New Year’s Eve 2017:  A Happy, Healthy and Sober Year to Come….

New Year’s eve has arrived and I am actually looking forward to it.

That was not always true and I remember dreading New Year ’s Eve and the new year.  It got so bad that I would look in the mirror and ask myself: “How much worse is it going to get?”  It definitely got worse before it got better but now I am grateful for having gone through all of that. I remember to remember just how bad it sucked and because of those memories, New Year ’s Eve has taken on great import and significance in my recovery.  In fact, in ways I had not envision while sitting in the emergency room during active addiction or while in rehab in upstate New York in May 2012.

I wanted to share with you how I have celebrated the New Year for the last five years to enhance, rather than undercut, my recovery.

I live in midtown Manhattan, one block from Times Square, and have made a conscious decision to get out of town every New Year.   My neighborhood is insane and the morning after the sidewalks have puke and other garbage all over, remnants of the ball drop.  I did not enjoy New Year’s when I was drinking and even less now for obvious reasons.

My first year, I traveled up to Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park in northern Maine.  I had six months at that time and knew that Bar Harbor would be deserted for the New Year.  I journal relentlessly and brought my journals from rehab as well as the first six months with you and on the evening of December 31, I reviewed my journals and prepared a rather lengthy gratitude list for all the positive changes that had happened in my life in 2012.  I set goals and for the coming years in regard to my self care and financial amends.  I went to bed early and on January 1, 2013, headed to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard, to see the first sunrise of the New Year.   It was an amazing way to reflect on the year that had just concluded and start the year to come.

Following that theme, each year I try to get out of New York and enjoy someplace quiet, off the beaten track, out in nature and away from the party scene that dominates on new year’s eve and day.  I have returned to a few times Acadia, spent the holiday on a silent retreat at a Buddhist monastery and once at the beach.   Every year I bring my journals beginning with my rehab journal and peruse the entries over the years.   Preparing a gratitude list has become an annual tradition and something I very much enjoy.     The most critical thing is to be up to see the very first sunrise of the year and recommit to living a healthy and sober lifestyle.

I would love to hear how you celebrate your recovery and the New Year.  Post a comment on Facebook or send an email to tom@shanahanalaw.com.

A Holiday Message From a Formerly Homeless Addict on the Importance of Relationships…

The Holidays bring up a lot of feelings in me. I see and hear how everyone is stressed about what to buy, cook, wear, see a relative they don’t like, etc. At times is seems that the holidays have become more commercial than actually about the holidays. All this has caused me, and others, to lose sight of what is truly important: Relationships.

What would we have in life if we did not have connection with others?

How would we feel if the ones whom have loved and supported us on our journey were not there?

The holidays are about honoring our relationships and sharing gratitude that we are all connected as human beings.

What It Was Like

Before I got sober I placed little value on my relationships. I was self-centered, stuck in an ego victim mindset and convinced that the world had somehow betrayed me. My only focus was drugs and getting as high as I could. I dreaded the holidays, the seasons changing to fall, the expectation of gifts and large parties I did not want to go to.

One Christmas eve I never made it home for family dinner because I was too high.   My family was furious and very concerned about me but I could have cared less…

What It Is Like Now

Sobriety has brought many things in to my life. Gifted me with strong spiritual experiences and helped me achieve success in pursuing my dreams.

But the biggest gift that sobriety has given me is my relationships.

During my using days I lost everyone, my family, friends, job, home, EVERYTHING.  By following a sober path and lifestyle, everything I lost has come back to me.

This holiday I share my extreme gratitude for life, connection and spirituality. I am honored to share in this journey we call life. Partake in deep connections to others, support my family, friends and community. I am grateful that I can contribute to making the world a better place simply by accepting everyone for who and what they far. I have learned to value the differences in everyone. Sobriety has shown me anything is possible if you truly believe it is.

On this holiday I am reminded that each relationship is a gift. We are a reflection of our loved ones, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

 

We are all connected by the same universal source, some may call it love, some may call it god. Whatever it is, it joins us all together.

 

Let us honor and spread love to all on this beautiful holiday.

 

Josh V.

San Francisco, California

10 Months, Nicotine Free – Jason Tells His Story Of Breaking Addiction.

As the holidays approach, I’m grateful to be just shy of 10 months nicotine-free. The fact that I didn’t give up trying to quit until the miracle finally happened is the best gift I could have given myself and the people who love me.

I started smoking in college in 1993, and started trying to quit a month or two later. Granted I wasn’t very motivated to stop as a 20-year-old student, but even then quitting was already beyond any strength or willpower I could muster.

I got a year and a half smoke-free at one point, about two years into recovery from alcoholism, but I never really applied 12-step principles to smoking and one night after a meeting I decided to bum “just one.” I barely thought twice about it. Just one turned into half a pack that night, and I bought my own pack the next day. For 12 more years I was a smoker who was always ‘just about to quit.’ There were periods when I gave up and resigned myself to my fate, but for the most part—to my credit—I kept trying.

Late last year I started going to the gym for the first time since I was in my twenties, and my 42-year-old smoker’s lungs and oxygen-starved muscles protested loudly.  A friend gave me a copy of Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking, and I read it. At that point I realized what my blind spot had been—for so long I had considered myself a smoker who happened to be quitting, but I never did the same first step with regard to nicotine that had begun my freedom from alcohol.

At that point a number of changes in my thinking began to more closely reflect reality, which eased the quitting process for me:

 

I’m not a “smoker,” I’m a nicotine addict pure and simple. Words matter. As an active smoker I am constantly going through withdrawal and fending off the inevitable by picking up just one more cigarette. As long as I keep the obsession going that sometime I’ll beat the craving, no rational reasoning is likely to get me to stop. It will never be easier; it’s an addiction.

Quitting is 100% possible. People do it all the time. I’ve done it. Part of me endlessly debated whether I “could do it” – which for an addict is an easy out to keep smoking. Of course I could be a non-smoker – I did it every day of my life until I started smoking.

Withdrawal is temporary, will not kill me, and though it will make me a little crazy for a while, that’s OK.

Today, I feel healthier and younger than I’ve ever felt. My colleagues at work have noticed that I don’t smell as bad and am much more productive and focused. I’m downright athletic for the first time in my life, training for a Triathlon next year.

Most of all, I’m not thinking constantly about cigarettes—about when I’ll get my next fix, about the discomfort of physical craving, about how I wish I could sit and focus during after-dinner conversation or enjoy a lazy morning in bed on a cold winter day without having to go satisfy my addiction. They no longer control me as long as I don’t pick up the first one.