Monthly Archives: April 2013

Laying My Cards on the Table

 

A bleary Monday morning (afternoon, by the time I will be finished) in my part of the world, but always bright for me personally, because of my Monday morning meetings.  The format for this meeting is called rotating literature, which means the first week of each month I read from one AA book, the second week a different book, and so on.  The fourth week I set up as “chairperson’s choice.”  Since I am the sole chairperson at this point in time, I generally search for older pieces of literature within the confines of “AA approved,” usually early articles written by the founder of AA, Bill Wilson.  Every 4 months or so, there is a fifth Monday in the given month, which means I need to come up with some other random thing from which to read.  This weekend I had the idea that maybe I could set up a speaker for the 4 months or so a year where we have 5 Mondays in a month, today being the first of this particular series.  And since I came up with this idea so late, I figured I would book myself as the first speaker.

This is not the first time I have shared my story, but it is the first time I have shared it with the group that I started.  You would think it would get easier to tell your own story, especially if you have done it with the regularity I have (I am sober 15 months, and I have shared my story at a meeting about a dozen times).  Sadly, it does not get easier to share the shame, and the downward spiral.  I guess, technically speaking, it gets easier in the sense that I have the timeline down pretty well, and I can pinpoint various highlights (or, in this case, lowlights!) in my personal journey with greater ease.  But the actual act of opening up, and disclosing such personal information… well, that remains a leap of faith each time I do it.

But if I want this meeting to succeed, and I want people to believe in me, in my recovery, and my message of hope, I need to share what brought me to this point, and so share I must.

From the other side of the table, it is easy to see what can be gained by attending a speaker meeting, and listening to someone else’s experience, strength and hope.  You can hear what mistakes were made, the progressive nature of addiction, and what led the individual to the doors of AA.  You can find elements in the story that you can relate to your own life, and make connections that you did not know existed.  Age, gender, race, religion, career path… none of these things matter when the story of recovery is told… there is always something that resonates with another alcoholic, and it is in that resonance that the magic of AA resides.

But what about the other side… what benefit is there to the story-teller?  What is gained from the exposition of pain, in reliving the worst moments of your life?  For this recovering addict, the benefits are many.  First, telling my story reminds me from whence I came, and keeps fresh in my mind where I never want to return.  Revealing my personal truth, disclosing the worst parts of me, connects me to my friends in recovery in the deepest way possible.  It keeps me in the heart of the AA Fellowship, which is exactly where I need to be to keep my life in balance.

And, of course, it fills up the gap of the 5-Monday month!

Today’s Miracle:

Getting positive feedback, and true gratitude from my fellow attendees, makes the reliving of my personal demons completely worthwhile!

The Twelve Steps in Everyday Living: Part Three

Step Three:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

I hit an intellectual wall when I first read Step Three, which I covered already in an earlier post (read Step Three in Everyday Living).  I got the concept of admitting powerlessness over addiction (I didn’t actively do it, but I at least understood it), I always intellectually understood the idea of a Higher Power, and His ability to help me.  But I really, truly, sincerely did not understand how to practically apply Step Three to any part of my life.  I wanted to turn this whole mess over to God, I thought I was attempting to do just that every day, but clearly I had been doing something wrong, because I was still “going the wrong way!” (Any fan of Planes, Trains and Automobiles will enjoy that reference).

Finally, a light bulb went off when it was explained to me this way:  imagine your life as if you are driving a bus, and God is your co-pilot.  In the same way that you would check in with your co-pilot for directions, check in with God.  The more you check in, the better your directions will be.   Sounds hokey, but for whatever reason the analogy worked for me.

In terms of recovery, God’s will is obvious:  do not drink (or use any mind-altering substances).  So the practice is simple:  will doing x, y, or z make me want to pick up a drink or drug?  If the answer is yes, I don’t do it.  If this answer is no, I do it.  Simple, right?  It sounds simple, but takes a lot of practice to actually be simple.  In the months prior to hitting my personal bottom, I was all about, “but I HAVE to go, it’s a family obligation, people will talk if I don’t show up, blah, blah blah…”  And that thinking had me relapsing on a very regular basis.  So when I hit bottom, I simply stayed away from anything concerning mind-altering substances, if I absolutely had to be there, I limited my time, and I backed it up with a 12-step meeting.

And guess what?  The family obligations went on, quite nicely, without my royal presence.  And if people talked, well, guess what?  I wasn’t around to hear it, so it did not matter anyway.

As time marched on, and I got stronger in my recovery, being around alcohol stopped being an anxiety-producing element of a social gathering.  I can actually remember when it turned around… I was about 3 months sober, at a First Holy Communion party for my God Daughter, so it counted as a function I deemed necessary, but might need to limit.  And while talking to various family members, I realized, “Wait a minute, I’m doing the exact same thing as every other member of this party (aka standing around, eating, talking, laughing), the only difference between me and them is the type of liquid in my glass!”  From that point on, I felt completely comfortable in social situations with alcohol.

In terms of everyday living, Step Three can be a bit more challenging to practice, and is a gradual and ongoing process.  God’s will is not always transparent, at least not to me.  I ask Him, every morning, to direct my thoughts and actions.  In bigger decisions, I attempt to check in with Him, to ensure I am heading in the right direction.  For example, situations involving my children crop up on a regular basis, and decisions need to be made… does the behavior require discussion, discipline, both or neither?  Frequently my husband and I reach different conclusions, and so now there are two issues, how do I handle each?  Prior to Step Three, the answer would have been, react immediately to child’s behavior, with little to no thought if I am teaching the proper lesson, and then argue with my husband that my way of handling it is the right way.  Turning these kinds of things over to the care of God gives me the much-needed pause, and allows me to reflect on the most effective way of dealing with everyone involved.

But the biggest use of Step Three in everyday life, for me, is when I am feeling anything less than peaceful.  The minute I notice I am feeling “off,” in any way, I take it as a sign that I am not practicing Step Three.  So, I check in with Him, and review what’s going on with me… what’s causing distress?  Why am I feeling this way?  More often than not, when I take the mental step back, I can clearly see where I’ve veered off the “God-centered” path and onto the “self-centered” one.  Sometimes it is small enough that a quick mental review and prayer is enough, other times, talking it over with someone is necessary, and, if large enough, sometimes an all-out amends needs to be made, but since that is not until step 9, and we are only on step three, I’ll save that bit of fun for a later post!

My Friend Joe

I have written quite a bit about my time in active addiction, and this blog is a journey through my recovery, from about 6 weeks in to the present day, but the time frame I have omitted, for no real reason, is that first 6 weeks when I put the brakes on ingesting addictive substances, and began the road to recovery.

I can tell you about my daily schedule during that time pretty concisely:  get up, pray, hang out with my Mom, go to a meeting, hang out with my Mom, spend a few hours with my children, hang out with my Mom, go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  The to-do list was short, but the mental chaos was long, and difficult.  To those reading who are new to recovery:  I feel your pain, I remember it like it was yesterday.  You go to meetings and try to emulate what you see happening around you, but your mind is racing so much, and there is so much personal damage, that it is incredibly difficult to focus on what is important.  Hang in there, I promise it does get easier!

During that time, there is one aspect that, in retrospect, is a blessing:  there was really no thought on my part that I would not “get it.”  I knew it was possible for me to recover, it just took me time, and trial and error, to get it right.  I hear many people say their plan was simply to die a drunk or addict; that was never for one moment a thought in my head.

On the other hand, during the earliest days, I did believe, in the deepest way, that life as I knew it was over.  I was certain my marriage was over, and I was almost as equally certain that any remaining friendships would choose my husband over me.  The silver lining in this cloud was that my head was so full of craziness, I just didn’t have room to imagine the future… I couldn’t picture it, so I didn’t even try.

My primary group of friends have been around for 20 years.  We met in college, and, for me, I realized that I found the best group of people in the world, so why let them go?  When I hit my bottom, these friends would fall into two categories:  those who knew of my addiction, and so therefore I have actively lied to them, telling them I was recovering when in fact I was not; and those who knew nothing about my addiction.  Either way, I figured I would lose them all.  Devastating, to be sure, but then again there was so much devastation who had time to process it all?

Two of this long-time group reached out to me in those early days.  I will devote a separate post to each, they deserve it.  Today I am going to focus on my friend Joe.

Joe falls into that first category about which I spoke:  I let him believe I was recovering, and so therefore I actively lied.  And I knew, when the bottom dropped, that Joe was possibly the first friend my husband went to and shared all the gory details.  So, imagine my surprise when, while sitting with my Mom (see my daily schedule above), I received a voice mail from my friend Joe.  He sounded about as far from happy as you can get, but he was reaching out, and he wanted me to know he was still there for me.  I am feeling the elation all over again as I am typing.  This voice mail came about 2 weeks into my recovery, and I believe it was the first glimmer of hope I received that life may in fact become happy again.

And so began the new leg of our decades-long relationship.  Joe has an exceptionally busy career, a wife and two small children, but he took time, almost every night, to talk to me into the wee hours of the morning.  He insisted I text him every morning with the day count of my sobriety.  He talked me off too many ledges to count.   He gave me a reason to smile when I thought I would never smile again.  All this from a friendship I was certain was doomed.

So now, it is a little over a year later, and life is amazing.  All the relationships I thought I lost forever are back, and better than ever.  And while  Joe and I see/talk to each other as much as we can, life gets busy, so it is certainly not as much as I would like.  Recently Joe had a series of things happen to him, coincidences like the ones we have always joked about, and debated whether or not they were meaningful.  Miracle of all miracles, he actually came to me for some perspective, rather than the other way around.  It is nothing short of amazing… I can use the tools that I very likely would not even have if not for him, and I can help him find his way.  If you had told me that would happen a year ago… that I would have any kind of positive life experience to share… I would have laughed, and laughed and laughed.

Joe is not an alcoholic or an addict.  He is just a guy trying to be the best person he can be.  And because he believed in me, he now has a friend with a set of tools not found in the “regular” world, tools that just may be able to help him live a more joyful life.  Seriously, does it get any better than that?

Today’s Miracle:

Friends that stand by you during impossibly tough times is a miracle.  Remembering that, and having gratitude for it, is priceless.  And I am already mentally writing the future posts for all the great people in my life!

The Glass is Half Full, Dammit!

 

Today is Monday, so, once again, I will write about the meeting I started.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I did a “media blitz” in an attempt to draw more people to my meeting.  While it is always wonderful (at least it is in my humble opinion), I believe that more people should be able to experience the wonder, because, generally speaking, I have no more than 6 people in attendance.  Again, I am not speaking to the quality… 2 people can have a great meeting, but the more people, the more input, the more wisdom that is shared.  So off I went, papering my local area with a snazzy new flyer, and speaking of it to anyone I could find to listen.

Last week I had 3 newcomers, which was wonderful, but several “regulars” did not show up so I had the same basic number… six attendees.

So this week, the literature I used (week 4 in the rotation is “chairperson’s choice”) was an article from the AA publication The Grapevine, written by the founder of AA, published in 1947.  Very cool article, and very, very relevant to the “clubhouse” that houses my meeting.  I was quite proud of myself for finding it, and printed out a few more than I normally would have in attendance…

And I STILL didn’t have enough, because 14 people attended my meeting, my largest to date!  Several of them raised their hands and said they came as a result of the flyer I sent out… awesome, right?!?

So here’s why I posted the image above.  About 2 minutes into the reading of the article, a woman abruptly stood up and left the meeting.  For those who do not regularly attend AA, this is a breach of an unspoken rule of etiquette… except for an emergency, wait for the break in the meeting before you leave.  Certainly there could have been an emergency, but of course my insecure mind grappled with this incident for several minutes… Oh no!  She hates the meeting, she hates the article, she can’t even wait for the break to get out of here.  Did I ever mention I like to make things all about me?

So here’s the progress:  first, I only struggled with this for a short amount of time.  Second, I shared about it with people I trust at the earliest opportunity.  I find that the quicker I “tell on myself,” the quicker my ridiculous trains of thoughts evaporate.  And, most importantly, I turned it around, and will be floating on air for the rest of this day… 14 people at my meeting!

Today’s Miracle

Did I mention that I had 14 people attend my meeting this morning?

The Twelve Steps in Everyday Living: Part Two

Step Two:  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

There is a great deal of variety in how people in recovery come to take this step, because there is a great variety of belief (or lack thereof) in a Higher Power.

I consider myself fortunate to have had a lifelong belief in God.  Prior to recovery, my mindset on God was simple.  God helps those who help themselves… and since I, in active addiction, was doing very little to help myself, how could I possibly expect Him to help me?  I certainly prayed in active addiction.  Unfortunately, they were what we in AA call “foxhole prayers.”  God, please just get me out of this mess, and I’ll never (fill in the blank) again!  Of course, once the urgency disappeared, so did my end of whatever bargain I had made.

When I finally hit bottom, I got down on my knees, and my prayer took a slightly different format.  I asked God to show me what I was doing wrong.  As I asked this, I had reviewed what had worked for me, what did not, and what seemed to be working for others that I had not yet tried.  Before I rose from the kneeling position, I had a plan in place:  I would do 4 things every day:  I start each day on my knees and pray, I would go to a meeting, I would talk to another alcoholic, and I would not pick up a drink or drug.

And day by day, that is just what I did, and some days, in the beginning, that is all I did, and little by little, life got better.  That is how I came to believe that God could restore me to sanity, because I believe God gave me the blue print to start my life over.

What happens in Step 2, at least what happened for me, is that you start to think, if it can work with addiction, can it work with the rest of life?  And the answer, of course, is a resounding YES.

Maybe the most recent example I can give from my own life is dealing with my daughter.  She is almost 13, and, I don’t want to sound like a cliché here, but she is turning into a completely different person before my eyes.  The physical I expected.  The personality changes… I have been blown away by how quick and how complete the change has been.  It’s to the point that when I see glimpses of the pre-hormonal child, it is then that I am surprised.

Now of course I know, and any Mother of a teenage daughter is nodding sagely as she reads this, hormonal personality changes are a part of life.  But, for real, my daughter was the most angelic person I have ever known, and it is just heart-breaking to see that go away.  Basically, dealing with the suddenness of these changes, and wanting desperately to stop them, could drive a person insane.

So in the same way that I described in Step One, when events happen, and my life feels unmanageable, I now know what I have to do, which is believe that God will help me find peace.  I just have to let Him, which brings me to…

 

T.M.I. (Too Much Information)!

Another danger zone could be added to this diagram:  the bus stop itself, after the children have driven away!

 

This morning I was at the stay at home/work at home parent’s version of the water cooler:  the bus stop.  The lengthy discussion that resulted was an eye-opener, at least it was for this home-owning ignoramus:  stucco.  Here are a few snippets that I learned at this morning’s rendezvous:

  • Stucco should really only be used in homes in the Southwestern region of the United States (we live in a suburb of Philadelphia, too bad someone did not give this news to our builder)
  • Stucco costs three times as much as siding to remediate or replace.
  • The chance for mold and other moisture problems increases dramatically when your house is constructed with stucco (as opposed to siding).
  • There is no chance of recouping any losses from the builder, the company will simply drag it out in court and you will wind up losing even more money, and still have the same problem as you did to start.

Really, by the end of this conversation, my thought process was this:  it would be less stressful, and more time-saving, to simply drive my son to school!

