It is Easy to be Grateful

With the world in free-fall and with an uncertain future, this alcoholic thinks there’s never been a better time to be grateful.

I know, things aren’t great at the moment. The shops are empty, we cannot visit our friends and family, people are very sick and dying; in fact it is safe to say that things are pretty bad. Being grateful in hard times can be challenging, finding something positive can be almost impossible and feel like a tokenistic gesture. Perhaps for some that is true, but not for me – and here is why.

Twelve months ago I felt like crap. I had gotten to the point where years of struggle to reign in the worst of my addiction was becoming impossible to maintain. The pretence that I was just a social drinker was going to be exposed for what it was, a sham. It was inevitable and I didn’t have the strength or the inclination to do anything about it. I looked at my family, my friends, my job – everyone and everything that was important to me and I knew that no one and no single thing would ever come before the need for a drink. I couldn’t see how I would be able to hold onto those things for much longer if I was still drinking.

And then something happened, something that I do not understand to this day. I gave in. I stopped fighting the fact that I couldn’t control the drinking and instead I ran, willingly, to someone close to me and told them: “I need help”. Seemingly out of nowhere I found the strength to open up about the darkest secret I had and admitted that I was powerless over alcohol. I didn’t know it then, but I had completed Step 1 of AA’s twelve step programme.

A few days later and I’m sat in an AA meeting, looking like a lost lamb – but instantly feeling a connection to these strangers. Everything I heard that first night told me that here were a group of people who knew what it was like to be in my head. Of course there were plenty of differences, differences in temperament when drunk, differences in the amount of drink drunk, differences in the places where we drank and the company we kept (or didn’t keep as the case may be), but the way our brains operated and how we saw the world and our place in it, that was the same.

At about this time I found Twitter and, rather more importantly #RecoveryPosse. Now, here were a group of people that I could relate to and that I could carry around in my pocket for emergencies! In those first few weeks and months it was members of #RecoveryPosse who kept me from picking up again; many of these people have since become firm friends and trusted allies in sobriety. Over the months I have found more and more like-minded folk here on Twitter and in the real world, people that help me and that I can help (which also helps me).

Today we find ourselves in unchartered waters; none of us can be sure about what the future holds. What we do know is that this new virus is not interested in our nationality, in our sex or sexual orientation. It’s not interested in our gender or whether we vote Conservative or Labour, Republican or Democrat. It does not care if we are a CEO of a FTSE 100 company or a homeless person on the streets; to this virus we are all the same. For a long time it has felt like we needed to be reminded of that; and this naturally occurring phenomenon has firmly planted that reality in our minds.

Social media has been increasingly dominant in our lives, more so for the younger generations, and our relationship with it has not always been smooth and unchallenging. We know too well the dark side of social media, the bullying, shaming and trolling that goes on every day, yet here we are – in the middle of this crisis and it is social media that is enabling us to stay connected with our loved ones – to see our parents in their living rooms whilst sitting in our own. It is social media that is allowing those of us in recovery to continue to attend the meetings that are vital to our health and wellbeing. And it is social media that enables us to have access to all the latest news and information on the virus and how to keep each other safe. How would we be fairing today if we did not have access to this technology?

No matter how bad things are today I am grateful that I am sober. I am grateful to have #RecoveryPosse and I am grateful to have AA.

Today it is easy to be grateful.

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt

Coronavirus Update

UPDATED 28 March 2020

During these troubled times it is important that we can all get access to good quality recovery meetings. As I find meetings I will update this page and indicate the latest update at the top of the page.

Revovery Hour: This meeting is run by @RecoveryHour and it takes place at 8.30pm (GMT) every day. There are readings, main share or chair, and share-back. Open to all in recovery regardless of fellowship. To access click the link at 8.30pm (GMT): bit.ly/RecoveryHour830

Bristol Frenchay, Acceptance is the Key: This is the home group of @SobrietyMatt. This AA meeting takes place every Tuesday at 8.00pm (GMT) and lasts for an hour. To access the meeting click on the link at 8.00pm (GMT): https://tinyurl.com/BristolAA

Soineantachd (Serenity): Organised by @Serenity0320 this meeting takes place every Saturday and Sunday at 12pm (Mountain)/ 2pm (Eastern)/ 6pm (GMT). To access click on the link at the appropriate time: https://zoom.us/j/8392646243

Bristol Young Peoples AA: Every Sunday at 7.30pm (GMT) is the Bristol Young People’s AA meeting. Do not be put off by the title, they are an incredibly warm and inviting bunch who do not care about your age! Click on the link at 7.30pm (GMT) every Sunday: https://tinyurl.com/BristolAA

In the Rooms: For 24/7 list of online meetings In the Rooms is a great page. Click on the link and sign up for a number of great live meetings.

WEconnect & Unity Recovery: WEconnect and Unity Recovery are partnering together to offer 4 daily all recovery meetings to anyone in the world. Meetings will follow an open format and are available to anyone in or seeking recovery. 7 days a week at 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 9pm (EST). Click on the link at the appropriate time: unityrecovery.zoom.us/my/allrecovery

SMART Recovery: If you would like to find an online SMART Recovery meeting, simply click the link to go directly to their calendar of meetings: https://www.smartrecovery.org/community/calendar.php

Advice on dealing with Covid-19 Anxiety and Worry: In addition to recovery, many people are concerned about how to deal with their worry and anxiety about Covid-19. If you would like to access a practical guide to managing these feelings, why not click on the link: Free Guide To Living with Worry and Anxiety During Global Uncertainty.

Wednesday’s Women’s Group: An all fellowship inclusive recovery meeting for women co-hosted by @RecoveryHour and @GraceBrodie6 that takes place every Wednesday at 7pm. Click the link at the appropriate time to join in: https://zoom.us/j/472491045

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt

Tea anyone?

There is a strange and rather unhelpful pattern to my sobriety journey. The better I’m doing and the more confident I become as a soberista, the more likely I am to stop doing all the things that I need to do to avoid drinking.

It inevitably starts with thoughts like: “I’ll miss Thursday’s meeting because I have XXX that I want to do.” and quickly progresses to “I don’t need to do all this reading, it doesn’t actually help – I’m just doing it because someone else thinks I should”. Here is where things are starting to get really dangerous, my alcoholic mind knows best!

The next step is to start to resent AA and all the time I’m wasting going to meetings. I miss more of them and start thinking about changing my home group because it’s not “doing it for me” (but in actual fact in order to become anonymous and get away with not doing what I need to). Of course my alcoholic mind thinks that all the people in my home group are constantly thinking about me and what I should be doing to stay sober!

Now that I’ve dropped all the readings, stopped thinking about resentments (other than creating new ones) and gratitude lists or going to meetings, my alcoholic mind has decided that a great injustice has been done to me by these terribly sad individuals who, like sheep, are following all these steps and reading all these passages without any thought or free thinking. I start thinking about how I would keep people sober differently (there is of course no substance to this for two reasons: 1. I have no idea about how to keep myself sober, let alone anyone else. 2. My alcoholic brain isn’t actually interested in anyone else, and certainly doesn’t care about my sobriety!).

As these thoughts are rushing in, my mood is on the floor. I’m irritable and restless and, guess what, I’m thinking about drinking!

The thing is with AA is that it’s a simple programme. Do the suggested things and you’re more than likely going to be able to stay sober. However, my alcoholic mind likes nothing more than complicating the simple things in life, and AA is just asking for it!

As I was contemplating how my mind makes even the simplest task complicated, it reminded me of the tea and coffee job at AA meetings. This was my first service in AA – chosen for me by my sponsor “to get to know people”, although my alcoholic mind told me “Ah, so he thinks I need humbling does he? Giving me a lowly job is he?”.

