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My First AA Meeting

I remember the weather was cold, but I don’t remember with precision what year it was; 2015 perhaps. Let’s go with 2015. The year is not as significant as the experience. I was, after all, reluctantly coaxed into my first AA meeting. The first and last AA Meeting I would attend for my recovery.

I said “yes” to the AlcoholicsAnonymous meeting in order to get out of being in trouble with my second wife. I am sure I had been on some benders and things got out of hand as they typically would, and I landed into a self-painted corner. The ultimatum was that I go into a rehab facility or go to AA. I chose AA.

Regarding the first choice, I never had sugary feelings when I thought of in-patient treatment for my program, but I know it is necessary for some. So I chose what I believed to be the easy route and one would not disrupt my job, family, time or livelihood despite the fact that indulging my alcohol intake was helping me do that already.

We walked up to the church building on that crisp night and into the meeting room. There were a lot of people in attendance. One man was the “father figure” and took it upon himself to smell everyone’s water bottles when they came into the building. He also handed out candy, which made up for the lack of refreshments. Naturally, I thought this was invasive but looking back, this fellow was simply helping to create a safe environment for everyone.

We read over the 12 Steps and one by one began to share an inventory of our week. It was hard not to size up everyone in the room and somehow compare me to them. It was derogatory thinking, but I chalk that up to me having a very human moment. After experiencing the low end of low with addiction and getting clean, with an understanding of addiction, I don’t do that anymore. That is the stigma within the culture and anthropology where I live. It’s a bit facetious, but the collective mentality is that murder is the worst and the next trespass is being an addict. I digress, but this is why we should all take the time to understand the addictive mind.

Previously, I had only witnessed AA meetings on TV or in movies and was hoping the part where you say: “My name is (insert name) and I’m an addict.” Was not an actual moment; mainly because I didn’t want a crowd of people all saying in unison: “HI (INSERT NAME)!!!” But they did, and I laughed. I still do when I have attended other groups outside of my recovery program. I promise it’s not juvenile humor.

When it came around to me, I pretentiously shared what I thought I needed to in order to get in good graces with my then-wife. By doing so I got nothing out of the meeting because I put nothing into it. Most everyone else shared and I thought “I am way better off than everyone here. Jeezo, and with fewer problems.” That thinking is both selfish and dysfunctional.

The takeaway I had was “look, that was weird. AA is not for me I’ll shape up so I never have to do that again.” My then-wife, the epitome of an enabler, took what I said as truth and we went home.

By the next day, I was already off the wagon. An addict will always find a way to get what they want. Recovery, however, is uncharted waters and I believed AA would help me stop drinking with one meeting. The truth is that I wasn’t ready to stop indulging in my addictive behaviors. Also, my mind was made up of AA; it isn’t for me. Ultimately, no program was going to work for me until I mended some serious emotional fencing.

That one AA meeting helped me understand that my program would need to be different; it was an unconventional choice so to say. I refused AA and I refused inpatient. Outpatient would be one my choice but I lacked the courage to go; that’s hurdle number one. The second obstacle is getting over how much it will cost. I found that when I wasn’t spending $400 a month on booze or substances, a byproduct of that choice was it put $400 back in my pocket. What are the odds?

Aside from the cost of time spent in attendance, AA is free. But I knew AA, the atmosphere and feel, was not for me. It still isn’t. I appreciate the program to no end, especially after learning of its origins and impact; my outpatient program informed me of the lives AA has touched and still does. But it wasn’t for me. I used to feel bad saying that but my program needed to be individualized and tailored to who I was.

So my first AA meeting was also my last, that is until I began to attend with friends and my wife after being clean for some time. I am not endorsing this as the behavior to follow; I’m just telling my story. My recovery had many dry runs, AA was one of them but I also belly-flopped with outpatient too. It’s hard in those moments of failure. It’s hard not knowing what to do; it creates hesitation and a hesitated, addicted mind, will not make great choices until it is trained to do so.

So what if AA isn’t for you? Is AA always the answer? Do you keep going or give up? I was given suggestions just to keep going followed by more ultimatums, but I don’t do ultimatums very well. And like anyone else, I find it hard to stick with something that I’m genuinely disinterested in. I believe it is OK if you believe AA is not for you, but you better find what is. I say again, you better find what is! Have a word with yourself and find it.

My experience (and effort) was lackluster but I gathered a few insights from the whole ordeal, enough to make my mind search for other avenues/programs. So does AA work? Is it an all-encompassing program for everyone? Well, I like the answer in the first linked article below. The answer is “It’s Complicated.”

It is complicated because individuals are complicated. The push for recognizing a “higher power” will not appeal to the atheist. Nor does it appeal to someone that has had a religious zealot pushing doctrine down the addict’s throat (this would be my case in my previous marital situations). Hoax, scam, fraud, etc. are names you will find on the internet about AA; you don’t have to look far. Leave it to the billion of internet users to find complete polarity between any subject. Why even mention all this? Well, life isn’t the Disney Chanel. What I mean is that it isn’t safe and happy all the time. It is good to know differing opinions to stay informed but you best get your own through your own experience. Follow the gut, heart and mind as a compass to betterment.

In 2015 I read the good, bad and horrific of every program I could find. Out of my personal experience, it would be negligent of me to fail in mentioning that there is good within the AA program and what has blossomed out of its conception. This is a whole rabbit-hole of a subject but I bring it up to address the “AA hate” I have heard with one rebuttal: If it (AA or any other program) will bring good to a person, if it will assists in their sobriety and bring about happiness with a new claim on life, then leave well enough alone and let he or she heal along with their family.   

There are so many factors that make us unique individuals that one solutionizing program cannot firmly exist. I stand unswayed in the choice of taking the good from every program possible; couple that with learning about the addicted brain while altogether honing in on guiding interests and you have a great horizon ahead. Those guiding interests are the hobbies and activities that help people be themselves; find themselves.

A person can’t give up after one meeting or one program. Like I mentioned earlier if you feel there is a better way, be willing to admit your not above suggestions and programs but “have a word with yourself and find it!” Find what you need to get your mind healthy again.

This may sound like a contradiction, but the AA or “Big Book” is a wonderful and cherished guide to my recovery, however, the meetings are something I skip. That isn’t to say I get nothing out of them when I do attend, but it’s like anything else when the task is over: “aren’t you glad we went?!?!”

But that is how I am wired for operation as a pensive and complex introvert. Everyone has a method that works for them; I applaud others when theirs is discovered. The key is finding that working solution, unique and fitting to the individual; it needs to click for the individual.

Everything clicked for me when I understood how addiction and the brain go together. Read, do your own research. Just don’t approach it like the comedian Bill Burr once said, by going to http://www.iamright.com. If you have a knack for studies and wish to analyze findings, have a look at the links below. Each is within the vein of topics in this post but have unique takes as well.

Several of the studies note that AA is successful to the individual “over time.” Being an addict, I like my results now, thank you very much. With that being said, I see many similarities from my experience and others that have not stayed in the AA program. I truly like to know what works for the individual; that is fascinating to me.

At any rate here are the links:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/policy-and-politics/2018/1/2/16181734/12-steps-aa-na-studies

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/09/what-makes-aa-work/

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/2/16181734/12-steps-aa-na-studies

Circling back to my experience, my next attempt to clean up was an outpatient program. No surprise here, but I was reluctant to go. More of that to follow…

Does AA work? Go. Invest some time into the program. I can firmly say it won’t work after one visit. It may work for you or simply nudge you in the right direction; into better paths. It is all up to the frequency of the person seeking the program. AA nudged me in the right direction and I’ve seen nothing but betterment since living sober. I have been given healthy relationships, made memories of time-well-spent with my wife and children, and am confident knowing they can depend on a husband and daddy that is present. These things bolster my efforts and conviction with my effort of recovery each day.

Be good!

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Broken Strings

This evening I was tuning my acoustic/electric guitar and had the strong anticipation to write and record some music. As I began to drop my tuning down from a standard to a much lower tone, my sixth string broke. If that’s happened to you, you know that emotion.

Breaking a string takes you on an emotional trip. You’re shocked, disappointed and angrily miffed by the whole ordeal; above all, you feel like your plans have failed and you now sit in a rut.

Our sobriety can be like an instrument that requires tuning.

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Of course, my brain starts to draw artistic philosophies and I wonder what a broken string can represent. A broken goal? A broken promise? A slip, or failed run at sobriety? No matter the correlation, things have changed and there is a moment to process and reevaluate the situation. So, in keeping with the same thread of this blog, I will focus on sobriety.

Our sobriety can be like an instrument that requires tuning. To some, it may be a simple ukulele with four strings and few frets. Or it could be a giant harp that needs constant and dauntingly detailed tuning with gentle surroundings. Whatever the instrument, whatever the tuning, there is specificity for individual care.

My plans to write and record were disrupted this evening and I was left with a choice. Make the repair and tune the rest of the strings or give up on the idea and abandon. I chose to do the former. If, or when, there is a disruption in one’s endeavor of staying sober you to are left with a choice: quit or continue.

It’s increasingly difficult to continue when a relapse affects more than just the individual. If family or loved ones are involved, it’s like the other strings on the instrument being affected; the tune becomes off-key. It’s noticeably different than it was. An unexpected change occurred and something needs to be addressed.

The broken string needs to be addressed in order to have the original and intended sound be produced. Besides the one string breaking, there is extra discouragement when you realize that every other string’s sound has been affected. As mentioned above, when we break a single string in our sobriety, every other facet of our sobriety may become violently out of tune to some degree.

it’s important to help pick them (the addict) up without enabling the poor behaviors that placed them there.

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Breaking a string in sobriety is a hard upset for everyone involved. A person will likely blame and hate themselves through every act of this ugly play. I have seen it and have been through the process of hacking myself into bits about failing. It’s hard to understand this about addicts, but it’s important to help pick them up without enabling the poor behaviors that placed them there. And if the addict is a “no matter what” person to you, do your all to understand with the knowledge you have and be willing to help.

A process of tasks begins for the change-motivated addict, the process of adding anew the string and tuning things up. Thus begins the process of restringing and tuning the instrument that is sobriety. It’s a process, but anything is a process that requires precision. It is also necessary to keep in mind that almost any outside, or inside, influence/element can enact a change; changes that require fine-tuning. Change that holds the potential to disrupt the precision.

Whether it is writing music or keeping goals intact in sobriety, pressing forward (with the original idea/task after a disruption) will allow healing. Confirmation of the hard work will be the prize. Though it may take some unwanted length of time, the music at the end will be the theme song (or ballad) to your success.

Keep the instrument of sobriety strung and in tune this year. Set goals for yourself and keep yourself honest in the program you subscribe to.

Happy New Year.

Be good!

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And Then There Was Silence

About fifteen years ago, my father and I went to our family property to cut down a tree for the Christmas holiday. There were adventures along the way that required us to lug that tree out with some toil, but we got it in the end. As memorable as that adventure was, the thing that sticks out the most is when we were looking for the tree of choice and he asked me: 

“Do you hear that?” 

I listened and looked around, wondering what he was honing his sense of hearing towards. 

“Hear what?” I asked. The only thing I could hear (besides my tinnitus) was a cold breeze, amplified further by the chilled stillness that accompanies winter. 

His reply was simple; “Exactly!” he said. 

I learned a lot from that moment. It had been a good amount of time since I stopped long enough to be away from the noise of people, cars, television, phone calls, notification chimes and the likes of all attention-grabbing tones that vie for our consciousness. I found the peace I wasn’t looking for when we went to find our tree. I left the noisy world and found a more natural atmosphere, conducive to my peace-seeking mind.

Both peace and tranquility should be quest items at the end of a trial as well as a long day. 

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We returned later that day and it wasn’t long that I forgot about that experience. It was not until three years ago when I started snowshoeing, a newfound hobby, that I remembered that peace and tranquility. Both peace and tranquility should be quest items at the end of a trial as well as a long day. 

I mentioned that I have a peace-seeking mind, however, I am not an even-keeled individual upstairs. The lack of calmness in my mind reflects in my personality. There are tests for A, B, C and D (probably up to Z) personalities and color tests too. I don’t subscribe to any, but all have great descriptions to point out the personalities of people everywhere. All those tests aside, I know that I am anything but calm in my mind and throughout my day. I want to see things get accomplished and done correctly. I don’t like idle time, nor do I enjoy idle talk at the water cooler; those drawn out conversations are like being mentally drawn and quartered. I grow tired of monotonous schedules and activities; I find that my brain begins to ask itself questions after too long. Don’t get me wrong, I can have fun, but let that happen when the day is done. I have had some conversations with therapists about this in the past which I will share another time; for now, let’s focus on those moments of peace and tranquility. 

As I mentioned earlier, I picked up snowshoeing as a new hobby. The first time I set out, it was after a hard snowfall. One of my best friends, a “no matter what” individual, came along and we broke the snow. The featured image on this post is from that day. It was serene, quiet and soulfully needed; it calmed my mind and worked itself deeper into my subconscious. There was a great deal on my mind at that time. My second marriage was over, I was in rehab, I was only a few months sober and I had no goals other than keeping clean from substance abuse. Looking back, that truly was the only thing that was important: keeping clean from substance abuse. 

Snowshoeing can be strenuous but is rewarding and once you’re able to catch your breath and listen (once your heart stops drumming in your ears) you may find what you need. I do, it seems, every time. That day was no different. It was quiet and the angst left me. I felt an inner-stability that I could not find in books, a blog, music, therapy or any other venue. Substance abuse had been a sensory robbing thief in my life. I let my addiction get the better of me and I was out of tune with every part of my character. But the train had wrecked and I was beginning to rebuild and tune my frequencies back into a proper harmonized song. 

The silence acted as a noise reduction to the mind, it allowed me to think, remember and categorize my thoughts. I knew I needed this more often. Then I remembered what happened a few years back when I was cutting down a tree in similar silence. 

I looked over at my friend and asked. 

“Do you hear that?”

“What?” he replied. 

“Exactly!” was my response. 

I knew I needed (silence) more often.

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Take time to meditate; let silence be the loudest thing you hear. The greatest sound dampener of thought, to me, is addiction. It had its time as a thief to my attention, concentration, awareness, and observations. Breaking free of that felt like my soul left a type of incarceration, never to be a repeat offender. 

In sum, keep things in a forward motion with sobriety. Tap into moments of deep focus with concentration and meditative silence.  Listen in silence, then listen beyond the silence.

Be good!

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S.L.I.P.

It is difficult to keep up on a blog during the holidays. But I had this cross my mind several times so I thought I would share it. 

When an individual is in recovery they will often hear of the terms “slip” or “relapse.” I don’t think it necessary to delve deeply into the meaning of each term, however, each has its own place in one’s recovery. Whatever happens, whether we give it the label of “slip” or “relapse” we need to know its not over. We can pick ourselves up again and deal with the short-term consequences, knowing also that we can successfully navigate the long-term consequences. 

The biggest reason that we slip is that our main goal has lost its importance. This is how it was explained to me, as an acronym: S.L.I.P. or Sobriety Loses Its Importance. 

I like this because it is simple and to the point. Dissecting it, however, yields a great amount to think upon. Why does sobriety lose its importance? Do we knowingly neglect our sobriety? 

There are a few analogies I drew in my mind as I thought about these questions. If you play sports you are probably told to “keep your eye on the ball.” I know this is true in golf. If you don’t keep your eye on that dimpled sphere you are bound to slice that thing into the lake. Despite the want to see the ball’s flight pattern, worry about how much strength to swing with or anxious about every point of the bodily posture, you HAVE to maintain eye-contact. Every worry is expected and a part of the game, however, you must keep your eye on that ball until it is time to worry about the next phase of the game. If you take your eye off of the ball and pull your head up too soon your score will go beyond par for the course. That is why my golf game suffers, that is why sobriety can suffer; we unknowingly take our eye off of the ball too soon. The good news is this can be corrected with practice but will also need to be maintained over time. 

We can make come up with analogy after analogy for sobriety’s importance. Analogies, after all, help connect a person’s mind to a certain idea or way of thinking. I have heard a lot of variations like sobriety is a tool that must be sharpened and ready for everyday use. All are good in their own way and can connect with plenty of people everywhere. Find one and make it work for you. 

I like the SLIP acronym and any analogy that reminds me to keep my eye on a focal point. SLIP reminds me that addicts typically do not knowingly take their eye off of the importance of sobriety. Confidence, however, can tear a person’s gaze from the important goal of sobriety; the “Pink Cloud” as it is called, comes about for the first nine or so months of one’s recovery. In that time, without harmful substances, the brain starts to work again and a euphoric blend of feelings begins to burst throughout an individual. Confidence is OK when in-check; unchecked it turns to cockiness and the train soon starts to leave the track. 

When confidence sets in, the safety net is sometimes removed without intention. This is not a form of self-sabotage. I don’t see many individuals wanting to be their own saboteur, yet, that is exactly what the addicted brain does. Overall, in my experience, I have not known many people who set out to wreak substance abuse havoc while earnestly attempting their recovery. That is why it is important to become informed and work a program. Because that “Pink Cloud” will happen and many are left wondering where the good feelings went. When in wonder, they look back at any other time they felt good and it usually involves a drug of choice. Entertaining that feeling leads to the SLIP or relapse. It is important to recognize and navigate with a personalized recovery program. Recovery, after all, is a lifetime goal to never lose direct sight of; keep your eye on the ball. 

When sobriety loses its importance, the inevitable will happen. We will be faced with something, be it a situation or individual, that will test our commitments. If we don’t remind ourselves often of our commitments and strengthen them, we will slip; and likely hit the ground with a full relapse. I will echo what I said earlier. Not all is lost if you slip or relapse, even if you feel otherwise. Pick up where you left off. You can acknowledge a slip without beating yourself up. It is OK to feel bad, that means you care, but care enough to not disparage yourself to the point of giving up. 

Happy Holidays!

Be good!

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“No Matter What”

I have both love and loathing for the following statement:

“I will always be there for you, no matter what.”

The second half of that sentence is what I wish to put under the microscope. Honing in on the use of this promise helped me understand myself and expectations from others. It also brought magnified help and clarity to a healing mind and strained relationships.

Take a moment and think back, how often have you knowingly made the statement “No matter what” or how often have you unknowingly made that same statement?  I believe a vast majority of people have said it in their lifetime and mean it, while others say it for pure lip-service. 

I keep a close, endearing love to the statement “no matter what” because I have a deeper understanding of how it can be tested.

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I love the saying “no matter what” because it has been said by those I love dearly. If it is not directly stated, I still know it through their actions. I love the saying because it carries comfort and is a type of binding soul-insurance between individuals when life gets bumpy. “No matter what” carries the power of assurance and re-assurance. Here is how I know this. 

When I admitted myself to the hospital over three years ago after my last bender, I had to lay in the hospital bed and detox for twelve hours. I was unable to get there by myself, so my father took me. I was aware of what I requested when I called him early that morning; I needed help and finally hit the sickening low I needed to hit. I don’t remember the last drink I had that morning, I think it was around 5 a.m. By the time the ER doctors tested my blood alcohol level (BAC), I was a 0.43 BAC. 

For those that know a little about BAC, I should have been dead; especially since I did this daily for at least seven years. For the better part of those seven years, I would drink myself blind and I unknowingly established a great system of mithridatism for alcohol; albeit no one was setting out to poison me. All jokes aside, I knew I was not dead but I certainly was not out of the woods. 

Before too long the doctors came in to check my heart with an electrocardiogram; the test passed and the doctor said my heart was in good condition. When she said that to me, I very much internalized her statement and thought “No, my heart isn’t good. It’s broken and so am I.” A broken heart or not, the next thing for me to do was sit in the bed and detox to a safe level while being monitored. It was over that twelve hours that I was left alone with my own mind. 

Being with your own mind in a situation like that can be torturous. The only thought I had was who would be there when I finally could pick myself up from this situation. Who would be there “no matter what?” I knew my dad would be; he stood there proving that fact. Soon my mom showed up to the ER room and in her supportive way did the same. I knew she hadn’t given up on me.  

A couple of good friends text me and said they were there to help and would be there “no matter what.” The support that came from my parents and good friends made me cherish that statement even more. As I lay there I gave increased consideration to who I have said it to and if I could stand behind it as my parents and friends had so proven. My wife at the time and her family had reached a repulsed state by my addiction; their ability to stand by me “no matter what” was tested and I never saw or heard from them again in any substantial form. 

It was painfully dreadful to know, that a promise of “in sickness and health, for better or worse” was seemingly interpreted by the other party as “in health and health, for better or better.” At least, that is how I interpreted the matter that long day. But I had to come up with my own conclusions. Due to the radio silence from my ex-wife and her family that said they would be there “no matter what”, I had to draw lines and theories to my own conclusions; not all of them were healthy. At that moment, I began to loathe the statement “No matter what.” 

There is obviously more to that story (two sides) but on account of being respectful and avoiding the airing of dirty laundry, I will stop. I don’t want to come off angry or like I am still attached to that situation. I am simply reflecting and despite those events and past feelings, I have found emotional repair. After careful reconstruction, I am now married to my best friend and mother to my children. She gets me. She puts up with me and knows my program. She loves and supports me “no matter what.” How I love her and will always support her, no matter what! 

Circling back to the ER, my father mentioned that something good will come out of all this, he is a positive fellow after all. For twelve hours I tried to convince myself that there was a positive outcome. In that situation, however, it seems like a life sentence of dread with no possibility of parole. My mother sat beautifully pensive and patient with me for some time; after a few hours, I realized my parents were there for the long haul. At the moment, it was hard for me to grasp and accept. Being a father I now understand the extent and measures that parents will go through for their children, no matter what. 

I observed a lot of individuals that did not have supportive parents.

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While in rehab and working my program, I observed a lot of individuals that did not have supportive parents. Their childhoods were marred and fractured by the ones they invested the most trust; it genuinely broke my emotions to hear some of their stories. I am one of the lucky ones, a person with a mom and dad that succeeded in every way with raising their child. Despite what they saw as I lay in a hospital bed detoxing, they raised me right; I was there because of my choices and unchecked emotions, not any folly on their account.  

By the end of the evening, I knew my parents and close friends were there “no matter what” and they have so been named my “no matter whats.” They are the true loved ones that operate on a different, even higher, plane than most. My “no matter whats” show up and always will. 

You, the reader, may find “expected” individuals in your life to be no-shows. You may also find the “non-expected” to stick around. Pay attention to those that stay by your side and through your cataclysmic events; they are the ones that can help piece you back together while not enabling your poor behaviors. This, however, does not take away the hard work you must do yourself. In sum, you need a support system, I call them my “no matter whats.”

I would like to add a bit more to one of my previous posts titled “Letting the Train Wreck.” I mentioned the following when quoting the movie Batman Begins: 

Why do we fall, sir?” is a quote taken from one of my favorite conversations in all of cinema. This question is asked by the Butler Alfred Pennyworth to a distraught Bruce Wayne/Batman towards the end of the film Batman Begins. This moment recaptures a previous conversation the two had earlier almost verbatim, however, circumstances had changed; the train had wrecked. After Bruce’s attention is summoned by the emotional recognition of what his butler said, Alfred answers his own question with “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” 

Bruce takes in the weight of what Alfred is saying and asks: “You still haven’t given up on me?” The loving butler simply, but emphatically, says “Never!”

This is an example, be it a cinematic example, of a “no matter what.” I find it to be a profound scene and it has always stayed with me for almost fifteen years. 

I keep a close, endearing love to the statement “no matter what” because I have a deeper understanding of how it can be tested. It is important to live up to the promise made in the statement. I have often reflected about the twelve hours I sat in that bed detoxing and what became important to me. Knowing I wasn’t alone and having people there despite my self-destruction helped me to dust off and continue.

I know it is hard to love and trust someone who is in the midst of their addiction and heavy use. I have been on both ends of it and I will forever be indebted to those didn’t give up on me.  That broken heart I mentioned earlier in the ER has since been healed by those that came through on the promise to always be there no matter what.

Be Good!

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Catching the Vision

This picture popped up on my feed from three years ago. It is from a project we did in rehab called a Vision Board. For those of you that are unfamiliar with what a Vision Board consists of, it is a collection of clippings from magazines that you glue onto a poster board. There are no firm rules, at least there wasn’t that night, of what to place on your vision board. The only rule is that it expresses your life vision and goals. 

It felt like an odd project to be doing in rehab. I was there to be wired correctly and maybe even be absolved of regrettable behaviors. I suppose I didn’t capture the point (or vision) of it all, that is until I was diving into the various magazines and was able to identify with items. The items may have felt relatable or important to me but did they describe me? The problem was I didn’t know me anymore. After eight years of fogging out, you tend to lose sight of who you are; and you certainly become detached from your potential. 

I could see the future if I repeated the same routine.

Soberstanding

Putting it lightly, I didn’t treat the project with the respect I should have; at least, at the beginning. I told my instructor while gluing clippings on the poster, that it felt like I was in elementary school. I think I even joked about cutting letters out to make a ransom note, similar to what you see in the gumshoe movies.

The time ticked by and I surprisingly started to enjoy the assignment. I found advertisements that were relatable to my character, perhaps even how others knew me to be. The Vision Board soon began to take on a life of its own. After several pictures I began to cut out words and made the quote on the fashionable shoe you see above. 

“Meet your demands all season”. This was now central on my board and it became the epicenter for the items surrounding it. This new found quote begged a few questions of me, what were my demands? What were my expectations? 

I continued to paste items on the board that encompassed my love of art, reading, music, movies, and history. However, that led to the remorse of what I had ceased to seize for the last seven or eight years. The counselor noticed my discouragement and urged me to continue despite the emotional hurdle. 

After surveying what was on the board, I yearned for things to be as they were. I wanted to pick up my acoustic and electric guitars, jam away and write original songs. I desired to make something of voice over work and my vocal talents. I wished to write stories of fiction and start projects and hobbies for nothing but the sheer joy of doing so. When did that tenacity flicker its last flame? 

Throughout the years I have had many things I wanted to do, but veered far from making them a part of my vision. What happened? The aforementioned things legitimately made me happy, so how did I fall out of love with them?

I fell out of love with my identity and my goals. I fell out of love with life. Sadly, my goals were not those listed above, they were to use every day and every night. I wasn’t enjoying life, and after seven solid years of heavy use with drugs and alcohol, I am not sure many who are. My life was centered around active addiction, that was it. I didn’t have solid goals, other than getting wasted at the end of the day or dodging DUI’s. When using is your daily goal, your original goals take a back seat. Actually, they tend to go right out the window and hit every unpaved surface along the way. 

I hated this about me and it carried into every facet of my personality.  I never wanted to be anywhere too long because I wanted to be checked out as soon as possible. I relate those moments to the pestered drinker who says “You’re cutting into my drinking time.” So I was less than a gentleman or a joy to have around at any gathering, especially if it was a dry party. 

This way of life was not meeting any of my previous demands, and I could see the future if I repeated the same routine. The future, if using continued, looked similar to the past and it was full of broken moments. In the end, it would be a nulled life. 

