Tag Archive | Running from Hell with El

Helping someone newly sober…what you can do.

Last week, my friend, El, over at Running From Hell with El wrote a blog post about walking away from a gin and tonic that she saw sitting in HER kitchen on the counter.  It was a brave and honest post and I felt proud and happy for her in the end.  I say in the end, because as I read the post the single thought that kept running through my head was this: “What in the hell was a gin and tonic doing on the counter in her kitchen?”  As an alcoholic in recovery, I was angry for her, and at whoever had made the drink in HER kitchen and left it sitting there.  I was so upset that I almost called her immediately and asked her the question that would not leave me, “El, what in the hell was a gin and tonic doing on your kitchen counter?”  But, I didn’t.  I didn’t want to intrude–her house, her family, her rules.

Today I gave El a call on an unrelated topic.  We talked a lot about writing and then we hit the subject of blogs.  It was at that point that I did ask the question about the gin and tonic.  I asked because El is an alcoholic in early recovery, sitting at about six months, and I remember well what that period of time looks like and feels like.  It is a vulnerable time where sometimes it feels as if you are staying sober minute by minute.  Early sobriety looks and feels a lot different than five years of sobriety does, or ten, or twenty, I suspect.  Early sobriety is a tight wire walk where balance is continuously being reevaluated and reestablished.  It is a very selfish time in a great many respects, because in order to maintain the balance needed to stay sober, we need to ask for help from a variety of different types of people.  The people who we will need the most help and support from are those closest to us…our friends and family.

This can be very hard for many of us to do—to ask for what we need during that first year.  El told me that she didn’t want any booze in her house, but felt she might be asking too much to demand that alcohol not be present in her home.  She is not asking too much.  In fact, by not demanding that there be no alcohol in her house she is asking too much of herself, and too little of those who need to be supporting her.  Alcoholism is a disease and yet so many people see it as weakness of will, or a character defect.  It is a disease just like diabetes, or heart disease.  Most of us would never dream of sitting down and eating a big bag full of candy in front of a friend newly diagnosed with diabetes, especially not his favorite candy.  We would think that rude, lacking support, or just plain disrespectful of his battle, and his feelings.

Likewise, when a person is newly diagnosed with heart disease, the whole family makes changes.  This was certainly the case when my father was diagnosed with heart disease.  My mother kicked into high gear and changed what she cooked and how she cooked it, and she did not just make the changes for my father.  We all had to make the same  dietary changes.  We loved him and wanted him to live, so we didn’t complain.  We just did it.  We didn’t care if we ate chicken every night of the week.  We could get a hamburger somewhere else.  We could not get another father.

Just like diabetes and heart disease, alcoholism, if not treated, is a progressive, fatal disease.  People die every day from alcoholism and addiction.  Also, just like diabetes and heart disease, alcoholism in a family member affects the entire family.  Everyone will need to make changes to support the one who is working to stay well.  Giving up cake, or steak, or a nightly drink is precious little to have to give up if it mean helping to keep someone we love well and making them feel loved, and supported during a time that is stressful by its very nature.  Alcoholism is a chronic disease and anyone living and coping with a newly diagnosed chronic disease will grieve and move through many emotional phases as they find their center again.  In turn, the entire family system will need to lovingly recalculate their choices, behaviors, and roles in the now changed family.  Flexibility, understanding, and love is required of all those involved.

What can you do if you are living with someone in early sobriety?  First off, you can and should give up your nightly drink and keep alcohol out of the house.  If this is a change that you are not willing to make then you need to ask yourself if you might have a problem yourself, of if there is a rather ugly agenda underneath your unwillingness to give up your drink.  It is not uncommon for a partner to miss drinking with his loved one and may, unwittingly or not, seek to have that special bond back.  A relapse would do just that… That is selfishness and it is playing Russian roulette with your loved one’s sobriety and very life.  Certainly, you would never force them to drink, but action do speak louder than words… Oftentimes, a family member may have a hard time dealing with the raw emotions of the newly sober person and might unconsciously want them to drink again so things will go back to “normal.” Examine your own feelings honestly.  Of course, if an alcoholic really wants to drink they will find a way.  I know I sure did, but why place temptation right on the counter?

Also, if you do give up that drink and get rid of the booze in the house, please don’t act put out, as if you’ve made some sacrifice akin to giving up a kidney for them.  Do not talk about “the good times” you had drinking together, and don’t glamorize drinking, or talk about how much you miss booze.  Take the time to educate yourself about alcoholism and addiction.  Read all that you can, and if you need more help understanding, find an Al-Anon meeting and go to it.  Get family counseling, and individual counseling.  Denying this is big for the whole family is a big mistake.

Be respectful of what your loved one is going through–and this goes both ways–and forgive.  Forgive your loved one for being an alcoholic and for causing you to have to give up things that you like, and times you cherished.  Love each other.  Rediscover each other.  Move forward together, gently, respectfully, and with the greatest amount of love and understanding possible.  Be a team because that is what families do.

I know better than anyone that no one ever poured a single drink down my throat when I was drinking, and I am not implying that it is anyone’s responsibility but the alcoholics to turn away from the drink, as El did.  I am saying that if you can make changes that will make it less likely for a person new in their sobriety to have to walk away, then you should do it, and do it gladly, with no resentment.  Over time, things will change and sobriety won’t be as brittle and thread-like anymore.  When that time comes, everyone will know it, but until then, simple changes can make a huge difference, so please make them.  It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to create health for your entire family, and for generations to come.

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They say that one person cannot make a difference…

I have never believed that–that one person cannot make a difference–and I am glad that people like Albert Einstein, and Mother Teresa, and Steve Jobs didn’t believe it either, for they were extraordinary people who truly changed the world.   They had ideas and imagination and vision and courage and they took those gifts and used them to the highest extent that they possibly could.  I wonder what would happen in the world if we all did that?

A few weeks back I had an idea.  I have a lot of ideas, but unfortunately, I do not act on most of them.  In the past few months I have had to look at cyberbullying and harassment in the face from a very personal view.  I didn’t much like it, but I learned a lot about myself from the experience.  It has been an experience that has opened my eyes, and with my eyes open I began noticing things that I probably would have missed before.

I have an inspirational page on Facebook.  I was coerced into starting it by my friend, El Phoenix Farris, who writes Running From Hell with El.  She also has an inspirational page on Facebook by the same name.  One day I noticed that she has put up a poster about cyberbullying, and I had just heard that my brother-in-law was being cyberbullied by an adult and I had also come to the realization that my daughter had been viciously cyberbullied by adults late last summer.  When I saw El’s poster, I got an idea. Normally when I get an idea such as the one I got that day, which I feel is “inspired,” I think to myself, “Well, that will never work.”

However, this time was different.  I dismissed that “it won’t work” notion and I messaged El with my idea.  I said, “El, what do you think if we page owners all got together and had an anti-cyberbullying day?  A show of force of sorts.  I am new at this page thing and I don’t know a lot of page owners, but you do.”  I sent the message and waited for her response telling me why it wouldn’t work.  Instead, she was thrilled with the idea, but was about to take a mini vacation, so we agreed to discuss it upon her return.

The following week I saw another anit-bullying poster, this time put up by The Bridge Post.  Them I do know and have written for, so I went to Charlene and Tammy with an idea for an article on adults and cyberbullying.  They were excited by the idea and I began writing.  I also went back to El and told her about the article.  The next day we spoke by phone, and she’d brought in a friend of hers who runs an anti-bullying page on Facebook, Bullying is for Losers.  She also invited me into a group of inspirational page owners on Facebook and after I had been introduced, and had said my hello’s, and after waiting a respectable amount of time for them to get to know me a bit, (roughly an hour or two) with El’s nudge, I launched my anti-cyberbullying campaign idea into the group and was met with excitement and a ton of enthusiasm.

I had stopped being “just one person” the second I shared my idea with El.  When the idea was released into the group it took on a life of its own and a number of very talented, very dedicated, and extremely loving individuals made magic.  After having worked tirelessly all weekend long creating posters and content for their own pages, and for all of us to share, this group of magnificent page owners, myself among them now, held an all day anti-cyberbullying day yesterday that spread like wildfire on Facebook.  At the same time, The Bridge Post released my article, and the day was a day of overwhelming emotion as we all worked together to spread a very important message, each from our own unique point of view.  I simply cannot find words to adequately describe the impact that the day has on each one of us as page owners, and on those people who we are blessed enough to have visit our pages.

Some posters were shared many hundreds of times over, each a unique creation, and they are still being shared and commented on today.  Here is just a tiny sampling of some of the many, many posters that were created and released and shared all over Facebook yesterday:

Know My Worth

Running From Hell With El

Image: Photos & Designs by Piera
Words One Hot Mess(age)  Designed by Piera Paci.

Nothing but Respect

Read, Love and Learn

 

Art the Speaks by Alison Pearce

And my little contribution, poster-wise.  I am lucky I have a forehead left after all the banging! 😉

One Hot Mess(age)

I wish I could share all of the posters.  There were so many and a gallery is being planned.  The creativity, talent, and dedication by all of these people, each “just one person,” has me in complete awe.  Their spirit of love, kindness, collaboration, and light had me in tears more than once yesterday, and the outpouring of support from people on Facebook still has me reeling.  Last I heard, a radio station local to The Bridge Post was having an anti-bullying day today and they were in contact.  Who knows how far this can go!

Of course, there is no way to measure the effect of yesterday on the people who saw what we all worked to do, but I do know people talked, and shared, and were touched, and they thought, not just about not bullying themselves, but what needs to be done when we see bullying happening in any form, anywhere.  Seeds have been planted and who knows what will grow.

Each one of you is “just one person” chock full of ideas, passion, and light.  How many times do you have an idea and stop yourself from going forward because you think that it won’t work, or no one will listen, or that it won’t make a difference?  My idea ceased to be mine once I shared it and I give all of the glory for all of it to God, but had I never shared that simple idea what would have happened?  Nothing.  And yet because I chose to share it, to give it away, it became something astonishing because of the vision and hard work by so many people, all of them “just one person.”  We all have the spark within us that is capable of igniting a fire of goodness and love.   Take that idea you have—the spark that you have–and go start your own fire!  It is right there waiting within you!

Many thanks to Running From Hell With El, Bullying is for Losers, The Bridge Post, Living Happy, Happiness in Your Life, Always Leave ‘Em Laughing, Our Mind’s Meadow, Bedeempled Brain, Art The Speaks by Alison Pearce. A Victim No More, You ARE Enough, Know My Worth, Photos & Designs by Piera, What Makes My Heart Sing, Nothing But Respect, A Cowboy’s Hope for a Cure,Poopsie, What Makes My Heart Sing, Rebel Thriver, and Read, Love and Learn.  If I forgot anyone, let me know and you will be added!!