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Ingenious Little Cartoon on a Sunday…

Hey Everyone,

Another LifeRing participant passed this ingenious little cartoon depicting a poor little kiwi succumbing to addiction to me, so in turn I thought I’d pass it along to all of you. It feels fairly reminiscent of my experience with alcoholism, so if you have an extra 5 minutes to check it out, it’s definitely worth your time:

“Nuggets” by Andreas Hykade

As those of us in the U.S. gear up for the holiday season onslaught (more about that next week), I hope you’re all having a peaceful and sober Sunday!

~~~

Check Out LifeRing On ONDCP Webinar!

LifeRing Board Member and Salt Lake City, UT meeting convenor Mahala Kephart recently participated in an ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) webinar entitled “Expanding Opportunities for Recovery: And Introduction to Three Secular, Abstinence-Based Mutual-Aid Pathways” on LifeRing’s behalf. In addition to Lifering, the webinar also includes representatives from SMART Recovery and Women for Sobriety, and the ONDCP recorded it for our viewing pleasure.

Please note the webinar’s total length is 1:34 (one hour and  thirty-four minutes ) and begins with several minutes of ONDCP “housekeeping” business, then moves on to Mahala’s presentation at around 9:23.

Please click here to see the whole webinar on Vimeo, and many thanks to Mahala for representing LifeRing in a personal way while disseminating vital information about our organization on a national level. It’s wonderful to have been invited to the wider recovery conversation, and hopefully this is just the beginning for us!

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A Word About Overwhelm

HI everyone. So, it’s been a little while since anything has been posted on our blog, and there’s a reason for that. Technically, there are a few reasons but really only one major reason, and since I have this here platform to use for just such a purpose, I thought I’d tell you alllll about it.

See, here’s the thing: I’m someone so easily overwhelmed that being overwhelmed overwhelms me, and then it’s almost always downhill from there. A lot of this has to do with a redundant perfectionism that – when mixed with a load of poor time-management skills, a nice dollop of intractable procrastination, and a wee touch of hiding out in a book or a movie (or online) – allows me to see a few molehills as Himalayas I’ll never be able to climb. Never, I tell you!

I learned these things about myself during my first year of sobriety, and I must say, I was shocked as all get-out to find out I was a perfectionist. I mean, what exactly did I have to show for this? It’s not like I’m one of those perfectionistic overachievers who does every ridiculous thing they can to show the world (or sometimes, just their parents) they’re worthy of honor and praise – hell, I made Bart Simpson look like a Harvard grad student compared to my tales of a fourth, fifth, sixth grade nothing. I never realized that doing nothing at all is a actual choice on one end of the “What the Hell Do I Do Now?” spectrum, but in fact, one of my family’s favorite mottos, oft repeated both to ourselves and one another, was: “If you can’t do it right the first time, then don’t do it all.”

Yeah, OK. Well, I can’t do all that much, anyway, so…I’ll take “Don’t Do It At All” for $1,000, Alex! Wait – make that a true Daily Double!

This sense of overwhelm figures pretty prominently for a lot of us in early recovery, as well. Once you sober/clean up, you’re suddenly aware of all the detritus left strewn about from your own personal train wreck, comprised of all the people places and things you left piled up, neglected, ignored, hidden from and/or otherwise generally bailed on over the years.  That hamster wheel to nowhere alone can turn one back to the bottle or their drug of choice (or both) quicker than you can say “Lickety Split”, and I’ve seen more than a few of my brethren fall under the strain of an unrealistic desire to play catch-up.

I had such a moment at somewhere around 30 days in, and I was given one of the greatest gifts to my sobriety when in a phone meeting I described the terror of realizing there was so much I hadn’t done and so many years wasted that I simply didn’t know how I could carry on. The other meeting attendees listened to my litany of woe patiently until a dear named Marie piped up and said, “You know what? You don’t have to worry about anything or do anything else right now except staying sober.” The very idea of that was like being struck by lightening, and since this piece of information was coming from a long-time sobrietist (i.e. LifeRing parlance for one committed to their sobriety), I took it at face value, and was SO relieved. I took a deep breath and accepted that even though I was not going to build Rome in a day, everything was still really going to be A-OK.

And lo, it was! It wasn’t about what I couldn’t do (everything all at once) so much as making a choice about what I could do (some people call this living in the problem vs. living in the solution), and it’s one of the most freeing feelings in the world. You place things in priority levels and work from there. D’oh!

I’ve used that experience every time thereafter I got overwhelmed to help me through, and it’s still what works for me today. It was especially useful when I was working a full time job, caring for my sick Mom, and trying to maintain my then long-distance relationship all at the same time. And yet my tendency toward feeling overwhelmed hasn’t just gone away. Ohhhhh, no – that would be too easy, even for me.

So it was that in the last month or so I found myself presented with several different irons in the fire – things that would require a great deal of my undivided attention – and I knew I was going to have to prioritize based upon what I could live with.

Let’s see…

1. DDNMW (Don’t Drink No Matter What) along with maintaining other serious health and well-being issues? Check.

2. Spend time doing good, fun activities with my hubby like taking wonderful meals, going to concerts, riding bikes, taking walks, learning to golf, and otherwise enjoying life together? Check, check.

3. Fall clean up of a badly neglected homestead? Triple check.

4. Decorating post Fall clean-up homestead for Halloween/Thanksgiving (I’m a holidays nut, you see)? Check to the 4th power!

5. Other slightly more miniscule day-to-day stuff I won’t bore you with but that’s time consuming nevertheless (but **sigh**, OK, some of which involved mooning over George Clooney’s endless Venetian nuptials)? Super industrial check!

6. Post on the the blog?

7. Finish the Books page?

8. Work on other LifeRing-related items?

9. Meditate, do yoga, and learn a lot of CBT?

10. And, oh yeah, lose 20 pounds?

As you can see, there were a few things important to me that I was not going to be able to give the time and attention I think they deserve. This blog is incredibly important to me for example, but so is my sanity, so some of the things normally toward the top of the list got bumped down in order to accommodate other things important to me, as well.

One can ask, did I simply have my priorities in order, or did the perfection monster get me again? Could be either, but most likely it’s a little of both – in which case, I still have work to do (I say after the 14th revision of the post).

Dear god, when will it ever end?!?!?! :D

Life continues on it’s way, and there’s never going to be enough time for it all. But as long as I do what I have to do to take care of myself, I will take care of everything else in good time.

How about you, Dear Reader? How has overwhelm affected you, and how have you learned to handle it?

 

 

Keeper of the Month – September

Lifering’s e-mail groups are active, thriving communities of people who use them as strong sources of sobriety support, and many members often post remarkably written sources of inspiration, hope and encouragement that many other group members call “Keepers” – posts that they save for themselves so they can go back and look at them as often as they like.

We here at LifeRing like sharing these posts, with the authors’ permission, on our Blog so that everyone can enjoy them as much as our group members do.

Which Lie Is Holding You Hostage

This month’s post is contributed by long-time group member and wonderful writer Mary A.:

Most of the time, at seven-plus years sober, I find I’m very focused on the present and don’t dwell on what I sometimes call the “lost years”. But every now and again I do look back and refresh my perspective on the journey since then and how different my life is now, and on the changes in cognitive awareness that sharpened and brightened with continuous sobriety.

My drinking in my late 20s and 30s was very chaotic and extreme,  frightening for me. It accompanied an unstructured post-grad student life and some turbulent relationships.

In my 40s, things changed and outwardly my life seemed more stable and productive because I  no longer got drunk in public, was sharing a house with someone who didn’t drink, holding down demanding jobs. But what happened was that it all went ‘underground’ in some respects — I was drinking on my own every day even if there were no weekend  binges and I was experiencing different and more ominous health issues, feelings of unwellness that never seemed to get better or go away, fears of vomiting in my sleep, anxiety about combining any kind of  medication with the daily intake in case I  had an accident etc. And I was always tired.

What I also noticed, and this was harder for me to detect, was that over the years I  developed what I called cognitive distortions and my personality changed in small but not insignificant ways.  I would have night panics and  terrible times in the early mornings —  feeling utterly disoriented and lost, filled with dread and horror even if I didn’t have a brutal hangover. I developed a fear of crossing bridges, was afraid of falling or  jumping off tall buildings. I was afraid of people around me, not just that they would discover I was an alcoholic, but that they would  disappoint me or  dislike me.

I identified strongly with others who had substance abuse problems but avoided them because I didn’t want to be seen as being like that. I veered between thinking I was brilliant to be coping so well despite the drinking and times when I felt I was under-performing and  failing  because of the drinking. I couldn’t bear to think about the past and the waste of it and everything seemed to hinge on some golden future when I would be sober, successful and able to regain that lost self before it was too late. My sense of time was telescoped into what still might be possible and growing desperation it might never happen.

So while I  recovered physically fairly quickly back in 2007 when I sobered up, those  cognitive distortions and attitudes took time to fade away or  change. I was so used to living with dread and suspicion and a great unrealistic fairytale of hopefulness that  the  whole world seemed to lighten up and also settle into a grittier but saner perspective when all that went away as I stayed sober over the years. A long emotional hangover, I suppose!