Little Reminders for the New Year

0edf94300a2309d03c4bda88bd8365b2I spent New Year’s Eve or ‘Hogmanay’ as it’s referred to in Scotland with my British husband and some New Zealand friends of ours from church and you know what they all had in common? They all had a list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s a universal principle that most people see the New Year as a fresh start, a chance for improvement, refinement and forward progress. The desire self-improvement is cross-cultural. This New Years, instead of focusing entirely on traditional resolutions like going to the gym 5 times a week, I have focused much of my attention on emotional, spiritual and intellectual goals. Why? Because I have found that my body and physical well-being is more affected by my spiritual and emotional health than anything else.

The root of all health is in the brain. 

The trunk of it is in emotion. 

The branches and leaves are the body. 

The flower of health blooms

when all parts work together.

(Kurdish proverb)

Cut yourself some slack.

Making a list of goals for 2015 is all fine and good if that helps you keep motivated and focused however if the thought of breaking one of your rules makes you sick, you might want to re-think your strategy. Being too hard on yourself actually hinders, not helps, yourself from achieving your goals. Guilt is not a positive motivator. By all means, give yourself rigid guidelines and stick to your guns, but do NOT punish yourself when (yes when and not if) you fail to make it to the gym one day or sneak a chocolate candy. Guilt is by no means a positive incentive. Take it from me, cut yourself some slack and don’t become your worst enemy. You’ll thank yourself later.

Not all resolutions are task-oriented

The most common New Year’s resolution I’ve heard revolves around dieting or body image.

I will work out every single day.

I am giving up dessert in the New Year.

These physical goals are great and I encourage people to think about living healthier lives in 2015. I too want to get back into the rhythm of practicing yoga. I find bodily exercise helpful for my emotional well-being and peace of mind. I am an advocate of staying active and living an active lifestyle. Perhaps what I’m suggesting is for us to look beyond the stereotypical ‘better body by 2015’ goals and understand that health goes beyond the physical body. We consist of body, mind and soul. If we work on our bodies but ignore our minds and emotions, perhaps we’re missing out on opportunities for personal growth and development. Like our bodies, our minds and souls need to be nurtured too.

Do what makes your soul happy

I’ve already touched on this a little in my previous point, but it’s equally important to nurture our minds and souls as it is to nurture our bodies. Discover your passions and interests. And visit that thing as often as you need to feel good. Singing. Cooking. Dancing. Painting. Designing. Decorating. Photographing.35c0917f2cb1ed6e8728c5efa7679e30

Whatever it is, what makes your soul happy is essential to living well this New Year. Make time for your soul by making time for your hobbies. Setting aside time to be in our element, to sit and reflect are precious moments where the world is shut out and we can be the people we were created to be. Untouched and inspired.

Surround yourself with positive people

I’ve really struggled with this one in previous years. Shouldn’t everyone like me? The reality is, not everyone will like you. In the same way not everyone likes chocolate cake, not everyone will choose you, call you up for coffee, make time for you, speak well about you, or befriend you. This is an important lesson to grasp. But once you wrap your brain around this idea, then you can be free. Free from the need to people please. Freedom from caring about what other people think. We can then be comfortable with ourselves and invest in people who are actually worth our time. I used to get quite panicked and anxious if I found out that someone didn’t like me, gossiped about me or found fault in me. I can recall countless hours where I would anxiously await their phone call or spend emotional energy deciding how I would speak to them. What I’ve learned from those few instances are some very powerful lessons that I intend to take with me into 2015. Concern yourself with people who encourage you and build you up. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t waste your time and energy on people who are negative and only cause you grief. Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. You’re the best you there ever was. Invest in those people who see that.

