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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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Answering Our Kid’s Questions Honestly

 

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The other night while I was getting ready to go to a Gala, my 10 year old son asked me a question that made me realize how much my behaviour when I was drinking still affects him deeply. While doing my make-up, I wasn’t thinking anything about the topic of alcohol because after a lot of hard work and dedication the obsession it caused has been removed from me, so I was shocked to hear my son ask, “Mom, what would you do if someone gave you a drink?” I could tell that he was trying to make the question seem casual and not significant, but when I looked at him I could see the seriousness in his eyes.

So at that moment I had two ways of answering the question. I could a) laugh and say ‘oh don’t be silly that won’t happen’, or b) take the time to answer his question honestly and clearly. I suppose the reason for this blog is to sincerely express how important it is for all parents in this situation to choose option b. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past year and a half of recovery, is that my old belief of hiding my emotions from my kids and avoiding answering serious questions, never helped them at all. In fact, it hurt them.

When I came home from the Homewood Rehabilitation Centre, I was still only allowed supervised visits with my son, and my daughter who was 17 at the time was still very hurt, afraid and distant. Thankfully, I learned how important honesty was when I was away, and I slowly put that into practice when my kids became comfortable enough to ask me questions. I was especially happy to see how well this ‘be vulnerable and honest’ way of life worked when I was having a sad day and my daughter heard me crying in my room, and came in and asked if I was ok. The old me would have lied and said, ‘I’m fine don’t worry’, and then would have changed the subject to some completely unimportant topic thinking that this would ‘protect them’ from pain. I was SO wrong…THIS way of answering only fuels our kid’s worries. They KNOW when we aren’t ok, and pretending we are only confuses them, and encourages them to practice the same behaviour when they are sad.

So on this particular day I decided to tell the truth. I didn’t get into a huge discussion, I simply said, ‘I’m just having a sad day because I miss someone, but I will be ok.’ Honest, to the point, and obviously EFFECTIVE, because she lovingly looked at me and said ‘ok’, told me that if I needed anything to let her know, and then proceeded to laugh and giggle with her little brother downstairs. I was shocked at first! I thought that by showing my vulnerability my daughter would think that I was weak. But the opposite happened! She saw that I was HUMAN, was satisfied with the answer I gave her because it was the TRUTH, and therefore no longer needed to worry. It was a life changing moment…for all of us.

I practice honesty all the time now, just like I did the night that my son asked me the question about what would I do if someone gave me a drink. I took the extra moment to look at him and replied,’I would say no thank you to the person and get another Perrier’. And like I had expected, that was all he needed to hear. And in this particular case, he KNEW it was the truth because anyone who knows me now, knows how I do love my Perrier! ūüėÄ

 

Traveling Towards Goodness

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How many times have you said to yourself, ‘I just need to get it together and then life will be good’? I know that personally, I can’t even count how many times that thought has ran through my mind, or those words have crossed my lips! The problem with that perception, is that we are¬†always¬†changing, and ‘just getting it together’ suggests a permanence that doesn’t actually exist. Sadly, we grasp at permanence to hopefully prevent change because we are afraid of it, but like the amazing Eckhart Tolle said, “It is the nature of the world of form that nothing stays fixed for very long- and so it starts to fall apart again. Forms dissolve; new forms arise. Watch the clouds. They will teach you about the world of form.” (Right Mandy? <3) If we live a life with an ultimate destination in mind, and put all of our energy and time into reaching it, the moments we were suppose to enjoy as a traveller through this life are simply never experienced.

Yes, I may have just expanded the saying, ‘life is a journey, not a destination’, but after learning some fascinating points-to-ponder at Buddha class tonight, I feel that expanding on this mantra is so important to understanding its perspective.

As my teacher explained, we are ‘infinitely migrating’, and by allowing ourselves to step back and view ourselves as the travellers we are, we immediately bring a spiritual form to view, and remove ourselves from our perpetual ‘to-do-list’ and its unattainable destination. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have goals, and dreams. What it does mean is that we should stop looking for every finish line and actually take a moment to appreciate the energy of the crowd and to savour the experience of your heart pounding and your feet moving, step…by…step.

So this brings me to another personal revelation…which is definitely not new for me! As I progress on this mental health journey in the recovery phase of my life, I realize that I have once again added too many races to my to-do-list, making it very difficult for me to appreciate the energy of the crowd. The perfectionist in me has once again become blinded by my personal delusion that using the healthy response ‘no’ when I am overwhelmed, will cause a permanent view of disappointment; in myself and by others. Now let me say however, that there is a definite difference in the abundance on my plate now, compared to that which was on my plate when I was very sick; it’s positive abundance now, and for that I am forever grateful! But nonetheless, it’s abundant, and in order to continue to enjoy this journey, I need to realize that permanent disappointment is simply MY mind’s projection, and no one else’s.

I have some big plans in action, and I am going to take the time I need to enjoy the journey. Certain adventures during my recovery have become a priority currently, and I am excited to feel my heart pounding with every expanding step. So if I am not replying to emails as quickly, or having to say no, or postpone endeavours I would definitely love to be a part of, please know that I am trying my very best to help as many people as I can, and that each of you are very much in my heart.

I am so blessed to be a traveller with all of you! And equally as blessed to learn that we can train our minds to see that if we act out of love, we are in fact moving towards goodness, regardless of whether we have a good day or a bad day. And as my teacher shared with me tonight, “if we travelled well, we will meet again, and naturally love one another”.

Here’s to the journey, not the destination. ~Nat

Tough Love?

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I have been told by many people over the past year that I love to talk about love, and I suppose they are right. Unearthing the true meaning and sentiment of love after living a life where self-pity obscured its existence, is like finding a sparkling jewel in the darkness that you though had no prospect of possessing anything beneficial at all. Once you find such a precious jewel, you make a necklace out of it and keep it as close to your heart as possible. You look at it often and hold it tight in your hands to ensure that finding it wasn’t a dream. And you can’t help but show it to everyone you meet! ‘Look at how magnificent this precious jewel is!’, you say as people walk by, hopeful that sharing a glimpse of it would prove to them that they could find the same.

No wonder I am so fascinated by my discovery of the true meaning of love (to wish someone happiness and wellness without limitations or conditions) when it seems that its meaning is so distorted in our world these days. Love doesn’t hurt, even if the band Nazareth says so. Dating myself? Possibly…Be quiet ūüėȬ†It doesn’t need anyone or anything else to complete it, even if Jerry Maguire says so. Furthermore, love is never bitter, it is only ever sweet, even if Kanye says so! Have I regained some of my youth now?¬†In short, I don’t blame anyone for thinking that love has a negative connotation with the way we refer to it in our society today.

Us humans engage in actions that will inevitably lead to suffering because¬†so many of our societal beliefs gain power without any true independent analysis.¬†When did Taylor Swift’s views on love’s inevitable transformation to¬†pain become the only data required to prove that when we feel pain it must mean that love is part of the equation somewhere. Love is never part of a painful equation. Pain that comes from the heart is more likely to come from attachment. But don’t take my word for it…turn of Taylor’s catchy tune for a bit and mindfully reflect on the difference between love and attachment, and how we often interchange them senselessly.

Our delusions continue when we learn to only equate love with¬†our own¬†happiness, and have no idea how to practice anything outside of ourselves. How can we expect to reap lasting bountiful emotions when we put so much pressure on someone else to ‘complete us’? This¬†assumption alone weaves a level of selfishness and self-grasping into our minds that has nothing to do with love at all.¬†If we¬†truly¬†possessed the wish for everyone to be happy and well, we would never attach ourselves to them; it simply wouldn’t be necessary. Furthermore, we would be happy with ourselves, and see clearly how attachment can only lead to jealousy, envy and anger. And how jealousy, envy and anger are what actually lead to pain.

In order to find the transformative jewel of love, we must deliberately take a stand to reverse negative tendencies of attachment, and exchange them with new positive, self-less habits. Luckily, the more we explore a topic, regardless of how difficult it may be, the more we come to understand it. And I certainly can’t think of a better topic to explore than the topic of love. <3

 

 

New Mental Health Facebook Page

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Hi Everyone ūüôā I have a new Facebook page: Paramedic Nat’s Mental Health Page

Check out my personal:

~book selections, photos, ‘mental health mission’ videos, events and more!

Hope you’re doing great!

No Experience Is Ever Wasted

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Everything in the past and future has a relationship to now. Where I have been and what I have done in my life has brought me here, to this hour, this second, this moment. And what I will do and become tomorrow will dance before me like an intricate ballet of cause and effect. As I mark the passing of one full year sober and healthy, I can’t help but reflect on all of the experiences I’ve had along the way. All of the ups and downs which have provided me with invaluable opportunities to change. I don’t believe in coincidences anymore…life to me now is more like a platter of perfection, masquerading as irony, at first appearing to serve a dish of disappointment, but if you look close enough, it’s actually serving exactly what you need.

September 23, 2014, I drank copious amounts of wine and ingested a bottle of Benedryl knowing full well that the possible consequence of this could be death. I didn’t care. I didn’t feel. I was so tired of thinking about suicide every day, that having death ‘happen’ would have been a gift to me. I didn’t want to have another nightmare, I didn’t want to watch my relationship fall to pieces, and I didn’t want to feel guilty anymore for all of the inadequacies I believed whole heartedly that I possessed. … I don’t remember that person anymore. She’s gone. She somehow climbed out of the darkness that was suffocating her slowly, breath by breath. It feels like a tornado of emotions and experiences had swept me up, and has finally spit me out; and leave it to me to need a tornado as my healing vessel, I don’t seem to do anything the easy way!

The transformation of my mind has changed me forever. I’m alive. I’m happy. I’m able to feel emotions in a healthy way. I am an amazing parent, modelling a life of hope and love for my children. I am beautiful. And I am free. I don’t blame others for¬†my¬†feelings anymore, and I am not obsessively attached to the fulfillment of my dreams. I now prefer to live a life that maintains the passionate wish to prolong my health and wellbeing, without harsh expectations. I let life guide me, rather than trying to guide life. I’ve realized that when I thought I always had to be at the wheel, I continued to crash into a sea resentment when things didn’t ‘go my way’. Now I breathe. I walk. I smile. And I love.

I consciously try to build a mind of love every day now, which effectively eliminates my previous negative and deluded states of mind. I have learned lessons I never could have predicted in a million years, like how to reframe my experiences so that they remain congruent with my wish to be happy. I see difficulties as my teacher, ever reminding me of the importance of humility. And try to consciously abandon non-virtuous, toxic minds. Life is perfectly imperfect (I forget where I’ve heard that line before), and one day at a time I experience its imperfections, never wasting what they are always trying to teach me.

Compassion vs. Attachment

young-couple-holding-hands One day while being enlightened in Buddhist class, the topic of ‘compassion’ came up. I was all ears when the teacher shared how in the Buddhist culture compassion for all living beings comes from a¬†wish¬†that all are well, very much like love. But after listening for a while, I felt frustration bubbling up inside of me, and I was compelled to put up my hand to make what I thought was going to be an excellent point!…My poor sister-in-law pretty much counts down the minutes every time we go until I make my so-called ‘excellent point’. Some things never change… Sorry Mandy ūüėȬ†I announced that I agree that the idea of compassion sounds wonderful, but,¬†too much compassion made me sick! Being a paramedic involves compassion to some extent every day! And after 12 years of compassion, I developed post traumatic stress disorder…so how is compassion good for anything?¬†Bam! I thought I had delivered a zinger!¬†But then, like the calm beautiful woman she is, the teacher gently replied, “Compassion never made you sick. Attachment did“.¬†WOW!¬†Put your hand down Natalie!…¬†

What a compelling statement! I had NEVER thought of it that way! But it made complete sense! Compassion is what made me a paramedic…I have no doubt about that! Witnessing my mom being cared for by smiling compassionate paramedics back when she had seizures on a regular basis is what inspired me to become a paramedic myself. But over the years, my attachment to even the¬†potential¬†of the successful outcome of a call, made me sick when I was not able to achieve the happy ending I seemed to¬†always¬†looked for. Even though I was very much aware of the limitations of any skill or directive I possessed, my goal going in to a call was to ‘win’ every time…and realistically, those ‘wins’ can be rare.

So this brings me to another thought. How can I be sure that I am not attached to the outcome of advice I give through this blog? When does it get to the point that I too get pulled under when I am trying to save someone who’s drowning in the dark sea of mental illness? I think I found my answer today while once again chatting with my sister-in-law…drum-roll!…I’ve gone too far¬†when I feel co-dependency has occurred.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what co-dependency is, in short, it’s an excessive reliance on other people’s help which eventually enables the person’s illness, inevitably discouraging recovery. For example, the adult child who still lives at home and has his or her parent(s) provide everything they need to survive lives in a co-dependent relationship. The excessive help these parents give, actually discourages their child’s recovery from extreme dependence. The problem with the development of co-dependency is that it’s usually not a quick double-drowning! It’s more like a slow safe rescue in your rescue boat, but when you’re not looking, during your hopeful journey to shore, the person you rescued is adding a cup of water to the boat, and over time, you unexpectedly both sink!¬†Sigh!…

Yes, the purpose of my blog is to help others, and to deliver compassion; I hope that goes without saying! It’s to help me, and it’s to help you. But what I need to remember is that my help doesn’t give me the right to champion other people’s success. Furthermore, beyond my ability to give you good directions, I have no right to map out your journey…because it’s just that…YOUR JOURNEY. I will never stop cheering you on, and I will wait for you at the¬†finish-line.¬†But by only being your coach, the medal at the end of the race belongs to only you.

Looking back on my years as a paramedic, I WISH I had viewed the outcome of my calls in this much healthier, less attached way. I can hold the¬†wish¬†that my patients are well when I leave the call, be they in life or death, but when I pack up my bags and drive to the next call, I can’t be attached to the outcome. When we’ve¬†done all we can do, compassion should only bring us peace, it should never hurt.

I like to believe that as I drive my rescue boat around looking for people to help, that I have at least started a ripple in the water which will spread for years and years. But when my boat is full, I may have to limit my help to a shout of encouragement over the dark sea. And¬†if my boat starts to sink, I will need to detach in a healthy way, and hope that I taught you to swim. And when you finish your journey and reach the shore, let me know, and we can guide the rescue boat together…Heck, I’ll even get you your own! ūüėČ

My Incredible Experience as a 12-Step Speaker

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One of the most amazing gifts I have been given as of late, was the opportunity to be the ‘speaker’ at my dear friend’s 1 year recovery celebration. It’s sort of a big deal being asked to share your experience, strength and hope with fellow 12-step members. And being that I only have 10 months of recovery, I was SO surprised when she asked me, and of course I excitedly said yes!

Like I have mentioned before, 12-step meetings are not what most people imagine. Movies and television portray their environment as glum, and dreary. They make it seem as if we don’t want to be there, and that we are all unemployed and depressed. Now to be fair, there¬†are¬†some unemployed and depressed people who attend meetings, but there are unemployed, depressed people everywhere.¬†Painting every 12-step member with that paintbrush is simply not even close to realistic. After following the steps, and embracing the promises the program has to offer, we don’t ‘white-knuckle’ our way through a sad, recovery life like many people may think. In fact, many of us, if not most, enjoy happy and fulfilling lives without the obsession of mind for our vice at all; lives which we never believed were possible! At Homewood I could have saved myself a whole lot of grief if I had clued in earlier to the fact that these 12-step programs actually work when I learned that there are over 300 types of these programs around the world addressing more addictions and emotional illnesses than you can imagine!…but ‘learning the hard way’ and I were BFF’s back then.¬†Insert ‘what was I thinking’ head shake.¬†

The night I was the ‘speaker’ was¬†extra¬†special because I brought¬†a friend, my daughter, and her boyfriend to the meeting to hear me speak. It was so nice to be able to show them what it was like behind the mysterious 12-step walls! And it was so wonderful to be able to introduce them to my friends and prove to them that we have fun and laugh and support one another more than most people could imagine. We’re a pretty fun bunch!… who knew right?

What a night it was! When I took to the podium, I was blessed to see 100 sets of smiling eyes starring back at me. I had an idea of what I would talk about, but decided to speak from my heart and let the words come to me naturally. So away I went, and over the next thirty minutes I was able to share the story of my alcoholic childhood and the battles I conquered while being a teenage single mom. I shared of my love of being a paramedic and how sadly a double murder call that I did in 2012 gave me PTSD which partially caused me to spiral into a deep depression, lose the love of my life, and almost cost me my life with a suicide attempt and multiple overdoses. I spoke of how this mental illness and my disease of alcoholism reeked havoc on my family and friends, and how I ended up almost completely alone with Children’s Aid restricting the contact I had with my son, and my daughter dangerously ill in the hospital. And with chilling memories running up and down my spine, I shared with the audience that less than 1 year ago my family had seriously discussed my funeral arrangements and planned what to do¬†when¬†I was gone…not¬†if.¬†

Now I want to let you know, and possibly eradicate another false 12-step assumption, that the purpose of being a speaker at a 12-step meeting isn’t to glorify the bad that happened in our lives. On the contrary! It’s by sharing our journey that we are able to take pride in the magnitude of our recovery, and even more importantly, hopefully inspire others to continue with theirs. Being a speaker doesn’t involve puffing out your chest and showing how your¬†struggle was worse than anyone else’s.¬†It goes without saying that every participant in the room has fought the fight of their lives while suffocating under the darkness of their disease. Furthermore, sadly every 12-step goer in the room has been directly and/or indirectly affected by the loss of familiar faces who once shared their honest stories too; some lost to the return of the obsession of their vice, and more often than I had expected, some lost by death related to their disease.

As a speaker, the main purpose of sharing life-stories is to show that through the darkness their IS light! And as a speaker it was my honour to shout from the depths of my heart that a happy life in recovery IS POSSIBLE! I am LIVING testament to this fact! I was able to share how waking up in the morning is a gift. And how the feelings surrounding my heinous obsession with suicide are actually hard to even remember now. I was also able to share how I live my life mindfully with my Higher Power, God, leading the way. And how even though I still have nightmares in my unconscious sleep, I know that my conscious wakefulness will be filled with new found patience, peace and love. In short, I was able to share with so many surviving souls, that their strength and perseverance is WORTH IT, and that HOPE and LOVE are what will launch them into the ‘4th dimension’ of recovery FREEDOM!

How happy am I that I don’t need to hold a glass of wine up high to ‘cheers’ to my success’ anymore. On this very special night, I was given the gift to celebrate my success’ by holding my head up high instead.

Meditation 101…Give It A Try

I just woke up from the most amazing, restful nap!…and I would love to teach you how YOU can rest just as deeply and peacefully. Now those of you who know me well, know that I have always¬†loved¬†a good daily nap, but now that I’ve added listening to guided meditation just before I fall asleep, my body feels SO much more rested and my mind feels so much more clear in 30 minutes than it ever has before.

To be honest, I always doubted the healing power of meditation. Sure, I thought that it could¬†possibly¬†clear my mind for a short period of time, but just as my alcohol buzz would eventually leave me with my crazy life again, I thought “what’s the point of meditation? I’m just going to ‘wake-up’ back in my chaotic and restless world anyhow!” Sigh. This was¬†a pretty typical ‘old-Natalie’ way of thinking. Before I gave this healing tool a try, I thought that throughout¬†my¬†busy day of being a mom, paramedic, teacher, loved-one, friend, and superwoman, I had no room for taking ‘time out’ to¬†meditate!¬†Well, the irony of this past mentality, is that¬†because¬†I lived such a superwoman life, I should¬†have been taking the small amount of time needed to meditate even more!¬†When I thought of meditation, I pictured a monk on a mountain in silence for days. And granted, there¬†are¬†monks on mountains silent for days, I didn’t have to be anything close to that to reap the benefits of this magical mindful skill.

Step 1 to basic meditation is, be open-minded! Rather than kicking a potential benefit while it’s down (like I did), allow yourself to give it a¬†fair¬†try. And once you’ve completed step 1, step 2 isn’t far behind…try and try again.¬†Meditation takes¬†practice.¬†Sure it may seem like a simple concept, but us human beings sure do have a lot of junk running through our minds 24/7, making sitting¬†quietly¬†a pretty tall order at first. So my advice is start small, start simple and start ‘guided’ if possible.

Guided meditation is just what is says…you are guided through peaceful, mental images by someone else’s voice. The theme options of the guided meditation are endless, but generally speaking most start with some type of focused breathing exercise or body-scan. For example, the guide may ask you to focus on your inhalation and exhalation, and to invision clear air moving into your lungs, and grey toxic air leaving your lungs. Or, they may ask you to focus on specific body parts allowing these parts to relax even more deeply.

These are two of my favourite simple guided meditations:

The last of these 2 meditations refers to what are called ‘chakras’. Very simply put, chakras are energy points in our body which correlate to specific human functions and human psyche. To be clear, they do not correlate to any religion, they simply represent energies in which every human body feels. By using a guided meditation related to chakras, we allow blocks in these energy points to be removed.

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You don’t need to be a spiritual guru to reap the benefits of a chakra meditation. The result of focusing deeply on any of our inner emotions and physical feelings (chakra or not) can bring a deep sense of peace and clarity. So for you skeptics out there who scanned through this blog and saw the image of the ‘spiritual person’ ¬†and thought right away that this blog wasn’t meant for you because you don’t believe in that ‘weird spiritual stuff’, well you’re wrong ūüôā This blog is for ANYONE who wishes to achieve more peace and clarity in their daily lives…it’s as simple as that.

Meditation has allowed my day-to-day life to be so much more mindful. I enjoy moments I never would have before because with practice, my mind calms on its own,¬†and gets rid of the clutter that use to block so many possible mindful moments in my life. I even find myself doing breathing meditations while I drive (eyes open!…lol), and I simply…be. When I focus on my inner-peace, I have no time to focus on unnecessary inner-pain. Yes, inner-pain needs to be addressed and dealt with…but not felt relentlessly! Our minds and bodies need a break and a rest from pain in order to heal years of damage we may have done physically and emotionally.

So take my advice, and grab a set of earphones, find a comfy place to rest, and click on one of the meditations I suggested, or any you may know. And ENJOY! And remember that there are only 2 steps to learning how to meditate.

1. Keep an open mind & 2. Keep practicing.

~Love Nat <3

I Went To A Sparkle Party Last Night!

In my drinking days, I use to have what I called a ‘Sparkle Party’ around Christmas. It was a night where people could come over wearing something sparkly (just because it’s fun) and enjoy an evening of laughs …and a lot of alcohol! This year was the first time I didn’t have one, and that made me really sad. I had so many good times with my friends at those parties, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever have one again. 60867_10151288997893605_467983879_n382856_10151039113330624_1803921747_n Well last night, unexpectedly, I attended the biggest and best sparkle party I could’ve ever imagined! I was very fortunate to attend Homewood’s 25th Annual Spiritual Renewal Service, which is an event celebrating the gift of recovery, and the creation of 400 pairs of healthy, sparkling eyes, filled with hope, happiness and gratitude. Allow me to share my experience…

I hadn’t been back to Homewood, or even Guelph for that matter, since I was discharged in January of this year, and I was very nervous about the emotions I was confident would bubble-up throughout the night.¬†Buckle up Natalie! This may be a bumpy ride!¬†My first emotion was good ol’ anxiety on the ride there. It wasn’t anything over-the-top, but I could definitely feel it rumbling through my whole body. Luckily, I drove with two friends who’s chatting distracted the anxiety, and allowed me to quietly reflect on what it felt like to drive the route to Homewood again. It has only been 6 months since my life-changing stay there, but as we drove it felt more like 6 years. At one point I started to regret attending the event, as now being mindful of my emotions so well, pretty much guaranteed a lengthy ‘self-analysis night’.¬†Sigh.¬†Nevertheless, I told myself that I would survive. I was going to kick my anxiety’s butt, like the anxiety-pro I am, and soak in every moment of the evening.

When we got to the event centre, my anxiety had lessened, and began to mix with excitement as the memories of the difficult times, as well as the life-changing times at Homewood, came rushing back… vividly. I felt like I had suddenly jumped back on the Homewood emotional roller coaster; the one that scared me, twisted me in so many directions, made me sick, and made me cry, but also made me laugh and feel relief when the ride was finally over. I had no desire of riding that roller coaster again, but there I was, with another ticket for the ride, and my proverbial vomit bag tightly in hand.¬†I wish this ride was out of order.

The Centre was beautifully decorated, and displayed obvious months of preparation. We were all given a pin that said, “Recovery Means Freedom”, and as I was examining it, I immediately bumped into my first wonderful staff member. She said I looked great (which I’m sure she would be saying to everyone, but I still accepted the compliment ), and asked about my family and how we were doing. My family!OK, hold on tight Natalie, the roller coaster is clicking up the hill!¬†I told her that we were all doing great and immediately I felt my old friends ‘guilt’ and ‘shame’ flood my body. Rather than feeling gratitude, I felt sick as the memories of what I had put my family through were at the forefront of my mind, and they stung really bad. I knew that I should have only been feeling happiness when speaking about my family now, but it quickly became apparent to me that ‘guilt-ridden Natalie’, was still alive and kicking. Damn-it. After chatting a bit longer,¬†I took a quick bathroom break and tried to tuck any negative emotions into my back pocket to be dealt with later. Then, one foot in front of the other, I continued to mingle amongst staff and friends with what I’m sure was a timid look on my face.

Since leaving Homewood, many people have told me that I have a ‘sparkle in my eyes’, and you know what, I can confidently say that I probably do with the amount of happiness and love I feel for life now. And amazingly, last night I got to see first hand what that ‘sparkle’ looked like, because I saw it in so many of my friend’s eyes. It was truly amazing! I could barely even recognize some people, but that sparkle was impossible to miss! Positive physical transformations made my jaw drop, and the happiness in their eyes made me smile from my soul! “THAT must be the ‘sparkle’ people are talking about”, I thought to myself. And WOW, was it a blessing to see!

The night was filled with speeches of gratitude and wellness. And at one point we did what’s called a ‘recovery countdown’. This is where a year, or month, or day is called out, and people stand up and receive a round of applause when their correlating recovery day is announced. As the days of recovery got shorter and shorter, “3 weeks”, “2 weeks”, “1 week”, I could see that the ‘sparkle’ was not so prevalent in people’s eyes. And as they continued to count, I could also increasingly see the physical demons of addiction which were still tightly grasping onto so many new-comer’s lives. All I could think was, “WOW! that was me only six months ago!” I was the one who felt and looked hopeless and scared. I was the one who simply ‘existed’ and nothing more. I was the one who had so much doubt in the program or any chance of fully recovering. And I was the one who still so desperately wanted to die as I saw death as the only way in which I could end my suffering. When a very sick lady with 5 days of recovery, who had difficulty walking was assisted onto the stage to receive a 12 step book, I could physically feel her pain. I could so clearly remember how every step felt like a mile in early recovery. I imagined how difficult it most likely was for her to even stay awake, as it was for me. I could imagine the ‘shakes’ she probably battled, and the memory ‘fog’ that would make it difficult for her to speak properly. And I imagined the darkness that I can guarantee filled her entire body and soul, and the hopelessness that she was feeling with every…single…breath. I so badly wanted to tell her that her sparkle could come back too… But she would have to learn that for herself.

Who knew that I would be attending a sparkle party again!? Certainly not me. And who knew that I didn’t need a fancy dress or shirt to have that sparkle radiating from me? Once again, certainly not me! I know that some days my sparkle won’t be as bright as the next, but what a gift to know that¬†it’s there!

“I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we never could do alone. No longer is there a sense of hopelessness. No longer must we depend upon our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams”.~ Closing Prayer

Happy Sparkling!

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