Posts Tagged ‘AA meeting’

When I was still drinking alcohol and January rolled around, I’d get really depressed.  The holidays being over meant that people were going back to their normal lives, no more parties, no more days off, no more excuses to drink all day. Not that I needed an excuse to drink, but the fact that other people were letting loose over the Holidays was a great way for me to be ‘inebriated incognito’.

Though flying under the radar didn’t last long, soon people noticed that while they might have a few drinks at the office party or with the Holiday dinner, I often looked like a possessed baby calf, with bloodshot eyes and legs splayed awkwardly in opposite directions trying to find a foot hold. I’d spend the time stumbling around spouting funny one liners (or so I thought) only to be told the next day that I really should call so-and-so to apologize.

The truth is I know I’ve managed to ruin quite a few Holiday get-togethers.  Sometimes, not even making it to the party at all, deciding instead to have a drink while getting ready. Somewhere along the line, the bottle would end up in the bathroom with me and I’d pass out on the floor with my husband banging on the door.  Although being a no-show was often better than ruining the entire evening for people which is what happened one New Years. After renting a condo in the mountains and having friends drive all the way up from Denver to bring in the New Year, I managed to piss off  my closest friends to a point where they turned around and drove all the way back to Denver that same night. Of course, my response was what the hell was their problem?

In fact, the first time a friend actually said to me that they thought I had a drinking problem was after that New Year’s Eve. This was the first time someone had said this – to my face anyway – and I acted as though I was mortally wounded.  How dare she say such a thing? What a bitch she was! I’d have to get her out of my life, I certainly didn’t need that kind of negativity. So I avoided her and coincidentally people started avoiding me.  As my alcoholism progressed, it wasn’t long before I didn’t get invited out anymore, or I had no inclination to go out anyway. The husband left, the friends stopped calling and at the time that was just fine with me, they all got in the way of drinking anyway.

Unfortunately, it would be many more wasted years before I was able to admit to myself that I did have a drinking problem and I wanted to stop. And if you find yourself in a place where you want to stop drinking, this is as good a time as any to get sober. Sure, people who over indulged during the Holidays will make it their New Year resolution to cut down and if they are normal drinkers they will succeed. But if you are like me, and have tried every trick in the book to control your drinking, there is no going back.

And if you can’t go back, don’t stay stuck – try going forward. A good way to do that is to find a recovery meeting and get your ass there. And if you have ideas surrounding A.A. like I did, such as it’s full of fucked up people, who are full of fucked up ideas, it might help to keep in mind the New Year saying, “Out With The Old and In With The New’ – it just might change your life. Happy New Year.

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“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.”

As a practicing alcoholic for many years, I had no desire to try to better myself in any way, physically, mentally or spiritually. It was all about getting my next drink – my life revolved around booze, and anything else be it work, friendships or my health were an inconvenience. I also frowned upon anyone else who might be trying to better themselves, people who went to the gym, people who studied hard, people who said they lived a spiritual life, people who were sober, people in general – the list went on ad nauseum. I know now that I was jealous of anyone who had their lives together and I dealt with that by putting them down. Even while I was looking up from the gutter, my alcoholic mind still told me I was better than the people standing on the sidewalk.

Thankfully I’m in recovery and my narrow-minded, self centered view of the world has shifted. I can appreciate other people’s efforts in bettering themselves and I’m striving to evolve from a bitter angry drunk to a decent member of society.

This process of change is a lot harder than I thought and is usually accompanied by fear. Even after overcoming the fear involved in living sober I still feel uncomfortable when there is a change in my life – even if I have instigated it. So, after four years in recovery I’ve decided it’s time to go back to school at age 42. I’m back in England to take some classes and after living in America for the past 20 years, I feel a bit out of my comfort zone.

Prior to the first class, I was overcome with fears, people won’t like me, I’ll look stupid, what the hell am I thinking? My ego has rebuilt itself and obviously still thinking that it’s all about me and that people will think I’m worthy of developing an opinion about right off the bat.

My sister dropped me off and joked about my first day at school and even though I’m a few decades past Kindergarten, I felt as though I was that little girl from long ago and all that was missing were my pigtails and a fit of tears after realizing that my mother wasn’t staying but I was. My sister actually ended up walking me right up to the classroom door (co-dependency in action!).

The truth is no one batted an eyelid when I walked into class, but as usual, I thought that it was all about me and I would be singled out. Not so. I have to remember that in the grand scheme of things, the world doesn’t revolve around me and it’s natural to have some anxiety about meeting new people and embarking on a new venture. It turns out that my fellow classmates also had fears as I quickly found out when we began one of the first exercises – expressing any fears we had prior to being there.

During the break – the very break I had dreaded as I just ‘knew’ I’d be sitting alone with no one to play with (I mean sit with) I ended up being one of a group of people who were friendly and open and all a bit nervous just like me and I was reminded of my first AA meeting. We were all in the same boat.

I enjoyed my first class, I’ve even got homework that I plan on completing (miracles never cease) – and I think I might be able to make it next week without my sister holding my hand – or maybe not.

I received an email yesterday from a lady who is just starting to live sober. She has 30 days in recovery under her belt and is understandably nervous, apprehensive and scared.  She mentioned that she thought she may have left it too late in life to get sober. At 47 she feels as though she has wasted so much of her life, drinking away many years, before she finally admitted that she had a problem.

I remember thinking the same thing too and many of my friends did. I was 36 when I first got sober and now I’m 41, I have friends who were 26, 45, 54 and 60 when they sobered up.  It really doesn’t matter what age we are when we get sober, there will always be some excuse not to. It’s the nature of our disease, the part of our addiction that is centered in our minds, the part that tells us we are useless and worthless.

Feeling like this is far from unusual and unfortunately this thinking keeps many of us ‘out there’ drinking and using. Our disease is telling us, “What’s the point in getting sober, you’re ____  years old (fill in the blank), it’s too late, you’ve wasted your life up until now anyway, what can you possibly do?”

I’ll never forget this one AA meeting I went to early in sobriety. An older man was sharing, he started by saying he was 75 years old (I immediately assumed that he must have twenty or thirty years sober because of his seniority).  I was very surprised to hear that he had just celebrated his first year of sobriety. I was even more surprised when he said the last year had been the happiest year of his life. He had reconnected with his children, his grandchildren and he had found a new happiness that he never thought existed for someone like him. When I heard his story, I was inspired and thought “Wow, that’s f**king awesome – there is hope for me!”

Yesterday, when I read the email from the 47 year old, it made me think of that 75 year old man again and I decided to look up some achievements made by people later in life and here are a few of what I found:

  • At age 40 – John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth
  • At age 43 – Marie Curie won her second Nobel prize
  • At age 45 – George Foreman recaptured the heavyweight championship with a 10th round knockout, becoming the oldest person ever to win the heavyweight championship.
  • At age 47 – Edward Jenner, an English doctor, pioneered the use of vaccination against smallpox.
  • At age 49 – Julia Child published her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking
  • At age 53 – Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Ninth Symphony despite being so deaf that, at the end of its first performance, he could not hear whether the audience was applauding.
  • At age 59 – Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
  • At age 62 – J.R.R. Tolkien published the first volume of his fantasy series, Lord of the Rings

Reading about these people inspired me all over again, it’s never too late to change our lives and to get clean and sober, and while most of us won’t be orbiting the earth or winning a Nobel Prize; we get to live a life that we never thought imaginable – a sober one.  We get to experience life and the things that come with it, all the cliches – the good and the bad, the laughter and the tears, the success and the failures.

We all have something to offer and we all deserve a second chance, whether that chance comes at 27, 47 or 77 – don’t let your DISEASE talk you out of it.

stressRecovery meetings are a big part of staying clean and sober because they get us out of our heads and out into the world and sometimes we just really need to be around people who are as bat-shit crazy as we are.

In case you are wondering what some of the signs might be for getting your ass to a meeting, here’s a few clues (feel free to add any):

  • Who knew the laughter of small children could be so irritating?
  • The dog’s incessant tail wagging is really pissing you off, why does it have to be so happy ALL the time?
  • You think you don’t need a meeting, what you need is an evening in watching TV.
  • You find yourself shouting obscenities at the cartoon octopus on TV – the one  on the commercial promoting household air fresheners – it just doesn’t make any sense!
  • You tell the Girl Scout Cookie seller to go shove the cookies where the…you get the idea.
  • You find the line in the ‘fast food’ restaurant isn’t fast enough and you take it out on the 16 year old serving the fries.
  • Taking recovery tips from Lindsay Lohan seems like a good idea.
  • When the check-out person at the grocery store tells you to have a nice day, you tell her to go f**k herself.
  • Someone cuts you off in traffic and you think it’s a good idea to  follow them to their house.
  • It’s been 4 hours and you’re still trying to come up with an interesting enough status for your Facebook page.
  • You’ve  listened to The Eagles’ Desperado 10 times today.
  • Watching Titanic just doesn’t make you laugh like it used too.
  • You’re on Twitter and there’s no time for meetings, you’re too busy twittering and tweaking (I mean tweeting).
  • What’s so cute about kittens anyway?

And last, but not least,

  • You find yourself writing a blog entry about going to a meeting instead of actually going to a meeting.

giftI’d hear people talk about the ‘gift’ of desperation in recovery meetings and wonder what the fuck they were talking about.  All I knew was that I couldn’t stop drinking, no matter what I tried, whether it was a few days in detox, a month in rehab or 9 months on Antabuse. It didn’t matter what I did, inevitably, I would get drunk. Over a period of four years I tried everything to stop, eventually I took a handful of pills, hoping that I wouldn’t wake up, instead I woke up in restraints in the ER covered in bruises from apparently fighting off the doctors and nurse who were trying to help me. I spent a few days in the psych ward in a bed opposite a lady who barely made an indent in the bed, there was nothing left of her, except a hollow expression and loose orange skin that made her look old, way beyond her thirty some years. Liver failure will do that to you. That was it, I was scared straight and vowed I’d never drink again. A week later I was back in detox.

I’ve said this before, but no one decides to walk into the rooms of AA, NA, detox or the psych ward because it looks like a fun way to spend the afternoon. Circumstances take us there, some of us are there because we’re trying to save a marriage, our family has given us an ultimatum or the courts have ordered it. That was my story for a while, I was there because other people wanted me sober and I found that while that reason worked in the short term, it never lasted longer than a few months.

When I finally wanted sobriety for myself, there were no more ultimatums, because there were no more people. I’d succeeded in driving them all away and I was completely broken. I knew I was fucked and that was when I became willing to do anything to stop drinking. Sure, I had sat in AA meetings before, cynically watching these ‘fakes’ pretend to be happy, but I had never got off my opinionated ass and asked for help. I just assumed that no one could help me because my alcoholism was different and they couldn’t possibly understand where I was coming from. Something had changed though; I was completely beaten and somehow that spurned me into action. I asked for help, got a sponsor and worked on the 12 Steps.  I did what was suggested – even if I thought it was crap (and I often did).

When I was in early sobriety, I did not see this desperation as a gift – it was more like a curse – but today, I realize that had I not felt as hopeless as I did, I might never have got off my ass and on the road to recovery. 

toolkit As a newcomer, I recall sitting in a recovery meeting and hearing someone say, “No matter what  happens, you don’t have to pick up a drink or drug today.”

 I remember thinking to myself ‘Why don’t you go and shove that golden nugget of wisdom up your ass.’ I  couldn’t understand how someone could say that, I was a total mess, physically, mentally, spritually and financially and the way I looked at it, my life couldn’t possibly suck anymore than it already did and if it got any worse there was no way I could not pick up a drink. This person was full of bullshit as far as I was concerned and obviously not a real alcoholic.

As with many of my opinions and observations in early recovery, I was proved wrong as I spoke with the person who said these words after the meeting. They told me a little bit about their drinking career, how far down they had gone and what happened. They told me when they came into recovery and the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous; they had been given a set of tools to use and suggestions from people who’d been where they were at. And now, when the going got rough, instead of picking up a drink or drug, they picked up their tools.

So, what were these tools? (I was thinking a hammer had to be one of them, that way I could bash my hands with it so I’d be physically unable to pick up the drink.) Again, my line of thinking proved to be a little skewed as this person went on to explain that the set of tools they were referring to were the Twelve-Steps of Recovery. Working on these Steps allowed them to live a life free from booze and drugs, but they didn’t stop with the Steps, they also had a Sponsor, a home group, went to regular recovery meetings, were developing a relationship with a Higher Power and also volunteered to do service work within the Twelve Step community.  All these things combined gave them a solid recovery foundation that was not easily shaken by the stresses of day to day life and of living clean and sober.

Up until this point, I had been staying sober using willpower, so I took this person’s advice and I got a sponsor, began working on the Twelve Steps and went to lots of meetings. I also volunteered to make coffee at a recovery group that I liked which later became my home group.  When things got rough in early recovery, I turned to these tools like my life depended on it (because it did) and miraculously on a day to day basis I didn’t pick up a drink. As I continue one day at a time in sobriety, I still have these tools and when I hear someone say that there’s no need to pick up a drink or drug today, I don’t respond angrily anymore, because I’ve got a glimpse of what they are talking about.

If you would like more information on Twelve-Step Recovery Groups, click here

rockTo me, the saying that someone is ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place’ sums up perfectly my addiction to alcohol because I couldn’t live with it and couldn’t ever imagine a life without it.  Needless to say, it’s not a great place to be. I met with a new sponsee today, she has 35 days sober and she’s in that place.  The fog is beginning to lift and she’s very nervous, anxious and desperate.  

It was our first real chance to get to know each other as we just met 3 days ago. It’s truly amazing how the program of Alcoholics Anonymous works, that by one alcoholic talking to another about  how it was for us when we were drinking, what happened and what it’s like now, – we have the ability to make a connection. By telling someone what a complete and total f**k up we once were (and sometimes still are) we can let a person know that if we can get sober there’s no reason why they can’t either.

We talked about our drinking histories – she started very late in life and I started very early. We talked about how each of us drank -she was a maintenance drinker, drinking every day and I was a binge drinker – holding off for a few days at a time until my body screamed for alcohol. There were other differences too, she has grown up children who have left home and I have an eight year old son who is very much in my face on a daily basis. None of that mattered though because we found that even though there’s a 2o year age difference, when it comes to our disease – there really is no difference.  

For both of us, we got to a place where we were physically unable to stop drinking once we had started. We had both tried at many different times to control our drinking, only to get to a place of complete and incomprehensible despair.  It was obvious when we were done talking that our disease isn’t choosy – it wants the same thing for all alcoholics and addicts and that is death – the slower and more painful, the better.

I didn’t tell her that it’s probably a good thing that she has got to this place. Because for me at least, the more desperate I was, the more willing I became to try anything to stay sober – even AA.  Sometimes, being stuck between a rock and a hard place can be right where we need to be in order to get us started on the journey of recovery.