Learn to let things go

Why do we like Disney’s Frozen? Perhaps the song ‘Let it Go’ speaks all too well to many of us. Learning to ‘let it go’ goes hand in hand with avoiding places and people who are negativity magnets. You don’t need negativity in your life. Life presents enough of its own challenges. You don’t need negative people to bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself. But we are human so we will hurt when people say unkind things to us. And sometimes we will hurt very deeply. I experienced this first hand at my very first job in Scotland. I discovered that my boss was gossiping about me behind my back – she actually called me stupid! You can imagine what this did to my sense of worth and value not only as an employee but as a human being. How could I work for someone and do a good job when I was perceived as stupid?! I had to learn to take out the garbage every day. With the help of family and friends and countless times praying to God for strength and self-control to not lash in anger, every day I had to ‘take out the trash’ (or rubbish if you’re British)! I had to filter everything I overheard and throw out the stuff that was negative or mean-spirited. If it wasn’t helpful, encouraging or positive, I would toss it out. Whatever didn’t affirm or uplift me, I learned to filter it out from the rest and throw it away! Because after all, nobody stores up garbage. Garbage is smelly and messy. Who needs that?

Don’t underestimate yourself

Perhaps what I learned most in 2014 is to never underestimate yourself. Don’t allow someone’s negative opinion of you to define who you are. Don’t give in and believe untruthful words spoken over you. You can imagine the difficulty of working for someone who thought I was clueless. The most challenging part of my experience was resisting the temptation to believe my boss’ words about me. Words have the power to bring life and death Proverbs says. And my boss’ label of ‘the girl who asks dumb questions’ hung over my head for weeks and even made me question my own abilities. I started to outsmart my own common sense and rethink my career path. Most days, I came home from work feeling undervalued, unappreciated and downright stupid. All because some person labelled me. My self-esteem was caught under fire, and I had to do everything in my power to stay the course and focus on truth. Which is that I am made in the image of Christ and I am not highly valued by the One who created everything and everyone. Learn to trust yourself, you know more than you think you do. 2c1f9848ad1d934aa33104596a666ee0

Be the best version of you, not a copy of someone else

Comparing-Yourself-To-OthersWith 10 days to go until Christmas, I am probably more excited about the holiday season than the grumpy British 8 year-old I see on the tram ride every morning on commute to work. But along with all that added tinsel, fairy lights, and Christmas cookie recipes to try, there is also an added pressure that goes along with this holiday season. If you’re like me, then your Instagram and Pinterest are blowing up with new and creative ways to celebrate this holiday season. I, for one, am a huge fan of these channels on social media. It’s the way of the future in connecting with friends and family. However, once in a while I find that I have to check myself. It’s hard to be a girl in this world, and I know I must guard my heart and my mind from that one thing that can rob us of our joy: comparison. Didn’t a wise woman once say, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? That woman was Eleanor Roosevelt, who at the time was the wife to one of the most powerful men on earth. She probably knew a thing or two about making comparisons.

Personally, I find it most difficult to battle the urge of “comparing myself” to others around the holiday season. It’s around Christmas and New Year’s that I find myself spending more time in front of the mirror and trying to painstakingly document everything I wear, eat, cook, see. The list goes on and on. I’ve had to recently stop myself and ask why. Why do I care so much about what others think of me, particularly on social media?

Between Pinterest and Instagram (I’m a huge fan), I am bombarded on a daily basis with photos of delicious recipes, ‘must-have’ outfits and expert beauty tips. It leaves me with the impression that I need these things to feel good about myself or that I am ‘doing life the right way’. If I’m not ‘instagramming’ my first Christmas tree, perhaps people won’t think I’m festive and sentimental.  These are absurd thoughts, yes but I bet you that one of them has popped into your head. I know I’m not the only one.

At 24 in a big city, I have found it’s hard to keep up. Ironically, no one has ever said I should keep up in the first place. In fact, I warn against the temptation to ‘keep up’ – it can lead to feelings of discontentment and comparing yourself to others. I can’t tell you how many times lately I have thought ‘Oh, that’s a lovely dress – I wish I had that’ or my personal favourite ‘Oh look at them having fun. I need to go have fun. I’m missing out!’

Yes, FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a real thing people, and I have noticed in creeping up on me many times in recent months. The irony behind FOMO and other ‘comparison disorders’ (is there such a thing – I’ve just made that up!), is that the very act of comparing yourself keeps you from living a full and vibrant life. Why concern yourself with what everyone else is doing when you could be making memories of your own?

I think ‘making comparisons’ is most difficult for us women. I am in no way saying that men don’t struggle with this. I’m simply suggesting that between pop culture and society’s conception of the ‘ideal woman’, I don’t it’s surprising that many women struggle in this department. I can’t recall how many times I found myself documenting everything James and I do as a newlywed couple, all because I saw some other couple doing the same thing. There is nothing wrong with documenting your ‘firsts’ especially as a newlywed couple (I find these things extremely exciting) but once in a while I have to check my motives. And I’ve realised that there is such a pressure for young married women to act and look a certain way. There have been many occasions where I have been consumed with the idea of being the ‘perfect wife’, all because I saw some woman on TV baking cookies for her husband when he walks in the door or because I saw a girl wearing a sexy dress on her ‘date night’ with her husband. ‘I have to do those things!’ I’ve demanded of myself!

Instead of giving in, I’ve had to take a good hard look in the mirror and come to terms with who I am. And you know what – I love who I am! Not in a selfish way. No, instead of practicing the art of self-loathing (us women are too hard on ourselves), I have been challenged recently by something my pastor said a few weeks ago during a sermon on identity. My identity does not lie in my appearance, my marriage, my job or by the things I can buy. My identity lies in Christ who always thinks I am beautiful and valuable regardless if I think so. And you know what? That realisation is so freeing! It makes ‘comparison-making’ a pointless exercise that’s a waste of my time and emotional energy.

My challenge to you: think about what you’re posting to social media this holiday season. Why do you post the pictures and statuses that you do? What if I said that tomorrow you didn’t have a Twitter or Instagram – how would that make you feel?

Perhaos it’s worth considering: ‘What image of myself am I trying to upload to social media? What is it that I want people to think about me?’ if you find yourself asking yourself struggling with these questions, (don’t worry it means you’re a normal woman!) perhaps you ought to consider whether other peoples’ opinions are worth so much of your time and energy.

What do you think about you? How often do you compare yourself to others?

Don’t worry about trying to be someone else. Just be you. Be the best version of you, not a copy of someone else. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.

My name is Rachel and this is Where I Stand.

Don’t love someone with anxiety disorder

4db01f582ae0b87300214b096aace2f0I know you can’t resist her strength. She seems to take on the world with her small hands and big ideas in her head. Her struggle makes her both complicated and mysterious. That confidence determination is uber sexy, I know.

But don’t date a girl with anxiety disorder. Because sooner or later, that confidence will begin to dwindle.

The cold reality of life’s stresses, the sudden onset of a panic attack will turn your lover into a paranoid mess.

Don’t fall in love with a guy who has depression. His sensitivity and eagerness to be vulnerable with you will of course draw you in. You will blab to your friends how emotionally tuned in your man is. He will open up to you and let you into the dark corners of his soul. He will reveal to you things he wouldn’t dare tell his own sister. You will have the rare privilege of seeing him at his best and at his worst.

But after a while, with the strains and pressures of life, that “privilege” of being your boyfriend’s ‘go-to’ when he is struggling with a bout of depression will soon become a burden. And you will resent him.

As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can tell you that mental health disorders, like any health disorder whether that be a physical disease or bi-polar disorder, can negatively impact family members and loved ones of someone struggling with a mental health disorder. While my caveat serves as a reminder to all that loving someone with anxiety or depression is not for the faint of heart, I hope that it challenges you to understand that people who suffer from these disorders need a real support system. Family members are one aspect of that support however they cannot become the sole provider of support, as this can result in a situation like the ones mentioned above: family members will feel burdened down and weighed down.

If you are a family member of a loved one who struggles with anxiety disorder, you may struggle to find the words to say or the endurance to get through another day. I have listed 5 tips of things I think you should consider. Above all else, try not to conflate your loved one with their disorder. Their disorder is not who they are, it is merely something they struggle with.

  1. De-compartmentalise your loved one from their anxiety disorder

Remember when you first met your girlfriend? She was so high on life, passionate about every little small thing. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious. She is still that girl. Remind her of that – she may have forgotten.

  1. Be patient and be merciful

I know it’s not easy for him to tell you he doesn’t feel loved by you. I know it’s frustrating to hear that he feels like no one cares. Don’t take it personally. It may have nothing to do with you. It may have everything to do with you. Be patient with him. You getting frustrated and defensive will only make things worse for him and most likely result in a shutdown of communication between the two of you.

  1. Mental health disorders are no different than physical disorders

You wouldn’t get mad at your boyfriend if he expressed pain and frustration over a broken leg would you? Remember that just because you can’t see his depression doesn’t mean he’s not struggling. There is a very real stigma in our society about mental health, and without realising it you are probably buying into it. If you find yourself get short-tempered or upset with your boyfriend over his depression, chances are you’re letting that stigma influence you without even knowing it.

  1. Avoid the ‘B’ word

Never ever ever under any circumstances utter the dreaded ‘B’ word when you find yourself feeling weighed down by your girlfriend’s anxiety. Don’t tell her that she’s a burden. Chances are, her condition will impact you in a negative way at some point in your relationship. Unfortunately, one of the bi-products of being in a relationship is that you are exposed to all the dirty dishes of someone’s personal life. You will end up fighting their inner demons. You might even have to carry the load for them at times. But informing them about the weight load is probably unwise and may even prove detrimental to your relationship.  The last thing she need is someone telling her something she already knows. She already knows this is heavy stuff. It’s why she debated with herself about telling you in the first place. She felt safe with you that she could divulge the most inner secrets of her heart. Don’t turn around and tell her how heavy her baggage is. Instead, help her unpack.

“Anxiety is not me”: what a dog taught me about identity

GeorgeAs a newly married American expat living in Edinburgh, I am not unaccustomed to change. So amidst the visa applications and endless job search (it some ways it feels like a lingering cold) and not to mention the adjusting to city life in a foreign country, it is no wonder that I needed to take my mind off of life’s many new transitions and do one of my favourite things: walk dogs.

I first met George on the first day of October at a large open park called the Meadows. He is a very friendly flat coated retriever that the owner explained “is just like me” because you see, George is an American dog. George is also a very special dog. George only has three legs as a result of his fight against leg cancer when he was a much younger dog.

“I don’t think George minds though”, says his owner as we walked along the tree-lined path. George hobbles in front of us.

“He gets extra strokes from people so I don’t think he minds at all that he’s missing a leg.”

I went on my first date with George this past Thursday, and I quickly realised that George was “just like me” more than I thought. Not just because we are both originally from the same country but there was almost something like a mutual understanding between us.

When I first picked up George for our playdate, he was more excited than when I first met him in the park, jumping up and down and doing circles in the foyer of his owner’s flat.

But I was a little nervous to walk him for the first time. I didn’t want to wear him out. And I didn’t want to hurt him. I never looked after a “disabled” dog before.

As we stepped out onto the cobbled road for the first time, that’s when I knew George was a special dog. He didn’t hobble or limp down the street. He raced on ahead of me, often dragging me in tow. He charged up little hills and darted after the occasional bird. George was indeed special, not because he was a three legged dog, but because he didn’t act like one.

That’s’ when it hit me.

George didn’t act like a three legged dog. Who knows if George is consciously aware of his struggle. Either way, it didn’t stop him from doing all the things dogs love to do.

It’s funny how unlikely people or things teach us valuable lessons in life and I believe that my walk with George was one of those instances.

How often do we allow our struggles and our fears to limit us? Because we are afraid of facing our fears and we are tired of navigating through life’s ups and downs, the easiest thing to do is to make excuses. We end up missing out on life’s opportunities and we don’t achieve our goals and dreams. And somehow along the way, we allow for our struggle, the very thing we were afraid of, to identify us.

My attitude towards anxiety was no exception.

There were times when anxiety disorder limited me, mainly because I let it.

I have often acted like my identity was rooted in my struggle with anxiety. I let anxiety define me and determine what I did and didn’t do.

I can’t go to that party, I might have a panic attack and then what will people think of me?

I can’t get that dream job. My anxiety will get the best of me, and I’ll interview poorly.

I can’t go to the doctor. I’m so anxious about walking into a hospital building that it might make things worse.

I can’t tell my friend about my disorder – she might think less of me and stop hanging out with me.

