TAKE CREDIT FOR YOUR SOBRIETY AND USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

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What if I was to say, “Becoming an addict or alcoholic, then getting sober, could be one of the best things to ever happen to you?” You would probably think to yourself, Yeah I don’t think so buddy; that was the worst thing that ever happened to me! Well, I totally disagree! And I will tell you why.

There is a saying, “Behind every cloud is a silver lining.” I believe this to be true, especially as it pertains to sobriety. First, there were dark clouds of despair (addiction), then there was light and hope (recovery).

Out of this darkness, a new person is revealed in the light. A person of strength, character and resolve. This new person was forged from defeating an addiction that threatened to kill them.

Examine the addict that’s in recovery; they have faced challenges that most people will never have to endure. To recover from addiction requires immense courage and strength. The obstacles of the physical addiction, coupled with the brain being rewired, appear almost beyond human capability to recover from. They’re not! And when you do recover, you are changed forever because you have conquered one of the most difficult adversaries a human can go up against: addiction.

After recovering, an addict has proven to themselves that they can face any adversity in life no matter what the circumstance. Many, however, don’t give themselves enough credit for winning this battle. You should view yourself in a different way, and realize that you now possess incredible strength and courage. It’s important for you to acknowledge this change in you, and understand that you have tapped into resources you never knew existed, such as character, strength, and courage.
So, why is this important to me?  

Many recovering addicts/alcoholics feel beaten down and somewhat discouraged, probably due to the stigma they are now shackled with and the wreckage they have done. You can’t let this be your dogma! Don’t join that group. There are some who don’t feel this way after becoming sober, and who don’t let this stigma bog them down. For those of you who don’t feel that way, I commend you. But it takes time to get there for most.

mirror-1464840_1280There is an easy fix for this feeling of malaise: look in the mirror and study your face for a moment. Think of how hard you had to work to get clean from addiction. Allow yourself to feel proud. More importantly, tell yourself you have seen the worst and overcame it. After going through what you have, nothing will be too difficult for you in the future.

What has happened is that you have actually joined an elite group of people who have been to hell and back and survived. Gather strength from this, and make it a positive in your life. There are many people who have overcome their addictions then went on to do great things. Maybe even greater things than they would have achieved had they not been changed by their struggle with addiction.

You can find these people everywhere in life if you look. Google famous people who have recovered from addiction, and you will be surprised by the amount of people you find.

Also, observe people at meetings who have long-term sobriety. Pay attention to what they share and what their life is like now. You will be inspired by their stories and their successes in life.

Getting sober was the biggest battle of your life, and you won! What could possibly hinder you in life now? Nothing! You are a battle-tested warrior who claimed victory; go wherever your dreams take you. Sure, there will be troubles in life, there always are, but now, no matter what happens, you will be able to handle those setbacks. Take this new strength you have earned and go forward with confidence.

Ok, that sounds great, but where do I go?

luggage-1149289_1280Good question. Unfortunately, I have no answer for that. Where you go will be entirely up to you. Do you you need to go back to school and get your degree? Do you to aspire to get a promotion at work? Are you looking for a new career? Do you want to fall in love and get married? Maybe you always wanted to start your own business, or become a singer in a band. Life is full of opportunities now that you are sober, so don’t limit yourself.

Everyone has something they would like to do, but they are afraid to try because they may fail. This fear of failure paralyzes people and guarantees that they will fail by default. You should consider yourself excluded from this group because, after what you have accomplished, there is no reason to fear anything. You can rationalize this to be true given what you have had to conquer.

You are out of the dark now and into the light, so embrace this new station in life. Pick something you are passionate about. Pick something daring. You can handle it now. Why choose something you know you are capable of? Instead, aspire to do something that will challenge you. In general, things that are hardest to accomplish give us the most pride and satisfaction in life.

We all have dreams that we put aside because we think we aren’t capable of making them come true. I suggest people in recovery revisit some of those dreams and consider if they can become a reality. Maybe, now with a renewed spirit and more confidence, you can make them happen.

You won’t know if you don’t try, and you aren’t afraid of anything. Right?

Summation

My point here is to demonstrate that there is a good side to addiction, but it’s only revealed once you become sober. Going through addiction and coming out on the other side will embolden you if you allow it to.

I can personally attest to this. After I left the Sober Living Home I was managing, I wanted to write a book about my experiences. I wanted the world to know more about what we addicts/alcoholics are going through. My problem was that I had never written anything, and to make matters worse, I was horrible at punctuation and grammar. I was very passionate about the reason for writing this book, so I decided to do it anyway.

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I sat down and started sketching out some ideas but became discouraged and almost quit. I thought, I am not a writer, and I will embarrass myself by writing a terrible book. Then I went outside for a walk and had an epiphany: I could hire someone to help me write my book. So, I did just that, and now my book is nearly complete.

I sincerely doubt I would have been that courageous prior to becoming an addict/alcoholic. Deep inside, there is now a voice talking to me saying, you can do this! Don’t run away just because it’s going to be hard. I called on my new strength and self-belief to inspire me. Despite my doubts, I decided to make my dream a reality.

To me, becoming an addict/alcoholic was both a curse and a blessing. But what’s most important is that I have been able to tap into the courage it took to get sober. Now, I use it everyday of my life.

Make your new mantra, “I can do anything I put my mind to.”  You already proved this to be true when you beat addiction and got sober.

Robert Apple

 

Ways You Can Help an Addict part: two

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In the previous (Ways You Can Help an Addict) blog I talked about the importance of communication. The goal in the first blog was to establish new truthful communication without dysfunctional dialog. In this post, I will continue talking about the best way to begin having open communication with an addict in your life you’re trying to help.

Part Two:

Ok. Hopefully you have established a rapport that is based on truth and mutual respect. This is so important for many reasons, one being that you are now going to be able to actually help where you couldn’t before because there was no truth present. Without honest communication, nothing was possible. Now that you have established a language of honesty, you will be told the truth.

You also have made it clear you have no agenda that you will bring to these new discussions. This makes them feel comfortable that you are not going to shame or berate them.

As for your side, you feel hopeful you will not be taken advantage of with lies and false promises. Now, after a few simple check-ins with them that didn’t lead to any lying or arguments, you feel confident you can move on.

Ask Don’t Tell

guy-698784_1280I am sure you have been dying to know everything about their life that you’ve missed because of their addiction, but be patient. Start slow. Don’t open the flood gates and start with a barrage of questions. Start slowly with something that is easy for them to answer truthfully. A bad choice of question would be “are you still using?” This of course could lead to a big fat lie. So, instead, you can start inquiring as to “how they are doing?” Remember, whatever you do, “ask” don’t TELL them anything.

This will be the first time you are conversing with them in a personal way in a while. How they answer will determine if you are talking to them, or their addict mind. Should they answer “I am not bad or I am ok,” this would be a good sign. This would indicate they show respect for you and themselves. Most likely they are not alright, but by saying so means they are taking responsibility for their own problems. Should they answer with “really bad, I don’t know what to do?” Or, “I have no money to eat and the friends I am staying with are kicking me out.” Alert! All this could be true, but you need to exercise caution before you offer any help here.

First, they obviously aren’t starving to death, or they wouldn’t be standing in front of you. Secondly, they must be sleeping somewhere. I know this sounds cynical, but you have to be very sure they are telling you the truth and not pulling at your heart strings for drug money.

Let’s assume you believe them. Where do you go from here? I suggest you do your best to follow up and see if any of this is true. One way you can do this is bluntly ask who they are staying with and ask permission to call and see if this is in fact true. If they are unwilling to give you a number to call for some reason, like, “They don’t have a number or their cell has been turned off” offer to go over and see if maybe there is something you can do to help. If they balk at this, they are probably lying to you.

All of the above is all hypothetical, of course. You can’t script how the conversation will go because you are only writing your lines. There is no way you can predict exactly what they are going to say. Just stick to the basic outline: honesty, firmness and respect.

Then What?

comics-151341_1280“So, if I think they are lying to me, should I just go?” No! You have gotten this far, don’t mess things up by being rash. You can’t prove anything, so leave this on a good note. No arguments and no accusations of lying. Simply tell them how sorry you are to hear this and wish them well. You can always try another day.

If they don’t ask you for any money, things might be turning for the good. Thank them for talking to you and tell them how nice it was to see them. Don’t leave just yet!

