Monthly Archives: May 2012
For the last decade or so, I have been obsessed with finding coincidences and blabbing about them to anyone who will listen. I have made (lighthearted) plans to publish a book detailing all of the stories I have come to learn about amazing things that have happened to people. When new coincidences have popped up, my friends and I have created a catch phrase, “log it!” to make a note of a new “entry” in the Book of Coincidences.
So now the subtitle of this blog is “There are no coincidences.” Ironic? Not really. Because, through recovery, I have come to realize that all of these amazing but seemingly random events actually happen for a reason. We may not know or understand the reason, especially in the moment, but in time, and with an open mind, all usually gets revealed.
I am writing on this subject because, as it turns out, there is a term for this. Last night, while browsing through the internet vaguely searching for recovery-related topics, I discovered that Carl Jung, an eminent psychiatrist, coined the following word in the 1920’s:
an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated
Is it synchronicity that I learned the meaning of the word synchronicity (other than being an excellent Police album)? Yes, and I believe that once you open your mind to this concept, amazing things start to happen around you. Start tuning in to the synchronicity in your life, and watch what happens!
In the first days of recovery, the most important things you need to do are: refrain from picking up a drink or drug, pray, and go to as many 12-step meetings as possible. And in the beginning, if you do these things daily, but accomplish nothing else, you have still had an amazingly productive day.
But as time goes on, as your head clears, as the routine of living without a drink or drug gets a bit easier, it is important to look at the 12 steps, and apply them to all areas of your life. Because the disease of addiction lives, as they say, “between your ears.”
What that means to me is that addiction is way more than just physical, it is absolutely mental as well… in my experience, it was entirely mental. And while I may have a small amount of sober time under my belt, it is important for me to be aware of any areas in my life where my addictive thinking may be leading me astray.
Because if I attend meetings every day, but fail to practice the lessons I am learning from AA when I walk out of “the rooms” and back into “normal life,” I am simply inviting my addiction back on a full-time basis. And since my disease has been like an unwanted guest in my life that I just eased out the door, the last thing I want to do is encourage it in any way to come back in!
The theme of the meeting I attended today was “I only have the power to choose the first drink; after that I have forfeited my ability to choose.” Three different people in the meeting I attended today alone could attest to this statement. What they mean is they consciously chose, after a period of sobriety, to believe they could drink moderately. What they discovered was that once they started drinking, they reverted, in a very short period of time, to their past alcoholic behaviors, and they completely lost control of their ability to drink in a controlled fashion.
I have heard versions of this same story countless times before, but the meaning behind the horror stories of relapse, for whatever reason, was lost on me until today. I guess sometimes you have to hear something a hundred times before it sinks in. And what sunk in, today, was really a message of hope. I have the power to choose the first drink. Now, at 121 days clean and sober, the choice is really and truly mine, and, as long as I don’t pick up that first one, I am really going to be okay. And what a miracle it is to have regained this power in such a short period of time… imagine what miracles are yet to come!
There are two days in every week about which we should not worry… one is yesterday, and the other is tomorrow. This leaves only one day… TODAY. -AA Green Card
There are long-time members in the AA fellowship that believe they have the same amount of time as the newcomer. In other words, past sobriety, to them, does not count, and if anyone rests on yesterday’s sobriety to get through today, they are in trouble.
As someone relatively new, this concept boggles the mind. I truly look forward to the day when I can say I have a year, 5 years, a decade of sobriety. And I imagine I would want to shout that accomplishment from the roof tops, I will be so proud of it.
But the message of the “old-timers” is a powerful one, and very important to remember, not just in recovery, but in life. Whether yesterday was the most productive and worthwhile day ever, or it was filled with the most mistakes one human being could ever make, it is over, and there is not a single thing that can change that fact. And since, unfortunately, no one can guarantee that they are waking up to see tomorrow morning, the most anyone has is right here and right now. If I can focus on the 24 hours in which I am living, I am, first, not wasting time regretting the past or worrying about the future, and second, I am making the most out of life by truly living in the present. And who could ask for more than that?
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others – Mahatma Gandhi
The last few days I have been reading and hearing a lot about the importance of service in recovery. As usual, the first few times I disregarded the signs… after all, I am so new to recovery, what could I possibly offer in terms of service? But, God is persistent, and He finally has my attention, so I started reading a bit, and contemplating. As it turns out, I have a lot to offer.
First, because I have more than 90 days clean and sober, I can, and should be, regularly looking to “chair” the meetings I attend, which means I sit at the front of the room and lead the group through the format of the meeting, sharing my thoughts and guiding others to do the same. This is an obvious component to service that I have overlooked.
But there are smaller, simpler ways that I can be of service that my naturally self-deprecating inclinations have caused me to disregard. Yesterday a woman was in the meeting I attended, and she cried through most of the meeting. I did not know her, and did not want to impose myself on her, so I went about my business. I gave a friend a ride home and happened to ask if she knew the woman who was crying. She did not, but she did know that the woman has been chronically relapsing, and was trying to get a handle on the program. I thought about her the rest of the day, and realized that I could have been of great service to her yesterday. I am very familiar with the idea of wanting recovery, but continually falling back into old habits.
