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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Obviously the first key to recovery is admitting you have a problem. People who do not think they have a problem will not seek help. However the first phase of recovery, (after you have admitted there is a problem) is to focus on a few primary areas. First, make sure that your primary concern is abstinence, not using drugs or alcohol. You have to focus on the things you need to do to make sure that you do not return to old behaviors and triggers that cause you to use drugs and alcohol again. In addition, we want you to start to get educated and gain new knowledge of what addiction is and the effects it causes. Knowledge is power, knowledge is wisdom, with knowledge comes understanding and the ability to change. Then we also want you to begin to learn refusal and coping skills, so you can use these skills to learn to deal with the stress and situations around you that previously had you running to indulge your addictions. 

The first phase of recovery can seem overwhelming, but in reality it is not. Just think of it as if you were learning a new language and you heard these foreign words the first time. Of course they seem foreign to you at first because you don't know what they mean or how to use them. It's the same with addiction recovery. Yet as you go and learn, you become familiar with the meanings of the words and you gain understanding. Soon you are speaking a new language, in our case living a new life of recovery. It becomes a natural, reflex action. Then you get all the benefits from it!  

The beginning  of the recovery journey (Phase 1 as I like to call it)  is an exciting phase for those hungry and broken and seeking a better way of life, because they want the information, knowledge and tools necessary to overcome their addiction. For those who do not want to deal with their addiction problem and have not or will not admit their addiction is a problem, Phase 1 is often difficult and full of conflicts, because they are still resisting getting sober. They have not let go of their addiction, they had not surrendered it, it still controls them and they still wish to indulge in it. 

It’s not enough to tell addicts that recovery is a better way of life. We must show them how it works. Just as it’s not enough to tell me the computer is a good tool and can make my life easier. You have to teach me how it works for me to get the full benefit of it. It’s the same with recovery.

Now remember, you can have all the information and knowledge you need, but if you don't use it, it's worthless. You get no benefit from it.  So the bottom line is it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. I will often tell addicted people I am helping that they shouldn't make any promises to their loved ones, friends or employers regarding their stopping their addictions. Why? Because those promises carry no weight anymore. The addicted person has made many promises and has failed to live up to most, if not all of them. Their friends and loved ones and families won’t believe the words anyway. What the friends, families, and loved ones will believe, is seeing a changed life, based on the new actions and behavior of the addicted person. 

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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

For a very long time only straight line solutions existed for me. When I’d worn out a pair of shoes I got new ones. When I the guy I was dating started showing signs he wasn't good for me I’d break up with him while seeking another. When the car ran out of gas I’d stop to refuel.

In other words, acknowledge the problem, solve immediately, and move on.

Surely this same systematic route would be the way I’d overcome alcoholism and an eating disorder. My “problem-solution-move on” theory of navigating life would be the plan. However what I found was, yes I had a problem, yes there was (and still is) a solution and yes I would move on. The only difference was no one would guarantee me that path would be a straight line.

Thankfully I stepped forward on the trail anyway. Fast forward many 24 hours of one-day-at-a-time later and I'm here to report we learn our best lessons in the curves.

The road to Heart tree

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Even when I was in the absolute worst stage of unabashed drinking and irregular, unhealthy eating habits, very little if anything could have pushed me to seek recovery any sooner than I did.

Those who love me worked tirelessly in the effort to convince me I needed help.  Each gesture or suggestion was met with resistance, denial and deflection.  Those caring and compassionate individuals had all but prepared themselves to receive the dreaded phone call I’d finally succumbed to the disease of addiction.

The more people tried to persuade me of my destruction, the more my distance from them widened.  I wasn’t ready to stop.  I liked being able to decide for myself when, where and how much I engaged in what I believed was pure merriment.  I’d perfected my silent rationalization to slip into the haze of too much alcohol with little food. When I was in the state of nothingness, life’s emotional ups and downs didn’t matter anymore. I cherished my ability firmly and sternly control what I put my mental energy into and what was erased. As long as I kept my booze supply up and my weight down, all was well in the world.  And oh boy, did I love the “high” I felt when the deception, manipulation and lies all fell into place.

Until they didn’t.

When I finally found myself sitting across the desk of an intake counselor at a substance abuse treatment center I still was clinging to the belief I could one day drink again and eat as I saw fit.  I vividly remember the woman asking me how much alcohol I drank each day and my response of “oh, not that much” was quickly deflected when she held up my liver count report. I just wasn’t ready to stop believing I could run the show and direct the participants.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

The Tenth Tradition reminds us that we as a group do not have an opinion on outside issues.  This is an important principle, as it keeps our meetings focused on our primary purpose: to help others.  As a sober member of twelve-step programs and an active member of the local Buddhist center, I have some experience with keeping outside issues of mine out of the rooms.

Although my participation in this other organization is very helpful to me, has helped me connect with myself and the world, and is very important to my sobriety, it has no place in the rooms.  When I speak directly about my “religion” rather than my spiritual program of working the Twelve Steps, I am
minimizing my effectiveness to others.

When someone shares and makes clear his or her religious affiliation, I must admit I close my mind a tiny bit.  I am not proud of this quality, but it is the truth.  I think if I, with a few years of sobriety, have even the slightest amount of contempt for this, than it is probable that a newcomer also would.

The need to share religious affiliation in meetings baffles me.  I often wonder why somebody would share that kind of information.  My personal opinion is that it tends to come off in a demeaning way.  When somebody speaks about his or her intense religious practice, I feel contempt because I feel judged.  I often feel like it is a separating act, not a unifying.
Although at any given meeting there are possibly people with similar religious beliefs, there are generally far more people with different beliefs.  One of the
most beautiful things about twelve-step rooms is the unifying of addicts and alcoholics from all different walks of life.  Feeling a part of was one of the most wonderful feelings I felt upon entering the rooms.  Putting differences out there like religious beliefs is simply unnecessary and certainly unhelpful.

Knowing this, it is my opinion (based on my personal experience, as well as those that came before me), that any religious affiliation should stay out of a
regular meeting.  Where I live, there are twelve-step meetings that are designated for people of certain faiths or beliefs, just as there are gender-specific meetings.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states in the second Appendix, "The terms “spiritual experience” and “spiritual awakening” are used many times in this book which, upon careful reading, shows that the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism has manifested itself among us in many different forms... Most of our experiences are what the psychologist William James calls the “educational variety” because they develop slowly over a period of time."

Although many members do have a white-light experience, this is not the case for most of us.  Even those of us who have moments of clarity often have our spiritual experiences occur over a more extended period of time.  When we first begin hearing about spiritual experiences, moments of clarity, and conscious contact with a Higher Power, we may be turned off by this misunderstanding.  Although this is just a misunderstanding; the truth is that these educational spiritual experiences are far more common, and just as helpful.

My spiritual experience has come in many waves over quite a long time.  Although I most certainly had a moment of clarity where I decided I want to be sober, it wasn't until I was about 30 days sober that I realized the change that was taking place.  Over the first year of my sobriety, I experienced my spiritual awakening from following the suggestions I was given.  Around two years sober, when I went to jail, I had more of a white-light experience.  Although it was not any single moment, the 30 days in jail led to a spiritual experience unlike any I had experienced up until that point.

When we use the phrase spiritual experience, we mean this personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.  The book discusses a physical craving, mental obsession, and spiritual malady.  If we do not drink, we do not have any physical craving.  As far as the mental obsession we experience, the only way to treat this is by examining our spiritual malady.  When we treat this spiritual malady, our mental obsession dwindles down.  This treating of the spiritual malady is the essence of a spiritual experience.

 

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