Tag Archives: one day at a time

Because I Came Into These Rooms

28 May



Because I came into these rooms

-I found people who understand me and my disease
-I found a place where I am not judged, but rather loved unconditionally
-I met an amazing sponsor and friend who is always there for me, and who reminds me that it’s okay to give yourself an ‘atta girl once in a while and recognize and be proud of how far I’ve come
-I met a kind man who takes the time to write a nice comment on almost every piece I write and encourages me to continue to share my story
Because I came into these rooms…
-I made friends who care enough about me to bring a meeting to my house when I am too sick to get to one myself
-I learned how amazing a sober life can be
-I benefitted from the wisdom of those who have been in these rooms before me
-I shared my struggles and got help… from the great guy who listened to my disappointment about not being able to get my book published and connected me with his sister who ended up publishing it (!)  and from gentleman who heard my frustration at all the things that needed to be fixed at my house and showed up at my door to fix them.  He shared something quite simple but very true:  “We’re friends.  That’s what friends do.  They help each other.”
-I learned about being kind to myself and making myself comfortable and bringing what I need to have with me during the times in my life when I’m waiting in the hallway
Because I came into these rooms…
-I learned about turning things over to my Higher Power and that it’s not about being strong enough, but about admitting that I’m weak and I’m human.  I can’t. He can. Let Him.
-I made so many friends who care, who notice if I haven’t been here in a while and reach out.  And who gave me back the gift of laughter, sometimes making me laugh until I cry
-I get donuts.  And pastries.  And hugs.  And, of course, coffee
-I get the support of a group who makes me share when they can tell I’m hurting
-I am strengthened by the people who went out and bravely came back in to these rooms and shared their renewed experience, strength and hope with me
-I am humbled by the newcomers who struggle to say their name and add the word “alcoholic” to it, who still tremble from withdrawal and who, I pray, find the solace and comfort that I found in these rooms as well
-I have the honor to sit beside people who made it through huge personal losses and stayed sober, thanks to the support they got from people in these rooms
Because I came into these rooms…
-I am making  my way through the steps and working the program which has helped save my life
-I learned how to help another alcoholic and sponsor other women, who inspire me to be the best I can be
-I learned the simple sayings that help keep me sober every day:
-one day at a time
-keep it simple
-keep coming back
-do the next right thing
-think it all the way through
-I learned that I can say the serenity prayer over, and over, and over again whenever I need to
-I learned that I can start my day over at any point
-I learned how to speak my truth, and speak it with grace
-I discovered the power of gratitude
-I learned that my sobriety is a gift and that it is a daily reprieve, contingent upon the maintenance of my spiritual condition
-I learned that I can write.  And that sharing my experience, strength and hope can, and does, help others
Because I came into these rooms…
-my life is a thousand times better than it was during the dark days when I was in the throes of my addiction
-I will not pick up a drink today
And because I got all that when I came into these rooms, 2190 days ago, I will keep coming back.
Thanks for all the support and love over these past 6 years.  One day at a time…

Is It Too Late Now to Say Sorry?

1 Feb

Many people are familiar with the concept of alcoholics having to make amends. They may think it’s as simple as going around and apologizing to those people you somehow screwed over or offended (or worse) in your prime drinking days. Not exactly. I thought about how nice it would be if I could just write a blanket apology in my blog for all the idiotic things I had done to various people and hope that they read it. I would venture to guess that my sponsor would veto that option.

Step 8 prepares us for our amends and says that we are to have “made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”. Step 9 tells us to “make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” I’m not “officially” up to Steps 8 and 9 (as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been stuck on Step 4 for quite some time. It’s a really tough one: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”). But I had a chance recently to make an amend that I knew I needed to make, so I seized the opportunity.

I have to admit that I was quite nervous, as I had no idea how it would be received. I’m incredibly fortunate that my first amends went very smoothly. It was to a dear friend from college. I’d prefer not to say what I did to screw things up, but let’s just say it involved my behavior at his fraternity formal. Ugh. We had gone several years without speaking and I just attributed it to us both being busy and losing touch. It turned out that he was very upset with me. When I stopped drinking and saw things more clearly, I was able to look in the mirror and see the giant jackass that looked back at me.

I asked him to go to lunch. I wasn’t sure how I was going to bring it up but HP works in wonderful ways — the opportunity was handed to me on a silver plate. I told him he looked great and he said he had cut way back on drinking and that had helped. It was like he rolled out the red carpet for my ninth step. I told him that I was now sober and that I was sincerely sorry for what I had done. Now was the tough part—waiting for the reaction. His eyes welled up with tears a little, he said how proud of me he was and that it was all “water under the bridge now”. Exhale. Phew.

I don’t expect them all to go that smoothly but hopefully many will. There are some that I can’t make because the people are either gone or I have no idea where they are. There are some that can’t be made because to do so would in fact “harm them or others”. What can I do? Write a letter. Share it with my sponsor. Turn it over. And I will have to do those things to move forward in my sobriety. As it says in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous: “we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out our past.”

So what should you do if you are on the other side of the amends—the one to whom the apology is made? First of all, please try to realize how hard it probably was for this person to come to you. You may be extremely pissed off with them because they left you stranded somewhere when they were drunk and forgot to meet you. You may be angry because they hit on your boyfriend when they were hammered. It might be much more serious than that–they may have ruined part of your life along with theirs.  You may be furious for any number of reasons.  Here’s the thing: it’s up to you what you do with that apology. You don’t necessarily have to forgive them for them to move on and consider their job done. At least you know that they are trying to improve their lives, get sober and stay sober.

Ideally, you would try to make them comfortable through the difficult task. As I said, you may be very angry with them, but perhaps you are able to see them now and know that they were a different person then. A person who was under the spell of alcohol. A person with a progressive disease. How do you know if they are sincere? If they are truly working the steps, have a sponsor, going to meetings, and making an honest effort to not just stop drinking but to tackle the demons that led them to drink in the first place, give them a chance. If they have thoroughly done a fourth step, they are genuinely working toward making themselves better and healthier.

Is it too late now to say sorry? For me, in some instances, yes. But that doesn’t mean I won’t make amends where I can. And for this alcoholic, I consider a “living amends”, making an effort every single day to be a better person, the most sincere way that I can show that I am truly sorry.

What do I say when it’s all over? When sorry seems to be the hardest word?” Elton John

Sharing the Light

10 Jan

“And when you want to live, how do you start, where do you go, who do you need to know?” – The Smiths, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side.

As you may have noticed by now, I’m very fond of quotes. I usually include at least one with every blog piece. My philosophy is: why not share the brilliant words of others instead of struggling to find a way to say it (less eloquently) myself? I also like to call it “sharing the light”. Some of the best quotes and pearls of wisdom I hear are in meetings. And many of them are said by people who are quoting someone else, or sharing the light. Sometimes I hear the same platitude or trite saying again and again, but for some reason, one particular time, it finally gets through my thick skull. For alcoholics, there are many. But as you can see, they can apply to a myriad of situations, self-helpers and, especially, serenity seekers:

-one day at a time
-let go and let God
-change I must or die I will
-do the next right thing
-but for the grace of God
-the best is yet to come
-turn it over
-keep an attitude of gratitude
-get rid of the stinkin’ thinkin’

But the best by far is the Serenity Prayer. If we can just remember that, things would be much easier. For everyone. Not just alcoholics or addicts. Everyone. When times are tough and things aren’t going your way, simply remember this:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Really think about that. If we learn to accept the things we cannot change, we would take away a huge chunk of unnecessary worry and stress. Courage is something we could all use, especially courage to take control of situations where we have the ability to make things better. And wisdom, well that goes without saying. But wisdom to know the difference isn’t always easy to come by.

Working toward sobriety and a better life, and changing old destructive ways, IS something I have the ability to control. The disease of alcoholism I cannot change. It’s there. I didn’t ask for it but it’s there. And it’s there for good. I accept that. The courage to change how I deal with it and fight it is something I continue to pray for. The wisdom to know the difference comes from those who share the light with me, and of course, from my Higher Power (HP).

As for my Smiths quote above, “when you want to live, how do you start, where do you go, who do you need to know?”—-I loved the Smiths in high school and college. I still do. Many of Morrissey’s morbid and depressing lyrics (like “sweetness I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head” and “if a ten-ton truck, killed the both of us, to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine”) used to blast from my car radio. They fit in perfectly with my teenage angst and misery of the time. But the quote above always gave me hope. I think it is honestly something that I asked myself deep down many times when I was struggling to crawl out of the terrible dark hole I was in. Now that I have the clarity of my sobriety, I can answer those questions. When you want to live, you start by simply making that choice. That you want to LIVE. In a twelve-step program, that’s always the first step. Where do you go and who do you need to know? Also simple. You need to know where to find those who share the light with you and those who care. You need to know and establish a strong connection to your HP. You need to remember the serenity prayer.

And, that some girls are bigger than others…… (Smiths).

Extra! Extra! Drink All About It……

20 Sep

The news these days is nothing short of devastatingly depressing. The terror group ISIS is beheading innocent people and trying to instill fear and horror throughout the world. The deadly Ebola virus is spreading at an exponential rate. There is a terrible respiratory illness that is sending hundreds of children to emergency rooms nationwide. Nationally recognized and idolized sports figures are being exposed for brutally beating their partners and even their children. And, what hits closest to home, a local girl who is a sophomore at the University of Virginia has been missing for a week now and foul play is suspected. I cannot possibly begin to imagine what her family is going through and can only add my heartfelt prayers for her safe return.

So when we are bombarded from every direction with negativity, fear and sadness, what do we do? Everyone has their own way of dealing with difficult times — their own coping mechanisms. Some meditate, many pray, some repress it and continue on, some seek help, some shut down and, if you’re an alcoholic, chances are you drink. It’s usually the only coping mechanism you know. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, you may struggle to refrain from picking up a drink.

I can only speak about my own experiences and feelings as an alcoholic. Thank goodness I am an alcoholic in recovery who hasn’t had a drink in over 2 years (845 days to be exact). With each day that I am inundated with bad news, however, the brick wall that I have been building, one day at a time, to protect me and keep me away from the bottle, gets chipped away. It’s like a chisel is breaking out little holes through the wall that give me glimpses of past coping mechanisms in the form of liquid. There’s a tiny voice in the back of my head that tries to tell me that with all these horrible things that surround me, what the hell could be so bad about taking a drink? My brain still fights the many years of training that taught it that when things were tough, I could always pick up a drink and feel better. The insanity of the disease of alcoholism tries to tell me that a drink will wash all my cares away.

The reality, however, is quite harsh. A drink will not destroy ISIS, cure Ebola or deadly respiratory illnesses, stop domestic violence, or bring a missing girl home. A drink will do absolutely nothing to help make things better. Absolutely. Nothing. Not only will it do nothing to make things better, it will make things worse. Much worse.

I’ve had crappy days when I have wanted to have a drink. I’ve also had wonderful days, when all seems right with the world, or my little world anyway, when I have also wanted to pick up a drink. Good times, bad times, happy times, sad times, a drink seemed appropriate for all. But it was never “A” drink. It was a drink followed by another drink, and then another, and then another…..I like to explain my alcoholism to people as a broken switch in my brain wiring. I believe that “normal” people have a little light that comes on in their brain that tells them they have had enough to drink and need to stop. The little switch is flipped and they make the rational, prudent decision not to drink any more at that time. In my brain, the light, and the switch, are either broken or missing. As I approach too much to drink, instead of telling me to stop, my brain tells me to keep on going. More is better.

What scares the hell out of me now is that if I can crave a drink at times when things are going well, how in the world am I going to resist a drink when something really difficult happens? And not just out in the world, but to me, or in my immediate little world. An integral part of recovery is breaking down your ego and your self-centeredness. When I drank, it was all about me. First and foremost. Me, where my next drink was coming from, when I was getting my next drink, what was going to make ME happy, what I was dealing with in my life. Me.

But I’m not just me. I am a mother of three wonderful children. I am a wife. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a godmother, and a friend. People count on me. With a clear brain, not all clouded up with alcohol, I know now that my children deserve a mother who is there for them. My husband deserves a wife who is present. And friends who have cared for me deserve the same in return. They will have their times when they need support, just as I have. My children will hear the news and be afraid, curious, worried, and confused. I am the one who is supposed to comfort them and protect them. I can only try to take that confusion and fear and try to turn it into solace and hopefully life lessons that will help them. There will always be bad news. Thanks to a wonderful friend, I am learning to look for the silver linings.

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise—Victor Hugo

Weak Enough?

23 May

For some reason, things get a little slippery for me around anniversaries.  Many people have told me that they have the same issue. Not sure what it is.  I’m coming up on my two year anniversary on May 28th.  God willing,  I will have made it 730 days, one day at a time, without a drink.    Why, when I can practically taste the sweetness of my accomplishment, would I even entertain the thought of picking up a drink now?   Is it easier to sabotage my own success than have to worry about continuing the daily battle?

When I shared today that I was feeling scared, doubtful and uncertain about whether I had the strength necessary to maintain a sober life, someone told me something that really stuck.   “It’s not about whether you are strong enough.  It’s about whether you are weak enough.  Weak enough to realize that you can’t do this yourself, but that God can.  Weak enough to turn it over.”   It gave me a whole new way to look at things.  It’s okay to be scared.  In fact, it’s good to be scared and show your humility and respect for the fight for sobriety.   I’ve done cocky too.  I got this.  No problem. Somewhere in between there, the happy medium, or as my friend calls it, the right size box, would be nice.

So back to where I was…scared, doubtful and uncertain.  What helps now is going back to basics.  One day at a time.  If I have to, one hour at a time.  Remembering all the things in my life that are so much better now that I am sober.  Thinking about the stupid mistakes I made when I was drinking.  Remembering how good I feel now, physically and emotionally, and how bad I felt before sobriety (I’m gonna call it B.S.).   I don’t want to go back to B.S..  Often when a new year is approaching, people create “In and Out” lists—what is going out of style and what is coming in for the approaching year.  So here is my in and out list, or B.S. vs. A.S. list:

B.S. (OUT)
Low Self-esteem
A.S. (IN)

Which list do you think looks better?    Whether it’s two years, two decades or two hours of sobriety, what separates us is only one second.  The second before we pick up a drink or not.  So in that one single second, pray that you are weak enough.  That’s my plan.

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