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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Originally Posted @ http://www.newbridgerecovery.com/793-2/

One of the biggest paradoxes in recovery is the idea of ‘surrendering to win’. In our society, the idea of admitting defeat is seen as a sign of weakness. When it comes to addiction and alcoholism however, conceding to the fact that you have a disease is the first step in getting and staying sober.

Many people struggling with addiction and alcohol abuse are experts at rationalization and denial. Working at a detox or treatment center, it is common to hear people argue “I don’t have a problem, I can stop when I want!” or “It’s not like I got a DUI, it can’t be that bad”. In fact, almost every person struggling with substance abuse issues try to come up with excuses as to why they don’t have a problem. An addict or alcoholic in denial may say things like “I have a job and a house, I’m not an alcoholic”. Often times people think of an alcoholic or drug addict as the dirty old bum panhandling and sleeping under a bridge drinking warm wine out of a brown paper bag. The reality is that addiction comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. One thing that research into addiction has discovered is that substance abuse seems to not discriminate between race, gender, or economic status. It has also become obvious that addiction is a progressive disease, and that some people can function at a high level, be very successful, and still struggle with addiction.

Why Surrender?

Getting sober, it is important to come to terms with addiction as a disease. I encourage people to research the disease concept of addiction, and to realize that addiction is not a matter of willpower or strength, but instead a medical anomaly that the person suffering can’t control. This is where the concept of surrendering to win comes in. Once the person comes to terms with their situation and accepts that they can’t fix their substance abuse problems on their own, a foundation for sobriety is laid. In 12 step programs the first step is about admitting our powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. This is very similar to surrendering, because it requires the person to admit they need help and can’t handle it on their own. Once they become willing to take suggestions and become open-minded to new things, recovery can occur. Some people find strength in therapy, spirituality, fellowship, or service. When surrendering occurs, the previously close-minded person is often more willing to try unfamiliar actives that will ultimately bring them relief and strength.

When it comes to recovering from drugs and alcohol surrendering is actually a sign of strength and courage. It goes against our human nature and society to admit defeat, but in doing so we actually become willing to overcome our setbacks. Admitting powerlessness over substances does mean you have to be a slave anymore, instead it is a sign of upcoming freedom and growth.

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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

Have you ever wondered why, no matter how rationally phrased in your head, the idea of asking for help seems about as reasonable as asking for a snake bite?

Somewhere along life's way I told myself a story that asking for help meant failure, weakness, and a lack of intelligence. The older I got the more I believed this fictional description if I needed the assistance of others. I went to far as to drop projects if the challenge was too great or the outcome would seem less that perfect.

However no one gets through life without some guidance and I'm certainly no exception. The difference for me was I'd silently pray for guidance rather than ask. When someone would offer unprovoked direction I'd smile, thank them kindly for the "reminder" and move on without any idea of what I needed to learn along the way.

This was exactly the approach I took when the whispers about how much I drank and how little I ate began to filter in. I heard only what I wanted to acknowledge and filtered the rest to suit my comfort zone. If someone mentioned I do something that hit too close to home, I'd consider their words as expressions of judgment and therefore white noise.

Upon reflection I knew I'd hit my "bottom" when I finally became willing to listen for the message not just the words. Yet asking for help didn't seem possible for me. In truth, I didn't even know what to ask for.

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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 Recommended Reading

I recently called a friend to talk with her about a choice I needed to make. I've learned through the program of recovery how valuable perspective beyond my own helps assure I’ll do the next right thing.

However there are times, like this one, when I already know what I want to do yet I go through the motions anyway.

Bad idea.

Sure enough things didn't pan out the way I had wanted. When I ran into my friend, I had to fess up about the result. This is pretty much how that conversation went:

FRIEND:  So how did everything work out?

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

There have been many times in my life when words or phrases came to mean something other than what many understand them to mean.  Off the top of my head I can think of a few examples.

My husband and I communicate in ways often causing our friends to do a double-take and wonder what in the world we are talking about.  For example, I might be in the living room doing something and yell down to my husband in the basement to bring me “that thing next to the big thing.”  Seconds later he hands me exactly what I needed.  We share a language created during our many years of living together.

Another opportunity to share a unique means of communication is in the work environment.  When I was still active in the corporate world, my team of many years knew exactly what each other needed or what we meant by a simple nod of the head or a raised eyebrow. We had spent hours together creating, editing, masterminding and learning to trust one another.  In all that time we eventually understood things without needing to say a word.  When we were in situations where verbal connection wasn't an option, those non-communication actions spoke volumes.  I was somehow comforted by this; feeling a sense of security knowing I was part of something uniquely special.

When I was drinking and rarely eating, there was a lot of conversation in my head which was uniquely special for me too.  I never shared these ongoing internal dialogues with anyone because I couldn’t explain them.  I had a difficult enough time myself just trying to understand how and why the subject matter would roll back and forth like a pendulum. One moment I’d be justifying my irrational behavior and the next I’d be mentally berating myself for having such thoughts.

I carried on with this silent metronome of conversation for years.  I was absolutely certain if anyone else could hear what I heard, they’d consider my train of thought not only foreign but nowhere near normal.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Over the last 12 years, I've done a lot of self-study about what kept me in lock step with the powerful disease of addiction. I've peeled myself back, layer by layer, to unveil the root causes for this.

One of the most profound things I uncovered during that investigation was how the toxic phrase “I should know better” directed my life.

Growing up, I heard, " Honestly, Alison you really should know better” on a rather regular basis. This phrase was so ingrained into my head that as I grew older, if I found myself in a bad spot, within a second I’d think, “Ugh! I should have known better!”

For the average person, a reflection like that is nothing more than a casual check-in.

Not so for someone who lived for decades underneath the addictive, obsessive diseases of alcoholism and an eating disorder. For someone like me, that statement is monumentally damaging.

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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

In early recovery, I was often told, “Trust me, you’ll feel better soon”, or, “I know this is hard, but I promise, you’ll feel better soon.” I lived by those words.  I was so shaky, ashamed and scared. I felt awful.  I desperately hoped the non-stop physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual suffering would stop.  I wanted so badly to feel better, physically as well as emotionally. I tried each and every day to focus on those words of reassurance and deny what I thought and felt inside.  I held tight to the recommendations of my recovery role models, the encouragement from my friends and family outside the rooms of recovery and my own willingness to get better, hoping eventually I’d feel better.

And eventually I did, but not in the way I had expected.  What began to happen was I started to feel my feelings better.  I started to feel happiness better, I started to feel anger better, and I started to feel sadness better.

Although this sounds like a play on words – feeling my feelings better - the point is, in order for me to experience healthy recovery I had to allow myself to actually feel what I had long been trying to deflect, change or control.

For example, during the Christmas holidays my emotions would always kick into overdrive.   No matter what age I was, I would become completely nostalgic.  I’d think about stringing the lights with my dad, hearing my grandfather whistling a holiday tune or sitting at the top of the staircase with my brothers and sister waiting for my Dad to tell us Santa had arrived.  I’d get excited to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” with my family or maybe catch an old Charles Dickens movie by myself.  As I got older the holidays stopped being those experienced as a child.  They became strung by addiction instead of lights and wrapped around bottles of wine with little food instead of gifts presented with love.

I won’t lie, those first few winter holidays in recovery were difficult.  I couldn’t stop focusing on how sad, angry and frustrated I felt for all those Christmas and New Year holidays lost in the blur of addiction.  In those early recovery years I had difficulty fully embracing the magic of the season.  To be honest, I really wanted nothing more than to get through the series of events, wishing they would just be over.

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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

I am honored to be the December Expert particularly because this first day happens to be my birthday. Yet the date does not mark the only time I was shifted from a place of comfort to a visceral shock to the system.

I’ve been given the most precious gift of life three times. I was physically born in December of 1961, almost died in 2001 and then tested fate again in 2008. The 46-year journey was a roller coaster of addiction, emotional chaos and nonstop searching for a way out.

Although I can't remember the first few celebrations of the date I entered this world, all accounts indicated they were joyous, happy and fun. I’ve been told people poured attention on me with beautifully wrapped boxes to open and cards read by others with messages for a future far better than their own.

 

 

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Being in an intimate relationship in sobriety is difficult to say the least.  Relationships are like steroids for my character defects; they cause them to grow more powerful than I imagined possible.  From jealousy to control issues, my need to be right to my need to know everything, my character defects really come to light in relationships.  However, being in a relationship has taught me a lot, and my growth has been great.

Keys to My Healthy Relationship

With my character defects glaring me in the face in this relationship, I have found several important keys to keeping the relationship strong and healthy.  As with the rest of my recovery, I must remain vigilante with myself in order to sustain this healthy relationship.

Communication

The first, and most important, tool in my healthy relationship is communication.  Communication is an absolutely indispensable tool in my relationship.  Obviously, this applies in the sense of not lying, straightforward nor by omission.  However, communicating goes much further than telling the truth.

In order to maintain a healthy relationship, communication must go both ways.  I must walk through my (often irrational) fears, and be able to communicate how I feel.  Remaining considerate of her feelings, I tell her how I feel, whether I am upset (with her or not), happy, anxious, or dealing with something.  She is not my sponsor, nor is she my Higher Power.  However, she is an integral part of my support network.  Furthermore, when I hold things in too much, it closes off my heart to her.  As my heart fills with fear and resentment, my capacity to love is diminished.  As I become able to tell her how I feel and what is going on with me, it frees my heart up to be filled with love.  It is not always easy, as fears of being judged, not being enough, and driving her away do arise.  However, I consistently walk through these fears, and each time the fears are easier to overcome.

Also, I must be open to communication from her end.  As important as talking is to communication, so is listening.  When she speaks to me, whether it is a casual conversation or something more serious, I make a diligent effort to listen mindfully.  My reactions are not always compassionate and loving, and it is something I am consciously working on.  I find that as I listen with more mindfulness, I am able to respond with more compassion rather than reacting with fear.  When I react with fear, I am not encouraging a safe, open environment.  Just as I go through fears sharing my feelings, so does she.  It is not within my control whether or not she will be open and honest with me, but it is within my control to encourage a safe space to nurture the love rather than the fear.

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