Social Status Shouldn’t Matter

weare1voice

Okay so this is more of a rant than anything. Food for thought if you will. One of my FB friends sent me a link about Chaka Khan; the famous singer from the 80’s has canceled her concert to go to rehab. With the link, was a message to me that said the following:

Scary-we just lost Prince to an accidental overdose-it would hurt far too much to lose another legend to the same thing. AJ Menendez any thoughts? Am I too much in my feelings? Or am I dead on to care so much about another addict in crisis, even one I will never meet?

I informed her that it’s never wrong to care about someone whether they’ve actually met them or not and I firmly believe that. I also firmly believe that no one is exempt from the deadly disease, regardless of their social status. But it got the wheels in my brain turning and since I work up close and person with a great many suffering from the disease, it kinda ruffled my feathers.

What you ask? The fact that as a society, very seldom do we make a big deal over someone dying of an overdose unless they are in the public eye. A famous person isn’t any less of an alcoholic or an addict just because they are famous and their addictions aren’t any more important than your average “Street drunk or junkie” However comma…I have seen with my own eyes individuals who are serious about getting help get kicked out of rehabs when their money ran out. I’ve seen people go into detox because they’ve reached that point of desperation, and after a few days of detoxing, they are turned back out on the streets because they can’t afford to pay for the residential part of the recovery process.

I’ve seen these every day people treated like they were less than worthy and made to feel like they were the scum of the earth because of their addictions. They are judged by their addictions, and not as the human beings that they are. In the almost 6 years that I’ve been sober, I’ve been to at least one or two funerals a year that are a direct result of this very deadly disease and no one bats an eye. I’ve even had one of my own sponcees hang himself five days before Christmas leaving behind 6 kids because he felt there was no help available to him. He chose to die because he didn’t want to use anymore and couldn’t get the help he needed to stop.

I am well aware that there are a great many individuals who aren’t ready to get clean and sober. That’s the same with ANY human being regardless of where they are in a social status situation. At the same time, there are a great many who DO desire to get and stay clean and sober, who truly want to rebuild their lives without alcohol or drugs that get turned away because they just simply don’t have the money. Their very lives depend on what’s in their bank accounts and to me, that’s sad. I dont’ have all the answers, I wish I did. I also understand that the rehabs can’t run successfully without charging something. I’m not completely blind to the situation. But at the same time, I feel that there are so many who die from this disease because they are flat out unable to get the help that they so desperately want and need.

This is not a disease that can be conquered alone and some need more help than others. They have to be detoxed, they need impatient programs rather than outpatient . They need more monitoring than some and must be under a professionals supervision before they can even begin the long recovery process. Yet they are given a polite, “We’re sorry, we can’t help you at this time” kinda speech and sent on their way. I’ve seen it happen on more than one occasion. THAT’S what hurts my heart the most. Don’t get me wrong, when anyone dies of an overdose (Famous or not) it disturbs me and reminds me of how very deadly this disease is. That goes without saying. But it hurts my heart even more when those who are famous die, it’s global news and when those who would be deemed by society’s standards a regular “street drunk or junkie” don’t get a second thought when they die. People just automatically pass judgment and assume that’s the life they chose for themselves.

In terms of medical care, I feel everyone should be treated equally regardless of social standing or the balance in their bank accounts. Not just with addiction but health care in general. We’re all human beings and deserve to be treated with the same respect and care. This may just be my opinion, but it’s something I feel strongly about. I wish I could find a way to make this change, but I haven’t a clue and until something changes, people are going to continue to die from this very slow and painful disease.

I’m one person who can only do so much. I’ve come to accept that fact, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I can only hope and pray that changes are made, and until they do, I will do my very best to do my part and make the common sufferer know that they ARE worth it and not to give up. I’m an alcoholic and an addict and people loved me even when I couldn’t love myself. The least I can do for the gift of a second chance at life, is to pay it forward and give it to someone who is suffering from the same disease.

Thank you Miranda for ruffling my feathers…..I needed it.

AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist

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Tucked and Untaped

weare1voice

Writing to me has always been a very passionate and therapeutic for me. I’ve been doing it ever since I was old enough to form words on a piece of paper. Which I why I enjoy blogging so much. Especially on topics I’m passionate about. Writing about Living with Addiction is a topic very close to home and I try my best to be as informative as I possibly can in order to help others who may think or actually may be suffering and afraid to seek help. However comma……I think that every now and then it’s important for me to write less as a teacher and more as a person who has the deadly disease that I write about. Sharing my own personal experience, strength and hope. With my mother’s recent passing, my son getting shot and everything else that goes on in the madness that’s known as my life, it’s been an emotional time for me. I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating and soul searching. So here I am, exact;y seven days away from celebrating six years of sobriety “tucked and un-taped” LOL

AJ

I don’t think of myself as an inspiration of any kind, nor do I try to be. Truth is, I’m just like every other alcoholic out there. My disease caused me to be a more than crappy parent, I’d lied, stolen, manipulated and my ego walked in the door five hours before I did. As a matter of fact, I was dam near Narcissistic! There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not extremely grateful that I am not that person anymore. At the same time (this is gonna sound a bit crazy) I’m very grateful for the disease it self. Had I not taken that journey, I would not be taking the one I’m on now. I’m not a miracle either, I’m just another Alcoholic / Addict who made the decision to get sober and join the human race. For every day that I remain sober, I’m sober just for that day. Bottom line is I’m a real alcoholic. I am by no means exempt from a relapse and to be quite honest, I do have another relapse in me. What I don’t have, is another recovery. I can pretty much guarantee if I go back out, I WILL drink myself to death.

I go to meetings, I have a sponsor that I continue to work with even after almost six years and I do my best to use the tools I’d been given to the best of my ability every single day. My sobriety did not give me my life back, I started drinking and using at such an early age and as a result of that, I didn’t really have a life to begin with. Drugs and Alcohol ran my life. It gave me strength, allowed me to be social, it was my comfort when I was upset and angry. It was something I could depend on no matter what the situation. No matter what or who I lost in my life, I always knew it would be there like an old friend. It gave me courage and confidence as well…..or so I convinced myself. My sobriety gave me a real life at the age of 40. The journey hasn’t been peaches and cream for me, but it hasn’t been as difficult as it is for some. I contribute that to the fact that I was without a doubt, READY for the change and I was broken enough to become WILLING to do whatever it took. I didn’t show it back then, but before I got sober, I was by far the most insecure, self-loathing, self-hating person I knew. I spent my whole life wearing masks to show the world what I wanted them to see and the walls I built around myself ran high. I didn’t know how to love (especially myself) I didn’t know how to be honest, I didn’t know who the hell I was because I was always so busy trying to be whomever I portrayed myself to be to the outside world. I was also afraid of everything. I became such a good actor, I deserve an Oscar because very few could see through my crap. And for the very few that did, I’d find a way to get rid of them before they threw me under the bus and called me out.

Anyway, in the time that I’ve been sober, I’m in a much better place. I still don’t know who I am or what my purpose is, but I’m no longer afraid of finding out. Sobriety gave me a great many blessings. Not only not having to live in a bottle, but I’ve learned that I can love myself and give others love as well. I’ve discovered that I have an extremely humble side and am no longer egotistical. I’ve realized that it’s okay to “feel” with out fear. I appreciate the little things in life that most people take for granted these days. I have forgiven myself for the epic mistakes I made in the past as well. But thinking about it, I know I still have much to work on even in my sixth year of sobriety. There’s still a part of me that suffers from debilitating fear of going back to being a disappointment to others. For example; Gage will call me out of the blue, I don’t say “Hello” when I answer the phone, the first words out of my mouth are “Am I in trouble?” or “What’d I do wrong?” We laugh about it, but deep down, I’m dead serious. There are times (once in awhile) when I feel like I still have to prove I’m not that person anymore. In sobriety I’ve discovered I’m human and share the same insecurities that most do. The only difference is, today I have to work thru them instead of throwing on yet another mask.

I have absolutely no problem admitting that having to feel is something I’m not all that comfortable with. I don’t know if I ever will be. Every time I reach for my “off switch” I remind myself that the alternative is going back to my old behavior which is dangerous for those of us who suffer from this disease. I’ve discovered that with sobriety, I’m a total marshmallow that cries at the drop of a hat, blushes at the drop of a hat and is extremely sensitive. No more masks or walls to hide behind. I literally have to play tug of war with myself not to put those walls back up out of fear sometimes. Again, I’m human (apparently LOL) and am a work in progress. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there a little more day by day.

For the most part, Today, I like the person who looks back at me in the mirror and don’t ever want to go back to who I was. If that means that I have to allow myself to fall to pieces or turn to mush on occasion, so be it. I’m not only happy today, I’m content. I have never been both at the same time. In fact, very seldom was I ever truly “happy” in my life. There would be happy times here and there, but looking back, they were few and far between. I know today that no matter how bad a situation is, I can get through it without a bottle. Today I have genuine strength, confidence and courage. When I feel like I don’t, I’m capable of finding it on my own or through the help of others. I’ve got quite a few more years to go in sobriety to be considered an “old timer” but I’m not in any rush. Hopefully I’ll get there one day at a time. Things that I used to swear up and down were important back in the day don’t seem important today at all. My priorities have changed. Hell, today I actually have priorities. I have a conscience and I genuinely care about people without expecting or even wanting anything in return. I am in the “To be continued” phase of my life and I look forward to the journey.

I don’t have everything that I want, but I do have everything that I need, my life is not perfect and there is always room for improvement. But I know without a doubt that every day that I wake up is a day to be grateful for no matter what the day has in store for me. I’m living today. Actually living and no longer existing. “TO BE CONTINUED…..”

AJ Menendez

First you must admit you are broken…

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

Extremely early in my own recovery, while I was still angry and in a whole lot of pain, I heard a little old woman who had been sober for over 40 years share something that blew my mind in a way I didn’t see coming.

She began to share about how life guards are trained. I remember thinking to myself, “What the hell does this have to do with anything???” She began by saying that when they train life guards, they train them not to jump right in to save the drowning person, they have to let them struggle first. I could feel myself getting aggravated and thought to myself, “This is bullshit, pure bullshit, it has nothing to do with drinking at all.” She seemed to talk forever and went on and on about how a drowning person in a panic can pull a lifeguard down with them if they rush in. The guards are trained to wait until the person has to surrenders to their situation before rushing in. By this time, it felt like she was talking forever and a very irritated little me almost shot off at the mouth but then she said something that made complete sense and hit me like a battering ram. She said that’s how recovery works, you have to completely surrender before you will allow someone to come in and help you and unless you do and admit defeat, you’ll just keep drowning yourself in alcohol. Of course then, I felt like hell for cursing the woman out under my breath. With 40 years of sobriety under her belt you’d think I’d realize she actually may have something significant to say. Of course I didn’t.

The more I thought about what she said, the more it festered in my brain. I thought about how many times over the years that most people in my life treated my drinking like the elephant in the room nobody wanted to talk about, but when they did, I would get angry and defensive. Thinking they didn’t know what they were talking about and how I wasn’t hurting any one. Then I thought about the defeat and pain I felt when I saw the video tape of what turned out to be my last drunk. I saw what I turned into when I was drunk and the pain I was causing my wife. I was like Humpty Dumpty when he fell of the wall. I was completely broken and had no amount of denial left in my body. My pain was finally more debilitating than my fears . I finally surrendered to the fact that I had a problem and needed help.

In order for any kind of recovery method to work, you must first admit that it’s YOU that has a problem, your life is out of control and you need help to fight the addiction. I don’t care what your choice of poison is; drugs, pills, booze, the outcome is all the same. If you continue to live in denial or try to convince yourself that you can do this on your own, you’ll always remain a part of the vicious cycle of addiction. You ride that dangerous roller coaster long enough, sooner or later it will derail and end up killing you. In order to get and stay sober, you must be willing to admit that you have a problem and do whatever it takes to work on your sobriety. Willingness is also a major part of recovery. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes in order to maintain your sobriety, then you will end up back where you started. Your sobriety MUST come before everything else, your wife, your husband, your kids, your job etc…..If you do not put your recovery above all that, than you’ll be no good to them when you go back out. The first thing you put before your sobriety will be the last thing you lose.

If you continue to live in denial, the disease will kill you, if you continue to feel sorry for yourself, the disease will kill you, if you continue to think you can do it on your own, the disease will kill you. Those are just pure facts. You MUST first Surrender before any kind of changes are made. Those changes don’t come fast either, you didn’t become an alcoholic over night, you’re not going to put your life back together over night either. Some take a bit longer to get things on track depending on how long you were out there and how much damage you caused. The length of time it takes to repair your life doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing what needs to be done in order to stay on track. What’s your rush? You have the rest of your life.
I haven’t seen that woman since that day but I think about her often. It sounds crazy, but I sometimes think she was put there just to teach me a lesson I needed to learn. Today I carry her words to my own sponcees and all those who are new to the recovery process. Over the years, I’ve seen “me” in other newcomers and I get this smile on my face because I remember feeling that fear and uncertainty. I also remember the first time I opened my eyes and suddenly felt a wave of hope come over me rather than dread. I remember the first time I found myself looking forward to the day. I remember all to well the first time I felt a wave of gratitude for the fact that I finally surrendered.
AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist

 

Fear

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

Fear is what will keep an alcoholic drinking and it’s also what will cause us to relapse. There was a time not so long ago when I was afraid to drink, but terrified not to. I was afraid to face the real world, afraid to face myself and the many demons I had inside me. I had no idea who I really was and I was terrified to find out. I was afraid to allow myself to feel because feeling meant I was weak. Fear made me build huge walls around myself, and fear kept me from tearing them down brick by brink. Fear just about ran my life. On the out side, I appeared to be the most confidant person there was, but on the inside, I was afraid of everything. Alcohol gave me my confidence, it gave me refuge, it gave me peace (or so I thought) In reality, it just kept me running and I’ve learned you can’t run from yourself.

I locked myself away when I was twelve years old and spent the remainder of my life being someone I wanted the world to see. I wore masks my entire life so when I got sober at the age of 40, I’d spent more than half of my life wearing masks and I didn’t know how to live life without them. When I finally did decided to get sober, the thought petrified me, but the pain and desperation I felt was far worse than the fear. It took me some time and learning how to love myself to realize that I allowed those fears to paralyze me and I had no choice but to face them. I still can’t put into words “who” I am, I’m still working on that, but I can say for sure that it doesn’t scare me anymore. I’ve been coming out of my shell ever so slowly. I’ve learned how to love myself and allow others to love me.

I’m still afraid of things, but I have healthy fears today. I’m afraid of relapsing, I KNOW I have another relapse in me, but what I don’t have, is another recovery. If I go back out, I know for a fact I will drink myself to death. I still don’t like to feel emotions, but I’m afraid that if I go back to bottling them up, it won’t be too long before I explode and seek refuge in a bottle. Allowing myself to go back to any of my old behavior can cause that reaction. I am equally terrified of going back to the person that I was back then. I was broken, miserable and felt nothing but self-loathing for myself. I genuinely like the person I’m becoming. I can look in the mirror today and no longer be sickened by the person looking back at me.

It’s normal to be unsure and afraid when thinking about going into recovery. Giving in to that fear will be a down fall though. Think about it, what there to be afraid of? In the mists of our addictions we’ve all been to hell in one way or another. So what exactly is there to be afraid of? There’s a whole world out there waiting for you to conquer, get out there and start living. You don’t have to let your fears of the unknown hold you captive. You are being held prisoner and your fears are what keeps you there. Our fears and our secrets keep us sick. Asking for and seeking help does not mean that you are weak, it means that you are strong enough to know you can’t do this on your own. With every day that you pick up that bottle, you’re playing Russian roulette with your life, what the hell is scarier than that?? No one is exempt from falling victim from this disease. To think otherwise would be a foolish move. Make no mistake, the disease WILL kill you. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but it will happen. If you allow your fears to keep you from getting and staying sober, trust and believe it’ll keep getting worse, never better. You are the only one who can make that decision, no one can make it for you.

AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist

 

If you think you’re cured…

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

 

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen go back out after a significant amount of sober time because they felt they’d been sober long enough that they were “cured” and could handle just one drink. Let me give you some facts about Alcoholism and addiction.

FACT: There is NO cure for the disease of addiction

FACT: Regardless of the amount of sober time you may have, you can NEVER drink or use again

FACT: The disease of addiction is very patient; The longer you stay sober / clean the stronger your disease will get. It’s behind you on steroids & doing push ups just waiting for you to crack that door open again.

FACT: When you drink or use after a significant amount of sober / clean time, you will always go back to where you were when you quit and it ALWAYS gets worse than the time before.

FACT: You can NOT get and STAY sober / clean on your own.

FACT: Getting and staying sober / clean has NOTHING to do with “Willpower”

Those are actual facts. Of course there have been people who have tried to discredit them, but always failed. Some made it back in to recovery, some didn’t. To get and stay sober / clean you first must deal with the physical addiction, and then you must deal with the mental obsession. They go hand in hand. Drinking / using is not our problem, it’s our solution to our problem and unless we deal with our demons head on we can never get our disease under control, We must also be consistent with our recovery in order to STAY sober / clean.

I personally know of two people within my own network that went back out after having over twenty years of sobriety. It all started with that “I been sober long enough, I can handle just one” attitude. Maybe it goes smooth that first night, but it won’t bee too long before that obsession kicks back in and you’re off and running & out of control again. No exceptions. We can not drink like “Normal people” For whatever reason, our bodies do not react the same way to alcohol the way a normal drinkers does. There are many theories as to why some of us are alcoholics / addicts and some aren’t. The truth is, none of us are exempt from this disease and if you have it, you’re stuck with it for life. The ONLY way to get relief from the disease is recovery. That recovery has to be taken seriously and worked on every day, for the rest of your life. FACT: You can NEVER drink again.

AJ MENENDEZ, MASTER MALE ILLUSIONIST

Living Life on Life’s Terms…

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

It’s been awhile since I’ve written, and I sincerely apologize. Life has been all kinds of h ectic. On top of preparing for a big show in Kansas City and all my regular madness as far as classes, sponcees, the radio show etc…I recently lost my mother unexpectedly and had to go back home for another funeral. In the almost six years that I’ve been sober, I’ve been to six funerals. All of which were people close to me. I made it through them without so much as a thought of drinking. That’s true sobriety. Knowing you can get through anything no matter how bad, and you don’t have to pick up.

Even after all this time, it still amazes me how I spent most of my life coping with things that disturbed me with a bottle of whatever and that was my way of life for over twenty-eight years. As hard as old habits are to break, here I am dealing with life on life’s terms and no longer search in the bottom of a bottle for the answers. It amazes me that picking up is no longer my very first thought when the shit hits the fan. Even when life shoves me back into a corner, today I know deep down I’m gonna be okay as long as I don’t pick up. I know I can survive anything life throws at me, as long as I don’t pick up. I know my life will continue to move forward……as long as I don’t pick up. NOT drinking has become just as second nature to me as drinking was. That is the miracle of recovery and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for it.

In the beginning of the recovery process, we are still very much full of anger that we have to be there, we’re doubtful that it will work, and we’re terrified of change. Every thing can feel like a chore. In spite of all that, as long as you remain open minded and willing to go through the process, eventually it stops feeling like a chore and it becomes second nature. There is a sense of freedom that comes with sobriety that is difficult for me to explain in words one can understand unless you’ve been there. I used to listen to people talk about this peace and I can remember thinking in the beginning that they were all full of it. I couldn’t imagine going through life without my liquid assistant to guide me. Today I can’t imagine life with it.

God willing, I’ll be celebrating six years of sobriety in July. For the first three years, I was kinda waiting for the newness to wear off and half expected my old ways would sneak back in and take over. I’m no longer waiting for that proverbial shoe to drop. Today, drinking is not an option for me. My life literally depends on it. Life takes on a whole new meaning (even when it’s not perfect) when you’re living a sober life style. I mean that in a literal sense, life actually has meaning. ANYONE can not only get sober but STAY sober. Trust me when I say it may not be an easy road to travel in the beginning, but it’s more than worth it.

AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist

Gratitude Lists

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

 

Gratitude Lists…..

Every time I get all twisted up inside (and it does happen much more than people may think) I do exactly what I was taught to do…..call my sponsor. Of course after working with him for almost six years, I pretty much know what he’s going to tell me before he opens up his mouth..LOL. Like a child being told to do something they want to do, I huff and puff and bitch about it, but at the end of the day, I know what he’s telling me is right (which makes me huff and puff more…LOL)

I think you need to make a gratitude list.” That’s what he’ll tell me nine out of ten times. For those who don’t know what that is, allow me to explain. As human beings, we have a tendency to get all wrapped up in things we can’t control. Things in our personal lives, things in our jobs, things with family and friends. In spite of the fact that we can’t control them, we lose our train of thought and allow those uncontrollable things to consume us. We forget about the good things in our lives. A gratitude list is a list of things you’re grateful for. The purpose of making one, is when you are all twisted up inside and bitching about things that are going on in your life that you can’t control, you make a list of all the things you’re grateful for. No matter how big or small the things are, you list them. When you look at it, you realize that you have a lot more to be grateful for than you thought. In addition, it gets your mind off the things that you can’t control because you have to sit and think about it.

In the beginning, making such a list was difficult for me. I usually could only think of a handful of things I was grateful for. Over the years, the list has grown and continues to grow. Usually the things that are on the top of my list are:

1. My sobriety, 2. My Wife, 3. My sponsor, 4. My Higher power, 5. My classes, 6. My children / grandchildren……

The list goes on and on. There have been several times over the years that I’ve made one of these lists without my sponsor having to tell me so. It’s become a very healthy habit. When you see all the things you have to be grateful for, you realize the other problems aren’t so devastating.

You don’t have to be an alcoholic / addict to do one of these lists. Anyone who is all twisted up inside and needs a look in a different direction can do it. It’s definitely a way to get your mind off all the negativity and gives you a better in-site on the positive things in your life. It’s been my experience that when you hold on to nothing but negativity, you literally become a negative person on a regular basis. If you can’t see the positive things in your life, how are you supposed to move forward? Constant negative thinking will sink you lower and lower and put you in a very dark place. By making a gratitude list, you SEE with your own eyes what you have to not only be grateful for, but to strive for.

It may seem like a stupid thing to do, believe me, I thought it was in the beginning of my own recovery. I didn’t want to do it for just that reason. But I did it any way because my sponsor told me to. Since that time it has become second nature to me and it really does help.

AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist.

The struggle with Emotional Sobriety.

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

I teach my kids to write when something is bothering them, and I can’t teach it, if I don’t practice what I preach. My blogs for We are 1 voice have always been about the disease in general. How to deal with this, what to do about that, etc…..This entry is a bit more on a personal level although at some point, all those in recovery may find themselves in. There are those who think of me as some kind of inspiration (for whatever reason) but the reality is, I’m just an alcoholic / addict who got sober and there’s nothing particularly special about me. I’m human and struggle with the same things all people who fight with this disease do. Even after almost six years of sobriety, I STILL struggle with things. This particular entry is about something I’m struggling with

There are two kinds of sobriety and although they are very different, you can’t deal with one and not the other. You MUST deal with both in order to achieve true sobriety. What are they? PHYSICAL SOBRIETY; which is when you no longer put the alcohol (or drugs) in your system. You stop drinking (or using) For some, this is somewhat difficult, but it does get easier. For me, physical sobriety was fairly easy. Then there’s EMOTIONAL SOBRIETY; which is (like in my case) learning not only how to “feel” again, but learning how to deal with those feelings without feeling the need to pick up the bottle which is what we do. “We” don’t deal with feelings well, in most cases, we don’t deal with them at all. We use the booze and drugs to mask our pain and we pretend it doesn’t exist which is how we get into the situations we find ourselves in.

Emotional sobriety is what I personally had the hardest time with. I still struggle with it at times (like now) In sobriety, it’s very important to be rigorously honest, especially with ourselves. We can’t do the half truths or the no truths, that’s what we did while we were still “sick” We also created a lot of damage and have to deal with the aftermath by being accountable for our actions and try to fix what we’ve broken if possible. We not only have to learn to feel, we have to deal with our demons and face our past. It’s all pretty overwhelming.

One of the first things you learn when you get sober is that your sobriety MUST come before everyone and everything else. We are taught that being selfish is wrong, and for the most part, it is. However, when it comes to our sobriety, we have to be selfish. The first thing we put before our own sobriety, will be the last thing we lose.

That being said, YES I’m sober, but that doesn’t mean I’m “fixed, cured or perfect” one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn since I got sober is that I can’t build a better past. I didn’t realize the havoc, chaos and pain I’d caused other people until after I got sober. Guilt consumed me in ways that I can’t fully explain. I did in fact work through that guilt and have done my very best to make my amends to those I stomped on. Some amends were easier than others to make. There have been some that I’ve made but somehow, I still felt it wasn’t good enough, I had to keep proving myself and would allow situations to arise and push my own feelings to the curb just to avoid “rocking the boat”. That in turn, would cause me to turn my feelings inward which is not good for me. I know that to be true, but it’s difficult to make my heart see what it doesn’t want to.

Even after almost six years of sobriety, I have moments of weakness. I STILL feel like I’ve got to prove myself. I STILL feel insecure at times, and I STILL have moments of self doubt and not being good enough. I also on occasion, STILL feel unworthy. I’m still taking baby steps and working on myself. I’m a work in progress fore sure. I’m STILL struggling to find my place in this world, and I’m STILL struggling to figure out who “I” am. There’s a lot of emotional business I still have to work through. That emotional business is a bitch for any human being, but it’s (in my opinion) more difficult for an alcoholic (or addict) because we avoid “feeling” for so long and when we get sober, we have no choice but to deal with them and it’s overwhelmingly difficult. I’m slowly starting to realize that in some situations, I’ve done my best and have nothing left to prove. I KNOW I’m not the same person I was by any stretch of the imagination. Not even close. Because of my own senses of self doubt, I tend to push myself even if in the back of my mind I know I don’t have to. I should automaticly know that if my best isn’t good enough, than there’s nothing I can do about it. I didn’t get sober to ignore the feelings I now have to actually feel in order to make another person happy. I should know all that, and I guess I do, but I can’t help but feel the need to try.

Sometimes, in spite of the signs being right in front of us, we still (for whatever reason) feel the need to take the long way around and learn things the hard way before we’re willing to see what we need to see. It’s taken me quite some time to get to this point, but my eyes are opening up wider and wider. I’m starting to see that I can’t allow myself to be in a situation that keeps me feeling on the edge to make others happy because when people such as myself feel they are on the edge, the chances of them falling off are more likely. Maybe that makes me selfish, but at this point, I can’t afford not to be, I’ve worked way to hard to get to this point. I’m also starting to see that, there are some relationships that can never go back to what they once were, and still other relationships that I no longer want to fix. Emotional sobriety SUCKS for those of us (like myself) that have spent decades not feeling and staying shut off from things that could possibly hurt us or deem us “weak” However comma, the reality is we have to if we wish to continue to remain physically sober.

It’s one thing to come to the reality where you know you have to walk away, it’s quite another to actually do it. As I’m realizing this, I can share the conclusion I have finally came to for others who may be going through this same situation. It comes down to what’s more important to you, your sobriety which comes with peace, serenity and happiness, or relationships that emotionally cripples you and can potentially put your emotional sobriety sobriety at risk and in time your physical sobriety? One will hurt for awhile until you work through it, and the other can kill you. I can honestly say that by the Grace of the Powers that be” I’m not contemplating or even close to a relapse. The reason for that is my sobriety has taught me to take a step back when something is bothering me and think about it rather than act on my old impulses that make me wanna just shut it all out and pretend that all is right with the world. Although I am NOT exempt from a relapse, but I can tell you that it’s not gonna happen today, and today is the only thing I need to worry about, tomorrow is another day.

AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist

What it’s like to be a drunk…

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

I don’t have a problem”
“I can stop any time I want to”
“I don’t drink every day.”

I don’t drink the heavy stuff”

I can drink a whole bottle, and still stay sober”

I can stop on my own, I don’t need help”

These are just some of the very few things an alcoholic will tell themselves when confronted with their problem. The list could go on and on because we alcoholics can justify ANYTHING and actually believe it in our own heads. I mean for real! We really DO believe the bold faced lie that’s coming out of our mouth. Living in denial makes it easy for us to continue living in our addiction. When confronted, we get defensive, argumentative and sometimes quite hostile. We lie to everyone around us, but more importantly, the biggest lies we’re telling, are the ones we tell ourselves. We don’t purposely hurt those around us. When we lie, it’s to feed our disease and that’s the ONLY thing we are thinking about.

Addiction is a double whammy. It’s both a physical AND mental disease. First we have to deal with the physical aspects. How it makes us feel physically and how we physically go through withdrawals when we try to get sober. Then it highjacks our brains which is why it’s also a mental disease. Both must be treated in order to get truly Until the times comes when the person suffering with the disease is sick and tired of being sick and tired, they will never get sober. This could be torture for a loved one standing on the outside looking in but as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

When the disease truly has us by the short and curly s, we don’t have the capability of being reasonable, we can’t compromise and we can’t see anything beyond our substance of choice. The disease becomes our strength, our best friends, our lovers and our companions. It tells us what to do, how to act and controls our every move. We’re like puppets and the disease is the one pulling the strings. While we are putting our loved ones through absolute hell, we’re going through our own torture as well. Knowing we are hurting those who love us causes us to feel guilt and shame. In order to cover that up and make the pain of that reality go away, we drink more. It’s just another thing we don’t want to face. As alcoholics, we don’t have any coping skills. Our solution to everything is the bottle.

The disease takes our sense of self worth, self esteem and self respect. We develop a sense of self loathing that can be quite overwhelming. We know what we’re doing is wrong, but we don’t know how to stop. I was asked a time or two, “Why can’t you just stop?” If it were that easy, I’m sure I would have. If you don’t suffer from the disease, it’s not something you can fully understand. Just know that if you have someone in your life that is suffering from the disease, when they tell you they “can’t” stop, know that it’s probably the one time they are actually telling you the truth. Although I didn’t know why I did it at the time, I used to brush my teeth in the shower because I didn’t want to look in the mirror. I had such shame and self hatred within me so deep it consumed me. The bottle made me feel like I was somebody, it didn’t matter who, as long as it wasn’t the me on the inside. I could be in a room full of people at one point, and still feel completely alone.

Like when you’ve been diagnosed with any deadly disease, there’s anger. We’re angry because we have the disease, anger because we can’t drink like other people, anger because we are different. We’re full of anger. Most of the time of course, whether we admit it or not, that anger is towards ourselves. Add that anger with all of the other emotions and you just have fire burning out of control The only way we know how to put it out is to extinguish it with alcohol. Unfortunately, it doesn’t but it’s the only way we know how to get numb and not feel so disgusted with ourselves. If we numb it out, it doesn’t exist.

When the disease has got us in that seemingly helpless phase, we spend every waking moment being afraid to drink, and at the same time, we’re afraid not to. For some of us, the torture gets so bad we pray that God takes us in our sleep, then we’re pissed off when we wake up the next morning. Of course these are all things that we do not let the outside world see. To the outside, all they see is someone who drinks too much. They see the results of a binge and the actions that follow. They don’t see the pain behind it all. We spend days, weeks, months and even years feeling sorry for ourselves and not seeing any way out. It’s not until we feel so incredibly broken that we’ll become desperate enough to make the necessary changes. If you’re wondering what it’s like to be an alcoholic, it’s pure Hell.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for my sobriety. I don’t miss anything about those old days. I don’t miss the person that the booze caused me to be, I don’t miss the black outs’, the hangovers, the feelings of uselessness and hopelessness. I still suffer from the disease and I will for the rest of my life but it no longer controls me. Sobriety is something that you have to work on every single day for the rest of your life. If I allow myself to forget where I was, it won’t be too long that I’ll be back in that place. THAT isn’t an option for me. Today I’m an alcoholic, but I’m no longer a drunk.

AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist.

Every Choice Has a Consequence…

Voice of Recovery from Addiction

It is a HUGE misconception for any alcoholic that’s in recovery to think that once they are living in recovery, they will NEVER think of alcohol again. Same goes for addicts. Here’s the truth, any alcoholic (or addict) who tells you that they never think about it is not being honest. We all think about it from time to time, no matter how long we have been sober (or clean) Here’s the thing, in the beginning of recovery, we still think about it more often than not. As time goes on, we think about it less and less and the thoughts come few and far between. But we DO still think about it. Just thinking about it does not mean we are on the verge of relapse. It’s merely a thought in our head. It’s when we put that thought into action that we’re doomed.

Every time I see a Fireball or Jack Daniels Fire commercial, I admit it, I damn near drool. Then I instantly remind myself of the consequences that will surely follow if I put that thought into action. It’s a matter of looking past the initial thought. Look past how good that will taste on your tongue. Look past how that slow burn as it goes down your throat will feel. Look past the instant warm feeling that just seems to consume you and welcome you back. Think about what will surely follow once you take that first drink. Think about undoing everything you’ve accomplished in recovery such as your sanity, your serenity, the trust you’ve rebuilt and the damage you will cause not only to yourself, but everyone around you as well. Don’t think for a second that after you’ve been sober for awhile, you can go back and drink like a normal person because you can’t.

When you are in recovery, your obsession has been removed after awhile, but because of the way we are wired, we will NEVER be able to drink like a normal person. No matter how much recovery we may have under our belt, all it will take is ONE drink to set us off balance and we’re right back where we used to be. If you’re reading this and you’re an addict, don’t think you can go out there and drink because booze ain’t your thing. Addicts are Alcoholics in training. One mood altering substance WILL lead you back to your drug of choice. Make no mistake, alcohol may be legal, it doesn’t come in a bottle from the pharmacy, it doesn’t come in a little plastic bag and it’s socially acceptable but it IS still a drug.

No one knows exactly why some people become alcoholics (or addicts) and some don’t. We are taught to think of it as an allergy of some sort. Our bodies do not react in the same way to alcohol as those who do not have a problem with it. That’s the best and only way I can explain it. Staying sober is possible, but it’s important to understand that we can never drink again. There is no cure for this disease therefore once it’s out of your system in recovery, You can NEVER drink again. It may seem unbelievable to you but the truth is, just one drink will lead you right back where you left off. That’s the way we are wired. Each time you try it will get worse, never better.

Would I like the freedom to drink like everyone else, sure I would. Can I? Definitely not. I don’t want just “a” drink, I want the bottle. That’s the kind of alcoholic I am. There’s no such thing as just one. Is one drink worth throwing away almost six years of regained trust, new found respect, my marriage, a calm sense of peace and my new found freedom? NO it isn’t. I’ll be the first person to admit that I do have another relapse in me. What I don’t have, is another recovery. One drink will lead me straight to the grave and I have no doubt about that whatsoever.

Of course, we all think we’re different and think we can handle it. If you feel you are one of those individuals, let me know how that works for you. It doesn’t matter what kind of drunk you were. Black out,drinker, binge drinker, excessive drinker…..none of that matters. If you’re an alcoholic, than it’s the same for you as it is for the rest of us.

AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist