Becoming Clean, The Sober Series: Michelle Smith

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‘There’s so much glamour to the wine culture. The truth is that wine isn’t so classy when you can’t stop drinking it.’ -MS 

Michelle Smith is almost four years sober and has made it her mission to spread awareness and break the stigma around mental illness and substance abuse.

A mental health and addictions counselor in Vancouver, Washington, she can relate easily to those she assists, having struggled with alcohol addiction and depression in her past.

“I started experimenting with alcohol in college. It was very much a take it or leave it relationship. After the birth of my second child, my mother passed away. I was faced with financial hardships and diagnosed with postpartum depression. It was an extremely vulnerable time where I was susceptible to addiction taking power in my life.
Alcohol was a coping tool I began using to deal with the most difficult time in my life. It was a very slow and progressive tool. Once I stopped using my coping skills to manage my feelings and emotions towards the loss, depression, and financial struggles, the alcohol was what took it’s place.
My relationship with alcohol got really bad when I hid my drinking so I would not be held accountable or nagged due to my increased amount and frequency of alcohol intake. My secrets kept me sick. I truly believed I was all alone and no one could relate.

 

After a few years of trying to moderate and regulate my drinking I was unsuccessful. After my fourth hospital admission for alcohol poisoning with a .43 blood alcohol level, Child Protective Services were called and I surrendered and accepted help. I went to a women’s residential treatment facility.”

 

Part of Michelle’s mission includes shedding some light on the increasingly normalized social pairing of wine and parenting.  She feels it is time to change the narrative around motherhood and alcohol.

 

“Wine has practically become the must-have accessory for modern motherhood. The craze seems to be everywhere: ‘Mommy’s juice’ cups, ‘It’s wine o’clock’ rustic farmhouse signs, and ‘Mommy needs a drink’ tee shirts. We’ve all read and probably laughed at memes about needing a drink in order to cope as a parent.

 

I’m guilty of being on board with the Mommy needs wine culture until I stopped drinking, I saw it for what it is. It’s hugely problematic and dangerous to those genuinely struggling to keep it together and get the help they need. Alcohol seems to be the only drug we need to justify not taking, which is ridiculous! Many mother’s aren’t given permission to admit they’re struggling with life.”

 

Today, Michelle regularly volunteers on the crisis lines and is a motivational speaker at various treatment centers and sober women meet-ups.  Due to high demand, she has extended her reach to working with women virtually as a mental health and addictions councillor. Her passion is to provide women with recovery coaching.

 

“Your secrets will keep you sick. No one is immune and addiction doesn’t discriminate. Don’t give up before the miracle happens. With every relapse is a lesson. Take the lesson and use it to strengthen your recovery moving forward. Mistakes in recovery are inevitable. It’s proof were trying and that there’s another way of doing things. You are not alone. There are so many women struggling and we’re stronger together.”

Michelle has a private Facebook group for women called ‘Recovery is the New Black’. It is a secure, safe, and non-judgmental platform for women who are curious about sobriety, contemplating sobriety, and in active recovery. Michelle provides private 1:1 coaching, self-study programs, and runs a sobriety apparel line.

She does a lot of guest and motivational speaking in her community.

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‘It’s been a wild ride, but I did it and I will never stop showing other mamas they can too.’-MS 

Website: http://www.recoveryisthenewblack
Instagram: recoveryisthenewblack_

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The Kamloops Jazz Vespers, Enriching Worship With Jazz

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‘Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones recently described playing a beautiful cymbal as like having a conversation with it. There is such a deep and mysterious beauty attached to playing music.’ -RG

Kamloops man, Rob Gretsinger, has been drumming for 34 years.  He grew up playing different instruments and singing with his family.  He’s played in many bands and even recorded CD’s.  Currently he is the drummer for a small, talented group called the Kamloops Jazz Vespers.

‘Vespers’ means ‘evening prayer service’. An important element of the Vespers service is that it is not a performance, rather it is an offering. There is an interplay between the sermon and the music.

The Kamloops Jazz Vespers first started in 2015, their inspiration taken from a Jazz Vespers service at St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church in Vancouver.

The core group of four musicians bring a mass of musical talents together to provide an experience that can inspire and work with the readings and reflections the Reverend Bruce Comrie offers at the Kamloops United Church.

I asked three members of the group to talk about the spiritual significance behind their playing at these services:
“The spiritual significance for myself with the Vespers is that I find drumming to be a meditative experience in many situations. Without trying to sound too ‘spacey’, I love to get lost in the ‘texture’ of the sounds that I’m playing. It is very difficult to understand.

Playing in a band, and in particular jazz, is really like a conversation. Hopefully, if I’m sensitive, I will know when to ‘speak’ and when to give room for other musicians to ‘speak’. The biggest part of playing music for me is ‘listening’. I offer my little meditative section with some gongs or singing bowls each time. Gongs are such rich, wonderful instruments that really cater to meditative purposes.

I feel my level of technique has occasionally been limited but I try to bring a lot of ‘texture’ to bridge the gap. It just happens that the ‘texture’ my equipment provides seems to facilitate a very spiritual, meditative feeling for me. I hope it translates to the listener.” – Rob Gretsinger

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“In my opinion, an important component of spirituality is connectedness – the state of feeling connected with one’s emotional self, others, and a higher power. When I sing with the Jazz Vespers, I not only feel an emotional connection to the song I am singing, but I feel a connection with the other musicians, members of the audience, and a power greater than myself.” – Natalie Paul, guest vocalist

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“That is a tough question. Playing music has always had a huge impact on me in every form, Jazz especially. Jazz is music based on improvisation and freedom. Being able to express this, with spiritual intent and Bruce’s teaching, has taught me a lot. The music and teachings bring all of us closer to what we are looking for in our lives and in the church.” -Alexander Ward, Bassist

 

The musicians are hoping to start up the Vespers services again in the fall of 2019. The services are open to all. They are quite short and aim to provide a really nice balance between a spoken reflection and jazz music.

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‘There is a rich history within jazz of artists combining spiritual themes with jazz music. It is a great honor to play jazz in a context that, for me, pays tribute to so many great legends. We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.’-RG

 

For more information, click here: https://kamloopsunited.ca/tag/jazz-vespers

 

 

Becoming Clean, The Sober Series: Elizabeth Rayne

elizabeth3‘My name is… not Elizabeth Rayne. The name of my past is one I have intentionally vacated. Like many of the garbage filled crack dens of my past, I vacated this name via midnight move style. This name I have come to resent and destroy however was not always ugly.’-ER 

Elizabeth was born in the summer of 1990 in southern Alberta.  When she was young, her parents separated and she and her older brother and younger sister were left in the care of their mother.

The situation was difficult and being the middle child wasn’t easy for Elizabeth. She had suffered some childhood trauma as well, so by the time she was 14-years-old she was really struggling with poor mental health.  To add to the stress, there was a male in her life who was abusing her.

“At the age of 14, I sang in public for the first time. I sang Concrete Angel by Martina McBride. It was a silent scream for my mother to help me, one that was easily missed. At Christmas the following year I packed a bag and for the first time I ran away.

There was a person in my life who was tormenting me. I didn’t know how to talk about what I was going through. I didn’t know if anyone was going to believe me if I did. My tormentor repeated to me frequently, ‘if you tell people we will both get in trouble’, and ‘no one will believe you if you do’.”

At 16 Elizabeth attempted to move back home but did not feel comfortable there. It was during this time she discovered she was pregnant.

“One day my poor sweet mother did the most selfless act of love. She allowed me to move into foster care in attempt to help me be happier. Again, I could not bring myself to feel settled. I chalked this up to the fetus residing in my womb that I so grudgingly resented. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was pregnant and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I took my bag and moved on, starting my cycle of wandering.

