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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

ILS Coach Logo

Which way to recovery?

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

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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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Your current conditions are echoes of your past choices…

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Was yesterday your defining moment!?

you would not be here todaySometimes it’s hard to believe that there were weekend mornings that I could barely raise my head off the pillow, both from the pain and the shame.  Now if I’m not up and about before 8am I’ve really slept in.  My weekends are busy, productive times when I get to spend time doing things that I am passionate about.  I don’t dread the rising sun anymore on a Saturday, but rather welcome the chance to be engaged in meaningful personal and professional activities that bring me huge amounts of joy.  Of course there are days when I languish and honour my need to rest, but there are days like today when the hours fly by.  When I was drinking I’d spend my weekends curled up in a ball, nursing a hangover with fizzy drinks and fatty food.  Don’t get me wrong, occasionally I do still indulge in a greasy burger and fries, but it’s not my weekend staple anymore.

Today is a wonderful example of how my life has changed over the last six years.  I was woken up by a lovely “Saturday” morning message and was at my computer before 7:30.  The reason for this is that an exceptionally exciting professional opportunity has begun to unfold for me over the last few weeks.  I mentioned it in passing in a previous post, but it seems to be gathering momentum and I am giving it my all.  I’m very focused on completing my Life Coach certification over the next few weeks and with that done I am looking towards becoming a specialised Recovery Coach.  I’ve been doing a lot of research on the internet and have been contacting various schools about the possibility of doing a course in this field.  And suddenly a distance course has turned into a wonderful Recovery Coach and Trainer, Dr Louis Gonzales from Minnesota, possibly coming to South Africa later in the year to facilitate his training course.

It all felt a little daunting at first, but as I started to stretch my organisational wings, I realised that this is something I am well capable of getting off the ground.  My mind of course has been working overtime, but not in the destructive, harmful way that minds can work.  Rather in a productive and outcomes’ focused way that is not governed by ego and insecurity.  Not only will I be able to be one of the trainees, but now I have the chance to be involved in the organisation of the training seminars.  Along with this there may be the possibility of including sponsored delegates who work in the field of substance abuse and recovery in community initiatives and volunteer programs.  Maybe I’m being overambitious, but the way I see it I may as well go for broke.  There’s absolutely no harm in shooting for the stars!

And within the last 48 hours wonderful things have already started to happen.  I shamelessly sent emails to people involved in the Coaching profession in South Africa and I’ve had some very encouraging and exciting responses.  I also have a supportive personal network, with people close to me involved in the organisation and facilitation of training seminars who have offered to assist where they can.  And of course the internet and social media are a source of incredible potential in all sorts of forms.  Honestly, I haven’t been this excited by a project in some time and I’m so excited by the challenge.

So when I think back to weekends past and how I spent them in a mist of despair and angst, it only makes days like today even sweeter.  Life just gets better and better.  And no, not every day is flawless.  I too have horrible days when I want to hide under my bed, but those days are becoming fewer and fewer as I focus my energy on things I am truly passionate about.  So I’m going to give this my all and do my very very best to see it come to fruition in a few months.  There is every chance that things may go awry, but my focus is on a positive and successful result.  I know that through this event we can bring Recovery Coaching into focus in South Africa as a much-needed alternative or addition to the current substance abuse and recovery models that are being followed.  And by that I am incredibly excited!

‘Til next time

Sober Something