Tag Archives: Addiction

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.

Click To Enlarge

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!

In Recovery:  Part 6 Brockton II

Special Note: I use lots of pictures, videos, animations, flipbooks, and other cool layouts and features which can be best appreciated by reading this post on my blog. Mobile View will not give you the very best experience.

Get The Full Experience Here

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.

Before RecoveryPart 1: A ProblemPart 2: Jail TimePart 3: Reality CheckPart 4: VA Program
Pt. 5: Jamaica PlainPt. 6: Brockton IPart 6: Brockton II
In Recovery Brockton Reach
Smoking Area Behind Brockton VA Reach Building
Welcome Back Legal System
Brockton Trial Court

Not only was I dealing with different kinds of medications to treat my PTSD and Bipolar Disorder, but when I went to check in with the Probation Department at the dreaded Brockton Courthouse, I was in for a little surprise. Seems that when I first got out of jail in mid-October, I was supposed to check-in with Probation. Well, I had not. There was a warrant for my arrest waiting for me!

I explained to two different officials that I was whisked away to a VA Treatment facility. One official was sympathetic, the other official wanted to throw me in jail until monday (it was the weekend).

Thank god that the official who wanted to allow me to simply clear it up on monday prevailed. If you have ever been to court and waited to see if you were going to jail or not, then you know how very stressful that waiting can be.

Legal Consequences of Alcoholism

After clearing up the misunderstanding with the court, I sat down with my probation officer, who outlined the consequences of my OUI and bogus Domestic Abuse convictions:

  • Total Fines, Fees, Penalties: $2,835.08
  • Loss of License: 1 year
  • Probation Time: 2 years – including weekly check-ins with a probation officer
  • Batterers Classes: 45 at $30 a pop
  • Suspended Sentence Still Looming: 1.5 years

Thankfully, the requirement to do 45 sessions of Alcohol Abuse classes was discharged, because of all the treatment time I had under my belt.

However, and as you can see, the fallout from alcoholism can be dramatic. The worst of it was that I had to attend classes with convicted “batterers” for 45 sessions! And pay for that privilege! Absolutely ridiculous. More on that in later installments of In Recovery.

My Worldly Possessions

Before I went to jail, I had escaped from the violent drunk who I lived with. I had been hospitalized on a Sunday in early April for a supposed suicide attempt while I was drunk. It was a suicide attempt, it was me acting out so I could get into a program.

Some of My Few Belongings

Well, on Tuesday morning I was driven by ambulance to the psychiatry department at the VA. They wanted to intern me there as an inpatient for evaluation for 60 days! I managed to explain to the head psychiatrist there the true nature of my situation at home. With assurances that I meet with my own psychiatrist on Thursday, I was released.

I immediately went to my friend at the car dealership and begged him to use a dealership vehicle so I could get my things out of the psychos house. After agreeing, I had only about 1.5 hours before she would get home from work.

I grabbed anything and everything I could get, and was allowed to store it in the attic of the old dealership. Anyway, while I was in the REACH program, I was told I had to get it all out of there pronto.

When I did go to get my stuff, it had been rifled through! All that was left was about three or four boxes of random belongings. It wasn’t like I had packed a lot of things up there; however, many of the things I had packed there were now gone. Still, I was glad to have more clothing and some of the belongings with me.

Time Spent Wisely

As I progressed through the program’s three different levels, I spent lots of timing productively. In the mornings I would meditate. I got to the point when I could meditate for 45 minutes to an hour. It help ground me for the day, and helped me to minimize triggers and what have you.

Blogging with vim and vigor; sometimes for hours at a time. Some of the counselors would approach me and ask me if they thought all the time on the computer was beneficial to my recovery. I simply would say “Would you rather I spend my evenings with everyone else, staring blankly at the t.v.?” Once they saw that the blog was primarily centered on recovery and wellness, they pretty much left me alone.

My recovery was greatly enhanced by bleeding my heart into my blog: was devoted to trying to use my blog as a means of helping others in recovery. And those still struggling with addiction. On retrospect, I can see where I did take it slightly to the extreme. I was not interested in making friends and small talk. I just wasn’t that kind of person.

And there were many, many walks upon the Brockton VA grounds. It’s a fascinating world of serene nature mixed in with old and new buildings of all different shapes and sizes. I walked quite a bit during my time there. Nature has always been my escape.

Finally, I got caught up with taking photographs (as you may know if you read Part 6: Brockton I), and editing them in various apps. When I wasn’t working my CWT position, or in various treatment sessions and classes, I would just take and manipulate pictures. These became the basis of my Instagram and Pinterest pages.

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Coming Soon: Recovery, CWT, Rebecca in:

Part 6: Brockton III

Recovery Talk: Being Too Hard On Yourself

Recovery Talk is a feature where I bring to you the latest and greatest podcasts about recovery, wellness, spirituality, mental health, addiction, and living wisely.

Do you realize what an embarrassment you are to your family? They’re just waiting for that call…or that visit from the cops, to say you’re FINALLY dead, and you’ve put them out of their misery…Congratulations–NOW you have given your family some peace and solace.

Recovery: Living Sober Pt. III

Recovery Living Sober I
90 Page Booklet

Recovery: Living Sober Book by Alcoholics Anonymous is an excellent resource if you want to learn how to maintain long-term sobriety.

In this three part series, I will present summaries of many of the concepts put forth in this book. It’s only 90 pages, and packed with excellent advice.

It contains, as the subtitle states, “Some methods A.A. members have used for not drinking.”

What I like most about this book is, even if you are not immersed in recovery through regular A.A. Meetings and the sub-culture, you can still benefit tremendously from Living Sober.

Read The Entire Booklet Here
Read Part IRead Part II
19. Remembering Your Last Drunk

One A.A. member puts it this way: “I know that stopping in for a drink will never again be–for me–simply killing a few minutes and leaving a buck on the bar. In exchange for that drink, what I would plunk down now is my bank account, my family, our home, our car, my job, my sanity, and probably my life. It’s too big a price, too big a risk.” He remembers his last drunk, not his first drink.

20. Avoiding Dangerous Drugs and Medications

We are wary of what we take on our own; we steer away from cough syrups with alcohol, codeine, or bromides, and from all those assorted smokes, powders, synthetic painkillers, liquids, and vapors that are sometimes freely handed around. Why take the chance? Chemical substitutes of life simply do not interest us any more, now that we know what genuine living is.

21. Eliminating Self-Pity

This emotion is so ugly that no one in his or her right mind wants to admit feeling it. Even when sober, many of us remain clever at hiding from ourselves the fact that we are astew in a mess of self-pity. We do not like at all being told that it shows, and we are sharp at arguing that we are experiencing some other emotion-not that loathsome poor-me-sim. Such thinking is a great ticket to a barroom, but that’s about all. Crying over that unanswerable question is like weeping because we because we were born in this era, not another, or on this planet, rather than in some other galaxy. The saying “Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink” is apt.

22. Seeking Professional Help

If we now find ourselves sober but still trying to second-guess the really expert professionals, it can be taken as a warning signal. Is active alcoholism trying to sneak its way back into us? Some of us are now aware that our behavior prevented our getting the good advice or care we really needed. May you have the same good fortune in these regards that so many of us have had. Hundreds of thousands of us are deeply grateful to the countless professional men and women who helped us, or tried to.

23. Steering Clear of Emotional Entanglements

OVer the years, we have become strongly convinced that almost no important decisions should be arrived at early in our sobriety, unless they cannot possibly be delayed. This caution particularly applies to decisions about people, decisions about high emotional potential. Another caution: Tying our sobriety to someone we are emotionally involved with proves flatly disastrous. “I’ll stay sober if so-and-so does this or that” puts an unhealthy condition on our recovery. Immature or premature liaisons are crippling to recovery. Only after we have had time to mature somewhat beyond merely not drinking are we equipped to relate maturely to other people.

24. Getting Out of the “If” Trap

Many of us were caught thinking: I wouldn’t be drinking this way…if it wasn’t for my wife (or husband or lover)…if I just had more money and not so many debts…if it wasn’t for all these family problems, etc. Looking back at this kind of thinking and our resultant behavior, we see now that we were really letting circumstances outside ourselves control much of our lives. Tying up our sobriety to any person (even another recovered alcoholic, or to any circumstance is foolish and dangerous. When we think, “I’ll stay sober if–” or “I won’t brink because of–” we unwittingly set ourselves up to drink when the condition or circumstance changes.

25. Being Wary of Drinking Occasions

Great numbers of us (but not all) believe that the sooner we establish the truth of our sobriety with our acquaintances, the better it is for us. We do not have to keep up any pretenses, and most good people appreciate our honest and encourage our efforts to stay fee of our addiction. Occasionally, a really heavy drinker will get pretty pushy about our not drinking. We learn to steer clear of such people. If they do indeed have their own hang-up to contend with, we wish them well. But we need not defend our choices to them or to anyone else. And we do not argue with them, or try to change their minds. Again, our attitude is “Live and Let Live.”

26. Letting Go of Old Ideas

The ideas that got so deeply embedded in our lives during drinking do not all disappear quickly, as if by magic, the moment we start keeping the plug in the jug. Our days of wine and “Sweet Adeline” may be gone, but the malady lingers on. So we have found it therapeutic to nip off many old ideas that start to sprout up again. And they do, over and over. What we try to achieve is a feeling of being relaxed and freed from the bonds of our old thinking. Many of our former habits of thought, and the ideas they produced, limit our freedom. We don’t have to hang on to them any longer unless, upon examination, they prove valid and still truly fruitful.

27. Reading The A.A. Message

There are many good blications on alcoholism, and some not so good. Many of us have also profited by reading in other fields. A.A. neither endorses nor opposes anybody else’s publications. We simply offer our own.

28. Going To A.A. Meetings

Because of the importance of meetings, many of us keep a list of local meetings. We have found that going to meetings is not something to be done only when we feel the temptation to drink. We often get more good from the meetings by attending them when we feel fine and haven’t so much as thought of drinking. And even a meeting which is not tally, instantly satisfying is better than no meeting at all.

29. Trying The Twelve Steps

No matter what type of addict we were, we realize not that we were excessively self-centered, chiefly concerned about our feelings, our problems, other people’s reactions to us, and our own past and future. Therefore, trying to get into communication with and to help other people through the Twelve Steps is a recovery measure for us, because it helps take us out of ourselves. Trying to heal ourselves by helping others works, even when it is an insincere gesture. Try it some time.

30. Finding Your Own Way

As you stay sober, you are sure to think of new ideas not recorded here. We hope so. We also hope that when you do come up with fresh ideas on this subject, you will pass them on. Please do share. The more experience we can all pool, the more problem drinkers can be helped.

The A.A. website is a great source of helpful information, online meetings, and all of their literature. Visit here.

Recovery Talk: The Journey of Awakening

Recovery Talk is a feature where I bring to you the latest and greatest podcasts about recovery, wellness, spirituality, mental health, addiction, and living wisely.

Join Eckhart Tolle as he discusses what is truly fascinating about the mysteries of the universe. Where can these mysteries be found?

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