RECOVER & RISE (1/3): TIFFANY

RECOVER & RISE (1/3): TIFFANY

 

They say that good things come in threes, right?

Well I certainly hope so, or my headline writing days are over!

Today is day one, of three, to be precise.

Three days. Three interviews. Three inspiring women.

As R3C0VRY.WRX hits the ripe old age of 4 months, we’re celebrating by delving into the “women in recovery/ sobriety” space. We want to know their stories, their thoughts and experiences as women. Quite simple, really. We explore addiction, problem drinking, sobriety and the recovery road from the perspective of three very different women, each brave enough to talk and share their stories and beliefs.

We start with our new friend, Tiff Swedeen, who kindly gets the ball rolling on the subject for us. As usual, these articles have no hidden editorial agenda… and the opinions expressed are their own.

Coming up soon we will be featuring Joanne Walters (The Sober Angel), and Kate & Mandy of Love Sober. Each with a story. Each with a view.

Thanks for sharing guys. Thanks for your time… just, THANKS.

Put the kettle on… and enjoy!

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Tiffany (or can we call you Tiff), hi… let’s start with finding out a little bit about you…

You CAN call me Tiff! If you were my big brother, it’d be “Tiffy”. I’m a nurse of 13 years, and a mom of a 20-year-old daughter. No one believes it but it’s true… I had her at 16. I’m also a proud dog mom to Cassie, and a “Vanthusiast”, travelling around in my 87-Syncro whenever possible – in the winter to ski, in the summer to do all the other outdoors things.

Tiff Swedeen, 2018

What brought you here? I mean, you must have some kind of “drinking/ drugging/ addiction story”… care to elaborate?

I’d love to! I first got into drugs in my early teen years. I experimented with binge drinking, weed, LSD, anything to be rebellious and then to numb out and avoid real life. But then I had my daughter, and I straightened up for a while. When she was 3 years old, her Dad and I were split up and I turned to amphetamines – anything that gave me energy and helped me – again – avoid pain. But then I stopped. Just like that. NO treatment or program. I wanted to be a wife, mom and a nurse and I knew that drugs wouldn’t fit that life. So I quit. That’s why it was so shattering to me when I became addicted to Vicodin (took it initially for migraines) at age 30 and couldn’t just quit on my own. It spiralled out of control over about a 6 year period. My current substance recovery is from opiates and alcohol.

What was your drinking/ using/ addiction like at the point you decided to quit?

Well, this is the hard part to talk about – because of the stigma, I guess. I wish I could just say that I used too many prescription pills. But the truth is, I had progressed to IV Fentanyl. I can share this now, because I’ve shared it with human resources and the department of health, and I’m currently in a probation program for nurses, but it’s still painful to say out loud. I diverted narcotics from work when my own pills were no longer enough. IV fentanyl seemed the most efficient, but I’d already started to think about how and if I could find a source for heroin. I’m eternally grateful I never reached that level.

…And the final straw, for you, was what, exactly?

By the end, I was crying for help. I made blatant mistakes at work, and I showed up impaired to a shift. It was pretty obvious – I just didn’t care at all anymore. My manager met me one night at the door, walked me to a room to give a urine sample, and placed me on administrative leave. I had a choice: get help, or get fired. I was extremely relieved. Terrified, ashamed, at times suicidal, but also relieved.

You clearly see yourself as being in recovery… How so? What do these words mean to you?

Sometimes, I’ll lay on my yoga mat and place my hands over my heart, and think to myself – “Dear Tiffany, you TRULY are in a recovery phase. You were hurt so badly by drugs and alcohol. Just lie, here and heal. You need this time to recover.” And I’ll just offer myself all that gentle compassion and care that we all need to feel sometimes.

I’m not recovering the person I was, because she’s long gone. Thank god. I’m just in this season of my life….Recovery is the period of time in which you’re putting your parts back together, taking things slow and gentle, offering yourself compassion and grace. It’s recovery from a traumatic period of life, and it’s rehabilitation as well. Learning new ways to live, cope, think, emote. In She Recovers, one guiding principle is that “We are all recovering from something”. We’re all here on this planet, going through human experiences and trying to figure it out – trying to move towards more love, more balance, and away from pain and disconnection. I’m recovering from a traumatic addiction, but the addiction itself was a coping mechanism to try and recover from a fucked up life.

I’m really in recovery from all that fucked-upness. I’m learning to live as though I really really love myself. I hope to consider myself “Recovered” from the opiate and alcohol part of it, but also to always be in some type of recovery, because that means I’m living, I’m trying things, I’m getting hurt sometimes in the process but I’m still learning…..to never be “recovered” is kind of a beautiful thing…I’m always in a process of recovering and gaining more love.

