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

 

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

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
progress

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 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

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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No New Year’s Resolutions!?

my yearI don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore!  And in the past I’ve only ever managed to make one that I stuck to.  It wasn’t so much a NY resolution as a life-saving necessity.  I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I hadn’t stopped drinking six years ago!?  Maybe I would have continued along, binge drinking, never achieving anything personally or professionally, spending my weekends in the fogs of depression and self deprecation…  I think I would have inevitably ended up losing everyone that matters in my life and become a scarred, jaded alcoholic making new friends every Friday night with whoever was sitting next to me in the bar.  It doesn’t sound like an emotionally fulfilling life, does it?

Sure there’d have been a few laughs over the last six years and maybe even a couple of short-lived periods of happiness, but I think that my life would mainly comprise of a set of shallow, mercurial  experiences that were semi-remembered and easily forgotten.  But this is only a supposition on my part.  Overcoming addiction is definitely no walk in the park, with blue birds and daffodils.  It’s brutal at times!  Addiction, although not the right choice, is often the easy choice.  There are nights in the early stages of my sobriety that I’d be at a party, loitering on the sidelines of fun, thinking about sneaking a quick tequila just to get me in the mood.  Often my whole night would be spent making small talk with people I didn’t particularly want to be spending time with just to prove to myself that I could resist the temptation of having a drink.  I am not advocating this course of recovery for anyone!  “White knuckling” it is not for everyone and that is why there are rehab centres and support groups around the world.  The recovery statistics vary, but more people seem to stay sober if they attend a support group.  There are other options of course which include therapy, counselling and coaching.  And I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that everyone needs to find the one, or a combination thereof, that works for them.

Just because I never gave myself over to a higher power, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  It’s not about how you chose to get and stay sober, it’s about doing whatever it takes to find your way to sobriety.  For myself, I don’t believe that substituting drinking every day of the week (or part thereof) with meetings and support group.  It seems like exchanging one crutch for another, and I believe in finding ways to break the restrictive confines of addiction in positive, constructive ways.  I’m not sure that sitting around talking about an unhealthy past is the way towards a healthy future!?  I might upset a few people in my outlook, but I believe in present- and future-focused recovery rather than dwelling on the negative behaviour of the years gone by.  Yes, take stock, make amends, lay the demons to rest, but then for goodness sake move on!  Don’t spend months and years rehashing what you did as an alcoholic gripped in the clutches of your disease, but rather look forward as to how you want your new life to be.  Don’t go digging up the skeletons of the past, but rather aspire towards the new life that you chose for yourself.

I don’t want my disease to define me!  I’m so much more than that…  Yes, I am an alcoholic, but I’m also a woman, a partner, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an educator, a future coach…  There are so many parts to who I am that I choose not to be defined by this one part of myself.  I’m a fighter, a survivor and a passionate believer that anyone can overcome this disease if they are prepared to do whatever it takes to get and stay sober.  If that means walking away from certain people, places and situations then by all means do it, but remember that it’s not them that have the problem.  Sure there are a few people that were part of my life when I was drinking that no longer feature, but the majority of the people who meant something to me then are still in my life now.  They weren’t to blame for my addiction and new starts can be made within existing circumstances.  It’s not the people around you that need to change to overcome your addiction, it’s you.  And the people that love you and believe in you the most will be there for you along the journey, holding your hand, giving you strength and cheering you on.

So as the new year starts think about all the wonderful, positive things that make you the person you are and don’t just focus on alcoholism as being all that you are.  Look inside yourself and find those attributes that make you the unique and special person that you are, then use those to develop a plan to get and stay sober.  It’s what I did, and although I am an alcoholic, I am so so much more.  I chose to focus on the positive, uplifting parts of who I am to keep moving forward towards my dreams and aspirations, at the same time acknowledging and honouring the lesser parts of me that make me who I am.

‘Til next time

Sober Something