I am a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor and completed my Master’s in Counseling in 1990. I have been working in the Mental Health field since 1982, and for 8 years in the 90's, I stayed home full time to raise my four children. I returned to the mental health field and now I specialize in counseling clients who have Co-Occurring Disorders, which means people who suffer from mental illness and chemical addiction.
I was writing my mother a letter in September, 2004 and my contents were about my book. I asked her if she wanted to know what my book is about, and I ended up writing my introduction. My book is about my life, the situations I experienced in childhood (the way I perceived things), how I dealt with my depression and alcoholism, and most of all the faith and love I’ve experienced. In addition to these stories, I have included stories of clients whom I have had the privilege to counsel in the past twenty years. I say it is a privilege because they have helped me as much as I have helped them, therefore, I am privileged to have known them. The stories I share are an opportunity for everyone to learn about life, to understand secrets and why certain people do what they do. The chapters cover secrets, dreams, faith, spirituality, detachment with love, abuse, anger, expectations, readiness of change, jealousy, envy, mental illness, addictions, gratitude, love, forgiveness, friendship and humor. There is an additional story about a client whom I was privileged to help many years ago. She gave me permission to include her story which is mostly about her marriage.
The premise of my book is to provide useful tools to deal with any problems through the concept of the 3 A’s (Awareness, Acceptance, Action), and the five stages of change. Also, to be able to identify the fact that someone else may be at a different stage of change than yours. Furthermore, you will learn to have compassion and patience, allow them to be where they are and maybe help them move to the next stage.
What are the five stages of change?
1. Pre-contemplation (not even aware there is a problem).
2. Contemplation (maybe there is a problem---but still figuring out ways
that it isn’t a problem, (e.g., rationalizing and denying).
3. Preparation (how do I change, if I decide there is a problem?).
4. Action (fully admit there is a problem and start doing those things
discussed in Preparation Stage to make the change).
5. Maintenance, (sustain the new way of dealing with life, and
continuing to use the tools started in the Action stage).
For example, I have not smoked cigarettes for 3 years. When I quit July 5, 2004, I was in the Action stage. Now, I’m in the Maintenance stage and hope to stay there. If I smoke, I will return to the Contemplation stage or the Preparation stage, depending on when I stop.
My book goes into much more detail and I address co-dependency along with the stages of change because it is typical for the co-dependent person to try to force their loved one into the next stage---but the loved one isn’t ready for the next stage. So, the co-dependent needs to back off and work on his/her stage of change. That is why some marriages don’t work, the couple are in two separate stages of growth and if they are not patient with each other (because it always takes two to tango) then they will more than likely discuss divorce. My husband has been patient with me as much as I have been patient with him. I emphasize that by using the stages of change as a tool to help yourself work with others, there can be more kindness, love, patience, and compassion in the world. I had to work through not taking what my husband did personally. Was it something I said? Was it something I did? What did I do to cause this?Through maturation, I learned it had NOTHING to do with me and 100% to do with him.
I am confident in believing that today, and it has taken me more than five years to feel confident saying this---prior to that, I would “fake it until I made it.” I want people to know my secrets (the good, the horrible ones and the ones I’d rather not mention) because it is the only way to stay on the road to health.
What About Secrets?
I have been reading many self-help books lately and finally decided to start my first book. I always have wanted to write a book but I could never decide what the title would be. I had this notion that I had to have the title before I could write a book. On June 20, 2004, while reading an inspirational book, the title came to mind. I had to write it as quickly as I could because my children constantly break my chain of thought. It is humorous when you hold onto the concept “how important is it?” On the average of about every five seconds, at least one of my children needs one thing from me, if not two! And they seem to ignore “wait a minute” and have little respect most of the time. It’s a good thing that it’s not important!
I forgot to add that among the five seconds, my husband also does the same.
I decided to let out my ‘secret’.
“What secret?” My husband asked.
“A title of my book that will hopefully attract people to want to read the book because they would want to know ‘what’ secret is out?”
I answered, and then continued, “Its plain, human nature to want to know the secret.”
“It’s simply human nature, period,” replied my husband.
And, it is to be human to want to know the secret of life.
Everyone wants to know:
The Secret of Success.
The Secret of Happiness.
The Secret of Letting Go.
The Secret of Hate.
The Secret of Love.
The Secret of sobriety, recovery, weight loss, and serenity.
