Personal Growth through Chaos

colored circle radiating out
Personal growth in chaos

Personal growth through chaos? Absolutely! Life’s most extraordinary, ordinary and absolute worst moment’s are all gateways to personal growth. So let me tell you a chaotic story about my life to prove it!

Chaos ruled my life this summer to the point where I felt like I was living a Dateline series. I was totally bummed out and losing hope of my life every getting back to normal.

We lost our beloved mother to lung cancer.

My mom died in April of 2018. My dad was in failing health and devastated by the loss of his wife of 65 years. For that matter we all deeply felt her loss.

My mom and dad loved Montana-they lived near Glacier National Park

My dad needed a caretaker, so one of my brother’s volunteered to take care of him for the summer. My mom and dad loved Montana, and although summer’s are beautiful, winters are brutal. Their routine had always been to spend the winter months visiting us (all eight) stopping for a few weeks to visit kids and grandkids in Oregon and Southern California and spending the remainder with me and my brother in the Sacramento area.

My dad would continue the tradition this year even though it would be a solo journey. He spent October through April 2019 visiting us, but he wanted to spend the summer in Montana so we had to find a live-in provider for him, since we all work and couldn’t move to Montana.

We looked for decent providers, but my dad wasn’t happy with any of them. My youngest sister, who had treated the family horribly since the death of our mom, raged loud enough so her that her jobless, unfaithful live-in boyfriend, (who I will now refer to as a scumbag), got the job of taking care of my 93 year old father. I disagreed vehemently since I’d seen him in action – he lies about everything, cheats on my sister, and hasn’t had a job in almost four years. I urged my siblings to not hire him. I just knew that he not only would try to get my dad’s money, but he would drug and kill him too.

Scumbag had already tried to scam my dad out of $50,000, and had slept with another women at my brother’s house. But hey, give him another shot – why not? And guess what – it played out exactly as I thought it would.

When some of my siblings went to visit my dad a month after scumbag’s attempt at employment after three years, the house was filthy, and scumbag, who claimed he was a gourmet chef, and would prepare healthy and delicious meals for my dad, who required a very low sodium diet, was feeding my dad high sodium frozen dinners! The result? My dad had to be hospitalized for THREE DAYS and scumbag couldn’t even take him. He called some of my dad’s friends to take him!!!

Other of scumbag’s outstanding actions were hiring someone else (with my dad’s money) to take care of him four days a week while he went out and cavorted with his new Montana girlfriends. In addition, the women he hired to co-caretake with him, was very attractive and apparently they had a little “fling” going on. As a bonus, he convinced my dad how evil all his children were and that all we wanted was his money. This was odd, since all of us are professionals and make plenty of our own money.

He took his stupidly to the next level.

Honestly, for the past ten years, as my parents aged, all of us have stepped up and taken really exceptional care of him (and my mom too).

How did he convince my dad that we were all evil? By drugging him with Ambien, a highly addictive sleep medication and feeding him a bunch of lies.

He then took his next step logical step, now controlling my dad from a drugged state, and he convinced him to give him power of attorney and to open a new account where only scumbag and my dad would have access to the money. And believe me, my dad was in no condition to manage his own money-he was almost 90% dependent on scumbag to take care of him. What a nightmare! Scumbag, in all of his bravado, was bragging to some of my dad’s very good and loyal friends about how he was going to get all my dad’s money, sell OUR house and move to a fancy resort town in Spain!

Thank God, these friends called several of my brothers who jumped on a plane and headed to Montana. We were all beside ourselves with fear that scumbag’s evil plan would play out before my brother’s got there. So we hatched a plan. We had my dad’ former office manager and loyal and committed friend for over 40 years, post a “lookout” near our house until my brothers arrived (I told you it was Dateline material). Her role would be to distract him by pretending she had “just stopped by for a visit, in case scumbag decided to take my dad to his attorney’s to change his power of attorney.

Fortunately my brothers got there in the nick of time. They asked for a police escort to come with them and they kicked scumbag out of the house! I guess he put up a feeble fight, but to no avail. My brothers were willing to kick the you know what out of him. This was discouraged by the police officer. My dad has some truly amazing friends who suspected scumbag was corrupt and totally ratted him out.

Stand by your man

I certainly have to hand it to my sister though-she’s really standing by her man. Her rage was off the wall defending “him” and his “innocence” and how he was a victim, working so hard, taking care of dad day and night. What a joke! Her rages and threats delivered by voicemail and text were unconscionable, even wishing death on one of my brothers.

And to emphasize her loyalty she has now completely cut herself off from everyone in the family. She blocked us from Facebook, her phone, email and whatever other communication medium she could find, I imagine.

My brother decided, after this debacle, to spend the rest of the summer taking care of my dad. We were all very grateful to him. Then, in September, my dad would move to a facilitated care center, in Portland where two of my other siblings lived. Sadly, my dad passed away on August 24th – another devastating loss for the family :(.

Okay, so I delivered on the chaos part and how now, how about the personal growth aspect? The story continues.

I’d been in an emotionally damaging marriage decided, after 25 years to divorce my husband. You may be familiar with the saying: “Out of the frying pan and into the fire?” I got into another dysfunctional relationship, almost immediately, that lasted 8 years. He was a former drug addict, but had three years clean and seemed to me to be an all American kind of guy. But he wasn’t. He was using drugs most of the relationship, but I didn’t realize it. So what, pray tell did that happen? Out of that frying pan and into the fire. I hadn’t taken anytime between my marriage and this relationship to make sure I didn’t get into the same chaotic relationship.

So why this fun fact? My boyfriend broke up with me five years ago and found a girlfriend who he said, “accepted him for who he was,” a drug addict. Gosh, I just couldn’t aspire to the new chic’s level.

So, what I learned from my marriage and the next relationship, was how to stop an asshole from a mile away. That’s how I knew scumbag was, well, a scumbag. So we (me and my siblings, except for “I stand by my man no matter what” sister learned to be a lot more cautious when selecting people to help us, especially in matters so close to the heart, like selecting a caretaker for our dad. Even though my family doesn’t know this yet, I’ve given myself the honorary role of well, “asshole spotter” in all affairs family (including myself!) I’m sure they will be much ingratiated to me.

What else did I learn? I learned how life is without an outstanding set of parents. Although I grumbled about them for many years, they truly were wonderful and loving to all of us, which couldn’t have been easy. Raising eight kids, getting us all through college and many other precarious life situations, visiting all of us on a regular basis, weekly phone calls, celebrating our successful and not so successful moments, and our bi-yearly (okay so that means every other year) family reunions leaves of legacy of pure, unconditional love.

If your parents are still alive, and they were not perfect, but truly loved you, call them, hug them if you can, appreciate them and give them a huge flipping high five for all they did and do for you.

How I was Manipulated by a Drug Addict and How I Saved Myself

I was manipulated by a drug addict in an eight year relationship, which was nothing short of chaotic. The breakup was how I saved myself.

How perception started to change

Girl doing yoga pose on her head on the beach
My perception started to change after I saw how I was manipulated by the addict.

My perception of the my relationship with Carl changed  after we separated. Having time away from him gave me much needed insight into realty. I understood how he manipulated me and how, without me seeing it, he hid his drug use for years. Remember I told you I met him in a recovery program? I just  “assumed” he was sober. I don’t assume much anymore and if it happens to slip in, I can take a step back and examine the situation to see what the truth is. My perception is based on reality now – not on someone’s else’s skewed perception. Lesson learned.

I chose not to see the truth

eye glasses on table with forest in the background
I couldn’t see how I was manipulated by the addict.

A great book that helped me transition into really enjoying being single is called: : The Unexpected Joy of Being Single,” by Catherine Gray. She says that when you’re dating someone and they tell you something, you need to believe it. I had a distorted perception of the relationship . There were many red flags that I chose to ignore. Jokingly, he called himself a liar cheat and a thief, and he proved himself to be just that.

He showed me he was dishonest.

  • He never paid his divorce mediator because she never billed him.
  • We were out to dinner, and he saw the contractor that installed his roof and started to freaked out. The reason? Because he still owed him $200.00 and he was afraid the contractor would remind him.

He showed me he didn’t care how I felt.

  • We were visiting his family and driving back from dinner. He started imitating my driving, by braking, and driving crazy, getting a big laugh from everyone in the car.
  • His dad made an offensive comment about me and I asked him why he didn’t defend me. He told me “it didn’t occur to him.”
  • Another friend told me he was flirting shamelessly with some younger recovery members. When I asked him about it he denied it.

He took advantage of me.

He always wanted to drive my car when we were together, because it got better gas. In the eight years we were together, he only paid me a total of $50.00 towards gas. He showed me he would take advantage of me if he could.

He showed me he didn’t care about my kids.

I have three kids and when my youngest went to college Carl asked me to move in with him and move out of my rental. He had a three bedroom house and three kids. I asked where my kids would stay when they wanted to come home and visit. He said he didn’t know.

