Having a Holiday Plan to Stay Sober

When I first got sober, it was hard to imagine a day without a drink.  And at times, it was hard to imagine an hour without a drink.  Thank God and my home group, kept me glued together, let me know of things that were outside my comfort zone and took me to events before I dared to show up by myself.

“We Will Love You Until You Love Yourself”

This saying is one of the very many I heard when I first came in.  It is also one of the very many that has changed in meaning as my recovery has grown and deepened.  At first it meant, someone welcoming me when I showed up to a meeting I had never been to. Or when I shared something painful, a compassionate look or a gentle touch of someone that sent the message to me “You’re Not Alone.”  I needed to have lots of those moments to realize this was the real deal – This Place –R E C O V E R Y was where I belonged. Somewhere along the way, I was able to begin to give back to my home group, my friends and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Because this fellowship filled my heart with love so then I could love.

It is okay if your family of origin makes you crazy.  It’s okay if you need a break to get away.  And it is really okay, if you can find someplace safe, safe and sober to run to, to recharge the batteries, to stay sober. Especially, if you are traveling out of town, or even back to your home town, take a few minutes to look up some meetings.  Find out where they are and what time they are being held.

Make A Plan

Even though my family may have not have been driving me nuts at the very moment, I have a plan to have a meeting in the schedule each day. I find it helps me maintain.  It gives me my space and time to salute and nurture my recovery.  If you are up here in Maine, we have Alca-thons over the holidays that hold meetings 24 hours a day during the tough times of the Holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, we have something going on that is a sober alternative.  I know in my house holidays where the HIGH HOLY DRINKING DAYS of the year and we all knew where we could stock up when some of our favorite stores were closed.

Stock Up on Meetings

Instead of searching for a “Beer Store” (as my Dad would call it), I make sure I don’t have to search for a meeting because I all ready know where one is and where my real friends are!  I can leave chaos and find serenity.

Happy New Year!

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Nothing Like a Good Snowstorm!

Today in Maine we are having a snowstorm.  One of those all day specials.  Started around 6 this morning and still going strong. Our office is closed but as a “Distributed Workforce” we can work remotely as a normal way of doing business.  This was one of the reasons, I was able to isolate and drink privately.  As long as I could type and respond when needed, no one suspected that I had a “problem.”

Snow Days were Snow DAZE

When the weather is frightful the bottle is so delightful!  On these stormy days, most of our business conversations online with each other were about the travel, school closing early or being canceled.  I could hold it together for that and meanwhile “pace myself” alone at my desk and my computer screen. There is something cozy about being nestled in to my home office, garage door closed. Knowing I had stocked up.

Today is a Different Snow Day

Last night a friend of mine in the program sent me a text saying “There is no reason for you to drive tomorrow, let me pick you up for the morning meeting.”  WOW that was a gift.  Our morning meetings as I have mentioned previously in this blog, are at a Homeless Shelter in our city.  We never cancel.  There is so much early recovery happening, we knock ourselves out to make sure the meeting is opened.  So often it is the only meeting people get to – they LIVE there. The homeless shelter never closes.

At 6:55am the lights of my friend’s big 4 x 4 truck come up my driveway and off we go.  And at 7:30 the meeting goes on as scheduled. Someone living at the shelter had made the coffee for us and others helped set up the room.  As the meeting unfolded in the usual “round robin” discussion format, one in the group said, “WOW, wouldn’t this be a great day to sit home and drink!”  It was true.  In another life, that would be what I was doing and about this time of the morning, I would be battling off the shakes with a little vodka latte.

Today, I have worked steadily most of the day with a break for a romp in the snow with my dogs.  The snow is still coming down steady, we should be at about a foot before it is done.  And here I am comfortable in my skin not struggling with hiding ANYTHING.  Freedom.

Thank you Higher Power and my friends in AA that helped me stay sober today.

The Letter

I recently got “Drunk Dialed.”  It was later on in the morning around 10:30 and it was one of my old friends. I must say my old best friend.  We often spoke early in the day, one of us needing the other, most of the time we were planning where we were going to “drink lunch.” It has been 2 1/2 years since I have been a participant in that type of call.

History

Like many of us, when I decided to make changes in my life, most of my friends did not. Most of my friends drank like I did, most of my friends are still drinking like I did.  I cannot say they are alcoholic, that is for them to decide.  But when I decided “enough was enough” my daily decisions did not include where I was drinking and therefore did not include my old friends.  There was no blow up, no arguments or sharp words.  We just didn’t see each other very often anymore.

“I Decided I Have to Stop Drinking”

Was the first sentence I said to my friend on June 21, 2013 over the phone.  I then continued, “I decided I am going to go to AA.” I had been to my first 3 meetings the day before.  She said something like, “Just take a break, you will be all right, just slow down a little.”  I continued on to say that I wouldn’t be joining her for lunch and not to take it personally.  I just couldn’t drink anymore.

