Relapse – When Does It Begin?

I was forwarded an interesting article about relapse today and it got me thinking… When does relapse begin?  The article is here if you want to check it out: 7 Habits of an Addict About to Relapse.   If you’re interested, read the article.

In my opinion, the first sign of someone in recovery about to relapse is Withdrawal or Isolation.  I notice it is at the top of the list in this piece, and rightfully so.  Withdrawing from meetings, friends, family and/or activities is a sign of bad things to come.  Often, the addict may not realize he or she just turned down a dark part of their journey.

Reaching out at this point is not on the addict’s mind.  What is on the addict’s mind is getting rid of whatever demons were left unchecked while doing step-work or trying to suffocate a new demon.   If we are not working our 12 Step Program, we tread on dangerous ground each day.

The other sign I want to touch on is being secretive.  Maybe the addict got in touch with some old friends they once partied with. Maybe they are not being honest with themselves or others about things. They start telling little while lies.  They start making excuses to go to the store… a lot. They start hiding their cellphone or running into ‘long hours at work.’  Whatever the case, deception is classic.  As someone in recovery, I still remember my deceptive ways when I tried to use people for anything I could before I got sober.

These are the three ways to keep in check:

  1. Clean House
  2. Trust God
  3. Help Others

Each day I work my program, get honest and help others, is a day I won’t pick up a drink or a drug.

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C – Character – Defects Can Be Assets

Love/Hate

Love/Hate (Photo credit: guevo)

I never knew what a character defect was until I stepped into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I know, I am breaking my anonymity, but it is no secret I am a sober woman of almost seven years and I didn’t get sober alone.  No one gets sober alone.  We might stop drinking alone, but sobriety is deeper.

I found an interesting list of character defects in my research of things I’ve not committed to memory.  Check out the list and see which ones might be screaming at you on any given day.  Go ahead, this can be a kind of liberating fun (okay, I’m reaching).

When I did my fourth and fifth step with my al-anon sponsor, she said something really poignant. “Character defects are assets unchecked.” She gave me examples like the opposite of happy is sad and so on.

The opposite of humility is arrogance.  These are both character defects.  Yeah, I never thought humility would be a defect either, but too much of anything is a bad thing.

We turn our defects into assets by getting somewhere in between the two.  This sounds like a challenge, and it is a challenge.  However, challenges and that “I feel uncomfortable” help us grow and blossom into the human being we were always meant to be.  Ya dig?

One of my chief character defects is laziness…  interpreted through the Seven Deadly Sins: SLOTH.  But my laziness is an asset in moderation.  For example:  It’s Sunday (as I write this it really is Sunday) and I am feeling sleepy, unmotivated and well, lazy.  I can turn my laziness into an asset by assessing why I am feeling lazy.  Am I just being a tree-climbing sloth or am I legitimately tired and need some rest?  Once I do an honest inventory of my sloth-like ways, I can make an honest judgement (honesty is crucial when doing a self-imposed defect check!).

Each day I humbly ask God to remove my character defects that will not serve me that day.  I take my will back.. frequently. As I work my program I am learning when I do this and then ask him throughout the day to take away the defects I don’t need.  Sometimes my defects serve me… most times they don’t.

Check out the list of character defects/assets… are any familiar to you?

Telling on Ourselves (Step Five)

Steps and shadows

Steps and shadows (Photo credit: abrinsky)

Step Five:  Admitted to God, to ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

A couple of days ago, I posted “That Terrifying Fourth Step” and discussed how there is a palpable fear associated with Step Four.  I never understood that because Step Four is just writing it all down.  Writing down my searching a fearless moral inventory was somewhat unsettling since there are things that come up I never thought were in my head.  But I was okay with writing!  I mean, I am a writer and writing about myself (an egomaniac with an inferiority complex) was right up my alley.

Step Five is when I shared what I wrote with my Higher Power and another human being.  Think about that for a second.  I shared with God and another human being (my sponsor) the exact nature of my wrongs.  All the people I had harmed, all my character defects, all my fears; all of the anger and sadness inside of me had to come out. 

The most rewarding aspect of Step Five was the honesty with myself. I had been lying to myself and justifying behaviors for decades.  I never thought that being honest with me would be a stepping stone to freedom.

Sharing my wrongs with God was easy because my perception of my God changed after I entered AA and began work with my sponsor.  My God had always been a punishing God and I always felt so dirty after any wrong act or thought I ever did or had because I felt that my God would hate me.  Any ill will that came to me was because I was a bad person, did bad things and deserved to be punished.

I talked to my sponsor about my concept of God and she told me I could change my concept of God to what worked for me.  My God did not have to be an all-watching eye in the sky bent on punishing me, but could be a loving God capable of forgiveness.

When I had to share my inventory with my sponsor, I was a little apprehensive.  I mean, I was a people pleaser!  I was who I had to be at any given time; would go to painstaking lengths to achieve the role, no matter how it made me feel.  So sharing all the awful things, terrible thoughts and ideals I had been a little unnerving.

Step Five is no walk in the park. But the sense of accomplishment and self-confidence I felt after completing Step Five was amazing.  I felt lighter and, believe it or not, loved by my God for my honesty with Him, my sponsor and myself.

Have you ever had to tell on yourself?  How did you feel afterwards?

The Terrifying Fourth Step

AA Big Book

AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Ah, yes. The step I became fearful of simply from others’ talk of it in the rooms. “Oh boy, wait ’til you get to the fourth step!” “You’re gonna do your fourth step? Good luck!”

It took me a while to get the fear of this step. The fourth step was a look at my internal makeup. What made me angry? What made me fearful? Jealous? Insecure? Angry? Hell yeah I wanted to talk about all this crap! Are you kidding? It was about time someone would listen to me!

So I got with my sponsor and we sat down and read the fourth step (out of the Big Book) and then I went home and wrote down in a nice little chart all the people who pissed me off, why they pissed me off and what part of me their behavior effected. Yes! This is why I am the way I am! These are the awful things that people did to me! Of course I was a drunk. How could I not be? You would be a drunk too if you had to put up with all this crap right here on these pieces of paper that I painstakingly wrote on for hours and hours as I wiped the tears away (alcoholics tend to have a flair for the dramatic).

I went back to my sponsor and we went over my fourth step. I felt great! I got to list all the reasons why I was the way I was! This whole getting sober thing was getting better and better. And then came the question I had to answer that made me understand why there was so much anguish around this step. It was the “second part” of Step Four.

What was my part in it? Say what??? My part? There was no way I had a part in the way someone else treated me. Little doe-eyed, innocent Darlene. What could I have possibly done? So we went back through the list. And I have to say, thank the heavens I was blessed with an open mind and an ability to WANT to look at my (emotional) insides (although I’m sure my physical insides are very lovely!).

Because what I found out about my part in the way others had treated me was not fun. Still, it was huge in my recovery. Yes, I had a part in the way my ex-husband treated me. Yes, I had a part in all the broken relationships I was in at some point. Yes, I had a part the degradation I received at my first real office job. All of this “I had a part in it” stuff was difficult to deal with.had been done But I had to deal with it nonetheless.

After I recognized my part in the situations I had been in, the wrong that had been done to me and the pain I had felt throughout my life, I had another road to travel down. I had to travel down the “Know Road.” And we all know, once we know, we can never not know. Surprisingly, recognizing my part in my past helped me. I was able to understand (for starters) what made me tick and why I did the things I did. This would lead me to continue rigorous honesty as I approached Step Five.

One Day at a Time

Image: givecourage.net

Image: givecourage.net

One day at a time.  Isn’t that really the only way we can live?  When we were in our addiction, we were caught up in our past aches, resentments and fears.  But that wasn’t enough.  We had to worry about the future!  What will tomorrow bring? Will I still have my job?  What about a place to live?

Since I am inherently skeptical, this whole one day at a time thing puzzled me.  After all, I was a being who only thought about what would become of me along with all the crap of yesterday.  Well, I couldn’t change yesterday and had no control over tomorrow.  Still don’t.  Never will.

Before I got sober, I remember thinking about never being able to drink (or drug) again.  That thought overwhelmed me to the point of anxiety.  How would I function?  Where would I hang out? What about my friends?  All of these are serious questions to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.

The first couple weeks of my sobriety were a rough lot.  I lived one minute at a time rather than one day at a time.  I could not think about the future.  Again, it was entirely too overwhelming.  And holding onto the past was what got me in such a shit storm.  So I focused on keeping my brain occupied.  I should have kept a journal, but I didn’t.  Instead I consumed mass quantities of Pop Tarts and watched the Military Channel.  I only left my apartment to get cigarettes.

But it worked for me.

Of course these days, I do think about the future and there are times when the past creeps in or I see something that brings back a fond (or not so fond) memory. But when it comes to not picking up, one day at a time, one minute at a time, even one second at a time is the best way to live.

How do we live one day at a time in recovery?

We go to meetings.  We get a sponsor.  We read approved literature. We talk to people in recovery (this is so important). We share at meetings (this is something I need to do more). We keep our minds occupied with things besides drinking (or drugging).

I have met so many creative people in the rooms of AA.  I have met many artists, writers and generally people who are doing what they want to do with their lives.  How cool is that?  Maybe they were always creative or maybe they found their creativity while living one day at a time.

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