Self-directed, Independent Study, Coursework in Recovery and Developing a Stronger Sense of Self

That is what this first quarter of 2014 is all about.

I once read a book called Life 101. One of the opening paragraphs alluded to the fact that many of us graduate from the School of Hard Knocks to immediately enroll in the University of Adversity. I kind of took that statement to heart and have been matriculating through that institution of life ever since. Now it’s time for me to move into the next level of earning my Master’s of Fine Arts in Living Life to the Fullest.

In order to do this, I am now committed to facing and processing the things which have kept me stuck walking the same halls of adversity, repeating the same life lessons, while hoping to learn something different.

I am immersing myself in the following coursework:
Daily online Twelve Step meetings through an Overeaters Anonymous based organization, The Recovery Group. Through these meetings I am practicing the principles of honesty, accountability, service to others, and being mentally immersed in recovery-based thinking, processing, and decision-making.  Within the context of TRG I have developed a relationship with someone who has agreed to be my sponsor as I work through the Twelve Steps. So far I’ve read through and responded to what I’ve read from the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book online. Finally, I am also going through the process to serve as a meeting leader. There are eight meetings each day, every day, which are held on the threes, am and pm, Eastern Time: 3, 6, 9, and 12, for a total of 56 online meetings each week. Moderating and leading a meeting is a valuable service and an opportunity to give back to others what has been freely given to me.

In addition to the Twelve Step portion of my coursework, I am participating in a weekly, faith-based, class and support group for women who are recovering from abuse. You can read more about it in the write-up I did for it on PDX Social Safety Net, Abuse Recovery Ministries and Services. Complementary to that, I am regularly attending and viewing the teaching messages from my friend and teacher, Marc Alan Schelske, and other speakers, teachers, and ministry leaders affiliated with Bridge City Community Church. We are currently in a teaching series with significant life application teaching about living a life of transformation that is based on emotionally healthy spirituality, which impacts the world around us in positive and constructive ways without it becoming about performance and self-serving attitudes and behaviors. If you’re interested in seeing and learning about the things I am experiencing in this faith community, you can view past and current teachings on the Bridge City Media YouTube Channel.

On the mental/emotional health side of things, I have an intake appointment today to start therapeutic counseling services. My goal in doing this is to get the focused and structured help in identifying and processing the issues from my history of childhood sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, and early domestic violence relationship with a man who trained me in being a con artist and the fine art of verbal manipulation for the three and a half years when I was 16 – 19 years of age, during my pregnancy and the first two years of mothering my son. Based on conversations with other service providers and professionals in the realm of domestic violence and child & family services, it is likely that in addition to my known mental health issues of depression and my suspected hypomania, that there is likely PTSD or complex-PTSD which has been unidentified and has been contributing to and impacting my life and relationships over the past 20+ years. I am not seeking a cure. I doubt there is such a thing. I am seeking understanding of myself and my triggers, guidance in continuing to identify and process triggers, develop tools and plans of action for dealing with triggers. I want to be able to, eventually and sooner rather than later, be able to do some kind of income generating work, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur. However, I am coming to realize and understand that if I do not honestly and conscientiously address these other issues, I will continue in my cycles of depression, chaos, and conflict which have prevented me from achieving my dreams and potential. I’m tired of the self-sabotage and making choices in relationships and life matters which keep me stuck.

Concurrent with the counseling and other things there is another domestic violence support and discussion group which is “a model of counseling to help improve coping skills. It was originally developed for trauma, substance abuse, and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is also applied broadly to increase coping and stabilization.” Since I have experience trauma, have developed eating behaviors and patterns where food is used similarly to other substances like alcohol and drugs, and have exhibited symptoms of PTSD, attendance and participation in this group, makes sense for me, at this time, as I am attempting not only to learn about being safe, but learning how to apply and utilize the knowledge in effective and tangible ways.

Finally, I am also receiving parenting support and Luna is receiving child advocacy services in learning how to cope emotionally with the things we have experienced and the feelings she has regarding the transitions in our lives and relationships with her father. They love each other dearly. He wants to and has the right to be present in her life. He is taking steps to work on his side of the street in these things. In the meantime, it’s a huge transition for her and, ultimately, teaching her and equipping her to be healthy, constructive, and functional in her life is one of the major outcomes I’m working for in doing all the things that I am doing.

It feels like a lot. It is a lot. But, it is all necessary and critical to moving forward instead of slipping back.



  1. I found therapy immensely helpful a number of years ago, so I’m glad you’re getting an intake appointment for counseling. I sincerely believe everyone should have mental health care at some point in their lives. I’m actually thinking with all the stuff going on in my life that I should probably head back for some more counseling myself.


    1. Mary,
      I believe I’m going to get the most help out of this foray into therapy more than any time previously because, this time, I’m willing to focus on myself and face the things I’ve chosen not to deal with in my past that I was in denial regarding the affects they’d had on me. It’s a bit scary, but I’m more hopeful than I’ve been in a long time.

      I agree that mental health maintenance through therapy is something that a majority of people could benefit from, if there wasn’t such a stigma associated with it.



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