Recovery Evolves

Before I get started, let me dust off this blog that’s been sitting patiently. I would not have been upset with it, had it refused my login attempt. I’ve been a fair weathered friend. I relied so heavily on this blank screen during my first year of sobriety, hammering out paragraph upon paragraph of fear, sadness, self pity, and every other raw emotion that lived on the surface those first several hundred days.

But, in true shitty girlfriend fashion, I found myself pulling away from blogging as I began stringing more and more happy days between the dark ones. I didn’t think I needed it; emotions have slowly, but surely settled into place, slowing the mental rollercoaster just enough to make myself think that I’m “ok.”

For the most part, I am ok. I have 22 sober months under my belt (I’m still not sure what cosmic anomalies had to line up for that to happen) and I’m feeling more in control of my life and myself than ever before.

That’s why I need to return to this space. Pouring my insides out in this space, even when I’m on top of the world, is immensely therapeutic. I miss it. I want to continue to have a record of this journey, no matter where it takes me.

Recovery has evolved for me in a big way this week and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. For too many months, I was complacent in recovery, treating AA like a casual acquaintance. Yes, much like with this blog, I was a shitty girlfriend to AA, too. I started working with a new sponsor 5 months ago. She has a very busy life and I took advantage of the fact that she doesn’t micro manage. I was attending 1 meeting a week and not connecting with fellow drunks.

She called me out on it just before Christmas (in a very kind way) and suggested I attend more meetings and make a point of connecting with people before and after the meetings. Like the good little soldier I am, I agreed and immediately began going to more meetings.

But I still wasn’t connecting. I was trying, but I’ve always been very uncomfortable in social settings. I knew I needed more. And just like that, at a meeting on Saturday, a complete stranger asked me to sponsor her. She was on day 3 in detox, was scared and couldn’t look me in the eye. I gave her my number, but I wasn’t sure I’d hear from her.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, when my sponsor introduced me to someone who is also in need of a sponsor. She and I went for coffee tonight (2 days later) to get to know each other and talk recovery.

As I was driving home, my phone rang. Yes, it was the stranger from the weekend asking if we could get together tomorrow. I may be stretching the interpretation of The Promises, but this is what it means to me today: the longer I stay in recovery and in the rooms of AA, I am given the opportunity to evolve and strengthen my chance at long-term sobriety. And the fact that I have an opportunity to help a fellow alcoholic is all the more rewarding.

I’m spending my evenings and weekends in ways I never would have imagined just 2 years ago. My gratitude is immense.

Advertisements

Maintaining Tradition vs. Group Evolution

Every long-standing institution, at some point in its longevity, needs to decide whether it’s going to hold steadfast to its traditions or if it’s willing to evolve with the generations. Alcoholics Anonymous is no different. With its beginnings rooted in 1930’s ideology, it seems as though it must naturally go through its own evolution of sorts to “get with the times.”

One piece of evidence of its evolution is the establishment of women-only meetings. The 70’s and 80’s saw droves of women coming into program, to a point where women equal or outnumber the men.

I regularly attend a women’s meeting and think of it as a safe, friendly and warm place to share and listen. This past week, one woman attended for her first time. She’s been in program for 25 years and is an “AA purist.” She’s told people over the years that she doesn’t believe there should be women-only meetings.

We’ve gently altered the readings, scrubbing gender references to use more neutral language. This enraged our purist. She grandly stood and proclaimed to the world that we should all be ashamed of ourselves and she wished us fitful sleeps. For reals.

For whatever reason, she decided to return to the meeting after dramatically storming out. She remained (relatively) civil for the remainder of the meeting until afterwards when one woman attempted to apologize for the “offensive” readings. The purist’s response was: “I hope you don’t die today for what you’ve done.”


Know Your Meme

It’s sparked a conversation among some of us about whether or not AA needs to evolve. Arguments can be made on both sides. I believe it needs to evolve to integrate aspects of the 21st century that the founders never could have considered (technology and social media, the loosening bond between church and state, etc.). Others believe the program is a complete package that works because of its traditions and should not be tinkered with.

I know I’m not the first to come into program, believing I can “make it even better” but I do want to be part of the evolution. There isn’t an agnostic meeting in my city and I want to explore the possibility of starting one this year. A lot of leg work will need to go into researching the local appetite for such a meeting and seeking out the right location (the traditional church basement doesn’t seem appropriate), but it could end up being a worthwhile project for me this year.

I wonder how the AA purist will react to an agnostic meeting? Is it wrong to secretly hope it causes her some anxiety? Yeah, I know… it’s wrong!

(My apologies if the shocked Daschie above is distracting as you’re reading, but he’s just so perfect for the reaction to “I hope you don’t die today”!)

Day 393

On the Eve of a Sober Birthday Celebration

It’s Monday, 9:00pm. At this time tomorrow night, I’ll be speaking at my AA group’s birthday celebration meeting. We are marking my 1 year, along with 5-year birthdays for 3 other members. My home group is a large group on its own, with around 50 people attending each meeting. For birthday meetings, that number easily exceeds 75. The butterflies are starting to flutter as I put the finishing touches on my 1 year coin speech. I plan on bringing extra Kleenex, wearing water-proof mascara, and doing my absolute best to live in the moment without giving in to anxiety as I deliver this message:

My name is Mental Rollercoaster and I’m an alcoholic.

I wanted “We, not I” engraved on my coin because it succinctly summarizes what AA has done for my life. I had isolated myself from my family for so long, that I forgot that it’s possible to be part of a We. I had convinced myself that I needed to hide my drinking and hide my pain from my husband and my family. I convinced myself that I was protecting them. They didn’t need to worry about me, on top of all of their own problems.

The truth is, I wasn’t protecting them. I was protecting my addiction. I knew that if I allowed them to get too close, they would not let me continue on the way that I was. I was protecting the addiction from them.

Now I am a part of the AA We and I am a We again in my marriage and with my family. Thank you for being patient with me and giving me a We to come back to.

I came into AA very lost and scared. I’d been drinking alcoholicly for close to 2 decades and I was quickly stumbling towards the finish line. Like so many of you, I’d tried staying sober on my own with zero success. On day 3 of sobriety, I started working with a therapist who is the reason I walked through the door of my first meeting.

My first meeting was the Women’s Meeting. At that first meeting, like everyone else, I was scared, emberassed and generally lost. A woman immediately welcomed me. She gave me a big book and sat with me until the meeting started, asking me how I was doing. I saw this woman at the Alkathon on Christmas Day and she told me that she wasn’t sure about me at that first meeting. She said I looked like I could be a runner. She couldn’t have been more right – I am a runner and had she not shown such compassion to me at that first meeting, I very likely wouldn’t have seen a second meeting. I thank her for being such a big part in saving my life.

I kept coming back and I heard “you have to get a sponsor.” For this painfully shy, isolating alcoholic, that was a terrifying prospect. I knew right away that I wanted Susie as my sponsor, but it took almost 2 months for me to get the courage to ask. I was so afraid to ask for help and even more afraid of rejection.

The anxiety was overwhelming for those 2 months. The night I knew I absolutely had to man-up and ask her, I was grabbing my keys off the counter and I thought “you know, I could just swing by the liquor store on my way. A couple of shots and I’ll totally have the courage to ask her.” That’s the insanity of this disease!

I am so incredibly grateful to have Susie as my sponsor. I know I haven’t been an easy one because I do have trouble reaching out, but she has read me perfectly from day 1. She’s known when I am ready and able to open up and she’s known when I need to clam up. The moment Susie agreed to sponsor me, I literally felt a shift from within. I felt the anxiety fly away and I felt a strong sense of “this is right.” As Susie would say: “Everything is as it should be.” Your support and wisdom has done more for me than I can ever express. I am so grateful to have your guidance in this journey.

To the people who came into AA before me, I thank you for carrying forward this program that saves lives. I thank you for taking in the newcomers under your wings. To the people who have come into AA after me, I applaud you. You are home; you’re where you need to be. Sobriety doesn’t have to be difficult. Life is difficult; AA makes sobriety manageable within life.

Thank you all for my sobriety.

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Day 312: Recovery and Reflections

by Philippe Sainte-Laudy http://500px.com/photo/1248944

It’s day 312 and I’ve just recently started feeling as though a new normal has begun. About 6 weeks ago, I felt a fog lift and a new routine emerged. I can’t pinpoint what caused the shift, but I’m grateful for it. Perhaps it’s a cumulative effect that is my reward for the work I’ve put in over the past 10 months.

CursiveI’m feeling calm, which is completely new to me. Anxiety, worry and panic have been a part of my brain since childhood. The day before Kindergarten started, I panicked: I grabbed a pad of paper and a pencil and went running to my big sister. “I don’t know how to write and Kindergarten starts tomorrow.” I could print, but I didn’t know cursive. I thought I’d be a laughing stock.

