repost: a down week

Searching for Hope

I have had a very low week. I feel like the honeymoon phase of my sobriety has worn off and my meds have either not kicked in or need to be increased. I have an appointment with my psychiatrist on Tuesday. I would like to increase my dosage of Sertraline. I’ve been at 50mg a day for six weeks now. I know it takes quite a bit of time for it to really kick in. Sometimes longer than eight weeks. But I’m not feeling good. I felt positive when I ditched the booze but that has waned. I spent all day in bed sleeping a couple days ago. At least I’m not waking up with a hangover.

I’m back from my trip and the anxieties of my work have come back full strength. I was stressed before I left. Now there is an additional two weeks piled on my desk…

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repost: a day in the life of my PTSD

Recovery Round 2

So I’m currently suffering worse than I have in a long time with my PTSD. I’m working nights and mornings so I think I’m hiding it well but everyone expects someone with PTSD to be a quivering mess, I function, sometimes better than others but it’s still hard.

When I’m finally free to sleep, after all my work is done I check the doors and windows twice before going back to my room. I’m currently sleeping with a knife near my bed, I know that this is more dangerous should something happen but it makes me feel more in control. I leave the light on or one of the hall lights, something so I’m not in complete darkness, I need to know my surroundings. My heart will be racing and I try to calm myself for sleep. I lie there for a long time before I can sleep, i listen…

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repost: the spiritual malady

Don't Drink and Don't Die

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.

I have always felt that resentment was not my “number one” offender.  I think, for me, it’s been fear, and a kind of resentment turned inward.  I see resentment and fear and part of the same thing.  I do experience resentments though, for sure.  Just not quite as often as fear.

This quote, from page 64 of the Big Book, precedes the fourth step inventory.  It’s saying to me that if I can dig out my character defects, I can stay sober and live well.  And from where I sit, with 34 years of sobriety, I can stay sober, and I do…

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post from what…me sober? on grieving brings back some fond memories

Since stepping through the doors here March 28, 2010, at the tender age of 60, I’ve been to more funerals than previously in my entire life. Years in the music industry showed me a lot of stuff; I saw some folks make unbelievable stupid, breathtakingly dangerous decisions with their brains and bodies… and sometimes they paid the full tab with both.

My take on death has been a little different for me, to my way of thinking. I left an alcoholic home when I was young because I couldn’t stand being around an angry, drinking father. It made a lot more sense — and my odds seemed a lot better — to be out on my own. It didn’t make life better; it simply got me away from the house.

I didn’t get any deep healing to speak of with my father until he was on his deathbed in 2007 and I had been called home to care for him. Long story very, very short: No, there were no scores evened. Instead, I bathed him, made sure he took his meds properly, wiped him when necessary, fed him, and helped the nurse change sheets on the hospice bed.

Dad was 90 and suffering from testicular cancer. He was in and out a lot, but when he was in, he was really in, and he knew I was there. And he knew I was there to care for him. And to this day, I hope he knew I’d rather be there next to him doing all that I could for him than be anywhere else. I need to keep telling myself that because on Sept. 25th at 1:30 a.m. when I was drinking yet another Blue Moon and watching Don Henley being interviewed on Charlie Rose (with the sound down), Dad slipped away very peacefully.

I sat there very still and just watched him for about 10 minutes and then quietly said, “That is so like you to beat closing time. Some things just don’t change.”

On the flight back to Indy, my now-Higher Power made a point of nudging me and letting me know my going back to care for him had been The Plan all along. Everything I had in mind prior to that — and apart from that — was just jibberish. I was so deeply comforted by that nudge. Just sayin’.

Bill at the wonderfully readable What…Me Sober? has an excellent post on the mechanics of grieving. Here’s just a sample:

Grief is a strange thing – totally normal, but much feared and even more misunderstood. It comes in stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. They are not negotiable. We go through them or we suppress them. If we suppress them they’ll haunt us for the rest of our lives, keeping us from developing a healthy emotional balance, and we may never know the reasons.

Children may grieve the loss of a parent, loss of parenting, loss of a normal childhood. Adults may suffer the same things, as well as loss of a loved one in later life, loss of a relationship, even such seemingly mundane things as loss of a job. In each case, we need to work through the stages in order, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but the choice is not ours. It happens as it happens.

Those stages go something like, “Oh, no, it can’t be! It’s something else!” “Dammit, if those doctors had only___, or “If she’d just caught the later plane!” “God, if you’ll save him, I’ll___ (fill in the blanks), or “Don’t take them, take me!” Then come the feelings that things will never be right again: I’ll never, we’ll never, this unhappiness will never go away. And, finally (if we allow ourselves to grieve fully), “It is what it is.”

This is good stuff. Seriously. Go read the whole thing. What’s important to keep in mind is to know how we’re grieving, what we’re grieving, who we’re grieving, and why we’re grieving. That’s all part of the healing process.

new hope for dry bones: the work ethic of partying

From Mike at New Hope for Dry Bones comes an outstanding comparison/contrast… and there really is one. A pretty strong one, actually.

So, when I was a connoisseur of the party life, I worked hard to get a paycheck, I worked hard to stay out late, I worked hard to find party allies, I worked hard to make it home, I worked hard for everything.

When it came to a party, my ambitions were high (as well as my body) and my efforts were never less than my best.

In fact, I think I can honestly say that there is nothing in my whole entire life for a very long time that I did not pour my heart and soul into like I poured every effort, desire and moment into the void of partying.

Familiar turf, right? It sure is for me. Makes for great reading. So go read it.

via The Work Ethic of Partying

from merry b. sober – an alcohol “evaporation” story

When I started in AA almost 9 years ago, I was initially pretty overwhelmed by the stories — the “drunkalogues” — of the men and women who really reached bottom before beginning their long road of recovery. And I’m ready to admit, I never got arrested, got in a bar fight, slept under a bridge, lost a home or a marriage… never did any of people present in gritty, awesome detail at meetings or in the smoke room.

So anyway, one thing I have realized over the years is that even though not everyone has that sort of “drunkalogue” that so many folks thrive on, it’s important to note that everyone in need of recovery does, in fact, go through their own hell. I think that’s where the word “perspective” gained so much traction within AA.

All that to give you this: I read an amazing lead today from a lady who is living through some things of which I simply have precious little perspective at all.

Then we decided to start a family.  I got pregnant quickly, but soon after I shared the happy news, things went wonky…and sadly miscarried.   I got drunk because there was no reason to be sober for 9+ months.  That pattern continued.  I transitioned from being a “social alcoholic” to an “infertility alcoholic”.  I was willing to do anything to get and stay pregnant.  I met a homeopathic doctor that suggested I was “sensitive” to alcohol and that if I wanted to carry a child, I would need to give up booze, (and wheat, milk, corn, sugar, tomatoes…. )  I was sober for many months (didn’t really count), lost weight, felt better, but my mission was to become a mother. I wasn’t focused on how fabulous I was alcohol-free. A feeling I do remember is being slightly annoyed that my husband just kept on drinking when we were together alone… even when I was not.

Yes, I know. These are the kind of things that don’t show up in the AA materials on the rack in the large meeting room. Best you read this right here than on the wall of the ladies’ room, though. Or the men’s room. Because this actually works both ways.

This entire amazing post by merry b. sober really deserves to be read in its entirety. Not because it’s a cool sobriety tale. It’s not. What it is, is the blunt reality that sobriety comes too often at a major cost. We just rarely know that before we step onto the recovery path.

from the miracle of the mundane: woke — 7 spiritual awakenings

You can thank me for this later. Simply stop what you’re doing at this moment and go read Woke, a marvelous post from Mark Goodson over at the Miracle of the Mundane, which celebrated its third birthday this month. I love the way Mark did the math on things and provided some perspective on it all:

That’s 189 posts, roughly 130,000 words dedicated to extracting the extra from the extraordinary. While that is a lot of words, it hasn’t felt like all that much work. One reason is that I love writing. Another is I love recovery, which is like saying I love the person recovery has allowed me to become. I love my wife and children who provide the bulk of this website’s inspiration. I would be remiss in this gratitude list if I didn’t mention the readers. You keep me going, which is why this post in particular is for you.

Then he gets to the heart of things, which is a listing of a few of his spiritual awakenings. I’ll run a quick list just to prime the pump, but Mark notes that he’s “virtually incapable of processing things without some room between the lines to sit and rest awhile.” So . . . check the list and then head on over to read the really good stuff.

1.  Go to any length for your sobriety.

2.  The first drink gets you drunk.

3.  It’s not about me.

4.  One day at a time.

5.  Unconditional love.

6.  Home is where the heart is.

7.  I am a writer.

Now scat. You need to read the whole thing.

from the fix: is aa too religious for gen x?

This is a valid question if one doesn’t kill too many brain cells pondering the issue searching for a resolution. It’s also the typical dumb-ass, pro-The Fix, anti-AA title to an article that finds yet another source of flaws within this organization. I guess I should go on record with my concern being that people who genuinely struggle with drug/alcohol abuse ultimately just get help. 

On the mental health counseling blog Practically Sane, family therapist Jeffrey Munn states: “I like to take a practical approach … I’m not a fan of the ‘fluff’ and flowery language that is often associated with the world of psychology and self-help.” He can say that now.

So… Jeffrey came into the rooms at 20, stayed sober for a whopping 2 ½ years, relapsed, came back and is now 13 years clean and sober vis-à-vis psychotherapy. I’m actually okay with that. I mean, I’m not okay with him going back out; that was actually pretty lame. Unfortunately, those who go back out are the ones who refuse to take their recovery seriously to begin with. It doesn’t matter if someone has gone 2.5 or 12.5 years; there’s a reason they walked into the rooms to begin with.

The saga continues. “I was mandated to three 12-step meetings per week to stay in the program I was in,” according to Jeffery. And here I just want to throw in my two cents about all the folks the courts send our way. I’m sure this is a good thing to some degree. We don’t have room in the jails downtown. So, send them to us for 30 to 60 meetings to be initialed each time they’re here. In a perfect world, they’d stay with us after their sentence had been duly served. Reality check: These people who are mandated to be here do not want to be here. We are a huge freaking inconvenience.  

There’s a lot more to follow up on so take a few minutes over that next cup of coffee and head over here to check it out. 

from new hope for dry bones: the good tree

Joy and I have an oak tree in our backyard her father planted back in the early 90’s. It’s really nice and leafy now in all the right times, but there were a few years when we really wondered if we were actually going to lose the tree. Every spring when the leaves came on, they were dark in color and somewhat curled, and remained that way through the season.

It took a few years, but the tree finally seems to have healed itself. Looks great now. I’m still a bit concerned. I think it drops more branches than it should, but the only other trees we have are oaks, so I’ve nothing to accurately compare it to. Still, my overall impression it has moved on with its life.

So… this ongoing was the first thing that crossed my coffee-challenged mind when I read Mike Ridenour’s grace-filled, deeply personal, way to close to home post from New Hope for Dry Bones this morning. I pretty much compare my own life to the oak in our backyard. Yup, looks great on the outside, but if one looks just a little bit closer…

The trees around my house all look pretty much the same right now.  They stand naked and sway back and forth in the icy wind that is blowing through a great deal of the country.

Hopefully, when springtime arrives, buds will appear that grow into clusters of green leaves that whisper when the wind weaves its way through them.

Sadly, one of those trees will look just like it does now, minus being frozen to the core.

One of those trees didn’t last past the first few weeks after we planted it.  It was a beauty, too.  I dug that hole in the ground, placed that tree in it, watered it faithfully and the fruit of my labor was a dead tree. Continue reading

from storm in a wine glass: a tiny bit of hope

Excellent and quite lengthy post from one of my favorite raves in England. Having just the other day celebrated her first year of sobriety, Anna at storm in a wine glass got to spend some time in healthy retrospect with her husband.

What is that one thing? The thing, if you could sum it up, that meant you could stop?” Hubby asked.

We were sitting as we often do, at opposite ends of the sofa, talking about life and, well, this time my sobriety. My one-year anniversary happened when he was away, so I guess it was especially topical.

It wasn’t just one thing,” I said as my mind went into overdrive, “it was a whole bunch of things that came together at the right moment.

But you keep saying how it was a stormy sea and how the waves parted at exactly the right moment and you saw your life line,” Hubby insisted and threw back at me the analogy I always use to describe the moment I saw my chance to ask for help, my way out. “What was it? And what could I have done that might have got you there sooner?

OK, so just so I’m clear on what you’re asking – you’re wanting me to articulate what made me stop drinking, what you did and what you could have done sooner to help bring it about?

Yes. What did it take for you to stop?

You do realise that if we find the answer to that question, we’ll cure the world of all addictions, don’t you?” I replied and smiled in a slightly smart-arsey kind of way, after all I’m the drunkard here. “Quids in if we crack that old chestnut and are able to provide a sure-fire answer. We’ll have high schools and streets named after us.

But, summarise it,” Hubby went on, “not the waves, not the life line, spell out exactly what it was.

It’s a good question though, isn’t it? I mean, when I was still trapped it would have been the one thing I would have wanted the answer to. In AA they often say that the alcoholic has to hit rock bottom before they can get sober. It sounds severe, doesn’t it, ‘rock bottom’? Makes you think of social services, homelessness and the park bench stereotype. It doesn’t have to be all those hugely devastating things though. I prefer to think of it as my turning point because it wasn’t a big or dramatic event, it was simply a combination of mainly two things: I’d fucking had it with drinking and at the right moment I saw my life line. Yes, like the huge waves in a stormy sea parted just as I glanced in the right direction and caught a glimpse of a life line, then swam furiously towards it. OK, less fucking poetic – Hubby asked me the right thing in the right moment and I saw my chance to finally speak the words: “help, I’m scared“. Is that somewhat clear? I was desperate to stop and just when I needed it there was a chance for me to ask for help so I did. Oh, and a third ingredient: a tiny bit of hope. Continue reading

from follow the bread crumbs: what is emotional sobriety?

Here’s a real solid post from follow the bread crumbs on the issue of emotional sobriety. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it most simply means after we sober up. Live does go on, for those you who have perhaps thought differently, but it requires that we be present in the moment. Read on. This is very good stuff from a lady who, according to some people in similar situations, has every reason to drink. She chooses not to. She’s my hero.

“If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependence and its consequent demand. Let us, with God’s help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love: we may then be able to gain emotional sobriety. ” – Bill W.

If you’ve been around the world of recovery long enough, you may have heard the words, “emotional sobriety.” When I first heard that term, I had to laugh. I mean, yeah – obviously, sobriety is emotional! I was quickly taught that that wasn’t the way I was meant to perceive that phrase.

By definition, the word “sober” means, “not affected by alcohol.” In the recovery world, it is often used as a catch-all term for abstaining from all mood-altering chemicals. But why isn’t abstinence enough? Why is that most persons who suffer from an addiction don’t just walk into a detox and walk out “cured?” Why is that simply drying up a drunk or detoxing someone off heroin isn’t enough? Is it possible to stay sober without any long-term plan of recovery? While I don’t see it often, yes it’s possible.

Take, for example, a distant relative of mine who had a history of being violent drunk. On the verge of losing his business, he made the decision to stop drinking and went to an inpatient treatment center for seven days.  At the age of 40, this man walked out of a treatment center and never drank again. He died at the age of 82 of natural causes. While he ended up saving his business and his marriage, he is still known as one of the hated members of that side of the family. Greedy, cold, and callous are just a few of the words that many use to describe him. Continue reading

in case you didn’t know, being sober is the easy part

Actually, yes. At least, this has been my experience on numerous occasions throughout my life. It was a genuine encouragement to come across someone who actually agrees with me on this point, though limetwiste at Moderately Sober had no way of knowing this when she wrote spake as much a whopping 51 days into her journey.

I’m very encouraged by this New Zealand soul, who is wonderfully honest at a time when many others simply value the image of recovery over recovery itself. Check this:

Being sober is the easy part. The decision to become sober was difficult. Finding what to do next and how to do it is the struggle. More the “how” really.

. . .

. . . I am finding more peace with dropping perfection, guilt, paranoia, and regret. These things I dropped before becoming sober. Anxiety is still with me but in a much weaker form. Depression is with me too but I recognise it, accept it and have learnt to live with it better. Fear is still with me. Fear is holding me back. I know this. I recognise this. I aim to challenge myself and make the fear smaller or contained. First though comes care. I need better care before I can face fear.

So… she offered that up at 51 days sober. Go read the rest. Lots of good stuff there.

repost from new hope for dry bones: a few words about 5%

Mike Ridenour at New Hope for Dry Bones posts a delightful, intentional, heartfelt perspective on not getting overwhelmed. This is just plain good stuff, which is why I’m why I’m posting the whole thing with a read more tag, which is sorta like turning the page if you were reading, you know… a book. But who does that anymore, anyway? Just sayin’.  But I digress. Read the following piece. It’s so much about where we find ourselves.  And what we can do if we choose to.

Days come around when everything is a mess.  The bills can’t be paid.  My clothes are looking ratty and two sizes too small.  My kids seem to have lost their minds.  My wife seems to have lost her mind.  I have definitely lost my mind.

The lawn mower won’t start.  I can’t find a hammer.  I can’t remember where I put my keys.  My shoe strings are tied in knots.

A piece of siding has blown off the house and settled in “Who Knows Where, Missouri”.  There’s a wet spot on the ceiling and the garage door opener isn’t working.

I’m out of milk.  I’m out of coffee.  The microwave is on the fritz (people should say that more, fritz is hilarious), the oven doesn’t seem to ever get to the temperature I set it for and the fridge is about as cold as a summer day in St. Louis.

There are days like that and then, everything goes wrong!

By the time bedtime rolls around, my mind is full of solutions that are impossible, detours that are impassable and budgets that are improbable.

Yep, there are days like that.

I don’t like days like that. Continue reading

repost from don’t drink and don’t die: spiritual axiom (page 90 12 and 12)

From Lydia (whom I profoundly respect despite her impressive character defects) at Don’t Drink and Don’t Die comes a deeply reflective consideration: How our desire for serenity is a reflection of our intention for recovery.

I’m sure most of us are familiar with this, uh… bondage of self for which the 12 and 12 is setting a context: “It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.”  Lydia starts off by simply putting everything on a very personal level:

When there’s something wrong with me, there’s something wrong with me.

This idea has been a linchpin of my sobriety, something absolutely vital.  The Twelve and Twelve goes on to explain that even when I’m all right, and the other person or circumstance is completely wrong, I still need to get over it and find serenity in order to practice the program and live well.

. . .

… This spiritual axiom (which means, by the way, something that is true) appears in Step 10 and is meant as part of the spot check inventory taken when daily events cause negative emotions.  

This is just  tempting bits and pieces. Please go read the whole excellent piece.