Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Conversation Is Changing - And A Giveaway! Read to the bottom!

Exciting things are happening in the recovery world, and my non-profit, Shining Strong, is honored to be part of a new movement that is changing the conversation around addiction and recovery.

Before I say more, if you haven't seen the trailer for the new documentary, The Anonymous People, please take three minutes to watch it here:

I want to say something right up front: history has proven that change - real, meaningful social and economic change - involves uncomfortable conversations.  To effect change, we have to look closely at the ways things are today.

This film may make some people uncomfortable.  If it does, that means it is working.  As an active member of a twelve-step recovery program, I am very familiar with the traditions that have anonymity as a core concept. I support anonymity as a core concept of this program.

But nowhere in this program or its traditions does it say that I cannot speak my truths as a person in recovery. It doesn't say anywhere in the literature or traditions that I can't tell people about how the gifts of recovery, how it makes me a better person, mother, sister, friend, and member of society.

This recovery movement and twelve step traditions can - and do - work together.  This is not an "either/or" situation.  We're all in this to help the sick and suffering addict/alcoholic.  We are doing this without breaking any traditions, because we are not out there representing ourselves as members of a program.  We are simply sharing our own experience, strength and hope as people in recovery.

If we step out and celebrate recovery - educate the world on what our lives are like now, and the are tens of millions of us - we can change the way people view addiction.

Everyone knows about the ravages of addiction.  You can't open a magazine or watch a reality show or a news broadcast without seeing some example of what addiction does to lives.  We don't need any more press telling the world about the awful things that happen in addicts' lives and the people who love them.

We need voices to step out into the light and share what a recovering life is like  How we strive to live authentically, honestly and compassionately.  How we become productive members of society - leaders, artists, parents, friends and family members.  How in order to get well, we have to be able to ask for help.  If we are living in shame and secrecy we stay stuck and addicted.

The Anonymous People is a film about this very movement -a recovery movement.  It is helping people all across the country (and world) look at recovery in a new way.  Not a shameful way, but a celebration of all we can be when we are living a present life.

When I'm at a party and someone offers me a drink and I say, "No thanks, I don't drink because I'm an alcoholic", I feel a stab of shame. The other person has no idea what to say, having their own impressions of what an alcoholic is - a stereotype.  If I say "No thanks, I don't drink because I'm in recovery" ... I get an entirely different response.  The other person usually says, "Really?  Good for you?"  And then they ask me questions - they want to know more about what it means to be in recovery.  Nobody has ever asked me what being an alcoholic is like, because everyone feels they already know, thanks to all the media hype and long-standing stigma.

I am proud to be in recovery.  I know the power of voice, of community, how it busts down silence and fear and heals people from shame.  The Anonymous People is game-changing; educating the world not about addiction, but about recovery.

Shining Strong is proud to be hosting a showing of The Anonymous People in West, Newton, MA on September 19th at 7:30pm.  We are beyond excited that this show is almost sold out (only 19 tickets left as of the writing of this post).  People in and out of recovery are hungry to learn more, and it's not surprising:  2/3 of the American population is impacted by addiction directly or indirectly.  BUT - and this is important - many millions of people are also impacted by RECOVERY.

If you live anywhere in the Boston area and want to go to The Anonymous People, you can purchase your $10 ticket by clicking here.  The theater is right off Rte 95, easy to get to.  Come - I'll be there. Introduce yourself and experience this movement first hand. Learn how you can get more involved.  We're going amazing places.

And I have TEN TICKETS to give away!!   If you would like one of these tickets (one per person, please) all you need to do is spread the word about this film - either by sharing this post, or posting about The Anonymous People's website (www.theanonymouspeople.com) or their facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/TheAnonymousPeopleMovie.   Then leave a comment that you shared and where you shared, and if you're comfortable leaving your email we will email you your ticket (an e-ticket).  If you'd rather not share your email in a comment, you can email me at onecraftyellie@gmail.com (after you commented) and tell me which commenter you are and I'll email you back your ticket.  The first ten commenters will get a free ticket!

And if you're going, THANK YOU.  You are part of something important.  And please find me and say hello!  I will be there along with the other board members of Shining Strong, the lovely Amanda and Lisa.

If you don't want to go to the film (or can't ) you can find out more about how to go to (or create) a screening in your area by going to The Anonymous People's website (or clicking here).

One final note... the creator of this film - the amazing Greg Williams - will be a guest on The Bubble Hour on September 8th at 9pm EST, 8pm Central, 7pm Mountain and 6pm Pacific.  Tune in to learn more!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How My Life Changed In Five Months

We are taking a quick break from our regularly scheduled writing for a word from our sponsor ... that would be me, sponsoring myself.... :)

Even though I'm trying not to make this blog too Arbonne-y (totally a word) I had to share this. Arbonne's products have changed my life - physically, emotionally and financially.

