Creature of Habit

When I was drinking I had my habits.  Mostly my drinking habits.  In the end, my life revolved around when and where I could drink.  My nerves were so frazzled, my self-esteem so fried, I had to know when the next opportunity would avail itself that I would be able to get that drink.  Just to “take the edge off,” I would say to myself.  I found myself scheduling my day around it.  It is hard to believe now that was how my life was, but it was.  Once I stopped drinking, going to a lot of meetings and doing the Steps -has really changed everything.

A Routine

In my first few weeks of Recovery, one of my friends told me about how important a routine was to filing some of the edges off alcohol abstinence and mental detox.  He told me about the acronym HALT (Hungry Angry Lonely Tired).  I had no idea what that meant and like most things, I thought it was silly. But I began to notice eating something healthy (Hungry), getting enough sleep, (Tired) were 2 things of the acronym that were vital to my first 90 days.  The “Angry and Lonely” were unavoidable for my first 6 months, but in meetings,  it did make me aware of how normal I was to feel that way.

Even though my routine isn’t rock solid, I do try and go to bed at the same time every night, get up about the same time every morning.  Grab a nap in the middle of the day when I can – usually the weekends.  I have said in meetings when I got sober, I turned into a toddler.  I need my sleep.  When I don’t get it, I’m screwed. I get impatient, frustrated, overly sensitive.  All feelings that get me closer to a drink.  When I do get my sleep, the whole day seems to go smoother.

Sleep Tolerance

I can wake up in the night and not get back to sleep a couple of times in a week without problems, but if I go to bed later than usual a couple nights AND my dog gets me up and I can’t get back to sleep, I really feel it and need a nap!  I have mentioned before in this blog, when I was drinking, I was hardly sleeping at all and hadn’t slept well for years, but that stopped 2 1/2 years ago.

A New Day

I love mornings. I love the quiet, watch the sun rise, I am not in a good mood particularly, but I do have time alone and get up early to have time alone.  I pray, meditate (like cross-legged on a cushion) and ease into my day. Get dressed and hit my morning meeting at the local Homeless Shelter.  I get my dose of gratitude and fellowship behind me prior to most people arriving at work.  It starts my day off right.  This can’t happen every day, but most days, even weekends.

The idea of a routine, soothed my body and head early on and today it still does.  I think subconsciously my system started trusting me again.  “Yes” we will get some sleep, “Yes” we will get some lunch.  Small routine tasks keep my mind from carrying on by itself.

Give It a Try

If you are new to Recovery, take the next week, make an effort to go to bed at the same time every night (within a half hour), get up – set the alarm if you have to – and get out of bed, start your day.  Don’t just lie there and be lazy. Let your system know you are up for Recovery today.  This Day.

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Things that go BUMP in the NIght

A few years ago, I would say the first thing that went BUMP was me.  I would wake up and not be able to get back to sleep.  I would get up, go downstairs, grab the old bottle of “Irish Courage” and put a glug or two in a mug with some tea or diet soda.  The mug was key in case anyone would get up they couldn’t see what I was drinking.  No one ever got up except my dog, but I needed to be sure.

In the end, my dog would just look at me from across the room, not even greeting me. He sensed something was really wrong and wanted no part of me. Mindfully, I would open the cupboard where my bottle was, quietly pour it and return it quickly so no one would suspect.  At first, (15 years ago),  it was once in a while. I was single for the first time in many years, living alone with my dogs on a lake that froze in the winter.  In all its beauty, it was my self-imposed prison.  The nights were when I ached the most. It seemed like a little booze settled the demons so I could go back to sleep (pass out)  again.

Early Days of Recovery

For the first 10 days as I recall, I still had the nighttime demons.  Only I was no longer choosing to fight them off with vodka.  The first month or so, I practically nailed myself to the bed refusing to leave the second floor of the house even if I would be lying awake for hours. Tonight, I am awake and at my computer.  I am feeling pretty contented that I can trust myself again.  This is my new normal, finding something that soothes me, like writing,  as I live another day without alcohol.

My Dog

On some of those nights at the end of my drinking days, I would look at my friend through tear filled eyes. He would be across the room gazing at me.  I was and never have been the abusive type, (except to myself of course),  the only thing I can think of is how animals  sense sickness and injury.  Most of the time they want to protect the sick or injured but in my case, he was visibly confused, very distant.  As my recovery progressed he started to trust me again, kind of a mirror of myself.  Now if I am up in the night, he comes to me wagging his tail and gives me a quick kiss of greeting.  Boy, have we changed.

 

Henny Penny

When I was drinking I always waiting for the sky to fall.  And most times, it did. When I have looked back at my drinking career, I tried to really understand what role I played when drinking.  When the party was on, so was I.  I had a few blackouts, yes.  BUT most of the time I was the person that kept my wits about me to a degree.I would grab my friend that was on the pool table or fighting with her boyfriend and get us out of trouble.

I Had My Rules

  1. When I went home with someone or someone came home with me, I was traveling alone.
  2. If  there was dancing, no dipping
  3. And NO shots.

I often traveled alone. Once my marriage broke up, my broken heart seemed to need alcohol, needed the soothing of alcohol, the forgetting of alcohol.  I couldn’t fix my feelings without it. I never realized that I had married a guy that I wanted to fix either.  When he abandoned me for another woman, I couldn’t live peacefully without numbing myself to live on without him.

On The Outside 

People would see someone smiling, laughing, someone that was fun to be around. But things weren’t like that on the inside.  As the years rolled on and I turned into a daily drinker just to keep my head on my shoulders, there was no party.  There was no laughing or smiling.  There was the whimpering of the broken heart I could never get beyond.  My decisions laid over the top of this volcano of smoldering emotion that only knew extremes.  And before I did “The Steps,”  I never knew that this abandonment thing was something rooted in my ex husband’s  childhood, my childhood  and my father’s childhood. It was a pattern and I never stopped long enough to see it.  To accept it.

The Waiting Gamehennypennysleeve1

I was just like Henny Penny, waiting for the sky to fall because an acorn hit her head. Even when nothing at all was happening, it would feel like something was about to cause my my world to cave in.  Abandonment is a hard thing to sort through, especially when you have no idea that it is there. In my case, I married a guy that had abandonment issues, similar to those of my father.  I never figured it out until I did The Steps and I learned.

 

The Itty Bitty $hitty Committee

I don’t mean to offend anyone by that title.  Everything I write about in this blog falls under 3 overall categories:

  • Experience
  • Strength 
  • Hope

And I have heard people reference to the things that spin around in their heads.  I have written about that before.  For me, it is negative self talk that I never knew happened, before I stopped drinking.  I never knew a lot of things before I stopped drinking. It amazes me when “I stop the music in my head” or “Get out of that bad neighborhood that is between my ears” (all terms I have heard in meetings),  how much I realize that I am not the center of the universe and that I AM ENOUGH -just as I am.

One of my most favorite recovery people said the other day, “Most of the things I worry about never even happened!”  Another one said, “I lose sleep about the snow I am worrying about shoveling in 3 days and the storm goes out to sea – then I get angry about that!”

Look At Us

Seriously, as  write this I am writing it for you and ME, if we sit in the “here and now” and be grateful for what we have and who we are, our lives will feel more peaceful, don’t you think?  Our Higher Power didn’t make us so we could torture ourselves, we are here to help one another.

Reading Facebook- giving and getting positive and inspiring comments all help, in addition to the “face to face” recovery work, meetings, service, etc. keeps me healthy and most likely make the people in my day to day world happier too.

It’s January and we are beyond the darkest days and longest nights of the year, I need to make a special effort to be that “Grateful Alcoholic that doesn’t drink.”

Should I or Shouldn’t I?

I heard one day in our Sunday 12 and 12 Meeting that a person feels like his instincts or gut feelings were his Higher Power’s way of guiding him. “Thomas” mentioned that his gut instinct itself was his Higher Power expressing Himself through him.  Just like he believed that his Higher Power expressed Himself through others in the words they say  Those words he hears and really “tunes into” at a meeting. “Thomas”often says things that I feel like my Higher Power is expressing Himself thru him to me.

“Thomas” used to be a tough person for me to listen to, his words cut into me sometimes.  Now that early sobriety has worn off, I realize that his words effect me because they matter.  It has taken a while to get there.

Writing Partner

There are “normal” people in my life.  Or at least people that are normal drinkers that can drink one or two glasses of wine once in a while and not need to drink the entire bottle and then open another bottle and drink, it.  Those are the people that leave a half a glass on the counter and dump it after the evening is over because they have had enough.  I used to resent those people, I wondered why they bothered to drink just to waste it?

My writing partner is a smart, funny and very kind person-normal.  I have known her for a few years. We aren’t super close friends, but I really like her.  But she doesn’t know me, I have never told her that I am an alcoholic and in recovery.  She has shared with me some painful things and is writing a book of essays about a confusing and emotional topic for her graduate work.  This is the work she shares with me.  She also has shared with me some great tools on writing and I have learned a lot from her.

I have been sharing my writing with her too, but I write about a bunch of different topics.  None of it recovery based. We are meeting on Saturday. I have been thinking about her for the past couple weeks. Feeling like I need to break my anonymity. Like I am not being honest. As I have mentioned in this blog before, my drinking was most often done in isolation or with very select few in private places. The community I live in, has no idea that I am in Recovery. And I kinda like it that way.  But here I am at 1:20 in the morning- I have been up since 12:30 thinking it is time I tell her.

That Little Voice

Like “Thomas” that I mentioned earlier, I believe that my Higher Power is with me and has never left me. Even though in the dark days of my drinking, I certainly had left Him.  My Higher Power is that little voice that speaks to me throughout my day but becomes more persistent when I ignore it.  I have been ignoring this voice especially, when it has come to writing.  The idea of “being a writer” seems glamorous but when I want to be a real writer it takes commitment. Putting it out there for people to read and the danger of them rejecting it. There is that F word.  FEAR.  I hate rejection.  But writing has always come naturally to me.  I can and do write for others. I can tell their story but resist telling my own.

Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope

Since this program of recovery is about passing on the message, helping the next struggling alcoholic (we even have Step 12 specifically for this), I feel like writing a book about Recovery is what I must do.  Every day that passes I feel my instinct telling me this is what I must do.  For no good reason, I started this blog even before I went to my first meeting and before I dared to even think about Recovery.

I have shared with my Recovery friends in our community about this book.  I have a couple friends helping me and giving me some very helpful feedback. I plan to give proceeds to our Recovery programs here – again I feel like it is something I must do.  But my normal writing friend knows nothing of this book and I feel like I need to tell her, I think she will be a great Editor.  Someone outside of Recovery that can help look at this book with no strings attached. But there is the F word – again.

Is this My Will or God’s Will?

 

 

The Sounds Of Silence

When I first got sober, my head felt like it was in a fog, followed by it feeling like it was mush.  And almost right away, I was sleeping thru the night again and wanting to take naps during the day.  My Sponsor said that was pretty normal as that is what Recovery is all about.

It wasn’t just not drinking, I was in Recovery mode, my mind and body were healing themselves at their own pace.  I had spent my whole life being impatient with things, wanting them yesterday, tapping my foot until things happened.  Recovery didn’t happen as quickly as I wanted it to or as I expected it to. I honestly think that as long as I CHOOSE Recovery I will be in it.  I do not believe that I will ever be cured. I feel that Recovery is part of my Journey of Life.

Just like when I was drinking, I had friends that were a little out of the norm, I have always loved people in general and in Recovery, I found lots of different people, mostly creatives from all creeds and colors. Meeting new people that were just like me underneath the color of their skin or the first language they spoke has been part of the joys of AA.

Peace

One of my friends has 18 years of sobriety.  He was from Native American roots photo_dreamcatcherand sported a beautiful white ponytail with a smile and a hug for everyone he sees.  I have spoken about him in this blog before. He is an open minded soul that is willing to take people at face value and forgives those that disappoint with a shrug and a smile saying, “But Janis, they are alcoholics.”  We will then give a giggle or two reminding me that in AA, the goal is to not judge people, we don’t take other people’s inventory, we accept and move on.

At one point he told me about something called “Noise sensitivity.”  I had never heard of that before except that I knew my father seemed to have been usually reactive to loud noises.  Mostly constant ones, songs we would crank on the radio as kids would often be accompanied by him yelling up the stairs with “TURN THAT SHIT OFF!” Telling my Mom not to run the appliances when he got home from work because he listened to machines, saws, drills, compressors, all day long.

Of course, we just thought he was a jerk (more on that another time), but I have come to learn his noise sensitivity was not something he could help.  The anxiety and his ill temper was part of the effect of that noise sensitivity.  When I got sober, I became keenly sensitive to all kinds of things.  My emotions were raw, I would cry at the drop of a hat and my feelings were just looking for a place to be hurt.  The whole thing reminded me of all the reasons I drank.  I didn’t want to feel, I didn’t know how.

Turning Down the Music

My friend suggested I try noticing how my mood was then I turned down the tunes or chose different, more calm music.  I knew that when driving was dicey in snowstorms, I would turn off the music altogether.  The noise outside certainly added to the noise inside – especially early on.  Now I am very aware of how noise affects me, I often leave a room when there are lots of beeps or buzzing and certainly if there are people shouting-even if they are watching sports.  And it helps me regulate my mood.  It seems that when I slow down, stop and check in on exterior noises it keeps things on an even keel for me.  Sure I still love to belt out “Me and Bobby Mc Gee,” but I am learning balance.  Who knew that this would happen?

Who knew that this would happen?

 

 

As willing to listen as the dying can be

The last paragraph in the book the section on Step One, (page 24 in my copy to be exact), of  Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.  “Then and only then, do we become as as open minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be.”

Our Sunday meeting at the Homeless Shelter is a “12 and 12” Meeting. Each week we read a Step. Throughout the year the Steps are repeated, often times not in order.  Step 1 is almost always read when someone raises their hand in response to the question asked at every meeting from the Chairperson, “Is there anyone here having trouble staying away from a drink today that needs support from the group?’

Willing To Listen

On New Years Eve, my phone rang.  I was sitting in front of my computer working my book.  I was feeling pretty settled in, not worrying at all about anything. Neither drinking or New Year’s Eve, I was feeling pretty excited about getting organized.  I looked at my phone and it was a woman I had not seen in a couple weeks.

I picked up the phone thinking that she may be at the Alca-thon down the road.  She was not at the Alca-thon. I started the conversation saying, “HEY!  It is great to hear from you how have you been?”  She said, “Not good, I have been drinking again.  Not every day, but once in a while and I haven’t been going to meetings.”  I said, “Have you been drinking today?”  She said “No, I am on my way to see my son at his house, he thinks I am not drinking.”  (But her voice and thoughts sounded like she had been.) I said, “Hey you know, you can always start over. Whenever you want.  Like tonight.  We could go to the Alca-thon.”

She was interested in telling me why she was drinking.  Her son is an addict and she doesn’t want to drink in front of him, her husband still drinks, drinks in front of her and he doesn’t want her to drink because she ended up in the hospital last time, her sponsor was gay and she wasn’t into that and she really didn’t like the whole God thing.  She wanted to go away for a few days, maybe with someone from AA, just escape so she could get her head straight.

I just listened.  There was no use in saying anything anyway, she was in the “stinking thinking” stage and it was everyone and every thing else’s fault that she was drinking.

We agreed that we would meet at our 9am Sunday Meeting at the Homeless Shelter.  That was today. She didn’t come.  I asked a couple others too and they said she was going to go to a later meeting.  No one has seen her.  I have sent her texts and left her phone messages.  She is escaping from me too, apparently.

Cunning Baffling & Powerful

When they say this disease is  Cunning, Baffling & Powerful , they “aint” kidding.  When the voice of alcoholism is speaking to me and I am listening and I am listening to only that voice, I am screwed.  Like I said in a previous post, “Alcohol wants you dead, but it will settle for miserable.”  Seeing it happen from the outside, happening to someone I care about it, is tough and I feel powerless.