Archive for December, 2009

Doing Well by Doing Good

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Happy New Year

Happy New Year

There are steps that cast our journeys from one experience to the next – not linearly or dramatically per se, but along a continuum of progress. Sometimes we feel like life fails us or as if we fail ourselves when we’re caught in a world unfamiliar and broken. Words and actions feel inappropriate – we are strangers in our own lives.

As the New Year approaches I’m reminded of the rich life I have known. I’m reacquainted with the familiar appreciation of my connections, shaped and confirmed by synchronicity. Once again transition appears with guided purpose and structure as I meet a whole new circle of caring friends, at a place called CAST.

Today I reflect on my roles, and the natural expectations that come with them. I am a social worker, a writer, and a sister: in all these roles I am committed to being present, receptive and trusting. At times I get caught up in the symbiotic moments I share with my clients, my audience, my brother… and I catapult myself into “doing good,” without taking the time to reacquaint myself with my own connection – with myself.

So just before another year passes, I am committed to examining myself – my inner walls- my different philosophies and ways of life. I’m hopeful and feel more authenticity – more presence – and more trust in the choices I make.

Once again doing well by speaking from my heart takes me to another point along my journey – as a daughter, a friend, a sober companion…

The underlying order of life resurfaces in its synchronicity. Just another New Year metaphor… a particular self-awareness from which it grows immeasurably richer as I continue to learn and cast away judgment.

My choices allow me to serve others – by doing what’s good. It feels good, practical, and meaningful – all at once. My life becomes sweeter and I’m reminded of the adage that we truly are only given what we can handle.

Written by: Erica MSW

A Part of the Holidays

Friday, December 25th, 2009
Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year

During the holiday season, there is no doubt that it is tough being an Alcoholic.  Lurking around every corner are advertisements for liquors, happy smiling hugging people enjoying life in Christmas cheer, accented by a touch of intoxication.  On the home front, every holiday meal is served with a glass of wine, and a glass of eggnog or brandy to create a warm mellow atmosphere.  And while surrounded by holiday spirits, there is so much temptation, so much pleasant nostalgia that seems to be gift wrapping the cobwebbed dusty memories of the last drink.

As alcoholics, we are taught to steer clear of temptation.  To not put ourselves in places where our judgment and the decision-making of our higher power can be easily compromised.  We immediately understand that we are to avoid the saloon and the pub, but what about the homestead?  Some of us are drawn to the loving family atmosphere, the smell of fresh baking cookies, the warmth from the stoked hearth, and the pretty packages piled high with glittering wrapping paper.  And some of us are wary of the judgmental looks from uncles and aunts, the new locks on doors and cabinets, the apparent lack of table wine or evening cider (or anything stronger than milk for that matter), and the looming uneasiness from siblings.  On this holiday season, do we choose to be a part of, or apart from?

When the founders of AA set out to form the framework for the recovery institution, the main goal was not to sympathetically care for the abandoned and the downtrodden, those burdened by the disease of alcoholism.  It was to teach a new way of living, to lift up, and give us avenues of assimilation.  When we talk about recovery, we strive towards a path of healing that teaches us to find a means to better relate to the world around us.  When we say we are alcoholics, it is not to separate us, to cordon us off, make us distinct and different. We are not in the business of creating a race of sober supermen, nor do we expect special treatment, babying, or patronizing.  Though we have a disease, it urges us to be deeply in touch with our spiritual, physical, and mental well-being.

This holiday season, we must choose to be a part of.  We did not get sober to be lonely, and we certainly must not use our new found lifestyle as a means of separation.  We must approach every holiday function with open arms and a grain of salt.  We must be wary of the voices in our heads, telling that one sip is okay, and we must be understanding if those around us are still tainted by the wreckage of our pasts.  If we feel ourselves building resentment, a quick call to a sponsor or a sober chum is in order.  We choose water over wine with the ease that the vegetarian chooses salad over steak.  We acknowledge that though this year things are different, it doesn’t necessarily mean we cannot start new traditions.  The serenity prayer tells us to accept the things we cannot change, like our families, our friends, the world, around us, and our disease.  It also says to change the things we can, like acting in a manner of esteem and positivity, to show all those, especially ourselves that this is a time of new beginnings.

The Gift of the Holidays

Friday, December 18th, 2009
Happy Holidays fro CAST

Happy Holidays from CAST

Last new years I found myself sitting in a pool-chair, on the deck of a luxury cruise to Mexico, in a state of great introspection and, regretfully, self pity. Poor me.  Amidst mountains of exotic savory and spicy delicacies, and countless high seas leisure activities, I was drowning in my own misery.  I was an alcoholic, and I was alone.  While I found a hint of fellowship at a “Friends of Dorothy” meeting, I sank even more swiftly into a routine of solitude.  And on New Years Eve, while everyone gathered to welcome in the night with champagne and festivities, I drifted away.  The once adventurist socialite became a brooding bitter bystander.  I became apart, and not a part of.

Looking back, I realize the many steps that I, and many others take, either consciously or subconsciously, that lead us to a feeling of dejection during the holiday season.  We all automatically accept the “meaning of Christmas” mentality where we are supposed to relish in the values of family, kindness, togetherness, giving, etc.  And yet somehow it all becomes about “me”.  What are MY gifts?  What are MY travel plans for the holidays? The concept of family vacation is supposed to be about building family unity by stepping out of the regular boundaries of home and homestead, and building a cohesive solidarity through activities and adventures, which lovingly pit our personalities against the odds of inevitable clashes and challenges.

More often than not, family vacation turns into the question of “how can I vacate from the presence of my family?”  Instead of focusing on the warmth in your heart and the welcoming openness in your eyes, I focused on the glass in your hand.  Instead of looking out at the opportunities my higher power had placed at my fingertips, I looked inward at the uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.  True, I was new in sobriety and learning how to make connections with people that weren’t based on using, but what better place than a cruise where every interaction is a clean slate?  Instead of finding ways that we were alike, I judged and I knew that we were different and that we could never get along. Instead of letting my family know how I felt, I hid in the corner, and once again put on a mask to hide my fear.

This holiday season I, unfortunately, will be unable to vacation with my family.  Initially, on first glance, this appears to be a curse.  I have learned to trust the decisions of my higher power and search for the hidden blessings.  This holiday season, I will have the chance to build independence, and invest in moments of closeness with my community. This holiday season, I can discover how to celebrate and be festive, on my own terms, clean and sober.  This holiday season, I will sit and share with others what it means to make new starts, and reflect on the growth I have made in the past year. And this holiday season, I will give thanks for a fellowship, and a family, and the opportunity to be given, as well as give, a new year.

Goodbye Booze, Hello Shoes!

Friday, December 11th, 2009
Transferring Addictions

Transferring Addictions

In early recovery, we learn to let go of both our obsession of the mind, and allergy of the body. We assess our previous lifestyles and gratefully resign to a new mode of behavior. Often, in giving up our affliction, we rediscover that emptiness inside ourselves that we used to fill up with the bottle and the bong. There is a pit inside our stomachs, uneasiness with getting to know ourselves all over again. There is an anxiety about becoming an active participant about the here and now, and a reluctance to face the onslaught of new emotions.

In response to this wave of new thoughts and feelings, we seek to suppress this ambush of being present and accountable with something we are all too familiar with…addiction. We take one thing that makes us feel good like food and exercise and smoking and facebook, and we focus solely on it. We make it our “end all” and “be all”. We replace our urges to shoot and snort and smoke and stab with a new found drive to shop. We rationalize our obsession with “its not drugs, I’m not getting high, and hooray for being sober!”

But what happens when we find ourselves losing control? We are in the gym more than we are with friends and family, and we spend more time on farmville, or world of warcraft, than outside taking walks or reading books or going to meetings. What happens when personal recovery becomes powerless to our passion for purses and shoes?

When the founders of the institution of AA suggested we take life “one day at a time”, they didn’t strictly refer to the visualization of the battle against our demons. “One day at a time” urges us to also look at our behavior, to slow down the re-building we do. We don’t need to work out to look skinny for tomorrow, and we don’t need to buy a new outfit for next week. Today is the only day that counts and we should make the most of it. Make a routine, eat healthy, spend time on yourself, and spend some time with others. Shop, and play, and exercise and eat, but do it for today. Sobriety isn’t about avoiding bottle and the blunt, but also being the best we can be each day.

Wreckage of Our Past

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Darkness Before the Dawn

Darkness Before the Dawn

A speaker at an AA meeting said something once that has stuck with me throughout my sobriety. He said that we come into these rooms with broken hearts. Not that anyone in particular broke them, it was more like we did it to ourselves.  Many of us did awful things at the height of our addictions, I know I did, we had strayed so far from the type of people we had wanted to be.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in recovery has been dealing with the guilt of all the things I had done. Unfortunately too many of us have to turn to stealing and defrauding people who had never wronged us in any way to support our own obsession. We have been responsible for many a bad day for those we saw an opportunity to victimize and exploit, most of whom are likely decent and kind law abiding citizens.  Due to the fact that we were so anesthetized against any feeling, except chemically induced euphoria, we were able to carry on like all was right in the world, without a care. That is until all that buried guilt, simmering beneath the surface, was just about ready to boil over and would not be contained by another hit. So we end up doing more and more, and eventually find ourselves in a desperate race to stay ahead of our own emotions…a race we inevitably loose.

Its only when we stop running away from the emotional upheaval of our actions and attitudes that we can begin to heal the wounds we inflicted upon ourselves and so many others.  Through the twelve steps we can begin to see the mayhem our disease brought about.  When we take an inventory we begin to see the maladaptive and selfish ideas that drove us to such destructive and careless behavior.  It is only after we have done a thorough housecleaning that we can truly begin to set right some of the pain we’ve caused.  After having completed our amends we no longer have to be plagued by remorse, we can be free. For many of us this is the only path that leads out of misery and despair.  Unfortunately many of us never find it, but the guidance and road to recovery and freedom is available for any of us who are willing.

Written By: Mike L ,  An Addict in Recovery