I found this wonderful article. It’s about what she learned in her 2 years’ sober. I hope she stays sober much much longer so she can see how many more things she’ll learn!
Ten years ago today was New Year’s Day 2003. I woke up in disappointed, discouraged disbelief that I had thrown away two months just a mere 8 hours prior. I swallowed rum, Vanilla Extract, and NyQuil with a chaser of Listerine. I descended on these things like one-woman pack of hyenas on a carcass.
Struggling with sobriety, I went to a first meeting following my relapse. People said “Hi, how are you?” and I answered. I spoke slowly and methodically, bracing myself for a look of disappointment, discouragement and disbelief. I saw none of that. What I saw was encouragement. I was embraced not disgraced. I was encouraged not discouraged. I was believe in and not disbelieved in. While I didn’t have “approval,” I didn’t have disapproval. I was appointed to the potential for a new way of life – not disappointed. I left there feeling stronger. It sustained me for a while longer.
By the time the spell started to wear off, by the time the strength had begun to ebb, it was time for another meeting. Day two. After that spell had started to wear off, by the time the strength had begun to ebb, it was time for another meeting. Day three. Etc.
Ten years ago today I had a one-bedroom apartment, and it felt empty and lonely and brimming with anger. Today I live in a three-bedroom house with a family and it feels full and lively and overflowing with love. Ten years ago today I had newly declared bankruptcy. Today I can pay my bills; it’s a struggle, but today I’m not standing next to a stray dollar on the bar wondering if the bartender will think it’s mine and get me a draught or whether she’ll realize it was her tip from someone else. Ten years ago today I had shaking hands. Today I don’t have the hands of a surgeon, but nor do I feel like people are staring at me and seeing how awake and angry my nervous system really was. Ten years ago today I had little hope for the future. Today I know that each day keeps getting better and can’t imagine it being better than today.
My dad called me this morning to wish me a happy anniversary – and a happy new year. I couldn’t believe he remembered. But like my friend Joe said, “How could he forget?”
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in this here blog before, but I have Lyme Disease (I have another blog about that called Bloody Lymey). I was diagnosed in 2008 and the specialist I ultimately saw thought I had it for 2-3 years by that point (based on the progression). I was reflecting today on how lucky I am for this, as lucky as I am to be an alcoholic.
I always used to hate it when people said they were grateful to be an alcoholic and I might have been darned near homicidal if I heard someone say they were also grateful for another chronic illness.
1. Why I’m grateful to be an alcoholic: Well, it brought me to A.A. And A.A. gave me a new skills set, coping mechanisms, tools for this journey we call life. [I’m cringing as I write this since it sounds so hokey, but …. it’s also very true]. Because I’m an alcoholic, I’m far less judgmental. What’s that they say about casting the first stone? Something about being without sin? As an alcoholic, I’ve just about done it all. It’s hard to frown upon other people even if their life choices might be glaringly obviously BAD mistakes. I’m more tolerant. I’m more patient. I’m more kind. I’m more understanding. It’s given me a new caliber of compassion. It caused me enough pain to ask for help and I learned alcohol wasn’t the problem – I was. And in seeking help for my alcoholism, it made me seek treatment for being ME.
2. Why I’m grateful to have Lyme Disease: Already fairly established in A.A. with a foundation built in the steps, it deepened my program. I learned more about staying off the pity pot and removing the victim mentality. It helped me with another facet of compassion, mostly with people with physical problems. It taught me even more about self-forgetting, how to think of others and “get out of myself.” It taught me the importance of service work and staying useful. Today I work with people with disabilities of all sorts. My alcoholism helps me understand the ones with mental disabilities. My Lyme Disease helps me understand those with physical ones. I also have a deeper understanding of the mental toil that chronic pain puts a person through. I had no idea the peculiar thought processes that go with it. It taught me even more about patience and God’s Will. It deepened my relationship with my Higher Power as I understand Him. It strengthened my faith. The experience taught me to live life more deeply, to love more fully. When I’m feeling GOOD, I don’t put off doing something fun so I can laze on the couch and lie to myself, telling me “I’ll do that tomorrow.” I am way more about seizing the day. Carpe Diem. Because I honestly don’t KNOW with a capital K if I CAN “do that tomorrow.” I might not have a chance again for weeks, months, years. Or I might have a 10-month remission like I did in 2009/2010. There’s no knowing. Procrastination was a nagging character defect, and Lyme helped me with it. I still have work to do. I still have to work on household chores and such – I can blow that off. It’s easy after being sick for some weeks to need to “get in the swing again.”
So why I’m grateful today: if I hadn’t gotten help with my alcoholism, I never would have gotten help with Lyme Disease. I wouldn’t have had the skills to advocate for myself. In some twisted death wish, I might have “let it go.” Particularly when it was going for my heart. I might be laying crippled on the couch right now, depending on someone to do me a packy run and using guilt or whatever tactic to coerce them into meeting MY will. I also probably would have been a pill-seeker. Honestly, this combination of different pains would have brought in quite some med-cocktails.
Thank God it’s not like that today. Turning a different corner some years ago, and I might be a vegetable today. As bad as Lyme Disease SUCKS sometimes – the fatigue is epic, the pain is immeasurable at times, and the fear I sometimes feel for the future feels unconquerable – I believe it is necessary for my spiritual growth. And I say that on days I’m in very bad pain.
Do I dare write about A.A.? Sure.
In keeping with their traditions, I am going to remain anonymous. I do not consider myself to be a spokesperson of A.A. I am not their poster-child. I am just a cog in the wheel. But it’s hard to talk about my alcoholism without addressing my means of recovery. So as long as we understand each other, I should proceed.
The life I have today is beautiful. I never imagined I would have such a beautiful family, such a rewarding career, such love, such contentment …. I can sit in the room with myself and be okay. My life includes spirituality. I put down the drink a kicking and screaming atheist, so it’s a miracle that my heart has turned.
The life I have today could only be possible with A.A.
I know there are other means of quitting drinking. Personally, I have met people who just …. stopped. They maintain a healthy respect for their addiction and they stay sober for eons. Trust me. It’s possible. But it didn’t work for me. I needed support.
In AA, I was taught that drinking was not the problem; it was the “solution” and the “solution” stopped working for the problem which was me. This is where the twelve steps come in. This is what I needed and this is why I couldn’t do it alone.
Alcoholic’s Anonymous is confusing. They have meetings. They have people “sharing” at these meetings. It appears to be a form of group therapy. Yes. A support group. It IS that, but it is a 12-step program. For a 12-step program to work, one must work the program.
Initially, I got the support – and I still do. Here are the suggestions they offered me that I took them up on (and they say A.A. is “suggestions only”):
1. I have a sponsor
2. I have a home group
3. I attend a step meeting
4. I have a network
5. I go to meetings
6. I work the steps
7. I sponsor people
8. I pray – “please” in the morning,”thank you” at night
This works for me. A little bit at a time, I have “recovered.” I don’t like the term “recovered,” because it implies I became the person I was before. “Recovering” something means to find something that was lost or to restore something to what it once was ….The person I was before was a bitter and angry person who detested herself. That is not who I am today. Thank God.
What I Hated About A.A.:
2. Higher Power / God
3. Gratitude (“What the hell is there to be grateful for???”, I mentally screamed whenever someone used the word “grateful.”)
4. Seems like a CULT (I really thought this, but let me assure you no one asked me to stay away from my family, no one made me do anything I didn’t want to do, and as for brainwashing? Well, I do think differently today and I assure you it’s an improvement. They pass a basket and most people throw in a buck. If you don’t have it? No judgment. It’s not some scheme – the money goes to renting the church basements, buying coffee & styrofoam cups, and to A.A. services such as books for newcomers, etc. )
5. It seemed like a cliche of itself
6. People helping me!!! (I wanted to know everything already, I wanted to be independent and not need people!!! Blehhhh!!!!)
What I Love About A.A.:
2. Friends/Socializing – it’s like what I thought I used to have in the bars, but didn’t really. If I was upset, the best any of them would do was buy me a shot and secretly wish I’d shut up because I was being a buzz kill. In AA? People LISTEN and support! I can’t get over it. And if you happen to get to know people and mention that you’re moving? There are scads of people there. It’s amazing.
4. Gratitude (gag!!! I can’t believe I’ve been converted!)
5. The life skills they gave me (I did not know how to be assertive, how to take care of myself, how to have relationships with other people …. countless things)
6. A peaceful way of life (the chaos I used to experience constantly is gone. I can relax today.)
7. Learning how to have fun without alcohol – and it’s possible!
8. The steps
9. My sponsor who is like a new father to me
10. Getting to know a new me and loving her
I’m just feeling like I ought to talk about my own personal experience with it because it’s what helped, but I want to make it clear that I’m not going to push it down anyone’s throat and I’m not considering myself their spokesperson. I love it and felt like I owed it some more mention.
I tried to stop SO many times. I did, I did! I promise.
Reason #1: To save my relationship with the man I loved, the man I was with for 7 years.
Reason #’s 2-38: See above.
Reason #39: I lost the man above. I wanted to “show him” how “good” I was doing.
Reason #’s 40-???: I couldn’t get buzzed anymore.
Reason #____: I had my first blackout
Reason #____: I was getting violent
Reason # ____: I side-swiped a house while driving my car
Reason #_____: I spontaneously vomited while driving home. Being too buzzed to cope with it that night, I went inside and passed out. The following morning was hideous.
Reason #____: I lost the place I was living and had to live with mom for a month. I couldn’t let her see me like that. The vow to stop drinking lasted for less than one evening.
Reason #___: I was getting more violent
Reason # ___: More blackouts. More accusations of violence, corroborated by blood on my floor
Reason #____: Domestic violence
Reason # ____: Court
Reason # ____: To save another relationship
Reason #_____: I still couldn’t get buzzed anymore
Reason # _____: I hated myself
Reason #_____: My then-husband went to detox.
I was extremely angry inside at him – this was going to screw up EVERYTHING for me! I couldn’t have it in the house, I couldn’t go to the bars …. I mean, HIS drinking was ruining our marriage, right? [wink]. On the outside …. I was supportive. Lip-service was something I could do well. “Yes, honey. What ever you need.” The plan was to get annihilated every minute he was in that detox and …. I’d stop …. when …. he …. got out.
Getting ready to stock my ‘fridge, I had one shoe off and one shoe on. With shoe in hand, I stared at nothing and thought. A calm came over me and I thought, “Why don’t I just not drink today. Like, for practice.” And that was it. He left detox AMA and detoxed on beer. In my sick mind, this made perfect sense to me. I mean, he was a drunk after all.
I felt shaky. I couldn’t think. I kept sensing someone standing very close to me and I’d turn and no one would be there and I’d jump. Jumpy, jumpy, jumpy. Why didn’t I go to detox? Ohhhh, because. I wanted to drink at the drop of a hat. I didn’t want to have to sign out of someplace if I changed my mind. I didn’t want some nurse talking me out of it. Besides. Detoxes were for alcoholics.