Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: willingness (page 2 of 2)

What My “Bottom” Looked Like: by Guest Poster Sally

Recently I’ve been approached by folks inquiring about guest-posting their experiences on Guinevere Gets Sober, as well as exchanging posts with their blogs. One of these folks is Sally, who blogs about health at Eat Breathe Blog. She’s also a recovering alcoholic who wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to have a “turning point.” I’ll also be blogging for Sally at some point…

My favorite line in this blog: “Typically, when I get arrested, I snap out of my blackout—but not this time.” Wow. Thanks, Sally.

Guest-posting is a fabulous part of being part of the blogging culture. If you’d like to guest-post here, email me at guinevere (at) guineveregetssober (dot) com.

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What My Bottom Looked Like

by Sally

As Emmylou Harris sings about addiction: "At the bottom of a hole of a deeper well..."

My bottom looked like this: I was facing years in a federal prison, after years of getting arrested on various alcohol and drug related charges. In the end, I had three different counties wanting to lock me up for good. I had lost the faith of a loving family, all my friends looked at me as a sick person and I hit a place of spiritual bankruptcy that was more emotionally taxing than anything I had ever experienced in my life.

And I was only 21.

My life was headed down a road of destruction and failure, and everyone knew it but me. I could not bring myself to distinguish the truth from the false, and the truth about my life was that it was plummeting to a place of no return. I was headed toward prison, yet I still felt invincible. Alcohol consumed my every thought. I loved to drink. I love the effect produced by alcohol. I drank essentially to produce that effect. Once I took the first drink, I couldn’t stop. An obsession came over me and at that point, no amount of will power could keep me from heading off on another spree.

That’s exactly what happened the night of August 2, 2008. I woke out of a blackout in mid-conversation with a Hispanic guy, and I was yelling at him: “Speak English, dammit!” This man turned out to be a fellow cell-mate because, you guessed it, I was in jail again. No idea how I’d gotten there. That blackout was one of the worst of my life. It was long, six to eight hours in duration, and I remembered literally nothing. Typically, when I get arrested, I snap out of my blackout—but not this time. The last thing I remembered was the obsession to drink that took over my body, and I was staring down a bottle of vodka. That had been about six hours earlier, and at this point, I felt like my life was over.

Suicide became my only thought. Ideas of facing—yet again—the consequences of my actions, overwhelmed me, and I didn’t want to do it. It was at this exact moment that the thoughts came to me:

I am an alcoholic. … I can’t drink normally. … I’ve never been arrested sober. … I have to stop drinking.

It was that easy, but then again—I couldn’t imagine living without alcohol.

Eventually, they let me out of jail, and I went straight to a rehabilitation hospital for alcohol addiction. That night, I attended my first AA meeting, with an honest desire not to drink. This desire had come over me when I was in jail that last time—it was the first of many spiritual experiences. It became clear to me: If I were to eliminate alcohol from my life—I wouldn’t be in the situation I was in. I never got arrested sober, because when I was sober I never broke the law. I haven’t taken a drink since.

I was introduced to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, whose members introduced me to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12 steps to recovery. The 12 steps in turn introduced me to a God of my own understanding, through whom I found the power to solve all my problems. I found this God in working the steps. He was inside me the entire time. In my first spiritual experience, I realized that through all my trials and tribulations in life—God was there, guiding me through. I guess my God realized that the only way I was ever going to gain the willingness to throw myself into the steps was to suffer a severe amount of pain—so he gave that to me.

Through the steps I’ve experienced several spiritual experiences and have since recovered from the “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” that is alcoholism. I gained a sense of belief, and eventually faith, that has forever changed my outlook on life. I was given a new will to live. I had recovered from alcoholism.

I will always be an alcoholic. I will never be able to successfully take another drink of alcohol without setting the cycle of physical illness and mental obsession. AA’s program lets me experience true happiness. There is one small requirement that is asked of me: that I share my experience with other people in hopes that they too can recover from alcoholism. I am always here for anyone that reaches out.

Sally writes about health and wellness on her blog, Eat, Breathe, Blog, and also about dental insurance. She said she couldn’t pass up a chance to share her experience, strength and hope with you.

 

G Gets Strong: What Do You Think Is Impossible For You?

Guinevere’s baby twin-pack

Day 71 of my 90-day fitness program.

