Live Well Choose Life with Anita Wilson

Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and today’s guest is Anita Wilson.

Anita Wilson writes under the pen name Alias in Town which is an anagram of her name, Anita Wilson but purposely chosen because in every town there are alias people suffering from chronic illness, depression, suicidal thoughts or addiction. Anita is one of those people. A Christian in recovery for addiction and a suicide attempt living with chronic illness but she has the audacity to say, “I am well.” She will share her story on today’s podcast.

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Transcript:

SHELLEY. Welcome back to the Broken Crayons Still Color podcast! I’m your host, Shelley Hitz and today’s guest is Anita Wilson. Welcome, Anita.

ANITA.  Hi! Thank you.

SHELLEY. Anita Wilson also writes under the pen name Alias in Town, which is an anagram of her name Anita Wilson. Purposefully she chose that because she believes that in every town there are aliases – people suffering from chronic illness, depression, suicidal thoughts, or addiction.

Anita is one of those people. A Christian in recovery from addiction and a suicide attempt living with chronic illness. But, she has the audacity to say, “I am well.”

So, she will share her story on today’s podcast.

As we jump into your story Anita, tell us just a little bit about what the broken crayons in your life looked like.

ANITA. I feel like if I look at my life overall, I feel like I was given a really big blessing. I was given the big box of 96 crayons.

SHELLEY. Yeah, great!

ANITA. But, there was some sexual molestation as a child, and that broke some crayons. I was a pastor’s kid, so I lived with the expectations of that. And that broke some crayons when I had a teen pregnancy.

More and more crayons started breaking when I was in my mid-thirties. I was diagnosed with a rare chronic illness, and over time that illness became worse. And you could just hear the crayons snapping as I grew frustrated over all the changes in my life.

There were unanswered prayers for healing, the grief of losing my career and having to resign from a leadership position in my church. As the illness progressed, it all just stripped that all away. I also felt that I was breaking the crayons of my children because I couldn’t be the mom they needed to be. My husband, he was losing a life partner.

So, twelve years later I had probably more broken crayons than I had whole crayons, and I completely gave up. I just came to the point where I just gave up completely on life.

SHELLEY. Wow, so what would you say was your lowest point during all of that?

ANITA. I got to the point where I was self-harming. I was cutting, and then I attempted suicide.

SHELLEY. Oh wow!

ANITA. I got to that point; it’s kind of a strange story. My illness was rare, is rare, and I had an online support group that I was working with. One of the people in the support group suggested to me when I was having an especially bad day of vertigo, that I take a shot of alcohol for it because alcohol is a suppressant of the nervous system.

So, I tried it, it worked, and so I thought, “Well, I’ll just start using this as part of my medication.”

The problem is the alcohol tolerance; one shot wasn’t enough, and then two shots, and then three shots.

SHELLEY. Right.

ANITA. I was using it to escape my reality more than I was using it for anything else. I got to the point where I was secretly drinking a whole liter of 100 proof alcohol every day.

SHELLEY. Wow.

ANITA. Yeah, it was bad. I was also abusing pain pills with that. So, I just got to the point that the depression became so great that I lost myself in it. And I actually got to the point where my depression deepened to the point where it was a dissociative depressive disorder.

So, I was associating with reality, and along with that same time frame, I was also ignoring all of my spiritual disciplines that I should have been paying attention to as a Christian.

I had quit praying because I was mad at God because I wasn’t healed. I had quit scripture study, and I had stopped attending church. I had just put myself into a place that I became completely lost.

SHELLEY. Wow.

ANITA. The morning that I woke up, the suicide attempt was I took a whole body of sleeping pills. I had just got the prescription refilled, with about a half a liter of alcohol.

I should not be here today. I don’t know how I survived it.

When I woke up the next morning, I was very angry. I was mad that I was still alive, that I was still a mess. I was still sick, I was still hopeless, I was still helpless, and I was just still here.

When I woke up from that my family was ready. They had my family and friends sitting in my living room, and they were there to do an intervention for me. When I walked into that room, I felt like I walked into this wall of love.

I don’t remember any of the words that were said to me during that intervention, but I remember the love in the room.

Love is a language that even an alcohol-soaked brain can understand, and I decided that I would choose life for them and I would choose life for me. I went into treatment right then.

SHELLEY. So, your lowest point almost sounds like it became part of your turning point too.

Would you say that’s true?

ANITA. I would. It was true. It became a turning point at the beginning of it, and there were two specific things that helped me as well.

The first one was what I believe to be a miracle. I was in the psychiatric hospital, and my mind was just not functioning correctly. I couldn’t understand conversations, I couldn’t put thoughts together, but miraculously I was hearing in my mind, as clear as day, scriptures being flooded to me over and over and over again.

The words of hymns, they would just be flooding my mind. Those were clear and concise thoughts.

I remember I would go into the bathroom at the hospital and sit on the floor in front of the toilet, because I didn’t want to wake up my roommate, not turn the light on and disturb her, and I just wrote in my journal over and over those scriptures.

So, that was one part of the turning point.

Another one was when I got home from the hospital, I took out about ten years’ worth of journal entries. Going through them, I realized I had a real problem with surrender. I had taken back; whenever I had gotten into sticky situations, I would take that control rather than letting God work through the problem for me.

As I saw that pattern emerging from my journal entries, I just prayed. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed that God would help me and teach me to surrender.

I would say that the biggest turning point was that point, that prayer, when I said, “I need to surrender. I need to surrender my illness; I need to stop fighting it. I need to surrender to whatever God’s will is for me, whatever it is. I need to just accept it and surrender to it.”

SHELLEY. Yeah, and I think it’s interesting because you said you went back and look through your journals and you found common threads, you found that common theme of what it was.

