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Dumb About Drinks

There is no question that I have had my fair share of experience with alcohol. Tons of high school parties with cheap beer and vodka and 2 cases of alcohol poisoning! Well, maybe not a great deal of experience, but at least enough to know that my addiction extends to alcohol. However, one unique thing about my experience with alcohol is that all my drinking was done illegally. I have never had a drink over the legal age of 21. Finding recovery at the young age of 19 has presented me with a unique set of challenges in life. One of the most prevalent challenges I have been facing lately is that I am completely uneducated when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol is such an integral part of society and conversations about it seem to pop up everywhere, and whenever I find myself in one of these conversations I am completely lost!

I work in marketing for a technology company and this means lots of invitations to happy hours, lunch events, and conferences. I also work with a group of 20 something ladies who like to chat a lot about their weekend drinking habits. The conversation seems turns to alcohol at least a few times a week when they chat about a fun cocktail they had a club, or a wine they liked at some new restaurant they tried. It doesn’t bother me or make me want to use when they talk about alcohol, but I do feel very left out of the conversation. I have never had a glass of wine or a martini. I have no idea what these different kinds of wine are that they talk about sometimes like chardonnay? WTF is that? When I attend happy hours or other work related social events people don’t seem to care that I don’t drink, but they still seem to assume I have general knowledge about social drinking, as most adults do. Many times people will use the drink they ordered as a conversation starter. It’s an easy way to break the ice “Oo what drink do you have there? That looks good!” or “Man their wheat beer is great!” The conversation easily turns to what other drinks they all like such as different types of wine or beers or fancy drinks they have had as restaurants. I feel uncomfortable in these situations because I have no idea what they are talking about and I lose all ability to participate in the conversation. I can somewhat understand when they say a beer or wine, but like what is Crown Royal? Is Southern Comfort a wine or is it like a hard lemonade thing? For that matter what is in a hard lemonade? Whats the difference between whisky and bourbon and gin and scotch and omg there are so many! To put it simply, I am dumb when it comes to drinking! 

At 25 this is going to be a unique challenge that I am going to face for the rest of my life. Sometimes I wonder if I am missing out on some sort of life experience having not tried all of these different drinks. However, I can easily remind myself of my experiences with alcohol poisoning in active addiction and know that is not a path I want to venture anywhere near at all ever again! My lack of knowledge can definitely be comical at times and even interesting to others. For example I have never had a margherita virgin or otherwise! Nor have I ever had champagne, but somehow I feel like sparkling cider tastes better anyways! As a youth addict and as a youth in recovery I know that I will encounter more unusual experiences and “issues” in life. What are some unusual things you have encountered being in recovery?

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Finding New Highs in Recovery

View from the summit!

Last Saturday I climbed Mt. Sherman, one of Colorado’s 54 peaks that reach over 14,000ft. Although I have lived in Colorado all my life I have never hiked a 14er and I was very excited for this new adventure. Mt. Sherman is a good beginner 14er, but that’s not saying much as there is nothing easy about hiking any 14er. The hike was about 6 miles with a 2,500ft elevation gain! If that much uphill hiking doesn’t sound hard enough we also had to cross snowfields, hike along steep cliffs, and scramble across tons of loose scree (loose rock fields that form from the constant cycle of freezing and thawing on the mountain). The most difficult part of climbing a 14er is the lack of oxygen! We started the hike at an altitude of over 11,000ft and from the first steps of the climb my lungs searching for more air with every breath. As we climbed higher and higher every muscle in my body was just screaming for oxygen and I just couldn’t seem to ever catch my breath. We hiked slowly and took frequent breaks to avoid dizziness and altitude sickness.

After almost 3 hours of climbing we reached the summit of Mt. Sherman at 14,036ft above sea level. The views from the top were amazing and the feelings of accomplishment and triumph were motivating. Although it was a hot and sunny July day the winds near the summit were brisk and cold, the snow fields were large and deep up to my knee. We only had a few minutes to enjoy our time at the summit as the clouds were building, increasing the threat of lightning, and we had to start heading down. To quickly get past the largest snow field we tied our jackets around our waist and slid down the steep wet snow. It was so exhilarating to be sledding in the middle of summer! If I had not been so tired already I would have hiked back to the top to slide down again! We spent more time on the way down exploring several of the old mining sites along the path and enjoying the summer wildflowers. By the time we reached our car I felt great, but also exhausted and hungry!

All of the dangers and difficulties we encountered on our Mt. Sherman adventure made conquering a 14er feel all that more amazing. It is a high point in my recovery and my life that I am proud of and will never forget. Standing on the summit gave me a feeling of accomplishment I have not felt in a long time. It has really sparked my thinking to search for other ways I can get back to finding this natural healthy exhilaration. What are some achievements you have reached in your recovery? Do you have any plans or goals set to complete something that will push you to new limits?

Mt. Sherman summit 14,036ft!

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The Fantastic 5 : A Recovery Fundamental

One of the first things I heard in recovery is that phone numbers are important! People would harp on the topic in meetings and tell me to “collect those numbers and pick up the phone!”  However, like many new to recovery, I would collect all the numbers handed to me on meeting lists and then not do anything with 10566018_16ea9f7c8a_othem. I didn’t really know what to do with them. I didn’t really feel comfortable just calling these random people that I didn’t really know. They were all very friendly and would say “call any time!” and I believed that they were sincere, but it was my own reservations that would keep me from picking up the phone. What would I call them for? What would we talk about? Wouldn’t it just feel awkward? Would I be bothering them? Why is this so important? Why do they want me to call people, can’t I just see people at meetings?

My first sponsor helped me put the phone number situation into perspective. She explained to me why these phone numbers from others in recovery were so damn important! They are direct paths to others who understand the struggles I am going through. These addicts have experience with where I am going and where I have been, and they know what does work and what doesn’t work. They are my most valuable resource in recovery. The books can help me with my steps. Meetings can help me make new friends and hear stories of recovery inspiration. A fellow addict on the other end of the phone is there any time day or night when I am feeling my worst, when I am on the brink of relapse, when shit has hit the fan and I am freaking out! When I need recovery the most the best thing I can do is pick up that phone!

flickr_SheUnderstanding how valuable calling another addict can be does not make it any easier to pick up the phone. My own feelings of discomfort and anxiety can make that little phone feel like it weighs a million pounds, and keep me from reaching out for help in a time of need. Would I really rather risk my life and my recovery than have a few awkward moments on the phone? In the moment the weight of these two options may not be as clear. To prevent myself from making the wrong decision if ever faced with this dilemma my sponsor thought it would be good for me to get through those awkward moments before I find myself in a time of great need. She encouraged me to call other addicts and just get to know them. To practice picking up the phone so that it won’t feel like it weighs a million pounds. To get to know my fellow addicts so that when I call its like calling a friend rather than a stranger I met at a meeting.

I really took to heart the assignment my sponsor gave me. I went out and did exactly what she said. I would call another addict from a meeting and when they would answer I would say; “just practicing!” It was a great icebreaker, and it helped me to get over my anxiety of calling others and make new friends. My sponsor said that I should get to know 5 other addicts as part of my assignment, and this is where I came up with my recovery fundamental of The Fantastic 5.Flame_002

The Fantastic 5 should be 5 other people in recovery that you are friendly with and that you feel comfortable calling at any time. Sort of like back-up sponsors, they should be people who are fairly familiar with where you are in your recovery and what’s going on in your life.  This way when you call one of them in an “emergency” situation there is no need for a lot of catching up. The Fantastic 5 should essentially be your 5 best friends in recovery. The people you can always look to for advice and help. Your recovery superheroes!
Do you have a Fantastic 5? Is this a new recovery fundamental that you will embrace? What are your thoughts on calling other addicts in recovery for help?

flickr photo by TheFoodJunk

The Potato Chip Theory to Relapse : One Is Never Enough

Have you ever tried to eat just one potato chip? Just one? It’s almost impossible. They are just soooo good! Eating just one makes you want to continue eating till the whole bag is empty. We are not alone in our struggles to eat just one potato chip. Many, many people struggle to keep away from that second, third, and even more chip. What can we do? For now, our best bet to combat this problem is some sort of self control.

——– Applying Potato Chip Theory to Relapse ——–

Have you ever tried to use just once? Just once? It’s almost impossible. Using just once makes you want to continue using till the whole bag/bottle is empty. We are not alone in our struggles to stop using. Many, many people struggle to keep away from that second, third, and even more drug/drink. What can we do? For now, our best bet to combat this problem is some sort of self control.

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Clean at the Concert: Widespread Panic!

Last weekend kicked off the start to my concert season with a Sunday show with Widespread Panic! I am so lucky to live close to one of the most beautiful concert venues in the world, Red Rocks Colorado! The weather was great, the views were amazing, and the music was awesome! However, I will not deny that I could not help but notice the aggressive use of drugs and alcohol all around me. There were girls falling over drunk on one side of me, people eating mushrooms right in front of me, a guy snorting white powder behind me, and everyone passing joints all around me. I have to admit that this can all be a trigger, not necessarily to use but for anxiety, flashbacks, and other uncomfortable feelings.20150628_192612 (1)

In all the drug encouraged chaos going on around me I was able to find a little haven of recovery. The Gateway, Clean and Sober Fans of Widespread Panic, had a table set up, and as soon as I entered the beautiful Red Rocks I headed straight for their yellow balloons. I grabbed some yellow “One Show at a Time” stickers for myself and my sober buddy for the night. I wore that bright yellow sticker on my chest all night like it was a shield from all the drugs in the amphitheatre. With all the sharing of bounty going on around me I was surprised that not once did someone offer me anything. Did it have something to do with the sticker? Or was I just giving off that “not interested” vibe? The “Designated Driver” wristband I got for a free soda probably helped also. (There are benefits to being sober! Free soda! Hooray!) Whatever combination of factors it was that helped keep the drugs at bay also helped me feel grounded in my recovery. I took great comfort in knowing that I was not the only clean and sober addict in recovery at that concert, and I felt proud that I can now enjoy these events without being under the influence.

20150628_152613 (1)I have been to many concerts in recovery, and every time I walk in to a show I know I am going to be confronted with drugs and alcohol. I always go with others in recovery and set in the state of mind to have fun clean and sober. What concerts are you going to clean and sober this summer? What steps do you take to stay clean at concerts?

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Meeting Burnout… Advice is Needed!

At what point do you decide that a meeting is no longer successful? How do you deal with meeting burnout?


Many in recovery attend 12-step meetings, including myself. Whatever fellowship you may follow, most 12-step meetings tend to be somewhat similar in structure, but very different and unique when it comes to the group of people you will find there. The core group really sets the tone of a meeting. Some are very casual and laid back, others are more formal and serious. This is why there are so many meetings, so that everyone can find something they like! If you have ever attended the same meeting on a regular basis or have been a home group member you will know that meetings go through an ebb and flow of attendance throughout the year.  In some large meetings this can be less noticeable, but in smaller meetings this flux becomes much more apparent. I am a service member of 2 youth meetings outside of Denver, Colorado. They are not close to downtown and they tend to be small, very relaxed, fun meetings. I love these meetings and I have made many friends here. However, we have gone through tough times when it comes to attendance and I have been stuck as the keyholder for several years now. There have been countless times over the past 5 years where the only people at the meeting were my husband and myself. It can really be a bummer, and after a few meetings like that in a row it can be hard to find the motivation to go. One of these meetings has been struggling since it started. I helped to start the Wednesday night meeting about 4 years ago and we have never been able to establish a regular home group. Sometimes I consider closing the meeting, but then of course that night 15 people show up! After not being able to take a break from these meetings in so many years I feel I am starting to hit the point of serious burnout.

It is hard for me to make a definitive decision on our one struggling meeting. Since I helped establish the meeting I feel an attachment to it, and I would be sad to see 4 years of work come to an end.  The attendance from week to week is such a roller coaster, from no one, to 10 people, to 1 newcomer (which makes for an awkward meeting), to 5 friends, that it is hard to think about closing a meeting when there are a room full of addict there every so often. The random spikes in attendance keep me coming back to unlock the door and set out the coffee, and sometimes I can see that there is a point to our persistence with these meetings. One of the first things I learned about recovery is that people will come and go, they relapse, move, or try new meetings, and in that process they usually lose contact. However, eventually people tend to come back. It is a great feeling to see a good friend come back to a meeting after losing contact or a relapse. I can see how they are comforted to know that this meeting will always be there, and that their old friends will always be there to greet them. However, at what point do I stop sitting there waiting for friends to come back? Or to have that awkward meeting with just one newcomer that never comes back because, well a meeting with two people is not that fun and enticing. I also feel that I am no longer gaining much from the meeting. I often wonder if my Wednesday nights could be spent doing something more productive for my own recovery?

At what point do you decide that a meeting is no longer successful? How do you deal with meeting burnout?

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Get Out and About : Staying Active in Your Recovery and Social Life This Winter

It’s winter! It is cold and snowing, and I am sure some of you have been hiding inside for weeks now attempting to avoid the fact that winter is here! I see so many people become stuck when the weather gets cold. They hold up in their homes and get bored and depressed, they stop going to meetings or hanging out with friends. Staying active and social is an important part of recovery. Don’t let the cold weather bring you down, come out of hibernation and check out these ideas for getting out and about this winter!

 

Go to the movies! Go where its warm and check out all of the new blockbusters that are coming out. Some theaters have discount tickets on Sundays. The theater by my house is only $5 on Sundays!

Did it snow? Go play in it!! Go sledding or tubing, skiing or snowboarding, make a snowman or snow sculpture. Go for a walk and take some pretty pictures, go to a local ice skate rink, or gather some friends and have a snowball fight. Find your inner child, get outside, and enjoy the beauty of winter and the snow!

Go to a new meeting or recovery gathering. It gets dark early in the winter, so if you cant make it outside get out of the house and check out something new! Maybe there is a meeting that you have been wanting to check out. Look up if there are any active sober social groups in your community. Create your own on-the-spot recovery by gathering some clean and sober friends at a local coffee shop!

What are you doing to stay active in your recovery and your social life this winter?

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Clean, Sober, and Awkward for the Holidays…

So the holidays are here! I am not ready at all, but ready or not they are here! Hooray!? It seems that many addicts, including myself have mixed feelings when it comes to the holidays. On one hand, who does not love the holidays? Good food, presents, and a little time off of work! Then there is the stress of shopping and visiting with the family. For addicts visiting with family can have more stressors than it  does for the average person. Many fear being around or even offered alcohol, some feel uncomfortable around family members who are not understanding of our addiction and recovery, and sometimes we have to deal with family members who are in active addiction themselves. Whatever the reason, the holidays and family are stressful, there is no getting around that. However, we can approach these holiday family functions with a sense of responsibility and maturity.

In a recent meeting we discussed the topic of responsibilities. Responsibilities can kinda suck and are definitely the source of stress. But one of my recovery goals is to be an “acceptable, responsible, and productive member of society”, and that goal has responsibilities written all over it! Literally! Being in recovery means that I am going to have to accept a whole new set of responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is being a member of my family. For many years while I was using I was not a responsible family member, in fact I was a very crappy family member. I was that family member that other family members probably dreaded meeting at these holiday gatherings. Now, I have the ability to be a present, mature, and good member of my family. Accepting my responsibility as a member of my family means that if they would like me to come to Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas then I am going to pick my butt up, get dressed up, and bring a smile!

As I mentioned, there is no getting around the stress of our responsibilities, but one of the great things about being in recovery is that we have been blessed with many tools to deal with all kinds of stress. If we are around triggers at a holiday gathering then we can call another addict. If we are traveling and are looking for some recovery comfort then finding a meeting is only a Google search away. A reading or quote to get us through a stressful moment can always be found in a daily meditation reading. Support in recovery is always there if you reach for it. This holiday season I may be dreading some family gatherings, but I am accepting my responsibility as a member of my family and I will be relying on the support of my recovery to get me through it.

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Celebrating 10 Years of Recovery

I know this post is late and I know I have been absent lately. I’m sorry! Life has gotten in the way, and I am trying to get back some time to commit to this blog. So I assure you I am working on it! Despite this post being late I still wanted to share with you all a wonderful trip my husband and I took early last month to celebrate my husbands 10 year sobriety anniversary. Yes 10 YEARS!! Amazing right? We now have a collective 16 years of clean time between us at 25 and 26 years old! It really amazes me and I hope it inspires other youth in addiction and recovery and shows that this is possible. Teens and youth in addiction can get clean young and stay clean and sober!
To celebrate my husband’s decade of recovery we decided to take a trip to visit another follow addict friend who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and check out The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!  It was truly an amazing experience! We arrived before dawn and spent the morning watching over 500 hot air balloons take flight with over 100,000 other spectators! There were hot air balloons of all shapes, sizes, and colors and we were right in the middle of all the action. We were able to touch the balloons and walk right under them. We were able to see the entire process from unpacking to taking flight. It was indescribably cool to see hundreds of balloons in various stages of inflation and flight. There were hundreds of balloons in the air and hundreds more surrounding us on the ground getting ready. I can’t wait to go back and experience this event again. It was a wonderful experience and I know we would never have spent the time, money, and effort to drive to Albuquerque and wake up at 4:30AM to go to this Fiesta if we were not clean and sober!