Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sick As Our Secrets

In 12 step groups the saying, "We are only as sick as our secrets is often used. 
What does that mean you may ask. 
It may not mean the same thing to everyone, especially to those who have never dealt with the demons of addiction.
I myself have. I have 36 years of sobriety, and am also a recovering compulsive gambler. I was nearing on 5 years of abstinence from gambling, until 2 days ago, when I had a slip. 
I can pinpoint the moments that led up
to my "relapse" into the insanity of my addiction. I know what I should have done to prevent it from happening, yet I chose not to. Instead I chose to put a few dollars in a video poker machine, which immediately put me into "gambling mode", which for me means that the conscientious, thoughtful, caring person that I am is gone, and replaced by the dopamine high, self centered gambling junkie.
I was setting myself up to gamble for a week or so before I went back out. I was allowing my mind to fantasize about winning, which is a joke to anyone who knows anything about compulsive gambling. We NEVER win. We only want to keep keep gambling as long as we can. That means that any money we do win, we immediately put back, in my case, into the slot machines. Money has no meaning to us at that point. It is only a means of our being able to stay in gambling action. It might as well be paper, for all we care, as long as we are able to stay in the dopamine high of compulsive gambling. When the money runs out, we crash, and reality sinks back in.
I could have avoided the pain and disappointment I caused myself and my Family. I could have prevented this slip from happening. I've been in Recovery long enough to know what I need to do when I am feeling the kind of angst and unsettling feelings I was having prior to my slip.
I kept my feelings to myself and that's the worst thing an addict can do when the thoughts of wanting to drink, use, gamble, or any addiction, come into ones mind. Keeping that kind of secret to oneself can often be the difference between life and death. Many addicts have gone back out and died in their disease because they choose to keep Secret the fact that they were struggling with the demon of compulsive urges.
If I had talked to a Friend, or Family member, I firmly believe I could have prevented this slip from happening. 
I am now One Day abstinent from gambling, instead of One Month short of 5 years. I thank God that I am in a healthier place than I was many years back, when a slip meant a full out relapse and several trips to treatment. Not to mention the devastating pain and heart ache and pain I brought upon my Loved Ones. 
If I can help anyone facing the urge to go back out and possibly lose their Life to their addiction, by sharing this story, I thank God.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Son Has Aspergers- Infancy

Note: For the privacy of my Son, I will name him Michael from here on.

I knew from the beginning that something was "different" with Michael. Little did I know then that it would take 13 years to finally find out the correct diagnosis of Aspergers.
His constant cries were unconsolable. With my first Son, born 4 years earlier, I would pick up when he cried and most of the time, unless he was hungry, he would stop almost immediately. With Michael, picking him up would lead to only louder crying. My husband, his Father, and I would spend hours pacing the room cuddling him, to no avail. His cries were often piercing. Often I would sit with Michael and begin to pull him to my breast to nurse, yet he would arch his back and pull away from me. I nursed my first Son for 3 1/2 years ( yes years, not months!) I had went to LaLeche league meetings during his pregnancy and continued for several months after his birth. They advocate baby led weening, which made sense to me, so that's what we did. Nursing my first was a wonderful, bonding experience and from the beginning I had no problems. He thrived, weighing in at 20 pd.s at 6
Months and 30 pd.s at 1 year.
I nursed Michael for 11 frustrating months. I often felt like I was force feeding him, as he pulled away from me. With my first Son, I was a great Mother in my estimation. With Michael I felt like a failure. The guilt I felt at times was often overwhelming. Was I doing something wrong? I thought that Michael might have allergies as he developed a rash all over shortly after birth, and after that eczema. His Dr. poo-poohed the idea, yet I believed that could be the case. If his "colic"
Which the Dr. called it might be caused by the food I was eating, getting into my breast milk, I had to at least try something. That begin a period of several months with my diet consisting of little else other than brown rice and lentils! It didn't help and I became more discouraged and frustrated. What was wrong with my Child, and as his Mother, how could I make him happy, or at least stop fussing? It seemed the only thing that kept him calm was putting him in a baby carriage and start walking. He would be content for long periods, until I stopped for any reason, and then the crying and fussiness would start. For
My own sanity we walked for miles every day!
Michael's constant fussiness and crying took a toll on my marriage, which was strained to begin with. It also took a toll on his Brother, who was used to getting a lot of my attention before Michael's birth. It seemed like most of my time and energy was spent on trying to comfort my "un-comfortable" Son. Guilt....
again. I think one of the lowest points in my life came on the day I decided to try bottle feeding Michael, at 10 months. I got the best non-allergy formula I could find and sat down with Michael to feed him. He fussed and cried for some time before I asked his Father to try. For several minutes he attempted to get Michael to suck on the bottle without any success.
At that point my husband threw the bottle against the wall, said I give up, and handed Michael back to me.

My Son has Aspergers- Pre-diagnosis

My 26 year old Son has Aspergers. He was not properly diagnosed until the end of 8th grade. By that time he had been told he was deemed "un-teachable" in public school and had just completed his first year at a Private School for children who were diagnosed as behaviorally, and emotionally challenged, or struggled with a learning disability.
This Private School informed me after his 1 year there that my Son was a "challenge" that they were were not equipped to handle. During that 7th grade year, they had become convinced that he had ADHD, and so I took him to a psychiatrist to see if indeed he was ADHD. I want to add here that this was not the first, nor was it the last time my Son had been to a Dr., therapist, Social Worker, or other Mental Health Facility, in search for answers, nor would it be his last.
After many visits and tests this psychiatrist was convinced my Son did not have ADHD. He was depressed, anxious, had OCD, and more than likely oppositional defiant disorder, but in no way, was she willing to put him on a drug for ADHD, which the school felt he needed to be on. Of course, I realized then that what the school wanted was for my Son to be "drugged" into a more cooperative,
student. He was often belligerent, and out of control and they became frustrated with him on a regular basis.
At the end of 7th grade the director of the School let me and my Sons Step Father know that they would not be able to have him back the following year. As we talked this director said that he reminded her of a student they had taught a few years prior, who had Aspergers. This was the first time I had ever heard of Aspergers. It was 1999, and Aspergers was fairly unknown then.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Watching Our Parents Age

Nothing in Life prepares us for the experience of watching our Parents as they age, which often comes with declining health. Watching them as they lose the ability to enjoy the activities they once enjoyed, is hard enough; yet not near as difficult as watching them as they become unable to do even the simple everyday tasks necessary to take care of themselves.

I am writing about this because both I and my Husband have elderly Fathers. We have been facing this situation in the past several years, and more acutely, in the past several months with my Husbands Father Jay.

To describe Jay in a few words would be: Tough, stubborn beyond stubborn, and extremely proud. I must add that beneath the tough exterior, lies a man who deeply loves his Family and his dog, and who would often choke up if told a sad story, though God forbid he should cry! I truly thought on several occasions that he was indeed choking, when in fact he was fighting to hold back a tear!
A Marine Drill Sargeant for 4 years during the Korean War, and for many years a Private Investigator, Jay was tough and fearless!

Fast forward to the present. Only this afternoon Jay was taken by ambulence to the V.A. Hospital; for the third time in as many months. Unable to stand on his own, he had taken a couple of falls in the past few days in his struggle to pull himself up by his walker. The walker which he had never had to use, until recently. Suffering from heart failure, barely able to eat, and recently put on oxygen, Jay is a shell of the man he once was. Yet.... still, up until last evening he was refusing to go back to the hospital, and had seemed to have lost the fight... the will to live. No one was going to tell him how he was going to live his life!!! How do you reason with a man who has an iron will, and his mind made up?  My Husband and his Sister had tried, many times, to get their Father to realize he needed to be back in the Hospital, but to no avail; until today.

To Be Continued.............

Monday, September 20, 2010

To Feed that Gambling Beast

. . . to feed that "gambling beast" . . .

As 2007 draws to an end I find myself reflecting on my year, and all the many things I have to be grateful for. My recovery- One Day at a Time, is number one on that list. Without it, I would have nothing to be grateful for. I would still be living in the desperation and unbelievable insanity, of my active gambling addiction. Prior to March 25th of this year, I struggled with compulsive gambling to the point of having to go into inpatient treatment 7 times, in a 2 1/2 year period. In my addiction I became a person I would never have thought I could become. The progression of this disease is astounding! With each relapse I sunk lower and farther into despair and desperation. I lied to the people I love, and I stole from those who trusted me. I engaged in criminal activity, all in my attempt to feed that "gambling beast" inside me. I over dosed on prescribed medication for my depression, sold my plasma for money and spent many nights sleeping in my car, feeling that I was worthless, a piece of shit. I would acquire 30, 60, and a few times 90 days of abstinence, yet I would find myself going back out for more misery. It was a never ending vicious cycle, which was killing me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I cannot describe the pain and desperation my family felt, especially my wonderful husband Dave. In many ways they went to hell and back with me, fearing that I would die in this disease. I could have and on many occasions I wanted to die to end the pain I was causing them. In my numbed out gambling mode, I felt nothing, but my family could see my complete destruction, and yet they felt helpless to stop me. Only I could stop myself. Only I could make that decision to end the insanity. With the help of God, and my gambling counselor Donleen, G.A, A.A {I have 29 years of sobriety, believe it or not} my family, especially my husband, my friends and my many trips to treatment, along with an amazing counselor there, I have been in recovery for over 9 months now.

I am committed to my recovery from gambling in a way I never was before. I start my mornings out, using many of the recovery tools which I have in my tool box. I had the tools before, yet I was willing to use only a few. Part of my struggle was that I was not willing to go to any lengths to maintain my abstinence from gambling. Today I am willing, and as a result, my life is better in so many ways. One of the recovery tools I use every morning is to write 5 things which I am grateful for, before I journal. This regular practice helps to keep me in "an attitude of gratitude", which has helped my depression, of which I have suffered from since childhood, immensely.

Every year of my adult life, I have found myself in a depression during the holidays, yet this year I wasn’t! Thank you God! I recently became a grandmother for the second time, and I am truly here for my grand children. I am here for my family and friends. Most importantly I am here for myself. I truly have much to be grateful for as I reflect back on this past year. I pray for every woman who is out there struggling with compulsive gambling that you may find what I have found. Be kind to yourselves. Learn to love yourselves. Most importantly, believe that you are worth it. You DO deserve to live a life gamble-free One Day at a Time and you can do it.

God Bless and I wish you all Peace, Health, and Recovery in 2008!

Love Bonnie, Oregon

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For many years I and my Father had a strained and uncomfortable relationship. I didn’t want it to be so, yet it seemed that we could hardly be in the same room and not feel the tension that was often thick, in the air. As a child growing up, I was quiet and sensitive and quite shy. My Father was often loud and critical. He was verbally abusive at times, which caused me to both fear him and want to please him. Mostly I just tried to stay out of his way and not say or do anything to upset him. I often felt growing up that my 2 sisters were criticized less than I and that I was "flawed" in some way. Those feelings stayed with me for many years and only in the past few years have I come to terms with those deep and painful emotions. I have done a lot of therapy in my life, often centering on my self-esteem and inability to get over my childhood hurts. I would often feel that I had forgiven my Father and moved on, yet it was only on the surface. I still felt uncomfortable around my Father and often felt stifled; unable to be myself. Still seeking his Love and approval I found myself hyper sensitive to his words and my need to be accepted by him. I started my journey to true forgiveness toward my Father several years back, at around age 52. At that time I was seeing a gambling counselor for my destructive and devastating gambling addiction. I had been seeing Donleen for almost a year and was struggling with several relapses that brought me to my knees. She felt I needed to be in treatment and so I went to treatment. 7 times in 2 1/2 years I went to gambling treatment! To say I was a mess, is an understatement. That is a whole other story, which I am telling in a book I am writing. For now, I want to get back to my Father and forgiveness. In treatment I wrote volumes about my past and present. My deepest desire was to get well and to stop the self destructive relapses which were not only destroying my life, but deeply affecting the lives of those who loved me; my husband particularly. One assignment was to write a letter to someone who had hurt you and tell them exactly how you felt. No holding back, as this letter would not be sent. We were to reach down, deep into the painful situations and speak out the words that we were unable to say at those times. I started that letter to my father and I wrote, and wrote, until I felt I had gotten out years of pent up feelings, while shedding tears for that shy, fearful child of my past.

A strange and wonderful thing happened after the years of pent up emotion came out. I began to look at the situation as the adult I had become, instead of that vulnerable child that once was. I began to look upon my Father with compassion. I was finally able to see him as the human being who tried to be a good Father, in the only way he knew how. His upbringing was harsh and often difficult for him. Being the only child of a strict, hard to please mother he himself must have often felt inadequate. He was raised without a Father and so even more sought the love and acceptance of his Mother. She herself was raised by a strict and abusive Father, whom her brothers had nothing to do with as they got older. The cycle of abuse had been set into motion many years back and my own Father was a product of it.

As I was able to truly forgive my Father, my relationship with him began to change in ways I never dreamed possible. We speak often by phone and never end a conversation without saying “I love you”. Often we say it more than once in conversation! I visit him regularly and often stay for several hours, enjoying his company and laughing often at his crazy sense of humor! I believe him now when he says he loves me every bit as much as my sisters. I have gotten to know my Father and he has come to know me and I am so grateful for that. I prayed for many years to have the kind of relationship with my Father that I now have.

In ending this very long blog post, I want to say to anyone who has a poor relationship with their Father and feels that it will never be any different, that it can change. It is never too late to reconcile years of distance and painful pasts. It may not happen over night. It took me over 50 years and over 80 years for my Father to come to a place of love and mutual respect. One thing I can say for sure; it was worth all the work and emotional pain to come to this place in time.

Happy Fathers Day Dad. I Love You and I am so grateful to have you as my Father!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Addiction as a Coping Mechanism

Though Humbling to admit, I have to say that I have used various Addictions all through my Life as a Coping Mechanism when Life became too stressful. I have been through the gamut of one addiction or another starting from very early childhood and still I struggle with a few unhealthy addictions.
It isn't difficult to identify my very first addiction by looking at photos of me as a baby. 3 chins I had and arms as chubby as sausages! I delighted in eating, so my mother used to tell me and besides back in the mid 50's chubby babies were looked upon as being healthy and happy!
Fast forward to age 3. The photos of me at that age show a serious and often sad little girl sitting with her hands folded in her lap. I was a shy and fearful child who being unable to understand or verbalize my feelings, used food for comfort. Having a mother who loved to cook and bake didnt help any! I can still remember walking home from school and smelling the aroma of chocolate chip cookies or fresh baked pie wafting out of the open windows of the kitchen nook. My mouth would be watering before I even got inside the house and I couldnt wait to start eating whatever delicious treat my mother had just baked. Sitting with my cookies I felt a sense of calm and happiness. Any sad or fearful feelings went away, for the moment.
When my father came home from work we never knew what kind of mood he would be in. If he had a good day usually his mood was good as well. Yet, if he had a bad day he could be mean and loud and often critical. My father was a moody person and often belittled or used name calling when his mood was bad. I feared him during those times and would actually hide from him on occasion. My Mother often kept quiet during the abuse as I believe she feared him as well.
I love my father and have been able to forgive and have compassion toward him in recent years and today we actually have a great relationship. That being said, my childhood was greatly affected by his unpredictible behavior and cruelty. Food was always a source of comfort, especially sweets and I often used it as a way to cope with my deep feelings of fear and powerlessness. My addiction to food as a coping Mechanism was the first of many addictions to come that I used when life became too painful for me.