Road to Redemption: Return to Critical Care

I’m happy for the opportunity to make amends to the organization, my coworkers, my patients, and the nursing profession. It’s not a privilege I’m taking lightly. I know the rate of relapse. I know this could be my last chance at a blemish free nursing license.

Two point five years ago, I had to leave my position as a nurse in Critical Care due to probably the most shameful and disturbing reasons a nurse can imagine.

It feels nothing short of miraculous that I’ve been given an opportunity to return.

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Fueled by caffeine and ready for orientation

(Although some might say I’m returning to the scene of the crime, and they would technically be correct.)

For nearly five of my 14 years as nurse, I worked in CCU and loved the job, despite it’s flaws. I felt at home in the role. But I completely mismanaged the stress in my life, making tragic and regretful decisions.

For the background on my detour away from “overachiever” into “Real Life Nurse Jackie” check out this BLOG I wrote, publicly declaring myself as an addict.

I was let go from the job, spent three months in treatment and submerged myself in recovery. Since returning to work, I’ve been employed in lower acuity areas than CCU, working my way up – but stayed on night shift because it’s where I’ve always felt most comfortable mentally and physically.

Probably beginning somewhere early last Fall, I felt in my soul it was time to take another step forward. I reached out to key people in administration, asking their blessing to apply for a new position. I also talked it over with my case manager and my sober support system.

I had to ask my case manager because I’m not allowed to work wherever I want. I’m enrolled in a monitoring program for another 2.5 years that restricts some employment, but as long as I remain sober, most doors remain open.

Even though I’m under strict supervision, my nursing license (so far, cross your fingers) is unmarred. That’s a benefit of WHPS; a statewide alternative to discipline program. I wrote all about how it works HERE, dispelling myths and detailing the true nature of this type of probation.

WHPS enables nurses to keep licenses intact, but it can be a substantial challenge to gain employment after being found diverting, stealing/using drugs or even abusing alcohol. This is especially the case if time lapsed between jobs. Too many employers, even in Washington state, simply fire employees on the spot, leaving them to navigate sobriety, employment and licensure on their own. The consequences of this can lead to isolation and suicidal ideation/attempt. Rejection from potential employers, lack of income or insurance to pay for treatment, and the debilitating hit to self esteem can make prevailing in sobriety near impossible. It’s hard enough some days to stay on a sober track when life is running smooth.

I don’t know how to convey this without sounding cliche, but not for a second do I take my continued employment for granted. I’ve done the hard work of recovery, but the support of the organization has been priceless. I can only hope to show this by being accountable and maintaining my integrity and professionalism. Choosing to live “Sober out loud” and advocating to end stigma is a part of my amends as well.

So, I’m halfway through my sentence. I graduate WHPS in August 2021! Thirty One short months! Approximately 133 brief weeks! You can tell I’m joyfully counting down. (I’ll also turn 40 that year – no small feat in itself. I’ll invite you to the party.)

Most nurses in “the program” do not return to the same department, or even the same hospital; for many good reasons. I’ve gone back to the exact department the administration escorted me away from in May 2016. The management has changed, the unit name and skill specialities have morphed, and there’s been a turnover in employees. But physically, it’s the same, with many of the same faces.

I won’t lie, it’s freaked me out a little. I’m worried about the staff being OK with me. I’m cognizant of any discomfort or mistrust that might linger. During my hiatus, interactions with former coworkers were overwhelmingly compassionate and positive. But I wouldn’t blame anyone who feels hurt or hesitant. Fortunately, recovery teaches the difference between guilt and shame; between honoring someone’s feelings and taking things personally. Shame is the worst. I’m lucky to say that it’s possible to find strength on the other side of it.

Of course I have some fear and embarrassment. I’m not impenetrable to the opinions of others; my self esteem’s not fully restored. It’s just that my drive to move forward and enjoy life and my drive to end the stigma of addiction and recovery is greater than any shame, anxiety or doubt that persists. IMG_6302

That sounds brave. I don’t feel brave. I just feel…determined. And brave doesn’t mean fearless anyway. It doesn’t mean I have it all together. It just means I’m doing it despite fear. Recently said by one of my heroes in a women’s recovery group: “Courage, not Confidence”. I’m holding on to that like a talisman.

I worked my first official shift back this week. The night before, I prepared healthy food and packed my lunch bag. Coffee was set to brew at 4:45am, and my favorite scrubs were laid out. (Yes, I’m now working DAYSHIFT! After 14 years on nights. More to come on that soon, trust me.)

Excited, I went to bed early and woke up with enthusiasm. Not that I was mindlessly giddy. But overall I’ve felt really positive about this decision. I really only had one major dread going in.

The nurse who initially reported me still works on this unit.

Let me state very clearly: I am GRATEFUL to this nurse; the role they played was beneficial in my recovery. They did the RIGHT thing. I am solely culpable for the situation and I do not harbor anger toward the informant. I needed help desperately, and probably wouldn’t have turned myself in. Even though I was privately seeing a chemical dependency counselor, I was struggling to stay clean. I am GRATEFUL this person brought attention to the charge nurse. (leaving nurse gender neutral to protect privacy)

Total transparency; I find it difficult to feel grateful for the way this person addressed me publicly at the end of a shift. Regardless of the very positive outcome, that memory brings back anguish and humiliation. The thought of coming face to face is like facing my own atrocities all over again. Seeing each other would be inevitable, but a lot of nurses work there. I figured I’d get into a comfortable routine and eventually we’d cross paths.

This is not at all what happened.

As I walked down the hall on my very first day to approach the very first nurse I’d receive report from; irony laughed in my face.

I was looking right at this nurse.

Out of all the assignments I could have ended up with; out of all the nurses working. I was about to spend 20 minutes with the one nurse I wanted to avoid.

I think I might have said out loud, “You’ve got to be f***ing kidding me”.

(As I write this out, I recognize something I never have before. Experiencing this from their point of view and having to report me must have been traumatizing to a degree as well. They were thrown into this mess by me. They didn’t ask for this. I’m sure they never wanted to be labeled the informant. There’s really nothing left for me to feel but compassion.)

Seeing each other was not as awkward as my imagination had created. I was greeted “Welcome back”; we smiled and acted like professionals.

What can I do but laugh? The one thing I was most afraid of occurred in the first half hour.

Moving on, I was met with hugs and a welcoming atmosphere. I experienced a lightness I’ve not felt in a long time at work, and I settled right in to the practice of patient care.

Why would I ever ever do a drug? I thought.

I feel great. I enjoy being a nurse. I love this feeling of productivity and doing service. I’m not a thief. I don’t even like to be drunk. I don’t like to be out of control. Why would I have done any of those things?

For a passing moment, I felt completely dissociated from the “me” that injected IV fentanyl and consumed a mad amount of Vicodin, Percocet, or Oxycodone. The “me” that put procuring drugs to escape my own pain above everyone and everything else in my life.

I felt like the “me” before addiction. Eager, energetic, balanced and healthy.

I thought: working in Critical Care is going to be perfect. So what if there’s access to drugs? It’s not going to be a problem. I would never commit such a horrible act. I’m fine!!!

Then I thought: Not so fast, idiot.

“I would never” was precisely my mindset the first decade of my career. I’d NEVER cross that boundary. Until I did it myself, I could not wrap my brain around how a nurse would steal narcotics from their workplace. It was a foreign, forbidden, and ridiculous concept.

But a series of events led me to become compulsive and addicted. I know what many of you must be thinking, especially my sober friends.

“Why the F have you returned to a department where you did this?”

“If CCU turned you into an addict, and your sober life is thriving, why would you go back?”

Those are great questions. And you’ll have to stay tuned for the answers. Next time, I’ll share why CCU didn’t make me an addict and what’s different today.

I’ll also detail how it felt to encounter Fentanyl  – my drug of choice – on my first day back.

I feel happier this week than I can recall. I texted one of my best sober friends:

“I might have sang in my kitchen while I cooked this week. Also I woke up at 5:45am all by myself. No alarm. Goddamn post-acute sober pink cloud.”

Getting off nights is a big part of this transformation. So is the redemption my soul is experiencing, finding I didn’t completely destroy my career. I’m happy to have a job that challenges me intellectually. I’m happy for the opportunity to make amends to the organization, my coworkers, my patients, and the nursing profession. It’s not a privilege I’m taking lightly. I know the rate of relapse. I know this could be my last chance at a blemish free nursing license.

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First day back: Full on Critical Care

 

I’m primarily happy that by returning I can demonstrate to employers that rehabilitation reigns over discipline, and offer hope to nurses who are just starting a sober journey.

I hope to give back more than I have ever taken. To tip the karmic scales by showing up every day honest and willing. And for all healthcare professionals that have or are suffering from the shame addiction has caused in their lives – I hope to prove recovery is possible.

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Actual message sent to me by a nurse halfway across the nation that saw my 1 minute video about returning to CCU.

Cheers and Gratitude upon Gratitude,

Tiffany

If you are in need of addiction treatment and you are a healthcare provider in WA state, please contact Washington Health Professional Services at whps@doh.wa.gov or 360-236-2880 for a confidential consultation.

I am always available for anyone looking to explore sobriety. Our conversation is guaranteed confidential. 

And of course – if you’d like to explore working with me as your life or recovery coach – check out my website http://www.recoverandrise.com

Other resources:

www.yesyoucanrn.com (Lists every state that has an alternative to discipline program)

SAMHSA – Substance abuse and mental health services administrations – national helpline

New Year’s Eve Reflection: Top 5 Ways I Stayed Sober in 2018 (and 3 things I won’t do next year)

My current goals aren’t that different from my childhood resolutions, but my outlook is much healthier. The difference is I don’t beat myself up over perceived “failure”, and I focus on moving toward balance with simple daily intentions vs. rigorous long term requirements. I also don’t write the list in glitter pen on cardstock and tape it to my wall.

New Year’s Eve is one holiday I love, even sober. (Especially Sober!) As a kid, my BFF Jenny and I celebrated with a sleepover. We made our favorite bean dip (literally just canned refried beans topped with melted cheese), then rang in the new year by clanging pots and pans with wooden spoons on the front porch. Our poor neighbors!

But I’ve never taken New Year’s resolutions too seriously. The last time I officially set them I was probably 12. They undoubtedly went like this:

  • Talk to ____ ASAP and get him to like me
  • Eat 1000 calories a day MAX (no more PIZZA!)
  • Write in diary every day

I would then immediately scarf down pizza (still my fav food!) and write in my diary for about 3 consecutive days before getting distracted. I did follow through with passing a note to the boy I liked, after which he promptly let me know how much I repulsed him.

My current life goals aren’t that different, but my outlook is much healthier. You could still call me boy crazy, I struggle with emotional eating, and I aim to write daily in a journal yet fall short frequently. The difference is I don’t beat myself up over perceived “failure”. I focus on moving toward balance with simple daily intentions vs. rigorous long term requirements. I also don’t write the list in glitter pen on cardstock and tape it to my wall.

(But I do get nostalgic for that big dish filled with bean dip, and the vibration of pots and pans under my spoon as Jenny and I whacked away, our pajama clad legs chilled by the night air.)

This New Year’s Eve, I’m reflecting on my decisions from 2018 – my second full year in active recovery – to see what worked and what I want to avoid in the future.

Top 5 tools that helped me stay sober in 2018:

Meditation/Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness is not just a buzzword (though when I first heard it I rolled my eyes painfully). Diagnostics such as MRI (detailed brain scans) prove that a consistent meditation practice can improve the brain in a number of ways – including decreasing addictive habits. I’m proof this is true. Mindfulness is the concept that has become my lifestyle and source of spirituality. Meditation is the tool, or exercise, to sustain it. What I love about this custom is that it’s inherently positive, with core values of loving kindness, gratitude and compassion. It keeps the focus calmly on the present, not anxiously tied up in the past or future. My routine involves attending/facilitating meetings with guided group meditations and a fairly consistent home practice, though it’s always a work in progress! Mindfulness helps me cultivate self-awareness and observe my thoughts vs. being a victim of them. My mind can be chaotic, negative, and limiting; I get to choose whether or not to get attached to that. (I have really exciting news about how I’m furthering my meditation education in 2019 to be of even more service to others!! Info coming soon!!)

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Connection/Community

  • As an extroverted introvert, I recharge alone. I thrive for hours (days even???) with my face in a book, lost in my own world. That doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely value, cherish and need intimate connections. I’ve self-medicated to numb loneliness and rejection for a long time. Recovery gives me the gift of connection, and She Recovers is a blessing of highest proportions. I used to feel like a lost speck of space dust hurling aimlessly through the sky. Now it’s as though I’m energetically connected to countless other stars; threaded into a tapestry of constellations, each of us with a significant and solid place in the universe. Face to face events like this one are examples of how we support one another. There’s also a secret Facebook group – it’s open to all women, just secret for privacy. (Are you a woman who wants to join? Email me!) Locally, I stay connected through meetings with others who share similar struggles (My program is Refuge Recovery). Staying close with friends and family who aren’t in the sober squad is fulfilling as well. When I lose connection, and feel (or create) isolation, it’s easy to revert to negative, selfish thinking. Supported, empowered and encouraged within a community, I’ve got a much higher chance of sober success.
  • The opposite of addiction is connection. – Johann Hari

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Shout out to Hannah! Connection is essential.

Accountability

  • If I’m only accountable to myself, I abandon my ambitions. Alone with my thoughts and schemes, I rationalize unhealthy habits, justifying how it’s perfectly OK to “drink just one”, skip meetings or be a “just a little” dishonest. To avoid this pitfall, I stay accountable in a number of ways. The most formal is random drug tests to maintain my nursing license. So as much as I hate someone watching me pee, I’m very grateful for this commitment! Involvement in a recovery community – including local meetings and social media – plays a major role in reliability. I want to be an example that recovery is possible. I want to represent a drug and alcohol free way of life and do everything possible to end stigma. Being of service, volunteering, and partnering with clients keeps my focus outward and forward; helping others ultimately helps me.

Physical Health

  • Lifting in the gym (THANK YOU to my trainer @Onerepatatime_ !), running outside, or skiing in the winter…frequent physical activity boosts my mood. I find myself craving it in the best way and consider it necessary for sober success. Initially, I had to drag myself to get going. With time and consistency, I really look forward to moving and sweating. It’s especially useful to turn around negative, triggered, anxious or depressed thoughts. Yoga is more than a physical survival tool, it’s holistically healing and an integral part of my exercise/spiritual routine. Nutrition plays a big role in mood, memory, libido, and energy level, so abstaining from toxic substances like alcohol and drugs is a given, but keeping sugar to a minimum and eating whole healthy food has proven to be a challenge for me in 2018. I’ve struggled with sugar cravings even this far into sobriety. Room for growth in the upcoming year!

Failing

  • In 2018 I founded my business, completed a business mentorship and 6 month writing program, wrote a book proposal, built up a social media platform, traveled to Iceland, Paris, & France, drove my Van thousands of miles with a dog as my sidekick, dated a handful of idiots and a few nice guys, published a bunch of articles, and had a bunch more rejected. I overcame obstacles, enforced boundaries, and lost some relationships. I succeeded at many things, and “failed” at many more. In my experience, failure is a necessary part of the adventure. It’s so cliche!! But it means I tried something that was scary and out of my comfort zone requiring courage. Some of you may remember my blog was initially named “Tiffany Tries Again”. Before I disclosed my addiction, I was simply sharing a series of challenging and often humorous undertakings, hoping it would inspire you to keep trying, regardless of outcomes. This is one of my early blogs discussing just that. (And it isn’t one of my best. But that’s really OK.) If I don’t fail a whole bunch in 2019, it’s because I’ve given up and gone to bed. Please break down my door if this happens. (Refer to importance of “connection” and “accountability” above!)
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2018 was a BUSY year!

 

And….3 things I want to avoid…..

Placing others on a pedestal

  • My internal compass generally steers me right. But I’m not exempt from disregarding it completely and taking over navigation. Sometimes I make decisions based on ego and selfish motivation and it hurts when I’m forced to recognize it.I learned the HARD way this year that regardless of years of sobriety, or status in the media, publishing world, or recovery community….every one of us is flawed. We are capable of letting others down. I let someone shine a little too bright in my Universe this last year, and it was painful when the light went dim. My goal in 2019 is to stay on course and use discernment. This means making an effort to view all with balance and compassion; admiring without setting outlandish and admittedly selfish expectations. (I apologize for the ambiguity of this paragraph, but the details of who/what are not nearly as important as the overarching message.)

Saying Yes when the answer is obviously “NO”

  • There were wayyyy too many times last year I ignored my gut and went full speed ahead into disaster and disappointment. This is NOT to be confused with taking healthy risks and going on adventures! I’m talking about saying yes when I absolutely know I should avoid something. Ignoring that internal compass again! This includes saying yes to fun things when the smarter self care is take a bath, go to the gym, or even work (to pay for the fun stuff!) Another example is saying yes to a date even when I was too tired, too grumpy, too triggered, or too vulnerable. There were too many shopping excursions frantically looking for a date outfit; too much time on hair, makeup and sending selfies checking for my girlfriends’ approval. Meanwhile my heart and gut were urging me to STAY the HELL HOME. I’d show up for the date and immediately regret it, feeling like a fool for my day of pampering. My plan in 2019? You got it. Stay the hell home and relish every minute of Netflix and pajamas. I also think maybe I should plan a garage sale….seriously, I can’t believe the amount of pointless clothes I bought this year.
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Dressed up for one of those dates I wish I had skipped altogether…..

OK, I sort of lied.

  • I thought I’d have a definite 3rd thing I don’t want to repeat in 2019. Last year was a roller coaster of joyous, painful, even embarrassing experiences. But thinking back over mistakes I made and chances I took, I don’t think I’d change much. Even if I’m not in love with every bit of 2018’s reflection, I’m honestly satisfied with my current station in life. All of there is what got me here. I hope to say that again at the end of 2019.

Thank you for encouraging, supporting and sharing with me in this journey. I hope it’s inspired you to love yourself and believe you can overcome anything. Or at the least, showed you what not to do and saved you some heartache.

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Cheers to a happy, healthy and bright 2019!

Is a SOBER lifestyle your goal? I wish you complete success!

If you would like accountability, support and structure with addiction recovery or life transition, I would love to help!

Check out my website for program details, or schedule a FREE call with me here!

***I’M HOSTING A FREE ONLINE VISION BOARD WORKSHOP JANUARY 19TH! EMAIL ME TO SIGN UP ASAP! REGISTRATION ENDS JANUARY 9TH.***

Tiffany@recoverandrise.com

Rejection Isn’t Personal – How to Meet the Pain of Rejection with Compassion

Alex may not have wanted me, personally, but the “rejection” isn’t personal. It’s subjective; a projection of his own reality. Other’s opinions and preferences have little to nothing to do with us. They most definitely do not have bearing on our value.

After a week of exchanging lightly sarcastic and flirty texts, Alex and I arranged our first date. We met on a beach in the late afternoon, a ferry ride away from my house. Cassie, my dog, spent 90 minutes chasing a worn green tennis ball across the sand while Alex and I got acquainted. With each inquiry, we uncovered all we have in common.

  • I drive a sweet Volkswagen van; he’s a huge fan and owned one until recently.
  • He’s had a successful career in commercial work and television; I’ve moonlighted as the face of Tulalip Casino TV ads, and appeared on Amazon Video Shorts selling camping gear. (totally amateur on my part, but still so fun to say I did!)
  • He’s passionate about fly-fishing; I spent countless summer months casting for salmon with my dad.
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I can’t reveal Alex’s true identity, but here’s a fun photo of me at a casino shoot!

First dates are meant to suss out compatibility, but it’s a delicate balancing act. We expect a genuine introduction, but don’t need to show all our skeletons. Too much digging can result in over-analyzing and sabotaging potential.

There’s bound to be areas of disagreement. That’s ok. I’m pro-discernment (it’s fair to be picky!), but incompatibilities at this early stage should be judged lightly. Who cares if he’s considering moving out of state in two years, is undecided on future children, or would rather spend evenings home playing cards than seeing live music?

It’s JUST a first date.

Alex and I achieved this comfortable balance. Not too hot, not too cold. No overt sexual innuendo, but he was charming and more-than-friendly. I thought so anyway. The air cooled as the sun went down behind the ocean. Alex asked if I was hungry and we spent the next few minutes reading yelp reviews of local restaurants and negotiating gastropub vs. sushi.

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Sunset View before the night turned sour.

The Gastropub won. I was buoyed by the fact that he wanted to continue through a meal. We’d intended the date to be casual and open ended. If we hit it off, we agreed it could range from a quick walk on the beach to other end of the spectrum – an overnight stay at the house his company was renting on the island. He’d mentioned the spectacular water view and hot tub. “Since you’re taking a ferry such a long way, maybe you’ll want to crash over night.”

I firmly informed him that hot tub time wasn’t guaranteed, but I wasn’t ruling it out. Safety and responsibility come first, yet I was optimistic. on dates. When Cassie and I hopped in the car and headed to the ferry terminal, there was a sexy little bikini and toothbrush neatly tucked away in my bag.

It wasn’t love at first sight, but I found him attractive and intriguing. I don’t make a habit of casual sex, one night stands, or even first date kissing. But I’m not averse if it feels right. As we laughed together at the beach, then swooned in tandem over a bacon/date/cheese appetizer, it was starting to feel right.

Alex ordered a glass of red wine and I had my standby- Ice tea. The customary question-answer transpired as I deigned to order alcohol. “I don’t ever drink.” I said, smiling. “How long has that been your choice?” He asked. (BTW – that’s a nice approach to glean info without sounding critical.) I answered, and we moved on from the subject; no awkward silences, no need to press the issue.

Per Alex’s prompting, I’d ordered an expensive crab risotto entree. It was full of rich seafood, butter and oregano. We shared bites off each other’s plates and I asked for a box to take the rest of my large portion home. He paid the bill and held the door open for me as we walked out into the late evening.

We arrived at my car and I set my “doggie bag”  on the seat. When I turned around, Alex stood a few feet away fidgeting with his hands. Ignoring my trepidation, I brightly asked “What’s next? What’s our options?”

His eyes got big. He swallowed. “Um, yeah. We have options. Sure.” I quirked an eyebrow at him. “What’s up, Alex?”

His seemed to have trouble forming words. “Well, so. I’m trying to. You know. I need to. Um. I need to listen to my intuition. What I’m trying to say. I just didn’t see this – us- going anywhere.”

It was painful to watch. I took mercy on him. “You’re saying we don’t have chemistry? Right?”

“Yes! Exactly. I’m so sorry.”

Contorting my face into a tight, fake smile and opening my eyes wide as possible to repress unwanted tears, I said “Oh, GOOD!!” in a loud, overly cheerful voice.

Only it wasn’t good.

I’ve never been turned down on a date. I’ve been “ghosted.” Disappointed. Avoided. Dumped. Blocked even. But never has a man looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, our few hours together have shown me how much I don’t like you. My intuition says this won’t work. I’d like you to keep your clothes on and go home.”

I have to give him credit though; he was so contrite. “Tiffany, you’re really nice. Thanks for coming all the way out…You can still crash at the house. You can have my room, I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Choking back tears and laughter, my first thought was wonder what the rest of the crew is like? Maybe someone worth meeting there…..

NO. I don’t need a consolation prize.

I think I WON’T do that. I’ll catch the last ferry home. Thanks again, for the ridiculously expensive risotto. I feel bad I ordered it. I wish I would have known how you felt before I ordered. I totally appreciate your honesty though. Truly.”

Busying myself getting Cassie out of the car, I allowed Alex the time to walk away and for both of us to keep a shred of dignity. As soon as she was leashed and and we’d taken a few steps, the tears fell.

What the fuck? What’s wrong with me? What did I do?

My thoughts went crazy, scrutinizing every single detail of the night. What turned him off? I checked my outfit: Not slutty. Not boring.  He’d chosen me initially based on photos, and I looked just like myself.

Was I too aggressive? Too chatty? He was soft spoken, but held up his side of the conversation. Maybe I was overbearing. Did I share too much about my past? I didn’t think so. Alex asked about my daughter’s dad, and I answered honestly but simply that we’d tried to make it work; we’d married twice. Alex shared too. We both disclosed a little about former flames.

I was forthcoming that I’m not very close to my mom or brothers right now. Alex said he couldn’t imagine that. He praised his tight knit family and called his stepmom one of his heroes. Maybe he couldn’t picture adding me as a branch on his family tree.

But I wasn’t interested in putting down roots together. We never even broached the subject, “What are you looking for? Marriage? Kids? How soon?”

My biggest fear is that I’ll be judged by my former addiction and won’t find someone who can overlook it and love me unconditionally, but my sober lifestyle didn’t seem to phase Alex. Of course, I never gave him the chance to condemn me; I never mentioned drugs or probation.

For undivulged reasons, Alex deemed me unattractive enough to spend even one more minute with. Although he kept repeating I was “really nice.” I guess that counts for something.

I’ve yet to ascertain Alex’s reasoning. The following evening, I sent a lighthearted text asking if he’d participate in a post-date survey. I admitted I wasn’t convinced we had a long term future based on our short 180 minutes together, but I had fun and was surprised by the blunt termination. His reply was cryptic. “My head and heart are still buffering. Perhaps I could respond later today?”

But the response never came. I’ve been left to ponder and dissect my weaknesses alone, wondering where I failed. (I still think maybe I over-shared when I mentioned my ability to eat a pound of bacon in one sitting. But if you can’t love me for that, we’re doomed anyway.)

My first reaction to rejection is shame. It feels like a sharp weapon, and causes deep painful injuries if we allow it. I default to self-condemnation and self-doubt. But there’s another option. I don’t have to be a victim, and I don’t have to turn to self-loathing. It’s totally possible to reframe my thinking. (Hint: I learned this in Mindfulness courses!)

I can choose to understand that nothing is personal.

Alex may not have wanted me, personally, but the “rejection” isn’t personal. It’s subjective; a projection of his own reality. Other’s opinions and preferences have little to nothing to do with us. They most definitely do not have bearing on our value. (For an excellent explanation of this phenomenon, check out The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.)

Example: Let’s say Alex won’t date me and feels aversion toward me because I’ve been married before. (I think the odds of this are good. He did seem a little shocked when I explained my previous weddings.)

I have choices.

  • Chastise myself for being married and divorced, therefore not acceptable. Shame myself for being impure and less than enough. Hate myself for not being lovable.

or…

  • Realize Alex’s reality is only personal to him. His opinions were cultivated over decades. His parent’s divorce likely skewed his viewpoint. His religion, background, culture, memories, and experiences are the deciding factors. Not me.

Alex’s decision has nothing to do with my worth or quality. I can allow Alex to have his experience and keep my ego out of it. His perspective is based on the conditioning of his consciousness.

It just so happens his consciousness was conditioned to say NO, he ultimately did NOT want to soak in a hot tub with me wearing a Costa Rican made, Brazilian cut bikini that night. Or ever. (To be fair, I didn’t exactly tell him about the suit.)

Letting go of the personal nature of an exchange with another human isn’t easy or immediate. I’m still irked. I still have a shred of hope that he’ll text and let me know what the hell he was thinking and what ultimately made up his mind. What if he’s hanging on to crucial info that could help me improve for my next date??

But instead of suffering needlessly, clinging to negative feelings or letting this sabotage my self-esteem, I see it as a chance to develop self-compassion.

When I became single and began dating, a very close friend told me that this era of my life: “Isn’t about finding the right guy. It’s about you. What you’re really doing is dating yourself.”

She’s so exactly right. (Thanks Tori! You’re brilliant.) I’m not doomed to feel rejected. And even though Alex didn’t show me any love, our date was nowhere near a failure. It’s a golden opportunity to practice the only love I really need right now; radical self-love.

Cheers to Loving Yourself Wholly,

Tiffany

Do you want to stop taking things personally? Are you ready to let go of self-doubt or shame that might be holding you back?

I’d love to help you learn and practice mindfulness tools that will help move you towards your highest well-being!

Schedule your FREE discovery call, and check out my website for more info on my services.

Scrubbed Clean All Over the Web (*giveaway offer in this post!*)

As I work towards (YIKES!) more exposure, I’ve “pitched” essays to a variety of websites, and to my delight a few of them have been picked up and published. 

The last six months I’ve been writing a lot. But not all my blog posts are ending up here, on scrubbedcleanrn.com. That’s because as I work towards (YIKES!) more exposure, I’ve pitched essays to a variety of websites. To my delight a few of them have been picked up and published.

If you follow me on instagram (@scrubbedclean) or Facebook, these may not be new for you, since I always advertise when I get the honor of being published.

But maybe (GASP!!) you’re not following me yet??

Helloooo???!!! Why NOT?????

If that’s the case, here are a few of my favorite posts in one easy place for you to click and read!

(1) Sober Dating is a tricky predicament indeed. My most recent date delivered the trifecta: Alcohol, cigarettes, pills….OH MY!! Read all about it HERE .  

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Actual photo of me on date…prior to his arrival. Pre-Disaster.

(2) Suboxone is increasingly prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment program for opiate addiction…yet it’s controversial, and opposed by many (especially 12 step programs). This ARTICLE shares why I feel Suboxone users deserve to proudly call themselves clean and sober. Drugs are often used to escape reality – even drugs that are meant to help with addiction. My experience with Suboxone and how it differs from other Medication Assisted Treatment and harm reduction plans can be found HERE.

(3) Imposter Syndrome is very real. Does it sometimes seem as though everyone else has it under control, while you’re smiling, trying to look like you have a clue? In this ESSAY I write about overcoming self-doubt, using some of the lessons I’ve learned traveling around in my van.
Imposter syndrome is a form of self sabotage; HERE are my top seven tips for learning to let go and love ourselves.

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(4) Cravings Most recently, I blogged about surprise cravings emerging during a recovery conference  – of all places. The situation was tough, but all’s well that ends well…. The Light Hustler publication on Medium accepted this ARTICLE.

Since this blog has turned into a self-aggrandizing free-for-all, I might as well continue the theme. Head to my website and sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get the latest pictures and news from my corner, plus links to some of my favorite people, podcasts, and platforms in the recovery/sober/wellness arena. Let’s make this fun….

The 100th person to sign up for my newsletter gets a FREE Recover and Rise Mug + 1 FREE hour coaching session!!! (I’m at 85 right now….so do your timing and math right!)

Cheers and Gratitude,

Tiffany

Living Dirty and Getting Clean

The clutter, chaos, mementos and memories had been sitting stagnant, waiting their turn to be sifted and sorted.

The Garage. I couldn’t put it off forever.

I’ve never been what you would call a tidy person.

Just ask my ex-boyfriend from 15 years ago, who got fed up with my unkempt ways. He was former Navy and I couldn’t keep up, no matter how many times he stressed the significance of folded socks or scolded me for walking outside barefoot and tracking dirt into the living room. One morning, home from my new job on nightshift after graduating nursing school, I tripped over a package sitting in the doorway. It was a bag of cleaning supplies; Windex, Lysol, dish soap etc. I got the hint, and he got the boot. Soon he was living in his own apartment, free to scrub and fold to his military heart’s content.

Like most people, I’d rate myself near the middle of the spectrum between hoarder and clean freak. I sometimes joke that it looks like REI threw up in my living room – especially during a change in season, when skis come in and out and bicycles aren’t yet put away. I always choose sleep over cleaning; it never bothers me to go to bed with dishes still in the sink.

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The cleanestI’ve ever seen my own living room…I think it lasted 3 hours!

 

In recent years, my life, like my house, has been messier than usual.

My prioritization skills went haywire, but are getting back on track, which means my personal well-being and physical surroundings have both been getting a makeover.

Staying clean and organized emotionally are essential to my mental health while recovering from addiction, trauma and co-dependency. Rearranging my home has played an important role as well. I started small. A couple years back, freshly sober, I bought trays to organize and display my jewelry. Such a simple accomplishment, but I remember smiling with pride as I looked over the gift I’d given myself. It had been awhile since I’d had the energy and focus to complete a project like that.

Next came cupboards, junk drawers, the pantry. One area in particular needed more help than I could handle on my own. I’d stopped going there altogether, other than to hurriedly grab an item, averting my eyes from the disarray.

The clutter, chaos, mementos and memories had been sitting stagnant, waiting their turn to be sifted and sorted.

The Garage. I couldn’t put it off forever.

It wasn’t just the vastness of the garage project that bothered me. It wasn’t the act of moving items from one shelf to another or dismantling boxes that made the task so daunting. My garage had become pathological and taking it on has been a major source of anxiety for me. The garage had witnessed and survived too many breakups and held the leftovers of too many losses. Last winter’s ski poles, the star-covered journal my daughter never wrote in, fabric scraps from a decade-old Halloween costume, an unidentifiable metal contraption I think belonged to the camper I once shared with an ex. Perhaps you can relate to that feeling. Procrastination was the safe choice; just toss Dad’s leftover oxygen meter in a random box and shut the door. I sometimes treat health problems or family conflict the same way. I shut the door on the issues, but they gather dust and multiply until I find the tenacity to tackle them. Forgetting doesn’t eliminate the problem. The boxes just grow heavier and the emotional burden does too. Each decision meant a look at the past, and it takes energy and fortitude to endure this. Filtering through my clutter feels like sorting through my soul. Eventually, I was going to run out of room: in my storage space, and in my psyche. I needed “clean the garage” wiped from my to do list, before the summer ended.

My garage was beyond do-it-myself help. It was going to require a professional. Just the thought of standing on the cold cement floor amidst the mayhem was enough to cause heart palpitations. Luckily, I know a stellar resource – Lauren at Casual Uncluttering. I’d found her awhile back through thumbtack.com, which was suggested to me by a coworker when I was looking for a handyman. I didn’t even know professional organizers existed until then.

Lauren helped me when I renovated my daughter’s old bedroom – turned – junkroom into a tidy, organized guest area that I now rent out.

 

Daughter’s Room Turned Guest Room!

