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A Series of Bottoms: The Final Chapter

I hit rock bottom, but thank God my bottom wasn’t death. –Stevie Ray Vaughan

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…

Today’s Miracle:

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!

Ask, and Ye Shall Receive!

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?

Today’s Miracle:

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!

Steps 10 and 11: How the Steps Are Ruining Me!

Step 10:  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

Step 11:  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out

It still blows my mind that I am a person who has completed 11 of the 12 steps of recovery.

As I mentioned yesterday, steps 10, 11 and 12 are considered maintenance steps, in that they are to be practiced daily for the rest of my life.  Step 10 is more or less a “spot check” inventory, to be completed at any time of the day, particularly if I am feeling off-kilter.  Step 11, as it has been explained to me, is to be done nightly, where I review the day, take note of things done well and not so well, and asking God to help me take whatever corrective actions I might need to take.

Mini-confession:  I have heard much about step 11 in the past 9 months, people in meetings speak often of the importance of praying first thing in the morning, and then again right before bed.  I have long been in the habit of getting on my knees each morning and thanking God for another day, but by the time I am ready for bed I am usually very ready to go to sleep, and really enjoy drifting off to the sounds of whatever sitcom happens to be playing on TV (30 Rock is my favorite).  So, every time someone mentioned the idea of night-time prayers, I pretty much said to myself, “I’m not at step 11 yet, no need to rush things.”  I guess that thought’s out the window!

So, for the past couple nights, I began the ritual of reviewing my day.  To my astonishment, I have been given a gift.  I have found that in reviewing my day, I have been very pleased (so far anyway), which is an absolute miracle in and of itself, since I have been known to be a little hard on myself.  Of course there are always things upon which I could improve, but the good far outweighs the bad, and I am filled with even more gratitude for the life I am leading.

Last but not least, here’s what I mean by the steps ruining me:  I find myself unable to just say whatever I want anymore, because now I know I have to review it at day’s end, and I simply don’t feel like making yet another amends!  This whole personal inventory thing is killing me!

Before and After: Steps 8 and 9

Tonight I am meeting with my sponsor to start work on Steps 8 and 9.  I thought it would be interesting to write my thoughts on these steps before I have any real education, if for nothing else than for comic value.

So, here is what I know at this point about these steps.  Step 8 is “make a list of all people we have harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”  I imagine I will use my 4th step written inventory as a reference, but I already have questions about this list… haven’t I done harm to everyone with whom I’ve had a relationship?  Do I have to write down the name of everyone I know or have ever known?  To my current way of thinking, if my addiction has caused someone worry, then I’ve done them harm, so wouldn’t that mean everybody?  Already this is out of hand, at least it is in my mind.

And that’s just writing down a bunch of names.  The real work begins with Step 9:  “made direct amends to people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”  Of course, at this point all I can think about is the Seinfeld episode where George tries to demand an amends from his friend in recovery.  Hilarity ensues, and the friend winds up relapsing on some rum raisin ice cream.

Of course, this is silliness, but, of course, I do go there… what if there are a line of people impatiently waiting for me to get to this step?  What if I go to apologize and they give me a laundry list of additional offenses?  What if they refuse to accept my amends at all?  And that is the tip of the iceberg about my concerns about completing this step.

So there you have it, I will hopefully have a calmer and more well-informed post tomorrow…

The Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have  into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order,  confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a  stranger into a friend. –Melody Beattie

The title of my post is one of the million “AA-isms” you hear in the meetings of the 12-step program.  Here’s what it means to me:

1.  There is always something to be grateful for, no matter how bad you think your life is.  If you have the ability to question this statement, you already have two things to be grateful for:  that you are alive, and that you have the intelligence to question.  You can build from that point.

2.  If you consciously work on developing the attitude of gratitude, it is impossible to feel bad.  Seriously, try it.  The next time you are pissed off at something, step back, and start listing the things in your life for which you are grateful.  I am betting that before you are halfway through your list you will feel better, if not silly for being pissed off in the first place.

Here is what I am grateful for today:  the ability to hit the reset button on life.  Through a series of small events, my day did not start off well, and I reacted to those events with frustration.  Since I knew I would be attending an 8 am meeting, I was, first, grateful for the existence of that meeting, and my membership in a Fellowship that allows me to be inspired daily.  The topic of the meeting was gratitude (surprise!), and I was then grateful for the reminder of how good my life is.  Finally, and most important to me this morning, I am grateful for my new perspective that allows me to look at my own part in this morning’s events, and to make right my wrong-doing, instead of letting it fester for what could have been days on end (if grudge-holding was an Olympic sport, I would have been a gold medalist).

All of that wisdom before 9 am… it’s going to be a great day!

Mile Markers

If I get to bed tonight, I will have 90 days clean and sober.  This is a milestone in the recovery world… I will receive a coin to commemorate the event at my meeting tomorrow, and I will get lots of accolades from my comrades.

Since I am so close to a mile marker, I have spent some time reflecting on what has happened in the past 90 days.  And really, it is nothing short of a miracle.  In many ways, 3 months is not a very long period of time, and yet…

Three months ago I truly believed my life, as I knew it, was over.  Every single relationship in my life was in jeopardy.  My marriage, I believed, was over.  My home life, ruined.  The list goes on and on about what was wrong.  I really cannot overstate the depths of despair that I was in.  I felt that my addiction caused permanent, irreparable damage to every area of my life.

Fast forward to today… I start off the day, in my own home, with a warm hug and a waiting cup of coffee from my husband.  I have the privilege of getting my children ready for, and taking them to, school.  I spend a little time getting prepared for a big family party, then head down to my regular 12-step meeting.  I walk into the meeting, a little early, and am greeted with yells from across the room, calling me by name.  People stop to ask me specific questions about my life, and genuinely want to hear my response.  When I tell people about how good my life is, they are ecstatic, because they clearly remember how sad I was when they first met me 90 days ago.  And that was just the morning!

The miracles are too numerous to count.  If all this can happen in 90 days, imagine what will happen 6 months, or a year?

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