How To Know When It’s Time For Change: Spotting Your Breaking Point

I would’ve paid someone an obscene amount of money to fix things for me. Even better, I would’ve paid anyone to tell me what was wrong with my life as to why I felt so miserable in my life that I wanted to die because I could only see a future with my life the way it was and no improvement. I couldn’t see a way out of my life and that made me want to NOT keep going. Suicide ideation you could call it. What got to be so bad that I wanted to be out of my life? This was my breaking point. 

What happened to me was the first key. In late Fall of 2019 and early Winter of 2020, right before lockdown, I worked my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and Emma Lively. I did the retirement version of the program which was perfect for my old soul. With the wisdom and guidance of the authors of this program, I wrote my memoir. Over the span of 12 weeks, I examined my life 3 years, or so, at a time. I was 39 years old when I did this, so the math worked out well. The goal for senior citizens is to do about 10 years a week, but I wanted to do the program so I had to make the math work for me.

I spent hours writing my memoir. In writing my memoir, I got a chance to examine my past from my perspective. Later on, I would identify this memoir as figuring out What Happened To Me (check out the book for Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah).

In writing my memoir, I started to examine the years of my life. I was able to see that I’d been truly happy for four years of my life in college. I started to see what had happened with my parents and my paternal grandmother. I started to see and write down what was going on with my marriage. I started to see what happened with my in-laws. For the first time ever, I was able to write down and identify what happened and why I felt the way I did. I often would say to myself, “No wonder you feel this way, Sara. No wonder you want to die. You’ve had 4 years of happiness out of 39 years of our life.

The first step to healing was writing down my story and admitting what had happened to me. The next step was admitting that I didn’t like what had happened to me, which was me admitting how I felt about what had happened to me in my past. This is what came for the next two years. 

What happened between 2020 and 2022 was the Coronavirus and the pandemic. It was a chance to take a pause in all of the distractions and really focus on myself and what was coming up for me. I wanted to push down the feelings of grief over what had happened to me. No one really wants to admit that they were sexually assaulted many times over the years, that their parents projected that they didn’t want them around and made them feel like an inconvenience, or admit to their own mistakes that they’d made as a result of what was going on. For me, an example of that was seeing that I worked out a lot my anxiety at the gym and spent a lot of time working out to numb the pain of the past.

In 2021, I left my corporate job because I couldn’t take being treated like a piece of underpaid garbage anymore. This was a huge step for me on the road to entering 12 step and recovery. 

How I felt about what happened to me started to catch up with me. I couldn’t keep pushing down the feelings anymore. I started feeling worse and worse after I left my job because, ironically, I felt amazing without being treated like garbage at a job that paid me barely anything, undervalued me and didn’t appreciate me. I started to see how I was treated at my corporate job and compared it to my life where I also felt the same way. Turns out, for me, my job was reflecting a mirror back to me of other areas of my life where I’d been treated similarly: my marriage, my family of origin and my in-laws. Just like I wasn’t happy at work, I could also see the dysfunction that was these other relationships in my life. 

I reached a breaking point with my corporate job and I couldn’t handle the stress, low pay and being undervalued anymore. The criticism, black and white thinking, perfectionism, people pleasing, and control was too much. By leaving my job and seeing how much better I felt without it in my life, light started to show on other areas of my life and how similar they were to the job I’d had. Like, how could I let anyone treat me this way? The way I felt about my job was the same way I felt about my marriage, my in-laws, my parents and my paternal grandmother. 

Noticing that the only period of time I was really happy was when none of these relationships was present in my life, and that was 4 years in college. It was the time that I identified in my memoir that was the last time I was happy. That time was me on my own and being happy and comfortable, for the first time, being me.

When I did my memoir, I uncovered how awkward I felt in childhood around my parents. This unease was present in grade school and high school in that I didn’t fit in. This happened when I moved back home after college, started dating my now husband and moved in with my now in-laws. I didn’t fit in. But college? I was regulated, satisfied and happy. I fit in. There was no dysfunction present.

In recognizing where I was happy, I was able to see the moments where I wasn’t happy in my memoir. Then I was able to see why I wasn’t happy and then how I felt about that. 

I entered ACA/12 step and recovery after a period of time where I was working very hard for little financial gain and no real support at home. 

I had to put myself first and tell myself that I mattered. I had to pull back from the work I was doing. Overworking and overworking out two of my addictions. I numb my pain and anxiety with exercise to the extreme. I LOVE to workout. It’s where I get high. It could be any kind of movement like dance, lifting weights, running.

And in 2021, I injured my back from working out too much. Or, so I thought at the time.

My truth is that the back injury was a huge reflection for me being miserable in my life and needing to change in order to feel better.

It was a time to say no. I injured my back while I was still working full-time at my corporate job. I was miserable. I tried to take out my anxieties with lifting super heavy weights at the gym. I believe between the stress of working out, the misery and depression I was in from my marriage and work, the stress I felt from the pandemic, and on and on, my body decided to send me a message, “Time to stop girl. Here’s a huge dose of pain in the form of shooting pain up your right leg until you fix this.” 

A huge sign from my body: STOP SARA. STOP IT.

So, the signs were there, but I didn’t stop and pull back until this back injury and pain was so present in my life that I couldn’t ignore things anymore. 

A sign from the universe? Maybe. A sign from my body? YES!

I’m grateful for what this injury has taught me. My body said, “I’m  not happy anymore, and you can’t take your anxiety out on me without a huge dose of pain.”

So, I had to stop and get better. It wasn’t easy.

That physical pain was another breaking point. It was the breaking point that caused me to do something about it. Because I wanted to get rid of this pain.

In healing the physical pain, I had to heal my entire body.

Everything changed for me. I did a major, radical overhaul of my life.

I entered 12 step, ACA, went to a recovery center, sought recovery coaching, attended programs at the recovery center, started exercising in small doses and moving again, stopped trying to prove myself to my husband, talked to my husband about what was going on for me. I had to STOP being passive aggressive and communicate my thoughts and feelings. I had to admit aloud how I felt and know what had happened to me in order to make changes in my life. 

Now, it’s nearly five months later after finding ACA, starting to work my way though the 12 steps and entering recovery. It feels like an eternity has gone by, but I also know that five months is a very short amount of time in the large span of a life lived so far on this planet. 

I’m will always be working on my recovery. Thank goodness I’m working on myself and getting myself to an amazing place. I am starting to heal. 

It’s touch and go. Things are finally looking up. I don’t feel like I want to die anymore. That’s HUGE for me! I want to live! I wonder why I couldn’t see a way out back then, but I see a way out and forward now. My back is much better, and I’m increasing my load. The shooting pain down my right leg is at bay. It’s not healed, but at bay and tolerable. It’s been a year since my last steroid shot. A year! Yes girl!

The pain from the injury hasn’t healed completely. It’s a work in progress, just like me. Recovery is a work in progress. Something I do daily so I don’t go back to the dark place I was in. Every day is work so that I never have to make big work pushes I dread a day in my life. It’s maintenance now. Maintenance is work. For a time, 12 step and recovery was my work. Now it’s more maintenance. In starting to write again and post on this blog, I’ve been bringing myself back into balance with work. This is now the work. It’s all the work because it’s all related! Love it! I matter. I know I matter. I value me. I’ll NEVER go back to a 9-5, W-2 job that treated me the way I was treated for so many years. Very much like, I can’t let my family of origin or my husband or in-laws treat me the way they treated me.

The Thanksgiving holiday was a huge reminder of the things I’d let go that no longer served me and that no longer had any control over me because I didn’t want them to: food, emotional eating, inviting family to dinner that made me miserable over a sense of obligation I felt I had. I did the things I did want to do: I posted a blog post on Thanksgiving day, I enjoyed my day with my husband and dogs, I didn’t emotionally eat or eat like garbage. My new ways of being and being happy in the world are sticking. Old ways are gone and new ways of being are sticking. 

Yes girl!

Before I could even start to heal my life, I had to figure out what happened to me. I did my memoir. Then I needed more convincing through a huge injury to see that I was truly hurting emotionally and physically. I felt bad in my mind and body for a reason. I started looking for ways to heal myself because I felt so bad. I also noticed what was out of balance in my life and sought solutions to bring me back into balance. I finally found the solutions that worked for getting back to the girl in college, but a better version of her. Happiness is a work in progress, and I’m living every day. 

As they say in ACA/12 step, “The program works if you work it.” So true. But before you can find the program, you gotta see where you’re hurting and spot the hurt so you can do the work to heal.

Sarathlete

Scarcity Mindset, Movement, Addiction and Recovery

One of my greatest addictions is also a place where I find so much flow, and that place is movement. Movement by any name always smelled sweet to me, until it didn’t. Call it dance. Call it exercise. Call it cycling. Call it swimming. Call it watering plants. Call it weight lifting. Call it walking. Call it running. Call it yoga. Call it boxing. Call it ballroom dancing. Call it ballet. It doesn’t matter what you call it. I LOVE to move. 

Until I didn’t love to move.

I suffered from a painful lower back injury on the right side of my body in February 2021. I think I was the cause of my injury. I’m very sure that I caused my own injury because of my addiction to movement. The flow I get, the anxiety release, the dopamine hit, the mental clarity and calmness I get from moving is amazing. I haven’t suffered that many injuries in my movement history. I’ve always been very balanced in doing both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. I enjoy weight lifting, stretching and many forms of cardio. 

This injury caused me to have to ask for help in my plant business, The Rare Plant Haus. It was absolutely awful, both being in so much pain and having to ask for help. Yikes! 

The pain came in the form of shooting pains down the right side of my leg. No matter how much time I took off and rested from this injury, did physical therapy for it, got two steroid shots for it, nothing really helped truly heal the pain. Instead, a lot of little things helped relieve the pain, but my body still remembers the pain and it’s still there.

The pain was so bad that I stopped moving for a year. My husband watered all of my plants in my plant shop for a year. I didn’t move at all for a year. I was miserable because this was a place I found great flow, and also a place where I got relief for my anxiety and a place where I could work out my problems. For a year, movement was gone. The final time I saw a doctor was in March 2022. My PCP told me to get a second opinion for my condition, which has had many diagnoses from many different medical professionals over the last year, now closing in on two years. The final doctor I saw was a spine surgeon who told me that I would need a spinal fusion. He told me I needed to lose weight and move more. After a year of intentionally not moving, this doctor told me to move and lose weight. The surgeon said to lose 20 pounds of weight so that when he did the surgery, it would be easier for him.

I gained a LOT of weight over the last year. I was practicing regular emotional eating. I was addicted to any hit I could get from sugary foods. Another area exercise has always saved me was from having to watch my diet. I’d never had to worry about what I ate in the past because I was always able to work out enough and intensely enough to where weight gain due to diet wasn’t an issue for me. That is, until I couldn’t move anymore and the pain from moving became to great to continue and I stopped. Yikes!


So, the addiction I had to exercise and movement was removed for a year. I was miserable. I was tired of being in pain. Now, in March 2022, I had a doctor telling me I needed to move again. I didn’t want to go back to moving because it caused me so much pain.

What were the results? I landed myself in recovery and a 12 step program called Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families. I had to change my entire life in order to start healing from this injury that caused me so much pain.

You see, I was in great pain in many areas of my life. I was very out-of-balance in my approach to my entire life, not just the exercise component of my life. 

So, now we are at the end of  October 2022. What’s changed for me since March 2022?

I started moving again. I started walking and filming videos in the park. Habit stacking: filming videos outside and movement attached to it meant that I didn’t notice the pain as much. I was in nature and that made me feel better. I started getting stronger. When I landed myself in 12 step in June 2022, I started to change how I lived my life. I did a complete 180 degree pivot on diet and movement. I was able to stop emotional eating and my attachment to sugar and how I saw food by seeing it as fuel. I started doing intermittent fasting and eating one meal a day. I started adding in other forms of exercise I used to enjoy beyond walking. I started doing yoga, then cycling, then weight lifting. I progressed to high intensity interval training. I was able to hike farther and further. I found myself working out less and eating less and I was gaining muscle, losing weight and my back pain started to lessen greatly. I changed other aspects of my life, as well. I started going to recovery coaching once a week. I worked my way through the ACA 12 steps. 

I had to make great changes in my life in order to get any sort of relief for my back pain.

I believe the mind and body are linked. I don’t think you can detach one from the other. It’s how I wound up with a painful injury in the first place, in that, I was out-of-whack in my life. I felt awful. I was acting awful. I wasn’t happy. Yet, I couldn’t identify why I was so unhappy.

And so, once you’re in recovery from any kind of addiction, for me that was seeking emotional sobriety, there’s always the fear of relapse. That’s where scarcity mindset comes into play. Fear of relapsing. Fear of going back to old ways of being. Fear of going back to my old life, old pain and wanting to avoid old emotions.

If it’s true that the only way out is through, then I had to deal with a lot of old stuff to move forward. 

Truth: you will relapse. Sometimes, I feel like I relapse daily. However, the time I spend in relapse is less.

I noticed this most recently with pain. I do NOT want to experience pain. No one does. Specifically, I want to avoid that pain I felt the first day and the days that followed of not being able to find any relief. Over time, I’ve been healing, but the pain is still there which tells me I’m still a little out of balance in my life. I’m no where near the level of pain I was at, but I still feel pain. 

My latest relapse came from overexercising. I thought I was in control and that I had my exercise addiction under control. The irony of this statement is not lost on me. One of the pillars that ACA is based around is to notice control, criticism, perfectionism, and all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking. I struggle daily with these four pillars. In a sense, I relapse every day. 

Movement is so easy for me to talk about, so I’ll use it as the example. I noticed I was very irritable, crabby, sore, was having trouble sleeping, and I didn’t know why. Work outs were good. Diet was good. Things in my life and business were good. I was happy and things are going well for me. Still, I noticed the feeling. My husband noticed the irritability and crankiness as well and commented on it to me. He asked me why I was so irritable. I was overtrained. I knew the feeling because I’d experienced it many times before. I didn’t want to believe, at first, that I’d gotten out of balance with exercise. I thought that because I wasn’t working out for 3 hours  a day at maximum intensity and doing super hard workouts for so long that I meant that I wouldn’t overtrain. I thought I was in control. I thought I had my addiction under control, and that I was in a health place with it.

Part of recovery, for me, has meant going back to things that used to serve me well, but at the same time didn’t always serve me well, like exercise. I needed to face my fear of overworking out. Just when I thought I had the problem solved and my addiction was “cured”, it wasn’t. 

I did what no one wants to do: I pulled back for a week. I’m taking a week off with no exercise and rest to see how I feel. I’m listening to my body this time. I’ve changed. I respect myself and my body, and I know that I matter. I’m not a pound on the scale or my latest workout. I’m a person with feelings. I’m a human being, fallible for sure, and I needed a break. Anyone who finds flow in movement will tell you it’s the hardest thing to do: pull back and rest. To know I  am enough without exercise and that it doesn’t define me has been a hard lesson to learn for me, and, yet, it’s brought me the greatest sense of relief.

I’m always battling with scarcity mindset with myself internally and externally. I battle my self-worth daily with this question: Am I enough? The answer is always yes, 100% yes! However, knowing and believing I’m enough are extremely hard things for me to come to terms with. Why? Because of what happened to me in my past, how I was raised and what I believed to be true about myself based on the past. I learned from the people closest to me that I was NEVER enough. Now, I know that’s not true. But the scarcity mindset I have has been a great struggle for me, and it’s driven my for such a long time and has affected my relationship with everything in my life, including exercise.

It took going in to 12 step and recovery and so many other changes to heal my life, which is what has helped me heal my back. Reckoning with my self-esteem, self-value and self-worth. I have to constantly tell myself that I’m enough, to the point where sometimes it feels like it’s moment-to-moment. 

I’m getting better and healing every day. Sometimes, I need to take a break. I know I’m enough now. I didn’t know that for a very long time. It’s been a difficult behavior to change, and it’s kept me stuck for such a long time. 

The antidote for healing my back was healing my life. 

The antidote for curing scarcity mindset is knowing you are enough. Knowing that you matter. Knowing that you are valued. And living in alignment with that knowledge and applying it to every area of your life. 

YOU MATTER! I MATTER! There’s so much relief in knowing that I matter.