Recovery, Like Life, is a Circle

Recovery, Like Life, is a Circle

Thank heavens for Rose. If it weren’t for her, my blog would be nonexistent. I just have not felt like writing in quite some time (which is super sad and probably means there is internal stuff I need to work on). Rose’s post speaks to me so much right now – I feel like the same stuff pops up in recovery and life. Maybe it’s time to listen?

By Rose Lockinger

I was told an analogy when I was first getting sober that made sense at the time but only in a theoretical sort of way. Someone told me that our character defects are like a Whack-a-Mole game. When you hit one down another will pop up. This person went on to say that we go around whacking them down only to have old ones that we thought we had already dealt with pop back up again, and this goes on for the rest of our lives or until we have thoroughly learned the lesson that we need to learn.

I remember thinking at the time, ‘yea that sounds about right’, but I didn’t really understand exactly what this meant. I didn’t realize that it meant that I would be continuously faced with half-Déjà vu moments, where after dealing with some issue or concern of mine, I’d realize, I’ve been here before, but just from a different angle.

That is one of the things that I’ve come to realize during the course of my sobriety; that recovery, like life, is a circle of lessons that come back around to teach you again and again.  It also is a venture down the road of progress not perfection early on in sobriety this was a mind boggling concept.  It can still be challenging at times as I try to grasp control of things I cannot control.  

circleAt first, I remember this was kind of daunting and I’d get a little upset because each time a lesson came back around, it’d remind me that I still had a lot further to go in my spiritual quest for wholeness. I’d get annoyed because I’d think, ‘didn’t I already learn this lesson’ and I’d also get down on myself for not being further along, whatever that means. But as time progressed I realized that this was the wrong way of looking at the circle of lessons that recovery brings and that I should be grateful that I even have the opportunity to learn and grow today.

I just want to say flat out that this is my opinion and I am in no way, shape or form a guru of anything, but I believe that the lessons of recovery come in circular waves for two reasons: to remind us of lessons we are beginning to forget and to show us more of the picture that we couldn’t see the first time around.

My ego has a tendency to rebuild itself and when it does, I can begin to unlearn some of the hard-won truths from the past. For instance, I learned fairly early on that humility and honesty were essential for my recovery. This lesson was hammered into me and given the state I was in when I first came in, being humble and honest weren’t really that difficult. I felt empty on the inside and felt as if I had nothing to offer in the way of staying sober, so I was open to learning and open to listening.

 

As time went on and I started to feel better there were times when I started to feel like I got this, or I’d start to think that I had done most of this on my own. When this started to happen I would notice that certain aspects of my life began getting out of whack. I would say something that I immediately regretted or I just wouldn’t feel the calm that I had when I was being honest and humble, and so as life has a propensity of doing, it showed me how I’d gotten off the path and gave me a nice little reminder to get back on the path.

It is interesting because when you start to live a spiritually based life, depending on God for guidance, you can be both aware and unaware that you are moving away from him. There is always a little nagging feeling that you might be moving in the wrong direction and if you’re lucky and open to life showing you the way, then this nagging voice will eventually become overwhelming and you know that you have to change course. Since I am human and prone to error, this will continue for the rest of my life, and the circle of lessons will continue to come back around whenever I start to lose my way.

However, life lessons don’t always come back around in order to remind us of something that we forgot. They sometimes come back around in order to show us a deeper meaning or give us a better understanding.

Most people that I meet seem to struggle in one particular area of their life, more so than in others. I would say that a good portion of the people that I have met in recovery struggle with relationships in one form or another and to watch them over the years repeat the same mistakes over and over again seems like madness, but it isn’t really. If you take the time to talk to them, you’ll realize that they learn something new from each of these repeated situations, something that they couldn’t have learned the first time.

I remember I once heard a woman say in a meeting, ‘If I knew everything that I know about myself now when I first got sober, I think my brain would have exploded.’ I remember that I laughed when she said this because it is so true. God and life will not give us more then we can handle and so we experience a repetition of lessons in order to understand more and see further inside of ourselves.

Today when I realize that I am experiencing a lesson that I may have already learned, I try my best to just go with it. I try not to resist or think ‘poor me, why is this happening again.’ I am not always capable of doing this, but I find that when I allow life to unfold in the way that it is meant to and I stay open to whatever lessons I am being shown, I tend to be happier and I tend to be able to move on quicker.

*******************************************************************

rlRose 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. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

It’s Not Just About Accepting, It’s About Letting Go and Moving Forward

It’s Not Just About Accepting, It’s About Letting Go and Moving Forward

A HUGE reason I started this blog was to connect with other women. I was thrilled when my last blog post helped me do just that! Rose contacted me via my Facebook page and we discovered we were a part of the same recovery community (Sober Mommies – highly recommend that group!!!). Anyway, she asked if I ever took guest submissions and I immediately said yes. I’m so happy to share her words here – her message is so important. If you have a story you’d like to share about motherhood, sobriety, or both, shoot me an email: smccallmph at gmail dot com (just to keep scary InterWebs robots from spamming me).

******************************************************************* 

When I first got sober I was told that acceptance was the key. I was told the only way forward was through the acceptance of my alcoholism, and that once this was accomplished I would then be able to find the life I had always wanted.

I didn’t really have a problem with this idea, because by the time I finally got sober I was ready to accept my alcoholism. I had spent 18 years or so attempting to find other ways around this diagnosis, but came up empty, and so arriving at the last house on the block I decided that it was probably high time I surrendered.  You see, I knew that surrender would provide me with peace it would allow me to finally just be in the moment

Through accepting the fact that I was an alcoholic and accepting what this truly meant, I was then able to work the Steps and seek therapy, which allowed me to accept other things in my life as well.

I was able to accept a lot of the trauma that had occurred during my childhood and I was able to accept the fact that I was not perfect. This one was huge for me because for so long I was driven by this idea that I had to perfect or else I would be unlovable. When I began to accept my imperfections, I began to learn how to love myself for who I was.

letitgo

Most importantly through all of this, I learned the difference between acceptance and letting go. While the two may seem similar, they produce very different results in a person.  What I mean by this is that I learned that just accepting something is not enough, but there must be action that goes along with the acceptance—that action being letting going and moving forward. I can give you a good example from my life in order to illustrate this point.

One of the most difficult things that I have had to deal with in my sobriety has been my relationship with my ex-husband. For the first part of my sobriety, I was a thousand miles away from him, and so I didn’t really have to deal with him on a regular basis. Being away from the situation allowed me to have a sort of faux-acceptance of it because I accepted the fact that he was who he was, and I accepted the fact that he wasn’t apt to change anytime soon.

Since I didn’t have to engage with him that much, this form of acceptance suited my needs for the time and I could freely wash my hands of him, all under the guise that I had finally accepted the situation.  But then I moved back home and I learned that just accepting who he was, was not going to be sufficient for me to actually deal with him.

I began to really struggle with being home and every time that I had to talk with him or interact with him on any level, it would bring about a hate in me I didn’t know I still had. I would relive the years we spent together and become overwhelmed by these feelings, to the point where I just didn’t know what to do. I mean, I thought I had accepted that he wasn’t going to change, so why did I feel so terrible about it?

What I discovered is that while I had indeed accepted some parts of the situation, I had not let it go and moved forward. I had only accepted that the situation was terrible and never thought that it could possibly get better. By doing this I continued to cling to my feelings and let them drive me and because of this, I was completely unable to move forward.

So like with most things in my sobriety, I eventually arrived at a point where the pain was great enough and I had no choice but to surrender it…I mean really surrender it, and ask God to do with it what he will. And then something amazing happened. I actually began to forgive my ex-husband and in turn I actually began to let go of the situation.

I no longer felt angry after I had to deal with him and I no longer hated him when I found out that he was saying negative things about me to our children. I just simply let it go and decided that I was going to move forward regardless of what was going on.

This happened only recently, like within the past few months, and let me tell you – once again my life has been transformed. I no longer carry around this heavy burden and in this particular case; I no longer suffer from the delusion that I can control it.

Acceptance is in a sense the act of relinquishing control, but once control is given up there must be an action that follows in order for it to truly take hold. For me, the action is that I have to mentally and physically let go of whatever it is that I am holding on to, and then ask God how he would like me to proceed.

I have found that often times, God’s plans for me far exceed my own, but my ability to trust this may waver a lot of the time. Often, I still want to hold on desperately to things that I should let go of, and it is really only through pain that I find I am able to do so. But like the whole situation with my ex-husband, as long as I trust God, continue to stay sober, and try my best on a daily basis, I know that I will be able to let go of whatever comes my way, in due time.

rlRose 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. She is currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing and you can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram.

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

Sobriety Birthday Sounds Beautiful

Today’s post is a two-fer. There are two things I wanted to write about and they actually meld together quite nicely.

SobrietyBirthdaySoundsBeautifulYouAreAGoodMamadotcom

Número UNO: Today marks seven years of sobriety for me. 2556 days since the last drop of alcohol passed my lips. It’s freaking amazing. I wrote about it on my sister-from-another-mister blog Sober Mommies. Pretty please head over there and check out my rumblings about this accomplishment! I’m uber proud of myself. Go read my post here:

http://sobermommies.com/2013/09/10/no-7-year-itch-here/

Welcome back! Because I know you went and read my happy birthday post, right? RIGHT? Ok!

Número DOS: it’s Twisted MixTape Tuesday, which is my new favorite thing. You have to check out Jen at My Skewed View; she always puts together a great mix with songs I’ve never heard of. Plus you can check out tons of other bloggers having fun with music.

So what does Twisted MixTape Tuesday have to do with my sobriety birthday? Jen gave us the theme of beautiful songs, which we get to interpret any way we like. My idea of beautiful songs are ones that tug at my heart strings and make me happysad. You know, where you feel an ache in your chest but still enjoy the beauty of the lyrics and music? And you kind of enjoy the ache? Only me that feels this?

Anyway, that’s how my recovery birthday makes me feel. I’m so happy for what I’ve accomplished, but get a little melancholy thinking of all the damage my alcoholism/compulsive behaviors have caused. So, here goes…

Top 5 beautiful songs that make me happysad, but will probably depress the shit out of everyone else but hey who cares, it’s my sobriety birthday!!!!

1. Babylon by David Gray
This song. The weekend I quit drinking, I was pretty low. Getting raped while blacked out will do that to you. As I was driving home, this song randomly popped up on my iPod and I felt compelled to LISTEN to the lyrics. My Higher Power was speaking to me through this song:
If you want it/Come and get it/Crying out loud/The love that I was/Giving you was/Never in doubt/Let go of your heart/Let go of your head/And feel it now

2. I Wish I Was the Moon by Neko Case
Gorgeous, just gorgeous emotion evoked by this song. This is the tired part of me looking back and going, why didn’t you fix your shit sooner?

3. Good Night, Bad Morning by The Kills
Pretty much sums up my drinking days: nights that I thought were good, followed by mornings full of puke and regret. So glad that’s not my life anymore. This song is the epitome of happysad for me.

4. Let Go by Frou Frou
Learning to live in sobriety is hard. And scary. Especially taking that first step. Imogen Heap’s gorgeous voice helps.

5. Everything In Time (London) by No Doubt
I love Gwen Stefani. These lyrics defined me for so long: I’m feeling lost inside the low. Lost no more. But I still love this song.

And because it’s my 7th birthday, 2 bonus songs! The ones don’t make me happysad. They make me feel joyous.

6. Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini
Such a happy, hopeful little ditty. Bonus: PM is from my hometown. Portland represent!

7. Thrash Unreal by Against Me!
Ok, so this doesn’t make me 100% joyous, but I do thank my lucky stars that I’m not going to be the woman at the end of the song, trying to pick up young dudes with my old-ass drunk self.

My name is Sara and I am an alcoholic

My name is Sara and I am an alcoholic

When I say those 9 words, I’m met with a mélange of reactions depending on who the receiver is: disbelief, respect, indifference, amazement, suspicion, joy, disapproval, surprise. I’ve had people argue with me about whether I was an alcoholic or not (that’s a really weird position to argue: “No, I swear, I really am an alcoholic. I promise. Pinky swear.”). I’ve been told that I was too young/too pretty/too healthy to be an alcoholic, or that I didn’t really have a problem with drinking.

I haven’t drunk alcohol since 10 September, 2006. I was 24 when I decided it wasn’t healthy for me to drink alcohol. To be honest, that was a pretty late age for me to make the decision; I, and most everyone who loved me, had identified that I had a problem with alcohol years earlier. I have been sober from alcohol for almost 7 years, but have been sober from compulsive thinking for less than a year. What does that even mean? A little background, then on to making sense…

Me, from the drinking days. The makeup, hair and clothes hid an unhappy girl - even from myself.
Me, from the drinking days. The makeup, hair and clothes hid an unhappy girl – even from myself.

I come from a long line of alcoholics, with me having the dubious distinction of being at least the 4th generation to be afflicted with this disease. I was 13 when I had my first drunken blackout, 15 when we learned my estranged, paternal grandfather had killed himself (believed to be partly due to alcoholism), 16 when my father got sober from alcohol, and 24 when being raped by a good friend while blacked out finally convinced me that alcohol wasn’t right for me.

I used many tools in early recovery. At first, I was just dry – meaning all I did was stop drinking. I didn’t address any of the underlying issues. Then I went into outpatient rehab, where I did individual counseling, group counseling and alcohol education classes. I also went on depression medication for the first time, which was a game-changer for me. I just felt more even, less prone to exhausting highs and (more often) lows. After a while (and an insurance change), I stopped my treatment as I felt I was “cured.” I knew I couldn’t drink anymore, but I felt I had the underlying issues under control. Looking back, I can identify so many ways I still acted compulsively (meaning I reacted to situations without thinking about consequences), even though I thought I was “fixed.”

Fast forward to last summer when more bad decisions threatened to end my marriage, my sobriety and even my life. I found myself at another rock-bottom; this one was even lower than the rape that triggered my sobriety. I was convinced that my son deserved a better mother than me; my own selfish desire to see him grow up protected me from following through on my suicide ideation. For the first time in years, I found myself wanting to drink, wanting to escape the agony I was living with. I was terrified, and thank God I confided these fears in a trusted friend. She made me promise to go to a meeting and get in to see my doctor. I found a local meeting that wasn’t too scary and got back on depression medication. My husband and I started some couples counseling. I started seeing another counselor who right from the start helped me define the real underlying issues behind my drinking and compulsive thinking and walked with me as I began the hard work of healing. I attended group therapy that was focused on setting healthy boundaries in relationships. I engaged with an online 12-step group that did meetings through emails and eventually found a sponsor.

Since moving from England, the only therapy I’ve been able to maintain is the online 12-step group and my sponsor, but it has been a lifesaver. I recently completed Step 7 and continually work on managing my character defects. After all that hard work, I see so many benefits. I respond to the world and situations rather than react mindlessly. I’m more thoughtful in everything I do. I find joy in the simple life. I worry less about what other people think and more about what I think. I even find that I’m starting to like myself and who I’m becoming.

blue eyes
I’m blessed to be sober enough to see through his eyes

Also, I’ve become a better mother. I’ve become gentler with myself when I don’t do it perfectly. I’ve learned to slow down and see the world from my son’s perspective; the world is a fascinating place when viewed through a toddler’s eyes! I have more patience with him, and with myself. Our relationship has grown closer, even though we weaned from breastfeeding during this time. And I pray fervently and frequently that I have broken the cycle – that his father and I can teach him healthy habits about alcohol and help him avoid the pain of this disease.

So why write about this? I hope my story can help another mother. Many women don’t talk about their alcoholism. The stereotype of the alcoholic is the angry, middle-aged man, the (male) hobo on the street with the brown paper bag. If a woman has a problem with alcohol, she is a “party girl” or a “lush.” I tattooed my sobriety date on my left wrist – I’m as proud of that day as I am the day my son was born. I want women to feel empowered to seek help when they need it. When a woman says, I have a problem, I want her to be greeted with, “How can I help?” rather than “You’re a young woman; you can’t be an alcoholic.” Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate – it accepts all genders, races, sexualities, ages, socioeconomic statuses.

If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, I encourage you to find support. A 12 step program is working for me, but there are many avenues for treatment.

Find help:
Alcoholics Anonymous
Al-Anon
Adult Children of Alcoholics
Secular Organizations for Sobriety
SMART Recovery
Women for Sobriety
Dual Recovery Anonymous
SoberMommies

Find information:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Centers for Disease Control – Alcohol & Public Health