Drinkers Wanted; Believers Needed

I drove by a bar the other day that I drive by on a regular basis and they had changed their sign to read, “Drinkers Wanted.” I chuckled a little bit because I would’ve been all over that when I was drinking, and then I got a little sad. I thought about my life then compared to my life now. And, I thought about all the people out there who are still searching for that “Drinkers Wanted” sign above anything else in their life.

Forgive me if this post reads like a stream of consciousness. I haven’t written in a long time, and I feel like the words are coming out faster than I can type them. For ease of reading, I’ll try to condense my topics.

  1. Thank you for all your thoughts, prayers and well wishes for my husband, Tyler, and his recovery from neck surgery. He is healing up nice and this morning got the go ahead from his doc that he can start driving again. I’m happy and he’s happy because it means my duty as wife/taxi driver are over and he gets his freedom back. But, in all honestly, I’m kind of sad. As frustrating as it was at times (hectic mornings out of routine, driving twice as much as I would normally drive and shorter work days for him), I’m going to miss our extra time together and our morning chats after dropping the kids off at school. This was one of those lessons in seeing the positive in the perceived negative (which I could always use more of in my life!).
  2. Life is B-U-S-Y right now (which explains not writing more). I had NO idea what I was getting myself (actually, our family) into when I signed both kids up for t-ball this spring. I’m not kidding when I say that almost every day/night of the week we have either practice or a game. It’s by far the busiest this family has ever been. A couple years ago when I was drinking this kind of busy would’ve sent me over the edge. Actually, back up. When I was drinking I probably would’ve never even signed my kids up for t-ball because it would’ve seriously infringed on my drinking schedule. So, fast forward to today and I’m loving it! Yes, we’re crazy busy and I barely have time to think and I sometimes feel like I’m in the car ALL day, but I’m happy and I know these days won’t last forever. One day, my kids will walk out the door, waving goodbye and I’ll wonder where the time went. So, each day I wake up and brace myself for another crazy busy day and hope for the best.
  3. I’m sponsoring someone for the first time, which has been an amazing experience so far. I write and blog to help others and pass on what I have been so freely given, but it’s completely different (as many of you know) when you’re working with someone face-to-face. I see so much of myself in her when I first began this journey and I just hope and pray I can be an example of what is possible through recovery and working the steps.
  4. Holy Week. I have so many emotions and thoughts running through my head right now. This Saturday night I will be baptized for the first time ever at our church’s Saturday night Easter Vigil. As I’ve written before, this has been a long and personal journey for me. And, it truly is just that, a journey. I am reminded of so many years past, but I’m especially reminded of four years ago on the Easter Vigil. It was my grandpa’s 90th birthday and friends and family from near and far had come to celebrate with him. I started drinking early in the day and never stopped. Eventually, my husband put me in the car and drove me to our hotel (with our kids) where I passed out on the bed. I briefly remember my husband trying to wake me, but I was completely out of it. The next morning I woke up to discover that without knowing who got what, he had assembled the kids’ Easter baskets because I was too drunk to do it. Up until then, my husband was one of the few who knew how bad my drinking had gotten, but after that night it was no longer a secret. It still pains me to think about that night and the shame and guilt I felt the next morning. But, it’s those memories that make my upcoming baptism mean even more to me. I know those moments and incidents are not what defines me. I know that change is possible and forgiveness sets you free. And, what means more to me than almost anything is that my grandpa who just turned 94 has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my recovery.

Today, I am humble and grateful for this messy, beautiful life I have been given. If you’re at the beginning of your journey, know that despite the shame, guilt and desperation you may be feeling now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just give the journey a chance.

Happy Easter, friends – oh, and play ball!

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Back To Basics

Finally, the media is actually presenting some real truth about moms and alcohol! If you haven’t seen Maria Shriver’s segment featured on the Today Show this morning, click here. And, coming from one of the morning shows that basically promotes daily drinking, it meant even more (I’m talking about you Kathie Lee and Hoda!).

