An attitude of gratitude!

Gratitude IS the key to moving on!

When I was being abused and in my worst mental anguish I couldn’t see anything to be grateful for, all I could see was greyness and more pain ahead. As my healing progressed I began to realized that I DID have something to be grateful for, I was alive! Being alive gave me more possibilities than I could imagine! Suddenly, a tiny hole appeared and a bright light shone into my greyness and I knew it could be broken! Maybe the pain could be too? That tiny bit of gratitude shone a light and brought fuel to my ‘soul’, ‘inner-self’, ‘ME’ and who I am today has grown from there. An attitude of gratitude makes it possible to be happy, truly happy each day at a time.

My list of losses and traumas is a long one and I can’t even believe I survived all of it when I look at it, but I did. I became a PREVAILER by not looking at that list all the time and writing a new list of what I have to be grateful for. I also had to choose which list to start each day from.

WOW! What a list that is turning out to be!

Once i started to focus on what I HAD going for me, more and more things went ‘my way’! What!?! Really!?! I was skeptical even when the evidence was in front of me because I was just so sure that happiness and success were never going to be mine. Yet as I made each tiny step foward, grateful to still be standing, my life became more stable, I began to like some things about myself and even discovered that I had some talents and abilities!

The more that I embraced gratitude, it is easier to choose happiness for myself. This attitude change doesn’t remove my pains but instead allows me to rise above it; to no longer have pain be ME but rather take it’s rightful place as only a part of my life, not who I am.

I’m Lyn and I am a PREVAILER!

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends and family!

Thanks for reading, caring and sharing my journey!

My Gratitude List

  • Life – nothing is possible without it
  • Love, so many have loved me when I felt unlovable
  • Love, I love myself more each day
  • Love, I love many people, unconditionally
  • Kirsten – my Kidneice
  • Jake, Carlos and Laci who get me out of bed even when I don’t want to
  • Coffee
  • Food
  • Toilet paper
  • To be able to walk
  • To be able to breathe in fresh air
  • Singing
  • and on, and on, and on…

The beat goes on…

I’m so happy to be writing after a long absence from it. Writing is one of my favourite activities; it’s like meditating, talk therapy and art therapy all in one.  Writing and sharing my journey has helped me become a prevailer over the abuse, and the ptsd I live with because of it. Though I will always have ptsd, it no longer has me! I am a Prevailer! 

*Because it is an acronym, post-traumatic stress disorder is usually written as PTSD. I consciously used lowercase letters (ptsd) to reduce the disorder from the monster it once was to the small role it has in my life today. 

As I find myself spiritually, emotionally and mentally balanced and happy, my body is struggling from the past decades of abuse, neglect, and self-destructiveness.  Add the genetics I got from my parents – almost every medical condition out there are in my genes! I could end up with prostate cancer! LMAO!

My health has never seemed great, I used to have colds all the time and did not feel good most days of my childhood. I started thyroid medication in my 20s, Had my first arthritis attack in my 30s, was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in my 40s, and liver damage has come in my 50! By the way, I have not drunk alcohol since December 12, 1986.  

One major thing has changed over the past couple of years, I love myself today and my mental health has never been better! I am much more able to see how temporary all of my concerns are, actually, everything is temporary (But that’s for the next installment).

I may not be able to prevail over my medical conditions but my attitude of gratitude keeps me joyful for every day I have. In spite of what my body has to say, I remain happy-to-be-alive! My heart is strong and full of love and as long as the beat goes on, so will I!

Thanks for reading and caring about me. :o)   xo

Love Hurts

“Love hurts, Love scars, Love wounds and marks any heart not tough or strong enough to take a lot of pain…Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain. Love hurts.”  Nazareth really got the pain of a broken heart! Nothing has paralyzed me more than my heart and mind breaking at the same time.

My first boyfriend had been an innocent exchange student from Nigeria in 1978/79. Sim had come to study at our renowned Northern College of Applied Arts and Technology.  He was sweet, kind and far too innocent for a girl hellbent on destruction! I was drinking a lot and don’t exactly remember the break up but we recently reconnected through Facebook and have spoken a few times only to feel those beautiful panges of ‘first love’ again! But before I prevailed…

While in AA I met Russell, he was struggling with sobriety, identity and so much from having been a residential school survivor. He and his siblings had been taken from their parents at the Saugeen Reserve in Notre Dame Du Nord, PQ only to be abused emotionally, mentally and physically. Russell was a tormented soul but his charm, wisdom and sheer sexiness won me over immediately and I soon became codependently obsessed.  Russell and I did fall in love (as much as two screwed up people can) and talked about marriage, going so far as to buy the rings; but, a few months later he would be killed in a car crash at his Family’s reserve in Northern Quebec  September 2, 1983.

