Sober up and keep going

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SOBRIETY.-

Dignitycommon sense, pragmatism, practicality, self-control, self-restraint…

Among other synonyms this is basically the definition. We all have listen to words of wisdom that click on us when we attend meetings. For me it was an old-timer that delivered one that made a solid impact in me: I havent drank alcohol in many years, however, I have to stop from time to time and ask myself

Am I living sober?

Dignity is made of self-esteem, people who live with it are considered being worthy of honor and respect. These are things that contrary to what I tried to show in the outside I was never good at. I presented facade of a strong, fun; caring person to people but inside I wasnt feeling enough and was completely self-centered.

Common sense, well no need to say that in the life of an addict this is the one thing I totally lack of. Everything in my behaviour was against it, after all the problems I caused and got into, I kept doing the same over and over until it almost killed me in order to ask for help.

Pragmatism and Practicality,  both of this again are even out of consideration in a world surrounded by chaos and instability. lies and deceit. Really nothing more to say.

Self control and Self-restraint this two especially sounded like a joke.

This looked like a lot more work, definitely stop drinking and using caused me a lot of problems and put me in dangerous or shameful situations. I had to stop before it got worse. Later in recovery I realized that there are too many more behaviors, bad habits I had to get rid of and many other skills and values I needed to learn if I was to be a productive, valuable and decent members of society.

I made meetings my primary goal when I just got clean, that and literature took good part of my time, It was a time when any excuse would make me pick up and from there anything would go. So being around AA and “my people” was pretty much what kept me in the right path. I needed to learn that there are many other things in life though, we have  professional, family and social relationships and the most important, the one with our own  self. And we have to work on all of this as well so, not drinking is just the beginning.

Three years and a half ago I was not struggling, I was fighting to death to keep myself away from my addictions, I would give anything to be able to stay sober for just a week. Listening to people with 15 years in recovery sounded like a far dream, today I am still not close to them but I feel even  this many years are too little time to enjoy life´s  journey.  It does get better and better.

Today I finally have been able to stay stopped. Sober for twenty-nine months i think : What is my goal now? What is next? Well, I am positive that finding out what to LIVE SOBER is. Besides of all the situations one experiences in life, good moments and memories enjoyed as well as the bad or unfortunate everyone had to endured, a particular ingredient is what in the end makes us find Hope and Purpose. Spirituality, is what allows human beings to accept reality.

Then, how do I apply all this everyday in order to live a life that is worth of respect, self-esteem, with common sense, self-restraint and  being able to deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical considerations? Honestly I can’t say I know, even understanding the concept feels hard to grab at once but I have no doubt based on how recovery has turned the mess my world was wrapped around into the gift  I get to wake up every morning to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sobriety is a personal journey

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It is hard to look within in a deeper fashion, I get distracted to easy and that is why many times I don’t do the proper work to achieve a better self. I started my recovery going to a meeting everyday for 155 days straight. I needed that, the struggle to stay sober was every minute, every hour, every day.

After 29 months, I rarely think about it or crave it, I have thoughts of how it was and it is present in my senses and I am sure it will always be. Maybe the things that worry me the most are not related to the actual perform of my addiction but to the behavior and thinking that use to lead me there. My “isms” where a consequence, that’s why I still and always will have to work on the causes. This is why I need to go deep onto myself when I realize old thinking starts its move  to take over.

A few months ago I found myself sitting at meetings without being present. Like the way school was in my early childhood just about repetition and memorizing rather than understanding. My first to years were of constant changes in my personal and professional life and I see definitely a lot of progress in every aspect of it. But I believe I got to excited and pleased about the changes that I got complacent and stopped really improving and failed to see that there was really still much of the debris from the past 26 years of addiction (the white blanket in front of our face). How arrogant is to think that in less than three years you can rebuild the destruction of our past.

