Tag Archives: addiction

Anger that burned deep.

Hello again! It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another testimony about overcoming emotional difficulties.  I don’t have another person lined up, so I am going to dish on myself.  So here we go…

It’s kinda tough to pick just one experience that I’ve had in the past 22 years that highlights an emotional difficulty that I have overcome because a) there are so many, and b) they are all interconnected which makes them complex and difficult to articulate clearly.

I have mentioned that my mother was an addict.  Her last addiction was prescription painkillers, which ended up taking her life in a (presumably) accidental overdose.  She was secretive about her addiction, and it was not immediately obvious to me because I had no knowledge about addiction during my childhood.  However, the symptoms of her addiction problem were usually at the forefront of her parenting because she was either at best confusing, or, at worst, abusive.

For example, my mother would periodically become very angry with the rest of the family.  Why she was angry with us was almost always a mystery.  One of the confusing things she would do during these random periods of mystery anger was to not let my sister and I do the weekly cleaning.  She would storm around, bang things, with a face screwed up in anger doing the cleaning.  I would feel awkward and strange.  I was afraid to say anything to mother for fear of upsetting her further.  Richelle and I walked around as if the floor was made of nails (sharp side up) while giving each other furtive looks of confusion and despair.  After a few hours of this, I would be practically begging for her to let me do the cleaning.  Anything to ease the stress and tension I felt.  Then, just as mysteriously, she would get over it.  Very occasionally there was some kind of discussion that really didn’t make any sense or have anything to do with reality.

As a child, these sorts of events caused confusion and fear.  This started embers burning in my soul that would smolder into my adulthood.  As I began working through the hurts of my childhood in counseling, I began to see my mother’s transgressions with anger, hurt, disappointment, and frustration.  These emotions ignited the long- burning embers from adolescence into raging flames.  It took a lot of years, and work, before I could even consider forgiving my mother.

For me, forgiving my mother meant giving up the right to be angry with her.  And believe me, I had felt I had every right to be angry with her for her transgressions.  I think some of you may even agree with me.  However, if unleashed, my anger could be a destructive force that wreak havoc in most areas in life.  I was deeply invested in my rights.  So much so, that God, in His infinite wisdom, had to work every angle to help me to see that holding things against my mother was actually holding myself prisoner to my own anger.  He had some pretty huge mountains to move.  Fiery, raging, burning volcanos. He showed me that I would be paying the consequences for my for my self-righteous attitude, like so much volcanic ash.  I would end up psychologically and spiritually dead, like those poor people on Pompeii.

As God labored to show me the truth, the light began breaking through my eyes, which were tightly shut against it.  Truth always stand the test of time, regardless of what we think or feel about it.  I eventually knew I had a choice to make.  On one hand, my right to be angry with my mother, on the other, forgiving her and moving on.  Forgiving her meant giving up my rights, but it also meant freedom.  Freedom from the burdens of pain.  Freedom from the consequences of my choices.  Freedom to live life to it’s fullest.

As you can probably guess, I chose to give up my rights.  And, indeed, I felt freer.  The rage no longer held me captive, torturing me incessantly, burning me from the inside out.

Today, I mostly look on my relationship with my mother regret and sadness, but, I am (mostly) not angry.  If she were still alive, I might even attempt to have a relationship with her, which is saying something.

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Now, it’s your turn… Do you have something you overcame that you would like to share with the rest of the world?

Testimonial Tuesday by Richelle Knapp (my sis)

It’s time again for another installment of Testimonial Tuesday.  I am the oldest of four, and my sister is the second oldest.  She and I have been through a lot together.  Although we had different experiences and perceptions of our childhood experiences, we have been on a similar journey.  Each individual step in our journeys is invariably linked to the other person’s.  My sister describes a part of her journey in overcoming her difficulties.  So without further, I give to you my sister Richelle Knapp…

As I was growing up, my mother was hard to figure out, to say the least. She was very mean to me and my siblings most of the time. But other times, she was really nice and fun to be around. She singled me out for a period of physical abuse. She was a drug addict. She did not really know how to raise children.

I don’t think she intended to be this way. I don’t think she set out to abuse drugs. But her background was a big part of it. Her family was a mess with alcoholic parents. She and her siblings were ripped apart when she was very young. She was largely a victim of circumstance. But sadly she did become an addict. She was always in a deep grip of denial about her addiction.

Her life impacted mine in deep and profound ways. Everything that happened to her and to me as a result of her problems and our relationship resonated for years even after her death. When she passed it took me a while to figure out that I was not mourning her death, but her life. After her passing, I had many emotional and mental problems. I was losing touch with reality and regressing back to my childhood. I was having almost constant anxiety attacks.  I was also having flashbacks of things I did not understand. I had a vague feeling of ongoing fear and even terror at times. My poor husband went through it all with me and was my main support. I could not figure out how to function. I could not work or do much of anything else. My emotions were in constant upheaval. One day I would be okay, and the next I could not get out of bed. I was lost in a sea of mental and emotional problems, and I was drowning.

When things got really bad, my sister ended up coming out to help me. She brought me back to her house to stay for a month and to begin to get me the help that I needed.  I went through something called inner healing.  Inner healing is a way in which God is able to come in and make significant changes to a person’s spiritual landscape. I had Dissociative Integrative Disorder. Through the inner healing, process  God revealed the fragments of my psyche and integrated them back together again. When it was over, I felt whole for the first time in a long time. But I also felt very fragile, as if I could break very easily again.

Later in the year, I came in contact with a woman who was instrumental in helping me to become stronger emotionally, and mentally. During the time she counseled me, we did certain exercises to help me to better understand what was going with me. I realized I still blamed my mother for the majority of the problems in my life. I realized that I had not forgiven her for just about everything. One of the most important exercises we did was called The Vault. My counselor had me talk through a list of things I had made in a previous meeting that had to do with my life. I had to decide what I wanted to “keep” so that I could deal with it still, and what I wanted to “lock” in the vault and move on from. As I worked through the list I could feel myself suddenly getting lighter and lighter emotionally. It was a significant time for me, a real turning point. I left that session feeling completely different. I felt very nearly completely healed. It was finally a new beginning for me. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

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I am 38 years old. I have been happily married for over 4 years. I live in Bear, DE with my husband. I believe that anything can be overcome if you are willing to do whatever it takes; if you are willing to do the hard stuff to be healed and ultimately be free.

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So, tell  me, do you want to write about so something you have overcoming?

The post in which I cut enablers some slack. Sort of.

As the result of my “fat cats are fat because they are lazy post”, someone suggested that Fluffy has an owner, or as my friend called the owner, an enabler. And the enabler is to blame.  My response to that is, well, yes, and no.

(side note: Fluffy is a cat.  Fluffy cannot be responsible for herself.  Fluffy’s owner is definitely to blame.)

So, let’s define what an enabler is according to my friend, and yours, the New Oxford American Dictionary:

enable |enˈābəl|verb [ trans. ]give (someone or something) the authority or means to do something : the evidence would enable us to arrive at firm conclusions.

  •  [ trans. ] make possible: a number of courses are available to enable an understanding of a broad range of issues.
  •  [ trans. ] chiefly Computing make (a device or system) operational; activate.

The term enabler is particularly prevalent when dealing with addicts.  And I’m not just talking about drugs and alcohol.  I’m talking about any behavior pattern that serves as a buffer or as numbing agent against psychological pain.

An enabler is someone who gives someone else the authority or means to do something.  In other words, you want candy, an enabler will buy you candy.  They do this for many different reasons.  Some enablers enable addictive behavior because they want to keep the peace.  Some like feeling like they have power over someone else.  Some enable because they feel they have no choice.  Some enable because they feel special and important.  And the list goes on.

The impression I get from hearing other people talk about enablers is that the enabler is to blame for the addict’s problems.  “If only Tom would stop enabling Carrie’s behavior she would stop”  is rather rampant idea.

I believe that is only half true.

In my humble opinion, enabler’s are not solely to blame.  Enabling behavior is only half of the picture.  Here is what enablers are actually doing:

  • Encouraging bad behavior (directly, or indirectly)
  • Supporting bad behavior
  • Helping bad behavior
  • Making it easier for the addict to engage in addictive behavior

Notice I didn’t say that enablers are forcing the addict to engage in addictive behavior.  Because, it’s still the addicts choice.  They still  can choose to do what they want to do.  The addict is allowing the enabler to enable.

I believe enablers and addicts are in a symbiotic relationship.  Each feeds the other BS in a cyclical manner.  Both suffer equally from their sick behavior with similar delusions.  In other words, the enabler and the addict are both to blame.

Encouraging an enabler to stop enabling is still the right thing to do.  They should stop.  But that will only take care of half of the problem.  Be aware the addict will still engage in addictive behavior whether an enabler helps or not.

So, encourage the enablers in your life to stop enabling.   Show them how their behavior is hurting themselves and the person they are enabling.  And, hope for the best

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So tell me, how have  you encourage others to stop enabling?

Climbing up out of the miry pit of depression

I remember reading a book, a work of fiction, that described a battle between two kingdoms.  The good king was defeated in battle.  One of his son’s was killed.  As punishment for being defeated, he was chained to the dead body of his son front to front, and left there to die.  Sorry.  I know that’s pretty gruesome, but I wanted you to get my point.

This is how depression can be for me.  Chained to a dead part of myself, wishing release would come for me.  It’s like living with one foot in the land of the dead, and one foot in the land of the living.  It is a half-life lived in terror of truly sinking into death.

Some days, I just want to be left alone.  Scratch that.  MOST days I just want to be left alone.  I want to be left alone to think and drown in my own pool of misery.  Me, myself, and I like our little pity parties.  I can get pretty grumpy if it goes too far.  I don’t get much done.  I hid and avoid like the best of them.  I become an emotional couch potato.

But life happens all around me, whether I like it or not.  My son still comes to me in the morning for snuggles and kisses.  He looks to me to succor and support him in these tender years.  He wants me to interact on a deeper level than I’d like to sometimes.  It’s not that I don’t love him, it’s that I sometimes I feel like an empty well: I have nothing to give.  It’s not fair to him to give him my scraps, and then hope he turns out okay.  He may later resent me for “not being there.”

My husband needs support too.  At our best, we reciprocate life to one another.  We share in the deep bonds of marriage.  Empty wells have not much to give into that sort of thing.  Not to mention friends, church, commitments, and so on.  Like I said, life happens, whether I like it or  not.

Some days it’s all I can do to focus on what’s going on around me.  Some days it’s all I can do not feel utter despair and hopelessness.  Some days  it’s hard to believe that life can be better than it currently is for me.  Some days, death would be easier than taking one more step up my metaphorical mountain.

Every day is struggle.  I have to make a choice.  I  have to choose life, or choose to be half-dead, or choose to be all dead.  It’s up to me.  ‘Cause you see, I believe there’s more to life than this.  I believe it can get better.  I believe I can be free of this some day.

Depression is one of the toughest things to overcome.  Depression turns in on itself and becomes an out-of-control tumbleweed of despair, loneliness, and hopelessness growing bigger and stronger day-by-day.  The more you see life through this lens, the more things look bad.  The more things look bad, the more depressed you feel.  It feeds on itself.  It grows exponentially.  One might think there is no way to overcome depression.

They would be wrong.

There are a variety of ways that to overcome depression.  My best, and first action, is get on anti-depressant when it is so bad I cannot see my way out.  I am chronically under-produce serotonin.  Prozac helps to keep serotonin in my synapses longer.  Next, is to seek out some kind of therapy.  Usually, I go to various counselors in my church for spiritual guidance and prayer.  Then, with the help of God and others, I keep working out why I am depressed in the first place.  I keep working at it till I feel good enough to come off the Prozac.  You can choose to manage your depression without medication or therapy.  But you have to be strong-willed to keep yourself at check.  You need to have a strong goal in mind.

These days, I have attempted to produce more serotonin by exercising regularly.  This method seems to be going okay, but I don’t recommend it for those who are inexperienced at managing depression.

Some people meditate.  I pray, which is a form of meditation.  I need to connect with my Divine Healer, with my Source of Life, with the Author of My Salvation.  Right now, Jesus is my Prozac.  I go to God, the same way, my son comes to me.  I seek succor and strength to keep on keeping on when the mountain seems to steep today.

Some people overeat (like me), attempting to fill their hole with food, especially food that falsely replaces the missing neurotransmitters (this is why people like chocolate so much when they are sad).  Some people drink alcohol, some do drugs.  Some have lots of sex.  These aren’t methods that I recommend.  They are false prophets that fill your mind with false goodness.  And it never lasts.  And it just reproduces negativity and despair.

Sometimes I use self-talk to snap myself out of my thick, soupy fog.  Quoting scripture to myself works for me.  Particularly Psalm 42 and the famous Psalm 23.  I literally talk myself out of depression.

Depression can be overcome.  Slowly, steadily, and surely.  Someday, I will get there.

You just have to choose to overcome…and get to work.

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How do you manage your depression?

You can stay in your little self-imposed prison, or not.

I was going to write something further about isolation, but that has fizzled out.  Sorry for the sudden left turn, but I have to go where there is  inspiration.  I was preening my ego (hey, when you  have an audience of 1, don’t tell me you don’t need an ego boost to keep on keeping on) by reading over my previous 7 posts.

As promised, I am going to beat you with my “Tough Love” bat for just a little while.

I went back to my first post and found the term “your little self-imposed prison.”

As in, “YOU chained YOURSELF to this wall.”

As in, “You have the key to get out of there you silly person, so use it.”

As in, “It’s time to move on.”

As in, “Enough is enough.”

As in, “Your only kidding yourself that this is a good idea.”

Let me explain.

Stuff happens.  People hurt us.  We hurt people.  We learn from previous experiences to react in a certain way  to a set of circumstances that have familiar features.  For example, I have always had a tough time trusting men.  I sometimes feel threatened by men who seem to be flirting with me, especially if they are significantly older men.  I would give them dirty looks, I would feel the “fight or flight” hormones coursing through my veins, my stomach would hurt, my thoughts would swirl out of control, I would feel fear.  I learned not to trust older men because my father sexually abused me.  He could not be trusted in so many ways.  I learned to fear him because he caused me significant pain.  As a child, it is normal and natural to feel fear in these sorts of circumstances.  God  made our brains to cope with painful events in particularly helpful ways (i.e. dissociation).  But what about when I became an adult?  Was feeling fear actually helpful?  Did I need to worry about being hurt EVERY single time? Every flirting, older man does not mean to harm me.  Reacting with anger and fear every, single time this occurs is not helpful to me now.  Being cautious is good, but I don’t need to overreact.

At some point, I had a choice.   I could stay chained to this emotional response, if I wanted to.  After all, I am an adult and have the right to choose (you did know that, right?).  What are the ramifications to reacting with fear and anger in this situation? Well, let’s start with the physical:

  • Production of the feel good hormone “serotonin” is disrupted leading to depression.
  • The heart is strained and leads to heart disease
  • There is an increased risk for stroke
  • The immune system is suppressed and prone to causing an inflammatory response
  • The risk of cancer is increased
  • Gastrointestinal issues arise such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Peptic Ulcers, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Eating disorders can develop which leads to weight gain, anorexia, or bulimia
  • Diabetes can develop
  • Body aches can develop
  • Sleep can be disturbed
  • Normal sexual function is disrupted
  • Memory, concentration, and learning is affected
  • Alopecia, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin disorders can get worse
  • Substance abuse can develop

(Information taken from an article located at University of Maryland Medical Center’s website)

Relationally, men in my life would constantly feel challenged and uncomfortable around me.  I would not develop any normal or healthy relationships with men.  Emotionally,  I would constantly pay the price for my poor choices.  I would be in constant state of turmoil.  I would always be uptight.

Out of an intense need for self-preservation, I could choose to live my life this way.

I could choose to be chained to my little prison of fear and anger.

Or, I could choose to take my key, unlock my fetters, and walk out of there.

I could choose change.

Change in how I approach relationships with the men in my life.

Work on being calmer around men in general.

Not give dirty looks to men.

Not overreact.

Not feel an adrenaline rush every single time.

How does one do this?

  • First you start by believing that you can change.
  • Decide that change is what you want.
  • Talk to yourself about this.
  • Talk to others.
  • Talk to God (if you believe in a helping God, like me).
  • Look for resources.
  • Work at it.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Understand the truth of the situation.
  • Use your critical thinking skills.
  • Remind yourself you wanted this change…

Believe me, unchaining yourself and moving on is the best thing for you!

Okay, I’m done beating you now.  Feel better?

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Be honest, are your chained up in your own little prison?

Telling My Story… My Mother

My relationship with and my feelings towards my mother are complicated.  Honestly, she was not a very good mother.  In fact, I’d say she was was a terrible mother.  It would be easy to just stop there and just hate her.  Jesus won’t let me just hate her, hence the complicated feelings.  My mother had it just as bad, or worse, as I did growing up.  According to her story, her father abused her.  He was also an alcoholic as was her mother.  I never knew my grandparents, so I cannot attest to what kind of people they were.  But, I don’t have any reason to doubt her story.

My mother just couldn’t deal with life.  She was alcoholic, adulterer, and a drug addict.  My mother was overbearing, confusing, mean, and selfish.  I never knew if I was coming or going with her.  I never really knew if she loved me or not.  She didn’t believe me I talked about the abuse that happened with my father.  She claims she didn’t know or notice anything.

When I was 19, I had met a man that was strong and tall and cared about my safety, or at least I thought so at the time.  My mother threatened to to hit me one day, so I left with this man’s help.  For the next 14 years, I kept myself separate from my mother.  I tried for one year in the  middle, until things went south again and I split.

Then my mother overdosed on opiate based painkiller about 8 years ago.  This was quite a shock and started the present journey I am on trying to cope with both the relief I feel at her death, and the sadness that I feel because I was never able to reconcile with her.

So now, even after all these years, I still feel have confused and complicated feelings.

God wants me to forgive my mother, over and over again.  He wants me to let go of my past and try to feel empathy towards my mother’s plight.  He wants me to heal from the wounds.

So, I keep pushing forward and keep trusting that He knows best, because, well, He does know best.

Some day, perhaps, my feelings won’t be so complicated.