Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey



Lessions From My 12 Step Meeting

On this episode of BrainStorm: I share about gratitude and the lessons I learn from my 12 step meeting.


Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

Save My Life School: Here

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by

Addiction’s Voice

On this episode of BrainStorm: I share how addiction whispers in my ear even when I work hard to not have it doing so. 


Daily Lessons from Save My Life School: Here

Save My Life School: Here


BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by


My Perspective on Boredom

On this episode of BrainStorm: How I battle boredom, My spiritual awakening while at rehab, Gratitude for monotony, Special interview announcement, and more…

Pre-order my New Book: Here

Get Save My Life School: Here


Brain Storm by Paramedic Nat is proudly produced by


Sunshine Blogger Award Winner – ME!

sunshine blogger

Hello everyone,

I have some cool news to share! By nomination from Dr. David Susman PhD, a clinical psychologist and mental health advocate in Lexington, Kentucky, I have received a Sunshine Blogger Award! Pretty cool eh?

Get to Know These 11 Awesome Advocates! | David Susman PhD

Thank you so much to Dr. Susman for the nomination! I LOVE reading your blog ( and am so honoured to have been chosen by you 😀

Every nominee has the responsibility of answering the following questions. Here goes:

What is the most important thing to you? Definitely my family and friends. They continue to help me through my recovery of mental health illness and addiction every day!

If you could go anywhere right now, where would it be? Hmmmm…I would have to say for a haircut! Love you ID Salon on Collier St in Barrie, Ontario!

What’s your favourite thing about blogging? It’s like medicine for my soul. I look forward to snuggling into my bed with a coffee beside me, ready to let the words in my brain tumble out onto the computer keys. I couldn’t imaging not blogging now.

What’s your favourite thing about yourself? My ability to love and my desire to help as many people as I possibly can in this blink-of-an-eye we call life.

What has been your biggest challenge in life so far? My recovery from post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and alcoholism. Challenging…but well worth the fight!

Do you believe in love at first sight? Wow, this is a random question. Romantic love…no. Love for my children…absolutely without a doubt!

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Hopefully still writing…but on a beach-house porch somewhere away from Canada’s ‘roll you up in a snowball, and through you to the curb’ winters. Love you Canada…but not what your 9 months of winter does to my oh so difficult to obtain summer tan!

How many languages do you speak? A few actually. Try-to-reason-with-a-nine-year-old is my first language. I’m also fluent in Moderate-the-mood-swings-of-a-19-year-old. Oh…and english.

What do you think is your best post so far? Link it.

What’s your favourite quote? “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.” ~Helen Keller

If you could recommend one fellow blogger for me to follow, who would it be? And why? Tim Grutzius:   Tim is a fire fighter for Alsip Fire Department in Chicago who writes about his experience with post traumatic stress and his pathway to recovery. His posts are eloquent and powerful, and provide concise and practical tips on how to find a balanced life after trauma.

Now I will nominate my choices for a Sunshine Blogger’s Award!

1. Tim Grutzius

2. Kate Gillie

3. Mike van Mil

4. The Persistent Platypus

5. Freud & Fashion

6. Anxious Accessories

7. Refractory Ramblings From The Darkside

8. Jacob Moore

Thank you again for this amazing acknowledgement! Until the next blog…bye for now.




My Incredible Experience as a 12-Step Speaker


One of the most amazing gifts I have been given as of late, was the opportunity to be the ‘speaker’ at my dear friend’s 1 year recovery celebration. It’s sort of a big deal being asked to share your experience, strength and hope with fellow 12-step members. And being that I only have 10 months of recovery, I was SO surprised when she asked me, and of course I excitedly said yes!

