Category Archives: Feelings and emotions

Soul stamps: A temporary reminder – a permanent promise

I love soul stamps. I found them in the marketplace at #SheRecoversNYC. I thought they were such a good idea. I tracked down their creator Elizabeth Bruno and asked her why she created them…
1. Soul Stamps was started in October 2016. My inspiration was a permanent tattoo I have on my wrist that says Let Go. I got the tattoo when I graduated college as a reminder to let go of fear of the future. Since then its been a good reminder and I wanted to share temporary reminders with people. My vision for Soul Stamps was to remind people of their worth & value in a world where it is easy to forget.

2. Oh my gosh, the response has been unbelievable. Soul Stamps has given me the amazing gift of connecting with people and getting to know their hearts and stories. At the recovery conference I gave away free tattoos for people to try. It was eye opening to see how many of the women were requesting the I Am Enough tattoo. That affirmation is my favorite because feeling enough is something I struggle with and meeting these amazing women who feel the same way and being able to connect with them in that way was a gift I will never forget. We all come from different places with different stories and journeys but our hearts and the need to feel loved and enough and worthy are all the same. The response from people has shown me that!
3. With social media we are constantly saturated with who we should be, what we should look like, what we shouldn’t look like…it’s easy to forget who we are. Soul Stamps help people remember their worth and value by looking down and being reminded. One of the best moments in my business so far was when a friend went to her first wedding since becoming sober and wore the “I am fearless” tattoo and could look at it when she needed the help and feel the strength she always had. When I hear moments like that I know they are helping and it makes me so happy!
If you want to buy some soul stamps, you can do so here.

This is not a promotion, I did not get paid to write this, it’s just a recovery product I like.

Veronica’s story

Many people have asked me for my drinking story, I wrote this some time ago and decided to publish it. This is me, this is who I was and who I am now….

I think there’s two ways you can become an alcoholic. I think you’re either born that way or, you simply need to drink enough alcohol and become one.

Veronica Valli - always the party girl

Veronica Valli – always the party girl

I believe I was born an alcoholic.
I believe this, because I’ve always felt ‘different’. My earliest memories are of feeling ‘odd’, ‘uncomfortable in my own skin’. I felt like I was looking out at the world through a glass screen, I was on one side and everyone else was on the other.
I felt separate, alone, unconnected. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, I never felt like I truly ‘fitted in’ or ‘belonged’ anywhere. These feelings began long before I ever tried alcohol.

When I finally tried alcohol at around 15 it felt like a light bulb went on. All of a sudden, I felt complete, I felt ‘right’, and I had confidence and self-belief.
Drink did something to me, it made me feel normal.
I never drank ‘normally’, whatever that is. I drank alcoholically from the word ‘go’. I could never get enough of this substance that made me feel so good.
Initially I was just your regular teenage binge drinker, I could get into bars and clubs when I was underage and the whole point was to get as drunk as possible. At the time, it was what my entire peer group was doing too. I certainly wasn’t doing anything that different to most teenagers, but whenever I compared myself to them, I knew I was different. I could tell they didn’t have the same feelings of desperation or disconnectedness that lived within me. As we grew up they naturally moderated their drinking and drank less, where as I found that inconceivable.

At 15 I also experimented with marijuana. I’m never quiet sure what happened with my drug education, I must have missed that bit at school. It never once occurred to me to ‘just say no to drugs’, or even question what they would do to me. I so desperately wanted to be liked and to feel normal, that I said ‘yes’ to any substance offered to me.
I met my first serious boyfriend when I was 16 and shortly after left home. He was a recreational drug user and through him I tried LSD, Magic Mushrooms and Amphetamines.
I loved them; I used drugs regularly and partied every weekend. I was struggling through college and I barely passed my exams but I didn’t care because I though I’d found this group of people I belonged too and a lifestyle I enjoyed. I felt like I was living life on the edge, it felt glamorous and sophisticated.
For 2 years I really, really enjoyed taking drugs and getting drunk.
I had a great time and then at 17 everything went horribly wrong.
I had taken some LSD and had a ‘bad trip’, this had never happened before and I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt panicky and scared, I was seeing and hearing things and got very paranoid. The feeling of terror grew and even when I began to ‘come down’ the fear and panic didn’t leave, in fact it got worse. I now know I went into drug induced psychosis, but at the time I had no idea what was happening too me. The worse thing was I couldn’t tell anyone around me how I felt, I put on a ‘mask’ and pretended everything was ok. I was terrified of anyone finding out what was really happening I became imprisoned by my own fear.

This shattered my life
My whole life was shattered. I was terrified and paranoid all the time and having at least a dozen panic attacks a day. I couldn’t get on a bus, go into a supermarket or sit in my own living room without having a panic attack and making some kind of excuse to leave. I could barely go to college, I couldn’t cope, I was having a breakdown and was most definitely suicidal. I used to stand at the bus stop waiting for a bus I was too scared to get on, trying to summon the courage to jump in front of it.

Everyday of living was agony for me and I didn’t know how to carry on.
This went on for months and I was too terrified to tell anyone what was happening. I didn’t know how too. I couldn’t even begin to articulate what I was experiencing, I was too scared to say it out loud because if I did, it meant what was happening to me was real, and I was still clinging on to the hope that one day I would I wake up and be normal again.
Close to a breakdown I eventually went to the doctors and told him everything. He wrote me a prescription for Valium and recommended some counselling. I never went to the counselling but I did like the idea of being prescribed drugs to make me feel better.
This was the worse possible thing to do.
It started off a 10-year prescription drug habit. For years I visited different doctors explaining my symptoms of fear and paranoia and they would write me prescriptions for Valium, Xanax, anti-depressants. They always worked for a bit, papered over the cracks, but they never dealt with the root of the problem.

Veronica Valli - this was taken about a year before I got sober

Veronica Valli – this was taken about a year before I got sober

Fear ruled my life

The next 10 years of my life from 17 to 27 were a living hell. I was never, ever free from fear; it was the overwhelming emotion I woke up to every morning. Some days I felt like I could hardly breath through the terror of having to get through the day and pretend to be normal.
After the incident with LSD I had stopped using illegal drugs completely and only drank alcohol, my drinking increased very quickly because it was the only thing that took away the fear. It took the edge off of my anxiety and I had a few hours of reprieve from the madness in my head and I could pretend to be ‘normal’.
At 17 my drinking shifted from ‘having fun,’ to using it to cope with how I felt. I knew there was something very wrong with me, I just didn’t know what. I did try to get help, I looked everywhere, I went to doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, churches, anywhere that offered some kind of hope. I was treated for anxiety or depression but never my alcoholism. The truth is, I either lied about how much I drank or, I was simply never asked, no one ever picked up on my drinking as being the real problem. Whatever treatment I was offered only ever gave me a temporary reprieve and inevitably I would revert back to familiar feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair and discontent. Drinking always gave me a temporary relief from these feelings.

I tried every method known to alcoholics to try to ‘fix’ my life. It is amusing to me now, to see how unoriginal I was in my attempts to try to make things ‘better’. Every alcoholic or addict I’ve known has tried the same methods.
At 19 I went to America to travel, I did this a lot in my twenties, spending time travelling round the world trying to escape myself. But always ending up in the same place again (alone, confused, scared and a failure). What I was really doing was running away from myself.
I’ve been to some really incredible glamorous places and I hated all of them because of how I felt.
Somehow I always managed to hold down a job and got through university but I was always just ‘holding on.’ I tried to ‘loose myself’ in relationships, I almost got married to a man I didn’t love because I thought that marriage would ‘save me,’ and everything would then be ‘fixed’. However all my romantic relationships were based on dishonesty, fear and neediness. I couldn’t believe anyone would want to be with me, when they found out how disgusting I really was. I felt so unworthy of love that it was beyond my comprehension that anyone could really love me. So like a lot of alcoholics I just took ‘hostages’ because being alone scared me so much.

Cocaine brought me to my knees
I was constantly searching, looking for answers.
I have a massive thirst for life and this is what really saved me. Because I remained curious I eventually stumbled across the solution for my problem. When I was drinking I always felt discontented, I knew I wasn’t reaching my full potential, I knew I wasn’t the person I knew I could be and I drank on these feelings because they were too painful to acknowledge to myself.

Veronica at 23 - I was at a wedding and started the night looking pretty good only to end up in my usual disheveled state.

Veronica at 23 – I was at a wedding and started the night looking pretty good only to end up in my usual disheveled state.

I moved jobs, countries, relationships, friendships, believing each time that this would be the thing that would make me feel ‘ok’. I blamed outside circumstances for how I felt and believed if I changed these circumstances (which I did often) I would be happy.
Throughout my twenties I drank heavily, more than I knew was good for me, I always sought a peer group who drank as much as I did. I drank before any social situation because I was too scared to face people; I drank before parties because I was scared there wouldn’t be enough booze for me to get the ‘buzz’ I needed. I drank anytime I felt scared and couldn’t cope. Towards the end of my drinking I began to sneak drinks and drink on my own, I preferred that to sharing my booze.
In my mid-twenties I started using cocaine whenever I drank because it enabled me to drink more. However cocaine gave me the worst ‘come down’s’ ever. I was suicidal. I would wake up the next day and felt like my soul had been scraped out and was lying on the floor next to me. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of bed let alone make it through the rest of my life.
My feelings of loneliness and despair intensified.
Without a doubt their were moments of happiness, peace and calm through this period. I would have moments when I felt everything was going to be ok, but they were always fleeting, I could never hold on to them, the same inevitable dark feelings would return. I was slowly dying on the inside, it wasn’t the alcohol that was necessarily killing me, it was the lies that I was telling my self.
I had to tell lies to myself as it was the only way I could deal with the fear inside of me. I believe fear is the defining characteristic of alcoholism, no one understands fear the way alcoholics do.

Finding freedom
I never became physically dependent on alcohol. I could always go for a period of time without it, usually I would switch to something else, prescription drugs, pot anything that helped me get through the day. I’ve known the shame and degradation of being a female alcoholic and sleeping with men I don’t like just to feel wanted. I’ve never been arrested, bankrupt, or fired, or many of the terrible things that have happened to alcoholics. At first, I thought I couldn’t be an alcoholic because I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ However, I learnt that it isn’t the drinking and consequences that makes you an alcoholic; it’s the thoughts and feelings that drive alcoholism. It was then that I finally understood what my problem really was.

As soon as I understood the problem I could then embark on the solution.

I got help from experts who understood alcoholism and joined a self-help group. For the first time in my life I realised I wasn’t alone.
Getting clean and sober was the hardest thing I have ever done, but there was no choice for me, I couldn’t go back to how I was living. I wanted to live, to make my life count, to see what I was capable of. When I got sober, these things at last became possible.
I always knew something was very, very wrong with me but I thought it was a rare mental health condition, not alcoholism. Alcoholism can’t be measured by how much you drink; it is an internal condition and requires an internal fix, not an external one.

Today with my family

Today with my family

Finally, I became free of the prison I had made for my self; the only thing that had ever limited me was my own thinking. Recovery gave me a new perspective on life; it gave me back my self-belief and confidence. I am finally engaging in the process of reaching my full potential and becoming the woman I was meant to be. I no longer have a 50% life of just getting by, just coping. I am no longer scared, I am just the opposite, I am fearless in everything I do. I no longer worry whether you like me or not, because I love who I am. I wake up everyday and find something to be joyful about. Certainly my life has challenges in it, but none of them threaten to capsize me the way they used to, I relish challenges so I can learn and grow and become the best version of myself I’m capable of being.
Life is a wonderful adventure now instead of a scary threatening place. I live a life now beyond anything I could have dreamed off before. I am on fire with the possibilities there are in front of me.

My sobriety date is: 2nd of May 2000.

It is connection we seek

It is connection we seek.
Not a drink, or a drug or a casual f**k. It is the moment of understanding that occurs between human souls. This is what we crave.
Our dilemma is how to get it. Because we were not taught, you see? Everything got so busy, checking boxes, getting stuff. That in the midst of all this doing and getting we forgot to be who we really were. We craved, but misunderstood what we craved for. So we started filling, and stuffing, and drinking, and getting but it was never enough and we were always empty. Empty and alone.

The bar promised us connection, as did the club and the party too. It enticed me with it’s lure of camaraderie, ‘this is where you belong,’ it said. I went along hoping to know people and for them to know me. But then the words that came out of my mouth belonged to someone else, I didn’t mean them, I didn’t mean what I said, but I said them all the same. So the ‘me’ that you got to know was never the real ‘me’ anyhow. And then my limbs misbehaved as if they belonged to someone else. And here we all are, together, but not together, just strangers standing in the same room drinking to connect but missing every time.

Waiting for the ‘click.’ When it all came into focus and everything worked out the way I wanted it to. But the ‘click’ always remained tantalizingly out of touch. But my god did I chase it.
Chased it for so long that I forgot what I was actually chasing. It really wasn’t another party but connection with you. I wanted someone, anyone, to know me. I was curling up and dying for lack of being seen.

Connection is like oxygen for human beings, we can’t survive without it, the artificial connection we create is like poisonous gas – it kills us slowly. Our real dilemma is that we have forgotten what it is we are seeking.
For the meaningful connection we desire, we have to risk being vulnerable, real, quiet and congruent. We have to try it sober. So there is nothing for us to hide behind.
Stop searching, stop tearing up the place looking for something that will ‘fix’ you. You were ‘designed’ to be connected to the human race you have just forgotten how.
Remember now.

The most terrifying post I’ve ever written…

I’ve missed you guys.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted for a while. There have been a lot of things going on and I haven’t had any time to give to my blog. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to tell you, I’d rather pretend that everything is ok, but it isn’t, and I need to be honest.
When I trained as a therapist I also worked as an intern at a local treatment center. I had about 3 years sober and was working with people who had been sober for a matter of days. When you are trying to string together a week of sobriety, you tend to look up to people who have more sober time than you (don’t worry, you get over it eventually). Somewhere in my training I had mistakenly assumed that I always had to be perfect in front of my clients. In that, I always had to have the right answer (I would trot out some trite recovery phrase that seemed to fit the situation and nod wisely) or, I could never lose my cool or, show that I was flustered, or unsure of myself, or god-forbid, scared. This became extremely suffocating and limiting very quickly and it was a huge relief to discover that congruence (counselor stock in trade) and authenticity were far greater tools than always pretending I, and my life, were perfect.

Which is why I want to tell you the truth about what is going on with me right now. I have been sober for 16 years and a half years and this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through. My youngest child has a health diagnosis that could be potentially devastating. It meant that we had to move house very quickly and are living in temporary accommodation until we find somewhere suitable. As you can imagine, dealing with all of this through the summer whilst managing two little children didn’t leave any time or, energy for blog posts.
My emotions have ranged from despair, to fury, to depression to numbness. I never thought about picking up a drink but I did think about self-harming. Which is new for me.
It was then that I realized I needed some help.
As a mother, I can burden any pain or suffering for my children, but I don’t know how to navigate life with a child who may have a catastrophic condition. I feel crushed by the weight of it and sick with fear.

But I will not be broken by it. I had such a feeling of relief when I booked an appointment with a therapist, I started exercising again and my mood lifted immediately. I joined a support group and now I don’t feel quiet so alone. Whatever is in our future now, my family needs me to be strong and stable and I can only do that when I get help and support. I hadn’t forgotten that, it was more like asking for help, meant I had to admit there was a problem and I wasn’t ready to do that. If I didn’t admit it, then maybe it would go away. But it hasn’t gone away and I know this isn’t something I can deal with on my own.

It is always my goal to remain authentic to you, and even though I have experience and real insight into recovery, I am not without my challenges too. No matter how long I am sober for, I can never forget that my greatest strength comes from admitting my pain and weakness. It’s only then I can go forward. If there were ever a time in my life that was going to drive me back to drink, it would be now. But that was never an option. What all my years of recovery have taught me, is that when my back is against the wall, I can only keep applying the tools that have always worked for me.
I’m not going to pretend everything is ok when it isn’t; I always did that when I was drinking and it was so lonely. I’m going to live in the feelings, admit them, and deal with them.
The only way over this, is through it.

Resentment: Why I Let It Steal My Joy For So Long – Guest post

I love the picture to the right it puts into words perfectly how I felt for many years. I, like the girl pictured above, always felt like others had something I didn’t. It’s a really Sh#$#y way to go through life

When I walked through the doors of treatment I was scared, angry and also relieved that it was all finally “over”. I could give up the fight, and no longer be a slave to the cruel master of addiction.

I spent six months in residential treatment the physical transformation was shocking I looked like a different person. When I went home to visit so many people told me over, and over, how healthy I looked. I was much healthier physically, but emotionally I still had a lot of work to do. I was still angry. I had spent years consumed by my addiction. I spent seven miserable years on a marriage that was toxic for us both. This disease had taken everything until there was nothing left. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually bankrupt by the end. For so many years I had blamed others and held them responsible for my situation. Once I began working a 12-step program and honestly faced the truth. I realized that the person I despised the most was myself. In the end I had made the choices in the beginning that led me down this dark troubled road.
And So My Recovery Began
The first year was hard, really hard if I’m honest. I mean I was jealous of others who I thougtht had it so much easier. They got out of treatment, and right away got good jobs, had money, or got to go back to being parents. I have to admit though I was happier than I’d been in a long time, but I still struggled with bouts of depression, frequent outbursts of anger, and struggled with relationships.

I got a sponsor and began working my steps,. I spent a long time writing my fourth step by the time I was done I had filled a 3 ring binder. I wanted to let go of the past, I knew it was holding me back. But in the back of my mind I felt some of my resentments were justified. And they were however the toll they had taken on my well being, in the end was not worth the price I paid. My bitterness was killing me slowly, but surely.

The idea that I had a part in my resentments was hard for me to swallow in the beginning. What I did know is that if this meant freedom I was willing to at least try and see what happened.

.As time went on I spent a month where was restless, irritable and discontent. I was not exactly a ray of sunshine and my friends tolerated me but knew that something had to change! Even though I was clean and sober, my life was still miserable. I was successful. Even my family acknowledged that I had really turned things around.

My sponsor finally said to me how much more emotional pain are you willing to feel before you finish your fourth step. Ok I get it. I needed to get my ass in gear. I started to diligently finish this vital step. When I finished I felt different, like that huge burden I had been carrying for so long was gone I was finally free.
I Emptied The Backpack
I was thrilled that I could finally do a fifth step. But there was also a sense of trepidation, did I really want to tell her everything. I did if it meant that I never had to go back to the life I had lived in active addiction than whatever the cost I was willing to do it. Even it meant trusting someone completely for the first time in my life. I would tell her things no one else knew. Looking back this was a turning point. After this I was finally able to be honest with myself and others.

It took me nine hours to read my fourth step. This happened over two days. When I finished she looked at me and asked.

“How do you feel now?” she asked.

“Lighter.” was my reply.

It’s hard to put into words the relief that seeped into me. I felt like a part of the human race again. For so long I had kept this wall up that separated me from life. My fifth step broke down this wall.
The Joy Returned To My Life
The changes I experienced were pretty huge. I know it’s different for everyone. For me though, it was a complete turn around. I felt like I could relax for the first time in years. I laughed more. I didn’t cringe when I saw my ex’s number on my phone. I was nicer to my parents, my friend. The thing is, when my behavior changed, theirs did too. This a common theme I have noticed in recovery the changes happen with me and then it’s almost as if there is a ripple effect and that is when others change.

I still don’t like my ex, by the way. But, I realized that in holding resentments, I was continuing to allow him power over me. In a sense, I never left the relationship! I was constantly obsessing and rehashing. So it makes sense that if I want something better for the future I need to let go of the past.

Resentments almost broke me. They robbed me of joy, contentment and peace. Now, I feel a sense of freedom that I have never experienced previously. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to unload the weight I was carrying.

Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

Feelings and emotions in long-term recovery

One of things you may hear in early recovery is: ‘The good news is you get your feelings back, the bad news is you get your feelings back.’ I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t really excited to hear this.

My feelings were the reason I drank. I had no other coping mechanism to deal with my emotional life except to numb it with substances. Getting my feelings back was not good news to me. But I also didn’t want to go back to the living hell of drinking and trying to survive my life. I couldn’t live like that anymore, so reluctantly, I had to find a new way to manage the feelings I’d had spent my life running from.

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at

For an alcoholic in early recovery, learning to understand and deal with your feelings is like being a baby learning to walk. We are hesitant at first and easily stumble, but slowly and surely we gain our balance. We keep practicing and practicing and then one day walking just becomes something we don’t even think about, we just do it.
Learning to manage the full spectrum of your emotions is just like that.

I truly understood this when I was about 6 years sober. Two life changing events happened to me within 24 hours. They opened the door to feelings and emotions that I never would have been able to cope with in the past.

The first event was my first date with a man who I would eventually marry. It may seem extraordinary, but when we sat down for dinner that night, I knew, 100%, that he was going to be my husband.

Then, the next morning, my best friend died.

As soon as I heard the news my first feeling was anger, anger at God and the Universe for letting this happen. A giant mistake had obviously occurred and I was furious with God. Then I had this enormous feeling that she was OK in the place she had transitioned to. She wasn’t in pain or suffering. She was fine even though she was physically not here any more. Once I realized that, I just felt incredible sadness, because I would miss her so much.

What I began to understand through this experience, was the grief and sadness I was feeling honored our relationship. How I was feeling was the appropriate response to the event that had happened. By just letting those feelings wash over me, I validated the feelings we had for each other. And there was, despite the incredible sadness, something very beautiful about that. When I heard the news she had died, for a split-second I wanted to run from the tsunami of feelings I knew were coming my way. But I didn’t. I stayed still and surrendered to them.

At the same time I was grieving for my friend, I was also embarking on a relationship with the love of my life. So at the same time I was feeling intense sadness I was also feeling incredible joy.

Because I was able to feel the grief without the urge to run, I believed I learnt a life changing lesson. Loosing my best friend at that particular moment in my life, taught me, that the only things that really mattered in this life are the people you love and the time you spend with them. And that lesson served me enormously going into a new relationship. Without it, who knows how things would have turned out. Of course I wish I could have learnt this lesson any other way than losing my best-friend. What happened sucked, she died too young and the world lost someone very special. I don’t believe she died for a ‘reason,’ or for me to learn this lesson. Bad stuff happens in life, no one gets to escape that. All I could do was respond to it as best I could. And anger and bitterness at her death were not going to be the healthiest responses for me. I had to learn a new way, so when forced to, I did.

Image courtesy of Keerati /

Image courtesy of Keerati /

I never want to mislead you that once you get sober life is always going to be wonderful. Because it isn’t – sometimes it’s going to be really hard and sometimes it’s going to be really painful. But the good and the bad are all necessary – they create the tapestry of our human experience that is rich and beautiful. To run from my grief would have been a great insult to my friendship; by being willing to grieve honestly, I honored what was between us.

This is what feelings and emotions look like in long-term recovery. They are real and honest, beautiful and messy, but most importantly they are necessary. They are what makes us human. This is the good news, we get to feel again, and by feeling, we get to live again.

Panic attacks – guest post

Joy Anderson has written a guest post about panic attacks. Thank you for joining in the conversation.

Image courtesy of stockimages at

Image courtesy of stockimages at

My partner has suffered from panic attacks for years. Driving down the highway one day he called me on the phone. He said, “…can you just please talk to me for a minute I’m having a panic attack.” I thought in that moment about my strong willed, strong minded. “together” man and it just didn’t make sense. What in the world is he panicking about??! My well adjusted, confident, emotionally stable man. So I set to trying to dissect, understand, explain, relate to and “fix” it for him. Ironically, this would typically be something a man would do for a woman and the result would be the woman saying, “I don’t want you to fix it I just want you to be there for me.” I had come from a “pull up your boot-straps” sort of family where no matter what you just kept going. Anything that bothered you, you were to just ignore it and move on. At the time that my beau was introducing me to the idea of panic I wasn’t in touch with my own inner panic, not yet. So for me I just thought he ought to be able to blow it off and get on with it. I wasn’t intentionally being insensitive I was just unfamiliar, uneducated and inexperienced. Years later, panic would surface for me in the most incapacitating way forcing me to not so much understand it but learn how to simply sit beside it, put my arm around it and wait there with it until the shaking subsided. At least that’s what it demanded of me.

PANIC is a feeling that you don’t want to get used to. It can creep up at the calmest of moments, completely out of nowhere like a rogue wave. It leaves you untenable, tousled and discombobulated wondering what the heck just happened. The very first time I experienced symptoms of panic I thought I was having a heart attack. My chest was tight, I was cold but sweating, my jaw hurt and I felt like I was going to throw up and pass out. I wondered for a fleeting second if I could get to the passing out part before actually tossing my cookies. I wound up in an E.R. with all sorts of monitors attached to me all over my body.

I was asked a series of questions to determine whether I’d ingested drugs or poison, been in an accident or sustained some other trauma and of course, I had nothing to report. Finally, after all physical origin had been omitted as a cause, I learned about this thing called Panic Disorder from a very kind psychiatry intern. “Oh, my boyfriend has that.” I told her. And now I had it too -I felt like such a hypocrite. Being the problem solver that I am wanting to eradicate any possibility of this ever happening again and striving to clearly understand why it happened to me at all, I asked, “So what now?” I surely didn’t want to go on medication. I mean I wasn’t “crazy.” I wasn’t some faint of heart, wilting lily, fall-apart-at-the-seams kind of gal. I mean, I had it together. I was tough and resilient! Ah, all these things I had been told that I was. I soon learned that these were all the narrow-minded, preconceived notions I had come to believe before I made it a point to become educated on the matter.

It was a real turning point in my recovery when I realized that I had this panic within me. It had been numbed for years with one substance or another and now it was time to get real about it. 2014 statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health report that In the US about 40 million people (3.1% of the population) are affected with some type of anxiety disorder with 6 million reporting panic disorder. This is an increase from 2.7% – 3.1% over a 10 year span. Women are more likely to be affected.

We live in a society where showing weakness is taboo and that to admit we struggle with depression or panic or whatever is somehow “less than.” We all have a tendency to judge what we are afraid of – what we don’t know. What I come to learn is that facing these demons, purposely taking the skeletons out of the closet, shaking them out, dressing them up and dancing around with them in the pale moonlight is the only way to overcome them – AND subsequently this is an act of courage and in no way weak. This applies to a lot of areas in addiction and recovery. Transformation simply cannot begin without an acknowledgement of what is. We learn to peel back the label of good or bad and we see that things just are. When this happens it becomes much easier to decide what needs to change and make a plan of how to go about making the changes.
In general, change is something that people have trouble with. In this case, my simply making the acknowledgement of what is bothering me as if to notice someone standing in the room, change happens. In clarity is change, in change is clarity. Eventually we find peace in recovery.

Whether an individual chooses to go address these things in a 30 day inpatient rehab program, an IOP (Intensive Out-Patient Program) , they go a medication route, or deal with panic through talk therapy, energy movement or a collaboration of all these things, that’s a personal choice. For some of us, Panic just is. It’s there on occasion whether we like it or not. By conscious awareness and mindful balance panic does not have to be a debilitating bugger in our lives. We have options and we are never alone.

Joy Anderson - dog lover, Cure fan and all round fabulous person.

Joy Anderson – dog lover, Cure fan and all round fabulous person.

Joy Anderson born in West Palm Beach, FL
My name comes from a friend my mother was visiting in the hospital when she was pregnant with me. The lady said to her, “This baby will be the joy of your life!” the rest is history.
I am a child of the 80’s: I miss Swatches, Rick Springfeld, The Cure, Van Halen – I could go on forever. There was no more awful era fashion-wise (think Miami Vice) and none more filled with great cheesy incredible stuff. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Beetlejuice….The music and the movies absolutely shaped me. Yes, I’m a geek. Where the lack of self, lack of confidence, increase in poor judgement came in I’ll never know. The goon of addiction hooked me one day and I was on board for years and years.
Not anymore – sober, happy, well employed using my skills and education to do what I do best write and network.

Addiction, parenting and fear.

IMG_8078-1I am 2 weeks away from giving birth to my second child. I also have a son who is 3 ½ so you could say I think about parenting a lot. As the first one wasn’t born with an instruction manual I’m suspecting the second one won’t be either. Because I knew next to nothing about babies and children I’ve had to read a lot of parenting books to try and figure out what the hell I’m doing.
As a recovered drug addict and alcoholic I’m also very grateful for my second chance life and the opportunity to be a parent.
However, I don’t mind admitting that parenting sometimes terrifies me.

When I was pregnant the first time I went through all the normal fears any pregnant women has, miscarriage, birth defects etc. I kept thinking to myself, all I need to do is get through 9 months and everything will be ok. Then I gave birth and held my son in my arms, and I realized, I would never, ever, not know fear, again.
It struck me that my job as a parent, would be to manage my fear, for the rest of my life. Because when you love someone that much, your fear of something happening to that child can be overwhelming.
Fear is something I’m quiet familiar with, I have spent most of my adult life dealing with it but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the level of fear I felt when I fell in love with my child.
Did you feel the same as a parent?

Armed with my parenting books and experience as a therapist I thought I was totally prepared to be the best parent I could be. I was also determined to never make any mistakes with my precious angel child.
I guess we all go through that right? That’s the second shock of parenting just how many mistakes you do make.

Parenting mistakes
Just the other day my son was asking me to draw pictures for him. I’m terrible at any kind of art so when he was asking me to draw a picture of a racecar I told him, ‘Mummy’s not very good at this.’ Later that day I asked him to get dressed for me and he replied ‘I’m not very good at that.’
Oh hell. Right there, I had a really good example of how my behavior had impacted him. I resolved then and there to say “I’ll try my best’ next time he asked me to draw anything for him.
The point is, no matter our intentions, we are going to make mistakes with our kids. We are not always going to get it right, our behavior will impact them. They observe us responding to the world and internalize what we do. They adopt our behaviors.
As we all know addiction starts long before we pick up drugs or alcohol. It starts in our thinking and in our emotional responses. There is a genetic component of course but even with a genetic pre-disposition it doesn’t guarantee someone will grow up to be an addict. It just means they are more susceptible to the disease than others.

Emotional intelligence for kids
I firmly believe that the best way we can protect our kids from going down the same path is to ensure they have a really strong attachment to us and we model emotional intelligence. It was the gaping hole of pain inside of me as a teenager, with absolutely no tools or resources to deal with my feelings, that lead me to misuse alcohol and drugs as a way of coping.
Which is why I believe it is vital for kids to learn appropriate methods to deal with fear, insecurity, disappointment, anger and all of the other emotions that make up human beings. So few of us are taught how to manage our emotional lives well.
I want my kids to strive to live their truth and help them figure out ways to do this when they are surrounded by a peer group who wants them to conform.
I want my children to see me have honest emotional reactions to events. I’m not going to hide my sadness or pain from them; I’m going to talk to them about it. I’m not going to hide or suppress my emotions because I want them to know its ok to feel what you are feeling; right at the moment you are feeling it. I don’t want them to be scared of their feelings, but to understand they are something we can learn to interpret and use to make better decisions.
Luckily my kids will have plenty of opportunities to see me mistakes and I hope I can model to them how we can learn and grow from our mistakes and we shouldn’t be ashamed of them. I hope I can demonstrate humility in making amends where I need to.
I’m also not going to pretend I’m perfect. I want them to be raised by someone who loves themselves and tries their best but is far, far, from perfect. I want them to know that’s ok.
And I want more than anything to show them how to deal with fear, as I believe above all other feelings it is fear that is the engine of addiction.

Will that be enough? God, I hope so. I know my children are likely to have the genetic pre-disposition to addiction. When appropriate, we will have to have a conversation about drug and alcohol use.
And I hope by then I have given them some protection against this fatal disease through developing strong emotional intelligence.
But of course I’m frightened that I will mess up or I won’t do a good enough job. That I will fail them in some way.
It’s just one more parenting fear I will have to manage.
How about you?

I know this is a subject that all parents who are in recovery think about and worry about. I would love to know your thoughts about protecting the next generation from our disease. What do you think? What are your struggles in being a parent in recovery?

Where the hell is Matt? 2012

I never, ever post YouTube videos on my Facebook page. I never, ever say ‘you must watch this, it’s the best thing ever’. Because when you click on them and they rarely are.
All except this one. I am madly passionate about this video,
Because it’s a state changer.
Let me explain. I had seen the 2008 version of ‘Where the hell is Matt?’ But not this latest one. The other day I went to work in a foul mood, about 15 things had gone wrong before I got to work and I just felt grumpy and pissed off. Then a colleague showed me this video and in about 45 seconds I felt connected and joyous again.
It broke my ‘state’ of feeling negative and put me back on track to feeling positive again.
Negative thoughts breed more negative thoughts and sometimes we need something to pull us out of that funk.

If you are in a negative place then I’d watch this video for 45 seconds and I guarantee you will feel immensely better. It will also be impossible not to watch the whole thing.
Like I said, I never post videos and say they are the best thing ever. So I promise you this is the real deal.

(Thank you Matt Harding for brining joy).

The gift of alcoholism

Yeah, it’s a pretty crappy gift right?

mage courtesy of Stuart Miles /

mage courtesy of Stuart Miles /

I was not real thrilled when I discovered that what had been wrong with me all these years was actually the ‘gift of alcoholism’.
I don’t know about you, but I had some relief from at least finally knowing what was wrong with me. Up until then I thought I had a rare mental health condition (very rare, like I was the only one who had it).
It is exhausting looking for a solution to your problem, when you don’t know exactly, what your problem actually is. So there is some relief in finally figuring it out, because at the same moment I was also introduced to a solution.
But I still wasn’t doing a happy dance to find out I was an alcoholic. Fourteen years ago I though that meant a life living on the sidelines, disabled in some way. I thought I would have to avoid anything fun and I would have to go through life with some kind of scarlet ‘A’ on my chest whilst people looked at me with pitying smiles.

In order to recover from alcoholism you have to work really hard on yourself. Your life literally depends upon it. There is so much more to getting sober than just putting down the drink. I cruised in my sobriety for as long as I could, doing a bit of this and that, until it got really painful and I was forced to do some real work.
Working on myself was an absolute last resort. On my knees and out of options I had to look inside of myself and face up to things that I had avoided my whole life. I had to look at the past, at my choices, my behavior, my thinking, my responses. I had to make amends, see people I didn’t want to see and say things I didn’t want to say. I had to do all of this because I wanted to stay sober more than anything.

Without the gift of alcoholism I may never have been forced to look at myself. Instead I may have spent my whole life trapped by my fear, resentment, anger, self-righteousness. In many ways these are all aspects of the human condition but it was my alcoholism that forced me to examine them on a much deeper level. My consequences are so catastrophic that I can’t avoid it. I learnt that actually a life lived unexamined is not a life worth living. That the journey of becoming who Im truly meant to be is the point to life. Without alcoholism I would have just slept walked through my life. Alcoholism woke me up. Brutally, abruptly and horrifying it forced me awake.

Then something amazing happened.

I felt whole and connected for the first time in my life. Something awoke in me and lit me up in a way alcohol couldn’t even come close to. I was alive in ways I could never have dreamed possible before. My life finally made sense. I finally understood that my drinking was merely a reflection of a spiritual illness. And there was a solution to this. That soul work not only freed me from alcoholism it brought me to a life full of adventure, learning, fun, connection, mess, richness, beauty and authenticity.
And that is the greatest gift of all.