how to overcome addiction

One Day At A Time

One day at a time

Sometimes I get extremely overwhelmed thinking about the future, especially when it comes to staying sober and abstinent. I still struggle with the idea that I will never get to drink or eat certain foods again. It seems like an impossible task. It also seems incredibly unfair.

I can keep going down that rabbit hole of a thought process and land on it’s not healthy to never enjoy certain foods again. And believe me, you can find plenty of people who would agree with that. They would say cutting things out completely is too drastic and not sustainable. What you need to do is learn moderation?

That is when I start to laugh because I have tried moderation time and time again. It may work for some people, but it does not work for me. As a matter of fact, moderation makes things worse for me because it keeps the cravings alive. Every time I have tried to indulge a little here and there, I would end up binging in no time.

I know abstinence is my ticket to freedom. But I don’t have to spend my time thinking about how I will never get to drink or eat certain foods again. All I have to do is stay sober and abstinent today. 24 hours. I know that my day today and my day tomorrow are going to be a million times better if I stay sober and abstinent today.

So I’m going to do that.

Even more, I am excited to do it because I have finally found a way to live the life I have always wanted. I have real purpose in my life. I get up every day with a drive and a focus that I never had when I was drinking or in the food. I sleep better and I wake up every morning with energy and vigor that I never had. I have so much love in my life, it’s ridiculous. And the truth is, I always had it, but now I am allowing myself to see it and feel it. And it feels amazing!

I am choosing to work my program today because it is working. I don’t have to worry about the future. I don’t have to say that I’m never going to drink again or I’m never going to eat ice cream again. I’m not concerned with a day that hasn’t even happened yet. My only concern is this day and what I need to do to make it great.

And when I lay my head down on that pillow tonight, I will have peace knowing that I lived another day in victory. I was able to live the day of my dreams because I was sober and abstinent. I know I can do this today and that is all I need.

Addiction Panic

I am an alcoholic and a food addict. I also have an anxiety disorder. My days of addiction were filled with panic attacks. I use to get them almost daily. Fear would grip my entire body. I felt like I was dying or I was going to have a seizure.

I would be so scared for my life in these moments and knew I had to quit drinking and overeating. I knew my bad habits were playing a big role in triggering these panic attacks. But then, when I would consider walking away from my addictions, the panic of not having my only comforts would kick in. It was a catch 22. Damned if I did. Damned if I didn’t.

Can I survive a life of continuing to get my fixes every day? But then, how would I survive without them?

Talk about insanity. I was stuck in the middle of these two choices for years and years. Both with food and alcohol. I remember being in a constant panic. If I didn’t get my fix, how would I survive? What would I have to look forward to every day? And this want became a real need. I needed the food and alcohol to survive and have any joy at all.

I felt trapped and unable to make a move. And this would cause endless bouts of depression and anxiety. It was a scary way to live my life.

Thank God He pulled me out when He did. He showed me it was possible to have joy without my indulgences. Matter of fact, the joy I experience now is real and lasting. And best of all, it has no side effects. I don’t have to suffer through days of hangovers just to get a few hours of fun in my life. I don’t have to spend my days feeling bloated and winded just so I could have a few hours of fun with food.

But the best part is the panic attacks are pretty much gone. I still may have a moment of panic here and there, but I now know how to deal with it. I can call on God to give me strength. I can reach out to my fellows for encouragement. I am not alone. And I am not relying on a deadly substance to get me through the day. The constant panic has been replaced by serenity and freedom.

I am finally free from this insanity and panic. And this freedom came from working the 12 steps of OA. I never want to go back to that life. And I can say honestly today that I will do whatever it takes to stay on this path of recovery and freedom from the panic that used to rule my life.

How To Make The Right Choice

We have a choice to make and we must make it every day.

Are we going to fight or give up?

Both are very real options and when we get up every day, we have to choose which one it’s going to be. And to not choose is in itself a decision to give up. It’s crucial that we make this decision first thing every morning. It will be the difference between success and failure in our lives.

Abstinence and sobriety take work. It takes an intentional attitude and an actual plan that we follow. So if we choose to fight, then we need to follow through by making a plan for our day and then following it.

The power of planning cannot be overstated. It doesn’t need to be an overly detailed plan, either. We just need to plan the following five things:

  1. What are we going to eat?

  2. When are we going to eat?

  3. How are we going to serve?

  4. What are we going to do to live out our true purpose in life?

  5. What are we going to do if temptation strikes?

If we have a plan that includes these five things, then we are going to win the fight that day. And at the end of the day, we can lay our heads down in victory, ready to get up the next day and make the choice to do it again.

And if one day, the fight seems like to much to bare, it’s ok. We don’t have to win every battle, we just need to keep showing up and choosing to fight. That’s how we will win the war. Success is nothing but a series of battles won, one day at a time. If we choose to fight every day, then we are guaranteed to have the successful life we have always dreamed of.

The Substitute

For years when I was drinking and overeating, my biggest fear about quitting was “What will I do with the time? What will I have left to make me happy?” I always came up short, unable to come up with something. I was so scared my life would be empty and boring without my addictions.

WOULD I GO INSANE WITHOUT MY COMFORTS?

When I quit drinking, food became my substitute. Instead of alcohol, I just doubled up on food. And there was some comfort in knowing that I had a back up vice to turn to. At least I had one comfort left.

BUT THE FOOD WAS KILLING ME.

Ironic how the substance that is supposed to give us life was actually taking mine. And all because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to find happiness without it. I had to let my overeating go but how could I possibly find any joy in life without it? With food being my final vice, what would I substitute this addiction with?

Then came OA. And I discovered a permanent substitute for all my addictions. One that really worked and brought joy into my life. Real joy. Joy that would last longer than a drinking binge or a 2 hour meal. One that didn’t include hangovers, guilt or shame. It was the answer I had been seeking for all these years.

THE SUBSTITUTE WAS THE FELLOWSHIP OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS I FOUND IN OA.

I finally found my people in the rooms of OA. We are the same in so many ways. Finally I am not alone. We are all in this together. I am surrounded by an army of people who get it. And I can’t overstate how much comfort I find it that. For years, I tried to overcome my addictions alone. It felt overwhelming and impossible.

But there is strength in numbers. I have meetings I can go to so I can stay connected to people who care. I have people to call when I am having a hard time. I get to serve my fellows by picking up the phone and encouraging them when they need it. There is also a lot of hope in hearing another’s story of struggle. And also hearing the stories of those who have overcome their addictions.

IF THEY CAN DO IT, SO CAN I.

I am choosing community and connection over isolation and addiction. There is so much more joy on this side. The fellowship brings true joy and peace that I never was able to find in alcohol or food.

I finally found the substitute I have been searching for my whole life. This is what true happiness feels like.

If you can relate to this, I would highly encourage you to check out AA or OA, depending on your drug of choice. The fellowship is waiting with open arms. You don’t have to do this alone anymore.

The Promises In A.A.

Sometimes we feel lost. We feel unsure of our future. And I’ve found in my recovery from alcoholism and food addiction, these feelings creep up more than ever before. There are some days that I feel on top of the world. Those days are a lot of fun. And it’s important to enjoy them. But there are also a lot of hard days where I miss the comfort I use to experience from my old vices. Sometimes I feel completely empty with no substitute for these substances. I feel like I’m all alone. I feel like it’s unfair that I don’t get to enjoy the things that other people seem to be able to.

After I wallow in my pity party for a few moments, I pull myself out by remembering how miserable my life use to be when I was using. It’s so easy to forget that and to just over romanticize the good ol’ days. But the old days were not all good days. They were mostly awful so I have to remind myself of that fact.

The next thing I can do, is look to the promises of the Big Book of AA. These are examples what of others have experienced from going through recovery and just knowing that these await me is more than enough to pull me out of my pity party. On days that are really hard, I can hold onto these promises. You can find all of them on pages 83-84 of the Big Book. But here is a summary of some of my favorites.

The Big Book promises us that we will know a new freedom and peace that we have never felt before. We will not regret the past. We will see how our experiences can benefit others. The feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. Self-seeking will slip away. Our outlook on life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will know how to handle hard situations. We will realize that God is doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.

What amazing promises these are. They reassure me that I am truly living the life I was meant to live. These promises are the things I have been searching for my whole life. I am so thankful to finally be on the path to achieve them.

If you are having a hard day, I would challenge you to pick up a Big Book and read through the promises. There is also a great PDF with a list of the promises you can find by clicking here. There is always hope. There is always a better day coming. And knowing that other’s have experienced this fact, is often just enough inspiration to get me through one more day.

What is your favorite promise in the Big Book? Leave me a comment and let me know how it has changed your life.

The Benefits of Gratitude

One of the biggest keys to success in recovery is gratitude. I don’t know why, but my default setting is negativity, cynicism and bitterness. I spent years being a bitter pessimistic person. It’s so weird that this is also the time in my life where I was the most depressed?!

I don’t know why the negativity comes so easy. It’s like there is comfort in complaining. I think cynicism is just a way to let myself off the hook and to not really try for anything. Saying things like “I’m just meant to be fat. It’s impossible to lose weight.” let me feel like I didn’t have to try.

But humans are designed to try and try again. We need a purpose and a goal to strive for. If we are not striving for something, we feel incomplete. So that’s how I felt. Bitter, lonely and incomplete. I was miserable.

Now I choose to focus on gratitude every day. It’s something I have to consciously choose to see and practice. But when I do, I see a whole new world. I see all the love and opportunity that surrounds me. It’s always been there, I just couldn’t see it before.

Gratitude has made all the difference in my life so I am going to keep choosing it every day. I would encourage you to give it a try as well. It may just be the change you are looking for.

How To Be Perfect

"I always thought that I was supposed to try to be perfect."

I am a perfectionist. Always have been since I was a little kid. Almost to the point of being obsessive about some things. I am very grateful that God made me this way because it drives me to work hard and to strive to be better. But it has also brought its challenges.

My goal has always been perfection. I don’t think I really realized that in my conscious mind for a long time, but in my subconscious mind that has always been what I was trying to achieve. And the reason is this:

If I’m perfect, then no one can hurt me.

If I have no flaws and I am superior at everything I do, then no one can say anything negative about me. Even better, if they do, I’ll know they are crazy because I’m perfect. I have no flaws. My pursuit of perfectionism was my defense mechanism. I know this is true because even to this day if someone says something bad about me or I feel inferior somehow, I get a drive in the pit of my stomach to go be the best at something. That’s when I want to practice the most, or write songs or study something. Because I want to be able to prove to them that I am amazing. So I go to work mumbling under my breath “I’ll show them!”

The real result of this mindset has been constant failure and a very deep, dark depression. I could never live up to my expectations of myself, therefore, I was always failing. Instead of being the best at something, I was a loser at everything. I began to hate myself because of this. And it got worse and worse as I got older. Until one day I looked in the mirror and I was a 500+ pound alcoholic.

I was frustrated and sad constantly. I could never accept love from other people because I didn’t love myself. I was lonely. Never good at long term relationships. I was finding comfort in food and alcohol. Like A LOT of food and alcohol! And I was barely hanging on to life. On the outside I seemed cool, laid back and fun. But on the inside I was steaming mad at myself, stressed out and angry.

Is this what being perfect is all about?

I finally had to accept the fact that I will never be perfect. Ever. It is hard for me to even type that sentence right now. But I finally know that it’s true. And I know it has been a big source of pain in my life. I have to let it go.

Now, I am striving to be perfectly imperfect. I laugh at myself a lot because I really love who I am. The pressure is off. I can be me and use all that energy I use to put towards trying to be perfect towards something that matters. Like making music that will change people’s lives. Telling my story to those who need to hear it. And being a part of a community again full of imperfect folks just like me.

I wrote a song all about my struggle with perfectionism called….ready for it…”Perfect.” If perfectionism is something you struggle with, I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out. I think you will be able to relate to a lot of it. And I think you may walk away knowing you are already perfect the way you are.

Why I Stopped Messing Around

The Mess Around.jpg

I am an alcoholic.  Through and through.  I have never been able to go out and have one drink.  If I'm going to drink, I'm going to do it right.  I am going to get drunk.  And not just a little buzzed.  I mean really drunk.  But after years of drinking so much, it became really hard to get drunk.  I was drinking Long Island Teas with Grand Marnier shots all night long.  I remember, I would show up for gigs, down two long island teas and two shots of Grand Marnier back to back before I even started playing!  It was becoming harder and harder to get drunk.  Drinking became a chore.  It wasn't fun anymore.  And here's the real catch - I didn't even like the taste alcohol!  I just liked the effect.  So finally I found myself just trying to gulp down as much as I could as fast as I could, holding back urges to throw up, just trying to get drunk.  I knew something had to change.

"Not looking back on what I use to see."

It wasn't until I ended up in the ER with severe heart palpitations that I realized this was a life or death situation and all this madness was not worth dying for.  I lied there on the gurny while they were running tests on me just thinking "What am I doing?"  I remember, hearing someone in the room next to me crying out in pain.  It was so heartbreaking and I knew that would be me soon if I didn't make a change.  I decided then and there to quit drinking.  That was over 2 years ago now and I haven't had a drink since!

"Stronger now than I was before."

The real miracle is that after I quit drinking, I continued to work in bars every night.  I had to sit there and watch everyone else getting drunk and having a good time, while I drank water and watched in envy.  It was really hard for the first 3 months or so.  I would feel pretty bitter most of the time and just get out of there as soon as my gig was done.  But as time passed, I grew stronger.  I just couldn't stop thinking about how miserable I felt all the time when I was drinking.  I was in a constant haze everyday, perpetually hung over.  No energy.  Little motivation.  In the worse physical shape I've ever been in in my life.  There was no way I was going to go back to that life, so I hung in there night after night.  Day after day.

"You can't take this life from me, don't mess around anymore."

Now, I can't even imagine going back to that life of drinking.  I feel so much better, yes, but I also feel a freedom I never felt when I was drinking.  There is something really beautiful about letting go of an obsession or addiction.  It lets you enjoy life again.  It lets you feel emotions again.  Drinking was stealing my joy away one shot at a time.  I thought it was making me happy but it was really making my life miserable.  I was caught in a cycle of obsession that I couldn't get out of.  There is no way I could go back to that life now.  Don't get me wrong, I get tempted occasionally just like everyone else.  But all I have to do is go back to that night in the ER in mind, remember how miserable and scared I felt, and any temptation I was feeling disappears. 

I am so grateful to be sober over 2 years now.  Most of my friends and family have been really supportive of my choice to quit.  But some people don't get it.  Misery loves company and often I encounter people who want to buy me a drink and don't quite understand why I would say no.  So I wrote a song along with Chela Mancuso (an incredibly talented singer and songwriter) about these experiences called The Mess Around.  I'm excited for you to hear it!  It's all about living a sober life in an alcoholic world.  It's my declaration to those who don't get it. 

I don't mess around anymore.  I got things to do.