Addictionland Blog with Cate Stevens

A Cutting Edge Addiction Recovery Blog about one woman's journey to recovery from multiple, life threatening addictions to reclaim her happiness and life.

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Cate

Cate

Cate Stevens. Founder of Addictionland.com, has over fifteen years of recovery from food, drug, alcohol, cigarette and unhealthy relationship addiction. Cate’s approach to recovery is based on the 12 steps, as well the practice of spiritual principles, exercise, good nutrition, and meditation. Cate’s personal, ongoing recovery process has benefited tremendously from the free sponsorship of other women.

Cate has successfully coached hundreds of women to develop specific, daily action plans to support their personal and professional goals. Cate majored in journalism and communications and is the author of "Addictionland: Key Lessons from My Rollercoaster Ride to Freedom from Food, Drug, Alcohol, Cigarette and Unhealthy Relationship Addiction", a series of powerful vignettes.

As a motivational speaker, educator and coach, Cate is highly effective and inspirational. Cate leverages her experience from premier sales, management and leadership training programs to teach her clients how to be sober, productive and fulfilled.

Posted by on in Other Addictions

A question I am asked frequently is, "What does it look like to 'Live and Let Live' or 'Surrender to Freedom' or 'Turn it Over' as suggested in the 3rd step?" Increase

I had a sponsor who always reminded me that whenever I am disturbed I am the problem. I am in fear of either losing something I want or never getting something I think I need. My real problem is my perception of what I need and my perception of how God is or is not working in my life. In order to connect with the solution, which is always spiritual and will never be my own thinking, I follow certain daily steps and so far they have worked.

To bring the slogans to life-no matter which slogan you choose-I pretty much follow the same disciplines. In no particular order:

1. Read 12 step literature or a spiritual meditation book when I arise to set my mind on spiritual, rather than material, goals.

2. Attend a 12-step meeting for the same purpose, as well as to be available to other women in need or to ask for help

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

When I celebrated my 12 year sobriety anniversary with my home group yesterday, I mentioned the fact that on New Year ever New Year's Eve, I always write down intentions for the upcoming year. Increase A member of the group commented, "I don't like to make resolutions. I take my recovery one day at a time."  I paused to reflect on what both of us stated and feel that semantics sometimes confuse the message. 

To clarify, when I state that I write out intentions for the New Year, I simply mean that I construct in my mind and on paper how I want to grow spiritually in the following year. This inventory is more of a grand scale 10th step since I reflect on my good and bad behavior over the prior year and imagine how I can act my way into greater freedom, connection and fulfillment in the following year. 

Every person who is successful in an endeavor will tell you that it is important to have a clear idea of what you want and how you plan to achieve it if you are to succeed. An important part of goal setting is to be realistic. Realistic goals can be hard for addicts in recovery.  Due to our overwhelming guilt or sloth or perfectionism, we can set goals that are either way too lofty or impossible.  This is why I like to review my intentions with my sponsor or someone else in my support group. In this way, I gain a sense of how healthy my intentions are from someone who is not emotionally attached. 

I set out to achieve those goals ONE DAY AT A TIME.  I do the best I can do for the day and I slowly act my way into progress toward my goals.  The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA say a few things about  creating a plan for successful sobriety and growth.  First, "we prepare ourselves for the adventure of a new life." Second, "Many AA's go in for annual or semiannual housecleanings." Third, we look to sponsors or spiritual advisors to acquire the habit of "accurate self-appraisal." And, lastly, "there's nothing the matter with constructive imagination; all sound achievement rests upon it. No man can build a house until he first envisions a plan for it."

Whether its to begin the New Year, the path of sobriety or just another sober day in AA, experience tells me "it helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it."

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

I have a chronic condition that preceded my first drink and outlasts my last drunk.  With time and step work and selfless action, the incessant nature of my negative thinking diminishes. However, this compulsive type of mental masturbation which normally centers on past regrets or negative projections, remains with me and is, in my estimation, my "ism."

When I first picked up alcohol and felt its affect on me, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  I was less tense, less frightened, less ill at ease.  I thought, "Hmmmm, I like that.  I want more."  Alcohol did for me what I could never do for myself.  It shut off the chatter in my mind and allowed me to be in the moment.  It alleviated worry, care and boredom as the Big Book says, for a long time until it betrayed me.  That is when the real suffering commenced.

I lived in that suffering for a good 5 years beyond the moment I realized alcohol was no longer serving me.  I stuck with alcohol because I didnt realize I had an alternative and I didn't see my problem as a dependency.  I was in denial of my alcoholism because I focused on other people who alcoholism was worse than mine and the other addictions in my life which were more obvious and problematic to me (cigarettes, bulimia).

The 12 step process worked in alleviating not only my physical addictions, but also my belief that "things will always be the same and there is no point trying to get better."  I was inflicted with not just compulsive thinking (neuroticism), but also a mental obsession that enjoys staring at all that is "wrong in me and the world". 

I've come to think of sobriety as a self-medicating/stabalizing process that evens out my emotions and allows me to be productive in the world and work toward a common good.  When the mental masturbation begins, I follow the dictates of the Big Book and immediately ask God to remove my obsession, make amends if I have harmed anyone (including myself) and turn my attention to something Good.  The best remedy for my negative thinking is to work with another alcoholic.  The literature states that and it is my experience.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Today is my 12 year sobriety anniversary.  I received a text from a friend in the fellowship this morning asking me if I remember what my life was like 12 years ago. I certainly do and it hardly resembled the life I have today.

What did I lose when I entered the program over a decade ago?  Many things and most of them I don't miss at all.  Mainly, I lost the idea that I could never enjoy or be successful in life without the aid of alcohol, drugs, food, cigarettes or dependency on other people. Increase

I picture myself the first day I entered the rooms of recovery and this is what I imagine: a girl dressed in professional attire who was hiding BIG secrets.  My work suit masked the fact that I was addicted to cocaine, reliant on alcohol, actively binging and purging with food each day, having casual sexual relations and failing to show up for my responsibiliites in life.  On the outside, I looked pretty normal but on the inside I was a shrivelled, despairing mess.

I dont know where all the time has gone but I do know that I feel worthy of my 12 year coin.  My life may not be the picture of ease and enjoyment I hoped for but it is certainly the picture of blessings, fullness, richness and enlightenment I desired.  I walked into the program an empty soul and surface today with admirable character.

I am grateful I no longer wake up with hangovers.  I am grateful I no longer exchange my soul for the attention of men.  I am grateful I no longer follow my parents dictates without questioning my own values.  I am grateful I am an excellent parent who shows up for her child and allows him to develop in his own beautiful way.  I am grateful for my desire to work on my marriage during difficult times and my desire to treat my husband as the good friend that he is.  I am grateful for my ability to show up for my parents when they are ill and my entire family for their trials and celebrations.  I am grateful for my job, my ability to make amends for past absences and my ability to contribute to the greater good of patients.

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

The longer I stay on the path of sobriety (working steps, attending meetings, helping other alcoholics, praying and meditating), the more conscious I becomes of every feeling, every dishonesty, every challange and every opportunity to be more fully alive. The road narrows Increaseand I no longer depend on old, dysfunctional behaviors to feel satisfied.

Once I let go of all of the addictions that once preoccupied my every waking moment (including food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and unhealthy relationships), I found myself experiencing a vast amount of free energy that went into making my amends, building my recovery program, doing my job, attending to my young son and writing my memoir. 

In my near twelfth year of sobriety, I find myself at a crossroads.  Either I can go deeper into the steps, prayer and meditation for my answers or I can continue doing what I am presently doing and die a little bit inside every day. I am a firm believer that the heart whispers a purpose into the ear of every person and it is our birthright to hear it, follow it and become it. The only thing that holds me back from my fulfillment is fear of change and the only thing that pushes me beyond that fear is pain.

For today, I pray that God removes my fear and places my attention on something Good.  I will go to a meeting, help someone else, do my inventory and try to inject some fun/passion into the day. "Today is the day that God has made, rejoice and be glad in it!"  I didn't get sober to go stale. Periods of pain, dryness and discomfort are simply indicators that I am off the mark and I need to let God steer me in a better direction. I need to close my eyes and imagine the changes I want to see and let go of the negativity that blocks my progress.

Best!

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Over the years, I hear a lot of catchy phrases in recovery that don't make a lot of sense.  Fake it until you make it is one of them.  What, per se, am I supposed to fake?  Fake my sobriety?  Fake my peace of mind?  Fake my happiness in being part of a group of recovering drunks?  And, is faking it really practical?  I thought 12-step recovery was about getting honest.  I thought 12-step recovery was based on action and how in the world do you fake action? IncreaseChange or die is what I was told.

The only thing I can come up with is you pretend to be someone who abstains from alcohol/drugs until you actually become someoone who wants to abstain. As newcomers, we white knuckle our sobriety (or at least I did) by attending five meetings a day, going to bed at 8:30pm and praying to God to I could fall asleep.  After years of practicing the spiritual disciplines of the program, the literature came to life. I ceased fighting and recoiled from alcohol/drugsl as if a hot flame.

I don't know if we ever really "make it" in recovery since there is no apparent finsih line and staying sober is a day at a time event. I have learned, however, that I must envision a change before I can ever make it.  In that sense, I fake it (mentally) until I make it (physically/spiritually).

All my best,

Increase

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

I made a mistake.  I joined a group on Facebook called Big Book Thumpers without reading their mission statement and upset a lot of recovering alcoholics.  Because I was accepted into their group, comments from each of the angry members kept popping up on my blackberry for me to read.  I could feel my face heating up with embarrassment and shame with each additional post.

It was a great opportunity to do my inventory.  What had I done to step on the toes of my friends and cause them to retaliate?  Well, for one thing, I didn't follow the group rule of sharing specifically out of the Big Book. The next thing I did improperly was share a few posts I found interesting and they did not. Even when I tried to make amends for posting without reading the rules, he mechanism on my blackberry loaded my comment along with some information on Addictionland.com which was completely unintentional and made everyone even angrier.

Talk about stirring up controversy!  Oh boy.  The good news is my recovery is in tact and I will not drink over it. The group members had a right to be angry and I was being too narrow minded. I should have contributed to their conversation first, let them get to know and like me and then ask if they were interested in seeing an article which helps confirm what the Big Book already states. My aim was to spread the good word that modern medicine has finally acknowledged addiction as an illness instead of a moral dilemma.

Because of AA, I can process difficult emotions like anger and pain in a healthy manner, identify my wrong doings, make amends and learn from it.  I like the part in the Big Book when it says, "It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness.  To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worthwhile." pg 66

I retracted myself from the Big Book Thumpers group mainly because I was afraid if I posted again, something about Addictionland.com would pop up again without my intention.  I can make an amends to these folks by living my life according to the Big Book and not doing any additional harm. I can pray that their good message reaches everyone who needs it.  I loved what the group members had to say each day and was really enjoying the banter of the group. I do what I can to fix what I did wrong and then move on. As my sponsor always told me, I have a right to be wrong like the best of them!

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

On August 24, 2011, the ASAM released a new document defining addiction which you can read by clicking the link at the end of my blog.  In this release, Dr. Raju Haleja, former president of the Canadian Society of Addicction Medicine and Chair of the ASAM committee that crafted the new definition says that "Addiction is addiction.  It doesn't matter what cranks your brain in that direction, once it has changed direction, you are vulnerable to all addiction."

My memoir, Addictionland, which will be published and released in the upcoming year (sign up for email notification), supports this concept and demonstrates how a person with a good head on her shoulders can become addicted to mutliple unhealthy substances/behaviors as a result of her brain function.  What I love most about this new definition is it helps break the stigma of addiction which happens to be the leading reason addicted people do not seek the help they desparately need. 

This is not to say brain chemistry is the only reason people get hooked on drugs or shopping or gambling. Obviously, trauma and low-self esteem and/or depression can lead to the same negative results. What this does say, however, is that according to 80 leading mediccal experts, the chronic neurological disorder is the primarcy cause of addiction and that is a BIG DEAL!!

Next question. What can I do about it if I am one of those people?  For one thing, you can join our site and blog about your experience. Or, you can write to me (someone who has overcome addiction to food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and unhealthy relationships) and allow me to share my experience with you.

Wishing you all the best,

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

A young woman in my home group raised her hand to share.  She looked extremely uncomfortable as she said, "My sponsor told me I have to share.  As you all know, I was going to have a baby but the father of the child and I have broken up and now I am not going to have the baby. That is all I want to say."

Her face appeared bright red and she was obviously distraught by the admission. What did she just say? Her sponsor made her do what?  Where in the Big Book Increasedoes it say you have to share your most personal issues in a meeting room?  What about the newcomers who are here for their first meeting? If I was new at this meeting, I would shit a pill. Can you imagine thinking you have to share your most personal issues in a meeting just because a sponsor tells you to do so!  How horrifying!

I debated whether to stay quiet or say something. Cross talk is not permitted in our meeting. Without speaking directly to the young woman, I said, "I think we need to be very careful what we instruct sponsees to do.  No where in the literature does it say a sponsor should determine when and how other women should share. The Big Book talks about being inspired as a result of working the steps. I do believe secrets keep you sick, but that is why we choose sponsors and friends we trust. Not everyone in a 12-step meeting has the wisdom to respect a person's anonymity. Placing delicate information in the hands of someone who might mishandle it can push someone off an edge. I have seen it happen. Let's remember we are not therapists in AA. We are a bunch of recovering drunks who have been saved by a spiritual solution."

I didnt want anyone to leave the meeting thinking AA forced individuals to do anything they did not feel prepared to do. If that were the case, most of us would be drunk or dead. 

Best,

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

About two weeks ago, a young woman I met in a 12-step meeting asked me to sponsor her.  She hesitated in doing so because she was well aware of my busy schedule. She said, "I promise I won't be high maintenance. I realize you have a young son, work a full time job and sponsor a lot of girls.  I just need someone like you to take me through the twelve steps.  I want to stay sober and only have 20 days."

Internally, without her knowing, I checked in with the God of my understanding. Okay, God. I've said no to other women who have asked me to be their sponsors before she asked me, I am sponsoring three other women and I am still working on the website and my book when I am not working my full time job. It doesnt seem like I have time to work with her and I am  also well aware of how my ego likes to feel important by taking on new sponsees.  So, please, let me know what I should do here.

I waited a few moments and said, "I cannot commit to sponsoring you but I am willing to support you the next couple of days, get to know one another a bit more and see what happens.  If I can't sponsor you, I will help you find someone who can and you can use me as part of your support group."

Her willingness to follow directions was apparent from the start. I asked her to do specific things and she did them. She read from the Big Book, attended daily meetings and journaled. When she experienced overwhelming emotions, she reached out to me for help. Day by day, I was getting the message I should continue to help her.

A week later, the woman called me to tell me her alcoholic father was diagnosed with throat cancer.  It was becoming clear why the two of us were brought together. She was entering a tornado with only 25 days sober and, she needed a strong sober support. 

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