What Does Recovery Mean to Me?

hardshipsoften600There is so much debate about recovery these days…is it abstinence or can it be moderation management?  Does these use of medications such as methadone and suboxone mean that you are or aren’t in recovery?  Does using prescription or over-the-counter medication containing “banned” substances count as a relapse?

I think about this often as a person in long-term recovery and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have an answer for anyone else but myself.  I spent my first three or four years in recovery mainly not drinking…I don’t really think I was growing though.  If I  look back on that period of my recovery I don’t really think there was much of a change in my behaviour.  I continued to react to the world and the people in it in a largely  unhealthy way; I avoided difficult emotional situations and I think I spent a lot of time hiding from myself.

And then one day I started to really explore what recovery meant to me… I started reading, learning and expanding my knowledge.  I began to question my beliefs around addiction and what it meant to me to be in recovery.  I reevaluated my value system and what was important to me in my life…and then I started to see real change.  I begun to understand (for myself) that recovery wasn’t about whether I was checking the label of each and everything I put in my mouth as to whether or not it contained any alcohol or potentially addictive substance, but rather how I was growing and developing in my life.

What I began to realise was that hiding in dark corners at parties and get togethers in fear that someone may offer me a drink and then question my refusal, wasn’t me getting well…  I needed to take personal responsibility for my life and start doing some work.  It was the stage where I started to formulate what recovery means to me…  It wasn’t solely about whether I used drugs and alcohol in ANY form, but rather how I saw myself.  And suddenly the haze started to lift for me and it wasn’t about saying no to my addiction towards alcohol (and one or two risky associated behaviours), but rather saying yes towards my life.  And it was at that point in my recovery that it all started to make sense to me.

There was NO point sitting around and feeling that I had been dealt a dud hand, but rather that I needed to make the most of the hand that I had been dealt.  Everyone in active addiction and recovery has a story as to what brought them there, and none is less or more tragic than the next, just relevant to the teller.  So I actively began working o my recovery and stopped focusing on my substance abuse.  I started to look towards a bright, exciting future where so many things suddenly became possible, rather than lamenting the fact that I was “unable” to take part in a round of tequilas, a champagne toast or a seat at the wine tasting.  My vision started to broaden, my horizons started to look clear and inviting, and I stopped feeling like the awkward kid at the party who was desperate to fit in.

I started celebrating my clarity, exploring my possibilities and being grateful for the little successes in my life that I had long taken for granted.  I cherished early mornings, long lazy weekend afternoons free of hangovers, and I looked forward to guilt-free Monday mornings.  I stopped screening my calls, started practising gratitude and embraced the idea of personal, emotional, mental and spiritual development in a myriad of forms.

And then I knew what recovery meant to me…and I have known ever since.  To me it doesn’t mean passing on the delicious home-made tiramisu, but it does mean being honest with myself.  It means spending time on the things that are important to me, but also remembering the importance of others in my life.  It means owning my part in any situation (good or bad) and remembering that I don’t always get it right.  It means spending time with myself, constantly evaluating what I did well and what I can do better, and then using those learnings to improve on how I did things yesterday.  It means listening, watching, reading, exploring and investigating and it means NEVER getting complacent.

But these are my learnings and they have taken years to evolve and develop.  I don’t have the same beliefs around recovery as even some of my colleagues in the field of addiction, but as a Recovery Coach it is my quest to hold the space while others come to their own conclusions about what their recovery means to them and then walk beside them as they figure it all out…just like I did for myself.

Til next time,

Sober Something

Education is a Weapon!?

I spent three days at the end of last week at recovery coach training at Sharp Treatment Centre which was an interesting and fulfilling learning experience.  As a certified life and recovery coach I am extremely interested in new ideas, tools and techniques that I can add to my coaching toolkit, and this weekend was no exception.  Learning and education are very high on my hierarchy of values, and I have done a lot pf personal work recently on determining exactly what it is that drives and inspires me and I am particularly interested in the work that Dr John Demartini does in this area.  So any chance I get to personally educate and empower myself I accept with huge gratitude.

