It’s not my cup of tea…but it is my journey.

The more I learn about addiction, the more confusing it becomes!?  There are so many ideas about the cause of addiction and the reasons that some people become addicts and others don’t.  At the moment I am doing a course on “Addiction & The Brain” and I have to admit that it’s stretching me intellectually.  But it’s also fascinating.  I’m learning about things that I had no idea about and the great thing about being in long-term recovery is that there are so many more hours in the day than there were when I was drinking.  We all know that a lot of our time when we are in the grips of addiction is taken up with our disease…  And that’s another element of addiction that is constantly under debate.

But whatever you have chosen as the cause of your addiction, whether it be physiology, environment, stress or being hit with the unlucky gene stick (to name a few) I think it’s important to be clear in this for yourself, so you can choose a course of action to map out your recovery.  And with the luxury of hangover-free weekends and luxuriant evenings unclouded by your drug of choice, there is oodles of time to spend deciding the best approach for yourself.  I’ve also been spending a lot of time on the recovery discussion boards recently and the one thing that has struck me is this almost warlike rivalry between those who follow the 12-step programs and those who choose not to.

I’ve been open about the fact that 12-step just never resonated with me, but I don’t think people in recovery should waste one second of their new found time verbally bashing alternative approaches to recovery.  If AA works for you then that’s brilliant!  If you have chosen to go another route such as therapy, then more power to you.  Or perhaps you’re working with a Recovery Coach to plot your individual path through the initial stages of sobriety.  Again I say, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to getting and staying clean and sober.  But I’m confounded by the rather vicious debate between people who have chosen recovery, to try and argue that the route that they’ve chosen is the right one (and the other ways are wrong)!

The one thing I know for certain about my recovery is that there is no point in trying to make your recovery into someone else’s.  Especially in the early stages of sobriety we are so amazed at how wonderful it feels that I suppose it’s inevitable that we want to share this with others.  If I can use the analogy of looking at your friends’ endless pictures of their last overseas trip…it’s far less inspiring and exciting to be subjected to endless views of famous landmarks and pics of new travel mates, than to be the person who is reliving the journey.  A funny anecdote here and there and maybe a snapshot of the little bistro they stumbled across in Florence is one thing, but hundreds of photos of the works of the Italian Masters quite another.

I feel the same way about how we choose to pursue our recovery.  When asked by someone I am happy to give them a brief objective outline of how I chose to get well.  Of course I am always asked if I tried AA, and I’m truthful about the fact that it didn’t work for me, but I do not spend the next 20 minutes AA-bashing!  I talked about a couple of different choices in my post “Which Way to Recovery“, the idea here was to encourage people to concentrate on what works for you!  Don’t take away from anyone that they may be happy with the structure of working the steps, or that they may seek something more tailor-made.  That where some may be willing and able to rely on their own willpower and tenacity others may find solace and support in a group setting.  I really haven’t set out to upset or offend anyone with this post today, I just think that all this time spent vilifying a road to recovery that might not be your cup of tea, is a senseless waste of time. And quite honestly, a rather negative thing to be focusing on.

Your journeyOf course there is room for healthy debate, but prejudicial argument has no place here because the point of any approach is to create a healthy fulfilling life for ourselves and others.  By all means share the strengths of your program, but let’s all agree that there is little benefit to be found in spending any time being negative about an alternative approach that might hold the answer for someone else.  My point is it really doesn’t matter how you get to and through recovery, as long as it doesn’t include the harm of others than there is merit it it for you and there may be for others too.  So focus on the positives and forget about the negatives, because life is better with a clear head and an open heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Today I want to thank…my addict.

i-have-seen-the-sea-when-it-is-stormy-and-wild-when-it-is-quiet-and-serene-when-it-is-dark-and-moody-and-in-all-its-moods-i-see-myselfSometimes I wonder whether I’ll ever find the balance I so strive for in my life!?  The balance that I believe will bring me personal calm and emotional tranquility…  There are some days when I feel like a tiny dingy being tossed around on a stormy sea, secured only by a fraying rope to its yacht, slowly breaking up as the waves pound onto it.  Then there are days like today, when I feel like the sleek, beautifully crafted boat that I was tethered to the day before.  Gliding effortlessly through the azure waters of some light-kissed sea.  Yet what I strive for most is to be the rope that is holding the two together.  I am still tending to extremes, either motivated and inspired, or avoiding anything that resembles real life.  There are some days when I feel the strength of the rope, reassuring and flexible, as the two sides of me move across the metaphorical ocean, but it’s never for the length of time that I want it to be…

I had a power session with a wonderful coach on Thursday evening and one of the things I wanted to address was my erratic motivation.  I have so much going on at the moment and I feel that rather than breaking it down into bite-size manageable chunks (as the 7-step formula for guaranteed success which is stuck to my study mirror recommends) I am looking at it all as one great, big daunting task and really not getting anywhere!  So my coach and I looked at all the things I have to do and my need to be able to measure my progress, so that I can see what I have achieved, rather than trying to measure it internally.  It was nothing new, it was nothing revolutionary, but suddenly as a said that I needed a movable, vision system that I could use to literally mark off my progress on, things started to become clearer.

A cork board with pinned items, became a chessboard with movable tasks and goals and then a menu choice struck the perfect cord!  A set of water vessels, each representing a project and to be filled with coloured water as actions were taken towards completion.  Suddenly I was feeling incredibly inspired because instead of a jumble of projects, tasks and ideas within my head, I was thinking about something that I could use to gauge my achievements and mark off my steps!  It was visual, flexible and incredibly simple…  All I had to do was decide on the most important projects that I want to complete over the next eight weeks and get to work on my “Power Tower”.  I pondered, imagined, rushed out and bought the ingredients to get started and then woke up yesterday morning in a funk!  I hate the fact that there is no consistency in my moods…

Sometimes I can go for weeks without feeling down, but then something throws me off course and I am in that dingy again!  Well, yesterday was spent weathering the most atrocious emotional tempest.  I know that I am supposed to be mastering the tools I’ve studied over the past months and have been successfully using to empower the clients I work with, but sometimes I feel those addict behaviours wrap themselves around my psyche in an iron-clad grip.   It’s a terrible feeling of helplessness and vulnerability, being trapped in a very negative state of mind for no particular reason.  It takes me back to the weekend mornings when I would wake up on after a night of binge drinking, feeling morose and miserable.  Those mornings when I’d wrack my brain to try and remember if there was anything I’d done that I needed to feel remorseful about…  That lurking feeling of unease that something horrible had happened, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

The thing is that my life now is actually so incredible!  I am moving back to my home country in less than two months, I have a wonderful man in my life, and the most incredible friends and family.  There are exciting professional prospects ahead and I have made some very promising connections to move closer to my dreams.  Yet I can feel the addict in me looking for something negative and destructive to grab onto!!  And on those days I do feel powerless in the face of my addiction.  I don’t believe that my alcoholism was only about substance abuse, but also personal abuse, where I allowed my behaviour to be governed by destructive thought patterns and negative interactions.  It wasn’t only about the misuse of alcohol, but also the misuse of self.  And sometimes even after more than six years of recovery, that is the part of the addiction that I find the hardest to keep at bay!  It’s not the drinking, but the freedom that drinking allowed me to be less than myself.

Nobody really expects too much of someone who is battling in the midst of addiction, and no more so than the addict themselves.  I didn’t feel the need to achieve, to develop, to succeed.  After all wasn’t I dealing with enough trying to get over my substance abuse and live through the physical and mental anguish.  And now my life is good, really good, and all those expectations I ignored are here, right in front of me and the only way I can avoid them is to tend towards my addict thinking.  I have to say that as I type this it’s coming out like a personal epiphany!  It’s not really what I was going to blog about today, but as I write these words I realise exactly what has been going on the last couple of months.  The truth is that the weaker the addict within me is getting, the more fiercely it is fighting to stay alive…  It is frantically engaging in guerrilla tactics to ensure it’s survival and not be banished.  It’s amazing how I’ve suddenly realised this in the last few minutes…

And as I sit here, I want to honour the addict in me…thank it for everything it has brought to my life…express the utmost gratitude for the lessons it has taught me…and give it the respect that any element of ourselves deserves.  I also want my addict to understand that I am not trying to cast it out, as it is very much a part of who I am, but rather give it the space to exist within me emotionally & spiritually, as part, but not all, of who I am.  Rather than trying to omit the addict from my life completely I need to acknowledge the good things that it brings to my life and how I can use these elements to develop, prosper and succeed.  I totally understand the obstacle work I have done in my coaching studies and sessions as of this moment, as though a switch has been flicked and as I sit here, there is a strange sense of peace and acceptance moving through my body, because everything is easier with an clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

What does adversity, failure & heartache carry with it?

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

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

Your current conditions are echoes of your past choices…

your current situationI have honestly not had a moment to sit down and write in more than two weeks, and what an incredible two weeks it has been.  It honestly feels as though the Universe has been preparing me for the incredible opportunities that she is presently showering me with and I am beyond grateful.  Yesterday I qualified as a Life Coach and I could not even have imagined that this was possible when I was caught in the grips of my addiction.  There were some times over the last seven months while I was doing my training when I really had to push through, because it required that I take a long, hard look at my “inner obstacles” and that’s never an easy thing to do.  But I persevered through the tears and the uncertainty, and have emerged from the experience more centred, empowered and focused than ever.  I simply cannot wait to start my new journey in aiding others in their journeys to personal empowerment.  I feel more liberated than I can ever remember and am overcome with gratitude for my present set of circumstances.

Last weekend was a weekend of firsts as I mentioned in my last post, and even though there were a couple of emotional- and alcohol-charged instances, as I always knew there would be, it was an incredible weekend.  The wonderful man in my life handled meeting my family and friends with a grace and calmness that only made me adore him even more, and it was so amazing to spend an entire three days together.  I believe that we have a far stronger emotional and spiritual connection than we did a week ago and I am more excited than ever about us.  There were plenty of tears of joy shed as we watched my brother and his bride tie the knot and we welcomed a new member into our family.  It was a long overdue family reunion too and there were more of us together than there have been for about twenty years, which was exceptionally special.

We danced, we loved, we laughed and we celebrated, and not once did I feel the need for a drink.  The bridal party ensured that there was non-alcoholic champagne for the non-drinkers and the bubbles were enough!  Being there, holding the hand of the man I am truly besotted with made the weekend more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.  The time flew by, but at the end of the trip I never had those feelings that I’d experienced when special occasions were over in the past, and I was feeling hungover and miserable.  I felt happy, together and exited about what the future holds, rather than nauseated, depressed and just blue…

And then there is my unfolding new professional path…  In a couple of months I will be permanently home in South Africa and completing my specialised training as a Recovery Coach.  Over the last few months, some proactive networking has paid off and I’ve established a connection with a few really incredible people involved in the field of Recovery Coaching.  One of them is an American coach & trainer who will be visiting SA later in the year to run a couple of  Recovery Coach training seminars that I am helping to organise.  Through this I have also been blessed to meet a wonderful coach who is not only assisting in the organisation of the events, bringing her established networks and experience to the planning, but has also graciously offered to be my mentor as I start my “calling” as a Recovery Coach.

I truly feel like the Universe is smiling at me and that everything is truly coming together.  There have been times gone by when I wrangled with the idea of how our past actions create our present situation, but I embraced the idea and now it feels as though my patience and acceptance of this ideal has started to bear fruit.  Maybe I just needed to power through the negative residue from my drinking years to move into this period of personal and professional abundance.  The feeling of having true purpose is something I’ve never truly experienced, but it feels as though there was indeed a plan for me and I just needed to get to the point where I was ready to pursue my true life ambition.

I know that there will be challenges ahead as I leave the security of paid employment to begin a private coaching practice, but I know that facilitating the recovery of others through their personal empowerment will be filled with rewards and opportunities for further self-development.  And I always maintain that anything is possible with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘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

Suck it up and have a cupcake!?!?!

This is my last week of being 40 and as I sit and reflect on the past year there have been a myriad of amazing things that have happened and a few that have not gone so well.  But one thing I have learned from my addiction is to take genuine stock of things that happen in my life and evaluate the good with the bad.  I am not saying live in the past, but I am advocating making sure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again because we are not aware of what we are doing.  Trying to pretend that everything has been fabulous is a definite sign that I am being dishonest with myself and that’s a warning sign that I am not keeping things real.  Of course, like everyone, I prefer to focus on the wonderful aspects of my life, but to do so I have begun to realise, only gives the negative aspects of my life more strength.  My coach and I worked very hard last week on how we cannot simply evict the negative aspects of self, but need to look for the positive intentions that they are trying to bring to us!  I think that the same is true for the less-than-good experiences that we endure during the course of a year.

If we just try and imagine that they didn’t happen there is no lesson to be learned and no value to be gained from them.  I’ve made some spectacularly bad choices this year, especially with regards to my professional life.  I’m working in a job that is stressful, isolated and soul-destroying, for an upper management team that subscribes to the management school of “suck it up and, oh, have a cupcake”.  And try as I may I cannot respect anyone who won’t at least try and support their staff under incredibly difficult circumstances.  As a middle manager this means that my team feels like they’ve been left out in the desert to die of thirst and morale is terribly low.  But even in this I am trying to find value and things to be grateful for.  And I am immensely grateful that I am a person who has empathy, compassion and constantly endeavours to help others, even if those around me choose to marginalise their feelings and concerns.

But this is not a Management 101 entry, so what I am trying to say is that sobriety has taught me to be realistically aware.  To not pretend that life is always perfect now that I am sober.  There are times that are intolerable, but these days instead of reaching for the bottle I look inside myself for the answers.  Instead of rushing off to the nearest bar when life gets stressful and demanding, I focus on what these daily struggles are showing me and how I can use them to empower myself and those around me.  Of course it would be temporarily more satisfying to just get wasted, but the more I practice gratitude and acceptance, the more fulfilling it becomes.

Please don’t get me wrong there are times when I would happily throw in the proverbial towel and quit my job, but sobriety has shown me that this is not the best solution.  Knowing that I am able to persevere daily without a drink means that I am bigger than my challenges and that if I look for the wisdom in the situation I will be far more at peace than if I simply run screaming for the hills!  Some days it does take every ounce of willpower not to slam my resignation letter down on my boss’s desk and get on the next plane out of the country that I am working in at the moment.  However, I know that quitting (though not always a bad thing!) is not the answer to this particular problem.  My drinking robbed me of my self-worth and pride for so many years, that in cases like this I refuse to give up simply because I’m in the midst of something arduous.  What I know is that seeing something through means that I can walk away at the end with my head held high, my integrity firmly in place and a set of new, though difficultly learned, lessons.

I feel like I am rambling a little tonight, but I am actually exhausted at the moment and need to listen to my body and give it time to rest before my stress levels become unmanageable.  Remembering to take time for yourself and just “be” is an incredibly important part of staying present (and sober!!!) and being able to unemotionally evaluate what’s going on, because once I get too tired or emotional I start rushing around in the unreachable future and getting bogged down in the quagmire of the past.  Being present, aware and centred and being able to use life’s ups and downs to my best advantage means I need to stay in the moment as much as possible and be an objective observer of my life to make it as rich and fulfilling as possible.  So I am going to finish this entry, run a hot bath and have an early night and just be at peace with my day and what it has brought to me.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

comfort zone

 

 

Get up! Dress up! Show up!

After I stopped drinking I felt like I had no value to add to the world.  That I’d somehow given the best of myself during my drinking years and that the well was empty so to speak.  Even though I was feeling physically better than I could ever remember, I didn’t believe in my depths that I had anything of significance to contribute to the world.  This wasn’t just on a personal level, but on a professional level too.  For the first time in many years I was getting up, dressing up and showing up, but I didn’t really feel like I was adding the world’s worth in any compelling way.  So I was feeling great physically, but mentally and emotionally I was just going through the motions.

My job was paying the bills and keeping me busy, but it wasn’t giving me any real personal satisfaction.  My loving and supportive friends and family were often a stark reminder of my addiction and a source of irritation.  I felt like I was constantly searching for meaning in the early days of my sobriety, as if something was going to leap from the depths of my soul and this epiphany was going to propel me into the next phase of my life.  For years I’d been thinking about studying.  One month determined to further pursue my Economics Degree to a higher level, the next wooed by the idea of becoming a youth worker or a full-time volunteer teacher.  But then this odd lethargy would set in and I’d continue to bumble along without any sense of meaning again.  I suppose that I imagined life on the other side of sobriety to be crystal clear and unencumbered by the mental battles I’d been fighting (and losing) during my years of drinking.  What I wasn’t honest with myself about was that I needed to unlearn all the destructive thought patterns and habits I had acquired while I was functioning at a sub-par level.

Us as addicts have got to make peace with the fact that once we take that first step into sobriety life is not suddenly going to miraculously change.  There is no magic solution that will solve all the problems that we have been skillfully avoiding for many, many years.  What is required is brutal personal stocktaking and a long hard look in the mirror.  Of course when I started to look in the mirror all I saw were the startling physical changes that were taking place, but I failed to really look at what I saw and take a personal inventory.  And it took me a very ling time to do that.  This might be due to the fact that I was not attending any sort of meetings or reaching out in the early stages of my recovery, but had rather chosen to overcome my addiction through sheer willpower and determination.  Traits which I didn’t know I had until I really looked for them and there they were!  However, I am not advocating trying to do this alone.  In fact, I am a huge believer in the power of finding someone to support you through your “rebirth”.  I was just not in the position to do so because of my physical location at the time.

But I did come across a wonderful online support group about 10 months into my journey, when I was feeling very uncertain and fragile, because I wasn’t experiencing the life changes I was expecting to come raining down on me.  “Women for Sobriety” is an incredible network of women who share their stories and experiences and the tenants are very empowering and uplifting.  There are thirteen statements of acceptance, the first one of which is “I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.  I now take charge of my life and my disease. I accept the responsibility.”  I felt like this was a group of people who were speaking my language and understood my inability to work the 12 steps of AA.  I loved the sense of community, the positive nature of the affirmations and I only wished that I was able to attend the meetings, which are ongoing throughout the world.  They just weren’t going on where I was based in the Far East.  And through being a member of the online group, I started to see the changes that I was hoping for.

What I began to realise was that these transformations weren’t simply going to happen, but that the road to recovery is a pretty steep uphill climb.  It’s a journey through personal hell at times, because there is the absolute need for brutal introspection.  You need to reassess your value system and ask yourself the really tough questions about what you are and where you are going.  And there are times when I would (and still do) curl up on my bed for a couple of days because it can be incredibly tough to look that deep into yourself and decide who you are and what you want to be in life.  In recent months I have started working with a life coach and there are times that I wish that this was an avenue I had explored a lot earlier in my sobriety.  Because present-focused awareness is what coaching is about, looking for the answers, while someone stands by coaxing you to find your truth, but never for a minute giving you the answers on what or where it might be.  Cajoling you when you don’t really want to look any deeper, but oh when you do, the answers that you find really are quite mind blowing.  But you have to do the work!

I guess what I am really trying to say is that if you are in the early stages of your recovery, don’t expect it to be easy!  Don’t expect to wake up after a few months and be living this wonderful life that has materialised because you are no longer drinking.  What I do believe is that being present, aware and positive is essential to sustainable change, but that the shifts take time.  And above all, don’t give up if you are not seeing the results you expect immediately.  I have been sober for a little under six years, and frankly it is in the last year that the changes that I was searching for have begun to really come to fruition.  I can recommend that you surround yourself with positive people and be grateful for the little blessings in your life.  Think about what you need to say “yes” to stay sober as you take the next step and don’t ever be afraid to say “no” to anything that stands in the way of your recovery and sobriety.

I want to inspire peopleSo before you finish reading this, take a moment and think of what you are grateful for right now.  Do this everyday until being grateful becomes the habit of gratitude.  And until then get up, dress up and show up.  I assure you that it’s well worth it in the long run!

Til next time

Sober Something

 

 

 

In an addict’s instant!

I’m not shy about sharing stories about my addiction, but I am fairly nervous about sharing my writing with the people close to me.  Like many people I am profoundly nervous of critiques, even when disguised in innuendo like “productive feedback” and “constructive criticism“.  I’ve never taken personal censure well, even if the speaker’s intention has been for me to use it as a point of departure for improvement and self development.  I get defensive and uptight and I can rarely find the value in what they are saying at the time.  My addict side which may have appeared to be courageous and audacious, filled with self-confidence and dogmatic bravado in the years gone by, is actually the part of me that is severely lacking in any real self-worth and is demanding, insecure and seeks constant approval.  It’s the part of me that even though I am sober sneaks into my life when I am tired, stressed or let my positive defenses down for even a minute and takes over…

Realize-deeply-that-the-present-moment-is-all-you-ever-have.-Make-the-Now-the-primary-focus-of-your-life. (1)Then I am immediately caught in an unhealthy, personal inquisition when I start to question the contributions I make in all areas of my life.  When I am present-focused and in the now, I am calm, enveloped by a sense of contentment, with no doubt in my mind that everything will work out as the universe deems it to.  I’ve read the books, I do the work.  My Kindle is filled with the works of Dr. Wayne Dyer.  My computer loaded up podcasts by Deepak Chopra.  My copy of “The Power of Now” always on my bedside table no matter where in the world I am.  Byron Katie and Brene Brown are two women whose work I greatly admire and am presently spending time reading their wonderful works.  I spend a couple of hours with a personal coach every other week working on the elements of myself that require it…like my need for reassurance, my tendency towards procrastination and my personal inability to balance what comes in and out of my life.  And all this positive and powerful work can be undone in an addict’s instant when I am feeling emotionally and physically weak and powerless.  I know it’s the same side of me that was quieted by alcohol from the time I was a tween and as I mentioned in my previous post it’s ever so easy to just give into that side of ourselves.  The side that can be so effortlessly quieted with a shot, a hit or a night at the poker table.

The hard part is acknowledging that we fight inner wars and that we need to honour and embrace all the elements of who we are.  I need to accept the addict in me and find gratitude in what it is trying to bring to my life.  That when I am feeling tired or run down instead of trying to avoid it, my addict is actually coaxing me to rest and relax.  It’s hard to constantly wage war with myself, because on the days that I can bring the addict into my life and see the good that it is trying to show me I am far more at peace and present than on the days I am pulling away from that part of self.  It doesn’t mean that I am giving into my addictive behaviour of the past, it means that I am seeing the addict in me and remembering that my power side is better served when it is in balance with my addict.

Instead of constantly running from one part of ourselves towards what we consider to be the positive opposite, we need to find a place of integration within our personal depths where the two exist side by side.  It’s something I am working on with profound effort at the moment.  However, the fact that I have pushed so hard against what I consider to be a negative part  for so long means that there are days when this really messes with my mind.  When I bring my addict and my power together I feel unstoppable, I don’t worry that my choices are anything other than spot on and I don’t doubt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in that moment.  Sobriety is not easy and there are days when I just want to “make the bad man stop”…the one who doubts and questions and feeds the hamster that turns the destructive wheel in my mind.  But never even in those instants do I ever want to return to the life I had before, because even though it felt simple when I was drinking, the tough emotional days now don’t last and  life really is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something