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!

Recovering the Natural Capacity to Listen

In my worst, I’m able to fully convince myself that it is indeed me who is in charge.  In charge of my drinking and how to keep it going. In charge of knowledge that there are no real thoughts and feelings because I know full well that it can all be broken down to chemicals and synapses.  You see, I know this.  And that makes me in charge.  And it makes me right.

And oh, that is exactly what propelled my down the road with my best friend, alcohol.  Knowing I was right, and everyone else was just full of empty wishes, was my downfall.  Still today, it creeps back into my mind and takes up residence in its comfortable home.  Recently I’ve been taking specific steps to make that home less comfortable.  

These steps have proven to be beneficial:

1.  Force myself to listen without judgement.

2.  Make myself willing to consider other views, or better yet, open myself to the wisdom of others without considering anything.

3.  At the end of each day, actually writing down at least one example of these from my actual experience that day: Gratitude, Good, Glitch, Goal.  

4.  Read aloud this excerpt from Thomas Merton at least 4 times daily:

“The reality that is present to us and in us:

call it Being … Silence.

And the simple fact that by being attentive by learning to listen

(or recovering the natural capacity to listen)

we can find ourself engulfed in such happiness that it cannot be explained:

the happiness of being at one with everything in that hidden ground of love

for which there can be no explanations …

May we al grow in grace and peace,

and not neglect the silence that is printed in the centre of our being.

It will not fail us.”

 

Recovering the natural capacity to listen.  Amazing.  

Using Your Tools: Read Recovery Literature

Sometimes I wish that I could scoot ahead 24 hours in order to be able to look back and figure out if an odd mood or day is a real issue that needs to be grappled with or a simple oddity to be quietly noted.  For this past week, I’ve found myself getting easily agitated.  Along with that, I realize that my level of complacency is growing.  Its time to go back and review the tools learned in outpatient care and incorporate more of them into daily situations.

The 4th of July means a big ol’ party at our house.  This tradition started before we were even married, living in a small house in the sketchy part of town, where we’d BBQ and at night everyone would climb up on the roof to watch the town fireworks being launched just a few blocks away.  Fireworks are a must, and our town is crazy for them, even though all fireworks are technically illegal in the county.  These days we’re into one huge “brick” of high flying spectacular fireworks.  When the kids were at different ages we went through sparkler phases, firecrackers and anything else loud and annoying, and mortars for blowing up any type of fruit or vegetable available.  All good fun, to be sure.

This year, of course, was my first year to host this celebration while sober. Honestly, the last two years were much, much harder than this year.  You see, I had to make sure I drank enough all day to feel normal, have extra alcohol hidden during the party so I could fortify my drinks while looking like a normal drinker, and all the time making sure I could think clearly enough to host a party with illegal fireworks.  Phew!  This year, it was just about doing everything sober.  Just.  Turns out that the pre-party preparations are so much easier when with a clear head! Friends drinking beer and soda wasn’t a bother. Conversation was easy and playing with water balloons is always fun and funny.  But a few hours in, that feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin set in.  Its pretty creepy.  While not sold on the idea of using tools to make a situation better, there have been instances when they have been useful to divert my crazy thinking enough to get through the situation.

Reading recovery literature was my choice during the party.  Sneaking upstairs for ten minutes was easy.  Picking up a few daily thought books, one spoke to me.  “Free at last, free at last …”  Yes, to spend this time right now free from the grips of alcohol’s ugly hold was freeing.  Focus on free, focus on free.  The sensation of being uncomfortable in my own skin didn’t fully subside, but in my mind I had my own mini celebration of freedom.  Fireworks, indeed.