Out

With a little over 2 1/2 years in Recovery and not a public “crash and burn” there are still many people in my life that don’t know I am IN RECOVERY.  Many of my old friends and family know I am not drinking. Most of them have no idea the pain I was in before I made that decision.  When I isolated, drank in private, seemed to pull it together when needed, I liked to consider myself “high functioning.”  But like all things in Recovery, there are unexpected blessings and challenges that come with a quiet surrender over a public, desperate one.

Wreckage

I am grateful to my Sponsor and to people in meetings reminding me how cruel I was to myself.  How I actually detested myself.  And because I hated myself so much it seems, I put more energy into being cruel to me than to others.  (Although I had my fair share of amends to make.)  I have some family members that I have not told of my alcoholism. Many of them I don’t see, except big family affairs and Thank God I never acted out in their presence.  I do have a favorite niece that I have wanted to tell.  I only see her a couple times a year but she is a lot like me.  She is 34 years old.  She has a lot of my characteristics.  She has a step-father that drank a lot, therefore, she barely drinks at all.  The impression was made on her that “some people shouldn’t drink.”  I had been looking for guidance to my Higher Power about what I should say and when should I say it.

The Light

This past weekend, my niece and her boyfriend decided to make the drive to our camp.  He 2014-07-04 05.52.36wanted to ski and she just wanted to hang out with my Mom and I.  I did a couple 3rd Step Prayers but decided I wouldn’t force it or avoid the subject.  I wanted to go to a meeting Saturday, I didn’t want to lie about where I was going.

It wasn’t long after they arrived, everything was unpacked we were sitting around listening to music and talking.  She brought up something about her stepfather and his drinking and all of a sudden I just said, “Well, you know I stopped drinking a couple years ago, I learned I was an alcoholic.”  She said, “Well Auntie, I knew you stopped drinking and seem lot more mellow these days.”  I said, “Yeah, I feel a lot better.  I had no idea what was going on with me until I started going to AA Meetings.”  She said, “I am so happy for you and I am proud of you.”

Certainly, not how I expected to tell her and certainly not how I expected her to react.  But I guess I got what my Higher Power decided was best.  It was so much easier and natural.  Honest.  Not some kind of big family meeting, just she, her boyfriend and I in conversation.

The weekend went great.  The skiing was great.  And I am once again grateful.  Just like the old timers say, “When I get out of the way, things go so much smoother!”

 

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“Recovery is a Collaboration between Your Intellect and Your Spirit”

A couple weeks ago I went to a local publisher’s Open House on a lark.  In fact, I don’t even know how I happened to receive the email but I did and I went.  It was a beautiful Saturday in January, the place is located on the coast of Maine it took about a little over an hour to find.  It was an effort, I gave up my Saturday, but I am learning that this book project is not mine, it’s ours.   I am being led.  Every time I put this idea down thinking that this is just a place for me to throw out thoughts from my spinning head, something like an unsolicited email comes to me inviting me on a “blue bird” day to an Open House to a place I had never heard of before.

Maine Author’s Publishing is a place that is more than a publisher.  They nurture writers MAP_booksand the writing process.  The classes they offer are reasonably priced and tailored to the inspiring writer. There is a “Buffett” style of services, you pick what you need. Perhaps there is a place like “MAP”  in your area? If you are from Maine, I certainly recommend them as a place to network at the very least, connect with the writing community and perhaps if is your cup of tea, publish something. Some of these writers publish 100 copies for their family use.  MAP will help when bigger places have no interest.

Writing Coach

I met someone special when I went there and like most things with this book, I am amazed at how special she is.  She is a Writing Coach, she offers classes as well as one-on-one coaching.  After I “pitched” (which I had no idea that was what I was doing), my idea to her she gave me her card.  After a few follow up emails, we agreed on a place to meet for an hour’s coaching to start.

The meeting flew by and she was incredible. I have been working on this book on and off since my Sobriety Date in 2013, not being sure until a couple months ago that this was what I am supposed to do.  I have some skills at being organized, writing, have this blog plus tons of other notes.  But what I don’t have is direction, priority.  I don’t know “First things First” when it comes to writing and PUBLISHING a book.  Direction is what she gave me.  Now I know what Writing Coaches do.  In “Recovery Speak” she is my Writing Sponsor. She helps keep me on the beam.

Early in our meeting she said, “Recovery is a Collaboration between Your Intellect and Your Spirit.”

I think I have a winner.  Stay tuned.  The next few months are going to be a whirlwind with Experience, Strength, and Hope at every turn.

110 % is a Tough Number

I am a “pedal to the medal” type of person.  When I “sign up” for something, I am all in.  No 110%Then a short time down the road I realize I am unable to do 110%, I get frustrated, blame myself for being a failure and take my RESERVED seat on the “Pity Pot.”  I cannot speak for other alcoholics and addicts but for myself, this is definitely the case.

Singleness of Purpose

When I came into the Halls of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was beaten.  Beaten down by myself, by my disease. Unlike many, I had not arrived at my first meeting after a hospital stay or fresh from prison.  My first couple meetings (which were at a Homeless Shelter), I questioned that perhaps I wasn’t an alcoholic and I don’t mind saying that scared me more than thinking I WAS!  For the first time in my life, I was in a room full of people where I felt I belonged.  We all came from different backgrounds but we had one mission.  NOT TO DRINK.  We all had a “Desire to stop drinking.”  That was all that mattered.

Doing Things Differently

During early recovery, I remained focused on learning how to live without a drink in my hand.  Since most of the time I “boosted” my coffee, tea, diet pepsi, anything I was drinking with vodka.  (I used to call it Vitamin V.) Then subsequently, I needed to learn how to live sober.  Almost every thing I did in my day, allowed me to be drinking something.  I would go to meetings with a Diet Mountain Dew laced with vodka, I never got caught. It took a lot of planning but that was how it went and my buzz was secure.

A New Way of Thinking

Since doing the Steps, I was able to recognize things about myself that I never knew.  Knowing these things have been so helpful to my life today.  I learned that I often set myself up for failure.  I take everything so seriously, dive in and cannot maintain the level of dedication that I start with. Today, I am putting one foot in front of the other and taking notice when I need to be kinder to myself.

The only thing I have to do 100%  (and not 110%), of the time, is to never, ever forget I am powerless over alcohol.

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

“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.