Inspiring Challenges and Disguised Opportunities!?

I am not afraid of Mondays!  I start the week excited by new opportunities, focusing on the infinite possibilities that could come my way.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it by saying that everything is perfect, because that would be self-denial of the highest order.  Building a business is no walk in the park and I’ve been exploring alternative income paths over the last few months until I am more financially stable.  But as I was working through “The Values Factor” by John Demartini I came across this wonderful quote that he had used to begin a chapter, which resonated deeply with me on this Monday afternoon.

we are all faced with a great series of oportunities

Too often when we are faced by impossible situations in our lives, we simply throw up our hands and complain that it’s just too difficult to carry on.  And as someone with a substance abuse disorder and shockingly developed coping skills before I started my journey, I would have had the white flag up before I had so much as looked for the opportunity in the challenge.  In his book, Dr Demartini talks about “inspiring challenges” and as I was reading through the chapter I was struck as to how our addictions could be seen as just that.  Overcoming an addiction to anything could be seen as an impossible situation, but when you scratch the surface just a little and start to take those first steps into recovery you start to see the enormous opportunity that lies within.  I haven’t completed the book and I haven’t done all the work, but for a long time now I have seen my addiction as an incredible opportunity for personal growth and development.  Choosing recovery was the first step to turning the adversity of addiction into the opportunity of recovery.

Addiction in ourselves or a lived one might seem like an impossible situation, but if you just look at it from a slightly different perspective, you may just find that there is enormous potential for self growth and personal empowerment.  If I look back to  my life seven years ago it was a patchwork of mildly fulfilling relationships, halfhearted commitment to a job that was not particularly purposeful and a shocking sense of personal depth and assurance.  But I took the necessary first (very tentative) step towards an ever so faint glimmer of distant hope and life has never been the same.  At the time I didn’t know whether I had what it took to live a sober life or whether I had the necessary skills and tools to take me through the recovery process.  The fact is that at the time I didn’t, but instead of letting the challenge of recovery overwhelm me I chose to look at it as a the beginning of a wonderful adventure.  And even though I didn’t know it at the time, my shifting values took me in the direction that I needed to go.  Because when I was drinking my values were to go out, drink, have a great time and to hell with the consequences.  I wasn’t interested in personal development, training or further education which I am now.  I was certainly not interested in nurturing my personal and professional relationships, which are a core value in my life at present.

When I started to do value work recently it became very clear to me that even though I thought I had certain values, I wasn’t living my life by them.  And many of the values that I believed were mine are simply societal norms and ideas that I’d adopted as my own.  It’s not easy to admit that “getting drunk” was a value, but it must have been since I spent all my time, money and energy pursuing it!  And over the last seven years my values have continued to change as I grow and develop through my personal and professional pursuits.  These days when confronted with a challenging situation I look at it completely differently as to how I would have in the drinking years.  Fear and flight are not my go-to reactions, because I have developed far healthier coping skills.  Instead of simply avoiding potentially difficult situations with a drink or two, I have learned to evaluate and assess the situation and choose a way of dealing with it, rather than running away.

And I ran for years, to all sorts of interesting and exotic locations, where human interactions were kept to a minimum through tings like small expatriate populations, language barriers and distance from home.  It’s an honest revelation when I look at it now, and can see the reasons that I did what I did and chose the paths that I chose.  By having fewer relationships meant that there were less potential situations where I would have to rely on my interpersonal skills and coping mechanisms.  I spent years avoiding conflict and confrontation, seeing it as harmful and destructive.  I never understood how anything emotionally tough could be a chance to grow and develop emotionally. But now I see the potential that lies in previously terrifying close and personal exchanges.  I no longer shy away from difficult conversations, and have begun to be more conscious of how any situation can be a source of learning and growth.  These courageous conversations bring emotional depth and intimacy unlike anything I could have imagined before I started to change the way that I looked at life.

I’m not saying that I go out of my way to find difficult situations, but now when one comes my way I don’t collapse into a pile on the floor or run screaming to the nearest bar.  Instead I use the skills I have learned and developed to address it head on, which means being completely conscious and present in the situation.  It means keeping judgment out of the equation and not instantly trying to defend or protect myself (more accurately my ego).  It means respecting, listening and acknowledging different perspectives and points of view, and then maturely and openly taking part in the discussion.  And instead of letting myself slip into the victim space, I express my opinions and feelings honestly and clearly, so that I don’t walk away feeling unheard and carrying repressed anger.  And the more I practice these techniques that I have learned, the more these brilliantly disguised impossible situations become less and less emotionally and mentally challenging.  And this doesn’t just apply to my personal life, but also to things that happen in my professional life.

So no matter what challenges present themselves, take a step back and try and look at the situation from another angle.  The  opportunities that could be hidden beneath the surface might not be evident at first, but dig a little deeper and you might be pleasantly surprised at the little gems of opportunity that lie beneath.

Til next time

Sober Something

Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey.