That’s where journaling can be so helpful. We can look back and not only that we can also see the victories and be reminded of what God said or did in different times. Just that whole process of surrender – my mom is a Christian counselor, and she’s like, “almost every turning point in our lives starts with surrender.”

It’s just so powerful when we realize; I told someone the other day, I had to recognize and resign from trying to be General Manager of the Universe. I’m not in control. I never was, and just being willing to recognize that and start surrendering that to the Lord.

So, those were some really big turning points for you. How long have you been in recovery now from that point?

ANITA. That happened in 2012, so six years ago. It took months to recover, for my brain to heal and my body to heal. You know, with that suicide attempt, there was relationship healing that needed to happen as well.

All of that took months and months honestly – a lot of hard work, a lot of surrenders. It’s what God wanted from me, and humility to be able to say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the bad choices that I made; I’m sorry for allowing those choices to take me so deep into the depressive state that I was in.”

My friends and family have been so gracious. In a situation like that, you could get a lot of scolding, but that’s not what happened, I received support and love, and from my church too.

SHELLEY. That’s such a gift. I love how when you said when you woke up from the suicide attempt that you don’t remember the words, but you remember the love. People will remember that.

If someone is listening right now and has family members that are struggling or friends that are in a hard time, that’s what they’ll remember is your support, your love, and your care for them in the middle of it.

A lot of times we just need someone to listen, to hug us, and to just be there. We’re not expecting others to fix it. There are times that people can give Godly advice and wisdom, but a lot of times it’s that presence and love

ANITA. Presence, yeah. The presence of another person who loves you is willing to listen to you be your authentic self. So many times, we wear so many masks in our life, and the chance to be authentic and real with someone who is going to be accepting and loving of you is such a gift.

SHELLEY. It is. Now, six years past that turning point and a lot of it began with some of your chronic illness and being in that. Where are you at with your chronic illness today?

ANITA. My chronic illness remains. I still have two to three days a week where I am completely out of commission, and my physical state has not changed. I say that I am well because my physical state does not define how my state of being is.

My physical state is just that, but my spiritual and emotional health comes from the source of my life, which is Jesus Christ. And nothing can separate me from that – not life, nor death, nor powers in Heaven or on Earth, nothing.

SHELLEY. Amen.

ANITA. I can say I am well because what the core of me, the thing that really makes me who I am, is well, regardless of my physical being.

SHELLEY. I love that. You have a saying, “live well choose life”. You have chosen to live well, despite the circumstances, and to choose life in the midst of hardships and darkness.

Many times, our circumstances may not change, but we can still change in the midst of those circumstances.

So, if you could give one piece of advice or encouragement to others who may be in this situation or who may have friends or family in a situation similar to yours, what would it be?

ANITA. I would go back to my mantra, live well choose life.

There is a scripture in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 that says, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…”

I would just submit to you that we chose life or death every day. Even the small decisions that we make, those small decisions vector us towards life or death. For example, you could turn off your television and go for a walk instead. That seems like a minuscule thing but that’s really choosing life, and it’s a small decision.

When I started drinking to force my vertigo I was choosing death.

So, I would say, choose life in the everyday decisions that you make, and you need to stay on that narrow path.

SHELLEY. It’s hard, but it’s the day-to-day. I’ve read several books and one of them is called the Compound Effect, and there was another one. They talk about those small, seemingly insignificant, decisions that you make over time.

They gave an example of if you just ate 100 extra calories a day or exercised and burned an extra 100 calories a day, those two decisions are very close, and it’s not a huge difference.

Over time the one is going to cause you to really gain a bunch of weight, and the other is going to help keep you healthy. It’s just that small, small decision every single day, consistently over time.

I think one of the things you said early on was when you were in that dark place, you stopped reading the bible, you stopped going to church, and you stopped doing the things you knew would help.

Sometimes we’re just in those moments, we’re just in those times that it’s just really, really hard. Keeping those habits and those relationships that give us life, it’s so important, even when we don’t feel like it. Right?

ANITA. When you don’t feel like it, you have to do it. That’s one of the things that I learned in therapy. The coping mechanisms that you learn that work for you, you can’t base that on whether or not you feel like doing it.

You have to choose to do those things and incorporate those as disciplines into your life so that you can manage the stresses and the things that cause you to go downhill. Choose those spiritual disciplines, and other disciplines, that help with stressors.

For me it’s art. The things that I do that relieves stresses is art. I paint and draw. I do bible journaling, which is like the “in” thing right now.

I’m not sure if I answered the question or not, but just staying the course with that and being consistent about the things that you need to do whether you feel like it or not.

SHELLEY. Yeah, that’s good. Art has really been such an integral part of my life in the last few years of providing self-care. IT is such a great option. Music is great, and exercise. There are so many different things that can provide that.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. If our listeners want to connect with you or want to know more about you, how do they find you online?

ANITA. I have a website called AliasInTown.com and I’ve written a book called “Well” that tells my story. It actually has the journal entries that I talked about earlier in that book, along with original artwork and some short essays that tell the story.

That can be found on Amazon.com, just search for Well Alias in Town, you’ll find it. If you want to email me, that would be great too, it’s AnitaMarieWilson@AliasInTown.com. I love to hear from people. Anytime I can share the story of what God has done in my life is an opportunity.

SHELLEY. Yes, that’s awesome. I hope that those of you who have connected with Anita and her story, reach out to her and read her book, and just be encouraged by her testimony. Thank you so much, Anita, for sharing your life and your testimony, it’s just another example of how God can turn our messes into masterpieces.

Now, you’re sharing that story and you’re impacting so many people, more than you probably even know, with that story of hope. So, thank you so much for sharing today.

ANITA. Oh, you’re very welcome, it’s my privilege.

SHELLEY. I just appreciate all of you that are listening for joining us today as well.

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