Women for Sobriety, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women overcome Substance Use Disorders. Founded in 1975, it was the first national self-help recovery program for women. The WFS New Life Program helps women achieve sobriety and sustain ongoing recovery. This blog is being preserved as an archive, as new posts are now being made on our main website, womenforsobriety.org.
Before sobriety and New Life, attempts at
solving problems involved running away, denial and oftentimes, breaking down in
tears.I felt so inept at solving
problems that a mere inkling of a problem brought intense anxiety which I tried
to soothe with alcohol.Of course, this
never worked; the problem was still there plus now additionally, the hangover.
In our Program
booklet, our founder, Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., writes, “Learning that I
didn’t have to react to everything with upsetting emotions was an important
part of my recovery.”Discovering middle
ground emotions assist in developing problem solving skills which can reduce
overwhelming emotions.Overtime, these
new skill sets can lead to increased feelings of balance.
Sobriety and recovery encourage problem
solving.No matter where you are on this
4C journey, a brief reflection on the first month of sobriety brings
problem-solving to light.Challenging
thoughts about drinking or using while embracing new tools and skills is
Statement #4 in action.From this New
Life beginning, the satisfaction of remaining sober is born and can fuel decision
making.This change in direction opens
up endless possibilities.
Hi 4C Women,
Over the years, I have started using the
word “concern” as it always makes me feel that I am in a problem-solving mode
rather than just worrying about anything and everything.Statement #4 has helped me understand that
worrying solves nothing although it can be the catalyst for awareness of a real
issue that needs problem-solving/decision-making or wasting valuable time for
something I have no control over.I once
read a definition by Dr. Edward Hallowell who wrote Worry: Hope and Help for
a Common Condition. I haven’t read
the book but his definition stuck with me.“Worry is nature’s alarm system.It’s
sort of like blood pressure.You need
some level to be alive and healthy.It’s
when the alarm goes off for no reason or the level stays too high for too long –
that’s what Dr. Hallowell calls “toxic worry” - that problems arise.When asked how do we know when our worrying
has crossed the line, the answer was to look closely at the sources of our
worry when it holds us back from doing what we want, from making decisions or
living as fully as we’d like.I believe
those are great guidelines to help us recognize the difference between worrying
worry alone:Making contact with
another person and sharing your concerns is often the best way to combat
the facts: A lot of times, worry
is based on lack of information or misinformation.Simply gathering data can help you develop a
plan of action or even decide you don’t need to worry after all.(I suggest also contacting a human being, not
just the internet, with the knowledge you need.-Dee)
a plan of action:By making a plan, you
assume control of the situation.“Worry
loves a passive victim.”The more you
put yourself in control and reduce your vulnerability, the less you’ll feel
checklist is a tool to help us understand the word power of “worry” and “concern”
and how it can help us move in the direction of problem-solving.It is from Ascent Advising website.
the differences between worry and concern, consider these distinctions:
Thirty years ago, when I first discovered
WFS, each one of the 13 Statements of Acceptance for a New Life dramatically
changed my life and Statement #4 was definitely a huge motivator in relieving
me of my “Queen of Worry” crown.What a
relief.I hope you will consider the
suggestions and definitions above and learn how to change worry into concern
and how to begin making an action plan with the input of those you trust!
in not permitting problems to overwhelm us,
or other substances of abuse can appear to bring happiness momentarily, but
underneath a desire to escape or run away, feelings of emotional pain can
linger and increase.As sobriety and recovery flourishes,
Statement #3 encourages the creation of genuine and concrete happiness, turning
this action into a habit, and into a healthy new skill.
Here are 4 ways which can aid in creating happiness:
your day with intention:As Jean Kirkpatrick encourages
in our Program
booklet on page 3, take a few minutes each morning to reflect and read the
Statements.This can also be a good time
to set an intention: focus on being
patient with family or friends or prioritizing your day or tasks.
2.Be physical:Walk, run,
stretch, dance, exercise.Give a hug, get a hug!Moving the body releases endorphins, which
trigger positive feelings.
3.Mindfulness:Focus on where
your mind goes in certain situations.Need
inspiration?Watch inspiring videos, get
creative and get connected!
4.Close your day with gratitude:Have you
considered how your eyes, ears, family, pets, home or sobriety make a
difference in your life?Ruminate on
gratitude and it quickly becomes a healthy habit.
What are some ways or examples that you are making happiness a
habit in your life?
