I Am Not Anonymous.

2 Dec

Alcoholism (as defined by Mayo Clinic): Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can’t consistently predict how much you’ll drink, how long you’ll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking.

More from MayoClinic.com: Alcoholism is influenced by genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors that have an impact on how it affects your body and behavior.

The process of becoming addicted to alcohol occurs gradually, although some people have an abnormal response to alcohol from the time they start drinking. Over time, drinking too much may change the normal balance of chemicals and nerve tracks in your brain associated with the experience of pleasure, judgment and the ability to exercise control over your behavior. This may result in your craving alcohol to restore good feelings or remove negative ones.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately. And I’m at this age where it really sucks not being able to drink. Because I’m graduated from college, I’m in the “adult” world, I just moved to a town I barely know anyone in, and most of my friends still drink, yet it’s definitely toned down from college partying. Like, when I was in college I could look around me and everyone was getting sloppy wasted and I could tell myself, obviously that’s not a good scene for you. But now I look and my friends are going out on weekends, dancing, doing it more socially and staying much more put-together. So it’s hard to watch that and think that I couldn’t do the same thing. So I’ve been entertaining this idea like, I know I can’t drink. I know I won’t be able to drink next month, or next year, but maybe the year after I could. Maybe in five years I could. And I’ve been having these “what if…?” fantasies, where maybe eventually I could go out to the bar and drink without getting completely annihilated. What if? What if I end up discovering that this was all just a phase?

More on that later.

The Mayo Clinic is one of the most well known names in the medical world, right? So if they (along with most other medical institutions) are putting a label on alcoholism as a “disease” rather than a “choice” or a “bad habit”, why is the rest of the world having such an issue with it? It’s 2013 and everyone raves about “be you!” and “don’t be ashamed of who you are” yet the media screams the exact opposite in just about every facet of our lives ESPECIALLY in the area of mental health stigmas. Like, why is it that the media posts all these “this is heartbreaking” stories of kids who committed suicide and “I wish we could have helped him/her”, but in real life if you get stuck with the label of “that suicidal kid” in school then you’re the freak that no one wants to talk to, not the one everyone runs to help. And if you’re posting statuses and photos on Facebook of you binge-drinking every weekend then it’s okay because “that’s just college” but if you admit to being an alcoholic, suddenly there’s shame in that. The list goes on.

Obviously you’ve noticed that I’m very open about my recovery, and my sobriety. I know not everyone is like that. Maybe you see that as a good thing, or a bad thing, to be honest I don’t really care. Because I know that for myself I need accountability and I need transparency or I won’t get anywhere. I know that when my life was at it’s most unmanageable, when it was literally utter hell to wake up each morning, it was when I was lying circles around my life, when I was only telling people what I knew they wanted to hear about me, when I displayed an image of myself which, while never great, was what you would expect to see from an average college student. Now I’m not going around telling everyone the dark secrets of my life back then, but what is so wrong with saying that things were bad and when I peeled back the layers it was fueled by addiction and I’m getting help and now things are good? Like I don’t understand where the stigma came from?

For example, I’m working my first big-girl job and my coworkers sit around and talk about drinking any day of the week, to the point of one guy pressuring me and pushing back so hard when I would shrug and casually state that I don’t drink, that I was worried it was going to become an issue. But all the advice I could get on the situation was “oh just ignore him” because reality is that it’s socially acceptable in the workplace to pressure someone to drink but yet not to admit to being in treatment for a disease called alcoholism. It’s such a common thing. Everyone in recovery is so supportive of each other, but as soon as you step outside the rooms it’s all, “oh, but maybe don’t talk about that in public…” or, “you better delete that post about being in recovery in case someone from work sees it…” And again, the list goes on.

It’s just so frustrating because I feel like the basic response I get from people outside of recovery is: “Wow, you should really be proud of yourself! But, be proud of yourself in private please.” And I think that’s bullshit because you know what? I’ve come a long way and I’ve worked my butt off and I am so grateful for the grace of God to get me where I am and if I wanna talk about it, I’m gonna frickin talk about it. And I look around me in meetings and in treatment and I see all these amazing people, who have seen horrible things and been through battles that most people could never imagine. And they are so strong and have so much to be proud of yet all the world pushes on them is shame. Even in that paragraph from the Mayo Clinic it says, “…some people have an abnormal response to alcohol from the time they start drinking”. How can you blame a person for that? How can you look at an alcoholic and say they brought the disease on themselves, when maybe the only mistake they ever made was picking up that very first drink, just like you did way back when, just like mostly everyone you know did at one point? But because their brain didn’t react the way yours did, that’s their fault? Twenty-three million Americans age 12 or older suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. And it is a devastatingly fatal disease. These people fight a life or death battle every single day, oftentimes with very little support from anyone else. When will the rest of the population start to realize that this is a problem? And that the solution isn’t prison, and it isn’t living in silence either. AA has been around for almost 80 years, and currently has an estimated 1.25 million members in the US, yet alcoholism is still this weird thing that no one wants to talk about.

