Tag Archives: recovery

Your Future is a Masterpiece: Take Action and Make It

If you are reading this, it is likely that you have or you are struggling with addiction.
It is a terrible struggle. I get it.

While active in my addictions, I chose to work in an environment that gave me access to the substances I wanted. I tended bar for years and could find much more than booze, and did.

I didn’t want face my life. I didn’t want to face my fears. I wanted to find love through alcohol, to be liked and accepted. Ultimately, alcohol gave me none of those things. Rather, it gave my solitude, self-loathing, and a boat-load of fear.

Of all the fears that grew while in addiction, it was the fear of facing life without alcohol that kept me working as a bartender. This smacks of irony and full-on stupidity; stupid because I knew the first step to finding an answer to my problems. My life changed for the better when I had felt enough pain and chose to take action.

Remove from your life the people, places, and things that you use to keep drinking.

What is more important? Living life as is because the fear of change is too great? Or shift your life out of the ruination of addiction because the masterpiece, that is your future, is begging to be written?

If you are struggling to find answers, shut off your old way of thinking. Find a new way. That discovery begins with being vulnerable, asking for help, open, willing to accept that help, transparent, honest with yourself and others, and above all, take action.

Now is the time. Reach out. Look within. Find the new you that you want to be.

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Why I Blog

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Mine is not a story with a “high bottom”

Mine is not a story that engenders sympathy

Mine is not a story that you would wish upon a loved one

Mine was a story of guilt

Guilt for drinking, blacking out, hurting, lying, deceiving

Guilt for letting loved ones down

for taking advantage of people

for damaging relationships faster than I could repair them

Mine was a story of selfishness, of ego, of blindness and uncaring

I drank to live

I drank to hide from fear

I drank to find love

Mine was a story of shame

Shame that disallowed me from looking in the mirror

Shame that had me feeling lesser than

feeling broken

Shame that taught me to hate myself

Mine was a story of fear

Fear that gripped me with self-limiting beliefs

that had me reminding myself daily of how little I was capable of

that had me never trying something new

that never let me grow

that always gave me nightmares

that never let me dream

Mine is now a story  of courage

to seek out challenges

to look within myself and to heal myself

Mine is now a story of strength

to be vulnerable and transparent

to ask for help

to be honest with myself

Mine is now a story of growth

through self-discovery

through freely giving of myself

through listening, learning and living

Mine is now a story of opportunity

of pride, of progress, of failure

but failing forward

always forward

I will never stop failing

but it will never

disallow me,

it will never stop me from

 moving forward

Grasping What is Important

“It’s so easy to dismiss the opportunity

to do something good

because you’re hoping

to do something great.” 

-Mark Bezos

There we all were, last night, gathered in the general area that I like best in the house, the kitchen/dining area. It was the day after Christmas here in the northeast of the U.S., New England if you must know, which for many, I believe, is a suburb of Boston. Just a few inches of dry, light fluffy snow, that was a welcome respite compared to the usual wet, heavy rubbish that routinely falls around these parts, fell on this day, a day late for some, to give the local landscape a proper winter feel. After the obligatory removal of crystallized flakes of water, no two of which are the same but who cares when it needs to be shoveled, we, being my girlfriend, her youngest son, our neighbors/his two cousins and yours truly had settled in for the evening.

The stove-top  in the aforementioned kitchen that I commandeered threw off a goodly sum of heat after I had just made the lot of us some Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate (a recipe that I shared in the comment section here ) and topped that tasty beverage with, something that perplexes me even as I type it, fat-free whipped cream. Two of those gathered protested being served any such concoction but being of the fairer sex they could not resist the home-spun magic that is the manifestation of my culinary skills, or something like that. It was a winner and all present rejoiced.

One of the seemingly innumerous new iterations of Monopoly sat on the dining table entertaining the other four while I managed my post in the galley, a post that I relish and take pride in maintaining. After the hot chocolate had been enjoyed by all, nursed and slurped by some through a straw to finish the last cooled ounce (not me, this time), maple-flavored bacon was placed in the oven to faintly sizzle and warm the cockles of my heart with its aroma  whilst I prepared dough for a pizza to be noshed on by the younger and bemoaned by the older kids (me and my girlfriend). Pizza unadorned with chunks of mapley-salty bacon is apparently, by the standards of the ruling class, menu-creating children of this house, in fact, not pizza. Bacon on the pizza they were to and indeed did have.

Flo Rida radio softly played on Pandora. Flo Rida wasn’t made to be played softly and outside of the children present it isn’t made to be played at all in my daily life but this was an occasion for it. The kids raised and lowered their voices in time with the ebb and flow of the game, crying out in displeasure as the almighty Monopoly dollar slipped through their grasp, unfair as the game-play was, and joyfully slammed their taunting fists onto the table-top when their rightful advance towards Monopoly domination looked to be fully realized. It was good, wholesome, educational fun.

Pizza was made, slices were critically viewed and carefully chosen, faces were stuffed, friendships, broken by victory and defeat were rekindled, lyrics were Sinatra-ed (spoken/sung), I washed the dishes and goodhearted sarcasm aside, I felt complete. Two hours prior I had been internalizing my selfish agitation, lamenting that I had not been button mashing on my laptop for four days. How on earth was I going to advance myself as a blogger in my chosen niche of alcoholism/substance-abuse/sobriety/recovery if I didn’t get to typing? Where was I going to find the time to further my interests? When was this going to be about me? Why don’t I get the appropriate amount of consideration for my pursuits? Who was going to make me a blogger-superstar if not me?

Then I went into the kitchen, let go of my ego, participated in the lives of my loved ones and found in sobriety, once again, that that is what truly matters.

 

When do you find yourself making a conscious decision to put aside the pie-in-the-sky and make room for a simple importance? 

Leave a comment and let me know.

I Made a Choice to Not Drink

“I can blame alcoholism for craving a drink,

but I cannot blame the disease for the physical 

effort required to take a drink.

If a bottle of bourbon ever manages 

to jump off the shelf, race across town,

break into my home and pour itself down my throat;

it’s no longer a disease, 

it’s a f#@*ing poltergeist.”

From We Are Not Saints by David M.

Every day that I went into work I begged myself to not drink. As was usual, the previous night had ended in a blackout; the morning spent retracing my steps through the trail of carnage I had left in my drunken wake from car to bedroom. Clothing, fast food wrappers, cans of chewing tobacco all strewn willy nilly, flotsam and jetsam ejected from the drunk boat rocking violently on seas of vodka. Vodka, the clear liquid that leaves no legs on a glass; vodka, the alcohol that my coworkers and few friends that I had knew I was addicted to and whispered about in disappointment, disgust, awe; vodka, the drug that I put above everything else in my life as I truly felt I could not, would not operate without it.

Every day that I went into work I wanted so badly not to drink but surrounding myself with a seemingly endless supply of liquor by working at a bar certainly did not aid in abstinence. Monkeys don’t sell bananas. My hands would shake, my vision would be blurred, my head no longer hurt because hurting was the state I was used to. Instead it was a dull, dense, heavy confusion; a complete lack of clarity, a distance, numbness. No matter how unwell I felt without enough water, without good, whole food which if I had eaten my body was incapable of processing having been devastated by an almost ceaseless diet of liquor, without rest because I did not sleep, I always passed out, without exercise, without positive thoughts, I would ultimately still wind up skulking to my stash of vodka.

That first sip burned as I swallowed it followed by a willful effort to not vomit as my stomach asked for one day of reprieve. Instead I always kept the vodka down, burning my belly and immediately feeling a searing sensation wash over my brain like a slow, hot venom. Before long I knew that another shot would make me feel better followed by another to improve my game followed by another to stop from stumbling over my words followed by another to find my rhythm…

Every night, every night that I worked I put myself into a position to kill someone by not only drinking myself into oblivion but by regularly overserving the guests, most of who were driving as I worked in an establishment that was a destination business and not in a walking community. Every night I drove; somehow making it home, somehow surviving, somehow not killing. Somehow not killing.

No one forced me to drink. No one forced me to run roughshod over my life and the lives of others. No one forced me to destroy my poor mother who just wanted her son to be well. No one forced me to risk the welfare, the lives of strangers by getting behind the wheel every night. No one forced me to demolish any sense of self-worth, to hide from my fears, to run to alcohol and drink freely of its wanton destruction. I literally chose to do these things to myself. I actually made the effort to put the bottle to my lips, swallow and force myself to not regurgitate. I chose that. Finally, in a story for another post, I chose to change.

In order to stop drinking I had to first remove myself from the people, places and things that I associated with the drug. This is an incredibly easy series of words to type but the enactment of their meaning was far more difficult. There are many people for whom the act of turning their will and lives over to the care of a higher power granted them great strength to do what had previously seemed impossible, to stop drinking. The strength necessary for me to accomplish this same task was found within myself. I went dry on straight will but found sobriety much later through listening, learning, reflecting, asking, implementing and failing but failing forward. I found strength in communicating with other alcoholics, in being transparent, in being vulnerable, in being honest. I reflected upon my life and took (and still take) daily inventories, recognizing fear, accepting responsibility, being a stand-up guy who found meaning in life by being meaningful to others. I found strength in gratitude, in forgiveness, in serenity.

It started with a choice.

This post is meandering and labored but I really needed to mash out something to keep active in my sobriety. Thank you for taking the time to read this and please check out a read I have just begun that helped me to get off my duff and punch out this post, What Happened That Day by Michelle S. who also blogs at http://risingwoman.wordpress.com/

Thank you to Michelle for inspiring me to write regardless of how rough this post is.

How My Story Will End

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My story will not end with lies

My story will not end with deceit

My story will not end with fear or resentment

with devastation

with compulsion

with selfishness

with a feeling of lesser than

with a feeling of being broken

with addiction

 

Rather, my story will end with the 

knowledge that I made a change

that I made a commitment

that I failed repeatedly

that I learned repeatedly

that I got up, dusted myself off

and learned to love

Time, My Greatest Resource

Setting aside time to sit down in a quiet area, to open up the laptop and to mash a few keys has been a bit of a challenge and in order to find the  appropriate amount of discipline to allot a wee bit of typing time I have discovered an undeniable truth; I am human and entirely incapable of bending the laws of time and space to my will.

Time, as it were, is my greatest resource; greater than the interwebs, greater than my countless horror stories to be told unabashedly of past inebriated transgressions, greater than my boundless sardonic views of self. Time is, as it is for everyone, precious, limited and seemingly always slipping through my hands. It is going to take time for me to develop myself as a writer, as someone who you would like to read, which, is at the core of my desires. I want to produce content that appeals to people without alienating the reader all the while striking out on a path of very pointed and determined subject matter.

The dense and abundant fuel that sets alight my desire to write  is my history of substance abuse, the defects of character, personal shortcomings, self-doubts, self-limiting beliefs, fear, above all else is fear, that gave birth to the abuse and then the shift in mindset to realize successful sobriety. Limitless is the recovery and limitless is the material it inspires. To ignite this fuel is to affect change, to provide a light for someone else to see, to know that recovery is not only possible but realistically achievable with earnest effort.

The time to exercise my fingertips as the thought un-tanglers for  this and other subjects is hard to come by. The time necessary to hone my blunt skills into something that represents an edge slightly more aggressive than a butter knife is ever elusive. In order for the greatest of athlete to reach the pinnacle of success in their given endeavor, in order for the most storied hero or heroine to inspire the stories, in order for the wealthiest of business magnate to achieve the highest tax bracket something in their lives has to give. A person is capable of accomplishing only so much during the waking hours and the pursuit of excellence, the focus, the drive to succeed allows for a finite amount of room on the ship before something needs to be left ashore. I have loved ones that like my chocolate chip cookies with the caramel Milky Way in the center (and they don’t bake themselves), algebra that needs slogging through a couple nights a week, snugs to share with my bug of love, pillow fights that reenact historic battles, daily responsibilities to self, family and home; things more important than just me.

It is my responsibility to myself and to the people close to me to do my best in a number of areas in my life. However, I realize that means that no one area will explode like Fourth of July fireworks with the Pops in the Hatch Shell on the Charles grandeur like it does in my child-like daydreams. Of course I want to be well-rounded, a jack of all trades (a tall order nonetheless) but there is still a part of me that wishes to be master of one, to excel to an apex of personal potential. This, of course, is my ego working me over in a ten round fight and I have already had a standing eight count. I know that I have a lot of work to do in all aspects of my life and my writing is just one of the punches that needs to be improved.

This leaves me to find balance. A story for another time.

In the mean time I’ll concentrate on what is within my immediate control, something I can do to sate my ego’s thirst to exercise control over something… myself. I’ll concentrate on persistence, perseverance and action; lots and lots of action.

Time is my greatest resource with which I must be gratefully resourceful.

Leave a comment. Join in with a conversation!

Do you struggle with balancing time in your life?

Are you aware of an area that pines for your attention when you may have been neglectful?

Is there a method or practice in successful time management that you can share for someone else?

Footprints in the Sand

“Anyone who draws you a map 

has done you no favors

because maps aren’t worth anything

if you are an artist

All you need is a compass”

-Seth Godin

Not unlike a few other people I have known, I am not particularly taken with being told how I should go about living my life. I am not referring to receiving instruction on how to perform a task unfamiliar at my place of work, being told to stop at red lights and for pedestrians in the crosswalk or to not eat the yellow snow. Sometimes I even need to be reminded of the obvious. However, in terms of exactly what metaphorical path I should travel and how it should be traveled, well I’d rather receive a little guidance and have the rest left up to me.

I understand the school of thought that it was my thinking that got me into substance abuse and all the devastation that it left in its wake as I steamed that ship full throttle through my life and the lives of others and it is foolhardy egoism to think that my thinking can get me out of it. Writing only about myself, I have enjoyed great success in being the one to shift into successful sobriety by grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and making the necessary changes to, put simply, get sober.

Be that as it may, I cannot deny the efficacy of willingly participating in counseling with an empty teacup. It is through this medium that I learned to accept attendance at AA meetings and to implement some of the information I had picked up while attending with open ears. As I have touched upon in previous posts I do not subscribe fully to all of the core tenets of AA but  rarely do I subscribe fully to many teachings; rather there is a great deal I can incorporate into my life after I have viewed all the angles critically and can determine what will work for me.

There has been a revelation of a personal truth for me on this road of recovery. I have learned that it is okay to ask for help and moreover to not be ashamed to accept it. The simple act of human interaction can greatly reduce the complication of most any given issue when employed and judiciously at that. This does not mean, however, that I desire a rigid or dogmatic approach to learning, to living, to fully understanding myself, my fears, my self-limiting beliefs or my growth from and out of them.

Let me fall.

Let me pick myself up.

When I look back to see only one set of prints in the sand during the most trying times of my life, rest assured they were my prints. If another set were to join mine it would be after I found the strength to walk on my own.

Thank you then for allowing me to use my compass.

Keep It Simple

 “Let’s not louse this thing up. Let’s keep it simple.”

While cleaning in the kitchen I ran across a half-emptied “nip” (50 mL bottle) of vodka. I had used the first half of the bottle a few months ago, which was a little over a year in sobriety, to create an effect on some cookies which, as an aside, were fun but not necessarily worth repeating. Check ’em out… you decide. Anyways, I held the bottle in my hand for a spell turning it over, dusting it off, staring intently and trying to elicit some sort of response.  I experienced something for which I simply cannot nail down a description outside of confusion.

I felt like I was supposed to be in danger, like I was supposed to be awash in a flood of memories, inexorable cravings, maddening , aching thirst for some release from imbibition. This is what has been drilled into me after 18+ months of counseling and 16+ months of AA; always be vigilant, on the lookout for looming triggers, never become complacent, know that my addiction is outside waiting for me doing push-ups, becoming stronger, yearning to have me back in its grasp squeezing the life from me.

I don’t feel these things. I feel great pride (not smugness), great satisfaction (not complacency), and great responsibility (not victimization). I feel strong, I feel well, I feel whole. It is with the nearly indescribable help, for which I will always be grateful, that I received from AA and counseling (which, in my case, has a heavy lean towards AA) that I am where I am in my sobriety. All the information presented in all forms (I have an extensive, sordid past of rehab, counseling, AA and jail) was listened to but not always heard. When I was ready to make a change, when I was ready to shift successfully into sobriety I began to hear and to practice; mind you, with a open but discerning mind. I decided to make a choice. I chose sobriety.

Much of the self-help material that I have delved into is information that is fairly close to common sense and not difficult to wrap my head around. Depending on the presentation, the method of delivery, I find that the same information presented by two different vehicles can resonate with me differently. However, the simple premise of my understanding is this – my life is a series of choices. Where I am today, everything I have, everything I know has been a product of one decision made after the next. I am a victim in nothing and things do not happen to me but instead are there manifestations of my choices or simply things I have done to myself.

On most occasions I can speak openly, passionately and at great length (if given the floor and sets of eyes that do not roll) about my former substance abuse. Such was the case last night when, while in attendance at a holiday gala (I love that word), I enjoyed dialogue with a physician about alcoholism. As a conditioned response I referred to alcoholism as a disease. I flinched. I am not sold on the idea that it is and, in my head, I ride the fence.There are reams of information that one can find that support either side of an argument over whether alcoholism should be called a disease and frankly, I don’t care. This is what I know, I am not a victim and I have and continue to make the choices that are necessary for me to live a happy, healthy life of self-awareness.

Self-awareness, looking into a metaphorical mirror has allowed me accept many teachings. It has allowed me to learn, critically, of myself and what has led me to make destructive decisions in the past. That education has allowed me to move forward armed with the knowledge that best puts me in the position to succeed: I may fail but I will fail forward.

There will be setbacks, trials and tribulations; there will be heartache, sorrow and loss; there will be anxiousness, anger and fear but with my mindset, with my mirror, with my ability to recognize the power that I have within I can move forward, fail forward and live my life closer to my potential than ever before.

With no small amount of irony I must attribute the above quote to Bill Wilson as he visited Dr. Bob right before he died.

Growth Through Accountability

“The only consistent feature of all my past dissatisfying relationships is me.”

The term relationship applies not only to people but to situations, tangibles and ideas. In my former life of substance abuse many were the relationship I had that I looked to blame the other side for my negativity. I would look to blame coworkers for their lack of contribution to the team; I would look to blame circumstance for not providing me what I wanted; I would look to blame the belief in a system for not being able to supply me with a feeling of completeness; I would look to blame my relationship with alcohol for all of my terrible decision-making. Wherever there was a problem I could be certain to find that the fault laid with anything but me.

Getting sober was the first step in self-discovery in which I began to find the truth of the matter. The truth was that I spent years looking to condemn any and everything else for my problems. The truth was that I spent too much energy blaming and not enough energy taking full responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions. When I fully realized the concept of accountability I found the strength necessary to free myself from the shackles of self-pity, self-centeredness, self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs.

A wonderful transition into a new way of thinking occurred. By seeking truth I found my true self. I identified my fears that kept me from growing, from learning, from living a life that I am capable of living. I found a way to live fully with full responsibility and to love fully.

I am still learning to love myself. There is, however, no longer a fear to fully love those in my life that enrich my existence, that compel me to move forward, that help to let me feel whole. I am no longer burdened and broken and looking to blame. I am happy.

Show massive gratitude at all times. I am grateful for my  sobriety.