My First Face-To-Face AA Meeting

No hell didn’t freeze over!! but… Last night, I finally – after 1 year, 5 months, and 14 days sober – attended my first face-to-face AA meeting. It hasn’t been a secret that my thoughts about AA have been a bit wishy-washy. When I first got sober I attended some online AA meetings and I just felt really out of touch. People in the online rooms always told me that I wouldn’t get or stay sober if I didn’t go to f-2-f meetings, believe in a higher power, work the steps, or get a sponsor. I didn’t want to be told what to do or how to do it and I left the online meetings and email chains and never looked back.

I have to admit I had a bad taste in my mouth about AA. I also consider myself agnostic and couldn’t relate to the faith based mentions of God in AA, as well as surrendering yourself to being powerless against alcohol. Naturally, I avoided AA. I had friends and family tell me I should go and in the back of my mind I thought maybe I will one day, but until yesterday I had never made time for it.

Thanks to one of my blog readers and now my good friend – Shannon – I finally attended AA. She offered to go with me to a meeting without pressuring me. She told me exactly what it would be like and agreed to sit with me and coached me as we went along. The result was phenomenal. I really feel like I owe her! She emailed me out of the blue and asked me on a friend date. And so glad I accepted! She has introduced me to two wonderful things that have taught me so much already – AA & meditation classes. Thank you Shannon, I am so grateful!

The meeting was a wonderful group of ladies full of wisdom, hope, and experience. Just looking around I couldn’t believe these women actually suffered from the same problems I did. They seemed so with it, so together….so normal. It was the first time that I was ever in a room full of other alcoholics. Finally, people just like me. I think for the first time ever – I said out loud with a shaky voice, “Hi I’m Kelly and I’m an alcoholic.” It didn’t seem so bad when everyone else in the room was saying it too. Each meeting has a different topic and last night was a tradition meeting. We discussed tradition 10:  “Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.” Shannon and I looked at each other and whispered that this topic was perfect for my first meeting. There was talk about how even though all the members have outside lives and opinions on other things like politics or other life choices, we all come together at AA to do one thing – to stay sober. If outside opinions were drawn in, we would get in arguments or caught up on those things instead of concentrating on staying sober. They touched on religion being an outside topic as well. Everyone is welcome regardless of what they believe, they only have to want to stop drinking.

It wasn’t scary or weird and I didn’t feel out of place. Everyone was welcoming and supportive. They hugged me and told me I could call them if I needed to. The only nervousness that I felt was from being in a new place around strangers. Shannon has made it clear to me that I only need to work the steps if and when I feel comfortable enough to do so, and that I should only get a sponsor when I feel I am ready. I am glad I kept an open mind and pushed myself to finally attend a meeting. I’m excited to gain tools for dealing with my emotions and to dedicate more attention to my recovery. I’m looking forward to expanding my group of sober friends which is very small at the moment. I already decided I’ll be going back next week.

With AA & in life.. I’ll remember this: “Take what you like and leave the rest.” :)

 

alcoholics anonymous chip

Even though I am over a year sober, I have only received my 24 hour chip since I just started the program.

 

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Why Must I Feel Feelings?

why must I feel feelings

I have to admit one of the hardest parts about sobriety is feeling feelings. I think a lot of addicts, myself included, are trying to numb something when they drink or use drugs. They are trying to numb pain or just trying to not feel anything at all. I didn’t even realize I was doing this until I stopped drinking. All of the sudden I was hit with all these emotions and no tools to deal with them.

When I was actively drinking I always had this “I don’t care” attitude and I guess I really didn’t. I didn’t care about myself, my friends or family, and I didn’t care if I hurt someone. For me, I think it worked well for awhile. I deflected pain for many many years. I was the one hurting people before they could hurt me. I was never the one who got attached in relationships or showed feelings first. If someone did something to me, it was easy for me to tell them to fuck off and I would never think about them again. You can’t get hurt if you don’t care, right?

I never connected the way that I acted and my love for alcohol. But now it makes sense. Alcohol allowed me, actually it encouraged me, to not give a fuck. It justified my bad attitude, my bad decisions, and my general acceptance of a mediocre life. Looking back I realize how mean and unpleasant I was. I realize that I thought that type of life was normal. Now I know that I was so wrong.