I then moved in with a drug dealer and fell victim to the illusion that these drugs would make me feel happy. Eventually, I came to birth my poor baby against my will by cesarean during an overdose. I never even got to hear her cry. The hospital staff removed her from the building, closed adoption, and she was gone from my life with no chance of her return.”

Soon after this, Elizabeth met a man who took her clubbing and drinking.  The relationship was short lived. By this time she had spent four years repeatedly moving from place to place. She found herself in the mall in Lethbridge, emotionally torn between two new men. She discovered she was pregnant for the second time.

“At age 18 I can recall sitting in the mall wondering where my life was going. I couldn’t seem to get high anymore and as a result my thoughts kept swallowing me whole. Then the overwhelming urge to eat onion rings hit me.  I rushed to the pharmacy in the mall and quickly stole several pregnancy testers off a shelf, shoved them in my purse, and bolted back to the food court washrooms. I fought with myself about what feelings were inside of me. I wanted to be angry but I was mostly afraid. I didn’t want to be a mother… or did I?

I sat looking at my belly with tears in my eyes. The father I knew was not anyone that could raise a child so I was on my own. I vowed to protect the fetus and emptied the paraphernalia from my purse into the trash can and headed home to move.”

In December 2010, Elizabeth gave birth to a healthy boy and fell in love with a man from a different country. The couple then had a baby girl and got married.  They had more children.  But there were big challenges for the couple.  There was a difficult miscarriage. There was an ongoing battle with Canadian Immigration Services. There were language barriers that led to arguments.  And Elizabeth was still struggling with her inability to feel settled.

“We moved a lot because I couldn’t settle. We never unpacked because I needed to be able to leave on a whim, and ultimately I was still living in my addict head trying to figure out how to be happy. In the end it led to my relapse, my husband’s deportation, the loss of my kids, another failed relationship with a younger man, another child, and finally that place we all go to eventually….. rock freaking bottom.
All I wanted was to be happy. As me and my children all sat in a visit one day someone started to cry causing the family floodgates to open. I sat with my children all laying in my lap with tears rolling down their faces and I began to weep. It was too much…. too much pain…. too much trauma….. just….. too much.

My daughter looked up at me with tears in her eyes and asked if I was crying. My response was answered with a statement that changed my life forever. As my sweet baby wiped the tears from my face she choked back her own tears and said ‘it’s ok mom, it’s not your fault’. In that moment I realized what I was rejecting from my life. I knew that all the drugs, alcohol, money, whatever in the world meant nothing without love.

That day I set out on my greatest wander yet. Upon examination of my past I began to relive my relapse and recovery cycle. I needed to figure out why I kept relapsing, and finally decided that every time I tried to cope using group meetings I got thinking about the negativity of my past and became unhappy and went back to not coping. I was in a cycle of abuse with myself!

I wondered how many addicts were suffering in this self abuse cycle and decided if you can retrain where you part your bangs you can retrain what’s up in your brain. Using the teachings of AA, Prince EA, and Dr. Wayne Dyer I reprogrammed my brain and my daily patterns of thinking, not only to give love but also to be able to receive it. I made a self promise to help other people end the cycle of self abuse.

I am currently writing my own 12 step guide ‘The 12 Steps to Pure and Peaceful Living’. I am looking to have it published soon and I will be starting POP (power of positivity) meetings in Kelowna in July. I intend to help those suffering from chronic negativity to be able to gain some communication skills and perspective to help the chronically unhappy people become chronically happy and hopefully increase sobriety rates within the community.

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‘I reprogrammed my brain and my daily patterns of thinking, not only to give love but also to be able to receive it. I made a self promise to help other people end the cycle of self abuse.’-ER 

To read Elizabeth’s blog and see what she is up to, click here! https://www.facebook.com/Power-of-Positivity-Recovery-Edition-2383927385265358/

Kamloops Man, Darrin Rein, is raising awareness of Spinocerebellar Ataxia

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‘Everything is an obstacle when you have Ataxia! But I will keep knocking those obstacles down!’-DR

Born and raised in Kamloops, BC, Darrin Rein is a professional computer geek by trade. He also writes a blog and enjoys watching and playing sports.  But what makes Darrin  unique is his medical condition, Spinocerebellar Ataxia, something he has been living with for years, though his formal diagnosis was recent.

If you are like me, you may be asking, ‘spino – what?’.  Well who better is there than Darrin himself to explain this somewhat rare and hard-to-diagnose condition?

“My condition specifically, Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA) is one of the more common forms and it has over 40 different types. As of now I don’t know specifically which I have and until recently I didn’t even know that they categorized them. I intend to find out!

There is no cure for any form of Ataxia. There is genetic testing that is used to determine which type you have.

 
The disease presents itself differently for everyone and at different ages. Some people are confined to a wheelchair while others can manage with walkers or canes. Speech is usually slurred. It is basically the deterioration of the most basic of motor function. If you didn’t know most would probably think we are drunk out of our minds.

 
The condition is genetic. In my case I inherited the disease from my mother. I know of one other sister who has the condition and a couple of cousins who all live in Saskatchewan. I have three other siblings, one of which is my twin brother (not identical) who are older than I am but none of them are showing any symptoms. So I guess I hit the gene pool lottery!

Apparently there is a 50 percent chance of passing the disease on, but if you don’t pass it on, you can’t pass it onto your children. So naturally my biggest fear is passing the disease onto my daughter (age 23).

 
The limitations suck! I used to love snowboarding, golfing, mountain biking, and hiking. I lived and worked at Sun Peaks for about four years, and I still consider it my home away from home. I no longer have the balance or coordination to do any of those things. I can’t run or jump. Stairs are my enemy. Getting up is still possible, and getting down works but I just go very slowly.

There are a lot of us who have serious visual problems with Diplopia (double vision) or nystagmus (uncontrollable eye movement). I can still drive, but I got a feeling that will be over in the next year or two.”

Despite the many challenges he faces each and every day, and the slow, unpredictable loss of activities he once enjoyed, Darrin seems to be positive.  He is motivated to spread awareness of the condition.  According to his research, Ataxia is not well researched and statistics are far from clear.

“We do not have access to a medical registry with patient information but according to some scientific estimates there could be 16 000 Ataxia patients across Canada. That’s like 2%. It makes me wonder how many cases out there are going undiagnosed. Many people get misdiagnosed so this really brings me back to awareness.”

For Darrin, raising awareness means sharing his story on his blog (address linked at bottom) and participating in MS fundraisers and walks.  Why MS?  Because according to Darrin, the symptoms of MS and Parkinsons are very similar; Darrin feels connected to those living with these diseases and wants to help advocate for them too.

 

“The blog is more of an outlet for me, I don’t consider myself a writer or anything remotely close! It used to be for friends only, then I started conversing with others online worldwide who have a similar condition and they want me to make it public.

The one thing I would really like to do is start a conversation about this condition, but it never ever goes that way. I often get this feeling that people who read these blogs must think I’m an attention seeking whore. Nobody has ever said that to me, it’s just how I feel.

Lately, I have done more research than ever, and I have joined a support group online which was suggested to me. Since joining the group I have learned so much just about my SCA and I hear from others about their triumphs and obstacles.

One of the things that is repeated in the group is awareness. The awareness out there needs to improve. Try going to an ER and telling the triage nurse you have Spinocerebellar Ataxia? Well as you know clear speech is not our forte.

My condition can often be misdiagnosed for MS or Parkinsons disease. Many of the symptoms are the same. So I stand with everyone who is battling with MS and also stand with anyone who has a debilitating condition/disease whether it is neurological, spinal or not.

I understand the struggles that you all deal with every day, the frustrations of a body that does not want to comply with the simplest of tasks. I believe that everyone who struggles every day needs to be recognized.”

darrin3‘Everything is an obstacle to people with Ataxia and we just need to keep knocking those obstacles down until everyone listens. Keep on fighting!’-DR

 

To connect with Darrin, read more about this condition, or contribute your own experiences, please check out his blog at https://whatdawhat.blogspot.com

 

Becoming Clean, The Sober Series: Stacey Gagnon

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‘I stand here today as a mother, a friend, a business owner and a recovering drug addict. I list that one last because it is only a portion of me; I am so much more… I always was. I just needed to ask for help and to be reminded of that again.’ – SG
Raised in Kamloops, BC, Stacey Gagnon is fairly well known in her town. She is the owner of 4 Seasons Landscaping, a busy company that does lawn and garden care in the warmer months and snow removal in the colder ones.

But behind the smiling blue eyes and smart business demeanor is a woman with a rough past and an inspiring story of courage and recovery:

“I started using because I was tired and wanted to be able to go out… but I was an addict long before that. I started with Barbies (don’t laugh). I had to have them all, one wasn’t good enough. Then I moved on to sports… I had to be good and practiced constantly, did whatever it took to play more and be better. Then it was being a mother. I had to have the cleanest house with the yummiest cookies and the coolest crafts.

More and better. That’s the way it worked and still sometimes works for me today.

I remember it all like it was yesterday. It’s not the type of thing that ever really leaves you. It’s always there in the back of your mind. I was sitting there in my kitchen, like so many other days before: alone, sleep deprived, heavily self-medicated, and broken.
Although this was a bit of a recurring pattern for me, it was somehow different. I could feel so deeply within me that if I didn’t stop using, I was going to die (and maybe even a small part of me wished I would because anything was better than the hollow feeling I felt inside).

But I could feel something else there, that was more comfortable for me. It was a voice ever so quiet and reassuring, coming from within me and telling me ‘just one more Stace, go ahead, one more won’t hurt, you might as well’. This is how the narrative always seemed to go.

For four more days this went on, until I was finally brought to my knees in complete desperation. I resorted to self harming and that’s what snapped me into taking some steps. I didn’t want to be high sitting in a bathroom cutting my legs. It wasn’t what I was born to do.

I felt so much shame and guilt for the woman who stared back at me in the mirror. I was done. I say that to say this, in my weakest moment, came the most courageous thing I have EVER done. I phoned my mom and I asked for help. I’ll say it again: I ASKED FOR HELP.

This moment of surrender was both the scariest and most assured moment that I have ever felt all at the same time. I was truly in a place I had never been before, stepping out of an aimless life into the beginning of a journey that led me to a program that saved my life.

I began to learn how to let go of the old me gently while learning how to forgive, trust, and love myself again. I learned the subtlety of progress and began to grow and heal. I was enlightened by the strength of those around me who showed me the way to discover my own worth and dignity. My outlook on everything changed, and I began to see things so differently that everything else began to come into focus.”

Stacey’s six year clean date is coming up in June. She is sharing her story in hopes of inspiring others who are struggling with similar issues. She encourages everyone to reach out and ask for help, and to take life one day at a time.

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‘I would never change who I was or where I came from; it has shaped me into who I am today. Asking for help has allowed me to accept the beautiful mess that I am and I can look in the mirror and say I love this girl. If you struggle with anything: drugs, alcohol, weight, mental health, ANYTHING… I urge you to try something different.
Ask for help.’ – SG

Becoming Clean, The Sober Series: Dana Lee

 

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‘Throughout my life I have learned that finding true happiness within yourself is key. With finding happiness, you can heal your mind, body and soul. Take time each day to do something that makes you happy.’ -DL

27-year-old Kamloopsian, Dana Lee, has been battling an undiagnosed illness for her entire adult life. Though her friends and family have always been a healthy support system for her, there were times where Dana used drugs as a dangerous coping tool to numb the sadness and frustration that came with her illness.

Here she tells her story, hoping to let others who are living with chronic pain and illness know they are not battling alone.  Her story illuminates the link between illness and addiction.

 

“I was your typical teenager. I liked to go to parties on the weekends. I smoked cigarettes and drank beer, and wasn’t into the drug scene. When I turned 20 that all changed when I moved to a new city and the fun began! All of the typical party drugs became my best friend and I fell in love with them. During this time, my illness (that started when I was just 19) began to change. I experienced a range of symptoms that no one could figure out.

After spending almost two years away from home, I was hitting the point where the party wasn’t a party anymore. I was becoming frustrated with not knowing why I was sick, and soon that turned into a lifestyle. I moved back home and stopped using drugs for about four months, again, until my symptoms changed.

At this point I did not realize I was self medicating. I was using cocaine and drinking to do normal tasks like cleaning my room and doing chores. I did not like being sober. Being in my head with all my thoughts and feeling sad from being sick was not an option for me.

I was seeing doctor after doctor, getting test after test done, all the while drowning my sorrows with booze and cocaine. I drank until I fell asleep most nights because of the sheer sadness and anger I felt; no one could tell me why I was experiencing such an array of symptoms. I had lost yet another job. At this point I felt like I was going crazy.”

Dana’s illness and subsequent substance abuse kept progressing until, in February 2017, she went to rehab with the firm insistence of her parents.  She completed a 28 day program and left feeling alive and, in her words, ‘over confident’. She relapsed two months later.

“During this time, again my illness was changing and progressing. With no answers, I would stay clean and sober for a month here, a couple weeks there, three months here. I was trying new drugs, I was lying to every single person I new. I didn’t even recognize myself.

I was seeing more doctors during this time and becoming more frustrated.  I’ll never forget the day one doctor told me it was all in my head; I went home and got so hammered I fell flat on my face on someone’s driveway.

Since I was a small child I had been dealing with strange illness after strange illness. And now it was taking over my whole being. I hated myself. I felt scared, angry, sad, all the emotions. But I never let myself feel the happiness I knew was out there. Drugs and alcohol were ruining my life, and I knew if I didn’t make a serious change, I would probably die.”

Dana’s last relapse ended on December 23, 2017. She drank and used for four days straight, then detoxed over the holidays. She knows December 26 as her ‘sober date’.

“I realized that my illness wasn’t going anywhere but I did have control over my substance abuse. I had the strength in me all along to stop, but I wasn’t ready. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I was hurting myself the most. For so long I was worrying about everyone else and how they felt, never fully listening to my own being and doing what I needed to heal.

Once I allowed myself to take a step back and assess my life, I knew that I had to start taking responsibility for my actions. I stopped playing the ‘why me?’ card, and told myself I was better than that. I did a lot of shameful things during my addiction, things that weren’t really me. Today, I take all of the negative I experienced, turn it to a positive, and learn from it.”

Dana is still battling her illness and still without any answers. She is unable to work or even properly take care of herself.  She gets around with a wheelchair and/or a cane. She suffers from chronic pain. Yet despite this she claims she is the best version of herself.  She is currently helping a few fellow recovering addicts and hopes one day to become an addictions counsellor. She is soon to be doing a regular vlog to talk about addictions, living with chronic pain, and the use of medical marijuana as opposed to taking opioids.

 

“I know who I am for the first time in my life. I look at the beautiful things in life everyday.  I have become so strong mentally. I have become very in touch with my spiritual side, and that in itself has helped me heal. I strive to help others. I am very passionate about showing people how to take care of their minds, bodies, and souls.

Medical marijuana has saved my life and I want to spread my story on that.”

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‘To anyone who is still stuck in the cycle of addiction, do not be afraid to reach out. Ask for help, be honest with someone. If you can bring yourself to admitting you need guidance, you are stronger than you know. Admitting we have a problem is the first step to recovery. But we must figure out why, why are we putting ourselves through this? What small changes can we make to make each day just a little bit brighter? We do recover. And we are not alone.’ -DL

Becoming Clean, The Sober Series: Ryan Bourquin

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‘The greatest things in my life happened after I asked for help and told people how I was feeling, so my biggest piece of advice would be to reach out and communicate because there are more people in this world than we realize who are going through the same thing.’ – R.B.

Chef and published children’s book author, Ryan Bourquin, is speaking out about his experience with drug and alcohol abuse, and significantly, his journey to a sober, fulfilling life.

A very athletic guy, Ryan is currently living in Calgary where he can typically be found in the outdoors hiking and doing activities with his daughter.  The father and daughter duo stay busy with projects and spending time with friends and family.

But Ryan is also part of a few different campaigns that aim to promote mental health awareness and communication with families and children. For Ryan, the spiral into drugs and alcohol he experienced as a teenager was due in part to a lack of a father figure and a family that was often in turmoil. Here he shares some details:
“I always had my family around but communication, or at least positive communication, was always fairly nonexistent and because of this I never used proper outlets or coping mechanisms. I was always a very sensitive person and I had it put in my head that that was a weakness. So when things would happen in my life and I would experience hurt, I would turn towards drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, whether that pain was from childhood issues of abandonment or self-esteem issues that developed as I grew.

Along with hurting myself with my habits I started hurting everybody in my life with the choices I made around self-destruction. When I found drugs and alcohol I felt like I was somebody else other than the person who should have been facing the root causes of hurt and learning positive coping mechanisms.”

As he grew out of his teens, Ryan had periods of good healthy living as well as periods of alcohol abuse.  Like so many of us, he felt shame about his dangerous habits, which only pushed him to use more.  And like so many of us, the shame pushed him to keep his struggle a secret.

“Although I was very successful in my career and doing well I always hid who I was and the use of my habits, so many people in my life didn’t actually know what was going on behind the scenes regarding my struggles. I was constantly running away from who I was and how I felt.

I would have very good experiences with people in my life and then anytime something shifted I would turn back to my old habits and use just to temporarily forget about the hurt; I would always cause so much more pain and carnage during those times and it just kept adding up.”

Ryan wasn’t ready to face his destructive patterns head on until he entered his thirties.  The biggest motivators for personal accountability and change were the birth of his beautiful daughter and then, shortly after, the death of his beautiful mother.

“It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I really stopped running from who I was and started facing the things I went through. I dug down to who I was and what I went through beginning in my childhood all the way through my teens to actually discover what the root causes were of the things that I was running from.

After I lost my mom it made me realize how fragile life was and how much I was taking for granted and how selfish I was being with people in my life. It was a time where I felt so much remorse and guilt because there were so many things I always wanted to say and do and share and I never got the chance and then it was too late. I believe through this loss was the beginning of being able to heal and grow to who I am now.”

I was very curious to know how, after making the decision to get better, did he manage to put aside the dangerous habits for good?

“I got to a point in my life where I was tired of hurting and tired of running so I started going into counseling and into programs to discover who I was and how to heal myself.
I found it took only a few simple things to do: communicate with people around me, be completely honest with myself, and get the courage to look in the mirror and work on myself instead of others.

If I were to give any advice to anybody through anything I do it is to not run from emotions and be able to sit and understand why you are feeling the way you do and remember that it doesn’t last forever.
And if you get to a spot where the hurt is overwhelming, pick up a phone and contact somebody you care about and just express your emotions because I always thought that it would be an inconvenience to people to share what I was going through when I was hurting, but the truth is people who love you will always want to be there beside you.”

‘I wanted to have a life of happiness. And there was only one way to get there and that was healing and accepting who I was and realizing that I am a person deserving of love and happiness.’ R.B.

 

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Ryan is the author of Big Bad Dad, and Chef at Tailored Taste! You can follow him here on facebook and here on Instagram. For more information about the mental health awareness project he is part of click here Project Nightlight.