New day

Sirens in the distance and the sound of a circling helicopter–trouble somewhere in the city.  Not unusual in a city of 800,000–small compared to most, but bigger than the total population of, say, Alaska or South Dakota.  California has over 37 million people in it these days, up from 7 million when I was born. No wonder we have no elbow room anymore.  We along the coast, that is.  Modoc Co. in the northeast has fewer than 10,000 people in over 4,000 square miles.  What is that–2-1/2 people per square mile? Now there’s elbow room.

Maybe the noise and stress and crowding and traffic explain why there’re so many drinking/drugging people around here.  Any place that can support 700 AA meetings, as well as LifeRing, Smart Recovery, and a bunch of other recovery groups, has to have a pretty high density of substance abusers. It must be hard for younger, single people trying to stay sober, so much of the social life seems to be around the bars.  True most places, I suppose.  One of the big contributions of recovery groups has been to offer a social life to people who don’t drink. My younger son hangs out almost exclusively with his AA buddies.  I come across them once in awhile in a restaurant, and they’re often the loudest, most hilarious group in the place.  He’s done a great job of building the kind of sober life that keeps him there.

I’ve been thinking about this since this morning after reading today’s post on John Falk-Williams excellent blog on depression, Storied Mind. He is writing an ebook about his struggle to overcome depression, and in his post summarizing it, one bit seemed to me to apply equally well to people recovering from substance abuse problems:

My assumption is that you are the most important part of your recovery, that your active participation in the process is essential. Depression is a condition that influences and changes all aspects of your life, and preventing it from overwhelming you requires your full focus and commitment.

That may sound obvious, but many people start, as I did, with the passive attitude of a patient waiting for the right treatment to bring the symptoms of illness to an end.

The fundamental shift that made so much difference to me was to stop thinking of illness and its limitations and to focus instead on changing the way I was living and work toward the kind of life I valued most highly.

Or in alcoholic terms, we need to stop bemoaning the ‘losses’–holiday nog and wedding champagne–stop looking for the right moment to quit, the right rehab program to ‘cure’ us, and get serious about building a new life of health, well-being, and sobriety.

LifeRing, a secular recovery program that I’ve participated in, has a workbook that helps you  look at what to keep from your old (drinking) life and what to change, Recovery by Choice.   I went to a series of meetings where we discussed it chapter by chapter that were extremely helpful and have gone back to the book many times since. I believe there’re some online discussions about it that can be tracked down through the website, if anyone’s interested.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely…
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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4 Responses to New day

  1. I like that Storied Mind piece a lot, thanks for the link.

    Are you in San Fran by chance? I may be thinking of someone else, but I’m pretty sure “DrunkyDrunkGirl” is single in San Fran. I’m sure she’d agree with you that it’s tough to get sober in an environment like that. I couldn’t even imagine. I moved to a small tiny Texas town in the middle of nowhere with my husband, and it was still hard for me.

    I may take a look at that LifeRing book. Oddly enough, I saw a little write up on the Discovering Alcoholic site when I was looking for that Stephen King article; it had nice things to say about LifeRing: http://discoveringalcoholic.com/alcoholism/whats-up-with-lifering

    • sswl says:

      Yes, I’m in San Francisco, and the bar scene is huge. Might be harder, though, in a small town where the bar/pub is the only place to socialize. There are lots of other options here, just not as easily available.

  2. cleo says:

    thanks for the links. I could have done with the Storied Mind link some years ago when depression hit me pretty badly. Isn’t the internet so great now as a place to go to seek answers/advice/viewpoints/friends?
    I looked up Lifering as well. Looks a nice approach too. I seem to be doing ok at the moment with the help of my blog friends – but good to know of more options if things get hairy.

    • sswl says:

      Yes, the wide wonderful world of the internet. If you can extricate yourself occasionally, it has so much to offer. (Sorry for the late reply. I somehow missed your comment.)

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