Recovery Retro features posts from my archives 2016-2017, my chronicles of recovery from alcoholism, mental health issues, and substance abuse. After 35 years of chaos, my life in several VA Treatment Programs was anything but boring. Join me as I share with you my most intimate posts about spirituality, living in the now, acceptance, gratitude, mindfulness, and the lessons I learned that keep me sober to this day.
Published 02/28/2017 at 7:25 p.m. – Day 132 of Treatment
A.A. has a lot of terrific slogans that can be applied to anything in life. I have compiled a list and put comments next to each one as to what I think that slogan means for me, not for you, for me. Feel free to comment with any I have missed. You don’t have to go to A.A. to benefit from A.A., but it is one of the pillars by which I remain sober today.
Here is Part I of the list. I will post the rest of the list down the road:
Easy does it—slowing my world down. It means not getting too high, not getting too low.
First things first—always keeping my sobriety first, no matter what is happening in my life, sobriety first, everything else second.
Live and let live–I will live my life and be at peace letting others live theirs.
But for the grace of god–if it wasn’t for God, I’d be in deep shit.
Let go and let god–hand over your control, your troubles, your woes to God and let Him handle them for you.
This too shall pass–nothing lasts forever, don’t get too caught up in your issues, they will not be with you forever.
Keep coming back….it works if you work it–if you can do nothing more, then just keep showing up.
Stick with the winners–hang with the folks who have been following the program and staying sober.
Sobriety is a journey….not a destination–there is no end-game.I will be an alcoholic fighting to stay sober forever.
Faith without works is dead–you can be as spiritual as you want, but without practicing those same principles, it’s irrelevant.
If god seems far away, who moved?–a ponderance that makes you realize you need to get with God, or spirituality.
Turn it over–the main tenant of Step 3. Turning my problems, issues, concerns, etc over to my Higher Power.
We are only as sick as our secrets–whatever you hold onto and don’t let go will keep you sick and/or in addiction.
There are no coincidences in AA–everything in A.A. happens for a reason, and that reason is God (Higher Power).
Be part of the solution, not the problem–stay out of your way as you seek the solution to your problem, or you will be the problem.
Please remember, my interpretations of these slogans may be different for you. What effect, if any, do some of these slogans have on your life? I have part two coming tomorrow. I’d love to hear if you have any other AA slogans, and how they have applied to your own life and/or sobriety.
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From jail, to the end of my treatment in 3 different V.A. Treatment Centers, this part of My Story uncovers the journey of my recovery. I vividly, and candidly chronicled my day to day struggles with recovery, mental health, amends, and dealing with the V.A. empire on my blog from October of 2016, to the end of 2017. You can find these musings in the Archives. However, in the coming weeks, I look back at those experiences and give you a more coherent story of my life In Recovery. I look back on that year with more insight as to what was happening, and share with you the principles and actions that built the foundation for my ongoing recovery.
In Cherry Street I, I discussed the main three characters who were my main go-to healthcare providers. My relationships with Kurt Z. and Dr. M. were mainly contentious. Those individuals would continue to negatively impact my life during my entire stay at the Cherry Street domicile. The cornerstone of the program was doing the work of Compensated Work Therapy (CWT).
Cherry Street was a program designed to assist Veterans wishing to transition out of VA care and into managing a life on our own. There was a strong emphasis on Vocational Rehabilitation. It involved working a 40 hour work week at various jobs at the VA in Leeds, Massachusetts. The other component of the program was therapy. Group therapy and independent therapy.
We split our time between programs involving other residents, and our own individual therapy programs. Most Veterans stayed between 9 months to a year; the time when the program expired, with the expectation that we were ready to transition to independent living while still receiving outpatient therapy to assist us along the way. I was involved with the program from April 23rd, 2017 to November 7th, 2017.
My CWT Experience
My first CWT job was as a dishwasher in one of the VA Cafeterias. I hated the job. Mainly because it was boring and repetitive. I was placed in this job because my Voc. Rehab. rep couldn’t find a job more suitable to my abilities. I worked as a dishwasher for about a month before I was given a sweet gig as gym monitor.
I worked as a gym monitor for about two months before I was removed from that position because I had left the gym unattended to go to a therapy appointment. I guess some of the resident Veterans of the on campus VA complained that it was locked during open hours.
All I had to do in that job was wipe down the equipment, answer the phone, and trade barbs with some of the older Veterans that frequented the gym. I got to read a lot during my time there. Two days a week I had to go to one of the residences and play the part of activities assistant. I hated that component because there really weren’t that many activities to oversee: many of the Veterans in that particular domicile were fairly catatonic and unresponsive.
In mid-June I got reassigned from my position as gym monitor to Housekeeping. This super-sucked. I now had to get out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to make sure I got a ride onto the VA campus for attendance at 5:45 a.m. I am not a morning person whatsoever, so this was a real burden on me as I also had trouble going to bed early enough so I wasn’t catatonic for the next days shift.
The work was arduous and gross. Each day I would be assigned to a Team Leader and was responsible for cleaning various buildings on the VA campus. Mostly I cleaned disgusting bathrooms, washed windows, vacuumed common areas; all the while sweating my ass off all day. Everyday for 5 months I toiled away at the job and struggled daily to maintain some semblance of a sleep schedule.
My Recovery Work
When I was at the Brockton VA, I was very active in my recovery. I worked tirelessly on my blog for one. This recovery blog was really active during the months of February and March of 2017. By May of 2017 I completely stopped blogging altogether. I was no longer blogging for the purpose of recovery. I was blogging for the number of comments I would receive and chasing the likes. So I quit blogging. Besides, computers weren’t as easily accessible, so there was that.
I was also meditating and reading a lot when I was at Brockton VA. Unfortunately, because of the times I had to work–and because I was often exhausted–I pretty much stopped doing those activities as well. I spent most of my time napping or just lazing around in a daze.
In early June, I would take an aggressive stance against my caseworker, Kurt Z, and his staff for his failure to approve a 10 day absence from the program to be with my girlfriend from Sweden. THAT is also the subject of a separate post of its own coming soon!
As far as therapy, there wasn’t much until I was assigned a Social Worker at the end of June. I disliked her intensely. She was nothing like my old therapist Molly, whom I missed dearly. I did partake in some offerings in Group Therapies, where I learned more about DBT, Anger Management, and subjects like that. But as far as real recovery work, unfortunately that would be derailed during my battle to be able to see my girlfriend, who was planning on flying over here in September.
By the time I transitioned to Cherry Street in April of 2017, Rebecca was pretty much the focal point of my life. For those of you who have been following me, you will know that I met Rebecca through blogging back in December of 2016. In February of 2017, we started messaging pretty much everyday. She was stuck in a bad marriage in Sweden, I was a lonely Veteran who became enamored with her through her Wilderness Life blog. From February on, we were inseparable. Although the time difference was a bitch to deal with.
From April until the middle of June of 2017, we chatted every day on Google Hangouts. It wasn’t until I accidently hit the video button one rainy day in June, that we actually saw one another. Once that happened, we never missed one day of chatting until we ended up together in January of 2019. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Rebecca was my rock. Perhaps I even relied upon her too much; for I missed her terribly when we couldn’t communicate. Especially while I was at work on the VA Leeds campus; the wifi around those old buildings was terrible and made communicating with her during the day nearly impossible. It was probably around April or May that I realized that I had fallen hard for her.
In late June, we made plans for her to come visit me! We had so much fun making those plans and talking about all the things we wanted to do together during that 2 week or so visit. However, I had to get permission to be absent from the program during that time. What would follow would be a nearly two month ordeal over getting the time I needed to see her. It would nearly derail my recovery and get me kicked out of the Cherry Street CWT program. That is the subject of the next post: Mission Authorized Absences.