That is 10 years of not drinking after 35 years of abusing alcohol. I remember coming into AA and hearing people with 10, 20, 30 years of sobriety and feeling overwhelmed with the idea of that much time, of feeling remorse for lost time and feelings of hope that it was possible to live a life without alcohol. I honestly had never thought about it until then. A life without alcohol. It was so ingrained into my life from childhood I never considered the possibility, didn't care to, and I accepted the unconscious choices I was making because unknowingly my life was ruled by alcohol and the false self that it had helped to create rather than the freedom of my true self for which I was created. "It is in self forgetting that one finds" is one of my favorite verses from the St Francis Prayer because it so very succinctly defines the spiritual journey, false self forgetting for finding true self. Alcohol was a part of that false self but once I put the drink down, lo and behold it was still there. Defects of character, defenses, rationalizations, justifications, mistrust, FEAR, insecurity, esteem, I could go on, all part of the human condition with or without alcohol. Alcohol just helped protect me yet also contributed to their manifestation and acted like cement. AA and its 12 Steps helped me to uncover the glimpse of the true self and a path for a spiritual journey that I had no idea I needed and wanted to take until alcohol brought me to my knees and broke me enough to allow the light to shine in and show me a way out. I get why they wanted to originally title the Big Book "A Way Out" because that's what my journey in AA has felt like. So in a way, even though alcohol was my downfall it was also my salvation. I've learned to accept paradoxes.
I'm always happy to still have this blog even though I've been inactive. Journaling was never my strong suit and this was a great way to journal and then to have the feedback as well as other bloggers experiences to carry the message was just so helpful to me. I always reread some of my journal entries to remind myself of what my early recovery was like. This year I wanted to post as well. 10 years. My recovery is still strong though different. I am reminded of what I heard a man named Dennis say early on, "AA is not my whole life but it made my life whole". I know what he means now. I have struggled in the last 5 years with how many meetings Should I be going to, how many women Should I be sponsoring, how many times Should I share...etc. etc. etc. The Shoulds! My therapist always says don't be a Shouldhead! I have learned to be easy. To understand that my recovery now is not going to look like my recovery 5 or 10 years ago. I have found the meetings that work for me. I do not beat myself up if I miss one. I have a new sponsor in this last year after years of having a sponsor in name only. She is helping me to discern my spiritual journey because that is what my recovery looks like now. And if I can give back what was given to me, I am grateful.
I am trying to practice these principles in all my affairs though I often fail. See paragraph 1. I would love to be perfect but that's one of my defects as well. Recently we read Step 6 in the 12 & 12 which in the very first few sentences states that this step takes repeated efforts. But how I handle these defects is much different today than it was 10 years ago or even last year.
I cannot believe almost 4 years has passed since my last blog post. Blogging, writing served me well in my first 3 years of sobriety and it was hard to leave it but I did for a variety of reasons. I left my blog up in the event some newcomer, like I was 7 years ago might find it and find some help. I have come back on occasion to vist some of the bloggers who were so helpful and inspiring to me and for whom I am so grateful. I have reread my own posts, usually around anniversary time or when I am asked to speak to keep what it was like and what happened fresh. So many positive changes have occurred since then and but one thing has not changed, I am still sober.
Let's see, I was wrting my fourth step which was one of the reasons I stopped bloggiing. Now I've been through that process and continue to practice Steps 10, 11 and 12 daily and continue the process of amends. Some of my amends involve writing and that is one of the reasons I am back to the blog. My therapist, who is in recovery herself, ALWAYS reccomends wrting, letters, thought logs, schedules and more..hell, I suggest those same things, yet I've been stuck and I think getting back to the blog platform will help with my own resistance, lossen things up so to speak. In the last month or so I've had this weepy emotional feeling. I mentioned it last month to my therapist and without a hesitation she asked..what's the anniversary. Well, it was just before my 7th. So, like muscle memory, those feelings of desparation that led to surrender were being recalled along with the cumulative feelings of loss surrounding loved ones. And of course whenever we discuss loss, we talk about letter writing, The Five Things from the wonderful book Grieving Mindfully..I'm sorry, I forgive you, thank you, I love you, Good-bye. I feel somewhat sponsorless as my sponsor who helped me with my last 4th step and I parted ways, her journey took her in a direction that I was not willing to follow. I went back to my first sponsor but truly she is more of a friend than sponsor so I guess I am utilizing my therapist as an unofficial sponsor at this point. I love talking to her about living a life in recovery.
