28 November 2018

RECOVERY FROM ADDICTION: Surrender to Win

*****
Imagine the lightest and brightest of white rooms, no windows, a closed door, you and nothing else for what seems like endless days. Avoided, ignored, rejected. This is you in solitary confinement. Eternal emptiness, no longer caring that you do not care.
*****
You had learned to despise yourself somewhere back before the drinks could no longer count themselves. A victim of substance abuse, you were frayed, hurting until it could no longer hurt. You shared adjoining rooms with desolation in this Funhouse of Addiction. Co-occurring disorders became the order of the day even when they didn't start out that way. Definitions were assigned to you with sharp pins. Maybe you felt them, maybe you didn't. Cluttered, dirty, cornered, you could no longer focus. Your strength was waning. All that was left was one last drink. The glass was too, too heavy. You could not pick it up. 
Hospitals. Detox after detox. A thousand means of exit from this insanity. Yet you stayed. Shunned, shamed, you felt as if you deserved no better....
*****
I was there once, too. 
In actuality, I could never manage my drinking. Endless nights of sitting in bars saying to myself that I would leave after I had just one more drink, then staying hours beyond endurance. And excuses which were really elaborate inventions to whitewash the truth.
*****
To any happy social drinker reading this, are you now beginning to see why I would never again risk a drink, to think that I, like you, could be a social drinker? Social drinker, beware, you may be heading to a thousand dead ends, like I did, before I surrendered and the war finally ended.
I never was not an alcoholic or so it seems. My will is to never try to be like the social drinkers of this world.
My drinking days are done.
Surrender. Surrender. The only way this addiction war may be won. 
Lay down your sword, your chalice, your armor. Surrender.
Sweet freedom. 
Can you taste it? 
There is enough for everyone.


*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal (An Autobiographical Fiction) http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
4,000+Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

25 November 2018

Merely Sober Became Clearly in Recovery

*****
"Tear down this wall," President Ronald Reagan declared in 1987, referring to the barrier which divided East and West Berlin. I was 37 years old at that time. It would be nine more years until that wall between addiction and recovery was first removed for me and I found my first period of sobriety. I lost most of the '80's and '90's to alcohol, yet I never quite really sought recovery. Didn't even know what recovery was. That's not how addiction worked in my case. I did not choose sobriety. It seemed to be bestowed upon me - the gift I never wanted or ever sought. I lived then, barely alive, unable to choose. Addiction silently anesthetized me. Lost in emptiness, living in a vacuum, all desire erased without a trace, except, of course for the ever-present alcohol. 
Passed out, picked up, stumbling in - every which way imaginable, I had found my way into the emergency room of the hospital. "Where am I?" Followed by... "How did I get in here?" 
I was a blackout drinker, continuing to drink far beyond my capacity to form memories. One time, I found myself emerging from a blackout outside the emergency room. Dying from drinking, wanting another and wanting none in equal measure, stunned, stoned, undone. Really, simply, I was on my way out of this life. The only thing I could think to say once escorted inside that last first time was "This is not working."
*****
Odd, isn't it, that wanting to drink and to not drink was an emergency? The desperation to survive equalled by this, the drink that was not there. I.... I was in the crosshairs. Positioning, aiming, measuring each step as I stumbled into the emergency room. Wanting to get sober so that I could then get drunk again. Properly. The way I used to. The way it could never be again. Addiction would not allow that. A blissful oblivion just another of addiction's illusions. No bliss. Just this... nothing.
I did not seek sobriety, per se, I simply did not want to feel that way of feeling nothing, depleted. Sobriety found me, it seemed. But remaining sober, to recover, would have to be earned. Walls would have to be destroyed, a foundation in recovery would need to be constructed. Windows, doors, bridges, opened, crossed. So much time would have to pass before my senses returned to me, before I could feel again.
Nothing to be lost. Everything to gain, but even that I did not know for a long time coming. My recovery was to be earned. Each and every day a little more productive. Many setbacks. Many outlooks changed. Perceptions rewired. Gratitude. Held gently, closely. Fears, slowly released.
*****
Was relapse really ever anything more than surrender to addiction? Rest and Recuperation, the military slang. That about describes my early failed attempts at recovery. Getting well enough to return to battle with the drink. R & R. That was about it those first few failed attempts. Under the influence still stronger than my building resistance. Each small, seeming failure part of my eventual success.
I never did really choose sobriety, but eventually, I did choose recovery. 
Yes... Sobriety is a Gift. Recovery is Earned.
The price of freedom from addiction is responsibility and all the work that that entails. The gift of sobriety was not mine to keep. Once given, I would have to work hard to keep it.
I did. I have. I am. I will.
Trudge on, fellow traveller. The road to recovery is at our feet. Trudge on. 
As each difficult day on the road to recovery progressed, it became a little easier, the options open to me a little wider. I would have to escape addiction's bottleneck. Time takes time. Wounds heal slowly. Lessons are not lessons until they are learned and lived.
I started out wanting only to get sober enough to get drunk again. My recovery has been earned and I keep it close to me, much as an alcoholic in their cups might clutch the bottle closer, my recovery is close to me and me to it.
I feel a gratitude that multitudes of us now feel, sober and alive, clear-headed, moving forward, proud and humble in equal measure... changed.



