Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Most Misunderstood Symptom of PTSD

The Most Misunderstood Symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Living the lifestyle of an addict is not an ideal situation.  It can be very dangerous.  

Because of this, I experienced many traumatic events that caused some pretty severe PTSD symptoms.  If anyone has ever experienced extreme emotional symptoms from trauma, they know how challenging life can become when trying to cope.  The frightening experiences I had literally changed the world I live in.  While I don't currently live in continuing danger as I did before, my brain has yet to accept the fact that I am safe.  I experience many of the common symptoms of PTSD, such as, strong feelings of guilt, sleep disturbances, and feelings of worthlessness.  I go into fight or flight mode many times during the day and I still get a couple dozen flashbacks during my day.  Flashbacks that bring me right back into a traumatic event and my body reacts as though I am experiencing it in the moment.  

One of the most challenging symptoms I experience is a feeling that there is imminent danger when there is not.  My brain is constantly looking for the threat.  Its as though is is on a mission to sort out where the danger is, almost continually.  As you can imagine it can be very exhausting.  I use techniques to help remind myself I am not in danger, but my brain is "trained" to seek out the threat to protect me.  

As I got sober and started really feelings my feelings, I recognized that this was happening and wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.  How frustrating!  To make matters worse, I began to judge myself for  it by calling myself paranoid.  I mean really, how many people feel the fight or flight response while making themselves dinner on a normal evening at home?  I felt so paranoid!!  Turns out I am not paranoid at all, I am hyper-vigilant.

Hyper Vigilance VS Paranoia:

There is a major difference between paranoia which is a mental illness and hyper vigilance which is caused by a psychological injury. (such as PTSD)


Is an illness in the brain
Does not get better on its own
Is not recognized by the person experiencing it
Sometimes responds to drug treatment
Is Convinced of their plausibility


Is a response to trauma
Does (albeit SLOWLY) get better on its own
Will recognize it but use the incorrect term of "paranoia" to describe their experience
Drugs have little effect or make it worse by interfering with the body's own healing process
Is convinced of their worthlessness

hyper vigilance, paranoia, paranoid thoughts, feelings, emotions, trauma, ptsd, coping with trauma, how to cope with trauma, help with trauma

Dealing with these symptoms are hard enough without putting incorrect labels such as "paranoid" on ourselves.  We aren't paranoid. We are survivors and we have brains that helped us cope at the time we survived our trauma and those same AMAZING brains are helping us to survive today.  Our brain chemistry will heal over time, we can and will learn a new way to navigate the world.  In the meantime, understanding our symptoms and not judging ourselves is so very important!

The symptoms of PTSD are very serious and are difficult to manage.  If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing symptoms please seek out professional help.  Please see below for some resources on finding help.

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National Center for Victims of Crime

800-FYI-CALL (800-394-2255)
The National Center for Victims of Crime provides information, education, and referrals to local resources across the country. The hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm and is offered in numerous languages.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233) and 800-787-3224 (TDD)
The mission of the National Domestic Violence Hotline is to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information, and referrals for individuals experiencing domestic violence. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, and assistance is offered in numerous languages.

Mental Health America

800-969-6MHA (6642)
The mission of MHA is to promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation. MHA offers information and resources on numerous mental health topics.

National Organization for Victim Assistance

800-TRY-NOVA (800-879-6682)
NOVA's mission is to promote rights and services for victims of crime and crisis. The hotline provides information and referrals and is available 24 hours a day.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The 6 Signs of Addictive Behavior- How to Tell if You or a Loved One is an Addict

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I don't know that I had just one a-ha moment that told me I was an addict and an alcoholic.  I started using and drinking as a young teenager.   I always knew that I partied harder than anyone around me could keep up.  It was never a secret to myself or anyone in my life that I had a serious problem.

But what if someone doesn't have such an obvious problem as mine?  What if its a behavior that has popped up later in life for someone who has never shown addict behavior previously.  Or what if its a sixteen year old  that thinks, "I'm too young to be an addict."  "I'm just curious and experimenting."

Addict, addiction,recovery,treatment,drug treatment, aa,na,alcoholics anonymous, narcotics anonymous, unmanageable, power greater than yourself, sanity

So the question is: How do you know if you're an addict or alcoholic?

