June 26, 2013

Alcoholism is Cunning and Baffling Indeed

I went one of my favorite meetings the other day. It was a beginners meeting. I love beginners meetings because I never want to forget what it felt like in the beginning. I had the pleasure of talking to a woman who has just relapsed after almost 2 years of sobriety. She was in great pain and was quite confused as to how and why the relapse happened. She said she had a hard time quitting again - "This thing is huge, it is way bigger than me!"

Yes it is! - “Remember we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us.” – AA Big Book, pg. 59
Sometimes I wonder, still, how I managed to get sober, and I am quite understanding of the disbelief that someone may have after they have relapsed.  It seems so simple at first, just quit drinking, then you realize that it isn’t so easy, that we have wrapped our minds and lives around alcohol, and we have become powerless over the first drink. And that life after years of drinking is not all peaches and cream just because we got sober. It is still life!

For me, in the end it took the complete acceptance and surrender. Willingness! I just had to stop fighting it, I just needed to give up the debate. I needed to move forward, towards the solution and stop living in the problem – alcohol was my problem, sobriety was my solution.
The solution sounds simple, just stop drinking, but it is not either. It took complete honesty with myself and others, which meant opening up and being vulnerable. Yep, admitting that I had a problem and admitting that I needed help.
For me, it took completed determination, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, and a reliance on a Higher Power – but whatever you may find, it will be a huge help and unbelievable support to find a group of people that are going thru the same struggles as you. If you are not open to AA, or a program per say, there are also many sober blogs out here; you can check out my list under the What I read link.

All this sounds like a tall order, right?! But once you are able to get tru the beginning the rest becomes easier and easier. No matter how you get sober or what program you follow, I would suggest to start slow, just baby steps, one day at a time. No need to change your entire life all at once. Have faith and tell yourself that you can stay sober for today. Today is all that matters. Then find new things to do, maybe learn how to cook something – I know I didn’t eat well when I was drinking, cooking become my first tool that helped me to stay sober. Also, recognize your immediate triggers, like places, people, and things that you used to drink over, and stay away from them. I think this is crucial; for instance we have no business going to a bar if we are trying to stay sober!

Another great tool for early sobriety for me was planning my day out and writing it down so I can follow it and check off the things I have completed. It really helped me to stay busy and keep my mind occupied as much as possible by other things than alcohol. Also you can get a bunch of books to read too! I never read when I was drinking, I have almost forgotten how too! I ended up ordering bunch of books from Amazon in my early sobriety. One of them was The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly – for the tiny Kindle Price of $1.99 – great story of an amazing journey to sobriety.

Staying sober can be challenging, but you can do it!!!

   ...because it may come fast or a bit slower, but it will happen if you work towards it.

June 21, 2013

Just Believe - All You Need to Stay Sober!

Higher Power is quite daunting to many people; it was to me. I spent my early years fearing God because my parents use to tell me that I would burn in hell if I was bad. My family didn't really go to church or practice any religious customs but I went to Sunday school and confession every week and couldn’t understand why. By the time I was 15 I knew that there was no place in heaven for me; I was going straight to hell.

So here I was, after years of being agnostic, and dismissing all socialized religion, I find myself in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, where God and Higher Power are mentioned quite regularly. My mind cringed every time I heard it; I hummed a tune during the meeting closing Lord’s Prayer. I refused to even mention the word God in speaking. I would skip the term every time I read any AA literature. I didn't care that people said - It's not a religion, it is a God of your understanding! - I was not going to believe in some God! How could God be in control? I am in control, I have the power! – so I thought…
My power didn't get me very far! I powered thru my drinking and lost every time. I powered thru my finances and had no money. I powered through my relationships and was still single. I powered through people and had no friends. I powered! And inside I was in so much pain that I just couldn't see my way out. Inside I was completely powerless over the craziness in my head and the absolute lack of control when it came to alcohol.
I soon noticed that my misuse of the power/control was just like my alcoholic obsession. I got all wrapped up about who and how, and where, and created mental battles in my head. As long as everything went according to plan, my plan that is, all was good and I was OK. But I was not OK. In fact it gave me a false sense of being "all put together." In reality it left me angry and frustrated because my created plans didn't go as predicted and then I would feel like a failure and I would drink over it, and try to control even more. This became a viscous cycle for me.

Finally, after countless relapses, my sponsor once again suggested that I find a Higher Power; anything that I considered stronger and greater than me. I was still not able to believe in God or anything religious, so my first HP was a big, old tree in my front yard. It was way greater than me - it withstood all kinds of weather. I was always astonished with its magnitude. I spent many evenings sitting under it and talking to it - feeling a bit out of sorts (ha ha – talking to a tree – crazy!), but still willing to try anything to stop the turmoil in my head and heart. My sponsor said to give it all my problems and struggles and it would take care of them for me. OK! - I said - not really sure how that would actually happen. But I sat there every night and I told the tree what was bothering me. And my head and heart started feeling a bit lighter. It was strange – am I crazy talking to a tree!? Lol! - Maybe. Maybe it was just that I was getting rid of the bad thoughts and feelings by saying them out loud, or maybe the tree really had magical powers! Who knows!? I don't care!! It worked!
I still don't have a defined God or HP. I have moved away from that house with my HP tree. Today, I believe that everything and everyone around me has some Higher Power that is revealed to me. I believe that things happen for a reason, that karma does exist, and that people come into my life with a lesson for me to learn. My belief in a Higher Power has taught me that I do not have to be in control, and that the less I try to control, the more freedom I have. That things always work out. And that I can stay sober and I can be a better person and all I have to do is just believe!

June 18, 2013

Anonymous…Or Not? -by Life Corked

Today, I want to share this amazing post, which has left me feeling absolutely inspired and moved to tears! It is written by the very gracious Chenoa at Life Corked:
-Wow. I had chills as I watched the trailer for the new documentary The Anonymous People, which focuses on the culture of recovery and "the faces and voices of citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, public figures, and celebrities who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them." -continue reading.

Click HERE to watch the movie trailer.

June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day Sober

I am very grateful to still have my dad in my life, although our relationship has been somewhat troubling through the years. For most of my life we had a hard time getting along and the times that we did were usually spent drinking together. I always felt like I could not measure up to his expectations and therefore I was a complete failure. When I realized that my life was spiraling out of control due to my alcoholic drinking, and I was so riddled with shame and guilt, I just could not bear being around him. I stopped visiting, I ignored his calls, I waited for last minute to call him and basically ignored him as much as I could. For Father’s day I often called when I knew that he was unavailable so all I had to do is leave a message. Ugh.

I once heard someone say in a meeting – My parents did the best they could. Maybe not the best for me, but it was the best that they were able to do. – I remember that this comment made me very irritated; surely they could have done better! Right? But really what do I know…
In my sober journey and with the help the Alcoholic Anonymous, I have learned that forgiveness is the key to getting rid of those deeply rooted and painful feelings, and resentments. Forgiveness can open the door to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you. This doesn't mean that you deny the other person's accountability for hurting you, and it doesn't lessen or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without overlooking the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. But how do you forgive if you have held on to these feelings for many years? I had to look deep inside myself, I had to get to the root of my issues. I had to come to terms with my past and focus on the future. I had to learn how to accept and forgive. I had to rebuild my relationships. I had to get sober.
Here again, practicing the AA 12 Steps brought a chance to clean house, to look at my own wrongs, and to understand the people who wronged me. The longer I have been sober and the more I am ok in my own skin, the more I am able to accept him as the person that he is. I have learned that I am not a reflection of him, nor is he of me. We are two separate people with our own issues, beliefs and morals. Acceptance has brought me to this point: I believe that my dad did, and continues to do, the best he can.
Today, I am taking my two boys to visit my dad, and I am bringing a bucket of chicken and some homemade cookies, and I am looking forward to it. A huge difference from the years past! Huge.
Happy Father’s day dad!

June 14, 2013

It's Good To Be Sober

Strangely enough almost any situation in life reminds me of how good it is to be sober. Like today for instance; I had to leave work early because my son got in trouble at school and they want him picked up. In my old days I... well, first of all wouldn't have a son to pick up, second of all, wouldn't have a job to leave, third of all, wouldn't have a car to drive to pick up my son with!

So, well in reality, today just would not happen!

But if I was still drinking, and if I had the job and the car and the son, I would most likely stop at the store to pick up some wine first. Then call everyone in the book and bitch about it! Then I would have blamed myself for the entire situation and sat on my pity pot wallowing in how the world is a horrible place and I am a horrible person! I would have turned it all onto myself, totally forgetting about my son. I would have drunk myself into oblivion I am sure, and I would not be able to take care of him.

Or in the second scenario, that I actually had a son, but not the job, or the car, I would have most likely been too drunk to pick him up - after all it is Friday and after noon! -  and I am sure I would have been at least on the first, shoot, probably the second bottle of wine. Ha!

But today, I am sober! Yey!

And I am on my way to pick up my son...

June 6, 2013

My Sober Toolbox: How to Stay Sober at Drinking Events

I recently had a conversation with a young lady, just few months sober. She was really worried because she was going to a wedding this weekend and she was wondering about how she was going to deal with saying NO to drinks.

This conversation reminded me about how hard it was to say no in the beginning. There was that strange moment when my mind would go in circles and I try to figure out what I was going to say and if I was going to be able to say it! And of course, how will the other person will react. Will they push on? Will they ask why? Will they laugh at me? Will I have to explain? Will I feel left out? Will I feel uncool? Will I have any fun?! Ugh. A lot to worry about, right?

So I was thinking about all the tools that I have collected over the years and I have put together a list of what I learned when going to events where alcohol will be served:

1.  DON'T GO
This alone will save you every time! I know sometimes it is not possible not to go. The key here is to be honest with yourself, if you are not comfortable with it, seriously, don't go. This was and is still the most important decision I make. I have no business being at an event where drinking is the MAIN event! - read my post Company Events

2.  Make sure that your head is in a good place
The worst may be to go if you are sad, mad or resentful, since we are used to drinking at things this maybe a big trigger.

3.  If you are open to AA go to a meeting and share about it
Chances are that you will get some great support and you will feel stronger and more confident.

4.  Have a plan and be prepared
Play out couple of "what if" scenarios, make a decision on what you will do when it becomes to slippery - I would definitely leave.

5.  Take a buddy preferably a non drinking one
One that understands how important it is for you not to drink; one that would slap that drink right out of your hand!

6.  Bring some gum or candy
I find that this helped me with the cravings alot.

7.  Get a none alcoholic drink as soon as you get there
 Hold it all night long, and stick a lime in it and voilà! It looks like drink-drink.

8.  Say: No, thank you. - and that's all
No one needs an explanation, just walk away or change the conversation to the other person.

9.  Call/text your support person
If you were not able to bring a buddy, have one available to contact. Sometimes just talking to someone who understands is all that you need.

10.  LEAVE
Again, this one alone will save you but sometimes it is not possible to do. If you can,  just sneak out, pretending to go to the bathroom or something. I bet no one will even notice.

If you are open to AA go to a meeting and share about your experience; sometimes the cravings are even stronger after the event, and you maybe feel more vulnerable.

I know, I know. This is not easy. I avoided many events in the beginning. But at some point I wanted to stay sober more than I wanted to drink and I was ready to make this commitment: Do not drink no matter what!

Recently I had to say - No thank you. - at a restaurant, several times, while few different waiters come by with wine service. One of them said - Oh, really? - with a really disappointed tone in her voice. - Yes, we don't drink. - I said, and honestly, I was ready to kick her ass, too! Lol! Anyway, the point is that I have no problem now, but thinking back to the beginning, that would have been unbelievably difficult! So protect your sobriety, because this thing is powerful, it comes from no where and when least expected.

Be prepared and don't forget to have fun!

June 3, 2013

If You Knew Me Then

I was sitting at the kitchen table last night, putting patches on my daughter's girl scout's vest with great care, making sure that they were evenly spaced and in the correct places on the vest. Then, I had the strangest feeling come over me: Is this really me? Wow. Who is this person? So strange.

You see, if you knew me then, this would not make any sense to you either! Because back then, I was just a party girl! Children and husbands were not part of this equation - clubs, bars and concerts most definitely were! If there was a party, I was there! I was "fly by the seat of your pants" kinda girl - I often just took off somewhere just to go to a party, it didn't matter how far. I once went to Ocean City, MD just to see a band play - 3 hour drive. I could out drink and out last anyone!

My new string bean plant
Then in my later drinking days, it  was quite the opposite - afraid to make an ass of myself again, and haven pissed off and alienated many people I stayed at home. Me, myself and the bottle, or rather bottles, many bottles. Sitting on the couch, in some raggedy sweats staring at the tube and passing out whenever convenient. My days were irrelevant, and continued without any purpose or direction other than to drink. I didn't have a job to go to, or friends to visit, in fact I didn't have anywhere to be. I was depressed, lonely and angry. I hated me and I hated you! And, I hated it all.

Looking at me now, you would have never believe that I was that person, let alone a mom of three and involved with the girl scouts! (If you are not familiar with the GS organization - it requires lots of parental participation.) You would have a hard time believing that I live in a house in the suburbs and plant flowers and and I have my own vegetable garden. You would be amazed at the amounts of cookies and cupcakes that I bake for my kids events. And you would have a hard time believing that I have a full time job and I have had it for the past 3+ years. You would probably notice that I no longer have dark circle under my eyes and my skin is not pale anymore. You would notice that I smile a lot!

You would not be able to comprehend that I used to sit in a dark room and drink myself into an oblivion, night after night.
Who was that person?
It is still hard for me to believe that I was that person and that I am sober and that this is my life now. I seriously have to pinch myself every day, just to make sure! I would have never dreamed of this, even thought in reality this is the life I have always wanted and I am only living it today because I am sober.