We've all had that stuck feeling in our lives. Like we are on a rollercoaster and can't make it stop... up... and down... and all around...
When the spiral gets bad enough you decide in a moment of desperation that you simply can't live like this anymore. You have to change.
It doesn't matter if it's drugs or alcohol, food, or relationships. When you hit that rock bottom moment and understand you can't keep doing things the way you've been doing them, you figure out a solution and take action.
The problem is, change isn't easy and it's definitely not fast.
Maybe you don't feel like change is happening fast enough, or you feel like you're doing it wrong, or you feel like it's so hard that you want to give up. Before you know it, you end up right back where you started. Rock bottom.
And you decide again that you have to change... you have to do it differently this time... and this time has to be different.
And you've officially found yourself on the relapse rollercoaster.
It happens to the best of us and can take many forms. And in order to truly take control of your recovery, you need to know what's at the root of the relapsing and build a plan to set yourself up for success.
My current rollercoaster has been around food and weight.
About 5 years ago I gained some weight and my eating habits got way out of control. So, for the past 5 years, I have been on the rollercoaster with weight and food.
I have always fluctuated weight a little bit- like 5-7 pounds- and as a younger person, I could drop those few extra pounds super easy, with little effort.
But this time, I gained 20 pounds, and now I’m almost 50. The weight doesn’t just fall off like it did when I was 25.
For a few years I was super sad. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, I spent every single day standing in my closet crying because none of my clothes fit and I didn't want to leave the house. It was awful.
At the same time, I was going through a very challenging time in my life- going through a breakup, huge life changes, starting a new business, and a ton of fear and stress.
With all that pressure and sadness I was using food as my coping mechanism. I've been sober a long time and I have no desire to drink, but I love food and they call it 'comfort' food for a reason.
Also, with all those emotional components, it made it so hard to start making changes and stick to it.
So, I would get serious about losing this weight, and changing my habits to eat healthier and I would take some BIG action like hiring a food coach or something and I would vow this time was going to be different.
But I couldn't stop the ice cream and fast food and gummy bears. My 3 favorite food groups 😍
Finally, I started going to the gym- but when I didn’t have big results immediately, I would get mad and depressed and say F* it.
I wasn't realistic about the process and I had this expectation that I was going to work hard for a week and the weight would start to magically fall off.
But it doesn’t work that way! And it wouldn't work that way just because I wanted it to, and I continued to be mad and feel discouraged and defeated.
I had to get honest and realistic about the situation.
It took me about a year to put on those 20 pounds.
So why did I think I was going to lose it in a few weeks?
I had to shift my mindset to look at this as a long-term healing process. I wanted to change my lifestyle and nourish my body and I had to take small actions that supported my new choices. And I stopped being in a hurry.
I want to walk you through 3 key pieces that are keeping you stuck on the rollercoaster, tell you how you can begin to change them, and insight on how to take control of your recovery journey.
I want you to look at your recovery as a long game instead of looking for quick or instant results.
You are healing, you are changing lifestyle habits and retraining your brain to have a positive and healthy mindset. This all takes time, deliberate action, and intentional habits to help move you forward.
This means that you will need to take it day by day, sometimes hour by hour to help give yourself the best chance of healing, growth, and recovery.
How many times have you been let down when you went into a situation with expectations? It's normal to want situations to go a certain way, but when you build up unrealistic expectations you set yourself up for disappointment.
If you think you are going to quit drinking and you don't have to do anything else, you're going to end up mad, sad, and probably back in the bottle.
Expectations are premeditated resentments.
Think about that saying for a moment. The more you think about this phrase in different situations, the more you realize how accurate it is. Here is an example of expectations that just can’t be met.
You have an expectation that as soon as you quit drinking, your life is going to get easy and your problems will start to disappear.
When you have this expectation, you stop drinking, and you get irritated when it doesn’t feel easy because you thought the alcohol was the problem!
Truth Bomb 💣- alcohol and drugs are a SYMPTOM of the problem. The problem is we don’t understand or cope with feelings well, so we use substances to numb the feelings so we don’t have to feel them.
The reality is, you drink to manipulate feelings and dodge responsibility. When you quit drinking, all those habits don’t magically disappear. And when you realize that just quitting drinking doesn't solve all your issues you get mad because you aren't getting the relief you expected.
You thought putting down the drink was going to solve your problems, but in truth, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This is why it's important to understand recovery is a long game. You know the person you want to be, and the life you want to have, and that isn’t going to magically appear just because you put down your bottle of wine.
It takes work and it takes time.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations of quick and magical healing. There is no question when you quit drinking you will feel better.
Your anxiety will go down, you will start to sleep better, you will have more energy- because you aren’t poisoning yourself anymore.
AND, you will have to do some work to heal the wounds and retrain the bad habits into good habits. It is going to be uncomfortable sometimes and it is going to be hard sometimes, and some days you are going to feel like crap. It’s just that simple.
AND it’s okay. You aren’t alone, you are super strong, you already survived the hard parts so surely you can survive recovery!
The treatment for any illness is uncomfortable and has difficult side effects. This illness is no different.
Don’t have crazy expectations that turn into resentments when things don’t go your way. Be realistic in your expectations- you are playing a long game for long-term results and you are a warrior.
Be a warrior.
Look discomfort in the face and tell it to F* off. When the committee starts talking trash, tell it to F* off and tell it you are a warrior and you aren’t messing around here.
Real change, real relief that lasts, takes real time and energy.
Make sure you manage your expectations so you aren’t getting upset when things don’t go your way. Some days are going to be fantastic and some days are going to be not fantastic. We can’t control life, but we can control how we respond to it.
If something feels off or isn’t going the way you thought it would or the way you wanted it to, take a second and re-evaluate the situation and see what you can do to shift it. Could you be doing more, do you need to be more patient, are you being lazy, are you being entitled, could you be trying harder? Manage your expectations and be kind to yourself. This is a hell of a journey you are on- give yourself some grace.
You know you want to be sober, you know drinking is ruining your life, you know you want to stop- but you don’t have a plan or a clear direction.
The only thing you planned, was not taking the next drink. That plan isn’t going to get you far.
When you quit drinking it leaves a lot of hours unoccupied because we spend a lot of hours drinking. When you are changing a habit, you will be much more successful if you exchange the habit. Meaning, if you are taking something away, add something in its place.
Whether that means you swap your alcoholic beverage for a new non-alcoholic beverage. If you used to sit in your living room in your favorite chair drinking your life away, don’t just stop sitting in the chair but change it- either move the chair to a different spot in the room or get a new chair or create a whole new space for yourself to sit and enjoy your evenings.
By exchanging your old habits with new ones, you are going to start making new connections. You have to do something at least 5-10 times just to get through the initial discomfort of being uncomfortable!
If you want to create a new habit of spending time in healthier places where there are non-drinking people make a commitment to trying 5 different places and go to each of them 5-7 times before you make a decision.
I understand the level of discomfort that you are going to feel. I lived in that discomfort but I learned that in order to change my life, I needed to embrace everything that was coming up. This is what I mean about having a clear direction.
I knew I wanted to be connected to people.
I knew I wanted to have fun.
I knew I wanted sober friends.
I wanted to go places and do things with people just like me, so if that’s what I want, then I have to take action to create that.
That means going to places where sober people are and saying hello to sober people and accepting invitations to do things with sober people even if they are things I wouldn’t normally do!
That’s how I started making friends!
When I was brand new I was invited to dinner with a group of women I didn’t know- and of course, I didn’t want to go. The committee was screaming at me to say no but I knew I had to go against the committee because the committee isn’t trustworthy! I knew if I wanted to have sober friends and a fun sober life then I had to be willing to be uncomfortable and hang out with sober people even when my anxiety was begging for me to run home to my comfort zone!
Micro-decisions! Those split-second choices will change your life.
No lifestyle is built overnight. It has taken me years to become who I am today and every single year I see massive growth because I have a clear direction.
That’s what I want you to have! This will help with expectations, too. Being accurate with your expectations and having a clear direction will help you to feel a sense of accomplishment rather than getting stuck in that trap of “I should be better than this by now, I should feel better, I should be farther along.”
First of all, every sober person has those same thoughts. I think it at least once a week about something and I have to catch myself and remember everyone feels that way and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
If you don’t have a plan, you will flail with little success. Instead, know that this is going to take time and you are going to have to be patient. Live intentionally.
Here’s what I mean when I say live intentionally. That means you think about each part of your day and you CHOOSE what actions to take. You CHOOSE what things you will decline and you CHOOSE what boundaries you set with people and situations. You make choices intentionally, on purpose, to build the life you want.
Remember the daily routine checklist I made you? This is what it’s all about- intentionally choosing what steps you take and when you are going to take them.
There’s a huge misconception when we use the word craving.
You are not craving a drink- you are craving escape. We drank to numb and avoid feelings. We drank to numb anxiety, numb guilt, numb insecurity, numb indecision, numb fear.
When you get sober, you have no escape. YOU now have to provide the escape for yourself. YOU have to find what makes you feel better and gives you relief. And you have to be realistic in your expectations because the activities we enjoy sober are not anesthesia like alcohol.
Alcohol is a natural anesthetic and it numbs physical and emotional pain. Sobriety does not do that, so don’t expect it to.
You will be uncomfortable. And you will survive. You have to build your survival muscles because you haven’t used them in a long time because you used alcohol to survive everything. And building muscles takes time and energy and practice.
You are perfectly capable of being uncomfortable and getting through it- especially if you follow all the strategies and plans I map out for you. If you follow along and put the things in place that I suggest, you will definitely be able to get through those uncomfortable times.
Don’t get caught up in a craving and convince yourself you are craving a drink. What you are craving is an escape and relief from whatever you are feeling. When a craving pops up, label it. Label what you are feeling that you want to escape.
The drink is the fastest way to not feel. It’s not the drink you want, it’s the not feeling that you want. You want to numb and the drink is what you have always used to numb.
A drink is not your solution- don’t fool yourself.
Keep that in mind, that alcohol is only the tool. And now you have to find new tools.
If you want to feel better then find things you enjoy and go do them. If you want friends, go make them. If you want hobbies, go find them. If you want sober people to hang out with, go where sober people are.
Sober people aren’t going to get on a bus and show up at your house asking to hang out and be friends with you.
A fairy is not going to show up on your doorstep with a perfect life in a box where all your problems are solved and you are happy.
It is not anyone else’s responsibility to build you or build your life- it’s yours.
That means you have to invest the time and energy, and sometimes money, to explore new and different things, to break down your anxiety, to find activities you like to do, to feel better, and have fun.
No one can do your work for you. It’s your life, create it to be whatever you want. But don’t expect to sit around the house complaining about everything and not taking any action, and wonder why you don’t feel good and you aren’t having any fun.
And, in this process, think about how you can help others. What can you do to make someone else’s journey better? How can you make someone else a little more comfortable?
Make someone else’s day better. Be of service.
The road to recovery is challenging but when you prepare yourself for that journey, you will have more success.
And remember that you are NEVER alone through this whole process.
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