How did I let myself be manipulated for so long?

I’m sure if I was reading this about someone else, I would ask “why did she stay so long? ” My perception has definitely changed over the last five years. I’ve had time to take a good, hard look at why I stayed so long, and I am not that girl who “just lets things slide” anymore. Because of that relationship and my marriage I can spot a dysfunctional relationship in a nano second.

What I’ve learned about myself after this relationship:

  • I understand myself better.
  • trust my judgement.
  • I don’t let people tell me how i “should” think or act.
  • I step back and assess a situation before I act.
  • My favorite response: “i’ll think about it.”
  • I make decisions based on my values and what’s important to me.
  • I respect myself and decide how I want to be

It took a lot of work, but fit has been a love affair with the authentic me. I continue to be open-minded and commit to my own personal growth, no matter how difficult the obstacle may be.

What’s stopping your personal growth? Are you in an addictive relationship?

Until then, Kathy 🙂

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Death of a Drug Addict

The impact of the death of my drug addicted ex-boyfriend Carl is not pretty. I am angry I have to spend my time thinking about his wasted life and horrendous death.

blurry picture of people
I could not see clearly being in a relationship with a drug addict.

I feel violated somehow, after his death. When you’re in a relationship with a drug addict, you cannot see clearly what is happening. Carl would play with my head. As I said in the previous blog, I absorbed the blame for his erratic addictive behavior. It is crazy making as many of you may know if you’ve been in or are in that type of relationship.

He will quit for good…

When things got really bad Carl would admit he’d been abusing drugs, and would swore up and down he was quitting for good. I believed him. He had been a recovery program for over 20 years, he had long-time recovery friends and I just figured he would get and stay clean. Instead, he hid the addiction- from me, his kids, family, friends and business associates.

Man consoling another man who isad.

How could he be so selfish?

How could he be so selfish? He has three grieving children and I worry how this will impact them. They are young adults and understand drug addiction. If they go to the trial they are going to hear many things about their dad’s “secret” drug life. They’ll most likely hear about the toxicology report which will no doubt indicate his drug use. I wonder if they will be angry that their dad participated in such a dangerous lifestyle and didn’t even think about them? I wonder how they will feel to hear about the drug-addicted lifestyle led him to such a violent end.

Or will he be portrayed as a victim who struggled with addiction and got in way over his head and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Many people are compassionate to the struggles of a drug addict. I am not. Not right now anyway. I’m still in anger, shock and denial. Maybe at a later date I will start to feel more sadness about it. I’m not sure.

The impact of addiction

The aftermath of addiction. I’ve learned many lessons on addiction – what it does to people and the people, like me, who are or have been in a relationship with an addict. For me, I was not in a relationships with a person, like when I was with Carl. I was in a relationship with a “drug” which left very little of the genuine person who I’d originally met. There is no future left for him.

I hope and pray my son will come around. We, his family will all be here for him. We love him, but can’t be slaves to his addiction.

My next post

In my next post, I will reflect on what I’m learning from Carl’s tragic death. I was fortunately out of the relationship for over five years and had taken a lot of time to really focus on my own personal growth.

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Kathy 🙂

Addiction Takes More then it Will Ever Give

Addiction takes more than it will every give.  Addiction affects not only the addict, but those who are related to him or her- whether it be a family member, spouse, significant other, child or friend. It strips away any chance of a life of joy, peace, and awareness.   The addict’s drug use causes broken trust, confusion, health risks, emotional and/or physical abuse, lies, secrets, lost time, money wasted on drugs and more.

My relationship with a drug addict

prescription drug bottle with pills spilling out
Drug addiction

I was in an eight year relationship with a drug addict. When we met, he had been clean and sober for three years.  He had been in the recovery community for 15 years, but had one relapse.   

My husband and I separated and two months later I met Larry. He seemed completely different from my emotionally abusive husband.   He seemed like your basic all American guy: he had three kids who he absolutely adored, he was kind, funny, loyal and ran a small business. He volunteered for his kids’ school and sports events, small business functions and recovery events. Everyone seemed to like him.

We had a wonderful relationship.  We loved spending time together, went on trips and were just really enjoying life. We had the occasional argument, but we were always able to talk things out. I introduced him to my family who instantly liked him, (although it took my kids sometime  to come around). I thought I had finally met my “soul mate.” 

Spoiler alert: Although the relationship seemed wonderful it wasn’t likely that I would have the great fortune to encounter the “perfect guy” after coming out of 25 years of an emotionally abusive marriage.  

When his addiction started to escalate

colored blurry city lights
Life becomes blurred when an addiction starts to escalate.

Larry seemed completely different from my husband – at first.  However, as more time passed, his addiction started to escalate. He became controlling, manipulative, accusatory, and uninvolved with both me and his life in general. He did a stellar job of keeping his addiction hidden – he frequently accused me of causing all the problems in the relationship whenever I confronted him on anything.

When you’re in a relationship with an addict, he or she will use many tools to manipulate you, and that’s what was happening to me.  Sometimes I would get a glimpse of the old him: the funny, charming, attentive guy I’d met, but it wouldn’t last long. All of that great energy started to dwindle, consumed by his drug use.  

 Every once in a while Larry would come clean and admit using drugs, he would apologize profusely and swear he’d never use again.  I believed him – and I read somewhere that we trust addicts, even when they lie, because there was a time when they were trustworthy.

Even though he said he had “cleaned up” the relationship got more and more dysfunctional. Our arguments got worse and worse. Our breakups were more frequent and lasted longer.  I continued to blame myself for our problems as his erratic, addictive behaviors escalated.  That wonderful, fun relationship had turned into one of resentment, fear, isolation, rejection and boredom.  Addiction takes more than it will every give.

The end of our relationship

A girl alone in the forest
The end of the relationship

After one of our breakups I hadn’t heard from him in a while so I called him.  He informed me he had found a new girlfriend – one he could “be himself” with, someone who didn’t mind his drug use. I couldn’t compete with that – I adamantly opposed his drug use.  It changed him, and destroyed the relationship, as I had experienced for the last six to seven years. 

I didn’t want a relationship with a “drug” anyway. According to his logic, he was “the same guy.” He was in denial – fooling himself and leaving wreckage everywhere -especially in our relationship. He bragged a lot about how he hadn’t drank in 20 years, but he was not sober. Larry’s obituary stated he’d been a sober member of AA for 26 years. He fooled a lot of people.

Moving forward

Girl with big, tattered suitcase
Moving forward from the addictive relationship

The breakup turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  I developed better relationships with my kids; started going out with old friends, cared for my aging parents, hired a professional life coach, travelled, picked up playing the piano again and started this blog.  I did (and am doing)  all the things I love to do and that I had formerly sacrificed to dysfunctional relationships. I became grateful that he had ended the relationship – I felt free for the first time in my life and was able to focus on myself and my own personal growth.  

The breakup devastated me, but I decided to move forward bravely.

The unexpected phone call

women sitting and holding cell phone
The unexpected phone call of the brutal murder caused by drug addiction.

On July 4, I received an unexpected phone call from someone I knew when Larry and I  were dating.  Larry had been assaulted, brutally murdered. drug into a vacant house, and his body was set on fire. He certainly didn’t deserve such a horrific death. The news filled me with pain and grief, thinking of how he must have suffered and the devastating impact to his family, friends, and business associates. 

I live in a decent neighborhood, so I was shocked when I heard he was murdered less than a mile from my house. My question is, what was he doing 10 miles from his own home, at 9 or 10 at night, in a somewhat risky part of my neighborhood? And the brutality of it all? During his “recovery periods” he told me he had bought hard drugs off the street. I’m very sure his murder was drug related.

 I don’t know what kind of trouble Larry had gotten into, but it seems his addiction put him in a dangerous situation that resulted in his brutal death. 

Addiction robs us of awareness, healing and growth

I refer to in a prior blog to the importance of awareness and paying attention.  Addiction to anything robs you of that beautiful opportunity to pause, step back, view your life and start to heal and grow. Addiction causes addicts to do crazy like things when when they’re high, submitting themselves to grave health risks and even death from overdose. It also causes addicts to put ourselves in dangerous situations, dealing with dangerous drug dealers, and in Larry’s case, put him in the wrong place, at the wrong time with the wrong people.

My heart grieves for him – he was only in his mid-fifties.  He will never see his kids’ futures: graduations, marriages, maybe even grandchildren.  Nor will he get to enjoy his retirement – his dream was to buy an RV and travel the world. He will never get to see how life evolves for his siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. His life was blotted out most likely by drug addiction and all that is inherent in that life choice. I’m angry with him as well. So many people, his ex-wife, me, his family, and his friends told him to stay clean, but he choose not to.

If you suffer from the chaos of life with an addict, or if you’re an addict yourself, please get some help.

If you suffer from life with an addict, or if you’re an addict yourself, please get some help. First talk to a doctor so they can  assess your best medical/recovery options. Most insurance plans cover all or a partial amount for recovery programs.  You can also talk to a pastor, priest or therapist. You can visit a local Alcoholic Anonymous Meeting, Smart Recovery,  and/or check out the CDC’s Alcohol Program.  Additionally, the internet has many online programs, facebook communities and books.  

If you are in a relationship with an addict, get into a support group like Al-Anon.  You can also check out this link for more support programs (some are free and others have a cost).

This was a very upsetting situation for me despite the difficulties of the relationship, In my next blog, I will share what I’m doing to heal and grow after this tragedy.

Until then,

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More on meditation

Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book: Meditation Is Not What You Think It Is, explains some myths about meditation.

  • It is not:
    • sitting on the floor removing all thoughts from your mind.
  • It does not:
    • have to be practiced a long time to have any effect.
  • You do not have to:
    • adopt to a specific spriitual framework.

Let’s talk about what meditation is then…

Meditation reminds us to stop “doing” and come into “being.” We create habits and limitations in our minds and we get stuck. Meditation allows us to stop for a few minutes and start to notice what’s happening with us and helps us become unstuck.

Blackboard that says balance with one candle on each side

We don’t have to spend hours meditating and it should not become just another item on our “to do” lists. We can spend five minutes, 10 minutes or more, some place quiet where we can close our eyes and reconnect with ourselves.

We become so bogged down by our problems, fears, anxieties, and to do’s that we never live in the”now” – we are either in the past or the future. As Kabat-Zinn says in his book ” We want to have a relationship with this moment. If you check your watch you will find it is “now” again.” I love that!

Meditation helps us examine our lives

Without meditation, we don’t examine our lives, experiences and habits and we can feel stressed or even depressed and that our lives are spiraling out of control. We can change all of that by meditating. Meditation helps us focus on the “now” and gives us the awesome experience of noticing new and exciting things in this world. We start to realize that we do have the ability to face our own fears and challenges, and that we also have the ability to reignite our passions as we connect to our authentic self. It is truly the beginning of a life-long love affair – with ourselves.

Try a simple meditation

girl hiker at top of mountain with raised arms enjoy
It’s your turn to find joy in meditation

So now it’s your turn. Find someplace quiet where you won’t be disturbed (I even go out to my car on my lunch hour sometimes) and sit quietly for 5 or 10 minutes. If it helps, find a simple guided meditation on youtube, or just listen to some calming music (which. you can also find on youtube, Spotify, your playlist or wherever). Try this for a week – if you like you can increase the time. I would love to hear about your experience. Email me:

For my next post, I’ll dive deeper into meditation, mindfulness and awareness.

Until then-Kathy 🙂

picture of the blogger - medium length brown hair, fair skin and smelling

Personal growth through self-awareness

What is personal growth you ask?  It starts with self-awareness. What is self-awareness?  Self-awareness happens when we are able to reflect on our feelings, thoughts and physical sensations. It happens when we start to examine our habits, behaviors, relationships and ourselves. Becoming self-aware allows us to look at our lives and see what is working and what is causing us pain. It is then that we can start to realize where we want to make changes and experience personal growth.

How is your self-awareness?

How is your self-awareness? Do you ever take time to reflect on your day and how you felt? On how others make you feel?   About your reactions to all the different experiences throughout your day? Do ever consider how past events might be affecting you now? It’s important to be self-aware, to be our own personal detective so we can understand ourselves better.

Sounds good, but how to I develop self-awareness?

Women meditating on dock by an awe inspiring lake
Taking time to meditate

Meditation is a great way to gain self-awareness. Many people believe that in order to meditate, they need to sit in a buddha like position, chase all thoughts out of their minds and enter into some state of nirvana.. This may be possible with more advanced forms of meditation, but I prefer to meditate using something called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This form of guided meditation is done by tensing and relaxing your muscles. I just discovered an awesome app called Insight Timer It’s free and has over 24,000 meditations from one minute to several hours. I just love it and I think almost anyone could find a simple meditation to start with. With all the selections you can decide how long you want to meditate. You could probably even meditate for one to two minutes at your desk at work.

I was getting so exhausted from work, not taking breaks and just plowing through the day. I’ve now resolved to take two to three meditation breaks a day and it really helps. I feel much more energized when I get home. It also helps identify emotions which many times we just stuff away. So simple. Make sure you try it out Insight Timer this week. Then leave a comment below or email me and let me know what kind of impact it has.

In my next post, I’ll dive deeper into using mediation as a means to self-awareness and the benefits.

Until then- Kathy

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