Be Good to Yourself

I’m not sure why, but I find it so easy to be hard on myself. I often feel that I don’t measure up to what I should be doing and where I am in life.  I still sometimes ‘should’ myself into depression and anxiety. Could’a, would’a and should’a are all expressions that pull me out of the present moment and drop me unceremoniously in the past…PLOP!

Part of it has to do with my impatience. I want what I want and I want it now. If I don’t get it, which is often, it’s because I didn’t do what I needed to do. In other words, my procrastination doesn’t help with my impatience and visa versa. And then I just get down on myself. My program tells me what I need to do: the next right thing.  What is the next right thing? I’m learning it’s what I ‘know’ I need to do. I have to remember that ‘Easy does it’ still means I need to ‘do’ it! It takes time to find the balance, but it is possible to get to an equilibrium in life.

I need to remember to enjoy life. Play, joke, go for walks, see a movie, chat with a friend, go out for dinner,  walk on a beach, climb a mountain, hug the dog.  Life is meant to be lived and we are not a glum lot. Keeping up my spirit is important.  I have a tendency to isolate myself from others, not participate in activities and events. Here too I need to find balance.  My mind, all alone, can be a very dangerous space if I spend all of my time there.  Getting out and enjoying life, playing, creating are ways that I find the happiness and joy in my life.

Another way to be good to yourself is to stop looking at how far you have to go to get to the goals you have in life. Rather, focus on how far you have come.  Yes, there is still more work to do in my life of sobriety, especially when I am starting out. I constantly remind sponsees to be grateful for how far they have come in their program. I have to remind myself sometimes how far I’ve come too. Like my sponsees, I still have to apply my program on a daily basis, but I have come very far. I regularly see my character flaws grow and blossom and I think I will never be through with them. I have a choice though: I can become morose about how much work I still have todo, or, I can look back and be grateful for how much I’ve changed as a result of my program of recovery. I am not the same person that walked into that first meeting. That is something to be grateful for.

Finally, give yourself time. We didn’t become addicts and alcoholics over night and we can’t expect to stop one day and find everything is back to normal the next. It just won’t work that way. It takes time to go through the steps of recovery. Be patient with yourself and your progress. Even a relapse can be a very important learning experience.

In order to be a success, all I have to do is get up one more time than I fall. So as long as I’m trudging that road, putting one foot ahead of the other, I’m heading in the right direction and doing just fine!

I am Grateful.


Taking the Fifth

A recovery program ‘fifth’ couldn’t be further from the US Constitution ‘Fifth Amendment’ where one does not have to testify to self incriminate. The Fifth Step ask us to admit to our Higher Power, ourselves and another human being the “exact nature of our wrongs” which we discovered by going through Step Four. In other words, we completely incriminate ourselves and own up to the who, what, when where, why and how of our past.

Confession is not only good for the soul, it helps to heal the mind and body as well. More and more we hear about the link between our physical, mental and emotional health. How I think and feel can directly affect my body: my un-ease can cause dis-ease. Research shows that it goes a whole lot deeper than worry and stress causing stomach ulcers. I need to spill my guts in order to regain my health and sanity. I think the Catholics idea of confession is sound. Telling on myself, revealing my secrets, will help to restore my being.

“Why do I have to tell someone?  It should be enough to write my list and talk to my Higher Power.” In reality, it isn’t enough. It’s one thing to say to myself and remind myself what I have done, even when it’s done in a real and spiritual way. And I believe it should be: we can take the time to sit down by ourselves and have a chat with our Higher Power about what wrote in Step Four. However, it’s quite another to say it out loud to another human being. Doing so makes it real. Discussing it helps us to understand our underlying motives, our passions and our humanity. And it helps us to develop a plan of how I can make some positive changes so that I won’t repeat the same behaviour in the future.

Taking the Fifth helps to develop humility, not to be confused with humiliation.  Humility is accepting the truth of what is: I am who I am, no better or no worse than anyone else; I am human. Part of that humanity is having faults as well as virtues and I need to accept both as part of my being. In many ways it’s a relief to tell on ourselves. I no longer have to prove who I am. At least one other person in this world knows my truth. I no longer need to put on a mask or play a role in front of that person: I can be completely honest.

A final thought on taking the Fifth Step. Doing so prepares me for the Ninth Step which, while it is still down the road a bit is when I talk to those whom I have offended and make amends for what I have done. If I have developed some humility and can share all of my past with one person, it will be much easier for me to admit my fault with someone who already knows something about what I had done.

Step Five provides a chance to develop some humility and honesty and demonstrate that to another human being. Once I do incriminate myself and my secrets are out, it’s a whole lot easier to continue the healing process of addiction. I gain self esteem and hope. I know I can change and that I can change how I respond to the persons places and things in my life, discovering the joys of recovery.


Sought Through Prayer and Medication

Chronic depression is a disease, as is the disease of alcoholism and addiction. No one asks for it, the causes aren’t always clear and there are a variety of methods to help to treat it. Often depression and addiction go hand in hand. People with chronic depression often self medicate with alcohol and other substances because they either don’t understand their condition, or they do and believe that they have found a socially acceptable manner of dealing with it. Depression is part of my story as well.

I sought treatment for depression in my late twenties. An abrupt change in career path brought about a time when I could no longer cope on my own and I knew that self medicating with scotch whiskey was no longer helping me. I didn’t want to go the medication route at that time as I had plenty of prejudices against psychopharmaceuticals. I went the route of talk therapy and it helped me through that difficult time and also helped me to look at various self-help programs which I applied to varying degrees of success to my own life. The therapy helped me in putting some order back into my life and the depression lessened. I was able to put down the scotch and stayed dry for the next five years.

Like any other chronic disease, depression ebbs and flows, but it is always there. After that five year hiatus I returned to alcohol, slowly at first, then back with a vengeance as if making up for my dry time. I was always trying to control it, fight it and stop, but I was losing my battle. Depression and addiction worked together in my life creating an ever deepening pit of darkness. I was only able to complete the bare minimum to survive. I would spend hours alone, playing solitaire on the computer because that was about all I could do. I didn’t want to socialize, I didn’t have the energy for it. I could put on a happy face when necessary. “I’m fine!” I’d say when asked, but inside I was alone and dying. I had enough self awareness to know that my addiction was not helping me, but I couldn’t come up with better treatment plan for myself.

After one particularly bad night, combined with a severe physical and moral hangover that lasted for two days, I found the strength to stop everything cold turkey. I don’t know where I found the power to do so, but I stayed stopped. But after two months dry,  and in a deep depression I sought out help again.  This time, I said to my doctor that I wanted medication.  She started me off on a low dose of an antidepressant and slowly increased it until I felt what I thought must be normal. It was working. I felt so normal that after six months I decided that I could start adding alcohol into the mix again. And thus began a downward spiral of depression medication and self medication. I should add that I never told my doctor that I had started self medicating again along with the antidepressants.

Time goes on, I hit my bottom and came into a recovery program. Fortunately I had a sponsor who encouraged me to talk to my doctor and stay on my prescription medication. After about two years in the program and working with that doctor, I weaned myself slowly off of the pills. I have had bouts of depressions since then, but I have been able to work through them with the help of the program.

Most of us arrive at recovery with more difficulties than our addictions. I know there was a tie-in between my depression and my consumption. Everyone is different. I encourage people in recovery to be honest and candid with their medical professionals as well as their sponsor. Many of us use various types of therapy to help us live life to the fullest and there is nothing in recovery that should hinder sound medical treatment. By being rigorously honest we have a much better chance at success in our programs.

I applaud Wil Wheaton who shared his story of living with chronic depression. You can find his story (and the inspiration for today’s blog) here: