Posts Tagged ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’

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.


In early recovery, I was angry, bitter, confused and stark raving mad but knowing that now didn’t help me much then.

Sometimes, a simple saying that I heard in a Twelve Step meeting might set me off, quotes like ‘stinkin thinkin’ for instance. Whenever I heard this I’d imagine myself as a cartoon character from Looney Tunes, Wile E. Coyote sticking dynamite in his ears and Road Runner lighting the fuse. I didn’t want to hear it! It really bugged the shit out of me – stinking thinking? I stink not!

Another thing I heard said often was this zinger: “It’s easy to stop drinking, it’s staying stopped that’s hard”, hearing that one sent the barometer in my brain shooting through the top of my head. The first thing that came to mind was,  “If it was so fucking easy to stop drinking why are all you nut jobs sitting in this room talking about it? Shouldn’t you be getting on with your perfect alcohol free lives and leaving us losers to it? In fact, hearing this made me think I was in the wrong place or at least the wrong meeting; all these folks obviously didn’t have a problem like mine, because it seemed that when they wanted to stop drinking, they just stopped!

I couldn’t relate at all because once I started drinking I couldn’t stop until I passed out. When I came to, either the next day or in a few hours, I’d start drinking again immediately to block out the guilt, dread and eventual withdrawal symptoms. In fact I’d only stop when my body physically rejected the alcohol. Whenever this happened – which was often – I’d take sips, throw up, take more sips, throw up until somewhere along the way I’d pass out in a pool of puke. That was how I stopped drinking; it wasn’t because it was easy, it was because I had lost control over my bodily functions.

Another saying I heard was, “Stick around for the miracle to happen” – Hmm, I’d hardly say any of the people I saw in those meetings qualified for the Vatican’s  ‘Call-in a miracle line”. Nope, I didn’t see any miracles going on there and definitely no images of religious icons in the tossed out coffee filters. Thankfully, I was desperate enough to want to know why these people stuck around, why did they quote all these useless sayings and why did some of them look so happy? At first I thought it was because they came to gloat, “Look at me, you poor bastards, I don’t have a drinking problem and you do”.

Turns out, I was more like Wile W. Coyote than I realized because no matter how much he got hurt, blown up or tossed into a bottomless canyon in his attempts to catch the Road Runner, he always tried again, trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That is exactly what I did with my drinking, I drank and drank, hoping that this time, I could just have one drink and stop, or this time I could control my drinking and drink like other people.

Thank God I stuck around and took the dynamite out of my ears and starting listening. I realized what these people were actually saying was that it wasn’t necessarily easy to stop  drinking,  it was just a little easier than staying stopped.  Because the truth is, most of us will swear off the booze time and time again only to pick it up a day, week, month or even a year later. I was one of these people, and the only thing that stopped this nightmare cycle for me was to commit to a program of recovery and in my case it was Alcoholics Anonymous.

After a few months in AA, the sayings didn’t bother me as much, if people got something out of them and they stayed off the sauce for another day, who was I to judge? Plus I began to see the miracles they were talking about, whether it was someone opening up and sharing for the first time or a milestone celebrated by someone who was clearly a different person than they were when they first walked into the rooms. And yet another saying I heard began to ring true whereas before when I heard it, I almost lost the plot completely. This I had heard many times,  “There’s good news and bad news, the good news is there is a solution to your problem, the bad news is, we are the solution”.

They were right about that one too.

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.

sisters-beach240Sometimes I need a really big kick up the ass to remind me of just how lucky I am to be sober. Drunks like me die every day from this disease and by rights, I should be dead. You’d think that would be enough to keep me in an eternal state of gratitude? Yet somehow, I manage to piss and moan about something completely trivial on a daily basis. Even the most obvious ‘grateful’ scenarios, (like a beautiful sunset and the Mediterranean sea), can get spoiled by the addict in me  always wanting more…

I just spent a month with my family in England – something I’ve not been able to do in 19 years. During this time, I was lucky enough to go to the Costa Del Sol in Spain with my sister (who is also sober) and celebrate my sobriety birthday with her.

Now comes the part where I almost mess it all up. I wanted more – I didn’t want to leave! Thank God I have a program of recovery and so does my sister. We were sitting in her kitchen in England, the night before I was due to leave to come back to the USA and both of us were very upset. We were talking about how rotten we felt about the prospect of saying goodbye but somehow we started talking about our recovery programs and amidst all the self-pity, we managed to get our heads out of our asses and realize how lucky we were.

Boo ‘fucking’ hoo, so what! We hate to say goodbye  – at least we got to see each other in the first place AND take a vacation – how many people never see their families or get to go on a vacation? How ungrateful and selfish were we?

Our disease likes us to forget how bad it was and where we came from. Both of us had bottoms where we lost everything, we were hopeless drunks, chronic alcoholics, we lost our families, our homes, we lost touch with each other, yet here we were, clean and sober and moaning! That’s when I really felt immense gratitude for my sobriety, my sister’s sobriety and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous for giving us the tools to recognize our own bullshit.

I cried my eyes out the next day when I left and so did my sister, but having a recovery program allows me to take it one day at a time, and I’m certain we’ll be sitting having a cup of tea again in no time at all (and no doubt finding something to bitch about).

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.