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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expect Less, Accept More

The last week and a half has gone nothing like I had planned. I had meetings scheduled, some training for a group that I am a part of, and a new art class that I am attending. I had plans to be busy, but busy with the things I love to do…the things that feed my soul. My calendar app on my phone was looking pretty full, and I liked it.

Enter the flu (or something very much like it).

My house quickly became an infirmary. My stepson got very sick and missed a whole week of school, somewhere along day 4 or 5 of his coughing, hacking, feverish yuckiness, I got it. So for at least a week and a half, all the plans I had (read: all the expectations I had) were kaput.Expectations

It’s when I start having expectations that I get into trouble. There’s a saying in AA: “an expectation is a premeditated resentment.” It’s so true! When all of my plans had to be changed because we were sick and contagious, I started to get resentful. I knew that it wasn’t anyone’s fault that we were sick and plans had to be changed, but I was irritated, nonetheless. I had plans, dammit! And now things were not turning out like I had expected.

I stayed grumpy and irritated for a couple of days, and then I realized what was happening – sometimes I’m a little bit slow to come around. It wasn’t only the flu that was making me grouchy, it was that things hadn’t gone the way I wanted them to. My expectations were challenged and I didn’t like it.

The only way that I have found to combat having expectations is to do my best to live in acceptance. When things don’t go my way, the faster I accept that they are what they are, the quicker I can let go of my expectations and have some peace. Of course, I know that the real answer is to be mindful and not have expectations in the first place, but alas, I am a work in progress.

So, everyone is well now, and things are back to normal. Meetings were rescheduled, and cancelled plans are set to be made up. In the grand scheme of things, this was just a little bump in the road. The thing to remember is that it is always up to me whether or not I let the little bumps derail me, or just slow me down a little.

 

 

 

Finding My Serenity

I just saw that it has been four months since I have posted here! I can’t believe it. I don’t have any excuses, nor have I decided to stop blogging. I guess life just gets in the way sometimes. It was a busy, but good, holiday season — one of the best that I have had in a long time. It wasn’t until a few weeks after Christmas that I suffered a setback. I had a miscarriage. It was sad and awful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

The good news is that I learned a lot from it, and throughout the whole ordeal (and it was an ordeal) I didn’t want to pick up a drink at all. Not once. What a blessing. When I think back to four years ago, I know that the situation would’ve sent me right back to the bottle, and quickly. I would have maSerenityde an emotionally messy time even messier, and who know where I would’ve ended up. Not this time though. I had lots of support from family and friends, and I am thankful for that. But I think that what helped me most were some of the things I have learned in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Here are some of the things that helped me get through a tough time:

  • Step 2 – Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. Believing that God (my Higher Power) could restore me to sanity during and after my miscarriage was comforting to me. It meant that I didn’t have to try to do it all by myself. The beauty of Step 2 is that we have someone — someone with far more power than we have — in our corner, to support us, and to take care of things that we can’t.
  • Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him. This step is a go-to step for me every single day. It is not always easy to turn my will over to God, I am prone to take it back…repeatedly. When I do actually turn something over to God though, and I let go of it for good, it is like a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I had to practice this with my miscarriage. I knew that God’s will isn’t always going to match mine, and that the sooner I let go of the pain, handing it over to God, I would have some peace about the situation.
  • Acceptance – “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”  This quote from Dr. Paul’s story, Acceptance is the Answer, in the Big Book of AA, is a lifesaver for me. What it says to me is that when I’m upset about something that I cannot change, I have to change my perspective about that thing. When my perspective changes, I am able to move into acceptance…and that brings serenity. I had to accept that my expectation of having a healthy pregnancy that resulted in a healthy baby wasn’t going to happen. Changing my perspective from, “Why is this happening to me?” to “I guess this pregnancy wasn’t meant to happen right now” helped me to deal with the sadness and disappointment.
  • The Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. These three lines that we recite during every AA meeting really kind of say it all. We need to change what we can, accept what we can’t and be able to recognize the difference. If we do that, there is no situation that we can’t make it through — including losing a baby.
  • Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him. I love this step because it is always my goal to strengthen my relationship with God. I pray often, whether things are going well or I am circling the drain, and when I do, I immediately feel closer to God, no matter what outcomes come to pass. When something difficult arises, like my miscarriage, prayer and conscious contact with God comforting to me.

The AA program is so much more than just a way to quit drinking. I have been sober for over 3 years now, and the meaning and the application of the steps and suggestions of AA continue to evolve as I do. It’s a program that not only saved my life, but taught me how to live it — and how to find my serenity.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes You Need a Full Stop

unplug

This time of year always seems to get me down. And 2015 isn’t proving to be any different. This time it started a little bit early, September instead of October, and it has lasted longer. Despite all of the good things that are happening in my life, I have been depressed and anxious, with some PTSD junk thrown in – just for some added fun. The funny thing is, intellectually, I am grateful and I realize that I really have nothing to be sad or down about. But it’s autumn, and my emotions seem to be winning the battle against my intellect.

In the past, when I have felt like this, I have done one of two things:  I either trudged on, suffering silently, with a smile on my face, until I had some sort of meltdown, or I got drunk. This time, in the interest of avoiding self-destruction, I decided to do things differently. I am choosing honesty, sobriety, and self-care. Imagine that! It sounds so healthy!

It’s really easy for me to say I’m fine, or I’m just peachy, when someone asks me how I am. So easy. Now though, when someone who I know cares about me (not the grocery store clerk or mere acquaintances) asks how I’m doing, I’m being honest. If my anxiety is up, I tell them. If I’m feeling depressed, I say it. And it works! Just getting the truth out of my head and acknowledged by someone else, takes some of the power away from what I’m feeling. I was also honest when I went to see my doctor a couple of weeks ago, which resulted in an adjustment to my medicine. In the past, I don’t think I would’ve done that. I think I would’ve opted to believe that the problem was with me, and that I had to figure out how to navigate it without any help.

Surprisingly, and oh so thankfully, my sobriety hasn’t been challenged at all this time. I am coming up on three years sober, and I am so grateful that I haven’t felt like drinking would make things better. It’s a miracle if you ask me! Knowing that I can make it through tough times without drinking is truly a blessing that comes from God. It’s grace, pure and simple.

The biggest part of me getting through this period of depression and anxiety is self-care.  This is something that I am still learning to do in recovery, but I recognized this time that it is essential. There are times that I need a full stop from outside stressors, and this is one of them. The difference is that in the past, I would never have admitted stop-sign-2that I needed it. I would’ve carried on, hoping the negative feelings would pass. What I did this time is take a month off of my job to work on myself. A leave of absence to take care of my mental health! I’m over a week in, and I still can’t believe that I put my well-being ahead of my job. This is huge!  My husband, my sponsor, and several friends have commented on how big of a change this is for me, and how great it is that I am doing this for myself. I was undecided about it for the first few days, but I realize now that they’re right. It’s what I need right now, and it is already helping me.

So, I am spending my time doing the things that feed my soul, and take care of my mind. I’m reading, writing, taking walks, talking to friends, baking, crafting, and napping. I’m listening to my body and my brain, and doing what I need to keep them healthy and sane. And you know what? It feels good!

I know that this cycle of depression will pass, it always has in the past. The difference this time is I’m doing what I can to help it go away. Honesty, sobriety, and self-care…and, just for now, a full stop.

 

 

Words To Live By

 

I recently read an article from Psychology Today that talks about why we should all have a personal motto; something we say to ourselves that brings us comfort when things aren’t going well, or motivates us to reach a goal, or helps us establish a new habit. The article focuses on using a motto to change behaviors, but it got me to thinking about the importance of how we talk to ourselves. Before I got sober and learned a new way to live, the way I spoke to myself was a lot different from the way I do now.

