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Returning to the Scene of the Crime

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.”

Today’s Miracle:

I am so grateful to have 23 months and 1 day of sobriety!

7 Sober Suggestions This Holiday Season

So here we are, in the final stretch of the holiday season, which brings with it, for most people, additional responsibilities, many opportunities to celebrate, and general chaos to the normal routine.  If you are in recovery, this is, without question, a trying time.  Although I am relatively new to sobriety (less than two years), I have had multiple opportunities to succeed in staying sober in the midst of alcohol-fueled merriment, so I thought I would write about the methods that have worked for me through holidays that not only allowed me to stay sober, but also provided me the means to enjoy the holidays in a way I had not previously done.  So without further ado, here are my top 7 tips for actually enjoying a sober holiday!

1.  Practice Self-Care

If you are like me, you are thinking, “Good idea, I’ll get to that after I bake some cookies, wrap some gifts, go shopping…”  Turn that thought process around!  The kind of self-care of which I am speaking must come before any of the holiday activities, and in practicing self-care all of those activities will become, if not enjoyable, then at the very least less stressful.  I am speaking of starting the day with a few minutes of getting centered.  For me, that means getting out of bed, getting down on my knees, and connecting with my Higher Power.  That’s what works for me, but a few minutes of any centering activity… meditation, simple deep breathing, thoughts of gratitude for all that is good in your life, and a commitment to yourself that you can make it through the day without picking up a drink or a drug, helps get the day off to a calm and peaceful start, and gives courage and confidence that the day can and will go well.  The last part of that process is so important, it becomes the next tip…

2.  Commit To Sobriety For One Day Only

And, of course, that one day must be the one you are in.  Remember, you don’t need to worry about staying sober for the next 30 years, just the current day.  So when your mind starts racing, ask yourself, “Can I stay sober, just for today?”  Chances are, the answer will be yes, so relax, and move on to…

3.  Organization

There are all types of helpful organizational tips for the holiday season, but the type of organization I refer to here is mental:  take some time to figure out all of the upcoming holiday drinking temptations, and then decide what you can and cannot do.  If you are early in sobriety, the less alcohol-filled social events you attend, the better off you are.  There were many events I simply turned down in my earliest days because I chose to put my sobriety first.  On the other hand, I have smaller children, and a large, Irish Catholic family, so there are always certain obligations that I feel I must attend, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling.  So step 2 is all about narrowing down the situations where you will be tempted, and then move on to…

4.  Set Your Parameters Within the Celebration

There is a multitude of ways to do this; the point of step three is to determine which will work best for your particular scenario.  Some examples include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • arriving late
  • leaving early
  • steering clear of the location of the alcohol
  • bringing a delicious virgin cocktail with you so you are enjoying a beverage
  • having a sober companion with you
  • figuring out who at the party will be like-minded in enjoying the party, rather than the beverages consumed at the party
  • keeping your cell phone in your pocket with a list of sober supports to call
  • disclosing to a few or all of the guests your intention to be sober

And I’m sure there are many more options, so take some time before the start of the party to decide which ones will be most effective.  And of all the ideas on that list, one stands out…

5.  Stick With The Winners

This has been a particularly beneficial strategy for me personally.  Again, I come from a large Irish Catholic family (read:  heavy drinkers), so at first I believed I would never again enjoy a family gathering.  As I gained some sober clarity, I realized that while the majority of my family drinks, not everyone does, and of those that do, only a small handful over-indulge.  So I started looking more closely at the non-drinkers, and even the moderate ones, and guess what I realized?  They are having just as much fun, and, I would assume, feel a hell of a lot better in the morning.  Chances are, whatever drinking celebration you are attending, there are many such people… choose to spend time with them.  And, while you’re at it…

6.  Act As If

Find someone who is not drinking and is also having a good time.  What are they doing, and how can you be like them?  For me, I found that they are usually much more interested in conversation and people than they are in the beverage they are consuming, and when I emulated them, not only did it take my mind off alcohol, I was able to actually have fun!  Take a look around, find some sober (and if you really can’t find sober, then at least someone who is a moderate drinker) people, and do what they do.  Last, and most important…

7.  Stay In The Present

This can be the most challenging for me, but has the most benefit when I put it into practice.  Stop thinking about the last holiday when you got trashed and embarrassed yourself, stop worrying about 4 hours from now when everyone is slurring your words and how you are going to handle it, stay in the actual moment:  you are at a party with family and/or friends, celebrating a festive season.  I’m sure that wherever you are is beautifully decorated, there are probably loads of great food choices, and many opportunities for interesting discussion.  Perhaps there are children around, observe the fun and joy they are experiencing, engage with them and see if you their joy isn’t contagious.  Keep coming back to this every time your mind wanders to the bar, and I know it will help you have a joyous holiday.

So those are my “Best of”  for sober holiday success.  What’s on your sober checklist?

Today’s Miracle:

The realization that I have a sober checklist, and the hope that sharing mine helps someone else.

Monday Meeting Miracles: 11/18

I need to come up with a new way of saying that my Monday meeting was fantastic, because I fear I’m getting repetitive.  It was fantastic, 12 people, it seems these days that even when a regular attendee does not show up, I will have a newcomer to take his or her place.  Here’s what was cool about today’s meeting.  It is the third Monday of the month, which means a reading from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  Because it is November, we read the chapter dedicated to Step Eleven:  sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  Of course I know this is what we are going to be reading, and so I have been considering how I am faring with this step in my everyday life, and I find that I am comfortable with the prayer portion of the step, but still feeling very weak in the meditation part.  I have written about my struggles with meditation several times in the past, and I don’t feel as if I have progressed very far in this department.

Back to the meeting.  I am contemplating what I will be sharing, and I am focusing on what I can say about my struggles with meditation, and a car pulls into the parking lot that I do not recognize.  Out of the car steps a gentleman I have not seen in at least 6 months, maybe more, named Brian.  And, of course, it is always so wonderful to reconnect with someone you have not seen in a while, but here’s what is amazing:  the last I saw Brian he was attempting to start a meeting in the same club house I run my meeting.  And that meeting was to be a moving meditation meeting. He wound up shutting down the meeting due to a lack of participation, but how fortuitous is it that as I am gearing up to talk about my lack of progress in meditation, he drives into the parking lot!

So of course I needed to share this serendipity with him and the other early birds to the meeting, and we had a fascinating discussion about the benefits and practical application of meditation in everyday life.  It turns out that two other early birds are well-read on the subject, and I was able to learn so much from them in the 20 minutes before the meeting even started!

Now, when a meeting is that interesting and it hasn’t even started yet, you know it’s only going to get better, and it did not disappoint.  The other attendees had just as great things to share, both on meditation, and step eleven in general.  Here are some of my take-aways:

  • Meditation is a process, and therefore takes time, patience, and practice; the results are cumulative.  The goal is not for a white-light moment; rather, it is a slow and steady shift in perception that, over time, leads to a substantive increase in peace and serenity
  • It is beneficial to establish a routine:  create a spot in your home that brings you peace, and intend for that spot to be a place where you will meditate daily
  • Meditation is about the absence of judgment.  So whatever comes into your mind, let it come in and go out, negatively judging it will only lead to resistance in meditation
  • Keep it simple.  Forget about all the fancy clothes, incense, music, and whatever else is associated with meditation.  Be still, be quiet, focus on breathing in and out.  Keep that up, and you will find yourself meditating as surely as those in the cloistered monasteries all over the world!

… At least that was what I was told.  I committed to the group that I would designate a spot (which I have), and I will attempt to sit quietly in that spot for a few minutes each day, and see what happens.  I am still toying with the time of day to do this, but for now I will try different times to see what yields the best results.  I am hopeful that this new information will help me to make some serious progress, and I will check in at some point and let you know how it goes!

Today’s Miracle:

An absolutely gorgeous day on the East Coast, warm weather that is unheard of in mid-November.  I will appreciate it while I can!

Those Full-Circle Moments

Today marked the one-year anniversary of the 12-step meeting I started.  Really hard to believe it’s been a whole year!  Last October, I had 3 attendees, today I had 12, so there’s been some growth for sure.  At the heart of it, though, the meeting feels the same to me each week as it did the first… I feel humbled and grateful that I am able to give back in this way.

For the anniversary celebration, I decided to change the format.  Instead of a reading from one of the pieces of literature we typically use, I invited a speaker to share his experience, strength and hope with us.  The decision as to which speaker to ask was a simple one.  While I have heard many inspiring messages in my 21 months of sobriety, there is one gentleman who has the perfect combination of inspiration, wisdom and humor.  His name is Ed, I met him when I was six days sober, and have hung on his every word ever since.

Ed’s message is a simple one:  as alcoholics and addicts we suffer from a progressive, fatal disease, and we get a daily reprieve from that disease in only one way:  turning our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.  He believes strongly that a 12-step program is not about going to meetings, it is about making the 12 steps a part of our daily lives, and he does much to spread this message to the still sick and suffering alcoholics that he encounters.  He is as strong an example of giving back what has been freely given to him as I have witnessed, and I am inspired by him each time we meet.

What was extra special about having Ed speak at my meeting was that it was a collision of worlds, in a manner of speaking.  As I said, I met Ed with only 6 days sober.  At the time I was living with my Mom and attending meetings in an area that is a bit of a hike from my current residence.  Once I was back at home and life was improving for me, I began attending meetings that were geographically more convenient.  As such, I lost regular contact with a great number of people that I grew close with in early sobriety.  There is one meeting I kept constant, and that is why I still get to see Ed on a regular basis, but all the other meetings I used to attend have fallen to the wayside to make room for the new group of people I have come to know.  So the regular attendees of my Monday meeting have never met the circle of people I met when I first got sober.

So today I was able to introduce my early sobriety inspiration to the people who follow my lead now, and it was such a heart-warming experience, like a circle completing itself.  I watched the faces as Ed spoke, and I could see the impact he was having.  And, as always, the discussion that followed was chock full of learning lessons.

Really, today’s meeting was the embodiment of any 12-step fellowship:  we learn how to recover from those who have recovered before us, and we repay that kindness by helping others to recover.  And in helping others, we live to get another sober day.  It is the gift that keeps on giving!

Today’s Miracle:

Although I have heard Ed’s story a half-dozen times, I still found something new to which I could relate, and that could help me improve my recovery today, and THAT is the miracle of recovery!

All Tapped Out

With a heavy heart, I am following up on a post I wrote 30 days ago, Tap Your Way Into Right Thinking.  In this post I challenged myself to a 30-day experiment:  I would use the Emotional Freedom Technique of Tapping for 30 days to see if I could change my negative thought patterns concerning my relationship with food.  Sadly, I failed this experiment, and I need to ‘fess up!

First, a little more background into the process called Tapping.  Tapping, as best I understand it, is a therapy process that works by focusing on a painful thought, memory or belief while tapping with your fingertips on various specific energy points located throughout the body.  There are 14 different energy points, called meridians, that are believed to compose an energy system within your body.  Any negative emotion, such as envy, shame, anxiety, or the like, is due to a disturbance in this energy system.

So I figured I could use my negative belief that I cannot change my unhealthy relationship with food, apply the principles of Tapping, and see where I got at the end of 30 days.  Here is what happened:

I practiced the steps outlined in the book faithfully for more than half the time, 16 days.  I attempted to follow the directions to the letter for each of those sessions.  Initially, the biggest stumbling block to this exercise was my complete skepticism of it.  I was self-conscious, even if I was by myself.  And when my kids walked in and asked what the heck I was doing, that was even worse.  So while I attempted to be open-minded about the exercise, I definitely had a ways to go.