It’s not often that I have the time (or the inspiration) to post more than once a week, but the devastating passing of Robin Williams gave me much cause to pause and think over the last few days.  Something that seems prevalent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is how many truly unhappy people there seem to be in what can only be described as a fish bowl.  But the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder why should celebrity pain and suffering be any more tragic than the garden-variety kind.  I’m not for one moment trying to marginalise the grief that many people must be feeling around the death of such a beloved star, but every day there are people living lives of quiet desperation and I only wish that the public’s attention wouldn’t shift quite so quickly from the issues that these people’s deaths raise.

Whenever someone famous meets a tragic end there is a short-lived focus on the issue that was the root of their demise.  Whether that be drug addiction, like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger, or alcoholism which took Amy Winehouse or those suffering from a co-occuring disorder such as seems to be the case in so many of these untimely deaths.  Pills washed down with vodka to overcome sleeplessness is probably not the most holistic way to rest.  But whether the disorder is in the realm of substance abuse, mental challenges or a combination thereof, attention on the subject is ever so short!  Outpourings of sympathy, righteous indignation over the epidemic of addiction and then a silent retreat until the next person falls prey to something unnatural.  I understand that it sounds like I am advocating capitalising on death, but if the celebrities of the world have so much influence in life, then surely their battles  can help others find answers and paths to mental, emotional and physical recovery.

It also made me wonder why people in the limelight are celebrated so much for their attempts at recovery while the average man on the street is not given quite as much support.  Actually there is still some sort of lingering stigma attached to treatment (in a variety of forms) when it comes to us normal lot.  While celebrities are applauded for their efforts to get clean and sober a lot of us are trying to side-step the truth about our addiction and recovery.  And I’m not talking about shouting it from the rooftops, just being able to comfortably state in certain situations that you are in recovery.  However, I do think more influential people should start talking out about their addictions and lead the charge in throwing off the cloak of anonymity.  I’m not saying we should all go around declaring our challenges in inappropriate places.  I definitely don’t go around introducing myself as an alcoholic, but if the subject comes up as to why I don’t drink, I am don’t make a big fuss of it and simply state that I am in recovery.  Subject closed and moving onto those yummy little mini quiches at the cocktail party.  But I do believe that it is time for people to stop feeling so ashamed.

Maybe you did bad things in active addiction, but there are politicians and business people who ruin the lives of hundreds and thousands of people on any given day and sleep just fine at night.  Again, I’m not condoning their behaviour, but what I am trying to say is that there are more shameful things in life than having tried a substance at some point, and for whatever reason, become a chronic user of it.  No one wants to be an addict!  No one aspires to suffering from a mental disorder!  I don’t think the same can be said of people that actively exploit and harm others.  Your recovery is as important and significant as any world renowned star!  You’re as valuable to the people who love you as the multitude of fans that still weep at certain rock stars gravesides.

So even though you may feel a little sad when someone like Robin Williams takes his life, spare a thought for the millions of people that are in similar situations.  The man on the street corner begging for change to fuel his habit might just have taken a slightly different course in life to the mega star drying on at an exclusive five-star treatment centre.  Addiction and mental disorders are not picky, they’ll take whatever they can get, so take a moment and honour yourself and your recovery journey (even if it’s been a bit of a stop-start process).  You’re as much of a star in someone close to you’s eyes as those fallen stars are to their fans, and possibly more because they have the privilege of knowing and loving you.  And in closing today remember, “Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey.”

Don't judge  my path

‘Til next time

Sober Something

 

 

I love you, but I’m not like you!

Before I get into my post today, I just want to express my gratitude to the people who follow my blog.  It’s always humbling to think that my words are being read by others and I really appreciate that!  If you are at all interested in sharing the story of your journey to or through recovery, please have a look at “Walking the Road Together“.  I’d love to share your thoughts with my readers and truly believe that we are made stronger by being members of a community of bloggers who are a major part of our sustained sobriety.  I find your stories so personally inspiring that I would love to share them with others.

Now to the business of the day.  Recently a close family member told me that their spouse had voluntarily entered a six-week rehabilitation program.  I’m delighted for her and wish her all the best, but it raised some interesting questions among close friends and family regarding the level of support that we are required to give once she returns to the “real world”.  Anyone who has been through a rehab program will probably agree that after the first few days of settling in, whether that be experiencing any level of withdrawal or coming to terms with the fact that your addiction has got to a point where you require professional help, it’s not a terrible place to be!  You’re surrounded by people who understand what you’re going through, whether they be fellow patients or well-trained professionals.

Your days are tightly scheduled and busy, and you’re completely focused on getting sober and kicking your habit for good.  You get to talk about your feelings, identify your triggers, come to a clearer understanding of your addiction and not worry about too much else.  I thrived in rehab, as I discussed in a previous post, but once I was outside the “pink bubble”, I didn’t manage to stay sober for more than 6 months.  Once I got back into the real world with work, bills, stress and accessible alcohol it was a lot trickier than within the nurturing four walls of the facility that I was in.  I was overly confident that I would not be a repeat patient, being one of the few people who was not on their third or fourth rotation.

