Over the last six months I have been a bit more in the shadows than usual. There have been very few blogs, minimal speaking engagements, and no boasting about random accolades. I’ve been prepared to write this post when the time was right, and it feels like now. There are a lot of things about recovery that we don’t really give thought to when we are hanging on in the very beginning. For me, this journey has been about unpeeling all the layers of BS and learning who I am, what I love, and what my sacred contract on this particular journey is all about.
After nearly two years of sobriety this past spring, I was blessed with the gift of a new life in my belly. I always planned on having a family. I mean, that’s what people do…get a job, make money, get married, have kids and live happily ever after…right? It didn’t work out that smoothly, at least for me. Once I found out I was pregnant I was devastated. It occurred to me that I was doing this for my husband who had been nothing but loving and supportive over the last 10 years, especially through my early recovery. There was SO MUCH shame for me, hating myself for being sober and STILL not recognizing my truth. How was I not “farther along??” Then there was the guilt of “ruining my husband’s life” not just by being an alcoholic, but also now to tell him that I didn’t feel ready for a family, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be married. It was horrible on so many levels.
We went through 11 weeks of highs, lows, therapy, and lots of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Seeing and hearing the heartbeat at the first ultrasound was surreal but I could tell the technician was uneasy and that something wasn’t right. They brought us into a room and told us that the levels were not where they should be and that we would need to return in one week. There had been a whole lot of soul searching up to that point and my husband and I could both see the writing on the wall if this pregnancy didn’t make it. A week later there was no heartbeat and a month after that I moved into an apartment alone.
When dealing with addiction many people have to hit rock bottom and lose everything. Today with so much more awareness just as many people don’t. I hadn’t lost everything. But when you spend your whole life building up a story on a false foundation, there is a daunting amount of work that has to go into deconstructing, in the hopes of one day building again on a healthy foundation. There were so many days romanticizing my addictive behaviors of partying and obsessive working. “None of this would be my reality if I stayed in the fog.” But the truth is, there IS no reality in the fog.
There would months of waking up in the morning and praying for the universe to help me put one foot in front of the other and to stay away from distractions of any kind. I turned down offers this summer for roles and opportunities that would have brought my ego a lot of satisfaction. I got sober to stop reaching outward for inner peace in ANY way, not just with substances. The time had come to go inside. So I have gone inside, and I am there…in the pit, where the knitty gritty work has to be done. And its haaaaaaard. It’s lonely. It’s painful. It’s inconsistent. But I am recognizing that in this pit is where I have to go to live a truly free and genuine life.
One day in the car a few months ago I asked my husband (he knew I was sharing all of this as its partially his story to tell) what he thought would happen with us and he said he honestly had no idea. As far as what my life looks like one year from now, I too, have no idea. But I am grateful that I have stayed present to walk through this with clarity and honesty. This post isn’t about sympathy or attention. It’s about transparency. My professional bio paints the picture of “perfection” and “awesomeness” in sobriety, however THIS period has been about having the courage to let go of what my story is going to look like and how I think it needs to be.
RealYou Revolution, LLC. is New England's premier resource for cutting edge substance use disorder services.
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For an addict (I use this term to include alcoholic), feeling our feelings is a critical component to dealing with addiction and recovering from addiction. It is important to understand that someone who has been numbing their feelings for years is going to go through a phase in early recovery where they begin to feel feelings for the first time, and it’s typically a scary and unpleasant experience. I remember hitting about the four-month mark crying on the phone with a woman in the program telling her I would rather be trashed every day of my life then feel the way I did at that moment. Everything I had avoided dealing with was coming out of my cells, pains and struggles I had stuffed down for over 15 years.
Another important piece in understanding addiction is that the addict essentially stops growing emotionally around the time they first started using drugs and/or alcohol. For many of us the path started with pot or drugs as early as 12 or 13. This applies to anyone and everyone recovering from addiction whether 15 or 50. So recognize that now you have this person who has stopped the addictive behaviors but has started to have some uncomfortable feelings come up, who has the ability to deal with such issues on the same level as a teenager or preteen. This is why as many support systems as we can put in place are critical to the recovery process. Meetings, sober peers, therapists, recovery coaches, it doesn’t take one or two of these but ALL of these to increase the chances of success and long-term sobriety or the ability to bounce back quickly from a slip.
Even after a significant amount of time in recovery, having feelings come up is risky. The addict wants to instantly “fix” the feelings and have control over numbing them or making them go away. So aside from the initial support systems a person must develop the proper coping skills that work for him or her. This even applies to physical feelings… I know every time I got sick in early recovery I wanted to drink because in the end that was what I did to feel better. A person cannot simply be told what works for them, they have to learn to develop and understand these coping mechanisms as they see fit for themselves. The key to feeling negative feelings is not to sit in the pain to sulk and stay depressed; it is to process through these feelings until they have left us. Taking a line from the wonderful Pema Chodron: “ The best thing you can do is learn how to fail really well, to hold the pain of things happening that you really don’t want to be happening … to experience the rawness of vulnerability … and to know the experience of when something terrible happens it means an opportunity for you to evolve into a better place, a new experience”. In the end, life happens; we must all understand that moments and feelings pass, yes, both the bad and the good. The beauty of life in recovery is being able to recognize this, be in moment, and ride the wave.
RealYou Revolution, LLC. is New England's premier resource for cutting edge substance use disorder services.
Advanced Intervention - Sober Companions - Recovery Coaches - Family Support Services - Case Management -DUI/OUI Support - Anger Management Self Esteem Development - Anxiety Management
Traditional signs of alcoholism often provide too little information, too late. Every alcoholic is considered “high functioning” at some point in his or her drinking. For those who drink too much or are on the path, situational awareness can be virtually non-existent. Let me put that in street language for you, drunk people have been known to act like morons, thinking it is completely acceptable behavior in their “unrealities” of “Buzzville”. It’s a common phenomenon to hear someone in recovery relive mortifying drunk-a-logs while shaking their head in disbelief about the behavior they once deemed acceptable. These Live Tweets from a Modern Family Editor sitting behind a trashed airplane passenger are a perfect example. The tweets make me cringe and bring back way too many personal experiences. Apparently because the passenger seems to have a happening life (and a major arrogance issue) she thinks she can’t have a problem. WRONG. So before cheering on that token party animal in your crowd, you may just want to think twice about what they are struggling with behind closed doors, or the inevitability that’s to come.
-Know anyone in Boston who could use cutting edge Intervention or Recovery Support? Call us at 774-329-4393 or email me personally at Danielle@realyourevolution.com
Some people say the only thing they did was drink too much, too often, for too long. When I went into treatment the exact words I heard from numerous people in my life was, “the general consensus is that you overreacted”. My family knew I drank a lot but I don’t think they would have all classified me as an alcoholic. The only person who knew the real severity of the problem was my husband because he knew what happened behind closed doors. The Jellenick Curve is a great resource to understand the general progression of ones addiction. Be warned, the curve always reads left to right, it will never go right to left for more than a short period of time. What this means is once we drink enough to open those neuropathways that crave alcohol, it is very difficult (and many would say impossible) to ever completely shut them off. So many people have addictive tendencies and addictive behaviors but it takes a perfect storm to move into the final stages of alcoholism. We know enough today that many are fortunate to be able to stop well before they become the “homeless guy under the bridge with the brown bag”. Below are just a few of the initial signs that I was in trouble:
· Immediately wanting a drink in my hand at any function
· Frequently telling myself “Just one more”
· Thinking it was ok to drive after three glasses of wine-because its not
· Making excuses to drink, bars after work with coworkers, out to dinner, etc.
· Waking up the next morning with guilt about breaking promises to myself
· Always being one of the last ones to leave the party
· My husband starting to watch/comment about my drinking at gatherings
· Switching from hard alcohol to beer only, to wine only, then to hard alcohol only because it had less calories
For more information on how to overcome addiction of any kind call 774-329-4393.
One of my favorite gurus, Robin Sharma, has talked about his Forced Optimization Strategy (FOS), forcing ourselves into doing the things we need to do in the beginning of forming a new habit (when it is most difficult) instead of relying on willpower. As an example he suggests hiring a personal trainer 3 times a week to come knock on your door and get you working out. There is no way to fail here. I believe recovery coaching and sober companions are exactly the same. When you commit and invest in having someone who has battled and overcome addictive behaviors hold you accountable and help get you where you need to be, it is far more difficult to fail. I don’t care if you think you aren’t exhibiting the signs of alcoholism according to a survey you saw online. If there is something in your life that you feel is holding you back from reaching your highest potential, its time to get in recovery mode. I say it time and time again; everyone needs a therapist and a coach if they really want to live life to its fullest…one to deal with the past and the other to get you where you want to go. What are you waiting for!?!
The SAMHSA working definition of recovery is “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” Everyone in the world is recovering some something if they choose to be, and I strongly believe that everyone should be!! As I have said time and time again, even if it’s not a drug addiction or alcoholism you may have a different way of distracting yourself from being completely honest and living your best life. AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE! So, in honor of and as my official kickoff to Recovery Month, I am posting a list of some of the primary things recovery means to me and a recovery coach.
1. Not blaming others for circumstances in my life.
2. Being 100% available physically and emotionally for the people I love.
3. Alleviating chaos in my life.
4. Losing my keys 80% less frequently than I did before.
5. Consistently working on being a better human being.
6. Realizing that 99% of what others think of me is none of my business.
7. Eliminating the outer reach for inner peace.
8. Working to be in the present moment because it’s all there is.
9. Practicing (and yes it takes a hell of a lot of practice) self-love.
10. Approaching myself and the world with open mindedness and compassion.
11. Having a (no longer chemically fueled) blast.
12. Laughing and smiling as frequently as possible.
You may recall the 1990’s campaign “D.A.R.E. to Keep Kids Off Drugs” and the program that accompanied it. Ironically in the 6th grade D.A.R.E. play, I played the bad chick who peer pressured everyone into drinking and using drugs. I don’t know if anything would have been different had I known the magnitude of the mental health issues amongst my ancestors. One side of the family had a history of alcoholism and the other untreated eating disorders, which I now understand are virtually one in the same. I do know that for someone with a rebellious addict mind, programs like D.A.R.E. only made me want to experiment more. Some things like stages of alcoholism or drug addiction statistics were perhaps a bit premature for what I was ready to listen to at 12. I also know that had I understood the neuroscience of why drug or alcohol abuse in someone under 25 affects the brain in a drastically different way than that of someone older, it would have caught my attention. Neuroscience tells us that if you take someone with possible addictive tendencies and introduce them to substances at a young age, their brain will essentially light up those neuropathways which can lead to craving, addictive behaviors, and substance abuse. There is no longer room for the, “it won’t happen to me” denial, because the proof is in the CT scans. The brain science that aids us in understanding addiction continues to catch my eye today. We need to start being more specific with kids so they understand HOW they are harming themselves from the first time they touch a substance. Read some fascinating information here on The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Adolescent Brain.
People dealing with addiction or recovering from addiction do not always consider the power of recovery language. The way we speak to each other within a 12 step meeting or support group is very different than the way we should speak with the rest of the world. As we have seen so much with bullying in recent years, words do matter. As an "addict" or an "alcoholic", it sounds like I am still in the midst of my disease. While there is no cure, I do believe I am in recovery which according to SAMHSA means, "A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self directed life, and strive to reach their full potential." Now who doesn't that apply to!?! So in my work as a recovery coach and as a sober companion, I do try to get in the habit of saying, "Hello, my name is Danielle and I am a person in long term recovery". Stay tuned for some resources on recovery language training. For more information on the importance of recovery language when dealing with addiction, read this new editorial in the journal of Substance Abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling with any type of addiction, please give us a call at 774-329-4393.
When I was in treatment we had to write a letter to the people we loved most dearly as if we had relapsed. Since I don’t have children yet my nieces and nephews were a no brainer. This letter is what sealed the deal on the life I was committed to living and the changes I had to make no matter what. Please share. I hope it helps you in whatever you are struggling with today.
Dear Lily, Macie, Hunter and Alexa:
I am sorry that I will not be there for you when you need me. I won’t be there for you on the days you just need someone to talk to. When you are hurting so bad and feel like you have no one, you won’t have me either. The sad truth is that Auntie Dani loves you guys so much but she just needed to always feel good instantly so she chose alcohol and a life of listening to her ego over loving you and herself and everything and everyone that ever meant anything to her. I am sorry that you may think you are less important to me because I chose these things over you. I want you to know that I love you all so much. You mean the world to me. I would do anything for you, almost anything, but I am sorry I can’t stop drinking. I wanted to be such a good example to all of you of the way to really live life…to find true happiness, love yourself and others, to be honest and caring, and maybe most importantly, peaceful inside. This is all I want for you but I couldn’t get it. I wanted you to see that enjoying the simplest things in life is what living really is. When I think of the four of you my heart and my eyes light up. I am so sorry that I failed you. My hope is that one day you will be able to learn these things on your own and live a life of true peace and happiness. I am sorry that I chose denial, instant gratification and superficiality over being a living example to all of you.
When I wanted to want sobriety but wasn't ready to give up the drink, a woman who had what I wanted looked at me and said, "You are exactly where you are supposed to be at this moment." I never forgot it. There was something about her words that told me I wasn't all broken and that things might eventually be ok. For anyone who has ever dealt with addictive behaviors you know that there is no cure for addictive tendencies. It is daily work. I have the disadvantage and advantage of having to start my day off being mentally, physically and spiritually fit and without those factors in balance all bets are off. And I don't care what anyone ever threatened me with, death, drunk driving, the effects of drug abuse, etc., I wasn't going to be ready until I was really ready. I had to have that last drink. So Elizabeth Vargas, please don't feel like a failure. We are all doing the best we can with what we have at each moment. Thank you for being so public about your struggle to remind people that they too can do this! Read more about Elizabeth's return to treatment.
about the master coach
Danielle, the Founder & Master Coach of RealYou Revolution, is a woman in long term recovery with a passion for helping others overcome their own personal demons – whatever they may be.