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

 

Addiction will end your life…Recovery will change your story.

1398282210437The literature on addiction is honestly overwhelming.  And never more so than when you set out on your recovery and decide to start learning about your disease.  The internet has opened up a new world of resources, but it has also led to the availability of every opinion ever written on the subject!  Is addiction genetic?  Is addiction curable?  Is addiction caused by internal or external factors?  Am I an addict or just a heavy user?  Is abstinence the only choice?  The list of questions you find yourself asking goes on and on.  But the way I see it, is if you are asking these questions at any point you are in some respect worried about your substance consumption.

So many times I’d promise myself that “this was the last time!”  I honestly don’t believe that someone who is in control of their using (of whatever that may be), tells themselves this kind of thing.  And of course there is always the effect that substance use starts to have on professional and personal relationships.  Over the years of my journey I’ve come to understand that no matter how “in control” of the situation I thought I was, it was ever so clear to those around me that I wasn’t.  If I’d been a little more authentic with myself a little more often I would have come to the same conclusions sooner.

The big thing, all those questions aside, for me was that I just didn’t associate myself with what I understood an addict (in my case alcoholic) to be.  I didn’t drink alone, I didn’t have bottles (empty or full) stashed away in my house, I was holding down a job, I had a group of close friends.  I certainly didn’t drink every night of the week and definitely never consumed anything before or during the work day.  So how could I possibly be an alcoholic!?  But there were cracks in my story…  I was holding down a job or more to the point running a failing business.  My close friends and I often ended up fighting after a night of heavy “partying”.  And my finances were abysmal even though my trash cans were empty of the offending empties.

Even when I went to rehab and sat in group with people who were trying to turn their lives around,  I still felt vaguely superior as they talked of being separated from their families, fired from their jobs and basically living in the bones of their ass.  I was arrogant, thinking that unlike them I was not nearly as far down the addiction road and that it was simply a case of choosing to stop.  What I realise now, that I was too hot-headed to see then, was addiction is not a one-size fits all disease.  Sure it may be an equal opportunist, for who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by this epidemic, but it certainly doesn’t present itself in the same way every time.  What might be a genetic predisposition in one person could be a collection of environmental circumstances in another, both leading to substance abuse.  And there are dozens of other thoughts on the causes for addiction.

When a lot of people think “addict” they immediately jump to all sorts of preconceived notions.  Yet in my case, I never slept rough, I never stole to support my habit, I never crossed paths with the law because of my alcohol abuse and I never ever hid my drinking from those around me.  So when people hear that I am in long-term recovery I can often see that knowing look cross their faces.  Sure I did plenty of stupid stuff when I was drunk, including dabble in chemical substances, but I am not the stereo-type of what people immediately assume when they hear why I don’t drink.  I am in no way trying to elevate myself above anyone else who is struggling or has fought addiction, I’m simply reiterating that addiction can strike anyone, anywhere and it never wears the same hat!

And the reason for peoples’ attitudes is simply a lack of awareness and education on the matter of addiction and substance abuse, especially in my country.  I cannot speak for anywhere else, but I truly believe it is time to help people understand this disease and thereby lift that shame and guilt that so many addicts and their families suffer, especially in the early stages of recovery.  Nobody chooses to be an addict…I wrote about this in my post “(Not) What Every Little Girl Wants to Be

I’m not advocating taking no responsibility for what we have done while we were struggling with addiction, but I do believe that it is imperative that for an illness that touches such huge percentages of most of the world’s population, there should be even more awareness, more education, more treatment, more after-care and more support.  Addiction is not something sufferers and their families should be ashamed of!   It is something that they should be given the knowledge and tools to fight and overcome!  I don’t want anyone in my life to be embarrassed (including myself) because I am an addict in long-term recovery.  I want them to be proud of me for overcoming this life-threatening disease.  And I want to make it my life’s work to aid and facilitate the recovery of those who choose to set out on this journey of sustained sobriety.  I want to empower people to take control of their present situation and start living the lives they only ever imagined!  Because addiction will end your life and recovery will change your story.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