In the past, my personal mottoes were all about hiding emotions, keeping up appearances, and not letting anyone see the real me. I can’t tell you the number of times I said to myself, “Get it together, DeLoe,” or, “Suck it up,” when my real emotions started to bubble up. It was all about pushing things back down and not feeling the negative emotions. Another personal motto of mine growing up came straight from my mom, “Act right.” This wasn’t meant in the same sense that the AA saying, “Do the next right thing,” is. It wasn’t about taking the next right step, or acting your way to a heart change. Its underlying meaning was whatever you do, however you feel, if it’s negative, don’t show it; just act right, and no one will know. Ugh. It’s no wonder I drank.

Now, I talk to myself differently. I allow myself to feel my emotions, and I express them. Sometimes it isn’t easy though, and old habits and methods of dealing with things pop up. When I start to hear the old sayings in my head, I combat them with new, true sayings. Here are a few that work for me:

This Too Shall Pass.  I remember the first time I heard this was in 7th grade English
class. I don’t remember the context in which my teacher said it, but I remember
thinking that those four short words provided such comfort. At the time, I was filled with that middle-school angst, worrying about things that I had no control over (yes, I did that even then), and wondering if I would always feel so messed up. The truth is, I did feel messed up for a long time, but I tried to remember that “this too shall pass,” and it did help. These days, whenever I face something that is hard to deal with, I say those same words to myself, only now, with three more decades of life experience, I know that they are true.

 
I’m a Real Girl, With Real Feelings. I have to credit my husband for this saying. When we were first dating, I would apologize whenever some uncomfortable feeling came up that I thought I had to hide or stuff back down so that he wouldn’t see it. Austin would tell me that I needn’t apologize, that I was a real girl, with real feelings. Wow. This was a revelation for me, because I had lived my life trying to keep any uncomfortable, or negative, emotion from showing outwardly. I thought that in order to be accepted, I had to appear to have it all together. I was wrong. Now I know that true acceptance only comes when I allow others to see the real me, feelings and all. From time to time, I still have to remind myself, or Austin does it for me, that I am a real girl, with real feelings.

I’ve made it through worse. Sometimes, when situations seem desperate, and I am feeling like I can’t take one more thing happening, I have to remind myself that I have made it through far worse. I have been raped, beaten, arrested, fired, divorced, and estranged from family. I have blacked out drinking and fought, wrecked cars, passed out in the dirt behind a dumpster, and been to rehab twice. I have suffered through PTSD related flashbacks, nightmares, and fear. I have been to the psych ward and to jail and thought my life was over. But you know what? Every single time, by the grace of God, I have survived. So today, when some obstacle or challenge comes up, if I remind myself that I have made it through worse, I am comforted, and I can persevere.

Everything is okay, right now. Staying present, not dwelling in the past or worrying about what is to come is huge for me. I slip into guilt and fear at the drop of a hat, so being mindful isn’t something that comes easy. When I remind myself that I am alright, in this present moment, whatever it is, I can carry on. This is especially important when I am feeling overwhelmed – either with emotion or with daily life. Believing that I am “okay, right now,” allows me to make it through the moment, and move on to the next.

All things work together for good. St. Paul’s comment in Romans 8:28 is something that I often say to myself. When something is going on that I can’t understand at the time, and I am asking myself, “Why me, God?”, I remind  myself of this verse. So many bad things happen in life, and we often can’t comprehend why until much later, when the real reason becomes clear. So, in the moment, I try to remember that there is a reason, God’s reason, and it’s okay if I don’t know what it is right now; something good will come of it, and I’ll understand later.

It is what it is. This saying is, by far, my favorite. As a matter of fact, I even have it tattooed on my wrist. I know that it’s overused and it sounds kind of flippant, but it holds special meaning for me, and I love it. One of the hardest things for me when I got sober was acceptance. I didn’t want to accept my past, I wanted it to be different. I didn’t want to accept that I was an alcoholic, or that I couldn’t stop drinking on my own. I didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t control others, or at least sway them to my way of thinking. I didn’t want to accept that the mess I found myself in was caused by me. So when I say “It is what it is,” it’s all about acceptance. In recovery I had to learn that I have to accept the things I cannot change, and it hasn’t been easy. Having the reminder (right on my wrist!) helps me deal with situations that I have no control over. Some things just are what they are, and they’re not going to change no matter how much I wish they would. It is at those times that I say to myself, “It is what it is.”

Those are a few of my personal mottoes and how they help me. What are some of yours?

 

Good Things Come to Those in Recovery

good-thingsI’ve been neglecting this blog lately. I haven’t written very many posts in the last few months, and I don’t have any legitimate excuses as to why, except that life happens. I’ve been really busy with some new things that have come along, Good things. Really good things that I have been spending quite a bit of time on. The past few months, for whatever reason, have been very good to me. A couple of years ago I wrote a post about wanting to do more of the things that feed my soul. It seems that there has been some sort of shift, and I am now getting to do those things.

There are a list of things that I consider nourishing for my soul: connecting with others, writing, recovery (from alcoholism and mental health issues), sharing my story and hearing other people’s stories, and deepening my relationship with God. There are more, of course, but these are the biggies, and in the last several months, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time doing them.

I’ll share some details:

  • My husband and I moved to a much bigger, nicer house at the end of last April. One of the things that has allowed us to do is entertain more. I’ve been able to connect with others so much more! In June we started what we call “First Sunday Dinner.” On the first Sunday of each month, we invite all of our friends over for a big potluck dinner. We set up extra tables in the living room and our friends come and go and it’s awesome! Sometimes we have more than 25 people, and sometimes we have a smaller group.  Either way, though, it’s fun to visit and laugh and eat, and most importantly, to connect.
  • I’ve been doing more writing (just not here) lately.  I’m doing some freelance copywriting, and earning some extra money. I’ve also been selected to be a blogger on the mental health website, HealthyPlace.com.  I’ll be writing for Trauma! A PTSD Blog on their site. It’s a great resource for anyone suffering from any kind of mental illness, or anyone who has a loved one who suffers from one.  Check it out if you have a chance, my posts will start next week.
  • One thing that I haven’t really blogged about, although if you listened to my story from a post last year I talked a little bit about it, is that I am post-abortive. Up until now, it hasn’t been something that I have been as open about as I am with my alcoholism. There is a lot that happens to a woman when she has an abortion, and the emotional and psychological impact isn’t talked about much. I have been fortunate enough to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat twice in the last few years. It’s a Christian retreat that provides healing and forgiveness for post-abortive women (and men who have had children aborted too). Now, I’ve joined the Rachel’s Vineyard team here in Tucson and I get to help other women whose shoes I have definitely been in. It’s such a blessing!
  • After a long search for a church where my husband and I feel accepted, with good preaching, liturgy we love, and a loving congregation, we found one! We’ve only been going for a short time, but I think this one is the right one for both of us. Thank you, God.
  • I’ve had some success with selling the prayer beads that my husband designed and I make.prayer beads green We started this as a way for people to learn to pray.  Austin chose the scripture that goes with each bead as you work your way around the loop. Making them is something that I love to do, as I feel like I am helping bring people closer to God, and I like being crafty!

It’s been an eventful few months, but I am so happy!  Life is good.  I am going to work on getting back to being more active here on Sober Grace, because my sobriety and recovery still have to come first, before all other things.  I cannot be complacent because it is only by staying sober that I can continue to do all of the wonderful things that feed my soul.

