Posts Tagged ‘New to Sobriety’

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.

shellI was at a recovery meeting today and the topic was isolating. Needless to say everyone could relate to this because as alcoholics and addicts we tend to do this a lot. For me, at the end of my drinking career, when I’d lost all my friends and no one in their right mind would drink with me, I was accustomed to being alone. In fact, all I wanted was to be left alone, I’d pretty much barricade myself in my apartment with a bottle of vodka and all would be right with the world. Except that it wasn’t.

Now that I’m sober I still struggle with wanting to be alone. My excuse is that I avoid being around people because they annoy me. I want my own space and God forbid someone should cross that line and get in my personal space because I basically (internally) lose my shit. It can be as simple as someone standing too close to me in a grocery store checkout line. I want to explain to them that standing within an inch or two from my back is not going to get them to the front of the line any quicker – I’m still in front of them, so back the f**k off!

I can be in a movie theatre, settled into my seat and I’ll see them, the family of four or the gaggle of teenage girls walk around the corner and invariably choose the seats directly behind me when there’s almost an empty theatre. All the while, I’m quietly repeating to myself, ‘don’t do it, don’t sit there, don’t’…until they do. The same with airplanes, I’ll sit in my seat, iPod securely in my ears, looking intently at the in-flight magazine, hoping that if I just don’t give them eye contact, they won’t sit next to me. Silently chanting, ‘not you, not you, not you!’ until the inevitable happens and the seat gets occupied. Why I think no one will sit there on a sold out flight is beyond me, but I still hold out hope that I’ll be the only one left sitting alone.

I tell myself, I can’t help the way I am. I’m no good at small talk; loud people bother me, I’d clip the wings of every social butterfly with a sharp pair of scissors if I could. Why? The truth is; I’m jealous of other people being comfortable in their own skin, people who can chat successfully to a total stranger bother me because I can’t. I feel inferior. In a room full of people I can feel completely alone – no one wants to hear what I have to say, they’ll laugh or criticize me and I can’t have that. I’m different and no one gets me. My disease fills me with these ideas and thoughts so it can keep me alone, so that I won’t seek help, so that I’ll drink again.

My disease will continue to tell me that I’m different until I share in a room full of recovering alcoholics as they sit nodding in agreement. They even come up to me after the meeting and say, “I do that too! Oh my God, the movie theatre is the worst and supermarkets piss me off so much that I go there at 11pm just to avoid the people! That’s when I know I’m in the right place and I’m not so different and unique after all.

If you are new to sobriety and find that you are isolating, try going to a meeting, share your irrational thoughts, fears and pet peeves and you might just be surprised at how many people there feel exactly the same way as you do.

grounghog1Very early sobriety sucks. There’s no other way to say it. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. What made it worse was that I had to do my first 30 days in recovery over and over again. It was like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, I’d wake up and think “Oh f**K, I have do do this all over again.” Each time I swore would be the last, each time I was going to do it different, but to make matters worse, the more ‘do-overs’ I had, the harder it seemed to get.

As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I had many a relapse before I actually ‘got this’ – so getting through that first month is no stranger to me. What helped me was to go right back to an AA meeting and ‘fess up’. The longer I left it, the harder it would be. So very reluctantly I’d go and raise my hand when they asked if there was anyone in their first 30 days – it seemed I did this so many times that people would just automatically look at me when the question was asked – (I could have been a teensy bit paranoid too) but I had to be honest or I’d get nowhere. Instead of telling me to ‘get a life’ and stop wasting their time the people in those rooms actually welcomed me back, they even clapped, I felt like shit, I wanted to curl up and die, I was ceratin they were thinking ”what a loser – she’s never going to get more than thirty days, she’s a waste of time.”

I’m happy to say that I was wrong about that last part – the people in those meetings saved my life, the friends that I had made already before my relapses, saved my life. They didn’t judge me, they didn’t tell me that I wasn’t welcome there anymore. Instead, they hugged me, they asked if I wanted to talk and gave me their phone numbers, they suggested that I get a Sponsor, they asked me to come early to the group the next day so I’d get to know people and best of all they told me to ‘keep coming back’ no matter what the hell happened-so I did.

