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alcoholism

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

The Poop of Life.

June 8, 2014

The Poop of Life or: When Guilt Masks Shame. By Debra Cusick.

When Jen asked me to write something, I thought I’d scribble about guilt because her post on that topic inspired our meeting. So, I did what any good teacher would do, and I went to see what one of my gurus, John Bradshaw, has to say on the subject. His book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, taught me that shame, disguised as toxic guilt, ruled my life. He says, “people will readily admit guilt, hurt or fear before they will admit shame.” So I’ve decided to examine the girl behind the curtain of guilt and expose my toxic shame. I’m free writing, so I have no idea how this will go.

For as far back as I can remember, I had nightmares about a boogieman in the basement closet, who’d appear out of nowhere and slowly come to get me. I could see the evil in his eyes and ran like crazy, to the foot of the stairs. As I’d get about half way to the top, everything would go into slow motion, my feet would turn into sandbags, and I’d stare in horror as his hand came closer to grasping my ankle. I’d awaken–dripping with sweat, heart pounding, ears ringing– and run to my parents bed, only to be further terrorized by my dad’s snoring that soon became the gruff voice of the boogieman, as I into and out of sleep. I couldn’t find what I needed.

Years later, as I recounted that story in group, my therapist told me “The first memory you have becomes your life script. What do you think yours is?” After thinking about it, I concluded that I had erected a “no win” agenda. If I tried to be a “big girl,” the boogieman would come for me, but seeking comfort from my parents (whom I instinctively knew not to awaken—more food for thought) just lead to more misery.

Bradshaw says, “Shame is internalized when one is abandoned. Abandonment is the precise term to describe how one loses one’s authentic self and ceases to exist psychologically.” I lost my authentic self on Sunday, September 25, 1965, when I was 10. The day my mother died. The day before, an ambulance came to our house and took her away. I had been playing in the front yard, when it arrived. I ran inside and hid behind a couch. I could see paramedics wheeling the gurney to the front door with her on it. She saw me peeking though the cushions and in a drug-induced stupor whispered, “Good-bye, Debbie.” Little did I know it would be the last time I’d ever see her.

When the hospital called that morning, I answered the phone. A voice I didn’t recognize asked to speak to my father. Shortly thereafter, he and my oldest sister left in a fury. Two hours later, when they returned, I was practicing my future cheerleader moves in the front picture window. The moment I laid eyes on my father’s face, I knew. Mother’s dead. I had no idea what death meant, but I knew she was dead.

She had explicitly requested that my seven-year-old brother and I not see her dead. She knew she was dying. She knew she had metastatic breast cancer. But I didn’t. People who are sick get better. Even if they go to the hospital, they get better and come home. But she didn’t. I never saw her again. So I sent a part of me with her. Some might say she abandoned me that day. But she didn’t. I abandoned me that day.

Something else happened that day. I decided that—upon seeing my father’s stricken face—I had to save him. I had always been a daddy’s girl, and I couldn’t have a sad dad. Right then and there, I decided I had to be perfect, so he’d have something to take the place of his grief over the loss of my mother. From that moment on, I vowed to myself that I’d make him proud and never disappoint him. Little did I know that within hours of my mother’s death, which completed the fracturing of my family of origin, I’d create two roles for myself, to mask my shame.

The next few days are all a blur, but at the party which normally follows a funeral, when everyone of Irish descent drinks away his pain and laments the dearly departed with laughter and tears, I could only imitate the adults and must have spoken too loudly or merrily because my dad leaned over to whisper for me to “knock it off,” reminding me that “we just buried your mother.”

In this one sentence, I further cemented my no-win script. If I’m happy at an inappropriate moment, I have no heart, but if I express sadness, I’m a baby (later Drama Queen or Depresso). I had disappointed my dad on the very day I had vowed to be his rescuer! SHAME ON ME!

And the shame—too terrifying to admit—turned into guilt. And the guilt reinforced my no-win script. In becoming an overachiever, to make my dad proud—and hide my toxic shame from the world—I set myself up to experience the wrath from peers who wanted what I got. When I made cheerleading, I felt guilty about beating out other girls. Girls whose mothers didn’t want them hanging around with me, because “she doesn’t have a mother.” When there was a competition, I had to win—to make dad proud—but when I did, my peers accused me of thinking I was better than they were.