The learning aside at for the moment, what really resonated with me over the few days was the need for a new approach to substance (mis)use disorders and aiding individuals, families and communities in their plight around the use and misuse of substances.  The shame, guilt and stigma that envelopes people caught in the cycle of substance and behavioural issues is nothing short of overwhelming.  Yet the traditional approaches to treatment and recovery seem to be having very little effect on the problem, which also includes the ineffectiveness of the state to help treat  citizens.  Instead of receiving treatment for use of illegal substances, individuals are receiving prison sentences and the penal system in this country is in my opinion doing nothing to rehabilitate anyone, but rather reinforce the behaviours and dependencies that led to the sentences.

So what is needed is a huge shift in how addiction and substance abuse is viewed and treated.  And this is Recovery Coaching fits in as it is a forward-focused and solutions-driven approach to uplifting individuals and communities, without simply labeling people as addicts with an illness who are doomed to a life of misuse, periods of sobriety and ultimately relapse into active addiction.  Since Recovery Coaching exists in a place of wellness, advocates of the methodology believe that substance misuse disorders can be overcome and that wellness can be maintained thereby empowering and enriching people’s lives.  Through education and learning, individuals are able to live productive lives filled with meaning and purpose, free of the yoke of addiction and all the societal beliefs and stereo-types around it.  Recovery Coaches don’t treat addiction, they aid wellness and help their clients develop plans and strategies to reach personal and professional fulfillment.  Through self-development people in recovery are able to help themselves and in the process have a positive effect on others.  Because the truth is that all we are able to control is ourselves and our own lives, but by moving away from destructive behaviours and thoughts, we move into a place of personal independence and interdependence, and away from co-dependency, blame, shame and guilt.

By starting with one person, ourselves, we can start a ripple effect that will move steadily outwards to our families, friends, communities and eventually the nation as a whole.  By talking, educating, sharing and inspiring others to take a different look at what Recovery Coaching can bring to getting and staying well, rather than wallowing in the darkness of being an addict forever, small steps now can lead to enormous long-term changes.  No, it isn’t something that happens overnight, but the more passionate people that are introduced to the powerful nature of coaching recovery within a place of wellness, the more momentum there is to be gained.  I truly believe that we are on the verge of an immense paradigm shift in the treatment and recovery world, and I am excited and inspired to be part of the move towards a new solution.  So in closing I would like to leave you with these words from Nelson Mandela,

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Til next Time

Sober Something

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

How you do anything, is how you do everything!

This weekend I attended a seminar on Financial Freedom and Wealth Creation…and it was profoundly life-changing for me!  It wasn’t just about how I can make money or what I need to do to become wealthy, it was about the mindset of money.  What struck me the most over the three days was the amount of emotion that we connect to money and wealth.  The methodology is based around coaching and active learning, and the processes that were used were extremely empowering both financially and emotionally.  After many years of personal development I believed that I had broken free of much the emotional baggage that had been holding me back during my active addiction, but this weekend it became glaringly obvious that I have been carrying around a boatload of anger and resentment that are stopping me from moving forward in my life.

In my efforts to not be like certain people in my life, I have chosen to be everything that they are not, including professionally and financially successful.  It made sense to me at some subconscious level that if I was to be true to who I wanted to be this included struggling financially, because it was the antithesis to what I didn’t want to be!!  And yes, I have blogged about letting go of anger in the past, and I truly thought that I had managed to do a damn good job of that.  I might well have let go of my anger in certain spheres of my life, but I will be honest and say that there was a great big wad of it sitting inside me still.  So through the exercises and activities over the very intense three-day event, I was given the opportunity to really let a lot of the destructive emotions and feelings (about more than wealth and money) go!!  To watch them shrivel and die, because they are holding me back from the person that I know I can be was an incredibly liberating experience.