Hi 4C Women,
a habit takes practice.I have been
practicing developing happiness for a very long time and in looking over the
many books, messages and inspirational quotes I have in my possession, I
realized I have developed a strong foundation of happiness, joy and peace.I have especially needed and utilized this
foundation the past couple of years because I have also experienced deep
sadness, frustration and a bit of resentment.Here’s the good news - I am no longer the woman who clung to and lived
in constant negativity without any hope of a situation, my attitude or response
changing.Everything changes!Life is not static, it is evolving just as we
are with the tools and guidance of the WFS program.
found a tear out sheet from a very old Oprah Winfrey magazine about joy and
happiness.Here are the questions and
exercises to do:
·What gives you the greatest joy - and when was the last time you
felt that joy?Starting now, how can you
incorporate what pleases you most into your daily life?
·Each day for a week, make a list of the things that bring you
delight.At the end of the week, hang
the list on a mirror to remind you of all that’s positive in your life.
·How much joy you experience is connected to how open you are to
receiving it.Do you believe you are
worthy of it?How might the way you see
yourself be robbing you of happiness?
·Who in your life brings you the most contentment?Are you depending more on your spouse,
friends, family to bring you satisfaction than you are on yourself?
That last question fits right into Statement #3.Please note that it says who in your life
brings you the most contentment.It does
not say that others cannot do that as it is followed by asking if you are more
dependent on others to do so.That is
the key question.We all are
interdependent.People in our lives
bring different things to us - laughter, love, adventure, listening, helping,
quiet assurance, compassion, joy and so many other emotional needs.They are there to support, encourage and even
bring balance when we are struggling in figuring things out.
important part of Statement #3 and the posed questions is that we need to be
part of creating the path to joy, happiness and contentment.We are not alone yet we cannot expect others
to completely fill that void in our lives.It is unfair to them and to ourselves.It robs us of our ability to be creative, to uncover and discover our
needs and how to meet them.I hope you
will take the time to consider the questions and do the exercise of writing the
“delightful” list along with Karen’s fantastic suggestions.
Life before sobriety and recovery was
focused on arguing.Quick to choose sides,
arguments erupted easily and with the addition of alcohol, emotions escalated
into all out wars.Even when alone, it
was easy to engage both sides, continuing fights or disagreements in my mind,
acting almost as if the amount of time spent fighting would mean winning. (Which it never did!) This was an especially painful way to live;
emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Statement #2 in action, paired with
sobriety can de-escalate or even prevent arguments from taking place.Understanding emotions and reactions can set
the tone to reduce negativity.While
this is a continuing process, a reduction in negativity makes room for
different responses and a sense of balance.
Responding differently can include not
responding at all.Instead of going off
like a ballistic missile when cut off in traffic, a pause or moment of
reflection redirects from attaching to aggression and/or anxiety to simply
continuing a drive.Overtime, the small
changes in response can add up to self-compassion and satisfaction.
The acronym R.A.I.N. is a form of
mindfulness from Michele McDonald which can reduce negativity in the example of
being cut off in traffic:
what is going on:A car just cut you off.
the experience to be there, just as it is: Refusing to engage or flip off car who cut you
with kindness:Maybe that person is
trying to get to a hurt loved one in the hospital.
which comes from not identifying with the experience: Simply driving on your way.
Hi 4C Women,
I so appreciate how we can practice and internalize Statement #2
as it relates to our own personal lives.It is what creates our individual successful path to recovery.I was not one to express myself as I feared
confrontation, so my negative thoughts remained focused on my inadequacies -
real or imagined.We all have areas of
our life for which we aren’t trained, knowledgeable or able to comprehend (for
me, mostly technology).What I have
learned is that it is not a reflection on my capabilities or intelligence.It is actually a sign of strength to be able
to recognize we need help and to ask for it.Why would I continue to say negative thoughts about myself to myself
when there are areas that I am definitely competent in and others that require
assistance, help and input from others who have the knowledge and skill I don’t.So for me, I am no longer crippled by a
negative thought that in the past kept me paralyzed with fear, fed my intense
sense of incompetency and discouragement.This Statement has definitely reduced negativity in my life and I am
rather than harming yourself emotionally with negative thoughts, think about
the strengths, knowledge, life experience and abilities that you do have.And when you do ask for help, you are also
building up the confidence of the person you asked in addition to learning
picked up this book, “The Law of the Garbage Truck” by David J. Pollay a few
years back at the WFS Conference.This
is his description/pledge of the law of the Garbage Truck:
I do not accept garbage in my life.When I see Garbage Trucks, I do not take them
personally.I just smile.I wave.I wish them well.And I move on.And I do not spread garbage to others.I am not a Garbage Truck!I do not accept garbage in my life.
