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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 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
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
alcoholism anxiety Co-occurring Dual diagnosis mental illness Recovery schizoaffective stigma Uncategorized

The Stigma of Co-Occurring Disorders

In my opinion, this is my best yet 🙂

Originally published on Psych Central
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/triple-winner/2017/03/the-stigma-of-co-occurring-disorders/

There is a great deal of stigma attached with both mental illnesses and addictions. That is one reason I talk about my experiences. So, others won’t feel alone, and, to put a face to these conditions. It is scary to get a diagnosis of a life-long mental health condition that all you have heard are extreme negatives. People can lose hope. And, people fear what they don’t know.

I also have shame, or self-stigma. I have worked on accepting the schizoaffective diagnosis and at this point am okay. There was a time when I felt, less than, because of the severe symptoms. Now, I know I could not control what happened in the past, and just work on staying stable.

Social anxiety is something I contend with daily, and I cannot seem to prepare enough. I don’t know if I can ever accept how limiting it is for me. There are some things, like volunteering at my children’s school events, that are just too busy for me. I cannot enjoy shopping or parties, I just want an exit. I have worked very hard on this and work with people now and even do public speaking, but it is difficult.

The alcohol addiction label is new to me. In the program I am doing, SMART Recovery, they don’t give labels. But, I need to call it something. The drinking is not new, just the acknowledgement.

There are choices of programs for changing addictive behaviors. Some people work more than one at a time. This was just one that seems to fit my philosophy. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles and I already learned some of those for my anxiety.

I haven’t had serious consequences from drinking. No DUIs or jail time, No relationship problems. But, I drink more than I would like to and it is hard for me to abstain completely.

When I started this blog, I decided I would like to write about the alcohol component along with the mental illness. So many of us have co-occurring disorders. I was excited, and then, I paused. What will people I know think when they see ‘alcoholic’?

Then I giggled. First, because I can’t decide which is the lesser of 2 stigmas (it doesn’t matter). And then, because they all have seen me drink. It isn’t really a surprise.

The secret is that I am working on it.

Info on SMART Recovery

Self-Help Addiction Recovery – SMART Recovery 4-Point Program – Alternative to AA

Info on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
http://www.aa.org/