Recovery is about finding your Tribe, or #Recoveryposse

I was all set to run to the store & then the laundromat to get a week’s worth of clothes done. That was MY plan. 

What had happened was…

What actually happened was that I got the Element loaded up, put the key into the ignition, and discovered that I had a dead battery. The battery that we’d replaced just a couple of short months ago. Hm. 

My response was different…

Way different than what it would have likely been, not so long ago. The only thing I can attribute my NOT being upset to is that I’ve been consciously  practicing the 11th step more. 

What I did…

What I did do was go back inside and get ahold of my friend from Celebrate Recovery. (She’s an oldschool 12-stepper, too, but we met at CR.) It’s only by the grace of God that I even had a friend to call, considering that my default is to pull away from folks and be a hermit. 

Being aware of this tendency allows me to stop and make a decision, whether I want to rely on that (old and yet INeffective, really) coping/survival skill, or whether I want to Practice These Principles…Funny how God will set up opportunities to practice things we would REALLY rather not practice. 

What friends do…

So, my friend came over (in spite of the 25-minute drive, one way), we got the jumper cables figured out, and here’s the curious thing: my Element started right up! Yaay, God! (And to a lesser degree,us!) 

So, I was thinking as I wrote this, that having ONE friend that I can count on when I need help (Just ONE? After living in this area for OVER A YEAR? ) is pretty sad. And I started to “should” on myself. 

Don’t “should” on me!

Then the God of my semi-understanding reminded me of ME, and who I am. In fact, having a friend like this in ONLY ONE YEAR is pretty friggin miraculous! I mean, it’s not like I’m out in my community every day/week/month. 

Recovery = finding your Tribe

I’ve known more than a couple of instances where a person had a genuine, drastic change in their heart and mind, and without like-minded folks in their life on a daily business, they went back to their old ways. Oh, it wasn’t the next day, or even necessarily the same month, but there’s a very good reason why the Big Book describes alcoholism (and it def applies to any addiction) as being “cunning, baffling, and powerful”. 

Even just the realization that we are the ONLY one trying to live differently can be a big stumbling point. Yet so many of us will ignore the internal warning bells, and use that Magical Thinking and/or Denial, which NEVER worked out too well, and “soldier on” to the inevitable crashing and burning. 

Or…

There is an alternative, but it IS scary. It involves other people, and we know how uncontrollable THEY can be. But, how well did it go when we were the Director? I can say for sure that I was a TERRIBLE Manager, especially when it came to running my life. There are, seriously, a LOT of people  who think like you and feel like you, whose lives are changing for the better. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. But changing, they are! All that is required is a small amount of Honesty (with yourself, primarily), some Openmindedness (maybe they know something that can make your life less sucky), and just enough Willingness to get you in the door. 

Where everybody knows your name…



Back when I was drinking, there was no mystery as to where I would find “my people”. There are bars and liquor stores on practically every corner, where folks will encourage me and cheer me on as I pursued The Elusive Perfect Buzz (yes, that was a Thing, you know it was). If we were willing to be around THAT bunch, it’s really not asking much for us to give the sobered-up version a chance. 

Easier today…

Back when I got clean/sober, there weren’t Sober Communities online. Nope. Not a one. The only place to find folks like me was f2f, in some kind of meetings, or possibly (but rarely) in a religious organization. 

I had found Recovery “Chat Rooms”, and that was a Godsend for me, especially since I was limited in how many meetings I could attend. 

My point being, if you want to find a new and happier way to live, your best bet is to find a Community that will support you, whether face-to-face or online. Or a combination of the 2. Chances are, after a little while, you may find yourself actually having someone (sober) willing to give you a jump on a Saturday night. 

I’ve never regretted the time I’ve spent among My #recoveryposse. 

 

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Sober Quality vs. Quantity

Recently, there was a discussion among some of the #Recoveryposse about Quality recovery; what does that look like?
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There has been discussion about which is more important, for all the years that I’ve been in the Rooms. Usually, the “Quality is more important” camp included Newbies that have seen how ugly some of the Oldtimers can be in their approach to the world. And who can blame them? I’ve seen way too many Oldtimers that had NOTHING that I wanted! At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for that saying about finding whatever you look for. Many of us come into the Rooms looking for reasons to not come back.
In my experience, Quality Recovery is a thing that kind of requires a certain amount of, well, Quantity Recovery.  Not by ANY means am I saying that a person with an extended length of time sober is better or wiser than a person with just a few days. I’ve heard folks with a week sober who were infinitely wiser than certain Oldtimers in the room.  And definitely more “happy, joyous, and free.*”
The Promises in the Big Book of AA (Pg. 83 & 84-ish) are one way to assess where I am.
For those of you not familiar with the AA literature, here are some of the highlights of The Promises:
• We will know a new happiness & a new happiness
• We won’t regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it
• We’ll comprehend the word serenity & we’ll know peace
• We’ll see how our experiences can help others
• No more feeling useless, & self-pity will disappear
• We’ll lose interest in selfish things & gain interest in our #Recoveryposse
• Self-seeking will slip away
• Our whole attitude and outlook on life will change
• Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us
• We’ll intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us
• We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves

Not a bad list, huh? I can tell you without reservation that I’ve seen every one of them come true in my life. Not necessarily when I would have liked them to, and not all in the same day, but looking back, The Promises have really become a constant in my life. Some days I’m too freaked out to notice whether any of them are happening or not, but I’m pretty sure that the occasional emotional roller coaster is just a sign of life.
It seems to me that judging between quality and quantity is a thing best left for every person to do for themselves. It’s really not even a thing, if you get right down to it. There is sober, or not. There is abstinent, or not.
So the age old debate of “Quality vs. Quality” will likely be happening wherever a group of clean/sober alkie/druggies congregate.  Cos that’s just human nature.
At 23 years, I’m feeling like I have the Quantity thing pretty much covered, but that doesn’t mean that every day is rainbows and unicorns. In fact, if there is a person in my position who HASN’T had a few absolutely sh*tty days, weeks, or months…well, I’m betting they’re not really one of us. Possibly not even human.
So, from where I stand (long-ish in the tooth, I suppose), I judge my Quality of recovery by my willingness to serve others, my ability to stay out of my own head, and how quickly I reach out my hand to lift up the still suffering addict/alcoholic. 
Your thoughts?

*this could be attributed to the Pink Cloud, so it’s not really a good measuring stick.

Posted from my cabin in the hills.

Thanks a lot, Buzzkill!

So, I was driving home from yet another mind-numbing trip to Malwart, listening to the most recent (long awaited, even!) edition of the Buzzkill Podcast, and at the end of it, our fearless host asked this question:
“Describe your first 30 days of recovery?”
So, as I’d been tossing around thoughts of what I might write about today, I latched onto this. I happened to have printed out a couple pages worth of feeling words not long ago, to help me better express myself to you, my lovely readers. Yes, even after all this time, I’m still not completely fluent in Emotions.

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Here are the words that initially came to me:
frustrated                                                                   over-whelmed
isolated
desperate                                                                          confused
fear-filled
Yeah. I think that with a few less intense emotions floating around, and maybe a couple of thoughts that weren’t feelings, those words pretty well cover it.
I thought about how the adjectives that came immediately to my mind were all really strong feeling words, and you know, it makes sense.
After so many years of doing EVERYTHING in my power to avoid feeling anything, in the first 30 days, OF COURSE the feelings that arrived came in like a flood of Noah-like proportions. I was almost instantly more self-conscious than I’d ever remembered being, and I felt like I’d just been dropped down onto a really scary planet. Actually, I used to tell people that reality was BY FAR the biggest trip I’d ever experienced. It stayed that way for quite a long time.
Today, if you asked me what how I would describe the last 30 days, I’d use very different words. Words like

intentional                                       prayerful
free                                                 awkward
spiritual                                            emotional
hope-filled
It’s taken every event and every moment between the first month and today to get to this place: I feel things but my feelings don’t dictate my actions. I credit the desperation that made me willing to CHOOSE to trust again. Willing to follow directions, in hopes that these people were telling me the truth.
So, there you have it. If you’d like to know more about my first 180 days or so, you can go check it out here, where I was honored to tell some of my story recently on Recovery Rockstars.
So, how about you? Do any of those adjectives sound familiar? How would you describe your first 30 days?

Wolves in Sheeps’ Clothing

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Beware, little lambs

I just wrote a long post about a Newbie in sobriety and an older person who’s attempting to take advantage of her, and then erased it. Thinking of the emotional train wreck most of us are when we first get clean and sober, it’s altogether too easy to fall into a trap.

Nothing New Uunder the Sun
When I first got clean, I was sexually harassed by the Dr. who was supposed to be helping the women at the treatment center where I was being treated. I never told anyone at the time, because, honestly, who would believe a drug addict over a “respected” citizen? No doubt he was counting on that, and my only regret is that I didn’t speak up so as to possibly spare the next women coming behind me. At the time, it was the sort of thing that I’d gotten used to (sexual abuse/harassment) so much that it was “just another day” when he said those disgusting things to me. The same kind of scenario is going on with my friend: he’s a “model citizen”, and taking advantage of her vulnerability.

Books and their Covers
Prior to treatment, while in my addiction, I used my “womanly wiles” to get by at times. Heck, that was the only value I had, and the only way I knew to get something that resembled love, if only for a little while. However, I wasn’t usually as slick as the ones I was trying to manipulate, and ultimately I was always the one who got hurt.

Hurt people, hurt people
My friend is being sexually harassed in front of her child. He has already been damaged (seen) enough; he doesn’t need to learn more ways to behave inappropriately toward women. But I can’t do it for her. I can validate her feelings that “something’s not right”, and I can encourage her to set boundaries. And most importantly, I can pray for her.
That’s all I can bring myself to say, now. I’m going to go do some cleaning and blow off some energy. I know it’s difficult learning to stand up for yourself. I completely get it, boundaries are REALLY a foreign concept. It just brings back so many painful memories, and I want to help my friend to avoid them…

Joy, Rapture & Terror or, How I Learned to Survive Extreme Feelings without Drink or Drugs

Good news & Bad news

Ok, kiddos, there’s good news, and there’s bad news, about getting clean/sober. The good news is, you’re gonna be able to feel GOOD again, in all the various forms “good” comes in. And the bad news is…well, I hate to be the one to have to break this to you, but the bad news is that you’re gonna start to feel the gamut of BAD again, as well. Yeah, I’m sorry. The thing is, if you want to feel the GOOD, you also have to feel the BAD.
Now, I’m not gonna tell you how to navigate the tsumani of emotions that are gonna hit you all through your first year or so of sobriety, like the biggest roller coaster in the world. I’d like to, really I would, but the simple fact is, I’m just not qualified. It’s only by the grace of God that I’ve made it this far. What I am gonna do is share a few tools that have been very important for my survival, when the big storms have hit.

Feelings won’t kill you

When I got clean, as you may already know, I was 3 months away from giving birth to my first child. I really didn’t expect to have a child, ever, and I was awestruck to have been given the opportunity to love this tiny person in my belly. So, when he came into the world, I felt joy, rapture, and terror – and no, I couldn’t tell at all which was which. I cried happy tears like I can’t remember crying before. It was so glorious. Birth. Wow.
Then, just a week later, I felt the worst feelings I’d ever known. That was when I seriously wondered if my heart was going to explode, or perhaps IMPLODE. Those days and nights in the Children’s hospital were like none I’ve experienced before or since.
Those days are the reason that I can tell you quite confidently that feelings can’t kill you.

What’s the answer?

What I discovered is a fool-proof recipe for getting me through extreme feelings without drinking or drugging. You may do it differently, but this is how I’ve made it through elation and heartbreak, more than once. I write it here in the hopes of sparing someone the destruction that can happen if you’re not aware of how serious a predicament you’re actually in.

Emotional Survival Plan

First, let your support system know what’s going on, and especially how you’re feeling about the situation. Putting on a brave front at this time is for idiots. Yeah, IDIOTS.

Next, get on your knees (doesn’t have to be literally, but you know, in your heart and mind) and make contact with the Higher Power of your understanding. Talk, cry, wail (that’s usually my favorite) or shout. Just let it out. You will be amazed at the results.

Now, call in reinforcements. Your parents, your Pastor, and anyone with whom you have a spiritual connection. Call them and ask for their prayers, whatever that may look like. The more the merrier. And don’t minimize your situation! If having them with you (whether phyically or in spirit only) is crazy important to you, it’s gonna be the same to those who love you.
In my experience, I went to 12-Step meetings when I could. Within The Rooms of Recovery I found a safe place. At my most frightened, most confused, most vulnerable , I can go into a room of others like me and know that I’m safe. I can scream and curse if I need to, or I can sit quietly and listen. It’s ok, there.

Sometimes, if someone is in the hospital, it may not always seem feasible to go to a meeting. But consider this, especially if they’re not likely to know if you’re there or not, for just an hour: if you don’t take care of your sobriety, you’re going to be worthless to the others that you love who are in the fear, pain, sorrow, etc that you’re in. And then they’re going to be concerned about you and trying to do damage control on your mess….you get the picture?
So, let’s do everyone a favor, mkay?
Do whatever you must, to ensure your sobriety, and then take care of whatever you are able.

Good times, bad times, ya know I’ve had my share

People talk all day long about how things like a break-up, or job loss, or illness can lead to a relapse. Well, listen closely, and please hear me when I tell you that it’s just as easy to fall prey to the addiction when things seem to be wonderful.
Heck, even non-alcoholic/addicts will be watching out for you when the shit hits the fan. It’s almost a given that you’ll need to step up your vigilance during stressful times.
But you –yes, YOU– be on guard for the happy, shiny, glitter-filled times. Watch out for “what could go wrong?!” days, and the “top of the world” days.
There’s good reason why alcohol (and addiction) is called “cunning, baffling, and powerful”.

Hungry Angry Lonely Tired

I’ve been dealing with those 4 in varying amounts for the last few days. They’re not strangers to me. I feel like a weathered war veteran when it comes to “h.a.l.t.” That certainly doesn’t mean I’m exempt from tripping up when those 4 come around, but it means that maybe I’ll figure out what the problem is and find a remedy before I feel a (self-imposed?) crisis coming on.

The happy ending
…is at the end of the day, whenever it is that your head hits the pillow, and you’ve gotten through One. More. Day. Successfully. Sober.
And that, friends, is how I manage.
How about you? Do you have a go-to for overwhelming times?

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.