It has been a heck of a morning.
I think the miracle today is that I have anything to write about, in terms of a Monday meeting. Woke up this morning to the 5 am phone call: schools are on a 2-hour delay, due to a surprise snowfall yesterday. The snow fall was surprising, the phone call was not. Then found out the car will not start, despite due diligence on the part of my husband. Okay, so the challenge: figure out how to get the kids to their respective schools, find out how to schedule the tow truck, and still there is that whole Monday meeting thing I’ve got going on.
At which point I discover tactical error number one on my part, and it falls squarely into the category of Things Josie Should Have Known Better: I’ve got not a single phone number of any of my regular meeting attendees. Not one. Further, I regularly drive a gentleman without a license to my meeting; he has my phone number, but I do not have his. And the pressure mounts, as the kids are running around like lunatics!
At one point I actually had to stop myself in the middle of whatever task I was doing, and talk back to the racing thoughts. And I said, “You are not the first person to have car trouble, this is a privilege problem, and the world is not coming to an end. Snap out of the self-pity, and do the next task in front of you.” Seriously, I had to say these words to myself (in my head, so as not to alarm the kids).
This kind of “back talk” to the craziness that is my mind is a newer skill, and one that comes in very handy during chaotic mornings like this one. Each time my son said, “But what about…” and “How are you going to…” and “But what if…,” I was able to calmly say, “One thing at a time,” and know that is the right answer.
The result was not as smooth as I would have liked, but I am sitting here typing this story, so things worked out. The tow truck was delayed, but they called to let me know. So I borrowed a car (and was consciously grateful for the relationships that allowed me to do so), drove directly to the gentleman’s house I take with me on Mondays, picked him up, asked him to please chair the meeting, got him there, and got back before the tow truck arrived. Made arrangements for both kids to get to school (and again had subsequent gratitude for the neighbors that helped me), and asked my sister-in-law to drive me back out to the meeting after everything was squared away. Actually made it to the meeting before the halfway point (thank goodness the place is close to home), and was able to participate in the meeting. Got a ride home, and no catastrophe has befallen me. Of course, I have not heard from the car dealership yet, but still, I’m going to count this morning as a win.
So, onto the actual point of this post, which is the meeting topic, and the message that means so much to me on a weekly basis. Today was a selection from the book Living Sober, a simply written “how to” book on handling situations in early sobriety. The chapter selected by the gentleman who pinch hit for me today was entitled: “Remembering that alcoholism is an incurable, progressive, fatal disease.” Of course, I missed the first half of the meeting, so I am unsure of his reasons for selecting it, but the sharing I heard during my time made it clear that this is a message that is important to remember, especially during the holiday season. With all the merriment that surrounds the holidays, it can be very easy for an alcoholic like myself to forget that drinking, for me, does not end in the laughter and fun that it does for most.
So how to handle it? One of the meeting attendees, a gentleman with 28 years of sobriety, put it this way: “This time of year, each year, I keep the word diligence at the forefront of my mind. I remember I went to any and all lengths to get sober, and now I need to go to any and all lengths to stay sober.” For him, that means keeping up with meeting attendance, regular sharing with other alcoholics, and not being afraid to ask about alcohol as an ingredient at upcoming functions.
When I consider that the maintenance of my sobriety is actually just a few simple steps, it lightens the load of alcoholism. At a bare minimum, if I simply refrain from ingesting any mind-altering substances, then I can survive the holiday season, car problems and the subsequent stress; really, I can handle anything. Of all the incurable, progressive, fatal diseases, I am grateful to have the one with the simplest means of keeping it in remission!
I would say making it to my Monday meeting, even halfway through, counts as a miracle!
Everyone knows the type: the person who reads about an illness, then suddenly develops the symptoms of said illness. I can tell you that throughout my pregnancies there was not one symptom I experienced that my husband didn’t also share, and sometimes try to top!
I can’t honestly say I have ever had that particular mind disorder; that is, until now. I am currently sober 22 months and change, and as such am approaching another big milestone. Add to that another juncture, if you will, on my journey to recovery: the legal consequences that I have referenced from time to time on this blog are just about wrapped up. The heavy lifting is officially done, all that’s left now is the loose-end tie-up (which, of course, could be endless, I am never one to say it’s over until is really, really over). The closing of this chapter in my life book, and there is no way to overstate this, is huge.
But it’s like running the 5K, or reaching a goal weight, or achieving whatever accomplishment for which I have been striving… now what?
This is where the hypochondria has, on a low-level, set in. I find myself looking around for the people who started on the recovery road with me, and I don’t see them. I hear stories in 12-step meetings about how they have reached a goal, got the feeling of “I’ve got this,” and eventually forgot from whence they came. And that feeling only leads back to one place… the bottle.
So for the first time in my life, I am sympathizing with the hypochondriacs of this world. Because I think, “if it can happen to them, then it can happen to me.” And then I think, “maybe I am on my way back, and I don’t even realize it.”
So how do you talk back to this voice? I don’t want to disregard the concern, yet wallowing in worry and anxiety doesn’t seem sensible either.
The only way I can figure makes sense is to have a plan of attack, a checklist, and pray that I am still heading in the right direction. So, first things first, if I have a concern, get it out of my head. Which, clearly, I am doing, and have also done in my 12-step meetings. Next, remember what has worked for the past 22 months, and ensure that I am still practicing these principles in all my affairs. When I started, I had a to-do list of 4 things every day:
2. Go to a meeting
3. Talk to another alcoholic
4. Not pick up a drink or drug
Now, I look at that list and my mind panics… I only do 2 of those 4 things on a daily basis! So I go back to square one and figure out what has changed, and if the changes are working. As it turns out, they are. I went to daily meetings for the first year; the past 10 months, I have scaled back to those meetings from which I glean the most, and that change has been effective for me. Okay, problem solved.
I could also add something to the list that I hadn’t even considered on day one of sobriety: give back that which has been freely given, which is something I do on a regular basis. So although I have taken off the list, I have also added to it, so net/net it works out.
Next on the list: gut check: can I stay sober today? Because remember, today is all we’ve got. I have never asked myself that question in sobriety where the answer hasn’t been a resounding YES, so again, there is great comfort in realizing that the obsession is still lifted. Of course, if another answer were to come, back to square one: Speak. Up! Tell someone what is going on.
Finally, do a mental check-in on associations within my sober support network. For me, am I still blogging (I guess that answer is self-evident)? Am I checking in with my fellow bloggers? Am I still connected to people in my fellowship? Am I shying away from commitments, or am I embracing the opportunities? The answer to this is a mixed bag for me currently. Some I am doing well (you will read more about this one in Today‘s Miracle); some I need to re-visit. Of course, the next obvious step here: go out and do what you’ve been slacking on.
I guess time will tell is this plan of action is one that works. I have had sober time before, probably about as much as I have currently. The difference between then and now is the ongoing practice of the 12 steps of recovery. I am hopeful that, one day at time, I will “trudge the road of happy destiny!”
I’m putting this in as a reminder to myself that it is, indeed a miracle (rather than the stomach-twisting event that it currently feels like): I have been asked to speak at an anniversary celebration for an Al-Anon meeting this evening. The regular attendees of this meeting are, I assume, quite familiar with my story, although they have not met me personally. This will change, and they will hear my story from me, tonight. Right now all I’m thinking is, “Yikes! I’m venturing into the enemy camp!” But, deep down, I know this will be a monumental event, and I am, despite my nerves, grateful for this opportunity. I’m sure I will be writing about the experience!
What do you want to hear first: the good news or the bad news?
If you’re like me, you want to get the bad news out of the way, so here it is: addiction is a chronic, progressive, incurable disease. Once diagnosed, you are never healed.
Alright, bad news dispensed, here’s the good, no, scratch that, the great news: the methods employed for managing the disease of addiction are ridiculously inexpensive (read: free), easily accessible, and can be utilized by anyone suffering from it. If used properly and consistently, not only will the addict keep his or her disease in remission permanently, the rest of his or her life will improve dramatically. How many other diseases can make that claim?
So the question for people like myself, with more than a year of recovery, how do you keep on keepin’ on? How can you ensure that you are maintaining your recovery?
As a regular participant in 12-step recovery, nothing scares me more than to hear stories of people with significant sober time come back after a relapse. Sadly, it happens more than one would like to think. I have seen people with 20 years of sobriety “go out,” and come back and report what we all know to be true: it never gets better. Twenty minutes, twenty days, twenty years; pick up a drink or drug, and you have fallen back down the rabbit hole.
