Don’t Let History Repeat Itself

In recovery, it’s important to remember where we came from, what we have achieved, and what we have learned along the way. It’s what keeps us going, what gives us the forward momentum to stay clean and sober.

It was last year around Thanksgiving time that I was, for the first time, attempting to get sober on my own. I was giving it my all, but still failing miserably, which only added to the pain and frustration. But, when I look back on how far I’ve come in the last year, I am proud of what I have accomplished and happy with the place I am in now.

I’ve learned so much over the past year, about myself, about addiction and about life in general. I picked up some real life lessons, and I carry them with me as I go. I’m far from perfect, and an addict is never truly cured, but I have learned from my past how to make my future what I want it to be.

This week’s safe coping strategy:

Learn from experience. Seek wisdom that can help you next time.

When you find yourself in a mood or situation that might cause you to use or to relapse, think back on the lessons you’ve learned in your recovery. Whether they are lessons you learned the hard way, or lessons you took from counselors, remember them and use them to your advantage. If I do this now, what will happen? What happened in the past? Do I want that for myself again? Do I want a worse result this time around? Chances are you will be able to talk yourself out of just about anything by remembering where you were and seeing where you are now.

You can also seek out experiences of others. Attend meetings and really take in people’s stories. They’re likely to be similar to yours. Listen to them tell how they managed to get through it, and how they’re getting by day to day now. Talk with someone close to you who also struggles with addiction. The relationship will be beneficial for you both. Sharing information goes both ways, and you might just have some advice that will help them.

The main thing is to prevent history from repeating itself. To keep yourself moving forward, always, and never falling back into old patterns. Now that you’re sober, it’s no excuse to forget that part of your life completely. As painful as it is, keep those memories alive to remind you why you’re doing this.

Things will happen in life, and temptations will arise, but you will be safe knowing what you need to do in order to keep yourself from falling back into your old ways. Remember what life was like back then, remember all the things you’ve learned from AA or rehab or books or whatever. Then take that information and make the right choice. You are strong enough now to do it.

What is the Meaning of your Sobriety?

This week’s safe coping strategy:

Creating meaning. Remind yourself what you are living for: your children? Love? Truth? Justice? God?

There will be low times. I am in the middle of a funk right now. I though getting sober would fix everything, but there’s still a lot about me to fix. Like my worrying, my future tripping, my motivation. It helps in these times to remember what matters.

I am living for my husband and children, mainly. But I’m also living to give kindness to the world. To create meaning out of my life. I am living to enjoy myself, to make the most of every moment. All of that is pretty hard to do when using.

Think about what it is that you are living for. What do you want to do? What are you living for? What made you decide to get sober?

Chances are there are a great deal of things you’d like to do, positive things you’d like to contribute to your family and the world, and reasons you’re happy that you’re sober.

Hold on to those things, hold them very near. Use them each day to remind yourself why you got sober, and why you need to stay sober. Create meaning in your sobriety, and it becomes less abstract, and more something you can really feel and see in your everyday life.

Having reasons to keep going and to stay sober helps you get through the bad days. The days you question your decision. The day you have urges and cravings. Dig deep down inside and remind yourself of that meaning. Those things that are important to you. The things that would go away if you started using again.

Life can be beautiful and meaningful, and sobriety makes it easy.

Rewrite the Story

I struggled with my sobriety in the beginning. I wanted to be sober, but alcohol had immersed itself in my subconscious so deeply, that getting sober involved me grieving for my previous life as a drinker. My counselor would say, “It’s like losing your best friend.” Your drug of choice was not your friend, obviously, but it was always there for you. Dependable. Predictable. And a piece of you. A piece of you that you have to let go of.

Something that helped me through that was the realization that I could create a new life. New pieces of me. I wasn’t tied to alcohol, as much as it felt like it. I could walk away from whenever I was ready. And I could make a new life, write a new story. This week’s safe coping strategy:

Create a new story. You are the author of your life; be the hero who overcomes adversity.

Think of the book or movie that would be made about your life. You don’t want to be remembered as a drunk or drug addict that succumbed to addiction, got some horrible resulting disease, and left the world too early. This should not be your legacy.

Instead, you want to be remembered positively. As someone who was a good person, and put a lot of good out into the world. You want people to remember the joy you brought to their lives. And in the end, you’d like to be known for the long, productive, positive life you lead. Right?

With sobriety, you have the unique chance to rewrite the ending of your story. You have the opportunity to rewrite the middle to, what leads you to the end. Getting sober gives you a second chance at life. And a chance to do and try new things, and make the life you have always wanted for yourself.

You don’t have to trudge through, day after day, living a mundane life. I think that’s what some people struggling to get sober are afraid of. That somehow their life will be less exciting, more boring. But it can be so exciting.

Make a new story. Be the hero of that story. Live each day like the blessing that it is.

Make Good Choices

At my older son’s school, kids who do something “bad” are told to “make good choices.” And I figure what’s good for kids is usually good for adults too. So, on that theme, this week’s safe coping strategy is:

List your options. In any situation, you have choices.

When I was trying to get sober on my own, I would always want to choose to not drink. But, I would eventually end up drinking again. I was making the wrong choice. I knew my options and I opted for the easiest, quickest way out: drinking.

I could have told myself a million and one things to remind myself why drinking wasn’t a good idea at that time, or ever. But my brain ignored all that and instead chose to listen to the few justifications I had for drinking again.

This goes for more than your addiction though. You can list options for any situation and make good choices. How to deal with your kids when they misbehave. How to drive safely. How to get along with someone you don’t like. How to think positively in the face of a challenge. And there’s always a choice that will help you deal with the situation in a good way, and a choice where it will end poorly. And the right choices are not always the easiest, but still the choices that need to be made.

We can choose to go through life making wrong turn after wrong turn, but we will find a dead end. If we make the right turns, we can keep on going. We can choose to be miserable and negative, but the road will be tough. If we choose optimism and positivity, we can smooth the way.

Practice listing your options in your daily life, and making good choices will begin to come naturally.