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

Which way to recovery?

street-signs-recovery-300x168Recovery is scary, there is no doubt about that!  It takes time, perseverance and lots of work to stay sober, especially in those first couple of months (and years) and there are moments when relapse seems like the easy option!  But with more than 2,200 days of sobriety behind me I can honestly say that it is worth the battles, the moments of self-doubt and the sheer determination it takes.  And there are people who want to help us stay sober!  And whether that is your local mutual-help group, your therapist or counselor, your sober companion or your recovery coach there are options.  Social media has an incredible network of people in various stages of recovery, groups that are advocating a myriad of recovery options and recovery professionals that are there to hold our hands through the dark times and share in our successes during the good times.

So often in the past people thought that recovery could only begin once a person had reached “rock bottom”, but this is not the case.  Anyone who feels that they are struggling with a deep-seated addiction or just moving towards one, can reach out and use the internet which has become an invaluable source of information and education.  This may be as simple as taking on online test if one is concerned about their substance use, becoming a member of an online support group or doing a Skype session with a recovery professional.  It’s not a one-size fits all fix when it comes to confronting our substance abuse and making the decision to enter recovery anymore.  For some people it may start with a stay in a rehabilitation centre, for others it might be court-mandated and for others it may just be a case of enough’s enough!  Whatever the reasons are for people choosing to start their recovery journey, the options are becoming more varied than they have ever been.

I’ve blogged about this before, but as I study more about substance abuse, it is becoming clearer to me that just because one approach doesn’t “fit” doesn’t mean that a person should give up and go back to the source of their pain and misery, in whichever form they choose that to be.  I can speak from experience when I say that I spent a little time in voluntary rehab and it’s all good and well when one is within a protected environment, attending group and individual therapy and education sessions on a daily basis, but the hard work really starts when you leave and have to make recovery work in the real world! Sadly, it didn’t for me!  I tried, I honestly did, but at the time in my city the only options were therapy sessions I couldn’t afford and AA which just didn’t resonate with me.  I relapsed and spent another 4 years battling my alcoholism.

One of the resources that helped me through my first year in my third attempt at recovery was an online support group.  It wasn’t a 12-step program and that was a revelation to me.  I didn’t have to give myself over to a higher power and I was the person in control of my recovery choices.  I am taking absolutely nothing away from 12-step programs, they just don’t work for everyone and that is my point here.  Just because you don’t want to attend a group meeting, where you work steps and share your addiction in an open forum, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other alternatives.  There are other mutual-help groups that are not based on 12-steps, there are online support groups and discussion forums and there is an ever-increasing workforce involved in the area of substance abuse recovery.  But the most important thing is that if you do go through a rehabilitation program, you need to find what works for you after that.

Don’t give up if one of the options doesn’t excite or drive you into the next phase of your recovery!  Get on the internet and find a way that does…and there will be one.  Whether that means typing your fingers to the bone in online chat groups from the comfort of your living room or finding a recovery coach that will help you create a recovery plan.  For some it means doing work with a therapist to understand why they fell into addiction and laying these past issues to rest.  Because if you expend the same amount of time and energy on your recovery as you did on your addiction the results will be unprecedented.  I have read so many stories recently of people who are opening up and are not afraid to share their stories without the curtain of anonymity to protect them.  Because it is time to shake the shame and the stigma of substance abuse and do everything that we can to create awareness, educate, assist and overcome this disease that ruins too many lives across all sectors of the world population.

So reach out, ask questions, find the your way forward and make the internet and social media an intrinsic part of your recovery.  Of course these are just suggestions, things that have worked for me, but I find daily strength in blogs, tweets, posts and articles that I read that I believe make me stronger, wiser and more passionate about my own and others’ recovery journeys.  We are part of a community of people that care deeply about each other and our sustained sobriety and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

struggle

 

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

What does adversity, failure & heartache carry with it?

Everything has been going so exceptionally well recently… My personal life has never been better.  My professional life has been moving forward in all sorts of exciting ways.  My emotional well-being is at an all-time high and I felt like the Universe was showering me with untold fortune.  Well, April didn’t start too well for me.  The USA Recovery Coach that was coming to South Africa to facilitate his training cancelled…  He is unable to travel and of all the reasons that someone would have to change their plans, I wish that his health was not it.  But it is and unfortunately all hours of work I have poured into the organisation of the training seminar up to this point really feels as though it is for nothing, which is not necessarily true.  But right now that is how it feels.

It’s been a long time since I felt this flat.  Neither very high or very low, just flat…  It’s not a feeling I am used to and tend a little towards extreme emotions.  I guess that there are still parts of me that are very much the addict!  The wonderful woman that I started working with recently in the organisation of the event asked me that morning whether it was perhaps that I had not been instantly gratified!?  And did this behaviour lend itself to a culture of addiction or a culture of recovery?  Of course I don’t believe I was looking for instant gratification in this particular instance, but I do see that this habit of wanting things and wanting them now, is very much part of a culture of addiction.  I’m not a particularly patient person in general, but I have become far far more emotionally composed as I have worked through my recovery.

But to be fair since I heard the news this morning all the reading, coaching and striving for balance keeps bringing me back to the idea that every obstacle faced is a new opportunity…  And that when one door closes another door opens.  So I have spent the last week reevaluating my current position and deciding how I can move forward with my training.  Instead of throwing up my hands and having a complete temper tantrum like I would have when I was in the clutches of addiction, I simply let it stew.  It wasn’t a good feeling, but I didn’t try to run from it or mask it with a boozy night out.  I just sat with it for an entire week.  I didn’t rush out and make any huge changes, I didn’t make any rash decisions and I didn’t completely ignore the challenge.  I just let it be there in the silence.  And let me tell you this is massive progress for me, who wants to fix everything immediately and does tend towards instant gratification.

And in the silence, which was tinged with a good dose of disappointment, the answers started to present themselves.  Not necessarily in the form I expected or even wanted, but in a logical and sensible way.  There is still no definite resolution on the situation this morning, a week later, but there are options.  And I’m giving myself the emotional and intellectual space to weigh up the options and decide which is the best course of action for me.  Of course it would have been incredible if it had all worked out like I had planned, but even the best-laid plans sometimes don’t materialise.  I was a little miffed when it all happened and did question The Universe as to why, just once, things couldn’t simply go the course without any upheaval.  But I guess to be fair life’s just not like that and we can’t go getting too laid-back.  So I’ve had my little self-pity party, listened to what answered have appeared to me, and my head is firmly back in the game.  And I feel very content that I didn’t get hysterical and make rash decisions (that I would no doubt end up regretting).  I’ve come a long way in six years, and a very very long way in the last twelve months with regards to this.

So tonight after work I am going to go home, cook myself a decent meal and start my new plan as to my continued training as a Recovery Coach.  There are so many elements that need to be addressed, that I need to just sit down and consolidate and take it one step at a time.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

sticky-quotes_043012_every-adversity-every-heartache-every-failure-carries-with-it-the-seed-of-an-equivalent-or-greater-benefit

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

Relax!? Don’t do it!?

I’m sitting here and staring at the keyboard, feeling like I want to post something today, but not quite sure what it is…  And the more I think about it the less I am coming up with.  I’m feeling a little distracted and in one of those moods when I cannot fully focus on one task in particular.  I find that sometimes the idea of buckling down and completing a job that requires any level of thought and concentration are way beyond me.  The idea of grinding away at something that will only bring gratification in the long term, rather than being instantaneous, is more than I want to deal with.  I have a long list of things I need to do even though it’s Saturday.  From tasks as menial and mindless as attacking the big basket of ironing that is glaring at me from the corner of my bedroom to spending a good chunk of time working through my coaching notes for my final assessment in a couple of weeks.

What I’d really like to do is lounge next to a crystal clear ocean, preferably in a hammock, quietly whiling away the hours with a good book and languorous conversation with my guy.  It’s not going to happen today, especially considering that I am surrounded by thousands of kilometres of desert, being scantily clad is completely forbidden and the man I mention is on another continent.  And then I start to feel a little guilty about the fact that there are so many things on my to-do list and I really just don’t feel like doing any of them.  But I need to stop now and remember my own advice and look for the positive intention that the lack of concentration is bringing me and there it is…  My brain is tired!  I work a normal(ish) 5-day work week, but my weekends and evenings are taking up coaching and studying.  And by sitting here and looking at what I should be doing and making myself feel bad about it, I should rather just accept that maybe I need an afternoon (or at least a few hours) to mentally recuperate.

