No Addiction without Lies, No Recovery without Honesty

Last week, we went to an AA meeting and because there was a newcomer in the room, the topic was the first step. I love first step meetings. They help keep everything fresh for me. Those of us who have been in recovery for a while need to be reminded where we came from and why we don’t want to go back there. It’s also an opportunity for us to offer our experience, strength, and hope to other alcoholics.

At the meeting, as we all shared our stories of what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now, one of the themes that kept coming up was honesty and how important it is to a successful recovery. We’re told in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that recovery “demands rigorous honesty,” which is a practice that is sorely lacking during active addiction.

Lying is a way of life for most addicts. It was for me. I lied about my drinking to try and minimize its severity. I lied to try and keep up appearances, to avoid rejection, and to tamp down my guilt and shame. But we don’t just lie to others, we also lie to ourselves. For a long time, I lied to myself about my alcoholism and my drunken behavior because it was a reality that was just too painful to face. Lying, just like drinking, was a coping mechanism that I used to be able to deal with my life. At the time, I just didn’t know any other way to cope.

Then, when the pain of drinking got to be worse than the pain of trying to change and get sober, I learned that I had to be rigorously honest if I wanted true recovery. And I did want recovery. However, I didn’t want to be rigorously honest, to myself or anyone else. I knew when I went to treatment for the first time in 2011 that I would have to talk about things that I didn’t want to if I wanted to get better. So, I did share a lot in my group and individual therapy sessions and my 12-step work. But looking back, I wasn’t rigorously honest. I spoke about the things that I wanted to and held back the rest. I was completely honest about the things I chose to share, but by not sharing those darker things, the things that caused the guilt and shame that I would drink over, I was really setting myself up for failure.

And, guess what? I did fail. I relapsed and went back to treatment at the end of 2012. I was finally ready to lay all my cards on the table and be honest about the things that I had still been keeping a secret. I poured everything out to my therapist and got the help that I needed to begin working through it. I think that was the real beginning of recovery for me. It was the time that I was “willing to go to any lengths” to get and stay sober, as the Big Book says.

It isn’t just while getting sober that rigorous honesty is important, it’s important in staying sober as well. It requires that we are honest in all our affairs – and that means things big and small. Lying, even small lies, can keep us trapped in old behaviors. Being truthful, to others and ourselves, helps us stay the path. That means being honest about thoughts and feelings even when it would be easier to lie.

In recovery, I sometimes find myself sidestepping the truth when it comes to talking about how I feel or what’s going on in my head. Especially when it’s something that I don’t even want to think about myself. I’m better about it than I used to be, but I’m definitely still a work in progress. Fortunately, my husband can read me like a book, and he’s good at getting me to talk about things honestly and openly. Being honest and open with him requires me to be honest and open with myself first. And that self-awareness helps keep me from spinning out, which I know can lead me back to drinking.

Without honesty, I know there is no recovery (or maybe only the white-knuckling, dry drunk type of recovery that is in no way fulfilling) for me. It isn’t always easy, but through rigorous honesty, I get to continue progressing in my recovery, and I’m trustworthy enough to help others with theirs. That is what true recovery is, and while rigorous honesty is just one part of it, it’s an important one.

So, the next time you’re about to tell a little white lie, or you’re denying the way you truly feel about something, to yourself or others, stop and think about it first. Consider the consequences. If you’re in recovery yourself, then you know how quickly lies can snowball. Is your little white lie worth the consequences? Is it worth putting your recovery at risk?

It isn’t for me.

I’m so glad that we went to that meeting last week, and that the discussion was about the first step and rigorous honesty. It was a reminder that I need to hear and think about over and over again. I’m going to keep on doing my best to stay self-aware, practice rigorous honesty with myself and others, and keep growing in my recovery.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage in Recovery?

Self-sabotage in addiction recovery is common.

Being in recovery for the last ten years has taught me a lot about myself and other recovering addicts. While we’re all unique individuals with different, often dysfunctional, histories, we also have a lot in common. One of the most common similarities that I’ve seen time and time again is our ability to self-sabotage.

Addiction itself is a form of self-sabotage. When we’re in our active addictions, we depend on our drug of choice to help us escape dealing with life’s issues, which usually leads to bigger problems and more devastating consequences. Active addiction is self-destructive, isolating, and it destroys everyone who is caught in the wake of the disease. Yet, we often go back to it over and over. I know I have. Even after nearly seven years sober, I relapsed last year, reverting to old coping methods that I knew didn’t work.

