No matter which way you choose to recover, whether by 12-step fellowship, rehab, or a “DIY” program, it is a universal truth that, early on, it is best to stay away from the people, places and things that the newly sober associates with their addiction. So, for example, it is prudent for an alcoholic to steer clear of the local watering hole at which he used to have a regular bar stool. Or for a drug addict to steer clear of dicey urban areas where she previously drove to “score.”
But what about the rest of us whose only “people, places and things” are areas that cannot be extricated from our lives? Well, to a certain extent you can, at the very least, alter the landscape. For example, if you were a home drinker, you can remove all alcohol in the house. Or if you were a rabble-rouser at house parties, you can choose to avoid them in the short-term. Both of the following examples apply to me personally, and, for various reasons, both are the solutions I used to solve the “people, places and things” dilemma for me in early sobriety.
Sooner or later, though, you have to face the music, and that opportunity came for me this holiday season. I was faced with a number of events in which I chose to participate for the first time in recovery, and I wanted to write about that experience, because I would imagine I am not alone in dealing with this issue.
At the outset, the choice to join in the fun an festivities of the holiday season was a well-thought out one. I have discussed the idea with my fellows in recovery, prayed about it, and was completely comfortable with the decision to participate. So there was planning there. I also had my toolkit at the ready, and my checklist of things to keep me safe and sober while in the moment (I wrote about this checklist here). In fact, there was one party where I said six simple words to my husband: “the party is starting to turn,” and we were out the door within 10 minutes. So adequate preparation in that department.
If there was one element for which I had not prepared, it was the emotional angst associated with event. Whether it was the location of the party, places where I have engaged in behavior that still shames me, whether it was the people themselves, and the reminder they bring of my past life, or the holiday itself, and the association with all the past misbehavior, I was uncomfortable in a way that surprised me. The memories of the past came back so quickly, and with such strength, at times it was an actual effort to turn and move in a different direction.
These feelings of discomfort took me by surprise because all of the things I did worry about were for naught. For example, I was concerned about awkwardness around family members who are seeing me in a social situation for the first time in recovery. Not only did that awkwardness fail to materialize; family and friends were supportive in ways I could never have imagined.
So why did these memories come back to haunt me? I’m not sure I will ever have a definitive answer to this question, and I have learned enough in my recovery not to over think it. I did what I was taught to do: move a muscle, change a thought. Even though it took extra effort, I turned and walked in an opposite direction, and found someone “safe” to engage in conversation. I participated in cooking and cleaning, which is helpful and distracting at the same time. Most important, I considered the real reason I was present at the holiday, to gather with family and/or friends, and to re-connect with them, and I took advantage of that opportunity in a way I never would have if I was chemically altered.
So when I said my prayer the morning after each holiday function, I was able to say with extra sincerity: “Thank you, God, for all my days of sobriety.”
I am so grateful to have 23 months and 1 day of sobriety!
I wasn’t sure which way today’s meeting was going to go, attendance-wise, being that we are two days away from Christmas. At the start, it was just me and two other gentleman, so I thought, “Well, I wasted some baking.” But ten minutes after the start of the meeting, we were up to 10 attendees, so hooray!
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
Step 12 is a great one for sharing at meetings, because there is so much to discuss, and because it encapsulates the 12-step program so beautifully. One person shared that what he took most from the reading is the importance of staying in good spiritual condition. For him, that means regular meeting attendance, so that he can be reminded of what is important… and what is not. A great thought for this time of year!
Another person found his focus on the part of the step that talks about carrying the message, and how much reaching his hand out to another in need enriches his life.
For me, what I took away from the reading selection today is the importance of maintaining the proper outlook. In any given situation, I can choose to focus on what is going wrong, or I can choose to focus on what is going right, and my mental state will reflect that choice perfectly.
And what another great message this is for the season. As I headed into the meeting, I was preoccupied with my ever-present holiday to do list: will I have time to hit all the stores I need to hit? What chores can I delegate (and be satisfied however they turn out)? Will the kids manage not to kill each other while I am away from the house? You get the idea. And when my mind is going a mile a minute like that, guess where my serenity level is?
