The book is available on Amazon – check it out here: Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down: 50 Things Every Alcoholic & Addict in Early Recovery Should Know - By Georgia W.

georgias-book2Drawing on my own experience and that of others in recovery, this book highlights fifty things that all of us should know once we’ve decided to treat our addiction. Some of the topics included are:

The First 30 Days – What to expect and how to get through it.
Things to Avoid – Protecting your recovery and coping with stress.
Dry Drunk – How not to be one.
Relapse –Developing a prevention plan and what to do if it happens.
Spouses & Partners – How to include them and rebuild relationships.
Children – It’s never too late to be a good parent or role model.
Dating in Early Recovery – The not so good, the bad and the ugly.
Twelve Step Programs – How they work and what you should know.
Isolating – Why we do it and why we shouldn’t.
Substituting and Fixing – Things we substitute for our addiction.

Believe it or not, it doesn’t matter how you got to this point in your life – the most important part is that you did. Too many alcoholics and addicts die from this disease before they get a chance to recover. Just remember that you don’t have to do it alone. There are people who want to help, those who have been to the bottom and back and are now living a life without drugs and alcohol. All you need to have is the willingness to follow some simple suggestions that have worked for many others and can work for you too.

5K anyone?

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

No, I’m not asking for money…

After I quit smoking, I slowly ventured from my well worn spot on the couch. Okay, so I only managed 10 seconds of running before my little hamster lungs huffed and puffed from years of nicotine abuse. Fast forward a bit and I’m running my first 5K in just over a month.

If you live in the Denver area, or know people who do and who like to run for a good cause, please pass this along:

ImageThe race benefits Colorado’s premier Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) they provide vital home health, hospice and wellness services to Coloradans in 15 counties from Broomfield to Pueblo.

http://www.active.com/10k-race/denver-co/home-sweet-home-5k-10k-2012

For those of you who are deep enough into your sobriety to pay attention to what’s going on in the world around you, you might have noticed that the Oscars were held this week. I don’t typically pay a lot of attention to these kinds of things (if watching people half your age win awards for wearing tacky dresses and making bad movies isn’t reason enough to drink, what is?), but it does get me thinking about the roles that appreciation and public recognition play in early recovery.

It’s ok to admit it: some of us just like to be recognized from time to time.

There is a good side to this, and a bad side. Just as some Oscar attendees can only manage to halfheartedly clap for the terrible actor who stars in a string of predictable flops, it can be difficult for the people in our lives to “recognize” the hard work we’ve done in putting our lives back together. In their minds, the fact that we haven’t been thrown in jail, lost our jobs, or slept outside for a few months on end doesn’t really seem worthy of a lifetime achievement award.

In fact, bringing it up ourselves can make us look even more terrible, since it’s a reminder of just how often we’ve failed at the box office of life so many times in the past.

As I mentioned, however, there is a good side to all of this, too. Your non-alcoholic, non-addict friends and family might not know how hard you’re working, or understand why it’s such a big deal that you’re making the effort… but others who are in early recovery do.

That’s why it’s important, especially in the first few days, weeks, and months of your sobriety, that you make it to a regular meeting and make friends with people you can lean on for support. They know what you know: that every single day can be a struggle, and a victory.

Take the time to appreciate how far you’ve come – even if you can only measure that in hours – and it will give you the strength to keep going.

With the Oscars right behind us, and most of the country thinking about whose work they do and don’t appreciate in Hollywood, keep both of these ideas in mind. It isn’t fair to expect your loved ones to give you the red carpet treatment just because you’ve managed to string a bit of sobriety together. At the same time, though, don’t be afraid to give yourself a little acceptance speech now and again, to reflect on how far you’ve come, and be as proud of yourself as you should be for making each and every day of sobriety possible.

I’m very grateful to be sober today. It brings home to me how lucky I am when I see or hear about the people who die from this disease. It’s such a sad waste of life, especially for those of us who know that it is possible to get sober, no matter how hopeless it seems and low you go.

Obviously we are going to hear about people who are in the spotlight who die from this disease, such as Amy Winehouse. It is a sad waste of a life whenever anybody dies the way she did, whether they are found dead in a home that’s worth millions of dollars or dead in a gutter – the end result is still the same. Ms. Winehouse’s  addiction to alcohol and drugs have ultimately caused her death and yet people are leaving booze bottles at her house as a weird acknowledgement to who she was, yet the booze helped kill her! It’s a sad indication of how this disease is not taken seriously, if she had shot herself, would people be leaving guns on her shrine as an acknowledgement? Probably not, yet she drinks herself to death and people leave booze?

Alcohol kills, it does not discriminate, it kills famous people and it kills us ‘regular people.’ It needs to be taken seriously.

I happened to be in the college Math Lab the other day (not to be confused with Meth Lab) when I felt a  tap on my shoulder, I looked around and saw an old friend who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. I know him from AA and it turns out that he’s back at school too and plugging away at his degree. As we were chatting I happened to glance down the hallway and noticed another familiar face walking towards us…enter a another friend from the rooms of AA.

We talked for about ten minutes, catching up and discussing what each of us are studying and what we hope to do with our lives once we get a degree. It was an odd feeling and the irony of our meeting seemed to dawn on us all at the same time because we all shut up, looked at each other and said, “Fuck, this is weird!

Why was it weird? Well just over four years ago I had somehow managed to get 6 months sober and I was convinced the lady standing opposite me now was going to die. She was out of control, living on the streets, drinking and smoking crack, weighing in at 95 pounds. Yet, here she was now, clean and sober for over four years, looking healthy, back in school after 30 years away from it and talking animatedly about her goals, studying and working a regular job.

Given how destructive and all-consuming this disease is, it never ceases to amaze me when anyone gets clean and more so how our lives can change because of it. We recovering addicts are definitely a resilient lot and when we channel our efforts in a new positive direction we are a force to be reckoned with. It’s hard for me to comprehend where I was 5 years ago and where my friends in the Math lab were too. As we stood there talking, we joked that if we could put as much effort into our studying as we did with our using we would be okay.

Well, it seems that the three of us must be doing that because these once hopeless alcoholics are now happy straight A students…and we are all over 40 years old. Sobriety has taught me so many things but especially that it is never too late to change and it’s definitely never too late to learn.

When I was still drinking alcohol and January rolled around, I’d get really depressed.  The holidays being over meant that people were going back to their normal lives, no more parties, no more days off, no more excuses to drink all day. Not that I needed an excuse to drink, but the fact that other people were letting loose over the Holidays was a great way for me to be ‘inebriated incognito’.

Though flying under the radar didn’t last long, soon people noticed that while they might have a few drinks at the office party or with the Holiday dinner, I often looked like a possessed baby calf, with bloodshot eyes and legs splayed awkwardly in opposite directions trying to find a foot hold. I’d spend the time stumbling around spouting funny one liners (or so I thought) only to be told the next day that I really should call so-and-so to apologize.

The truth is I know I’ve managed to ruin quite a few Holiday get-togethers.  Sometimes, not even making it to the party at all, deciding instead to have a drink while getting ready. Somewhere along the line, the bottle would end up in the bathroom with me and I’d pass out on the floor with my husband banging on the door.  Although being a no-show was often better than ruining the entire evening for people which is what happened one New Years. After renting a condo in the mountains and having friends drive all the way up from Denver to bring in the New Year, I managed to piss off  my closest friends to a point where they turned around and drove all the way back to Denver that same night. Of course, my response was what the hell was their problem?

In fact, the first time a friend actually said to me that they thought I had a drinking problem was after that New Year’s Eve. This was the first time someone had said this – to my face anyway – and I acted as though I was mortally wounded.  How dare she say such a thing? What a bitch she was! I’d have to get her out of my life, I certainly didn’t need that kind of negativity. So I avoided her and coincidentally people started avoiding me.  As my alcoholism progressed, it wasn’t long before I didn’t get invited out anymore, or I had no inclination to go out anyway. The husband left, the friends stopped calling and at the time that was just fine with me, they all got in the way of drinking anyway.

Unfortunately, it would be many more wasted years before I was able to admit to myself that I did have a drinking problem and I wanted to stop. And if you find yourself in a place where you want to stop drinking, this is as good a time as any to get sober. Sure, people who over indulged during the Holidays will make it their New Year resolution to cut down and if they are normal drinkers they will succeed. But if you are like me, and have tried every trick in the book to control your drinking, there is no going back.

And if you can’t go back, don’t stay stuck – try going forward. A good way to do that is to find a recovery meeting and get your ass there. And if you have ideas surrounding A.A. like I did, such as it’s full of fucked up people, who are full of fucked up ideas, it might help to keep in mind the New Year saying, “Out With The Old and In With The New’ – it just might change your life. Happy New Year.

For the last year or so I’ve been going back and forth about what I want to do with my future. I wanted to become a Certified Addiction Counselor, but I didn’t know if I had it in me to go back to school after 25 years, plus looking at the degree programs and what was involved seemed so overwhelming.

I went to school in England, where it was customary to leave at 16 years old. Optional 2 year college to study for ‘A’ levels came next. Once a student had their A levels if they wanted to go to University they could apply based on their results. I didn’t have a lot of drive when it came to studying and I didn’t have anyone at home pushing me to study or go to college. In fact, my parents never bothered to look at my report card, never attended parent evenings, and never asked me whether I should be doing homework or not. Taking full advantage of  the ‘Tormented Teenager’ moniker, I decided if my parents didn’t give a shit about my education, why should I?

