When i was 18 i started a journal, but the problem was i went into so much detail that i was writing more than i lived. So i decided that to save time i would only write down three sentences at the end of the day: 1) My best event of that day, 2) my worst event of that day, 3) something that i learned that day. i’ve been doing this for over thirty years, and do it with my children as well, stopping only momentarily with my son after he reached his 18th birthday until he asked me to continue a few weeks after.
i went to an AA meeting yesterday and saw my sponsor there. After the meeting we were in the hallway talking about some Step 8 & 9 stuff and when we were through he asked me for a hug. He told me that sponsorship was a two-way street and that working with me helped his sobriety because he saw how much i’m getting out of mine. He said that i inspired him.
It’s like the above picture…who is helping whom?
Guess what i wrote down as my best event of the day last night…
Indie genius Hip Hip poet Macklemore is addicted to codeine based cough syrup. In 2008, his breakout hit “Otherside” put him on the rap map as he bantered about overcoming his addiction to “easter pink” or “purple rain”.
In October 2012, he released the truly inspiring album The Heist with Ryan Lewis. On it, the song “Starting Over” tells the very personal story of his relapse. In an intimate and eloquent song, he describes the pain of letting down both loved ones and fans he helped in sobriety, and he explains the reasons for his relapse.
Like so many others, I just never thought I would
I never thought I would
Didn’t pick up The Book
Doin’ it by myself
Didn’t turn out that good
i’ve been sober for over 23 months and 4 days as of today. i’m extremely fortunate that i have been able to stay sober so long on my first try.
That i have not relapsed has nothing to do with personal strength or wanting it more or trying harder. If i’ve avoided a relapse it’s because i recognize that i’m weak and will never be able to control my drinking, so i let my Higher Power and others do it for me.
My continued sobriety is also thanks to those in the rooms and here online that have relapsed. In each of their stories i see my own and, as i know i’m no better than they are, their relapses serve to remind me how vulnerable i am. Each harrowing tale, disappearing face and name that evaporates on my blog roll frightens me and forces me to rise up from my laurels and fight like my life depends on it.
Because it does.
For those of you who have relapsed, know that your experiences are not wasted but serve to aid others who suffer. And remember, it is never too late to stop for the last time.
In our meeting last week, my sponsor pointed out that the second year of recovery is a real bear.
The first year, all the alcoholic has to do is focus on one concept:
i don’t drink no matter what.
In the second year, sobriety permeates more of our day to day and our lives become larger. With more recovery comes more responsibilities. The trick now is to power through difficult situations and make it through to the other side.
You see the diagram at the top? The Reality line is squiggly, but it still finishes better off and going in the right direction.
A few weeks after i began my recovery (over 20 months ago!), i had a problem, freaked out and ‘had to’ take a pill to sleep. i should say here that, oddly enough for someone who is addicted to everything else, pills never did it for me. They took too long and were never strong enough for me to develop an affinity for them. Anyway, immediately after taking the sleeping pill, i realized i should have cleared it with my sponsor first. When i told him about the incident at our next meeting, he was angry that i hadn’t called him and called it a slip.
Why hadn’t i called him? Simple, i didn’t even think about it. Ironically, one of the factors that led up to my suicide attempt was the same thing: i am incapable of asking for help—i perceive it to be a sign of weakness.
Last Sunday, i had a coffee with my sponsor and while discussing all the issues i’ve got going on at the moment, i began to feel better, calmer, more together. As he gave me advice, I started thinking more clearly. i especially understood i should have called him earlier rather than let myself sink lower and lower.
Then, one of the pieces of advice he gave me was to reach out to a friend in recovery in the States. Being told by someone helping me that i needed to ask for help was finally direct enough to drive the message into my brain.
Asking others for help is a tool in the Toolbox.
First off, there’s this addition to the GlosAAry…
Gratitude = Great + Attitude.
Taking a break from living to appreciate life. Gratitude for an addict means recognizing and appreciating the gifts recovery has brought–things the disease had promised but never delivered.
A common suggestion for alcoholics in recovery is to keep and regularly update a Gratitude List of all the things that sobriety has given them which drinking took away.
When i first started my recovery, my sponsor told me to keep a Gratitude List. Simply put, it was supposed to be a list of all the things i was grateful for, so i put things down like, “My Family”, “My Apartment”, My Job”…
It took a little while, but then i clued into the fact that the idea isn’t to write a “Rainbow Pony” list of all the things i appreciate and like, but rather a concrete enumeration of all the things i have because of Recovery and wouldn’t have without it.
My list changed to:
- i’m less angry
- i’m less depressed
- i now have the courage to continue trying
- i’m better at extracting myself from unpleasant situations
- i enjoy good times more completely
- i appreciate music more
- i need fewer breaks from my day
- i panic less
- i see my defaults more clearly and in their proper perspective
- i’m a better example for my children
- i’m better at prioritizing
- i’m more honest about admitting my mistakes
- i get more done
The list goes on and on…
Now, if i ever face a situation where i’m tempted to drink, i’ll be able to look back on this list and see all of the things i’ll be giving up. Or, even more likely, if i get too confident and start thinking i’ve got my addiction under control, i can reread these items and see all the things recovery gave me that i could never get for myself.
Powerful tool, that.
There’s a pithy saying in AA and, like many of our trite expressions, a few words hold a lot of truth.
Meeting Makers Make It
The idea is simple. Those who attend regular meetings are more successful in maintaining their sobriety.
When i started in the program, i hit one meeting a week but then i found a sponsor and he suggested a minimum of four a week. One of the things i learned quickly in AA was to read the Big Book, go to meetings and listen to my sponsor. So i did.
Up until recently i was feeling a little more secure and so i let my rhythm dip back to one a week again. Lately, however, things have gotten a little hairier in my world so i decided i needed to up the dosage. Not to say i’d made a mistake in cutting back, i only recognize the symptoms of fear and anger and self pity and i know where to go to cure them.
Also not to say i’m afraid of relapsing. i feel bad enough as it is and i know alcohol will only make everything worse. i don’t need worse. i’ve had worse and i deserve better.
Hence, 6 meetings a week (despite my reaching a year and a half sober on the 11th of this month). There is a peace in those rooms that i’ve not found anywhere else and i’m grateful that in times like these i know where to go to get shelter from the storm and haven from the hell.
Today i went to the meeting where i picked up my one-year chip. Here’s what i said after getting it.
i don’t deserve any credit for this. This chip is thanks to my Higher Power, my sponsor, the rooms, the program and you guys. So congratulations on my success.
Of course it didn’t come out like that. i was all choked up and trying to get through it before my voice broke, but that was the spirit of what i had to say
Thanks to you guys as well. Your support is a basic building block in the foundation of my recovery. Congratulations to you all as well. You do great work.
Literally. Today is Epiphany because the 6th of January, Epiphany, is the Christian holiday celebrating the wise men visiting baby Jesus.
“Epiphany” is also the word that means “sudden realization of great truth”, and is basically how i’m going through the AA steps. With each step, i’ve had an epiphany where i’ve understood the essence of the step.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
My realization here was the second part of that sentence. Everyone knows the part about “powerless over alcohol”, but when i heard the “unmanageable” thing, my recovery kicked off. i clued in that the way i’d been living my life wasn’t working.
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
My sponsor helped me with this one. He told me that AA Meetings were my Higher Power. By going to 4-5 meetings a week, i found something i could have faith in that wasn’t religious…something that paid me back more than i put into it.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
My epiphany with this step came at a meeting when i shared about how i had problems with humility and fear. It suddenly came to me that giving my will and life over to the care of God meant i had to be humble, because i was admitting “someone” else could do something that i couldn’t; namely, control my unmanageable life. On top of that, there was no reason to be afraid because i wasn’t in charge anymore. God was in the driver’s seat, so i no longer had to fear where the car was heading.
Like they say in the program,
Step 1: i came
Step 2: i came to
Step 3: i came to believe
Thanks to Mrs D, who made the link between Epiphany and Epiphany for me when we were in the shower.
There are many tasks i used to think were beneath me. Things that needed doing that i was too good for.
Here’s what i learned. The more jobs i do that i feel are beneath me, the higher i raise myself up. The more tasks i accomplish that i am too good for, the better person i become.
Allow me to pass along some wisdom given me by my sponsor.One thing my sponsor told me when he was giving me the answers to all my problems was that a lot of my drinking was fear based. Much of that fear is the fear of rejection. i drank so i could overcome this fear.
The Cure to Fear of Rejection is Esteemable Acts.
An Esteemable Act is a Good Deed and they are cushions for the soul.
The more esteemable acts i do, the better i feel about myself. The better i feel about myself, the less a rejection will sting. Thus, the more Good Deeds i do, the less i will suffer from rejection.
Good deeds make you strong. Be Strong!
As i hinted at in my “Easier, Softer Way” post, one of the things i love about AA is that, thanks to the program, i don’t have to think. Not only is “not thinking” recommended, it’s required.
This is good news for me because i suck at thinking. If thinking were like driving, i’d have my license revoked because whenever i try to think by myself, i wind up in a bad place.
If i’m angry, sad, impatient, tense, nervous, aggressive, short tempered, or depressed 10 times out of 10 the cause is that i tried thinking again.
i tried thinking during my 30-year drinking life and it never worked, not even once. i thought constantly for my entire life and that led me to a drinking problem which led me to alcoholism which led me to a suicide attempt. My thinking nearly killed me.
My thoughts are lethal.
What can i do to squelch the constant static of thoughts filling my head?
6 Ways to Stop Thinking
- Read the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and do what it says
- Listen to my sponsor and do what he says
- Attend a meeting and listen to what they have to say
- Hang out with others in the program and hear what they say
- Meet “winners” with more experience in sobriety than i have and do what they say
- Read others’ blogs about recovery