Tag Archives: alcoholism

Asking for Help

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I am going to come right out and say that I have been struggling. Recovery from my tonsillectomy was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Progress was extremely slow-moving and in very small increments. I had expected recovery to progress quicker and in larger increments.

I had great difficulty in being patient. Of course, I wanted to feel better right away. It was excruciating to allow myself to just be where I was – in my recovery and in a broader sense.

It has felt like I have struggled my entire life. Never seeming to “get” what I had expected. Always looking ahead to where I wanted to be. And always letting pieces of the past seep into where I currently was.

In many ways, it was easier that way. By always living in the past and the future I didn’t have to confront and deal with what was happening in the present. Avoidance is one of the oldest tricks of continued struggling.

For the past two weeks I have been in an outpatient hospitalization program. Perhaps in previous times I would feel embarrassed or ashamed by this admittance but, as I have grown wiser and gotten further in my self-progress, I can view this only in a positive light.

I knew that I was struggling and heading into a very dark place. I also knew where, historically, that could take me and it isn’t a place I’d ever like to visit again. I referred myself to the program, planning my attendance around a time of increased struggle for myself (my father’s second birthday since he passed away).

I recognized that I was in a place where I needed help – and I sought it out. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things any of us can do. We often view it as admitting weakness and exposing vulnerabilities. And yes, often when we are in a place of struggling we are vulnerable but asking for help is never weak. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things we can do. To identify that we are in a bad place and to ask/receive help is an incredibly mature and amazing thing to do.

I truly try to do the best that I can with the knowledge and resources (tools) I presently have. Most often my struggling isn’t because I’m not “trying hard enough”. It’s because I need additional knowledge and resources to help me more forward.

Sometimes my struggling isn’t because I don’t have the knowledge and resources that I need or because I’m not trying my best. Sometimes, when we are in a dark place, we can’t see the tools that we possess. It’s difficult to see anything in the darkness. Seeking out help can be a way to “turn on the light” and allow us to recognize and use the tools we had all along.

Life isn’t easy. Keeping constant momentum and living in the present moment isn’t easy either.

We will struggle. We will get caught up in the past and all the “should have, could have, would have” thinking. We will get caught up in the future and worry about what will be. We will face tragedies and heartaches and losses and disappointments. We will work to move forward a step, only to be unexpectantly forced three steps backward.

Sometimes we will be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue forward. Sometimes we will realize that we are unable to do so and, if we can find the courage, we will ask for help.

I am beginning to accept myself, who I am, and the life that I currently have.

I could spend every second of every day wishing to be things that I am not. Wishing that I didn’t have chronic, life-long illnesses. Wishing for a level playing field. Wishing things happened differently in the past… All that wishing won’t change a thing. I am who I am. I have the body I have and the mind I have.

I have the illnesses I have as well. And fighting against them will never propel me forward nor allow me to become the person I would like to be. I could be in a perpetual state of conflict and anger and darkness, fighting against forces that I have no ability to change.

I ask for help because when I’m in a place of darkness, of struggling, I cannot see any other way than to fight or to submit to the darkness. These past two weeks while I was in the outpatient hospitalization program, a light was shone on me. It was my choice to use that light and allow myself the opportunities to create my own light.

This is who I am. This is what I have. If I want anything to change I have to make that choice. And I am.

It’s quite likely that I will need help again, but I will view it not as a setback or a weakness but instead as an opportunity to grow stronger, to learn more and to make the choice to continue to work on improving myself and my ability to move forward.

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Resources:

If you or someone you know is in an emotional distress or suicidal crisis – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) 

If you are concerned about your own alcohol or other drug use or that of someone you care about – the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) hotline 1.800.NCA.CALL (622-2255) 

Free. Safe. Confidential. 24 Hours. 7 Days. – RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)  National Sexual Assault Hotline  1.800.656.HOPE

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder – the National Eating Disorders Association information line 1.800.931.2237

If  you have questions about or are affected by serious mental illness – the  NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) information help line 1.800.950.NAMI (6264)

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Are We Doing Enough for Our Veterans?

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day. An annual holiday in the United States honoring military veterans. While it’s wonderful to have a day honoring the brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country, it isn’t enough.

The fight doesn’t end when they get home…

Homelessness, unemployment, disability, substance abuse and mental illness all face service men and woman upon their return. Lack of family or a support system, compounded by inadequate or nonexistent services does not present the honor and respect our veterans deserve.

There are some resources available to veterans. The National Center for PTSD offers information on Post Traumatic Stress disorder in veterans, though they do, “not provide direct clinical care or individual referrals.” Afterdeployment.org, “is a behavioral health resource supporting service members, their families, and veterans with common post-deployment challenges.”

Flickr: finishing-school

Serving San Diego county in California, Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) provides comprehensive and innovative services for military veterans and assistance to needy and homeless veterans and their families. Solider On, serving the state of Massachusetts, “assist[s] veterans with both picking up the pieces of their lives and filling in the gaps that public agencies do not address.”

Soldier On’s mission statement declares that, “Homeless veterans need an interwoven effort that provides a safety net of housing, meals, health care, substance abuse aftercare and mental health counseling. They also need job assessment, training and placement assistance. Our mission at Solider On is to offer a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing, treatment and recovery for addiction, food, and clothing, as well as medical, counseling and job-related services.”

“Because government money for homeless veterans is currently limited and serves only one in 10 veterans in need, it is critical that private groups such as Soldier On reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care.” Private groups comprise a large part of programs providing assistance and resources to homeless veterans.

The story of Herold Noel, an Iraq War veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and living in his car in Brooklyn, is featured in the documentary WHEN I CAME HOME. The film examines the challenges that are faced by combat veterans returning home and the battle that many must fight to receive the benefits promised to them. The trailer is provided below and you can view the entire movie streaming online for free on hulu.

I Miss You

July 7, 1949 – November 10, 2010

One year ago today my father passed away. He was 61 years old and died alone at his house from heart related problems. He was also an alcoholic. I don’t dare omit that information because it’s important. For most of my childhood my dad was sober. For the last five or so years of his life, he was in a cycle of active alcoholism, treatment/rehabilitation, being sober and returning to active alcoholism. At the time of his death he had been sober for a brief period.

I loved my father. He was the person I most looked up to. I tried to help him. I drove him to hospitals. I offered my support. I called to check up on him and to help him with anything he might need. But, here’s the thing that I feel those who have not directly dealt with alcoholism/addiction may not understand: Only the person using (alcohol and/or drugs) can decide to get help.  Family and friends can assist in creating conditions that may make that decision more attractive.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc (NCADD) offers

I know my dad knew I loved him. I don’t have any guilt over how I acted towards him. I feel no regret that I didn’t do enough for him, because there was nothing more that I could have done. I felt I needed to set boundaries to protect myself and my children. I don’t feel bad that he didn’t see them more, because when my daughters saw him, he was well. He wasn’t falling down drunk and they will never have those memories of him being like that. Instead they have memories of a papa who made them fairy houses and brought them presents from the festivals he had been to and who dressed up on Halloween like a fisherman.

I refuse to let the years when my dad was an active alcoholic cloud my memories of him. Instead I’ll focus on the years prior, when he was the dad I looked up to, who believed in me, who understood me, who was my hero. That’s the dad I’m going to remember.

I’ll remember the dad who I could call when I locked my keys in my car for the 5th time – an hour away. I’ll remember when he would take me fishing. When he took me to pick fiddle heads and dandelion greens. I’ll remember his obsession with the Iditarod. And the presents he would make me out of wood. The time he taught me how to weave a basket. And when we would find him on his mail route and have lunch with him, car-side. I’ll remember going camping and walking on the beaches. The time he took me out in the boat on the lake, gave me a canvas and paints and told me we would both paint what we saw and then compare it. I’ll remember all the times he helped me get my cats down from trees they had climbed and become stuck in. The 4th of July parade. The times he snuck my brother and me candy and drove us around looking at holiday lights, so we could finish it before we got home. Canoeing. All the talks with him about anything and everything. The lasagna and soups he would cook. His tattoos. I’ll remember how he taught me about gardening and flowers. His love of animals. Bob Dylan songs. And trips to Vermont and the cows…

Despite the sadness, I honestly also feel relief that he doesn’t have to suffer anymore. He wasn’t perfect but he understood me more than most people ever have.  He shaped me so much in my love of nature, animals and literature and, most importantly, in believing in yourself. I love you dad and I miss you.

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Resources on alcoholism and recovery:

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc (NCADD)
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Resources for people affected by alcoholism of a friend or family member:

Al-Anon/Alateen
Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)