Good for the soul

It’s All About the Maintenance

I’ve been slowly working my steps with my sponsor, and have finally finished this go around.  I had steps 10, 11, and 12 to go, and since this is my umpteenth time through the steps, and I incorporate these 3 steps into everything I do, we worked them all together.  The last three steps are the program’s maintenance steps, how we should try to live our lives every day.  Even though I feel like I practice these steps pretty regularly, I still like to go through them with my sponsor.  She has me do some writing on them, and I always feel a sense of renewal in my program and have new insights that I hadn’t recognized before.

Step 10 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

step 10Step 10 is like a mini fourth step, that you do every day. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable, without procrastination (one of my biggest character defects), so that at night you can go to sleep knowing that you took care of your side of the street in all of your interactions that day. This was really difficult for me when I started out in the program. I had a lot of resentments, and I clung to them tightly. I had what I thought was justified anger, and most of the time, I wasn’t too keen on letting them go. I sometimes recognized my part in them, but even when I did, I was nowhere near “prompt” in my handling of them. Step 10 has helped me to stop avoiding taking responsibility. When I look back at my day, and I see a situation that I could’ve handled better, or I see someone who I owe an amends, I really do try to take care of it right away, and No matter the outcome, I always feel better for doing so.

There are different ways to do this step.  There are daily inventory worksheets you can download, and there are apps for your phone, or you can do what I did in the beginning and call your sponsor every night.  But really it comes down to asking yourself, “how did I do today? Is there anything that I need to make right?”  When you answer those questions honestly, and you take the necessary action, you’re working step 10.

Step 11 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

I love, love, love step 11! Now, that is. When I started out in AA, this step was one of the most daunting for me. I didn’t have any kind of relationship with God, and I didn’t know how I would ever get one. I never pictured myself as someone who prayed; I didn’t think that I could do it.step 11 coin

What I found was that Step 11 wasn’t something that had to be done perfectly from the start. It’s a step that evolves over time, starting as one thing, and growing into another. My prayers started out as simply as, “Help me, God” and “Thank you, God.”  That was all I could muster.  But it worked.  I no longer felt alone, like I had to do it all myself, and I felt grateful. Now, some four plus years later, my prayers and my relationship with God are full and rich. I talk to God all day long, and I thank him for everything, because I know that I couldn’t do this sobriety thing without Him.

Step 12 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

step 12The first time I reached step 12, I realized that it assumes (guarantees, really) that by this time we will have had a spiritual awakening. I wondered, at first, had I had one? What if I hadn’t? Had I done the steps wrong? As I thought about it though, I realized how different things were for me. I wasn’t drinking anymore, I wasn’t creating more wreckage, I was taking responsibility for my past actions and bad behavior, I was improving my conscious contact with God, I was living recovery. If that’s not a spiritual awakening, I don’t know what is!

The latter part of step 12 is about helping others and living all of the steps every day.  I love to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I love spending time with other alcoholics. I try to reach out to people who need help, and who need to hear that there is a better way to live. I feel like it’s my obligation and my privilege to share my story and spread the word of AA.

The last three steps really are all about the maintenance. I know that when I am doing my best to work all three, my life is happy, joyous, and free.  That’s the way I want to be.

it works if you work it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Amends with no Expectations

Step 9 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

step-9-meme

I am still working the steps, even though it may seem like I have stalled at step 9.  I haven’t.  But I am taking my time with it, because it is no easy task.  Step 8 has us make a list of the people who we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.  Step 9 asks us to use that list and to actually go to those people and make amends, unless it would be harmful.  That’s where I am…stuck somewhere between willingness and action.  This isn’t my first time through the steps, so I have done step 9 a few times.  And I continue to practice the maintenance steps (10, 11, 12) on a daily basis, so now when the necessity for an amends comes up, I do it right away…no procrastinating, and life is so much better when I do that.  So the amends list  I am working on now is short, but difficult.  They are the people who have been on my list since the beginning, but they are the ones whom I haven’t been ready to address.  I feel ready now, and my sponsor agrees that it is time, so I am doing it – cleaning up my side of the street, with no expectations of the outcome.  It’s still a scary prospect, but it will be a relief to have it done.

I think that the hardest part of making amends is not having expectations of what the other person’s response will be.  Over the last couple of years, when I have done step 9, I have had people react in different ways.  Some have hugged me, thanked me for talking to them and relationships have been made stronger, some have expressed their own amends to me for whatever their part in it was, some have completely ignored my attempts to take responsibility for my actions, some remained angry.   I have to be ok with whatever the outcome is.  I have to remember that I am not to focus on what the other person says, does, feels.  Step nine is about me taking responsibility for how I harmed someone, and trying to make it right.  Acceptance or rejection on the other person’s part should be none of my concern.  If only it were that easy.

The amends I am working on will all be done by letter, because those left on my list no longer want to speak to me.  My sponsor is going over everything I write and making suggestions and keeping me focused on exactly what it is I need to say.  My inclination is to take on the responsibility for every bad thing that has happened…I blame myself for just about everything.  So it’s extremely helpful to have someone look at what I am feeling and writing and say, “nope, this part isn’t your deal,” or “this sounds a little bit like begging, you don’t have to do that.”  It’s about recognizing my part, verbalizing to the other person that I realize how I harmed them, and doing what I can to make it right (if that is even a possibility).

9th step promisesWhile I have no idea what, if any, responses I will get to my amends letters, I do know that writing and sending them will bring me relief.  Knowing that I have done the best I can to make things better – staying sober being the biggest thing – is what will lead me to feeling the fulfillment that the 9th Step Promises guarantee.  I know that these promises do come true, I’ve seen it time and time again in the rooms of AA.  Doing a thorough 9th step changes people, it strengthens them in their life and their program.  I want what they have, so I am going to do what they did.  I will let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

 

Let it go, or suffer the consequences

can-t-keep-calm-cause-i-m-so-angryIn my last post I mentioned that my husband lost his job a few weeks back.  I panicked and freaked out and wanted to drink that night…briefly.  The desire to drink was really a fleeting feeling, it came and went and I didn’t act on it, thank God.  The panic and freaking out lasted longer, evidenced by the red eyes and tears that I wore to work for the next couple of days.  Once I calmed down and realized that everything would be ok and that we wouldn’t be destitute, living under a bridge, a different emotion set in.  Anger. Lots of it.

I don’t know if you remember from earlier posts, but my husband and I worked together at a local vocational college.  He was a teacher of general education classes for the Bachelor’s program and I am the registrar.  I was thrilled when he got the job, as we would get to spend more time together, and it was something that I knew he would be good at and enjoy.  And he was, and he did.  The experience he had there was almost all positive, and nearly all of his students loved and admired him.  So it was a shock to find out that because of a few lazy and manipulative students, he was let go from his position.  (I want you to know that even though I am mostly over the anger now, it takes an enormous amount of  restraint to only use the words lazy and manipulative.  My head and heart feel that only much stronger, uglier words, are truly appropriate to describe the students who went on the warpath.)

I was so angry.  I did, at first, have a resentment against my husband, if only for being naive and not getting how the corporate world works.  He has spent the majority of his adult life as a minister, not working in the secular realm, and there is a big difference.  He was simply not prepared for the bureaucracy that is involved in a for-profit college these days.  And so he got canned.  And I was angry at him.  Not for long, though.  I let that anger go quickly, almost without a second thought.  I know my husband’s heart, and I know that for him, this was an extremely unfair decision.  He was as devastated as I was.

The hardest part about this whole thing was that I had to go back to work the next day – at the same place, with the same boss, where my husband had just been treated unjustly.  I need my job, I need health insurance, and I must have a paycheck.  These are the thoughts that kept me going that first day back, but I was so very angry.  I somehow made it through the day, not without tears though.

Now, I have made it through several weeks of work since my husband was let go.  I have kept my head down, nose to the grindstone, and gotten my work done.  I have gone from ignoring coworkers, to crying with coworkers, to acting like everything was completely normal.  But I did all of those things with a huge amount of underlying anger, that I had yet to express.  I was angry at my boss, and her boss, I was angry at the coworkers who said nothing in support of my husband, I was angry at the students who started this whole witch hunt.  It was hard to go to work everyday, and it was hard to care about anything that I was doing there.  And I thought maybe that this was just going to be the new normal.

After a while of that, though, I came to the realization that my anger was not serving me well.  I was grouchy and lazy and I was taking it out on those closest to me.  It wasn’t pretty.  Here’s  the thing though, even knowing all of the things that the program teaches about letting go of resentments, and having worked so hard on forgiveness of others in the past, I couldn’t seem to let it go, it felt like righteous, justified anger.  When you take those feelings with the added feeling that if I were to let it go, I would somehow be betraying my husband, the task of giving up my anger seemed impossible.  I knew intellectually that I was doing myself more harm than good by hanging onto it, but my heart wasn’t aligned with my head yet. I get the whole anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die thing, I get that resentments are the “number one” offender.  I have heard those so many times in the program, and I know that they’re true.  So why was it so hard for me to do what I knew I needed to do? Anger

My nature is to be friendly, talkative, helpful, and caring at work.  It took a lot of energy and negative thinking to keep myself in the state that I was while at work.  I knew that I wasn’t exactly punishing anyone else, their lives went on as usual, even my boss treated me like nothing negative had happened.  I also knew that it would be “easier” for me to go back to the way things were before.  I could feel the talkative, friendly person I usually am trying to get through the surly grouch that I had become.  I had to figure out how to let go of this anger and feel ok with doing so.

In the end, there were two things that helped me through the anger.  One was talking to my husband about what I was feeling.  I told him how I felt like it would be a betrayal against him to let it go.  I admitted to him that I knew that staying angry was taking too much effort and having a negative impact on me.  I was surprised to hear that he really didn’t want me to stat angry, and that he thought that it was best for me to let it go, that he already had!  He would not feel like I wasn’t in his corner just because I could no longer hold the grudges I had been clinging to.  What a relief!  I thought that when I went to work the next day, things would be better…and they were, sort of.  I still felt the anger well up though when I had to deal with my boss, or her boss.  My anger, while lessened, still lingered.

The second thing that helped me happened the next week.  I was approached by the “big boss” (my boss’ boss) for a chat.  He clearly knew that I was angry and unhappy and he took the time to sit down with me and he allowed me to express my feelings about what happened.  Admittedly, the first sit-down wasn’t exactly pleasant and I was still feeling righteous in my anger.  I’m sure he picked up on that.  But he came back, later in the day, and expressed how he felt about me as an employee and friend, and he said that he didn’t want to lose me, but that he would like the old Jami back.  He left it at that.

I didn’t go home feeling light and full of peace and serenity.  I wasn’t sure if I was being manipulated or if the sentiments that he expressed were genuine.  I wanted to believe the latter…I needed to believe that.  I talked again with my husband and he again encouraged me to trust that what I heard was true, and to let go of the anger.  So I made a decision – just like that! – to let it go.  It turns out that it doesn’t really matter what the truth was.  I was headed in the direction of letting it go, and I think that I just needed a little bit more of a push to get past my last shreds of holding on.  This was the nudge I needed.  Work was much more pleasant in the days that followed, I wasn’t the grumpy, clock-watching, sour-puss that I had been, and it felt really good.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that all of those trite, seemingly silly sayings that we hear in AA, are repeated and repeated for a reason.  They are true.  They work.  I just hope that next time something like this happens, I realize that sooner.

Let go

 

Progress, not perfection

Last Wednesday night I wanted to drink. Bad. Really bad.  I didn’t do it, thank God, but for a brief amount of time, I really wanted to.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how well things were going, and how that gave me anxiety.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop…and drop it did. My husband lost his job on Wednesday; the very job that allowed us to move into a nicer, bigger place and get out of our run-down apartment.  This happened 5 days after we moved in.  Five days!  Needless to say, the news on Wednesday put a huge damper on the happiness and fun of organizing and decorating our new home.   The first thing that struck me when he walked in the door when he should’ve been in class teaching was shock.  I didn’t know what to say or do or how to act, my mind was spinning and was full of racing thoughts.  What were we going to do?  How can we afford this house?  Are we going to have to break our lease and move somewhere cheap enough for my salary to afford?  Will it be worse than the last place we lived?  What did my husband do or say at work that changed things from the day before when all was well?  Why is everything falling apart after things have been going so well?  Where is God in all of this?  Why am I being punished?

The thoughts and questions filled my mind….and then, there it was….the thought that I hadn’t had in so long…

I want to drink to make all of this go away.  It worked in the past…it could work again.  The thought both intrigued and scared the hell out of me.

My husband had done a really smart thing.  On his way home from being canned, he called my sponsor.  She got to my house about five minutes before my husband and said something about being in the neighborhood.  I am so glad that she was there when he broke the news to me.  Not because I was really going to drink, I don’t think I was, but because she was there to help me remember all of the reasons that I don’t drink anymore.  Her very presence helped me, as they say in AA, play the tape through to the end. She didn’t have to say anything about it, I was already considering the consequences.  I could toss my two plus years of sobriety down the tubes and go get shit faced, but what would that accomplish?  The job loss would still be there when if I sobered up.  Knowing myself, it would likely end with jail or death, and even if it didn’t that night, I know that those things are just around the corner, because once I start drinking, I can’t stop.  Once the first taste of alcohol hits my lips, I lose the ability to choose what happens next.  It’s a crapshoot, and when it comes right down to it, I don’t want to take the chance.  Even though I knew that I wasn’t going to go buy booze, the fact that in a crisis that was my first thought, was terrifying.  I actively work my program, I talk to my sponsor often, I read and write about recovery, and here I was feeling like I might be back at square one.

As I have thought about it these last few days, though, I’ve realized a couple of things.  First of all, I am not back at square one.  The fact is, I didn’t drink.  I was in a moment of crisis, and I took the time to consider what would happen if I did.  That, clearly, is not square one.  Square one is me avoiding, denying, shutting down, and drowning out my feelings (or at least trying to) with gallons of booze.  Square one is me not caring about anything except changing the way I feel, by any means necessary.  No, this was not square one.  This is an alcoholic, recovery and all, having alcoholic thoughts.  There’s a saying in AA that goes like this:  Birds fly, fish swim, and alcoholics drink.  It’s so true!  And that was my second realization, no matter how far I get from my last drink, I will always be an alcoholic.  I may make progress – I have – and I may be firmly planted in the recovery community, but I will always be an alcoholic.  This is why they say that alcohol is cunning, baffling and powerful…it waits…for a weak moment, for a lapse in judgement, for your husband to lose a job.   It will always be there, so I must always be diligent.

I don’t know if you can tell by my little rant, but I was really upset and scared about my reaction to the situation.  I’ve calmed down now though, and the crisis has been downgraded to an inconvenience.  Within 24 hours of losing his job, my husband secured another one.  The pay isn’t quite as good, but it’s somewhere that he worked before and was loved and appreciated, and he is happy to go back.  He doesn’t start for a few weeks, but we’ll muddle through, and things will be alright.  In the last couple of days, we have returned to our normal, mostly happy, somewhat silly selves and have enjoyed working on setting up and unpacking our new house.  My thoughts have shifted from despair to hope, and from fear to taking action.  We are both amazed at our resiliency and how quickly we have recovered from this setback, in the past I would’ve been a big blubbery mess for a long time.   I have a renewed sense of dedication to the program of AA.  It works for me.  It gives me the life I have today.  I am rededicating myself to the program.  And why wouldn’t I?  It not only saved me two and a half years ago, it saved me again last week.

Crisis