What is a secret? And what is the type of secret I would like to share with you? Those two answers are similar but not the same:
Encarta World English Dictionary described a secret in six ways as an adjective and three ways as a noun. As an adjective I preferred “acting or feeling in a particular way without admitting to it” and “known to a few people and consequently quiet and secluded.” As a noun I prefer “a little-known technique, approach, or piece of information that is the key to success in a particular endeavor.”1
The purpose of this book is to bring out the esoteric (a subject that is limited to a particular crowd) aspects of a secret. A secret is commonly known or perceived as pessimistic and negative (especially in certain fearful individuals). However, secrets can also be positive—-only if you take the risk and refuse to ever keep painful secrets to you and you alone! Those types of secrets make you sicker. I am advocating that if you have a painful secret and you think “No one will understand,” “There’s no way I’m passing this through my lips,” “I will keep this in my mind until I die, I don’t care how much I suffer from this,” “You will never get me to release this.” Stop, and for once, keep an open mind and pretend that maybe it is causing you MORE pain by having this attitude/secret locked up. The fact that you have read this far indicates that you need to reach out and trust someone.
“You get to the point where your demons, which are terrifying, get smaller and smaller and you get bigger and bigger.” August Wilson. (April 27, 1945—October 2, 2005) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning Americanplaywright.2
Please, don’t suffer anymore; there are those among us who have had these secrets too (or may still have these secrets). I am going to share my secret and I am not ashamed of who I am, what I dealt with, what I accept and what I do not allow, and most of all---my secrets have made me healthier because I didn’t keep them to myself! I suggest that you share your secrets with someone you trust. It is best that you avoid telling everyone your story or your problems; you want to be able to keep your dignity. However, for those problems/fears you face, know that you don’t have to tackle them all by yourself. Take that risk and share that situation with a friend and see what happens. It might be the first day of a new life you now love living!
Impossible tasks are possible when you refuse to give up.
What Dreams Are Made of.
The critical fact (whether you’re ready to accept this or not), is that THE secret is always found within. Within yourself! This is a time of exploration, fun, risk, lots of fear, and awareness.
First decide what your dream is, then reality test if that dream is within your reach. When I was an adolescent, I wanted to become an Olympic swimmer. I had the talent, I was working on the speed and I think I had the strength. But, it just wasn’t meant to be for many reasons: I’m too short, so the girls taller than me, are faster and basically, I’m lazy. To get up at 5am daily—swim three times a day and lift weights every day was too much for me to accept. I dropped the goal in college, I knew earlier than college that it was a dream that wasn’t mine but I wasn’t ready to quit. The ambition to be an Qlympic swimmer was replaced with new apirations.
‘Dreams Do Come True.’
And cherished desires do come true when they are meant to be. I was meant to own my own horse, have four healthy children, to have a healthy childhood and to help others. These are things I have—and no one can take them away. That song Cheryl Crow sang: “It’s not what you want; it’s wanting what you have.” That’s my secret, acceptance. Accept what you have. Dream of what you want, what you need, and then decide if you can go for it. You can change your mind at any time, and the choice is yours! I remember a quote I heard this past year: “Take your power back.” I knew the first time I heard that inspirational quote that it would be in my book; there are many times I experience feelings from words or a situation that I know will connect with my life at a later time. Most of the time, I don’t know how/when it will connect, but it always does. That experience is what I call a spiritual experience; that’s my spiritual connection with God. Dreams can be recognized as spiritual, when you work on your relationship with God. I realized I wasn’t going to become an Olympic swimmer long before I admitted it. It was a “gut” feeling that it wasn’t meant to be, but I still was not ready to face it. My relationship with God gave me that “gut” feeling and I had time to go through what I needed to go through before I faced the facts of my dreams.
It became clear to me after my Dad died. I was talking with the priest and asked “How do I know if he hears me when I pray?” He answered, “You know when you were with your father while he was alive and you stood there without saying a word?” I answered, “Yes.” And he said, “Well, you know the feelings you had without any words? That’s how you know. It’s the same feeling.” I remember times when we’d just smile at each other; my father and I would hold hands and just laugh after looking at each other. Maybe, while we were in church where we had to be quiet. I had an unforgettable relationship with my Mom and Dad because we worked at it.
As much as I loved my Dad, I feared him. Unlike my mom, we got angry with each other, screamed it out (well I did) and came to some agreement later. I mostly feared my father’s anger. He never hit me but I witnessed him hitting a sibling twice. As an adult, I have his rage (uncontrollable anger) that I once feared in him. I fear my rage, even today, but the difference is: I realized I could control my rage, I began to trust myself, but I could never control his. As a child, I had the illusion that my Mom could control his rage. I was about 5 or 6 the first time I saw my Dad lose control and one of my sisters told another sister to get Mom so that Dad didn’t hurt her. When I saw my Mom come in, she stopped my Dad from hitting my sister, I remember, he seemed so mad. (His face was red and I thought he could never calm down). But the second he heard my Mom’s voice (firm and deep), his face turned soft and it was as if he woke up from that rage, then he gently put my sister down and left the room. I had the illusion that my mom could control my Dad. And, I eventually realized that my Dad allowed my Mom to have control because he could not control it himself, once he saw red.
I have had that rage too, and I have seen red. Unfortunately, when I saw red—-it wasn’t in a situation when I should have seen red. For example, it would have made sense to see red one of the times an ex-boyfriend hit me, but no it was when my child wouldn’t stop crying. I was afraid of my anger, so was my husband. Today, I remain afraid of my rage only enough to keep it controlled and I can get angry without raging. What’s the secret? Be aware of my anger at all times—-you know, one day at a time. I have an anger scale and I check that scale all the time. (See Appendix A). I take my power back the second I realize I lost it. First, I problem solve what I have control of, then I think of what I don’t have control of, and lastly, I talk about my ideas with the ones I trust (family, friends, co-workers, church friends) or I Journal.
The secret is: Never problem-solve completely alone. I decided to give up my dream, about being an Olympic swimmer, when I started to realize other talents I possessed. I loved horses, helping others, karate, and journaling. Today, I love sewing, crocheting, writing and those mentioned above. Even though co-workers thought I had excellent writing skills, I flunked the Comprehensive Writing Exam all students in graduate school had to pass in order to graduate. And yet, here I am writing a book! Often in my life I have failed something before succeeding. I failed my first exam I needed to pass in order to obtain my certification as a Therapeutic Recreational Specialist. But, I passed the second time I took the exam. I have learned many valuable lessons from past failures. That’s another secret out—-instead of thinking that mistakes are failures, think of a mistake as a stepping-stone to success. I am sometimes my own worst enemy. ‘Why?’ I ask myself. On good days I can answer that quickly but on bad days, it takes much more effort to answer. That is one thing I never understood, why would anyone in their right mind be their own worst enemy? The person I spend 24 hours a day (with), seven days a week, the only person I can control, the only person who knows me 100% (secrets and all), and the only person I will be with for the rest of my life: me, myself and I. Why would I be my own enemy when I am my only friend? The only friend I can control, depend on, trust and never leave behind. In my right mind, I avoid being my worst enemy and treat myself like my best friend.
What about those bad days? I am learning to give myself a break. On bad days (like when I am sick, scared, lonely, depressed, angry, or hurt) I remind myself that I don’t have to do anything extra. I have the right to put off that task I meant to do last week, as long as it isn’t going to harm anyone. I have the right to rest and do absolutely nothing until I feel better. And, what about those PMS days? I have learned/accepted that I am susceptible to anger during PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and I can’t change it happening to me (the medication I take helps a lot). I can’t stop/control having PMS symptoms but I have learned how to deal with the symptoms by remembering it’s PMS (and not the other person), taking deep breaths and working through feeling uncomfortable while telling those I trust that it’s that time of the month and to be patient with me. Others, especially my boss and co-workers, are so understanding and I am so grateful.
The #1 goal is to keep my dignity. Literally, I have the power to call in sick when I catch a cold or the flu, I have the power to start the day over, when things have gone wrong (no matter what time it is, even if it’s midnight, I can start a brand-new day). The secret is being yourself: if you don’t know who ‘I’ am, be who you would be proud of. Have you ever met someone and said to yourself, “Wow, I want to be just like them?” Well, write down all those qualities you love about that person and, like a puzzle, put all the pieces/qualities together to make a final picture of YOU! Now use life to show off your new masterpiece!
The Secret is, “Stop waiting for someone else to fulfil your dreams. Decide what you want and get it yourself.”
So, you determine what your dreams are. Don’t limit yourself to one idea because it’s going to take time for dreams to come true. For example, you may desire to become a black belt in Karate but you can’t afford the tuition or you don’t have the time right now to devote yourself to the study necessary to achieve the black belt level. That's okay, it’s a long-term goal, reachable, but it will take time before you start on that target. Meanwhile, decide what it is that’s important, exciting and meaningful. Have no clues? Then go to a park or a ball game—look around, what do those strangers have that you want? Write down your observations, and then figure out what’s realistic to work on first. Just don’t do things alone all the time, if you can’t do it with a friend because you have no friends, look in the phone book and find a support group that’s appropriate for your needs: AA/NA are support groups for people who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction who want to learn how to stay sober. Al-anon is a support group to learn how to deal with the effects of a loved one’s drinking, and ACOA is Adult Children of Alcoholics. There are support groups for Bipolar Disorder (people who suffer from manic-depression); there are Grief Groups, groups for people who suffer from depression and groups for young children whose parents are suffering from a disease or a serious problem. These days, there seems to be a support group/church group/community group that will help everyone whatever their personal creed.2
I repeat, stop waiting for someone else to fulfil your dreams. Decide what you want and get it for yourself! Did you know that instant gratification usually makes matters worse?! You may not get what you want right away. You may have to work really hard, and accomplish 3 or 4 things before you start on the goal, but eventually you will get the work done and see the desired results. But the work, the wait, the patience will be worth it! The secret is: Never give up hope!
1 Webster’s New Student Dictionary.
2. Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Windows Internet Explorer.
3. Al-anon Meeting Announcement Statement.