M(3), 4/24/2017: Relationships are Everything
I was draggin’ my wagon to the meeting today. It was a busy weekend, and I’m not feeling 100%. It is dreary and cold, which is atypical (I think, maybe not) for late April. I slept well, but could definitely use some more. It’s a very busy week coming up, and downtime is always a good thing.
The actual only thing that kept me from finding a substitute is that I had to miss last week, since braces came off my son. And I just didn’t have the heart to miss back-to-back meetings. It’s a freaking hour out of my life, time to pull up the boot straps.
And, as always, I’m so glad I did, and for a variety of reasons.
It was a larger than usual group of late, closer to the high of 20 than it was the average of 12. There were at least 3 people I have never seen before, and new blood is always a good thing for meetings. A regular that had been missing was back, and that’s always reassuring.
Most importantly, the shares that came out of today’s reading took an unexpected and positive turn that I would have never predicted.
Every once in awhile I post about meetings that have more to do with “life” issues than with alcoholic ones; today’s meeting was that to the extreme. The word alcohol rarely even came up in today’s meeting. I love this kind of meeting the most, because it reassures me of what I’ve believed (and written about) for a very long time: the 12 steps do more than keep you sober, they help to improve your whole life.
The reading, taken from the book Forming True Partnerships, is a tale about a husband and wife who got sober together, and weathered 17 years of a sober marriage, after 4 years of an alcohol-fueled one. As I was reading the story, I was a bit concerned, as the story takes some dark turns. I was concerned it would negatively affect the mood of the group. I could not have been more wrong, which shows I should possibly stop worrying so much, and trying to think for other people so much 😉
For the record, what I got out of the reading was this: applying the 12 steps to your whole life works. It helps you get through challenging times, it improves relationships, it creates a peace that otherwise would not exist.
The author writes of her various attempts at controlled drinking prior to sobriety, and describes these attempts as similar to “switching seats on the Titanic.” That not only made me laugh, since I had not heard that before, it made perfect sense to me.
She writes about how sobriety positively impacted both her marriage and her parenting skills; I can relate to that as well.
Finally, the author shows a remarkable ability to turn tragedies into learning experiences that make for a better future. It was inspirational to read such a tale, and I am energized to put things into better perspective as a result.
Rather than make a bunch of bullet points as I have been doing all year, I am going to sum up the groups’ shares as a generic whole. Because it was in listening to the various members of the group that I was enthralled. Every person focused on the fact that our lives are comprised primarily of relationships. In the case of the reading it was a husband and wife, but the truth is our happiness, or lack thereof, is almost solely based on the quality of the various relationships we hold. If we are married, then the primary one is often a spouse, but just as easily it could be a significant other, a child or children, a parent, even the relationships formed in the rooms of our 12-step fellowship.
It would stand to reason then, that learning the proper care and maintenance of these relationships is paramount to our happiness. And once again, the 12 steps play a huge role. By applying the 12 steps, we look to clean up our side of the street, and focus on that which we can control… ourselves. As soon as we make this important shift, absolute miracles happen all around us. We feel happier, more settled, more confident. We make better decisions, we are less impulsive, we pick less fights. We are so much quicker to acknowledge our part in any situation.
As a result, we earn respect in a way that is unprecedented. People see and feel the shift within us, and we get positive reinforcement. And so the upward spiral begins.
And of course, we are human, and as such we are prone to error. But the 12 steps take that into account as well… we look for progress, not perfection. And we take things one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time, so now’s a great time to restart. And if not now, a minute from now. And so on…
Hopefully someone was as slow to read this post as I was to go to my meeting, but has read it through and feels better for having done so!
The reminder that life is a journey, and not a destination. I am given what I need, both in terms of blessings and challenges. It is my choice with what to do with each!
New Uses For Old Things
When I first started attending 12-step meetings, I benefitted from every word out of every mouth. The lessons were almost endless: from the wisdom of the long-timers to the familiar pain of the fellow newcomers, I needed to hear it all. Possibly most important, however, in the earliest days of sobriety, what I needed to absorb from my daily AA meetings was the hope that resided there. In the beginning of recovery, I had precious little of that particular commodity, and so I needed to drink it in every day from my fellows in recovery.
Eventually, the seeds of hope within me began to bloom, I was taken through the 12 steps of my recovery program, and I began to have confidence in myself, my recovery, and my ability to give back what was so freely given to me. I then added another dimension to my meetings: sharing my own experience, strength and hope, and the experience deepened. I developed deeper relationships, I helped newcomers, and I strengthened my commitment to sobriety.
After a year of continuous sobriety, I began to question the need for so many meetings, which made me wonder: exactly how many meetings is enough? The answer, of course, is completely individual. I know people with 25 years of sobriety who still attend a meeting every single day, I know people with a year or two of sobriety that attend one meeting a week, if that. But through this questioning process I discovered a very important truth: meetings are an important part of recovery, no matter how much time you have, because they help remind you of the pain of early sobriety. Every time I listen to a newcomer talk about how devastated his or her life is due to active addiction, I am reminded of my own personal bottom, and how much easier it is to stay sober than it is to get sober. No matter how many years of sobriety with which I am blessed, I will always need to be reminded from whence I came.
Recently, I’ll say within the past 2 weeks, I have discovered a new function that meetings serve for me in my recovery. I’ll use a real life example that I received in the meeting I run on Mondays (which, by the way, was a pleasant surprise this week… 9 attendees, and it was Labor Day! Really decent numbers for a holiday meeting). A woman attended my meeting that I know in a somewhat peripheral manner. I have not seen her in months, and this is the first time she has actually attended “my” meeting, so it was great to re-connect with her. When she shared, she admitted that she was in emotional turmoil. While she has not relapsed, she feels emotionally bankrupt, and she is having a difficult time getting back to the peace and serenity she once had. She realizes that a key component to this anguish is her feeling of disconnect with her program of recovery. While she was once an avid meeting-goer, she has let that part of her life lapse of late, and she believes it is in that lapse that she has lost her way.
This woman has about 5 years of sobriety. Interestingly, in the past several weeks I have heard 2 other women speak of similar issues; all three of these women have been in recovery anywhere from 4 to 6 years.
What this means to me is the point of this post. A new element to my meeting experience is hearing these stories, and filing them away under the category “What To Look Out For.” I feel very fortunate, at 19 months and change, to still feel daily gratitude for my sobriety. But I would be foolish not to hear these stories and use them as cautionary tales… things that could happen to me if I take my sobriety for granted.
At my home group this morning, a gentleman with decades of sobriety finished sharing by saying, with tears in his eyes, “I woke up sober this morning, and that made me happy. And it made my wife pretty happy too.” This brought to mind last night, when my husband came home from work and said, “What should we have for dinner, frozen pizza?” To which I smiled from ear to ear, because I am currently obsessed with Kirkland frozen pizza. I replied, “You know, I think I have a low-level addiction to frozen pizza.” He stopped what he was doing, walked over to me, grabbed my shoulders, and said, “We can have frozen pizza every night for the rest of our lives, and I would be happy.” That kind of love and support… well, it’s a miracle, and one I hope I never take for granted.