Recovery: Solutions

What I Need Solutions For

If you don’t know me by now, I am a 57 year old recovering alcoholic. Although I did not have dramatic issues with withdrawal once I was forced to quit drinking as a result of jail, I did exhibit attributes of both a Binge Drinker and someone suffering from Alcohol Dependence. The cornerstone of an Alcohol Dependence diagnosis is

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“dependence requires tolerance, drinking to ease withdrawal and continued drinking despite recognizing problems.”

Dr. Thomas Greenfield, Ph.D.

Although withdrawal symptoms were not prevalent in my disease, every other box was checked.

impaired controlattempts to quitneglect of responsibilityin spite of legal or social issues
persistent drinkingdenialamount of time drinkinglife had become unmanageable

Add a dash of PTSD from childhood trauma, some Anxiety and some Bipolar Disorder stuff. Viola! But by the grace of God go I. I spent one year in VA Treatment Programs from October of 2016-November of 2017.

Solution 1: A Golden Rule Realized
Golden Rules Around The Globe
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It wasn’t until halfway through my 5 month jail sentence that I finally realized it. I could not drink anymore. I had lost just about everything. The old warning from A.A. that continued alcoholism would result in “Jail, institutions, or death. rang true. I did not truly hit “rock bottom” until mid-way through jail! Even going to jail didn’t do it for me.

Bet you didn’t know that for every religion, there are varying Golden Rules that are similar. But there isn’t just the one. Anyways, I’m talking about my new found Golden Rule: I could NEVER PICK UP AGAIN.

I knew that if I was going to turn my life around. If I was going to be able to overcome all of the obstacles my disease had put in front of me; that I had put in front of me, I had to never drink again. If I did, I knew that I would probably just commit suicide and be done with the whole mess. Hell be damned.

Surviving P.A.W.S.
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Early in recovery, and sometimes lasting up to a year or two, is P.A.W.S. Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms is a host of emotional and psychological withdrawal issues that can derail recovery quite quickly if not tended to. Most folks suffer from one or more symptoms for about 6 months, but the symptoms can last much longer.

The symptoms vary widely, but they can come at you all at once, in bursts, and even subside only to show up again in weeks or even months. The idea here is to be mindful of disruptions to your emotional and psychological well-being, and then to find healthy ways of coping and managing what you may be experiencing.

SymptomsTiredness, low energy, low enthusiasmMood swings, anxiety, irritabilityVariable concentrationDisturbed sleep
SolutionsBe PatientGo with the flowRelax Practice Self-care

These symptoms ebb and flow throughout a long period of time, making them stealthy and dangerous. It comes down to vigilance and how much self-care and self-awareness is practiced, as to how one fares in the long run (more on this in Solution 3).

Solution 2: The Acronym I Live By

Within 6 months of being in VA Treatment, and from the many lessons I learned in therapy, I developed a framework for solutions that would help me to avoid old patterns of behavior and thinking: the acronym S.N.A.G.M.

SpiritualityNowAcceptanceGratitudeMindfulness
practicing meditation
-reading religious texts
-listening to ambient tunes
-walks in nature
-living in the present
-forgetting the past
-not getting caught up in the future -shrinking my world
-breathing exercises
-letting things go
-living life on life’s terms
-serenity prayer
-accepting people, places, and things as they are
-appreciating what I have
-practicing contentment
-seeing the positive things in life
-counting blessings
-redirecting emotions
-slowing life down
-mantra
-focused attention on good intentions
-thinking things through

As you can see from the S.N.A.G.M chart above, that’s some serious weaponry in my recovery arsenal; and they have served me well. As of this writing, I have 54.5 months clean and sober. I wish I could tell you that I am always firing on all cylinders with S.N.A.G.M., but that would be a lie.

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As an interesting side note, if any of you have visited my actual blog-not just read my posts in the wordpress reader-then you might have noticed my gravatar. The gravatar was drawn by my wife, Rebecca, within a few months of meeting her online.

She is an artist, so I asked her to draw me a symbol of S.N.A.G.M.. She came up with a wonderful graphic that is really the centerpiece of my recovery-wise.com and social media. And one day, it will be a cool tattoo on my shoulder!

Life doesn’t fit neatly into an acronym afterall. Does it? As an alcohol I suffer from certain defects of character. Most of which are policed well enough through S.N.A.G.M. However, there are many other times that my old ways of thinking and feeling sneak up on me unawares. Which leads me to solution 3.

Solution 3: H.A.L.T.
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Sometimes all of my determination not to be overly critical and judgemental, not to let the environment unsettle me, and not to allow my emotions to become unruly, starts to wane. Why? Because even the best intentions for ourselves get sidetracked inadvertently.

It’s just as important to recognize why recovery can be derailed. Sometimes, if the circumstances are severe enough-if we let them get away from ourselves-relapse can slowly take root. A combination of self-care and self-awareness can help us overcome common obstacles to our everyday well-being and recovery. H.A.L.T. is a tool that helps us accomplish both.

HungryAngryLonelyTiredness
can be a physical
or emotional need
understand what is causing it
and how to express it.
can occur when we are by ourselves
or when surrounded by many people
work overload
lack of sleep
taking on too much
SOLUTIONS
don’t just eat, eat well!
spending time with loved ones
SOLUTIONS
exercise
punch a pillow
calmly discuss
meditate
SOLUTIONS
avoid isolating
reach out to someone
get out and about
SOLUTIONS
take it easy
get good rest
nap

As you can see, using H.A.L.T. as a kind of preventive and diagnostic measure for ourselves, can lead to us practicing healthy self-awareness and self-care. Of course, you don’t need to be in recovery to benefit from H.A.L.T.. Running down the H.A.L.T. checklist can be a great tool to get yourself back on track, or to help you avoid getting off track in the first place.

Solutions Wrap-Up:
  • Don’t Pick Up!
  • Identify and manage symptoms of P.A.W.S.
  • Use S.N.A.G.M. to live your life more fully
  • Use H.A.L.T. to practice self-care and self-awareness
  • Don’t Pick Up!

Now go out there and get some!

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