Many of us in recovery are familiar with the author Stefanie Wilder-Taylor who was interviewed for the segment. Oh, how I can relate to her story! She pretty much sums it up when she says,“All of a sudden I was like, I don’t have an off switch.” But, as a mom who looked the part, she didn’t feel like she could be an alcoholic.

I talk a lot about my life living sober and what that’s like, but I think once in a while it’s important to go back to the beginning when I finally realized I was an alcoholic and the fear that consumed me then. I’ve been contacted by a number of women in my community who have read my blog and know my story and I’m constantly reminded of the intense fear in admitting you have a problem. Most of these women are like me. They’re moms and wives who on the outside look like they have it all together, but inside they are suffering and questioning their dependence on alcohol.

I cannot begin to express the fear I felt in admitting I was an alcoholic. I was fearful of what others would think, how they would react to the news and how they would respond to me personally. I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol, mainly wine because that was my “thing.” It had become such an ingrained part of my everyday life, that really (as horrible as it sounds now), I couldn’t imagine life without it. Date nights, happy hours, weddings, parties, girls’ night outs, work events, conferences, and yes, even play dates – you name it. The thought of not having a drink at any of these was incomprehensible. I even briefly thought about becoming Mormon because they didn’t drink anyway, right? Yes, these are the thoughts that went through my head.

Most of the women who have contacted me haven’t followed through with getting help. And, believe me, I get it. It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. It takes major desperation, defeat and humility to walk through the doors of treatment or your first recovery meeting. You’re afraid of giving up what has become your comfort, your best friend; you’re afraid of what people will think and say; you’re afraid of who you will see and who will see you. We all have our bottoms; our lowest point when we realize we can no longer go on with the way we’ve been living. As much as I want to tell them how amazing and gratifying sobriety is, they have to truly want it. It’s one of the hardest parts of being sober – seeing yourself in others and knowing what is possible for them as well.

I know there are people who aren’t crazy about me sharing my story. And, I know there are people out there who think, “Just shut up already about your drinking and sobriety.” Or, those who think it’s a personal matter that I should keep to myself. And, to all of those people I say, “Hell, no.” Hell no I won’t shut up. Hell no I won’t shut up because if I can share my story and save one life – just one life – I will have accomplished everything I ever set out to do in sharing my story.

I know we have all seen the “Are You An Alcoholic?” quizzes, but I think it’s important to go back to some of those basic questions. Our society still has this image in their minds of what an alcoholic looks like, but the reality is we are all over the place. Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Do you drink alone?
  • Do you look forward to drinking?
  • Do you drink to relieve boredom or loneliness?
  • Do you drive after drinking?
  • Do you drink to maintain a “buzz”?
  • Do you have memory loss after drinking?
  • Do you drink before leaving the house for an event?
  • Are you uncertain about going to events where there will not be alcohol?
  • Do you drink to feel more relaxed or less anxious?
  • Do you create situations (outings, parties, etc.) so you can drink?
  • Do you become defensive when someone questions you about your drinking?
  • Are you concerned about your drinking?
  • Do you drink while angry, upset, depressed or under stress?
  • Have you switched types of alcohol to prevent becoming too intoxicated?
  • Do you limit the amount of food you eat so you can get a better “buzz?”
  • Have you tried not to drink, but find yourself drinking anyway?

Just because you answer yes to some of these questions doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. However, if you see yourself relating to many of them, there’s a good chance you have a problem. Believe me, I’ve been there. I knew way before I ever admitted it that I had a problem.

I know it’s scary to think about opening yourself up to the possibility that you might have a drinking problem. But, there are SO many people out there who have been where you are and are willing and able to help you take the next step. If nothing else, check out some of the other recovery blogs on my site. Or, read some of the books listed. It’s easy to feel like you’re alone and the only person in your situation, but know that you are not alone. And, of course, I’m always available to answer questions or just talk with. Please feel free to e-mail me at chenoaawoods@gmail.com.

 

 

 

When Nothing Makes Sense

Give Me Faith

I’m sorry if this post seems disorganized and rambling, but I’m feeling a need to purge my thoughts and sometimes they’re not such a tidy, pretty little package (as much as I’d like them to be). It’s like diarrhea of the mind, with thoughts firing back and forth until my head feels like it’s going to explode (sorry for the visual).

My hope is that I can empty it all out and make room for more peaceful, loving and kind thoughts. Thoughts filled with faith and hope, especially during this first Lenten season that I am participating.

What’s on my mind? Grief. The loss of people I love, people who are no longer here; my husband’s upcoming back surgery that puts a desperation and fear into my thoughts that I’ve never experienced before; my own mortality and what that looks like; the recent tragic death of a woman from our church who served on the Pastoral Council with my husband who was shot and killed by her 17-year-old son; the fear when I think about the world that my children are growing up in and the desperation I feel to change it, to do SOMETHING to make it just a little bit better.

My husband called me yesterday afternoon while I was shopping in Portland with my five-year-old son to tell me about, Michelle, the woman who had been killed by her teenage son. Not only did he kill his mother, but he attempted to kill his father who remains in critical condition. As I drove the hour home with my son sitting behind me playing his Leapster, I wondered how such an innocent child could grow up to do something so horrible and inconceivable. Yes, these things happen all the time, but WHY? What happened to that young boy to make him do such a thing? As with so many families and children, everything seemed fine on the outside. Yet, obviously, there was something horribly wrong on the inside.

It’s times like these, I look up and want to scream to God, “Why?!” My husband who just turned 40, who has been the epitome of health his entire life, is having major back surgery in two weeks. I have watched him suffer silently over the past five months, in chronic pain from the shooting pain and numbness that has taken over the right side of his body. A man who has always been afraid to take more than two Advil at a time who is now taking heavy pain meds throughout the day, barely masking the intense pain. My husband who has been a pillar of strength for me throughout our entire marriage who is now the one in need of my strength. His humbleness is beyond anything I could ever hope for myself.

Yes I am worried; yes I am fearful; yes I want to know why. But, I know in my heart of hearts that there’s no answer.

You know, my entire life up until I got sober I was a glass half-empty type person. Ask anyone. I always feared the worse. I always expected the worse. I always admired those glass half-full people. How could they be THAT positive? I know now. I know they had a faith that I never had. A faith that, despite the pain and suffering, it would be okay. It might not turn out how they expected or how they imagined it would, but it would be okay in the end.

I know that family who has just experienced the most horrific tragedy imaginable will continue to suffer greatly. But, I know because of their immense faith in a loving and just God that they will be okay. They will go on and inspire others with their strength and determination.

I know the next two months will be challenging for our family as my husband goes through surgery and recovery. There will be days of immense exhaustion and frustration, but it will be okay. It will be okay because, together, our faith will be stronger than any feelings of desperation and fear that attempt to bring us down.

As I go forward in this Lenten season, I pray that God opens my heart to greater faith, hope, love and kindness.

Let’s all just strive to be kind to each other. I am reminded daily that we never know what someone else is going through. Your words or the way you look at someone could make or break them.

I constantly remind myself of what my sponsor always tells me, “We are all God’s children.”

Peace.

Cake, God and 18 Months Sober

18 Months

I had every intention of writing this post yesterday (which was my 18 month sobriety birthday), but it was a LONG day and after a dinner out with Tyler and a piece of my favorite cake, I was out like a light!

18 months. 18 freakin’ months without a single drink. Wow. In many ways it seems like yesterday and in others it seems like an eternity since I took that last sip of beer at our local Applebee’s. I had already had one relapse and despite the anguish and hurt it had caused me and my family, I still wasn’t ready to surrender. It was a hot summer day in August and I had just picked the kids up from going to the state fair with my in laws. There was tons of traffic and it was getting close to dinner time, so I decided to take a detour and get an early dinner at a nearby Applebee’s. I knew before I stepped in the door, that I was going to have a drink. Just one. No one would know. My kids were still too young to realize what was going on. It’s just a beer. So, as we ordered dinner I quickly looked around me (to see if there was anyone I knew) and ordered a Blue Moon beer. Perfect for a hot day. Our waitress returned with my beer and I looked around again before taking a big gulp.

As I took another sip and looked around, I felt embarrassed and guilty. As I sat there with my 3-year-old little boy and 5-year-old little girl, I suddenly wondered what the hell I was doing. Was it worth it? The shame, guilt and embarrassment? The lies? And, that was it. Right then and there with a beer at an Applebee’s, I decided I was done. It was the most uneventful drinking experience I had ever had, but I knew it was over. That part of my life was over and I was finally – FINALLY – ready to move on.

I drive by that Applebee’s multiple times throughout the week and it always sits there as a reminder of that day and that life-altering decision. That day, without fully knowing it at the time, I turned it all over to God. Without fully knowing or understanding, and without the exact words, I mentally said, “I can’t do this anymore. I need help.” I was tired of fighting; tired of hiding; I was just plain tired. And, I knew that I couldn’t do it by myself anymore. And, in my desperation and exhaustion, I decided the only thing I had left was God. I had been hiding from Him and pushing Him away for so long; I honestly didn’t know if He would still be there. But, He was. He was just waiting; patiently waiting for me to say, “Okay, God. I give up. If you’re so great, show me what you can do with this mess I’ve created.” And, yes, I gave Him a little attitude because, to be honest, I was still skeptical.

As I sit here today, there is no doubt that He was there; listening to that broken, stubborn and frightened woman. He took that mess and turned it into a walking, talking miracle. And, yes, I consider where I am, who I am and what I am a true miracle. I don’t pretend to know who God is, what God is and where God is. But, I know for me He is more real than anything in this entire world. He is the only reason I am who I am today and I will forever praise His name without shame, embarrassment or fear of what others might think. I lived in fear and embarrassment for a long time; afraid of what others thought about me. But, no more. I stand strong and proud of the woman I am today. I have done many things in my life that I’m ashamed of, but those things don’t define me. I am defined by who I choose to be today.

Today, I am so grateful for this journey. I am grateful for that moment in Applebee’s; for my sweet, beautiful children who sit next to me as I write this; for my husband who looks at me now with more love and admiration than ever before; for my family and friends who have loved me and shown me the true meaning of forgiveness and grace; for those who have guided me down the path of sobriety; for the humility I have experienced along the way; and thank God for the Old Fashioned cake at Gerry Frank’s Konditorei for getting me through those first few months of sobriety when all I wanted was chocolate cake!

Today is a good day. A very good day to be alive and sober.

AMAZING Paleo Granola

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A few things before I tell you about this amazing recipe! First, considering that this isn’t a “foodie” blog, I find it funny that my most consistently viewed post continues to be my “Easy Peasy” Chicken Enchilada recipe thanks to Bembu – I’m forever grateful! Second, I LOVE food – all kinds, so I’m thrilled to have an outlet to share that love; and lastly, I regained my love for food and cooking when I got sober, which is truly a gift in my mind. While I don’t focus on writing about food, it’s always on my mind and once in awhile I’ll come across some recipes that I MUST share!

So, this week I’ve decided to change things up and do a little “healthy eating, but still tastes good” themed week of posts. And, on Friday I’ll end the week with a not-so-healthy look at my very favorite treat in honor of a special day. So, just roll with it and hopefully you’ll get something out of it along the way!

Okay, so onward to Paleo Granola. Please, please don’t let the name scare you away! I know the whole “Paleo” thing has been all the rage lately, and to be honest, I was a little skeptical at first. However, a number of family members and friends have had GREAT success with the Paleo lifestyle – and, really, that’s what it is – a lifestyle. While I admire those who can do strictly Paleo, I’m afraid that I enjoy a few non-Paleo items just too much. And, really, I already gave up alcohol, so in many ways I feel like I’ve done my “duty” in the area of giving up things for health-related reasons – at least, that’s the excuse I’m using for now! But, that still doesn’t mean I won’t incorporate some yummy recipes into our daily living.

Recently, we were visiting my husband’s aunt and uncle, who practice a Paleo lifestyle, and his aunt had made this wonderful – seriously-out-of-this-world granola. Disclaimer: I could live off of Greek yogurt, fruit and granola. I’m pretty sure I’ve had every variety of granola out there (hello, my parents were hippies!) and this was the BEST. Turns out it’s Paleo and comes from Stacy at Paleo Parents (oh, and my kids love it!). I prefer mine over plain Greek yogurt with a little honey and fruit, but you can eat it however you like – right out of the container it great too!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 C walnuts, finely chopped or pureed
  • 1 C macadamia nuts, finely chopped or pureed
  • 1 C dried cranberries
  • 1/2 C fresh dates, diced
  • 1/2 C coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  • Combine almonds, coconut flakes, nuts and fruit in a bowl
  • Whisk together oil, honey and cinnamon
  • Pour oil-honey mixture over nuts and fruit and mix, mix well (hands work best)
  • Spread onto a single layer on lightly oiled baking sheet
  • Bake for one hour at 275 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent burning (this is important or it will have a burnt taste to it)

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Does Alcohol Make You Crazier?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have suffered from anxiety, depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) from the time I can remember. For better or worse, it’s part of who I am. I wasn’t always comfortable admitting I had all these “issues,” but, eventually, you just have to accept it and do your best with what God gave you. Over the years, I have learned various ways to “deal” with my mental health issues – mainly counseling, medication and getting sober (that was a big one).

However, that wasn’t always the case. Drinking was the main way I used to cope – with everything. If I was feeling anxious, I would drink; if I was feeling depressed, I would drink; if I was feeling obsessive, I would drink. And, on and on. It was a nasty little cycle I had going on. Of course, I always thought that drinking would make it better; that a few drinks would make it all go away. I would FINALLY feel relaxed! Ha!

The thing is, I never even realized that those drinks could actually be making my mental health issues worse. So, you can imagine my surprise when I came across the new health guide created by treatment center, Yellowbrick, that states the “Ten Mental Health Reasons Not to Drink Alcohol.”

It was like the first time I took one of those “are you an alcoholic?” quizzes. As I read down the list, I mentally made a check note by each one: interrupts normal sleep patterns (check), leads to rebound anxiety (check), contributes to increased impulsivity (check, check), interferes with prescribed medication (is that why my Prozac wasn’t working like it should’ve?).

Yellowbrick

I’m by no means telling “normal” people not to drink alcohol in moderation, but the reality is a huge percentage of our population suffers from anxiety and depression. If those people were more aware of the real effects drinking had on their mental health issues would that change their drinking patterns? Would they think twice about having that second, third or fourth drink? Maybe.

I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and if we arm ourselves with the facts, we might be able to make different decisions in the future. Decisions that could potentially change the future of our health for the better.

This post was sponsored by Yellowbrick.

When the One You Love Is Gone

Grief Process

Yesterday afternoon, in between rain showers, I took a walk around our neighborhood. I walked quickly, knowing that I only had a short time before leaving to pick my son up from school. The fresh air felt good, and I let my thoughts drift as I walked and listened to my music.

I thought about some of the things that had been weighing heavy on my heart and how more than anything I wished I could see and talk to my mom. I wanted to hear her soothing voice, telling me everything was going to be okay. I just wanted her.

As I began to walk the steep part of the road close to our home, I found myself gasping for air. Tears started streaming down my face and as I tried to catch my breath, I began crying harder. A couple of cars drove towards me and I did my best to hold it together, walking as fast as I could to get home. Once home, I collapsed onto our entryway bench and sobbed. I wanted my mom more than anything, but she wasn’t there.

I went into the house, knowing I needed to find something. I needed to see her, hear her – something. In my bedroom, I keep a box filled with letters and cards I have received over the years. I hastily opened it, as if I were looking for some lost treasure. I sorted through the cards and letters, opening them up, looking for her distinctive handwriting. And, finally, I found them. Towards the bottom, I found the card she had sent to me when I was in high school and she was away taking care of my grandpa; the card she had given me when I graduated with my master’s degree; all the cards and letters she had written me over the years. And, they all expressed the same thing – how much she loved me, how proud she was of me and the happiness she wished for me.

And, I felt myself breathe. I felt my body relax because this is what I had been looking for. This is what I had needed from her. She wasn’t physically there to give it to me, but she was there in spirit and memory. Her words spoke what she couldn’t physically say to me. And, I knew everything was going to be okay. I knew I was truly loved. And, I knew that she had loved me more in those short 27 years of my life before she died, than most people experience in a lifetime.

I am so grateful for those years.

I don’t share this because I want you to feel sorry for me. Far from it. I share this because this is what grief looks like. No matter how much time has gone by, it sneaks up on you and punches you in the gut when you’re least expecting it. I share this because this is the type of thing I used to drink over. I didn’t want to feel the pain and sadness and loneliness. I didn’t want to feel anything.

But, now, I don’t have to drink. I don’t have to keep shoving my feelings down, deeper and deeper. Because, the truth is, they never go away. Those feelings are always there. Now, I let myself feel. I cry because I’m sad and pissed off that my mom’s not here.

And, then I find ways to feel close to her. Because, she’s always with me; I just have to open myself up and look for her. And, there she is – just waiting to tell me she loves me.

 

 

 

Drink – A Book Review

A quick note to my fellow recovery bloggers and aspiring writers: if you haven’t yet tried it, I suggest using Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because you never know what us drunks are capable of (kidding!) – and it’s way more fun to read original stuff!

Drink Pic

As many of you know, I love recovery-related books. Before I ever got sober, I was reading books about people who had been there, done that. At the time, I secretly had concerns over my own drinking, but it would be months before I admitted I had a problem. And, then when I finally did get sober, I had this overwhelming need to know that there were other “normal” people like me out there who had gone through the same thing. That was a very lonely time for me and the voices that came through the pages of those books took away some of that loneliness and gave me hope.

Ann Dowsett Johnston’s recent book, “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol” is one of those books that give us hope. But, not only does she give us hope by sharing her own experience with alcoholism and recovery; she gives us knowledge with her in-depth research regarding what has truly become an epidemic in our culture, stating, “We need to have a robust discussion about this issue: How does alcohol play out in your community? In terms of suicides? Kids being abused? Violence? Teens in emergency rooms? Are we having an adult discussion? I don’t think so.”

As I read about Johnston’s own experience with alcoholism, I found myself nodding my head, thinking, “that’s exactly how I felt!” Sometimes it’s hard for me to put into words what my alcoholism was like, but Johnston explains it perfectly when she says,”Suddenly, you realize booze has moved in. He’s in your kitchen. He’s in your bedroom. He’s at your dinner table, taking up two spaces, crowding out your loved ones. Before you know it, he starts waking you up in the middle of the night, booting you in the gut at a quarter to four. You have friends over and he causes a scene. He starts showing you who’s boss. Booze is now calling the shots.”

One of the main differences in Johnston’s book compared to other recovery-related books that I have read is that Johnston takes it a step further and really addresses the core issues related to drinking, women and our culture. She raises key questions, such as “why are we aware of the dangers related to trans fats and tanning beds, and blissfully unaware of the more serious side effects associated with our favorite drug?” And, most importantly in my opinion, she takes aim and questions the motives behind the alcohol industry, media and politics and how they all work together to feed this growing rise of drinking and alcoholism among women. Giving the history behind the alcohol industry to attract more women, she describes the development of “alcopop” or “chick beer,” and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the loads of Zima, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice I used to drink.

Johnston urges us to educate ourselves about the serious risks of drinking and to start having real conversations about it. “When it comes to alcohol, we live in a culture of denial. With alcoholics representing just a tiny fraction of the population, it’s the widespread normalization of heavier consumption that translates to serious trouble.”

I often think about what I’ll tell my kids about drinking. While I would love to tell them to never touch it and avoid it like the plague, I know that’s not realistic. But, I will tell them the risks. I will tell them my story and how easy it is to get caught up in a culture that normalizes drinking. I will tell them they have a history and they need to be very, very careful. I will tell them that no matter what, they never HAVE to drink. And, I will tell them that alcohol changes you. It changes the person God intended you to be.

Johnston’s book inspires me. It inspires me to tell my story and do my part in telling the truth about drinking.

As a side note, I was not paid for this review – I simply liked the book. However, this post was sponsored by Grammarly.

People Are Finally Talking

Keep Living

Ever since the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the media has been saturated with stories and articles about the rise of heroin use and addiction. For better or worse, it takes someone of means and notoriety to get people talking about something that has been going on for awhile now. Being part of the recovery community, it’s something I see day in and day out. It’s nothing new and whether people want to believe it or not, it’s everywhere. It’s not just the junkie in the abandoned house that’s shooting up anymore – it’s the rich kid down the street, the housewife with the Range Rover and the businessman at the local coffee shop. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself.

Ever since federal and state regulations made it harder for people to get their hands on prescription drugs, people have been turning to heroin because it has the same effect (it’s an opiate), it’s easy to get and it’s affordable.

Like all addiction, heroin addiction is an epidemic. And, just when you think it can’t touch you, it does.

Seeing the recent news on Justin Beiber’s run-ins with the law and substance abuse issues, it makes me wonder what’s next for him. Realistically, it’s only a matter of time before he goes from alcohol, pot and pills to harder stuff – if he already isn’t there. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but the likelihood of it happening is pretty high considering the circumstances.

The thing is, our society does a really good job talking about addiction and substance abuse issues, yet we fail to talk about the solutions and treatment options. The media loves to report on the latest statistics, celebrity run-ins and even death, but how often do they follow that up with ways people can get help? They don’t, which is why when I was asked to promote Advanced Health and Education, an addiction treatment center in New Jersey, I didn’t hesitate.

As a premier New Jersey drug and alcohol treatment center, Advanced Health and Education “provides comprehensive and effective counseling services to adults and adolescents who are experiencing addiction to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or prescription drugs.” Rehab and treatment has almost become a joke among many, who view it as a luxury getaway, when in fact it saves lives.

Treatment centers like Advanced Health and Education not only offer people a reprieve from alcohol and drug addiction; they address emotional issues and teach people the skills to lead a fulfilling life without the crutch of alcohol and drugs. The only way we can stop the cycle is if we address the underlying issues that drive our addictions. Treatment centers can help do this and get us on the road to recovery.

Unfortunately, many people rule out treatment and rehab programs because of the cost, however, many insurance companies cover alcohol and drug treatment in their plans. Also, many treatment centers, like Advanced Health and Education, offer scholarships and financial aid. Look at it this way: think about the time and money you currently spend or spent on getting and using drugs and alcohol. I guarantee treatment is less and you’ll actually get something positive out of it.

As Hoffman’s good friend and fellow recovering addict, Aaron Sorkin notes when talking about Hoffman’s death: “He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict.”

It was reported that Hoffman spent 10 days in rehab after relapsing on drugs after over 20 years sober. A typical rehab and treatment program lasts 30-60 days. Would Hoffman have lived if he would’ve stayed longer? I don’t know, but maybe.

Addiction is nothing to take lightly. If you or someone you know needs help, find a treatment center and go – it could be a matter of life or death.

Betty Draper Gets Sober – A Mad Men Party

Mad Men Party

Disclaimer: For the most part, I write about my recovery from alcoholism. But, I also write about my life in general. Things I’m passionate about, DIY projects, book reviews – and even parties. When I first got sober, I never thought I’d be able to go to another drinking party again, let alone host one. And, at first I didn’t. I was very careful about where I went and the situations I put myself in. As I’ve gotten further along in my sobriety, I’ve come to know what I can do and what I can’t do. What I feel comfortable with and what I don’t. Wine was my thing, so I stay away from wineries, wine tasting, sip and shop events and parties where wine is the main event. Although my husband still drinks around me, he chooses not to drink wine at home – I think mostly out of respect for me. I don’t keep wine in our house and, honestly, I don’t sit too close to someone who’s drinking wine. The smell still gets to me. With that being said, I don’t have a problem being around people who are drinking – socially and responsibly. It’s different for each person in recovery. Some people can’t be around drinking at all, or choose not to have drinking in their home. The key is finding what works for you without fear or embarrassment of what others will think. It’s not their life.

Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t hosted a “real” party since getting sober. But, with my husband turning the big 4-0, I figured it was time! We absolutely love the show “Mad Men” and had been talking about having a “Mad Men” theme party for awhile and what better excuse than a 40th birthday?!

So, with the decision made I put on my party planning hat and got busy! We kept it small, wanting to capture that quintessential cocktail party atmosphere. I created simple invites with silver cardstock and a velum overlay tied together with a red ribbon (I forgot to take a pic). On the invite, I requested that everyone “dress the part.”

With a little help from Google, I found some great ideas for décor and favors. For those who aren’t familiar, “Mad Men” takes place in the early 60’s, so I thought it would be fun to create favors using 60’s candy. I found a great online store called Old Time Candy where I was able to order a “decade box” of 60’s-style candy – how cool is that?!

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And, candy cigarettes because no “Mad Men” party would be complete without some smokes.

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For the favors, I used some simple red bags, some tags, a thank you stamp and a little ribbon (all things I already had) and divided the candy into ten individual bags. I think they turned out pretty cute!

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To set the stage for the party, I scoured our local Good Will for crystal ashtrays, serving platters and bowls. I wanted to find a classic rotary dial phone, but to my surprise they were out – they’re “retro” now which means they’re cool (which also means I’m getting old!). On the day of, I set the ashtrays around the house with a box of candy cigarettes nearby and a classic book of matches. Of course, my kids (5 and 7) were very confused by all the “smokers” in the house.

My husband was in charge of the bar area – which I was happy to delegate to him. Fortunately, we already had some pretty cool vintage cocktail shakers and barware. He stocked the bar with a number of items, so guests would have a variety to choose from. And, of course, we had some cocktail books on hand in case anyone wanted Don Draper’s favorite – the Old Fashioned.

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And, it wouldn’t be a “Mad Men” party without classic Coke in the bottle and Heineken (the featured beer on the show).

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And, for the martini drinkers, I brought out my grandparent’s olive green martini glasses. If those glasses could talk, oh the stories they would tell!

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Now, for the food! When I think 60’s cocktail party, I think cheese balls and pigs-n-blankets. You know, the really good stuff. Luckily, our local grocery store and Costco had all the fixings for a true 60’s spread! I also included sweet-n-sour meatballs, a cracker, cheese and salami tray, veggies with classic ranch dressing, artichoke dip, mini egg rolls and a dessert tray with a variety of bite-size brownies and cookies. Ta Da!

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Our guests came dressed to impress!

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Cheers to great friends and fun times!

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And, I’m happy to report this Betty Draper is still sober and loving it!

Oh, and just for kicks – because sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.

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Thanks for stopping by!

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