I am sharing a message of hope today for a world wracked by anxiety and fear, both of which can only lead to deep feelings of depression. I have had much experience with these feeling during a lifetime of addiction and living with the effects of the disease. I often get asked " why are you so happy today?". I have found happiness by learning how to have peace with the past and I find the acceptance of the that, once I experienced this moment, it is now the past. I learned about the value and ability to accept and live with the past through membership in 3 different recovery programs. The peace I have today, when I look back, was not just rooted in acceptance but in a profound belief that it was truly the grace of the God of my understanding and the deep love from this God that made my experience possible. This understanding started in a very simple way with the knowledge that I have only ever had to suffer in life for as long as it took to realize I needed to change. So by understanding that the universe isn't really against me, I was able to break out of the trauma and victimization that was keeping me in active addiction with and without substance. For the past few years I have been extremely grateful that, although I am unable to change the past, the present has changed the way I look at the past. I can't change the grief of lost family members and friends due to the disease of addiction but, I can change how I act about it today. There was truly relevance and meaning to all of my life experiences that have enabled me to live and even thrive to this day. My hope for you is if you are suffering with yesterdays, just know you are not alone. My path out was truly spiritual at its core and if that is not available to you, my hope is that you are able to find it through another just like you who loves you enough to share their hope. My desire today is to help others find freedom from their pasts by seeing it's blessing in the present. I am truly grateful for the grace of my higher power and the love of all peoples in the programs that continue to help others.
Thanks for my recovery.
Please reach out, you are not alone!
TO ANYONE STRUGGLING WITH ADDICTIONS AND/OR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. I LOVE YOU, RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE AND YOU'RE WORTH THE WORK. I SPENT APPROXIMATELY 26 YEARS OF MY LIFE USING SUBSTANCES TO COPE WITH MY ISSUES.
While under the influence of all the above chemicals, I was very unhealthy, unstable and unhappy. As the years went by I realized these chemicals I used where only symptoms of the real issues I was trying to escape. To name a few: trauma, abandoned issues, low self esteem, insecurities, codependency, untreated mental health issues and mainly a unwillingness to accept that all these issues needed to be accepted & treated for me to recover. Recovery isn't easy by any means, life still happens, I have lost friends, family, jobs, my right to have visitation with my children, etc. life doesn't magically become fair just because I am sober. It is life after all, Regardless I wake up grateful and happy everyday, I always see new possibilities for growth and success no matter my situation. I decided to change by asking for assistance and by doing the work to the best of my ability. This started the lengthy healing process, which eventually gave me the ability let go of my past trauma, accept life's difficulties and enjoy a life without drugs and unhealthy behaviour. I REALIZE I WAS DIFFICULT TO HELP AT TIMES, SO A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL THE RESOURCES/PEOPLE THAT ASSISTED ME IN THIS JOURNEY, TO NAME A FEW. The 12 step groups, smart recovery, Leave a Light Project, Our Collective Journey, various religious groups, physiatrists, psychotherapists, sponsors, law enforcement, friends and family. I appreciate everyone who took part in this difficult and rewarding process.
Please reach out, you are not alone!
"I grew up a teenage daughter of a mother who suffered from severe depression which resulted in an opioid addiction as a means of coping. This then resulted in the death of my mother after many attempts over the years of suicide she had finally suceeded. By the age of 12 I was already using drugs and alcohol to cope with the chaos I was surrounded with. Growing up in this situation created so many insecurities and mental health issues in myself. I was never told what was going on in my house. My dad always just pretended everything was fine when she wasn't a mess and would work 16 hours days when she was a mess avoiding the scenario all together leaving me scared, unsafe, depressed and angry. The Typical Taboo conversation where lets just not talk about it. After the death of my mother I was sexually abused by an immediate family member who took advantage of me while I was under the influence of alcohol. This increased the substance abuse and I spent my entire school years using, marijuana, mushrooms, cocaine, ritalin, and alcohol to cope with the emotional pain and suffering I was going through.
