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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Whew! Looking Back on a Month of Daily Posts

After 30 posts in 30 days, I am please to say I have successfully completed NaBloPoMo 2014.

My goals were to develop a more structured writing discipline and grow my blog. Check and check.

A daily writing session has been slotted neatly into my schedule and I plan to keep it there. Going forward this time allotment will be divided between UnPickled posts and other projects – a possible book series, two new blogs (TBA), and ongoing script development for The Bubble Hour. (In case “slotted neatly” gives you images of professional perfection, let me say I often write wearing pajamas before my morning shower, and my morning shower can easily be delayed until 1 pm if necessary.) This month of writing has been therapeutic, easing my transition from workaholic to semi-retired business owner. Participating in NaBloPoMo has helped me to look forward into the uncertain future and see exciting possibilities.

As for the goal of growing UnPickled’s reach, the daily stats have doubled and so have the numbers of subscribers. (Welcome all!) It appears that many of the new subscribers are educators, researchers, or industry professionals and it is exciting to think that our conversations about recovery are beginning to resonate further.  I do not benefit financially from this blog (oh, how I loathe “donation buttons” on personal blogs, no matter how apologetic or demure) but writing UnPickled supports my recovery through interaction with others, exposure to new ideas, and the challenge of creating meaningful posts.

Two “musts” for me during this project were to retain my point of view (recovery advocacy supporting various pathways) and to produce relevant content – no cat pictures or breakfast recaps (unless supportive of a sobriety-related message).  I like to think an idea through before writing it, and many days this month I sat down to the keyboard with nothing particular in mind but thankfully produced a good post nevertheless.

A few surprises came of this project, too.  The Nov 4th post “Are You a Recovery Hero” was featured by WordPress on  “Freshly Pressed”  – an honour some call “the holy grail of blogging”. That post was reblogged 22 times by other sites and the graphic has gone a little crazy on my Facebook page.  This is not my Sally-Field-You-really-like-me moment but a reflection of pure gratitude to have shared an old theory with a new twist in a way that is helping others understand recovery differently. I’m staying in gratitude, not ego. (Imagine how dreadful it would be if I posted a half-assed musing with detrimental mixed messages and THAT became widespread! Yikes.)

The survey experiment was fun and the results were powerful. Thank you to all who participated. Watch for more anonymous surveys in the future because clearly we all find it helpful to know more about our similarities and differences.

The best outcome of this month of blogging has been to hear from readers who have found my daily posts useful. I am humbled, honoured, and blessed to share this conversation with you. I am not an expert, but I am good at telling my story in a way that shows our shared truths. I learn so much from your feedback, and this is the beauty of blogging. A post merely presents a story or thought, and then the real magic happens as readers engage and explore further thoughts and possibilities. The comments are the best part of this blog.

Thank you for joining me on this 25,000 word adventure.

I’ll be back soon, although maybe not tomorrow.

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A Little Wisdom

Sometimes I surprise myself with the wisdom that’s rattling around in my brain. I take no credit for creating it; I’ve simply filtered and retained good material over time. I do have a knack for discernment and storage, I suppose. And clearly I can regurgitate well, as evidenced by the volume of good posts I’m pleased to have produced this month through the daily blogging challenge known as NaBloPoMo.

Just today I cleverly told a friend, ” The whole ‘deal’ in recovery is figuring out that how we’ve always operated probably isn’t going to get us sober…and might even be part of the problem.” True, eh? A good one. Chew on that for a moment. I love a meaty recovery insight. As for this particular gem, I’m not sure if I can pinpoint a specific source or if it’s simply a mashup of lessons that time has demonstrated to be true.

Our challenge is to go beyond remembering and repeating helpful bits, and to actually employ them appropriately. Say them in meetings, post them in blog comments, share them as memes until the cows come home but remember to effectively draw on them instead of falling into old patterns. Otherwise they’re just words (no matter how many time they get repinned or liked!)

Yesterday I explained the Drama Triangle but can I over ride my emotions in time to use the tool? I confess that at this stage in my growth I am more likely to clam up under duress and then assess the situation later as I lick my wounds. Even still, this is progress. The old me would have obsessed about an unfair circumstances, stewed in anger, talked about it incessantly and become bitter. Oh, and I’d have drank at it, over it, through it.

