So in my previous blog post I said I would tell you how I got successfully sober, I did everything listed below and more. My ‘story’ of that time is really not important, and I have told it before. Right now I do not need to revisit that whole story to share the juice of sobriety.
Suffice as to say ….
I was in deep addiction, I manifested dropping the bottom out of all my basic needs support systems, couldn’t pay the rent, nowhere to go, disillusioned with even considering I could get sober again for the umpteenth time, thought I had tried everything, year long addiction program, self help, healing ceremonies and rituals, leaving my addictive mate over and over again, and going back to him over and over again, I was hope free. However …. I had an amazing compassionate supportive circle of people in my life. My closest shamanic sister said the magic words I probably couldn’t have heard from anyone else.
“You can’t get sober and hold it staying in your life!” So I asked for help from my shamanic teachers, which led to a ‘Yes be out in BC on our land in 3 weeks, leave your car, I know you can do it, goodbye’ (I lived in Ottawa at the time). So, I closed up 3 business, sold, recycled and stored the balance of my possessions in about 3 different friends places, got gifted money from clients and my mom, broke up with my mate, kissed my adult daughter and family goodbye, and landed in BC 3 weeks later. Not quite sure how the heck I’d pulled it off. Ever seen ‘Galaxy Quest’ when the main character get’s shot from the spaceship to earth in the ‘jelly capsule’? Remember his reactions when he landed ….. same!
AND then the healing in sobriety began.
I have a lot of information below. Beware the dreaded overwhelm. If you feel so inclined pick one thing to try initially, do not set yourself up for failure by putting unrealistic expectations on yourself. Getting to sobriety is a journey that you start in addiction. Slowly, slowly you gain wisdom, knowledge and enough experience to get to successful sobriety. Remember you are always doing the best you can in each moment, even when it doesn’t look pretty! Sometimes it helps to see the little innocent child you were, help her/him/they to heal, get a photo, stick it somewhere to tap into that energy. Be gentle with yourself, as often as you can, and if you can’t perhaps that can be a goal?
Addiction is a way to numb pain
It is not in the substance or behaviour it’s in the brain
Do not ask: Why am I an addict?
Ask: What is causing me pain!
Dr. Gabor Maté, the preeminent authority on addiction today: a quick 3:25 mins. video on addiction
There is one underlying principle to sobriety, it is the ability to feel your pain and heal the traumas that have/are creating the pain.
Which if you could’ve done it alone you would have.
How many times have you tried ….. lots I am betting
You are not weak, it is not a matter of self control
You are brave, you are strong, you do battle every day in order to survive
You are warrior even if you do not feel that way right now
So you want to get sober ….
Are you doing it for you?
Getting sober for others, or because you think/feel you ‘should’ is a waste of time and energy, and just layers more guilt, shame and blame on top of that huge pile you’ve already accumulated each time you do not succeed.
Set yourself up for success:
~ Go for sobriety when you desire it with all your heart for yourself
~ Ensure your have un-judgemental compassionate support in place from day one of sobriety
~ Know that you are willing to make the radical changes necessary to support your sobriety
~ Know that you are willing to start the process of healing the pain and trauma of your past
~ Make sure you know where to get medical help if you need it.
Heal the pain and trauma = Sobriety
Sounds simple, well it’s not …..
The missing link to sobriety for many, is having a person or people who will hold a space for you with compassion for you to heal your trauma.
Which is why AA, NA, etc. are so popular, but in the end you need to stop telling your stories about addiction, it will not help you stay sober. It will keep you locked into your past, always afraid that you might go back into addiction. You will be a dry addict, not actively using in that moment, but holding your breath waiting for the next excuse that will validate going back into addition.
~ Healing while in addiction
~ Self awareness of your patterns, buttons, back doors. Not all at once, just start watching yourself, get to know how you tick.
~ A willingness to take responsibility for your actions
~ Understanding that stress is one of your biggest challenges. The more stressed you are the greater the risk that you will use. First stress of the day: you breathe deeply, 2nd stress you’re swearing, 3rd stress you kick something, 4th stress you’re yelling, 5th stress you’re white knuckling it, you’re overwhelmed, you cave and use. I’m not saying this is your pattern just an example of stress escalation.
~ Strategies, strategies lots of them, strategies are your friend.
No one strategy works all the time, so have lots
~ Knowing your ‘sweet spot’ as within that ‘sweet spot’ lies your greatest chance of success. It is those moments when you are so tired of the addiction dance you crave sobriety for you, as well as having practical matters aligned. i.e. a support system, a sober place to stay, medical support if needed and strategies. By extension know when you are most at risk. Where are you, how do you feel, what stresses you out. (This is a strategy)
~ Practice, patience and persistence – the 3 ‘P’s’ I used to call it and would use it as a mantra as well (This is a strategy)
If you think you don’t have those skills ……. Surprise! …. Yes you do.
Think of your determination when needing to score, the skills you used…. practice, patience and persistence. How often did you not score when you wanted to ……. yeh exactly, you got this!
Use those skills for your sobriety, it’s the exact same skill set just with a different goal.
~ Acknowledging your successes – Think of all those times you didn’t use when you wanted to, I promise you those moments far outweigh the moments you cave and use. Carry around a wee notebook and pen, every time you want to use and don’t mark it down, do not mark down when you cave, this is an acknowledging success piece (This is a strategy)
~ Mark each day of sobriety some how, whatever works for you. Make it visual. For 5 years I put a bead every day sober onto a string, and hung the strings around the room I lived in the most. (This is a strategy)
~ A willingness to keep fighting for yourself by doing your healing of past trauma(s)
~ It takes erasing your past history, not sitting in a circle rehashing your war stories, all that does is take your right back to those moments and keeps those memories alive.
~ Many attempts at sobriety, before you have a totally successful sobriety, sobriety that sticks. I have never heard of someone who tried first time and succeeded, I’m not saying it can’t happen it’s just not the norm.
If you were learning a new skill, trail and error would be expected,
so cut yourself some slack, at this point sobriety is a new skill.
You have found a way to numb your pain, forget your trauma for a little while, and now you’re asking yourself to take away the proverbial net.
That is no easy decision ….. it takes courage ….. you are a warrior!
Oh yes, I hear that negative internal dialogue, judging yourself, heaping guilt, shame and blame on yourself, ‘I’m not a warrior, what shit is she spewing,?” Blah, blah, blah. A lot of that may have been heaped on you from friends, family and/or society at large …. Guess what F_ _K them, they do not know your pain, your trauma, your battle, if they did they would have compassion, not judgement.
Compassion for yourself will be a huge turning point in your ability to attain and/or maintain sobriety, and increase your ability to do the courageous stuff, to heal.
My turning point as far as compassion for myself was about 3 months into my successful sobriety. As part of my healing journey the woman who was facilitating it gave me some homework. I was to read Gabor Maté’s ‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts – Close encounters with addiction’. I got the pieces I personally needed to have compassion for myself, and it rocked my world, it changed how I felt about myself dramatically.
~ The courage to get back on the horse if you go back into addiction
~ Learning what shakes you out of balance, your triggers, mirrors of self-reflection, your energy patterns.
~ Changing your life.
~ Cutting out anyone in your life that is an addict or linked to that world. That back door needs to be closed.
~ Closing all back doors to excuses to use, which means cutting out anyone in your life that uses substances or behaviours that were your addictions, IF they will not abstain when you’re around. This bit isn’t for life, but it takes many years in my experience before it’s not a trigger.
Now this then means quite often that to get sober you will have to leave a lot of people that you love/like behind. If you do not, your odds of being successful are unlikely. It can be a lonely road, but you have a choice doing all the work needed to become sober and leaving back doors open so you can fail with a convenient excuse, or getting ruthless and closing them all. You are a warrior you can take the path that leads to you winning the war not just one battle.
~ Forgiveness, you have to forgive yourself, you’re doing the best you can, and you keep trying
~ Cleaning up any messes you made while in addiction, owning your shit and apologizing for it, without expectation of forgiveness. You do it to clean up your emotional slate, regardless of their reaction. This is a friggin’ hard one, but really important. Make sure you have compassionate support when doing these pieces. You know that huge shit pile of shame, blame, guilt and self judgement, these are the additional pieces you added to the pile over and above the initial traumas that led to you choosing addiction as a means to survive your pain.
Another huge piece of unwrapping the puzzle for me anyway was with a biofeedback machine, from the HeartMath institute. With a simple program on the computer I was to get the program into ‘coherence’, the sweet spot where I was happy. So once I had that down, I started to play with my thoughts to see where some of my triggers were. I got the machine into coherence and thought one word ‘Cocaine’, my coherence vanished into the toilet, that didn’t surprise me, to this day 11 years later, I get butterflies in the stomach thinking the word.
What did surprise me, was that even though I got right back to thinking the thoughts that got me into coherence the first time, it took 3X as long to get me back to my happy place. This was shocking and illuminating to me. No wonder when we use ‘whatever’, the ability to stop gets harder and harder. We are less and less ‘at choice’, and this brings us to neurochemistry.
Which I know I said I’d deal with in this blog post, but I’m done for today. I’ll put it in my next one.
Dr. Gabor Maté videos – How Addiction Works – (There are many videos on YouTube, I’ve just picked one)
Dr. Gabor Maté books