Things heard in recovery, by Jeanne H.

in: recovery

In the recovery community we have a lot of phrases and sayings. They’re not official. Nobody owns them. They’re just out there, author unknown. The phrases and sayings get passed around. You hear one and it means nothing. You file it away with the others, in your head. And then one day it means something. You dust it off, roll it around on your tongue, say it aloud and hear it as if for the first time.

Don’t compare, identify
Wherever you go, there you are
First things first
Surrender to win
More will be revealed
Don’t quit before the miracle

These are just a few. There are hundreds. We hear them. We love them. We hate them. Sometimes, we recognize one another through them.

About a month ago, I was traveling from Tampa to New York to visit family. The airport lines were long. I was worried that I might miss my flight. A nice man helped me out. He held my place in line while I raced to the ladies room, he assisted me at the ticketing kiosk and directed me to the right gate. No big deal to him but a really big deal to me. I’m not a frequent flyer. I thanked him profusely and he humbly accepted. And then, he said something. I wish I could tell you what he said but I can’t remember. Maybe I’ll remember by the time I finish writing this. Don’t hold your breath. The point is he said something familiar. One of those sayings.

“Hey wait,” I asked “are you a friend of Bill’s?”
“Yeah,” he answered. “You?”
“Nine years” I beamed (All we have is today. I know, I know but I can’t help it. I’m proud of my nine). “Small world” I added.
“We’re everywhere” he said. And then, as he walked away, “Stick around, it keeps getting better.”
That’s another saying. One of my favorites. It keeps getting better.

If you want to stay sober you’ve got to be willing to step over the bodies. That’s an ugly one, but it’s out there. Like all the others, there’s truth to it. We can’t fall apart and say “screw it” every time we lose one. We stop briefly, yes of course. We say a prayer and we pay our respects. We visit with grief. We feel it in it’s entirety. We soberly endure the intensity of its pain. We don’t unpack and stay there though. That would be dangerous. We march on. We trudge forward on the road of happy destiny.

I didn’t grasp that saying at first. I didn’t think it would ever apply to me. People die from drinking? Not in my world. I don’t even know those kind of people. And then it happens. And it happens again. One too many Xanax chased back with the bedtime wine. A tragic moonlight swim in the ocean. All hope lost, a trigger pulled. These sad endings become all too familiar and the ugly saying takes on new meaning. It belongs to you. You know the drill. Suit up and show up. You accept, acknowledge, grieve and move forward. “Okay, okay” you whisper in the dark. “I can do this. I can step over the bodies.” Still, you hate that saying.

If you’re like me, you keep a secret list. You keep it in your head, close to your heart. It’s a list of names. Names of people, people whose bodies you could never step over. You just can’t. You’re sure of it. At least, you don’t think you could. You do a quick little thing. Some call it a prayer. You ask the God of your understanding to look after those names. The names on your secret list. You beg.

Recently I’ve been in touch with an old friend. She’s hilarious, beautiful and successful. She thinks she might have a drinking problem. We’ve been talking, mostly texting. I share with her my own experience, strength and hope. Whatever wisdom I can muster. She’s trying to quit. She can quit. She has quit. Several times. Five days. twelve days. Ten days. She can’t seem to stay quit though. I been there. I get it. I told her what I finally did. I told her where I went. I told her how it helped me. She’s reluctant to go that route, to that extreme. She just wants to cut back, get the drinking under control. She doesn’t realize that she’s fighting for her life. She doesn’t get it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she’ll be fine. Just in case though, I’ve added her name to my secret list. Not this one, please God, not this one. I just can’t.

Death. That’s the worst case scenario. That’s as bad as it gets. You would think so, right? That’s what I thought.

Somebody I love is very sick. Liver failure. The kind that kills you, but not right away. I can not express just how much nursing homes suck, even the best rated ones with all five stars. I have no words to describe the horrors my somebody has endured. Its been a long hot summer. As he continues to suffer, so do we who love him.

I’m feeling a new phrase on the tip of my tongue. Ive heard it for years but never gave it much thought. Now I get it.

Alcohol wants us dead, but it’ll settle for miserable.

A Talk with God, by Mary S.

in: recovery

Real Recovery started when I finally got honest with myself and stopped blaming others, mainly my mother and husband. My journey began with an intervention on my mother and her drinking. We had to go to some recovery group so I went to Al-anon for a while. Then Adult Children! Both were good places to hide because if I could blame her I didn’t have to look at myself.

My husband was confronted about his drinking and eventually went to AA.  Thank God he had a strong sponsor who said “I don’t want to hear about her (mine) drinking”.  It gave me the opportunity to get more miserable. I felt alone and that no one understood. If he or my mother would just shape up I’d be OK.   But here I was feeling confused and depressed.  After a prayer meeting (doesn’t everyone think more prayer will be the answer) a friend asked me why I was so negative and depressed on occasion (like all the time). So, that night as I lay in bed I asked God what was wrong with me, no ifs, ands or buts. I wanted a confirmation and I wanted to know what He wanted me to do with my life! Amen! Goodnight!!!

Later that night God said to me, “Mary you are an alcoholic”! I said maybe it was a hormone problem. He said, “Mary you are an alcoholic”. I said maybe I’m having a nervous breakdown. He said, “Mary you are an alcoholic”!  I finally accepted what He said. I felt His peace finally. The next morning at church the readings were “You came to me in the night and I answered your prayer” and “Ask, Seek and Knock!” I raised my hand and knew what I heard in the night was the truth.

What did He want me to do with my life? He said “Stay where you are and I’ll send you people.”  Over the years I’d be asked to talk to some lady about hers or her husband’s drinking. Someone would call in and I got the feeling that alcohol might be the problem. I even went to Gam-anon when two friends confessed their husbands had a problem with gambling.

Through AA and over the years I have had the wonder of carrying the message as God had said “I will send you people.

BUT first you have to get honest!

Admitting Powerlessness, by Laura B.

in: recovery

The first time I heard the 12 steps, I was staring out the window of yet another eating disorder treatment center, watching the already-hot Alabama sun burn away the morning fog.

Across the room, a fellow client vaped emphatically, filling the room with sticky-sweet vanilla clouds. She cleared her throat and began: “One. We admitted we were powerless over food—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

I leaned back into the worn cushions and folded my arms tightly against my chest. She continued reading, but I had stopped listening. Powerless over food? I don’t think so.

My therapist at the time was big on mantras. During my first week of treatment, I had decided that mine would be “I am strong.” I believed I could do this recovery thing on my power and I did not need anyone’s help to get there. I obviously didn’t need these twelve steps. I wrote my mantra repeatedly on everything as if I could actualize my fantasy through repetition. I wrote it on journals and canvasses and the place mat set beneath my carefully measured meals. I wrote “I am strong” on my hand in big bold Sharpie the day I impulsively flicked my turn signal into the Publix parking lot and began yet another sharp descent into relapse.

Three years and countless relapses later, I lay staring up at the scuffed beige ceiling of my hospital room. The harsh unmanageability of my eating disorder had burned away every remaining vestige of false confidence. I had spent the past decade of my life trying every treatment modality under the sun, always trying desperately to believe in my own power to recover myself.

Despair lapped at my ankles, threatening to pull me under. I had utterly exhausted all options before me—all but one. Perhaps, as a final gambit, I could try beginning this recovery journey from a place of humility. Perhaps, here at the end of the road, I could finally admit that I was powerless to recover on my own.

I had nothing to lose and, as it turns out, all the promises in the world to gain.

In the months that followed, I slowly came to accept that it was only by relying on my Higher Power and the powerful community of women that surrounded and supported me, that I could finally take a full breath and emerge from my fog of food obsession. I am never promised tomorrow, but for today, I choose to believe that it is only by accepting my powerlessness that I can take my next steps towards a life of freedom.

Shedding Off the Layers by Colbin

in: recovery

In my recovery journey, I’ve discovered that making it to the other side of addiction can feel like squeezing through a narrow door. As addicts, we carry so many heavy layers through life; layers that make us unable to fit through the door to recovery.

I’m learning that finding sobriety and health is like peeling off these layers one at a time, thoughtfully and sometimes painfully. It’s an intentional process that cannot be rushed and you’ll discover that you will not peel a layer off until you’re ready and willing to surrender.

The very first step I took toward true health was to shed the layer of self-will. Underneath self-will I found surrender which opened up opportunities for blessings and miracles.

The next layer I had to shed was my habit of lying to others and myself. Once free of the weight of deceit, I found honesty which brought truth, identity, reality and clarity.

Following that layer, I had to remove shame and let it fade away. What I discovered underneath the shame was self-love and acceptance. Acceptance was truly the thing I had been desperately seeking; my deepest core desire and I found it within myself. Self-acceptance is the key to complete freedom and empowerment.

As I kept shedding layers, the next one that hit the floor was my belief that I deserved pain and punishment, and that I would never be enough. This layer was rooted deep within my being and was what drove me to pick up drugs over and over again. I wasn’t capable of fitting through the door to recovery while still wrapped up in this deadly layer of self-hatred. This was a fatal layer, able to suffocate my past, present and future.

This belief that I would never be enough came straight from hell to hold me down and restrain me from ever moving forward. Once this was finally removed, I gained self-love, clarity and a new, life-altering perspective that soon changed everything. The change that happens inside yourself during recovery is hard to put into words; it’s a complete transformation of worldview and perspective.

I’m sure there are many more layers to be shed and incredible discoveries to reveal as I continue this recovery journey. I feel lighter with each breakthrough, discovering my true self one layer at a time. And as I finally fit through that door to recovery, I‘m finding a new path that brings me hope, a happy ending, life, freedom and joy!

Recovery, One Day At A Time, by Emily

in: recovery

One day at a time…this is a slogan that I have heard used in the rooms since I went to my first 12-step meeting almost 3 years ago. That being said, I did not fully understand the meaning of this slogan until recently.

There are times I feel extremely frustrated with my program. Why do I have to go to a meeting? Why do I have to call my sponsor? Why do I have to follow my food plan? Why do I have to make a network call and run my ideas by someone else first?

Well, first of all I should note that I do not HAVE to do any of these things. Taking these recovery actions are a choice. If I choose to not do these recovery actions there are dangerous consequences which my past has shown me very clearly. And secondly, these actions are not necessarily FOREVER actions…they are just for today.

My alcoholic mind likes to play games with me and say “Well, it is not actually just for today, you really are trying to stay sober, clean, and abstinent forever”. Which may be true…But I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next year or even later this afternoon! All I know is that in this very moment, right now, I am taking the necessary actions to stay sober and abstinent. That is all I have.

If I make forever promises I will surely relapse. That sounds very unmanageable. I heard once in a podcast from a recovering addict that after they had relapsed over and over again, they returned to the 12-step rooms and stopped asking “Why? Why? Why?” And just began saying, “Okay, Okay, Okay” to what was asked of them.

As I am reminded in meetings, the reasons for the illness’ presence are unimportant. And the reasons behind why the tools of the program work are also unimportant. I see that the program has worked for other people so today I am choosing to believe that the program can work for me too. Besides, these recovery actions are just for today. And I think I can manage that. Thank you God for TODAY!

Willingness is the Key, by Beverly W.

in: recovery

I’d like to say “I just decided I wanted to get sober so I did.” Sounds easy enough. I’ve heard it said before “I picked up one white chip and I’ve been sober ever since.” How amazing…..for THAT person. This was not my experience, even though it may have been nice to have happened that way! Nope, not for me. I had to squeeze every last ounce of “incomprehensible demoralization out of my alcoholism and addiction that I could possibly bear…or not!

I remember praying for death and truly believing it would be the ONLY way out. I get it; I get the sadness, depression, hopelessness and despair of that bottomless pit. But now, today in recovery I feel the sense of hope. Hope that only willingness to do whatever it takes brings! I remember thinking “I will do everything BUT that.” I remember sitting in meetings thinking to myself “that’ll never happen to me,” But then IT DID. It ALL happened! Every last single thing I said or thought would never happen to me did!….hence the “incomprehensible demoralization” .

Recovery for me, at least in the beginning, was doing what I didn’t want to do! After all, I concluded, (while sitting in that bottomless pit) that I had done whatever I wanted to do my entire life and look what it got me! So in recovery I became willing to follow direction, whether I wanted to or not, whether I thought my sponsor knew what she was talking about or not! I had to be willing!

I began to learn (NOT listen) to my own thinking and rely on those that had what I wanted! THEN, and ONLY then, did the miracle of recovery begin to happen for me. Today I live a life beyond my wildest dreams and to think it was as simple as following direction and doing what I didn’t want to do! After all, just like they say, my worst day sober is waaaaay better than my best day of drinking!

Hope in Little Rock by Mark M.

in: recovery

It’s good to know that after 20 plus years clean, I can still be surprised by the power of recovery. Every time I feel like I’m alone and unique; recovery always (in ALL ways) reminds that I am none of those things. It sounds like a slogan doesn’t it? But it’s true! Here’s a perfect example…

Nobody likes going through a divorce, even after the fighting stops, even when the resentment and anger has been processed, shared about and re-shared about, feelings linger. “Am I unlovable?” “Am I good enough?” “Will I be alone forever?” It’s not just addict specific; it’s the human condition, especially after a big life change. Even though we know in our heart of hearts that these voices speak to us from our disease we still allow our mind to believe them.

“So what is the best way to feel a part of?” “How can I reconnect and NOT feel so alone?” Well, I decided to do what any logical person would do when feeling alone and disconnected….I will go on vacation ALL BY MYSELF! (of course all of this wonderful logic hit me  in a deserted hotel room, in Little Rock, AR).  I figured this would be the best thing for me to do because I always know what is best for me (lol).

I did meet some wonderful people on my vacation from the airport to the hotel; it was easy to talk to people and get to know a little but about them. Heck, that’s what I do for a living! I am a marketer by trade so making conversation with people is easy for me. However, there is a broad difference between making a “conversation” and making a “connection.” By day 2 I was feeling disconnected again, even though I had spent the whole day talking and talking and making conversation with wonderful people, I continued to feel more and more alone.

“What should I do?” “Should I go to a meeting?” I DID have the time and I had always wanted to Uber to meeting (that just sounds so Yuppie-Recovery) so I looked up a meeting on the NA app (check it out!) ordered an Uber and BAM, I was at a meeting full of new and weird faces. I was a stranger, I was alone sitting in the back (yikes) and then I heard the opening Serenity Prayer and BOOM, like a ton of bricks, it all hit me all at once. All the pain, all the loneliness, all the feelings and I started crying like it was my first meeting! I was resolved to stay in the room and it saved my life and my soul. I sat and listened to (what I am sure was) the same old stories and slogans but it felt like it was all new, like it was the first time. The serenity prayer was suddenly new. The steps were somehow rewritten, the readings that use to drive me crazy were also new, but of course they weren’t. I was the one that was new, I was new again and newly reborn right there in Little Rock!

I could go on about how I connected with people after the meeting, pretended I was a smoker just to ask for a light (Don’t ya hate those people) just so I could strike-up a conversation. I could mention how I gathered phone numbers and still keep in touch, I could do all that and it would be true. It is the same old recovery /miracle story that we have heard time and time again but all of those stories and all of those feelings (including mine) aren’t new for recovery. THEY are the constant and recovery is grace and compassion and it is everywhere, be it Little Rock, Arkansas or Tampa, Florida! Old-Timers or Newcomers, recovery works in spite of us and alongside of us and for that I am eternally grateful and blessed!

WHY did I pick Little Rock for a vacation spot? Well, THAT’s another story!

Adult Pants by John B.

in: recovery

35 years of sobriety under my belt and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this. I had thought (and hoped really) that I could go the whole rest of my life without it. But, for the second time in my life, I now own a suit.

The first time was when I was, like six. And that one came with short pants.

But, I now own a jacket and matching pants (long), appropriate to appear in at any formal affair. An “adult” pair of pants, in other words. See, you can’t be 7 when you’re wearing a suit. It’s like impossible, I think. I also experienced actually acting like an adult while I was in an adult situation. And no, I was not wearing the suit at the time.

And this all happened in the very same week! Is it a coincidence? We think not!

I know, you’re probably thinking “Really? Why is this guy bothering me with this?”

Let me clarify. You see, we all have three basic personalities inside: the child, the adult and the critical parent. Some of us have more, but we all have at least these three.

I prefer the child. See, I was, as the book says, “in full flight from reality” long before I took my first drink at age 14. I have never been a fan of such words as responsibility, reality and accountability.  I would rather be 7.

I like doin’ what I want, when I want and think it should ALWAYS be recess! Where’s my treat, is it time to go get ice cream yet? Why not? I wanna go to Disneyland! Work? I DON’T WANNA!

Really long story short – apparently I was in a safe space the other day, talking to my therapist, and something wonderful happened! At the end of the session I felt really good, like being adjusted by the chiropractor of the emotions! It was really great. Then I realized that the reason I felt so good was that during the session, while dealing with some sensitive issues, issues of the sort that I usually avoid by being 7 and deflecting with humor, or just resisting, I had gone a different route – instead I had been in “Adult Mode” the whole time!

And guess what? ADULT is actually a CHOICE! I’m serious right now. I can actually CHOOSE to be an adult if I want to! I had been present and responsible, non-avoidant and accountable and dammit ……it felt good! Mind blown.

I may just try it again, sometime….

But for now, thank God that’s’ over! I can go back to being 7.
Hey! What’s on TV?

Thank God – Anonymous

in: recovery

My mother and father divorced when I was 14 years old and from then on I was pretty much estranged from my father. My father was abusing drugs and being arrested frequently until I was in my mid 20’s.  I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God, I will never be like him.”

I always wondered what led my father to drug abuse.  I never asked him.  I did see him from time to time around holidays at my grandfather’s house, but he was never much for catching up.  We had no relationship to speak of.  One time, after I had been clean for a while, I confronted him about the abuse he inflicted upon me when I was a child.  I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God, I am not like him.”

A few years ago my father was diagnosed with throat cancer.  He contacted me from the hospital where he was receiving treatment.  He couldn’t speak without being in pain.  I did not pity him, but I did feel sorry for him.  I was sorry that he never heard the message of hope that I heard when I attended my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. My father lived the last 3 decades of his life a slave to addiction. And then, he got cancer.  He was surely going to die, from one disease or the other.  I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God, I never have to live a life like his.”

My father passed away 2 months ago.  He did not contact anyone when he went into the hospital.  My grandfather called me early one morning to tell me he had passed.  I have so many things I wanted to say to my father.  Maybe some things are better left unsaid.

Truth be told, for a time I was like my father, desperate to change the way I felt, beholden to my addiction. I was constantly pushing away the people who loved me most, consistently making one bad choice after another.  BUT, I received the gift of recovery.  And since then, my life has been nothing short of amazing; and I owe a debt of gratitude to Narcotics Anonymous and God, who I choose to call my Higher Power.

“No addict seeking recovery need ever die from the horrors of addiction.” – Gratitude Prayer


The Traditions, A Framework for Recovery, Part 12, by John B.

in: recovery

The Traditions are designed to keep the GROUP from destroying ITSELF; the Steps are designed to keep US from destroying OURSELVES.

Tradition Twelve: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” 

For me, this is the most difficult of the principles to abide by. People bug me, it’s just that simple. It has frequently been said that if you like all the people in the meetings you go to, you aren’t going to enough meetings. It’s funny because it’s true! Not convinced? Just try going to a well-intentioned business meeting sometime; “principles before personalities” not always shines through!

However, it seems as though that is not the original intent of this tradition. It was actually put in place to prevent newly sober members from going out to announce their success publicly, only to then have some sort of reversal and get drunk. Certainly that has occurred with celebrities on occasion. But it wouldn’t take too much of that before the reputation of AA was harmed for good in people’s minds. I always imagine some drunk sitting in a bar, watching the news talk about some movie or rock star who was sober for a while and was arrested for DUI. He turns to his fellow toppers to say something like, “See, that AA stuff doesn’t work!”

There is another spiritual value that does not come easy to most recovering alcoholics and addicts, and that is virtue of humility, some measure of which is necessary to have any chance of overcoming addiction of any kind.

Early on, there were instances of people getting enthused by a new member’s recovery, and then talking openly to each other about certain aspects of his or her case which perhaps should only be shared with one’s sponsor and otherwise kept in confidence. When that happened, the new member felt, rightly, that their trust had been broken. It’s one of the things that I value most about Twelve Step meetings: the fact that I am anonymous there and that what I say in a meeting, stays in the meeting. Here, Here!