God, grant me the serenity… my views on AA.

ROCK BOTTOM is what it usually takes to bring someone to the realization that they have nowhere else to go, but to seek help. Becoming vulnerable enough to recognize that this has become a much more powerful “monster” than you can manage alone. But what was “rock bottom”? In many cases, its when the elastic band of enabling and tolerance from others in your life has finally snapped. Whether it be family, friends, workplace or in some cases – Court ordered mandate… the time has come. A local meeting is found and the beginning of the accountability journey follows shortly after.

Now don’t get me wrong, I applaud AA and its worldwide chapters, they’re the saving grace for countless. I’m the daughter of a 26+yr recovering alcoholic and have attended many meetings supporting my Dad on his annual anniversaries. Alcoholism has controlled males on both my Mother and Fathers side for generations. Unfortunately, only my Father decided to seek help. His sobriety saved his life and his relationship with myself and my siblings.

My last partner (Narcissist) was also an alcoholic – during one of our many endings where I couldn’t take anymore… he reached out and advised he was attending AA and recognized he had a “disease”. He requested, yet again, we work together to be the “greatest love story we were always supposed to be”. He must have changed right?!? (I now know without question that it was his employer that gave him a choice to seek help or be fired). I went back to him again, being his biggest support and was so proud he decided to do the work with his self care.

I could write chapters on “him” and the abusive, damaged monster that he was with or without alcohol… that isn’t what this blog post is about. This is about the damage done to those effected by alcoholism.

Now I’m aware of Al-Anon – the support to those effected by addiction…. this has more to do with AA itself. When someone makes the choice to attend meetings, chooses every minute not to give in to the addiction, this is about them. Its life altering and essential…. what I have an issue with after a lifetime of being exposed to alcoholic males, is not the support provided…. but calling it an “illness”, a “disease”, an “allergy”. This is a watered down version of what it is – which is a prior trauma, that was left untreated and became an unhealthy coping mechanism to mask pain.

Becoming sober takes incredible strength, I respect this and my father is living proof that having a strong support system with a group of peers who can relate is monumental to recovery, but it doesn’t deal with the mental health aspect of the root of the problem.

I chatted with my Dad on Fathers Day this year a little bit about this. His childhood traumas have never been faced, he buried them deep – but they’re always there…. we spoke a little about my last relationship – who used his alcoholism as a free pass for the incredible abuse my daughters and I experienced, what his ex-wife and his own children I KNOW suffered unimaginable hell because of… but as he often joked at his meetings that I went to as often as I could “I didn’t need alcohol to be an asshole, it just made me a bigger asshole”… and the room laughed, validating him. AA likely saved his career, but it certainly never made him accountable for his behaviour.

I shared with my Dad, “Its amazing support Dad, I’m so grateful it was there for you and for others, but despite the 12 steps, alcoholics in many cases can’t remember the trauma they caused others. The emotional, psychological and in some cases, physical scars their victims are left to carry. Family, friends & the workplace support revering addicts, we praise them, listen to them, but the reality is Dad… you can’t be sorry for the times you can’t remember, and you haven’t ever healed from the source of why you were drawn to alcohol as your “therapy’ of choice. We were victims, we suffered… and then are expected to forgive and support addicts on their path to recovery… but what about ours? Don’t you wonder why I’ve always been drawn to extremely dominant men, the last one being the absolute most toxic, damaged of them all? Its all I’ve ever known, to be the the “fixer”? Dad stared into the distance, his eyes welling up, fighting back tears – and his response meant everything… “Baby, you’re absolutely right, I’ve never ever thought of it this way. God dammit, you’re right. I’m so sorry”. (he also reminded me that if I want my ex “handled”, he can make it happen ” I know people”… which made us both laugh).

My point is this, ACCOUNTABILITY. Recognizing you’re an addict, seeking help and remaining sober is wonderful, and does take strength. Facing the reasons why you ever became one – is courage, and this will bring the much needed systemic change.

