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September is National Recovery Month

The month of September is National Recovery Month. Those of us working in the addiction recovery field hope to reduce the stigma, bring awareness and help educate family, friends and neighbors that substance use and mental health treatment services are available in our community. As a person in continuous recovery since December 95, I have the ability and the responsibility to show those afflicted with these serious and sometimes fatal diseases that it is possible to lead a healthy and rewarding life. For me the acronym “FEAR” used to mean (F_ck Everything And Run) but if I stay in the solution, take positive actions and look for the goodness in others it can mean (Face Everything And Recover).

I cannot think my way into right action, I have to act my way into right thinking. On most mornings, the first thought that races through my mind is “Holy sh_t, how can I make it through another day of parenting, working, staying married, taxiing the kids, paying the bills, grocery shopping, dishes, laundry, fixing the car, working out etc, as the list is endless.” If I sit with my initial overwhelming thoughts of doubt, despair and negativity that there isn’t enough time in a day, enough money in the bank or that the future looks as bleak as my disease can make it. Getting through the day seems too much to handle and pulling the covers over my head and quitting seems like the only sensible option.

My disease says you suck, you can’t do it, you’re a loser, you’re a failure, no one cares, you are all alone, you’re not educated enough, why bother, just take one drink, alcohol is the answer, I’ll stop tomorrow, It’s too hard, It’ll take too long, just one last hurrah, ad infinitum… These debilitating and crushing thoughts are all lies but they do have the ability to make me drink if I let them. Drinking was my only solution for many years until I realized that I have to take an immediate action and prove these lies wrong. My first action is to kneel down beside my bed and pray out loud. It’s usually the Serenity Prayer and with some calm breathing I say the mantra, “God IN fear OUT”. I then make my bed and the day is started.

Making my bed is a new thing these days after many years of just throwing the comforter and pillows anyway I could and racing from train to train, event to event and so on. But after recently reading Admiral William H. McRaven’s book “Make Your Bed”, I have a new found appreciation for starting my day on the right tract with this simple task. I highly recommend the book and its life lessons of strength, courage and triumph through the eyes of a Navy SEAL Commander.

These are a few of the various acts I have to complete if I plan on having a good day. Trust me, there are far too many days that I don’t do enough of these, just ask my wife. But on my good days, I read some inspirational & recovery literature early in the morning. I leave 10 minutes early. I try to drive the speed limit and let someone get ahead of me. I make 3-4 phone calls to inspiring, upbeat and the glass is half-full friends and family. I get in a workout and eat healthy meals. I write a daily to do list. I go to an AA meeting and try to help someone with their recovery. I pray for someone that I resent and quickly admit when I am wrong. I hold the door open for someone, smile and say hello to strangers. If I keep doing these simple and easy acts of kindness, my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of my life increases and the desire to drink and harm myself vanishes. When I take my will back and think about I, ME, MY above all else, then my attitude, thoughts and actions deteriorate, my bad attitude and selfishness about everything comes back and my misery goes higher and higher.

The longer I stay sober and in the solution of taking positive actions the better parent, spouse, employee, employer, friend, neighbor and member of society I become. Unfortunately, none of this is possible if I am drinking because I will soon lose all self-respect, motivation and dignity for anyone or anything outside of my next drink. I can only think about the next drink, which has always been my favorite. The past drink was my fuel to get started, the current drink was my medicine and the next drink was my obsession. Fighting alcoholism and addiction is very difficult to do alone. I tried it for many years and was unsuccessful staying away from the first drink until I asked someone for help. Our community is filled with many services, options and avenues to recovery. If you are drinking or drugging too much or know someone that is struggling with alcohol or substance use, please see the websites below for some help.

https://www.nyintergroup.org/meetings/?tsml-day=any&tsml-region=westchester-county

https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/find-an-al-anon-meeting/

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Charlie Della Penna

Charlie has spent the last 30 years on Wall Street as a trader. He has since changed careers and now works as an addiction recovery specialist and interventionist. He is the founder and owner of Always In Recovery, a drug and alcohol mentoring program. He is married with two high school aged children and one middle school child. He lives in Bedford.