Keeping A Progress Journal

Image representing Penzu as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Keeping a progress journal is not “AA approved work” but it helped me.  As a writer, journaling has always been my go-to for jotting down ideas, writing my dreams and aspirations and detailing my day-to-day events. Journaling does not always have to be writing.  It can be doodling, drawing, cutting and pasting pictures from magazines and even using stickers.

There was a period of about a year in my early sobriety that I would cut out a meditation from “Meditations For Women” and tape it in my journal.  I would then reflect on the passage by writing my own ideas and finish it up with cute stickers on the page. It worked for me and when I went back and re-read my entries years later, it gave me hope that change is possible.

For example: on May 26, 2008 I celebrated two years of sobriety yet was still feeling insecure and helpless in a sense.  On May 26, 2010, after four years of sobriety, I could see that I was making concrete changes to the way I thought, which in turn changed the way I felt.  I had let go of old ideals and notions, replacing them with healthier ways of thinking (and living). On May 26, 2012, I celebrated six years of sobriety and still on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance of truth in my life.

Journaling allowed me to express myself without fear of being judged.  It allowed me to express ideas that may or may not be accepted by society.  Today I use Penzu, which is an online password protected website where I write my heart out.  Of course in the beginning (when it was all new and shiny) I was journaling in Penzu everyday, but like anything else in my life, the shininess dulled and I started journaling when the mood struck or I was really pissed off. I also journal when I feel elated (like when I met my new boyfriend).

Through journaling, which is really just a way of being blatantly honest with myself, I learned what I want in life, what mattered, what didn’t matter, what pissed me off, what made me happy, what I thoroughly enjoyed, what personality traits in myself (and others) I liked and disliked.  I learned that I always have the option of changing and adapting. The way I think can always be re-arranged until I am able to think in a way that leaves me feeling peaceful and full of love.

Do you keep a journal? If so, what kind?

One Day at a Time

Image: givecourage.net
Image: givecourage.net

One day at a time.  Isn’t that really the only way we can live?  When we were in our addiction, we were caught up in our past aches, resentments and fears.  But that wasn’t enough.  We had to worry about the future!  What will tomorrow bring? Will I still have my job?  What about a place to live?

Since I am inherently skeptical, this whole one day at a time thing puzzled me.  After all, I was a being who only thought about what would become of me along with all the crap of yesterday.  Well, I couldn’t change yesterday and had no control over tomorrow.  Still don’t.  Never will.

Before I got sober, I remember thinking about never being able to drink (or drug) again.  That thought overwhelmed me to the point of anxiety.  How would I function?  Where would I hang out? What about my friends?  All of these are serious questions to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.

The first couple weeks of my sobriety were a rough lot.  I lived one minute at a time rather than one day at a time.  I could not think about the future.  Again, it was entirely too overwhelming.  And holding onto the past was what got me in such a shit storm.  So I focused on keeping my brain occupied.  I should have kept a journal, but I didn’t.  Instead I consumed mass quantities of Pop Tarts and watched the Military Channel.  I only left my apartment to get cigarettes.

But it worked for me.

Of course these days, I do think about the future and there are times when the past creeps in or I see something that brings back a fond (or not so fond) memory. But when it comes to not picking up, one day at a time, one minute at a time, even one second at a time is the best way to live.

How do we live one day at a time in recovery?

We go to meetings.  We get a sponsor.  We read approved literature. We talk to people in recovery (this is so important). We share at meetings (this is something I need to do more). We keep our minds occupied with things besides drinking (or drugging).

I have met so many creative people in the rooms of AA.  I have met many artists, writers and generally people who are doing what they want to do with their lives.  How cool is that?  Maybe they were always creative or maybe they found their creativity while living one day at a time.

K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid

Image: revivedmedia.net

Keeping it simple may seem pretty, well, simple for the average human being, but for us alcoholics and addicts, it can be anything but.  We just have a way of complicating the most uncomplicated things. Things like: working, driving and even food shopping become daunting because that’s what we do. Where this becomes a danger is when we complicate our sobriety.  Complicating life complicates our sobriety.

I was at a meeting last night and one of the gentlemen there used this phrase.  I wrote it in my little notebook because I felt like, “yeah, I want to talk about this.”

When I first got sober, I did not keep it simple.  I would create drama, over-analyze things and make problems out to be bigger than they actually were.  I was still stuck in the, “Poor me, look what I have to deal with!  Why can’t everything just be easy?” phase.

Living life on life’s terms is definitely a struggle for someone who always escaped with drugs and alcohol.  The reality of an active alcoholic/addict is that they abhor reality.  The cycle is: we screw up, we get drunk, we feel resentment, we screw up, we get drunk and we wind up doing dumb stuff.

I am no longer new to sobriety, and yeah, in the beginning I was trying to hold onto the old way of thinking (complicated) while maintaining my sobriety.
When I realized keeping things simple made my life simple, I started catching on.

Ways to keep things simple:

Plan ahead

Write up a budget

Go to work

Tell the truth

Do the next right thing

Taking a break

Keeping it simple isn’t just for people in recovery.  What are some ways you keep it simple?

Just Be…

Image: thisdrumandbass.com

My good friend Heather introduced me to this phrase: “Just be.” She has an awesome blog about alternative therapies.  Go check it out!  I’ll be here when you get back.

Back to “just being.”  It took me a little while to really grasp what exactly that meant.  I’m really good at nodding at people when they start talking about things I may not understand, this is true.  I am even better, however, at nodding at things I want to understand.

And I desperately wanted to understand and learn how to “just be.”  So I gave it some thought.  Okay, I gave it a lot of thought teetering on the brink of mildly consumed.  And then one day…

I was sitting on my front step, drinking my coffee, smoking my cigarette (bad girl!) and listening to the birds while feeling the wind on my face and watching the stars in the sky twinkle brighter  than ever (stars seem their brightest between four am – five am). 

And then like a sparrow nearly smashing into my face it hit me.  In that moment, on my step surrounded by nature, stars and cars in the parking lot… I was just being.  My head was not racing with thoughts, deadlines, my kids, money or writing.  I was just a body on the step with a blank mind enjoying my environment.

How awesome is that?  Let me tell you, it was so awesome that I try to “just be” at least 3-5 times a week now.  And it helps.  A lot.  There is great peace and growth in just being.  It is one of my favorite things to do. 

How about you?  How do you “just be?”