad moved out of sober living, was doing fine, then has his first major relapse. He and a friend were apparently shooting up something by the name of Dilaudid. Wait. WTF. He’s supposed to only drink copious amount of whiskey (and maybe pop some Xanax). He didn’t shoot drugs into his veins (enter horror scenes of dead brother in apartment, needles, blood, grossness everywhere)! Chad would never do something so disgusting, that other kid made him do it for sure. One time thing. Totally. And back into my safe shell of denial I retreated.

Fast forward to September of 2013. Chad had entered rehab again, this time in Scottsdale. This time it was about 8 months of sobriety until another major relapse. And this time it was to heroin. He told me before he had tried the drug here and there, as if it were some casual experience, nothing to be concerned about. Therefore, I was never concerned (naivete must have been my favorite dish). But now he was on a heroin bender. Alone. In a hotel room. My worst nightmare was becoming reality before my eyes. I was afraid to answer my mum’s phone calls. Anxiety was tearing at my guts. Thankfully, I was involved with Al-Anon by this point,which was the only thing that kept me from completely loosing my shit. Regardless, it was still really, super scary. As well as brutal, blunt punch right to my world. Addiction is indeed a progressive disease, and I now had living proof in Chad.

Rewind to roughly a year ago. Almost 8 month sober again. Relapse again. Now, my brother had picked himself up multiple times at this point. Gotten another great job, another nice apartment. Then decided to go out and shoot up some heroin and loose it all? Something wasn’t adding up to me. Same scenario: back to rehab, back on track. Out to sober living in April of last year, gets another great job, new apartment, then, like some kind of effed up clockwork, a few weeks ago: relapse. If that doesn’t make one understand this disease is “cunning and baffling”, I don’t know what will. Cold, hard truth and reality are now the only meal being served in my kitchen.

Despite years of being angry (see: uneducated, inexperienced), I now do believe he isn’t choosing to fall down time and time again. I do believe he didn’t choose to be an addict. I do believe he lets himself get spiritually unfit, worries too much about the outside and neglects the inside; that is when his relapses happen. Also, that his relapses are part of his path of recovery. I believe he triggered something in his brain when he was in 6th grade and drank and smoked weed for the first time. But I do not believe it was a conscious choice. Why would anyone choose the cycle of pain, shame, loss, and backtracking?

I have done much research, reading, and listening about the disease of addiction. It is scary, mind-boggling, infuriating, and heartbreaking all at the same time. This blog entry popped up in my facebook  feed a few weeks ago, and I have read it a few times. Much of what the author says resonates with me, and is on the exact same track as things Chad has tried to explain to me, as well as stories I have heard at many meetings. I want to share her real, raw entry with you, as I cannot share myself from the other side of addiction. I feel this entry does a superb job. She also gives me hope that Chad will not be among the nine out of ten heroin users who ends up dying from this terrible drug.

Shared from renegademothering.com :

We Don’t Start with Needles in our Arms by renegademama

Sometimes I write about parenthood. Sometimes I don’t.

Today I’m writing about alcoholism.

For those of you who are new here, I am a recovering alcoholic. On March 5, I will celebrate 5 years of sobriety. So yes, I am a relatively new sober alcoholic. For background, please read this or this.

I don’t particularly love talking about motherhood and alcoholism. It’s not exactly the high point of my life to announce to a few thousand people that I was that mother, the trash, the hated one, the drunk, drug-addicted one, the one with two gorgeous, innocent children caught in the cross-fire. And her, that dirty bitch, selfishly killing herself.

But I write about it anyway, because after about a year of writing this blog, I realized I was only telling you people half the story, and I realized I might be of help to somebody, some day in some way and something, I tell you, something has to make those years worth living.

And sometimes, when a famous, brilliant actor dies with a needle in his arm, I read the comments from America and I can’t take it. There’s so much ignorance, so much blind condescension based on NOTHING. NOTHING. Opinion. Observation from afar. Some article you read somewhere. An addict you “know.” A drunk you worked with.

The comment that stuck with me like a knife in my brain is this one: “Yeah, addiction isn’t a choice, but shoving a needle in your arm sure as hell is.”

It’s as if people think we start with a needle in our arm. Yeah. Newsflash. WE DON’T.

Alcoholism and addiction are progressive diseases. THEY GET WORSE OVER TIME. We don’t start with a damn needle in our arm. We start drinking beer with friends in high school. We start like you did.

Do you get that? Do you see that? We don’t wake up one day when we’re 19 or 20 or 35 and say to ourselves “You know what I need? A motherfucking bag of heroin and a syringe.”

I started out like you. I partied and experimented with alcohol and marijuana and a couple psychedelics like a whole lot of other kids in school. Yes. I am responsible for that. I made that choice. If that makes me responsible for my alcoholism, well then I guess I’m responsible.

But do you think I knew I was playing with fire? Do you think I knew when I was 17 years old hanging at a friend’s house drinking Peppermint Schnapps that I would one day lose my children to this substance? That I would go to rehab FIVE TIMES, each time sure I would emerge “fixed?” Do you think I knew that my brain from the moment I tasted that alcohol was altered, that from that point forward my brain would tell me that “pleasure” equals “booze” and booze only, that I would one day pursue that relief, that feeling from alcohol, at the cost of everything of value in my life?

Do you think I knew I’d lose my job to the stuff, spend years fighting it, catch 3 or 4 psychiatric diagnoses resulting in ELEVEN different medications at one time, as the doctors tried to figure out what happened to this smart, promising woman?

Do you think I knew I’d end up in a mental institution, having spent a few days on a whisky binge in a small apartment with a dog shitting and pissing on the floor, and the doctor would look at me and say “We knew you were crazy, because no sane person would live in those conditions.”?

