Posts Tagged ‘relapse in early sobriety’

 

sponsor1When I became a Sponsor, I was so excited and ready to work with another alcoholic or addict, I was going to make a difference – sprinkling my experience, strength and hope around like fairy dust. Taking all the newcomers under my big Fairy Godmother wings and protecting them from relapse and early recovery jitters.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I fell off my pink cloud and plummeted down to earth for a dose of reality. Being a Sponsor is hard! Actually, I’ve come to realize that it’s accepting that I can’t make people do what I want that’s the hard part. I’ve spent many a day wondering why my Sponsee doesn’t do what I have suggested, surely my story of what it was like for me was convincing enough! After all, I was a hopeless drunk, I always relapsed, NOTHING worked for me until I finally lit a fire under my ass, got a Sponsor and worked on the 12 Steps.  Wasn’t my story of redemption enough to light a fire under someone else’s ass too? Apparently not.

After talking it through with my own Sponsor, I have to remember back to when I was the one who was indifferent and not quite sure if I was ready for sobriety.  I went through about four different Sponsors before I got desperate enough to start listening and taking suggestions. Before that I’d sit there telling people what I thought they wanted to hear, all the while thinking to myself, what a croc! My gnat-like attention span would only get it together long enough if the conversation was about me and how bad my life was, I didn’t want to hear about their story – b-o-r-i-n-g!

I continued this way until I was completely ruined, physically, mentally and spiritually, that’s when I finally admitted defeat, surrendered to the process and made a choice to complete the 12 Steps. Until I was ready to do that, nothing anyone said or suggested was going to make a blind bit of difference to me and that’s what I have to remember when a Sponsee hasn’t called in three weeks, is balking at the 4th Step or is too busy dating the hottie from the 8pm meeting. That’s when I realize I was like that too and just because I want someone to want this – doesn’t mean they’ll want it! All I can do is move on, hope they come back and continue trying to be of service to the people who do.

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shellI was at a recovery meeting today and the topic was isolating. Needless to say everyone could relate to this because as alcoholics and addicts we tend to do this a lot. For me, at the end of my drinking career, when I’d lost all my friends and no one in their right mind would drink with me, I was accustomed to being alone. In fact, all I wanted was to be left alone, I’d pretty much barricade myself in my apartment with a bottle of vodka and all would be right with the world. Except that it wasn’t.

Now that I’m sober I still struggle with wanting to be alone. My excuse is that I avoid being around people because they annoy me. I want my own space and God forbid someone should cross that line and get in my personal space because I basically (internally) lose my shit. It can be as simple as someone standing too close to me in a grocery store checkout line. I want to explain to them that standing within an inch or two from my back is not going to get them to the front of the line any quicker – I’m still in front of them, so back the f**k off!

I can be in a movie theatre, settled into my seat and I’ll see them, the family of four or the gaggle of teenage girls walk around the corner and invariably choose the seats directly behind me when there’s almost an empty theatre. All the while, I’m quietly repeating to myself, ‘don’t do it, don’t sit there, don’t’…until they do. The same with airplanes, I’ll sit in my seat, iPod securely in my ears, looking intently at the in-flight magazine, hoping that if I just don’t give them eye contact, they won’t sit next to me. Silently chanting, ‘not you, not you, not you!’ until the inevitable happens and the seat gets occupied. Why I think no one will sit there on a sold out flight is beyond me, but I still hold out hope that I’ll be the only one left sitting alone.

I tell myself, I can’t help the way I am. I’m no good at small talk; loud people bother me, I’d clip the wings of every social butterfly with a sharp pair of scissors if I could. Why? The truth is; I’m jealous of other people being comfortable in their own skin, people who can chat successfully to a total stranger bother me because I can’t. I feel inferior. In a room full of people I can feel completely alone – no one wants to hear what I have to say, they’ll laugh or criticize me and I can’t have that. I’m different and no one gets me. My disease fills me with these ideas and thoughts so it can keep me alone, so that I won’t seek help, so that I’ll drink again.

My disease will continue to tell me that I’m different until I share in a room full of recovering alcoholics as they sit nodding in agreement. They even come up to me after the meeting and say, “I do that too! Oh my God, the movie theatre is the worst and supermarkets piss me off so much that I go there at 11pm just to avoid the people! That’s when I know I’m in the right place and I’m not so different and unique after all.

If you are new to sobriety and find that you are isolating, try going to a meeting, share your irrational thoughts, fears and pet peeves and you might just be surprised at how many people there feel exactly the same way as you do.

 

bottomI can’t recall the amount of people who asked me this, but I do remember being pissed off at the question. Of course I was done, I was sitting in a f**king recovery meeting wasn’t I?

My indignant attitude usually lasted between 2-3 months or until I’d start to feel better. Once I’d got a new place to live or a new job, things didn’t look nearly as bad as it was before. That’s when I started to feel like maybe I wasn’t done and that I might just have to do a little more ‘research’. And so it would begin again and I’d lose that new job, get tossed out of my new home and find myself in detox, dazed and confused, wondering why this could possibly happen again.

I learned a lot of from each and every bottom that I had, most importantly I learned that I was very lucky not to ‘get dead’ before I ‘got done’ with alcohol. There are a lot of people who think that they’ll go out and drink or use just one more time and unfortunately that one time, becomes the last time because they never wake up.

I also learned that while I could tell people what I thought they wanted to hear and tell them I was ready to quit drinking, the truth really was that I wasn’t done until I was done. When I finally admitted to myself that I was beaten and that I’d truly had enough was when I became willing to go to ANY lengths to stop drinking and stay stopped. That’s when I started to listen to the suggestions of the people who had some time in recovery – the ones who had been waiting until I could get honest with myself and admit that I was well and truly beaten – until I was done.   

snowOne of the most important pieces of advice I was given in early recovery was not to start dating or become  involved in a new intimate relationship during the first year of sobriety.  Did I listen to that advice? Nope,  did I relapse? Yes. Did it stop me from doing it again? I’m afraid not.  So why did I keep putting my sobriety in jeopardy so that I could be in a relationship?

I realize now that it was because I was not serious about my sobriety,  sure I thought I was, but my actions spoke otherwise because I was choosing romance over recovery. I got a rush from feeling attractive to someone after years of feeling like shit. I enjoyed being the center of someone’s universe, even if that person was as sick as I was. I didn’t know this at the time, I thought I knew what I was doing and that I was in control of the situation. I wasn’t going to relapse if the relationship went wrong, I was stronger than that.

The first time my disease proved me wrong was when I had  two months sober and I got into a relationship with another person who was also in recovery. Things were okay for a while, he seemed a little possessive but I told myself that was because he liked me so much.  As soon as the going got rough and he became more demanding, I drank and it turned out that the new center of my universe drank too. He also beat me unconscious, choked me until I blacked out, held me down with a knife, leaving me black and blue with a deep gash in my neck.

I had thought he was a decent person, he had three years sobriety for God’s sake – that’s amount to being a Saint to someone like me who only had two months!  I was blinded by the fact that he had some time in recovery, but what I didn’t see was what he wasn’t doing. He wasn’t working the steps, he wasn’t working with a Sponsor and he wasn’t going to meetings but the biggest sign that things weren’t quite right was that he was willing to date a newcomer. Anyone who has some time in recovery and works a serious program knows that dating a newcomer is a something you just don’t do. I didn’t know any of this though because I was the newcomer and I didn’t know the things to look out for, sure people told me not to date but I thought I knew better and I could handle it. Obviously that wasn’t the case.

I wasn’t putting my sobriety as my number one priority, I wanted to get my needs met. I sat in those meetings and I didn’t really listen, I was checking out the cute guys and if they paid attention to me it fed my ego and made me feel better about myself. I wanted that quick fix, just like booze gave me and I was looking to another person to fix me, instead of looking for a spiritual solution, I was going for a sexual one. Yet, I did it time and time again. The next time I tried romance instead of recovery, I dated another newcomer who was just as dazed and confused as I was and didn’t know any better. The relationship fizzled and I was devastated. I thought he was different, but he was sick, just like me and was also looking to another person to fix him and it just didn’t work.

The next time I decided I knew best was with a person who had five years in recovery and by all outward appearances, looked like a posterchild for working a perfect program.  Eight months later I found out that he might have had an addiction to alcohol but he also had one to prostitutes and he’d been paying for sex for years and all through our eight month relationship. I was shocked and terrified, got an Aids test and I drank until I got the results.

I’d finally had enough. I came back after that relapse and I decided that this time I was going to choose my sobriety over sex and put all of my efforts into my recovery. I was lucky, I got to come back after my relapses, some people don’t get that luxury, the next time any of us drinks could be the last. I wish I had listened when people told me not to date as a newcomer, but maybe I had to go through what I went through to realize that my priority had to be recovery not romance. I’m just thankful that I got to live long enough to find that out.

never1My sponsee went back out again. This is the third time since we’ve been working together. At first I thought she should probably find someone else to work with, but after talking to my close friends in recovery (who also sponsor people), I’ve changed my mind. Why? Because she’s a drunk and she needs help. She’s just like me and many other alcoholics and addicts who have struggled to ‘get this’. I want to shake her, I want to slap her, I want to hug her, but all I can do is tell her that I care and that I’ll be here for when she get’s back – if indeed she ever does.

Alcoholism does kill – but she already knows that. She knows that it doesn’t discriminate, it kills young drinkers, old drinkers, men, women, rich and poor. She knows that it wants us dead, but it will settle for us being drunk or high instead. But none of this matters, because she’s ‘in’ her disease and the craving, the mental merry-go-round and the insanity of this addiction have consumed her once more.

Some of us just haven’t had enough yet, we think that we need to do some more ‘research’, just to make sure it’s really as bad as we think it is. Our disease will tell us that it’s not that bad, that we can try it again, we can have a few drinks, pop a few pills and then stop. We can get high and drunk and sober up tomorrow for good and all. Unfortunately, what our disease doesn’t tell us, is that for many alcoholics and addicts, we won’t get to wake up tomorrow because for some, tomorrow will never come.