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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Til next time

Sober Something

She’s making a list…!?

I realised today that through all the personal and professional work I am doing I have started thinking about my recovery a lot more recently.  As I’ve written about before I do not believe that we should let this disease define who we are!  If you had a life-threatening illness such as cancer, you wouldn’t lead with that in a conversation with a new acquaintance would you!?  You might get to it at some stage in the proceedings, but  it’s hardly what you open with…  I don’t want to be defined by my inability to control my drinking, not being able to stop once I’ve started.  Six years of sobriety have shown me that I am not lacking in willpower and strength, and that it’s just something that I honestly have no mental control over.

I can avoid bad food, I can skirt potentially hostile dinner conversation topics, I can commit myself to personal and professional endeavours, yet when it comes to saying no to another drink I am powerless in the face of its magnetism.  I find it odd that something that is actually potentially deadly for some of us has such a strong pull on us!  Temptation is not an overriding problem for me in general and I do watch myself around alcohol, but I’ve got the facts  and awful memories so clearly mapped out that I can access the reasons I don’t drink instantaneously.  I can run down the list of “why not to have a drink” without breaking my stride.  And “the list” is always close at hand for easy referral should I ever think that I would be able to have just one drink.

I’m not under any illusion when it comes to this…  It might be a couple of drinks the first time, but this number inevitably ends up growing and before long it’s back to the “Friday Night Binge and Blackout Special”.  I’ve been down that road a couple of times.  One drink is too many and 20 isn’t enough!?  So in my mind I carry around my list of “Why I don’t drink…”.  There are plenty of points on that list and different situations may call for me to tap into different reasons, but at the end of the day they all boil down to the same thing.  If I had one drink my life would start to unravel…slowly at first, but then with increasing speed as I drank more and was sucked back into the destructive vortex of my drinking habits.  So when I have a day that I think it would be nice to have a little glass of wine to take off the edge, I need to go to my list and find a reason not to.  It might seem strange to some people that I need to remind myself why I don’t drink at times, but there it is.  There are nights when I’d love to nestle down on the couch and sip steadily on a bottle of wine, while the strains and stresses of the week washed away.  But as  a recovering alcoholic this is not even a remote possibility.

Sometimes I get annoyed that I had to stop drinking, because then I’d be able to alter my mental state when things are not going well.  I do get upset that I was hit with the genetic alcoholic stick!  Why can’t I have a drink or two to relax my frayed nerves?  Get out of my head and not worry about the things that are going on around me?  But the truth is that there is no escape from reality when you make the decision to give up drinking.  Of course there ways of learning to be more present, comfortable and centred, but they are a lot more challenging to master than lifting the proverbial elbow.  And then when I start to think like that it’s time to go to the list and remind myself how awful it feels to be miserable and hungover after a night of binge drinking.  That one normally does it, but then there’s also the increased disposable income, the health benefits, the clear conscience, the time for things I love and of course happy personal relationships.  And that’s a lot to give up for a couple of hours of mental respite.

inspiring-messageSo even though I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind slipping into a fuzzy head space every now and again, it’s not worth the price I’d end up paying.  There are the occasional cravings when I’m having a bad day or there’s a special celebration going on that I’d like to feel more relaxed at.  But then I think about why and refilling my water-glass or having a cup of coffee doesn’t seem so bad.  I love being sober and I love my life without hangovers, hazy memories, a depleted bank account and personal misunderstandings.  And I’m learning to balance my life better each day so that the wonderful elements of my life are the ones that take precedence. And when the less savoury parts pop their heads up, I am always quick to honour and acknowledge them, because they are a reminder of a time past when things were not as good as they are now and how long it’s taken me to get here.