What else in 4 years..I enrolled and completed the certificate program for Alcohol and Drug Counseling, left my 12 year career as a paralegal in 2012 and am on my third job since October in the substance abuse field. I love it. I am home. This week I became a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor in my state. The challenge has been keeping my own recovery separate from that of my clients. My current job is working with 2nd DUI offenders so its a little easier to do that now because most of it involves planting seeds for those who do not recognize a problem and encouragement for those who do. In a moment of synchronicity, my application for licensure was accepted this week which was the same week I first made the decision to move forward in this field http://gospodipomiluj.blogspot.com/2010/06/do-what-you-love-love-what-you-do.html. Crazy when that happens! And my therapist as another woman in recovery really helps me keep things in perspective. My meeting life has changed. but I attend at least 1-2 a week. That keeps me a part of. But that part of can sometimes be really uncomfortable for me because another thing I have discovered is that I am truly an introvert and always was. So while I enjoy people, I don't always enjoy socializing and I sometimes struggle with that. Understanding that has helped me so much in being able to say no to certain social activities and distinguishing the difference between what I think I should be doing and what I actually want to do. I don't have to accept every invitation. I think that's why blogging was so helpful to me as it allowed me to engage in meaningful conversation and reflection socially without the socializing. Does that make sense? It's not that I'm not a fun person, I am and people seem to enjoy my company but sometimes I just prefer quietness.
Because 40 hours of my week involve helping others with their issues surrounding substance use I am not actively involved in sponsorship. I keep my 12th step work at the meeting level but that's a topic for another blog post as its one I've struggled with the shoulds. I have one sponsee from before I started working. I had to let another go which was difficult since I had known her since my first year, but I felt was no longer helping her and in fact was more enabling her. She did not take it well. Again a post for another day. I contnue to practice Centering Prayer as meditation but contiue to explore other mindful practices more along a Budhism path. I am comfortable in the unknowing and really enjoy integrating it all into one. I had to give up my meditaion meeting 2 years ago when my work schedule changed but thankfully the meeting was not dependent on my participation and continues and I am now able to go back to it. I really loved meditation in a group setting and especially with a group that has the same primary purpose.
My daughter remains in Germany and is now teaching English in a private preschool. My son graduated college and lives in DC with a great job and girlfriend. My nest is truly empty. I am still married and though we seem to be on different paths we are making it work. There is more, there is so much more but this is my post for today. I have spent more time on it than I anticipated and I am not sure how much blogging I will be doing but it feels good to be writing. Whether I keep it here or take it private I'm not sure but for now, this feels good. May you be free from danger, may you be happy , may you be healthy, may you be free from harm. xo
The past has been swirling around me of late. We spent the weekend celebrating the impending marriage of an old friend of my husband's. I knew these guys when I met my husband when we were in our twenties. I did a lot of damage then. There were many remember whens this weekend and all I could say was that is why I don't drink anymore. Another example of why I shouldn't drink. and on and on. We went on a ride and stopped at this bar...its not really the type of place I ever hung out unless I was already drunk. It was really sad. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we were in this dirty smelly bar with bras and other paraphenalia hanging from the ceiling. And there was a woman there that just so reminded me of myself. The life of the party. With a shot in one hand and a cigarette in another. Looking for love in all the wrong places. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that this is not my life. And grateful that I didn't have to opine on it to our friend who's life it is. I could just stand in my sobriety and drink my seltzer water quietly. But I won't be doing that again. I'll skip the next ride.
I always say that I was in denial about my alcoholism. That because certain things did not happen to me I was able to justify my drinking. As long as I wasn't "there" I must not be an alcoholic. But that isn't the real truth. The real truth is that for at least the last 10 years of my drinking I HAD conceded to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic. I knew it. That's why I lurked around AA websites and online groups. The trouble was I drowned that concession in alcohol and I was completely unwilling to concede it to YOU. Because that might mean I'd have to do something about it. My pride, my ego, my self will made it more important to prove that life was manageable WITH alcohol. I am so grateful that on that first day of sobriety something changed that had nothing to do with me. And that after 2 weeks of bouncing my head against MY way yet again, willingness arrived to make the concession to YOU and go to AA.
I am giving it ALL to God today. Or at least trying to. An old flame has contacted me on facebook. It has me a little freaked. I suppose I could have ignored his friend request but that didn't seem right. It was a relationship that was soaked in alcohol. We were very young. I was hurt and I owe him an amends. Which was my other reaction...oh shit now I know where he is when its time to do that. Maybe now is the time. And of course there is always the thought of what if.....and I cannot go there. So as my sponser says, I don't have to go anywhere. Just stay in today's moment...I don't know why this has happened and nor should I try to explain it or control it. It just is. So I shall allow the universe to flow as it should. I had just written about this guy in my fourth step when BAM! We will be amazed before we are halfway through......
