Sobriety is NOT that simple

Sobriety is NOT that simple

A huge part of my continued sobriety is reading. I love books. I love learning. My name is Sara, and I am a nerd. I also like inspirational quotes and passages. I get daily emails with motivational wordstuffs around sobriety. Sometimes, they are so damn on-the-spot that I feel like the writer is spying on me (or is that my anxiety?). Today was not the case. Today, my motivational wordstuffs pissed me off:

In the Sixth and Seventh Steps of the program, we become willing to let go of our defects of character – issues, behaviors, old feelings, unresolved grief, and beliefs that are blocking us from the joy that is ours. Then we ask God to take them from us.

Isn’t that simple? We don’t have to contort ourselves to make ourselves change. We don’t have to force change. For once, we don’t have to “do it ourselves.” All we have to do is strive for an attitude of willingness and humility. All we have to do is ask God for what we want and need, and then trust God to do for us that which we cannot do and do not have to do for ourselves.

We do not have to watch with bated breath for how and when we shall change. This is not a self-help program. In this miraculous and effective program that has brought about recovery and change for millions, we become changed by working the Steps.

All emphasis added was mine. The part in red was what, well, made me see red. So you get to see it in red too! #sharedexperiences

Sobriety is not that simple * youareagoodmama.com

ANYWAY, I hate the assertion that sobriety is simple. IT IS NOT. It is 100% not simple and easy to change a behavior that that is compulsive, persistent, and results in brain changes that challenge your own self-control. That’s why so many addicts relapse, and why there are so many different pathways to sobriety. If sobriety were easy and simple, everyone would do it the first time!

Compared to stories I’ve heard, my road to sobriety was relatively easy. I haven’t relapsed since my last drink on September 9, 2006. I haven’t been incarcerated. I haven’t lost my children, my spouse, my family members, or friends due to drinking. I never lost my job or became homeless. I never had to be hospitalized for health reasons related to drinking or detoxing. I don’t list all these things to brag – I’m grateful that these didn’t happen to me because I understand how easily they could have.

Sobriety isn't easy * youareagoodmama.com
I have all this, thanks to the hard work of sobriety

However, it’s not smart to compare your sobriety journey to that of others’. My sobriety journey was not easy, nor was it simple. Also, once I completed the sixth and seventh steps, I didn’t just sit back and let things happen. I continued to work. Instead of making snap decisions based on how I felt at the moment, I tried to consider all consequences that could occur (translation: I cared about how my actions affected others and didn’t just act on whim). I analyzed how I felt, and reached out for help from supportive people if those feelings were too big to handle on my own. Some might call that God working in my life. That’s fine. I choose to also respect the hard work I was doing.

I would also argue that recovery work IS a self-help program. I mean, if I wasn’t willing to admit I was an addict, or seek help, I’d still be blacking out from too many Jack & Cokes on the weekends. Self-help doesn’t have to mean you do it all on your own – it isn’t called All-By-Your-Self-help.

Sobriety isn't that simple * youareagoodmama.com

Motivational wordstuffs such as this mean well, but I feel they can be very damaging to recovery work. I could easily see someone thinking, my sobriety wasn’t simple, so what am I doing wrong? It’s dangerous to simplify sobriety work. It isn’t simple. It’s messy and complicated and hard and time-consuming. Is it worth it? YES. Absolutely. Just don’t call it simple.

www-youareagoodmama-com

I Could Be A Child Abuser

I Could Be A Child Abuser

Recently, I attended a work training about how to be a mandatory reporter of child/elder abuse. I’m a registered nurse and an employee of the county health department, so I must report any instance of child or elder abuse that I see or have reasonable suspicion of. It’s a duty I don’t take lightly and one I hope I never have to perform.

Inevitably, the topic of spanking comes up. Is it child abuse? Oregon law says no, unless it leaves marks and bruises on a child. Legal or not – my husband and I don’t spank our children. It was a conscious decision, as we don’t believe it’s an effective form of discipline. I was spanked a few times as a child. I don’t remember the circumstances or the lesson I was supposed to learn. All I remember is it hurting, and being afraid.

There’s another reason I don’t spank my children. It’s because one of my character defects is being reactive. I’m afraid that if I let myself spank them, I’d take it too far in anger. Possibly cross the line into child abuse. And THAT terrifies me beyond measure.

icouldbeachildabuser

 

My children inspire the most intense emotions in me. It’s like everything is amplified – love, fear, joy, and yes – anger. Nobody can make me see red faster than my sweet darlings. I’d wager most mothers would say something similar!

 

I think the similarities end in the reaction. Sometimes when my children upset me, my first instinct is to hurt them back. That’s my anger problem jumping in. It’s such a primal, toddler-like response: You hurt me, so I should hurt you back.

Except the problem (one of many) with that way of thinking is their perception. My boys wouldn’t be able to make the connection of, “Oh, I did that thing that made mommy mad, so she spanked me and I shouldn’t do it again.” They’d think, “Mommy just hit me and it really hurt.” They wouldn’t learn any lesson or change the behavior; all they’d know is mama got mad and hit.

It’s taken me awhile to recognize why I wanted to “hurt” my children in retaliation. First I had to get past the insane amount of guilt and shame (WTF is wrong with me for even thinking about hurting him???). And truthfully, I’m not completely past that. Especially because there have been times when I haven’t hurt my children, but I know I haven’t been as gentle as I should – grabbed an arm, picked them up roughly, etc. I still beat myself up about those times (which still happen – I’m definitely not perfect).

I’ve done enough work on myself that I can now notice the urge as it’s happening. Like today in Target, when Jack was throwing a fit and elbowed me in the throat four times (I now understand why people talk about throat-punching people/things they don’t like. That shit hurts). With every blow to the throat, I thought my heart was going to explode in anger. I could feel the urge to give an “eye for an eye” rising. I had to say the words, “Stop. Breathe.” in my head. I had to walk around, wailing toddler in my arms. I had to speak to him in a flat, calm voice (I’ve read that is a technique for helping children calm down, but forcing myself to speak in measured tones helps me calm down too). I told him he needed to calm down – the message was for me, too. And then when he smacked me again, I had to give him to his father and spend a few minutes alone. I was too far gone in the stress response (plus I legit felt like I was going to throw up because of the throat punches).

My “techniques” aren’t anything special. But, I’m proud of them. I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I used to either lash out in anger or hold it in, stewing about it until I eventually exploded. Sometimes I still hold things in for a little bit, but I’m pretty good about talking about them before it blows up into a bigger issue. I’m very much a work in progress.

Mamas, what do you do when your babes test your patience?