The second mistake I made, and I only realized this after the fact, was that I failed to stay completely focused on the negative belief throughout the exercise.  Much like meditation, it was extremely difficult for me to stay in the moment.  Thoughts of what I was going to do next, or who might walk into the room, or, even worse, the thought that this is a complete waste of time kept crowding into my head as I tried to focus and tap.  As I researched a little further into this practice, I now realize that it is essential to focus solely on the negative belief you are looking to change.

If I were to hypothesize, the biggest barrier to this being an effective technique for me personally is my, I guess I can use the word ambivalence, to the philosophy behind it.  I am sure that this technique could work for many people, I am just not sure I am one of them, and this thought, above all else, was probably blocking my ability to be effective.

So that I am not a complete Negative Nellie with this post, I will end with a positive experience I gained from this experiment.  At some point during each of those tapping sessions, I felt a small but definite feeling of lightness, almost like a feeling of hopefulness.  Sometimes, I would even get a thought such as, “Yes, I can develop a healthy relationship with food!” and it would feel almost exciting, like it was a breakthrough.  The feeling was fleeting, but it was interesting, and it did recur.

So, tapping was not a complete waste of time, but, for me, the benefits were not strong enough or permanent enough to reinforce the routine.  The minute my schedule got hectic, I forgot about it completely, and, by the time I remembered I was supposed to be doing it daily, a whole week had passed.  I will chalk this one up to:  nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Today’s Miracle:

When I finish this post, I will be preparing for the one-year anniversary of the meeting I started… more to follow on this subject tomorrow!

Tap Your Way Into Right Thinking?

Yep, these are all the spots I tapped!

When I first started writing this blog, I was more or less writing to myself.  I really never contemplated the idea that others would be reading, and this belief went on for quite some time (in retrospect,  a lot longer than it should have, I am a little slow on the uptake!).  Since that time, I have come to understand all of the wonders that come with connecting with others in the blogging world, and I am still blown away every time I read a new post from a friend, or receive an insightful comment on my own blog.

But with those blessings, a bit of a curse has descended upon me.  When I was essentially writing to and for myself, I just wrote whatever was going on during that particular day (yes, I did write every day back in the beginning, it blows my mind now to think of it!).  Now, I often feel stymied about what to write, and I finally realized that it is because I am looking at this blog through a new lens:  will that be interesting to readers?  Will they relate, or even care?  Is it important enough to publish?

I have finally come full circle in this thinking, because if I had only written what I thought was important in the beginning, this blog would have ended a month into my first publish!

So, with all that prelude, let me tell you what’s been on my mind this week.  It started about three days ago, with a trip to the library.  We needed a book for a book report, but were running between sports practices and CCD class (religious education), so we only had 10 minutes. But if I’m in a library, I’m finding something for myself, because I love books!  So I headed off to the self-help aisle (I am still enthralled by the promises these books make), and see a book called The Little Book of Diet Help, by Kimberly Willis.  It is small, and at a glance, easy to read, so I checked it out and ran to the next activity.

As I glanced through the book, a heading captured my attention:  Tapping out Negative Beliefs.  It goes on to describe how to break the hold established beliefs have on your life.  The exercise asks you to look at one specific negative belief, and immediately the thought came into my head:  “I will never change my unhealthy relationship with food.”  This thought surprised me in the speed with which it popped into my head, and with the specificity of the statement. Then I read further into the exercise, and it’s talking about tapping pressure points, and, while it sounds somewhat familiar, I really have no idea what the author wants me to do.  This, by the way, is what you get for jumping around a book, rather than reading it page by page.  Towards the end of this section, it references an earlier section of the book for more details on “tapping” (which tells me I am not alone in jumping around a book!).

So I go back to the tapping section, and I have my aha moment…. I know where I have read about this practice before!  Lisa Neumann, wise mentor and author of the tremendously insightful book Sober Identity, had written about it, but it’s been over a year since I’ve read it, so the concept had escaped my memory.

My rudimentary understanding of tapping (and I am understating rudimentary, for a better explanation, please google the term!) is that it is an ancient practice of using your fingers to tap various pressure points on the body, which will shift the energy in your body, presumably from a negative energy to a positive one.

When I first read this, 3 days ago, I didn’t give it a half second thought.  I put the book down and went about my evening.  But every time I picked up the book, I kept going back to those pages, and I started considering:

  • I was drawn to the book for a reason
  • I was drawn to this section for a reason
  • I had an immediate response to the question of negative beliefs holding me back.

So, as the week progressed, and my wheels of what to write became more and more stuck in the mud, I finally thought, “What have I got to lose? I can try this tapping thing and see what the hell happens!”

Full disclosure: my feelings about the idea of tapping my head to dispel almost 44 years worth of negative beliefs is that it will be as effective as dropping an eye of newt and a toe of frog into a bubbling cauldron.  In other words, I am a skeptic.  But, and maybe this is the progress of my recovery, I know that meaningful change requires both open-mindedness and consistent effort.  And since my best thinking has me stuck with the same unhealthy relationship with food for as long as I can remember, I can certainly afford to be open to new ideas.

So we’ll consider this a little experiment.  I did the full round of tapping that the book describes (and it was a lot… 14 different points, 8 taps each point, and there were 6 different affirmations for each round!), and I used the negative belief that I will never have a healthy relationship with food.

Here are the negatives:  I felt very, very foolish as I started, which I believe hampered this experiment initially, and I needed to keep checking which was the next pressure point to tap, which was distracting.

Here are the positives:  I got the hang of it before I was halfway through, and when I got to the second to the last affirmation (“I can allow myself to imagine what it would feel like if this belief weren’t true”), I did get a strange little hopeful fluttering, and I had vague waves of feeling lighter.  Sounds ridiculous, even as I’m typing it, but it’s the truth.

I would imagine that this is the type of thing that gets easier and more effective with practice, so I am committing to this exercise daily for 30 days, and I will check in weekly and let you know how things progress.  Will I be a supermodel by next month?  Stay tuned!

Today’s Miracle:

I’ll take an anniversary any way I can get one, so today I am celebrating 20 months of sobriety!

It’s All In Your Head

Here are two facts about me:

1.  I am extremely prone to motion sickness.  One of my earliest memories is not being able to stomach a trip to the local mall.  Side note: we had a behemoth 1975-ish Chevy Impala, I threw up, and my two older sisters turned into contortionists… to this day I don’t know how they got so far into the opposite corner of the back seat.

2.  I can be an extremely excitable person, particularly when I believe I am being delivered an injustice of any kind. Smart-alecky friends have been known to take advantage of this fact, and start rumors such as “Josie is the president of the Robin Williams fan club,” just to see me all fired up.

Now, knowing these two facts, imagine how I reacted when my cousin told me I should just go on an amusement park ride, because, “motion sickness is all in your head, and you can talk yourself out of it.”

Perhaps I should take him up on his offer, and allow him to sit beside me as we ride, I’m pretty sure that would teach him!

This glimpse into some banal facts about me is really just a backdrop into the real topic:  how much of what we deal with is “all in our heads?”  Despite my outrage over my cousin’s commentary, I have come to realize that I believe this statement more than I realize.  Except, of course, when it comes to motion sickness.

One example, and I know I am going to raise a few eyebrows with this one, but I personally have a hard time with the disease concept of alcoholism.  I am allowed to say that, since I am an alcoholic, along the same lines as:  I can criticize my family, but you better not try.  I certainly believe that I had an obsession, that, try as I did, I could not expel.  I believe that if I choose to alter my mind again with a substance, that obsession will return, but disease?  That is one that confounds this alcoholic.  I don’t waste a lot of time on it, just like I don’t waste a lot of time wondering when I crossed the line from enjoying a drink to craving one… I just did, that is my reality, and I will, for today, deal with my reality.

But I find the “all in your mind” mentality pervades other areas of my life, and I’m wondering if it’s something I need to explore.  Most recent example, and I have been giving periodic updates, but I have embarked on a fitness program.  Long story short, I have gone from zero exercise to considering participating in a 5k. August was to be dedicated to training for this event, to see how much of a 5k I could run (versus walking), and how low I could get my time down.  In my mind, if I could run at least half, and get my time under 45 minutes, I was set to do it.

