What Does Recovery Mean to Me?

hardshipsoften600There is so much debate about recovery these days…is it abstinence or can it be moderation management?  Does these use of medications such as methadone and suboxone mean that you are or aren’t in recovery?  Does using prescription or over-the-counter medication containing “banned” substances count as a relapse?

I think about this often as a person in long-term recovery and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have an answer for anyone else but myself.  I spent my first three or four years in recovery mainly not drinking…I don’t really think I was growing though.  If I  look back on that period of my recovery I don’t really think there was much of a change in my behaviour.  I continued to react to the world and the people in it in a largely  unhealthy way; I avoided difficult emotional situations and I think I spent a lot of time hiding from myself.

And then one day I started to really explore what recovery meant to me… I started reading, learning and expanding my knowledge.  I began to question my beliefs around addiction and what it meant to me to be in recovery.  I reevaluated my value system and what was important to me in my life…and then I started to see real change.  I begun to understand (for myself) that recovery wasn’t about whether I was checking the label of each and everything I put in my mouth as to whether or not it contained any alcohol or potentially addictive substance, but rather how I was growing and developing in my life.

What I began to realise was that hiding in dark corners at parties and get togethers in fear that someone may offer me a drink and then question my refusal, wasn’t me getting well…  I needed to take personal responsibility for my life and start doing some work.  It was the stage where I started to formulate what recovery means to me…  It wasn’t solely about whether I used drugs and alcohol in ANY form, but rather how I saw myself.  And suddenly the haze started to lift for me and it wasn’t about saying no to my addiction towards alcohol (and one or two risky associated behaviours), but rather saying yes towards my life.  And it was at that point in my recovery that it all started to make sense to me.

There was NO point sitting around and feeling that I had been dealt a dud hand, but rather that I needed to make the most of the hand that I had been dealt.  Everyone in active addiction and recovery has a story as to what brought them there, and none is less or more tragic than the next, just relevant to the teller.  So I actively began working o my recovery and stopped focusing on my substance abuse.  I started to look towards a bright, exciting future where so many things suddenly became possible, rather than lamenting the fact that I was “unable” to take part in a round of tequilas, a champagne toast or a seat at the wine tasting.  My vision started to broaden, my horizons started to look clear and inviting, and I stopped feeling like the awkward kid at the party who was desperate to fit in.

I started celebrating my clarity, exploring my possibilities and being grateful for the little successes in my life that I had long taken for granted.  I cherished early mornings, long lazy weekend afternoons free of hangovers, and I looked forward to guilt-free Monday mornings.  I stopped screening my calls, started practising gratitude and embraced the idea of personal, emotional, mental and spiritual development in a myriad of forms.

And then I knew what recovery meant to me…and I have known ever since.  To me it doesn’t mean passing on the delicious home-made tiramisu, but it does mean being honest with myself.  It means spending time on the things that are important to me, but also remembering the importance of others in my life.  It means owning my part in any situation (good or bad) and remembering that I don’t always get it right.  It means spending time with myself, constantly evaluating what I did well and what I can do better, and then using those learnings to improve on how I did things yesterday.  It means listening, watching, reading, exploring and investigating and it means NEVER getting complacent.

But these are my learnings and they have taken years to evolve and develop.  I don’t have the same beliefs around recovery as even some of my colleagues in the field of addiction, but as a Recovery Coach it is my quest to hold the space while others come to their own conclusions about what their recovery means to them and then walk beside them as they figure it all out…just like I did for myself.

Til next time,

Sober Something

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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If You’re Not Growing You’re Dying…

If you're not growingLife has been extremely hectic and I realised that I haven’t posted for an exceptionally long time, so I have made time this morning to sit down and catch up a little and do a little self reflection at the same time.  And the idea that has kept coming to me over the last few days is the idea that “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”.  It keeps coming back to me in my personal and professional life, and has made me think deeply about my own growth as well as the growth of my Recovery Coaching clients.  You may believe the statement to be true or may refute it wholeheartedly, but it’s definitely worth thinking about.  Because would you rather be living a life of stagnation and mediocrity, or do you want a life of purpose and fulfillment.  I can honestly say that the more I do to push myself and grow, the more satisfaction I get from my life.  And as a coach in the field of recovery (from addiction and substance abuse) I see incredible development in the individuals who dig deep to discover what they want and how they plan to achieve it.

