Recovery Coaching

Stability

I’m grateful to Harm Reductionists for introducing me to the concept of “stability”. Harm Reductionists suggest that stable drug use is better than chaotic drug use and that any changes in the direction of stability are worth acknowledging and celebrating.

 Though I chose a path of abstinence years ago, I recently started to consider stability in my own life. What am I finding stressful and what could I do to make things better? Who or what things throw me off balance? What choices would add to my stability? I’ve also begun to use the concept of stability in my coaching practice with clients recovering from addiction. I ask, “What can you do that would increase the stability in your life?” I’ve begun to see stability as a guiding light.

 When I joined a 12-step program years ago I was introduced to the Serenity Prayer. The prayer was useful to me—I could understand the advantage of accepting things I cannot change and having the courage to change the things I can—but serenity itself never appealed to me. I really didn’t understand what serenity was, or why I should want it. Serenity seemed rather like complacency and that sounded dangerous or boring. I’m quite sure that if I had been introduced to the Stability Prayer when I quit drinking it would have been a much better prayer for me. Maybe because I was a child of chaos.

I grew up with neglect and trauma and I knew what chaos was. When I left home I eventually figured out that drinking and drugging added to the chaos in my life. I knew that drinking too much led to having sex with men I didn’t know, which added to shame, which added to misery. I knew that having a boyfriend who spent the rent money on drugs resulted in chaos. I knew that having a boyfriend who tried to kill me was more chaos and misery.

 I still remember when my best friend asked me if I would help her raise her son. I told her that we both drank too much and were too fucked up to raise a child. She turned her boy over to her parents, which was the better choice though she hated it. And I hated it too.

 It was my growing dislike of chaos that eventually got me to stop drinking and drugging. I didn’t quit when things were at their worst. I quit when I had a good opportunity to improve my life and was afraid my drinking/drugging would ruin it. 12-step recovery did a lot to help me stabilize. I worked all the steps and learned the Serenity Prayer.

Yet I think a Stability Prayer would have been way more practical for me to orient around. As it was I floundered in recovery for many years. It took me a good ten years to learn how to be a functioning self-supporting adult. It might not have taken so long if I had set my sights on stability. These days, I say the Stability Prayer while others are reciting the Serenity Prayer. Just one word is different, and yet for me that one word keeps me heading in the direction of positive change. Here it is. Try it—you might like it.

 

God, grant me the stability

 to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

A recovery coach walks into a greeting card store…

That was me a few days ago. I needed a card for a friend who's turning 50 and decided to go the humorous route. There I stood in front of a display of cards designed to tickle the funny-bone and all I felt was sad.

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One card after another celebrated the use of alcohol, more specifically, the reckless use of alcohol:

"I'm outdoorsy, meaning I like getting drunk on patios"

"You deserve an alcoholiday"

"Something about today wants me to be hungover tomorrow"

And it doesn’t end with greeting cards.

Wine lists now dwarf menus. Cocktails are having a moment. As is whiskey. And craft beer. No wedding would be complete without a signature drink that “says something” about the bride and groom. Time for some corporate team-building? Forget rock-climbing, let’s go for a pub crawl! Running to stay fit? Reward yourself for completing that grueling 5K with a beer garden at the finish line. There are plaques to hang in our kitchens, t-shirts, baseball caps and even baby clothes, all announcing our “drinking problem” to the world in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink kind of way.

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I could go on.

No, really, I could.

But you get the idea.

Or do you?

If not, you’re not alone.

To be clear, I’m not against alcohol. I don’t advocate on behalf of abstinence (unless this is what my client has identified as their goal). I’m a pragmatist. Alcohol has been part of the human experience for millennia, prohibition didn’t work, and drinking in moderation is relatively harmless. My problem isn’t with alcohol per se, my concern is that we’re dancing around the elephant in the room: problematic drinking is on the rise and we don't know how to talk about it.

Maybe this is what’s really fueling the cultural obsession with all-things-alcohol (aside from the very powerful, very well-resourced alcohol lobby – fodder for a future blog). May-be the greeting cards and cheeky aprons and upscale wine tastings are a way for us to accomplish two things:

Normalize our relationship with alcohol. If we can dress it up, make it fun, make it mandatory, may-be we can side-step, indefinitely, all those annoying facts about safe drinking limits, links to cancer, diseased livers, blackouts, and car accidents. I mean, how bad can it be, really, when my infant looks so cute in that onesie?

Solidify the pact we’ve made with each other. I don’t have to question my drinking as long as I can look around the room and see co-workers, wedding guests, sorority sisters, aunts and uncles, community leaders, church members, book club pals, and pretty much everyone else in my orbit doing the same thing I’m doing.

It takes a lot of courage to initiate a conversation about a social construct as [seemingly] intransigent as alcohol, yet a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that 30% of drinkers in America* are troubled by their pattern of alcohol consumption. That’s about 70 million people. That's a conversation worth having.

So here's what I'm proposing: Let’s give the elephant a poke. Let’s figure out how to talk about alcohol in a way that doesn’t clear the room. Let’s be honest about what alcohol is, how it affects us, how it hurts us, and yes – how it helps us. Let’s not assume to know what needs to happen next (sobriety? moderation?) until we can talk honestly, intelligently, and compassionately about what’s happening right now.

This blog was written by Lianne MacGregor MA, Med, ACC. www.macgregorcoach.com

*According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 70.1% of Americans over the age of 18 report having consumed alcohol within the previous year.

Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Approach to Recovery

From guest blogger: Sarah

This is the final piece in a series on recovery support options.

One of my stated reasons for not seeking help for my addiction to alcohol was that AA’s emphasis on powerlessness and surrendering to a Higher Power did not work for me, and it seemed to be the only support that was readily and widely available. Ultimately, my physical addiction to alcohol reached a lethal point so I ended up in treatment in the Pacific Northwest. I have come to believe this is one of the best locations on the planet to land if you are in early recovery.  Seattle is a kind of recovery “jackpot” where you can access any modality of addiction treatment available and almost every kind of recovery support community out there - and this is where I first learned about Refuge Recovery meetings.    

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Refuge Recovery is an abstinence-based program and addiction recovery community that practices and utilizes Buddhist philosophy as the foundation of the recovery process. Drawing inspiration from the core teachings of the Four Noble Truths, emphasis is placed on both knowledge and empathy as a means for overcoming addiction and its causes.  Meetings are peer-led and begin with a meditation, followed by a reading and then shared reflections from members of the group about the reading and how it relates to their own recovery, in the present moment.  Unlike 12-step meetings, people only identify themselves by their name, not as an addict or alcoholic.   

There are a growing number of Refuge Recovery meetings throughout the world, and in many locations in the US.  They have meetings both in person and by phone, and a searchable website to help you find one near you.  And if you don’t find one in your area, you can easily start one. You will also find a wealth of resources on their website including suggestions for meeting formats, inventory worksheets, podcasts and other resources.  

My first thought after learning about Refuge Recovery was “I wish I had known about this sooner.” I can’t help but wonder if I would have had a chance at sustaining sobriety sooner, had more recovery support options been readily available to me.  Who knows.  I do know that I’m happy to know about it now.  I know I’m happy that I got treatment.  I know I’m happy I learned how to make the 12-step program work for me through the course of that treatment (and am eternally grateful for it!). And I’m happy that my recovery can continue to deepen and expand into other communities like this one.