Learning to Live and Hike with Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)

This is unequivocally the last topic I want to be writing an article about, but here I am. Acceptance is a real MOTHER!

Up, at the crack of dawn early on my second Saturday morning, to share a topic that’s one of my least favorite to talk about, let alone acknowledge and accept. I especially have a hard time sharing it with others.

My reason for sharing is because I don’t have the energy to explain some of my actions in recent months, and I feel I owe it to my friends, family, followers, and readers so they understand my actions better. I have had to back out of some things that I previously committed to. I have had to clear my plate of all items that are not 100% needed and necessary. I’ve had to walk away from communities, commitments, and even people to release some things from my life that we’re no longer adding to it the way I needed them to. The other part is me stepping out of denial that this is even a “thing” for me and stepping into the light that sharing this IS a real thing, and I hope a piece of my journey might help someone else.

A little back story:

In April of 2018, I started experiencing reoccurring signs of a heart rhythm upset, but I had no clue what I was dealing with, so I ignored these signs and continued my everyday life. Until eventually, it caught up with me. But that’s usually what happens when we ignore things. They always circle back around.

In May 2018, after a regular day at work, I visited an urgent treatment center when my workday ended for symptoms of chest heaviness, a racing heart, nausea, and fatigue; I was suddenly rushed to the emergency room by ambulance. My heart rate was stuck between 160BPM and 170BPM, and I was not running a marathon, hiking a trail, or walking fast. Instead, it was sitting still at work. This lasted for over an hour before I went to the urgent treatment.

The memories of that experience are vivid to me because it was the first time I had rode in an ambulance before. In transit to the ER, I remember the nurse giving me an IV and saying that I would feel weird, but he would have to provide me with some adenosine medicine in my IV to restart my heart.

Restart my heart?

WTF…

I remember things getting blurry, grey, and a hot flash came over my whole body. Finally, I faded out and back into consciousness only to hear him say, “It didn’t work I need to give you some more.” After another dose of adenosine, slowly, my heart rate finally started to come down. When I arrived at the ER, it was in the 130 BPM range.

The average BPM for healthy adults is 60-100BPM, and the normal resting for me is 80BPM. But, of course, if we’re exercising, running, walking, hiking, jogging, etc., it is higher, but average BPM starts to come down as you slow down activities or stop them.

As I arrived at the ER, they hook me up to more machines to monitor me, and they give me some medication to bring my heart rate down some more. Keep in mind, I’m a healthy person for the most part, so this was a significant shock to me to end up in the ER for heart-related issues. It would be helpful if I had my medical history from my maternal and paternal biological parents and families, but being adopted we don’t all get that luxury!

Eventually, the doctor comes in to explain that I have had an SVT episode. So, of course, my initial reaction is, “What is SVT?”

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) is an abnormally fast or erratic heartbeat that affects the heart’s upper chambers. SVT occurs when the electrical signals that coordinate your heartbeats don’t work correctly. SVT occurs when faulty electrical connections in the heart set off a series of early beats in the atria. When this happens, the heart rate becomes so fast so quickly; the heart doesn’t have enough time to fill with blood before the chambers contract. As a result, you may feel light-headed or dizzy because your brain isn’t getting enough blood and oxygen. A normal heart rhythm is 60-100BPM. During an episode of SVT, your heart beats about 150 to 220 times per minute, but it can occasionally beat faster. Sometimes it can last a minute or two, and sometimes it can last hours, even days. Some people have no symptoms, and others have many. I have all the symptoms when an episode hits me, and they last between a few minutes and 6-8 hours. Sometimes I have to seek medical attention, and sometimes I have handled it on my own.

Signs and symptoms of supraventricular tachycardia may include:

  • Very fast (rapid) heartbeat
  • A fluttering or pounding in your chest (palpitations)
  • A pounding sensation in the neck
  • Weakness or feeling very tired (fatigue)
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Fainting (syncope) or near fainting

I had a few choices that the doctor presented me with while in the ER in 2018.

  1. Do nothing and risk the possibility of more episodes, which could cause damage to my heart if left untreated.
  2. Take beta-blockers 2x a day for the rest of my life.
  3. Take beta-blockers as needed.
  4. Have a surgical procedure called a catheter ablation to correct the faulty wiring in my heart.

I thought long and hard about this, and I decided to take beta-blockers as needed if an episode arose. However, I’m not a pill person; actually, I’m not too fond of pills, so taking two medications a day for the rest of my life was something I wasn’t ready to commit to.

I was discharged with beta-blockers in hand.

Life went on its merry way – until it didn’t.

In June 2018, the middle of summer, I decided to hike with two other women to one of my favorite newfound gorges not far from my house. They knew this gorge well, and we had plans to show me around to become more familiar with this gorgeous area of Kentucky.

We met at the trailhead at 3:30P and off we went. This particular gorge, we had to hike approx a mile in a creek that took us to the top of a huge waterfall. Once we hit the waterfall, we adventured down a steep scramble to the bottom. Once we got to the bottom, we hung out a bit, and then we ventured up another steep scramble to see a bat cave on the other side of the mountain.

By the time I made it to the top, my heart rate was beating 210BPM. Then, I sat down and took a break for close to an hour, and my heart rate was still 210BPM.

I realized I forgot the medicine.

I was screwed.

The following six hours of my life is a time I will never forget. It took us over five hours to get out of the gorge it took us one hour to get into because I could barely breathe, walk, or talk with my heart beating so fast. I took five steps, sat down, almost passed out dozens of times. Then, finally, I would sit down again because I couldn’t go any further, and then I would get up enough energy to take a few more steps. Sweat dripping, and my chest was hurting. I was exhausted. 

H O U R S seemed like days.

I honestly thought I was going to die in that damn gorge. But the ladies I was with were so kind, patient, and understanding, and they were not leaving me behind. Of course, they had no clue what they were signing up for that day, but I will always be thankful for their presence. 

We finally made it out, my heart rate was still 210BPM, and I drove myself home. I should have gone to the ER, but I had to work the next day, and it was already dark by the time I made it home. I was so weak I couldn’t get upstairs to get the meds, so my son brought them to me. I was so tired; I couldn’t even tell him what had just happened. So I just sat there in the living room in the dark – hot, sweaty, and exhausted.

I took a beta-blocker, waited a few minutes, and crawled upstairs, barely making it into my bedroom. Somehow I got enough strength to get into the shower, almost passing out. I just wanted to rinse my body off so I could lay down and go to sleep. I knew once the pill started to work, my heart rate would come down eventually.

By the time I made it to my bed, I didn’t even have enough strength to put clothes on. I wrapped my towel around me, wet hair and all, and laid down. I couldn’t believe what I had just gone through. Little by little, the beta-blocker did its job, my heart rate finally lowered, and I eventually dozed off to sleep.

The next day I felt like I had run a 10K marathon. It took me days to recover and feel semi-back to normal. At this point, I decided I wanted to get the surgical procedure to fix this problem because I never wanted to go through this again.

E V E R

I reached out to my Electrotheseaologist and made an appointment to set up the surgery. I expressed how active I am, my recent upset in the gorge, how scary it was and how I never want to go through that again. He said many avid hikers like me choose to get the surgical procedure for the same reasons. So in July 2018, I was scheduled for a catheter ablation, which I was hopeful would fix this problem.

The surgery was a success, and I was discharged the same day and spent some time recovering. After that, the SVT episodes dissipated into nothingness, and I felt like I had my life back.

June & July 2020, things seem to shift a bit. I started showing signs of SVT again. I have also had symptoms resulting in getting up out of chairs, getting out of my car, and bending over.

Sometimes I would be awakened in the night with my heart racing 130-140BPM. Sometimes I would be sitting at work or home doing nothing activity-wise, and it would go up and come back down on its own after some time. I ended up going back to the Cardiologist in August 2020. I was sent home with a new monitor, but after a week of wearing it, I decided I didn’t want to be bothered with anything heart-related. Maybe if I just pretended like it didn’t exist, it would go away?

I just wanted it to go away.

Life went on, and some symptoms would come and go over the next year. I took note, but basically, I ignored them as they were minor compared to the episode in the gorge. I have been hiking on trails that are various levels of difficulty in that time.  I have seemed to do okay since the catheter ablation. I have been hiking a lot in that time, and I have never stopped.

July 2021, I had a significant episode come on me while I was at work, sitting still doing nothing active. I noticed my resting heart rate was 120-130BPM which a standard resting heart rate for me is 80BPM. This episode lasted off and on for 10-12 hours. I ended up taking a beta-blocker I had on hand to bring it down because I was hiking the next day, and I wanted to enjoy my hike and forget I was having this issue.

It’s always in the back of my mind, but again I just wanted it to go away.

Around this time, I decided that I need to start putting my health in my own hands, which goes for physical, emotional, and mental. If I got honest with myself, my plate was overflowing in all areas of my life. Some of the triggers for SVT are doing nothing. However, some are anxiety and stress, as well as many other things. Doing my part, I started to slowly clear my plate of all items that aren’t 100% necessary in my life for my health. All extra commitments and responsibilities had to go. One by one, over the last few months, I have been clearing my plate. I can no longer participate in anything that is emotionally or mentally upsetting or draining. I’ve had to make some significant changes, and some of them have been heartbreaking, but I know I have to do what I have to do for my overall health and, in return, happiness. I’ve been setting major boundaries for myself. This has been life or death for me, because at 47 years young, heart problems are the last thing I want to be dealing with. But here I am, dealing with heart problems. If I haven’t mentioned this to you before, sorry. I don’t like talking about health issues, and keeping it private has aided me in staying in denial.

Today is a new day.

It’s only apparent that I have to make some changes for myself.

Things have begun to shift in my personal and professional life, and I had to evaluate the things that mean the most to me and let go of things that aren’t a priority in my life or they might have been a priority, but not good for my emotional and mental wellbeing. So there has been a lot of getting alone with myself and soul searching, thinking about the life I want to live and the future I want to have for myself.

August 20, 2021 – I flew to Salt Lake City to spend my post-birthday weekend with my best friend. We decided on Saturday, August 20, we would hike a canyon to Fifth Water Hot Springs. We had never been too hot springs before. This was a gorgeous hike, approx—five miles in and out. The incline was pretty significant the whole way in, but making our way to the hot springs was so worth it.

We decided to spend about an hour basking in the hot springs before we make the trip to the bottom of the trail. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, especially with my best friend. The ambiance was out of this world. We got out of the hot springs to gather our things, and I noticed I felt light-headed, dizzy, and totally off balance.

This is so not like me.

I sat down to get myself together, but I still felt sick. I decided to look at my heart rate as I felt it beating out of my chest. It was between 150-160BPM. I waited for it to come down, and it didn’t come down. We were sitting still in the hot springs, and even after resting out of the water for 30-45 minutes, it was still stuck between 150-160BPM.

Here we go again.

We waited longer, but it showed no lowering signs, so I decided to get up and keep it moving. At least we were going down an incline (instead of an elevated slope) going out, which would be easier for me. So we made it out, taking many breaks, and 1.5-2 hours later, my heart rate slowly started to come down on its own after about 3 hours at 150-160BPM. This episode was similar to the episode where I was stuck in the gorge, and if I was coming out up any incline like I was at the gorge in 2018, I’m pretty sure it would have been even harder on me. Don’t get it twisted. I love a challenging hike, steep scrambles, and I consider the difficult hikes something I enjoy to the fullest!

By the time we made it back to my friend’s house, I was exhausted because when my heart beats that fast non-stop, it does a number on me. I was feeling the impacts of this episode for the next 4-5 days, maybe even longer.  I realized I hiked a strenuous hike, around 5 miles, my heart rate was stuck for several hours, and I traveled by airplane. When I returned home, I was dead to the world.

I made it to work last week, but I was only showing up in a half-ass way most days. I could barely complete my routine tasks, and after work, I was home in bed. I had no energy, and I did not feel well. Finally, by Thursday and Friday, I started to feel semi back to normal. Tuesday, I made it into the heart and valve clinic, and after discussing this episode with my Cardiologist, it’s evident that the SVT is returning. I was told when I had the ablation that there is a possibility that the SVT could come back for a variety of reasons. I was also told other issues could come about after the ablation. I knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t want to believe it would happen to me.

So now what?

I sat in the Cardiologist’s office and failed miserably at holding back tears. Snot slanging, and my emotions overwhelmed me. I expressed my feelings of forcing myself to step out of denial that this is even a thing for me, and my hope of the problem being solved was shattered. I mentioned hiking, especially alone, is the number one thing I love doing in my life, and I didn’t want to be scared to hike alone or give such a precious thing up. So I told him I refused to give it up.

If I get one thing from both my birth parents, it’s stubbornness. I’m not a quitter, and I’m not going to let this heart issue stop me from doing the main thing I love to do. But, I won’t lie, this has been a difficult transition to step into.

The Cardiologist convinced me I needed to wear another monitor to catch an episode in action hopefully. He also ordered several tests to make sure its nothing else going on.

The thing with SVT is that everyone has different experiences with it, and it usually isn’t life-threatening. However, it depends on an individual’s lifestyle and the frequency and duration of the episodes on how it impacts each of us. Especially when I have the episodes hiking, it affects me significantly; it’s impacting my quality of life.

I have a few choices to make. I can let this paralyze me into stopping doing the things I love, or I can push through it and try to step out of denial that it’s even a thing so I can step into a space of truth that if I want to keep doing the things I love, I need to make some changes.

If anyone knows me, I will never stop hiking and chasing waterfalls as long as my body will allow me to go and run wild in nature! This is one of the things I live for. So I have chosen to push through and continue to hike. However, I am working on preparing myself; if things go wrong, what will I do?

I have invested in a new Apple iwatch six series that has some benefits for someone in my situation. They can now check your heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and they can monitor an ECG.  I will need to invest in a GPS (they are expensive!) device that will work when I lose a cell signal and almost always lose a cell signal hiking. I will have to let someone know where I’m going at all times and carry the medication with me if I should be triggered into an episode. I will have to talk to my close friends and family about what to do when I have an episode, and I will continue to research natural ways I can help myself when episodes should arise.

I’ve learned about the Modified Valsalva Maneuver, which helps reset someone’s heart when having an SVT episode. It seems pretty dramatic watching it; however, it looks like it does the job effectively!

One of the most important things I can do for myself is to walkway from the things that have been causing my plate to overflow along with anything that causes consistent stress or anxiety. I can control this, and I have been working on backing out of things and clearing my plate for a few months. I can honestly say it’s been exceptionally freeing to get to this space, but denial can keep us stuck and, in return, sick.

I am determined to kick SVT’s ASS around the world and back again. It will not paralyze me, and it will not control my life. It might slow me down sometimes; however, listening to my body is so much easier with less shit on my plate to tend to.

I’ve spent the last few weeks stepping into a space of acceptance that even with another catheter ablation, this might be something I deal with moving forward. This is important to me and could save my life at some point. However, acceptance hasn’t come without many tears because I don’t want to deal with this at the end of the day.

I’m reminding myself this is similar to when Covid hit us all, and we suddenly had to make some choices on what was the most important to us regarding our time and presence. So we cut back on many things to stay safe and keep others safe in return.

For me, this is my health and my life, so making these choices to step into a lighter role with less stress and anxiety will allow me to step into a space with more love, more laughter, and more quality time with those I love. Because of that, I am thankful.

One last thing I would love to share is that when someone is going through heart issues or any issues, it’s never okay to place a burden on that person as if they have done something or things to create this situation. We all live with stress and some levels of anxiety in life; however, it’s up to each of us to prune our lives to get to a place of peace and joy. Sometimes people are stuck; however, it’s not helpful to say things like “You need to calm down, and not be so stressed all the time” or “You are bringing this on yourself, don’t you think you need to let go of some things and your health might get better?”

It’s hurtful and can keep someone isolated from sharing important health information with those close to. I have gotten this stance several times over the last few years, so I just stopped communicating about this topic. Even when I had a legitimate heart condition, followed by a surgical procedure, it was nothing I could control, people have said these things to me.

Stress, anxiety and such can trigger our hearts to react a certain way, but it’s up to each of us to eliminate as much stress and anxiety as possible. Not those we love placing a burden on us that we are causing these problems; therefore, it’s our fault for the health condition. This is not helpful.

I’m not sharing all this to look for sympathy or prayers. I don’t need pity at all; however, if you are someone close to me and I have backed out of an event, or a relationship, commitment, tasks,  etc., this is likely the cause. Changes have had to happen, and in return, it’s opened my life up to a new path of freedom, even learning to live, love, and hike with SVT. It’s been emotional for me, but I have arrived at the place of acceptance. If you are a close friend of mine, I don’t need anything from you aside from a listening heart and understanding because if we are ever together and this happens, I would love for you to be prepared to handle the situation.

Stay tuned for a fabulous article on how I celebrated my 47th Birthday along side my 9 year sobriety birthday! I was surrounded by those who mean the most to me, my kids!

Are you an active hiker with SVT? I would love to hear others experiences.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Love

The Adoptee Expressway to Recovery Has More Than One Way 

img_7963I’ve learned the hard way, that the one way that’s usually presented as an express track to recovery and sobriety, isn’t the only way. I’ve also learned that there is nothing fast, quick or express about it. I’ve found that when one way is presented, this leaves one with absolutely no options to choose from in regards to making an informed choice regarding one’s very personal recovery journey. This is part of my life story. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again that someone’s recovery journey is as unique as their very own fingerprint and DNA. No two journeys are alike.  

I’ve been sharing my Adoptee in Recovery journey since August 13, 2012 and it’s no secret my main “addiction” was always alcohol. It was my “go to” to escape my adoptee reality. But the real question is, what was the reality I was running from? How long had I struggled with this addiction? What pathways to recovery did I try? What ways were presented to me? What were my root issues?

WHAT OPTIONS DID I HAVE? 

At 15 years old, I found myself locked in drug & alcohol treatment all alone. The only way out was to believe in God, a power higher than myself, and to work the 12 steps. I had no other options. By completing the 12 steps in 6 weeks, I graduated the program and it allowed me to go home. I had no knowledge of the AA Big Book before this, and I really didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the big book even after I worked the 12 steps. I was just “Going with the flow” because if I didn’t, I would never get to go home. Adoption was never talked about! 

If you read my previous article titled “Adoptee in Recovery, When Forged Forgiveness Becomes Fatal” you learned a little of my background of my drinking career. I don’t want to repeat everything from that article, so if interested, please read it and you can to get a little background. 

img_7964Today, I navigate my 2838th day living alcohol free, I’m just now coming to the head-space where I feel comfortable talking about this topic. After 7.5 years of a recovery process, If I’m completely transparent, my drinking started before I was ever born, in utero because I was told my birth mother was never seen without a drink in her hand, even through her pregnancies. It’s no wonder I started drinking so young.  

I’ve spent 45 years on this earth, my drinking career started at age 12 years old. That means I drank from 12 years old, to 38 years old. This is a 26 year drinking career! For an entire lifetime, I’ve been told I’m an alcoholic and I have always struggled with that thought. It’s made me feel “Bad” or “Defective.” Labeling myself an ALCOHOLIC for the rest of my life seems daunting, heavy, untrue and downright disgusting when I’ve been manipulated my whole life to believe this about myself. Being told I’m in DENIAL if I don’t label myself an alcoholic is abusive. I’m exceptionally happy I’m at such a healthy place in my own journey that I can recognize this as being unhealthy and toxic to my recovery. 

In the recovery world, I have never been able to verbally say, “My name’s Pam and I’m an alcoholic.” Those words have never set well with my spirit, even during the times in my life that I didn’t understand WHY. I remember a few times between 15 years old, and 38 years old I found myself in an AA room, because I knew I had a problem but the root of my problem was adoption, not alcohol. I know this now, but I didn’t know this as a 15 year old. If I was to share in an AA room about relinquishment trauma and how it’s impacted me, they would all look at me like I had lost my mind! I already know what they would be thinking, “What the HELL does this have to do with being an alcoholic?!” 

While spending the first few years of recovery in my late 30’s in and out of the AA rooms, this lets you know how much I took advantage of the open share of the AA rooms. ZERO. Because it was known that in order to share, I had to say “I’m Pam and I’m an alcoholic.” Me being stubborn is an understatement. I wasn’t going to say something that I didn’t feel in my heart was true just to be able to share, so I never shared. I just listened even after the first year. Even when I never verbally said I was an alcoholic, AA was known for alcoholics. I feel I was labeling myself as an alcoholic just by showing up at the meetings, even when I didn’t verbally say I was an alcoholic. Sharing is healing, and if I didn’t share at all in the meetings, it was stalling my healing. Period. 

I totally understand why AA/NA & Celebrate Recovery work for so many people. They provide community for others experiencing similar stages of life. They bring on new friendships, and a safe place to share. I think this provides amazing benefits for many people, and I’m happy about that if it works for you, or those you might know and love. My experience is different, but I have been able to take away some wonderful benefits from being a part of these groups, even if it was for a season. I learned a lot! 

 

Spending the last few years on the outside of any recovery organization or ministry, I’ve learned a lot as well. I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned, and use it for good and help others who might be where I once was. I had to walk away from everyone I knew and loved when I decided to get sober. I know I hurt some people doing this, but I didn’t have to explain myself. My life came first, and it was life or death. All I have to do is see the faces of my kids, and future grand-kids and I’m reminded alcohol no longer plays a role in my life. I don’t need the label of “alcoholic” to remind me. The world hasn’t been on my side in this discovery! 

In those 26 years, not only was I forced to admit in my mind, and publicly by showing up at meetings that I was an alcoholic, but it was necessary that I believe in God. I was told I needed to forgive all those who have hurt me, and I was encouraged to make amends with those who have traumatized and abused me. I was told if I didn’t admit I was an alcoholic, I was in denial and denial would only lead to death, failed recovery, relapse, among other things. 

Somehow I finagled my way through the 12 steps MANY times, without ever verbally saying I was an alcoholic. In 2012, I would say, “I’m Pam, I’m in recovery for alcohol abuse.” but that was the closest thing I have ever come to labeling myself an alcoholic. It seemed to fit me and my situation better at the current time. It was more TRUE to me to say that, than attach a label to myself for the rest of my life. I absolutely despise labels, and I find them to be a box of confinement of rules and regulations that I refuse to fit in. Currently, May 21, 2020 I say, “I’m in recovery from LIFE and relinquishment & adoption trauma!” This suits me at this present stage of my life. See how the labels can actually hinder us and trap us in a space we have the abilities to move beyond? Especially the phrase, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic!” –  Dangerous! 

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It feels so wonderful to share this publicly, and not feel like I’m going to get thrown under the bus in the process. I feel labels only construct us and hold us back within the limits of those ideas and we deserve the freedom to go far beyond that. I know I have one friend who understands this and that’s David Bohl.  David is also a fellow adoptee in recovery, and we see things very similarly. He’s given me the inspiration to share my feelings about such a complex topic and he continues to share his on his website. 

DavidBohl-headshot-740x1024David shares in his article called The World Post – AA,, “I’ve learned a lot from AA and I learned a lot from leaving it. The biggest lesson is the one that tells me I need to be kind with myself and that I need to stay as diligent about Reality as I’ve always been. I no longer live in the delusion that I can drink without some dire consequences and I don’t need meetings to tell me that. But just because I don’t go to meetings, it doesn’t mean that I’m off the hook from reminding myself every day and practicing what keeps me sober and happy.” –  David B. Bohl 

I can so agree with David about learning a lot from AA and also learning a lot from leaving it! Same with Celebrate Recovery. Today I asked myself, “Did I really have to admit I was an alcoholic in order to be in recovery, seek healing and wholeness in my life? Did I need to admit I was an alcoholic to stop drinking? How has this idea stalled my healing?”  What I’ve finally discovered is that, “NO, I don’t have to accept or admit I’m an alcoholic!” I can’t tell you how refreshing, freeing and wonderful this realization has been. If it’s true for me, it can be true for you too! We have to step into writing our own story, and stop letting others write it for us. 

Over a 20 year period, I learned that both my biological parents were alcoholics. I found out my biological mother was first, and it’s ultimately what killed her. Some years later I found my biological father, and I was told he was a raging alcoholic. He will likely die the way my birth mother did. Discovering these two very important pieces of my history is something that rocked me to my core. This is why ALL adopted people should receive 100% of their truth. It’s the KEY to healing!  You might ask, “How are both of your birth parents alcoholics and you are not when you drank for 26 years?” 

That’s easy for me. I don’t drink anymore, and I’m in recovery and I no longer have a desire to drink. I’ve put in the work to make changes. They, on the other hand are going to die from alcoholism as my birth mother already has, and my biological father is right behind her. If either of my birth parents put in the work to become sober, I wouldn’t label them alcoholics but they never got help, sadly. I broke the cycle and I’ve applied a lot of blood, sweat and tears to do this. I can not consciously attach being an alcoholic to my name and my legacy because of this. My kids are my motivation! 

I BROKE THE CYCLE NOT JUST FOR ME, BUT FOR THEM! 

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From my experience, in AA never admitting you are an alcoholic is denial. This thought process that influenced me kept me confined for a very long time! It’s very scary for a lot of people who are considering recovery or living an alcohol free life. From my experience, in AA, if you don’t label yourself an alcoholic, you will NOT make it. Relapse is inevitable and you will be told you are in denial. Let me be clear, I know AA, NA and Celebrate Recovery, and all the other recovery programs and ministries have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. I can find goodness in all of these programs. But due to my experiences with them, I can also take some steps back and see how damaging they can be. I’m not knocking them, or those who believe in them or those that are faithful participants of any of them. I’m just saying what worked and didn’t work for me, along with my views being on the outside looking in. 

Besides my three amazing kids, knowing both my birth parents were alcoholics was my motivation to want to be nothing like them. I didn’t want to be like them, and I didn’t want to die like them. I have wasted 26 years of my life, with alcohol being at the center of almost everything I did and I didn’t want alcohol to take anymore from my life, or my kids lives.  

The older I get, the more wisdom I gain, and the more I begin to think for myself. I never understood how labeling myself an alcoholic for the rest of my life would help me? If I’m doing everything in my power to become happy, healthy, and recover from my previous life experiences, why do I have to call myself an alcoholic, yet be manipulated into doing this? I never fell for it, and I have never been comfortable with ADMITTING I’M AN ALCOHOLIC. 

Today I celebrate 2838 days of living alcohol free, and I’ve made it this far never claiming the label of being an alcoholic. Can I agree I had an alcohol problem? Definitely. Can I drink today even if I wanted to drink today? No sir. I can’t. I know this and I have way too much at risk. I can also agree that the root of my drinking, and alcohol problem was relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma from my adoption experience. That’s my truth and that’s where I needed to put my focus if I ever wanted to be a happy, healthy individual. 

So how did I get to where I am when I’ve never publicly admitted I’m an alcoholic? Being true to myself was KEY. In order to know what that looked like, I needed to be by myself. I know not everyone can do this, or wants to do this. That’s okay.  I spent years, single not dating at all in order to learn who I am and who I’m not. What were my likes and dislikes at this stage of my life? I had to leave all the systems that were presented to me like church,  AA & Celebrate Recovery and walk away.  I had to create my own program that works for me which has been Adoptees Connect, Inc.  I walked away from many of the reasons (people, places and things) I drank to begin with, I got real with myself and got honest. I’ve applied the tools that I’ve been given and aligned them with what works for me and I’ve thrown the rest in the trash. Some of these things, others inside and outside of recovery settings might not agree with. I’ve learned to be okay with that. I don’t need anyone’s approval. I’m no longer collecting CHIPS for my recovery milestones. I collect ROCKS which are symbolic to me. I’ve found more healing in nature, chasing waterfalls than I have inside any church, program or ministry. 

MY WAY. 

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There’s a lot of stigma attached to recovery, that it has to be done a certain way. I’m no longer buying into it. I’m now doing things my way. Going against the grain is in my DNA but it’s been a significantly difficult journey to always be the one “not listening” or “not following directions.”  Or better yet, “THE REBEL WITH A CAUSE” – This is what I prefer to be called. 🙂 But here I am, 2838 days into sobriety and I have a story to tell on how I got here. The instructions of finding god, labeling myself an alcoholic and demanding forgiveness in order to heal and be in recovery has not worked for me, and news flash…

I’M STILL IN RECOVERY! 

I’M STILL SOBER! 

I HAVE A NEW FOUND LOVE FOR LIFE THAT I NEVER HAD BEFORE. 

MY WAY ISN’T ANYONE ELSE’S WAY. 

I’M OKAY WITH THIS. 

I BROKE THE CYCLE! 

I AM NOT AN ALCOHOLIC! 

I would like to share a message of encouragement for all my fellow adoptees in recovery, and anyone else who might be reading this article. You don’t have to admit you’re an alcoholic to get help, nor do you have to admit it in private. You don’t have to forgive everyone, or anyone for that matter. You don’t have to believe in God to get the help you need. I encourage you to explore other options outside of the 12 steps of AA, and religious settings because as times change, recovery doesn’t fit in a box. It’s not a “One size fits all” method like it was when I was growing up, and entering the recovery 12 step world in 2012. There are so many other options out there now. Keep searching until you find what works for you and realize that your way isn’t anyone else’s way. 

 One of the people who I follow and admire greatly is my friend mentioned above, David Bohl. Follow his Facebook, get his memoir. Read his article, Blue Mind and Relinquishees/Adoptees. The idea of being close to water and the healing dynamics to it is a very powerful healing tool! I can wholeheartedly agree, because this is what I get when I chase waterfalls. This is one of the many things that’s worked for us, but the mainstream recovery outlets aren’t talking about it. We learned it on our own and have a lifetime of experiences to back it up. Research Blue Mind.  You will be happy you did! 

TNM_book-hand-mockup_jan_2018-400x386Another sober living tool I’ve been following and learning about is This Naked Mind.  This Naked Mind has helped me realize that many people struggle with alcohol, and we have many options to try to seek understanding on the WHY, so we can make an informed choice on getting help.  I also encourage building a support system of other adoptees in recovery. Consider starting an Adoptees in Recovery® group via Adoptees Connect, Inc.®  I suggest EMDR Therapy because it has been highly recommended for adoptees, trauma work and inner child work is also a great step in healing. If you can find a Adoptee Competent Therapist at Beyond Words Psychological Services, LLC. I highly recommend it. 

268x0wListen to the podcast, Adoptees On. This has been a major healing tool for adoptees all over the world. Haley is a personal friend of mine and her gift of this podcast has changed the lives of so many people. She’s exceptionally gifted on creating a safe space for adoptees to share their adoption experience. In this, the validation that adoptees receive by tuning in is a valuable tool in our healing. Check her out!

I can share from experience, HANDS DOWN – I COULD NOT WORK ON RELINQUISHMENT AND ADOPTION TRAUMA WHILE I WAS DRINKING ALCOHOL. I HAD TO STOP DRINKING COLD TURKEY TO DO THIS WORK! I became suicidal mixing the two, so if you are TRULY wanting to work on your adoptee problems, trauma, and issues I suggest getting sober FIRST. After-all, that’s a huge part of the reason many of us drink and use substances to begin with. If you haven’t made that connection yet, here is a helpful video for you. Paul Sunderland – Adoption & Addiction.

We all deserve to know the truth that there are more ways than the one way that might be presented to us as contemplate entering into a recovery journey. Your “thing”  might be drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, sex, divorce, anger, rage, self esteem, abandonment, rejection, C-PTSD, and the list could go on. Alcohol was the substance I used to run from processing abandonment, rejection, grief, loss and trauma regarding my adoption journey. Keep searching for what works for you and please know that this world is now full of possibilities  to living a life of happiness and wholeness beyond the confinement of any programs, rules and regulations of others telling you how it needs to be done.

Do not settle for one way. 

Your way isn’t anyone else’s way! 

Sending Love & Light,

Pamela Karanova

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The Roof Didn’t Cave In On Me…

As I was getting ready to head to an 8:00pm AA meeting last night, and as I looked in the mirror to get ready, curling my hair it dawned on me. I was REALLY getting READY to go to an AA meeting on a Saturday night. I was in total amazement that this was really happening. I was thinking in the back of my mind, “Watch the roof cave in!”. LOL I was in shock myself.

I recall many of nights, especially weekends where I look in that same mirror to get ready to go to happy hour, or to go out with my friends and drink. So many times I could never even dream of counting. I finished getting ready, and I told my kids what I was doing. I  gave them hugs and kisses and told them I would be back. It was another crazy moment for me, because so many times I would go out and drink with my friends, and when they would ask me when I was coming home, I would reply, “I’m grown, I don’t have a time, but I will be back, Love u!”. And it seems like that no matter when or where I went, that time was always later and later.

This time was different. I hugged them tight, and let them know I will be back around 10:30pm at the latest. This made me feel great that I not only was going to do something productive, but I was able to keep my word to my kids, and I did return home but it was a little after 10:30pm. It was closer to 11:00pm, but that’s because I went with some friends to have coffee, but my kids knew I was on my way.

I stopped to get gas. I went in, paid and got a diet 7-Up. I came out and had another moment where I was amazed that I wasn’t coming out with a 12 pack of beer like I have so many millions of times before. It was another little form of what I call “VICTORY”. It was a smile in my heart, but no one knew it but me.

I was excited to come home sober, and go to bed sober, All though the coffee had my heart racing when I was trying to go to sleep, but that’s okay. I should have known better than to drink it that late anyway. 🙂 It was worth it.

I was nervous getting my 30 day token (35 days today), because I’m sort of shy standing up in front of people I don’t know, but something about this group I have been going to downtown has just won my heart. I am such a home body, and I have been trying to go to meetings in my area, because it’s closer travel wise, but going downtown gets me out of my comfort zone, and takes me to an area I love. Downtown. I love the vibe and the business of it, the flow of traffic, and people everywhere. Most of the time people are friendly. Coffee shops, and small cafes. My heart is downtown, and you can have a lot of fun downtown with no money at all.

So after I received my 30 day token, the guy gave me a hug, and everyone clapped for me. I can’t tell you the new found freedom I felt when everyone said, “Congratulations, Keep comin back!”. They really made me feel like home. I decided to make this group my home group. Put my name in the Birthday Book, (Sobriety Date) which for me is my new “Birth” day. That is the date I started LIVING and it cancels out the date my birth mother gave me away. I’m very happy with this, and I believe in my whole heart, that God has this under control.

One other thing I’m realizing is that certain friendships are going to die, because I’m not the person I used to be. Things are different, and times have changed. Part of me is sad about this, but another part of me is being at peace that God is going to put new people in my life to take the place of the old, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. Some days are harder than others, but nothing in the future will be any harder then the last 38 years and knowing that, I can smile.

I’m learning from some old timers I’ve met in the rooms, that among the other millions of things I am thankful for, they have reminded me that I’m young. They didn’t “GET IT” until they were much older than me. I still have so much life left to live, and I am totally on the right track, with positive purpose on my mind. I have met some people that have hit rock bottom to where they have been homeless and lost everything, and they have the spirit that soars with JESUS in their lives like you wouldn’t ever imagine! I find that AMAZING! I mean literally walking miracles, and if they can feel that, and speak that, and BE THAT then I can too!

TODAY: I am so thankful for AA and Celebrate Recovery, and all the people God is putting in my life.