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Sleeping is Overrated

July 29, 2013 9:20 am Leave your thoughts

I remember it pretty vividly.

Nights that were filled with anxiety and terror. I could feel my arms reaching for the security of true natural sleep… But I could never get there. It seemed like my fingers were not long enough. The ends of my fingers would just barely touch it…. But it was never enough.

I needed something artificial to get me to that security. That is really what it was all about… was the security that sleep brought me. Knowing that I would be wrapped all up in my comforter. It was like a force field that would keep the issues of the outside world at bay. It would also become my own warm little prison. It would keep me chained to the idea that alcohol was something that I needed to get to sleep.

I hear that from so many recovering alcoholics… That they used alcohol as a sleep aid. That it would work when other things didn’t. For me it was more about my patience level also… I wanted it now. I wanted to sleep immediately.

I recently saw this article on Psychcentral.com and the title of the article was “Recovering Alcoholics with Poor Sleep Perceptions will likely relapse”

Bingo… I thought. Here are three key points that the author brings up.

-Alcohol can help people initially fall asleep, but leads to poor-quality sleep later in the night.

-Escalated consumption of alcohol to aid sleep can lead to alcoholism.

-Inaccurate sleep perceptions among alcoholics in early recovery may predict relapse to drinking.

I can say that I fit into all three of these statements. At the beginning it was the alcohol that I needed to get to sleep.. but as time went one there was never any sleep that was gained.

Escalated alcohol consumption as a sleep aid led to my accelerated alcoholism.

My perception of sleeping at the end of my drinking and using was all about sheer terror…. and when I left the Beacon HouseSM the first time I think that I still was not sleeping in any normal sort of a way and it could of been a contributing factor in my relapse.

Quality sleep is something that I know that I need for my well being but it something that I know that I do not get enough of.

What is Fear?

July 24, 2013 8:51 am Leave your thoughts

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Right now it is pretty close to 6am and I am inside of my head, just like I used to be at this time of morning.

The difference is that I am not looking at a clock waiting for it to hit 5:45 so that I could walk the couple of blocks to my local bar that opened at 6 am. I can remember coming to and reaching for my phone to see what time it was. I would close my eyes tight and just pray that it was close enough to 6 so that I would not have to take a pull off of the bottle that I had next to my bed.

I was a social drinker…. I just so happened that sometimes I would drink at 6 am.

When I started in this adventure I really just thought that it was all about drinking. I thought that if the alcohol was withdrawn from my system that my entire problem would be solved. That I would wake up the next morning and everything that I had done in the past would just fix itself.

I knew that it would not fix itself really.. I knew that there was going to be some work involved, but not too much.

I was in for a pretty big shock when I started to get some of the booze out of my system and all that was left was the raw emotions. The emotions that I had been saturating in alcohol for such a long time. Now there were right in front of my face. I have heard many people describe them as a fresh wound that you have just received that you can’t bandage.

You know when you cover a wound that you have just received with your hand.. like you are protecting it. You know that feeling of pain that is shooting through your body.. up and down your spine from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. That is how I remember it feeling.

So I started to do the step work to deal with the reasons that I drank in the first place. This is when the real reasons for everything started to show themselves… the fear.

I learned so much by working a 4th step…. It took me awhile to do it but I did it. I learned that almost everything that I did was done out of fear. Fear ruled my world and everything in it.

I feel that I have done so much in my last 5 years of recovery…. but there is fear in my life. Little things that I let get really painful and when they are too painful I react… and it usually isn’t a good reaction.

A good example of this was something that happened to me over the past couple of weeks. A friend of mine called me and wanted to talk to me about something things that were going on with him and his business. I waited 2 weeks to call him back because I was afraid of how he was going to react to me.

I just kept putting putting it off to the next day. Like I was going to do it then. When I decided to put it off to the next day I would get this feeling of relief… The only thing that I can compare it to was the feeling that I would get when I would get when I saw the big orange OPEN sign lit in the window of my 6am bar.

Alcohol was merely a symptom. That is so crazy to me. Fear is the real problem.

How do you deal with fear?

To SLE? Or not to SLE? It’s not even a question…

July 19, 2013 1:16 pm Leave your thoughts

Some of the best times that I had in my early recovery was when I was asked to lead a community group at the Beacon HouseSM on Friday mornings. It was great to be able to go back to the house and talk to people that were in the house and tell them about my experiences. When I was in the house it was always great to see positive examples of recovery that had come out of the Beacon HouseSM. It let me know that recovery was possible. This was the crack in the door that I needed. Just the possibility that it was possible…

One question that I was asked a lot about after I had told my story to new people in the Beacon HouseSM during our community meetings was with my experiences with a Sober Living Environment…. or SLE.

When I first went through the Beacon HouseSM the first time I was urged to go into some kind of sober environment after my 28 days at the Beacon HouseSM. At that time I would have none of it because I was working my own understanding of a program. I thought that I was different and that I knew what was best for me. I had a job as a bartender that I really needed to get back to in San Francisco. I had my priorities.

I thought that I needed to get back to my old life and besides… anything that involved living with a group of men was out of the question for me at that time. It was not because it was a group of men.. it was because there was a lack of women and that is what I had the problem with. Women and how I related with them was a big part of my disease and I did not want to face it at the time.

I went back to San Francisco and relapsed and wound up back on the Monterey Peninsula… this time it was more permanent. One of the first things that I did when I got back in the Beacon HouseSM was to seek out all of the suggestions that I had shot down the first time.

I was given a name and the phone number of a man who ran an SLE in Seaside called Casa California. His name was Jim Silveria. I moved into the house about 40 days after I got back into the Beacon HouseSM.

It was the best decision that I have ever made… well other then getting sober.

I made a commitment to live in the house for a year and it was just what I needed. Jim had rules that you had to follow. We had to go to meetings, we had to have a job or volunteer and we had to show up at the house for a house meeting every week. There was no excuse to not be at the meeting.

When I look back on my experience living with a bunch of men that were consumed with living a life of recovery….. I know that it was a turning point in my recovery. I now knew that it was possible to live a life that did not involve drugs and alcohol. I was surrounded by people who were of like mind who really cared about me.

We had our ups and downs in the house. Some people relapsed and people showed up late and missed the curfew. It really taught me some forgiveness and understanding too. When someone came back into the house that had relapsed I would not take it personally, which I had done before. I would realize that this man had come back into the fold and was alive.. and that was all that mattered.

 

So when people would ask if an SLE was a good idea I would always say that in my experience it was a deciding factor in the staying power of my sobriety.

Jim passed away a couple of years ago but not after he helped hundreds of men along the way. There were some men that I had met while doing the community meetings at the Beacon HouseSM that took my advice and went into and SLE. That is one of the proudest things that I have in my life to date… is knowing that I could help someone along in sobriety by helping them make the choice to go into an SLE.

 

Let me know if you have had an experience with an SLE… was it good, bad or did it not make a difference.

It’s A Progressive Disease

July 15, 2013 6:59 pm Leave your thoughts

I have been looking all over the internet lately. Just looking for things that get me thinking. Things that make me think just a little more deeply about my experience. One thing that I see over and over on the internet in regards to alcohol and drug abuse is in the realm of celebrities. 

Whenever there is a person that dies of this disease that is famous and well known it brings our disease into the light of day. Im not saying that it is not out there for everyone to see…. Im just saying that it gets so much more exposure then it usually does on the news, in the press, or on the internet. 

Cory Monteith was a man who was one of the cast members for the FOX show Glee. He passed away on July 13th at the age of 31. He had a history of substance abuse and was very open about it in his public life. I really had no idea who this person was until I read the article on the news the day after he did. There was an immediate reaction from the public because Cory was on such a popular TV show. 

When this happens… like it did with Whitney Houston and  Amy Winehouse it makes it a little more personal for people who may not have someone in their life that is an alcoholic or addict. They have a connection in their lives with someone that they know.. that has died from alcohol or drugs. 

It is always a tragedy when any human being is lost to drugs and alcohol. I think that sometimes people who are “normies” don’t think that you can actually die from alcohol….. if they don’t have an example in front of their face for don’t have someone that they know that has died from it. 

I have had people not believe me when I told them my story and how I was in an alcohol induced coma and was very near death. Maybe it is because alcohol is legal and it is more socially accepted then drugs are? 

“There is no way that you can die from simple alcohol ingestion”

I have heard this so many times in my 5 years of sobriety. 

As an alcoholic and an addict that understands the progressiveness of the disease I can see how someone can fall into the spiral downwards. It has happened to so many of us that we know exactly how it feels. It does not seem so far fetched for many of us how something like this can happen. How someone with so much fame an popularity can end up feeling so alone. 

I am so eternally grateful for the fact that I surrendered. 

One Word

July 10, 2013 9:24 am Leave your thoughts

I was thinking last night about the feelings that I was having when I finally surrendered and gave myself to this life of recovery. There were many different feelings that were going through my head. Some that I really can’t remember now but I know back then they were as vivid as any raw feeling that I had ever had before.

When I think of all of the different feelings they are characterized by streams of different words. It makes it hard to pick out individual words that really sum up almost everything that I was feeling in one word.

If you had to pick one word to describe your feelings…… at the end of your drinking and using… what would it be.

 

My word would be “desperation.”

I really like this definition for the word…

” loss of hope and surrender to despair

I first heard the term, “gift of desperation” when I first went into recovery. I remember hearing it and it hitting me like a ton of bricks. There are things that people say in meetings that you will always remember. My second sponsor had a book that he would write these things down in. He called them “nuggets.”

This was a nugget for me. I truly feel that my desperation was a gift to me. Something that brought me to my knees. I thought that there was no way out of the situation that I was in. I am glad that I was forced into recovery by my body and my mind.

What would your word be?

Hope?

To Tell… Or Not to Tell?

July 7, 2013 9:27 am Leave your thoughts

So last night I was driving down the road going to a meeting when I saw the familiar red and blue flashing lights of multiple police vehicles in front of me. They were stopped and they were preceded by a row of flares that was forcing me to go in the direction that they desired.

I was pulling into the very first sobriety checkpoint that I had ever driven into in my life. I know what you are saying… “Rich.. you are lying. You must have encountered a DUI checkpoint sometime during all of your alcoholic adventures… ”

Nope… I have never in my life been in or seen one… until now.

I pulled up to the officer and he explained what they were doing as he shined his flashlight at me and into my car. He asked my if I had been drinking …. and I got to say.

“No officer I have not had a drink tonight…. actually I have not had a drink since early 2008”

Then I told him that I was actually on my way to a midnight meeting… ironically. We talked briefly about the purpose of the DUI checkpoint and the effectiveness of this particular one… on this particular night. I thanked him, shook his hand and I was on my way to my meeting.

As I left I had the thought come into my head about alerting others to the DUI checkpoint’s location.. so that maybe they could avoid it. Then I had another thought about the reason that it was there in the first place. It was there to catch people that were under the influence of alcohol (or other intoxicants) and had made the decision to get behind the wheel of a car.

I thought about how the decision that I would make could have effect on others… it could be good and it could be bad. I thought about my views on people who choose to drive under the influence and put others lives at risk.

In the end… I did not alert anyone about the location and the activities of the police.

(I am writing this part of the post the day after…. after talking with someone close to me about my night. She suggested that she would let friends know about the DUI checkpoint as a deterrent… so that they would take a cab home instead of driving. It was a great different perspective that i wanted to share.)

My question to you is… would you have done the same?

Or would you have posted the existence of the DUI checkpoint on your favorite social media channel..

A Cure in a Pill? Would You Take It?

July 1, 2013 12:40 pm Leave your thoughts

I was browsing around the internet recently and I came across an article that was published in Nature Meuroscience about a study that was done at UCSF that was related to alcoholism and craving.

In a nutshell, what the researchers did was they identified and deactivated the pathway that linked the memories that caused craving in rats.

What they are hoping for was to bring forth new treatments for alcoholism.

“We learned that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol, there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or even erase the memory, and thus the craving” – Patricia H. Janak, PhD

You can read the break down of the study here.

This brings up the age old question when it comes to the treatment of alcoholism. If there was a pill out there that could cure you of your cravings for alcohol….. would you take it?

I have asked myself this question so many times and I have come to different answers… depending on the time in my recovery that you asked me the question. When I was just getting sober and could not imagine my life without cravings I would of gladly took the pill to kill my cravings.

Later on in my recovery after I had put in a lot of work I think that I would of said that I wouldn’t like to take the pill because I know what is really behind my drinking. I know the reasons that I drank in the first place.

I am thinking about all that I have gained from my years of work on myself. I know that I was the problem and not the alcohol.  When the alcohol was removed I was still there….. and I was still acting like an ass.

I wanted to pose the question the the community. If there was a pill that could “cure” your disease…. would you take it?