Am I a Dry Drunk?

In addiction recovery, complacency breeds old behavior, which can quickly lead to unnecessary problems, including relapse.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains complacency on page 85. It says, “It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

In my early days in recovery, I heard old-timers sharing that our addictions were right outside the door, waiting for us, and they were doing pushups to get even stronger. They told those of us who were new in recovery, floating on that pink cloud of contentedness, that we needed to stay vigilant because alcoholism is tricky. It loves an alcoholic who is no longer paying attention.

I would be willing to bet that many alcoholics who relapse after having a period of sobriety do so because they become complacent. It happened to me. I had nearly seven years of sobriety and didn’t think I would drink again. But I got complacent with my recovery, and guess what happened? Yep. I relapsed. I had stopped going to meetings, didn’t have a sponsor, and certainly wasn’t living according to the principles of the program. That was almost three years ago. Thank God I haven’t taken a drink since then, but that doesn’t mean I have remained vigilant. In fact, I haven’t. I let my guard down, and my spiritual condition suffered. I fell into old, unhealthy behaviors and got resentful. And that all happened without my noticing.

Fortunately, my husband, Austin, noticed. He saw the signs and said, in the most loving way he could, that he thought I might be headed toward being a dry drunk. I think he was right. I knew that I was sometimes hard to be around. I was restless, irritable, and discontented. But I hadn’t put it together that what I had was untreated alcoholism. I had all the symptoms; I just hadn’t taken a drink yet. I had begun to take my recovery for granted. I think that subconsciously I believed that going to recovery meetings, church, Bible studies, and the like were enough to keep me spiritually fit. I got complacent with my recovery program.

When my husband called my attention to it, I was shocked. Really! I was so surprised to hear him say the words that I didn’t know how to respond. That didn’t last long, though. We talked about it, and I could definitely see the points he was making. I wasn’t doing anything at all to proactively maintain my recovery. I went to meetings sporadically, hadn’t opened my Big Book for a long time, didn’t have a sponsor, and was not practicing AA principles in all my affairs. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same scenario that I was living in 2019 when I relapsed. But this time, I had the opportunity to do something about it before I made things worse.

I knew I had to get a sponsor and get back to actively working a program. So, I asked a friend in the program I trust if he knew any women with healthy programs who sponsor people. He did. He introduced me to my new sponsor, and we’ve been working together for a couple of months. It feels great to get back into the literature and the steps. I need that. I need a program. I need a sponsor.

Where would I be if Austin hadn’t dared to say those difficult words to me? I don’t know. Probably still sober, but maybe not. But whether I relapsed or not, I would still be living with untreated alcoholism.

Thank God I don’t have to live like that anymore.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage in Recovery?

Self-sabotage in addiction recovery is common.

Being in recovery for the last ten years has taught me a lot about myself and other recovering addicts. While we’re all unique individuals with different, often dysfunctional, histories, we also have a lot in common. One of the most common similarities that I’ve seen time and time again is our ability to self-sabotage.

Addiction itself is a form of self-sabotage. When we’re in our active addictions, we depend on our drug of choice to help us escape dealing with life’s issues, which usually leads to bigger problems and more devastating consequences. Active addiction is self-destructive, isolating, and it destroys everyone who is caught in the wake of the disease. Yet, we often go back to it over and over. I know I have. Even after nearly seven years sober, I relapsed last year, reverting to old coping methods that I knew didn’t work.

Why do we do this? I think there’s a simple reason for this complicated behavior. Even though it’s so destructive and chaotic, self-sabotaging feels comfortable, familiar, like wrapping ourselves in warm security blankets, even in recovery. It’s what we’ve always done – it’s what we know. And even worse, it’s what we think we deserve. In active addiction, we feel like the pain, guilt, shame, and negative consequences are warranted. We deserve to lose our progress, our relationships, our dignity, our sanity because we’re not worth anything better. Unfortunately, that way of thinking doesn’t just go away when we get sober. It takes time. And it takes vigilance to not let it sneak back into the soundtracks of our lives.