If you follow this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I have this habit of demanding that people talk about things that aren’t talked about. But just like any other topic I’ve written about, if you think keeping a serious and deadly matter hush-hush is any way to encourage victims to reach out for help, you’re crazy. The media likes to talk about people actively using drugs and getting wasted, glamorizing deadly behaviors (think Lindsay Lohan, etc) and then saying “it’s a pity she can’t get her life together”. But look at what they do to those who try?! If you’re in college getting wasted every night and popular opinion is “college kids get wasted” and alcoholism is associated with shame, if you feel like you might have a problem what are you most likely to do?! Get help and either have to hide in the shadows and beat around the bush about your disease, feeling like there’s something wrong with you when you’re honest about it? Or stay in the “norm” and keep drinking until it kills you?! But there is so much more out there– there is a whole community of both young and old people in recovery, amazing people, every different kind of people you can imagine. Yet no one knows that, until they take that first step and dive in. Why don’t they know it? Because no one talks about it. How much easier would that first step be, and how many more people would be brave enough to take it, if they knew that there was a whole new world for them? Some of the coolest, craziest people I’ve ever met have been in recovery. Believe it or not, sober kids are the furthest from “lame” that you could imagine. Because they are all there for a reason. Everyone has a story, everyone looks at life completely differently than those who have never been on the brink of losing everything.

I have, however, seen the topic come up in a few movies lately. It wasn’t until I began my recovery that I watched “Country Strong” for probably the fourth or fifth time and realized, it’s not a movie about country music. It’s a movie about alcoholism. And a pretty accurate one at that, if you can find it under all the fluff in the plot. Even more so, I just recently watched the Denzel Washington movie “Flight”. Much more blunt in it’s portrayal, the movie might be a little intense for some, but I thought it hit the nail on the head; even directly referencing AA, addiction, and alcoholism. Country Strong showed more of the “Hollywood” version of the disease, public relapse and just being a complete mess in front of thousands of people, but Flight was a movie I think most of us in recovery could relate to. While movies like this might be somewhat difficult to watch for someone newly sober, I actually appreciate the way it causes me to revisit negative memories, rediscover that anxious twist in my stomach that I so often forget. At this point, I need a constant reminder of why I am where I am, and what could happen should I throw it all away. I like to ask myself those “what if?” questions I mentioned earlier, but the truth is I already know the answer. What if I go back into the drinking world again? I know exactly what if. It would be disasterous, quite possibly even fatal. I would be miserable. I would once again sever all respectable ties with the people in my life. I would have weekly panic attacks. I would be unreliable, untrustable, and absolutely unbearable.

I love speakers who share their stories on the general basis of, “What we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.” Some people get sick of hearing each “drunkalogue” week after week, but I need it. I need the horror stories, I need to be reminded of where I came from, and where I could fall back to on any day I let my guard down. Which is why even movies, if well made, are good for me in that area. It’s been about two weeks since watching “Flight”, yet I have thought about it every day since then. It’s funny, I never thought a day would come when I could directly relate to a Denzel Washington character! But I did, every step of the way. Being a maintenance alcoholic. Pulling together a good face when it matters, convincing everyone you’re fine, saying all the right words and coming off as being completely on top of things while your life falls to pieces underneath you. Right up to when he cracks. He says near the end of the movie, “It was like I reached my lifelong limit of lies. I could not tell one more lie.” A revelation I believe most anyone in recovery can relate to. A point in his life where he knew that the truth may hurt him, but his lies would surely kill him. So he had one choice. Own it. Be honest. Stop living in denial, stop pretending he’s in control, stop worrying about what the label would do to him or his career. Refuse to be anonymous. And regardless of the consequences, it saved his life. And as he says later: “For the first time in my life, I’m free.”

flight-denzel

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Dear Duluth,

29 May

For the last four years, Duluth has been my home. This weekend, I set off for a new adventure with a move to the Twin Cities. In all honesty, I am more bummed about leaving Duluth, and think I will miss the town itself as my “home”, more than I will Virginia. Which is weird, considering that I lived in Virginia for 18 years, and Duluth for 4. But while I have done the majority of the physical growth in my life up on the range, I’ve definitely grown more emotionally in these last four years than I think I have in my entire life.

For example.

In Duluth, I learned what independence felt like. I spent homesick nights in Somers Suite 272 crying myself to sleep during the first few weeks of college, and felt just as depressed about leaving that dorm and my new little “family” of roomies at the end of the year. I learned how to grocery shop– wait, I still don’t know how to grocery shop. Okay, I ATTEMPTED to grocery shop, and learned that living off of Captain Crunch and Chef Boyardee isn’t quite as great as it sounds. I learned how to coexist with people that I couldn’t just yell at and expect to still love me like my family members, and I learned how to share one shower between four girls who all need to get to class in the morning.

In Duluth, I learned that moving an hour away from your boyfriend isn’t actually going to kill you, and that it just might give you some clarity about the relationship. I experienced the pain of assault, and the victory of winning a court case. I learned that being single is pretty awesome, especially when your roommate is willing to share boyfriend cuddles with you. Because what else are those darn men good for anyway?

In Duluth, I learned how to make friends, and how to gracefully let friends go. I found that independence is more than just living away from your parents, but actually being self-sufficient physically and emotionally. I discovered medications that could solve my problems, and I learned how to cope when the problems proved to go deeper than a 20mg pill. I learned how to disguise myself and hide my past, and I learned just how strong of a support system could be gained from opening up. I learned how to drink, and I learned how to sober up when the drinking tried to kill me.

In Duluth, I learned how to dress business casual, and how to make slightly less awkward conversation at networking events. I discovered how much fun it is to be an aunt, and even picked up some mothering skills along the way (well, for my dog at least!). I learned how to rack up thousands of dollars in debt over a couple of months, and how to make a budget to pay that debt off (slowly). I learned that professional doesn’t have to equal boring, and that being responsible and mature can still be fun.

My experience in Duluth over the last four years has taught me so much, looking back now as I am about to start a full-time gig at Land O’Lakes, to where I was at as a fresh high school graduate. Sure there were ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade any of the bad experiences for anything. Without them, the good ones would not have been half as meaningful. I am extremely excited for the next chapter in my life, but will undoubtedly miss my college years– after all, weren’t they supposed to be the best of my life?! Pshh! Every day the future looks brighter, so while those days were good, I won’t settle for the notion that my “glory days” have already come and gone.

Thank you to everyone who has shaped me into who I am today, those who have supported me and hey– even those who have been the jerks that gave me learning experiences. Thanks to all my fellow students, my professors, my roommates and friends, and of course most of all my family members. Mom and Dad, I know that the last four years weren’t spent under your roof, but just because I learned all this living in Duluth does not mean that your influence didn’t stretch over me from the range. Thanks everyone who continues to read this every time I post and gives me feedback, I hope this wasn’t too boring, but I will try to keep things updated more and make it more exciting, even if my life becomes adult-ish and lame. Wish me luck on my big move this weekend, the transition process, and settling in. Love you all! :)

Hi my name is Laura and…

6 Mar

Disclaimer to start out with that I wrote this once on Sunday night and was super into it and then the whole thing disappeared and didn’t even autosave. So now I’m frustrated and I haven’t even started yet. BOO.

Ever since I turned 21, I don’t think I’ve ever drank the way my friends drink. Honestly it was never even that I enjoyed being drunk so much, it’s getting drunk that I think I’m addicted to. That feeling right around the second and third drinks, where you start feeling it: your cares slipping away, that warmth starting to creep from the inside out, you get talkative and giggly and you just want that feeling to keep coming and coming and never peak. And I think that what really fueled my problem wasn’t just my lack of moderation, but my impeccable ability to pretend that nothing was wrong (this is kind of a recurring theme of my life, if you haven’t noticed). I could make excuses that no one could argue with, I could act like everything was fine, I could act like every time I went out was simply for a fun night like all of my friends. But I was miserable. Absolutely miserable. And it got to the point with no matter how horrible I felt the next morning, to me nothing felt worse than being sober. I hated sobriety and once I pulled myself together enough to be able to stomach some food without it coming back up, I was ready to get back out again. If I couldn’t go out drinking, it was whatever else I could get my hands on. Doing whatever it took to alter my mind enough to escape my own pathetic life. And even when I did stay sober for days at a time, it was agonizing. I could resist compulsion to drink but it was still all I would think about. Sure I could stay sober if I forced myself, but sobriety isn’t really genuine sobriety if you’re gritting your teeth and pulling your hair out through the whole thing, and if maybe the booze is absent but the obsession never leaves. It took a horrifying, drunken experience to snap me out of what I was doing to myself. I knew I needed to get help, but was still in denial about just how much help I needed. I started talking to a recovery counselor in the CLEAN program at CSS, and he challenged me enough to make me realize just how little control I had over myself, when all this time I had convinced myself (and everyone else) that I knew what I was doing.