I used to spend SO MUCH MONEY on skin care products (really, it was a problem) that didn't work and were full of hazardous chemicals, mineral oils and/or animal by-products.

I used to struggle with a healthy eating plan, controlling calories without looking hard at WHAT was in the foods I was eating.

I knew I had to do something to earn additional money, but REALLY didn't want to go back to an office job.

The skin care products have utterly transformed my skin.  Just the other day a couple of (very handsome) twenty-five year old young men guessed my age as 34.  I'm 44.

I have been able to maintain a healthy weight for months now with little effort, even during the summer months (which have always been hard for me).

I am able to stay home and work - Arbonne fits seamlessly into the other work I do with jewelry and non-profit outreach.

It's funny, because when it comes to shouting from the hilltops about my non-profit work (including my jewelry which funds my non-profit) I have no trouble spreading the word.  I'm getting used to the idea that Arbonne is the SAME.  It changes lives, and it isn't about vanity, or a desperate struggle to look younger, or thinner.  It's about self-care - using safe, pure products that help us feel good from the inside out.

Check out the final results from my two week Genius challenge (Genius is a patented new product from Arbonne and it's going to revolutionize skin care):

Arbonne's RE9 Anti-Aging skin care regime and the new Genius product combined make it so I don't feel like I have to wear makeup to cover dark circles, puffiness and wrinkles.  Let's face it (no pun intended) - how we feel about our skin does impact our self-confidence.  At least it does for me.

And the results from the 30 day fit kit I did in the spring - not only have I been able to maintain these results for over four months now, I learned so much about my eating habits, addictions (hello, sugar) and how toxins (anything our body can't convert to energy) store fat and reduce our energy. I eat CLEANER, and it's made all the difference.

Got rid of stomach/waist fat by ridding my body of toxins.Increased my energy, slept better, went down two clothes sizes and have been able to maintain this lifestyle.

The only way I can show how Arbonne has changed my life from a financial perspective - while maintaining healthy balance - is this way:

Happy kids and the ability to be with them during the summer, after school, at sports - anywhere.

If any of this interests you - healthier eating, your best looking skin, financial independence and security - please ask me about Arbonne ... either the products, the opportunity or both.  My email is onecraftyellie@gmail.com.

I say this not to put a big sales pitch on you, but because it has quite literally changed my life.  I don't ever, ever write about things I can't back up, or that I don't believe in, and I believe in this with all my heart.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming - thank you for taking the time to listen and (hopefully) not un-follow me.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What Is Your Relationship With Food?

Being out at our beach cottage makes me contemplative.

It's hard not to be - surrounded by water, sun and sand with no electricity.  Everything runs on solar, propane or a generator.  Each night the kids fall into bed exhausted from full days of running around in the fresh air

The nights are getting cooler now, the first wisps of fall are in the air.

I love it.

Fall is like my New Year's.  I'm academically programed, and each September along with the crisp air I start thinking about what this new year is going to bring.

The arrival of that big yellow school bus marks the beginning of the kids' new school year, and return of some structure to my life.

This morning I woke early, wrapped up in a cozy sweater and headed up to the lighthouse next to our cottage.  As the sun's rays poked up over the horizon, pushing away the night's darkness, I thought about new beginnings.

Each day is a chance for a new start.

The lack of structure during the summer can be tough. Especially for stay-at-home Moms.  All too often our needs take a back burner to the constant pace of summer.   It can be a tough time for healthy eating, even though in theory the opposite should be true, what with the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Exercise regimes are interrupted, or put on hold.  Healthy eating is abandoned (with glee, I hope) during vacations and barbeques.

I don't know about you, but summer is typically my most challenging month in terms of self-care.

I can't wait for a fresh start in September.  I can't wait to get back to my routine - my yoga classes, my support groups.

One thing that wasn't as tough for me this summer as in years past is healthier eating.  I've talked about the Arbonne fitness plan here before. It's hard not to talk about it all the time, to be honest.

As many of you know, I hosted and participated in an Arbonne 30 day fitness challenge in the spring, losing 14 lbs and 2 inches off my waist. 

But most importantly, for me it was a jump start to a healthier lifestyle. As the fat melted off my waistline and my energy returned, I was able to flip that Internal Eating Switch from "what does it matter" to "I matter".  Losing weight and looking better is great, don't get me wrong, but this isn't meant to be a get-thin-quick fad diet.  It's an entire system of healthier eating.

It's a gateway to freedom from self-sabotaging thoughts about food, and yourself.

