To Disease or Not to Disease

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I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of reading about addiction and recovery and after years of personal confusion and internal chaos I’m starting to make sense of some things for myself.  When I attended treatment in 1988 the absolute most helpful thing for me was becoming educated on the disease of addiction.  Today there’s tremendous debate about whether addiciton is really a disease or just a behavioral problem, which given the scientific findings, seems to me a somewhat ridiculous debate.  People call it the “disease model” or “disease theory”, but again and again it’s proven that addiction has a hereditary, and thus a genetic, basis and that most addict’s and alcohlic’s brains and bodies are primed for addiction before they ever take the first drink or drug.

I firmly believe I fall into this category.  I was never able to drink or use in any way that might be deemed “social”.    I was hooked from the get-go.

However, I think we can’t overlook the fact that even if those genetic markers are not present, anyone can drink or use themself right into addiction.  I also think that the presence or not of such markers can make a huge difference in how easily it is for one to overcome addiction and get on with the process of living.

The analogy is often made because it’s a good one:  Diabetics can be born diabetic or they can eat their way into diabetes.  But they’re both diseases whether brought on by genetics or lifestyle choices or both.

So I believe addiction is a disease.  It feels like a disease to me.  It manifests in my life as a disease process.  It runs in my family and my experience confirms that my brain and body only needed that first use to wake the addiction up and get it going.

What I find most interesting though, in reading about people who have recovered, is that it doesn’t really matter whether they choose to see it as a disease or not.  Some do; some don’t.  About equal numbers of each go on to lead full lives of sobriety.  So apparently what is most important is figuring out what you believe about it and using that to create a sober life.

I think it’s probable that more people who are like me, who started young and immediately had problems, will lean more toward accepting the disease than those who succumb much later in life.  Again, the most important fact to me is that it doesn’t matter when it comes to recovering.

Thank you for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

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The 3-Day Rule

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This week I’ve had many reminders about how valuable restraint of tongue and pen can be.

I’ve attended AA meetings where newcomers are told that any deviation from the AA program just exactly as it is written is dangerous to their recovery and that the steps are suggested like it’s suggested that you pull the ripcord on a parachute.

In my on-line secular support group a member left because he felt we’d been infiltrated by an AA’er and it started all sorts of less than well-thought out posts.

We addicts are passionate people, there’s no doubt about that.  And when we find recovery we can carry our passions a little too far in our insistence that the way we’ve done it is THE RIGHT WAY.  I sincerely hope to not fall into this trap, but if the experience of others is any indication, I probably will at some point. 

In order to hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls than can happen in the passion of the moment, I’ve implemented a 3-day rule for myself.  If I’m faced with a big decision; if I’m considering drinking or using; if I’m having difficulties in a relationship or if I just feel like running my mouth to hear myself talk, I wait 3 days.  If in 3 days what was so all-fired important is still an issue, and usually it isn’t, I then talk to another sober person about it, write about it and begin to form a plan as to how to deal with it.

I’m sure this rule has already saved me a lot of embarrassment and if the compulsion to drink or use comes up it just might save my ass.

Thank you for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

 

Chosen Steps

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I’ve decided on Charlotte Kasl’s 16 Steps to Empowerment to use as a guide in my recovery.  I actually don’t believe that any steps are necessary to obtaining sobriety, 12 or otherwise.  I’m using these steps because I feel they have something to offer me personally and because I want to do them.

I’m not using the steps in the order they were written.  Right now I’m focusing on steps  9-16.  They are:

9.  We express love and gratitude to others, and increasingly appreciate the wonder of life and the blessing we do have.

10.  We continue to trust our reality and daily affirm that we see what we see, know what we know, and feel what we feel.

11.  We promptly acknowledge our mistakes and make amends when appropriate, but we do not say we are sorry for things we have not done and we do not cover up, analyze, or take responsiblity for the shortcomings of others.

12.  We seek out situations, jobs, and people that affirm our intelligence,  perceptions, and self-worth and avoid situations or people who are hurtful, harmful, or demeaning to us.