Being sober is great, but no one ever tells you how many feelings you will feel. I wasn’t ready for all these feelings and I’m still learning how to deal with them. Now that I’m sober I can’t run away from my emotions, I just have to sit there and take them. I thought I was a tough girl, but all these emotions make me feel like a 5 year old who is just learning how to navigate her way through life. I even get mad at myself for being mad or sad about things I think I shouldn’t be. Who knew there were SO many feelings?! WHY! Why are there so many feelings? Sometimes it’s like I am outside of myself watching myself become upset and saying – why are you doing that? Who cares?! This isn’t even a big deal! Save it for the really bad stuff! And I feel defeated.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. What a lie. Words sting. Words stay in your mind for months and years after they have been said. Physical pain is the easy part – that’s why I play soccer.

I just feel like my emotional compass is messed up. What should I get upset about and what shouldn’t I? When do I stand up for yourself and when do I just let things go? When do I figure out if I’m being too sensitive or my feelings actually have validity? I must think about the repercussions of every single thing I do and say… because now I care. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I don’t want to hurt myself. I feel like my heart is on my sleeve and just about anyone can have a poke at it.

Sometimes I just don’t want to feel feelings anymore. It’s hard feeling helpless. Controlling my emotions will obviously take time. Not every part of sobriety is glamorous and crying your eyes out for no good reason is one of those parts.

9 Thoughts A Sober Girl Has At The Club

This past weekend I was in Atlantic City, NJ (the Vegas of the east coast) for my sister’s bachelorette party. Because I am the maid of honor, it was up to me to plan the best shindig possible for my bestie. I knew we would be hitting the club and dropping it like it’s hot to some sweet house music because I know that’s what my sis likes. There wasn’t much mental preparation for me going into this sober because I am getting used to the fact that I will never be drinking again. I was excited to get dressed up, hear good music, dance, and have a great time with my sister.

We went to a few different clubs and bars, and I had quite a few funny thoughts along the way. From these thoughts I complied a list of 9 thoughts a sober girl has at the club.

1. $25 to get into the club, you must have lost your damn mind.

hell no gif

Holy moly I don’t miss spending money like that to get into a nightclub, not to mention the price of drinks. It was great that the only thing I bought all night was one sugar free red bull. Life is much more enjoyable when you don’t spend money on a night out.

2. I’m so glad I’m not drinking because leaving the dance floor to get a drink every 10 minutes is such a hassle.

frustrated taylor swift gif

Nobody likes a hassle! And that’s what getting a drink is at a big nightclub. I watched my sister and her friends leave the dance floor several times to walk to the bar and get their drinks, while I just held down the fort because  dealing with the hassle wasn’t worth it.

3. There aren’t many good looking people here.

katt williams gif

Was I wearing beer goggles for the last 9 years of my life!? Ok in all fairness, maybe it’s because we were in Atlantic City and the beautiful people weren’t out this weekend? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because the crowd is getting younger and dumber.

4. This music makes me want to blow my brains out.

eye roll gif

When you’re sober at the club, music is everything! Am I right? When you’re drunk you will be singing every song – you don’t care what it is. When you’re sober you want to hear the good jams. At the first club we went to on Saturday Samantha Ronson was playing, so we were like yea of course it’ll be great music, she’s a famous DJ woohoo! Oh how wrong we were. She played weird 70’s, 80’s, old school hip hop smash up weirdness. Cool if you like that I guess, but it was definitely not what we wanted to hear or what we expected. I even had to tweet her and tell her how bad it was AND she wrote me back. Haha. Luckily, we went to a different club afterwards and found a great house DJ trio spinning so we were happy.

5. You’re gonna feel like shit tomorrow and I’m not.

laughing gif

Oh man, when you see that one struggling friend that’s already losing touch with reality at 12am, or the drunk girl dropping her drink. I find comfort in the fact that the only way I’m going to feel tomorrow is happy and tired.

6. Yes I’m judging your drinking habits.

judging you gif

YES – that thing that all drunks are paranoid about. “Your sober friend is silently judging me.” Yes, yes I am. I can’t help it. Other sober people know what I’m talking about. You watch others’ habits and you know which people are probably problem drinkers and which are not.

7. Not having to wait in the bathroom line is awesome.

win gif

I think I went to the bathroom twice the entire night and that is freaking amazing. Not having to wait in those long hellish bathroom lines is a blessing. Go me, go me.

8. Is that what I looked like?

drunk girl gif

Drunk girl doing shit she doesn’t remember. Drunk girl falling. Drunk girl with puke on her dress. Shudder. Ugh, was that me? Is that what I used to look like? Unfortunately, yes.

9. Guys are creepy.

boy dancing at the club

Not all of them, but there are a good amount of creepers at the club. I swear at several points in the night there was a circle of stage 4 creepers closing in on my circle of friends, just watching us dance or trying to talk to us. Ew! Back up dudes. Go do your own thing, we’re trying to dance..alone. When I commented about the creepers my friend Ashley said, “They’ve always been there, you’re just now noticing because you’re sober.” Touché.

The best part about club hopping this weekend was that it brought me back to all the good parts about my old party life. I got to dress up, hang out with my friends, listen to great music, and dance. The icing on the cake was that I remembered everything, spent less money, and there was no hangover involved. A successful bachelorette party for my sister and just another sober weekend for me!

My Life Besides Sobriety

times flies quote

Besides traveling to Boston for work, I have been crazy busy exploring my new town and its surrounding areas. I’ve found some pretty cool stuff to do, clubs to join, and festivals to attend. Below is a quick run down of what I’ve been up to.

Lee County Recovery Month Event

Last friday night on the way home from the airport after returning from Boston, I stopped at the Lee County Recovery Month event that I found on the SAMHSA website when I was reading and writing about recovery month. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I decided to be brave and give it a shot. It was at Gwendolyn’s Cafe in downtown Fort Myers. I walked in to guitar players singing and playing live music. The crowd was modest with about 20 people there. I learned later I had missed Randy Henderson, the mayor of Fort Myers who was there right before I arrived, giving a proclamation officially recognizing September as recovery month in the city. I met some knowledgable and interesting women there. I learned about Street Chicks in Recovery, a group of women that offer recovery insight through illustrated stories, booklets, cd’s and posters. I also met the lovely executive director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida and we chatted about the upcoming 5K that benefits the coalition and me possibly writing a guest blog for them. All and all, it was a nice event and I’m glad to have made these new connections while celebrating recovery month.

recovery month florida

Live music at Lee County’s Recovery Month event

recovery month 2014 lee county florida

Fort Myers mayor Randy Henderson [picture from Leslie Robinson]

Peace Day in the Park

Last Sunday my friend Leslie and I went to a festival in Cape Coral to celebrate International Peace Day. It was at a local park and included vendors selling food clothing and other peace-themed knick knacks, live music, yoga, hula hooping, belly dancing, art, and even a blood drive. The atmosphere was relaxing and fun. It was a great way to get together with like-minded people and celebrate peace and love.

Peace Day in the Park Cape Coral

My friend Leslie getting her hula hoop on

cape coral florida peace day

Meditation Class

Last Monday I went to my first meditation class at the Center for Spiritual Living in Cape Coral. It was suggested to me by a blog reader and now new friend, Shannon. We met there and enjoyed the class together. This series of 5 classes concentrates on overcoming anger, irritation, and frustration. This particular class was called the psychology of blaming. A buddhist nun led a short meditation at the beginning and end of the class, and in between talked about anger and blaming. She read from a book, she joked around, and she answered our questions. Her voice was very soothing and I could relate to everything she talked about. She reiterated that happiness is a feeling that you only can achieve within from inner peace. She taught us that acknowledging anger and recognizing where it comes from is the first step towards changing your mindset. All of the meditation classes are based on the teachings of Kadampa Buddhism. If you know me, you know that this is the most spiritual thing I’ve done in probably…my entire life. The only time I set foot in a church is for a wedding. I have never considered myself spiritual, in fact I would consider myself an agnostic, who borderlines on atheist. This class felt right to me. I was learning, relaxing, and working towards inner peace. I will definitely be going back to the next class.

Besides these three fun events I’ve been keeping busy playing co-ed and women’s soccer in Fort Myers. I went stand-up paddle boarding for the first time ever and saw a sunset that looked like a painting. I joined my local Democratic Women’s Club in hopes of changing the world and standing up for what I believe in politically. I’m still doing CrossFit and I plan on attending Fort Myers Pride festival in a few weeks.

Some days I hardly have a minute to think about my sobriety. Sometimes I wish I had more time to devote to this blog and finding sober articles, books, and things to share. I guess being sober and having a renewed source of energy and drive has motivated me to do a lot more. I am still grateful for every single day because I know that this amazing life wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t sober. So for now, I’m off on my next sober adventure, catch me if you can..

My First Marketing Conference Ever – Inbound 2014

Inbound Marketing Conference HubSpot

If you follow along with my Facebook page, you probably saw that this week was a crazy one for me because I was in Boston at a marketing conference for work. I’ve already touched on the fact that I have been loving my new job and how happy I am to be learning about inbound marketing. Well this conference just took it to another level.

I was able to really get the emotional feel and widespread success of inbound marketing at this conference, which is affectionately called “Inbound.”  The conference, hosted by the the leader in inbound marketing software, HubSpot, was amazing and inspiring to say the least. I got the opportunity to see several famous keynote speakers including Malcolm Gladwell, Martha Stewart, Shiza Shahid, Simon Sinek, and several others. Their collective message was clear and resonated with me: be inspired. be bold. tell your story. inspire others.

