By Kristin Reinink
I remember sitting through my first AA meeting like it was yesterday. The first person to share was a seventy something year old man who announced that he was a “grateful recovering alcoholic.” He went on to explain that he had been clean for over twenty years and runs six miles a day. I thought to myself… these people make me sick.
As our disease progresses we find new and creative ways to support our active addiction. Our internal self-talk finds a way to rationalize why our using is “normal” and why we aren’t “addicts/alcoholics.” By doing this over a time we become internally conflicted with believing and therefore behaving in a way that does not align with our morals and values. This process is difficult because we start losing ourselves to our addiction. Our goals, dreams and ultimately our identity is slowly taken from us and replaced with a substance. Most alcoholics and addicts can show with this process and often have a hard time articulating how this process happens or happened.
When someone stops using and gets sober finding inspiration and gratitude can be challenging. The act of getting sober is scary and for many a last resort. Our behavior and thought process has revolved around our using. The motivation behind what we do, say and feel supports our addiction and continued use.
In my experience waking up in a detox unit after a five-year bender was not particularly inspiring. To be honest my disease continued to rationalize why I was not like all the others who had a “real drinking problem”. This thought process took time and patience. It involved accepting the help and guidance of others. Initially I found inspiration in treatment, from my peers, my counselors, mentors and books. I had to trust the process and I still do.
So what helped me find inspiration in recovery? Below is a list of suggestions and techniques etc. that helped me find and maintain sobriety.
• Create a gratitude list – Put a notepad next to your bed. If you are a morning person write a list of things you are grateful for in the morning; if you are a night person then write your list before you go to bed. If you are an over achieve do it both in the AM and PM. If you have a hard time knowing where to begin try making a gratitude list using the alphabet to offer as a guide. (Example: A is for AA Meetings, B is for Books, C is for my sister Chelsea and so on).
• Take in your five senses – Go somewhere quiet, if it helps close your eyes. And think what do I now see, feel, hear, taste and smell. It is easy to move through your day on autopilot. It is healthy to bring yourself back to the present moment and feel grounded.
• Remember – One Day at A Time. In early recovery this saying got me through tough times. Often I would even break this down further and tell myself “one hour at a time.“ Before I knew it my one hours were turning into days, my days into weeks, and weeks into month and so on. It made time doable and helped me do small goals.
• Get out into nature – This is very personal to me and I could probably write a book about it. However, finding the beauty in nature has enhanced the quality of my life…period. I remember talking to a very good friend and mentor who is also in recovery. At the time I was feeling stuck, it was winter and my attitude needed adjustment. I remember my friend saying “Don’t you enjoy skiing? When you are riding up the chair lift take a moment to really take in the beauty of the outdoors.” I have always remembered this advice. It is simple but has dramatically affected my outlook. This would be a good time to take in your five senses.
• Appreciate the small/simple things – It is easy to take life for granted. One of my favorite quotes “That breath you just took… it’s a gift” by Rob Bell really summarizes what I mean by appreciating the small and simple things. Another favorite memory I have that shows this was a time when I was facilitating a group at a residential treatment facility. One young woman in particular shared that she was grateful to see the sun for the first time sober in 10 years. This forever will be a perfect example of what I mean by finding gratitude.
Today, I am a little more than four and a half years sober. I am now the person who attends meetings and introduces myself, “Hi I am Kristin and I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.”