And once the moments of craving pass I lovingly fold “the list” and slip it back into its own space so that I know where to find it when I will need to look at it sometime in the future.  I’m never sure when I’m going to have to take it out, but it’s always there when I do.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

I am not what happened to me…

Being in a new relationship can be emotionally overwhelming and something of a roller coaster ride, especially when it’s time to talk about your addiction.  But being honest about it can be incredibly rewarding when the person you open up to is understanding and supportive.  Of course people are curious as to why I don’t drink and because I am not prepared to let my alcoholism define who I am, I want people to get to know that there are so many more facets to me than the fact I have battled addiction and that continued sobriety is a fundamental part, but it’s not all, of who I am.  Last night I had the opportunity to have an honest, open conversation with an incredibly important person in my life.  It’s not like I’ve been hiding it from him, it’s just that I didn’t want it to be the part of me that we focused on as we spent the last months getting to know one another.  I’m pretty sure we’d have had the chat sooner if it wasn’t for the fact that we are in a long-distance relationship at the moment and it’s something I wanted to do while we were together.  I don’t think that there is a perfect time to have this discussion, but I chose to wait until we knew one another better and it seemed less daunting.

You can never be sure of the reaction that someone will have to this complete disclosure, but I do think that letting it define who we are means that it becomes a focus, complete with the fears of what the future may hold.  Nothing is certain in any relationship, but at some stage it’s central to the progression of truly letting someone into your life.  It’s scary thinking that it could be make-or-break point, because perhaps the person is not prepared to take it on in their life.  Yet I was pleasantly surprised at the easy nature of the conversation and his willingness to accept that it was part of me and that I am in the process of turning my addiction into my new career in the field of addiction coaching.  It says so much about a person when they remain open-minded to this element of who you are, rather than letting it overshadow everything else they have seen of you.  I count myself among the very lucky ones who has found someone who sees me as a whole person, complete with things in my past that may not be something he would chose in a partner.  He’s prepared to continue the journey with me and should there be anything that arises in the future closely linked to my sobriety, he’s agreed that we will deal with it then.

This morning as I write this I feel like our relationship has taken on a new depth and that the honesty has brought a lightness to our i am whatbeing together.  Perhaps he better understands that some of my less attractive qualities, like my deep-seated need for assurance and emotional support, stem from the fact that I have not always been able to look to myself for these things.  We spent an incredible evening together and both spoke frankly about who we are.  This being my first relationship since I stopped drinking I am learning all sorts of things about myself that I didn’t know and how to consider another person and their feelings about certain types of interaction.  It’s another exciting dimension of my sobriety because I’ve been more than a little nervous about how I would handle myself in this situation.  And there have been times when I haven’t done it particularly well, but it’s almost like learning a new skill set.  I’ve stumbled a few times, let me neediness and self-doubt take over, but the more time I spend in an intimate relationship the more I’m finding my feet and starting to feel relaxed in this new place I find myself.

I’ve made myself vulnerable, admitted that I might well make mistakes and that I am learning as I go, but the rewards are so exponential.  It’s taken a long time for me to get to the place where I am able to feel comfortable enough in my sobriety to get involved, because I believe that I am able to bring more to a partnership than I have ever been able to do.  That I’m not going to fall apart the first time something goes a little off course and I’m faced with emotional difficulty.  I’ve become more adept at dealing with the daily challenges that life presents and not running off to find solace in a stiff drink – better equipped to approach life with a maturity that I’ve not felt I possessed until recently and rather than being an emotional burden on someone.  Developing the interpersonal skills to be the type of person that someone is proud to be with.  Someone who is a supportive, loving and believes in us both without losing sight of who I am.

I’m not shy to admit that I’m feeling really good about this progress and how far I have come, especially when I think back on the unhealthy, destructive relationships I have had leading up to here.  I know that I still have a long way to go in my emotional development, but I acknowledge this about myself and know the areas that still require hard work and commitment.  My coach and I work on these parts of self that need bettering and if I look back to where I was a mere nine months ago I believe that I’ve grown immensely as a person.  It’s been scary at times, looking so deeply into self and confronting the personal obstacles that are standing in my way to being the person I really want to be.  Last night however was another stepping stone across the river of personal development and once these points are passed new ones may arise, but the growth cannot be easily undone.

Today I am incredibly grateful for the growth that an open mind and an honest heart bring.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Do your dreams scare you?

