Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving and Self-Care

Last week, I began a three-part series on self care.  I spoke about how self-care can entail hard work at times.  This week, I wanted to talk about thanksgiving as self-care (how could I NOT?).

Now, before I explore this topic, I would like to say, "I understand".  I understand that the holidays can be filled with sadness; I understand that there are often tainted memories associated with these supposedly "happy" days; I understand that MANY of us are dealing with broken families - due to either our SA NOT being in recovery the way he should be (or at all), or the consequences of his acting out behaviors.  I do.  I understand.  

Which is why is it SO IMPORTANT for us to practice self-care during this time!  
One of my most favorite words is the word, "Intentional".  Intentional is defined as: done on purpose; deliberate.  Some synonyms are: conscious, intended, planned, willing, and purposeful.  Practicing self-care through thanksgiving is, in my opinion, most often an intentional activity.  Now, there are the times when we experience something so beautiful or wonderful, that we can't help but respond with gratitude.  However, MOST of the time, I believe it takes a conscious effort - "I will find things to be thankful for - even in the middle of this pit I am in!"  

The reason I see this as a powerful tool of self-care is that we can affect our own state of mind.  Thought patterns can be spiral - they can spiral downward, or they can spiral upward.  Thankfulness is a very potent way to stop the downward spiral, and change the trajectory of our thoughts, and therefore our emotions.  So even though we may or may not "feel like" being thankful, if we WILLINGLY choose to focus our thoughts on things we can be thankful for, our attitudes and feelings will fall in line with our will.  It may not change the circumstances happening in our lives, but it very well may change the way we perceive the entirety of our lives.  

Hear me, dear ones.  I'm not saying we should be thankful for the dark things in our lives - whatever they may be.  Nor am I saying we should dismiss or ignore the problems.  What I AM saying is that IF we can intentionally choose to shift our focus from the dark things, to the things we can be thankful for, we can dramatically effect how we feel about our life.  

Sometimes, all we can do is start with the small things: I'm thankful for a working central heater in my house when it's 35 degrees outside.  It wasn't that long ago that I took my family into the hills of Tecate, Mexico, and met families huddles together inside their house - A house with no electricity and no heat.  If that's where you are, and all you can find to be thankful for is hot water for your shower - then start there.  It's spiral.  Soon you'll be finding more and more things to be thankful for.  And soon, though there are dark things in life, the darkness will not seem so all-consuming.

So, this Thanksgiving, though this will be my first Thanksgiving in 16 years without my husband; though I miss my family in CA terribly, I have MUCH to be thankful for.  I share with you today a few of them.  May my sharing inspire your own thankfulness.

  • I am thankful for my faith.  It has been the rock that I've been able to stand on when everything else seemed to fall apart.
  • I am thankful for my kids.  There are more days that I can count that they were the reason I got out of bed and found the strength to face another day.
  • I am thankful for my son.  He is my unexpected gift; my joy and the apple of my eye. 
  • I am thankful for my daughter.  She is my special miracle; my delight and inspiration.
  • I am thankful for my parents.  They have been a fount of support without which I do not know how I would've made it these past few years. 
  • I am thankful that my mom is also one of my best friends. 
  • I am thankful for the quiet, yet seemingly unshakable strength of my dad; I know I am loved by him.
  • I am thankful for my sister-in-law that lives close to me.  The love and laughter that she has brought into my life has both surprised and delighted me. She has become one of my dearest friends.
  • I am thankful for in-laws that are loving, kind, and supportive.  I am FULLY aware of how amazing they are, and how much of a gift it is to have the relationship with them that I do. 
  • I am thankful for a job that allows me to be home with my kids in the evenings, and do things like go to my daughter's volleyball games.
  • I am thankful for a job that allows me to turn my greatest pain into my greatest passion and purpose. 
  • I am thankful for life-long friends; no matter how far away they may be, they are never far from my heart or thoughts.
  • I am thankful for new friends. Spending time building friendships is my most favorite thing - ever.
  • I am thankful for music.  It moves me, inspires me, refreshes me, empowers me, and connects me to my higher power.
  • I am thankful for exercise.  I love the feeling I have after a good workout!
  • I am thankful for good food and wine.  These things, paired well, can turn a meal into an experience!
I could go on and on.  Thankfulness is an aspect of self-care that my mother instilled in me, and one that I intentionally engage in EVERY day (and have taught my kids the same).  It's not always easy, but eventually, it always brings me out of my dark places.  

What about you?  How are you doing with Thanksgiving just a few days away?  Sad?  Depressed?  Excited?  Happy?  Are you able to express thanks today?  What are some things you are thankful for?

From the bottom of my heart, sisters, I truly hope you are able to enjoy Thanksgiving.  And may thankfulness become a powerful way you take care of yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cleaning House - Practicing Self-Care, Part 1

So this past weekend I "got my clean on", and deep cleaned my house (well, Sarah's version of deep cleaning).  I'm talking move the furniture, vacuum EVEN the stairs, and steam-clean the kitchen floor!  It started with me being fed up with the shoddy job my landlords did in my bathroom of caulking the tub; so I cleaned and prepped the shower/tub area for re-caulking.  That progressed over the next day and a half into a full house cleaning.  Yep - even gave the dog a bath!

The end result: a very tired Sarah, sitting at her kitchen table, listening to one of her favorite Pandora stations, while soaking in the wonderful feeling of a really clean house.

It was A LOT of really hard work.  I had to roll up my sleeves and get dirty (weird how you often have to get dirty in order for things get clean); I had to give up spending time doing more relaxing things over the weekend; and yes - I even recruited help (I paid my nine year-old son to vacuum the stairs and part of the screened in porch! Talk about cheap labor!!!).  And through it all, I was intentional in searching out what areas needed special attention - I didn't ignore the places that were scary-dirty (like the neglected aforementioned porch that had loads of creepy-crawlies all over the place).  And I kept at it until the work I set out to do was done.

But, OH!  The glorious feeling of sitting in a clean house - the kids asleep in bed; me relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labor.

As I was drifting off to sleep Sunday night, my thoughts started to wander to my Monday, and what I might find to write about on my blog.  I started to see a connection between me physically cleaning my house, and the self-care aspect of "cleaning house" - internally: emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  So Monday morning, as I meditated on these thoughts, I saw a series of blog posts about self-care.  Today's topic is self-care through "cleaning house".

Self-care is SOOOO important.  ESPECIALLY for those of us who have been through a lot of trauma.  It's very, very typical for women who are in relationship with a SA to see all of the couple/family's time, resources, and energy go to "treating" the addict.  OUR healing gets put on the back burner, and we limp along, trying to manage as best we can the collateral  damage that is the fallout of our SA's addiction.  So, for the next three weeks, we're going to focus on some self care.

Just like physical house cleaning - internal cleaning house is hard work.  You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and "get dirty".  You have to be willing (and wanting) to take a look at the "scary" places that need attention.  You may have to give up "vegging" time (whether that be reading a novel, watching TV, etc).  And yes - you may even need to recruit some help.  BUT OH!!!  The feelings of peace and freedom that come with internal cleaning house - It is definitely worth the hard work!

Often times, when it comes to internal house cleaning, we have to get to the place where we are "fed up" with the condition of OURSELVES before we're willing to do this type of work.  And that's okay.  It's called being human.  The point is that when we get to the place where we recognize that there are things in us that need attention, that we actually do something about it.

Are you fed up with anything in YOU?  If you're in one of those places where you feel really good about where you're at, then good on 'ya!  Enjoy this season you're in and come back to this blog for some tools when you need them.  IF, however, you're in the place where you could use some hard-work self-care, then read on!  This is a very important aspect of self-care!

Just like when you are physically cleaning your house, when you are cleaning house internally, you need the right "tools".  Nobody wants to use the toilet cleaner on the mirror! I also want to point out another similarity - when you are cleaning the bathroom, it becomes dangerous if you try to clean too many things at one time - all the chemicals in the air can quickly become overwhelming, and harmful to you.  It's the same with cleaning internally - don't try to tackle all these things, or use all of these tools, at once.  Pick out which one speaks to you or resonates with you the most.

So, here are some "tools" to help you on your way to cleaning house internally:

  1. If you are a person of faith, ask your higher power for help: help seeing and identifying what areas need attention; help having the strength to attend to and change the issues.
  2. Think about areas where you are "stuck".  Anger.  Fear.  Doubt.  Indecision. Shame. Take the time to reflect on the thoughts/messages you are telling yourself/listening to, and then intentionally re-write those messages OR write an entirely new message to combat those messages.  Pay attention to where your focus is/what you are focusing on.
  3. Work with a therapist, if needed, to address family of origin issues or trauma triggers.  If you've not heard of EMDR, read here for a brief description, and see if you can find a therapist that does EMDR near you.  These issues run deeper than we are really aware of sometimes.
  4. If you're currently in a relationship, take a look at what your role is in the "toxic dance".  How is your communication?  Are your boundaries healthy?  Are you enabling?  Don't be afraid to look at this stuff.  Like those pesky bugs, theses things have a way of creeping in.  
These are just a few tools to help get you started.  If you are able, find a group where they focus on tools to help you grow and heal.  A good tool for finding therapists/groups in your area is  If you can't find a group, send me an email or give me a call.  You can find my contact information on our PULSE webiste:

This isn't a fun or easy aspect of self-care.  But if you're ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work, the freedom and feeling of living from a healthy place is SO worth the work!  It's empowering.  

Join me next week for self-care part 2.  Until then, take care of yourselves, ladies.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

One Day At A Time

So, depending on your age, I may take you down memory lane with this blog.  If you're on the younger side, and you don't know these shows, my apologies.  You really missed out!  Hopefully you'll still find significance in the tie-in I'm about to embark on!

I had the "privilege" of being born in the mid-70's, and my impressionable early years were spent in the late 70's to early 80's. I grew up watching the classic sitcoms.  I can still remember the theme songs to many of them...

"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have THE FACTS OF LIFE..."  

Or how about this one: "This is it; this is it.  This is life, the one you get.. This is it; this is it... So, while you're here, enjoy the view; keep on doing what you do.  Hold on tight; we'll muddle through... one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time! (I can even hear the "da-da-da-das" in the background).  Hahaha.

Yes, feathered bangs, large collars, and bell-bottoms galore!  Good times.

So, where exactly am I going with all this?  Good question!  In many aspects of life, we are pressured from society - bosses, co-workers, family - even ourselves, to come up with our "5 year plan", or create an impressive "vision board."  
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm a life coach, and we're all about helping others  create vision.  In fact, without a vision - without some sort of goal or hope for our future, things quickly become purposeless and empty.  But that's the topic for another blog.  Today, I'm talking about those times when we are SO in the middle of the hard places, that looking to the future is scary. For some of us, we fear that our SA may never embrace their recovery the way that will help us feel safe again.  For others, it's the fear of the unknown - how will the consequences of my SA's acting out affect me, our family, our financial situation?  And yet for others, it's the fear of having to start over, because the relationship just couldn't be salvaged.

It's in those dark and low places that the mantra, "It will get better; things are gonna get better someday." just doesn't cut it.  The mantra that has gotten me through those "I feel like I'm in a dark pit" days, time and time again, has been: "One day at a time, Sarah.  You just have to have enough strength and grace for today.  You don't have to have the problems that MIGHT come up tomorrow answered today.  One day at a time."  (And there's the tie - in to the TV shows!)  When we take things in bite -size chunks, we can look at the day and, through the grace of God, find peace in the moment.  When the fear about the future takes us to a place that we are nearly paralyzed - if we take JUST today, the enormity of the fear somehow doesn't loom quite as menacingly; we can find the strength and grace to conquer today!  We can find clarity - for today.  We can find meaning - for today.  We can experience love - today.  

What can you find today?  What are you experiencing today?  How can taking things, "One day at a time" help you?  What can you do for yourself - today - that will help you find what you need?

As always, if what you need is someone to help you through your dark, low days, and re-learn how to take it, "One day at a time", leave me a message, or call me - or, come to PULSE.  

'Til next week, my sisters.  Take care of yourselves. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Would You Rather?

On a typical weekday morning, I have a 30 minute commute from my daughter's school to my work. I'm still trying to get used to living in a BIG city and commuting to work - not to mention Texas drivers!  So in between my asking the random reckless driver, "Are you kidding me?", and the friendly hand-wave that means "thank-you-for-letting-me-merge" that I give, I often find myself thinking about things I usually don't have the time or energy to think about.  That was the case this morning.  I found myself reflecting on the current place I find myself in, and was somehow reminded of that game, "Would You Rather...?".

Do you know that game, "Would You Rather...?"?  I never liked that game.  Maybe it's because I'm often too literal.  And, well, you know - choosing between being born with a nose like an elephant or a neck like a giraffe just isn't going to happen in real life, so why should I even bother figuring out which one I'd "rather" have happen to me?  Ha ha ha!  I laugh at myself!  Or better yet - choosing between eating a handful of hair or licking three public telephones is beyond my comprehension of actually being able to endure, so there's no way I could "commit" to choosing one over the other.  NEITHER, thank you very much!

So the irony does not escape me that I sometimes feel like my life is one big, "Would You Rather?".

"Would I rather leave my marriage and "give up" on the idea that this situation is redeemable, OR stay in my marriage, and deal with trust issues and fear for who knows how long?"

Uh, wait a second... can I go back to the hair/telephone question?  I think trying to figure out that scenario is preferable to having to figure out the leave/stay one!

"Would I rather risk staying in a relationship with an incredible man who also happens to be a recovering SA, and have to deal with a potential relapse at some point, OR risk ending the relationship and miss out on what could be an amazing relationship with said incredible man, if he stays free/sober?"

Um, I'll take the telephone.  Yep.  It's decided.  "They" didn't specify HOW LONG I had to lick the telephone, so here's what I'll do: one millisecond of a lick, and then I'll gargle with Listerine for the rest of the day and take medicine to boost my immune system.  Okay, done.  I was able to figure that one out.  Can I have a pass from these other ones?


Sigh.  If only my "Would you rathers?" were as clear cut as "would I'd rather go without music or T.V. the rest of my life."  (I could NOT live without music, by the way.  Music is one of those few precious things that can take me - almost instantly - to another place.). But they're not.  There's no easy answer to these questions.  So, I wrestle with them. Sometimes, when it's just too much, I stuff them.  I talk to others about them - SOMETIMES, I even ask for their input!  On my good days, I journal and pray about them. On my REALLY good days, I think I find the answers to them.

Whether we like it or not, due to the SA in our life, we're now forced to play, "Would You Rather...?"  I've been a bit transparent today, sharing a couple of my big questions.  What are your "Would You Rathers...?" that you struggle with?  What do you do with them when they pop up?

I encourage you to talk with someone about these things, cause there's one thing I know I'd rather - and that's to not go through this alone.

So, if you're local, come join us at PULSE.  If you're not local - find a safe place where you can go through this journey with others who are on a similar journey.  If you can't find that - contact me, and I'll help you find some help.