Society does an excellent job of telling us how to meet its unreal expectations, but I wasn’t going to fail. By god, I had failed to keep my mother from dying; I couldn’t let my father down, too. So, I earned straight A’s, participated in sports and music and honor societies and went to Girl’s State and dated the captain of the football team (which really made my dad happy) and was a homecoming princess and won the staring role of Maria in The Sound of Music, and earned a 1st in State in vocal competitions, got accepted to Northwestern University’s Music School. And felt guilty every step of the way.

If there were ten reasons to feel proud of myself and one reason to feel guilty based on something I heard other’s say, I listened to the voices that accused. I no longer felt guilty. I personified guilt. And I allowed it to wreak havoc in my life. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted (other than love) because I wasn’t a self. I had no idea what “going within” meant because I had no within to go. I operated as an overachieving shell, who won the cookie after a backflip and the accolades that accompany success. And, as long as it worked, I didn’t have to contemplate the shame I felt, if ever there were a quite moment in my world.

I finally crashed at the age of 40, when I couldn’t get my alcoholic husband to quit drinking (and all the other things that go with it). Admitting I’m powerless over the alcoholic? Inconceivable. In my own world of denial, there was nothing I couldn’t achieve. So, I cracked. But—unlike Humpty Dumpty, whose horses and men couldn’t put him back together—I took all the energy I had spent on others (and avoiding my fractured self) and used it to uncover, discover and recover my abandoned self. And while guilt and overachieving alarms still ring, when I stop working my program, I have my tool belt on at all times and know where to go, when I’m tempted to check out over the poop of life.

About Debra Cusick:  I was born, and grew up in NW Indiana, but I tell people Chicago because I am exactly 28 miles SE of the Loop, right over the boarder and can get there faster than most people living in the burbs and besides, it sounds much cooler.  I went to college at Northwestern, right on Lake Michigan but graduated with a Master’s in English from Purdue. I became a single mom—of two of the coolest kids on earth—when they were 4 and 9 months, respectively, and got five jobs in a week, determined to stay in our house.  Ever the overachiever, I worked from home and as a direct report in Chicago, till the kids were both in school all day.  By then, I took a full-time job as the Director of Marketing for the largest prison lighting manufacturer in the USA (before there were too many slammers and more ill-sentenced inmates).  In 1991, I tried my hand at marriage again, and produced my third child, who must have bargained with the gods to come back this life to teach me more than I knew I could learn.  She is a blessing. The marriage wasn’t. I finally had to choose between death and myself . . . and since you’re reading this, you know which I chose.  Seven years of intense experiential therapy later, I emerged, whole for the first time, probably, since birth. I sucked in everything I could from the lighting industry and eventually worked as a manufacturer’s representative in Portland, OR, calling on the architectural and design communities.  I’ve always been a sucker for beauty, natural or man made, and Portland gave me both. Things brought me back to my house in Indiana—which I had rented to strangers for the three years the kids and I lived in OR—and I began teaching composition, research and technical writing at Purdue University Calumet, while I sought more jobs in lighting to pay the bills.  Since 2001, I have served as an adjunct instructor at seven universities (not all at once, but close) and sold outdoor architectural, custom library, architectural asymmetric lighting and specialty lamps. Three years ago, I started to work for the biggest lighting manufacturer on earth, where I conduct energy audits to show large industrials, schools and other huge energy suckers how to save money and cut their carbon footprint.   I was born with drive and a will to succeed.  I just had to learn self-love first.  That has provided the journey of my life.  With many teachers, right when I needed them, my glass has managed to stay at least half-full.  When I take the time to indulge in them, my passions include reading, cooking (I went vegetarian a year ago and LIVE off recipes from Thug Kitchen and other amazing places on the Internet), gardening and interior design.  I have truly made my home, which I share with Patrick—the kindest, coolest and most understanding man I have ever known—and Max, and Cassie—our two longhaired miniature dachshunds—into a sanctuary of peace and creative inspiration.  If my life is half over, I still have time to carry out the rest of my dreams.