The last 13 weeks of my life have been incredibly grueling and to be honest there are days where I have not coped very well.  There have been times when I wanted to pack my suitcases and run screaming for the airport, which is only ten minutes down the road.  But I’ve endured and through doing so have learned more than one lesson.  One of the biggest might be that by persevering when times are incredibly tough and digging really deep, we find a source of additional strength that we didn’t know we had.  I make no excuses for the copious tears I’ve shed over the last three months.  I embraced homesickness and separation and wallowed in it on certain days.  I’ve honoured the fact that I was feeling miserable at times and took to my bed for a couple of weekends.  But the one thing I didn’t do was give up!

And the beauty of it all is that it has taught me that I can endure.  Some days I feel that I use all my strength and tenacity to stay sober, but these last nine months in this country of sand has shown me that there is more determination in me than I realised.  There were moments that it took every ounce of my willpower not to hurl verbal abuse at someone because my frustration and stress levels were off the charts.  However, I’ve held my tongue, kept my integrity intact and can leave for a short break from this incredibly soulless country with my head held high.  I’ve also crossed the half-way mark of my contract and on return from eight days’ back home, I will have a mere four and a half months before I return permanently to home.  When I look back on my ten years away from South Africa I marvel at the things I’ve accomplished, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had.  It might not always have been the most stable existence, but it was in the midst of this  tenuous existence that I got sober.

I left in August 2003 (probably incredibly hungover) and will be returning in June 2014 a very very different person.  I believe that my time away has brought me more than a stack of photos, a collection of memories and a wealth of friends.  It has also given me a new life.  Somewhere on an island in Asia, where I spent years not understanding everything that was going on around me I found complete clarity.  When I wasn’t able to properly communicate I found my own voice and my personal truth.

And I’ll be returning with far more than the luggage I carry, because over the last six years I believe that I’ve found my true purpose.  The more I move towards my goals, the bigger they get.  The more I build on my dreams and aspirations, the more exciting and inspiring they become.  At times they feel downright scary and even a little unattainable as I keep taking them to new levels.  Before I got sober I could hardly pull myself out of bed in the mornings, now the majority my days are packed with forward-focused actions.  I aspire towards the greatness that I used to only glimpse on a very good day, but now feels like it is constantly bubbling within me.  As I visualise, verbalise and record my plans I can see no reasons that I cannot become the person I’ve always had an inkling I could be.  In sobriety I know that there is nothing that can stop me except me!

if your dreams..Drinking robbed me of my motivation, my ambition and my determination but now I am going to achieve all those things that I didn’t have time for when I was drinking.  Now I am going to go out there and accomplish the things that I know I can.  It’s invigorating and exhilarating to think that even though I might have wasted a few years, that doesn’t mean that I can’t still go out there and make the difference in the world that I’ve always felt I was destined to make.  So believe in yourself and create the life you might only have imagined could be possible when you were trapped in the hell of addiction.  And if you have some bad days (or weeks) along the way be gentle and kind with yourself, because it’s all part of the process.  I’ve come through the bad times stronger, smarter and more focused than I was before and I know that there’ll be tough times in the future, but I am prepared to keep moving forward with an clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

Hello Presence this is Ego!

Some days I don’t feel like I am in control of my life and other days there is not doubting who the master of my destiny is… I’ve often wondered what it must be like to go through life just feeling content.  Never too happy, never too sad.  Never constantly clambering between the peaks and valleys of life.  I’m not an emotionally consistent person!  I have great days and I have terrible days, but rarely are my days somewhere in that middle ground of contentment.  It’s tiring to say the least and I spend countless hours trying to find ways to maintain some semblance of balance, but thus far I seem to be missing the mark on an ongoing basis.  I listen, I read, I explore ideas on how to achieve and maintain this feeling of equilibrium and I have glimpsed it to be sure, but it never lasts very long.

Or maybe that’s just my ego pulling me towards the extremes of my personality so that I am creating some sort of personal drama or emotional giddiness for myself.  When we abuse substances I believe it is often in an attempt to quiet our minds and the destructive thought patterns that we develop.  I don’t like to admit that about myself, but as I am sitting here and typing the words it seems to make perfect sense.  Why would my egoic mind let me nestle comfortably in the arms of personal gratification where I am ignoring that part of self that thrives on instability and emotional histrionics.  So the hamster in my head starts to run frantically on his little wheel to create all sorts of scenarios that pull me out of this place of mental peace.  And then it’s back into the cycle of destructive, addict thought patterns.  I’ve made it my business to read some of the modern spiritual masters like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Wanye Dyer and I’m sure of I could be their example of someone who needs to learn to fully embrace the present.  I’ve felt that presence when I am fully aware and presently focused, but it’s mercurial in nature.  It’s so ephemeral to me that almost as soon as I start to feeling completely here, it seems to have slipped away.

There are definitely ways of remaining more present.  Writing is an undertaking where I find I’m completely focused in “The Now”.  Where time slips by without me giving into thoughts that turn into vortex of worry and what ifs.  In the present I feel calm and secure, embraced by the comforting arms of emotional tranquility.  The waters of temperance lap gently at my being and I am at one with the world.  I don’t get (too) distracted by the events around me and my intellect is fully engaged, yet my mind is still.  It’s how I feel at this exact moment, with the unwavering belief that everything will unfold as it needs to and things will happen as they should.  And I am not in the least panicked by this thought as I become when I am not focused on the wisdom of my being.  Then just as suddenly I am out of that space as something draws my attention away from my source.  And even though I may endeavour to get back into my “nowness” I’m all over the place, thinking about yesterday (although I tend to go there on a less regular basis) and worrying about tomorrow, rather than embracing the joy of presence.

in times whenI have to admit that simply being conscious of where I am has gone a long way to experiencing the present more often.  I only wish that I was able to stay there for longer periods of time.  But my egoic mind is still strong and I know that sustainable change is a process, made up of steps, not simply a gigantic leap from one place to another.  The more coaching practice I do the more I realise that if you approach change a step at a time, the chance of the transformation “landing” and being tenable are far greater.  So I keep working towards this personal goal of becoming and staying present more often during my day, and through this feeling far more in control of my emotional, spiritual and physical life.  Remembering to stop, take a breath, focus my thoughts on now and continue forward with an open mind and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

 

Coach Me Sober!

For a couple of years now I’ve been thinking of turning adversity into opportunity.  I’ve thought long and hard about it and earlier last year I decided that I am going to make my former weakness my new strength.  So I have embarked on a life coaching course with the goal being that I will specialise in sobriety coaching.  I feel incredibly passionate about this direction my life has taken and as I have started to learn a new skill set as a coach, I realise the massive potential it has in helping people who are battling with addiction. Even in the few months I’ve had a personal coach I have created enormous value for myself through our sessions and when I think back to the early stages of my recovery, I only wish that I’d known then what I know now.

future-belongs-those-believe-beauty--large-msg-126324067001Coaching is empowering and uplifting.  It’s about creating sustainable change through positive, self discovery.  It’s not about lamenting how you were ignored by your father as a child or picked on by your siblings.  What it’s about is staying focused on your present situation and working towards your desired future.  It’s not about blame or looking at what past actions have created your situation.  Rather it’s about identifying where you are in your life and where you would like to be.  It’s about digging deep and finding the answers to all those unanswered questions.  And as an addict I am the first to admit that I spent plenty of years ignoring the difficult questions and brushing them under the proverbial rug.  Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the rug shifts and thins and those unanswered queries tend to resurface.  I honestly believe that my recovery would have been a lot further along by this stage if I’d deemed to address all these challenges and overcome my personal obstacles sooner.

Coaching is not about advice or judgment, but about someone holding a safe personal space for you while you do some honest introspection.  And I am continually amazed at the depth of the personal wisdom I have as to how to overcome challenges and move towards my dreams and aspirations.  It’s so incredibly uplifting be be on both sides of the coaching process.  Because addiction and recovery coaching is a more specialised field than what I am training in at the moment I acknowledge that I am not professionally qualified to work in this area during the practical modules of my course, but I get so excited when I think of how incredibly productive and effective coaching can be in overcoming addiction.

I know I’m an addict, perhaps I even know why I’m an addict, but what really interests me is how to make my life as fulfilling and magical as possible.  I want to boldly adventure into my future, unshackled by the chains of my past and coaching gives me that freedom to become an intrepid explorer in my own life.  It’s a wonderful, exciting journey and the map isn’t one that someone hands you, but one that you chart yourself.  I’ve never really been the type of person who does well when I am being directed and managed.  Yet, if I come up with ideas, thoughts and solutions that are mine, I take complete ownership of them and will not rest until I have achieved what I set out to do.  I don’t think I’m too different from most people in that respect, because we want to follow through on things that we are comfortable with within our own set of personal values, norms and beliefs.  Being told what to do, more often than not, brings out the petulant child in most of us and we seem to self-sabotage what might actually have served us well.

However, left to decide on our own course of action we are far more intent on being successful in our endeavour.  And what an endeavour the quest for sobriety is.  It’s incredibly scary at times, especially in the small hours of the morning when you feel like you are the only person in the world that is awake.  At those times when you are gripped with anxiety as you try to kill the physical cravings for the release that alcohol offers from reality.  But oh, it’s so incredible when, as the sun rises, you look forward to the horizon there is nothing more exciting than the possibilities that lie ahead.  Yes, there are dark days as you crawl through thick forests of doubt and trudge through sludgy marshes of unexplained fear.  But the more adept you get at charting your course, with the knapsack of personal coping mechanisms you gather, the more incredible the journey becomes.  I feel like I spent the first years of my sobriety merely stumbling along, but I can honestly say that if I knew then what I know now, I would have found a way to spend time with a sober coach.

Like I said in one of my more recent posts, there is something (or a combination thereof) for everyone on their road to recovery, but nothing beats personal empowerment and honest self discovery.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

No New Year’s Resolutions!?

my yearI don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore!  And in the past I’ve only ever managed to make one that I stuck to.  It wasn’t so much a NY resolution as a life-saving necessity.  I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I hadn’t stopped drinking six years ago!?  Maybe I would have continued along, binge drinking, never achieving anything personally or professionally, spending my weekends in the fogs of depression and self deprecation…  I think I would have inevitably ended up losing everyone that matters in my life and become a scarred, jaded alcoholic making new friends every Friday night with whoever was sitting next to me in the bar.  It doesn’t sound like an emotionally fulfilling life, does it?

Sure there’d have been a few laughs over the last six years and maybe even a couple of short-lived periods of happiness, but I think that my life would mainly comprise of a set of shallow, mercurial  experiences that were semi-remembered and easily forgotten.  But this is only a supposition on my part.  Overcoming addiction is definitely no walk in the park, with blue birds and daffodils.  It’s brutal at times!  Addiction, although not the right choice, is often the easy choice.  There are nights in the early stages of my sobriety that I’d be at a party, loitering on the sidelines of fun, thinking about sneaking a quick tequila just to get me in the mood.  Often my whole night would be spent making small talk with people I didn’t particularly want to be spending time with just to prove to myself that I could resist the temptation of having a drink.  I am not advocating this course of recovery for anyone!  “White knuckling” it is not for everyone and that is why there are rehab centres and support groups around the world.  The recovery statistics vary, but more people seem to stay sober if they attend a support group.  There are other options of course which include therapy, counselling and coaching.  And I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that everyone needs to find the one, or a combination thereof, that works for them.

Just because I never gave myself over to a higher power, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  It’s not about how you chose to get and stay sober, it’s about doing whatever it takes to find your way to sobriety.  For myself, I don’t believe that substituting drinking every day of the week (or part thereof) with meetings and support group.  It seems like exchanging one crutch for another, and I believe in finding ways to break the restrictive confines of addiction in positive, constructive ways.  I’m not sure that sitting around talking about an unhealthy past is the way towards a healthy future!?  I might upset a few people in my outlook, but I believe in present- and future-focused recovery rather than dwelling on the negative behaviour of the years gone by.  Yes, take stock, make amends, lay the demons to rest, but then for goodness sake move on!  Don’t spend months and years rehashing what you did as an alcoholic gripped in the clutches of your disease, but rather look forward as to how you want your new life to be.  Don’t go digging up the skeletons of the past, but rather aspire towards the new life that you chose for yourself.

I don’t want my disease to define me!  I’m so much more than that…  Yes, I am an alcoholic, but I’m also a woman, a partner, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an educator, a future coach…  There are so many parts to who I am that I choose not to be defined by this one part of myself.  I’m a fighter, a survivor and a passionate believer that anyone can overcome this disease if they are prepared to do whatever it takes to get and stay sober.  If that means walking away from certain people, places and situations then by all means do it, but remember that it’s not them that have the problem.  Sure there are a few people that were part of my life when I was drinking that no longer feature, but the majority of the people who meant something to me then are still in my life now.  They weren’t to blame for my addiction and new starts can be made within existing circumstances.  It’s not the people around you that need to change to overcome your addiction, it’s you.  And the people that love you and believe in you the most will be there for you along the journey, holding your hand, giving you strength and cheering you on.

So as the new year starts think about all the wonderful, positive things that make you the person you are and don’t just focus on alcoholism as being all that you are.  Look inside yourself and find those attributes that make you the unique and special person that you are, then use those to develop a plan to get and stay sober.  It’s what I did, and although I am an alcoholic, I am so so much more.  I chose to focus on the positive, uplifting parts of who I am to keep moving forward towards my dreams and aspirations, at the same time acknowledging and honouring the lesser parts of me that make me who I am.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

(Un)happy new year…

Are you finding the holidays tough and dreading the thought of what you are going to do on New Year‘s Eve?  Does the thought of staying at home and watching the clock creep towards midnight fill you with dread?  Perhaps you’re not in this situation at all, lucky enough to have a partner who is happy to spend the evening at home away from the alcohol-soaked crowds.  But this may not be your reality and it certainly hasn’t been mine so far.  I’d always loved the New Year festivities.  The complete hedonistic atmosphere that pervades most of the celebrations I’ve ever attended and then I stopped drinking!  And suddenly NYE became a cause of anxiety where I spend the days leading up to the event trying to conjure up a plausible excuse as to why I would not be in attendance at any of the parties that I’ve been invited to.

Bustling crowds, leery drunks and slobbering midnight suitors are not on my list of “Ways I want to start the new year!”  I’d much rather be curled up the couch with my guy and bring in the new year in a quiet, romantic way.  But that’s not in keeping with the spirit (or relationship reality) of things, although I truly hope that when I do get to bring in another year with a special someone, it’ll be away from the madding crowds.  This year is of zero consequence, because I am living and working in a country that doesn’t really observe the Gregorian calendar and the 1st January 2014 is not even a holiday!  Now, I wasn’t saying that I don’t relish public holidays, but I often find now that I am not drinking some of these days are shrouded by the murky, post-party gloom of the people I am with.  But having learned that I cannot control the behaviour and actions of those around me, I chose to remove myself from their company, possibly with a long walk or a good book,  and give them the space to recover from their overindulgence.  Being judgmental of others’ choices is not how I chose to spend my time, even on public holidays.

But I digress about New Year.  Since this particular night is not among my favourites anymore, I have in the past couple of years hosted a small, early evening drinks or dinner party with the people that are important to me.  I stay home and give my friends and family the freedom to join me if they so wish.  They generally tend to drop around in the early part of the evening, have a couple of quiet drinks, eat a good meal, wax lyrical about their plans for the new year and then move on to some or other party for the remainder of the evening.  It makes me happy to have spent time with them before the year closes out, but it also means that I don’t end up at some social gathering that I’d rather not be at.  And for most of the last five years I have been in bed before the clocks strike twelve.

Perhaps in the coming years things will change if I have that man who’d rather be just with me as the year ticks in, but hosting your own party with the people you love is one way of avoiding the pandemonium of this particular night.  And when you are done you can slip off quietly to contemplate your resolutions past and future.  There’s no weakness in not wanting to be alone on this night, but as our first responsibility is to ourselves and our sobriety there are ways to celebrate that remove anxiety, temptation and being stranded in the early hours of the morning not being able to leave a party because you cannot get a taxi or your partner isn’t ready to leave just yet.  So dust off that glitter ball, decorate your living room and make it an event that you want to be at.  And there’s more than enough days in the year left to get something organised if your social calendar is still looking a little empty or unappealing right now.

the empowered woman‘Til next time

Sober Something