Long story short, I started going to AA. Crazy, right? I was expecting it to be awful, but I was amazed at the number of kids my age at the meeting. And everyone’s stories were just nuts, and they were all so welcoming. It took a couple weeks of meetings for me to finally give up my drinking, but I’m proud to say that this week I’m celebrating my first sobriety birthday- 30 days. I never thought I would get 30 days down, and I’m super proud. I’ve got a sponsor, which has helped so much. And basically I just keep myself busy with productive activities, and surround myself only with those who support and encourage my sobriety. I’ve met some awesome people in the CLEAN program, and most (but not all) of my friends have been super supportive of me. I have to say, there’s a major difference between spending time with people who are sober just because, and those who have been where I have, and way worse. Those first couple of weeks, when I would go out and get wasted, I could go back to the CLEAN office, tell him what happened, and he would so genuinely just be like “I’m really sorry that happened…” and go on to talk about why I did it, and where I would go from there. There was no rebuke, condemnation, guilt, or anything like that. Only understanding, support, and encouragement. That’s what kept me coming back.

Alcoholism is a disease, it’s not just a bad habit that can be broken or something that you can “get over”. People think of an alcoholic being someone who gradually developed this addiction and the key is to just get back into moderation and they’ll be fine.  But there is no hope of moderating something that has consumed you mentally from day one. Maybe you don’t go out drinking every night, maybe you don’t drink alone, maybe you don’t steal money from family to get wasted. Does that mean you’re not an alcoholic? No. Not if you are literally obsessed with the thought of drinking again. Maybe you can go a week without drinking, but do you enjoy it? Was there ever a period of time longer than a couple minutes where you weren’t wishing you were drunk, craving that drink, trying to get some friends to come out with you? I mean, I’ll be honest with you, when I was first presented with the idea of what it means to be a “real” alcoholic: the disease, the allergy, the obsession; I didn’t really buy into it. Sounded like a pretty lame excuse for people too lazy to use any self-control. But as much as I want to get back out there, as much as I want to have another night of bar-hopping, just one– I know it wouldn’t be once. I know that I couldn’t drink one night and spend the rest of the week sober.

As far as my friends circle, obviously things are changing, but not really as much as you would think. I’m not trying to ditch all my drinking friends, I’m not morally against drinking, because hey if you can moderate yourself and you can party on the weekends but manage your life the rest of the week– more power to you. I respect that. Because I sure as hell can’t. The friends I’ve been dippin out on are the ones who have been blatantly unsupportive: pressuring me to drink again, belittling me for being honest with myself, disrespecting the efforts that I’m making and the struggle that it is every single day. And I’m not even really upset about that, because man have I met some amazing new people through this program. Anyways, I’m stickin with this thing. I’m doing the best I can, I’m spending time in the books, I’m working the steps, and most importantly, I’m being honest with myself and those around me. Oh, and I listen to a lot of this guy ;)

God grant me the serenity to keep doing what I’m doing :)

(and growing up everyone always does)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

30 Oct

Abuse, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and here are some things you should know about domestic violence:

Statistics:

Signs you are in an abusive situation:

Does your partner:

  • Humiliate you
  • Yell at you
  • Criticize you
  • Treat you in a way that you are embarrassed for others to see
  • Ignore/insult your accomplishments
  • Blame you for their behavior
  • Treat you as property
  • Act jealous or possessive
  • Control your actions
  • Isolate you
  • Limit your access to resources
  • Constantly or excessively check up on you
  • Have an unpredictable temper
  • Hurt or threaten you
  • Threaten self harm
  • Force/coerce you to engage in sexual activity
  • Destroy your belongings
  • Act entitled to special treatment, including abusive behavior
  • Act superior of you/belittle you

Do you feel:

  • Afraid of your partner
  • The need to avoid topics that may set them off
  • Like you cannot do anything right with your partner
  • Believe you deserve to be hurt/mistreated
  • Wonder if you are the one over reacting
  • Emotionally numb/helpless

If you are gay, bisexual, transgender, does your partner:

  • Threaten to out you
  • Tell you authorities will not help someone in the LGBT community
  • Tell you that leaving will be admitting you orientation/identification is deviant
  • Justify abuse by challenging you orientation/identity
  • For men: Says that men are “naturally violent.”

Know the cycle of abuse:

  • Tension builds
  • Incident
  • Make-up
  • Calm
  • Repeat

Signs of an abusive situation from an outside perspective:

Is your loved one being abused? Do they have:

  • Injuries
  • Absence from work, school or get togethers
  • Low self esteem
  • Sudden personality changes
  • Fear of conflict
  • Blame on others or self
  • Aggression
  • Apologetic of bad behavior by partners
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms

Is someone you know abusing someone? Do they:

  • Put down their partner or act superior
  • Dominateconversation
  • Attempt to isolate their partner
  • Check up on partner excessively
  • Act rough with partner in public, hit or slap partner in private
  • Make threats
  • Minimize problematic/violent behavior
  • Display no regard for law/authority
  • A history of abuse, including drug abuse
  • Display jealousy

How to get out of an abusive situation:

  • Recognize what is going on at home: does your partner display any of the signs of abuse, do you display any signs of someone who is being abused
  • Tell someone you can trust and will take action
  • Prepare: Find a safe space to hide money and belongings
  • Cover your tracks: Delete internet and call history
  • Find a safe place to leave to
  • If you can: Report the abuse and file a restraining order

How to help a loved one out of an abusive situation:

  • Talk to them and assure a safe space to open up and confide
  • Be direct with your suspicions and worries
  • NEVER judge the victim
  • ALWAYS believe the victim
  • Do not “tell” them to leave or criticize them for staying with an abusive partner
  • Support them and build self confidence
  • Help them break away from isolation
  • Encourage them to talk to others, including professionals
  • Offer resources

 

Coping with domestic violence:

Typical aftermath of domestic violence:

  • Denial
  • Minimization
  • Nightmares
  • Shock
  • And more

 

Resources for coping and dealing with domestic violence:

My Feelings on Religion.

24 Oct

Because this has been bothering me a lot lately for some reason. And I haven’t written in awhile. Soooooooo. Here you go :)

I’m pretty irritated with religion in general at this point in time. It has become so twisted and backwards and I truly feel like the majority of church folk have completely lost touch with the entire purpose of their belief in the first place. If you ever read my facebook statuses, you’ll know that just recently I posted a status that went along the lines of.. “I’m pretty sure that the entire purpose of Christianity is supposed to be about forgiveness, grace, and freedom– not guilt, bondage, and condemnation…” Right?! I mean, aren’t we taught from a young age that Jesus loves everyone? And yet somewhere along the line we all grew up and suddenly felt that it’s our place to decide who Jesus does and doesn’t love based on what church we go to, what nationality we are, what our history is, etc. I’m sorry, but I have a newsflash for you– as much as you think you deserve the grace of God because of your good deeds and polite disposition and regular church attendance, you don’t. No one does. We as Christians have this sense of entitlement but the truth is that you are no more entitled to eternal life than drug-pushing pimp down the street. You’re just not. I’m sorry. We were all born sinners and we are all human and we are all completely and hopelessly inadequate when it comes to earning your way into Heaven. If we could earn our way in, and figure out this world on our own, I’m pretttty sure that God could’ve skipped the whole sending Jesus to Earth thing. John 14:6 says “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” Did you get that? He said no one comes to the Father on their own. No one. Grace is born through Christ and Christ alone, and ability to humble yourself, repent, and accept forgiveness is far more important than trying to live a perfect life. Or worse, actually believing that you live a perfect life.

I saw a billboard somewhere that said something about how God prefers honest atheists over hypocritical believers. Obviously that’s not biblical but it kind of makes sense, I mean, in the Bible, wasn’t it the Pharisees that Jesus had the harshest words for? The men who held themselves in high regard, making a show of their prayer and fasting in order to show everyone else how much “better” Christians they were? Matthew 23 holds some pretty strong opinions towards the Pharisees by Jesus himself. In verse 13, Jesus rebukes the religious leaders, saying “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”  And through verse 37, six more times Jesus reprimands them, each starting with “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”, and at the end of the chapter, addressing them as “You snakes! You brood of vipers!”. I mean, I’m just saying, that it doesn’t sound like He was all too crazy about them. And I wonder why? So many churches today have fallen into that category, of those who shut the door of the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, not allowing those to enter who are trying to. STOP! It drives me crazy. Did you have any part of the decision to be born into a Christian home? Are you in any way responsible for the fact that you were raised in a sheltered living, never having to brush shoulders with any true adversity? I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to have been a believer since you were just a child. Obviously I myself was raised in a Christian home, and consider myself lucky to have been. But what about those who weren’t? What about those who have walked on the dark side of life? What about those who have done some truly horrible things, and only came to know Christ later in life? Are we to condemn them for that? Luke 15:7 says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Like, I’m pretty sure God is PUMPED when some crazy old person that we look at as being too messy for church actually turns to Him! What a party, right?! Yet that same person sets one foot into a church and is instantly judged, ignored, or even worse, openly rejected. Of course not all churches are like this but it’s troublesome how many actually are. How many think that they can look at someone and judge on face value whether or not this person deserves the same love and grace as the rest of the church. It’s horrible. And so hypocritical. And so disgustingly selfish and self-entitled.

That’s one of the things I love about the church I attend here in Duluth (shout out, Duluth Vineyard!). Because they are so open and welcoming of everyone. I can’t remember who said this, I think it was a pastor at Vineyard, but I always remember this quote as being so true– Churches are NOT a Christian Country Club. That’s not the point. To gather all the Christians with their perfect little Sunday smiling faces, and become so self-inclusive that eventually you’re basically irrelevant to the rest of the world, that’s not what spreading the Gospel is. Sure it’s great to have church functions and fellowship with those around you, but that should by no means be the majority of church functions. At the Vineyard, they do so many awesome outreach events, like a free harvest party for everyone in the community, a food shelf housed right in the church, prison ministries, a free spa day for less fortunate women around Duluth, and even a free MEDICAL day where people in the community that may not be able to afford medical attention can come to the church and get it, free of charge. Every year at the Vineyard around Memorial weekend they host what’s called the “Blessing of the Bikes”. And basically they fill the ENTIRE parking lot with motorcycles, have this big barbeque and worship service, and basically pray over all of the bikes/bikers for safety in the upcoming season. It’s so cool. And maybe it’s just me, but being in a sanctuary packed with  hundreds of big, scruffy, weathered-looking, tatted up biker dudes, all praising God so purely and openly, gives me chills more than your average conservative suit-and-tie church service going on at every other church that morning (and I am not, by any means, criticizing that kind of a service). It’s just the most awesome experience ever. That’s outreach. That is the Gospel of Christ. Jesus didn’t come to Earth to go to dinner parties with the Pharisees, he was out there interacting with the lowest of the low of that time. Dinner with a tax collector, talking to the Samaritan woman, allowing a woman who was deemed literally “untouchable” to come up to him and grab his cloak for healing. Jesus hung out with sinners on a regular basis, and through that acceptance, crazy things happened for the kingdom. I’m not saying that Christians should spend so much time with unbelievers to the point of beginning to condone sinful habits and even take part in them, but if you don’t have ANY friends who are non-believers, you really need to re-evaluate how much of a contribution you are actually making to better the kingdom. But really, I hate to break it to you, just because you are better at hiding your dirty habits than the next guy, doesn’t mean they are any less dirty. I’m just saying.

I guess I don’t know how I want to end this or even where I was going in general, I’m just kind of blabbing off the top of my head. I’m just so sick of how judgmental, condemning, and just plain MEAN so many “Christians” have become. And because I’m saying to be more accepting and welcoming, I’m not saying that sinful behavior should be ignored/condoned, I’m just saying that such rude and downright disrespectful treatment of those around you that you consider “sinners” (newsflash– try looking in the mirror next time too!) is not doing you any good. No one is going to look at a “Christian” who is so hateful and judgmental towards so many people and think to themselves, “Wow! That Jesus thing looks really great! I think I’m going to try that!”. Acting in such a way is painting a horribly inaccurate picture of who Jesus truly is, and how dare you use religion as an excuse for such behavior. I mean, really? The whole “God Hates Fags” thing? Bombing abortion clinics? Standing on street corners holding signs and screaming at passer-bys that they’re going to hell? Yeah. Good luck with that. We’ll see where that gets you. I can tell you one thing for sure, it’s definitely not winning you any points with the people you are supposedly trying to witness to, and I think it’s safe to say that God’s not a huge fan of you putting words in his mouth telling everyone who he does and doesn’t love. Which brings me full circle back to the point that whether you like it or not, God loves everyone, and he has a deep and passionate desire to see every. single. person. come to relationship with him. And some people are offended by that. Because you think you’re better than the guy next door, but you’re not, you’re no more entitled to eternal life than he is. So why put so much time and effort into trying to shut him out? Or worse, convincing him that he deserves to be shut out rather than invited in? That’s not love. That’s not Christianity. That’s not Jesus. It’s just not. I’m sorry.

I can’t come up with titles to save my life.

16 Jul

I’m so thankful for the life I live.

Didn’t think I’d start an entry like that with how I’ve been acting lately, did you? But it’s the truth. I have done so much growing up in the last couple months. I moved three hours away from home to take an internship in the big city, and it has been so therapeutic for me to get away and really get a big-picture view of my life. As much as I feared that I would be broken for the rest of my life after what ex did to me, I’m feeling so much better so much sooner than I ever imagined. I absolutely love my summer job, I have met some amazing people, had some of the best times of my life, and completely changed my entire perspective on the world. It’s funny how growing up in a small town can leave a person so close-minded, and all it takes some time in the city to realize that there is so much more to experience and so many more people to meet than you ever thought possible. Moving further away from home has also taught me who I value in my life. There are so many people that have not made the effort to keep in contact while I’ve been away, and quite frankly I’ve made no effort either. But I’m alright with that. It really is about quality over quantity, and after a long time coming, that is finally starting to sink in.

Last Sunday, a group of interns and I went to church together at a local Vineyard (the churches I attend back home). The preacher was fantastic– he was this loud, animated, passionate African American like you see in the movies. The sermon he was preaching on was about relationship baggage. It hit so close to home, and felt like he was speaking right to me. But the thing is, despite all of his yelling and arm waving and finger pointing, the message didn’t “hit close to home” the way most do. Usually when a sermon hit’s close to home, I know it was meant for me and I will feel singled out and almost like God is lecturing me through the pastor. I’ll know that it’s something I need to hear, and I always take the meaning from it, but it’s hard not to feel like a child who’s been reprimanded. This time was different, though. The entire service, I had to fight to keep myself from grinning. Which was weird, considering it wasn’t exactly a happy topic. But this time, I felt like God was using this preacher to give me a giant old bear hug. The preacher was dragging all this luggage back and forth on the stage with him while he spoke, and talked about how we as humans gather up all this baggage as we move from relationship to relationship, and can never let it go. That concept is nothing new, but what he said next was sure new to me. He said that he believes that eventually, we hang on to that baggage not because we can’t get rid of it, but because we won’t get rid of it. That after awhile, our emotional baggage becomes so engraved into our identity and becomes such a part of who we are, that we start to get possessive over it.

“Let go of my baggage? Well… Well, no! It’s MINE!”

It’s like Gollum in Lord of the Rings– it’s not long before we’re in a cave huddling over our piles and piles of emotional shit, creepily muttering “my precious…” It’s so ridiculous! And that sad part is you know that it’s true! One thing he said really stuck with me– Having baggage isn’t a shameful thing. What’s shameful is not wanting to get rid of it. That’s when things started to sink in. Do I really want to get rid of my baggage? Of course I would immediately say yes– I’m dying to– because this crap is really weighing me down. But if I let the thought linger, I start to wonder. After all, I lived for years hiding all of this weight under the surface. I carried it alone, and this year I was FINALLY able to get it out in the open. Other people caught a glimpse of the hell that I had been through, and started to treat me with more understanding. They encouraged me, expressed how proud they were of me, and made a point to show me how much I was loved. It felt really good. Why would I want to let go of that right away? So this entire spring I have been battling myself and haven’t even realized it. I try and try to get over all this emotional damage that’s been done, and I become so frustrated because I haven’t been able to drop it. Now I can see that I was the one trapping myself the entire time. I wanted to lose all the negative effects of what happened to me, but didn’t want to completely let go because that would mean losing the positive feedback too. If I quit letting it affect me, quit having to use it as an excuse for my actions, quit bringing it up– how will anyone ever appreciate me for what I’ve been through? But I can’t ride on people’s pity forever. This spring, yes, I needed it to help me move on. I received all the love and encouragement that I possibly could’ve asked for–and then some– and I got to the point where it wasn’t what I needed anymore. It was time to rely on my own strength and confidence to continue the healing process. But I wanted to stay in that stage of relying on those around me, and that was only stumping the healing process. By continuing to allow that part of my life to define my identity, I was still keeping my ex in control. He still had control over me, because I will still letting his actions dictate the way I lived my life every day. As the preacher said on Sunday, you’ll always live as a victim if you don’t let it go. And as much as I thought that opening up about the abuse was enough to let it go, I had to let go of it emotionally too. I can’t say that I have done that completely just yet, but I’m working on it.

So yeah. Just a little update since it’s been awhile :)

Is it really that time again?!

5 May

Well, here I am at the end of another semester. My apartment looks like a tornado ran through it as I’m trying to pack up for what is sure to be a crazy summer. In a couple weeks I start my internship with Land O’Lakes and will be living in St. Paul with my cousin! I’m super duper nervous for the internship but really excited as well.

So for my semester recap, it’s quite different than the last time I did this. If you recall my last semester recollections, it was all pretty happy-go-lucky. Which was fantastic. Fall 2011 was amazing and mostly carefree and I really needed it to snap me out of my funk from the year before. But spring 2012 was a little different. This semester pulled me back into reality. And reality is, I have a lot of unfinished business in my head and in my heart that needed to be dealt with. I posted this entry that received INCREDIBLE feedback. Literally hundreds of you wrote to me with words of sympathy, encouragement, and even sharing similar experiences. I was on an emotional high from  having such a huge weight lifted off my chest, but truth is that wasn’t enough to heal what was going on under the surface. I started to realize the things I have blogged about since then, like the fact that I still have trust issues, I still put up walls, I’m still paranoid, I still think completely irrationally. And what I hate the most, is that I still take it out on those closest to me.

Talking with my therapist all semester, she helped me realize a lot of the thinking patterns that my brain is still trained to do. I loved talking to her each week because it brought me from “omg I’m crazy why do I think like this and why can’t I make it stop” to realizing that I think this way for a reason and that it’s completely normal for someone who has been through what I have. BUT here’s the kicker that took me all semester to realize– just because it’s normal, and I have a good reason, and it’s to be expected– doesn’t mean it’s an EXCUSE. For me to sit around and be like “this is why I feel the way I feel” but then do nothing about it is just as bad as if I was feeling this way for no reason. Ya know? So like, I’m trying to actually change the way I think. It’s hard but after getting a lot of feedback from those close to me I’m more determined than ever to get back to the old me.

Here’s an example:
I was talking to Teresa about how I’m so anal and OCD about details and plans. How I’m always having to know exactly what’s going on, like before I can decide if I want to do something with friends, I need to know exactly who’s going to be there, where we are going to be, how long we are going to be there, etc. And I worry myself way too much over those minor details, and if things change somewhere along the road, it stresses me out to the max and I usually just want to go home at that point. And it’s weird because I never used to be like that. In fact, I think it used to drive my parents crazy, cuz in high school it was always “Where are you going to be?” “Oh, I dunno. We’ll see.” “How long are you going to be out?” “I don’t know. Depends what we do.” and I was seriously the WORST at making solid plans. So Teresa said “Ok so by nature, you’re actually a very laid-back person” and we kind of laughed about it because laid-back is one of the last words I’d use to describe myself now. But it’s true. I was. And then she went on to say while by nature I’m laid-back, now by conditioning, I’m high-strung and OCD. So what made me that way? And then it hit me. When I was with a controlling and jealous boyfriend for two years, I HAD to know all of those details if I ever did anything without him. If I didn’t give a full report of every single little possible detail before I left the house, suddenly I was “being shady” or “cheating” or doing something behind his back. Even with all those details I was usually eventually accused of lying, but still. I’m just so used to having to know all of that information beforehand, and as soon as things change I’d start worrying because those unplanned changes were the things that would get me in trouble with him. So, seeing a clear and concrete reason for me acting the way I do makes it easier to understand how to stop it. And realize that that’s not how I’m meant to live.

And I think that by me continuing to live like this and always be like “oh poor me look at what my ex made me become” is only keeping him in control. So as difficult as it is, I’m trying really hard change the way I think. For those of you who have stuck by my side through all of this, you are incredible. I can’t thank you enough. I love each and every one of you to the moon and back. For those who have taken this as an excuse to walk away, well, that’s your loss. Because I know for a fact that I’m going to come out of this better than ever. And I’m going to remember those who were there through thick and thin.

I think that being in the cities this summer is going to be super good for me, just to get away from all the familiarity and triggers and give me the time and space to work on myself. And, it’s going to be a blast. :) I’m so so excited to live with my cousin, we were like besties when we were little and always talked about living together one day, who would’ve thought it’d come true? :) And my best friend from Scholastica will be interning in St. Paul too, and I’m also going to be closer to my soul-sista (who I got to hang out with this semester for the first time in like five years and it was THE BEST EVER) and just all in all it’s going to be awesome. As long as my internship doesn’t kill me… haha. Crossing my fingers.

Anyways. Blah blah. Those are my thoughts. It’s been a crazy roller coaster of emotions these last couple months and again, I can’t thank enough those who hung on through all the late-night phone calls, listening to me rant, dealing with my bs, spending time with me when I was a pain in the ass, and just generally being a good friend :) I love you all.

Now I’m out of things to say so I guess it’s time to go be productive. Happy finals week!