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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!)

Pain Must Be Felt

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. –C.S. Lewis

This weekend I suffered my first real physical pain since being in recovery:  I pulled something in my back (how I did it, I really couldn’t tell you), and I have had difficulty walking for the past 2 days.   Multiple “old lady” jokes from my younger husband later…

The story of hurting my back would not be worth writing down, if it were not for being in recovery.  It is temporary, and it is not seriously debilitating.   It becomes significant, however, because in the past I would have gone running to the doctor’s for a lot less than this kind of pain.  So the fact that I made it through without wanting to numb myself… well, it counts for something, anyway.

Having said that, I wouldn’t go out to buy me any trophies.  Because now that I’ve had a chance to explore some real pain, and a real response to it, I have to honestly say that pain is not a trigger for me.  In fact, it brought to mind a memory from a surgery I had quite a few years ago (and before I was in active addiction).  I remember having a prescription for pain medication, and I remember consciously having the thought, “Well, if I take this now, while in real pain, that’s pretty much a waste.  Why not suffer through the pain and then have the medication for a time I can really enjoy it?”  Remember, that thought was years before active addiction!

That was not a pleasant memory to have, or even to share, but it’s the truth.  The difference between then and now is the knowledge I have gained, the ability to identify the irrational thoughts, and the skills I have developed to combat those thoughts when they come my way… namely, to share about them with people who understand.

It is interesting to me that this is all happening as I am winding down the clock on the first year of recovery.  Also interesting:  as I opened WordPress to write this post, a fellow blogger’s writing caught my eye because she just celebrated her one-year anniversary (congrats Renee!).  Towards the end of her post, she wrote, in big letters, “pain must be felt.”  So I hope that she does not mind my using her quote for my title, because it sure fits my life right about now!

Today’s Miracle:

The support and help from my family, my friends, and the people in my Monday meeting today is nothing less than miraculous.  I am truly blessed.

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