As we move further into 2021, time continues to move forward whether we like it or not. This past year has brought many changes in my life. I’ve decided to switch from part-time to full-time student as I pursue another Master’s Degree through the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies. In May, I begin the internship program. The podcast is coming along very nicely and opportunities are opening up where I have been invited to speak and/or train for several events in the future. I am very thankful and blessed for the opportunities to have known and to meet so many wonderful people in the addiction field.
Between COVID-19 and the protests, there is no doubt there is a crisis going on in this nation. Everyone is suffering, however, those in recovery and especially those that need to be in recovery, this is particularly true. Currently, there are no face to face recovery meetings to attend, and many people are having to resort to online meetings. This is an adaptation that has been a life saver for many, but there is no doubt face to face meetings cannot be replaced. Additionally, for people who are in the habit of daily meetings, or at least several meetings a week, this is certainly a difficult time. It is obvious the public at large has become increasing frustrated with recent social events, but for those in recovery, this frustration can lead to resentments, and resentments will lead back to that first drink or drug. We must be mindful of this and be on guard. I would suggest not watching the news all day and continually checking your Social Media. Remember to take care of your spiritual development, use this time to read recovery literature, stay in contact with your support network, and revisit your gratitude list. Above all else, pray. This is the time to put all of the tools you’ve learned to the test and practice what you have learned in recovery.
Here is an interview of Art Nieves on the What Matters Most Podcast on 18 December 2018. Art is not only an FBI Agent, but a Reiki Master practitioner. Art taught Leading At-Risk Employees (a course I developed) at the FBI Academy after I transferred. This is an interesting interview of Art describing how he became involved in Reiki, and how he uses it to help people.
The holidays can be a tough time for many people in recovery. Father Martin’s Ashley used to provide speakers at the local chapters, and I remember hearing a man talk about the holidays. His discussion was so simple, it was profound.
He pointed out that your body does not know what time of year it is. Your mind does, and that is the problem. We let our mind take over, and we focus on the change of season, the commercials on television, the parties and celebrations. We experience the pressure of family and the various obligations. However, these are issues that we let get into our psyche and therefore, they affect us.
For many, being at family functions can be extremely stressful. Sometimes we feel forced to be around people we do not want to be around. However, the speaker pointed out that if you have been sober a day, week, month, or year, you can make it through the holiday season – unscathed.
Although we get stressed out with family we work everyday with people we don’t particularly care for, and we don’t drink over that. Treat your family functions the same way. “It’s just business.”
Don’t let the stress get to you. After all, your body doesn’t know if today is July 25th or December 25th. One day at a time!
A friend of mine recently committed suicide. I do not pretend to understand this, and I am still reeling from the aftermath. This is a very complicated subject in which no one has the solution. I know he will be deeply missed by those whose lives he touched. His family is undoubtedly suffering immeasurably from this.
My friend had several years of sobriety. This goes to show that time in sobriety does not mean we are immune from the issues that brought us to recovery in the first place.
Addiction is an illness of both the mind and the body. In recovery, we work on the physical aspect, because the body has become accustomed to the substance we have been placing into it. In addition, we work on the mind. We address the causes and conditions that lead us to wanting to use in the first place.
For my friend, in retrospect I can tell you that in the weeks leading up to his death it was apparent something dark was creeping into his life. He even mentioned he was in a dark place, with thoughts that were causing him to doubt himself. I did not, nor did anyone else see where those thoughts were ultimately going. None of us have a crystal ball.
I do know that the end result of addiction is death. Recovery is serious business, one in which our very lives depend. Addiction ultimately begins with our thoughts. Our thoughts are what we need to work on, never allowing ourselves to sink too far into the dark abyss. Whatever we are going through, no matter how bad, it will eventually pass. It always does. The sun will come up tomorrow, and we will get better, the situation will get better, and we can flourish if we reach out for help and actively work our recovery program. I pray for my friend and his family, and I pray for all of those in recovery. I especially pray for those who need to be in recovery.
It all begins with this — no recovery is possible without complete and utter honesty. This applies to many other areas as well; working out, better health, better grades, getting a job, etc. At the end of the day, the person has to want to do it themselves. I am amazed at our capacity to be dishonest with ourselves. Take the person that is arrested for Driving Under the Influence after being cut off at more than one bar, and then tells everyone they had nothing to drink at all. That is denial, and it is a denial that will result in death. We must accept that alcoholism is a disease, learn as much as we can, and stay focused on the solution, which is complete abstinence. There is no cutting back on drinking or “controlling” it. Unfortunately, many think they are the exception to this and continue to destroy themselves and everyone around them. Unless you are able to be completely honest about your drinking, you cannot achieve long lasting recovery.
One thing I have learned over the last few years regarding recovery is this: If you do not want to get well, there is nothing anyone can do for you. I have a rule that I live by. If I want you to be sober more than you want to be sober, then I will wait until you are ready.
I believe that having an accountability partner is important to staying sober. I used to call people when they would not call me, even though we made an agreement that they would call. Of course, when I would speak with them they would tell me they were not drinking or using, even though it was clear that they were. Why would they not call? Why would they lie? Because their motivation was not for the right reason. They were trying to fix their “back problem”, meaning, they just wanted people off their backs. That is never a good reason to get sober. You have to want it. It is important to remember that we never get sober for other people. That is not lasting sobriety.
This past weekend I went to Father Martin’s Ashley and participated in a speaker’s meeting. It was a pleasure doing this and is a fantastic form of service. Doing this helps my sobriety in many ways. It helps me see what is going on within me and helps me remember what it was like when I was in the early days of recovery.
The common theme the patients shared was their concern for how their loved ones were going to react to them when they returned home. Many had wives and girlfriends that already left, and children who no longer wanted to talk with them. They were afraid that their getting sober would not make a difference in the behavior of their loved ones. I pointed out that they needed to get sober, regardless of what their loved ones did.
The problem is that we are expected to maintain sobriety at the very time we are at the height of the destruction of our use. It is in the first year that we are dealing with angry loved ones, loss of a job, and alienation from coworkers. But we can’t drink. Oftentimes, we leave treatment and return back to the environment we were in when we were at the height of our use. Staying sober is difficult but it can be done with the help from other people who’ve been there and understand what you’re going through.