Do you think I knew I’d wake up one morning on a respirator in an ER with a doctor who was sure I was trying to kill myself because there were so many substances in my body? Do you think I knew I’d look at him and quite honestly defend myself with the words “Oh no, doctor, I’m not trying to kill myself. I do this every day.”

No. I didn’t know. I didn’t know or think any of this. I was a kid who got good grades and went to college and worked hard. I thought everybody had the experience I was having with alcohol. I thought I was “having fun” like everybody else.

And by the time I realized I was in trouble, I couldn’t stop.

By the time I realized I couldn’t stop, I COULDN’T STOP.

And that, my friends, is the piece you’re missing: By the time we realize we’re dying, we’re dying. By the time we begin to suspect a problem, we are in the grip of a deadly disease, a disease that lives in the body and the mind. The body demands more – aches and screams and begs for more; the mind says “You’ll die if you don’t have more. It will be okay this time. Just one more time, Janelle.”

It’s not rational. It doesn’t weigh options. It doesn’t think about kids or home or acting careers or any other fucking thing. It thinks about itself. It tells me “You’re fine, Janelle. One drink won’t hurt.”

How do you change a mind with an insane mind? Tell me, how do you? How do you alter the thoughts of a brain when it’s the brain making the thoughts?

Do you see the problem, folks? There’s where the element of choice gets really, really sticky. MY BRAIN IS MAKING THE CHOICES AND MY BRAIN IS THE PROBLEM. You’re telling me to “choose” different behavior when my brain is the thing that’s hardwired to choose more alcohol.

And then, the more I drink and the sicker I get, I start looking for other substances to fill an ache in my mind and soul and heart like I cannot describe – the alcohol isn’t enough anymore. I’ve progressed to a new level. I take everything, anything to kill the insatiable need that’s become like air to me.

For my family who will read this, who knew me as a cute little blond-headed, precocious kid, I won’t say how far that need took me.

Does this make you uncomfortable? Does it make you sick? Yeah, me too. But this is it, people. This is what it is. Most of us start out good and decent and wanting a real life with kids and a house and job, and we start out fooling around and maybe we’re a little overzealous but by the time we’re really, really in trouble, we’re dying, and we’re powerless, and the chances for recovery are really, really freaking slim.

Most of us rot in the streets and die in beds in the houses of strangers. We die in bathrooms with needles in our arms, while the world looks on and says “Why didn’t you just choose not to do it, you trash?”

Why don’t you ask a fucking schizophrenic to “just stop having those weird delusions.”?

Why don’t you ask a cancer patient to just stop creating cancer cells?

Why don’t you ask a person with asthma to just get beefier lungs?

What’s that you say? The disease model of addiction removes the element of responsibility? Really. So if you were told you had cancer and need chemo, would you respond “Nope. Not doing it. Not treating my disease. It’s not my fault I have cancer. Therefore, no chemo.”

Insanity.

IMG_3830

It wasn’t until somebody explained to me that I was dying of a progressive disease, that I could never consume alcohol safely IN ANY FORM, that my mind would always, always lie to me, that for me, to drink is to die – it was only then that a beam of understanding crept across my mind. It was only then that I began to understand my condition, what had been plaguing me the whole of my adult life and how I could, finally, live freely, like a real human, wife, daughter, employee and mom.

At this point I know I seem like I’m contradicting myself. I just said you can’t fix a broken brain with a broken brain, and now I’m telling you that an understanding of my disease helped set me free. I can only tell you this: all alcoholics and addicts have moments of lucidity – tiny cracks of sanity where we see the truth of ourselves and our lives. And I believe some of us are lucky to get the kind of help we need during that moment of clarity, or surrender, or internal death. And if we’re set on a path from that point, we might make it. That, at least, is what happened to me. But it’s a long, long desperate and dangerous path to get there, and some of us don’t make it.

Then again, maybe it’s just dumb luck. Maybe some are sicker than others. Why does treatment work for some cancer patients and not others? Why do some people die and some don’t? And is it the sick person’s fault? Should they be blamed for losing the battle?

Don’t ever put me up on some pedestal. Don’t ever tell me “Great job, Janelle. Look at the way you turned your life around.”

Don’t ever set me above the homeless crack-addict on the street, thinking I’m better because I survived my disease.

There’s no reason I’m here and she’s there, and there’s no difference between us. I don’t know why I got to live. I don’t know why I didn’t die alone in some bathroom, leaving two blond-headed children to wonder, and miss their mom, while the world packs up its trash in the form of one more useless addict, one more drunk, one more loser who “chose” to throw her life away.

 

I take a breath and hold my kids and weep for the ones still dying.

Me, at 24 years old, at the beginning stages of the deadly grip of alcoholism. I sure don't look sick, do I?

me, at 24 years old, at the beginning stages of the deadly grip of alcoholism. i sure don’t look sick, do i?

 

 

 

Posted in addiction, Al-Anon, family addiction, family recovery, mental health, NA, recovery, self help, self improvement, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Christmas Rant and Reflection

 

Apparently, my Christmas gift from HP is a big, fat test of my recovery. My mum called me a few days ago to let me know some “bad news” which was that Chad had a relapse and had checked himself into a rehab facility. Through some Grinch-status heart growth, my first thought is no longer, “Well, sonofabitch, here we go again!”, followed by gushes of tears and a stay in bed all day. Rather, my heart immediately feels compassion for him, I remain calm (albeit a bit sad), then continue on with my day because I have a life to live (which now includes caring for Andy) despite of what is going on with my loved ones. I have learned (with much effort) to let the emotions come as they will, but not to get stuck fixating on Chad’s struggle and letting it take over and crush my whole world.

I also have family not speaking to each other for petty reasons, some causing mass amounts of damage through behavior that makes me cringe on the inside, and friends who have broken hearts. I desperately want to swoop into every situation and fix everything, but I know that is impossible, as well as a waste of my energy to get involved past anything more than, “I am here for you. I will support you. I am thinking of you.”

I also used to love the dramz, and have to step back and not get into bad mouthing and gossip as it lures itself in front of my face. I do not know everyone’s story, nor do I need to, I choose to support with words of compassion rather than funnel my sage words of advice down everyone’s throats. I have also learned to focus on the possible solution, an ideal outcome, and discuss ways and means to reach that goal rather than rehash all the shit that happened (makes a gross mental image, right?!) because it is over, done, let it go.

Am I sad today? A little bit, yes. Letting my Christmas list wander in and out of my head? Here and there, yes:  I want my brother home with us, not in a rehab facility, I want him sober and to remain that way. I want my family to get over it, mind their own business, work out their problems like sensible adults, and not damage their children. I want my friends to grow up, manage their lives, and have the balls to seek help as needed; not let someone make them cry. I want my entire family together today, all of us, eating Auntie Rolls and laughing. And I still want that damn pony (kidding, sort of…). That felt good. In my world,  it’s ok to rage against the machine briefly, on occasion.

However, am I going to let those wants take over my life and turn me into a real-life Scrooge today? Hell-to-the-no. I have my needs beyond met. I am blessed. I know and feel this from by bones. All the people I love are on their own path, I have the gift of being able to let them travel that path with their Higher Power, and the faith to know they are being provided with exactly what they need. My heart can ache here and there, but my loving kindness will outweigh the pain; gratitude will see me through those moments of despair. There is too much good to be down in the dumps.

I see Christmas through new eyes this year, the eyes of a parent, someone’s Mama (ahhh, yikes!). I have the distinct job of creating memories for that little person, making his life special. Showing him what happiness, empathy, and compassion are; the difference between needs and wants. Instilling the joy that is giving, and not feeling guilty for enjoying a comfortable life yourself. I am thankful beyond words for having recovery in my life, without it, I would not be able to give Andy the life he deserves. #thecycleendswithme

I want to close with my Christmas wish for you: May you meet all your needs with guidance from your Higher Power, and make enough energy left over to manifest your wants from the universe as well. My husband is downstairs yelling up at me, “We have so much to do, come on!”, with that  I am off to make some Christmas magic for Andy and my niece. Enjoy. There is always something to enjoy. See you in 2016!

Be Good, Do Good

-Chelsea

Posted in family addiction, family recovery, holiday help, mental health, recovery, self discovery, self help, self improvement | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Please Don’t Give Me Cash: A Recovery Gift Guide

If you’re anything like me, you looked at the calendar today and yelled, “Crap! I mean rejoice! Christmas is in a week and I haven’t shopped yet!” Gifting is tricky enough as it is, mix in some addiction, mental instability, and a dash of procrastination; voila! the recipe for a 3-I gift: Illogical, Inappropriate, and totally Irrelevant to the giftee in recovery (despite the sparkly idea of, “It’s the thought that counts”, let’s be honest: some gifts are better left un-given). I would wager that most people truly desire to give a gift that is a hit out of the park, a 3-A gift if you will: Appreciated, Appropriate and Applicable to the recovering giftee’s life. Cash (checks, money orders, cashier’s checks-you get the idea) and gift cards, though a good idea in theory, are generally a no-no as was impressed upon us multiple times at multiple family weekends. Personally, I have seen those cash gifts intended to help cover some basics go straight the a bottle of whiskey one too many times.

With what I have learned these past few years about sobriety, recovery, and relapse I sat down and thought back to gifts I have given and been given while in recovery. Those items that have made it through moves across multiple states, given an intangible experience to treasure forever, offered some benefit mentally, spiritually, and/or physically . I also stumbled across a few great recovery gift ideas while perusing online which made it into my personal gift bag this holiday season. All of the following gift ideas benefit a person in any type/stage of recovery, can be purchased in your underwear from the couch, and some even do the win-win of giving back while gifting.

Subscription Boxes

Monthly subscription boxes are all the rage, so I was only a bit surprised to find these gems while on Instagram a few weeks ago (there’s a box for damn near everything I have discovered!).

The first one, 12stepbox, barely launched and I can’t wait to get mine! I also gifted one to my brother to see what he thinks. It includes speaker tapes, literature, spiritual goodness, and personal care items. Cool stuff, plus the guy who created it is in long-term recovery, so it’s awesome to support him and his friends that help. Comes in a plain brown box to protect anonymity, each month also has a theme (I am a sucker for themes).

The second one I narrowed down from my list is the calmbox. I love their description: A monthly box inspiring calm and zen in everyday life. This box includes items such as candles, calming tea, gemstones, jewelry, inspiration cards, and more. Bonuses: their packaging is eco-friendly and they donate a portion of sales back to charity. Similar to 12stepbox, each month has a theme (yay!) and all the items help you with that month’s focus.

 Let’s Get Physical

Every one of Chad’s rehabilitation centers and sober living houses has reinforced the importance of physical activity as a crucial part of successful recovery. As has every therapist and doctor I have ever seen. We all know it’s amazing for us, yet some people have a hard time working out alone at home.

Enter the gym membership and fitness studio punch card. Gold’s Gym is very reasonably priced, no frills, but that’s what I like. Check local gyms in your area too, many run anywhere from $10-$15 per month. The best place I have scored yoga and Pilates punch cards has always been Groupon (just keep your focus, stay strong!). Gives a chance to try different studios and classes with little commitment in case you don’t like the vibe. A witty work out top, cool yoga mat (or an acupressure mat!), or eco-friendly glass water bottle are also great fitness gifts on a smaller budget.

