DISEASE, LEARNING, AND ANONYMITY

Consider what you believe about the causes of addiction. Now consider what you think about the importance of anonymity in recovery communities. Is there a relationship?

mask1Yes, at least historically. In the very early days of AA, most people viewed addiction as a moral failing or a character defect. There was no disease model to ground the argument that addiction should be treated. In the 1930s, anonymity was a saving grace in the design of AA. People could enter recovery in the company of others who understood their experience. Progress could be made without the shame of exposure to the society at large.

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I'M A HEROIN ADDICT

Like a doctor performing microscopic surgery, I pour the contents of the rainbow bags into my cooker, reach for my bottle of water, insert the syringe, and draw up about 20cc. I squirt the water into the cooker, watch it move across the white powder and turn to liquid. I move my lighter back and forth under the cooker until the heroin bubbles. The smell is sweet. It makes my stomach turn. I bite off a small piece of a cigarette filter, and spit it into the burning liquid. It's time.

I insert the needle, there's a little sting, pull back on the plunger, and a dash of red-blue blood snakes up the middle of the clear liquid. A direct hit. Total euphoria!

Now, all I can think about is where will I get my next bag. But I wasn't always a homeless heroin addict. I was a good kid, an altar boy, even an all-conference athlete. What's not funny, I only took heroin once. Imagine that? Once! After that, heroin took me any place it wanted to. It changed me. I will do anything to get high and I will crush you if you try to stop me. I'm scum. Nothing I say is truthful except this... I am dying.

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REBUILDING TRUST AND RELATIONSHIPS IN RECOVERY

Early recovery is difficult for so many reasons, but one of my biggest difficulties was realizing, and then coping with, the wreckage from my past.  One of the first things we tend to lose is one of the hardest things to regain, and that is the trust of our loved ones.
 
While we are active in our addictions, most of us eventually become extremely selfish and self-seeking.  Lying, cheating and stealing becomes a normal part of our existence, and eventually, if not immediately, we lose the trust of the people around us.  Countless times I have said I was going to the store or out to dinner with a friend when really I was going out to do extremely dangerous and unwise things in the name of my addiction.  I have borrowed money from friends and just never talked to them again when I couldn't pay them back, pawned things that were not mine to pawn, opened a family member's wallet that sat on the counter while their back was turned and taken it's contents, I can go on and on.  Not that it would've mattered at the time, but it never crossed my mind that by doing these things, and telling these lies, I was changing people's perception of me in a very negative way.
 
When the fog in our minds slowly lifts and we start our recovery journey, we begin to realize some of the damage we have caused.  If we are lucky enough to start our new life in a treatment center, we are counseled and advised on how to cope with these emotions and how to amend our pasts.  We are given new tools to live by, we are educated about our disease, we are given group and individual therapy, we are taken to 12-step meetings and given an opportunity to process the impact our addiction has had on our lives.  We sometimes forget that our loved ones are not afforded the same luxury.  They are still hurt, their defenses are up, and they are probably, justifiably, angry.
 
 It is important for us to remember that it takes time for people to heal.  For years, and sometimes decades, we hurt our families.  How frightened were our parents and spouses and children?  How many little league games or recitals did we show up to loaded or miss altogether?  How many family functions did we stumble into late and eventually ruin because we were drunk or high?  Disappointment after disappointment, lie after lie, we slowly chipped away at the confidence of the people closest to us.
 
Unfortunately, there is no time line for trust building and forgiveness.  I was lucky enough to be able to mend my closest relationships relatively quickly, but others are not so fortunate.  Do not be discouraged, time has a way of repairing damage.  If we continue down the right path and keep our side of the street clean, we will eventually rebuild and strengthen our relationships.
 
With recovery comes many gifts, my biggest gift was the rebirth of my relationships.  Do not give up before the promises present themselves, you will be amazed at the pure joy and love that comes with a life of sobriety! 


7 WAYS TO RELEASE THE SHAME THAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK

Have you ever felt shame?

How has it affected your life?

Unfortunately, shame is a part of drug or alcohol abuse. You realize quickly that even though you may have support, you are up against the stigma of a disease that is often not talked about.

