This is HUGE for me – putting myself out here! One thing you need to know is that I’m a secret addict. My husband knows, my mom knows and my dealer knows. That’s about the extent of it. I was in control until I wasn’t. It’s been all downhill from there.
I have tried to stop several times, and have been sober for short spurts, but then I fell right back into my old habits. Soon it had escalated beyond my control! About a month ago I got serious because I knew my addiction was bigger than my willpower. I’ve been feeling great, like I was gaining control of my life, but today though … today is such a tough day for me.
I don’t know why. Nothing has triggered me. I haven’t had a fight with my hubby, nothing traumatic has happened. Today though … today is such a tough day. I knew these days would come; so far, I haven’t let the devil in my head take control.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I’m afraid I will slip.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I need someone to lean on.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I could easily text my dealer.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I have to reach out to someone.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I am not going to give in.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I need support.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I AM NOT GIVING IN!
Today though … today is such a tough day. I could so easily give in.
Today though … today is such a tough day. I WILL get through this.
Because today though … this tough day is what will make me stronger. I will not allow my addiction to win.
Today … I stay sober.
Women for Sobriety (WFS) is an organization whose purpose is to help all women find their individual path to recovery through discovery of self, gained by sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women in similar circumstances. We are an abstinence-based self-help program for women facing issues of alcohol or drug addiction.
Our New Life Program acknowledges the very special needs women have in recovery – the need to nurture feelings of self-value and self-worth and the desire to discard feelings of guilt, shame, and humiliation. WFS members live by the philosophy: “Release the past – plan for tomorrow – live for today.”
It’s very character building. I’ve laughed through tears of frustration, screamed so loud in exasperation that my voice echoed off the walls and talked out loud to coach myself through it. I’m painting some rooms in my new home and I can’t believe how time-consuming this process has been. There was wallpaper that had to be removed which took a full day and then scrubbing the wallpaper paste which took another full day. Hunching over counters and wrangling the heaviest of appliances away from the wall ~ it’s been a workout physically and for my patience.
I FINALLY finished the first coat and, while it continues to dry, I’m going outside to shovel for the second time today. I am a first-time homeowner and learning patience, faith, and determination every day. I LOVE MY NEW HOME. I never thought I’d want to “settle down” but one day at the end of July, I realized (actually the universe told me) it was time. The most perfect wonderful home was waiting for me and every day I marvel at how lucky I am.
Statement 11: Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.
I treasure the moments of my New Life.
Safe in my bedroom are the notes for the event I’m co-hosting next week on our regional PBS station. It’s my debut on the channel and hopefully funding will be in place by the spring for a 13-part series that I will be co-producing. Isn’t that the coolest? There are so many wonderful things happening to me, yet I honestly don’t even have much time to sit and think about them. I just keep saying “yes,” going about my daily routine and focusing on the tasks in front of me.
My next door neighbor is an answer to a prayer that I hadn’t prayed. He’s about my age and willing to help with anything. He hauled all my leaves onto his trailer to take them out to the brush site, helped me get my lawn in order and I’ve consulted him on many other things. When he asked if I was going home for Thanksgiving (I am not close with my family), I told him, “THIS is my beautiful home!” He seemed a bit horrified that I would be spending the holiday alone. But when I went inside after the conversation I wept tears of joy at the realization – I AM HOME!
I’m trying to stay cordial but not warm – I’m not interested in a relationship with him and I can tell he would be. The truth is – I’m not really interested in having a relationship with anyone right now. I have so much else to focus on and so much more to do.
LIFE IS GOOD, life is calling to all of us to join in on its goodness.
Statement 6: Life can be ordinary or it can be great.
Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.
I am enjoying every moment of my goodness because I have worked HARD to create this reality. I’ve spent years rewiring my thoughts and changing my behaviors. My work isn’t done because I keep accepting bigger challenges and I have even bigger dreams yet to realize. I could never ever give up my morning routine because it is what makes my life possible. There is nothing special about me, I just realize the importance of putting in the effort to get what I want and what I am worthy of. Because of Women for Sobriety, I am doing what I dreamed of as a child and countless things I never would have dreamed of.
My life overflows with abundance and love! Sobriety isn’t about surviving or making do. Sobriety is about dreams coming true!
“‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’
‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’
‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.”
— A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
I have fond memories of reading Winnie the Pooh stories when I was young. What I love about Pooh, and the Hundred Acre Wood stories, is the childlike honesty they possess. There is no pretense except by Rabbit ~ but then, he represents adult behavior with all of its constraints. Eeyore, with his absolute lack of enthusiasm, is accepted by the others exactly as he is. I love that Tigger, as a newcomer and a troublemaker, is folded in with all of his faults and included as well.
Winnie the Pooh and his friends speak to the happiness, greatness, and especially the enthusiasm that we come to appreciate through our acceptance of Statements 3, 6, and 11.
All of the (WFS) Acceptance Statements spoke to me in some way when I first found Women for Sobriety, but Statements 3, 6, and 11 were the least accessible for me as a newcomer. I did NOT feel happy, enthusiastic, or that life could be great again. I was at the bottom of a black hole. Frankly, the only statements I could easily grasp were Statements 1 and 2. I clearly had a life threatening problem and negativity was rampant in my thinking. Whenever Statement 11 was discussed, I put on my sarcasm hat and participated with my tongue-in-cheek: “I will enthusiastically try to survive my cravings.” “I am enthusiastically trying to fix my failing marriage.”
My inner cynic was strong… and it took a long time to soften to the happiness/joy statements enough to begin to work on them. Even then, I had to focus on the very small. I found joy in a sunrise or the smell of the desert after rain. I found enthusiasm for Earth on walks with my dogs and in the silence and beauty of my surroundings. I’ll come back to the smell of freshly baked bread and how a beautiful loaf could put a smile on my face like nothing else. Waking up without shame ~ yes, I could embrace that enthusiastically, but I could not face the rest of my sober days with the same level of joy and acceptance until I finally turned the corner on what, how, and why I was doing this.
My “sober firsts” were a mixed bag. I was in a good place on my birthday and on the 4th of July. I did my first Wimbledon finals and birthday weekend without alcohol. It was just lovely. My first vacation was a nonstop struggle ~ I could see the beauty of the coastal Carolinas, but I could not feel it. My first sober holidays were filled with fear, but ultimately became full of pride for devising a plan and sticking to it.
The first time I realized that someone didn’t like me, and I neither needed to change nor feel badly about it, was eye opening. I recall feeling like I was going to lose my mind around my one year mark, but then SO MANY people told me that was absolutely normal. I recall the day that I realized that I didn’t know how many sober days I had accumulated… I actually had to count. I cried for the joy of that ~ it was my new normal and that day I knew I had found my New Life!
The big events are easy to treasure. Who would argue with the birth of a first grandchild? But the small ones ~ the little stuff ~ well they are the yeast. They fill my life and lift it to voluminous proportions. I simply have to take the time to notice.
I had an epiphany at about six months. I was walking my dogs in the desert where the sunrise is almost always glorious. I noticed that day that I was walking under pink clouds. I had been focused on the ground ~ rattlesnakes are real and some focus on the path in front of me is always necessary ~ but I had stopped to look around and take in the clouds. Sobriety is like that. The pink cloud is always there. I just have to pause and appreciate it. That is Statement 11 in a nutshell for me… noticing the joy.
Statement 11: Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.
I treasure the moments of my New Life.
I’m struck by the fact that many women out there want to ‘get it’ but don’t know how. The elusive ‘getting it’ – What the heck is ‘it’? You know, I know, she knows, we all know what ‘it’ is! The ‘it’ is a struggle-free sobriety, ‘it’ is staying sober, and I’ll go as far as to say that ‘it’ is also recovery.
You are going to change your life! Your old way of life isn’t working for you, so here’s how you can change it. It goes without saying that you must stop poisoning your system. Get rid of all the alcohol you have ~ dump it, flush it, don’t buy anymore of it… just get rid of it. Here’s an easy three-step plan on what you’ve got to do when you’re wanting to drink/use: 1. make a plan, 2. make a plan, 3. make a plan.
Ok, so what do you do? This getting it can be a hard thing to attain, I know. Getting it takes determination and work – that is all up to you! I can’t tell you exactly what your plan will be; your plan will be as unique as you are. And yes, YOU are a unique, special person. As we at Women for Sobriety (WFS) like to say – you are 4C – capable, competent, caring and compassionate. You’re changing your life, remember? And you’re going to start looking at yourself in a new way, a way that will let you lead a ‘New Life’ – one without having to drink/use to get through it.
Part of your plan might include asking a professional for help. Part of your plan might be using the WFS online forum–a lot. Part of your plan might be attending some sort of support meeting locally. Part of your plan might be going to work without any money/credit cards in your pocket/purse so that you can’t buy anything to poison yourself on the way home. Part of your plan might be figuring out a new routine to your day – maybe you’ll take a different route home; maybe you’ll do something else to relax at the end of the day. Your plan needs to be rock solid and air tight! There are so many great plan ideas on the WFS Online site. Check them out!
Let me also recommend that if you don’t have any WFS literature that you go about getting some, and while you wait for your order – go to the WFS website and read some of the great resources there. Read other information about addiction to learn what you’re doing to your body.
You need to take some time EVERY day (most people use quiet time in the morning) and reflect on the WFS Acceptance Statements, or concentrate on just one. Think about how that particular statement(s) applies to your life. Try thinking about your life with this slant on it, the New Life slant. Remember, your old life is not working for you. You’re NOT going to get through life anymore by drinking.
Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. is the founder of WFS and she authored several books and booklets. My all-time favorite is The Program Booklet. That little booklet costs just $5 and spells out how this New Life Program works – You may order it here!
I also highly recommend Goodbye Hangovers, Hello Life and Turnabout. If you feel you can’t afford them right now, go to your library and get them that way. If your library doesn’t have the books, get them through an inter-library loan – this is what I did initially, in a town of 535 people!
Are your eyes glazing over because you’ve read this before? Reading what Jean Kirkpatrick wrote is KEY to ‘getting’ this program. So are you going to pull out your excuse book and tell me why you can’t get anything on WFS to read? Get a grip, put the excuse book away, and start reading. Start changing your life today. You change by NOT drinking/using and by changing how you think and approach life. You CAN do this! The support you will receive from WFS participants is immeasurable, it is comforting and I am always awed at how amazing the women are. The WFS website and the new online site is full of great information. But YOU are the one who has to do the work of getting sober.
I ‘got it’ that I can’t drink/use anymore. My old way of life wasn’t working. I use the WFS New Life Program every day, because it helps me grow and thrive – emotionally and spiritually. It affirms that I am a 4C woman, and then some!
Statement 8. The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth.
Daily I put my life into a proper order, knowing which are the priorities.
Wishing you all the very best success in getting it. Believe you can do it!
Certified WFS Moderator
Everyone has her own reasons for choosing to be sober. Often the motivation is due to repercussions from a particularly devastating binge. Other times it is the culmination of a series of worsening issues affecting health, relationships, job, or all of the above.
Once you are here, doing the work and making the lifestyle changes, what is it that drives you to continue? Let’s be honest, sobriety is not all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. It’s downright difficult. It can be soul wrenching. It changes the trajectory of our lives and our relationships. Sometimes it means saying goodbye to people and habits that are no longer good for us. Becoming sober is as much a process of mourning as it is of rebirth.
So, what is it that keeps you on your sober path? For me, more than anything, it’s seeing and feeling the light coming back into my life. I often imagine I am sealed in a pitch-black room. Each tiny shuffle I take in my sobriety represents another pinpoint of light breaking through the darkness. As I inch further in my sobriety more light begins to stream through the walls and I not only see the brightness, but I begin to feel its warmth as well. As more holes of light accumulate, they start to overlap, changing individual spots into larger openings. I begin to see beyond my murky space.