The UN’BECOMING Truth

Mental Health, for lack of a better description is at a current global #crisis state. #endthestigma, #shame, #anxiety, #depression, #PTSD, #suicide & #addiction, in many cases aren’t because people are sick broken or weak, they’re tired from being strong for too long and are suffering. After taking a poll I posted on #Twitter, 50% say they are suffering in silence due to the fear of criticism, judgement and or possible dismissal from work. The reality I’ve learned for many, is simply this – saying #I’mFine for too long, the load became too heavy and something had to give, their mental health. This is also my personal truth. I’m part of the 80% suffering of those who took the anonymous poll. Currently, 1% of medical funding within Canada is put towards Mental Health. The suicide rate, prodominantly with First Responders is skyrocketing to all time highs. I can say from personal anecdotal experiences I’ll share throughout, its a very broken, weak system with very little accountability and direction from the relevant professionals in the field. A little personal insight, I’m 48, a Self Employed Health, Safety & Mental Wellness Professional, Certified First Aid Instructor, single Mom, on the outside, a positive, happy person with a “great life” – who hid behind the #shame of admitting to mostly myself – that it was just that, appearances. If only Mental Illness could appear on the outside – I ‘d surely have looked like I fell into a wood chipper. I managed to get to my 19th year of marriage, which came to an end, amicably, where the events, choices and experiences began to add up within the 6 years following, much of which resulted in significant anguish and multiple traumas.

It was spring of 2019 after being faced with 3 individual traumas/stressors within an 8 month period, the final one, pushing me off the “edge”, resulting in a severe anxiety attack (literally felt like I was having a cardiac episode – or dying, lasting for hours & into the next day) followed by a deep dark depression and ultimately a complete breakdown of my mental health (I’ve just recently even been able to share this with my parents – apparently I’ve mastered the coping mechanisms to hide behind the smile) I saw my physician, was prescribed medication & secured and have attended recommended therapy. For two months, I barely if ever left the security of my home, completely isolated myself from all friends and family. It was a good week if I decided to simply take a shower. It is only as of very late, I can see a little bit of sunshine through the dark black skies of depression. The reason I’ve chosen to share this insight is as follows; I have always been an advocate for others to speak up with their stories, the non-judgemental listener, advised to consider seeking medical attention for professional help, I shared the posts with the #’s supporting mental health and wellness – the reality is, I felt like a complete hypocrite & was doing exactly what so many others do – submit to the #fear of the #shame stigma. I’ve learned that speaking your personal truths, knocks walls down, it encourages others, resonates with some that “OH MY GOD, someone gets it.. its like reading my own story, I thought I was alone”, its completely empowering! I’m here to tell you that you’re NOT alone. The reality is, I feel anyway, my mind, body & soul – had to completely “power-off” to rest and heal. I don’t know if I could have possibly faced another single challenge during this time, that terrified me, how fragile I became/am. Was all I could muster just to not let my daughter’s home fall apart taking her Mother along with it, I felt grateful that my oldest daughter lives in London, Ontario so I could at least spare her.

I met with my therapist early this week (best decision ever BTW), she asked me what fuels my internal “guage”. My honest answer was – “helping others”. I’m admin. on a private Women’s Support Forum which I take so much strength from, however its intentially small. As soon as she mentioned journalling (which is a big help, just to write thoughts down – even if all you have is one sentence that day, its making the decision and allowing some of the internal chaos – out) It IMMEDIATELY resonated to share my journey on my Blog. It’s win win, I can express openly to help heal myself & even if it allows one single person to feel less “broken” and alone – to possibly allow someone else hope that they CAN get through this, aiding to smash the stigma surrounding Mental Health, be part of the solution, not add to the problem – then HELLO – this seems like a perfect forum.

Following this post, under the title The UN’Becoming Truth, I’m going to share as often as I’m able, my story, broken down into “chapters” as each one is relevant to my breakdown. The story and journey is 100% authentically mine, however, I’m not an academic in this field in any regard, I am however jam packed with real life experience, and my journey back to a stronger, healthier version of myself, along with the tools and methods that aided the process, in the hope to raise awareness – can’t learn that in a text book.

I KNOW, and have learned the hard way, you can’t possibly build a strong future, on a broken foundation. I didn’t truly think a month ago, I’d ever feel “ok” again, and a few really bad days following that, I was just too far gone – BUT, here I am, typing this blog, as effortlessly as fluid, I can validate that this has been hands down the most difficult time in my life, its not cliche’, the words we’ve all heard, that sometimes you truly have to personally hit rock bottom, and then plumet lower after that, before you can begin to rebuild. It WON’T be easy, but I PROMISE that you’re worth it, WE’RE worth it. Minute by minute, thats all it has to be – remembering to look out the windsheild ahead, the rear view – is to look back and learn from, which is also an important part of healing, at least for me, I had to look alllllllll the way back, to understand who I had become, and “UN’Become” that person to make room for who I will be …