I used to get uncomfortable blogging about Arbonne.  I don't like feeling like I'm using this place to be salesy.  But I have witnessed this plan change lives, and so I'm not apologetic about talking about it here.

Since the spring challenge, my clients who did the 30 day fit kit and then stayed on basic maintenance and stuck with the healthier eating habits have been able to not only maintain their weight loss, but continue to build muscle and gain energy.  Their skin is clearer.  They sleep better.

By digging down and examining their eating habits, they feel back in control of their relationship to food.

Amanda - my best friend since we were ten years old - did the spring challenge.  Her goal was to get control of her sugar and dairy intake (read: ICE CREAM) and stop her late afternoon energy crash.   While she is very active, she isn't an exerciser.  She has always been naturally slim (good genes) but knew there was a healthier, toner, more energetic person waiting to come out.

She has now been on maintenance for almost three months.  I saw her yesterday for the first time in a couple of months.  She is radiant.  Sure, she's ten pounds thinner and toned, but it's more than that.  There is a lightness about her spirit, too. 

When she took those before pictures she could never, ever have imagined letting someone take her picture in a bikini.  And posting it on the INTERNET. (You are such a good sport, Amanda. Thank you)!

This summer I wasn't able to exercise like I wanted to, but being on the Arbonne fitness plan made me feel like I was in control of food, instead of the other way around.  I understand the nature of my relationship to food, now - in particular to sugar.  There isn't any "cheating", only choices.

I'm hosting another 30 Day Fitness Challenge (along with several others in my incredible Arbonne team) starting September 1st.  We chose September because it's a fantastic time for new beginnings.  The return of structure.  The crisp, clear fall days where long walks are a treat.

Put yourself back in the driver's seat when it comes to food.  This 30 day fitness challenge is great for weight loss, to be sure, but it's so much more than that.  It's your new beginning. It's your fresh start.  You are so totally worth it.

For the cost of one week's groceries for the average family of four, you can flip your "what's the point" switch to "I AM THE POINT".

This challenge is open to both existing and new clients, and in order to participate you need to purchase your kit by August 21st.  I know that isn't much time.  That is on purpose.  Don't over think this ... jump in with both feet.  I did, and it's one of the best decisions I ever made.

I won't go into all the details here - this post is long enough - but if you are interested send me an email at ellieandsteve@verizon.net and I will send you more information about the fit kit and the challenge.  To learn more you can also go to my Arbonne page by clicking HERE.

It's YOUR time.  You can do this.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

To Those Who Love An Alcoholic

Addiction is an insidious disease, and it destroys lives.

It doesn't simply effect the life of the addict/alcoholic, it seeps into the lives of everyone who cares about them.  It makes everyone feels helpless.  People search madly for a reason why - why is this person destroying their life?  Why do they continue to drink/use when nothing but misery follows?

This isn't a post about the disease of addiction and the myriad of reasons someone continues on a path of self-destruction when all the evidence points to an obvious solution ... just stop.  It boils down to the frustrating fact that an addict in the throes of their addiction can no more stop on their own than a diabetic can force their body to produce insulin, or a cancer patient can will rogue cells to stop multiplying.

This is a post for those who love an addict/alcoholic.

It's not your fault.

Addiction can hit anyone; it doesn't matter what your ethnic, economic or educational background is .. addiction doesn't discriminate.  Some environmental factors do come into play, of course. If you grow up surrounded by drugs and/or drinking, the chance that you will use yourself increase dramatically.

But you can grow up comfortably, in a loving and supportive family, and addiction can still find you.

I am a case in point.  I was raised by loving and supportive parents in a very stable home environment, financially comfortable, ivy-league educated and not surrounded by drugs or drinking at all when I grew up, and alcoholism got me anyway.

It's the way we're hardwired.  My last post about fear and how it fueled my addiction elicited some interesting responses.  My inbox filled with messages from people struggling with this disease, who said: me too. I don't know why I have always had this hole in the middle of me. I don't know why I try to hide from myself.

I also got emails from people who love an alcoholic, saying: I don't understand. What made you so afraid, why did you want to hide?

The answer is frustrating:  I don't know.   

What I know for sure is that I speak to thousands of alcoholics and addicts every year, and we're all programmed the same way.  A sixty year old male cocaine addict feels the same on the inside as I do.

We're hardwired differently, us addicts.  Life seems pointier, louder, brighter to us.  We suffer from an odd combination of competence and profound insecurity.  We seek validation from the outside in when we're actively drinking/using. We don't understand how to love ourselves.

If you love an addict, this is confounding. Most addicts/alcoholics are intelligent, compassionate and loving people. We have supportive family and friends. We are successful in our jobs. We're creative, innovative and outgoing.  We look fine on the outside.  We are teachers, physicians, pilots, parents, CEOs, pastors.

Recovery isn't just about stopping drinking or using.  Recovery is about digging deep, staring at the insides we've spent a lifetime avoiding.  Recovery teaches us to find acceptance, to love ourselves as we are.  And as long as we don't ignite our disease by drinking or using, we heal.  We recover.  We find peace of mind and learn to face the hard stuff like fear.

But if you love an active alcoholic or addict, what do you do?

The first thing to know is you can't fix them. They have to fix themselves.

They have to admit that they are powerless against drugs/alcohol and that their life is unmanageable.  This can be astonishingly hard for an addict to do. We can lose jobs, our license, the love of our family and friends, and we still refuse to see that it is alcohol that is at the root of it all.  We search madly for any other reason - ANY other reason - than stopping drinking.  We point madly about, blaming our job (or lack thereof), money (or lack thereof), heartbreak, grief, depression, anxiety.  ANYTHING but alcohol.  We'd rather be called crazy than alcoholic.  Why?  Because we think the thing that is actually destroying us is holding us together.  This is the illogical thought pattern of an active alcoholic.

And so we lie. We exaggerate or minimize. We steal. We take advantage of love and support, turning into evidence that we can't be that bad.  We break hearts.  We behave in ways the sober us would never, ever behave.

All too often, the only way to help an alcoholic is to start shutting doors.  This doesn't mean you don't love and care about someone; in fact, it means the opposite. You can love an alcoholic to death. Give an alcoholic a place to live, or money, or even love, and they will stay stuck in their disease.  Very often the only thing that gets an alcoholic to get help is for them to have a moment of lucidity and realize that everyone is gone, and that they are the common denominator of their own misery.

I heard a line on the show Intervention, and it has stuck with me.  The interventionist was coaching a family on what to say to a woman who was a mother, sister, daughter and friend, and she wouldn't stop drinking despite some dire consequences in her life.  The interventionist told the family to say to her:  "I will do anything to help you stop, but I will no longer participate in your self-destruction".   I've heard it said another way:  "I love you unconditionally, but I don't have to have unconditional acceptance of your actions".

It's hard, loving an alcoholic. Just like the alcoholic is searching desperately for something they can do to get out of their spiral (other than surrender), loved ones are searching just as desperately for something they can do to help.  Get them into rehab?  Give them money so they can afford gas in order to find a job?  Send them to a counselor?

The sad truth is that if the alcoholic doesn't admit they have a problem and ask for the help, these things don't work.  Recovery is an inside job.

So please, stop thinking you have done something (or not done something) to create an alcoholic.  We aren't created, we're made this way.  We are the only ones who can fix ourselves.  We have to ask for help.  We have to throw our hands up and surrender and say we'll do anything - ANYTHING - to stop.  If you tell an alcoholic they need to go to rehab and you hear things like:  "But my kids need me" or "But I have to work" -- they aren't ready.   If you tell an alcoholic to get help and they tell you "I know I have a problem, I'm working on it.  I'm only drinking on (insert futile attempt to control here)"... they aren't ready.

The best thing you can do, as someone who loves an addict, is face some hard truths of your own, and plan for the worst.   Don't lose yourself to blame or guilt, because you could no more make someone an alcoholic than you can get them to stop. Put boundaries around yourself, keep yourself emotionally and physically safe. Cut them out of your life until they ask for help and are ready to do anything to stop.  If that means they have no place to live, no money, no friends -- so be it.

Trying to save an alcoholic from consequences keeps them sick.  I know it's heartbreaking.  It's like watching a train racing 100 mph towards a brick wall and the engineer is stepping on the gas instead of the brakes. But if you saw a train about to hit a wall, you wouldn't get between the train and the wall.  You'd pray like mad and hope there were pieces left to pick up, that the engineer survives and finally realizes he needs help.

Be ready to get that phone call, the one that says your loved one is in jail, or the hospital. Or, God forbid, dead.  Make peace with the fact that you can't do anything to prevent someone's rock bottom until that person asks for help.

We hit bottom when we stop digging, not when someone yanks the shovel out of our hand.

I wish I had better news. I wish there was a magical cure for addiction.

Lastly - find your own support system. Al-Anon, or online forums, or trusted friends, or others who have lived through loving an addict.  So much love, energy and time is poured into an active alcoholic.  Loved ones need the same kind of support.  They suffer from the same stigma - nobody wants their wife/daughter/sister/friend to be an alcoholic.

Loved ones are NOT alone.  65% of American adults are impacted by addiction either directly or indirectly.

Find the help you deserve, and don't try to do this alone.