Although this was a marketing conference and I attended for work, I felt like its message really hit home. This is what I’ve felt like my calling has always been: to help others, to inspire, to make a difference in the world. Growing up and in college I always told my mom, I want to help people! I just didn’t know how I could achieve this until now.

When starting my blog, I never realized my story would inspire others. I never thought I would be receiving emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from people just telling me thank you, that I helped them, that they saw some of themselves in me, or that they passed my blog along to a friend or family member who is struggling. Somehow, I had stumbled into doing what I had always wanted to do.

Why am I mentioning this in my post about an inbound marketing conference? Well, this conference taught me that everything you do should be done with inspiration. To write is to inspire. To quote one of the speakers, Simon Sinek, “Business is human for the very simple reason that we are human.” That’s refreshing isn’t it? And so true! After listening to how ‘human’ business and marketing actually are, I know that I am in the right place and at the right job.

My favorite speaker I saw at the conference was Shiza Shahid, CEO and co-founder of the Malala Fund. The talk she gave moved me, my coworkers and several other people to tears. She is young, smart, inspirational, and she took a leap of faith. She left her dream job to start the fund and change the world in her own way. Her talk was full of hope and inspiration. She said “I believe we are the ones that we’ve been waiting for,” meaning anyone can achieve their dreams, that sometimes you just need to get up and do it, and let your path find you. If you don’t do it, who will? Another quote from Shiza, “There are certain times in your life when you have to decide who you are, in those moments let your heart guide you.” She reiterated that she didn’t have all the answers when she took her leap of faith, but she knew in her heart this is what she should do, and she would figure out the rest  She knew that education is a basic human right and the fact that girls around the world are being denied that just isn’t right. We all have the power to create change. This is a powerful message and one that speaks to me.

Shiza Shahid

The speakers at Inbound, and in particularly Shiza, confirmed something for me – inspiration is the way to make human connections and make a difference in the world. I’ve already begun to do this by starting this blog and sharing my personal struggles with alcohol. Who knew that putting my story out there would lead me on the path to inbound marketing? Now, I get to inspire every day by going to work and writing passionate, remarkable content for my clients. I learned so much at Inbound 2014, it makes me eager to do more, be more, create more.

I know the first step in this process is to be bold and continue to share my story – be the difference I want to see. After the knowledge overload last week, I know I want to become a better writer and the one way to achieve this is to become a better human being.

Above all, I’ve learned I am exactly where I am meant to be.

Inbound Marketing Conference 2014 Boston

My wonderful coworkers!

Am I an Alcoholic?

am I an alcoholic

Dun dun dun…. the dreaded question. Well I know it’s not so dreaded for some of you. Some of you already know that you are alcoholics or addicts and have become empowered by accepting this fact.

Me on the other hand, I am still struggling with these labels. Maybe it’s because I don’t attend AA and I’m not forced to get in front of a group and say out loud every day, “My name is Kelly and I’m an alcoholic” or maybe I’m still in denial.

It was always in the back of my head when binge drinking and blacking out became normal for me. I used to ask myself, Is this normal? Am I drinking too much? Am I an alcoholic? I would use anything to justify that I wasn’t. No, I didn’t get the shakes when I woke up and need alcohol right away. No, I didn’t need to drink every night. No, I didn’t hide alcohol bottles in my closet and drink alone. My friends drink exactly the same amount as me or more.

Once I faced the cold hard truth about my issues with alcohol and became sober, the question still lingered. When you think of an alcoholic, you think of homeless old men on the streets who drink hard liquor out of bottles wrapped in brown paper bags or if you’re obsessed with the show Intervention, like I am, you think of the people on there. Maybe that’s why I love watching that show – in a weird way those people make me feel better about myself. It sounds bad because I don’t think how I was acting while actively drinking was healthy AT ALL and it caused me A LOT of problems, just maybe not the kind of crazy problems you see on Intervention. Either way, it was just another way of justifying my bad habits and decisions.

So… back to the question, am I an alcoholic? I guess anyone in AA would say yes I am and I should surrender to that fact now or else my sobriety as I know is doomed. AA attenders also believe you can’t stay sober without meetings and here I am with one year and 4 months under my belt. When I researched the definition of an alcoholic, most sites told me it is a person suffering from the disease of alcoholism and someone who has become physically dependent on alcohol. An alcoholic cannot control their obsession with alcohol and therefore suffers from various issues in their lives at home and at work.

Well let’s see – physically dependent on alcohol – nope. Obsessed? Not really. Issues at home? Yes. Issues at work? No, not really. Can’t control the amount they drink – ding ding ding! We have a winner. I’ve also heard that an alcoholic is anyone who feels immensely better after they stop drinking – and well, that’s definitely me.

What I do know is I suffer from an addictive behavior and personality and I have alcohol abuse issues. Maybe that makes me an alcoholic, or maybe that makes me someone who just wasn’t meant to ingest alcohol. Maybe I haven’t dived deep enough into my recovery and discovered WHY I had these behavior patterns for so many years. Or maybe, as I know some of you are thinking…I’m still in denial.

Does it really matter? Will labeling myself as an alcoholic make a difference? Will it propel me further into my world of sobriety and recovery? I don’t know, I’ve done pretty good so far. What I do know is I can’t drink alcohol. It is not for me and my life is tremendously better without it. Although you won’t see me shouting from the rooftops, “I’M AN ALCOHOLIC!!” I do still identify with sober people, addicts, alcoholics, or any other type of label that you want to give yourself that has to do with an out of control behavior.

Some days I find myself having a hard time figuring out where exactly I fit into the recovery world and I’m still not really sure. Does this make me a weird sober person? Maybe, but I’m ok with it because it works for me. :)

National Recovery Month September 2014

National Recovery Month 2014

I happily stumbled upon a Facebook post last week that told me September is National Recovery Month. I clicked on the website and read about this wonderful month of awareness and immediately started promoting it. What’s not to love? A whole month dedicated to raising awareness about recovery from drug and alcohol addictions and another platform to be vocal about being sober. To continue this awareness I’m going to outline what recovery month is and what it means to me.

What is Recovery Month?

2014 marks the 25th year of observing and celebrating National Recovery Month. This is the first year I’ve known about it and I am happy to be able to participate in and celebrate it. Recovery Month is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and started in 1992 by government mandate. Recovery Month provides national leadership to support the federal government’s goal to better the lives of families and individuals affected by substance use and mental health disorders.

SAMHSA’s main message is that prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can recover from mental and substance use disorders. They work to provide access to affordable recovery services to those who are in need in order to reduce the health and social costs to our communities and country. Factors like inadequate capacity, discrimination, and limited public and private health insurance benefits play a part in the gap between the number of people who need treatment and number of people who receive it.

Recovery Month promotes the benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery and celebrates people who have found recovery. Most of all, it spreads the positive message that behavioral health is imperative to overall health, and that people can and do recover.

How can you get involved?

Recovery month woohoo! Yeah! What can you do to help or get involved? Well first and foremost you can promote their website and share their information about recovery. This year’s theme is “Speak up, Reach out.” On the Recovery Month website there is an area where you can submit your personal recovery story and share it with the world. There are also Recovery Radio series and TV series that you can watch and share.  If your town hasn’t officially recognized September as National Recovery Month there are resources on the website to encourage your local government to do so by signing an official proclamation.

There are also Recovery Month events all over the U.S. Go here and enter in your zip code and find one to attend near you. The one that is in my county here in Southwest Florida is on September 19, when I will be flying back from Boston for a work conference. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make at least some of the event!

You can also find a downloadable toolkit on the website to educate yourself and others about Recovery Month, or for resources to hand out at events and to help you plan an event.

What Recovery Month means to me

Well I’m sad I didn’t know anything about Recovery Month last year or this year until last week, but I’m glad I found it. I think this movement is important, especially for me to speak out about and promote. I wish there were more events around my area to attend and I’m hoping I can make it over to the one there is around here.

This year’s Recovery Month theme really hits home. Since I started my sober journey, one of my main goals has been to share my story, to let others out there know that they are not alone – that if I can stop drinking they can too. Speaking up and letting people know who you are, whether you identify as an addict, a recovering alcoholic, or as someone who has just chosen to be sober – it is not only therapeutic for your soul, it also brings to light just how many lives are affected by recovery.

Too many people hide who they really are out of shame, guilt, and fear and never get the help that they deserve. Some miss out on getting the help that could turn their life around. Let’s do what we can to not let that happen. By speaking up and reaching out, we can let others know that they are not alone, that recovery is possible, and that life is out there waiting for them.

I hope I am doing my part, even though sometimes I wish I had more time to contribute to this topic and to help others. I will continue to spread the message that substance abuse and mental disorders are real and valid concerns and should be in the spotlight. It’s up to us, the ones experiencing the beauty of recovery to pass on our knowledge of joy and the possibility of an amazing life to those who are still suffering. What better time to do it than Recovery Month?

Happy Recovery Month 2014! :)