Alison's Insights

Accepting Mid-Life Addiction Recovery One Slow Deep Breath At A Time

Archive for the tag “breathing”

I Don’t Have Time

Why, during the last few weeks of every year, do I feel as though I can’t catch up with myself? I rush from place to place and project to project hoping to cross one more item off the holiday to-do list. I forget more than remember and I talk more than listen.

I convince myself I don’t have time for a spontaneous cup of coffee with a friend, an extra few minutes of (much-needed) sleep, or another chapter of that spellbinding book.

The reality is, I don’t have time because time has me.

Without intentionally doing so, I give the tick-tock of time that kind of power over me. Why do I let this happen? When did this start? Do other people struggle to satisfy time expectations like I do?

I shudder to think how familiar these questions are. I asked them years ago because I thought I had a drinking problem and issues with food and body image when, in fact, alcohol, scales, and mirrors had me. I manipulated and rationalized everything to avoid treatment or well-considered amends or self-care. I thought I didn’t have time for such things until my time almost ran out.

time-post-opt-1

With barely a moment to spare, I found the kind of help I desperately needed. During those early days, I begged for time to create the kind of life I have today.

In that process I found out why time is a precious commodity and must be respected as such.

The idea that I don’t have time is as dangerous for me as a drink of alcohol or fork unfilled. I cannot allow myself to believe that time is an enemy with power to determine what I’m capable of or what my priorities are.

If that’s where I am today, something needs to change and that something is my perspective.

Thank goodness I have a proven, practical experience solution for what keeps me from a healthy life. I must become willing to let go of the must-do’s and should’s and expectations so I can be present for people, situations, and things that truly matter.

If I slow down, step back, and breathe deep, I’ll find plenty of time to:

  • Listen
  • Offer a hug
  • Hold a door
  • Reach for the hand needing reassurance
  • Make that phone call, write that letter, or knock on that door
  • Spend a few extra minutes with a newcomer to recovery
  • Tell people who matter that they do
  • Walk slower
  • Ask for help
  • Breathe deeper
  • Get quiet
  • Look up

Perhaps the problem isn’t that I don’t have time, but that I forget how much time means to me.

A Moment to Breathe

How often do you hear yourself say that you don’t have time? Whether said out loud or in the silence of your mind, the story you tell yourself about how much time you have often proves harrowing. Take a deep breath and consider how you navigate your time. Do you feel spontaneously free to accept an unexpected opportunity, or over-scheduled and exhausted? If the latter seems more realistic for you, perhaps a shift in perspective is necessary. Remember, your time is yours and thus, only you will ever have the power to choose how that time is allocated. Now, take another slow deep breath and rewrite today’s plan that will suit you and your peace of mind.

When the Same Reminds Me I’m Not

We sat in the same darkened room. We looked through the same books with the same options. All they asked us for were words for slight revision.

The spelling of name is the same?”

“Yes except for the suffix. The previous ended with Jr. and this ends with the III.”

“Will you need the same number of Mass cards?”

“Yes”

“Please know we all feel the same, deep sadness that you’ve lost both of them in such a short period of time.”

“Thank you.”

The familiar light in my mind broke bright when I suddenly realized the same cold, solemn space where we numbly planned the second funeral of 2009.

Five years ago on this day, December 12, I witnessed the last breath my brother took. Seven months earlier, on April 19, I stood beside the bed when my father took his.

My men with the same name were gone in the same way, in the same year, when the same light their lives brought to this world slowly dimmed.

While this day is the same in so many ways, the date is a reminder for extra time in reflection of how I’m not the same because of their unending love for me and my recovery.

Wonder Why Early Recovery is So Emotional? You’re Grieving.

Holding hands at the end of a recovery meeting is a symbolic reminder we are not alone. The circle we form means there’s no beginning and no end, no hierarchy and no judgment, we’re just everyday people doing our best to stay connected and hopeful. The other day I stood in one such circle uttering the last few words we often say. When I would have normally let go of the hands I held, the one in my left clung a bit longer. I turned to look into the tear-filled eyes of a woman about my age. She very softly said the words I always welcome, “Do you have a minute?

We found a quiet corner and a box of tissues. I patiently waited as she did her best to move past the tears in order to form a complete sentence. When she looked to me for reassurance, I suggested she try taking a few slow, deep breaths. I shared with her how my father would ask me to do the same thing when he found me in similar emotional moments. I’ve since learned if I can slow my erratic breathing down a bit I’m able to slow my racing thoughts and find my voice.

When she found hers, she talked in rapid fire about how she was new to all this and although she had some problems at home, at work and a few discrepancies with the legal system, she thoroughly believed her drinking and other unhealthy behaviors weren’t that bad.

In bits and pieces she recanted conversations with others over the last few days and while she thought they were out of their minds, she figured if she showed up at a meeting they’d get off her back. After doing some research about recovery she sat alone in her house feeling miserable about how her life was unfolding and how unfair she be asked to give up drinking forever.  Soon the tears fell again and in broken half sentences she told me of how much she feared what others would think of her and that she could never show her face in public again for the things she’d done. All she wanted to do was be alone and figure things out but couldn’t.  With nowhere else to go and no one she could turn to for validation she came to the meeting hoping she’d feel better but instead felt worse.