Too many of us don’t take the time to pamper ourselves a bit after all that hard work (and trying to fix everyone lol), so a massage, spa certificate, or an acupuncture visit are always crowd pleasers. Groupon will also come in handy here for my thrifty shoppers, just ensure to take the time to research the business first! I have seen some amazing offers which were indeed too good to be true upon closer inspection of the establishment…I also like to try to get recommendations from friends to support local business people anytime I can.

Your Recovery is Showing

I had no idea how much was out there in the world of recovery clothing, accessories, and artwork! My 12 Step Store is pretty much a one-stop shop for all things recovery. They offer clothing (cheeky indeed), jewelry, books, cards, and program material. Charming Collectibles is an Etsy shop with simple and pretty AlAnon charms (I secretly want those readers just to wear for reading my dailies!). Jenny Nicole Prints is another Esty shop which opened a few months ago with simple, affordable prints of slogans. I relish the soft fabrics and simple design SuperLoveTees creates, also their mission: To Spread Love Worldwide. They are also committed to humans and the earth with fair labor and Earth-friendly dies and fabrics.

I could seriously write an entire entry on all the great artists and companies out there creating awesome recovery gear, alas I will leave you with these for today. A final tip: If you go into Etsy and search Al-Anon and AA you will find a plethora of shops aimed at providing awesome recovery products. There is literally a shop on there to match any style and budget!

Just doTerra It

I have been an avid doTerra user for about five years now, and use it for pretty much everything from health to cleaning. My mum got me on board, and now I must have my oils everyday. Therapeutic-Grade oils have a plethora of uses, and everyone I introduce them to is in love instantly (the huzban is still a work in progress)! doTerra is the only brand I use, I have solid loyalty there because of the excellent quality, vast variety, plus they are always coming out with awesome new oils and  products (my mum brought me this last week!).

My friend, Nikki, is a doTerra goddess! Not only that, she is also an RN and wellness mama, so she really knows her stuff! I love following her Instagram page @nikki_glo for tips and tricks to try with my oils. You can also email her: Nikkiglomail@gmail.com for a free wellness consult!

Lavender, Purify, and Serenity are some of my go-to favorites for anxiety, and would be some good ones to gift. I used Serenity during labor, the nurses kept coming in to breath in the aroma and relax from their tougher patients. I also have a couple of diffusers that are running nearly all the time. My mum gifted me the doTerra Aroma Ace which is a bit spendy, yet my favorite by far. The only other non-doTerra brand I have tried is the Now Foods Ultrasonic, which works great and is far less expensive.

 A Ticket to Ride

The holidays are especially tough on those with addiction and mental illness, so if it’s possible, a trip home can be excellent medicine. I will be forever grateful that my parents have always made a point of having Chad come home for Christmas, or at least going to visit him close to the holidays.  I know he appreciated being home with family, having some time to feel a bit “normal” if you will outside the walls and chaos of his sober living house.

A few of us have pitched in on a ticket if prices were holiday high, or if we had to wait until last minute to ensure he was capable of traveling, but having him there was worth every penny. I also love attending meetings when we’re together for the holidays, there’s an amazing spirit in the rooms always, but especially during this time of year.

Only caution with a trip home is taking the person’s current state into consideration. If a  relapse recently occurred, or they’re fresh into rehab, it may be best to take a trip to them instead. It’s not going to be worth it if they aren’t stable enough to be around old people and places, also won’t be fun if family is on red alert the entire time. Everyone has the potential to end up miserable, however you know your loved one best!

Gifting While Giving 

There are so many amazing companies out there giving proceeds and products back to those in great need it’s almost hard to choose which ones to pick! I was trying to specifically narrow down companies that give back or employ addicts in recovery and two, Thistlefarms and Fashionable, do just that. Both empower women who have overcome many challenges in life ranging from addiction to prostitution and sex trafficking. The products range from jewelry to home goods and books. All the products are high quality, in addition to being ethically made. The items are not only beautiful, so is helping others get back on their feet.

A donation in the name of your loved one is also a kind gesture, and anyone in program will appreciate the act of giving. Many people in rehab or freshly out on their own again may not have the funds to donate, so in this way they can still give. The Salvation Army, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, and any local rehab centers are good places to start. You may have also noticed all the product links in the guide take you to AmazonSmile where you can choose your charitable organization (put in keyword recovery, there are 224 pages); easiest way to give back ever!

Remember When

A few years back , I gave Chad a frame of eight pictures of us as kids and wrote brotherly and family quotes along the boarders. That frame went from Wyoming to Las Vegas (three different homes) to Florida (two different homes), back to Vegas (it broke shipping, so I re-framed it), then down to Arizona (three different homes) where I just saw it last weekend still in-tact and unpacked in his new apartment. I got the biggest smile on my face to see it sitting there on the floor, I cannot believe that gift has literally gone to hell and back with him. It’s symbolic of so much in our lives, yet such a simple gift. I can tell has special meaning to him as it had special meaning to me when I made it.

Don’t discount the importance of a few old photos and a nice frame, those are some of the best gifts of all! The quotes make it personal, I wrote on his with metallic Sharpie and apparently that holds up great!

The Best Gift is Free

This last gift may seem a bit cheesy, but in my experience has been one of the greatest gifts to give and receive. This is the gift of love and support. Making time to talk, seeing each other as often as possible, and showing pride in someone else’s recovery are priceless acts of kindness that are so vital to continued success in any recovery.

One final note: try not to overlook yourself! Giving yourself the gift of Al-Anon (or whatever you choose) to keep yourself mentally and spiritually fit is a gift that will keep on giving in your world and for those around you.

Please leave a comment of any other gift ideas to share with my fabulous readers.

Wishing you the best holiday yet!

Be Good, Do Good

-Chelsea

 

Posted in family addiction, family recovery, holiday help, mental health, recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Survive the Holidaze

I would wager a fair bet that most families have at least one individual who is a dreaded holiday guest. Enter the drunken inappropriate uncle, crab puss grandparent, bitchy mother-in-law, and said grandparent’s beloved pet who pisses all over the rug (or gets electrocuted with tree lights). Total side note, but I really hope a montage of Christmas Vacation just played through your little sugar plum head as it totally did mine. Anywho, the holidays should be a magical time of family, joy, and love, but let’s be honest and face the hard fact: Real life isn’t a Hallmark movie (wouldn’t it be cool if it were though?!). Someone is bound to piss you off this holiday season, but only IF you allow them to do so.

I picked some favorite slogans/sayings that I personally use during times of togetherness to help keep me sane and from turning into the Grinch.They are simple, yet extremely powerful if you truly use them to their full potential (again, much harder than relinquishing to a life of being a poophead, but much more rewarding).

Easy Does It (Al-Anon)

This slogan was introduced to me early and often in Al-Anon, it’s basic premise is to be kind and gentle with yourself and keep realistic expectations of others. Also, to relax and not “force solutions”. Most people want the perfectly decorated (spotless) home, just-right gifts, and 5-star dining-level dinner on the table. There is no such thing as perfect, it will be what you make it. If the people coming over are that uber judge-y, re-evaluate that guest (friend) list! Nobody who truly cares about you will give a rip if there is dust on the baseboards, or a slightly well done turkey on the table. Don’t work yourself into a frenzy trying to be Martha, ’cause guess what, even she messes up sometimes…none of us mere mortals could rise to her level of home decor and cooking perfection anyway. Do your best (and ask for help!), true friends and family will appreciate any an all effort.

Be Present (Richard Carlson)

It’s great to give presents, but an even better gift is actually being present with your family and friends. Put down those damn cell phones and have some actual conversation! Enjoy every minute, because as most of us know, life is unpredictable and happens all too quickly. That relative who bugs the snot out of you at Thanksgiving may not be around to do it again at ChristHanuKwan. And I am guilty of  this one, but don’t project even five minutes out. More than likely that huge, drunken brawl you played out in your head will never come into existence when the Tryptophan kicks in from the holiday bird (or the drunks pass out from hitting the sauce on that holiday level).

It Is What It Is (Origin Unknown)

I do not enjoy how at every meal my Chinese mother-in-law force feeds my poor niece until she bursts into tears, but hey, food is love to her and guess what: It is what it is. Trying to see the silver lining of annoying people and situations really does help. Most the time they aren’t trying to be jerks or domineering, they are doing what and all they know to be helpful. It’s also far less tiring than sitting there nitpicking everyone else’s behavior. Accept it and move on (to dessert hopefully!).

Practice Some ROK (Random Acts of Kindness) (Richard Carlson)

I know isn’t a saying or slogan, rather a way of life for happy people. No act is too small nor too grand. Whenever I get a free coffee from someone in front of me, I am just as excited as the first time it happened. Likewise,when I complete a ROK for someone,the look of surprise, joy, and sheer appreciation on another’s face is truly priceless! I do not watch the local news often as it makes my imagination go wild, however we do have a local Surprise Squad who goes around town with some pretty amazing ROKs, this one last week had me in tears (grab a tissue before watching!). It also makes it hard to be grumpy or stuck in Self Pittysville when you are lighting up people’s days. Cher Horowitz nailed this one, “Tis a far better thing doing stuff for other people.”

Let It Be (Paul McCartney)

Seriously though. Just let it. If a friend or family member brings something up or acts inappropriately, I generally ignore it these days. Here’s some bonus teacher psych: Don’t give the attention the negative behavior is eliciting and the behavior will diminish. Sometimes a gentle reminder of the behavior making you uncomfortable works too, as does a bit more of a firm reminder for some individuals. This also goes for the food, gifts, etcetera. If someone hates your amazing sugar-free jello mold, or lovely hand crocheted hat embellished with jingle bells, it’s not a personal attack, let it be. Refer back to the first slogan regarding your friend/guest list. If someone is that big of an a-hole maybe a family discussion with that person or some boundary setting would help.

Don’t Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle (Origin Unknown) 

Some of you may have heard the non-holiday version: Don’t Get Your Panties in a Bunch. I enjoy both quite much. My mum actually has a holiday decorative hand towel with this saying on it, turns out many holiday decor items sport it (who knew?!). Perhaps because people get so damn worked up and stressed out about the holidays, oh the irony! We behave the way we do because it is what we learned. It took me a long time to realize that, see the patterns, then trace it back to the root in order to correct my behavior. For some reason, being around family (the holidays especially) magnifies that for me. I was actually texting about it with my brother earlier today, “It feels weird when you change, but those around you stay the same.”  At least now I don’t behave like an immature 12 year old girl (all the time) when something goes awry! My tinsel is too pretty and shiny to tangle these days.

If these tips can help me chill the eff out with my “Happy Family” mixture of very unique, distinct, and strong personalities, I sincerely hope something above can help you too! Lastly and most importantly, don’t let meetings, calls with a sponsor/recovery friends, exercise, and meditation take a back seat during the holidays; can never get too busy for your sanity! God Speed. I am off to chop veggies for Turkey Day 2015: East Meets West.

Be Good, Do Good.

Thankfully Yours,

Chelsea

Posted in family addiction, family recovery, holiday help, recovery, self help, self improvement, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Proper Nutrition: Good for the Ass, Soul, and Crazy Brain

Having friends is awesome. Having friends who also double as talented stars in helping others is even awesomer. Sheila happens to be one of those people. She is a fantastically knowledgeable and experienced nutritionist, who truly and passionately adores helping others feel and look better.

With the holiday pig-outs right around the corner, I felt it was appropriate to share one of her fabulous blogs with you all today on the topic of nutrition and mental health. Addiction isn’t the most welcome holiday guest, I also choose not to add a fat ass, low energy, and diarrhea to that list these days. All joking aside, proper nutrition plays an enormous role in aiding with many mental health ailments as well as keeping them in line. Please enjoy her piece, and check out nutritionsheila.com for more amazing information as well as the 2015 Healthy Holiday Guide!

Copied with permission from author at:

https://www.nutritionsheila.com/nutrition-applied-blog

There’s no two ways about it; mental illness is a beast.  A giant, burdensome, invisible beast that our culture doesn’t like to discuss.  It’s very own “Fight Club” if you will, as rule number one is “we don’t talk about mental illness.”

However, we are talking about it.  We’re indirectly non-stop talking about.  Check your social media feeds, look through your text messages and look all around you.  Motivational quotes, inspirational stories, mainstream popular self-help articles and best-selling books on happiness, coping and success are all around.  With a society recovering the brutal impacts of a recession and the National Institutes of Medicine reporting an estimated 40 million Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder, there is a reason for the mass interest in getting better.

As a Nutrition Professional it is my job to help all my clients establish a healthy relationship amongst mind, body and food.  Roughly 10-25% of my clientele is comprised of individuals who have recently been discharged from an eating disorder rehabilitation center.  As I specialize in pain management, a great portion of my clients come to me for help with their chronic pain, inflammation, headaches and/or migraines.  Overall my most popular service is nutrition education for healthy weight loss and weight loss management.

Regardless of the original reason a client comes to me, there is a mental health component. Everyone brings their inner child to the dinner table.  Hell in some cases you may as well set out another plate.  This is why I work so closely with mental healthcare professionals; our synergistic efforts are a recipe for success for those we help.  We must nourish our bodies, minds and souls to truly thrive.

You are what you eat. 

What we consume becomes integrated into our bodies to actually become the compounds that make up our bodies.  Consequently, if not fueled with the proper nutrients, the body doesn’t have what it needs to conduct basic functions, emotions, or thoughts.  Conversely, eating foods to nourish overall health and provide key nutrients for mental health fuels the body and mind.  A great example of this is serotonin, which is primarily composed of carbohydrate.  We actually make our happy out of carbohydrates.  All of this is definitely some food for thought.

When working with individuals to improve their mental health and wellbeing, there are several basic nutritional factors to begin with that helps individuals across the spectrum, because these factors are the same thing everyone needs to support mental health. Individuals in the grips of anxiety, depression, or any mental illness are most likely deficient in these nutrients and/or have a significantly higher need for them.

Nutrition That Helps:

Water

The very first signs of dehydration are impaired cognitive function (not thinking clearly) and irritability.  Increasing fluid consumption overall can help keep everything on an even kilter. In response to upsets or episodes, sitting down and having a glass of water can be a total game changer.

Overall strive for 8 to 10 cups a day of water.  All fluids count in fluid consumption, but not all are created equal.  If a beverage is going to yield calories, it best offer some nutritional benefit.  Keep in mind that alcohol and caffeine can contribute to signs and symptoms of many mental health issues.

Probiotics

The health of your gut is indicative of your overall health physically and emotionally. Translation, healthy bacteria in your intestinal tract can improve your mood, sleep, weight and complexion.  Happy gut – happier human.

Probiotics is a term meaning healthy bacteria.  PTSD, anxiety, insomnia and depression can take their toll on the health of your intestinal microflora (healthy bacteria in your guts). Stress projects in a million awful ways and slaying healthy bacteria is just another.  Scroll through a brief Google search on probiotics and mental health and you’ll find plenty of information supporting probiotic supplement helps with mental health.

Look for supplements containing both a Bifido- bacteria and a Lactobacilli­- bacteria.  The bacteria contents of yogurt alone are not enough and are a moot point for those who are vegan and/or lactose intolerant.  Probiotic enriched products are all around and make excellent additions to a daily probiotic supplement.

Fiber

Interestingly there are roughly as many neurons in your abdomen as there are in your brain. This is known as the “gut brain.”  The majority of the serotonin (happy) in the body is actually made in the gut, yet we focus on the small bit made and used in the brain.  No Bueno.

Imagine how you feel 20 minutes after you’ve down a fast food combo meal.  There’s a giant, heavy blob sitting in your gut and you feel lousy.  As time progresses you feel tired, irritable, gassy and gross.  That food bolus (gut blob) is sitting on your serotonin (happy).

Your neurons try real hard to pump out serotonin, but the food isn’t moving anywhere fast, gumming up the works.  As we all do when our work goes unnoticed, the neurons stop producing serotonin.  After all, it’s just piling up while your belly swells with gas.

Finally, through the power of gravity and peristalsis (the churning movement of your intestines to move food along) the food and gas pass.  However, all that serotonin that was piling up now floods outward.  You now have all the sensations associated with happiness without an emotional trigger.  Increased excitement, heart rate, etc. all at once for no reason… sounds like the signs and symptoms of anxiety.

Eating plenty of fiber at each and every meal helps food move along at a steady pace.  Fiber binds to water, making the food bolus bigger and physically press against the intestinal walls.  This tells the intestines to get things movin’ along and a looser, water mass takes less work to do so.

Fiber helps keep you regular, which helps keep you on an even keel.  Keep in mind too much fiber too fast will result in food moving out to fast.  Think cattle drive versus stampede. Don’t give fiber a bad name, slowly increase your fiber consumption over time.

