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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

I'm sure that many of you can relate to coincidences like when you learn about a new word, you find that you hear it more, but when in reality it's just something new that has come into your awareness, it was really there all along.  This is of course something that happens to me often, but has certainly been my experience since I have been writing this blog, as it is now always in my awareness to look for opportunities for what to discuss next and they just keep popping into my life!

Working in the addiction field, and the job I have in particular, keeps me very focused but also very isolated.  Working in addiction also creates a sort of bubble, being that my clients are all trying to get out of their active addiction, my co-workers are all in recovery, and the doctors are addictionologists.  I had been in California for four or five years and didn’t realize that I was protecting myself in a way, by not branching out of my comfort zone.  So it wasn’t until about two years ago, that I started to go out to new places and interact with new people that have never struggled with an addiction.  (People that experience temporary stress instead of chronic anxiety are still a wonder to me!)

The benefit, however, of the bubble realization was that all of that prep work that I had been doing (working with a sponsor, doing the steps, going to multiple types of therapy to figure out the core issues as to why I was using inhalants, then working on those core issues) was in preparation for returning to the real world and all its challenges and this time having a more positive impact, on myself and on those around me, and it was time to use them!  The tools I have learned (especially emotional regulation, coping skills, and trigger identification) and the resources I have developed have been crucial in my relapse prevention, because life sure does throw me some curveballs and when I did come out of hiding, I found that some of my wreckage from my past was still there waiting for me.  I am definitely grateful that I was given the opportunity to have a second chance, to get to be the same person, but a better version.  By doing the footwork, it allows me to look at the same situations but have different reactions and therefore different outcomes than I would have in the past.

I feel that in order to be effective in communicating with people who are also struggling and/or looking for solutions or education, I need to write about things that truly affect me emotionally, because if what I'm writing doesn't induce some sort of feelings for me, how could it in someone else?  So full disclosure in the hopes that someone can relate and hopefully allowing me to be of service.

The reason that the ability to have different reactions that produce different and better outcomes is on my mind is due to some events that occurred in my week.  I felt discouraged this week for two reasons, and I feel like they have happened while I have volunteered to write this blog for a reason.  I am a person that falls victim to a certain type of mental trap, where your brain immediately jumps into negative thinking or disaster mode when you hear certain things that are not ideal.  In the treatment facilities I work with, we refer to it as addict brain.

Tagged in: 10th tradition 12 step 12 step recovery AA abstinence accurate self-appraisal action program action steps addict addiction addiction help addiction memoir addiction recovery Addiction Specialist addictive behavior addicts affected affirmations Alcoholics Anonymous answers anxiety anxiety and recovery ask for help Asking for help attitude of gratitude awareness balance being a loving mirror being a loving person being of service Big Book Caring for those who still suffer co-addiction co-occurring disorder compassion courage dealing with a using loved one depression discomfort drug abuse drug addiction emotional management emotional maturity emotional regulation emotional sobriety emotions faith family recovery fear first step goal setting goals gratitude gratitude journey Guest Blogger guilt healing HELPING OTHERS higher self inadequacy inner satisfaction intervention inventory letting go Life Challenges life on life's terms literature memoir mental health mindfulness mindfulness and recovery Motivation My Story openness positive energy program of recovery recovery recovery talk relapse prevention Resilience right action right intention self care Self Love self-compassion self-confidence self-esteem self-help self-honesty serenity shame sobriety sponsor stepwork struggle substance abuse suffering suffering addicts Support surrender tenth tradition thinking thinking errors Trying to save a Life turn it over twelve step recovery twelve steps Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions twelve steps of aa twelve traditions twelve traditions of aa why i used drugs

Posted by on in Alcoholism

Each one of us works our own individual program.  In twelve-step programs we are given many suggestions, but there is only one requirement: the desire to stop drinking.  Attending meetings or speaking with our fellows, we see how differently each of us works our program.  It is a beautiful thing that we are encouraged to work the program how it works for us, and there are always people more experienced than us who have different experiences to offer.  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on page 29, "Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way he established his relationship with God."

Our Own Higher Power

In my personal experience, the ability to choose your own Higher Power is one of the greatest examples of people working their own programs.  I have met people of all faiths and traditions in the rooms: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Atheist, and simply spiritual.  Regardless of your spiritual/religious beliefs, there is a place for you in twelve-step programs.

Although Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Christians and on many Christian principles, it was created with an expressed intention to work for people of all belief systems.  I practice Buddhism myself.  My sense of a "Higher Power" or "God" is very different than a lot of my fellows.  I choose to utilize the Dharma as my Higher Power.  Rather than a supernatural or ethereal force or figure, I use the path of Buddhism as my Higher Power.  It works well for me, for I am able to turn my will and my life over to it.  I am able to pray and meditate, be grateful for my Higher Power, and not fully understand my Higher Power.

Whatever your beliefs are, the principles are the same: trust in God, pray, meditate, turn your will and life over.  I have met many atheists in my time sober, and have found the principles also apply there.  In Buddhism, there is the teaching that we all have seeds within us; we have seeds of doubt, anger, love, fear, acceptance, etc.  When we take action, we are watering these seeds within us.  Being of service waters the seed of compassion, love, etc.  Punching somebody waters the seed of anger, hatred, etc.  Speaking with atheists, I have heard a very similar account of things.  Even though they do not believe in a greater deity, they do believe they have a better person within them.  I see atheists in my home group be of service, share eloquently, relate to others, and be wonderful members of our fellowship.

As discussed in a recent post, it is important to keep religion out of twelve-step meetings.  I have heard speakers that truly move me that I find out have completely different beliefs than I do.  I have heard other Buddhists share that I do not especially relate to.  Religion (or lack of) is not important in twelve step meetings.  We are all sitting there for the same reason, and sharing our differences only separates us.  If somebody is Christian, Hindu, atheist, or whatever, it is their program, not ours.  It is my honest opinion that it is absolutely none of my business unless they are directly hurting me or the integrity of the program.  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says on page forty-five about the program, "Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem."


Posted by on in Alcoholism

Whether you are in shape, overweight, malnourished, or anywhere along the spectrum, exercise is an amazing tool in recovery.  Exercise and recovery go together well because when we are using, we exercise very little.  Our eating habits are often unhealthy.  We sit around, use, and do not utilize our bodies.  When we get sober, we often feel like doing the same, as our minds are running, we are full of anxiety, and we want to lie in bed all day.

Benefits of Exercise in Recovery

There are many benefits of exercising.  The most important point to mention is that exercise releases dopamine in the brain.  When we exercise, it keeps our dopamine receptors working and prevents them from dying off.  As we exercise, we are physically providing ourselves with the happiness chemical.  One day at a time, and over an extended period of time, exercise helps create happiness.  If we do not exercise or utilize these dopamine receptors, the brain prunes them off in order to increase efficiency.

As we exercise in recovery, we get rid of much negativity.  Exercising is a fantastic way to get rid of anxiety, anger, worry, restlessness, racing thoughts, and many many more emotions.  Working at a dual-diagnosis treatment center, I see many clients join us with anxiety disorders and anger issues.  They resist exercise as much as they possibly can.  However, when they finally begin exercising, they invariably admit to feeling the benefits.  As somebody who deals with anxiety and extreme anger myself, I find exercise to be absolutely invaluable in my recovery.  Exercising is one of my most useful tools when I am feeling any negative feeling.

Finally, when we exercise in recovery, we are taking contrary action and building esteem.  For many of us, exercise and taking care of our health are not things we have been doing.  When we begin to exercise, we begin to feel better about ourselves.  Whether we are losing weight, gaining weight, or remaining at the same weight, exercise helps us feel better about ourselves.  We are active, get outside, and ultimately are happier.

Ways to Exercise in Recovery

There are many simple ways to exercise without going to a gym or exercising in a tedious manner.  Some of us may be gym rats, but if you are like myself, the thought of going to a gym feels like going to work.  There are ways to exercise in a more relaxed, peaceful manner.


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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