*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
4,000+ Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

23 November 2018

This (former) #Relapse King Adapts to a Healing #Recovery (better than ever)

*****
SPOILER ALERT: Remembering the future that awaits all in continuing recovery is part of the gratitude I have for a future of sober tomorrows.
*****
"Healing May Paper Over the Horror.... " I just read that line again and it was like a punch in my gut. It was part of a Tweet which reads: "Some people relapse starting with 'It couldn't have been that bad,' when, indeed, it was worse. Healing papers-over part of the horror...."
*****
True or not, I've also heard that for an alcoholic like me, alcohol had hijacked the part of my brain that includes the instinct for survival. Whether this is science or hearsay is a moot point. At one point (and it lasted for years) I felt as if I could not possibly exist without alcohol and that my life would be meaningless without it. I felt like a passenger on a plane that had been hijacked. 
If it's going to crash, give me another drink as it spirals downward....
*****
Now happily living with many years in Recovery under my belt, the very memory of the fact that I once thought I could not live without alcohol seems laughable. I have to remember that clearly and in a healthy way. The (former) Relapse King (that's me) must neither forget how bad it once was nor diminish the long, hard road that has brought me to today.
I have also learned to appreciate the many other memory-related problems that others endure, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which an individual gets kind of stuck reliving the distress of emotions and circumstances no longer necessary or actual in the present reality. Rather than remembering, relearning, healing and moving on, the memory repeats itself on an endless loop with little or no healing occurring. Clearly, I'm not a scientist, but I do have empathy for anyone who is suffering from or has suffered from PTSD. 
I suffered severe anxiety attacks when deep in my addiction to alcohol, but my anxiety in that dark place was a repeating loop-tape of a painful emptiness too difficult to quantify. If empathy isn't the right word, then perhaps the deepest of sympathies better describes my feelings for victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I've been somewhere near there. 
Luckily for me, my pain relived has softened over time.
Healing.
*****
PTSD, for many soldiers is a maladaptive response to the horrors of war. The horrors occurred and continue to reoccur in a way that is not healthy for the soldier or for those around him or her. Healing done not quite right, still raw.
My Recovery has been about healing, too.... 
Normally, when a bone is broken, it heals, and the patient moves on. But in addiction, more than bones are broken. The healing is on a different level than strictly the physical (put aside damage done to every organ of the body, some permanent, some temporary). Sometimes the psychic healing is wallpapered over and the pains that addiction has caused wane over time (the built-in forgetter being sort of the antithesis of PTSD). 
Again, healing done not quite right somehow.
*****
"It couldn't have been that bad. I got over it." A person accumulates a certain longevity in recovery. Things may be going well. Perhaps too well. They stop picking at the scab. The scab heals and goes away until eventually only a few scars are left. Even the scars begin to fade. "Maybe I can drink again, now that all the debris of my addiction has been dealt with. It couldn't have been that bad." At some point in the healing process that idle thought is apt to occur to almost anyone.
*****
There is no such thought allowed within my thick skull today.
It was that bad. 
It always got worse. 
Longer and longer periods of sobriety followed by shorter and ever more disastrous relapses. 
I will not let the healing process of recovery wallpaper over the horrors of addiction.
*****
Instead of wallpapering over the pain, I think I'll stick to reading THE WRITING ON THE WALL: "Make No Mistake. The Beast Inside is Sleeping, Not Dead [see illustration]."
*****
Oh... one last little thing.... It seems to me that my healing in recovery has surpassed the healing of a broken bone. A broken bone can heal only so well, back to its original form, at best. Recovery, seemingly, has this patient better off than I ever dreamed possible. 
Impossible? 
No. 
This (former) Relapse King is Living Proof.
*****
Remembering the future that awaits all in continuing recovery is part of the gratitude I have for a future of sober tomorrows. Let my memory of that, too, always remain clear.



*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
You might also like All Drinking Aside: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
4,000+ Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

19 November 2018

#Cancer / #Recovery... Part Five: FEAR

*****
"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind." - William Blake
*****
Frozen in Fear, 
alcohol 
paralyzed 
me. 
It was a savage fear, an untamed, malignant and rabid wolf whose jaws inescapably devoured me.
But let certain fears linger. Nurture them. The dangers aren't always imaginary! The pains of real harm may be prevented when fear is properly reined in. 
Wolves and dogs share a common ancestry and became domesticated, the cherished pets we have today. Fear, too, may be so domesticated, tamed. a tool for our protection instead of our destruction. Fear, tempered with knowledge, may be a saving grace. Let fear be like a beloved guard dog, protecting you and yours.
But mine, my fears, were the "reptiles of [my] mind." The dangers my fears concocted were imaginary. What I perceived in my alcoholic descent and in the crippling panic attacks which followed were the chronic, destructive forces of fear distorted by addiction, bubbling up from alcoholic delusions. The insane fears within my addiction's core would be dispelled by comforting care and thoughtful actions over vast periods of time. It would not be an easy fix. 
After 50,000 drinks in my less-than-illustrious 30-year drinking career, recovery has slowly taught me many lessons in sober living.
Recovery has altered my perception of fear and let reason in to conquer what once had seemed unconquerable. A healthy respect for fear slowly replaced the twisted culture of the false fear that was addiction's home. 
Fear, in remission, like a guard dog, gentle, but ever-ready to strike against realistic obstacles instead of the those reptiles of my mind. Here, now, today, my realistic fears move me in the direction of healing.
***** 
Truthfully, my cancer diagnosis was not much of a shocker to me. I was almost blasé about it, not dead in my tracks as one might suspect. A strength I did not know I had upwelled. My immediate, yet measured response was that I could handle this. Whatever it was, whatever the diagnosis, my recovery from addiction had given me the tools, knowledge and direction I would need to face all my fears, including cancer, directly, forthrightly. I would not respond in a way that was shifty, evasive or indirect. 
Boom! 
I called my doctor immediately and the whole process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery began.
*****
Shared Courage. Let me insert that right here before I go any further. Shared courage would pull me through. Shared Courage. Say it again. Let it really sink in. Friends, family, even my co-workers at the time would help to fortify my resolve. The way out is through. I learned this in recovery. 
*****
Fear of failure, of the unknown, fear of loss, even fear of success have been felt, recognized and dealt with by me and countless others. I dealt with these and other fears by having another drink in my addiction. Alcohol overcame me and became the only tool in my toolbox. My destruction became obsessively, progressively more inevitable. Finding recovery from alcohol would require new tools. The way out is through. And it is through Shared Courage that I would find my way in a sober world.
The mutual benefit of sharing with others is universal. Everyone is a winner. It is a lesson well-learned and transferrable to all life experiences, including my cancer diagnosis. I cannot do it alone. No one can. ("No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main" as John Donne so aptly described it.) Others are necessary, certainly, but not sufficient. We have to take part in our own recovery. 
Resolve. I needed to be focussed on my commitment to continue on my sober path. My strength has been bolstered by the bonds of unity with others. Humanity, my human glue, helped me piece together my shattered self in recovery from alcoholism and recovery from cancer requires these and newer, different and stronger bonds of connection to remain "a part of the main." Drugs, radiation and chemo were essential to me, but my connection with others would become part of my prescription for a fulfilling recovery.
*****
Like the flying buttresses on the world's greatest cathedrals, Shared Courage is an invisible, indivisible force in my recovery and from all that life may place on my pathway. Connections are a salvation of sorts for me. Addiction severed connection with all else. Cancer has become a Gift, feeding my Recovery from Addiction in ways both subtle and complex. Fear, used wisely and rationally will guide me forward, protect me, save me. Pass through it to survive, for survival is fear's real purpose.
Share your fears, your courage. Shared courage will make it all worth it, no matter the outcome.
For real.
Share.
*****




*****
Cancer Will Not Own Me / Control Me / Lessen Me
Addiction Will Not Own Me / Control Me / Lessen Me
Cancer Will Not Own Me / Control Me / Lessen Me
*****
You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
4,000+ Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts on LinkedIn: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b






17 November 2018

#Cancer / #Recovery... Part Four: VIRTUOUS CYCLES OF RECOVERY

*****
Since Time Immemorial, time has been the subject and the object of mankind's vain attempts at understanding time. Does time travel in a straight line, an ever-repeating circle, or, mysteriously, is time interwoven with space and somehow un-understandable? Does time tick with different tocks on different clocks at different times and places or is time a constant, immutable? Is it the edge of an infinite arc, curved or straight? On and on, time bewilders and beckons.
In my experience, time recycles itself, like the waves lapping the shore, beneath me, fanning outward and upward as it spreads out on the wide, slow tilt of the shoreline, drifting back into itself as gravity takes over the water's force, completing itself in hypnotic rhythms inescapable to the eye, palpable beneath my surfaces of consciousness.
The waves of time repeat themselves over and over again. Addiction and Recovery from Addiction, one wave. Cancer and Recovery from Cancer, another. Perpetual undulations emerge, hypnotic. Each wave, more fully whole, each virtuous wave of recovery completing itself with both an individual and group identity.
Time is Recovery. Recovery is Time.
Time beckons, let loose on the shore. All else seems out of sync. Addiction and cancer are beaten down by the wheels of time's perfection. Moments spray upon this landscape, grey and white mists, pastels, desired, held, caressed, released.
After living, after dying, addiction and cancer loose importance in the final tally. It is, was and will have been for recovery, recovery, recovery that meanings find their moments.
Addiction and Cancer have well-prepared me for future storms. Softened by experience, subtle, serene, like sea glass found on a thousand shores, I am me and you and we, smooth, malleable, modest and complete.
Cancer and Addiction, you are minor irritants. I will make a pearl of you, indistinguishable from the sea glass all around me.
Recovery is unbound. Time, irrelevant, here and now. Recovery is King. Virtuous Cycles Are My Everything.
*****
Cancer Will Not Own Me / Control Me / Lessen Me
Addiction Will Not Own Me / Control Me / Lessen Me
Cancer Will Not Own Me / Control Me / Lessen Me
*****


You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
4,000+ Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts on LinkedIn: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b


16 November 2018

#Cancer / #Recovery... Part Three: THE BLOOM OF GRATITUDE

*****
"Silent gratitude isn't very much use to anyone." - Gertrude Stein
*****
Given everything, earning nothing, surely we do not blame a child in swaddling clothes for declaring their wants and needs in cries and tears. But babies grow up and responsibilities are grown into. A temper tantrum could easily evolve into a sense of entitlement years down the road.
I believe gratitude can be taught because I learned all about it in my recovery from alcohol and other drugs. 
One of my favorite examples of an "Attitude of Gratitude" is depicted in a favorite scene from the movie, "Zorba the Greek." Here's how it plays out in my memory: Zorba sees an old man planting a seedling for a tree that will surely never bear fruit in the old man's lifetime. Perceiving this, Zorba inquires why the old man even bothered planting it. The old man replies that he chooses to live each day as if he will live forever. Floored, Zorba replies that he has always lived as if he could die at any moment. 
These stark contrasts in daily living clearly show how living life "One Day at a Time" may mean vastly different things to different people. 
Obviously, I veer closer to the old man's perspective (at this point, by my interpretation, Zorba's world had taken a seismic shift through this experience, and, frankly, this small scene rocked me to my core.) 
I am planting this post on the internet today, not knowing how distant in time and place that my planted seed of Gratitude my blossom and flower in a reader's heart.
In the Rooms of Recovery for Alcoholism and Other Addictions, in time, one will eventually hear something along the lines of "Sobriety is a Gift, Recovery is Earned." I would like to add here that Gratitude is a Two-Way Street, part Gift, part Earned. It is abundance on the smallest and the grandest scale. Gratitude is thriving, being most fully alive, fully present and fully accountable. It is a choice. It is not owed you, but you certainly owe it to yourself.
Entitlement? Those days are long gone for me, gone the way of the horse and buggy. Gratitude, older than the Mystics, Sweet Mystery, Sweet Desire, Eternal. Gratitude is the fulfillment of this very moment, pure being. In Gratitude, there simply is no room for a sense of entitlement.
Recovery, whatever you're recovering from, Cancer, Addiction, Someone Else or Yourself: Entitlement will not free your shackles! 
Gratitude is the surest path to follow! Taken from by book, I remind myself (daily, Zorba, daily!) that "nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober, everything matters more"!
Ditto on Gratitude! 
If and when you feel Entitlement rear its ugly head, rise up, count your blessings! They are numerable, innumerable and infinite! 
The whole is truly greater than the sum of all its parts. Cancer, addiction, recovery, joy, peace, hate, war... all are part of the whole of life. I am grateful for the whole of it and work toward changing the parts of it I can that may need to change (invoke "The Serenity Prayer" here).
In the meantime, I plant what seeds of gratitude I may, whether or not I live to see them bloom. 
To share our Gratitude is a win/win, most assuredly. 
Thank you, Gertrude. You are so right. "Silent gratitude isn't very much use to anyone." 
*****



You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
4,000+ Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts on LinkedIn: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

15 November 2018

Desolation, Isolation, Powerlessness



#Cancer / #Recovery... Part Two: Lies & Doubts

*****
In my experience, self-doubt has been the most crippling of all my uncertainties. My emotions were stymied during my alcoholic descent. Stigmas perpetuated my helplessness (Silence is Not Golden). My life became loosened, untethered, lost. So long drifting in a sea of alcohol, wasted, I lived a scrapheap existence. 
Talk of lies and doubts could fill volumes. It truly is for each reader to reflect upon their own experience. Lies we tell ourselves. Lies told us. Too many to enumerate. We have our own particular histories, each and all. Self-doubt, crises of belief, gut feelings, crippling anxieties and on and on. Suffice it to say that the biggest lie addiction told me was "You Deserve No Better." That was so self-defeating (yes, many an alcoholic listen to their bottles' proclamations). Not unlike spousal abuse, it came on slowly as addiction to alcohol crept over me in all its subtleties. Eventually, I wished I were dead, life seeming so not worth living under addiction's spell. At that time, I knew of no possible, desirable alternative.
From my recovery from addiction I learned that I would not let my cancer diagnosis and treatment defeat me. I would and did emerge more-fully-whole.
Recovery from both Cancer and Addiction share the importance of connections with others for me. Lies and doubts were swallowing me in my addiction and may have not let go in recovery were it not for connection with others. Individual and group therapy, including, but not limited to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, were necessary for me early on and continue their importance today. As for my Cancer Recovery, Gilda's Club has become increasingly beneficial to me since my chemo and radiation treatments have ended. My very recent tests show an absence of cancer, but that does not mean an end to my recovery. I'm committed to staying connected with all Recovering Communities. 
As I said in Part One... "Recovery from Addiction has taught me to be strong in my weakness. Recovery is Resilience, win or lose." Staying connected is my key to Resilience against Addiction, Cancer, Lies, Doubts and all else this life may bring my way.
*****
Through Recovery from Addiction, I have learned that Addiction disconnects and Recovery connects and reconnects in both the brashest and most subtle ways. The way out is through. Survival is connecting. 
My tools are honed.
Life has become my home, is now my home, will remain my home.
Lies and doubts or no, connect, connect.
*****
(To Be Continued as New Perspectives on My Recent Cancer Recovery Take Center Stage)



*****
You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
4,000+ Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts on LinkedIn: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

14 November 2018

#Cancer Joins the Joyous (Yet Harrowing) #Recovery Parade... Part One: "NEW BEGINNINGS... "

*****
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus
*****
The lump on my throat popped out when I raised my head to the water streaming down on me in the shower in March. During April, I visited my family doctor who sent me to a local specialist and in fairly quick succession I'd visited a surgeon and two chemo and radiation specialists. 
My 7 weeks of Chemo and Radiation started in May and ended in July. 
During this time, I wrote 25 Posts related to Cancer specifically, and to Recovery in general.
Now, until I'm rechecked in January, I have been declared Cancer-Free.
*****
Gleaned from those 25 Cancer Recovery Posts, I'm revisiting there, deleting, refreshing & re-posting portions & adding acquired new perspectives as my journey moves forward. With minor changes, below, find one of those earlier posts!
*****
(Recovery from Addiction has taught me to be strong in my weakness. Recovery is Resilience, win or lose.)
*****
"New Beginnings Are Often Disguised as Painful Endings." - Lao Tzu
*****
My 13 Years of Recovery from Addiction to alcohol and other substances had been like Kindergarten through the 12th Grade for me. I sought pity and lived in self-pity when I initially got sober at the age of 46. Cancer is a completely different beast, but the tools I have acquired over the years were becoming handy once again.
You see, now I'd Graduated... to Cancer. The tools, the mindset, the hopes, actions, seeking of help, my striving to helping others... etc. All have been part of my becoming more human - despite, or perhaps because of, what may at first have appeared only as setbacks. How we survive, how we recover and how we learn to be more present, more fully alive, are all in the stewpot of emotions and actions that have brought us to the present moment. We can stew in our own sour juices or thrive on the new perspectives that adversity have brought our way. 
I must admit that all of the above was a Pep-Talk to me - from me - back then. That my experience could possibly help others is a total win/win for me, here and now and into the future. The WE of our common humanity reveals itself in the most kind - and devilish ways at times. (I have learned to stay connected.)
Human Glue, sharing and caring, has helped put me back together time and again, no matter my problem or condition. (I must remember to stay connected.)
"New Beginnings Are Often Disguised as Painful Endings." Lao Tzu scribed those words well over 2,500 years ago. His words are a Gift from the Ages. Take it from there. Carry it with you.
Cancer, and Recovery from it, at times has made me feel weak. Lessons will be learned on the road ahead. 
Recovery from Addiction has taught me to be strong in my weakness. Resilience will be part of the solution, no matter the outcome. Recovery from Addiction has taught me to be strong in my weakness, repeat, repeat.
*****
(To Be Continued as New Perspectives on My Recent Cancer Recovery Take Center Stage)
*****



You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
4,000+ Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts on LinkedIn: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

10 November 2018

VETERANS DAY: A Remembrance of PTSD & Death by Addiction

*****
In remembrance of Veterans Day, below, find what were once two separate posts. I've put them together here, next to each other, as fitting companions reflecting two of the horrific outcomes our Veterans too often face, PTSD & Death by Addiction.
Here they are, in order, in honor of the living and the dead:
*****
PTSD (in 9 short sentences, 153 years of history tracing what we called it and how it changed us):

A soldier's heart is what they called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the U.S. Civil War (which ended in 1865, one hundred and fifty three years ago). They did not know what else to call it. It was at the core of what they felt. "He's suffering from soldier's heart," they said.
Time marches on (and did march on) and during WWI the same sick soldier would be called shell-shocked. The munitions changed and the positions changed, the diagnoses altered slightly from the soldier's heart to the shell casings of bombs dropped too near.
The concentric circles of war overlapped once again in WWII and combat stress reaction and a spray of other diagnoses erupted as the medicalization of symptoms evolved and the prescriptions changed.
Today we call it PTSD and for a second we may look upon that same soldier as if under a microscope whose magnification may bring us closer to the truth found possible through advanced scientific methodologies, yet somehow further from the man, the man an echo beneath a barrage of symptoms.
Do not forget a soldier's heart.


(Please note: When I first heard about Soldier's Heart, I was immediately reminded of PTSD and how I felt when I first hit bottom in 1996 - lost in terror.)

*****
THE TOMB OF THE ANONYMOUS ADDICT

Sometimes walking down the street you think you hear the sound of leaves scuttling along, but these are the plans, hopes, dreams of the dead. Wind barely whispering over the green lips of empty bottles, syringes puncturing the silence in their stillness. Sentences gasping for a last breath, forever unfinished.
The Tomb of the Anonymous Addict is really many tombs in many doorways, further down anonymous valleys than any still alive have ever ventured.
No such monument truly exists. It's undedicated, the dead remains unidentified. It is truly unnamed and unguarded.
It tires me, this Tomb of the Anonymous Addict. It exists in my mind only.
And it makes me weary. 




*****
[A short note on the author: Jim Anders is also the author of the Autobiographical Fiction titled ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO ]

09 November 2018

RECOVERY: The Stranglehold of STIGMA Realigned

*****
"... He is talking, but I cannot hear the sin. The sin is inside of him.... The sin is emptiness. Vatchi, this makes me... sad. Alcoholism. His disease is emptiness." - (Sotto in All Drinking Aside)
*****
No admitting nurse in my many and various emergency room visitations ever diagnosed me with emptiness. The truth is in the feel of it, the emptiness of finally knowing that I would drink no matter what. I had become an emptiness that only alcohol could fill. The emptiness that came when it had failed to fill. Of ever-wanting more.
*****
My early recovery had many roadblocks. Stigma encompassed my inward-turning emotions, much as alcohol had become a stuffing, a deadening of feelings. Disorientation, shame, self-blame, an empty warehouse of my worthlessness. I hated myself for being an alcoholic. I felt I could never remain sober and didn't really deserve to be. Like a victim of spousal abuse, addiction left me with nothing and feeling I deserved no better.
It seemed that all the world scorned in alcoholics and addicts, I scorned within me.
*****
Saying "I am an alcoholic" changed meaning as time passed. It would take time to remove self-hatred from the mantelpiece of recovery. I would need to realign all definitions of myself newly substance-free. Stigma, thriving on my silence, would be broken. The metamorphosis from self-hatred to an honest and balanced sense of self-worth would evolve slowly, unencumbered by stigma left to drift silently to the floor.
*****
If addiction were a simple thing, people would simply quit on their own and recovery would be a moot point. Help would be needed and faith-based recovery tents and evidence-based recovery tents would line the opposite banks of the the river of lost bodies and souls drifting by, in isolation, seeking help, some dying while they claimed that they did not need help.
*****
Now in recovery for the long haul, my hope is that my experience, as best as I may express it, may open windows and doors, create bridges. One alcoholic to another, one addict to another, one human being to another.
Hope has often sustained me until evidence has been unearthed. I am most happy with what works best for you. Alcohol, for me, was its own proof, a world of relentless insanity in which I was swallowed up in for thirty years and have now found release.
*****
Recovery is my truth.


*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts on LinkedIn here: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

FLIP THE SCRIPT! Turn "Just Say No!" (to drugs) to "Just Say Yes!" (to seeking help)

*****
"I survived the alcohol and now I must survive myself." - (p. 113, All Drinking Aside)
*****
LOST & FOUND: I Lost Everything Before I Found Myself.
*****
Yes. But did it have to be this way?
Is "Hitting Bottom" ever really a requirement before long-term Recovery may be found?
The answer, of course, is a resounding "No!"
*****
My alcohol consumption seemed to have reached a tipping point some short time following my fairly fun first decade of use. Alcoholism is slow and torturous, unlike the fast and furious descent of many other addictions. My whole life became nearly a textbook testament to alcohol's destructive forces. Some time after my first decade of drinking, I somehow lost all control of my consumption and my grip on reality loosened... and unloosened. Alcohol went from being a series of periodic binges to a daily necessity. Life hardly seemed worth living without it and barely seemed worth living with it. My love of alcohol turned into a love-hate relationship buffered by thick layers of denial. I craved alcohol above all else and could not stop, even if and when I occasionally considered it.
My addiction, in hindsight, seems to have hijacked the survival part of my brain. Survival would include alcohol above all else. My instinct to survive was perverted, twisted and totally distorted under the influence of alcohol. I came to believe that survival would be unthinkable without it. Consequences be damned. I needed a drink and I needed it now, now, now, now and now.
*****
In hindsight, it may appear that losing everything was a necessary precondition to finding recovery and finding my place in it. But is "Hitting Bottom" ever really a requirement before long-term Recovery may be found?
The Stigmas surrounding Addiction have been mentioned by me in several other posts. The world shames us and so we live in shame, not seeking help to find a clean and sober life. Addiction erodes the addict's mental health such that when treatment is finally sought, whatever mental health one may have had prior to addiction will surely have eroded by the time addiction has had its way on them. Discrimination and exclusion from the outside perpetuate addiction.
Even in some Recovering Communities, a certain myth about finding Recovery exists. That myth is that before recovery can be found, the alcoholic and addict must hit bottom first. The willingness to find help may thus be eclipsed by thoughts of having not yet hitting bottom. Harm reduction isn't even in the equation here for some.
Speaking only for myself, my only bottom, truly, finally, would have been death. My brain always seemed to want more alcohol than my level of tolerance at every point in my descent. The only way that I would ever stop was when an overdose of alcohol took my body down and out.
Ignorant of recovery when I first got sober, the idea of hitting bottom was new to me. It invited questions that should perhaps not be asked. Doubt can, and did creep in. The thought entered my head that perhaps I had not hit bottom yet.  
Help is here and now for anyone and everyone, no matter how close or far away one is from some imaginary bottom. Crash and burn, crash and burn. That was always where and how I landed. Would I need a low, lower, lowest-point for recovery to magically begin to happen? Why would things have to get worse before they could possibly get better? How about seek help BEFORE it gets worse?
Instead of the disaster produced by Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No!" campaign, why don't we flip the script to "Just Say Yes!" to treatment at the earliest possible moment? Save what's left while there's still something to save and BEFORE things get inevitably worse. Hit bottom first... be damned.
*****
FLIP THE SCRIPT! Turn "Just Say No!" (to drugs) to "Just Say Yes!" (to seeking help). The Sooner, the Better! No More "Must Hit Bottom First."
*****
"It Works When You Work It! (Let's keep that one!)
*****
"Just Say Yes!"


*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."
*****
You may also enjoy ALL DRINKING ASIDE: The Destruction, Deconstruction & Reconstruction of an Alcoholic Animal http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO 
Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ Recovery Posts on LinkedIn here: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b

06 November 2018

The Then & Now of ADDICTION & RECOVERY (X 7)

*****
Looking backward can be thorny and negative, but stuffing memories and the emotions attached to them may be worse. "Don't cry over spilled milk" will not solve or absolve anything. As Pearl S. Buck said, "One faces the future with one's past." 

In my recovery, I had to start somewhere. When I got sober, I had nothing, was nothing. Every choice started, finished and included alcohol until alcohol left nothing in its wake. 

Like seeds scattered in the wind, some of my memories sprouted within and blossomed in what became changes in my thinking, feeling and living in the present. Sustained sobriety has borne fruit from the wreckage of my past. To quote Viktor Frankl, "Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning in the way in which we respond to it." 

Here are 7 Looks Backward / 7 Looks Inward:
*****
1. Then... 
"Jane's addiction decided for her that she had suffered enough.... The pain of being unable to feel the pain was enough. The unbearable pain of the struggle to be free of her addiction was a giant wave whose undertow drew her back to the ocean of her addiction. She could no longer live free. No longer free. Under she went. The undertow of addiction drowned her. Jane's addiction could not undecide her death."

& Now... 
I am still sad at addiction's toll seen all around me. The world-at-large is finally beginning to see it, too. Can those who are lost or once were lost be the only ones who can understand? Can empathy be learned, hatred unlearned?

Can new connections form once we lay down our swords? Now I am clean. Now I am sober. And yet more die everyday. There is gratitude to be found. In then... and in now.
Lay down your sword.

2. Then... 
"Cocaine was one of many forces which drove me to my bottom. Less blackouts, more binges. I might have died a horrible death years and years later from alcohol alone. Cocaine and other drugs sped the progression of my alcoholism. Thanks Cocaine & Company!"

& Now... 
The flip-side of that coin is that even with double-digit sobriety, I'm prone to believe that just because I'm a dyed in the wool alcoholic, any and all other drugs could take me back out there. More twisted than a swizzle stick, today, again I say, "Thank You for Keeping Me Sober Today, Cocaine & Company!"

3. Then... 
"Addiction is godless, headless, insane. It rejects faith, reason, feelings. Addiction is heartless, the blackest night. No light. No sun. No stars. In its nothingness, we feel nothing and accept that nothing is acceptable and true. 'Cunning. Baffling. Powerful.'"

& Now... 
After the artificial extremes addiction seemingly provided, in recovery, my balance rebounded. Alcohol, in a class by itself, each day elevated me for the first few drinks, then, after blackout drinking for untold hours, crashed me down and out. All the while, I was separate from reality. Recovery heals. Recovery is life, pure and simple. Living. Connected, reconnected, alive.

4. Then... 
"There was a time when I was not there, but I did not know it yet. I would drink to forget, forgetting what I did not know. Not yet. I did not know yet. Where was I then, when I was not there? For years I lived somewhere between myself and the next drink. I would drink to forget what I could not think, halfway to nowhere and another drink. I was grieving and I did not know it. Someone was dying, but I could not feel it, feel my own dying. I could not own it because it owned me. Denial is so hard to feel, yet, there it is, standing next to you. You: Halfway to nowhere and another drink."

& Now... 
I am more fully present, not always, but long enough, sometimes, that the yearning that is addiction is not there. Living in the absence of the pull of the glass brings me peace. Neither thought of, nor need for the substances of addiction. Sobriety is peace, its own reward. The punishment is over. That punishment I had called desire, that pull of the glass... is over. Sobriety, fine-tuned, is a succession of feelings that you have arrived. It is not destination, but the lips almost say yes, nothing... is enough. You... are enough. There is a certain music to recovery, a harmony. Addiction is nothing but discord....

5. Then... 
"Addiction is a beast that lives within you. You cannot kill the beast. Denial, anger, fear will not kill it. Begging, pleading, blaming will not tame it. Depression, self-pity, doubt: they only feed it. Confront it. Accept it. The beast will never die."

& Now... 
Gratitude can grow from unexpected sources. Know that addiction is treatable, that recovery is doable and new growth is possible, inevitable. A serendipity serene, help-interwoven, options well-chosen, sobriety itself - golden. Enough is enough is enough... sober.

6. Then... 
"An avalanche and then forgetful snow. This is how I would die. Death by alcohol. It would seem to comfort as it killed..."

& Now... 
"Nothing matters more than that we remain sober because when we remain sober everything matters more."

7. Then... 
"Insanity's bouquet is not of different colored roses, or different flowers of various sorts. It's a bouquet of weapons, destruction, defense and offense, all wrapped in lies and gin-soaked tears, false laughter, hollowed-out bones. This is insanity's bouquet. Hot steel, cold steel, nothing. I will fill the black holes of my memory with a retrained brain. Live my way sober or lie my way drunk, powerless victim or sober victor. One foot in front of the other...."

& Now... 
The absolute desperation then, finally, knowing I was dying and knowing that the only way I could survive this was with help, without alcohol and with a boatload of hope in a sea of doubt. Fear. So much fear. This took many years. No "21 Days to a New and Better You." Alcohol had hijacked the survival part of my brain. Relapse. Relapse. Relapse. Sober roots. Sober wings. Of this I sing. Today, bursting with life, not battered and broken by decades drunk downward.
*****
The many seeds sprouted as a direct result of dealing with my tumultuous past have finally, borne fruit. And from that fruit future seeds will soon be found and on and on the future unfolds, generation upon generation of recovery flowering, going to seed and flowering again. Such is the nature of this good and sober life. Drink after drink after drink after drink only killed. Even desperation suffered under addiction's spell.

The taste, smell and touch of recovery is unmatched by the numb and dumb of the damned next drink. Recovery is looking backward, forging forward, pungent, palpable, doable, livable, lush.
LOL... not that kind of lush!
And yes, I remember it well!


*****
#Alcoholism #Addiction #Recovery
*****
Passages in quotes are excerpted from All Drinking Aside: http://amzn.to/1bX6JyO
Recovery Tweets: http://twitter.com/JimAnders4
99+ more Recovery Posts: https://goo.gl/fmzt9b