Posts Tagged ‘Twelve-Step Meeting’

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.

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

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.