During my workout last night I noticed I have two baby abs. (My son tried to make it into four but, poking just under my bra-line, he said, “No, you’re right, I think those are ribs.”  :))

This is not a vanity photo. This is evidence… This is an illustration for a story about a little girl who used to fall off the monkey bars in the playground and, in high school, couldn’t run even once around the football field without stopping to walk.

She came to believe she was “just not the kind of person” who was strong… and never would be that kind of person. In fact, she was taught she shouldn’t want to be that kind of person. It was just one of those choices in life—You’re either smart, or you’re strong. Pick one. You can’t have both.

This is the story of a girl who started, in tenth grade, having migraines that made her cry involuntarily, and still had to perform for her flute teacher with her right eye half-closed in pain—because her mom did not want the ten bucks spent on the lesson to go to “waste.”

And so she formed her priorities. And a lot of resentments and fears.

This girl grew up and the physical pain only got worse and worse… It wore her down and became entwined with the emotional pain, and though she knew she probably had “a problem” with medications she thought, Screw it, I’m defective, I’m broken, I’m physically weak and always will be.

Eventually she was told she had fibromyalgia and was, to her relief (and eventual delight), given opioid drugs to take every day, hydrocodone and morphine and OxyContin and fentanyl, one after the other, some times one with the other, and was told she might have to take them forever, because there is no cure for fibromyalgia or migraine—no one even knows what really causes them.

The drugs got stronger and stronger, more and more. They made her not-care about practically everything. That was what she wanted—not to care. She asked for the drugs, sometimes by name, and because she looked and sounded so professional and reliable, her wishes were granted.

This woman let stress and worry get to her so much that her muscles clenched, even in sleep, no matter how much medication she took. She came to believe “it would always be this way” and threw in the towel.

Then by the grace of God or HP or Whatever, she got sober. She asked for help.

This girl is now 46 and is two-and-a-half years off drugs and one year sober and is here to tell you: She can now do 50 pushups during a workout, can do three pull-ups without using her foot to help her up, and can do 13 dive-bombers (not the Hindu push-ups, the real thing) when on Day 1 she couldn’t do any.

Even her son trying to make the two abs into four feels strange for her… because she’s so used to the voice rooted inside that says, Those aren’t abs, who do you think you’re trying to fool, you can’t be that fit because YOU’RE G. You’re the one who fell off the monkey bars.

Well, not any-friggin-more she’s not.

HP told her last year to get going on the physical fitness… And she said OK, and went to any lengths just like she went to any lengths to get sober, and she’s finding that fitness in general is like a mathematical equation:

WILLINGNESS + EFFORT = RESULTS

And amazingly, she has LESS pain. The more physically fit she gets, the less pain she has. The more spiritually fit she gets, the less emotional pain she has—less often, and of shorter duration.

Because she is stronger. And because she has people around her, God/HP/Whatever bless them, who are willing to help her. Because she asked for help.

And now there are lots of possibilities going through her mind.

She is now thinking… What else do I think I can’t do, that I’ve always wanted to do??

This list is growing. She has found out that she’s hardly ever made lists like this before.

Wow.

Her fear still crops up

(what if i can’t do it what if i screw it up what if what if)

but she looks at the picture of her little baby abs and thinks, Wow. This gives her the guts to keep walking the walk. One foot in front of the other.

What do you think you can’t do? … I am here to tell you: You can do it.

Give it a shot.

Friday Roundup: Fear of Stigma Prevents Alcoholics From Seeking Treatment

The news out of Columbia University: People identified as alcoholics at some point in their lifetimes were more than 60 percent less likely to seek treatment if their perception was that they’d be stigmatized once they let people know about their alcoholism. So fear of stigma, the study concluded, was a potential explanation for how few alcoholics who really need treatment actually manage to get it (less than 25 percent).

The study was published in a November issue of American Journal of Epidemiology.

Additional findings…

People who are more afraid of stigma:

  • Men
  • lower-income people
  • people with lower educational achievement
  • Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks

People who are less afraid of stigma:

  • Women
  • Those married or formerly married to an alcoholic

A conclusion the researchers drew from these findings:

Closeness predicts lower perceptions of stigma.

The researchers call for national campaigns to reduce stigma and perceptions of stigma. They point out that evidence shows “stigmatizing attitudes” toward mental illness can be changed, but no national efforts have targeted alcoholism in particular.

This all seems to harmonize with some new work I’m discovering.

Brené Brown

Brené Brown, Ph.D.

Brené Brown, PhD, a research social worker who teaches at the University of Houston, has spent the past 10 years or so studying the dynamics of shame. “Stigma”—which comes from an Old English word meaning “to brand with a pointed stick”—means nothing more than “to mark with shame.”

“Shame” itself is an even more ancient word whose roots mean “to cover oneself.” Essentially, “to disappear” because of self-hatred. Exactly the side-effect I was looking for in painkillers. I wanted to numb out thoroughly, to Get Small, to disappear. The extra-added energy-boost was fun while it lasted, but even after that left me, I continued to use because I just wanted to Go Away. I was also afraid of the physical pain.

Brown, in her recent Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) talk, suggests that we are a numbing-out culture. We are so afraid to be vulnerable, to feel vulnerability, that we numb it out before we can feel it. We use anything: food, Internet, shopping, gambling, alcohol, drugs. She says:

We cannot selectively numb feelings. . . . So when we numb [bad feelings], we numb joy. We numb gratitude. We numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning. And then we feel vulnerable . . .  And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

Brown says those who allow themselves to “soften into loving someone, to care about something passionately”—to be vulnerable—are the people who are more able to get help when they need it. Which is what these Columbia researchers are saying: Closeness predicts lower perceptions of stigma. People who have close relationships have less fear of shame and are better able to get help.

Listen to her talk this weekend. Makes me want to go back to grad school.

The God Thing: What God Does for Us That We Can’t Do For Ourselves

God memoGood stuff heard in a meeting yesterday: the topic was “What God does for us that we can’t do for ourselves.” One guy said:

“I didn’t have no drink today, and I didn’t have no drink yesterday, and today I woke up and I wasn’t depressed, and I didn’t have a sense of impending doom.”

God I mean blimey, the sense of impending doom. How fast I forget.

I remember how I used to hide inside the house. Every day, toward the end of my active addiction to painkillers, I used to listen for cars pulling up to the curb outside the house, sure they were cops; I’d stand at the side of the living room window and peek at the edge of the curtain to see if some swaggering armed officer, or some bland shaven gray-suited agent with glasses and hair neatly parted at the side, carrying a briefcase or a folder with my name on it, were coming up the porch steps. If you think this is pathetic and sad, you would be correct, it was pathetic and sad.

It was never a cop or an agent. Nobody but the mail carrier ever came up the porch steps. I had been a naughty girl, but apparently I was never That Naughty. (Or else: I never got caught) It was just that jolly old chemically-induced Sense Of Impending Doom. I.e., paranoia. The Destroyah.

You get a good thing going, then you blow yourself out.

What “God” did for me that I couldn’t do for myself?—I didn’t get caught. I had been quite naughty, and got another chance. Hell, I’d been given a bunch more chances over the years. This was just the most recent one.

Also, as my son used to put it when he was about 3: I never “got dead.”

Of course, these are all “yets.” They’re out there. But they’re not behind me.

I also heard people talking about what God DOESN’T do for us that we can do for ourselves. This is a favorite thing of mine to contemplate, because it means I can take action and responsibility. One way I used to work Steps 6 and 7: I would figure out my “defects” (fear; pessimism; self-doubt… are the big ones anyhow) and then “relax and take it easy,” sit back and tell God (in the form of “prayer”)—Oi, God, time to take these away now, get on it, man. As though this were my dive joint and God were my own Supernatural Busboy. Or my genie.

Then a sober friend of mine, under whose direction I put myself periodically, told me:

OK—you can identify your weaknesses, but then try identifying their opposites. Then list specific actions you can take to start moving toward the opposites—the opposites we’re born with. Ask God for the opposites, and then start living according to them. Basically… we start acting as if the shortcomings have already been removed.

That’s what I heard in the meeting. In this meeting about “what God does for us that we could not do for ourselves,” people were talking about actions they took to bring themselves into alignment with the divine:

  • Practicing discipline
  • Developing consistency of action
  • Achieving congruency—insides matching outsides
  • Refusing to pick up
  • Praying/meditating
  • Striving for sincerity in prayer—developing willingness

Doing all that, one person said, God took away “something that was very comfortable for me: I was always trying to make something or someone OK. And I no longer do that anymore.”

Doing all that, another person said, “I can now say ‘I don’t know.’ I have the ability to wait inside of discomfort.”

God apparently does some unexpected things.

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