I have a few windows now to gaze out on my world. What was once a dark and lonely place is becoming brighter every day. It’s warm and inviting. Someday, there will no longer be a wall at all; I will be out in the open with no need to hide. The shame and anxiety of those days marred by poison will be long behind me and a future filled with promise and hope will be stretched out before me. For now I am staying the course, even though it’s hard and it sometimes hurts, and it can feel scary. I choose my hard because there is light and life ahead of me.
Statement 6: Life can be ordinary or it can be great.
Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.
(24 days sober with WFS)
I often want to share about how wonderful sobriety is, but that can feel overwhelming because there are so many experiences I could discuss. I’ve decided to share about trusting the universe and what happens when you do.
I stopped drinking on July 2, 2016. My first half year of sobriety was simply focused on not drinking, studying the Women for Sobriety (WFS) Statements and beginning to feel stable without alcohol. By the following spring, I began to get antsy. I knew that my life could be so much better, but how would I even start to make changes? I pondered on that, attempting to discover my purpose. Then, early one morning during my daily routine, I wrote in my journal “I am ready for my change.”
That afternoon, I learned that my teaching contract would only be half-time for the following year due to low student enrollment. My first reaction ~ well it was some colorful language! Then I acknowledged, “This is exactly what you just asked for.” My superintendent offered to help find me a full-time position in another school district, but I knew something else was out there for me.
By mid-summer I was offered a new job in a completely different field, one where I would be able to apply my teaching expertise. After just two short months, I felt overwhelmed and asked myself, “What have I done? How can this be my purpose when I feel so unhappy?” Yet, I decided to stick with it for one year and give it my all. I learned as much as I could in the field and always tried to go the extra mile. Life can be ordinary or it can be great and I was going to do a great job!
Within a year, I found myself applying for another job that someone had suggested. I had only worked in the field for a short time and had almost none of the required qualifications. But when I walked into the interview, I recognized people who had seen my efforts and knew that I had put my whole heart into my work. I felt like crying tears of joy! I was offered the position and thought, “Yes! This is my dream job!”
Nothing is what I would have imagined ~ but my dream job is a perfect fit! I have a vision for what I am doing and I am becoming an expert. This is the coolest thing – I’m still in disbelief – but my new job is so fulfilling! I write a newspaper column related to my work and it’s published in eight papers. Why? Simply because I told them I wanted to!
Here is what I’ve discovered. I am not afraid of my passion anymore! I don’t try to dull my enthusiasm for fear of being ‘too much.’ I’m not afraid to use my voice to advocate for what I believe in my heart is right. Women for Sobriety has taught me so much about compassion and love, and that allows me to connect with people in ways that I wouldn’t have known before I stopped drinking.
I can feel my power inside. I harness that power, along with self-belief and courage, to tackle unimaginable challenges. I have confidence and I trust myself now. I am what I think, and I think positive thoughts throughout my day. I believe this is true because I have experienced it. The more amazing you believe you are, the more others will see it, too!
It’s all a work in progress. Every morning I wake up and tear off yesterday’s page on my Audubon calendar. I ponder my newest feathered friend before my journaling, meditation and setting of priorities begin. I know that the time I spend each morning is an investment in my future. There’s no question that I will do this routine each day for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine going back to my drinking days! Drinking was a closed circuit loop; sobriety is a wide open field. “The sky’s the limit!” This is what I was told when I accepted this job, and I now push myself to reach for it! For me, that’s fulfillment.
I am a sober woman and I am happy! There was a time in the not too distant past when I believed those two words – sober and happy – were mutually exclusive. How would I ever socialize without my beloved wine? How could I relax after work, without sipping my cocktail? In my pre-sober mind, alcohol and happiness were so tightly linked that their connection held me hostage. I believed that I absolutely needed to drink to be happy. It was precisely that strong association between booze and happiness that prevented me from exploring a life without alcohol.
I spent years knowing that wine was not my friend, but my alcohol dependent brain was highly adept at overriding my sensible thoughts, assuring me that sobriety was boring, and that I’d never fit in without alcohol. Sadly, I fell for those lies. For the most part, it was fear that kept me from even considering sobriety. We tend to make blanket judgments about the unknown, and I did just that with sobriety. I knocked it because it wasn’t glamorous, tsk tsk-ing those who declined alcohol, conjuring images of them grasping their brown bag bottles. Yet for many of us, substance dependency robs us of our health, our relationships and yes, even the simple happiness of everyday life.
But can happiness really be synonymous with sobriety? Absolutely! Some experts suggest that people in recovery are happier than their non-alcoholic peers. According to Christopher Murray, a New York-based psychotherapist, “folks in recovery have learned to manage their emotions without reaching for a substance in order to let loose.” He suggests that our recovery work has taught us how to better access our feelings, including happiness, with greater ease. I would agree.
William Berry, a Psychology Today contributor, explains that recovery leads people down growth paths they might not otherwise travel. While personal discovery, emotional growth and supportive peers are available to everyone, he asserts that we in recovery deliberately expose ourselves to more opportunities for happiness. It’s a process of our recovery, and yes ~ our lives DO depend on it!
When I stopped drinking, I chose Women for Sobriety (WFS), an organization dedicated to helping women discover happiness in recovery from substance use disorders. The WFS New Life Program has as its foundation thirteen Acceptance Statements. Unlike a step-based program that is hierarchical in nature, these statements may be applied to recovery as they are needed. Embracing the Statements has helped me discover my true self. I have gained so much knowledge simply by sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women who are walking in my shoes. Their advice, support and compassion make a difference in my recovery every single day! WFS helps me learn behaviors that enhance my happiness and well being, while at the same time, makes me feel empowered!
Happiness is a habit I am developing.
Happiness is created, not waited for.
Acceptance Statement 3
One of the WFS statements tells us that Happiness is created, not waited for, suggesting that happiness is ours for the making. Some think that we are either eternally happy, or that happiness is fleeting or elusive. They believe they will find happiness when they meet the right person, land the perfect job or find their forever home. The New Life Program suggests that happiness springs from inner peace and contentment. It comes from within us ~ happiness becomes ours as we nurture it. Once I realized this, I decided that I wouldn’t wait for happiness to find me!
I’ve discovered a new kind of happiness on my sober journey. Sometimes I experience happiness that is as sharp and crisp as the brightness of the sky on a cold winter morning, or the brilliance of the sun sparkling off freshly fallen snow. Happiness might also be cozy and soothing, like the easy smile that lights up my colleague’s face when I greet her in the morning, or the warmth of a familiar hug as I welcome an old friend. I find happiness in ordinary things like freshly laundered sheets or a hearty cup of homemade soup. I am mindful of happiness in everyday occurrences ~ waking with energy and anticipation to face the day ahead or simply appreciating the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Don’t even get me started about snuggling with my old pup!
The best happy moments are those that catch me unaware ~ like glimpsing a group of toddlers during story hour, or busting some killer moves on the dance floor ~ without a drop of social lubricant. I’m actually a much better dancer sober! There’s some subtlety in my newfound happiness, as if it’s always been there, but now I am the new addition to the equation. All of a sudden, I’m an active participant in my own life, gratefully aware of my happy surroundings. My body is happy, too ~ feeling the satisfying tension in my muscles after a great workout, or sensing the rhythmic pulse of my heartbeat while meditating. I’m content and comfortable with the person I’m becoming. My sober happiness is normal, yet extraordinary!
If you’re a woman who suspects that you have a substance use disorder, but you worry that you won’t lead a happy life without alcohol or other substances, I hope I’ve given you something to consider. Recovery and happiness don’t live in separate hemispheres; in fact, it’s the genuine happiness I’ve come to know through my recovery that has fortified my sobriety. Yes, I’m sober, but I’m anything but somber! I encourage you to check out the WFS New Life Program! Be assured that happiness is a habit you can develop!
This is the first in a new blog series sponsored by Women for Sobriety (WFS). Your thoughts and ideas are important to us, so please take a moment to comment on this post. What are some examples of happiness that you have discovered in your recovery?
Stay tuned for our next blog post to be submitted by another sober sister from Women for Sobriety.
If there is a specific topic you would like to read about, please let us know!
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