About Debra Cusick:
I was born, and grew up in NW Indiana, but I tell people Chicago because I am exactly 28 miles SE of the Loop, right over the boarder and can get there faster than most people living in the burbs and besides, it sounds much cooler. I went to college at Northwestern, right on Lake Michigan but graduated with a Master’s in English from Purdue.
I became a single mom—of two of the coolest kids on earth—when they were 4 and 9 months, respectively, and got five jobs in a week, determined to stay in our house. Ever the overachiever, I worked from home and as a direct report in Chicago, till the kids were both in school all day. By then, I took a full-time job as the Director of Marketing for the largest prison lighting manufacturer in the USA (before there were too many slammers and more ill-sentenced inmates). In 1991, I tried my hand at marriage again, and produced my third child, who must have bargained with the gods to come back this life to teach me more than I knew I could learn. She is a blessing. The marriage wasn’t. I finally had to choose between death and myself . . . and since you’re reading this, you know which I chose. Seven years of intense experiential therapy later, I emerged, whole for the first time, probably, since birth.
I sucked in everything I could from the lighting industry and eventually worked as a manufacturer’s representative in Portland, OR, calling on the architectural and design communities. I’ve always been a sucker for beauty, natural or man made, and Portland gave me both.
Things brought me back to my house in Indiana—which I had rented to strangers for the three years the kids and I lived in OR—and I began teaching composition, research and technical writing at Purdue University Calumet, while I sought more jobs in lighting to pay the bills. Since 2001, I have served as an adjunct instructor at seven universities (not all at once, but close) and sold outdoor architectural, custom library, architectural asymmetric lighting and specialty lamps.
Three years ago, I started to work for the biggest lighting manufacturer on earth, where I conduct energy audits to show large industrials, schools and other huge energy suckers how to save money and cut their carbon footprint.
I was born with drive and a will to succeed. I just had to learn self-love first. That has provided the journey of my life. With many teachers, right when I needed them, my glass has managed to stay at least half-full. When I take the time to indulge in them, my passions include reading, cooking (I went vegetarian a year ago and LIVE off recipes from Thug Kitchen and other amazing places on the Internet), gardening and interior design. I have truly made my home, which I share with Patrick—the kindest, coolest and most understanding man I have ever known—and Max, and Cassie—our two longhaired miniature dachshunds—into a sanctuary of peace and creative inspiration. If my life is half over, I still have time to carry out the rest of my dreams.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and over New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson, Vancouver. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat/workshop by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com. If you want to attend the July 6th London workshop sign up now as it’s almost full.

 

Beating Fear with a Stick, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen.

April 24, 2014

My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen. *trigger warning. Mention of rape.

This is inspired by a piece written by Jen Pastiloff and is now an exercise in her signature Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human®. Click here to read.

I’d been on retreat with Jen before. She’ll read some of a “Thank you, Fuck you” piece she wrote (it’s brilliant). She’ll walk, as she reads aloud, through the space between the yoga mats where we’ll sit. Most will sit in frozen appreciation of her work while some will continue their own letter she’d already have asked us to write. Her voice, the way her hearing loss affects her annunciation (making her words more pure, almost as if they come directly from her soul), will ring in my head days later, long after the retreat has ended. I’ll be sitting at my desk on Wednesday morning at 10am, striving to be productive at a job I hate, but her voice will play on repeat. The part about thanking the women, the ones whose voices got real high when asking for more salad dressing, will almost scream. You’ll be pulled back to that room. Lindsay Lohan. Organic eggs. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Normally I wouldn’t write a letter to the good and bad stuff in my life. Especially the bad. I’ve spent the better part of my life numbing out the bad stuff (it doesn’t work). But, when the person asking is Jen Pastiloff you take a leap of faith. You trust her. You want more of what she has. She’s got an aura of amazingness. Anything is possible when she’s around. I hate trying to give her a title. While she’s a teacher, yogi, writer, retreat leader, creator of Manifestation Yoga™ and a host of other things, she does each with such an unorthodox approach. It’s this unorthodoxy that speaks so loudly to her tribe. She manifests, or “Makes Shit Happen” (as she calls it), magic. This petite, yet silently strong, woman with thick dark hair to her lower back, porcelain perfect skin and a contagious laugh, is a magician.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing

Recovery Is a Choice. By Jennifer Lake.

