Sober Fun by Whitley C.

in: recovery

One of my fears of getting sober at age 22 was that my life was going to be boring. I remember crying while I was in outpatient because I thought my years of fun were over and done. I could not imagine having fun without drugs or alcohol. I was scared to make new friends and, most of all, petrified of what people would think of me. I went to a halfway house after treatment and got plugged in with a good group of women who had fun and laughed. We would go to meetings and hang out afterwards. I was awkward and very fearful, but I kept showing up to events because I wanted to feel better, and my sponsor told me to. I started finding new hobbies because my addiction had taken all of those away from me.

I’m having the most fun of my entire life, all while being sober. I go to concerts and go camping, which were things I thought were gone for good. I do things with other people that are sober and have never laughed harder than I do now. Every day is a blessing, and I am grateful to be sober and having fun.

Working with Others, by Sandra D.

in: recovery

When I first got sober, I did not understand how working with others could keep me sober. After all, I had enough problems with three teenagers, my mom and my job to keep track of. I really didn’t have the energy to listen to someone else’s problems. It was suggested, however, that I start working with other women and get out of myself. So I did.
My sponsor assured me, “If someone wants to stay sober, you can’t say anything wrong, and if someone wants to drink, you can’t say anything right.” In other words, their sobriety was in their hands and not mine.

In the beginning, I did not know what to do except read through the AA Big Book and the Twelve And Twelve to help them learn about the Steps. I have found, through the years, many resources to help with sponsoring. AA has several great publications, such as, Drop the Rock, The Little Red Book, and even some that are not AA approved books, like A Women’s Way Through The 12 Steps. I find that in going through the Steps again with another woman, I am always working on my character defects and finding other new ways to improve my relationships with others.

Through the years, I have sponsored many women. Some have stayed sober and some have not. I have enjoyed this experience immensely. Getting to know other women and watching them grow has been one of the greatest gifts in my sobriety. They remind me of how things used to be and can be again if I pick up, but even more importantly, they remind me to be grateful each and every day.

True Happiness: Giving to Receive by Eugene H.

in: recovery

Usually when I think of happiness, I think of “Self” primarily. What can I do to make my life more fulfilling, happier, and more peaceful?
When I think of serenity, peace of mind, and joy, I think of obtaining these spiritual gifts for “Self.”
Recently I had the opportunity to reflect about times when I felt the most happiness, when I laughed out loud and felt at peace with myself or experienced joy, and I discovered that it was during times when I was providing service, giving of myself, my time, my energy, my love, my compassion, to others.

The kind of service that brings joy and happiness to others is the key, like when I concentrate on helping others to find peace of mind, I find peace of mind, or when I help others to laugh, I laugh; when I find ways to bring love, I get love.

As I reflect, when I am able to concentrate on bringing happiness to others, those are the times I am most happy; the same for all spiritual gifts.

It is giving that fulfills me the most.  So, when I take “Self” out of the picture and look at what I can do for others, I laugh the most; when I bring joy to others, my heart feels the gratitude, when I ask what can I do or how can I be of service, and when I am able to make others smile, I smile the most.

True happiness is the result of how we make others happy, “what a concept,” 12-Step recovery.

Grateful to be Free of Anger, by Sandra D.

in: recovery

Like most alcoholics, I was angry all the time before I came to AA. I blamed everyone for everything that was wrong in my life.   AA taught me that I needed to work through these emotions or I could never give up the drink and have true serenity. I had no idea how to go about doing this. As I read the Big Book, I found my answers. I worked on my fourth and fifth steps and I felt a bit better. I worked on six and seven, asking for humility, and I felt even happier. I worked on eight and nine, and while asking for forgiveness, I could also forgive.

I think my biggest change came when I reread a section on Pages 66 and 67 of the Big Book. “We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick…We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’ ” Wow! This really blew my mind. Here it was, step by step and a little prayer to go with it, all laid out for us in the Big Book of AA.

Today, when I start to get a resentment, I turn to this page and read it again. I remind myself that we are all just human beings having a human experience and trying to get through life the only way we know how. I can receive the promise of peace and serenity now. This frees me up to appreciate all the little blessings in life.

Coming into Alcoholics Anonymous by Susan A.

in: recovery

AA MeetingThe very last plan I wanted to use to solve my drinking problem was to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. I mean, really… I couldn’t have sunk that low. I wasn’t as bad as my brother who ended up in a treatment center, or my uncle who committed suicide at the age of forty.

It didn’t matter that I woke up every morning hating myself for drinking the night before, and that every night I’d pour out anything left in the bottle because I wasn’t going to drink again. Of course, then I had to stop on the way home from work the next day to buy more, with my very limited income.

I was forty-seven, divorced with three teenagers, when I reached the end of my long, torturous road to sobriety. I’d managed to keep us all clothed and fed, but I was not a responsible mother. That is still my biggest regret.

Several years before I joined AA, I’d been to a meeting with my brother, right after he got out of treatment. When the chairperson asked visitors to raise their hands, we both did, but I was careful to make it clear that he was the alcoholic; I was just there to support him.

Some years later, when the time finally came for me to go to a meeting for myself, I went back to that same place – and they were still holding meetings there! I clearly remember how hard it was to force myself to push open that incredibly heavy door and walk into that enormous room of strangers milling around. I went straight to the back row of chairs and sat down, speaking to no one. When the chairperson asked if anyone was there for their first meeting, I looked at the floor and kept my hands firmly gripped on my purse. No way was I going to call attention to myself. The minute the meeting closed, I was out the door and on my way home.

I decided to go to back later that week, but as I drove into the parking lot, I saw two of my neighbors pulling up on their bikes before going inside. Naturally, I kept on going, trying to look as if I’d innocently turned in there by mistake. It was three years before I was ready to try it again… three more years of hating myself and being a lousy mother to my children.

I finally returned on a Saturday night, after dropping my son off in Orlando to see relatives. We visited and took some pictures before I raced back for the AA meeting. Again, I didn’t raise my hand when they asked for newcomers. After all, I reasoned, it wasn’t my first meeting now, was it? Tied in knots, I sat through both speakers’ stories, not hearing a word they said, just thinking they’d never finish. When they finally asked if anyone wanted a white chip, I took a deep breath, braced myself against the ten-foot thick, steel-and-concrete wall of resistance I’d been hiding behind for a quarter of a century, and picked up that chip. Today it resides in my jewelry box on my dresser, and because of the photos we took in Orlando, I know what blouse I was wearing on that momentous day and I still wear it every year when I pick up my medallion.

That night was my turning point. When I left the meeting, it was as if gravity had shifted. I felt lighter, I could breathe, and my view of myself started changing from that of a coward, hiding from and denying problems, to a woman who was ready to learn to take responsibility for her past behavior and, basically, at the age of forty-seven, to start acting like a grownup.

I believe one of the reasons AA has worked for me, and for others all over the world, is the program’s ability to accept people from a wide range of backgrounds, beliefs, and attitudes, and the fact that it gives suggestions, not rules. After twenty-six years in the program, I still attend two meetings every week. I have a sponsor, and I sponsor other women. I try my best to do what I believe is the right thing and let go of the outcome of every situation (even though I don’t always manage to pull that off). For me, this also means recognizing that the only thing I have any control over is myself.

I drank because I thought somehow it would make me feel whole. But the only way I was able to really feel whole, was to stop drinking.

Coming to AA was the hardest and the most responsible thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Which Way to Go, Anonymous

in: recovery

I started thinking about why there are times when it is so difficult for me to figure out God’s will for me in situations where I’m not sure what the right action is.  I’m always pretty clear what My will is for me.  It’s easy to figure out My will because it’s usually an action, or non-action, that will please me, keep me comfortable, get me what I want.  In other words, I WANT to take that action.  God’s will, on the other hand, is usually something different, pretty much the opposite of what I want to do.  It probably won’t please me, will make me uncomfortable, and I might not get what I want.  So why is it so hard to “figure out” God’s will?  Because I don’t want to figure it out.  As long as I’m trying to figure it out, I can still be doing my will.  If I can just drag out this “figuring out” process, I can keep putting off doing God’s will.

You see, once I’m clear about what God’s direction is for me, I now become uncomfortable  and no longer pleased with myself until I follow that direction.  Now here is where irony comes into play.  In the past 2 decades of my recovery, every single time I have figured out God’s will for me and followed that direction, I have ended up feeling pleased, comfortable and getting what I wanted (even if it wasn’t what I thought I wanted at the time I was still “figuring it out”).

So maybe next time I’m in a situation where I need to ask God which way to go, I’ll stop “figuring” and just go there.

Slogans by “The Rooms”

in: recovery

**This is a list of slogans that have been shared around the rooms for many years.  All credit for these slogans goes to the members of 12 Step Programs.  We are grateful to be able to share this list with you.  If we have missed any slogans that you know of, please comment on this blog.

One Day at a Time
First Things First
Don’t Give up Before the Miracle Happens
Attitude of Gratitude
Think, Think, Think
Keep it Simple Stupid
The Elevator is Broken, Take the Steps
Stay Sober and Carry the Message
Think the First Drink Through
Trust God and Clean House
Easy Does It But do It
Do the Next Right Thing
First Thought Wrong
Just For Today
Clean and Serene
You’re Time to Shine
Turn It Over
Let Go and Let God
Higher Powered
This Too Shall Pass
Live and Let Live
Time Takes Time
Humility is Not Thinking Less of Yourself, But Thinking of Yourself Less
It Works if you Work It
TIME: Things I must Earn
Keep Coming Back
Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn
Principles Before Personalities
Misery is Optional
Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes
If your ass falls off, put in a bag and bring it to a Meeting
Meeting Makers Make It  Don’t Drink and Go to Meetings
Experience Strength and Hope not Opinions, Bullshit and Dope
Feelings are not Facts
You Cannot Graft a New Idea on a Closed Mind
Take What you Like and Leave the Rest
Surrender to Win
More will be Revealed
You are Not Alone
Good Orderly Direction
Wherever You go You Take Yourself
Fake it Till you Make it  FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real
When the pain gets great enough
Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today
We Have a Daily Reprieve
Denial is not a river in Egypt
We are not a Glum Lot
I am right where I am supposed to be
To thy own self be True
90 Meetings in 90 days
Pain Shared is Pain Lessened
Self Will Run Riot
Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth
Two Sickies don’t make a Welly
Think the Drink Through
But for the Grace of God There go I
I can’t, He can, I think I’ll let Him
Stick with the Winners
We are All Here Because We aren’t All There
Remember Your Last Drunk
Keep it Green
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
We Keep What We Have By Giving it Away
Half Measures Availed us Nothing
Bring the body and the mind will follow
Trust God and Clean House
Move a muscle change a thought
From Park Avenue to the Park Bench
We are Only as Sick as Our Secrets
One is too Many a Thousand is Never Enough
When the student is ready the teacher will appear
Happy, Joyous and Free
HOW: Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness!

A Grateful Addict, Anonymous

in: recovery

In the years since my first NA meeting, I have seen and heard and been a part of many things that resonate with me today.

I have been to countless recovery anniversary celebrations, conventions, workshops and meetings.  I have heard my predecessors share their experience, strength and hope in a meeting, outside in the meeting-after-the-meeting and over the phone.  I have been to college graduations, weddings and baby showers.  I have jumped out of a plane, traveled outside of the US and gotten married.  I have dug myself out of debt, bought a car and bought a house.  All of these situations and life events have led me to a place of gratitude.  I am reminded of a predecessor who used to always share in meetings, “I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.”

However, I have had days where I felt like throwing in the towel on this way of life, because the pain feels so great that my heart may break.  I have talked to newcomers who were struggling to stay clean, been to several funerals and shed many tears.  I have experienced adultery, the murder of a friend and the end of friendships, relationships and jobs.  I have watched parents mourn their children, husbands and wives beg their spouse to get clean, and children feel neglected.  All of these things, however, have led me again to gratitude.  I am again reminded of a predecessor saying, “An addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. Our message is hope and the promise of freedom.”

All of these things have given me a ton of experience, strength and hope to share with the next person who attends their first NA meeting.  Looking back, many of these things seemed impossible almost 10 years ago.  Honestly, some of these things seemed impossible just last week!

I am grateful for all of my experiences, my strength and the hope that I have seen in my life and the lives of others who are leading a different life now that we are clean.

Who Recovery is For by Tom G.

in: recovery

“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.

Life Without the Booze by Jeanne H.

in: recovery

I 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.