Recovery is NOT Just Abstinence…

imagesOne of the very first questions I ask my clients when we start working together is “What do you understand about the idea of recovery?”  The answers vary, but most of them tend to talk about abstinence.  And for most people recovery does mean abstinence, but #RecoveryIsNOtJustAbstinence!  In my opinion, recovery certainly involves “STOPPING”, but in just “STAYING STOPPED” without the necessary personal growth and development, is extremely difficult if not impossible.  I speak to numerous people who talk of “white knuckling” their recovery for years and years, feeling lonely and isolated, almost hiding from the temptation that the outside world holds.

And the mere fact that I am working with these individuals normally means that they have had some sort of slip or relapse that has caused our paths to cross.  When we start to introduce the idea of #RecoveryCapital to our clients at The Foundation Clinic they are almost relieved to hear that life needn’t be all about trying to embrace sheer focus and willpower to overcome and manage their substance abuse disorder.  Recovery is about living a fulfilled and purposeful life, creating and building upon the emotional, mental, spiritual, social and spiritual resources in their lives.  Life and recovery become interchangeable, as we explore values and spiritual principles, equip clients with simple, practical tools for overcoming triggers and urges, goal set and action plan, and start to understand and embrace adult emotions.

Recovery is not about putting life on hold while we learn to deal with our disorder.  It’s about building a life that doesn’t leave space for the use of drugs and alcohol.  It’s about developing a healthy lifestyle and a positive self-esteem that makes us feel worthy of fulfilling personal and professional relationships.  It’s about a change in mindset, seeing the obstacles in life as a set of exciting challenges and opportunities for growth, rather than a set of potential pitfalls.  It’s about changing our negative self beliefs into those which support and assist us in life (and recovery) instead of negative thoughts, beliefs and actions ultimately leading to those very same negative self-fulfilling prophecies.  And it’s about self awareness and pursuing a conscious, present-focused existence that ensures we are living to our highest personal values, achieving the aspirations that we set out for ourselves and are intentionally pursuing through well-laid out action plans.

Recovery is not simply about putting down the harmful substances and then pretending that they don’t exist.  Recovery is about wanting and needing more from life, so that we are not restricted in our choices!  It’s about consciously and practively creating and developing the skills and the resources to go after a life that we believe we are worthy of…not being limited and imprisoned by drugs, a fixed mindset and a set of negative, limiting beliefs. #RecoveryIsNotJustAbstinence…#RecoveryIsLife..

For more information about Recovery Coaching and the development of #RecoveryCapital, please feel free to contact me | leigh-anne@thefoundationclinic.co.za.

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When I is replaced by we…

When I is replaced by weIt’s been a while since I posted!  Namely because the start to this year has been nothing sort of hectic and not quite what I was hoping for when the the New Year clock struck twelve, but we forge on with hope and fortitude.  I also migrated my blog to a new ISP and I’m really hoping that the people that have been reading my blog won’t get lost in the transfer.  I’m eternally grateful to those that do read my posts and always hope that my musings bring you some sort of personal comfort, insight or ideas.  My hope is that through my recovery journey, I am able to aid and inspire others.  Like I’ve said before this is not an easy road to walk, but like anything that challenges us, the rewards are rich.

Today I want to talk about the ideas in the Huffington Post article, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think“.  I’m not going to dissect and critique the article, but I want to talk around the theme of “connectedness” that Johann Hari discusses in his article.  What I will say is that the article is nothing short of outstanding and it’s wonderful how many people have become engaged in discussion since its publication.

For too long addiction and substance abuse disorders have been viewed as a moral failing on the part of the “addict”!  The idea of “Just say no!” has perpetuated the idea that people who develop substance abuse disorders are somehow morally challenged and that they should simply choose not to take part in this type of behaviour.  After all, if you are strong-willed and righteous there can be no debate when it comes to the question of using a substance (illegal or otherwise).  But the truth is that in trying to find comfort in loneliness people (like the isolated rats discussed in the article) we are drawn to behaviours that synthetically feed our souls.  So that when there is emptiness, a lack of fulfillment and undetermined purpose, individuals can be drawn to that “cocaine- or heroine-laced water bottle”.  And in modern society the substances are not just illegal street drugs, but often medications subscribed by qualified medical professionals to “get us through this rough patch”!

Sleeping tablets, anti-depressants and mood stabilisers are prescribed freely and are just as addictive as coacaine, heroine and methamphetamines.  And let’s not forget alcohol, which can be purchased on every other block.  And because of feelings of isolation, a lack of self-worth and the inability to connect with the people around us, we are drawn to something to help us feel a part of things.  A moral failing?  I think not.  But definitely an indication of the society we live in.  When surrounded by others many have never felt so alone or disconnected from the 7 billion people that occupy the planet.  And like the rat separated from the the others, we are drawn to something that will ease the emotional trauma that we are experiencing when cut off, whether literally or figuratively.

And it can be hard to find our way back from that place where we are alone and scared, but it’s not impossible.  By reaching out and slowly reestablishing the relationships with ourselves and others that led to that initial isolation, we are able to rediscover our purpose.  By determining our values and the spiritual principles that guide us, it is possible to live a healthy and fulfilled life in recovery. Substance abuse needn’t be a stigma that you carry around with you, the definition of who you are, it’s simply a part of your life’s journey.  Through learning, education and peer support you can move forward with clearly established goals and plans, supported by those around you.  The way I see it is that no one is meant to journey life alone…it’s just not how it’s meant to be.  But through a variety of social, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors we are often secluded, even hidden in plain sight.  By stepping out of the darkness of solitude, we can continue our wanderings.

Recovery Wellness Coaching is a powerful aid for reconnecting with ourselves and others.  It presents us with the opportunity to excavate our true purpose, find fulfillment in our lives and move forward with personal insight and emotional connectivity.  Understanding that we are not your substance abuse disorder and developing tools and techniques to create our personal vision, set goals and develop action plans makes recovery coaching an empowering choice.  Too often we get lost in the quagmire, forget who we are and what we want…becoming so caught up in what’s going on around us that we end up losing sight of ourselves, somehow becoming inadvertently separated in all the chaos.  Recovery Coaching has the immense power to help you rebuild the physical, emotional, mental, emotional and spiritual elements of your life so that you are truly connected to yourself and those around you.

I know that it’s done wonders for me and the people that I work with…so if you are interested and would like more information about Recovery and Wellness Coaching please contact me to explore your options.  Because “When I is replaced by we even illness becomes wellness”.

Til next time

Sober Something

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 RCSA Promise | Recovery Coaching SA

Life

Please take a moment to explore my website www.recoverycoachingsa.com which covers the subject of recovery coaching as an individualised approach to long-term recovery from addictive substance and behaviour abuse and dependence.  Should you have any comments or questions, please fill in the form and I will respond to you.

The RCSA Promise | Recovery Coaching SA.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy…”

I didn’t sleep last night and lay in bed thinking about my personal goals and values.  Since moving back to South Africa three months ago I have poured my heart and soul into my coaching work and it has been an incredible experience so far.  I’ve learned a huge amount in a short time and have met some people who have reinforced how important this work is since so many people are battling addiction and searching for personal empowerment.  But at the same time there is resistance to change and people still cling firmly to the traditional treatment and recovery models in South Africa.  So I’ve had to actively pursue alternative employment, because as much as I believe in what I am doing, passion and dreams don’t pay the rent.

It’s been oh so humbling to put myself at the mercy of the job market.  And it’s also been a little soul destroying.  As a language teacher I have years of excellent experience and have literally been able to work where I chose.  Not so much the case when I’m looking at other areas that will utilise my skills and experience.  I am committed to the employment search, but at the same time I am having to give up a good chunk of my personal business plans (for the time being).  Life’s like that – give and take, ebb and flow – but it doesn’t mean that while I have been in this priority shift it hasn’t been challenging.  Pragmatism is essential in this case, because my anti-motivation is the thought of having to leave home and work abroad.  So I am prepared to do whatever it takes to stay here even if it means a cold, hard dose of nine to five work in the meantime while I slowly develop and build my coaching business.

There have been plenty of exciting developments, but they’re not at the money-making stage yet and one cannot live on promise and hope.  So as I lay there last night trying to get my head around the idea, thinking of how this all fits in with my core values which include personal relationships, learning & education and coaching & training, I experienced some strong emotional reactions.  The longer sleep eluded me the more dramatic the situation in my head became and the more upset I got.  But as the sun rose this morning and I had the opportunity to talk it through with the person whose insight, wisdom and intelligence always helps me find my answers, I understood that this journey was never going to be an easy one.  That I would face challenges along the way and that instead of throwing a spectacular self-pity party, the best thing to do was reconcile what I have to do in order to be able to do what I want to.

That instead of looking at having to approach my dream from a different direction, I needed to look at the idea of a new job as a learning and educational opportunity, which is definitely in line with my values.  That I should take the opportunity as one that has been put in my path to help me develop further relationships, both personal and professional, and that perhaps the job was the universe’s  way of showing me a slightly different way of getting where I want to be.  So I did spend a good part of my day shifting my perspective so that I could look at this fork in the road from a different angle and come to a place of calm peace regarding this particular situation.

The more I live the work that I am doing in my personal and professional life, the stronger I become.  Of course having someone in my life who is able to hold a safe place for me to experience my emotions and then take my hand while I find an alternative way of getting to where I want to be is something I am grateful for every single day.  The thing is that there are times when I am faced with tricky situations that I have to be very vigilant about slipping back into my [addict] default position which was victim!!  Instead of lamenting that my course is not a clear and unencumbered one, I need to look at the new opportunities that this little detour presents and see it as an unexpected adventure along the road that I have chosen to walk.  Taking some time today to just shift my focus slightly and how I could align the situation with my personal values has left me feeling empowered rather than helpless.  It happens constantly that we need to reevaluate where we are and where we are going and by doing this simple activity and coaching myself today, I have come to terms with where I am and what I need to do to move forward from here without feeling stripped of my personal power.

And in closing I always like to remember this quote “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”

‘Til next time

Sober Something

worthit

 

What is Recovery Coaching?

Since returning to South Africa a couple of months ago I have made my focus the development of my Recovery & Life Coaching business (Recovery Coaching SA).  It’s an exciting adventure to build a dream and be able to start a vision from scratch.  I’m constantly being presented with new and amazing opportunities as I continue along this road of personal and professional discovery.  A couple of days ago I completed my first magazine article which will be appearing in a new South African publication, “Addict”, in August.  I’m constantly meeting new people who are passionately dedicated to aiding the recovery of those battling with the disease of addiction.  It’s a wonderful experience to see how many people are truly dedicated to trying to assist people and work with them to empower individuals.

I am a passionate advocate of the Recovery Coaching model as a path towards sustained sobriety.  It’s about working in an accountable partnership with the person in recovery to develop a personalised recovery plan.  By focusing on long-term goals and developing short-term action plans to get there, they are encouraged to follow their own truth on the road to recovery.  Recovery coaching is not about telling, advising or leading.  It’s about creating a safe space where we can find the answers to our questions and then follow our own authentic road map to recovery.

And each plan will vary according to who it is developed by.  As a Recovery Coach it is my job to support the choices that a client makes for their own recovery, after all we are the experts on ourselves.  By helping identify and overcome internal and external obstacles blocking their path, challenging faulty thinking and assisting the development of new and productive thought and behaviour patterns, the client is supported in their recovery process.  It’s not an easy process, but if it is addressed in a forward-focused, solution-orientated way, we are personally empowered to strive for long-term wellness and balance.  By building recovery capital in various areas of life, those in recovery strive for a richer, more balanced and holistic life.  It’s an ever-changing, unmapped adventure, shifting and developing as we progress through the various stages of recovery.

What may only seem like a distant possibility in early recovery may seem evermore achievable when one moves into middle-stage recovery.  And when in late- or maintenance-stage this ideal may be assimilated into the person’s daily life, with focus having shifted to new goals or aspirations.  The aim of Recovery Coaching is long-term, sustained sobriety, but it does take into account that relapse is a reality in the process.  Being aware that this can happen, clients are asked to identify personal triggers, internal and external obstacles and bring these elements into their conscious awareness, as a means to being more prepared and better-equipped to deal with them, and thereby minimise the effects that they will have on a potential relapse situation. Hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness (H.A.L.T) are also important issues that should be addressed through the coaching process, because they too are potential relapse triggers that should be avoided (or minimised) as mush as possible.

But if relapse does occur, and let’s face it the stats are not at good, then there is a plan in place to deal with this as effectively as possible.  One that can help us move on, refocus on our long-term goals and get back on the road!  It doesn’t advocate any fundamental weakness on the part of the person for relapsing, it doesn’t mean that the person isn’t committed to their recovery, it simply accepts that addiction is an ongoing battle and that compounding on the guilt and shame that already exists does not help get over the relapse event.  We are human and if we stumble in every day life there is every chance that we are going to trip a couple of times in recovery, but rather than plummeting back into active addiction, choose to move forward from this point and not spend endless hours lamenting the mistake.

Recovery coaching is all about moving forward, focusing on what we want to achieve and where we are going. Rather than spending time rehashing the past over and over again, caught up in the stories of our active addiction, it’s about taking strides to where we want to be.  In my mind it’s far more productive and empowering to look towards the outcome we are trying to achieve than constantly talking about where we went wrong and how terrible life was.  Having made the decision to take control of our lives, there is far more to be gained by putting one foot in front of the other, with our eyes fixed on the horizon.  The past cannot be undone, we cannot shake off this disease we have, but we can own our truth and become the navigators of our lives.

Because progress in recovery, no matter how slow and small, is still far better than any form of addiction.  There may be times when the going is tough and you are filled with self-doubt, but learning to deal with our inner obstacles and build on our personal visions, will take us ever closer to where we want to be.  And life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. ~ Maria Robinson

Keep focused on your ending and what you want the story of you life to be.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

You can’t recover until you’ve hit rock bottom!?

I have been studying Addiction and the Brain.  Interesting to be able to see my own cycle of abuse and recovery in the material, and have a better personal (and professional) insight into what happens in our heads during the progression of addiction.  It’s really fascinating to be able to see what actually occurs as we progress through the various stages of addiction, and why we even get to that point to begin with!  The more I study and understand addiction, the more I realise that it’s almost a “Damned if I do.  Damned if I don’t.” crap shoot as to whether we end up in active addiction.  Sure, living in an environment of any type where someone with the predisposition to develop a substance abuse disorder, does place us at a higher risk.  However, there are also people who fall way out of the parameters of these risky surrounds and lifestyles that are introduced and sensitised to substances through medical procedures.  They are just as likely to develop a disorder if they are exposed to substances through completely legitimate avenues.

Of course living in an environment wherein one is exposed to substances is going to increase the chances that we try (and like) these things, especially since we feel less due to lower levels of neurotransmitters and off kilter receptor cells.  Basically meaning that our drug or behaviour of choice makes us feel better and more normal than where we start out because of of brain chemical make-up.  There are various factors that attribute to this including genetics, stress and chronic use.  So it’s a complicated combination of elements that ultimately lead to whether we are likely to develop an addiction.  And it’s an equally tricky balance that allows us to overcome addiction and work through the recovery process.  This is another mine field, depending on our point of progression in the disease when we finally ask for help.

We experience physical, mental, emotional and spiritual deterioration as addiction progresses and we are often faced with crisis before we start looking for help.  It’s normally not the physical side of the illness that leads to us seeking assistance in overcoming our disease, but rather the emotional and mental breakdowns in our state of being, our close relationships or our inability to cope in these areas that leads to us reaching out.  I don’t believe that anyone has to “hit rock bottom” as I have mentioned before, because we all have different breaking points and these are necessarily reached when we are lying in a gutter, with a broken moral compass in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other.  I definitely don’t subscribe to the idea that you cannot get well until you have no further to fall, and there is a stark realisation that you are dying physically and spiritually.

I do believe that some level of understanding of our condition is necessary, that we come to the realisation that we need help and that we seek out this help.  But telling someone that they cannot get well because they still have to experience the deepest depths of their disease does not work for me personally.  Yes, we do have to come to terms with the idea that we can NEVER partake in our substance or behaviour of choice EVER again.  That we cannot control our use and life a happy, healthy life.  These two factors are essential for recovery, but I believe that the “Road to Recovery” can be stepped onto any time we believe that our disease is out (or getting out) of control.  I feel that there is too much one-up-manship going on in recovery programs.  I remember being told in a mutual-help group that I wasn’t a real alcoholic, because I didn’t fit the traditional pattern of what an alcoholic was at the time (or perhaps in that particular group).

But I had decided that my addiction needed to be addressed and I was going to do it!  I attended other meetings and was met with disdain more than once by people who said that you had to drink every day, hide your habits (and empty bottles) and be a non-functioning member of society & family to be looking for help.  There have been changes in this way of thinking, but at the time it made me reconsider my alcoholism and led me to the point that I believed maybe I wasn’t an alcoholic as much as I just needed to curb my drinking and drink a little less on the evenings that I chose to partake.  I wan’t drinking every day, I wasn’t hiding anything from anyone and although some of my relationships were on shaky ground and I’d done some dumb things when I was drunk, according to the feedback I was getting at meetings and the people I was talking to, I certainly wasn’t a full-blown alcoholic yet, I merely had a little drinking problem.

And so I arrogantly thought I could drink and control my use!!  I was wrong!  They were wrong!  And just because I didn’t fit neatly into what people thought an alcoholic should be, I lied to myself.  Ideas and thinking have changed considerably about addiction over the last ten years or so.  Approaches to recovery are constantly being reevaluated because of the phenomenally high relapse rates once people leave treatment.  It has become more and more evident that this disease of addiction presents differently in different people and that that there is no cookie-cutter approach to recovery.  And that just because you haven’t hit the very lowest point that you can hit, doesn’t mean that you can’t and won’t be able to move through the  stages of a recovery process and live a fulfilled, healthy & holistic life, free of your addictive substance or behaviour.

I’ve got lots more thoughts and ideas on this subject, as well as thoughts on the recovery process, but I’ll leave those for another day.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Your journey has molded you

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

 

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