Archive for the ‘New to Sobriety’ Category

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.

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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 first four years of my son’s life I tried unsuccessfully to stay sober.  I spent my first Mother’s Day alone – after I had decided I could have ‘just one drink’ the day before Mother’s Day – and I spent my son’s first  birthday in an alcohol treatment center.  Not long after and not surprisingly, his father filed for divorce and was given full custody. I was awarded visitations, but they were contingent on my staying away from alcohol.

After the divorce, I could only manage a few months sober at a time. A pattern emerged in which I’d see him regularly for a few months, relapse, and then only be in his life sporadically until I could piece my life back together. It wasn’t until he was four years old that I finally made it through my first continuous year of recovery.

At the time, he obviously didn’t understand why he lived with his dad and only stayed with me on weekends. He was confused and acted out, misbehaving and defying me at every possible turn. I realize now that he was testing to see how far he could push me before I’d take off again. Until I got serious about my recovery, my son had been on an emotional rollercoaster set in motion by my behavior for all of his young life. He needed reassurance that I’d be around for him, not just physically, but emotionally. The only way that I could regain his trust and prove to him that I wasn’t going anywhere was to show him.

That meant providing stability and consistency. When I said I was going to do something, I made sure that I did it. If I said I’d call him on the phone, Ialways called. And if I promised to pick him up at 6:00, I showed up at 5:59. It didn’t matter if my ass was falling off—I kept my word. There are no shortcuts to rebuilding trust, but honesty, reliability, and stability do work. I know because I did it. It wasn’t easy, but I’m grateful every day for my son, who now shares his time equally between his father and me.

Sobriety brings so many gifts that in the beginning of my recovery journey, I thought impossible. One of those gifts is in the way that I spend Mother’s Day today. And if you are a Mother (or Father) who is struggling with addiction, just know that if you can stay clean and sober TODAY, you too can have the gift of a relationship with your child.

It doesn’t matter what age our children are when we get sober – obviously the sooner the better – but whether they’re three, thirteen, or thirty, our recovery can be the cornerstone of a new relationship with them.  Being sober on Mother’s Day is a great way to start.

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.

I received an email yesterday from a lady who is just starting to live sober. She has 30 days in recovery under her belt and is understandably nervous, apprehensive and scared.  She mentioned that she thought she may have left it too late in life to get sober. At 47 she feels as though she has wasted so much of her life, drinking away many years, before she finally admitted that she had a problem.

I remember thinking the same thing too and many of my friends did. I was 36 when I first got sober and now I’m 41, I have friends who were 26, 45, 54 and 60 when they sobered up.  It really doesn’t matter what age we are when we get sober, there will always be some excuse not to. It’s the nature of our disease, the part of our addiction that is centered in our minds, the part that tells us we are useless and worthless.

Feeling like this is far from unusual and unfortunately this thinking keeps many of us ‘out there’ drinking and using. Our disease is telling us, “What’s the point in getting sober, you’re ____  years old (fill in the blank), it’s too late, you’ve wasted your life up until now anyway, what can you possibly do?”

I’ll never forget this one AA meeting I went to early in sobriety. An older man was sharing, he started by saying he was 75 years old (I immediately assumed that he must have twenty or thirty years sober because of his seniority).  I was very surprised to hear that he had just celebrated his first year of sobriety. I was even more surprised when he said the last year had been the happiest year of his life. He had reconnected with his children, his grandchildren and he had found a new happiness that he never thought existed for someone like him. When I heard his story, I was inspired and thought “Wow, that’s f**king awesome – there is hope for me!”

Yesterday, when I read the email from the 47 year old, it made me think of that 75 year old man again and I decided to look up some achievements made by people later in life and here are a few of what I found:

  • At age 40 – John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth
  • At age 43 – Marie Curie won her second Nobel prize
  • At age 45 – George Foreman recaptured the heavyweight championship with a 10th round knockout, becoming the oldest person ever to win the heavyweight championship.
  • At age 47 – Edward Jenner, an English doctor, pioneered the use of vaccination against smallpox.
  • At age 49 – Julia Child published her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking
  • At age 53 – Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Ninth Symphony despite being so deaf that, at the end of its first performance, he could not hear whether the audience was applauding.
  • At age 59 – Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
  • At age 62 – J.R.R. Tolkien published the first volume of his fantasy series, Lord of the Rings

Reading about these people inspired me all over again, it’s never too late to change our lives and to get clean and sober, and while most of us won’t be orbiting the earth or winning a Nobel Prize; we get to live a life that we never thought imaginable – a sober one.  We get to experience life and the things that come with it, all the cliches – the good and the bad, the laughter and the tears, the success and the failures.

We all have something to offer and we all deserve a second chance, whether that chance comes at 27, 47 or 77 – don’t let your DISEASE talk you out of it.

It’s that time of year again and whether it’s your first Holiday Season in recovery or you are in need of some tips for the family to get through the holidays sober, check out this great post from Hazelden’s Recovery Resource Blog.

In addition, Alcoholism About.com has a bunch of articles on getting through the Holidays.

More tips on enjoying the Season here.

If you come across a good post for the Holidays season, please leave a comment with the link – we need all the help we can get!