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.

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?

Trinkets and Treasures

This week’s safe coping strategy:

Inspire yourself. Carry something positive.

I carry around two things from my time in rehab that are symbols of my sobriety.

The first is my 30-day AA chip. It is red and made of some lightweight metal. It is nothing overly special. But it reminds me of a time when I only had 30 days under my belt, and how scary and empowering that felt, all at the same time. It also reminds me of my relapse, and how I gave the chip to my husband and told him to give it back to me when I “earned it.” And I did. And now I have 160 days and it’s amazing to look back and see the progress I’ve made.

I also carry a small, smooth, light green rock. Towards the end of my first stay in rehab, a counselor put a pile of pretty little stones on the table, in all colors, shapes and sizes. She told us to choose one to represent our time there, and to carry it with us wherever we went. And that’s what I do. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of all the times I smiled in rehab, and all the positive things we did there. I’m reminded of the bonding I did with the other woman who stayed there at the time. We remain friends.

I carry both with me in my wallet, and see them nearly every day. And each time I see them, I am filled with positive thoughts and feelings, about me, my choice to attend rehab, my recovery, my future.

Choose something for yourself, something small you can carry with you to remind you of your recovery. Why you’re doing it, who you’re doing it for. It can be anything as long as it means something to you. A poem, a ticket stub, a pebble, a ring or necklace, a button.

Sometimes it takes something physical and visceral to remind us of what’s important. Something we can reach out and touch, rather than the abstract “recovery” or “sobriety”, or our feelings. This little trinket will serve this purpose for you. And it will also help you stay positive and focused. Positivity is extremely important in recovery, so why not take all the help you can get?

Do you already have a special memento you carry? Or do you have one in mind you’d like to use?

Soothing Self Talk

When you start down the road to recovery, it can be a scary time. You’re feeling new feelings all the time, and learning a little more each day who it is that you really are. And even after you’ve been in recovery for a while, you’ll still have bad days. Anxious moments, tough situations, triggers. There are a lot of ways to handle things when you feel this way. That’s what all of these safe coping strategies are all about. But there are a few things you can try right when you feel the bad creeping in that may help ward it off. I have combined two safe coping strategies for this week, because I feel they go hand in hand.

Talk yourself through it. Self talk helps in difficult times.

Soothing talk. Talk to yourself very gently (as if to a friend or small child).

I don’t mean that you have to go around talking out loud to yourself, that could be embarrassing, right? You can talk to yourself silently, in your head. Start by just calming yourself down. I usually let myself know, “You’re going to be ok. Everything will be ok.” In moments of panic, it can feel as if the sky is falling, but it’s not, and eventually, whatever it is you’re going through will be ok again.

Maybe you’re doubting your ability to do something. Self talk is great here. Let yourself know that you can do anything you put your mind to. Remind yourself you’ve got strengths and talents. And a little hard work goes a long way. Bolstering yourself in this way will raise your confidence level and help you feel better.

Learning to live with anxiety and depression can be difficult too. And perhaps you’ve been given medication to help you with it. But, the idea is to not have to take the medication forever. And learning how to use self talk to your advantage will help a lot with that.

Use self talk to comfort yourself during scary, difficult or confusing times. Use self talk to boost your confidence during a challenging time. Use self talk to remind yourself why you’re here, why you do what you do, that you matter and that you’re worth it.

Be kind to yourself when using self talk. For example, don’t use language like, “You’re such a wimp.” Don’t put yourself down or be too hard on yourself. It’s important to stay positive, and to be gentle and patient with yourself. Negativity will spread like wildfire to other aspects of your life. Stay positive, be positive, talk to yourself positively.

It’s a practice. You will learn over time to automatically begin soothing self talk when it’s needed. A good way to get started is to use a list of positive affirmations as part of your daily routine. This is a good idea anyway, it’s an amazing self-esteem booster. But, it’s a way to practice self talk. Use only those affirmations that you feel apply to you and resonate with you. It’s not important to use all of the affirmations on a list you find, just the ones that work for you. You can also come up with your own affirmations based on your goals and situation. Here are some good sites to get you started:

100 Positive Affirmations

How to Change Your Life and Your Mind by Using Affirmations

The Power of Affirmations

Make Your Self-Talk Work For You

Mayo Clinic-Stress Management-Positive Thinking

 

Self Praise

Before we choose the path to recovery, most of us are bogged down with extreme feelings of guilt, shame and self-loathing. We are physically ill most of the time, we are addicted to a substance and feel trapped not knowing how to eliminate it from our lives, and many of us are hiding our addiction from the public and from loved ones. The negative feelings just keep coming and coming, and we don’t know how to fix them.

When we begin to recover, it’s still difficult to shed these feelings. But we must get rid of those feelings, and replace them with self love and self care in order to fully recover. Today I have chosen this safe coping strategy:

Praise yourself. Notice what you did right; this is the most powerful method of growth.

As you begin your new sober life, you will stumble once in a while. It is inevitable. Even if you stay on the path and do not relapse, you will still experience urges and cravings. And on days when you’re feeling down and lost, you might snap at loved ones and say things you don’t mean. It’s still easy to be down on ourselves, even though we are sober.

But, it’s important to notice what you’re doing right. For example, you’re staying sober. You’re employed or you’re attending school. You’re reconnecting with loved ones. You’re exercising. You’re eating healthy.

Don’t focus on the junk food you had yesterday, or the argument you had with your spouse, or the urge to use that you had to talk yourself down from. The more bad thoughts you have toward yourself, the more will come. It’s a downward spiral that’s difficult to escape from. And in the end, you will think it’s ok to use again, because you’re not worth sobriety.

It’s important to know that’s not true. You’re more than worthy of a sober existence, you deserve it. And beginning to love yourself the way you are, flaws and all, will help make your journey that much easier. None of us is perfect, and we all need a little help once in a while. When you find yourself caught in a negative feeling directed at yourself, take time to remember the things you did right. Take time to remember that you can make the next five minutes, the next day, the next week, better.

Each of us is learning new things every day. Learning to love ourselves again after a battle with addiction is no different. Of course, we should reflect on our past mistakes, and learn from them, but we should not hold on to them and use them to judge ourselves. Positive thinking, positive self-talk and self-forgiveness are very important in any recovery journey. Remember to love yourself as you are.