When I walked into my very first 12 step meeting, I sat in the back and had my head down the whole time. I didn’t want to be there nor did I want to stop drinking and using. I went there to get a court card signed for my 2nd DUI. I remembered the gal who spoke and I related to everything she said. At the end of the meeting, I ran outta there quicker than you can say Alcoholic and drank two bottles of wine, and continued on for the next week drinking. But during that week, I had my moment of clarity, my own a-ha moment, where I realized (and mind you I was drunk and crying) that everything bad that had ever happened to me was because of my drinking and drugging. That was it for me and decided then that I may as well give this sobriety thing a shot. But what really resonated with me was the HOPE; Hang On Pain Ends, that I heard at that meeting. It was that meeting that got me to go back to a second meeting and that’s where I heard more hope and I related again with the speaker. I got sober over 16 years ago – and not every day is rainbows and unicorns with smiley emoji’s. Over the last year especially, due to Covid and my marriage imploding and my divorce, I’ve had numerous instances where I wanted to say fuck it and grab a drink or snort a line. Just because I’m sober, doesn’t mean my head doesn’t go there. It does – a lot! But what I do for me is I play the tape through. I know that if I go to that upscale Del Mar ritzy restaurant bar that within hours, I’ll be looking to score drugs from the skanky dive bar on the other side of town. I know this because it’s what I did for over 20 years. This use will then continue for hours and into the next day – without fail. One of the hardest things about recovery is asking for help. We think we know best and most likely we are in too much fear to ask anyone how they do it or what works for them. I was thinking recently about what keeps me reaching out for help, vs reaching for the bottle or the drug.
Below are some ideas to keep us sober during this time, or any hard time you are having, because just because we all need some extra Hope and Light right now.
When Covid hit and we AA folks couldn’t attend our weekly in-person meetings, it was a frenzy and harried time, but thank goodness Zoom came to the rescue. Hurriedly zoom sign-on’s and passwords started popping up and attending my normal meetings, as well as other out-of-state meetings became my sense of ease and comfort. In the San Diego area, we are having some in-person meetings as well, and some are practicing social distancing with masks, and some – well…I guess it’s a risk wherever you go, and you aren’t wearing your mask. Either way, getting to a meeting has been a big help for me – and I’m going to keep coming back!
One of the biggest ways to ask for help when you are feeling despair is going into Treatment. I personally have never been, however, I do bring a meeting into a Treatment facility once a month and I know it’s the weekly bright spot for patients that are in there. Treatment is a great option for anyone needing hands-on care and putting themselves first and foremost. You are surrounded by people that want to help you and by other patients that are in the same boat as you are. There are a lot of different treatment options available out there and researching which one is best for you is important. Feel free to view my resources page on my blog at Resources.
One of the first things I did when I got sober was watched a bunch of recovery movies. Leaving Las Vegas, Clean and Sober, 28 Days, When a Man Loves a Woman, Barfly, and Flight to name a few. I also started reading Memoirs. There is an amazing list of recovery Memoirs that are out there, and do yourself a favor and read some! These memoirs made me see how others got clean and sober, and how they found hope! It made me realize that this a mainstream problem and that other addicts can share and talk about their addiction honestly. It helped me immensely and made me feel better as I wasn’t as ashamed that I too was an addict. I too wrote a Memoir, Last Call, and although I didn’t make the top 10 list – I think you’d be able to relate to it as well.
When I got sober and heard that I needed a sponsor, I had no idea what that meant, and I was super scared to talk to anyone, let alone another woman, and ask her for help. But after a couple weeks, I did ask a woman to be my sponsor and she was exactly what I needed. She and I did the steps in my first year and she was loving, supportive, and wise and I was so happy that she said yes when I asked her. I’ve gone through a few different sponsors through the years and each time it’s a process in building that relationship, and it’s been a stepping stone to a different level of recovery. It’s been my touchstone and my barometer as to how I’m managing my sober life. I couldn’t manage my sobriety without one. Some people who aren’t in the 12 steps use a spiritual advisor or life coach and I say more power to you – whatever works for you. We are all on the same journey together, no matter how you do it, but asking for help is key.
I’d been journaling before I got sober, so it was fairly easy for me to continue to do that a few times a week. I always felt better after banging on my keyboard complaining or handwriting in my journal to share my angst and my happiness. I was also told early on to use a “god box”. Which I found very useful and it’s just the exercise of writing something down that’s troubling you and putting it into a box. This could be a small box, a shoebox, the box I just received from Amazon, or a coffee can with a lid. I found this to be quite liberating and what usually happened is the problem worked itself out and life went on.
This is what I refer to as my “Bitch Buddies”. It was suggested to me early on to have 5 women, besides my sponsor, that I can just call and bitch to about what’s annoying me. These are usually women I’m close to and who understand me. It’s helpful to know that they too struggle and not all of us are crazy on the same day!
This one is imperative for me. I need to make sure that I’m doing ok regardless of what’s happening around me, i.e., the drama of life. I can easily find myself trying to control and manipulate others in my life to get what I want. This is a huge red flag for me and I need to practice my self-care. Self-care for me is meditating, going for a walk on the beach, hanging out with my dog, calling a friend, taking a bath, or even going away alone for a couple days, whatever it is for me to not fall into my mode of wanting to fix or help others – that’s what I call self-care.
We all know that 2020 will go down in history as one of the worst years ever in the 20th century, but we still get to stay sober – No Matter What. I hope some of the above ways to ask for help are useful to you as they have been to me. I don’t take anything for granted in my life today and it’s all because I was once that scared and fearful woman who thought there was no way out. That 2nd DUI helped me find that way out and now I have a life free of alcohol and drugs, even through a pandemic.