The Eyes of Honesty

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Last year I wrote a blog post about my dads eyes when he was high and how the eyes never did seem to lie to me, even when he did. Now I want to share the truth that my dad give to me and still continues to give to me. Let me take you back to a time I remember vividly from when I was 16 and first opening up to my dad about my feelings.

My dad was never afraid to say sorry when he was sober and I think that is what made my heart grow two sizes when I was going through all of this. I knew he was in agony emotionally. How can you not be? Your life is crumbling below your feet and you want to hold on but you can’t and in your mind that’s your own fault and you begin to eternalize that. So to be able to let the words, “sorry,” come out while looking into my eyes is bringing all those emotions to life. That is ownership. My dad was taking ownership in what he thought was the shattering of my life. Truthfully, it didn’t ruin my life, it gave my life meaning. Especially on this day.

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My dad came into my room, my sanctuary that kept me protected from the life I had outside of those pink walls,  and sat on my bed next to me. He held my hands in his and shaking he looked up into my eyes.

“I’m so sorry” he spoke with what I can imagine felt like a spiked rock in his throat.

I can’t find the words to describe the way he looked at me. But it was something like a life or death thing. Like if he could run around the whole planet to show how sorry he was, he would’ve. It was as if every bad thing he had ever done, had been put into his words and he was trying to get rid of all of them with his eyes. What I guess I’m trying to say is it was the most sincere sorry I’ll ever hear in my life. And it puts the phrase, “Apologies don’t mean anything if you keep doing what you’re sorry for” to shame. Because that apology meant everything to me.

It wasn’t about if he would relapse again because I knew it wasn’t an empty promise at all. It was a sorry from the heart begging to be set free but knowing it wasn’t that simple.

When my dad said this to me, I began tearing up. I could tell he was choking up and the thought of my dad, the toughest Russian I know, crying made me crumble inside.

I’m not sure what I said right then but I’m sure it was along the lines of what I still say to this day. I love you, you’re my best friend and nothing will ever change that.

One of my favorite things about my dad is the interest he takes in my life to the minuscule detail. It never has bothered me because I find it really cute that a tough burly man loves the dainty details of a teenage girl. When I had my first boyfriend, he’d not only ask if I was treated well. He’d ask what we talk about, how happy I am and what makes me smile most. Once when I went on vacation and came back he was like Leanna did he give you a kiss when you came back? He better have missed you! I was like, dad! NO! But he was like C’mon, Leanna. And I bashfully said yes. It was embarrassing but it was sweet that he asked.

As my dad and I were sitting on the bed, I told him I kept a journal and wrote about my feelings when he was high. He asked to read them. My heart sank as I walked over to my Windows XP, and opened my Xanga account (what would be today’s Tumblr). It was my private account that I kept my day to day musings of a 13 year old living with the stress of other kids being mean, liking boys, worrying about being liked, and dealing with addiction.

There were posts about real suicidal thoughts in there and I mustered up the courage to talk about them to the man that created me. If you’re curious exactly what they said, I wrote a post about them a bit here.

I read them and it was no longer a spiked rock in our throats it was full on sobs. We cried together and absorbed our pain and in all that pain we found strength. We grew together even more than before.

After we both found tranquility in our comfort, my dad asked me, “Leanna, please print these out for me? I want to have them.”

I printed them out and my dad came to me a few days later. He read them at his Alanon meeting and told me the whole room went silent, “So silent you could hear a pin drop”. He said he could feel the way the words resonated with the group. My truths, my deepest feelings that I wrote for myself, were used in resonation and that is when I decided that I’d use my words and my feelings and my dads love to heal the world.

On a sober mind, my dad is honest, gentle, and caring. He is the most sincere man I know. My dad gave me the truth of my meaning that day. That we were put into this situation to help others with genuine honesty.

Yesterday my dad texted me “Sometimes I wonder what if but than I would not have the most perfect daughter in the whole wide world. I love you my BabySo.”

It hasn’t been an easy few months for my dad and I, but there isn’t a day that I give up hope. I don’t rely on change, but I cheer him on. I’ll always hold on to his sorry and sobriety. Because I know it’s still in his heart, fighting to come out.

 

I’ve mourned the loss of a loved one who isn’t dead yet.

I’ve mourned the loss of a loved one who isn’t dead yet. That’s the norm when you love someone who is struggling with addiction. We watch them, sometimes literally, die and come back to life.  I’ve felt that I’ve lost my best friend and it hasn’t even happened yet and at times I feel so guilty for that feeling because it hasn’t actually happened yet. And at times I am in a disillusion that one day it won’t feel that way again. One day he’ll be sober, 100% healthy, and back to his old self. But the truth is addiction goes much further than a physical change that ends once sobriety is reached. Truthfully, the emotional drain that follows sobriety can be as daunting to relationships and well-being as the addiction itself. Self-doubt, self-hatred, disappointment, depression, anxiety, social pressure, and failure are just a few emotional tolls addiction can take.

So what is my job in this role that I have as a daughter of addiction? Truthfully there are days where I want to give up everything I have to ‘fix’ it. I think about if my job, my life, and my separation I’ve created from it is worth feeling as though I am betraying the most sacred thing to me — family. Some days the answer is truthfully, yes. I love so deeply and I care so much that to know that at the end of every day I’m not contributing to helping my loved one and I’m spending my time improving my life isn’t good enough for me. But then again, one of my biggest life philosophies is that we need to be our own strength and that you can never believe that someone else will save us, improve us, or change us. So how, as children of addiction, do we express love and support without being completely present and involved in the suffering so that it begins to take a toll on our own lives?

I hope that as I continue to blog, children of addiction understand that some days are harder than others. The balance of support and distance is possible and there are ways to show love and support without letting it take over your life. You have all the potential in the world to become anything you want to be and more. At the end of the day that’s what our parents want and sometimes we question that. No matter what your situation is, I’m always here to talk. Whether you’re a parent or a child of addiction please go to my website and send me an email.

May Challenge: Missions for the month

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It’s officially May in 2 hours and I’m so excited. I’m feeling super motivated to get out into the world and start spreading confidence, happiness, and joy to anyone who needs it in their lives. We all deserve it. Life’s too short to be mean to others and in order to be supportive instead of mean, you have to have the confidence and a soul burning with passion for making it happen. Confidence is not something you have or don’t have. It’s a feeling we get. I’m going to list out my goals for the month of May before I get too far ahead of myself talking about confidence. That’ll come at a later date.

Around every start of the month, I make challenges or missions for myself to follow. Usually, I have two or three that I voice out loud or hint at in social posts, but I’ve never formally shared on my blog what those goals look like and why I choose each one. I thought it’d be nice to write out my thoughts to either confuse you completely or inspire you to do the same. Have you ever met someone and you didn’t know their intentions, life goals, or drive? That always is something I look for in people. What are their overarching passions and why? I suppose I’m supposed to stay a bit mysterious or what not, but I personally love to see passion missions and goals shine through. I typically write as my brain comes up with things, so sorry if this is tough to follow along. Welcome to my sporadic thoughts.

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Challenges Accepted for May

  1. Don’t wear black and share what fashion means to me: I wanted a fun challenge. I love seeing bright, vibrant outfits that are full of life and color. I want to do not wear one single black outfit this month. I think it’s really easy to snug into a black outfit and I’m pretty notorious for wearing all black, especially in the cold weather. Now that the weather is starting to look a little more promising, I think it’s going to be fun to eliminate black from my wardrobe for a while and see what I come up with. It doesn’t count for gym clothes though because I’m about to invest in my first pair of LuluLemons and they are going to be black and I’ll be too excited not to wear them. I am hoping they make my butt look like the peach emoji especially as I kickstart my gym challenge, too. I am also hoping this goal transcribes into my social media and blogging mission to get back into consistently writing and posting. A very long time ago, I found a safe and fun community on Youtube where I’d watch hauls and makeup tutorials for hours. When I started doing my own videos I loved it so much! It was a super big secret that I kept from people at my school because I thought they’d make fun of me and I was embarrassed. Well… look at where that is today. I think that it’s safe to say that nowadays it’s impossible not to have all your close ones looking at what you’re posting and which communities you’re a part of. And the truth be told, sometimes the friends that are closest to you are the least supportive. They’ll be the first ones to ask “Why are you even doing this?” Well to heck with that negativity. I’m going to start posting more of my fashion on social and blog. It used to make me happy. The only thing that is very important to me about it is that I only want to influence people to be happy, confident, and do whatever they want to do. I don’t want to encourage people’s buying choice. I want to inspire people to find what works for them, feel confident when they know what works for them, and not feel pressured to compare themselves to what I have or what others have. Another big thing I want to stress as I continue to share more fashion is the importance of shopping and being financially comfortable. I like to stay completely open about what I spend on shopping and encourage others to make smart purchases. I used to use shopping as therapy and spend a lot of money. I think that clothes shopping should only be an accessory to your confidence. The more money you spend on clothing doesn’t mean you’ll be any more confident or happier in the long term. I’ll share what I’m wearing because I love to, and I hope that you can take away more than a recommendation of what to buy and instead become more aware of how your fashion makes or breaks your confidence.
  2. Share more of what I do at my job: My job is absolutely amazing. I work for the fitness app Sworkit that I fell in love with about 2 years ago while I was working out at the gym. I opened the app put on their amazing rap playlist and did the best ab routine of my life. I was determined to get ahold of someone from the company and be of any service I could. Long story short- two years later I am on the team with 5 amazing people doing things I never would have thought I’d do as my career and I absolutely love it. I have the opportunity to work remotely, travel for the job, instruct group exercise classes, learn new skills every day, and make huge contributions to the success of this amazing exercise app. We’re a small team. We are like a family. And we all truly care about health on a different level than any other company I have ever seen. I guess it shows most through our own personal goals to stay healthy and to have healthy families. Family is important to each one of us on the team and we’re a family fitness app. Starting this month I am beginning to study for my ACSM personal training certification and as I go through the journey of learning so many cool new things, I’m happy to share it.
  3. Speak at an AA Meeting: My passion for drug addiction prevention thus far has been sharing my story on my blog and to people I see daily. Sometimes we forget that in order to make an impact we have to start outside of the digital world. It’s absolutely long past due that I hit the ground running and start getting involved with the issues I care about face-to-face. I am here for parents that are suffering from addiction because as a product of addiction I have absorbed that helpless feeling at times from my parents. I am so lucky my parents love me and took care of me and continue to support me. I know it’s why I am where I am today. I can’t take any credit. I also know that some parents are struggling with the balance of addiction and parenting more than my parents did and I want to be there for them as they attend these meetings and are truly trying to get better in order to be there for their kids. I know I can be a reminder to them that yes, saying I love you and being supportive can be enough to give them a bright future. I am a college graduate completely financially independent with parents that have struggled their whole lives with addiction. Sometimes there were times I felt alone or scared but there was never a day I didn’t know they loved me. Love goes a long way. I’ll tell them all of this and more in a meeting and I hope they leave feeling a little less weight on their shoulders and go home and tell their children how much they love them no matter what.
  4. Spend more time at the gym/working out: Freshman year of college I hadn’t ever had a gym membership. In the following years of college, I spent about 2 hours a day at the gym. I went from being nervous of how to use equipment to confident in my workouts. Moreso I found joy in going to what I think of as an adult jungle gym. Seriously- I’m moving my body, listening to my favorite music, and improving my health all in one big area. Does that not sound magical to you? There seems to be some pressure on how to use the gym or how to act in exercise classes like yoga or cycling that scares people away but really it’s just a place to improve yourself and that’s why everyone is there. Even sometimes when I hadn’t gone to the gym in a while I’m intimidated a bit. Once you lock in on your mission to improve life it gets less intimidating. Anway, it’s something that I love to do and I haven’t been doing it a lot lately. I’ve been exhausting myself with other projects that I convinced myself were more important. Well, no longer will that happen! I’m very excited to listen to my favorite Sworkit Rap Playlist at the gym and move my body more.

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How do I decide what my goals for the month are?

Okay, so there you have it. I don’t really ever set a certain amount. Sometimes I have one challenge to start or complete by the end of the month and sometimes I have more. Sometimes the goals are super specific and sometimes they are really broad. It’s really just about improving my life one month at a time in ways that I’ve assessed I can improve on it. This isn’t an activity that you need to sit down for. It’s something I just do as I fall asleep at night and as I decide how my day has impacted my overall happiness. One secret to my happiness is knowing that happiness is something you have to create and each experience in your day can affect the quality of your overall happiness. An example is if you continually let someone mistreat you day-to-day one day you’ll wake up and it’ll feel like at some point you just became unhappy, but if you analyze it more often and more closely, you can pinpoint the problem and fix it right away. Our quality of happiness is determined by small experiences that we don’t even realize have an affect on us. The assessment can be as simple as asking yourself these questions.

Questions to ask yourself to determine your month’s goals

  1. What can I think about that’ll make me really happy about my future?
  2. What can I think about that will make me really uncomfortable and unsettling?
  3. What can I think about that’ll comfort me and make me feel okay to go to bed?

I usually do those three questions every night in that order subconsciously.  The first takeaway from this is that I actually am thinking about what I will think about. Wow, that sounds intense but it is different than what makes you happy. Thinking about things that make me happy is going to have different results than if I begin to think about what to think about to make me actually feel happy. For example what makes me happy? Dogs, family, bubble baths. What can I think about that makes me happy? Having people know my passion as soon as they meet me and going to bed with that feeling you get after going to the gym that day. Second, the order is important

The unscientific science of the ‘goal’ questions

The first takeaway from this is that I actually am thinking about what I will think about. Wow, that sounds intense but it is different than what makes you happy. Thinking about things that make me happy is going to have different results than if I begin to think about what to think about to make me actually feel happy. For example what makes me happy? Dogs, family, bubble baths. What can I think about that makes me happy? Having people know my passion as soon as they meet me and going to bed with that feeling you get after going to the gym that day.

Second takeaway- the order is important. Start with what makes you happy because it’ll get your mind going. We love thinking of our future and the good things that can come. I then move onto thoughts that make me so uncomfortable my stomach begins to turn. Yes, I have those thoughts and I have things in my life that are very hard to bear the thought of that are out of my control. It’s normal to worry. I get myself through these thoughts with the most basic plan of actions even if it’s as simple as reminding myself that it’ll be okay or that I need to make a change and that I have a nights rest before I need to make it happen. I end my night with the calm thoughts that ease my mind. Usually, for me, this is thinking of my loved ones and the people I had talked to within my day.  Thinking about the love that surrounds me and the people who I care about. It’ll be much easier to fall asleep with these general conversations in your mind that don’t require much thinking. This step is more about reflecting.

Sometimes this process goes on 2-4 times before I actually fall asleep but it’s a great secret of mine to becoming more confident and happy. A balance of these three questions is a great way to determine your missions for the month. I hope that if you try this it works for you and I’d love to hear if it does.

Love you my hero!

If you read this whole thing you’re my hero. That’d make my day. Everything I write is from the heart. For my career, I will write for SEO but for my passion, I’ll write with raw emotion, thoughts, and love.

Also, I’d like to give a disclaimer as I am writing this post, I’m just going to start adding random photos in here. The words are certainly more important than the images in this case, but I need something to brighten up all these words and quite frankly there’s been a long struggle to find photos that truly express the topics I write about.

Never Forget Where You Come From

“So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family, that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty”

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I come from a mother and father that engrained compassion and love so strongly into my whole being that it shines through and touches those around me. I love so deeply and I care so much about creating meaning in every situation. I work extremely hard and don’t turn any challenge away. I am proud of who I am and I know how I deserve to be treated. I owe that to them.

My mom and dad are both struggling so hard in life and yet they always seem to find a way to make it through. Although I am so scared every day that I will lose them, to the point that sometimes I push them away, I still feel a love and bond with them even when we go weeks without talking.

No matter what my dad and mom are going through they fight through the darkness and always find a way to find the light by me. Ask anyone who knows my parent’s sickness and they will tell you that I am what keeps them alive. It’s a hard thing to swallow as I am trying to keep improving myself and knowing that I can’t help everyone. It’s overwhelming to know that you simply being is what drives people to carry on. I don’t think I deserve the honor but I think there is a purpose for my parent’s strength.

1/19 7:58AM “It was so good to hear from You. You make me want to do good and do something good with myself. I adore you, there is no better anything about anyone than You . God Bless, Daddy”

On my way to DC for a business trip, I was talking to someone at the airport and the last thing he said to me was you should never forget where you come from. It wasn’t the first time I heard this, but it was a quick reminder that I have a true, meaningful story of where I come from. If only he knew how purposeful my life feels because of who my parents are and how they raised me.

 

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No matter where you end up: in riches or rags, in fame or alone, find fulfillment in who you were raised to be. That’ll always be the testament of your stability. 

 

Why I smile at Strangers

As I walk down the street and there is only me and one other person. I put away my phone and from about 10 feet away I smile. The woman looks like she has a lot on her mind. She glances at me, looks away, and at about 5 feet she looks back at me and smiles back. And those are those kinds of smiles that make me feel alive. It is not a smile that comes from someone giving a compliment. It is not a smile that comes from doing anything particularly special. It is a smile that comes from accepting one another. It is her and I not caring how late we may be to work, not focusing on the stresses of our lives, not caring about our differences. We were mindfull of eachother and a lot times that can be the start to change someones day. Whether you are recieving the smile or giving it.

Because we smiled at eachother we walked past eachother with positive thoughts on our mind of how strangers can be nice. When she was out of site, I thought of how she might’ve been having a really bad day but she took that one moment to smile at me.

One summer day I was walking down Somerset Street, passed the Suffolk University dorms when a man and I smiled at eachother as we began crossing the road to oposite sides. At the sidewalk island we began chatting! He asked how my day was going and I said great. He said he worked at the State House and I told him how I was in my last semester of undergrad. We talked about the beautiful weather and then he pulled banana chips out of his bag! He began eating them while we were standing their and I told him how delicious they looked. He held them out and said have some! There we were two strangers, sharing a snack, in the middle of a traffic divider, all because of a simple smile.