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.

Mottos

This week’s safe coping strategy:

Find rules to live by. Remember a phrase that works for you (e.g. “Stay real.”).

I have a few personal “mottos” that I live by. I find it helpful to repeat them to myself whenever I’m feeling sad, angry, sorry for myself or negative. It helps lift me up out of that negative space. A big part of successful sobriety is staying positive and hopeful.

If it’s not ok, it’s not the end. Basically, I take this to mean that you will get through any tough situation. It can be easy to think that “it will always be this bad” or “I will always feel this way” when the truth is that things will eventually get better, and you will feel better. If you’re able to, take matters into your own hands and make things better. If you can’t, then just wait it out. It will pass.

When shit happens, turn it into fertilizer. This is a play on the old “when life hands you lemons…” idea. When bad or negative things happen, you can learn from them rather than just get angry and throw you hands up at life. Every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow, even the crappy stuff. I even consider my addiction a learning and growing experience. I’ve learned so much about myself, my world, my friends and family and addiction itself throughout this experience. And without it, there are things I’d never have learned or tried. Keep on trudging through the shit and you’ll come out the other end a happier, more learned individual.

You can do this. This is an important one. It’s good to always think positively about every situation you encounter. You need to remind yourself that you’re smart enough, strong enough and completely capable of navigating whatever life throws your way. I also tell myself One way or another, you will get through this. Eventually it will be over, and you will have survived, no matter what the actual outcome. You might suffer a little, but it will come to an end. And you can endure it. And you will be ok.

This day is a gift. Whenever I find myself having “one of those days,” I remind myself that having a crappy day is better than having no day at all. When you opened your eyes that morning, you were among the lucky people allowed to still be alive. Any of us can be taken from this world at any time, we don’t know what will happen. So I remind myself that I’m lucky to be here, and then I am motivated to make something of the day, no matter how bad things seem.

What are some of your mottos or sayings that help you through a tough situation? What do you tell yourself to help keep you sober?

This Roller Coaster Ride

I take issue when someone tells me, “each day will be easier than the one before it.” Because, it’s simply not true. In terms of recovery alone, yes, each day it will be a little bit easier to be sober than it was the day before it. But in general, the statement isn’t true.

Some days are going to be awesome. Sunny, happy, flowers blooming, everything going your way, a smile on your face from ear to ear.

But some days are going to suck. It will seem as if every little thing is going wrong. You’ll feel down. You’ll maybe be angry or sad.

Life also has natural ups and downs. And we can’t stop life from happening, just because we’re in recovery. Huge life-altering events are still possible.

We need to teach ourselves how to handle the bad days and the big upsets without turning to our old way of dealing with things: using.

Today’s coping strategy is this:

Solve the problem. Don’t take it personally when things go wrong–just try to find a solution.

I used to take everything personally. All big upsets, little upsets, other people’s upsets that really didn’t even involve me. I took it upon myself to feel way too deeply about it. And I’d send myself into a tailspin of depression, anxiety, and of course, drinking.

I’ve learned through hundreds of hours of counseling and therapy, and lots of recovery training that this isn’t the right way to react to life, and that using won’t help the problem either. These days, I’m much better at facing a problem when it knocks on my door, and reacting to it calmly.

I fix the problems I can fix, I seek help for those I cannot. And, as hard as it is, I just deal with the problems that cannot be solved. That doesn’t mean I never get sad or angry anymore, or that I don’t overreact when I’m having a bad day. I’m still human, all of that still happens.

But, I was using alcohol as a means to dull the pain of everyday life, and pain of past traumas, and it was only making everything worse. If I was to survive, I had to find another way. I needed to learn to let life run over me like a river, and just go with the flow, if I was ever going to get by. I needed to figure out how to handle life without drinking. A bad day does not mean that recovery isn’t working or that I’m destined to be sad all the time. It just means I’m having a bad day, and need to deal with it. Simple as that.

It was really hard at first. To imagine navigating any part of my life without the “help” of alcohol felt impossible. But, the longer I stayed sober, the more clearheaded I became. And the more I was able to realize that the alcohol was never helping me. It was only hindering me, even making things worse. And over time I came to realize that life was made to be dealt with. Coped with. Survived. It was not made for me to roll over and pull the covers over my head.

And once you learn how to get through life’s ups and downs without using, then you start to get brave enough to take on new tasks. To challenge yourself. I am enrolled in an online school on track to earn a new degree. I also took on a part time job after my second stay in rehab. I’ve been a stay-at-home mother for 7 years. The idea of a job, any job, made my heart pound in my chest. But, I felt strong enough to accept the challenge, and now I could not be happier.

In recovery, learn to cope with problems rather than dwelling on them or trying to ignore them by using. It’s an important coping skill to know how to handle life as it’s handed to you. Things won’t always happen the way you want them to, and life will throw some real curve balls at you, but you have to learn to live your life in spite of that. And live happy and strong.

You Write Your Story

I returned home from my second stay at my rehab house on Saturday afternoon, and I feel like I’m on the precipice of a new beginning. There’s a lot of possibility standing right in front of me this time. Freedom to explore new activities, new places, new parts of my personality. So, for this week I have chosen this safe coping strategy:

Create a new story. You are the author of your life.

This is just all-around great advice for anyone, any walk of life, facing any adversity. Our lives are what we make of them. We make our own choices, and as a result of those choices, we create our stories.

Some choices are small: paper or plastic? one cup of coffee or two? soup or salad? get up or hit snooze?

Some choices are big: take the new job? move to the new city? have a baby? go back to school?

But, big or small, every choice we make has some sort of effect on our lives, and changes the outcome of our individual stories.

It’s an important thing to remember when you are in recovery. The choices you make today affect the outcome of tomorrow. You have to remember your goals, and the things you’d like to have happen to you in life, and the way you’d like your life to turn out.

If you have a moment where you’re doubting yourself, maybe you’ve been exposed to a trigger or maybe you’re just having a craving, focus on the story you’re attempting to write for yourself. If you give in and use, what does that do to your story? What are the possible (probable) outcomes for the choices that lay in front of you?

If you take even just a ten second break to really think about what you’re feeling and what’s going on inside of your head, you will likely choose the right path. We all want our story to be a good one, to turn out the way that makes not only us, but all of our loved ones, have a long, prosperous, happy story to tell people later.

And most importantly, no one else can write your story. That’s all up to you. Take the time to consider your options and make the choices that will benefit you the most in the end. We can all have a great story if we stay strong and focused on our goals.

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.