Recovery and Reflections: Then and Now

Abandoned Yellow Brick Road Snow

I’m beginning to find my yellow brick road

Tomorrow marks 7 months of sobriety.  The me of 7 months ago was a completely different person than the me of today.  However, it’s easy to lose sight of how much has changed when you live the daily evolution.  My therapist has encouraged me to document the differences in who I am today versus who I was just 7 months ago.  I am a work in progress and have a long road ahead of me, but for tonight, I’m going to reflect on the road behind me.

7 months ago I was completely isolated.  I had no friends to speak of and I only interacted with family when I had to.  I wouldn’t make plans with anyone because I didn’t like to leave my house.  That, and the anxiety that lived within me as soon as I made plans with someone was overwhelming.  Most times, I cancelled any plans that I did make.

A friend from college got married this summer and she had a Stag ‘n’ Doe early in the year. There were 5 of us that stuck together during college, so the other 4 of us secretly planned to surprise her at the Stag ‘n’ Doe.  It would have been the first time we were all together since graduating more than 10 years ago.  We planned for weeks via Facebook messages, but at the last minute I sent a group message saying I regretfully had to back out.  I knew all along I would.  That type of social get-together was not something I could handle.  Not even the idea of it.

Fast forward to this summer and I had a similar opportunity with a different group of friends to plan a reunion that involved a concert.  I was still drinking when I proposed the idea to 5 old friends, but was several months sober by the time the show came around.  I did not cancel on them.  I went and it was an amazing experience.  That night, we planned to regroup 2 months later for another concert.  I went to that one too, without hesitation and without anxiety.

Last Sunday I met a sponsee of my sponsor.  Our sponsor encouraged us to exchange phone numbers and to keep in contact while she’s out of province for the week.  7 months ago, I was not someone who called anyone.  No one.  Especially not someone I had just met.  The next day was a rough work day and I decided to go to a meeting that night.  I texted this woman I had just met the day before to see if she wanted to go with me.  I only hesitated for a moment before I hit “send” and I had no regret or anxiety afterwards.  7 months ago, I would not have even considered texting her.  7 months ago, I wouldn’t have considered going to a meeting on a night I don’t normally attend.  But I did both with little hesitation.

7 months ago, I sat in my therapist’s office for my first session.  I had been sober for 3 days.  When she asked if I’d considered AA, I told her it wasn’t an option.  “It’s religious and I’m not.”  AA had been suggested to me a few times over the past decade and I always replied the same way: no.  No discussion.  I wasn’t going to be one of “those people” who traded one addiction for another.  I wasn’t entering the cult of AA.

Today, I’m a member of an AA group, I have a sponsor and I’m working the steps.  My therapist says that she didn’t think, 7 months ago, that I’d ever step foot into a meeting, let alone stay.  There was a lot of anxiety along the way and a lot of meetings that I raced out of as soon as they ended.  Something shifted for me when I finally got the courage to ask for a sponsor.  I’d had tremendous anxiety for over a month leading up to asking her.  Now that I’m dissecting the recent past, I realize that my overall anxiety levels have all but disappeared since starting with my sponsor.

I had to sit back for a moment just now.  This week I noticed that I’m not experiencing anxiety in situations that I normally would.  I can pinpoint that shift to when I connected with my sponsor.  It’s tremendously comforting to know you have an ally who shares a common life experience.

AA and my sponsor have opened my mind to the possibility of spirituality.  I don’t need to believe in a Christian God to fit in.  I don’t need to believe in anything, but I’m starting to open up to the possibilities.  7 months ago, I would not have entertained the thought of a “higher power” in any form.  Today, I’m open to discovery.

The past 3 weeks at work have been tense and stressful.  On Monday, I began to realize that my job is in jeopardy.  I had the thought to buy vodka on my lunch hour to take a break from the stress.  The thought didn’t last long and I decided to attend an AA meeting that night instead of festering at home.  The rest of the work week continued with a tense and stressful environment, but on Friday I stepped back and realized: had I experienced this week 7 months ago, the entire week would have been different.  I would have certainly drank throughout the day, every day, and likely would have called in sick at least once.  However, I showed up to work every day with the best attitude I could muster, given the situation, and I tackled the problems at hand.  I still don’t know if my job is secure, but I don’t have the anxiety about it that I would have had 7 months ago.

7 months ago I would have been acutely paranoid and would have allowed the paranoia to spin out of control in my head.  What’s changed?  Beyond the obvious, that I don’t have alcohol coursing through my veins, certain concepts from AA, my sponsor and my therapist have begun to land.  The Serenity Prayer, for one, has just recently connected for me and it suddenly makes perfect sense.  Accepting the things I cannot change allows me to release the paranoia and anxiety that would normally take over.  I cannot control whether or not my boss fires me.  What I can control is how I perform as an employee and how I react to the work environment.  What a weight off my shoulders once that concept clicked!

I have a tendency to minimize feelings: “Everything’s fine!”  Therefore, I’m likely to say that the changes these past 7 months have been easy to make.  No big deal.  But it hasn’t been easy and it is a big deal.  I need to allow myself to feel pride for what I’ve done.  It’s not easy, but I am going to try to enjoy these accomplishments without beating myself up over what still needs improvement.  That will be my 7 month reward to myself.

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10 thoughts on “Recovery and Reflections: Then and Now

  1. 7+ months … this is incredible to read. As I scan the blogoshere many, many stop blogging long before month one is up. And if they do continue it was with myriad relapses. It is so wonderful to see the lights come on and stay on, even if they get a little dim now and again. They do for every person on the planet. I think that was my biggest realization. Life isn’t all UP, ALL the time. I guess I thought it was or at least was supposed to be and when it wasn’t I turned to booze. It got me through the days.

    I am happy to see your perspective on 12-step too. It;s not for everyone for sure, but it’s a wonderful place if you can see the good that grows there. I guess that goes for anything in life. Look for the goodness … Anyhow, uplifting post for me to read this morning. Thank you for sharing your journey. Your beauty is shining.

    with love, lisa

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  2. Pingback: Serenity. I pray for her. | NZ Fiendishly Fiends Fabricated Withdrawal Fables

  3. Well done, and good insights again. I am about four and a half months off methadone (and whatever other opiates / meth I could find…) The “serenity prayer” is a bloody good bit of work…

    Seriously, within a few weeks of going to N.A, I had pulled it to bits and found it completely brilliant. Other than starting the prayer with “GOD”, of course!

    A Jewish guy about a thousand years ago wrote;

    “For every ailment under the sun
    There is a remedy, or there is none;
    If there be one, try to find it;
    If there be none, never mind it.”

    But more modern times have it attributed to American resident Niebuhr,

    “God, give me grace to accept with serenity
    the things that cannot be changed,
    Courage to change the things
    which should be changed,
    and the Wisdom to distinguish
    the one from the other.
    Living one day at a time,
    Enjoying one moment at a time,
    Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
    Taking, as Jesus did,
    This sinful world as it is,
    Not as I would have it,
    Trusting that You will make all things right,
    If I surrender to Your will,
    So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
    And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
    Amen.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinhold_Niebuhr
    (was leader of the American Socialist movement in the thirties at time of writing the prayer)
    It was in use in various Christian based volunteer programmes in the mid thirties. Interestingly, this is the era that Bill W started the twelve step programmes out of the Church Oxford Group,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Buchman
    (leader of thinking church “Oxford Group” that lead to creation of twelve step programmes – His church and work to keep people in the good faith of capitalism and free markets continues to this day…which has now become known as “Initiatives for Change International” – http://www.iofc.org/en/ )

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  4. Congratulations on 7 months! It is definitely a big deal. I can relate to everything you have written here. I just celebrated my belly-button birthday and it caused me to reflect on the differences in me and my life from last year to this one. I think it’s no less than a miracle the difference sobriety makes.
    Good for you for making it 7 months!
    ~Jami

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  5. Hey! We must be about the same amount of time sober! You are doing brilliantly! Getting to know yourself sure is a long road after all that squishing down of feelings for years! Nice to meet you. Carrie

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