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alcoholism anxiety Co-occurring Dual diagnosis mental health mental illness peer support politics Recovery

What did I sign up for?

I volunteered to lead one day in my AA group. It is not very complicated. They have a format and I pick a passage from AA literature to read, talk about 5 minutes and then open for discussion. But, I have social anxiety. It is much better than in the past but I am still nervous. On top of that, I told my friend I would speak on her podcast in January. That I am a bit terrified about.

I picked a chapter from the Big Book, More about Alcoholism, and will talk about doubting we are alcoholics. I think it will be good for me to hear others experiences. I just finished step 1- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

In my youth my life truly was unmanageable. I had rules for myself about when and where I could drink, by the time I stopped, to keep my drinking from getting out of hand. It is hard for me to see my life as unmanageable. I made a list and will continue to add to it, about being powerless and my life being unmanageable. I will refer to it when I have doubts.

As far as the podcast, I am going to be talking about myself, my experience with mental illness. I had an older brother who has passed away, who had a psychotic break in the 1970s. I am going to talk about his story, too.

My friend called to discuss the podcast with me. I froze on the first question. She asked me about being a mental health advocate. I think of myself more as my job title, a peer support specialist, or someone with lived experience. I have written letters for certain bills but am not very politically involved. We are going to talk again and hopefully I can relax. She can talk enough for the both of us. I just want it to go well.

Categories
12 step AA alcoholism Recovery sobriety Uncategorized

1 day at a time

I made it past 30 days of sobriety. My sponsor mailed me a chip. It says 1 month on the front and the serenity prayer on the back. I just see her on zoom or talk over the phone because of Covid-19. I am still working on the first step. I wrote down reasons I am powerless over alcohol and my life is unmanageable in my last post.

Everything I wrote is true, but I still have trouble. I identify as an alcoholic in the meeting, but I don’t completely agree. They say all you need to join is a desire to quit drinking, which I do. So, I am part of AA day by day. Today I will go to a meeting and call my sponsor. I won’t worry about tomorrow until it gets here.

Categories
12 step AA alcoholism anxiety Co-occurring Uncategorized

Powerless and Unmanageable

I am starting to work on the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous. My sponsor has me writing down how I am powerless over alcohol and that my life has become unmanageable.

It is hard. I like to think that with enough willpower I can do anything, but I have tried quitting on my own and that did not work. I have gotten sick, saying “never again” to go out the next night and drink again. I am endangering my physical and mental health, but I did not stop until very recently.

I considered the bottle to be a friend. It was always there, never let me down. I think I was developing a tolerance. I was having trouble getting a buzz. I was letting daily activities go to the wayside. I am terribly shy and needed a drink to socialize.

I was talking with a friend who is very involved in aa. She started telling me rules. You aren’t supposed to make changes the first year and I should be journaling were a couple. She was scaring me. I wondered what I was getting into. I called my sponsor and she said those things can be good but not required.

The meetings I have been going to are over Zoom. I can’t wait to meet people in person. I have just been going to women’s meetings. The ladies have been nice. I have 25 days sober. I am still a newcomer.

Categories
12 step AA alcoholism mental health mental illness peer support schizoaffective schizophrenia

Giving AA a chance

I had gone from abstinence to trying moderation with alcohol. I started having drinks after work, alone. The problem with that was I was letting other things go. My husband was walking the dog alone and I was not even showering as often. I have fatigue issues which only became worse.

I went to a zoom NAMI seminar and a psychiatrist I admire, Luis Sandoval, was talking about schizophrenia. Someone asked about substance use and he responded, You take medications to help you think clearly, why would you take something that interferes with that? Logically, I have known this, but for some reason this time it hit me. I decided to go to a zoom AA meeting afterwards.

I found a woman’s meeting that meets at the same time every day and have been going as often as I can. My start date is Oct 13, so I only have a week of sobriety so far. I have a friend who is very involved in AA and is giving me pointers. I asked a woman to be my sponsor and she said yes. She has me calling her every day and we will zoom once a week. I ordered the big book on kindle and have started to read.

I am not religious. My mom is Catholic and I recognize some similarities. Prayers, confession, etc. they asked me to end the last meeting with a prayer and the only one I know is the Serenity prayer, which was fine.

There are other options, as far as groups go, but I want to give AA a try. My sponsor says I can choose my higher power. I have not figured that out yet.

Categories
alcoholism Dual diagnosis life lessons Recovery

Book Review: From Park Bench to Park Ave

https://anthonyhowardbrown.com/book/

I recently was introduced to the author of “From Park Bench to Park Avenue”, Anthony Brown, when he spoke via Zoom, to a group at work. His story is riveting. I have not been reading many books lately, but his was hard to put down, His writing style is like he is talking, telling you his story. And what a story.

When all you have are bad options, you make poor choices. He transformed his life from substance use, homelessness, incarceration to running programs and getting an education in nursing + much more.

He is turning a building, Brown Manor, into a home for homeless people, like he had been once. Proceeds from the book and donations are helping fund it.

I find him inspiring and definitely recommend his book.

Categories
alcoholism hams SMART Uncategorized

Ambivalence about alcohol and HAMS

I am in a stage of ambivalence about drinking. I don’t know if I want to be 100% sober, but I don’t want to have the negatives from alcohol.

I did a cost benefit analysis, but still am unsure.

Health-wise, mental stability-wise, employment-wise I should at least only drink in moderation.

The main things I enjoy about alcohol: the way I feel, not as inhibited, something to do when bored and reduces my anxiety.

The things I don’t like are: getting sick, hangovers, health effects (mental and physical)

I went to a SMART Recovery meeting not long ago. If you don’t know what that is, it is on-line and in- person support for problem drinking. It is different from AA in many ways, but it is a sobriety program. At the end of the meeting I picked up brochures. One was on another support organization called HAMS. (Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation support.)

There are very few online HAMS meetings, but they have a website with information and a forum. Members call themselves HAMSters. They don’t have steps but they have elements. They are suggestions on how to proceed but you don’t need to do them in order or do all. The first element was to make a cost benefit, pros/cons of using and pros/cons of not using. I have done them before, but did it again. I carry it around with me in case I forget why I want to drink less (or not at all).

The next element is to make a plan. Mine keeps evolving. I don’t drink and drive, which I want to continue. This was not an issue in the past, but I went to some meetup group meetings that included alcohol. So, if I go to those, I need to get a ride or stay sober. I know I want to reduce the amount I drink to a level where I won’t get a hangover. I was drinking a glass that held about 3 shots, which I have reduced to 2 and stick with one glass.

I can find things to do, other than drinking when bored, but I have to find a better way to deal with strong emotions. People around me have a bad day and get irritable. Then I react by becoming an anxious mess and drink to deal with the feeling. Or, I go to one of those meetups and get so nervous. Or, I had a long day and want to unwind.

So, here I am trying to decide what I want to do.

Categories
alcoholism depression relapse suicide Uncategorized

Hypocrite much?

 

imageI feel like a sham

i tell people coping skills, but I have trouble doing them myself. My therapist told me to try mindfulness. I know what it is. I recommend it. But, my mind spins so much,  i can’t be “mindful”

i have trouble breathing, cbt is out the window, i can’t seem to act as if, if as if is that things don’t suck.

my life is fine, i am fixated on the past. And, that i can’t change it.

and of course, i suck, i suck, i suck!

i slipped and drank, too, which i feel bad about, but if it is drinking or suicide, i don’t think it will hurt.

i am safe. I am afraid i would mess up, as usual, and make my life worse.

i can’t be sick. It is not a good time. It is a very bad time.

Categories
alcoholism CBT distorted thinking Uncategorized urge

Distorted Thinking and Urges for Alcohol

 

Originally posted in Psych Central

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/05/distorted-thinking-and-urges-for-alcohol/

thinker

I have abstained from drinking alcohol for 6 months. Day to day, I rarely think about it. I go to weekly meetings and have tools. But, occasionally I get tempted. I went to a restaurant where the drinks were flowing and they looked good. But, I just looked.

Then, I got an annual review at work. It was mostly good, but I focused on the negative comments. It upset me and I felt sad. I came home and I had a strong desire to have a drink to numb my emotions. But, I did something else. I distracted myself. My son had a concert and then I kept myself busy until I fell asleep. I made it to another day.

I went to my group and we did a cognitive therapy sheet. In this sheet, you look for the activating event, the belief(s) (distorted, irrational), consequence of that belief. Then you dispute the belief to come up with more effective ways of thinking, and better emotional consequences.

The activating event was the review and the consequence was the urge. I had all kinds of distorted thoughts. The main one I came up with was that it was “all” bad. The members helped me come up with more. Then we disputed the thoughts and came up with something more balanced. I thought the negative comments are things I can work on. Even if I don’t believe the new thought 100%, it helps.. And, I am not as anxious, sad, moody now.

You don’t have to have a mental illness to have distorted thinking. Anyone can. Based on the work of Aaron Beck, David Burns wrote about 10 types of cognitive distortions in his book “Feeling Good- The New Mood Therapy”1

The types of distortions he lists are:

All-or-nothing or black-or-white thinking. This is one thing I was doing where since part of the review was bad, it was all bad
.
Overgeneralization- If it happened once it will repeat itself.

Mental filter– This is another thing I was doing, where I was only seeing the negative and not seeing the positive

Disqualifying the positive– dismissing compliments, praise

Jumping to conclusions by Mind Reading or Fortune Telling

Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization

Emotional Reasoning– Feelings are not facts

Should Statements

Labeling- Mislabeling or name calling

Personalization– attributing the blame to yourself when it is not all yours

By working through the Activating event, Belief, Consequence, Dispute Belief, effective ways of thinking and better emotional consequence, you can learn to deal with these distorted thoughts. They can help not only with urges but with anxiety, depression and just looking at things in a more balanced fashion.

1 “Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy” by David Burns

2 photo credit

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Categories
alcoholism Co-occurring contemplation relapse stages Uncategorized

Stages of Change in Recovery From Alcohol Addiction

Originally published in Psych Central

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/04/stages-of-change-in-recovery-from-alcohol-addiction/

stages of change

(Photo from SmartRecovery.org)

There are a number of stages one goes through when recovering from an addictive behavior.

1. Pre-contemplation — at this stage one is unaware of any problems. Others may point them out, but you have no interest in changing.

2. Contemplation– At this stage one is aware of the problem, but not sure how to change. You may be thinking about changing but ambivalent.

3. Preparation– You develop a plan to change behavior.

4. Action– Modify behavior to put plan into action

5. Maintenance-Able to stick with new behavior with minimum effort and strong commitment

6. (Termination)– In some recovery programs they have a step where you have completed and no longer have the addictive behavior.

(Relapse)-relapse may happen at any time. It is common, but not everyone has a relapse. A relapse is when you revert to the addictive behaviorI was in the pre-contemplation stage with my drinking for years. If people would suggest I had a problem, I thought it was their problem. I started having certain rules. I wouldn’t drink if I had to drive or if I had responsibilities.

When I contemplated changing, I was ambivalent. Not sure I wanted to abstain forever. Not sure it was a problem. I prepared and even started going into action and would stop drinking for a bit, but then I would relapsebecause I had not really made the decision to quit.

I had done cost/benefits (pros/cons) and knew it was beneficial to quit. I knew drinking wasn’t one of my priorities. I knew I would drink more than I wanted to and had trouble abstaining. But, there was a part of me that still said “you’ll miss out on the fun”. And, I may. I will also miss out on any consequences.

I am in active recovery right now. I have been going to meetings and sticking with a plan. I have worked on motivation and controlling urges. I am using cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques to control my distorted thinking.

I can resist temptations. I have been sober for 5 months straight. Another month of consistency and I believe I will be in the maintenance stage. At my work, they are training a couple of people, including me, to facilitate a SMART Recovery group. Facilitating should help keep me focused.

The end goal of these stages, is to live a life that is complete without alcohol.

Categories
AA alcoholism mental illness Recovery support Uncategorized

Finding Support for Mental Illness and Alcoholism

beachvacation

 

Originally published on Psych Central
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/finding-support-for-mental-illness-and-alcoholism/

It can be hard dealing with a mental illness and/or alcoholism without support from a loved one. Perhaps, they don’t recognize it as a real problem. They may be frightened or not comprehend what is happening. Sometimes, partners may even try to sabotage your recovery.

There could be any number of reasons why you could use some outside help.

Friends and family can be of assistance, but oftentimes they don’t understand.

One way of getting help is to go to support groups. There are national organizations for many types of mental illnesses, addictions or co-occurring disorders. AA has sponsors (I have never had one). You can also make friends and have someone to contact if you are having a rough time.

There is something about peer support, and being with others who have been there, that is special. I remember the first time I went to a (DBSA), Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, meeting. I was frustrated because I couldn’t find anything that sounded like me in the textbooks. Then, I met people I could relate to at the meeting. I had found “my people”. Now, I choose to work as a peer mentor because I believe in the power of peer support.

Professional help is good, too, though, not as readily available. I call my therapist when I am not doing well mentally.

You can turn to the internet. There are all types of message boards and chat rooms where you can go for support. You can meet people from all over the world to share experiences with.

Social media is a way of meeting people and blogging is a way to be heard.

They aren’t very common, but there are clubhouses or activity centers for people with mental illnesses. I work at one such center. We have all kinds of activities: gardening, art, music and a lot of different groups. It is a nice place to meet others and be supported.

Volunteering and helping others can help you, too. It can be rewarding and if you work with people with similar issues you may learn new resources or coping skills.

The main source of support you will find is within yourself. You will be the one to resist temptations and cravings. You will be the one to act on warning signs and develop coping skills.

When you are on your way in recovery, you may find you are stronger than you know.

Photo courtesy Max Pixel
http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Nature-Ocean-Beach-Thinking-Pensive-Waves-1927359