My world, my mind and I crumbled.

I tried to go on with life and went through with my plans to go to cooking school in North Bay a few months after but I was a broken person mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and I had started drinking and drugs again.  But a few weeks into the school program we got a new student Harvey Cooper. WOW! We became a thing and soon I was thinking that, as terrible as losing Russell had been, there had been a reason for it…so I could meet Harvey.  Harvey and I were meant to be together, he was 5′ 2″ and I like to say I’m 5′, we made each other laugh a lot, we had dreams together and we just fit each other well. Poor Harvey though, I was very troubled and would, every few months or so, melt down and try to hurt myself but I felt certain that a future with him would work out all my problems. After we graduated from chef school, I began working as a cook, since there were no chef’s to apprentice under. Harvey tried getting better paid work but after a few months of unemployment, he heard there was a boom of work in London, Ontario and he hitchhiked down to find work.

He stayed at the men’s mission and found a job the day after arriving, as a house framer, he liked the work and his boss too. A few months later he rented an apartment, in Camelot Towers, and I moved down April 1st, 1986. I was astounded as we pulled into London that day; we had left the North with 10′ high snowbanks at 6 am and arrived in London, late afternoon! The trees were in bloom, people were wearing shorts and t-shirts, and the grass was green!!!  I was impressed and perhaps that is why I still call London home. Harvey liked his work and I was happy, we were happy, in love and planning for a future and got married in a small, but beautiful, ceremony August 22, 1986 and we found we both felt a stronger sense of self esteem once we had made our commitment official. I sobered up again and have stayed off the booze since December 12, 1986. Life was good. For awhile.

My Mother had been diagnosed with Lymphoma and was going to have to travel south for a doctor, so they decided on London, instead of Toronto and after a couple of hospital visits they moved here for her to seek treatment. I will expand on my mother’s life, and death in a seperate post soon. They moved on August 1 of ’87 and on the 10th, Harveys life, as he knew it, was never going to be the same and neither would mine.

The company he worked for focused on house framing but they also did some roofing too and they had been working on a cedar roof for a 3 storey house and as he did some prep work, he misstepped and went through a hole in the roof for a skylight!

Harvey’s was profoundly altered from the closed head injury he suffered. He was never the same man his personailty, cognitive abilities, and moods were all forever changed and he struggled, he knew he was changed and after 3 years of struggling, he took his own life in the summer of 1990.

My Mother had died March 2nd of 1990 and I found my self alone with my fragile mind, that lost it’s fight and I fell. I fell deep into the pit of despair, but unlike other times, I didn’t clammer to get out, I just lay there soaking it in. I believed I deserved to be there, live there and never aspire to happiness.

How I got from those depths of despair, to standing strong is the real story of my life and will be focus of this blog from now on.  I won’t be chronicling my life here the same way.  The focus will be on what happened to allow me to prevail.

Much thanks and love to those who read this blog and continue to support me!

 

 

 

 

 

The 12 and 12.

Over the first part of my life, I dabbled in various forms of addiction; booze, drugs, sex, food, gaming, TV, if it felt good, I wanted it, and too much of it too! As a result,  I’ve attended just about every anonymous group out there; there’s been AA, NA, EA, SA, OA, and hell, just to cover all the bases, I even joined CAA! Badumpumptsh! Hehehe.

The one thing that all these groups and many recovery programs have in common is the 12 steps and traditions of AA developed by Dr. Bob and Bill W and the few hearty souls that began Alcoholics Anonymous back in 1935. The steps and traditions came out in 1953 as a result of their experiences in getting and staying sober.  There is little doubt that these steps are effective, many recovery groups and programs have adapted them over the years to great success. Most people focus on the 12 steps as they deal directly with the addict and how they can turn themselves and their lives around. The 12 traditions are often seen as the group governing rules and only explored in how they control a bunch of drunks or addicts in this group setting. However, I found the traditions to be the cornerstone of my education on how to live with other humans, groups, organizations, authority… etc. etc.

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Make a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditations to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority-a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose-to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. Alcoholics Anonymous as such ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

“Place principles before personalities.” These four words are the cornerstone of the ethics that I developed through my years in recovery, therapies and much personal and spiritual reflection.