Adding to my calmness is that I’m going to cut back to part-time hours at work for a couple of months. The first time I talked about the possibility, it was with my therapist. She noted that my body language instantly relaxed when talking the idea through.

It’s good timing: my parents leave for Florida this week. They go every year for a couple of months and it’s always been my time to ramp up the drinking. I spend a lot of time at their house alone while they’re gone (my dog stays there during workdays so that I can let her out at lunch). My routine for years, while they’re gone, has been to drink whenever I’m inside their home. It’s a strong routine and I’m very mindful of the need to set myself up for success.

Liquor BoxThe day they leave, I will pack up their well-stocked liquor cabinet and store it at my sister’s house. I’m not struggling with sobriety at this time, but I’m wary of the potential triggers that will come when I’m in their empty house with even less accountability than I usually have.

Working fewer hours means that I won’t need to be at their house every day. Plus it will give me some extra time to work on myself – more time at the gym, more meetings, more self-care.

I’m looking ahead at a potentially difficult week: parents are leaving and my sponsor left today for a 2 week second stage treatment program (that’s a whole other concern I have…). My plan is to be open about the concern I have about the next couple of months. I’m asking for help and going forward with my eyes open. That’s new, too: being proactive instead of blindly letting time march on and having to later deal with consequences.

This new normal is feeling good.

Looking toward a sober 2014

end-of-time

There are just 35 days left in what has been one of the most difficult, exhausting, remarkable, overwhelming, conscious changing years of my 37 year life.  On March 13, I made it through the day without a drink.  I have maintained that stretch for 260 days.  One day at a time is how I am to live my sober life, but it’s hard not to sneak a peek at tomorrow.

What will 2014 look like?  I don’t know.  I know that I don’t want 2014 to be harder than 2013.  I can’t control what will happen around me, but I can control whether or not I make relapse part of next year’s landscape.  I won’t; I can’t.

I’m confident in the sober support system I’ve built.  I’m much more secure in sobriety today than I was in the early months.  Therefore, I can put attention towards other aspects of my life without worrying about slipping.

I want to evaluate my professional life.  I have a good job that worked very well for 5 alcoholic years.  Now, with a clearer mind and an evolving sense of self, I’m not sure it will work for the next 5 sober years.  I don’t know what I want to do.  I don’t know what I can do, but I’d like to take the time in 2014 to explore the possibilities.

Looking forward is a new concept for me.  Beginning at age 16, when I was certain I’d be dead before 20, I’ve never planned for the future because I’ve never envisioned one.  During the alcoholic years, I lived a reactionary life, simply putting out fires as they came up (which flared up often because this alcoholic osterich doesn’t like to deal with anything before it’s too late to fix).  Without the booze, the anxiety is gone and I can think about short distances into the future without panicking.  It might be fun to try.

Daily Prompt: To Boldly Go…

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. Continue reading

Day 198: Recovery and Reflections

One month into attending meetings, I saw someone I knew. Gasp! It was someone I worked with years ago and when I saw her, I froze for a moment, but defrosted as soon as she smiled with recognition. I really loved working with her and we got along very well outside of work. It’s no surprise today that we’re both in AA, but back then it was just fun having a couple of drinks together after work.

I’m very happy for her and relieved to see her sober. When I knew her, I suspected her drinking was a problem, but I justified it because of terrible things she was dealing with in her personal life. That is a symptom of my own disease: justifying alcoholic drinking as a reasonable coping mechanism. “Of course she drinks: X, Y and Z are happening in her life.”

Her one year birthday is next week.  I saw her at a meeting this week and she’s struggling. She was having trouble putting thoughts together as we chatted. I do not think she’s drinking, but she’s struggling. It’s sad to see her having a hard time one year in. On a selfish level, it makes me look ahead 6 months and not see any improvement.

I’m looking forward to attending her birthday and am hoping, for many reasons, to see her in a better head-space.

This road of sobriety is rough. This new idea of dealing with shit is difficult. I’ve heard people say that their emotional maturity is stunted at the age their alcoholism kicked in full force. I’m starting to believe it. Living like an ostrich with my head in the sand for so many years means that I am painfully ill-equipped to deal with daily life. This piece has been the hardest for me these past 6 months. The cravings for booze have been few and far between – that part’s a piece of cake. Feeling, however is fucking rough.