Change

I was tasked this week with writing something  about the word “change.”

Change is essential for recovering addicts. Without change, no progress can ever be made.

Change just means one reality is becoming another reality. And change can be good or it can be bad, but it is always scary and stressful. You have to work to make it happen, and nothing that’s worth anything in life comes to us without a little work. It’s difficult, I’m still working on making changes myself. But, it’s necessary, and worth it in the end.

Even small changes are hard. So the big ones are a bit earth shattering. But, often they need to happen so we can move along on our path and get to where we’re meant to be.

In recovery, you are making so many changes. You are changing your daily routine, changing the people you interact with, changing the way you interact with the world. You are giving up a substance you’ve come to depend upon. You are learning to reconnect with loved ones. You are learning to reach out for help when you need it. And the hardest of all, you’re learning how to feel your feelings again.

One of the famous one-liners from AA is “easy does it.” And I like to keep this one in mind when all the changes feel overwhelming. The changes are going to happen, whether I want them to or not, so sometimes it’s best to just lie down and let the change wash over you. Take it as it comes, adjust your life to fit around it. If you fight it, it makes it that much harder in the end. Rather than delay the inevitable, embrace it. Especially the changes that are guaranteed to improve your life and help you stay sober.

Change is stressful, difficult, disorganizing, irritating, and challenging, but changes are also inevitable. For an addict, change is among the most difficult things to get through, but we have no choice. The only choice we can make to ease the burden is to choose to get through the change sober and clearheaded. It will go much smoother that way, and we can come out the other side a better person.

Even if you’ve got a positive change headed your way, a new job, a new baby, getting married, these kinds of changes are still stressful. You need to remember to take care of yourself through these changes and make sure to ask for help if you need it.

We can’t avoid change, but we can control how we respond to it. I’m trying to roll with it, stay positive and figure it out one day at a time, sometimes five minutes at a time. And I am trying so hard to release my anxiety and find the silver lining in everything. There always is one. Sometimes it can take us years to see it, but eventually we can find it.

Surrender

My counselor asked me to take some time this week to write about the word “surrender.” In the context of surrendering to your addiction in order to overcome it.

The dictionary defines “surrender” as: cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.

In my Hazelden app with daily meditations, it describes surrender as an acceptance. We go through a tumultuous amount of emotions to get at the core of what we are feeling, and then we finally accept ourselves as we are. Then, we are able to let go of our anxiety about the past and future.

While I don’t believe my addiction had authority over me, I know for sure that it had power. And you could consider submitting to authority as asking for help. Taking advice and following measures requested by counselors, psychiatrists, loved ones and experts in the field. I resisted a lot of that advice for a long time.

As for ceasing resistance, I ceased to resist my own willpower. I stopped giving in to my addiction and its power over me.

After my first stay in rehab, I didn’t know it at the time, but I had not yet surrendered at all. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was resistant to finding a higher power. And I was resistant to using medications to help my depression and anxiety. I was pretty sure I could handle this simple thing called sobriety all on my own.

Just prior to my first small relapse, I resisted the idea that I couldn’t ever drink again ever. I thought somewhere down the line it would be safe again. That I could learn to moderate again. I just didn’t take stock in the idea that that was it for me, for real.

Even after my first relapse, when I was asked by my husband and counselors to return to rehab, I resisted. It was just one small bump in the road, I thought, I’ve got this.

But, after my second, and very grand, relapse, it became clear to me that I had to give in. I returned to rehab. I started taking all suggested medications. I took every step anyone told me to move toward a real and true sobriety.

I had at that point really and truly surrendered. I recognized the bottom I had reached, and that I needed all the help I could get to pick myself up again. I feel like in that moment, I got to the core of my emotions and was ready to accept myself as I am. And I do feel a great deal of relief and peace.

Surrendering is difficult, but once you’re there, your life will improve greatly. Accept the fact that your actions are the only things in this world you can control, and by getting sober and making good choices you can improve your life and your world. Here you will find the peace you’ve been searching for all along.

Higher Power

It’s no secret that AA has a deep basis in Christianity, and that Bill W. began his road to sobriety after a life-changing moment in the hospital where he was moved by the spirit. The literature has been changed to read “God as we understand him” but there’s still a deep undertone that you need to believe in God for the program to work for you.

Spiritually, I’m in a strange place in my life. I don’t think I believe in God, but it’s really hard to give up on the idea. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. And my extended family, to this very moment, is 99% made up of devoutly religious people. And I admire them for it, I really do. Their unwavering faith and hope in life after death is inspirational. There are times when I wish deeply that I had their faith. Which might sound a little condescending, but I swear, it’s not.

I wish I had a higher power that I believed was watching over me, had my best intentions in mind, and I could turn to in any crisis. But the truth is I just don’t believe in that. Truth be told, I’m not sure I ever did. I went to church with my family every Sunday, and while I loved the messages of the sermons, I don’t think I was ever a true believer, not like my family. And most of them still think I’m a believer, and going to church. They think I am raising my children as Christians. Coming out to them as a non-believer is just too hard. I don’t want them to resent me for it, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings or insult their beliefs.

In college, it wasn’t long before I stopped going to church. Not because I was lazy or thought I was too sinful (those first years of college were pretty debaucherous) but because it didn’t feel right. It didn’t fit. I realized I enjoyed church more at home because of the fellowship. Going each week to visit with people who’d known me for years, watched me grow. In a new church, everything felt out of place. And I wasn’t getting the same spiritual fulfillment with a new congregation and new pastor.

Over the years, I have only moved further and further from Christianity. I straddled the agnostic fence for years. Confident that there wasn’t a Christian God, yet still having that itching feeling in the back of my head that there just might be. The ideas of heaven and hell were deeply ingrained in me, and as someone who’s afraid of death, it’s hard to think about the afterlife without falling back on whatever ideas were told to you as a child.

For a time, I gave up on a higher power completely. In April 2011, I had a miscarriage. The pregnancy was very much planned and very much wanted, and I was so happy and excited about it. I had already had a successful and uncomplicated pregnancy, so the thought of miscarriage never entered my mind. And when it happened, I was devastated.

I told myself there was no way there was a God that would give me the baby I so deeply desired and then take it away from me. I fell into a deep depression that I am only now beginning to climb out of.

I have since had another child, which I thought would make all the bad feelings go away. But, it doesn’t work like that. I still think of that baby daily, and I still cry when I talk about the miscarriage in therapy.

When I began to tackle my sobriety, I got onto the AA website and instantly said, no this won’t work for me. The program is religiously based and the steps involve trusting in your higher power to set you free. I had no higher power and didn’t understand how a program that relied upon the idea could do anything for me.

My husband found a series of agnostic and “freethinking” AA meetings for me to attend. But even at those meetings, the idea of a higher power permeated. For most, it was just the universe. Or nature. But, I didn’t understand how I could put my faith in those kinds of things, let alone use them to get sober.

I learned in rehab that this is common. Most addicts struggle with the whole higher power concept. But I was urged to give it some thought, and dig really deep, and find something, anything, that gave me purpose and helped me maintain sobriety.

I struggled with this so much. But I thought about it a lot. What was it that kept me going? What was it that I believed in? I had given up on everything, so what could there be? What was still there for me?

I dug and dug and thought and thought, and nothing came to me. I returned home from my first stay still not having nailed down a higher power. I thought I didn’t need it at that point. All that talk about it had just been one of many techniques they used to help me get sober. I could use the other stuff and forget about it.

I relapsed and returned to rehab, and opened my mind to anything and everything that could help me. Including reopening the chapter on a higher power. There must be something to this, I thought. Or, why would they keep bringing it up?

And one night, lying in bed, I figured it out. I had my Bill W. moment, though it was much less dramatic, and the idea still took me a few days to process and bring together.

The thing that keeps me going, that makes me think it’s all still worth it, is my interconnectedness to everything else. I suppose it’s the universe that’s my higher power. But I needed that to be more concrete. And I started to think about my place in the universe. And how we are all connected. All of us as humans, but also we are connected with the animals and plants and forces of nature.

When the tides shift, that happens to all of us, wherever we are. When something happens in the solar system, it happens to all of us. We are all a part of one big thing. I’m still not sure what that thing is, but I know it exists. I don’t know what happens when we die, but I do know that things will go on living and being born and existing after we are gone. And those things are still a part of us, and we are still a part of them.

Relying on the higher power is the hardest thing to do. But I’ve learned to remember everyday that I’m connected to everything, and it gives me strength and hope. I feel a warmth, a belonging. I’m here for a reason, that will become clear later. I’m here because I was supposed to be here. I’m a part of a much larger web of things, and without me, it doesn’t work.  I needed to get sober and stay sober to keep my place in all of this.

This might not be what works for you, but I urge you to find something to fill that higher power void. It has changed everything for me. There’s something bigger than you and me out there. No one is really sure what it is, but we all need some kind of idea of what it could be. Only then does the human experience make any sense.

Glamorous

There’s a certain romance to drinking. Or at least that’s what advertisers will have you think. In our culture, it has a dignified status. Drinking pretty much anything except beer is glamorous. Charming. Even beer has its own charms, both a down-home girl- or boy-next-door charm and a sophisticated hipster charm.

Not to give too much of my anonymity away, but I live in an area of the country famous for wine. There are advertisements for it everywhere you look. And food culture is big here too. I subscribe to several food magazines, and just about every other page features an ad for wine, or an article about new wines to try, or something about pairing food with wine.

In rehab, I talked about that with my psychiatrist. He described it as “sexy.” And for a good while, I did feel sophisticated and glamorous and sexy being a wine drinker. This was my drink of choice. Any port (no pun intended) in a storm, but white wine was my go-to.

Somewhere along the line, however, the glamour dies out. The sophistication fizzles. The charm is gone. There is absolutely nothing glamorous or sexy about guzzling warm chardonnay at 7 in the morning.

I had a moment where I realized what I was doing was no longer part of the food and wine culture I’d seen advertised all around me. That culture was intended to be enjoyed in moderation. A once-in-a-while thing. For the occasional celebration or backyard barbecue.

I would wake up in the morning and thing to myself, I’ve got to get through another day?! And the only way I felt like I could handle it was with a sustained buzz. I put myself and other people in danger, and I spent money we couldn’t afford, and I let go of all my moderation to get that buzz.

Living life like that was anything but glamorous and sophisticated. In many ways it was the complete opposite. I began to feel like I was no better than the bum I saw passed out on the sidewalk. What’s between my life and that life, I’d think to myself. And the truth was, not much. In fact, continuing down the path I was on would surely have led me there, or to my death bed.

Glamour and sophistication and dignity come from many places. I did not need a glass of wine in my hand at all times at every event I attended to seem sophisticated. It took me a long time to realize that I could be fun, and socialize, and impress people without being seen with a drink, or being buzzed enough to feel “comfortable.” I was living life like I depended on alcohol, and eventually my brain and body felt like I was dependent on it.

And I used to actually be scared of the thought of not drinking. Of never drinking again. How I ever got to be more scared of that than all the things I had to lose in my life because of drinking is a mystery. Just another testament to how the subconscious brain has such control over us. The idea of attending any social event of any kind without the aid of alcohol seemed impossible.

The longer I am sober, the more I notice other people who are not drinking, for various reasons of their own. And I don’t feel so out of place. I’ve been to a couple of functions recently where people drank, but I did not. And it didn’t feel as weird as I imagined. And I never once felt out of place. I was able to talk and be myself and have a good time, without my glamorous glass of wine in my hand.

I had just dug myself into a deep hole that I thought I couldn’t get out of. With the help of rehab and my loved ones, I’ve realized the cost of my addiction and the reality of surrendering to the fact that I can’t drink anymore. I know there will be difficult days in my future. But I have come to accept that alcohol will not help me on those difficult days, the way I thought it was for so long. It will only make things worse.

Real glamour is inside of me already. I don’t need an artificial feeling to put that image of myself out to the world. I only need to be myself and find true happiness in my life. This is real sophistication and dignity.

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

For the past two or three days, my anxiety has been rampant. And for no apparent reason. Things are moving swimmingly. Yes, my youngest has been sick for a few days, but nothing serious. Yes, I had to leave work early on Monday to retrieve said sick child from preschool, but it was a non-issue for my boss. Yes, the weather has been cruddy and I like my sunshine, but that’s not usually something that sets off the anxiety.

I think it’s just rearing its ugly head to remind me that it’s there, or something like that. Hey, don’t forget me! Your old pal, anxiety! Just popping in to say hi! It’s been there all my life, so it’s been hard to just kick it out the door and not look back.

