I love to share my experience strength and hope with others, as you guys ALL help me in being a better sober person and I believe its all about helping others and being of service. This memoir is raw, honest and inspiring as I’m very open about my alcoholism and drug addiction. Blog by Nancy Carr.
Just because you go to AA doesn’t mean you are sober. I remember a former sponsor of mine told me that a few years ago, and I was shocked. Yes, I win the prize here for being one of the most naïve folks you’ll ever know. I thought once you came to AA, you stayed and no one relapsed. I didn’t know that was an option. I remember being almost 30 days sober when someone said, “Oh she went out” and I was like “Out where – where did she go?” Where was everyone going? Yes, completely clueless. I came to AA and haven’t left. I’m still going to meetings, working with a sponsor, being of service and trying to stay on my spiritual path with my HP. I’m doing the same things I did when I got sober. When I walked into my first AA meeting I was completely broken and had so much self-loathing for myself and how I was living my life. I felt no there was nothing out there for me except despair and pain. However, at my first meeting I heard hope and that’s what brought me to my second meeting. And so on and son on and so on, almost 14 years ago.
I thought the people in AA were the nicest, loveliest and friendliest people I had ever known. Men were so nice and hugging me and asking me out for coffee. The women were bright eyed and glowing and happy to call me “honey” or “sweetie” and offer me their phone numbers. I compared it to a Grateful Dead show; minus the pot, acid and the music! It was this utopia of love with welcoming arms and hugs saying come join us! I bought that dead show ticket and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thank goodness my sponsor, and other women that I was getting sober with, shared some of the harsh realities that was found in the rooms. “Don’t go to coffee with those men; tell them if they want coffee with you, they can meet you at a meeting.” Oh I can say that to them? I’m allowed to take care of myself? Again, clueless with no idea how to even do or say that. I didn’t want anyone to not like me, and to be truthful and set a boundary seemed to go against the grain of how I was living my life. I said yes to everyone and didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I wanted you to like me – no matter what. Then when I heard about 13 stepping, I was even more aghast! For those that don’t know what 13 stepping is – it’s when anyone in the AA fellowship goes after a newcomer to get what they want – which is usually a man after a woman for sex. But I’ve also seen it with sober AA’s going after the financially fit person to swindle and hoax what they can for their own selfish monetary needs.
There are folks that come drunk or high to meetings, and there are others that conceal their addiction and still come to meetings claiming they are clean and sober. According to AA’s Traditions, number 3 specifically, “The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking”. Who are we to pass any judgment? That’s what it took for me to get to that place. I had to stop judging and start accepting. What if that was me? We all want to feel a part of and welcomed, so that’s why there is a saying in AA after someone has relapsed, “We don’t shoot our wounded”. I want to hear your struggle, so I remember what mine was like before I got this colossal gift.
It took me a few months into my early sobriety to really start seeing people for whom and what they were. Some talked a really good game at a meeting, but in reality they were living their life contrary to AA’s spiritual principles and not a life of integrity and honesty. This isn’t well people’s anonymous folks, this is alcoholics anonymous and not everyone is well. Most folks that walk into an AA meeting to get clean and sober have baggage and issues from childhood to current day. Whether it’s an abusive upbringing, being raised in a toxic environment, sexual trauma, mental abuse, broken families, unhealthy marriages, death or grief; I could go on further, but there is more to a person than what you see. There’s always a story and that story has brought them to this place, an AA Meeting, where they are looking for hope. Because isn’t that what we are all wanting, to find our Hope Dealer and not our Drug Dealer?
I was chatting with a friend recently about how blessed we are to be living a sober life and how we get to show up and be accountable to others and to ourself. We are present and we aren’t running away from ourselves like we used to be. My friends at Lighthouse Recovery in Florida, wrote a piece for me a couple years back about sober living and I wanted to share it again.
Many people can’t imagine a life without booze, drugs, and all the other substances and things that people end up in rehab for. Even if a person may not think they need to go to rehab, substances like alcohol may be a part of their daily routine. One of the biggest complaints from people in rehab is not understanding how they can continue to have fun and have a life once substances are out of the picture. It takes some time, but living a sober life is actually much more fulfilling than living a life filled with alcohol and drugs.
Lack of control over the amount of a substance you take is a huge red flag in addiction. Once you get your hands on your drug of choice or your drink, the substance is now in control, and is going to determine your actions for the duration of your use. We’ve all been there – promising ourselves that just this one time we would control our use, but we can never really seem to handle it, can we? This is because the substance is in control.
Sobriety Requires New Habits
When you are sober you are able to do the same things you always did under the influence, only now you will have an idea of the outcome of your evening. Welcome back to the driver’s seat on the ride that is your life. You are now in control, your sober life allows you that luxury. It definitely takes a while to break out of addiction, but with the right program, living in the moment, and hard work you will miss drinking or using drugs less and less each day.
After living a life influenced by addiction, sobriety is a luxury. You are given the gift of more money, more stability, fewer issues with the law, accountability to your friends, family, and work, pride, less shame, dignity, love, hope, and joy. A life with drugs and alcohol is usually a life of fear, and a sober life eliminates that. A sober life allows you the chance to have a bright future.
