Why Does Everything Have to be About Recovery?

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By: Jana Greene

There are some things that normal people just don’t understand … like an active recovery life.

You can’t really blame them. If I hadn’t the experience with making everything about drinking, I wouldn’t understand either. Recovery Warriors are a hard-core bunch, making everything about getting and staying well.

Recovery, recovery, recovery.

I’m absolutely certain that many people – even those who love us dearly – harbor the secret thought “Get over it, already! You’re sober now….why the obsession with recovery?”

What they don’t know and cannot understand is that we addicts and alcoholics have two speeds only: Active disease or active recovery.

Those are our two only choices.

Yes, you can stay sober without putting a recovery spin on all areas of your life. You can be dry and clean. But in order to grow and thrive in a spirit that you’ve previously pickled and poisoned, you need to find alternate ways of dealing with Life on Life’s Terms, which I think we can all agree is brutal.

Our disease affected everything!

Because everything was about alcohol when I was active in my disease and something had to fill that empty space when I left it’s sorry ass.

Every day you wake with breath in your body, you have two choices.

ONLY TWO.

You can:

A) Obsess about your drug of choice – Keep everything about your addiction.

If you are drinking or using and are an addict, this is your default setting. You do it without thinking, even though it’s all you think about. Woven into choosing this choice are the possibilities of destruction, irreparable shame, sickness, and self-hatred. It is too often the route to death, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically.

Most every minute of the day is spent either partaking in your drug of choice, feeling shame for having partaken in your drug of choice, and spending all available energies on obsessing about when you can do it again, which you swear you will never do again each and every time. And then you wake up the next day obsessed with doing it again.

B) Obsess about Recovery – Keep everything about becoming WHOLE

When you make the right choice, you lose your relationship with the abusive spouse of drink or drug. But that is ALL you lose, and when you get far enough away from it, you will more clearly see how abusive your default setting really was.

Doing the work of recovery is a life-long pursuit – just as active addiction was.

It is not a 90-day long stint in rehab, or an event you can attend and then move on to other things. If your sobriety is not nurtured and tended to, your spirit will turn back to it’s default setting of using.

In a victorious recovery life, most every minute of the day is spent maintaining that beautiful gift, learning new and healthy coping skills for dealing with issues, celebrating your clarity and ability to appreciate who God has truly intended you to be. It is time well spent, I promise.

Gratitude fills the space shame used to occupy. Clarity spills into the cracks where denial used to reside.

Recovery affects everything!

There is no magic pill to fix addiction. But there is an antidote to it:

It is active recovery.

It has to become what you are all about.

Life instead.

Who in their right mind would bring their deepest, darkest secrets out into the light for all to see?

Someone who has a story to tell that might help others out of the pit of despair that is obsession with using.

And somebody somewhere needs to know about your recovery story, Recovery Warrior.

What will be your obsession?

Recovery Option “B” – Have Faith Anyway

bBy: Jana Greene

Very recently, I came across the prayer journal that I  kept before I got sober on January 3, 2001. That is my D.O.S. (date of sobriety) which has become far more meaningful to me than my birthday or any other anniversary.

In this particular journal, the entries began about a month before my D.O.S. (the date in which my sobriety ‘stuck’) and continues only through about six months into recovery. There are about ten entries, total. It would not seem to be a very in-depth journaling exercise if, say, I were being graded on it. But I wasn’t being graded on it, of course. The number one key to keeping a journal, in my humble opinion, is remembering that nobody is going to grade you on it. It is for the benefit of you own tender spirit, and no one else.

I sat down with a cup of coffee to read my old, cringe-worthy journal just the other day.

On an entry dated December 11, 2000 – about three weeks before I came to the end of myself in my addiction – I am hopeful at the top of the page:

Reflections/notes: “I am saving this space to write in tonight when I am tempted to drink.”

And then scrawled in the center of the page many hours later …

Drank anyway.

Even today, nearly 15 years later, I can feel the collapse of my heart as if it just happened. Oh how vividly I remember that sensation of disappointment. I hope I always remember it, it helps keep me sober today.

In between those two writings, a full-on war was going on inside of me. Picking up a drink was, for me, setting down a portion of my faith that God was in control and could handle my problems. Drinking was my way of sitting out the game. Not only did I relinquish my part in saving my own ass, but I was shaking my fist at God for not helping me save it. By continuing to pick up, I was in essence tying the hands of God. He is a gentleman, you see, and will coerce by force. There must be surrender.

I don’t know why it took so long for my sobriety to become ‘sticky,’ I only know that it took what it took. And I know that I had to do the work to put my disease in its place. Meetings. Prayers. Surrender every minute of the day. Strategy. Every war requires expert strategists or it is doomed to fail.