This is something I never learned to do while I was drinking.  If I hit any sort of resistance to the things I was trying to do, I’d simply push through and then get to the stage where I was utterly exhausted.  Generally what would follow would be a good binge session to reward myself for all my hard work, to be tailed by at least one day of feeling high levels of physical and emotional remorse, only to complete the cycle by pushing myself extra hard to make up for the days I’d lost drinking and recovering.  A vicious, unhealthy pattern of overwork and complete avoidance thereof.  So if I have to be honest with myself I guess that there are still times I begin to enter into that negative cycle.  Except now instead of getting to the point where I throw up my hands and grab a strong drink (or ten), I am learning to identify that I am in need of some downtime and do just that.  Because sitting at my desk and not getting anything done is just fooling myself that I am actually working.

It’s taken me years of personal development and introspection to understand these elements of self, and sometimes I am still incredibly hard on myself.  But truthfully I have my coaching work and personal coach of the past six months to thank for these insights.  I may think I am being lazy or unproductive, but now I’ve started to see that I need to listen to these “negative” feelings and see what they are trying to bring me.  What’s wrong with being lazy once in a while?  What’s the harm in taking a Saturday afternoon off to enjoy a good book?  It’s a whole lot better than dashing off to the bar with the first person you can find to accompany you, and then spending the night getting steadily inebriated.  And we all have a version of how that story ends…

relaxIt’s so easy to get caught in insane patterns as a recovering alcoholic, replacing previously destructive behaviours with new “healthy” ones.  But addiction comes in all shapes and forms.  It’s a case of being constantly vigilant with myself and picking up the early signs that I might just be tending towards getting into a dark vortex of extremes.  Working too much, studying too hard, being too needy in my relationship or any other kind of extreme behaviour.  I guess I have to accept that this is part of who I am and be aware that replacing one addiction with another (even if it’s not the kind that’s tied to a toxic substance) is something I need to keep in check.  I’ve even gone through stages where I’ve become obsessed with exercising or healthy eating at the expense of everything else.  What I’m constantly striving for is sustainable balance and I feel like I am getting closer all the time, but I cannot ignore the “Little Professor” inside me who is constantly trying to remind me what I need to do to maintain this long-term equilibrium.

Writing this post has made me realise that I need to switch off from my work, grab a cup of tea and find a sunny spot to enjoy a few hours of reading.  That perhaps the best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.  Then I will be able to come back to the things I need to do refreshed and mentally relaxed, feeling good that I honoured my need to just be.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

She’s making a list…!?

I realised today that through all the personal and professional work I am doing I have started thinking about my recovery a lot more recently.  As I’ve written about before I do not believe that we should let this disease define who we are!  If you had a life-threatening illness such as cancer, you wouldn’t lead with that in a conversation with a new acquaintance would you!?  You might get to it at some stage in the proceedings, but  it’s hardly what you open with…  I don’t want to be defined by my inability to control my drinking, not being able to stop once I’ve started.  Six years of sobriety have shown me that I am not lacking in willpower and strength, and that it’s just something that I honestly have no mental control over.

I can avoid bad food, I can skirt potentially hostile dinner conversation topics, I can commit myself to personal and professional endeavours, yet when it comes to saying no to another drink I am powerless in the face of its magnetism.  I find it odd that something that is actually potentially deadly for some of us has such a strong pull on us!  Temptation is not an overriding problem for me in general and I do watch myself around alcohol, but I’ve got the facts  and awful memories so clearly mapped out that I can access the reasons I don’t drink instantaneously.  I can run down the list of “why not to have a drink” without breaking my stride.  And “the list” is always close at hand for easy referral should I ever think that I would be able to have just one drink.

I’m not under any illusion when it comes to this…  It might be a couple of drinks the first time, but this number inevitably ends up growing and before long it’s back to the “Friday Night Binge and Blackout Special”.  I’ve been down that road a couple of times.  One drink is too many and 20 isn’t enough!?  So in my mind I carry around my list of “Why I don’t drink…”.  There are plenty of points on that list and different situations may call for me to tap into different reasons, but at the end of the day they all boil down to the same thing.  If I had one drink my life would start to unravel…slowly at first, but then with increasing speed as I drank more and was sucked back into the destructive vortex of my drinking habits.  So when I have a day that I think it would be nice to have a little glass of wine to take off the edge, I need to go to my list and find a reason not to.  It might seem strange to some people that I need to remind myself why I don’t drink at times, but there it is.  There are nights when I’d love to nestle down on the couch and sip steadily on a bottle of wine, while the strains and stresses of the week washed away.  But as  a recovering alcoholic this is not even a remote possibility.

