worst best night of my life was on December 26, 2012. I was without Kai for Christmas the first year ever and drank myself to almost death. So much so that I realized I had a drinking problem and that next fateful morning I walked into was the infamous “rooms” in every city in America. Those in the program will know what I’m referring to because that is what we named it and called our second home. Those outside of the program have a stigma against Alcoholics Anonymous and just think it’s a place where people who aren’t thriving go to get away from drinking (at least that’s what I thought it was). I had no idea what was in store for me when I walked in still drunk, a dirty white sweatshirt, hair a matted mess… I received a chip for 24 hours (they give you one if you even have part of one day since it’s mainly about you attitude towards a better life).
To this day I’m not quite sure if I was ever an alcoholic, or if I was actually just so buried in my bipolar emotions and addictive personality. What I do know is that I never had a better family that taught me more about who I truly am and the tools that I needed all along to prepare me for everything life has to offer me at this point. These are some of the tools I gained during my 21 months of sobriety:
1. Having a positive attitude. This seems like an easy thing to do, but it’s not. Especially when you throw a mental illness and motherhood into the mix. At times it can seem as though everything is going wrong, but you can’t put a limit on your strength. Once you do, you almost definitely will fall apart. Cognitive behavioral therapy has truly helped me with this over the past 7 years. Changing small things such as “I am ugly.” TO “I am NOT ugly.” OR “I am beautiful.” Thoughts turn into actions. Actions turn into beliefs. Things as easy as waking up on a dreary, rainy day.. And knowing that the rain is there because the crops won’t grow. This helps overcome any addiction.
2. Honesty. Wow, this is just such a difference in my life. From excuses to white lies to hidden agendas – it’s all about honesty. Living in a city like Washington, D.C., where the majority of the people here are all about gaining power, you start to realize that you must be honest with yourself and everyone else. Being perfect with your word is a must. If you are not, then everything else you do is just going to go down the tubes. I could rant endlessly about this bullet point, but I think you get the gist of it.
3. Moderation. When I took up tai chi over a year ago, I learned how to even live moderation through smoking a cigarette. Everything, whether good or bad, should be done in moderation. There are no blacks and whites in life. Doing something too fast or at a snail’s pace, not good. Nothing is ultimately wrong or right. Everything is in degrees of. Once I started living that in everyday life and every day actions, my mind began to process differently.
4. Counting Days. At first this may seem tedious, but it shows you your accomplishments. The phrase “One day at a time” is very true. After counting 21 months of sobriety, I really started to see how far I had come. How far I could go in my life. And visually knowing that all good or bad moments shall pass.
5. Be gentle/Forgiveness/Compassion. In so many aspects this is crucial. When you make a mistake, you can’t be hard on yourself. When letting go of a bad relationship, you can’t think of all of the good times in the past. You must be gentle to yourself. You must let go gently. It’s a very Buddhist type of mantra, but it can make or break you. Holding onto things that are out of your control can really take a toll on your deepest emotions. Holding onto hatred or terrible feelings dissolves something inside. It takes more effort to hate than it does to forgive. You allow the hatred to escape your heart and peace enters in return.
6. Sharing my feelings. Going to the rooms and sharing was something every sponsor I had told me was something I had to do, especially when I was feeling the most down. “Checking in” was a common phrase I heard, and even though the person may not have felt that it was important to share – it was always helping at least one other person in the room. In addition, you needed to share with other sober people, mostly your sponsor. You were held accountable for your actions. Even though I am no longer a part of the program, I still follow this rule constantly knowing that when I am faced with depression or mania, I check in with anyone in my support system. This could be my therapist, a family member, and now, you–this blog.
7. Being of service. This was so good for me because I try to do this everyday. Doing something for another person, even if it is listening to their problems is a great escape to getting out of your own head. In doing so, I don’t allow the committee upstairs to overtake my thoughts and put me down a dark hole. And when I do something good for another, I in turn feel better about myself. It gives me energy.
8. Structure. From small to big things, having a routine and a schedule for everyone is key. Maintaining a schedule has allowed me to focus on my priorities. It has also allowed me not to forget everyday things and important dates. From brushing my teeth twice daily to picking up my son from school and cooking a meal everyday, to doing laundry each week (or every other), to band practice every Tuesday, to limiting my shows to only 1 per week. This has allowed me to do more and even schedule in rest and relaxation.
9. Getting my alcoholism under control. Once you get your alcoholic head into place, everything else falls into place. You have to make it your number priority, over your children, over your family, over yourself. Putting your health as number one allows you to enjoy and care for everything else important to you. I struggled with this at first, but now I completely understand and stand by it.
10. Prayer. When my alcoholism was out of control, when my emotions were running wild, I only prayed when something terrible was happening. In the program and through sobriety, I really learned how to be grateful. This is such a powerful tool. Even when the bad shit was going down, I learned to be thankful for it. To know that this too shall pass. That this was happening for a reason to add to my strength. This was something I was supposed to be living through and feeling. As a practicing buddhist, I am quite amazed with how chanting has also really inspired me. The combination of tai chi, chanting, and prayer to my Higher Power, has really shifted something deeper inside of me. It’s totally inexplicable, but it’s the most amazing feeling I have ever had. Now when the depression creeps in, I know that it is just my disease. It’s not me.
Now, in celebration of that enlightenment period in my life, I have committed to a sober February each February every year for as long as I can withstand. Even just last night, when I usually drink with my band during rehearsal, I usually wake up feeling a little more under the weather each Wednesday. This morning, the sun beamed in through my blinds and I woke up full of energy and happiness. To be sober again for four days has felt like such the improvement in my life! I can’t wait to see how I feel after 28.
If you would like to join me, it’s not too late. Feel free and post about it. I have four others doing it with me. Have any of you ever tried sobriety?
Cheers Xx, Trin