I left school at 16 and got a job in an office as a receptionist, since then I have worked in many different Administrative support roles such as Executive Assistant and Office Manager and most recently as an assistant to a Psychiatrist. The last year I have found myself wanting more, so I started looking at colleges and courses and what I needed to do to become an Addiction Counselor.

I thought I’d just apply to a college and off I’d go and start studying for my degree. Not so, I had to provide a school transcript from a school that says they no longer have my records. The other option was to get my exam results from the examination board that I took them with but after researching online I was told it could take months and after speaking to admissions in the college I wanted to attend, I knew that what I had wasn’t going to be enough anyway.

The lady in admissions told me that I could try Community College as they had open enrollment and I could do some of the classes needed for my degree there. When I had earned 30 credits at Community College I could transfer over to the degree program. Great! where do I sign up? Turns out I needed to do a Basic Skill Test to see where I’d be starting from academically. After I took the test I was told that I was up to college level in English and Reading but my Math needed work and I’d need to complete a remedial Math class. At first I was disappointed, but when I thought about it, I haven’t done Algebra in 25 years and it might not be a bad idea to study it now that I actually want to study. After all the testing was completed and I spoke with an Advisor, I enrolled in Math as well as 3 other subjects that are guaranteed transferable to my degree program.

When I first started this process, I had no idea what was involved in going back to school. I wanted to be able to do this my way, and quickly. I figured I’d just sign up for the course I wanted and hey presto I’d be on my way to being a Counselor! For me, this process has a lot of similarities with getting sober; I wanted to get sober but wanted to do it my way, the easier softer way with the least work involved on my part. I remember complaining to my Sponsor that I should be doing my 9th Step because all my friends were doing theirs (I hadn’t even finished my 4th Step). She patiently told me that I needed to trust that my Higher Power had me  right where I needed to be and if I stayed the course and did the work in front of me now, that I would to reap the rewards later.

I’m not trying to cut corners anymore and I know now that Community College is right where I need to be and remedial Math is exactly what I need to be doing now if I am ever going to be the Counselor that I hope to be later.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

As a practicing alcoholic for many years, I had no desire to try to better myself in any way, physically, mentally or spiritually. It was all about getting my next drink – my life revolved around booze, and anything else be it work, friendships or my health were an inconvenience. I also frowned upon anyone else who might be trying to better themselves, people who went to the gym, people who studied hard, people who said they lived a spiritual life, people who were sober, people in general – the list went on ad nauseum. I know now that I was jealous of anyone who had their lives together and I dealt with that by putting them down. Even while I was looking up from the gutter, my alcoholic mind still told me I was better than the people standing on the sidewalk.

Thankfully I’m in recovery and my narrow-minded, self centered view of the world has shifted. I can appreciate other people’s efforts in bettering themselves and I’m striving to evolve from a bitter angry drunk to a decent member of society.

This process of change is a lot harder than I thought and is usually accompanied by fear. Even after overcoming the fear involved in living sober I still feel uncomfortable when there is a change in my life – even if I have instigated it. So, after four years in recovery I’ve decided it’s time to go back to school at age 42. I’m back in England to take some classes and after living in America for the past 20 years, I feel a bit out of my comfort zone.

Prior to the first class, I was overcome with fears, people won’t like me, I’ll look stupid, what the hell am I thinking? My ego has rebuilt itself and obviously still thinking that it’s all about me and that people will think I’m worthy of developing an opinion about right off the bat.

My sister dropped me off and joked about my first day at school and even though I’m a few decades past Kindergarten, I felt as though I was that little girl from long ago and all that was missing were my pigtails and a fit of tears after realizing that my mother wasn’t staying but I was. My sister actually ended up walking me right up to the classroom door (co-dependency in action!).

The truth is no one batted an eyelid when I walked into class, but as usual, I thought that it was all about me and I would be singled out. Not so. I have to remember that in the grand scheme of things, the world doesn’t revolve around me and it’s natural to have some anxiety about meeting new people and embarking on a new venture. It turns out that my fellow classmates also had fears as I quickly found out when we began one of the first exercises – expressing any fears we had prior to being there.

During the break – the very break I had dreaded as I just ‘knew’ I’d be sitting alone with no one to play with (I mean sit with) I ended up being one of a group of people who were friendly and open and all a bit nervous just like me and I was reminded of my first AA meeting. We were all in the same boat.

I enjoyed my first class, I’ve even got homework that I plan on completing (miracles never cease) – and I think I might be able to make it next week without my sister holding my hand – or maybe not.