one chapter he said that we don’t need to suppress or deny bad memories and
negative thoughts when they appear, just smile, wave, wish them well and move
on as his pledge says.This exercise
helps in not diminishing your joy, your confidence or your belief in what is
good and possible in your life.
next time a negative thought appears, reflect on it for a moment and then try
just smiling, waving goodbye and wishing it well as you move on.How does it make you feel?Hold onto that feeling and practice it often!
take a moment to reflect on your 4C journey as WFS celebrates 43 years of
empowering and inspiring women in building a sober New Life. We thought this
was a great opportunity to share this article from 1975 about our budding organization. Thank you
for sharing your strength, encouragement, and support with all your sisters in
recovery and WFS!_____________________________________________________________________
"In one and the same fires, clay grows and wax melts.”-Francis Bacon
“I found that every single successful person
I’ve ever spoken to had a turning point and the turning point was where they made
a clear, specific, unequivocal decision that they were not going to live like
this anymore.Some people make that
decision at 15, and some people make it at 50 and most never make it at all.”-Brian Tracy
“When we argue for our limitations, we get to
keep them.”-Evelyn Waugh
Recalling those first
few weeks of sobriety and New Life, the struggle was so raw, all too real and
quietly intense.Unknown to the rest of the world, a fight was
underway and uncertainty filled the senses, but something else was present too;
an air of accomplishment.Waking up sober felt thrilling; gone were the
hangovers and fears of what I might have done the night before.This was different.
The WFS New Life
program kicks off with Statement #1.In our Program
booklet, our founder Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. writes, “I have a life-
threatening problem, but it no longer has me.It no longer controls me.I am the master of my actions, and I am the
master of myself.”Reading these words for the first time,
Jean’s strength and determination leapt off the page, encouraging and inspiring
me to continue.
There is a moment in
time when a decision can become a turning point.In Jean’s book Turnabout
she writes, “The decision to quit must spring from the despair or anger or
disgust with self which must be accompanied by a deep and sincere desire to
change, to remake life in a new mold.The decision must come from the realization
and acceptance that your present way of living is futile and that a new way
must be found.It is extremely important to know that you
are not hopeless and that, with help, you can put this blight out of your life.”Women for Sobriety is a beacon of hope for
women everywhere.If you are struggling, help can be found
turning point was hearing Jean speak at the YWCA over 30 years ago.I had just been promoted to Director of the
Women’s Center Dept. and heard about Jean and her empowering recovery program.Part of the YW’s mission statement is the
empowerment of women and girls.I
thought this was a perfect match and I so wanted to help other women.As I drove her back to the hotel after her
speaking engagement, I asked her if she thought I had a problem.I can still her words echo in my ear - If you
have to ask, you do!I already knew
that, yet was hoping she would be part of my denial plan.She was way too smart to engage in my foolish
denial scheme.I wanted to be in charge
of my life and the first step was to stop drinking.My goal was to become a group moderator and I
am grateful to this very day that I accomplished that goal and continue to
moderate meetings.What WFS has taught
me is that it is not about stopping the addiction, but changing my negative
thoughts, my self-loathing, and hopelessness to becoming the capable,
competent, caring, compassionate woman I needed to be in order to be in charge
of my well-being.
is a lot of discussion about core issues that need to be identified if we are
to move forward in being empowered.Recovery
is a time to uncover those core issues that kept us stuck in the past and that they
are not our identity today or possibly ever!For me this is the place I started at to understand why I chose to
believe only the negative input and discard any positive part of me.It fed my low self-esteem as though I was at
a banquet.I had the choice to change
that, to learn to love myself.
·What are the old messages you are still carrying with you today
and why do you think that is?
you have uncovered your core issues, take the time to define or redefine your
values, your purpose, your joy, your vision as a 4C woman.Set boundaries and create a plan that leads
you into new possibilities.Sounds so
exciting.Are you ready and willing to
Finally, how would you
define what your New Life means to you?I
often think of the words freedom, availability, choices.As you work on taking charge of your
well-being, add more words to your list.Keep it handy and let it be the banquet that feeds your New Life.