“It is normal to give away a little of one’s life in order not to lose it all.”
I’ve made a lot of progress over the past 10 months…I don’t blow a gasket at drivers going the speed limit or go ballistic in grocery stores. I don’t want cocaine when I see salt. I have a job I love and am becoming a functional member of society. I even pay taxes.
I have not, however, learned restraint of tongue and pen…
Tonight I was at particularly moving meeting for newbies. The topic was triggers during the holidays, and my fellow beginners were honest and poignant. There were a number of people who I wanted to try and offer some solution to, having been there myself quite recently. I was really listening to each share, but someone in the back of the meeting kept dropping something clamorously on the wood floor. It sounded like a frying pan falling on a metal bouncy trampoline.
For the 10 millionth time (okay maybe 8th time) the disruption came again, this time in the middle of my share; just when I was getting to some tender shit. The thing dropped and I pivoted in my chair, whipped my head toward the back of the room and said/yelled a little, “What the FUCK is that?!”
To my chagrin, it was some girl knitting. She kept losing grip of the knitting apparatus thingy. I awkwardly regained composure, apologized to her and the rest of the large room (thank God they were familiar faces), and tried to spew something about a spiritual Christmas before passing. In my defense, it was a really really obnoxious noise. What was she doing back there, anyway? Combat knitting?
She was the last to raise her hand and of course shared about dying puppies and job loss. Great.
Maybe I was assembled without a pause button, and that’s why I find myself in so many awkward situations. A few months ago a guy asked me if I wanted to grab a beer. Instead of saying, “I don’t drink,” or “maybe coffee instead,” I said, “How about apple juice?”
His response: “See ya.”
Obviously someone who can’t hang with juice boxes isn’t for me, but the point is…I dunno, there’s a point in here somewhere.
I need decent chunks of time for my blog posts, which I haven’t been able to find until now. Writing for me is like exercise, and I’m out of shape creatively. (Bear with me.) The good news is I’m in shape spiritually.
Spending nearly three weeks in Argentina for my best friend’s wedding was…como si dice…fantastico? Life changing? Super cool? I can’t find the words in English or in Spanish to describe the past twenty days.
My flight got in Tuesday morning and I’ve been to a meeting here in Connecticut everyday since. At a speaker meeting last night someone said, “The first year of sobriety lays your foundation for the life ahead.”
There’s no way I can make promises that I’ll never drink again, but by staying clean in a country abounds with wine, cocaine, and discothèques, my foundation does feel stronger than before. Ten months in AA has taught me that cockiness is a dangerous sentiment; I’m wary of over boldness, but I don’t want to deny or forget the growth through my experiences abroad.
The people who I traveled with taught me about myself through their openness, and supported me without question. Gratitude from their behavior alone was enough to make me see the bigger picture…whatever that is. Maybe the “bigger picture” to me is The Promises. All the bullshit’s disintegrating and the good shit is emerging. My outlook is changing.
I was able to help everyday; uselessness disappeared. I lost interest in myself; remembering the priority in my life is to help others. I found my attitude shifting and uneasiness disappearing. There were a few times when I wanted to retreat during events, but for the most part I’d stick it out long enough to enjoy company and think, holy shit! I’m having a conversation!
Despite seeing the parties, the flowing wine, the free drinks and dozens of opportunities to rage, I want all of them less. I have come back from Argentina with more self-assuredness than when I arrived, and 100% certainty that I had an amazing time because I didn’t waste one minute disconnecting from reality with drugs and alcohol.
Que freakin’ bueno.
Step 7 : Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
After reading the literature and coming up with my own interpretation of Step 7 I felt ready to move forward. I met with my sponsor, we debriefed with big Bill W., I closed the book and said conclusively, “Onto Step 8!”
“Nope.” She said, shaking her head sorta assuredly. “Now you practice.”
Practice isn’t a word I respond to well, because it implies effort. To be honest, I gave up practicing when I quit lacrosse sophomore year of high school to become a pot head. My attitude is under construction, but residual quitter-traces remain. Old habits die hard.
So, I knew what my sponsor meant, but didn’t know how to implement Step 7 consciously…probably because I have an aversion to the “P” word. (Practice).
Fortunately, my mind is under steady reconstruction, and I’m constantly making headway on the person I want to be, even subconsciously. New synapses are being formed with each decision I make and emotion I feel; by feeling the feelings I have awareness and the capability to make the right decision. What I realized today, is that when I make the right choice (as opposed to acting on old behavior), I’m practicing Step 7.
Yesterday I blogged about the trials and tribulations of change, in lieu of an internal battle of good vs greedy. The debate was simple; don’t help the people I care or DO help the people I care about. My greed started making justifications for me, convincing myself that my un-involvement would not affect anyone…When in fact I knew that by staying home to satisfy my laziness was wrong.
So I had a choice; act the old way, or act the new way. Unbeknownst to me, Step 7 helped me make the right decision. It’s been helping me all along!
Last night before I went to bed, I came across this reading on Steps 6 and 7, by Joe McQ in The Steps We Took:
“You know, here’s what a shortcoming is: when you’re long on resentments, then you’re necessarily short on love, patience, and tolerance….Just what is love? Love is basically concern for another person’s welfare or for your own welfare.”
Joe McQ’s quote struck me because of the likeness to my post yesterday:
“Today my catch phrase was “spiritual vacuum.” The vacuum refers to how we remove our defects. As I understand it, we can’t simply remove what we don’t like, and *poof* be gone. We have to replace the hole with love. Sounds soo corny. I don’t care.”
So that’s what my sponsor meant by practice….It’s not that I have to stop, drop, and document where my flaws are taking command. In this case, a simple awareness of how my actions affect others did just fine. I’m practicing without beating myself up and my coach is pretty forgiving.
So I’m in Argentina for my best friend’s wedding. I’ve known this girl for 19 years, and have been just as close with her family as with her; they are family, and they know how hard it’s been to get where I am.
Everything about getting here was a disaster. It was the usual airport obsticals; running late, missing mandatory papers for international travel, mistaking my seat number as my gate number, you all know the drill. The best part about the disasters was that I laughed them off! Pre-sobriety, I would have been reduced to a fit of tragic fury. This time, I marched forward with a confident “no problemo,” attitude.
A fellow alcoholic drove me to the airport and it was the best possible departure for my sobriety. We covered everything from downfalls to revival, inspiration, and Winston Churchill. When I got dropped off at the gate I was elated! Filled with love, and pure happiness radiating. You know that feeling? The one that no material possession can duplicate? That one.
The flight was hunky dory, too. I fell asleep for 9 hours, woke up, had a questionable airplane breakfast, and bam! We were landing in Buenos Aires. The air was warm, a car service with a man named Rocco was waiting at luggage claim, and with my broken Spanish and his enthusiasm we chit chatted all the way “home.” Although the driving was intense. I couldn’t tell if Rocco was a retired race car driver, or he just didn’t care if we died. Anyway, we got lost for an hour, and even that was a hoot. He started teaching me about Argentina, about the Provences, the President, and how much amazing steak I had to look forward to. I felt carefree and fearless for the first 24 hours.
Today things started to change. (Mom, Dad, don’t freak out.) There’s been lots of talk about the wedding, and rightfully so! That’s why I’m here! What scares me is that I’m started to feel like alcoholism is a punishment again, like I’m missing out on the fun. I’m already resentful of my disease. Why can’t I drink like a normal person…? I guess that’s the obsession of every alcoholic. It’s not that I want to be “that girl,” falling all over the dance floor; I just want to feel the weight of a filled wine glass in my hand. Is that weird? I can almost taste a cool crisp Pino.
I’ve been playing the tape in my head. It’s no secret from my mind that a) I can’t have access to an open bar and not blackout, and b) after just two drinks, all attention would be diverted to finding blow, killing the real reason of being present and happy for my best friend. A and B are as certain as death and taxes, yet my alcoholic Gollum inside wants to cover-up the facts.