It’s always difficult to take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves and admit that there are parts of ourselves that we are not satisfied with.  Perhaps it’s our relationships, our jobs, our money situation, even ourselves, but it is tough to admit that we are not happy with where we are.  At points over the weekend, I was so far outside my comfort zone that I felt completely uncomfortable, charged with anxiety.  But I put my trust in the processes that were taking place and in myself.  Since I am a huge advocate of the coaching system, I went into everything with an open mind and was profoundly and positively affected by doing so.

More than once during the course of the weekend I was in a very emotionally vulnerable position, as I was slammed with numerous epiphanies.  And the people around me, who were complete strangers, were kind and supportive of my state and held a safe space for me while I explored by feelings of fear, anger, shame and guilt.  The activities are designed to focus on money, but the discoveries went so much deeper than that.  After digging really deep and stepping into my discomfort and fear, I left the event with a completely new outlook, feeling inspired and motivated.  Since one of my most important personal values is education and training, taking a weekend to develop myself is a privilege for me and I loved every minute.

The developer of the course, T. Harv Eker‘s quote was used more than once over the weekend and I truly believe that he is completely correct when he says “How you do anything, is how you do everything!”  And I am certain that this goes for our approach to our recovery.  I thought about how far I’ve come more than once over the three days, and even though the focus of the seminar was financial freedom, I had plenty of opportunities to relate it to my personal journey.  There was more than one moment when I realised that even though I have come a very long way in my recovery, there are other areas of my life I may have neglected because of pent-up feelings I have around certain people, places and this.  So this morning as I sit here writing this blog entry, I feel like my personal development reached a new level this weekend and many of the ideas I was introduced to will serve me well in many other areas of my life too.  After all life is always better with a clear head and an honest heart.

How you do anything

‘Til next time

Sober Something

The RCSA Promise | Recovery Coaching SA

Life

Please take a moment to explore my website www.recoverycoachingsa.com which covers the subject of recovery coaching as an individualised approach to long-term recovery from addictive substance and behaviour abuse and dependence.  Should you have any comments or questions, please fill in the form and I will respond to you.

The RCSA Promise | Recovery Coaching SA.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy…”

I didn’t sleep last night and lay in bed thinking about my personal goals and values.  Since moving back to South Africa three months ago I have poured my heart and soul into my coaching work and it has been an incredible experience so far.  I’ve learned a huge amount in a short time and have met some people who have reinforced how important this work is since so many people are battling addiction and searching for personal empowerment.  But at the same time there is resistance to change and people still cling firmly to the traditional treatment and recovery models in South Africa.  So I’ve had to actively pursue alternative employment, because as much as I believe in what I am doing, passion and dreams don’t pay the rent.

It’s been oh so humbling to put myself at the mercy of the job market.  And it’s also been a little soul destroying.  As a language teacher I have years of excellent experience and have literally been able to work where I chose.  Not so much the case when I’m looking at other areas that will utilise my skills and experience.  I am committed to the employment search, but at the same time I am having to give up a good chunk of my personal business plans (for the time being).  Life’s like that – give and take, ebb and flow – but it doesn’t mean that while I have been in this priority shift it hasn’t been challenging.  Pragmatism is essential in this case, because my anti-motivation is the thought of having to leave home and work abroad.  So I am prepared to do whatever it takes to stay here even if it means a cold, hard dose of nine to five work in the meantime while I slowly develop and build my coaching business.

There have been plenty of exciting developments, but they’re not at the money-making stage yet and one cannot live on promise and hope.  So as I lay there last night trying to get my head around the idea, thinking of how this all fits in with my core values which include personal relationships, learning & education and coaching & training, I experienced some strong emotional reactions.  The longer sleep eluded me the more dramatic the situation in my head became and the more upset I got.  But as the sun rose this morning and I had the opportunity to talk it through with the person whose insight, wisdom and intelligence always helps me find my answers, I understood that this journey was never going to be an easy one.  That I would face challenges along the way and that instead of throwing a spectacular self-pity party, the best thing to do was reconcile what I have to do in order to be able to do what I want to.

That instead of looking at having to approach my dream from a different direction, I needed to look at the idea of a new job as a learning and educational opportunity, which is definitely in line with my values.  That I should take the opportunity as one that has been put in my path to help me develop further relationships, both personal and professional, and that perhaps the job was the universe’s  way of showing me a slightly different way of getting where I want to be.  So I did spend a good part of my day shifting my perspective so that I could look at this fork in the road from a different angle and come to a place of calm peace regarding this particular situation.

The more I live the work that I am doing in my personal and professional life, the stronger I become.  Of course having someone in my life who is able to hold a safe place for me to experience my emotions and then take my hand while I find an alternative way of getting to where I want to be is something I am grateful for every single day.  The thing is that there are times when I am faced with tricky situations that I have to be very vigilant about slipping back into my [addict] default position which was victim!!  Instead of lamenting that my course is not a clear and unencumbered one, I need to look at the new opportunities that this little detour presents and see it as an unexpected adventure along the road that I have chosen to walk.  Taking some time today to just shift my focus slightly and how I could align the situation with my personal values has left me feeling empowered rather than helpless.  It happens constantly that we need to reevaluate where we are and where we are going and by doing this simple activity and coaching myself today, I have come to terms with where I am and what I need to do to move forward from here without feeling stripped of my personal power.

And in closing I always like to remember this quote “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

‘Til next time

Sober Something

worthit

 

“Are you willing to do the work?”

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself at the moment having designed and launched my first commercial website…www.recoverycoachingsa.com.  Still tweaking things here and there, but it’s an amazing feeling to be able to put my ideas, thoughts and services around recovery coaching into the market place.  Of course it’s also a little scary and I have to admit quite humbling.  Building a business from scratch is an altogether new experience for me.  There are so many factors to consider, so many things to organise and then of course there’s the constant thoughts around actually helping people grow and progress once they have chosen recovery.

I’ve spent some time networking in the industry and have met some very interesting people.  And I had a very special opportunity this morning and was invited to sit in on a group recovery coaching session.  Since coaching takes place in a safe and secure place, I am not going to discuss the actual happenings of the session.  What it did bring home to me was how I have come over the years.  The raw pain and emotional vulnerability that I saw and felt this morning were a real reminder of how blessed I am to have my sobriety and a firm handle on my continuing recovery.  Of course there are still days when I am not all poised and together, but those are days when I’m dealing with deep personal issues that I am fully aware of and am constantly striving to balance.  The hardest thing in recovery really is accepting that there are elements of one’s self that require honest inspection and hard work, especially if we are going to move from where we are to where we want to be.

Observing someone reach this point of realisation this morning, understanding that they cannot ask for the love of others until they love themselves and coming to this place surrounded by a caring, nurturing group, really was a wonderful process to behold.  I have never had any doubt as to the strength of the coaching model in recovery, but it is a beautiful thing to see in motion.  From slumped shoulders at the beginning to a man standing proud in front of a mirror with his head held high, affirming that he was what he needed to be, was indeed a professional and personal privilege.  For me this morning affirmed that although the path I have chosen to walk may be a tough choice in South Africa, where recovery coaching is still in its infancy, it is indeed the right one.

Giving people the personal power to answer their own questions while holding their truth in a safe space is one of the fundamental tenants of coaching.  All coaches are unique in their approach and have developed tools for assisting their clients’ development and growth, but the underlying idea is that we are helping people move from where they are to where they want to be.  These shifts can be in any of the five areas of recovery capital; physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual.  Whether an individual is seeking to get well, reduce anxiety, find inner peace, rebuild broken relationships or reconnect with their spiritual self, it is possible through the use of any number of approaches.  The main thing is, “Are you willing to do the work?”  Nothing in life that comes easily ever really sticks around for too long and I honestly believe that if my sobriety had simply dropped into my lap, if I hadn’t done the work, and if I didn’t continue to do it, I would not honour my recovery as much as I do every day…and even more so on a day like today.