Why do we do this? I think there’s a simple reason for this complicated behavior. Even though it’s so destructive and chaotic, self-sabotaging feels comfortable, familiar, like wrapping ourselves in warm security blankets, even in recovery. It’s what we’ve always done – it’s what we know. And even worse, it’s what we think we deserve. In active addiction, we feel like the pain, guilt, shame, and negative consequences are warranted. We deserve to lose our progress, our relationships, our dignity, our sanity because we’re not worth anything better. Unfortunately, that way of thinking doesn’t just go away when we get sober. It takes time. And it takes vigilance to not let it sneak back into the soundtracks of our lives.

I think there are numerous reasons that we self-sabotage our recoveries. Some that we may not even realize until much later. I’m certainly not professing to know all the answers, I’m speaking from my own experiences and from what I’ve learned from others in recovery about the art of self-sabotage. That said, these are some of the most common reasons that I think we undermine our recoveries:

Inability to cope with excessive stress. When I was in active alcoholism, the only coping skill I had was to check out of my life by drinking to the point of blacking out. Since then, I’ve learned how to deal with stressful times more effectively, but I’m still no expert. It’s easy to fall back into old behaviors when life gets really rough, and if I’m not paying attention, that can lead me to some dark places.

Guilt and shame. My drinking made me a different person, someone who was unrecognizable to me and to the people who knew me. My behavior created so much guilt and shame in me that I thought I would never be able to let go of my past. Fortunately, working the 12 steps of AA helped me work through a lot of it, especially steps 4 and 9. In step 4, we take a personal moral inventory of ourselves and in step 9, we clean up our side of the street. Through those actions, and God’s grace and mercy, I’ve been able to forgive myself for many of the bad things I did and said. Not all of them by any means. It’s a process, and it takes time.

Fear of missing out. We see booze everywhere; it’s ubiquitous and it’s usually associated with having a good time. It’s no wonder that there have been times, especially in my early sobriety, when I romanticized drinking and all the “fun” that goes with it. Why can everyone else drink and enjoy themselves and I can’t? Well, it’s because when I do, bad things will happen. Just like when someone with diabetes eats too much sugar, bad things will happen. There is nothing romantic about ending up passed out beside a dumpster at Circle K after a night of drinking. I have to “play the tape to the end,” as they say in the program, remembering what happens when I drink.

Stuffing emotions. Oh boy. I am a champion at stuffing emotions and finding distractions to keep myself from feeling them. Of course, my main strategy to stop feeling used to be drinking. Nothing stops an uncomfortable emotion like a couple (or twelve) shots of tequila. The thing is those negative emotions will still be there when the booze wears off, and so will whatever additional messes I created by drinking. When I was in rehab, I remember that my therapist told me, “Your emotions won’t kill you, but your alcoholism will.” That was pretty eye-opening at the time. These days, after much therapy, I am better about sitting with my emotions, talking about them, and working my way through them instead of around them. I do still use distraction sometimes when I’m uncomfortable with my emotions (I’m a TV show binge-watching ninja), but they’re healthier distractions, and I don’t wait as long to get back to what’s bothering me and deal with it.

Low self-worth. There’s no doubt about it, when I drank, I felt like I was smarter, prettier, funnier, and more outgoing than my quiet, sober self. Of course, I know that isn’t true, but booze gave me the self-confidence that I’m pretty sure I was born without. Liquid courage, I’m sure you’ve heard it called, and I had it when I was drinking. When I got into recovery though, I no longer had that artificial boost that I needed to feel like I was interesting or worthy of anyone’s time, and that’s a lonely place to be. That feeling of low self-worth led me back to the bottle many times when I was first trying to get sober. Now that I’ve been in recovery for a while, I do feel better about myself a lot of the time. When I don’t, I can turn to my husband, my friends in recovery, and God for encouragement.

Addiction is a dangerous disease without us adding to it with self-sabotage. But our ability to make things worse is huge, in active addiction as well as in recovery. In both, self-sabotage starts the same way, with destructive thinking patterns. That thinking, left unaddressed, leads to self-destructive behavior, and then it’s only time before we are masters of the art of self-sabotage.

When we get into recovery, we have to recognize the importance of working with a new medium. We need the willingness to try new techniques that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable for us. We need the confidence to use new, healthy tools that paint a whole different picture. And we need the courage to see the canvas as it really is. True recovery means that we have to embrace the art of self-awareness and leave self-sabotage in the past where it belongs.

Finding a New Recovery Community

People in recovery need a circle of friends who are also in recovery.

Our sweet little, red brick house in Alabama.

When I got sober in 2012, I learned that my sobriety depends on the people with whom I surround myself. I need to interact with other people in recovery to help me stay sober and active in my recovery. Fortunately, my husband, Austin, is a recovering alcoholic, the same as me, and we’re able to support one another in our recoveries, but we need more than just each other. We need a community, a circle of friends, in which we can find and offer support to other addicts. Recently, for the first time since I quit drinking, I had to think about finding a new recovery community to fit into – a daunting task for introverts like me.