I have a prescription for Clonazepam which it says on the bottle to take “as needed for anxiety.” At first, I took it a lot. Nearly every day. And lately have been trying to go without. Sometimes, I feel myself getting uppity, and I go for the bottle, but my husband encourages me to take a time out, breathe, let the feeling pass, and in 5 or 10 minutes if I’m still on edge, then take it.

And that’s been working pretty well. The idea is for me to have the medication for only a few months anyway, so I do need to start recognizing the anxiety for what it is, the actual level that it’s at when I start to feel it. And to train myself to get over the hump and move along with my day.

But, the other night, I didn’t take it at bedtime, though I wanted to. I hardly slept at all that night. I’d roll over and glance at the clock just about every half hour, all night long. And there was nothing specific on my mind, just a bunch of thoughts racing through my mind. I’ve got a long to-do list to accomplish before the kids’ summer vacation starts, but there’s still time for it all to get done. I just felt…on edge. Jumpy. Unsettled.

At bedtime last night, I was feeling slightly anxious, but ok. So, again, I didn’t take it. But, when I caught myself wide-eyed, and for some reason drafting my father’s eulogy in my head (he’s 54 and not even ill), I knew it was time. Somehow I’d let my anxiety take over my brain again, and all my swirling, crazy thoughts had led me to that place again. I haven’t been like that in a while, the anti-depressant I’m on has helped me immensely. But, I guess there’s still going to be those times when I fill up with steam and have to let it out somehow, before I explode again. So, I got up around 1:30 a.m. and took the medication. And I feel calmer this morning than I have in days.

I had so many awful days before, when I was drinking. And now that I’ve started having good days, and lots of good days in a row, I guess it’s easy to forget that there will still be bad moods, tough days and a little anxiety sprinkled on top, because that will always be a part of who I am. But, I’m learning that I have tools to get through: meditation, talking it out to someone, focusing on a hobby or my writing, going for a walk, having a cup of tea, basically just relaxing and getting my mind out of the irrational-worry gutter.

Anxiety was a big part of what fueled my addiction. If it is for you too, I suggest that you try to focus on worry and anxiety as a part of your recovery. Not focusing on it enough played a big part in my relapse, so I’m trying to really focus on it now. Trying to be aware of it all the time. When it’s not there, I’m so happy and peaceful; a new and completely amazing feeling for me.

Take each day, each moment, as it comes, and try to remember that you’ll be ok. You’ll get through. Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue. That just makes you human.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

I’ve made so many drastic changes to the way I live my life in the past couple of weeks, and they are really working for me. Which is helping my recovery move a lot more smoothly than it did the first time I returned home from rehab. So, for this week, I chose from the list of safe coping strategies to write about:

If one way doesn’t work, try another. As if in a maze, turn a corner and try a new path.

When I first went to rehab, I though I had hit my rock bottom, I had gone to the place where people go when they hit rock bottom, and I was going to leave there fixed. And I think that’s what my husband thought too. I had a successful, powerful, insightful, restful, healing 30 days in rehab and returned home.

It was, of course, a complete shock to us both then, when I relapsed after only a few weeks, and hit a true rock bottom. The kind that actually makes you feel physically like you hit a rock. Like you can’t breathe. It gives you that suffocating feeling of having failed and disappointed everyone you love. Where there are relationships you don’t know will ever be mended again.

And you’re trapped in your own depressed and anxious brain, and no one knows what you’re going through (because you don’t know how to open up about it) so they can’t help you. And all they know how to do when they can’t help you is just push you away. Take their good, healthy, normal lives and get away from you.

This is where my husband was at when I hit my real rock bottom. Which is why I agreed to return to rehab for 10 more days. I knew I’d be safe there, and he’d feel calmer knowing I was in a safe place. And I knew that even if I didn’t get everything all figured out before I left, at least I was trying to figure it out. At least I was going somewhere to heal and get help. At least I was being proactive about the recovery.

When I returned to rehab, I had the attitude that I would do anything and everything they told me to, so long as it kept me sober. That’s why I finally, after years of doctors and therapists and family and friends suggesting I do, went on an anti-depressant medication. That’s why I spoke more openly to a psychiatrist than have to anyone before in my life (not even my husband) about the true frightening and crippling hold anxiety had on my life, and had for most of my life, and agreed to take an as-needed anti-anxiety medication as well. And that’s why after being offered the first time I left rehab, a chance to take Antabuse, a drug that makes you violently and sometimes dangerously ill if you have a drink, I chose to take it this time. And my husband holds the bottle and watches me take it each morning.

I made these changes fearing how the medications would make me feel. Wondering if they’d really work. Wondering if them “working” would be all placebo effect. Wondering how I got to a place in my life where drinking massive amounts of alcohol to feel better seemed like a better idea than taking a few safe pills. But, I tried the medications, to see what would happen. The worst that would happen, I figured, was that I wouldn’t feel any better, I’d be right where I was, and they’d try some other approach.

All I knew was things didn’t work for me the first time. Something was still bothering me inside, and it wasn’t letting me be free from my addiction. It was my emotional health and stability that threatened to take away all my hard work, which eventually it did. I just did not have the mental strength and capacity to cope. I was far too depressed, far too anxious, and still refusing to reach out to loved ones when I had those feelings. So, I knew I needed to try something new.

It has only been a few weeks now, but this approach is working much better. By this point in my last return home, I had already started the relapse process in my head. I was thinking about alcohol. Wondering if I could have just one drink. Imagining myself using it every once in a while, “just when things are tough.” But, duh, things for me were always tough.

I still don’t remember the real choice point, the moment I had that first drink after rehab. Those moments tend to be very fuzzy for me. My psychiatrist says it’s very common, and describes it as being on auto-pilot. But, in any case, it happened. And I did ok at first, but very, very quickly fell into all of my old patterns, all of my old habits, all of my old ways of dealing with emotions, and it wasn’t long until I metaphorically fell and hit my face on the ground. If I had actually physically fallen and hit my face on the ground, it would have been an ugly, bloody show. I mean, I hit ROCK BOTTOM. That was it. The urges, cravings, binges, they were all so much worse than before.

It finally became clear to me that I needed a new approach. I needed to be in recovery for myself, not others. I needed to take my thoughts and feelings into account when it really mattered. I needed to learn how to battle my anxiety when it threatened to ruin perfectly good days for me. And I needed to learn to use the tools and resources available to me in order to heal. There’s no shame in that.

If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. And that goes QUADRUPLE for sobriety. Do whatever it takes. You are and individual and the things that will get you sober and keep you sober are individual to you. Just keep trying until you figure it out. If one path is blocked, take another.

The Future Belongs to You

“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” –Carl Jung

I read this quote last night from a book I’m reading, and I just loved it. It’s very similar to a safe coping strategy post that I have already done, and it is an idea that gets repeated continually in any rehab program or set of recovery meetings you attend. I heard a version of it at nearly every counseling session, every rehab group meeting, every AA and SMART meeting. It’s the cornerstone of getting and staying sober.

This particular version of the idea sticks with me for two main reasons. The first being that I can change the idea that I am a product of what has happened to me. In my therapy sessions we talk a lot about what my childhood was like. What it was like to grow up in a strictly religious home. What it was like to be one of the poorer kids. What it was like not growing up near any extended family. What it was like to see alcohol drank in my home. How my parents’ divorce affected me. How my awkward teen years affected me. And then they get into all the stuff that happened in college. And all the recent trauma I’ve been through.

I used to blame so much of that stuff on how I “turned out”. And to a certain degree those things DO mold us and shape us and send us down certain paths that lead us to where we are today. But to a much lesser degree than I thought. And people who went through much more difficult situations than I did find a way to move past it, to thrive even. Letting go of blaming others for your troubles is a big lesson, and one that needs to be learned to know you can heal from your addiction and you can go on to live a positive life.

And those things you think have caused your problem are not you. They are a part of you that you carry with you wherever you go, but they aren’t you. They aren’t a sum of what you are. They are only a piece of what you’ve become.

The second reason I like this quote so much is the idea that the future is so wide open. I fear the future more than anything. It’s a good portion of the reason I am on an anti-anxiety medication. There is so much unknown in the future, and I just do not do well with unknowns, in any situation. It’s like that feeling when you see someone squeezing a balloon. You’re afraid it could pop. It might, it might not. And if it does, you won’t know when to expect that loud startling noise. It could happen any second. That is a really good metaphor for how I see the future. There’s always a balloon being squeezed somewhere, and it could pop in my face at any time.

I’ve learned through a lot of therapy how to better manage my anxiety. I’d love to tell you those days are behind me, but they’re not. Although those moments of panic that I have about it are happening far less these days.

And I try now to see the future as Carl Jung describes it. It’s what I choose to become. And I can choose to become anything. I can try new things, and maybe I’ll enjoy them. Maybe I won’t, but that’s ok, I just try something else. The future is mine, it belongs to me. It doesn’t belong to my past and it doesn’t belong to my addiction and it mostly doesn’t even belong to any other person. It’s mine to do with as I please.

In the darkest days of addiction, it’s very easy to think that your future belongs to addiction. I can never get away from this. I can never get out. It has complete control of me. This is what I will be forever.

Once you break free from that thinking, give up your alcohol or drugs and let your mind clear up a bit, you can see that your addiction is not in charge, and it never was. It has extreme control over your subconscious thinking, there’s no denying that. But it is not in control of you, only you are in control of you.

Whoever you become in the future is the result of the choices you made, and the paths you took. There will be bumps in the road, but do not let them define you. They happen externally to you. Respond to them, deal with them, move on and make it to that amazing person you will be in the future.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is tricky when you’re a newly recovering alcoholic mother.

Today is 19 days for me since my relapse. 19 days is good, braggable even. But, I’ve got a good long while to go before people start believing I can really do it this time, and before people start really trusting me again.

I say Mother’s Day is tricky, because on the one hand, I feel like I am a good mother. I take care of my children. I make sure they have food in their bellies, clothes on their backs and a roof over their head (with some help from my husband). I make sure the house gets cleaned, the laundry gets done, the homework gets done, the permission slips get signed, etc. etc. etc. My kids love me.

But, on the other hand, sometimes I would totally phone in some of that stuff I mentioned above. It was mac and cheese for dinner 3 nights in a row. Or, I haven’t done laundry yet this week, so let’s wear this ratty old pair of pants and stained shirt to school. Or, I forgot to help you study for spelling, and you didn’t do so hot on the test. Or, I got really irrationally mad at you for something small and I yelled at you and made you feel bad.

And the ultimate thing, really, the thing I’ll never stop mentally lashing myself for for the rest of my life, I drove drunk with my children in the car. Even having admitted it out loud to my husband and my counselors, even having written it here and admitted it to you, I still can’t really believe that I let my addiction take over to the point that I would do that. When I have a memory of it, it’s like I’m outside of myself, watching myself doing that. Because it couldn’t possibly really be something I did. Right?

There are a lot of moments I regret about being around my children in the throes of my addiction. Most of the time, I was functional. But very absentminded. And quick to anger. And lazy. And those are moments I won’t ever get back. Moments of their sweet childhood that I totally missed out on, and it’s all in the past. I can’t try to reclaim it. I feel a lot of guilt and shame surrounding that.

In recovery they are always reminding you that you need to let go of that guilt, shame and regret. At least most of it, however much of it you can. That’s when you’ll truly be able to move on and be happy again. So what I’m trying to do now is focus on the here and now, today. This day is all we have. We can’t get yesterday back, and we have no idea what will happen tomorrow. We can’t even be sure there will actually be a tomorrow. We don’t even know what will happen five minutes from now.

It has really helped me with my anxiety to view life this way. One foot in front of the other. Enjoy the good stuff, let the bad stuff happen and respond to it, don’t react to it.

Today, in this moment, I am sober. My children love me and are safe and well cared for. That makes me a good mom.

Happy mother’s day to all the mothers out there.

Doing it for Me

There are a number of major things that have changed since my second stay at rehab. I’m now taking an anti-depressant and when I need it, an anti-anxiety medication as well. This is the first time in my life giving these kinds of medications a try, and they’ve made a major difference.

When I left after my initial 30 day stay, I was prepared to be sober, I knew how to be sober. What I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t now how to do was to work on my depression and manage my anxiety. That, paired with some life events that popped up, I feel are the reason I so quickly and easily fell into my old patterns and relapsed.

I’m also taking Antabuse, a medication that will make me violently ill if I have any alcohol. So, psychologically, it’s a lot easier for me to accept that I just can’t drink. Can’t do it. Not even a sip. Previously it was more like, nope, I can’t drink. Can’t have a drink. Can’t do it. Well…just this once will be ok, right? But, with the Antabuse, it’s a reality. I am not going to put myself in the position of the horrific reaction it will give me. So, no more “just this once.” And it’s actually kind of liberating. That little voice in my head has totally shut up.

And I’m also in the midst of cleaning up the mess I made with this past relapse. I disappointed a lot of people, and flat out humiliated myself in front of other people. There are a lot of people I need to make things up to and I need to earn back a colossal amount of trust. All of it, really.

But, there’s something different going on with my recovery right now, above and beyond all the changes that have happened. I think the biggest change is a shift in motivation. At some time in the last month or so, my motivation to change and to get and stay sober changed directions.

In the beginning, I was doing it because I thought it was something I should do. Something I was supposed to do. I was doing it for my husband, for my children, for my friends and family. Because society looked down on it. Because my doctor told me to just knock it off already.

But, I realized yesterday when I spoke with my counselor, these days I’m doing it for myself. Because I want it. Because it’s important to me. Of course I’m still doing it for the other people in my life, but the main thing is I’m doing it because I want to. I finally want it for me.

My counselor and I talked about internal vs. external motivation for sobriety. It’s ok to have both. In fact, it’s a very good thing to have both. The more reasons you have to be sober, the greater your likelihood that you will succeed. But, your internal motivation should come first. The reasons for getting clean, staying clean, finding positive things to do with your life, creating a positive future for yourself, those should come from within.

It’s still a good thing to want to accomplish all of that to satisfy others in your life. That will help you build and maintain good relationships and friendships, and help you have a meaningful family life. But ultimately, your loved ones are not in charge of you. They can’t force you to stay sober, only you are in complete control of your sobriety.

I’ve learned after my relapse that I need to be doing this for me, before all else. Because if I don’t want it and if I don’t believe it can happen, then my chances of success are slim. And I truly want to succeed.

Missing Out on All the Fun

Once at an AA meeting I attended several months ago, a man said, “If you’re in AA, the fun days of your drinking are over.” And I’ll never forget that. He was joking, and we all laughed, but he was also poignantly correct. The statement got me thinking, and changed how I viewed my addiction.

One of the first thoughts that came to my mind when I had the very first fleeting thought ever about trying to get sober, was all the fun times I’d be missing out on. And I’d venture a guess that this crosses the mind of every alcoholic.

No champagne on New Year’s, no beers at cook outs or baseball games, no wine with fancy dinners, no margaritas on Cinco de Mayo.

But truthfully, my drinking had stopped being about that kind of stuff long ago.

Wine with fancy dinners was replaced with an entire bottle of chardonnay alone watching TV on the couch. Beers at cook outs were replaced with swigs of vodka or tequila from the bottle in my purse in addition to beers. Semi-hiding bottles of wine in the back of the fridge, or filling the wine rack back up with cheap grocery store wine was replaced with fully concealing bottles of liquor around the house. And there’s nothing fun at all about living with the kind of constant, deep fear and shame that goes along with those things.

I thought about that man’s quote for the first time in a long time last night, as I wrote in my journal before bed. I was lamenting on how fast time had flown for me lately. I’ve been having a lot of memories recently of a weekend vacation my husband and I had taken to a really nice bed and breakfast, back in January. And now it’s nearly May already. In between, I’ve spent 38 days in total in rehab, away from home. Time seems to have gone by in an instant. I wrote in my journal, “I’m missing out on my life.”

I used to think that getting sober meant missing out on life. Missing out on the fun. Not being a part of the action. When in truth, my addiction was holding me back from so much more. I wasn’t relishing in and enjoying those sweet, quiet moments with my children, who are growing up way too fast. I wasn’t spending any quality time with my husband. I wasn’t involved with any hobby or activity that was just for me. I woke up, I drank, I went to bed.

I’m finally able to see that being sober doesn’t mean missing out on all the fun. It means finally being about to allow yourself to have a little fun. And finding fun things that are beneficial to you, healthy for you. I keep telling myself lately that I need to get my life back on track. But, I’ve been thinking of it in terms of life being in some kind of paused state. But, life never pauses; it’s happening all the time, all around us. And when you’re using, you’re not really paying attention, and you’re not truly enjoying yourself at all.