Hope Inspires, Hope Wissel, Recovery

Anniversaries – Celebrations With Reflection

This past week I celebrated two anniversaries both filled with emotions and the struggle to remember.  Two milestones in my life which changed me forever.

On Friday, hubby and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  We have been together 18+ years BUT only married 10.  If you know our story, you get it.  🙂

I generally blog about our story BUT this year,  I want to share the gratitude I have for this man.  Our road has been a rocky one – from his commuting for 5 years, to living together to marriage.  It all seems so basic, right?  But add to it – recovery on the road to relapse, a perceived loss of independence, his congestive heart failure, my diagnosis of MS and now his retirement.  Life on life’s terms which is something I’m not really good at.  It has been a true test for both of us of our wedding vows.  He has been my rock on my most difficult days.  I have tested his patience and he has learned how to communicate just a little bit better. We have grown together in so many ways…

As we sat at dinner the other night, the subject drifted to the one question to be sure about a relationship.  I had never heard this and honestly, I was scared. But he continued saying it is “do you bring out the best of each person?”….. Of course I had to know what he thought about us because honestly my memory is awful and fear was creeping in.  My immediate reaction was to feel less than. Not worthy of his unconditional love.  Instead of blurting things out, I prayed to be quiet while he finished.  He said “our life has been a balance –  sometimes we have brought out the best in each other while there are times, we have brought out the worst.  He said it is life but the true test is how you get through it.  We have made it.  WOW!  I didn’t get defensive.  I didn’t try to over analyze.  I just was grateful I kept my mouth SHUT and for how far we have both come. I may have already forgotten much of the night, I pray his words about our life together stay with me forever.

Jump ahead to Saturday and another celebration…. WE HAVE 3 YEARS!  I look back on where I was three years ago… a hot mess on the verge of losing my hubby, a mound of credit card debt, a victim mentality while I isolated feeling less than everyone else, broken emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Appearing confident (often cocky) on the outside while a scared child on the inside.  I had walked this road before and relapse became part of my story.  I had let down my family, my friends but most of all I had let myself down.  The strong confident person was gone.  What was left was a broken, shell of my former self.  Sadly, I didn’t notice it – I thought I hid it well.  I blamed everyone else for what was wrong in my life when the only one who was to blame was me.

As I sit here writing, unable to feel anything but sadness (MS seems to play with my emotions as well as taken my memories) I struggle to remember how bad it was.  Not just this time but the first time (my first clean date was 10/26/91).  Hubby often says, God took the memories because it was too unbearable for me to remember.  God gives me glimpses at times but when it becomes overwhelming for me, they fade and only segments remain.  So instead of struggling to remember, I try each day to be a better person than I was yesterday. Does it always work? NOPE!  I know with God’s help, it will.  I continue to go to meetings – I need to hear the struggles, I need to share my blind faith, I need to be surrounded by people who have been where I have been and I need to remember  “never” should not be part of my vocabulary.

Today, the credit card debt is paid off.  Today, I am trying to connect with local women in recovery.  Today, I accept I am an introvert but it does not mean I need to isolate.  Today, I know my ride & die gals who have been with me since the first night 3 years ago are just a phone call away.  Just for today, I like myself.  Today, I don’t beat myself up over the weight or how I think “I should look”.  My life is blessed in so many ways.  Yes, MS kicks my butt BUT it is not an excuse to go back to those old destructive behaviors.  Living life on life’s terms is not always easy but WE do recovery together.

Thank you to everyone who has walked these many roads with us.  We are grateful for the part you have played and continued to play in our lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Hope Wissel

Reflecting on 2019

 Happy 2020!  A new decade, a new year, a new month and a new day!  A clean slate all around….

It seems weird writing a blog post today since it has been about a month or so since my last one. For my regular readers, I am sorry I did not give you a heads up.  I needed a break after 6+ years of writing, I was empty.  I didn’t think I had anything more to say.  I’m still not sure I do but we will see what 2020 brings….

Last night I saw all of the posts talking about the last decade and it got me to thinking.  At first, I stressed over what I couldn’t remember then I asked for guidance and some memories came back.  So here goes my decade in review….

In 2010, I saw my daughter graduate from college with honors.  I was working full-time at a job I loved and commuting crazy hours to get work.

2011 was a roller coaster year.  I started my direct sales career with Thirty One.  We planned our wedding and after a 9 year engagement walked down the aisle.  Edythe, one of the rocks in my life passed away.  I retired from my job as COO at Bethel Development. We ended the year with a cruise for our honeymoon with family.