Addicts are smart and can manipulate anyone. The fact that they know you very well is even more of a problem. If you are seemingly strident about not offering any help without proof, they will respect this. They won’t like it, but they will respect it. They will also have respect for your calm demeanor. If you panic and start coming up with ways to help them, they will consider you weak and hammer at you until you give them what they want.

Now that you are about to leave, I suggest your closing question could be, “do you think you might need to go to detox and rehab?” To an addict this is like asking them to take a bath in acid, so be prepared for just about any answer, especially if they are not ready to get sober.

How they answer that question will determine where they are with their addiction. If they answer “yes”, ask them to go with you right away. If they agree, then take them. Don’t delay. Don’t take them home and plan things in a  couple of days, just go.

If they answer no, let it go; they aren’t ready for help. The worst answer they can give you is, “yes, but I need some time to get things in order.” Don’t even bother with this because, if you agree to this, their next question will be to ask for some money to tide them over until they go. “Going” will never happen and you will be at fault for believing them. All your hard work to get them to this point will go down the drain in a big lie. If this happens, wait for another time.

Always remember you are talking to an addict mind. Never forget this! You may be looking at a loved one, but you are talking to the devious mind that resides in them.    

The Next Step

stair-1743963_1280Let’s assume things went well and you don’t have to wait for another day to get them to agree to rehab. What’s next? The next step is to get them into detox because they can’t go to a rehab without being in detox first. This is a serious medical issue and rehabs are not usually equipped to handle this.

“Ok I have them in rehab now what?” Relax, you just got several more pieces back. You have an honest dialog between you and your loved one. You have mutual respect where no one is scamming the other. No one is mad, and there is no animosity. You have made some huge inroads to a new truth based relationship. And now you have them in a safe place: rehab. This is exactly where you want to be.

Be prepared for many questions from them before, during, and after rehab. Questions like, “what’s going to happen when I get out of rehab?” and “Where am I going to live?” Don’t give any details. In fact, don’t tell them anything. Calmly answer everything with “that depends on you,” or “we will talk about this when you get out.” Of course this will be frustrating, and they may erupt into a tirade. Remain calm and resolute; don’t tell them anything you may regret later. Ultimately, they will accept that more will be revealed later and stop bothering you. They will actually find solace with your calmness.

I am a strong proponent of Sober Living Homes. If I had a child or loved one in trouble with drugs and alcohol, I would definitely arrange a six month to a year stay to help with their after care. This is, of course, up to you. Personally, I wouldn’t bring someone right out of rehab to live with me. Though, I may be biased because I was a client and a manager of a Sober Living Home. (read my blog on Why you Should Live in a Sober Living Home for more info).

“But they have been to rehab before. Why will this time be any different?” For one, you are being completely honest with each other, and you are being firm and calculated for another. You appear to have a plan, and that’s attractive to anyone. When you drop someone off at rehab with angst and anger, how do you think that makes them feel while they are there? Conversely, if you are calm and seem to have a plan for this, it gives someone hope and a reason to believe in you.

Let’s be clear here, an addict can’t plan anything except for their next fix or drink. I am not saying they aren’t capable; I am just saying they can’t at this point in their life. Having someone come into their life calmly, honestly, and firmly is exactly what they need.

You have some control here now but don’t abuse it. Make no demands; in fact, be very evasive with your next moves.

Excuse me, what? Let me explain. You have done the near impossible; you have pulled them away from their addiction with calmness and honesty. You have not promised anything to accomplish this. Instead, you allowed them to come to the light. Despite what you think, no addict really wants to be in the shadows chasing dealers around, begging, borrowing and stealing. This life gets old, but, without help or some event like time in jail, they aren’t likely to get sober on their own.

What plan?

notes-514998_1280I haven’t talked about any plans as of yet because that would interfere with the previous steps. Of course, you have to have some plan of attack. As I stated before, rehab is important and necessary, but it’s not the end of the story. In many ways, rehab is just the beginning.

Once a person leaves rehab, they are sober and, for the most part, feeling good. However, they are mostly lost without a plan for aftercare. Let’s look at the obstacles facing a person leaving rehab.

Generally speaking, upon leaving rehab, a person may or may not have a job to support themselves. In addition, they may not have a residence to go to either.

To further complicate things, they may have court cases pending, such as DUI or a possession charge that need to be cleaned up.

They also may be facing debt hanging over their heads. Some, if not all addicts, have bad credit, with accounts going to collections. Most of this debt is caused by unpaid credit cards or cash advance loans (yep addicts are a very industrious lot when they have to be).

These are troubling things, but they may not be all. Addicts also have to face a stigma that is attached to them. This stigma is felt wherever they go. Friends, family and others have a tendency to treat them as if they are not normal.

Try to imagine coming out of rehab and having to face the possibility of, no job, no housing, court cases, bills in collections, bad credit and a huge bulls eye on your chest saying “I’m an addict.” Now, if you were an addict, how would you escape all of this quickly and easily? Without a plan to address these issues, they won’t go away, and neither will the effect they are having on the addict.

You will need to have a plan to address these issues they are facing. This plan will not include you directly, (as in paying for everything that is needed) rather, you will be an advisor only. Simply sit down with them and write out all of the obstacles they will be facing and give advice as to how to tackle these problems.

Summation

rubik-855160_1280Helping an addict is not easy. In fact, it’s very hard and takes a huge amount of time and effort to right the ship. There is no way to predict if your efforts will help. In all honesty, you must have blind faith because there are no guarantees with recovery.   

In order to help, you must have truth in communication and patience. You must also be able to remain calm under any circumstances. Most importantly, you must have a plan. How well you can employ all of these things will determine the outcome.   

All of these suggestions thus far in part one and two are merely guidelines. Every addicted person is a unique personality, so reaching out to them in order to help will require ingenuity and intuition. Forecast and plan accordingly. This will help you remain firm and stay on track. If you lose control, they will too.

In part three of this series, I will focus on all of the the things I talked about regarding challenges they will face after rehab. I will also discuss long term aftercare, such as Sober Living Homes.

Robert Apple

Why I am Supporting Facing Addiction’s Letter to Congress

I came across the Nonprofit, Facing Addiction; they need as many signatures as possible to help Congress to understand the magnitude of addiction in America and that the funds they have allocated to solve the problem won’t be enough given its scope.

See Facing Addiction’s site here: https://www.facingaddiction.org/#skip

Sign the letter to congress here: https://www.facingaddiction.org/fund-cara-2016

For those not familiar, here is the new CARA law. Source: Cadca.org

On July 22, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (P.L. 114-198). This is the first major federal addiction legislation in 40 years, and the most comprehensive effort undertaken to address the opioid epidemic, encompassing all six pillars necessary for such a coordinated response – prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform, and overdose reversal. While it authorizes over $181 million each year in new funding to fight the opioid epidemic, monies must be appropriated every year, through the regular appropriations process, in order for it to be distributed in accordance with the law. This law was passed almost unanimously by both the house and the senate.

From what I have read on their website, Facing Addiction has put together a comprehensive coalition of people and organizations to aide in the fight against addiction. They have been able to assemble some of the best resources available thus far and are continuing to bring in others that can help.   

I personally found out how dedicated Facing Addiction is in bringing all voices to this cause when I sent them an email asking if I could write a blog supporting the letter they are taking to Congress. I was immediately contacted by Michael King, Facing Addictions Director of Outreach and Engagement. Michael replied back to my email and set up a time to contact me by phone.

This told me everything I needed to know about Facing Addiction and their commitment to include everyone in the universal fight against addiction. To take the time to reach out and engage with a small potato blogger such as myself spoke volumes to me about their vision to bring all resources together under one tent.

Here is Facing Addictions Mission Statement Taken from Their Website:

Facing Addiction Inc. is a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding solutions to the addiction crisis by unifying the voice of the over 45 million Americans and their families directly impacted by addiction.

Vision 

Bring together the best resources in the field in order to reduce the human and social costs of addiction, every year, until this public health crisis is eliminated.

Mission

  • Build a national constituency to give the millions affected by addiction a voice
  • “Rebrand addiction” to create the understanding, empathy, outrage and demand urgently needed to advance solutions
  • Increase access to effective prevention, treatment and recovery programs
  • Translate scientific innovation into useful tools and services
  • Advocate for governments to implement evidence-based policies and regulatory practices to end addiction
  • Widely share the proof of long-term recovery

While reading their website, I was impressed with the resources they have compiled thus far. To date, they are building a huge coalition of recovery centers, clinics, after care facilities, and there is housing for recovery mentioned in their plans as well. I personally hope the housing for recovery includes Sober Living Homes. I was a manager of a Sober Living Home and am a big supporter of them.

They have brought on board a whole host of knowledgeable people for key positions. So, for me, Facing Addiction has the infrastructure in place as well as the capable people needed to reach their goals.

 This outreach to co-ordinate resources is just what the country needs to tackle America’s drug problem. Building this coalition will take the fight on addiction to the next level.

Breaking Down Their Vision

“Build a national constituency to give the millions affected by addiction a voice”

On their site, they have dedicated a section where anyone who has been affected by addiction can share their stories and opinions. This would include family, friends and relatives affected as well as professionals and organizations in the field of addiction and recovery.

I love this idea! We can learn so much from the stories of those affected and those in the field of recovery. This exchange of stories and opinions can lead to a more unified understanding of addiction and recovery. This would help build a stable community to educate people and help others suffering from addiction.

“Rebrand addiction”

Yes! This is absolutely necessary to move forward and get people to understand addiction as it really is: a curable disease. Trying to recover with the current stigma of addiction is incredibly challenging. Wherever an addict turns, they face prejudice. Addicts are in the fight of their lives, and having to deal with a stigma makes this fight overwhelming at times.  

Increase access to effective prevention, treatment and recovery programs

According to their website, the goal here is to make access to vital resources easier for those who desperately need them. From what I can tell, they would be focusing on making the connection to resources less fractured as it is presently and more organized. This would mean that, no matter where someone in need lives, an they could find all the resources and information available in one central location.

Translate scientific innovation into useful tools and services

Here they would address scientific innovations and getting these innovations out to the recovery communities for implementation. Currently there is a gap between scientific innovations and conversion into practical use in the field. This would close that gap and expedite the process of getting new innovations to people who can implement them.

Advocate for governments to implement evidence-based policies and regulatory practices to end addiction

This would consolidate the best practices based on evidence and have them integrated into a uniform approach to recovery. This would bear more evidence of proof that we are going in the right direction with recovery.

Widely share the proof of long-term recovery

This sharing of proof that there truly can be long-term recovery will help the recovery community in many ways. First, it will help with the perception that addiction is hopeless. Secondly, it can give motivation to those who are suffering and their families. I see this as very needed and instrumental to move forward in the fight against addiction.

Summation

It is my humble opinion that all of America needs to get behind Facing Addiction and their efforts to take this message of concern to Congress. Facing Addiction has taken on a huge task, and we all need to support them.

I urge all Americans to share this post to everyone one they know. Whether you are an addict or the family of an addict makes no difference. ALL Americans are affected by addiction, either personally or socially. Addiction wreaks havoc and destruction in our nation, and we need to do everything we can to stop it. Addiction has now surpassed car accidents as a cause of death in America.  

Please click this link and sign the letter to Congress. You have nothing to lose by doing so, and we have so much to gain as a nation. https://www.facingaddiction.org/fund-cara-2016

Robert Apple

http://soberapple.com

Ways You Can Help an Addict

depression-1250870_1280In my previous blog, I addressed how you should avoid enabling an addict. In a three-part series of posts, I will address things that you can do to help an addict/alcoholic.

Part One:

sunset-538286_1920I will make this very simple; the only way you can help an addict is through communication. Wait! There must be more, that is just too simple! Nope. Think about it; there is a human in your life, that you love and care for, and you want to help them. Do you have a magic wand? Are you able to touch them like ET and somehow change them? No. We are humans; we have no magical powers. We can’t reach into someone’s mind to change the way they think. What we do have, as humans, is the ability to communicate. Our ability to communicate with each other is the most powerful thing we embody.

Now some would argue that love is the most important thing we do as humans. But, how do you show someone the emotion of love? Communication. We can communicate is many ways through language, touch, art, music, poetry, the written word, good deeds, caring, and the list is endless.

As humans, we are all different. There is no other human exactly like us ever; we are one of a kind. This means it is imperative for us to communicate with each other, so we don’t feel alone. If we didn’t, we couldn’t have survived on earth until now. We learn by communicating with each other. We invent, create, teach and love each other through communication. By using communication, we can achieve anything humans are capable of.

Many go through life not considering how important communication is. We develop rudimentary ways of communication that serve our purposes and stop learning. Then we find ourselves in a place where we can’t reach someone we love. We desperately want to help them because they are in trouble, but our rudimentary communication fails us. It is at this point that we have to find the courage to change ourselves in order to help our loved one who is in desperate need. This is where we must learn to communicate better.

So This Helps Addicts How?

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At this point, if you are saying to yourself, I have tried communicating and nothing worked, then please keep reading. I totally understand how you feel. I have been on both sides of this equation. I was an alcoholic/addict, and later I have tried to help addicts/alcoholics. I learned what I am going to suggest to you from my time as a manager of a Sober Living Home.

One of the things I observed as a house manager was the dynamic between addicts/alcoholics and people who were trying to help them. This dynamic varied from completely dysfunctional to moderately dysfunctional. On rare occasions, I would see a fairly normal relationship with good communication. It became clear to me that the more tumultuous the communication, the further the divide between the addict and the loved one.
First, you have to consider some things about your relationship with the addict. If you are a parent, spouse, loved on or friend, what is the state of your relationship with them? Are you angry at them? Is your relationship contentious? Are you mistrusting of them due to their past behaviors? My guess is that it’s probably a little of all of these. This is fine. Knowing where the relationship stands currently is important. Why? Well, you have to have a starting point that is based in reality. If you are angry with them and suddenly change your demeanor because you think this is the right thing to do, you would be wrong. Recognizing your starting point of communication is very important. If you are hiding your true feelings and acting out of character, you will only confuse the both of you.

It’s ok to be angry, disappointed, and mistrusting. It’s NOT ok to pretend that you are not for the sake of an argument. Communication is based on complete truth, otherwise there is false communication.

To help an addict you must connect with them and allow thoughts and feelings to flow between you both unencumbered.

When to Begin

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Well, just about any time you choose. There is no good time or bad time to begin this process of communication. The key is to get together and communicate. Ok. I have done this a million times and we just argue or they lie to me. Yes, they are addicts, that’s what they do when cornered or put under scrutiny.

What’s important to understand is that the person you are concerned about has receded from you and just about anybody else in life. Their world has become very small and they only socialize with people like themselves. In order to help them, you have to coax them back into a world that they are desperately trying to escape. You need to establish a line of communication that is not threatening to them.

Think of it this way: You live in an acceptable world by social standards, while they reside in a world that is not. You can’t physically pull them out of this place, nor can you berate or shame them into leaving. What you can do is use our most powerful tool available to us: communication. As I said before, we can achieve anything through communication.

You have to think long-term here. If an addict has been unattached from society for, let’s say, five years, you can’t expect them to just get sober and be fine. This is the problem with rehabs. Rehabs are great, but you are done in 30 days or less generally, and then sent on your way. This is not enough time to re-acclimate back to a normal life. If it took an addict years to pull away from society, it will take months and maybe years to fully recover. So be patient.

How do I do This?
Start and think small. Don’t think you can accomplish anything in day or a week. Arrange a time to meet in person or talk on the phone. Texting is not optimal, but do so if it is your only choice. At this stage you just want to communicate with them in a completely non-biased way.

I think the best thing to do is open the communication on neutral ground. Don’t start by talking about their addiction. Rather, just talk to them. Have no agenda, just two humans talking to each other. Don’t imply who you are to them, mother, husband, sister, friend, whatever. They don’t need to hear from the disappointed heartbroken person they hurt.

fear-441402_1280This first communication is the most vital step. If you can get them to communicate with you having no underlying motive, you will have established their trust, so that you won’t make them feel bad about themselves. They know full well what damage they have caused, and I assure you they feel so bad about it that it causes them to use even more.

So prepare yourself for this first talk because it is going to set the tone for further talks. Don’t have any expectations early on with these talks. Don’t judge them on their validity or how well they went according to your expectations or their’s. Simply relax and know you have started the first step in a long road.

What do I Talk to Them About?

holiday-123849_1280This is up to you. Talk about the weather; talk about a new song you heard on the radio; talk about sports; talk about your hobby; talk about whatever. Just make sure everything is benign. Talking about family and friends is a big mistake. These can be immediate triggers for sadness and shame. Talking about yourself and family can lead to a contentious dialog as well. A simple statement like, “your sister really misses you” is not helpful. They already know people miss them, and this bothers them deeply. If you make them sad, what do you think they will do as soon as you leave or hang up?

Try talking to them as someone you just met. You don’t talk to strangers about family or friends; you talk about common things two people who just met can relate to. I realize this is hard to do, and it will go against everything that makes sense to you. You have to remember you are starting over with them at ground zero. You have lost nothing, everything in the past is still there and will be there once you get further with your communication. For now all you want is to have a nice chat with absolutely no connotations. Subsequent talks can get more intimate, but, for now, practice restraint and employ patience. Have faith that you are going in the right direction because you are.

Once you have had several talks where no one has become angry or aggressive, you can ease into some more personal things, such as how they are doing. Don’t rush this part and break with your plan. Be comforted that you have a plan and some control that will hopefully bring your loved one back into your life willingly.

Now, at anytime in these early talks should the conversation become negative, take control and diffuse the situation as best you can. You can’t control anyone else, but you can control yourself! Your goal is to communicate with them until they trust that you have no agenda, and understand that you just want to talk.

Things Not to do

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There is a strong likelihood that their addict mind will try to take advantage of you. You will be talking to two different people at first, your loved one and their addict mind. Know the difference and don’t become angry when the addict mind starts wooing you for money or a favor. Don’t become rattled if that same addicted mind tells you some horrible hardship that desperately needs your assistance. Remember what I said in my blog about enabling the Addict. Enabling the Addict  Be firm and prepared for this. Do not become angry and lash out. Instead, be strong and resolute, while still remaining respectful.

Here is a list of things NOT to ask during the first conversations:

• Are you still going to meetings?
• Did you find a sponsor like you promised?
• Have you talked to your sister/brother/father/mother?
• Are you still hanging around with so-and-so?
• Do you still have the same girlfriend/boyfriend?

These questions and others like them can lead to lying to you out of guilt or self preservation. This is exactly where you don’t want to go with this! Once they start lying to you, this new communication that has been established will become worthless. When you start communication based on complete honesty, both of you will feel obliged to comply with the new rules. If you bait them with loaded questions that they won’t or can’t answer honestly, you will be back to where you started.

Again, all of this communication has to be borne out of honesty. Few, if any, forms of communication that allow untruths will bear any fruit. So, be mindful of who you are talking to and do your best to steer the conversation in a direction where you can bond with your loved one and avoid pitfalls.

In stage one, success is acknowledged by truthful communication that leads to the desire to communicate further. This seem simplistic, and it is. Making this happen without letting your emotions trip things up is not.

Summation

We all want a miracle fix when someone we love has become addicted to drugs or alcohol. We so desperately want to have that person back with us so we can feel safe knowing they are well.

broken-glasses-1164515_1920The truth is, people who have become addicted are fractured, with parts of them scattered everywhere. In order to help, we have to get them back one piece at a time. You can’t rush this process. It takes time and patience. This also requires sacrifice on the part of people who love them and want to help them. This is where the greatest human capability comes to the rescue: communication. Stage one is where you can get the first piece of your loved one back.

Look at all the great accomplishments of the world, and you will find that none of these would have been possible without communication. Never underestimate the power of communication and it’s ability to heal.

There is no human problem on earth that communication cannot solve. You just have to use it properly.

Part two of this series will examine the mid-point of this process of communication.

Robert Apple

Enabling the Addict

Hot Topic

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One of the biggest discussions on blogs and forums about addiction is the subject of enabling. There is no other topic that can be more emotional than that of enabling. Last week I talked to a mother about her son. Her son had a ten year battle with opiates, and he eventually died from an overdose.

The mother recounted all the years of trying to help her son with his addiction. In the beginning, she was in denial and thought this was just a faze in his life and that he would snap out of it. She went on to say that, after his first stay in rehab, she thought he was cured and would be fine. The years and relapses kept coming and still no progress. Her son would get sober for six months and start to get his life on track, and, again, here would come another relapse.

After each relapse, she would take him back to her home and pay his bills to get him on his feet again, only to be disappointed with yet another relapse. Over time, her son had become unemployable because of his addiction. In the last years of his life he lived mostly with his mother unless his was living in a Sober Living Home. The mother refused to give up on her son and would spend any amount of money to keep him from being homeless.

In the final years of her son’s life, she had to sell her house and move to an apartment, so she could afford to pay for her son’s treatment and housing. Eventually, he was living with her full-time. He would lay around the house all day and watch TV. When she would ask him if he was looking for work, he would lie to her. He stole money from her purse, and she would write it off as, “maybe he needed money for food, or some other non-drug related need.”

Exasperated and tired, she gave her son money to go on a vacation with trusted friends of the family. Her son never came home from the camping trip and died from an opiate overdose.

Later, she second guessed herself about her choices in deciding to give her son so many chances and never letting him hit his bottom. She said she knew all about enabling but couldn’t relate it to her situation with her son. She confided in me, “if I had known my continual helping would be a factor in my son’s death, I would have done things differently.” When I asked her what she would have done differently, she said, “I don’t know. I just couldn’t stop helping him. I loved him.”
Love Isn’t Enough

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Of course she loved him; she loved him dearly. Loving an addict is not like loving a normal person who can reciprocate that love. Addicts are driven by a force that overrides anything else in their life, including your love. Deep down it means so much to them that you love them, and they will tell you that, but if they had to choose you over their drug of choice, they aren’t choosing you. The truth is they can’t. An addict’s emotions have been hijacked. Their morals have been shelved, and their main focus in life is to get to that place only drugs can bring them. The sad reality is, if you are in their orbit, and you can help sustain their lifestyle of substance abuse, they will take advantage of you no matter how much you love them.

Ways You Can be an Enabler

Addicts can’t be reasoned with. Addicts by most definitions are temporarily insane. What this means is, if you give an addict money to buy groceries or gas and you are disappointed to find out they spent it on drugs, who is at fault? You, of course! You should have taken them to the store, had them pick out what they needed, and paid for it yourself.

Another scenario of enabling would be to give them money for their allegedly broken car. What would be the likelihood, three day’s later, that their car is broken again and they need more money? Very likely would be the right answer. Your thinking is, they need to get to work, and if I don’t help with the car, they might get fired. Yep, that might happen. Look, if you really want to help, make sure you pay the repair shop directly.

Addicts are smart; they have learned how to manipulate anyone. Humans are very adaptable.This ability to adapt is omnipresent in addicts who become desperate. Addicts’ brains will eventually help them become cunning, focused liars. So, when they come to you with a story of a lost phone, or stolen computer that is vitally necessary to all of us, check the story out before you offer to buy a new one. The truth is they most likely sold it for money, and they will try that trick again until you say no.

Yet another way you can enable is to take them to the doctor for sudden problems they are experiencing. They may claim they are anxious and need immediate help or they will relapse again. Here is what you need to know about this: their addict mind will go straight to the doctor and ask for the best street drug he can prescribe. You think you are helping abate another relapse. They think they can sell their newly prescribed drugs tomorrow for big bucks. You are unaware of this subterfuge, and when they tell you they were stolen out of their back pack, you take them back to the doctor.

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Many times parents and loved ones are afraid to confront an addict about suspicious behavior, like doctor shopping for feel good prescribed meds. Why? Because they become angry. Of course they become angry! Their addict mind doesn’t like to be told no. They will pull at your heart strings with, I need you to help me now; I am trying to stay sober for you, too. You have to be strong and remember who you are really dealing with. You are communicating with a hyper-focused, devious addicted mind that has long ago taken over the person standing in front of you. This means you can no longer communicate with this person as you used to. You have to adopt a tough, yet respectful, demeanor at all times.

I mention these stories because they are true scams that addicts I know have pulled on their parents and loved ones. Believe me, this short list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many variations of these examples.

Lastly, and this is a big one, never let an addict live with you while they are still using. This is so dangerous for so many reasons. I say this because, if they are using, they won’t be able quit on their own. This means, sooner or later, you will catch them nodding off or worse. Secondly, they will only be using your home as a crash pad. They will show up looking like hell, wanting a shower, and then leaving when you aren’t looking. Do you really need that stress in your life? Should you continue to let them stay, you may find some of your belongings missing. Yes! Your child or loved one may steal from you. I have heard too many stories of this happening. Of course they are ashamed and feel guilty, but they may do it anyway. Think about it, if an addict has a fifty to hundred dollar a day habit, where do you think they get the money?