Many have taken great offense to the mention of God in the AA program and I have gone from little Catholic girl to agnostic teenager to being convinced the IF there was this “God”, he sure hated me! I guess that’s still agnostic…lol. I remained agnostic for years until I discovered Wicca, First Nations Spirituality, and Buddhism.  If I’m pressed to put a label on my personal beliefs today, I usually answer that I’m a “Buddhist Witch.” Ultimately, I know there is a power greater than me, quite a few powers greater than me actually but I do not believe in religion. I see all religions as man-made creations based on human perceptions of divinity.  My principals and ethics are influenced by my beliefs and experiences but can rise above the subjectiveness of those to be objective in many situations.

I stayed sober for a couple of years, but revisited booze several times over a few years and had my last drink of alcohol on December 12, 1986. I was an active member of AA until 1996/97 after I HAD to seek “outside help” for mental illness. Once I began that journey I had little room for the confines of the AA agenda. Yes, alcohol had profoundly affected me but it has been more a symptom of a deep-rooted desire for self-destruction that I had to recognize, remove and heal from, which took years and a variety of therapies, education, and positive life experiences.

The 12 and 12  remain a big part of who I am today, I no longer attend AA meetings because I needed a break from the unhealthy personalities that are plentiful there and I don’t think about drinking unless I’m AT a meeting.  I still have friends in the program and I would recommend it for anyone struggling with alcohol and think that all searches for personal improvement are valuable and worth it.

Thanks for reading my thoughts and experiences. Next time I will get back to where I left off chronologically in the 1980s. Much love and gratitude.

I’m Still Standing!

Hi, I AM still standing…when I’m not sitting or lying down, but still standing! LOL

The long cold nights of winter have never been my friend and I have been fighting the call of one of my spirit animals, the bear, to hibernate.  It seems that I’ve outdone my previous life expectancy and am now old enough for stuff to fall apart, and it is. After a lifetime of digestive issues, my liver is shot, I have stage 2 liver damage and have had some bad health days as a result.  I also had a major arthritis attack in my hands, wrists, feet, ankles, and knees that put off this blog too; but enough with excuses!

Actually, let’s talk about excuses for a moment. You see, I ROCK at excuses! I have been coming up with great excuses to hide my social anxieties for decades now.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have had digestive issues forever and could blame them even when they were not the culprit. But I’m done with making excuses and am going to do the things I want to, not do the things I don’t want to do and dismiss anyone asking for an excuse!

I left my last post off when I started attending AA in 1980 which caused quite a bit of a stir. You see, up until the 80’s the attendees at AA were older men, with few women, let alone a 17-year-old girl.  Add to this that I had been ‘taught’ to introduce my self as “chemically addicted” rather than “an alcoholic” like everyone else said at meetings. This caused such a ruckus that people broke out in fights over my ‘right’ to attend meetings and many felt I was too young to be an alcoholic anyway! LMAO, I ended up staying clean and sober out of spite for the first few years!

Because of these issues,  I became familiar with the 12 traditions of AA which govern this organization; this has been one of the greatest gifts I received in my time attending AA meetings. Next time I will talk about the 12 and 12, as we call them, the 12 steps and 12 traditions of AA.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, much love to each of you! Lyn

 

 

That long and winding road.

I am feeling much better today, my thoughts are settled, calm and I’m not feeling fractured anymore.  I started this blog to tell my story of how I became a prevailer and to do that I have to tell you how it was and what I had to ‘get over’ but it turns out that for my mental wellness I need to interject with what is working for me today.

For decades life was a series of things that happened to me, not for me or with me, but one detached event after another that I had no control over.  Once I had healed enough to believe I could control my life, I was able to set to work acquiring the necessary skills to do just that. One of those skills is ‘Mindfulness’, It isn’t just the latest therapy craze, it is the product of meditation.  When I take the time to quiet my mind, even only 5 – 10 minutes, a day I have much better days. I practice being present for most of the moments in my day these days and that has made it possible for me to make decisions that are in my own best interest.

One of those recent decisions has taken my time, energy and focus for a couple of weeks, I have gotten my B driver’s license again and am returning to School bus driving! I did this for a few years over a decade ago, but major depression took me out of the game back then. Even though I was in a depression, I tried retraining through the government’s Second Career program but unfortunately, the government was overwhelmed with interest in this program and they suspended it for 6 months to re-vamp it. By then, my EI had run out, I had given notice at my little bachelor pad and I faced homelessness for the first time. This was in 2009, shortly after losing my brother-in-law to suicide, I was completely alone and in a major depression. Wow, I am blown away that I not only survived this time, but I have prevailed! I have become my own advocate and best friend since then.  These are the reasons I want to share my journey with everyone if I can prevail, anyone can! Needless to say, I hope my long, winding road keeps going a long, long time, I have a lot of things I want to do!

I left off in 1979 when I had become very active in AA and was certain that sobriety would solve my issues.  When it didn’t seem to, I became convinced that getting as thin as I could would solve the problems that AA couldn’t.  I also met a man who would transform my life at this time, Russell.

Russell was an Algonquin Native who I fell completely and co-dependently in love with. He struggled with sobriety and self-esteem but he treated me better than any man had before.

I am going to leave the story there for now and write on those days next time. Thank you for following my story and I encourage you to subscribe and share it too.

much love, Lyn

 

 

The road less traveled.

So, it turns out, I’m still struggling with getting my thoughts and actions balanced again after falling apart a few weeks ago.  “Falling apart” actually describes what happens to me quite accurately.  As I said before, it is as though my self, mind, and emotions become fragile glass that gets shattered by too much pressure.  That pressure is usually fueled by fear, hopelessness, and isolation.  Now, I can recognize it, be kind to myself and allow myself the time to recover, weeks, maybe a month or so, versus the years I spent in these shattered states. So forgive my tardy posting.  I have always chosen the road less traveled, I really don’t like crowds! To others, it may seem a more difficult path, but it is the only way I have become the Prevailer I am today. I prevail because no matter what, I’m still standing!

During my breakdown in 1979/80, I went to an Alanon family retreat in North Bay where Sister Peg O’ Connor helped people learn how to live with an alcoholics in their lives. She was tough and didn’t pull any punches when she challenged us to take a good honest look at ourselves and our lives; she let us know it was OK to go ahead and have a life in spite of the alcoholic.  Since alcohol and drugs had played a big factor in my mental illness I couldn’t deny it when Sister Peg told me I was an alcoholic/addict, needed more help, and recommended Vita-Way Farm in Powassan (Outside North Bay) where you would live for 9 months to rehabilitate.

Yes, it is THAT place founded by Father John Fisher, who I knew to be the angriest, most foul-mouthed, chain-smoking priest I ever met. I didn’t know about the sexual abuse he perpetrated on some of the young men until after the allegations came out in 2008 and I am not surprised. I am so sorry for all of his victims but will tell my story as it happened for me.

Actually, I was relieved that someone knew what was wrong with me and how to fix it because I was completely lost. I went home and struggled for a few months waiting to get in. Once there, I started to get one eye-opening experience after another.

We started our days with actual farm chores and that huge shock to the olfactory really made me question my life choices. There were group meetings where we learned and practiced 7 steps that had been adapted from the 12 steps to be more teen-friendly.  They dealt with taking an honest look at yourself, admitting your shortcomings, become willing to change, making changes and keeping all this going on a daily basis.  The girls did all the cooking and cleaning and the guys did the bigger farm jobs after we all fed them in the mornings.  I didn’t feel like a troubled teen and never really felt like I fit in there, but then again I hardly ever do feel like I fit in.

After a couple of months, I started to feel like I HAD to go home and impulsively decided I was leaving. When I told Father Fisher he lite a smoke with the butt of his old one and spit out, “Going to go and suck off your mother’s tit some more, eh?” I was appalled and defiantly packed my bag and started the long, long walk into North Bay, 30 km away, in -20 weather.  One of the farm workers came by and gave me a ride to the bus station after about 30 minutes of walking that long highway.  My Mother was instantly concerned that I would retreat into old habits and when I got home off the bus she had her Alanon friend Pauline and her husband Norm visiting for coffee. Norm just happened to be in AA and invited me to a meeting that night. I went to appease my Mother but I started going to a meeting a day and soon you couldn’t keep me in the house so I sure felt like something was working.

Next time I will let you know how I’m doing and tell a bit more about my journey on the road less traveled.

 

Thanks for reading, caring and supporting me.

Well, that happened.

