Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Survival Guide

*** This is a repost of the "Thanksgiving Survival Guide" we posted last year - it applies to any holiday, so we thought we'd rename it and post it again, as we cruise into the thick of the holiday season.

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 the holidays, you can enjoy them. All you need to do is plan ahead. Please add your own in the comments below; this is by no means a comprehensive list:
  • 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 this year. 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.

  • Holidays are 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Plan your exit in advance. If everyone is going to settle in 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.

  • Remember to be proud of yourself - shame and guilt are huge triggers. Give yourself credit for staying strong.

  • 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."

  • 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.

  • Remind yourself the holidays don't last forever, and each holiday is a simple 24 hours, just like any other day. Don't put more importance on this day over any other.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Be grateful.  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.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beyond My Wildest Dreams

***Submitted by Anonymous

I'm a stay at home mom who drank like it was my job. I was so resentful at motherhood and all the sacrifices that came with it. I knew my children were gifts and blessings,but yet all I wanted was mommy time....Mommy's wine time.

I was the mom with the cleanest house, laundry always put away, not a dish in the sink....you could eat off my floor. I always made sure I was put together and appeared to look good on the outside but inside I was so empty and lost. I found comfort in what started off as an innocent glass or two of wine to unwind as I was making dinner for my family.I thought I deserve it.....I'm home all day with my children, no outlet to socialize with other adults so I DESERVE this glass.

Well that glass or two turned into a magnum of wine a night, and the time of day I poured the first glass got earlier and earlier. This didn't happen overnight. The progression took a couple of years before hit spiraled so out of control that it was pure chaos.

I was hiding magnums all over the house so that my husband couldn't keep track of how much was missing out of the bottle in the fridge. I was putting my wine in to-go coffee mugs to take my kids to the park. I couldn't bring them to a sports practice without having it on the sidelines. My marriage was falling apart because of my drinking.

By the time by husband got home from work I was nearly in a blackout yelling and screaming because I was home all day with the kids, filled with rage and resentment. Each time the fight happened I would swear off drinking for that night...."I'm taking the night off" is what I would tell myself and my husband. Somehow by midday the following day I would wind up right back in the same place with my magnum of wine.

The insanity was that I really believed things would be different this time. I will control it tonight - I won't start any fights. The pattern was never any different and always had the same outcome.I had an abusive relationship with alcohol- It was so painful, each encounter had a devastating effect, yet I would still go back for more each night seeking comfort in the bottle.

In august 2010 the fighting with my husband got so bad that he left. I knew I didn't want my marriage to end and was desperate for help.

I never wanted to admit defeat, admitting I was an alcoholic meant I could never drink again-this petrified me. How will i get through the day. How will I socialize? I was desperate to save my marriage so I went away to a rehab for 21 days. This is where the seed for AA was planted.

When leaving rehab I started to go to AA meetings. I started to see the light. The stories of other men and woman who have gone before me were such an inspiration. I started to feel like there was hope - light at the end of my dark miserable tunnel. I would keep coming back because that's what I was told.

I didn't leave rehab and get it right away. It took a few slips and slides before I had to completely surrender to the fact that I was and I am an alcoholic. I am now 10 months sober and can't believe the growth that has happened in my life. It is a miracle that I have not picked up a drink in 10 months-I attribute this miracle to God working in my life.....sometimes directly and sometimes through the fellowship of AA.

People in the rooms of AA have transformed and touch my life in ways that cant be described. I have a sense of peace and serenity within my life now that I never thought possible. My family dynamic has taken on new meaning-I am a sober mom today who is present for my children. I am an honest and trustworthy wife who can be held accountable. These are all miracles that are now present in my every day life...and it's all because I put down the drink and started working the program of alcoholics anonymous.

My life now truly is beyond my wildest dreams!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Time Changes Everything

*** Submitted by Julie, who blogs over at Sober Julie Doing Life

20 Days, that’s all I had

20 days of able body and mind sobriety

20 days of facing my disease and the low-level of my emotional state

20 days to feel frightened, irritable, angry, intrigued and hopeful by the changes which are sobriety

20 days of learning how to live in the same consciousness as my emotions

20 days where I went from “no I’m not an alcoholic” to “Dear God help me, I’m an alcoholic”

20 days to talk openly with my husband about my fears and hopes

20 days to play with my 2 daughters, going tobogganing and hiking in the snow

20 days to begin get to know God again

20 days to walk into 12 Step meeting rooms and learn to open my mind and heart

20 days to truly laugh with my daughters and family about nothing at all

20 quiet mornings with coffees and 12 Step reading

20 pain-free mornings to rush out the door to the career I loved

20 days of quietly reconnecting with my husband

20 evenings alone with my daughters while my husband was at work, evenings filled with gymnastics giggles and tickles

20 days and nights to begin to build my foundation of faith and renew my relationship with God

20 days to begin to change my life

And then….

40 seconds changed my life

40 seconds of icy roads; an out of control SUV in front of me; an impact I cannot remember

40 seconds took away my physical ability to lift and cuddle my daughters; to play with them in the manner I used to; to tie their shoes; to bend over and smell tie their shoes

40 seconds erased my short-term memory; days, minutes and seconds forever gone as soon as they happen

40 seconds stole my husband’s capable, high energy, successful wife

40 seconds robbed me of my career which I had worked tirelessly to achieve

40 seconds altered my life as I knew it, I was no longer self-sufficient, social, free nor active

40 seconds of time has left me with me pain which I would never have imagined

40 seconds in a lifetime changed my children’s Mother in ways they cannot understand

40 seconds altered my path which I had carefully begun to lay out

And since…..

620 days have passed since the accident

620 days I’ve remained sober

620 days of pain, exhaustion, anxiety, loss, challenges beyond my realm of understanding

620 days of learning

620 days of being grateful to God and growing our relationship

620 days of seeing the world in this new, appreciative light

620 days of therapy, assessments, exhaustion and medications

620 days I have turned my will and my life over to God

620 days of watching my daughters grow, laugh and learn

620 days of finding ways to keep memories, blogging, taking photos and journaling

620 days of admiring my amazingly supportive husband

620 days of friendship

620 days of accepting the unknown; realizing that God is in control

620 days of putting myself out here, loud and proud of who and what I’ve become

620 days of prayer

620 days, that’s what I’ve had since those 40 seconds and those 20 days.

Any man can fight the battles of just one day.

This is my sober life thus far, I’m so blessed to have had this much time!

What are you doing with your time?

Are you focusing upon what’s important?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On The Fourth Step and Lying

*** Submitted by Guinevere, who blogs at Guinevere Gets Sober

Went to my noon meeting at the university yesterday. Topic: Fourth Step.

It occurred to me during the meeting that the fourth step is about Naming Shit. We name the people, institutions and philosophies that have made us resentful, some of them for our entire lives. We name the reasons.

So why are people so scared of Step 4? You might think it would be a huge pleasure to get all that shit down on paper.Step 4 asks us not just to name shit but to name true shit. It’s the beginning of overturning rocks and looking at lies.

I won’t tell you a bald-faced lie (I never could tell a bald-faced lie without cutting my eyes or fidgeting) and say the fourth step never scared me. Three years ago when I started this grand, epic, terrifying journey called sobriety, I was a bit nervous to name all that shit.

If you’re looking for something to help you get started naming shit, I recommend the poet Adrienne Rich’s essay, “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying” (1975), from her collection On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. In re-reading it recently I was struck by how many of her statements apply to what we do in recovery—peel back layers of self-delusion and manipulation to look at truths. To create community based on radical truth-telling.

Here are some passages that always touch me:  "An honorable human relationship—that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love”—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.“  It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.“It is important to do this because in so doing we do justice to our own complexity.“It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”

Also this, about confronting fear:“The liar may resist confrontation, denying that she lied. Or she may use other language: forgetfulness, privacy, the protection of someone else. … She does not say, I was afraid, since this would open the question of other ways of handling her fear. It would open the question of what is actually feared. She may say, I didn’t want to cause pain. What she really did not want is to have to deal with the other’s pain. The lie is a short-cut through another’s personality. … Why do we feel slightly crazy when we realize we have been lied to in a relationship? … When we discover that someone we trusted can be trusted no longer, it forces us to reexamine the universe, to question the whole instinct and concept of trust.”

So lies go three ways: others lie to us, we lie to others, and we lie to ourselves.

I was raised on lies and deceptions. Many people raised in alcoholic families say it was the alcoholic who lied and created chaos all the time. In my family, my alcoholic dad was the comparatively sane and much kinder one. It was my mother, the daughter of a violent drunken dad and a pathologically manipulative mother, who told outright lies in our family. Her rhetoric could seem fine, but the screwed-up lies came out in her behavior and in her body.

The rhetoric: I remember, after watching Nixon resign on TV (I was 9), enduring repeated kitchen-table lectures about “Where Lies Get You.” “When you lie,” my mother said, waving her cigarette and blowing smoke into our faces, “pretty soon you can’t tell the difference between your lies and the truth. You always end up lying to yourself.” Words to live by.

Now fast-forward 25 years, my mother is dying of lung cancer, having convinced herself there was no “real” evidence linking cancer with smoking. She has ostensibly quit when she was diagnosed five years before. And Daddy comes to us in tears. “I have something to tell you guys,” he says. I’m thinking, What? Did you cheat on her, did you quit the church, are you yourself dying?—these are the worst things I can think of. I have only ever three times before in my life seen my six-foot-two Dad cry: when his oldest sister died before he could say goodbye; when he disowned me when I was 23 (by this time he had reversed that ruling, which he’d issued by proxy anyway, at the behest of my mother); and when he first held my newborn son. The sight shook me to my core.

“What, Dad?”

“Your mother has been smoking all this time.”

My sister and I looked at each other.“Pfff!” she said. “Dad, take it easy. We knew that.”

But he hadn’t known. For five years, he’d believed her when she told him she was no longer smoking. Talk about point-blank lying. And if my sister and I knew, there is no way he couldn’t have come across some evidence. He lied to himself about it, to protect her from his poor opinion, and to protect himself from disappointment. And the previous generations had ignored each other’s deceit.

This is the way addiction—unrecovered addiction—works. It was then I decided I could never tell him about all her other lies. And he died in 2007 not knowing about them.