I moved away from my home town after graduation and nothing got any better. I found better drugs like crack, meth and morphine that worked better for numbing the pain away. I spent years in this state with multiple attempts of suicude hoping with each time I got high that I would take enough to die. In and out of my one time I would show up to
therapy that was never easily accessible to me. Going to dry out to not have anywhere to place me and me leaving to only get high and never make it to any long term treatment facility. I was at the lowest point in my life. Then the miraculous day came where I woke up and with a feeling of surrender. I quit fighting everything that was killing me: the hurt, pain, anger, abuse, and the abandonment. I called my best friend and said I needed help and I asked if I could live with her and get sober. I got on a bus the same day and started my new life where drugs weren't going to be my means of coping. I chose not to be a product of my past and told myself I was deserving of a life worth living. I took the steps I knew I needed to get clean and don't get me wrong I fell off the wagon a few toomany times before I figured out everything.
Over the years I have done extensive amounts of therapy to better understand myself and how my upbringing impacts my relationship today. I learned that I have ADHD and anxiety and now I medicate for ADHD and use physical fitness to manage my anxiety along with meditation apps. I have learned to set healthy boundaries with myself and others. Today I choose to surround myself with individuals who will only lift me up. People who encourage me to be my best self and people who understand my past but don't manipulate or take advantage of my vulnerability. I am the proud mother of 2 beautiful teenage daughters who I have a great relationship with. One that is fueled on open communication no matter how bad I wish I didn't hear what they have to say sometimes. I raise them to know it's ok to say the hard stuff because when you can talk about the hard shit that's when growth happens.. I will never quit working on myself... Every day I become a better person that I love and that I am proud of and I'm not done achieving the many life goals I have set out for myself."
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"I am a 39-year-old partner, father, and a friend. Everyday I battle my anxiety, my depression, my post concussion syndrome, PTSD and a speech impediment. To deal with my mental health unwellness I had to step out of my comfort zone. I had to face my fears, my anxieties, my demons and all my darkness. My darkness is that voice in my head that tells me I am not good enough. It screams I'm not strong enough to overcome my past or deal with this rollercoaster we call life. It tells me I am not worthy of love and that I will never find forgiveness from my guilt and shame. Those things my darkness tries to make me believe are all lies. It's scary as hell, but I learnt I was not alone.
Growing up I never knew how to explain what was going on inside of me. I fought the darkness everyday with a sensitive soul, a troubled heart and an anxious mind. Childhood traumas plus a speech impediment left me with low self-esteem, unhealthy coping mechanisms and anger towards my Higher Power. I grew up playing team sports and had what seemed to be a normal life. But on the inside, I was hiding away so much pain. I felt alone surrounded by the people I tried to please and looked to for acceptance. Growing up mental health was a taboo topic. I had all these feelings inside of me and no idea how to communicate them. I internalized all these emotions for so many years because I did not know what depression and anxiety were. And back then I did not know my enemy, my darkness, or how to deal with it all.
The first time I thought of taking my life I was in grade 7. I had gotten off the bus filled with panic and fear. I got home, went downstairs, jumped in the shower and just cried. I did not want to be alive. I never wanted to go back to school or look any one in the eye again. I blamed God for my stutter and was mad at Him for many years. I did not want to face another day of feeling small and different. I hated going to school and I tried to hide in the back of the classroom. I dreaded reading out loud and when called upon to answer questions I wanted my world to end. I missed a lot of school because of my anxiety. It had me feeling physically ill. Some day's I would pretend to be sick because it was easier to be absent then to face the ridicule. Both teachers and kids found my speech impediment an easy target for jokes. All of these things led me to battle the thought of suicide through out junior high, high school and into adulthood. u200b
12 years ago, I was out checking cows and got bucked off my horse. I suffered a major concussion, a neck injury and a brain bleed. My mental, physical and spiritual health was tested. And unfortunately, I wasn't strong enough to cope in healthy ways. I struggled to numb the pain I felt with alcohol and pain killers. I was on low dose anti depressants for my migraines and brain pains. All the pills left me feeling groggy, foggy and nausea. I was left feeling more depressed and disconnected from my life and the world around me. The darkness began to become too much. Then 8 years ago I hit rock bottom. Bad life choices, migraines, random nerve pain and my depression left me hiding away in the basement. Isolating myself from my family seemed the easiest. It separated my darkness from my kids. I thought I was keeping them safe. Instead, I was only missing out on their lives. To this day I struggle to forgive myself for all the years I spent curled up on the couch. It was at this point I decided I needed to do something. It was very clear to me if I did not do something I would not be alive much longer. At first, I tried to do it on my own. So, I learnt about psychology, brain injuries, mental health and Buddha. I had too many sleepless nights battling insomnia. I spent that time reading, learning how to mediate, praying for answers and hoping for rest. I was trying to understand myself and what I was going through. Slowly I began to understand how my past vices, childhood traumas and the effects of 10 plus concussions were affecting the present day me. I had all this knowledge and philosophy up in my head but still I was struggling. It was at this point I decided to find a counselor. Speaking with a professional was the best thing I ever did for my mental health. It was hard and scary sharing my life and my past with a stranger. But there was something cathartic about sharing who I was, what I had been through and what I had over come with someone. You get to share your struggles, your traumas and your Light. It helped me to start putting my life into perspective. When I took the time to reflect on my life from a calm rational viewpoint, I began to see all the positive things in my life. And I started to see all the areas of myself i need to work on.
Until 2 years ago I had sworn off antidepressants. My negative first try left me jaded towards those capsules. But today I take my pills everyday and night, I see a psychologist, a psychiatrist, I try to have a healthy sleep routine and I have found my way back to the Cross. Recently I was diagnosed with ADHD. Imagine an early childhood diagnosis? The reason for my racing mind, my inability to focus at school and the poor impulsive decisions I made through out my life started to make sense. But all the pain and suffering have led me to learn, to grow and to view the world differently. We can allow all that pain and struggle to eat at our soul and make us hard. Or we can plant a seed in the tough crusted soil of torment and grow. We need to learn to be gentle with ourselves especially when we are hurting. We need to learn to be compassionate with our own thoughts. We need to find ways to challenge past traumas and we need ways to break negative thought patterns. Getting professional help, working on living a healthy lifestyle and finding our faith can help to promote positive self talk and create positive healthy tools to use against our darkness.
To live with anxiety is to live-in worry and fear of the future. What could or should go wrong will. Our anxiety has us in a constant state of uneasiness. We all have stress in our lives but when we get caught in the fight or flight mode our nervous systems get stuck in overdrive and our brains and bodies can react in negative ways. We can start to feel numb to the world around us or over stimulated. Our hearts and minds are constantly racing like we are being chased by a monster. Unfortunately, those monsters can be our own thoughts and our own actions. How do can we hide from ourselves? Our lives are meant to be lived in the present. When we live with depression we are living in the past with guilt and regret. A wise woman once told me regret and guilt are two useless emotions that only rob us of happiness in the now. We do not have a time machine to go back and change the past. We do not get to change our past traumas or take back the pain we may have caused others while we ourselves were hurting. We can try to seek forgiveness from others but may end up not receiving it. We may hope for apologies that never come. These are the natural consequence of our actions. However, we need to find positive ways to deal with these feelings and consequences. This is where forgiveness of self and empathy are needed. The only way I have been able to find peace with my past transgressions and let go of the guilt, regret and shame was to put my faith in Christ. But our ego, our demons and our darkness can eat away at our soul day by day. And soon we can define ourselves by our past transgressions. Our power to change the narrative of our past comes in how we reframe our experiences and emotions in those moments of trauma and in that pain. If we can rewrite our perspective, then we can begin to rewire our brains. If we can change the way we view a negative experience we can find some good and take back the power it holds over us.
