1. Find a Higher Power That YOU Can Do Business With (Replace Fear with Faith): We truly believe building a relationship with a Higher Power is the foundation that a sober and happy life is laid upon. Frankly, living without a Higher Power is just way to stressful. In our experience, living a spiritual life of faith in a Higher Power - whatever you choose yours to be - is far better than living in fear alone. Additionally, we do not confuse organized religion with spirituality or try to figure out where and if they overlap - that is for you to decide. While we stress some form of spirituality as the most important aspect of sobriety and life - we are not experts on God, the Universe, etc. We only know what has worked for us while traveling the road of recovery. We suggest checking out a twelve-step program meeting that you identify with (i.e. AA, NA, etc.) to explore the idea of spirituality more - even if you don't plan to stick around for more than a meeting or fully identify as an addict or alcoholic. That is where we started on our spiritual journeys and are eternally grateful we did. Regardless of our "form of alcohol", we attend AA meetings. If you are interested in checking one out, click on our Resources & Help page for a link to all of the wonderful AA meetings available to attend in North County. Additionally, check out our NOCO Sober Weekly Schedule for some of the North County meetings we love and attend every week (or just chop it up with us about spirituality at one of our events!). In a nutshell, we believe spirituality is the most important part of life (inclusive of maintaining our sobriety) and there's no way to do it wrong as long as you believe or are trying to believe in something greater than just yourself.
2. Talk to Your Higher Power (or as some people call it, Pray): Congrats - you found a Higher Power you can do business with (whatever it, he, she or all of the above may be) and you're on your spiritual way. Now what? Well that is really up to you. With that said, we're happy to share what has worked for us. First off, we rely heavily on our Program and sober community for spiritual guidance and advice. Our experience has been it is best to check in and talk to our Higher Power each day - especially when we're stressed, in our own head, future tripping and/or fearful of something or someone. We bake it into our morning routine so it becomes muscle memory. And then check back in on an as needed basis throughout the day. And then once more at night before hitting the sack for good measure. Our baseline chit chat with our Higher Power in the morning looks something like, "[God / Higher Power / Universe], please help me stay sober, safe and sane today" and may expand from there. Our nightly chat looks something like, "[God / Higher Power / Universe], thank you for keeping me sober, safe and sane today" and may expand from there. We can't emphasize this enough - this is not the right way to do it, this is simply an example of how we do it. And the reason we do it is it makes our lives' better, more manageable and more enjoyable. How does it work? Literally no clue - it just kind of works. We can't explain it - but we can feel it.
We would be remise not to share one story (perhaps one might even go as far as to call it an empirical case study) that resonated with us in early sobriety and inspired us to engage our Higher Power each morning. A group of 12 sober people sat around a dinner table with approximately 500 combined years of consecutive sober time ("old timers"). The topic of conversation turned to trying to figure out if there was a single common attribute or action each of the people at the table had or had taken that helped them remain sober for so long. Was it hitting a certain amount of meetings? Was it being married or divorced? Was it having a dog or a cat? After much discussion - the only common action they could find that everyone took around the table was that each person got down on their knees and prayed to their Higher Power each morning. That was all we "kneeded" to hear to start praying ;)
3. Get Grateful (Daily Gratefuls / Gratitude Lists): Feeling like life's not fair and everything sucks? Catastrophizing and envisioning the world ending? Join the club! We all check into the Pity Party Hotel for a visit now and then for a get away from reality (and sometimes, but less than often, justifiably so). Good news - the world's not ending (at least not today) and we have a lot to be grateful for. First off, you're reading this right now which means you're on the right side of the dirt - so you got that going for you. Seriously, while you're reading this right now, someone else is nodding out for the last time on Fentanyl - our day isn't that bad. On the whole, a sober life is something to be really grateful for. Sober problems are good problems that we live through and overcome with our community. Being grateful for what we have every day is the great equalizer. Daily gratefuls shift our perspective from focusing on the negative minutia to re-focusing on what is positive, real and substantive in our lives. Gratitude levels the playing field and cuts through the noise of our perceived problematic life to remembering the positives in our family, friends, home, community, meals, activities, environment, dogs/cats/pets, etc.
We may have problems and emotions that we are aware of and feel today now that we are sober, but we also get to enjoy the good parts of life that we were shut off from or numb to while using. In our experience, thinking, saying or writing two to ten people, places or things we are grateful for every day has greatly improved our outlook on life. Gratitude brings optimism and hope to the lens through which we view our daily life. An example of a gratitude list we may say in the morning is as simple as: "I'm grateful for my amazing dog that has never said a bad thing about me in his life, honest relationships with my family whom are now back in my life, the amazing, sunny weather in North County, breakfast burritos with bacon and not being hungover. Thank you God!". A simple gratitude list can change our mood and make us feel better about and more connected to the world we live in.
4. Get Present with a Mantra, Mantra, Mantra (The Opposite of Presence is Pain): Okay - so the first three ideas on this list everyone tells you to do. They're important - we are not discounting them - we do them. But now let's get a little wacky, silly and into a little NOCO Sober secret sauce. Bear with us and keep an open-mind here - we promise this little tidbit is a game changer. We believe the opposite of presence is pain. Meaning there is not much good that comes from future tripping or past tripping issues, events or encounters that are beyond our control today. The present moment is where its at - literally. So how do we get present when life gets hectic and our mind is drifting in twenty different directions - easier said than done, eh? Well, we don't always have a yoga mat to roll out and take an hour meditation. Enter our mantra! The Oxford Dictionary defines a mantra as "a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation." We call it a mini-meditation. By repeating a phrase in your head (or even out loud) it's almost as if you are tricking your brain into getting present because it's very hard to worry or think about other things when you are repeating something in your mind. Here are our some of our mantras: "I am here, I am now.", "I am worthy." and "This too shall pass." Our personal favorite is "I love myself, I love you God, thank you God!" which we say at least three times every time we see the ocean when we're driving or whenever we know we're being moody. It's sounds ridiculous to say - like something out of Barney - but it always picks up our mood and brings us back to sanity. Pick your own or pick a few. Make up your own or Google a good one. Make it silly or serious. Repeating anything that works for you will quite and return your mind to you. It will bring you back to the present moment of just being where you are - and that is exactly where you are supposed to be.
5. Don't Trip – Meditate: Don't get tripped up on being "good or bad" at meditating and, more commonly, "doing it right." We don't believe there is a right way, right frequency, right place or right length of time to meditate. We have simply found that incorporating some type of meditation into our lives has provided significant stress relief and enhanced our spiritual lives. There is a zillion fantastic resources on different ways to meditate. Some apps that we love that can help you explore meditating are Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer. Meditation comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, some less obvious ways that we meditate are during Shavasana at the end of a Hot Yoga session at Yoga Tropics, during a Wim Hof breath work session at Breathe Degrees, a dawn patrol or sunset surf paddle out or even during an AA Meeting (at the Friday Night Meditation Meeting in Encinitas). Find what works for you and zen out!
6. Mother Nature – Love Her! (And She'll Love You Back!): I don't know about you but we didn't spend too much time enjoying the outside world in active addiction - much less noticing how unbelievably-freaking-spectacularly-beautiful North County is. Very few places on God's green earth can compete with North County, CA. From the brilliant sunrises and sunsets, the picture perfect beaches, the lush foliage, the rolling mountains to the larger than life moon and night sky. North County is AWE-some. We just forget that now and again because we have it everyday - we're a wee bit spoiled. But let's try to remember and be grateful for the extraordinary show Mother Nature puts on for us everyday. Sit with Her, flow with Her, love Her. Use all five of your senses to engage Her. She will love you back and with Her you will never be alone. For us, recognizing and thanking Mother Nature each day has helped us to be a bit more in tune, at peace and in acceptance of our place within the Universe.
7. Music – Are You Listening? A quick self sanity check-in we love is, "When is the last time I rocked out or just totally vibed with a song?" If nothing comes to mind in the last 48 hours - we are usually off. And by "off" we mean stressed out, not present and spiritually sick. We're going to take a non-scientific leap here - happy people listen to happy music and happy music creates happy people. It's virtuous. What's happy music? Whatever you dig and get lost in. Whether it pumps you up, chills you out, causes you to sing out loud in the shower, makes you dance through the streets, gets you present - whatever - you'll know though. Sure you have a music app like Spotify - but are you using it? Whether it's taking a walk down memory lane with a throwback playlist or creating a new one - love your music and listen to it. We're listening - and probably dancing in our seats.
8. Express Yourself (Journal, Blog, Draw, Play Music, Take Photos...): Whether you're a little creative or a lot of creative - you're creative. Like us, you probably have emotions and therefore have something to express. The reality is we're going to end up expressing ourselves one way or another - whether we bottle it up and reactively/unexpectedly explode in an unhealthy way or proactively find a happy/healthy outlet to create something (potentially beautiful). Our personal favorite is painting sea shells. We don't actually do it [yet] - but we dig that people do. Objectively, we write as one of our creative outlets. Paradoxically, we don't consider ourselves writers. For pleasure, some of us jam out on the guitar and some of us paint (bizarrely well - looking at you Izzy). Sure we absolutely love to get active too (and have a whole page dedicated to Fitness & Active) - but we can't be moving 24/7 and having multiple outlets keeps us balanced and healthy. Whether you're Lady Gaga, Banksy, a pasta necklace aficionado, or a bedside chicken scratch journalist - rock it. To quote N.W.A., "Express Yourself!".
9. Breathe Like Your Life Depends on It: Let's start with the basics that you've probably heard a million times - when you are stressed or overwhelmed - take a deep breath. Then, take another. Repeat as needed. Okay, breathing 101 complete. Now, let's ramp it up a notch - actual breath work. Admittedly, when someone recommended breath work in early sobriety we tried it purely as a contrary action. Breath work, really? Holy contempt prior to investigation batman! With tears rolling down our face, we walked out of our first breath work class enlightened to the power of breathing. Trees were greener, the air crisper, our senses heightened. We can't explain it - but we were rocketed into some kind of other dimension. Don't sleep on breath work - its powerful stuff. If you want to check it out, we love Breathe Degrees in Carlsbad with our friend we shall pseudonymously call Allin. With that said, you don't need to take a class to learn breathwork. There are plenty of great apps and YouTube videos on Wim Hof breathing. Breathe, it's going to be okay.
10. Smile and Be Silly 😊: Lastly and most importantly - smile and be silly. To quote the great academic Van Wilder, “Don't take life too seriously, you'll never get out alive.”