If it wasn’t for those people I don’t think that I would be here today, because my pride would have prevented me from walking back into that Twelve-Step meeting, my fear would have kept my hand in my lap instead of raising it as a newcomer and my ego would have told me that people thought that I was a waste of time. Thankfully, the people in those rooms of AA were able to squash all that ‘chatter in my head’, so my ego didn’t get a chance to get in the way of my recovery.

I learned many things from relapsing: the bad things were that my disease wants me drunk, it wants to isolate me, it lies to me and tells me I can have just one drink and it wants to keep me away from people who might be good for my sobriety. The good things I learned: as soon as I relapsed I had to get my ass back to a meeting, tell the truth about what happened, get on safe ground with people who could direct me to the next best thing for my sobriety, listen to their suggestions and do what they said, such as 90 meetings in 90 days and starting over with a sponsor to work on the Twelve-Steps.

When I told them that I didn’t believe I could stay sober because I always relapsed, they would say ‘Fake it ’til you make it’  – I didn’t understand what that meant, but as I got a little time in recovery behind me, I realized what they were saying and it was that even if I didn’t believe in the process, if I didn’t believe that this Twelve-Step Program would work for me, that I should go through the motions anyway. I could fake my belief in the process and keep coming back until the penny dropped – so I did what they suggested and finally out of the blue, the penny well and truly dropped and I didn’t have to raise my hand anymore – except to say that I had one year sober and then two…

For more suggestions on the first 30 days, click here

mythoughts1

  I tend to think that I have a really good memory and in most aspects of my life I    do (except for remembering people’s names!) – I can remember things from        when I was a kid that truly amazes my mother. All that being said, I have the  ability to forget on a regular basis how bad it was when I was out there actively  drinking. Thankfully I have good friends in recovery who will remind me that it’s  not necessarily that I’ve forgotten, it’s that my disease wants me to forget – so  that it can get me back out there. It took me a long time to get used to the idea  that part of the disease of alcoholism is centered in the mind.

  You see, I don’t think like a normal person – I have a ‘broken thinker’ and a very    selective memory. Because when it comes to remembering the name of my next  door neighbor’s dog when I was nine – I’m all over it, but ask me to remember the  nine times I went to detox to dry out and it’s a bit fuzzy. I can quite easily recall  the time my teacher gave me detention for talking in class but ask me to talk about the times I skipped class to get drunk and I tend to forget. As a child I remember missing my family when I went on a sleepover but ask me about the three months I spent away from my own son when I was in a Salvation Army Rehab Centre and it’s difficult to imagine that I was actually there.

There are so many things that I take for granted now that I have a little bit of sobriety behind me. But in early recovery the memory was still fresh in my mind because I felt completely hopeless even though I had put the drink down. But as the days passed and I went further away physically from my last drink, it seemed that I was also doing so mentally. I knew that I needed to stay grounded or like I had done in the past when I attempted recovery, I would soon forget the insanity of my drinking and my disease would convince me that I should try it again. This is just one of the reasons that I go to recovery meetings; it reminds me on a daily basis how far I have come. Obviously there are many other reasons that I go, but for me, in the past when I stopped going to meetings, it wasn’t long before I started questioning if I had a problem with alcohol. Coincidentally enough, not long after I started questioning my disease, I decided that just one drink wouldn’t hurt.

It’s true that I shouldn’t stay in the past but I also need to acknowledge the path I came along to get me where I am today. When I acknowledged that I had this disease, I also made a commitment that I would treat it. My treatment consists of going to recovery meetings, working with newcomers, working with my sponsor, volunteering to do service work and developing a relationship with my Higher Power. When I do these things, my ‘broken thinker’ is otherwise engaged and I am given a daily reprieve from my disease and ultimately my next drink.

50 Things Every Alcoholic and Addict in Early Recovery Should Know

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If you are new to sobriety and this is your first time in recovery    during the Holidays, i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or    Hanukkah (I’m sure I’ve forgotten one or two), then you might want  to start thinking of ways to safeguard your sobriety during this time.    It’s true that the first holiday season is tough, but if you are the kind  of drunk I was, it didn’t matter if it was Christmas day or plain old  Saturday because I was going to get loaded regardless. Holidays are a  little different though, because EVERYONE seems to be loosening up  and having a few drinks, whether it’s the company Holiday party, or  Uncle Bob’s annual New Year’s Eve party, it’s true that people are  merrier and tend to overdo it during the Holiday Season.