I think there are numerous reasons that we self-sabotage our recoveries. Some that we may not even realize until much later. I’m certainly not professing to know all the answers, I’m speaking from my own experiences and from what I’ve learned from others in recovery about the art of self-sabotage. That said, these are some of the most common reasons that I think we undermine our recoveries:

Inability to cope with excessive stress. When I was in active alcoholism, the only coping skill I had was to check out of my life by drinking to the point of blacking out. Since then, I’ve learned how to deal with stressful times more effectively, but I’m still no expert. It’s easy to fall back into old behaviors when life gets really rough, and if I’m not paying attention, that can lead me to some dark places.

Guilt and shame. My drinking made me a different person, someone who was unrecognizable to me and to the people who knew me. My behavior created so much guilt and shame in me that I thought I would never be able to let go of my past. Fortunately, working the 12 steps of AA helped me work through a lot of it, especially steps 4 and 9. In step 4, we take a personal moral inventory of ourselves and in step 9, we clean up our side of the street. Through those actions, and God’s grace and mercy, I’ve been able to forgive myself for many of the bad things I did and said. Not all of them by any means. It’s a process, and it takes time.

Fear of missing out. We see booze everywhere; it’s ubiquitous and it’s usually associated with having a good time. It’s no wonder that there have been times, especially in my early sobriety, when I romanticized drinking and all the “fun” that goes with it. Why can everyone else drink and enjoy themselves and I can’t? Well, it’s because when I do, bad things will happen. Just like when someone with diabetes eats too much sugar, bad things will happen. There is nothing romantic about ending up passed out beside a dumpster at Circle K after a night of drinking. I have to “play the tape to the end,” as they say in the program, remembering what happens when I drink.

Stuffing emotions. Oh boy. I am a champion at stuffing emotions and finding distractions to keep myself from feeling them. Of course, my main strategy to stop feeling used to be drinking. Nothing stops an uncomfortable emotion like a couple (or twelve) shots of tequila. The thing is those negative emotions will still be there when the booze wears off, and so will whatever additional messes I created by drinking. When I was in rehab, I remember that my therapist told me, “Your emotions won’t kill you, but your alcoholism will.” That was pretty eye-opening at the time. These days, after much therapy, I am better about sitting with my emotions, talking about them, and working my way through them instead of around them. I do still use distraction sometimes when I’m uncomfortable with my emotions (I’m a TV show binge-watching ninja), but they’re healthier distractions, and I don’t wait as long to get back to what’s bothering me and deal with it.

Low self-worth. There’s no doubt about it, when I drank, I felt like I was smarter, prettier, funnier, and more outgoing than my quiet, sober self. Of course, I know that isn’t true, but booze gave me the self-confidence that I’m pretty sure I was born without. Liquid courage, I’m sure you’ve heard it called, and I had it when I was drinking. When I got into recovery though, I no longer had that artificial boost that I needed to feel like I was interesting or worthy of anyone’s time, and that’s a lonely place to be. That feeling of low self-worth led me back to the bottle many times when I was first trying to get sober. Now that I’ve been in recovery for a while, I do feel better about myself a lot of the time. When I don’t, I can turn to my husband, my friends in recovery, and God for encouragement.

Addiction is a dangerous disease without us adding to it with self-sabotage. But our ability to make things worse is huge, in active addiction as well as in recovery. In both, self-sabotage starts the same way, with destructive thinking patterns. That thinking, left unaddressed, leads to self-destructive behavior, and then it’s only time before we are masters of the art of self-sabotage.

When we get into recovery, we have to recognize the importance of working with a new medium. We need the willingness to try new techniques that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable for us. We need the confidence to use new, healthy tools that paint a whole different picture. And we need the courage to see the canvas as it really is. True recovery means that we have to embrace the art of self-awareness and leave self-sabotage in the past where it belongs.

Thank God for Progress

One of the things that is talked about a lot in the rooms of recovery is that we need to strive for progress, not perfection. It’s not about becoming the perfect ideal of ourselves that should be our goal, instead, it’s just that we continue to get better over time. Whatever that “better” means to each individual is up to them–maybe it’s in how self-aware they are, how they react to difficult situations, how much time they spend thinking about drinking, or whether their relationships are growing as they want them to. We look for progress in the areas of our choosing and we celebrate our personal growth.

I think that paying attention to progression is huge in recovery. In fact, my husband and I make it a point to talk about the progression that we have both made since becoming sober and taking care of our mental health. We both have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, in addition to being alcoholics in recovery. That’s a long list of issues, yet I think that to most people who we meet, we seem pretty “normal.” Of course, those who know us know the truth–we’ve worked really hard to get where we are today. So when we are able to actually see the progress that we’ve made, it’s a victory.

Today, I got to see our progress in action, both in our recovery from drinking and in how we deal with challenging situations. We got into a car accident. It wasn’t serious, no one was injured, but it left our car undriveable. This may not seem like a big deal to many of you, perhaps just the type of inconvenience that occasionally comes up in life. But just a few short years ago it would have been a disaster of catastrophic proportions.

Let me explain.

First of all, had it been five years ago, chances are good that I would’ve been drunk at the time. That means that when the nice, older lady smashed into our car I would’ve either dissolved into a puddle of tears believing that the end of my world was upon me, or I would’ve been so angry that I would have yelled profanities and punched her. And even if I wasn’t drunk when the accident happened, I definitely would’ve been after.

If it had been just three years ago, I would’ve been sober but still cleaning up the wreckage of my past–and my husband still working on his too. That means that we likely wouldn’t have had insurance, a valid registration, and maybe even a valid driver’s licenses. That alone would’ve been enough to throw me into a downward spiral. While I wouldn’t have gone out and gotten drunk, the reality is that I would’ve had a meltdown and catastrophized the whole thing, become anxious about how the car would get fixed, how we would get to work, and every other car-related thing you can imagine. Not to mention the fact that we would’ve been cited for our irresponsibility with licenses, insurance, and registration. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

In either of those scenarios, I would’ve been in meltdown mode for a good long while, then in isolation mode, and then finally depression about my horrible misfortune. I would have been in a tailspin for who knows how long.

Today however, it was much different. I didn’t meltdown, I didn’t want to drink, I was nice to the poor lady who hit us, and I didn’t have to be afraid of getting into trouble when the police came. It was so much different than it would’ve been only a short while ago.

It was actually just the type of inconvenience that occasionally comes up in life. Imagine that.

I call that progress.

Why Do Some Make It While Others Don’t?

It’s been a while! Life has been busy and this blog has suffered, but I’ll save the update on life for another post. I feel like I need to write about something else right now.

A couple of days ago, my husband and I went to a meeting. We met a friend of ours there because he had expressed that he wanted to stop drinking. These types of moments, where I truly get the opportunity to be one alcoholic helping another, are the moments that I live for. There are so many blessings in getting to share my own experience, strength, and hope–especially hope–with someone who is facing the same struggles I once did.

The meeting did not disappoint. Our friend got a 24-hour chip, tears were shed as he shared his desire to stop drinking, and others expressed their support and encouragement. It’s a beautiful thing when any newcomer makes it into the rooms, and it’s even more beautiful to see people who, when in active addiction, couldn’t be bothered by anyone else’s problems, jump in to help a fellow in need.  esh

That’s not the end of the story, though. While we were at the meeting (it’s not one we normally go to, so we knew a couple of people there, but not many) a man sitting to my right who was clearly distressed, was invited to speak by another member. I thought that perhaps he was going to share that he had relapsed and was back in the rooms now, he had that drawn, sad and guilty look about him.

