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Monday Thoughts 6/29/2020

“The beginning is always today.”  -Mary Shelley

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for your senses to grow sharper.”  -W.B. Yeats

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”  -Plato

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 #1 I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.

I now take charge of my life and my well-being. 

I accept the responsibility.
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 Welcome to your New Life!  Today is a brand-new day, filled with endless possibilities and it does not matter if you are 20 years sober or less than 24 hours sober, your New Life starts right now.  This day can be anything you want it to be; you are taking charge of your life and well-being. You are accepting the responsibility.

Today, embrace this beginning.  It states in our WFS Program booklet “New Life begins with recognizing that we have a life-threatening problem and accepting the responsibility to be in charge of our own lives.  By acknowledging our reliance on alcohol or drugs, we can begin to explore why we sought to escape.”  In balanced and long-term recovery, escape is not an option, but responding with our ability is.

No matter where you are on your journey, begin today.  If today is your first day sober, connect with the women on the WFS Online Forum.  Write your first post and introduce yourself.  A simple hello is enough!  If you are cemented in sobriety, how about reaching out to someone who has just said hello. During a Zoom meeting this week, share how you moved through your first month sober.  What did you do?  What didn’t you do?  How did your body feel?  Name some feelings and share your most often used recovery tool.  As our Motto says, we are bonded together!

Hugzzz

Karen

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Hi 4C Women,

With the pandemic and alcohol sales skyrocketing, I am grateful for Statement #1.  This Statement helped me tremendously, especially in the beginning when I felt so intimidated to be in charge of my life.  For so long, I had been made to feel incompetent, inadequate and unable to make the right decisions.  I was honestly quite scared to be in charge of my life, however, I persevered and I survived my mistakes as WFS taught me to view these as life lessons.  I’ve had a LOT of life lessons yet knew and know I would never again give up accepting responsibility for my life and well-being.  It’s a pretty empowering place to be.

Last year our group did a Relapse Prevention Plan while acknowledging that there may be slips and relapses during the recovery process (process is the key word). 

Here’s a sample list of things that may cause slips and relapses:

           Stress

·         Dealing with the underlying issues in therapy

·         Becoming overwhelmed by feelings and emotions

·         Death of a family member, friend or other significant person in your life

·         Marital and family problems

·         Feelings of loneliness, shame, guilt, anger and abandonment

·         People’s reactions to changes you are making in your life

·         Fear of change and/or living without alcohol

·         Celebrations

·         Successes

·         Habits – familiarity

 

What would you add to this list?

This is where coping tools come in once you can identify what could cause a relapse or slip.  What would be a healthy way to cope with any of the above situations/feelings?  Do you have a plan A, B, C or whatever It takes to be in charge of a healthy choice?  There are costs (risks and disadvantages) and benefits (rewards and advantages) to our choices in active addiction.  I have expressed many times that we need to be honest with ourselves and the costs/benefits.  I was reluctant to do this exercise as I saw no benefit in my uncontrolled drinking.  However, my answers explained why at one time I did see the benefits (short term).  An example was drinking gave me an excuse for nothing being my fault, forgetting my problems, the feelings of rejection and being unlovable, immediately numbing pain.  When I did the costs, it became clear how short term and destructive the benefits were.  I didn’t realize how much until I wrote it down.  Long term costs became so obvious, i.e., hangovers, harming relationships, no room for personal growth, no problem-solving skills, health issues, legal issues.  So, while I was more than reluctant to do this exercise, I am glad I did.  There is something about seeing my life in words that has a greater impact on me.  I would encourage you to do this for your own well-being and benefit. 

Lastly, the final part of the exercise was to list the cost and rewards of NOT drinking or using drugs. I found the list of benefits much longer than the costs.  The list of costs was losing drinking friends, no quick fix for emotions and coping with intense feelings – all risky challenges for me at one time.  Yet, the list of benefits became obvious and long term.  They included improved health, memory of what I said or did, saving money, saving reputation, freedom from fears, building or rebuilding friends and relationships, and very important to me, being available.  The freedom of being available, whether it was to pick up my children or listen quietly and respectfully to another’s hurt and needs, was the best gift I received in my sobriety.  I treasure it to this day. 

What is your gift that you treasure in being in charge of your life and your well-being?  I hope you decide to take on the challenge of these exercises and share it with your WFS group or a trusted friend.  It is one way to start the process of understanding your personal costs and benefits.  The answers will provide coping tools in moving forward as you become more empowered in your life choices and well-being. 

Bonded in accepting the process of being in charge of our lives and well-being, Dee

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Monday Thoughts 3/30/2020

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things; it’s weight-training for life.”  ~~Anne Lamott

“The day she let go of the things that were weighing her down, was the day she began to shine the brightest.”  ~~Katrina Mayer

 “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”  ~~Confucius
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#1 I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.

I now take charge of my life and my well-being.
I accept the responsibility.

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In our current state of world events, it is critical for women in recovery to keep sobriety as our number one priority.  Yes, the daily, ever-changing news can invoke intense feelings of uncertainty, unease and fear but with Statement #1 in action we take charge of our lives and well-being.  We accept the responsibility.

Now is the perfect time to examine what your triggers might be.  Emotional triggers can change and evolve in our lifetimes, investigating what activates these feelings is essential.  When we identify what bothers us, we can take responsibility for our balance and well-being.  From Kerry Campbell, founder of the Academy of Well-Being:

“When we don’t recognize our triggers and our unhealthy reactions to them, it can lead us down a long, tortuous path.

Part of my recovering from a debilitating substance abuse problem involved understanding how triggers work and also learning healthier ways of responding to them. This is why now when I feel dismissed or rejected, I give voice to those emotions. I open my mouth and say, “You know, that hurt my feelings because…”

I have found that by giving my pain a voice, I no longer have to turn it inward upon myself and suppress it with alcohol. This helps keep me sober to this day.

Let’s go over a few other emotional trigger examples:

  • A person who felt ignored and dismissed growing up might start yelling whenever they feel they aren’t being heard.
  • A person who had emotionally unavailable parents (or partners) may get insecure whenever someone isn’t there for them.
  • A person who felt controlled in the past might get angry when they think they’re being told what to do.
  • A person who felt helpless for years might panic when they’re in a situation over which they have no control.

Do any of these emotional triggers resonate with you? Ask yourself, “How do I handle it when this occurs?” Many of us turn to food, alcohol, or other substances to dull our pain when faced with unresolved anger or other emotions.

A trigger is simply a stimulus that evokes upsetting feelings, which may lead to problematic behaviors. We all have triggers, and we all have unhealthy ways in which we deal with them. But we have the power to stop our automatic responses and re-route. The challenge is learning to identify our triggers and then recognizing them when they are happening.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~Viktor E. Frankl

Often, our triggers are experiences, situations, or stressors that unconsciously remind us of past traumas or emotional upsets. They “re-trigger” traumas in the form of overwhelming feelings of sadness, anxiety, or panic.

The brain forms an association between the trigger and your response to it, so that every time that thing happens again, you do the same behavioral response to it. This is because what fires together, wires together.

This means when neurons fire in the brain, they wire together the situation, emotions, and responses that caused that firing of the neurons in the first place. Sensory memory can also be extremely powerful, and sensory experiences associated with a traumatic event may be linked in the memory, causing an emotional reaction even before a person realizes why he or she is upset.

Habit formation also plays a strong role in triggering. People tend to do the same things in the same way. For example, a person who smokes might always smoke while he or she is driving; therefore, driving could trigger an urge to smoke, often without the smoker’s conscious thought.

Because our responses to triggers usually occur at the subconscious level, and we are completely unaware of the firing and wiring we have created, we are doomed to repeat self-destructive behaviors until we identify our triggers.

Once we know our triggers and begin to recognize them when they happen, we can see them for what they are—over-reactions to a perceived threat. Then, we can learn to respond in ways that are more life affirming, useful, and healthy for us.

There are two different types of reactions to triggers:

Emotional

We get stuck in negative emotions such as anger, sadness, or anxiety and react in extremely emotional ways—getting violent, yelling and screaming, withdrawing completely, etc.

Physical

We crave certain substances (food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, etc.) This happens because the emotional pain triggers our habitual way of indulging in some kind of physical activity that we are using to suppress the emotion or dull the pain.

When it comes to physical reactions, it helps me to create space by doing something else, for example, taking a walk.

For emotional reactions, it helps me to clearly communicate my feelings. Mostly I had to learn to understand my emotions, acknowledge them, and then give them a voice.

Instead of unconsciously reacting to a trigger/stimulus, you can learn to consciously respond to them by doing what I call The Trigger and Response Exercise.

Start by taking a sheet a paper and creating three columns. Title them: Trigger, Current Reaction, and New Response.

In the Trigger column, write each one of your triggers. You can think of these as things that “push your buttons.”

In the Current Reaction column, list how you normally react when this button is pushed.

In the New Response column, write what you could do as a conscious response instead of your normal knee-jerk reaction.

Below are a few examples:

Example 1

Trigger: When I feel that my spouse dismisses my comments or feelings about something

Current Reaction: I get angry and yell at him.

New Response: I’ll tell him my feelings were hurt.

Example 2

Trigger: When I feel insecure about my body

Current Reaction: I eat a bag of cookies.

New Response: I’ll go for a walk around the block.

Example 3

Trigger: When I get overwhelmed and stressed

Current Reaction: I binge drink.

New Response: I’ll practice deep breathing.

Now that you’ve written your list of triggers and changed how you’ll respond; you’ve got to learn to make these responses your habitual way of being.

Keep this list handy and use it as a guide. You can add new ways to manage your triggers as they come to you.

Don’t get discouraged if you falter, as it takes time to learn new ways of being. Just keep practicing them, until over time, they become your new habits. In this way, you are powerful in that you consciously own and choose how you respond to people, situations, and circumstances. You aren’t blindly reacting anymore.

Life is full of triggers, know this. But, also know you have the choice and the power to respond to those triggers in ways that are healthy and achieve better outcomes. In this way, you transform your life for good.”

These are excellent suggestions to practice Statement #1 while moving through our triggers and increasing our well-being.

Hugzzz

Karen

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Hi 4C Women,

Such great suggestions for learning healthy ways of coping in uncertain times.  It reminded me that it’s not enough to know our triggers but to have new ways of responding.  As Dr. Phil says, you have to replace an old habit with a new one.  It’s finding the new healthy one that requires introspection and a plan.  I was thinking of all the lists I have made over the years of what gives me joy and perhaps I need to incorporate those joys into my action plan. Of course, then there is the time I now have to clear out my office and closets but somehow those were not on my joyful lists!

I will say that I am grateful that we live in a day of technology where we can speak and see each other on many devices.  I grew up in a time of only landline phones, no face time, zoom or google meetings or echo devices. Heck, we didn’t even have computers, answering machines or more than 3 tv stations.  Yes, I am that old!   So, as we wait patiently or impatiently (depending on the moment), there are ways to cope as we uncover and discover those ways that are individually ours.  I wish for each of you to find your path and always remember that we are definitely in this together, supporting and encouraging when we have the strength to do so and to ask for it when we don’t.  Bonded in accepting the responsibility for our lives, Dee

 

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Monday Thoughts 12/30/2019

 

“Don’t wait for something big to occur.  Start where you are, with what you have, and that will always lead you into something greater.”  ~~Mary Manin Morrissey

“Now, every time I witness a strong person I want to know: What darkness did you conquer in your story?  Mountains do not rise without earthquakes.”  Katherine MacKenett

“You can make positive deposits in your own economy every day by reading and listening to powerful, positive, life-changing content and by associating with encouraging and hope building people.”  ~~Zig Ziglar

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#1 I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.

I now take charge of my life and my well-being. I accept the responsibility.

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Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., our WFS founder, accepted and understood that she needed to make changes to her life in order to end the pain that she felt overwhelmed with.  Jean’s alcohol abuse was slowly taking away everything she cherished and valued, so she tried something different.  Through her pain, Women for Sobriety came to life.

It is fitting to begin the New Year with Statement #1.  For those new to sobriety and recovery, this Statement is the launching pad for a balanced New Life.  For those already embracing a life free from substance, Statement #1 is a powerful reminder of the process and the opportunity to reflect on the many changes you have made.

When starting a new job, hobby or lifestyle, various tools are needed in order to move forward.  The same is true with sobriety and recovery.  Looking ahead, each Monday Thoughts will now include a tool that will correlate with this week’s Statement.  This tool will be something to add to your supply of resourceful actions and strengthen your New Life insurance policy. If there is a sobriety and recovery tool that works for you and would like to share, please email me at karen@teamwfs.org  Here is our first tool of 2020!

Tool for Statement #1:

Create a 4 Point Sobriety Plan for when the urge to drink or use is triggered.  Write down at least 4 things that you will do BEFORE choosing to drink.  Such items on this list can be calling a 4C sister, asking for a chat on the WFS forum, reading the WFS Program booklet, removing yourself from people or situations, or journaling the drink all the way through to the pain. Always carry your list with you or post it in a visible area.  What will you put on your list?

Hugzzz and Happy New Year!

Karen

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Hi 4C Women,

Statement #1 has always been a strong reminder that I “once” had a problem and I have the capability to change that as long as I keep that single word “once” in my head.  It is a forward moving word to me.  The action part of this Statement reminds me that I am in charge “now” and accepting that responsibility when I feel triggered.  I love Karen’s idea of adding a recovery tool to the Monday Thoughts. I hope you will provide her with some of your coping tools that will certainly help others.

My coping tool is to reflect on the woman I once was.  I ask myself what would happen if I gave into my triggers.  How would it be to meet her again, to be her again?  I fought hard for her to become a 4C and courageous woman against tough odds.  The best way to not be her again is to have a working coping tool to leave her in the past where she can be at peace knowing the hard work brought emotional and spiritual growth where none existed before.  The best thing about coping tools is that they can change as we change and we can learn from each other.  When I reflect on the woman I use to be, I remember that when I quit drinking, I thought my world would be perfect, no problems, no issues – just a walk on the beach.   Well, to my chagrin, life not only presented some very tall challenges, I was now expected to be this wonderful problem-solving, great decision maker since drinking was the problem.  No inside changes needed as many who do not have an addiction believe.  Thank goodness for Statement 1 and the entire WFS program.  Drinking took away my clarity, reasoning and even wanting to try to change my life.  So, I had a choice.  Did I want a New Life?  Did I want to work at change?  The more I said yes to my New Life, the better equipped I was to handle life’s challenges without drinking.  Was it easy?  No.  Was it worth it?  Yes!  Life would present challenges whether or not I was drinking but, wow, what an esteem, confidence builder it is to make healthier choices and survive mistakes.  I encourage each of you to discover what it is you want in your life, what you need to discard and how you will manage to cope when it gets tough and to celebrate when it works out the way you hoped.

Bonded in building a New Life for the problem that “once” had you, your 4C sister