October 14, 2015

AA Step Twelve: Having Had a Spiritual Awakening

 AA Step 12 - 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. -from AA Twelve and Twelve, Step Twelve.

The spiritual awaking that happens as a result of completing the steps is not always bluntly visible. It definitely was not a light bulb moment for me. It was very gradual. Especially since I still did not have a defined spirituality, how then was I supposed to have a spiritual awakening?

Well, that's the thing; everyone has a different type of "spiritual awakening," and for me it ended up feeling like I  was slowly finding myself and becoming a new person! I also noticed these strange moments when I would have moments that I felt like I have just done something that I would not normally do. For instance, I was a bit rude to my coworker the other day, and half hour later I went and apologized - that's not me I thought, where did that come from?! My old self would have grown a huge resentment, and probably carried some passive aggressive behavior for days. But I felt bad and out of wack and really uncomfortable, so I decided to apologize, and then I felt better - that to me are signs of my spiritual awakening.

To read the entire step 12, click HERE.

September 10, 2015

Happy Sober Friday!

Early recovery often means giving up going out to bars and clubs, or any drinking events. This my make you feel jealous and alone as it seems that everyone in the world is partying especially on Friday nights!

Back in the day, I loved happy hour any day of the week. Of course, Fridays were the best because I could really get drink and no one would care, because that was just expected on a Friday! So I was always ready for any celebration - first one at the bar and ready to order shots! I never needed an invitation because every day was a party for me… well until it stopped being fun…

I currently work downtown in Washington, DC, where every street is filled with bars, restaurants, and clubs. On a Friday night, especially, they fill up quickly with people celebrating the end of the workweek. As I walk by them on the way to the train station, I can smell the wine and beer in the air. I can hear the chatter and laughter of super happy people, and for a moment there, I am swept away into my own fantasy and all I can remember is the "exciting fun" that I am now missing!

You too may find yourself reminiscing about the good old days, when drinking was fun!

Nevertheless, remember that was probably some time ago and drinking is no longer fun for you either. So when the drinking pangs hit, remember your reality!

I know my reality all too well, because in the end my drinking was completely out of control and there was nothing fun about it:
  • I did not go to bars or clubs; I drank alone, in my house, with the curtains closed shut.
  • I did not have just one glass of wine; I had bottles, boxes and even more than I had ever imagined was even possible to hold in my body.
  • I did not lose jobs because my bosses were assholes; I lost jobs because I was unreliable, called out sick, or quit showing up.
  • I was not alone because I liked it; I was alone because I had alienated everyone and alcohol was my only friend!
  • I was not a happy-go-lucky party girl; I was a fall-of-the-bar-stool, flat-on-the-floor, passing out, blacking out, and creating chaos wherever I went… drunk.
  • I did not fall asleep because I was tired; I blacked out every night because I drank way too much again.
  • I did not take the bus to work to save money; I took it because I gave away my driver’s license after I chose to drive in a black out.
Yep, that is how it really was and I sure do not want it anymore!
Making lists like this quickly puts things in the right perspective and gets me out of the fantasy-land! It is a revelation and a start reminder of how it really was, and a great tool to staying sober!

February 2, 2015

I Can Take a Different Path in Life


I heard this poem for the first time when I spent a week drying-out at the local detox center. A little old man with a deep but soft voice, who was the counselor, read it to us one morning. I don't know why it got stuck in my head that morning, because it was still several years before I got sober, but that was the first time I realized that I can take a different path in life.

From the book: There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk by Portia Nelson

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
Chapter V
I walk down another street.
I love this little poem. I fell into that hole many, many times before I realized that I could just walk down a different street. Instead, I was constantly searching for a way to not fall in the hole. That was my drinking cycle; I desperately wanted to drink without getting totally obliterated, or losing everything, but without actually stopping drinking. I also did not see that I was the problem; I blamed the world for my drinking! - Notice the changed from It isn't my fault. to It is my fault. in the poem. - The realization that it actually was my fault, and that I was the cause, and that I needed to stop drinking, was a definite the turning point for me. Sure, that was tough and really hard to take on, but by placing it on me I was also able to recognize that I could also change it! I finally understood that I didn't have to always figure things out or contemplate all the reasons why and how. I didn't have to battle everything and everyone and I didn't have to find all the solutions to all the problems.All I had to do is stay open-minded enough to see when I just need to walk down a different street.

Can you relate to this poem?

January 26, 2015

Acceptance is the Answer to all My Problems Today

I am going through a difficult time in my life, and I am naturally feeling quite uncomfortable with it all; especially fidgety and uneasy, and with a bit of fear, as I wait for the next thing to pop-up from around the corner. I know that this is part of the process, nevertheless, it feel quite difficult. The unknown of the future of my marriage is sort of hanging out of balance and it makes me feel unsettled. We are in a process of working to fix our issues, or at least learn how to deal with them. If we do not, we will most likely be looking at getting a divorce. So there is lots to deal with. I am questioning everything and my self the most of course. 

I think now, more than ever, I am so very grateful to be sober. I actually cannot imagine going through this if I was still in the midst of active alcoholism. Yes, I had a though about it, once, or twice, and... on the outside, it appears to be away to ease the pain and get a little break from the overload of emotions. But the way I drank, I would have only caused more pain, frustration and unmanageability. Instead I am sober, and I am able to still take care of the kids and the house and of course attend our counseling sessions. I am still here fully engaged and present. This is a true gift!

But this is hard. It's really hard. I struggle. Some days are just crap.  I try to focus on our beautiful kids, and Keep myself busy by painting and redecorating parts of the house - this is my coping technique as of lately. I feel creative and am able to not think of what's going on for a while. But sometimes I feel like what the hell is this all for!

But I am not ready to give up either. 

I also know that things will be easier if I am accepting of my new path and the new challenges that it brings. But acceptance is one of these mysterious things -- how exactly does one accept!? Is it giving up? Is it not caring? Is it being indifferent? And what exactly do I do to accept something? This is so hard for me to grasp, because I am a do-er! I am a planner, and an organizer, and I get things done! But with acceptance, there is no action, what do I do?

So when I find it difficult to accept things, and I am feeling uneasy, I turn to this amazing passage, called "Acceptance Is The Key," which is part of the personal recovery stories that are at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous, Big Book. The author of this piece, was able to beautifully explain this great big mystery of acceptance. Here is an excerpt:

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.

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

For me, serenity began when I learned to distinguish between those things that I could change and those I could not. When I admitted that there were people, places, things, and situations over which I was totally powerless, those things began to lose their power over me. I learned that everyone has the right to make their own mistakes, and learn from them, without my interference, judgment, or assistance!

The key to my serenity is acceptance. But "acceptance" does not mean that I have to like it, condone it, or even ignore it. What it does mean is I am powerless to do anything about it... and I have to accept that fact. Nor does it mean that I have to accept "unacceptable behavior."  Today I have choices. I no longer have to accept abuse in any form. I can choose to walk away, even if it means stepping out into the unknown. I no longer have to fear "change" or the unknown. I can merely accept it as part of the journey.

 I spent years trying to change things in my life over which I was powerless, but did not know it. I threatened, scolded, manipulated, coerced, pleaded, begged, pouted, bribed and generally tried everything I could to make the situation better -- only watch as things always got progressively worse.

I spent so much time trying to change the things I could not change, it never once occurred to me to simply accept them as they were.

Now when things in my life are not going the way I planned them, or downright bad things happen, I can remind myself that whatever is going on is not happening by accident. There's a reason for it and it is not always meant for me to know what that reason is.
That change in attitude has been the key to happiness for me.

***From The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 449 first 3 editions, pg. 417 in the 4th edition.