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?

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Thirsty Games Movie Review

Movie Review of Hunger Games 1 and 3:

hunger games Hunger Games – Haymitch

  • always drinking
  • concerned about whether or not alcohol would be available at all times
  • hid alcohol so as never to be without
  • comfortably uncomfortable character in a movie

Hunger Games opening night – Me

  • carefully planned drinking before the show
  • concerned about not having alcohol during the entire movie
  • hid alcohol so as to have a few last sips before going into the movie started
  • uncomfortably comfortable person in my own skin

mocking joyMockingjay part 1 – Haymitch

  • completely sober and aware of everything
  • imposed sobriety due to a lack of provisions in District 13
  • looking fit and trim
  • would likely dive back into drinking at the first opportunity

Mockingjay part 1 – Me

  • completely sober and aware of most everything (except when trying to figure out what my post would be about tonight and deciding whether to go to the gym in the morning or not.  Haymitch. No.)
  • chose sobriety of my own free will
  • looking fit and trim
  • will not drink today

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In the Stuck for the Second Time

stuckPeople giggle when I tell them that I love to be second. Second to try out some new technology. Second time in an exercise class. Second hike along a trail. Second meetings with old friends so we can move past the surface stories and get to the good stuff. Second visit to just about any place or event is better than the first because I can better navigate the situation. Number 2 is my number 1.

Of course the huge exception to this is sobriety. Knowing now what it took to get through those first few months, I’m not sure that I’m tough like that to do that again.

The past few days I’ve been in the Stuck. Just hanging out here, looking around, knowing that it isn’t a healthy nor safe place to relax. There are clear signs: dawdling, excessive time lurking on Facebook, isolating, noticing the places where I bought alcohol in the past, noticing the places where I hid it, and getting completely rattled by any talk of God in AA meetings.  Its as if my senses have all returned to where they were 14 months ago. Familiar territory is not a supportive place in this mind space.  But, I recognize it this time around.  What a relief!  Today I took an inventory of my thinking and clearly saw it for what it was, which is darned close to the thinking that had me convinced it was brilliant back before sobriety became the new norm. To simply recognize this Stuck for what it is gets me on the road to moving beyond it.

1st time in the stuck: 2 weeks to realize where I was.

2nd time in the stuck: 3 days to realize where I was.  The point goes to 2nd time!

The first time in the Stuck, getting out was so many levels of miserable.  A few actions were simple and had an immediate and strong effect: change driving patterns, keep forcing myself to physically move and not sit still.  Changing driving patterns was a tactic that helped me more than would seem reasonable in the first two or three months of sobriety.  By driving in different patterns, it forced my mind to think and see things differently.  The payoff for this simple change was significant.  By keeping myself moving, regardless of whether or not something actually needed to be accomplished, kept me from dawdling and lurking, which kept me in the moment.  Again, a fairly simple tactic that paid large dividends.

The huge hurdle to get out of the Stuck the first time around was dealing with the God thing in AA.  Or more specifically, the way I chose to interpret the spiritual portion of the AA program.  In this state of mind, I can talk myself into crazy states based solely on the second step: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity. And here’s how the crazy starts and spirals out of control:

  • Since I don’t personally believe at this time that a power greater than myself dabbles in individual people and their individual challenges
  • Then I cannot turn my will over to a higher power
  • Which puts me firmly in control
  • The same need for absolute control that contributed to my drinking getting so out of hand
  • The same control I am not willing to give up at this moment
  • Which means that AA is not for me
  • Because I am terminally unique and all of those people who got sober working the 12 steps are full of hog wash.  All of them.
  • Because I am the only person who could ever come up with the correct answer to these big questions
  • Which means that I’m going to go this alone
  • While all of those ignorant people keep sitting in AA meetings

To which all I can ask myself is, “Really?!” The first time in the Stuck, that line of seemingly reasonable thinking had me riled up all day and tossing and turning all night. Now, the second time around, I realize that a different approach is needed.

An entry point is all I need to get back on track, and being an overachiever, I found two. The first is in step 1, I admit that I am powerless over alcohol. At the very core of my being I know for a solid fact that no alcohol at all can enter my body with any hope of me retaining my sobriety. The possibility for moderation is nil. It is strangely soothing to know this is a 100% truth and need not be tested. The second entry point is from further down the list in step 11, meditation. Meditation practice to be more precise. I practice meditation more and more often because in my experience, when my mind is clear and calm, the walls come down, thinking clears, and personal relationships thrive. Through meditation practice I am able to pull myself out of the Stuck.

1st time in the stuck: 3 weeks to pull myself out.

2nd time in the stuck: 2 days to get back on track. Again, the point goes to 2nd time!

It is my hope that by sharing my story of recovery, it will help others who walk this road by my side, and give hope to those who are ready to begin.

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No Worries (to set free)

NaBloPoMo topworryic offering for today: If you could permanently get rid of one worry, what would it be?

None.  None that I have any teensy weensy bit of control over.

My parents are about to hit 90, living in their own home, and even with their age related health challenges, they are doing darned well. I worry about losing them.  I worry about my ability to care for them as unpredictable situations arise.  But, with a good support system, all will be fine.  These are healthy worries that will keep me focused on what is important.

Becoming complacent in my recovery program is a huge worry.  I’ve seen first hand what happens when others in recovery try to wing it.  Not a pretty sight.  The challenge is to stay true to what works even when feeling just dandy.  Yes, complacency is a sizable fear.  It needs to stay that way.

There are serious worries that I feel powerless to overcome: non-scientists who cannot wrap their non-scientific minds around climate change and write that information out of textbooks so kids cannot grow up to be valid scientists and help us out of the rut we knowingly put ourselves into, men in power who degrade women by day by not allowing women to make choices about their own bodies in their day job and degrade women at night by paying for services rendered, and too big to fail corporations being treated as people and having an unfair advantage in our elections elections. But that’s for another day.

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Check out the Peppers at Nano Poblano for a ridiculously wide variety of blogs you really need to meet.

30 Day Challenge Challenge

30 day challengeStarting projects is one of my favorite pastimes.  New projects, fun projects, useful projects, whimsical projects are each such a thrill in their own rite.  The followthrough, of course, is the challenging part. The very challenging part. Same with the cleaning up afterwards part.

Matt Cutts’ TED talk taught me 2 things: the variety of possible 30 day challenges is beyond imagination, and after completing one challenge, we can do another.  Gasp!

NaBloPoMo is a 30 day challenge shared by thousands.  The discipline of posting daily is already getting challenging, but building community is a huge pay off.  My hope is that by sharing my experiences, others will find strength and hope on their own journey or to better understand friends or family members.

Along with this, because one 30 day challenge simply isn’t enough, my sponsor and I are doing a 14 day challenge.  But, we keep missing a day here and there, so it may take us 30 days to get 14 consecutive days strung together.  Hint: setting an alarm on our phones to remind us to do our 4Gs is proving helpful.  The 4Gs reflection is to simply give an example of each of these 4Gs each day:

  1. Good: what was good about today?
  2. Grateful: what are you grateful for today?
  3. Glitch: what didn’t go well or could have been handled better today?
  4. Goal: what is a goal for tomorrow?

Stopping each day to reflect about where we are and where we want to be has been a positive influence and tends to keep the lists from running through my head at night.  So, my 4Gs for today are:

  • Good: laughing with coworkers at lunch, talking about the amazing dancing in Chicago
  • Grateful: Jeanne and the meditation classes we attend together
  • Glitch: Slept through spin class this morning
  • Goal: Make time for one person I don’t talk with often

I’d love to hear your own 4Gs in the comments below.

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Outpatient Treatment Lessons

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Part 4 of a 4 part story wherein our heroin realizes she no longer needs to suffer alone.

The Chemical Dependency Recovery Program 14 day outpatient treatment program is the most intensive program offered by my health insurance. An offer of spending 3 weeks there was offered but I agreed to give it a try with the understanding that 12 days was all I could fit into my schedule. I had important things to do you know, and this whole idea of intensive treatment was clearly overblown. Did nobody notice how well I functioned while drinking?  How could anyone have missed the masterful skills I had developed in order to keep my friend alcohol in my life?

On day 12 of white knuckled sobriety, the serious treatment began. The round trip drive would be almost 3 hours a day. iTunes U became my go to driving time filler. (Learning about Washington quickly lead to Adams which naturally lead to Madison. If the three I’d easily choose Madison as a dinner guest ) in the mornings I still worked out which was a good call because treatment involved way more sitting than usual. I learned to eat breakfast in the car and find fairly healthy options at take out restaurants.

The facility was across from a hospital. This was no accident. When a body comes to depend on alcohol, seizures can happen during the detox process. This is different than detox from drugs which just feels like you’re dying but actually aren’t. There were quite a few days where people in treatment ended up in the hospital and conversely when people hospitalized for detox came right across the street to begin treatment. And there were drug tests. Often. Turns out that even though we self reported our number if sobriety days each morning, addicts still have a propensity to lie. Hence the tests. Whoever got pulled out of morning check in was totally busted due to a positive drug test the day before.

What are we going to do all day? Sit around and listen to lectures? Play ping pong? Talk about how it really really sucks not to be drinking? Turns out we had a full schedule: morning check in, addiction education class, relapse prevention class, group sessions, meditation, acupuncture, and an AA meeting in town every day at lunch. Then in the evenings we had to call at least 3 people in the program to check in. On top of that were four homework assignments that required time and reflection.

Head still in a fog I came in and learned to navigate the daily routine and ever changing social groups. While each of us took different roads of various addictions to get here, we were in the same boat. In the rooms no one had anything to hide. Simply spending the day with people sharing this painful journey provided hope.

Homework assignment #1, my history with alcohol, was due on day 5. In group, whoever had an assignment due would read it to the group and receive feedback. Now, after so many years of hiding, isolating and manipulating, it was time to tell the truth. Having convinced myself of so many of my takes and excuses, just sorting out that truth was challenging. What were the pivotal points? The shame and embarrassment overwhelmed me and my nature would be to sugar coat it. To convince you that my presence here was all a big misunderstanding. You see, I’m really an amazing person if only you knew. But my gut told me to bring that act to an end and take the hand of those offering help. Offering hope. So I wrote my story. Wrote the hidden things I had done that no one else would have even imagined. Wrote about my husband’s reaction. His attempts to help I had completely refused. The embarrassment I endured in order to keep drinking. I took away the power by writing it all down. And then I had to read it.

Hands sweaty, voice trembling, nerves on fire, I took out my writing and began to read aloud. As the most personal, embarrassing pieces were revealed, I noticed that heads started to nod. Smiles started to appear. Giggles were heard. As soon as my story was finished, they chimed in with how they did the exact same thing.  Same motivations. Same actions. Some even more extreme than mine.

It was a miracle – I wasn’t the only person in the entire world going through this private hell. No longer was I unique and special in this addiction. I wasn’t alone. At that moment I was ready and willing to clean out the years of gunk and start anew.

Part 1 of a 4 part story wherein our heroin makes the call that will change her life.

Part 2 of a 4 part story wherein our heroin is introduced to the chart.

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

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.

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