Balance in Recovery

Based on my own experience in the past, I know immersing myself into recovery can be beneficial but it can also be dangerous. To much recovery one can become overwhelmed. So the point is to achieve a balance in recovery and our mundane lives. It’s called “me time”.

During my last recovery period, I dove into recovery with such a passion, I hardly made time for myself. Though the circumstances were different, as it was my first time in recovery, everything about my life became about recovery. In a sense, I lost a part of me.

As one comes back from a relapse one must ask themselves, “What is going to be different this time around?” With my codependent issues, I need to take time for self care. From time to time, we need to step back to ask ourselves, “Are we doing to much?” The real question is just how much is to much?

For instance, here is an example of a typical Monday:

  • 8:00 am – Wake up, get coffee, meditation music, pray, write in my journal
  • 9:00 am – Take care of myself (shower, shave, brush teeth, etc.)
  • 10:00 am – Meet with my case manager for a weekly one on one
  • 12:00 pm – Noon AA meeting
  • 3:00 pm – Outpatient treatment group
  • 8:00 pm – Evening AA meeting
  • 12:00 am – 2 am – Put the head to the pillow

In summary, five hours of my day is involved in recovery. But I’m also living in a supportive living program, so I’m always bumping to guys and talking recovery at other times, let’s say another two or three hours. In the end, my life in recovery is a full time job. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to concentrate on my sobriety in such a fashion.

But there are days, like yesterday, I have to step back and say, “Michael, enough is enough. Take a time out for yourself.” After treatment group, I walked with a guy from our program to the gym. The Dollar Store was next door, which is where I headed to pick up some things for my CoDA meeting tonight. It’s a little over a mile, approximately a 20-25 minute walk. I needed such a walk to decompress.

I didn’t go to a physical meeting at all. Unfortunately I missed the noon meeting because my case manager was on vacation, so another individual did my one on one but I had to wait for a bit (which I understand). In the evening after the long walk, I was simply done going anywhere. It’s rare I go to the Monday evening meeting if I’ve gone to the noon meeting. Last night, I put personalities before principles (my bad, I know).

Instead, I found a online CoDA meeting at 9pm. It was an interesting experience. The person who ran the group did a really good job of driving the meeting, keeping people on topic and avoiding cross talk. Since we only have one meeting a week here, I might put one or two in my schedule.

I had a few things to do such as getting paperwork ready for the CoDA meeting. I volunteered to print up the “readings” since we don’t have formal ones and we’re still reading out from a brochure. I also bought sheet protectors and a binder. All courtesy of the Dollar Tree, something I can work with on my budget. I also pumped out two short letters to previous employers about my address change for my W-2’s.

A friend of mine, I’m sure I’ve spoken about him here, who I have codependent issues in the past, is at the tail end of a prison sentence. He is scheduled to be release in March 2019. Throughout the years, he’s been to quite a few facilities. I double checked to find where he was only to see he was at a prison that is 30 minutes from me. Honestly, I got excited. But, recognizing my feelings, I had to step back and ask, “Mike, do you really want to open this door?” It’s been suggested by many I shouldn’t. But I wrote a letter anyway. It was just a short note of what happened, where I am and to see where he’s at. I will only write to him depending on how he responds, if he responds.

Lastly, I’ve gotten back involved in a game called Achaea . It’s a role playing, text-character based MUD (Multi-player User Dungeon). Here’s a screen shot:

I’ve been playing a variety of characters since late 1997 when it was new to the then “gaming industry”. The company, Iron Realm Entertainment, has done a good job of keeping the material fresh. Over the years, there have been a lot of changes. Some good, some bad. The producers (as they like to call themselves), do listen to their players. We, the players, have some input on how the game is run! This is my life away from the mundane world and at times it can be stressful, so all in moderation too!

Oh goodie (squeal)! A friend just let me know she won’t need my help for something today. This means, besides two AA meetings, I have a completely open day all to myself. But I have a few must-do’s, so I’m going to take care of them right now. I’ve been up since 6:30 am too, so a nice nap after the noon meeting may be in order too! ** rubs hands greedily**

Let’s get this day rolling . . .

Meditation & Prayer

Meditation and prayer are an important practice in recovery (Step 11). In the past, when I lived alone, it was easy for to meditate. I had another room, a room set up for my spiritual practices, where I would meditate at some point during the day. However, now my living arrangements don’t allow me to have such comforts, as I live with eight other gentleman in the same house. Therefore, I must find another way that works.

At first I thought about using the basement. Even if I had to find a nice corner where I would be able to plug in my laptop, put on some relaxing music for some quiet time. But living in Upstate New York the weather is starting to get nippy and basements typically don’t keep heat well. Or am I just making an excuse?

Another option was going to a park just up the street, putting down a blanket and allowing Nature to infuse me with its own serene music. I honestly don’t think there would be interruptions. Yet, the weather is going to be an issue in the future.

I do have an abundance of churches that surround me. Perhaps I could find a church which has an open door and find a quiet room. Something just doesn’t feel right using a Christian church to talk to Pagan Gods.

Whatever avenue I choose, I need to develop a discipline (which is another topic I’ll talk about tomorrow). Also I need to work on my laziness and procrastination (defects of character and shortcomings). So the whole process will be good for me.

Any comments, questions or suggestions would greatly be appreciated . . . always!

A 12 Step Series

For the last couple of years, I have thought about publishing my own experiences through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Why would I publish the most intimate details of my life to the public? The primary goal of this blog is to give the reader, “An inside look into the world of a recovering addict”.

The goal is to publish the Twelve Steps as a series in the next year. Each month will concentrate on a particular Step. What I haven’t thought through is what I should include or what the structure should be. For instance, I would start with the Step itself, quoting the Chapter and page of the Big Book for reference. Perhaps highlights from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. My background as it applied to the Step. Then a description of what I exactly did – written, oral, prayer, meditation, etc. Lastly, the ending results. The goal is to provide a complete picture “from the eyes of a recovering addict” of my experiences when I went through the Steps.

Now that I really begin to think of this process, perhaps this will take on two parts: My Story and The 12 Steps, I’m not going to actually publish my whole story right now. However, the process may help this future endeavor.

This whole process will be beneficial (I hope) to new readers but myself too. Honestly, I’ve only gone through the Steps once. But I practice them to the best of my ability every day to “apply those principles in all out affairs”. I might even surprise myself with something new or perhaps something I’ve held on.

This may be too much for me right now.  I just started something very important in my own spiritual practice which may take a lot of my time. It’s a THOUGHT I’m taking into consideration. I hope I made my intentions clear enough.

For those who have read this far: Discussion!

I would like any comments, questions or concerns regarding this post. For instance, what were you thinking when you read this? What are any of your thoughts about doing this? We talk about honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, so GIVE IT TO ME. The honest, blunt, to the point TRUTH.

Ready . . . Set . . . Go . . . Let’s Begin . . .


Let’s Talk Religion in Recovery

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” 
— Dalai Lama

The discussion of religion tends to be a taboo subject; religions are beliefs and practices of a very personal matter. People avoid the topic at all costs unless surrounded by like-minded individuals. Figuratively, people start to bring out their pitchforks and stakes at even the hint of such a discussion. For those in recovery, it is the pink elephant in the room rearing its ugly head. Can you imagine my thoughts, in early sobriety, when the topic of Christianity was discussed when I knew I was gay and a practicing pagan?

Recovery programs were founded with the principles of Christian beliefs in mind. However, the founding members recognized the diversity of those seeking recovery, insisting recovery should be a spiritual program. And yet, people tend to forget those of us who are just beginning our journeys in recovery either: lost faith in our religion (whatever that may be); tried a religion as a solution finding that we drank again; didn’t have a set of religious beliefs to begin with; or, like myself, having a strong belief system and/or a strong self-identity, were shunned because those beliefs don’t conform to those who set down the guiding principles of the program.

When I began my journey in recovery I was a broken human being: physically, mentally and spiritually. I didn’t know who I was, where I was going nor a sense of purpose in life. My addiction took all that away. The concept of spirituality was foreign to me. Like most, when the topic of religion was thrown into the mix, I was more confused on how a program of recovery was going to help me.

Spirituality is the cornerstone of a recovery program. A recovery program is not simply going through the 12 Steps with a Sponsor and “applying those principles in all our affairs”. Recovery is a process of finding yourself and your purpose in life, no matter what your religious beliefs, if any.

“The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” – Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 60.

I am NOT saying a religion should not be part of a person’s recovery program. (Nor am I suggesting that “God” be removed or renamed for any reason.) For some, a religion provides more inclusion and strength. However, in early sobriety, it is suggested, “[We] Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This understanding doesn’t happen overnight. Spirituality, a belief system of a religion, and continuous sobriety are life-long practices.

We should remind the newcomer to build their foundation of spirituality (not an understanding of a religion) in Steps 1, Step 2 and Step 3. The first three Steps are essential to continuous sobriety. Even after, we cross the bridge to much harder work within ourselves with the help of their Higher Power and their Sponsor. Lastly, we start to resolve issues within ourselves. Perhaps, only after all Steps are completed and they have begun “practicing these principles in all our affairs” it would be appropriate to breach the subject of religion.

What are your thoughts about discussing religion with newcomers to the program? Should the discussion of religion take place in early sobriety?

Reveal or Not Reveal

Another follower at Guitars and Life raised an interesting question to a recovery minded podcast, BUZZKILL Pod. The question posed is “Reveal or Not Reveal?”. The discussion revolves around views whether recovering addicts should or should not reveal themselves as such, a person in recovery? Those of us in recovery have different views on the subject. For those interested, this is my view on the topic.

Recovery programs were established in the early 1930’s. Since then people in need of recovery from around the world come together to discuss a new way of life as a recoverying addict. Due to the stigma surrounding addiction, these meetings are typically held in private. Anonymity is of upmost importance. A tradition was put in place, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” The tradition was placed as a means of protecting those in recovery from the stigma.

With the help of advanced sciences, the understanding of addiction has changed, yet the stigma still relatively remains the same. Ken Hensley, an English singer-songwriter, puts addiction in perspective, “It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it.” In other words, unless your an addict or a recovering addict, most likely you truly do not understand what we are going through. For instance, a large view of the population asks, “Why can’t you just stop?” We wish it was just that easy. Others still view addicts as helpless criminals who should be locked away. Another stigma, not all addicts are criminals. These views need to be changed, otherwise those in active addiction may never find recovery.

In recent years a movement to bring a better understanding of addiction through promotion of prevention and education by recovering addicts has become prevelant in the media. Thus, the controversy in the recovery community over disclosure. Some believe such disclosure violates the tradition, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion . . .” The key word here is “promotion”. In addition, “. . . we always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” We now hear about addiction in all types of media. Where should people draw the line? Traditions tend to change over time. For instance, you have a Christmas tradition surviving in your family for generations. Do you follow the exact tradition from when it was started? Of course not. As time goes on, the tradition changes in some form or another due to circumstances.

In today’s society, circumstances have changed. One can find a host of information on the Internet about “trends in addiction” using Google. Historically, one type of addiction will be prevelant for years, while other wanes. For instance, at the time the tradition was written, alcoholism was the most prevelant addiction known. During other times, marijuana, cocaine, meth or another drug was prevelant. Today, we are currently experiencing an epidemic of herion addiction.

Finally, here are my thoughts on disclosure. Yes, I believe in upholding the tradition, while on the other hand it is my responsiblity to practice the 12th Step, as a recovering addict. Self-disclosure is a personal choice. Some disclose their recovery to no one, keeping to the tradition of self-protection. Others choose to disclose their recovery to others for various reasons. For instance, in a 12-Step program, the 12th Step states, ““Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics/addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

All active addicts become hopeless – we hit “rock bottom”. Our addiction takes us places we never through imaginable. We are shrouded in shame, guilt, anger, selfishness, etc. All those things made me feel alone; the only person on this Earth in a revolving cycle of destruction to myself and those around me. Recovery brought me hope; recovery is a way of living with my addiction.

Early in my recovery, I learned disclosure should only be done to those who were in recovery. I had to learn a different way of living. Therefore I only could learn through other recovering addicts. But there was a point in my recovery where I felt disclosure of my recovery was necessary to more than just recovering addicts. I was comfortable with who I was, where I was in my own recovery. It is my choice to open my life to others for two reasons.

Most importantly to another active addict. Doing so gives them an opportunity to learn what I’ve been through. Hopefully, they decide for themselves to learn more about recovery and a new way of life with addiction. Second, my disclosure to the general public is a hope to help them better understand of who we are as addicts (both recovering and active). By sharing my experiences both in active addiction and recovery giving them a chance to walk in my shoes. Perhaps this would give them an insight of feeling exactly where I’ve been and/or what I’m going through in my daily life.

For me, I won’t be here today, if I had not embraced sobriety. It was my personal choice to live another way because where I was and what I was doing wasn’t working. Enevitably, it would (and could) led to death if something didn’t change. Plain and simple. But I’m not one to force my beliefs or views on anyone. So I leave you with this,

I am Responsible. When Anyone, Anywhere
Reaches Out For Help,
I Want The Hand Of A.A. [or another program]
Always To Be There.
And For That,
I Am Responsible !

Help continue this discussion in the comments but please be civil. We all have different views.  Any and all comments are appreciated!