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’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.
Overheard in the rooms – in prison:
I’m gonna try that God thing, because I’m just done making decisions on my own. It’s like I have 2 companies in my head – one that manufactures BS and another that buys it.
This was overheard by a woman in recovery who volunteers in a prison ministry as part of her Step 12.
[Thank you Miss Anne Thrope for sharing this with me.]
Religion is for people who’re afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.
-Vine Deloria, Jr
This quote is by Native American Vine Deloria, Jr and parallels my thoughts exactly concerning the difference between God and a Higher Power. This is not to say that God cannot be a Higher Power, it’s more to the point that we in AA don’t have to choose a classic conception of God to get better. We are free to find our own Higher Power outside of organized religion if we like. I’ve defined my own God, and my God giggles.
i wrote a manual to teach foreign Business Types how to make presentations in English. The compliment i hear most about it is that it’s very practical, that the student can easily apply it to their business life. My point is, i hate writing a post like i did a couple days ago where i just say something like “Give up your problems to God” without concrete, practical tips on how to do that.
To remedy that, here are a couple suggestions on how to “Let Go – Let God”.
1. Repeat “I gave that up to God” Until the Thoughts Stop
This is the mental equivalent of plugging your ears and going “nah nah nah nah nah nah” to drown out someone else’s talking. It’s childish, but it works.
This was the first tool i learned when i entered recovery. My sponsor told me that the basic tenet of sobriety is the simple sentence, “I don’t drink no matter what.” Whenever i caught thoughts about drinking creeping into my mind, i learned to squash them with the mantra, “I don’t drink no matter what.”
Now, the instant i find myself lost in my thoughts of fear, insecurity or worry, i tell myself “I gave that up to God.” As soon as a stress resurfaces, “I gave that up to God.” The moment I — “I give that up to God.”
Find a phrase of your own and use it whenever negative thoughts sneak in…it works!
2. Pack Up Your Worries
i started creating my own mental exercises. My latest one is to imagine myself packing all my concerns about the neighbor, plumbing, internet… into tiny (because they’re such little problems) boxes that i then label and load onto a hot air balloon with “For God” written in huge letters on the side. When the balloon’s basket is full of all my worries, i cut the tether and release the balloon which floats up higher and higher, out of my reach and then out of my sight, until it reaches its creditor (because i give my Higher Power a lot of credit).
Play a part in your sobriety! Be an active non-alcoholic.
i got the message. You can stop now.
Al K Hall
PS Let’s do lunch some time.
Here’s my BIG problem. The third time the plumber came he found the leak. He fixed it, left, and… The fourth time the plumber came was the charm.
Two nights ago i found a different leak in a different place from a different source. My Higher Power has a sick sense of humor.
The same two nights ago, the Devil sent her daughter to come upstairs and complain about my son’s practicing guitar at 9:30pm. My plumbing problems are on their way out, so i’ve decided to obsess over the insane woman who lives below me. To make this my BIG problem.
i always have a BIG problem. i used to think it was the problems’ fault, but now i realize it’s my fault. Instinctively, i scan my problems and elect one lucky one to become my BIG problem.
Listening to shares at an AA Meeting last night, everything fell in to place (Thank you, Universe, for guiding me to that meeting). i remembered what i’m forgetting: to let go. To give these problems up to my Higher Power when i have no control over them.
So, i’m giving up. i’m giving up my problems to my Higher Power, giving up the stress, the worry, the obsession to the Universe and i’m going to let the Universe worry about it–or not–if it wants but it doesn’t matter to me because it is not my problem any more. i’ve given them up and given up on them.
Hear that, Universe?
For those of us in AA: This is all 3rd Step stuff.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
The good news for us lucky alcoholics in recovery is that “Our Lives” include “Our Problems”. We get to give away all our concerns until the only worry we have left is how to stop worrying over nothing.
Day 2 1/2 of my vacation and so far things are going really well. i ‘m staying with college friend of mine for a couple of days before i head up to my folks’ place in the outskirts of middle of nowhere wilderness.
Remember that one time how i said coincidence is the language of God? Well, my buddy lives in a small town, population 3,854 souls, and on the only full day i was in town, they had an AA meeting. In a church three blocks down on the street he lives on. It took me 5 minutes to walk there.
i got the message.
Fair warning, i’m working on Step 6 in Alcoholics Anonymous and so my next few posts will be about that.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
WTH? Defects of character, moi? What defects of character?
One of the things i like most about AA is that there is a clear, practical program to get better. It’s as easy as connecting the dots.
Here’s a short Step By Step refresher course of how i got here.
In Step 1 of AA’s 12 Steps, i admitted my life had become unmanageable because of my inability to handle my drinking.
In Step 2, i said that i obviously couldn’t control my drinking, so a power outside myself was going to have to. My Sponsor and i decided this “Higher Power” was AA Meetings.
In Step 3, i turned over control of my drinking and life to this power.
In Step 4, i made a list of all the deepest, darkest defects of my character and the actions these defects led me to.
In Step 5, i went over this list with another person (my AA Sponsor).
Now, in Step 6, i’m letting my Higher Power know that i’m ready to give these up to him/her/them/us.
one of the responsibilities of the secretary is to choose the speaker for the meeting. The first guy i asked claimed he’d spoken the day before, but the second guy i asked was really gung-ho about the chance. Maybe too much…
Remember how i was all about how to get in touch with your Higher Power even if you’re an agnostic, and how people in Yeaman are less into the Christian God than many AA groups in the States, and especially how the best way for me to avoid panic attacks and stay sober is to give things up to my Higher Power? Well, my God has one hell of a sense of humor.
The speaker i chose turned out to be a pastor. Coincidence after all my recent posts? Coincidence is the secret language God uses to talk to you. In his share, my guy confessed to being a preacher and started talking about how God saved him from alcoholism, blissfully unaware of the scepticism Yeamen feel about this kind of proselytizing. i was in shock.
Until i understood that this was a pop quiz. Sure, i was good at talking about giving things up, but could i really do it? Could i practice what i preached? Could i give God the stress i felt over choosing a speaker who chose to speak about God? Seems like God is not without a certain sense of irony.
i sat back and relaxed as the preacher rambled on. After he was through, many people shared that they appreciated his point of view, while others expressed their own religious views (one of our regulars is a staunch Buddhist), but i didn’t take it personally.
It wasn’t my problem—it was God’s. Literally, this time.
One of the main tenets of recovery is that the addict is not able to control their own drinking (or gambling, or binging/purging, or drugging, or sex addiction…), otherwise they would control it and there would be no addiction problem. Because we addicts are not able to control this aspect of our lives, we have to give control of that area to someone / thing who can; this entity is often referred to as a Higher Power, or a “power greater than ourselves”.
But what about those people who cannot find their Higher Power?
What follows are my suggestions for those who are struggling with the concept of a Higher Power.
10 Ways for an Agnostic to Find God
- Stop looking
- Listen to the silence
- Create something from nothing
- Write a mental list of at least 3 people you love, and why you love them
- Do a totally anonymous act of kindness
- Decide what you want most, then think about it until your heart hurts
- Hold hands with someone (two people works best, one on each side)
- Talk to someone with less experience than you
- Apologize out loud to someone you love
- Do something that makes you deliciously happy
When you have done all of these ten things, put a face on how you feel (note: it doesn’t have to be a person’s face).
The next time you need God, think of that face.
When you can’t see that face anymore, go back to step 1.