I remember my first sober Holiday Season very well (I was sober, so I guess that’s why) but I recall seeing the first Christmas decorations in the stores right after Halloween (why do they do it so early? – sadistic bastards!) Anyway, it gave me plenty of time to stew over the whole thing and remember the ‘holiday horrors’ of Christmas’ past. Needless to say I became increasingly terrified every time I thought about it. As an alcoholic I have a natural tendency to obsess about things, so lets just say that I thought about it a LOT. Thankfully there were other people like me, who had been through the holidays before and were able to give me some great suggestions to safeguard my sobriety. Here are some of them:

  • Company Holiday Parties – When I went to my first Company party sober, I really didn’t want to go but I was new to the company and I wanted to at least show my face there, so I went for two hours and then left after the meal. If you decide to go, you could try it for an hour or so too. If you are bringing your spouse or partner, let them know that you will probably only be there for an hour or so and then you will want to leave. If they want to stay at the party, you could always arrange to come back for them later (and skip out to a recovery meeting). If you are single, try asking a sober friend to attend the party with you – having someone with you in the trenches is one of the best things you can do for your recovery. Some companies want employees to attend solo and if this is the case, take your cell phone and have a list of sober friends who you can call if you get antsy. Have an exit time planned and stick to it – no matter what – don’t get talked into giving rides to people who are drinking or you’ll be there all night. After the meal or buffet is a good time to leave because that’s when people usually start letting loose. Remember that most company holiday parties aren’t compulsory and you can decide not to go. It’s safer to watch out for your sobriety than worry about being ‘seen’ as a team player. Ask yourself this, would you rather be the main character in one of the the drunk stories that are invariably told the morning after, or would you rather be listening to the embarrassing tale of someone else’s exploits?
  • Family Get-Togethers. Same thing applies here, if you are single, take a sober friend with you if you can. If you have a spouse and the meal is usually held at your house, how about telling the family that this year you’ve decided to take the year off? Suggest the meal could be at someone else’s place or that you all could go to a restaurant. In the event that you do go out to a family party – talk to your spouse about your plans to leave early (hopefully they’ll be on board), if they aren’t you can always leave for a while, hit a meeting and go back for them later. You could even have an exit time planned around the time that you know a recovery meeting is going on, that way you can say you have to leave at 7:30pm so you can make the 8pm meeting. One great advantage of having someone with you who doesn’t know your family, is that they’ll be less likely to put up with Uncle Bob’s recollection of your most embarrassing moments and more likely to drag you out of there if things get too rough.
  • Have your own transportation or bus schedule so that you are not at the mercy of someone else for a ride home – that way you can leave whenever you want and not when your friends decide they’ve had enough. Also, don’t volunteer to be a designated driver just yet (that might be something you can do down the line – but not this early on in sobriety). If you do this, you will invariably be at the party until the wee hours of the morning or worse still, be dragged around on a bar crawl with a bunch of drunk people to packed bars and pubs (personally I’d rather have a root canal).
  • Meetings, meetings, meetings. Recovery groups and Twelve-Step clubs are a safe place to be so try to go to as many as you can. Some AA and NA clubs have marathon meetings held over the holiday period and some are even open 24 hours. One recovery meeting per day (or more if needed) during the holidays is a really good idea. You will be around people who understand what you are going through and you can share how you are feeling.
  • Just Say No – (no pun intended) If you feel like being around your family or going to a holiday dinner or party is going to be too much, then commit to being somewhere else. It’s ok to say no – this is about your sobriety and protecting it and believe it or not, the party will go on without us! But remember – do not to isolate – there’s a popular saying in recovery that an alcoholic or addict mind is like a bad neighborhood – which means we don’t go there alone! Alone is a dangerous place to be. You could get out of the house and go to the movies, wander the aisles in a bookstore or you could do some service work. You could work the front desk at your local AA or NA club, or volunteer to make coffee for the meetings. You could also help out at a shelter for the homeless or offer to help out at a senior citizens home – they love getting visitors (especially ones armed with a plate of cookies). The Salvation Army is always looking for bell ringers too!
  • Avoid near beer or non-alcoholic wine. While this may seem obvious to some of us, there are people who think that drinking these beverages is a good idea. Just know that it’s NOT and you should be aware that there are trace amount of alcohol in these drinks and our bodies will react to the alcohol and ultimately crave it. In addition, if you do go to a holiday party, keep your drink with you at all times, don’t put it down on a table and leave it. You’ll run the risk of picking up someone else’s or worse still there could be someone who thinks it’s funny to spike drinks that are left unattended.
  • Plan sober activities. I was somewhat surprised when I sobered up and noticed all the fun stuff that goes on during the holidays that doesn’t involve drinking (go figure that not everyone drinks like we do). Obviously, if you have kids – the list is endless, you can take them to see Santa, you can make holiday cookies together, and there are always Christmas plays and movies to see, like the Nutcracker or a Christmas Carol. Most cities have a holiday parade or Christmas lights lighting ceremony. But all this fun stuff isn’t just for kids, there’s no reason why you can’t go along with friends to ice skate, go sledding and skiing, hiking and biking or just throwing the football around in the park after everyone is stuffed from too much turkey. After a day full of this kind of thing, all you’ll want to do is curl up with a good DVD, some popcorn and cup of hot chocolate.
  • New Years Eve – This has long been the evening for lightweights, when even the normally light drinkers go nuts and really let their hair down. There are a few things you can do – think about spending it at home with your kids or family, play board games and make a nice dinner. You could also have a nice meal with friends out and go home after the meal is over. I love going to the movies and coming out just in time to see the fireworks going off before heading home. Most AA and NA clubs have dances or parties for New Years or candlelight meetings; you could try either or both. The most important thing is to be comfortable and remember that you’ll wake up in the morning with a clear head and a clear conscience. Not to mention you’ll be able to say that you’ve been sober ALL YEAR so far (even though the year is just a few hours old – it still counts!)

I’m sure there are plenty of other things that I’ve missed too, so any other input is welcome! If you can remember one important thing it’s this: You can’t only have ONE drink and then stop. If someone tells you “Oh go on, surely one drink won’t hurt.” Politely, but firmly say no thanks and walk away, there’s no need to get into it with someone, especially if they badger you about being boring or call you a party pooper. All you need to do is remind YOURSELF that it’s the FIRST drink that gets us drunk – because after we have that first drink, we are physically unable to stop. It only takes ONE drink for the craving to kick in and we’ll immediately want more and we all know what happens after that.

It’s true that the holiday season is a tough time for newcomers to sobriety, but if you surround yourself with people who are also in recovery and take steps to safeguard your sobriety, you are protecting yourself. One other really important thing I did before going into a stressful situation during the Holidays was to ask my Higher Power for help – and it must have worked because I got through it and you can too. Once you’ve done it the first time, it does get easier and better yet, you’ll be able to remember the look on your kids faces on Christmas Day and the hungover faces of your friends on New Year’s Day! Happy Holidays!

For Twelve-Step Program information click here or for the Early Recovery homepage click here

smileWhen I was new to recovery, I absolutely, without a doubt thought there was no way I could be sober and happy, in fact I thought it was an oxymoron.

My life was a mess and had been for a long time. I’d been trying to get sober for four years and every time I tried, it went the same way. At first I’d be committed because the memory of my last drinking debacle was very fresh and clear in my mind (as clear as it could be for a blackout drunk) and I felt physically weak and mentally beaten. Surely I couldn’t keep putting myself through this hell again? This time would be different, I was done for good and my willpower and the memory of how bad it was would get me through.

My resolve would usually last anything from one day to three months. Sometimes all it took was one day and I’d be right back at the bottle and sometimes I’d white knuckle it for three months until I broke. During this time, one thing stayed the same, I was miserable beyond belief. I was a dry drunk, angry, depressed and exhibiting all the signs of alcoholism without actually having the alcohol in my system. This was no way to live and if this was what being sober meant, then I didn’t want it, I’d rather drink and be miserable than be sober and just as miserable. Thank God, I was able to find another way or else I really think I’d be dead by now, either from the drink itself or from suicide, because every time I drank I wanted to kill myself and it was only a matter of time until I’d succeed.

I went to Alcoholics Anonymous, the last stop on the block, the end of the road and the place I’d been avoiding for years. Sure, I’d been to a few meetings during my many attempts at sobering up, but I’d decided that I hated it and that the people there were brainwashed and bible thumping weirdos. I’d heard other people say the same thing and read a bunch of stuff on the internet too, but I was at a point where I would try ANYTHING and if it meant sitting around with a group of cult members, then I’d at least try it for a while before I ran for the hills.

I didn’t get it at first, the people in the meetings seemed ‘too happy’ – it had to be fake, but I was scared enough and desperate enough to stick around. In the first few months, I drank a few times and relapsed some more, but I did the one thing they told me to do – I kept coming back. Each time, I’d get some more clarity, each time something else they said would sink in and before I knew it, I had a Sponsor and I was working through the steps. Somewhere along the line, I had a day where I didn’t think about alcohol at all and once in a while I’d have a day where I actually felt, dare I say it? Happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suddenly this glowing, gushing poster child for AA. I was still a scared, defensive drunk, but I had taken a leap of faith. I’d decided to listen to some of the suggestions of the people I’d met in recovery. I’d got a Sponsor and I’d started working on the Twelve Steps and somehow, I’d been given a daily reprieve from the hell of my alcoholism. This was something I’d never experienced previously, when I’d tried sobriety on my terms. So I stuck around and listened to what these people who were all alcoholics and addicts had to say. They’d live through the hell of addiction and knew firsthand what I was going through and here they were, willing to help me

In the beginning, I’m sorry to say that I had nothing but contempt for these people of AA and their way of life, but I tried it anyway because I was at a point where I had nothing to lose as I had already lost everything. I’d found myself in a position where I asked myself this question – does it really matter how I get sober as long as I get there? Can trying a recovery program be any worse than it is now? I’d been avoiding the Twelve-Step Program option for years because of my preconceived ideas and it got me nowhere and almost killed me.  Now I’m thankful to be in a place where I’m not only living sober, but on occasion, I’m actually happy and that’s a miracle for this drunk and I owe a great deal of that to the people I met in the rooms of recovery.  

More information on Twelve-Step Programs can be found here

miserable_cat My thoughts are on a constant merry-go-round at the moment, over and over, just like a hamster  spinning in it’s wheel. I’m worrying about the future, I’m over thinking the past, I feel restless and  irritable. I haven’t been to a meeting in over a week, I haven’t talked very much with another  alcoholic, Instead, I’ve been inside my own head, full of self-pity and alone with my disease.

 My Sponsor once told me that no matter how new I was to sobriety, even a couple of days or a week – no matter how bad I felt, chances are there was someone in the rooms of recovery who was worse off than me. (At first I didn’t want to hear it because as far as I was concerned no one had it like I did.) Thankfully that idea was squashed when I followed the suggestion of my Sponsor and went up to a person at a meeting I attended who had just got their 24 hour chip. I only had a week sober, but it was six days more than this person had and I was able to talk to them about what I’d been doing in the last few days. I even offered to meet them the next day at the meeting so we could sit together. The woman smiled briefly and said ok, then she went on to say how nervous she was because she didn’t know anyone, I told her that I felt the same way too and we could be nervous together. I gave her my number and took hers too and the next day I called my new friend to make sure she’d be there.

I walked away feeling like I may of actually made a little difference in that persons day and for a few minutes I had completely forgotten about myself (which turns out to be a really good thing). This stuff actually worked and I found out that a sure fire way of getting off the pity pot is to be of service to another recovering alcoholic or addict. No matter how small that service might be, it can make all the difference to someone who is just as scared and lonely as we are.

The only trouble with all this is, I have a short memory and when I’m knee deep in my own shit, it’s really hard to want to step in someone else’s. Even though, time and time again, this is something that’s been suggested to me, it’s still a stumbling block until I actually get up and do something about it. The good news is that when I do get off my ass – the blue mood is miraculously lifted, even if it’s for a brief moment.

Yep, I think it’s about time to get off my ass and go to a meeting.