Sticking With My Routine
Sticking With My Routine
Today I try to stick with my routine. I’ve found that sticking with my routine keeps the negative voice in my head at bay. It also keeps the thought of “I don’t feel like doing ___” at bay. The routine I have today has taken time to develop, and it has changed over time, but it is one of the many tools in my toolbox I use today.
Back in the day, before I became an alcoholic, I had a routine. An obsessive-compulsive routine yes, but a routine nonetheless. I made sure my clothes were folded and put away. I make sure my dishes were washed. I took pride in keeping a neat and orderly house.
Towards the end of my drinking career that obsessiveness deteriorated. Suddenly I didn’t care if there were dirty clothes on the floor. I never made my bed. Dishes in the sink, if I had the appetite to eat anything, would sit for days. All I cared about was drinking and oblivion.
When I finally got sober, I started to take my responsibilities more seriously. I had a new chance at life, a do-over if you will, and I didn’t want to waste it. I started a daily routine again. I started caring if my dishes were done or not. I started to care more about putting my dirty and clean clothes away. I started to care about making my bed in the morning. I started caring again about a lot of things, my sobriety included.
As I put more time together, and met new people, I got busier. But I still cared about how I was living. I started to notice that, when my living area wasn’t cleaned up, I couldn’t focus. I would get irritable, scatterbrained, and I couldn’t do anything until I cleaned up.
Meetings were also top priority. I made sure I had a steady routine of going to meetings every day, doing service work, and connecting with people. I noticed that I always felt better when I did those three things. When I didn’t, I started to feel like crap, and the thought of a drink got stronger.
As time went on, days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. And months turned into a year. At that time I had been in the Steps for long enough that I knew what to do when I was feeling funky. I had a good routine down with my meetings, housework, and work. Life became easier to live. I wasn’t struggling through each day, thinking about drinking, and praying to make it till my meeting.
I was going to 8 to 10 meetings a week, and was very involved in the Fellowship. But over time I got burnt out. Between work, meetings, and service work, I had too much on my plate. I didn’t have time to keep up with housework, and I was starting to feel the effects. So, I made the decision to cut back.
I pulled back from the late night meetings. I pulled back on the service work. And, I started spending more time at home.
At first it was good. I started to feel more relaxed. Not quite so scatterbrained. I had time to keep up on my housework. All in all, my life became more manageable.
The only downside to this new routine was, it became easier and easier to say “I’m tired. I don’t feel like going to my meeting tonight”. Or, “I don’t feel like doing my dishes tonight”. It was easier to make up some excuse as to why I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do something.
I didn’t feel the effects at first. I could usually catch myself when I got into the “I don’t feel like it” mindset. I would talk myself into going to a meeting, even though I was dead tired. Someone might need me. Someone might need to hear what I say. And, as much as I hated to admit it, I really needed people around.
Over time, those excuses became easier and easier to make.
A few months ago, my sponsor took a vacation, and was gone for a week. I don’t like to say I go to meetings just to see him and catch up, but it is part of the reason I go. So, when he took his week-long vacation, I decided I needed a vacation too. I was feeling very burnt out, between going to meetings and work, and felt like I needed to spend some time at home.
The first few days were great. I got caught up on housework, and my never ending to-do list. I snuggled with my kitties. And otherwise just vegged. But after those initial couple of days, that little voice in my head started to say “You don’t need people in your life. You don’t need to be THAT busy. Stay home and rest because you deserve it”.
When that little voice starts to talk, and I’m at home alone, it can be very convincing. It starts out small, saying I don’t need to go to meetings. Then it says I don’t need to make my bed, or do my dishes. Then it starts to tell me that work is pointless, and I should find something better. Over time, if I let it go on long enough, it starts to tell me I’m not an alcoholic. It starts to put a wedge between me and other people. It says “You don’t need those meetings because no one ever says anything new. They just say the same thing over and over”.
And it gets more and more insidious over time. “You know, no one likes you at that meeting. They all talk behind your back when you’re not there. Don’t go where you’re not welcome.” That voice starts when I’m at my lowest. When I’ve spend just enough time away from meetings and other people.
When I’m in that mindset, when that awful voice starts to take over, a drink usually comes to mind. When my self-esteem is just low enough that I can’t fight back. I can’t fight off that voice that says “One drink won’t hurt you. You know it will make you feel better”.
Thankfully I am surrounded by the grace of my Higher Power in those moments. For reasons I can’t explain, that voice of reason overrides that mean voice. It tells me not to listen to that voice. It tells me to get my ass to a meeting ASAP. It tells me to text my sponsor because I can’t do this alone.
Today I’ve learned just how important having a routine is for my sobriety. I have regular meetings that I attend during the week, usually 4 or 5. I have at least one committed service position that motivates me to go to that meeting, even when I don’t want to. I meet up with my sponsor at a meeting at least once a week, and update him on what’s been happening in my life.
At home I try to do my dishes on a regular basis. Sometimes that doesn’t happen though. I really hate doing dishes. But, I don’t let the “I don’t feel like doing the dishes” mindset take over. I make my bed almost every morning. And I try to start my morning off every day with readings from my daily readings books.
I also try my best to keep that little voice in my head at bay. It doesn’t chime in very often anymore, but every once in a while it creeps in and trips me up. I’ve learned the hard way that if I let the “I don’t feel like doing _____” mindset take over, I am that much closer to a drink. And for me, to drink is to die.
Originally published November 2, 2016 – medium.com