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4 Lessons I Learned From My Online Dating Relapse

My loneliness isn’t the absence of another person in my presence. It’s the fear that I’m completely unanchored to a consistent, stable support system. Unattached, Uncertain, Unstable. As though life’s waves could sweep me away at any time.

I have a small confession to make. A relapse of sorts.

I signed back in to a dating app and I swiped.

I swear it was only one time!

Ok, I mean it was only for the one weekend and that’s ALL I did! Only swiping. We didn’t meet in person, there were no dates, we didn’t talk on the phone. You have to believe me!

Feels good to admit it actually…..and that IS the first step, ….right???img_1201

Relapse humor aside, swiping is a major RED FLAG for me, something I’ve used to numb myself from real life. So when I realized I was backsliding into this addictive behavior pattern, I knew I couldn’t let it escalate. I had to dig deep to figure out why. Why wasn’t I content with my own company? What was missing? What was I avoiding?

When I got to the core of it, I was surprised to find that I’m actually kind of lonely right now.

I didn’t think this was possible for me – I’ve been a mom since I was 16, so there’s always been at least one other human around me. I tend to keep my days very busy…multiple jobs, volunteer work, and a decently full social roster. Or maybe I’ve just been oblivious. Being an expert at chemically numbing discomfort, I’ve probably been totally unaware.

Now that I’m sober and giving myself permission to feel all the raw feelings. It’s one thing to feel them; harder to accept them.

Like any good relapse, my tinder-lapse started weeks before I participated in the behavior. The environment around me had become particularly stressful. In a short period of time, I bailed someone out of jail, helped another into a detox center, and handled a series of drunk-texts – both from friends and a potential client. 

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My phone felt like a ticking time bomb; I was nervous that every call or text was another negative or triggering notification, and I started taking it personally. “Did I cause this? Am I helping too much? Not helping enough? Is my sobriety doomed? Don’t they love me enough to stay sober?”

As my safety net of sober friends dwindled, emotions that I’ve made a lot of progress coping with– like doubt and fear – compounded. Before I knew it I was deep in a pile of self pity.

“My friends are all relapsing. My friends are not OK. Sobriety isn’t guaranteed. My future is unclear. I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any security. I’m not OK.”

The “I’M NOT OK” neighborhood is a scary place to hang out, and seems like it’s never ending. It’s a strong trigger for all kinds of addictions, because it makes us feel lonely. “LONELY” is one of the key 4 emotions that recovery specialists encourage us to avoid or immediately remedy before they spiral out of control.

H.A.L.T. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. img_1203

Hungry Angry and Tired? Those I can relate to. Anger in particular triggers me. But I’d ignored “lonely” because “it doesn’t pertain to me.” When it snuck up, I was taken by surprise without a plan of action.

My experience of loneliness has little to do with being physically “Alone”. I love time to myself, and boredom is hardly in my vocabulary. I don’t lay in bed at night wishing someone was there with me, it doesn’t depress me to travel with just my dog.

My loneliness isn’t the absence of another person in my presence. It’s the fear that I’m completely unanchored to a consistent, stable support system. Unattached, Uncertain, Unstable. As though life’s waves could sweep me away at any time. I notice it when I fill out a form at the doctor, and there’s no name for me to write in the spot “emergency contact”. My heart sinks. I begin to think that maybe I’ll never have an emergency contact. I picture myself a little old lady, puttering in the house, losing her keys, and having no one there to remind me where I put them. I know… I’m totally aware that I’m ‘catastrophizing’. But these are the kinds of thoughts that convince us to “settle” for a partner that’s totally wrong for us. The kind of thoughts that feel so uncomfortable, we might just do anything to avoid them. Like drink. Or go on an unadvisable date.

Two years ago, I had 3 men in my life/family that I felt I could call on at any time to be there and save the day if I needed. Today, for different reasons, I don’t. One of them is my father, who passed in 2017 – there’s no doubt this is a major factor in why I feel so unhinged.

This isn’t to say I DON’T have a support system. I do! A wonderful tribe of women (and some great guy friends) that love and encourage and empower me. Depressed and anxious thoughts aren’t generally based in reality though. Gone unchecked, they’ll swarm through my psyche and before I know it, they’re in the drivers seat of my behavior.

In the midst of this loneliness tempest, feeling like there was nothing solid to grasp onto, I reached for the next best thing – a virtual connection. Any port in a storm right? Ten swipes later and bingo – a selection of potential  “shelters” displayed in front of me. Substitute sanctuaries for a floundering female.

You know where this is going though….there’s no romantic fairy tale ending. No knight in shining armor arrived on horseback to rescue this princess.

A few vapid conversations and a boatload of disappointment later, I realized I’d made a major detour that wasn’t leading where I wanted.

I LIKE being single. And I LOVE the forward progress my life is taking since become sober and focusing on self love and self actualization. But conditions got rough, and I got scared. I went right back to needing to “get high” off the little ego strokes my phone offered. “You have a match” “Jeff sent you a message!” It increased my dopamine, and soothed my fears –  in a superficial, temporary way. img_1202

So what can I do differently, to prevent going down this rabbit hole of seeking out external validation? Because trust me – it WILL happen again. Triggering events are not going to go away. Life will continue to be difficult sometimes. And online dating apps will always be there, even if I delete them time and time again.