But that’s not what he shared. When he spoke, his eyes filled with tears, he told the group about his daughter. She was also an alcoholic and had been to that very meeting with him the week before. He went on to tell us, voice shaking, that his daughter had died the night before and that following the meeting he had to go claim her body.

It was only when he said her name, that I realized I knew her. She had been a student at the college where I worked. I knew that she struggled with alcoholism, we had spoken about it a lot during her time there, and while she wanted to get sober for good, it seemed it was something she just couldn’t manage. She was a beautiful, intelligent woman, who had a lot of life in front of her, and now she was gone–due to alcoholism.

I was saddened, as was my husband as he knew her too. And that old familiar question, the one that pops up every time I hear about someone dying from addiction, came to mind. Why do some of us make it, while others of us don’t?

When I think back to my own early recovery, which had at least a hundred false starts, it makes me wonder what it was that finally clicked and has helped me stay sober for the past several years. What is it that made my last drunk my last drunk? I wanted to stop drinking for a long time, and I made many attempts that failed. Why was the last one the one that, so far, has stuck?

I can list off the things that I think have contributed to me staying sober like willingness, honesty, forgiveness, acceptance, asking for help, rehab and AA, God, having a sponsor, being vulnerable, and the list goes on. But I feel like I had those things (at least a lot of them) the first hundred times I tried to quit drinking. So, what was it that changed? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the combination of all of those things on the list, maybe it’s all about timing, maybe it’s about being so tired and worn out that there just is no way to go on the way you have.

I really wish I did know the answer. If I did, I could share it with my friend the newcomer to make his path easier. And maybe I could have shared it with the young woman we lost to the disease. I would share it with everyone! Shout it from the rooftops! But, the truth is, I don’t know.

What I do know, is that you can’t give up. You have to keep fighting for sobriety and recovery until it finally sticks. You have to do the work. And it is work, and it is hard, and it doesn’t end. You have to keep doing it to keep the new life you have in recovery. That I know. That’s what I have to do to stay sober. And while it has gotten easier, I don’t let my guard down, not ever.

The meeting that day had so much hope and so much sadness–at the same time. I was so encouraged that the young woman’s father was there, at a meeting, less than 24 hours after losing his daughter. He was showing everyone there, including our friend who is just starting out, that you can make it through really tough times without drinking. I was also encouraged by the way that other members reached out to our friend with their own experience, strength, and hope. I know that he was touched.

I’m still left wondering why some of us make it and some of us don’t. Maybe I’ll never know the answer. But I will keep sharing, keep working, and keep having hope. And if that helps even one person, then it will be more than worth it.

Recovering, or Recovered? Which am I?

It’s been nearly four years since I took my last drink of alcohol, and since that time I have been to literally hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It’s customary to introduce yourself before you speak at a meeting. I always say, “Hi, I’m Jami and I’m an alcoholic.” Some people introduce themselves differently, but it’s usually something close to that. A handful of times over the years, I have heard people refer to themselves as a “recovered alcoholic,” and my first thought is usually that they just don’t get it – no matter how long they have been sober. I’m probably wrong about that in some cases, they may very well stay sober and happy until the day they die. I know that people practice recovery differently, and that what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Even my husband and I have a different way of approaching the program, and we’re both still sober.

The problem that I have with using recovered instead of recovering is that it makes it Unending Roadsound final, like it’s done and over and can no longer affect me – like the chicken pox: I had it once, I recovered, and I’ll never get it again. It implies that you can be returned to the person you were before, and for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You see, being a recovering person instead of recovered one, hasn’t returned me to who I was before alcoholism, and it isn’t something that has ended and no longer affects me. It is something that goes on. Forever. I will always be in recovery, and I’m good with that, for several reasons.

One, I know that I am not cured of alcoholism. I’ve been given a daily reprieve and I have to remain diligent to not return to where I was when I was drinking actively. I know that if I grow complacent, and think that I am recovered and that alcohol no longer poses a risk to me, I’m in danger. While I no longer worry day-to-day that I am going to relapse, I am very aware that booze is still out there and that if I have even one drink it’s game on. Recovering, rather than recovered, keeps me on my toes.

Two, recovering means that I am a work in progress and that I have the luxury of continuing to work on myself, strengthening those things about me that are positive, and improving the things that challenge me. Believing that I am still recovering fosters my desire for self-awareness. It keeps me engaged in becoming a better person, not just a sober one.

Three, recovering rather than recovered keeps me right-sized. As long as I remember that I am not over this alcoholism thing, and that I am no better or worse than every newcomer and old-timer, I don’t run the risk of self-righteousness or self-loathing. Those are two things that plagued me when I was drinking and recovering keeps me away from them.

Lastly, recovering rather than recovered reminds me that I don’t have all of the answers. I still need help no matter how many days I put between me and my last drink. It’s what makes it more comfortable than it used to be to ask for help when I need it. It’s why I have a sponsor and go to meetings. It’s what makes me part of a huge fellowship of strong and courageous people.

I think, what it boils down to is that recovering, instead of recovered, is what works for me. It may just be semantics, but it puts me in the right mindset to continue on the path of sobriety and recovery. I find joy and strength and health in the process of recovering.

So, I think I’ll stay right here recovering. Forever, God willing.

Know Thyself – But Is It Enough?

The other day, my husband, stepson and I were in the car, coming home from shopping, and we were having a discussion about why we each behave the way we do. I’m not sure how exactly we got on this subject, but that often seems to be the way that important conversations start. My stepson, whose intellect is far beyond his eleven years (even though his behavior and emotional age are happily in line with his chronological age), spoke of a situation in which he acted in a less than favorable way. He said, “I know myself, I knew what was going to happen.” He went on to say that knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t always stop his bad behavior.

Isn’t that the truth? An eleven year old just summed up my whole drinking career in one sentence! Knowing what was going to happen when I drank, no matter bad, didn’t stop me from doing it. I would like to say that when I drank I was in denial about the negative consequences, that I really thought that each time I took that first sip of booze that, “this time will be different.” But I wasn’t in denial, I was in my right mind enough to know exactly what would happen – I would drink, I would do and say bad things, I might punch someone, wreck a car, or get arrested. And yet, I drank.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says,

“The actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience.”

Big Book, Fourth Edition; Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 39

So, clearly Bill and Bob knew that self-knowledge wasn’t enough to help the alcoholic get and stay sober, and I agree. It wasn’t for me. For me it took treatment (twice!), completely removing myself from my regular life, removing triggers and access to booze, to get sober. And then it took a lot of work – the steps with a sponsor, learning honesty, acceptance, and forgiveness – to stay sober. You know what else it took? Yep, you guessed it. Self-knowledge.

Isn’t it funny how that works? The very thing that wasn’t ever going to get me sober is the very thing that I need to stay sober. I had to delve into those parts of me that I didn’t want to know and get acquainted. I had to look closely and carefully at my motivations for just about everything. I had to learn what made me tick. At times, it felt like I was meeting someone new, a stranger who I needed to get to know. Sometimes it was scary and sometimes it was comforting, but getting to know myself was the key to being able to change those parts of me that needed changing to be able tIs self knowledge enough to get and stay sober? o live a life that is happy, joyous, and free.

These days, I feel like I know myself pretty well. The things that I say and do and feel no longer surprise me. That isn’t to say that I don’t screw things up from time to time, I do. The difference now is that I am usually able to understand why I screwed up, and I am quick to try to fix it, and learn from it, so that when a similar situation comes up again – and it will – that I have enough awareness to react differently.

So no, self-knowledge may not be enough to get an alcoholic sober, but it is just what I need to stay sober and be happy.

I’m not sure that my stepson realized how insightful he was about knowing himself, but not really knowing what to do with the knowledge. What I do know, is that I will be there to help him figure it out along the way. And I can do that because I know me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Freedom

Happy 4th of July! It’s a day that we celebrate freedom, and for me that means reflecting on the things that used to enslave me, from which I’m now free. The biggest of which is active alcoholism. Issue-17-Final-Cover-244x300

I wrote an article for Step 12 Magazine, which they were kind enough to make their cover story for the July/August edition. You can download the issue for free and read my article “A New Freedom”(pg. 6) here. Step 12 Magazine is a publication for people in recovery, and it’s been helpful to me–it might be for you too.

Today, as you spend time with family and friends, and tonight as you watch fireworks exploding into beautiful bright shooting stars, take some time to remember what freedom means to you.

Surrender to Win

There is a paradox in Alcoholics Anonymous that tells us that we must “surrender to win.” When I first entered AA, I thought that it seemed kind of crazy that I would have to surrender, or give up, in order to get better. Wasn’t that was I was already doingSurrender? I sure felt like I had given up. Everything. That was where drinking had gotten me to. Like lots of things in AA though, surrendering to win started to make sense once I started to practice it.

It was when I was working my first step, looking back on all of the things that I had said and done while drinking, the things that showed (rather obviously) that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable, that I caught my first glimpses of what surrender might look like for me. I finally was able to see that what I was doing wasn’t working and that I had to find another way to do things, or I was likely going to die. I had to throw in the towel, or it was going to be thrown in for me. I had to surrender. I had to stop fighting, hiding, and resisting because I knew that I could not win or succeed doing it my way.

I had to surrender to the fact that I was an alcoholic. I could no longer hang onto the idea that maybe there was something I could do to manage my drinking, or that maybe, if I just quit for a while, that I could go back to being a normal drinker one day. I had to surrender to the fact that I was different from normies, and that I would never be able to be one.

I had to surrender to the fact that I couldn’t stay sober alone. I had tried so many times, yet I always failed. Sure, I could make it a day or two without drinking…maybe even three. But anything could and did send me right back to the bottle and I picked up right where I left off. Even when I didn’t want to! That’s the craziness of alcoholism, I didn’t want to drink anymore, but I couldn’t stop. I had to surrender to the idea that I needed help to get sober, and that I would find that help in God and in other alcoholics.

I had to surrender to the program. I know that there are people who get sober without a 12 step program, but AA is what saved my life. So I had to stop resisting working the steps, and stop resisting taking suggestions, and stop resisting living the principles of AA to change my life. This was big for me because I wanted to think that I was different from others in the program – clearly, none of those people had the problems and traumas that I had. Ha! It’s actually funny to think about now…because every alcoholic that I meet thought that way at one time.

I had to surrender to the idea that there was hope for me. Before I got into the rooms, I had thoughts that the way my life was (a great big effing mess), was just the way it was going to be until I died. I was stuck. My life was hopeless and I was irredeemable. In order for me to surrender to all of those other things, I had to believe that there was hope. For me. For my future. Thank God I saw hope in the faces of my fellow alcoholics at every meeting I went to. That hope is what encouraged me to grasp hold of my recovery and hang on.

So, “surrender to win?” Yeah, I get it now. And I am thankful for it every day.

 

 

 

 

Alcohol Awareness Month

It’s April and that means it’s Alcohol Awareness Month. Every year the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence sponsors this month to increase public awareness, NCADD_Alcohol_Awareness_Month_Logoreduce stigma, and encourage people to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. And each year for the last three, I have spoken about alcoholism awareness at the college where I worked. Since I no longer work there, I thought I would blog about it instead.

This year’s theme is “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.” The goal is to get parents talking to their kids about alcohol use and open the lines of communication about alcoholism and its consequences. The bigger picture is aimed at everyone – those of us who are alcoholics, anyone who has been affected by alcoholism, and even those who have not and who know nothing about it – so that we can reduce the stigma attached to alcoholism.

The only way to reduce stigma is to get the information out there, and for those of us who have one, to tell our story. It isn’t always easy, there are still those people out there who think that all alcoholics are deadbeats and losers who drink cheap liquor from a bottle in a brown paper sack. I wrote once about a time that one of my supervisors cautioned me to stay quiet about my addiction. I didn’t. I told my story and I had a wonderful, positive response. But, I can’t help but think that if I had let my boss have her way, that wouldn’t have happened, and I would’ve felt ashamed and less-than for being an alcoholic. It is through the telling of our stories that we are able to help others. The stories that I  hear from other alcoholics is what helps me, and I hope that I help others by sharing mine.

If you want more information about Alcohol Awareness Month you can get it here.

If you or a loved one suffers from alcoholism and you are looking for treatment facilities you can look at ConsumerAffairs’ Drug and Alcohol Rehab Guide.

If you would like to find a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in your area you can find one here.

 

 

 

 

Promises, Promises

The 9th Step Promises of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous say:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

(The Big Book, pp. 83-84).

We read these promises at the end of every meeting of my home group, and I have always loved it when the chairperson asks me to be the one who reads them. Even in my earliest days of sobriety, it was the Promises that gave me hope. You see, I wanted those promises for me and my life, although much of the time I never thought I could be so fortunate. I could see the evidence of the Promises in other alcoholics’ lives, they were happy, emotionally and spiritually fit, they could pay their bills on time, and they had healthy relationships. It didn’t bother them to talk about their pasts, and they weren’t wallowing in them either. They spoke about their drinking days in the context of, “you have to feel the bad times, to appreciate the good ones.” That was new to me, and in those first couple of years of sobriety, I didn’t think that I would ever be able to feel that way about my past.

Guess what happened though? Somewhere along the way, as I worked the steps – struggling through the hard days, and grateful for the good ones – the Promises started coming true for me. I have found a new freedom and a new happiness. Neither of those things came easily though. Freedom from drinking as a way to cope is never easy for an alcoholic. In fact, I think it’s a miracle when any alcoholic can go any length of time without a drink. I really do. But I also think that every minute, hour, day, and year that I stay sober I am free of my old way of coping, and that freedom feels good. What I have learned about happiness is that you can have it if you choose to. I have been through some pretty rough times in sobriety, some times that were even worse than the hell I went through when I was actively drinking, but I notice now that often I am able to choose happiness even then, even in those moments that used to baffle me.

There are still things about my past that I regret. What I find though is that I no longer wish to shut the door on it. I am able to talk and think about my past without guilt and shame (at least on most days), and sharing my past might help someone else. That’s what it has become for me – a way to help others in the same way that I have been helped. How can I be ashamed of that?

Self-pity used to be where I hung out most of the time. The Promises say that it will disappear, and I will say that I can see now that it is true. I’m not saying that I never fall back into that way of thinking, I do. However, I spend a whole lot less time there, and I bounce back faster when I do start to feel it. That too, is a miracle.

“Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.” Wow, I never thought that I would experience that, but I have. I’m not saying that I don’t worry anymore about what people are going to think, or that I am suddenly financially secure. What I am saying is that I have learned that I don’t have to be afraid of either of those things. What other people think is none of my business, and I no longer feel the need to try to live up to whatever it is I think they want from me. And even though I haven’t won the lottery, and I’m not independently wealthy, when financial challenges come up, I don’t stress as much. I know that things will be okayAll things are possible. I just know.

Knowing that things will be okay comes from the realization that “God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” That’s it, plain and simple. God is at work, and I am not trying to run His show. Admittedly, there are times that I still try to take over…ok, there are still a lot of times that I try to take over, but when I am able to let go and hand it over to God, amazing things happen.

To the newcomer I say, be patient with your recovery. Believe that the Promises do come true. To the old-timers I say, thank you for helping me to believe.