Archive for January, 2013

teacherYes, staying sober requires maintenance.  Think about it for a second.  If you are an alcoholic you have spent decades drinking.  That, my friends, is a habit that is not easily broken.  Now suddenly you stop drinking.  Now what?  You have stopped so now what do you do?

For most of us, we realized that simply not drinking was not enough; we had to change everything about us.  You see, drinking was just a symptom of the real problem, and the real problem was us!

I had to start from the ground up and rebuild who I was, and then I had to make sure I did not return to the old person, because the old person wants to drink.  That’s what he does, he drinks!

So I got rid of negative thinking. I got rid of outside influences, including people, who were not good for me to be around.  I avoided slippery places like taverns and cocktail lounges.  I started treating people with respect and I stopped trying to use them for my own gain.  When I was wrong I admitted it and made amends.  It was tiring and it was hard work and I sure don’t want to do it again, so I do daily maintenance for my continued sobriety.

Every night I review my day and make sure that I have acted like a good person.  If I have done something that I shouldn’t have done then I have to make up for that. I have to apologize and make it right.

The other maintenance I do is I help other alcoholics.  This blog is one example. I must be available to others who are still suffering, and I must offer help when they need it.  By helping others I am also helping myself stay sober.

You see, it is not about just giving up the booze.  It is about making a brand new life and then doing the homework necessary to live a happy and contented new life.

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loving life on a hikeI am tired today. In truth I’ve been tired for quite some time, and I’ve been around Alcoholics Anonymous long enough now to recognize that as a warning sign.

Once I reach the point where my mind is tired, then my body follows, and then I have opened the door to my own personal demons.

I write constantly, trying to find that perfect word, that perfect phrase, that will capture my audience and stir them into action.  So far I haven’t found it, and I begin to wonder if I ever will.

I worry about money, that ever-present anchor around my neck.  I worry about the fact that we don’t have medical coverage, and what will happen if Bev or I really do get sick enough to need a trip to the hospital.

I worry, and that makes me tired.  I need a vacation but I also realize that vacations cost money and we have so little.

So I am tired, and I recognize that fact, and so I need to do something about it.  I cannot allow myself to stay tired for long, because my demons need to stay in the background where they can’t harm me.  To allow them to roam free is to invite the madness of alcoholism back into my life.

In AA we refer to it as H.A.L.T….hungry, angry, lonely, tired, four warning signs that we need to make some changes.

So I need to make changes. I just don’t know what they will be.

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teacherI wrote an article today about enablers.  For those who don’t know, enablers are those relatives or friends of an alcoholic who, through their actions and words, make it possible to continue drinking, or who give their silent approval of the drinking.

Who would do that you ask?  Well, you might be surprised to learn that most will do it, although at the time they don’t think they are doing any harm.

The fact of the matter is that alcoholism is exhausting and frightening for those who live with an alcoholic.  They usually live in fear and they are never quite sure what they should do.  Their loved one is acting irresponsibly, and shows huge mood shifts, and other times they are so pitiful and sick you just want to wrap them in a blanket and protect them.

They will make excuses, they will manipulate, and they will lie, and as long as you accept that behavior you are enabling them.

The bottom line is this:  if you know or are related to an alcoholic, you must set boundaries and stick with them.  It goes something like this:  I love you, but I will not help you. I won’t make excuses for you, I won’t give you money, and I won’t do your work for you.  You are choosing to drink so you need to live with the consequences.

Tough love for sure but tough love is necessary.  Why?  Because if you do not set boundaries then you will become as sick as the alcoholic.  Alcoholism is a vicious disease, and it not only harms the alcoholic but the loved ones of the alcoholic.

You can choose to be a victim or you can choose to be proactive.  Stop enabling!

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thumbnailCAE2TTDQHave you heard the expression “the dog days of summer?”  Well, for my money, the expression should be changed to the Dog Days of Winter, because for an alcoholic these are the tough times in maintaining sobriety.

The excitement of the holidays have come and gone, and everyone is looking forward to spring and warmer weather, and in the meantime we are left with two more months of winter with very little to look forward to.

The clouds cover the sun, the cold prevents us from getting outside, and we are left with our own thoughts, and that is a dangerous game to play.  It has often been said that the most dangerous real estate in the world is the eight inches between your ears, and I believe that to be true.

Alcoholics do not need to spend much time in their own heads.  That area is ripe with stinkin’ thinkin’ and that leads to relapsing.miscellaneous....and steph 003

Use these tough months to strengthen your program of sobriety.  Do not isolate.  Reach out to friends and share some good sobriety time having fun and sharing laughter.

I will repeat:  do not isolate!

One day at a time we will get through the winter, and the sun will once again shine, and we will get outside and breathe a sigh of relief and the world will look better to us.  In the meantime, we need to take care of business and make sure we don’t spend much time on that dangerous piece of real estate.

Sit with me awhile and watch my video about alcoholism.

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wash d.c.Poor me…..Poor me…..Pour me another drink!

I pay a lot of attention to the old-timers in AA.  The ones with twenty…thirty years of sobriety.  One thing I noticed about them is they never talk about problems that they might be having.  Surely they have problems….we all do…but all they talk about is the solution.

There was an old-timer I knew years back….his name was Little Joe, and at the time he had over forty years of sobriety.  He would always say that life was good.  Hi my name is Little Joe, and life is good!

He had a heart attack, and two weeks later he was back at a meeting saying life was good.  I asked him about it, and he said that compared to the hell of drinking, all else pales in comparison.  Life was, indeed, good.

We can concentrate on the negatives in our life, and how miserable we are, and I guarantee you that leads to thoughts of drinking.  Or we can concentrate on the good in life, and I guarantee that leads to thoughts of sobriety.

The choice is ours!

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teacherAre you feeling angry lately?  If so, and you are an alcoholic, you really need to take a close look at that anger, because quite frankly it has the ability to undermine your sobriety.

Where does anger come from?  Some psychologists submit that all anger if fear-based.  Others will tell you that it comes from resentments.  Whatever the case may be, anger will eat you up from the inside out, and it leads many alcoholics back to drinking.

Look at the root cause of your anger and deal with it.  If you are in the AA program, talk to your sponsor and if you don’t have a sponsor, get one.  This is too important to ignore, and it might just be time for you to reach out to someone for help.

Anger and sobriety do not mix, and the sooner you get a handle on the cause of your anger, the sooner you will be on the road to recovery.

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teacherIf someone told you that you would get violently ill and possibly die if you ate another tomato, chances are pretty good you would never eat that tomato again.  However, if someone tells an alcoholic that they might die if they ever take another drink, there is an internal debate that occurs, and chances are worse than 50/50 that they will follow that advice.

Why?  Because we are talking about a physical craving and a psychological obsession with booze!  Do not try to attack this problem logically for there is no logic when we are talking about an alcoholic’s obsession with booze.

Alcoholics, when faced with the realization that they might have a problem, will try anything to drink like a normal person.  They will switch to beer only; they will try to drink only on weekends…..and on and on they go, and each attempt to modify their behavior ends in defeat.

We will never be able to drink like normal people. It ain’t going to happen, so the sooner we come to that realization the better.  However, it takes what it takes.  Some alcoholics have to suffer longer than others before they realize that for them, alcohol is the tomato that will kill them.

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DSCN0948There is a great calm that accompanies sobriety, but it takes time to reach that point.  Changing one’s life is not an overnight accomplishment.

There is an old saying in AA…..if you take the booze away from a drunk horse thief, you still have a horse thief.  We need to change who we are in order to find serenity.

When I first came to AA, I would hear about people who had twenty and thirty years of sobriety, and it seemed to me that they had to be lying.  There was no way someone could be sober that long.  Well, it turns out that you can, but you do it one day at a time.  Today is all that matters for this alcoholic.  I can’t be concerned with tomorrow, or next month, or five years down the road.  All I have to do is live a sober life today, and then when tomorrow comes I have a new day to be sober.

Before you know it, those days have added up to weeks, and then months, and one day you look in the mirror and realize that a different person is looking back at you, and that you in fact like this new person.

Yes, there is a great calm that accompanies sobriety, and you realize that great calm by taking care of business today.

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wash d.c.The U.S. CDC recently reported that 12,000 women and girls die each year from binge drinking.

I mention that because I want to point out that binge drinking does not necessarily mean alcoholism.  A person with little history of drinking can go out on the town, drink too much, and die of alcohol poisoning.  They could go to the beach on Spring break and drink too much over five or seven days, and die from it.  Remember that alcohol is a depressant, and if the body is not accustomed to that much alcohol, it can be fatal.

That is a completely different discussion than alcoholism.  Alcoholism is a disease featuring a physical craving and a psychological dependency, and it is characterized by a long history of excessive drinking.

One of the things that makes alcoholism such a sneaky bastard is the fact that nobody really knows they are alcoholic without first stepping into the waters.  The disease is genetic for sure, but it can skip generations, so there is no real way of knowing until it steps up and bites you in the ass.

My recommendation, and I rarely do this, but my recommendation is that if you have alcoholism in your family history, think long and hard before you start drinking.  Is it worth the risk just to get socially high with your friends?

If you would like to see my video on alcoholism, you can find it here.

And if you would like to purchase my ebook on this disease, you can find it here.

Thank you!

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teacherThere are no shortcuts in sobriety!  What does that mean?

It has been often said that alcohol is just a symptom of the real problem, and the real problem is the alcoholic.  Until we change who we are, and start living by a set of spiritual principles, we will always have the need to drink.

That’s what the 12 Steps of AA are all about, ridding ourselves of the old and ushering in the new.  We make a fearless inventory of our faults…we tell those faults to another human being…..we make a list of people we have harmed….and we make amends for those injuries that we caused.  That is the process of ridding ourselves of self….then we start over again, building a brand new person, a person who is guilt-free and living a life of humanness.

Without doing that, our chances of living a sober life are slim.

There are no shortcuts in sobriety!

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