Sober since April 6, 2006


Monday, January 29, 2007

new difficulty: living sober without desperation

It's easy to go to meetings and do whatever it takes to stay sober when I have a certain amount of desperation motivating me. Staying sober in the beginning was a constant battle that I was terrified to lose.

But now, there is no battle. There are no cravings. The desperation that kept me doing all the right things is gone.

I didn't want to go to a meeting tonight. I'm tired. I didn't go last night or the night before. I was tired then too. Energy was not a factor of influence when I was desperate. Meetings take up increasingly more energy than they used to.

At most meetings in my area, you're expected to arrive with sufficient pretentious fakery to appear as if you're a poster child of AA. At a typical meeting, there are usually anywhere from 50-100 people, and each one of them maniacally insists on hugging me. (I hate it when complete strangers insist on hugging me ... it makes me want to physically harm them.)

They stand around talking while shot up with caffeine, wearing plastic smiles plastered onto their faces, sporting their newest preppy clothes, and pretending to be happy social butterflies -- usually because their sponsor is watching them from across the room.

Well that's good for them, but it makes me uncomfortable. It gives me the impression that I can't be honest there because the whole thing is fake. I don't have the energy to deal with it right now.

I'm grateful that my homegroup is open and honest -- I just wish it met more often than two nights a week. It's okay if I don't arrive freakishly happy. I don't have to be dressed like an Ann Taylor model. I don't have to pretend that everything is okay when it isn't. I don't have to socialize with putridly happy fake people. Instead, I can be real because my homegroup members are real.

In the past, I was willing to put up with things I didn't like because I was desperate to stay sober -- even if it meant playing someone else's game to fit in at a meeting. But now staying sober is normal. Every sober day is no longer a miracle. It's just another normal day. I no longer ask God to keep me sober, because that's not a problem anymore ... but I usually remember to thank Him for it.

I guess this is just some kind of strange transition that I never expected to make. I never thought that my 24/7 daily obsession with alcohol would just go away. Where did it go? Why? It feels strangely unnatural ... as if I've lost my shadow.

Does this mean I can drink now? Sure -- I can drink alcohol almost as safely as I can drink cyanide. Either one will kill me. I'm just baffled as to why the obsession is gone ... and the desperation too. You'd think I'd be happy to get rid of the desperation, but I'm kind of scared not to have it.

Today, I'm especially grateful for ...

  • being 298 days sober
  • the awesome people in my homegroup
  • my family
  • fourth step work
  • having people in my life that I can talk to
  • having a job that worked me 50 hours last week and wants me back earrrrly tomorrow morning
  • text messaging on my cell phone
  • my dog
  • my nice soft bed ... getting sleepy
  • God, because I can fall asleep without worrying about anything

Sunday, January 21, 2007

early adventures in step four

My sponsor had me start working on the 4th step this week. She told me to start by listing all the times that people made me mad or hurt my feelings -- in the typical columnar format presented in the Big Book (their name, what they did, how it affected me) plus the extra column for indicating "my role".

Here's a good tip for anyone starting a 4th step -- I learned this the hard way: I had this bright idea to work on my 4th step during my lunch hour at work. I normally go out to my car over my lunch break, so why not be dedicated and work on my 4th step while I'm out there? Monday went okay. But on Tuesday, man oh man, I got all emotional over one item and didn't want to go back into work! So lesson learned there: no more lunch break 4th step work. Looks like it's best to do this when there is time to chill out afterwards.

Other than that, I'm just having a hard time remembering times that people angered or hurt me. I've always gotten over those things by either blaming myself for causing/contributing or deciding the other person was too sick to realize what they did -- then I'd blame myself for feeling angry or hurt toward a sick person in the first place. That was usually done out of an arrogant victim mentality. I also got over some of them by intentionally blocking them out of memory -- because after only two pages of writing, I'm stumped.

I'm keeping a little notebook with me to jot down anything that comes to mind. They seem to trickle in one at a time during odd moments, like when watching TV at my boyfriend's mom's house after dinner last night. It's not upsetting to remember them -- it's all water under the bridge. But it's strange that I can't remember it all at once.

Today, I'm especially thankful for ...

  • being 290 days sober
  • having a sponsor
  • having stepwork to do
  • having people in the program to talk to
  • a very sweet and generous guy who shares his time with me
  • a family that loves me
  • a dog that lets me cuddle with him when he's sleepy
  • a fixed car that will start in the morning
  • a job to get up for in a few short hours
  • God, because He has all of this mapped out somehow

Thursday, January 18, 2007

looking back ...

Here's the Daily Reflection for 1/18:


"By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression."
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 23

When I was still drinking, I couldn't respond to any of life's situations the way other, more healthy, people could. The smallest incident triggered a state of mind that believed I had to have a drink to numb my feelings. But the numbing did not improve the situation, so I sought further escape in the bottle. Today I must be aware of my alcoholism. I cannot afford to believe that I have gained control of my drinking -- or again I will think I have gained control of my life. Such a feeling of control is fatal to my recovery.

I read that Daily Reflection this morning and it brought back so many memories. I remember when the smallest little upset would trigger desperate desire to drink -- and that need to drink was as real and as urgent as the need to breathe.

If I didn't get my way, I needed a drink. If I felt left out, I needed a drink. If I was stressed out, I needed a drink. If I felt guilty, I needed a drink. If I felt drunk, I needed a drink. If I didn't feel drunk, I needed a drink. If I woke up alive and breathing that morning, I needed a drink.

If no alcohol was around, panic would set in. The desperate panic would grow increasingly worse until I finally took a drink. I simply could not function without alcohol.

Today, I'm grateful that I no longer need a drink. I don't need one for the small stuff OR for the big stuff. I can experience life and all the stuff it throws at me without even thinking of a drink.

What a miracle.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

it's gettin cold!

So last weekend I was riding on a Harley for the first time in beautiful 70-degree weather (that's about 21 degrees C). Beautiful weather! It's been like that all winter long. But tonight it's supposed to get icy and could possibly snow.

It's funny how things can change so quickly. Not only with the weather, but with my attitudes and outlook.

Some days start out great but end messy because I allow people and circumstances to dictate my emotions. Other days feel great -- regardless of what happens. It all depends on spiritual condition.

The hardest thing for me is learning how to "restart" a bad day. I hear people talk about that in meetings all the time as if it's no big deal. "Who wants to be miserable?" they say. Well ... sometimes I do.

Sometimes I feel entitled to misery: I either deserve to feel bad for something I did wrong, or I have a right to be angry for something someone else did wrong. And in certain conditions, I don't want to let go of it. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to be happy or "restart" my day. Then I get trapped in nonsensical determination to stay miserable.

Why? I really don't get it. Most people have a genuine desire to be happy. I don't understand why I experience times in which I seem to have a genuine desire to be miserable. I dunno if that's because I'm a total freak or what.

The past few weeks have been really hard at work. It's difficult to keep perspective. It's difficult to stay positive in an environment that has dramatically turned negative. That's been the bulk of my difficulties lately.

But I'm glad for this program, and especially for one of my favorite slogans -- "Do the next right thing." Regardless of how I feel, I can always keep doing the next right thing. Whether that means calling my sponsor or another alcoholic, saying a prayer, working on a step, helping out at a meeting, praying for someone who hurt me, whatever. I can do that. It's all I can do. It's keeping me sober so far.

Today, I'm especially grateful for ...

  • being 286 days sober
  • the amazing people in this program. God speaks to me through you
  • my awesome family. They have been patient with me
  • my adorable dog. He just wants to play, and play, and play ...
  • my car -- my dad & brother found out it needs a new spark plug. I was afraid the whole car was gonna be scrapped ...
  • my job, which is teaching me more than job-related skills
  • God, because He always provides a "next right thing" for me to do

Monday, January 15, 2007

"take away my difficulties" -- eh?

I did the third step with my sponsor yesterday. (The third step is where we "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.")

So she had me kneel down with her and pray the third step prayer out of the Big Book. I've read that prayer dozens of times before, and I've prayed variations of it every day for the past several months. But for some reason, one part of it bothered me when I prayed it with her. I didn't say anything about it to her at the time. Today, it's been gnawing at me. Yeah, that's what generally happens when I clam up about stuff that bothers me ...

Here's the prayer:

"God, I offer myself to Thee -- to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!"

Well that seems innocent enough. But here's the issue: What's up with the "Take away my difficulties" part? If I have difficulties in my life, it's because I have lessons to learn and/or consequences to face. In the past, I would have wanted to avoid experiencing those difficulties. But now I'm scared to avoid them. The desire to escape or avoid something is huge red flag for me.

I don't want God to take away my difficulties. When life is good, I get comfortable. Comfort is bad. Comfort brews complacency, self-absorption, conceit, and pride. I stop growing spiritually and my ego grows instead. Then "BAM!" Something absolutely devastating happens that rocks my comfortable little world and I'm left desperately looking for something to cling to.

The Big Book 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. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve Thee, Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thoughts which must go with us constantly."

Would I be thinking in that frame of mind if God took away my difficulties? Hell no! I'm only inclined to maintain my spiritual condition when some degree of pain is involved. I'm especially inclined to do so when the pain exceeds my ability to cope.

I really don't know where I'm going with this now. I guess I'm just scared of getting too comfortable. I don't trust myself. Maybe I wasn't ready for the third step after all. Maybe I'm thinking too much. Okay it's time to go to bed!

Today, I'm especially grateful for ...
  • being 284 days sober
  • my sponsor ... she's willing to spend time with me
  • two homegroup chicas celebrating AA anniversaries -- one last week, one today
  • this cool guy who took me on my first motorcycle ride ever (wow, that was fun!)
  • getting to know people in the program
  • my family still loving me
  • my dog still being happy to see me
  • my car still working
  • still having a job, and learning how to have good days during bad days
  • God, because He gives me what I need, and not necessarily what I stupidly want

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"fear of people"

Okay, time to spew some discomfort before it goes nuclear:

It's not that I FEAR people. They just freak me out. I don't mix well.

I would rather watch people from a safe distance than participate with them. It reminds me of how the cameraman must feel on National Geographic. He just films the animals from a distance and never interferes. That's my comfort level when it comes to people. Any more interaction than that makes me uncomfortable.

I find comfort in being excluded. When several people plan to go somewhere to do something social, my first impulse is to pretend not to hear them and to leave quickly without being noticed. That's more comfortable than someone noticing me and awkwardly offering an unplanned invitation that they didn't want to offer in the first place. The idea that perhaps they want me with them makes me feel suspicious. Nobody wants me. They just want something from me. (At least, that's what my stupid alcoholic brain tells me ... but I usually know better than to believe it.)

But I seem to do okay with people if given a structured task. At the meeting tonight, I found myself being a self-appointed "greeter". And I just realized that I subconsciously assumed that role at this meeting every week for the past two months. I guess I did it because 1) I can't stand the chaos of an open social setting, and 2) I'd feel guilty if I sat in a dark corner and just waited for the meeting to start. At least in a greeting setting, I'm limited to saying "hi" and not expected to carry on a conversation.

Conversations scare the hell out of me lately. I'm usually either too tired or too hyper to think clearly. For the past couple of weeks, I've been absolutely braindead. Coordinating a smile and a "Hi" now possesses a level of difficulty similar to rocket science.

And I just love it when my sponsor asks, "How was your day?" And all I can think to reply with is, "Fine. How was yours?" Although I know in the back of my mind that there were a dozen different things I need to talk to her about, but I can't remember any of them. Dammit. Braindead. Again.

I'm tired. And feeling kinda stupid :P

Monday, January 08, 2007

hope started one year ago today

One year ago today, I went to the website of Alcoholics Anonymous in search of hope.

I didn't think it was possible for me to live day to day without drinking. But I knew for certain that I could no longer live my life under the constant influence and obsession of alcohol. I either needed to find a way to live without drinking, or I needed to die.

I was skeptical that AA would be able to help me. After all, it's where the courts send drunk drivers. I knew that I was a real alcoholic, and real alcoholics are hopeless people who either drink themselves to death or die in stupid accidents. So I didn't want to waste my time with AA if it just turned out to be a DUI/DWI correctional class.

AA's website had a link for the "Big Book" online. I read the chapter called "Bill's Story". At first, I didn't identify with Bill very much. I wasn't male, wasn't in the military, wasn't a "professional", was never rich, never married, didn't drink what he drank, etc.

But then I came to this part in his story:

"It was a devastating blow to my pride. I, who had thought so well of myself and my abilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles, was cornered at last. Now I was to plunge into the dark, joining that endless procession of sots who had gone on before ...

"No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master" (Big Book, p. 8).

This was the first time that I ever felt an ounce of hope regarding my alcoholism.

Why? For the first time in my life, I witnessed another human being feeling exactly what I felt -- the hopelessness, the fear, the shame, the humiliation, the desperation, the absolute defeat from alcohol. I came to realize that my problem wasn't so unique -- that even in the midst of my most lonesome grief, I was never alone in my experience of alcoholism.

The following chapters in the Big Book convinced me that my situation was not hopeless after all. I came to believe that I could have my life back.

That was one year ago today.

And today, I'm grateful to have my life back.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

another day, another chip

I got a color upgrade on my AA chip today. Went from yellow to green. I've been continuously sober for nine months.

I felt kind of stupid today when people congratulated me. Let me (try to) explain:

Imagine what it would be like if you had a next door neighbor who compulsively beat his head into his concrete driveway every day, all day, for years. Even after tearful friends and family members begged him to stop, and doctors warned him of the dangers of his behavior, he continued. Then one day he had a spiritual experience and suddenly stopped beating his head into his driveway.

If that was my neighbor, I'd think, "Good grief! The idiot finally stopped!" The thought wouldn't cross my mind to congratulate him. He merely stopped doing something incredibly stupid.

Do you think he deserves to be congratulated after nine months of abstinence from beating his head into his driveway? Is that really so commendable? I don't think so. He simply stopped doing something incredibly stupid ... for nine months. Big deal!

I feel like I've done the same thing with my alcoholism. It's nothing to be congratulated about. I didn't die and I didn't engage in my incredibly stupid compulsive behavior for nine months. And even that wasn't of my own making -- it was by the grace of God and the people in AA.

There's been alot of spiritual and personal growth too, and that is what makes sobriety worthwhile. I'd be in absolute misery without the growth I've experienced in this program and the relationship I'm developing with God and other people.

Still, it feels weird to be congratulated for something I had nothing to do with.

So congratulate God and yourselves. Thanks for helping me to stay sober for another chip.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Went to a step study tonight ... and I'm feeling better. I see many places where I went wrong.

I really set myself up for a dry bender yesterday:

  • I didn't pray.
  • I didn't call my sponsor the day before. (She called me and left a voicemail ... which I didn't care to return).
  • I allowed my emotions to be governed by my circumstances and the actions of other people.
  • I wanted to do things my way.
  • I allowed negative feelings to build -- instead of talking to someone or praying about it.
  • I also didn't take care of myself physically. I slept four hours the night before and forgot to eat all day. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired ...

So yeah, that's basically "asking for it". Endured the emotional hangover today. Cleaned up some wreckage (or tried to anyway). Feeling better.

Today, I'm especially grateful for ...
  • being 271 days dry (semi-sober)
  • the step study meeting tonight
  • the cool guy who showed up at the END of the step study meeting tonight ;)
  • some friends who listened, emailed, and shared their thoughts
  • my dog is still alive. He escaped from the back yard today and nearly wandered to a busy road to get run over.
  • my family still likes me
  • the gears are sticking in my car ... but it still works! Woohoo!
  • I still have a job to wake up for in the morning ... early in the morning ... in six hours ... damn I'm tired!
  • God, because He doesn't leave me alone (even when I think I want Him to)

Monday, January 01, 2007

we CLAIM spiritual progress ...

... but "claiming" spiritual progress and actually making it are two different things.

Things didn't go my way today. My perfect and almighty expectations were not met. Some plans didn't work out the way I thought they should this morning, and my sponsor didn't behave like I thought she should have. Because I know what's best for everything. (I'm being sarcastic here.)

Normally this kind of stuff doesn't bother me. Things can go wrong, people can be unreasonable, and I'll just smile and roll along with it. But today, I feel crippled by it.

We're granted a daily reprieve contingent on our spiritual condition. Mine must not be so good today.

Today, I'm especially grateful for ...

  • being 270 damn days dry (not "sober" today ... just "dry")
  • sharing a fantastic New Year's eve with a great guy
  • having my grandparents over
  • going back to work tomorrow
  • having a Big Book to read (or throw)
  • my car still works
  • my dog still likes me
  • my family still likes me
  • God and all His practical jokes