Sunday, October 7, 2018

MAILBAG: FIELDING QUESTIONS ON ALCOHOLISM & ADDICTIONS

It's been several months since I invited questions from blog readers on Alcoholism & Addiction, and did my best to provide answers. The last time proved to be a very worthwhile exercise as it shed plenty of light on what peoples' loved ones, or themselves, are battling with substance abuse. So after inviting more questions last week, here's my best swing at answering them:

1 - WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ALCOHOLIC OR ADDICTED?

This comes up a lot and I'm guessing it's because people want to know if the symptoms they're feeling are a sign that they have a serious problem.

The first thing that comes to mind when answering this question is that the person-in-question has a pre-occupation with alcohol and their current supply of it (or whatever substance they're hooked on). It's on their mind most of the time throughout the day. For example: planning when's the next time they can drink, what they'll drink, where they'll get it, perhaps how they'll hide it, how they'll get home, etc. Normally fun events like weddings, sporting events, fishing trips and family gatherings really just turn out to be an excuse to drink, and unfortunately that's generally where bad things happen.

When looking at this question, it wouldn't hurt to look up the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Some people abuse alcohol periodically which may cause problems on occasion while others depend on alcohol to cope with life. Big difference.

And, perhaps the best answer to this question is the definition of Addiction: When you want to quit using a substance but are unable to, even when it's causing problems in your life.

2 - YOU LOST A PARENT RECENTLY AND HAVE OTHER CURRENT FAMILY CRISES. ARE YOU IN DANGER OF RELAPSING?

As a recovering alcoholic, I'm always in danger of relapsing! But no. I've examined this and I think that after 1,284 days sober, I've realized that getting drunk won't help matters. In fact, it would just add a host of new problems and make me feel worse. I don't need it, and booze has ruined enough of my life already.

But what DOES worry me is that with these recent hardships, my mind has returned to my old way of thinking. That is: "What if I do this?", "What if I do that?", "Maybe I shouldn't be here, but I should be there!", "What are people thinking of me?", "Am I doing a good enough job?", "Should I be at work?", "Should I be at home?", "Am I disappointing my family?", etc. All those thoughts were flooding through my head, round and round, at warp speed, for days on end. That's the rampant and raging Anxiety I lived with my entire life, which alcohol would cure for a night (but isn't an option anymore).

This scares the hell out of me! However I now know to tell my wife, call a sober friend, talk to my counsellor (Rand Teed), my sober coach (Bob Marier), slip into meditation or go to a meeting. Once I do this, the panic evaporates in minutes and I can get on with living normally.

3 - WHAT DO YOU WITH THE PHYSICAL CRAVINGS FOR ALCOHOL OR DRUGS?

IN MY OPINION, Addiction is a mental illness and therefore those physical cravings are your mind tricking your body into believing you need the substance. This was explained very well in the seminar I participated in with the Hazelden Betty Ford Center.

It's not surprising this question came from a reader who's in his first year of sobriety. I had three such attacks in Year 1 of my Recovery (later described as "Anxiety/Panic Attacks") by my Addictions Counsellor.

Thank God I had a sober companion with me, or my wife, at those times or else I would've fallen mightily. That's why it's tough for a single person to stay on course in Year 1, so it's imperative they continue to reach out for help in the tough times. Don't isolate!

4 - DID YOU GO TO A TREATMENT CENTRE FOR YOUR RECOVERY?

No but I wish I had. I certainly qualified for it because I had a huge, huge problem with alcohol. However I had a variety of stupid excuses not to go, which turned out to all be unfounded. I thought rehab facilities were scary places (they're actually just the opposite), I didn't want to be a financial drain on my employer or family (however they actually were more-than-willing to pay if it got me better), and I was afraid of what going to treatment would do to my reputation (which, in reality, was already blown to pieces but I was completely unaware of that in my alcoholic fog).

My counsellor said I took the long way to Recovery (out-patient support group meetings and one-on-one counselling) but at least I got there eventually because I badly, badly wanted sobriety. However now after touring treatment centres across the country - meeting the friendly staff and talking to patients - I really wish I had gone. Oh well, no looking back.

5 - WAS IT EMBARRASSING TO FACE AN INTERVENTION?

No, because my whole life was an embarrassment at the time. It was sort of an "add it to the pile" mentality. My opinion of myself was very, very low. It's typical addict thinking, and it's one of the reasons why I hate the disease so much. It sabotages good people. In retrospect I suppose I should've been embarrassed by it, but at the time, I was not.

6 - WHY DOES A.A. WORK?

Because it's a group of like-minded individuals who have all faced the same battle in their lives, and are winning. Once you walk through the doors of a meeting, you immediately feel like you're at home. That's also one of the best things of going to meetings all over the continent; you don't feel like you're walking into a room full of strangers even if you're 3,000 miles from home.

And beyond that, as far as the mechanics of the association go, you'd have to go for yourself to find out. However suffice it to say that no one gets left behind and if you truly want to find sobriety, you will in AA. I've found the people who have the most success in Recovery are regular meeting attendees. Those who struggle to stay sober also struggle to go to meetings.

7 - WHAT PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE GET SOBER VERSUS RELAPSING?

That's an incredibly difficult question to answer and I've seen numbers published that range anywhere from 50% to 90%. That question came out of the crowd when I was speaking at the Oak Tree Place fundraiser in Moose Jaw this spring and I settled on this answer:

"If you keep trying to get sober, no matter the setbacks, you will eventually get it. However if you stop trying, I guarantee you will not."

8 - WHAT'S YOUR ROLE IN RECOVERY AND/OR WHAT'S PEDERSEN RECOVERY?

First and foremost I'm a Person in Recovery, saved from Alcohol Addiction on 01-27-2015. Secondly, I'm an Advocate for Recovery, spreading the message of hope but also fighting for funding in the War on Addiction. Thirdly, I'm working as a Sober Coach/Interventionist for individuals struggling with Addiction, no matter where they may be in the Arc of Recovery: active addiction//treatment//aftercare. Fourthly, we produce sober events which are family-friendly and are an effort to normalize sobriety rather than normalizing drinking and over-indulgence. Watch for one near you!

9 - WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF SOBER COACHING?

Obviously it's watching people take on their demons head-on and have success on a daily basis. Then, it's rewarding to see them get their lives back, their families, their jobs and everything they hold dear, but lost due to the Disease of Alcoholism/Addiction. I'm a highly competitive person - probably from my background in sports - and I actually enjoy the war against Addiction everyday. I don't like to lose, and don't plan to.

10 - DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE, MANTRA OR MISSION STATEMENT?

Yes. Two of them. 1) It's Never Too Late. Don't ever give up on yourself. I thought I was a lost cause, but thankfully there were a few people left who didn't give up on me. And 2) Anyone Can Be Saved. I've yet to come across someone who can't achieve sobriety if they truly want to. I refuse to give up on anyone. As Dr. Phil says, "I will never surrender to the disease."

RP
@PedersenRecovery

2 comments:

  1. You continue to inspire Rod. Keep it up. I am praying for you to continue with courage and trust in the Lord.

    ReplyDelete

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