The fact is that rehab is expensive and once you leave there is almost zero follow-up.  My Recovery Coach trainer talks of the incredible post-care he has received since being diagnosed with Diabetes, in the form of phone calls, educational material and follow-up support.  Correct me if I am wrong, but most people who leave rehab don’t receive that level of concern.  There’ll probably be a session or two about how one should find a support group and attend meetings, but following the level of attentiveness over the proceeding weeks I personally don’t think that it is nearly enough to ensure that people stay clean and sober.  The relapse rates are high, in my opinion, simply because after being cosseted and propped up for weeks, there is not really much of a transition phase.  Of course it is the individual’s responsibility to be in charge of their sobriety, but boy it’s not easy being tossed from the rehab nest!

And this also begs the question as to the responsibilities of our nearest and dearest on our homecoming… Because addiction is our cross to bear, and although we need the love and support of our families, we cannot expect them to change their lives because we have a problem.  We need to find our new place in the world after rehab in the face of the myriad of challenges out there.  People are going to be drinking when you go to your first social event, it’s as simple as that!  You cannot expect it to be any different and if we’re going to stay sober we need to learn to deal with it.  It’s inevitable that certain people within your social circle fall away, but it’s going to be a very lonely Road to Recovery if you think that your immediate family and friends will change their consumption habits – it’s not going to happen.  They may be more aware of them in our first few weeks, but believe me that if you start trying to change them you are going to be met with resistance.

If you’ve been there you can probably relate to what I’m saying.  If you’re in early recovery let this be a cautionary tale.  Our family and friends love us, but generally don’t want to think that they are like us!  They’ll support us by listening to us, maybe even attending educational or information sessions about addiction, but very very rarely will they be prepared to moderate their behaviour in the long-term.  And like I said that is something we have to come to terms with or it will be poison in our long-term recovery.  So I long ago made peace with the fact that one of the elements that I needed to include in my recovery was being okay with the drinking habits of the people around me, and the fact that they continue to do so is not because they don’t care about me, it’s just that they are were not hit with the addiction stick.  And if they were, well that’s their decision to make, not mine to preach about.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

consider-how-hard-it-is-to-change-yourself-and-youll-understand-what-little-chance-you-have-in-trying-to-change-others-benjamin-franklin

Addiction will end your life…Recovery will change your story.

1398282210437The literature on addiction is honestly overwhelming.  And never more so than when you set out on your recovery and decide to start learning about your disease.  The internet has opened up a new world of resources, but it has also led to the availability of every opinion ever written on the subject!  Is addiction genetic?  Is addiction curable?  Is addiction caused by internal or external factors?  Am I an addict or just a heavy user?  Is abstinence the only choice?  The list of questions you find yourself asking goes on and on.  But the way I see it, is if you are asking these questions at any point you are in some respect worried about your substance consumption.

So many times I’d promise myself that “this was the last time!”  I honestly don’t believe that someone who is in control of their using (of whatever that may be), tells themselves this kind of thing.  And of course there is always the effect that substance use starts to have on professional and personal relationships.  Over the years of my journey I’ve come to understand that no matter how “in control” of the situation I thought I was, it was ever so clear to those around me that I wasn’t.  If I’d been a little more authentic with myself a little more often I would have come to the same conclusions sooner.

The big thing, all those questions aside, for me was that I just didn’t associate myself with what I understood an addict (in my case alcoholic) to be.  I didn’t drink alone, I didn’t have bottles (empty or full) stashed away in my house, I was holding down a job, I had a group of close friends.  I certainly didn’t drink every night of the week and definitely never consumed anything before or during the work day.  So how could I possibly be an alcoholic!?  But there were cracks in my story…  I was holding down a job or more to the point running a failing business.  My close friends and I often ended up fighting after a night of heavy “partying”.  And my finances were abysmal even though my trash cans were empty of the offending empties.

Even when I went to rehab and sat in group with people who were trying to turn their lives around,  I still felt vaguely superior as they talked of being separated from their families, fired from their jobs and basically living in the bones of their ass.  I was arrogant, thinking that unlike them I was not nearly as far down the addiction road and that it was simply a case of choosing to stop.  What I realise now, that I was too hot-headed to see then, was addiction is not a one-size fits all disease.  Sure it may be an equal opportunist, for who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by this epidemic, but it certainly doesn’t present itself in the same way every time.  What might be a genetic predisposition in one person could be a collection of environmental circumstances in another, both leading to substance abuse.  And there are dozens of other thoughts on the causes for addiction.

When a lot of people think “addict” they immediately jump to all sorts of preconceived notions.  Yet in my case, I never slept rough, I never stole to support my habit, I never crossed paths with the law because of my alcohol abuse and I never ever hid my drinking from those around me.  So when people hear that I am in long-term recovery I can often see that knowing look cross their faces.  Sure I did plenty of stupid stuff when I was drunk, including dabble in chemical substances, but I am not the stereo-type of what people immediately assume when they hear why I don’t drink.  I am in no way trying to elevate myself above anyone else who is struggling or has fought addiction, I’m simply reiterating that addiction can strike anyone, anywhere and it never wears the same hat!

