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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

I used to think people other than those directly affected by my drinking to excess were aware of what for me was an absolutely epic effort to give it up.
 
In my alcohol fueled haze, my mere presence on this earth was of great importance to everybody. I believed that my acquaintances actually took the time out of their lives to give me a second thought. In actuality, they gave about as much thought to me and my drinking habits as I gave to them, and theirs; none.
Fortunately, by the time I realized just how unimportant I am to people outside my inner circle I had grown comfortable with myself, my sobriety and my purpose. It has been said that alcoholic thinking involves the grandiose, and I certainly fit that description. I have yet to figure out though, which came first, the alcohol, of the alcoholic thinking.
I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Now that I know that what really matters when it comes to my sobriety has nothing to do with what others think, and everything to do with how I think, I am able to better navigate the difficult journey I have embarked upon.

It would be easy to continue to drink, continue to think my drinking mattered, and never bother to face the reality that to live my life to the best of my ability I had to do so without chemical enhancement. What is not so easy is taking a more difficult, but clear path without the convoluted luxury that alcohol provides.

I still run into people who have no idea that I chose the path of less resistance;
“You don’t drink?”
“Nah, gave it up years ago.”
“Wow, I didn’t know. Did you have to, or want to?”
Now there’s a loaded question if ever there was one. Sometimes we have to do things we do not want to do. Drinking was not one of them; I absolutely wanted to drink. NOT drinking? Well, that was a little more complicated. I desperately wanted to not drink to excess, yet nearly every time I drank, I drank too much.
“One is too many and a thousand is not enough.”
The reason one is too many is simple for me and people like me; one leads to two, two to three and three into alcohol fueled infinity. The trick, I learned, was teaching myself how to not want that one.
For far longer than necessary I willed myself not to have that first one. I felt deprived, left out, less than and abandoned. I did not pass on the drink because I wanted to, I passed because I had to. There was too much to lose and not enough to gain when I chose to have that drink. I was at war with myself over what turned out to be something just not worth fighting for.
I don’t drink. Simple, really. All of the reasons I concocted for the sole reason of delaying the inevitable were ridiculous;

-I deserve it
-My friends prefer me intoxicated
-I deserve it
-I’ll die of boredom without it
-I deserve it
-My family is far more interesting when I drink
-I deserve it
-Life is better under the influence, and finally
-I deserve it!

Turns out, the number one reason I had for continuing a behavior that did more harm than good was because I had convinced myself that I deserved it. Clear thought has afforded me the luxury of clarity; I deserve nothing more than the opportunity to live an aware life unencumbered by numbness, to feel my best, look my best and think my best. My best is unobtainable when intoxicated, thinking about being intoxicated and regretting being so. Now, I simply do not want to drink!
One of the greatest things about sobriety, for me, is the ability I now possess to live in the present. The present truly is a gift, and slowly unwrapping it each and every day, and being sober as it unfolds feels better than any alcoholic libation I can imagine.

The post What came first, the alcohol, or the alcoholic thinking? appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

One of my biggest surprises when I joined the fire service, or “Brotherhood” if you choose, was the distinct differences in the personalities of the people bonded by our choice to be firefighters.
 
Prior to the start of my career I believed what had been presented to me; firefighters were a tightly knit community who fought fire together, drank together and did everything together. Only part of what I believed was true, firefighters did fight fire together. Lots of them did drink together; however, many of them didn’t drink at all. Lots went home to their families after their tour and were not heard from until the next one. Lots spent time together on their days off, and went to bars, and had parties and outings and lived hard. There were also loners, philosophers, perpetual students, runners, weightlifters, writers and entrepreneurs. The Fire Service was exactly like the rest of the world I knew, different kinds of people working together to make things better.
Of course, being actively alcoholic when I was hired I gravitated to the drinkers. I conveniently overlooked the people who were not part of my crowd. I simply refused to accept that anything other than what I had been led to believe could possibly be anything worth pursuing. I wanted to be part of the group more than I wanted to be true to myself.
Alcoholics believe that our lives will be over as soon as we drop out of the party. Our minds have been programmed to believe that it is perfectly acceptable, and even preferable that we join the rest of the world in celebratory behavior which of course centers on inebriation. We don’t want to let everybody down by not joining them for a drink, smoke or whatever they are into. We truly believe that everybody else actually notices whether or not we are participating in their celebrations.
Some people actually do notice whether or not we are drinking with them. Some of those people take it a step further and insist we join them, and will not take no for an answer. Those are the people we need to avoid when we begin our life of sobriety. Those are the people we could consider in need of help themselves. Healthy people do not judge a person’s lifestyle choices; they do not need to validate their behavior by seeing it in others.
It is truly horrifying to accept the possibility that we will have to abandon the pack when we begin our new lives. The peace and comfort we find by belonging to a community of like minded people has the same power keeping us from getting well as it does help us maintain sobriety. It all boils down to the company we choose to keep. It can be more preferable to continue jeopardizing our health, happiness and future than it is to face the unknown. For far too many, the decision to find serenity is made by somebody else, often a spouse, sometimes an employer, sometimes even the courts. Stepping out of a comfortable existence; even one that brings with it chaos, legal problems and troubled relationships takes strength of conviction, the question is, where does one find that strength while in the throes of addiction?

The weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders when I found the answer:

“The person who cares the most about what you drink, and how much is you.”

The world is full of interesting people. The fire department is full of people who don’t drink to excess, or even don’t drink at all. All I had to do was open my eyes to the possibility that my world view might not have been completely accurate. My need to be part of the group never limited me to the group of less resistance. The heavy drinkers would still drink without me joining them, and wouldn’t give it a second thought. I was still part of the overall picture, and still belonged, though in a different way.
I found myself when I found sobriety. I didn’t have to lose my friends, or even my place in the group. I found my place right there among them. Best of all, once I shed the weight of my addictions, I was able to do so on my own terms, and that continues to feel better than anything I ever introduced to my system.

The post Finding my Place appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

I could depend on it; and it never let me down. No matter what happened during the day, or night, no matter how badly things went, or well, I knew things would end up the same way, me, floating on a cloud of inebriation. I used to convince myself that the level of intoxication that I found most comfortable was simply my genetic makeup letting me know it was okay to achieve it. The fact that I was only comfortable until well after I became intoxicated was irrelevant, I truly believed that I deserved the escape that I had the option of providing for myself.

Now that my thinking has cleared considerably; 18 years of sobriety helped achieve that, I am able to see just how odd my behavior was. A “level of intoxication” is probably the most ridiculous phrase I ever invented. There was no adequate level of intoxication; there was just good old fashioned drunkenness.

An active alcoholic can actually believe that he has control over the substance that he craves, but he most certainly does not.

Little head games we play allow us the luxury to avoid the truth; we drink. We drink a lot. We drink too much. And every one of us knows it.


I knew it, and also knew that I did not want to live without it. It was my adult sized security blanket. No matter what happened during the day, and things do happen to alcoholics just like everybody else, I knew that by day’s end any pain, guilt, joy, disappointment, sorrow or regret would be wrapped up in a neat little package that always felt the same. Numb. I was able to cope with the crippling feelings brought on by my behaviors be making them go away. Every night, night after night.
When my drinking became habitual I existed in a constant state of turmoil that could only be abated by doing the very thing that caused the conflict. Living in a continual state of guilt, relief, guilt, relief and on and on completely destroyed my ability to simply exist, and be able to appreciate the simple nuances that make a day worth getting up for. If I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking of drinking. I did not accept the possibility that it could be any other way.

Well, there is another way, and sometimes we need another human being to show us that way. Alcoholic thinking is simple, brutal, effective and deadly. We think ourselves into a corner, and convince ourselves there is no way out. We wallow in our misery, believing that we are somehow different from the rest of the world, and will never, ever belong to it. When we only talk to ourselves, and we are in the throes of addiction, we are essentially talking to an idiot.

The greatest gift an idiot can give to himself is a spark of hope. Hope may come to those who wait patiently, or drunkenly, but many lives have been wasted waiting for it. Hope is readily available to all who want it; the secret is to take want a step further, and to seek it. The first step toward finding hope is by opening ourselves up to the possibility that we deserve a chance of tasting it. And the most effective way for us to feel it is by talking to another person who understands even a tiny bit of what we experience.

The average person does not understand addiction, nor should they. Ours is not their burden to bear. Confiding in somebody, and trusting them with your desire to get sober who does not have addiction experience or treatment training is akin to walking through a minefield. They probably care, and likely wish us well, and definitely believe that addiction is a quick, simple fix; avoid the things you are addicted to. They will not be able to offer strategies, resources or understanding. There is a very good chance you will let them down, and yourself down as well, and stay in limbo far longer than needed.
Our addictions are complex, just as the thoughts we have nurtured feeding those addictions are. Thinking our way out of the maze we created gets easier when somebody who gets it gives us direction. A seed of thought provided by somebody who knows exactly what to plant grows into effective coping strategies. When our thinking becomes directed toward the solution, rather than dwelling on our problem, true healing begins, and the road toward sustained sobriety opens wide.
Casting away the chains that bind us, hitting the throttle wide open and finally experiencing the life we imagine, free of addiction is not only possible, with the proper help, it is obtainable.

No sense waiting for it to happen, daylight is burning, and there is a lot of life to be lived.

The post Talking to an idiot appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

I would be lying if I told you I never miss drinking. Actually, that’s not entirely true, I honestly do not ever miss actively drinking; the everyday struggle to maintain a comfortable alcohol level in my blood stream was exhausting. It’s the selective memory of drinking that I miss most. I do have some great memories that occurred during my active drinking days, most of which reflect on moments rather than entire events. Not every day was a disaster, and not every drink led to heavy intoxication. Every now and then I was able to pull off some truly wonderful experiences in spite of the alcohol fueled buzz and constant worry that it would render me useless as the day progressed toward night. I think it is easy to think of the past as one giant screw-up. That way the thought of drinking becomes absolutely horrific, and the temptation to imbibe much less appealing. But I have suffered enough. My entire life prior to coming to was not a complete disaster. My continuing sobriety continues to give me reasons to stay on the wagon, and forgiving myself for lost opportunities and moments that were not as great as they could have been are tops on the list of gifts I receive by abstaining.
Romanticizing the drink is a trap many alcoholics run into, those cloudy memories of lively conversation fueled by a lovely snifter of expensive French cognac in front of a roaring fire in a smoky den, surrounded by friends and beautiful women are fabrications of similar events.

By thinking the memory through I am able to clear the fog and lift the illusion just enough to expose the truth; sitting alone in my basement, isolating from my friends and family, guzzling beer and vodka while smoking packs of cigarettes was my reality more often than not.

But what of the times that isolation and misery were not my reality? Do I have to pretend that my life was a complete disaster to maintain sobriety? I think not. As my days of sobriety turned to weeks, then months, years and now decades I allow myself the luxury of reflecting on the happy moments that occurred in spite of my best efforts to derail them by overdoing it. Just because I acted alcoholically for years does not negate who I was underneath the façade that alcohol built. I was and am a decent person, and had the ability to live a decent life. Losing that ability because of addiction does not mean I didn’t want it more than the substances that prevented me from achieving it; I simply did not know how to keep my priorities in order.
Maybe everything would have fallen into place eventually, and I would have been able to clear my head and get back on track. Maybe not. It is the maybe not that worries me. Had I not had what I call a spiritual awakening, and asked for help in dealing with my addictions I may have never known the peace of mind that comes with living a sober life. True peace can be obtained, not temporary solace provided by chemicals introduced to our system. Once we achieve that inner peace the healing begins. Every moment of sobriety is a gift, and as we move relentlessly forward, those gifts just keep getting better.

The post Sobriety; It keeps getting better appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

One of the most difficult parts of my never-ending quest to retain sobriety is surviving the holidays. My first few years of sober celebrations were white knuckle affairs. I lived as if I were on the outside looking in, and struggled to get through every second of other people’s festivities. I knew that when I decided to stop drinking that I was in for an uphill battle but never imagined that the memories of some of the greatest times of my childhood would turn that uphill battle into a mountain.

However, there is no mountain on earth that has not been conquered; not Everest, not K2, or even my closest mountain, Mount Washington in New Hampshire. My personal struggles with sobriety had their share of ups and downs, and some days the climb is more difficult than others, especially those magical days where the nostalgia seems to live in the present. Trying to recapture childhood emotion, wonder and excitement by using the tools at my disposal; namely beer, whiskey and champagne fails miserably, and the memories I try so desperately to recreate become miserable reminders of those conveniently forgotten and stored not so pleasant Christmas Stories.

Not that drinking wasn’t part of my everyday life for as long as I can remember: it was, but the holiday season brought it to a whole new level. Strange how my fondest childhood memories exist in large part in spite of the substance that I had to forego as my life careened out of control. Growing up in a house led by highly functional alcoholics is challenging, but kind of fun too. The level of excitement that was always present in our home increased exponentially in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Booze was the glue that brought our family together. It had been that way for generations. Holiday parties centered around what we were drinking. Even the kids got in on it; small sips of champagne on Christmas Eve, condoned by the parents as a ritual to be cherished, and nurtured until we became teens and could take those little sips of delight to the next level.

Some of my best memories come from times spent in an intoxicated state compliments of booze liberated from the adults only cooler during holiday celebrations where the adults were too busy with their adult beverages to worry about us.

Somehow, we survived. Half of my four siblings drink responsibly, the other half, after decades of difficulty, not at all. It took me a lot of years, and a lot of holidays that fizzled because of feelings of loss that I had no idea how to overcome to be able to capture the spirit of the season without succumbing to the spirits in the bottle. Eventually, I learned that the holidays come whether I choose to enjoy them or not. They come without bottles and cans, glasses and mugs, shot glasses kegs or salted rims. They come every year with no expectations except those that we ourselves manifest by living in a past that has been edited, glorified and created in our image of what we want them to be.

Alcoholic thinking led me to believe that the holidays simply could not be enjoyed without something extra. Instead of simply allowing the spirit of the season to come to me, I chased it with everything I had, and not only did I disappoint myself every time, I took some of the joy of the season away from the people whose lives I affect with my moods and behaviors.

Drinking alcoholically is an isolating affair, the very antithesis of the true meaning of holiday celebrations.

Giving up what I once thought was the meaning of Christmas led me to experience what I had been missing. By letting go of the chains that kept me grounded in past fantasies I allowed myself the freedom to find happiness and contentment simply by being alive and present. Believing that any attempt to increase my enjoyment will ultimately take more than it gives is the key to my maintaining sobriety. I have given myself the greatest gift imaginable; clarity, contentment and peace, and all I had to do to receive the gift was to let go of the expectations forged from a cloudy past, live in the present and believe that my future is entirely up to me.

The post Holidays; Past, Present and Yet to be… appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

I used to think that my addictions would be my salvation should something dreadful happen while I was under the influence.
 
My demented reasoning led me to believe that all would be forgiven because I had a disease. I figured I could continue doing exactly what I wanted, which in my case included drinking absurd amounts of alcohol, abusing pain meds and pretty much whatever I felt like doing. I thought that the world that I chose to isolate from would understand that I was a victim, and needed help, not condemnation.
Problem is I wasn’t always physically impaired by drugs and alcohol. When I wasn’t I still believed that I was somehow protected because of my status as a person with a condition. That thinking allowed me the freedom to continue killing myself. I truly believed that I was only under the influence when I was inebriated. It took some time, but eventually I came to understand that my entire life experience had been taken hostage by the substances I was ingesting.

Even my sober thinking was influenced by the residual effects of my nightly foray into the escape of my choosing.

Work and family responsibilities often took me away from my destructive behaviors, and during those extended periods of abstinence I believed that everything was under control. All I had to do was endure whatever time it took to get back to business as usual. I believed that my work performance was fantastic and that I was quite the family man. It wasn’t, and I wasn’t. It took a lot of time for me to come to terms with that. I think my inflated opinion of myself had everything to do with my ability to live in denial which for me became more devastating than the actual episodes of inebriation. It must have been unbearable for my friends and family to witness, but I will never know the extent of it because I was too busy fooling myself with visions of grandiosity. I was indestructible as I self-destructed, full of fabricated arrogance and delusion.

Drunken men do drunken things. I was fortunate; the drunken things I did never exposed me or my family to ridicule. I managed to fall apart in relative anonymity, and recover in private as well. It is always a great time to seek help with addiction, but I believe the best time to so is before the imaginary trump card needs to be played. Truth is, the get out of jail free because I’m an alcoholic or addict card only exists in our mind. We will be held accountable for our actions, whether or not those actions were a result of our behavior triggered by our addictions. The world may forgive, but it never forgets. A person will be applauded for facing their addictions, yet still be condemned for allowing that addiction to fester. The good we do by getting clean and sober will be overshadowed by whatever mistakes we make before doing so.

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” – William Shakespeare

Waiting for disaster to strike is not a good strategy, and a good strategy is exactly what is needed to beat addiction. You will not grow out of it. You will not get tired of it. You will not wake one day and say, “that’s enough of that.” You will have moments of clarity when these thoughts have an opportunity to grow into cohesive action. Those moments need to be nurtured, held on to with everything you have and not allowed to escape back into the abyss of the addicted mind. Recovery from addiction is absolutely possible, and one of the many advantages of living a sober life is having the ability to face everything life throws at us with no need for excuses.

The post No Need for Excuses appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

Sometimes it’s the characters that need to be watched Fire departments are full of characters; it takes different personality traits to put an effective fire force together. Engine company firefighters like to go in, be confined, feel the heat and get dirty. Your ladder company consists of firefighters who like to break things, climb ladders, break things and then break more things. And get dirty. Oh, they like going into burning buildings too, but usually with axes and poles rather than those cumbersome lines full of charged water. An EMS division is full of people people; the ones who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. They possess the gift of gab, and use those skills to find out what is wrong with their patients, and how best to help them.
We know and appreciate our differences, and understand that it takes a team consisting of unique qualities to be the best at what we do. Some of us are quiet, others loud and obnoxious. What a lot of us don’t understand is that addictive tendencies exist in people from all walks of life, and all kinds of personalities. Sometimes, those addictive tendencies turn into full blown drug addiction or alcoholism.
It’s not always the quiet ones you have to watch out for, far too often the people who appear to need help the least need it the most. Boisterous behavior is often used to cover up feelings of inadequacy which can lead to habits formed to combat those feelings. People with strong personalities are masters of illusion; the people they surround themselves with are unwilling to crack the shell of a seemingly in control person.

Firefighters pride themselves on the closeness of the group, but truth be told, when it comes to confronting somebody we think might be having problems with drugs and or alcohol, we are no better than anybody else.

It is uncomfortable, and easy to ignore, often until it is too late.

Struggling with an addiction is a lonely business for most. The very nature of whichever beast that causes the problem is to isolate, control and destroy. The person under attack, and that is exactly what I believe an addiction is, a relentless attack on a person’s pride, confidence and independence will withdraw, but not necessarily in the traditional ways.

A happy-go-lucky person joking through life, rolling with the punches and living hard and fast may very well be just what it appears, but if you suspect that person is not what they appear to be trust your instinct and try and peel back some layers. We pride ourselves on our ability to save lives under horrific circumstances, to keep our cool when things get hot. We fail miserably when it comes to saving our own. We sense when things are not right with one of our own but choose to ignore all but the most obvious signs of a problem with drugs and alcohol.

Our society glorifies the drug culture. It’s socially acceptable to be part of the party, and even better to be the life of the party. Most people are able to participate in the party safely. Many cannot, and many more choose to withdraw completely from the party so that they can drink and use other substances the way they want to without exposure to the group.

When I struggled with my own demons nobody knew. They may have suspected, but even those closest to me were unaware of the depth of my problem. My secret was suffocating, and keeping it was killing me just as effectively as the substances that I introduced into my system in obscene amounts were. Had somebody confronted me, I would have acted annoyed, and deflected any questions masterfully. But those questions would have stayed with me, and nagged me, and opened me to thinking that maybe my secret wasn’t so secret after all.

If you suspect that a friend, coworker or family member is in trouble, don’t hesitate to open some constructive dialogue with them.

Getting them to think that another human being actually is concerned opens them to possibility of confronting their problem, and maybe, just maybe getting rid of it.

The post Sometimes It’s the Characters That Need to Be Watched appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse

Firefighters are fortunate; we have two families, one at home and one at work. But when our drinking gets out of control will either family be there for us?
Maybe they will, and maybe they won’t. Most of how our families react to our problem depends on how we have treated them. Do we nurture relationships or shy away? Are we honest with the people in our lives or is there a secret existence that they know nothing about, but probably suspect? Do we project the image of a person willing to listen and accept help?
Probably not.