An oldtimer this morning said that at some point you've got to listen to someone. I am very grateful that this happened for me. In spite of myself. It occurred to me that listening is what I have been doing these last three years from the very first day. I read a blog that very first day and I listened. I started writing. And when I got responses to my posts, I listened. You told me to go to AA. And when my online group talked about AA and how it worked, I listened. And I went to my first meeting. And when the wonderful lady from California called me so I could get used to talking to someone on the phone, I listened. I got a sponser that very day. And when my sponser told me to call her every day at 3 and to meet with her once a week, I listened. And we did the steps. And so I continue to listen..I listen to what you tell me to do and what not to do, what works and what doesn't work, and I hear how to stay away from that first drink. And it involves a much richer life than I could have ever imagined and is taking me places that I had long ago left behind. I think this is what the Grace of God must mean...
I went to a party last night for some old neighborhood friends who are moving to Chicago. I haven't seen them in awhile since we moved away and our sons who were elementary and middle school friends drifted apart as kids can sometimes do as they move into high school and college. It was good to see them and a few other parents who showed up. The elementary school our children attended was a very special neighborhood school and there is a certain bond there, even if our kids don't necessarily feel it anymore. And even though I too felt the bond, this was a place that I remember well in terms of hiding my drinking. I can remember many many hungover mornings walking my children to school. I waitressed at night then and would drink every night after my shift until the wee hours. Avoiding talking to the parents on the playground worried that I reeked of the night before. I never did really take a morning drink to quell the feeling. I just suffered through until my next shift, sometimes downing a few beers beforehand just to get to work. I remember calling in "sick" to my stint reading stories to the kids, my parent volunteer shift in the library or field trip chaperone. Or not calling in sick but suffering through and not really enjoying the moment but feeling that constant state of panic, anxiety and fear. Until it would be over and I could go home and have a glass of wine which always turned into more. I tried to do what was right for my kids and I managed in the way a "functioning" alcoholic manages. Getting by for appearances sake. And looking back its hard not to wonder just how well I functioned. Well, I don't wonder, I know what I missed. It makes me sad sometimes. This is me, not shutting the door on it.
Anyway, there were all sorts of people at the party. Parents from the neighborhood, family, old childhood friends, co-workers. And many were drinking up a storm. In the backyard they had this luge thing made out of ice that you see pictured above and they would pour the alcohol of your choice down the luge to your waiting mouth. I would have loved that back in the day, though it was said that the ice sucked up a lot of the alcohol. What was really great about the party for me was that my friends mother is also an alcoholic. I saw her at a few meetings early on, which of course freaked me out the first time...OMG, my cover is blown....and she had given me her number to call. As my program progressed, I never used it and we apparantly attend different meetings as I don't see her too much. Once in awhile from across the room. The first thing she said to me when I arrived at the party was how are you doing? I knew what she meant. It wasn't as the mother of my friend looking for small talk but as a fellow member of AA. Are you sober? And I said I was great. When the luging started and our little group of neighborhood parents started jumping on the bandwagon, she looked at me and said..I won't be doing any luges and I looked at her and said the same thing. It felt great to have that comraderie that only she and I knew about.
So today is Sunday morning..i was going to go kayaking with a church group but they cancelled under threat of rain. It's beautiful so I will go to a meeting...one that I haven't attended in quite some time as it fell to the side as I explored churches and found something there. At the time. Today, I need to hear the Big Book and then I will take my kayak out on our little lake and maybe do some writing out there. Try my hand at making a Cioppino, south beach style. And then WORLD CUP!. I've really enjoyed the games and though USA did not make it I have watched the teams progress. Was hoping Germany could etch it out since my daughter is there now and it would have been a lot of fun for her. As it is, she is consoling her German friends who were in tears and couldn't even watch the consolation game yesterday. Europeans take their soccer..futbol...seriously. I'm going to take my program seriously today..have a good one! xo
So the hard part won't be making this change....this past weekend helped me to affirm that. The hard part will be telling my boss of 10+ years. It's just him and me and it will be like leaving a marriage. I will have to get past the feelings that he cannot survive without me, that he will be angry, all the projections I have. I left a job once just before I got married. I had been managing 3 stores for this small business and wanted to get into something more national since we were moving out of state. When I gave my notice, the store owner, swore at me and threw a book and said this is a fine time! He apologized later but I had been unprepared for that. So now I suppose I'm overpreparing but at least this program tells me that I must stay in the day and today I am NOT leaving my job and won't be for awhile. I have to take classes, perhaps get something part time in the field. I'm just going to let it happen and when the time is right I will know. It's overwhelming sometimes to have that level of Trust. And I don't always but its getting there. My boss loves what he does and has given me a mug..love what you do and do what you love. I will bring that in with me when it is time. I will remind him of our client who has PTSD and how I was more concerned with HER well being than with handling the case. That is what he does, what he loves. Anyway, that is not for now. For now, I will just take the actions as they unfold. Part of the actions is finishing my damn fourth step! My sponser has suggested we set a deadline of September. I think having an end time will help. And I know from my previous fourth step that more will be revealed and that whatever anxiety I am feeling may very well be alleviated. I just have to Trust.
I wish I was going to San Antonio. But alas, I will have to live it vicariously through you bloggers. Have a wonderful experience.
I have struggled with coming back to the blog and write because I think its just that I have so many discoveries of late I don't know how to put them into words. So perhaps I should begin at the beginning..or not really the beginning but the beginning of adult choices. I went to college to be a social worker. I think instinctually I had a desire to be of service to others...idealistically, I wanted to save the world. But because of my alcoholism and its underlying causes and conditions, namely, what I like to call defenses of charachter, a/k/a self...I ran. My beginning of the end of my social work career came during a retreat weekend with a class. The professor had us watch the movie "Ordinary People" to spark discussion. I don't remember too much of that weekend to be honest. I remember falling apart during my share because I couldn't articulate my feelings with respect to the mother, my mother, my family. I drank alot with people I barely knew. I didn't feel safe. I remember going to the professor afterwards but I couldn't ask for help. I needed help but I could only tell him that my Dad was upset resulting in the professor telling me I was immature. I quit my waitressing job. A triangular relationship exploded and I lost my best friend who took off with the boy I liked. And ultimately, though I'm not real clear on the timeline, I dropped out of school. I didn't want to be a social worker anymore. I used to say that I had social worker burnout before even becoming a social worker. Ha Ha. Looking back, I suppose, the program did an excellent job of weeding a very sick person out. And I did know that I wasn't capable of making decisions that could affect people's lives. I had no idea that all these things happen for a reason. I had no idea that I would come full circle to this place again.
I attended a conference this weekend for the non profit organization "To Write Love on Her Arms" I became aware of this suicide prevention group after my friend died. Supporting them seemed a very small way to feel as though I was doing something. I didn't do much. I joined their facebook group. Voted for them to be awarded funds and read their materials. And then they came to town and spontaneously I decided to attend. I've been toying with the idea of going back to school and reentering the human services field, most likely in the field of substance abuse but I have a lot of self doubt. I felt this from the very beginning and my sponser and therapist laughed and said I was right on target. Everyone in recovery wants to become a counsellor. But I think I knew it was a bit more than that. But I waited. They say when you are not sure to do nothing. I have a good job, make decent money and pretty much have job security. But I hate it. So anyway, I've been talking about this for 2 1/2 years. Scoping it out. But staying put. Taking no steps. But I finally did and went to this conference. I went with no expectations but I hoped to learn something that would help explain my friend's death. It didn't really. There is no real explanation. But there is understanding. And that first day, sitting in a room, it was a bar actually, believe it or not, with all these kids..who were going to school or just out of school...I felt exactly at home. The hair on my arms were raised and my emotions were overwhelming because I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And everything in my life had led me to here, my broken family, my broken education, my broken relationships, my broken body, mind and spirit and my friend's suicide. And there is beauty in that brokenness., The beauty of the Truth. Pieces to put togehter. Without the brokenness there would be no pieces. I don't know what I will end up doing. I do know that I'm checking out a certificate program at our local community college. I know that I have choices today that I didn't have when I was all clogged up with alcohol. I know that there are still defenses that are yet to be broken. But I know that when they break...I am not meant to fix them. Because they are beautiful.
"But the first salt wind from the east, the first sight of the lighthouse set boldly on its outer rock, the flash of a gull, the waiting procession of seaward-bound firs on an island, made me feel solid and definate again..."
-Sarah Orne Jewitt
From the Bondage of Self Going Sober: June 11, 2007
To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. --Henri J. M. Nouwen
So Far Away by Stain'd
And So It Continues....
"There were in her at the moment two beings, one drawing deep breaths of freedom and exhilaration, the other gasping for air in a little black prison-house of fears. But gradually the captive's gasps grew fainter, or the other paid less heed to them; the horizon expanded, the air grew stronger, and the free spirit quivered for flight." Edith Wharton