Part of the strategy in very early sobriety was to give myself only two choices. Any more than two were completely overwhelming.

Today will be challenging in the same old ways. It will also be challenging in some brand-new ways. You have a choice. You can …

A) Drink/use anyway.

or

B) Have faith anyway.

The latter is so much more difficult than the former. But choosing the second option saved my life.

“Having faith anyway” looks messy! It means believing that which seems completely impossible. It means accepting THIS, one day at a time, one hour at a time, one SECOND at a time, if need be.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28 (MSG)

It’s interesting to read the journal entries that followed. They were desperate. Here is the entry from five days sober:

“I cannot drink today, not today. Maybe not ever again. Nobody knows the extent of my disease. My hands are trembling, holding this pen. I feel toxic, inside and out. The alcohol is bad for my body but worse for my soul. It’s like acid and sweet nectar of oblivion, all in one. I cannot serve two gods anymore. I can feel the hand of Jesus reaching to me, I know He is with me, even now. I used to boast that Jesus was my crutch. I used to be embittered by all that happens in life, and talked to him every day. Over the years, the wine instead became my crutch….just a ‘little something’ to relax me, and then a few more, and then I don’t even remember, until an empty bottle or box. And so here I am on this cool January morning, trembling and calling out the demon. I want God back at the helm, and it’s not because I ‘deserve’ it, but because of this amazing, impossible-to-comprehend gift of Grace. I don’t want to feel the constant shame, the uneasy and bewildering guilt anymore. I’m ready to change, with His help.”

Lots of other notes in the journal follow.

“Okay, God….what is the DEAL with my LIFE?”

and …

“Help me, God, I cannot do this!”

But I COULD choose option B…Have faith that if I surrender to the will of God, I will survive it – and thrive, even.

And so I chose Recovery Option B, no matter what.

Is everything falling apart and you can see no possible resolution? Choose faith anyway. He’s Got this, if you only surrender your will to His.

Are you hurting – mind, body, and soul?

Choose faith anyway. NOTHING has ever been healed by drinking / using the toxins.

Angry, bitter, fed-up?

Don’t pick up and HAVE FAITH ANYWAY. Have faith that your D.O.S. – that glorious, meaningful GIFT of a date – is yours to keep, but you’ve got to work to keep it.

And surround yourself in a healthy recovery community. Journal, if it helps, and remember nobody is grading you! Don’t sit out the game of your own life. Don’t tie the hands of God. He has SUCH good plans for you. He knows you far better than you know yourself. And He is madly in love with YOU. When you get tired, ask for His Spirit to help you along. It’s a messy thing, recovery. But oh how your tender spirit will rejoice on the journey, one single day at a time.

It can save your life.

It saved mine.

 

 

Crouching Dragon, Hidden Feelings – Binge eating and temporary comfort

Dragonblog

By: Jana Greene

There is something so humbling about attending a 12-Step meeting, thinking “Whew! I’m glad I’m not THAT crazy person anymore!” and then waking up to walk on a carpet of pork rinds in your own bedroom. It kind of really drives things home.

I haven’t had a drink in nearly 15 years. As an alcoholic, I cannot afford to have even one.

That’s the truth about my drinking.

The truth about my ‘everything else?’ Its a little more complicated. I’ve heard it said that recovery is like peeling an onion – you address one issue and another is exposed. It’s so true.

Like this morning. I stepped out of bed, and into a pile of miscellaneous crumbs. They are miscellaneous because I parked out in bed last night (after a day battling chronic illness and a plethora of other minutia) I decided to binge on potato chips, pork rinds (pork rinds!) AND pickles, mindlessly, like a glassy-eyed Cookie Monster. Oh, wait. There WERE cookies involved too. I get so INTO food sometimes that I forget to taste it, and tasting it was not the priority anyway.

Eating my feelings was the priority. I am still – after all these years of NOT drinking – learning what to DO with all of these FEELINGS. There are so many of them, all the time.

The evidence of a ‘morning after’ eating binge can be just as distressing as a morning after alcohol binge. You wake up with that ‘what did I do last night?’ introductory thought, followed by deep shame and guilt when you remember (IF you remember, because sometimes I get so into it, I don’t even.)

I did not take into account last night that I was not actually really hungry, or that I would wake up the next day bloated and angry at myself.

No, because that isn’t how this thing works. You do not think ahead.

You are only thinking …

“I feel bad. I want to feel better. What will make me feel better RIGHT NOW?

That’s kind of a summary of ALL ADDICTION, even in it’s most seemingly-innocent forms: I MUST feel better right NOW.

One cup of coffee? What is the POINT? Three gets the blood pumping.

Nothing wrong with a sleeping pill on occasion. But I have a high tolerance, you see. It takes more for me. And more than occasionally.

Exercise? No, thank you. UNLESS I work out far past exhaustion, and only in rare spurts.

All or nothing. No moderation. One of anything is insufficient…..candies, hugs, books, cups of coffee, cats. One is too many and a thousand not enough, as they say.

It is a miracle that I’ve not had a drink and I love knowing that sobriety is a real, actual thing…that God can enable ANY of us to live. I have not had a drink in 15 years, but the beast is only debilitated.

My alcoholism recovery is not a means to an end, in and of itself. I’ve de-clawed a Komodo Dragon, in a manner of speaking. Have you ever seen a nature documentary featuring one of those giant lizards? They have razor-sharp claws that can shred an animal bigger than itself in one swipe. They have super-sharp teeth, too. And the worse thing is that their spit is toxic as hell and if the bite doesn’t take you down, they wait patiently for the poison spit to infect and fell you.

So, in this glorious recovery from alcoholism, I’ve de-clawed the dragon. But I have to stay on guard. It has more than one destructive mechanism. It is always poised to pounce.

There is so much work to be done on my inside. The parts that demand instant gratification, while complaining it ‘takes too long’ (as the great Carrie Fisher – herself a recovering addict – has noted.) I want to feel better RIGHT NOW.

That’s not how this thing works.

I’m still that ‘crazy person’ and that’s the truth about me. But I now know that I don’t want to be the feeling-stuffer / eater / drowner / deny-er.) I cannot afford to keep doing that. If I do, the alcoholism is just waiting to infect and fell me.

I want to actually taste life, and think ahead. Look forward. I need to continue to learn how to be kind to myself and gentle with all of my parts. And to heck with what anyone else thinks.

You cannot please everyone and get well at the same time, of this I am sure.

That’s why I’m sharing this today, because you are only as sick as your secrets, and I’m ready to slay that damn dragon.

Here’s what the Bible has to say (insert Lion instead of Dragon, and this is actually kind of scriptural, even!)

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” 1 Peter 5-8 (MSG)

Step Eleven – Connecting with God Picture-Imperfectly

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STEP ELEVEN
“We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out”
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” – Colossians 3:16

This post took me forever to write, and that is not coincidence. I really struggle with how to best illustrate Step Eleven.

I struggle with it because I have a preconceived notion of what conscious contact with God is supposed to look like.

And it looks all Instagram-y.

You know ….

I wake up refreshed in the morning hungry for the Word of God. The very first thing I do is make a picture-perfect cup of coffee in the Keurig (for extra effect the coffee cup should be emblazoned with the words “Hope” or “Faith” or “Love” and – in finer print – a scriptural reference.) Taking my place on the sofa, I pray for God to expand my understanding during this special time with him as the kitty cats snuggle in next to me. I open The Message, and hey, looky there! I flip open my Bible and it ‘just happens to’ turn to a verse so very pertinent to my current circumstance. It is already highlighted even!

Thank you, Lord! Your will be done.

Amen.

It’s so tidy. So picture-perfect.

Tidy, yes. But not an improvement over my current contact with God. And in recovery, improvement trumps tidiness every time.

I have ADD to a pretty good degree, and I find it hard to focus long enough to even make a cup of coffee on some days. It is easy to lose the essence of Step Eleven when we allow our preconceived notions of what conscience contact with God looks like.

How do I even know what to ask for? God is the perfect parent. He knows what I need before I even ask for it. Seeking Him isn’t about knowing what I need when I sit down to a perfect cup of coffee!

Going into my fifteenth year of sobriety (all glory to God, still one single day at a time) a more accurate illustration of my Step Eleven work might be as follows:

I wake up grateful for another day sober, but perhaps a little bit frustrated about a given circumstance. I Say, “Good morning, God. Can you help a sister out today? I need you.” Make a cup of coffee in the Keurig (most likely in either the “Life’s a bitch and then you die” or – my personal favorite – “I thought I was having a hot flash, but my boobs were in my coffee” cup). Accidentally piddle around too long on my way to the sofa doing stupid stuff around the house  (Sorry, God.) Get to the sofa, only to find the cats in my spot unwilling to share the space. Hump back to the kitchen table, sloshing coffee on the floor. Pray for God to expand my understanding of Him this day, and open The Message. Hey – LOOKY!

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9 (NIV)

It’s highlighted even!

And the more I delve into what God has to say in His love letter, the more His message becomes apparent.

I want to help you.
I want you to know Me.

I LOVE YOU.

Step Eleven in recovery isn’t about getting it right. It’s about seeking right exactly where you are today.

Be a seeker. He will take care of the rest.

Thank you, Lord!

Your perfect, pleasing will be done.

STEP TEN – GPS: God Positioning Self

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STEP TEN
We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Biblical Comparison: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  Corinthians 10:12
I like to call Step Ten”The GPS Step” because it is so directional. It reminds us that recovery is not a destination but a journey.
Taking my personal inventory is much like plugging in my address to a GPS system. There are many possible routes, but only one destination.

One of the first times I used my GPS was on a trip to visit my cousin in another state. I am a late-comer to this technology. My two adult daughters were accompanying me, and before we departed, they showed me how to pull up the GPS and ask the Very Knowledgeable Lady who lives in it how to get to our destination.

“How?” I asked my tech-savvy offspring.

“Just ask Siri,” they told me.

I did ask Siri, and – wonder of wonders – a magical map appeared that pinpointed my exact location (which was kind of scary.) I then told her the address of my cousin’s house and the entire 200-mile route to her house appeared with my journey clearly marked.

“Take a left on Highway 17,” The Very Knowledgeable Lady helpfully chirped. “And take exit 12 in 70 miles.”

I laid my cell phone down on the console and drove in awe as we traveled the thick blue route line. We were the little digital thumb tack on the screen, chugging down the road! Here’s where it got interesting.

Several times on the trip, I picked up the phone to make sure Siri knew what she was doing, even though I did not know the way myself! And although I had no reason to distrust the voice telling me where to go to arrive in the most efficient manner, I even stopped at a fast food place when we arrived in the destination city to ask for directions to her street!

My kids kept telling me, “Mom, just follow the route already mapped out.”

It has to be more complicated than that, I thought.

Have you ever trusted Siri to get you someplace and ended up somewhere else? That happens too. Once I drove six hours to attend a Blogger Conference in the mountains of North Carolina and instead of taking me to my Hampton Inn late at night, it led me down a dark road to what appeared to have been an old, abandoned sock factory. Really. It was in middle of nowhere! When I pulled in to reboot the GPS, The (not so) Knowledgeable Lady tried to save face with her response.

Rerouting.” Like she meant to do that.

Although she had mistakenly taken me someplace else, she then had to re-route because my starting point was different from where I’d left six hours prior.

There are many, many routes to take on the recovery journey. Re-routing is always a possibility. The two important things to remember when continuing to take your personal inventory is to keep moving in a forward direction and don’t back-track and return to bad places. Promptly admit when you are lost.

In the GPS analogy of the tenth step, you can replace the Very Knowledgeable Lady in the cell phone to God Himself, who is more than happy to direct your path if you allow him to.

But you have to ask. And keep asking. He will not take you to a dark place (or an abandoned sock factory, for that matter) You have to ask, and you have to trust that His direction is perfect.

Throughout the previous work of Steps 1-9, you have pinpointed your exact location (and that can be a little scary, too.) The tenth step is insurance that we don’t revisit the dangerous places that led us down the wrong paths, even though our journeys are not always so clearly marked out.

It has to be more complicated than that, right?

Only it isn’t.
It is plugging your coordinates back in. Being honest with yourself about your stinkin’ thinkn’. Reaching out. Spending time in self-reflection. Going to meetings. Asking  for directions. And when wrong, promptly admit it.

When do you arrive?

That is of less importance, everyone’s route is different.  Don’t you see? We were absolutely built to travel –  collecting wisdom and experience and fellowship and memories along the way.

And to walk in joy every step of the way.

Step Nine – Hurt People Hurt People (but healing is possible)

