Monday, October 13, 2014

Togetherness Project: Midway 2014

I was honored to have been asked to present at The Togetherness Project at the Zermatt Resort in Midway Utah; an event that just happened two days ago. As well as presenting, I had the opportunity to attend many other classes in which I gleaned much wisdom from the experience of others to help me along my own healing journey. I want to take a few moments and record my thoughts here.

In chronological order, by presenter:

Opening Keynote: Paul Parkin on Empathy

I really loved Paul. His presentation style was so entertaining and meaningful. He had great insights into empathy that I really felt fit well with my own presentation on Grace.

I especially loved his analogy of the rock climber, and how he likened rock climbing to our own journey of recovery. He expressed the importance of strapping ourselves to others who are also climbing so that in those moments when we lose our footing, there are secure people around us who can catch our fall. Additionally, all that we learn along our recovery path act as hooks in the mountain wall, securing us even tighter against the threat of treacherous calamity. Finally, he validated our need to take breaks every now and then; to refuel and refresh.

Empathy happens three places:
  • Head - This is where we inject ourselves into the perspective of another and ask; 'what would it be like to be them?'
  • Heart - This is where we assume what it feels like to be them.
  • Hand - This is the action that follows, the desire to sooth and comfort them.
Active participation in empathy leads to:
  • Compassion
  • Non-judgment
  • Validation
  • Vulnerability
(All of which, Grace does perfectly)

Paul then asked; "What would happened if we took blame out of our life and washed our wounds with empathy?"

I still have yet to wrap my head around this and come up with an answer worth documenting...
"Empathy has the ability to wrap its arms around us and tell us that everything shame says is not true." - Paul Parkin
"People cannot help us unless we have the courage to tell our story." - Paul Parkin
"Empathy is not something that we do, it's something that we are; we become empathy." - Paul Parkin 

First Breakout Session: Paul Parkin on Listening to Our Emotions

The single most important thing I learned from this class is that there is no such thing as negative emotions. All emotions are positive. To call them negative is to shame them, which leads to stuffing, which will eventually lead to exploding. All emotion has purpose.
"Emotions diagnose us." - Paul Parkin
Although none of our emotions are negative, our response to them can be.

The three most toxic and damaging emotions are:
  • Shame
  • Hopelessness
  • Hatred
Processing our emotions is just that; a process:
  • Recognize and label
  • Explore
  • Assess
  • Problem Solve
  • Practice
"We cannot change other people, we can only change ourselves, but by changing ourselves, we invite change in others." - Paul Parkin
Paul's recipe for happiness:
  • Be true to yourself
  • Leave no regrets
  • Become love
  • Live in the moment
  • Give more than you take

Second Breakout Session: Kevin Skinner on Making Sense of Intimacy

I really love Dr. Skinner. I've attended some educational classes by him and his thoughts in resiliency have always stuck with me. He is a gentle soul, with a pure desire to help others.
"Sexual intimacy is the bi-product of actual intimacy." - Dr. Kevin Skinner
"Intimacy = in-to-me-see" - Dr. Kevin Skinner 

Third Breakout Session: Rhyll Croshaw on What Can I do About Me?

Although I had previously connected with Rhyll at a number of different events, this was the first I'd actually heard her present. I loved hearing her story, and feeling of her valiant spirit.
"Any decision based on fear is the wrong one." - Rhyll Croshaw
"Speak truth through a filter of love." - Rhyll Croshaw
But, then I added: 
"Truth trumps love, because love cannot survive in a lie; so above all, speak truth." Sidreis Keller Agla
"If I'm in my own head, I'm behind enemy lines" - Rhyll Croshaw

Midday Keynote: Ashlee Harmon Birk on The Moments We Stand

Wow, I barely took notes through this presentation because I pretty much sobbed through the entire thing, but I did manage to catch a few:

Five Truths:
  • Find the beauty that is still all around
  • Have faith in the future
  • Find forgiveness
  • Believe in YOU!
  • Find hope in your story
I would like to publicly thank Ashlee at this point, because she really set the tone for my presentation that immediately followed hers. Her ability to be completely open and raw created an atmosphere of potent vulnerability, perfect for my presentation on Grace. I feel that those that attended were spiritually and emotionally prepped to hear how the grace of our Loving Savior can heal them.

Fourth Breakout Session: Sidreis Keller Agla on Grace

Once I write the blog post(s) detailing my presentation, I will link it here.

Fifth Breakout Session: Liz MacDonald on Self Compassion and Emotional Release

One thing that I really loved about Liz is she was funny. Sometimes we seriously just need a bit of comic relief to lighten the load of what we carry.
"True freedom is the ability to pause and respond to a stimulus or trigger." - Kathy Kinghorn

Closing Keynote: Jacy Boyack and Kelli Rhees on Light

To be honest, I didn't take any notes during these two presentations. I just allowed myself to simply relax and feel it. But, I will share the video that Jacy shared, because it is absolutely amazing. It truly does show that true happiness and connection happens when we get outside of ourselves, give freely, and love freely.

I seriously cannot wait until the next Togetherness. How blessed I am to have it in my life.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Journal: A Reason to Stay Silent

Something has become very apparent to me over the past few days. For those of you who read my last post, you know that I am currently struggling with some dark thoughts. In an effort to escape them, I have deliberately reached out to specific people, as well as opened up about it at group and here on my blog.

One of the specific people, someone I am very close to and trust with my life, reacted in a way that I did not expect.

She got very fixy

We were speaking on the phone when I told her. An hour and a half later I found myself completely emotionally shut down. I'd spent the entire phone call listening to holistic remedies, emotional solutions and therapeutic approaches. I listened as she boldly proclaimed that the Spirit was telling her that I needed to completely open up to her and tell her everything, which I found odd because in that moment all I felt was resistance. I really feel like I am sensitive to the Spirit, so how could our experiences with Him be so different in the same exact moment?

I do know that she loves me and only wants me protected, safe and happy. It's not that her intentions aren't pure, but rather, it was her approach that left me feeling reluctant.

It's been a struggle since then. She treats me different. She treats me as if I'm fragile
You know that voice that's used; an octave too high and slow and tentative. Like vocal volume will somehow break me.

Sadly, it just makes me not want to be honest with her. 
It makes me want to remain silent about my struggle. 

It kind of throws me back into fear about being open and honest; being vulnerable. That is one of the biggest reasons we don't open up about our addiction; fear of being treated differently. We already think we are a freak. Treating us differently only confirms that belief.

I called her tonight regarding something completely unrelated. I purposefully changed my voice to make myself seem more chipper than I actually was, not that I was really even in a bad place. 

She answered with a tentative, "Hi, how are you feeling?" 
Up went my defensive walls as I fought the urge to tensely respond; 'I'm fine.'
"I'm doing good," I said.
"Oh I'm so glad, I can tell in your voice that you are doing better."

Of course, then the shame crept in, whispering; 'you are such a liar.'
I'm not, though. I'm not a liar. I might be isolating, maybe. But not lying.

This is not to say that I don't welcome advice, or ideas or even empathy and compassion.

I do.

And, I'm not really even clear where the line is, between the stuff I welcomed and what I experienced with her... all I know is it just felt different.

A number of you have responded with amazing thoughts and comments, all of which I received well and didn't feel an ounce of resistance. So again, I have no clue what the difference is. Maybe someone reading this can help me identify it.Ya, that would be nice.

Anyway, I'm not really sure how to end this. I just wanted to get it out of me and put it somewhere.

Friday, October 3, 2014

And Still, He Holds Me Together

It's been a dark time. A heavy time.

I've been plagued with a rash of very heavy suicidal thoughts lately. They have escalated past my usual desire to simply escape, and moved into thoughts about how I'd actually do it. Someone close to me called it 'suicidal drive,' and the term felt familiar to me.

I'm scared.
I don't want to be here, thinking these things.

But, the loneliness I am feeling is so heavy.

I have worked to integrate into my new ward and community, but my efforts haven't really awarded any results. The one person I felt connected to moved last week, and it's been difficult to connect with my new bishop. Spending my time in primary while my youngest acclimates to his new environment hasn't helped, either.

I haven't touched this level of despair, I think, ever.
Because it's different this time.

There was a time when I would have welcomed the loneliness.
It would have given me reason to use.
It would have validated my desire to isolate.

But now, such thoughts and feelings rub up against everything I know and stand for.

Logically, I know that suicide is not the answer.
Logically, I know that ending my life would devastate those that love me.
Logically, I know that I would not earn a higher degree of glory if I take my own life.

However, although logic has a strong voice, the voice of my feelings screams much louder.

Logic manifests as a small thought in my brain, whereas my feelings affect me physically, psychologically and spiritually, and manifests as splashing waves of emotion.

I experience my feelings, but simply touch my thoughts.
Thoughts are fleeting and can come and go, but my feelings are rooted within me and swirl around me.

Logically I know that I will not be happy in the long run if I were to intentionally leave this life, but the desire to escape the pain of loneliness screams much louder than the logic telling me to stay.

Surprisingly, I'm not even tempted to act out. Acting out would just add the pain of telling my husband and confessing to my bishop, not to mention bearing the weight of the guilt and shame that would surely come.

Adding to the despair I already feel doesn't make sense when my feelings are begging me to escape it.

I just want to go home.

Even though I know that such a decision would forfeit maximum happiness in the long run, what I would inherit would be a much happier place than I'm at now.

I'd be home.
I'd be welcome.
I'd be connected.
I'd belong.

I just want to belong.

I'm holding on, even if barely.
The wind blows wildly on my branches.
My roots are stretched; threatening to snap.
And still, He holds me together.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Tribute to Mark

I have a friend who, since meeting him, I've adopted as my older brother. His name is Mark W. Miner. He is one of the most inspiring people I know. 

He doesn't know this, but I used to sort of think he was a celebrity. Someone had shared a bit of his story with me prior to meeting him and after hearing it I just knew he was amazing. 

So amazing that I really wanted to meet him. 
Heck, I wanted to be him, or so I thought. 
Really what I wanted, was to have what he had. 

Freedom from the everyday bondage of addiction.
Knowledge of how to achieve such freedom.
... and
A personal relationship with our elder brother, Jesus Christ.

I remember the first time I met him. It was on a Sunday evening after an ARP fireside. I managed to muster up the courage to walk up to him and say hi, expecting in return a handshake accompanied by an inquisitive look that said both, 'do I know you?' and 'what do you want?'

I received neither.

Instead, I felt big burly arms wrap around me and with pure sincerity, he said: "Hi! How are you!?' Still to this day I wonder if he thought I was someone else, but I choose to take my experience at face value and believe he really was genuinely happy to see me.

The fact is, he exemplified the Savior that day, because he greeted me with pure love.

I'd like all of you to meet Mark, to feel of his goodness and be touched by the redemptive power of our Savior's Atonement by hearing his story. You can do so by watching his video. I'm warning you though, you'll likely need a tissue:

Mark also recently wrote a poem and, after reading it, I wanted to share it here, by permission:

Faith is a Breaking Dawn

On the edge of faith, the choice is mine.

Chilling winds of doubt gust and eddy about,
pushing me towards the wide-mouthed chasm of the past,
that devouring pit of bottomless regrets
which weigh me down and suck me into
the monstrous maw of broken-boned hopes;
and all around, the faint but piercing screams
of unkept promises and dying dreams still echoing,
unforgiving, accusingly calling my name.

But faith is a breaking dawn,
and each step forward, towards the Son,
erases that dark vortex of doubt from my mind,
stirs harmonies of hope and light in the now-gentle breeze,
and awakens the yellows and golds of joy within my heart.
The hymn of life pulses in my veins and sings in my soul,
a warming witness that love is real, and forgiveness,
a testimony that the choice I've made is life eternal.

~Mark W. Miner~

Thank you for being my friend; my brother, Mark. 
I'm a better person for knowing you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Journal: The Truths That I Know

It’s me again.

I’m not doing very well today...

I poured out my heart to my Father as I stood in the shower.
I let the hot water soak up my tears and I shared my deepest fears with Him.

That I am...
...less than celestial material
...not clean enough 
...not righteous enough
...not mature enough

And then this song came on the  EFY playlist I had playing in the background:

I Am Enough 
Nicole Sheahan

As I heard the words, the tears began to flow even more freely. 
I heard Him. 
I heard Him speak to me through the song, that I am enough.

I am struggling right now, but I refuse to let my struggle silence the truths that I know.

I know that when I struggle this bad, something huge is coming. 
I don’t know what it is, but the adversary does, and he wants to keep me from it.
I know that I am under attack because of it.

I know that the Lord lets the wind blow on my branches to strengthen my roots.
He uses the wind, this struggle, for my good...
So long as I weather it, I will be stronger, wiser and ultimately closer to Him.

I know that weathering this storm does not translate to weathering it perfectly.
I am not perfect...
My Father doesn't expect me to be so.
He only expects me to remain faithful

I know that I am bigger than my body. 
Even though my body is triggering, and I feel completely burdened by it right now...
I am still bigger than it.

I know the tools of recovery. 
I have learned them, worked them, lived them.
I know they work. 
I have lapsed in these basic principles a bit, and that is one of the reasons I am struggling so much.

I know of my love for Him. 
I want to return to Him and dwell with Him more than anything. 
I want to feel His arms around me...
Feel His soft robes on my cheeks as I inhale the smell of their goodness. 

More than anything I want to hear Him speak the words: 
Well done, my good and faithful servant."

And therefore, 
I will not give up. 
Because in order for me to hear those words 
I must exemplify them.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Ties that Bind

As a man was passing the elephants at the circus, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg and a stake in the ground.

There were no chains or cages.

It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from their bonds, but for some reason they did not. He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well.” the trainer said, “When they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them down. At that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they stood.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we didn’t succeed at it once before?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Journal: Dusting off the Keys

It feels like ages since I have blogged (because it has been), and as I lay here sick in my comfy clothes, I feel it time to dust off the keys and get back to writing. I have really felt the strain of separation from my online recovery community and I really miss connecting with those seeking recovery from all over the world.

So, as you know, we recently moved to Price, Utah. The transition was somewhat bumpy; meaning, actually getting here was riddled with obstacles, but we did eventually make it and we are nicely settled in now.

Everything is absolutely great. I really, truly couldn't ask for anything more. Our house is huge, and wonderful, and completely within our budget. Everyone has their own room, we have a giant kitchen, a dishwasher and a functioning ice-maker, which are all luxuries we didn't have in our old place.

Our house is also located on a quiet street, incredibly close to the city pool (which happens to be open all winter because they cover it with a bubble), and I can see my middle sons bus stop from my front porch. I feel all warm and fuzzy everyday as I watch him get off the bus and greet him at the porch.

Everything is perfect... yet still, I struggle.

The loneliness comes in waves. One day I feel great and then the next I feel completely separate. Gratefully, I have a pretty good routine down so no matter how I'm feeling, I'm still up, showered and contributing to my family and society.

And then there are the triggering thoughts. I haven't been so great at blocking them, or even getting up and moving when they enter my head. Sometimes I just sit in them; drown in them.

I knew I needed help, so last week I fumbled through making an appointment with my new bishop. Nice man. Knows nothing about addiction. And I'm still not sure what he thinks about me. I feel like I completely over-shared with him (even though logically, I really didn't) and I'm still suffering from a major vulnerability hangover from that meeting.

But, the one major good thing that came out of it is I feel like I have, once again, found my recovery footing. I have been deliberate in my battle to manage my thoughts since meeting with him (that's 9 days). And except for a 10 second lapse in judgement a couple of days ago, they have remained clean.

Now, that is not to say there haven't been many knocks at the door from thoughts that wished to enter, but besides the 10 second lapse, none have gained entrance.

So even through the somewhat minor struggles...
I am doing pretty good.
And I am doing pretty good, because God is good.

Tomorrow is a new day... and on that note, I'll end with an awesome meme I ran across today:

Amen to that!

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"