Sometimes I get annoyed that I had to stop drinking, because then I’d be able to alter my mental state when things are not going well.  I do get upset that I was hit with the genetic alcoholic stick!  Why can’t I have a drink or two to relax my frayed nerves?  Get out of my head and not worry about the things that are going on around me?  But the truth is that there is no escape from reality when you make the decision to give up drinking.  Of course there ways of learning to be more present, comfortable and centred, but they are a lot more challenging to master than lifting the proverbial elbow.  And then when I start to think like that it’s time to go to the list and remind myself how awful it feels to be miserable and hungover after a night of binge drinking.  That one normally does it, but then there’s also the increased disposable income, the health benefits, the clear conscience, the time for things I love and of course happy personal relationships.  And that’s a lot to give up for a couple of hours of mental respite.

inspiring-messageSo even though I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind slipping into a fuzzy head space every now and again, it’s not worth the price I’d end up paying.  There are the occasional cravings when I’m having a bad day or there’s a special celebration going on that I’d like to feel more relaxed at.  But then I think about why and refilling my water-glass or having a cup of coffee doesn’t seem so bad.  I love being sober and I love my life without hangovers, hazy memories, a depleted bank account and personal misunderstandings.  And I’m learning to balance my life better each day so that the wonderful elements of my life are the ones that take precedence. And when the less savoury parts pop their heads up, I am always quick to honour and acknowledge them, because they are a reminder of a time past when things were not as good as they are now and how long it’s taken me to get here.

And once the moments of craving pass I lovingly fold “the list” and slip it back into its own space so that I know where to find it when I will need to look at it sometime in the future.  I’m never sure when I’m going to have to take it out, but it’s always there when I do.

‘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

Was yesterday your defining moment!?

you would not be here todaySometimes it’s hard to believe that there were weekend mornings that I could barely raise my head off the pillow, both from the pain and the shame.  Now if I’m not up and about before 8am I’ve really slept in.  My weekends are busy, productive times when I get to spend time doing things that I am passionate about.  I don’t dread the rising sun anymore on a Saturday, but rather welcome the chance to be engaged in meaningful personal and professional activities that bring me huge amounts of joy.  Of course there are days when I languish and honour my need to rest, but there are days like today when the hours fly by.  When I was drinking I’d spend my weekends curled up in a ball, nursing a hangover with fizzy drinks and fatty food.  Don’t get me wrong, occasionally I do still indulge in a greasy burger and fries, but it’s not my weekend staple anymore.

Today is a wonderful example of how my life has changed over the last six years.  I was woken up by a lovely “Saturday” morning message and was at my computer before 7:30.  The reason for this is that an exceptionally exciting professional opportunity has begun to unfold for me over the last few weeks.  I mentioned it in passing in a previous post, but it seems to be gathering momentum and I am giving it my all.  I’m very focused on completing my Life Coach certification over the next few weeks and with that done I am looking towards becoming a specialised Recovery Coach.  I’ve been doing a lot of research on the internet and have been contacting various schools about the possibility of doing a course in this field.  And suddenly a distance course has turned into a wonderful Recovery Coach and Trainer, Dr Louis Gonzales from Minnesota, possibly coming to South Africa later in the year to facilitate his training course.

It all felt a little daunting at first, but as I started to stretch my organisational wings, I realised that this is something I am well capable of getting off the ground.  My mind of course has been working overtime, but not in the destructive, harmful way that minds can work.  Rather in a productive and outcomes’ focused way that is not governed by ego and insecurity.  Not only will I be able to be one of the trainees, but now I have the chance to be involved in the organisation of the training seminars.  Along with this there may be the possibility of including sponsored delegates who work in the field of substance abuse and recovery in community initiatives and volunteer programs.  Maybe I’m being overambitious, but the way I see it I may as well go for broke.  There’s absolutely no harm in shooting for the stars!

And within the last 48 hours wonderful things have already started to happen.  I shamelessly sent emails to people involved in the Coaching profession in South Africa and I’ve had some very encouraging and exciting responses.  I also have a supportive personal network, with people close to me involved in the organisation and facilitation of training seminars who have offered to assist where they can.  And of course the internet and social media are a source of incredible potential in all sorts of forms.  Honestly, I haven’t been this excited by a project in some time and I’m so excited by the challenge.

So when I think back to weekends past and how I spent them in a mist of despair and angst, it only makes days like today even sweeter.  Life just gets better and better.  And no, not every day is flawless.  I too have horrible days when I want to hide under my bed, but those days are becoming fewer and fewer as I focus my energy on things I am truly passionate about.  So I’m going to give this my all and do my very very best to see it come to fruition in a few months.  There is every chance that things may go awry, but my focus is on a positive and successful result.  I know that through this event we can bring Recovery Coaching into focus in South Africa as a much-needed alternative or addition to the current substance abuse and recovery models that are being followed.  And by that I am incredibly excited!

‘Til next time

Sober Something

 

What are we going to do today Brain!?

I had the most incredible eight days at home last week and I am feeling more fired up and passionate than I have a long time. It wasn’t just about spending time with the people that matter to me, but also getting the opportunity to stretch myself mentally. Learning and growing intellectually has always been important to me and since I stopped drinking it has become more of a focus than before. I found that when I was drinking I’d get very enthusiastic about ideas when I was caught up in the moments fueled by alcohol, but not feel as excited about my newly hatched plans when I woke up in the morning. What I’ve found though is that now when I make plans they are far more long-lasting and my designs don’t fade in the harsh light of day. Rather my conceptions grow and develop the more time I spend nurturing them.

In my twenties and early thirties I had all sorts of grandiose schemes that I’d conceptualise with friends late at night. Often they’d be hazy the following morning and even feel silly, and within a few days or weeks they’d be discarded to be replaced the next Friday night with something which would prove to be equally fleeting. I don’t think that it was the ideas that were ridiculous, rather that I lacked the self-worth and confidence to follow through on them. And of course bringing plans to fruition takes dedication, hard work and even personal sacrifice, none of which I was willing to undertake while I was destructively fixated on my drinking. Plus these would definitely detract from my drinking (and recovery) time and seemed far too much like drudgery at the time. So I’d flit from one set of goals and aspirations to the next, never settling on anything for long enough to bring it to life.

However, as my sobriety becomes deeper and richer I have started to become increasingly excited about my plans for the future. And the more inspired and motivated I have become the more opportunities have begun to unfold. While I was in South Africa I got the chance to attend one day of a Wealth Seminar hosted by Wright Thurston, which was an event that has opened my eyes to many new and interesting ideas. This event was just one wonderful experience that materialised in the short time I was home. It has started to feel like all the practices I have put in place in my life are all starting to pay off. My personal commitment to practice the “Habit Of Gratitude” on a daily basis is beginning to shower untold personal gifts on me. Yes, I try and stay positive and upbeat, but over the months I’ve also learned how to overcome obstacles in my life, not by trying to ignore them, but rather embracing them and seeing what they are trying to bring me.

Becoming more clear about my goals and ambitions has also brought a new clarity to my future. Rather than wallowing around in a misty fairyland I have started to implement systems into my life that will lead me towards achieving my big dreams. I’m a long way off, but instead of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task as I would get when I was drinking, I am invigorated by the steps that I am taking to reach my destination. I’ve started to take more and more pleasure in the journey, rather than wanting the instant gratification in which addiction is so solidly based. Of course there are days when I stumble, but instead of retreating to the closest bar, I pick myself up and reevaluate the situation. This is something I never did in the past and I’d throw my hands up at the first sign of difficultly and move onto the next best thing. The problem with that is that I never saw anything through and never actually got to the point where I was even sure whether these ideas where even something I could accomplish. It being far easier to give up than fail in my mind. I’m learning that failure is not the end of the road, rather just the chance to take stock and decide what action to take next.

So plan, dream, aspire and stretch yourself as you move through recovery and never ever be scared of falling, because it makes you stronger, wiser and more determined when you pick yourself up and keep going!

‘Til next time
Sober Something
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