How you do anything, is how you do everything!

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

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

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

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

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

How you do anything

‘Til next time

Sober Something

The one you feed…

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

I love you, but I’m not like you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

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

Don’t look back in anger…

It’s been eleven fabulous years of wild adventures, wonderful people and whimsical endeavours.  But nothing has even come close to the feelings I had when the plane landed last week at Johannesburg International Airport.  I was overcome with emotion, shedding more than a couple of tears as the customs official stamped my passport.  The preceding two weeks had been beyond stressful, with me digging deep to not completely lose my composure at every turn and read someone the riot act.    It’s what I wanted to do since my employers changed the terms of my contract in the final week of work, which came as a complete surprise and quite honestly meant that my final week in Saudi Arabia was nothing short of devastating.  To be honest I did not stay calm and centred at every encounter, with frustration levels off the charts.

It really wasn’t about the money, rather about the fact that I had worked the entire academic year under the premise that I was going topoison be remunerated in a certain way and that didn’t materialise.  Integrity is a core value for me and I felt like I’d been misled and exploited.  Be that as it may, I decided that when

I arrived home I would not dwell on the situation, because as Buddha says “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”!  There is really no point in letting the events in our past (near or far) taint the endless promise of a new day.  The truth is that if we choose to do this then there is no one else to blame for the malignancy of hate that grows within us than ourselves.  I answered a couple of questions about the situation, expressed that I was unhappy about the events and have let it go so that I can move into the next chapter of my life unhindered by the events of the past.

As someone in long-term recovery I have learned that it’s essential to not harbour grudges, to let go of misfortune and look unencumbered by heartbreak towards the horizon.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that there is a lesson in every disappointment that befalls us, but I do believe that these occurrences make us stronger and more determined, even if it feels like we are gargling scorpions at the time.  After this “little incident” I am more determined than ever to work for myself and make a success of my own business, so that I am not beholden to anyone for my professional setbacks.  I’d rather be independently accountable for my successes and failures than relying on someone else to determine where my work takes me.  It’s liberating to think that my gains and losses will be relative to the amount of effort and heart I put into my enterprise and that when success does come it will be due to what I have done.

So as I sit here with the Highveld sun warming my winter fingers, enveloped by sound and colour, I am drawn back to Eckhart Tolle’s teachings that everything that we have done in our past has brought us to this exact point in life.  This particular one is like the soft glow of a slow-burning fire and for that I am extremely grateful.  However, I’m enough of a realist to appreciate that there will be times in the coming months that I may not feel quite so nurtured by The Universe, but I will continue to practice the “Habit of Gratitude”, strive to remain present-focused and remember that I was given this life because I am strong enough to live it.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Where do I fit in!?

In five days time I am returning to South Africa after living and working abroad for close to eleven years.  I cannot contain my excitement at the thought of being home again, with the people I love, but there is also another feeling lurking inside me.  I am more than a little nervous of figuring out where I fit in with my loved ones after being away for so long.  There have been visits over the years and a couple of them have been a few months, but on the whole I haven’t spent more than a two or three weeks in South Africa for a very long.  It’s not about worrying whether the people in my life are looking forward to having me back, it’s more about finding my place again in the day-to-day space of everyday living.

I’ve made it my mission over the years (before and after sobriety) to stay in touch with the people that are important to me.  The vast majority of correspondence is initiated by me on any given day, and I learned to make peace with that a long time again.  It’s not that people weren’t interested in me, it’s just that when you are out of their immediate sphere it’s much harder to maintain close relationships.  So I made it my business to stay in touch with the people I wanted to keep close over the years.  There are ebbs and flows in any relationship, but the ones that I have nurtured to ensure that they didn’t die across distance are still in place.  The majority of these people have been in my life a long time and I am blessed that they stood by me through the more challenging years of our friendship.  But now after eleven years it is time to go home and fit into life on a more regular basis.

Visiting home for holidays means dinners, braais (SA barbeques), nights out and other social events.  There’s always something exciting going on and lots of quality time spent with friends and family.  But going home permanently I am going to have to remember that this is not how life is usually.  I’m going to have to rediscover what is expected of me as a friend, a partner, a sister and a daughter.  Last time I lived in South Africa I was a very different person to the person I am today and I know that I will cross paths with those from my younger years when I was drinking.  I’m proud of who I am today, but the past craziness inevitably gets mentioned in a conversation with old friends and acquaintances who I haven’t seen for a while.  So there are often awkward moments in conversations with people, but I just need to remember in these instances how far I have come in the last six and a half years.