Like I have mentioned before, 12-step meetings are not what most people imagine. Movies and television portray their environment as glum, and dreary. They make it seem as if we don’t want to be there, and that we are all unemployed and depressed. Now to be fair, there are some unemployed and depressed people who attend meetings, but there are unemployed, depressed people everywhere. Painting every 12-step member with that paintbrush is simply not even close to realistic. After following the steps, and embracing the promises the program has to offer, we don’t ‘white-knuckle’ our way through a sad, recovery life like many people may think. In fact, many of us, if not most, enjoy happy and fulfilling lives without the obsession of mind for our vice at all; lives which we never believed were possible! At Homewood I could have saved myself a whole lot of grief if I had clued in earlier to the fact that these 12-step programs actually work when I learned that there are over 300 types of these programs around the world addressing more addictions and emotional illnesses than you can imagine!…but ‘learning the hard way’ and I were BFF’s back then. Insert ‘what was I thinking’ head shake. 

The night I was the ‘speaker’ was extra special because I brought a friend, my daughter, and her boyfriend to the meeting to hear me speak. It was so nice to be able to show them what it was like behind the mysterious 12-step walls! And it was so wonderful to be able to introduce them to my friends and prove to them that we have fun and laugh and support one another more than most people could imagine. We’re a pretty fun bunch!… who knew right?

What a night it was! When I took to the podium, I was blessed to see 100 sets of smiling eyes starring back at me. I had an idea of what I would talk about, but decided to speak from my heart and let the words come to me naturally. So away I went, and over the next thirty minutes I was able to share the story of my alcoholic childhood and the battles I conquered while being a teenage single mom. I shared of my love of being a paramedic and how sadly a double murder call that I did in 2012 gave me PTSD which partially caused me to spiral into a deep depression, lose the love of my life, and almost cost me my life with a suicide attempt and multiple overdoses. I spoke of how this mental illness and my disease of alcoholism reeked havoc on my family and friends, and how I ended up almost completely alone with Children’s Aid restricting the contact I had with my son, and my daughter dangerously ill in the hospital. And with chilling memories running up and down my spine, I shared with the audience that less than 1 year ago my family had seriously discussed my funeral arrangements and planned what to do when I was gone…not if. 

Now I want to let you know, and possibly eradicate another false 12-step assumption, that the purpose of being a speaker at a 12-step meeting isn’t to glorify the bad that happened in our lives. On the contrary! It’s by sharing our journey that we are able to take pride in the magnitude of our recovery, and even more importantly, hopefully inspire others to continue with theirs. Being a speaker doesn’t involve puffing out your chest and showing how your struggle was worse than anyone else’s. It goes without saying that every participant in the room has fought the fight of their lives while suffocating under the darkness of their disease. Furthermore, sadly every 12-step goer in the room has been directly and/or indirectly affected by the loss of familiar faces who once shared their honest stories too; some lost to the return of the obsession of their vice, and more often than I had expected, some lost by death related to their disease.

As a speaker, the main purpose of sharing life-stories is to show that through the darkness their IS light! And as a speaker it was my honour to shout from the depths of my heart that a happy life in recovery IS POSSIBLE! I am LIVING testament to this fact! I was able to share how waking up in the morning is a gift. And how the feelings surrounding my heinous obsession with suicide are actually hard to even remember now. I was also able to share how I live my life mindfully with my Higher Power, God, leading the way. And how even though I still have nightmares in my unconscious sleep, I know that my conscious wakefulness will be filled with new found patience, peace and love. In short, I was able to share with so many surviving souls, that their strength and perseverance is WORTH IT, and that HOPE and LOVE are what will launch them into the ‘4th dimension’ of recovery FREEDOM!

How happy am I that I don’t need to hold a glass of wine up high to ‘cheers’ to my success’ anymore. On this very special night, I was given the gift to celebrate my success’ by holding my head up high instead.