Why I Need Friends Who Are in Recovery

There are several reasons why I need to be a part of a recovery community. Perhaps the most important is peer support. I know that when I surround myself with friends who are also in recovery, they can understand my struggles without me having to explain anything. The reverse is also true, if someone else is struggling with recovery, I get it, so I can empathize and offer support. That connection, the commonality that recovering addicts have, lends itself to creating the supportive environment we need to maintain sobriety. Without peer support, isolation can set in, and that’s a dangerous place for an addict to be. Isolation keeps us stuck in addiction cycles. When I relapsed last year, I wasn’t going to meetings and I wasn’t doing anything to work on my recovery. That allowed old behaviors to slip back in, and it resulted in me picking up. 

Studies have been done that show that people who are involved in recovery communities with peer support are less likely to relapse than those who aren’t. I know this to be true for me. When I stay involved, I stay sober. There’s accountability when I’m a part of a group that encourages me to talk about my issues before I end up on a slippery slope. I have friends who are counting on me to show up at meetings and get-togethers, and they will call or come looking for me if I don’t. Having something to lose (friends, social interactions, activities, etc.) makes it easier to stay motivated about sobriety and to keep my feet planted firmly in recovery.

Recovery groups are also helpful in increasing awareness about addiction and reducing the stigma that is still attached to it. Support groups like AA encourage people to be open about their recovery without the fear of being shamed or judged. Even timid people like me can feel comfortable sharing in recovery groups because it’s pretty likely that someone else in the group has experienced the same feelings or thoughts that I’m having. I don’t have to be fearful, embarrassed, or ashamed about what I’m going through, and I will probably get some good advice about how others have gotten through similar things.

Being involved in a recovery community allows me to help others, which is one of the main tenets of AA. In step 12, we are encouraged to “carry the message” to other alcoholics. It says:

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Helping others isn’t a one-way street, it’s beneficial for the helper too, because in recovery “we keep what we have by giving it away.” By helping others, it keeps it fresh for me, I can see the pain of early sobriety in newcomers, and that helps me stay sober. I can offer my experience, strength, and hope to them. These are messages that I often need to hear again myself. It’s a symbiotic relationship, in which we are helped by helping.

 A Cross-Country Move Meant Finding New Recovery Support

We made a big geographical move last May, from Tucson, Arizona to the small, rural town of Fayette, Alabama. Austin is from Alabama and he has family in nearby Birmingham, but I had only visited the South a few times before our move. In the early part of the year, Austin inherited some property in Fayette, and our dream of retiring to Alabama was fulfilled early. Austin, our son Benjamin, and I packed up, and made the 1,600-mile trek across the southern US, amid the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Being new in a small town along with all the shut-downs due to COVID-19 made it challenging to get to know anyone, let alone people in recovery. In Fayette, there aren’t many AA meetings, just one each week on Tuesday evenings, and even that one wasn’t meeting until very recently. I came from Tucson, where there were hundreds of meetings every month, at all hours of the day and night. The Celebrate Recovery group was and still is, on hiatus until the virus is over – if it’s ever over.

Fortunately, God’s providence can be found everywhere – even in Alabama! By His grace, we found a wonderful and supportive group of people in recovery who recently started a Friday night get-together where we all share a meal, talk about recovery and Jesus, and support one another. It’s resulted in meaningful friendships that also exist outside of our weekly meeting, a sense of belonging, and a way to help each other with recovery. I’ve always felt that people in recovery bond quickly because of what we’ve been through. There’s a deep understanding of the pain and consequences of addiction and the challenge of getting sober that we all know, and that draws us toward one another naturally.

It’s still early days for me in our new home in the South, but I have found a circle of like-minded friends that continues to grow, and for that, I am so very grateful. I already feel like I fit in and that is such a blessing for an alcoholic like me.

When Relapse is Part of Addiction Recovery

alcohol addiction relapse

Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p85

I’m back! Back to writing and blogging for myself and not just for work. I wish that I could say that I’m back and I’ve stayed sober for the last couple of years, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I had a relapse in September 2019. Fortunately, it was a one-time, one-day relapse, from which I got right back on the wagon. It was a huge blow to my ego and to my self-worth, knocking me to my knees in shame and humiliation, which is probably why it’s taken me over a year to write about it. I won’t go into the gory details of that horrible day. Suffice it to say, I was an alcoholic being an alcoholic, and it wasn’t pretty. However, looking back now, I can clearly see some important lessons that I needed to learn.