2012 is kind of a blur. Hubby had congestive heart failure and spent 13 days in the hospital.  I promoted to Director with Thirty One and walked across the stage to celebrate with my daughter.  I spent lots of time trying to figure out what I really wanted to do.

2013 – 2016 were a definitely blur. There was lots of testing to determine what was going on with me.  I was losing my memory (even more), leg spasms, depressed, and more I can’t remember.  I spend time working part-time jobs at WaWa and Wall Storage. Relapse was a strong part of these years. We planned Belinda’s wedding and celebrated their beautiful day in the mountains of NC.  Shopping, spending money, and drinking was my way of filling a void in my life.  I got the “unofficial diagnosis of MS” – grateful to finally have answers

2017 started rough as my Dad spent much of his time in the hospital and then passed in April.  I started Angels by Hope as an official business.  Still looking for ways to fill the void. My MS diagnosis became official and I started on medications (3 times a week injections).

2018 brought the smack in the face I needed to face the unmanageability of my life.  Credit card debt was high, income from my business was dropping and I was an emotional mess.  I walked back into the rooms of NA in May looking for the joy I once I had.

2019 brought a change in diagnosis to “progressive MS” and with it a cane and a brace for my left ankle.  Recovery has been a blessing as I am slowing rebuilding relationships with family.  I am blessed to still have both my Thirty One business and Angels by Hope going strong.

So, this is just a glimpse at the last 10 years.  I am grateful for Facebook memories and this blog (since March 2013) to help me remember when I can’t.

I have been searching and for a word for 2020.  Last year’s was Courage and it definitely fit the year I had.  Courage in so many areas of my life to step out on faith, out of my comfort zone.  This year’s word didn’t come so easily.  I prayed.  I took those “word tests”.

My word for 2020 is GRATITUDE!  Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.“.  I know when I practice gratitude, everything else in my life will be okay.  Not just gratitude for the good things but also for the challenges.  Through the challenges, I will learn and grow.

Best wishes for a safe healthy and happy New Year.

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!

 

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday: Mistakes

A mistake is defined as “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.” .  We have all made them from the little ones to the ones which wreck our lives or those around us.  Do you think of them as leaning lessons and are grateful for the mistake?  OR do you beat yourself up swearing to never do anything “stupid” like that again?

I will admit, depending on the mistake – I can go between the two.  No matter how you handle the mistake, you are not alone. It’s likely all of us have repeated some of our mistakes at one time or another and reacted differently each time.  The truth is if we never made mistakes, we wouldn’t learn much so it is one of those things we should be thankful for.

The good news is, you can learn from your mistakes. Then, instead of repeating them again, you’ll gain valuable wisdom to help you in the future.

1. Acknowledge Your Errors

Regardless of the size of the mistake or who it has effected,  you have to accept full responsibility for your role in what happened.  You need to ask yourself, “What role did I play in this?”.  The answer can be uncomfortable sometimes (okay, maybe most of the time), but you need to own your part.  Once you have said “I messed up,”  you can start to learn from it.  This is all part of changing and hopefully, not making the same mistake again.

2. Ask Yourself Tough Questions

You don’t want to dwell on your mistakes (this is a tough one for me) BUT reflecting on them can be productive. I don’t know about you but when I dwell on mistakes, I tend to beat myself up a little bit.  So, if you ask yourself these tough questions, it can turn a bashing session into a productive one:

  • What went wrong?
  • What could I do better next time?
  • What did I learn from this?

Write down your responses and you’ll see the situation a little more clearly. Seeing your answers on paper can help you think more logically about an irrational or emotional experience.  Let’s face it, we have all had them at one time.

3. Make A Plan

Beating yourself up for your mistakes won’t help you down the road.  It’s important to spend the bulk of your time thinking about how to do better in the future.  Make a plan to help avoid making a similar mistake. Be as detailed as possible but remain flexible since your plan may need to change  No matter how you track your progress, find a way to hold yourself accountable.  Remember what works for one person might not work with someone else.

4. Make It Harder To Mess Up

How will you be sure not to mess up again?  Does willpower alone prevent you from taking an unhealthy shortcut or from giving into immediate gratification (I want what I want when I want it). Increase your chances of success by making it harder to mess up again. Find creative ways to become more disciplined. If using credit cards is your struggle – cut up the cards or freeze them.  Yup, in a big block of ice.  Whenever you try to thaw the block of ice, you will realize how ridiculous the situation is and stop spending money you don’t have.

5. Create A List Of Reasons Why You Don’t Want To Make The Mistake Again

We all have weak moments and the next thing you know, we have made the same mistake again!  Why not create a list of all the reasons why you should stay on track and be self-disciplined,  you can refer to during tough times. Put the list some place where you can see it – if shopping is a problem, put the list in your wallet next to your debit/credit cards.  If flirting on social media is a thing, post your list on your computer so when you start scrolling or are tempted you see the list.  Is it a guarantee?  NO but it may help you to resist the temptation.  Self-discipline is like a muscle. Each time you delay gratification and make a healthy choice, you grow mentally stronger.

Mistakes aren’t always one big blunder. Sometimes, they are a series of little choices leading to failure.  So pay attention to your mistakes, no matter how big or how small they might seem. Recognize each mistake can be an opportunity to build mental muscle and become better.

Have a blessed day!

Unclutter Your Life

Are You an Emotional Spender?

Are you an emotional spender?  Honestly, until about 6 months ago, I spent when I was happy, sad, bored…. it really didn’t matter what I was feeling.  I shopped  I have been working hard to stay on a budget but it is hard!

Did you know “The number-one problem in today’s generation and economy is the lack of financial literacy”?

Why??? The truth is, the problem is a struggle with self-control. You went to the mall to buy a birthday gift for your niece, and walked out with a new pair of shoes for yourself. You’ve tried a budget, but somehow you always seem to find something to spend money on that wasn’t in it. Can you relate? If so, consider these practical strategies to get your emotional spending under control:

1. Sleep on it.

If you think you just have to have it, whatever it is, make it your rule to sleep on your decision. Very few things are so urgent you can’t wait 24 hours to make your purchase.

2. Phone a friend.

Be accountable to someone!  You are more likely to reach your goal if you tell someone you’ve set one. So, tell a friend about your goal to stop digging yourself into more credit card debt. Then when you find yourself about to make another purchase you can’t afford, call them up and let them talk you down.

3. Never go shopping alone.

If you can’t trust yourself to phone a friend, then don’t go shopping alone. Of course, my biggest problem (and maybe yours) is online shopping).  The simple click to get what we want, NOW!  Headed to the mall, have someone with you who will hold you accountable.  Shopping online, STEP AWAY from the computer.  Leave it in your cart for 24-hours!  Refuse to use “retail therapy” to deal with loneliness, boredom, or disappointments. Find a new hobby which keeps you active, helps you to connect with others and builds new relationships. Focus less on accumulating stuff and more on enjoying experiences with people and things which matter most to you.

4. Plan for it.

STOP right now!  Take out a notepad and jot down the most important thing you need, and then the most important thing you want. Do you know how much each will cost? Jot it down. Not sure, find out.  How long would it take you to save for each? Practice delayed gratification (so hard for a recovering addict to do!). It forces you to appreciate the true value of your money, which will help you spend your money more consciously.

5. Keep a picture of your goal in front of you.

I have a vision board I carry in my planner so I am always reminded of what I am working towards.  Post pictures where you will see them on a regular basis so you are reminded of your goal. Whether it is on your refrigerator, in your purse, or on your bathroom mirror, make the vision plain and visible.

6. Take the credit cards out of your wallet.

I LOVE this saying…” if you want to get out of the hole you’re in, stop digging!”  If you’re in debt, it’s time to stop adding to your debt. And if you’re an emotional spender, keep your impulse purchases to a minimum by leaving your credit cards at home. No need to make it easy to charge it.  Better yet, cut up ALL of your cards (maybe keep one for emergencies).

7. Use cash.

I will admit, I am not a cash person.  I use my debit card for most things.  I actually feel like I spend less than when I use cash.  Crazy, right?  There are always those places which don’t take cards too so I can’t spend. Research shows though, forking over cash makes you spend less. As simplistic as it sounds, one of the best ways to curb spending is to determine your budget for various expenses (i.e., lunch, groceries, clothing, etc.), then take out your budgeted amount in cash.  Dave Ramsey’s system from Financial Peace University is AMAZING!   While it can be easy to lose track of how much you spend when you swipe a credit or even a debit card, cash forces you to count and keep track of what you spend in a concrete way.

If saving or spending is a problem, I challenge you to stop spending emotionally and start managing your money wisely.  Which of these tips were most helpful to you?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!