Do It

I took a slice off the end of my thumb the other day.  Nothing serious, just the top layer of skin peeled back. I still do some work with wood and this is something that happens every once in a while. Yesterday there was teeny piece of dry skin that was still attached to my thumb and was driving my crazy.  Every time I moved or did something something caught onto that little, smaller than the head of a pin, piece of dry skin. It didn’t hurt, but I was always aware of its presence. But I was doing some painting when it happened or I was doing some cleaning but for several hours I it was there reminding me of what I needed to do. Finally I got the nail clippers and cut it off. It will still be a week or so before everything heals back.

A teeny tab of dead skin kept reminding me that I needed to do something until I made it a priority and got it done. I was reminded of those things in life that niggle and gnaw at us until we finally do them. Doing them is nothing. It takes no time at all to accomplish a small task, yet I seem to put it off because I am sure that what I am doing right now is more important. Big things, sure, I know they take priority. I have gone to the emergency ward more than enough times for stitches on cuts as a result of my ‘handiwork’. When something big happens in life we usually recognize we need to look after it right away. It’s when it’s small and seemingly insignificant that we let it slide. Let those small insignificant things slide and they seem to add up until we actually do something about them.

In recovery I have seen people live through death and divorce without a relapse; their friends gather around and they receive the support they need to make it through. It is the small little incidentals that add up to a relapse. Missing meetings, not taking to sponsors, not having time for a little prayer or meditation, allowing a resentment to grow. Each little thing, on its own, isn’t much, but they add up. I could resolve them in two minutes or less, but I don’t take the time until it’s driving me completely crazy. When I am in that state, I usually know it, but for some reason the little bit of effort needed for such a small task can be put off for now…then it’s too late.

I read this morning that it’s easier to give 100% to something than to give 98% to it. The point is that when I am fully committed to something, I can stick with it, I have resolve and my decision is final. However, if I am only 98% committed to it, then I have to judge if this is a situation when I have to stick with my commitment or does this fall into that 2% where there is some flexibility.

I know for myself, when I break with 100% commitment it is far easier the next time to give in the next time. About six months ago I committed to not eating food that contain refined sugar. Initially, I was very good at sticking to my decision. But then I had to have a taste, a bit or sliver. Now it’s so much easier to slip or cheat on my commitment not to eat refined sugar. If I had stuck to it a 100% there would be no question, no option or choice. Now there is because I don’t eat refined sugar 98% of the time. And from experience I know that the 2% has a chance to grow to 4% then 7%. You get the picture.

With my addiction I know I have to be 100% committed to it if I want to stay happy, joyous and free in recovery. However, remember that little tab of skin? That can create an opening for the 2% of non-commitment. I have to do the little things to add up to the big thing. Taking care of the details helps to maintain the complete picture. If you’ve let things slip, recommit yourself to 100%. Get back to meetings, talk to your sponsor, connect with your Higher Power. It will be much easier when your back on the road of 100%.

Don’t Forget your Program

As the end of the year approaches, it seems that time moves faster. There seems so much that needs to be done and little enough time to complete it. It’s just a perception; the earth doesn’t spin any faster this time of year, but we want to squeeze in so much more in a period of 24 hours. My message today is: don’t forget your program.

When things are moving at a fast past it is so easy to let a meeting or two or seven slip by. Once a couple of days goes by and we feel that we’re okay,  we begin to think that if we made a couple of days without a meeting, we’ll be okay skipping another day. Maybe yes, maybe no. I always have to remember that I am just a couple of bad decisions away from a substance. After that, all bets are off. These holidays are tough for a lot of us. We’re dealing with family: the people who have years of experience at pushing our buttons. And we’re dealing with a lot of expectations, ours and those of others. Depending upon where we live, there may be a blast of nasty weather blown into the mix. This time of year, probably more than any other time, is filled with opportunities to do the next right thing, as well as the next wrong thing, especially where our recovery is involved.

I have a friend in the program from NYC. He’s a great guy who works a good program. One of the things he often shares and that stuck with me is this.  He tells it, “When I came into the program I got a lot of very good suggestions. The were all given freely and free for me to use by members who had a lot more time in the program than I did. I took those suggestions. The only ones I had to pay for were the ones I didn’t take.” Work your program, especially when you don’t feel you have time for it. Make being clean and sober your number one priority. If you put your job, or your family or preparing that perfect Christmas ahead of sobriety, you are putting yourself at risk of losing everything, including all your clean time. Failing to heed this suggestion may turn out to very costly indeed.

Somewhere along the line many of us were told to believe that we had to constantly prove our strength and our worth. You don’t have to do that anymore. You don’t need to prove you’re stronger than your substance by putting yourself in harms way or by tempting yourself. None of us is made of stone. Things affect us. You don’t have to lead yourself into temptation. The old standby slogan of H.A.L.T. is especially true this busy time of year: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Make sure that you treat yourself to what you need in your life: Recovery. Let that be your gift to yourself and your loved ones.

Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël.


Preparing for the Holidays

The upcoming holidays are often a difficult time for anyone.  Add being in recovery and it becomes more difficult.  If it’s your first time around, it can be overwhelming: parties, holidays, friends and plenty of temptations. And, of course, there’s nothing that can push our buttons more often than our own family. How can I have a  good time if I’m in recovery?

First of all, especially for someone who is new in the program, look for the book Living Sober. It is published by AA Services, but the advice is easily applicable to anyone in recovery from any addiction. The book has several chapters on how to stay clean and sober during the holidays and other events where we may find ourselves tempted.  If not this book, then there are others available that your homegroup can recommend to help you through those difficult first months.  The holidays are especially fraught with times where liquor is flowing in large quantities and when people step outside for a smoke, it may not be just tobacco that is burning.

Be prepared.  Drugs and alcohol permeate our society.  You can’t nor are you expected to hide yourself away forever from the world. If this is your first time going through a holiday season clean and sober, talk to your sponsor or a trusted friend in your program. Ask them how they made it through that first holiday season, ask them for suggestions and recommendations.  My sponsor does a lot of role playing so that his sponsees can get used to the language of sobriety as well as to the possible scenarios that may occur.

Perhaps we only go to part of a gathering and not stay until the end like we were likely to do in the past. Some fiestas we may want to miss all together because we know who will be attending and we know they may be a trigger for us. Bring along a friend you trust who knows your are in recovery. Have an escape plan to fall back upon if it is getting too difficult. It’s okay to admit there are times when we are weak. There is no shame is stepping back from the action. None of us is made of stone; in early sobriety we might not yet know our limits so we need not lead ourselves into temptation.

Like everything else in recovery, these events become easier to handle as time goes on. But everyone still has to maintain their guard. Keep an eye on your glass. Just recently I refused a soda at a party because it smelled a bit “off”. I’m sure it was fine, but I am not willing to take the chance. It was easy just to sent it down on a table and then talk with folks and casually leave it behind as I joined another circle of friends. My recovery is my number one priority. I won’t risk it to please a host. Fortunately, a good host won’t care if a guest doesn’t imbibe. You may even make new friends by becoming the designated driver.

Be careful during this season. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Peer pressure and family pressure may seem like a lot at the time, but it will alway lessen. If you don’t go to the company Christmas party, there’s always one next year when you will have more experience at living sober in party world. January will arrive and things will get back to normal again.

Enjoy the holidays clean and