So I focused on my work and family and put most of my hours on them and new projects.  That left AA aside and when I found out it had been months without attending to meetings. Recently one person from the fellowship died after relapsing, He had stopped going to meetings, normally that is the result. So it is a common thought for us alcoholics that when someone doesn’t attend meetings for a while, we assume they are drinking again. Today I drove my car to the mechanic to get serviced, a couple AAs where there too, we walked together for a while, it took three blocks before he asked: Are you still sober? I mean if you are not it is ok, just don’t die (this far from making me feel bad shows me that he cares.)  Yes I said, and you know I expected that, not everybody asks but, we all assume the answer is relapse,  and even when someone says they haven’t we stick for a while in our the idea that the person did picked up; we doubt.  I have done it.  We are what we are, we think the worse, it is like if we like others to fail, it is human nature. Non offense taken. We lied and failed for so long that everybody expects that from us, I know that my kids, friends, fellow alcoholics, my mother and even my wife they all still do and they always will. It is what it is, I understand. It is part of recovery.

Sobriety is a personal journey, we do it for us because that is the only way it works.

I have to stick to it because there is a lot to do still, and there are times when i have to make what its best for me and the most important is to be honest to myself and when I am just pretending just try to find a solution. AA saved my life, but therapy and treatment too, as well as hope, purpose and love.

Do whatever you have to do to stay clean and sober, even if others don’t understand.  Stay humble, be honest and just do it!

 

 

Let GO my Ego, there is the “WE”

 

 


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How do I put my ego aside, I’ve learned in recovery that if the moment comes when I have to share something I should speak about myself. It is easier for others to let us in and  listen when they don’t feel lectured. On the other side there is something in my mind telling me that I should not be using “I” or “me” words all the time. Some people in the fellowship say WE is the way the program works since it is the group that bring us back from hell.

The point is, whether it is right or wrong, I should only focus in being honest.

I know that besides the different backgrounds or situations, we came to recover in similar conditions. We all  came defeated and asking for help.

When I decided to do something about my problem, I wanted to pick the best option. Right, like if I was shopping for something or I really had a choice. This was obviously me still trying to have control.

My first attempt was science, went to talk to a psychiatrist and my personal doctor. That didnt convinced me  at all.  AA came as the second option since I knew people in recovery for many  years, and of course they were glad to help. I tried this and felt a little more confident but still was holding on to my own ideas. I manage to stay sober though for a couple of 30 days and a couple of almost 60 as well. Then I thought I needed something else and went to treatment.

One time, talking to my sponsor in AZ he asked what were my plans to keep my sobriety after treatment was over. He suggested that maybe after spending all that money I may want to protect that investment by giving it some regular maintenance service in AA wich is very cheap (actually a great deal comparing).

Therapy played an important role in this journey too. I was referred to by an old ex girlfriend who is a Psychologist and a strong opponent to 12 steps programs. She suggested me to go to therapy after my final and most painful relapse, arguing that this programs failed 90% of the time. So I started working with her colleague wich mentioned as well her professional distrust to the 12 steps methods but was interested in listening to what I thought had helped me in any way. This was key to help me accept her help and trust the approach that at the beginning didn’t work for me. She cared for what I had to say and I open my mind to what she had to give to me.

Later on  she told me: “you already know I am not fond of  the 12 steps programs. However, after all the time that we have been meeting I have to admit this: I don’t know what it is, or how it works but I can tell that you have changed and that somehow there is a change in your mindset so I propose we work together using what is best for you from what I have to give and what you get from AA”

We found the “golden nuggets” she said, lets keep looking for them with both approaches and I am sure you will succeed. She was right, and in my personal experience I couldn’t have done it without one of the two, even between them they dislike each other. I am not saying that AA converted  a Shrink but I am glad she had the wisdom to see that I was getting something good from it and certainly helped me to finally let go of my resistance and accept all the help available for me, wherever it came from cause I needed it all.

It’s amazing how life can be so different and so the same all the time in the various stages of our development. There are many lessons learned and experience gained or acquired from them yet, always new experiences and opportunities that I appear like second chances.

At this point I am aware of my shortcomings and they allow me to appreciate and see them so I can learn something new. These are the times of many first times for me and for the people that surround me as my new life affects them differently than it did in the past. We are all related and now that I am working in being a better version of myself, I see that every time I get better I bring improvement to others as my actions affect them in a positive way.

There will always be challenges and this may bring the natural fear to the unknown and uncertainty from our own capabilities. Despite, there is no other way to go forward than to risk and adventure into new experiences and bigger and more complex. In the same token I don’t numb my senses because of that.

So here I am myself, in the company of others I share the world with, I need them to get where I am going but this time I care for all of us, not just me. I am are responsible of me and my sobriety, with that I am aware of  the impact my actions and my sobriety affect others. We work together and become better together.

Today is a better day for my family, for my crew, for my friends and there is the “WE”.

Grateful

 

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I spend most on the time trying to do my best in working my program. I have gotten some degree of peace and serenity and feel that I am growing up finally. Life is good and my relationships at work, with friends and family are at the best they had ever been. Summing it up, life is good.

Everyday I have the chance to be aware of my shortcomings and character defects and have the tools to keep my sobriety. There are moments too when I catch myself having thoughts of how would it be like if I go back to my old ways and every time I am certain I have a strong recovery going on. My life has meaning today, it has purpose, I cherish the good in it and I am grateful for the gift of recovery and thankful for the second chance.

I see other people living like me and everything seems fine.

I want to believe we have all made it and suddenly  got a brutal reminder . My mind runs non-stop looking for a reason. One of us died a couple of days ago “by this horrible decease” a member said. I found out through the internet. I havent been as regular as I used in AA meetings for a while, I thought he was fine. That is what we always assume probably.  So, What happened, Why, What was going on in his life? How didn’t anybody know in order to help, to stop it?

People are in shock and the most heard comments are about had seen him, talked to him, and everything looked fine, It sounds like it just suddenly happened, its never sudden. I thought he was maybe sick, that he had some kind of medical issue. I think of all possibilities and health causes and even may have thought about some kind of accident to justify it. My mind doesn’t want to go to the possibility of a death by addiction. I just want it to be any other cause, I don’t want to know about any of my people to go because of our condition, disease, insanity, call it whatever.

Recently I spent a couple of evenings with a friend visiting with his wife, he is in the program, They are taking two months to travel and live in Mexico and work from here. It is an experiment to see if they can split their time and live in both countries. It sounds sweet, who wouldn’t love to be able to do it. I for sure would sign for it.

So, again everything sounds great, It looks like they got it all figured it out and I admire them for having the courage to adventure into this dream.

Chatting over dinner he says they just went to Europe to visit his brother and he took her to a wine tasting dinner, he ordered his usual soda and she got the tasting menu. Then he said he sip a little of the wines. He said he is ok, doesn’t see anything wrong with it. I said nothing.  It stayed in my head for days, Why? Whats the purpose? Am I overreacting? Is he going to far? Is he being complacent? Am I becoming judgemental?

I don’t know, I fear for my friend, for others. It makes me think a lot about my own recovery, Am I really ok? Is my sobriety as solid as I believe?  This other man just died a few days ago! Should I talk to my friend about it? Should I let him know that I worry about him for what we chat about the other day?

With all this going inside my head I reflect on my own life and ideas about what I have learned and heard in this past 28 months of clean and sober time. How long it is long enough to feel safe?

The answer is the same I got since the beginning. This is a lifetime journey, this is built one day at a time and never ends. I can’t stop working and I must never forget where do I come from and who I am. I shall never stop being grateful for the gift of sobriety or ever stop seeing the blessings in my life wich presence weighs always much more than my problems or difficulties.

Not sure what I am doing other than do the work.

My name is Eduardo. I am a GRATEFUL recovering alcoholic-addict.

