M(3), 8/17/15: The Dangers of Complacency

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an anecdote that relates to this blog’s tagline, There Are No Coincidences.  Guess that means it’s time for one.  There’s a bonus, too:  this one’s got layers!

Yesterday a series of events led me to searching through an external hard drive.  I discovered a Word document with an intriguing title, so I opened it, and found a letter written by me to another family member, dated November 2005.  The letter describes my journey to my then current state of being two months sober.

For those reading who don’t know my full back story, my (God Willing) permanent sobriety date is in 2012.  What I did not know at the time of writing that 2005 letter was that period of sobriety would only last about a year or so.

I had some mixed feelings reading about that time of my life.  On the one hand, I felt pride, because that letter was a surprisingly honest and accurate depiction of the timeline of events that led me to choosing sobriety.

Dismay and shameful feelings upon re-reading events about which I had forgotten.

Feelings of regret when I wrote, even at two months sober, that “AA is not for me, because I can’t really relate to the people I meet there.”  I think I stopped attending meetings almost immediately following that letter.

Finally, feelings of curiosity, as I was writing this letter because some family members had questioned my decision to identify as an alcoholic.  I concluded in the letter that I was unsure as well, but that for the time being, sobriety seemed the right choice for me.

I wondered ruefully if those family members have changed their minds in the years since.

So yesterday was an introspective day, lots of “what if” scenarios played out in my head:

  • What if those family members were right, and I somehow could have figured out a way to moderate drinking?
  • What if I had remained sober that entire time period, what would be different in my life?
  • And the worst case scenario:  what if I hadn’t chosen to get sober in 2012?

The nice part of all this rumination is the conclusion:  I needed every part of my journey to get me where I am today, the questioning, the heartache, the trial and error.  I’m grateful for all of it.

Long-winded back story, but I promise it’s going somewhere.  The scheduled reading for this morning’s meeting was step 8, made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.  But at the last moment a newcomer walked into the room and let us know he was a little over 30 days sober; this was his first meeting after rehab.

I made a quick decision, and ran it by the group for agreement: read out of meeting order, and read step one, we admitted we were powerless, that our lives had become unmanageable.

I can remember, even now, how preposterous the later steps sounded when I was in early recovery.  I sincerely doubt that this gentleman was ready to hear about the details involved in making amends.  The group agreed.

As we were reading the chapter, I wanted to laugh out loud at some of the lines, and how much they related to what I had written back in 2005:

Many less desperate alcoholics tries AA, but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.

Check and check, my conclusion in 2005 that my problem drinking was a result of circumstances, and it was most likely a temporary problem.

The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom.

Yep, also true for me.  I needed that gift of desperation in order to make the necessary change!

I could list a dozen more examples, but the point has been made that reading my 2005 letter, then reading step one, provided the perfect reminder of what happens when you fail to make sobriety a priority.

After I shared all of this, many other meeting attendees with much more wisdom, not to mention sober time, raised their hands to share their insight regarding step one.

One gentleman reminded us that there are two parts to this step:

  1. admission of powerlessness
  2. acknowledgement of unmanageably

Often, it’s impossible to tell which comes first, but it is essential to accept both in order to proceed with the remaining 11 steps.  The powerlessness and unmanageability are inextricably combined.

Another attendee spoke of alcoholism being the disease of denial.  It’s a vicious cycle:  the disease has us denying that we have a disease.  How to break the cycle?  Remove the alcohol from our system, and follow a few simple steps.

Yet another shared the power of two critical lessons from his early days:  staying sober one day at a time, and staying away from the first drink.  He remembered thinking how ingenious these two simple ideas are, and he has used them every day for the past 38 years!

The next person to share also spoke of how devastating denial can be.  She was able to put down the drink, but remained a dry drunk for years because she insisted she “was not like the rest of us.”  She finally got to the point where she had to either surrender completely, and follow the instructions given within the 12 steps, or pick up a drink to end the misery.  It’s been 24 years, and she’s never looked back.  As she puts it, “it’s such a great way of living, why not follow the steps?”

Finally, the newcomer raised his hand to speak.  Being unfamiliar with the typical meeting format, he opted to share his history with drinking.  Having started in 1958, he could see a steady progression of the disease until he sought some help…

wait for it…

in 2005!

He was able to stop drinking for…

wait for it…

a little over a year before he decided he could drink again.

Crazy, crazy stuff.  Our stories deviate in that he kept going past 2012, but he’s here now, and I’m really hoping we see him again next week.

Today’s Miracle:

Listening for the similarities, rather than the differences, is a miracle!

Posted on August 17, 2015, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Wow! Good, crazy stuff 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes!
    My weekend retreat included women with all histories. Some struggles wi alcoholism. Other food addiction. Still others anxiety or chronic illness.

