Alison's Insights

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

Archive for the tag “change”

How One Day at a Time Saves Me One Day at a Time

The statement that can yank me from mental chaos to calm contains five simple words. They are, one day at a time.

Don’t be fooled. Things weren’t always that way for me.

For the majority of my life, if something when awry or scared me, the last thing I thought would help was time. Instead, I did whatever necessary for immediate change. I had no desire for the sit back and wait idea. Regardless of possible consequences, if there was a problem, I fixed that problem, and moved on.  I couldn’t run the risk that what I feared could happen, would happen.

That came to halt when the emotional after effects of what I hope was my last drink of alcohol hit me like a hurricane. Fear, sadness, guilt, shame, remorse, and lack of control swept me up and tossed me around like an upended snow globe. I crawled my way to rooms where sobriety wisdom filled the air. Surely they had the quick-fix solution for my emotional pain. Each person I asked smiled and suggested I keep my focus only on how to not drink that day. That seemed absurd. How could I possibly get through a whole day with those hand wringing, heart-racing, tissue-deep feelings without the relief I knew a glass of my addiction would ease? Yet I made a silent commitment that I would attempt anything to end my relationship with booze.

I tried what I then doubted, and love what still works.

ODAT Blog Post 6.5.17

As time went on, that need for that one-day-at-a-time concept showed up more and more often. I heard those words when I questioned that never-again idea about a future glass of wine or the occasional mixed drink. Back then, I could not fathom a birthday, a wedding, or any other celebratory event without a drink.

Although I did my best to conceal the shudder of my shoulders, the wise woman who knows me better than I know myself provided a bit more intel about this one day at a time notion. She explained that how I feel one day may not be how I feel forever. My ability to handle forthcoming situations would change as I work to better understand myself one day at a time.

I did the work which then felt impossible, and love how the knowledge works for me.

Then came the challenge to understand why three meals and two snacks a day made sense. That’s when people wiser than me suggested a few words to enhance that one-day-at-a-time concept. They suggested I focus my attention on one meal at a time,

Armed with what I knew worked and what I hoped would, I reconstructed my one day at a time mantra to include the words, one meal at a time. That alone got me through some very dark days.

Yet, life goes on and things show up. On the surface, some appear almost too much to bear. A situation may arise that pings the memory of how a glass of wine quenched my fears or a skipped a meal fueled a need to control my imperfections. That’s why I need more than a one day or one meal at a time reminder.

For example, a few weeks ago, I sat in silence among hundreds of people inside a church I know well. Each time, a celebration of one’s life filled with words they don’t hear but we do. On that particular day, my gaze was set on a woman left alone in the first pew. She sat upright with grace hoping the beautiful blue dress worn would mask her weary, emotionally drained body. Soon the young children she shared with her husband that we were there to honor would sit beside her once their pallbearer duties ended.

When I passed a tissue to the person next to me, she tearfully asked how anyone could possibly deal with the loss of a spouse so young. I responded with words that seem attached to my every exhale. I whispered, “I suppose one day at a time, maybe even one breath at a time.”

That’s how I roll these days; one day, one moment, one breath at a time. This is my life line when everything starts to feel like too much.

Once offered as an idea to shift my focus from too much alcohol and not enough food, the meaning behind this one day at time concept not only saved me from two near-death addictions, the words now save me from myself.

A Moment to Breathe

We all see the one day at a time quote on plaques, paper weights, and notecards, yet have you ever breathed in the true intention behind the phrase? Have you considered the value of that when worry takes over or anxiety is through the roof? Maybe your thoughts live in days ahead rather than where your feet are. Take a deep breath, look around, and ground yourself in the right now not in the what if. Focusing on one day, one moment, one breath at a time is how you could get from where you are to where your next right step is needed. I hope you can relate to some of this. If so, please comment below or share via your preferred social media site.

 

 

 

 

Finding the Path from Justifying to Testifying

As an avid reader, writer, and speaker about life before and after recovery from life-threatening addiction, I appreciate the use of carefully placed words. The hope is that the tale takes anyone interested from point A to point B with little confusion and, with any success, a connection. I learned that when I testify, there is no need to justify.

On the other hand, as a woman in long-term recovery, I appreciate those private moments when I witness the use of messy, scattered, nonsensical words spoken by someone who reached a point when their need to justify and deny turns into a need to testify and accept the truth.

I know that need from the inside out. For a long time, I tossed the details of my actions after one too many drinks and not enough food into a justification blender. My hope was that what poured out would make sense to those I prayed would listen.

Before I uttered a word, I silently practiced those well-mixed stories to assure they validated my chaotic, self-focused, emotionally disruptive behavior. I thought, once said, they would protect me from the judgement of others and shame from myself.

I believed justification and fabricated rationalization were my strong suit. I believed my use of manipulative words would alleviate vulnerable moments and emotional pain. I believed all that until one day none worked. People didn’t stop to listen, they started to disregard my means of denial. Those woven pieces of untruths were finally only believed by me.

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This was my turning point. This was when my need to testify and accept the truth became stronger than my need to justify my behavior by denying them with lies. When I turned that corner, my whole outlook on life changed.

No one could take that alternative path for me. Yet everyone who led the kind of life I wanted, free from unhealthy actions and behaviors that required justification, showed me the way. I listened with rapt attention to their testimonials, each laced with a sense of peace that was magnetic.

Today, my intention for writing and speaking is to offer the same kind of testimony that promotes the possibility for overcoming whatever keeps someone from living an honest life.

What pains me most is when I see and hear nonstop justification from people who are clearly struggling. The ripple effect of their denial is heartbreaking mostly because they can’t, as I couldn’t, recognize how far and wide that goes. I don’t hear their fictional account of what happened. I hear their cries for help.

I can’t walk the path from justifying to testifying for them but, if they are willing, I can show them the way.

A Moment to Breathe

Do you ever find yourself creating rationale for actions taken or words spoken? Do you wake up in the morning with a sense of fear that what happened the night before requires some back peddling? I have too. When that happens, take a few slow deep breaths to settle down those racing thoughts of doom. Nothing said in desperation will unwind yourself from those fears. Take a few more deep breaths and then, slowly, consider your options. Sometimes that includes a call with a trusted friend to account for what happened and then, together, you can create that next right step. 

 

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.

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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.

The Power of Inspiruption

When was the last time you heard or read something that shot a powerful bolt of inspiration through you? Maybe there was a quick turn of your head to listen closer, or a rapid eye-race back a few paragraphs to assure what you read still rests on the page. For me, the disruption to my train of thought is so sudden, the only words to bounce the walls of my mind are, “Wait. What was that?”

My arms tingle, my mouth goes a bit dry, and I scramble to grab a pen and capture what I mentally took in. In that instant, I feel a heart-to-heart connection to the words, the person sharing them, and the intention for which they are offered. Then, after silent recalibration, everything I thought about a certain subject shifts.

I call this experience an inspiruption. I am inspired to such a degree that my whole sense of what previously made sense is now disrupted.

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No doubt I experienced these kinds of sharp-turn realizations earlier in life. Teachers, authors, friends, bosses, even conversations overheard in strange places, pinged me to reconsider things.

Yet never with such intensity than the inspiruptions that led me to gather up the courage to put down my (hopefully) last glass of wine and pick up my first healthy and full fork.

Once in the arms of recovery, I heard the words that to this day can send a shiver through me. Someone looked me straight in the eye and said, “Yeah, me too.”

That small sentence is, perhaps, the single most important recovery blanket of hope and comfort for anyone in recovery. When the sentiment is wrapped around someone filled with fear and doubt and shame, what happens next is an inspiruption of profound measure. The body language cannot be mistaken. Facial muscles relax, shoulders drop, and fists unclinch. I’ve seen this happen right before my eyes and, for me, is nothing short of a miracle in motion.

Many moments of inspiruption have occurred since the day that reaction was mine. These days I surround myself with people and pages that wake me up, pull my breath, or push a tear beyond the walls of my pride; all indicators that more light must shine on a subject subconsciously left dim.

If I chose to disregard these moments of inspiruption, the opportunity for change might be lost. I’ve come way too far and gone through way too much to start denying  what is undeniable.

This is why I strive to keep my ears and eyes on guard in preparation for the next moment of inspiruption. Practical experience proves that when they arrive, what I do next is sure to powerfully change me for the better.

A Moment to Breathe

What came to mind when you considered my initial question? Did something happen as a result of that moment of inspiration? Were you overcome with excitement or startled by fear? If the latter, my suggestion is that when—not if—this happens again, take a deep breath and allow yourself to peak around the corner. What awaits might be a solution for something you never thought possible. Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences as a result of inspiruption here or as you share this post via your favorite social media site.

 

 

I Just Want to Feel Normal

How many times have you been asked about your goals in life? Seems from high school on into adulthood, that question nudges a way into countless conversations with friends, family, and prayed-for employers.

For decades I would field such an inquiry with a memorized, finely worded, sure-to-please response that pointed attention to ideal social status, financial stability, and my next career move.

All that changed when I found myself in the vulnerable stage of early recovery. Instead of saying what I thought others wanted to hear, I exhaled with the admission I needed to hear myself say. My forever goal was to just feel normal.

I fantasized about this because I doubted normal people spent the first sixty seconds of early morning consciousness cobbling together flashes of fact from the night before. They probably didn’t have to ask themselves what they did or said, what lies needed maintaining, where the stashed unopened wine bottles were hidden, if they ate dinner or anything at all, and perhaps most crucial, if anyone saw them doing something they should not have done.

Back then I tried to play the role of a normal adult while hiding the fact I spent my days sneaking more than a few drinks and pushing through an occasional meal. I thought if I portrayed that high-achieving business woman who breezed though meetings, settled irate client calls, and finalized budget-binding projects on time without breaking a sweat or losing her cool, I’d be thought of as normal.

For years I wished for a different kind of normal. I just couldn’t figure out how to accomplish that without disclosing my secret supply of unhealthy behaviors. I convinced myself that if that were to happen, society would drop me from any definition of normal as I dropped my bags in front of the reception desk at a treatment center.

When I eventually experienced the latter, the stars seemed to rearrange themselves when I heard someone suggest I might consider a new normal.

New Normal

Instead of quenching my thirst for what made sense with booze, scales, and lies, I could satisfy my craving for sanity by aligning myself with people who offered the kind of recovery-focused practical experience I could relate to.

As the last traces of alcohol left my body and proper nutrition settled in, clarity of mind did too. I eventually understood that what I had labeled as normal was nothing more than a story I told myself based on unrealistic expectations.

Today, normal is what happens when I do the next right thing, stay consistent with what keeps me holistically healthy, and remain teachable.

I’m grateful my life doesn’t mirror the definition of normal I once hoped for. The changes I’ve made and peace of mind that brings is convincing evidence that what’s normal is nothing more than how I feel. And that, in fact, is what I’ve always wanted.

A Moment to Breathe

What’s your definition of normal? Has that description wavered over the years? If not, take a few slow deep breaths and consider if the time has come to establish a new one. Remember, what seemed like the natural course of things years ago may not align with how you are naturally meant to live.

I’m curious about your thoughts on this topic. Please leave a comment below or via your favorite social media spot.  

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