I have been blessed with over eight and a half years of sobriety, but although life has been far better since I stopped drinking, but it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. My last post focused on “Recovery is not just abstinence”, but I do need to emphasise that for me, abstinence is the gateway to my personal recovery. I have dipped my toe in the AA waters (although not for long) and I agree that we are powerless over our disorder, but only once we take the first drink (or whatever our drug of choice is). As to managing my alcoholism I am completely in control…because up until the point I chose to pick up, all the power lies with me.
Not everyone I work with agrees with me on this point and I have been questioned about my ideas more than once, but I stand firm in my beliefs that I am the one in control, until I chose to relinquish it to the illness that lies quietly dormant within me. And in order to keep it there I work incredibly hard to live a life where choosing to use is at the cost of the life that I have worked to achieve. Of course there are times when the thought of a drink to get through a particularly stressful situation, get over a bad week or just to escape from the relentlessness of reality, feels like a good idea, the easy way to take the edge off.
It’s far more challenging to understand the cause of the stress and the frustration, practice spiritual principles like patience, acceptance, honesty and courage to unpack and process an event or series of events, and then to work through them fully conscious and aware. And then to openly and honestly communicate our needs to the people in our lives, without scaring them because we are having a bad day…and could potentially be on the verge of a relapse. A relapse takes time…a return to old, destructive behaviours that have negative consequences on our lives and those of the people around us. I believe that picking up the addictive substance is one of the last things that happens in a relapse, a well-researched element of the chronic recurring disorder of substance abuse. I don’t believe that we can simply blame a slip or relapse on this, but need to be willing to take full responsibility for the management of our lives and substance abuse. It’s not enough to glibly blame a relapse on the fact that we have an addiction, but learn to become aware of our actions and choices that might end up in us relapsing.
It is my responsibility to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health and well-being, as well as my social and spiritual life, so that I am operating from a place in my life where using alcohol to cope, overcome my problems, celebrate or check out for a while is just not a feasible option. I have to continue to empower myself in whichever areas of my life might still be lacking…and not for one minute think that I can use for any of these reasons and then be able to stop! Believing that is for me evidence of a return to denial…I tried it previously and it ended up resulting in a five-year relapse. That’s a proper return to old, destructive behaviour with ongoing negative consequences, losing my business and all my self-respect being top of that list.
So everyday for me is about continuing to create and develop a life that trumps the life I had when I was using alcohol to quiet my fears of rejection and being left out. It was also how I knew how to cope, overcome stress and have a good time. But over the years I have learned to find healthier ways of doing this. It hasn’t been effortless, and there are still times when I get it horribly wrong when it comes to trying to figure things out in my personal and professional life. But at least I am in a sober state of mind to deal with life, rather than sleep walking through it with either a lack of conscious awareness around what is going on in my own life or desperately trying to “fix” the situations I have created when handling them drunk! I wake up to the same challenges that were in my life before, but through hard work and ongoing personal development I have learned to deal with them differently.
I am constantly striving to be a better personal than I was yesterday and I believe that is my personal goals, dreams and aspirations towards which I am working, along with understanding my values and working diligently with my personal spiritual principles that keeps me in the driver seat when it comes to my addiction…I don’t refute the idea of powerlessness, I just believe that in recovery, as in life, everything comes down to the choices I make and until that point I have the power to keep my life fulfilled, purposeful and sober.
Til next time,