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

Rage. Quiet Desperation. Perspective.

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.

And remember, perspective.

-Steve (@addictivist)

#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

Today

We have been babysitting the sweetest little puppy, who is so loving and fun, but she goes home today. It’s been a blessing to have her, even if she requites a lot of attention. (Then again, so do I according to my husband. LOL)

I am also blessed to have found another community of bloggers and the #recoveryposse, as I know I cannot stay sober alone. I tried that once. I kept it a secret to all but a few people. It didn’t work.

Only by finding people who understood and supported me, could I finally make the leap of faith. I also had to get very honest, and tell people who loved me.

I am going to my weekly AA meeting today, where I love to listen, learn, and support all of us who struggle with this addiction.

Love to all,

Wendy

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

Monday morning meeting

There’s something I noticed yesterday morning whilst approaching my weekly meeting of AA, it was a feeling of strength and hope that comes with turning up after the school run to a old church building at 10.30am after so many Monday mornings spent hiding away from the world. There was also something else I noticed even before I stepped foot in the meeting room, the sound of laughter, and the sound of friendship and suppport from one alcoholic to another. It still amazes me how in the depths of our madness we all would have turned up our noses at the thought. But today I walk into a meeting room with every walk of life mixing together with nothing but the hope of getting each other and our own selves better. What makes me sit back and laugh to myself is just how special these rooms are, I often think about what people on the outside looking in would think of such a room. But that makes it even more special to me, this is my safe place, my spiritual charging port and for once I feel like I’ve found somewhere I belong. Sober Scouser💪👍💙

Reorganized List

I alphabetized the #recoveryposse list for easier use and organization of adding people. It may also help to copy and create other lists for personal use in the future. I’d like to make a master list as an excel (compatible) spreadsheet that we could add as a file, but that’s a ‘down the road’ item. Anyone wanna tackle that? Let me know or just do it and send me the file, I’ll link it from the pinned post in the files section.

-Steve