I once picked a pill up off the sidewalk and popped it in my mouth.
Just walking along. Not a second thought. Like Jack-in-the-Box. Pop. Could have been a dog-deworming pill. My point is: I’d try anything if I thought it might alter how I felt on the inside.
I remember being disappointed when nothing happened.
I lived like that for twenty years. Drinking, using, and not dealing with life.
When I quit drinking, I was completely unprepared to deal with life’s challenges. I was back to being twelve.
In my first week of being sober, the phone rang. It was the police. They had found my son in a crack shack. He was only twelve-years old. My baby. My little man who hop, hop, hopped around like a bunny rabbit in his pillow slip.
Now THOSE were tough times.
Here’s how I’ve gotten through the hardest times of my life.
I’ve broken it down into three stages.
Excepting those tips as they pertain to detox, many of the tips are useful in all three stages.
The first stage is the most difficult.
Stage One: The Initiation Stage
In the beginning, everything is intense. EVERYTHING. Drinking kept all my emotions and thoughts suppressed. At bay. Sobering up, nothing made sense. I felt scared. Raw. Vulnerable. Like someone had ripped me open inside. Nerves jumping all over the place.
I call this the “walking through fire” stage; an initiation of sorts. The stage where many people give up. Drop out. Think life will never get easier. THIS IS A PASSING PHASE.
The intensity varies. It depends on what you are detoxing from; how much and for how long you were drinking/using for; and your personal circumstances.
I’m not going to lie. A quick fix doesn’t exist. But there are things that you can do to make it easier.
- Perhaps the hardest part is making the decision. The agonizing. The doubts. Start with where you are at. Right here. Right now.
- Quit trying so hard. Instead, surrender. Let go. Ahhh. Feel that?
- Admit to yourself and one other person that you need help. Do what that little voice inside is telling you to do.
- Do you need detox support? Your doctor can help and refer you to alcohol and drug treatment services. Alcohol withdrawal can be especially serious.
- Find your tribe. You need them. And they need you. Your old drinking buddies won’t be able to support you through this. Surround yourself with mentors.
- Be open minded. Alcoholics tend to think in extremes. Black or white. Right or wrong. My way or the highway. I have learned that most of my thoughts were delusional; my reactions based on fear.
- Expect some fallout from your past. Ride it through. The circumstances in your life will improve provided you don’t pick up. IT WILL GET BETTER.
- Don’t try and deal with everything at once. Start with what is most urgent and work your way down the list. As my friend Barb says, “Shoot the crocodiles closest to the boat.”
- Find healthy ways of releasing the intensity. Move. Cry. Write. Pound the pavement. Scream into a pillow. Howl at the moon, “You rotten asshole.” It sounds like lunacy but is fucking liberating.
- Develop a good relationship with your doctor. Be honest about your addiction. Ask to have your addictive tendencies noted on your file. Better yet, find an addiction specialist.
- If you are dealing with child protection or legal issues, DON’T go to meetings by yourself. Always take a community advocate, friend, or relative with you.
- If you have stomach issues, try: L-Glutamine and Peppermint tea.
- Read a daily inspirational. There’s lots of good ones. I like the Courage to Change by AlAnon available online.
- Get exercise and fresh air daily. Start with a 15 or 30-minute walk. Exercising releases endorphins and increases your mind’s ability to elevate your mood.
- DON’T ISOLATE. Being depressed with the curtains drawn and not leaving the house is a scary place. Open the door. Stick your head out. Force yourself out the door.
- If you have an anxiety attack, focus on regulating your breathing. Get a paper bag if you are hyperventilating. Keep a snack-sized baggie of ice cubes in your freezer and place under your eyes.This stops your brain in it’s tracks.
- Drink lots of water. Add a squeeze of lemon. It’s a great detox and keeps your teeth white too.
- Find nice non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy.
- Have a safety plan when you go out where alcohol is being served. Bring your own beverage and pour it in a fancy glass. You don’t need to mention to people that you don’t drink.
- Ask your doctor for a complete medical exam including bloodwork.
- Take vitamins, including Vitamin B. Alcohol burns up B-vitamins. Ask your doc for a Vitamin B injection if you are showing signs of deficiency.
- Connect with something bigger than yourself. God, Goddess, Creator, the Universe, Mother Nature. Whatever it is that feeds your soul.
- When you feel lesser than, fake it until you make it. Tell yourself you are a worthwhile person. Write it on sticky notes. Plaster them everywhere.
- Sleep, my prince and princesses. You need sleep. Beautiful, restful, sleep. Develop a ritual that replaces the alcohol and drug induced coma that your body became accustomed to. Make a nice cozy nest. Hot bath. Warm milk. Melatonin. Mellow book. One of my favorites is listening to a meditation tape with the sound of light rain on the window.
- Use Epsom Salts in your bath. This is excellent right before bed as well as helps with detoxing.
- Be kind and patient with your body. It needs time to heal.
- The reward of patience is patience.
- Develop healthy eating habits, routines, and rituals.
- Take it one breath, one minute, one hour, one day at a time.
Stage Two: The Initiation Stage
Pay attention to the crazy shit going on in your head. Letting go of old habits, changing the way you think, and learning new ways of dealing with life is a critical part of the recovery process. Otherwise, you will be a miserable person without a drink. And what’s the point of that, right?
This change process is ongoing. Forever becoming aware, growing, and changing.
As you replace old habits and ways of thinking and coping, you will find yourself growing in leaps and bounds.
- Triggers. In the beginning, they are everywhere. Breathing. Barstools. Become aware of what yours are, time of day, and develop safety plans. Triggers will pass and lose their power providing you don’t give in. Everything hinges on this.
- When the urge hits, breathe. It will pass. Go to war with it. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Distract yourself. Tell yourself not today but tomorrow. When the thought pops into your head, pop it back out. The next morning you’ll be so glad you did!!
- Play the tape forward. Sure, that first one may be tasty and take the edge off. But then what? Play it out in your head past the first few.
- Recognize thoughts of entertaining or glamorizing drinking. Do. Not. Go. There. When you do, stop. Even say it out loud. STOP. Then move on to something else.
- Learn about your emotions. Drinking and using is about not dealing with emotions. This is new territory. Start with the basics. Angry, sad, glad.
- Sadness is part of the grieving process. But depression is not. If you are stuck in a negative headspace, go see a doctor and/or counsellor. Hell, go anyway.
- When you become angry, learn to step back rather than react impulsively. Give yourself time to process and come up with a healthier, more logical response.
- Recognize victim mentality. Nip thoughts of doom and gloom in the bud. Re-program your mind to think positively. Take responsibility for your part in life. Dwell in possibilities.
- DON’T PROJECT a scary future. You know. Like taking a thought and running with it. Imagining the worse case scenario. This creates anxiety. Bring yourself back to the moment. As they say in AlAnon, “Stay where your hands are.”
- Learn to let go of regrets. Your past has brought you to where you are today. A worthwhile human being with an unfolding purpose and unlimited potential.
- Develop your intuition and learn to trust your own judgment. Listen to your inner voice. Your intuition becomes a powerful guide.
- Pray. I love Maryanne Williamson’s book on Prayers. She says that we don’t ask God for too much but for too little, and that prayers are ladders to God.
- Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Do the next right thing.
- When in doubt, don’t.
- Develop patience. Alcoholics expect instant results. In recovery, things don’t happen at the snap of your fingers. Switch modes in your brain and do something creative. Write. Paint. Colour a mandala. Get colorful. Be free.
- Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Instead, look how far you’ve come.
- Allow life to unfold. To happen naturally. To become. Don’t try to manipulate outcomes or force solutions. Those old ways need to go. Let go of the illusion of control.
Stage Three: The Empowerment Stage
The more you let go, the easier life becomes. You experience significant realizations. You shudder at the thought of going back to your previous life.
While in this stage, you continue to practice everything you have learnt until now.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
The learning never stops.
Eventually, you will feel better than you’ve ever felt. Your life is full and purposeful. You are happy to be alive.
- Learn to forgive. That doesn’t mean harm done to you is ok. It means you aren’t going to carry it any longer.
- Quit beating yourself up. We all do things during active addiction we regret. Use your regrets as opportunities to learn. You will have a chance to make things right as time moves on.
- Think of others. Do something kind for somebody. Don’t tell anyone.
- Identify self-limiting thoughts and create empowerment statements to counteract them. Put these on sticky notes and plaster them everywhere. Decorate your entire friggin’ apartment with sticky notes if you want.
- Connect with nature. Take up gardening. Put your hands in the dirt. Plant seeds and watch them grow. When tired, walk in the woods or lay on the ground. Feel the sunshine on your face.
- If you can afford the luxury go see an acupuncturist, massage therapist and/or naturopath.
- Learn to meditate. This could be as simple as gazing out of the window and daydreaming.
- Don’t wallow in resentment and self-pity. Dwelling in thoughts of “what if” and “if only” leads to “fuck it” types of behaviour.
- Visualize the life of your dreams and a beautiful safe place. Close your eyes and visit often. This is a great way to set your intentions, as well as relax and regulate your thoughts and emotions.
- When worried about a loved one, close your eyes and surround them in white light.
- Get together with friends and laugh. Belly laugh until you almost pee your pants.
- Find new ways of having fun. Once the drama and chaos settle down (yes, it will), you will be amazed at how clear headed, calm and creative you feel. Moments of inspiration will lead you to your talents and interests.
- Listen to music. Use it for motivation or relaxation. Science has proven that music can improve your mood, reduce chronic stress, and help people get in touch with their emotions and help them heal.
- Begin the day by asking your higher power for help, and end with saying thanks.
- Develop new rituals to replace the old culture of drinking. Build structure, balance, and routine into your day. As time goes on, you’ll figure out what these are.
- When life is hard, it’s ok to call in sick and go to bed. DON’T feel guilty. It’s part of self-care.
- Practice gratitude. Get a journal. Write down three things you are grateful for at the end of each day. You will be amazed how this can shift your attitude.
- Develop a healthy respect for the power of addiction. It can take you out in a swipe. You are in a battle for your life. Be fierce. Take it on with dignity. Use as many of these tools as possible.
- Sing. Dance. Love. Write. Laugh. Travel. The sky’s the limit.
The only thing holding you back is YOU.
Allow all that you are and yet to become to grow wings.
Truly, I never thought I would be where I am today.
If I can do it, you can too!
Janet Christie is an Addiction Recovery Coach, blogger, educator, and intuit. Janet loves to facilitate positive change which empowers women, mothers, and families. In her spare time, she likes to…haha! Spare time. You are adorable. Janet is available to provide recovery support. What is Addiction Recovery Coaching? Book your FREE 30-minute consultation.
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