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.

No Addiction without Lies, No Recovery without Honesty

Last week, we went to an AA meeting and because there was a newcomer in the room, the topic was the first step. I love first step meetings. They help keep everything fresh for me. Those of us who have been in recovery for a while need to be reminded where we came from and why we don’t want to go back there. It’s also an opportunity for us to offer our experience, strength, and hope to other alcoholics.

At the meeting, as we all shared our stories of what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now, one of the themes that kept coming up was honesty and how important it is to a successful recovery. We’re told in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that recovery “demands rigorous honesty,” which is a practice that is sorely lacking during active addiction.

Lying is a way of life for most addicts. It was for me. I lied about my drinking to try and minimize its severity. I lied to try and keep up appearances, to avoid rejection, and to tamp down my guilt and shame. But we don’t just lie to others, we also lie to ourselves. For a long time, I lied to myself about my alcoholism and my drunken behavior because it was a reality that was just too painful to face. Lying, just like drinking, was a coping mechanism that I used to be able to deal with my life. At the time, I just didn’t know any other way to cope.

Then, when the pain of drinking got to be worse than the pain of trying to change and get sober, I learned that I had to be rigorously honest if I wanted true recovery. And I did want recovery. However, I didn’t want to be rigorously honest, to myself or anyone else. I knew when I went to treatment for the first time in 2011 that I would have to talk about things that I didn’t want to if I wanted to get better. So, I did share a lot in my group and individual therapy sessions and my 12-step work. But looking back, I wasn’t rigorously honest. I spoke about the things that I wanted to and held back the rest. I was completely honest about the things I chose to share, but by not sharing those darker things, the things that caused the guilt and shame that I would drink over, I was really setting myself up for failure.

And, guess what? I did fail. I relapsed and went back to treatment at the end of 2012. I was finally ready to lay all my cards on the table and be honest about the things that I had still been keeping a secret. I poured everything out to my therapist and got the help that I needed to begin working through it. I think that was the real beginning of recovery for me. It was the time that I was “willing to go to any lengths” to get and stay sober, as the Big Book says.

It isn’t just while getting sober that rigorous honesty is important, it’s important in staying sober as well. It requires that we are honest in all our affairs – and that means things big and small. Lying, even small lies, can keep us trapped in old behaviors. Being truthful, to others and ourselves, helps us stay the path. That means being honest about thoughts and feelings even when it would be easier to lie.

In recovery, I sometimes find myself sidestepping the truth when it comes to talking about how I feel or what’s going on in my head. Especially when it’s something that I don’t even want to think about myself. I’m better about it than I used to be, but I’m definitely still a work in progress. Fortunately, my husband can read me like a book, and he’s good at getting me to talk about things honestly and openly. Being honest and open with him requires me to be honest and open with myself first. And that self-awareness helps keep me from spinning out, which I know can lead me back to drinking.

Without honesty, I know there is no recovery (or maybe only the white-knuckling, dry drunk type of recovery that is in no way fulfilling) for me. It isn’t always easy, but through rigorous honesty, I get to continue progressing in my recovery, and I’m trustworthy enough to help others with theirs. That is what true recovery is, and while rigorous honesty is just one part of it, it’s an important one.

So, the next time you’re about to tell a little white lie, or you’re denying the way you truly feel about something, to yourself or others, stop and think about it first. Consider the consequences. If you’re in recovery yourself, then you know how quickly lies can snowball. Is your little white lie worth the consequences? Is it worth putting your recovery at risk?

It isn’t for me.

I’m so glad that we went to that meeting last week, and that the discussion was about the first step and rigorous honesty. It was a reminder that I need to hear and think about over and over again. I’m going to keep on doing my best to stay self-aware, practice rigorous honesty with myself and others, and keep growing in my recovery.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sober, Not Perfect

ugh2

Have you ever done something that you knew would have negative consequences and then instantly regretted it? Recently, I did that. I used to do that a lot – when I was drinking. Admittedly, the regret usually came later then, not right away. This time though, I wasn’t drinking, I had my wits about me, and I still did it. What’s worse is, I did it out of anger.

Ugh.

We’re not supposed to behave that way once we get sober, right? I mean, I’ve been sober for over three years, I’ve worked the steps many times over, I have a sponsor who I talk to all the time, I do the maintenance steps (10-12) every day…I have really changed the way I live. And yet, I really screwed up and impacted other people’s lives, and I may have lost one of the closest friendships I have.

I’ve been doing a bit of wallowing about this whole thing for the last few days, self-loathing and self-pity joining me in the mire. It hasn’t really been a very good time, and I’ve been wondering what I should do. The thing is, I know what to do. It’s just hard doing it. I have to make amends, sooner rather than later. I will. It may not save the friendship that I cherish so much, but I have to clean up my side of the street.

This whole situation has taught me a few things – or maybe it’s just reminded me of a few things. One, reacting out of anger is not the way to go. Often times, my first inclination is to lash out when I’m hurt or scared. Over the years though, and through working the program, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t act on my first inclination. It’s that “first thought wrong,” thing that I’ve learned in AA. The second thing is that even though I am sober, with a good program and lots of support and wisdom from those around me, I am still going to screw up sometimes. I’m human, and that’s what humans do. Which brings me to the third thing: what I do now is what matters. Taking responsibility and trying to repair what I’ve broken is what I have to do. I could leave this whole thing alone, wait for it to fade away into the past, but the guilt I have over it wouldn’t go away, and a place of guilt is a dangerous place for me to hang out in.

So this weekend, I will put on my big girl panties and try to make things right. We’ll see what happens.

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.

 

 

 

 

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