Progress is good but it’s a slow process. It takes faith to keep from becoming complacent or frustrated – two opposite conditions that present equal danger to sobriety. Life isn’t perfect, so there are plenty of opportunities to use the many tools acquired along this journey. Hopefully through repetition they will come to mind quicker, eventually as second-nature.

Right now I use most of my tools retrospectively. My goal is to use them instinctively and avoid emotion-driven responses altogether.

That’s all for today. Just a little wisdom.

The Drama Triangle

Recovery from addiction requires more than simply giving up “X”. The most significant changes come from learning why we ever needed “X” in the first place and then rethinking how we operate. This almost always involves addressing interpersonal relationships. For me, one tool that has been extremely useful in changing my approach is the Karpman Drama Triangle.

Dr. Stephen Karpman developed this simple concept in 1968 to illustrate that three types of roles emerge from every conflict: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.

Karpman Drama Triangle

When a situation upsets me, I look at the it with above image in mind and take responsibility for my role.

Do you have a favourite position on the triangle? Saying, “Hey, this isn’t my fault. Don’t blame me” means identifying as a victim. The persecutor role is not necessarily evil; it often the person who says, “I’m just doing what I think is right. Sorry but you will have to deal with it.” Then comes the hero, who says, “This is awful, poor you!” to the victim and, “Look what you’ve done!” to the persecutor, rescuing one from the other.

We are drawn to roles by subtle motivations. The victim is motivated by safety, the persecutor by power, and the hero feels a need for admiration.

Manipulators are very good at assigning roles. You might relate a benign experience about work to a friend whose reaction takes you aback:  “You’re kidding! I can’t believe they did that to you!” Before you know it, you start seeing the circumstances differently and feeling resentful about a situation that wasn’t bothering you originally. You might feel like this friend cares about you more than your coworkers, and confide in her more often to get the comforting feedback that paints you as blameless. Your friend is really manipulating herself into the “hero” role by convincing you that you’ve been victimized. You might even think you are lucky to have this great friend, the only one who “really cares about you”. Chances are the problems at work will escalate because you become entrenched in a pattern unknowingly.

Martyrs, on the other hand, love the victim role and no matter what happens, they make certain it is theirs to keep. Everyone else is either a hero or a villain. They are always explaining at length how they’ve been HURT by others, or how WONDERFUL some people are for saving them. We might wonder why martyrs have friends, but it is likely because the rescuers love to be the hero. If the martyr feels safe and the hero feels admired, who cares about the bad guy?

Type A personalities are easily cast as the persecutors, but they can also be good at rotating the triangle underneath everyone to reassign themselves into the hero or victim role. If you have ever been in a meeting or an argument where suddenly the “tables were turned” on you, that is likely how it happened.

For example, I once walked into an industry planning session and faced a hostile group.  Unbeknownst to me, one of my competitors had called everyone ahead of time and told them I would be presenting something that was harmful to the association, and that he would protect the industry by confronting me at the meeting. This peckerhead fellow set up a drama triangle in which I was the persecutor, the group was the victim, and he the rescuer. The “reality” of my presentation morphed into a “problem” under this dynamic.

I felt (rightfully) ambushed and tried to explain that I was acting in the group’s best interest, that I was really a victim here, and that this guy was manipulating us all. All of this made me look defensive and only dug me deeper into my “villain” corner.  In retrospect, I felt wronged (hello, victim!) and then wanted to play the hero by exposing this guy’s tactics (rescuer!) – none of which was satisfying or productive. I didn’t even know about the damn triangle but I hopped all over it unsuccessfully that day.

Now that I know about this tool, here is how I use it when caught up in a situation. The first step is to honestly assess what role I have fallen into and take responsibility for it. Then I am able to disable the triangle by stepping out of that role entirely – not by rotating the triangle but by refusing to participate.

There can be no drama if the victim extends compassion or sympathy to the persecutor, if the persecutor apologizes, or if the rescuer validates the persecutors position. Removing one corner of the triangle diffuses the drama and changes the “problem” back into a “reality”.

If you have one of those families that like to talk about each other behind their backs (*raises hand*), it is likely because they are trying to either assign roles or protect themselves. These conversations can be stopped instantly by politely rejecting the situation as a “problem” and only acknowledge it as a “reality”.  “That’s between the two of them,” is a nice way to prevent triangulation.

If we don’t acknowledge the dynamics of the triangle, then we are left with simple reality. It only becomes a drama when we take up our corners.

There is no winning position in a triangle dynamic. Even the hero/rescuer is ultimately vulnerable because each position is subject to the force of the other two. No one is empowered under these circumstances –they only exist by virtue of the problem. If the motivating factors are power, safety and admiration, we should instead seek to achieve all three through healthy self-esteem and self-advocacy.

This is my simple understanding of the “drama triangle” tool and I hope you find it useful. Please comment to add your perspectives, insights, and experiences with as they relate to your personal growth in recovery.

Keeping It Real

It is mating season here in southern Alberta, and this morning I watched a large buck chase a doe down a boulevard in my neighbourhood. The doe stopped suddenly and turned to face her suitor, hopping side to side flirtatiously before dodging towards an elementary schoolyard. It was thrilling to watch from within the safety of my car, and thankfully a chilly snowfall has kept the both the schoolchildren and neighbourhood dog-walkers inside and out of harm’s way.

I was giggling as I drove away, wondering if the amorous pair’s nature dance would culminate in lusty deer sex outside a classroom window. Talk about a teachable moment! This is how kids SHOULD learn about sex.  Instead they get twisted messages when Grandma fails to realize Family Guy and South Park aren’t kids’ shows or because the babysitter let them play Grand Theft Auto.

God Bless the brave teacher who doesn’t close the blinds on urban deer mating, because we all need to get more comfortable with reality. Real life is messy, beautiful, ordinary and extraordinary.  Real life happens in a flash and then the world moves on. No soundtrack plays for deer sex, car crashes, failure or triumph.

We are bombarded with fake examples of beauty, violence, terror, power or success that are such heightened versions they barely resemble reality. All that added colour and noise put up a barrier that makes us feel removed enough to disengage and observe. It is one thing to watch an over-the-top tv personality like Donald Trump yell “You’re fired!” but have you ever been in the room when someone actually gets fired? It’s awkward and uncomfortable. Where to look? What facial expressions are appropriate? Display kindness or outrage?

Our own realities can be too much for others. Someone who happily watches Intervention on tv may be very uncomfortable hearing about my experiences as a person in recovery. It is difficult to explain that I responded to a growing knowledge that something was wrong, but have no grand “rock bottom” story to go with it.

“Yah but what did you DO that was so bad?”

Nothing.

“Okay but what HAPPENED that made you decide to quit?”

I just knew I had to.  

Squirm squirm. Awkward pause. “But you’re not like an alcoholic or anything.”

Yah, actually I am. Sorry I brought it up….

Sandra Bullock in “21 Days” or Meg Ryan in “When a Man Loves a Woman” don’t resemble me any more than twerking resembles what went on between those two deer this morning.  And yet…who can blame us for looking away when things are too real?

I said hello to an acquaintance in a book store recently. “How are you?” I asked and he proceeded to tell me more than I wanted to know. Erm. I felt badly for him, it was a sad story. But I also felt badly he was compelled to tell that sad story rather inappropriately; felt badly for his lack of judgment. Then I felt badly for judging his judgment instead of listening with kindness. Pivot! Pivot!

I guess as humans we instinctively look away from things that frighten or overwhelm us. Proximity requires us to respond and perhaps the appropriate reaction isn’t evident or comfortable.

Recently I decided I need to watch the video for “Wrecking Ball” because it’s so often referenced and without seeing it I was missing the joke. I found it on Apple TV just as my husband walked in the room.

“Whoa, what’s this?” he asked.

“Pop culture. We need to keep up with the young’ins,” I said, patting the couch beside me. The two of us sat slack jaw, watching as Hannah Montana’s birthday suit swung back and forth on the screen before us.

Mid-song, our 20-year-old son passed through the room and stopped in his tracks. He paused, and then shouted “OH MY GOD! WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING? Don’t watch that. I can’t watch you two watching that! Why? WHY? Why are you watching this?”

The discomfort was palpable and existed in layers like an onion. Even the dogs were cowering. The only person in the room who wasn’t embarrassed was the naked singer on the tv. “I just wanted to know what the big deal was with this video,” I stammered, feeling more like the child than the parent in this situation.

