An Open Letter From One Alcoholic

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Dear Server/Waiter/Waitress (or whatever you prefer to be called these days),

This is my open letter to you, in attempts to try to understand each other better. First I’d like to say, I appreciate what you do, because I have done your job before, and I know it can suck. That being said, I also have a pretty good idea of what might be going through your head, when you seat a table of us sober folk.

You see us sit in your section and assume we will be a fun crowd, which of course means ‘drinks all around’! When we start to order sodas, waters, ice teas and milkshakes, one by one, the look of utter disappointment is evident on your face. I actually experience a bit of empathy for you, because we all know, drinks really drive up the bill. But believe me when I say, you should be rejoicing over the absence of alcohol at this table; trust me, we will still tip you well.

Typically by this point you, the server, have decided that we are not as valuable as the other table that is drinking, so our non-alcoholic drinks come, but only after a longish wait. (Sometimes though, we get lucky and our server is still on board with us.)

It’s time to order food! Rejoice! You are being kind to us–that is, until we tell you we want separate checks. We agree to split our large group in to 3 checks to make your life easier, (but most of us have served tables before, or still do, and know how easy it is to split a check. After all, everything is touch-screen computerized). Ordering our food goes well, and we seem to be on good terms again. And have no fear; we will still tip you well.

We spend the next 30 minutes being a bit loud, excessively taking #selfies and #groupies on our phones, while simultaneously checking in on Facebook, and posting to Instagram. We tend to have a lack of awareness that others are also dining in this restaurant. We swear, laugh loudly, ask for more bread and drink refills and frequently change seats so we don’t miss anything at the other end of the table. But rest assure; we will tip you well.

Food comes, sometimes in a timely manner; often times not. Someone sends their food back (trust me, there is always one, and we are equally as mortified as you are annoyed). But we also are supportive of our table foodie, encouraging her to speak her truth! (This goes way deeper than her poorly cooked burger).  We eat, we are still loud, but trust me when I say; we will still tip you well.

By this time in the meal, you may have found a soft place for us in your heart, or you may just be ready to part ways. Either way, you bring us our check (all on one bill–what happened to our agreement!?) in a very timely manner. We labor arduously over the confusing bill, making sure everyone knows that there is already an 18% gratuity included. Our bill-master (there is always one poor sap that gets stuck with this job), organizes our cash and cards and sends the neatly organized package off with you.

At this point, someone busts out some homemade cupcakes, and we sing ‘happy birthday’, to a 30-something who is turning 3, (just go with it). We eat our treats, and take more #selfies and #groupies, and wait and wait and wait for you to bring our cards back. Half of our group (the smart ones who brought cash), have evacuated the table to go outside to smoke their e-cigs. The rest of us wait. The smokers return to the table. After what seems like an eternity, you bring our bill back to us. We sign on the dotted lines, offer you some cupcakes and tip you well (above the included 18%).

I recognize that we are a wild bunch of folks who may not have the best table manners, but we mean well. We want to get along with you! So when you see us coming in packs, iPhones and e-cigs in hand, try to cut us some slack.

Until we meet again,

Anonymous

An Online AA Meeting

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Recently Lionrock Recovery started a weekly, online, 12-step meeting. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect, who would show up and what would happen. But as I sat comfortably at my computer and logged in to the meeting site, I immediately felt calm, OK and at peace; (the same way I do when I sit in any meeting).

The meeting began with The Serenity Prayer, and by the time we were all saying “the wisdom to know the difference”, the barrier of our computer screens faded. We read from The Big Book, (of Alcoholics Anonymous), and the leader shared his experience, strength and hope with us.

As we went around one by one, sharing of ourselves, I felt the same connection I would feel if we had all been sitting in one room together. I suddenly realized that this was a very special gathering. Because once again, people who may have not otherwise met or mixed, were bearing their souls to each other. We were relating to each others alcoholism, and more importantly, sharing the solution. I was quickly reminded that the miracle of AA happens when one alcoholic is relating to another, in any capacity.

Our weekly group is ever-changing and growing. We have people from New York City, to California. We have people from places in the country that have no AA or NA meetings within a 50 mile radius. We have people with multiple years of sobriety, and newcomers. We are the face of Alcoholics Anonymous, reaching those who may not have otherwise been reachable. We are an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, gathered together with a single purpose; to help the alcoholic who is still suffering, so that we all may recovery from the disease of alcoholism.

***If you or someone else is interested in trying out a 12-step meeting, please join us:

Schedules

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Every Tuesday at 6:00pm Pacific, 8:00pm Central, 9:00pm Eastern

To Join The Meeting, Click This Link: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/join/420455711

5 Dos and Don’ts of Sober Dating and Relationships

5 Dos and Don’ts of Sober Dating and Relationships

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So you’re clean and sober now; you have houseplants that are actually green and flourishing, and you have a pet (or 2), that you have managed to keep alive and fed. Naturally you’re feeling pretty confident about adding a romantic relationship (with another human), into the mix. Before you brave the world of awkward first dates and sexting, here are a few caveats (and solutions), to be aware of.

  • Character defects? What character defects!?
It has been said that getting into a relationship, is like pouring miracle-grow on your character defects. And if you have worked some steps, it shouldn’t be news to you that you have them. So what can be done? How can you reel your self back in when your emotions and shortcomings get the best of you?

Solution: Stay connected to your sponsor, and close friends. This means practicing honesty. Tell on yourself when you act poorly, and get some honest feedback from the people who know you best. Also, when in doubt, write an inventory.

 

  • Don’t get loaded
Seems pretty obvious, right? Wrong. You might be surprised by how many sober couples relapse together, especially when they are newer to recovery. Just because the one you love decides to drink or drug, doesn’t mean you have to.

Solution: Stay strong in your program, even if your partner relapses. You know what is worse than one drunk? Two drunks. Continue to go to your meetings, no matter what. Getting in the ring with a partner’s addiction can be devastating.

 

  • Let the past be past
Everyone has a past and you have both probably dated other people. Chances are one of you dated someone else that you both know, and this can be awkward. These situations are famous for arousing jealousy and insecurity, which can be the demise of a healthy relationship.

Solution: Let the past be. Don’t keep bringing it up over and over again. If your partner has chosen to be with you, he/she is likely over their previous partners. Remember, these feelings are all fear-based, and fear rarely serves us.

 

  • Meeting makers make it
You’re in an exciting, new relationship and all either of you wants to do is spend time with each other. Things like work, school, other friends and those pesky meetings keep getting in the way. You find yourself scaling back on anything that doesn’t involve your new dating partner, and this is a slippery slope.

Solution: It is normal to have intense feelings when you meet someone you like, but it is unhealthy to stop showing up to your life as a result. Going to meetings and staying connected to your fellowship, will help support a healthy relationship. Don’t forfeit the very things that make you who you are for anyone.

 

  • The only inventory worth taking is your own
It is easy to point out someone else’s shortcomings and mistakes, especially if we feel wronged. However, it is not kind to do so, and can lead to some pretty nasty arguments.

Solution: The only person’s inventory you have to worry about, is your own. Keep your side of the street clean, in a relationship. It is not your job to parent your partner, and certainly not your job to point the finger at them. Chances are if there is a conflict, you both have a part in it. Identify your part, so you can get to the solution quicker.

The Importance of Setting Goals

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” ~ Tony Robbins (Life-Coach, Motivational Speaker, Self-Help Author)

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The most successful people in the world, will always refer back to how important goal-setting was, to building their empire. It seems like a simple and mundane task, but the act of putting pen to paper and actually writing down goals can be very powerful. Here are 4 reasons why and how you should be setting goals:

1. Attract It
Have you ever heard of the concept that thoughts become things, or the law of attraction? Don't believe in that? Try it out for 30 days; we dare you. The Universe has a funny way of delivering you exactly what you are focusing on. If you spend your days sitting in negative thoughts and complaining about everything, you are likely to continue being faced with those types of things and situations. On the flip side, if you spend your days looking for the good and beauty in things, you are more likely to notice it and attract it. So instead of sitting in fear about why you can't, try making a goals list. Whether it be about career, family or love, give it a go.

2. Visualize It
Dedicate some time to actually visualizing your goals for your life. Picture how it would  feel to achieve them. Imagine how you would walk once reaching these goals. We aren't suggesting to live in a fantasy-land, because goal-setting needs to be followed up with action, but visualizing reaching your goals can help keep you motivated to pursue them.

3. Write It
Sometimes the longest journey is from the pen to the paper. Pick up a pen or turn on your computer, and write down your goals. Place no rules or boundaries on yourself while doing it. There is something therapeutic about getting thoughts on to paper. Also, our heads tend to blow things out of proportion. Seeing something on paper is often less intimidating than what our minds will have us believe.

4. Don't Judge It
This is a piggyback on #3. Allow yourself the freedom to set whatever goals you want. Setting goals allows us to open up our imaginations, and break down barriers. Anyway, it is all about the journey, not the destination.

"A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals." ~ Larry Bird (NBA Player, Boston Celtics, 1978-1992, Hall of Fame Inductee)

5 Tips for Overcoming Fear

5 Tips for Overcoming Fear

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What is Fear? Fear is an illusion of an obstacle, that your head creates. Often times these thoughts feel so powerful that they are actually paralyzing.  In other words, Fear is: (F)alse (E)vidence (A)ppearing (R)eal. So what can we do to move past these thoughts, and prevail over them. Here are 5 ways to get over your fears:

1. Accept the Challenge

Fear tells you that you can’t. What if you accepted the challenge and proved your fears wrong? When someone else tells us that we can’t do something, we often feel motivated to prove them wrong. Take on that same attitude, and accept the challenge to prove your fears wrong.

2. Acknowledge, and Move On

When your head is spewing negative thoughts at you, sometimes the best thing to do is to acknowledge the thought, and move past it. You can even go as far as saying to yourself, “thank you for sharing”. Thoughts are not reality, especially if you don’t dwell on them.

3. Don’t Dwell

So you have some fears arise, so what? It happens. Instead of becoming a prisoner of your own thoughts, and dwelling in it, try looking for the opposite action or solution. What would it look like to do the very thing that your head is telling you that you can’t? If that doesn’t work, keep yourself busy enough that you don’t have time to dwell in the fear.

4. Eyes on the Prize

Typically fear arises when we are venturing in to something new or exciting. Fear is an optical illusion, so remember why you started in the first place. Keep your eyes on the prize; focus on your initial goal instead of the fear surrounding it.

5. Trust Your Gut

Sometimes fear is real. For instance, if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, then trust your gut. If the fear is about something your head has made up, chances are it is your ego trying to hold you back. But if your fear is in regards to a potentially hazardous situation, always put your safety first.

Dos and Don’ts of Prescription Medication in Recovery

Dos and Don’ts of Prescription Medication in Recovery

prescription pillsTaking prescription medications in sobriety is often a controversial topic. This discussion falls into two categories; mental health medications, and pain medications. There are many opinions regarding this topic-matter, and it is important to look at the big picture, before making a decision about it, or making a judgement.

Many people enter in to recovery having already been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, (depression, bipolar, anxiety, etc). Many of these diagnoses are accurate, but some of them have been made without factoring in the person’s alcoholism or addiction. It is a good idea to get reevaluated, after you have been clean and sober for a while, (30 + days).

It is important to consider the different degrees of mental illness as well, when deciding whether or not meds are for you. For example, depression comes in a wide spectrum of intensity, ranging from sporadic spurts lasting only a few days, (which may feel more manageable), to being suicidal. A person who does not struggle with depression, could never fully understand what it is like to deal with this condition, and the same goes for any other mental illness. The decision to take mental health meds is a completely personal one, and what might work for someone else, may not work for you.

The most important factor of deciding whether or not you may need mental health meds, is to do so under the care of a trusted doctor. These types of medications should only be taken as prescribed. Unprescribed medications, do not fall under the guidelines of sobriety, and could compromise your recovery.

This brings us to pain medications, possibly the most controversial issue in the recovery world. Let me preface this by saying, under no circumstances is taking these types of medications recreationally, considered a part of being clean or sober. But what if you get injured, have a surgery, get severe dental work done, or find yourself in a situation rendering your doctor to prescribe you pain killers. Are you really expected to just tough it out?

Again, this is a personal decision. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

1. Tell your doctor ahead of time that you are an addict or alcoholic.
2. Ask if there is a non-narcotic version of this medication, that would be equally as effective.
3. Make an honest assessment of your pain level.
4. Ask a trusted friend to administer your medication to you. Pain medications alter your brain and your thinking. While taking them as prescribed by your doctor is acceptable, they can cloud your judgement once in your system.
5. Check in with your sponsor, a mentor or a trusted friend, while taking the prescription.
6. When you do not need the meds anymore, discard the remaining pills. Don’t save them for a ‘rainy day’.

by Emily M

How to Survive Monday

How to Survive Monday

timeIt’s Monday morning; the inevitable day that we all seem to resist. Your coveted weekend has slipped between your fingertips, and you are now faced with a brand new week of responsibilities. Life is in session.

As we face the week ahead, we often feel like we are at the bottom of Mount Everest, and can’t fathom how we will get it all done by Friday. Or maybe it is as simple as surviving the demanding week ahead, and merely making it to our next two-day break. We have come up with some simple ways to survive Monday, and to have a more successful week.

1. Make a List
Making a to-do list of everything you hope to achieve for the week, (or even just for the day), is an extremely useful tool. Many times the act of getting your thoughts down on paper eliminates stress. If you want to be really thorough, make a to-do list, and then assign tasks to each day. The best part of making a to-do list, is crossing things off of it.

2. Eat Well
Make sure to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Some of us get caught up in the hustle-and-bustle of a busy Monday, and skip meals. This can quickly add to your stress level. Make sure to give yourself the opportunity to fuel up properly, so you don’t run out of steam by 3pm.

3. Pray / Meditate
Even if you only have 5 minutes to do so, make sure to take a deep breath and get centered. There are many ways to do this, so find what works for you, and do it. The transition from a relaxing weekend to a busy Monday can be overwhelming, so don’t forget to inject your day with some self-care.

4. Look on the Bright Side
Life is all about perception, and so is your happiness. Instead of looking at Monday with dread, try changing your perception, and getting amped on a new week. Your positive outlook and attitude will be contagious, and you might just change the mood of your surroundings.

5. Exercise
Whether you run 10 miles, or walk for 10 minutes, try to make time in your day for some exercise. The release of endorphins, (the body’s natural feel-good hormones), will give you the boost you need to conquer the day, and the week.

Are you an Enabler?

For every alcoholic or drug-addict, you can bet there is a enabler close by. This person comes in many forms be it spouse, partner, parent, sibling, friend or even child. We often view the addict as ‘the sick one’, but in actuality, their enabler is often times just as sick as the addicts themselves, if not sicker. The disease of addiction is after all, a family disease.

An enabler is a codependent person who continues to help the active addict, regardless of the negative consequences. They are almost always motivated by their love for the person struggling, and carry an illusion of responsibility for the addict’s well-being, and even survival. The enabler becomes stuck in a cycle, where they believe they are helping the addict, when in actuality they are helping to perpetuate their disease. The addict knows, (even if only subconsciously), this person will always come running if they call, and will use it to their benefit.

Codependent people will almost always find themselves in repeat situations of becoming an enabler, until they learn to identify the pattern, and break the cycle. Here are 4 ways to tell if you are an enabler:

1. Do you keep coming back for more?
Is there someone in your life that you keep telling, “this is the last time I will help you”, yet find yourself always coming back for more? Does this person always turn to you, (and most likely only you), when they are down and out? If so, there is a good chance you are involved in a codependent relationship. Boundaries are only affective if they are enforced. An addict / alcoholic knows when you are serious, and they know when they can take advantage of you. By continuing to go back on your word, you are welcoming this behavior in to your life.

2. Do you believe that you have the power to save this person?
One of the most delusional thoughts a person can have regarding an active alcoholic or addict, is that they have the power to save this person from their addiction. Addiction is not a matter of will-power. It is a disease that requires the addict to hit some sort of a rock-bottom before they become willing to make a change. By continuing to attempt to save them, you are denying them the ability to hit that bottom.

3. Does the person in question threaten you?
Often times an addict will use threats to keep their enabler at bay. These can range from threatening to take their own lives, threatening to do something unsafe or crazy, threatening to harm them-self or someone else or even threatening to harm you. Under no circumstances does this type of behavior fall under the category of ‘healthy relationship’. If you have a person in your life who behaves this way, you are more than likely being manipulated emotionally. If you take actions based upon the fear of these threats, you are enabling their addiction. Granted if you believe that you or someone else is truly in danger, it is best to call the authorities.

4. Do you feel like a victim in the relationship?
Many times people who have become enablers feel bound to the relationship, almost like a prisoner. Enablers often get the short end of the stick, getting ‘burned’ by the addict often. This presents the illusion of being a victim. The truth is, there are no victims, only volunteers. Unless someone is literally holding a gun to your head, you do not have to stay in that relationship. It is a choice you have made. You might try exploring why you feel like this is the type of relationship you deserve. The truth is, we all deserve uplifting, healthy relationships.

If you identify with any of the above information, there is help and support available. Lionrock Recovery offers a Family Matters program, specifically aimed at the loved ones of the alcoholic / addict. For more information, click here

Al-anon is also a wonderful and free resource for the loved ones of alcoholics and addicts. For more information, click here

Why You Are Addicted to Sugar

Generally speaking, most people know that too much sugar is not healthy for you, but could refined sugar actually be more addictive than cocaine? More and more studies support this idea.

In a recent study where rats were offered cocaine, sugar or water as a reward, 94% of them chose sugar. Even the rats that were physically addicted to cocaine, switched to sugar. The theory is that the sweet receptors (two protein receptors located on the tongue), which evolved in early times when our diet was much lower in sugar, have not adapted to modern times’ high-sugar consumption. As a result of this, our sugar-rich diets are sending excessive reward signals to our brain, which can override normal self-control, thus leading to addiction.

Additionally, refined sugar is thought to be lethal when ingested by humans, because it provides what nutritionists describe as “empty” calories. It lacks the natural minerals which are present in the sugar beet or cane. Too much consumption of refined or processed sugar, (think high fructose corn syrup), can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and sluggishness, and has even been linked to Cancer.

Many times when you feel your body craving sugar, it is actually a result of a deficiency of something else that your body actually needs. Here are 5 ways you can curb your sugar cravings:

1. Don’t pick up
If you can avoid getting on the sugar roller coaster at all, this is your best bet to eliminate cravings all-together. Refined sugar affects your serotonin levels, causing the craving to never be satisfied, thus perpetuating it. Once consumed, it can literally shut down the self-control part of your brain.

2. Check labels
Many people have great intentions about eating well, and purchase items that look or seem healthy. Don’t be fooled by labels that say all natural, low fat, fat free, etc. Your best bet is to turn the package around, and read the nutritional facts and ingredients. Some of the more common names for refined / processed sugar are: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, malt, sucrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, rice syrup and the list goes on and on. Be wary of anything containing “syrup,” “malt,” and anything ending in “-ose.”

3. Eat protein
A strong craving usually indicates your body is low in a specific nutrient, vitamin or mineral. Many people claim that when they ate protein (chicken, tempeh, steak, almonds, etc), instead of giving in to the sugar, the craving went away almost instantly.

4. Drink Water
Sugar cravings are more common when you are dehydrated. Remember to drink enough water throughout the day, as dehydration is often mistaken for hunger.
Here is a hydration calculator to figure out how much water you should be drinking
5. Check-in with yourself
If you are an emotional eater, you may be familiar with the vicious cycle of over consuming sugar-rich foods. High sugar foods or ‘junk’ foods are often also comfort foods. The problem is, they don’t actually comfort you. These foods end up making us feel worse about ourselves when we can’t seem to stop eating them. Many people compare this with the effects that drugs and alcohol had on them. It is very common for recovered drug addicts and alcoholics to become addicted to sugar. Instead of reaching for the sugar, first check in with yourself to see how you are feeling. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry. If you are, ask yourself what kinds of foods will actually nourish you and satisfy your hunger. If you find that you are not actually hungry, make a list of some other self-caring things you could do instead of using food or sugar to comfort yourself. You may also find that doing some journaling will uncover why you are reaching for the sugar. Remember, cravings pass.

14 Random Acts of Service

In honor of February, the month of love, let’s talk a bit about what it means to be of service. There are so many ways to help out others, and as we all know, actions speak so much louder than words. Being of service has everything to do with being selfless and spreading positivity. Ironically, the biggest reward of it all, is the natural feel-good high that you get from doing something nice. So in honor of the 14th day of this month, here are 14 random acts of kindness and love, that you can try.

1. Leave a note
We all know that parking lots can be a war-zone, and don’t always bring out our most spiritual side. Try leaving a note on a random car, wishing them a terrific day.

2. Pay it backward
Do you ever hit up the drive-thru when you’re in a hurry? Whether it’s fast food, or Starbucks, try paying for the car behind you in line. Many times, this will prompt the car behind you to do the same, and so on. You might just start a revolution of kindness!

3. Just because
Send a friend or a loved one a ‘just because’ card or note. Let them know you were just thinking of them. I guarantee you will make their day!

4. Breakfast in bed
Bring your spouse, partner, parent, child, roommate or friend breakfast in bed. They will be blown away by this random act, and will most likely be in a great mood for the rest of the day.

5. Donate
Go through your clothes, shoes, and home and thin out your belongings. We all have those items that we never wear or use anymore, so do some early Spring-cleaning. Take it all to a local donation site, like Goodwill or Salvation Army.

6. Yelp it
Go on Yelp.com and write a glowing review of a place you love. People are typically more likely to complain about something, than to praise it. This is a nice way to show your support for the businesses you love.

7. Help someone
Ever see someone sitting outside asking for loose change? If you feel uncomfortable giving them money, buy them a meal. Don’t forget to get a bottle of water or soda, so they can wash it down!

8. Dishes, dishes
Next time you are at a friend’s house, do their dishes for them. No one likes to do dishes, and this will take an item off of their to-do list.

9. Tip well

Next time you go out to eat, tip your server extra. Try matching the bill, or matching 50% of the bill. Servers work hard, and survive on tips. They most likely will not be expecting this generosity, and you will make their night.

10. Put back the carts
Assuming that you typically put away your shopping cart, try bringing back someone else’s as well. If you are up for it, bring back all of the loose carts you see. (If you don’t typically bring back your shopping cart; start NOW!)

11. Send Valentines
Think Valentine’s Day cards are just for elementary school kids? Think again. Send out Valentine’s to the people you care about. There is nothing wrong with celebrating a holiday that celebrates love.

12. Smile at strangers
This is perhaps the easiest act of all. We get caught up in our busy lives, and often forget to smile at others. Make it a point to smile at everyone you see, and watch how it affects your own mood.

13. Call your mother

Some of us are better at this than others. Call your mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, friend, or whoever, just because. Ask them how they are and listen. Hearing from you will make them smile.

14. Look for something everyday
Look for ways to be of service in your everyday life. Pretty soon, you will be finding all sorts of fun and creative ways to spread love and kindness. Adopt this mentality, and the world around you will reciprocate.

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