Every time I hear that tale, the person says the same thing: “I picked up (meaning either drank again or used a drug again), but the relapse happened well before that.”
And that’s the part that terrifies this addict. Because I can say, with certainty, for today, that I am not tempted to ingest a mind-altering substance. But what worries me is am I heading towards it? Because, as we say in AA, everything you do either takes you toward a drink, or away from it, and the steps towards relapse are small and inconsequential at first…. so have I taken them without realizing it?
Here’s how I’ve solved that problem, for myself anyway, and I figured I could write it out in case it would help anyone else. I’ve developed a checklist to make sure I am staying on track when it comes to my recovery. The list is in reverse order for a reason, for each question that I can respond in the affirmative, I feel that much better.
- Have I maintained my sobriety date?
- Do I wish to pick up a drink or a drug?
- Am I confident that I can refrain from ingesting mind-altering substances just for today?
- Have I prayed today?
- Am I regularly participating in 12-step meetings?
- How is my mental state? If bad, has it been consistently bad? Has there been a pattern of negative thinking?
- When life becomes stressful, do I react in healthy, sober ways, or do I revert to old patterns of behavior?
- Am I maintaining my new, sober healthy behaviors and daily structure, or am I letting things slip?
- Have I been talking about what’s going on with me, or have I been keeping things bottled up?
- Have I been sharing with other people in recovery?
- Have I been giving back (12th step work)?
- Gut check: do I believe that I could pick up, just once, and it would be okay?
I would love to hear what people would add to this list, or how they would modify it!
That I can read this list, and feel pride that I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic/addict!
I should have written this post two months ago, but the subject is on my mind, so it will have to fall into the category of “better late than never.”
Did you ever go to the gym and observe the different motivations present? Some, like myself, go in, head down, do what we really don’t want to do, but know we have to, and are at our happiest when the workout is done. Others seem genuinely happy to be moving their bodies, making the best use of the physical gifts given to them. Still another set, perhaps a more mature generation, are there with purpose, looking to maintain… weight, flexibility, endurance, they are seeking to hold on to what they have. And, of course, there is the group that are there to push their limits, to pursue greater and greater physical goals.
You will find this same scenario almost anywhere you go… church, work, school, even the grocery store. In each case, the players are all presumably doing the same thing (exercising, praying, working, studying, shopping), but, because the motivation is so vastly different, the experience and outcome vary widely.
And so it is in recovery. Everyone sitting in an AA meeting has the same ostensible goal, sobriety. But ask each person in that same meeting what sobriety means to them personally, and you will probably get as many answers as there are people in the room. For some, simply putting down the drink or drug is the period at the end of the sentence. Once they have stopped ingesting mind-altering substances, the game is over, and they have won.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum: for some, sobriety is taking every element of their 12-step program to the extreme. These people will frequent 12-step clubhouses, hang out there between meetings, take advantage of every service and social opportunity presented, and get involved in the deepest way possible.
Some, like myself, started out with a goal of wanting the alcoholic obsession removed, but in the course of recovery have evolved to loftier goals, things such as serenity and peace of mind.
Of course among these groups lie too many variations to count. I am not judging any of these variations as right or wrong; as far as I’m concerned, if you are content with your recovery, then I couldn’t be happier for you, however you go about it.
For me, recovery started out as a triage situation: I needed immediate and severe help.
Once I stanched the flow of blood (metaphorically, of course), I had some decisions to make. Which direction did I want to take my recovery? I could clearly see the paths in front of me, as I have witnessed all sorts of recovery variations, both in the rooms of AA, as well as in the blogging world. Do I want to go “all in” with recovery, and become the poster child for AA? Or do I feel like I’ve gotten all I needed from the 12-step program, and now it is time for me to stand on my own two feet?
My thought process, in making this decision, was simple: the heart of the AA program, or any 12-step program, are the steps themselves. When I was taught these steps, I caught on, even while learning them, that they are more than just about putting down the drink or drug. The steps are meant as a blue-print for life: follow them to the best of your ability, and you will never need to pick up a mind-altering substance again. As I put them into practice, I had clear proof that they are helping me live a better life, not just because it is a sober one, but because the overall quality is better than it ever had been before.