Lessons My Relapse Taught Me

My relapse taught me a lot about myself, my recovery, and my loved ones. Here are a few of the most important things I learned:

I need a recovery program. In the year or so before my relapse, I had fallen away from AA. Nothing bad happened, I just allowed other aspects of my life to get in the way of going to meetings. I really think that I thought I was far out of harm’s way, that I wouldn’t drink again ever. After all, I had been sober for almost seven years. Complacency. How many times had I been warned about it in meetings? Way too many to count. Yet, I allowed it to happen to me. I know that there are some sober people who don’t need a recovery program to stay that way. I also know now, that I do.

I have to manage stress and anxiety more effectively. When I was in active addiction, the way that I coped with stress and anxiety was to drink. When I got into recovery, I learned other coping skills to manage them. Things like self-care, talking to another alcoholic, H.A.L.T. (to be aware if I am hungry, angry, lonely, or tired), going to meetings, taking a nap, writing, praying, and other healthy activities helped me handle life on life’s terms. Prior to my relapse, I had returned to old behavior, and started stuffing feelings of stress and anxiety. I didn’t use my healthy coping skills consistently, making a disaster just waiting to happen. And then it did.

You do go right back to where you left off. The only thing different about my drinking when I relapsed in relation to my old, active addiction drinking, was that I no longer had a tolerance to the booze. One of my last drunks in 2012 ended with me in the hospital following a blackout and a handful of pills. My relapse, though not as serious, ended up with a blackout and a trip to the hospital. Thank God it didn’t end in handcuffs, which happened more times than I care to share in my previous drinking.

My family loves me unconditionally. After my relapse, I felt terrible guilt and shame. But it wasn’t because of anything my husband, daughter, or stepson said or did. They were nothing but loving and supportive in the days and weeks that followed. They loved me through it, with graciousness and mercy, and I am so very grateful.

Relapse is a Part of Recovery

I’ve always hated the saying, “Relapse is part of recovery.” I felt like it justified an addict’s or alcoholic’s choice to pick up again. My feeling about it hasn’t completely changed, but it’s loosened up a bit. I can see now that for many of us who are in recovery, relapse is part of the process. It’s something that we can learn and grow from, enhancing our recovery. It’s risky though. One relapse can be (and has been, for many) a fatal action. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case, but I certainly don’t want to risk it again. So, I will remember the truths I listed above and always remember that I am not recovered, I’m recovering – hopefully forever. 

 

Sobriety, Depression, and Answered Prayers

It’s been a while! I haven’t updated my blog for quite a long time, for various reasons. Yes, I am still sober. No, I have not been going to very many meetings in the last year or so. That’s not because I am no longer focused on my recovery, I am. I’ve just found that after five and a half years, there are some other ways that I “practice these principles in all my affairs.” That said, I do want to get back to writing about recovery here, and I hope that those of you who used to enjoy reading this blog will get back into the groove with me.

So, there’s been a lot going on in my life in the last couple of months, some truly awesome things that I never thought would happen, despite the fact that I prayed about them daily. But first, I want to go back a little bit further–to spring of last year.

It was the beginning of about a year of pretty significant depression. There wasn’t a terrible crisis or any life-changing happenings that caused me to be depressed. In fact, from the outside looking in, everything looked great. Before my bout of depression really got started, I was doing ok. Well, as ok as a recovering alcoholic with PTSD and chronic depression can be. I had ups and downs, but for the most part, the ups far outweighed the downs.

My freelance writing was going well, I had happy clients and was usually busy, but not overwhelmed with work. I had no complaints about my husband, Austin, and my step-son, Benjamin–they were, and are, the absolute best. We had a vacation coming up, a road trip to the south to visit family and friends, and I was thrilled! I love road trips and love everyone we were going to see.

Then, I did something simple. Something that people do all the time without having a meltdown.

I mailed a birthday card.

Such a common act, yet it took me weeks to decide to do, and days to work up the courage to walk to the mailbox and, with teary eyes and shaking hands, drop it into the outgoing mail slot.

My daughter, who I had not seen since she was 14, was turning 20. I’ve written about her on this blog more than once. You can go back and read the details, but to put it simply, we became estranged after I went to treatment for my alcoholism. In the beginning, I tried to maintain contact, but my attempts failed and I wasn’t strong enough to force anything. I hadn’t sent any cards or letters for years, and I was terrified to do it then. But I did. And then I waited.