The user feels shame about his dependence on drugs or alcohol. The family feels shame about a problem that is now out of their control.

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SOBRIETY AND PARTY HOLIDAYS

 

Party holidays like Halloween and New Year's can be difficult for those of us in early sobriety, they can even be difficult for some of us with years of sobriety.  Just like there are tools for every day relapse prevention, there are tools to keep you accountable and sober on days like Halloween.

 

I have been through all the major holidays in sobriety, so I can definitely relate to anyone that has some fear about socializing during those times.  My belly button birthday is on New Year's Eve, and if that is not the "King" of drunk holidays, I'm not sure what is.
 
I wanted to put out some suggestions and tools that helped me make it through many different social events without drinking or drugging:
 
- My first suggestion is probably my most emphasized one, and that is if you do not feel comfortable attending an event that you have committed to, simply don't go.  Remember the loving AA saying KISS - Keep It Simple Sally! (Traditionally that last S stands for Stupid, but I'm not a fan of calling my fellows stupid!)
 
-  If simply not going is not an option, form an exit plan.  It is totally acceptable for you to attend a party or gathering and decide you're uncomfortable and leave.  Some couples or groups of friends have code words to signal when it's time to go.  You don't have to over explain or make excuses, you can simply say your goodbyes and be on your way.  Or, you can utilize a good 'ole "Irish Goodbye", and just hightail it out of there.  Your sobriety is more important than staying somewhere that is triggering you to drink or use.
 
- Talk to your sponsor about any plans you have to go to a party, gathering or concert, especially if there will be alcohol and/or drugs there.  In the past, I have found myself not running certain things across my sponsor because I wasn't sure I would get the answer I wanted, and if you find yourself in this position, it is ESPECIALLY important that you speak with your sponsor.  If you feel deep down that it might not be a good idea to attend a function, then it's probably not a good idea to attend the function.
 
- Have a sober companion.  Being accountable is important.  Sometimes we're not always great at expressing ourselves, or we feel too embarrassed to let the "normies" around us know that we just don't drink (or smoke pot, or recreationally use any other substance).  It's normal to have that lingering thought in the back of your mind "If I just have one, no one will know.", and if that thought goes unexpressed, it can become very, very dangerous.  Having a sober companion with you can make the fact that you're not imbibing a little less awkward for you, and I say 'less awkward for you' because chances are the people around us don't care one way or the other that we're not drinking, and that nervous feeling we have is unnecessary.
 
- Go to a dry event.   People in sobriety like to have fun and celebrate just like everyone else.  There are plenty of AA or NA sponsored functions during the holidays, and I can almost guarantee that someone you know in recovery is hosting a private gathering or party, and it's safe to assume there will be no drinking or using at an event hosted by a person in recovery.
 
- If you find yourself somewhere that is triggering you to use and you are stuck there, CALL SOMEONE.  Do not feel uncomfortable calling another alcoholic or someone you trust to come get you from a place that is a danger to your sobriety.  Sometimes we may think we're going to be ok being around certain people, places or things, and we are just suddenly not ok when we get there, and that IS ok.  Don't sell yourself short, you are worthy of feeling safe.
 
I hope some of these suggestions were helpful, have a safe and happy Halloween!


WE AGNOSTICS

Coming in to the rooms of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous can be scary.  You're not quite sure what to expect, you walk in and find an empty seat in the back of a room full of strangers, and hanging on the wall you see a list of 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.  There's a recurring theme on those lists, and that theme is GOD.  That God word can be a little off-putting for those of us who do not consider ourselves religious, or for those of us who consider ourselves downright atheist.  Do not let this concept scare you away from a program that saved my life and can save yours as well.
 
It is so common for people to be turned off by the idea of a Higher Power that there is an entire chapter devoted to it in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Chapter 4 is called "We Agnostics", and I encourage anyone struggling with addiction or alcoholism, that also happens to be struggling with spirituality, to read this chapter in the book before they dismiss this life-changing program. 
 
I found this chapter in the book to be extremely helpful, and I want to share some highlighted areas that I feel gave me the ability to work a higher power into my life.
 
