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

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

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

Do your dreams scare you?

The last 13 weeks of my life have been incredibly grueling and to be honest there are days where I have not coped very well.  There have been times when I wanted to pack my suitcases and run screaming for the airport, which is only ten minutes down the road.  But I’ve endured and through doing so have learned more than one lesson.  One of the biggest might be that by persevering when times are incredibly tough and digging really deep, we find a source of additional strength that we didn’t know we had.  I make no excuses for the copious tears I’ve shed over the last three months.  I embraced homesickness and separation and wallowed in it on certain days.  I’ve honoured the fact that I was feeling miserable at times and took to my bed for a couple of weekends.  But the one thing I didn’t do was give up!

And the beauty of it all is that it has taught me that I can endure.  Some days I feel that I use all my strength and tenacity to stay sober, but these last nine months in this country of sand has shown me that there is more determination in me than I realised.  There were moments that it took every ounce of my willpower not to hurl verbal abuse at someone because my frustration and stress levels were off the charts.  However, I’ve held my tongue, kept my integrity intact and can leave for a short break from this incredibly soulless country with my head held high.  I’ve also crossed the half-way mark of my contract and on return from eight days’ back home, I will have a mere four and a half months before I return permanently to home.  When I look back on my ten years away from South Africa I marvel at the things I’ve accomplished, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had.  It might not always have been the most stable existence, but it was in the midst of this  tenuous existence that I got sober.

I left in August 2003 (probably incredibly hungover) and will be returning in June 2014 a very very different person.  I believe that my time away has brought me more than a stack of photos, a collection of memories and a wealth of friends.  It has also given me a new life.  Somewhere on an island in Asia, where I spent years not understanding everything that was going on around me I found complete clarity.  When I wasn’t able to properly communicate I found my own voice and my personal truth.

And I’ll be returning with far more than the luggage I carry, because over the last six years I believe that I’ve found my true purpose.  The more I move towards my goals, the bigger they get.  The more I build on my dreams and aspirations, the more exciting and inspiring they become.  At times they feel downright scary and even a little unattainable as I keep taking them to new levels.  Before I got sober I could hardly pull myself out of bed in the mornings, now the majority my days are packed with forward-focused actions.  I aspire towards the greatness that I used to only glimpse on a very good day, but now feels like it is constantly bubbling within me.  As I visualise, verbalise and record my plans I can see no reasons that I cannot become the person I’ve always had an inkling I could be.  In sobriety I know that there is nothing that can stop me except me!

if your dreams..Drinking robbed me of my motivation, my ambition and my determination but now I am going to achieve all those things that I didn’t have time for when I was drinking.  Now I am going to go out there and accomplish the things that I know I can.  It’s invigorating and exhilarating to think that even though I might have wasted a few years, that doesn’t mean that I can’t still go out there and make the difference in the world that I’ve always felt I was destined to make.  So believe in yourself and create the life you might only have imagined could be possible when you were trapped in the hell of addiction.  And if you have some bad days (or weeks) along the way be gentle and kind with yourself, because it’s all part of the process.  I’ve come through the bad times stronger, smarter and more focused than I was before and I know that there’ll be tough times in the future, but I am prepared to keep moving forward with an clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Do you really want to hurt me!?

I had an interesting conversation over the weekend with the mother of an addict.  We were talking the devastating effect that addicts have on their families and she was very surprised when I told her that I was in fact an addict.  It does sometimes amaze people as I must seem to really seem to have my life far more together than I feel on the inside sometimes.  She was lamenting about how people always have advice for the parents of addicts.  And how they are often quick to pass judgment on what the family should be doing to “help” the afflicted out of addiction.  The truth is that no one besides those who have lived through it can ever imagine how tough it must to to stand by and slowly watch someone you love destroying themselves.

The truth is that it’s not just the physical harm that they are doing to their bodies, but how they dismantle their ambition, potential and general passion for life.  And no matter what an addict’s loved ones do to try and coax them towards sobriety, nothing will actually work until the sufferer has their own personal epiphany.  The reality is that there is nobody who can initially help an addict besides themselves.  No extent of cajoling, manipulating and threatening will have the long-term desired effect.  Sure, we may do a stint in rehab or dry out for a while, but no sort of long-lasting sustainable change can be achieved unless the person who is suffering from the substance enslavement decides that it is time to turn their life around.  Interventions, tough love, forced confinement and any other number of desperate familial measures will do nothing over the long run if that person has not personally decided that enough is enough.