13.  We take steps to heal our physical bodies, organize our lives, reduce stress, and have fun.

14.  We seek to find our inward calling, and develop the will and wisdom to follow it.

15.  We accept the ups and downs of life as natural events that can be used as lessons for growth.

16.  We grow in awareness that we are interrelated with all living things, and we contribute to restoring peace and balance on the planet.

This week I met with a counselor through Vocational Rehabilitation.  I found out that I can be accepted into the program and that all training and/or schooling to further my education and move me into a better work situation will be covered by the program.  Steps 12, 13, 14.

Last week I ran into a previous employer of mine who mistreated me in several ways and significantly contributed to my mental and financial downward spiral.  I briefly re-experienced the feelings of rejection and invisibility that situation prompted at the time.  I also realized that I’m over it, over the things he did to me, and that my own actions also contributed to the situation and my subsequent problems.  Steps 10, 11, 12. 15.

Everyday I begin my day by thanking the Creator, gods, goddesses, spirits and allies for being with me and that I have another day to live sober.  Steps 9 and 16.

I play with my kitten, enjoy collecting eggs from my new hens, bought some herbs to plant, and absolutely revel in making love with my partner.  Steps 13 and 16.

I attend support meetings and participate in my on-line sobriety group.  Step 12.

I write here.  All of them!

Thank you for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

Weekly Recovery Inventory

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I mentioned in the previous post that I do a weekly recovery inventory.  Here’s the format I’m currently using:

What support meetings have I attended this week and what meetings do I plan to attend in the upcoming week?

What, if anything, did I gain from the support meetings I attended?

What actions have I taken to move forward in my recovery?

What actions am I doing that could be blocking my recovery and what am I willing to do about it?

How have I worked on my chosen steps?

Have I maintained a balanced diet?

Have I gotten some exercise?

Am I getting enough rest?

How did I have fun?

I’ve just begun using this recently and it’s subject to change, but this is how it stands now.

Thank you for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

Piecing Together a Personal Recovery Program

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I’m 45 days clean and sober today because I’ve made up my mind that I’m not going to drink or use no matter what, one day at a time, for the rest of my life, however long that proves to be.

In order to make my sobriety as joyful and painless as possible, I’m employing a variety of techniques which I’ll be sharing on these pages.  My hope is that they prove helpful to someone else starting their sobriety journey or to those still struggling to make the best decision they will ever make for themselves.

Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D. and author of many books including “Many Roads, One Journey” and “Women, Sex and Addiction” has had a profound effect on my life and the way I’m choosing to approach my recovery.  I’ve decided to use her 16-Steps to Empowerment model because it deeply resonates with me as a woman, an addict and a person who was emotionally repressed at a young age.

I appreciate the fact that her steps are not set in stone.  She recommends changing the wording, using them out of order or using some and not others as seems appropriate to the individual.

I attend AA meetings for group support and to be around other recovering addicts.  I do not subscribe to much of the AA program, but what I do believe in is the value of one addict helping another.  I also attend an aftercare group at a treatment center where I was a patient and it’s proving a valuable addition to my meeting schedule.  There’s no pressure to conform in this group and I’m able to be honest in a way I can’t in the AA meetings I attend.

I participate daily in an e-mail list through the Lifering Secular Recovery program.  I’ve been involved with this group for many years and find it an invaluable part of my recovery program.  I’m also using the Recovery by Choice workbook written by the founder of Lifering, Martin Nicolaus.  This workbook covers everything a recovering addict needs to think about and begin to address.  It’s an incredible piece of work.

I’ve created a weekly recovery inventory where I look back at the week and list what I’ve been doing, how it’s been helpful or not, and plan recovery meetings and activities for the coming week.

I express gratitude to my higher powers (I’m pagan so I get to have lots of them) on a daily basis and request guidance in my life and recovery.

I journal several times a week and read some type of recovery literature daily.

My program is flexible.  I fully expect it to change as I obtain longer sobriety and take on more challenges.  I’m very excited about my life and happy to still be alive to live it.

Thank you for visiting Eclectic Recovery.