M(3), 12/1: The Keys to the Kingdom
Holy mackerel it’s December!!! I bet if I look back, I write something like this every month, but still… it’s December!
Being that it is the first Monday of the month, today’s reading selection came from the book Alcoholics Anonymous. The personal story is called “The Keys to the Kingdom,” and was written by Sylvia K., who was instrumental in bringing AA to the Chicago area. Although written 75 years ago, Sylvia’s story of active addiction is as relatable today as any you would hear in the blogosphere, in the rooms of a 12-step meeting, or in a rehab:
…through a long and calamitous series of shattering experiences, I found myself being helplessly propelled toward total destruction. I was without power to change the course my life had taken. How I had arrived at this tragic impasse I could not have explained to anyone. I was thirty-three years old and my life was spent. I was caught in a cycle of alcohol and sedation that was proving inescapable…
-pg. 304, Alcoholics Anonymous
Sylvia’s path mercifully led her to the founders of AA, and from there her life changed dramatically:
It has been so many years since I had not relied on some artificial crutch, either alcohol or sedatives. Letting go of everything at once was both painful and terrifying. I could never have accomplished this alone. It took the help, understanding and wonderful companionship that was given so freely to me by my “ex-alkie” friends. This and the program of recovery embodied in the Twelve Steps. In learning to practice these steps in my daily living I began to acquire faith and a philosophy to live by. Whole new vistas were opened up for me, new avenues of experience to be explored, and life began to take on color and interest. In time, I found myself looking forward to each new day with pleasurable anticipation.
-pg. 310-311, Alcoholics Anonymous
An incredible message of hope, Sylvia’s story is one I would recommend reading.
Two messages stood out for me personally while reading today’s story. The first was Sylvia’s personal physician who never gave up on her, and eventually led her to the founders of the AA program. Without this man’s perseverance and guidance, Sylvia would not have had the introduction into this new and incredibly improved way of life.
Education about alcoholism and recovery have come a long way since Sylvia’s story, and we are blessed to have many resources at our disposal when we seek to find an answer to our addiction. But there are still those angels in our lives that help us along the way.
I remember once, the summer before I hit bottom, I was attending a 12-step meeting, but was still deep in the throes of active addiction. A woman who I recognized but did not know personally, came up to me and told me a story about herself which, at the time, seemed almost strange: why is she telling me this? The details of the story are unimportant, but two things stuck with me. First, her challenges in sobriety so closely matched mine that I was amazed. Up to that point, I had yet to find someone “just like me,” and I believe that feeling of “terminal uniqueness” kept me in the rut of active addiction. Second, this woman had more than 5 years of sober time. So, again, eye-opening: here is someone just like me who is managing to stay sober. It took several months more, and several more “angels,” but that moment represented a turning point in my thinking.
The second message that jumped out at me in Sylvia’s story was her belief that recovery is an ongoing process:
A.A. is not a plan for recovery that can be finished and done with. It is a way of life, and the challenge contained in its principles is great enough to keep any human being striving for as long as he lives. We do not, cannot, out-grow this plan. As arrested alcoholics, we must have a program for living that allows for limitless expansion. Keeping one foot in front of the other is essential for maintaining our arrestment. Others may idle in a retrogressive groove without too much danger, but retrogression can spell death for us. However, this isn’t as rough as it sounds, as we do become grateful for the necessity that makes us toe the line, for we find that we are more than compensated for a consistent effort by the countless dividends we receive.
-pg. 311, Alcoholics Anonymous
Sylvia writes it better than I ever could: recovery is an ongoing, limitless, boundless journey. There is no graduation, and no ceiling on the joy it brings!
I also asked for help from the very large group (we had 16 attendees today!) in an upcoming project of mine. I asked them to share their best strategies for staying sober through the holiday season. Some are tried and true, some really surprised me, but all were great tips. There are so many that I will be compiling them into a separate post. You can’t have enough tools in your sobriety toolbox!
Some other points shared by the group:
- Recovery is a “we” program, not a “me” program: whether you choose a 12-step program, reading and connecting with bloggers, or some other way, sobriety is so much easier with the support of like-minded people.
- Alcoholic triggers do not have to be alcohol: a friend just came home from a vacation with a large group of people. None drank, but my friend’s anticipation of having to deal with alcohol gave her drunk dreams 3 nights in a row. She has been sober for decades! The message is clear: alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful, and it is important to stay vigilant.
- Keeping sobriety first despite holiday stress: a friend found herself surviving Thanksgiving with a bit of white-knuckling. She had plans to do something else this morning, and it finally dawned on her: she needs to put sobriety first because of holiday stress, or the holiday stress will do her in! She cancelled her appointment and instead came to the meeting.
I’m hopeful everyone had a joyful Thanksgiving (well, I hope my American friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I hope my international friends had a wonderful November 27th!). For those choosing sobriety, I hope you found success in this endeavor, and enjoyed yourself while doing so. More to follow on holiday survival strategies!
Today I agreed to speak on The Bubble Hour, an internet talk show about recovery from alcoholism and addiction. We will be discussing sober survival strategies for the holiday season this Sunday, December 7th, at 9 pm EST. I’m not sure which part is the miracle, being asked to participate, agreeing to participate, or both, but I’m pretty sure there is a miracle in there somewhere! Here is the link if you are interested in finding out more information:
Posted on December 1, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step, 12 step program, 12 steps, AA, Addiction, Alcoholic Anonymous, Alcoholism, Big Book, fellowship, Meeting, Miracle, Monday, Recovery, self-development, Self-Help, Sobriety, Support Groups, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.