There are ways to help and not become an enabler. Handing out cash to an addict is not smart and can be harmful. I know people want to respect their loved ones, even if they are an addict. Helping in a responsible way is always the best, no matter how much flack you get for it. If you are a parent or loved one of an addict, you had better develop thick skin right away.

Right now you are probably thinking, geez, this guy is going to be hated by the addicts that read this! Not true! Addicts are not bad people, and they understand every truth I am saying. Once addicts become sober, they can be the most strict with other addicts. You will never see a former addict enabling another addict.

Summation

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Dealing with an addict can be incredibly difficult and overwhelming. Being an addict is overwhelming. Hard truths are what is needed and that is not easy to do. Love is a strong emotion, maybe the strongest on earth. To be told to make decisions that go against everything we have been taught about love is not an easy thing to do. Telling a loved one to go away is a horrible decision to make, but it may be the decision that saves their life. Addicts will only change if they find themselves cornered with no way out. Simply put, this is where an addict/alcoholic finds the will to live. If you give them any chance to get out of this corner, it had better be to a rehab and a long term stay at a Sober Living Home.

I realize many will find this harsh, and I am aware of that. I am not trying to be inflammatory or grandiose with what I have said here; it’s meant to shock people out of their conventional thinking because addiction is VERY unconventional.

You can either walk with them in their addiction, or you can stop and tell them, “I will be here for you if you decide to come back.”

Robert Apple

Fear of Success

First, a Story

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I recently had a conversation with Matt, a young man I am sponsoring, who lives in the Sober Living house that I used to manage. As Matt’s sponsor, I had to get to work with him to find out why Matt relapsed. I asked him point blank to tell me why he would jeopardize his life and his home to go drink. Matt asked me what I meant, “life and home.” I told him, “well, if you get caught drinking again, you will be kicked out of the house, right?” I went on to say, “Now, if you get kicked out, you are homeless. If you are homeless, you will lose your job. If you lose your job, and you are homeless, you have no life. So Matt, why did you choose to drink?”

Matt thought for a moment and said, “ I wanted comfort and I wanted to feel normal at a time when I was very anxious.” I asked Matt if he thought about the consequences. He said yes, but that he was powerless at this time of weakness. We talked about this weakness and his decision to follow it. I told Matt that I had made that decision many times myself, and that I understood that feeling of powerlessness. Matt asked me how I overcame it. I told him that, in the beginning, drugs and alcohol could solve any anxiety I had. In fact, the buzz of alcohol made me a better man in my eyes. I was more in the moment in life. I was more funny, creative, daring and brave. I loved this feeling. There was probably nothing that drugs and alcohol couldn’t improve as far as I was concerned. Matt totally agreed and said he felt the same way. I went on to tell him that, over time, that magic started to wear off, ever so slowly. No matter how much I drank, or how many drugs I did, I couldn’t get back that feeling of euphoria I experienced earlier. Later on, I was going in the opposite direction; I was losing my sense of judgment and morals. I was given to fits of rage and sadness. In the end, all I was left with was a feeling of overwhelming darkness in my soul. My magic pills and bottle were no more. Now I was just simply poisoning myself for no gain whatsoever. So, to answer Matt’s question, I could clearly see drugs and alcohol were not the answer to anything, except maybe death.

Matt thought for a moment before he spoke. He always does this when I say something that is close to home for him. Matt said “I can see myself going there Bob, I really can.” I asked him what he was afraid of. He mentioned many things like feeling anxious, bored, self conscious. I asked Matt if he was afraid of success. He said “not really, it’s mostly those other things.” I asked Matt if he thought he was smarter than most people. He sheepishly said, “Yes, I have a big ego.”

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I said, “ Matt you are afraid of success. I say this because you have proven to yourself and others how intelligent and capable you are, but you always find a way to screw things up in life.” Matt replied “maybe I am.” I told him that most addicts and alcoholics are afraid of success; even the seemingly successful ones like athletes, rock stars, business moguls and others find themselves doubting their abilities and turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. The fear of success prevents us from achieving goals in life, and when people have a big ego, such as Matt and many other addicts, and are not fulfilling their perceived destinies, they become depressed and anxious. Once we find drugs and alcohol to quell those feelings, we are hooked and hooked bad.

I ended our conversation with, “Matt, the key to you getting better, and staying sober, is to face your fear of success. You need to challenge yourself to be as great as you imagine yourself to be, and accept failure along the way. Matt, you are living in a Sober Living home and you have a job. For you, that is success right now. Matt, don’t screw this success up.”

 Why Fear Success?

That’s a very good question. It could be that, if you were to become successful, you would have to maintain that success. For example, this could be a job promotion that would require you to take on more responsibilities. With more responsibilities comes expectations and pressure for results. This can be overwhelming to some people. It may be also be that you are afraid to fail, so instead you abort any chance of being successful. In any case, fear of success prevents many capable people from aspiring to be their best while overcoming addiction.

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When you look at fear of success, it seems illogical. Of all the things to be afraid of, success should be at the bottom of the list. Though this fear may not make any sense, you see it all the time. You see it in yourself, and you see it in others in everyday life, as well as in recovery. We have all had friends or siblings will huge potential that was never realized. I know I have fled from things I really wanted to do in life out of fear I might succeed. I always blamed it on anything but myself. After examining my life, I could clearly see how I was the one to blame.   

Fear of Success in Recovery

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The definition of fear is: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

The definition of success is: a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

You see fear of success, as it relates to recovery, in many alcoholics and addicts. Why? Well, if an addict or alcoholic becomes successful in their attempt to become sober, they then have to maintain sobriety to remain successful. This brings about an unpleasant emotion. Why? The first thing that comes to mind is they no longer will have their crutch, their coping mechanism. Now when they are depressed or anxious, they will have to face this alone. Addicts and alcoholics are not used to this; they are used to getting out of these stressful situations by drinking and using. They are accustomed to sabotaging successful sobriety out of fear.

When I was living in a Sober Living Home I encounter all kinds of fear in people living there. People feared they would never regain the trust of others. They feared they would be ostracized from their family and loved ones. They feared they could never get their life back on track again. To me, the biggest fear they faced was fear of becoming sober. Being paralyzed by fear of success is a very real emotion to addicts and alcoholics.

To prove this fear exists, I will share a common story I would hear frequently at the House. When asked, “do you believe, if you were to go to meetings, get a sponsor, do the steps, that you could become sober and stay sober?” Yes, would almost always be the answer. Then why do don’t you do these things? “I don’t know,” would be the answer most given.

The truth is they do know. They are afraid to be successful at sobriety. Why else would you not do the things that have been proven to help?  

Summation

Matt was clearly sabotaging his chances for a successful attempt of becoming sober out of fear; fear that he would be in anguish and pain. I was trying to give him a far greater thing to be afraid of: homelessness or even death. Matt agreed and made the connection.

When we hear about people dying from drug and alcohol abuse, we are perplexed. How could this happen? Why didn’t they just stop? There are many factors that have a role in these events. Poor life choices would be one; refusal to get help would be another. Sometimes it’s just an accidental overdose.

In the case of habitual addicts or alcoholics, it could be fear of success. Fear of joining the world without substances that block out all the inevitable pain life sometimes offers up. Fear of being successful at life.

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There is a line Tony Bennet delivers in the movie, Amy about Amy Winehouse. Tony said, “Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough.” I think he was trying to say, if Amy had not feared life and her sobriety, she would have lived and eventually figured things out. Once we understand that there are greater things to fear than success, then we can truly begin on the road to recovery.

Robert Apple        

 

Community Spirit

What community?

There is a community of recovering addicts and alcoholics out in the world. Most people have no idea this community exists. This community exists in AA/NA meetings, in Rehabs, Sober Living Homes and on the internet. This community is all about helping one another to recover and stay sober. At meetings you get support and guidance from those who have years of sober time. In Rehabs you find like souls searching for answers about themselves. Now on the internet you can stay connected on forums. This community is real, it is alive and well in my life.

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First, I was all alone in addiction. Most of my friends had moved away from me, or I had moved away from them. Addiction is a very lonely place for an alcoholic. Addicts tend to maintain a few friends, but most are transient. For the most part, addicts and alcoholics find themselves estranged from nearly everyone, they find themselves isolating from everything.

Building the community

When you go to rehab, you start to feel the community of others who are dealing with the same problem you have. Generally you stay in a rehab for thirty days. This is more than enough time to reconnect with the world again. In my case, I think the only person I had talked to in two months was the guy at the liquor store, and one of those conversations was me saying “sorry man, it won’t happen again” after falling into the shelf of liquor bottles. Now I had thirty five people to talk to, and it was great! I felt alive again. I felt like I was actually a human being not a robot that shuffled to the liquor store everyday avoiding eye contact with anyone.

Rehabs are where some of your future community come from. It all start there; you exchange email addresses, and you stay in touch with people you have spent weeks with while discovering what’s wrong with you. Even if you don’t stay in touch with these people, they are with you in spirit as you travel through your journey to sobriety. You remember conversations you had with them. You were touched by their stories that were so eerily close to your own.

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Building a community of friends and support is critical to recovery. As humans, we are at our best when we work together. A recovery community is no different than any other community where multiple people can achieve much more than the single individual.

In the case of the addict and alcoholic, having friends and support to help them along the way is very important. No longer are you fighting your internal battle alone, you are fighting with others who understand the complexities of the struggle.

The first things you hear from newcomers at AA/NA meetings is “I am lost” or “I really need help, because I can’t do this alone, I have tried.” I remember telling the first counselor I had in Rehab, “I want to quit but I don’t know how.”

After leaving my first and second Rehabs, I went home and disconnected from everyone I had met there. I didn’t want to belong to a community of addicts and alcoholics. I was wrong to think I could do it alone. Consequently I wound up in a third rehab. The difference this time was, when I got out, I stayed connected and went to live in a Sober Living Home.

Gaining members

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Once you leave rehab, you go to meetings. Sometimes you see people you went to rehab with. You reconnect and exchange phone numbers. You then hit up new meetings in other parts of town and add new members to your growing community. Some of the speakers have great things to say that resonate with you. Their words stick with you and you recall them when you need a lift or inspiration. As you continue this routine, your community of others like you, has grow exponentially, and it is comforting. The more meetings you attend the more you feel connected to this community of souls.

When you feel bad or edgy, you may reach out to this community for some direction or solace. They are eager to help, and, more importantly, they understand.

Roommate Members

If you go to a Sober Living Home, you meet a different kind of community member. These members will likely have the biggest impact on you. These may be friends for life. If you spend a year in a  Sober Living Home with other people in recovery, it would be hard to not become very close to them. These people are the one’s you share the most with. You get to know them intimately, and you learn almost everything there is to know about them. You share everything from stories about your childhood, to things about high school, college, relationships, and so much more. The most important thing you share is how the hell you all got there. Everyone shares their thoughts of “what went wrong.” This topic is the most studied and scrutinized of all topics. Everyone has different stories that all share the same ending. It’s like we all wrote a different life story set in different times and places, yet we wrote the same finale.

I have had friends for years that don’t know as much about me as my roommates at the Sober living House know. We had so much time to dig into our pasts and find common traits in all of us that led us to addiction. In the confines of that house, we were not being judged by our past behaviors; we were being commended for our strength to want to change the past. We supported each other everyday. We kept tabs on each other. We could always tell when someone was down and needed help. The key was that we were able to be open with each other. The same thing happens when you go to a meeting or talk to a friend from rehab. You feel so free and open to share your past and present life, warts and all.

Websites and Blogs

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Lastly, there is the online community. There are great websites with valuable information where you can connect with others and become educated about addiction and recovery. There are many Blog writers who have so much to share about their experiences. In addition, there are many authors who have written some great books about recovery.

Last week I visited a website called mysponsers. This is a free site that allows its members to discuss addiction and recovery with each other. I frequently log on to this site and others to help give some support. In just over a week on mysponsers, I have met some great people who I intend to continue to stay in contact with.

The people I have contacted, the blogs and the sites, and authors of books I have read, all add to my ever-growing community.  

Summation

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So there it is, that’s The Community Spirit. It’s an amalgamation of all the people you meet at rehab, meetings, Sober Living Homes, forums, and blogs. These are the spirits you have so much in common with. These are the people who have ruined their lives with addiction like you have. These are the people who have been to a special hell that only addicts and alcoholics know of.

Some of them are still in their addiction, some are dead or in jail. Others are doing well and have been able to keep their addiction at bay. No matter where their station in life, they belong to a community of people who have shared an experience together which has bonded their spirits forever. This bond gives comfort and understanding that only addicts and alcoholics can understand.

As addicts/alcoholics, we walk through daily life with a spirit community. This community is not just spiritual, but tangible as well. We can contact this community anytime we want through visits to other members, phone calls, meetings or simply by thinking about others.

This community is not something I would have ever aspired to join, but I am grateful to have it just the same. I will be a life-long spirit in this community, and that is fine with me.

Robert Apple

Are you ready to be sober?

A Story of Not

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When I was the manager of a Sober Living Home, I had several clients that always made me sad. One that stands out was a young beautiful meth addict in her early twenties. She came to the house with her father one afternoon to check in. We went through the check in process and there didn’t seem to be any problems between her and her father, which sometimes can be the case when a parent drops off their child. Everything seemed like it would be alright. Just another client. Business as usual. Her father was very attentive and seemed to know just what she would need to get started at the house. He brought bedding, toiletries and food for the week. The girl seemed very pleasant and anxious to get settled into her room. All seemed well at this point, so after showing the girl around the house, I left her alone.

I asked her father if he could meet me outside for a moment before he left, and he agreed. I asked him if there was anything I should be aware of regarding his daughter that might help me understand her. He told me that she had a long history of drug use and a case pending for drug possession. I told him, “that’s fine; we see that often, but are there any other things I might be able to keep an eye on?” He told me he didn’t know how long she would stay. I asked if she had been in any other Sober Living Homes, and he said, “yes, two others.” I told him, “well, we have a great house here, and I think she will like living here.” I will never forget the look in his eyes as he paused to respond to me, his face turned stoic but you could see he was in deep thought. After pausing a moment he said, “do you really think so?” His eyes told me everything. There was a mixture of pain, guilt and exhaustion in his eyes. I recognized this look from so many other parents who had dropped their children off before. I shook his hand and tried to give him some words of encouragement. I told him I would check with her daily to see how she was doing.

As I walked back into the house I was thinking I need to do everything I can to help this girl adjust to the house and stay sober.

Her first night was uneventful. We had a house meeting that night, where I introduced her to everyone in the house. We all went to bed that night, and all was well. The next morning I was up early and saw her coming down the stairs heading for the front door. I asked her where she was going, and she told me her father was outside and they were going to court. That was the last time I saw her for three days.

I called her father to tell him she didn’t come home last night. He answered the phone and said, “Hello Bob, she ran away, didn’t she?” I was shocked to hear this but figured this was the norm with her. Her father finally got in touch with her, and she returned two days later. I pulled her aside to have a talk with her about her behavior. I asked where she had been, and she told me she was at a homeless camp downtown with her boyfriend. I asked her if she wanted to get sober. She looked at me and told me yes. I asked why. She told me because she had a four year old son and she wanted to get him back from her parents.

Two days later, she disappeared again, and I called her father to come get her things, which he did. He thanked me for giving her the opportunity to come to the house. I saw the same look in his eyes that I saw the first time I met him.

About a week later the girl came to the house to pick up a few things that were left behind. I tried to talk her into staying and give it another try. As I was talking to her I noticed something in her eyes that I had seen before in people. Her eyes were nearly black. She had this motionless eery stare with seemingly no emotion. This is the look of deep addiction. This is the look of “I am not ready.”

Why You are not Ready to be Sober

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There are many things that make us unwilling to be sober. It could be that you have not suffered enough consequences, or that you have suffered so many consequences and you feel like giving up. It could be that you are in so much mental pain you can’t bear to be sober. It might also be that you are angry about something only you know about. Other reasons could be a family issue, like divorce or long standing problems from your childhood. The amount of reasons people choose to continue using and drinking is vast an varied. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is you just aren’t ready. If you have your bottle or your drugs, you have temporary peace of mind, and that’s good enough for you.

The young woman who came to my house that day clearly was not ready to be sober. I don’t know what happened to her, but I hope she eventually was able to get sober and get her son back.

So Who is Ready?

For me it was consequences. I had ruined nearly every relationship I had. I totaled my car. My health was plummeting down so fast I was going to die. I couldn’t be trusted by anyone including myself. So, if, or when, you find yourself where I was in life, I can safely say you are ready to be sober.

The truth is, it doesn’t have to get that bad to be ready to be sober. You just have to be willing to listen at AA meetings. You have to trust others who are reaching out to help you. You have to follow suggestions, such as getting a sponsor and living in a Sober Living Home.

I had not suffered any consequences when a concerned friend came to me and asked if she could take me to my first AA meeting. I reluctantly agreed and went. I sat there and listened to the speaker and the stories of others. I was shocked. I heard horrible stories of car crashes, divorces, loss of jobs, loss of homes, and loss of dignity. I looked around the room and thought to myself, these people are all fucked! What the hell is wrong with these people? I am nothing like them. I couldn’t wait to get out of there for fear some of that craziness would rub off on me.

My friend drove me home, and we sat and talked. I remember telling her how appalled I was at AA and their meetings. I was going on about how I was expecting something nicer from an AA meeting, not some dumpy room in a run down shopping center. My friend seemed sad that I couldn’t see the truth about myself and left.

As soon as she left, I grabbed one of my hidden vodka bottles, turned on the TV, and poured myself a couple of shots. Now, I was the classic case of not ready. Geez, what an idiot I was back then.

Very few people, if any, stop drinking or using after their first consequence. Most of the stories you hear are the years of consequences that have built up. This is a sad fact. Why can’t people see the clear destruction that lies ahead if they continue to drink and use drugs? For me, it was my ego. I thought I was better and stronger than the people I saw at AA meetings.

worried-girl-413690_1280Being ready to be sober is just like what the first step says in the twelve steps of AA. You have to admit you are powerless over drugs and alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable.

Summation

Knowing when your life has become unmanageable is not the same for everyone. Many factors contribute to you knowing when this moment arrives. One of the worst things you can have as an addict/alcoholic is means, in the form of money and housing. As long as you have these things, it’s very hard for addicts and alcoholics to see a reason to stop. Think about it, if you have money and a home, that money is going to the dealer or the liquor store. Another thing is support. If you still have the support of important people in your life, you feel you can still drink and use. Now, I didn’t mention love and support I just mentioned support. Your friends and family with always love you despite what happens to you and your addiction. What they may stop doing is supporting you and your behavior. They didn’t buy a ticket to your circus, and they don’t have come.

Once you lose your job, which is almost always inevitable, there goes your means and possibly your housing. Usually, when you lose these things you rely on the support of others, and they are willing to help to a point. So what happens next? You snap out of it, get clean and get your job back, right? No! You lie, beg, borrow and steal. You take advantage of every person you know until everyone has turned their back on you out of self preservation. You find yourself broke, jobless, homeless and friendless. At this point, you are ready to be sober, or are you ready for death, jail or institutions.

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Once you have exhausted all possibilities to continue with your addiction and you keep winding up homeless or institutionalized in some way, and you have escaped death, you are really ready to be sober.

Robert Apple

How important is diet for recovery?

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What’s wrong with me now?

One of the first things I noticed when I would get sober was how bad I felt. Not just the cravings or the anxiety I felt from being newly sober but the overall sluggish bad way I felt. I am SOBER I should feel good right! Well I didn’t. I couldn’t concentrate, I had no energy, I felt why should I be sober for this? I know drugs and alcohol are killing me but at least I didn’t feel this. What is this? I would think to myself did I always feel this way? After years of drinking and drugging it was hard to tell.

After a few months of sobriety I would be proud of myself for not giving in to cravings but I felt horrible. I would usually write this crappy feeling off to being sober and say to myself “just hang in there things will get better.” Things never got better. I would hang on as long as I could but would eventually start drinking and taking anti anxiety drugs. I would also go to the doctor to get prescribed something for sleep. I always had the best intentions to do these things in moderation but we all know how that goes. Sobriety was just too difficult for me because I was so miserable.

Of course this story always ended the same way, me in another rehab. This time I took my sobriety a step further than I had before, and I went to live in a Sober Living Home.

Do you always eat like that?

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When I got to the Sober Living House and settled in I found myself craving comfort food like, sodas, sweets, pizza, burgers, just about any fast food that would be a fun diversion for me. I would qualify this behavior as my treat for being sober and that I deserved this. I was in a strange environment with a bunch of strange people, so I need comfort and I need it now. One day one of the other housemates came up to me as I was making Mac and Cheese for lunch, and said, “Do you always eat like that?” I knew what he was talking about, but I played dumb and said “no this is just a snack, I just eat this once in awhile, I eat other healthy things too.” Of course this was a big lie and I knew I should be changing and telling the truth, but I lied. Now this guy had been at the house for some time and had gone through the 12 steps so lying to him was a big mistake. He said, “Bullshit man I see you eat like that all day long. you should start eating healthier it with make you feel better.” He was right, and I knew it, but how can I survive this without my comfort food? My comfort food is the only thing that makes me happy. Without junk food what’s left to make me not want to run away from here? I remember thinking about it that night and thought how in the hell can a good diet help me now? I need peace of mind not a salad!

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I started noticing the people at the house that were more comfortable and productive were people who ate healthier. The people like me, with horrible diets, were edgy and always seemed one step away from dropping their sobriety. I asked another client at the house about her daily diet and what she ate? She went through her daily diet of fruits, vegetables, low calorie, low fats. My first thought was that’s awful I could never do that. After observing other people’s diets in the house I came to the conclusion mine was near the worst. I was eating for pleasure not for health.

I was feeling particularly bad one afternoon so I went online to see what the symptoms are for a bad diet like mine. Of course I found an abundance of information that cited bad diets can lead to bad mental health. So I set out to see if I could change my diet to something more healthy. No longer was I going to get up and have a soda before breakfast and then have a bowl of sugary cereal. I then looked at lunch which was usually going to a fast food place for burger, burritos or sandwiches. Then I looked at dinner, pizza was a staple three nights a week or fish and chips or a favorite frozen dinner. I hadn’t even got to the snack of potato chips, brownies, ice cream and whatever else I wanted to gobble down for a feel good snack. I started to realize I was eating for the temporary effect all these foods would give me mentally.

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As I researched further about proper nutrition, I began to see I was eating myself into a poor mental state of depression and anxiety. I was moody, up one hour down the next, and when I felt bad, I would go to 7- Eleven and get myself a treat.

To survive early sobriety, you must eat healthy

savoy-1713225_1280Sobriety is a slippery slope in the beginning, you need all the help you can get. You need support from AA meetings, you need a good sponsor, you need a safe environment away from bad influences like people places and things. In short, you need anything that will help you stay sober and get your life back on track. Going to a Sober Living Home is a great choice because you will be held accountable.

Now what else? Well, it was my experience that changing my diet was just another thing that was worth the effort to change. I was going to have to change to stay sober, and diet was a glaring deficit in my life. In fact a bad diet may have contributed to the poor mental state that lead me to fade away from reality with drugs and alcohol. So, because I can clearly see the difference between a good healthy diet and my atrocious diet, why not at least try to make a change. The up side is potentially a healthier body and mind. Just what I am in the market for.

It just makes sense

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When you think about the importance of diet and humans it makes sense. Humans are an organic live being. If I feed myself dead, or nearly dead poisonous things like potato chips, sodas, processed foods like hamburger buns, pancakes, tortillas, ice cream and sugar laden snacks, how am I going to feel healthy? I really don’t need to make a list here to make my point, all I need to illustrate is, we are organic beings that need to ingest fresh live organic food to function properly. I was eating poorly most of my life, and then I started ingesting poison in the form of drugs and alcohol. No wonder I was a mess and felt like killing myself.

Just stopping alcohol and drugs was not enough to help my body and brain heal itself. I needed a healthy diet so I could heal and function normally. It’s just common sense that if humans are organic beings and made up of 60% water we are going to have to replenish these things daily. I started to drink mostly water and hardly ever drink anything else. I started eating as many organic foods as I could. I balanced my diet with fruits vegetable and lean meats. I completely cut out any sugary sweets and as much sugar as possible. When you think about it, eating should be a function of necessity not pleasure. I was always eating for pleasure and that had to stop.

What do I have to lose?

What is the down side to eating a healthier diet while in recovery? Nothing, and everything to gain. If there was ever a time in my life to start eating healthy it was now when I am going in the right direction in life. The other option was to continue to do the same thing. The same to me meant I was miserable in life and wanted to make myself numb rather than deal with it.

How long does it take?

Before I started my new diet, I asked the question how long will it take for me to feel better? Like I had the right to bargain with nature. I took a long look at myself and where I was in life and thought, It will take as long as it takes and I am going to have patience and faith. Well, guess what, It didn’t take as long as I thought to feel the positive effects of eating healthy, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Sure I had to exercise discipline but that was something I was working on anyway. The payoff was worth it! I have a clearer mind with less depression and anxiety and a healthier body. Plus I have a new good habit: eating healthy. Sobriety is all about change, and this was a good one.

Summation

Having gone through every aspect of recovery, some multiple times, I am certain of some truths: AA, NA, rehabilitation centers, Sober living Homes, the willingness to change, diet and exercise, are all staples to recovery.

You can go to all the rehabs necessary and they are a great resource to get you started on the right path. You can go to all the AA and NA meetings possible, and they will certainly help keep you sober. You can go to a Sober Living Home and stay a year or more, and that will be a huge benefit. You can be willing to change, and this will most assuredly be necessary. You can do all of these things and still might be missing one of the most important components to helping you maintain sobriety, your diet!

Robert Apple

Why You Should Live In A Sober Living Home

How Do You Know it’s right for you?

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I lived in a Sober Living Home (or SLH) for nearly three years, first as a client and then as a manager for two years. I quickly learned how important an SLH can be to sobriety. I also saw how it can help you change your life. Because of my experience, I consider myself qualified to speak about Sober Home living.

In my time as manager, I saw great triumphs of the human spirit. I experienced people rising from the lowest depths to achieve not only sobriety, but a newfound strength of character they never knew they had. I have seen people make huge changes in their lives and become completely different people as a result of their stay. Additionally, I have experienced tragic things that will haunt me forever. Addiction has a very dark side that is beyond imagination. Seeing people self destruct even further was not common, but it did happen.

For me the worst I had to endure was the death of a good man I considered my friend. Some of our housemates found him dead in his room one afternoon. Several of us had spoken to him that morning, and none of us could have fathomed he would be dead hours later from a drug overdose.

I was only ten minutes away when I got the call and raced home. My heart was pounding and I was hoping he was just overdosed. I walked into the room and you could immediately see Scott was dead, not just overdosed, Scott was dead. I stood there motionless and couldn’t muster anything, no feelings at all, just numb.

When the paramedics rolled Scott’s body out the front door I pledged to do more as a house manager. I didn’t feel any responsibility for Scott, but I wanted to do more. After some thought I decided to communicate with clients in the house in a more profound way. I wanted to be aware of the things people were thinking. I vowed to make it a point to pull people aside every week and have a private talk with them. I wanted to see if there was any signs that I may have missed with Scott.

About now you are probably saying to yourself, “you know, that place sounds dangerous, and that story is not helping his case for Sober Living Homes.” I purposely chose to share that story because I want to make a point and a comparison. A sober Living home IS a safe place. You are tested frequently for drugs and alcohol, and there are consequences if you are found to be using or drinking. Would you feel safer out on your own, with no supervision whatsoever, mixing drugs that could kill you? If you are the parent of a child with severe drug and alcohol problems, are they safer left to their own devices, or would you rather have them living in an environment where myself, and others, can clearly see what they are up to? I say this because I managed a house with sixteen addicts and alcoholics who had seen and done everything. Believe me nobody is more versed in addict behavior than us: addicts.

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Though I was the manager, and person responsible for what goes on in the SLH, I had help from the clients. In some ways the SLH was self policing. I can’t count the times I was tipped off by a concerned client about another client’s behavior. There is a community spirit in the SLH of “we are all in this together, so don’t screw it up.”

So how did my friend die then? He died from mixing drugs and alcohol. The house is not a jail and you are free to come and go. We found an alcohol bottle in his truck and remnants of drugs. Most of us think he did it on purpose because he was terribly depressed. Our friend made a choice to die and there wasn’t anything we could have done to stop him. We all felt his pain and did our best to talk to him and give him hope. There are no guarantees in life. A Sober Living Home is no guarantee of anything, but I have personally seen near miracles happen to those who really try to change their lives. I know this, because I am one. I am certain that, had I not gone to the Sober Living Home, I would still be drinking and taking drugs, or I would be dead.

All things considered, a Sober Living Home is the safest, most productive place to recover. You have structure, and you have people who understand and care for you. This support and structure is exactly what you need. What do you have to lose? It’s not a jail. You can walk out anytime you want. The truth is, it just might save your life.

What is a Sober Living Home?

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A Sober Living Home is a house that is used as a living environment for addicts and alcoholics in recovery. Most homes are owned or leased by a company and are regulated by different organizations indigenous to their state or locale . There is more information online about Sober Living Homes and how they are regulated, but, to put it simply, they are loosely regulated at this time. This does not mean you can’t find a reputable Sober Living Home. You can, and they are expanding across the country.

Sober Living Homes got their start in the 1970’s in California. In those days they were referred to as Half Way Houses, which has a negative connotation due to the fact that released prisoners were often sent to live in Half Way Houses. These first experimental houses were the foundation for what would become the current version called Sober Living Homes, or SLH’s, and Sober Living Environments, or SLE’s. In Northern California, we refer to these houses as SLE’s.

Sober Living Homes are easy to explain. They are residential homes that rent out rooms to clients who need a safe environment to live in.

In general, if there are four bedrooms in the home, there will be two clients to a room. In some cases there may be three to a room. It is very rare to see four clients to a bedroom, but I have seen it.

There are some prerequisites that need to be met before you can live in a SLH. First you must have a sponsor and be working a 12 step program. You must attend outside meetings, and you must have been to a treatment center recently. These prerequisites insure that you are serious about your recovery. Lastly, you agree to pay rent on time and comply to the house rules.

The house rules are very simple. Keep your room clean, attend house meetings, do your assigned chores, and be home by curfew. These rules are not so constricting that you can’t conduct a normal life. You can hold a job, attend classes and further your education. You are welcome to have family and friends over for visits.

You can stay in most Sober Living Homes as long as you like. My personal and managing experience says; “the longer you stay, the better your chances of recovery”. I used to tell new clients, “stay a year at least, you will never regret it.”

Will I Like it There?

Some think the idea of going to live in an SLH is scary, and they would be right. Leaving the security of your current world and going to a house full of strangers is scary. I know I felt that way when it was proposed to me. I declined three times before I said yes to it. Looking back, it was the best decision of my life.

Will you like it? That depends on you. If you’re not ready to be sober, then probably not. I say this because, if you are still deep in denial about your addiction, you will not see all the good in a Sober Living Home. If you are ready to make a commitment to sobriety, you can’t find a better environment to help you attain and keep sobriety.

Like I said before, it’s scary in the beginning, but the fear goes away quickly. Once you settle in, you find yourself making friends and sharing your thoughts with people who can truly understand what you are going through. You will feel a community spirit in the house by being surrounded with people who can help each other navigate their way through long term sobriety.

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You will gain friends for life. You become very attached to some of your roommates. You will go to meetings together, but you will also do other things like, dinner out, movies, festivals, shopping and cooking together. You also gather friends and support from the meetings you attend, like AA and NA. With the house support and friendships you make there, and at meetings, you will have a family of support to help. This all leads to a sense of “I am not alone in this struggle.” I found it immensely productive and was able to thrive and change myself into someone I was proud to be.

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Summation

Having been a client and a manager of a Sober Living Home, I am a huge proponent of the concept of Sober Living Homes. I truly believe Sober SLH’s are the wave of the future for long term sobriety. I say this, partly because it worked for me, and partly because I saw so many people grow and prosper while at the SLH I managed. I witnessed radical changes in people from when they first arrived. I also saw people fail miserably. What was the difference in those who succeeded and those who failed? Change. The people who succeeded changed the most. They dropped some bad habits and adopted new good habits. They made a concerted effort to be honest everyday and set new goals in life. They also learned the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. A Sober Living Home is the perfect environment to change yourself. Mainly because you are sequestered away from your former life and you have ample time to reflect on yourself and where you want to go in life. Familiar people, places and things from your past can be triggers for using. There are no familiar things in a Sober Living Home; it’s a blank canvas waiting for you to create something new.

Robert Apple