I love the outcome of “spring cleaning”. There’s nothing like order and method to calm my nerves. But the details of getting that outcome can be arduous. Emailing Lauren and scheduling the date gave me immediate peace, and when the day came I was ready. She arrived and right away we started separating and labeling items into categories, deeming them necessary, useful, donation-worthy, or garbage. (Can I tell you the utter relief I feel when she confirms a piece of trash is indeed trash, and that there’s no need to for guilt when I toss it in to the can?!)

As we emptied boxes, she shared resources such as who I might call for art restoration, which companies are best at custom shelving, and what animal shelter takes old dog beds (Homeward Pet in Woodinville, WA). Her toolkit includes painter’s tape, sturdy cardboard boxes, fat sharpie markers, a portable garbage can gadget (that I totally covet), and a vehicle to haul away most of the  “To Go” pile that inevitably mounds up as the hours go by. Lauren has a keen eye for space, and a vision for what arrangement might work best, as it relates to a client’s routine and customs.

But Lauren’s qualifications go much further than utilitarian tools and sensible words of advice. She has a special magic that alleviates pressure and pain that can come with these jobs. Her compassionate, yet no-nonsense demeanor settles my nerves and fills me with confidence. The garage I had deemed untouchable became manageable as we moved through it together.

Going through this process reminded me that I don’t have to do life alone. There are times when it’s possible – and advisable – to call for help. Whether that’s sorting picture frames and eliminating dust bunnies, or consulting someone on relationships or careers.

Hiring Lauren’s services feel like a luxury – and I don’t feel guilty indulging. For a long time I held the belief that I “should” be able to accomplish everything on my own, especially when it came to household tasks.

I believed I should be able work full time, parent full time, maintain a clean house, keep a man happy, and pursue my dreams – all without chipping a nail. Anything less was failure. Even though I ended my relationship with the ex-military man, I hung on to the shameful belief that I wasn’t “enough” for a long time. I’ve even carried judgmental and jealous feelings towards others that hired help for themselves. I know better now: these distorted beliefs are false and toxic. No one should feel that asking for help from a friend or a professional is anything other than a wise choice.

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The garage is ¾ done and I’m no longer agonizing over an unmanageable mess. There’s always more to do, but I’m proud of the results. And I’m proud that I stopped procrastinating and gave myself permission to ask for help. I’ll never be perfectly spotless, but my life is so much cleaner these days – inside and out.

 

There’s only a few minor things that I still want organized…. Just a few stacks of boxes in the corner of a room that need sorting through. Does anyone know an accountant who’s willing to work with brand new business owner who’s avoided paperwork and taxes for a year?

Just kidding. Sort of!

Cheers to Clean Living –

Tiffany

Follow me @scrubbedcleanrn

And make sure to check out my website www.recoverandrise.com to learn more about coaching for recovery and radical self love!

 

“It Feels Good to Be Lost in the Right Direction”

I will have been transported through the air, like magic, to Iceland ….and For the next 2 weeks, my risk of death is marginally higher than during my daily routine. At least I think so – I’m not going to research the actual I-5 Corridor freeway death statistics.

I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way – The Peerless Quartet

The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life – Agnes Repplier

Travel: A metaphor for life. Do you go alone, or with a partner? Do you plan or do you wing it? Are you safe while wandering, or adrift without direction? Can you find yourself totally lost, yet know that you’re still connected, and the universe supports you completely?

In a few hours I’ll hand my passport over to the TSA at Sea-Tac airport, board a plane, begin to read, then immediately fall asleep reading (ideally after I’ve secured my head from bobbing around with a trusty neck pillow). When I wake up disoriented, shirt wet with drool (hopefully my own shirt and my own drool) I will have been transported through the air, like magic, to Iceland.

I’ve been to very few countries, although I’ve traveled within the states quite a bit. Iceland is a dream trip come true, but wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list. Mostly because I’ve never really made that list … At least not such a venturous one. My list was comprised of solid basics: become a nurse, buy a house, get a job, marry happily ever after. Three out of Four  – near perfection, right?

But now, my perspective has changed. Suddenly I’m afforded the time, means and motivation to go far far away, by myself. (Not suddenly as in overnight lottery. It takes planning to ask for time off work, to save money, to get dog sitters, and to clean out the fridge so I don’t come home to a fungi garden in my kitchen).

It feels a little sudden though. The time is HERE. I leave in 12 hours.

I’m lucky to have friends and coworkers who have traveled these places (did I mention I’m going to London and Paris, too?!) and are willing to share their insight. A few have traveled solo, others are shocked I’m going alone. All have offered well-wishing and I’ve just been percolating with gratitude and excitement.

“You are so brave to go alone!” I hear this a lot. The former me, the girl that lived life as though she was ticking off inventory items, and trying to awkwardly fit into a strict set of guidelines, feels a bit stunned herself. But the new me that knows life is short and meant to be lived with abandon….well, she’s thrilled –  and only a fraction nervous.

This new me became a tiny fraction more nervous as I googled last minute things to do “across the pond”. The internet warned: There’s Danger Out There. Bridges actually do fall in London. Sounds like it’s not uncommon to be a pedestrian “under attack by motorized terrorists”. The Chunnel, which I’m using to travel underwater to France, could collapse, and there’d be no swimming out of that scenario. Any one of the 3 flights I’m taking could be hijacked, veer into a mountain, or lose an engine in the air. A clumsy Icelandic traveler could stumble into me, bringing the view of hot geysers up close and personal, leading to my very toasty demise.

For the next 2 weeks, my risk of death is marginally higher than during my daily routine. At least I think so – I’m not going to research the actual I-5 Corridor freeway death statistics.

I’m a little surprised to find my own mortality doesn’t scare me. What does scare me is not speaking French and accidentally asking for directions to a strip club instead of a bathroom. (just for instance. I don’t know how to say either one). I’m scared of being inadvertently served wine or alcohol while politely tasting foods served to me in Iceland or France. What if they don’t have a word for “Sober”?

But I’m not afraid to die. (In theory of course. If the Chunnel goes dark and fills with water, chances are I’ll freak the F out. But who knows? I could stay Zen.) Does travel make everyone think about this? I guess I’m my father’s daughter. When he flew, he always sent me an email with his itinerary, and a reminder of where to find his will.

Mostly, I’m overcome with joy at the opportunity. If I was still actively addicted, this trip would be unlikely. If it happened, chances are I’d jeopardize myself by getting lost, going home with the wrong person, or getting kicked off a plane for being impaired and obnoxious. Instead, I’m wide eyed, awake and life feels quite complete. If I die, it will be knowing I’ve made amends for my mistakes, and I won’t be embarrassed by what anyone finds on my phone or in my closets at home. (Maybe a tiny bit embarrassed, but whatever. I’m human. I’m single. It’s not that weird.)

While last minute planning, I could hear my dad – the life insurance agent’s – voice, so I decided to ensure someone had my flight and lodging info. Six months ago, I would have pitied myself at this task. Once, at the doctors, I cried to myself when I had “no one’s” name to write in the space “Emergency Contact”. The idea that there was “No One” looking after me caused an unnecessary amount of suffering, because having “No One” wasn’t based in reality. I have lots of wonderful “SomeOnes”.  It just takes some re-affirming and filtering out limiting beliefs and saboteur thoughts about being incomplete. Today, I simply reached out to one of my favorite “Someones” and gave her my itinerary. No self pity.

