Chip and Veronica answer your questions on subjects about sponsorship, epigenetics, financial sobriety and more.
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Happy New Year!
The year 2000 was a landmark year for me. I was in Key West in Florida and my drinking was pretty bad at that point. My cousin came over from England to celebrate, I went out on New Year’s Eve, and I disappeared for two days. After that I made it about five more months and then I finally got sober on May 2, 2000.
That feels like not that long ago and we’re now 22 years into it. It’s unbelievable!
For this episode, we’re coming back to a podcast tradition: answering your questions.
We’ve gathered questions from the Soberful Life community and Chip and I are talking about everything from whether you need a sponsor to our views on money when we first got sober.
Enjoy the episode!
Is having a sponsor recommended? Are there guidelines to use when looking for someone?
“There are as many different types of sponsors as there are different types of people.” – Chip Somers
First off, a sponsor is something that’s only relevant to 12-step fellowships. In a 12-step fellowship, your sponsor is essentially your guide. It’s someone who passes on their experience and helps you work your way through a fairly complicated program.
It’s crucial to realize that your sponsor is not your life coach or therapist. They are someone who should have a good working knowledge of how the 12 steps work and how to apply them to your life. The idea is that they take you through the steps and they show you how to use the tools so that you can then become dependent on the program and not on them.
Some people prefer a strict structure with sponsors and some prefer a more flexible approach. There’s no one right path so take your time, see how the person behaves outside of meetings, and ask them about their program. Allow yourself to say when your sponsor relationship isn’t working and to seek out someone else.
If you’re not in a 12-step program, there are still elements of a sponsor’s role that can be extremely helpful to have on your side. No matter the path you choose in recovery you need somebody that’s got your back, who you can talk to in private, and that you can get guidance from. Try and find a mentor or trusted friend who understands your journey.
What are Veronica and Chip’s thoughts on the field of epigenetics?
“Epigenetics is the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
When it comes to alcoholism and trauma, you can see patterns in families over generations. It’s learned behavior but there’s also something at a cellular level. This is something that we’re learning more and more about as it’s still a very new field but a lot of research is being done.
On another side of it, in addition to the liver disease that people often hear about, abusing alcohol can raise your risk of developing cancer considerably. Unfortunately, that risk is rarely discussed.
We only have very superficial knowledge when it comes to epigenetics but it’s a very interesting field and we’re on the lookout for what’s to come.
What are the most effective ways to deal with negative self-talk, especially being overly self-conscious and critical? When it comes to my experience of recovery, I often feel as if I’m doing it wrong or saying the wrong things or even that my story isn’t compelling enough for me to belong in recovery. How do I get past this?
“Vulnerability is never wrong.” – Veronica Valli
If you are here, you belong here.
We identify very strongly with how you feel and you’re not alone with that. Lots of people around you are feeling frightened, insecure, and self-conscious. Everyone feels like this to a certain degree.
The good news is that if you keep taking little risks, opening up, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you will get to a point where you are confident and believe in yourself.
Be discerning about where and with whom you are vulnerable. Find a safe place and supportive people and allow yourself to be vulnerable.
When I got sober at 27 most people had dramatic stories of their journey to recovery meanwhile I’ve never been arrested or fired from a job. Part of me felt bad that I didn’t have entertaining stories to tell and I felt like I didn’t belong but it didn’t matter what was going on on the outside. How I felt matched what everyone else felt, despite our different experiences.
Your story is your story and it only matters how you feel on the inside.
What were your views on money when you got sober?
“Having leftover money was a new concept when I got sober and that was amazing” – Veronica Valli
For most of us, financial recovery is a key part of the recovery process.
Being responsible with money and breaking limiting beliefs and stories about money is something that’s taken Chip and I years to learn.
Despite coming from a wealthy family, money was never discussed in Chip’s family of origin. After leaving home and spending years thinking of money as nothing more than drug tokens, in recovery it’s been a difficult journey to learn to spend responsibly and manage his finances.
For me, I was raised with the belief that men know about money and that that world was not for me. But the recovery process is not about getting sober. I had to work out my relationship with food, money, and romantic relationships. It’s all part of the deal.
Are there different approaches or things to look out for in the recovery process when there were addictions to substances in addition to alcohol? In December I’ll be two years in recovery from alcohol and drugs and recently I think more about the immediate temporary relief I could get from taking an opiate or sometimes benzo than I do alcohol.
“When we start thinking about other substances or other ways to take away feelings, it’s a red flag and it’s an invitation to grow.” – Veronica Valli
When we start thinking about relief from emotional pain, it’s an invitation to look at what’s come up that needs your attention and that probably feels a little challenging. That’s why our brains are thinking about how to take it away.
I have to be abstinent from everything. I’ve never had an issue with opiates but I know when I’ve had narcotic pain relief, I approach with extreme caution. I tell my doctor and I am very aware that even though I have no history of a problem with that, it’s because of my history that I have to be very careful about taking any kind of pain relief that is more than an aspirin.
Our bottom line is that we have to be abstinent from all mood- and mind-altering substances.
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