Sunday, August 13, 2017

THE SOBRIETY COIN


I recently found a sobriety coin on the sidewalk. I had heard of sobriety coins, but never viewed one up close. When I got in my car I examined the coin in detail. On one side The Serenity Prayer is inscribed.  On the other, the length of sobriety achieved, the phrase “To thine own self be true”, and the words unity, service and recovery. This particular coin signified 18 years of sobriety; 18 years. Wow! We often hear people joke during lent how difficult it is to give up something for 40 days. How could they ever manage 18 years?
As I held the coin in the palm of my hand, I felt a powerful connection with it. I was overcome with deep emotion and pushed to tears. It was not lost on me what this coin signified. Who was this soldier of sobriety that formerly owned this coin? What demons must they have overcome to have reached such a monumental milestone in their recovery? Were they still living in a state of sobriety? I have friends and family members who have battled addiction and are in recovery.  I know all too well, and have experienced the pain, heartbreak and destruction it brings. I’ve also seen the positive effects of sobriety as a result of the hard work of those who work the program and genuinely want to be healthy again.
Sobriety is described as a state of living sober. I was challenged to examine my own life in an attempt to understand, what areas do I need to experience sobriety? Where do I need to gain control over a negative force that serves only to destroy me, and perhaps, at times, those around me? If I were to be completely honest, which is a key step in sobriety, and choose one, it would be fear.
Fear of:
  • failure
  • rejection
  • what the future holds (don’t we all these days?)
  • being hurt by those I love and trust
  • being used and taken advantage of
  • getting my heart broken… again (I could write another 100 blogs on this one)
  • growing old alone 
The list certainly goes on. These unhealthy fears hold me in an intoxicated state, prohibiting clear thinking and experiencing the life I’m truly meant to live. 
The first step in sobriety is admitting you are powerless over your dependence. Yikes, admitting weakness. That alone sparks fear, yet it must be spoken aloud and confronted in order to free myself from its clutches. OK. Here goes… Hello, my name is LoriAnn and I need sobriety from fear. Phew! Step one, check.
An interesting fact about the sobriety coin is that it not only represents the years of sobriety a member achieves, but, it represents AA's commitment to the receiver - not the receivers’ commitment to AA".  This is partly why it’s critical for recoverings to attend meetings.  They need the support of their community. Community is vital for continued sobriety.
I underwent an unexpected set back a few months ago that propelled me into the depths of fear. The fear paralyzed me in such a way that I was rendered unable to get out of bed for several days and spiraled into a debilitating depression. I was fortunate enough to have a community of family and amazing friends to pull me out of the dark chasm I had fallen into. They didn’t just check in on me with trite messages and calls; no, they showed up in fierce and real ways. They were my recovery group, my community, my people. They pushed me hard, daily, to move past my fears. They proved to me that living in fear wouldn’t change the outcome of my situation.  They also challenged me to surrender my independence and allow them to take care of me. 

How many times have you heard a recovering say "I've got this under control this time". These are lies used to perpetuate pushing their support and home team away. I was guilty of the same.  When you've not showered long enough to where even your dog refuses to sleep with you, you've eaten enough Ben & Jerry's to keep them in business for the  next 10 years and you've binged watched Snapped or, worse, The Kardashian's, you certainly don't have this under control.  Vulnerability is not an easy playground for me to hang in. Standing emotionally naked in front of those I have spent years proving I’m a warrior to was daunting.  By shedding the ego, stripping away my insecurities and allowing my “true” community to be there I was able to detox from the fear and pain I was in and experience sobriety from its attempts to hold me hostage. I had to grab that gravy sucking bull called fear by the horns and let it know who was really boss here. I’ve since learned that I can’t stop fear from coming to me, but I do have the power to stop it from getting in me.
To the former owner of the coin I hold not only in my hand, but now in my heart, know it is safe and has had a profound impact on its new owner. I applaud you for the warrior you’ve been these past 18 years and for the fears and battles you’ve bravely faced to reach this milestone.  Stay the course and never stop fighting the good fight, my friend.  I wish you continued recovery and peace on your sobriety journey and to thine own self be true.

All rights reserved. ©2017  LoriAnn Boyer



Saturday, February 04, 2017

Nineteen Years and Counting

Nineteen years ago today I awoke in a haze in a Los Angeles hospital trying desperately to piece together the events of the past 24 hours. Little did I know then that this would be the first day of my journey on the long road of conquering depression and anxiety. I had suffered a severe breakdown the night before. It was terrifying to say the least. I have always been a happy go lucky, upbeat, grounded and lighthearted soul. Depression and anxiety would be the last malady I would have ever expected to be diagnosed with. Yet, here I was frightened and confused and having to grapple with my new reality. A reality that felt much distorted in the moment.

For anyone who has suffered serious bouts of depression or confronted anxiety it can be the most hellish of nightmares. When you are in the depths of a full blown depression you feel as if you’re bound in chains and screaming underwater. You see the light at top of the water and exhaust yourself fighting to pierce through its veil.

The first episode was the most terrifying. You have no idea what is happening to you. You feel like you’ve literally lost your mind. You want to sleep forever and wake up to everything being normal again. The irony is, you’re now living your new normal. There will be hours upon hours of intensive therapy as you work toward healing your broken pieces. There are countless antidepressants you can take to numb yourself, but the reality is no one pill can “cure” your depression. That’s like putting a tiny bandage over the wound of someone who just had open heart surgery and hoping they don’t bleed out. Depression is a hard fought battle that you visit time and again. For me, my faith, family, friends, and insatiable will to fight have been the pillars to my conquering this beast. My prayer mantra is always Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. There were countless nights I fell asleep reciting this mantra and singing the children’s song “Jesus Loves Me” as a way of calming my anxiety.

I have encountered several bouts of depression and anxiety since my first diagnosis. They've come less and less over the years and have gotten easier to conquer but they are grueling nonetheless. I’ve learned to lean deeper into prayer and meditation and reach out to my friends in complete vulnerability to ask their support. My good friend David Grant Wright, while kindly nursing me through an episode last summer, said, “It’s like an old friend who taps you on the shoulder to remind you of their presence. You look back, smile and say, ah, you again. Yes, we've danced this dance before and I’ve got this”. 

For all my fellow warriors facing the ugly beast that is depression, never give up. Never lay down your sword and never retreat. No matter how much pain you are experiencing, how weary you get or how frightened and hopeless you feel. No matter how many tears you’ve cried or how scorching the heat of battle gets, never, ever give up. Fight with every fiber of your being and know that you have what it takes to slay the dragon before you. Know that you are not alone. You stand shoulder to shoulder with other combatants who are fighting the same fight. Know that every wound you take to your armor is so the light can shine through when you finally win the battle. 

For me, depression is one chapter in the many wonderful chapters that are my life story. It weaves its way into other chapters but it is not the entire book and I refuse to let it be the main character.  

I thank God for allowing me to wake up in my own bed this morning healthy, happy and depression free. I thank Him for always having his hand of protection and grace over me, even in my darkest of hours. I thank Him for the scars and learnings along the way. I thank Him for being my strength when I wanted to drop my sword and run. I thank Him for always whispering in my ear that I am not alone. Most importantly, I thank Him for nineteen years of hard fought but sweet victory!