Unlabeled


We begin to wear a label at birth. Before birth, actually, if an ultrasound reveals our gender.

Boy. Girl.

Our first label determines what colour clothing our parents buy for us, whether or not we play with dolls or trucks, whether we play football or take high tea with stuffed animals, you get the idea.

Then there’s school.

Gifted. Not gifted.

Let’s not forget all the labels leveled upon us by our well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning classmates.

Slut. Four-eyes. Dork. Dweeb. Jerk. Moron. Faggot. Fat. Ugly. Cheater. Bastard.

Gorgeous. Wonderful. Fabulous. Bright. Intelligent. Honest. Promising. Compassionate.

We, as humans, crave labels. It’s what helps our world make sense.

Girl. Sister. Woman. Girlfriend. Fiance. Wife. Ex-Wife. Aunt. Artist. Writer. Mental Health Advocate. Multiple episode PPD Survivor. Christian. Music fanatic. Bacon fanatic. Football fanatic. F1 Fanatic. MotoGP Fanatic.

The above labels have described me, somewhat, at various points in my life. Sure, there are several other labels I’ve worn over the years but I choose not to claim them anymore. Some labels just never felt completely comfortable yet they were tossed in my direction anyway, and I was forced to wear them, much like Ralphie was forced to wear that horrendous Pink Rabbit costume in A Christmas Story.

One of the biggest labels tossed my way was that of “Co-dependent.” It jumped in my lap at my first meeting with my ex-husband at our Recovery group. He’d just admitted to an narcotics addiction and we were scrambling to save our marriage. According to the Recovery group we chose, any spouse of a recovering addict is automatically a “co-dependent.”

Why?

It felt like a wool sweater, to be honest. Itchy, uncomfortable, and impossible to ignore even once the fabric was removed from my skin.

Had I really become a co-dependent? Is that what my life had been reduced to while I wasn’t watching? How could I be a co-dependent when, in all honesty, I truly had NO IDEA the extent of his use? Was I still responsible for his behaviour? Had I enabled it? Condoned it? How could I have enabled or condoned it if I was unaware? Did his lack of control truly feed a need within me to be the “strong” and “responsible” one?

Yet, there I sat. In a single group of combined women, addicts and “recovering” co-dependents, forced to introduce myself as a “grateful believer in Jesus Christ and a recovering co-dependent” if I chose to speak at a meeting.

I cringed EVERY TIME I SPOKE THOSE WORDS, “Recovering co-dependent.” Denial? Maybe.

Maybe I was co-dependent and so far gone the label was like dunking my head in cold water, thus explaining the uncomfortable nature of even discussing the possibility.

But, I think, what bothered me, was that without even knowing my story, without hearing anything about how we landed in group, I had a label affixed to my soul, a label I then felt forced to use for the remainder of my time there.

What if, what if we refused to label others without hearing their story first? What if, even then, after hearing their story, we still refused to label others and instead allowed them to choose their own labels? Eventually we grow up and are able to dress ourselves, right? Why can’t we also label ourselves if we so choose?

People with mental illness are not crazy. They’re simply people who face more daily challenges than the rest of us.

People with cancer or any other illness/physical ailment? The same.

Your skin colour is different than mine? You’re still a person, right?

Gay? Still a person.

A bigot? Still a person.

Buddhist? Still a person.

Christian? Still a person.

Muslim? Still a person.

Breastfeed? Still a person.

Formula feed? Still a person.

Parent? STILL A PERSON.

Not a parent? STILL A PERSON.

Bottom line?

People are people.

We are not our gender, our sexual preference, our colour, our experiences, our talents, our gifts, our illnesses. WE.ARE.PEOPLE.

You are me and I am you.

End of story.

My goal is not only to live…but to do so unlabeled.

I dare you to do the same.

 

 

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An Open Letter to any Media outlet Exploiting Charlie Sheen


Dear members of the media including but not limited to ABC, TMZ, NBC:

You make me sick. Sick, angry, and sad.

