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!
i’ve recently been anxious and stressed out by others acting out in my real virtual world. The situation has left me incredibly tense and feeling less than adequate.
A few years ago, i would have dealt with this using the only tool i had at my disposal: alcohol. Now it’s more daunting because i still feel the same dread but i don’t have the option of drinking over it.
Fortunately, i have more than one tool in my box now, and i’d like to share them with you here in case they might help you, the next time you get a little wound up.
The Serenity Prayer
i stand by this old standby. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change (which means other people’s behavior), the courage to change the things i can (myself), and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Where are you now?
i say this to myself when i catch myself falling down the rabbit hole of my thoughts, because eventually i get so far deep that my ideas start chasing their own tails and i lose my sense of the real world. Asking myself “Where are you right now?” forces me to focus on the real world and my physical place in it.
Once one of my biggest defects of character, now i let myself postpone worrying. When i notice the anxiety ramping up, i tell myself to put off thinking about the situation until tomorrow. This is nice because i’ve noticed time and sleep have a great way of diluting pressure.
The Happy Ending
When the problem ends–and it has to end eventually, it’s just a question of time–the ending will be happy because i won’t have drunk over the stress. i’ll have won, and that feels damn good.
i’d been an alcoholic for over 2 decades before i first heard the expression “Liquid Courage”, but after i did i couldn’t believe i’d never heard it before. Let’s just say i didn’t need subtitles to understand what it meant.
Lately things have been improving concerning that and here’s why.
- i learned early on that i had to give up my life to my Higher Power because when i was driving the bus, i drove it straight to Hell and got lost there. Giving the wheel to my Higher Power means i have nothing to fear because the HP is in charge. (For agnostics, just remember “The future is none of your business“. )
- On my sponsor’s instructions, i share at every AA meeting i go to (3 a week, usually). The more i share in front of a group of people, the less tense i am about it.
- i’m able to recognize the symptoms of fear and when i do i’m getting better at consciously telling myself to chill. Breathing deep is a big help when it comes to this.
The reason i’m going on about this is that i’ve only just learned these lessons and only have made significant progress with them in the last couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, because i think the girl i have a crush on has been avoiding my regular meetings because she had a crush on me too, but when i didn’t make a move she assumed i didn’t feel the same way so she’s given up. Which is sad but not tragic. i keep reminding myself that i can’t lose something i never had, and that sometimes rejection is God’s protection.
Still, i do wish i’d been braver sooner, and hope that the universe has some second chances left in its deep pockets.
i’ve mentioned i’m now in Step 8 [“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”] of the 12 Steps, getting ready for Step 9. Reliving my past errors is harrowing at times—i’ve noticed that when i recall the disasters i’ve created in my life i feel the shame flare up and burn through me like a flash fire—but knowing i’m making amends for them soothes me like a balm and i feel purified when all is said and well-done.
Another beneficial aspect of Steps 8 & 9 is that these are the first steps of the 12 that involve other people. Steps 1-7 are all about working on myself from the inside, while now i need to take this work and focus it outward, on my relation with others.
Let me tell you, this step could not come soon enough.
Like many alcoholics, i imagine, i’m pathologically shy. Alcohol was a way for me to overcome this fear of talking to people and it even worked for a certain time (usually the first bottle of wine). Now, by razing my past, by Cleaning my Slate, i’m removing any need i have to feel inferior, to feel “less than”, in my social interactions. Hopefully, this will help me to me more secure and “right-sized” when i continue my interactions with others.
Years ago, when i was still drinking, on a Friday night much like tonight, my kids and i were in the living room watching TV. Suddenly and without the slightest warning, a loud crashing noise, like a body falling from a hiding place, tumbled out of the bathroom. We all looked at each other, unsure. We were the only people in the apartment.
i ran to the bathroom to find a shelf my father had hung months before over the door was now on the floor. The paint cans it had once held had opened during the fall and vomitted their oily white lacquer all over the blue walls.
i stood there in a daze for the longest time, just staring at the devastation, incapable of understanding. Here was a disaster that was in no way my fault. It was not the result of a binge and i wasn’t even the one who’d placed the shelf. A bad thing happened that i could not have foreseen or prevented no matter what i’d done.
This event crystalized a general apprehension i’d always felt vaguely lurking in the dark places of my mind. Except now i had a word for it. The Shelf of Damocles was the term i assigned to all of the bad things that were waiting to besiege me when i least suspected. i feared the shelf and the omnipresent threat it represented.
Last week, after i noticed i’d stopped waking up suicidal, i also realized the Shelf of Damocles no longer hung over my head. Yes, of course bad things will continue to happen to me for no reason– i have not yet mastered control of the universe (though i haven’t given up trying). But i’m not afraid of bad luck anymore.
Because there is no problem i can have that sobriety cannot solve .
Here in Yeaman, the drinking age is 18. My son turned 18 Friday.
Obviously, this presents some concerns for me. My parents are big drinkers, my mother’s parents were alcoholics and my father’s father was what he called a “skid row bum” (though my paternal grandfather eventually sobered up with AA). If drinking is hereditary, my son is stuck with used, hand-me-down genes.
He had a party at our apartment at lunch time (he lives with me while going to college and doesn’t have class on Friday, as opposed to me, who never has any class 😉 ). He made lunch for 6 of his friends before meeting me later that evening for dinner.
During our meal together we talked about his party and he described his friends and showed me some of the gifts he’d received and we discussed the spaghetti carbonara he’d made. He didn’t mention what they drank until i reminded him that he was now of legal age.
“You know I’ve already had a beer,” he said.
“Yeah, there was that one weekend you ran away to go to a party and came back home drunk. And once, i saw a photo you were tagged in on Facebook. It was a party and i saw cans of beer but i also saw bottles of water and Coke and orange juice so it seemed pretty responsible to me so i didn’t say anything. i trust you.”
“Well, we had a six pack today for lunch. Each of us had a beer.”
“Do you think I’ll be like you?” he asked, and i knew he meant about alcoholism.
“You’re already not. The first time i ever drank alcohol, i couldn’t stop until i was totally drunk. You’ve already proved you can have just a little. Plus, with your school work, you know when you’re in over your head and you ask for help. You already saw what i went through with drinking, so you know what it looks like if you start to have the same problems. If that happens, i’ll be right here to help.”
He seemed relieved after that, and we had a fantastic evening together.
That i’m worried abut my son’s becoming an alcoholic is normal. That he’s worried about it is reassuring.
i love writing this blog because i’m a hell of a lot more eloquent with the written word than i am when i speak. When i talk, i trip over my tongue and get emotional and my voice cracks and i forget to breathe…
Tonight, as i was setting up the coffee for AA, the secretary asked if i would share. i agreed because in AA i always say yes, but i wasn’t looking forward to it. i’m not much of a public speaker and i know the stress i demonstrate detracts from my message.
My share was kind of babbling and rambling but at least i didn’t get too shaky. However, while i was tripping over my own tongue, i stumbled on a truth.
As i was talking about all the challenges that i’m facing at the moment, i heard myself say,
It’s not easy, but i won’t let it get to the bottom of me.
As soon as i said it, i knew what i meant.
In the past, difficulties provided me a perfect platform off which i would throw myself into the depths. No more. Thanks to sobriety, i now have in my core something immoveable that life’s storms cannot move. i may feel rough on the surface, but deep down nothing will get to the bottom of me.
There’s a pithy saying in AA and, like many of our trite expressions, a few words hold a lot of truth.
Meeting Makers Make It
The idea is simple. Those who attend regular meetings are more successful in maintaining their sobriety.
When i started in the program, i hit one meeting a week but then i found a sponsor and he suggested a minimum of four a week. One of the things i learned quickly in AA was to read the Big Book, go to meetings and listen to my sponsor. So i did.
Up until recently i was feeling a little more secure and so i let my rhythm dip back to one a week again. Lately, however, things have gotten a little hairier in my world so i decided i needed to up the dosage. Not to say i’d made a mistake in cutting back, i only recognize the symptoms of fear and anger and self pity and i know where to go to cure them.
Also not to say i’m afraid of relapsing. i feel bad enough as it is and i know alcohol will only make everything worse. i don’t need worse. i’ve had worse and i deserve better.
Hence, 6 meetings a week (despite my reaching a year and a half sober on the 11th of this month). There is a peace in those rooms that i’ve not found anywhere else and i’m grateful that in times like these i know where to go to get shelter from the storm and haven from the hell.