Saturday, March 2, 2013

From Darkness to Light

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The stigmatization of mental illness (I include addiction here) has persisted in spite of its high prevalence in the general human population. Consider the following data taken from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

In 2011, almost 50 million American adults (20% of the U.S. population) experienced mental illness; and in 2000, SAMSHA estimated that "...4.6% of the population were dependent on or abused alcohol", and "1.0% of the population were found to be dependent on or abused both alcohol and drugs."

For far too long, mental health and addiction disorders have remained in the shadows of society - leaving those who suffer feeling even more isolated, alone, defective, and helpless than they already feel from their disease.

This blog, as I'd mentioned in previous posts, is part of my continuous pursuit of therapy and personal growth. But the main reason I choose to be so open and candid about my illness is to join others in the recently begun effort to shine light on the darkness - to help remove the stigma and extend light to those suffering alone.

I remain inspired by the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy…

Let us all together be a light and shine hope and love onto sadness, fear, and despair.



...and graph of this data for my addiction class paper:

Friday, March 1, 2013


I think it was Oprah that once said, forgiveness is letting go of the notion that the past can be anything other than what it is. It is not necessarily being happy or content with what happened or with what another person - or you yourself - did or said, but rather simply accepting the fact that there's nothing you can do to change the past. It is what it is.

I have experienced so many mixed emotions in recovery from depression, anxiety, and alcohol addiction: the joy of rediscovering LIFE and reconnecting with my {real} self, as well as fear of the unknown...and the feeling of loss...of being cheated...of missing out on days, months, and years.

I awoke this morning struggling with the latter - trying to accept that dysthymia, anxiety, and alcoholism are diseases of the brain and not character flaws - trying to forgive myself, the genetic cards I was dealt, and the people and circumstances that converged in my head last September in the perfect mental storm that landed me in the hospital.

But, I is a new day. Today I will do my best to forgive and to accept...somehow.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Design by Quotable Cards Inc.

Continuing on from Recovery Step #1 (see 2/26/13 post):

You will never, ever, EVER get well unless you are willing to risk. Make no mistake about it, change is scary; but you must take a leap into what feels like the unknown, and trust in a Power higher than yourself. Trust your doctors, trust those who love you, trust your God - trust that you can get better. Trust that on the other side of darkness there is light. Trust that LIFE is better than stagnation and disintegration.

Leap and your net will appear!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thoughts from My Addiction

This is a poem I wrote at about 8-months sober - when I was sometimes a very angry two-year old in the body of a woman – bargaining with God and throwing a tantrum whenever I thought about a lifetime of sobriety. This homage to my “Ex” was written during such a tantrum…interesting to see, not only the addiction talking, but the depression seeking its own balm.


"My Addiction", by PHT, done in group therapy
Copyright 2006

i was born alone

            i cry alone

                        i’ll die alone

i am an alcoholic…alone

alone in a crowded meeting,
as everyone around me is brow-beating,
and rehashing the same story ten times over.

in a group of my former “drinking buddies”,
as they nod and smile,
breathe a tinny word of encouragement,
and quickly change the subject.
alone when they turn to each other and whisper,
“oh, she’s just a hypochondriac…”

i used to be
alone with my green glass bottle,
but never felt alone.
my bottle never droned on and on and on
in self-deprecation, and never talked about me behind my back.

it just sat there
on the grocery store shelf,
holding in it all the promise of a sunrise and the comfort of moonlight.

standing there in the store alone,
staring at the rows of shiny bottles perched
like sentinels guarding a deep, dark secret ,
gleaming like gemstones in a stream,
i reached for the shiniest.

standing in the kitchen alone,
i felt contentment well up inside me as i stuck the screw
into the soft, brown cork,
twisted it in

playful gurgling, as if from some mystic brook,
as the wine slipped out of the bottle,
and wound around the inside of my glass like a bloody serpent.

held to the light, it was a garnet sea.
held to my nose, a decent into the earth

                                                damp moss,

                                                            aging wood,

                                                                        cool stone,

                                                                                    brooding darkness
on my tongue
it was celestial!
i let the first sip linger for a moment
penetrating my darkness like a warm arrow,
slicing through my solitary world.
i gently swallowed and suddenly

                        i was no longer


…but you know, I truly was alone.

Addiction fostered isolation. The center of my universe, that to me was the sun, was really a black hole. No light escaped its reach and no social interaction got in the way of the drink. The drink came first.

Seductive, alluring…deceptive, it seeped into my skin and my psyche and made upside-down seem rightside-up.

I am grateful to be 7-years sober and do not want to ever go back that dark mirage again!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Never Underestimate Your Own Power!

Please forgive the shameless self-promotion - just wanted to share this shirt with you. This is my theme of the day!

Oh, crikey! I'll fill you in on why after my appointment with my {brilliant!} psychiatrist - which I'm about to be late for!

{i'm back}  I love this shirt {now}. I bought it for myself at Christmas, when my soul had begun to pour back into my body, and my spirit started to flicker back to life like the tiny little lights on our tree that had spent a year tucked away in the dusty attic. Christmas time for me was a time of awakening – and a time of reckoning.

The medication had brought me to a place were I could begin the work of recovery. I don’t think I realized it at the time just how much work it is to recover from depression and anxiety disorder - nor could I imagine the amount of effort it requires every day to stay on track. 

TM and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Fast forward to last week: recovering from a step backward, it ended up being one of the most successful weeks of my last decade! Not because I won any “major award”….

but, because I experienced a personal triumph over fear and isolation.

Though I am a big proponent of being open and honest, the thought of seeing my colleagues loomed large and heavy on my psyche when I returned to work in January - the what-will-people-think factor. My therapists at PHP {and in alcoholism recovery} tried to bolster us with identifying and correcting our negative thinking with things like, "it's none of your business what others think" or "you will never know what others think; focus on that which you can control" - all well and good when you are sitting in the warm, embracing arms of group therapy, but hard to remember when it's road-tested!

Because I now work part-time in a different department, I haven’t seen my former colleagues all that much, and when I’d pass them in the hall – especially my boss – there would be an awkward but polite exchange between us. This awkwardness has been gnawing at me for the past month, and I knew there was unfinished business needing attention – literally and figuratively.

Last week , when I headed to an all-staff meeting, I saw my boss again and we both said, Hi.  I proceeded to the meeting room, but stopped dead in my tracks. I turned around and walked back up to him. With a little humor and a smile, I told him that I'd been meaning to stop by; but we've not been at the office on the same days. I asked him when might be a good time to catch up about the past several months of my illness, and to follow-up on some remaining work issues. He was very pleased to chat and very supportive…and the next thing I knew, we had a lunch date scheduled for next week!

I headed back into the meeting room feeling a whole lot lighter. Facing the fear, and moving through it, did wonders for my confidence! The remainder of the week was stellar! I got a lot of school work and work work done, AND I reached out to friends that I hadn't spoken to in years! I now have a date to do coffee with one of my best friends!


RECOVERY LESSON #1: To break through the wall of depression / anxiety, you must take your sword to the heart of the beast - even if you can barely lift it. You cannot go around the beast to win the battle. You must move through the fear, move through isolation – even if it feels like it will burn a hole in your stomach! The rewards for doing so are too rich!!

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…we must do that which we think we cannot.


UPDATE (3/1/13): The one thing I failed to take into account when careful what you say - your words will haunt you. I am struggling a little today - trying to accept my "disease", that it even is a disease in the first place, and I am struggling against the pull of the vortex. But then I thought about my own bloody words, " must take your sword to the heart of the beast - even if you can barely lift it." Guess I better lift the damn thing...if only to maintain my blogging integrity.So if nothing else, I'm doing it for you, dear readers.