Here are the 4 lessons I learned to prevent future relapse and cope with the loneliness in a healthier way:

1. Make Boundaries 

Relapse happens in the recovery community. I can’t control external events, but I can create safe, compassionate boundaries. Example: I called my friend and told him that I won’t respond to his drunk texts, even if he’s being nice or funny. My boundary: creating space for genuine communication. This was really empowering, and he responded by thanking me for my honesty and willingness to forgive

2. Know the Emotions.

Until now, I didn’t even know I felt lonely. Noticing the triggering emotion and naming it helps us deal with it. “I feel scared.” “I don’t feel safe.” “This feels like loneliness.” Pinpoint where you feel it in your body. My lonely feeling is heaviness in my shoulders and tightness in my chest. Knowing where it is helps me notice it early, so I can tackle it early.

3. Question Your thoughts. 

“I’m not safe” – Is this true? No, I’m perfectly safe. I’m alive, breathing and well. “I don’t have anybody”. I have lots of somebodies! I have friends I can call right now. “Dating will fix everything. I just need someone to like me.” I know this isn’t true. I’m seeking immediate gratification.

4. Increase positive energy.

Where do you spend your time? What’s the usual content of your thoughts? Get involved with a program that has members with long term recovery who offer solid support. Listen to or read solution-based self-improvement materials. Begin a routine of daily meditations and self-affirmations.

Dating apps themselves are not overtly “bad”. My use of them is a behavior that I’ve identified as risky and potentially self-harmful. Dating can easily escalate into a drinking relapse for me, and is a co-dependent behavior that reinforces “I am not good enough alone”. Seeking male attention, and feeling insecure being alone, is generally because I’ve let self care lapse and I’ve not adhered to my boundaries. Someday, this won’t be the case. I’ll have made strides in my health, and will be ready. I trust myself completely to know when I’m there (and I likely won’t be swiping for a significant other.)

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Participating in life according to my values means focusing on mindful, honest, compassion towards others and myself. I can do this by setting boundaries, exploring emotions, and responding with care, not out of habit or fear. This season in my life is one of Radical Self Love, and that means some things are going to have to shift. It’s not easy, but that’s ok. And I’m ok. I’m perfectly safe, supported and totally OK.

Have you ever created a destructive distraction in your life out of fear or loneliness?
What would it feel like if you could STOP yourself from making a choice that will haunt you tomorrow?
I would LOVE to support you.  I would love to share all of the valuable tools I have learned that support me in making healthier choices, one day at a time.
Everyone deserves to live a sober life FREE from the fear of relapse – whatever your current vice may be.

If you want to discuss how working together could offer you support and accountability in this area, please schedule a FREE discovery call by emailing me at tiffany@recoverandrise.com or go to this link https://calendly.com/tiffany-59/30min

Why May 17th Is My Golden Anniversay

Kintsukuroi, or kintsugi, is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. The end result is gorgeous; the cracks in the dish glow with precious metal. The “broken” pieces unquestionably make the piece valuable.

I’ve never been one for anniversaries – just ask any of my ex husbands. (audience laughter here, please)

Nor have I been one to observe annual memorials – at least not in the way many people do – visiting a gravesite, or sending a card on a specific day each year. I honor my loved ones and memories in other ways, but annual dates – whether I associate them as “bad” or “good” – don’t necessarily cause me anxiety, grief, suffering, or reason for celebration.

There is one date I’ve become particularly attached to however.

May 17th, 2016.

The day my life as I knew it fell apart. It was the best thing that could have happened to me because my life as I knew it was filled with craving for pills and alcohol, shame, dishonesty, fear and pain. I was given a chance to make myself whole again, and since that day I’ve been gathering the pieces of my life and inspecting them for damage; letting go of what no longer fits and gluing the rest back together.

Have you heard of Kintsukoroi? dreamstime_xxl_111631404

More beautiful having been broken. Glued back together with gold.

Kintsukuroi, or kintsugi, is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. The end result is gorgeous; the cracks in the dish glow with precious metal. The “broken” pieces unquestionably make the piece valuable.

May 17th is not the memorial of a tragedy, a day to mourn or shame myself for my failures.

May 17th is my Golden Anniversary – the day I was given an opportunity to become a Kintsukoroi creation, although I couldn’t have known it at the time.

On the night of May 16th, I’d walked in to work at the hospital, planning to spend a 12 hour shift there, as I had at least 3 nights a week for the last 11 years. Instead, a whirlwind of activity occurred, and after giving a urine sample to the Human Resources director, I was escorted from the property with the advice to basically “not call us, we’ll call you.”

That was a dark night, and I won’t soon forget the fear in my heart, lying awake, and alone, knowing there wasn’t a lie big enough to get me out of that one.

But morning came, and with it – the light. The twisted road of recovery lay before me, along with the hope that I could reconstruct my brokenness into something beautiful.

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A year later, on May 17th, 2017 I wrote my first “recovery blog post.” You may remember reading it; likely open mouthed, shocked to learn that your family member/friend/co-worker is a substance abuse statistic.

Perhaps you weren’t shocked at all, but felt disappointed, sad, or empathetic. While I may be the “face” of addiction in this picture, I knw there are many more involved that are hurting, due to my actions. Blogging about my journey has been a significant part of the “golden glue”, working to repair the fractures in my relationships.

And now….May 17th, 2018.

Another year has passed and I have another opportunity to reflect on my transformation. I want to honor the broken pieces while looking forward and shaping myself into what I hope is a more empowered, beneficial family member, friend and citizen of humanity.

On this Golden Anniversary, I get to publicly announce my business:

Recover and Rise, LLC. Life and Recovery Coaching for Your Highest Wellbeing.

http://www.recoverandrise.com

A year ago, the idea was born that I’d somehow use my experience to help others. I wasn’t even aware that recovery coaches existed, but came across this type of sobriety support while looking for my own recovery resources.  Life and recovery coaching expressed exactly what I had envisioned, and since making the decision to become a dual certified coach, it’s been a seamless process. Not without challenges, but seamless in the sense I’ve felt in complete alignment with my soul, my vision and my values as I’ve moved forward in the process. I’ve been lit up with creativity, intuition and love in a way I’ve not felt before.

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I’m also unbelievably blessed to be connected with She Recovers as a designated coach. More on my experiences with them in future blogs….These women are truly conquering the world with compassion and changing the face of recovery for the better.

As I’ve planned the upcoming website launch and celebration, I’ve been surprised by even more gifts of recovery…..and I’ll share them with you when I can! Hint: they involve my name and my writing elsewhere on the internet…..

Today also brought one thing that was less of a surprise. A “Random” urine drug test. Thanks for thinking of me guys!!! I’ve got 2 years completed in the nurse monitoring program. As the nurse who watched me pee today said “Another urine test down, another one closer to graduation.” She couldn’t be more right!!!

This is a day of celebration; an anniversary of falling in love with myself again. 

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For those of you that have followed me here-

THANK YOU!!! I LOVE YOU.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. This blog is going to continue in this space, under it’s new name Scrubbed Clean. I hope you’ll continue to read and share to spread the message of love.

Please consider signing up for my newsletter, which will be available soon via my website. You’ll get alerts about new blog posts, special offers and lots of  love and gratitude –  but absolutely no extra B.S.!!! There’s also a “blog section” on the website which will have even more content that I hope is relatable and makes a difference in someone’s life.

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Other places to stay current with happenings in my life and business are http://www.facebook.com/recoverandrise and @scrubbedcleanrn (ig) for sweet deals the next few days….giveaways and discounts! 

And please, if you or someone you know is suffering with substances, ask for help. Whether it’s from me, another coach, or program of your choice. Everyone deserves sobriety and self love – no one deserves to suffer in shame.

You can now contact me at my new email tiffany@recoverandrise.com as well as schedule calls directly through my website!

Stay tuned blog family!!! You’ll be hearing a lot more from me!

Cheer and Gratitude, 

Tiffany 

Founder*Author*Advocate 

Recover & Rise, LLC

My 3 Worst Moments As A Nurse; And It’s Probably Not What You Think.

Gossip, condescending to, or otherwise being negative toward colleagues remain embarrassing marks on my nursing record – especially considering I view myself an advocate and mentor for new residents and student nurses.

Nurse’s week brings out the best in our profession- not to mention hilarious memes, ice cream floats served by supervisors, and pizza parties paid for by administration.

“Happy Nurse’s Week” on banners in every door way remind us to take pride in our career, and that nurses are made of caring and compassion- essentially “sugar and spice and everything nice”. While our hearts agree, those of us working in the trenches know this isn’t always accurate.

You may be shocked to hear this, but even I’m not always a perfect gem to work with; I too have had moments acting like an utter A$$. In 17 years total working in healthcare there are 3** scenarios that stand out in my memory, where my ego and poor judgment won over my good sense and training. Gossip, condescending to, or otherwise being negative toward colleagues remain embarrassing marks on my nursing record – especially considering I view myself an advocate and mentor for new residents and student nurses.

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Who would believe I could be anything other than adorable? 😉

**Caveat: My personal life/substance abuse affecting my workplace is hands down my biggest regret and humiliation- conversely, it’s also evolved into some of my greatest achievements. For once I’m not writing about my addiction/recovery**

**Caveat #2: I know I’ve gossiped more than 3 times in 17 years. You may be someone who has witnessed that, and I offer sincere apologies. There is only much space…So I’ve limited this to the 3 most memorable & interesting situations.

#1 – Twenty years old, wide eyed and naive, I was employed in my first “grown up job” as a dialysis technician. Although already Mom to a 3 year old, I was still growing beyond the emotional maturity of a high schooler. When one coworker confided in me about how difficult it was working with another woman in our department, I viewed the gossip as a conduit to creating an intimate connection. My ego inflated as I was taken into confidence, and I easily agreed with the “poor qualities” and “difficulties” of a woman I hardly knew or worked with. My eager chatter did not go unnoticed, as the subject of our gossip was listening from a nearby hall. Later that day, sitting across from her, tears ran down her cheeks.  Years ahead of me in life and work experience, I had managed to cause her significant pain with my selfish choice of words. She felt worthless, and asked me sincerely if I thought she should leave the job. Tripping over myself verbally, my own tears spilled over. There was nowhere to hide, no way to lie or avoid what I’d done. I simply had to face her and apologize. In reality, there was nothing I didn’t like about her. But my ego had eclipsed my good judgement and I’d traded in my integrity for the instant gratification of gossip. In hindsight, there was a positive outcome. She accepted my apology, the air was cleared between all 3 of us, and I received an education on trust and teamwork. Gossiping was cowardly, and she taught me courage by confronting me herself and asking for clarification. It took a lot of bravery to do that. Ultimately I’m glad she overheard, and I’m grateful she was generous enough to allow me the opportunity to apologize without involving management. The weight of my words and gravity of their consequences was clear. P.S. – gossiping in a hallway when the person is there at work is just dumb. But that’s not the point – at all.

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#2 – “Kelly” called “I need Help!” from a patient’s room and I jumped from my chair. Arriving at the edge of the bed, it was clear the patient wasn’t breathing. More nurses rushed in. Terrified but wanting to be useful I said “I’ll page the doctor!” (this was before the days of Rapid Response or Code teams on the floors) “Kelly – what team is your patient under?” I needed to know which doctor- or team- was overseeing this patient’s care so I could call the right one. “I don’t know.” He replied calmly. I stopped in the hall –YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TEAM YOUR PATIENT’S ON???!!!” By nature, I am not a yeller. In fact, my students have labeled me “the valium in the room” due to my calm demeanor, especially in a crisis. But on that day, in front of everyone, I lost it. Stress and fear caused me to lose my ability to communicate appropriately. How could he NOT KNOW something so VITAL!!!!??? I must be SOOOO much better than him, right???? Obviously, him not having 100% of the details equates to me being the superior nurse!!! In actuality, of course, this DID NOT matter. Kelly had years of nursing experience. He knew exactly where to find this info if and when he needed it – in the chart or on the computer. I, on the other hand, was a new nurse. I spent the first hour of every shift attempting to memorize each detail of my patient’s chart prior to giving care, due to my overwhelming fear of this exact circumstance – being caught by another team member without the right information at a crucial moment. It’s a legitimate fear. We scandalize other nurses ALL THE TIME for this “failure” It’s a behavior I wish I could eliminate from our occupation. Yelling in the workplace is never OK, but often this condescending verbiage is delivered quietly or comes disguised as “being helpful”. This doesn’t make it right. I’ve had to do some serious inquiry around my intentions when I’m showing someone information, or questioning why they don’t have all the facts. Lucky for me, Kelly was a good friend and got over my outburst fairly quickly, even though he was irritated and embarrassed. We’ve had a lot laughter over it. These days, there are more shifts than not where I couldn’t tell you the team or the doctor caring for my patient – but I know exactly where to find it. And I know I’d feel like total Sh!# if someone yelled at me demanding that – or any- information. A decade later, this memory still keeps me humble.

#3 – Turns out I didn’t learn my lesson after all from scenario #1. Just last year, standing at the nurse’s station I let some foul words escape from my mouth. There was a particular nurse that simply rubbed me the wrong way. Doesn’t mean she’s wrong, or bad, or incompetent –  just means we didn’t mesh. But I started taking it personally. I formed the idea that MY time is more valuable than HER time, and became increasingly annoyed during shift report. So annoyed, in fact, that I said to the charge nurse in public “Seriously? 5 days in a row? Do I have to give report to her again? You’ve got to be kidding me.” AND…..You guessed it. She was standing right there. Not realizing it at the time, another nurse let me know that the she had walked away in tears over it. I wasn’t quite ready to be remorseful, “Well, I meant what I said. She’ll get over it.” Even I was surprised at the tone of my words. Not to excuse myself, but I was at my wit’s end with life. Hindsight has enabled me to see exactly what led me to act like such an ogre. Too many shifts in a row, right after the death of my father, had caused fatigue. Caring for a patient who was dying from the same disease as my father led to a total numbing of my emotions. There was simply not one compassionate cell left in my body. I stewed for a shift, not liking myself at all. Once I determined that I needed to atone for my actions, I did what any mature, leadership-inclined nurse versed in crucial conversations would do; I sent an apology via Facebook messenger. I really did. But I also asked if she would meet me in person. Here’s the thing; I did kind of mean what I said: I didn’t enjoy giving or getting report from her. It was longer and more detailed and scattered than I prefer. None of that gives me the right to act that way. Trust me, I learned. I ate serious crow, and still get a little sick thinking about it. While I stand by my opinion, that’s ALL it is. An opinion. I unconditionally concede that the delivery was straight up Mean Girl and the words had no business leaving my mouth.

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Slipping into the bad habits of gossip and coworker shaming is easy to do. The high stress, ego-happy environment, variety of personalities working long hours together, and a whole slough of human factors have us searching for scapegoats to as an outlet for our elevated emotions. Gossip is especially seductive, because of it’s instant, cheap way of making us feel intimately connected, or in possession of some type of power.

“Stop the Lateral Violence” sounds like political propaganda. But friends, seriously. Let’s stop the lateral violence. If you’re impatient with newer staff, remember that you WERE the “young” once, and you didn’t want to be “eaten”. If your ego is ruling your behavior, recall a time when you’ve made a mistake, needed help, or didn’t immediately know an answer. It’s not just the new nurses that this happens to.

Compassion for others has boundless scientifically proven benefits. For every thought in our head that becomes a word from our mouths, there’s a moment to consider and decide – will my words be useful and will they be kind? Can I picture a time when I’ve been in this person’s shoes? Every opportunity to communicate is an opportunity to create a wound or create a connection.

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If you experience bullying or lateral violence in the workplace, speak up to a safe resource. (Contact me if you need support doing this). And if you notice it happening around you, find a way to effectively intervene, and most importantly, be a positive role model.

For more information on cultivating Compassion, go to http://www.mindingthebedside.com, or read Jerome Stone’s book “Minding the Bedside; Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind”.

*Providence Everett*  – An 8 week Compassion Cultivation course is offered FREE of charge a few times a year! Please email me for details tiffany@recoverandrise.com

To learn more about working together and my life/recovery coaching programs, email me to schedule a FREE discovery call!

Cheers and Gratitude,

Tiffany

The Saturday Night I Met Myself

In my drinking days, his being a practical stranger would have been the perfect rationale for me to swipe on some lip-gloss, grab my purse and follow him to the bar.

It’s not that long ago I would have said yes.

“I’m headed to the Train Wreck. Come with! You can’t just sit here on a Saturday Night!”

My girlfriend and I were settled on the couch, brownies in the oven. Leaving Utopia wasn’t an option. I could have made the excuse that I don’t drink, but didn’t bother. He was just a guy renting my guest room for the weekend; we’d probably never see each other again.

In my drinking days, his being a practical stranger would have been the perfect rationale for me to swipe on some lip-gloss, grab my purse and follow him to the bar.

There was an awkward pause after he asked…as though he couldn’t believe we would turn down his offer. How could we be satisfied sitting home, when we could be perched on a barstool next to him, indulging in the drink special of the night?

“Oh, you’re serious? Staying home on a weekend? Well, have a good night.”

We nodded and I said “Drive home safe. Call if you need a ride. Don’t drink too much and drive.”

My own response surprised me.

Who was I?

Where was the girl that would do anything to get numb and avoid reality?Even if it meant ditching her friend for an unattractive, unknown guy and a bar literally called the Train Wreck? Where was the girl who would shove the voice of reason so far down it couldn’t be heard, then walk out the door avoiding every flapping red flag?

What about the girl who by 8pm on a Saturday had already consumed a bottle of wine or some ungodly amount of IPA, but would still jump at the offer to drive everyone to the bar?

I was that girl. The girl who would trade a perfectly nice night at home with my dog and my friend, for a night of so-called adventure; even if it meant risking my safety, sobriety, and sanity. The so-called adventure never came to fruition of course. The most exciting thing that would happen was chatting up a greasy stranger and making plans which I had no intention of following up on, but for an hour or two they’d be my best friend and soul mate while we bullshitted at the bartop.

Eventually I’d realize I was the only one left, and after finagling one more drink out of the bartender, the “adventure” would continue: me driving home drunk, followed by a confusing sense of elation having made it home without getting pulled over. The elation would fade away with the drunkenness, leaving only a pathetic, fuzzy memory of secrets shared with my “new best friend”, a mouth resembling a cat’s litter box, and my self worth replaced with soul eating shame.

Ican still touch those memories.

I can reach back into them and experience the sadness and fear. It’s not a stretch to see myself in hindsight and pinpoint the exact minute a bad decision was made. I have a few lingering regrets and a ton of compassion for the hours I spent with my legs wrapped around a barstool.

But I don’t stay there. I don’t go under so far that it takes my breath and is a struggle to come back. Because while I might remember what she looked like and how she acted; I am in no way her any longer.

On this Saturday night, I realized how true this is. I’m the girl that genuinely feels excited for a night of brownies and SNL. Honestly concerned that someone might drink and drive, I’m the girl that offers to be D.D. (kind of halfheartedly, ‘cuz I’m loving my pajamas and no way do I want to leave my house past 9pm; but I do care enough to pick up if he calls).

I’m the girl that laughs louder and bigger and realer than I ever did drunk; that’s impressed by the new flavor of sparkling water in my fridge, that is grateful to be planted in my recliner with my dog. Not as a consolation prize either – thinking I need a break from all the partying I’ve been doing. This is the grand champion of Saturdays. This is the me that experiences zero FOMO when it comes to others’ weekend plans.

I’m the girl that looks forward to hangover- free, early morning runs and pancakes. That loves herself and her friends and shows it by not trading time with them for random male attention. The girl that doesn’t feel provoked, even when the drink invitation comes in the form of a dare. I’m the girl who does not for one second miss the smell of the inside of a bar; and who considers time spent at the Train Wreck a legitimate risk of becoming exactly that.

I didn’t know I was this girl…..and then suddenly, I did. Glowing gently from the inside, I found myself. I had been here all along.

There was nothing more I needed, and nowhere I needed to go. Nothing to numb, avoid or search for.

“You sure you’re staying home? It could be fun….”

And the girl who is ME answered uncompromisingly:

“Of course I’m staying home, everything I want is here.”

I’m the girl that’s recovered. Recovering. Recovered.

If you had any doubts, I’m living proof. We can and DO recover.

Cheers and Gratitude,

Tiffany

Thank you for reading! If you like what you read here, follow me @scrubbedcleanrn (IG and Twitter) and learn more about how to work with me as your personal Life/Recovery Coach at facebook.com/recoverandrise/

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Thank you for reading! If you like what you read here, follow me @scrubbedcleanrn (IG and Twitter) and learn more about how to work with me as your personal Life/Recovery Coach at facebook.com/recoverandrise/

Rumor Has It

If you hear a “rumor” about me, it’s probably true. Instead of acting appalled, or taking it personally, I preempt any problems by leading the conversation myself. And if it’s not true, well…. I just don’t have the time.

“Oh no…. you don’t want to tell anyone THAT…. Coworkers can be catty – Think of the rumors they’ll spread.”

This was the loving support a good friend offered me as we discussed how much and how publicly I share my personal life and history of addiction. To be honest, I’d like to share more – the details are kind of fascinating. But I respect the institution I work for, and I acknowledge that “War stories” or “drugalogs” (as they’re called in recovery circles) while great for shock value, aren’t really effective in the healing journey or the end of shame and stigma. I don’t share for fun; I share with the intent to empower.img_9476

Here’s the deal..rumors aren’t even on my radar of problems to worry about it. I’ve got way more practical things to tackle, and really, what’s the point of putting on pretense? If you hear a “rumor” about me, it’s probably true. Instead of acting appalled, or taking it personally, I preempt problems by leading the conversation myself. And if it’s not true, well…. I just don’t have the time.

It is not the gossip that causes the pain – It’s my relationship to the gossip. I choose not to engage in that relationship.

One leading reason humans spread rumors is explained like this (and in my experience it’s true): it makes us feel powerful to “own” and “share” information. I can say for a fact that’s partly why I participate. (That feels kind of icky to say, but it’s totally true.)

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When the subject of the gossip sets the tone with transparency and vulnerability -when they own the information themselves, or refuse to be owned by the information –  they take back the power.

Here’s an example:

“Tiffany had to go to drug treatment and ended up in the program for nurses who divert!”

Yep. Sure did. And I’ve since sat down with administration and HR and told them a lot more than the ‘Rumormill’ is even aware of. It was a relief and a blessing in disguise, as I continue to work at the same hospital. More importantly, I’m sober, and a willing participant in my own beautiful, messy life.

When I own my truth and arm myself with self-love, rumors can’t do any damage.

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Some may think that while I can de-personalize rumors, it’s just not possible for others. Words hurt; opinions matter. Friend…. I see you, and I hear you. I wasn’t born fearless, courageous or unconditionally self-assured. I’ve had a close, intimate relationship with fear. In fact…Fear, Shame and I have been engaged in a ‘menage a trois’ for years (Not to mention my frequent trysts with self doubt, anxiety, and depression.)  Ending these unions was long overdue.

I know how it feels to live life based on “shoulds”, social norms, and shame. My 3 wedding dresses are the most glaring evidence; proving my keen decision making based on fear of what others will think, and the distorted beliefs of the path my life “should” take.

But the new me – the SELF that’s been uncovered through adversity-  is committed in a long term, poly amorous affair with Love, Acceptance, and Compassion. There are boundaries in this relationship with myself  – and guidelines that are no longer dependent on the opinions of others.

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This hasn’t always been easy or gentle.

For the first few months after returning to work, I hardly made eye contact. Avoiding public places like the cafeteria at all costs, I placed 99% of my family, friends and coworkers on a “do not tell” list, pretending I could wait out the 5 years of probation as though it never happened. I quickly realized that living in sober secrecy meant living outside my integrity. To become whole, to be comfortable in my own skin, I needed to stop giving power to other’s opinions.

I needed to show up at the cafeteria, buy a piece of pizza, and look my coworkers in the eye when I said hello.

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Guess what? It worked. Summoning the courage of those I admire – the women before me that have not only survived but are thriving through their challenges – I bought that first piece of pizza, and made it through the first hard conversation. Hands shaking,  I raised my eyes from the floor and showed myself that I believe in myself. It takes deep breaths and a concerted effort, but for the sake of anyone who might need to borrow my strength, I’m going to keep showing up.img_9347

Nobody likes to be the subject of a rumor. It’s human nature to crave acceptance, and we are culturally conditioned to care WAYYY too much about “popular” opinion. We all want to fit in and avoid having our name splashed across a tabloid.

What if we all stopped living that way? What if we collectively agreed on our innate worth and stated “I love my SELF, flaws and all. I own my truth, even the broken pieces. Rumors don’t affect how I live my life. Gossip won’t force me to stay out of the cafeteria.” And what if we meant it?

The power would fizzle out, slowly but surely. And each one of us would become exquisitely empowered.

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Until next time- trying to watch my own mouth, and the gossip I might be spreading. We’re all a work in progress.

Cheers & Gratitude,

Tiffany

Like what you read? Can you relate? Like and share!!!

Choose Wisely in The Cave of Time

What if???? Did I bypass a princess ending? Or avoid certain disaster? One thing I’m perfectly sure of is that I dodged a bullet (and probably an STD or two) by turning down Mr. Anselmo. That much is clear.

Does life ever make you wonder if you’ve done everything a$$-backwards? Do you ever look back and say What. The. Hell.??? How did I land here?

Sober. Single. Speed walking towards the other side of 40.

Did I miss important opportunities? Overlook the love of my life? Turn left when I should have turned right? What about all those roads not taken….?

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Reflecting on this made me think of “Choose Your Adventure Books”. Remember those? They’re stories with alternative endings depending on which page you turn to. What if life was like that, and we could go back and choose a different outcome? If I could rewind and make some of my “No”s a “Yes”…What would life look like? What if I’d picked a different fork in any of the following roads…? I’m all about forward progress but everyone once in while, a memory comes up and makes me wonder….

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  • The Sweet Stranger One: A young man with an alluring smile followed me in to work and asked directions to a hospital department. But I was a glowing bride to be with a ring on my finger and eyes for no one else. After helping him out, we parted ways. The next morning after my shift I found a business card tucked into the windshield wiper on my car. “You’re so beautiful, I had to take a chance. Please contact me if you’re interested”.  My ego lit up with flattery and I emailed him to say that while he was charming, I was engaged. I applauded his courage but let him down easy. Truthfully? I kept the card for awhile, in my glove box. Not with any plans to contact him, but as a reminder of the sweet gesture, his kind smile and the risk he took. Of course now that card is long gone…..
  • The Rock Star One:
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    He could have been have been my one true love….Phil of Pantera

    As a rebellious Rock N Roll loving teen I followed Pantera around on one of their tours. After the shows my friends and I would hang around getting autographs and handing six packs of beer over the fence to the band members. I wore ripped up jeans (which I still own!) and a tiny tank top covered in rock star’s signatures. At the end of one show the band’s security came up to me  “Phil wants you to come to his bus” they said. Speechless, I followed, and came face to face with Pantera lead singer and metal legend, Phil Anselmo. He invited me to join him inside the bus. Somehow I sputtered”Sorry, I have a boyfriend! We’re going to get married!” He smirked. “You sure about that? What are you, 18?” I was 19 actually. He laughed but wished me good luck. Imagine the story that could have been, if I’d seen the inside of that tour bus!….. Or maybe don’t imagine it. Ew. That’s one memory I’m glad didn’t go any further.

  • The Doctor One: Me – A fresh faced nurse with a pretty red ponytail. Him- a dashingly handsome doctor (he gets better looking every time I tell the story). The scene- my very first “code blue”  – an emergency situation in patient care. While I tried to keep my head on straight, Mr. Doctor was confidently running the show from the back of the room. Later that day I was told he’d asked about me….was I available? Sadly, I was not. Just one less scene from Grey’s Anatomy played out in my life.
  • The Grocery Store One: He kept running into me in different aisles, and eventually commented on my hair which was brilliantly red and up in a messy bun. “I hope it’s ok to tell you… your hair looks great.” My face turned as red as my hair. I smiled a thank you, and left. I got to my car and that same guy drove up in a truck “I’m so sorry,” he said “I never do this…but would you have coffee with me?” He pointed to the Starbucks attached to the store “We could go now if you have time?” I was so impressed by his courage I wanted to say yes. “I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend” I told him. But I also applauded his audacity and told him I thought it would pay off someday. Wonder if he still buys his produce at that grocery store?
  • The Never Single at the Same Time One: Years ago, I was at a pub with a group of female and male colleagues. I’d worked with one guy in particular in a variety of departments, and over the years each of us had been single at turns. Somewhat reserved and stunningly good looking, we’d chatted in passing but never spent any time together outside of work. Like every other red blooded female, I had a perfectly harmless secret crush. We were all tipsy, taking turns dancing together to the live music in the bar. As it changed to a slow song, I found myself in a moment of drunken lucidity; my head rested against his shoulder as we both shyly admitted to each other …..if we’d only ever been single at the same time…..if only he’d asked me before the other guy….if only I’d spoken up before he met the other girl….and then it was over, with a mutual smile as the song ended. Never talked about in the light of day, and no regrets. Except for a hangover the next morning, and a bit of a blush wondering if he remembers too.
  • The Canadian one: He’s 23, “foreign”, and drives a fast red Camaro. I’m 18 and he likes me! He “likes me likes me!” I couldn’t have been more infatuated and naive, and quickly learned the definition of “booty call”.  One night over the phone he surprised me with a proposal…would I marry him? Stunned, I stuttered out a “no thank you” while he tried to convince me of the mutual benefits of a Canadian/American wedlock. He wanted a green card and he wasn’t afraid to ask for it candidly. My answer was an emphatic No Way. But I wonder if he’s still willing? That offer sounds more attractive every day….

What if???? Did I bypass a princess ending? Or avoid certain disaster? One thing I’m perfectly sure of is that I dodged a bullet (and probably an STD or two) by turning down Mr. Anselmo. That much is clear.

Wouldn’t it be nice  if life was like the books and we could peek ahead to see the ending? Do we solve the mystery and have great success, or end up lost in a cave or stranded on an island? No worries! Just turn back the page, and pick a different ending! “Take that Space Vampire! You can’t get me if I turn to page 43 instead!” It would be just like saying “Take that divorce! You can’t hurt me car accident! No problem job opportunity I turned down! I’ll just pick a different ending!”

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It takes practice, but I’m beginning to allow the past to be past, and the future to stay where it belongs. This ability to “Accept what is” and to “Be here now” has never been my default mode. In recovery, I’m learning to counteract my brain’s reactive nature – the need to know, fix everything, agonize over details. It gets easier with daily meditations and a conscious decision to let go of attachments and accept each moment as it comes.

My goal is to experience each chapter of my life with compassionate curiosity vs. an urgency to control. I want to spend less time grieving what could have been, shaming myself for what I “should” have done, or hoping “someday” I’ll find happiness. In my experience, living in the past or the future – anywhere except for in this moment now – causes unnecessary suffering. No more wallowing in the “what might have been” memories, and no trying to force-write an ending that isn’t meant to be. Besides that, no one likes a spoiler.

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Trying to shut up and live life gratefully as it happens…..

Cheers and Gratitude,

Tiffany

Requiem For a Dream

I try to maintain a compassionate awareness of my own vulnerabilities, and only expose myself to the pain of my past if there’s a purpose. Dreams don’t give me that option – they arrive unsolicited and unregulated, then hang around haunting me until I put them to use or find a way to release them.

Last week I dreamed that the WHPS program (accountability company that monitors healthcare professionals for impairment) had a new way of checking us for drug use. They would scrape the skin off the pads of our fingers, digging a few layers deep and send the sample to the lab.

Three of my fingers on either side were scraped, then the palm for good measure. They didn’t bleed (because dreams are weird) but it was painful and violating and frightening. My dream self knew if they went deep enough they’d find drugs. My lab work came back like this:

Swedeen, Tiffany

opiates: large (?) amounts detected

I’m not sure what the question mark meant, but I was hoping there was some mistake in the process and that I’d get a free pass. Then I desperately tried to come up with some kind of excuse for why my test was positive, but woke up before any conclusion.

 

Skin scraping is extreme, but not that far off from reality. WHPS reserves the right to check our blood, hair follicles, saliva and fingernails if urine is inconsistent. Twice in almost 2 years of membership I’ve had a urine discrepancy – one “abnormal” reading and one “dilute”. The abnormal? No idea. My pee was off that day I guess, not feeling up to it’s normal self.

The dilute? Now that just pissed me off. (Pun intended). I had gone to the lab in the morning before work, but my first sample was about 5ml short on volume. Here’s what happens when you can’t pee enough: You’re allowed to drink 40oz of water max, and you get as many tries as possible in a 3 hr window. You cannot leave the building. So I sat in the waiting room sipping water from dixie cups (they count each one you drink) and in 45 min felt the urge to pee. Also felt the urge to get the F out of there and get to work! Back to the bathroom I went. My belongings were locked up, pockets searched, and I again squatted in place over a cup.img_8822

Guess what? 5ml short. I couldn’t believe it. Time was ticking.

I waited until the last minute, and after drinking every last ounce of water possible, my bladder finally cooperated. I could have filled at least two specimen cups, but the pee was crystal clear. I knew what that meant. A dilute sample buys me another UA. Wait a minute… a dilute sample means get to buy another UA. Doesn’t matter that they watched me pee 3 times, rules are rules. The next morning: another test, another 65$.

At least they didn’t decide to scrape my skin.

Using and drinking dreams are common in recovery. They’re reported more frequently in the beginning, but can happen regardless of sobriety time or relapse occurrences. I notice them more often during stressful times, difficult anniversaries, and sobriety milestones. My guess is that they’ve been more frequent the last couple of weeks due to a few factors: my ‘Nurse Jackie’ conversation with a patient (see Feb 22 blog post), an acquaintance of mine relapsing, and a needle found in a visitor bathroom at work last month. (That’s not as crazy as it might seem – the demographic that my hospital serves is well known for IV heroin/meth, prostitution and homelessness. People come in off the street often for a warm place to hang out. Or it could have been a diabetic’s paraphernalia. Nonetheless it left me with a creepy feeling.) None of these scenarios relate directly to my own sobriety, but my psyche is fragile and I easily absorb environmental stress. My dreams nudge me to pay attention.

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Dreams can be productive, but are also especially unsettling because they seem to have a life of their own. If I want a reminder of my past, I usually proceed carefully and with support (writing an inventory or journaling, with guidance of a mentor). I try to maintain a compassionate awareness of my own vulnerabilities, and only expose myself to the pain of my past if there’s a purpose. Dreams don’t give me that option – they arrive unsolicited and unregulated, then hang around haunting me until I put them to use or find a way to release them.

I’m not a dream reader, and I’ve never spoken to one – although I’d love to because I’m one of those lucky people that remember every one and experience lucid dreams and occasional night terrors. There a lot of dream theories, and I say subscribe to the one that works for you. I believe they have meaning if you choose to attach meaning to them.

I can choose to see my dream as a metaphor: “dig deep enough under the surface, and I’ll still find the effects of opiates inside my body”. I can work with that; sit with it mindfully and see what comes up. But I can also choose not to believe it means I’m destined for relapse, and not to carry the feelings of fear and shame around just because my brain – a complicated web of chemicals and electricity- created a story during deep REM cycle.

 

When I spend a night sleeping safely in my bed, but my mind goes on a journey of Vicodin hoarding, running up a $1000 bar tab, or doing lines of coke with Johnny Depp on top of Caesar’s Palace (hey it’s a DREAM remember?!??!)… I take notice, then gently let it go.

That is, after I get over the guilty panic, cold sweats and check my purse for receipts that might indicate I’d suddenly started sleepwalking.

It helps to talk to someone about it. I feel better after releasing the negative energy with someone who understands. The skin scraping dream has been hanging around in my periphery like a bad smell. I’ll just have forgotten it, then notice again and it’s instantly uncomfortable and repelling. I’ve found myself looking at my fingertips one too many times, or double-checking the WHPS website to see if it’s my turn to test. So…this is my way of releasing it – it was time to share the smell. And now I can rest in the truth that I’m sober, I’m supported, and most importantly my skin is totally intact.

Do you have drinking or using dreams? Are they a constructive way to help prevent relapse, or do they haunt you like a bad smell? Share here in the comments…we can laugh over it, and then let them go together.

Listen. Learn. Laugh. Let it go. –tiffany swedeen

(Brilliant phrase! Patent pending. Coming soon to a bumpersticker near you!)

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Not true in the case of using dreams. Do NOT chase them. I repeat DO NOT CHASE drug dreams.

Until next time, trying to keep my fingertips intact….

Cheers and Gratitude,

Tiffany