Just because my emergency contact isn’t a “significant other” in the usual sense, doesn’t make me deficient. I still need to remind myself of this. Living alone, answering only to myself, feels kind of wobbly -almost unnatural. Especially since society dictates that until the “Soulmate” piece is found, the jigsaw puzzle of “Life” isn’t complete. As though snaring a partner is the ultimate accomplishment, and as long as we have one to lean on, things will be OK. (We all know that even in a committed long term relationship, with a dependable name to scribble in the “emergency contact” section, nothing is guaranteed. One could argue the more people involved, the more precarious the dynamics.)

I’m learning that even when things aren’t OK, they’re OK. It’s an empowering sensation: feeling complete, despite not having all the answers, despite wishing some things were different. It’s like I’m un-tethered, but fully supported. Not quite balanced, but definitely moving towards it – even though I don’t know what “It” looks like.

“Even if things aren’t OK, I’m OK”. I’m finding that it’s true, no partner necessary. I’m learning to glean security from a deep sense of intrinsic wholeness, and the community of support I’ve enmeshed myself in (yep, another She Recovers shout out. It’s true though). So while I’m wild and free to explore as I please, I’ve also got a wide net underneath of me, in case my feet falter. Which they have. Which they will again.

One of the concepts I work on with my clients (and myself!) is trusting the inner compass. Some call this intuition, the Universe, or a higher power. Some relate to this as their Soul, their Spirit, or a Source they are connected to.

I believe my inner compass was calibrated from the beginning, and my choices along the way have created inconsistencies. But I’ve always known when I was steering off course – I’m just a pro at ignoring red flags. Veering off path felt wrong – like striving, craving, desperation, or trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. When my compass is set to True North, I may have doubts, I may have to check frequently, but I’m inhabited by an overwhelming sense of contentment, peace and safety.

That’s where my head and heart are at now: content and safe, as I set out with wanderlust, to find new places. And to find a new place within myself. Circumstances waver, but I’m fully protected. On uneven ground, but with a soft place to land. Often without company, but definitely never alone. And I’m grateful for this approaching adventure – the 2 week vacation I’m about to enjoy, and the adventure that is the rest of my life.

Cross your fingers that no disasters occur; the Eiffel Tower won’t topple over onto the apartment I’m sleeping in, no rogue polar bear takes me out while I’m basking in the Blue Lagoon. I’m crossing my fingers too: that I continue to trust myself, to rely on my amazing support system, and to fly – literally and figuratively –  as often as possible.

Continuing to Recover and Rise, … somewhere around 30,000 feet in the air…

Tiffany

Lighting Up and Letting Go

My dirty little secret made me feel self-righteous, cool and aloof. Emotionally, I was wrecked and seeking relief. I’d found a solution that both soothed and fueled the addiction monster.

You may have read my blog post “Sober Wedding Success”; In a triggered moment I texted a friend: “I need a drink, a cigarette, a man, or a brownie.” A variety of stressors had accumulated, thrusting me into “Fight or Flight” mode. The pressure rising, impulsive thoughts bounced off each other: “You need to feel different and better NOW.” In hindsight, I could have done some stretching, gone for a run or a walk. But the wedding was going to start, I was all dolled up in a dress and heels, and rational thought was hijacked by panic. img_4856

What I didn’t mention in that blog was the part where I gave in to a craving. About an hour before the bride was due to walk down the aisle, I changed into flip-flops and stealthily drove to a store.

(Ok not stealthily. Side Note – The story of my life is that I ALWAYS get caught. Sneaking out in the middle of the night at age 15… My friend’s parent saw me and called my parents. Skipping prom to go to Denny’s and hang out at a hotel… I accidentally recorded myself on the answering machine sharing every detail with a friend. A couple years back, during a sober attempt, I hit “facetime” on my phone at the exact moment I took a drink of a beer. But have I learned? Noooooo. )

Someone, who shall simply be called Aunt D. in order to keep her anonymity, (haha, love you Aunt D.) saw me drive away from the church. On my return, I was met with: “Where’d you go, huh? We know you left. Aunt D. told us.” I mumbled about needing to help the bride and hurried away.

The truth is:

I drove to a gas station and awkwardly bought a pack of Camel cigarettes. On a scale of surrendering to cravings, it’s better than a bottle of vodka, worse than a giant brownie. I found a parking lot near the water and walked around in the rain (still in my dress and flip-flops, holding a sweatshirt over my head to save my wedding- hair) searching for a secluded place to smoke my first cigarette in years. It suddenly seemed crowds of people were milling around, screwing up my plan. And I certainly wasn’t going to smoke inside my own car. I have boundaries, after all.

Settling on a spot, I opened the pack. The cigarette fit neatly between my fingers, muscle memory reminding them exactly what shape to make. I lit it, pressed my lips lightly around the filter, and inhaled. Then I made a face. They were gross. I forgot that I actually like menthols, when I do smoke. Which isn’t often. I’ve done this 3 times in the last few years. Once during a (temporary) breakup, and again when I started treatment for addiction and had quit everything else. People smoke like chimneys at recovery meetings, and for a few months I made friends by blowing smoke outside the treatment center doors alongside them.

I’d like to say the non-menthols were gross enough I threw them away, jolting myself back to more effective coping skills. But I didn’t. I finished the pack, and returned to the store to buy the “tastier” minty selection.

Days turned into weeks, and before I knew it, I’d been smoking steadily for a month. I was disgusted with myself. Smoking made me lazy and nauseated. Addiction is dishonest, isolating, depressing, and anxiety inducing; smoking re-awakened all of that, along with the clinging, craving monster inside. Instead of going to the gym – I smoked. Instead of writing – I smoked. I wasted hours lighting them up and putting them out. And yet, a part of me relished every single drag. My dirty little secret made me feel self-righteous, cool and aloof. Emotionally, I was wrecked and seeking relief. I’d found a solution that both soothed and fueled the addiction monster. Returning to this behavior was like slipping back under the mud after a period of living in the sun. I was sober, but acting very much like my non-sober self. Literally playing with fire.

Participating in addictive habits can give one a case of the “F-it’s” and the “Might as wells”. For example “F it. I’m already smoking, might as well eat what I want too.” The mud got deeper and stickier. I ate fast food, ignored deadlines and neglected obligations. I toyed with ideas of “just one drink”. Thankfully I have accountability to my treatment program. When it’s hard to trust oneself, impending drug tests are a convincing reason to abstain. So I didn’t drink, but I smoked nicotine incessantly. Good thing the tests don’t look for nicotine or caffeine. (Treatment centers everywhere would be out of business.)

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When I first smoked at 14 years old (and continued for 8 years, minus 9 months of pregnancy), it was the best kind of dangerous fun. I was rebellious, wise, untouchable. Slinking into a store at age 36, making sure no one recognizes me, and asking for “camel crush – yeah the blue box” without meeting the attendants’ eyes, doesn’t have the same ego-stroking appeal. Honestly I was miserable. I succumbed to an obsessive-compulsive drive to do something I was bizarrely convinced would help me overcome anxiety. It only managed to increase the compulsion, all the while invoking deep shame and disappointment. It was repetitious, unfulfilled desperation, with nausea as a side effect. The empty, achy place inside of me found minor temporary relief, but I was simultaneously cognitively aware that the tobacco/poison filled paper sticks offered nothing but dirty lungs, yellow teeth and nasty headache when I eventually quit. Ruminating over all of this, I lit another smoke.

That, my friends, is addiction.

In the past, these episodes of smoking have been brief, due to two compelling factors: a boyfriend and daughter that despise the habit. Smoking is tough to keep secret for long around others. But I was grateful for their disdain, as it forced me to give it up quickly.

During this recent trip down Tobacco Lane, with no suspicious glares or accusations of “You smell like smoke” pressuring me to surrender, I needed motivation. My own willpower and half-assed “This is your last pack, Tiff” was proving ineffective. I needed a reward, ultimatum, or serious kick in the ass.

The light at the end of the smoky tunnel was a shining She Recovers Retreat. The timing was perfect; divine some may say. At the end of July, one of the more challenging months I’ve survived in a while, I would board a ferry and meet my favorite women on Salt Spring Island for a week of rejuvenation. There was no way I’d smoke while enjoying nature, doing yoga, and working on recovery. There was no way I’d admit this to my friends or smoke in front of them.

Right?

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On the Ferry To Salt Spring Island

Tricky thing, addiction. Embeds itself deeply, even when one is determined to set themselves free. Not the retreat, my admiration of the women, or my horror at being found out as a smoker was enough for me to quit. When my fancy Camel Crush ran out on day 2, I bought very light, very bad tasting, non-menthol cigarettes in a Canadian store (they don’t sell menthol in the Gulf Islands!!)

While puffing away on these bland, thin smokes I made a promise. By the time I got on the ferry heading back to America, I’d untangle myself from their grasp. I wasn’t sure how, or if I was ready, but I was WILLING to be ready. I was tired of fighting to stay afloat, and afraid of getting pulled further down into addiction’s muddy grasp.

My answer came on the 3rd night of Retreat, in the form of a letting go ceremony (I also strategically ran out of cigarettes on the very last morning in Canada, and swore I wouldn’t touch another pack back in the US.)

The ceremony symbolizes liberation. We are all carrying some unwanted weight…unspeakable trauma, substance abuse, disordered eating, codependency, unhealthy shopping habits or persistent fatigue and apathy. The ceremony is an opportunity to look these hindrances in the eye, and love ourselves enough to begin to let them go.img_7414-1

The ceremony doesn’t require forgetting our past, but gives us permission to stop suffering over it. Permission to accept experiences, mistakes, relationships, and addictions while releasing the shame, self-loathing, and guilt we’ve attached to them.

We were asked to write down our intentions and a list of what we needed to let go. I wasn’t sure if this would work, but it felt like a legitimate start. I put my heart, soul and energy into that pen and paper as I scrawled out the words

“Let go of SMOKING”.

Then, as instructed, I lined up with the others and waited my turn to be “drummed”. A musician beat a rhythm on a percussion instrument while moving it up the front of my body and down the back – close, but not touching my skin. My understanding is this was meant to improve the alignment of my chakras, a component of self I don’t totally grasp, but am more than willing to offer up for re-structuring. The drumming ended, and as I paused before the next step – a meditative walk – I noticed the outer aspect of each of my hips burned, as though a fire spread across them. The fire pulsated, intensified, simmered, then disappeared. Coincidence? Psychosomatic effect? Bug bites? I can’t say for sure, but it felt significant.

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One of my favorite resources for cultivating self-love

Two days later, on the final morning of the retreat, my heart was light. I’d experienced the fullness of She Recovers retreat magic, and felt empowered to return home renewed. I smoked 3 final cigarettes before leaving the island, that I had ashamedly bummed off a couple of friends (but obviously not too ashamed, since I asked anyway. Love you ladies.)

I haven’t smoked since that morning. Re-entry into real life post-retreat was pretty rocky, but I still did not pick them back up. The first few nights, my sleep was riddled with drinking nightmares. I also had a cigarette-smoking dream (Amy Dresner was there, also smoking, and super pissed off about having to order pizza for a bunch of hyper women in recovery. Bizarre!)

Thoughts of buying a pack – picturing the inhale, the hot menthol taste, the instant and very temporarily relief – flitter through my mind on occasion. But they’re just thoughts. They come, they go. They pass. As do all thoughts, feelings, emotions, if we let them.

Quitting was hard, but not the hardest thing I’ve ever done. (I remember trying to quit after 8 years hooked on those things- not sure there’s a drum big enough to beat it out of me then. Torture.) Smoking wasn’t the only thing on my “let go list” either – that was a month-long distraction; an outward sign that my insides were sick. I have a multitude of situations and self-limiting beliefs to shed. But the weight of it all is lifting. Did the drum vibrations shake it off my shoulders? I believe so… along with all the other blessed moments that week. (Read my BLOG to learn more about the Magic of She Recovers retreats) I entered the ceremony with a piece of paper, a trembling hope, and a soul full of desire for health and wholeness. I have a deep, intuitive certainty that this will come to fruition. Where I had felt clouded, uncertain and lethargic, I now felt bright, anticipatory and strong.

In the center of the gardens at Stowel Lake Farm where the retreat is held, there’s a big muddy pond. Across the surface of the murky water, giant Lotus blossoms stretch their pink petals eagerly toward the sun. The lush flowers would be nonexistent if it weren’t for the rich, complicated, nourishing mud beneath them.

Like the flowers, we need rich, complicated, often painful experiences to cultivate growth. “No Mud, No Lotus” as Thich Naht Hahn’s book tells us. Smoking wasn’t mandatory for my growth; it was an outward sign that helped me become more aware of my inner strife. For a month, I was slogging through mud; sluggish, sticky, uncomfortable and difficult to see any light through the darkness. During the retreat, I spent a lot of time being honest with myself, uncovering the source of pain and revealing it’s purpose.

I wasn’t overcome by the mud, but transformed by it. Smoking was a brief detour, and a close call. But I saw the light and persisted. I ascended above the surface; back into the fresh air.

Continuing to Recover and Rise,

Tiffany

Do you have habits you’d like to explore letting go? Perhaps you’re sober but still attached to food, smoking, relationships, and want to set yourself free? I’d love to offer you a system, support and accountability as your coach.

Interested in learning more about She Recovers and their retreats and conferences? Go To www.sherecovers.co

Please contact me! You’re beautiful and deserving of health and wholeness.

Tiffany@recoverandrise.com

Please follow me!  @scrubbedcleanrn

Www.recoverandrise.com