I took a deep breath and told her how much I admired her courage to walk through the door and sit through the entire meeting.  The choice she made to ask we sit and chat for a while was further proof of that courage.  I explained no one will ask her to do anything forever, only for today. I then told her a bit about what took place for me to find a meeting of recovery and although others shared similar stories during the last hour, from the look on her face I made an assumption much of what others said went unheard.

Yet I think what I told her next is something heard loud and clear.  I told her she was grieving. Most of us go through feelings and states of mind during the initial days in recovery that parallel well-known stages of grief.  People often only associate grief with the loss of a loved one yet isn’t our relationship with alcohol or food or drugs or gambling equally passionate?  Therefore I asked she reconsider what she’d just told me in relation to the stages of grieving. stages of grief The mention of problems at work, home and the legal system coupled with the belief her drinking and other unhealthy behaviors weren’t “that bad” was nothing less than denial.  I suggested she consider if she’s angry with others for expressing concern about the manner in which she was managing her life.  Certainly her choice to attend a meeting of recovery to somehow get them off her back was a form of bargaining.  Then the state of mind she fell into after searching for a meeting might be a form of depression and finally, hearing more similarities than differences during the meeting and sitting here with me might very well be a kind of acceptance that she does belong here. I reminded her acceptance doesn’t mean she agrees with everything she’s hearing but what’s necessary if she wants to move forward.

I went on to say addiction, like grieving, is really patient. When we find ourselves feeling vulnerable for one reason or another, any one of the feelings associated with grief can ease into our minds thereby convincing us a drink or some other form of self-soothing behavior will alleviate that uncomfortable feeling.  The vicious cycle is quite real and can show up no matter how many days of continuous sobriety one strings together. Yet if we build a strong support system with those who walk the same recovery path, we have options to fend off lapsing back into old ways of feeling better.

We sat together for quite a while talking about the program of recovery and what she might be willing to do in the next few days.  I told her just like when grieving the loss of a loved one, she try to go easy on expectations of herself and others and that if she was open to the idea, she find her way to another meeting within the next 24 hours.

As we walked to our cars I saw my new friend smile briefly reminding me how important giving back what was so freely given to me keeps me grounded and grateful.

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A Moment to Breathe… Are you in any relationships with people or situations you can’t walk away from yet know deep down you need to? Are you hanging on out of fear you can’t handle the emotional separation or are you willing to try? Sometimes if we associate what’s behind our need to hang on to what’s not good for us we’re better able to make sense of why we must let go. If we turn our backs to what we feel, we’ll stay stuck. What has been your experience with this process? Feel free to offer a reply here or as a comment when sharing on your favorite social network.  

Brace For Impact

warning sign

Everything is happening too fast. I need to act quickly. What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? What’s going to happen? What if I don’t know how to handle what comes next? What if I don’t react fast enough? How am I going to be judged? Am I going to be seen as a failure?

No time to think. Brace for impact.

For years that state of panic was not experienced occasionally, but daily.

Even before my feet would touch the floor I was already in a state of pure desperation after silently interrogating myself.  What did I do or say last night? How much did I drink? Did I eat at all?  Is my husband mad at me? Is anyone mad at me? Am I in any sort of trouble? What tracks do I need to cover? Am I late for an appointment? Where’s my purse? Where’s my phone? Who can help me piece together yesterday without knowing I can’t?

My heart would race. My hands would shake. I feared what would happen next was out of my control. I braced for impact.

The unyielding grip I had on my life got tighter and tighter until the day I walked through the gateway of addiction recovery.

A few very kind and generous people introduced themselves as having once sat in the same jump seat I’d just unbuckled myself from. As their words slowly penetrated, I found myself actually willing to believe I just might be OK if I loosened up on my fear-based, relentless, need-to-control-everything, grip on life.

I no longer felt the demand to brace for impact because my rescue team had just arrived.

Now, even after many years of addiction recovery meetings, private talks with like-minded people and quiet moments of internal investigation, I can still find myself in moments of panic. I’m human. I have feelings and at times fear is one of them.  The difference today is, fear does not paralyze me. I’m not waiting for the red light to suddenly flash indicating the need to buckle my seatbelt and prepare for a bumpy ride.

I’ve learned my insatiable need to control only clouded my vision. I’d lose focus on what was happening in that moment. I didn’t attend to the immediate because I’d be mentally living in the future.

When I feel anxious I look at my feet.  That quick glance reminds me where my focus needs to be.  What, if anything, can I do in this moment to benefit the situation and not make matters worse?  I pause, breathe and consider my options.  Sometimes the option is to do nothing.  Other times the option is to get help.  Always the right option becomes clear only after taking that moment to breathe.

I finally found the way to brace for impact. I can let go of the outcome trusting the fact I’ve been in training all along.

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Are you tightly gripping some aspect of your life?  Are you feeling numb with anticipation and fear of the unknown?  Try taking a slow deep breath.  Concentrating on slowing your breath down allows your brain to focus elsewhere.  If you need further guidance, please visit my friend Tommy Rosen’s website www.tommyrosen.com.   He’s a master at teaching healthy breathing practices.  After experiencing how this helps you feel balanced, I’d love for you to come back and share with my readers about your transition. 

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