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

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

 

“If” is the longest word!?

Living in the present is the key to overcoming your addiction…in fact it seems to be the secret to living a happy and fulfilled life.  There are so many modern-day philosophers and spiritual teachers that advocate this way of life.  The past is gone and there is nothing we can do to change it, rather we need to make peace with it and not dwell in the quagmires thereof.  Making amends and asking for forgiveness of the people we have wronged is a wonderful thing to do in the early stages of recovery, but it is essential to that same recovery that we lay our previous lives to rest.  There is no benefit to be found in beating ourselves up year after year over the things we did when we were trapped in the hell of addiction.  Yes, we hurt people, especially those closest to us, but there is not one ounce of value to be found in flogging a dead horse so to speak.  I made my amends with an honest, sincere heart and then I moved on.  Of course there are times when the people in my life will recall instances of things that were said and done, but I chose not to get drawn back into that conversation.  My heartfelt apologies were genuine and my continued sobriety my commitment to that apology.

Sometimes the toughest thing to do is forgive oneself…  To sit quietly with yourself and take a little time to be sorry for what you have done to yourself.  Take a moment to think of the opportunities you might have wasted, the chances that you probably let slip by, the relationship that could have been worth something if you weren’t completely cloaked in your addiction and say sorry – to you!  But once this is a fait accompli and you’ve had your little self-pity party, for goodness sake let it go.  And do this in any figurative or literal way that resonates with you.  Go into the backyard and bury your pain in a box.  Stand on the beach in front of  the rolling waves and shout it to the oceanic expanses.  Curl up on your favourite sofa with a box of tissues for the afternoon and weep. But then make a deal with yourself to put an end to the remorse and to stop being sorry!  The past can never be taken back and “if” can sometimes be the longest word in the English dictionary. If only I hadn’t blah blah blah…you’re going to drive yourself demented!

journeyAnd don’t fret about the future…  Don’t obsess about whether you will still be sober in six days or six hours or even six minutes.  Just hold onto the moment and appreciate that you are sober now.  The idea of one day at a time can even be daunting at points during our recovery.  The idea of making it to the end of the day can be overwhelming and scary, so just focus on the moment, because there is nothing else besides right now.  Eckart Tolle is so spot on when he talks about this in his book, “The Power of Now” and there is so much power in now.  There is nothing else…  The past is memory and the future is anticipation and by embracing the very essence of now, we can find peace and serenity.  I personally believe that all the great teachers and philosophers of of our time have battled to overcome some sort of addiction, because if you listen closely to their teachings you’ll see that there are so many proponents of just taking it one step at a time.  The Tao Te Ching, believed to have been written in the 6th century BC, by Lao Tzu “The Old Master” contains the verse, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and could there ever have been a more accurate idea of how to conquer addiction!?  All I have ever focused on during my journey through sobriety is the next step.  This could be the next week, day, hour or minute depending on what is going on in my life at the time, but I never waiver in my commitment to that next step.

I cannot always account for the step after that, but that’s in the future.  All that I can control is this moment right now.  And in this moment I always chose not to pick up a drink.  I’m not talking  about anything here other than my addiction, because although I am dedicated to the present when it comes to abstaining, I cam not always that single-minded when it comes to other areas of my life.  However, I still feel as though I am in the early stages of my recovery and that there are far more lessons to be learned along the way.  I drank for 23 years, I have been sober for less than six.  So perhaps I get upset when my work or personal life isn’t going exactly how I envisage it should, but when I can remind myself to come back into the moment like I do with my sobriety, everything feels more peaceful and tranquility ensues.  I’ve mentioned a couple of great writers in my last few posts and I have found solace and comfort in their words, often picking up a book or switching on a podcast, and even though I am not in the place I left off, I am exactly where I need to be in that moment.

Maybe this sounds like pie-in-the-sky new age philosophy to you, but let me assure you that even though I am a crazy romantic, I am also grounded by a part of me that is incredibly practical and pragmatic.  I don’t simply buy into ideas because they are the trend of the month.  It took me a while to really start to read and understand what many of the books and ideas were really all about.  And sometimes weeks will go by before I dip into a little Deepak Chopra or spend a few hours listening to Wayne Dyer, but their message is very similar to me.  There is no benefit to be found in reliving the past over and over again (especially if it painful and dark) and we cannot predict the next minute in our life with any certainty.  The true joy in life is to be found in this moment, the one that is happening right now, and believe me that it’s easy to be sober in this moment.  If you think too far down the line then the uncertainty becomes overwhelming and oppressive, so all I am advocating is take a deep breath, feel your body and be in this moment, the one you are in right now and the next one will be there when you get there.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

This post was inspired by a very dear friend of mine’s brother, who I don’t know and have never met…but who I hope finds a little strength and comfort in the words.

In an addict’s instant!

I’m not shy about sharing stories about my addiction, but I am fairly nervous about sharing my writing with the people close to me.  Like many people I am profoundly nervous of critiques, even when disguised in innuendo like “productive feedback” and “constructive criticism“.  I’ve never taken personal censure well, even if the speaker’s intention has been for me to use it as a point of departure for improvement and self development.  I get defensive and uptight and I can rarely find the value in what they are saying at the time.  My addict side which may have appeared to be courageous and audacious, filled with self-confidence and dogmatic bravado in the years gone by, is actually the part of me that is severely lacking in any real self-worth and is demanding, insecure and seeks constant approval.  It’s the part of me that even though I am sober sneaks into my life when I am tired, stressed or let my positive defenses down for even a minute and takes over…

Realize-deeply-that-the-present-moment-is-all-you-ever-have.-Make-the-Now-the-primary-focus-of-your-life. (1)Then I am immediately caught in an unhealthy, personal inquisition when I start to question the contributions I make in all areas of my life.  When I am present-focused and in the now, I am calm, enveloped by a sense of contentment, with no doubt in my mind that everything will work out as the universe deems it to.  I’ve read the books, I do the work.  My Kindle is filled with the works of Dr. Wayne Dyer.  My computer loaded up podcasts by Deepak Chopra.  My copy of “The Power of Now” always on my bedside table no matter where in the world I am.  Byron Katie and Brene Brown are two women whose work I greatly admire and am presently spending time reading their wonderful works.  I spend a couple of hours with a personal coach every other week working on the elements of myself that require it…like my need for reassurance, my tendency towards procrastination and my personal inability to balance what comes in and out of my life.  And all this positive and powerful work can be undone in an addict’s instant when I am feeling emotionally and physically weak and powerless.  I know it’s the same side of me that was quieted by alcohol from the time I was a tween and as I mentioned in my previous post it’s ever so easy to just give into that side of ourselves.  The side that can be so effortlessly quieted with a shot, a hit or a night at the poker table.

The hard part is acknowledging that we fight inner wars and that we need to honour and embrace all the elements of who we are.  I need to accept the addict in me and find gratitude in what it is trying to bring to my life.  That when I am feeling tired or run down instead of trying to avoid it, my addict is actually coaxing me to rest and relax.  It’s hard to constantly wage war with myself, because on the days that I can bring the addict into my life and see the good that it is trying to show me I am far more at peace and present than on the days I am pulling away from that part of self.  It doesn’t mean that I am giving into my addictive behaviour of the past, it means that I am seeing the addict in me and remembering that my power side is better served when it is in balance with my addict.

Instead of constantly running from one part of ourselves towards what we consider to be the positive opposite, we need to find a place of integration within our personal depths where the two exist side by side.  It’s something I am working on with profound effort at the moment.  However, the fact that I have pushed so hard against what I consider to be a negative part  for so long means that there are days when this really messes with my mind.  When I bring my addict and my power together I feel unstoppable, I don’t worry that my choices are anything other than spot on and I don’t doubt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in that moment.  Sobriety is not easy and there are days when I just want to “make the bad man stop”…the one who doubts and questions and feeds the hamster that turns the destructive wheel in my mind.  But never even in those instants do I ever want to return to the life I had before, because even though it felt simple when I was drinking, the tough emotional days now don’t last and  life really is better with a clear head and an honest heart.

‘Til next time

Sober Something