Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Thanksgiving is two days away.   Holidays can be difficult for sober people, or people struggling to get or stay sober.

Now is a good time to prepare. 

We thought we'd share some tips.   You can not only survive Thanksgiving, you can enjoy it.   All you need to do is plan ahead.    Please add your own in the comments below; this is by no means a comprehensive list.

  1. Think ahead.  Is it hard for you to be around alcohol?   Be honest with yourself.  Now is not a time for heroics.   Keep your expectations realistic:  if it is going to be too difficult, maybe this year is a time to do something different for Thanksgiving.   Don't set yourself up to fail.    You can spend a quiet time at home watching movies or hanging out with other friends, volunteer at a shelter serving food, or go to a meeting instead.  
  2. Thanksgiving is usually about family.  If there are people in your family who trigger you, be ready.    You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to .. plan what you'll say or do if someone gives you a hard time.  
  3. Have safe people to call - program their numbers into your phone in advance, and tell them you're going to call if things get tough.   If everyone around you is drinking and it starts to bring you down, talking to someone else who is sober helps you remember that you are NOT alone.
  4. Bring your own beverages.  This is especially important if you're going to be around people who don't know you're sober.   If you always have a drink in your hand, people won't hand you alcohol or ask if you want something to drink.  
  5. You don't have to over explain.   If someone is pressuring you to drink, be ready with an answer.   A white lie is totally acceptable - tell people you're on antibiotics, or you're watching your calories and so you aren't drinking.   
  6. Have an escape plan.  If you can, bring your own car.    Plan to go for a post-turkey walk - fresh air and exercise will get your endorphins flowing and help tamp down cravings.
  7. Plan your exit in advance.   If everyone is going to settle in to watch football and drink and you don't want to be part of it ... don't.   Tell whoever is hosting that you have to leave at a certain time so you don't get drawn in to staying longer than you want to.
  8. Remember to be proud of yourself - shame and guilt are huge triggers.   Give yourself credit for staying strong.
  9. Think about the next morning, when you'll wake up hangover-free and rested.    Think about how horribly you felt the morning after drinking, and how sober you don't wake up and think, "I wish I drank last night."
  10. Think through the drink.   If you start romancing how nice "one drink" would be, remember how many times you told yourself you were only going to have one and failed.    Having one is harder than having none, because once alcohol is in your system the obsession comes alive.
  11. Remind yourself that Thanksgiving is just one day.    A simple 24 hours, just like any other day.   Don't put more importance on this day over any other.  
  12. Go to bed.   If the day is harder than you expected, go to bed early just to put the day to rest.   Tomorrow is a new day.
  13. Believe in yourself.   Getting sober and staying sober takes serious guts - you are brave and strong and true.   If guilt, shame and remorse start talking to you, remind yourself that it's your disease sneaking in the back door.   Let your sober voice ring loud and proud in your head.
  14. Forgive yourself for wanting to drink.   Don't expect that you won't be hit with a craving; it's natural.   Prepare for how you're going to handle the craving instead of berating yourself for having one.
  15. Be grateful.    Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks.. make a gratitude list and carry it with you.   Try to focus on the gifts you have in your life, all the possibilities that lie in front of you, instead of all the things you can't have.   Sober, you can do anything
Please add more thoughts and ideas in the comments; we want to hear from you.    Addiction thrives in the dark, and together we bring the light.  

You are not alone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sometimes God Shouts

***contributed by Sharon. This story began as a post on the Booze Free Brigade, a forum open to anyone and full of wisdom, sharing, and laughs. Stop by sometime.

You know how sometimes God shouts and other times he whispers? Well, last night about 2 glasses of wine into the night, I’m standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes and through my kitchen window, in the darkness, I see twinkling lights out on the road. The kids all start yelling.

There was a policeman up on the road. It appears he had pulled someone over in my very quiet, small development, right in front of my house. I had a bird's eye view of the whole deal. Like watching COPS in my kitchen window.
I watched the poor old lady step out of her car as another police car came onto the scene. She seemed fine. Standing there, speaking to the cop. It was hard to see with the steam from my dishes and because it was dark outside and light inside but the whole family was giving a blow-by-blow from the other room. Needless to say, the old lady was put into one of the cruisers. Her car was later towed.
I called my very sweet, very old (80 years old) neighbor across the street to see if she was okay because my husband got the impression it was her friend being arrested. It turns out my neighbor's friend (who was also pretty old) was driving over to pick up my neighbor for dinner. A good Samaritan saw my neighbor's friend weaving on the road and followed her to our development.

The good Samaritan confronted the weaving driver. My neighbor came out of her house, saw her dear friend had been drinking and said, "No problem. I'll drive to dinner."

She went back into her house, pulled her car out of the driveway and onto the street only to be confronted by a cop car coming down the street. It turns out the good Samaritan didn't care that the old lady wasn’t behind the wheel anymore or who was going to drive to dinner, he’d seen the old lady weaving and so he called the police anyway. The old lady was busted.
I'm drinking my wine, doing my dishes and thinking the whole time, "Okay, God, I get it. You couldn't have laid it out any clearer." Right in front of my house, right out my window. I couldn't have turned my head away if I had wanted to.

That is me, 40 years from now, if I don't get my act together. Some poor old lady still drinking her days away only to be busted on a cold, autumn Sunday night.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

But this time I hit Stop

**Submitted by Georgia

I've been wanting to write my story, but haven't known where to start.  Here is good, though--there's a little success (30 days!), I'm out of the gutter enough to have a positive attitude, but still close enough to the end to remember how bad it was.  The disease wants me to forget--because then it can get its thing going again, it can suck me back in--but if I paint this picture of my drinking, I can look back and remember what to say when the drink is knocking at my door.  

I know now that I am a garden-variety drunk.  High achiever, perfectionist, had to do everything, and do it well.  A good girl--no room for mistakes.  My extended family was full of alcoholics, but my parents didn't drink.  Drinking was wrong, immoral; it could be blamed for most problems "those people" had.  I was, of course, intrigued.  What was with this magical, forbidden stuff?  Why did people do it if it was so awful?  At 16, I stole a bottle of leftover Gallo from an adult party and drank the whole thing in one night, puking my guts up when I woke from my stupor.  From the get-go, I was an over-achieving drinker, too.  
I didn't drink again until college.  There was nowhere for me to get the stuff, and I wouldn't be caught dead at one of "those parties" in high school.  I went to a good college, almost immediately got involved with the wrong people, and crashed and burned my sophomore year.  There was an unwelcome pregnancy and a raging ex in the mix, too.  I couldn't recover from all the shame I had brought upon myself -- I thought my life was over.  I bought bottle after bottle of gin, and drank while listening to music on the broken-down fire escape outside my dank apartment.  I always drank it straight, always drank alone.  There was never any pretense of "enjoyment" or "appreciation" for the booze.  Why would anyone drink for any other reason than getting drunk?

Much to my surprise, life did move on.  I graduated by the skin of my teeth, moved to the big city, and started a new life.  I drank almost every night.  I moved on from gin to beer to red wine and would drink a bottle nearly every night I was alone.  I drank because everyone else was drinking, drank to remove the now-constant leftover shame from "ruining my life," drank to avoid growing up.  

But grow up I did, despite my best efforts.  I got married, had a couple of kids (managed to stay sober during the pregnancies, thankyouverymuch), but my drinking was getting darker, deeper.  Once I stopped working to stay home with the kids I drank during the day, walking to the grocery store to stock up and hide from my very sweet and enabling husband how much was disappearing.  I loved my kids fiercely but was deeply bored by mothering, filled with never-ending anxiety from all the things I should be doing to make their lives perfect, depressed by my lack of career--and the perfect trifecta of boredom-anxiety-depression was relieved only by alcohol.

I knew I had a problem -- had recognized it the first time I sucked down that forbidden bottle of Gallo -- but I had no idea how to stop.  For years, I read books, took quizzes, made resolutions, and broke them over and over again, feeling worse each time.  Through it all, I maintained a sunny, dizzy exterior, volunteering for church and school and community activities, always searching for something that would lift me out of that cycle of boredom, anxiety and depression.  I knew what I needed to do--I needed to stop--but was petrified of admitting I was one of "those people," an Alcoholic.  And the shame associated with that label only made me drink more.  I did dangerous, stupid things.  I did things I would have ended friendships over, if somebody else I knew did them.  (Isn't that fantastically schizophrenic behavior?)  All the while, no one said a thing.

So if you're like me 2 months ago, trolling the internet for recovery stories, looking for inspiration to halt your own booze cruise, you are impatient for me to get to the punchline.  Why did she stop?  Was it a drunk driving arrest?  Did they take away her kids?  Is her sordid, shameful story complete?

I'm sorry to say that it was nothing so dramatic as that.  I am lucky as hell that nothing bad happened--well, nothing worse than wasting more than 10 years of my life on booze, putting myself and others in danger, and building up a motherlode of horrific shame that I'm knocking down one brick at a time, that is.  I woke up one morning with a raging hangover yet again, searched the house frantically for the last two beers I had squirreled away the night before, and sucked them down once the kids had left for school.  I took a bath, and while I was sitting there, sweating away my shame, I said quietly to myself, No.  No more.  I can't do this anymore.  I've been rewinding the same ridiculous, destructive tape, hitting play without even watching the shitty movie, over and over.  But this time I hit Stop.  And I'll be damned if I rewind that thing again.

What's different this time?  I started praying.  Yeah I know, it's cheesy.  But here's my idea of God: it's that place of light, peace and deep breathing within myself.  The place of no obligation.  The place of no guilt.  The place of loose shoulders and smooth striding.  The place of satisfaction.  God is that pinhole of truth, opening wider through meditation and prayer.  I never thought it existed before, thought I was too beaten down and ashamed and broken, but it's there.  And the more I nurture it, the more I give up my ugly feelings of inadequacy and anxiety and shame to it, the bigger it grows. 

The other thing that's different is I reached out.  I read this recovery blog and others every day, and joined the ladies over at Booze Free Brigade.  Through those two channels, I came to see that though I am an alcoholic (scary word!) and need to stay sober (other scary word!), there is no shame in that--in fact, I am in damn fine company.  It's just the way I was born, and I didn't choose it--but I choose what I do with that inborn thing, and I finally want to wrangle it into submission instead of feeding it my liver.  And I am proud of that.  The way I do it is by banishing perfection, by checking in with the other recovering alkies, by blocking out that lying voice that says, "I am the answer," every single time I hear it--which is often, but less and less each day.

Thanks for reading.  I wrote this story for me, so I would look back and remember this time clearly, but I also wrote it for you.  You are worth stopping.  You deserve it.