It is not always easy to be thankful for your current circumstances. Trust me when I say that I have had and am dealing with my fair share of unwanted situations. Unfortunately, the outcome of my effort is not up to me. If it was, I would have a very different life than the one I am living, but that does not mean that I cannot find joy even when in a season of discomfort.
It has been said that much of our well being as well as our sobriety hinges on our ability to surrender to the situation at hand… to recognize and accept the things we cannot change – whether it is for a season or for a lifetime… and the courage to change the things we can – also for a season or for a lifetime.
I had a hard time when I returned to my hometown as a sober person. I enjoyed living the coastal life and I enjoyed having ample opportunities for hiking and climbing. The area of the country that I moved to is rather flat with extreme weather swinging from bone-chilling cold to life threatening heat. I admit that I went through a season of complaining. I complained about everything I could until I finally got sick of hearing my own broken record. I decided to heed my own advice and do what had worked for me in other cities I had moved to in the past. I got active in researching and reaching out to groups I could find through online and social media channels to create opportunities for myself. As a result, I have spent the past two months of Saturdays on day-hiking trips to neighboring states. I’ve also expanded into canoe and kayak trips and I have to say that I forgot how much I love paddling down a river! In short, the place I hated so much, doesn’t seem so bad anymore. The reason being that I stopped complaining and started trying to find a solution to my madness. I may not have giant mountains to hike and a beautiful ocean within 30 minutes of my current city, but I have found that day trips aren’t so bad. It’s actually quite nice to get out of town even if for a day for some exploration with other nature/outdoor enthusiasts. And I am continuing to find new groups and opportunities for adventures… It’s like that saying in AA… just show up and the rest will take care of itself…
Another area that was a big problem for me was a lack of a good church home. I visited a church with my mom one Sunday and I’ve been going back ever since. I have had to really trust my Higher Power on this one because from the outside – this church didn’t appear to have anything for me. I just knew that I had an overwhelming sense of peace every time I went to the contemporary service and so I continued to go back. Once again, I had a decision to make… keep going to a church that I don’t know why I am going to or find out if there is a reason I keep getting called back. I again, took action…. I signed up for a Newcomer class, found out about volunteering in the church and found that there are classes and groups for people my age along with subject based classes I am interested in… And again… that just show up thing worked and the rest took care of itself.
I mentioned that I got tired of hearing my own broken record earlier in this post. I had a heart to heart with my Higher Power. I told Him the things that I needed to be happy here like regular opportunities for outdoor adventures, a good church home and good friends and/or a significant other. So far the first two have been checked off! But, they would not have been checked off had I chosen to continue to complain instead of choosing to seek out ways to meet my must-haves for a happy Jessica. I had to do the work. I had to reach out. I had to try new things. I had to put myself out there, be willing to drive a couple of hours to hike with people I didn’t know… I had to show up.
If you’re in a season of complaining right now, I challenge you to sit down, grab some tea or coffee or whatever you enjoy and take some time to think about what you can change about your life right now. Maybe you are like me in that you have to find a way to be happy where you are even though it’s not where you want to be. Make a list of your must-haves and then brainstorm things you can do to try and cultivate more of your must-haves in your life. Regardless of your location, interests or schedule… there is a way to get more of what makes you happy in your life… You just have to be willing to do the work… and to show up….the rest will take care of itself.
Some of you might be asking, ‘”What? No spiel on counting your blessings?” No, because I find that when you leave complaining behind and move into the act of solving your problem – you eventually find your blessings and you tend to start counting them too.
I have to admit that I have not been following my own advice as of late. I haven’t really been to an AA, CR or any other type of addiction support meeting in a few months. I watch the TV show Mom a lot, but I can’t count that as a meeting even though it does deal with addiction on a regular basis… I know I need to go, but I have been letting my job situation (see last post) become the only focus in my life. And to be truthful, it is that much harder to make myself go to a meeting when I’ve been home all day job hunting and cleaning stuff out. I give myself the ‘why put clothes and makeup on if I don’t have to’ speech and I am pretty convincing. Plus there is that dread of having to replay the broken record of ‘I lost my job again’ to the good ladies of Alcoholics Anonymous. I can become reclusive at the drop of a hat and I am becoming aware that I am doing so right now!
A funny thing happened this morning as I was making my morning cup of tea. I recalled that my brother said the best way to get Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar in your system is to take a shot straight. So I took the shot straight and I really enjoyed the slow burning sensation that traveled down my esophagus and into my stomach and I immediately wanted to take more shots. I loved the feeling and quickly realized that’s how it used to feel when I would take shots of liquor! Only an alcoholic/addict would take a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar and have that reaction! I don’t know what to say other than it was another reminder to get my ass back in meetings. I mean I have no reason not to go. It doesn’t cost money and if Hercules is acting up I can always go down the list of numbers and have someone come get me. I might do that anyway because then you know… I have to get in the car. Tearing off the band-aid is always the hardest part… What comes after is easy.
I have been mysteriously sick this week, but I am going to make myself return to meetings next week. I might even make myself go to some not so familiar morning meetings to ease my way back in… you know tell my broken record story of job loss yet again to someone who might not have heard it yet. I am also making myself do some stuff outside of the house! I am volunteering at my church and going to a class on Sunday mornings so I have to show up. I also have some hikes lined up for the remainder of October, which will get me back to one of my favorite places – discovering new ground on a trail in the woods. I am hopeful that the activities of the next few weeks will get me back to my normal self and I am of course hopeful for either a temporary or permanent job to come through to allow me to finish paying off my debt this year (again, see last post). One thing I cannot afford to do is to recoil into a little ball and suffer alone. My health is coming back and I am going back out there to experience life in community, which is how I believe it was intended.
I’m curious… what do you guys do when you feel yourself recoiling? Or when you become aware of the fact that you haven’t left your house in a week? (work does not count) What are your action steps? Feel free to share below!
I have learned in AA that any time I find myself acting out there must be an emotion lurking underneath that is causing the outburst. Before recovery I never questioned those instances where I found myself vying for best temper tantrum with any two year old sprawled out on the floor of any store isle in the country. I just went off and wreaked havoc on every one around me like a hurricane tearing through an unsuspecting coastal town. I never thought about the why behind my outbursts, I just figured I was angry and I was… but there is always something else behind anger. No one is ever just angry. Pride and fear are the top two contenders for me. Food and sleep are always there too, but that type of anger seems to be of a more superficial type. Today I am talking about real, scary, out of this world anger that erupts from deep in your soul.
I had this type of anger come upon me this past week. I was at work, sitting in my office just fuming. If I could have been foaming at the mouth, I would have been. I was that angry. I was literally spewing vile words from my mouth. I just kept going off to no one in particular, after all, it really wasn’t about them was it? No, it was about me. At first I thought I am angry because my co-workers don’t respect me now that they are going on to new jobs with the company that took over our office. How were they not respecting me you ask? Well, they had the absurd notion to give me work to do that fell within the boundaries of my job title! I mean come on! How rude of them!
As I continued to spew foul frustrations from my mouth, I had said co-workers come to my office to see if I was okay. I told one of them that I had a lot hitting me that day. I hadn’t really emotionally dealt with the fact that I had to have some skin cancer removed from my leg and how it sucks to know that 11 years after detecting my first Melanoma that it was still coming for me. I also told this co-worker that I couldn’t get my job hunting done because I was having to do so much work for other people and that those other people should understand my situation and not give me work to do even though it is my job to do such work. That last bit had some actual truth to it…
I knew my behavior was just uncalled for and so I turned on my favorite band and sat and my desk and got busy doing the work I did not want to do and then I paused. I asked my Higher Power why I was behaving this way, feeling this way… I finally asked the real question that needed answering… What emotion is underneath this outburst? What am I really upset about?
The answer came quickly. FEAR. I was afraid! I was afraid of loosing all of the financial ground I had worked so hard to gain this year while living at home. It was really hard for me to come back to the Memphis area and equally as hard to admit that I needed to stay at home for a couple of years to get myself back on track financially. It is hard for any grown adult to do this and after 5 years of sobriety and bouncing around the country in dead-end jobs trying to make something of myself somewhere – I was forced to go home after staying in friends homes for a few months at a time because I couldn’t afford a studio apartment and I couldn’t find a decent roommate situation. I eventually tired of living out of boxes and having all of my stuff crammed in my car all of the time. I eventually went home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and my brother and I love spending time with them….
Anywho, back to where I was going – FEAR. I was trying to make it about pride, but it was all really about Fear. I was afraid for my future. I was afraid of what might be around the corner EVEN THOUGH my Higher Power had recently given me a thought that I wrote down and kept with me. I actually woke up with this thought in my head, “All is well, you just can’t see it yet.” These are the words given to me a couple of days before my meltdown. My Higher Power, whom I choose to call Jesus was intervening on my behalf. He knew the weight of the circumstances would crush me and so He gave me a word. The problem was I didn’t take it to heart. I didn’t let it seep into my soul as truth. I chose to look at the giant cloud looming just ahead of me and make that my truth instead and I was crushed.
As soon as I realized that fear was causing my outburst, I prayed and relinquished that fear to God. I chose to read that word He had given me and make it my truth. If He says all is well, but I just can’t see it yet, then I have no reason to worry. I am doing my part and applying to jobs like crazy. I am also reigning in my funds and moving to more of a rationing budget. I am hoping for a job in October so that I can use my stay bonus as a down payment for a new car (but that’s another story because I am going to have a hard time letting go of Hercules) instead of using it to pay off the remainder of my debt. Either way, I will still be debt free by the end of this year.
The magic of AA is that I no longer just have outbursts. I don’t live on an emotional roller coaster anymore. I now know how to handle my emotions. I know how to look underneath and find out the real cause to my actions. Whatever issue comes up first is usually the secondary issue with a primary issue lurking just a little further down. In my case my secondary issue was pride with my primary issue being the fear of the future. Once the issue was named, it lost a lot of its power. Once I knew what I was fighting, I knew how to attack it. In my case, I turned my thoughts around by taking my truth back, which is the real truth. Even if I do loose some ground financially and cannot use the bonus to buy a new car, I will still be debt free by the end of the year and I will have a roof over my head and food to eat since I am staying at my mom’s house. Everything will be okay no matter what happens. The weight that was crushing me wasn’t even my weight to carry. I gave that to Jesus and meditated on the words He gave me a couple of days prior, “All is well, you just can’t see it yet”.
“I got new rules, I count ‘em.” – Dua Lipa
Rule #1: One Meeting a Week at Minimum.
Truth is life can and does get busy. There have been plenty of weeks that required me to work late on the night of one of my home group meetings. I find that if I start letting weeks get in between my meetings, I unknowingly become a dry drunk. I start building resentments, staying in my head more and withdrawing from the right people in my life. Life is just better if I make my meetings and so I make them a priority and if I can’t make one of my go-to meetings then I search for another meeting to fill the gap and I go.
Rule #2: Know Your Warning Signs & Respond Accordingly.
I call it getting squirrelly; you may call it getting froggy or some other term. Whatever you call it – it means the sirens are roaring. For me, it often means I am uncomfortable in my own skin and just plain irritated and unhappy. Some of my warning signs are being uncomfortable and irritable when in meetings and in church, craving vast amounts of sugar or ginger – anything that gives me a perceived “intoxication or high”, hating work and coworkers and anybody who represents the status quo, picking fights with well… everyone, judging everyone around me and the onslaught of extreme mood swings. At some point, I usually realize I am craving hard and then I put my program into action. I liken my addiction to a green monster in a locked cell. Every once in a while that sucker wakes up, stretches, realizes where he is and starts banging on the walls and bars. He starts kicking, jumping and screaming at the top of his lungs and just when I think I can’t take the craving anymore – he begins to tire and he lays back down and he goes back to sleep. The trick is to not give in to his antics while he is in his temper tantrum because if I feed him, I will make him larger and I sure don’t want him busting out of his cell and overtaking me. As long as I don’t feed him, I can have peace knowing that he will eventually tire and go back to sleep and leave me alone. He will stay this small little monster that occasionally bothers me and I will stay in control.
Rule #3 Try to Live the Program of AA All the Time.
You might ask what do you mean by all the time? Well, I mean when I am doing well and when I am doing really not well. But I especially live the program of AA when I am bat shit crazy with cravings or depression or fear and anxiety. This means I go to extra meetings, I call those people I am close to in AA and CR and let them know that I am not okay and I let them be there for me even if it feels uncomfortable. I raise my hand and tell the truth during the burning desire time even if I feel stupid doing so. I call my sponsor or accountability partners and tell them I’m not okay. This can be so awkward, but I tell people when I don’t need to go home, when I need someone to hang out with, when I just need to be somewhere doing something and I find that someone is always up for the challenge! I also implement the 10th stepping daily inventory if I am not already doing it. It is a great way to start seeing reality for reality’s sake because my reality is somehow always worse than the real reality. I use the program of AA for what it is – a way of living for those who aren’t so good at living life on life’s terms.
Rule #4: I NEVER go anywhere if I will be the only non-drinker/user.
No Exceptions. Ever.
This is a huge one for me. And it is my personal rule. Every alcoholic/addict has to create their own boundaries based on what they feel is safe for them. I drank from age 9 to age 32. If you drink alcohol around me two things are going to happen: (1) I assume you are becoming someone else like I did. (2) I am going to stare longingly at that glass of red wine or vodka in your hands while my social anxiety builds to the point that I am either crying or staring at you like a deer caught in headlights. Therefore, I just don’t go out with a group of people if I am going to be the only one not drinking. I also cannot and will not date people who drink or do any drugs and yes I mean pot too. While any future significant other or close friend doesn’t have to be in recovery, they also can’t be using period. There are people out there who don’t drink or use drugs for reasons other than addiction and it is these two groups of people that I focus on building friendships and relationships with.
Rule #5: Be Adventurous by actively seeking out non-drinking activities.
I don’t know if this is actually a rule, but I do force myself to do it from time to time when I find myself either stuck in a routine or becoming more and more introverted and reclusive. Like right now for instance, I am living in an area where I cannot do many of my favorite pastimes and I don’t really have any friends in the area so I find myself spending more and more time alone. I know that ‘s not good for a normie much less an alcoholic-addict. So I am forcing myself to seek out non-drinking and non-drugging opportunities. I am joining a bunch of Meetup groups and Facebook groups and church groups that are activity based. I don’t even go to the church that has all the fun activity groups, but since I know there are people there my age I might as well see if I can strike up any friendships with people who aren’t regular drinkers! Being adventurous and seeking out new activities for non-drinkers is how I fell in love with the outdoors so I know what amazing changes can come out of being willing to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.
Rule #6: Prayer, Meditation, Chakra Cleansing and Daily Release/Inventory.
I start each morning with a thank you to God for bringing me back because He didn’t have to! I also keep a daily morning yoga practice and after which, I perform a chakra cleansing and a meditation. In my morning meditations I strive to focus on a thought or phrase – sometimes the phrase enters my mind immediately, but other times I ask God “What is my thought for today?” or “What truth do I need to meditate on today?” I find that the yoga wakes me up, the chakra cleansing balances and grounds me and the meditation provides a truth to focus on for my day ahead. I even follow this morning ritual when on vacation. It’s a must in my world. I also say a prayer at the end of my morning ritual where I generally remind God of things that are worrying me and ask Him to take care of those things and I end with asking for a good day with good communications, safety and the ability to ascertain His promptings throughout the day and the courage to act on them. I also end my day with a meditation where I clear my chakras and reflect on the events of that day asking God to bring to mind anything I might need to improve upon or be enlightened about for the following day to come.
Rule #7: Keep a Daily Exercise Routine to Stay Grounded.
Besides yoga, I find that a good work out after work gets rid of excess energy and stress. I love walking and hiking for their grounding qualities, but I also love kickboxing, dancing and weight lifting and I mix all of these up in my weekly workouts. Everybody has a different time of day that works for them, but like I said, I prefer right after work. I find it’s a great way to let go of the day and prepare myself for a relaxing evening afterwards. I also find that the more I work out, the healthier my food options tend to be. Being an alcoholic, I can eat and I do often crave vast amounts of sugar, but the workouts keep me on the healthy end of the sugar scale and as a byproduct, limit any negative side effects like depression and anxiety from repetitive unhealthy over eating.
Rule #8: Make Time for What Makes You Happy!
Taurus’s are typically grounded individuals, but I swear I gallop in the air and am always craving something grounding and fun to spend my time. For me, my number one happy place is the ocean or any large body of water. The waves just wash a peace over me that I cannot wash over myself. A close second is hiking. I love hitting a trail and venturing off into the woods or the mountains. It can be 112 or 12 degrees outside – I don’t care – I will still go adventuring. I can’t explain what it does for me except to say that I am the best version of myself when I am hiking, kayaking or climbing. Another favorite past time is anything creative I can make with my hands. I find that keeping the hands busy is a form of meditation in and of itself. Even if it is the very mundane task of filing papers – it lifts the mind off of whatever it is concentrating on and allows the mind to go elsewhere – it is great. As for creative pastimes, I prefer coloring and painting. I also love photography and pottery. I think the common denominator in all of these pastimes is that the experience consumes me allowing my mind to drift somewhere lighter. I’ve never been depressed or upset on a hike, on a paddle board or while painting a canvas. These activities take my mind and soul somewhere I just can’t go without them.
Rule #9: Stay Active in a Church/Spiritual Community.
Jesus is a central part of my recovery. For you it might be another Higher Power. I think it is important to surround yourself within a spiritual community that you agree with and with which you find support and encouragement. I know that I do better when I regularly attend church and am active in a women’s group or Bible study where I can get spiritually fed and have spiritual support in the form of prayer or close spiritual friendships. I guess it goes along with the idea that whatever you are feeding yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually – you become. Those you surround yourself with are your future… so make sure they are going where you want to go or becoming the type of person you want to be!
Rule #10: Let go of Those who Endure Me & Embrace Those who Appreciate Me.
This is something God has actually been working with me on. I have had a lot of people in my life that I called friends that endured me. I actually think the reason I miss Los Angeles so much is because of the friendships – those people appreciated me and they basically taught me the difference between being appreciated and being endured. When you are endured, people may invite you out and want to spend time with you, but you often find that you are somehow causing the group or the other person problems by just being who you are. The people who appreciate you on the other hand, make plans with you knowing full well any special needs or personality quirks and make accommodations for them during the making of plans. They basically consider you in advance and are considerate of you while enjoying your company. I am going to write a post on this very topic so I am not going to dive too deep right now. I am learning to identify friends who are enduring me versus friends who are appreciating me and I am not letting the enduring friends have much say in my life because they are always going to be negative since I don’t stack up to whatever version of a friend they have created in their mind. ***Note – I’m speaking of things you can’t help about yourself like in my case sun sensitivity, heat sensitivity and dietary issues. Or major personality traits like say being a photographer!
Rule #11: Stay Positive – Always Admitting It Can Always Get Better.
Another thing God has really been working with me on is my level of positive thinking. Of course, when one is in a bad depression the positive thinking goes out the window, but I find that I am one of those people where everything is possible for everyone else except me and so my inner thinking can often match this outcome. Not only am I being preempted, so to speak, when it comes to my thoughts of myself, but also to my thoughts of others and the world in general. It is like God is reaching down and holding my tongue when I am about to say something that does not align with what He says about me or the person or situation I am thinking about…. And if you are not aware, while God might not celebrate all of our decisions and actions, He also never speaks ill of us! He continually sees what we can become with Him and not what we are when we are operating on our own.
Rule #12: Allow Others to Speak into My Soul.
There have been so many times when life wasn’t making sense, but then I heard a sermon or a podcast or read an article or a blog post and the light turned on inside my head. I believe that we should make room for those who tend to speak into our souls. When I was living in Los Angeles, I became a part of Mosaic in Hollywood. To this day Erwin and Joe can speak into my soul and change my perspective at the exact moment I need them to and so I keep tabs on their sermons and podcasts via their YouTube channel. I also read a lot of books and it is through one of those books that I came across the teachings of the Christian Scientist church. While I am not a Christian Scientist, I do relate to many of the teachings. I have even used some of their sayings as mantras to help get myself out of a recent depression. Consequently, I am subscribed to their super short daily podcast called the Daily Lift. I listen to it every morning while having tea and it serves as a daily morsel of positive food for my mind. The reality is that each of us has people who speak into our soul, make us shift our perspective in a good way and help us to make sense of our world… Each of us should be making room for these people in our lives so that we can stay grounded, stable and focused on what really matters.
These are my rules for healthy sober living regardless of circumstances… I'm curious to know... What are your rules?
Hello. My name is Jessica. I have been writing this blog for quite some time, but with this revamp I thought I would take a moment to share a little bit about the who, what, when, where and why… a short qualification if you will.
I got sober on August 26th of 2012 in Los Angeles, California after having a couple of spiritual experiences. At the time I was drinking a bottle of vodka a day and popping migraine pills. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in a very dangerous situation. I had heart palpitations non-stop and my muscles were so weak that walking the few feet to the mailbox entailed plopping down on the sidewalk to rest before returning to the house. I was also facing the problem of alcohol not working for me for the first time in my life. From age nine to age thirty-two, alcohol had been my answer to everything…my fear, my social anxiety and my unrelenting panic attacks. I suddenly stopped reaching that glorious state of oblivion and began thinking about switching to hard drugs. Those drugs had always been around me, but I never wanted them because I had all I needed in my bottle of booze. The tables were turning and I was at a very dangerous cross roads when a spiritual intervention occurred in my life. I was worried about finances and was seeking spiritual help through meditation, fasting and prayer. The only subject that kept coming up for me was sobriety. I did not understand why God could not understand that what I needed was a breakthrough on the job front. The following week, I took a soul’s goals class and was guided through a mediation that focused on the one thing each of us needs to get rid of to live our best lives and realize our dreams. The guided meditation took us through life with that thing in our lives and without that thing in our lives. My mediation was quite startling as all I saw was my grave beginning with the year I was in if I didn’t relinquish my alcohol. After doing the meditation I just sat there dumbstruck. I told God that alcohol was the one thing I could count on, the one thing that always made everything better, the one thing that allowed me to function as a normal person since my social anxiety and panic attacks were life altering and debilitating. I reminded God of that one time I tried an anti-anxiety medication I ended up in the psychiatric ward. Alcohol was my everything and I would slowly learn over the next few years that therein lies the problem. Alcohol was in God’s place in my life and He had to perform an alcoholectomy- the recovery time was unheard of, but 100% worth it.
As I sit here typing this, I am coming up on six years of sobriety. I still can’t fathom that it has been six years. The first three years I was so upside down and crazy, which might explain why it doesn’t feel that long. I literally went from drinking morning, noon and night to being stone cold sober. It was weird to say the least. I had to re-learn how to do everything because my anxiety and panic attacks came back in full force. I can say that I don’t typically suffer from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks anymore…. I was able to learn to navigate life without alcohol and quickly learned that what I thought was helping me was actually fueling the anxiety and attacks. On the other hand, I do not have one of those great stories where I got sober, got married, had kids, landed my dream job and lived happily ever after...yet anyways. I have quite the opposite story to date. I continue to struggle greatly financially, I haven’t dated in years and I am currently living at home in the town I swore I’d never return to. I have fought depression and suicidal thoughts greatly over the past year and am very worried for my ability to take care of myself in the future. The one thing I have been able to do is stay sober. Another plus is that I have maintained a continual growth on the spiritual side of life. In fact, I have to imagine that the physical side of life will follow suit at some point so long as I continue down my new path in life. Currently, I am dealing with a lot of loneliness. I have friends scattered around the country, just not so much in my current city of residence. I am also 38 and that in itself is sometimes enough to make me crawl under a rock. My thirties have been swallowed up in my getting and staying sober – I guess you could say I was derailed to say the least. But regardless of how much fear I have about my future, I also have a lot of hope. I am not where I want to be right now, but I am working hard to put myself in a better situation that will allow me to realize some of my dreams. And as for those promises… they are true. They may not come as quickly as some of us would like, but they do come to those who make the choice to live out the twelve steps and the program of alcoholics anonymous. My lesson for 2018 as far as I can tell is to learn to accept good into my life, to accept that it can happen for me too, that I do deserve it and to accept and love myself as I am today and where I am today.
New content coming soon… I hope you’ll stick around to read, share your thoughts and hopefully get some inspiration and empowerment for your own journey in 12-step living.
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy , not on fighting the old, but on building the new. - Socrates