Changing Up the Work

change only happensIts time to change up the work. In early, early recovery, the work was prescribed by the chemical dependency department of my health care provider. Thank goodness they had a clear plan because my planning to drinking less tomorrow wasn’t flying. In AA, my sponsor helped me develop a plan of working with her weekly, attending 3 meetings, being of service, and calling other alcoholics. That plan established much needed personal stability and started me on the road to developing friendships with others in recovery and I stuck with it for a year (2 rounds of 6 month commitments).

Becoming restless, its time to change things up. Winging it certainly is appealing and sounds like an exciting adventure, but adventure doesn’t meet the needs of recovery and a plan is needed. So, for accountability, here’s the current plan:

  • blog weekly
  • read recovery literature on weekends, delving into Peter
  • AA meeting Tuesday nights (holding onto my home group)

IMG_3394What is your experience with changes in your recovery program? What types of changes have you tried?


Holiday Parties in Sobriety

IMG_0059Year two of holiday parties in sobriety, and a perfect opportunity to put some knowledge into practice.  A few tips I learned from trial and error last year but many were learned right here from my fellow sober bloggers.  Each and every one of you are deeply appreciated.   Hurrah for collective wisdom!

December 2014 saw quite a few holiday celebrations right here at home including a staff party, book club dinner party, Christmas  Eve dinner with extended family, and a three family Christmas dinner fete.  Home was a good place to be.  For one, hostessing kept me busy taking care of others.  The other key to celebrating at home is that it allows me to envision and carry out a plan without many curve balls thrown in.

The 3 keys to hosting parties and having great fun while sober this year turned out to be:

1.  Have a plan.  In early sobriety we spend a whole lot of time making plans.  What time will people arrive and leave? What will I drink?  What will others drink? Where can I get away for ten minutes from time to time to read recovery literature and refocus? Who is my support team at the event? Have I clarified their roles with them? Which AA meeting will I attend the day of the event?

2. Have another person handle the alcohol.  Don’t play the part of the suffering hero.  Just have someone else be the bartender.  At the end of the event, have the bartender pack up the bar and toss out the half finished drinks laying around. That person will be glad to help.

3.  Have fun.  Taking the time, making the time, to celebrate with friends is a new concept in my life.  Focusing on others helps me get out of my head which would normally be focused on the alcohol with laser vision, and opens up the world to the people in my life. Turns out my world was so small when drinking and I missed out on the amazingness around me.  Its time to enjoy friendship again.

Coming soon: the backstory of these keys. Because we all know, there’s always a backstory!

The Time Warp, aka Recovery Week

Part 3 of a 4 part story wherein our heroin bumbles through a dark tunnel.

The intake meeting ended with these take aways:clock

  • 3 nights a week at the medical health center plus 12 step meetings meant that my social life was pretty much wiped out for 1/4 of a year.  During the holidays.
  • This was better than the possibility that seemed to be considered to just send me straight to the hospital for detox.
  • The counselor got all show offy with the office staff and had them rearrange the schedule of the medical doctor on staff so she could see me tomorrow. (bad judgment call on my end it turns out, my health was honestly at risk)
  • Paperwork and specific directions to get to the hospital immediately if the shaking intensified.  The fear of seizures was real.  Alcohol detox is the one type of detox that can actually result in death.  Great, as if not drinking wasn’t awful enough.  Now the risk of death enters the picture.

At home, I finally had the talk with my husband. Told him about needing to quit, about the recovery plan, about the schedule, about the possibility of seizures.  Cried over being so lost, hurting the family. Cried out of fear. Lots and lots of fear. Looked at the paperwork and what to watch out for regarding seizures. His mom went through recovery when he was a young teen and he had a much better idea than I did about what was to come. In my mind, this whole thing was still completely overblown. Alcohol was just that tiny, itty bitty splinter. Once removed, life would be glorious because I had set it all up that way.

Woke up at 2am shaking. Withdrawals. Woke up again at 5am shaking.Withdrawals.  Went to work shaking. Couldn’t think. Didn’t know what to do with myself.  Withdrawals. 90% of my brain is trying to figure out how to hold it together leaving not nearly enough to breathe, walk, and work.  Went home and didn’t know what to do. Hour by hour I told myself.  Hour?!  10 minutes by 10 minutes was still too long. Went to the appointment with the medical doctor. Put my hands out so she could judge how much they were shaking.  It was crazy. She smiled but couldn’t find anything polite to say like “its not too bad,” because the shaking was ridiculous. More plans, some type of prescriptions. Drove home and ten-minuted it through about 40 minutes. No way I could figure out what to do with myself all evening. So, I jumped in the car and drove back to the medical center to join the recovery group 4 days early.