So, you stopped/ changed your lifestyle (congratulations!)… how did you do that? How did you manage after you stopped? What did you do to motivate and maintain your abstinence? Any hints or tips, sources of inspiration for people seeking to do the same?

This sounds like a question regarding the practical process! I love sharing this part. I would do SO MUCH of it differently!!

First of all, I’m mandated by law to be in treatment, so there are certain things I HAVE to do. 3 support groups a week and 1 nurse facilitated group a week, for example. So that started right away – within 2 weeks of leaving my job. I also went into IOP – or intensive outpatient program. It was the biggest waste of time bullshit treatment centre ever. BUT I’m grateful for that because I don’t settle for status quo very well. It pissed me off bad enough that it made me really research what else was out there. I was like “there’s got to be something better! I’m in here 9 hours a week, listening to this guy who’s never even had an addiction (the owner) drone on about his marriage and his insomnia, watching black and white movies a la “reefer madness” and being fed ice cream, because according to them, if I just eat sugar, the cravings will go away!

Reefer Madness. Original film poster. 1936.

Believe me, I was livid. Not to mention the 1000s of dollars they took out of pocket – despite my insurance.

Ok, rant over! Even though I hated the IOP, I do believe inpatient or outpatient treatment is important.

Here’s the point of what DID work – I quit work for 3 months and focused on ME and RECOVERY. I made friends in this community. I listened to podcasts about recovery NON STOP. I read books on recovery. I went for jogs and listened to these. I wrote in my journal… I dropped the victim mentality right away and decided, “I WANT this”. I took the advice “1 step and 1 day at a time”. My probation is 5 years (I’ve got 3 to go). Sometimes I still say to myself – you can think about drinking in 5 years.

Today you can’t and today you don’t want to. If you want to then, deal with it then. It helps me let go of the future tripping mindset.

And when I realised what a bunch of shit my first IOP was, I found a new centre with a chemical dependency counsellor trained in Buddhism, and that led me to Refuge Recovery, which became my home group.

I started facilitating a meeting because there wasn’t one close to my town. I got very involved. I did NOT isolate. I started meditating.

I got very into mindfulness. I took MBRP and it CHANGED MY LIFE. You’ll notice in my coaching I use a lot of mindfulness for addiction. It’s a game changer. If you can change your relationship to your thoughts –and understand thoughts aren’t always true – you can change your relationship to yourself and to substances. Suddenly you realize that so much in life you thought was totally intolerable is actually kind of OK. And you don’t need to numb out or avoid or run away anymore.

So advice? Let go of your ego. Seriously. Let go and try EVERYTHING. Live like your life depends on this because it does. Don’t settle if you don’t like your program. Find one that you DO like. Because if you’re resentful about the program, you won’t actually do it. Fill your mind every day with recovery related material. Start first thing in the morning. Help other people – big or small, do some service. Start a meditation practice. Not just for peace and calm, but seriously to change your neuro-pathways, and to learn to tolerate discomfort.

And really- let go of that ego. Completely.

Tiff Swedeen 2018

Not drinking alcohol (for example) can be a very stigmatising thing… were you prepared for that? How did you deal with it? How did others around you deal with it?

Honestly, at first, I didn’t care, because I wasn’t planning to quit drinking. I just thought I had an opiate problem, and I was going to go right back to drinking as soon as I could. But when I realized how hard it was to quit temporarily, I realised I had a bad problem with alcohol I had to get honest with myself. So I started doing research and read Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind. (read it!!)

Holy shit is quitting drinking stigmatised, and no wonder! Look at the culture, the ads, the world we live in. It was really hard for me at first – I was steeped so deep in the craft beer/IPA world. I’ve had to re-train my brain. I’ve had to find a whole new personality inside of me that isn’t the fun bar girl.

But now it’s exciting to be a part of the culture change…treating “big alcohol” like we did “big tobacco”, changing the laws around advertising to our kids, and saying a big “fuck you’ to companies that trick us into drinking their highly addictive, disease and fatality causing products.

Others around me have dealt ok. I’ve had a little bit of “can I drink in front of you anymore?” or sheepish looks when they say “OMG I just need a bottle of wine and I’ll be ok!” but hey, that’s their process, not mine. I’m at total peace with where I’m at. And I’ve been where they’re at. I’m more embarrassed and ashamed that I was the one pushing others to drink “just one more” or “drive, you’re fine!” and shaming them into drinking with me.

Ugh. I have a lot of guilt around being that person.

Were you successful from day one? Any relapses (etc)? How did you cope, emotionally, with all this?

Not at all. I’ve been curious about Recovery since 2014. That’s when I found a chemical dependency counsellor for the first time (Hint: he told me I was fine!!!). It was in May 2016 that I lost my job in Critical Care, and then went to 3 months of outpatient treatment. I’ve been serious about sobriety since then but it still took some relapses. I cope with it pretty well! It’s a journey. I truly believe that. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we are “starting over at day one” after a relapse.

That insinuates that all that time in recovery and treatment and working hard means nothing. That’s not TRUE!

Every day that I’m working towards a healthier life counts. And if I relapse again, I won’t hide my head in shame. I’m just trying to be the best human I can be, and being sober is the best part of ME. So my ultimate goal is just to accumulate the most sober days possible that I can manage in my lifetime.

Whether those are all in a row or not doesn’t matter so much.

You’ve been sober/ clean for a while now, are there any manifest benefits in your life that not drinking/ using has afforded? What are they? Any advice for people reading this… heh, can we learn from any of your mistakes?

The endless benefits….You know, I can’t even picture using and drinking now. I am doing so much, loving life, making connections…I wouldn’t have a minute to drink if I wanted to!

Sobriety gives me back so many hours of the day! To be specific and simplify: I feel better. I’m not poisoning myself, I sleep better, my skin is better. But more importantly…my relationship with my daughter is growing. She trusts me again.

My memory is coming back and that benefits me in so many ways! I am able to save money. I have joy, even in little things – like playing in the grass with my dog. When I start something (like beginning a meditation practice, or a blog post, or cleaning my room) I actually make progress! I finish what I start. Oh – and I actually really LIKE myself again. I feel worthy; I live up to my values. I feel like anything is possible.

Sober Wedding. Tiffany. June 2018.

Life is NOT perfect by any means. I have hard days – my father died, I became single, I’ve had ups and downs with family members, I don’t always have a good day at work. But I can cope with these things without hiding in a bottle. I go to bed at night with a clean conscience, and I can say to myself “you did your best. I love you, Tiffany. Keep going” and I mean it.
I’m kinder and more compassionate, and more genuine with everyone – even myself. Most importantly with myself.

Advice? Start today. You don’t have to get SOBER today, but if you have any inkling that you have a problem, talk to someone. If you think that you don’t have time or money to go treatment – you’re kidding yourself. You are NOT stuck. I stayed stuck for years thinking “I can’t leave work for 30 or 90 days! I can’t leave my daughter!” well guess what? When my work caught me impaired, and I was put on mandatory leave, I definitely had the 90 days! My only regret is not starting earlier.

Start your recovery process now. Don’t worry about being sober forever…don’t wait to til another day. You don’t have to be 100% sober to start your RECOVERY journey. You’re worth it. You’ve got one life here, make the best of it.

So… (drum roll) Recover & Rise – what’s THAT all about?

Recover and Rise, LLC actually started as a project just for me. I needed to keep my mind busy. I love being in school, and I was restless at around a year into recovery. I was going to go back to school to get a masters in nursing and my soul just got sick thinking about it. A really fortunate series of events occurred. I hired a business coach myself. (I was already in network marketing and had done some personal development and they recommended a biz coach).

  

Through that coach, I was encouraged to reach out to Dawn Nickel of She Recovers. I found out what she was doing and I was hooked. I wanted some of that! So I signed up for a certification course, really just thinking that I would be kept busy and that it would help my sobriety. And maybe I’d coach a few people along the way. But I’m a really good addict, lol, and I don’t do anything halfway. Soon I found myself in 100%. Now I’m in a 6-month mentorship learning how to be a super coach. I went straight for the LLC, the Instagram takeover, the website….I want to reach as many as possible and help end shame and stigma, and help everyone on their journey to finding radical self-love.

OK… the “female sobriety scene” is pretty active & intense… How do you feel about that? Who has been inspirational for you? How so?

Well, this is kind of embarrassing….but I’m not really involved in the female sober scene. In fact, I feel like I was the last to hear about “Hip Sobriety” Holly Whitaker and the Home podcast etc. It wasn’t until May of 2017 that I came across She Recovers and learned that there was a place solely for women. I mean, I didn’t even realise how badly I NEEDED it. Now I think it’s essential!

I don’t do 12 step programs, but I do go to women’s’ only 12 step meetings at least once a month just for the companionship.

We need it. We need it to recover from the Mommy Wine Scene that took over our lives and brainwashed us for years.

Recover & Rise – what’s in it for people who may be interested in getting involved?

Life and recovery coaching for your Highest Wellbeing! Thinking about getting sober? Been sober a while but keep relapsing? Been sober a hundred years but still holding on to shame that’s keeping you from getting that awesome new job, changing relationships, enjoying life, or even being kind to yourself? I can help. I can be your cheerleader and your source of empowerment.

You’ll get a system, support and accountability to go after the goals you’ve always wanted, and to co-create the vision you didn’t even know you had! I work with women (so far no guys….) who consider themselves clean, sober, recoverycurious, and “normies” alike.

My foundation is mindfulness, so you’ll get a lot of that with me. I’m a nurse and I love science!

MRI proves mindfulness changes our brains and I’m proof that it works. So that’s a big part of my work with people.

Tell us about how you trained… you know, the She Recovers “thing”… what’s that all about? Is that something people across the pond might want to be involved with?

She Recovers is not the accredited coaching certification…I trained with International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches (IAPRC) in a dual program – LIFE and RECOVERY COACH (CPC/CPRC) They have a partnership with She Recovers, where you do an extra module of training time online to learn the guiding principles of SR. Because of that, I get to be designated by them and I follow their guide personally and professionally. She Recovers is a place for women by women. We believe that ALL are recovering from something, and support women by hosting retreats, local meet-ups, and a thriving Facebook group.

They are based in Victoria and have satellite startups in other cities like Seattle. I hope to be a bigger part of this in the future….ahem…Dawn if you’re reading ☺ Send me to BALI!

But seriously. They’re conquering the world with compassion and I found my home with them. Across the pond …..please jump in with us!!! We are changing recovery one woman at a time. She recovers is so accepting and loving and open …everything that recovery should be. No stigma, no shame, no dogma. Just love and open arms. (www.sherecovers.co and I’m now listed as an official coach on their site!!)

Interestingly, there’s not so much help for us blokes in this arena… what do you think that is?

Um really? Do you want to talk about this for real? What do you mean? Everything is for you blokes. AA is for men by men. I mean have you read them in the daily devotional…there’s a little tiny section that says “for the wives”.

Every program I’ve been a part of is a big group of men and 3 women. Men have more addiction problems statistically, but women are catching up. As in everything else…recovery started JUST FOR MEN. All the books and all the treatment centres were created with you guys in mind.

Ok, maybe that’s a little judgey and biased. […] But if you need something “just for guys” I always say check out Jason Mackenzie out of Toronto. He’s doing amazing things on the forefront – he runs Mental Health Warriors and wrote The Daily Book of Open (he has podcast, website, book etc). He’s trying to create a big safe space for men to become vulnerable in recovery. (in fact, I talked with him long before he made it big, and he was going to have me on his podcast, but he quickly surpassed me. Now he ONLY works with guys. Hmmmm)

Getting there now… if anyone wants to get involved with you and Recover & Rise – what should they do, and what should they expect?

To find me……Right now I mostly work 1:1 with women, (but I’m not sexist, I’ll work with guys too!) and I’m creating some workshops for small groups as well.

Together, we’ll decide if 28 days, 90 days or 6 months is the best fit for your needs and then tailor the plan from there. You can email me Tiffany@recoverandrise.com, you can follow me @scrubbedcleanrn (Instagram and Twitter) you can check out my website www.recoverandrise.com and my more personal blog www.scrubbedcleanrn.com

What to expect? Expect to find RADICAL SELF LOVE!!! Like “almost uncomfortable, I’m not quite ready but I know I need it RADICAL self-love”. Expect to question your long lasting self-limiting beliefs and work on letting them go. And expect me to be there with you, showing extraordinary compassion and loving kindness and meeting you exactly where you are – openly and without any judgment.

And finally… what’s next for you, for TIFFANY?

SO. MANY. THINGS. But the really exciting thing is the book. I’m working on my first book proposal, being coached by someone pretty fancy; one of my favourite podcast leaders and NY Times best-selling author Anna David. My dream is to travel around in that really cool van and write and coach and help others find self-acceptance and love – to help others believe in themselves. And I really really want to help healthcare professionals in particular – to prevent our addictions and get us treatment way sooner. That’s where the book comes in. I’m turning my big shameful secret of being a real-life Nurse Jackie into a success story by being SOBER OUT LOUD – all in the name of hopefully saving another nurses life.

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About our interviewee, Tiff Swedeen.

Tiffany has lived a series of experiences that many would call mistakes, but she considers practice.

As a nurse and certified life & recovery coach, Tiffany writes about her adventures as a part of her healing journey, in hopes to empower others.

Travelling as much as possible in her VW camper van, Tiffany aims to conquer the world with compassionate mindfulness.

She lives in a small town with her beloved canine Cassie the Wonder Dog, and is mother to one magnificent daughter who’s trying out the big wide world for herself.

You can catch more from Tiffany on her website, or follow her on IG/Twitter @scrubbedcleanrn

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