Long-term sobriety is a challenge, but there are a number of things you can do to achieve it. Also, it is something you need to work on each and every day. It is always important to get into a program that is right for you and allows you time to learn to start all over again, focus on yourself, and recognize the patterns and problems that are causing you to keep drinking or using. Depending on your specific needs, this could range from rehab to therapy although rehab is strongly suggested because it takes you completely out of your element and many people find that taking this time to focus on yourself is a huge and necessary step to getting on the right path. At a full rehab center, you will be away from people who might lure you into engaging your addiction, and the separation can put a lot of things in perspective.
All we have is today, especially in sobriety, so staying sober in the moment is all that counts. This idea stems from the fact that many people feel overwhelmed at the idea of never having a drug or a drink again for their whole lives. That thought can be a lot to digest, so instead it is better to focus on each moment, and be happy for the present and each moment you have sober. Keep putting one sober foot in front of the other, and slowly but surely days, weeks, months, and eventually years will keep piling up.
http://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/Lighthouse Recovery Institute, located in Delray Beach, Florida, is a licensed drug and alcohol treatment center, specializing in gender-specific recovery. It is a gender-specific addiction treatment center that treats both men and women, separately. Lighthouse earned their stellar reputation by providing quality and compassionate care. We provide addiction recovery for our clients through individualized treatment plans created specifically for each person that comes through our door.
This weeks post is a guest post written by Nat Smith, a Rover.com community member who reached out to me recently about an article he penned about how important dogs are in the recovery world. As someone who rescued a dog in early sobriety, I can tell you emphatically that adopting Lucy was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I literally live for my dog – she has helped me so many times in my recovery. I wrote a post a couple years back on how she saved me from wanting to relapse.*
Here is the article Nat wrote, while its a couple pages, it has a wealth of information on rescue dogs and how to find one for yourself as well as understand how important they are to anyone in or out of recovery. Thanks Nat for sharing!
Neurotransmitters are powerful, and artificial stimulation of receptors in our brains has powerful medical applications that can transform lives. On the flip side, however, these receptors leave us vulnerable to drug abuse, which relies on complex pathways in the brain to make recovery mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging. Fortunately, individuals in recovery from drug dependence can find alternative methods of stimulating those receptors–safely and naturally–through emotional support animals, animal-assisted therapy, and service dogs. These animals can also help recovering addicts in other essential ways, such as establishing daily routines, forming healthy bonds, and providing loyal support.
This article outlines the research linking assistance animals to positive health outcomes, and offers examples of many ways that dogs aid the process of addiction recovery. Information about the types of assistance animals, including the training they undergo, can empower you to decide the best course of treatment for you or your loved one. Finally, a list of resources is included to help you find a support dog, or train your own pet as a service or therapy animal.
Research Supporting Assistance Dogs
In the 1860s, Florence Nightingale found animal companionship beneficial to her patients. Since then, dogs have been used in many capacities to help people recover from and manage illness, disability, and other conditions. Canine therapy is widely accepted as a valuable element of holistic addiction treatment: “In addition to the added comfort, dogs play a role in the healing process,” according to Addiction.com. “Clients may experience lower levels of anxiety and depression, begin to experience empathy, and build a positive sense of self-worth through caring for another being. After treatment, dogs can help recovering addicts stay active, reduce stress and loneliness, and provide a sense of purpose — all of which are instrumental in preventing relapse.”
Dogs help restore the brain’s neurochemical pathways to their original modes of functioning. Their powerful effects on the brain raise levels of dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that drugs like amphetamines and cocaine boost. Interacting with dogs, then, can help an addict find a healthy, sustainable way to reach a positive emotional state. Over time, these kinds of positive substitutes can drastically reduce dependence on drugs. Dogs also increase oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin, all of which are “essential to our sense of well-being.” People often turn to drugs because they feel that something is missing from their lives; dogs can provide that missing link.
One study found that bringing therapy dogs into a rehabilitation clinic offered the additional benefit of helping clinicians gain more insight into their patients, and helping them to overcome potential obstacles. For instance, they might withdraw if the therapy animal did not immediately seem friendly enough, reflecting the same behavior that patient might have in an interpersonal relationship. Clients were encouraged to open themselves up to the possibility of rejection by remaining present and waiting for the pet to come to them. This challenging act of vulnerability can have enormous benefits. Substance abuse thrives when people allow fear to let them miss out on pleasurable experiences–and instead turn to the one coping mechanism they know they can depend on, no matter how deleterious its effects. Counseling that takes advantage of therapy dogs can help a patient change patterns of thought and behavior with immediate, real-world applications.
The Ranch, a mental health center with locations in three states, advocates for a unique treatment approach they call “animal-assisting therapy.” Patients are encouraged to volunteer at animal rescue shelters. In the process of extending aid and empathy to pets in need, addicts can undergo profound internal shifts: “Before those with a history of substance abuse can hope to find lasting sobriety, they must first rebuild their self-esteem to the point where they actually feel strong enough to accomplish difficult things and worthy enough to deserve the happiness and peace that was denied them during their years of battling against alcoholism or drug addiction.” Performing selfless acts of care can give a recovering addict a greater sense of strength and purpose. In fact, when they are further along on their journeys, they may even find a new career path in dog-sitting.
It is difficult for researchers to quantify the unique benefits that a dog’s unconditional love has on a patient who is in recovery from substance abuse. Many have painful, traumatic histories, often accompanied by a deeply-held belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with who they are. This is one of the reasons that an animal who can offer unconditional, all-consuming love and emotional support can make such a pivotal impact on the recovery process. Depending on the patient’s capacity for caring for a pet and the type of support they need, their preference for an assistance animal may vary.
Types of Support Dogs and their Training and Certification
There are three types of support dogs that patients are commonly paired with. Patients in acute care, such as in-patient rehabilitation clinics, can seek out therapy dogs for short visits that provide targeted benefits. Those who are able to adopt an animal of their own may consider Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs. While neither is required by law to be certified, there are training programs available for each.
Therapy dogs can be part of a prescribed course of treatment, and they are typically part of a therapy team: The owner who takes the dog through training and certification generally accompanies the dog on therapy visits to nursing homes, hospitals, and other institutions.
According to the AKC, “Therapy dog candidates should be naturally calm, friendly and affectionate to strangers. They also need to be well trained in basic obedience, able to easily adapt to novel noises, places, smells, and equipment. Therapy dog organizations also require that therapy dogs be healthy and have regular wellness check-ups and be well-groomed, clean and brushed at the time of all visits.”
After training, therapy dogs must complete a certain number of visits to achieve different levels of certification, and the organizations that host these visits–such as hospitals, schools, or clinics–assess the dog’s performance and suitability to therapeutic tasks.
Therapy dogs are the best solution for patients who do not want the responsibility of caring for an animal full-time, and instead wish to receive the therapeutic benefits of spending time with a pet in supervised, clinical environments.
Emotional Support Dogs
“Emotional support dogs are dogs that provide comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various conditions,” the United States Dog Registry explains. In order to obtain an ESD, a patient needs a medical letter of recommendation.
Emotional support dogs are not covered by ADA regulations. However, the Fair Housing Amendment Act and the Amended Air Carrier Access Act both apply to ESDs. This means that they are permitted in certain types of housing that otherwise prohibit pets, and they must be allowed to accompany their owners in aircraft cabins.
There are few limitations on which dogs can be considered ESDs. For the purpose of reasonable housing accommodation under the FHA, these animals do not need specialized training and housing providers should not require any paperwork beyond the medical letter of recommendation. Their primary role is to provide companionship. Be wary of organizations offering registration kits to allow individuals to register their pet as ESDs. In most cases, these fees and kits are unnecessary for the accommodations available for ESDs.
The Foundation for Service Dog Support defines a service dog as “a dog that has been trained to perform tasks to assist an individual with disabilities. It is the ability to perform observable tasks, on command, that distinguishes a service dog from an emotional support dog, therapy dog or other working dogs. Some examples of tasks are balance and support, retrieving dropped objects, fetching medications and summoning assistance when needed.”
Those who need a full-time companion protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act should research service dogs, who undergo much more rigorous training than ESDs or therapy dogs–and therefore tend to be more costly. Training for a service dog is often in the range of $10,000-$20,000 and can take up to two years. Over this period of time, dogs are taught to be extremely responsive to their owners, to ignore any and all distractions, and to perform specific tasks that will help them to assist their human partner’s specific needs.
People with a history of substance abuse are highly likely to have co-morbid conditions, such as psychiatric disorders, PTSD, eating disorders, chronic pain, limited mobility, or other issues. [Note: You can add links to associated Rover medical articles when applicable.] Depending on the needs of the individual, they may find a service dog who can carry out complex tasks invaluable in helping them achieve independence. These include calling emergency services in a crisis; reminding the owner to take their medication; retrieving items out of the owner’s reach; warning the owner about a situation that could trigger a flashback; and so on. Creative trainers are constantly expanding the range of tasks they teach dogs to help people with various conditions, and they share their insights to help other trainers implement the unique processes they use.
Some breeds are better suited to service dog tasks than others, and dogs who do not acclimate well to training are dismissed from their programs. Only the dogs who are consistently able to perform all the required tasks for their service mission can become certified. The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners requires a minimum of 120 hours of training along with a specific list of tasks and requirements. However, people with disabilities have the right to personally train their service dogs, and do not have to go through outside organizations for the training process.
Service dogs are guaranteed right of entry into public establishments, like restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, medical offices, hotels, and other places of public accommodation–and none of these establishments are permitted to require certification or paperwork to prove a service dog’s legitimacy or status.
Resources for Finding and Training Support Dogs
There are many resources for finding a companion service dog or a therapy dog. Additionally, there are many resources to assist those who would like to get a certification for their pet to become a licensed therapy dog. The following list provides useful information on some of the organizations that can help you in your search. For more information on what is available to you locally, you are encouraged to reach out to your local ASPCA or Humane Society chapter. Local trainers and care providers may be willing to work with you to help subsidize the acquisition of a service animal.
Assistance Dogs International is a coalition of not-for-profit assistance dog organizations that helps individuals find a dog to match his or her needs.
Alliance of Therapy Dogs is a national therapy dog registry with over 14,000 members across North America, and can assist those in certifying their potential therapy dog.
Canine Assistants trains service dogs to assist children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs in a variety of ways.
The Foundation for Service Dog Support provides training for service dog teams, support and encouragement for people who need service dogs and increased community awareness about the role of service dogs in public spaces.
Love on a Leash is a nonprofit dedicated to providing an avenue for volunteer pet therapy teams to engage in meaningful and productive animal-assisted therapy.
Pawsitivity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing dogs and training them as service dogs.
Pet Partners provides trained handlers and their pets to facilities looking to incorporate therapy animals into their programs. The website also provides a list of links broken down by state for finding a program to become a registered therapy pet handler.
Therapy Dogs International is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions and wherever else therapy dogs are needed.
As thousands of families have already learned, dogs have the unique capacity to offer a form of assistive companionship that no human can emulate. Isolation is a driving factor behind many addictive tendencies, so companionship is a natural solution that can have incredible, lasting effects.
*I will repost the article I wrote about Lucy early next week.
Happy 2018 and all that good stuff. I’m super stoked this year for my goals and what I’m looking to achieve. I have my word – Healing – and now I have some concrete goals that I put pen to paper on. I recently joined an Accountability group – which is all about reaching our best selves and how we are going to do that this year. It’s a group within my sober blogger community and it’s pretty darn cool. I have barely started yet on my year of truly being “Accountable”, but I’m checking in and doing what I need to do each day for now, so it’s working! (Come find me in late February and let’s see where we are!)
The first thing you have to do when you join is share a bit about yourself and what your goals are – so here goes, this is some of what I shared and what I’m looking to work on in 2018!
I’m 50, sober for over 13 years, work from home, east coast gal living in Carlsbad, married to a pot head (who keeps trying to get clean) and I’ve got issues w/my alcoholic family. I’m here because the facilitators of this group offer so much in recovery and daily living, and especially in meeting and succeeding our goals. I need structure and I operate better on deadlines, so this should be a good fit for me. This past year was quite challenging for me as I really tried to trust God, and feel I wasn’t overly successful in doing that 100%. I’m a control freak, who thinks she knows what is best for most (specifically my husband). He relapsed numerous times, went to treatment twice, and he’s in and out of recovery. All I know is I do love him, but I can’t compromise myself when he’s in his addiction. He is sick and I feel myself getting sicker sometimes when we are in the thick of his disease. Al Anon helps, but I don’t like it!
In 2018, I’m starting to do EMDR with a new therapist, I’m doing breath work sessions each week, I joined my local Equinox and I just started doing a very thorough 4th step w/my sponsor. I am really trying to work on my core issues from childhood to current day and work on my ISMs. I need more focus on getting connected each day to my Higher Power and having my quiet time for meditation and to get centered. I work in a super stressful career and start early in the am and end about 4 pm every day. I’m also a sober blogger who wrote a memoir a couple years back and I don’t have as much time to expend on the sober community as I used to. I feel like I’m missing out and slacking off because I’m not able to find time to write as much – between my career job, meetings, working out, wife/friend, therapy, etc. – I need direction to keep me on point and being accountable will definitely help!
My goals this year: To heal, To trust, To have more time, To not live in Fear!
To heal through therapy, step work and breath work to focus on my core issues and be at peace with myself
To trust the universe and God that I’m being taken care; to not try to be such a control freak.
To have more time to connect with others and focus on writing a blog post each week; and to have a message to share with others.
To not be in FEAR, of almost everything! To be ok with life and that whatever happens happens!
So there you have it – Happy 2018 you rock stars, because we are in charge of our own destiny and what happens in our life! We just have to be willing to do the work and look at the really hard stuff, which can be super icky.
What are your goals and wants this year? Email me, I’d love to hear!
This past week I was lucky enough to grab breakfast with my friend, Tammi Salas, http://www.tammisalas.com/and a newcomer she knew from her podcast – Sharon. It was such an amazing start to my day and really filled my heart with joy and gratitude. We had just left a Gratitude meeting and every time I leave that meeting, I feel so blessed to be sober and alive and so god damn grateful for all that I do have. For me, it’s still waking up without a hangover, and knowing what I did last night. There are so many things, material and spiritual and emotional that I’m grateful for, however that’s a whole other post.
While we were at breakfast this morning, both Tammi and Sharon spoke about having a yearly word they focused on before they got sober. I couldn’t even imagine that as I didn’t focus on anything, other than myself, before I got sober. I was so impressed that both of these women were so aware of their alcoholism before they even tried to get sober. I knew I had a problem; but I was okay living my life on a rollercoaster and just waiting for the wheels to fall off. Which they did, and then I made a choice to try the sober life thingy. It worked! (Yay!)
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to attend one of Sasha Tozzi’s http://www.sashaptozzi.com/coaching programs and I had to choose a word. I chose TRUST – as I was having issues trusting the universe, god, my husband, my crazy self and all that was around me. My grip was so tight I couldn’t just let it the F go! Honestly, today it’s still pretty damn tight, but I’ve been loosening it up a smidgen more over the past few months. A lot of growth needs to happen there, but I’m aware and it’s one of my modifications that I’m striving for on a daily basis. Along with half a dozen other items. So in thinking about my word for 2018, I need to go back and reflect on 2017 and really dig in a little and see what was working and what doesn’t. I also need to heed the advice of others; my sponsor especially.
This past year I participated in a horde of gatherings that really helped shape my sobriety even further and it was all about Connection. The one thing we truly are seeking in getting and staying sober. In participating in all of these I was adding more to my recovery story and helping myself along the way. A few things that came to mind this past year; She Recovers-NYC http://sherecovers.co/ AA Women’s Retreat in Julian, Heroes 6K Run http://heroesinrecovery.com/heroes6k/ attending a Refuge Recovery meeting https://www.refugerecovery.org/ Amy Dresner’s Book Signing event http://amydresner.com/and AfterParty Magazine’s “Shit we don’t do anymore” in LA, http://annadavid.com/events/ and of course sponsoring and being sponsored.
In working on my connection with myself and others, there was a constant theme that was coming up. It’s been my core issues; which I’ve barely scratched the surface over 13 years in recovery. The deep goo that comes from all the way inside, down there. The icky stories I don’t like to think about because I cry. The things I don’t want to face because I cry and the people, places and things I don’t want to examine – because I cry. These core issues have held me back in not being able to move forward in my emotional sobriety. They stem back from childhood and go all the way to present day; Trust, Jealousy, Control, Entitlement, and a few others – I’m blocked in these areas and until I can really peel away and face these issues, they will be my wack-a-mole.
So for 2018, I can say that there will be a lot of crying indeed. I’m seeing a new therapist who will be doing EMDR, I’m starting to do attend a weekly breath work practice (which is pretty darn gnarly) and I’m going to be taking many suggestions from my sponsor and others. I need to Heal. That’s my word. 2018 is going to be the Year of Healing.
I was thinking this morning about how grateful I am that this isn’t my first sober Christmas. This came to me last evening as I was listening to a couple women share about how nervous they are being around family (who drink) and traveling home for the Holidays – – to experience their first sober Christmas. It is a nerve wracking experience and one that I remember quite well; but now having been sober for over a decade the Holidays don’t affect me like they once did, however, not too long ago I remember being very stressed and uncomfortable during my early years of sobriety and how I would be able to manage the Holiday Cheer, without partaking in the alcohol Cheer portion.
I’ve learned to change up my routines during the Holidays, and it’s really not much different than what I do daily to maintain my sobriety and sense of serenity – it all depends on people, places and things for me. As long as I safeguard my habits and who I’m going to be with and where I am, I can manage my sobriety and feel good in doing so.
I wanted to share 5 things I like to do that help me prepare for upcoming parties and gatherings, whether it be at the Office holiday party, your kids’ school gathering, an event with the in-laws or just in your own home at a festive Holiday dinner; these things have proven to be life-savers for me.
Bookending the event using phone therapy
During my recovery I’ve met a lot of women and they’ve been a huge support to me during my sobriety. It was difficult at first picking up the 100 pound phone, but the more I did it, the easier it became. If I’m going through something that is making me anxious or if I’m projecting how something might be, I pick up the phone and call either my sponsor or another supportive friend in the program. After I’ve had my few minutes of venting and sharing about what’s going on with me, I can then ask them about their day and get out of myself for a few minutes. It’s kind of like a mini meeting. I usually talk to at least two women per day about what’s going on with me and vice versa, and it has been, and continues to be, a life saver for me. A few years ago I wanted to drink. I was having a very bad time in my life and I just said, “F*&K this noise – I wanna drink”. I called my sober bestie told her how I was doing and she dropped everything and came right over and took me out for coffee. I didn’t drink that day. The colossal problem I had at the time took care of itself and I didn’t need to drink over it – because I called someone.
I came to my first AA meeting to get a court card signed for my 2nd DUI. I didn’t go there because I wanted to. However, I kept coming back and very early on in my recovery I liked going to meetings. They spoke my language. They understood me and they didn’t make me feel like I didn’t belong. I found my tribe in AA. My closest friends and confidantes are all in AA. I met my husband at an AA meeting (not sure I would recommend that – but that’s a whole other conversation). In moving around a lot in sobriety I’ve been able to walk into any meeting in any part of the country and feel “at home” as we like to say. It’s an integral and sustaining part of my recovery and I’m forever grateful to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Driving myself and having an exit strategy
This has proven to be such a life boat for me as there have been times when I’ve been stuck at some function or party and didn’t have a way to leave. It was uncomfortable as the person I was with drinking and having a grand ole time. Not me. After an hour or so at most functions where drinking is involved, I’m usually ready to leave. I’ve made my appearance, done my social rounds and connected with those I needed to connect with. As soon as I start hearing someone else’s story for a second time or I see their eyes gloss over I know I’m done and ready to get home in my sanctuary of peace and comfort. I highly recommend driving solo, you’ll be glad you did when you snuggle into bed sober and safe.
Having my “Mocktail”
This has proven to be one of the most important tools in keeping me comfortable in my own skin, as well as insuring I won’t pick up someone else’s drink. Having my own drink of choice; whether it’s a sparkling water with a lime, a diet coke and lemon or an Arnold Palmer, I always have my own beverage and I always know where it is (usually in my hand). Case in point; in early sobriety I was at a family Christmas gathering and I was drinking sparkling water. Seemed easy enough at the time, and during the early evening as I was helping around in the kitchen, I turned and grabbed my beverage, and took a sip! GASP! It wasn’t my beverage it was someone else’s vodka and tonic. I was freaked out and had to leave the room. As soon as I realized what occurred I ran outside to have a cigarette. This helped in getting the taste out of my mouth as I don’t recommend smoking by any means, but it’s what worked for me at that moment. A piece of gyum, a life saver or any edible item would also suffice. I then proceeded to put my drink in another glass, that didn’t look like a highball, something to make sure I know its mine. Having an accidental sip is just that; an accident. Now when I’m at a function, I know where my drink is at all times and I try to make sure I have a differentiator with the glass or add a straw – because god forbid any of the drinkers take an accidental sip of my mocktail, they’d be so confused!
Being of service to others
Being of service to me is more than just helping make coffee at a meeting or calling a newcomer – it’s being of service to all people that I come into contact with . Whether it’s the grocery clerk or my work colleagues, it’s all about giving back and getting out of myself. A couple years ago I was at a Holiday party with my company and there was going to be a decent amount of drinking involved, and so I was able to offer my services as the designated driver to some. No one asked too many questions and it was a way to give back and not just think of what I could gain from the event, but what I could contribute. I find that when I’m in that type of mindset, I’m not wanting to pick up a drink. And hopefully I can be a help to others and possibly save someone from driving home drunk that evening.
These 5 easy methods are by no means the only way to stay sober and safe this Holiday season, but they sure make it easier for me. The more Holiday’s I go through sober, the easier it becomes. Try to enjoy your first sober Chritsmas, because the second one is right around the corner!
I met someone from the Fellowship a couple nights ago and she was telling me how my blog really saved her when she was going through a rough time a year ago. As happy as I was to hear that, I got honest with her and told her that I haven’t written anything original in weeks for my blog. I’ve basically had writers block and have had no interest in writing and capturing any of my thoughts or emotions. Typical writers block, but does it go longer than 8 weeks ?
My life for a few months was crazy and drama ridden and during that time I could have managed it in a better manner, but no I love being the maker of my own calamity! I had no desire to catch any of this on paper. I journaled very infrequently and very short paragraphs, and I did blog back a couple months ago; but I felt I was too wrapped up in my spin cycle to stop and sit. This is strange, because writing should be my outlet to share all my emotions and share how I’m able to assess and manage them. These were deep, hard, rough edged emotions and I didn’t want to share it with my readers or anyone else in my life. I was dealing with relapse and alcoholism at its height. Not mine, but my husband’s. And what I can tell you is that as sober and sane as I thought I was, I wasn’t. I wasn’t running a great Al-Alon program; even though I was trying to. I went on this tyrant of not believing in my god, and not trusting that there is a god out there who wants the best for me. I didn’t want to engage with most of my friends and sometimes even my sponsor. I was shut down. Lucy and my career were my two main stays through most of it, they were my life preservers in my sinking ship of life. I didn’t want anyone else to hear me talk about it. Again. And Again. And Again. Over the past few years, the insanity of living in real addiction and seeing it happen to someone you love is heart wrenching. The downward spiral happening before you front and center. And I had choices during this time. Each time, as much as I wanted to or as much as I felt I should walk away – I just never could. I love this person.
Today, life is better. After some bottoms that took my husband to another deep bottom, he asked his sponsor for help and he got it. I feel almost whole again. I’m much better than I was 30, 60, 90 or 120 days ago. My spouse is back home and he’s got more than 30 days now and he has two jobs and he’s doing his sobriety journey on his own – well, mostly – I’m trying not to put my hands on it.
What it comes down to is me focusing on me and what I need for me each day. Not what he needs. He’s got his needs met. He has his path. He’s able to see his light. I’m all about seeing my own light. His disease isn’t mine to touch. As my sponsor says to me, God already knows the story, it’s already out there. I just need to show up and do my part. Do the next right thing each day, each moment and keep going forward. I’m doing things I like to do and I’m spending more time on my cyber recovery world. I’m back to praying and meditating and getting some serenity three. The regular career is humming along, I keep on walking and loving Lucy, I keep going to my meetings and calling my sponsor. I continue hanging out with my sober squad and I keep on loving my husband.
At the end of the day, it’s about how much love I was able to give to those around me. I don’t know if the husband will stay sober. What I do know is I’ve had this experience over the past 120 days and I’m a tiny bit more evolved than I was. I feel loved and isn’t that what we all want anyway? To know we are loved. And of course, to have our writer’s block lifted.
At many times in my life I have known something about myself on an intellectual level and yet I was completely incapable of changing it. Take my alcoholism for instance. For many years before I finally got sober I was acutely aware that it was a problem in my life, but yet I hadn’t fully accepted that fact wholeheartedly. I would look at it as some brain puzzle that needed to be conquered and solved and so I never really got anywhere with it. I would spin my wheels attempting to temper my drinking or quit using my mind and every time it lead me right back to the bottle, hitting it harder than I had before. See I needed to get to the point where justifying, minimizing ended, where I broke through the delusions I had built up to continue on in my disease.
This was maddening to me for a time. I knew that I needed to stop drinking in order to be a good mother to my children. I knew that if I didn’t I would continue to further alienate my family from me and I knew that if I couldn’t it would mean disastrous things for me, and yet I was completely unable to stop. I just couldn’t figure it out, until the day finally came when I realized that part of my problem was that I was trying to figure it out. I didn’t know that true change came from the heart and not the head and so in order for change to occur, my heart had to broken open in a sense, the walls had to come down, and acceptance had to be reached.
When I speak of the heart I don’t necessarily mean the organ that rests protected by my ribs, but I mean that intangible feeling that resonates from the chest, telling me when I am lonely or giving me warmth when I am at peace. Getting there is difficult because it isn’t as easy as thinking. It requires something else and its guiding voice can be missed in the swirling chatter that is my mind.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, for myself and many other addicts and alcoholics, achieving the change necessary to overcome addiction is usually the result of pain. That broken open heart I referred to occurred when I was finally left empty with no more answers. All my best efforts had been exhausted and in that exhaustion I finally gave up. Once I gave up I was able to get out of my head and into my heart, fully conceding to the understanding that I was an alcoholic who needed help. From this point I was then able to hear with a different set of ears and see with a different set of eyes, which allowed me to trust something besides my own thinking and in time created change.
To be honest this sometimes annoys me. I mean why can’t I just change the things that I want to by thinking about them real hard? It would be nice wouldn’t it, but for better or worse it is not the way that things work.
For the most part I have found that majority of the problems and things that need changing in my life are created by my mind in the first place. They didn’t exist and then at some point my mind decided to initiate them and boom a problem was born. This I believe is the reason why real change comes from the heart and not the head, because as the saying goes, the same mind that created the problem cannot also solve it.
By admitting that with my own mind I am unable to come up with a solution or effect the change I want I am essentially stating that I do not know, and in my not knowing I allow for the possibility of a different mental construct to take place. When this occurs change follows because I am no longer held down by a certain set of beliefs or attempting to enact the change from within my already broken system of operation. This allows the voice emanating from my heart to reach me and from this place I am then able to enact the change that is necessary.
Change is not something that comes easy. If it did it wouldn’t even be necessary for me to write this. I would just wake up in the morning, rationally view the things in my life that need changing and then go out and do it, but that is not the way that it works. Change is a process that occurs over time, sometimes with a few steps forward followed by what seems like a few steps back. Along the way I may get lost, but once I have moved from my head into my heart change will always follow if I allow it to.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world.
I interviewed Ryan a few months ago and since he is everywhere right now being the public advocate for Addiction and the Opiod Crisis, I thought I’d share our interview again.
Ryan Hampton is one of the most powerful voices our country has today for the recovery community. He’s been able to accomplish a lot in a short time. I’ve known Ryan through the recovery community for the past couple of years and recently I was lucky enough to talk with him about his life and his recovery.
In speaking with Ryan, our conversation flowed pretty easily and minutes into it, he started telling me how the #Voices Project came about. https://ryanhampton.org/voices/ Ryan commented, “Early on in my recovery I decided to share my story, which then led to others sharing their stories and so on.” He said that it was the time for America to start hearing about recovery stories. He started his site as a way for others to share their stories out loud. Ryan felt the timing was right, as there was a lot of media attention being garnered about the addiction crisis and what was happening in our country. Further, “it was a lot of folks, who are in long-term recovery, that haven’t been vocal about it and they too wanted to share their stories.” Initially Ryan said that people told him to wait a few years to speak about it – his thought was, “What do you mean; I’m fresh off this thing, so why would I wait?” That thought started the movement and he hasn’t looked back since.
Ryan commented that the history of the conversation (about addiction) is that parents have ample space to share, as do folks in long term recovery, but what about everyone else? Ryan decided to take his experience and to give young folks a voice, which was the missing piece in the media message.
In order for me to get a frame of reference on Ryan’s addiction, I asked him to share more insight into his story. Ryan’s sobriety date is 2/2/2015 and his drug of choice was Heroin. In 2003 Ryan was 23 years old, and he broke his ankle while hiking one day. He soon was prescribed Oxycodone 15 mg, which then turned into 30 mg and then 80 mg – and then it was Xanax. All of this was from his Doctor. In 2008, he showed up at his Doctor’s office and was told he was blacklisted, as he was drug seeking from other Doctors. Ryan graduated to Heroin that day. He said he left his Doctor’s office dope sick. He called a friend to buy some pills, and was told that he didn’t have any. Then his friend shared that he had Heroin, and that it was a lot cheaper and more accessible. Ryan started snorting it and very soon he was shooting it. Ryan started running that crazy train of addiction and into his dark hole. He tried to quit and went to treatment numerous times and was kicked out. He was homeless, couch surfing, pan handling, and staying in shelters. Ryan said he was also extremely terrified about telling folks what was really going on with him. His mom realized that she was powerless over his addiction, but she did have some empathy and compassion for him. Sadly, Ryan’s father passed away in 2001, so it was very tough for his Mom, being a single parent and struggling as a school teacher, while her only son was withering away to Heroin addiction.
In June 2012, Ryan was taken to a public treatment center by his drug dealer – as he didn’t want to see Ryan die. Ryan ended up staying for 30 days and then moved into sober living for a year. In late spring 2013, he landed a job in California, and with no program or recovery, he stayed silent about his sobriety. In August he started drinking and within two months he was out looking for drugs on skid row – now using heroin and cocaine. Ryan ended up in treatment again in February 2014. He again went for 30 days, got out and started using soon after. Thanksgiving of 2014, Ryan checked into treatment again and was released on 2/2/2015 – his sobriety date.
Ryan said that this time was different, as he immediately plugged into a community and didn’t have shame talking about his recovery and he connected with people that had more time than him. Ryan went to meetings, got a sponsor, worked the steps, and became very involved with his recovery program. In October 2015, Ryan started telling people about this recovery – only to soon find the Facing Addiction rally that was happening that year in Washington, DC. He watched the rally and concert on Facebook live stream and it pumped him up. Ryan said he got excited seeing others sharing their recovery out loud and he wanted in. This was when he really started sharing his story publicly and creating accountability for himself.
In January 2016, Ryan was asked to join the Facing Addiction Organization https://www.facingaddiction.org/ Ryan shared his story with one of the founders and since Ryan had a communications background, they hired him to work the Los Angeles recovery community. Ryan said that something shifted in him in late 2015 where he had reached a turning point. He had lost four of his friends in 90 days. This catapulted Ryan to reach out to Facing Addiction and see what he could do to help make an impact. This was the catalyst that brought him to wanting to help others and end the stigma of being in recovery. Ryan said, “I was angry about what was happening to my friends and the 2016 election was coming up, and I registered as a democratic delegate where I showed up at the caucus, along with 70 others in the recovery community. I soon saw how powerful our voices were. And then other people, not in recovery, shared their stories with us about their son, their granddaughter, their friends, and so on.”
Ryan said he went home that night and reflected on the NEED for these stories to be told. Since that time it’s been a snowball effect which led to his film, Addiction Across America – addictionxamerica.com where he documented his trip cross country as he made his way to the Democratic National Convention. (It’s a great documentary and I highly recommend viewing it) Other people are now recovering out loud and the recovery movement is getting national attention. Ryan commented, “Our audience keeps growing and growing. Social media has become the norm for marginalized communities where they are getting their voices heard. These groups are being formed on social media and we are making a difference.” With a mere $20 investment Ryan started the Voices project (which has now been adopted by Facing Addiction) as this issue now affects 1 in 3 Americans, and as Ryan said, “We need to change these conversations.”
I asked Ryan where he saw himself in the next few years and what would that look like? He commented “If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have said something different than what I’m telling you today. A year ago I wanted to own a home and celebrate my 5 years in recovery and own a business. Today, I’m just living in the moment, day by day to end the silence about addiction and end the crisis – these are my immediate goals – it’s where we WILL be as a movement.”
I went on to ask Ryan about his personal heroes and his mentor; “My mom and my sisters, without them I wouldn’t have made it. They believed in me when nobody did and saw that there was something there when I didn’t. Now I get to see how my Mom is telling her own story.”
For his Mentor, Ryan emphatically said, “Greg Williams, hands down. He believed in me when I didn’t know what was inside of me, and he’s guided me down the path to where I am today.” Greg Williams, http://speakersforchange.org/greg-williams/, is one of the Founders of Facing Addiction and along with Ryan, is one of the leaders in the public eye in helping end the stigma.
When I asked Ryan about what was down the road for Facing Addiction, he shared, “What’s coming up is that Facing Addiction is collaborating with the Voices Project and we are starting to do a lot of Facebook live content and we are building our presence in the media and marketplace. We are developing an expansion for our social media platform.” Clearly, Ryan already has this platform, now we all get to embrace his efforts and join him in this movement. Thanks Ryan for leading the way for me and many others.
Ryan Hampton serves as an outreach lead and recovery advocate for Facing Addiction, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending the addiction crisis in America. Prior to that, he worked with multiple non-profits across the country and served in a staff capacity for various political campaigns. In 2016, Ryan publicly disclosed his decade-old struggle with heroin and prescription medications, along with his journey in recovery, in an effort to advocate for reform on a national public policy level. Hampton produced a 7-part documentary series, Facing Addiction Across America, chronicling his cross-country road trip to the DNC advocating for reform and seeking out other like-minded people in long-term recovery to join the growing movement to end the addiction epidemic. Ryan has been feature on Huffington Post, CBS, ABC, Dr. Oz and the White House. To learn more about Ryan, please visit, www.ryanhampton.org
Kim is a young sober woman who came to me recently and told me about a blog she started to talk about her journey into alcoholism and addiction. Its her first foray into the sober blogging world and as someone who came into the sober blogging world a few short years ago, I remember asking for help from other bloggers out there.
We all have a message to share. Kim has four years clean and sober now and wants to share her experiences with others – to help others. Here is her story and feel free to check out her blog and drop her a line. Isn’t that what this deal is all about helping each other?
AA is a pretty simple program they say, all you need to do is put down the drink and the drug and change your entire life. I will tell you putting the drink and the drug down will be the simplest thing about sobriety. Sobriety is painful, it’s the unbecoming of everything you have known and the becoming of your true self. You will perform an exorcism on your soul. You will have to dig deep inside yourself, places some will never dare to go. The dark fractures in your core that may be filled with hatred and despair. Go there. Throw some new seeds to grow. Rise above that grave you dug for yourself. Free yourself.
At the age of 21 I stepped into my first AA meeting. I already knew I was an alcoholic, though I did not want to accept it. I stayed in the rooms a few weeks and left. I was not ready. I still had more suffering to live. I was in treatment facilities, mental institutions, halfway houses and hospitals. I have been arrested, medicated and strapped down to gurneys. I am an alcoholic, a cocaine addict, a crack addict and a heroin addict. However, I did not come to terms with that until I was 30 years old.
Almost four years ago I put down the drink and the drug and decided to change my whole life. Everything I was I had to change. I had to re-learn how to live. I had to re-learn how to communicate. I had to re-learn how to control my emotions. I needed to cope with my anger, my regret and my guilt. Mentally, I was a 15 year old girl, but externally I was a mother, a girlfriend, an employee and a daughter.
My name is Kim and I am an alcoholic. I will be an alcoholic for the remainder of my life. I will never be cured, and I will carry around this blessing that I once thought was a curse. It’s my blessing because I have felt so much pain that I cherish every moment I feel happiness. I wake up everyday armed with my story, my setbacks and I have learned from them all. Sobriety has given me such internal strength, the ability to see myself, to take my own inventory and to accept my defaults. I see the world and its people for what they are. I live in truth – no matter how painful that may be. I need to do the next right thing regardless if it’s easy or not. This is how I choose to live today. Sobriety is completely possible and it is absolutely worth every excavation you will have to endure.
I have overcome the intolerable. I have traded in my journey of addiction for a journey of inspiration, education and hope. I have put my entire story out there – my personal war story, my fears and my hopes and dreams. This is exactly why I was kept alive; despite my desperate pleas to end it. My higher power had different plans for me. It was not my time and I still have so much more to learn and to give. I have accepted my mission with complete openness. Luckily, my death wish was never granted.