Since I have seen the 12 steps work for others, and I can feel the 12 steps working in my own life, my answer was simple: keep what is working in my life, and use what is working to fix what is not. So my goal is to use the 12 steps to improve all areas of my life. I have many examples where I have succeeded, and I try to chronicle them in the series I am writing on Fridays. I have much progress to make, but I am human and so it is all about the progress, rather than the perfection.
So, short story long, I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from the application of the 12 steps to their lives. Whether you are an alcoholic or not, there is much in this life over which we are powerless, there is much that causes discontent, and so there is much work to be done to restore all of us to sanity. It is certainly not a magic potion, nor is it a one-time cure, like a vaccine. Rather, it is like learning a trade: once you know what to do, you just need to do it. Like exercising a muscle, the more you do, the stronger it gets.
Alright, enough analogies already!
I know it will soon get old, but I am loving stepping outside into ninety degree weather… summer is here in Pennsylvania!
Probably any member of a 12-step program, anyone who was once hopelessly enslaved to a mind-altering substance, but who now has some sober time within a Fellowship, can attest to the power of this step. For myself, I was once a person who had obsessive thoughts about my addiction from the time I opened my eyes in the morning. Not a moment in a day went by that I was in some stage of planning for my addiction… either I was figuring out how to get it, how to use it, or how to cover up my tracks.
Contrast that to present day, when the obsession is gone. It is hard to describe the miracle that is the release from the compulsion to ingest a drink or drug. So for people seeking recovery, reading this step and thinking it impossible (as I once did), I can tell you from personal experience it works, and it is miraculous.
It is the ongoing application of this step that is a great deal more difficult to practice. Step six, in everyday life, asks you to consider all of your defects, even the ones that are not as glaring as addiction, and suggests that you be entirely willing to have God remove them. When you think about it, that’s a pretty tall order. All defects? So what does that mean, this step is not complete until I am Mother Theresa?
My all-or-nothing thinking trips me up, in a big way, on this step. Since it seems a virtual impossibility to be entirely willing to remove all my defects of character, then why attempt it at all? Therefore I need to look at this step, in everyday living, as a yardstick. If being “entirely ready” is the gold standard, then I measure myself against it, and compare myself to myself. Am I more willing today than I was in active addiction? You better believe it, and I can celebrate that fact. Some days I pull the yardstick out and realize that I have not been nearly as willing today as I was yesterday, so I hit the reset button with which I have been blessed, and I start over.
Now, which of my many character defects should I use as an example? I’ll pick a common one: there are many times when I can be judgmental towards others. I know full well it is not my place to judge, but I do it anyway. I can certainly admit that it is a character defect, so will it work the same way as it did with addiction… I’ll just make myself “entirely ready” and then it will be gone? Maybe it would work that way, but first I have to really and truly be “entirely ready.” And, right or wrong, if I still get something out of this defect, if being judgmental makes me feel a little superior, and I enjoy that feeling, then I am not entirely ready.
The best I can do is to strive for the perfection the step suggests, work to be entirely willing, but all the while aware that, as a flawed human, I will never arrive at that destination. This is one step that is all about the journey. So, on a daily basis, I look at myself, I take stock, and I do the best I can to do the will of God.
Sometimes, it can be a small miracle: my son threw up in a sink full of dishes (including a rag). Cleaning up that mess, and not throwing up myself, is a miracle (came extremely close to not being a miracle, but I made it)!
I hit an intellectual wall when I first read Step Three, which I covered already in an earlier post (read Step Three in Everyday Living). I got the concept of admitting powerlessness over addiction (I didn’t actively do it, but I at least understood it), I always intellectually understood the idea of a Higher Power, and His ability to help me. But I really, truly, sincerely did not understand how to practically apply Step Three to any part of my life. I wanted to turn this whole mess over to God, I thought I was attempting to do just that every day, but clearly I had been doing something wrong, because I was still “going the wrong way!” (Any fan of Planes, Trains and Automobiles will enjoy that reference).
Finally, a light bulb went off when it was explained to me this way: imagine your life as if you are driving a bus, and God is your co-pilot. In the same way that you would check in with your co-pilot for directions, check in with God. The more you check in, the better your directions will be. Sounds hokey, but for whatever reason the analogy worked for me.
In terms of recovery, God’s will is obvious: do not drink (or use any mind-altering substances). So the practice is simple: will doing x, y, or z make me want to pick up a drink or drug? If the answer is yes, I don’t do it. If this answer is no, I do it. Simple, right? It sounds simple, but takes a lot of practice to actually be simple. In the months prior to hitting my personal bottom, I was all about, “but I HAVE to go, it’s a family obligation, people will talk if I don’t show up, blah, blah blah…” And that thinking had me relapsing on a very regular basis. So when I hit bottom, I simply stayed away from anything concerning mind-altering substances, if I absolutely had to be there, I limited my time, and I backed it up with a 12-step meeting.
And guess what? The family obligations went on, quite nicely, without my royal presence. And if people talked, well, guess what? I wasn’t around to hear it, so it did not matter anyway.
As time marched on, and I got stronger in my recovery, being around alcohol stopped being an anxiety-producing element of a social gathering. I can actually remember when it turned around… I was about 3 months sober, at a First Holy Communion party for my God Daughter, so it counted as a function I deemed necessary, but might need to limit. And while talking to various family members, I realized, “Wait a minute, I’m doing the exact same thing as every other member of this party (aka standing around, eating, talking, laughing), the only difference between me and them is the type of liquid in my glass!” From that point on, I felt completely comfortable in social situations with alcohol.
In terms of everyday living, Step Three can be a bit more challenging to practice, and is a gradual and ongoing process. God’s will is not always transparent, at least not to me. I ask Him, every morning, to direct my thoughts and actions. In bigger decisions, I attempt to check in with Him, to ensure I am heading in the right direction. For example, situations involving my children crop up on a regular basis, and decisions need to be made… does the behavior require discussion, discipline, both or neither? Frequently my husband and I reach different conclusions, and so now there are two issues, how do I handle each? Prior to Step Three, the answer would have been, react immediately to child’s behavior, with little to no thought if I am teaching the proper lesson, and then argue with my husband that my way of handling it is the right way. Turning these kinds of things over to the care of God gives me the much-needed pause, and allows me to reflect on the most effective way of dealing with everyone involved.
But the biggest use of Step Three in everyday life, for me, is when I am feeling anything less than peaceful. The minute I notice I am feeling “off,” in any way, I take it as a sign that I am not practicing Step Three. So, I check in with Him, and review what’s going on with me… what’s causing distress? Why am I feeling this way? More often than not, when I take the mental step back, I can clearly see where I’ve veered off the “God-centered” path and onto the “self-centered” one. Sometimes it is small enough that a quick mental review and prayer is enough, other times, talking it over with someone is necessary, and, if large enough, sometimes an all-out amends needs to be made, but since that is not until step 9, and we are only on step three, I’ll save that bit of fun for a later post!
I can already hear my husband challenging the title of this post, he would argue that my next post should be labeled the final chapter, but for me, this is the finale, God willing, in terms of bottoming out.
Okay, quick summary of the past three days… for 8-9 months, I had been attempting recovery, with absolutely zero success (if you are just joining this story, read back a few posts to Chapter 1). And each turning point during that time took me lower and lower, and feeling more and more hopeless. Where we last left off, I had been struggling with marital problems, frustration and/or outright anger from family and friends, multiple failed rehab treatments, failed attempts with AA, stepwork, sponsors, and on top of it all, the question mark of legal consequences.
And still I continued my addiction.
My final day was actually this day (Friday), but the date was January 26, 2012. The day started like any other. I attempted to pray, but deep down knew that I would get up, and go right back to what I knew… addictive behavior. I could retrace every step of that day, but I’m not sure it would serve much purpose. I will, however, recount what has become for me the critical moment. I had a thought so clear that I actually said it out loud, to myself, in the car: “There was not one part of this day that was fun.”
Anyone reading who is an addict knows that after a time, your drug of choice becomes totally ineffective, and what you are in fact doing is chasing the high that hasn’t really happened for a long time. By this point in my addiction, I really had no pleasant physical reaction at all, so of course the question becomes, then why do it? That question is already answered in the minds of every addict reading this, and will never be answered to the satisfaction of every non-addict. The ultimate answer: I do it because I am an addict.
Back to the story: so at the time I did not know I was uttering profound words, but in fact I was, because that was my last day of using a mind-altering substance. The day continued, and I actually had plans that evening to go out with some friends. During the car ride to the restaurant I spoke with my husband, and got a sense that something was amiss, but had no idea what it could be. I got home later that evening, and waiting for me was a card and a dozen roses… it was the anniversary of our first date. He remembered, I did not. And while there were these beautiful things waiting for me, my husband’s mood was not one of them. I tried to pry it out of him, but he would not budge…. nothing was wrong, he said.
