Archive for the ‘Keep It Simple’ Category

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.

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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.

Thanks to Chaz @http://yuppieaddict.wordpress.com for sharing this:

Father’s Day approacheth in 2 days and I too am now grateful that I have this special day with my kids where once I didnt. I too had restrictions on my access to my kids. I went from super-Dad to supervised-Dad in a matter of a few months once I hooked up with my drug and alcohol habits.

My sobriety and recovery are so key to all of my relationships. Most relationships would not exist if my sobriety and recovery did not.

A magic day happend for me at about 3 years sober. My early-teen daughter called and asked if we could go out. It was a little late, but she persisted in saying she really wanted to seee me. She beat around the bush for an hour or more the finally in the car on the drive home, she hit me with it. She asked me a question about something she was struggling with that she felt the only person she could as was her Dad.

She feared her Mom would not understand, even though she is primarily resident with Mom and Mom is by and large a good Mom. But Dad is Dad. And daughter saw Dad go through hell and come out the other side and thrive. So who better to ask that Dad?

3 years earlier, my ex had restrictions on my access. Now Dad was the go-to guy. I have my recovery and God to thank for that. I too am blessed. Beyond words. And on Sunday, Fathers Day, my kids and I are planning our annual golf game. Imagine, Dad the ex-doper, ex-drinker, ex-rager, ex-depressed and in the psych ward is taking 3 teens for our annual fathers day golf.

What a blessing.

Ciao.

Chaz

Thank you everybody for stopping by and reading the Early Recovery blog. I just noticed that the blog went over the 30,000 hits mark!  I really appreciate your readership and thank you for all the comments.

If you are trying to get clean and sober or think that you may have a substance abuse problem, stick around, read a few posts and check out a few of the links.  Happy Trails!

It turns out that alcohol isn’t the only thing I’m addicted to – unfortunately drama comes in a close second. Of course, back when I was ‘in’ my disease, I didn’t know this, but as I got more time in recovery, I found out that the drama I created around my drinking was just as much a part of the package as the booze itself. As I got sober and the hangovers disappeared, so did the drama and weird as it was, I found myself missing it. I didn’t actually sit down and say, “Shit, you know what? I really miss the drama”, the feeling would be more subtle and one of the most common ways it would manifest, was when I felt bored.

I thought I was bored because I wasn’t having the ‘fun’ I had when I was drinking. Although I conveniently forgot that the good time I was missing was not a night out bar hopping with a group of friends -no my ‘fun’ consisted of me alone in my apartment with a pint of cheap vodka and a pack of smokes. Yet, my disease told me that I was bored because I missed the excitement/peacefulness/frenzy (you name it) that the drinking brought on, but when I think about it, the actual drinking part left me feeling empty and dead inside, what I was ‘missing’ was the thrill of the chase and the drama of the clean up.

When I was actively drinking, I was always trying to fix some situation I found myself in or lie, cheat and manipulate my way back into people’s good graces, whether it was my husband, my family or my employer. Now that the drink was gone, I didn’t have to do these things and I was at a loss. Things were actually going smoothly; I had a good job that I was never late to, sober friends and a great relationship with my son. Yet I found myself feeling ‘bored’. When I talked this through with my sponsor, that’s when she helped me see the connection between my addiction to alcohol and the drama that came with it. I came to understand that I wasn’t used to feeling at ease and calm – if there wasn’t a landlord to avoid or a lie to be told, I felt out of sorts.

If you find yourself feeling this way, just remember that as well as the withdrawal from our drug of choice, we are experiencing withdrawal from the only life we have known – whether it was a fucked up life or not – we are grieving the loss of it. Recognize that you will feel this way, we all do in the beginning, but it will pass and we can get on with our lives – without the drama (well, maybe just a teensy bit of drama, it is the Holiday Season after all).

monkeyI met with a friend of mine yesterday for coffee, we were ‘litter mates’ four years ago and our friendship has continued. During the last four years he has stayed sober the whole time, while I on the other hand drank after one year of sobriety and had to start over.

We were talking about how insidious our disease is and how easy the the ‘monkey’ can climb back on without our realizing it. He mentioned a woman in his home group who just celebrated one year clean and sober and she was sharing her story. Prior to her new anniversary, she’d been sober for 2 1/2 years but relapsed. She wasn’t feeling particularly anxious or down and wasn’t thinking about using when she found herself in her bathroom rinsing her mouth out with Listerine mouthwash (for those of you who don’t know, there is a lot of alcohol in mouthwash). Suddenly out of nowhere she decided that instead of spitting out the mouthwash, she’d swallow it – of course, she went on to polish off the whole bottle.

Two and a half years of sobriety gone, in a split second. She went on to say that she couldn’t explain why she did it and that she hadn’t realized she was in trouble.

Unfortunately this story is far from unusual, but there are some tell-tale signs to watch out for:

  • Lack of interest in your recovery program; making excuses to miss the meeting or skip an appointment with your sponsor.
  • Daydreaming of how it used to be when we could drink or use (it’s normal to think about this once in a while, but not constantly).
  • Stop working on the steps, – keep working the step you are on, whether you are on the 4th step or the 12 step. Our recovery needs daily maintenance.
  • Feeling over confident – 6 months or a year of sobriety is definitely something to be proud of but it’s extremely important that we do not rest on our laurels, which basically means: thinking that we know all there is to know about staying clean and sober and no further effort is needed. This is a very dangerous place to be, many people relapse after periods of sobriety because they’ve stopped taking their disease seriously and stopped working on their recovery.

Our disease is always working to get us back out there, so we need to continually work to not let it! Think of it this way, when we are actively working on our recovery our disease is hibernating but as soon as we slack off – such as avoid going to meetings for a few weeks or stop watching out for people, places and things that are triggers – our disease starts stirring and keep neglecting your recovery enough and it WILL wake up and when it does, it’s going to be really, really hungry.

Being in recovery is about getting a daily reprieve from our addiction. We need to be on top of it especially during the holidays – which are fast approaching. We need to actively have a program of recovery in place, going to recovery meetings, working the steps, getting a sponsor, meeting with other alcoholics and addicts and being of service. Having other people around you that can recognize if you are becoming restless, irritable and discontent can save your life.

Its true that as we get more time sober, our lives fill up, we have new friends, new jobs, we spend more time with our loved ones, but just be aware that the idea that we are ‘all better’ after we get a decent amount of clean and sober time is a LIE that our disease tells us. Our disease wants us dead, but it will settle for us being drunk or high.