“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you posses except one thing, your freedom to choose how you respond…” – Victor Frankl
Alcohol saved my life
And then it nearly killed me
Just when I think I’m going to attend more SMART meetings and cut back on AA, this happens. I just heard an amazing Chair in a meeting from a guy who has been sober for a long time. Without going into specifics his story resonated with mine.
At a very early age I struggled to handle my emotions, everything was too much, they hurt too much. They were overwhelming. And then, like Hugo, I discovered drinking. Literally with that first drink everything was ok. I had a cure….I didn’t need to feel those emotions as I’d found a way to push them away and be the ‘real me, without emotions getting in the way’.
Except I carried on drinking and not feeling. I carried on drinking and I lost what was the most important part of myself. The sensitive child, the caring adult…I still cared, but I could only cope with the burden of caring if I didn’t feel my pain and the pain of others too deeply.
Then when life happened and I had real pain, even more pain, and life was becoming unbearable; I just drank more. But it wasn’t working.
The drink stopped making me feel less, instead I’d find myself sitting in the dark late at night listening to depressing music self-harming. Or passing out.
But my road to recovery began and it was a long time coming. It was even longer before I walked into an AA meeting and even 14 months in I haven’t done the steps or got a Sponsor.
Just like Hugo.
And that made me feel instantly better. He just said he took his time, he went to meetings, he stayed sober, but he didn’t think the steps or Sponsor were needed for him. Then one day he did get a Sponsor and he did start the steps and it was only by doing that, that he began to change in himself.
“You hear what you need to hear”. A cliché often said in meetings, often true.
I also shared for the first time in a while about wanting a drink at the Paloma Faith gig, and how I really wanted some drugs but couldn’t find them. I then have thought over the last few days that it would be ok to buy some legal highs and that maybe that would be a good idea.
And the funny thing is after the meeting, the woman sitting next to me said “so you got away with it then”. She hadn’t had a drink but did take some legal drugs in the week, just on her own, and her Sponsor said she was back to a ‘sobriety day 1’. And she seemed really lovely and someone I could relate to…
I think I’m one step closer to asking for a Sponsor…
“When I look around, I see that everyone’s the protagonist of their own story. And the thing about stories is that not all of them have a happy ending. But some do.” — Rae
Hold out for that happy ending. No, make that happy ending happen for yourself, because it can, and it will if you make it happen.
“You can’t fix other people until you’ve fixed yourself.” — Kester
Take your blinders off for a second and really step back and realise that everyone is very different. Living with compassion doesn’t always mean fixing other people, but rather just being there when they need you most.
We need quiet times in order to develop peace in our lives. We spend most of our days speaking or being spoken to. It’s important to set aside time to speak to ourselves. We need to speak to ourselves gently and honestly each day. We need to spend quality time with ourselves to keep in touch with who we are and where we’re headed.
A diver takes the time for a deep breath and a quiet moment before he jumps, and so it is for us before we jump from one activity to the next.
Today I will have at least one quiet time for myself because I deserve it.
This idea of ‘taking a pause’ is tied to the concept of mindfulness.
Thats kind of a note to self as I sit here at my first outdoor gig since stopping drinking.
All around me are the sounds of popping corks (yes it’s that kind of gig) and people carrying and spilling warm beer in plastic pint glasses. And swigging cold white wine from the bottle (ok I added that because it’s what I would have been doing).
Waiting for the acts to start…perfect getting drunk in the sun moment.
And actually I’m very surprised. After a year and a bit sober I’ve become ok with not drinking out in pubs and bars, restaurants and the like. But this kind of event would be my usual getting pissed on warm booze and getting nicely stoned.
And everywhere I look there is alcohol being swigged. I’m looking for someone not drinking but haven’t found anyone yet. So, hopefully once the music starts I’ll be ok but for now this is tough.
So, never be complacent! And next time I’ll be better prepared with sugar, food,…anything!
Update at midnight…..
Survived, had fun and another ‘event’ ticked off as doable sober 🙂
There’s been a lot said about Mindfulness but not so much on how useful it is for dealing with an alcohol problem. So how does mindfulness help us deal with mental health problems generally, and with alcohol issues specifically?
There is very little research into how it achieves its effects, but it is thought that one of the main mechanisms by which it is helpful is the development of an ‘observer view’ on your own mental processes.
This observer view occurs largely as a result of focusing on clearing the mind and concentrating on the breath. When the mind inevitably wanders off this focus, a key part of mindfulness is to notice that you have started thinking about something, then calmly return to focusing on the breath again. It’s the ‘noticing’ what the mind is doing that is helpful I believe. From that we can learn to observe our own thoughts more generally, when we’re going about the rest of our day, not practicing mindfulness necessarily. If we can be more aware of when patterns shift in our inner landscape, it can only be a good thing. If we therefore become more self aware, rather than reacting automatically to our thoughts, we can have more choice in how we respond, in whether we have a drink, or choose something more helpful for us.
Another effect of mindfulness, or meditation as it used to be called, is in allowing the ever-active mind to take a break. To just perceive and be aware, without any labeling or inner commentary on what’s happening, even if it’s only for a few seconds at a time. A pause for breath, in both a figurative and literal sense. This allows certain neurons to rest and re-balance their associated neurotransmitters (the chemicals which our brain cells require to communicate with each other). If this allows us to de-stress, or for the mind to cope with stress more effectively, then again we can be less likely to reach for alcohol.
If you are drinking as a reaction to anxiety or worry, you can easily see how having a moment to step away from those concerns could be very calming, and potentially help to avoid the urge to calm yourself with a drink instead.
Many people are put off the idea of mindfulness practice because they believe it requires long sessions of sitting cross-legged in front of a candle, chanting certain special phrases. That’s more like the traditional form of meditation, whereas modern mindfulness can be practised for 1 minute at a time, several times during your day, even while you’re sat at your desk working perhaps. The key is to allow your mind to focus on the breath, or a pleasing view perhaps, and try to just perceive it, without discussing it in your mind. You might only be able to sustain that for a few seconds at first, but that’s fine.