The theme of my AA home group meeting is “Adventures in Sobriety”. Initially, i was kind of uncomfortable with this topic because i was afraid the meetings would only remind me of how my once adventurous drinking life had devolved into a tepid pool of boredom.
Speaking at the meeting the other night, however, i realized this is a pile of Schlitz. i did not have many adventures when i was drinking, i had drama. Getting in a drunk driving accident, receiving an eviction notice and attempting suicide are not adventures to be relished, they are enormous screw ups in my rearview mirror that are getting smaller all the time. Good riddance!
On the other hand, exploring my city, writing daily, trying things i’ve never done before (cooking, education, journalism…), remembering my vacations… these are the true adventures of my life, and they’ve only just begun.
Then it hit me: I can never have another drink for the rest of my life. What a depressing thought.
The other day in a meeting, a newcomer shared that sentiment. Anyone who’s been in recovery for any amount of time can certainly appreciate that moment when the realization hits you like a truck: You can never have a sip of alcohol again. Ever.
The panic associated with that thought is so prevalent, it is no doubt one of the inspirations for the famous saying, “One Day At A Time.” The expression cautions the alcoholic: Don’t worry about not drinking for the rest of your life, just worry about not drinking today.
Three years into sobriety, i had a different reaction this time when the speaker said, “Shit! I can never have another drink for the rest of my life!?”
My first thought? “I should be so lucky.” Quickly followed by, “God willing.”
The idea that the sadness i’d made of my life as an alcoholic was over forever, put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. That the debilitating pain i felt in my bones and spread to others in my life has been eradicated as long as i don’t pick up, reassured me. The concept that i can never have another drink for the rest of my life filled me with hope.
i’ve stopped drinking–not for good, but for better.
Don’t let life AA gives you, take you away from your AA life.
This expression could just as well be, “Don’t let the life recovery gives you take you away from your recovery life.”
i’ve been guilty of this of late, cutting my meetings down to 1 a week when i used to hit 4, reading the Big Book less, not talking to my sponsor… The biggest reason is i have 6 blogs under 3 personae and i love each of them too much to stop.
How do i do it? Thanks to sobriety, i have so much more physical and creative energy. The ideas come on their own and the desire and willingness to sit down and craft them hasn’t come this easily in decades. The only thing i don’t have more of is time!
Thankfully, AA has also taught me to recognize the symptoms of my disease, and i know that i’ve been waking up a little less serene lately and finding myself more impatient in the last few days because i haven’t been going to enough meetings. Thank my Higher Power, these symptoms are easy to cure and i’ve started resuming my regular meeting schedule this week.
As for my blogs? Yes, i know i have to let at least one of them die so i can give more attention to the rest, so i’m leaving it up to my HP and to my life to decide, because i can’t!
Be careful that the good life sobriety brings doesn’t take you away from the sobriety that delivers it!
Overheard in the an AA meeting tonight:
When I was drinking, I had a lot of adventures only I wasn’t there to enjoy them.
What cracked me up was that no one in the room batted an eye. That phrase made perfect sense to everyone there.
Now, try saying that exact same sentence to someone who is not an alcoholic. Walk up to a friend / coworker and tell them, “I had quite an adventure last night but I wasn’t there to enjoy it.” I bet their reaction will be a little more surprised.
One of the many things I love about us drunks—and one of the reasons the program works so well for me—is how we automatically ‘get’ each other because we’re all turning the same page.
EDIT: After a comment received from a lovely reader who goes by an intriguing moniker, i’ve noticed the following post is unusually depressing, especially for me. Before you read on, i’d like to go record as saying that i’ve beensober for 3+ years now, and have re-found a natural optimism i’d lost in the bottle. Every day i wake up sober is a great day and each day is better than the previous. One of the reasons i’ve been able to stay sober so easily is that my life has become immeasurably better, and my drunken past looks horrible in comparison. Stay with it, it’s worth it! Now, i return you to your regularly scheduled depressing post…
Heard in the rooms
If I drink, guaranteed I will be unhappy.
If I don’t drink, maybe I won’t be unhappy.
It’s not a lot, but it’s the only choice we’ve got.
Choose wisely, one day at a time.
And when i say ‘Relapse’, i don’t mean mine but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s. He forgot that we cannot drink from the same river twice.
TMZ reported that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s swan dive into addiction started with a slip: a sip of alcohol. He had been clean for 23 years, and then had a drink at a wrap party and the rest, unfortunately, is history.
i have met people in AA who had decades of sobriety and watched it all slip away when they forgot they couldn’t even have one drink. Their horror stories of what it was like when they “went out” are one of the things that helps keep me sober.
Before i got sober, i wallowed in my alcoholism, wore it like a puke stain, felt proud about how i could binge with regularity and still balance home and work (here’s the secret: i couldn’t).
Five years ago, i was so cavalier about my drinking i started the other website (Diarrhea of a Chronicle Drinker), elected myself Functional Alcoholic Slurperson, established D.R.I.N.K.E.R. (Drunks Really Involved Now Known as Exiles Reunited), and founded the Bar None.
In recovery, one of the first best truths i learned was when a fellow AAer said, “I can never be cavalier about my drinking again.” i knew exactly what she meant as soon as she said it. i can choose to lose my sobriety whenever i want, but i cannot go back to the place i was before. i know too much, now.
Picking up the drink again would mean drinking with a vengeance and in a few weeks or months, i would be at the same place it took me thirty years to arrive at the first time. But the destination would be the same, except my life might not be saved.
Understanding that, and knowing the other option is happiness in recovery, make it easier for me to choose ‘sobriety’ each time.
Remember not to forget.
i had my infamous last drink on January 11, 2011. Today i went to the big AA meeting here in Yeaman and picked up my 3-year chip.
This is what i said.
i could have stayed sober for three years without you and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. But my sobriety and my life would not be as rich, valuable and worthwhile as it is today if it hadn’t been for you. Thank you for making of me someone worthwhile.
That goes for everyone reading this post as well. Thank you all for making me someone worthwhile.
i had my big share earlier this evening…and rocked it like a boss! Thanks to you guys! i thought about your encouragement, support and concrete advice (breathing, look at at least three people, speak slowly, pray…) and the effect it had on me was immeasurable. Yes, my voice quaked a little, especially when i touched on my suicide attempt, but i don’t think anyone really noticed. The nice part was i made a lot of jokes–even better, people actually laughed! Go figure.
Here’s an edited version of what i had to say, if you’re interested.
Sooooooooo, this is stressful…
Before, when i was confronted with situations like this, i had a little trick. i called it vodka. Unfortunately, that was the only trick i had. i was a one-trick pony.
When i was sad: booze. Nervous: booze. Stressed: booze. Afraid: booze. Happy: booze. Bored: booze. When i felt nothing: booze. i only had one tool in my kit: booze. That’s insane! One tool!
AA’s second step says we believe a Higher Power will restore us to sanity, and i was so totally insane that i needed restoration. How insane was i? i was trying to restore myself–with only one tool! Do you realize how difficult it is to build something with your life or make something of yourself when all you have is one tool? Especially when that one tool usually was a screwdriver!
Here’s another thing that shows how insane i was. i drank for 30 years. 30 years. i drank for 30 years despite the fact my life was constantly getting worse. A normal person would say, “Wait, this is hurting me, I’ll stop it.” Not me, because i was insane.
Another thing. i drank for 30 years and i didn’t even like the taste of alcohol! i hated beer and wine but drank it all the time. i only drank hard liquor if i could mix it with something that would cover the taste! There must be some food you don’t like, right? Do you eat it? Of course not, you don’t like it so why would you eat it? But me, i drank for 30 years even though i didn’t like what i was drinking.
Of course i had a reason to drink, though. i was looking for something. i was looking for love, friendship, romance, courage, strength at the bottom of a bottle. Here’s how insane that was: i spent 30 years looking for things in the one place i knew they weren’t! Because i’d looked there before and not found them, not really, and yet i kept looking there even if i knew i’d find nothing!
Imagine you’re looking for a key. You check your pocket and find it’s empty and that there’s a hole in it. Do you check it again, right after? No, of course not, you know they key isn’t there. Do you check five times, ten times, 1000 times? Do you keep checking over and over again in the same pocket for 30 years? Of course not! That would be insane. All you’d touch is that same emptiness and the only thing you’d feel is that hole getting bigger and bigger, and that’s what happened to me.
Now, in recovery, i’m still insane. But. i lost that one tool i had and replaced it with a full set of better tools and i keep adding to the toolbox all the time. Also, i recognize the thoughts that are insane and i use my tools to fix them. With time, those thoughts are coming less frequently and with less strength, so maybe there will be a time when they all but disappear. But that’s for another day. Right now, i’m happy to be here with you and i thank you for your support in keeping me sane.
Thanks again, everyone who commented and sent me moral support! It was a truly beautiful gift and helped me so much. You guys are the greatest!
i’ve been asked to be the feature speaker at the largest English speaking meeting here in Yeaman, which is the kind of big you see in movies set in Queens. i’m looking forward to it in the same way you look forward to having a kidney stone removed if you have to do it yourself.
So why? i don’t have to do it–the person who asked said many people outright refuse because it is a little daunting–but i thought i’d go for it because
- i believe in service to Alcoholics Anonymous and don’t feel i have the right to say ‘No’. When i think about all the program has done for me, i need to be looking for more ways to give back.
- i’m feeling braver about speaking. i’m still sure my voice will crack and i’ll turn all red, but my sponsor and i have been working on this thing where i share at every meeting i attend for the express purpose of getting over my shyness, and it’s working.
- Something i saw on Facebook: Everything you want is on the other side of fear. i need to learn to be brave.
- Something i thought of myself: Instead of looking for ways to get out of tasks, i need to be looking for ways to get into them.
- Something else i thought of myself: That which doesn’t kill me makes me more sober.
Wish me luck!