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.
There’s a parable in this one book called the Bible about two brothers. One of them is a good son and helps out his dad and is an all around hard worker, but his brother is a real asshole who only parties and and takes off when he’s still young, leaving his dad and his straight brother to do all the work.
Years later, the party brother decides he’s tired and comes back home and his dad is psyched. He’s all, “Hey, son!” and “It’s so great to have you back!” and all “Here’s half of all my stuff!”
So the other brother, the good one, is like, “WTF, dad!? I was here the whole time and working hard and shit, and you give this asshole who didn’t do anything the same share of your stuff that you gave me!? The hell!?”
Well, here’s “the hell”, in my completely uninformed opinion.
In the rooms the other day, there was a young woman, late twenties, who was talking about how she got sober young, before really hitting a hard bottom. She wondered aloud if she’d gotten in too early.
i got into recovery late in life. At 48 years old. After 30 years of drinking alcoholically. Do i wish i’d gotten sober sooner? Hell yes. Do i think about all the years i only half lived? Do i think about what i could’ve made of myself if i’d sobered up earlier? Do i wonder how rich my life would be at this moment if i’d entered recovery as soon as i knew i had a problem? You bet your ass i do.
My point is this. She has regret-free decades in front of her to make her life something beautiful, something amazing. As for me, i came into the program late, but like that brother who walked the wrong path, i have received all the rewards of sobriety. i have a joy in my life i never knew possible and i carry with me a profound gratitude that these years i have left promise to be happy ones.
Maybe the good brother is wrong to be jealous because, while the siblings may have the same share now, the bad brother sacrificed a lot of treasures in the past that the good son had been enjoying for decades.
It’s never too late to receive those rewards. And the earlier you start collecting them, the sooner you can start enjoying them.
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.
Those who read me regularly know i’m regularly down on myself. Part of it is my self deprecating nature, the rest of it is the rigorous honesty required by Alcoholics Anonymous: what i do not broach, i cannot get past. i cannot overcome what i do not confront. Airing my dirty under-past here is also a way for me to embrace humility and fix my “egomaniac with an inferiority complex” fixation.
But today i’m not here to belittle myself. i’m here as the alcoholic father of two teenage children. i got sober three years ago, when my son was 16 and my daughter was 13. Naturally, i often wonder how much my disease affected them, and if i hurt them with my drinking and if those wounds left scars. Honestly, i worry that seeing their father try to kill himself fucked them up permanently.
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Today, i realized my son spent more than a week preparing a Valentine’s Day for his friend. He set up his room with candles and roses so it would be ready when they came home from the restaurant he went to beforehand to ask them to set up the table with the supplies he’d brought. My daughter saved money for three months (and she can usually hold onto it no longer than a week) so that she could take her friend to Disneyland, paying for the tickets, the train to get there, the meals while they were there and the souvenirs to keep. She texted me a pic of their trip and their obvious happiness was the best Valentine’s Day present i’ve received in recent memory.
My children are not perfect. Like all children, they have many defaults and defects and my drinking maybe caused some and exacerbated others.
But my children know how to love with a selfless love, a deep love, a giggle out loud love and they are not afraid to show it. i’m relieved they’re more resilient than i’d given them credit for, and that they are brimming over with the kind of love that can conquer the world.
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’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.
As a kid, i always felt like i never fit in. While i was often at the center in my circle of friends, i never felt like a part of them, like i was included in them.
Alcohol was the key. Booze was the key that opened the doors to a sense of belonging. Drinking came as a package that included a circle of friends and the courage necessary to talk to them.
As we say in recovery, that worked until it didn’t.
My drinking buddies were my closest friends and, as luck would have it, many of the people i work with are heavy drinkers so i soon felt i was a part of that inner circle i’d always been looking for.
Unfortunately, when i got sober, i found myself once again on the outside.
Oh, they’ll never tell me i’m not welcome and at the beginning of my sobriety i was invited to a few events and i declined to go because i didn’t feel like being surrounded by alcohol and my friends will tell you how proud they are of me and how much better off i seem. Now, however, i only hear about parties the day after and conversation means nothing more than exchanging pleasantries in the corridor.
But you know what? i found a different group of friends. People i can count on, people who accept me for who (and what!) i am and who know exactly what i’m going through because they’re going through the same things.
i’ve found the kind of kinship i’ve been looking for my entire life here on line with y’all and in the rooms of AA. Thank god i’m an alcoholic, else i might never have found this.