So, I missed last week’s post because I had a PTSD attack that left me feeling shattered mentally and emotionally; my thinking was disordered and I just couldn’t get my act together. At one time, I spent months and years in that state. During most of my childhood, adolescence, and off and on into my early 30s. How I have succeeded at anything is kind-of amazing because I have fought mental fog most of the time. Here is what happened, what I learned and how I am coping today.

I have had to have a human roommate to cover my expenses the last few years that I have lived on a disability pension and the situation has become a huge problem! I handled everything OK for the first couple of days, but as my home became more stressful, I began to feel less and less safe, no violence, but the stress made the air thicker and my home became disordered while the situation is being dealt with.

Sometime last Monday, October 2, I ‘broke’; like a fragile piece of blown glass. I felt hopeless, weak and I couldn’t stop crying. I knew that the situation wasn’t that intense, but my PTSD was triggered and I was feeling the intensity of my past victimhood because of it.  Unlike the past though, I wasn’t embarrassed by my state,  I recognized it for PTSD and talked about it with a few people in my awesome support network. The other person I talked it through with was myself, I repeatedly reminded myself that I was ACTUALLY in this moment and have the skills to handle anything.  I practiced a lot of breathing exercises, mindful meditations, and positive self-talk to get myself out of it.

Within 5 – 6 days I was through the emotional and mental anguish of a PTSD attack, but then had crippling pain in all my arthritic joints: my fingers, hands, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet. I also had the digestive issues that accompany mental anguish for me and it took another week to recover from that, but look at me! Back at it in hardly no time at all!

I have already learned more about myself and my needs. My home has to be my haven, my port from the storm of life, the place I feel safe on every level.  I am not the fragile piece of blown glass I once was, I’m more like a Corel dish today, I can take being dropped a few times and I will bounce back LOL.

I have acquired, practiced and now own coping skills! I CAN reason with myself, I CAN reach out to someone, I CAN voice my pain and expectations and I am heard. I CAN be fragile and I WILL survive it. Fragility just means I am human.

Next week I will get back to my past story and another piece to the Lyn puzzle that is ME!

Thank you to all those friends and family that support me!

 

The seeds of Love.

In spite of all that had happened so far in my life, tiny seeds of love had indeed been planted within my mind/soul/self. My mother had a huge capacity for unconditional love so much so that “Love” was my nickname for her.

My Mother’s life was not an easy one but she had a sharp mind, fast wit, biting sarcasm, and so much love for her children! As a child, the only time I felt safe in my house was when I was home alone with my mother. Once I started school, I would often get really sick in the mornings and miss the school bus so I got to hang out with my mother. After a few days like this, she put on her “Dr’s” hat and diagnosed me with “Schoolitis” and much to my chagrin, the treatment was going to school.  :/  My Mother gave me two of the most precious gifts I carry today, a great sense of humour and a deep capacity to love. I seek to better myself and reach my potential in life to honour her memory. IMG_20130830_194752

When I became paralyzed from depression and anxiety it was my mother who kept me from becoming completely catatonic. She had already had a major health crisis that took a year for her to recover from during which I was stealing her pills and disappearing for a day or two every once in a while. I can only imagine the pain I caused her and I remain grateful for the opportunity to repay her love and kindness by caring for her when she became sick with Lymphoma. But back to love and how it helped me, even when I didn’t feel it.

Alateen had been a bright flash of light, love, and self-esteem within me too even though I crashed after only a year of believing in myself.  I spent a few years on self-destruct and I took on “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” with a mission to obliterate myself.  Went I stopped functioning at 17 years old I had destroyed any sense of good and I felt unlovable, unlikable and completely unable to do or be anything.  But, my mother loved me and told me every day, she insisted I was beautiful, kind and worth the pride she felt in me but I often told her, “She had to love me, she was my mother.” I have since learned that is not always the truth with mothers and daughters, and the love she showered on me sowed the seeds of love deep within my psyche, my soul, my self even though I didn’t believe it. My year in Alateen had been able to give them enough light for them to start slowly, steadily take root.

It would take me decades to reap the harvest of those seeds but if they had not been planted then I don’t think I would be here today. Love has been the most powerful force in my journey from victim to Prevailer. As I reflected on my past, I realized that it kept me going when I had nothing left within my mind, spirit or body. I continue to learn how to love myself and doing so has helped me create a happy, fulfilling, successful life today.

I wanted to interject my blog and story with the key to how I survived all that I have endured. Next week I will look back at my first bout with PTSD and make my way to Vita-Way Farm in 1979/80.

Thanks for reading and please keep connected.

Lyn xo