July 23, 2013

Recovery Is a Choice. By Jennifer Lake.

You might not know it but I have it. I have the same thing that Corey Monteith died of. I have what Marilyn Monroe, Jim Morison, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Heath Ledger to name a few died of. That thing that we DON’T GET as a society, family, pop-culture. I have it. The same exact thing.

That thing that Jennifer, Mathew, Evan and Christy died of. But they weren’t famous, so it might not appear to be as glamorous or horrible or sad or tragic.

When I hear about the deaths of the famous and we see the headline: “Talented (fill in the blank, actress, actor, musician) found dead at “X” am in the morning, past known history of drug addiction and alcoholism, cause of death unknown.”  I go…really? Cause of death unknown? Maybe the (official) toxicology report says “cause of death unknown” but I am pretty sure it is clear when this story hits, to me anyway, I GET IT INSTANTLY. A hit of high octane reality check yourself at the door.  They died of their untreated diseases, alcoholism and drug addiction.  I get it. It is a HARD thing to wrap so many parts of your mind, body and soul around. It is a disease. NOT a moral choice. Not a matter of will power. Not a matter of I can have ONE and just be ok, walk away and live an enlightening meaningful existence. Not possible. If it were do you really think there would be SO many people suffering from this? I am one. I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. 12 years. AA found me when I was 20. I got sober a month before my 21st birthday. I am 32. 12 years in recovery WORKING a program based on spiritual principals that guide me through my day.  I pause when agitated or doubtful. I make amends if I have caused harm I show up, I make mistakes, and I hit the retry button. I never let a day go by without feeling fully grateful for where I am today even though it might not look exactly how I want…yet. That is up to god, it’s my life, unfolding in its own way and my REAL purpose beyond all the career hoo haaa is to be of maximum service to others. How can I show up and help you? How can I smile and be genuinely me so that you might have a brighter day? Sound too Anne of Green Gables for you?

I used to snort cocaine off of toilet seats at the restaurant I worked at in Times Square and guzzle the cheap pink house wine we served you out of a kid’s Sippy cup mixed with sprite. Yeah, I mixed cheap wine with sprite. You know? to cover it up. It tasted good, it felt good and it was my only way I knew how to live with myself. MESSED UP. It worked. It’s what got me to that place of utter oblivion where I wanted to live most of the time because what was the point of living if you had to be “sober” un-bearable. It was un-bearable to live with the noise that lived between my ears and deep rooted emptiness that inhabited my soul.  Judgment, fear, self doubt, resentment, blame, VICTIM, I am a victim. Alcohol is just a symptom of the disease. The world is doing to me. I’m way better, I suck way more. Everything is amplified times a million. A feeling is not just a feeling but a mad rush of concrete reality and it will never get better unless you get the fix to take YOU away from you. People love you? You don’t care. You are hurting people and loved ones around you? Impossible to fully accept or see it because you are too wrapped up in you… what YOU need. ME YOU ME YOU ME I. ME.  I begged to die. I wanted to die. I tried to die. It had me by the throat, the ballz, the ovaries, my cells. Every cell in my body was consumed with it. Toxic to the core. And yet on the outside I was this beautiful, intelligent, talented aspiring professional dancer.

Here is the ONLY thing that worked for me. I had to accept help. For an addict or alcoholic accepting help is like garlic to a vampire, silver to a wer wolf and crosses to ward off demons ( did I get my gross misinterpretations about Folklore correct? Great). I had to accept help. Alcoholism and drug addiction is a serious disease of mind, body, and spirit. You cannot cure one without the other and expect phenomenal results. GET IT? It is not just as simple as handing someone a thirty day stint in rehab where they might show improvement for that time and then say “HEY look you have a really big band-aid on your body. You should be fine going out into the real world now.” It is not as easy as a fix of taking some Percocet and wishing them well. Talk therapy is a beginning and can aide in recovery, but it won’t fix it. There is NO quick FIX. That is why SO many of us DON’T make it. YOU CANNOT TREAT THE PROBLEM WITH THE PROBLEM. It sounds SO simple and really quite obvious; YOU CANNOT TREAT THE PROBLEM with the problem. Rehab is a beginning. The first phone call for help, a beginning, the second stint at rehab a beginning.  The real solution is something that can’t be packaged or sold, health insurance companies can’t make money off of it and drug companies can’t either. The real solution, something that has been working with all its perfect flaws lies in this magical book and program of action; The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as well as AA meetings. If you read it and you are not an alcoholic guess what? It won’t turn you into an alcoholic, but it might give you a better understanding of what people are dealing with. If you read it and you are an alcoholic? Guess what? You might actually have a chance of finding a solution to what MODERN MEDICINE has failed to solve and actually, probably never will. Because the solution lies in the addict or alcoholic actually doing some DEEP soul digging mind blowing work: WORK. ACTION. PROCCESS.  A process that is in and of itself PAINFUL. Like a good detox or hangover. You want it to hurt so you grow so far away from it that when times get tough you KNOW to your core you never want to go through that ever again.

Yes, it talks about god. Yes it does. You know what it says about god though? That YOU get to define what that looks like and means to you. YOU get to create that. My solution was in the big book of alcoholics anonymous. It is not ALL unicorns and fairytales. It is a long hard process and journey. There is a lot of joy in the whole deal. I get to be a parent of a beautiful gift of a daughter who is brilliant in every divine cell of her being. Her smile melts any despair or self doubt I may have and brings me right back to the moment.  TOO many bright souls fall from the starlight and sink into the pit of the destiny of their disease. Alcoholism and addiction want to annihilate you. Obliterate you. Take you out. It is a serious, life threatening disease, one never to be taken lightly or for granted or judged.

Here are some things I have learned and put into practice since doing the 12 steps as they are outlined in the big book of alcoholics anonymous with a sponsor (someone that has been through it and can guide you through the process as well) This took me 6 years, it can take shorter amounts of time it can take longer, it just depends on how much time you give it. It is but a beginning to the process of living the rest of my life one day at a time as a useful, meaningful, inspired being who can actually participate in life instead of hide in a corner in the middle of her own self created hell.

  1. The whole point of the process is for me to create a clearing so I can be connected to…GOD, Buddha, the universe, a light bulb, the air conditioning, stars (a power greater than myself, and KNOW that I am NOT IT)
  2. I show up to life NO MATTER HOW I FEEL
  3. I have beautiful divine gifts and it is my responsibility to work with them and be of service to others
  4. I have a past, it is my past. It’s been dealt with. I do my best to in live in the present to create a better future.
  5. I have tools, a literal process to utilize in order to “turn around” any current resentments that might pop up in my day to day activity
  6. I own my mistakes, take responsibility for my actions and make amends for any harm I have caused
  7. To the core of who I am I know I am loved, valuable, matter, belong here and have a divine purpose

May everyone find the help that they need so their voices may be heard and lives lived with purpose truth and meaning. If you do go to a meeting and don’t like what you hear…go find another one. Keep looking until you find your solution. NEVER give up. Recovery is a choice. Alcoholism is not.

 

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Jennifer Lake: Is a divine gift and inspiration straight from the heavens upon this earth. People collect in masses just to kiss the ground she has touched as it has special, spiritual properties that have been known to transform you instantly into a unicorn that lives just beyond the end of the rainbow. And they dance happily in the thick of the meadow and play the banjo and of course all are welcome. She is also an experienced Kick A$% Yoga Teacher, and A.C.E Certified Personal Trainer. She is a riot to be with for real and enjoys making her clients laugh so hard they pee. She specializes in helping herself and others ENJOY this thing called life ( I mean really, we live on a sphere that is whirling through space, and we just relatively recently accepted it is round). More JOY please. She has known great suffering and despair and equally great joy and inner space freedom. She is fascinated by how our minds work and perceive things and even more fascinated by overcoming the negative pull of frustration, self doubt, judgment, and ego in order to truly, really, honestly be at peace and be happy. Find her at: www.be-one-yoga.com