Posts Tagged ‘newcomer to sobriety’

For those of you who are deep enough into your sobriety to pay attention to what’s going on in the world around you, you might have noticed that the Oscars were held this week. I don’t typically pay a lot of attention to these kinds of things (if watching people half your age win awards for wearing tacky dresses and making bad movies isn’t reason enough to drink, what is?), but it does get me thinking about the roles that appreciation and public recognition play in early recovery.

It’s ok to admit it: some of us just like to be recognized from time to time.

There is a good side to this, and a bad side. Just as some Oscar attendees can only manage to halfheartedly clap for the terrible actor who stars in a string of predictable flops, it can be difficult for the people in our lives to “recognize” the hard work we’ve done in putting our lives back together. In their minds, the fact that we haven’t been thrown in jail, lost our jobs, or slept outside for a few months on end doesn’t really seem worthy of a lifetime achievement award.

In fact, bringing it up ourselves can make us look even more terrible, since it’s a reminder of just how often we’ve failed at the box office of life so many times in the past.

As I mentioned, however, there is a good side to all of this, too. Your non-alcoholic, non-addict friends and family might not know how hard you’re working, or understand why it’s such a big deal that you’re making the effort… but others who are in early recovery do.

That’s why it’s important, especially in the first few days, weeks, and months of your sobriety, that you make it to a regular meeting and make friends with people you can lean on for support. They know what you know: that every single day can be a struggle, and a victory.

Take the time to appreciate how far you’ve come – even if you can only measure that in hours – and it will give you the strength to keep going.

With the Oscars right behind us, and most of the country thinking about whose work they do and don’t appreciate in Hollywood, keep both of these ideas in mind. It isn’t fair to expect your loved ones to give you the red carpet treatment just because you’ve managed to string a bit of sobriety together. At the same time, though, don’t be afraid to give yourself a little acceptance speech now and again, to reflect on how far you’ve come, and be as proud of yourself as you should be for making each and every day of sobriety possible.

grounghog1Very early sobriety sucks. There’s no other way to say it. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. What made it worse was that I had to do my first 30 days in recovery over and over again. It was like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray, I’d wake up and think “Oh f**K, I have do do this all over again.” Each time I swore would be the last, each time I was going to do it different, but to make matters worse, the more ‘do-overs’ I had, the harder it seemed to get.

As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I had many a relapse before I actually ‘got this’ – so getting through that first month is no stranger to me. What helped me was to go right back to an AA meeting and ‘fess up’. The longer I left it, the harder it would be. So very reluctantly I’d go and raise my hand when they asked if there was anyone in their first 30 days – it seemed I did this so many times that people would just automatically look at me when the question was asked – (I could have been a teensy bit paranoid too) but I had to be honest or I’d get nowhere. Instead of telling me to ‘get a life’ and stop wasting their time the people in those rooms actually welcomed me back, they even clapped, I felt like shit, I wanted to curl up and die, I was ceratin they were thinking ”what a loser – she’s never going to get more than thirty days, she’s a waste of time.”

I’m happy to say that I was wrong about that last part – the people in those meetings saved my life, the friends that I had made already before my relapses, saved my life. They didn’t judge me, they didn’t tell me that I wasn’t welcome there anymore. Instead, they hugged me, they asked if I wanted to talk and gave me their phone numbers, they suggested that I get a Sponsor, they asked me to come early to the group the next day so I’d get to know people and best of all they told me to ‘keep coming back’ no matter what the hell happened-so I did.

If it wasn’t for those people I don’t think that I would be here today, because my pride would have prevented me from walking back into that Twelve-Step meeting, my fear would have kept my hand in my lap instead of raising it as a newcomer and my ego would have told me that people thought that I was a waste of time. Thankfully, the people in those rooms of AA were able to squash all that ‘chatter in my head’, so my ego didn’t get a chance to get in the way of my recovery.

I learned many things from relapsing: the bad things were that my disease wants me drunk, it wants to isolate me, it lies to me and tells me I can have just one drink and it wants to keep me away from people who might be good for my sobriety. The good things I learned: as soon as I relapsed I had to get my ass back to a meeting, tell the truth about what happened, get on safe ground with people who could direct me to the next best thing for my sobriety, listen to their suggestions and do what they said, such as 90 meetings in 90 days and starting over with a sponsor to work on the Twelve-Steps.

When I told them that I didn’t believe I could stay sober because I always relapsed, they would say ‘Fake it ’til you make it’  – I didn’t understand what that meant, but as I got a little time in recovery behind me, I realized what they were saying and it was that even if I didn’t believe in the process, if I didn’t believe that this Twelve-Step Program would work for me, that I should go through the motions anyway. I could fake my belief in the process and keep coming back until the penny dropped – so I did what they suggested and finally out of the blue, the penny well and truly dropped and I didn’t have to raise my hand anymore – except to say that I had one year sober and then two…

For more suggestions on the first 30 days, click here

winner3If you are new to sobriety and in particular the rooms of recovery (Twelve-Step Meetings), you might hear people suggesting that as a newcomer, you should try to ‘stick with the winners’ and watch ‘what winners do.’ When I was in early recovery, I didn’t know what they were talking about, after all I felt like a total loser and I wondered who these ‘winners’ were and if they were so great, why were they in recovery? (I had a lot to learn.)

It wasn’t after too long, that I started to notice people who were always at the AA Club and at certain meetings I went to. I’d see them before the meeting, making coffee or greeting people as they came in the door. I’d see them sitting at a table with the big book open across from another person and reading together. I’d see them after the meeting, going up to people and introducing themselves and handing out their phone number. I’d see them raising their hands when the chairperson asked who was available to sponsor. I’d see them offering rides to people and laughing and chatting away on the porch before and after meetings.

One of these people was a man named Mark. I had 30 days in recovery when I met him and he had 3 years. That night, he gave me my 30 day sobriety chip. I went up to him after the meeting and asked if I could tag along to another meeting I’d heard him talk about. Without hesitation he said yes and we went to the meeting where he introduced me to a lot of people (mostly women). He told me that I should get a sponsor and that he knew a woman who could work with me. He told me to stick with the women and watch out for the men who asked me for my phone number or to meet for coffee as they might want something other than friendship.

Over the next few months Mark gave me a 60 day chip and a 90 day chip and I did all the things he suggested and unfortunately some that he didn’t. When I started dating in early recovery he warned me to be careful and suggested that I wait until I’d at least completed the steps. He told me that he’d been through the steps a few times and if I just did the work, he was certain that I’d experience the miracle too. I halfheartedly worked the steps but wholeheartedly continued my romance as Mark gave me a hug and my one year chip.

Six days after I celebrated that one year sobriety anniversary, the romantic relationship ended and my sobriety ended with it. Mark gave me a hug and a 24 hour chip. He called and sent texts to wish me good morning and asked me how I was. He invited me to cook outs, pot lucks, and dinner with the group after the AA meetings. He took me along to do service work with him. At six months clean and sober, he asked me to chair a meeting. A few months later at Christmas, I took my son to visit Santa (who also happened to be Mark) at our local AA club. Santa waved me over and asked me if I’d tell the kid’s that he had to run outside for a minute to feed the reindeer (while he went to the restroom) after which he resumed his usual spot handing out gifts and being cheery.

He talked about his sponsees and his own sponsor and how much it meant to him to be able to work with other people. After I reached another one year of sobriety, he told me about a woman he knew who needed a sponsor and he thought we’d be a good fit. We started working together and I was lucky enough to give her her 30 day chip. Six months ago Mark presented me with my two year chip and of course, his customary hug. The moment was not lost on me as I remembered ALL the chips he had given me in the past and all he had done for me. I was so grateful to know this person and have him in my life.

Monday, November 17th, 2008 is Mark’s SEVEN year sobriety anniversary and I have had the honor of knowing him for four of those years. To me, Mark epitomizes ‘What Winners Do’. Congratulations dear friend, you are truly an inspiration.