Firefighters have strong personalities. People with alcoholic tendencies are masters of self delusion. Combine the two and you have a delusional person who knows everything and can handle his or anybody else’s problems just fine, thank you very much! By the time I got around to facing my drinking problem I had established, without the shadow of a doubt that I would not listen, that I already knew everything there was to know about everything, and that I would never allow myself to be helped. I was the helper, not the other way around. I fixed the broken, put the fires out and made things right.

Period.

My two families let me be the maker of the disaster I was creating not because they did not care, or did not see a problem developing; rather they knew from experience that their well meaning suggestions would be completely ignored. There were moments that I might have been reached, but those moments were scarce, and unpredictable. I remember waiting for somebody to save me from myself, and wondering why nobody would. Then, I would come to my senses, have another drink and convince myself that I didn’t need anybody anyway.

When I realized that I was on my own because of my behavior I decided that I was the person who needed to come to the rescue. I was a firefighter after all, and that is what we do. The rescue itself was fairly simple; all I had to do was open myself to the possibility that maybe, just maybe having people in my life who understood what I was going through might be a good idea. The question was which people?
Both of my families had been trained to ignore me and my self-destructive ways. We had an Employee Assistance Program and a truly great guy running it, but I didn’t want him to know that I needed help. (alcoholic thinking is called “stinking thinking” for a reason) I had a few friends outside the job but didn’t want to bother them. Again I thought I was on my own.

I remembered a family member from years ago who had some mental health issues, and the psychiatrist I found to help her. What the heck, I figured and made the call. It wasn’t long after that that I found myself at an AA meeting, a day sober and looking forward to what was next.

People have called me thick headed, and I did my best to live up to the moniker. Having two families turned out to be not enough. I established a third; the people in recovery and those who treat them. What I learned is vitally important for my continuing recovery; there is always support. I had to reach out in a different direction than most, but what I needed was there, it always had been. It was present at home, and at work but for some unknown reason I needed more. Thankfully, what I needed was waiting.
Struggling with alcohol or other addictive behaviors is life as usual for far too many people.

Once the addiction gets us it is nearly impossible to get rid of it on our own. Beginning the process, however, is something each and every one of us can do.

The post The Third Family appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Captain Michael Morse, retired, Providence Fire Department

Once a year I get to celebrate my birthday, cake and all, with people like me; people who understand exactly how great it is to be sober for another year.
 
At first I thought the practice of celebrating the day we had our last drink a little strange; after all the act of quitting in and of itself was probably due to some self-made crisis better forgotten. I entered my 12 Step Program reluctantly to say the least, thinking that fun for me was through, life was over and I was stuck with a bunch of boring, damaged people. The thought of celebrating the end of the party was simply inconceivable.

Little did I know the party had just gotten started. Celebrating another year in sobriety means far more to me than celebrating the day I was born. I had no choice in that, it just happened. It’s not as if I earned all the adulation, all I did was appear. Maybe we should consider honoring our mothers on our birthday, after all, they did all the work, and the more kids they have the more days we could thank them!

Now, I start looking forward to my anniversary/birthday weeks before the actual event. The coin that will be presented is one of my most cherished gifts. I have sixteen of them now, and another on the way, God willing on September 23rd! Not only will I get a coin, a card that everybody in the group signs with a nice, personal message and a cake of my choosing (this year Nancy has promised to make a Carrot Cake because she knows I’m cutting down on sweets and eating more vegetables) but I will also be able to celebrate another day without the burden of alcohol weighing me down.

I guess you could say that those of us in a program get to celebrate every day, and that is exactly how we approach our lives now that we discovered how good things in sobriety are.

A life beyond our wildest dreams is promised by the old timers who have walked in our shoes, and they deliver on that promise every day we live without drinking.

The strength of the group is what keeps many of us away from the things that brought us to it in the first place. A lot of us have lost friends and family during our descent, and having people in our lives that care, even if just a little, makes a big difference when outside of a meeting, or treatment. Life on our own is when we are most vulnerable, when the voices in our head are loudest, when the choices we make more difficult. Without people to be accountable to it is far easier to fall out of sobriety. Not wanting to let even casual acquaintances down has kept countless people on the road to recovery.

On my anniversary I will be the chairperson for our meeting. I’ll have the floor for fifteen or twenty minutes, more if needed and will tell my story. The first few times were five minute jobs, but as time progressed, and I became more comfortable with my sobriety the story I told became more honest, and more complex. I’ll tell those assembled how it was, what I did to change it, and how it is. Simple stuff, easy to follow, difficult to mess up.

In telling our stories we share the strength and hope that we have found in sobriety with people new to the program while reminding ourselves just how fortunate we are to have survived ourselves. When I share my story I never hold back. The person I am describing no longer exists, a more reasonable, optimistic and less self-destructive one took his place.
By telling how it was I am able to exorcise some demons from my past. Remembering how I changed my ways reminds me that I need to stay vigilant, and how. Best of all, telling the people in my group how it is I am able to express my profound gratitude to them for sharing in my recovery as living proof that the program works.

The best gift I have ever received on my birthday is the opportunity to inspire another person who is suffering.

I will never know for certain if my story helped anybody find sobriety, but if I were to guess, I would guess that my story worked the exact same way that everybody else’s did for me.

Miraculously.

The post Celebrating the Opportunity to Inspire Sobriety appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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Going back to school to increase your job skillset or to gain certification can help to improve your earning potential, build a stronger network of positive peers, and improve your employability. But depending on how you are doing in recovery, it can be a great form of structure, providing you with forward momentum, or it could be a stressor that proves to be too much, too soon.

If you are considering heading back to school this semester or next, here are some things to consider before and during that process:

  1. Consider different options. You may be focusing on one specific school program, one job track, or one industry, but what if there is an even better fit out there for you? Rather than getting stuck on one thing, consider all the possibilities. Do a little research and find out more about related fields – you may be surprised at what is out there.
  1. Talk to someone who is doing the job. If you have a few potential job interests, try to find some people who are actually doing those jobs. You can connect with them by talking about it at meetings, posting on your social media, and/or emailing local people at their place of business.
  1. Try volunteering first. If you find a job you like, try to connect with a volunteer opportunity or internship in that field. Not only will you get a chance to see firsthand what it is like to work in that field, but you may get to hear some interesting insights about different positions and the true day-to-day experience of people on the job.
  1. Investigate before you begin. When you decide which path you would like to pursue, do some research into some of the different school programs that are available. Can you do them part-time, or do they require that you take a certain schedule of classes in a prescribed time period? What are the independent study and internship requirements? How much will it cost? Do you qualify for scholarships or financial aid? It is important to understand fully what you are getting into in terms of cost and time before you begin. Then, have a plan to see it through to completion.
  1. Take it slow. Though you may want to move as quickly as you can and get the degree so you can get started on your career, it may be better to take it slow. Class topics may be unexpectedly difficult, homework can pile up, and even under the best of circumstances, the workload can be taxing. In early recovery, a fair amount of time must remain heavily focused on treatment and support groups, and with all the emotional and physical healing that must take place to truly feel grounded in recovery, a fulltime, intensive school program may be too much.
  1. Keep checking in. No matter what educational path you choose, it is important to keep an emotional and energy level “thermometer” in place. That is, keep checking in with yourself about how you are feeling. Have someone you trust who is willing to check in with you and provide you with an objective view of how well you are managing the stress levels.
  1. Have someone you can talk to. A good friend whom you can talk to about things in recovery and at school can help you to feel balanced and give you a place to vent. A therapist/life coach may be an even better solution for this, however, as they can help you to keep an eye out for potential stressors and assist you in navigating situations as they arise.
  1. Create a schedule. Keep and use an active calendar by first writing in all therapy/recovery appointments and sessions, and then adding in all school-related activities. If you find, however, that a required class will conflict with a standing appointment or therapy session, do what you can to reschedule the recovery or therapy session rather than canceling it.
  1. Make recovery a priority. Above all, recovery must remain your top priority, and if for any reason school begins to get in the way of that, then it may be time to reevaluate and rearrange your class schedule or education plan. If you cannot stay sober, then getting a degree and moving forward in your chosen career will be impossible.
  1. Know when to take a break. If managing the requirements of school and recovery begin to mount, you do not necessarily have to abandon the whole plan if cutting back on classes is not an option. You can opt instead to take a break, especially if you are facing an acute stressor in life and need time to regroup and reconnect with your recovery.

Is school the plan for you this year in recovery, or do you have a certification or degree program on the horizon?

The post Headed Back to School in Addiction Recovery? 10 Things You Need to Know appeared first on American Addiction Centers.

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