Jan B. Part II

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The picture here is from my favorite waiting bench outside Hartford Hospital. My son had a medical emergency. It was crushingly painful to see him physically and emotionally hurting. I spent almost a month on and off this bench while my son endured six surgeries, a battery of procedures, jabs, bloodwork, rehabilitation, etc. The road to recovery will be a long one (the issue is NOT substance-related). I am so grateful to have my toolbox, strong roots in recovery and sober tribe.

I see in movies and media how alcohol is marketed/presented as a stress relief, when in reality it only hinders processing and, in many cases, fuels the fires. I love the joy and enthusiasm a sober life allows me to celebrate. I value peaceful mornings to reflect. When the SH%# hits the fan, the infrastructure of my recovery provides the keystone of my sobriety: the strength to do the heavy lifting life sometimes asks us to do. I follow the Soberful Program of The Five Pillars of Sustainable Sobriety along with my roots in AA, friendship & support in She Recovers, and embrace the wise women of Women for Sobriety. The Five Pillars: Movement, Growth, Balance, Process and Connection exemplify how I could not only sustain sobriety, but make best use of its gifts through this moment in time.

MOVEMENT: I took time early AM and an evening break to walk my dog, nurture my garden, and focus on the forward motion of healing and recovery.

GROWTH: I managed what my anxiety would have projected as unmanageable. The fear I saw in my son’s face between surgeries 3&4 is imprinted in my mind forever. I held his hand, stood strong for him, let the tears flow after he went through the doors, and was surrounded by his team in the OR. The trendy phrase #we can do hard things, proved true. In early sobriety, a common query is “How am I not going to drink if (fill in the tough situation)?” Where alcohol kept me stuck, recovery fosters growth.

BALANCE: “Whatever the question, Balance is the answer,” is a favorite phrase in the Soberful Program. I spent the majority of the past two weeks in the hospital, but I allowed myself to also take breaks and trust the medical staff so I could care for myself and my older son. I slept at home, made sure I brought in healthy food, raided the vending machine as needed, left piles of laundry that will get folded one day, but always made my bed. I took time out to accompany my middle son to The Walk for Autism for him, soul-restoring for me!

PROCESS: Only with acute mental clarity could I understand the terminology and information of a condition, previously utterly unknown to me, the medical professionals shared with me. Instead of my mind spinning on a drink, wrecked by “hangziety,” or overcomplicating, I found my zen spot to practice gratitude, actively listen, and be 100 percent present at my son’s bedside. I am not a vascular surgeon; I could not fix the problem, but I could process all that was going on, help my son understand, and hold his hand solidly as fear gripped both of our hearts. Each night I could hit the pillow sober with a clear understanding of the day and my emotions appropriately expressed. I could wake up, the situation was still there, but I had sleep, process, and stability to step robustly into each new day.

CONNECTION: Thank goodness for modern technology. Covid protocols meant I often had to wait outside the hospital and visitor entry was extremely limited. My sober tribe was with me: ears at the end of a phone line, texts from around the world. I loved “hanging out” in the sober online communities that the pandemic helped strengthen. I felt supported while reading community posts and listening in to meetings on my earbuds. I only had my phone and little privacy to talk but I still felt connected hearing familiar voices, seeing friendly faces, reading messages and stories.

In early sobriety I heard so many times, “Build your toolbox”, “Find your tribe”, “Do the work”. I had a hard time conceptualizing what these phrases meant. Now I understand, value, treasure and use those tools and skills, all carefully crafted and practiced. When the SH%# hits the fan, they are well oiled and ready to go.

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