My Struggle with Addiction

Welcome back!  Just to recap, my last blog post was about what it was like being the sister of an addict.  I wanted to share it because it was a big part of my life for nearly a decade.  More importantly, though, is my sister’s story behind her struggle with addiction.  She has been through a lot. It’s hard to turn over a new leaf.  It’s hard to turn your life around.  But I can only imagine that all of that pales in comparison to airing it out for everyone to read.  It takes guts.  It takes courage.  It takes someone with a heart who wants to help others.  ❤  Heather, take it away!! 

Let me start off by saying that I never thought it would be me. I never thought I would become a slave to drugs. It’s hard to put into words the pain and suffering one goes through during addiction. I know for myself, even my lowest of lows was not enough for me to get my act together. Nothing anyone could ever say or do could make me want to change. Looking back, I see how my behaviors could have foreshadowed the rough years ahead. 

I have always had the characteristics of someone with an addictive personality. When I was younger, I would lie about the silliest things, I would always do things in excess, I always wanted instant gratification and I was a master manipulator. I always felt different- I didn’t feel like all of the other kids. Instead of focusing on what normal kids should focus on, I was always too busy worrying about what others thought, I tried way too hard to fit in and I was overly sensitive to what other people said about me. 

My long run with drugs started when I was 18 years old. I had dabbled in stuff when I was in middle and high school, and I definitely tried more than the average kid,  but it wasn’t a serious habit…yet. At the time, I was dating Boyfriend #1 who was addicted to Oxycontin. I did not understand what that was or what withdrawals were. Either he was great at hiding it, or I was just super oblivious and naive. Regardless, when I found out, I was shocked and disgusted. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that someone could give everything up for drugs. How could someone do that? How could someone lie and steal from their family? How could they spend every last dollar they had for a fix? I hate to admit it, but I used to look down on addicts at that time in my life. It was hard for me to empathize with something I just couldn’t relate to. 

I stayed with Boyfriend #1 hoping I could change him and show him that he didn’t need drugs. Well, it wasn’t long until I decided to give it a try. There’s this saying in AA  “if you hang out in a barber shop long enough, you’re going to get a cut”. Even though I didn’t do hard drugs, I still hung around with people that did. It was only a matter of time before I joined them.  I remember trying a half a pill, throwing up my dinner, and having a headache. It further solidified my idea that pills were gross. Time went on, me and Boyfriend #1 broke up, and I ended up meeting a new guy, same problem. 

I’d like to point out that even though I wasn’t physically addicted to any drugs at this time, I definitely was no angel. I would smoke weed everyday, dabble in coke and ecstasy, and I started getting into adderall. I suffered from an eating disorder that I was unaware I had, and I was an absolute terror to my family. No one wanted to be around me and I don’t blame them. I had no respect for anyone or anything. I did not care about how my actions would affect those around me. 

It was with Boyfriend #2 that I tried pills again for the second time. I remember a good friend of our’s was coming to the house and she brought them with her. He looked at me and asked if he could do one. I don’t know why that day was different but I responded “yes as long as I can split it with you”. And so we did. And I loved it. I don’t know why that day was different and I always wondered if it had gone like the first time, would I have still gone down such a dark, destructive path. 

You see, I didn’t understand the consequences of my actions. I didn’t know it was going to turn out the way it did. I hate when people say “well, you knew trying it that it was addictive.” And while yes that is true, I  had the “it won’t be me” attitude. My dad used to tell me “Heather, you’re consequences will get bigger as you get older.” And he was right. 

That relationship lasted a little over a year and shortly after I found Boyfriend #3. Boyfriend #3 was not an addict but he certainly didn’t help. I didn’t have a job and he sold weed so I relied on him completely to survive. He would hold it over my head, use drugs as a bribe, and enabled my behavior. It was with this boyfriend that I was held at gunpoint…twice. These kids around the neighborhood where we were living heard about what was in the house and decided they wanted it. The first time, we were all getting together for a friend’s birthday. At around 3 in the morning the birthday boy decided to go home so it was rather odd that he came right back in the door. Well, following behind him were two men in masks with guns. I was sleeping at the time and got woken up by a guy screaming and pointing a gun at me. He dragged me out of bed into the living room where I saw everyone else huddled on the ground with their hands over their heads. I remember being so scared. I had no idea if that night was going to be my last. They ended up running everyone’s pockets and leaving. A week or so went by and it happened again. Boyfriend #3 and I were sleeping when it happened. The same fear and panic came over me. They rummaged through the room, took what they wanted, and left. 

For most people those two scenarios would be enough to take a look at their lives, But not me. I went through another 5 years of hell. I felt trapped in a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. 

I remember going to detox for the first time to get help. I had tried an outpatient program before but I wasn’t willing to let go of my old friends and behaviors. This time I really wanted it to be different. Lauren took me to St. Charles emergency room so I could be admitted. I was covered by Medicaid and they only covered two days. If anyone knows anything about detoxing from opiates, two days is not enough. I ended up staying clean off of opiates for two weeks before relapsing. 

The second time I took a bit more drastic measures. Boyfriend #3 and I were on the brink of breaking up because he feared for my life. He reached out to my dad to come talk to me. They both sat there and told me I needed help. Any time before that if you would have tried telling me I needed any help I would have come up with a thousand reasons why you were wrong. This time I knew they were right and I admitted it. 

I had a good friend who went down to Florida to get sober. She seemed to be doing well and getting her act together. I figured if she could do it, I could do it and that was the decision that changed the direction of my life. 

Within a week of the sit-down talk with Boyfriend #3 and my dad, I was on the plane down to Florida. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of my dads car, already going through withdrawals. I flew down to Florida with one suitcase and $23 my dad gave me before boarding. While I was waiting for my bag at baggage claim I debated on whether to run. I don’t know where I thought I was running to but that was my natural instinct when I was afraid. 

I am so happy I didn’t run because it was the start to a new life. I went through the 30-day program and moved into a halfway house. I got a job (my favorite one to date) and started to rebuild my life. For once I could finally see myself having a future filled with happiness, love, my family and friends. 

I did really well down in Florida for a while until I experienced something traumatic. I was dating Jono. Things were going really well until he unexpectedly passed away. After that, I just couldn’t cope and reverted back to my old ways. I started using again to numb the pain. I felt like it was okay because I knew why I was using. Well because of that action, I lost my job that I loved and nearly all of my friends. That last run took everything out of me. I had known a better, more amazing way of life and I turned away from it. I felt guilty and ashamed and like a total loser. Shortly after Jono died, Jonathan and I got together. Just a few months into our relationship, I got pregnant. 

At the time, I was an absolute mess. I remember looking at the pregnancy test and seeing “positive”. I cried a lot. I was very scared. I knew what I had to do. I would be damned if I had a child and could not take care of it. The next day, I reached out for help. It is because of that help that I am able to be a mother to my child today. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, saw the potential that I couldn’t see, and kept pushing me to keep going. 

At 8 months pregnant we decided to move back up north to be closer to family and on September 15, 2018 Zoey Faith was born. This little girl has no idea what she has done for me. I call her my lifesaver because she literally saved my life. Everyday she teaches me something new and makes being her mother an absolute joy.

As much as I would love to tell you why I became addicted to drugs, I don’t think I can really pinpoint a certain reason. I feel like for myself, it was a combination of how my brain is wired, exterior circumstances, and the feelings I wanted to escape from. I believe some people are just born with an addictive personality and others go through certain experiences in their lives that can turn them in that direction. I can tell you that I have lost a lot along the way – friends, money, self-love, etc. but I have gained a lot too.  My hope is that I can take the lessons addiction has taught me and help other women. If you or a loved one you know is struggling with addiction, I am here to talk. Also, below, I have listed a few resources. 

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

www.drugabuse.gov

 

Being the Sister of an Addict

This week I wanted to share another very personal topic.  As my sister mentioned in her blog post last week, she is a recovering heroin addict.  Reading the first draft of her post and reading those words were difficult for me. For a long time I wouldn’t say the words out loud. You know how that is, when you actually say the words out loud, they become real.  It was easier to skirt around it– my sister has problems or my sister has had issues with drugs.  But actually saying my sister is a heroin addict or my sister is a recovering heroin addict was, and still is, extremely hard.

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At Heather’s daughter’s Christening

It was hard to read.  It was hard to admit out loud.  But it was even harder to live it.   

Earlier this year she had actually asked me to write on this very topic but I wasn’t quite ready at that time.  I knew that I’d share some things that she wouldn’t want to hear. And probably some things I didn’t want to remember or admit was part of our family’s truth.  And most importantly, I never wanted to offend anyone who is an addict or a recovering addict. It’s not something I can empathize with. I’ve never been an addict so I can’t understand what it’s like to be one.  And so my hope is to provide some comfort to those who are struggling as a friend, relative, or spouse of an addict. It’s not easy. And we all know it can end a million different ways. We all say that it’s important for people who suffer from addiction, sickness, etc. to have a support system. I think it’s just as important that the support system has a support system.  

So here goes…

There’s a 4 year age difference between me and my sister.  But it seems that what went on when she was in high school versus what went on when I was in high school was light years apart.  People drank alcohol and smoked weed. But as far as I could see that was really the extent of it. I admit that I was super naive back then (and maybe I still am?).  I went to my fair share of parties, hosted my fair share of parties, and drank my fair share of smirnoff ice drinks (insert gagging sound here). But I never got involved with anything beyond alcohol.  I’ve never even smoked weed. Ever. I personally think it smells gross. I did, however, try an edible brownie once or twice. Needless to say I got the section of the brownie with no weed in it because I felt absolutely nothing. And let’s be real, I just wanted a brownie.  Nom nom nom.

So to say that I was on the straight and narrow when it came to experimentation of drugs would be an understatement.  I just never had an interest. I went away to college, but only for a semester before I ended up at Stony Brook University.  I commuted for three years. I started working full-time with my dad at the age of 20. I was living up to the expectations of being Lauren.

Heather, on the other hand, had always been the most rebellious of the three of us.  She was the one with spunk. She was the one with a cute little personality. And when my mom got sick and then my parents got divorced, she clearly didn’t handle it well.  As she said, she became a terror. She was sent away to boarding school for the last year and a half of high school. I was about 20/21 at the time. And I have to say, it was the most relaxing 18 months of my life and my parents’ life.  She was safe and that was most important. But as much as that 18 months was good for us, the effects on Heather were both good and bad. Heather’s issues prior to going to the boarding school were mostly behavioral– skipping school, hanging out with a bad crowd, stealing the car, lying, manipulating, etc.  At that point she hadn’t started dabbling in hard drugs. But when she went to boarding school, she met a lot of kids that had.  

When she graduated she was all set to begin her new life as a happy, well adjusted, college kid.  But that ended pretty quickly. She began hanging out with kids she went to boarding school with. And had boyfriends that were into drugs.  And from there, it spiraled out of control.  

I can’t even pinpoint the moment the drugs started because she had been acting out for long that it all seems to mesh together.  But the 9 or 10 years from when she graduated from high school until she became pregnant with her daughter were extremely difficult for everyone in my family.  My mom just couldn’t deal with her bullshit, so for a long time they had a very bad relationship. My mom refused to let her live in her house (understandable if you saw how Heather acted).  My dad had gotten so fed up with her at times, as well. He also told her she couldn’t live there anymore. (I think that was after he found out she had been stealing money from him, so again, very understandable).  So Heather bounced around from place to place with her boyfriend at the time. And lo and behold, he too, got fed up with her issues.  And while he wasn’t a drug addict himself, he was a dealer, so in my opinion, he wasn’t much better.

Those years were terrible.  There were times we wouldn’t hear from Heather for a week or two at a time.  It was scary but almost a relief. No calls = no drama. But no calls also made us all worry like crazy.  

Heather tried to get sober a couple of times.  I watched her detox in the emergency room at a hospital.  The doctors pretty much just let her lay in a bed. It was excruciating to watch.  But the minute she left the hospital, she started using again. It was a cycle. A terrible, and vicious cycle.  

And all during this time, I heard about so many overdoses.  Like, so many. From my sisters friends to a co-worker’s child to people from high school.  Heroin addictions had become so common. It seemed like every other month I’d hear about someone overdosing.  Every time my phone rang from an unknown number, I would get nervous. I hate to say it, but it almost felt like it was just a matter of time before my phone would ring or my dad would show up at my house crying with the bad news. (I literally played these scenarios out in my head countless time.  It was probably a defense mechanism– like I was preparing myself for the possibility that it could happen, which is really sad). 

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I feel like I’m incapable of truly expressing what it felt like to go through all of that. But just like everything else, I try to look at everything in my past as a learning experience.  What can I take away from the experience, what can I learn from it. So here’s a few tidbits that I thought I’d share:

  • No matter how much you want someone to get sober, or lose weight, or fulfill their potential, it will never ever happen until they’re ready and 100% committed.  As a supporter, you being committed is not going to cut it. The person wanting to make a change has to be ready for it. Because if they’re only trying because you’re pushing them, what’s going to happen when you take the day off or you can’t actually be there for them every second of every day?  They’re going to go back to their old ways. You have to let that person run their own path. They have to come to you when they’re ready. And they might do it a few times before they’re really ready.
  • It’s very difficult to understand and connect with someone who has or has had an addiction if you’ve never had one because it’s so far out of YOUR reality.  The only thing you can do is be there for them.
  • It sucks watching someone you care about live through a terrible addiction. Especially when you know that person has so much to offer the world.  No bright side here, it just sucks.
  • I can only speak for myself, but there were times I felt absolutely guilt-ridden for living my life while my sister squandered for her’s.  It seemed almost incomprehensible at times that I was able to live my life as if her struggles didn’t even exist. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt that way.  But the truth is, not living my life wasn’t going to help her live hers. There was nothing I could do to help her if she wasn’t ready herself. So living my life was the only way to ensure that I wasn’t wasting my life too.
  • People say that addicts have to hit rock bottom before they “see the light” and decide to get clean.  Unfortunately rock bottom is different for everyone. I am beyond thankful that Heather made it past her rock bottom because so many people don’t get that chance.
  • Heroin addiction has become a global epidemic.  We’ve all been affected by it one way or another.  One of the things I tried to explain to Heather was that when you’re sober, you actually feel things.  The lows can be very, very low when you’re not self-medicating with drugs.  And those times can suck big time. But the highs are so much higher. When you can actually experience, be present and remember all the good things– there can’t be anything better! 

I think the scariest part of all of this is that no matter how long Heather has been clean from her heroin addiction, I still worry at times.  I know how easy it is to slip off track with “addictions” that are waaaaaay less addictive. Obviously she needs to understand her triggers, continue to work on herself, have a support system, keep busy, focus on her family, etc. in order to avoid slipping backwards.  

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My sister is full of life, full of energy and she’s got a lot to offer the world.  Seeing her work through her addiction, become a mother, and take control of her life, has been a blessing. I hope she continues to believe in herself and her vision for her future because the world needs her sparkle.  

Part 2: Heather’s Take

Ahh, I’m so excited this day has arrived!  I finally get to feature my sister’s writing on my blog.  I’ve expressed this before but maybe not everyone caught it so let me start by saying this: even though we’ve been sisters for 28+ years, our relationship hasn’t always been like a lot of sisters we know.  We are so different, but also share some qualities (like we’re both HIIIIII-larious; or at least we both think we are 😉 ).  And we both truly want to help people become the very best versions of themselves… and I think that’s because we both recognize (in such amazingly different ways) that no matter where your life journey takes you, it’s important to love yourself and spread that love to as many people as possible.  So without any further adieu… 

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My mom, Zoey, and Heather ❤

Hey everyone! My name is Heather and I am Lauren’s younger sister. Before I jump right into it, I wanted to introduce myself a bit. I am 28 years old and I live in New Jersey with my boyfriend Jonathan, my 10 month old baby girl Zoey, and my 18 month old pup named Charlotte. I am a recovering heroin addict (more on this in my next post) and I want to make it my mission in life to help others who feel as hopeless and helpless as I felt, and guide them on a journey filled with self-love and happiness.

It’s not hard for me to remember the moment when I felt as though my life would never be normal again. I remember the exact day as if it were yesterday. I remember waking up and going downstairs to my brother telling me that my dad had taken my mom to the hospital because she had a “headache”. I didn’t understand why anyone would go to the hospital for a headache but as a (relatively) innocent 12 year old, I didn’t question it. I only sensed something was wrong when my dad sent a neighbor to pick me up and bring me back to their house. 

When we got there, they sent me down the stairs into the basement to play. It wasn’t too long until they came downstairs to get me.  My dad wanted me at the hospital. At that point I knew it was more serious than just a bad headache. The whole ride I sat anxiously in the backseat.  I had no idea what I was walking into. I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

 As we pulled up to the hospital, I saw my entire family huddled outside of the entrance. They brought me into the room where my mom was. I walked into the room to find her lying what appeared to be lifeless on the hospital bed and my dad and brother crying next to her. I don’t recall what my dad said to me or how he tried to explain to me that it didn’t look like my mom was going to live.  But I do remember feeling completely helpless. And scared.   

I remember feeling like a terrible daughter for not crying right away. Now I look back and realize I was in shock and trying to process the situation. I carried around a lot of guilt for that for a long time.  I was also trying to stay strong for everyone else who seemed to be falling apart around me. Thankfully, things turned around and my mom survived the brain bleed.

But the weeks and months to follow were filled with a lot of anxiety and worry. The doctors were doing everything they could to help my mom re-learn to walk and talk. It was really hard to see my mom like this.  One time I remember walking into one of her physical therapy sessions to see her and there she was struggling, trying to hold herself up between these two bars. She looked so helpless and there was nothing I could do to help her. 

Over the next few months our lives adjusted to what would become our new routine.  Me and my sister would go to school everyday. Our brother was up at college. My mom couldn’t drive but she was alive and recovering quite well considering what happened.  And then, my dad told us he was moving out. This is another moment that I remember quite vividly. We were all at the kitchen table in our usual spots eating dinner and my dad said he had something to tell us. I knew what was coming. I remember feeling nervous and scared because I knew my life was about to change drastically.  Again.

Within a year of my dad moving out, we sold my childhood home. My mom and I moved into a condo and that’s when my behavior started to get worse. I would burst out in verbal and physical attacks on my mom. I started skipping school and dabbling in drugs.  I would steal, lie, and manipulate to get what I wanted. I was an absolute terror. I developed very little self-confidence and low self-worth. I never felt good enough at anything. Being the youngest of three, I was always compared to my siblings. “Why can’t you be like your brother and sister?” were the famous words of my high school principal. I felt like an outsider all of the time. I remember always comparing myself to other girls in my grade. I always felt like they were smarter or prettier than me. 

My parents didn’t know how to handle me. They tried sending me to therapy but I manipulated my way out of that. They sent me to a wilderness program for 7 weeks in the Adirondack mountains, which was one of the coolest experiences of my life, but within months of being home I was back at it with the atrocious behavior. Eventually, I was sent off to boarding school for 16 months until I graduated high school.

For a long time, I carried around a lot of resentment regarding those situations. I felt like if my dad never left, or my mom never got sick, I wouldn’t have felt or acted that way. And maybe I wouldn’t have. I was just so angry at everyone and everything. I was angry at God for letting this happen to me and to my family. I was angry at my mom for getting sick. I was angry at my dad for leaving. I was angry at my sister for coping with it better than me. I felt like there was this recurring theme in my life of everyone leaving me and I had no choice in the matter.

Looking back on the situation, I see it for what it really was – everyone doing their best to keep it together during a shitty situation. Unfortunately all of these events were just beginning to more troubling times. My next post is dedicated to sharing my journey about how it all started, what it was like during my addiction, and what it is like now on the other side. When I was younger, I wasn’t even able to imagine my life at 28 because I didn’t know if I was going to make it. All of those life experiences brought me to where I am today – sober, happy, and healthy.  Today, my mother and I have a relationship that I hold dear to my heart and that I love and respect. I thank God I am able to be the daughter my mother always deserved.

The Scariest Moment of My Life

I want to share something that I don’t share often.  A lot of people know that my mom doesn’t drive, but they don’t know why.  This story is a huge part of my life.  It was one of those defining events that shaped me as a person.  So here goes…

Not too long after my sister was born (1991), my mom suffered from a stroke.  That stroke led to the discovery of an AVM (arteriovenous malformation) in her brain.  After the stroke, my mom had to go through speech therapy.  Her speech went back to normal but her right hand/arm have never been the same (thank God she’s a lefty!).

Life continued after that. I was only 5 or 6 at the time my mom had a stroke so I obviously didn’t really understand what happened or what it all meant.  But over the years I learned that this AVM was still in my mom’s brain.  The same thing could happen again.  Apparently, doctors told to my parents that the removal of this could cause loss of eyesight, which would mean that my mom might not be able to drive ever again, which would mean her life, as a stay-at-home mom who shuffled us everywhere and was at every single game, meet, etc., might change forever.  So my parents decided to put off the surgery.

Fast forward to May 2003.  I was 16-years old.  I was in Disney World with my friend and her family to celebrate my friends 16th birthday.  (Not too shabby, right?!)  Little did I know, my trip was going to be cut short.  

Earlier that year, my mom started getting more intense headaches which led to doctors’ visits and subsequently the decision to move forward with the surgery to remove the AVM from her brain.  I don’t remember the exact timeline of things but I remember that my mom had some sort of test scheduled the Friday I was going to be in Florida. I remember asking my dad if I should stay home and he told me that it was just a test and to go.  So I did.

A day or two later, I was walking around a park in Disney and my cell phone rang.  Something didn’t feel right.  My mom would NEVER call me in the middle of the day.  I know that’s a weird thing to think, but I distinctly remember thinking it.  And when I heard my dad’s voice on the other end of the phone when I picked it up, I knew something wasn’t right.  He said, “Lauren, your mom is in the hospital. You have to get home.”  Tears started pouring.  I handed the phone to Emma’s mom and cried as arrangements were made to get a flight home.  I cried the entire way.  Those were by far the scariest hours of my life (and still are).

Meanwhile back home, my mom was transferred from a small local hospital to Stony Brook University Hospital where they determined that her brain was hemorrhaging.  I don’t know how they got the bleeding to stop, but they did.  She didn’t die.  The hands of a higher power were at work, I guess.  It was a relief to know she was alive but now what?

We all went home that night while my mom stayed in the hospital.  I remember when I woke up the following morning I was actually pissed at myself for even being able to fall asleep.  I had no idea what was going to happen to my mom yet I was able to close my eyes.  I know that might sound weird but I couldn’t help but be mad at myself.  Everything was happening so quickly that I guess all sorts of emotions were coming to a head.

A week or so later (I think)  surgery was performed to remove the AVM from my mom’s brain.  And then began the road to recovery.  No one could tell us what to expect because the final results were unknown.  Over the next couple of months, my mom was in and out of hospitals for rehabilitation.  Me, my brother and sister spent more time driving to and from hospitals than we care to remember.  But over the next few months, my mom started to recover.

The lasting changes include that she has no peripheral vision on her right side.  That means when she walks in a new environment she is likely to bump into something because she can’t see what’s to her right.  This has gotten her a couple of nasty looks from people who don’t realize she’s not being an asshole, she simply can’t see.  Because of that, she can’t drive.  She is also on a TON of medication to prevent seizures and once in a while (although it’s been a long time :knocks wood:) she has one.  Her short term memory has good days and bad.  And her speech and thought process isn’t as quick as your’s and mine.  I assume the combination of the stroke, hemorrhaging, seizures and the fact that she has been on meds for almost 30 years contribute to all of it.  But, considering what she’s been through, she’s absolutely perfect.

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I have no idea what we’re laughing at.  Also, my mom’s dress is on point. 

Once the dust settled from all of this, my family got used to our new normal.  My brother went off to college that fall, I started my junior year of high school and my sister started 7th grade.  My dad worked a lot of hours back then so I helped my mom when it came to driving.  My sister’s Bat Mitzvah was coming up that following February and I remember driving to and from Hebrew School for her lessons.  The good thing was I got a lot of driving experience.

Then came hit #2—almost exactly a year after my mom almost died, my dad moved out.  My parents were separating.  Bad timing, yes.  But I guess there’s never good timing for something like that.  And without going into too much detail on that (because that’s THEIR story, not mine), I’ll say this: my mom wasn’t happy.

So now it’s May 2004… my dad is moving out of the house, my brother just came back from his first year of college, my sister started acting out, and I was just there doing my thing.  That year changed me in a lot of ways.  I’d always been a responsible kid, but I ended up putting a lot of pressure on myself.  My sister’s behavior was driving my parents crazy.  Eric wasn’t around much.  I had to help out with driving.  I was the one who kept my shit together.

I became more serious and reserved.  I don’t think I was too different on the outside, but on the inside I was just trying to be the good kid- the version of me that I thought I needed to be.  I remember my parents made me go to therapy at one point.  On my second appointment the therapist told my mom that I was handling things very well and he didn’t think therapy was necessary.  He was right—I became really really good at handling shit (and I still am).  But I believe it ran deeper than that.  I think that subconsciously I felt the need to be an adult because nobody else around me seemed to be stepping up to the plate.  It’s all about perspective and that’s how I saw it.  I’m not saying it was the reality of everyone around me.  But it was my reality at the time.

I think any child or teenager that witnesses a parent suffer from a severe illness or pass away gets a different perspective on life.  You hear people say as their parents get older, they change.  Their memory isn’t as good.  They sometimes become more irritable.  It’s hard to see your parent become a completely different person than they once were.  And for kids, it’s hard to see your parent with a shaved head (they had to shave my mom’s head to do surgery), re-learning how to walk, struggling to find words to express themselves, and just not be the person they were a few months earlier.  These things are difficult for an adult to comprehend, but even more difficult for a child or teenager.

But, and I hate to say it like this but its true, shit happens.  Nobody’s life is perfect.  Unfortunately everyone has to deal with hard stuff. Everything that happens in our lives shapes who we are. While sometimes painful, I think it’s important to reflect on the events of our past.  It gives us an opportunity to learn lessons that may not have been so obvious the first time around and it can explain why we are the way we are (and maybe give us the push to change some of those things).  It’s also important to remember that we don’t have to let our past determine our future.  We may not be able to change our past, but we don’t have to let it define us.

I would like to end this on a very important note: I don’t blame ANYONE for the way these things affected me.  I know that I put a lot of undue pressure on myself.  And now, being a parent myself, I know that my parents were just doing the best they could at the time.  I know that my parents, just like I am now, were trying to figure their shit out while being parents to 3 teenagers.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them either.

My next post is going to be written by my sister, Heather.  She is going to be sharing her experience during that same time period.  As a quick preface, my sister is 4 years younger than me.   At the time my mom got sick she was 12.  My sister is a sharp cookie.  She’s just coming into her own and discovering herself at the age of 28.  Her journey is just beginning. Stay tuned…

 

Taking Control of Your Body & Mind

Let’s take a trip down memory lane… For a long time I was in a vicious cycle of overeating, gaining weight, and feeling like crap.  I  was completely out of control- and not just with my weight or what I was putting into my mouth, but with everything.  I didn’t even realize that something wasn’t right. All I knew was that didn’t like the way I looked in clothes and I was constantly comparing myself and my body to others.  I was very insecure.  It wasn’t a good look.

I hate that I wasted the better part of my 20’s feeling so badly about myself and my body.  Unfortunately, I can’t go back and change what was, so my hope in sharing this is to shake you awake if you feel this way right now.  Taking control of my health was the very first step for me in becoming who I am today.  It gave me more confidence because I proved to myself that I could do something BIG.  And when I say big, I’m talking about the way I shifted my mindset regarding food.  Losing weight can be super easy once you put your mind to it.  The challenge really starts when you reach your goal weight– you have to figure out how to maintain it!  It requires changes to your diet, your movement and most importantly your mindset. And THAT is a big deal.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back on it I was using food for all the wrong reasons.  I was using it as a coping mechanism.  Nervous?  Eat.  Anxious?  Eat.  Angry?  Eat.  Sad?  Eat.  And that isn’t an uncommon theme.  A lot of people do that.  And that’s OK… sometimes.  But you can’t use food as a way to deal with every emotion you ever have (uhh, hi, old me).

Think about the actual purpose of food for one second– food is measured in calories and calories are energy.  Calories are meant to fuel you so that you can get through your day to day activities.  That’s it.  They’re not meant to be consumed in excess or at a deficit.  The goal is to consume as many calories from foods that provide you with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as possible. (Rather than wasting your calories on foods that provide little to no nutritional value.)  But we all know the truth: the ones that provide little to no nutritional value are the ones that we like most!!  Why?  Because they taste good! Because they have sugar in them.  Because they make us feel good (even if just temporarily).

But these foods are “bad” so we tell ourselves we can’t eat them.  But after a week or two or three, we cave.  And then we don’t just eat two Oreos, we eat a whole sleeve of them!!  If you are constantly depriving yourself of food Monday through Friday and then over the weekend you go ape shit on everything you see… are you really solving the underlying problem?  Because at some point, those “cheat days” go from just Saturday to Saturday and Sunday… and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday and before you know it, you’re back to your old habits and the weight comes back on.  And then you feel like crap about yourself.  I’ve been there… repeatedly.

But one day it just clicked for me:  I control what I eat.  I control how I feel about my body.  I control how I look.  I control how I feel about myself.  I AM IN CONTROL.  And since that day everything has been a lot easier for me.  My temperament is better.  I have more patience.  I am less irritable.  I am happier.  I am able to be the mom I want to be.  I don’t complain that I feel fat.  I feel more confident. I have more pep in my step.  I feel in control of myself and my life.

Only you can make the decision to take control.  Control is a very powerful thing.  It’s exciting but it’s also scary.  When you finally take control, you can’t use excuses anymore. I think this is why people shy away from it. It’s easier. It’s an excuse. It’s a way out. But if you have that mindset regarding your health, it usually trickles into other areas, as well. Being in control forces you to take responsibility. Ick!  Take responsibility for my poor food choices?  No thanks!  But the cool thing about taking responsibility and taking control means that you can literally do anything  you want to do!  You have complete control over your own destiny.  And that should excite the hell out of you!!

If food is a struggle for you say this everyday, repeatedly, until you believe it:

YOU are in control of FOOD.  FOOD does not control YOU.

I know it sounds a little silly to do, but trust me!

Your thoughts

It took work for me to get to this point.  It didn’t happen overnight.  But I had to start somewhere.  It started with recognizing that I wasn’t in control.  I let myself be controlled by food rather than me controlling food.  Then I had to figure out why.  If you know me at all, you read my blog, or you follow me on social media, you know one thing about me:  I’m not afraid to tell you that I’m a hot mess of a young lady that’s just trying to figure out life (Spoiler Alert: I’ll never “figure it out”).  I’m 100% happy to share the experiences of my life because I know that I’m not the only person who struggles with stuff– especially food.  And since I feel like I have a pretty good handle on this I’m even more excited to share it.

The day I realized that I was in complete control of my health was the first day of the rest of my life.  It showed me that I can do anything as long as I believed I could do it.   It taught me I could do hard things.  It taught me I could change my mindset and how I thought about food (and everything else while I was at it).  There’s not doubt in my mind that I could never have gotten through the last couple of years of my life if I didn’t have the confidence, mental strength and positive outlook I worked so hard for through my wellness journey. I am so grateful that I had the courage to take so many steps over the past few years to get to where I am today. This wellness wave has been an amazing ride and I’ll continue to show up for it every single day. 😉

My Passion Project

When I started blogging it was part of a secret mission.  I know that sounds super cool and top secret, but it’s not.  It’s been a personal mission to find my passion.  I know this may not make sense to everyone reading this but I don’t want to just have a job or have a career.  I want to build something of my own.  I want to be proud of what I do.  I want my children to be proud of what I do.  It’s not enough for me to say I make “x” amount of dollars a year. I want to leave an imprint on this earth.  I want to impact others.  My blogging has forced me to look at myself from a lot of different angles.  And in order for my blog to be authentic, I’ve had to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly!  This has all been part of the master plan (insert weird creepy laugh here).

Over the past several months I’ve been thinking about all the things I wanted to be when I grew up and all of the things I’ve actually done. The first thing I remember wanting to be was a teacher.  I was always playing school with my grandma when I was a kid– she was the student and I was the teacher, obvi.  Over the course of my childhood and through my teenage years, teaching was always on my list.

At some point, I wanted to be a magazine editor (not sure if I ever told anyone about this one).   When I was a kid I used to love reading magazines.  You know, like Bop!  And then I graduated to Fitness and Self and eventually Cosmopolitan (because what 18-year old prude wasn’t reading Cosmo?!)  I did this weird thing when I read magazines– I literally read them from cover to cover.  I used to read EVERYTHING in the magazine. Even the credits in the beginning. Even the name of the Mac lipstick I’d never ever wear. EV-ER-Y-THING.  But my favorite part of the magazine was in the beginning.  It was the note from the editor, alongside a very beautiful picture of what I dreamed every magazine editor looked like.  I used to think to myself, I want to be an editor of a magazineI want to be the one to approve the themes of each edition and “yay” or “nay” the ideas for stories for each section.  (I literally decided exactly what the editor did even though I had nothing to base it off of…but that sounds kinda accurate, right?).

But that dream faded pretty quickly.

Next up: sportscaster (I even went to college for this one!).  Although I still love to play sports and be active, my desire to follow sports has dwindled over the years.  But back when I was 17 or 18 years old, I was a big Mets and Knicks fan.  I would watch SportsCenter on ESPN with my brother every morning before school and I thought it would be so awesome to be the next Linda Cohn.  But that, too, fell by the wayside within my first semester of college.  Obviously that dream wasn’t the dream.

Eventually I fell into (and yes, I use those words purposely) working with my dad.  My dad worked for MetLife for 29 years.  I began working at his office at the end of my second year of college.  I was the Recruiting Coordinator.  I was 20 years old and had no idea what I was doing, but the girl I replaced must’ve really sucked because they didn’t even let her stay to train me.  I did get some training from my direct manager, but she dealt more with marketing so the actual nitty gritty of my job I kinda had to learn on my own by making phone calls and asking a million questions.

Three years later my dad brought me over to his new company, National Life Group.  He needed an Office Manager and thought I’d be a great fit for the small agency.  He was right… I totally nailed it.  Haha, just kidding.  Okay, okay, I didn’t not nail it, but I had a ton to learn.  I was only 23 years old and even though both companies were life insurance companies there was a big difference between my roles at MetLife and National Life.  I was running the office at National Life.  Good thing I was getting my MBA, right?  (Ha, I laugh at that only because when it comes to running a business there is nothing better than on the job experience.  You can take all the classes in the world but it will never beat out work experience.)

There are parts of my job I love.  For instance, every day is different.  And, I get to work on all aspects of the business—accounting, financial reporting, marketing, training, recruiting and on-boarding, even a little IT stuff.  I’ve grown A LOT since day one.  I’m not sure I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t been given this opportunity at a very young age.  And I am grateful for the autonomy and flexibility I have.  Even though I don’t own the business, I run the business.  And I take that very seriously (like 98.5% of the time).

So why am I giving you my job history?  Relax, I’m getting there!

I have done quite a few things over the years—barista at Starbucks, Recruiting Coordinator and New Business Processor (at MetLife), Beachbody coach, pure barre instructor, Operations Manager (National Life) and blogging.  And I am truly grateful for everything I’ve done because a) I’ve had the balls to go outside my comfort zone and try new things and b) I’ve learned a lot about myself from each one!

I’ve learned where my strengths are.  I’ve learned where my weaknesses are (brings back memories of my business school days when we talked about SWOT analysis).  I drilled down and figured out what I liked about each of those jobs/opportunities and what I didn’t like.  Here’s a list of the things I love:

  • I love to talk (I know… SHOCKER)
  • I love to listen
  • I love to help people
  • I love to lead small groups and work one-on-one with people
  • I love running a business
  • I love writing and editing
  • I love fitness
  • I love to problem solve
  • I love goal setting
  • I love sharing my experiences
  • I love providing motivation and inspiration to others

It took me 14 years of being in the workforce (18 years old- 32 years old) to figure out what my actual dream job is but I finally figured it out!  I’m in the preliminary stages of my endeavor.  Meaning, I’m researching and doing a shit ton of homework.  But let’s just say it involves ALL of the things I love to do.  For now, I’m calling it my passion project.  But eventually, because I’m going to work real hard at it and be real good at it (don’t believe me, just watch), it’s going to be my baby.  The job that will allow me to create the lifestyle I want to live.  I’m not ready to officially announce anything because I know people will ask me a ton of questions that I just don’t have answers to yet.  So hold your horses! It’s coming!

And while I’m working on MY DREAM, I really encourage everyone reading this to step outside their comfort zone and try new things.  Even if those things aren’t the dream, it’ll at least take you one step closer to it.  And don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and actually own your dream.  Because guess what?  You’d be surprised how many people are actually cheering you on versus tearing you down. I’ve never EVER gotten any negative feedback from any one of my blog posts.  In fact, people are encouraging and supportive and rooting for me!  So why wouldn’t people do the same for you!!?!?  They would!! Trust me!  🙂

Food Philosophy 101

When someone says the word “diet” most of us automatically think of the secondary definition of diet—a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.  But today I’m talking about the primary definition, the kinds of food that a person habitually eats.  When I think of the statement “I’m going on a diet” the words that come to mind are restrictive, difficult, stressful, bland, boring, etc.

Don’t these statements sound much better?

“I’m working on improving my diet” OR  “I’m changing my diet to get more in line with my overall health goals.”

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I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I do not have a degree in nutrition.  I’ve done a good amount of research.  I’ve experimented with many different lifestyles (always for a short period of time because none of them are sustainable for me).  I’ve put in the work. Through all that I’ve come up with the three principles of my food philosophy:

  1. Eat as many of your calories as possible. Powders, vitamins, bars should be used as supplements (when necessary), not as your meal.  Eat real food!
  2. Nothing should be off limits—you can eat everything in moderation. Don’t be a no carb girl… nobody wants to go to an Italian restaurant with you.
  3. Eat in line with your goals.

Let’s dig into each one!

Eating Your Calories

I’ve gone through phases where I’ve had two shakes, two bars and a couple of small snacks per day and guess what?  I was starving (surprise, surprise, right?!).  During that phase I learned that eating as many of my calories as possible is not only physically more satisfying for me, but it’s mentally more satisfying too.  Sitting down and chewing on food takes waaaaaay longer than drinking a shake.  Your body has time to enjoy the eating process.  You chew, you enjoy the flavors, you swallow, you (should) take a second and breathe and then go back for another bite.  Eating becomes more of an event rather than “let me guzzle this shake so I can hustle to my next appointment/class/meeting” moment.

Plus I just think that it’s hard to get all the different vitamins and minerals you need from powders, shakes, bars, and pills.  That’s why they should be used as supplements, when appropriate, but not as a replacement for real food, ya hear?!

I currently use a pre-workout powder and one scoop of protein powder per day.  Snacks include carrots and hummus, string cheese and almonds, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and fruit. I eat real food for lunch and dinner. I don’t take any vitamin or other supplement pills.

Everything in Moderation

I’m a big believer that if you like something, you should be able to enjoy eating it—in moderation.  I enjoy candy and ice cream.  And I can and do enjoy both of those things. The goal is to try to enjoy both of them in moderation (which I’m pretty good at with ice cream) but in the “needs improvement” category for candy.  But I’m better than I used to be so some progress is better than no progress! 😝

I’ve tried to cut out candy completely and all it’s done is make me want it more.  I know that sounds familiar to everyone reading this because it’s a common theme in dieting.  Restrict the bad foods until you cave and eat ALL THE BAD FOODS.  And you start and stop the cycle like a billion times until you either recognize you should be able to have that food in moderation and find a way to do that OR you forget trying to make healthier habits and continue down the same path you’ve been on. Most of us end up doing the latter.

I believe in well-balanced meals that include proteins, fats and yes, CARBOHYDRATES!  I secretly cringe when someone tells me they cut all fruits out of their diet because of the high sugar/carb content. Or they only eat 30g of carbs per day because they’re on a strict keto diet.  I only offer my opinion if it’s asked but I know, from trying so many different diets, that none of them are truly sustainable for the rest of your life.

Eat carbs—mostly good carbs.  But also free feel to indulge in the not-so-nutritious carbs every once in a while.  Going on severe diets is not only physically draining but constantly thinking about it makes it mentally exhausting, as well.

Eating In Line With Your Goals

I am not going to tell you not to focus on the number on the scale or losing a certain amount of pounds because I’ve been there before.  I know what it’s like to want to see a number. I get it. And I had to go through that phase before I moved onto the phase I’m in now which is really trying to fill my diet with healthy and nutritious food.  But just keep in mind as you’re going through the process, the end goal should be to improve your overall health.  The immediate goal might be to lose “x” amount of pounds so whatever you do to reach that goal should be things that are sustainable changes for the end result of living a healthier and more energized life.  Make sense?

Instead of focusing on what you want to achieve (i.e. lose 10 lbs or have a six pack), ask yourself this question:

What am I willing to change/improve in my diet and what results will it yield?

The idea here is to consider what you’re actually willing to do.  It goes back to the idea of wanting to want something but not actually wanting it enough to do anything about it.  So think about what you’re actually willing to change, improve, add to your diet, or eliminate from your diet.  Once you know what you’re willing to do and what results in will likely yield you can negotiate with yourself to find a good starting point.

And remember no change, or improvement, or addition, or elimination has to be 100% of the time.  Instead of 5 caramel macchiatos per week, go for 3.  And leave the rest of your diet and exercise regimen exactly the same.  You will be consuming less calories and you will lose weight.  It will be slow but it will be happen if you have patience.

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Once you know what your goals are and you truly believe you’re onboard with doing the things you need to do to get there, DO THEM.  And while you’re at it, do these things too:

  1. Be patient and kind with yourself. Lifestyle and dietary changes can be difficult.  Don’t beat yourself up for the ups and downs you will experience.  They are part of the journey. You’re not going to be your most healthy and fit self every season in your life.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time. When you make one small change it will make you feel good.  And that good feeling will ignite you to make another small change.  And so and so forth.
  3. Take your time. It’s not a race and it’s certainly not a competition.  It doesn’t matter if it takes you 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years to get to where you want to be. Go at your own pace.

I would absolutely love to hear feedback on this topic because it is so so soooo important to me.  What’s your food philosophy?   😉

Be a Goal Getter!!!

It’s the new year and I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited for 2019.  I think it’s going to be a great year!  And the cool thing about that is I have COMPLETE CONTROL over making sure that happens.  I know it’s almost two weeks into January so I’m kinda late to the whole “goal setting, vision board, resolution” party but better late than never, right?

But I actually think it’s a good thing that I waited until now to post this.  We’re 10 days into the new year and I’m sure some of you have had moments of “I’m giving up” or “that’s too hard, what was I thinking?!” or “yeah, 2019 isn’t going to be my year.”   BUT, I beg of you not to throw in the towel yet.  First of all, you do not have to wait until January 1 or Monday to start new habits.  But if you decided that January 1 was your time, awesome.  If you decide it’s tomorrow, you go girl!

I don’t have an advanced degree in goal setting (haha), nor do I consider myself an expert.  But I do have to say that I’m pretty good at getting things done when I say I’m going to do them.  Not 100% of the time.  Not even 90% of the time.  But my track record of committing to things and achieving goals is at the very least decent.  Most of the things I’ve learned about goal setting, planning, etc. came from trial and error.  Other tidbits come from podcasts I’ve listened to or books I’ve read.  And of course, I learn from talking to others about what they do that works/doesn’t work for them.

Here are four things I personally do when I’m setting goals (and I encourage you to try them too!):

1. Write ’em down. Come on, people!  This is the easiest one!  The first step is coming up with the goal in your head.  The second is WRITING IT DOWN.  And so many people never even get there!  And be specific when you write down your goal!  Don’t be vague- “I want to eat healthier.”  What does that actually mean?!  Start off with a broad statement like that, but then drill down to what you actually want to accomplish.  For instance, “I want to eat healthier” turns into:

“I want to incorporate more greens into my diet by making sure I have at least 2 servings of greens 6 out of 7 days of the week.  My greens will include kale, spinach, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, and brussel sprouts.”

Writing down concrete, specific goals is going to increase the chances that you’ll stick with the goal.  How do I know this? I don’t know, it sounds obvious and it works for me.  Few more examples, shall we?

“I want to eat healthier” vs. “I am going to bring my lunch to work 4/5 days of the week.  That lunch will include a lean protein, a whole grain, and vegetables.”
“I want to get fit.” vs. “I am going to sign up for a membership to XYZ gym and go 4 days/week. I will do 20 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of weight training most days.”
“I want to be better with money.” vs. “I set a reminder in my calendar for the 30th of each month. At that time if I have excess funds left in my bank account I am going put half of it towards my credit card debt/student loan and the other half in my savings account.”
“I want to have a better relationship with my mom/dad/brother/sister” vs. “I am going to call my dad twice a week so we can catch up more often.”

 

2. Don’t make goals for the sake of making goals. I know the new year is a good opportunity to jump on the “I’m going to get healthy/get fit/lose weight” bandwagon, but if you’re not truly committed to reaching a goal, don’t bother.  And I don’t say that to sound like a jerk, I’m saying it because it might just not be your time to tackle that goal (whatever it is).  Work on the things that are important to you now. And if those things change in 6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months from now, that’s fine.  Plus, when you don’t achieve that goal that you weren’t actually committed to, you feel like a failure.  And there’s just no need for that because you’re probably doing a million other things simultaneously and kicking butt at them.  And you’re also never a failure.  Just do you, girl.  DO YOU when the time is right FOR YOU!

3. Set obnoxiously large goals. This is another cute little trick I learned over the years that I am putting my own cute little spin on.  There’s what I call achievable goals and reach goals.  Achievable goals are goals that are, duh, achievable!  Meaning, you know you can do it.  So whether it’s saying I’m going to run 3 races this year (when your ran 2 last year) or I’m going to increase my sales by 5%, these are goals that achievable… or very, very modest goals.

Reach goals are exactly what they sound like too!  They are going to require you to plan the work and work the plan.  They are going to be extremely tough to accomplish.  But that’s the point.  Setting goals that are achievable is basically giving yourself a break.  But setting reeeeaaach goals is like pushing yourself to 95% of your fastest pace.  And even if you only get to 80%, or 85%, or 90%, it’s still way more than your achievable goal that only brought you to about 50% of your fastest pace.  You have to PUSH YOURSELF!

Personal example… last year I ran 0 races, completed 1 Beachbody program and averaged about 10 classes per month at pure barre.  A little weak for me.  This year’s goals?!  Eeek, I’m nervous at the thought of them, but here goes:

  1. Run 1 5K
  2. Run 1 10k or 15k
  3. Run 1 ½ Marathon
  4. Run a Spartan Race
  5. Take 15 classes/month at pure barre
  6. Complete Transform20 (Beachbody program)
  7. Do a MF pull-up

That’s a shit ton of stuff… like for real.  How did I come up with these 7 things?  I figured out what I can pretty easily do (my achievable goal) and wrote it down.  And then thought about what I reeeaallly want to accomplish and wrote it down.  Unless something crazy happens, I can guarantee that I’ll do more than my achievable goal.  I might not do my reach goal… but damn!, it would still be amazing if I did 5 or 6 of those things, right?

fitness goals

4. Don’t take on too much at once. That sounds like a load of bull when I just listed 7 things I want to accomplish (and those are just my fitness goals).  But hear me out.  Those 7 goals are not going to be worked on simultaneously.  For example, I’m not even thinking about the ½ marathon yet.  That’s not something I’m doing until the fall most likely.  Right now I’m focused on making sure I get my 15 classes in at pure barre, adding in one more day of running, and starting Transform20 next week.

I’m not saying you can’t work on doing a two or three things at the same time… I’m just saying you can’t expect yourself to put 110% effort into 6 or 7 different things.  There’s not enough time in the day or pre-workout (or coffee for you normal folk) in the world to do that.  Just focus on the highest priorities RIGHT NOW and move on, or take on more, when you’re ready.

I hope you found this to be helpful and apply some of these principals when you are setting your goals.  Remember: be specific, write them down, only commit to what is really important, go for the gusto and don’t overload yourself.

#getitgirl

Wow, it’s been a while.  At least a month.  Part of the reason I have been hesitant to write has been because I wanted to write and share this particular post before I moved on.  This has been a huge year of personal growth for me.  The way it started and the way it ended couldn’t be any more different.  And while it was the hardest year of my life in a lot of ways, it was actually the best year in a lot of ways too.

I don’t really even know how to start this so I guess I’ll start with something simple:  my husband and I are getting divorced.  And before you start with the “I’m so sorry” spiel, know this:  It’s OK.  We’re OK.  The kids are OK.  The reason I’m sharing this is because it’s part of my journey.  My family life journey, my personal growth journey and even my fitness journey.  And like I said in my very first blog post, I think it’s important to share the hard things.  Especially since social media allows us to share the parts of our lives that we’re happy of, proud of, excited about, etc.  We hide all the things we don’t want people to see or know about us.  Even I do that at times.

I’m not going to go into details about what happened between me and Randy because there are things that in spite of caring about us or knowing us, only he and I will understand.  But I do want to provide some context.  Randy and I met when I was in 9th grade and he was in 12th grade.  I was 15 years old at the time… so you do the math, he’s been in my life longer than he hasn’t been.  We didn’t start dating until a few years later when I was 19 and he was 22.  And the people we were at 19 and 22 are very different than the people we are today.  The things that were important to both of us in relationships back when we were “kids” are different than today as “adults.”

But one of the things I think Randy and I have always had in common is the fact that we both have/had a lot of traditional values.  We were both brought up thinking that you meet someone, get engaged, buy a home, get married, start your family and DUH, live happily ever after…

I can only speak for myself here but I had a hard time coming to terms that Randy and I weren’t meant to be married anymore.  It was a hard pill to swallow after doing everything the “right” way.  I have always been that person—the one who does the right thing, follows the rules, makes logical and smart decisions.  I want people to like me.  And I absolutely hate disappointing people—especially my parents.

But you wanna know a secret?  I actually like coloring outside the lines once in a while.  I like to dance with danger just a bit.  And I’m a very emotional person that is perfectly OK with making gut decisions because at one point it was what I wanted.  And for the first time in my entire life, I don’t have a plan.  Or at least a 100% clear vision of what my future is going to look like.  And I’m learning to be OK with that.

So what does this all mean?  It means that while I still don’t like to disappoint people and I of course, want people to like me, I need to be true to myself.  Instead of being a shell of who I am, I need to embrace every part of who I am.  Even the part that makes dumb decisions, flies off the handle at stupid things, and is OK with people judging me when I do edgy things.  (Edgy by Lauren standards here. I’m not about to rob a bank 😉 ).

Ever since Randy and I separated back in March I feel more myself.  And it’s not because I ever felt that Randy held me back.  In fact, Randy has always supported me and encouraged me in everything I do.  I think it was the weight of the situation that snowballed to the point where I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted anymore.  But since we separated, I feel more relaxed.  I feel more at ease with who I am and where I’m going (wherever the F that is).  And I came to the conclusion that I rather be unapologetically me, than someone who tries to be something or someone for everyone else.

But I’ll be 1000000% honest.  There are days that are hard.  There are days that I cry A LOT.  There are days that I question decisions made 2 years ago and 2 minutes ago.  But just like everyone else who’s going through “stuff”, I just keep on chugging along.  Because just like everyone else, I have to.  Because the world doesn’t stop if I’m having a bad day.  Life continues.  My kids still need me to be their mommy.  My job needs to me to function.  And my house won’t be able to run if I don’t do the laundry, pay the bills or go food shopping.

And quite frankly, I feel incredibly lucky.  Why?  Because me and Randy are still friends.  And maybe that’s always been part of the problem- we’ve been really good friends for so long.  But either way, we care about each other and respect each other enough to make what we’re going through right now the healthiest it can possibly be.  Maybe it’s weird to outsiders. Maybe it’s not “normal.”  But it works for us. Don’t’ get me wrong, we still piss each other off.  But I’m pretty sure that comes with any relationship—whether it’s a married couple, divorced couple or just a plain ol’ besties since 4th grade.  We all get into arguments and push each other’s buttons at times.

first-you-just-want-to-look-good-then-you-realize-its-deeper-than-that-33539-alt-13

So how does this tie into what I’m doing with my fitness blog?  Well, I’ll tell you.  Being a “health, fitness, move your body, work your mind, live your best life self” advocate is something I love to do.  And I’ve thrown myself into it even more so lately because I am truly passionate about it.  I love sharing what lights me up inside.  It’s also the most normal and consistent thing in my life.  In a year where things got flipped upside down, I was able to keep some sort of normalcy by keeping up with my fitness routine.  It’s kept me sane.

It also gives me:

an opportunity to reflect.

an opportunity to push my physical limits and see what my body is capable of.

an opportunity to sweat out the stress.

an opportunity to gain confidence.

an opportunity release endorphins

an opportunity to start my day off on the right foot

an opportunity to continue to work on myself at a time where I could easily just throw in the towel and say, “I’ll restart when things calm down.”

an opportunity to prove to myself that I can handle ANYTHING.

So I’ll leave you with this—do whatever the hard thing is.  Work on the hard things.  Make peace with the hard things.  Just don’t let the hard things hold you back.  Because at the end of the day, that is a much more regrettable way to live your life.

And one more thing—only YOU know what feels right to you.  So don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

And lastly, when in doubt, sweat it out!  😉 Believe me, it helps in more ways than you’ll ever know. Even though your problems still exist after your workout is over, you have the chance to clear your head and more importantly, time to work on yourself. And at a time when I’ve needed it the most, working out reminds me that I am strong enough to push through anything that comes my way.

So with that, see ya later 2018!  And hello there, 2019!  🙂

Why I Love to Weightlift

You know how you get when you talk about something or someone you love?  Like that super animated, talk really fast, lots of inflection in your voice type of talking?  That’s how I feel about fitness.  I love to talk about running, home workouts, barre… you name it, I’m excited about it!  Recently that excitement includes weightlifting.  I went from a cardio queen to a lifting machine (OMG, that totally rhymed, I am so happy right now 😉 ).

This was a huge transition for me because I used to HATE lifting weights.  I did everything I could to avoid it.  I would do extra cardio and then oops, ran out of time, gotta go so I’m not late for work all the time.  I just didn’t enjoy it.  And I didn’t see the benefits.  But so many fitness gurus talk about how weightlifting is super important for women—especially as we get older.  So over the past few years I started implementing it into my workout routine.  It truly does amazing things for your body.  And there’s a ton of different ways to go about doing it!  I also learned that it’s much more than “I lift things up and put them down.”  Form is everything.  Even when weights seem “light” you still need to make sure you’re in proper form so that a) you don’t hurt yourself and b) you’re working the right muscles for that exercise.

And that’s about as scientific I’m going to get about weightlifting because I don’t have too much textbook knowledge on it.  But I’ve been doing it for a while now and I am happy to say I see results from what I do and also (:knocking wood:) I don’t feel pain or get hurt often (I feel like I had to add the word “often” in otherwise I sound like a tool if I say “never” and I’ll end up eating my words).

Anywayyyy, there are three different approaches I’ve used over the years for lifting weights.

  • Light Weight/High Reps– This used to be my go-to strategy. I’d hit the 8 lb dumbbells and do bicep curls and chest presses for dayzzz.  I still use this method sometimes.  Usually it’s when I do an EMOM (every minute on the minute) workout.  I’ll use the 8 lb dumbbells and curl for one minute straight.  This will definitely fatigue my muscles even though I would normally use 15 lb dumbbells but do a lot less reps.  To me, it’s just a different way to work the muscles—I’m using lighter weights and doing more reps rather than heavier weights and less reps.  It’s a way to switch things up.  And not just for my muscles, but for me mentally.  I admittedly get bored of doing the same thing week in and week out so changing up HOW I do my lifting gets me more excited to do it.
  • Medium Weight/Super SetsSuper sets, by MY definition, is when you do two exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between- 10 reps each. For example, you might do a bicep curl and then drop those weights and pick up your heavier weights for a bent over (hehe) row.  Your “rest time” is basically the time it takes you to put your curl weight dumbbells down and pick up your row weight dumbbells.  You can also do this in the form of quad sets where you do four exercises back-to-back.  This method is fun because it moves quickly and definitely gets your heart rate up.  Obviously you’re not using your max weight (at least not for every exercise) because your muscles will be SPENT with 2.5- 5 lbs less than your max weight—trust ya girl on that one.
  • Heavy Weight/Low Reps– This is probably the most effective way to get strong, quick. Meaning, build da muscles.  I used to HATE using heavy weights because I thought I’d look like a dude.  But I’ve used this approach and definitely like the way it feels to lift heavy weights.  Also, I’m pretty sure the only way I’d be able to build muscle like a man is if I started taking testosterone … which is not on my to do list.

Okay, so I told you HOW I lift weights, but I haven’t told you WHY.

  • I used to hate wearing tank tops or anything sleeveless because my arms didn’t look good. HA!  At 25 I was already thinking my arms looked terrible so I would try to hide them as much as I could.  So yes, from an aesthetic standpoint I like the way my arms and shoulders look since I started lifting weights.  I feel more confident in tank tops, sleeveless dresses, etc.  I like looking cut and definitely enjoy checking out my arms in the mirror sometimes. (What?! I’m just being honest here 😉 ).
  • I love seeing the progress I’ve made and feeling stronger every day. I also love saying things like “no, I got it” when someone asks me if I need help lifting or moving something.  I have my limits of course, but it’s nice to feel strong.
  • I believe that lifting weights has helped me other areas of fitness—specifically running. Even when I used to use weights at the gym I would rarely work my legs.  Now I do leg workouts with dumbbells and feel a huge difference.  I run once a week and I feel like I’m pretty much just as fast, if not faster, than I’ve ever been (in my adult life) because of incorporating leg workouts to my routine.
  • There are so many health benefits to lifting weights but that’s not really my wheelhouse so I’m going to let this beautiful graphic do the talking. (It had me at “feel good” endorphins and reduces stress and anxiety.  Anyone else?)

Benefits Of WeightLifting

Like I said , I used to hate lifting weights so if you’re in that camp, I totally get it.  However, I truly believe that it’s part of a well-rounded fitness regimen.  And it doesn’t necessarily need to be 3 or 5 times a week.  I will lift for 6 or 8 weeks and then take a break for a couple of weeks.  This gives my body time to recover and for my muscles to start craving the lifting again.  I totally encourage people to incorporate some sort of lifting into their routine.

I  would love to hear other ideas and ways that people like to lift.  I’m always looking to try out new things.  Please share what you do in the comments!!!