Little over three months ago, I committed to teaching a Math class for people who are trying to get their GED. Tomorrow is the last class with this group.
Archive for the ‘Recovery’ Category
A few days ago, a friend came to my place with a guy who had just left residential treatment. This was his first outing in “the real world.”
I told them that I was hungry and asked them to join me for lunch. I proceeded to cook some burgers. It was a very ordinary meal.
We finished our burgers. We watched some YouTube videos. We talked a little about recovery and then decided to go to a 6 p.m. meeting at my home group.
During the meeting, the guy that my friend had brought to my place shared about moving to a transitional house after completing 45 days in rehab. He expressed how grateful he was to be sober.
He also said that he had just enjoyed a wonderful lunch, “a real meal,” he called it. He seemed happy to be alive and sober. His words made my eyes moist with tears.
I had always thought of hamburgers as something you ate when you where starving and wanted something quick and simple to eat, not a “real meal.”
This reminded me how fortunate I am that I can pretty much eat anything I want when I want to. I enjoy freedoms that many people don’t.
Like the freedom to stay sober contingent on maintaining my spiritual condition on a 24-hour basis. I am convinced that I am not cured of alcoholism/addiction but that my disease is merely on remission.
May you be happy. May you find true love. May you have a long life.
Service work has been an integral part of my recovery. It’s helped me stay sober by getting me out of my head. It’s left me little time to feel sorry for myself, although sometimes I still manage to do it.
Fear of relapse got me started on working with others. Feeling useful has kept me going. It’s very rewarding to see people in early recovery change before my eyes; to see their once empty stares get full with hope.
Another benefit of working with newcomers is that it stops me from obsessing about my life. It’s harder to stay in self-pity when people around me are struggling with early sobriety.
I try to remind myself that service work is something I do to stay sober. I cannot keep people sober. I cannot rescue everybody, that’s not what I’m supposed to do. I am to carry the message and not the alcoholic.
I can only share with others what my experience is with working the steps. I cannot force them to do the work. I cannot solve their problems.
It’s easy for me to forget that if I start doing for others what they should be doing for themselves, I could get in the way of their bottom.
I can quickly and unwillingly develop expectations from doing service work. Do I expect to gain recognition from it? Do I want people to treat me like I’m special and particularly good? Am I still trying to ace A.A.?
When I begin to feel depleted, that people are taking advantage of me, I know it’s time to re-examine my intentions.
I first ask God to re-align my perspective with reality. If that doesn’t do it, I call my sponsor to tell on myself. My sponsor often reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with me, that I am not defective, I’m just a human being.
I am so grateful that I don’t have to try to be perfect to be loved. I am worthy of love and affection just as I am, flaws and all.
Showing up is a behavior I learned in sobriety. I was not used to keeping my commitments when I had to do something that made me uncomfortable. Or when it was raining. Or when I was tired. Seriously, I struggled with it tremendously.
I had the crazy idea that showing up required me to be on, looking my best, and ready to save the world. No wonder I often complained that being around people drained me. I was trained to put a lot of effort on appearances fueled by years of hearing my mother say, “People treat you the way you look.”
Whenever I get afraid of not looking the part, of not measuring up, I start repeating over and over in my head an affirmation like, “I am safe. I am loved. I am liked. God is with me.” I don’t know how it works but it works for me.
Creating the habit of showing up regardless of how I’m feeling has helped me stay sober because I cannot get better at home alone. Isolation is a sign that I am working on my relapse. Experience has taught me that going to a meeting to tell on myself takes power away from my disease.
Another sign that I’m getting “off the beam” is when I start keeping secrets. I must have at least one person who I can be completely honest with like my sponsor. I get great relief when I tell my sponsor what’s been taking space in my head.
Those “secrets” are usually situations where I have felt hurt. My ego tells me that I “should” be able to handle the pain by myself. I forget that regardless of how many years I accumulate in recovery, I am still a human being who needs to feel loved and accepted.
Showing up to life one day at a time regardless of the results while giving up control helps me grow spiritually. I don’t have to feel like it, I just have to show up.
I have often heard in these rooms that pain is a part of life but that suffering is optional. Just a few years ago I would have rolled my eyes at this.
Suffering allowed me to stay stuck, to remain a victim of life, to take no responsibility for my actions, and to have the sick comfort of not enduring any changes.
I hated change. Probably because my life was so chaotic during my childhood. I was always in alert mode, ready to deal with the next crisis.
Please don’t get me wrong. There many situations where one has no part in the pain we’re going through, particularly as a child. As a child, I had no choice.
As an adult, I can choose to deal with pain by accepting what is happening, or not. Once I accept reality, I can see if there is anything I can do to ease the pain, or not.
Before recovery, the only coping skill I had to ease the pain was blaming, shaming, and handling every situation like a battle. And I had to win, I had to make sure you were not going to be able to attack me again, in the same way.
I was trying to change the world instead of changing me.
However, now as an adult with a little more awareness, I can choose to live in the past, going over and over in my head about how people did me wrong, how unfair life is, how the world is against me, and that I can’t do anything about it.
Or, I can choose to change my perspective. Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
No, I’m not always able to shift my perspective immediately. I do try to honor my feelings without dismissing them and without reacting impulsively. I pray about it. I share in a general way in a meeting about what’s going on. I call my sponsor.
In short, I keep using the spiritual tools I’ve learned in recovery. Or not. As long as I don’t drink or use, I still have a choice.
I have this alarm clock on my nightstand that I have set to wake me up at 7:05 a.m. There’s another alarm that somehow got set to go off at noon. I have no idea how that happened.
One day, I was sitting in my living room doing something on my computer when I heard the alarm go off. It was noon. If you think that I got up to turn it off, you are mistaken. It kept going for a while and then stopped by itself.
This is not the only time that the noon alarm has gone off while I was at a hearing distance. I have yet to disable the alarm.
There are some situations in my life that are like this alarm. I can hear the noise, it annoys me, but it doesn’t bother me enough to do something about it.
It isn’t until the pain of staying the same is bigger than the pain of changing that I get into action. My motivation for change is more out of desperation than inspiration.
I seek everyday for the inspiration to keep growing. I ask God to remove my “character defects that are in the way of my usefulness to You and to my fellows.” I get to show up and do my part.
I keep looking for God’s will in my life. Sometimes I gladly do what I need to do. Some other times it takes me a little while longer to surrender to His will.
I believe that even if I know what action to take, it’s better if I ask for His guidance and direction.
Tags: perspective, reality
Learning to switch my perspective from what seems to be my default to trying to find the good in every situation has been very helpful to my recovery.
When something troubles me, I pray that my perspective gets re-aligned with reality. That very often takes care of it, but If I’m still having trouble, I try to see if there’s a lesson I need to learn from this situation.
If I’m still not at peace with it, I try to remember that I don’t have the whole picture so I don’t know how all this fits. I believe that nothing happens if this world by mistake. I learned in rehab that things are exactly as they’re supposed to be. Maybe not as I would like them to be, or as they should be, but exactly how they’re supposed to be.
Fighting with reality, not accepting how things are, is another definition of insanity my sponsor shared with me. I’m grateful that I came to this program tired of fighting. I don’t like fighting anymore. I don’t like how I feel when I get angry either.
I am thankful that I am done trying to change people, places, and things that I am not meant to change. I get to allow people to be who they are and allow them to travel their journey, at their pace, their way.
I am very grateful that even after what I put my body through, I am healthy. This was confirmed by a physical I had a few weeks ago. I think this is the healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m weight training regularly, practicing yoga and doing cardio once a week. It’s taken me months to get to this point. There were times when I only went to the gym once a month. I gained “sober” weight, you know the weight one usually puts on after getting sober?
Every time I got frustrated about my weight gain, I’d remind myself that I would eventually lose it. I’ve taken a different approach this time: no diets, no starving myself, no quick fixes. Just some good-old fashion calorie deficit by working out more and eating less.
I still put my recovery first though. Working my program takes precedent over everything else. I am convinced that whatever I put before my sobriety I am eventually going to lose. It is my primary purpose to stay sober and help another alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
Do I do this because I’m a spiritual giant? No. I like to be reminded of how things can go if I go back out. I get a “refresher course” when I take meetings to treatment centers. I get to see first hand that addiction/alcoholism is still a fatal, chronic, and progressive disease.
I am lucky that I didn’t catch any disease while I was active in my addiction. I am thankful that life is not fair. If it were, I would probably not be here, much less healthy.
I am grateful that the compulsion to drink/use was lifted awhile back. I no longer depend on a chemical substance, other than coffee, to get my day started. I still occasionally get cravings but all I usually have to do to stay sober is pray.
If that doesn’t work, I read the Big Book or any other recovery related literature. If that doesn’t work, I get to go to a meeting. If sharing about my craving at the meeting doesn’t work, I call my sponsor. If talking to my sponsor doesn’t get rid off the craving, I get to do some service work.
I try to remember that in all areas of my life the first line of defense is prayer. Connecting with my Higher Power on a daily basis keeps me grounded. This is a source of power I can plug into anytime, anywhere.
Sobriety for me is more than just not drinking/using. It’s actually working the steps so that I can fill that God-shaped hole I have.
I have a peculiar mental twist that stays with me even when I don’t drink/use. It’s the feeling that I have to be treated like I’m “special” to feel “normal”. It’s thinking that the world revolves around me and that life is out to get me. It’s isolating when I’m feeling lonely instead of reaching out to my support network. It’s remembering what I need to forget and forgetting what I need to remember.
As trite as the above cliches can be, they are powerful reminders to me that if I want to stay sober I get to develop a spiritual path. I cannot do it alone. My Higher Power uses the people around to communicate with me. The closer I am to the people in this program, the closer I get to God.
I spent most of my life looking for something to fix me. Whether it was food, exercise, shopping, lovers, material possessions, and finally drugs/alcohol. Every single one of those things worked, for a while and only to a certain degree. Drugs and alcohol got me to the point of surrender.
I tried so hard to be perfect. I thought I was expected to perform to a higher degree than the people around me. They could make mistakes but not me. I was never satisfied with what I did. There was always something I could’ve done better.
While my drive for perfection helped me succeed in many areas of my life, it came with a cost. Some people were afraid of me. My loved ones felt they had to walk on egg shells because they didn’t know when I was going to explode.
It wasn’t easy living with me. I needed to drink/use way before I got started and it showed. I was very angry. The only coping skill I had was to get angry and blame other people for my difficulties. As we say in A.A., the only tool I had was a hammer so everything looked like a nail to me.
Working the steps has taught me that admitting when I’ve done something wrong is not a weakness. I’ve learned that along with admitting what I’ve done I also get to change my behavior and try to do better next time.
This program of recovery allows me to continue to grow to my full potential. I am thankful that I get to work on my recovery without expecting that I’ll ever achieve perfection. The highest position one achieves in recovery is that of human.