About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type (atheist or agnostic).  At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics.  But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life - or else.  Perhaps it is going to be that way with you.  But cheer up, something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics.  Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.
 
-  Many times we talk to a new man and watch his hopes rise as we discuss his alcoholic problems and explain our fellowship.  But his face falls when we speak of spiritual matters, especially when we mention God, for we have re-opened a subject which our man thought he had neatly evaded or entirely ignored.  We know how he feels.  We have shared his honest doubt and prejudice.  Some of us have been violently anti-religious.  To others, the word "God" brought up a particular idea of Him with which someone had tried to impress them during childhood.  Perhaps we rejected this particular conception because it seemed inadequate.  With that rejection we imagined we had abandoned the God idea entirely.  We were bothered with the thought that faith and dependence upon a Power beyond ourselves was somewhat weak, even cowardly.  We looked upon this world of warring individuals, warring theological systems, and inexplicable calamity, with deep skepticism.  We looked askance at many individuals who claimed to be godly.  How could a Supreme Being have anything to do with it all?  And who could comprehend a Supreme Being anyhow?  Yet, in other moments, we found ourselves thinking, when enchanted by a starlit night, "Who, then, made all this?"  There was a feeling of awe and wonder, but it was fleeting and soon lost.
 
-  Much to our relief, we discovered we did not need to consider another's conception of God.  Our own conception, however inadequate, was sufficient to make the approach and to effect a contact with Him.  As soon as we admitted the possible existence of a Creative Intelligence, a Spirit of the Universe underlying the totality of things, we began to be possessed of a new sense of power and direction, provided we took other simple steps.
 
- Besides a seeming inability to accept much on faith, we often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy, sensitiveness, and unreasoning prejudice.  Many of us have been so touchy that even casual reference to spiritual things made us bristle with antagonism.   This sort of thinking had to be abandoned.  Though some of us resisted, we found no great difficulty in casting aside such feelings.  Faced with alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions.
 
 - We have numerous theories, for example, about electricity.  Everybody believes them without a murmur of doubt.  Why this ready acceptance?  Simply because it is impossible to explain what we see, feel, direct, and use, without a reasonable assumption as a starting point.  Everybody nowadays, believes in scores of assumptions for which there is good evidence, but no perfect visual proof.  And does not science demonstrate that visual proof is the weakest proof?  It is being constantly revealed, as mankind studies the material world, that outward appearances are not inward reality at all.
 
- We used to amuse ourselves by cynically dissecting spiritual beliefs and practices when we might have observed that many spiritually-minded persons of all races, colors and creeds were demonstrating a degree of stability, happiness and usefulness which we should have sought ourselves.  Instead, we looked at the human defects of these people, and sometimes used their shortcomings as a basis of wholesale condemnation.  We talked of intolerance, while we were intolerant ourselves.  We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because we were diverted by the ugliness of some of its trees.  We never gave the spiritual side of life a fair hearing.
 
- The book talks about how man's opinions have changed in the last century on things like flight, the best mathematical minds said we would never fly, that God reserved that gift for birds, and that when flight became possible we had to change our views.  This excerpt is in reference to that: We had to ask ourselves why we shouldn't apply to our human problems this same readiness to change our point of view.  We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people - was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important than whether we should see newsreels of lunar flight?  Of course it was.
 
- Logic is great stuff.  We liked it.  We still like it.  It is not by chance we were given the power to reason, to examine the evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions.  That is one of man's magnificent attributes.  We agnostically inclined would not feel satisfied with a proposal which does not lend itself to reasonable approach and interpretation.  Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our present faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe than not to believe, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt and said "We don't know!".
 
- Without knowing it, had we not been brought to where we stood by a certain kind of faith?  For did we not believe in our own reasoning?  Did we not have confidence in our ability to think?  What was that but a sort of faith?  Yes, we had been faithful, abjectly faithful to the God of Reason.  So, in one way or another, we discovered that faith had been involved all the time!
 
- We found too, that we had been worshippers.  What a state of mental goose-flesh that used to bring on!  Had we not variously worshipped people, sentiment, things, money, and OURSELVES?  And then, with a better motive, had we not worshipfully beheld the sunset, the sea, or a flower?  Who of us had not loved something or somebody?  How much did these feelings, these loves, these worships, have to do with pure reason?  Little or nothing, we saw at last.  Were not these things the tissue out of which our lives were constructed?  Did not these feelings, after all, determine the course of our existence?  It was impossible to say we had no capacity for faith, or love, or worship.  In one form or another we had been living by faith and little else.
 
This chapter is full of great information on changing your view on the spiritual aspects of life.  There is nothing pushy or preachy, you are encouraged to form a relationship with a Higher Power of your own conception and understanding, not anyone else's. 
 
During my time in recovery, especially early recovery, I have had many moments of doubt.  I have been overwhelmed by the thought of turning my will and my life over to something that I could not see, hear or touch.  I was not, and am not, an anomaly.
 
My biggest discovery has been that I am not alone. My feelings, thoughts and actions are not so unique after all. I have found a fellowship of people that may come from many different walks of life, but we all lean on each other and take care of each other, because no matter the differences, we all suffer from the same ailment, and we are able to come together and feel reprieve.  If that is not a Higher Power at work, than I'm not sure what is. 


5 WAYS TO EMBRACE LIFE IN RECOVERY

Are you concerned about your child’s future?

Do you find it challenging to enjoy life?

For parents of a child struggling with drugs or alcohol, getting your life back can be a struggle.

You may be looking for the quick fix to solve the problem and shortcut the process. Of course you want the healing to begin sooner rather than later.

I remember when all I wanted was to get back to my comfort zone, my earlier “normal life” without the stress and emotional exhaustion that I was now feeling.

I believe all things come for a reason. Sometimes life throws us a lesson that we need. From this lesson, life can change for the better.

Developing new habits helped me when I was struggling. They helped me feel more centered and at peace. I realized I could be happier if I gave these new habits a little effort.

Do not let your child’s struggles rob you of the life that you so deserve to have.

Going inside to find the answers continues to lead me to a better place of discovery, where I feel more in the moment and calm.

We all have our journey. We all have our path in life. None of us are happy that we have been affected by substance use. However, this is what life has brought us.

Accept the situation, so that you can make the very best of what is happening now.

Drug and alcohol issues change everything and everybody. I learned it was up to me to decide how these changes would influence my life. I continue to work on making every day a good day. Seek out what works for you so that you can get back your peace of mind.

When you look inside yourself, you will begin to find the answers that you seek. Life will continue to be a work in progress, an ongoing search for the truth.

My experience led me down a path of new discoveries that I never anticipated, nor planned for, and yet my life feels richer because of it. I am learning enjoy all that is within my reach.

My hope is that you will find your own your own way and discover new habits that work for you.

Embrace your new life by taking on some new healthy habits. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Yoga

Yoga is the practice of celebrating what is. At the end of the hero’s journey, he finds that he did not need to go anywhere, that all he sought was inside him all along. ~ Rolf Gates

Yoga was my first experience of taking time to quiet my mind and to learn more about myself. It’s possible for anyone who is interested in yoga to learn. It does takes practice. You go to the studio or a quiet place in your home to stretch, but you leave with so much more.

Yoga trains your body and your mind to work together in the moment. As you stretch, twist, and turn, your body begins the process of becoming more limber and gives in to your demands. Your mind is focused on each pose.

Your ego pushes you to try the more demanding poses, but eventually you learn to let your ego go and attempt only what you are ready for. With patience, your body will begin to respond to your requests.

Meditation

Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there—buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day. ~ Deepak Chopra

Meditation is the simple act of sitting and listening to your breath. It is a way to balance a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states. It can benefit everybody. Meditation allows you to notice your breath, let your thoughts float by, and explore the quiet of your mind.

Meditation can seem very simple, yet it can feel challenging to be still. It has been helpful to me to have a meditation practice in my life, and it might help you as well. Sit quietly and let all other distractions go. Even one minute of simple breathing helps you to relax.

Taking a short amount of time to meditate in the morning starts off your day with peace, quiet, and calmness. As you begin to meditate more often, your inner calm will linger and help you throughout your day.

Writing

For me, writing is exploration; and most of the time, I’m surprised where the journey takes me. ~ Jack Dann

Writing can be a fulfilling outlet that allows you to release many of your thoughts on paper. After reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I followed Julia’s suggestion and began to write what she calls the morning pages, the habit of writing three pages each day.

I love Julia’s morning pages It has worked for me, and you might find it comforting as well. (Stay tuned for my upcoming interview with Shelley Richanbach, founder of Next Steps for Women who discusses how the morning pages has changed her life.)

There are many alternatives to the morning pages such as journal writing of any length, as well as a daily gratitude list. Writing of any kind helps calm the mind chatter.

Writing each day gives you a place to get your thoughts on paper. When we are dealing with substance use, there will be many pent-up emotions. It’s a release to write about your feelings. It can be a vehicle to formulate answers when you are struggling.

Writing the morning pages gives you a starting point and a place to release your thoughts. It relieves pent up emotions and you feel lighter as you go about your day.

Exercise

Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states. ~ Carol Welch

Most of us at some point in our lives have exercised regularly.

When substance use or any other life trauma occurs, this can easily be put to the side and forgotten.

Setting exercise goals for yourself seems daunting at first, but once you start, it becomes easier. You begin to put your focus on the training that you must do each week, the clothing you will need to prepare, bringing enough water, and how wonderful you are going to feel when you have completed your workout.

Just taking a walk can make the world seem like a calmer place.

Walking is a regular part of my week. Having a dog helps, as she needs her daily walk. Just getting out there, setting a time limit, or possibly clipping a pedometer to your waist gives you the sense of accomplishment to get those strides going. The goal could be 10,000 steps per day, but the benefit of a 10 or 20 minute walk is immeasurable.

Find Your Passion

If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you. ~ T. Alan Armstrong

When we are dealing with family substance use of any kind and are ready for a new lifestyle, it’s essential that we look at our lives and see where we can make positive changes. We need to fill the void of substance use with something that will make us want to get up in the morning, something that we can get excited about.

Find your passion so that you can feel the deep joys of life!

When we are focused on other people, our goals and dreams are put to the wayside. Refocus your energy to remember those things in life that you love to do and that make you feel alive. Think about what makes you excited. What is the one thing you do where you lose track of time?

If you have lost the excitement in life, now is a good time to do some research and rekindle what makes you happy. It is not enough to be in just be in “recovery”; it is crucial that you find your passion.

Let go and put some energy into you, energy that will nourish your mind and feed your soul. You will be at your best when you give back to yourself. Pursuing your passion will renew your love of life and all that it has to offer.

Take the time to find your own peace of mind in a way that works for you. Bring some of these ideas into your life, so that you can make it better!

You may find that you finally do have your life back.

Remember—you are not alone and there is always hope!

Life is a series of moments. If you miss the moments, you miss your life. ~ Robin Sharma

 

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DOES CHILDHOOD TRAUMA LEAD TO ADDICTION?

It would be nice if humans came equipped with diagnostic sensors that could immediately pinpoint the root of any condition we were struggling with —to be able to see into a person’s timeline and say, “There it is. Right there. That’s where addiction began.”
Unfortunately, it takes many of us years, even decades, to uncover enough of the pain to understand why our journey took the turns it did. No one wakes up and decides to become an addict. But somewhere on the timeline of our lives, many addicts have experienced trauma points. This trauma awakens the desire (either conscious or unconscious) for what all trauma survivors long for: control and safety.

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THE BASICS OF AA

  • The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-Step recovery program is a free treatment program for people suffering from alcohol abuse and addiction.
  • AA program participants follow a set of recovery steps to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol. Many people use a sponsor to help them through the process.
  • The program uses a spiritual approach that includes a belief in a higher power. Members define that higher power in their own way - it does not have to be God.
  • Meetings are often held in public spaces such as churches or schools. Some meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend, while others are only for alcoholics or prospective AA members.
  • Becoming a member is free. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking.
  • You must be an alcoholic to join AA. But anyone can attend open meetings.


WELCOME TO THE BLOG

Welcome to the blog for A Better Life Recovery. We will post news and articles here related to addition and recovery.