So ask yourself the questions, “Who am I?” and “Where do I want my life to be in [three] months?”  The truth is that a lot of us don’t really know who we are or what we want.  We get so caught up in just getting by and staying on top of things that we forget to dream and aspire!  Sadly we also tend to lose touch with who we are and the things that feed our souls.  This is especially true for people in early recovery!  Through the compulsive cycle of using or doing, people have forgotten what makes their heart sing, what values drive them and what principles guide them.  It’s ever so easy to sit around and pay lip service to principles like honesty, integrity and tolerance that are identified as an essential part of the recovery journey, but it’s completely different (and often pretty challenging) to actually incorporate them into our lives and use them to aspire us towards our goals.

Understanding and determining our values is also difficult, but essential.  Especially since during active addiction our one true value is often our substance of choice.  It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and determines the course of our day!  And that may sound uncomfortable and even irritate you, but the truth is that in active addiction we are driven by our behaviour patterns and habits.  The challenge in recovery is to develop new ways of doing things, and retraining our brain to respond differently to life events that would of sent us into the arms of our addictive substance or behaviour.  So the way I see it recovery is about growth!  It’s about deciding where you want yourself and your life to be in the future and then developing action steps to achieve this.

Recovery capital is essential in the journey.  Whether this be in the physical, emotional, mental, social or spiritual sphere it’s important to determine where you have resources to support you in your recovery and where you may need to build your capital.  And everyone’s recovery capital is different!  Where one person might choose to attend NA/AA meetings as part of the spiritual/emotional capital, another will identify that team sport serves and supports them in the same way.  And this is illustrative of the idea that every individual needs to determine their own recovery plan, that is as unique as they are.  Because my dreams and aspirations are ever so different to the next person, so to will be my recovery.  So in Recovery Coaching we share tools to support individuals’ recovery, but it is up to every person to determine what they need and want moving forward in their lives.  As a recovery coach my role is to challenge my clients to understand where they are, and support them in their journey to where they want to be, whether this is personally or professionally.  And during this process to take personal responsibility and accountability for their actions.

So recovery is about growth for me!  It’s about solutions-driven, forward-focused movement that is driven by principle and guided by spiritual principles.  It’s about creating a life that is determined by purpose and feeding one’s soul with activities that bring joy and fulfillment.  Every step that we take towards the life we dream of is growth…and is exciting and stimulating.  I use these practices in my own life and the more I do, the richer and more incredible my life becomes.  I continue to learn and develop personally and professionally as I strive to incorporate principles into my life, live by my values, excavate my dreams and build plans to achieve what my heart desires.  And at the centre of all this is continuing to build my recovery capital so that I have the resources and support to move towards my aspirations.  Because I honestly believe that “if you are not growing you are dying.”

For more information on Recovery Coaching please visit http://www.recoverycoachingsa.com or email me on leighanne@recoverycoachingsa.com

Til next time

Sober Something

Inspiring Challenges and Disguised Opportunities!?

I am not afraid of Mondays!  I start the week excited by new opportunities, focusing on the infinite possibilities that could come my way.  I’m not going to sugarcoat it by saying that everything is perfect, because that would be self-denial of the highest order.  Building a business is no walk in the park and I’ve been exploring alternative income paths over the last few months until I am more financially stable.  But as I was working through “The Values Factor” by John Demartini I came across this wonderful quote that he had used to begin a chapter, which resonated deeply with me on this Monday afternoon.

we are all faced with a great series of oportunities

Too often when we are faced by impossible situations in our lives, we simply throw up our hands and complain that it’s just too difficult to carry on.  And as someone with a substance abuse disorder and shockingly developed coping skills before I started my journey, I would have had the white flag up before I had so much as looked for the opportunity in the challenge.  In his book, Dr Demartini talks about “inspiring challenges” and as I was reading through the chapter I was struck as to how our addictions could be seen as just that.  Overcoming an addiction to anything could be seen as an impossible situation, but when you scratch the surface just a little and start to take those first steps into recovery you start to see the enormous opportunity that lies within.  I haven’t completed the book and I haven’t done all the work, but for a long time now I have seen my addiction as an incredible opportunity for personal growth and development.  Choosing recovery was the first step to turning the adversity of addiction into the opportunity of recovery.

Addiction in ourselves or a lived one might seem like an impossible situation, but if you just look at it from a slightly different perspective, you may just find that there is enormous potential for self growth and personal empowerment.  If I look back to  my life seven years ago it was a patchwork of mildly fulfilling relationships, halfhearted commitment to a job that was not particularly purposeful and a shocking sense of personal depth and assurance.  But I took the necessary first (very tentative) step towards an ever so faint glimmer of distant hope and life has never been the same.  At the time I didn’t know whether I had what it took to live a sober life or whether I had the necessary skills and tools to take me through the recovery process.  The fact is that at the time I didn’t, but instead of letting the challenge of recovery overwhelm me I chose to look at it as a the beginning of a wonderful adventure.  And even though I didn’t know it at the time, my shifting values took me in the direction that I needed to go.  Because when I was drinking my values were to go out, drink, have a great time and to hell with the consequences.  I wasn’t interested in personal development, training or further education which I am now.  I was certainly not interested in nurturing my personal and professional relationships, which are a core value in my life at present.

When I started to do value work recently it became very clear to me that even though I thought I had certain values, I wasn’t living my life by them.  And many of the values that I believed were mine are simply societal norms and ideas that I’d adopted as my own.  It’s not easy to admit that “getting drunk” was a value, but it must have been since I spent all my time, money and energy pursuing it!  And over the last seven years my values have continued to change as I grow and develop through my personal and professional pursuits.  These days when confronted with a challenging situation I look at it completely differently as to how I would have in the drinking years.  Fear and flight are not my go-to reactions, because I have developed far healthier coping skills.  Instead of simply avoiding potentially difficult situations with a drink or two, I have learned to evaluate and assess the situation and choose a way of dealing with it, rather than running away.

And I ran for years, to all sorts of interesting and exotic locations, where human interactions were kept to a minimum through tings like small expatriate populations, language barriers and distance from home.  It’s an honest revelation when I look at it now, and can see the reasons that I did what I did and chose the paths that I chose.  By having fewer relationships meant that there were less potential situations where I would have to rely on my interpersonal skills and coping mechanisms.  I spent years avoiding conflict and confrontation, seeing it as harmful and destructive.  I never understood how anything emotionally tough could be a chance to grow and develop emotionally. But now I see the potential that lies in previously terrifying close and personal exchanges.  I no longer shy away from difficult conversations, and have begun to be more conscious of how any situation can be a source of learning and growth.  These courageous conversations bring emotional depth and intimacy unlike anything I could have imagined before I started to change the way that I looked at life.

I’m not saying that I go out of my way to find difficult situations, but now when one comes my way I don’t collapse into a pile on the floor or run screaming to the nearest bar.  Instead I use the skills I have learned and developed to address it head on, which means being completely conscious and present in the situation.  It means keeping judgment out of the equation and not instantly trying to defend or protect myself (more accurately my ego).  It means respecting, listening and acknowledging different perspectives and points of view, and then maturely and openly taking part in the discussion.  And instead of letting myself slip into the victim space, I express my opinions and feelings honestly and clearly, so that I don’t walk away feeling unheard and carrying repressed anger.  And the more I practice these techniques that I have learned, the more these brilliantly disguised impossible situations become less and less emotionally and mentally challenging.  And this doesn’t just apply to my personal life, but also to things that happen in my professional life.

So no matter what challenges present themselves, take a step back and try and look at the situation from another angle.  The  opportunities that could be hidden beneath the surface might not be evident at first, but dig a little deeper and you might be pleasantly surprised at the little gems of opportunity that lie beneath.

Til next time

Sober Something

Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey.

It’s not often that I have the time (or the inspiration) to post more than once a week, but the devastating passing of Robin Williams gave me much cause to pause and think over the last few days.  Something that seems prevalent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is how many truly unhappy people there seem to be in what can only be described as a fish bowl.  But the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder why should celebrity pain and suffering be any more tragic than the garden-variety kind.  I’m not for one moment trying to marginalise the grief that many people must be feeling around the death of such a beloved star, but every day there are people living lives of quiet desperation and I only wish that the public’s attention wouldn’t shift quite so quickly from the issues that these people’s deaths raise.

Whenever someone famous meets a tragic end there is a short-lived focus on the issue that was the root of their demise.  Whether that be drug addiction, like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger, or alcoholism which took Amy Winehouse or those suffering from a co-occuring disorder such as seems to be the case in so many of these untimely deaths.  Pills washed down with vodka to overcome sleeplessness is probably not the most holistic way to rest.  But whether the disorder is in the realm of substance abuse, mental challenges or a combination thereof, attention on the subject is ever so short!  Outpourings of sympathy, righteous indignation over the epidemic of addiction and then a silent retreat until the next person falls prey to something unnatural.  I understand that it sounds like I am advocating capitalising on death, but if the celebrities of the world have so much influence in life, then surely their battles  can help others find answers and paths to mental, emotional and physical recovery.

It also made me wonder why people in the limelight are celebrated so much for their attempts at recovery while the average man on the street is not given quite as much support.  Actually there is still some sort of lingering stigma attached to treatment (in a variety of forms) when it comes to us normal lot.  While celebrities are applauded for their efforts to get clean and sober a lot of us are trying to side-step the truth about our addiction and recovery.  And I’m not talking about shouting it from the rooftops, just being able to comfortably state in certain situations that you are in recovery.  However, I do think more influential people should start talking out about their addictions and lead the charge in throwing off the cloak of anonymity.  I’m not saying we should all go around declaring our challenges in inappropriate places.  I definitely don’t go around introducing myself as an alcoholic, but if the subject comes up as to why I don’t drink, I am don’t make a big fuss of it and simply state that I am in recovery.  Subject closed and moving onto those yummy little mini quiches at the cocktail party.  But I do believe that it is time for people to stop feeling so ashamed.

Maybe you did bad things in active addiction, but there are politicians and business people who ruin the lives of hundreds and thousands of people on any given day and sleep just fine at night.  Again, I’m not condoning their behaviour, but what I am trying to say is that there are more shameful things in life than having tried a substance at some point, and for whatever reason, become a chronic user of it.  No one wants to be an addict!  No one aspires to suffering from a mental disorder!  I don’t think the same can be said of people that actively exploit and harm others.  Your recovery is as important and significant as any world renowned star!  You’re as valuable to the people who love you as the multitude of fans that still weep at certain rock stars gravesides.

So even though you may feel a little sad when someone like Robin Williams takes his life, spare a thought for the millions of people that are in similar situations.  The man on the street corner begging for change to fuel his habit might just have taken a slightly different course in life to the mega star drying on at an exclusive five-star treatment centre.  Addiction and mental disorders are not picky, they’ll take whatever they can get, so take a moment and honour yourself and your recovery journey (even if it’s been a bit of a stop-start process).  You’re as much of a star in someone close to you’s eyes as those fallen stars are to their fans, and possibly more because they have the privilege of knowing and loving you.  And in closing today remember, “Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey.”

Don't judge  my path

‘Til next time

Sober Something

 

 

I love you, but I’m not like you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

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

Don’t look back in anger…

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Where do I fit in!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

 

One way ticket to Relapse City?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

What does adversity, failure & heartache carry with it?

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

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