Posts Tagged ‘recovery meeting’

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.

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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.

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.

black-sheepLike most of us and definitely for me, the road to recovery was a long one and along the way I always had a feeling of being ‘less than’ and it only intensified with every failed attempt. I didn’t believe that I could get sober, in fact the only thing I believed without a shadow of a doubt was that I was going to die a drunk. 

When I got to the rooms of recovery and I saw the word ‘God’ plastered all over the walls, reading ‘Let Go Let God’ and that I needed to turn my will over to God, just reiterated that I was well and truly screwed. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, I just thought the God that I had grown up with didn’t believe in me because of all the lies and the crap I’d told. The only time I ever prayed was when I was trying to get out of something, “Please God,  just let me get away with this ONE thing and I’ll never drink again, I promise“, then sure enough once the crisis was averted I had forgotten my solemn promise and was back on the booze again.

So when I saw all this God talk in the recovery rooms, I was right back to that place of feeling ‘less than’, like an outsider – definitely not one of the chosen few. I had always thought of myself as the black sheep, always on the outside and never part of the ‘flock’, whatever flock that was, be it school, family or work. 

I’ve never felt comfortable in church and as a child, it just was a no brainer, given the choice of hearing about going to hell as a sinner or playing outside on the swingset, I was going to choose the playground every time.  And I figured that the God they were talking about in these rooms was the same God as I had when I was a kid and that was going to be a problem – because just talking about that kind of stuff made me want to think about something else, kind of like being in church. 

The great thing about Twelve Step programs is that my story is not unusual, in fact there are many people who go in with the same preconceived ideas that I had. Thankfully these ideas and beliefs are discussed a lot in meetings and thats where I heard some things that got my attention, such as the Higher Power concept. I didn’t even need to call it God, my Higher Power was something that I came up with and imagined, that I constructed in my mind, the only requirement was that my Higher Power was more powerful than I was so that I could ask for help when things went to shit – which being in early recovery, they very often did.  

Once I got past all the baggage from my past experiences with church and religion, I realized that finding a Higher Power wasn’t about finding religion, it was about looking for a spiritual path to help in my sobriety. Having a sense that there was something out there bigger than me that I could turn to for help gave me a feeling of relief that I didn’t have before. I was always trying to run the show, do things on my own, control other people and situations and when I finally let go and stopped doing all of those things, I managed to stay sober – go figure.

 

 devil-angel2Alcoholism and drug addiction are called cunning, baffling and powerful diseases mainly because they often trick our minds and get us to turn on  ourselves and sabotage our sobriety. The worst part is, it’s often very subtle and  we don’t notice these changes in our behavior or our thinking until it’s too late.  And by too late, I mean we’re already off to the races, we are no longer in  control and our disease is in the driver’s seat.                                 

Here are some of the signs that you might want to watch out for:                                                                                                                                                                           

  • You stop going to recovery meetings.  In early sobriety (at least the first year) it’s a good idea to do 90meetings in 90 days for the first three months and after that, at least 3-4 meetings a week. If you begin to think that you don’t need as many meetings – it’s your disease talking.
  • You start hanging out in bars with your old drinking buddies. If your friends want to meet you in a bar, tell them you’d rather meet in a coffee shop. If they are truly friends, then they will meet you there. If you decide it’s a good idea to meet them in a bar on a Friday night and drink soda while they pound drink after drink, then it’s your disease talking. (For more on this see People, Places and Things).
  • You start thinking that surely non-alcoholic beer or wine can’t hurt? Just think about this for a minute! I’ve often heard of alcoholics going this route before and what usually happens is once the alcohol hits their system, the body immediately craves more and they can’t stop. In fact, they’ll generally consume a 12 pack of near beer in a very short period of time before eventually moving onto the real stuff. There’s trace amounts of alcohol in these beverages, if you think that putting any amount of alcohol in your system is a good idea then it’s your disease talking.
  • You stop working the Twelve-Steps. Maybe you were working a Twelve-Step program of recovery but somehow decided that you don’t have to finish the Steps because it’s too much hard work. In my experience, when I thought I could do it alone and I stopped working on my Fourth Step, I started off feeling relieved that I didn’t have to do that shit anymore. The relief didn’t last long though because I increasingly became restless, irritable and discontent and then somehow I found myself at the liquor store. Do yourself a favor; see it through to the end, some things are worth the hard work and finishing the Steps was key to my long term sobriety and to many people I know.
  • You look for the differences in other alcoholics and addicts, not the similarities. When we think we are different from the addict who was on the streets, the alcoholic housewife who only drank at home or the teenager who hit bottom early in life, then our disease is talking. The circumstances of our decline into alcoholism and addiction may be different from others but the disease isn’t. Our disease will tell us we are different because it wants to keep us away from our peers.
  • You decide you can handle a new relationship as well as getting sober. Your disease wants to get laid so when the new relationship goes south (as they very often do in early sobriety) you’ll get drunk or high. More on dating in early recovery here

Obviously these are just some of the ways we can get off track, if you want to add any, please feel free to make a comment.

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.

 walking_sign45171The idea of getting up off the couch was sometimes too much for me in the first   few weeks of sobriety. In fact, the extent of any physical exercise I did was to walk to the bus stop to get to a recovery meeting (having had my drivers license revoked). Once I was there, I’d settle in with a big cup of coffee and proceed to chainsmoke throughout the meeting, immediately lighting up afterwards on the porch outside the AA  club.  People only had to mention the idea of quitting smoking and I’d feel my blood pressure rise. I took pleasure in responding that they’d have to pry the cigarettes from my cold, dead hand and that quitting drinking was all I could do right now. And it really was.  At this point in my sobriety, my life was all about not drinking, looking after my son, going to meetings, meeting with my sponsor, reading the big book, going to work and smoking as much as I could in between. 

 After a few months in recovery, someone mentioned that a bit of exercise might  not be a bad idea. It would help clear the cobwebs out of my head and possibly  help me with sleeping. After my initial horror at the idea, I decided to try walking  in the local park – at first I thought I must have been born with only one lung    because there was no way I was operating like a person who had two – that thought was followed by me coughing up something that looked like it could be part of the only lung I had. I felt deflated and very unfit, so I walked home and had a cigarette.  

I didn’t give up though, I repeated this form of torture again and I’d go for walks in the park and stop for a break on a bench and have a cigarette. I enjoyed being outside in the fresh air (well it was fresh before I blew smoke into it) I was able to think clearer and I actually got some color in my cheeks. People were going about their business and I felt like I was part of the world instead of isolated and alone which was how I usually felt. 

It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend (who didn’t smoke and was a runner) that I decided to take the walking further and try running.  It took only ten seconds of running (he had a stopwatch) before I was doubled over, wheezing and gasping for breath. I wasn’t going to give up though because I had my trusty nicotine patch – which I wore for about a year (I’m pretty sure that’s not recommended), but slowly as I reduced the amount I smoked, my desire for exercise increased because I was feeling better physically and therefore able to do more.  

Physical activity may have been the last thing I felt like doing in early recovery, but the truth is, it really did help me. Taking 15 or 30 minutes to break the monotony of my day, being outside, throwing a frisbee or walking in the park lifted my mood in ways that I never could have expected.  These days, I try to include exercise as a regular part of my routine, just as my recovery is. It’s all about progress not perfection and seeing myself run might be progress, but it’s pretty bloody funny too.