12 STEP PROGRAMS AND A LINK TO PTSD/TRAUMA

I recently read an article written by Dr. Marc Lewis. Don’t worry I did a thorough check on his credentials and if there were any complaints against him. Dr. Lewis is a Developmental Neuroscientist who did research at the University of Toronto from 1989 to 2010. He was also a Professor of Developmental Psychology there. He’s now at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He’s had 50 journal publications in Psychology and Neuroscience. His book Memoirs of an Addicted Brain garnered high praise from top experts in the Mental Health and Addiction community including Gabar Mate.

Dr. Lewis also knows firsthand what the struggle of addiction feels like. Addicted to opiates in his youth, it cost him his family, trouble with the police and almost his life. At 30 he was finally able to stay off drugs for good and reentered grad school where he received his Ph.D.

12 Step Programs appear to put a freeze on emotional development (active drinking/drug abuse does also). Groups are known for convincing members that even if they’ve been clean for awhile their addiction is like a bogeyman you thought was under your bed as a child. Keeping you in one place no matter how much you had to pee or how thirsty you were, you were frozen. This bogeyman is patient and will wait forever for that one slip up, 1 drink, 1 pill, that will lead to a full relapse. So to avoid this you need to “Keep coming back” and define yourself as an alcoholic/addict for life.

The way you live your life and your self image is frozen in place. If you change anything, don’t follow the steps, you’re warned that you’ll be back to where you started and out of control.

Many or most 12 step groups intentionally reinforce the terror of relapse. They keep the anxiety alive in order to embed traumatic memories of addiction by telling and retelling anecdotes about how bad it was when they were at their worst or the repercussions of their last relapse.

12 step practice is the opposite of trauma treatment. To plug yourself into a static state of PTSD where you’re with people who intentionally try to get you to relive emotions that have already done damage, it’s no surprise why so many leave the program or never enter one at all. The other issue is defining yourself as a lifetime addict/alcoholic because it sounds like a self fulfilling prophecy.

MY EXPERIENCE AND PERSONAL OPINION

I tortured myself recently by listening to a Dr. Drew podcast where he said there has never been an addict/alcoholic who has successfully maintained sobriety without a 12 step program. Of course this made me a little upset. This is a person who isn’t a licensed Psychiatrist/Psychologist or Neurologist, he’s a licensed Internist. Your everyday General Practitioner who thinks he knows about PTSD, Mental Illness and Addiction. He doesn’t. What he also doesn’t realize is the damage he’s doing by promoting these false beliefs.

I had been in AA for 2 years. They were the worst 2 years of my life. I had not been diagnosed yet but a Doctor had me on Prozac and Buspar (an anxiety medication that has to be in your system for 3-4 weeks before it starts to work, the level has to be maintained). The State I live in is an odd one. The group I went to had many old timers and a few younger people. They would go to different meetings around the state to speak to large groups. When they did this members were picked to tell their stories in front of up to 100 people. If you were picked you didn’t have a choice, you had to do it. When I was chosen it was a nightmare come true. All I remember is the sound of blood rushing in my ears. I have no idea what I said but I remember a guy my age taking my hand and helping me off the stage.

This didn’t go well with the group I was part of. I was told that I would never make it, I would be a drunk again if I didn’t get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

When people found out I was on medication it was suggested I go off it because it was a “crutch” and the same as alcohol.

I am not religious and didn’t appreciate being forced to say the Lord’s prayer after every meeting. If I refused comments were made and I was told that I would fail and be in the gutter drinking again. When I missed a meeting because I had Bronchitis someone told me I better “get on my knees and ask God to forgive me” or I would never make it. Me failing was a reoccurring theme. I went to meetings all around the state and they were all the same. I heard the same stories over and over. But if you tried to be too honest someone would stop you and say “Save that for your sponsor” because they thought it was too personal. I wanted to hear it! I wanted to hear that someone had done something as bad as I did but they stopped him.

There isn’t anyone in these programs equipped to deal with those of us who have a mental illness and began drinking to self medicate. The 12 steps are life saving for some people, a replacement for alcohol/drugs for a few and damaging for others.

My Dad has been sober over 36 years without a program. My mom was sober was 29 years at the time of her death without a program. I have been sober over 9 years without a program the longest I’ve ever been able to maintain sobriety.

12 step programs are not for everyone and they are not the only option. Depending on your location your experience can differ, some areas do rely on the older version which mentions God more often. There are some that don’t. Just remember it’s your choice and there are more options now than ever so do your research and choose wisely.

 

 

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MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BOY (Childhood Trauma and Bullying)

He’s standing there with his backpack waiting for his brother to come out of the School Building. His blond hair shines in the sun between the trees. He has eyes the color of the bluest ocean, just like me, his mother and Grandmother. He has trouble being still so he swings his backpack back and forth not realizing how close he is to a treasured “butterfly cocoon” a PTA Mom has gotten a group of children excited about.

When his pack hits it everything will change for this boy I love like he’s my own. He’s my twin sister’s son, in the 1st Grade and small for his age. I’m not biased when I say he’s beautiful, both of my nephews are. They got all of the good parts of both their parents and none of the bad. Physically that is. As an outsider I’ve noticed things in both of my nephews that scare me. They are both extremely sensitive to what’s going on around them. Their feelings are hurt easily and they have a hard time controlling their emotions. It’s good they have my sister for a Mom.

As my sister walks out of the School Building she sees her baby boy surrounded by 15-20 other children and 1 adult woman. The woman is telling her son that he is a “Monster” while the children are chanting “Butterfly Killer” at him. He’s on the ground crying like the World is ending.

Let me say at this point in my sister’s telling me this story I start to feel hot and dizzy I also see spots in front of my eyes. I feel an amount of rage I have not felt since my twenties. I’m happy to say I’m glad I don’t know the woman’s name or address and my sister refused to give it to me. No one threatens the mental or physical well being of people I love. And you better RUN if it’s one of my babies. I can’t have children any longer so I claim them as mine. (My twin doesn’t know this)

I can’t imagine how damaging that must have been for my Shaney. Surrounded like he’s in The Lord of The Flies while being called a Killer with an ADULT leading this behavior.

When my sister intervened and talked to the woman she said my nephew intentionally kicked the cocoon and suggested he had the makings of a serial killer. I don’t know how my sister didn’t ram her head into the monkey bars or said “Let me introduce you to my sister” I would’ve been happy to scare the crap out of her. I know it isn’t right but people like this do not change as adults. They are made as children and it manifests through time making them worse with each passing day. They will never change because that would mean giving up their feeling of control. There’s no point in dealing with them.

But my nephew still has a chance if my sister and her husband deal with everything he’s been going through now. This isn’t the first time he’s been involved in a situation like this. There have been times where I catch him doing something he shouldn’t be and he looks at me with a smile on his face that scares me. But he also is the one who hugs me and doesn’t want to let go, will spend hours outside watching the trees, birds, insects, and inside reading about how to save animals. He’s sensitive and smart but I know how without the right tools and guidance his intelligence and sensitivity can work against him.

I felt like crying and screaming when I could hear him crying in the background and saying “Mommy they all hate me. I don’t want to go to school I don’t want to be a killer Please don’t make me go!”. I thought my heart would break. He doesn’t even know what a killer is. I’m crying as I type this. Humans are the cruelest things on this planet there is nothing else with the same capacity to inflict such pain.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

Yesterday I was optimistic. Today is too much. I have no idea who or what I am from hour to hour. The problem could be my mood stabilizer. I know that when the shape and size of it changed I started to spiral.

I know that my Dad and my twin sister will not tolerate me for much longer before taking action. This is what I fear most. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to be hospitalized in the State I live in, there is only one Hospital and I’ve already spent time there. Your days are filled with watching people a little more delusional than you fighting over the TV and their place in line to eat. There’s a room where you they have Play Dough (sp?) and some arts and crafts that you can’t hurt yourself with. At night everyone get’s Benadryl to help them fall asleep. Every day is the same. If you’re lucky you might see an actual Doctor during your time there. The amount of time spent with the Doctor is less than 15 minutes.

They do not run tests or ask questions or assess you in any way. They babysit you until your insurance won’t cover your stay any longer.

I’ve need a real assessment with an EEG and a recent brain scan to see if the swelling has progressed and to check the cysts in my sinus cavities. Lately my sinuses are always swollen, leaving purple bags under my eyes and a bad headache that leaves me nauseas. I feel the pressure changing and hear crackling in my face when I lift my head too fast. At times I can’t see when this happens so I don’t think it’s a good thing. I don’t tell my family anything because I’m sure they’re sick of hearing it.

My mom was kind of a hypochondriac or so we thought, now I believe she had Celiac Disease and no one diagnosed it. She had all of the symptoms and the aches and pains. We dismissed it after her going to the doctors for so many years and their inability to find anything wrong with her.

It all makes since now. At her age she shouldn’t have broken ribs just by coughing, but if she had Celiac that went untreated and Osteoporosis then it made since. Not long after she broke her back without falling we had no idea. When my Dad and Mom told me to sit down when I came home from work one day I didn’t take it seriously. Not until my Dad said “Your Mom has Lung Cancer and it’s gone as far as her Lymph Nodes”. The shock and pain I felt couldn’t be measured. The treatment and surgery they put her through was inhumane. I’m not sure it was worth the extra 6 and 1/2 years it gave us.

I can’t think about that now or what little I’m holding on to will disappear. Why was yesterday okay and today so much worse than any day I’ve had in months.

I want to do things that will make me feel better but how can I when I can’t move? The thought of walking to the bathroom and brushing my hair is exhausting. My head is throbbing. I haven’t really eaten in days. I’m thirsty but don’t want to drink anything. I hope this is more than me going more insane because if not I don’t think I can be fixed.

Maybe tomorrow or in a few hours I’ll feel completely different. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but I don’t get to be on Broadway. Was that weird? Probably. My filter isn’t really working either.

I’m going to look at some animals now. Maybe it will spark some happiness.

RECENT EPIPHANIES

Epiphany~ sudden intuitive perception or insight.

Positivity~ optimistic in attitude. (a definition I can live with)

Over the last few months I’ve been having tougher time than usual. I’ve actually regressed to a place I never though I would be again. I never thought I would seriously consider hurting myself again, actually visualize the entire thing in my mind. When I heard whispering I knew I was in trouble.

I waited to tell anyone because I didn’t want to be put in the Hospital where I wouldn’t have any control over what was done or how long I stayed. I know what the “law” is but that doesn’t mean everyone follows it. I’ve been in that situation before and if I hadn’t received ECT it would’ve broken me. My Dad isn’t a stupid man so I couldn’t keep much from him for long. My sister and I usually only text. It’s easier for her to ignore or to be able to gauge what my mood is. If she actually hears my voice, hears the pain and tears, it’s harder for her to hang up or disengage. Eventually they both noticed I changed and it wasn’t for the better.

I went to my Psychiatrist and we discussed several reasons why I was having suicidal thoughts, hearing voices, and on two occasions hallucinations. I was also irritable, angry, crying, and going through all of these emotions frequently throughout the day. I wasn’t sleeping like I used to and was exhausted.

The bottom line is there isn’t too much more for me to try on the medication or therapy side of things. I’ve tried it all. I could try ECT again but the Doctors are concerned because of my chronic low blood pressure and slow heart rate. My physical health is worse now than when I first had ECT.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION IS ME

I’ve decided to be open minded and try something new. I’ve decided to try to let go.

For once a famous person with a mental illness has said something that I found to be helpful and has changed my perspective. He’s been through some heartbreaking experiences and he isn’t saying “take medication, don’t take medication, believe in God, don’t believe in God, exercise don’t exercise, eat the right foods or don’t” his belief is this

“You choose the part you want to play in this life. I want to be a good guy. I want to do good things. I want to make people happy and I want to help out when I can. So you do what you need to do”

He also believes in surrendering to the hopelessness we feel and to stop being afraid of the sorrow and suffering.

“It’s going to happen, you’re going to have times of extreme depression you don’t come out of on the other side, but you can choose who you want to be when it’s over.”

And he’s right because the depressive episodes do end at some point or at least lift to a tolerable level where you have clarity. I have let the fear of my symptoms hold me in place and I’ve become a person I never wanted to be.

I never wanted to be okay with sitting on my couch for years at a time with no social interaction, no friends, and what family I have left sick of dealing with me.

There was a time where I wanted to speak at High Schools about Mental Health/Bullying/Peer Pressure/Alcohol because school was a pivotal point for me. Mental Health problems and symptoms begin early and maybe by talking about my own experiences I could prevent someone from having to go through what I did. Early detection is the key.

I also wanted work/volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Animals have always been my passion since I was little. My Grandmother on Dad’s side always asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always said the same thing “A veterinarian”.

Boy, did I take some wrong turns. Jewelry maker, Store Manager of 3 major stores, Cosmetologist, Rock Groupie (not really groupies are usually fans who want to have sex with the musicians they idolize I just liked talking to them and most appreciated the change and the chance to have a normal conversation), Alcoholic, Bouncer (I looked tougher than I was specifically when drinking), I’m forgetting some things and getting off track but you get the point.

I’m now training myself that the “Positivity” isn’t always bad and to remain open minded. I also can’t control what my Dad does or says so I have to try to stop getting upset every time he does or says something upsetting which is often. If he wants to push himself to the point of dropping outside and refuses to listen to the his Doctors or me there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve been trying for 2 years now and I’m the one who is on the floor in the fetal position crying and muttering words that don’t make sense because I just had to clean a pint of his blood off of the floor. No one else is losing it, just me. He continues to do the same things he isn’t supposed to so I can’t fall apart anymore.

My sister I’m going to have to deal with also. I have to accept that I can’t expect her to give what she isn’t capable of giving. Just because my feelings and emotions are to the extreme I can’t expect everyone else to be the same it isn’t fair. She should put her own family first. I’m a grown woman. The problem is I’ve never lived like one.

It’s time to do some serious work, letting go and healing. I’ve also been off of Twitter which I’ll explain that in a future post.

Thank you to everyone who reads my long rambling posts it’s appreciated more than any of you will ever know.

WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY (The Problem With Known Spokespeople)

We need to talk about suicide and suicide prevention but I believe it has to be done in a responsible way and with great care.

It’s good when a person who is well known can admit they have a mental health issue and try to help others.

What isn’t helpful is when they imply or give the illusion that they are “all better” because they ate the right foods, exercised, meditated, and have God helping them.

A large percentage of people with Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia have a tendency to develop Body Dysmorphic Disorder and focus strongly on Religion. I have seen this in my own family and it might be one of the many reasons it bothers me the way it does.

My Auntie Donna wouldn’t eat for days and would let expensive food rot in her refrigerator until there were maggots that were so bad they escaped the fridge and were on the ceiling. It was my Mom who had paid for the food and the both of us that had gone to check up on her. It wasn’t the best experience I’ve ever had, the smell would’ve knocked you over but my Aunt was used to it. She was skin and bones and obsessed with “getting fat”. She never hesitated to say something hurtful and mean about my weight every time she saw me. This would alternate with Religion and her obsession with thinking her Doctors were trying to kill her to this day. My Mom only got a break from this when she passed away.

I’ve met more than my share of mentally ill religious people who remind me of the Alcoholic who replaces one addiction with another.

When a person has 100,000 followers or more and isn’t truthful about recently having a Manic/Depressive Episode that was pretty bad but instead publicly states “positivity, positive people, the right diet, exercise and Faith/God” is what saves him it’s irresponsible.

How many people who are looking for any way to feel better will go off medications, won’t go to a professional for help, and follow this thinking instead? What happens if they are severely ill with hallucinations or hear voices but think if they eat right, exercise and go to Church everything will be fine? I can tell you nothing good will happen.

You can’t have an event with celebrities who are not willing to be honest or give correct information because we will lose more people.

Isn’t it bad enough that on average we will die 20 years younger than everyone else because Primary Care Doctors are biased against us and don’t take our physical symptoms seriously? We are not having our medications monitored on a regular enough basis so severe side effects are not being caught in time. The staff in physical health services judge us as soon as our mental illness is disclosed right on down to the secretary. This is all fact. More needs to be done about Integrated Care but if we keep fooling ourselves, listening to false information, refusing to advocate for ourselves or research or own diagnosis than nothing will change.

On another note I want to talk about Chris Cornell. His writing was brilliant and so was his voice. He had beautiful eyes with a smile to match. But you can’t tell me I was the only one to notice the times his eyes were manic, his smile fake, his lyrics telling a story of depression and anxiety just like his body language did. He would often tap his foot or bounce his leg, he paced back and forth, when he would sit he would rock back and forth sometimes holding his head in his hand. Then there were times where he was still, quietly staring at nothing with a blank expression on his face. I recognize all of this I’ve seen it often because they are all things I’ve been told that I do and have done since a young age.

He was pulled out of rehab to make the video for “Cochise” and if you watch it you can see it wasn’t a good time. The scream he does in that song is visceral and cuts right through me. I don’t know about conspiracy theories but I do know he was someone who struggled immensely and suffered greatly all you have to do is understand the lyrics to see that and feel that. The people around him failed him in many ways, I do believe that 1 or 2 were trying to intervene towards the end but maybe it was too late or they didn’t realize how serious the situation had become. He wasn’t a coward, he was a human being with a lot of pain that most people will never understand unless you have been there. I still think about him everyday and listen to a song, I’m trying to do it less and less because it isn’t healthy for me. It’s difficult when there was someone who understood so much about you without even knowing you. When your own family is tired of trying to understand and have lost their sympathy/empathy and you no longer have friends to confide in.

Yes, I’m still here. I love my Dad he has been there for me in the past when no one else was. I wouldn’t have over 9 years of sobriety without him. I won’t put him through the kind of grief a suicide brings. He already blames himself for my illnesses and believes if he had gotten me the help I needed when he and my mom first suspected something wasn’t right I would be okay. The truth is back then they didn’t know much and it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. He was afraid they would institutionalize me and I was only 8/9 years old. My Mom had already seen what that does to a person with her brother and sister and refused to take me to a doctor. I don’t blame either one of them. Both of them loved me and that’s enough.

I TOLD THE TRUTH TODAY. I DIED. (World Suicide Prevention Day)

I have had symptoms of Bipolar Disorder since the age of 10 but wasn’t diagnosed until I was close to 35 years old. That is a lot of suffering. If you are Bipolar or have Major Depression you understand what I mean. The constant empty ache in your chest like something horrible has happened but you don’t know what. Feelings of being worthless, like you never should’ve been born or guilt. Being bullied throughout school did nothing to help. Alcohol did.

The first time I hurt myself I don’t remember much of it. I know it was my 17th Birthday and I was at my own party at J’s house. Someone must have said or done something because that’s usually how it happened then. My extreme low self-esteem got me every single time.

I do remember my best friend W. screaming at J. and people wrapping my wrists as we went to the Hospital and I got stitches.

Another time I cut so deep on the left side but refused to go to the Hospital that I caused nerve damage going to me left pinkie and ring finger. They both still go numb and the scar isn’t pretty because I never went for stitches. I have a total of 4 scars.

I have also had the pleasure of having my stomach pumped and having charcoal forced down my throat on several different occasions.

Because of all this I was constantly court ordered to see Psychiatrists and Therapists who didn’t help.

I also jumped off the roof of a building but luckily I was so drunk that I didn’t realize how close to the ground it actually was. I chipped a bone in my ankle and had some scrapes and bruises.

I stopped doing this in my thirties for some reason. The feeling was still there but I didn’t act on it.

When I went into Kidney Failure and didn’t realize what was going on or that it was as serious as it was the Doctor had asked if I wanted a DNR and he also said I needed to get my family there immediately. That’s when it hit me that things were bad. By this time I had been diagnosed Bipolar with Conversion Disorder. I couldn’t reach my Dad because he was at Dialysis! My sister wasn’t answering her phone as usual. I was angry so I signed the DNR. I thought that my family didn’t care about me so it didn’t matter anyway.

I found out recently that the Doctor knew I wasn’t stable enough to make that decision so when they lost all my vital signs he ignored the DNR, I flatlined. Lifesaving measures were taken. It wasn’t too bad they only lost me for less than a minute and I’m glad he ignored the DNR because I have something I didn’t have when I was younger.

I have a sliver of hope that I might be happy one day. I’m finally kind of okay with the outside of myself after 44 years now I have to try to forgive the inside. I have to stop punishing myself for everything I’ve said and done in my life that may or may not have caused people to not like me. If that means I’m alone than I have to learn to be comfortable with that. Alone isn’t that bad. I can go where I want and be with the animals I love so much. I could even live with a pack of wolves. (Okay that might be a bit much but I would if I could)

What I’m trying to say is that when it came down to it, when death was right there, I was scared as Hell and so happy to wake up and see my sister’s face.

INCOMPLETE

I have a difficult time finding words and putting them together to form a sentence. After that I have to try to say that sentence without stuttering and in a way the other person can understand me.

This is made harder when I’m on a roller coaster of highs and extreme lows. My brain will go from topic to topic and I will talk faster at times. I also feel like I’m being really loud. I always hated loud people and I’ve recently noticed that I’m now one of them.

My dad ignores everything I say or sometimes he will try to listen but by the time I get my first words out he’s left the room. It’s not a good feeling. Nothing really is these days.

Have I mentioned I’m tired? Or that I miss my Mom and think more and more about seeing her again. But if I believe in Heaven and Hell I’ll never see her. She had many faults but what was generous and loved her family something fierce. I’ve done too many things in my life that can’t be forgiven. This isn’t the reason I’m an Atheist because I have been before I started drinking, I was headed in that direction at an early age because I always needed to know the answer to everything. The answer had to make sense to me and some of the answers that Religion provided just didn’t.

I wanted to talk about the Phil Anselmo (Pantera) White Power controversy that I’ve been seeing lately. The guy has always been an ass and I love Pantera but he looked a little too comfortable doing and saying what he did to not mean it. For him to blame the media after is ridiculous. You’re not Trump, it wouldn’t be that surprising if you did lean towards White Supremacy don’t blame other people for your actions done under the influence of anger, ignorance, and probably drugs/alcohol. I’m guessing at the drugs/alcohol I know he’s had issues in the past and he has a definite beer belly, it was more his mannerisms that gave it away for me. Takes one to know one and I had met them many years ago (I don’t remember it but if they came to the place I hung out at they partied). I’m judging and I shouldn’t. I just have a problem with bullies and aggressive drunk or sober men I have good reasons.

I wanted to talk about how I’ve binge watched too much of The Originals and The Vampire Diaries (The Originals is better) that I now want to go to New Orleans and see if I can find any Vampires or Witches. My sister said she doesn’t have money to bail me out of jail if I bite anyone. lol That was actually funny but we didn’t actually talk it’s all done through texting. She figures it’s better that way. She doesn’t have to hear any emotion in my voice or feel bad.

It’s been a rough few weeks and I feel like I don’t have much purpose. Life is passing me by and it doesn’t really matter. In an hour I might feel a little different. Maybe I’ll go to Salem it’s closer and stay a few days. I can’t make a decision to save my life. Ridiculous.