Here are the 6 Signs That Your Addicted to something from Psychology Today:

Importance: How important has it become to your sense of self and the way you live your life? You can determine importance not only by how much you’re doing it, but also by how much you’re not doing other things. Priority equals importance.

Reward response: Does doing it make you feel better, more in control? Does not doing it make you feel worse? Doing things you enjoy makes you feel better. Avoiding things you dislike can make you feel better, at least initially. There is a positive physical payoff to all this activity that can obscure the negative consequences.

Prevalence: Do you find yourself doing it more often and for longer periods of time than you originally planned? This is the never-enough compulsion. If you feel compelled to say, “Just a little bit more,” all the time, you’re carving out more and more space in your life for these activities. The question becomes, in order to carve out this time, to what else are you taking the knife?

Cessation: Do you feel anxious or uncomfortable if you cannot do it or if you just think about not doing it? One way to gauge how important these things have become to you is to consider doing without them. Your initial emotional and physical response can be highly instructive. The higher the level of panic and pain you anticipate, the stronger the hold they have on you.

Disruption: Has doing it disrupted your life and your relationships? Imagine your life as a drawer full of those old-school hanging folders. The drawer only has so much space for files. Every time you add a file called “Texting” or “Facebook” or “Checking in” or “Video Games” you have to push folders around to find room in the drawer. Inside that drawer are already files called “Sleep,” “Family,” “Chores” and “Work.” Some of the files in your drawer aren’t fun; they’re thick and heavy and take up a lot of space. The more new stuff you’re trying to pack into that drawer of your life, the more pressure it puts on the things and people already there.

Reverting: Do you often say to yourself you’re going to do something different but then turn around and keep doing the same thing—or doing it even more? This is the “I’ll diet again on Monday” syndrome. If you’ve already made room in your virtual file drawer for something fun and pleasurable, or at least distracting, just thinking about depriving yourself of it brings up a wealth of rationales and reasons why “right now” is just not the best time to stop.

Admitting there is a problem, is one of the bravest things that someone can do.  It takes humility, courage and strength to see it.  It is not always an easy step.  But it is the first step for a reason.  And because its the first step, its the most important.

Recovery,alcoholic, alcoholic, hope,faith,love,change,motivation,inspiration,change is possible, god, christ, Jesus Christ, JesusIf you can relate to this post, and you feel that an addictive behavior is affecting your quality of life and what’s most important to you, it may be time to seek professional help.

Here are some resources that can help:

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Five Simple Ways to Experience the Moment

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 As an addict, I used to spend most of my time and energy avoiding living in the moment. My pre-occupation with using was not only about the times that I was under the influence. There was something about the obsessive preoccupation of when I was going to be able to use again that was also an addiction.

 Imagine a life where one is never fully present in the moment. One only experiences an intense obsession about the future or disturbing regrets of the past. Joy is immediately sucked out of such a life and a feeling of endless dissatisfaction replaces it. 

 One of the incredible miracles of sobriety is the ability to be present in the moment. While its still somewhat of a practice for me, an experiment per se, I am working on enjoying the simplicity of just experiencing the here and now.   Here are a few simple ways I practice being present in the moment.


Mindful,breathing,stress,anxiety,yoga,mediation,stress reduction 


Sounds simple enough, but sometimes we forget the calming benefits of focusing on our breath. As I slowly take in a long breath, I envision that I am breathing in pure white air. As I breath out, I envision all the stress and anxiety coming out in my breath. Breathe in the light, breathe out the dark.


In this moment, what are you feeling? What are your thoughts?  Recognize them gently, do not judge them.  Acknowledge them without judgement.


mindful, experience the moment, yoga, mediation, breathing

Think of the warmth of the air on your skin, the feelings in your lungs as you breathe in and out, feel your body sitting in your chair or your feet planted on the ground.  Spend a few moments simply feeling your physical sensations.


When worries of the past or the anxiety filled thoughts of the future come into your mind, recognize them and gently let them go.  Come back to the moment by bringing your attention back to your breathing.

breathe, thoughts of past and future, come back to the now, mediation, yoga, namaste


Look around and notice the brightness of the sun, the furniture in the room or the trees swaying in the wind out the window.  Spend a few moments noting the colors and objects you see around you.

Take a few minutes each day to just be present.  Feel the world around you and experience your thoughts and emotions simply as they are and in the moment.  While it may not come easy at first, with some practice, the joyful simplicity of the power of now will come to you with more ease.  


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Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Lifesaving Choice Every Addict Must Make

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The concept of surrendering my will to God’s will has always seemed a very foreign concept for this drug addict.   I once believed that my survival absolutely depended upon my wits and my ability to control the outcome of any given situation.  I think that is a pretty typical thought process for an addict.  When one is an addict, surrender means defeat.  If an addict admits defeat, or the need to surrender, then the belief system is that all of what is left, is lost.  Usually, what is left when the person is ready to surrender isn’t much..  at least that was the case for me.  The desire and drive to hang on and fight for control is an instinct ingrained in the addicts primal mind.  Its as powerful an instinct as the need to drink water or to run when there is danger.  And the instinct is a lie.

I don’t know what the thought process is like for a normal person, a non-addict.  I have shown addict behavior since I was 7 years old.  It is the only way my brain has EVER worked.  It seems as though I was born with a self destruct button in my mind and a life long overwhelming desire to push it, again and again… and again.  For 40 years, I pushed that button and crawled and scratched my way through life.    I’m a good person, and I have always wanted good things, to live like those I saw around me, I just didn’t know how. Normal life is a concept I could never grasp.  So I fought…and struggled and fought some more to have the life I was “supposed” to live.  
The end of the road for me, my “bottom” as some would call it, was not pretty.  I was a disaster and near death.  I had lost my children, my family, my sanity, my ability to support myself, and my spiritual protection.  I had lost everything but the air in my lungs.  Life was unbearable and due to the people I ended up around, it was extremely dangerous.  All I wanted was to be home with my family and I had no idea how to get there.  I’d been doing this dance with destruction for 40 years… that’s a long time.   Most said I was a lost cause.  My own family had grieved me as if I were dead.  I knew I was at the end of my life.

Bible,Scripture,Surrender,Faith,Lord,Christ,Addiction,InspirationSomething inside me finally relented.  I surrendered.  I began to get on my knees and pray.  When one is as far into addiction as I was, it takes time for light to find its way into those dark places.  I had to surrender again and again..over and over.  After some time, miracles began to happen around me.  I began to think clearer, my family started to feel sparks of hope, opportunities for change became visible through the dark thick fog I was in.  I’ve been able to put one day of sobriety together with another. There was a time, not so long ago, I needed several chemicals in my body in order to get out of bed.  To this day, God is leading the way out of the darkness for me one step at a time.  

I truly believe, that the moment that one completely surrenders to God’s will is the most important choice that an addict (or human) makes.  It IS the moment that will save an addicts life. 


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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Night I Found Out That God Answers My Prayers


Leaving the world of being a drug addict is not easy, even with the Lord's help.  Everything in my life has been changing.  And I mean everything.  From the state I live in, the people I know, to the way I think ...its all different and sometimes its a very uncomfortable transition.

Through this process of change, there are many moments of self doubt.  With a lifetime of poor decision making, I often wonder at times if a choice I am making is the right one.  Praying for guidance and comfort, then trusting in myself to interpret the spirit can feel confusing and overwhelming.  While at times I feel "tuned in" to the spirit, more often than not, I get lost and distracted when fear and my expectations cloud what the spirit is trying to say to me.  

I was having one of these moments a few months ago, when I saw the tender way God can answer prayers.  

It was only my second night in Denver.  In needing a complete disconnection from the people of my past, I moved to Denver and into an apartment with my niece.  It's a quaint, little apartment in an old brick building near the downtown area.  That particular night, my niece had left to hang out with friends and I was alone in the apartment.  I was feeling a mixture of emotions, but mainly what I was feeling was overwhelming anxiety.  Being in a new place, an entirely new city..felt very unsettling.  I didn't know my way around and other than my niece I didn't know a soul.  That night I couldn't get my phone's internet to work.  It being Saturday night, I was hoping to make it to church the next day.  The problem was, I didn't know where the chapel was or what time church started but I felt strongly that I needed to get there.  I was also on foot so I knew that if it was 9:00 am start time I would have to figure out transportation and where to go.  
Feeling the walls were closing in on me, I went outside back of our apartment to get some fresh air and think.  The back alley outside is about as daunting as any back alley can be.   It's a beautiful view of the city, but you have to look past the insulin needles and meth/crack pipes laying all over.  The little orange caps from the needles quite literally sprinkle the ground around the alley.  There are typically addicts and homeless people everywhere.  You can find them digging through the dumpster, laying in the dark corners on the pavement, or sitting on the short brick wall resting.  As I stepped outside and breathed in the night eyes looking at the paraphernalia on the ground I began to really doubt my decision to move.   Moving here to Denver was a decision that was carefully made with a lot of prayer.   My sister and I spent weeks praying and waiting for the inspiration before choosing this place.  The way it fell together seemed inspired.  But that night seemed, looking around, that maybe we had made a mistake.  As a recovering drug addict, how could the Lord have chosen this to be the place that I would recover and start life over?    Feeling doubt, I asked Heavenly Father to please comfort me and let me know I had made the right decision to move here. I said a short, but very heartfelt prayer for comfort.  

After my prayer, I went back inside and took off my coat and my shoes.  I went to go sit down and at that very moment, there was gentle knock at the door.  I opened the door and there were two sister missionaries standing there.  

My niece had lived in this apartment for over a year without a visit from any missionaries or anyone from the church.  But on this night, literally moments after my prayer, there they were.  I of course invited them in and shared the story with them.  We laughed and teared up together.  It was an amazing moment for all of us.  I teased them for weeks that they showed up that night faster than Jimmy Johns.  I mean talk about freaky fast.:)

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I will never forget those two amazing sisters and their sacrifice they made to serve a mission for the Lord. I will never forget that night when the Lord heard my prayer and sent the sister missionaries to my door faster than Jimmy Johns.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

I'm Getting Bold in the Bishop's Office


    Jesus Christ- Bishop-Repentance-Atonement

    Many people know the dread that can wash over a person when they are about to walk into the Bishop's office and confess something for the first time. Tired of feeling the deep shame and carrying the burden of sin alone, one bravely makes the decision to do what seems like the impossible... confess to the Bishop. Sitting outside his office with jittery feet and sweaty palms awaiting your turn, one feels complete terror of the upcoming moment. The moment when the secret he's been holding will finally fall from his lips and into the Bishop's ears. 

             He thinks to himself, "What will happen when I finally say those words out loud?" 

    Soon, it will be my turn to share the secrets I have been holding for years with my Bishop... GULP.    To say it mildly, each time I think about saying certain things out loud, I begin to feel paralyzed. I think, "Am I really about to do this?" or " Will I be able to say to him things that are almost impossible to say to myself?" ... Double GULP.

    This whole process of repentance is brand new to me. While I was raised in the LDS church, my parents became inactive when I was 13 years old. Other than a sacrament meeting here or there over the years, I have been completely inactive for 28 years. In fact, I've been gone so long I somehow went from "inactive" to "less active" with no effort at all! ;). I have struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism for most of my life. Let's just say my list of things to discuss with bishop isn't exactly .. uh .. short.

    Dieter F. Uchtdorf-LDS-MORMON QUOTE

    For years my addiction problems seemed hopeless. No matter what I tried, I was unable to make real headway towards healing and living a clean and sober life. I felt utterly alone and abandoned by God. Things began to change a couple of years ago. After an unexpected and powerful spiritual experience, I began to realize that I wasn't doing this journey alone after all. I started to hand things in my life over to God. I didn't believe it would work at first, but I was willing to give the "faith experiment" one good try before I gave into giving up on myself for good. Bit by bit, moment by moment, miracles have begun manifesting themselves in my life.   The choice to act in faith changed my entire world. 

    While I have already begun to live differently and stop sinning in the ways I was before, it is very important to me to go through the formal process of repentance with my Bishop. I have not been worthy to take the sacrament in 28 years. I have never received my Patriarchal blessing. These are things I very much want. Someday, when Heavenly Father feels I am ready, I want to enter the the temple and make my covenants with the Lord. 

    All of those blessings start with this one upcoming terrifying moment.  So I will not let the fear stop me and I will be bold in the Bishop's office.  I will not mute or minimize my past.  I will take absolute responsibility for my actions and trust that the Lord will find a way to continue to remove the guilt and shame and replace it with peace and joy .  I will believe His words and promises about repentance.   I will have Faith that it is possible for my weaknesses to become great strengths.

    Book of Mormon-LDS-Scriptures-Alma

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