Fiber is found readily in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.  Unless necessary steer clear of fiber supplements.  They tend to come with a high price, side effects and dependency.

Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help greatly with mental health.  These fatty acids are found in fish, nuts, seeds and some whole grains.  Think of the 3 as the number of hinges in the fatty acids.  Saturated fats don’t have these hinges or bends in them.  They are very rigid.  Omega-3s however hinge/bend in 3 different spots making them more flexible. They’re not only pro-healing, they’re very zen go with the flow type of compounds.  Just as in learning new mental approaches in life to be less rigid and go with the flow, these healthy fats help the body and mind stop being so reactive.

Adequate Caloric Intake

That’s a fancy way of saying make sure you eat enough on a regular basis so you don’t become hangry.  Hangry (anger derived out of hunger) is a real thing.  This concept is reflected in a certain candy bar’s commercials where a celeb just isn’t themselves when they’re hungry.  Don’t allow yourself to get in the headspace where you’d body slam Betty White.  Make sure to get enough food to fuel your physical and mental health.

Adequate Protein Consumption

A great way to get a headache is to chronically not get enough protein.  Protein is the building block of the human body.  We need it to make up, repair and maintain all our tissues.  Our hormones and enzymes are made out of protein as well.  Protein is readily found in animal products, seeds, nuts and whole grains.  It can be found in smaller amounts in a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Avoid protein supplements as much as possible (unless recommended by your healthcare provider) as they can be very hard on your kidneys and colon.

B Vitamins

Boy howdy there are many B vitamins and they do so many different things.  One of the many things they can do is help improve mood and cognitive function (make you feel and think good, real good).  Many medications negatively affect B vitamins in the body, making supplementation a good idea.  It’s important to review your medication with your prescriber and/or pharmacist to see if this affects you.  B vitamins are also readily found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Vitamin D

Google vitamin D and depression and you’ll get over 14 million results.  There is a reason for this.  Vitamin D plays a huge role in mental health and the majority of individuals in the US are deficient.  Vitamin D is our sunshine vitamin and it has over 200 functions in the human body.  In our positive efforts to prevent skin cancer we inadvertently decreased our exposure for vitamin D.  Additionally, working indoors, wearing clothing, stress, medication, skin color, age and more can negatively affect vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D supplementation can improve overall mood and strengthen efforts towards mental health.  Most insurance will cover a portion, if not all, of vitamin D testing, but you have to ask for it in addition to standard blood work.  If you’re paying out of pocket, this important test will only set you back about $60.  It’s important to have your levels taken and to speak with your counselor, primary healthcare provider or nutritionist about supplementation. Vitamin D can make a huge positive impact.

Copper

Copper helps messages travel up and down nerves/neurons.  This nutrient is found in seeds, nuts and beans and can help improve thought patterns, as well as sleep.

Iron

Simply put, iron is needed to grab oxygen.  If you’re low in iron you’re not getting enough oxygen into and throughout the body.  Your quality of life suffocates.  The signs and symptoms of iron deficiency are miserable and can only make dealing with mental health issues worse: fatigue, irritability, impaired cognitive function, increased pain and always feeling cold.

Iron supplementation can cause constipation, which further contributes to a decline in mood.  It is recommended only to do so under the orders of your primary healthcare provider.

Eating iron rich foods comes with the added benefit of other nutrients that can make a person feel better.  Iron is found in food in two different ways heme (meat) sources and non-heme (not-meat) sources.  To get the most iron out of non-heme sources pair them with foods rich in vitamin C.  Fresh salsa helps you get more iron out of your beans.  Pretty awesome.

Magnesium

Magnesium is my soap box nutrient for sure as it is needed in over 300 enzymatic functions in the human body and the majority of individuals I see are deficient in it!  The majority of these functions overlap with the functions of magnesium’s bestie, vitamin D.  Magnesium is akin to an off switch.  Yes you need to know that there is pain or something setting off your nerves, but you also need to know it’s okay and calm down.  That’s what magnesium does.

Magnesium supplementation is NOT recommended overall unless expressly under the orders of a healthcare professional.  It’s an electrolyte and throwing it down the hatch in it’s pure form can not only cause severe nausea and muscle cramping (dude you just literally threw a rock in your stomach – rude), it can cause SEVERE DIARRHEA! When a person goes in for a colonoscopy, they are given magnesium citrate prior to “clean them out.”  It’s so effective that it’s not medically recommended to leave your home for 24 hours after consuming it.  Pipe cleaner for sure.

A positive solution is to eat “baby plants.”  Anything you could plant in the ground and some day it would grow up to be a big plant (seeds, nuts and beans) is loaded with magnesium! Also dark green leafy vegetables are loaded with magnesium as well because they are boss at being nutritional powerhouses.  Think creatively with seeds as they are found in places we don’t necessarily think of right off the bat: strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, zucchinis, etc.

Potassium

Another electrolyte and another very common nutrient deficiency that I see in clients.  Also another nutrient NOT to supplement with unless Doc says to.  Inappropriate potassium supplementation can cause heart problems.  Take the safe route and eat more fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas).  While bananas are the most commonly known source of potassium, other great sources are spinach, Swiss chard and sweet potatoes. Nom nom nom.   Added bonus, regularly consuming potassium rich food supports your efforts in the gym, a healthy weight and decreases your sweet cravings.  Boom!

Zinc

Oh zinc.  Only discussed for its alphabetical placement in the list of nutrients.  This metal micronutrient is antimicrobial – meaning kills viruses and bacteria.  It also can help kill a chronically bad mood.  Supplements tend to leave your mouth tasting like you’ve been chewing on a fork and can cause upset stomach.  If you choose to take a supplement, do so with your last meal of the day and after making sure it won’t counteract with any medications you may be on.  Naturally occurring sources of zinc include red meats, molasses, dark green leafy vegetables and seeds.

Additionally, it is important to focus on foods and food additives that can significantly impair proper cognitive function or exaggerate the signs and symptoms of mental illness.  To simplify this concept just think of how difficult it would be for anyone to function well in their daily lives with chemical compounds bouncing off their neurons, causing systemic inflammation, and gastrointestinal distress.

Food Additives to Avoid:

·         High Fructose Corn Syrup
·         Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Trans-Fats)
·         Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
·         Artificial Food Dyes (Caramel Coloring, Red 40, Blue 3, etc.)

Exclusion of toxic food additives has been shown to make HUGE differences in the thought patterns and moods of many individuals.  For example, many parents will vouch for the huge difference made in their child’s academic performance once they stopped giving them food containing artificial food dyes.

Be wary of monosodium glutamate, AKA MSG.  This poser looks like a neurotransmitter (the guys that travel along our nerves telling us how to feel, act and function) and thus actually gets into our nervous system!  It can cause swelling of the brain and spinal column, which translates to a whole lot of problems, including migraines.  This nasty chemical should be avoided at all costs.  I recommend that if you find it in a food, use that as an opportunity to practice effective communication by emailing the food company.  Mental health is all about answering the “why” we do things.  Let the food company explain “why” they choose to slap MSG in their food.

Final Note

Everything I’ve included here is meant to help you on your road to mental health.  It doesn’t replace your need for a mental health care professional and/or any medications you are currently taking.  Eating less processed food and more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and beans are good ideas across the board.  (Unless you are allergic to one of these foods, then don’t eat them.)  Eating better can help you find your inner Rocky Balboa and get back up when life knocks you down.  At your next session I recommend discussing integrating nutritional improvements into your overall healthy lifestyle and mental health approach.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” _Hippocrates

Posted in family addiction, family recovery, mental health, nutrition, recovery, self improvement | 1 Comment

Shitty with a Chance of Corn

One afternoon, my music teacher extraordinaire coworker and I were strolling out of Jockstrap Elementary School (name changed to protect the innocent) ranting about the overall shitasticness of the day. It was just one of those days where everything that could go wrong did, everyone who could be annoying was; my world was surely going to implode because my life was so freakin’ tough (delusional was I) . Chad was living with Dan (Asian husband extraordinaire) and me at the time, and was MIA once again. I clearly could only focus on him being dead or in jail all day, try that whilst wrangling a (tiny ass) portable full of fifth graders. By the end of the day (and all days of the like), I was totally enraged at the world and depressed at the same time, a coil of anxiety (who had eaten nothing all day due to nerves), and pretty much would have given anything to have a “normal”, rational brain that could handle life on the rocks. Reflecting back on that day in particular, I remember despite all that was horrifically wrong in my life, that afternoon, I still laughed. I laughed when in the midst of complaining about everything that sucked, popped this gem, “Well, guess today was just ‘Shitty with a Chance of Corn’.” I love that memory (and you, Smith for always making me laugh save the tears) and it’s my joke now at the end of a not-so-spectacular day.

What recovery helped make ultra-magical in my life now is I am able take on days that aren’t the smoothest, without turning into a starving, paranoid basket case. Some days it’s my fault things don’t go great, some days it’s simply the state of the world in which we live. What I have learned is that everything happens for a reason and happens exactly how it is supposed to. I had to learn to give up my control, and turn it over to a power greater than myself (this took a looooong time, was not overnight!). I also recognized the significance of learning a lesson from a negative event or person, and using the bad to help strengthen my good rather than getting pissed off and crying about things out of my control (or throwing stuff around the house, oops).

I’ve also gained some handy methods to catch a bad day and stop it in its tracks, rather than letting it spiral into a shitstorm of terribleness. Living in constant gratitude is numero uno, followed by taking pause to chill out when I really want to Hulk Out, and ending with not indulging in the drama of a negative event and or individual (i.e. not gossiping, blowing things out of proportion,  or making it all about me). If something undesirable happens, I remain cool as a cucumber (I love that simile #englishteachernerd) and let it pass by, but don’t invite it to come in for a spot of tea and a scone. I have also been enlightened to the fact that the only person I can control is ME (who knew?!).  Additionally, I found I get to choose being as happy or miserable as I want to be, and yes, choosing to be blissful does take far more effort, but it’s also way more fun (plus, everyone looks cuter with a glow of joyness).

Overall, I have found the more work I put in to ensure good days is well worth it. I also want to note that not all days are filled with sunshine and sparkles, some days are overwhelmingly crappy. Friday evening I could not sleep because I was deeply saddened by the horrific events that ravage innocent people in this world every day. I was distraught that in a few short years, I will have to explain these senseless acts to Andy (Asian son extraordinaire), while teaching him it’s ok to be sad, but we must keep going and take action to help as best we are able. I woke up with a still-heavy heart on Saturday, but decided I had a choice:be a ball of raging despair and add negativity fuel to the fire, or get it together, be the shiniest damn light of positivity possible, and take a giant pee all over that fire (it’s a Wyoming thing I think). My friends, I chose to pee and help extinguish that fire. I hope you will join in and do the same. I also can’t let you read all this without a nugget of Al-Anon wisdom, which is one of my favorite slogans, “This too shall pass.” And it’s true, even the Shittiest with a Chance of Corn days will turn into night, then a new day, and you will have a clean slate with the power of choice.

Be Good, Do Good.

-Chelsea

Posted in family addiction, family recovery, mental health, recovery, self discovery, self improvement | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment