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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.

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
-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.

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
don’t just eat, eat well!
spending time with loved ones
punch a pillow
calmly discuss
avoid isolating
reach out to someone
get out and about
take it easy
get good rest

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!

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: Living Sober Pt. II

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 III
10. Availing Yourself of A Sponsor

One reason it is a good idea to have a sponsor is that you have a friendly guide during those first days and weeks when A.A. seems strange and new, before you feel you know your own way about. A good sponsor is someone we can confide in, get everything off our chests with.

11. Getting Plenty of Rest

Many of us have wondered why we suddenly feel like taking a drink, for no apparent reason. When we examine the situation, time after time we find that we are feeling exhausted and hadn’t realized it. Even if we can’t fall asleep, just a few minutes of lying down, or relaxing in a chair or a tub, take the edge off the fatigue.

12. “First Things First”

Here’s an old saying that has special, strong meaning for us. Simply stated, it is this: Above all other concerns, we must remember that we cannot drink. Not drinking is the first order of business for us, anywhere, any time, under any circumstances.

13. Fending Off Loneliness

Alcoholism has been described as “the lonely disease,” and very few recovered alcoholics argue the point. Looking back at the las years or months of our drinking, many of us remember feeling isolated even when we were among a lot of happy, celebrating people. When we have only ourselves to talk to, the conversation gets kind of circular. Taking part in social activities, getting involved with the fellowship, and finding someone to talk to about our problems ensured that we would not slip into the malaise of isolating and drinking.

14. Anger and Resentments

Hostility, resentment, anger–whatever word you use to describe this feeling–seems to have a close tie-up with intoxication and maybe even a deeper one with alcoholism. So, we have to concentrate at first, not on searching for the causes of uncomfortable feelings of anger, but on coping with the feelings themselves, whether or not we think they are justified. W zero in on how to keep such feelings from fooling us into drinking.

15. Being Good To Yourself

Have we been enjoying life lately? Or have we been so concerned about getting better, kept our nose so earnestly near the grindstone of self-improvement, that we have failed to enjoy a sunset? A new moon? A good meal? A needed holiday from care? Now is the time, the only time there is. Unless we cherish our own recovery, we cannot survive to become unselfish, ethical, and socially responsible people.

16. Looking Out For Overrelation

Be especially cautious during moments of celebration or times of just feeling extraordinarily good. When things are going great, so well you feel almost on a nonalcoholic high–look out! Just one drink begins to seem less threatening, and we start thinking that it wouldn’t be fatal, or even harmful.

17. “Easy Does It”

The slogan “Easy Does It” is one way we A.A.’s remind each other that many of us have tendencies at times to overdo things, to rush heedlessly along, impatient with anything that slows us down. We find it hard to relax and savor life. When we do find ourselves up-tight and even frantic, we can ask ourselves occasionally, “Am I really that indispensable?” or “Is this hurry really necessary?” The answer if frequently no. If a strong inner core of peace, patience, and contentment looks at all desirable to you, it can be had. Remind yourself once in a while that maybe “Easy Does It” is this days ideal speed.

18. Being Grateful

Now that we are free of alcohol, we have much more control over our thinking. We have a broader range of thoughts, in minds that are no longer blurred. But the habit of thinking in neurotically depressed ways can stay with some of us, we have found, until we learn to spot it and carefully root it out. Focusing on gratitude, in even the littlest of things, can leave us feeling relaxed and thankful that we can be open to new ideas. Avoiding “Stinkin’ Thinkin” is essential to avoiding the slippery slope of relapse. Essentially, this means paying attention to when we allow our old patterns of negative thinking creep in, and replacing that thinking with some sense of gratitude in the moment.

Recovery: Living Sober

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 IIRead Part III
1. Staying Away From the First Drink

Many of us have come to believe that our alcoholism is an addiction to the drug alcohol; like addicts of any sort who want to maintain recovery, we have to keep away from the first dose of the drug we have become addicted to.

2. Using The 24 Hour Plan

The 24-hour plan is very flexible. We can start it afresh at any time, wherever we are. At home, at work, in a bar or in a hospital room, at 4:00 p.m. or at 3:00 a.m., we can decide right then not to take a drink during the forthcoming 24 hours, or five minutes. Once the idea has become part of our thinking, we find that living life in 24-hour segments is an effective and satisfying way to handle many other matters as well.

3. What To Remember About Alcoholism

We remember we have an incurable, potentially fatal ailment called alcoholism. And instead of persisting in drinking, we prefer to figure out, and use, enjoyable ways of living without alcohol. We remember that alcoholism is incurable–just like some other illnesses. It cannot be “cured” in this sense: We cannot change our body chemistry and go back to being the normal, moderate social drinkers lots of us seemed to be in our youth.

4. “Live and Let Live”

We must face this fact: There are people in A.A., and everywhere else, who sometimes say things we disagree with, or do things we don’t like. Learning to live with differences is essential to our comfort. It is exactly in those cases that we have found it extremely helpful to say to ourselves, “Oh well, ‘Live and Let Live.'”

5. Getting Active

Simply trying to avoid a drink (or not think about one), all by itself, doesn’t seem to be enough. The more we think about the drink we’re trying to keep away from, the more it occupies our mind, of course. And that’s no good. It’s better to get busy with something, almost anything, that will use our mind and channel our energy toward health.

6. Using The Serenity Prayer

Whether we see the Serenity Prayer as an actual prayer or just as a fervent wish, it offers a simple prescription for a healthy emotional life. We’ve put one thing right at the head of the list among “the things we cannot change:” our alcoholism. No matter what we do, we know that tomorrow we won’t suddenly be nonalcoholic–any more than we’ll be ten years younger or six inches taller. Serenity is like a gyroscope that lets us keep our balance no matter what turbulence swirls around us. And that is a state of mind worth aiming for.

7. Changing Old Routines

When you want not to drink, it helps to shake up all those routines that are constant reminders of our days drinking, and change the pieces around. So take your pick. You know what your own drinking pattern has been and how you feel about your sobriety today.

8. Eating or Drinking Something

Many of us have learned that something sweet-tasting, or almost any nourishing food or snack, seems to dampen a bit the desire for a drink. So, from time to time, we remind each other never to get too hungry. So the next time the temptation to drink arises, let’s eat a little, or sip something gooey.

9. Making Use of “Telephone Therapy”

The transition to enjoyment of sobriety sometimes begins when, newly sober, we keep in touch with others equally new at the game. We are usually more at ease with those who, like ourselves, are just setting out toward recovery. Later, it helps to reach for the phone instead of a drink. Even when we don’t think it will work. Even when we don’t want to.

Recovery: What Is The Process of Relapse?

What is the process of relapse? I learned early on that the process of relapse is not in the taking of the drug. The tendency to ignore other symptoms of relapse, cross addiction to “acceptable drugs” like nicotine and caffeine, and the use of compulsive behaviors allows the process of relapse (dysfunction in sobriety) to begin. When you begin the process of dysfunction, you begin the process of relapse.

While looking at the process of relapse, you recognize there are warning signs before and acute relapse occurs. When you recognize relapse warning signs before you drink, you can get help and interrupt the process.

As a member of several online sober groups, I am dismayed by the number of folks who attribute their relapses to “slips” and “blips.” Commentaries on posts about these “blips” and “slips” show just how pervasive is the misunderstanding of what constitutes a relapse. The commentaries are rife with reinforcing thoughts and opinions, further muddying the waters of the true nature of relapse and its consequences.

True sobriety, as it was taught in the halls of A.A. and the V.A., is abstinence from addictive drugs plus abstinence from compulsive behaviors plus improvements in bio-psycho-social health. Sobriety includes all three things. To the extent that you have accomplished those three things, you are sober; to the extent that you have not accomplished those three things, you are not sober.

Sobriety is not defined entirely by whether or not you are drinking or using drugs. It is defined by the completeness of your sobriety. Therefore, in my humble opinion, relapse is not part of recovery, it is an active part of the disease. And, until some folks begin to get real and get honest, about their so-called “blips” and “slips”, they may very well be doomed to become a chronic relapser…maybe.

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