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M(3), 3/6/2017: A Story for Any Stage of Recovery

keep-calm-that-march-is-finally-here

Happy March to all!

Today’s reading was a personal story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”) entitled “It Might Have Been Worse.”  This story is an excellent read for a variety of reasons.  First, it describes eloquently the progression that is the disease of addiction.  Equally convincingly does the author describe the role denial plays into alcoholism, and the various ways denial manifests itself into the life of an alcoholic.  Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, the author describes how he came into the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to stay sober, but found he received an entirely better way to live his life.

I got a lot out of the reading this morning, and I was surprised to find this to be so.  I actually walked into the meeting this morning doubtful I could keep my head in the game for the hour the meeting took place.  I’m having “one of those weeks,”  the kind every single human being on the planet has.  And truly, the fact that I can easily identify having a lot going on is progress, as is taking my mental inventory on a regular basis.  But still, knowing that I’m dealing with life issues the same as everyone doesn’t actually take those life issues away, and so I was distracted this morning.

But I also know that sitting around and ignoring responsibilities is not going to take the worry away, so I go where I’m committed to going.  And as is always the case, the meeting helped.

What I related to most in the story… well, actually, I related to a lot.  The author developed a problem with alcohol later in life, as did I.  The author could clearly remember a time when he drank without problems, as can I.  The author initially heard stories within the 12-step fellowship that made him think his problems were not relatable… so did I.

Unlike the author, who took to the principles of the 12 steps from his very first meeting, it took me a little while to buy into the 12 steps.  But once I got on board, I found the same result:  I went to meetings and followed suggestions initially to stay sober and nothing more.  But once I started following the suggestions, I realized that staying sober is only the beginning of the miracles that take place; every part of my life is enhanced by practicing the principles of the 12 steps in all my affairs.  The very reason I write this blog is to show that the 12 steps are really a blueprint for a better life!

The reading was a great selection for this particular meeting, as we had several people new or newly returning to sobriety.   A story that gives such practical advice as this one is sure to help anyone at any stage of sobriety, and it seems like the story resonated with everyone as much as it did me. Here are some other great take-away’s:

  • There is an excellent description in the reading about what it means to be powerless over alcohol:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable.  This didn’t say we had to be in jail ten, fifty, or one hundred times.  It didn’t say I had to lose one, five or ten jobs.  It didn’t say I had to lose my family.  It didn’t say I had to finally live on skid row and drink bay rum, canned heat, or lemon extract.  It did say I had to admit I was powerless over alcohol- that my life had become unmanageable.  Most certainly I was powerless over alcohol, and for me my life had become unmanageable.  It wasn’t how far I’d gone, but where I was headed.       -pg. 354, Alcoholics Anonymous

  •  Denial is the most insidious symptom in the disease of alcoholism, and it is the one element that can come back no matter how much sober time one has.  There aren’t many diseases in the world that have denial as part of the condition.  A way to combat the return of the symptom of denial is to continue to treat the disease… go to meetings, read literature, share with others, develop a spiritual life, work the 12 steps.  By staying close to the things that got you sober you insure against denial creeping back into your life.
  • The reading talks about the use of alcohol as a form of self-medication.  Life gets rough, and the first thought is how to take the edge off, and of course alcohol is the go-to solution.  A big part of successful recovery is learning how to face life on life’s terms, without needing to chemically alter ourselves when things get stressful.
  • There are a number of AA expressions that the author references as helpful, and many in the meeting this morning agreed that these simple phrases have a powerful effect on living a peaceful life.  “First things first,” “Easy does it,” “24 hours a day…” these are all things that help us to get sober, but over time they help us to live our lives more effectively and peacefully as well.
  • The story distinguishes between the two components of the disease of addiction:  the allergy of the body and the obsession of the mind.  The first component has a (relatively) simple fix:  if you don’t take the first drink, you will not suffer the consequences of the “allergy.”  In other words, if you don’t take the first drink, you won’t crave the next dozen or so after!  The obsession of the mind is a little harder to grasp, and takes quite a bit longer to heal, but the 12 steps go a long way in restoring peace of mind, and thus removing the obsession to drink.

So much great stuff, and I’m thinking I still failed to cover it all.  Happy Monday!

Today’s Miracle:

Today, hitting publish on this post is going to count as today’s miracle.  Here’s hoping that this time next week I have all sorts of positive news to report from my life issues!

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