The First Year – A Sober Woman at 22

That I got sober at 22, and that it stuck, is still a little surprising to me five years later. Most of my partying occurred on a liberal arts college campus tucked away in Connecticut, and when I tried to continue that radically permissive lifestyle six months after (barely) graduating, it failed beautifully. Sobriety didn’t happen in one fell swoop, but over those six months of slipping: cue demoralization, despondence, and despair. This is not meant to be a cautionary tale, but rather, an exploration of that first year: its confusing messiness and simultaneous clarity. I was mostly curious about what life would look like when I wasn’t hijacked by the pursuit of substances at each moment of every day. I see what I learned and what I’d do differently. My sober time (>5 years) now surpasses the number of years that I used (~4.5 years), and the longer I keep at it, the more I realize certain recovery slogans resonate, while others feel irrelevant and require a kind of precise unlearning. “Take what you like, and leave the rest,” is one of my favorites. Sober living isn’t easy, but it’s easier than the runaway train of using and its inevitable wreckage.

 

From Unmanageability To Sobriety

I woke up in Bellevue in July 2013 after yet another blackout episode, thinking I’d discreetly slip out of the hospital gown and vow to never, ever, end up in this scenario again. It was my fourth drinking-related ER visit in four years, and it felt like Groundhog Day. I’d rationalize each trip by saying I should’ve eaten more beforehand or hung out with the friends who would’ve put me […]

Spring Fever: Sober in New York City

Being sober in New York City boasts its own unique set of challenges. Perusing recovery in a bustling & cosmopolitan city brings both opportunities and obstacles alike. While it may seem like everyone spends their days working and nights drinking and partying, there is a growing community of people in the Big Apple who are turning towards an alcohol-free life.

Whether someone self-identifies as in recovery, in a program of harm reduction, clean, sober, or sober-curious, NYC has a whole slew of options and communities that offer fun, relaxation, spiritual growth, and physical fitness, and don’t involve alcohol or substances. Here is a list of communities and non-drinking activities that can aid you in your path of recovery.

SOBER COMMUNITIES

They say the opposite of addiction is connection.  Whether it’s connecting with yourself, another person, a group of people, or a whole community, New York City has no shortage of people, places, things, and ideas to connect with. For those who are looking to alternatives to the traditional 12-step route, NYC’s recovery fellowship options are nearly limitless.

Sober communities offer their members a chance to network and gain insight into their own addictions through the bond of shared experiences. These 12-step alternatives and alternative recovery communities make the path to sobriety more accessible to those who find that the 12-step approach doesn’t fit into their own recovery plan.

BIGVISION

BIGVISION is a nonprofit that organizes free sober events/activities for young adults (18-35) in recovery from substances, ranging from adrenaline-fueled activities like Outdoor Trapeze and Indoor Go-Karting, to creative workshops like knitting […]

Letting Go: Anger, Resentment, and Recovery

I hate my ex. We had a great relationship – almost perfect, in fact. I was a caring, loving, supportive partner who never did anything wrong. She wasn’t perfect, but I was ok with that because unlike her, I’m a patient, tolerant, and understanding person. For years I put up with her weird quirks and annoying habits, of which I have absolutely none. I was the perfect boyfriend, and then suddenly, for no good reason at all, she dumped me. Now she won’t stop throwing her amazing life in my face. Her career is taking off, she started dating a really great guy, traveling the world, having fun with her friends and family, and living her best life. All just to spite me.

Of course none of this is true, but it is how I feel when I let anger and resentment into my life. Resentment allows negative thoughts and feelings take over and hijack my emotions. When I’m feeling resentful, I’m full of righteous indignation, self-pity, and anger. I see the past through a distorted lens that removes personal accountability, allowing me to believe that I’m merely a helpless victim of my own choices. Life itself seems unfair, like everyone else is winning while I sit here feeling like a loser. The longer I bathe in my resentment, the stronger the feelings become, until eventually my resentments eat me alive, leading me back to alcohol, drugs, and addiction.

Alone with my anger

Anger and resentment are common amongst people suffering from addiction, but not all resentments look the same. Resentment can take many forms: jealousy, anger, self-pity, hopelessness, and paranoia, to name a few. […]

5 Ways to Handle Stress in Sobriety

For those in addiction recovery, handling stress and anxiety without their substance of choice can be challenging. Stress can cause a number of physical symptoms, health problems, and left unchecked, can lead to relapse. Luckily, there are a number of healthy, productive ways to deal with stress that don’t involve alcohol, drugs, or harmful behaviors. Here are some tips for how to manage stress in recovery that won’t leave you wanting to numb out:

Wreck some things

Sometimes stress can feel so overwhelming that you just want to break something to clear your head. Well luckily, New York City has two destruction rooms where customers can pay to smash electronics and other household items (with protective gear on, of course) in an effort to reduce stress and have fun. Check out The Wrecking Club or The Rage Cage in Midtown Manhattan. Both rooms allow customers to plug in music on speakers for a customized experience and allow for solo sessions, as well as larger groups.

For a less intense yet still tactile experience, find a squishy stress ball to squeeze or a pillow to bash (safely) against your bed or another surface. Tactile activities are a great way to physically channel stress from within the body and can offer temporary relief.

Sweat it out

Believe it or not, breaking a sweat has been shown to have tremendous benefits for reducing stress and helping to calm an overactive mind. Whether you prefer sweating it out through cardio exercise […]

By |February 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Reservations and Rationalizations: Getting in the Way of My Own Recovery

When I first began my journey of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, I didn’t do it because I wanted to get sober. Sure, I agreed to go to detox, I agreed to go to rehab, I agreed to go to my first 12-step meeting, and agreed to try to live without alcohol and drugs, but it wasn’t a decision I wanted to make. It was a decision I had to make. My body was falling apart. My mental and emotional health was almost nonexistent. Everyone in my life that I cared about – my family, my friends, my employers, my romantic partners – had told me that if I didn’t get sober, they could no longer support or enable my behaviors. People told me I was going to die. Doctors told me my liver was failing and my body was experiencing an onslaught of the physical symptoms of addiction. Psychiatrists and therapists told me I was slowly going insane from ever-increasing alcohol and drug use. Hell, even my drinking buddies told me I was a little out of control.

So I decided to give “the whole sobriety thing” a try. I didn’t want to live a life without substances, but I did want to regain the love, trust, respect, and support of the people in my life. I wanted to be part of my family again. I wanted that old relationship back. I wanted that old job back. I wanted my old life back, the way it was before alcohol and drugs became a real problem. I knew the only way to achieve these goals was to do […]

The True Gifts of Recovery – the 12 Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous

For most people, the holiday season is a time of year filled with of joy, revelry, and togetherness with family and friends. But for those of us in recovery, the holiday season can also be a time of great stress, with lots of obstacles and stumbling blocks that can stand in the way of healthy long-term recovery.

In active addiction, my world revolved around things that I wanted but didn’t have, or things I had and wanted more of… Things that would either feed my addiction or feed my ego (which in turn would feed my addiction). I was obsessed with more. Getting more, having more, taking more, wanting more. I was suffering from the disease of more. I had an unfillable hole in me, into which I shoveled all the things I thought would make me feel better: money, sexual partners, alcohol, drugs, status symbols, cars, clothes, jewelry, gadgets, and baubles of all shapes and sizes. But it turned out that none of these things could ever fill the void.

Then finally, I found my path to recovery. Through working a program, I learned that tangible things will never make me happy. The gifts I needed to become happy, joyous, and free couldn’t be bought, sold, or stolen. The gifts I needed could only be given to me by steadfast work in a program of recovery, through self-improvement, through giving freely of myself and helping others in need. In short, the only gifts I needed were the gifts of recovery.

One of my favorite passages of recovery literature comes from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 83-84, in which the authors […]

By |December 20th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Myth of the Functional Alcoholic

Warning: The following article contains frank language about alcohol and drug use that some people in recovery may find triggering. The techniques described for hiding patterns of substance abuse are meant to illustrate a downward spiral addiction, and should not be considered “tips and tricks.”

If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please seek the help of an addiction specialist, alcohol and drug counselor, case manager, medical detox center, inpatient rehab, or sober living residence. If you are experiencing withdrawals from alcohol or drugs, please seek medical attention or dial 911.

 

Alcohol and drugs as part of the culture

Ever since stories of addiction, alcoholism, and substance abuse entered the pop culture canon, there have been stories of alcoholics and addicts who are able to maintain their normal, everyday lives, all the while harboring a secret (or not so secret) addiction or substance abuse habit. Think about all the times you’ve heard or seen references to the “three martini lunch” on Mad Men, or the late night (or all day) cocaine use in movies about Wall Street and the financial industry, or documentaries and biographies of rock stars like the Rolling Stones, The Band, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and countless others.

Alcohol and drugs are a huge part of many industries like fashion, film and television, and corporate culture in places like Silicon Valley and the NYC Financial District, where alcohol and drugs are simply part of the culture. Industries where the underlying ethos is “we work hard, and we play hard.” Some companies even keep alcohol on-site, in the office, available at any time of day. There are dozens of high-end corporate […]

Surfing the Big Wave of Recovery

Think of your recovery like surfing a giant wave. As long as you’re concentrating on surfing that wave, (aka working on your recovery – going to meetings, talking to your sponsor, working your steps, staying in touch with your higher power), you’re balanced on your board, experiencing joy, and surfing the ultimate wave. But then your concentration breaks. You stop focusing on the wave and start paying attention to distractions around you. Maybe you start thinking about your romantic relationship, or how it’s going at work, or how you’re going to pay that next bill that’s due, or how that person you met last night perceived you, or some dumb joke you made that no one laughed at. It doesn’t matter what the distraction is, because as long as that distraction becomes more important than that wave you’re surfing, you’re going to lose focus. So you get distracted, you lose your balance, the wave breaks, and you come crashing towards the rocky shore.

If you regain focus quickly, you can jump back on your board, catch your breath, and paddle back out into the water to catch another wave. But if you lay on shore feeling sorry for yourself thinking, “I’m such a loser, how did I mess up that wave? I’ll never catch another wave like that one, I might as well just give up,” all is lost. Sure, you might have a moment or two on shore, beaten, battered, but still breathing. Laying there in the sand, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling crushed, but safe for the moment. But if you wait too long, another wave will inevitably come crashing into shore, catching you in its undertow and […]

Relapse, Recovery, and Getting Back on Track

Those of us in recovery from addiction know that, sometimes, relapses happen. Relapse can strike anyone in recovery. Anyone. From the newcomer with 30 days sober, to people who haven’t had a drink or drug in years, no one is exempt from the dangers of relapse. Of course when it comes to avoiding relapse, vigilance helps. Going to meetings on a regular basis, participating in a recovery program of any kind, having a sponsor or recovery coach, and keeping in good emotional, physical, and spiritual health are all great ways of keeping relapse at bay. But the truth is, even those of us who maintain our spiritual and emotional health to the best of our abilities sometimes relapse. In the words of my first sponsor, “hey, shit happens.”

Relapsing after a long (or short) period of sobriety brings about a slew of emotions. Guilt, shame, remorse, anxiety, fear, spite, self-loathing, jealousy, secrecy, rage, and more. These negative emotions can lead to a shame spiral, leaving many of us who relapse at an impasse. Should we embarrass ourselves by admitting the truth to our friends, families, recovery groups, and loved ones? Or should we just get “the effits” and keep going until the our secrets expose themselves? Fortunately, there’s an easy answer to this question, and it boils down to 8 simple words:

 

Relapse Isn’t the End of Your Recovery

Listen, as we admit every time we attend a recovery meeting or 12-step group, we’re alcoholics, we’re addicts. This is who we are. We’re trying to recover, but ultimately, what do addicts and alcoholics do? We drink. We drug. We make bad decisions. […]

Women in Recovery: Finding Support, Following Suggestions, and Learning to Trust

When I first started going to recovery meetings, I didn’t trust anyone. Not even myself. And even though I didn’t understand why, I was especially intimidated by women. As a woman in recovery, I kept hearing that I should trust women, stick with the women, ask other women for help, but it just didn’t feel right to me. Women scared me, I thought they would manipulate me, judge me, compete with me because I felt like that was what they had always done. Of course I know now that a lot of my insecurity about trusting women was my own unhealthy defense mechanism.

During active addiction, I surrounded myself with the opposite sex, hoping to avoid judgement and seek validation. Seeking external validation from the opposite sex isn’t healthy, and my own unhealthy mind searched for ways to justify my unhealthy behaviors. Even though I had been physically and emotionally abused by men, and had received a lot of negative male attention throughout my life, for some reason I still trusted men more than I trusted women. Learning how to trust other women in my recovery program was one of the biggest challenges of my recovery, and n invaluable skill that has had tremendous benefits to my sobriety.

 

Learning how to take suggestions (from strangers!)

The people at the 12-step meeting I attended suggested sticking with your gender, especially during your first year. I didn’t feel good about this suggestion, but I did it anyway, because the people who suggested it seemed like they knew what they were talking about (they did). So I stuck with women (for the most part). So in the early days […]