The Opposite of Addiction – Connection

The Opposite of Addiction – Connection

I’ve often heard it said in AA meetings that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” A phrase popularised in recent years by the writer and journalist Johann Hari. Thinking about my own experience of addiction and recovery I wholeheartedly agree with Hari’s assertion – connection is certainly an key antidote to the underlying isolation that often accompanies addiction.

I felt very disconnected and unloved as a teenager and started using alcohol and other drugs to try and connect with others and feel better about myself. In the long run I was just compounding my inner shame and low self-esteem. My behaviour while drinking was often anti-social and would cause others to reject me, instead of the acceptance that I desperately craved. My feelings of isolation and disconnection grew along with an increasingly poor self-concept. By the time I sought out recovery I was riddled with anxiety and depression. Suicidal thinking was a constant companion and my life felt meaningless.

The Principles of Authentic Connection – An Ideal for Recovery

The theme of isolation and disconnection has been around the ‘rooms’ of Alcoholics Anonymous for as long as I’ve been attending AA meetings, which is nearly 30 years. The ‘loneliness of alcoholism’ is very familiar to suffers and Johann Hari isn’t the first commentator to realise this characteristic. 12 Step meetings place great emphasis on ‘fellowship’ as an important means of connection and also strongly suggest that the principles contained within the ‘program’ facilitate a healthy relationship with self, others and ‘life’ – or, ‘that which is greater’.

For me, the principles inherent within 12-Step philosophy are about turning away or ‘practising the opposite’ of my self-centred sickness. The principles of honesty, humility, self-acceptance, love and service are the antidotes to my inner shame and its accompanying fear – they connect me in a healthy way to myself and others. My ego’s toxic shame and fear learned to defend itself in various unhelpful ways that disconnect me – addiction, anger, aggression, dishonesty, denial, false pride, inauthenticity and social withdrawal where my primary defense mechanisms.

My recovery process is about letting go of these unhealthy defenses and connecting with my underlying vulnerability. I need to honestly connect with and face my inner shame and fear. Truthful sharing, mutual identification, reaching out for support, and self-acceptance is the way to go I‘ve discovered.

The ‘core-conditions’ of empathynon-judgemental acceptance and authenticity are vital to the sharing and recovery process. If I am going to heal from inner toxic shame and fear I need to find an environment that offers love, support and acceptance. When suffering from shame based feelings and a poor self-concept, which prevent self-love and compassion, I require love, support, and empathy from others in my efforts to love, support and accept myself, according to the Person-Centred theory.  Read more @thefix.com

When Getting Sober Reveals an Underlying Illness

When Getting Sober Reveals an Underlying Illness

People who have had multiple traumatic events (adverse childhood experiences) in their youth are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses, alcohol use disorder, and more in adulthood.

Getting sober is often considered the ultimate solution to our problems. In many ways, it is: we stop the behaviors that led to the self-destruction to our bodies, our relationships, and how we live our lives. We wake up without feeling hungover or in withdrawal from drugs we’d taken the night before. By dealing with the issues that led to using, we begin to experience healing and generally feel better.

But for some of us, that isn’t enough. Physically, we can actually feel worse after we stop using or drinking. We may discover that drugs and alcohol were masking the symptoms of a serious and deeply rooted illness.

Discovering My Autoimmune Condition

When you get sober, it usually isn’t all pink fluffy clouds and going about your day with a spring in your step. For me, in addition to the struggles of early sobriety, I’ve had to deal with something much greater: I’ve spent the last seven years with chronic fatigue so bad that many mornings I struggle to get out of bed — sometimes every day for three months at a time — and, at times, I have so much pain in my body that it hurts to even move my toes.

I have an autoimmune disease — a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Some of the more commonly known autoimmune conditions include Type 1 diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.

And I, along with many others in recovery, suffer with a chronic and sometimes life-threatening condition that has a strong link to our childhoods.

For years my autoimmune condition went undetected. I was told that its recurrence each year — with symptoms including chronic fatigue, aches and pains, low energy, lack of motivation to do anything apart from sleep and lie on the sofa — was simply an episode of depression. My doctor would sign me off work for a month. Doctors ordered rest and gave me a prescription for increasing doses of antidepressants. Invariably, after a month off, I’d get better. I had no reason to question the doctor’s advice because I was improving with their prescribed course of action.  Read more thefix.com

When Love Is Not Enough: How We All Failed My Sister

When Love Is Not Enough: How We All Failed My Sister

These are the ugly, dark parts of mental illness and drug addiction that no one talks about, and by not talking about it, it stays hidden, and shameful, and powerful, and deadly.

