Recovery Elevator is excited to offer a new type of blog experience to our readers! We are reaching out to our Café RE members and giving those that are interested the opportunity to be guest bloggers for our site. Think of it as a podcast interview in written form. You will get parts of their story along with tips and tools that they have found beneficial in their own recovery journey. Please let us know what you think, or perhaps topics you would like to see covered, in the comments.
I’m excited to bring our first guest blog submission to you today! Stephanie McCarroll has been a member of Café RE since August 2020, has been alcohol free since January 12, 2020 and is very active within the community. You can often find her on one of our daily ZOOM chats, if not hosting it, offering support and accountability to our members. Thank you Steph!!
Benefits of Service in Recovery
By Stephanie McCarroll
One of the most important aspects of long term recovery is being of service to others. At the early stages of sobriety, my focus was to get through the day sober. While sobriety continues to be my most valuable thing I have, my life moved past just getting through the day without a drink. A greater need arose in myself to heal and thrive in all areas of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually.
Like the disease we have, recovery is also progressive.
True recovery is a path beyond simple abstinence. Rather, it is a journey by which we build strength to face the wounds that may have led to addiction and create a flourishing sober life. Being a helpful and valuable part of my recovery community is an integral part of such a life, and it is deeply nourishing to our social and spiritual wellbeing.
Alcohol isolated us.
It demanded we put our substance abuse above all others in our lives. Some of us feel a great deal of guilt for the time lost to our addiction. Although we cannot go back and erase our mistakes, our addiction gave us insight of what slavery to alcohol looked like. Hearing that other alcoholics could stop and recover was something that inspired us to keep fighting. We were no longer alone. We had evidence we could recover.
For those who have shared their stories, they chose to be of service, giving powerful testimony of the benefits of living an alcohol free life. In recovery, the idea of service could be a new, daunting thought. Yet, giving back to our communities provides us with so many benefits.
Science has proven that being of service positively affects your brain and mental health. According to research, when you give your time and resources to people in need, your brain activates pleasure sensors, giving you a feeling of wellbeing. In this way, being of service in recovery is a form of self-care and lifts our spirits. It also helps us to manage stress.
It also helps us rediscover our self-worth. It means being part of something bigger. At Cafe RE, members are encouraged to find ways to be of service wherever possible. Because Cafe RE is an intimate community, members volunteer to host chats and participate in community service projects.
In recovery, my art of writing has been rediscovered. Like those who had a fondness for music and photography, I wanted to reach out to the writers. This prompted me to inquire about the possibility of forming a members-driven Guest Blog for Recovery Elevator. Paul said YES!
In finding the right service opportunity for you, it can be helpful to tune into your passions and what makes you come alive. Being in recovery is a beautiful gift that gives you the chance to pursue the things you love most about life, things that may have been robbed from you during your addiction.
If you would like to give back to the recovery community and guest blog, please contact email@example.com. We know our members have a lot to say and want to be of service. We are excited for this new endeavor and know it will help a lot of people.
Today is the day! Today is the day we are going to find out if you have a drinking problem…or not. Are you ready?
For Paul, when it finally sunk in that he did indeed have a drinking problem (and a good one at that!) two things happened.
First…he was like, “Oh F&#K!”
Then…immediately after, as this truth spread into his body, to his bones, to his conscious, his unconscious, to the heart, to the liver, something neat happened. An incredible amount of energy was instantly liberated.
For two reasons.
- The stigma or label of an alcoholic didn’t change who he was. He was still alive.
- But more importantly…all the energy, the incessant thinking he had of…
- Do I drink, or not?
- Do I have a problem, or not?
- How am I going to control my next session of drinking?
- How am I going to hide it?
- Let’s do our best not to black out before 8 pm.
- Do I have enough shitty box wine back home?
- Let’s not let people know we’ve already had 9 drinks before meeting up at the bar.
ALL of that went away instantly.
In fact the worst place a person can be with a drinking problem is in limbo. The do I or don’t I phase. (Paul covers this in Episode 417).
So for this diagnostic, we are going to use the test listed in the DSM 5, or the diagnostically statical manual which is what most psychologists and/or therapists have somewhere on their shelves.
There’s 11 YES or NO questions. If you answer YES to 2 of the questions, if you meet 2 of the 11 criteria, within the past 12 months, they call it an Alcohol Use Disorder.
- Do you sometimes have difficulty controlling how much you drink or for how long you drink alcohol?
- Have you made unsuccessful attempts to cut down your drinking?
- Do you sometimes spend a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from drinking?
- Has your alcohol use had any negative consequences at home, school, or work? (Have you ever lost time off work because of your drinking?)
- Has your alcohol use had any negative consequences to your relationships or social life? (Have you ever concealed how much you drink? Has anyone ever commented on your drinking?)
- Have you continued to use despite any negative consequences?
- Have you put off things or neglected to do things because of your alcohol use? (Have you ever disappointed your family or friends? Have you ever missed a family event?)
- Do you occasionally have strong cravings for alcohol?
- Has your tolerance for alcohol increased? Are you able to drink more than you did before?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms the next day after drinking? (Have you ever been shaky or sweaty that evening or the next day?)
- Has your alcohol use led to any dangerous situations? (Have you ever been charged with impaired driving?)
Paul has always strived to be a good student, and was “happy” to report a score of 100%. 11/11. For shits and giggles, let’s’ cover what it means if you didn’t ace this like he did.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
The presence of at least two of these symptoms means you have an AUD. If you have two to three symptoms, it’s considered mild; four to five symptoms is considered moderate; six or more symptoms is considered severe. (If you don’t fall into the severe category, a mild diagnosis can still warrant concern, as it may be the start of a larger problem.)
A couple things before we wrap this up. If you have a drinking problem, life isn’t over…in fact, it’s just beginning.
Some of you may have just learned you have a drinking problem. If this is devastating to you, go to Episode 411 where Paul talks about the grateful alcoholic.
Paul had one more bit of info in his notes from Episode 428 If you find yourself listening to a sobriety podcast (or reading this blog), and you’re not a therapist, a doctor, or listening so that you can support a loved one, then YOU have a drinking problem. If you question whether or not you have a drinking problem, you just answered that question. The bigger question is…what are you going to do about it?
***Taken from Recovery Elevator Podcast, Episode 428, host Paul Churchill***
406 episodes of the Recovery Elevator Podcast were released before there was an intro with the main message being addressed to Big Alcohol. Why do you think that is? That’s a lot of Mondays to not tell Big Alcohol what we think, (or where to stick it 😈). Why wasn’t this addressed before episode 407: A Message to Big Alcohol…?
Well, like Paul said…we have limited time together and it feels like a better use of our time discussing how to build a new life that no longer requires alcohol, instead of fighting Big Alcohol, or fighting the past.
In fact, although you may not feel like it right now…if you keep moving forward, if you don’t quit quitting, and you keep doing the next right thing, one day at a time…you may just find yourself thanking Big Alcohol for giving you the life you have today. Crazy to imagine, right? I know it was for me. But it absolutely is true today. I am thankful for where my struggle with Big Alcohol has led me.
So here we are…let’s call out a couple of things regarding Big Alcohol, and maybe, there is a way we can work together.
First off, let’s get real for a second Big Alcohol. We both know your business model doesn’t survive off normal drinkers. Your lights are on, your doors are open, salaries are paid because of problematic drinkers…aka: alcoholics.
This is called the 80/20 rule in business and for Big Alcohol, it’s probably a 90/10 rule. This means that 90% of revenues are coming from 10% customers.
Let’s take a normal drinker. This is someone who buys a six pack of Coors Light, drinks 2-3 beers, and the remaining 3-4 cans sit in the refrigerator in the garage for the next couple weeks or months.
That is one type of customer.
Then take the alcoholic. This is someone who buys a 12, 18, 24, or 30 pack of Coors Light… daily. Where do you think your revenue is coming from? This question is rhetorical because they already know this.
Big Alcohol, we bring this up because there needs to be accountability on your part…and here’s some reasons why:
◾️Yes, it’s the individual who is drinking excessively, but the data and science support that alcohol is the most dangerous and addictive drug on the planet.
It kills more people each year than every other drug combined. An estimated 40-75% of occupied hospital beds have underpinnings to alcohol. In 2010, a Doctor named Dr. David Nutt, hired by the British government, was tasked to put a harm score on the world’s 20 most addictive drugs. Alcohol came in at #1. In 1958 the American Medical Association classified alcoholism as a disease.
◾️No amount of alcohol consumed is beneficial to the consumer.
This a myth that you, Big Alcohol, tries to perpetuate. In the Mid 2010’s the government funded agency the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) performed a study to see if alcohol consumption was good for you.
The answer was…YES. Say whattttt?? 🤯 However, it then became known the study was funded by Big Alcohol. No surprise the answer was yes! 🙄
In reality, no quantity of ethanol is good for you. The Huberman Lab Podcast has a fantastic episode about the effects of alcohol on your mind and body. The Stanford University Neuroscientists confirmed that no amount of alcohol is good for you.
◾️And let’s talk trash, garbage or waste.
A couple months ago Paul had new brakes installed on his vehicle and he rode his bike home from the mechanic after dropping off his truck. He took a scenic county road home for about 7 miles. While hugging the side of the road he was astonished by the amount of empty alcohol containers that littered the shoulder.
Keep in mind, this was in the part of the grass that had been maintained. Paul said he guessed there was triple or quadruple the amount of empty bottles and cans in the taller grass. (Now to be fair, he did see empty gatorade bottles, and trash that was not related to alcohol, but he said if he had to guess it was a 10/1 ratio.). Paul estimated there was an empty alcohol container every 100 feet (and that’s a safe estimate). With some easy math that put 52 bottles, or cans, every mile totaling over 350 pieces of trash on his 7 mile bike ride. That figure would be way higher if one were to walk through the taller grass.
This past October Paul did a retreat in Peru. One of their tasks was to pick up trash around a sacred temple about 20 miles outside of Cusco, which once was the capital of the Inca Empire. They filled about 4 trash bags, and again about a 10/1 ratio of alcohol containers to other trash.
Big Alcohol’s footprint is all over the globe; societal wreckage, physical disease, and in the form of excessive trash.
As human beings there is a goal that many of us share. That is to make this world a better place. 💚🌎
Big Alcohol, let me ask you this question, are you making the world a better place?
What impact are you having on society? On the fabric of family systems? Are you adding or subtracting to this world? Are you a net benefit? Or a net drain? What do you stand for Big Alcohol? Are you okay with your customers discarding your product waste into nature? Into my backyard? Into your backyard? Big Alcohol, your name, your brand, your message is on these containers that end up in our streams, rivers, and oceans. By all concerns you are still tied to the product, but you are not shouldering the burden after the monetary transaction has taken place.
This. Needs. To. Change.
As we all work on cleaning up our internal wreckage and chaos it’s time that you, Big Alcohol, start doing the same.
We here at Recovery Elevator are calling you out, Big Alcohol, to lean up your mess. A disproportionate amount of trash in nature is yours. It’s the RIGHT thing to do – to pick it up. We have a yearly service project at Recovery Elevator, and we’d love your help. Maybe take 1/2 a percentage of your marketing budget and help us out.
Big Alcohol, if you want to work with us, we’re open to it. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s talk about the order of healing when you quit drinking. We’ll also put a time frame on it…more or less place holders for what you can expect. As with everything in recovery…your time frame may not exactly match up with what is outlined here…but should be close! 🤏🏼
When we ditch the booze the healing happens in the reverse order as the destruction.
When we slide down the chasm of addiction we are afflicted spiritually first, as that is the first connection that becomes severed. Next up is our mental health, and then the physical body fails. The body can’t keep up with the amount of poison entering it and organs begin to fail, think liver and pancreas.
So the destruction happens spiritually, mentally and then physically.
The healing happens in reverse.
We heal physically, mentally and then spiritually. It’s a triage of sorts. Keep in mind there is always overlap. You won’t say, okay, I’m physically strong, now let’s work on the mind. In addition, the three will always be a work in progress.
Good news here, you don’t need to initiate the steps of this healing process. As long as you do the following, the intelligence of the body will take over.
Here is what you need to do.
1️⃣. Ditch the booze
2️⃣. Fuel the body with healthy fuel. Food that is alive..aka: greens, veggies, fruits, and try to cut down on meat. At least for a bit.
3️⃣. Cut back on sugar and caffeine intake. Here at RE we love our ice cream…so green light on the ice cream in the first 15-30 days, but try to cut back to 1-3x per week. Caffeine, 1 cup per day. This is mostly to help with relaxation and sleep.
4️⃣. Moderate movement. Walk, hike, jog, stretch, yoga, weights…for 20 min, 3x per week.
5️⃣. Here’s the fun part – Recovery! This could be AA, we have Café RE, Smart Recovery, Treatment, IOP, etc.
On day 1 we begin healing physically. The cells in the back of the mouth, the throat, the stomach, liver and pancreas are the first to say, thank you!!
Let’s talk about weight. If you lose weight, great! But there’s a good chance you’re going to gain weight. Beer, wine, spirits are basically empty calories, or the same as a moldy gummy worm. You may see your body expanding in your first 30 days, which is beautiful. There is more of you to love. A book Paul recommends to help fuel your body properly is The All Day Energy Diet by Yuri Elkaim.
The physical restoration component is anywhere from 3-12 months depending on how far you rode the shit storm of addiction.
Then begins the real fun stuff…the mental work, which is anywhere from 6 mo -1.5 years. In active addiction there is chaos internally. There is no coherence with the body and the mind. After we find our footing physically, the brain seemingly is going to go haywire. You won’t naturally find yourself in the present moment, but this is the time to really focus on every task at hand. Washing the dishes is our recovery work.
A big part of the mental healing is letting the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal axis settle down. These three organs control the stress response. Cravings and moments where you’re triggered begin to smooth out once this stress mechanism comes back down to earth.
The mind and body will thank you for getting off the rollercoaster of emotions and rock bottoms. Those are stressful and wreak havoc on our inner peace. At the tail end of the mental healing is when something neat happens.
In fact, it’s extraordinary.
This is when we have the capacity to recognize we are not the thoughts, but the one who experiences them. Or as Eckhart Tolle says, life is the dancer, and we are the dance. This is the bridge to the spirituality component of our healing.
As the Swiss, 20th century analytical psychologist Carl Jung says – we enter a spiritual dimension when we begin experiencing synchronicities in life. Or we almost see the bread crumbs confirming we are on the right path. Jung was a firm believer that there are no such things as coincidences and everything is connected. Or interdependent. Both in the physical and the dream world. According to Jung, this metaphysical state of living occurs when we are in balance.
When we are in a healthy dance with time and congruent with the natural flow of life, this is when those seemingly synchronistic events take place. They are quite powerful to be honest. They make you feel connected to something for sure. Paul says, to be fair, he did experience these synchronistic events before quitting drinking, but it was like once every couple of years and nowadays, it’s weekly and sometimes daily.
One reason why healing spiritually comes last is because it helps to make this connection in times of repose, sitting, meditating or focusing on the breath.
Paul says, “I don’t know about you, but there was 0% chance I was sitting in lotus position to connect with a higher power in my first 2-6 months. Probably not even the first two years. Meditating for me at first, was absolutely brutal. But as I progressed, I began to enjoy it, and with some meditations, I would feel euphoria in parts of my body and once I think the best word to describe what happened was astral travel.” – (He knows it sounds strange. 😜)
So…that’s the most common pathway when it comes to healing from a drinking problem.
There is a concept to describe the initial phases of this which is PAWS. Short for Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. This is your body, mind, heart, organs, and soul, recalibrating – finding a new homeostasis. Please don’t hit the eject button if you have a rough day or 20. After chaos, calm is always on the horizon. This is a universal law. PAWS lasts anywhere from 3 months to a year or two…. Yea it can be uncomfortable, but it’s preferable to the perilous road of addiction.
***Taken from Recovery Elevator Podcast, episode 404, host Paul Churchill***