A recent experience 6/19

The other night I went to a meeting that was held at a recovery center in downtown Plymouth. It was a fantastic meeting. Very welcoming, nice chairs, coffee and a lot of new faces. A lot of young new faces. Everyone had the courage to share their feelings about where they were at and with out judgement from anyone else in the room.

The young ones coming into recovery give me more hope than they will ever know. I made it here when I was 35, and I am now 46 and I feel like my life is still just beginning. These kids are coming in at 18 and many in their 20’s. If they are able to get this early in life they are truly blessed. The sad part is that they are so young and already struggling with addiction. If they don’t stick and stay the outcome is most likely to be one that consists of jails, institutions or death.

Leaving the meeting I felt great. I had made some new friends and I had that feeling of relief and connection that I receive from recovery meetings. The relief is from my own self centeredness. I was able to listen to others and identify with what they were saying.

We walked outside of the meeting and parked right in front of the recovery center was a sick and suffering addict. We did not know if he was alive or dead. He was in the drivers seat of his car and was clearly not well. He had a hospital bracelet on and was passed out. My good friend knocked on the window of the car to see if he would respond. After a few good knocks on the window the man (kid only about 20ish) came to screaming “help me”!!!!

“But For The Grace Of God Go I”. This is hell on earth. This is also hope on earth. All of us coming out of that meeting knew in our hearts that that could be any one of us at any given minute. That sick addict was parked in front of a recovery center, he awoke screaming for help. We can hope and pray that we see him at a meeting some day sitting upright, with clear eyes and an open heart ready to heal.

When I came home I was able to share that experience with my own son who is currently 18. He and I are both able to be honest about the feelings that arise on a daily basis, the good and the bad. These experiences make me appreciate what I have in my own life and also compel me to share with others who might be struggling, that it does get better. There is a way out.

The power of choice 6/18

“No matter what the situation, remind yourself – I have a choice.” -Deepak Chopra

Before I came into recovery I had no freedom of choice, the substances ruled my world. I made no decisions really on my own. Every choice I was making was centered around the booze and the drugs. I would not even go to a restaurant that did not serve alcohol, I couldn’t even imagine why I would.

My world became very small. Towards the end of my using it was just me in the basement of my home with the laundry machines smoking cigarettes, high and drinking. Sad thing is was my son was also in that home, but he was not my priority.

After I had put all substances down for a bit and started to clear up, I started to realize I had choices. I got to choose with whom I associated with, I got to choose where I would go and when. I was not ruled by anyone but myself.

In the beginning I did make choices based on guilt and many times I listened to others rather than my own self. But I learned from those experiences. I could learn because I was sober. Because I was truly becoming and learning myself, I got to say yes or no to things. I started coming into my own and was able to decipher what worked for me. What people, places and things helped my heart sing.

The world is like a great big buffet and I get to choose what I want and what I prefer. If I go to a food buffet I don’t pick up the things I don’t like, I just pass them by and pick up something that I do enjoy. This is the freedom and power of choice.

I try to only do things today that I truly WANT to do. If I am persuaded by another into doing something I really don’t want to do, I suffer. Nobody makes the choice but me and nobody else suffers but me. It is when I go against myself that I really feel uncomfortable. God knows I hate feeling uncomfortable.

So today I try to remember something I read regarding choices. “If it’s not a hell yeah, then it’s a hell no!”

I love a good “hell yeah” !

One day at a time 6/17

“We are in hell right now gentlemen, believe me. And we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light.” -Al Pacino

“One day at a time” sounds like an easy concept. However I personally did not even understand what that meant until I had been clean for over a year. Another way to say it is “keep it in the day”. Keep what in the day? My mind. My mind tends to wander and worry and then my presence becomes riddled with fear.

Coming into recovery I worried about future events and not being able to drink at them. Like my sons wedding and me not being able to have a glass of champagne to toast him and his new bride. My son was 7 when I got sober. All the “what if’s” came creeping in as well. What if my friends won’t want to hang out with me, what if someone asks me why I am not drinking? What if I am no longer any fun? What if I can’t handle life without a substance?

These were real concerns for me during my early days of recovery. I then heard a speech that Al Pacino gave to his football team in the movie “On Any Given Sunday”. He speaks about being in hell and healing as a team. He speaks about fighting for leverage 1 inch at a time. He says life is a game of inches. He says “Living is 6 inches in front of your face.” It broke it down for me in the simple way that I needed.

I am constantly referring to people in recovery as survivors, because I truly feel we are. We get a second chance at life, however some do not make it. The fight is difficult and the struggle is real.

My recovery is a game of inches. Am I willing to fight for that inch when things get rough? When I have horrible thoughts of picking up a substance? Am I willing walk to through the pain and trust that my higher power will get me through – 1 inch at a time? Today I am. Tomorrow never comes.

Take a moment 6/16

I am constantly having to remind myself to take a moment. To take a moment to breathe, to feel where my feet are, to see what my crazy brain is thinking, to slow down, to appreciate.

Take a moment to be in the moment. This is a tool I have used to battle anxiety. I figured out that I am never battling anxiety when I am in the present moment. I am only anxious when I am in my head and in the future. I am only worried when I am in fear of what is to come. I am never anxious when I am right here right now.

When I feel that turmoil in my gut, I try to breathe to get in the moment. Then I ask myself “am I ok right now?” – and the answer is always yes. Then I try to figure out what I was thinking that brought me to the anxious state. It always seems to be some fear based future thinking – I can then say ok useless information – and I don’t need to think about that right now.

Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind used to say ” I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I think that’s brilliant! If it’s upsetting me, and I have the ability to think about other things than why wouldn’t I just think about it later.

Being in recovery can be tricky when it comes to the uncomfortable feelings that I was so used to being able to fix with a pill or a drink. Anxiety was a big one of those. I could not even go to the grocery store without having something in my system.

Today I can stand in a line pretty much anxiety free. I get to walk this earth with little to no fear of people and places. If and when those anxious feelings arise, I breathe and I find the now. If that doesn’t work I call a friend and cry and tantrum until I feel better. Thank God I have friends that let me do that and don’t judge me for it!!

Just another day learning to live with these feelings:)

Self Worth 6/15

“For what is a man, what has he got, if not himself then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of someone who kneels.” – Frank Sinatra

I did not know and sometimes still do not recognize when I am unable to value myself. I think this is one of life’s greatest challenges to transcend. To be able to walk with my head held high, comfortable in my own skin, happy with myself and not because any other person or situation made feel that way.

Coming into recovery I learned that the reasons I was using had nothing to do with anyone or anything else. It was directly related to the way I thought of myself. I did not like what I was feeling about my life so I tried to escape it. Only to find the same thoughts and situations remained after the drugs wore off.

Physically beat up from head to toe, my life in shambles and my spirit completely dimmed; how was I to find my self worth? Miraculously. It’s a miracle that I have witnessed within myself and also with many others that come into recovery.

To me self worth is not arrogance and it is not over confidence. It is the ability to remain true to yourself; kind, caring, loving compassionate -filled with the grace of spiritual principles – no matter what life brings to you. To me it’s being able to remain kind even when others are not. It’s being able to say sorry when I am not kind. When I recognize my self worth I also recognize everyone else’s.

The people that I have met in recovery told me “we will love you until you can love yourself”. They unselfishly took me under their wings told me I was right where I was supposed to be and that they loved me. Love heals.

In my early days an old timer at a recovery meeting I attended always said: “god don’t make junk.” That was simple and I understood it. He was saying I was not junk – that was good news to me. I had thought coming into recovery that I was lower than junk!

He also gave some valuable advice that I still use to this day. Although it’s a bit crass, I see the very simple truth in it. He said ” If someone’s pissing in your face, move out of the way!”

I owe a lot to those old timers who spoke their simple truths- it’s exactly what I needed – simple and true.

Humility 6/14

“Stay humble, never stumble”

Humility is not the same as humiliation. Humiliation is when I had fallen down a set of stairs at Sam Diego’s bar in Plymouth on a crowded Friday night completely wasted on margaritas. That was humiliating, embarrassing and a little frightening. Did I stop drinking after that? Yes…about 15 years later.

Humility to me means being in a state of grace and appreciation. It means valuing the life you have and the acknowledgement of the gifts we have been given. It’s a feeling of non entitlement. Only 1 out of 36 people who come into recovery, who will try to stay clean actually make it.

I also believe humility is giving “credit where credit is due” so to speak. If I acted arrogant and spouted off to the world that I am clean and sober today because of me and me alone, then I will surely pick up a drink or drug again. I have seen others do this.

Humility keeps me “right sized”. It reminds me that I am one bad decision away from losing everything. I don’t mean the material things either, although those will go as well. If I pick up or “relapse” I lose my connection to my higher power because I am no longer able to focus there. I would become so obsessed with getting and having the drug of choice that I want – that I value nothing on this earth more than that. I am back on the hamster wheel chasing, getting using and then chasing again.

Today humility gives me the sense that I have made it out of some sort of hell on earth and I am ever grateful to God for that. I did not have the power by myself to stop using. Believe me I tried. I have to call on or ask a power greater than myself to not pick up on a daily basis. I then get to say thank you to that power every night.

When I think of where I was and where I am today it is nothing short of a miracle. I am humble enough to know that I alone do not perform miracles but something greater than me, that actually resides within me, does.

The “Get Well” job 6/13

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny” C.S. Lewis

When I came out of rehab in 2010, it was all I could do to get up everyday and get to a meeting and not pick up a substance. Then after about 2 – 3 months I was ready for what they call a “get well” job.

I had not had a job or been an employable person for years. A lot of addicts are coming out of jails and institutions and we need some type of easy introduction back into the work force with the other functioning humans.

These “get well” jobs are usually the local coffee shop, a restaurant, some type of manual labor like landscaping or cleaning houses. Jobs that give you a reason to get up in the morning, a little bit of structure to your day and give you a little bit of money in your pocket. You start to feel human again.

My get well job…….drum roll please….. was at a Pet Cemetery!!! I thought I had it made. The owner of the place was also in recovery and he said I could still make my morning meeting and then come to work. I was still able to get my child on and off the bus for school so I was psyched!!

I look back now and all I can do is laugh and thank god I made it through. There was Jerry the grave digger who lived in his car, Frank the man who transported all of the animals to the facility and another lady who was also an addict but had not yet found recovery.

The whole experience of early recovery is amazing. I truly had no idea who I was or even what I preferred at the time. I was brand new discovering a drug free me. I love animals so much that today I could not step foot at a pet cemetery never mind work at one. The poor grieving people who were saying goodbye to their pets…I can’t!

I stayed at that job for about 6 months and then one day I said “that’s enough for me.” I then went to work with children at an after school program and that job led me to some very amazing and rewarding experiences. I found joy in the children and that started to feed the joy within me. I was able to play and have fun and LAUGH!!

God guided me once again. I had to experience what I did not like to learn what I did like and what was more in alignment with my spirit. I went from the dead and the grieving to the living and the joyful!

All of these experiences I have been able to find useful. As long as I stay clean through it – I can appreciate it and learn from it. And then the best is to be able to appreciate it, learn from it and then laugh at it 🙂

Drinking Dreams 6/12

“Listen for Gods voice in everything you do and everywhere you go. He is the one that will keep you on track.” – Proverbs 3:6

Even though I have not had a drink/drug in over 11 years I still have these horrifying dreams that I have used! I actually had one of these last night.

The feeling of taking the drink or pill or whatever it is in the dream is not the nightmare part of the dream. The nightmare is the obsession, or that beast that is awakened within me. It is the chase of the next one and how the hell am I going to hide what I have done from the world! That is the true nightmare.

I get these dreams often, probably once every 2-3 months. Sad thing is that I don’t even enjoy drinking in the dream. I don’t get a great “high” feeling. I get an immediate sense of “how am I getting another one” and “I hope to god nobody finds out”.

I have had dreams where I am in a meeting, everyone around me has no idea that I have used the night before and I have a gut wrenching feeling because I know that I used and I am not going to be honest about it. In my dream I sit in that meeting full of anxiety, fear, disappointment and fear of what my life is to become because I took that first one.

The important thing for me with these dreams are the feelings I get from them. First is relief when I wake up! I realize I am ok and it was just a dream. Then I am reminded of just how awful I would feel if I picked up a substance. For me that is a gift of guidance.

I know people who actually have had to go out and experience those feelings in real life. God gives it to me in a dream, a friendly reminder that no drink or drug is worth giving up what I have become today.

The others 6/11

The cast of characters that I have met over the years in recovery is incredible.

While I was in rehab they said “as soon as you get out of here go to a recovery meeting and go EVERYDAY”. So because I wanted to live, that is what I did. I was FULL of judgement, fear and major insecurities. When I was in the rehab I was in a nice comfortable bubble with all my new found friends, yoga classes and a van that magically took us to the meetings. We called that van the “druggy buggy”.

But then they turned me loose. I showed up for meetings as instructed, and I even raised my hand and introduced myself as new -also as instructed. I won’t lie – it sucked, but again I was saving my life. The people at the meetings said “keep coming”, “more will be revealed” and “even if you don’t believe we believe”. HUH???

Honestly, it was so painfully uncomfortable and all I wanted to do was to feel better. I was afraid to get up and go the bathroom, the walk was to long and I was sure everyone was watching me. They had people read readings and passages from books and I hated to read out loud. My hands would shake and my voice would tremble.

There were all walks of life at these meetings. They say from “Yale to jail” and nothing could be more true. Everyone was welcome, even if they were high they were welcomed. I judged so many people back during those times. My closest friends in recovery today are people god put there, not me.

I remember being at one of my first meetings and this man would not sit still. He was over friendly, silly and when he spoke he sounded like someone stuck in the 70’s -saying things like “buck wild” and “feeling the vibes”. I surely concluded this man was high and I was not going anywhere near him.

About a week later I was at a recovery convention. That same man that I thought was high was a guest speaker!! He had 20 years clean. He ended up becoming one of my greatest confidants in recovery. He is always there and he puts recovery first in his life.

I have been blessed over the years to get to know some fantastic people. People come and go in recovery, its hard but its true. Sometimes we know what happens to them and sometimes we don’t. I am grateful for the consistent companions that I have in recovery today. These are the people who “stick and stay”. They go to meetings to help others and themselves to get one more day clean.

Nobody said it was going to be easy…but IT IS COMPLETELY WORTH IT!!

Courage -6/10

“WHEN GODS WARRIORS GO DOWN ON THEIR KNEES, THE BATTLE IS NOT OVER – IT HAS JUST BEGUN.”

Coming into recovery means learning how to live along spiritual guidelines and practice spiritual principles on a daily basis. The two extreme differences of active addiction and recovery are so amazing to me. In active addiction we are some of the BEST liars, crafty manipulators and we are self centered to the core. In recovery however we are to learn how to become “god centered”, honest, kind, giving, understanding, non judgemental, compassionate and courageous.

This transformation does not happen over night but little by slow, we learn. We watch others who have gone before us and we start shifting our cunning and deceitful ways to something more pure of heart. We start to feel and get in touch with our spirit.

Courage is a spiritual principle that I believe goes hand and hand with being vulnerable. To the addict just coming in letting your guard down and trusting another seems weak NOT courageous. But depending how badly beaten up the individual, they will do anything to save their life. Even if that means trusting a complete stranger in recovery with their own personal truth.

It takes courage to say ” I need help” to say “I have a problem”. It takes courage to say ” I don’t feel good” to say ” I am sad”. It takes courage to say “I don’t know” or ” I am so sorry”.

It also takes courage to say “I love you” , ” I am here for you”, “I got you”, ” Me too!” , “It’s alright”, “I’m listening”, “you mean a lot to me” “I forgive you” and my favorite is “thank you”.

Strength and courage come from a force greater than me. When I tap into that source of goodness it feels right within me. God was with me that day that I saw my son in pain due to my addiction…and he gave me the courage to say “ENOUGH!”

Thank you God

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