Just reading about the idea of changing my thought process was enough to stop the racing thoughts, and by the time I was finished sharing, I truly felt ready to leave the meeting and properly enjoy the holiday season, the school break, and even the shopping, wrapping and baking that still awaited me.
Which, when you think about it, is a miracle!
I am filled with excitement, not only because I got everything done I needed to today, not only because I am sitting down to write this post (which I never thought I would do), but because I vowed to myself that on December 26th my Christmas present to myself will be an uninterrupted morning, coffee ready and waiting, a comfortable chair, and my computer, and I am catching up on all the brilliant posts I have been missing by my wonderful friends in the blogosphere. In the meantime, know that I miss you all so much, and I am praying that you are having a miraculous holiday season!
The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose. -Arnold Bennett
Happy 2013! I have been slacking with writing, because life gets more hectic when school is on break. Also, I don’t feel like I have a lot to share on the whole “new year, new outlook” mentality. The only resolution I really care about is to remain as happy, as grateful, and as sober as I am today. Of course there are a million things I could work on to improve my health, my physical appearance, the organization of my house, etc., but if the past year has taught me nothing, it has taught me to keep my priorities straight. So, while it would be icing on the cake to lose a few pounds, to be able to run a few miles consecutively, or finally, once and for all, completely clean and organize my basement, my real resolution is to enjoy life, one day at a time, without the crutch of a drink or drug.
On a separate note, I’m going to add a new feature. In keeping with the title of this blog, I am going to end each post with the miracle I experienced that day, because, as I have said many times, if I am alive to create a post, then several miracles have already taken place. On most days I’m sure I will have a bunch of miracles from which to pick, on other days it may be miracle enough to say I am alive and sober. Either way, writing it down reminds me how much there is in my life for which I am grateful.
Hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and here’s to a year full of blessings!
I had an awesome morning doing fun, post-holiday things with my husband and kids… early morning swimming at the indoor pool, checking in with under-the-weather family members, and, most entertaining of all, getting to watch the spectacle that is kids thoroughly enjoying a buffet. Seriously, is it just my kids, or is every child in complete awe of the idea of trying every single thing at a buffet table?
The thing about denial is that it doesn’t feel like denial when it’s going on. -Georgina Kleege
It seems to be the time of year for this subject, because I have been hearing a lot about it. And who can blame someone? Holiday parties, egg nog, champagne toasts, wine spritzers, cookie exchange invitations that also require a bottle of wine… it can be difficult to picture a Merry Christmas without the merriment of alcohol. So, in honor of the holiday, here is the top 10 list of denials I have either used personally, or have heard about in meetings:
1. I’m really not that bad, because I haven’t… (fill in the blank: gotten a DUI, overdosed, gone to rehab, etc.)
2. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t drink, but what’s wrong with smoking a little pot? (switch substances as needed)
3. I’m a grown-ass man (or woman), I’ll do what I want!
4. I will just cut back, and drink like normal people (or, I’ll just pace myself, or I’ll drink water in between drinks, this list could go on forever).
5. I’ll stop AFTER the holidays, because, really, who would quit before?!?
6. I will stop drinking (or using) if you will just get off my back.
7. How can I not drink when all my friends (or family, or co-workers) drink?
8. I would stop drinking if I could just eliminate the stress of… (fill in the blank: job, spouse, kids, finances, almost anything could be inserted)
9. If you had the (spouse, kids, family, job) I do, you would drink like me too.
10. And my own personal favorite, one I used for months on end… I will absolutely stop this insanity TOMORROW…
The real problem with denial is why I used the quote at the top… the deeper you are in it, the less likely to see it for what it is… an excuse to avoid the pain of change. People in denial truly believe the lies they are telling (believe me, I speak from experience).
Here’s what I’m grateful to know today: there is no problem I have that a drink or drug won’t make worse. Once I decide to use a substance to solve a problem, I’ve just increased my burden exponentially. I thank God I don’t have to live like that anymore!