Thank you God, for the 12-step program, because I could listen to this diatribe, and my first thought… alright, full disclosure:  my real first thought is that 25 minutes in the early morning chill is entirely too long to be talking about stucco… so my second thought is gratitude that we are not experiencing any of the problems that are being described, followed by genuine sympathy at the plight of those around me.  Suffice it to say that is not how I would have handled that conversation, pre-Fellowship!

Today’s Miracle:

In coming home and inspecting my house, I do not have any of the tell-tale “tea stains” (another fun term I learned this morning) around my windows!

 

The Gift of Giving: A Small Tribute to My Sponsor

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. – Ernest Hemingway

Normally I would write about the lessons that come from my Monday morning meeting.  While the meeting was as awesome as always, the topic of today’s meeting was Step 4, and since I am committed to writing about the steps each week for the next 12 weeks, I will save this topic for a future post.

Instead, I want to write about an experience I had yesterday.  I mentioned numerous times in the past how instrumental my sponsor has been in helping my recovery.  She spent many hours with me, one-on-one, taking me through the steps in the most in-depth way, more so than most people I encounter in the Fellowship of AA.  She is always available when I need her for ongoing support.  Most recently, she is a tremendous source of guidance as I stumble my way through the early stages of sponsoring other women.  In short, she is a gift from God.

The one challenge my sponsor and I encounter is our geographical distance, because we live about 45 minutes from each other.  Because of this distance, Anne and I do not run into each other in meetings, and our sober support networks are very different.  There is some overlap, but not much.  There happens to be one woman who attends the same Friday morning meeting I attend, and we are both lucky enough to be Anne’s sponsees.  This woman mentioned to me, in passing, that she was planning a surprise luncheon to celebrate Anne’s AA anniversary, and that I was welcome to attend.  I got the date, time and venue from her, and told her I would be there, but that is all I really knew about the celebration.

I arrived, yesterday, at the restaurant, thinking that it would be myself, Anne, and maybe one or two others that I probably wouldn’t know.  What actually happened was this:  we had our own room within the restaurant, and we needed our own room because there were 22 women all coming to celebrate the anniversary of the woman who had helped each of us get our lives back from the disease of addiction.  22 women!

I wish I had a picture of Anne’s face as she turned the corner into the room of women waiting for her.  You know that play of emotions… first confusion, then shock, and then the tears start flowing?  It was all there… she truly had no idea she was coming to a celebration just for her.

For me, the experience was just overwhelming… to see that much love, and that much joy, in one room, was awe-inspiring.  These are 22 women who would not know each other in “normal” life… in fact, I thought I was the only “odd man out,” since I had come the furthest distance, but as it turned out, many of the women did not know one another.  We had two things in common:  we are all alcoholics, and we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the woman we were honoring that day.

I know, for myself, that I have thanked Anne numerous times, and felt I could never repay her all the time and attention she lavished upon me.  Every time I attempted to verbalize these thoughts, she always told me that she was getting so much more out of the experience than I knew, and that someday I would understand how much she enjoyed teaching me the 12-step program.    Spending time with all the women Anne has helped through the years, and seeing all the lives she has touched, I know one thing for sure:  I am so blessed to have met this very special woman!

Today’s Miracle:

I wrote last week that I had a goal of getting to as many different meetings as I could in an attempt to market my own Monday meeting.  Today’s miracle is that, as a result of my “marketing campaign,” I had 3 new attendees at today’s meeting!

The 12 Steps in Everday Living: Part One

This is the first in what will hopefully be a 12-part series, something that has been percolating in my mind for a while.  The 12 steps are an amazingly helpful tool in overcoming addiction, but they offer so much more.  At least for this alcoholic, the 12 steps are a framework for living my whole life happy, joyous and free.  So I want elaborate on how each step has helped me overcome addiction, and also how it continues to help me in all areas of life.

Step One:  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.

The essence of this step is surrender, something that is difficult to do under any circumstances.  We have an amazing ability to deny, to justify, and to defend when in the throes of active addiction.  For me, admitting I was powerless took some time, and even longer to see how my life had become unmanageable.  I knew I had a problem, I just thought I could figure out a way to control the problem.  The harder I tried to control it, the worse the problem became, and, if you have read A Series of Bottoms, Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, then you know the end of that story.

But the good news is that once I finally surrendered to the idea that I was powerless, the solution became clear… not easy, but clear.  And to this day, step one is like the antidote to the thought of a drink or a drug.

So that’s how Step One helps my recovery, but here’s how it helps me in everyday life.  Mind-altering substances are not the only things over which I am powerless.  My life can still become unmanageable without picking up a drink or drug.  If I try to control those things over which I have no control, my life suddenly loses the serenity for which I have fought so hard, and step one helps me to keep all my thoughts in check, not just the ones concerning addictive substances.

When the people that I love are behaving in ways with which I disagree, and I fight to make them see my way is the right way, my life becomes unmanageable.

When situations arise that are unjust, and I am outraged with the injustice, my life becomes unmanageable.

When I am filled with fear over a future event, or filled with regret over a past event, my life becomes unmanageable.

When I am fixated on what is wrong in my life, instead of being grateful for all that is good, my life becomes unmanageable.

In each of those cases, and many others, simply admitting that I am powerless over those people, over the future, over the past, over so many things, frees me from the accompanying negative feelings, and allows me to remember what I can control, and restores me to sanity.

I am hoping my fellow friends in recovery will be willing to add to this post.  How does step one help in everyday living?  I can’t wait to read your ideas on this subject!

Today’s Miracle:

I showed up to a meeting today that I do not usually attend, and found a friend just coming back from a  relapse.  Watching the courage it took for him to admit his mistake, and the unconditional love he received, was heart-warming.  Remembering again how grateful I am to be sober is a miracle!

A Day in the Life of a (Recovering) Addict

So, if you’re tired of the same old story, oh, turn some pages. –REO Speedwagon, Roll With The Changes

I have a somewhat sheepish admission to make.  I have been taught that addiction is a disease of self-centeredness, and I can easily see that statement is true.  But, honestly, sometimes recovery seems self-centered as well.  I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time checking in with myself, my feelings, my emotions, making sure I am balanced.  If I feel the slightest bit “off,” I worry… oh no, am I heading toward a drink or drug?  And certainly, this beats the alternative of active addiction, but I sometimes feel like dealing with myself is like catering to a toddler.

Having said that, I will also freely admit there are payoffs to all of this soul-searching, and this morning I had one.  First, let me back up and tell you what kind of a day I had yesterday.  I was on a tight schedule for the morning:  my plan this whole week is to do a “media blitz” to encourage attendance at the meeting I run, so I had (have) a plan to canvas a bunch of local meetings, hand out my fancy new flyer, and generally, yuck it up with the other attendees.  So, back to yesterday, I am backing out of the garage, son in tow, and it completely slips my mind that my father-in-law‘s brand new trailer is parked in our driveway.  I bump it hard enough to send it rolling, and now my son is screaming in my ear that it is rolling down the hill in our backyard.  I can laugh about it now, because it really did play like a sitcom.  Fortunately, it did stop rolling after about 2 feet.

Still, not a really fun way to start the day.  Now I have to call my husband and father-in-law and share this wonderful news.  Quick side note:  I only hit the hitch of the trailer, so the primary damage is to my car, and, thank God, it is cosmetic, but still.

I did not procrastinate, I made the phone calls (huge change #1).  One call went well, one did not, but that is a story for another time.  By this time, I was unable to get to my planned meeting early, and so all my lofty aspirations for the media blitz are gone for that day.  Alright, there are worse things, but the day keeps going (not stressing about schedule snafus, huge change #2).  I have another appointment right after, and for the sake of this post not going into the thousands, word-wise, I will simply state that I received some seriously disappointing news.  The kind of news that, in the past, would send me into a self-righteous fury that could last for weeks.  And I still have to deal the damned car!

There’s a little bit more, but mostly minor at this point.  So, in the spirit of checking in with myself, I find some angst (surprise!).  Now, more or less instinctively, my first thought is to shoot up a quick prayer.  Nothing fancy, just “God, I’ve got some stuff going on, I could use a little extra help” (huge change #3).  Next, I share my thoughts with others (huge change #4).  Finally, and I did this many, many times throughout the day yesterday, I reminded myself of what is in my control (my thoughts, my actions) and what is not (everything else, including, apparently, the fender).  Of course, that is huge change #5.   And, miracle of all miracles, the rest of the day really did improve, and when I went to bed last night I was genuinely at peace.

This morning, I was speaking to my husband, and I mentioned that I was still upset about the disappointing news I received yesterday (the actual term I used was “pissed off,” I have the mouth of a truck driver in everyday life).  He said, “You are using the word pissed, but are you really?  Because you do not seem at all angry like you would have been in the past.”  So I considered this statement, and he is absolutely correct!  In fact, a review of the whole day, and how it ended, is a complete testament to the 12-step program and it’s effectiveness in everyday life.

Today’s Miracle:

At the risk of being redundant, the realization of yesterday’s huge changes, and the conversation with my husband this morning, are both miracles.

Utilize, Don’t Analyze

Today’s meeting was a discussion from the book Living Sober.  The purpose of this particular book is not to explain the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, nor is it designed to teach someone how to go through the 12 steps.  Rather, it is a compilation of helpful advice from recovered alcoholics about how to maintain early sobriety.

Because, as anyone new to recovery can testify, the early days are confusing, chaotic, and sometimes, downright frightening.  Generally speaking, a person does not decide to join AA because life is wonderful.  Nine times out of ten, AA is the end of the road.  We are at the end of our rope… sometimes legally, sometimes interpersonally, sometimes mentally, and often all of the above.

So we start coming to these meetings, and our lives are already in complete chaos.   And we sit down, and start reading a 78-year old book, and we are more confused.  And then people start sharing their personal stories, and we think, “How in the hell is this helping me, and my problems?”  And then the meeting ends, and well-meaning people swarm us, and give us all sorts of unsolicited advice.

And then we have to leave the meeting, and go back to our chaotic lives.

Like anything new, recovery takes trial and error, it takes practice, and it takes consistency.  When I hit my personal bottom, I already had an understanding of how 12-step meetings worked, so that confusion had been eliminated.  I still had serious doubt that sitting in the basement of a church for an hour a day was going to fix my life, but, then again, anything I had tried on my own had failed miserably, so I was open to suggestion.

And, for me, that open-mindedness was the key to recovery.  Previously, I was very skeptical of things that did not make sense to my personal sense of logic.  Why does sitting in a room with a bunch of addicts help?  Why does sharing my troubles with a group of strangers free me?  Why would going through 12 simple-sounding steps become a gateway to a happy, joyous and free life?

And because it didn’t make sense, I had no interest in trying it.  Again, until I had run out of options.  Suddenly, I was able to look at my choices, and the negative consequences of my choices, and compare them to this group of people who really did seem pretty happy.  They (for the most part) had peaceful demeanors, stable jobs, happy home lives.  I, on the other hand, did not.

So, whether I understood it or not, whether I agreed with it or not, I was finally willing to give it a try.  Take suggestions, follow advice, and not think too hard about anything…. I just did it.  The bottom line was this:  I may not understand how 12-step programs work, but I have all the proof I need by observing the success stories around me.  My way wasn’t working, their way was, I might as well try it.

And, lo and behold, it worked!  It really does not cost anything to give it a try, and as we like to say in the rooms, give it a try, we can always refund your misery!

Today’s Miracle:

The first day that feels like spring is always a miracle!

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