Posts Tagged ‘How to Stay Sober’

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.

stressRecovery meetings are a big part of staying clean and sober because they get us out of our heads and out into the world and sometimes we just really need to be around people who are as bat-shit crazy as we are.

In case you are wondering what some of the signs might be for getting your ass to a meeting, here’s a few clues (feel free to add any):

  • Who knew the laughter of small children could be so irritating?
  • The dog’s incessant tail wagging is really pissing you off, why does it have to be so happy ALL the time?
  • You think you don’t need a meeting, what you need is an evening in watching TV.
  • You find yourself shouting obscenities at the cartoon octopus on TV – the one  on the commercial promoting household air fresheners – it just doesn’t make any sense!
  • You tell the Girl Scout Cookie seller to go shove the cookies where the…you get the idea.
  • You find the line in the ‘fast food’ restaurant isn’t fast enough and you take it out on the 16 year old serving the fries.
  • Taking recovery tips from Lindsay Lohan seems like a good idea.
  • When the check-out person at the grocery store tells you to have a nice day, you tell her to go f**k herself.
  • Someone cuts you off in traffic and you think it’s a good idea to  follow them to their house.
  • It’s been 4 hours and you’re still trying to come up with an interesting enough status for your Facebook page.
  • You’ve  listened to The Eagles’ Desperado 10 times today.
  • Watching Titanic just doesn’t make you laugh like it used too.
  • You’re on Twitter and there’s no time for meetings, you’re too busy twittering and tweaking (I mean tweeting).
  • What’s so cute about kittens anyway?

And last, but not least,

  • You find yourself writing a blog entry about going to a meeting instead of actually going to a meeting.

giftI’d hear people talk about the ‘gift’ of desperation in recovery meetings and wonder what the fuck they were talking about.  All I knew was that I couldn’t stop drinking, no matter what I tried, whether it was a few days in detox, a month in rehab or 9 months on Antabuse. It didn’t matter what I did, inevitably, I would get drunk. Over a period of four years I tried everything to stop, eventually I took a handful of pills, hoping that I wouldn’t wake up, instead I woke up in restraints in the ER covered in bruises from apparently fighting off the doctors and nurse who were trying to help me. I spent a few days in the psych ward in a bed opposite a lady who barely made an indent in the bed, there was nothing left of her, except a hollow expression and loose orange skin that made her look old, way beyond her thirty some years. Liver failure will do that to you. That was it, I was scared straight and vowed I’d never drink again. A week later I was back in detox.

I’ve said this before, but no one decides to walk into the rooms of AA, NA, detox or the psych ward because it looks like a fun way to spend the afternoon. Circumstances take us there, some of us are there because we’re trying to save a marriage, our family has given us an ultimatum or the courts have ordered it. That was my story for a while, I was there because other people wanted me sober and I found that while that reason worked in the short term, it never lasted longer than a few months.

When I finally wanted sobriety for myself, there were no more ultimatums, because there were no more people. I’d succeeded in driving them all away and I was completely broken. I knew I was fucked and that was when I became willing to do anything to stop drinking. Sure, I had sat in AA meetings before, cynically watching these ‘fakes’ pretend to be happy, but I had never got off my opinionated ass and asked for help. I just assumed that no one could help me because my alcoholism was different and they couldn’t possibly understand where I was coming from. Something had changed though; I was completely beaten and somehow that spurned me into action. I asked for help, got a sponsor and worked on the 12 Steps.  I did what was suggested – even if I thought it was crap (and I often did).

When I was in early sobriety, I did not see this desperation as a gift – it was more like a curse – but today, I realize that had I not felt as hopeless as I did, I might never have got off my ass and on the road to recovery. 

 

bottomI can’t recall the amount of people who asked me this, but I do remember being pissed off at the question. Of course I was done, I was sitting in a f**king recovery meeting wasn’t I?

My indignant attitude usually lasted between 2-3 months or until I’d start to feel better. Once I’d got a new place to live or a new job, things didn’t look nearly as bad as it was before. That’s when I started to feel like maybe I wasn’t done and that I might just have to do a little more ‘research’. And so it would begin again and I’d lose that new job, get tossed out of my new home and find myself in detox, dazed and confused, wondering why this could possibly happen again.

I learned a lot of from each and every bottom that I had, most importantly I learned that I was very lucky not to ‘get dead’ before I ‘got done’ with alcohol. There are a lot of people who think that they’ll go out and drink or use just one more time and unfortunately that one time, becomes the last time because they never wake up.

I also learned that while I could tell people what I thought they wanted to hear and tell them I was ready to quit drinking, the truth really was that I wasn’t done until I was done. When I finally admitted to myself that I was beaten and that I’d truly had enough was when I became willing to go to ANY lengths to stop drinking and stay stopped. That’s when I started to listen to the suggestions of the people who had some time in recovery – the ones who had been waiting until I could get honest with myself and admit that I was well and truly beaten – until I was done.   

 

young-lady-holding-head-from-binge-drinking As amateur night (New Year’s Eve) is fast approaching, I’m reminded  of some very sound advice that is given to people in early recovery:  Stay away from people, places and things that may  push our buttons  aka ‘triggers’.  That was easier said than done for me because when I  was a new in sobriety, it felt as though EVERYTHING was a trigger.  Waking up in the morning – trigger, Monday through  Sunday – trigger, ex-husband – trigger, having a good day – trigger,  having a bad day – trigger, well you get the idea…

I’ve since realized that everything seemed like it was a trigger to me  because in early sobriety, all of my feelings and life experiences reminded me of drinking – because up until then, that is all I had ever done. I drank when I was sad, glad, happy or mad, I drank in the mornings, in the evenings, alone and in bars – drinking was my life so everything reminded me of it and in my mind, steered me right back to it. All that being said, this time I was serious about my sobriety, so I decided that I would listen to the people who told me that I should avoid people, places and things that might be a trigger to me.  

People – It turns out that people are hard to stay away from (unless you live in a cave).  Like most people, I had an ex who had the knack of sending me into a tailspin by simply uttering the right (or wrong) words. These well placed comments had the effect of altering my mood from already precarious to ‘fuck you’ and before I know it I’m on the way to the liquor store. Avoiding speaking to my ex was not feasible because we have a son together. At the time, I had my son on the weekends and I called him on the phone every night when I didn’t have him so I had to talk to my ex on a daily basis. I handled this by keeping the conversation to a minimum and always directing it towards the arrangements with our son and his well being. If I got upset (which invariably happened) I would get off the phone, go to a recovery meeting and share about what was going on or call my Sponsor. What I tried to avoid was getting drawn into a fight that I knew my ex could easily walk away from but would leave me seething and looking for a drink to ‘calm me down’.

I also avoided talking to certain family members that had the tendency to wind me up. Like most people, I didn’t want to completely cut myself off from my family so when I did speak to them, I kept the conversation simple and direct and in the here and now. My life was all about what I was doing TODAY in my recovery– not how I had screwed up in the past or making more promises for the future.  Some of us still have friends and family that we drank with – at this stage in my drinking career, I had lost most of my friends and there was no one in my life that would actively participate in drinking with me; my reputation definitely preceded me, so I didn’t have this problem. If you do have drinking buddies and family that drinks, keep your distance as much as you can – you can’t afford to be in an environment where people are actively drinking around you – (more on this below.)

Places – In early sobriety I avoided bars, clubs, pool halls and some restaurants that I had drank in and also most parties. Sure, there might come a time where I could go to these places to eat or to a get-together with friends, but in early sobriety, I really had no business being in a place where I was so easily within reach of my fix. Staring at the liquor bottles lined up behind the bar, watching people sip on cocktails was akin to torture in my mind and I had no place being there. As the old timers in recovery say, ‘hanging out in bars is like hanging out in a barber shop – sooner or later you are going to get a haircut whether you went in there for one or not. ‘

Things – Some  ‘things’ that were triggers for me were things like concerts, certain movies that I may have seen while drinking, looking at old photos, reading old letters and cards and generally holding onto the past and my former life as a drinker.  I was no longer a drinker and with that came a sense of relief that I no longer had to wake up feeling deathly ill, unable to recall what I had done, unable to face family and friends and avoid looking at myself in the mirror. Sobriety is a new beginning, a time to forge new memories that are crystal clear, not fuzzy or fragmented and filled with self-loathing and when I looked at it that way, it definitely seemed more doable. And what helped me to stay on track in the beginning of sobriety was to stay away from people, places and things that had the ability to put my sobriety in jeopardy.