Tag Archives: mental illness

PostHope: A Place for Inspiration

Hello Recovery Writers!

It has been awhile, I know! But when I came across this site recently I had make WfR a part of it. Here I want to announce the opening of an adjunct site to the Writing for Recovery blog: It is called PostHope, and MY hope is that is will be a place for recovery inspiration. Please read the introduction from the PH site:

This is going to be a place where I hope (!) people will post some of their successes in battling the things we talk about on WfR: addiction, PTSD, eating disorders, sexual and domestic violence, self-harm, mental illness, and other issues. I would love to hear your stories of triumph, your progress, even the smallest of victories. Whether you’ve recovered completely, are in the process, or just had a moment where you decided not to use a self-defeating behavior, this is the site where I want to hear those inspiring tales. I believe sharing these things will give people hope that full recovery is possible!! So please feel free to post your own personal successes, those of your friends, or anything else that inspires you: quotes, photos, etc. 

Thank you for visiting this new little project. I hope you it gives YOU hope!

You can find the new site here at  http://www.posthope.com/writingforrecovery

I look forward to seeing you there! Peace, Sarah


Declaration of Independence from Stigma

I have something important to share with you all. Earlier a friend of mine gave a very brave statement when she said: “I have PTSD!! I’m not ashamed to talk about it!” Taking her example, I want to say this:

I have bipolar. I had eating disorders and PTSD, I cut myself and attempted suicide. I was a victim of childhood physical and sexual abuse. I grew up in domestic violence. I was raped.

And I am not ashamed.

I have done nothing wrong. I am not to blame for the abuse I suffered or the psychiatric disorders I am diagnosed with. I got therapy and take medication and that does not mean I’m crazy. I will not be silenced or shamed by stigma or societal pressure to keep these things hidden. They are part of my story, and I know they are part of your stories too. Join me in declaring that you will not be silenced by stigma!!! ♥


National Recovery Month Stories: Jim

Hello everyone! Welcome back to the National Recovery Month Story project here on Writing for Recovery. Thank you for joining me once again as I introduce another account from someone who works on the front lines battling addiction. Jim is the executive director of a counseling center specializing in addiction, dual diagnosis, and trauma. Every day he works to bring people to a deeper understanding of themselves in order to help them find their way to a meaningful recovery. He has a wonderful perspective on what it takes to walk that path- and how patients and counselors can work together to accomplish lasting recovery. 

 

My name is Jim and I’m a recovery ally. People in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse don’t expect me to be able to understand them. I don’t blame them one bit. I’ve never been an alcoholic and my drug addictions are limited to caffeine and nicotine. These are not exactly conditions that make a person’s life unmanageable, at least not in any short order. Worse, I am seen as less likely to understand because I am a professional in the addictions field. My friends in recovery have too often received poor quality of services, judgment, and been generally shamed by people in my line of work. This must stop. Being a recovery ally means that I seek to be part of the solution to all of the problems associated with the disease of addiction.

In general, if a person hasn’t walked a mile in your shoes it’s hard to believe that they can really understand what it’s like to live with what you live with. I have found that most folks who haven’t been an addict or at least been very close to an addict can’t begin to wrap their mind around what it’s like to be one. I know that while I cannot relate to a person whose experiences I have not shared; I can understand to the best of my ability what it’s like for them and support them in overcoming their disease. All that this requires is that I get my ego out of the way. I listen and listen well. I ask dumb questions and I show a genuine interest in what it’s like for them. The addicts and alcoholics I know tell me that they find this unusual and refreshing.

I love working with people in recovery because I like people who are exceptionally genuine, motivated, and who seek to make great changes in their lives. Normal people bore me. Normal people do not generally make life altering changes. They do not often become something far greater than they are. People in recovery inspire me. I love their candor, their accountability, their integrity, their humor, and their willingness to go to any length to become happy, joyous, and free. I am blessed because people who are willing to make this kind of commitment seek me out.

The recovery communities of 12 step programs are vastly more effective than any professional intervention or organization will ever be. I see what I do as merely a compliment to the work of AA, NA, Al-Anon and others. I am one person working in one organization. Self help programs total tens of millions of people all over the world who genuinely care about their fellow members. Being a recovery ally means having the humility to know that what I do may be important, but it will never be a fraction as important as membership in a self help program.

Never have I been so welcomed by any group of people as when I have attended AA meetings. My colleagues do not receive me one tenth as well. Even after I explain that I am not an alcoholic, I am frequently thanked for attending, for showing an interest, for offering support, and for showing respect to a program that works exceptionally well. Amazingly these folks do not hesitate to share their experience, strength, and hope with me. They speak the most intimate and painful details of their lives in front of me, knowing that all attending have the opportunity to connect, learn, heal, identify, and grow based on these experiences.

I came to work with people in recovery through a backdoor of sorts. I started out as a mental health therapist and found that many of the people I was serving also had problems because of drugs and alcohol. I quickly came to understand that as long as they continued to abuse drugs and alcohol, anything in mental health would be of limited value to them. In most cases I find the importance of being clean and sober as being foundational and of far greater importance than issues of mental health. Today I understand that depression and anxiety are normative experiences for a person who is active in addiction or who is in the early years of recovery.

Being a recovery ally means that I am an educator. I share what I know and I defer to those who know more than I. I am far more likely to refer my clients to people in local recovery than I am to refer them to professionals. I am able to do this because I know people in the local recovery communities. Being an educator also means that I acknowledge that as a society we are not effectively educating children, adolescents, and adults of the dangers of addiction.

The best recovery allies are advocates. We know that current systems fail to meet the needs of people in recovery. Punitive approaches to alcohol and drug abuse have consistently failed to deter or reduce recidivism rates. We need to bring attention to what works (self help, rehabilitation, abstinence) and challenge prevailing stereotypes (addicts and alcoholics as bad people, criminals, or only belonging to poor and working class). We need to demystify recovery (it’s not about religion, it’s not people sitting around just talking about their problems) through achieving direct knowledge of recovery. It’s not enough to encourage people to join self help. Having direct knowledge of local recovery means that we can share our experiences to motivate others.

The hardest part of becoming a recovery ally is learning not to enable. Those who do not understand alcoholism or drug addiction are often unwittingly helping their loved ones to stay mired in addiction. Enabling almost always feels like the right thing to do. It’s something we feel compelled to do. Not protecting our loved ones from harm is counter-intuitive. We had to learn that protecting those who abuse substances from the natural consequences of their actions is to do them a disservice. We learned that in general people stop using because they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Suffering is a powerful motivator.

Finally, the most important part of being a recovery ally is the willingness to collaborate. The AA tradition of “principles over personalities” strikes at the heart of our lack of collaboration. We need all stakeholders to come together if we are to make a substantive impact on the disease of addiction. Too many of us as Adult Children of Alcoholics are afraid or disinclined to share what we know and what we’re doing. Agencies and groups often behave like alcoholic families. We compete with one another from the mistaken belief that there is not enough to go around. Sharing our knowledge of what works and combining our efforts will yield far greater results than we have ever seen.

Jim LaPierre, MSW, LCSW, CCS

Higher Ground Counseling Services


National Recovery Month Stories: Psych Nurse

Hello everyone, welcome back to to Story Project. This week we have a story from a treatment provider (who wishes to remain anonymous) and she has an interesting perspective on what it’s like to deal with addiction and recovery from the other side, to be the person who watches and guides patients through that process. I think her message shows that people who provide treatment really do care.

 

As a psychiatric nurse I deal every day with people who are trying to cope with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, or other mental illnesses. Many of them have been trying to cope with the distress of their illnesses by self-medicating. Some abuse prescription medications such as anxiolytics or pain meds, still others use marijuana and tell themselves it’s “not really a drug,” some drink excessive alcohol, and others take anything they can from LSD to mushrooms to crack cocaine to meth.

The one characteristic all these people have is that they come to treatment in pain. And just being in treatment doesn’t mean they are hopeful about being there. A large part of the staff’s job is to help the patients find that hope. Without it, nothing else progresses because the work in overcoming illness and addiction is hard.

If someone arrives still under the influence of drugs/alcohol they have to go through detoxification. We use medications to try to ease them through that process, but it is still not an easy one. However, almost always after detoxing the patient is much better able to consider other things on which to focus and be able to stay focused on those things that form the steps of recovery.

During treatment, other means of coping with stress need to be found for each patient, and better habits of responding in a new and less destructive way. The lucky ones find the right person with whom to explore, process, and resolve their underlying issues, particularly trauma. Without that process, relapse is all too common.

I admire anyone who makes that first step and starts some kind of treatment. I use the analogy that everyone has a little red wagon and we pull it around, carrying our emotional baggage. In treatment we try to help the patient unpack some of that baggage, put it in the right storage, or maybe even discard some of it, making the wagon a little lighter to pull.

Treatment is available but you may have to look for it. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to afford wonderful private facilities. Others have to hope they are lucky enough to find good care in a public system. Keep looking. Ask for guidance, but seek help if you are dealing with addiction or any mental illness. I have seen life-changing results from getting the right care. Best wishes in your recovery.

Anonymous, RN-BC, MSN

 


Your Recovery Month Stories

Hello Recovery Writers! So next month, September, is National Recovery Month, celebrating those in all stages of recovery from addiction and mental illness. It’s about spreading the message that treatment works and recovery is possible! Instead of doing a poetry series, I’d love to feature YOUR stories. If you have one you want to share (any story with any outcome, not just those who are recovered) please e-mail me at write4recovery@aol.com. I can’t wait to see what you guys have! For more information on Recovery Month, check out the link below. ♥ Sarah

SAMHSA National Recovery Month


Voices: “Better”

This is the final post from the series! Thank you for reading this past Mental Health Month. I’m honored to enter your lives through poetry and even more honored to hear your stories and comments in return.

This last poem is brand new, just written a few days ago. I wanted to write something looking back from the other side of mental illness; what it feels like to be better. “Better” means different things to different people, I think mostly because the course of each person’s life and illness is so different. For some people, it means 100% recovery. For others, it’s just managing symptoms. For some, just staying out of the hospital for extended periods is a really big accomplishment. Celebrate those successes in whatever form they come, and try not to berate yourself for the times you fall down. Never stop advocating for yourself, not just as a patient but as a person too; you are more than your symptoms. Choose the people in your life carefully and try to have a good support system. Mental illness is a part of our lives but it does not have to be our whole lives.

My hope is for everyone with mental illness to have access to the resources they need to get “better”- whatever that means to them.

5/24/11

Better

There is a place that’s in between

It’s hard to find and rarely seen

But if you work and search it’s there

You only find it through self-care

For some that includes therapy

For others it means meals times three

For some it means ten pills a day

We do self-care in many ways

I know it’s isn’t always fun

But it’s a task that must be done

To stay here and to really live

Remember the alternative

Remember self-destructive nights

Terror and internal fights

Dissolving into fits of panic

Acting out when things turned manic

Diving into dark depression

Binge and purge in quick succession

Starving to make up for it

Cut to make it all just quit

Round and round and round it went

Never pausing to relent

Revisit what this felt like so

You’ll have the good sense to let go

To keep on caring for yourself

To keep on trying and getting help

And knowing that there is always hope

And support out there to help you cope

© Sarah Henderson 2011


Voices: “Flawless”

Thank you for joining me for the final week of our “Voices” series. This week I want to focus on the recovery side of mental illness- at least, the journey towards recovery. This short poem was written in a little burst of self-awareness I had about five years ago. I was still extremely ill, and just a couple of months away from entering inpatient care. But every now and then something would break through my denial and it would occur to me that eventually this shit would have to stop if I was going to survive. This was one of those moments.

5/26/06

Flawless

 

What does it mean to be perfect?

I have searched my whole life but don’t know

I have tried and have lied and I’ve nearly died

And I’ve put on a grand little show

But the truth, I’ve discovered, is that there’s no magic

There’s no way to opt out of yourself

There’s only this life, and if you choose to stay

You must play the hand you’ve been dealt

There are rules in this life by which you must abide

And you can be pissed and that’s fine

But you will have to eat, take your pills, and take care

Of the body that houses your mind

You will learn to accept things that you used to hate

You will learn that perfection can’t be

You will learn that your so-called flaws make you you

And that self-respect will set you free

If you want to move on then you will have to grieve

And you’ll have to fight like all hell

But when it’s all over, the pain will subside

And you’ll be able to say “I am well”

© Sarah Henderson 2006