I tried to not have any expectations. I thought that it was likely that I wouldn’t hear anything in response. After all, I had to send the card to the last address I knew for her, my mother’s, even though I knew she didn’t likely live there anymore. Would my mother even give it to her? I didn’t know. But I had this tiny piece of my heart that felt hopeful. I had been waiting, praying, and hoping for six years and I finally did something, I reached out. But I knew that one birthday card couldn’t make up for the time that had passed, and it couldn’t make up for the hurt that I caused, and it likely couldn’t compete with the horrible things that my daughter was told about me (most true, some not) by my family members. And it didn’t. I heard nothing.

The silence made me realize two things. First, that I could no longer live without trying to reconcile with my kid. Second, that I hated myself for letting her get away in the first place. It was the latter that made my depression spin out of control. While I spent time Facebook stalking to see pictures and what was happening in her life, the self-blame and depression over our estrangement only got worse. How had I let this happen, and would I ever have her back in my life?

I started therapy again and I saw my psychiatrist, who changed up my antidepressants. I worked on the guilt I felt about being a mother without my child in my life and tried to resolve myself to the possibility that we might never reconcile. Just as I began to climb out of the pit of my depression, it was May again. Should I send another birthday card? Should I leave the whole situation to God and my prayers? Again, I struggled with what is usually an easy decision. In the end, I made my trek to the mailbox and dropped another card into it.

I tried not to have any expectations or to obsess about whether my daughter would even get the card. I tried to leave the whole situation in God’s hands and prayed, not for reconciliation, but for the strength to handle whatever the outcome was–even if it wasn’t what I wanted.

And then, just a little over a month later, I got an email. Not from my daughter, but from her husband. Before I even clicked on the message, I started to cry. Somewhere, deep in my heart, I knew that this email was going to give me the opportunity to reconnect with the young woman who I hadn’t seen since the beginning of her teenage years. And it did.

A week later, with some gentle nudging from my new son-in-law I suspect, my daughter made the decision to see me. I can’t even begin to put into words the flood of emotions that hit me at that moment. It was pure joy, a kind that I had never felt before. My prayers of seven years were finally answered.

Kari and me.

Since then, we have been getting to know each other again, first with baby steps, and now with all the enthusiasm of two women who had been living their lives with a piece of their hearts missing. My heart is full and I am overjoyed.

It’s amazing, the good things that sobriety can bring. Lost relationships can be restored. Broken hearts can be mended. Lives can be reconnected. I know that if I had not stayed sober, I wouldn’t have an opportunity to be a mother to a daughter again. I would have lost any chances of that. Recovery isn’t easy, it takes patience, strength, and faith, but good things do come of it. Believe me, I know.

What Recovery Has Taught Me About Acceptance

What Recovery Has Taught Me about Acceptance

There are no two ways about it, we all have things that we wish we could change. I think this is especially true of those of us who are in recovery. We wish we could change the past, things we said or did, or we wish we could change our current circumstances, progress, or feelings. In recovery though, we quickly learn that not all things are changeable. The Serenity Prayer tells us we need to “accept the things we cannot change,” and we do need to do that – for our sanity, peace of mind, and emotional sobriety.

Acceptance has played a huge role in my recovery, and I have seen the difference that it has made in the recovery of others. When we live in denial and unacceptance, we can’t grow and heal, and that makes sobriety even harder than it already is. It makes us feel stuck and unable to move. But when we live in acceptance, we are better able to stay sober, live happily, and be fulfilled.

Recovery is a time of continuous learning, bearing with it many lessons. Sometimes those lessons are absorbed quickly and easily, but other times they are hard-fought and seem to take forever. The lesson of acceptance has often been the latter for me, something that I have had to work hard to have – that I sometimes still have to work hard to maintain. I’ve learned a lot about acceptance along the way though, and when I remember the following things my life is better, my recovery is stronger, and my outlook is happier.

It is what it is. There are so many things that are out of our control. The faster that we learn to accept that things are what they are and that they’re just the way they are supposed to be at the moment, the faster we will know peace. I have to remember this when life gets me down and I am wishing for different circumstances; something that was very difficult for me in early recovery. I would see other people in recovery who had longer sobriety than I did, and they were happy and spiritually fit, and I wanted to be in the same place. Clearly, that wasn’t possible, and I had to learn to accept that my own progress was right where it was supposed to be.

It’s a process. Acceptance doesn’t come all at once. Nothing could be truer than that when it came to accepting my past. I wanted so much for my past to be different – before, during, and after my active drinking. The fact that I couldn’t change any of it, no matter how desperately I wanted to, was hard to swallow, even though the pain of wishing was causing me to suffer. Acceptance of my past only came gradually, bit by bit, even though I became willing to try to be accepting. I had to be patient with myself and my recovery, and I had to celebrate even the smallest amounts of progress.

You don’t have to like it. I really hated it when a therapist said that to me about acceptance. She explained that acceptance doesn’t mean that you condone what happened to you or that you approve of how you handled it. You don’t have to like the things you become accepting of, you just have to do it. It makes perfect sense that letting go of the things that cause anger, sadness, or regret would improve my life, but it was still hard to hear, and equally hard to do.

It’s healing. When you learn to accept the things you can’t change, some miraculous things happen. You begin to see that you are able to cope in a healthy way, no matter what life throws at you. You are able to be mindful – in the present moment, not regretting the past or worrying about the future. You can handle stresses that you didn’t use to be able to. You are able to stop falling into old behaviors that no longer serve you well. You can deal with strong emotions and develop deeper relationships with others. You become emotionally sober and feel optimistic about life. It’s a beautiful and healing progression.

Acceptance in recovery has taught me that I can live life on life’s terms. I don’t have to live at the mercy of my past, and I don’t have to be overly concerned about the future. I can live here and now and know that I am right where I am supposed to be.

When Mother’s Day Hurts

Usually when I write a post on this blog, I write it with the hope that what I have to say will be helpful to someone else. I write it hoping that someone who is going through what I have gone through, whether they are in recovery or not, will be able to see that there is joy and fulfillment on the other side of life’s challenges. This is not one of those posts.

This post is being written with a very heavy heart. A broken heart. One that, despite the fact that I live a glass-is-half-full life of recovery from alcoholism, feels empty and sad tonight.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I will not be spending it with my mother or my daughter. And that makes it hurt. No, neither of them have died, they just aren’t in my life. But the grief is still very, very real.

When I began trying to get sober six years ago, my family washed their hands of me. My daughter, who was 14 at the time, went to stay with my mother while I went to treatment. When I got out of rehab, she didn’t want to come home. I couldn’t make her. I had so much guilt and remorse that making her do something that she didn’t want to wasn’t something I was capable of. It’s my biggest regret–one that I think will never go away.

My relationship with my mother wasn’t great. Not ever. And if I’m honest with myself, I know that I could never have gotten and stayed sober if I had remained in a relationship with her. I’ve done a lot of grief-work around the relationship that I wish I had with her and I no longer yearn to rewrite our history. But on some holidays, especially Mother’s Day, it still makes my heart hurt.

Before I started drinking alcoholically, I had a great relationship with my daughter. We were close, we were happy. We talked and laughed and had fun. I loved being her mom. She truly was my everything. Booze changed that. I wasn’t able to be the mother that she needed, and she did what she had to do to take care of herself. I cannot blame her for that.

I know better than to try to stuff my feelings, I have to let myself feel sad tonight and tomorrow. There have been tears and I know there will be more. I miss my daughter. There is a space in my heart that can only be filled by her. It doesn’t matter how great everything else is, or how much love I have in my heart for others, that space will remain empty until we reconcile. And that might not happen. Ever. That hurts.

I wish that when I had come home from rehab I had known what I know now. I wish that I had been as strong as I am now. I wish that I could’ve shown my daughter that even when you screw up, you can rebound; that even when you’re an alcoholic, you can get better. And I wish that she knew that no matter what my drinking caused me to do, I never stopped loving her.

I think about my daughter every day–there hasn’t been one that has gone by that I haven’t. But the pain I feel on Mother’s Day is just a little bit worse. A little bit deeper. A little bit more intense.

I know that tomorrow is just another day and that I will make it through it. I thank God that my sobriety isn’t threatened, and I’m grateful for all the good people in my life. But, right now, I just need to be sad.

 

 

Thank God for Progress

One of the things that is talked about a lot in the rooms of recovery is that we need to strive for progress, not perfection. It’s not about becoming the perfect ideal of ourselves that should be our goal, instead, it’s just that we continue to get better over time. Whatever that “better” means to each individual is up to them–maybe it’s in how self-aware they are, how they react to difficult situations, how much time they spend thinking about drinking, or whether their relationships are growing as they want them to. We look for progress in the areas of our choosing and we celebrate our personal growth.

I think that paying attention to progression is huge in recovery. In fact, my husband and I make it a point to talk about the progression that we have both made since becoming sober and taking care of our mental health. We both have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, in addition to being alcoholics in recovery. That’s a long list of issues, yet I think that to most people who we meet, we seem pretty “normal.” Of course, those who know us know the truth–we’ve worked really hard to get where we are today. So when we are able to actually see the progress that we’ve made, it’s a victory.

Today, I got to see our progress in action, both in our recovery from drinking and in how we deal with challenging situations. We got into a car accident. It wasn’t serious, no one was injured, but it left our car undriveable. This may not seem like a big deal to many of you, perhaps just the type of inconvenience that occasionally comes up in life. But just a few short years ago it would have been a disaster of catastrophic proportions.

Let me explain.

First of all, had it been five years ago, chances are good that I would’ve been drunk at the time. That means that when the nice, older lady smashed into our car I would’ve either dissolved into a puddle of tears believing that the end of my world was upon me, or I would’ve been so angry that I would have yelled profanities and punched her. And even if I wasn’t drunk when the accident happened, I definitely would’ve been after.

If it had been just three years ago, I would’ve been sober but still cleaning up the wreckage of my past–and my husband still working on his too. That means that we likely wouldn’t have had insurance, a valid registration, and maybe even a valid driver’s licenses. That alone would’ve been enough to throw me into a downward spiral. While I wouldn’t have gone out and gotten drunk, the reality is that I would’ve had a meltdown and catastrophized the whole thing, become anxious about how the car would get fixed, how we would get to work, and every other car-related thing you can imagine. Not to mention the fact that we would’ve been cited for our irresponsibility with licenses, insurance, and registration. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

In either of those scenarios, I would’ve been in meltdown mode for a good long while, then in isolation mode, and then finally depression about my horrible misfortune. I would have been in a tailspin for who knows how long.

Today however, it was much different. I didn’t meltdown, I didn’t want to drink, I was nice to the poor lady who hit us, and I didn’t have to be afraid of getting into trouble when the police came. It was so much different than it would’ve been only a short while ago.

It was actually just the type of inconvenience that occasionally comes up in life. Imagine that.

I call that progress.

Why Do Some Make It While Others Don’t?

It’s been a while! Life has been busy and this blog has suffered, but I’ll save the update on life for another post. I feel like I need to write about something else right now.

A couple of days ago, my husband and I went to a meeting. We met a friend of ours there because he had expressed that he wanted to stop drinking. These types of moments, where I truly get the opportunity to be one alcoholic helping another, are the moments that I live for. There are so many blessings in getting to share my own experience, strength, and hope–especially hope–with someone who is facing the same struggles I once did.

The meeting did not disappoint. Our friend got a 24-hour chip, tears were shed as he shared his desire to stop drinking, and others expressed their support and encouragement. It’s a beautiful thing when any newcomer makes it into the rooms, and it’s even more beautiful to see people who, when in active addiction, couldn’t be bothered by anyone else’s problems, jump in to help a fellow in need.  esh

That’s not the end of the story, though. While we were at the meeting (it’s not one we normally go to, so we knew a couple of people there, but not many) a man sitting to my right who was clearly distressed, was invited to speak by another member. I thought that perhaps he was going to share that he had relapsed and was back in the rooms now, he had that drawn, sad and guilty look about him.

But that’s not what he shared. When he spoke, his eyes filled with tears, he told the group about his daughter. She was also an alcoholic and had been to that very meeting with him the week before. He went on to tell us, voice shaking, that his daughter had died the night before and that following the meeting he had to go claim her body.

It was only when he said her name, that I realized I knew her. She had been a student at the college where I worked. I knew that she struggled with alcoholism, we had spoken about it a lot during her time there, and while she wanted to get sober for good, it seemed it was something she just couldn’t manage. She was a beautiful, intelligent woman, who had a lot of life in front of her, and now she was gone–due to alcoholism.

I was saddened, as was my husband as he knew her too. And that old familiar question, the one that pops up every time I hear about someone dying from addiction, came to mind. Why do some of us make it, while others of us don’t?

When I think back to my own early recovery, which had at least a hundred false starts, it makes me wonder what it was that finally clicked and has helped me stay sober for the past several years. What is it that made my last drunk my last drunk? I wanted to stop drinking for a long time, and I made many attempts that failed. Why was the last one the one that, so far, has stuck?

I can list off the things that I think have contributed to me staying sober like willingness, honesty, forgiveness, acceptance, asking for help, rehab and AA, God, having a sponsor, being vulnerable, and the list goes on. But I feel like I had those things (at least a lot of them) the first hundred times I tried to quit drinking. So, what was it that changed? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the combination of all of those things on the list, maybe it’s all about timing, maybe it’s about being so tired and worn out that there just is no way to go on the way you have.

I really wish I did know the answer. If I did, I could share it with my friend the newcomer to make his path easier. And maybe I could have shared it with the young woman we lost to the disease. I would share it with everyone! Shout it from the rooftops! But, the truth is, I don’t know.

What I do know, is that you can’t give up. You have to keep fighting for sobriety and recovery until it finally sticks. You have to do the work. And it is work, and it is hard, and it doesn’t end. You have to keep doing it to keep the new life you have in recovery. That I know. That’s what I have to do to stay sober. And while it has gotten easier, I don’t let my guard down, not ever.

The meeting that day had so much hope and so much sadness–at the same time. I was so encouraged that the young woman’s father was there, at a meeting, less than 24 hours after losing his daughter. He was showing everyone there, including our friend who is just starting out, that you can make it through really tough times without drinking. I was also encouraged by the way that other members reached out to our friend with their own experience, strength, and hope. I know that he was touched.

I’m still left wondering why some of us make it and some of us don’t. Maybe I’ll never know the answer. But I will keep sharing, keep working, and keep having hope. And if that helps even one person, then it will be more than worth it.

Some Basics For Building A Spiritual Practice To Support Your Recovery – Guest Post

I’m excited for you to read this guest post from a fellow recovery writer, Rose Lockinger. Every piece of her writing that I have read has been an inspiration to me; I think it will be for you, too.  Enjoy!

~Jami

praying

When I first got sober I was so confused about spirituality and religion. Having grown up with parents who were missionaries I was introduced from an early age to a religion that I didn’t understand and a God that I felt was rather impersonal to me. I thought that most religious people were hypocrites and at the time I had trouble separating the idea of religion from God. I had finally hit my bottom both emotionally and spiritually and for me rock bottom was a beautiful place to start my new life.

To me God, and religion were synonymous and to separate the two was blasphemous and impossible. But then I was introduced to some simple ideas when I first got sober that really helped me to get over a lot of my resentments towards God and start to build a spiritual practice of my own.

The first thing that was introduced to me that was revolutionary to my way of thinking was that I could have my own relationship with God. This relationship meant that I could relate to God the way that I wanted to and that I didn’t have to talk to him, or her if you like, in thousand year old prayers that I didn’t understand. I could talk to God the way that I wanted to.

I was also introduced to the idea that no two people can have the same relationship with God, so any way that I chose to partake in this relationship was fine. I remember the first time that I heard this, I was blown away. The person said to me, think of it this way. You have a relationship with your mother and your father has a relationship with your mother as well. Your mother is the same person, but the way that the two of you relate to her is very different. This was something that I could get behind and it helped me to break some old thoughts that I had about God and create new ones that made more sense to me.

One of the first spiritual practices that I started to do was prayer. In the beginning they were very simple prayers and that was all that was needed. I would wake up in the morning and ask God to help keep me sober throughout the day and when I went to bed at night I would say thank you God for keeping me sober.

My sponsor told me that was all that was necessary for me to make a start. I didn’t have to have long drawn out conversation with him, or speak in tongues, but rather I could just say please help and thank you.

From this point my prayer life has evolved over the years but the basics remain the same, I speak to God like he is a friend and I don’t make things too formal. Sometimes I get on my knees to pray but most of the time I do not and I believe that God is okay with that.

Another spiritual practice that I began to integrate into my life was meditation. I will admit that I am not the best with this one and my meditation practice is sporadic at best, but when I do meditate I once again try to keep it simple.

In the beginning I could not sit quietly for very long and so I would try to meditate for just 5 minutes at a time. I would go on YouTube and find five minute meditation music and then I would sit and focus on my breathing. This is a very simple practice to incorporate into your life and the benefits of meditation are widely documented by psychologists and doctors.

Another great spiritual practice to help support my recovery is journaling, or inventory taking depending on how you look at it. On the surface this may not seem like a spiritual practice, but I assure you that it is. Not only does journaling act as a form of meditation, because writing actually slows the mind down, but the basis behind journaling is self honesty, which is among the most basic of spiritual principles.

The ability to accurately see yourself and your actions is a great way to grow as a person and in your relationship with God, because I believe that we cannot relate to God as someone other than who we are. This is why for so many years I could never feel his presence because I was always attempting to be someone else. I was dishonest and caught up in my addiction and so I couldn’t see to find him.

Lastly, and this is an important spiritual practice to try to incorporate into your recovery, is helping others. Helping other people, whether that is in recovery or out of recovery is just about the most spiritual thing that a human being can do. The act of giving of yourself not only makes you feel good, because altruism does feel good, but it also gives you purpose and direction. Purpose and direction is something that many of us lacked when we were in our addictions, and I found mine in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous by helping other people. Helping others makes me feel closer to God and I always sleep better at night when I know I have helped someone that day.

If you are just making a start in your recovery and you are worried about building a spiritual practice of your own, remember to just take it easy and keep it simple. Spirituality does not need to be complicated. You don’t need to meditate for an hour a day and perform rituals to talk to God, but you can simple just talk and sit quiet for as long as you can. These are the things that I did in the beginning and they really work, so give them a try and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.

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roseRose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find Rose on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram