Success Is A Stairwell

I don’t think the cravings for alcohol will ever go away.  I just need to learn to cope, deal, and live with them. And not drink.

I went to my second SMART recovery meeting. I was late because I had the start time wrong in my head. I was 20 minutes late but the meeting lasts hour and half. I enjoyed it. I walked in on a discussion of a TED talk about addiction. (That reminds me, I need to watch that video.)  I have not been to a SMART meeting since November. I have not been to an AA meeting since before that. When the group leader asked us to talk about our past week, a few added how they have been since their last meeting. So I started with talk of my past week and then added how I have been (related to my drinking problem) since November.

After my post of being sober at the party, I got drunk on the dinner cruise. I am not sure why I even did it. It was a masquerade party on a large yacht with many levels and rooms. There were three different DJs in different areas of the boat. Lots of bars throughout the vessel. I spotted a few of acquaintances on the bow taking pictures of the sunset. I posed with them for some photos and they all said I looked glamorous and beautiful. Maybe it was the compliments, or maybe it was the glamorous surroundings. Maybe the masks and the costumes and being surrounded by water made me feel it was another world. And it was a world where champagne flowed.

Without hesitation, I asked for a glass of champagne at one of the bars. I paid with cash because I swore I would just nurse this one glass and it would be my last. Then after a few sips, I thought maybe I would space it out and have one an hour. Of course that did not happen. I do remember at one point getting another glass and a handsome man named Mike started to talk to me. He asked my name and reached out to shake my hand. I remember thinking “I am too sober to handle talking to this gorgeous man.” I ordered a 2nd glass, pretending it was for my friend, and excused myself to find her. I drank both glasses.

I ran into a lot of people I knew at this party. Later I found out I even missed some people I knew, either due to the masks or being drunk. I even called one girl by the wrong name and when she corrected me, I realized I wrote about her in my blog. She was the woman that experienced my small meltdown  after Burning Man 2014. I am not sure if I ever explained to her in my apology emails that I was struggling with sobriety. After she saw me drunk at this party, I felt like a fraud.

I did have fun for the most part. Except I spent $300 on drinking. That included the “oh let me buy you a drink” expression to my friends. I ran out of cash and started to use my credit card. Then when I couldn’t find my credit card the next day, I canceled it. I found it 3 days later in my wallet hidden behind my driver’s license. I slept in my car where I parked it a few streets away. I woke up with no coat and no shoes. I even went back a few days later to see if I left them on the street somewhere between the boat and my car, but by that time a homeless person would have snatched them up. I convinced myself that they are being more useful to a homeless person now rather than just a drunk mistake.

Again, one of the things I like about SMART meetings versus AA meetings was the way I got to discuss this setback. The leader asked me how it made me feel and told me to compare it to a recent night out where I did not drink.

I can not go to many of the SMART meetings because of my work schedule. But I will read the book I bought there and put the lessons to use to stay sober. I also started a book Sober for Good by Anne M Fletcher. It is full of advice from people who quit drinking with different ways. It even mentions people that stayed sober just from reading books about sobriety. I think the books I read in the beginning were a big help for me.  Now I need to immerse myself in the dry books again to stay in the saddle.

I am not sure how much time I will have for reading my sober books nor reading novels for fun. On Monday, I start my first classroom class since 2002. I took a few online classes the past two years to get me prepared (and unfortunately none of those credits transferred.)  But having to go on campus twice a week is going to take up a lot of my time. Plus, it is a college writing class that will require a lot of reading and writing papers. I also signed up to start an online art history class in March, but I will have time to adjust my life schedule to this writing class first. I am trying to work extra shifts when I can to help pay for the school. I am gonna be busy starting Monday. Too busy for drinks and hangovers.

I keep looking back on that boat party and regret the alcohol and money spent. But I also keep looking forward to being on track with school and my life. Wallowing in bitterness won’t help me succeed.

SMART Chat

I popped into the chat room on the SMART website. I liked it, even though they were all talking music lessons.  It felt old school. I used to be in a similar chat 2007 to 2009 for travelers. I used to go into that chat room drunk a lot. I plan to check out this chat more often but I am headed to bed now.

If you find yourself bored and want to pop into the chatroom, look for me on there as k365.

REBT

REBT: Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

It is recognized as the first form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Many of the tools and techniques that SMART use come from CBT.

I find it interesting and helpful that a lot of the REBT therapy sounds a lot like Buddhism. How we think influences how we feel which influences how we act. Many of our problems seem to start with how we react to life’s events.

You may have used an addictive behavior to deal with irrational thoughts and excessive emotions. We call this the “using strategy” for coping with discomfort. Somehow, we adopted the unrealistic belief that life should be free from discomfort and pain, and that we shouldn’t have to tolerate it. This unhelpful belief leads to further distress, which drives the urge to engage in addictive behavior to escape the discomfort.

I was supposed to go to a meditation group tonight but I took a nap instead. I have been napping a lot lately. Maybe I need vitamins. I hope to get to yoga tomorrow.  But at least I am sober.

It is funny that I don’t like my new “sobriety date”. I would have rather kept the original in January, or even after my first slip right after Memorial day. Or even right after Burning Man and I could celebrate a new year of sobriety every year the Man burns. But now mid-Oct seems blah. I feel like I am cheating if I celebrate it in January,  but I still feel that is my real date. That was when I decided to start a new life, even though I still remember not being so sure about it.

I might not celebrate Jan 20th as 2 years mostly-sober.  I might. I will see how far I get in this SMART therapy to decide.

Quick note about my first SMART meeting

I LOVED IT!

I loved that we did not have to spend time reading the same thing that is read at every meeting (like the steps and promises in AA, which I feel are a waste of time unless it is your first meeting.)

I like that we didn’t have to all hold hands at the end and say some prayer (especially when AA tries to say it is not religious but then has everyone read a Christian prayer.)

I like that after sharing, the facilitator asks us questions. “So what did that make you want to do? How did you feel? Did you crave alcohol when that happened?” It felt like real therapy. And I liked that others in the group could comment to other shares.

I like that we are taught tools and go over the tools together. I guess that would be like going over a step in a meeting.

We had 8 members, plus facilitator,  and they considered that a big group. Two of them were old timers and four of us were brand new to SMART. If someone started to bash AA, the facilitator would say we are not here for that. He said we are not to focus on the negative. We don’t use labels such as “alcoholic” because of the negativity of the word. We say we have a problem with substance use or abuse. We don’t really count time or days. We just work on the tools and strategies to improve our lives which are:1) building and maintaining motivation; 2) coping with urges; 3) managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors; and 4) living a balanced life.

And a little story that was shared in reference to slipping or relapse: If you were driving a car from New York to California and the car broke down in Kansas, would you drive it back to New York to be fixed? Or would you pick up from where it broke down? Similarly, just because I slipped a few times, it does not take me back to the very start. I have learned a lot about myself and my sobriety since January 2014. Just because I drank a few weeks ago, it does not make me a newbie. I would not want another 30 day chip, (even if the AA in my area gave them out.)

I will still go to AA meetings for the fellowship of it. But I am done with pretending I will do the “steps” and wanting a sponsor. I wouldn’t mind having a friend to help support me but I would rather call the person that: a friend.

Unfortunately there is only 1 SMART meeting a week that is close to me. And I won’t be able to attend another until December due to my work schedule. But there are online meetings I will check out. And if you are on the forums or SROL (SMART Recovery OnLine), my username is k365.

Gonna try to get SMART

I have mentioned before the SMART recovery site and meetings. I am finally gonna go to one this week. I just signed up on the site to follow the forums and chat rooms and see about the online meetings.

I have been questioning wanting to try, or continue, AA meetings and program. Mostly because I read an article the other day about how low the success rate is and how it is not based on science. Then when I read this description of the difference between SMART and AA, I think SMART might work best did me:

A. SMART Recovery has a scientific foundation, not a spiritual one. SMART Recovery teaches increasing self-reliance, rather than powerlessness. SMART Recovery meetings are discussion meetings in which individuals talk with one another, rather than to one another. SMART Recover encourages attendance for months to years, but probably not a lifetime. There are no sponsors in SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery discourages use of labels such as “alcoholic” or “addict”.

So I will browse around that site and check out a meeting in a few days. I will report back more.