My sister had 765 “friends” on Facebook. I don’t think I even know that many people. But I can count on one hand how many of those friends came to visit my sister during her four-month hospital stay. So apparently they were friends, but not quite that close.

I believe that if regret had a smell, it would be the smell of something burnt and visceral, and sharp in your nostrils. I think of that every time I listen to the last voicemail that my sister left me. It was so normal, absolutely nothing special about it, like the countless other messages we had left each other.

“Hi baby girl, it’s me. Call me back. Love you.”

Sometimes I listen to it just so that I can hear her voice, but often I find myself straining to hear something that I must have missed. Did she know that she was dying? Was there some sort of resolve in her voice? Or was that loneliness? But mostly what I hear is regret. Mine, of course, not hers. Because no matter how much I loved her, I couldn’t save her. I am painfully aware that I failed my sister. Sometimes I think that we all did.

Malika and I were two years and 10 months apart, and about as different as two people carved from the same parents can be. She was always the pretty one, the free spirit, and she had the goofiest sense of humor. The boys simply didn’t see me when we were together—she shone that brightly—and we could fight like nobody’s business. But above all, she was amazing to me.

My sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in high school, which apparently is a common age for that to rear its ugly head. We both shared a sort of rebellious streak borne out of a sometimes-tumultuous home life and an ugly divorce between our parents, but she never really grew out of hers. She had a self-destructive side but it was always directed inwards—she never set out to hurt anyone but herself. I can see clearly now that for years, she was self-medicating. Read more @the fix

Take Inventory of Your Year in Recovery

Take Inventory of Your Year in Recovery

This is the perfect week to reflect on your past recovery and look forward to the year ahead.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a time of transition. We’ve left most of the hustle and bustle of the holidays behind, but have not quite started the new year and the new routines it will bring. This makes it a perfect time to reflect on your past year in recovery, and make goals for how to sustain and enhance your recovery in the year ahead. Read more @thefix

Learning to Have Fun in Sobriety

Learning to Have Fun in Sobriety

After a while many people in recovery actually discover that the fun they thought they were having was really just an attempt to run away from their feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame.

People who have substance use disorders often have a million excuses for not wanting to get clean. They may worry about disappearing friendships once they get sober, fear other people’s judgement, or they may not be able to face the truth about their addiction—just to name a few. Another top reason for why they don’t want to give up drinking and drugging, even if it’s making their life completely unmanageable? They’re worried they’ll never have fun again. Because the idea of being sober seems boring, mundane and somehow even more unbearable than the pain of continuing to self-destruct with substance abuse. Read more @ thefix

The “Crazy Years”

The “Crazy Years”

I thought my crazy years were when I was trying hard to get sober and keeping on the straight and narrow.  Well, I wish…my crazy years actually ended up being the years I was raising my teenage daughter that thought she knew more than I!  These years were so hard as my daughter knew I was in recovery and she did watch me when I was not so sober and used that to her advantage.  She was always able to throw the guilt and shame card on the table and get away with what she wanted to because I felt so awful.  She was able to get away with it until she arrived into her last year of high school and I had enough of being what I like to call “child bullied”.

I had been doing living amends for the better part of 8 years and I wasn’t about to let my child keep throwing things in my face when I was showing up, going the extra mile, providing, and giving her anything she needed! I felt like I had finally reached a point in my life where if I didn’t put my foot down and say enough is enough that I would start to believe everything she was telling me.  With the direction of my sponsor and everything I learned in the program of AA I had a sit down chat with her about all the things that had gone down in the last 4 years…and if any of you know what it is like to talk to a teenager about things that are serious it is NOT easy.  She took everything as I had anticipated, she went to live with her father….because hey, the grass is always greener.  RIGHT!!! She lived there for a year and then begged to come back after hours of apologizing.  I knew this would happen but I needed her to see the work I was doing and how I was actually being her parent not her best friend.

I don’t know what I would have done without the program of recovery, having to deal with this took so much patience and courage.  This program gave me a sounding board to talk raw about what I was going through as a parent and the emotions I was dealing with.  Most of the moms around me(normies) all said, oh I just drink a glass of wine and check out…well, that’s great, I can’t do that! I have to deal with the emotions and learn how to process them without liquor to help.  I can’t say there weren’t times that I wasn’t tempted to run down and grab some because man it would have been nice to check out.  That was the problem though…I would check out with no end in sight.  I worked so hard on the 12 steps during my daughters high school years to keep me sane.  At the end of the high school years I had moms come up to me and ask me how I did it.  I said AA, while they all gave me an odd look at first some called me years later because they then needed help themselves and I was there to do a step 12 with them!  If I had not been open and honest with these moms some may be still out there living in their closets with a bottle of wine clutched in their hands praying for the emotional pain to stop!

The teen years were hard in recovery but staying close to the program and being able to share this program with others had really helped me get through those years.  Stay strong, be open, be raw, and stay strong…nothing is worth that drink!

Written By: mom00soul

Healing

Healing

What year was hard for you in recovery?  I remember sitting in a meeting and a couple ladies next to me were talking about their 6th year and how hard that year was to get through.  I, of course was on my first year at the time not even thinking about “what year would be hard” I thought where I was could not get any harder.  Well, I was wrong…my hardest year was my 7th year in sobriety.  I struggled to keep balance and a lot of things happened to me that year.  I didn’t relapse which in and of itself was an absolute MIRACLE but as far as emotionally, I took a few hundred steps backwards.

I have heard so many people say if you emotionally relapse it is worse than an actually relapse, why…I have no clue.  Looking back now a year and a half later, I am better for it, so I consider it a huge step forward.  I truly believe that there is nothing wrong with being knocked down a few steps, it gives some amazing room for growth.  Growth can be super painful (painstaking, some may say) but can also make you a much stronger person in the end.

No matter how many meetings I went to, big book groups I joined, steps I went through, meetings with my sponsor or sponsees I had… there was no preparing me for a loss that I was going to experience in my life.   We all go through losses in life and the getting back up after them is a hard and slow process.  I know I smiled when I didn’t want to, I cried when I didn’t want to, got angry when I should not have, said things I should not have said, and maybe even didn’t say things when I should have.   It was a year of opposites for me.  I have never prayed so much in my entire life for the pain to just take a backseat and let me be.

So here you sit reading this wondering okay…well, what did you do about it?  I kind of laugh as I write this, I know full well what I did…I did NOTHING, nothing, you read that right, NOTHING. I can’t say I am proud of that, or that it is what anyone should do, this is just my story and my experience with grief.  I wish I had profound words to say about all the tools, the steps and crazy awesome words of wisdom to instill upon you…nope!  Now you may be thinking…okay this is so dumb, and maybe you are even going through a huge loss right now, it could be a job, family member or friend.

Here is what I CAN tell you, it will be okay.

This IS what I did, I let myself feel all those emotions, said all the wrong things, did all the wrong things…because I was in pain.  I did stay open and raw to those around me letting them know what I felt and said the things that were swimming around in my head.   Never underestimate the power of prayer, a hug, good chats over coffee/tea or whatever it is that you drink now.  Feeling hurts but I did not drink, I did not do drugs, I did not decide that life was too hard to handle so checking out was my option…no, I did nothing I let myself feel and I stumbled through the pain.  I really don’t have much advice but I do know what helped me was the act of doing nothing and letting my body go through what it needed to go through.  If you are going through a loss in life, I am so truly sorry, it hurts, it sucks (not gonna sugar coat it) and you will want to find a way to get rid of the pain…my plea, don’t.  We were given the amazing ability to heal, you do heal… don’t stop until you get to that miracle.

Written by: Heart2heal14

 

My First Love

My First Love

I remember…my first love, it was a late night of fun with friends and we had just got to a party.  I felt light, at peace, a relaxation I had never felt before and a tingle that went from the tip of my toes to the top of my head…it was the first time I drank liquor.  The high I got from the liquor made me think…wow, I could do this forever. My 12 year old mind could not even begin to fathom what a life filled with this new found love would do…it was going to build mountains that I would have to climb up, oceans so deep I would feel like I was drowning, I would want to hide but would have no place to go and eventually bring me to my knees out of desperation.  At 12 I only wanted to stay with the cool crowd, experience what others were doing and once I started, I felt as if I could not stop.

At the ripe age of 12 I was sneaking out at night to hang out with friends whose parents didn’t give a crap what they did because well, they were cool with other kids so why not give them liquor and cigarettes?  I was only 12…now, I have children of my own and I look at them and think please do not go down my same path! As a child I thought the feeling I got from liquor was true love, it helped me do things I wouldn’t normally do and I felt invincible.

Looking back, I see I was in love with the feeling liquor gave me. Liquor was my first love but with any first love there is a breakup.  The breakup was so painful and as I came out of the fog of drying out…I saw the destruction that first love did.  When I was drinking I did not see the friends that didn’t call anymore, the sports teams that I didn’t try out for, bad grades, broken trust between siblings and parents. My first love slowly destroyed my childhood, at first, I did it because of the “fun” I was having and then then I did it to numb the pain from the things that were happening when I drank.  The cycle of alcoholism became so crazy at my young age my parents moved me. I guess they never read that the geographical change never works, nothing changes if nothing changes…I wasn’t changed only the area in which I lived did.  I did dry out enough for high school because I found my second love which was a sport.  I stayed clean just so I could play a sport I loved so much.  I would stay clean all the way up until I got to college earning a scholarship to play sports.  As college went on my past, my first love crept back into my life and I thought I could handle it.  This would lead to many more issues throughout college and eventually end college sports for me. That first love came back and I buckled…went hook, line and sinker into the hole again.  So many more things would happen until I would finally fight my way back to this life.  I don’t wish to change my path or shut the door on it but to show that even someone fighting from age 12 to 28 to make it back can do it.

I eventually found my way into the rooms of AA and found what I call “my people” and by that I mean those who understand how I tick and what makes me want to drink. I have a sponsor, meetings and a recovery program that I will work daily for the rest of my life.  I still have bad days but I always know what I can do now to fight those days and keep them at bay.  My first love almost killed me but I found another love that was more powerful, meaningful, loving and worth living for… a God who loves and cares for me, my husband, children and family. My brain may always want that “first love” but my heart will always want the new things I found in life to love!

Written by MyRecovery  Blogger: @Peace

 

Drunk on Anxiety

Sobriety…rainbows, pink clouds, flowers, and unicorns…oh for the…yeah none of that, at least not all the time.  I don’t want you to get down on recovery or think it’s all bad.  It’s just not all good…because, life. I thought walking into treatment that my life would forever change to heck yes with a side of awesomesauce…yeah no,  it turned into dealing with life with eyes wide open! (Insert vomit emoji here.)

I remember that crazy day I walked out of treatment with all intentions of NEVER coming back because I had the cure and I was going to be AA’s number 1 poster child volunteer extraordinaire! I mostly laugh when I look back at that day but sometimes I get real  and cry.  I cry because I wish someone would have been kind enough to tell me…life is gonna hit hard followed with multiple what the…just happened?  Most people seem to have the “pink cloud” syndrome and good feelings…not me, I fell right off that cloud and splatted onto the ground coming out of treatment.

I got to my first meeting and got my sponsor(tough as nails 30,000 years of sobriety) who I thought would work.  I met her every week and did the “thing”.  Life started happening..finances, deaths, job loss, friends walking away….what the, I’m sober and things are falling apart.  I remember telling my sponsor I liked it better when I couldn’t see what was happening because then I couldn’t see the destruction my life had done. I liked being numb to the emotion that went a long with all this anxiety life was throwing me.

I got to work one day and got a message from my sponsor saying, stop being drunk on anxiety you are using this to rationalize and justify why you should use again.  Woman up, find a meeting tonight, get humble and call 30 drunks this week.  Holy molly batman the AA dinosaur knocked me back a few steps. I called her a dinosaur not because she was so old it was because she had been around the program for so long she might as well have written the Big Book or been there to edit the first edition!

After about two months of my sponsor working with me through this hard rough patch or just rough everything she finally asked me what I was putting my trust in.  I thought…what does that have to do with anything? She made me figure that out on my own.  I’m hear to tell you after 6 months of ugh, what a dumb question….I learned, I put my trust in God, His will…not mine!  I leaned on Him for everything I had going on in my life and I felt a feeling of contentment come over me that no matter what happened in this life I was going to be okay.  The friends, family and program have been the other parts of the program that have also kept me sane and on the right path and for that I will be forever grateful!  I will never forget my first sponsor she may have been tough and was old fashioned but I shut up and I listened and things started to happen…crazy how that works. If you do the work the promises happen!!

This program is not easy and no one said it was going to be but I know I get caught up in the assumptions and expectations of life and it can consume me.  Let the program do what the program does best…giving hope, answers, and millions of others to hold your hand when we fall!

Sincerely ~ Your Crazy Once Lost Friend

Live Learn Love

Live Learn Love

I was given the best life as a child…seriously, what most kids dream of.  I was in a place where I was always safe and loved beyond belief.  My personality considered it a challenge to mess things up as much as possible!  I wish I could report happy endings, rainbows and unicorns but I can’t.  I did everything in my power to mess things up…or my disease did?  I still to this day couldn’t tell you the difference between my crazy brain and the disease working throughout my life.   I did certain things because I was hijacked by my crazy disease but others have been a learning experience in my life in recovery.

I woke up in a ditch laying on top of someone who had also been thrown out of the back of a pickup truck…my brain was fuzzy and I couldn’t figure out where I was or what I was doing in a ditch.  I finally got all my faculties in line and realized I was thrown out of the back of a truck that we were riding in.  The person who was driving was drunk and driving down a mountain road that had just been paved with fresh new gravel.  Drunk driving is never a good idea (or legal) but on a back mountain road with fresh new gravel is a recipe for disaster.  Five people got thrown out of the back of that truck that night, it was pitch black out and we were in the middle of the mountains with no help!  There were two people in the truck but at first glance I did not see the truck…that was because it had gone off the cliff on the opposite side we got thrown off of.  I woke up to everyone unconscious.  I shook the person next to me to wake them up.  The person next to me woke up and we started taking a quick inventory of injuries and people.  I realized one of us needed to run back for help, I was the least injured so I offered to go get help.  I was in soccer so running a few miles wasn’t really a big deal but running in the dark in the mountains was a whole new level of scary and crazy!  There are things like Mountain Lions and Bears but I knew I was the only one to get help so away I went….about two miles into my run I saw a car headed toward me.  I was running back towards where we all were at a huge bone fire and these people were at the bone fire so I got them to turn around and take me back.  I got back and got the help that we needed.  I ended up with a very deep scratch on my arm and I didn’t realize it until I got home.  I had to sew it together with my dad’s fishing line because I didn’t want them to know what happened. This would be the start to the long lonely path of deceit and bad decisions.  This would be how I lived my life for the next 8 years…on the edge and so close to death.  I never saw it that way of course because I was stuck in the drug addict delusion that I was invincible and I would never die from the disease of addiction.

I got into treatment 8 years later with a lengthy rap sheet of insanity.  The doctor said I should be dead but here I sit wanting to be happy, joyous and free.  I could go into all the stories but I’ll save them for another time.  What I’m hoping you will hear is you can be far down that path of “there’s no way back” and get back.  I’m living proof…I have been sober and clean for 8 years and it has been such an amazing ride.  I’m not going to say it’s been easy because that would be a lie, it was a lot of work!

I did go back to the spot where I got thrown from the truck…it is a miracle that I didn’t die…God was watching over me. I lived a very dangerous life but I also learned a lot.  I learned 587 reasons not to get drunk, 876 ways that drugs can make you try to kill yourself, 1 million reasons why driving and using is not okay…and my favorite 1 billion reasons why being sober is so much better than the other side.  I have learned that love can heal so many wounds and build blown up bridges! I found people in this program that loved me back to me.  I found me that had been missing for so many years, I was inside I had just drank me away and drugged myself into a dark hole.  Once I started going to meetings, listening to others, got a sponsor, and started working the steps I saw the path before me was going to be hard but it was going to be so worth it.  I learned that I had made a lot of bad choices but I could make good ones to bring me back to where I would be happy, joyous, and free!  I pick love… to love my God, love myself, love my family, and to love the choice I have every day waking up with a smile on my face.  I lived, lived hard…I learned, I learned hard…I love and I love hard!  Love hard and work hard in this program of recovery its rewards are miraculous!