Running on Empty by Ashley N.

On September 8th, 2015, posted in: recovery by

empty tankOver the past year I have felt very tired, physically and mentally.  This time last year I threw my back out and the rest of my body hasn’t felt the same since.  I changed jobs at work and was given a lot more responsibility.  I got a new sponsor.  I sought outside help for some things I have needed to get off my chest for 20 years.  I changed jobs again at work.  Needless to say, there was a lot of change going on in my life and I was exhausted.

I began to feel stuck, literally stuck.  Some days I would come home from work and sit in the same place on the couch until I went to bed.  My husband finally told me that I needed to do something different because it was better than being consumed by anxiety, physical pain and stress.

I started thinking about what I could do differently.  I was going to meetings, more than usual, in fact.  I was giving my job everything that I had.  I was going to the gym regularly.  I was seeing a therapist.  I was going to the doctor for preventative care.  I thought to myself, “What is there left to do?”

It is very easy for me to get caught up in self-will.  I have long struggled with turning my will over to the care of something greater than myself for the shear fact that I cannot touch or see said something.  But thankfully my memory works in my favor (my memory is crazy good but my forgetter runs a close second).  I remember many times when I have had no other choice than to ask for help from my Higher Power.  Without a doubt, I know that I have gotten what I needed, regardless of how quickly or how slowly.

I practice daily surrender throughout the day now.  I travel for work so I am in my car a lot and have ample time for conversations with my Higher Power.  Today, life is good.  More change is inevitable and I am likely to struggle with self-will again.  The hope is in knowing that I don’t have to struggle with anything alone.

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ClockI thought to stay home
but it’s only an hour,
So I go for a dose
Of the magical power.

I take a seat
Against the wall,
Next to Bubba
With the southern drawl.

All the regulars file in
There’s Mike and Joe,
Sara and Tim.

Crazy Carl is at it again
Yelling at Bob,
His very best friend.

There goes Len
Across the floor,
Three cups already,
He’s getting one more.

He slides his feet,
He’s got a weird gait,
The Thorazine shuffle,
A term coined by Nate.

I trade smiles
With my friend Gus;
They’re all effing crazy
Except for us.

Margaret and Sue
Are laughing out loud;
They’re having such fun
Up high on their cloud.

The gavel sounds
And so we begin;
Kevin’s in charge,
I get a kick outa him.

It starts with the usual,
So mundane;
The readings, the guidelines,
Not why I came.

Then the big question,
Is anyone new?
We look around;
Tonight there are two.

There’s a big guy,
He’s a marine;
His hands are shaking,
He looks kinda mean.

And a young hot mess,
Says she’s not sure
If she belongs here;
She sits by the door.

We snap to attention,
It’s time to get real;
We think we can help them,
We know how they feel.

Hands go up,
Kevin must choose;
He calls on Sam,
With him we can’t lose.

Sam’s an ex-con
With muscles and tats;
He’s had a rough life,
Not ashamed of his stats.

Searching for words,
He digs deep in his heart,
Inspiring the newbies
To embrace this fresh start.

He recalls from his past
The pain and the gloom,
Then speaks of the hope
that he found in this room.

Next goes Len,
What the hell,
That guy’s nuts;
Can’t Kevin tell?

But there’s more to Len
than meets the eye;
His soulful words
make the big guy cry.

And so we speak,
One after another,
A barber, a cop,
A mom and a brother.

Despite many strengths,
We’ve all been to hell;
Yet, thanks to each other,
We’re here now to tell.

Next thing I know
Up goes my hand,
Compelled to reach out
I might even stand.

Without any planning
The words just flow;
Where do they come from,
I’ll never know.

The hour passes
And so we’re through;
We did the best
That we could do.

The girl is hopeful as she leaves,
The big guy’s shedding big tears of relief;
Maybe they’ll make it, maybe not.
We know in our hearts
We gave all we got.

Once again
I trade smiles with Gus;
We’re all effing crazy,
Thank Howard for us.

 

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Three Questions by Clara W.

On August 24th, 2015, posted in: recovery by

AA show me how to live bookFor me, all my character defects fall in the area of EGO.  I strive daily to stay out of that neighborhood, but of course I often take a wrong turn and there I am again, usually ending up angry, resentful or hurt.  The following sentence from Step 10 in AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions has been very helpful:  “It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.”