 

Honesty

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It’s a lot of work to get sober; we struggle by minutes, hours and days when we are lucky. It is not an easy task for an addict; we can fall at any time, any event out of our control becomes an excuse to pick up or use. Our mind is so set to find a way out from our obligations and reality that we master our abilities to exit from them. We lack structure; we run away from it, we will do anything to escape to our false concept of freedom.
It is all numbness, we realize that we have been living in chaos, that we have drifted far from life. Recovery requires the same energy and commitment we had when we were active in our addiction. It will flourish with every responsible action we take.
As we add time to our sobriety, the chaos disappears, and slowly we come back to a reasonable pace of living. There are moments when we sit back and remember the good old days, believe me, none of those sweet memories belong to our drinking and using time. We recall the times growing up as kids when life was simple, times with family and people we loved and who loved us.  We didn’t need to pretend to be somebody else when we were comfortable being ourselves.
We have to take responsibility for our actions and begin to put our lives in order.  We begin to get better, and people around us start to believe and trust in us again. The change is visible and our dependants, loved ones, colleagues can tell we are working on ourselves. Our economy improves, and we gain stability and peace. It appears our world is working fine and we feel good for the first time in years. This is a significant time to work harder and harder because when things are going well, we may get complacent and lower our guard on our fight with our old habits.
It is after some time in sobriety and when things are going well that some of us want to believe we healed. After all, We have grown so much, we have fixed our businesses and made amends, we paid debts and help others, we don’t feel the cravings for alcohol or drugs, and we have healthy habits. We feel strong and have an active recovery life. Some of us have studied about psychology and behavior and acquired knowledge we didn’t have before about how addiction works. We listen to new ideas; we are surrounded by people who are interested in becoming better in mind and body. All of this is great, but we need to pay attention and make sure the reason for our recovery is still ourselves. This may sound selfish and we all know self-centeredness is the first thing we have to let go if we want to stay clean and sober. However, when we start prioritizing what others would want or expect from us, we enter in a dangerous area. We can forget that in our sickness we seek for love and acceptance that we fed our ego trying to please others with terrible consequences. We love our spouse and our children, our family, and friends. They stood by us in the worst times and supported us in our recovery. We may feel bad for the way we treated them, and we want to repair the damage. We owe them time and can’t wait to make it up to them since we feel good because things are going well. But Recovery is for us only; we are the ones that want it. We have to work for it and fight against ourselves to keep it.
Putting others ahead of my recovery is a big mistake. Sobriety must always be my first interest, without sobriety I lose everything.
I have worked to be better and make everything better around myself so that others can depend on me, and I can take care of the people I love. I am an alcoholic and not them; they don’t need sobriety and let’s face it, as much as they have been there with me and watched me hit rock bottom; they don’t know what it is like to be an addict because they are not one. Nobody can understand our addiction but an addict. Someone that loves me can say ( with the best intention, or naivety better put): “Hey, its ok, you had struggle and worked so hard, you are ok, you got this, you have learned and achieved so much, what is going to happen? You are strong now, just have a sip, just taste it, you don’t have to drink”.
Or maybe it is me thinking this to myself.
AA and NA programs state that their steps are suggestions, never affirm it is the absolute truth. But they do demand my most rigorous honesty. These are programs of complete abstinence from all substances. There were only a few questions I was asked when I came for help:  Are you done drinking? Would you go to any length to stay sober?  And COMPLETE HONESTY was the only requirement.
So, when someone says any different I respect their choice, I don’t hold all the truth. Maybe one day someone will be able to drink like a gentleman or a lady after having to get help from the program, who knows.
” I have never heard of someone coming back to meetings after drinking or drugging again and telling great stories about it.”
I remember an 87-year-old lady said in a meeting I was attending in  Philadelphia,  “Every time I hear someone say they think they are healed, I fear for them, not because I want them to fail but because I have lost people I dearly cared for that died after trying.
Jeremy Paxman :  “You don’t do drugs anymore? A glass of wine even?”
David Bowie :  “It would kill me if I start drinking again. I am an alcoholic. Would be the kiss of death for me. My relationships with my friends, my family, everybody around me is and have been so good for many years now. I wouldn’t do anything to destroy that AGAIN. It is very hard to have relationships when you are doing drugs and drinking. For me at least, I was very lucky to find my way out of it”.
Stay strong. Love.