296878_3625876817927_1688681910_nSTEP NINE
We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Biblical Comparison: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
Step Eight is taking your inventory – making that list of those whom you have harmed as a result of your addiction.
Step Nine is organizing that list into a manageable chunks of  manifesto to present to those you have harmed, so that the clutter takes up the least amount of space in your spirit.
It does not mean that rainbows and butterflies will invade the space between you and another person.
It does not mean that you will break bread on a regular basis with this person.
It does not mean that the person your actions have harmed will necessarily forgive you.
But it can mean that those things become possible.
Step Nine is difficult because we mire our transgressions in one of two thick muds of thought:
Denial – “I didn’t hurt anyone but myself in my active drinking and using.”
Shame – “I can never make things right, the damage is too deep.”
I’m not sure where you are in your process of making amends, but I can tell you with reasonable certainty that neither one of these two extremes are true.
You and I did hurt others with our behaviors.
And the damage is never too deep to repair while doing Step Nine work. The step is more about your accountability than reconciliation, and repair begins by your very admission and asking for forgiveness.
Step Nine goes something like this:
“I drank a lot more than you think I did all those years ago, and I know I hurt you by disrespecting you when I was drunk.”
Or
“I’m taking back control of the parts of my life that drugs hijacked. Those times when I bruised your feelings with my words, I’m sorry.”
Or just
“Please forgive me.”
When I got to Step Nine in my own recovery,  I had two very important direct amends to make to each of my daughters. They were five and eight years old when I got sober. The youngest claims not to remember very much about Mommy’s drinking, but my older remembers more than I’d like – especially the fights between their father and I, the shadow alcohol cast over my spirit, and the sickness and sloppiness toward the end of my active disease. My kids are everything to me – they were the one single thing I was going to do right in my life and not screw up like everything else. (Expecting perfection from myself in any area – and combining with with living in addiction – is a recipe for disappointment.)
With the clarity of new-found sobriety came light and sharpness, but also illumination of the damage I’d done to my beloved children by not making them top priority.
They were still young. How to make amends?
I started by educating them on an age-appropriate level about alcoholism as a legitimate disease; but not as an excuse for my behavior. Mommy has a sickness to drinking and drugs and it is my responsibly to get well and stay well, and that means staying away from drinking and drugs and working the program.
I followed up by staying sober, no matter what.
As I grew in recovery, I said things like:
“I know there was a time in your life when I did not stay away from those things; I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t trust God enough to help me, and I was very unwell as a result. I never meant to hurt or embarrass you, but I did those things all the same.
I am making the changes now to become stronger.
I am staying away from the poison that affected our relationship.
I am trusting God to help me now and forever, one day at a time.
Will you please forgive me?”
A funny thing happened on the road to redemption. My daughters are now 20 and 23, and they are not ashamed of their mama and her (now 14 years of) recovery. As a matter of fact, the are proud of my clean time, and our relationships are closer now than they have ever been. They have a compassion that they might not otherwise have for people in the throes of addiction. They are spectacular young ladies and I’m so grateful to Abba that they accepted my amends and have forgiven me.
It was hard admitting I’d hurt them, but restorative that their complete forgiveness has transcended a disease I once thought would take me from them altogether.
Step Nine does not invade the space between you and the person you harmed with rainbows and butterflies. But it does make space for healing.
And that’s ever more beautiful still.

Step Eight – Your First Amendment

IMG_0889STEP EIGHT
We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Biblical Comparison: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31 
Protected behind presumably bullet-proof, fire-proof glass, there it was – one of 14 original official copies of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States.
My husband had surprised me by taking me to our local museum where it was   showcased as part of a national tour. I’m a hopeless history nerd; it was a very thoughtful surprise.
Leading up to case that displayed the bill were velvet ropes with tassels on the posts. It was all so fancy. You knew you were headed for something special just walking towards it.
The Constitution was an incredible and liberty-bestowing document, but it needed amending to increase the freedoms in America. It doesn’t take away from the original document to be amended. Rather, it adds value.

The definition of ‘amend’ is: 

Change, modify, reform.
Remedy. Revise. Alter.
Correct. Enhance.  Improve.
Mend. Reform. Repair.
The definition of ‘amendment’ is: An alteration or addition.
Making a list of persons we have harmed is hard enough, but being willing to make amends to them all is even harder. By taking pen to paper and making your list, it’s important to include each:
  • Person who has been harmed as a result of your active addiction
  • Memories of harm done
  • Thoughts resulting from the harm – perhaps the thoughts that are continuing to haunt you as a result
  • Intentions you now have in making things right
  • Amends that you can make to help repair the damage

 

Making amends with those you’ve harmed is not a privilege for the more spiritually enlightened among us, but a right as a person in recovery. Making amends increases your freedom.

It’s easy to get stuck here on Step Eight.
There might be relationships that survive addiction that will not survive recovery. Step Eight work is not about extending the amends yet, but about becoming willing to make them. You are setting up the velvet ropes to healing relationships, and letting others in on making history in your recovery.

Step Eight is change, modification, revision or correction to bring about an alteration or addition to your spirit.

It’s not about taking away from what’s been done to you, but owning what you’ve done to others.

It doesn’t take away from your recovery, but adds value.

Amendments modify our existing plane to create a higher existence.

You are heading for something special, just by walking toward it.

Change, modify, reform.
Remedy. Revise. Alter.
Correct. Enhance.  Improve.
Mend. Reform. Repair.

Make history.

 

And prepare your heart for liberty.