After all, life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

Til next time,

Sober Something

Magnify

The one you feed…

I am in love with my life!  I cannot ever remember a time when I felt so truly alive…unencumbered by the murky depths of the past and personal nonsense.  I think that all the coaching, training, personal development and gratitude are finally paying off and things could not be better than they are at the moment.  But life wasn’t always peachy and as someone in long-term recovery I am ever vigilant of becoming complacent about my sobriety.  Arrogance is a sure fire way to let down one’s guard and then suddenly before someone knows it they’ve somehow fallen back into active addiction.  Rehab facilities and mutual-help groups are full of people who were living the dream, only to find themselves back in the clutches of their disease.

And yes, the more I study and research, the more I think that addiction is a disease.  I know that there are differing schools of thought on this, but I cannot for an instance see how this affliction we bear can be due to some kind of moral failing on our parts!  Certainly, before we become clean and sober through whatever means we choose, our moral compasses my have been temporarily on the fritz due to our illness, but this does not mean that addicts are without a set of personal norms, values and principles.  Okay, so we might slip off our personal path in this respect while we are feeding the beast, but this isn’t to say that we are devoid of moral fibre.  The degree to which we veer from our personal code may differ, depending on which substance we are abusing, but this doesn’t make addicts bad people.  I think that it’s a case of (generally) good people, doing bad things.

In my years spent in bars I saw even the most principled people do questionable things after a few too many.  It happens!  It is certainly not a true reflection of who they are when they are going about their daily lives.  Yet there seems to be this antiquated idea that addicts have somehow failed in this area and hence their dependence.  God, there have been times in the past when I was so ashamed of my behaviour that I could hardly face people for weeks following a particularly boozy night out…which became cumulative over time.  And yes guilt (I have done bad things) does inevitably lead to shame (I am a bad person), but this is only exacerbated by the collective stigma that addiction carries.  We don’t choose to be crippled by dependence because we are modern-day social pariahs!  It’s definitely (Not) what every little girl wants to be.

I was at a coaching boot camp recently when the facilitator was telling a particularly personal story about the deterioration of his marriage and his slide into debilitating depression.  It was about how a psychologist had taken a leap of faith regarding the payment of sessions because he was in such dire need of help, and this coach put it down to the fact that it was because his therapist could see he “wasn’t an alkie or anything”!  I was a little stunned by his insensitivity towards addiction, especially being someone who works in the field of coaching, but it just drove home how important it is to try and educate and inform people about addiction.  And the reality is that everyone is touched by it in some form.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a loved one who is grappling with dependence, be it drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, gaming…to name the more common ones!

According to certain experts in the field of addiction there are multiple factors to consider as to why someone might become an two_wolves_saying_by_irvinggfm-d5h0563addict, including genetics, stress and chronic use of synthetic chemicals, as well as identity issues and family stressors.  And along with the physical, and emotional and mental deterioration, there is spiritual degeneration which encompasses the area of morality.  But it is certainly not a lack of any sort of values, principles and morals, albeit they be different for different people, that leads to a person with a predisposition to become an habitual user and more often than not, someone who finds themselves suffering from a substance abuse disorder.  But as to which comes first, the chicken-and-egg theory has no place in this debate.  Yes, addicts do bad things under the influence and in order to support their habits, but I speak from personal experience when I say that doesn’t make us bad people.

‘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

I don’t get drunk!

the empowered womanSometimes I wonder what would have become of me if I hadn’t fallen into that hole on the sidewalk on 31 December 2006?  Would I still be spending my Friday nights drinking and partying, wasting my Saturdays recovering and living in the pits of depression from Sunday until at least Tuesday.  Only to start to feel human towards the middle of the week and then to repeat the cycle all over again.  There were changes in the general pattern, but that pretty much covers my drinking habits.  There were weeks where I might have included a second night of drinking if there was a special occasion, but generally the last couple of years of drinking followed this routine.  Substance abuse comes in all shapes and forms, and just because I wasn’t drinking every day, doesn’t mean I wasn’t suffering from what is now termed Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

The truth is that my life was either taken up by the direct effects of drinking such as a good solid binge night or a nauseating hangover, or indirectly by the depression, lack of motivation and general feeling of unwell that followed my epic nights of drinking.  No matter how many online questionnaires I did, the outcome was always the same, I was in the final stages of alcoholism and probably heading for the worst possible outcome.

So, no, I would probably not be following that exact pattern and it scares me still to think that I’d probably be either suffering from chronic health problems (take your pick of those that are brought on by heavy alcohol use) or god forbid, dead!  I drank to excess when I drank and this often ended with me being incredibly sick!  Great for the liver and stomach…  But the thing that would probably ended up killing me was the ridiculous judgement I displayed when I was inebriated. No matter what anyone tells you, nobody functions at their optimum mental capacity when they are “boozed up”!

How many times have you heard yourself and your drinking buddies say, “I don’t get drunk!”?  It’s the most ridiculous statement of all, because now as a sober observer, I realise that even those people who believe that alcohol has a minor effect on them are delusional.  And when people’s faculties are marred by their drink of choice, they make irrational decisions.  I hate to admit this, but I  shudder to think how many times I got behind the wheel of a car after a few too many.  And I am beyond grateful that I never got into an accident and hurt an innocent person in my stupidity.  Now I would rather stay out way past the fun has stopped to ensure that my loved ones get home safely with me as their designated driver.  I will go out in the middle of the night to collect my people if I know that it means they are not taking a chance with their lives or anyone else’s.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not playing the saint here, but it in some way makes me feel like I am re-balancing my karma for the years when I paid no heed to friends trying to convince me not to drive.  There are other lapses in judgement that could well have seen my ultimate demise, but I imagine that chances are I would have ended up totaling my car.  Death would have been a sweet escape compared to the idea that I might have ended or destroyed others’ lives…  I know that this sounds morbid, but the ultimate truth is that unless untreated, substance abuse in any forms’ ultimate outcome is death.  It might take years of slow decay or in some cases mere months, but it’s going to happen sooner or later, and the effects are devastating for those around us to observe.

Imagine watching someone slowly killing themselves and being powerless to do anything about it?  Devastating!  Not giving a crap what you are putting the people around you through?  Well, to be honest about addiction, it’s the last thing you are really thinking about!  Arriving at that point in recovery when you start to understand the pain and suffering you’ve caused?  Incredibly tough!  Moving through that and moving forward?  Liberating!

The truth is that you have to let go of the guilt that you find yourself in when you do get to that point, because you cannot move forward if you are caught in the past.  So when I do think what might have happened if I was still drinking, it’s more of an observation these days then a good old-fashioned wallow.  I feel as though I’ve got to the point where I can be objective about the things I did in the past, rather than mortified when I think about them.  It’s taken an incredible amount of personal truth and hard work to get to that point, but it’s been worth it.

This is not the first time I’ve posted along these lines, but I feel that it’s a point that needs to be made.  Once you’ve made the decision to let the past go and really start living your life in the present, the results are truly incredible.  I do believe that the past remains an excellent point of reference to measure our progress and development, but that’s all it should be.  It shouldn’t be a place we revisit to beat ourselves up about things we have done, practice any sort of self reprisal or go to to feed our addict thoughts. So today I am grateful that I can look back to the point before my sobriety and use it as a measure of how far I have come and how much I have achieved in the last 2,320 days.  And when I do that it astounds how much more incredible my life is than it had been for at least the 6,000 days preceding that, and those were just the legal drinking years.  Because life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something