And the reason for peoples’ attitudes is simply a lack of awareness and education on the matter of addiction and substance abuse, especially in my country.  I cannot speak for anywhere else, but I truly believe it is time to help people understand this disease and thereby lift that shame and guilt that so many addicts and their families suffer, especially in the early stages of recovery.  Nobody chooses to be an addict…I wrote about this in my post “(Not) What Every Little Girl Wants to Be

I’m not advocating taking no responsibility for what we have done while we were struggling with addiction, but I do believe that it is imperative that for an illness that touches such huge percentages of most of the world’s population, there should be even more awareness, more education, more treatment, more after-care and more support.  Addiction is not something sufferers and their families should be ashamed of!   It is something that they should be given the knowledge and tools to fight and overcome!  I don’t want anyone in my life to be embarrassed (including myself) because I am an addict in long-term recovery.  I want them to be proud of me for overcoming this life-threatening disease.  And I want to make it my life’s work to aid and facilitate the recovery of those who choose to set out on this journey of sustained sobriety.  I want to empower people to take control of their present situation and start living the lives they only ever imagined!  Because addiction will end your life and recovery will change your story.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

ILS Coach Logo

Today I want to thank…my addict.

i-have-seen-the-sea-when-it-is-stormy-and-wild-when-it-is-quiet-and-serene-when-it-is-dark-and-moody-and-in-all-its-moods-i-see-myselfSometimes I wonder whether I’ll ever find the balance I so strive for in my life!?  The balance that I believe will bring me personal calm and emotional tranquility…  There are some days when I feel like a tiny dingy being tossed around on a stormy sea, secured only by a fraying rope to its yacht, slowly breaking up as the waves pound onto it.  Then there are days like today, when I feel like the sleek, beautifully crafted boat that I was tethered to the day before.  Gliding effortlessly through the azure waters of some light-kissed sea.  Yet what I strive for most is to be the rope that is holding the two together.  I am still tending to extremes, either motivated and inspired, or avoiding anything that resembles real life.  There are some days when I feel the strength of the rope, reassuring and flexible, as the two sides of me move across the metaphorical ocean, but it’s never for the length of time that I want it to be…

I had a power session with a wonderful coach on Thursday evening and one of the things I wanted to address was my erratic motivation.  I have so much going on at the moment and I feel that rather than breaking it down into bite-size manageable chunks (as the 7-step formula for guaranteed success which is stuck to my study mirror recommends) I am looking at it all as one great, big daunting task and really not getting anywhere!  So my coach and I looked at all the things I have to do and my need to be able to measure my progress, so that I can see what I have achieved, rather than trying to measure it internally.  It was nothing new, it was nothing revolutionary, but suddenly as a said that I needed a movable, vision system that I could use to literally mark off my progress on, things started to become clearer.

A cork board with pinned items, became a chessboard with movable tasks and goals and then a menu choice struck the perfect cord!  A set of water vessels, each representing a project and to be filled with coloured water as actions were taken towards completion.  Suddenly I was feeling incredibly inspired because instead of a jumble of projects, tasks and ideas within my head, I was thinking about something that I could use to gauge my achievements and mark off my steps!  It was visual, flexible and incredibly simple…  All I had to do was decide on the most important projects that I want to complete over the next eight weeks and get to work on my “Power Tower”.  I pondered, imagined, rushed out and bought the ingredients to get started and then woke up yesterday morning in a funk!  I hate the fact that there is no consistency in my moods…

Sometimes I can go for weeks without feeling down, but then something throws me off course and I am in that dingy again!  Well, yesterday was spent weathering the most atrocious emotional tempest.  I know that I am supposed to be mastering the tools I’ve studied over the past months and have been successfully using to empower the clients I work with, but sometimes I feel those addict behaviours wrap themselves around my psyche in an iron-clad grip.   It’s a terrible feeling of helplessness and vulnerability, being trapped in a very negative state of mind for no particular reason.  It takes me back to the weekend mornings when I would wake up on after a night of binge drinking, feeling morose and miserable.  Those mornings when I’d wrack my brain to try and remember if there was anything I’d done that I needed to feel remorseful about…  That lurking feeling of unease that something horrible had happened, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

The thing is that my life now is actually so incredible!  I am moving back to my home country in less than two months, I have a wonderful man in my life, and the most incredible friends and family.  There are exciting professional prospects ahead and I have made some very promising connections to move closer to my dreams.  Yet I can feel the addict in me looking for something negative and destructive to grab onto!!  And on those days I do feel powerless in the face of my addiction.  I don’t believe that my alcoholism was only about substance abuse, but also personal abuse, where I allowed my behaviour to be governed by destructive thought patterns and negative interactions.  It wasn’t only about the misuse of alcohol, but also the misuse of self.  And sometimes even after more than six years of recovery, that is the part of the addiction that I find the hardest to keep at bay!  It’s not the drinking, but the freedom that drinking allowed me to be less than myself.

Nobody really expects too much of someone who is battling in the midst of addiction, and no more so than the addict themselves.  I didn’t feel the need to achieve, to develop, to succeed.  After all wasn’t I dealing with enough trying to get over my substance abuse and live through the physical and mental anguish.  And now my life is good, really good, and all those expectations I ignored are here, right in front of me and the only way I can avoid them is to tend towards my addict thinking.  I have to say that as I type this it’s coming out like a personal epiphany!  It’s not really what I was going to blog about today, but as I write these words I realise exactly what has been going on the last couple of months.  The truth is that the weaker the addict within me is getting, the more fiercely it is fighting to stay alive…  It is frantically engaging in guerrilla tactics to ensure it’s survival and not be banished.  It’s amazing how I’ve suddenly realised this in the last few minutes…

And as I sit here, I want to honour the addict in me…thank it for everything it has brought to my life…express the utmost gratitude for the lessons it has taught me…and give it the respect that any element of ourselves deserves.  I also want my addict to understand that I am not trying to cast it out, as it is very much a part of who I am, but rather give it the space to exist within me emotionally & spiritually, as part, but not all, of who I am.  Rather than trying to omit the addict from my life completely I need to acknowledge the good things that it brings to my life and how I can use these elements to develop, prosper and succeed.  I totally understand the obstacle work I have done in my coaching studies and sessions as of this moment, as though a switch has been flicked and as I sit here, there is a strange sense of peace and acceptance moving through my body, because everything is easier with an clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Your current conditions are echoes of your past choices…

your current situationI have honestly not had a moment to sit down and write in more than two weeks, and what an incredible two weeks it has been.  It honestly feels as though the Universe has been preparing me for the incredible opportunities that she is presently showering me with and I am beyond grateful.  Yesterday I qualified as a Life Coach and I could not even have imagined that this was possible when I was caught in the grips of my addiction.  There were some times over the last seven months while I was doing my training when I really had to push through, because it required that I take a long, hard look at my “inner obstacles” and that’s never an easy thing to do.  But I persevered through the tears and the uncertainty, and have emerged from the experience more centred, empowered and focused than ever.  I simply cannot wait to start my new journey in aiding others in their journeys to personal empowerment.  I feel more liberated than I can ever remember and am overcome with gratitude for my present set of circumstances.

Last weekend was a weekend of firsts as I mentioned in my last post, and even though there were a couple of emotional- and alcohol-charged instances, as I always knew there would be, it was an incredible weekend.  The wonderful man in my life handled meeting my family and friends with a grace and calmness that only made me adore him even more, and it was so amazing to spend an entire three days together.  I believe that we have a far stronger emotional and spiritual connection than we did a week ago and I am more excited than ever about us.  There were plenty of tears of joy shed as we watched my brother and his bride tie the knot and we welcomed a new member into our family.  It was a long overdue family reunion too and there were more of us together than there have been for about twenty years, which was exceptionally special.

We danced, we loved, we laughed and we celebrated, and not once did I feel the need for a drink.  The bridal party ensured that there was non-alcoholic champagne for the non-drinkers and the bubbles were enough!  Being there, holding the hand of the man I am truly besotted with made the weekend more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.  The time flew by, but at the end of the trip I never had those feelings that I’d experienced when special occasions were over in the past, and I was feeling hungover and miserable.  I felt happy, together and exited about what the future holds, rather than nauseated, depressed and just blue…

And then there is my unfolding new professional path…  In a couple of months I will be permanently home in South Africa and completing my specialised training as a Recovery Coach.  Over the last few months, some proactive networking has paid off and I’ve established a connection with a few really incredible people involved in the field of Recovery Coaching.  One of them is an American coach & trainer who will be visiting SA later in the year to run a couple of  Recovery Coach training seminars that I am helping to organise.  Through this I have also been blessed to meet a wonderful coach who is not only assisting in the organisation of the events, bringing her established networks and experience to the planning, but has also graciously offered to be my mentor as I start my “calling” as a Recovery Coach.

I truly feel like the Universe is smiling at me and that everything is truly coming together.  There have been times gone by when I wrangled with the idea of how our past actions create our present situation, but I embraced the idea and now it feels as though my patience and acceptance of this ideal has started to bear fruit.  Maybe I just needed to power through the negative residue from my drinking years to move into this period of personal and professional abundance.  The feeling of having true purpose is something I’ve never truly experienced, but it feels as though there was indeed a plan for me and I just needed to get to the point where I was ready to pursue my true life ambition.