I suppose it will take a little time to work out how things are going to work from day to day and week to week.  Where will I spend Christmas this year?  Will my mother be upset if I choose not to travel to her for the holidays?  Will my boyfriend and I, who have been in a long-distance relationship for over a year, have strong enough feelings to find ourselves in a “real-time” relationship?  Am I expected to spend time on a regular basis with my father and his wife?  How often should I see my best friends?  There are so many questions racing through my mind at the moment it’s a little overwhelming.  It may sound odd that I am unsure of myself in relation to these questions, but I am really in personally uncharted territory at the moment.

And the truth is that as someone in long-term recovery there are still times that I am unsure of myself.  Days when my self confidence is a little low and I am wary of where I stand with others.  But I’ve learned to acknowledge those feelings on the days that I experience them and instead of pushing them away I let them into my conscious thought patterns.  Banishing them only gives them strength in my experience until I am a overawed by them and in a state of emotional confusion.  So I let myself feel the insecurity, think it through and try to understand why I am feeling like I am.  And instead of fighting the negative emotions, they are integrated into my day and dealt with in a proactive way, rather than hoping they’ll just go away.  It can be difficult to do this as it takes some personal stock-taking and honesty, but in the end it’s far less exhausting and a lot more productive than waging emotional war with myselfhome is where.

So as I count down the last few days in the desert I am both excited and nervous about the next stage in my journey.  I have been moving for a very long time and this allows avoiding certain things to some extent.  Now it is time to stop, drop anchor and really find my place in the world, with myself and the people I love.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

 

One way ticket to Relapse City?

Man I wishThere are so many people and things that have helped me along the road to recovery.  The people I have to thank for their love and support are numerous and they know who they are, because I’ve made it my business to keep them close and show my gratitude to them often.  But today I thought I’d write about some of the things that have helped me stay sober.  Of course there are times when we all falter and days that we feel like giving up, but when these days sneak up on us or pounce unexpectedly from the shadows, what do we do?  It’s wildly idealistic as a recovering addict or even a person in long-term recovery to believe that nothing is ever going to throw us off course.  Actually, it’s downright arrogant and this along with complacency about our addictions can be our downfall, not matter how many hours, days, weeks and years we’ve been clean.

I’m ever mindful of the fact that I have an addiction.  It might be dormant at the moment, sleeping quietly in a corner, but given half a chance I know that it would be front and centre of my life again and that is never something that I want to happen.  So over the last years I’ve spent plenty of time learning about my disorder so that I am aware and educated about the different elements of being an addict.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll mention it here again, I am not my disease.  There is so much more to me than the unfortunate fact that I am an alcoholic, but I cannot simply ignore that this is part of me, because then I start to slip into the realms of denial and that’s a one way ticket to “Relapse City”.

One of the practices I have adopted over the past years is to focus on my personal development.  There are a myriad of ways of doing this, and there is no right or wrong answer to what works and what doesn’t.  In that respect it’s a lot like choosing how to approach your recovery, there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution.  And research, although not definitive in this area, is giving more heed to the idea that it is possibly a combination of recovery ideas that may work best for each individual.

The way I have chosen to develop myself personally is to focus on how to deepen my esoteric understanding of the world and myself.  As I am not a religious person, I grappled horribly with the ideas of having a higher power and being powerless over my recovery.  But as I progressed through the early part of my recovery I began to understand that I needed to find peace within myself and in relation to the outside world if I was going to get my life under control.  Being an avid reader and a person who is constantly in search of knowledge I turned to one of my greatest loves, the written word.  And where I’d found pleasure in thousands of pages of fiction over the years, I began to find peace and understanding as I delved into the works of the modern-day spiritual masters.

There really is no other name for them, and I am not trying to upset anyone’s religious sensibilities.   “The Power of Now” by Eckart Tolle was a philosophical awakening for me.  The ideas and practices on the pages have brought me great comfort over the years since I opened the book for the first time in the very early days of my sobriety.  I am by no means an expert on living in the present moment, but I definitely try and embrace it on a daily basis.  The truth is that living in the now, letting go of the past and not fretting about the future is a place of immense stillness and calm.  I have read this book more than a couple of times and it is always next to my bed, so that I can pick it up and use it to bring myself into the present moment.

This is by not only book I have read on the subject, and Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer & Brene Browns’ books are all stored on my Kindle so that they are always within easy access.  I also have some of their works in audio format, so that I can listen to them when I am traveling or just need to detach from what’s going on in the world around me and take some time to focus on me.  I’ve never managed to embrace the art of meditation personally, but listening to them discuss their ideas or read from the pages of their books is exceptionally soothing and meditative in its own way.  I personally think that spending time focusing on our self-development is an essential part of sustained sobriety and long-term recovery.

In the early stages of the journey we begin to mend physically.  Then we begin to heal emotionally.  But is is also hugely important to rejuvenate our inner selves.  For me this is where we begin to rebuild our feelings of self-worth and personal poise.  Where we reestablish our place in the world and begin to determine our purpose once again.  It’s a slow, focused process to bolster our spirit back to a place where we feel that we are once again a worthy, contributory member of society.  I honestly believe that if I hadn’t concentrated on this element my life wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling as it is right now.  I’m not saying I have all the answers, that I live in constant balance and harmony, or that I am always blissfully happy.

I have confessed in my posts more than once that there are times that I wander through the day in a haze of confused emotions, but I am self-actualised enough through  my reading and intellectual discoveries to appreciate what I am going through.  To use the practices I have learned to bring myself back to the present moment, if only briefly sometimes.  To embrace the fact that it is okay to be vulnerable and scared at times, and not panic because I don’t feel like I am completely in control every minute of the day.  I am after all just a regular woman, not a spiritual master.  I have flaws, imperfections and fears, but I’ve come to realise and appreciate that that’s okay and the more I bring these parts of self towards me rather than trying to evict them from my life,  the more balance, peace and present-moment focus there is on a daily basis.  After all life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Easy come…easy go…

The longer I am in recovery, the more control I want to have over my life and this includes my financial future.  I’ve always been abominable with money!  There have been times in my life when I was living on the bones of my ass and there have been times when I would have considered myself fairly flush, but it’s always been “easy come, easy go” when it come to money and me.  No matter how much I made, I’d always be broke at the end of the month and as a woman in her early 40s I have virtually nothing to show for my years and years of hard work.  And I’ve always been somewhat flippant about my lack of investments, any sort of retirement plan and the non-existence of any real assets.  I have a couple of things here and there, but if push came to shove, I’d be in a world of economic pain.  I did recently buy a car in preparation for my return to South Africa next month and although I wouldn’t wanted to have admitted it in my carefree, unencumbered addict days, it felt really grown up and satisfying to use my hard-earned money to buy something real.

I’ve worked extremely hard over the past 13 months in a place I abhor, separated from my loved ones, so that I could save some money to jump start my future back home.  It’s been really tough and there have been days when I wanted to throw in the proverbial towel and jump on the next available plane, but I’ve stuck it out and only have another five weeks to go.  It’s been a real test on my patience, and sometimes sanity, but us recovering addicts are tough!  And I’ve managed to put a good amount of money away this year so that I can really start to build my dreams, and believe me they do come at an emotional, mental and financial price.  In fact, yesterday was the first time in over four weeks that I shared so much as a cup of coffee with someone.  My position in the university where I work leaves me in something of a personal limbo, so I spend a good deal of my time away from work alone.  However, the upside is that I have saved my money and learned an incredible personal lesson along the way.

The truth is that we take so much in our lives for granted.  Whether it’s sharing a meal with friends and family, taking a walk along the beach with a loved one or attending an event like a wedding or graduation.  Being so isolated over this time has made me appreciate how priceless time with our loved ones is.  I’ve always known that, but talking to those back home home who say things like, “Oh, I just went up the road to have tea,” or “I’m really not doing anything this weekend.  All I have on is a dinner with friends,” makes me see that we need to be more appreciative of those moments that we do get to share.  But I digress…

So one of the steps I am taking towards my financial freedom is learning to trade.  It’s a little daunting, but it’s exciting to learn something new that is stretching me intellectually.  And sometimes when I look at the charts I am studying it reminds me of the path of recovery.  Highs and lows, sometimes sideways’ moves, but never unchanging.  It’s the nature of things to be dynamic and inconsistent, and it is in that we find life’s exhilaration.  It’s exciting to feel inspired and motivated to take ever-increasing control of all the elements of my life, rather than being a passive participant in the unfolding adventure.  And the more of the story that’s written, they more motivated I am to continue along this road of recovery that is lined with promise, potential and beauty in all myriad of forms.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

build your dream

 

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

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