I hopped up and quickly uttered the magic phrase that restores order in the universe:

“Let me make you a sandwich!”

Sometimes all you can do is let the moment pass and call for snack time.

Who (Else) Is Reading UnPickled?

Do you wonder who else is reading recovery blogs besides yourself? Question if you are unique among the group or normal as anything? Curious what their worries and concerns are? Me, too! I have been analyzing the survey results with great interest.

As of this writing, 274 readers took the survey in just 2 days  – a much larger sampling than I expected. Thank you all for taking the time and sharing your experiences.

Without further adieu…the results!

Question 1: Which statement describes you best?

96 of 274 survey participants indicated that they are either wondering if they have a problem or wondering what to do about it. In case you don’t hear this enough from people in recovery, I repeat: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Each of us feels like the only person in the world to sit at our keyboards and search, “How to quit drinking alcohol” but here is proof that there were nearly 100 others just like you in the last few days – and that’s just the ones brave enough to answer the survey!

6 of 274 respondents were just here to learn more about what addiction is like. To you I say THANK YOU for your caring interest. Whomever you are here to support is a lucky person.

172 of 274 that answered the survey are in varying stages of recovery. My guess is that many of you draw on blogs like UnPickled for ongoing support, and I hope that these stats illustrate to you how important your comments are to other readers (i.e. the 96 above who are still drinking and looking for help). Whether you have 3 days or 3 years, you give hope and guidance to those mustering the courage to begin.

I started this blog to document my journey, but I was so inwardly focused that I did not consider for one moment that anyone else would follow my trail of breadcrumbs. It is ridiculous to think I was the last alcoholic who would ever get sober, yet that’s what my self-absorbed attitude amounted to. Those who came up behind me have helped me just as much as those we went before – we are into a current of support that carried us when we need it most.

The readership here represents such a continuum – many came here initially as seekers and keep coming back for new perspectives and information while sharing lessons and encouragement in the comments section. Many start their own (amazing!) blogs and use the interaction as a recovery network. Many slip in and out – still trying, still deciding, still drinking in many cases; to these folks I send a long, strong, two-armed hug of compassion and understanding. (You know who you are. I am hugging you, feel that?)

Question 2: Evaluate your relationship with each of the following:

nov2014 survey q2 responses

This surprised me – alcohol seems to be the main struggle here without a lot of cross-addictions or complications. It is not overly surprising to see that food represents concern for a large number of us, with 117 noting concerns about food and 21 respondents acknowledging an abusive relationship with food.  Some of this may be attributed to using food to soothe the transition away from using alcohol, and in some cases may be true co-morbidities (using that word makes me feel like a bit of a poser, but it’s a good word!).

By the way, a wink to those of you who commented, “Stupid question – it’s pretty hard to abstain from food.” I knew you’d zing me, cheeky buggers! For the sake of time and space, I let you figure out the intent of the question. The survey was also a bit confusing for those who are on antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds, however no one noted abusing prescription drugs and that was the real gist of the question.

In the comments, a number of people share the same concern for the time spent on the internet and/or watching Netflix. Other worrisome activities listed include sex/people pleasing/relationship-based, anxiety, nail biting and/or skin picking, caffeine and/or sugar, anger and resentments, anxiety, working, exercise, and using pills for sleep.

Question 3: What surprised you as you learn more about recovery?

Top 10 Answers

How good it is/ happiness (54)

I’m not alone/ there are others like me (43)

How difficult it is (25)

Seeing true reality of situation (21)

Changes in thinking (20)

Feelings of freedom, self-esteem, authenticity (15)

That I was in denial (11)

Variety and scope of various pathways (10)

The online community (7)

How long it takes; that it really is a lifetime choice (7)

Question 4:  What is your biggest concern currently?

 Top 10 Answers

Relapse/fear of failure (51)

Getting started (32)

Social stigma/acceptance (25)

Health/weight (19)

Feeling low/anxious/unhappy (15)

Marriage/family relationships (14)

The idea of “forever” (10)

Other addictions/eating behaviours (9)

Finances (6)

Other drinkers in life (6)

New relationships/finding a partner (5)

Question 5: If you could be granted one wish for yourself, what would it be?

Top 10 Answers

Happiness and/or success in sobriety (46)

Inner Peace/Balance/Calmness (35)

Self acceptance/self confidence (29)

To have no desire for alcohol (27)

To be able to drink “normally” (22)

Health (20)

To have quit sooner/change the past (8)

Money (7)

No anxiety/stress (7)

Sober friends (7)

Do these results surprise you? Do you find yourself in line with survey participants or does your thinking differ greatly? Please share!

By the way, the survey site was only free for the first 100 responses, which I mistakenly thought it would well suffice. In order to access all of the data, I had to pay $29 for a month of extended services. The good news is this gives us all of December to play with surveys, so if there is more information you’re interested in seeing, let me know.  For the next 30 days, I am the Queen of Quizzes and at your service!

How Long Does it Take?

A comment yesterday from “BetterWithoutBinging” asked the question that sparked today’s post: “How long does it take to get used to a new identity of being the non-drinker?”

How long does it take to get used to a new identity?

My husband proposed in 1988 on a mountain hike in Waterton National Park. It was a lovely moment, but my most vivid memory of that day is how the ring felt on my finger was we hiked out. It’s amazing I didn’t stumble and fall, because I kept holding up my hand to admire that modest but joyous symbol. I still love that ring, which has nested against the matching wedding band for over 25 years. Funny that this same ring I used to be so continually aware of is now often left by the sink after washing dishes. I usually find it the next morning and slip it back on, slightly surprised that I hadn’t realized it was missing. The ring is an extension of myself that I take for granted, beloved object that it is, yet at some point I stopped noticing it constantly.

In fact, many transitions in life feel foreign at first but eventually fit comfortably.

Most young girls feel both delighted and mortified when their breasts start developing, but eventually we all get used to having them (although with varying degrees of appreciation and acceptance). When I started driving I loved carrying my keys in my hand as a symbol of adulthood and independence. And as a young mom I felt silly giving the babysitter instructions when I felt like I barely knew how to get through the day myself. Even now, four months into my new title of “Grandma” I catch myself asking, “Is this okay for a grandma to wear? Should I stop dropping f-bombs now that I am a grandma? Should I start baking cookies now?”

Some people move so effortlessly through life. They don’t seem so self-aware or self-conscious. They manage to care about others without worrying what others think of them – a distinction I have a hard time conceiving of, never mind achieving.

I have a hunch this has something to do with my new friends co-dependency and narcissism. Until recently I believed that both of these labels could NEVER apply to me, but I was way off. Co-dependency boils down to valuing oneself only through others’ perceptions and narcissism can be a type of self-centeredness that assumes everything reflects back one’s worth.  Narcissists usually partner with co-dependent types, and children that grow up in this delightful family dynamic often absorb qualities of both.

Simply put, our childhoods predispose some of us to looking outside of ourselves for a measure of our worth. Since the narcissist/codependent dance usually often involves addiction (hence the incorrect assumption that codependence = spouse of addict), kids who grow up learning these survival patterns may also inherit genetic susceptibility to alcoholism.

Grrrrrrreat.

My layman’s understanding is that my hyperawareness of what others’ think of me makes it harder for me to easily adopt new identities. Pleasing others makes me feel safe, and to be a person in recovery means I have set new boundaries that might make others unhappy at times. They might judge me, mock me, or reject my new life, and this is very uncomfortable for a person who believes approval is worth.

How long does it take to get used to being the non-drinker?

That is a loaded question. I can’t help but notice the use of “THE non-drinker” instead of “A non-drinker”. To me this suggests a heightened awareness of what others think, and suggests that the question has been asked by someone (like myself) who cares too much what others think and is not asking how to get comfortable with oneself but rather how to adapt to the discomfort of others’ perceptions.

I guess it takes as long as it takes, which will be longer for some than for others. Once I started dealing with my perfectionism, people pleasing, and other outcomes from codependency and narcissism, (around 18 months sober), I began to feel much more comfortable around other people in social settings.

Control Much? (Feedback Forum)

Wow readers, I am blown away by your survey participation! So far there are 10x the expected number of responses. Can we break the internet second to a Kardashian’s oiled bottom? Let’s try. I’ll give it another day or two before posting the results. Well done!

Of the first 100 surveys yesterday, 38 participants are still drinking but considering recovery*, while 60 are in various stages of abstinent sobriety. There are often exchanges of wisdom and encouragement in the comment sections below each blog post, and this ratio shows why. Seekers reach out and find tremendous support here. Some of the most vital lessons I’ve learned along this journey have come from reader feedback and interaction – not just specific ideas, but also fine examples of message delivery and gracious acceptance.

So with a nod to the significant contributions to this page made by the fellowship of readers, here is a concept I’ve been pondering this morning on which I would like your feedback: the matter of control.

I have spent most of my life successfully controlling all circumstances around me. I used alcohol as a release valve at the end of the day, until addiction set in and I lost beloved control over the very thing (I thought) held me together. Now in sobriety, I LOVE the knowledge that I have total, constant control over myself and yet….through growing and changing in the work of recovery, I have learned to allow things to happen as they will and trust myself to deal with the outcome. Ironically, just as I finally have the power I so craved, I find I no longer need it.

Please comment below and share what this means to you today.

If you are currently struggling with alcohol, what role does “control” play in your life? What do you want to ask of those who are succeeding in sobriety? (You may comment anonymously by leaving the name and email fields blank under your message.)

Recovery peeps, how has your perception of power morphed over time?  Though powerlessness is the stuff of the “first step” for you twelve-steppers, please avoid slogans and instead give specific examples of your own experiences. Let us hear how it has manifested in your life.

Learning from one another is at the heart of recovery!

* When I began searching the internet for answers to my drinking problems, I felt very alone. Please see from these numbers that you are not alone at all, that many others are in the same position, and many have come before you. Please take hope, and there is plenty to be had.

UnPickled Readers’ Survey

It’s official. After 23 consecutive days of posting, I am sick of my own words. So I shall turn it over to you, friendly readers.

Please enjoy some quiet moments of reflection as you take this completely anonymous survey. I will compile the results and share them in the days to come:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VZB6XHT

Sober Travels in Wine Country

My husband and I met as teenagers and have spent the last three decades dreaming of the day we could travel the world together.  It was always a “someday” vision – raising kids and running our business has kept us on a relatively short leash. Now our dreams are in sight, and I realize I’ve changed the game by throwing in the wrinkle of sobriety.

We will both soon be celebrating our 50th birthdays – his is this spring and mine follows in summer 2017. We’ve heard many people say that it’s a mistake to wait too long to start travelling – it’s hard to change the work habits of a life time – so we’ve agreed to use these upcoming milestones as incentive to shift into a “next stage” mentality. After thirty years of working shoulder-to-shoulder, it is now time to actually live out those “someday” dreams.

We asked, “Where do I want to be on my 50th birthday?”  The first answer for both of us is “at home, surrounded by our kids and grandkids” (assuming there will be more by then!). True, true but it was time to think BIG, so we turned our attention to those dreams that have been dangling beyond our reach for so long we’ve almost forgotten they are real places.

“I want to ski the Matterhorn on my 50th birthday,” said my husband smiling.

“I want to hike the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu on mine,” I answered with the twinkling eyes of a child on Santa’s knee.

We started planning, but I could see something was bothering my husband as we mapped a route from Zurmatt, Switzerland south to Cinque-Terrre, Italy. Finally he confessed his concerns about touring a region famous for food and wine with me. Would I be able to enjoy myself there? Would I expect him to also say no to wine with dinner? Would I resent him if he sampled the local treats that are off-limits for me?

Fair questions, I wasn’t offended. Given the pitiful misery of a travel companion I was in Cuba last year (recounted here), his concerns were justified. I’d vowed never to go against my gut again, and here my gut was telling me that Switzerland and Italy will offer many pleasant distractions. We had to talk it out and plan how we will make it work.

It is give and take. If we are sitting at an outdoor café enjoying the evening air, I can savour a cappuccino while he has a glass of local wine. If he wants a second glass and I don’t wish to stay, he may well have it alone while I wander or retire for the evening. That’s our equilibrium, and it is different for everyone depending on individual needs and the dynamics of the relationship.

My husband has a neck and shoulder problem. We haven’t even addressed yet how he will manage his backpack. It just is what it is and we will have to figure it out and prepare accordingly. Travelling as a person in recovery must be looked at with the same mentality: my sobriety is a simple reality to be considered. Plan ahead, be prepared, and look out for each other.

Here we are, finally embarking on an adventure we’ve worked for our whole lives and dealing with the reality of my recovery. Nobody dreams of being an alcoholic when they grow up. Still, I won’t tell myself I am spoiling our travels by being sober – that is ridiculous. If I wasn’t sober, I would spend the entire trip obsessing about when and how to drink, surrounded by abundance but trying to hide a desperate wish to hide in my room alone with a bottle. That would be worse, no?

And besides, I have to stay in shape for hiking the mountains of Peru.

Erin’s Nest

On Last week’s Bubble Hour podcast the topic was “people pleasing and surviving the holidays”. Despite some wonky screw ups at the opening of the show (gotta love live-to-air recordings!), the episode was full of great insights from our guests. If you are dreading the holidays ahead, it is worth a listen (or two).

One of my all-time favourite tips came from our guest Erin, who described how she survived a gathering at her home in early recovery.  She had already offered to host Thanksgiving and all the arrangements were in place, but meanwhile she had quit drinking. So with only 7 days of sobriety, Erin found herself facing the enormous challenge of playing hostess.

Someone in her support group recommended she create a safe space for herself, to have an escape plan if necessary. Before the guests arrived, she prepared a secret nest in her closet; complete with pillows, water, magazines and her smart phone. Whenever Erin felt overwhelmed, she snuck away and spent a few moments in her quiet hiding spot. She took a sip of cool water, calmed her mind, touched base with her online recovery group for encouragement and gathered her strength before returning to her guests. It wasn’t just the break from the holiday hubbub that gave her a much-needed boost; it was also the simple act of prioritizing self-care.

To protect your recovery over the holidays PLAN AHEAD. It is important to anticipate ways to administer self-care. This is different than worrying about “what ifs”: What if someone offers me a drink? What if I want to leave and my spouse doesn’t? What if people make me uncomfortable?

Instead, think proactively: I’ll bring along non-alcoholic drinks and keep my own glass filled. If someone asks why I am not drinking I can say I am driving. I’ll give my spouse cab fare so I can take the car home early if I want to leave.

You can also expect the unexpected – that you’ll enjoy yourself and things will be fine! This sounded outlandish to me when I first quit drinking because I was never comfortable or happy without a wineglass in hand. I had to relearn some basic social skills but sure enough, the fun returned. And yes, I have left plenty of parties early – graciously so, of course.

For more hints and tips, check out this post I wrote a year ago before heading away on a vacation. I planned ahead and as it turned out, I was pretty miserable on that trip but I did stay sober under some very difficult circumstances: https://unpickled.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/survival-strategies-for-holidays-and-vacations/

Take care of yourselves, my friends. The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most challenging.

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A Spiritual Evolution

an alcoholic's blog and addiction memoir

life without vodka rocks

Quitting alcohol on my own terms

feelingmywaybackintolife

living without alcohol, living again

Seeing Clear Lee

musings on becoming alcohol-free

The Truth About Alcohol

We Are Not Alcoholics and we Refuse to be Anonymous

My Road To Abstinence

Sober, me? Really?

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

viatoday

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Starting today I am on my way.

The Six Year Hangover

A BLOG BY A GAY MAN GETTING SOBER IN NEW YORK CITY.

And Everything Afterwards

How I quit alcohol and discovered the beauty of a sober life

Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home

A Book and Blog for Parents in Recovery from Alcoholism and Codependence

unsmashed

Finding myself by leaving the wine behind...

HealthyJenn

From daily wine drinker to alcohol free living...this is my journey.

Mrs D Is Going Without

How I Secretly Quit My Secret Habit of Secretly Drinking

A hangover free life

Waking up to the sobering reality that booze is the problem not the solution

Mished-up

Mixed-up, Mashed-up, Mished-up.

Off-Dry

I got sober. Life got big.

Heather Kopp

about grief, grace, and recovery from addiction

Sober Grace

Finding and practicing grace in recovery

themiracleisaroundthecorner

There are no coincidences.

Running on Sober

This blog is on permanent hiatus, thank you for your support.

Sober Identity

Sober Identity #Life Coach #The 50+ Years #Striving #Thriving #38-Empowering Affirmations #"Emerge: Growing From Addiction-Starter's Guide" #AfterRehabCoaching #Motivate

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