A celebrity is in the midst of a dire emergency and you’ve erected circus tents around him replete with cameras.

ABC? You get a special mention here because you even allowed his CHILDREN to be present at one of the many interviews you filmed with Charlie Sheen. His children.

On what planet is it okay to be cool with nearly two year old children around someone who claims to have “tiger blood?”

But it’s okay, you say.

Okay because Charlie says he’s okay.

Right.

You drug tested him. Drew blood.

Nothing there.

Guess what, ABC?

Mental illness?

Yeah. That’s not diagnosable via test tube or pee cup.

Now that you’ve “ruled out” drugs, are there plans for you to play Psychiatrist too as America watches?

I feel heartbroken for his family. For his ex wife, Denise Richards, who has now had to assure the American public that her kids have not been with Charlie these past two weeks. I feel for Brooke who is clearly in a state of confusion. I know where she’s at …. somewhat. I’ve been there. It sucks. You don’t know which way is up or down. It’s a vortex in which you do the best you can do just to stay afloat but mostly you want to collapse and scream and ask WHY?!?! But instead you go numb and trudge forward toward safety. You hope.

Charlie, a father with four children, is clearly struggling with a multitude of issues.

Instead of offering help to Charlie, you’re putting on a show for the rest of us with him as the star. You ask him things like “Do you worry about your kids learning about this?” To which he replies, “God no! What a lesson!” What kind of a lesson, exactly? That it’s okay to go crazy, seek attention, shout inane things from the top of the world, and demand that you get paid more for services you’re clearly not capable of at the moment? There is a lesson in all of this – it’s that when you hurt, you get help. When you see someone hurt, you GET them help. You don’t put them on display.

Wait. You’re the media. You do put it all on display. No matter what the moral and ethical bounds are – it’s all about the ratings. The wilder the better, right?

I’m not watching. Many people I know are not watching.

But many are… and the damage being done to those who are mentally ill and struggling with addiction by your organizations is atrocious. Here, let me serve up some stigma on a silver platter. Watch.

Have we, as a society, taught you this behaviour, through our obsession with reality TV?

Has reality TV finally blurred the line? Have we really come to this?

Is our society so starved for entertainment we are willing to watch, in real time, as a celebrity implodes live on the air?

I know it’s about ratings. If people watch, you make money on advertising, etc. Have you no soul? No decency left among you?

In my opinion, the only company that has done something right is CBS. I stand with them in canceling the rest of the season of Two and a Half Men. It’s unfair to the rest of the cast and the crew, but not to Charlie.

There needs to be someone holding him accountable for his behavior. Yes, he is an adult and shouldn’t have to have anyone treat him like he’s 12. Unfortunately, he’s also a very ill person in crisis right now. Sometimes we have to take steps back in order to regain our footing.

I sincerely ask you to stop exploiting Mr. Charlie Sheen’s tragic situation.

Your exploitation of his situation is possibly even more tragic and disturbing than Charlie’s fall from grace.

Warmest,

Lauren Hale

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Whatever Wednesday: The Exploitation of Charlie Sheen


For the past three years, I have been attending, off and on, family recovery meetings with my husband. There’s childcare. The meetings have grown from a small group of 10-15 to a group almost three or four times that size.

I have sat in group with hurting people. I can’t disclose their issues because what is said in group, stays in group. It is a safe place in which to heal from your addictions and the very real wounds they cause within you and in the ones you love.

Three years ago this month, actually, I was in a car accident. Not only was my car totaled, my life as I knew it would soon follow suit.

I was not the one high.

My husband was the addict.

He spent money on marijuana instead of on our car insurance.

He spent money on marijuana instead of on vehicle registration.

He even fashioned a FAKE sticker for our license plate, y’all.

Addicts lie. It’s part of the lifestyle.

Here in Georgia, driving without insurance AND vehicle registration is a jailable offense.

Yes.

Oh yes.

Not even three months after the birth of our son and I found myself sitting in a jail cell. For something I didn’t do. For something my husband had lied to me about because of his addiction.

We never dealt with the mania that Charlie Sheen is now exhibiting on a daily (if not hourly) basis.

We never thrown into a media circus because of our issue.

Our issue had ripples too – it hurt me, it hurt our kids, our families, enraged my brothers, destroyed my milk supply (I had to put our son on formula at 6 months old when he was diagnosed as failure to thrive.)

We still deal with the fallout today. Sure, we’re better. But we’re far from perfect. And we sure as hell aren’t screaming it from the roof tops.

I’m not a professional. I’m the wife of a recovering addict disgusted with the media for the giving Charlie Sheen the time of day instead of encouraging him to get help. I’m disgusted that this is happening. I’m disgusted that Charlie Sheen is being called crazy, insane, nuts, and several other offensive things. As this week has worn on, I have watched my Twitter stream explode with Charlie Sheen jokes. Jokes about addicts. About how crazy they are. Sure, Charlie Sheen is the case in point and I get that, but I also see the many faces of the addicts I see on Thursday nights when I read these jokes. They are hurting, people. Hurting. They, thankfully, are getting help. Charlie Sheen is not. Instead, the media is literally glorifying his lifestyle. They are putting his words and his mania on display. And people are eating it up.

It’s sick.

It’s reprehensibly irresponsible.

You wonder why we have a bully issue? Why we have kids who think it’s okay to make fun of people who have issues and act strange?

Perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror, America.

Perhaps it’s time.

 

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Complain or give thanks? It’s up to you


We are taking a Bible study course at our church on Wednesday nights called “Lord, Change My Attitude.” Authored by James McDonald, it is an amazing course already. Tonight was just the second night.

One of the verses James talked about tonight really hit home with me:

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Did you read it?

Read the first part again: In EVERY THING give thanks.

Every thing.

Not some things.

Not just the good things.

But EVERY THING.

As I sat in class, I thought of everything I have ever been through about which I could possibly complain but instead already find myself thanking Jesus for these events. For this, I am again, thankful.

It is HARD to sit in the middle of trauma, tragedy, tough stuff, and say “Thank you.” It is so much easier to give up, get angry, walk away. But to instead be given the grace of God to be able to say Thank You to God for the hard stuff too? Mind-blowing.

As I thought about this, I realized this practice of giving thanks is a habit I already practice.

For instance:

I could complain that almost three years ago I wrecked my car – my favorite car and best friend from college. I went everywhere in that car. But instead I am grateful. Grateful and thankful because wrecking that car saved my marriage.

I could complain that because of my wreck I spent the night at the ER and in jail. Instead, I am grateful and thankful because that time allowed me to spend time with God and pray before I had to go home and talk with my husband.

I could complain that my husband spent our money on marijuana instead of on insurance for the car. But instead I am grateful and thankful because that allowed me the time I needed to spend time with God and pray before I had to go home and talk with my husband about his confession of addiction.

I could complain that God allowed me to struggle with Postpartum Depression twice. But instead I am grateful and thankful because that hell? Prepared me for the hell I would soon face as the wife of a recovering addict.

I could complain that God gave us a daughter with a Cleft Palate. But instead I am grateful and thankful because she has taught us patience, love, and how to be better parents. Through her, we have both grown leaps and bounds as parents, as husband and wife, and as man and woman.

I could complain that my husband is unemployed. But instead I am grateful and thankful because he is able to be here with us and spend time with his children and family. I am grateful for the budgeting skills it has required us both to develop.

I could complain that I lost a lot of relatives when I was a kid. That I got to know grief a bit too intimately before I was 12. But instead, I am grateful and thankful because all of that? Prepared me for everything I just listed. There’s a reason for everything God has done in my life. To be able to look back and see it laid out before me as clear as day is a sight to behold – and I am eternally grateful to Him for deciding to let me see my road map.