When someone makes that choice too take their life all rational thought is gone. I have walked that line, and in that moment, you honestly believe that the world and your family would be better off with out you. Our darkness engulfs us, it lies to us, and the darkness drowns out our Light. It plays on our doubts, our demons and our fears. All we can feel is an emptiness and a hopelessness. All we can hear is a loud voice telling us that there is the only one way out. In a moment we can make that choice to end it all. But the truth is that its up to those of us who struggle to find the strength to ask for help. We must be the ones who take that first step. We all have the power in us to change our lives. Helping others and sharing our stories is not only cathartic but needed in order to heal. Do not be afraid to share your story or your struggle with others because you never know who might be listening in that moment. It might change a life, inspire someone out of darkness or give hope to the hopeless. Today when my anxiety and depression get the best of me, I turn inward. I remember all the times I have overcome negative thought patterns, the times I calmed my racing mind with mediation and spoke my truth knowing my faith would carry me through. I have learnt to create healthy relationships, let go of addictions and to use positive self talk when the loudest voice in my head tells me to give up. Being grateful for each day, each relationship and every mistake you have made helps us learn a lesson. Soon the voice of the darkness gets quitter, less aggressive and some days it is only a whisper. Today I know this world is a better place with me in it, my kids' lives are better because I am here, and I have found a healthy relationship that gives me strength when the darkness tries to knock me off the path I am on. In order to give ourselves the best tools, the best knowledge and the best armour to battle everyday, we need to take care of our physical health, our mental well-being and connect with our spiritual self. That might mean leaving a toxic relationship, setting strong boundaries with others or having a faith in a Higher Power. Let Go and Let God.u201d
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"I was born and raised in Medicine Hat, the middle daughter of 3. I grew up in an alcohol free home. I often heard stories of alcoholic relatives and was aware that alcoholism was in our family. From my very first memories as a young child I remember the constant feelings of loneliness and fear. Always wanting to be someone else, always wanting to feel different, never content and always comparing my insides to everyone's outsides. I was to the extreme quiet and shy but always seeking attention and approval. From a very young age I had suicidal thoughts. My brain never was quiet. I felt a prisoner in my own mind. Even the simplest things would happen and I would spend days if not months still thinking it over. I had my first drink at 12 years old and drinking became regular on weekends until graduation year. It felt a way to escape from reality, it blocked the thoughts for a while and took away the fears of living. But I never drank the way my friends did, I could never have just one and would wake up the next day with no recollection of the night before. I won awards for funniest person in grade 9 and grade 12. I never understood what they saw in me that I didn't. Alcohol made me everything I wanted to be funny, confident, social, until it stopped working.
At 18 I was married and and had my first daughter. I truly believed I had found my purpose, I felt it was who I was destined to be my whole life. I thought I had everything I ever wanted. 3 healthy beautiful daughters, the family home, nice vehicles, family vacations. Yet I still felt alone and very uncomfortable in my own skin. I made many visits to the Dr. office, I suffered from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. My marriage ended after 15 years. As my daughters grew older I found I had more time to myself and continued on where I had left off in High-school. Alcohol once again made me more social, and gave me a sense of worth and belonging. I searched for myself in relationships with men, drugs, alcohol. What was just drinking on the weekends became daily and no matter how hard I tried I could not stop.
I tried just quitting drugs hoping that was my problem, I tried just beer for a while, then just wine, soon I couldn't leave the house or go to work because I knew I couldn't go long without a drink. Within 3 years I was a daily black out drunk. Waking up the next day full of guilt and shame. Terrorizing the lives of all those who cared and loved me. I became someone I could not control while drinking. I physically and mentally harmed my children, family and friends. I didn't want to live sober and I didn't want to live drunk anymore. The solution to my problems no longer worked. My daughters were saddened and scared so they made the decision to leave and go live with there dad. A recovered alcoholic friend reached out to me . I never knew there could be others out there that felt like I did, had thoughts like I did, and wanted to die just like I did. She first gave me hope by sharing her experience and then by taking me through the 12 step program of recovery. Today I am 20 months sober and will be forever indebted to the people that reached out to me. They showed me that I can make right the wrongs of my past and live free from the obsession I had. Today I know longer live in fear and live in the present. I want to be alive! Not all are fortunate live through this and I am very blessed to share my story with others that it may also give someone hope and a chance to ask for help."
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"I feel like throughout my 35 years of life, I cannot remember a time I wasn't struggling with mental health issues. It goes as far back as I can remember and started when I was diagnosed with juvenile epilepsy. But I didn't have the seizures you think of when you hear the word epilepsy. I had what are called absence seizures. It would look like I was staring off into space and I wouldn't hear anything around me for short periods of time, usually less than a minute. These seizures, along with the medications I took, made it hard for me to learn in school. I had to study extra hard to retain information and I distinctly remember that before I left elementary school I felt like I had an extremely low IQ. I was so convinced that I was stupid, that I begged my parents to give me an IQ test. They obliged and it was only after taking this test that I saw proof that made me believe I wasn't stupid.
After elementary, I had grown out of my juvenile epilepsy but was then medicated for ADD as I had a very hard time concentrating in school. The medication definitely helped in my concentration and I continued to use it for a good 10 years. By the time I was in University, I was abusing my medication because I would frequently want to pull all-nighters as I was also dealing with depression at this time.
Shortly after university, I stopped all my medication and it was at that time that I began noticing my intrusive thoughts more. These were the thoughts that would just randomly pop into my head and become stuck on repeat. But mine seemed different. They were always violent and disturbing. And I didn't dare tell anyone as I didn't want to be judged. I already had people in my life at the time that didn't believe I was depressed, so how would they have believed I was experiencing this. I don't want to go into too much detail about the nature of my intrusive thoughts, as they really are violent, but I feel that it might benefit someone out there to know that they are not alone if they have the same kinds of thoughts. My thoughts have always been about me bringing some kind of harm to those around me, particularly any animals that would be in my presence, such as family pets.
Finally, about 13 years ago, I told my family doctor what I was experiencing and she referred me to a psychiatrist. It turns out, other people have these intrusive thoughts too and they never act on them. I finally found out that I experience these thoughts because of OCD. Not the compulsive kind of OCD that would make a person check the door lock repeatedly, but the obsessive kind of OCD where a thought will come into my head and replay over and over and won't stop. I found a lot of comfort knowing that other people experienced what I was going through.
Fast forward to 7 years ago when I was in a serious relationship with someone who I thought I would be able to share my struggles with. I had expected to be met with compassion and understanding but instead, my partner was afraid that I would hurt our future children. For reasons beyond the obvious, this relationship didn't last.
Five years ago, I met my now husband. When I finally told him about my intrusive thoughts, I was met with the compassion and understanding I had always hoped for. That feeling of non-judgement lead me to open up to my close circle of friends about my thoughts. Again, no judgement. I was amazed at how accepting and loving these people were after I would reveal my struggles, especially since I had once thought it was such an ugly secret that no one would ever accept.
When my husband and I became pregnant 3 years ago, I knew that my intrusive thoughts would involve my children. It was a sad reality to know that once my baby was born I would begin having violent thoughts about them. I say this because it might be someone else's reality as well. I understand how disturbing it can be. It became really draining after I had my second child. Now I had two children I had intrusive thoughts about over a dozen times per day. When my youngest was 5 months old, I finally knew I needed to get help when I was starting to logically plan my suicide. I had dealt with violent thoughts for so long that I became so used to them. But when they started to become about me, I knew something wasn't right. Little did I know that I was actually suffering from post-partum depression. I always heard that post-partum depression was when you had thoughts about hurting your newborn. But since I already experienced this multiple times a day, I didn't even realize I was suffering from this depression.
Once I recovered from my post-partum depression, I decided that I no longer had the energy to deal with multiple violent thoughts about my children every day. My doctor and I came up with a treatment plan to manage my intrusive thoughts. For almost one year now, I have experienced minimal to no intrusive thoughts each day. It's really freeing and the violence in my mind is finally quiet. I know that this condition will be a lifelong one, but I thankfully now know that I can choose how loud these thoughts are. If you were to tell me 13 years ago that there would be a way I could live without these disturbing thoughts, I wouldn't have believed it. I suppose that's what has compelled me to tell my story. It really makes me believe that there is no situation too difficult to overcome."
"I grew up in a great family environment. A loving, caring mom with patience of gold. A dad who loved me, played sports with me and taught me many things. They always made me feel safe. Growing up I was always the athletic type and always enjoyed playing sports and being around them. I can remember from a younger age starting to develop immense and irrational fears and used obsessive rituals to control them. Thoughts of loved ones dying, being kidnapped, losing my talents, giving people disease or bad luck, becoming paralyzed or sick would be solved with continuous habitual rituals such as checking the bathroom and my room in the exact same order, touching things exactly 5 times, not touching people or pointing at them, saying prayers the exact same way, checking the house top to bottom over and over again before leaving the house. This caused me tremendous stress, confusion and anger. I also was always so concerned with how people seen and portrayed me. I always felt like I was being judged and that I wasn't good enough or didn't truly belong. It got to the point that even playing sports was no longer fun for me I would be in the batters box worried what the people in the crowd thought of how I looked or the ball I just let go by or on a partial break in hockey suddenly struck with worry about how I looked in the crowd, I felt trapped and a prisoner to my own mind.
The voices in my head grew and became stronger and stronger. I found alcohol around the age of 14 and from the first time it had quite the effect on me. It allowed me to fit in and be a part of no matter where I went and most importantly it shut of these voices and feelings that had been tormenting me and allowed me to be part of. I never drank normally I started and couldn't usually stop until I blacked out and passed out. I found hard drugs at age 20 that helped me to avoid passing out and allowed me to keep drinking the way I would. It wasn't long before I realized I had a big problem on my hands and I realized that these things were no longer working for me. They used to help and now they were a temporary escape with grave side effects becoming less and less effective and causing more problems and amplifying the ones already there. I became depressed and suicidal. I tried to quit for years and could not regaurdless of how many times I said I was done and how genuinely I meant it, I kept going back. I tried many different options and resources to get sober. Living sober groups, counselors, doctors (one who I still use today who has been a great help), phycologists, multiple treatment centers and could not stay sober regardless of their best efforts.
I realize today that this is because I suffer from a disease called alcoholism and it wasn't until I went to an AA meeting on a Saturday morning that I heard the message of how I can recover from this disease. They spoke of the solution instead of complaining and whining about their problems and struggles. They used their past experiences and struggles selflessly to help me. I heard the message of how I can recover from this from someone with the same shared life experience as me and how they got through it and I became willing to do whatever it took to recover. I was given a new way of living and today I can thankfully say that I am happily sober and these feelings of past fears, anxieties, OCD rituals and depression have dramatically lessened if not completely disappeared and if they do crop up now and again I now have the tools to deal with them in a healthy way and keep them at bay. I am a sober and free person today and have a new way of living my life thanks to the actions I took and those who showed me the way and am grateful for that.
Reach out you are not alone, you matter and deserve to feel the genuine joy live has to offer. There is a way through your struggles allow yourself to experience them."
We've ALL been there (literally). Our Collective Journey offers a strength-based, solution-focused approach to changing your relationship with substances. We help you obtain the resources YOU decide on to begin building your recovery capital. There is no cost for this support!