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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Random Thoughts on a Saturday Night

There are many things that you’ll hear in The Rooms. Most of them will sound absurd(at first), but be true. Some of them will sound perfectly legitimate, yet they will be wrong. For instance, I was told more than once that there are “no musts” in the Book. Nope. False. (They said if you want to hide anything from an alcoholic, put it in the Big Book.)

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The Book of Secrets


I was just looking through my copy of the 1st manuscript of the Big Book, (which I love) and noting all of the things that had been changed almost before it went to the printer. 
For example, here are some excerpts from the 5th chapter:
“If you want what we have and are willing to go to any lengths to get it–then you are ready to follow directions. At some of these you may balk. You may think you can find an easier, softer way. We doubt if you can…
Remember that you are dealing with alcohol–cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for you! But there is One who has all power–That One is God. You must find Him now!
Half measures will avail you nothing. You stand at the turning point. Throw yourself under His protection and care with complete abandon.
Now we think you can take it! Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as your Program of Recovery: ”

There are subtle changes throughout the original manuscript, including a few of the steps, themselves, and if you’ve not had the opportunity to check it out, I encourage you to do so. I know a lot of the Old(er)timers are fond of that version, but younger folks, not so much.

I prefer the Original manuscript, and I’ll tell you why:
When I came crawling into The Rooms, I didn’t have any idea how to face the world sober. I really didn’t want to, but the alternative to getting clean/sober was definitely going to be much worse. I appreciate that the earlier version of the Big Book is clear, direct, and to the point. A little further down in the book there’s a line that says “If you’re not convinced on these vital issues, you ought to re-read the book or else throw it away! ” See what I mean? There’s no question as to what they’re trying to say. As a newly sober person, I heard about a few meetings around town that were known to pass around a hat to collect money for the guy who wasn’t ready to quit. “Belly up to the bar!” was the idea. The Book says that if the “God” talk runs you out of the Rooms, “John Barleycorn” (booze) will run  you right back in. It’s true, from what I’ve seen. Until our ego has been beaten down enough to admit defeat, there’s usually nothing to convince us that we’re drunks, except more of the same. I guess I’d had enough a**-whippings by the time I’d gotten here. I was absolutely willing to go to any lengths to make the pain stop. So, when they told me to do X, Y, Z, my only reply was to ask for clarification as to exactly how high they wanted me to jump.  
I needed directions! My absolutely best thinking got me sitting in a hard chair in a smoke-filled room, with a bunch of of drunks. And don’t get me started on the coffee!

Anyway, I wanted to learn as much as I could, as quickly as I could, but my Sponsor wasn’t giving up the answers! I’d say “What should I do?” And she’d say “What do you think you should do?” DANGIT!!

So, I learned by sitting in The Rooms (on a daily basis) whenever possible, and by going to Big Book study meetings, and 12 & 12 book studies, and by using the phone whenever I couldn’t get to a meeting. My Sponsors never ONCE made me feel stupid asking them something, no matter what it was. “Should I go to the store now, or wait an hour?” “Would it be ok if I wore this to the meeting or should I wear this?” Most of the time, it came down to “What are your motives?”
I was being taught to think. Wow.

So I do believe the answer to alcoholism and addiction is in The Steps. I do believe the Big Book was Divinely inspired, and I am POSITIVE that my Higher Power used the 12 step Program to give my Dad back to me for several years before he died. Some people say it “doesn’t work” for them. Ok. I’m really sorry to hear that (because of the transformations I’ve seen in many of my family member’s -and my own- lives), but if there is another way that you can manage to get clean/sober, and find PEACE & JOY, then ROCK ON!
It wasn’t until I was in Recovery Coach training that I was able to really wrap my mind around the idea of there being other ways to get sober. My Dad was a Big Book Thumper, and, well, I was Daddy’s Girl. But I understand now that there are as many ways to get and stay sober as there are people trying to figure it out. And that’s a beautiful thing.

After all, isn’t it about learning to walk in love, and finding the freedom to grow and be healthy…? 

Posted from my hut in the forest.

Addiction wants you to forget

Remember the first time you got high? Yeah, the first time I got drunk (high came later), I felt like I’d finally discovered my reason for living. A couple of shots later, I was falling down and throwing up. Everywhere.
From that time to the last, I was chasing the elusive “Perfect Buzz”. Sure, I saw it occasionally, but it was a fleeting glance at best, as I charged on after the next drink, or toke, or pill, or snort, or…

Fast forward a few years. By this time I’ve been falling down and throwing up (it was, for real, “how I roll”) in several states and even a couple of other countries. Putting myself in increasingly more reckless situations, driving my self-esteem deeper and deeper into the ground with every choice to betray my -true- self.
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But still I pressed on. I just knew that the next high would be The One. Of course it never was. I’d estimate that out of an 8-hour drinking and drug-fest, there might have been an average of an hour in which I was still coherent and able to act like an adult. A silly adult, sure, but nevertheless, I wasn’t a danger to myself or others.

But the addiction required that I suit up and show up, day after day after night after night. Once I took my rent money and payed for myself & several “friends” to rent a room, I think it was on a beach. To be completely honest, I wasn’t awake for longer than it took to get there and MAYBE check in. Yeah. I was that one. I knew that I didn’t have anuthing personally that would make you want to keep me company, so given the opportunity, I was more than willing to buy some time. Pretty sad, isn’t it? And this is just the things I’m willing to tell the world.

But that’s not nearly the worst. I’m sure if you’re anything like I was, that you can finish the story, fill in the blanks. I was definitely a black-out drinker. Always tryin to get the right combination in the right order to keep from getting sick. (Pot first, then copious amounts of booze? Or drink first, then smoke?) Of course anything that went up my nose went with everything.

So, what are your plans tonight? If you’re debating going out, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. You don’t have to go. You could hit a meeting, or just find some good online sobriety.

Happy Saturday!

Posted from my cabin in the desert.

30 days and done

There’s an idea, a fairy tale, if you will, that’s been going around. It may have even begun before Alcoholics Anonymous found the solution for alcoholism. The story goes something like this: go to treatment for 30 days (or however many meetings your Judicial Scholarship requires), and then go home and return to life as normal. I’m pretty sure this myth is perpetuated by pre-recovery alcoholic/addicts, and also the family members who desperately want things to go back to “the way they were”. That does sound good, doesn’t it?

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Stick with the Winners.

When I was first clean, my Mom had a big house with a very pretty bar in the basement. I mean, a pool table, big screen tv, and little lights behind all the bottles. She said to me, more than once, something like “it’s too bad you’re not drinking anymore, since we’ve got this fully-stocked bar!” She didn’t know. She’d never seen me in all of my drunken, belligerent, sloppy, (and eventually) semi-comatose glory. I assured her that she really DIDN’T want that, and that if I did have a drink, there wouldn’t be enough for me, anyways.

But I get it. I can imagine that most social drinkers wish we could join them for, oh, I don’t know, a half a glass of wine (AS IF), now and then. This is just one more aspect of sobriety in which we have to help educate them. It’s NEVER going to be like it was again, unless you look back to way before we ever took that first drink. Even then, the only real similarity would be that we weren’t drinking. The “ism’s” would still be there.

In my early months years sober, I stayed at Mom’s place a few times. She asked me once “How long do you have to go to those meetings?” And I told her what I’d heard from The Winners: “Until I die from something else.” That mindset helped to keep me clean/sober.

The fact of the matter is that the initial 30-60-90 days are primarily to get most of the chemicals out of you, and get you started on the right path. I don’t think there are any successfully recovering folks who didn’t continue to make drastic changes in their lives for a very long time, after.

So, my friends, if you’re thinking about getting rid of whatever you’re addicted to, I hope you’ll keep this in mind: as long as you want to feel better, and as long as you want to hate yourself less & less, and have people begin to trust you again…That’s how long you’re gonna have to live this New Life. If you’re good with returning to the lifestyle of your last several drunks (or whatever), then just do sobriety half-assed, don’t get committed to it, and hang around the same people you used to. That’s a recipe for all the misery you once had, and then some.