The vision board helped me get perspective, it wasn’t a cure-all, nothing is. But I would suggest the activity to anyone at any stage in life; addict or not. The Vision Board is a visual inventory of where you are and where you want to be. Mine led me to fall back into what I loved and what made up my life, the life I had and once loved.

Slowly, sobriety began to rob me of my demons. As I began to deal with the emotional trauma that was handed to me a decade previous, I began to create and meet new demands. This is where you see addicts picking up hobbies like going to the gym or enthusiastically starting a hobby. I too went through this phase and there is a special beauty about it. You begin to see things again for the first time; washing scales from your eyes in the process. Your mind is clearing, you see beauty and meaning in almost everything. It is a tad strange but also very serene.

That beauty took the form of photography, which now litters this blog. I began to sketch with charcoal and colored pencils. I started playing the guitar and recording music again. I began snowshoeing and hiking. The passion for writing blossomed, as did the desire to understand my mind and cherish each day. I began to fall in love with life again. 

My demands became my goals and the visual inventory evolved into a written list of goals, which I named the Goal Garden. Every so often I would list the “weeds” that would grow in the Goal Garden; these are the choking deterrents that prevented me from obtaining the goal (harvest) at the end of the season. I liked this analogy when I penned it in rehab. It made sense and helped me keep the vision and successfully reach goals. 

In sum, the Vision Board was a catalyst to a better mindset. It helped with the realization that I needed to rediscover who I was before I went out seeking approvals and validations from others. Seeing the picture of the quote come up on my feed was a refreshing sight and allowed me to review my demands after three years. Meeting your demands all season is a way of keeping the Goal Garden clear of weeds. To coincide with the quote to “Meet your demands all season” is an applicable line from one of my favorite songs: “Take the time to pull the weeds, choking flowers in your life.”

Be good!

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Letting the Train Wreck

It carries a near cryptic message when said, but it also holds a lot of truth when applied to the right situation. “Sometimes you just have to let the train wreck.” 

My father had probably said this in high volumes to me in the past, and like most children, it was filed into the distant Rolodex of the mind. What would seem to be a shoulder shrug response to a circumstance I was going through ten years ago was actually what I needed to hear. I had to let the train wreck

Letting the train wreck happens in subtle ways or brandished in any form. The situation may be small or large, trivial or important, affecting or non-affecting; ultimately, there is a choice to let something go and rebuild after the dust settles. Otherwise, a person is left exhausted in every aspect and faculty; this is no way to live. 

The analogy works for me in regards to toxic relationships, work-related stressors and I have found that it’s also applicable to addiction and sobriety. Given the circumstances we face, each of us may conjure up a different interpretation of this saying; but here is mine. 

I picture a giant scramble to keep this dilapidated terror of a train on the tracks; it’s has an engine with a mind of its own and altogether has no business being on the tracks. It is unsightly and is without question unfit for any good purpose. The train has no destination or fixed course, it just wants to chug along in madness.

As it rolls along, the train is blowing rail ties, ballast and spikes out both sides and misaligning the entire railway. The train is misappropriating the original dream and use of the tracks in order to fulfill its own selfish desire. All the while I am left trying to fix and feverishly maintain its course; with a journey to a destination, I did not plan. 

For my given situation the train’s engine was my addiction, the track was my life, the cars behind that engine were my relationships and interests. I was not leading my life with my own choices, my addiction was handling that for me, and it did so with a neglected precious cargo in tow. My train was hijacked. 

There are other ways, within the same vein of thinking,  to express such stressful times. We may have heard you’re  “Spinning too many plates”, “burning the candle at both ends” “bitten off more than you can chew” “too many irons in the fire” or similar idioms and they exist to serve as a reminder for pacing. Sometimes the brakes don’t work with the pacing of the train’s speed, so there is only one option left. 

When you let the train wreck, you are not supposed to walk away from responsibility. You begin a recovery effort and it is best to know that not everyone/everything is going to make it out alive or intact. So if the train wrecks by way of your own volition or by circumstances that occurred naturally, the intent is to show greater care going forward; but you have to get up and move forward.   

If I approached maintaining sobriety with the same intrepidness as entertaining my active addiction then I would have a working program in my favor.

soberstanding

After I let the train wreck, I bristled my proverbial broom and determined that If I approached maintaining sobriety with the same intrepidness as entertaining my active addiction then I would have a working program in my favor. For me, this analogy worked because it snapped my mind back into reality and let me know that I can start over.

For those that have had to start over, salvage or rebuild and restore you know how bad it can be. It’s painful and daunting, there are moments where every emotion seems to be in a state of instability and chaos. You’re being tested in those moments likely hope for some kind of Olympic size leap out of the pit you’re in. It is a painful process, but necessary for recovery. It is especially painful when you realize that there are people that will no longer be there when the dust settles. 

I know that many people close to me tried to help when I started down the path of heavy use. At first, they are hurt, worried, scared and eventually they stop reaching out as much. You need to be OK with that, and that is not an easy thing to process when your mind is hijacked. Especially when their pain manifested itself as anger or frustration, and rightfully so. After the wreck, some loved ones will remain and others will flee; but is that enough to stop someone at the height of their addiction? I hate to tell you the answer; it is a resounding ‘no.’ An addict will always find a way, or source, to use if they want it bad enough. I did. Luckily, there are some who refused to give up on me.  

“Why do we fall, sir?” is a quote taken from one of my favorite conversations in all of cinema. This question is asked by the Butler Alfred Pennyworth to a distraught Bruce Wayne/Batman towards the end of the film Batman Begins. This moment recaptures a previous conversation the two had earlier almost verbatim, however, circumstances had changed; the train had wrecked. After Bruce’s attention is summoned by the emotional recognition of what his butler said, Alfred answers his own question with “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” 

Using that same method of question and answer, I would ask you, the reader “Why do we let the train wreck?” My answer being “So we can learn to carry on.”    

When it all comes off the rails, we need to survey the wreckage and salvage what items we can; items that are within our power to obtain. Proper tools should be crafted and assembly should begin with the understanding that sufficient time is needed for successful completion. This new creation to set on the tracks should then be treated like our personal magnum opus; it should be our grand work in regards to our life struggles and our victory over them.   

Rebuilding is not an easy process; it is humbling, scary and might even cause you to delay change. If you are hijacked by addiction and your control is lost, that does not mean that you are. It just means there is hard work ahead, more so than the hard work that was needed to maintain track previously. You will never truly know the exact outcome of persistent betterment and faithful sobriety until it is happening every day. When each day is built after this model, you have created a resume’ for greater things to come into your life. 

What do you imagine when you hear the statement to let the train wreck? What’s your interpretation?

Be Good!

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The Keys to Understanding

This last week I decided to read through my journal that I had written while I was in treatment. The notes from three years ago (almost to the day) are still applicable and worth sharing; they certainly shed some light on the difficult time I was going through. It was the holidays and the Andy Williams song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” came on the radio while driving to the facility. That phrase in the song felt grossly misplaced to my ears and certainly did not reflect how my year was shaping up. 

Of course, that is usually how a person feels in the early moments of their recovery. I remember feeling that way for the first few months as I would walk into my evening outpatient program. Each evening at the treatment center’s outpatient class, our Counselor would ask a question at the beginning; usually, I would write them down and answer them in my journal. The question three years ago was “What do I love most about myself?”

My sobriety was fresh (roughly one month into it) when I was cornered by this question and I remember wanting to answer it with a tirade of negativity, with me being the target. But as the night carried on, I realized that I had caused myself enough emotional abuse over the last month; there was no need to cause additional self-inflicted wounds by using words as the weapon.

The answer I reluctantly jotted down in response to the counselor’s question of “What do I love most about myself?” was:

Iron Will – never giving up on me or others. Compassionate to others.

I was not too convinced of this when I first wrote it down. If I had an iron will then why was I in rehab? If I am compassionate to others then why did I hurt people for so long while deep into my addiction? But I wrote the answer in ink and it was on the page to stay; but it stared at me the whole night, causing me to feel like a liar. To make things worse, we always shared our answers aloud to everyone. When I shared my response to the question, I felt like I cemented myself as a liar.

The counselor was very inspired by her choice of the subject material that evening. At first, we were all a bit let down because she had us watch a documentary. In fact, the disappointment was generated because we had viewed the same DVD less than a month before. A few of us mumbled to each other that we are paying out the nose for treatment, and did not want to watch the same documentaries over and over again.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone else, but whenever an instructor puts on a video I immediately think they haven’t prepared a thing. That may be true for some situations but not that particular evening. I know treatment centers aren’t cheap so instead of complaining or nodding off during the documentary, I began to take notes and attempt to get something out of it. What I found was that within the course of the month the documentary didn’t change, but I did.

” Ignorance of addiction is not bliss; it is misery.”

Soberstanding

The documentary, according to my notes, was called “Addiction” and was produced and aired on HBO. The notes I took that night from the documentary have been the taproot of inspiration for Soberstanding. The enlightenment of the topics caused a brush-fire in my mind to understand addiction and help those around me to do the same. The key highlights of what I wrote down are as follows. (Note: I plan to cover these five key topics in greater detail with future posts.)

  • Key Point # 1 – The patient and family need to be treated.

Certainly, the immediate need is for the addict to be treated. Such treatment is certain to involve medical supervision and tapering of medicines for detox; this is coupled with counseling and working a program. However, I noticed that the addict’s family is often overlooked or does not consider seeking counsel for their own well-being. The family needs to have a program as well; Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are the big ones that come to mind. Whatever the program, education for all parties involved is the key to understanding and healing. Ignorance of addiction is not bliss; it is misery.

  • Key Point # 2 – Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease. People have a hard time sympathizing with, and especially have a hard time sympathizing with addicts themselves.

“Addicts bring it on themselves” and “Anything you choose to do to yourself is not a disease” are just a couple of example statements that I have heard about addicts. What follows is the never-ending argument if addiction can even be classified as a disease. I’d rather not go down that rabbit hole today, instead, I offer an olive branch in the form of a question. The big take-away from this key point is better viewed as a generalization. Can we agree that it is hard to sympathize with things that never directly impact us? 

“The act of reserving judgment upon another person is a diminishing trait we need to protect from going extinct. “

Soberstanding

I never had rotator cuff surgery and always thought people were wimps to be in slings for so long after surgery; “put some dirt on it and quit being a baby.” would be my thoughts. That was until I had blown out a rotator cuff for the first time and had everything anchored back into place; then I knew what that pain was all about and how wrong I once was to judge. I apply this same concept to addiction; you don’t know until you know. 

The act of reserving judgment upon another person is a diminishing trait we need to protect from going extinct. When we simply do not know or understand, empathy may not be possible. However, sympathy through education is an answer and a key to understanding diseases of the mind.

  • Key Point # 3 – Not addressing that alcoholism as a disease is a bad stigma. Especially when others don’t want to compare it to obesity, cancer, leukemia, diabetes, etc.

This key point is similar to key point number two, but it is worth saying it twice even if the words point to the same meaning. Removing the bad stigmas through proper education is vital to a greater understanding of another person’s pain. There is zero to little empathy that can be conveyed from a lack of knowledge.

  • Key Point # 4 – When the family understands addiction, they don’t blame themselves anymore.

This one carries the most weight for me. How many times did I make my mom or dad wonder what they did wrong? Why did their child turn out this way? I am certain that my former friends and family wondered what they were unable to offer in a relationship as well; all because I would use and relapse again and again.

Understanding addiction is not a roundabout way to scapegoat or justify a relapse. That is a product of dysfunctional thinking and family need to understand dysfunctional thinking.  When family understands addiction/dysfunctional thinking they are able to gain a wider view of the addict and of themselves. Such caring family members should know this bit of life saving advice, that this is not a game of “who’s fault is it?” Family life is complicated, I get it, but we need to get past the the fault-feeling blame games and lovingly move in a forward motion. Never easy in the moment, but so worth taking the time to understand.

  • Key Point # 5 – Addiction is a disease of the brain. The brain can recover. Relapse is a feature of the disease.

The brain is both fragile and strong. A diseased brain or one with a chemical abnormality (Abby Normal?) is not a case of hopelessness nor an instant castaway. The brain is complicated and can recover and change or adapt. I believe this to be true for the individual as well. 

An individual is also complicated, both fragile and strong. An individual can also recover, change and adapt. When I first entered rehab I did not think that to be the case. I underestimated myself. To some fashion and degree, we may all do that to ourselves. It is good to recognize when we begin that pattern of self-doubt and replace it with self-worth. 

Because of my choices and how I acted throughout my addiction, I figured I was done as a good person. Going forward I would be like a wrecked car, claimed as totaled with the embodiment of a bad title; a salvaged life title as it were. That, however, is dysfunctional thinking. Part of the healing process in my recovery was learning how to avoid a relapse of dysfunctional thinking. For me, it can’t be cured, but I am able to identify it; and from there my choices are what matter. 

Realizing this feature about me helped me realize that nothing will cement my future in stone more than acting on my current choices. My choice now was to remain unwilling to give up. I would use my stubbornness as a positive strength and give it the nomenclature of “Iron Will”. But there is more to it than just that. Perhaps it was my family’s Iron Will that offered me the courage I needed to build my own confidence. Their hope vibe and desire for me to be healthy played a large role in my courage and developing Iron Will; which I know to be a resolute desire to be present in all my faculties. In sum, and working off of that same vehicular analogy, cars can be restored (titles be damned) and so can the mind and the individual it belongs to.  

“Education and experience turn they key, love being the Master Key.”

Soberstanding

At the end of the evening, I felt better about my answer: an Iron Will. Even if I have been putting a stick in the spokes of my own wheel for eight years, I would keep trying to be successful. But what about that second part of my answer, being compassionate to others? I believe that love for yourself is the key to unlocking genuine compassion; even soulful compassion. Education and experience turn they key, love being the Master Key. You need to love yourself when going through hard times and make the best choices. You can’t make the best choices for yourself if you lack education. 

There is no simple way to be instantly educated when it comes to recovery. After all, this is “recovery” and recovery takes time. Like I mentioned earlier with the rotator cuff repair; that recovery is no joke and takes time. You don’t rush something like that, no matter how much you want it healed and back to 100%. You can’t push it too hard for a long while or you will foul the whole healing process up, that is, until you have to in order to get the strength back. There’s a whole analogy there you can piece together. But that is enough analogies for one evening. 

Circling back to those five key points, I began to put them into practice. My desperation to understand about addiction and diseases of the brain led to a desire for others to be enlightened too. Sobriety and understanding addiction is a lifestyle, a lifestyle that gets individuals excited to share about it. For the next several weeks I continued my program and helped my family with a type of program they were comfortable with as well. There was a payoff of great returns that followed. 

“We feel like we have our son back.”

Mom and Dad

It wasn’t long after I began this pattern with the five keys, that I unknowingly began to build my own resume of sobriety. With that, I had given up on trying to prove my sobriety to others. Soon, but still in the holidays or “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” my parents decided to open up to me. I attribute this moment of dialogue to be created from the development of a safe atmosphere. Remember, that doesn’t instantly happen, nor does what they said to me. When I was over one night they said to me “we feel like we have our son back.”  Hearing that from them brought me to immediate tears; it was the thing I didn’t know I needed to hear. This will forever be the indelible memory that made continue fighting with an Iron Will. I wasn’t a parent at the time, and now that I am a father, I understand a bit from their perspective. You don’t know until you know. 

So even though the holidays are difficult with those suffering through addictions, three years ago it certainly was for me, those hard times can pass. Taking time to work your program, invest time into educating yourself on addiction and patterns of dysfunctional thinking. If it’s not the “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for you, it can still be the most wonderful time of your sobriety. 

Be good. 

Soberstanding Admin

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Wayfinding

Where to begin?

Where do I begin with the first post? I think sporadic topics rather than a rigid structure of chronological events is the way to do build this blog. Whatever my mind, heart and gut tell me will become the narrative compass. So here we go…..

In difficult situations, the most daunting task you have to face is where to begin. If confidence is not present then fear begins to set in, if that continues, then dread begins to make its home in your mind. Dread is the uptick or next level of fear, and it is the precursor to the darkest thoughts I have ever had. I have found myself filled with dread far too often when attempting to piece myself back together and I believed it to once be unconquerable. I know this sounds vague so let me elaborate.

When I first came out of the cloud of addiction, my thoughts and emotions became mine again. Both my thoughts and emotions were no longer under the influence of being under the influence. A healthy dose of realization was on the way and I knew it was coming. Coping with this is one of the hardest moments an individual will face in their personal recovery. I did not think I was going to make it out on the other side of this event. I don’t use the word lightly, but this was truly dreadful. My mind soon became flooded with a realization of what I had done over nearly eight years and I felt fear and its ugly friend anxiety; both are uncooperative to helping one gain peace.

In all honesty, as I look back and attempt to explain it, it plays out like one of those superhero movies. You know that scene and the cliche’ storyline when the hero first gets his or her superpower and doesn’t know what is going on with their new abilities? The hero is fearful and things seem out of control for them. I would imagine they do not feel like a hero in that moment.

I realized that I had been the anti-architect of my life and a master demolitionist to every relationship around me

Soberstanding

Likewise, I too felt less than heroic as I began to make repairs to my life and salvage relationships, I felt more like the villain when I was met with a new level of dread. That new level of dread came to me when I realized that I had been the anti-architect of my life and a master demolitionist to every relationship around me. It is not easy to pick up fragmented pieces, admit self-faults or make the first step forward. It will always be easier (faster too) to destroy and demolish rather than build and polish. You don’t have to live long in this life to see how that concept works.

I never understood what an addict goes through when in recovery until I went through it on my own. A lot of people are ignorant to the pursuit of sobriety and its genesis within a person. It is nothing short of horrific, it was for me, when I began to take accountability and inventory of my own actions and figure out how to move on. I not only lacked the knowledge of how to move on, but where to move. This was my ground zero of self destruction and the future seemed bleak and weighted with uncertainty.

I tend to focus on negative aspects and it made my initial recovery difficult. Previously, the negativity resulted in several dry runs of sobriety. Even though I classify myself as a curmudgeon, I realized this and attempt to change my outlook. I have been working on developing that ant-curmudgeon trait more and more. So, instead of focusing on the fallout I decided to sift through the debris and make useful stepping stones for a new path.

Addiction takes you far from home, and it is the indulgence of addictive behaviors that will maroon you

soberstanding

The first step in my newly formed, curmudgeon-less outlook was to realize where I was and begin an assessment. The answer that came my way was “You Are Here.” The phrase “You Are Here” is an integral part of the traveler’s journey, especially when the traveler is outside of their element or far from home. Addiction takes you far from home, and it is the indulgence of addictive behaviors that will maroon you.

I know why I used and why I would want to “check out”. I did it to choke out and suppress emotional pain. To begin with, I have an emotional personality and my life got to a point where I felt that I either needed to stop feeling or stop living. My dysfunctional thinking landed on the first option and I began to use in order to get through without an emotional destination. In essence, I began a life of heavy substance abuse in order to “get through” rather than heal and “get to” a better state of being. Like I mentioned earlier, my brain began to work and see things again with a different beauty. I had seen the phrase “You Are Here” before, however, it was about to stake a positive claim in my life.

When traveling for work or leisure, shopping, viewing a landmark, touring a museum or playing video games, I have depended on the phrase “You Are Here” in order to know where I currently am located in connection with where I want to eventually be. One of the biggest problems I experienced upon my new found sobriety was this: I just found out where I was at and, in regards to my final destination, “eventually” was not in my vocabulary.

Wayfinding is the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination. For wayfinding, you need a compass and you need a direction. Not a map – a direction.

Bill Burnett & Dave Evans, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

“Eventually” meant that more work was needed than to just be sober; I hated that I realized that fact. I also despised that I couldn’t immediately fast forward time and have years of sobriety behind me. This is just one of many emotional melting-pot moments I initially went through. It isn’t fun or easy to have your mind start working as it should after a long absence.

Despite feeling pestered with a working brain and instead of “checking out”, I decided to take a long drive home from work. It was on this short adventure that I would discover a deep and personalized message with the phrase: “You Are Here”

I was in the proximity of the Golden Spike historical site, and decided to follow a whim and absorb what others took the time to landmark. On any other day, I would have continued driving, but I stopped to read the signs and take in the history. I viewed the maps and signs and began to take pictures. Again, my mind was fresh and, to an extent, liberated from all substances; and I was finding a greater beauty in learning about history more than ever before. While my brain processed the excitement of learning I began focusing the lens on my Canon camera. As the auto-focus took over and focused the lens, I noticed the phrase “You Are Here” on the posted map in front of me; that phrase stayed with me as I packed things into my truck and began to drive.

Even though I was still coming to grips with knowing that I would need to work harder than ever before for sobriety, I decided lean into the excitement of learning. My brain, heart and gut said to look for inspiration again; this time in the form of a book. I never owned a copy of, or really even flipped through in great detail, the Big Book used for Alcoholics Anonymous. Surely there was some wisdom inside of the Big Book that I could use that evening. My drive home included one more stop.

I soon walked into Barnes and Noble and found the Big Book. Now, I am not sure about anyone else but, when I am in a bookstore there is little doubt that I will only walk out with one book. I continued to survey and sift through other books and found ‘Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. The title pretty much captured what I was feeling, more so than the Big Book. I know the age old saying to not judge a book by its cover…..but I did anyway and it paid off healthy dividends.

As I read randomly throughout Designing Your Life, it seemed all encompassing and perfect for my situation and mood. I decided to turn over the book and check the price but immediately started fumbling with the two books. I did not recover from the uncoordinated war and the cover of Designing Your Life slipped off and the book fell to the floor. I knelt down to pick it up and on the teal cover was an embossed arrow. Between the raised areas and reliefs was also the saying “You Are Here”.

I didn’t feel that seeing “You Are Here” on the sign and on the book was a coincidence, so I purchased the books immediately. Designing Your Life helped me through the deep dread I was facing, a dread which carried the weight of an intense emotional deficit. Despite what I was learning in my outpatient program, I was hoping that abstinence of substance was all I needed to do. I was wrong. I needed more knowledge to craft tools, and those tools would coincide with time to bring about sober understanding (soberstanding).

The discovery of the phrase “You are here”, and its use in Designing Your Life, helped me to understand the art of wayfinding. As it is described in the book, with wayfinding you need a direction and you need a compass; you do not, however, need a map. Dora the Explorer gets map, a singing one too! But you and I aren’t Dora and we don’t get a well plotted route for our difficult moments. Oh yeah, and there is also no GPS to plug in and get you directly to your final destination.

The Wayfinding article on Wikipedia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayfinding ) helps break the word down into its specific stages:

  • Orientation
  • Route Decision
  • Route Monitoring
  • Destination Recognition

It is a solid read and worth delving into on your own time and in greater detail.

The combination of “You Are Here” and Wayfinding helped break me of getting instant satisfaction and added “eventually” into my vocabulary. By adopting the skills of wayfinding, I had to lean into the discomfort of the unknown and, by doing so, began to wax strong in confidences without becoming cocky. In the end, this began a trend of placating the angry emotions and feelings that I wasn’t getting anywhere. This is easier said than done, but it can be done.

In my opinion, there is not a single ingredient to fix what years of reckless addiction brings about. The Big Book explains the steps and it has helped millions of individuals and families. There are also many programs and treatment centers (In and Outpatient) that offer unique blends to addiction recovery. The above experience was the ingredient I needed at that exact moment, and it was specifically for me. I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I may have been sober, but I was not sure what else to do. The short answer I would repeat in my mind was “bristle the broom.” This basically meant I had a lot of things to sweep up and repair.

Overcoming fear, anxiety and dread can be accomplished. Realize where you are. “You Are Here.” Start where you are and begin your program. If your program or life is already working good for you, keep it tuned up and well maintained.

Be good.

Soberstanding Admin


#soberstanding #youarehere #designingyourlife #thebigbook

Inspirational Suggestions:

Book: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

Music (Ambient): Slytherin Common Room Music & Ambience, Ambient Worlds ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aadskAxEEw )

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3…2…1…

Fear and Timing

Sooner or later we understand that although we can’t make fear look pretty, it will nevertheless introduce us to all the teaching we’ve ever heard or read.

— Pema Chodron (When Things Fall Apart)

The reaction an individual has towards fear will either set them back, or set them free. That may be a lengthy mantra but it is original to me, and I have believed in it for a long time. I have feared a lot of situations in my life, both at various times and within various settings; and now I face a new one.

I have struggled the last few months to find an increase in purpose and identity. The feeling has become an annoying, gnawing pest that needs to be addressed. In order to eliminate the feeling I have tried writing (a novel, a series of short stories), recording music, photography (everything posted is from my camera), wood turning, landscaping my yard and restoring a classic car. All of these interests have helped, however, the void is ever present and I believe I’ve known why this entire time.

I feel the need to share a story of recovery, my story. This is not a generic story of beating the demons of addiction; no individuals story is; that’s what scares me. Each story is unique and carries a deepened meaning of life that cannot be looked over. I have been able to open up in small settings and flay complicated life issues in those moments, but never to a mass audience.

My story, like anyone’s, is large and consists of fights lost and of fights won, of time lost and time gained, of damning loss and redemption and of coping through it all. I too have asked if the cards I have been dealt are fair. I have seen the loss of others, watched my own downward spiral, instigated it and fearfully avoided change through eight years of active addiction and a damaged mental state.

Whether addiction recovery and mental health is a familiar territory or new one, I encourage you to provide input of achievements, struggles to triumphs or just a warming quote to ponder. It is healthy to generate inspiring conversations and to read the accomplishments of others. So I am deciding to act upon the timing of fear and put myself out there in a new way. My comfort zone will be fearfully tested with this blog, however, I am hopeful that embracing fear and vulnerability will bring the soulful increase I have sought.

Through this cathartic blog, I selfishly hope to find that purpose I have been longing for in my long-term rehabilitation. Additionally, I hope to selflessly inspire others to do the same. There will be humor, sad dealings, inspiring moments and the occasional conflict of opinion. I plan to list books, music/songs and other media I found helpful in my recovery at the end of each post. So, if its drudgery to read through my story of addiction recovery then please enjoy the posted Inspirational Suggestions located at the bottom. In sum, let’s just see where this goes and enjoy the ride. Fair enough?

Overall, I am not confident if my story will be a healing balm or pure acid for individuals (self deprecation is a characteristic of mine). Though I am confident in saying that I have come to understand sobriety, I have a sober understanding, or as I have coined it in my life: Soberstanding.

If you are a person experiencing your own addictions (drugs, alcohol, opiates, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, gaming, gambling, food, sex, excessive exercise and pornography to name a few) or you are the recipient of a loved ones addiction fallout, this may be a blog to help shed perspective. With new perspective comes strength and risk. Those two features are great tools to have when fear approaches. We do not always know when, we just need to know how to deal with navigating a successful outcome.

Inspirational Suggestions:

Book: When Things Fall Apart (Heart Advice for Difficult Times) by Pema Chodron

Music: Hold your Ground (Album & Song) by Todd Whitener (Artist)

Quote: “We can’t make fear look pretty” Pema Chodron