Author: Mandy Waite

A Year of Transformation: Triumphs, Trials, and Resiliency

The past year has taken me on a whirlwind journey through the intricate tapestry of recovery. It has been a spellbinding blend of breathtaking highs that I never thought possible and grueling challenges that have reminded me of the continuous effort required to uphold the progress I’ve made.

Parenting Teenagers in Recovery

The role of being a parent again, in recovery, has been such a blessing! I missed so much of my kids’ lives due to active addiction and I never thought I would have the opportunity to raise children again. I am so grateful I have a second chance at being a mom, of having the honor to help raise my partner’s now young teenagers. However, parenting teenagers isn’t particularly easy for anyone. Add to that us both being in recovery, my current mental health journey, both of our kids having behavioral health challenges, and us being a lesbian couple, and it makes the dynamics even more complex. As we navigate the path of parenthood and recovery together, it’s been crucial that we’ve established open communication, built trust, and continue to foster a supportive environment for our teenagers.

Embracing the Power of Service Work: A Journey of Recovery and Giving Back

Service work and volunteering hold a profound place in the hearts of individuals in substance use and mental health recovery. As someone who has embarked on a personal journey of recovery for the past 7.5 years, I have come to appreciate the transformative power of giving back. Though many people in substance use recovery will see service work and volunteering through the lens of 12-step programs, there is purpose and value in volunteering outside of the 12-step communities too, especially for those on a different recovery pathway.

Radical Acceptance – A DBT Distress Tolerance Skill I Still Utilize

I have struggled with mental health challenges and substance use for most of my life. In my early 20’s I was in and out of psychiatric hospitalizations frequently. I felt everything very intensely and my 20’s were filled with misery, agony, and despair. Though I don’t look back on that time of my life fondly, my difficulties opened the door for me to participate in DBT therapy.

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as someone who is in recovery from substance use disorder and mental health issues, I am grateful for this opportunity to share my story and help raise awareness about mental health. I live in Billings, Montana, and even here I’ve found that it can be challenging for people in our community to find the resources and support they need to manage these conditions. That’s why I feel it’s essential to talk openly about mental health to help reduce stigma and encourage people to seek help when they need it.

My Journey to Forgiveness

What is the true meaning of forgiveness? Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Beyond Recovery

Early on in my recovery, I was very focused on myself, and that was necessary. I spent countless hours in treatment, in therapy, and in 12 step meetings.

My Journey of Spirituality

Spirituality is something I really struggled with in early recovery. It took me a long time to realize that spirituality was something that I defined for myself, it was a personal journey. I have a lot of religious trauma in my story and though I tried in early recovery to adopt other people’s traditional religious views as my spirituality, that created an internal conflict that I could not deny.

Seasonal Change

Seasonal change definitely has its effects on me. Initially it seems to have a positive effect. I get excited when the season changes from summer to fall and then from fall to winter. I love that my environment in my home changes as we decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving and then again for Christmas. It’s a tangible signal that the holidays are coming. I look forward to togetherness, corn mazes, pumpkin carving, all the colors of the autumn leaves. I’m wrapped up in the love and magic of Christmas, the kindness of giving, to cozy inside and beautiful snow and lights outside. There are so many things that fill me up!

There are also plenty of things that can be overwhelming and anxiety producing during the holidays. I have a panic disorder and I struggle with depression. I have spent some time figuring out my anxiety triggers and working with my therapist to develop strategies and building coping skills to better navigate the extreme stress and anxiety that the holidays can bring for me. But it’s after the holidays that I really feel the effects of seasonal change. I kind of sink into this depression after my fancy holiday anxiety goes away. It’s dark and cold all the time. I don’t want to go and do anything. I just want to sit at home, wrapped in a blanket, and do nothing. The longer I do nothing, the more depressed I get. Now that I’m working from home, I could see this get bad rather quickly. So, I make a plan with people I’m accountable to. I make commitments to activities with people that require me to get dressed and leave the house for a couple of hours at least a couple times a week.

My family’s commitment to playing sports gets me out of the house for practices and games every other season of the year, but winter sports have not yet been a thing in my household. So, we will make plans with friends, do date nights and family fun nights. Its important for me to do things that require me to be somewhat active while I’m out, such as bowling or axe throwing. I need to have activities that are fun and build relationships, like game nights with our friends. I need to make sure that eating and food isn’t the main focus of all my outside commitments. I need to spend some time outside when the sun is out, sledding, having snowball fights, or just walking. Last, but not least, I need to honestly check in with myself and my family, at least every couple of weeks. How am I actually feeling? Is my partner noticing signs and symptoms I’m unaware of? It’s part of my plan to reach out for help if the activities in my plan are not helping. I have discovered that professional help is necessary sometimes and can be life-changing. I am willing to do the work I can to improve my quality of life, and ask for help when my mental health is suffering. If you struggle with seasonal change, you may benefit from developing skills and strategies of your own. And if you’re struggling with your mental health, please don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

What Recovery Means to Me

The meaning of recovery to me has evolved over the years as I have evolved. I remember sitting in county jail thinking, “If I can just not get high, get a job somewhere doing anything, and an apartment, that will be enough for me.” My expectations of myself and what life could look like were low. Honestly, if I would have achieved only that, it still would have been recovery, it still would have been a significantly better life than when I was at my lowest.