I have thought each one of these discouraging and self-loathing thoughts at some point in my struggle against anxiety disorder, and I know that I am not alone. Over time, I let anxiety become a part of who I was. Anxiety became me.

My walk with George reminded me that my struggle with anxiety is just one little bump in the road, and that I am not defined by it. Anxiety is just one obstacle that I have to overcome little by little. But anxiety is not me.

In George’s case, his physical disability served as an important reminder that our identity is not based on our struggles. Everyone battles against something but the key to overcoming those obstacles is having the right attitude. While this is easier said than done, I do believe that part of the battle is in the mind. And there is nothing more debilitating on the mind than negative self-talk.

George taught me to turn my “I can’t” into an “I will”. But that’s the thing about dogs – I believe that there’s something special about them. They don’t care where you’ve been or what problems you may have. There is no judgement. And no matter what challenges lie ahead, they’re always up for a walk in the park.

Perhaps there’s something to be learned from a simple animal like George. If it’s not learning to overcome our struggles, then perhaps it’s learning to enjoy a good walk in the park – three legs in all.

My name is Rachel and this is Where I Stand.

For the relationally challenged (like me), and for those who love them.

10580204_10152377665747772_3497282060878623508_nTelling you that I struggle with intimacy would be like me telling you the grass is green or some other ridiculously obvious fact. However, it’s not something people are always aware of, well, unless you’ve been one of those people who’s attempted to develop a deep and meaningful relationship with me.

I know I’m not alone, which is why today I’m talking about it.

Trust for me is not natural. I mean, I grew up unable to even trust myself – my own thoughts, ideas and emotions at times. It’s painful and exhausting. I usually try to force it, then I run from it as through it’s going to steal or break parts of me that I’ve spent so much time rebuilding.

My brain goes into over drive:

It’s okay ________ is good for you.

No, run.

They care.

No they don’t, why would they?

It’s very common for me not to give anyone the chance to truly and honestly enter my life in an intimate way, largely because of ways I’ve been hurt in the past and beliefs I’ve held in my heart for so long.

Now, there are people who I have very deep and intimate relationships with despite my best efforts. These relationships survived my attempts to destroy them, or any wall I desperately tried to build. They survived because these friends didn’t run, nor hide, nor react to my attempts to push them away. They just stayed right there. They never took it personally. They gave me an undeserving grace. This taught me that they didn’t like me because of what I do, they loved me because of who I am.

I’m someone who gives my whole heart to people when I get to the point of trust. But, it takes me a while to get there. Today, I still work on that. I work through past trauma, anxieties and fear; and I remain thankful for the people who have stuck with me; who have taught me that there is something about me worth loving (even when I push).

People with mental illnesses are often very quick to build walls, but something that is just has hurtful to the people we are walling out is that we are walling ourselves in too. Today – think about how you can lower one of your walls.


You are Loved.


My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.

Learning to Listen to yourself.

My 12th grade english teacher (Mrs. Bush) had a great impact on my life. She assigned our class narrative essays. At that point I was in the trenches of my eating disorder and struggled to really think about much else. I turned in this first essay that barely said anything at all. In that moment I desperately wanted both to reveal my secret and hide it at the same time. Mrs. Bush sent the first essay right back to me.

In a leap of faith I re-wrote the paper with my truth included (the good, the bad and the ugly). It was a life I was afraid and ashamed to admit and call my own. I remember writing it with knots in my stomach and fearful thoughts streaming through my head:

She’s going to think I’m crazy.

She’ll tell everyone…. then everyone will know I’m crazy.

She’ll think you’re gross and disgusting.

Mrs. Bush responded with love, and through her (unconditional) love I began to be able to realize that while my truth is not pretty; while it is actually downright terrifying it’s mine. Writing my truth out for another person to read taught me that I was valid. My experience was valid. My life was valid. I began down a road of listening to myself; and before I knew it I was using my voice.

You are worth listening to.

My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.

our beautiful brain – brushstroke your way to zen

zen brush strokes 1


What you will need:

A wide soft brush – or three brushes – one for each color

– Black fluid acrylic paint, or 3 different colors of fluid acrylic paint – you could also use water colors

– 20 or more sheets of card-stock or heavy paper – a torn up cardboard box works great –

How it works:

Zen painting is a very simple spontaneous painting exercise, yet it takes great unselfconscious concentration to execute. It loosely involves the spiritual practice of painting one, two or three uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is set free to let the body create.

In this exercise, I invite you to progressively practice letting go of your normal self-conscious ways of being in the world by engaging in painting 20 or more loose, swift, minimalist paintings in one session until your mind goes completely still.

The aim of Zen painting is to practice single-pointed concentration so that the totality of your mind is so completely engaged – it disappears. Building concentration is like any other kind of discipline. If we want to build muscles we lift weights. Soon our muscles respond. To play the piano, we repeat the same exercises over and over. Eventually our fingers fly over the keys. It’s the same with movement, and with art. Repetitive practice builds our ability and skill.

The Zen Painting Process

Following is an informal way to experiment with Zen Painting, in an accessible, non-traditional way. Zen painting is traditionally done with black ink, but I prefer the viscosity of fluid acrylics, and the use of 2 to 3 colors.

Prepare your paint and paper – Have all your materials close at hand. Prepare your three trays of paint along with a separate brush for each color. Consider where you will put all of your paintings as they dry. Have a stack of 20 or more sheets of paper spread out for painting.

Prepare your mind and body – Because we habitually live in a near constant state of inner conflict and distraction, consider that it is a rare and worthy practice to bring all of your attention to one still, quiet point. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths, Loosen your body by stretching and through spontaneous movement. Take note where you feel tight and sore. Breathe, stretch and move into your body constrictions until they soften from your kind attention.

Paint standing up – The aim of this painting exercise is to fully and completely engage your mind, body and soul into one concentrated point of concentration. Standing up allows you to embody each brush stroke with your entire, integrated being.

Paint simply and spontaneously – As you paint your brushstrokes, follow the rule of “no rules”. The only rule you might consider is to paint one color at a time. Paint one stroke of color on all 20 sheets of paper first, let them dry, and then brush on the next color, and so on.

Paint each brushstroke spontaneously, without mental calculation. Each brush stroke strives to be without self-consciousness – organic, intuitive, and uncultivated. Paint as many paintings as you need to – until you arrive at the place where your brush seems to be painting all by itself.

Bask in your direct experience of reality – When you reach the point single-pointed attention to the moment, when your whole body, mind and soul is engaged in each brushstroke, and when you have forgotten how you normally think – stop painting. And sit or stand in your quietude.

Bask in your sudden, yet cultivated quietude. Celebrate the delicious feeling of the directly experiencing your own life. Remember how it feels to be so utterly free of self-consciousness. Remember so that you can cultivate this lack of artificiality more often in your daily life.

Enjoy the calm.

My name is Dawn and this is Where I Stand


Returning to the scene of the crime.


For the next three weeks I’ll be living with my parents once again in the town where I grew up, Roanoke Va. I just ended my first year working full time at a therapeutic group home for teenage boys and am getting ready to start my graduate program for healthcare communication and advocacy in mid august.

It seems like everyone has very distinct feelings about returning home to where they grew from children to young adults. Mine are very very mixed.

Roanoke for me reminds me of some pretty wonderful things/people: Loch Haven Lake (where I both swam and was employed during summers), dance class at Valley Dance Productions with a director who not only loved the art, but loved her students (Leslie Arthur), Babysitting for some of the most wonderful kids in the world and also some of the best friendships I have ever made. There is a lot of love in Roanoke (not just in my heart). But, returning to my hometown hurts a lot too.

No one gets through their teens and tween unscathed, however some people definitely struggle more than others. As I drive into town immediately my chest tightens.

Roanoke reminds me of fighting with myself and my family. It reminds me of pretending to be okay when I wasn’t. It reminds me of feeling helpless. There is this murky cloud that seems to hang over my childhood home in my head and in my heart.

Now, to clarify I’m not bitter nor resentful. I’m not angry nor feel hurt nor guilt about my past – but returning always has this fear attached to it. We could psychoanalyze it to death, but for now I’m coping with it. Here’s how:

  • I’m going to spend my time doing things that make me feel good (regardless of what anyone else wants).
  • I’m going to journal and pray.
  • I’m going to remind myself it’s temporary.
  • I’m going to ask for support.
  • I’m going to say what I need.

The best we can do sometimes is take things as they come. Life is never going to be perfect. Life is never going to be “fixed” for anyone.


But, we can do this.


My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.

The Meeting That Saved My Life.


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The Meeting That Saved My Life

By: Dawn Sachleben


Meeting at a church on a Friday night at 10pm is not usual for me, this was usually the time I spent in the bar downtown on Main Street. Today was different though I was going to attend my first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting in support of one of my best friends because he asked me to and that’s what friends do. As we entered and went down to the basement there was a square room with four couches, and an odd assortment of chairs, the space is the home for a vast array of women and men who meet weekly to discuss their addiction journey, as well as to both provide and receive support for their decision to remain sober. At this point I was not ready to admit that I was an alcoholic and I definitely was not an addict. So I sat there drunk out of my mind watching the room continue to fill up. I noticed how friendly everyone was even to complete strangers like me, you could feel the warmth in the room.

The meeting opened with the leader welcoming everyone to the meeting and I observed as each member of the meeting introduced themselves to the group. When they got to me I had no idea what to stay I stumbled over my words, I wanted to blurt out that I was an alcoholic too but how could I? I was only there to support my friend remember. I don’t know what it was about this meeting but I listened and I related to the stories and a few weeks later I attended this meeting sober and that was the beginning of my recovery. My sobriety date is June 5, 2012.

AA is based upon a number of tenets, including the twelve steps and the twelve traditions. The steps include the idea that AA founders “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” and “when we were wrong promptly admitted it,” amongst ideas of meditation, making amends, and seeking support through a higher power (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2007, pp. 60-61). The traditions state that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking, that AA is focused solely on promoting sobriety within an autonomous group, and that anonymity is of upmost importance (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2007). Members read aloud these steps and traditions, as well as an anonymity pledge. In addition to the readings and the open discussion, there is an achievement portion of the meeting where members receive a chip for deferent increments of sobriety. This reward system allows the members of the group to share their accomplishments with the others in the group. AA also has a mentor program in which other members of the group called “sponsors” with a year or more of sobriety guide the newer counterparts toward these goals. They open their arms to alcoholics in all stages of change they do not discriminate. At the end of each meeting we stand, hold hands, and recite the Lord’s Prayer while holding hands. I have found it essential to have support when I was struggling with addiction, as with any lifestyle change. AA is a prime example of how groups support sobriety in individuals if they are willing to follow a program and commit to changing their habits.

AA and NA saved my life, if you need help with substance abuse do not be afraid to look for help in these types of groups they will welcome you with open arms.

 My name is Dawn and this is Where I Stand.

Transition trouble…. Why can’t I just pull it together?


My mom says I’ve always hated change. I wish she was wrong. Even the thought and idea of impending changes makes my palms sweat. After everything, you think I’d be used to it by now.

My treatment team throws out words: coping, surviving, managing, regulating and I want to scream. Is that really what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life? Is that what my days, weeks, months and years are going to be filled with? Is that what recovery is?

It’s hard for me to wonder if I was made wrong or incomplete or broken because as I look around the rest of the world just seems to be going with it as my heels are dug deep into the ground and I’m kicking and screaming “DONT MAKE ME.”

Filled with anger and frustration I think, “This isn’t enough. I want more. I need more. I deserve more.” We all do. We’re not here to cope, survive, manage, and regulate ourselves. We’re here to live.

Living with a mental illness (in recovery or relapse) isn’t easy, it isn’t a choice, nor glamorous. It’s constant hard work that often times you don’t want to do. Getting frustrated is normal. Giving up isn’t optional.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I’ve found recovery through millions of professionals, programs, conversations with God, medications, and the undeniable will of those around me. But, recovery doesn’t  mean a magic wand has been waved and you’re cured – no, it simply means you’ve learned how to maintain your wellness through work and support.

For me, I regulate, I manage, I survive, I cope so that I may live.

My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand.