Relapse-Reset & Rigerous Honesty Sucks

I picked up my 60 day chip on Monday night. It made me feel like shit.

When I got sober, from alcohol, in 2013, each milestone felt amazing. This just feels crappy.

Rigorous honesty sucks. I feel like quitting AA again, just so I can walk around saying I have 3+ years of sobriety. White knuckle it, again. It worked so well the last time. :/

Being a weak ass addict sucks too. I am not even sure, right at this moment, that if a Vicodin landed on my desk, I wouldn’t take it, and that REALLY sucks.

It has entered my mind just to say fuck it to all of it, and chuck it all.

The damage is done, I could go back to my old ways, then quit again, and be where I am right now. In my warped thinking, that would feel like a true reset.

Go big or go home.

 

 

Not Drinking–The Superpower by Tommy Rosen

I haven’t had much to say lately, just living life on life’s terms and getting by one day at a time.

I saw this online today, and it really resonated with me.

I hope you all enjoy it.

A few years ago, my wife, Kia Miller, led a yoga retreat for about 30 people in Costa Rica. Six of us there were in recovery from addiction. Within a day, we kind of discovered each other, as we often do. It usually happens through certain telltale words and phrases that we have come to use as a result of our involvement in 12-Step recovery.

One night, we decided to have a meeting amongst ourselves and gathered around an out-of-the-way table. Another man in our group saw us together there and humbly asked if he could sit in. He had never been to a 12-Step meeting, but wanted to experience it. We were grateful to have him join.

One by one we briefly shared about our journey in recovery to this point. The shares were honest and powerful. There was a feeling of true connection. We were at once completely different from one another, yet so much the same.

The newcomer shared last and by this point he had heard a lot more than I think he was ready for. Hesitantly and with an apologetic demeanor, he stated that he drank regularly and had no intention of stopping. He explained further that he drank pretty much every evening. Sometimes he would get good and drunk. Other times just a little bit. He did admit that he was a bit concerned about the frequency and amount he was drinking, but despite his concerns, he was adamant that drinking was a normal part of life and he mostly enjoyed it. With each sentence, as he further bolstered his position, he kept apologizing for himself while the rest of us encouraged him to simply state his truth.

When the meeting was over, he took me to the side and said, “Tommy, I’m so sorry for what I did.”

“What did you do?” I asked sincerely.

He said, “You all are not able to drink and here I am, a guy who is stating that I can drink. I’m rubbing it in your faces. I can only imagine that this must be hard for you all.”

There was this awkward moment where I realized he thought we were jealous of him. I felt terrible for him in that moment. From his point of view, a life without drinking alcohol could not be a good life and anyone who HAD to stay sober must be terribly jealous of those fortunates who could happily imbibe. He could not conceive of the idea that we were truly happy and content NOT to be drinkers. He could not imagine that we would not change places with him under any circumstances.

This was a profound exchange for me. I saw through this man’s perspective how most of our society thinks. The majority of people in the United States drink alcohol regularly. Most people who drink think that people who don’t drink are, at best, missing something and, at worst, are living in what they imagine to be a depressed state of sobriety. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have not had a drug or drink for 23 years. When I first gave up those things, I, too, was in a deluded state of mind where I could not imagine life without alcohol and drugs. How would I get through the day? How would I connect with anyone? What would I do to pass the time? What would I do to cut my anxiety? The life I had known and built for myself revolved around drugs and alcohol. Thus, it was impossible at that moment for me to know what a life could be without those things.

I remember what it felt like to be in the “in between” phase. I knew I could not continue to live the way I had been, but I preferred to try to make it work than surrender to the idea that I had to let go of my way of life (read: my precious drugs and alcohol) and build something new.

This is the great challenge for anyone who gets sober. One must build a new way of being seemingly from scratch without knowing in advance what this is going to look like and how it is going to feel. To get clean and sober is to build a new identity, one much more rooted in truth and presence than illusion and avoidance. At first it is challenging, but ultimately it is immensely rewarding. And I believe this would be the case for nearly anyone, not just alcoholics and addicts who have to give it up.

I was speaking with my friend, Grant Johnson, recently who a little over a year ago, decided to stop drinking alcohol. Grant does not consider himself to be an alcoholic, but he did not like the overall effect that alcohol was having on his life. He let it go and now has had a year of experience with a different approach. This is not a person who, quietly desperate, counts the minutes till he can drink again. In fact, he is not thinking about it. He’s just out there living his life and reaping the benefits of a person who happens not to drink. Grant told me that to not drink is such an act of strength that he actually considers it to be a “superpower”. I just love that.

If you are like me and had to get sober, you may come to know that “in between” phase. It might just suck for a while as you develop a new life for yourself. Hang in there and allow yourself to develop. It takes time and therefore patience. It takes action and vigilance. It takes support and love.

While there are those people who unfortunately get stuck in recovery and do not grow beyond their misery, this is neither the norm, nor necessary. Do not fall prey to the mistaken idea that people in recovery and others who simply decide not to drink are miserable and longing to drink again.

The emphasis has to be on well-being. My recovery mantra is: “Don’t just survive addiction. Thrive in recovery.” I believe people in recovery must work toward the great shift from staying sober out of fear and necessity to staying sober out of love for the life they get to live as the result of staying sober. Once a person has made this shift, it is very likely they will excel in life.

My story is different than Grant’s. I had to stop because drugs and alcohol nearly killed me, but today, Grant and I share something in common. We have developed a superpower. Neither of us drinks and we are not concerned about whether we ever do again.

ANONYMITY IT’S PERSONAL

imagesThe topic at Monday night’s AA meeting was anonymity. There are two schools of thought on this subject in recovery.  You either want to be anonymous, or you don’t.

There is a movement to take anonymity out of recovery.  The premise is that remaining anonymous is synonymous with shame.  If recovery has faces attached to it, people will begin to realize that addiction affects people in all walks of life.  There are 23 million people in recovery.

The “old timers” and “Big Book thumper’s” stand by the 11th tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film.”

My home group consists of mostly old timers.  Most have double digit years of sobriety.  There is a lot of knowledge around the tables in that room, and I have learned so much.

A year ago, a newly sober man started to attend the group.  Within a week or two, I had named him Blow Hard.  He came into the rooms with an air of “I got this”, he has never asked for help or a sponsor.  My opinion is he is a lurker, counting days, and sporadically attending meetings. In my opinion, he never really adds anything, and always makes some self serving comment about himself so that we all get that he used to be “somebody”.  I am not enamored, and prefer it when he doesn’t show up.

There are a lot of men at this meeting, and only a few women.  One of the ladies is absolutely lovely.  Very gentile, very southern, loves to bake, and is the go to desert maker for any sober birthdays.  Intuitively I knew that she regards her privacy, sobriety and anonymity as sacred.  Unfortunately this was not clear to Blow Hard.

Blow Hard broke the cardinal rule of AA, he opened his mouth and broke lovely ladies (LL) anonymity.  Blow Hard shared LL’s story with his wife, who then approached LL at church and regurgitated it word for word.  LL was devastated and angry to say the least.  LL shared this story with us two weeks ago.  Blow Hard had not been at a meeting in weeks, so LL thought that the breach might have made him find a new group.  Nope.

We have another gentleman, X,  who sporadically comes to the Monday night meeting.  I have been intrigued by him since the first time I heard him speak.  I knew he had a lot of sobriety, and was very knowledgeable about the Big Book and AA.  Each time he had attended the group, he had added a unique perspective to the discussion.  I always felt there was more underneath and wished he would attend more often, so I could get some more of what he had.

The planets aligned Monday night.  Blow Hard, LL, and X all were at the meeting.  I could see by LL’s face that she was quite agitated that Blow Hard was there, and seated next to her.  Just as the meeting began, X came in the door.

The moderator began, and asked for a topic for discussion..  X immediately seized the moment.  He had just seen a post  on Facebook from someone announcing their 6 month sobriety.  He was incensed that the 11th Tradition had been violated. This set the topic of discussion.  Anonymity versus personal disclosure.

As the discussion continued, I could see LL getting more agitated. She eventually blew her stack.  She let it all out, she called him out on it, and then went on to warn us all to be very careful about what we shared in that meeting because it could happen to any one of us.  Our private stories could be broadcast to anyone by Blow Hard, he does not understand the anonymous in Alcoholics Anonymous.

I do not broadcast that I am an alcoholic or that I attend AA and am in recovery.  I share the information with people I trust and I am comfortable with, people I choose.  I blog anonymously, but there are some bloggers who know who I am, and a little bit about me.  I believe it is a personal choice, and I get to make it  I also know that if all bloggers were anonymous, I would not be sober today.  This is where I came to get sober, so many people helped me anonymously and personally, with names, emails and telephone numbers.  I thank each and every one.

I can also understand the “old timers” adherence to the Big Book and the 11th tradition.  It has worked for 75 years, why change it now?

The choice should always be your own, no one else should get to do it for you.

So What Really Happens in an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting? by Jean-Paul Bedard

aa_logo_2I wish I had read this prior to my first AA meeting, it would have been very helpful and alleviated some of my knee knocking fear.

No one, and mean no one, walks through the doors of their first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting feeling “happy, joyous, and free.” The prospect of spending countless hours in damp church basements and community centers, in the company of other twitching, coffee-swilling addicts doesn’t do much to warm the soul.

By the time I found my way to the rooms of AA, I was desperate to try anything, but truth be told, I came in looking for a way out. There was no denying I had a drinking problem, but like most people in recovery rooms, my addiction was merely a symptom of a much more deeply rooted problem. Alcoholism is cunning in that it is an illness that continually whispers and enchants by trying to convince the addict that you are different; you can have just one, and this time you’ll be able to control yourself. The irony is that the alcohol never solves anything — It just buries problems and feelings that invariably bubble their way to the surface like a festering boil.

And here in lies the problem — every alcoholic is an unwitting player acting out his or her part not in a tragic comedy, but in a comic tragedy. The best description I’ve ever read about the insanity of alcoholism comes from Dr. Vincent Felitti, who said: “It is hard to get enough of something that almost works.” That is certainly how it played out for me. From the first drink to my last alcoholic binge, I was chasing a solution that never quite worked. It is in this space of “not quite working” that the greatest devastation unfolds in the alcoholic’s personal and professional life. There is not an active alcoholic on the planet who doesn’t cause collateral damage. Like ripples in a pond, the chaotic dissonance is far-reaching.

When I finally reached that point of being sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, I grudgingly agreed to give Alcoholics Anonymous a try. Although I was willing to go to any lengths to get my drink or drug, the same could not be said for my foray into recovery. I’m an addict, so naturally I want the quickest fix possible. I called the 1-800 number in the phone book, and asked the polite lady on the other end of the phone if she could send out some AA pamphlets to me in the mail. At that point, I was still convinced I could get sober simply by reading the “How-To Guide.” Surprise… It doesn’t work that way. The volunteer on the phone asked me where I lived, and she told me that there was a meeting just down the street from me starting in a couple of hours.

When the time came, I walked down the street towards a group of men and women smoking and laughing on the sidewalk near the side entrance to the church basement. Careful not to make any eye contact whatsoever, I slipped past the group and made my way to the door, where I was greeted by a guy, who must have been a bouncer in his former life, who said: “Welcome to the Friendly Group. Grab a coffee and grab a seat.”

Many of you may be wondering what an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting looks like, so let me give you a quick AA primer. I’ve been to meetings throughout North America and some in Europe, and generally, they all follow the same format. There are two types of AA meetings: closed meetings and open meetings. Open meetings are exactly what they sound like — they are open to alcoholics and to anyone else who wants to attend. Typically, after the initial announcements, and the reading of the 12 Steps and12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, one alcoholic will come up to the front and share his or her story of strength, hope, and recovery. On the other hand, closed meetings are for alcoholics and for those who think they may have a problem with alcohol. These meetings also begin with the reading of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, and are followed by a group reading or discussion based on one of the steps or traditions, or a topic related to recovery.

I’ve been attending AA meetings for almost 18 years now, and in that entire time, I’ve managed to stay clean and sober one day at a time. After the thousands of hours I’ve spent in recovery meetings, I can say I’m certain of only a few things. First, despite what many people believe, AA is not a cult. It’s just a group of alcoholics trying to figure out how to stay sober by helping the next guy or gal stay sober. Two, no matter how shitty I feel before walking into a meeting, I always feel a little better after it’s over. Three, going to meetings is like holding up a mirror to your sobriety. It’s impossible to see the changes in me since I’ve stopped drinking, but by looking around the room at others with different amounts of sobriety and encountering varying struggles and joys, I’m able to see myself in each and every other person in the room. And finally, having to sit in a chair for 60 or 90 minutes and listen to other alcoholics as they listen to me, is a much needed lesson in patience.

Eighteen years later, I still have days where I desperately want a drink, but I remind myself that no matter how bad I’m feeling and no matter what problem I have, if I pick up that first drink, I’ll still have that problem, but now I’ll be right back in the caustic belly of my addiction. Today I consider myself a grateful alcoholic, and I now realize that I don’t have a drinking problem — I have a living problem.

Originally posted on Huffington Post 1/15/2015

PADDLING THE HOLIDAY RAPIDS

Whitewater-Rafting-boat

Last year I went white water rafting with my daughter and my running buddy.  It was a great trip.  My pal, John, owns a small motor home, and we drove through the mountains of Tennessee in comfort.  I had never ridden in a motor home before, so it was a first, and it was fun.

We got to the Ocoee Rafting Company ready to battle the rapids.  It was summer, but it wasn’t a very nice day.  It was cold and rainy.  We figured, who cares, we were going to get wet anyway.

We were assigned a raft, loaded into a van, and went down to the “put in” spot.  Prior to “putting in” we sat in the raft, and received a lesson in paddling commands.

All forward;  all paddle forward.

All back; all paddle back

Left turn; the left side of the boat paddles

Right turn: the right side of the boat paddles

Over right; everyone in the boat gets on the right side

Over left; everyone in the boat gets on the left side

Get down; get to the bottom of the boat, quickly

I feel like I have been adrift in this raft throughout this holiday season.

We made the plans to be in Florida close to 18 months ago.  At the time, neither of my children were living at home, and I was actively drinking large quantities of wine every night.  It sounded awesome, sign me up, fun in the sun, drinking in bars and on the beach!  Boo yah!

Then in November of 2013, I was struck, by who knows what, and decided it was time to give up alcohol, and get sober.

Last year’s holiday season was s struggle.  I think I was unknowingly going through PAWS, and the holiday’s were hard, really, really hard.

This year I thought, been there, done that.I wasn’t cocky, still vigilant, but here comes the holiday season, easy peasy, right?

Wrong.  My son moved home, my mother is dying, and I am in Florida, with my husband and a pile of regrets.

December has been difficult.  I have been filled with guilt about my son being alone for Christmas, and not being in Missouri with my mother, as this may be her last Christmas.

I didn’t think any of this through thoroughly enough to remember to pack the small Christmas tree.  Therefore, no decorations. There is no cold weather.  Christmas lights in palm trees just don’t give off that Christmasy feeling.  There was no Bailey’s on Christmas Eve, and no red wine with the Christmas roast.

I have hopped into this raft, and have been paddling like mad to keep from hitting all the obstacles the have been placed in the way.

Paddling forward, getting up each morning and trying to be in the NOW.

Paddling backward, resetting my brain every time it drags me into my pile of guilt, or sadness over where I am NOT, instead of where I am.

Hopping to the left side to avoid the Christmas Eve Bailey’s craving.  Hopping to the right to get around the longing for red wine to have with the roast.

I feel like I am in the bottom of the boat every day when I wake up here in Florida, and not in my own home.  I lie there, take a mental inventory and remind myself that I have a lot to be grateful for.  I give myself a mental slap, and go through the list.

I am here, I am sober, I managed to remain sober through a difficult Christmas, and my son was fine being on his own.My mother spent the holiday with my brother and his family, she had a great time.

I have so much to be grateful for, and if I keep my thoughts in the present, I can make it through another day, where I continuously remind myself that relaxing is not supposed to be so much work.

FALLING FORWARD

I just saw the movie You’re not You.  This song is at the end, and it really resonated with me.  This is how I feel about my sobriety, this journey and my sponsor.

At least I am falling forward.

Finally I’m laying down these arms
The ones I held so close to see me through
And I’m just like a sparrow in a barn
I’m flyin’ for that tiny patch of blue
I dive head-first into the dark
I don’t look back, I just keep stumbling
I trip and fall
I hit the ground, I skin my knees
I just keep going
I made a mess, I’ve been a mess, I guess
And guess what – life is messy
And if I learned anything
At least I’m falling forward
Because of you
I’m fallin’ forward

BEWARE OF MR BAKER

BoMB_BG

Last night we watched the documentary, Beware of Mr. Baker, about Ginger Baker the epochal drummer.  He was the creative genius behind the iconic band Cream, and was he the drummer for Blind Faith.

His story is incredible, and disturbing.  He was one of those people who never had a musical lesson, he just had perfect timing, when he heard the music, he could just play it, and play it really well.

One of his early inspirations was the jazz drummer Phillip Seamen.  Not only did Phil Seamen introduce Ginger Baker to jazz drumming, he also introduced him to heroin.  Ginger Baker was an addict for the better part of his life.

The documentary shows his life, his addiction, and his nasty, terrible personality.  It was his personality that ruined his career, along with his prolific use of drugs.  He amassed and lost fortunes a multitude of times.

Ginger Baker claims that Eric Clapton, his band-mate from both Cream and Blind Faith is one of his closest friends.  They interview Eric throughout the documentary.  I came away thinking that Eric Clapton was less a friend than a person who watched Ginger Baker implode from drug abuse, something that Eric Clapton had to distance himself from.  During the course of the film, Eric Clapton admits that he hasn’t seen Ginger Baker in years  because he couldn’t be around him due to his lifestyle choices.

I was never a big fan of Cream or Blind Faith, but Eric Clapton is one of my all time favorite musicians.  He is an amazing guitar player, song writer, and musician.  I have seen him live multiple times, and he never fails to be amazing.

Eric Clapton is in long term recovery, he was addicted to heroin and alcohol.  He got sober in 1989, six years before he lost his son in a tragic accident.  He is also a founding partner The Crossroads Center in Antigua, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

“Prior to the time that Clapton decided to get sober in 1987, he addicted to heroin and alcohol, crashed cars, attempted suicide more than once, survived growing up in a broken home and dealt with a litany of health problems.

As mentioned above, he attempted suicide many times…..”the only thing that stopped me was the realization that if I were dead I would not be able to drink anymore.”

Fast forward to 2013, Clapton is nearly 26 years clean and sober despite suffering the death of his child six years into sobriety. Clapton, speaking publicly, on several occasions has credited his sobriety with not only aiding him in surviving tragedy but aiding in his self-awareness.

Since getting clean and sober, not only has he penned the biggest song of his career, he has written a book and released several successful CDs.

Congratulations on 25 years of sobriety Clapton. We can’t wait to see what you will produce during the next 25 years.

To all the newly sober people out there, not that it has to be this way but let Clapton be an example of what you can face, overcome and remain clean and sober through.”  Recovery Now, DeShawn McQueen.

The documentary is unwittingly a juxtaposition of addiction and recovery.  Ginger Baker remained an addict, and continued to ruin his life.  Eric Clapton got sober, and his world has continued to get better.

Recovery works.

Keeping it Green

god

 

I live every sober day with the fear of relapse.  It is always in the back of my mind.  For all 333 days of sobriety, I have had 333 days of fear, fear of drinking again.

I often think that at this point in my sobriety, closing in on a year, I should not still be having cravings  feeling triggers, or still be thinking about drinking, but I do and I am.  This makes me nervous, and that translates into fear.

I am still aware of the drinking going on around me.  I am not as hypervigilant as I was in the beginning, but it is still there.  There are still certain visual triggers.  Certain bottles of wine, names of vineyards, and family gatherings are all palatable trigger points.

I was at my home group meeting two weeks ago, and a gentleman shared a story.  He was at a meeting where a man received his 19 year medallion.  The holiday season was in full swing, and the man with 19 years disappeared from the weekly meeting he always attended.  A month went by, he returned and picked up a 24 hour chip.

He had seen a holiday advertisment for Kahlua and coffee.  He went out, bought a bottle of Kahlua, and proceeded to have just ONE.  The next thing he remembers is waking up in detox.

I sat there flabbergasted.  Thinking to myself, HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN???  WILL THAT HAPPEN TO ME??  WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN??

This past Monday night, I went to my home group with 12 the Hard Ways post, Back to Zero fresh in my mind.  I was having a pre meeting meeting with one of the old timers.  I was telling her about the blog post, and how it affected me, and how afraid I was that it was eventually and inevitably going to happen to me.

The meeting moderator asked for a topic for discussion, she threw COMPLACENCY  and relapse on the table.

The discussion was enlightening.

I constantly hear the old timers say that staying sober has to be the number one priority of every day.  I had listened to that so many times, but until Monday night’s discussion, I never really HEARD it.

My home group is mostly made up of old timers.  The stories and the wisdom are fascinating.  Everyone had a relapse story.  Either their own or someone they had met along the way.

Each story ended the same way.  The person in recovery stopped tending to their sobriety.  They stopped going to meetings.  They stopped doing their readings, they stopped meditating, the stopped tending the garden of sobriety.  They stopped keeping it green.

Instead of getting up each day and doing the work, they told themselves; I got this, no problem.  They became complacent.

As they were sharing, I began to think, great, more work to do.  Then I realized, I am doing the work.  I do it every day.  I read sober blogs, my daily meditation, my Big Book, and my 12 & 12.  I go to recovery websites, I read sober posts on Twitter, and Facebook.  I text or talk to my incredible sponsor.

What I learned is I need to work at this program, come hell or high water.  Whether my mother is dying, or my son is under- employed and living in my house, or I am knocked around by any of the other obstacles that life throws at me.  I have to do the work to stay sober, every day.  I can’t take a chance on thinking, I will do that work tomorrow, because that is the day I will end up drinking.  I can’t become complacent.

I often wondered why my home group was filled with so many people with an amazing accumulation of years sober.  Why did they still have to come to meetings?  Aren’t they bored with the program after so many years?  They may be but they can’t afford to become complacent.

I have worked very hard to get here.  The fear of relapse is still there, but now I look at it as a positive emotion, it will remind me to do the work that will keep me sober.

I have to keep working, because it only works if you work it.

I have to keep it green.

 

green

 

 

This Commercial Break Brought to you by Budweiser

My husband was watching the first game of the World Series Wednesday night.  I was in the room, reading.  I looked up in time to catch the end of a new Budweiser advertisement that was created to air during the World Series.

My initial reaction was, WHAT??  What happened to “Drink Responsibly”?

Yesterday, I watched the full commercial on YouTube.

Of course, the ad is well done, and the story tugs at your heart strings.  A man and his dog, an age old story.

Who doesn’t love a dog?  It is especially heartwarming after the montage of the dog and man bonding.  Growing from puppy to full grown dog and trusted companion.

After watching the commercial a few times, I still had the same feeling.  The message it was perpetuating was wrong.

I spent time Goggling reviews of this commercial.  All the analysts seem to love it.  Although I got the sense that they love the adorable dog, and handsome man more than the message.

The commercial is tagged by Budweiser:

“Next time you go out, be sure to make a plan to get home safely. Your friends are counting on you. Enjoy Budweiser responsibly. #FriendsAreWaiting,”

A bit of an oxymoron, don’t you think?  If you are drinking responsibly, you should be able to drive home, correct?

For a recovering alcoholic, I find the commercial disturbing.  The way I interpret it is thus; go out, drink as much as you want, get drunk, and pass out at a friends because you are far to inebriated to drive home.

License to drink irresponsibly, woot!

Upon returning home in the morning, your trusty companion will be waiting at the door.

He will not have gone through the garbage, chewed on the furniture, or crapped on the rug while you were out .  He will be concerned and awaiting patiently on your beautiful leather sofa, like a concerned human, just happy you made it home, finally, safely.

I find this ad to be the antithesis of the “Drink Responsibly” campaign.

I find it unsettling, and feel that its message is way off mark.