Waiting to Be Seen for Who You Really Are?

Sharing the newest post on my new blog, The Kind Self-Healing Project.

The process of becoming aware of what we’re actually thinking takes practice. Yet there are great rewards. The value in catching our thoughts is the gateway to becoming self-aware. Anyone who is on a journey of personal growth must become self-aware; it’s an essential step in becoming lighter, less reactive, and less weighed down by the conditioned self.

Come over and read my post, here!

Waiting to be seen for who you really are blog post


Processed with Rookie Cam

Hero (noun): “the chief character in a story, play, or life who is greatly admired for how she overcomes obstacles.” #AHeroThrives.

This story is Alyx’s story. Her essay follows our Q&A.

Who is Alexandrea Holder? Alyx is a South Florida native working toward a double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. Through her work with Harbor Village Rehabilitation in Miami, FL she has garnered valuable insight and experiences which she applies to her work and personal life. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.

Amy Eden:  How did you put two and two together to understand that your mom’s addictions & family history had a role in your own emotional health and habits in adulthood? What came together for that to click?

Alyx:   In looking back on my childhood, I slowly came to realize that the things that happened were not ‘normal’ behavior. I realized that my own insecurities and low sense of self was a direct product of the environment I was in and watching my mother accept the poor treatment she received.

I would say my ‘ah ha’ was an argument I had with my mother regarding the care of my younger brother (for a few years he and I lived alone in an apartment my father paid the rent for). It just hit me how twisted my life had become and I remember thinking “this is not how life is supposed to be.” After that I began to realize how profound my communication and self-worth issues were and that I needed to do something about it.

Amy Eden:   What is one thing you do in your daily life to keep yourself from progressing towards the same fate as the women in your family?

Alyx:   My mother is constantly on my mind. I want to prove to her that she did the best she could raising me despite her own poor example of what child rearing should be. She saved me from the childhood she had to endure and I want to show her it was not in vein.

Amy Eden:   What would you like to say to others feeling “different from other people” who haven’t  yet connected the dots like you did about their family and addiction, words of guidance or reassurance for who may be suffering from something they haven’t yet defined?

Alyx:   Exploring your own mental health state is exceedingly important for everyone — even if you don’t have a diagnosable mental health disorder. I myself am taking endeavors to speak with a therapist to try to delve into the issues in my past so that I don’t have to carry them into my future. My number one piece of advice would be that: understand that your past does not have to dictate your future. You are in the driver’s seat.


The Rippling Effects of Substance Abuse
by Alexandrea Holder


I’ve never written about this.

Most of the people in my life know nothing about it, yet here I am, penning an entire article about the dirty little secret my family adamantly ignores as much as possible.

Whenever we gather, there’s an elephant in the room. I grew up with him.

For the first decade or so of my life I didn’t even know he was there. All I knew was that there was something that kept my mother’s side of the family disjointed and angry. Over the years I managed to catch tiny tidbits of the stories; little pieces of information I was never meant to know, but I learned anyway. I got in trouble quite a few times for being in “grown folks business.”

What I learned was this:

  • At some point, my mother and her many siblings were placed in foster care before going to live with her grandmother.
  • There were hushed accounts of molestation and incestuous rape that everyone skated around and avoided like the plague.
  • My mother and her siblings were subjected to severe abuse, including being locked in a closet, burned, beaten, and left unattended for days at a time.
  • My grandmother was addicted to drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

None of these things made sense when I was younger; it wasn’t until my teenage years that I began to really understand.

When I was eleven I met a woman named Queen for the very first time. She was introduced to me by my cousin as ‘auntie Queen’ and I remember feeling uneasy around her whenever she was around, which honestly wasn’t often. Queen dressed strangely- always in at least three layers of clothes. I recall thinking it was so strange that she wore a beat-up old coat in the middle of Florida summers.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.04.50 PMI remember my mother being upset that I had been around Queen but not really understanding it. She was so angry; there was furious yelling like I’d never heard before, and my home was hardly a silent one. I remember being told to never be alone with her or another recently introduced member of my extended family — an uncle.

I remember being alone with that uncle. I remember suddenly understanding why I was supposed to stay away from him.

When I was about 14, I was blindsided by a revelation: Queen was not my aunt, she was my grandmother. It made no sense to me, then, but looking back it should have. My mother and I called the same woman grandma — of course she was actually my great-grandmother. Her name was Virginia and she was a powerhouse, the loving and gracious. I miss her dearly at the strangest times.

My mother sat me down just once to explain what happened in her childhood. She told me about the neglect and abuse she and her siblings endured at the hand of their mother, under the influence of drugs and a (then undiagnosed) mental illness. She told me about taking the brunt of it as the oldest in order to protect the younger kids. She terrified me and broke my heart in one go.

Not long after that, my mother left. In the middle of the day, she was shipped off in the back of a police car and immediately Baker Acted (Baker Act). She had written a letter to a friend, confessing that she was on the verge of suicide. She told her friend she would take my brother and I with her, so we wouldn’t suffer without her. Her friend saved our lives by calling the cops before we ever got home from school.

To be honest, I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 1.56.21 PMThat began a tumultuous period in my life, filled with powerful emotional pain and confusion as my mother was in and out of mental health hospitals, trying to finally deal with the demons in her past. I remember being so angry; so terrified; so lost. I harbored that anger for a long, long time. To be honest, I still haven’t been able to address it with my mother, even though I am no longer angry. I have abandonment and trust issues, and a gnawing fear for my own mental health because of what happened through my childhood and teenage years.

That’s the saga of Queen. That’s what addiction does — even generations removed.

The damage isn’t limited to my corner of the family. Though my mother has proven strong enough to forgive the woman who never asked for it, most of her brothers and sisters were not able to do so. Three of my mother’s siblings developed substance abuse disorders. One of my aunts- a twin to my uncle — died due to HIV complications after contracting the virus through needle sharing. I ache for her daughter, even though she is older than I am.

Virginia, the woman I will forever call my grandmother, died three years ago. I haven’t seen Queen since the funeral; she’s now living with one of my uncles and his wife.

As far as I know she has been sober for at least a decade now. In a weird way I’m proud of her, yet I feel like she is a stranger. I don’t know if she thinks of me as anything different. I’m not sure I want her to. But I would be lying if I said she didn’t play an important role in my life, even if she was absent of much of it: she is the very reason I lead a sober life.

I’m sure she never imagined her life turning out the way that it did. For my grandmother, my mother, and yes, even for her, I am doing the best I can to make sure I don’t follow her.



Read more of Alyx’s writing on the blog at Harbor Village Rehabilitation.

How Taking ‘No’ for an Answer Can Build Intimacy

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.23.09 AMThe Good Men Project just published my article on how to navigate personal boundaries – read it here, “How Taking No for an Answer Can Build Intimacy

“There’s a difference between a ‘No’ that pushes away and a ‘No’ that shows you who someone is.”


For each type of relationship—those with friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, and romantic partners—there are a variety of boundary types to consider. We usually think of physical boundaries, like sex, when we think about boundaries, but that’s only a start: Professional boundaries, spiritual boundaries, intellectual boundaries, financial boundaries, social boundaries, physical boundaries, sexual boundaries, etc.

You might be impinging on someone’s personal boundaries if you are:

  • Insistent – pushing gifts or favors onto others
  • Performing – having sex as a show rather than for intimacy and pleasure
  • Falling fast – latching onto the love that comes rather than the love you want
  • Dictating – telling someone who they are or what they need
  • Needy – wanting someone to fill your needs automatically
  • Impatient – demanding an answer because you want it now

If you’re in a relationship that’s on the spectrum of codependency or dysfunction, you’ve probably already waded into the territory of pushing and violating one another’s boundaries. Maybe your partner has given into you because he or she is afraid you will leave if they don’t — or because they’re avoiding confronting reasons to leave the relationship.

Resentment is the hallmark feeling that results when we’re asked to do something that we feel isn’t right, preceded or accompanied by feeling disregarded:

  • We feel disrespected
  • We feel like we don’t counting, we’re considered ‘less than’
  • We feel voiceless, invisible
  • We fear that we’re insufficient, not enough for you as we are
  • These are feelings you probably don’t want a person you care about to feel. And these are feelings that you don’t especially want to feel. Resentment festers like bacteria and erodes the grace and goodwill that loving relationships require.

Read the full full article.  


Amy Eden is the author of The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion



Self-Care is Not Selfishness, it’s One’s Lifeblood

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 2.45.07 PMYou cannot indulge in too much self-care over the holidays.

You don’t have to become a flickering bulb that has lost its vitality. 

Keep your fuse fully charged, even if for the first time in your life. Don’t keep pushing, trying to rally, and going, going, going until you’re running ragged and awaiting one of two occurrences:  To finally become extinguished or for someone else to notice you need help.

Signs that you are overdue for some self-care:

- you’ve become quiet
- you secretly want to escape
- you’re over-consuming sugar
- you’re feeling impatient
- you’re feeling irritable
- you’re tired!

Before you get to that flickering-bulb state, take care of yourself. You already know what makes you feel most cared for — you have permission to act on that knowledge. What do you need? Listen to yourself, listen to whatever answer comes.

A few starter ideas:

* turn off your phone
* take walk
* sit on your front steps
* Be with a friend
* take a bath
* take a drive
* get a massage
* write down your feelings
* engage in active self-reflection (“Why might I be feeling this way?” And “What can I do to tend to my innermost needs?”)
* Breathe

Everyone else is responsible for their own needs. Everyone else has a voice with which to communicate their needs. So just worry about you.

Amy Eden

5 Nourishing Choices for a Drama-Free Holiday Season

Book SaladJoyful holidays spiced and flavored to your liking are within reach!

By Rayne Wolfe and Amy Eden

We believe that you want to enjoy the holidays, so we’re sharing our five best tips with you in the form of a holiday menu.

Above all, your mind frame will make the difference between a holiday season with potential for newness and one that inevitably repeats the past. The mind frame that makes room for spontaneity and your ability to enjoy celebrating the holidays is this: I have a choice.

Don’t be a reindeer in the headlights! You are not a prisoner of other people’s holiday celebrations or other people’s assumptions about what makes the holidays legitimate, nor a sleepwalker repeating the past—because you have a choice. Rather than hunker down, go numb, and survive the holidays as only a partially present person, be an actor in your own wonderful life story.

Rayne: Thanksgiving Day for my San Francisco family meant skipping turkey or ham and having Chinese take-out instead. My darling step-mom Robbie loved scooping Hong Kong Flower Garden main dishes from their white paper cartons into gleaming chafing dishes lined up on her mahogany dining table.

My folks welcomed friends and family from noon to five. Plates of pot stickers and Princess shrimp were balanced on knees while wine toasts were shared. But not every holiday with family is so breezy and social. There can be stress, tears, and psychodrama—especially around our mammas.

Amy:  Christmases of my childhood were a cocktail of excitement and dread, common when parents are alcoholic and codependent. Since my mother was never spoken of in our house, when Christmas came, I was sure to intercept her presents from the postman and open them in hiding. I couldn’t risk reminding my dad, stepmom, and half-siblings that I wasn’t really one of them. An eerie Christmas Eve family tradition was watching the three-hour Ingmar Bergman “Christmas” film, Fanny and Alexander. The film portrays the childhood of Swedish siblings Fanny and Alexander, whose lives are darkened by an abusive stepfather. Singing carols, hanging ornaments, and wrapping presents delighted me, still, I never ceased waiting for the other shoe to drop.

As an adult, much of my healing work around enjoying the holidays has been to honor a few select traditions while testing out new ones year by year, using my voice and arms to convey love and appreciation for others, and detaching from the myth that love is measured in gifts.


Holiday Menu
We’ve created a five-item menu to keep you nourished all season long. Amy and Rayne’s insights will help you rise above toxic family dynamics. Note: You may want to skip dessert this year.


Holidays In-Real-Life Soup
A light, should-free and comparison-free broth

Are you falling for the trap of comparing your holiday celebrations to a standard set by television and movies? Somewhere between the loving Baileys in It’s a Wonderful Life and the fractured family of Home For The Holidays, lays the truth about family gatherings. They can be splendid and frightening, uplifting or anger inducing. Madison Avenue wants us to believe all holiday gatherings are happy, loving and deeply meaningful. The truth is, sometimes the best part of traveling home is petting the neighbor’s dog.

What defines your homecoming experience is your frame of reference. Theodore Roosevelt cautioned us to remember that, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If your family get-togethers lean more towards the catfish throwing in August: Osage County rather than the love story of Miracle on 34th Street, I suggest becoming your own home-for-the-holidays director. You can pick and choose where you go, whom you see, and how you pass the day. You can expand the good bits, edit the scary stuff, allowing for emotional ups and downs, and walk away content, rather than shell shocked.

Amy’s tip! Should-test all holiday activities. For each holiday plan you’re considering, ask yourself, “Is this _____ (activity, purchase, invitation, etc.) something I think I should be doing to meet expectations, or something I genuinely want?”

Rayne’s tip! Consider bringing a friend along. People who regularly behave badly are less likely to do so when there is a stranger at the table. Plus, you’ll have a friend to do something fun with if you decide to leave early.

Plan & Budget Salad
A mind-clearing plate of carefully selected greens for every budget  

If holiday gatherings usually end in arguments or tears, plan only a brief visit to wish all well.  Deliver pie, place presents, make toasts—and when your internal timer goes off, leave. It will feel scary, but if you follow your game plan, you will minimize stress and maybe save enough time to visit other people you love (who love you back). Set a reasonable budget, so that you don’t anxiously over-do gift giving.

Some budget-friendly practices: Buy one present for a whole family; give baked goods, socks, or calendars, rather than vases, linens or jewelry; officially cancel gifts this year or do a White Elephant/Yankee Swap; make homemade cards. Cultivate self-respect through the act of looking eyes-wide-open at your bank account.

Rayne’s tip! If you’ve always spent an entire weekend, consider reducing it to one overnight. And don’t be shy about allotting time to do something you’ve always wanted to do, especially if it’s on your Bucket List.

Amy’s tip! Sketch out the chronology of your holiday festivities, adding two additional columns: In one column, record the feelings you want to feel during each activity and in the second column, list an alternate plan, or escape plan, for each activity.


Emotion-Balancing Roast
This complex dish contains both spicy and warming elements
All ingredients were grown in our childhood gardens

No one feels pure joy during the holidays, not even elves. Remember Hermie? He was the frustrated elf who got no joy from working in Santa’s workshop hammering wooden toys—he longed to become a dentist. So, please, drop your self-imposed expectations to feel only a few positive feelings this holiday season. It’s this time of year in particular that past disappointments like to haunt us—don’t ignore the ghost of what-your-childhood-wasn’t this year. Stop fighting it. Acknowledge your inner Hermie. Acknowledge the kaleidoscope of feelings within, the grief, sadness and joy, all of it! Thoughts like, “I should be over this by now” or “Nobody wants a miserable house guest” are rejections of your inner-self trying to speak up. This year, listen. Make room for everything you actually feel, remind yourself that holiday grief is normal, and take an emotional inventory as you navigate parties, houses and gift giving.

Rayne’s tip! You’ll know you are healing over past family drama when you begin to see the humor in the patterns. Does your mother always make fun of your cooking skills? That kind of behavior is often generational. So, when your mom makes snide comments about your watery gravy, imagine your 1880’s era great-great-great-grandmother tearing down your 1920’s flapper great-great-grandmother’s lumpy gravy. If that thought makes you smile—you win.

Amy’s tip! Grieve. Grieving the past not only acknowledges the hurt child within but also frees up your spirit so that you can respond new sources of joy.


Toxic Pie
Toxic pie is an heirloom recipe perfected by your mother,
passed down from her mother, her mother’s mother…
Pairs well with hemlock tea  

(Skipping dessert is recommended.)

Some toxic people take great delight—you might even say, feed on—seeing you upset. Nobody can serve up drama like the people who changed your diapers. When toxic moms goad their adult children into emotional outbursts, it seems nearly like a moment of triumph for them. One trick Rayne has offered the Toxic Mom Toolkit community is to think of the piece of toxic pie being served as a hand grenade. Your mother (or estranged sibling or former spouse or frenemy) may go to great lengths to pull the pin and watch you melt down. But what if you imagined an extra pin in your magic pocket? What if when you felt like screaming you visualized replacing that pin and just smiling like the Mona Lisa? Staying calm, smiling and breathing when someone wants desperately to provoke you is how you rise above the drama. You might need a pocketful of pins this holiday season—that’s okay—hold out your hand—we’ll give you as many as you need.

Amy’s tip! Avoid drinking, commiserating about painful shared histories, and be prepared to duck or side-step jabs or provocations.

Rayne’s tip!  If you travel far away for the visit, plan what you will do if you decide to leave early. If you don’t have a rental car, have the number of a taxi service already in your pocket. Heaven forbid you spend a peaceful evening at the movies.


Ample Self-Restoration Vermouth
Nutrient-rich and nourishing, this digestion-stimulating drink is a staff favorite
Enjoy with a squeeze of self-regard

We rarely take time to reflect on the holidays once they’ve wrapped up. We instead heave a sigh of relief and throw ourselves right back into our normal routines. This year, take time to reflect on your holidays. A few minutes of reflection during your flight home or while you’re brushing your teeth won’t do the trick. We suggest setting aside ample time to reflect on what occurred, to consciously restore your spirit. This could take the form of journaling, talking with your closest friends, or doubling-up on therapy appointments for a couple weeks. Schedule coffee dates with friends for after the holidays now. Here’s the thing:  Knowing that you will be able to confide in friends after the holidays creates a lighthouse to keep you on course during the holidays. Our true selves (hiding deep inside) need to be honored if we are to return to the wonderful life we deserve.

Rayne’s tip! Holidays with family can be exhausting. Sobe extra kind to yourself in the weeks following New Years. Give yourself permission to say “no,” or “I can’t this time” until you are ready to resume your busy schedule.

Amy’s tip!  Return to your spiritual practice as soon as possible after the holidays, whether it is writing, art making, yoga or meditation.

Peace on Earth. Happy holidays!


Rayne Wolfe bio photo
Amy Eden_typewriter shirtAmy Eden, author of “The Kind Self-Healing Book” and Rayne Wolfe, author of “Toxic Mom Toolkit” collaboratively wrote this special non-toxic holiday post. For more information about surviving the family drama trifecta: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years or family dysfunction in general, visit Rayne’s blog at www.toxicmomtoolkit.com and Amy’s blog at www.guesswhatnormalis.com

P.S.  Let us know about your holiday plans by posting a comment!