And then, out of nowhere, I sustained an injury.  I really mean out of nowhere, because I still don’t know what the hell happened.  One minute, I’m jogging, the next minute, I almost fell over, because my leg couldn’t support me.

I could go into boring detail, but who really cares?  I am not a physical therapist, and I have never, and I mean never, been an athletic person, so I have never dealt with a sports injury of any kind.  So I look to my fellow supporters who have dealt with this, and I take every suggesting they give me (except go to the doctor, that is a last resort, and a topic for another post).

After an entire week of resting it, stretching it, icing it, I attempt to resume my training (treadmill this time).  Within 3 minutes, the pain is back, and I am limping again.

Again, long story short, I try everything I can think of, but the minute my legs go into running mode, this pain comes back.  So my husband, quite logically, says, “Well then just walk.”  Sensible, right?

But, and here is the real point:  I can’t wrap my mind around it.  Seriously.  I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t make myself grasp the concept that I am restricted from the activity of running.  I just keep thinking that I can figure out a way past this injury.

It’s this kind of thinking that reminds me that I’m an alcoholic, and that I will never be “cured” (of the disease that I still question in theory!).  The normal person would just see that running is not working, and switch to another form of exercise.  My thinking?  I can beat this leg injury, dammit!  Nothing so stupid is going to keep me from this goal!

I am off to meet a friend (from AA) for a walk in the same park I sustained my injury.  I am going to explain this thought process to her, and she is (hopefully) going to help me see the error in my thinking.

The progress:  that I know that there is an error in my thinking.

Today’s Miracle:

That I am choosing exercise over sitting around, that I am meeting a friend from AA with whom to exercise, and that I will choose walking over re-injuring myself until I can figure this whole thing out!

My List of I Never’s

 

I have been reading quite a bit in the blogging world about the subtle benefits of sobriety, which made me think of this post I wrote about a year and a half ago.  Since I am sick as a dog right now (get out your violins, people!), and have very little energy (and am obviously feeling just a smidge sorry for myself!), I figured I’d repost this and remind myself why I am so damn grateful to be sober…

 

First published spring 2012:

Today in a meeting two different young men… one 22, the other 20 years old… shared how they felt about being in a 12-step program at such a young age.  To them, it feels restrictive, and they listed all the “normal” things kids their age do that they will no longer be able to do.  They look around the room we are in, and they see the ages of the people in the chairs next to them, and they think, “why can’t I do this for another 20 years, and then get it?”

As I listened to them, it made me think of my own life.  Now, maybe it is my advanced age, but I had a slightly different viewpoint.  Of course, in my 20’s, I did get to experience a lot (not all) of the things they listed… college parties, social drinking events, and so on… and my heart goes out to them, because I remember those times fondly.

But when I think of all the things I will never be able to do again, here is what my list looks like:

  • I will never again get to wake up with my heart pounding out of my chest, because I am so ashamed of my actions from the day before
  • I will never again get to spend the morning violently nauseous, or with a headache pounding louder than a jack hammer
  • I will never again get to piece together the events of the evening before and never quite find all the pieces in my own memory
  • I will never again get to pretend I remember some idiotic thing I said or did, and pretend that it is funny that I don’t remember
  • I will never again get to hear about the jackass I made of myself at a family or social event
  • I will never again get to see the look of utter disappointment in my husband’s eyes
  • I will never again get to see the look of confusion on my children’s faces when they don’t understand my mood swings
  • I will never again get to see the look of abject fear in my mother’s eyes
  • I will never again get to be the guest of honor at an intervention
  • I will never again get to embarrass my husband and children (at least not while chemically altered!)
  • I will never again get to obsess over creating the next opportunity to obtain a mood altering substance

Of course this list could go a lot longer, but I think you get the picture.  I pray that the young men I heard share today get it so they don’t have to make the list I just made…

Today’s Miracle:

Reading this list over a year later and being, if it is even possible, even more grateful to have those experiences stay in the past!

Recovery Maintenance: Checklist for Keeping on Track

What do you want to hear first:  the good news or the bad news?

If you’re like me, you want to get the bad news out of the way, so here it is:  addiction is a chronic, progressive, incurable disease.  Once diagnosed, you are never healed.

Alright, bad news dispensed, here’s the good, no, scratch that, the great news:  the methods employed for managing the disease of addiction are ridiculously inexpensive (read: free), easily accessible, and can be utilized by anyone suffering from it.  If used properly and consistently, not only will the addict keep his or her disease in remission permanently, the rest of his or her life will improve dramatically.  How many other diseases can make that claim?

So the question for people like myself, with more than a year of recovery, how do you keep on keepin’ on?  How can you ensure that you are maintaining your recovery?

As a regular participant in 12-step recovery, nothing scares me more than to hear stories of people with significant sober time come back after a relapse.  Sadly, it happens more than one would like to think.  I have seen people with 20 years of sobriety “go out,” and come back and report what we all know to be true:  it never gets better.  Twenty minutes, twenty days, twenty years; pick up a drink or drug, and you have fallen back down the rabbit hole.

Every time I hear that tale, the person says the same thing:  “I picked up (meaning either drank again or used a drug again), but the relapse happened well before that.”

And that’s the part that terrifies this addict.  Because I can say, with certainty, for today, that I am not tempted to ingest a mind-altering substance.  But what worries me is am I heading towards it?  Because, as we say in AA, everything you do either takes you toward a drink, or away from it, and the steps towards relapse are small and inconsequential at first…. so have I taken them without realizing it?

Here’s how I’ve solved that problem, for myself anyway, and I figured I could write it out in case it would help anyone else.  I’ve developed a checklist to make sure I am staying on track when it comes to my recovery.  The list is in reverse order for a reason, for each question that I can respond in the affirmative, I feel that much better.

  1. Have I maintained my sobriety date?
  2. Do I wish to pick up a drink or a drug?
  3. Am I confident that I can refrain from ingesting mind-altering substances just for today?
  4. Have I prayed today?
  5. Am I regularly participating in 12-step meetings?
  6. How is my mental state?  If bad, has it been consistently bad?  Has there been a pattern of negative thinking?
  7. When life becomes stressful, do I react in healthy, sober ways, or do I revert to old patterns of behavior?
  8. Am I maintaining my new, sober healthy behaviors and daily structure, or am I letting things slip?
  9. Have I been talking about what’s going on with me, or have I been keeping things bottled up?
  10. Have I been sharing with other people in recovery?
  11. Have I been giving back (12th step work)?
  12. Gut check:  do I believe that I could pick up, just once, and it would be okay?

I would love to hear what people would add to this list, or how they would modify it!

Today’s Miracle:

That I can read this list, and feel pride that I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic/addict!

Home Again Home Again Jiggity-Jig!

I have to say, writing is like exercise:  the more you stay away from it, the harder it is to pick it up again!  And while I’m on the subject of exercise:

I have been plugging along in the fitness department.  I mentioned in a post (The Dreaded Topic)  I wrote about 2 months ago that I embarked on a fitness regime (alright, this is weird, I just went back to that post… June 5, it is now August 5th!).  So how have the last 2 months been?  Let me refresh your memory of my baseline:  walking upstairs to my bedroom was probably the most I exerted myself prior to taking on this challenge.  I wish I could say I am exaggerating for effect.  So my plan going in, for those that did not read:  do something physical every day.  I picked 20 minutes as my start time.  I guest posted early on over at Running On Sober, so I don’t remember the specifics, but for the first probably 5 or 6 weeks I did exactly that… every single day.  I started on the machine with which I was most comfortable (elliptical machine), but then I decided that going with comfort when it comes to exercise has never served me well, so I started mixing it up.  Here are some examples of the progress made within 2 months:

Elliptical Start time/mileage:  20 minutes, 1.25 miles, about 100 calories, Current:  45 minutes, 4 miles, 450 calories burned

Swimming Start:  6 laps, Current:  25 laps

Stationary Bike:  no stats to report, it hurt my knee, but the fact that I did it at all is something

Local Walking Start:  barely a mile, small loop within my development; Current:  I have built up to a 3.1 mile loop that starts in my development but extends beyond it

And, last but not least, the treadmill (or Dreadmill, as I thought of it)…

Start:  probably struggled to walk a mile around 20 minutes (I did not keep track of those early stats), Currently (as of yesterday):  46 minutes, 3.1 miles, interval walking/running

Now, none of these number are going to be making headlines over at ESPN, but the point is the progress in an incredibly short period of time.   There aren’t any major physical changes, but the mental ones are astounding.  Here’s the biggest example:  about 5 weeks into this commitment, I got an email from my unbelievably fitness-minded sister-in-law.  She knows of my new commitment, and has been encouraging me all she can.  She is the type to run in triathlons, half-marathons, mud runs, and other insane things, so she gets emails about local events regularly.  She forwarded one onto me:  a sober 5k walk/run sponsored by the Caron Foundation, and offered to walk it with me if I was interested.

Now, let’s pause and consider the information I gave you earlier:  2 months ago, ZERO exercise daily, never in my life have I been a sports-oriented person, never competed in anything physical… and now I am actually CONSIDERING this?!?!

Yes, I am.  I wanted to reply no, hit the delete button, and never think about it again, but I couldn’t do it.  So, first, I told my husband, who was encouraging and supportive, as always.  Next, I let my recovery-and-fitness-minded blogging friends know of this recent development, and, predictably, all are strongly encouraging me to do it (Bye Bye Beer has graciously offered to walk it with me, bless her soul!).  Finally, I started seeing if I could physically even do it, and to that end found local 3.1 miles loops, did treadmill workouts, in an attempt to get my time down.  My commitment to myself is this (and yes, I know I will be getting yelled at by my “exercise sponsor,” as I like to think of Christy, for not just signing up):  take the month of August and see what progress I can make in increasing running/decreasing walking for the 3.1 mile sessions.  Since it is only August 5, I’ve got some time, I will check back in on this subject in a few weeks!

Final mental breakthrough, and then I’ll stop rambling.  As it turns out, there was a promenade near the house that I stayed in last week that was flat, paved, and exactly 1.5 miles long  (another sign, in my opinion!), so I did that a few times last week.  Still being new to this whole outdoor running/walking gig, while at the same time being technologically handicapped when it comes to ipods, my playlists are disorganized and often interrupted with tween music.  So as I’m doing the “ralk,” as I call it, on the promenade, a song keeps coming up that was popular a year or two ago with the Disney crowd, It’s called “Who Says” by Selena Gomez.  I remember when my daughter listened to it a lot, and I remember thinking it a cute song, but that’s about it.  Now, as I’m regularly exercising, the music is an integral part in the process, and I am listening intently to the songs.  And this one is haunting me, although I don’t know why.  So I’m actually running as I think to myself, “pay closer attention and figure out why this song is bothering you.”  And the chorus comes on:

Who says, who says you’re not perfect?

Who says you’re not worth it?

Who says you’re the only one who’s hurting?

Trust me, that’s the price of beauty!

Who says you’re not pretty?

Who says you’re not beautiful

Who says?

And, just like that, my mind talked back to the questions, and said, “You say it, and you’re the only one who says it.”  And I thought of all the people in my life, and the voice is right… I am the only one saying negative things about me.  Well, immediately I started to cry, and now I am running down an extremely crowded promenade with tears streaming down my face.  I refused to make eye contact, but I can only imagine what the hell those people were thinking!

Even though it is the sappiest song ever, it is staying on my playlist, as a reminder that I only have one critic, and she has a proven spotty track record when it comes to making these judgments!

Today’s Miracle:

12 people at my meeting today, not a record, but a great number!

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