The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. ~ Nathaniel Branden
So the day started well when I went for a 5 mile run that was pretty good. It was really hard work but I enjoyed it and also I feel much much better than having actually gone for a run again…at last.
It was bloody hard work because not only have I not been running much lately, but also it was hot…any excuse! I have sat indoors in the sunshine and wallowed, feeling sorry for myself, chucking out photos of my past to try to wipe the slate clean. But it hasn’t made me feel better. So it’s time for a new approach.
I then planned to go to a Sunday Assembly! Described as:
A global network of super people who want to make the most of this one life we know we have.
But the Sunday Assembly didn’t happen at the church on Waterloo Street because of a broken lock or something…so it was moved to Hove Lawns…so I didn’t want to go. I just didn’t want to sit on the grass in the middle of town to sing songs, listen to talks and be inspired. When it was in the church it was different. Not in a spiritual way but in a place where I felt more at ease. Social anxiety…maybe. That’s one reason I drank after all.
Instead I went for a coffee at The Small Batch on Western Road.
There is a small irony in that it was the bar where I had my 40th birthday party, and a bar I used to love. The Atlas Lounge:
Anyway, I’m no natural at going for a coffee and socialising but maybe I’ll get there if I keep this up. At least I have done something sociable. Almost.
This new life isn’t coming naturally to me, but I’m trying.
I haven’t written for a while because quite frankly life hasn’t been too bad. Shock surprise!!!
I’m really pleased about that. I have been nearly three months abstinent now and for most of it, it has felt like lurching from one craving to another; then cravings with short gaps between them all punctuated by an emotional rollercoaster. Let’s face it, it’s been bloody tough.
But in the last few days something has changed. Me…my attitude…my acceptance…something.
By that I don’t mean everything is suddenly great. Actually it’s not. But what I get is that it is just life, it can really suck at times. Life is hard.
Alcohol wont make it any better.
To hear that told to you, to read about it, to rationally think it makes sense…doesn’t help. To believe it does. So now I have an acceptance that it’s ok to feel crap. It’s ok to cry, to be sad, to be angry, to be upset, to be frustrated, to be lonely.
Those feelings are what it means to be alive 🙂
I’m due to start some counselling soon so I guess I’ve been thinking about why I drink or rather drank. And it’s to avoid feelings. That’s why it’s been so hard being sober and feeling everything for the first time.
So I don’t have any answers about how to move on from where I am, but acceptance that it’s ok to feel bad, with an understanding that booze and drugs wont make it any easier means I can see the sunshine today and I’m happy about that.
Something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently as I move forward with counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is how does AA fit into my recovery?
It has been a real lifesaver for me, especially in the first few days and weeks where frankly I was a mess. I needed every piece of support I could find and it was wonderfully to be able to go to a meeting at almost any time of the day or evening. I really needed that.
I needed to hear ‘The Chairs’, I needed to be with people who understood what it was like to live life as an alcoholic. The misery, the struggles, the guilt, the sickness….I don’t even want to think about it.
But now, 2 1/2 months in its different. The struggles are there and I need to be very careful. I need to be doing ‘recovery things’ at least 3 or 4 times a week but do they need to be AA?
The professional community devalues AA’s 12-Step recovery as a lay cult and tends to increase the mistrust within AA toward all medical research and advances. The medical community defines addiction as a disease of the brain’s reward circuitry, the 12-Step community sees addiction as a “spiritual malady of self-centeredness”. So how does one reconcile fundamentally distinct views on the nature of addiction?
Does the cause matter even? I guess it does if I’m to move beyond just existing as a non-drinker day-to-day and get to a fulfilling and rewarding life.
But this idea that is so central to AA….that’s written in The Big Book on page 62: “Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.”
What’s the opposite of self-centeredness? Humility. And in AA’s book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions this powerful phrase is asserted: “The attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of AA’s Twelve Steps. For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all.”
But where it starts to fall down for me is that AA didn’t invent this thinking. Spirituality of many forms has always promoted the idea we need to be unselfish and humble.
Lao-Tzu said, “I suffer most because of me and selfishness. If I were selfless, then what suffering would I bear?” He also said, “To take all you want is never as good as to stop when you should.” Addicts keep taking more…and more.
Buddhism suggests, “Cease desire.” And stresses compassion, not self-centeredness, recommending detachment instead of dependency.
In Islam, the ultimate purpose of humans is to be in the “service of God.” This is done by sacrificing for others to benefit humanity, while not aiming for selfish pleasure.
Jesus said, ‘”Love one another,” and urged people to take up their cross, walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and “Give to him who asks you.” Also, he told an addiction recovery story about a prodigal son who blew his mind pursuing selfish goals.
Francis of Assisi’s wisdom is quoted in AA’s Eleventh Step: “It is by self-forgetting that one finds.” The Twelfth Step describes alcoholics as “childish, emotionally sensitive, and grandiose.” What’s the antidote? Unselfishness and humility.
This is why a spiritual development program helps people transcend their addictions….as the theory goes.
But what if I am a spiritual person anyway?
Do I need AA to tell me the benefits of not being self-centred….”I think not“.
So back to “science”. I have been finding the SMART Recovery Groups really helpful to me. But even more than this CBT-based approach there is a growing body of evidence that addiction is a disease of learning and memory.
Science has shown that chronic substance abuse rewires the neural pathways that affect learning and memory. In this regard, 12-Step recovery can be of great help by correcting the faulty wiring that chronic substance abuse has caused. The better we understand the workings of 12-Step recovery, the more we are able to shift the focus from pathology and intervention to the pathways and processes that lead to lasting recovery. In addition, the more we know about recovery’s powerful effect on learning and memory, the better equipped we are to develop new and better biological targets for treatment (source).
So how does any of this help me?
Frankly it doesn’t. I remain a spiritual person and so AA isn’t ‘converting’ me there. But it does offer me a real grounding, compassion and understanding. So as long as they will have me, as long as I feel better when I walk out than when I walk in and as long as I feel generally welcomed (which isn’t always true) then I shall continue to go.
But I also have high hopes for the weekly SMART Group meetings. I went this week and got a lot from it. I was feeling down and struggling but I came out feeling much better. Add to that the fact I had counselling the next day and now I’m feeling much restored. So I haven’t been to AA, I don’t need AA….but AA is there, every day. And so until other options are available daily. I’ll go.
And to give something back….
There’s “hell” in hello,
“Good” in goodbye,
“Lie” in believe,
“Over” in lover,
“End” in friend,
& a “if” in life.
Yesterday was a horrible day…and I nearly succumbed. But thankfully I didn’t. I just got through it….
So what happened?
Well it was a bad day….and they just happen sometimes but what made it different I think was that I tried so hard to do a really good job at work. I’m in an unusual situation at the moment with my job disappearing and so I am working hard to try to build myself a good reputation…so they keep me on in a new role.
And the day started very well, lots of praise….and then it went wrong. I was working hard, but I made a mistake. One that became more and more compounded the longer and harder I worked. And it was a long 12 hour work day. And I didn’t know I was doing something wrong. And when I did…I went back to an empty hotel room, in the rain, on my own.
My ego had been boosted with all the praise, and then it was crushed …. by me…when I realised my mistake. So instead of being the ‘good guy’ doing a great job; my hard work meant someone else had to check my work overnight. I hated myself and just was so upset at the thought of failure and someone having to pick up my mess that I just wanted to get out of it. I suppose the only good thing is that I didn’t drink.
Ironically I wanted to get out of it on drugs…which aren’t my usual addiction.
So today is another day. It’s still raining but I got to work at 7.30am; praised the person who had to work late to recheck my work, apologised and I felt better. I was then told I wasn’t the only one who had made the same mistake and that I’d done a ‘great job’ and it was just a training issue.
So yesterday was really just about my ego I guess? I wanted to be liked and I enjoyed the praise. When it all started to go wrong my ego was crushed. Crushed by no-one but myself I should add. And that made me want to give up, go home and get drunk…literally.
So I need to take a step back, not be reliant on the praise of anyone and not think I can be a Super Hero. Not want to be a Super Hero.
So I’m feeling better today…knowing my best is all I can do and it’s good enough whatever happens. I’m just me….
A bit of humility and humbleness will do me some good….as long as I still manage to love myself enough to believe this road is worth staying on anyway.
I’m feeling really fucking miserable after a shit day. Horrible day at work, horrible weather, missing my son (no Skype’s in ages) and crap food. I’m away with work again, in an industrial city in Germany, staying in a mediocre souless hotel.
Things suck today 😦
‘Normally’ I’d have a drink to unwind.,.actually quite a few most probably, but now I’m sober how do I cope? Well the ‘new normal’ is to ….
- go to a café for a tea, – none open or even here in this industrial town that I know of
- go for a run – it’s 9pm, I’m shattered and it’s pissing down with rain
- watch some escapist TV – all the channels are in German except depressing World News
- go to a meeting – none hereabouts are easy to get to or in English
So quite honestly I’m screwed. But I’m still hoping I won’t drink. I am feeling really lonely, tired and depressed which are all big drinking reasons but I’m reluctant to blow 2 months sobriety, which is why if I had some drugs is probably take them.
Good job I’m in a strange German industrial town with no inclination or idea where to go to score. So I guess I’ll just grin and bear it, sit alone in a miserable hotel room, eat shit food and wait for tomorrow.
Tomorrow has to be better right?
Before you ask, no I don’t have an easy answer….
At home I have taken control, removed all the drinking paraphernalia, and the booze. And being abstinent is for the moment just avoiding exposure to drinking by not have alcohol around me and avoiding pubs, bars and drinking buddies.
But for these last two weeks I’ve been away overseas for pleasure and for work where my environment is out if my hands …. and it’s been a real challenge.
Firstly I’ve been lucky enough to stay in a friends flat….empties everywhere though.
So that was hard….and made harder by open bottles of wine in the fridge to contend with when getting anything to eat. In fact there was booze wherever I looked.
I don’t think it was deliberate but they did know I was just two months abstinent. Tough.
I think the only was I could have gotten through it was to focus on the reasons why I stopped in the first place. In part that was easy. My motivation is strong because I was with my son. For me….that means I have to be sober, I have to be abstinent, I have to be present, I have to be the best Dad it’s possible for me to be.
At the same time it’s terrible to admit that my son was one of the main reasons I drank. I couldn’t bear to be separated from him, and just seeing him brings back all the pain and suffering I felt when he was taken from me. Every Skype, every phone call, every little bit of contact from me looking at an old photo to me just seeing a little boy the similar age in the street; every one was a trigger.
But I didn’t crumble, I endured the heartbreaking moments when he was in tears. I tried to stay in the moment, be calm and just get through it. And when the tears, his, subsided, give him a kiss.
So I didn’t drink.
And I feel good because of that. It wasn’t easy but now I have experienced being away and staying with away from home under difficult circumstances without resorting to drinking and I feel I can maintain this abstinence.
Then after the pleasure of being away for pleasure was the being away for work. Travelling alone to another strange city, staying in a hotel on my own, with a fully stocked mini-bar and free booze available….that has not been easy either.
To have to say goodbye and then to be in an emotional state, away from home, away from support groups, others in recovery. Well…so far still ok, but hard in a different way.
I guess I drank for so many reasons. Sitting in a hotel all alone being able to get free booze is a dangerous trigger. Loneliness, isolation, boredom and the killer…being forced to socialise!
Ok so the colleagues here are all good people but sitting in a room full of people speaking a language you don’t understand, when feeling socially insecure anyway, all I want to do is shout ‘shut the fuck up and leave me alone’…. I need a drink to socialise…or so my false belief tells me.
It’s been tough, it remains tough. I want to drink but I wont. And tomorrow is Friday and so I am going home in the evening. I plan to go to my counselling session, and go to an AA meeting.
Then Monday, I’m flying out to do it all over again. It’s tough being sober when staying away from home, but something I have done once now. I just have to get used to it.
Much like a lot these days, I just have to turn these times when I get through a tough event, to a time when it’s normal not to drink and the desire to drink isn’t there. That’s not today!