Is this what recovery feels like?

In my earlier days of recovery, I was desperate to ‘get it’. I wanted the fantastic life, the gifts and rewards of sobriety that I heard others talk about. I rushed frantically and headlong into trying to find it. I had a new found energy (slightly manic) and thought I somehow had to do everything I possibly could to achieve this wonderful state of being that is ‘life in recovery’…

Of course, I wanted it all, there and then. This was the addict part of me wanting the instant gratification that made me turn to booze in the first place. I was applying the same mindset to my recovery, feeling I had to get there ASAP.

Almost ten months on, and I look around and realise that the rewards are coming to me in their own good time! I lowed down on getting to the fantastic life, and just got on with life, as it is. Okay, I made a few changes (like my job and my house!) but they were not the things that brought me to where I am now. Well, they may have contributed, but largely, it is just time that has brought me to where I am now. I look around at my life now, and things are fundamentally, yet subtly, different.

I have an extremely active life now, whereas when I was drinking all I did, pretty much, was go to work, drink, and recover from drinking.

I feel confident and have the respect of my friends and work colleagues now, whereas when I was drinking I felt constantly guilty and bad, a useless and insecure friend, a liability in the workplace with my inconsistency and regular sick time.

I make plans now. The only thing I planned when I was drinking, was when and how to get my next drink.

I can see a future now, before all I could see was a black hole of drink and an untimely death.

The chaos is slowly resolving, and what is more important, I see a way through the chaos, and can apply my problem-solving skills in order to resolve it, rather than just feeling anxious and panicky about it, and drinking more in order to blot it out!

This is at not yet a year in, so who knows what is awaiting me further down the line!

It is only with some quiet reflection time that I have come to see that the rewards of sobriety are different from what I expected, they creep upon you gradually, until one day you(I) realise…so this is what recovery feels like.

The Gratitude Attitude

This week I had the funeral, and I also received word that my house is going to be re-possessed on 15th September. Also, I did not even get an interview for a job that I would have loved. What a crap week!

This week I was accepted as a blog writer for an addiction and recovery web-site, and I also had word that my house sale is going through soon, so I will be able to pay off my mortgage arrears and not have my house re-possessed. Plus, I was told by the manager and two colleagues that they really value my input on the team I have been doing supply work with. On top of this, I woke at eight this morning and was so joyful when I remembered that I used to have a horrible hangover every Saturday morning. I used to barely see the morning, in fact. I often did not wake until well after midday, feeling crap and remorseful, only to know that I would be doing it all again later the same evening. I was trapped, but no longer. This morning, I woke at eight and had breakfast and went to work for ten, no hangover, no remorse, I was ready to face the day.

I posted a few weeks ago that I wanted to remember and respect my friend by living life with more of a sense of wonder and joy. It is in remembering that there is so much to be grateful for, and appreciating the successes and the so many good things that life has to offer that I can live a life of gratitude. There will always be ups and downs, but for some reason we seem to focus on the bad more than the good. It is only by developing the habit of gratitude that we learn that there is always a different way to view our life and circumstances.

A funeral

I’m grief stricken today, having attended the funeral of my friend who I mentioned in a previous post. The service was a beautiful send off, and the wake after was a chance for us all to reminisce over the times we had spent with our friend/partner/dad/son. There was a fair amount of drinking at the wake, as is common at these things. It was the first really big social affair I had been to in sobriety, and I had a few hankerings, but not really, if that makes sense? I felt more a part of the event, more present than if I had been drinking, and am now glad to be at home and able to remember everything about the event, and not be anxiously worrying, (certainly by tomorrow I would be), if I did anything to show myself up, or made any kind of faux pas at the event.

I think I had been worried at a subconscious level about slipping, as I have been having a few drinking dreams in the past few nights,so I’m pleased that I made it through this day without drinking, and it arms me for future events, the knowledge that I can do it without any crutch.

The most notable thing from the day in terms of my recovery is how much I am feeling this loss. I lost my sister and mum four years ago, and although I was understandably upset, I had not realised the extent to which my upset was drowned in booze, and the feelings were not really felt, or explored, or reflected upon. It is only now that I can really appreciate and understand that, having now had a loss in sobriety and noticing every nuance of it, the bitter-sweet tragedy that is my learning from today.

I’m at a loss for anything more to say, so I will sign off for now.

How hard can it be to do nothing?

I’ve been a bit under the weather the past few days, a cold/virus thing. I had to work for the past two days, and felt awful. On the first day I cam home from work thinking I would get an early night, but it didn’t happen! I came home to do housework, do some work on my other gig, and some rearranging of things in my still disorganised house. Yesterday, I was so exhausted and ill that had to let myself stop! I determined that I would sit under a duvet and indulge myself in the newly purchased ‘Breaking Bad’ DVD I had bought. I bought plenty of comfort foods, got into my pj’s and made it onto the sofa. Hurrah!  I managed to carry through on my plan to do nothing…For about an hour and a half. Then I started to get antsy and began thinking about all those jobs I could be doing, the laundry, some more organising, working on my other job…I found I could no longer just sit under my duvet, and went off to potter around. OK, I didn’t do a lot, I put some laundry on to wash, and did a bit of marking for my other job, and also did a little of my decoupage project that I am working on. But the fact is, I could not simply sit and relax. I was a combination of bored and guilty, knowing how many things needed to be done.

This is one of my problems. I find it very difficult to ‘switch off’, to do nothing, and to not feel guilty or anxious if I am doing nothing. If I am in the house, there is always another job to do. I think I have a fantasy in my mind that one day all the jobs will be done, and I can get on with relaxing. We all know this is never going to happen. So why do I find it so hard to let myself take time out, knowing that the jobs will be there when I come back to them?

I am going to make it my mission in the coming months to learn how to do nothing and enjoy it! Even the mindfulness practice I do is part of my daily dog-walking routine, so I am kind of being productive at the same time as trying to relax. I think I am going to start trying to do some mindfulness sitting and breathing exercises, and maybe even go to a meditation class to build up my skills in the art of doing nothing. I feel it is a much needed addition to my repertoire of coping skills, and one that is often overlooked in the journey of recovery.

Can it really be so hard to literally do nothing?

A Sad Day

I had some sad news today. My friend who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in January passed away. He was fifty one years old.

I had the strongest urges to drink of any I have had in the past nine months of sobriety. It is just an automatic, well-trodden path in my mind, a tragedy happens, therefore I must get pissed. I didn’t. Thankfully. But the desire was there, has been there all day.

Really, what I want to make of this day is a renewal of my commitment to the alcohol-free life. There is so much I still want to do, so many things to experience in this short time I have on this planet. Spending, no WASTING any of it drunk is not what I want. I want to make every moment matter. All too often I find myself drifting, just pottering along in life forgetting that it is a privilege to be here, and that there is so much of beauty and wonder in this world. It is easy to forget this with all the death and destruction that goes on worldwide.

So, I will not be ‘raising a glass’ to my friend tonight. No, I will be staying sober and remembering him in a clear-headed and fully feeling way, using his death as a reminder of what is important in life. Good-bye old friend.

Loss of focus

I’m in a dither. I have so many things that I want to do, that I have lost my focus. I left work and moved house just over a month ago, and I felt so enthusiastic about all the possibilities that were ahead of me. Now, I have been called in to do lots of shifts for the crisis mental health team that I have started working for on an ad hoc basis. This is enjoyable work, and it pays the bills, but it isn’t where I imagined I was going when I left my permanent job. It’s very gratifying that they want me to keep doing more work for them, but…

I need to regroup, and think where I want to go next. Maybe I am being a bit hard on myself, it is only just over a month since I left work. But the thing is, I’m not sure where to go next. I have the PhD in the pipeline, but I am thinking, is that even what I want to do? I wanted to spend some time in writing my memoir, in trying to set up as an addiction therapist, and in just spending more time in creative and home-based pursuits…

Hmm, maybe I just need to say ‘no’ to some of these shifts. I think the fear is that if I do say ‘no’, they will stop asking me to work for them. The old bugbear of low self-esteem rearing it’s ugly head once again,  wanting to please people, wanting them to like me so much, that I leave my own wants and needs neglected. Duh! So I think I will have to start to saying ‘no’ more often, otherwise I am sure they would have me there virtually full-time. It has been almost that in the last week or so!

Yes, I think a bit less of the crisis shifts, rewarding though they are, and more of the sitting down and focusing on what it is that I want, and how do I start putting that into action over the next weeks and months.

There we go, just sitting and writing it down like this has helped. I hope you don’t mind this bit of a self-absorbed rambling post, it’s just where I am up to at the moment!

Some musings on mortality

I went for lunch in a castle today! This was a castle that quite a lot of my friends lived in when they were much younger, it was an adventure site for the role playing activities we all did in our youth, the easiest way to explain it is that we all dressed up like characters from Lord of the Rings and went on adventures, where other people would dress up as ‘monsters’ and we would fight each other with weapons made out of foam rubber, and have quests to complete. All very geeky, but enormous fun, and kept us all off the streets!

This was something everyone at this gathering did for a lot of our formative years. Drugs and alcohol were a big part of the scene, but we all enjoyed this time in our lives, and friendships and relationships were formed then that survive to this day, twenty odd years later. So today was about revisiting my youth. But also, and ostensibly, the purpose of this gathering was to join together with one of our number who is dying of lung cancer. He does not have long, so the day was tinged with poignancy. This friend is fifty one. Less than ten years older than I am, and his cancer is largely the result of lifestyle choices he made when he was still young, going on adventures at the castle, enjoying himself, living life as if there was no tomorrow, as is the folly of youth.

Only now, ‘tomorrow’ has definitely come, with fatal consequences.

The day got me thinking, about how time has crept up on me and my peers. We are no longer young, and while we are not old, either, the long term effects of our somewhat destructive lives is now catching up with us. I am fortunate in that I have not suffered any serious health consequences from my drinking…yet. Even though I have now stopped, I have undoubtedly shortened my life. I still smoke, and am not yet ready to tackle this until I feel more secure in my sobriety.  The stark reality of the effects of my lifestyle are beginning to truly sink in, and I am coming to realise that long-term abuse of my body does have an impact, and it will catch up with me at some point. Life is short and precious, and now more than ever I am aware of this.