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Keep Calm and Sponsor

Monday’s meeting, while poorly attended (only 4), was still exactly what this alcoholic needed to start the week!

Since my format is rotating literature, and this the is the second Monday of the month, I selected a chapter from the book Living Sober.  If you have not heard of this book, and you are new to sobriety, I would highly recommend it. Short chapters, easily understood vocabulary, and very practical advice for how to live life without drinking.  Anyway, the chapter I selected was entitled “Avoiding Dangerous Drugs and Other Medications.”

Some full disclosure might be appropriate here.  One of the many benefits to running your own AA meeting is that you can tailor topics to suit your personal needs.  This particular Monday was absolutely the case.  I don’t think I have updated much on the topic of sponsorship lately, mainly because in the recent past not much has happened.  If you recall, I have had 2 different women ask me to sponsor them.  The first turned out to be someone who was asking in order to satisfy external circumstances (some legal issues, parents breathing down her neck, etc.).  We started to work on the steps, and then she stopped taking my calls, she missed a get-together we had planned, and so consequently we have been at a détente for months.  When I see her, which is very infrequently, I ask her how she is doing, and she always says she is fine, and that’s about it.

The second woman asked me after I spoke at her outpatient rehab.  At the time she had about 2 months, today she has close to 7 months of sobriety.  I have gotten to know her very well, and I am impressed with her commitment to sobriety in the face of some rather difficult life circumstances.

That said, I have been hearing from her a bit less than usual, and this week she cancelled due to pain from dental work.  When we did reconnect later in the weekend, she let me know that she was prescribed, and had taken, prescription pain medication as a result of her dental work, and wanted to know what I thought about that decision.

I was momentarily flummoxed, for a variety of reasons.  The first is that feeling I sometimes get as a parent, “Holy shit!  I am supposed to have an answer, right now, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to say!!!”  Another reason is that prescription pain medication is a significant part of my personal story, and, frankly the mention of it still hits a bit close to home.  Finally, I felt that whatever came out of my mouth next was important, because prescription pain meds are also a part of her personal story, and I truly felt like she was treading on some seriously thin ice.

I’ll tell you what I said in a minute, but the real point of this post is to talk about the early days of sponsoring someone.  For this sponsor, since I can only speak for myself, there have been quite a few moments of flying without a net, and shooting up loads of prayers that I’m saying the right thing.  I went to bed mulling over the situation.  The next morning, I ran into a mutual acquaintance of the first sponsee (the one who blew me off), and found out that she relapsed. So now, being ever-vigilant for God moments, I am panicked… oh no!  Please don’t let this be a sign!

I guess I should get back to what I told my sponsee yesterday when she asked about her prescription for narcotics.  I told her I am not a doctor, and therefore I am unqualified to tell her what she should or should not be taking.  I reminded her of the details of my personal story, and why I would be extremely hesitant to take anything that is mind-altering in nature.  But, at the end of the day, only one person can tell you if you are taking the medicine for legitimate reasons, only one person knows if you are taking it as prescribed, and only one person knows if you are disposing of it when you are done with it, and that person is not me, her primary physician, her dentist or her therapist… it is herself.  I told her if she is telling me that she legitimately needs the medicine, and that she is taking it exactly as prescribed on an as-needed basis, then she has maintained her sobriety.

But I went to bed wondering if I am correct.

Monday morning, I deliberately chose the chapter I described above.  The good news is this:  the chapter says essentially the same thing as I did:  that we in AA are not the medical community, we have no business telling people what to take or not to take, and we have no moral position on prescription or recreational drugs.  We only know what the potential outcome is for people who suffer with the disease of addiction, and we can only share our own stories as cautionary tales to the newcomer.

So I guess I did okay, but I can’t say I won’t be a little worried in the immediate future…

Today’s Miracle:

Our hot water heater burst over the weekend, so the miracle is the joy of hot water… showers, dishwashers, washing machines, the gratitude list goes on and on (and at the top of the list is my Father-in-law, who spent the entire Monday getting us the hot water!)

A Series of Bottoms, Chapter 1

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. –Aristotle Onassis

I have been back and forth about the following series of posts I am about to write (so obviously you know which way I decided).  On the one hand, I believe describing the events that led me into recovery is helpful for me personally, so I will always remember from whence I came.  Plus, as any recovery program will attest, sharing my experience, strength and hope will benefit the people around me as well (at least I hope it will).

On the other hand, and I cannot stress this part strongly enough, I have two different kinds of readers of this blog:  the community I have come to know and love, and the readers who have known and have loved me my whole life.  It is to this second group I am making the following statement:  the next several posts will be rough reading for you.  I am going to write candidly here about what is was like before I came into recovery.  If you want to read on, please do so at your own risk.

I am going to start my series of bottoms when I first attempted recovery.  By the end of this week, if you have read all of my posts, it will be as if you have come to an AA meeting where I was the guest speaker.   I took the first step of my journey to recovery in the winter of 2011.  I believe it was sometime in February when my husband sat me down and said he knew there was something wrong with me, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was.  I believe at the time I blamed it on winter blues, mixed in with some sadness because it was around the anniversary of my Father’s death (of course, he had been dead for 19 years, but hey, I can still be sad, right?).  The reality was that I was abusing prescription pills, basically, anything I could get my hands on.  It had started with back problems, and a referral to a pain management specialist a few years before, but by this point had escalated… basically, if you told me it was addictive, I wanted to take it.  At this point I had a vague sense that what I was doing was none too smart, but my rationalization was if it was legitimately prescribed for me, then how bad could it really be?

This particular bottom (and there will be more) culminated in April of 2011, when my husband got a more definitive grasp (though still not complete) of the nature of my problem; namely, prescription drugs.  He insisted I get help, and so I sought out treatment in an outpatient rehab near my house.  I actually completed that treatment, at least according to their paperwork, although I’m not sure how they could have, in good faith, let me “graduate.”  Because I was nowhere near accepting my disease in any way, shape or form.

Here’s what I was able to accomplish during that 6-week period.  Going into that treatment program, I was regularly abusing 3 different types of prescription drugs, in addition to drinking on a regular basis.  So my thought process at that point was:  okay, there is clearly a problem, and the problem is doing way too many different things.  Why not control it by eliminating what is not necessary or fun?  Alcohol, oddly enough, was the first to go, particularly because it caused me the most problems (if I had one glass of wine, the entire world knew it).  Next in line were what I would consider “extraneous” prescription drugs… the drugs I took because I was told they were “relaxing,” when in fact they did absolutely nothing for me.  That left what I have come to realize was my drug of choice, prescription pain pills.  At this time I had a regular, legitimate prescription waiting for me each and every month, and the idea of giving that up was as foreign to me as the idea of giving up water… simply not an option.  So I gave up everything else, but the one drug, and thought, alright, then, I am cured.  I will just narrow it down to one vice, how bad could it get?

We can all see where this is going, too bad I didn’t… Stay tuned for the next bottom…

Today’s Miracle:

There are two:  having the courage to write this down, and that someone has read far enough to get to this section!

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