So whenever I am disturbed, I have a three-step inventory that I do.  I write the answers to the following questions:  (1) What is “my stuff,” my part, my character defects in this situation?  (2) What is this person or situation trying to teach me? (3)…and this is the killer…What am I grateful to this person or situation for?

By the time I have answered those three questions, I am no longer in the same frame of mind, no longer disturbed or as disturbed.  This practice is the vehicle that drives me out of that dangerous neighborhood of ego and brings me back to the place I want to be, free of anger, resentment, judgment, at peace with the world and myself.  The key to starting my vehicle is this inventory, and the fuel that gets me out of that neighborhood is found in question three:  Gratitude.

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One day at a time craftDuring the years I’ve been in recovery, my attitudes, beliefs, priorities and desires have been altered, and that miracle comes directly from working my spiritual program.  Mother Theresa said, “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”  If I want to stay in the light of my Higher Power, every day I need to keep refilling the lamp.  Sometimes it’s a matter of just doing the right action regardless of how I feel or what I think, since my “feeler” and “thinker” often need adjusting.  I heard this said years ago and it has been very helpful to me throughout my years in recovery and has played a large part in who I am today:  If I consistently act like the person I want to be, someday I will be the person I act like.

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HonestySo I’m trying to take suggestions from my sponsor, so he tells me to be kind and in a store pay for the person’s stuff behind me. So it comes to my mind in Walmart; I look behind me and I thought, hell no! He had a basket full of stuff. So I went to the Dollar Tree and did my kind act. Cost me 2 bucks. I took the suggestion.

My disease was talking to me one day.  It said look at that guy.  He goes to the bar every day.  Has no responsibilities. He has it made. The disease forgot to tell me 2 days prior I got a call from him in the hospital where he got beat up in the bar. Cunning, baffling, powerful.

I put my 4-year-old son up for adoption 25 years ago. I couldn’t take care of him. I carried the pain for years.  I thought I’d never see him again, this was in Michigan. Met up with him in jail 23 years later, had no idea he was my son till he started talking about his past to me. I made amends and prayed together.

My wife found a wallet and it had 7 hundred bucks in it. I put the money in my pocket and said thank you, god, I needed that.  My wife told me I had to find the person it belonged to and give it back. I told her I was not that honest yet and god gave it to me.  A week later I found the guy because it was too quiet at my house for a week and gave the money and wallet back.

I had an amends to make. I owed this guy about 3 grand. I saw him about a year ago and said I’ll pay you back soon.  He said it doesn’t bother me anymore but if it bothers you, you can pay me back.  I said you know, it really doesn’t bother me.  Now with this honest thing I’m practicing, I’ve started paying it off.

They told me I was a career criminal and that I would never stay in society. I was in prison for 19 years and believed them.  Well, I went to AA and did some work on myself. I have been sober for 4 years and haven’t got in trouble one time.  It’s a miracle.  AA has saved my life, God’s mercy and grace.

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One way or anotherSo I kept coming in and out of the program relapsing, trying to decide what I needed to work on to stay sober.  What was I missing?  What didn’t I do last time?

I’d go to a meeting and hear someone share something good, where I thought maybe I was lacking, so I would think of plans to go about addressing that.  Then I’d go to another meeting and again hear something I thought was amazing, and “Voila!” another plan would start developing.  I’d read something and think, “That’s it, that’s what I need to work on.” My pride?  Or should I start with spirituality (start going to church)?  How about getting honest with myself more?

I really wanted to work on myself.  My efforts and thoughts were sincere.  I wanted to do it my way!!!  The Steps looked too simple and looked like a lot of work.  I didn’t realize it was not work, but a way of life, a way to live life on life’s terms, to live it happy, joyous, and free.

My sponsor gently said, “Stop trying to figure out what you were missing, or didn’t do the last relapse.  Just concentrate on the Steps, one by one, 1 through 12.  You’ll be amazed before you are halfway through.”

And I was.  Celebrating 17 years of sobriety, happy, joyous, and free!

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committeeI often refer to the voices and the in-decisions in my head as my Committee holding a meeting, or I refer to them all flying in for the convention in my head.  This happens whenever I need to make a decision or I am being challenged with doing the next right thing.

My disease committee comes in with the disguise of glamour sometimes, or threats of fear, sometimes shining and sparkling and full of mischief and excitement. Their voices excite me with selfish thoughts and self-centered ego.  They know my weakness and my pleasure triggers.

They are often loud and demanding.  These voices want me to do the next wrong thing for the next wrong reason.  Why?  Because they want me to suffer.  They fill me with remorse, fear, anger, because my disease wants me dead.

It is that quiet voice, that spiritual voice, that directs me to do the next right thing for the next right, good reason, but because of the loud noise the other voices are making, I sometimes find it difficult to hear and locate the quiet voice.  It is those times I seek the help of my support network; I go to a meeting, I contact my sponsor.

Why?  Because I want to LIVE; I want to enjoy life, not just survive; I want to laugh, love, be responsible, live life on life’s terms. I look for that quiet spiritual voice that guides me to be unselfish, to be giving and loving and kind.  It guides me to seek to be helpful; it tells me to do things unselfish, that I don’t want to do, and it tells me not to do selfish things that I want to do.

When I am able to do this, the rewards are numerous, full of laughter, joy and respect.  When I am unable to follow that quiet voice, I am full of rage, anger, and fear.

Every day, every challenge, I face the Committee, but what I have discovered is that the more I seek the quiet voice, the louder and easier it is to find.  Sometimes the quiet voice and I laugh at the loud voice and the tricks, not treats, offered.

I treat the voices like a meeting – “Thanks for sharing.”  Next!! Challenge the Committee.

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Home in handsLooking back on my relationship with my first sponsor, there is one thing he said to me that resonates loudest:  “Nothing is more difficult for us, in recovery, than dealing with our families.”  And nothing could be more true.  All the deepest wounds I have are from my childhood. The causes and conditions that led to my active alcoholism originated there.

So, in my experience, those messages we hear in the fellowship are absolutely true. There is nowhere harder to practice the principles than at home.  It’s relatively easy to do at work and in the community, but practicing love and tolerance with the person who took your little red wagon is a whole other story. These people push our buttons like no one else.
Myself, I have to keep unpeeling the proverbial onion, and the deeper I get, the more it hurts.

The good news is that I am more prepared to manage the pain than I have ever been. I have tools. There is hope. I’ve been sober long enough to know that on the other side of the pain is a better, happier person.  I’m reminded of Bill Wilson’s assertion – that pain really is the touchstone of all spiritual growth.

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standing outWhen I went to my first NA meeting, I immediately felt comfortable.  That same meeting became my home group when I had 30 days clean, and it has remained my home group to this day.

The first person that welcomed me to that meeting was a man from a much different walk of life than me, and we could not have been more different by way of race, gender or age.  What I remember most about this man was that he was kind, enthusiastic about recovery and eager to see me stick and stay.  Each week as I came to this meeting, I would hear this man share his experience, strength and hope with newcomers, as well as sharing during the meeting.  When he shared, I could always relate to the place that he had gotten to before coming to Narcotics Anonymous, but I could not always relate to the circumstances of which he shared.  The details of our stories were so tremendously different, but our pain was the same.

Listening to the experience, strength and hope from both oldtimers and newcomers alike has taught me a lot about looking for the similarities, and not the differences in our stories.  I may not wear the same style of clothes, listen to the same type of music, go to the same restaurants or live in the same neighborhood as anyone else in a meeting, but I do share one thing with everyone.  We share a common bond of having experienced the horrors of addiction in our lives and in that regard we are very similar.

Over the past 9 years I have, at times, found myself wanting to be different, even if just a little, so that I could stand out.  Thankfully I learned a long time ago to share the craziness in my head with another addict.  The ladies (and gentlemen) in my support network always share a similar response to my wanting to be different.  The response?  I am not unique.  I am not different.  I am actually very similar.

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Sponsorship by Alex K.

On June 22nd, 2015, posted in: recovery by

HelpMy first sponsor and I quickly formed a friendship in recovery.  Not only did he walk me through the Steps, but he also listened to my self-centered fears and dramas that were common in my early recovery.  We would drive together most nights to meetings all over town.  Many late evenings were spent, after meetings, with me sharing my problem and my sponsor sharing about the 12 Steps.  Over my years of sponsoring others, I have tried to emulate this simple relationship that helped build my personal recovery.

When I had been sober for a year and a half, I was faced with the news that my sponsor was moving back to the Northeast and I would need to get a new sponsor.  This was one of those moments in recovery that could have gone two ways.  I could choose to not get a sponsor, but I had seen what happened to those that thought they could sponsor themselves.  These people tended to either drink again or become angry, depressed, restless souls.

Looking for a new sponsor, I felt like a newcomer again, but I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober.  In the end, I learned that change is a part of the recovery life.  For me, it is vital that I always have a sponsor.

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