3 Slogans that got me through

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Upon entering the Recovering Community I quickly grabbed ahold of somethings that looked like they might be crutial to my sobriety, and one of them was the Slogans.
It’s pretty much a given that when you’re trying to learn something like, say, a foreign language, repetition is key. If there were any quicker, easier way, I’d be multi-lingual.

Learning the language of sobriety was extremely foreign to me, so I needed to hear it often. More often than that.
Where the Steps were long (and mystical), the Slogans were bite-sized bits of wisdom that were supposed to be helpful in this deal.

I was severely sleep-deprived early on, so maybe I was more desperate than I would have been otherwise, but I knew that the Slogans were a tool that I needed to have close at hand, constantly.

I don’t know where I got the idea, but I did something that was incredibly helpful, and made it possible for me to remember the slogans.

I took little pieces of colored paper (cos I’m crafty
I guess) and wrote as many slogans on them, one by one. Then I took the pieces of paper and taped them up all around the edges of my bathroom mirror. This guaranteed that I would see them at least once a day, and because of the way my bathroom was arranged, it was actually several times daily.

My 3 favorite slogans (I’m not going to get in depth here, but likely will, in another post) are:
Easy Does It
First Things First
Keep It Simple
You could say that they were my “mantra”.

I had a friend who had a little piece of paper that she kept in her pocket with the 3rd step and 7th step prayers weitten on it, for easy reference throughout the day.

Do you have any “Recovery Hacks” that help you to get this new language into your head? Please leave them in the comments below, and if you think this might be helpful to anyone newly in recovery, please share it with them. 🙂

Posted from my hut in the forest.

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It’s ok if you hate me

“I love you enough to let you hate me.”

I believe that there are times when expressing your love toward someone can lead to their being angry with you.

Does that sound strange? These days, it appears that this way of thinking is very much in the minority. But, hear me out.

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I’m not talking about abuse

I’m pretty sure that any (loving) parent worth their salt has been “hated” by their children, for a short time, anyway. If my kids didn’t “hate” me occasionally, I’d figure I wasn’t doing my job.

Let me explain

No child is happy to receive discipline. Not gonna lie, I hated my parents more than once when they stopped me from some foolishness. They had wisdom that saw where I was headed, left to my own devices. They loved me enough to risk dealing with my anger.
Of course, because I knew that they loved me, eventually my anger subsided. After a while, sometimes years later, I came to see their reasoning, or at least I understood that their actions were done out of love. I accepted that they weren’t  perfect, and that while there were things that they regretted doing (or saying), as parents, their hearts were in the right place.

What’s this got to do with addiction, ab?

I’m glad you asked. When we are running our lives in the throes of addiction – to WHATEVER – in our self-centered determination to “look out for number one” or “teach them a lesson”, or my favorite “F*** them!”, we injure the ones that (when in our right minds) we love. Often, they are so determined to “help” us, that they inadvertently become the target of our destruction. Repeatedly. I suppose they just can’t bring themselves to step away, knowing that the result could be that we end up hurting ourselves, or someone else. I’m  just going on what I’ve heard, here, as more often than not, I was the addict in this scenario, “rippin and runnin”, and causing so much chaos and misery for those who loved me.

Ok, so what’s the answer?

Sometimes, as the parent of a headstrong child, we have no choice but to look for help in learning how to handle them. Or maybe we have to see a Professional in order to heal from wounds (physical or otherwise) inflicted during a temper tantrum. Even moreso when dealing with a person with an addiction. The thing is, at some point it will become clear that you can’t control them. Whatever you have done in your desperation to change them has failed.

Real change requires courage

I’m thinking of a friend who’s living with a person in active addiction. I don’t know how long I’d last if I shared a home that was filled with so much insanity.
The thing is, in recovery I’ve had to learn to create boundaries, and also how to keep them. After a while, clean and sober, my instinct for self-preservation returned, and I began to more carefully choose those who would be a part of my life. Before that, though, I was given a precious little (7.7#, 23″) tremendous reason to exercise caution in choosing my associates.

Feelings aren’t facts

My friend is reluctant to do anything because of the sh*tstorm that will no doubt follow. We don’t like it when you suggest that we might be doing it wrong. I know that the housemate will likely say that she hates her, among other things. It’s, sadly, what we do when our addiction is threatened.

Difficult, NOT impossible

When a person in recovery is living with a person in full-blown addiction, who doesn’t want to change that , there aren’t a lot of options. In my experience, I felt that continuing to be abused and to interact daily with a madman was just too big a threat to my sobriety. I eventually left. Certainly, I didn’t want to leave the person (or, the person they HAD been), and it was a safe bet that they were not going to go, quietly, so it took a lot to actually do what I had to do. Like a child who’s about to lose something they think they need, the addict made sure to let me know that they hated me. I can live with that. I am powerless over other people and their behavior.
Thankfully, I am NOT powerless over whether or not I continue to subject my child and/or myself to the toxic environment that active alcoholics and addicts create, EVERYWHERE they go.

Not gonna accept unacceptable behavior

So, I’m grateful for finding the support of groups like Alanon and Adult Children of Alcoholics. I don’t know how many folks struggling with addiction have finally gone for help after sleeping in their car, or losing their job, or some other catastrophic event. It takes what it takes.

I hope my friend can maintain sobriety and do what she must to care for herself and her kids in this situation. As much as I care, I can’t do anything but pray and share my experience strength and hope.

In my experience, with children as well as individuals in active addiction, I love them enough to let them hate me.

Posted from my hut in the forest.

Reading! It’s (still) what’s up.

Greetings, my friends!

As promised, here is part 2 of my e-chat with Jeff Vande Zande, the author of the recently released novel, Detroit Muscle.

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When we left, last time, we were discussing whether it could be possible that this (skilled, admittedly) author actually ISN’T a person in recovery from addiction. This book really grabbed ahold of me pretty quickly, and I have to say that I enjoyed the ride. (Pun intended) Nobody had to strong-arm (punny, right?) me into reading it. After a prolonged period of not reading anything purely for my own entertainment, I’m happy to tell you that I’ve been inspired by this one to find another couple of recovery-themed books! “Guts” by Kristen Johnston arrived the other day, and “Scar Tissue” (How tremendous is that title?!), written by my favorite Red Hot Chili Pepper. 🙂 But I digress.

I am impressed with Jeff’s writing style and I encourage anyone who needs a break from the Big Book or the Basic Text to grab ahold of this. It’s just over 150 pages long, and in my opinion, the perfect pool-side book.

(The name and the picture on the cover won’t tip ANYONE off to what you’re reading about. Heck, for all they know, you’re reading about travel, of buying a new ride.) 😉

Here’s the rest of our chat:

4.How did you know that you were ready to write a book? Do you have any sage words for an up-and-coming writer?
Detroit Muscle is not my first book. I have three other published novels and two collections of fiction. I’m not sure that I’m ever ready to write a book only because I know the lonely work that is involved with finishing one. When I get an idea for a book, I spend the first several weeks hoping that the idea will go away. I’ve had many ideas for books but, like with the common cold, if I wait long enough the idea goes away, and I am thankfully cured. It’s the ideas that stay with me, that eat at me, that I end up writing. I just couldn’t get Robby out of my head. I had to write his story because it nagged at me.
As far as sage words, I would tell an up-and-coming writer to be ready to put in the seat time. When I’m working on a novel, I write every day, usually for a few hours. I write the first draft without looking back. I try not to reread or rewrite anything that I’ve written until I have a finished draft. If I start trying to edit or revise too soon, I derail the forward movement of the idea. Someone working on a novel should try to write every day. He or she should go into it knowing that it’s lonely, long work. Also, enjoy the process…enjoy the writing. It’s not about racing to publication, but instead simply enjoying watching the story come together.

5. What would you say to someone newly sober who feels like, since getting clean/sober, everything has turned to sh*t?
I would remind them that they are going through a life-changing phase. Change is often painful and feels different from the familiar. Even if that familiar was harmful to us, it can feel better than the unknown. I would probably tell that person to expect things to go to shit. Shit, however, is a good fertilizer, too. We can grow even stronger from the shit we’ve been through. Embrace the shit.

 
And there you have it! Ground-breaking content (for us, any way) here in Wondrland. PLEASE let me know your thoughts after you’ve read Detroit Muscle.
🙂

I’m off to start on my next literary adventure. Peace out.

Reading. It’s what’s UP.

Hiya, gang!

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Detroit Muscle

Not long ago, I got wind of a recovery-themed novel: Detroit Muscle, written by Jeff Vande Zande.I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I read a book from cover to cover, especially one purely for pleasure. But, as any writer will tell you (even me, I guess, since I AM a WRITER, and all), if you’re gonna write, you need to also read. I’m really glad that this is the book with which I broke my fast!
Jeff Vande Zande paints a picture of an Oxycontin addict, fresh out of rehab, in (you guessed it) Detroit. After 3 months in an out-of-state rehab facility, Robby comes back to Detroit to try to continue the reparations he began in rehab. It’s not easy. Not even a little bit.
One after another, as Robby attempts to make amends, he finds that the bridges he’d burned (girlfriend, boss, etc.) had been demolished, filled in and then paved over with blacktop.
In Detroit Muscle, the writer paints an accurate picture of some of the landmines that often await newly sober addicts, when they return to their home town. Striving to continue growing into a different person from whom they had been before can be a tricky job, when all that they’ve ever known was those people, those places, that pain, and using as the only way out.
There is so much to talk about in this book – the tentative relationship being rebuilt with his Mom, and then the welcome from his Granddad…I just don’t know where to begin. So I won’t.
I will, however, share with you the e-conversation I had with  the author, and tell you that I think you ought to read it and then get another copy to share with someone else that has ANY connection to an addict.
It will be helpful to anyone who cares about someone struggling with an addiction, whether parent, employer, child, spouse, or friend. It will be particularly helpful if the recovering addict is newly  clean and sober.
So, without any further adieu, here’s the first part of my conversation with Jeff Vande Zande, the author of Detroit Muscle.

1.What inspired you to write this book, now?
I started Detroit Muscle four years ago. As I recall, at the time, I wanted to write a story, oddly enough, about Michigan. As a state, Michigan is going through a kind of rehab/recovery from its addiction to the auto industry. Right now, the state is trying to figure out what it’s going to be…trying to blaze its path now that it has somewhat detoxed from the auto industry. So, when I first wrote Robby, my protagonist, I imagined him as a symbol for this new Michigan.
Of course, as I wrote the novel, I realized that Robby couldn’t just be a symbol for Michigan. He had to be a fully developed person. I needed to deal with him as a young man in early recovery from OxyContin addiction. As I wrote and researched his character, I started to understand the epidemic of addiction that’s going on in the country. It was then that I became much more interested in Robby as a symbol of hope, redemption, and recovery in the face of addiction.
2.Which of the characters do you most relate to?
I suppose each of the characters has some aspect to them that I relate to. I understand Robby’s mother, and her desire to support her child in early recovery … but then also her helplessness in the face of it all. I like the grandfather’s approach to the world and his belief that hard work will somehow redeem people. I guess what I relate to most about all of these characters is how they each have a troubled past. That’s the way for so many people … living in the present means always dealing with our past.

(The answer to this one surprised me! Going by the details of this characters, it seems like this guy has some experience in this sort of thing!)

3. Are any of the situations Robby finds himself in, taken from your early recovery?
Well, I’ve never been in recovery, which I’m sure might be surprising, considering that I chose to write about a young man in early recovery. I am very aware of the possibility of alcoholism in me since it was fairly prevalent on both sides of my family. I am always aware of myself and my relationship to alcohol. I watch to make sure that I’m not using it as a crutch.
So, the situations that Robby is in are specific to him. About the only thing Robby and I have in common is that we both worked for an outdoor painting company.

Crazy, right? Oh, wait. You probably haven’t read it yet, huh? Oh…well, SPOILER ALERT: it seems like a recovering person must’ve writtne this book. Or maybe he just wants to remain anonymous. Hmmmm. The world may never know. I think if it were me, I’d be flattered and a little unsettleed if someone wondered if I might be a “closet” recovering person. But, hey, I’m a little unsesttled whenever anyone talks about me, for any reason.

 

ANYWAY, please be sure to check back here tomorrow to read the second half of this informative and mysterious interview! And, I’m really hopeful that you will come back here after you’ve read Detroit Muscle and let me know what YOU think!

Posted from my hut in the forest.

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?

Do you REALLY want to?

…drink? Smoke? Snort? Shoot?

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Really?

I didn’t. I had exhausted my options.
I had run down every highway, every street, every back alley that I came to, in my desperate attempt to Get. Away. From. Me.
But when I looked at that angelic face, that beautiful, tiny boy, I knew in the depths of my heart that I could not have both him and drugs. My running days had come to an end.
Sure, I talked about running. I kept a pair of running shoes just inside the front (and, let’s be honest, also the BACK) door of my mind for an incredibly long time. However, there was one thing that had become abundantly clear to me on that day, when I realised that I was completely drained…I did not want to drink, or use, again.

“we gotta get out of this place”

That’s not to say that I didn’t want to escape from reality. Oh, no, I didn’t say that.
I’d awakened from so many years (while using) of being at a dead run…and each time I got a direct hit, be it a sexual assault, or an unhealthy relationship, or some other kind of intense emotional trauma, I had vaulted over the place where anyone else might have thrown a white flag…and ran faster.
My days of hiding, by way of chemical means, had finally come to a screeching halt.

So, what, then?

Facing my past fears and traumas was really too much to consider while I was being inundated with a whole different kind of drama (new Mom, baby in ICU, etc., etc.), so I had to find other options.
I discovered (archaic, to be sure: it was the early 90’s, after all) video games, and the   benefits of Mel Brooks movies, and chocolaet ice cream, and tattoos, among other things.
I didn’t want to use. I just wanted to check out for a minute. So I found other ways to distract myself.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly

At some point, I came to realise that the Promises, were, in fact, materializing for me. Some days, it felt like I was engaged in a war just to breathe, and other days, things would slow down and I got to taste of serenity, briefly.

It takes a village

I will forever be grateful to the women in the Program who walked with me those first months and years. They showed me how to live life, in all of its blood and chaos, on life’s terms, and then they encouraged me as I learned to walk again. No more running. I might jog now and then, but running is not in God’s plan for me, today. And I’ve discovered that His plan for me is always good. Always.

Posted from my shack by the creek.

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…