Who Recovery is For by Tom G.

On February 23rd, 2016, posted in: recovery by

people question mark“He’s not going to stop unless he really wants to.”  I’ve heard that statement far too many times to count. Lately, I have been seeing it on online message boards. The spouse or sibling of a suffering alcoholic or addict seeks direction from a Facebook group that was created to help families in their community. The person posts details about their loved one’s behavior and asks for suggestions. Inevitably, someone responds with something like this:  “Unfortunately, until your husband wants to stop drinking, there is little hope for recovery.”  Every time I hear someone express this belief, I cringe. It is a myth.

Of course, in order to maintain abstinence over time, a recovering person must, at some point, be internally motivated to do so. But I challenge you to ask yourself: When you stopped, did you really want to stop? I know I didn’t.

At the end of my drinking, I was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain. My family was pressuring me to get help. My alcoholism was creating problems on the job. What I wanted was for all these things to go away. I still wanted to drink. It was the results that I didn’t want.

I was 23 years old and still living with my parents. The last day I drank, September 6, 1996, was the day they drew the line with me. If I didn’t get help, if I wasn’t willing to go to treatment, I would have no place to live. My family had leverage and, thank God, they were willing to use it. That’s my story. I didn’t get sober because I saw the light. I got sober because I felt the heat. And, as time went on, I became more and more attracted to this way of life. That is how I got better and that is often how it works for others.

Treatment industry research clearly indicates that a certain segment of the population shows far better outcomes than any other. If you are a licensed professional, such as a nurse, a doctor, an attorney, or a pilot, and your job is on the line, you tend to stay sober. When these people seek help for their addiction, they often risk losing their license unless they complete treatment successfully and adhere to an aftercare plan that can include support groups and drug testing for up to five years. They follow through because they don’t want to lose their jobs. They feel the heat, and eventually they come around.

Another saying comes to mind.  “It’s not for the people who need it. It’s not for the people who want it. It’s for the people who do it.”  So, remember this when someone reaches out to you for help. In the beginning, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not a person wants to be clean and sober. Are they willing to get help? Are they willing to attend meetings? Are they willing to work the Steps? Are they willing?

It doesn’t even matter why they are willing. It’s not for people who want it. It’s for people who do it.

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No alcoholic beveragesI was a drinker for over 30 years. I could quit anytime. For real, I could. And I did. Lots of times. I would give it a break, a rest. I would quit for a month. I would quit for the length of an entire pregnancy. I did that twice. I would quit to drop a few pounds. Sometimes I would quit until Friday. In the end, of course, even that was tough.

If I’m honest, and I’m trying to be, those quits were not easy. I hung on, though. I hung on despite the cravings, the temptations and the boredom. Good lord, the boredom was excruciating. That was always the worst part. I did it, though. I quit.

Staying quit was the problem. I would feel so good after my hiatus. I would think, wow, look at me. I quit. I’m good. I did it. So I guess there’s no problem after all. I would celebrate my success —with a nice meal and fine wine. Something expensive. A real civilized celebration. Nothing crazy. I was, after all, celebrating the realization that I have no drinking problem. And then, for some time thereafter, I would keep a watchful eye and control my consumption. And then… well, you know the drill.

One Last Quit.

This last time, in 2007, I knew I had to do things differently. I knew I didn’t have a lot of quits left in me. I was afraid there might be just one left. I knew I had to make this a good one. I knew I had to make this quit last. And I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I can’t explain it; I just knew.

So I sought help. This was before smartphones. We had the Internet, but it was dial-up, slow and frustrating. So I opened up the phone book. Old-school. I sought the help of people who had already done what I was trying to do. People who had quit. I knew that I needed help, and to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about becoming sober. I didn’t dive in with joy and enthusiasm. I crawled in, sort of. Full of sadness and fear.

I was sad because I thought the good times were over. No more girls’ night out. No more tailgate parties. I was sad because I thought the rest of my life would play out like a crummy black-and-white movie. I pictured Styrofoam cups filled with bad coffee and powdered creamer. I pictured hanging around a bunch of self-loathing old guys in cheap suits. This was to be my new life and it made me sad.

I was afraid because I thought it would be excruciating. I thought I would hang on, one day at a time, for the rest of my life, wanting to drink but willing myself not to. I thought it would suck. Mostly, I was afraid I might not be able to do it.

People Just Like Me.

Despite all this, I was committed. I knew it was time. The truth is, in the beginning, it was excruciating. I did hang on, one day at a time, willing myself not to drink. It did suck. Thankfully, though, I had people to lean on. Old guys, yeah, but they were cool. Young people, too. And plenty of women. All kinds. All ages. They were just regular people. People who had enjoyed drinking until there was no enjoyment left. People just like me.

They told me the beginning wouldn’t last forever. They told me it would get easier. They told me it would be okay. More than okay, they told me that life would be better than I could ever imagine. “Beyond your wildest dreams,” they said. They told me it would not be boring!

So I hung on past the beginning, until I wasn’t even hanging on anymore. I was just living. Just living and enjoying life without the booze. They were right: It’s a life better than I ever could have imagined. And yet it’s just life. Life without the booze.

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Sharing by Eugene “Tree” H.

On February 8th, 2016, posted in: recovery by

Sharing ManI used to pride myself on sharing at meetings. As soon as a topic was decided, my hand would go up as I thought of ways to share and make people laugh, be informative, and show how much I knew about the Big Book, Steps, and recovery. My sharing was sometimes long, and I thought it was okay because everyone seemed to enjoy the share, laugh out loud, and nod their head at my wit and my charisma.

Then I did an inventory on my sharing. Was I sharing to help others or impress others? I remember being in a meeting once and a female was sharing about the difficulty she was having concentrating on Steps and sobriety while going through menopause and hot flashes. The next three people who shared were men, and I thought, what did they know about what she was feeling? Then I thought of times I shared, not from my heart but from my head, a clever joke or a play-on-words to show my wit.

Then I remembered when I was a newcomer. I did not care how much you know until I knew how much you cared. I could tell when someone was sharing from their heart or from their head. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge is power, but caring, respect and love appeals to the heart, and that is where  true compassion and the ability to embrace the 12 Steps of recovery lies.

So I don’t share as much today in open meetings. Recalling my own sobriety, some of the most meaningful messages to me came in a whisper, after a meeting or before a meeting, during a phone conversation, or just listening to a person one-on-one.

When my sister passed away, I was so afraid to have to go home and make funeral arrangements; I had never done this before. I shared this in the meeting, and after the meeting a friend came to me and whispered, “Don’t worry, the funeral director will take care of everything.” I never knew, and he did.

I had once moved to a location I quickly became disgruntled with, and was worried about relocating and hurting the person’s feelings, and someone whispered after the meeting, “Be honest, say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.”

I still enjoy those who can share and make others laugh, are knowledgeable about the Steps, recovery and the Big Book. Today when I share, I try to share a message that says “I care.” I try to share in a whisper so I can reach the heart. Because I believe, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

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Leeway? No Way by Clara W.

On February 1st, 2016, posted in: recovery by

Take my Will Scroll PaintingWhen I started working the program, I was told that there are no rules or directions, only suggestions.  Cool, I thought, that gives me a lot of leeway!  I’m a gal who loves leeway.  But my sponsor reminded me that leeway is what got me into these rooms.  I can’t handle leeway because I’m an addict.  I love pushing boundaries.  I love getting away with fill-in-the-blank.  “More” is my middle name.

Leeway means making a judgment about how far to go.  I’m an addict.  I did not come into these rooms with healthy judgment.  I have always gone too far.

So my wise sponsor, recognizing the gleam in my eye upon hearing the word “suggestions,” quickly nipped that in the bud.  She informed me that I would be taking directions, not suggestions.  She said other newcomers may be able to successfully work the program with suggestions, but she did not see that as working for me.

Today I have been in recovery for 28 years because of directions, from the Steps, from my sponsor, from old-timers, and especially from my Higher Power.  When I am unsure which way to go in a situation and I pray for direction, I always get an answer, and the answer is never leeway.

After 28 years of running everything by my sponsor and my Higher Power, I now have healthier judgment, but I’m still an addict and I still need direction.  It keeps me safe.  By the grace of God, I have been directed into a life of happiness, joy and freedom.

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forgiveI had two major resentments when I joined AA. I swore I would never forgive these two men for the pain they inflicted on me. I carried it around with me like a cross to bear. Through the years I have read about acceptance, forgiveness, and how others are as sick as we are and we should treat them as such. I started healing relationships in my life but still never imagined that I could forgive my stepfather or my first boyfriend for the mental, physical, and sexual abuse that I endured at their hands.

For years in AA, I heard people talk about how some of the amends we need to make will take time and that when the time is right, a person or situation will present itself for me to do a Step Nine with. The more I thought about my first boyfriend, the more I could see my part in the relationship. Taking an honest look at myself back then, I could see how my disease affected our relationship and how unstable I was. I looked for him online for a few years but never found him. Then one day I received a message from him on Facebook. The communication was very casual at first; he was not sure if he should even contact me. Then I started with the amends that I needed to make, not concerning myself with his side of the street. I explained that I was in AA now and that I had him on my Ninth Step for years. We both made our apologies to each other. I found out that he had a life-threatening accident after we broke up and that he had decided, at that point, to stop using drugs. It was a powerful and healing experience for both of us, to be able to wish each other well.

So that left one person on my list, my stepfather. I was only nine years old when he came into my life and started abusing me and my younger sister. He was a big, angry alcoholic and everyone in the family was afraid of him. I had talked about his abuse for years with my younger sister, counselors, and my sponsor. I started following the suggestion from my sponsor to pray for him. One day, while looking through photos with my mother, we ran across pictures of him. Mom asked if she should throw them away. Realizing that her relationship with him was very different than mine, I said that they were her pictures and she could keep them if she wanted to.  I really can’t explain it, but somehow my resentment was gone. For the first time in my life, I was able to talk about him without feeling upset, angry or resentful. I believe that my higher power took this burden from me. I feel so much lighter and happier these days. Nowadays my experience benefits others when I am sharing at meetings or working with a sponsee. What a freedom to have released all that negative baggage! I will forever be grateful to AA and my sponsor for helping me work through this.

Sandra D

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Thank You, by Clara W.

On January 18th, 2016, posted in: recovery by

thank you signMy life depends on not taking that first bite.  Why?  Because I am a food addict.  I lost my job, my husband, my friends, my self-worth, and my sanity to this disease.  I almost lost my life to it.  Today, everything in my life depends on not taking that first bite.

I also have other addictions (hey, I’m an addict; I can addict to anything that makes me feel good or takes away the not-feeling-good), but food has always been my drug of choice.  At first I hated being an addict, but now I am very grateful for my disease.  Why?  Because what my disease did give me was the opportunity to work a 12-Step program, and I have found that by following the 12-Steps of AA, not only do they help me avoid that first bite, but they also give me guidance and sanity in every other aspect of my life.  I found my Higher Power through working the Steps.  I found the self I want to be through working the Steps.  I have peace and joy today through working the Steps.  My life is a miracle today because of two men.

Thank you, Bill W. and Dr. Bob.

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Poison by Katie F.

On January 11th, 2016, posted in: recovery by

DSC_3532

 

Why did this disease choose me?

The devil in disguise tries to ruin me

They say it’s not my fault

My life is a wound covered in salt

We make mistakes to learn from

With poison on my lips what have I become?

You’ve taught me lessons and the truth is now found

But I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be better off in the ground

I’ve hurt myself and those around me

I thought I got rid of him, how did he find me?

This poison helped me to escape for awhile

But when I return, lost is my smile

You love to depress me, you pretend to be fun

No longer will you fool me, for I am done

You turn me into a different person

I’m banishing you before the situation worsens

I’m so tired of not being happy inside

You turn me into Jekyll and Hyde

Why me? Why am I the black sheep?

DSC_3532Too many nights I’ve cried myself to sleep

I want to get better, I want to start anew

Starting right now, I’m getting rid of you

You’ve poisoned me for too long

It’s time that I get headstrong

I’m taking charge of my life

No more flirting with this knife

I’m going to be okay by myself

I’m taking that dusty Big Book off my shelf

Life is a journey and my brain needs to unpack

Without the devil on my back

I’m better without you poisoning me

It took me forever to realize sobriety is the key

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Trust the Process by Craig C.

On January 4th, 2016, posted in: recovery by

TrustWhen I first got clean, the consequences of my using forced me to move back in with my parents. Being that I was 43years old, and me and my father did not get along, this was something I did not want to do. Every time I tried to talk about it to other recovering addicts, I was pretty much told the same thing every time. Just trust the process, God has a plan. So I moved in and started working with my sponsor and working the Steps. Life started to get better. My relationship with my father even started to improve.

After a couple of years, things were starting to get so good that I felt ready to move out and be on my own again. Well, everyone in my sponsorship tree kept telling me I should stay put. They told me I didn’t realize how good I had it, living with my parents, and I was only paying half the rent that I would pay if I were on my own. I was, WHY WHY WHY? They were saying again, trust the process, God has a plan. I didn’t know what that plan was, but I stayed.

A few more years went by and things with my father kept getting better, not great, but better. Well, my mom ended up in the hospital and got very sick after having a gallbladder operation. She ended up getting an infection and passed away in the hospital. I realized what God’s plan was when me and Dad cut Mom’s life support. It was for me to have done enough work on me so I could be there to support my father when he needed me the most. I still live with him and our relationship just keeps getting better and better. He’s 80 now and it’s my turn to take care of him.

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Think Ahead – Anonymous

On December 21st, 2015, posted in: recovery by

2DSC_1880Before I got into recovery, immediate gratification was how I lived.  When I wanted something, I wanted it now.  As a recovering food addict, in order to take care of my food needs and to protect my abstinence, planning and thinking ahead is a necessary component of my everyday life.

The holiday season can be a vulnerable time of year for addicts of any stripe.  Being a food addict has its own particular challenges.  Non-abstinent food is everywhere.  It’s a central part of the holiday season.  I’m surrounded by it, seeing it, smelling it, even fixing it for others.  I go to work, it’s there.  I go to a friend’s house, it’s there (where usually it isn’t).  I visit family, it’s there.  I go see my doctor/dentist/lawyer (fill in the blank), it’s there.  Gifts of food (and usually not abstinent varieties) are everywhere I look.  It’s visually appealing, it smells yummy, and it will kill me.

It’s a time of year when I am particularly vulnerable to having cravings and dangerous thoughts.  Early in my recovery I learned to think ahead when I have a craving:  What will it be like if I act on that craving?  What will I feel like after the binge?  What will my life be like then?  When I do that, the old feelings of shame, self-loathing, and disgust come right back up and I usually end up feeling immense gratitude for my abstinence, and the craving/dangerous thought disappears. I can carry the “thinking ahead” even farther, if necessary.  I know that I will lose everything if I pick up.  I will lose my relationship with my Higher Power because food will once again be the Power I serve.  I will return to a life of isolation, hiding, sneaking, lying, living in fear, hurting others.  This would be the result of the immediate gratification of a craving or dangerous thought.  So I think ahead.

At this time of year, I am especially grateful to be abstinent because I no longer have to dread New Year’s Day when I was always starting my diet after eating non-stop from Halloween to the end of the year.  By the grace of my Higher Power and the 12-Step program of recovery, I wake up most days happy, joyous and free, but I wake up every day FREE!2DSC_1880

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GiftI remember the day I got out of detox like it was yesterday.  My boyfriend and mother dropped a bombshell that I was not allowed home, wasn’t allowed to see my kids, no cell phone, no car.  All those “yets” were about to happen.  The insane part about it is that I actually considered being homeless and pictured what my life would be like living under the bridge.  I pondered on that thought for the next couple of days and decided to go to impatient treatment.  That was the turning point in my life.

One of the things that was drilled in my head since the first day, and still is, is how important sponsorship is.  I wanted what my sponsor had.  She was happy, joyous and free.  I needed someone to call me out on my behaviors and hold me accountable for my actions.  I have had the same sponsor since the day I came into the rooms.  It is now my turn to give away what was so freely given to me.  I sponsor women and take them through the 12 Steps, and to be able to see the “psychic change” is one of the greatest gifts this program has given me.

 

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