When you’re caught in the depths of addiction you cannot see the pain that you are causing to the people who love you.  Addiction is the epitome of negative selfishness.  I was oblivious to the harm that I was inducing, because when you don’t value yourself there is almost no chance of you cherishing those around you.  The mere fact that you get to points of rock bottom self respect, devoid of any self-esteem or personal appreciation doesn’t really leave room for the consideration of others.  I can only speak for myself when I say that when I was trapped in the cycle of substance highs and lows, I only truly felt disdain and guilt towards the people I love.  I’d either be mad at them for trying to stop me or remorseful that I was unable to stop drinking.  So I wasn’t really concerned about the effect that my drinking was having on them, rather how I was feeling towards them on any given day.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. ~ Maria RobinsonThere is absolutely no way of changing the past and I made my apologies as I’ve said before and moved on from there.  My point here is that I never meant to hurt the people I love, whether that was through my words or deeds.  I don’t believe myself to be a mean and vindictive person, going out of my way to wreck havoc in people’s lives, yet I certainly caused my fair share of strife and heartache.  The only thing that I can say is that whatever way the people in your life chose to deal with your addiction, you cannot judge them in any way, because we do not know the depth of the hurt that we cause.  I see the sadness in the eyes of the people who have addicted loved ones when they talk about it.  It’s almost as though they have lost someone that they love and are not sure how to cope with it because that person is still there in some form of their previous self.

So whether our people keep us close, cut us off or something in between, it is not our place to begrudge them this since it was our actions that led them to make this choice.  So as you ask your nearest and dearest to forgive you, also let go of any residual feelings of resentment you may have as to how they treated you, because if you don’t let the past go you will never experience the full joy that comes with your new life.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

I’m really not that fussy…

I’m not very good at putting myself first!  I genuinely feel that I am doing people a service by elevating their needs, wants and desires above my own.  Yet, when I am honest about it it actually tends to be of disservice to me in the long-run.  While I was drinking I did it because I felt like I needed to be constantly finding some way to apologise for my bad-days behaviour.  So putting others first seemed like a good way of showing them that even though I may have been verbally aggressive towards them over the weekend or failed to show up because I was too hungover to function, didn’t mean that they weren’t important to me.  So I got into the habit of doing things for my friends and family that didn’t always take my needs, wants and desires into consideration and sometimes even left me feeling a little hostile towards them.

Unfortunately this is now seen as being part of who I am.  Always happy to be agreeable and maintain the status quo to avoid confrontation where possible and go along with what the other person or people have in mind.  The problem is that now that I’m not drinking and having to be constantly apologetic, I find that I’ve started to feel really hostile towards these same people when they do this, because now I feel like they are taking advantage of my niceness.  I’m not a total pushover, but in the realms of insignificance I chose not to do battle.  So I’ll consent on the trivial things over and over again, and it’s started to piss me off about myself.  I’m not talking anything that goes against my moral fibre, but rather decisions over evenings out, places to eat, leisure time, what’s on the TV, which movie to watch…you get the idea.  I’m starting to think that I should stand up for myself a little more in the respect that my opinion, no matter how insignificant the subject, should matter to the decisions taken.

I constantly hear myself saying things like, “whatever works for you” and “I’m really not that fussy”, but actually when I start to think about it there are times when I’m not that happy with the option.  I grew up with parents that fought about really stupid things that still don’t make any sense to me and I’ve always believed that compromise is important.  The problem is I think I’ve swung to the opposite extreme where there’s no compromise because that actually entails discussion and reaching a mutual decision.  And I don’t want to carry this into my new relationship because I can only imagine that I’ll start to become resentful of the fact that I’m just too acquiescent.  I’m not talking about constantly disagreeing over the silly little things, but if I don’t have any practice how do I voice what’s important to me on the larger issues!?

well-behaved-women-rarely-make-history-marilyn-monroeI’ve learned how to stand up for myself professionally.  I guess I just need to take myself more seriously in the personal sphere of my life and talk about the things that matter when choices crop up.  There are things that I’m willing to let slide, but I suppose what I’m getting at is that I need to be more vigilant about just letting things go and then regretting that I didn’t give voice to my wants, needs and desires at the time.  There are so many new skills that I’m having to learn as my journey into sustainable recovery lengthens that it can be a bit daunting at times.  However, I do need to remind myself that I have 20+ years of self-neglect and bad habits to undo and underdeveloped and new personal skills to sharpen and acquire.  At the moment I’m going to focus on looking for the assurance inside and sticking up for myself when it matters.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

I am enough!

One of my biggest challenges in sobriety is overcoming the need for assurance from others. Yup, I’m self-actualised enough to realise that I am needy!  It’s part of myself that I fed with my addiction because when I was drinking I could dull this feeling with booze.  If I was feeling a little uncertain I’d simply have a drink and wouldn’t feel so unsure anymore.  When I was lacking in self-confidence I’d down a few shots and I’d be oozing poise.  It’s not as if I am a wilting flower, but there are areas of myself that I still need to focus on and my self-worth is one of those things.  It’s definitely not part of myself that I grew while I was drinking, because I developed a false sense of who I was before I got sober.  It wasn’t stable or sustainable in any way, oscillating between the highs and lows of alcoholism.

So my neediness definitely stems from the fact that I never really established a true sense of self prior to my sobriety.  And it’s exceedingly difficult to judge what’s real when you are morphing in and out of liquor-induced moods, be those good or bad.  So there are days, like today unfortunately, when I look outside myself for reassurance that I am loved, wanted and needed.  And even as I am doing it I realise that it’s a terrible idea.  The moment the words leave my lips or the message disappear into cyberspace I have a stark moment of realisation when I rue what I’ve done.  It follows the action almost instantaneously and I loathe myself a little for looking outside myself for what I should really only be drawing on what’s within.

The more time I spend on personal development the more I understand that we cannot look outside ourselves for constant reassurance of who we are.  During the stable periods in my life I’m less prone to asking for external validation, but when I am emotionally and physically stressed and tired, I tend to look to others to bolster my personal worth. The irony is that I know that it is futile while I am doing it and it frustrates the people in my life depending on what they are personally dealing with at the time.  And funnily enough I always seem to need this emotional boost when they are least able to offer me the support that I am angling for.  On days like today when I want someone to “hold my hand” it often turns out that they are also having a less than perfect day.  So what started as me simply feeling a little emotionally lost and wanting a little pick-me-up, ends of turning into a complicated emotional wrangle.

I’ve worked on my neediness with my coach and it goes hand in hand with increased anxiety levels and learning to quiet my egoic mind.  When I’m tired and stressed Ii am enough get anxious and when I get anxious I get needy!  Because my ego starts to tell me I’m being ignored, undervalued and taken for granted. I’m completely aware of how it goes, the thing is that there are days when I feel like it has a life of its own and unfolds in front of me, while I watch in horror.  Powerless to stop what is happening! So this year that is one of my personal goals – to stop looking outside of myself for the validation that I so crave at times, because this only creates personal drama and that in itself is an addiction of sorts that I’d rather steer clear of.  So when I have my first coaching session of the year I already know what my coach and I are going to be working on.  Finding the richness within myself that I need to draw on when I am feeling like I feel today…lonely, scared and sad…and all because I couldn’t find in myself the personal confidence I need on days like today to remind myself that “I exist as I am, that is enough”.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Coach Me Sober!

For a couple of years now I’ve been thinking of turning adversity into opportunity.  I’ve thought long and hard about it and earlier last year I decided that I am going to make my former weakness my new strength.  So I have embarked on a life coaching course with the goal being that I will specialise in sobriety coaching.  I feel incredibly passionate about this direction my life has taken and as I have started to learn a new skill set as a coach, I realise the massive potential it has in helping people who are battling with addiction. Even in the few months I’ve had a personal coach I have created enormous value for myself through our sessions and when I think back to the early stages of my recovery, I only wish that I’d known then what I know now.

future-belongs-those-believe-beauty--large-msg-126324067001Coaching is empowering and uplifting.  It’s about creating sustainable change through positive, self discovery.  It’s not about lamenting how you were ignored by your father as a child or picked on by your siblings.  What it’s about is staying focused on your present situation and working towards your desired future.  It’s not about blame or looking at what past actions have created your situation.  Rather it’s about identifying where you are in your life and where you would like to be.  It’s about digging deep and finding the answers to all those unanswered questions.  And as an addict I am the first to admit that I spent plenty of years ignoring the difficult questions and brushing them under the proverbial rug.  Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the rug shifts and thins and those unanswered queries tend to resurface.  I honestly believe that my recovery would have been a lot further along by this stage if I’d deemed to address all these challenges and overcome my personal obstacles sooner.

Coaching is not about advice or judgment, but about someone holding a safe personal space for you while you do some honest introspection.  And I am continually amazed at the depth of the personal wisdom I have as to how to overcome challenges and move towards my dreams and aspirations.  It’s so incredibly uplifting be be on both sides of the coaching process.  Because addiction and recovery coaching is a more specialised field than what I am training in at the moment I acknowledge that I am not professionally qualified to work in this area during the practical modules of my course, but I get so excited when I think of how incredibly productive and effective coaching can be in overcoming addiction.

I know I’m an addict, perhaps I even know why I’m an addict, but what really interests me is how to make my life as fulfilling and magical as possible.  I want to boldly adventure into my future, unshackled by the chains of my past and coaching gives me that freedom to become an intrepid explorer in my own life.  It’s a wonderful, exciting journey and the map isn’t one that someone hands you, but one that you chart yourself.  I’ve never really been the type of person who does well when I am being directed and managed.  Yet, if I come up with ideas, thoughts and solutions that are mine, I take complete ownership of them and will not rest until I have achieved what I set out to do.  I don’t think I’m too different from most people in that respect, because we want to follow through on things that we are comfortable with within our own set of personal values, norms and beliefs.  Being told what to do, more often than not, brings out the petulant child in most of us and we seem to self-sabotage what might actually have served us well.

However, left to decide on our own course of action we are far more intent on being successful in our endeavour.  And what an endeavour the quest for sobriety is.  It’s incredibly scary at times, especially in the small hours of the morning when you feel like you are the only person in the world that is awake.  At those times when you are gripped with anxiety as you try to kill the physical cravings for the release that alcohol offers from reality.  But oh, it’s so incredible when, as the sun rises, you look forward to the horizon there is nothing more exciting than the possibilities that lie ahead.  Yes, there are dark days as you crawl through thick forests of doubt and trudge through sludgy marshes of unexplained fear.  But the more adept you get at charting your course, with the knapsack of personal coping mechanisms you gather, the more incredible the journey becomes.  I feel like I spent the first years of my sobriety merely stumbling along, but I can honestly say that if I knew then what I know now, I would have found a way to spend time with a sober coach.

Like I said in one of my more recent posts, there is something (or a combination thereof) for everyone on their road to recovery, but nothing beats personal empowerment and honest self discovery.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

I am (not) alone…

Today’s been an inextricably tough day for me for some reason.  I woke up this morning and lay in bed thinking of every imaginable reason for not going to work and then once I had lulled myself into a completely negative frame of mind I finally got up, dressed up and showed up.  To be honest I should have looked harder into the excuse bank and just laughed today off.  And then I spent all morning trying to get rid of my sullen moodiness, which of course only made it worse.  Trying to push emotions away tends to lead to them swinging back even more forcefully and overwhelming you.  In the coaching course I am studying and the work I do with my coach and tutor, they advocate acknowledging these “negative” feelings and trying to find the positive that they are trying to bring you.  If I’d spent a few minutes doing that this morning as is becoming more habitual I would have honoured that is has been a very tough 12 weeks away from home, with no festive season celebrations and no tactile closeness in my life for three months, I’d have given myself a bit of a break.

This is part of the reality of my life at the moment.  I live a long way from home and work with people, most of whom I’ve known less than a year and I am simply lonely.  This isn’t the kind of lonely that I experienced when I was drinking, and I’d close myself off from people because I was embarrassed by something I’d done at a party.  This is the kind of loneliness that can only be remedied when someone you truly love puts their arms around you and just holds you until you are ready to move.  So I guess it’s more of a physical longing to be close to people I love.  There is no shortage of communication with home, but a virtual hug just doesn’t come close to the real thing.  And there were plenty of times during my years of drinking that I could be in a crowded bar and feel completely alone, and that’s the scariest feeling in the world.

So this morning instead of acknowledging my feelings of loneliness I tried to push them aside and as the day wore on they eventually came crashing down on my head, leaving me emotional and anxious.  Had I simply embraced the feeling for a while earlier in the day, acknowledged and accepted its existence in me, my day would have been a lot smoother.  But I got overwrought and along with that came an episode of serious self doubt.  It’s a roller coaster really and one that years of addiction means I am less able to cope with than people who have faced their personal demons stone cold sober and wrangled with them.  The problem with the easy accessibility of alcohol is that when I’d get into these situations where I needed to deal with personal and emotional issues I’d simply do it by having a drink and then all sorts of important issues would be sidelined.

And one of these things is that I’ve always been a little afraid of being alone.  As a child I slept with a night light and even in adulthood I don’t really like being by myself for long periods of time.  So drinking allowed me the opportunity to go out and be with people.  Now I have to deal with my solitude because I don’t hang out in bars anymore and without the dulling of my personal inhibitions I’m not as confident as I used to be in social settings.  Coupled with my isolated working environment at the moment and the fact that I live alone, I’m bound to feel a little removed at times.  It’s not going to last forever and in a few weeks I’m going to feel that strong embrace that I’ve been longing for.

The loneliness I experience in sobriety is so fleeting compared to the years of desolation I felt while I was drinking.  Feeling like an outsider even when I was with the people who meant the most to me, but never really being comfortable within any given situation.  Any sort of real intimacy was impossible while I was drinking and I’ve started to recently experience just how incredible true, honest intimacy can be.  So even though I have had a day today where my loneliness was crippling because I didn’t look at how I was feeling, it is nothing compared to the years I wandered around feeling forlorn while I was caught in addiction.  If only I hadn’t tried to fight against my feelings this morning as I fought against my addiction for  so long, because pushing things away and trying to ignore them only allows them to gather strength and return even more powerful than they were initially.

So before I finish this post I just want to say that I am grateful that even though I may feel lonely at times there are incredible people in my life that love, support and encourage me as I journey through my new life with an open mind and an honest heart, and because of them I am not alone.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

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