Archive | May, 2017

A New Way of Living

29 May

When I was younger (much younger), I used to eagerly count down the days until my birthday. I couldn’t wait for my special day when the sole focus was on me and I would anticipate all of the presents I would receive.   Ok so maybe I’m not so different today. Today, I counted up my days of sobriety, 1826 to be exact, and I reached my 5-year anniversary. Or 5-year birthday, as many in recovery like to call it.

On your “regular” birthday, you celebrate the fact that you were born. Let’s face it – you didn’t do much. Your mother did all the work. But it marks the day you came into this world. Your sobriety anniversary or birthday, on the other hand, marks the day your new life began. A better life. A second chance. Something you did have a huge role in. It celebrates the choice you made to live.

My emotions run the gamut today, but what I feel mostly is gratitude. I think about the last drinks I had in NYC on Memorial Day weekend five years ago. I think about how awful I felt when I woke up, how my hands shook until I had a drink in me. I think about how ashamed I felt when I admitted I was an alcoholic. I think about how insurmountable the concept of getting sober seemed. And I think about how much better I feel now that I am sober. How proud I am of the fact that I didn’t pick up on the many occasions when I felt like caving. How grateful I am to those who stood by me and helped lift me up when I needed it.

I’m very happy to have my shiny, new 5-year coin. But I am also trying to remember my need to stay humble and strong. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. Today is just another day in the battle. It’s always there, ready to pounce. I’m still just a second away from picking up a drink and going back to the insanity.   But as my sponsor says, it’s okay to give yourself and ‘atta girl every once in a while and pat yourself on the back.

While I celebrate my special day, I am also painfully aware of the fact that there are so many out there still suffering. I wish I could somehow let them experience how I feel right now and let them know that they can get there too. Yes it’s hard work, but it is oh so worth it. To my friends who are struggling right now, please try to stay strong. Life is so much better on the other side of this wretched disease. And it is a disease. It is not a weakness or a lack of will power. Reach out for help if you need it. Turn to your higher power, whatever that is for you. For me, that higher power (or HP) is God. And I couldn’t have done this without my faith in Him.

I heard at a meeting today that getting sober isn’t about thinking your way into a new way of living, but living your way into a new way of thinking.   I really like that. I am living a new way, without drinking, with much more gratitude and with a much stronger connection to my HP. Doing so has resulted in a new way of thinking for me. Thinking that life is good. Sobriety is wonderful. And each day is a gift. So on to day 1827….

And, God bless those who gave their lives for our country. Talk about gratitude.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

 

 

 

Just a Little More

19 May

You may have heard the recent news about the death of Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell.  While the story is still unfolding,  his death was reportedly a suicide by hanging.   Cornell was only 52 years old and a recovering addict.   His family is questioning whether the drug Ativan played a role in his death. Cornell had a prescription for the anxiety drug but may have exceeded the recommended dosage. The possible side effects for the medication are suicidal thoughts and impaired judgement.   Was it the addict in him that led him to take “just a little bit more” for added benefit?   Cornell went public about being newly sober with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous in 2003. He remained clean and sober for many years. And then this.  A tragic, preventable death.

But what you didn’t hear about in the news was the passing of a lovely, elderly woman who battled alcoholism for decades. I had the privilege of meeting her “in the rooms” and getting sober having her “experience, strength and hope” to guide me.   She was an animated Southern belle, who said the serenity prayer and Lord’s prayer next to me in meetings with her trademark slow, Southern drawl. Her death brings sorrow and grief to those who knew and loved her, but there is also a certain amount of peace surrounding it because she died a sober woman. She fought the “cunning, baffling and powerful” disease for decades. And won. I’ll always remember her humorous stories and infectious laughter.

So the contrast? A famous lead singer in a popular rock band. A little-known, elderly Southern woman. Two completely different worlds.   Suicide vs. natural causes. The common factor? Addiction. Supposedly both recovering alcoholics/addicts.   Vastly different people bonded together by sharing the same disease.  I guess Cornell’s toxicology report will shed some light on whether or not he was, in fact, still in the throes of his addiction. Regardless, I pray for both of their families and that they both rest in peace.

The death of famous actors or musicians tends to raise awareness about addiction, temporarily at least. But what about the millions of “normal” people who battle the disease valiantly out of the limelight but succumb to its power?   Their passing isn’t plastered on newspapers and magazines or online publications. Some die on the streets a horrific, lonely death without anyone even knowing. Not sure if that is worse or if being the loved one having to watch someone die from alcoholism is.

This isn’t one of my more upbeat blog posts. But it needed to be written. The death of an addict, famous or not, serves as a good reminder of why we fight the fight every day. As has been said many times, alcoholism is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” It takes strength and determination to win the fight. It takes discipline. It takes HELP. If you need it, ASK for it. Many recovering alcoholics or addicts, including myself, take prescription drugs for anxiety, depression or other things.   We need to remain diligent and not let ourselves go to that place where we may think “just a little more” will help.   Cross-addiction is something that we hear about all too often.

When I drank, it was always “just a little more.”   Just one more drink. Just a little more wine. Just another shot. And it always led to just a little more trouble. Now, it’s “just a little more” in a much different way. Just a little more time without a drink. Just a little more serenity. Just a little more strength. Just a little more help from my higher power. There are many things for which more is better. Alcohol and drugs aren’t examples of those.

I’m in NYC this weekend celebrating my upcoming anniversary of 5 years of sobriety. Back to the last place where I had a drink, Memorial Day weekend of 2012. I am so much stronger than I was back then. So much more grateful. And honestly, I’m just a little more proud.

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self- given. Be careful. “ – John Wooden

Cinco de Derby

7 May

Cinco de Mayo Friday. Kentucky Derby Saturday. To me, that used to mean Margaritas and Mint Juleps. Not anymore. I just hit 1800 days of sobriety. A good friend pointed out, ironically, that 1800 is also a tequila. So cheers to those of you enjoying those drinks, and cheers to me.

There was always a reason to drink. For me, it used to be just because it was a day that ended in “y”. Or Arbor Day—there’s cause right there to celebrate. The Ides of March also brought an excuse to party.   You name it—I could find a reason to drink. I was depressed so I thought a drink would help make me happier. I was stressed so I thought the drink would take the edge off. I was frustrated, angry, resentful – whatever – and always thought a drink would make it all better. It might have provided some temporary relief and distraction, but it never made things better. Usually quite the opposite.

But this year, I didn’t pull the covers over my head and hide from these occasions like I did early in my sobriety. This year, I went to a good friend’s birthday party on Cinco de Mayo and a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday. A few years ago, I wasn’t able to do anything of the sort.   Was there drinking at both parties?   Yes. But the wonderful thing for me was that being surrounded by alcohol didn’t really bother me. I had my own special drinks and enjoyed them. I could actually relax and not be overcome with anxiety about the temptation.   Progress. Lots of progress.

I know that I have to be grateful for the progress, which comes with a great deal of hard work, but not get too cocky. I need to remember what it used to be like. The miserable hangovers, the forgotten nights (and days), the drunken screw-ups. It is often referred to as “the gift of desperation”. We remember what brought us to admit our alcoholism and to get help. And became willing to accept our powerlessness over alcohol and the fact that our life had become unmanageable. I went to a meeting almost every day this past week. Meetings help keep me grounded. Often it is too easy to let life get in the way of working on my sobriety. I can’t do that. Without my sobriety, there is no “life” to get in the way.

I gave a talk at our public library last week. I was touched by how many people came out to hear it and support me. Despite the fact that the talk ended on a very positive note, one woman, whom I have known for many years, was in tears. She said it was hard to hear all that I went through and that she couldn’t believe she didn’t know or realize my struggle while I was in the middle of it. I’ve heard that from several people. I guess I was pretty darn good at putting on a happy face. But now you see the real me. Hopefully you see a humbled, grateful and genuinely happy recovering alcoholic.

Three weeks from today, God willing, I will be celebrating 5 years of sobriety. Memorial Day. And the weekend before, I’ll be in NYC, where I found my “gift of desperation” on the street corner at 4am. There’s a big reason right there to celebrate. Sparkling cider for everyone is on me.

 “The gift of willingness is the only thing that stands between the quiet desperation of a disingenuous life and the actualization of unexpressed potential.” – Jim McDonald

 

 

 

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