May Your Choices Reflect Your Hopes…Not Your Fears

May-your-choices-reflect-your-hopes-not-your-fears.-Nelson-MandelaI 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,

Sober Something

It’s not my cup of tea…but it is my journey.

The more I learn about addiction, the more confusing it becomes!?  There are so many ideas about the cause of addiction and the reasons that some people become addicts and others don’t.  At the moment I am doing a course on “Addiction & The Brain” and I have to admit that it’s stretching me intellectually.  But it’s also fascinating.  I’m learning about things that I had no idea about and the great thing about being in long-term recovery is that there are so many more hours in the day than there were when I was drinking.  We all know that a lot of our time when we are in the grips of addiction is taken up with our disease…  And that’s another element of addiction that is constantly under debate.

But whatever you have chosen as the cause of your addiction, whether it be physiology, environment, stress or being hit with the unlucky gene stick (to name a few) I think it’s important to be clear in this for yourself, so you can choose a course of action to map out your recovery.  And with the luxury of hangover-free weekends and luxuriant evenings unclouded by your drug of choice, there is oodles of time to spend deciding the best approach for yourself.  I’ve also been spending a lot of time on the recovery discussion boards recently and the one thing that has struck me is this almost warlike rivalry between those who follow the 12-step programs and those who choose not to.

I’ve been open about the fact that 12-step just never resonated with me, but I don’t think people in recovery should waste one second of their new found time verbally bashing alternative approaches to recovery.  If AA works for you then that’s brilliant!  If you have chosen to go another route such as therapy, then more power to you.  Or perhaps you’re working with a Recovery Coach to plot your individual path through the initial stages of sobriety.  Again I say, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to getting and staying clean and sober.  But I’m confounded by the rather vicious debate between people who have chosen recovery, to try and argue that the route that they’ve chosen is the right one (and the other ways are wrong)!

The one thing I know for certain about my recovery is that there is no point in trying to make your recovery into someone else’s.  Especially in the early stages of sobriety we are so amazed at how wonderful it feels that I suppose it’s inevitable that we want to share this with others.  If I can use the analogy of looking at your friends’ endless pictures of their last overseas trip…it’s far less inspiring and exciting to be subjected to endless views of famous landmarks and pics of new travel mates, than to be the person who is reliving the journey.  A funny anecdote here and there and maybe a snapshot of the little bistro they stumbled across in Florence is one thing, but hundreds of photos of the works of the Italian Masters quite another.

I feel the same way about how we choose to pursue our recovery.  When asked by someone I am happy to give them a brief objective outline of how I chose to get well.  Of course I am always asked if I tried AA, and I’m truthful about the fact that it didn’t work for me, but I do not spend the next 20 minutes AA-bashing!  I talked about a couple of different choices in my post “Which Way to Recovery“, the idea here was to encourage people to concentrate on what works for you!  Don’t take away from anyone that they may be happy with the structure of working the steps, or that they may seek something more tailor-made.  That where some may be willing and able to rely on their own willpower and tenacity others may find solace and support in a group setting.  I really haven’t set out to upset or offend anyone with this post today, I just think that all this time spent vilifying a road to recovery that might not be your cup of tea, is a senseless waste of time. And quite honestly, a rather negative thing to be focusing on.

Your journeyOf course there is room for healthy debate, but prejudicial argument has no place here because the point of any approach is to create a healthy fulfilling life for ourselves and others.  By all means share the strengths of your program, but let’s all agree that there is little benefit to be found in spending any time being negative about an alternative approach that might hold the answer for someone else.  My point is it really doesn’t matter how you get to and through recovery, as long as it doesn’t include the harm of others than there is merit it it for you and there may be for others too.  So focus on the positives and forget about the negatives, because life is better with a clear head and an open heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something