See the source image

Well, I decided that I would make some serious improvements to the tea and coffee station. First of all we needed better biscuits; I sourced the finest biscuits and only opened a packet at a time so that they were fresh at the beginning of each meeting. Then I decided that we needed to improve our range of teas, some herbal tea, good quality because that stuff matters. I made sure that every tea spoon was cleaned after use and put back in a little holder ready for the next user, cup rings were wiped up immediately and good order was kept throughout. My tea and coffee would be the best AA had ever seen!

Then something extraordinary happened, some people wanted to make their own drink because they were ‘very particular’ about how it should be, others complained that the tea was too strong, others still that it was too weak! Some people wanted cake, not biscuits, some wanted full-fat milk instead of half-fat and the list went on. “It’s just a drink” my mind was shouting, and then it hit home; it’s easy to overcomplicate even the simplest things in life. Since giving up the tea and coffee job I have noticed that each person that comes along will do it slightly differently, they make it more complicated than it needs to be, perhaps, but essentially it brings into clear focus the difference between what we need and what we want.

AA offers me what I need and it’s up to me to accept it or not, but as soon as I start changing it to suit me, the less able I am to reap its benefits.

“Keep it simple, stupid”

See the source image

It was a straight-talking friend who made me call my sponsor and get to a meeting during my latest blip, but I cannot afford to keep pushing the limits of this programme. Like it or not, I need to do the suggested things to stay sober, one-day-at-a-time.

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt

Navigating the Stages

We’ve all heard of the stages of Grief..

  • Shock
  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • testing
  • acceptance

And we know that they don’t keep to a timeline, or necessarily run in a nice neat order; just like life follows its own path, so does the journey through grief.

And we grieve, not just the loss of people – through death, abandonment or separation; but other losses – jobs, relationships, health, pets, even dreams and hopes, when life turns a corner you weren’t expecting…

And while we travel the stages of grief, we naturally seek comfort from wherever we can find it – friends, whanau, sleep, exercise and of course substances. Many people’s journey to addiction and depression stems from an event, or a series of events that threw them off balance, changing the journey they were on. And sometimes those very substances, which lulled with a promise of healing and forgetting, roadblock us in a loop, unable to attain that final goal of acceptance and closure….

Every addict, or person with depression I’ve met, has some story, some point in their lives, when life deviated, and they found themselves using a substance to make it all go away. Either a bad start to life, or an unexpected loss along the way..  Of course, it isn’t that simple – otherwise everyone would be an addict – every person will have to deal with grief at some point in their lives. But for some of us, a setting is turned on or off, and we rely on a substance to get through the days. The fall out for addicts is often huge. They lose family, jobs, their health, their self esteem… all losses that can then add to the grief burden and reinforce the addiction.

I’m no grief expert, or addiction counsellor, but I can identify the points in my own life, that have led to me dealing with burn out, and using alcohol – to become “Comfortably Numb”…

And at some point we all have to make a decision – continue the downward spiral OR decide to seek something better. We choose Recovery. Which isn’t as easy as deciding I will just stop drinking, drug taking, or I will just stop being depressed or burned out… It is deciding to start a new way of living; a healthier way, and that might actually include dealing with more loss, as we lose the old crutches that supported us, maybe even changing the friends we hang out with, and the things we take for granted… There will be more things to grieve, before we can even start moving forward..

And central to every recovery, is the facing the things that we are grieving… facing the demons, the disappointments; the disasters… one day at a time, one thing at a time… this too is a process, one that has no fast setting, no instant reset button… And it is hard. Hard to change our habits, hard to acknowledge that we may be one of the problems…

And we have to accept that we cannot do it alone. Grief needs to be fought on several fronts, and we all need back up. Some join a programme; some will do it with counselling; some will do it with supportive friends and whanau. Some are finding comfort in an online community of strangers, who all have something in common, they know where you’ve been and they’re cheering you on from the side-lines…

Some of us will never finish the grief cycle, but we can find a healthy way to live and thrive without it dominating… Finding acceptance of our past, and consolation in our future..

I hope all of you find comfort, strength and support in your new lives. Because you have chosen a new healthier way of life,  you have made the first step. May you find the power to face the source of your grief and heal your way through the stages..

You will find me, and others, here cheering you on from the side-lines…

Navigating the Stages was contributed by @ChrisBzchris

Chris’ blog can be found at: http://www.Chrissiestable.com

#RecoveryPosse?- WTF is that all about?

Contributed by @GeorgeC195

Hi my name is George and I’m an alcoholic… well there’s a showstopper!  In the interests of full disclosure I should probably declare a couple of things:

  1. I’ve been sober for over 10 years
  2. I ascribe this to being a member of AA
  3. Any opinions expressed in this piece are entirely my own. I do not, and never have (at least consciously) put forward the view that my way is the only way; simply that it is what has worked for me, one day at a time since October 1st 2009, the day of my last drink.

You see long before that I was perfectly aware that I was an alcoholic, but until that point had managed to blunder through from one crisis to the next, and even on occasion, usually when under some sort of family pressure, managed to stop under my own steam.  The trouble was that I’d never managed to crack that pesky business of staying stopped.  There was always that lurking notion that despite all the evidence to the contrary that I had gleaned from 35 years of being what my good mate @thepublandlady1 refers to as “a pisscan”, somehow, anyhow, the next time it would be different.

My final drink although large in volume, was by no means my worst escapade.  The loss of various jobs, relationships, my driving licence (twice) and most importantly any lingering scintilla of self-respect would have to be higher (or lower if you like) on that particular list.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Chances are you’ve heard it all before anyway, or at least something very similar.  Some of you will undoubtedly have had similar experiences but if you’re that interested in my misadventures, I contributed a little piece for Liz, another Recovery Posse stalwart who runs a website called Sober Doesn’t Suck. Just click the linky thing below for the full version: soberdoesntsuck

So what was different this time?  Absolutely bugger all, apart from the fact that I’d swallowed enough brandy to fell a decent sized rhino and felt no effect whatsoever.  Let me tell you boys and girls that is a scary place to be!  So, scared shitless, off I trotted to a grotty community centre in a part of town where if you see a cat with it’s tail still in one piece it’s probably a tourist! The rest as they say is history. Not had a drink since and generally speaking life is okay. Of course, some days its utter dogshit, other days it’s fantastic, but as long as the trend line on the graph is generally heading upwards that will do for me.

But enough about me, what’s the script with these Recovery Posse characters I hear you say? Buggered if I know 😊  I’ve had a Twitter account since forever but generally only used it to keep up with the latest news about football (soccer to our subjects in the colonies.)  One day about 18 months ago I was bored at home and started rummaging around the outermost reaches of the Twitterverse to find out what sort of things folks were tweeting about sobriety.  Imagine my surprise when I found a bunch of folks tweeting all manner of stuff I found really interesting.  As I said earlier, I’m a dyed in the wool, all in 12 stepper, but there are lots of people using the hashtag who either follow a different programme to me or no programme whatsoever. Some  of us have been sober for many years,  others just taking their first faltering steps into a way of living that involves not getting off your tits on your favourite poison at every available opportunity.  Their are people of every conceivable religion and none, high born and low. It matters not a jot.  Being a bit of a sci-fi geek, I see it as being a sort of Recovery Rebel Alliance. A motley crew of different people with different perspectives united in a common cause.  There are as far as I can see no leaders and no judgement.  And wow do these people know how to laugh, both with others and at themselves.  That was a clincher for me.  I sure as hell didn’t work so hard on getting sober just so I could be righteous and miserable.  In my experience one common thread among #RecoveryPosse people is that they take their sobriety incredibly seriously, but themselves not very seriously at all.  I think that is a great recipe and one that many “civilians” would do well to emulate.  How do I join I hear you ask?  A bit like my own programme-you self-select.  Nobody told me I could or couldn’t be a member. I just kinda snuck in a side door, pulled up a chair and started helping myself to the buffet.

Did I mention fun?  I can honestly say that since I started posting as part of #RecoveryPosse there have been times when I’ve actually had to put my phone down to avoid dropping it as I was laughing so hard.  Just as importantly it’s an absolutely incredible source of help and support.  The power of knowing that there are others out their who have been through exactly the sort of stuff that is currently melting your head and have somehow managed to get through it without resorting to (insert unhealthy coping mechanism here) is utterly inestimable.  For me it’s not a substitute for real life contact with recovery people, but it’s an invaluable extra resource.  Whatever your drug of choice come and join a bunch of people who “get you”.  I happen to be a booze hound but we have drunks, dope fiends, sex maniacs, overeaters, undereaters self-harmers and sufferers from every other “ism” under the sun in our ranks (sorry if I missed anyone out!)   Come on in, the water is lovely!!

George, January 2020

Hello fear, where have you been?

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt from miserycontest.com

It’s Tuesday and this is the one day of the week when I am at home alone. There are endless jobs to be done, so there is very little reason to be idle, but idle is my default mode; energy-saving is my specialty. So when I am home alone it is easy for me to wander, idly, into my own thoughts, a place best visited in pairs, if at all.

The reason; fear lives here.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a particularly angst-ridden soul, in fact you would probably be hard-pushed to detect any fear in me if we were to meet, but it’s there all the time. Every action, every thought and every sinew of my body is tinged with fear and self-doubt, and I don’t think that I am alone.

Just today I was party to a conversation about Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and the little sheet that they hand out to newcomers. Having accessed this therapy myself, I remember the information well. So did several of my other friends in the group chat; all of them recovering alcoholics. I struggle to accept this as pure coincidence and I can only assume that there is a quality to the alcoholics’ thoughts that is shared across the globe and that quality is first-class fear and self-doubt.

An example of the CBT information sheet.

The beauty of my 12 step programme is that it draws out all of that fear into the open and allows me to wander intently into my thoughts, in pairs. The thing is with fear and self-doubt, once they are exposed to the light of day, once someone else has made you talk about them out loud, puff, they disappear! For the last month I have been at my most content; more content than I have ever been in my life. Those fears have been exposed as a sham, easily tackled with the right approach and with the help and support of others. Yet, whilst the 12 step programme is, for me, the perfect medicine, it is not a cure.

To be free from fear everyday requires work. It means that I have to keep pairing up** and taking a wander around my thoughts and actions and tackle fear and self-doubt head on, again and again. It means that I have to have a safe space to voice those fears and expose them to the light of day***. It means that time alone has to have purpose; today I find purpose in writing, taking care of my family, visiting friends and doing those chores that have built up throughout my drinking years.

One step at a time.

The 12 step programme has to become a way of life if it is to be truly effective and that is what I am working on today. Making that happen takes commitment and requires me to pair up with others to face their fears with them**** (it’s only fair), because I am getting really good at finding fear and self-doubt and kicking its’ ass. It’s a lot of work and not for the faint-of-heart.

Is it easy? Most certainly not.

Is it worth it? My God, yes.

**Get a sponsor. ***Get a home group. ****Do service

I’m fine.

Contributed by @ChrisBzchris

Is there a bigger lie we tell others, and ultimately ourselves?

“I’m fine”

2 years ago, after a very long and unbelievable stretch of family adversities, I found myself sitting in a bar, with friends, sobbing…. But I “was fine”.. it wasn’t mentioned again.

Most friends and family knew most of what my family were going through, but I am a strong and capable woman, and I never let on how it was slowly killing me inside….

People would say “I don’t know how you cope”; my standard answer? “I don’t have a choice”

I was fine.

There  were a few more nights of sobbing on friends’ shoulders; endless nights seeking numbness in a wine bottle; appalling decision making; “running away to have fun” – thinly disguised running away from Me… but if anyone asked, “I was fine”. And because nobody ever challenged me, the lie endured…

I was fine – I don’t do pity or being vulnerable..

I told the whole story, to someone who I trusted, who I had known for years… they responded with pity… and then disappeared..

I was fine..

I ran away some more; I contemplated leaving for good… but if anyone asked?

I was fine..

6 months ago, a couple of people who didn’t know me, didn’t know my story, came into my life. The anonymity gave me courage to talk. Really talk, the words flooded out over the weeks, and the biggest fear I had, that they would turn away, pull away, look at me differently, never happened…. They stayed. They gently let me be not fine..

I found a group of people on Twitter, who for the first time, in forever, I could just be Me around. Flawed Me; not “staunch” Me; People who understand that life can be tough, and that its ok to have bad days… I still don’t do vulnerable..

I wrote a letter to my 16 year old self, it dragged out things I hadn’t thought of in years; I wanted to warn her of the really tough shit that was coming her way, I wanted to tell her to not make some of the decisions I had made, decisions that brought me to this point…..

I wasn’t fine.

And after my biggest low in years, coinciding with a  massive fall out with one of my kids, I couldn’t do “fine” anymore..

2 weeks ago, I started to tell people who love me that I’m not fine.. And they all knew… And nobody gave me pity; everybody asked how they could help; everyone accepted that I need to do less, be less, be quieter….

I am not fine; but I am getting better…….

Footsteps

A Nine-Month Reflection

In April 2019 I discovered #RecoveryPosse on Twitter whilst scouring the internet for help with my drinking addiction. This little hashtag community is more than just a bunch of faceless internet hacks, anonymously chatting away on a purely superficial level to people they will never know in real life. On the 21st April last year #RecoveryPosse saved my life. I wasn’t on my death bed, struggling to project my final, profound words – no, this death was a living death where I had become spiritually bankrupt and where I had reached the end of hope.

As I stood in that momentary state of realisation, I knew that I had two choices; one was to do what terrified me, and give up my crutch, to stop trying to manage my demons and surrender myself to something or someone else to pull me back from the brink and the other was to surrender to the drink. I honestly did not know which way to turn and in desperation I searched the internet for help and advice, and there it was – #RecoveryPosse and attached to it a plethora of supportive and encouraging tweets on the theme of recovery. Perhaps I had found that something or someone else to pull me back from the brink? One tweet later and I had made my decision – it was time to surrender myself to these people for help.

I asked questions and I listened carefully to the answers. I took action, most people suggested some sort of 12 step programme such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, so I got myself off to an AA meeting the next night; that meeting is now my Home Group and that night I met the man who was to become my sponsor. Tomorrow marks 9 months since that day and I haven’t drunk a drop of alcohol since. I was lucky in many respects as I had not yet lost my job or family, and since that time, on the face of it at least, my life has not changed all that much. I am still in the same job, living in the same house with a pretty similar weekly routine, but at the same time everything has changed.

Today I feel content, happy and optimistic. Where previously I had suffered from a lack of hope I am now full of it! I know it can feel like we are being inundated with bad news, from climate change, to the economy, diplomatic relationships and domestic political wrangles, but sober I can deal with that; sober I can rationalise all that big stuff and focus on my own life and how I can be a positive contributor to our worldwide society. I consider that to be a pretty significant change in my life. It might not rock the foundations of the world, but today I will try to be positive, polite and helpful in my interactions with the people around me and in turn I hope that that will help them be able to do the same to the people that they interact with today. Perhaps we might send a little tremor through the foundations of the world at least.

I am a proud member of #RecoveryPosse and I still find support and strength from my ‘higher power posse’ as I like to think of them, and I continue to tweet in the hope that something I say will help someone who, right now, is stood on the brink.

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt