How Sharing My Story of Recovery Helps Others and Reminds Me Where I Will Never Be Again

 

Where Does My Experience, Strength, and Hope Come From? – Sharing My Story Helps Me Live in Gratitude and Keep My Serenity and Peace in Recovery From Alcoholism.

 

We don’t know whom we are going to help. Planting a seed is planting a seed. I take any and every opportunity to share parts of my story with people outside of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have often thought about and wished someone would have shared with me. “If only, if only, if only – someone had said something, then I would have . . .” but I know that it took every single drink it took to get me to want to change. Someone could have shared their experience, strength and hope with me years ago, months ago even, but I was not in the right mindset.   I was not where I needed to be in order to see I could change. I truly believed my life was never going to be any better and I was now receiving the punishment for all of the horrible decisions and acts I had been a part of.

 

There was no such thing as low self-esteem, I was far beyond that. I had absolutely no will for life, no desire, no want for living at all. My self-esteem was not only gone, but was so far in the negative and covered up by miles and miles of self doubt, failure, regret and shame. I had convinced myself, quite well I might add, that I was worthless and deserved nothing short of death.

My drinking was kept to myself for the most part. I kept it hidden, as best I could, at home, by myself. There were those I lived with who knew some of it, but never all. No one ever really knew why because the alcohol was really just a small piece of the pie for me. The problem was the way I felt about myself in my mind and in my heart and those problems were ones I had been dealing with and trying to correct for over 20 years. What I did not realize was that I wasn’t beyond help. My life was too comfortable and still allowed me to drink and wallow, but I was so miserable.

My environment at home was not conducive to recovery and sobriety at all. I have my responsibility and accountability for my actions and choices, but it was a very unsupportive environment for anyone wishing or attempting to change and especially to try and stop drinking. The stress was unimaginable. The loneliness and isolation were so extreme. I had to have things happen in a certain way. I had to give everything away and be left with nothing but my thoughts and the question “Do I want to live or not?”.

 

I am eternally grateful I did survive. I am grateful the one I care about the most is still standing, even if it without me. I do wish he had reached out to someone for help, for advice, for ideas, for something to try and help me without involving the courts and making it into a very serious legal situation.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened for me. It is not part of my recovery story and as much as I will try to repair that relationship, I also have to accept the reality that I have had my last moments with my best fried in the entire world, with the other half of my everything.

The choices we make are eternal. We can pretend and try to convince ourselves of any reality we want to imagine. We can ignore the results and the way life is all we want to. But we cannot ignore the consequences of the choices we have made. Some of our choices in life will not only have immediate consequences, but it may be months or even years into the future we begin to feel the effects.

My life has been forever changed and I honestly believe it has been changed for the better. I know this to be true because I truly remember the state of mind I was in and the utter despair and abyss of the depression I was engulfed by. It was as if I had fallen through a frozen lake. I am drowning, dying, freezing to death and I can see the vague shadows of people standing on the ice above me, but I cannot find the way out. The more I search for the hole to he surface, the harder I struggle, the worse the pain becomes. I am not sure of any better analogy to use when explaining how I felt.

 

I still struggle with the memories. The good memories are so very painful when I realize to keep my sobriety might mean I can no longer be with or around those people I love. My recovery must come first for my survival. I truly and honestly and whole heartedly believe this to be true for me. This is not the case for everyone, but for me it is an absolute. I spent years slowly slipping away and if I do not make recovery my first priority I will fall right back into the suicidal mindset and quickly and effectively be removed from this earth.

I struggle with the devastation that the ones who loved and cared for me, did not love and care enough to help before some situations escalated to the lengths they did. I would be lying if I said otherwise. I do not blame anyone for my struggle or my choices, but it is an everyday hardship and pain to know I was so easily; or so it seems; thrown away and left.

There will come a time for me to make amends to the most important person in my life and I will never give up trying to repair that relationship no matter the time, the space, the struggle, the pain, the difficulty. I also know that my line in the sand on what I can and cannot be subject to has forever changed. I have never been this person before and the cost of my sobriety and life long recovery is still unknown today. I have hope and honestly believe I will be able to face the choice of sobriety everyday and choose recovery. Strength is no easy feat, but having been to the darkest depths is the only way I know it to be worth any price I am asked to pay, no matter how painful.

 

Why is a Relapse Prevention Plan Important?

A few things to consider for yourself and those in your recovery prevention plan.

  • Confrontation does not work.
  • We are skilled at dealing with confrontation and being backed into a corner.
  • We are harder on ourselves than anyone else.
  • We are familiar with many programs and forms of recovery.
  • We have wanted recovery, have been highly motivated to stay sober, been through counseling, but still chose to drink.

How can someone committed to sobriety and knowledgable about alcoholism return to drinking?

Perspective.  Opportunity is no where and now here.  Our circumstances will constantly change.  Sometimes for the better and sometimes not.  Our perspective and our choices when dealing with these changes is key.  Have your circumstances caused you to forget any of your dreams and aspirations for recovery and life?  If so, you may need to “fake it until you make it”.  Sitting down, jotting down ideas on how you will be living your sober life is essential.

“If you don’t design your own life plan chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan.  And guess what they have planned for you?  Not much.”   – Jim Rohn

Those I have known to be successful in recovery have an ability to accept circumstances as they come and simply adapt their mental perspective and attitudes toward life.  We all have internal triggers and when dealing with those there will always be difficulty.  Anger, depression, frustration, excitement, and joy can all be common internal triggers.  We must find a way to distract ourselves, talk it through (alone or with another), challenge yourself to overcome this moment of craving, and use positive self talk to come back to the positive and recovery minded state needed to get through this day.

Abstinence alone is not enough.

If not picking up a drink again was the sole answer, recovery would be 10 times easier.  The harsh reality is alcoholics must learn to cope with life in a non-addictive manner.  Some use many other forms and ways to replace and quench the thirst for alcohol including nutrition, exercise, relaxation, and other sober activities.  These have all been shown to reduce stress hormones and encourage healthy feelings physically and mentally.

Cravings come quickly, but go quickly too.  They usually last a few minutes to hours at most and will peak during the first few minutes before subsiding as the time clicks away.  Cravings are uncomfortable but not unbearable.  They are usually triggered by things you see around you whether that is a place you used to drink at, a familiar face, even a song or a movie that reminds you about using.  They are felt physically and rooted psychologically in our memories.

Do not be discouraged.  Sometimes we have to go minute by minute to get through these difficult times and that is okay.  If you feel that you absolutely can not make it go to a meeting.  If you can not make it to a meeting, pick up the phone.  Grab a book and tell yourself to make it through the next page without drinking.  Now can you make it through the rest of the chapter?  Then read another and another until the feeling disappears.

Who is in your circle?

We have all heard change your playground, change your playmates but what then??  Who are my new playmates?  Where is my new playground?  I have been fortunate to have some of those choices made for me.  I had to change my playground and playmates to adhere to a restraining order.  With that said, it was the best thing for me.  I am in an environment away from my triggers.  Unfortunately my drinking and cravings were fueled by those I love the most – my husband and my children.  While it is painful to be away from them, it is what HAD TO HAPPEN for me to maintain my sobriety.

They say “It takes a village”.  No statement speaks louder to me when forming a relapse prevention plan.  Reach out to recovery supporting friends and family members.  Build your list.  Set up your village.  Talking to someone else that has quit using and is in recovery has been helpful for me along with meetings.  I know several of us in recovery that have lived through times they had to be at a meeting every day, while others needed a meeting every few hours.  Those times are crucial and those relationships formed with other alcoholics are crucial.

If you do not have a group of friends and family that can offer support, introduce yourself to the internet again in a recovery driven way.  There are hundreds of facebook groups with thousands of members who are active all day every day and eager to give and receive support to those in need.

 

People with an addictive disease experience abnormal reactions not only to the use of the addictive chemical but to NOT using the chemical.

Think about the situations that trigger cravings for you.  Consider the emotions that have triggered cravings for you.  Make a list of distractions/activities that can help you cope with cravings.  I have included a basic list of suggestions.  I have done some of these things and you would never catch me doing others, but it is a start if you don’t know where to begin.  Now, make a second list of people you can talk to about your cravings and those who will join you in sober activities.

I spent so much time in my addiction, convincing myself no one cared and it wasn’t worth reaching out to anyone for help or to spend time with because the answer would be “No”.  Oh how wrong I was.  This is something I had to learn and it is still uncomfortable for me to ask for help now.  But, I have never had anyone refuse to give me a ride somewhere, refuse to take my phone call, or refuse to hang out and join me for a movie, bite to eat, or anything else.  We might have to reschedule for a different time, but in that case I just move down the list to the next name and make the call.

1. Throw a sober dinner party.

2. Rejuvenating Spa Day at home, solo or with friends.

3. Guys Night Out/Girls Night Out

4. Exercise

5. Bubble baths are NOT just for women!

6. Play a game of golf or practice your swing at the driving range.

7. Go for a drive.

8. Meditate

9. Read a book.

10. Go see a movie.

11. Volunteer your time and services.

12. Play basketball.

13. Go swimming.

14. Go for a walk and smile at every person you pass by.

15. Write in your journal.

16. Create a new playlist for yourself or as a gift for someone else.

17. Plant a garden.

18. Organize and clean out your closet and donate at least ten items.

19. Call your parents or grandparents.

20. Meet a friend for lunch and sit outside.

21. Go on a hike

22. Visit a museum.

23. Invite a friend to play tennis with you.

24. Stress relieving coloring books

25. Redecorate a room in your home or office. 

26. Host a sober game night with a group of friends.

27. Plan an adventure day with a friend and take countless random and fun photos of your day.

28. Host a sober karaoke night with a group of your fun and sober friends. 

29. Organize your life. 

30. Have a date night with your love bird.