Feeling the fire of nicotine withdrawal as I write this. This withdrawal is hitting dead center of my brain, like a piece of glowing charcoal dropped in, and my chest, like a vise. Every moment is a scream.
There’s no tossing and turning, no sweats like with alcohol and other drugs, just agony in my mind and waves of justification to pick back up. I didn’t know I still carried a reserve of self-deception so deep. But it’s talking to me. Screaming. Justifying the relapse in hundreds of promising ways.
I attended a support group, tried to express myself. Failed. I’m stuttering. Confused. Whatever is in play biologically, neurologically, I’m not all there.
I’m grateful for reaching out on Twitter, also my homies, local supports, before I stopped I asked for help. Partly for accountability too.
If I make it a few more hours, day three is in the books.
Part of me knows whatever gets thrown at me, I can overcome, but right now, it’s wave after wave. Relentless.
I frequently use humor to help get through, and realized I need my core ramped up to something stronger.
Actually that’s why I’m changing things up. The challenge. To get into a better space. I probably could drag tobacco use out a while longer, but I was tired of every decision being shaded by the need to guard my tobacco consumption.
So there’s a freedom there. I just don’t know what that is gonna look like, feel like, or live like yet. But thanks to the rooms, and people around the various recovery communities, I have more faith than not the waves of agony will end.
I was pondering on my morning walk, about how we are living through one of “Those” times.. those pivotal points in history, when the world changes.. A global event, like no other. Scary times; interesting times; times that will make us evaluate how we live, how we will conduct ourselves and even with whom and where we will choose to live.
It is a Massive time, and the world we re-emerge into will be different…
But then I thought about this group – as I often do when I roam the beach. This collection of waifs and strays with Recovery as our goal in common. I know that a lot of us have been as low as a human can be and survived. I know that we all face a daily battle with sobriety, mental health or addiction… That we have found like minded people, who know that daily battle and are willing to support, encourage and just hug if it all gets too hard…
The rest of the world might well look at this group and think that somehow we are weaker, damaged, maybe even of lesser value to whatever the new world will look like..
But I disagree.
The very demons we face have given us strength. The bonds we have made here have already given us an online support system – before everyone else went looking for one. The strong desire to survive what life throws us, has given us insight and wisdom. And the very tenets of this group of:
are the very attributes people will need to move forward.
I know we are all fearful, and these worrying times have made the Recovery journey so much harder. But then I read tweets of
“At least I’m tackling this sober”
“Yesterday was a bad day, but I’m back today”
“I’m struggling today, is anyone around”… And I see them answered almost immediately, and often for hours afterwards by support and care..
AND I can see a new emphasis on our daily gratitude list – learning to be thankful for what we have.
#ODAAT – living in the moment.
Taking joy in surviving another day…
WE are human, we do struggle, but we are also admitting to it.
I have a massive respect and gratitude for this group. And faith that individually, and as a whole we have what it takes to face the whatever version of the world emerges..
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.
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
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?”.
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”
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.
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
Rough day. I live tweeted waiting for a UPS package, and they came and left a note. He swears he knocked.
Whatever the equivalent of road rage kicked in. I need that package. My insulin. Fear. Anger. Frustration.
My normal m.o. is to seethe. To quietly rage against the machine. I despise that sensation. All kinds of shortcomings spring forth. Superiority. Derision.
A sharp desire to drink or use ‘at’ a feeling. An ephemeral wraith emotionally visible, that I can either wait out, work my way through, or cave into the desire to get lit, and stir the ladle of hate.
It’s fucked. That place. That state of mind.
A girlfriend once pointed out that a change in perspective was the miracle of recovery, and it was as close and available as my breath.
She was into Wicca, candles and a lot of heady stuff I never understood. But she was spot on.
The change in perspective was to just solve it. UPS saw my tweet stream, probably hoping I’d delete it, but regardless, presenting a host of solutions, to get my insulin, in the quickest way.
So I shifted to that perspective. Solve it.
Only a few hours later, problem solved. Anger gone. UPS-derived road rage gone.
A change in perspective. I was not likely to drink. I coulda stewed nicely though, until I was well done. I would have used ‘at’ feelings, and by extension, myself.
Self harm. Rage. Drunk. High. No, no thanks. I don’t have to live that way.
#RevoveryPosse helped nudge me along. The support is awesome. The #RecoveryPosse team is massive, worldwide. In a bunch of languages. In every style. We don’t even have to see eye-to-eye. The support is there.
Speaking of which, please consider joining the blog as an author, or administrator. It’s here for everyone in the hashtag. AA, NA, SMART, Dharma, MAT/OAT – if you’re looking for words of support reach out.
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:
I’ve been sober for over 10 years
I ascribe this to being a member of AA
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!!