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“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.”

– Alice Miller (from her book The Drama of the Gifted Child)

For many years, I worked hard to build a charmed life. I had been living that life to the fullest until I took a precipitous fall into the abyss of alcoholism. Unwittingly, I claimed my family as hostages and took them right along with me.

I survived addiction and have been in recovery since February 9, 2007. Since that time, I have been working courageously, and sometimes not, to face the trauma/emotional pain that caused my addiction and ripples through my life today.

Writing My Story has been revealing and cathartic.  Glad that you stopped by!

 

Gabor Mate: Addiction and Trauma Therapist and Author — Emotional Sobriety: Mind, Body, & Soul

At the heart of Dr. Gabon Mate’s life work is the following question: “The question is never “Why the addiction?” but “Why the pain?” The research literature is unequivocal: most hard-core substance abusers come from abusive homes.” “Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to […]

via Gabor Mate: Addiction and Trauma Therapist and Author — Emotional Sobriety: Mind, Body, & Soul

If You’re New!

Wow, it’s been 3 years since my last posting.  Dang!  And, its been nearly three years since I last logged on.  Things have changed here, there are many cool looking sites now.  I like it!

I am grateful to be sober!  I am connected and enjoying life in the present.  I use to be the biggest skeptic about that possibility.  I want to write a post and share the progression of my journey.  Hope to soon.  In the meantime, thought I’d cut and paste a couple of responses that I shared with other alcoholics that have just begun their sober journey:

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[Less than 30 days, can it be so hard]

It’s damn hard…so be kind to yourself!  What you’re doing is courageous.  Look up the word Courage and stare at the descriptions for a while.  Too many of us treat alcoholism as nothing more than the common cold.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. Alcoholism is a fatal illness.  I heard that before I got sober and I have watched the reality of that, over and over, for some time now.

Recovery does not happen alone, it can’t!  “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. – Albert Einstein

Find a strategy that works for you to be in “face to face” contact with another alcoholic. Why go through something alone when someone else has already traveled that path.  We need each other.  It gets easier.  Connection/love is everything!

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[I’m a newly sober mom, looking for inspiration]

You’ll do great. Remember this…”every child deserves a sober parent!”  The time your child is with you in life is fleeting. They grow up in a flash and leave your home. Get all of them that you can, when you can!

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Alcohol was my solution.  It worked for a long time, until it didn’t!  Most people drink alcohol with impunity.  But they drink for the enjoyment.  We drank to numb out emotional pain.

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[It’s been four days and nothing is happening]

We want it “RIGHT NOW”!  We stop after years of drinking, drugging, or both, and we want everything fixed NOW!  I get it.  I certainly did too.  Arresting your addiction is a monumental accomplishment.  Less than 1 in 20 can achieve physical sobriety.  If you have stopped, you have accomplished much.  You have earned a ticket to the starting line, a new beginning!  That ticket came at a great cost to you and your loved ones.

You are on a new journey now.  A journey of discovery, recovery and connection.  It was never about the addiction, that was your solution.  It was always about the pain!   The emotional pain that caused you to seek relief through forms of self-medication.

Hey, it’s going to take some time.  And, recovery is not something that happens alone.  Find your posse, your peeps and your recovery plan.  We need the help of others, that’s fundamental.  It may (will) get worse, before it gets better.  You’re now moving forward in life without altering your state of consciousness.  If you’re like most of us who have taken this step, there are things in your past that you would just as well avoid.  Now its time to face them.  It all gets better “EVENTUALLY”.  I’ve not met one person in long-term recovery who regrets moving forward in life from that initial starting line.  Heed the definition of courage.  Involve yourself with others who have traveled the path before you.  A better life awaits!

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[How do I say no to a drink offer]

Say “No”.  If you want to sound more polite, say “No, thank you”.  Both responses are complete sentences.  That’s it!  There is no need to explain any further.  If they persist (most don’t) and say “why not”, you can repeat “No, thank you” or you can say “I feel better when I don’t”.  Then they’ll say, “uh, me too”, and go on talking about how they need to take more healthy steps.

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[A writer with Bipolar]

You’re going to be just fine in life.  You are reaching out and connecting through your talents.

Isolation isn’t healthy for anyone.  Being aware of the problem puts us into the solution. One of my favorite people, Clinical Researcher and author Brene Brown, says “We are neurobiologically wired for connection”.  Check out her TED Talk – The Power of Vulnerability.  An all time TED Talk favorite with 33 million views.

I “have” Bipolar 1.  I didn’t say that “I am” Bipolar 1 or “I’m Bipolar”.  Big distinction between the two.  Just like someone who’s living with a lifelong condition like diabetes doesn’t say “I’m diabetes”.  Those that have diabetes go through the process of educating themselves, putting together a manage plan, and then following that plan daily so that they can lead a normal and productive life.

The disorder dimension of Bipolar is preventable.  Deviate from my manage plan and I put myself at risk.  Stick to my manage plan and I get to enjoy the gifts of having Bipolar – intelligence, creativity, empathy, resilience…and more!

Share your gifts with the world and do good things.  Just as others do with the talents they’ve been given.

Best!

 

Turning it Over!

In Step Three, the word “care” has a lot of meaning to me.  To me, it’s an action word.  A reminder to do my best.  I’m not just handing it over and hitting my can to watch how it all turns out.  Hell no.  I have a big part.  To do my very best.  And then…gulp, let the results be what they are.  Looking back, it’s an evolutionary process.  Step Three means something completely different at eight years sober, than it did at one, three, five years etc.

As for the deity part in Step Three, I spend little time there.  I only have to go out in this great big world and travel a bit, or experience nature.  Yes, there is something bigger than me!  And, really, who am I to say otherwise.  I don’t need to burn energy in any debate beyond that.

“Let go or be dragged” is another description, along the lines of Step Three, that means something to me today.  And, it certainly doesn’t mean give up.  Far from it.  What the phrase means to mean is just to put all my energy into doing my best today.  That’s it!  No looking back.  No looking forward.  No disappointment with whatever the result is or isn’t.

It has definitely been a process that has taken time to fully understand and embrace.  I couldn’t let go at one year sober. I had done Step Three and considered it complete.  Read it, said it and believed it. But looking back, I really had no depth of understanding what this Step really meant.  And, looking back, I still hadn’t let go at even five years sober.  I was still looking back, hoping for a better past.  Or, feeling anxious because I just didn’t know about next year, or the following year.  And, that inner critical voice, still critiquing the minute I finished something.  Picking on the small blemish that didn’t go “as planned”.  Or, where I experienced a flash of fear or shame while engaged in what I was doing.   I would hyper focus on that.  Never allowing myself to step back and realize how well things went overall.  And, if it didn’t go well, forget it! Hours of ruthless and crushing inner dialogue persisted.

Once I truly let go, everything changed.  And it hasn’t left.  Every day just keeps getting better the more I am able to let go.

So, if this is what it feels like to have a spiritual awakening, I am all in!

I No Longer Drink, So Why AA?

One thing is for certain, alcoholics never seem to be short on “over thinking” things.  Life presents itself, but to us we want to know if there is just a little more.  Mentally churning the what if’s and where fore’s.  Never satisfied to just accept what is.

I have learned that alcoholism is a fatal illness.  I have also learned (the hard way) that if you’re an alcoholic, and still drinking, things will always get worse…never better!  I had to experience that process of illumination and understanding until the pain and suffering in my life reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore.

My solution was alcohol.  It was my solution until I drank the value out of drinking.  And then, of course, I had a gorilla size problem to deal with.  When I survived addiction and got sober, the bigger problem that I have had my entire life was still there. good ole life itself!

My program in sobriety is AA.  I don’t go to AA because I have a drinking problem.  No, I took care of that!  I go to AA because I have a sober problem.  And I have had this sober problem for as long as I can remember.  I never fit in.  I always felt uncomfortable in my own skin.  I was never good enough.  People were always judging me, or so I thought.  The list goes on!  Joy was elusive.  Happiness…fleeting!

Learning how to live life on life’s terms has been a challenge.  Learning how to stop fighting everything and everyone has been a challenge.  Learning how to become free from the bondage of self, the stifling self-centeredness that consumes alcoholics, that has been a challenge.  But eight years into my sober journey, I can tell you that it has been that most rewarding experience of my life.

The last two years of my life, in particular, have been incredible.  And it just keeps getting better each day.   it is all due to the fact that I became willing to take a hard look at myself and change.  I never knew I had to change.  Hell, I just thought that I had a drinking problem and I needed to fix that.  Eventually, in this process of becoming truthful and conscious, I could see clearly that all of my problems had one common denominator…ME!

None of these admissions, and then taking corrective actions toward change is easy. In fact, most people don’t. I guess they find it too tough. But for those of us that do make that change, it’s hard to put into words just how great life becomes.

AA is not my life. AA has become my way of life!

Not God!

At two years into my sober journey, I had traveled to the zero point of my soul. I was so full of pain and self-induced suffering that I just stopped and sat down on the floor of my bedroom one day. I became paralyzed. The room felt too big, so I closed the door. That brought me no comfort. I went into the bathroom and closed the door. Still, no relief. So, I got into the shower. In great discomfort, I just dropped to my knees and curdle up into the upper left corner of the shower. It was just me, my tears, and my overwhelming thoughts of stopping the pain for good.

I have heard it said that you live your life forward and understand your life backwards. Makes sense. Hindsight is 20/20, right! Today, I can tell you that I was not alone in my shower six years ago.

I struggled most of my life with the concept of God. As far back as I can remember. Who is this all-knowing and almighty being! Someone that takes deep refuge in the clouds, watches over and protects you? Not buying that! Someone that is all around me that I just can’t see. Not buying that either. So how about just living in the mystery of not needing physical proof and just believing. Yeah, whatever! Maybe when things are going incredibly great. But…but…certainly not when things are going bad! Because then, I’m in charge!

Discomfort was my most comfortable state of being, growing up and well into adulthood. If the discomfort was too much, I eased that discomfort with alcohol. If I felt comfortable, I felt fearful. I never wanted to feel fear. I would always wait for the discomfort to return. But I would also use alcohol to ease that fear. You know, that’s what I believed I deserved…fear and discomfort. And damn it, I was in charge! Not any God. I would not be foolish enough to believe that someone could possibly run my life when things went bad.

Why did I not choose the long-term solution to my short-term problem that day on the floor of my shower. Looking back on that day today, it is clear to me that I was not alone. I remember passing thoughts about the collective souls of those who had passed, but stay in my thoughts, they were there. I also remember the collective souls of those who are living and were trying desperately to help me, they were there. It was my frightened but determined wife. It was my friends, who didn’t understand my pain, but cared about me and wanted to help me in any way possible, they were there. It was my children, all confused and not saying anything, they were there! And nature, the bright sun shining onto the shower floor. The song birds singing, there too!

Today, I am eight years into this sober journey. I am humbled. I am grateful. Happiness fills me daily. Everyday! “God is doing for me what I could not do for myself” (Quote from the Big Book of AA). Everyday! And, everyday, my faith continues to grow stronger. Everyday, the joy that I feel inside grows alongside my faith. And, everyday, I think less and less of my troubles and my needs, and more and more about helping others in need. My intentions become my actions to help others. Those that I can help.

Yes, I traveled to the zero point of my soul, figuratively driving that bus until it just stopped and shutdown. I realize that my seemingly control of everything and everyone was nothing but an illusion. There, beside me on that day was my God.

I know who I am today. I am enough! A husband, a father, a co-worker and a friend. And, I know who I am not today. Not God!

Enlightenment

I got a bit long winded responding to another bloggers post earlier today.  To the level of my reply being its own post.  Sheez!  What got me going is that I hate to see people suffering and on the brink of contemplating a drink again as their best option.  If an alcoholic is going out for another beating, there is little that I can do.  I know that!  But I try because that’s what we do.  We help each other stay sober.  After a bit of clean up, here’s what I wrote:

My reaction to your post is that I see a lot of similarities to myself in early sobriety.  Similarities not unlike what I have observed from many newcomers walking into the rooms of AA every year.  I see that you post a lot and I am rooting for you.  I wish you nothing but the best on your sober journey.

I’ve learned a bit over the past eight years.  Most of all is that I know very little!  In and of itself, that has ignited a passion in me to learn more.  I’ll never stop learning…unless I pick up a bottle again!   It brings me happiness to know that I have that choice today.

Here’s a sliver of some of the things I’ve learned.  Intellect will kill me.  It almost did.  As an educated person and working professional, I’ve been well trained to solve problems.  But Alcoholism is not a problem for me to solve.  That’s not the problem. The problem is/was me!  As Einstein once famously said “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.”  I had no training or experience to solve the problem called “me”.  In fact, I couldn’t even recognize that I was the problem!  What was my problem?  It was a sober problem.  A problem with life as I saw it and reacted to it.  Alcohol was my solution. Until it stopped working. Then I had another problem.  Addiction!

We need others to help us. Others that have been there themselves. Other alcoholics. For me, I found them in AA.

Many alcoholics reject AA at the onset of sobriety. They can’t identify with the program and find little common ground.  I realize today that that’s a “no shit Sherlock kind of thing”.  Crafted in my own design, my life had become one in which I lived in opposition to the basic principles of AA.  Duh!

And, how did that design work for me after nearly 45 years?  Not well!  Yet I fought AA tooth and nail with all my willpower and intellect. I fought it until I was sick and tired of being a dry drunk.  There was nothing to fight, nothing to challenge nor oppose.  Upon further review, it was just me fighting me.  After six years of fighting myself sober, I finally became willing enough to do anything not to live another day of self-imposed torture and discomfort.  My scorecard was apparent.  I was of no use to my family, my friends, my career and anyone else that I crossed paths with on any given day. I had some relief during my first six years.  But depression, anxiety, little happiness and little joy were still my constant companions.

That’s all different today. It didn’t take long after I started working the simple of AA.  My life changed completely.  Depression left as I no longer hoped for a better past…the byproduct of finally forgiving myself.  Anxiety left as I no longer lived in the future, projecting outcomes and expectations.  Today, I live a life that I never could have imagined.  And if just keeps getting better. Good intentions are only good intentions. Taking action has made all the difference.

That’s why I responded to your post. It’s worth the time investment to elaborate as well.  Even though I know that “you’re ready when you’re ready” (to get sober and stay sober). Not a damn thing I can do about it except share my experience.

One other thing I’ve learned in the rooms of AA.  Alcoholism is a fatal illness.  Sadly, most of society treats it like the common cold.  People die every day from this illness.  I’ve been around this long enough to watch people die far too often.  I need no further convincing as to how serious this illness is and what I need to do on a daily basis to not go down that path.

We see when we can see and hear when we can hear!  But too many of us don’t and end up dying a painful alcoholic death.

I wish you all the best!