Now we’re entering totally new territory.  Group therapy, heck any type of therapy, was completely new to me. A nice group of people sat in a circle and talked about stuff, more stuff, making plans for attending events sober, and other stuff. What in the world? No one was talking about surviving the craziness in my head. How to get through the next 10 minutes. How to fill that time spent drinking. All of it. As it crept by. Slowly. But group filled time so it was useful.

Attending a 12 step meeting was the next order of business. I got a list of places and times for the next town over and staked them out. Visiting a meeting of AA with all of those pathetic alcoholics was going to be the most shameful part of this whole thing. I mean, really. Sitting for an hour with people who were losers of the greatest magnitude was a miserable idea. But I went. Turns out, they were everyday people you’d meet at the store or business venture. They were well spoken, thoughtful, and funny. Funny! Listening to them talk, an “aha” moment occurred – we spoke the same language. We had the same story. It was my first glimpse of what was possible.

Next: part 4 of 4 wherein our heroin shares her cleverest, most hidden secrets and finds an unexpected reaction.

It is my hope that by sharing my story, others can find strength and hope to find a way to overcome their obstacles, alcohol or otherwise.


The Science of 12 Step Programs

auto-cookies-flow-chart-201002Logic and order make my brain happy.  Math and science were always my favorite subjects in school.  Reading Supreme Court rulings just for the fun of following the logic is a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.  Oh, and flowcharts!  The flow chart at the end of each Wired magazine is just like that hit of chocolate at the bottom of a Drumstick ice-cream cone.

Taking a brain like this to three AA meetings each week can be a bit of a carnival ride.  On “off days” it would be easy to prove all of AA completely false and useless before the steps and promises have been read at the start of the meeting.  If they only knew what I knew!!!

Enter Dr. John Kelly, professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital and a guest of the Bubble Hour podcast.  Their discussion on the topic of the science of 12 step facilitation was so utterly fascinating that I’ve listened to it three times already.  If your brain rationalizes everything, if you can write formulas and proofs as to why 12 step programs are a bunch of hooey, do yourself a favor and make some time to listen.  As a bonus, there is some Jungian philosophy thrown in.

My takeaway is that 12 step programs may not work quite in the way they think they do, but they do work in a way that science can substantiate.  And that is something I can wrap my brain around.




Building Habits, Building Community

Sometimes the universe whispers in our ear.  When we don’t hear the gentle message, she sends the message amplified just a bit so we can hear it.  And fortunately, when we don’t hear the message for quite much too long, she sticks with it until we think we’d had our own “a ha!” moment.  This is my spot today.

Each week, I read through recovery blogs to see how everyone is doing.  Staying connected is important, so I read.  But I haven’t been contributing, and that’s just not right.

Connections are something I’ve actually been working on.  Like after meetings when it feels like everyone has someone to talk to and a spotlight follows me as I try to slip into a conversation until that awkwardly occurs.  But I’m working on it.  Slowly, over time, the conversations are starting to come more naturally and the connections are being made.  But here online, I’ve let it become a one way street.  How can I work on regaining that habit?

Last month I heard about the National Novel Writing Month.   Writing every day for a big project.  Wow.  Sharing that process with others on the same path.  A community of writers – imagine that!

The TED talk Try Something New for 30 Days recently came across my desk and I’ve watched it multiple times.  He also mentions NaNoWriMo.  Such a coincidence.  Matt Cutt’s observation that when he takes part in 30 day challenges, time is savored more fully.  That is certainly something to strive for.

WordPress is advertising for their current 30 day writing and photography courses.  I tell myself that sometime I should do something like that.  It would help get me back on track with my blog, encourage me to respond to what you are sharing.  As a bonus, there would be a budding community of bloggers to work with.  What a grand concept!

It turns out that BlogHer runs a blogging version of NaNoWriMo cleverly called NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month.  One post per day plus involvement with fellow bloggers accepting this 30 day challenge.

All right already, count me in.