May Your Choices Reflect Your Hopes…Not Your Fears

May-your-choices-reflect-your-hopes-not-your-fears.-Nelson-MandelaI have been blessed with over eight and a half years of sobriety, but although life has been far better since I stopped drinking, but it hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park.  My last post focused on “Recovery is not just abstinence”, but I do need to emphasise that for me, abstinence is the gateway to my personal recovery.  I have dipped my toe in the AA waters (although not for long) and  I agree that we are powerless over our disorder, but only once we take the first drink (or whatever our drug of choice is).  As to managing my alcoholism I am completely in control…because up until the point I chose to pick up, all the power lies with me.

Not everyone I work with agrees with me on this point and I have been questioned about my ideas more than once, but I stand firm in my beliefs that I am the one in control, until I chose to relinquish it to the illness that lies quietly dormant within me.  And in order to keep it there I work incredibly hard to live a life where choosing to use is at the cost of the life that I have worked to achieve.  Of course there are times when the thought of a drink to get through a particularly stressful situation, get over a bad week or just to escape from the relentlessness of reality, feels like a good idea, the easy way to take the edge off.

It’s far more challenging to understand the cause of the stress and the frustration, practice spiritual principles like patience, acceptance, honesty and courage to unpack and process an event or series of events, and then to work through them fully conscious and aware.  And then to openly and honestly communicate our needs to the people in our lives, without scaring them because we are having a bad day…and could potentially be on the verge of a relapse.  A relapse takes time…a return to old, destructive behaviours that have negative consequences on our lives and those of the people around us.  I believe that picking up the addictive substance is one of the last things that happens in a relapse, a well-researched element of the chronic recurring disorder of substance abuse.  I don’t  believe that we can simply blame a slip or relapse on this, but need to be willing to take full responsibility for the management of our lives and substance abuse.  It’s not enough to glibly blame a relapse on the fact that we have an addiction, but learn to become aware of our actions and choices that might end up in us relapsing.

It is my responsibility to take care of my mental, emotional and physical health and well-being, as well as my social and spiritual life, so that I am operating from a place in my life where using alcohol to cope, overcome my problems, celebrate or check out for a while is just not a feasible option.  I have to continue to empower myself in whichever areas of my life might still be lacking…and not for one minute think that I can use for any of these reasons and then be able to stop!  Believing that is for me evidence of a return to denial…I tried it previously and it ended up resulting in a five-year relapse.  That’s a proper return to old, destructive behaviour with ongoing negative consequences, losing my business and all my self-respect being top of that list.

So everyday for me is about continuing to create and develop a life that trumps the life I had when I was using alcohol to quiet my fears of rejection and being left out.  It was also how I  knew how to cope, overcome stress and have a good time.  But over the years I have learned to find healthier ways of doing this.  It hasn’t been effortless, and there are still times when I get it horribly wrong when it comes to trying to figure things out in my personal and professional life.  But at least I am in a sober state of mind to deal with life, rather than sleep walking through it with either a lack of conscious awareness around what is going on in my own life or desperately trying to “fix” the situations I have created when handling them drunk!  I wake up to the same challenges that were in my life before, but through hard work and ongoing personal development I have learned to deal with them differently.

I am constantly striving to be a better personal than I was yesterday and I believe that is my personal goals, dreams and aspirations towards which I am working, along with understanding my values and working diligently with my personal spiritual principles that keeps me in the driver seat when it comes to my addiction…I don’t refute the idea of powerlessness, I just believe that in recovery, as in life, everything comes down to the choices I make and until that point I have the power to keep my life fulfilled, purposeful and sober.

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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