Sunday, September 30, 2007

Simple Daily Plan

The major difference between waking up sober versus hungover?
Enjoying the sounds of birds chirping, rather than wanting to shoot them.
Starting my morning with a prayer, stretch and a hot cup of coffee, sure beats stumbling to the bottle for the inevitable "eye-opener". Today, I have a choice of want I want to do, instead of having to plan my strategic drinking regimen. It is a gratifying feeling of freedom.
Sure it may sound a bit routine, or boring, but I am a creature of habit just continuing to establish healthy habits to supplant the destructive ones. These daily mental exercises are chisels that chip away at my denial and ego. I am learning to suppress the old "romancing" thoughts of how nice a beer or glass of wine would be.
If I get to hear another alcoholic remind me of where that first drink leads; it allows me play the tape through to the end. I try to make it a point to share my experience on a daily basis, and possibly help someone with their journey in sobriety.
At the end of day, I review my actions; was I tolerant, helpful, angry or resentful?
My inventory must include the positive actions of the day, not just my faults.
Most importantly, I have to assess; am I moving away from a drink or drug today?

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Friday, September 28, 2007

People, Places & Things...

The unavoidable facets of our daily lives; whether it's work, school, friends or family, these are the interactions we face every day. In order to deal with the daily PPT's, it is important we have our own house in order. That is, do we have a plan for the day? Are we mentally, emotionally and spiritually fit to deal with a difficult person or place?
The process may involve prayer, calling a sponsor or conferring with a friend about an upcoming event. Remember any problem shared becomes 1/2 a problem. I look at recovery as a structure, built on a foundation; the strength of the foundation is reinforced through meetings, asking for help and admitting that no matter the challenge, there is nothing that a drink will solve or change.
Anxiety does occur as a result of fear and uncertainty, but it can be managed by a positive and grateful attitude. As long as we remember to stay vigilant and moving forward, there isn't anything we can't cope with.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Questions or Topics From Readers

Please feel free to suggest a topic or ask anything about alcoholism or drug addiction. I want to hear from folks, in or out of recovery, concerning your experience, thoughts and concerns.
Many of us have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the substance abuse problem.
Maybe it's just a humorous memory of a wild night on the town, or a nightmare of an experience caused by addiction.
Some of the isolation and fear of judgment we may have, might just lessen when we realize, "hey, I'm not that bad or unique after all".
No matter how different our lifestyles or experiences may be; we can all identify with that mental and emotional hell we had been in, and how to prevent ourselves from ever returning.
I'm looking forward to any questions or topics; and thanks for your help!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Freedom to Choose

Today I have freedom from the ball & chain of addiction.
My thoughts and actions are not consumed with the endless process of the drinking obsession.
Although I don't find that sobriety is any guarantee of happiness, it does allow the choice to be happy. My life isn't as exciting as it once was; but it certainly is more stable, and has a serene level of contentment.
The joy I derive from helping another addict is two fold; the action helps me give something back, to the program, and to my self-worth. Many times I wish everyone attempting sobriety would be able to stick around long enough to break through the barriers that block them.
A friend of mine, Sandy often says, "hang on to your seat, and enjoy the ride"; so true because there are times when that's all I can do.
Life goes on, and just because I'm not drinking does not mean all will be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. What I do find is that I can face reality and look myself in the mirror everyday
and say "I'm ready for whatever life has for me today".

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Asking for Help

The recovery process begins with asking for help. Anyone who has been urged by family, friends or an employer to seek help, can identify with the feelings of denial or minimization concerning their actions. At that stage, we addicts may seek to merely pacify those folks by agreeing to get help.
Since in our minds we still have things under control, we are unable to accept the fact that we actually need any help. This reinforces the cycle of putting on a good front and becoming more secretive and dishonest. It isn't until we are convinced that our lives have become unmanageable that we can truly ask for help.
Even months and years down the road we continue to seek assistance for situations, problems and people that we encounter in our daily lives. Sometimes just sharing a problem with the group is all we need to cope successfully.
An important facet of asking for help, is the humility and honesty that it fosters.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Going To Any Lengths

This is an often heard slogan in the rooms, and there is much truth to it.
My reaction and course of action can appear a bit different from some of the folks in the meetings that I attend.
I preface my method by stating that If I fail to address my clinical depression, I won't be able to
get out of bed. For me that brings into play the slogan,"first things first".
No amount of prayer, meetings, or sponsors can treat my condition.
I will not tolerate any "old-timer" criticism or contempt, in an effort to label my psych med regimen a sign of weakness or a crutch.
That IS my starting point that allows me to ask for help, attend meetings, and try to
assist another addict seeking help. Next on my mental agenda, is an admission that I can't drink or use safely; and finally, that no matter what happens, there is NOTHING that a drink or drug will improve or remove.
Remembering the effort I expended in thinking about, buying, consuming and maintaining
my buzzed state is important. In the past I only put a minimum effort into recovery. Now I
make a concerted effort to address every aspect of my recovery; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
When a newcomer asks me, "how many meetings a week should I attend?", I have to ask them,"how often did you drink? The weekend warrior might be able to get along on 2 or 3 meetings a week. I was a daily drinker, so for me it's a good idea to do something positive on
a daily basis.
Any lengths should include proper nutrition, exercise, prayer, meetings, professional help(if needed), and helping others by being available.
Retaining the willingness to improve is a valuable tool in the box of recovery.
Never fear the reactions or judgments of anyone, when it applies to your personal quest for freedom from alcoholism and drug addiction.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The REAL Cost of Alcohol

Although the financial consequences happen slower than with drug addiction, alcohol is sometimes like the tortoise that wins the race with the rabbit.
The ability to continue drinking for long periods of time is reinforced because #1. it's legal, #2. it's socially acceptable and #3., it's harder to spot.
Just look at the productivity levels of us while hungover, nauseous, or day-dreaming about the next cocktail. Then there are the high absentee rates and myriad of illnesses that accompany heavy drinking.
Our ability to maintain a personal relationship also suffers greatly. How many times have we said,"I'm sorry", or nothing at all when challenged about our behavior?
When the prime directive in life becomes planning, procuring, and consuming alcohol, there is little room left for much else.
The sad part for me, was that while this was happening, I was oblivious to it;never realizing the long -term consequences of my actions or inaction. All the while I thought I was doing a great job as a husband, father, Firefighter and all-around cool guy. WRONG!!!
That was where my inflated ego and pride prevented me from seeing the true picture of the damage i was inflicting on those closest to me.
Today I have to remember what I became and not let the memory of the "good old times" allow me minimize or justify any of it.
My best amends today are simply in following this path of recovery, looking at my behaviors and evaluating on a daily basis, if I am living an honest, productive and serene lifestyle.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kudos for Comments

I was beginning to wonder if anyone was reading my blog, and recently 2 comments were posted!
One comment, from a member of Al-Anon really made my day. It reminded me how we are perceived by the general public, and also of the pervasive nature of alcoholism and addiction.
The latest comment gives an insightful look at the comparison of AA, to preachers who speak of pious deeds, yet don't apply them to their daily life.
I hope I don't sound like I'm bashing AA & NA; I am merely advising people to be aware and not be afraid to question the so-called "elders" of the program.
My approach is to look at someones' emotional, mental and spiritual health; not just the number of years they have accumulated.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Walking the Walk

This is the phrase that separates the men from the boys, or the serious from the pretenders, if you prefer.
I often hear who I refer to as ,"eloquent slogan slingers"; every room of Recovery has at least one of these who can recite all the neat tidbits of wisdom, that are traditional to AA & NA.
Speaking the words are one thing, but performing the actions that correspond, are quite another.
Although 12 step recovery is a simple program, the disease of addiction is an extremely complex matter.
This is why we incorporate real life coping skills into the traditional 12 step method.
Just staying away from a drink or drug is only the beginning; from that juncture comes the task of really living clean and sober. Once again it take honest appraisal of our behaviors, attitudes and actions. The meetings and literature provide an outline and a guide, to attempt to implement into our daily lives.
The book, "Living Sober" is a good example of the teachings of the Big Book and 12 Steps, applied to everyday life situations.
Through my attendance at thousands of meetings, I have developed a keen bullshit meter.
At this stage of my recovery, I can recognize the sincere folks, from the good talkers who don't actually practice what they preach.
I caution newcomers to the program to be careful who they emulate; and to watch what the person does, not just what they say.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Out of The Woods

An analogy I like to convey to anyone who feels they are not progressing fast enough.
It's like a walk into the woods; we all don't go the same distance in, but that is the length of the journey back out.
Impatience and instant gratification are usual traits of the addict, and they can hamper the patience and tolerance necessary to continue the journey out of the woods. Part of the dilemma is the steady celebration and reinforcement of early sobriety. The coins for every 3 months up to that first year and the pink cloud which usually accompanies this period.
When I heard that the first year was a gift and when the work really starts, I was skeptical.
Well it rang true for me after my first year, I made it to 22 months and relapsed.
Things were getting a bit routine and I became complacent, allowing that primitive part of my brain to convince me I could drink safely.
Now, 4 years later, I admit to myself every day that I cannot recapture the magic that was my long term affair with alcohol. Do I miss those nights of uninhibited feelings of power and glory?
Of course I do; but what I ALSO remember is where I ended up, when the thing that turned me on, had turned on me.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I closed yesterdays' noon AA meeting, with a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11, and those public safety workers injured or killed in the rescue attempts.
With the proliferation of relapses we've witnessed this summer, I have been hearing much talk of making a "gratitude list". While initially skeptical of the value of writing a list of things I should be thankful for, I'm beginning to realize the importance of the exercise.
Sometimes the positive aspects are not recognized and taken for granted. A pessimistic outlook also contributes to the tendency to only see the negative.
The very basic gift of health; which I was squandering with alcohol and cocaine, is the starting point for me. When I see so many people with disabilities, injuries and serious medical conditions, my "poor me" outlook begins to fade.
Initially I was frustrated that there was no quick-fix for addiction; hell, you mean I have to do this recovery gig for more than 90 days before I'm cured?
Today I am grateful that there are rooms full of people, totally diverse but all with one common stay away from a drink or drug, one day at a time.

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Acquire the Desire

Catchy slogan, don't you think?
Remember; the only requirement for membership, is a desire to stop drinking and drugging.
What these 3 words say to me is, even if it's not happening right away, stick around and give it a chance.
The more I try to analyze how recovery works, the more confused I get. Ever since I let go of my intellectual curiosity, I began to realize that I don't get the program, the program gets me!
There is no magic in the rooms; it's just that feeling of a common bond, regardless of individual differences. Something in listening to the good, bad and ugly stories gives me a reminder of what I've done and a promise of what can be accomplished.
If I can do a good deal of listening and share a small piece of my journey, it gives me another day, and a piece of the clean and sober puzzle, that may have been missing.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Handling Temptation

Unless you live in a cave, it is impossible to avoid images of drinking in magazines, movies, on television, and billboards. Since alcohol is legal and socially acceptable, there is no escape from the advertising.
Sure it looks tempting, watching the images of the entertaining, laughter, and dancing, but that only applies to those who can do so safely. Many of us have had the idea that just one wouldn't hurt; but we know with us, that is impossible.
We will be faced with social situations; holidays, parties and weddings that can't be avoided. One thing I have found in sobriety is that everybody doesn't drink! There are ways to be sociable and politely refuse to be part of the drinking crowd.
Today I am able to be present at most events, provided I have a legitimate reason for being there. The envy I used to feel has subsided and the lure of that first drink has lost its appeal.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Facing the Odds

Anyone who's been in recovery for any length of time, can attest to the fact that only a small percentage stick around. When I hear, "they didn't work it, or surrender", I just shake my head.
It is the pervasive nature of this disease that resists most attempts at continued sobriety. Anyone who preaches that relapse is NOT part of recovery, is delusional. Yes, I know every group has one or two first-try success stories; but they are extremely rare.
Long term recovery(starts at 5 years) can be quite elusive for the majority. Studies indicate that only 5%, or 1 in 20 achieve it. While attendance in the rooms stays mainly the same, the number of addicts and alcoholics rises every year.
I try to avoid being discouraged by the statistics, but it can be difficult when I see people I know slip. What I try to convey to anyone who relapses is to concentrate on what to do next, accepting the consequences and learning from the experience.

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Another Brick in the Wall

This is how I have to look at myself today; I am not all that different from anyone else in the rooms of recovery.
Initially I found it difficult to identify with anyone in the rooms.
When I heard stories of crashing cars, getting arrested and spending time in jail, I said, "well I haven't done any of that stuff."
It did take some time for me to stop comparing my experiences with those of others.
Eventually I would begin to look for the similarities, rather than the differences. What I have found are people of various ages, races and careers; very diverse backgrounds, but we all seem to end up in the same boat. Alcoholism and drug addiction are equal opportunity destroyers.
It doesn't matter when, or how much we drank; it is our mental and emotional state preceding, during and after that matters. I know many people who could out drink me, but the big difference was their mind was not consumed with the compulsion to continue day after day.

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