100th Blog Post! & The Biggest Thing I’ve Learned


Well ladies and gentlemen, I am so excited to say that this is my 100th blog post! Over the past 10 months I have had the amazing privilege of sharing my whirlwind of life-experiences with almost 130,000 people! Definitely bold letter worthy!  I have learned SO MUCH throughout this experience. So many questions finally have answers, and I have peace in my heart and a love for life that I never thought was possible. So what would I say is the greatest lesson I have learned so far?… I would have to say that it would be learning the value of mindfulness throughout any answer-quest, and that it’s ok to be ok with just the questions themselves. Just as enjoying the experience of steeping your favourite tea in a steaming cup of hot water, is equally as important as enjoying the first sip, enjoying the moments while we steep our lives in our journey is equally as important enjoying the arrival of our destination. All too often, days travel by, and years roll away, while not noticing that we have become unaware of the tastes, sounds, feelings, smells and sights of this lifetime. In short, ‘mindfulness’ is often not on our minds. Us human-beings become so end-result focused that we forget to take time to enjoy when the yummy, ‘syrupy bits’ of the unknown ‘stick to us’. God I love that line!..provided by a dear friend, and movie star 😉 You know who you are.

If there were two ‘teams’ in life, team answer and team question, before this year I would have definitely rallied to be captain of team ‘answer’. I use to thrive on having answers, and it served me well in a lot of ways. If you needed a medical answer, BAM!…I loved being able to teach it to anyone! A parenting answer, BAM!…I thought had enough parenting experience that I was confident I could dole-out an excellent piece of advice. Financial answer, life answer, love answer…I thought that I was well enough versed in all of these things that my answers were ‘Ann Landers advice column’ quality! Even though having answers is an important  part of life, looking back now I can see that I was very answer-egotistical! Sure I liked questions and encouraged my students to ask them…but I liked having the answers even better.

Fast forward to this past year when my mountain of what I thought were solid, life-sustaining answers came tumbling down like a landslide! Blindsided, I thrashed with them across the rocks of naiveté, breaking my bones as I slid down the ruins of my life uncontrollably! I tried so hard to grab on to branches of small answers which I thought for sure would stop me from falling, only to feel them snap under the weight of my one-sided ignorance. Then crash, I landed, beaten and defeated, wondering how my life-sustaining answers were wrong for so long.

Picking myself up from the wreckage of life-answer ignorance was humbling beyond words. Even though I knew that my answer-ego was formed out of the best of intentions, realizing that I missed out on so many important steps along the way of my ‘life-science-experiment’ was a difficult pill to swallow. How ironic that it literally took many pills in the form of an overdose for me to learn to stop jumping from hypothesis to conclusion with barely any qualitative and quantitative analysis in between. Sadly, like a child rushing through their kindergarden experiment, I was missing out on so many important details in which the sprouting of love, hope, and happiness could teach me by being solely focused on the bean in the wet paper towel and the stalk at the end of the experiment instead. I’m happy to say that I’ve finally learned that every millimetre of the sprouting in between has so much of a story to tell as well.

It’s so liberating when you manage to feel accomplished even when you don’t figure out every last detail. When you finally realize that: I don’t need to play God, I don’t need to take control of everything and everybody and I don’t need to solve everything. Being at peace with the “why”, is what allows us to be at peace with growth and is sometimes the best part of this experiment we call life.

Let the growing continue! ❤

Selfish? or Self-care?


Selfish; a word which has evoked so many emotions in my life. Emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt, shame and most often confusion. I was told I was selfish a lot as a kid. Depending on the day, and the mood of the house, I have been told I was selfish when I wanted to show my achievements in school, such as my report card. I was told I was selfish when I needed a break from all of the responsibilities in my life. I was often told I was selfish whenever I wanted to better myself…and I didn’t understand why. This confusing emotion kept me questioning my own personal-growth motives for years. If I was told I was selfish for so long, I must be, right?

While moving through my 12-step program, I have come to realize how much my misconception of the word selfish has affected me. Deep down I knew that the word should be linked to a negative action, and not to taking care of myself. But because my feelings surrounding this word were so volatile and confusing, I moved through life on my tippy-toes, careful not to be selfish in anyone’s eyes ever again. I learned through trial and error who I could share my accomplishments with and who would be proud of me. For example, I learned months after I ‘lost’ my college report card that my brother Ross had had it in his wallet all along, and had been showing it to his friends because he was so proud of me. I learned that my colleagues were genuinely happy with my career advancements and didn’t see me as selfish at all. I learned that my kids were so proud of me when I walked across the stage and accepted my Advanced Care Paramedic Diploma, and when they both helped me press ‘enter’ to send the last research paper I had written to Victoria University in order to obtain my BHSc degree. But all of these examples of love and pride in my achievements still couldn’t erase my misconception of the word selfish. In fact, any personal accomplishment left me feeling that ‘selfish’ just masqueraded as pride.

The shame-based messages I received growing up also affected my ability to set healthy boundaries. I would often ‘go with the flow’ and not voice my personal opinion for fear that it would appear selfish or hurt someone’s feelings. In a crowd, I never ‘rocked the boat’. I wanted to be honest and direct with people, but outside of work the line between selfishness and self-care was as clear as a puddle of mud. I had confidence in my skills at work and knew my roll and responsibilities well, so I rarely had a problem saying what I needed to there. But in my personal life, if someone seemed to be helping me, I went with it, because I was too afraid of them leaving or appearing selfish if I questioned any of their motives.

Through this amazing journey, and more specifically through completing Step’s 4&5 (completing and sharing my moral inventory) I have come to learn the unselfish importance of self-care. Doing what is best for me, regardless of anyone else’s opinion is what I should do! Who knew?! I don’t need to justify my choices to anyone, and I definitely don’t need to feel selfish for developing boundaries I need for my recovery. My recovery is number 1! I’m so grateful for every time my sponsor corrected me during my 5th step when I thought a resentment I had stemmed from some root of my selfishness. She reminded me throughout my steps that what I was finally doing was self-care!…and she also reminded me how far I’ve come with this!

After completing my moral inventory, in the interest of self-care, I stopped drinking the poison of resentment. And I again wished anyone who had hurt me, wellness and happiness…genuinely. I’m a different person than I was 8 months ago. And this new person deserves every ounce of love and care I can receive. My greatest accomplishment has been my recovery! And as you can see, I don’t tippy-toe around about that. I’ve been shouting out my accomplishments in this blog and will continue to do so for who knows how long?

It’s not to say that I never received the encouragement or praise a child needs while growing up. Just like most parents, mine did the very best they could with the tools they had. Love was there, but so was struggle and words which were mindlessly spoken…I am guilty of the same. But moving forward I am all too happy to express my knowledge of the difference between selfishness and self-care in hope that someone out there afraid to set healthy boundaries may do so, and feel the freedom of smiling whenever they want to.

A Miracle a Day Keeps the Darkness Away


I haven’t blogged in a while because with my recovery in the driver’s seat, I’ve been racing the days away. Well, more precisely, God is in the driver’s seat…and I like it that way. I have barely had a flicker of depression, anxiety or PTSD symptoms ever since I let Him take the wheel. The demons in my past use to drive me off the road and literally wanted to kill me, but they are no match for the spirituality I have gained through my 12 step programs, rehab and the fellowships I belong to. Now before you close this page because you are worried I am about to go on a religion rant…don’t worry, I’m not. Surrendering to a higher power of my understanding has nothing to do with religion at all. But it has everything to do with faith and love and a way to live my life without regret, resentment, anger and guilt…not a bad deal if you ask me! Living and loving life, one busy day at a time, involves faith as the required ingredient.

I have been reading a lot of books in my down-time. After either a meeting, the Buddhist Centre, a book study group, or meeting my sponsor, I have devoured some delicious books such as, A Return to Love: By Marianne Williamson, Living a Course in Miracles: By Jon Mundy and Drop the Rock: By Bill P, Todd W, and Sara S. They have taught me lessons such as, “I’m the only one who can change my mind”, “Guilt is a projection within my own mind; it is also something I can change”, “No matter how justified my attack thoughts may be, I can give them up”, and “In order to be free of guilt, there must be no judgement either of another or myself. If there is no judgement, guilt is gone”.

As you can see, the main topic of the lessons I seem to still focus on is guilt. After working through my resentments and making amends where they needed to be made, guilt still seems to be the tangled chain holding me back from complete peace. Forgiving myself for putting my family and friends through an attempted suicide isn’t an over-night process…But I’m learning that there is no future in the past! I will always carry the lessons of my past experiences in a pocket close to my heart, but they don’t have to drag me down and slow my progress forward. I’m also learning that as I extend forgiveness, I am able to forgive myself. Living a Course in Miracles teaches me that forgiveness has only one form. It does not ask for proof of innocence of any kind. It does not dispute. It does not evaluate the errors to be forgiven. It also teaches that we demonstrate peace of mind by showing others that their transgressions against us do not have an effect. Is this easier said than done when it comes to forgiving myself? Yes! But forgiveness is a two-way street, and not in the way you may be thinking. Whether someone forgives me is completely out of my control. But I can’t forgive others and not forgive myself. Luckily, ALL forgiveness is self-forgiveness, and inner peace is the prized reward.

I have been doing a lot of serious contemplation about when I should return to work. Yes, that’s right I said whenI have decide that I’m not finished being a paramedic. I’m not finished helping people and I’m not finished working along side of my colleagues. I still need to complete the groups and courses I am in now before being completely ready to tie up my black steel-toed boots again…but putting on my uniform doesn’t seem so scary anymore. I have been blessed with the amount of knowledge I have gained over the past 7 months; knowledge I craved for 38 years, and I’m ready to put it into action with my patients and peers.

It’s still one day at a time…don’t worry, I’m not rushing things that still need work. But I think that one day being able to continue to do the job I love so dearly will be the final step towards forgiving myself. I need to help people who live in darkness like I had. What a blessing it would be to shine more light on mental health by being a true example of hope myself as a paramedic again…but a healthy one.

I have forgiven Mark Dobson, the Travelodge murderer, for the illness and pain he caused me. He hasn’t haunted my dreams for more nights than I can count now. And if I can do that, I can definitely learn to forgive myself. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE!

Grateful ‘Safe’ Sadness

IMG_8844 IMG_8854

It’s been 6 whole months since my last drink, and 6 whole months since I was transported to the hospital almost dead (again). Six whole months since I saw no light in this world. Six whole months since I thought my family and friends would have been better off without me and the demons that consumed my every waking and sleeping moment. It’s been 6 whole months…that I have been healing.

Six months may seem like such a short period of time to you, but for me and my sobriety and health it feels like an amazing life-time. I’m going to try to put into words how life feels to me now. But bear with me because these feelings are so new, that articulating them isn’t going to be super easy. I think explaining them through life moments may help me a bit…so I will.

Going to Homewood was a blessing beyond my wildest imagination. Not only because it helped me so much with my PTSD, but because it exposed my alcoholism. Through my 12-step fellowship I have grown into a happy and healthier mom, woman, sister, daughter and member of society. After balking at a program that I thought couldn’t possibly be for me, I finally surrendered, and have grown to heal not only my alcohol addiction, but I’ve also made leaps and bounds of improvement in my mental health. Life…IS…GOOD!..Words which are becoming less foreign to me now. But this good life still takes hard work to maintain. I pray and meditate every day that I do not take advantage of any blessing a new day brings. And I shake my head in awe as I type this, because 6 months ago I only prayed for God to take me away.

A few days ago, my daughter and I went for an 8-hour drive to and from Windsor for a University open house. We got up at the crack of dawn to make the long trek, and chatted and sang songs as we drove. Miracles seem to be happening to me a lot (and maybe they were before but I was just too sick to see them) and as we came into massive amounts of construction in Windsor, a huge miracle happened right there in the car. Caroline looked at me and said, “Mom, you know that a year ago you couldn’t have done this’. My heart skipped a beat as I remembered the exact day last year that I told her I couldn’t take her to Windsor for an open house she had been looking so forward to because my anxiety was too bad and my depression wouldn’t even allow me to muster up the energy required to brush my teeth, let alone drive for 8-hours only to stand in a crowd of noisy, pushy teenagers and parents. I looked at Caroline, smiled and said, “You’re right.”

I was then suddenly mindful of the calmness I possessed for the trip. I was aware of the absence of any craving to hurry up and find a restaurant with wine, or to hurry up and get home so that I could drink my anxiety away for the night. I was simply at peace! The old Natalie would have been cursing the construction and how sore my tailbone was from sitting so long. The old Natalie would have been so irritable and would have taken away all of the excitement Caroline should have for the day. But the miracle didn’t stop there… Caroline then told me how she doesn’t wake up and walk on eggshells until she can decipher my mood anymore. She told me I was just happy now, and patient. What a true moment of bliss. Hearing those words from my daughter’s mouth literally made my heart pour out joy! We were enjoying a day I never could have enjoyed before, and words simply cannot express the gratitude I felt at that very moment, and now.

Oddly enough, not all of the miracles I’ve been experiencing involve smiles and happiness (which you would think all miracles would)…I’ve now been experiencing what I call ‘grateful sadness’. Sounds crazy I know…but let me explain. Save My Life School, Grad School, the Buddhist Centre and Homewood have taught me SO MUCH about how to not be afraid of my emotions and how to allow myself to feel them, let them move through me, and then leave. It’s becoming second nature to me now as I practice mindfulness of my emotions all day, every day. But experiencing ‘grateful sadness’ yesterday was one of the most enlightening emotional moments yet.

I’m working on step 4 of my 12 steps which involves a ‘searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves’. And as I moved through my moral inventory and analyzed my resentments, old and new, as well as my shortcomings and selfishness, flashes of the ‘old days’ flipped my stomach over, and made me very, very sad. I was warned by my sponsor that this type of emotional response would quite possibly happen, so I allowed myself to feel all the emotions the inventory brought forth. And when I got to reviewing recent relationship losses I’ve experienced, I cried, and cried and cried. I sobbed, loud, gut-renching cries which made me feel out-of-control and uncomfortable…feelings I would have most definitely numbed in the past. But I didn’t numb, I didn’t even think of it, I simply felt, and when I was finished crying (half a roll of toilet paper later) I realized I then felt…fine. I didn’t feel depressed or anxious. In fact, the only thing that reminded me of my depression was that I was in my bedroom. Then another huge epiphany occurred to me…It’s so hard to explain in words, but I discovered that this sadness was a safe sadness. It was what healthy people felt! It was normal and didn’t hurt me…it was actually helping me! After my cry I got in the shower and got ready for my 12 step meeting. NOTHING in me wanted to stay in my room and wallow in self-pity. NOTHING in me wanted to dissociate and hide for the rest of the night. I was ok!…and I loved it!

And if learning what ‘grateful sadness’ is, isn’t enough of a blessing, while I was crying another miracle occurred! Caroline heard my sobs (as most of the city probably did) so she came in to hug me along with my friend Lana. But after she had given me a good solid hug, she left the room and went about her day. When I told her I was just ‘normal sad’ and not depressed, she believed me right away. She trusted me! She didn’t need to worry this time that she would find me unconscious on the floor in an hour. She was just a healthy girl, seeing her healthy mom have a good cry. Pretty amazing if you ask me!

Don’t be worried that I’m in over my head with all of this positive change. While I write and reflect about what has changed for the better in my life over the past 6 months, humility still races through my veins. I know that one bad choice could lead me back to the darkness I felt for so many years. I know that my recovery will always be a work in progress. But once in a while it’s nice to share the good experiences I’m having to show you all that there is always hope. My 12 step book tells me that, ” I was in a hopeless state of mind and body”, but I’m happy to say that all of the work I’ve put into my recovery is actually working! Remember when I said that I always wondered how someone I saw walking down the street even on a beautiful day could be happy? Well I don’t think that anymore…now I wonder how could they be sad?

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