    But we all “heard” each other. We were all scared going in to the retreat. Worried that the others wouldn’t like us. That we would feel left out. That we wouldn’t be with the cool kids.

    Inside we all just want to give love and to feel it reflected back at us. Love and acceptance and understanding.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That sounds like a beautiful weekend. I looked at the website, the next one’s in an even more exotic locale, but already sold out! Please make sure to include a link once the bracelets are available for sale.

      I for sure would love to experience a weekend like that. I will be checking back again soon!


      • They will be returning to sal spring island next summer.
        The location was so beautiful.

        It has become a bit of a dream of mine to do something similar. Running a yoga based bed and breakfast for retreats.

        It sounds so awesome. I’m adding it to my list of possibilities.

        We might have a canada get together with some bloggers for a weekend. I will keep you in mind and let you know!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh My. Please, please, PLEASE keep me in mind. I live in the States, but will do whatever I can to get there 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. 🙂 Beautiful post, thank you :-). The other day I had this sudden flash of insight about my life: I needed the humiliation of trying to quit and it not working in order to realise that I was addicted.’ It’s a tough one. I do not want it but it is true for me. I’m not doing AA but follow your blog, I’m still not fully there with the step 1. There is still some cockyness there. I would really like to speak with somebody who can stand next to me and look at the cockyness together, maybe point out the what and where and give me some perspectives. I am planning to go to my first AA meeting next week at 1 year and posssibly some days. But I am afraid for the people pointing fingers like I get on the chatroom ‘intherooms’. There are always these ‘I know it alls’who, instead of helping, just want to show of their knowledge and actually seem to shame people into submission. Not attractive. That is how I grew up and that is what I fear of AA. A few remarks like that send me reeling. While…. this is the pot calling the kettle black…. is EXACTLY what I have done at least the first 3 months I was in the sober blogosphere. 😦
    Why do I put this out here? Eh… because I hope you can help me deal with this fear. Because you put up this post a few months ago with reasons not to go to AA. 🙂 I would very much like to hear what you think on this.
    Thank you very much in advance,
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Feeling,

    I think you are closer to step one than you might think. “I do not want it but it is true for me.” People have started this program with less resolve than you have in that simple sentence, and I count myself as one who started with less resolve! My simple goal in the beginning of sobriety was to get out of trouble, that’s it. As you have read on my blog, it was all I needed, and it has evolved into more than I could have possibly dreamed.

    But in terms of your fears. First, I am so very sorry that you have experienced anything remotely like that while in or near the rooms of AA. It is so disappointing to hear people like that exist in this world, and how they are distorting the simple message of one alcoholic helping another.

    The best advice I have ever received on this type of behavior is: take what you need and leave the rest. If someone is speaking condescendingly or aggressively to you, remove yourself from them and find someone who does not. The good news is that there are lots and lots (and lots) of AA meetings in the world, and I can say with authority you will find one that works for you.

    What you describe, needing someone to look at your “cockyness” together, that is precisely the role of a sponsor. And I promise you, there is someone in a meeting nearby who sincerely wants to be that person for you. And your life will improve in ways you cannot imagine. The key is to keep coming back!

    Finally, in terms of the fear, I suggest baby steps. Pick a meeting that you will attend, go right as it’s starting, even a minute or two late. Sit in the back, and remain quiet and listen. Promise yourself that you can leave after 5 minutes if you are uncomfortable. Anyone can sit for 5 minutes, right? And believe me, people get up and leave all the time, no one is thinking twice about you doing it.

    I am doubting you will want to get up and leave, but knowing it’s an option will lessen the fear.

    I can’t wait to hear how it goes, and CONGRATULATIONS on one year… that is HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  5. Dear Miracle,
    Thank you so much for your reply. 🙂 ‘Take what you need and leave the rest’, ghegheghe, that options does not even exist in my head. I realise I have stayed away from meetings because I felt I can not deal with it and I’ve been working myself up to find accurate replies to ‘defend’ myself. :-D. Ghegheghe. :-). And yes, I could always leave, but I think I’m not like that. I’m not at 1 year yet, a week from now it is, well I guess and hope it is.
    Thanks again!
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The way you facilitate your sessions give me the goose bumps. Seriously! So many folks would be flustered when a class trends off the predetermined path. But, not Josie! You roll with it and make it even more meaningful for those involved. I’m sorry that I’ve been away for so long…you’re never far from my thoughts. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle, please know that I think of you just as often. I too have been lax in my reading, I want to weep when I think of how my diligence to this community has waned. But I know for me, and I believe for you, that we are putting that time to good use.

      I hope all is well in the Midwest, things are actually beautiful here in the Northeast. Countdown to school is here for us, so you know there will be celebratory posts from me next week 😉

      Hope to connect more with you soon, and, of course, thank you for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

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