ILS Coach Logo

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

 

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

when was the last timeI’ve been wanting to sit down and write for over a week, but life in the desert has been manic, hectic and non-stop for weeks!  I completed the theory assessment for my coaching certification, have been practising for my final coaching exam, planning the visit of a Recovery Coach to South Africa for a training seminar and working towards building the brand for my Recovery Coaching practice, and of course there’s been my 50-hour-plus job at the university.  Needless to say there has not been too much time for anything else.  But I am feeling invigorated and excited about life at the moment, especially because in 11 days I am flying home to South Africa for my “baby” brother’s wedding!  And of course that is a wonderful reason to cross continents.

 

It’s my first wedding in South Africa for over a decade.  Living and working abroad may have its rewards, but these often come at the expense of other things.  And for me the big one has always been the weddings I have missed.  Of course there have been other events like the births of my best friends’ children, but for me nothing quite compares to a wedding.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of woman who has been planning her wedding since she heard her first bedtime account of Cinderella, but I am a complete sucker for romance and well, a wedding day is about as romantic as it gets in my book.  And needless to say, I cry at weddings, no matter how well I know the couple, and I do so unashamedly.  The celebration of a couples’ love in front of their friends and families is a wonderfully joyous occasion, even the ones where the best man’s speech makes everyone want to crawl under the nearest table and the photographer starts to become annoying arranging everyone for hours into poses for group photos.

But the truth be told this will be the first wedding I have attended since I entered long-term recovery.  Many years ago during one of my failed attempts I went to a dear friend’s wedding and spent the evening refusing offers of drinks from people I didn’t know.  I don’t remember the evening being too difficult and at that stage I was in very early recovery, which sadly did not last.  I always said when I stopped drinking that one of the things that I would miss the most would be champagne at a wedding!  So the weekend after next will be my first wedding in this six-year recovery period of sobriety.  It’s also going to be my first weekend away with the amazing man that I am dating, and the first time he’ll meet my family…and I mean almost the entire family.  To be fair it’s not a very big family, but what we lack in numbers we make up for in rather loud, demonstrative behaviour.  Most of the family talk loudly, drink heavily and don’t sugar coat much of anything.  Luckily for him he does enjoy a good red, so I’m sure that’ll “ease the pain”.  It’s also the first time in seventeen years I’ve introduced anyone to my family which is something of a recovery milestone for me too and although I am feeling a little nervous about how everything could go (mainly because my family can be a little unplayable at times) I am very incredibly excited about the weekend.

I do know that I am going to have to keep my wits about me though and remain together and level headed as the weekend rijks-480-gen1progresses towards the wedding on the Saturday afternoon.  There’s a kind of rehearsal dinner on the Friday evening, and since the celebrations are taking place in the heart of South Africa’s Winelands and the family and friends are all rather partial to a bottle or two of good wine, I just need to remind myself that I need to stay vigilant about my anxiety and try and try and stay relaxed and calm.  In fact I think I’m going to be using every present moment trick and deep breathing technique I know…  I know it’ll be an emotional weekend with lots of old friends coming together to see my brother and his fiancee tie the knot, on what I imagine is going to be a very special day.  So the weekend is going to be full of recovery firsts for me, which is something to look forward to in its own right.  Not only will I be celebrating with my loved ones, but I will also be having a quiet moment or two to celebrate with myself and how far I have come over the last six years.  It’ll be wonderful to be there with a partner next to me, rather than the wild child who would inevitably end up leading many poor friends and relatives astray with my tequila drinking.

Being able to be there and remember this special time in all its detail is something that fills me with happiness and knowing that at the end of the evening my beautiful dress, bought specially for the evening, will not be stained or torn is also a very grown up thought.  So I’m literally counting the days until I get on that plane and head home for what is going to be a weekend of wonderful firsts, including having a lovely, new sister, being asked to read a poem at someone’s wedding and not being the one to dance on a table!

Til next time

Sober Something