It was a short call.  But I said “my peace,” there was no yelling, I remember I was sad. Knowing that I was closing the door on my best friend.  She was someone I did a lot of things with, certainly all of them included drinking but we were close and we could always talk to each other.

The weeks went on and I am not exactly sure how long it was – a few months maybe.  She called, we met for lunch in a place we normally didn’t go.  I didn’t drink and she drank some wine.  It was awkward feeling I remember, we didn’t talk about AA but she saw that I wasn’t drinking.  We talked about the people we knew, her kids, my dogs, normal stuff.

Probably in the past 2 1/2 years we have been together 4 or 5 times when before it was 4 or 5 times a week.  I don’t push my program.  I just try and live it.  I have talked to her probably 10 times on the phone, sometimes it sounds like she has been drinking and sometimes not.  Lately, I have felt like my Higher Power is nudging me along to reconnect with her on a more “personal” level.  Her last phone call was so sad I have had a hard time getting it out of my head.  I sometimes wonder if she even remembers that I told her about AA those 2 1/2 years ago.

Today Was The Day

I have spoken about this conundrum in meetings lately and prayed about it.  I finally decided to write her a note.  It is the Holidays after all and today I did it.  I was short and sweet, I put it down on paper:

I cannot believe that it has been 2 ½ years since I stopped drinking.  I would be lying if I said my life hasn’t changed.  It has.  I actually want to live now. The morning I called you that summer and told you I stopped drinking and started going to AA was the day I thought I was going to die.  The problem was, I wasn’t dying fast enough.  I mean I didn’t have a shot gun in my mouth or anything but I sure felt like life wasn’t worth living.  I felt pretty lonely and very scared.

There  were a few more paragraphs, but that one above is the meat and potatoes of the note. I wanted to open the door that I was still going to meetings and perhaps if I told her how I was feeling when I started AA, she may think about it.  She may consider calling me for help.

Stay Tuned

As I have said in this blog before, stay tuned.  As I live life on life’s terms, I will keep you posted.  I do feel better that I have done something with the “little voice” I kept hearing to tell me to reach out to her.  A letter is something that a person can read when the time is right or they can burn it if they choose.  I do feel a lot better about it now that it is in the mail no matter which choice she makes.

 

Being Nice to Myself and it was FREE!

My last post talked a little about “self care.” I had no idea what that meant.  I had lived in chaos either created by others that I hung out with or I created myself, I had no idea that there was such an idea as no chaos.  Chaos was my normal.  Chaos made me choose drinking, when I didn’t know how to deal with chaos/life.

Change of Pace

When I stopped drinking, I unplugged my coping mechanism.  But the chaos was still around me, the chaos was still in me.  And If I hadn’t had meetings to go to, I would have no idea that this was normal  but, there were other options other than drinking. And how would I? It was a lifetime solution and it was my father’s solution. This was my first introduction to being nice to myself. Giving myself credit for trying to do something different.  Something that certainly looked better.  Seeing people around a room, people that felt just like me and were dealing with life without drinking or drugs.  So I took a deep breath and said to myself, “I want this and I am working for it.”  That was being nice to myself.

Hypersensitive

Chaos for me hid in some very unexpected places.  People and family were obvious.  Traffic and my phone also obvious.  But what I didn’t know was that as I was in early recovery everything seemed overwhelming.  I was still in the detoxing stage I think. Though the shakes had stopped, I found I had fog in my head. I would cry or feel like crying.  Most of the time, I didn’t know why.  Again, someone in the fellowship told me it was “normal.”

If you drive, do you ever find that when you get into bad weather or a tense situation you turn off or down the radio without even thinking about it?  Well, that’s me.  I learned early in recovery that the music on the radio or on my ipod that I had been listening to when I was drinking caused some anxiety. Just hearing it. Some people called it a “trigger.”  It didn’t make me run to a drink, but it did make me feel that same chaos that over time may have made me choose to drink.  I stopped listening to that music like I had been.  I listen to it again a little now, but I have noticed that something more mellow helped to soothe me rather than “revving me up.”  I learned that listening to different music (or no music at all), was being nice to myself.

And it was FREE.

“Alcoholism Wants You DEAD But It Will Settle for Miserable”

Another meeting gem.  This quote is one of the hundreds that I have heard in meetings and many of them I have written down in a book that I carry in my purse.  Especially in the early days of Recovery, I would hear things and sometimes I didn’t understand them at all.  Or I would be offended or fearful. Later on, I may have heard the exact same thing, a different day, later on in my Recovery and I may have had a completely different understanding or feelings around it.

I understood that “Alcoholism wanted me dead but would settle for miserable.” Because I was miserable, and like Step 1 says, “my life was unmanageable.” Early on, I knew that was true.  But I had no idea to what extent Alcoholism wanted me to be miserable, I only knew I was indeed miserable when I came into the Fellowship. As the days have gone by, I have learned just how miserable and self-loathing I had become.

No Magic Wand

There was no wrinkling of my nose, snapping of my fingers and “TA DA” everything was great again. I still am not all that kind to myself.  I want to be prettier, I want to be thinner, I want to be in better physical shape.  But in time, as long as I stay away from a drink, I have faith I will get there.  Another term used often was “Self-Care.”

While drinking, I only took care of myself enough so people didn’t smell booze on my breath, I carried around eye drops or blamed my bloodshot eyes on allergies (which I do have allergies but not 365 days a year). I did just enough to get by, so people wouldn’t know I was in crisis.  That I was a drunk.

Starting Small

It has taken a while, but I stopped punishing myself for everything that went right or wrong.  I took up yoga and started meditating.  I started shaving my legs regularly, may sound silly before I didn’t notice if I was shaving my legs or underneath my arms, I pretended that I didn’t care, when in reality what I was doing was spending lots of energy not caring and continued to harm myself by drinking constantly.  Harming myself was something I would learn to become a master at, along with manipulating myself.  If you asked me when I was drinking if I was harming myself, I honestly think I would have chosen not to answer the question or made a joke of it. I was my own worst enemy.

At The End of the Day

Before bed and after my prayers, I usually put lotion on my feet.  Thank my feet for carrying around my body all day. Last winter I didn’t even get cracks in my heels! Felt great!  I also try to write a few things down on a Gratitude List.  3-5 things, nothing huge but it’s a way to take some inventory of my day and be grateful for the little things. I read a few passages. None of these things cost much, most cost nothing, except time and focus on me and that I count for something.  That I matter.  If I don’t stop and notice, I won’t change.  I don’t want to be miserable anymore.  Doing these small things consistently have changed my life.

Anonymity Is the Spiritual Foundation…

Of all our traditions ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” Not quite sure how to correctly punctuate that, but you know what I mean.

There are a bunch of sayings in AA that have resonated with me.  Some of them at first I didn’t like, some of them meant a particular thing when I first heard them and over time as my thinking changed, the meanings changed – usually they became deeper and more meaningful.  And this particular one really means so much more than when I first entered “The Halls.”

Keeping a Secret

When I was out there drinking, I was always the person people would come to me with their problems, ideas, dreams  and I would listen.  I still do that now and like then, I never tell a secret.  This is something some people have to get used to, some of them tell me things thinking that I will pass on their story, they learn quickly, what I am told, I keep to myself.  Your story is yours.

Gossip

Is not my deal. I value when people trust me to be a good listener, help someone process feelings or ideas without another person judging them.  It is also not my deal to use their information as a weapon or power  to make more friends.  Gossip is generally hurtful.  Hurt feelings are the worst. When I was drinking, I was great at hurting myself, beat myself up, I had no idea.  Now that I really understand what hurt is, I am really not willing to do that to someone else.

“I am a Writer,”  THERE, I said it!

Ever since I can remember, I have gone through periods where I have written down my thoughts and feelingsin a journal, it was a way for me to sort them out.  As I have gotten older, I have written a vast array of things. White papers, technical articles, web copy and content for many companies, it was their story.  I am a good listener and I can write.  Could it be a gift from my Higher Power?

Writing this blog was the first time I really focused on writing for myself.  I put it down for a while and then it comes back and haunts me until I write again.  I wonder if it is my Higher Power telling me this is what I need to do, it is easy for me and I really enjoy it.  I even have a book in mind. A recovery journey book.

Good Ole Janis

As I mentioned early in this blog, Janis La Joie is not my real name.  I wanted a way to process my feelings without concern of people knowing who I was.  Let’s be clear, all the feelings and situations are honest ones, they happened, I felt them.  The only thing in disguise is MY NAME, TOWN I LIVE IN, stuff that I would prefer non-program people who have their own baggage not know about.  No one should try and recover under a microscope including me.  Recovery is hard enough with all the shame and guilt I have of my own to get through, I don’t need others and  “their $hit”  to complicate my recovery journey.

Making the Leap

NO, I am not hiring a skywriter that “outs” me.  But I have created a FB profile for Janis and all her recovery shares that really don’t work to use in this blog format.  Please come and join me – friend me.  I will not post anything on anyone’s wall that indicates Recovery.  I will post things on my wall that you may feel free to share or you may comment if you like. You may “Direct or Private” message me through FB if you would like.  As I have heard in the program many of us hit such a public bottom (aka train wreck), that anonymity is not an issue.  But I don’t make that decision for other people and neither does Janis.  So come over to Facebook so we can keep better in touch.  The blog will be more active than ever but if you are like me your FB is always open!

Remembering that recovery is “One Day At A Time.”