I’m only saying it because I care. So, to re-cap: Treatment does not equal recovery. Judicial Scholarships are not given out as the absolute solution to alcoholism, addiction, codependency, or any number of other addictive behaviors.

They told me in The Rooms something to the effect of “You didn’t walk that deep into the woods in one day. It’s going to take a while to find your way back out.” Another saying (we really do have a ton of them) is that “Time takes time.”

So, I hope this has been helpful. It’s a sign of progress when the newly clean/sober individual goes to a meeting every day, or meets with their counselor frequently. It really is a Good Thing.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

Mental Illness and Stigma

There’s a lot of talk these days about the “Stigma” surrounding addiction, and mental illness. Just the other day I saw a story on social media telling of some heinous crime that was committed by a “mentally ill” person. Again. No wonder the world thinks of us as entirely dangerous. I suppose the fact that the Stigma is being discussed is encouraging, but perpetuating the untruth that folks living with mental illness are dangerous certainly isn’t helping anyone. Consider for a moment, a definition of “mental illness”:

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The Mayo Clinic:

Mental Illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions- disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior…many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

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So, many people have concerns from time to time. Personally, I have had concerns about others, many times, but they tell me that mentally ill people don’t usually see themselves as the crazy ones.  And don’t get me started on the “Nature vs Nurture” theories. In my own experience, while living with a seriously disturbed individual, it became necessary for me to think like the person in order to (safely) communicate with them. I had to speak the language, which in turn caused residual mental issues that I had to overcome once I was away from them.

I’m sure most of the Stigma comes from just not knowing any better. When the world gives you the same (informational) menu every day for years, it’s difficult to consider that it’s been wrong all this time. I’m not a Mental Health Professional, but I have studied it for as long as I can remember. Initially my interest came from wondering why my perceptions appeared to be so different from everyone around me (because they were), but then the curiosity turned to trying to understand the folks that I interacted with on a regular basis.

For example, I was told that many years ago that my Dad was diagnosed as a Sociopath. I’m positive that’s why in my memory he never had anything good to say about Mental Health workers in general. As it turned out, Dad was the product of an abusive home, and he struggled with several issues, depression and addiction being a couple. I know that he had the Ism’s of alcoholism/addiction for as long as I knew him, and those may have, in fact, been the behaviors that caused people to think he was a Sociopath.

Another thing that causes me to ponder the Mental Health diagnoses is the multiple official diagnoses which have been changed or even removed altogether from being considered to be a “disorder”.  So, does that mean that being crazy or not just depends on the time period in which you are seen by a diagnosing physician?  Consider this:   

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “DSM” is considered to be the reference for characterization and diagnosis of mental disorders. It’s had numerous adjustments since it’s inception in 1952.  In the first edition of the DSM, there were 102 “broadly-construed diagnostic categories” , and by the time the third publication of the DMS came out in 1980, there were 265. When the DSM-IV was released, there were 297 diagnosable disorders…. (from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Someone said that the bottom line definitions of a mental disorder was behavior outside the realm of socially accepted behaviors.  That, in a general sense, sounds about right.

Depending on whose information you believe, one-in-four or -five American adults experiences a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.  So, if I work in an office with, say 20 other individuals, and I consider myself to be mentally healthy (Duh. I’m not ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!), then that means I’m working beside a pretty good amount of crazy -and potentially  lethal, according to society- people! Wow! How do people find the courage to leave their houses?!

My suspicion, and, remember, I’m not a Professional, is that the larger part of adults today, in our country, are living with a whole lot of unnecessary duress and discomfort between their ears. Most will never see a Dr. about it, and do you know why that is?  Because it would mean that they were, I don’t know, flawed? Less than perfect? Oh, that’s right, anyone who has a mental disorder must be a danger to themselves and others. I almost forgot.

What if the disorder is Depression, which seems to be the most prevalent? Those folks aren’t nearly as likely to hurt you as they are to hurt themselves. Like 99% more likely to hurt themselves.

What about Anxiety? Look up the stats on Veterans and suicide. PTSD is in the Anxiety family.

Ok, how about Bipolar (once known as manic-depression)? Or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Or Borderline Personality Disorder?  Or Schizophrenia? Oh, I know, what about people like “Sybil” from that old Psych 101 film? Unless all that I’ve read or heard is wrong, these people are much more likely to IMplode than to EXplode.

While I will grant you that many of the people acting out violently in society may have some kind of mental imbalance or disorder, most of the individuals with a diagnosed mental illness will never be a danger to anyone but themselves. If you don’t believe me, ask the 4 or 5 people in your office.  

Physical & Mental Health in Sobriety or “You’re not the boss of me!”

Someone said that the opposite of addiction is community, and I can see how that is true, to a certain degree. But I believe there’s more to it than just not isolating and finding your tribe. Heck, gangbangers have community, and they’re probably not anti-addiction.
I think and feel that the opposite of addiction is compassion, creativity, growth…whatever is the opposite to destruction.

“It’s a Selfish Program”

When I initially began to learn this New Way of Living, they told me it’s a selfish program. That was kind of confusing!
It did begin to make sense, after a while: I can’t do anything for anyone else unless I first take care of myself. I must maintain some kind of mental and physical health before I can be equipped to care for anyone or anything else.
Eating healthy(-er) food, seeing a Dr. on a regular basis (including Dentists), wearing clothes appropriate to the environment, and getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night are the basics. Remember “H.A.L.T.”? Never get too Hungry, AngryLonely, or Tired. Three out of the four are things that are completely possible for me to do, even if nobody else is around, and eventually, I discovered that even Lonely was actually an inside job.

I’m thinking of folks in my life who, for whatever reasons, don’t tend to do well with taking their medication as directed. If they’re anything like me, there is a possibility that their reasoning goes something like this:

“Why should I take this? It’s not gonna get me high.”

Or, “I d on’t feel any different whether I take them or not…” With many medications, the effects may not be noticeable for several days or weeks, so it can seem like a good idea to not take them. Don’t let the Itty Bitty Sh*tty Committee between your ears talk you into doing something (else) that you’ll regret.

I know what’s best for me

Famous last words, right? For whatever reasons, during my time in recovery, I’ve tried to wean myself off of certain medications MANY times, only to get about a week or two into the process and discover that my life got super uncomfortable pretty quickly  when I tried to play Dr. God. My closest companions at the time, once I got down to, say, half of the doseage I was suppposed to be taking, would implore me to start taking them again. I didn’t argue much because I was feeling anxious and hopeless and lethargic, etc., etc., etc. I dream of the day when I can (with a Dr.’s help) actually be med-free, but I know that I owe it to my kids and my husband to keep taking them. For now.

Because I love you

I’ve been around depressed people with children and seen how not involved in their lives the parent is, and how irritable, and chaotic and…I want better than that for my boys. God knows they’ve been given a tough enough road to hoe without my self-will adding more to an already less-than-perfect situation. So, I can tell you without any hesitation that one of the ways that I demonstrate my love for my family is by taking care of myself. I don’t want to go to the shink, but I do, for them. I don’t want to  have to depend on the Pharmacist and insurance and…but I do, for them. I REALLY don’t like being dependent on medication for my mental health, as well as my physical health. Seriously, what alie/druggie welcomes someone telling them what to do? I want to go to each of these wonderul Professionals and tell them that they’re NOT THE BOSS OF ME! Except, I guess for now, they kind of are, to a degree. Sigh.

In summary

So, in order to have sustained recovery, I encourage you to make those Dr.s appointments and KEEP THEM, and figure out how to get your meds and TAKE THEM. You don’t gotta like it, ya just gotta do it. You will be glad you did. And so will your friends and family.

Posted from my cabin in the woods.