Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health

I found this photo a couple of days ago. To anyone else this would seem like a normal photo of a teenage girl going to formal. However it isn’t. In this photo I was all of 40kg. I remember being able to touch my thumbs and index fingers together as i placed both hands around my waist.

I was so unwell but soldiered on like nothing was wrong. I was good at that… Acting like nothing was wrong, like everything was normal when inside I was dying. Over the years, eating disorders ebbed and flowed. Even when I was drinking, I always thought my main issue was food. All I was really doing here was swapping the witch for the bitch …. eating disorders and substance abuse went hand-in-hand for me. But again, I just carried on like nothing was wrong, denying and self-medicating.

Over one third of people with substance use disorders have co-morbid mental illness (eg Depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc). For me this has been anorexia & bulimia nervosa in the past, depression, anxiety, and PTSD after the death of my mother. When we look at any interventions for substance use issues we need to consider the clinical presence of comorbidity and integrate specific tools to address both issues. We also need to ask “why the pain, not why the addiction” (Gabor Mate).

As a person in recovery and also a clinician, I have been a witness to other people’s pain, joy, trauma, sadness, & anger in the context of every day life as well as mental illness and addiction. My wish is to smash the shit out of the stigma that surrounds people with addiction and mental illness, but ultimately to still help those people who are suffering. I want to give back what I have so freely received. Love, compassion, understanding, and care amongst like-minded women in recovery.

WE DO RECOVER

YOU MATTER

I LOVE YOU

Blessings

Penni xxx💗

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The perfect storm for a Relapse

The last 2-3 months have culminated in the “perfect storm” for a possible relapse.  Over this  time I have experienced a plethora of feelings, a “heart journey” including…

Intense Love…. 

the desperation of loss… 

Deep grief…. 

Connection and commitment with family…

Total exhaustion… 

Illness (systemic chest infection)… 

Incredible joy… 

Overwhelming gratitude… 

Celebrations of life… 

and, the ultimate transformation of mortal life….death.

It has been a rich tapestry of interdependent, woven threads of emotions, all intense, and all tangled up with past and present experiences, waiting to be untangled and sorted. However, the reality is, that they are “unsortable”. The mind as a problem-solving machine cannot “sort” feelings. Our emotions are not like pencils, buttons, or socks that can be sorted into size, shape, pairs, or colour. Our emotions have to be held and felt, and experienced to reflect our beautiful humanness, and our capacity to live as deep soulful beings on this planet. And this, I wouldn’t change for a thing.

On July 16th, 2017 we lost my beautiful Mama-in-Law to pancreatic cancer. As a family, we cared for her right up to the end.  She was my Mama, and I loved her so very much. We had a special relationship that was based on unconditional love. She never judged me even when I really stuffed up, she just loved me through it all. It was my privilege, and my way of giving back to her, by being there to share in every aspect of her care. This was the most intimate and emotionally rewarding time of loving compassion and tenderness, even in moments of difficulty, and conversations that always ended in “I love you.”

    I am experienced at grief, but not necessarily good at it! This is why it is a “perfect storm” for me for relapse. When my gorgeous mum died 12 years ago unexpectedly from multiple organ failure following cardiac surgery, my whole world fell apart. 

    My drinking completely took over my life.  I could not fathom living my life without my mum.  Every night I would drink myself into oblivion to dull the pain. I stopped working, I stopped mothering, I stopped caring, and I wanted to die. I felt alone and totally isolated in my pain, having no one to share it with as I was an only child. I felt no one could possibly understand the degree of loss I was experiencing. Compassion from others only lasted a short time until I was told to “get over it”, “move on,”, “pick myself up”, by well meaning friends and family. It was horrendous and my worst nightmare come true. I remember curling up one night on the tiled floor in the kitchen after everybody had gone to bed, sobbing my heart out, drunk, I wanted the emotional pain to stop. The only way I thought the pain would stop was to be with my mum … so I self harmed … I told no one. 
    My mental health and drinking continued to get worse. I agreed to my first rehab stay in 2006. I left sober,  but with no real sense of recovery. 

    Since beginning my recovery journey 11 years ago, feelings of grief and loss have been strong contributors to 2 relapse episodes. BUT…….not this time; NOT TODAY! Why? Because today, is different. Today I still have to catch my breath as the waves of grief sweep over me, but I don’t push it away. I EMBRACE it, because I have learnt that with deep grief, there is deep love, and it is the love that I am focusing on, living it and sharing it. I would not feel this pain if I didn’t love my Mama-in-law with all my heart and soul. I have therefore fundamentally changed my relationship with grief, and I have only been able to do this through my spiritual program of recovery, and connecting with other incredible Sober Sisters for support.

    I have learnt that each day in recovery for me is a new day.  A new day of strength, a new day of courage, and a new day of being brave. A new day of showing-up, and setting the heart-work intention of making a difference in other people’s lives by being compassionate and loving. This so heals me from the inside out, as I learn to be more compassionate with myself. I am learning to respond more mindfully to life’s ups and downs rather than react to them. To be grateful for every precious experience I have when I connect with loving presence to people. This is what my last three months have been like….. Connecting with great presence. 
    As soon as I show up with presence, I know I can make a difference. I can make  a difference to the people around me, to the people I talk to, my clients, my children, my husband, and to myself. My experiences become richer because of it, holding meaning and fullness, that was totally lacking in my drinking days. 
    We tell our stories to share our experience strength and hope. We recover out loud. We share our trials and tribulations in sobriety.  Why? Because life is not perfect,  it sometimes fucking sucks, but we DO SURVIVE, we DO GROW,  and we DO RECOVER .
    RECOVERY is a journey of  learning to live life on life’s terms without the need for the numbing effects of alcohol, drugs, or other behavioural addictions. Recovery for me is one day at a time. Sometimes, even 1 hour at a time if I have to. But I still show up! With all my pain, my joy, and my wonder, living my truth, living with courage and being brave. There is no other way for me.
    Today I can show up to life sober, with more acceptance, gratitude, joy, non-judgement and presence. I can be vulnerable, open, authentic, speak my truth, surrender my problems to my Higher Power but also know that the universe has my highest good at heart. I can accept life on life’s terms instead of always trying to fight against it and exhausting myself to change it.
    It is only because I am a SOBER and working hard on my RECOVERY each and every day, that I can choose how I want to show up in my life.  I can decide how I make a difference in this world today, and in someone else’s life.
    Here our strength lies…
    Penni

      
     
     
     

    “SIGNS” of Guidance

    I am Amazed at the incredible synchronicity of the universe to provide “signs” for me that I am on the right path just when I need it!
    These days I am finding myself restless for more fulfilment in my life, and in continuous thought about my “soul purpose” and what I really want to do in my life. I have this dream of giving up my current job and moving more into recovery advocacy and trauma practice. This would look something like moving into private practice again, running women’s retreats, sacred women circles, writing for my blog and my book, starting a Recovery podcast, and running online workshops. An exciting, challenging change.

    But I feel blocked in being able to do this, stuck in doubt and fear. My ego mind keeps coming up with reasons around this, as why I won’t be able to make it happen. Will it be a good move? Am I just daydreaming? Is this just wishful thinking? Will it be successful? 

    I am acutely aware  that moving out of our comfort zone is always challenging, but staying there just keeps us stuck. Ironically, I was reading Rebecca Campbell’s book “Light is the new Black” on the back porch. As I read about “signs ” from the universe,  and her past life regression connection with the Council of Light  that delivered her soul’s purpose, her awakening of her soul purpose, and choice of parents to give her the grounding and experiences she needed to follow this divination, I looked at my phone… It was 11.11 on my phone!!!! 
    These numbers always show  up for me in important moments, and quite regularly. as I read Rebecca’s words of how “we would use interconnectedness of new media and communication to create a mass spiritual awakening in the western world …forming a sort of supportive sisterhood ….. of like-minded women and men moved by the divine feminine”, I felt a divine spark in what my soul wants me to remember, and an infinite reflection of what The Purpose of my work is here during this lifetime. To be a healer… To be a lightworker… To open others to the consciousness of love that is the truth of their soul’s existence. To bring healing to those troubled by addictive issues. It all made total sense… this is why I have endured the traumas of life, and my own journey with addiction.
    My mum was a shamanic healer and clairvoyant. She taught me about “signs ” many years ago well before her passing. The synchronicity and miracle of Rebecca Campbell’s words were not lost on me. I had an epiphany …It is time for me to come out of the hiding, out of the shadows, and do what I am here to do.
    Throughout my life I have always been aware of feeling isolated and lonely on this path. Reading that Rebecca Campbell felt the same way,  and her explanation of it as being part of the awakening journey of the lightworker was also amazing pure synchronicity. I always thought it was just me! That there was something wrong with me, like social anxiety, a lack of confidence, or that I wasn’t worthy or enough” to feel whole. I always felt so different to everybody else . I have always had to hide my spiritual side growing up as nobody understood it. It was like living in two worlds from a very young age, having had my first spiritual experience at six years old, a mesmerising visual visitation from a spirit being outside my bedroom window, which no one believed to the time , not even my parents.

    Then I looked at my phone again. It was 1.11pm! For some reason these numbers are following me!!! It was another sign!
    These numbers in sequence mean that the door to heaven opens and it is time to “make a wish”. It is the sign of “Divine openings” and “synchronicity”! This is a sign that I have to work harder on these blocks and fears that are showing up, to raise my vibration and step into my purpose. To lean into this calling and TRUST THE UNIVERSE.

    Also, I was resonating with Rebecca’s description of the loneliness and isolation that many light workers feel I was noting how in my own life I have disconnected from many friends, particular women friends, who do not share the same spiritual path as me. You know those meaningless conversations that only touch the surface? God I hate them! I just cannot relate to them at all anymore. It highlights my need for something so much deeper in my life and in my friendship connections, but does lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation at times. 
    So, today there was even another “sign” that happened….
    It was late in the evening and I was saying goodbye to my sister-in-law outside. After she left, a car that I did not recognise drove past and tooted. It was one of my beautiful friends who I have not seen for ages from my children’s primary school. We have always been close friends but lost contact due to the busyness of our lives. She stopped got out of the car and we talked for ages! She is the one person who is totally Open and engaged who I can talk to about everything and anything, especially spirituality. She has been in my thoughts a lot lately, as I gave some of the spiritual books that belonged to my mum to her. She too is on the spiritual path and is a high school teacher and a yoga teacher. 
    I was thinking that we could possibly facilitate some Sacred Circle women’s groups and retreats together in the future, and there she was!!! Open, willing, and excited to be a part of this process! By this stage my jaw had dropped realising that the universe is totally trying to send me a message here! I was given some very clear “signs” that I am on the right path. It was liberating, inspirational, and affirming, just what I needed. I could not be more grateful.

    So, look out for the signs in your life to affirm your path. Witness them and embrace them.They are there if you are willing to see them. They will alleviate your fears, and bring you back to your soul’s purpose. Thank you Rebecca for your wisdom and guidance!

    So Mote it Be…
    Penni x

    Real Life as a Sober Mama

    Today I am in total sensory overload! I have been feeling it steadily creep up over the last couple of weeks. Sensitivity to noise, brightness, and over activity around me. I have been Blanking out of conversations, not remembering how I drove from A to B, irritability, not wanting to go to work, avoiding phone calls and conversations. I know these signs well. It is the zone of “adrenal fatigue.”
      
      

    It’s not a good sign when you breakdown in your child’s therapy session because you are trying to balance a life that always feels so fucking chaotic! Or, avoiding social and work encounters when saying “Hello” seems to take so much energy, and you hope to God that no more work referrals come in as you check your emails! I feel like I am trying to juggle so many commitments and roles at the moment, as well as do “the work” I need to do for my recovery. 

                                       

    As women, we take on so many roles and their demands. These are likely, but not limited to, partner, wife, mother to kids or furbabys, chef, taxi driver, house cleaner, washing person, ironing person, nurturer, healer, lightworker, counsellor, mediator, financial manager, income provider, and career adventurer, and self-discovery explorer. If in recovery, we can add sober warrior, recovery advocate, personal growth combat soldier, and perhaps meeting attendee! Also, being the parent of a beautiful child with high special needs comes with additional daily challenges. Just reading this non-exhaustive list makes me feel exhausted, let alone doing it again and again every day!

    Women are absolute fucking superheros in my book, and the men who have to do this too! But sometimes even superheros reach a point of burnout. I’m tired… really tired…  But….the good news is that I am still sober!

    Yesterday I reached 19 Months of sobriety. But this has only happened by taking it one-day-at-a-time…. or sometimes one minute at a time… (or one meltdown at a time when you have a child on the Autism Spectrum!) I am lucky as I have a husband to support me, but there are many people who don’t,  and have to tread this path on their own. I want you to know that you are amazing!

    So the BIG QUESTION remains, how the fuck do we negotiate these never ending challenges? All of this brings me back to our need for DAILY SELF-CARE. In keeping this real right now for me, this cannot be a served by a “spiritual bypass”, but by respite addressing the body, mind and spirit. We need to give ourselves permission to rest and replenish on every level every day.

    I have been guilty of not listening to the signs. I have a tendency to plough through life’s demands meeting every challenge head on , but leaving myself behind in the process. Daily self-care is probably one of the biggest lessons I have to work on in my recovery and in my life, which boils down to worthiness. Worthiness for asking the question “What do I need right now?” 
    My guess is that we do not ask this question often enough! That cunning “old” story and habit, of always putting everybody else first, of getting distracted by life’s demands, of feeling the responsibility to meet ALL demands  ALL of the time, and attending to who around us is screaming the loudest for our attention, gets in the way of our conscious self-care. Often it is only until we scream the loudest, or our body does, that we hear our need to be the focus of our own nurturance and care.

    So, today I am asking myself the question “What do I need?” I recognise my worthiness, of giving myself permission to protect my energy and action self-care. Over the coming week I will have a few days off work, I will sleep in, stay in my pj’s, go for some walks in nature, limit social media, meditate, read, work on my book, listen to music, get a massage, maybe even a pedicure…. I will return to the world still a sober superhero, proud of my decision to step back and focus on what’s important….me.

    Learning how to look after ourselves in recovery is an ongoing journey for many of us. 

    May you ask yourself THE question, self-care when you need to, and be proud of yourself for showing up in life with love, care, compassion, and nurturance for YOU through each and every day of this crazy WONDERFUL  life!
    Penni xxx

    May Cause MIRACLES!


    Today I am 558 days sober, just a little over 18 months. If someone had told me 18 months ago what I would be doing today, I would not have believed them! My life has truly transformed.

    Today I have more blessings in my life than I could ever imagine. Yes, challenging days still show up, but I choose to see these as opportunities for growth.  Through lots of hard work, perseverance, determination, courage and vulnerability, I have created a rich meaningful life in sobriety that I truly love.

    Recently, I have been working on having a MIRACLE MIND-SET, and it’s working! About a month ago, I changed my “Recovery Buddha” closed Facebook group to just women only. This was a BIG decision! I felt a lot of guilt for doing this to the amazing blokes in our group, feeling like I had displaced them somehow, in spite of  recommending other supportive groups for them. An old “people pleasing” trait of mine I’m sure!  This group change was something I have wanted to do for awhile, and felt intuitively drawn to it, but fear of the unknown was stopping it.  It did hurt my heart to let some members go, but sometimes there is pain in change.

    As a result of all of this, an unexpected  miracle has happened! The group has surprisingly grown exponentially! I have always believed in the power of women supporting women, and now I am seeing amazing  women in recovery supporting each other more, opening up to be more vunerabile and sharing both their pain and their joy. A  beautiful sisterhood has emerged, which is such a blessing to behold.

    My intention for this group has, and will always be, healing in recovery through connection. To provide a safe place where unconditional love, vulnerability, kindness and courage prevail as we all  develop and deepen our inner self-love, loving kindness and compassion  for ourselves. I am finding a sacredness in this amongst a group of women, who’s courage and bravery in showing up is awe inspiring!


    Amazingly, this  group “explosion” has miraculously occurred whilst I have been doing a six week course using Gabby Bernstein’s book “May Cause MIRACLES” with Dr Katie Henry. I am just about to move into week five of the six week course, and miracles have been showing up in my life on every level! Whether they are subtle or profound, external or internal. I am witnessing then with so much love and gratitude in my heart.


    This work as been remarkably healing and essential for this recovering alcoholic.  It has shined a light on my ego’s illusion of a life full of fear, moving me to a deeper level, stripping back the layers,  in order to heal the fear and move more  into LOVE. Through the practices of witnessing, willingness, acceptance, SELF/other forgiveness, gratitude, daily meditation and affirmations, and journaling  during this course,  I have been able to totally come back to LOVE,  shifted into a miracle mind-set, and let go of so much fear and anxiety. This is not a spiritual bypass by any means, but rather, a journey back to love, to our true source, and witnessing how miracles can show up in our life with the innate support of the Universe when we move towards a miracle-mindset grounded in love. 

    I have noticed miraculous shifts in my relationships, in the love and acceptance I have for my body, in self-love, in clarity of my life purpose. I am HONOURING the path that the Universe is guiding me in and I am listening! I feel so much more aligned with it now! The next two weeks focus on financial abundance/work ( a big area for me!)  and being a MIRACLE worker in the world! I can’t wait!

    I am so grateful to Gabby Bernstein for writing this incredible workbook, and to Dr Katie Henry for holding the space whilst running this course. When you align your thoughts, feelings and doings with the intention of love, of fulfilling your dreams and inspirations, you open yourself up to a world full of miracles! 

    THIS is My wish is for you too!!!

    Blessings

    Penni 💗

    https://gabbybernstein.com/

    Katie Henry can be contacted at: katie@drkatiehenry.com

    Candy, Chaos and Courage

             

    I feel like I am in a brain fog today! A misty place of chaotic input that shrouds my ability to think straight, or to even string two sentences together! Not so great for a therapist!!! 

    My mind is racing with thoughts about work, my family, by ill mama-in-law and whether the dreams and aspirations I have with regards to my work in recovery, will ever become a reality. I am not depressed, just overwhelmed. It’s  a huge lesson in patience, slowing down, and accepting “Life on Life’s terms as it currently is.


    Even though life has been very difficult over the past couple of months, I have continued to work  tirelessly on my recovery. I have read copious amounts of books relating to recovery and spiritual development, practiced daily mindfulness in seeing the ordinary as extraordinary, meditation, counting my blessings with daily gratitude, attended meetings, remained accountable, established connections with some beautiful women in recovery who I have not YET met in person, and transformed my relationship with myself and family. Although I am still struggling to remember a word I have read (aka brain fog!), and have dropped off my meeting schedule due to family issues/illness, I can still see the benefits of all of my hard work finally coming together. Last week I celebrated 500 days of sobriety! Reflecting on this, I can see that the hard work, the accumulation of knowledge, practice, and wisdom is finally working, as I have been gifted the means to meet life’s challenges head on. This is the essence of the Recovery Warrior.

            

     If my life was as it is now a year ago, I would have fallen into a state of full-blown anxiety and depression, or even worse two years ago, I would have turned to the bottle! But, for some reason this time, that hasn’t happened. The obsession to drink has been taken away from me… a miracle! All I can put it down to are my recovery tools and the spiritual change I have experienced over the last 16 months, and having a Higher Power to surrender it to.How I see life, its events, and its challenges, are now different. I don’t really know when, or how this has happened, but it is like all of the current challenges that are showing up in my life are illuminating the strength of all of the work I have been doing. Yes, things are externallypretty fucked up right now, but internally I am sober and I am dealing with them! Who would have thought?!!

     The challenges presenting themselves at the moment include trying to manage:

    • An exasperating full-time client caseload of adolecents who are presenting with self-harm, suicidal ideation, significant anxiety, depression, domestic violence issues and household addiction issues                      
    • 2-3 hours a day on the road to and from work
    • Bloody local road works that have disrupted traffic since Christmas!
    • Visiting my mama-in-law in hospital almost daily
    • Her deteriorating condition (pancreatic cancer)
    • Our need as a family for one of us to be with her constantly
    • Her demandingness, tantrums and lack of acceptance of her current condition, her inability to walk from severe lymphodema in her legs that constantly weep, and the dressing that we have to change regularly.
    • Watching her hit herself in frustration, and cry constantly
    • Coming home to a chaotic household with 3+1 teenagers
    • The demands of my youngest daughter being on the Autism Spectrum, having ADHD, cognitive delay and and expressive and receptive language disorger in the severe range.
    • My daughters tantrums and emotional regulation issues at home
    • The hour or so it takes me to get her to have a shower each night due to defiance and sensory sensitivities
    • My middle child’s stress due to doing her Year 12
    • My eldest child with his own issues
    • My husband’s estensive work hours, running his own business
    • My husband’s absence from home each night since the New Year as he cares for his Mum
    • Just trying to manage general household duties… and the washing! …The fucking washing!!!!! I am convinced it multiples on its own overnight!
    • And a fetish for lollies!!!


    Just writing this daily list makes me feel exhausted!  Yet, in spite of this current chaos,  there are many things I am incredibly GRATEFUL for! I am so grateful for my husband and children who are remarkable human beings, for my recovery friends and their unconditional love (yes this includes you if you are reading this!) and my family. I am grateful to have a job to go to that I love, a house to clean, clothes to wear and wash, a Mama-in-Law who is and has always been my “Mum” especially when my Mum died unexpectedly 12 years ago, and who has never failed to support and love me even when I have fucked up really badly and hurt her son. I am grateful that I can now care for her and love her the same. And above and beyond anything else, I am grateful for my sobriety, for without this, I would not have all of these crazy things happening in my life right now, nor their blessings.

               
    Even though I am beyond exhaustion, I am thankful for ALL OF IT! Recovery has taught me so many things. It has taught me:
    • Courage

    • Vulnerability

    • Patience

    • Self-care

    • Compassion

    • Acceptance

    • Surrender

    • Tolerance

    • Unconditional love

    • Trust

    • Nonjudgement (self and others)

    • Connection with others

    • Worthiness

    • That my story and my voice matters

    • That I am not alone

    • A sense of belonging

    • The ability to embrace my shadows and my light with equal love and acceptance

    • Spirituality

    …and much more.

    Sobriety delivers the things that alcohol promised. For this reason I know that I never want to drink again – I have too much to lose. I looked outside of myself for all of these things for so many years, but little did I know, it was the “inner” work that would fill the hole that I felt ever since I was a little girl.


    So even when life gets fucking crazy, count your blessings, pray, meditate, keep it simple, reach out, and above all self-care. The universe will support your intention to heal. Trust it and honour it.

                          
    Be well!

    Penni x

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Radical Acceptance

    It is 8:30 AM and I’m sitting in my office at work, reflecting on the morning at home. It was a typical morning, nothing unusual (for us), but maybe that is unusual within itself. 
     
    My mood is flat and I am feeling very stressed. We are not saints, but like most parents, my husband and I work very hard, to keep our household going. I work full-time on the other side of town (a long commute) as a psychologist in a school with adolescents (I am always booked out!), and my husband runs his own very busy and stressful business from home 24/7 – A multi media production company. Currently we are stretched to our limits and find little time for individual or relationship self-care.

    Our 19-year-old son is still jobseeking, our middle daughter is currently doing her year 11 exams, and our youngest daughter in year 7 is having more and more autism meltdowns at home. Autism spectrum disorder is just one of her many challenging diagnoses. 

    This morning we were trying to get our youngest ready for school. She has a walkathon today and we could not find her school hat. This of course, threw a huge spanner in the works for her, but we problem solved around it. She only just made it to her bus, but missed it when she realised she had left her locker key at home and had to return home to get it. My husband had to drive her to school during a day where every minute of his time was already accounted for.
    In the meantime, we are all nursing my beautiful mama-in-law, who I love with all my heart who is dying of pancreatic cancer. As a family, we are taking turns to look after her at home. Having lost my mum some years ago, I am very close her and dread the day she passes. I am grateful for every minute I get to spend with her.

    The house is like a bomb has hit it! Shit everywhere! I don’t even know where to start. The visual chaos creates so much stress for me. I am constantly on sensory overload.

    I try to go to at least two meetings a week, however I know my sponsor would like me to do more. Right now this is impossible with everything going on. Each day I try my best, but on some days I feel it is just not good enough. I  am left feeling that no one understands the commitments and challenges in my life. 

    My mood ebbs and flows like the weather, and I need to keep it in check due to my vulnerability to episodes of depression and anxiety. I struggle to keep things in check and in balance. Let’s face it, moderation is something I have never been good at! Not uncommon for those of us who struggle with addiction issues!
    I remind myself to pray and hand over these daily challenges to my higher power. The AA slogans that got me through this early recovery process like “keep it simple”, “easy does it”, “One day at a time” and “let go, let God” … And of course the Serenity Prayer come to mind.They are soothing and helpful as I realise I cannot control or change some things in my life. 


    This also includes dealing with my alcoholic narcissistic father who I love dearly but who constantly pushes my buttons. I have to practice and enormous amount of self-care when I speak to him (he lives interstate). I constantly receive the message from him that I could be doing things better, as he likes to “preach” at me over the phone especially after he’s had a few. I have tried setting boundaries, asking him several times not to ring me when he’s been drinking, but this seems to fall on deaf ears. I can tell if he has even had just one drink, as his personality changes. Not unlike me in the drinking days. But I still struggle, as anger rather than compassion for him, becomes a fire in my heart that burns, when the belligerent, mean and judgemental side of him dominates our conversation. I have had to hang up numerous times.

    Reflecting on these goings on, the stress I feel I am under and my feelings of overwhelm, I am confronted with the words “Radical Acceptance”! I am sure this is a message from my HP! When my life gets chaotic, I am forced to remember Tara Brach’s words:


    There is a moment of reaction ….”How the fuck am I supposed to do that?!!” Then, still talking to myself (luckily no one was walking past my office door at the time as they would think the psychologist has finally gone mad!), I pause and remember the words of Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning”:


    “JUST PAUSE PENNI” I say to myself.


    So…. I pause…..I breathe….. I focus on the physical sensation of breathing in and out of my abdominal area, which is where all of my stress and anxiety is sitting at the moment…I connect with it…. Allowing it to be there, creating space around it with the in-breath to soften and loosen it, and release it with each out-breath…. “Just relax” is my mantra…

    I do this for about 10 minutes.
    Throughout the day, I had to do this several times, but it worked. It worked to get me through a very busy day. It worked to allow me to be present and compassionate with all of my clients today, not distracted and disconnected. It worked by allowing me to “respond” not to “react” and lose my shit admist the stress. It worked to enable me to handle other unexpected events in the day. It worked to keep me sober today!

    It’s times like these that used to drive me to drink. Even with the added stress of a cardiac problem with my husband this afternoon which landed him in hospital! By practicing “radical acceptance” I am learning to hand over my thoughts, feelings, and events that happen to my HP. I am learning to accept “life on life’s terms” and this got me through today…. Sober! It’s a miracle!

    It’s during times like these that I feel all of the hard work I have put into my recovery has come together. All of the meetings and the honest words of wisdom heard shared, my 12 step program, the plethora of books I have read, my daily practice of mindfulness, meditation and prayer, my close connection with others in recovery, the unconditional love and guidance from my Sponsor… It’s ALL important and it ALL DOES come together. 

    Life is not perfect, but life is good. We are a collection of works in progress, and recovery is possible, but it only works if we work it. So, tomorrow I will get up and do it all again, but with the knowledge, wisdom and faith that my HP has always got my back.
    Blessings

    Penni💗

    Synchronicity in Recovery

    “Synchronicity” is something that happens to all of us. That “God shot” or “Higher Power moment” as I like to call it – you are thinking of someone and the phone rings and its them; being in the right place at the right time; hearing the right message in a meeting; a book being lent to you by a friend that totally explains what you are going through in that moment.

    The concept of Synchronicity was first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” occurring with no causal relationship.

    We notice synchronicity in our life when we make ourselves more open and aware. When we are mindful of the present moment, of our inner world (our thoughts, feelings, behaviours) and of our outer world or environment.

    Synchronicity can occur in everyday “mundane” circumstances (e.g. phone call, in the supermarket) or in “special” circumstances when our outer world may feel like it is falling apart, and we are moved into openness and vulnerability (e.g. Travel, births, deaths, end of a relationship). It may follow a pattern of “single” events, a “string” of events, or a “cluster” of events. These “significant” coincidences have been further explained in writings about the Law of Attraction and manifestation, science, mathematics, even chaos theory! However, I choose to see these events as the Universe talking to me, and it is my job to notice these events and the meaning they bring into my life.

    In recovery, I have found myself more attuned to the richness of these “Higher Power” moments in my life. I believe the personal awareness and inner work that we do on our recovery journey allows us the openness to see them. It is like the inner and outer boundaries of our life dissolve in just that moment for us to receive whatever message is meant for us.

    This morning was the perfect example. Ever since my mum passed away in Dec 2004, she has left me symbols to let me know she is around. This is usually a feather. My Mum and I were soul mates, and as a shamanic healer and clairvoyant, I knew she would find some way of connecting with me intuitively on this Earthly plane. So, this morning I was late leaving home for work, and I hate being late! .I had a very busy work day planned – booked out with clients and a later meeting at another school. “How would I fit everything in?!” I thought. “I Still have to see X,Y,Z… write a clinical letter … meet with parents…. Get to this psychology forum this afternoon… And go and see my mother-in law in hospital before my AA meeting tonight!” Needless to say, I started to feel stressed!

    After the long peak hour drive to work, and foraging for a car park which are like hen’s teeth, I finally arrived. I got out of the car and sitting at my feet was this beautiful big feather! .Running late, I picked up the feather and put it in my car thinking that’s got to be my message to “slow down, and that everything will be ok. Thanks Mum!”, and that maybe something “special” full of meaning may happen today.


    Back tracking to late Friday afternoon, I received a call after hours from the father of two girls I see. He tearfully notified me of his wife’s advanced cancer diagnosis the day before, and asked me to look after and help support the girls. I was gutted, as was he, as I love these girls and their family, who I have had a lot to do with. I had not had the opportunity to see the girls yet, and I really wanted to check-in with them.

    As I was hurriedly walking from the car to the front gate at work, there the girls were hopping out of the car, late just like me! Was this an HP moment or what! Not only did I get to see them and talk with them in private without anyone else around, but I also got to see and talk with their gorgeous mum, who had dropped them off!

    I spoke to the girls, and also to their mum, who shared that she was starting her treatment today. As I held Mum’s hand I had the opportunity to provide love, support and reassurance not just to her girls but to her too. We shared a tear, and a connection that I could not put into words. It was the most beautiful humbling moment as Mrs T and I looked at each other with compassionate unconditional love, and understanding of the journey that lay ahead. No words were needed. Definitely an HP moment.

    Trusting the process includes these amazing moments of synchronicity! So, look out for them, they are all around you!

    Blessings

    Penni 💗

    HP Calling

    I have a book inside of me that I so want to write. Not from a psychologist’s perspective, but from a human’s perspective. A book of recovery from ourselves and our experiences, a book that allows us to see the true human spirit, the human warrior, within us all.


    I have no idea what it looks like, or even where to start? All I know is that I feel called to write such a book. I am no expert, and this is not about ego, it comes from a deep place in my soul for loving humanity and for hoping that it may help just one person out there. 

    I want to share the revolution of finding self-love amongst the darkness of addiction, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, grief and trauma. I want to inspire others, to give them HOPE that recovery is possible. I want to tell people that they are loved for all of their flaws and wonders. I want to help others heal from their wounded bodies, minds, heart and spirit. 

    With divine guidance from my Higher Power I hope this is possible. I see it as a long term project, but a challenge that I am willing to accept.  

    I would be grateful for any input as to what you might like to see or read about in such a book, as this will be for YOU 💗. 

    Blessings  

    Penni 💞🙏💞

    Honouring the Self


    The last 4 to 6 weeks have been a ride to hell and back. However I have learnt a great many things from this. 
    Firstly, to honour myself and my feelings, both the light side and the shadow side. To embrace both these aspects of myself to be totally whole, just as the universe intended. This has not been easy. It has come with a number of breakdowns, many tears, and an aching anxious heart, albeit With moments of laughter and joy.

    Secondly, I have learnt what it is like to receive unconditional love, and the knowledge that I need more of this in my life and my relationships. My handful of very special friends and my beautiful recovery family, have shown me nothing but unconditional love through this time, and for that I am eternally grateful. In turn, I have learnt to direct more unconditional loving kindness and compassion towards myself. This has been greatly needed considering the “not good enough”, “unworthiness” stories I have told myself over the many preceding years. 

    Thirdly and probably most importantly, I have learnt how solid my recovery is. I have got through this time without picking up a drink or a drug. I have allowed my soul to feel everything, even to breaking point. Without my sobriety, things could have been a whole lot different, and so much worse.

    I have learnt the power of acceptance for what is, and surrender. I know that my higher power is always there to guide me, protect me, and to hand things over to, even when things are not how I want them to be.

    I have learnt what and who my soul truly aches for, with a painful, uncertain clarity destined to change my whole life as I have known it. It has been confronting and confusing to say the least, but I have to honour these feelings inside of me with honesty and integrity. This has not been without heartbreak, but I have learnt that when I feel, I feel with my whole spirit, body, mind and heart. I always have, and I always will want to give all of myself to those who I love dearly. 
    I am trying to learn moderation which has always been my most difficult learning task, and probably for most people who have addiction issues. Hard for an Empath who feels so deeply too, but not impossible. I suppose it all just comes down to wanting somebody to love me as much as I do them. A reciprocal love. Having a gentle, loving soul in my life who understands me and loves me unquestionably, a soul who is worthy of the love and tenderness I have to give. A true soul-mate whose existence just lights up my world and accepts both the light and shadow side of my soul irrespective of gender.
    I am still struggling with all of this, but I am doing it sober and celebrating all aspects of myself and the beautiful people in my life! I am grateful for my new clarity and relying on my HP for guidance.

    So here’s to sobriety! Acceptance and surrender! 

    So mote it be!

    One Love

    Penni 💗💗💗