Directions

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I got directions for my sober living from my program. I went through the steps together with my sponsor as I learned to live like a child learns to walk and finally can run. I tripped and fell, I got stronger and became less clumsy in my relationships with the world. Little by little I get more comfortable with myself and accept my human condition, slowly I break free from the surviving mode.  I grew up in trying to protect myself from being hurt or because  I didn’t want others to see my defects.
One of the most critical tools that I have today is awareness; I have the clarity to see in my behavior when I am acting in my old ways. From now on I have to be attentive and see when I lie to somebody, hurt someone or manipulate to take advantage of a situation; once I catch myself doing this, I own it and immediately try to fix it.
Making amends can be tricky, the more time I am sober, it is easier to work on this because there is acceptance and that makes it more comfortable but it doesn’t mean it will go easy or the way I expect. They are intended to make it up to the person I failed, and this means IT IS NOT ABOUT ME which is always a lesson.
There are times to make amends too, sometimes we may be ready, but the other person is not.  Sometimes we are not prepared or don’t know how to approach it. Other times we have to accept that is not possible because they won’t speak to us, they moved away and are no longer around. When we are not capable of making this amends we need to accept it and move on to reality. In this case, our amends will be living a life trying to become better every day. No matter what we encounter on this journey, it is always one day at a time.
There is a lot of work needed to keep my sobriety however at the same time there are great things and changes happening around me and need to embrace them and be active in sharing them and show with actions how grateful I am for this new life, for the opportunity some others didn’t get.
Last year brought me chances to work on my amends with some people and had a different kind of results and reactions; one of them went unexpectedly well for me. I feel like I shouldn’t count it because the person didn’t hold any ill feelings for me, on the contrary, showed me how big a heart and beautiful soul she has. The next one was opposite; I was sure I knew how to handle it and thought enough time had passed but it didn’t; it was not only terrible timing, but the person wasn’t really in a place where we could even talk. I failed miserably to see it and just made it worse trying to force it. Time will tell whether is possible to fix the debris of my old ways or not. I can only keep working and learning about myself.
In a different theme and about being grateful for the chance to be not only in recovery but alive, the last months of my first year and most of my second were hard, and I spent them with a lot of anger. People I was very close to passed away. When I was 20, a dear family member died, and it hit me hard. He was an uncle I looked up to and respected a lot, he went down so quickly. One weekend he looked ok and the next he was so ill I didn’t even get close to him, that night he died. It was never spoken but today and only after my struggle, I know today he was one of us.  The same story repeated itself this time. It happens all the time, and I understand; you are not going to your friends funeral and talk about how being an alcoholic caused him a premature death. It is an emotional moment, and the family members are going through a lot, and we owe them respect. It’s is very clear once we are sober to understand that in our addiction we are killing ourselves by affecting our health. After this first loss, just months later one more friend died and under same circumstances. The celebration of life was worse since a lot the people decided it was a good way to honor his life in the same way he had lived it, right, drinking and doing cocaine. I couldn’t stay there; I was so angry that I had to leave.  For me, it was so clear these two men died after years of abuse of alcohol and drugs. I didn’t hear anybody acknowledging the fact of why they died or talking to their kids about the dangers of addiction. It appeared to me they were celebrating it.
These deaths were entirely my issue, I was mad because I got the gift and they didn’t, we lived the same way, we grew up together, and now they were gone, and I was still here. Why? They should be alive, why didn’t they ask for help, why didn’t they accepted it later on. Why did they keep on going knowing they were not going to make it? I was so pissed at them. I was going to miss them; I was broken-hearted.
Today I understand that saving people is not what we do; we stay by people when they want to save themselves, recovery is personal, they say it is not for the one who needs it but for the one who wants it. I get that it was probably the only way I could grieve until I had the clear mind to understand what was happening.
Stay strong, work on yourself, help others and stay by the ones who want the gift, accept life, clean your side of the street, be aware of your character defects, make amends, be active in every aspect of your recovery.  Take care of yourself. Peace.

Easy does it

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Getting sober wasn’t easy, it took me about 18 months until I finally had that last drink and was able to live this new journey clean. I made many 30 days, many almost 60 days, went to treatment, went to AA and made hundreds of meetings. I managed to stay in the wagon for seven months, ran a marathon at 8000+ feet of altitude and right then, when I was feeling the best I had ever felt in years, I relapsed, and it was a bad one.
How did it happen? It is devastating; it crushes your soul. Destroys your hope; it’s humiliating, I was in a terrible place. I Didn’t see myself with a chance to make it; it was when it finally clicked in my head, I had been “trying” to get sober for one year and a half.  I read the big book so many times,  shared,  went to meetings,  studied, worked out, ate and lived healthily and yet, here I was biting the dust again. After all this time my mind went back to the very beginning of my recovery, the first step. I read it every single day during all this time: WHO cares to admit complete defeat? Nobody, not me for sure. This was it for me; I had nothing else, I was empty, broken-hearted, wholly defeated; that was the end of that and the beginning of a new life. It was right there, written since I started coming but took me so long to get it; I was finally going to make it.
I know that for me that was the moment I got the gift when I let go of my ego, I stopped trying to find a way of my own, quit rationalizing or understanding the whys and just accepted surrender and started to pay attention.
Relapse sounds inexplicable, many times I just wasn’t able to see it coming, it just happened and was stronger than me; took me by surprise. It came from nowhere and struck me from behind. Well, not really, that was my reasoning back then because I couldn’t see further than my little world of addiction allowed me to see. It was the same way for everything else in my life; I was unable to pay my business rent or taxes on time.  I never made it on time, or I missed my daughter’s presentations in her classes or festivities the kids put on for their parents. Was late or will miss my daughter’s school open classes or festivals.  I wasn’t able to send an email with a catering proposal, I even stop cooking and serving my customers. Addiction had me; it owned my life and all that matters to me. But this didn’t happen like magic as I thought, this is not a sudden event, this had been growing for a while, this had been cooked because I was missing work in my recovery.
I want to be healthy, I want to be ok, I don’t want to be sick. I don’t want to be an addict, I never wanted to grow to be an alcoholic, to lose control and even today I wish I wouldn’t be who I am sometimes, I would like to believe there is a cure or that addiction doesn’t exist, that it is all bullshit. That I can learn new things and I can live a healthy life and be able to stop as other people do. I would like to have a glass of wine with my dinner (damned, I am a chef) as my wife does. I would like to have a half shot of tequila on Sundays as my mom does. I want to believe that everything is possible and I don’t have to be an addict.
I hear this all the time from different people everywhere I am.  I go there myself, but I know today that yes, this is normal, this happens, but I understand that this is the making of a relapse in my future if I don’t pay attention if I forget who I am and how I got here.
My life has changed, I live in the present.  I am getting my life back every day a little more, we outgrew our location, and the restaurant is more prominent and busier, and  I am cooking again, I have a better relationship with my daughter, and hopefully one day, I will have one with my son. I have been researching with Renata about College applications, she took the SAT and we are getting ready to move to AZ next fall, we are starting this adventure together and we both will be starting a new life and with the similar challenges and this is bringing us closer and stronger. I will watch her grow to become a woman as I improve myself to be a better human being. Would I jeopardize all this just to find a cure for myself? Just to be able to have a drink? Only to be able to fix me? It is not, it doesn’t mean something to me anymore, today it is just a drink, and I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t care for it. I don’t fear to come into a bar or hang out with people who can enjoy a few either; it is just not for me.
I am not in search of perfection but progress, I am human and had made mistakes and will surely make many more. So it is possible that I may have doubts from time to time, that I wish I weren’t different but when that happens, I have to recognize that this is my danger zone, this is the ingredients, and I have to pay attention. We didn’t become addicts in one day nor were able to get sober in one day either, and we won’t fall back into it either in one day.
Relapse comes from nowhere; it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t hit us from behind, we cook it, we allow it to get in. Relapse is not an option. Remember, EASY DOES IT.