Recovery Holiday Watch Is Ending… My New Years’ Eve Recovery Reflections About “Family.” As We Don’t Get To Choose Them.

Recovery Holiday Watch Is Ending…      My New Years’ Eve Recovery Reflections About “Family.” As We Don’t Get To Choose Them.

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“When You Start Seeing Your Worth, You’ll Find it Harder to Stay Around People Who Don’t, even if it’s your own FAMILY” …

The Bible teaches me to “Obey Thy Father and Mother” … 

That can be somewhat hard to do when you had been put down, left to feel your worth nothing for many years beginning as a little girl. No excuses, not a victim, just clear-sightedness of how I FELT and had perceived these actions each time they happened to me by family members growing up.

To learn dark secrets coming into adulthood that make you look at your parents much differently and it is an uncomfortable feeling. I am also sharing my feelings as it seems, even after almost fifteen years of estrangement from my dysfunctional side of the family, they keep leaving “ugly” comments on my book as reviews and anywhere else they think they can hurt me. I’m good today so I just ignore it.

See, my book ‘Addicted to Dimes: Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat’    published in 2013, my family was upset due to the fact I wrote and disclosed some dark secrets I came across while doing my research and looking in public records and so on and they don’t have a grip on reality or any link to an understanding about addiction and recovery either.  My memoir is NOT ABOUT THEM.

It was written to give insights about how my past issues and trauma growing up can had such a negative impact in my life growing into adulthood which all that added fuel to my addiction. When using addiction to try and cope, escape, or numb old hurt and pain we all may have gone through in life, many times it can or may have many like me turn to any addiction in the first place. By sharing my story, I hope to help others. It is not HOW TO RECOVER, it is WHY I turned to gambling addiction.

But Let Me Start At The Beginning  . . .

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When I was 7-years-old and again at 13 years old, I had been sexually abused by my brother and an adult friend of my parents, the 17-year-old son of those friends of my parents who lived up the street from us.  He was a year younger than my brother. I still have trouble today describing in detail what had been done to me, but each time it happened, I’d get sick to my stomach and a little piece of my innocence stripped away leaving me feeling ashamed, dirty, and confused.

Even as I’d would say, NO, it would leave me feeling guilty and worthless as it was MY FAULT.  I kept thinking and tell my little self I must be bad or doing something wrong that this continues to happen to me. Feeling baffled and confused and not understanding the nature of the “sexual misconduct” part …

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In turn, as I began to grow up and become an adult woman, those experiences began to seep into my thinking, become distorted in many areas of my life as you can imagine. The relationships I would sabotage not only with men, all because I felt NOT worthy of them. Becoming promiscuous at an earlier age as a woman and thinking that’s all men want is sex. I walked away from several serious relationships with a few men who treated me like a princess, then, again, not feeling I deserved or worth the special attention, I’d walk away. I was not worthy of being loved because I was tainted somehow. Besides, my family treated like I was not worth it, so should I accept anyone else to?

My parents always said as I was growing up that “I was a liar or a whore, a pot smoker or pill popper just because my dad would see me with my girlfriends out front of my Middle School or High School. Judging those girls by what they did or just because of the way they dressed or may have been smoking? And I never did any of those things except in high school smoked a cig or two back then like any normal teen did.

See, my father worked for the school district as a painter after he retired from 22-yrs of service in the air force. He wouldn’t tell me if he would be working/painting at MY school. All my family, as I got older, had still treated me poor at times as if I wasn’t at all important or part of the family. For example, and I know it seems dumb, we’d all be going out to dinner together and most of us were married by then. We’d all meet at my parents and ride together.

If I was even just a few minutes late, they would all just leave without me and I’d have to drive myself. Sounds like no big deal, but when it happens ALL the time? When you are already dealing with hidden trauma and suffering in silence, it begins to make you feel less and less cared for. I will admit looking back, I was very hypersensitive when my family did this because of what I went through as a little girl. None of them knew what happened to me as a child until I finally reached out for help the first time at age 31 and even then when I disclosed it all my mom didn’t believe me and that felt like being abused all over again.

I just could not stuff all those painful memories away any longer. Also looking back and connecting the dots through years of therapy, treatment counseling and after finally being properly diagnosed in 2002 with mental health disorders after my first suicide attempt and not the last. Knowing and feeling I had mental health problems since childhood like OCD, ADHD. I had many of the symptoms through childhood I remember like, daydreaming, forgetting things, fidgeting, talking too much, inattention, impulsivity, unnecessary risk-taking, and having trouble getting along with others. I had all of these.  Then in my teen years with depression and isolating.

Of course, my parents or other parents didn’t know then what they know today about mental and emotional illness and disorders. And, I had an aunt on my mom’s side that passed away from a prescription drug overdose and she was on many mental health drugs as I learned later as an adult. So I always felt my mental health challenges came from my mom’s side of the family. Even my mom was put on antidepressants about the last 5 or 6 years of her life.

The other side of this is when my parents would discipline us kids and in a way that was unconventional. I remember the times that my mom went over the top.  Like one time, my brother took something or got caught stealing something for my sister. How my mom taught him not to ever do it again, she made him and my sister put out their hands and she pricked the top of their hands with a needle until they were bleeding and MADE ME WATCH so we all learned the lesson. It was sicking to watch!

There we many things like this through the years and these traumatizing memories lingered in my mind. When we all became adults, it seemed abuse of alcohol was the common factor at many family gatherings like camping trips, birthdays or the 4th of July BBQ and even just a baseball game! My father, brother, and older sister drank like fishes as we got older. And something would always happen to ruin whatever family function or outing was going on when they were all drunk. It even happened after we all got together after my mother’s funeral at the memorial at my brother’s home in 2003. It caused my brother’s divorce, my oldest sister racked up 3 DUI’S in one year and more.

THAT is another blog post share for another day!

Through beginning and maintaining recovery, I shared all of this and my therapist and I agreed that my family was toxic and I needed to step away and not get involved even though I lived 980 miles away. I have tried to make amends where I could with my side of the family to no avail. I did, however, with my mom before she passed in August of 2003. Again, I lived about 980 miles away in Oregon when I was in the worst of my addiction. So no one from my family was impacted. But as I had always been dubbed “The Blacksheep” of the family early on, it seemed to make it OK for them to treat me like shit through the years. Even when they came to visit. I was and always felt very disconnected from my father. I still do and don’t today know why.

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After a while, you come to accept it and begin to ignore those times. As I got older, I began to set boundaries to avoid all the family drama and hurt except for when they would come up to visit us in Oregon. I just ignored the negative comments and stopped engaging with my mother that always turned into arguments when she’d make snide remarks that got worse the healthier I became. SHE did not like boundaries …I spent too many years starving for their validation and wasn’t going to do it any longer as I learned and accepted that they didn’t know how to give unconditional love.  These are the many things I began to learn while in treatment and beginning my road and path of recovery.

Learning the tools and skills to keep me safe when you deal with family who does not understand the concept of recovery or mental health. And through the years don’t care to either. If it is not in front of them, they don’t have to acknowledge or care about it is how my own father, sisters, and even my brother have treated me …We all have been estranged since my mother was laid to rest in 2003.  Through my almost 13-yrs maintaining recovery, I have processed this, forgive them and live my life for me and my husband. I do keep in touch with my nephews and that is good enough for me.

See, we don’t get to pick and choose who our family is. But I can choose not to continue to be treated poorly, seek their approval, or be abused by them any longer. I don’t have to continue and use poor behaviors like my mother used for years and most everyone let her even after we became adults and know better. Sadly, I needed to distance myself in order to keep my own sanity and recovery intact later in my life.

It is coming up on 15-years since I last talked to my father who just stopped calling me and still to this day I have no clue why …And almost the same with my older and younger sisters. My brother, I, and my husband spoke a few times and my brother did apologize to me for what he had done to me. He told me it happened to him as a little boy by our uncle Joe years ago when we still lived in New Jersey and before moving to So. CA., as kids.

One of my therapists had told me that when men molest 87% of the time they have been molested themselves. For me, I was just relieved my husband heard him admit what he did to me, but my brother wouldn’t to my parents. So my parents kept thinking I made it all up. What actually gives me comfort? Is knowing my husband, I, GOD and now my mom in heaven knows the truth. I know I am rambling but this has been laying on my heart the last few days. I know many of us maintaining long-term recovery have had to deal with learning the many underlying issues of why we had turned to addiction in the first place.

Some of what I share are many of the underlying issues I had to overcome. Instead of running or hiding and keep active within my gambling addiction, I did so because I was trying to “escape, numb, or cope” with all these ugly feelings and pain. Not being raised to know that it is OK to reach out for help when you are feeling mentally and emotionally weak and being tormented by old haunting memories you can’t run or stuff away any longer.

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It is also difficult to start becoming stronger and standing outside “The Family Bubble” you came from looking in and seeing a really dysfunctional, fucked-up, unloving and hurtful group of people who are YOUR FAMILY Members. No, I am not better than any of them, I am, however, so much happier and healthier than they are.

WHY? Because I have acknowledged all the old habits and behaviors which have torn my side of the family apart and I choose to NOT be or play a part in it anymore. Yes, it is sad and hurts to see or accept your family for who they really are. And, again, as I said earlier, I never hurt any of my family members when I was within my addiction, so I didn’t need to apologize for anything.

But I have no control over people, places, or things. I have tried making amends and sometimes it just doesn’t always work or have an outcome you’d hoped for. Even when it’s your family . . .

That’s ok because today I am happy, healthy, loved and BET FREE!  🎉🎉💖💞And that is always something to CELEBRATE In a New Year!

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I wish each and everyone who reads this and visits a very HAPPY, HEALTHY and BLESSED NEW YEAR In 2020!  ~Catherine Lyon

 

Guest Article That “Touched My Memory” of My Mental Health As A Child.

Guest Article That “Touched My Memory” of My Mental Health As A Child.

Most of my recovery friends, readers, and regular visitors know I enjoy finding many amazing websites about recovery from addiction and mental health. I vowed this year to write and share more openly about my mental health challenges. So when I recently visited one of my resource websites on mental health, my friends of National Alliance on Mental Health  ~NAMI …I read a new article I wanted to share.

Because when I got to reading the part of the guests” experiences with panic attacks, anxiety and such, it brought up those old feelings I got when I was in therapy and looking back to then and connecting the dots to my own problems as a child and early teens with symptoms, especially after my abuse and sexual trauma that happened. I was able to see that I had many mental health issues even back then but was never diagnosed until my gambling addiction took hold of me in adulthood.

The gambling I used to ‘escape and numb out’ those old hauntings which brought out the symptoms I was suffering again now. When I attempted my first suicide and placed in a crisis center for several weeks was when I was finally diagnosed. I went years without knowing what “that” was, and why I felt severely depressed on and off and PTSD, mild mania and anxiety. I was a mess!

Thanks to therapy and medications I am manged and have learned to treat my mental health just like any other disease like diabetes or heart disease. And that rings true for maintaining my recovery from addictions.

And why it is important to heal all areas of Emotional, Body, Spirit and our Mental Well-being … Catherine

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You Can’t Plan For Mental Illness ~ Courtesy of Allie Quinn | May. 23, 2018 

 
My 5-year plan after finishing high school was simple: graduate from college in four years, then begin graduate school directly following graduation. It was easy for me to imagine a 5-year plan at 18 years old when my toughest challenge at that point had been taming my frizzy hair.

My first two years of college were very successful. I made close friends, was hired by my college as a writing tutor and connected with teachers and administrators in the school district I wanted to eventually work in. I was right on track with my 5-year plan.

During my third year of college, however, the mass shooting occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I felt a very deep connection to the event and in the following months, I noticed that I was on high-alert in public areas. I worried for my safety.

A few months later, I learned about the Boston Marathon bombing when I was in my college’s library. I immediately looked at the entrance to the library and wondered where I would hide if a shooter came through the door. A habit of making “escape plans” in my head became uncontrollable. I created them for any public place, and I avoided walking in open spaces and going out at night. Each night, I dreamt that I was trying to escape from a mass shooting; even in my sleep, I couldn’t shake this overwhelming fear.

Looking back, I can see the warning signs that I needed help. I didn’t tell anyone about the thoughts and feelings I was having because I didn’t want people to think I was “unstable.” Admitting to myself or to others that something was wrong could jeopardize my 5-year plan. I told myself that all college students felt this kind of stress and that I’d feel better when the semester ended.

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My junior year ended, but instead of feeling better, I felt significantly worse. I experienced severe panic attacks, paranoia, and anxiety that made it impossible for me to drive, work or stay home alone. After I sought treatment with a therapist and psychiatrist, they recommended I check myself into a psychiatric hospital, so doctors could balance my medication, and I could learn skills to help manage my anxiety. I would be hospitalized five times, spending nearly three months in the hospital. My worst day was when I had to withdraw from my senior year. It felt like years of hard work just slipped away.

I questioned: Why didn’t I seek help sooner?


After my last hospitalization, I immediately re-enrolled in classes. I didn’t give myself the chance to heal because I wanted so badly to get back on track with my 5-year plan. Because I wasn’t working on my mental health, I struggled through two classes, and I wasn’t enjoying school like I did before.

One day, I finally accepted that if I kept putting my education before my mental health, I could risk having another breakdown. I decided to take medical leave from school; I needed to focus on my mental health and regain my strength and confidence. For the next two years, I attended therapy, worked with my psychiatrist, adopted a psychiatric service dog, discovered skills to help me cope and practiced self-care. Eventually, I felt like myself again.

So, I began college again last year. This time, I felt ready. I will be graduating this December with a B.S. in Community and Human Services. The deadline for my 5-year plan has long passed, and my life has not gone as I planned, but I am happy, healthy and have a mission to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Battling mental illness and maintaining mental health is an ongoing part of my life, but the struggles I faced have put me on the path I’m meant to be on.

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For example, I recently became a young adult speaker for NAMI Ending the Silence. I travel to high schools to share my journey with mental illness and talk to students about mental health and stigma.

The experience has been life-changing. For years, my goal has been to help people, and through NAMI Ending the Silence and blogging, I am making a difference. I believe that talking openly about mental health issues will end stigma and lead to more effective treatment for mental illness.

Please, if you’re experiencing symptoms or warning signs of a mental illness, seek help as soon as possible. Your mental health is farmore important than your 5-year plan. I’ve learned that college can wait—treating mental illness cannot.
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Allie Quinn is a mental health blogger, public speaker, and young adult presenter with NAMI’s Ending the Silence. She works to educate people about the realities of living with a mental illness and raises awareness about the use of psychiatric service dogs. Allie’s mental health blog is Redefine Mental Health

Finally. Research Validates What I Knew Already About Childhood Trauma and Addiction.


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A Guest Article By PsyPost.org  …

Childhood abuse and chronic parental domestic violence
linked to later addiction.

BY ON JUNE 2016

“Adults who have drug, alcohol, or gambling dependence have experienced very high rates of early adversities, according to a new study published by University of Toronto researchers. One in five drug dependent Canadian adults and one in six alcohol dependent adults were survivors of childhood sexual abuse. This compares to one in 19 in the general Canadian population. More than one-half of substance abusers had been physically abused in childhood compared to one-quarter of those who were not addicted. After accounting for mental illness, poverty, and social support, both sexual and physical abuse were associated with twice the odds of drug dependence.”

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“We found that both direct (physical and sexual abuse) and indirect (witnessing parental domestic violence) forms of childhood victimization are associated with substance abuse” said lead author, Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Institute for Life Course & Aging.

“We were surprised that chronic parental domestic violence exposure remained significantly associated with both drug and alcohol dependence, even when we adjusted for childhood maltreatment, depression and most of the known risk factors for substance dependency” said lead author, Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Institute for Life Course & Aging.

“In fact, the odds of alcohol dependence among those who witnessed their parents’ chronic domestic violence were about 50% higher than those without that exposure, and these odds were similar in magnitude to that of childhood sexual abuse. One in seven adults with drug dependence or alcohol dependence had been exposed to chronic parental domestic violence. This compares to one in 25 in the general population. Parental domestic violence was considered ‘chronic’ if it occurred 11 or more times before the respondent was age 16.”

Further research is needed to understand the pathways through which witnessing chronic parental domestic violence and childhood maltreatment during the respondent’s childhood may increase the prevalence of drug and alcohol dependence across the life course. ” Fuller-Thomson suggests that “the chronic chaotic and violent home environment may have predisposed individuals to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of coping.”

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The study was based upon a representative sample of 21,544 adult Canadians drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health components. At some point in their life, 628 of these respondents had been dependent upon drugs and 849 had been dependent upon alcohol.

Co-author and recent MSW graduate, Jessica Roane commented, “Our findings underline the importance of preventing childhood abuse and domestic violence. In addition, social workers and other health professionals must continue to support survivors of these childhood adversities across the lifespan, with particular attention to substance abuse and dependence issues.”

Other significant predictors of both alcohol and drug dependence include lower levels of education, poverty, being male, being single as opposed to married, and a history of depression and/or anxiety disorders.

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Author’s Note:

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“I can tell you from my own past childhood sex abuse and
trauma, that I always knew turning to gambling and alcohol
was my “comfort and escape” in my adulthood. Those who have
read my memoir knows some of what I went
through as a little girl.

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And, I can also tell you NO little girl should have to go through that type of trauma or parental physical discipline abuse. Each child from one household can be affected differently as well. I learned most of these underlying issues in therapy. So, some of us DO learn some of the “why’s” when going through treatment and therapy. It is also why I don’t fully agree with the “12-Step Program.”  They say in their materials that “we can recover without knowing the WHY?”  Well, many of us do learn some of the “why’s.”

NO, no excuses, just my own insights of my addiction and recovery experience. I now feel more validated after reading this study, as I have been saying this for years. All I ever wanted was to be heard as a little girl. All I wanted as a grown woman was to heard and to just be validated. The day I was brave enough to tell my parents about the sex abuse, I could not keep locked deep inside anymore. They didn’t believe me. My mother thought I was saying she was a bad mother, as she told me she would “have known” if that had really happened to me. Well, gee, slap my face again!

That is what it felt like. Her telling me what I DIDN’T GO Through? That was like being abused all over again. I felt rage and anger that they didn’t believe me. That was when all my side of the family started treating me like a mental freak and it only got worse after my first failed suicide attempt and crisis center stay. When they found I was suffering bipolar  depression and PTSD they had no understanding and our relationship became even more distant. Not on my part. That is when I learned acceptance, or I would have really lost my mind! Always remember friends, you sanity, well-being, and mental health depends upon YOU and no one else to  “Feel Validated & Heard!” . . . .

Until Next Time Recovery Friend!

Author & Columnist, Catherine Townsend-Lyon
“Gambling Recovery Starts Here!”