I can’t wait to see what He has planned for my future. I am not scared. I know, that as He has done time and again, He will carry me when I need it most. That I will lean hard on Him because He has taught me well. And for that, I am grateful.

So you see, I could complain. A lot.

But instead, I am grateful and thankful.

What are you complaining about? How can you turn your complaining into gratitude? Spin it. Turn your negatives into positives.

I’m not saying it is an easy thing to do. It is a very hard thing to do. But it is a very FREEING thing to do.

I challenge you – turn just ONE complaint into a gratitude today. And then do it again tomorrow with another one. And again the day after.

His Turn…


This one gets personal for me. Very personal.

I am recovered from Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive/Depression. It’s taken some time and been a very hard and long road. The darkest depths witnessed me collapsed on the floor sobbing in tears after yelling at my husband in front of our then two year old daughter, fleeting horrible images racing through my head every waking moment, curled in the fetal position rocking back and forth willing myself to stay there so that I wouldn’t hurt myself or my children, and admitted to a psych ward.

The lessons I learned? Absolutely invaluable. While I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone else in the world, I know that it was priceless and has truly carved me into the woman I am today. I know now that I cannot control what others think of me and I cannot give them permission to hurt me. I know now that God is with me and I feel his presence each and every day. I know now that I stand strong and breathe deeply because of His sacrifice for me. And I know that I will not let another family struggle the way mine has if there is something I can do to prevent that from happening.

All that said, my journey and growth is not yet over. Yes, I am recovered. But now it is my husband’s turn  to collapse and my turn to support him, to show him the same compassionate understanding, loyalty, and guidance he showed me when I too couldn’t tell which way was up.

My husband was a drug addict when I met him. At the time I thought it was merely recreational and did not realize how deep his problems went. The use became worse after our second daughter, again, unbeknownst to me. Nine months ago I was involved in a car accident and quite a bit came to surface. He had been spending nearly $100/month on his habit while we were struggling to barely pay our bills. He hadn’t paid our vehicle insurance and I went to jail for his mistake. Together we hammered out a plan and got him to a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a faith-based recovery program. He is still sober today.

But we are now in what we’re calling phase two of recovery. Dealing with the nasty habits the drug use hid and the habits that are residuals of an addict like lying. On November 18th he told myself and his family he had been laid off from work. The Sunday before our son’s first birthday, I phoned his boss to find out if this was true. It wasn’t. He had resigned without another job lined up and lied to us about the entire situation. I played my conversation with his ex-boss for him. He called the state’s Mental Health Crisis Line and had an intake appointment made for him at a local clinic the very next day.

Meanwhile I was left to ponder our marriage. Every single shred of trust that had been rebuilt now lay in shards – descimated by one single act. How could he do this to us? How does someone seemingly forget they have a family to provide for? Why does someone do this? Do I stay and continue to be satisfied with the baby steps forward or do I flee? These are the hard questions I’ve struggled with for most of the past year.

We’ve lost just about everything and yet we still have faith and know that we will come through this – as long as we work at it together – something we both excel at. Give us a crisis and we can power our way through it in now time. This time around is a little harder and I am certainly shaken to my core. We have a lot of hard questions and choices ahead of us but I have no doubt that no matter what the answer is, we will both be able to survive.

The reason I tell you all of this is to ultimately introduce my husband’s new blog to you. It’s entitled Diary of a Real Man. He’s posted his first entry tonight and I would really encourage you to go check it out. Share it with others including any men in your life that may be facing similar circumstances and just need to know that they are not alone.

I would also encourage you to visit Married to Depression for a wife’s insight into what it’s like to live with a man who’s depressed. Another blog I’ve also started reading is The Junky’s Wife. She offers quite a bit of insight into what it’s like to live with an addict.