Perspective and Growth

I have been abusing alcohol for about 15 years now.  I first recognized I had a problem with alcohol about 10 years ago, and have been chasing the brass ring of successful recovery from my alcohol addiction for the past 7 years or so.

It has been a long road, and I have learned much along the way.  There is still so much more I need to learn though, as I still struggle not only with figuring out how to live happily in sobriety, but just to live in sobriety in general.  (Baby steps : )

I am a determined soul however,  and over these past 7 years I’ve recognized time and time again how sick and tired I was of the downward spiral alcohol was creating in my life.  I knew I wanted to stop this madness and chaos that alcohol added to my life.  I decided I wanted to start living my life as my best self.  My best self does not drink, because alcohol does me much more harm than good.  The risks clearly outweigh the benefits.

So what have I learned so far???  The following are not original ideas…. they are valuable pieces of information I picked up through books, pod casts, blogs, face to face addiction recovery meetings, and all the other sources I have sought out to help me overcome this terrible addiction to alcohol I have.  So…..here it goes:

  1.  you have to want to stop drinking for yourself.  Someone else can call attention to your problematic drinking and plant a seed, but at the end of the day you are the one who needs to water the seed and figure out your own reasons to stop drinking.
  2. It’s hard.  For me, quitting drinking has been the most difficult and challenging action I have ever taken on.  Harder than grad school, harder than natural child birth, harder than training for and running a 1/2 marathon…all big goals I set for myself and succeeded in…  Looking back now, these big goals have taken no where near the amount of endurance, perseverance and energy I’ve put in to my goal to free myself from this alcohol addiction.  I will continue, because I know it will be worth it for myself in the end.
  3. You can’t do it alone.  …not if you want to have success long term.  This is something I learned in October of 2015, when, after years of brief and exhausting attempts of trying to quit drinking alcohol, and getting ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’, I came to understand what people living in successful long term recovery were saying all along…. you really can’t do it alone.  Although it is 2 1/2 years later and I am still figuring out how to successfully remove alcohol from my life, understanding this key concept created a huge forward movement shift in how I approach achieving my goal of long term recovery.
  4. It takes more than just your will power to not drink.  Will power can get the ball rolling for you, but it only lasts so long.  It is the shift in your views and mindset about alcohol, and finding how abstinence benefits you, (instead of all that you will miss from not drinking), that will be key to carry you into successful long term recovery.
  5. Be kind to yourself.  Don’t beat yourself up if you drink day after day even though you say you won’t.  If you want to give up alcohol because you think it is in your best interest, keep that intention.  If you stay true to your intention than events will follow to give you strength and help.  Even if it seems slow going, you will reap small victories along the way.  Celebrate and focus on the victories.
  6. Don’t give up on yourself or your goals.   (psst… goals can shift and change…stay true to yourself and be flexible too!)
  7. Seek out information.  For me it all started with the famous google of ‘How do I know if I’m an alcoholic?’ …. Knowledge is power.  The more you know the more you will understand what works for you, what doesn’t work for you, what you want to learn more about.  You will discover things about addiction you didn’t know before.  This will help you.  (For instance, I learned that people who pick their skin  (me), had a much higher tendency for substance abuse than people who don’t.  WOW… I had no idea!!!  I’m not saying that little tidbit of information pushed me through the door of recovery, but it did help me feel like there were other people out there like me, and I felt less alone and isolated in my addiction.  –It was also reassuring and comforting to know I wasn’t the only one who picks their chicken arm skin when they are anxious, board, or upset!)
  8. Focus on the similarities, not the differences. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned that is applicable in all aspects of my life.  I remember going to some AA meetings in the beginning , reading some recovery book, reading stories on line, and thinking, ‘these people are nothing like me, how can they help me?’  But then, over time, I did see similarities.  I saw similar struggles, similar thoughts.  I realized that, for the most part, all living beings want the same things, to feel peace and happiness.  We all come from unique upbringings and life situations, but at the end of the day our goals are not that different, and we all really can teach and learn from each other.

So this is an off the cuff list of some valuable concepts that I’ve learned thus far on this journey to my best self.  I’m sure there are many more, but this is enough for now.  Day 5 now my friends.

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Blackouts

Blackouts….ah yes, a super un-fun occurance that happens after you drink a lot of alcohol.  …or, after many years of chronic alcohol abuse, drinking just a little bit of alcohol, depending on how your body decides to process it on any particular evening.

I was having blackouts as a young 20-something before I even knew what blackouts were, or even recognized that I had a problem with the way I drank alcohol.  I remember waking up in my apartment after a night out at the bars with my friends, looking down at myself and feeling so –happy and satisfied— that I was neatly tucked into my bed w/ my pjs on.  And when I couldn’t recall where I had put my driver’s license and money at the end of the night, I had to look no further than over to my bureau to see that they were neatly stacked together, next to any jewelry I wore the night before.  …‘I’m such a good drunk’ I thought to myself amusingly.

Fast forward 15 years when drinking almost every night by myself, but with my family around me, was the norm for a long time.  There were too many times when I would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t remember what pjs I put on my children before bed.  Did I brush their teeth??? Of course I did…. It just took me a long time and lots of mental effort to remember, and even when I did the memories were fuzzy.  What did I watch before I went to bed… I usually couldn’t recall, and if I did, again, it usually took a lot of effort on my part to recreate the night before from the time where I did remember watching (earlier in the evening), to the time where I knew I switched the channel (or another program came on), but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what it was.

The most troubling blackouts were the numerous times my husband and I would have a conversation while I was drinking and the next day I wouldn’t remember any of it.  I would bring up a topic the next day and he would say to me, ‘don’t you remember we talked about that last night?’ ….no, I don’t.   These times were not fun nor funny.  I tried my best more than once to roller skate around a conversation if I had been caught not remembering it from the night before.  Often times I just didn’t bring up things during the day that I could have possibly talked about with him when I was drinking for fear that I would be caught in yet another blackout moment.  I will be honest with you…. this, and my drinking habits, took a very serious tool on our relationship.  Not fun.

And even as I sit here typing this entry… 3 days without a drink, I am crazy addicted to alcohol enough to think that maybe that won’t happen to me again….if I’m just careful and don’t go overboard.

I am grateful for understanding that alcohol addiction tricks your true mind into thinking ‘it won’t happen again,’ when you know it will.  I learned this the hard way… after numerous true and dedicated tries to control or abstain from drinking.  Ultimately they have all failed in the end, but not all is lost…. I learned from each relapse, and each time I try this journey of recovery from alcohol addiction I emerge a stronger and more wise person. … Here is to a successful day 4 tomorrow.