I know that there will be challenges ahead as I leave the security of paid employment to begin a private coaching practice, but I know that facilitating the recovery of others through their personal empowerment will be filled with rewards and opportunities for further self-development.  And I always maintain that anything is possible with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

when was the last timeI’ve been wanting to sit down and write for over a week, but life in the desert has been manic, hectic and non-stop for weeks!  I completed the theory assessment for my coaching certification, have been practising for my final coaching exam, planning the visit of a Recovery Coach to South Africa for a training seminar and working towards building the brand for my Recovery Coaching practice, and of course there’s been my 50-hour-plus job at the university.  Needless to say there has not been too much time for anything else.  But I am feeling invigorated and excited about life at the moment, especially because in 11 days I am flying home to South Africa for my “baby” brother’s wedding!  And of course that is a wonderful reason to cross continents.

 

It’s my first wedding in South Africa for over a decade.  Living and working abroad may have its rewards, but these often come at the expense of other things.  And for me the big one has always been the weddings I have missed.  Of course there have been other events like the births of my best friends’ children, but for me nothing quite compares to a wedding.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of woman who has been planning her wedding since she heard her first bedtime account of Cinderella, but I am a complete sucker for romance and well, a wedding day is about as romantic as it gets in my book.  And needless to say, I cry at weddings, no matter how well I know the couple, and I do so unashamedly.  The celebration of a couples’ love in front of their friends and families is a wonderfully joyous occasion, even the ones where the best man’s speech makes everyone want to crawl under the nearest table and the photographer starts to become annoying arranging everyone for hours into poses for group photos.

But the truth be told this will be the first wedding I have attended since I entered long-term recovery.  Many years ago during one of my failed attempts I went to a dear friend’s wedding and spent the evening refusing offers of drinks from people I didn’t know.  I don’t remember the evening being too difficult and at that stage I was in very early recovery, which sadly did not last.  I always said when I stopped drinking that one of the things that I would miss the most would be champagne at a wedding!  So the weekend after next will be my first wedding in this six-year recovery period of sobriety.  It’s also going to be my first weekend away with the amazing man that I am dating, and the first time he’ll meet my family…and I mean almost the entire family.  To be fair it’s not a very big family, but what we lack in numbers we make up for in rather loud, demonstrative behaviour.  Most of the family talk loudly, drink heavily and don’t sugar coat much of anything.  Luckily for him he does enjoy a good red, so I’m sure that’ll “ease the pain”.  It’s also the first time in seventeen years I’ve introduced anyone to my family which is something of a recovery milestone for me too and although I am feeling a little nervous about how everything could go (mainly because my family can be a little unplayable at times) I am very incredibly excited about the weekend.

I do know that I am going to have to keep my wits about me though and remain together and level headed as the weekend rijks-480-gen1progresses towards the wedding on the Saturday afternoon.  There’s a kind of rehearsal dinner on the Friday evening, and since the celebrations are taking place in the heart of South Africa’s Winelands and the family and friends are all rather partial to a bottle or two of good wine, I just need to remind myself that I need to stay vigilant about my anxiety and try and try and stay relaxed and calm.  In fact I think I’m going to be using every present moment trick and deep breathing technique I know…  I know it’ll be an emotional weekend with lots of old friends coming together to see my brother and his fiancee tie the knot, on what I imagine is going to be a very special day.  So the weekend is going to be full of recovery firsts for me, which is something to look forward to in its own right.  Not only will I be celebrating with my loved ones, but I will also be having a quiet moment or two to celebrate with myself and how far I have come over the last six years.  It’ll be wonderful to be there with a partner next to me, rather than the wild child who would inevitably end up leading many poor friends and relatives astray with my tequila drinking.

Being able to be there and remember this special time in all its detail is something that fills me with happiness and knowing that at the end of the evening my beautiful dress, bought specially for the evening, will not be stained or torn is also a very grown up thought.  So I’m literally counting the days until I get on that plane and head home for what is going to be a weekend of wonderful firsts, including having a lovely, new sister, being asked to read a poem at someone’s wedding and not being the one to dance on a table!

Til next time

Sober Something

In weakness there is strength…

I’ve had a really really tough week!  Yup, it was one of those weeks where every little trick I’ve learned for centering myself, being present and finding a personal balance seemed ineffectual.  I was quite literally an emotional and mental wreck for most of the last seven days.  And then I stopped and took stock.  I’d forgotten to honour my need to rest and recuperate.  I’d forgotten to stop for a minute.  I’d forgotten to put my personal needs above the needs of others.  I’d just been the “YES” girl and I’d let everything get on top of me.

Sometimes I forget that I’m still an infant in the area of knowing myself and my true needs.  That for many years whenever something challenging happened in my life I’d grab my bag, slip on a pair of fabulous heels and head out to the nearest party.  Because I refused to drink alone, as in my mind that epitomised alcoholism, I would simply find people to share my binges.  After all the bars of the world are full of people who don’t have drinking problems and are simply blowing off some steam.  What’s the harm in a night on the town to get over the strains and stresses of the week?  Of course I was kidding myself at the time, but a night of revelry was just the ticket to being in the moment in those days.  Maybe that’s why sometimes I find it so hard to be present at times, because if there is one thing that drinking does is that it keeps you so firmly in the now.  You’re not worried about tomorrow that’s for sure…not until tomorrow comes anyway!  And it always does, but until then each minute is lived to its very fullest with no regard for what will happen next.

There are days when I long for that escape, where time is of no consequence and the biggest worry of the evening is going to be who CHALLENGE AND CHANGEwill buy the next round.  So when I have a week like I had this week and there is nothing to help me refocus except for the skills that I have learned, it all gets a bit much.  Living away from the people I love doesn’t help in these situations because instead of coming out and asking for help and support, I tend to become clingy and needy.  Rather than simply admitting that I am feeling weak and helpless, I turn into the person I least like and whom the people in my life get rather annoyed with.  So this week I bottled it all up until I reached breaking point and the emotional walls came tumbling down around my ears.  Not really something you want to hear from someone who is planning to make their life’s work Recovery Coaching, but I’m still learning to find my core when it comes to these really dark weeks!  And then I stopped!  I breathed!   I rested!  And I honoured my need to be vulnerable and weak and in doing so I found my balance.

Taking to my bed and sleeping for an entire day seems to have brought me back to a place where I am not being ruled by unbridled emotion and where I can think and act with a greater objectivity.  When I am in these emotively driven spirals I almost feel like I am drowning and although the personal development work I am doing constantly means that I can get through these dark times a lot quicker than before, they still catch me unawares.  It’s been a while since I felt like this and it did catch me by surprise, because I wasn’t expecting it.  Yet when I look back on the days proceeding it I should have known it was coming.  Not only do I live in an environment at the moment that is completely foreign and unnatural, but I have very little real human contact.  I go weeks without even touching another person simply because the people around me are largely colleagues with whom I have a professional relationship.  It has driven home over the last months how incredibly important physical intimacy is.  And I’m not even talking sexually here.  There are days would I would gargle live scorpions just for a hug.  Then there are the daily stresses of work and an ongoing wrangle with my HR department over a large amount of money they owe me.  And the fact that the only place I really want to be is back in South Africa building the life I am envisioning for myself.

So sitting here today, feeling more my positive and energised self, I have to say that being vulnerable and admitting that I am weak at times, does not make me a lesser person.  What it does do is make me stronger through it’s personal honesty.  It doesn’t make me any less of a person than I was, rather through admitting that I am not always as focused and centred, and that I am constantly learning and acquiring new skills, I actually become stronger.  So today I embrace my emotional vulnerability and honour the fact that even though I am constantly trying to be more present that there are times when I fail at this.  But I do believe that it is only through overcoming failure and personal challenges that we grow and develop as individuals, with more to offer, more to share and more to give to ourselves and those around us.  And that in weakness there is strength…

‘Til next time

Sober Something

The Habit Of Gratitude…

Denali National Park in autumn, Alaska, USA, North AmericaPractising gratitude is something that many people advocate and over the last few months I’ve made a concerted effort to include it in my daily routine. Normally there is something that happens during my day that I am truly grateful for. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental… Perhaps it’s a message that I receive or a little event during the day that reminds me how truly blessed my life is. And there are days when I have to think about it more deeply. Yet there is always something. And the more aware I’ve become aware of expressing my gratitude, the more I have had to be grateful for.

I’m not saying that every day is a blissful experience for me because of this, but I am saying that even on the bad days (and we all have them) I can find something to be thankful for. By opening myself up to possibilities by doing this daily, countless opportunities are beginning to unfold for me. Over the last few weeks I have experienced a deepening of a personal relationship, exciting professional developments and an ever-increasing sense of inner peace. Along with being grateful, I’ve also spent months really working on my personal development which has brought me greater empowerment along with a far better understanding of self. This hasn’t always been easy and I’ve dug deep to find the answers within to keep me growing as a person.

I’ve recently completed my course to become a life coach (I just need to complete my assessments) and over the next few months will begin specialising in Recovery Coaching. I’m in the process of planning a business, developing a website and communicating with people in the area of further training. The days don’t feel long enough at the moment with all the planning, research and study I am doing towards my aspirations to becoming a recovery coach. For the first time I finally know where my true purpose lies and the work that it’s going to take to get me there is invigorating rather than being daunting. I’m constantly thinking about ideas, writing notes and setting up systems that I am going to use to bring creative awareness to the recovery of those who chose to make the journey, as well as my sustained sobriety. One thing leads to another and I am discovering that I have a unique skill set that will allow me the privilege of aiding in the recovery of others. The thought of being able to pay this wonderful experience forward fills me with energy and focus. I read a wonderful blog post this morning by William L. Smith about how recovery is contagious and I loved the idea of this.

All the personal development I have endeavoured to do has started to come to fruition and make sense as I spend more time in the presence of the present. Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” which I am reading at the moment is also reinforcing that having embraced my vulnerability and opened myself up to opportunities and possibilities in all areas of my life, no matter how scary they may feel, has also had an enormous impact on my personal development. There are moments when I still question and worry, allow the anxiety to take root, but these are becoming shorter and more infrequent. And the beauty of the work I am doing is that I recognise these fearful moments now, look for the lesson they are trying to bring me and rather than fighting the feelings for long periods of time, I acknowledge them and they seem to disappear. I was dubious when I was first introduced to this idea, but I sit here after a few months of embracing this notion and have to admit that it works.

So today I am truly grateful for everything I have experienced and learned over the last six months of my recovery and coaching journey. And as I continue to practice the Habit Of Gratitude, I know that as the months and years unfold there will be more precious people, experiences and events that will fill my life. So before you go onto the next thing today, just take a few minutes to be thankful for something, just one thing, that you have today, because tomorrow there will be more.

‘Til next time
Sober Something

I am not what happened to me…

Being in a new relationship can be emotionally overwhelming and something of a roller coaster ride, especially when it’s time to talk about your addiction.  But being honest about it can be incredibly rewarding when the person you open up to is understanding and supportive.  Of course people are curious as to why I don’t drink and because I am not prepared to let my alcoholism define who I am, I want people to get to know that there are so many more facets to me than the fact I have battled addiction and that continued sobriety is a fundamental part, but it’s not all, of who I am.  Last night I had the opportunity to have an honest, open conversation with an incredibly important person in my life.  It’s not like I’ve been hiding it from him, it’s just that I didn’t want it to be the part of me that we focused on as we spent the last months getting to know one another.  I’m pretty sure we’d have had the chat sooner if it wasn’t for the fact that we are in a long-distance relationship at the moment and it’s something I wanted to do while we were together.  I don’t think that there is a perfect time to have this discussion, but I chose to wait until we knew one another better and it seemed less daunting.

You can never be sure of the reaction that someone will have to this complete disclosure, but I do think that letting it define who we are means that it becomes a focus, complete with the fears of what the future may hold.  Nothing is certain in any relationship, but at some stage it’s central to the progression of truly letting someone into your life.  It’s scary thinking that it could be make-or-break point, because perhaps the person is not prepared to take it on in their life.  Yet I was pleasantly surprised at the easy nature of the conversation and his willingness to accept that it was part of me and that I am in the process of turning my addiction into my new career in the field of addiction coaching.  It says so much about a person when they remain open-minded to this element of who you are, rather than letting it overshadow everything else they have seen of you.  I count myself among the very lucky ones who has found someone who sees me as a whole person, complete with things in my past that may not be something he would chose in a partner.  He’s prepared to continue the journey with me and should there be anything that arises in the future closely linked to my sobriety, he’s agreed that we will deal with it then.

This morning as I write this I feel like our relationship has taken on a new depth and that the honesty has brought a lightness to our i am whatbeing together.  Perhaps he better understands that some of my less attractive qualities, like my deep-seated need for assurance and emotional support, stem from the fact that I have not always been able to look to myself for these things.  We spent an incredible evening together and both spoke frankly about who we are.  This being my first relationship since I stopped drinking I am learning all sorts of things about myself that I didn’t know and how to consider another person and their feelings about certain types of interaction.  It’s another exciting dimension of my sobriety because I’ve been more than a little nervous about how I would handle myself in this situation.  And there have been times when I haven’t done it particularly well, but it’s almost like learning a new skill set.  I’ve stumbled a few times, let me neediness and self-doubt take over, but the more time I spend in an intimate relationship the more I’m finding my feet and starting to feel relaxed in this new place I find myself.

I’ve made myself vulnerable, admitted that I might well make mistakes and that I am learning as I go, but the rewards are so exponential.  It’s taken a long time for me to get to the place where I am able to feel comfortable enough in my sobriety to get involved, because I believe that I am able to bring more to a partnership than I have ever been able to do.  That I’m not going to fall apart the first time something goes a little off course and I’m faced with emotional difficulty.  I’ve become more adept at dealing with the daily challenges that life presents and not running off to find solace in a stiff drink – better equipped to approach life with a maturity that I’ve not felt I possessed until recently and rather than being an emotional burden on someone.  Developing the interpersonal skills to be the type of person that someone is proud to be with.  Someone who is a supportive, loving and believes in us both without losing sight of who I am.

I’m not shy to admit that I’m feeling really good about this progress and how far I have come, especially when I think back on the unhealthy, destructive relationships I have had leading up to here.  I know that I still have a long way to go in my emotional development, but I acknowledge this about myself and know the areas that still require hard work and commitment.  My coach and I work on these parts of self that need bettering and if I look back to where I was a mere nine months ago I believe that I’ve grown immensely as a person.  It’s been scary at times, looking so deeply into self and confronting the personal obstacles that are standing in my way to being the person I really want to be.  Last night however was another stepping stone across the river of personal development and once these points are passed new ones may arise, but the growth cannot be easily undone.

Today I am incredibly grateful for the growth that an open mind and an honest heart bring.

‘Til next time

Sober Something