Now that I have a few months, there are things I could share, things which would absolutely benefit the newcomer. It is time for me to realize I am not the newest member in the room, and that I have a responsibility to give back what was so freely given to me. This realization is, first, an absolute miracle, and second, an awesome responsibility, one in which I look forward to fulfilling. Stay tuned…
It is very common to hear a newcomer in AA use a phrase like “I don’t belong here,” “I’m not like you people,” “I am not as bad off.” The response from the “veterans” is usually to chuckle. Because, with little exception, that is the thought process of everyone as they walk into a meeting for the first time.
Sadly, I thought the same thing. While I have 116 days clean and sober, I have been attempting recovery through the 12-step program for a little over a year. Before that, I attempted to join AA about 7 years ago. In both cases, I had the exact same attitude that I described above. I really don’t even judge myself harshly for it, I genuinely believed that I was very, very different from the people I met in the rooms of AA, and that I was incapable of resorting to the types of things they resorted to as a result of their addiction. It’s not even that I felt I was better than them (although I’m sure in some cases I did think that), I just felt like I was not of the same mindset.
Here’s what I have come to learn in the last 116 days… the key word for all my thoughts that began with “I never” was… YET. I haven’t lost my family… yet. I haven’t suffered legal consequences… yet. I haven’t lost my home… yet. Because addiction is a progressive disease, and it is simply a matter of time before you experience all the bottoms that you thought would “never happen to you.”
So now, when I hear a horror story from someone in recovery, instead of looking at all the parts of their story that are different from mine and thinking “well, I would never do that,” I seek out the similarities and I think, “there but for the grace of God go I.”
When I first started writing this blog, I talked about the basic things I have to do every day to maintain my sobriety, namely:
2. Go to meetings
3. Talk with someone in recovery, and, most importantly,
4. Not to use any mind-altering substances.
I have written more than once that I feel like I should be doing more, yet I have been told time and again to simply take direction and “more will be revealed.” It made little sense to me, but I did as I was told, and now I have 115 days clean and sober, which in and of itself is miraculous.
But still, me being me, I often wonder, but what about the steps? And isn’t there something more I can be doing? And when I get those thoughts, I simply remind myself that what I am doing is working, and not to mess with success.
And now, I think I understand a little more about the expression “more will be revealed.” For the last week or so, I have been thinking that I should be sharing more at meetings. For the last few months, I have occasionally shared, but I mostly listened at meetings. I operated under the assumption that I have more to gain from hearing from another alcoholic that from them hearing from me. But still, the thought that I need to give back in the form of sharing my experience has not left, and each day, the voice gets a little louder. But still, I have resisted the thought, falling back into the safer path of just sitting and listening rather than opening up to the group.
So, today, for no apparent reason, I chose to read a passage from one of my meditation books. There was genuinely no real reason I did so, as I do not open this book on any kind of regular basis. And today’s passage was entirely about the value of sharing at meetings, why it is so important to open up about what is going on in your life, how it helps you, and, more importantly, how it can help someone who may be struggling.
Anyone that believes God does not speak to you on a daily basis is simply not listening closely enough!
I heard Helen Reddy’s classic on the way to my AA meeting this morning, and I considered how appropriate it is for someone in recovery. When I reflect on how much I have learned in the past several months, about myself, about the disease of addiction, about communication, relationships, the list goes on and on… I have gained more knowledge in the last 10 months than I had in the 10 years prior. Of course, to gain that knowledge, and to actually apply it in a beneficial way, I had to pay an exorbitant price, but the current gain, and I believe, more importantly, the future gain, will outweigh the price I’ve paid by a lot.
So I have a choice, like we all do, every minute of every day… I can focus on the price I’ve had to pay for having the disease of addiction: the loss I’ve had to suffer, the humiliation I’ve had to endure. Or I can focus on the miracles I have received in recovery: the useful skills I’ve learned, the self-awareness I’ve acquired, and the incredible gifts of friendship with which I have been blessed. Life is truly what you make of it, and with the proper perspective, life is beautiful.
When you are an addict in early recovery, the best, most peaceful feeling you have is the 60 minutes you spend at a 12-step meeting. It is difficult to describe… your outside world may be falling apart at the seams, you may have financial, physical, emotional chaos in every area of your life, but when you walk into “the rooms,” you become a hero. And it is not just BS, you really are a hero… you are choosing a path to better yourself that is completely and utterly unnatural to you, and it is the most difficult thing to do, but you are doing it, and the short-term reward is the recognition, support and love you receive from your comrades in the fellowship of whatever recovery program you choose.
Here’s the challenge: taking the strength you gather from your friends in the Program, and using it in situations that are not quite so “warm and fuzzy.” Because not everyone in life is going to understand the disease of addiction, nor will everyone be willing to overlook the mistakes that were made that brought the addict to the door of a 12-step program. And while it would be simpler for the addict if everyone was as supportive and understanding as they are in the recovery programs, real life does not work that way, so it is important to develop the skill of transferring the strength you gain from your recovery program to the outside world.
For me, it is absolutely still a work in progress, but in day-to-day living, I am learing to hold my head up, and remind myself, especially in the face of less than understanding people, that I have come a long way in 113 days. I may have made mistakes in the past, but I am working daily to become a better person, and there isn’t anything more than anyone can ask of me than that.