Hope Wissel, Personal Causes, Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Addicted to Our Thoughts…

It has been awhile since I blogged…. I didn’t know what to write.  I didn’t know if anyone actually cared. Believe it or not it was part of my addiction.  Obsessed with “my image” and what people would think.

See, addiction isn’t just about drugs or alcohol.  It is about anything which consumes us – food, people, shopping, sex, love, thoughts and so much more.  I needed to take a break.  I needed to STOP and think about what was important to me.  I needed to decide what I really wanted to do with my life on disability.  Tough decisions but things I had to think about.  Do I have all of the answers?  NOPE!

We are addicted to our thoughts.  We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.

WOW!  I don’t know about you but this quote scares the hell out of me!  Changing my thinking has been the toughest thing at age 62 with 20 months in recovery.  It is a daily process which has affected all areas of my life.  My addition shows up in some of the strangest places….Here are just a few, any of these sound like you?

1.  Comparing ourselves to everyone else, and then competing with them.

It is this kind of thinking which  started my troubles during my relapse.  The grass was always greener on the other side.  I wanted to have what I thought others had.  It is a struggle for me to remember I  don’t have to always be and do what everyone else is being and doing.  I remember my mom saying “if they jumped off a bridge, would you?”  I know that is an extreme but it is the wanting to be liked and to be like everyone else which contributed to my crazy way of thinking.

Now, I try to not compete with others.  I try to compete to be a better version of me. For some, this sounds lame.  Through recovery I am learning to not compare my outside to their picture “perfect” life because you never know what they have been going through.  I mean who doesn’t want to look good on social media or when gathering with friends? I know I am not the only one who struggles with this, right?

2.  Secretly wishing for everyone’s stamp of approval.

This is one of the hardest things as a people pleaser I deal with.  The truth is “we don’t need anyone’s affection or approval in order to be good enough in your own eyes.”  I know, easier said than done sometimes, right?  When someone rejects or abandons or judges you, 99% of the time it isn’t actually about us  WHAT??? You mean I am not the root of all things?  Self-centeredness is for another day.  It’s about them and their own insecurities, limitations, and needs.  “Your worth isn’t contingent upon other people’s acceptance of you – it’s something inherent.   You’re allowed to think things and feel things.  You’re allowed to assert your needs and take up space.  You’re allowed to hold on to the truth who you are is worthy.  And you’re allowed to remove anyone from your life who insists on making you feel otherwise.”  These are the things I am working on every day.

3.  Being more loving to others than we are to ourselves.

Here comes the people pleaser in me.  I want everyone to be happy, so I will make myself miserable to see it happen.  I have been told I am self-centered because of my addiction.  Truth be told “I don’t always get it”.  The result of those words though has created the struggle of being able to love myself without thinking I am self-centered.  If this is you, you are not alone.  “There’s absolutely nothing selfish about self-care.  If you don’t take good care of yourself then you can’t take good care of anyone else.  Because we can’t give what we don’t have.  Treat yourself right and you’ll be life-giving to others.”  This is one of my BIGGEST struggles.

4.  Dreaming of what could have been, or should have been.

Letting go of the shoulda, coulda, woulda is tough for me.  The inner gremlins have a field day on bad days.  Letting go and turning things over is a daily (sometimes hourly process).  I have learned (most days) before you can truly LIVE today, a part of you has to die first.  I have to let go and bury the what could have been if I never relapsed.  I (neither can you) can’t change the past, or the outcomes from our choices.  The best thing we can go is: Let go.  Forgive.  Be present and free.  Just for Today.

Are you struggling with any of these things?   You are not alone!  Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, and leave a life free of addiction (all types).  The bottom line is it’s never too late to take a step in the right direction.  It’s never too late to break free and become the person you are capable of being.  Addictions of all kinds CAN be beaten!

I’m not sure if anyone needed this but it was on my heart this morning…

Have a blessed day!

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday: Feelings

 Happy Halloween….I was flipping through the photo albums trying to remember Halloween’s gone by.  I remember the costumes, I remember the faces BUT I don’t remember the feelings attached to them.  Some days I struggle with feelings…. Some days I feel numb unable to feel anything.  I wonder if the MS not only stole my memories but also stole some of my ability to feel???

Well, today is all about feelings….. so what are feelings?  We all have them, right?  Feelings is defined as “an emotional state or reaction“.

Many of us have spent our whole lives stuffing feelings (okay, so some of us).  I know I am not alone in this.  One of the reasons addicts become addicts is because they don’t want to feel anymore.  Pretty much we don’t know how to cope with whatever the feeling is we are feeling.  I don’t mean just drug or alcohol addicts…. there are those who stuff their feelings by eating, or shopping or having sex or the list goes on.  Basically an addict is anyone who does something to not feel feelings.   I usually say, anything I can get obsessive and compulsive about to help me not feel is an addiction….. I know I squirreled. LOL.

I am writing on my Fourth Step which is all about feelings.  It is actually about taking a moral inventory of myself.  When it came to the part about feelings, I was lost.  The only feelings I ever remember having were shame, guilt, fear and anger.  Were there any others???  See I had beat myself up for so long over the mistakes I had made in my life I didn’t know how to cope with my feelings.  So, I went from drugs to alcohol to shopping and credit card debt. Anything to help me step out of those feelings I didn’t want to have and feel better about me.  It worked for awhile but then life got unmanageable.  We can only stuff the feelings for so long before they start to bubble up and create a mess in our lives.

I actually had to do a Google search for what types of feelings there were..  I was clueless.  I was amazed at the list I found….pleasant feelings vs difficult or unpleasant feelings.  I had actually felt a lot of them.  The tough part came when I had to remember the time when I felt them and describe the event.  MS has stolen so many memories.  I remember bits and pieces but not always the details.

MS along with my relapse/recover brought about so many negative emotions I am learning NOT to stuff on a daily basis.  The reason I started Thankful Thursday was to turn the things which I tend to view as negative into a positive.  By looking at the blessing associated with the negative situation, I can get a better perspective on my life.

Shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior“.  This one is HUGE for me.  We all do stupid things growing up, right?  Some worse than others but at some point, we need to let go of the shame.  I thought I had my first time in recovery BUT there is still some things buried deep down I have never let go of.  I actually think I wasn’t ready to deal with them until now.  I need to forgive myself and take the positive aspects of the situation and learn from them.  It may be easier said than done but I am giving it a try.

One of the toughest feelings I have to deal with is resentment.  Resentment is “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly“.  Have I really been treated unfairly? In most cases… NO.  I didn’t know what resentment was for a long time.  There were obvious situations where I resented people but many of those cases I had been treated unfairly.  Now,  when I am talking about a situation with anger and frustration, my sponsor is quick to say this is growing into a resentment.  WHAT!?!?!   Think about the invisible score card you keep in your head of the things you have done for someone.  They do something against you and you want to automatically run down the list of things you have done for them.  Guess what, you have a resentment!  When I do things truly out of love and caring, I forget about them and the invisible list in my head goes away.  Who do you have an invisible score card on?

Feelings are emotions, they are not fact.  When we talk about them, we let them go. Well, most of us try to…. Wrap yourself in the positive feelings…

Have a blessed day!

 

Clear the Clutter

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Do you wish you could sleep like a baby?  Do you wish you could fall asleep and STAY asleep all night?  Do you wish if you woke up to go to the bathroom, you could easily fall back to sleep?  Do your kids have a bedtime routine?  Then why shouldn’t you?

I seem to have little to no trouble falling asleep BUT these days, I have trouble staying asleep.  It seems like after 2 or 3 hours, my body wants to wake up and then I can’t get back to sleep.  I have tried many natural alternatives but most leave me feeling like a zombie in the morning.  Mornings are rough with the MS so I don’t need to complicate things with any thing that may have helped me sleep during the night.

Hubby researched this and came up with a pre-bedtime routine—a.k.a practicing good “sleep hygiene”— which they said would help me fall asleep more easily at night and stay asleep until morning. Honestly, some nights it works and some nights it doesn’t but I think it is an MS thing….. So if you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, here are some times which might help:

#1: Stay on Schedule.

Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day—even on weekends—is crucial for setting your body’s internal clock, which experts call your circadian rhythm. Staying consistent also means the quality of your sleep will be better.  I know this one is tough but it really does make a difference.  Most nights, I am in bed or at least headed to bed by 10:15PM.  It allows me to fall asleep easily but it doesn’t always guarantee I will stay asleep during the night.  Believe it or not, in the beginning I actually wrote it in my planner to go to bed at 10PM just do I would remember.  LOL

#2: Be Mindful of What you Eat and Drink—and When.

I grew up hearing “don’t eat before bed” but it never really made sense to me.  Then while on my weightless journey, I never ate at least 2 hours before bed because I didn’t want to gain weight.  LOL.  We all know nicotine and caffeine are stimulants and take hours to wear off, so they make it harder to fall—and stay—asleep. The key is to avoid them for 4 – 6 hours before bed.  Alcohol can initially make you feel sleepy, BUT it lowers the quality of your shut-eye.  Go easy on any liquids before you bed to prevent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

#3: Create a Comfy Bedroom.

Is your bedroom an oasis?  Do you feel relaxed when you walk in or is it full of clutter and you get stressed?  Your room should be peaceful and conducive to sleeping by keeping it quiet, cool, and dark.  Earplugs can help if you live in a noisy area. Noisy environments interrupt your sleep and reduce its quality, even when you don’t realize that it’s happening.  Outside light can keep you awake, so try room-darkening shades. Did you know your mattress and pillow also make a big difference?  Ideally, mattresses should be replaced every five to seven years and pillows should be replaced annually. A mattress should feel comfortable, and if you sleep with a partner, make sure it’s big enough so you both have plenty of space.  I find the smallest noise wakes me up so I sleep with a fan going year round.  This blocks out the sound and the hum is soothing and helps me to fall asleep.

#4: Start an Evening Ritual.

Whether it’s curling up with a book, listening to calming music or taking a warm bath, doing the same, relaxing thing every night will signal to your body it’s time to settle down.  Do you read with a “paper” book or do you read on a kindle or electronic devise?  Believe it or not,  watching TV, looking at a laptop, tablet or smart phone screen before going to bed can trigger your brain to stay awake. The safest strategy is to just put all electronics away in the evening, or at the very least, about 30 minutes before bed. Give yourself 20 minutes before bed for the one thing that calms you down. Maybe you read a book, do a guided meditation, sketch, or have some tea. Can’t shut your brain off?  Try “brain dumping” by writing everything down before you go to bed.  This empties your mind and allows it to relax just long enough to fall asleep.

#5: Don’t Watch the Clock.

Staring at the clock when you can’t sleep can stress you out and make it even harder to snooze. Keep your bedroom clock turned away from you so you won’t be tempted to watch time tick by. If 20 minutes pass and you still can’t fall asleep, get out of bed and do something peaceful until you feel drowsy.

What is your nightly routine to help you sleep at night?  Have a tip to help you relax?  We would love to hear from you…

Have a blessed day!

Hope Wissel

Recovery After Relapse

 I have gone back and forth trying to decide whether or not I wanted to share this post.   I have been  a people pleaser most of my life and I didn’t want any one to be angry with me. Others will stop reading.  BUT there may be one or two who will be encouraged or know recovery is actually possible.

My first time in recovery, I shared with everyone.  I didn’t care who knew because NA and the people I met saved my life.  They helped me to learn about me which made me confident.  Some would say I got cocky, since after two plus years of daily meetings I walked away from the program thinking I was “better” and was healed.  I was given back all of the tangibles in my life – family, a career, a house, car and so much more.

If you read my blog regularly, you may have noticed I have referenced my relapse and my walk back into recovery.  Pride and ego gets the best of me as I worry about what people will think.  BUT there may be someone out there who needs to hear this story….

When I started blogging in 2013, I shared the story of my addiction. The story of getting clean in 1991 was a blessing.  I was blessed with many years in recovery – from drugs.  Of course, I now know I substituted work for my drug of choice.  I became a workaholic – and some wondered if I cared more about my clients then I did my family.  As a workaholic, I had an occasional glass of wine figuring I had things under control.  Little did I know, it was the beginning of making a total mess of my life again.  See, I forgot one simple thing from those early meetings – a drug is a drug is a drug.  The truth is, anything we become obsessive about is a form of addiction.  So, as I worked for many years at a job I loved; I was able to “manage” my work – addiction.

When for health reasons I had to give up my crazy commute (4 hours a day round trip) and a job I loved – I was lost.  I had no real identity or at least I didn’t think so.  The first year wasn’t bad.  I worked on my direct sales business, and collected unemployment while I looked for something close to home.  The truth was being 54 with LOTS of experience was not an appealing trait for most employers.  All they saw was someone who was “older” and who they thought would quit when a better opportunity came along.

Over the next 7 years, my life would be like a roller coaster ride.  Taking jobs to fill the void and pay the bills.  But each time, my MS (not yet diagnosed) reared its ugly head, and I had to give my notice.  During 4+ of those years, not only did I struggle to find a job but I endured endless testing to determine what was going on health-wise with me.

Financial unmanageability was starting to wreck havoc in my life without a steady income.  MS started affecting my memory, my moods, my balance and my life. The unmanageability throughout my life got worse.  No steady income.  An inconsistent commission check from my direct sales business.  Using credit cards to pay for things or to shop or to keep up appearances.  Drinking wine to relax.  The old behaviors and feelings from my early days of using came back really fast.  Stuffing my feelings again.  Feeling like I didn’t belong.  Feeling alone.  Feeling like a victim.  Feeling unworthy of anything.  Playing the comparison game and never winning.  Being self-centered (I want what I want when I want it).  Angry. Letting pride rule. Jealousy.  All of those things I thought I had dealt with long ago.

See, the reality was I gave up the drugs but I never really worked on me.  I substituted work for drugs.  I identified as a Social Worker.  I identified as mom.  But I never identified as Hope – the person.  Looking back, I was happy with my life BUT I don’t think I was ever really happy with me!

One year ago, I walked back into the rooms of NA, I felt as broken and lost as the first day I walked into the rooms on October 26, 1991.  I have learned so much in the last year.  This year has been a turning point in my life…. you would think at 62 I would have finally gotten it together. LOL.

Are things perfect?  No but they are getting better.  I am learning to like me for me.  I still tend to play the comparison in my business but it is getting better. I am working on re-building broken relationships. I am building a network of strong women who I can lean on.   I am learning to accept my MS diagnosis and truly believe #mswillnotdefineme.

Why am I sharing this?  I want to help someone else who may be struggling.  I am coming face to face with my inner demons so I can move on from the past and embrace the future.

Have a blessed day!

Family

Happy Father’s Day

 

Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers; celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society.

aae4e-dad Father’s Day this year will be different.  For the last 26 years, we have spent Father’s Day with my dad.  It was one of dad’s holidays when Belinda was growing up.  This year, I’m at a loss.  A void in my life which I feel on so many days.  It is weird, dad and I could go for weeks without talking yet just knowing he was there was okay.  In an instant, he was gone.  Heaven gained an angel on April 15th and there is a hole in my heart I struggle to fill.

Life with my dad had its ups and downs. Growing up was filled with family vacations and holidays.  MS has taken many of those memories away but we have told the stories many times but truly remembering is tough.  There are flashes some days but they are few and far between.

Dad was a HAM radio operator and I always had the BEST reports in school because he would reach out to friends far and wide for their help.  He bought me my first car for $100 and spray painted it blue. It was a stick shift, so he had to teach me – a true experience. The Chevy Nova lasted a long time and held many memories.  My junior year, he and my mom, cooked breakfast for the ENTIRE Junior Class of Ocean Twp HS after the prom.

Dad’s battle with alcoholism and those demons brought some really rough times. When my parents divorced, I was angry and hurt.  I wanted nothing to do with my dad. On Pop-pop’s death bed, he told me “it is time to forgive your dad”.  I wasn’t ready but every once in awhile I would get a nudge from my Weston angels it was time.  I never listened and it will be one of the regrets of my life.

My drug addiction brought us together and it was a gift.  My dad came to visit which was the first time we had spoken in 16 YEARS! He found out where I was and he traveled to Pennsylvania to see me. It is when the healing began.  No judgement.  No questions.  Just ready to fill the gaps of the missing years.

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What a blessing it was to have him walk me down the aisle the day I got married.  He was the proud father as he walked me down the aisle.  A rough day for him due to health issues but one he would not have missed to anything.

I love this picture (even though we are missing some of the family bush). We have always said, it isn’t a family tree – it’s a bush and it was a blessing to have 4 generations in the same picture which is not always an easy task.  

I miss you Dad!

So today, I will spend time with hubby and cherish the memories.  I know my angels – dad and pop-pop – are enjoying the day together.

Take a moment today and thank the “fathers” in your life.  Some may be your biological dads, your adopted dads, some may be your friends dad’s, some may be a man who helped to shape your life – whoever it is, THANK them.  They have given you many blessings.  Remember blessings are sometimes in the form trials and it is all of those things which make you the person you are today.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day.