Went to bed, next day, the icy silence continued. I tried multiple times to figure out the problem, but to no avail. This is technically day 1 of sobriety, but the ramifications of my behavior are still to come.
My final bottom was more or less like an airplane hitting a runway as it is attempting to come to a stop… a series of bumps, and then… silence.
Bump: Sunday morning, I wake up, my husband is already out of bed. He comes into the room, I ask, for perhaps the 1,000th time that weekend, can you please tell me what’s wrong. He sits down on the bed, and lays it out very simply: he cannot do this anymore, I need to leave the house, immediately. He will drive me to my Mom‘s, but that is it. If I don’t go, he will make a scene in front of the kids, and cause irreparable damage to my relationship with them. He takes my phone, my keys, almost everything out of my wallet, and drives me away from my home.
Bump: I am dropped off, like a bag of garbage, at my Mom’s house. Both siblings that live there and my Mother cannot even look at me, they are so angry, hurt, and disappointed.
Bump: The next day, I have an already scheduled lawyer’s visit, at which point I am told that there seems to be no other alternative but jail time for my legal consequences.
Bump: The next day, I must report to a police station to make all the charges official. My picture is taken, I am finger printed, just like you see on TV.
And then… silence. And there I sat, my life in ruins, with very little idea of how I ever got to this place.
I’d like to add, at this point, that writing these posts for the past three days has been so much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Which is good, because I never would have done it if I had known how difficult it would be. Mainly, I have discovered in the past few days that I am, at heart, an optimistic, hopeful person, and writing about such dire things really goes against my grain. But if my story has touched even one person, and helped them in some way, then it is more than worth it.
I will conclude with what has become the beginning of my road to recovery. The first night that I stayed at my Mom’s, I could not sleep to save my life. As light was not even breaking on that next day, I got out of bed, dropped to my knees, and I prayed like I have never prayed before. I believe, and often share, that acceptance of my disease came at that moment, and I got the answer that carried me through the next year of my life. I need to do 4 things that day, and every day thereafter: pray, go to a meeting, talk to another addict, and those three will keep me from the fourth, which is not pick up a drink or drug. And I allowed myself the luxury of having only those 4 things on my “to-do” list for each and every day: as long as I do those things, I have had a wildly successful day.
And that is where the next story begins…
If you are a Catholic, you will appreciate this one. I thought that the past 3 days were much like Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday… full of sadness, but also of hope for Easter Sunday. And then I laughed out loud at the audacity of comparing myself to Jesus Christ!
An interesting thing happened to me this weekend. Before I explain, a while back I wrote about the process an addict goes through, which is: a thought, which leads to an urge, which leads to a craving, which leads to an obsession, which results in a compulsion. As I mentioned when I wrote this, when in active addiction, this process is so quick, it is like a flipping the pages of a paperback from front to back.
As I also mentioned more recently, troubling memories have been resurfacing, and it is uncomfortable to experience. Fortunately, they are not thoughts to pick up a drink or drug. Unfortunately, it is memories of times in the past when I have.
For whatever reason, this past Saturday was one of those days where the memories were coming fast and furious. That night, we went to the 5:00 mass, and still I was plagued with disturbing thoughts. Since I was at church anyway, what better time to ask, in more elaborate detail, to have Him direct my thoughts in a more productive way?
The first answer I received was a reminder of the process I described above. With that reminder, I was able to reflect just how far I’ve come. By the grace of God, I have had the compulsion, obsession, the craving, and the urge to pick up a drink or drug lifted from me. That, in and of itself, is a miracle, one for which I should be grateful for every minute of every day. And even these thoughts that have been plaguing me are of a much lesser evil. The worst thought that occurs is just a bad memory, it is never a thought to use any mind-altering substance in the present. Another gift.
So finally, right before communion, there is a short space where I mentally recite the act of contrition. As I am doing this, the thought comes to me to ask for forgiveness, because at the heart of it I believe that I am somehow causing all these painful memories to resurface, that I am in some way at fault. The mass ends, we go home, eat dinner, and have a low-key Saturday night. While watching TV that evening, I am also catching up on email, and there is one from my husband (who happens to be sitting about 2 feet from me). It is an article he found online that he thought I would enjoy (mind you, I have not shared any of the thoughts from the day with him). I inluded the article (hopefully) in this post.
Is it odd, or is it God?
Monday mornings bring the meeting I started. First miracle: 12 attendees. Second miracle… a woman came to the meeting (I have met her, but have no personal relationship), and told me that she came because she has been hearing such good things about the woman who runs Monday’s literature meeting. I had to stop and back up mentally… wait, the woman she is talking about is ME!
Last post on the topic of vacation, I promise!
Here’s what I did on my summer vacation:
- The same four things I do every day of “regular” life (not use a mind-altering substance, pray, go to a meeting, talk to another person in recovery). You know how you can get in “vacation mode,” for example with eating habits, and completely blow the progress you are making in one week’s time? Well, my fear was I would do that with recovery, but I did not!
- Consciously appreciated the variation in my life, the scenery I do not usually get to enjoy, the food I do not usually get to eat, the conversations I do not usually get to have.
- Made a point to do things each day that I thought would help others enjoy their vacation.
- Forced myself, for the sake of the household, to resume as normal a relationship as I could with family members estranged as a result of my addiction.
- Appreciated the enjoyment my children have on this vacation.
Here’s what I did not do on my summer vacation:
- Get drunk and make an ass out of myself.
- Wake up with a hangover, or guilt of any kind.
- Become obsessed with what other people were thinking of me, then react to my projections to the detriment of everyone.
- Engage in any household drama.
- Ignore the needs of other family members so I could do what I wanted to do.
Both lists could go on and on, but you get the general idea. From my perspective, this vacation was the best yet of the 16 or so in which I have participated. Having said that, I am so happy to be home and back in my normal routine (I almost cried when I laid down in my own bed last night… queen-size when you are used to king-size is quite the adjustment). Today is about getting through the rest of the wash, and enjoying being home. Tomorrow, on to the back-to-school count down (It’s the most wonderful time of the year)!
How do I feel? I still feel pretty much like myself, although I feel more confident in my ability to handle my feelings, and, consequently, the people in my life. How has life changed in the past 6 months? I guess it depends on what I compare it to. If I compare it to my life as it was exactly 6 months ago, my life has changed dramatically. Six months ago I was separated from my husband and children, living back in my childhood home, a source of pain for all of my family and friends. I was facing seemingly insurmountable problems in absolutely every area of my life. To say my life is different from 6 months ago would be an understatement.
What I’ve been trying to figure out is this… with the exception of that time of separation from my family earlier this year, my life today, in terms of routine and structure, is not significantly different from any other time in my recent life. There are two notable exceptions: I attend 12-step meetings every day now, and I refrain from using any mind-altering substances. But the daily activities are remarkably similar… I still grocery shop, clean (somewhat), cook (somewhat), attend to family obligations, raise my children, interact with my husband, watch TV, play Webkinz (yes, that is actually a daily activity for me).
So what makes today different from July 27th of last year? Or January 27th of this year? Here is the critical difference, the inner change that makes every single daily activity different from any I performed at any other point in my life… I am proud of myself. I have done something, despite all odds, that I truly believed I could never do… I have remained sober for 180 consecutive days. While it certainly did not start out as my own idea… there were many external forces at play 6 months ago that propelled me into sobriety… at some point during the past 6 months the decision to stay clean and sober was one I was making primarily for myself.
Today, no one is watching over me, insisting I make a meeting every day, I do it because I choose to, because it has become a point of pride for me. If something unusual happens in the morning and I am unable to start my day on my knees in prayer (and that has only happened 2 or 3 times in the past 6 months), I will create a time later in the day to make up for it. I have created my own goals of writing in this blog, and I have stuck to them, every week.
Feeling pride in myself as a person leads to all sorts of other good things… appreciation and gratitude for all the blessings in my life, confidence that if I can achieve this goal, then really the possibilities are endless, and, most importantly, fortitude to continue on this path, one day at a time, for the rest of my life. Because now I know what all the people in the rooms have been saying since day one… it is much easier to stay sober than it is to get sober.
I had the opportunity to show my 6 month coin to my uncle today. He asked me, “how do you feel?” I answered, “I feel proud of myself.” I honestly believe that is the first time in my entire life that I have said those words and truly meant them.
And I maintain, as I have many times in the past… all of this, and the best is yet to come!