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

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

Bite-Size Chunks and Baby Steps…

Don’t for a minute imagine that just because I am a coach I have all the answers for myself all the time.  There are days where just like everyone else I experience self-doubt, insecurity or my personal favourite, anxiety.  For no particular reason I’ll wake up in the morning feeling uncertain and even a little panicky.  Nothing major will have happened to cause these feelings, but there they’ll be…front and centre!  And even though I know what needs to be done to rid myself of these emotions, I’ll find myself in a bit of a battle.  Until I remember that pushing them away will only make them stronger and more powerful.  That by trying to ignore that I am feeling a bit emotionally vulnerable or mentally anguished is not going to make me feel better; in fact quite the opposite.

Reciting positive mantras and trying to “pull myself together” is not the solution that I know works in these cases.  What I do need to do is check in with myself and try to establish why it is that I am feeling this way.  It’s a reminder that I might need to spend some time in quiet introspection, figuring out what it is that’s gnawing at my insides.  Anxiety isn’t necessarily caused by something out of the ordinary.  A situation or thought that was of no consequence yesterday, may cause uneasiness today.  It depends on whether I slept properly, have eaten, am spending too much time alone or what professional challenges I am dealing with on any given day.  And right now I have managed to identify the reason I am feeling like this…

the truth is that although I would love to be coaching full-time, building a business is not an overnight endeavour.  To wave a magic wand and have a practice full of personally empowered and flourishing clients would be nothing short of magical, but these things take time.  So I am presently looking for a job to supplement my coaching income.  I have every intention of pursuing my recovery business on an ongoing basis, but there are bills to be paid and lofty aspirations, no matter how well-developed, don’t pay the rent.

a goal without a planA business plan and a great vision and mission are essential to the branding of a business, but I don’t have the luxury of spending all my time committed to the success of mine while someone else takes care of the financial aspects of life.  Offering people a service such as recovery coaching is not as simplistic as simply opening the doors and watching a line form outside.  There is a good deal of trust that needs to be established and a reputation that needs to be built.  And these are elements of my business that require time, patience and nourishment.  So back to the job hunting, which is nothing short of disheartening.  For me it’s been a humbling lesson over the last couple of weeks as there are no recruiters banging down my door to even interview me, never mind hire me.  So instead of simply submitting my CV with a whole pile of others I’ve come to the realisation (aided by the nudging of others) that I need to get out there and sell myself.  The mere idea of that curls my toes, because I am not a personal fan of the “hard sell”.  In fact I’ll g so far as to avoid the salespeople stationed around the malls and supermarkets on a Saturday morning who are trying to convince people to try a new product.  But it seems that if I want a job in a market as depressed as this one, I’m going to have to stand out from the crowd.  And voila! therein lies the root of my discomfort and anxiety!

So with just a little soul searching and asking myself the right questions I’ve been able to establish that it’s not just about having to put myself out there, but also the idea that I may have to deal with a fair amount of rejection.  That even though I know that the positions I am applying for are well within my capabilities and skill set, doesn’t mean that the recruiters can see this by merely reading a piece of paper.  By no means am I a wilting wall flower, but there are certain things that I do prefer to avoid if I can and being overly assertive with regards to myself is one of them.  So now that I have identified the source of my upset I am going to spend a couple of hours writing out a plan as to how I should proceed.  I have a couple of ideas floating around in my head, but putting them down into an action plan and giving myself some tasks and deadlines, is going to make this whole process far less intimidating and more manageable.  Bit-size chunks and baby steps need to be the approach to this project of finding myself a source of extra income, just while I continue to build my dream and follow my passion.

It’s not exactly what I want to do, but it is what I need to do to ensure that I have the resources to go forward on this path I have chosen for myself.

‘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

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

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

Which way to recovery?

street-signs-recovery-300x168Recovery is scary, there is no doubt about that!  It takes time, perseverance and lots of work to stay sober, especially in those first couple of months (and years) and there are moments when relapse seems like the easy option!  But with more than 2,200 days of sobriety behind me I can honestly say that it is worth the battles, the moments of self-doubt and the sheer determination it takes.  And there are people who want to help us stay sober!  And whether that is your local mutual-help group, your therapist or counselor, your sober companion or your recovery coach there are options.  Social media has an incredible network of people in various stages of recovery, groups that are advocating a myriad of recovery options and recovery professionals that are there to hold our hands through the dark times and share in our successes during the good times.

So often in the past people thought that recovery could only begin once a person had reached “rock bottom”, but this is not the case.  Anyone who feels that they are struggling with a deep-seated addiction or just moving towards one, can reach out and use the internet which has become an invaluable source of information and education.  This may be as simple as taking on online test if one is concerned about their substance use, becoming a member of an online support group or doing a Skype session with a recovery professional.  It’s not a one-size fits all fix when it comes to confronting our substance abuse and making the decision to enter recovery anymore.  For some people it may start with a stay in a rehabilitation centre, for others it might be court-mandated and for others it may just be a case of enough’s enough!  Whatever the reasons are for people choosing to start their recovery journey, the options are becoming more varied than they have ever been.

I’ve blogged about this before, but as I study more about substance abuse, it is becoming clearer to me that just because one approach doesn’t “fit” doesn’t mean that a person should give up and go back to the source of their pain and misery, in whichever form they choose that to be.  I can speak from experience when I say that I spent a little time in voluntary rehab and it’s all good and well when one is within a protected environment, attending group and individual therapy and education sessions on a daily basis, but the hard work really starts when you leave and have to make recovery work in the real world! Sadly, it didn’t for me!  I tried, I honestly did, but at the time in my city the only options were therapy sessions I couldn’t afford and AA which just didn’t resonate with me.  I relapsed and spent another 4 years battling my alcoholism.

One of the resources that helped me through my first year in my third attempt at recovery was an online support group.  It wasn’t a 12-step program and that was a revelation to me.  I didn’t have to give myself over to a higher power and I was the person in control of my recovery choices.  I am taking absolutely nothing away from 12-step programs, they just don’t work for everyone and that is my point here.  Just because you don’t want to attend a group meeting, where you work steps and share your addiction in an open forum, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other alternatives.  There are other mutual-help groups that are not based on 12-steps, there are online support groups and discussion forums and there is an ever-increasing workforce involved in the area of substance abuse recovery.  But the most important thing is that if you do go through a rehabilitation program, you need to find what works for you after that.

Don’t give up if one of the options doesn’t excite or drive you into the next phase of your recovery!  Get on the internet and find a way that does…and there will be one.  Whether that means typing your fingers to the bone in online chat groups from the comfort of your living room or finding a recovery coach that will help you create a recovery plan.  For some it means doing work with a therapist to understand why they fell into addiction and laying these past issues to rest.  Because if you expend the same amount of time and energy on your recovery as you did on your addiction the results will be unprecedented.  I have read so many stories recently of people who are opening up and are not afraid to share their stories without the curtain of anonymity to protect them.  Because it is time to shake the shame and the stigma of substance abuse and do everything that we can to create awareness, educate, assist and overcome this disease that ruins too many lives across all sectors of the world population.

So reach out, ask questions, find the your way forward and make the internet and social media an intrinsic part of your recovery.  Of course these are just suggestions, things that have worked for me, but I find daily strength in blogs, tweets, posts and articles that I read that I believe make me stronger, wiser and more passionate about my own and others’ recovery journeys.  We are part of a community of people that care deeply about each other and our sustained sobriety and for that I am exceedingly grateful.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

struggle

 

Today I want to thank…my addict.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

What does adversity, failure & heartache carry with it?

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

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