Parts of my attitude areregressing and my defects are gaining steam, but slow enough for me to catch them. I’m feeling more insecure and a little less humble. However, just by saying these thoughts “outloud,” make me feel better. A good friend of mine said at a meeting last week, “it’s not that I’m going to pick up, but that I’m even thinking about it, just for 30 seconds, scares me.” That’s where I’m at. I don’t feel anywhere near to a drink, but the thought of these thoughts are still scary. Thanks for listening yo.
** Don’t mind the typos. This computer speaks Spanish.
My defects of character are always one step ahead. By the time I catch up to a situation at hand, the alcoholic part of my brain has already decided how to spring into action, or isolate into oblivion. Any notions that run on defects, naturally, are not the best. A fault that hijacks my mind with the force of a Jedi night is jealousy; an emotion anyone with a steam of consciousness is familiar with.
For me, jealousy is the size of Godzilla. Maybe that’s why they call it the green monster of envy…Anyway, pre AA; there were no tools on how to harness my raging ill will. My gut reaction was to take the feeling and destroy it by belittling whomever I viewed as a threat. Unfortunately a lot of the time my first thought is still the same. Instinctively I want to judge as quickly and harshly as possible, thereby coddling my wounded ego.
Fortunately, now I know how backwards my thinking is, was, and can be. Now, something wonderful happens just before I generate a laundry list of invisible imperfections for someone…I stop.
My bat shit crazy brain comes to a halt, because I know now that the set of instructions I was following for life never worked. Judgment made me feel shameful, more alone, and dragged me further into the darkest place of my pity partying mind.
Sure, the same feeling of jealousy still bites me in the ass when someone has what I want, whether it be looks, success, family, ambition, slippers, whatever. That’s okay though, because AA has taught me that envy is just fear, and fear is something I’m learning to recognize, face, and erase.
It comes naturally to torment myself that I’ll never have what you have, I’ll never be pretty like her, or happy like him. It’s easy to judge the shit out of you, and assume that you had a leg up that I missed, and therein lies the reason you have what I don’t.
The hard part has been learning that none of those things are true. The hardest part has been finding the pause button, and following a new set of instructions.
Through powers of example and with the help of my HP, I’m learning to be truly happy for people, and it feels good. When I ask for envy to be removed, it is–I might have to ask 20 times a day, but it’s becoming easier to redirect defects.
I used to dislike for the sole purpose to make myself feel better, but now I’m doing the exact opposite and finding that is where the solution has been all along. To commend others for their success and try to help where they fall short breaks down the barrier between everyone and me. Helping others is what’s made me more confident.
The best thing about my new set of instructions (aka the steps) is that the better I get at following them; the more I have to offer.
The Internet is FULL of prescriptions on how to live life. There are one zillion articles, slogans, and suggestions, such as,“10 Ways to Make Yourself Happier,” “40 Ways to Live Your Life Without Regrets,” “30 Ways to Live Life to the Fullest,” or “11 Habits you MUST Give Up to be Happy.” When these self-help-do-it-yourself posts pop up on Facebook or pervade my Gmail account, I read them. Ugh. It’s the worst.
It’s not that I don’t want to read them; that’s the problem. I find myself thinking entirely too hard about what an unknown Internet author has written in regards to life management.
These “guides” are everywhere, and as a person who feels like she needs all the help she can get, it’s exhausting. I somberly bookmark certain pages, or even write some tidbits down to reference later…except I never do.
Initially my intention was to finish this post with disdain for the columns, but I just realized I don’t hate them at all; they are the same principals of AA, and there’s no longer a need to swamp my consciousness with the lists because I’m practicing them everyday.
The suggestions for betterment are exactly what AA has been teaching me:
“Quit being ungrateful.” (I’ve been advised to write a gratitude list everyday, if not several times a day.)
“Quit running from your problems and fears.” (“Keep Coming Back.”)
“Quit regretting the past.” (AA promise: We shall not regret the past nor wish to close the door on it.”)
“Quit talking down to yourself.” (AAism: “Put down the bat”)
“Quit criticizing others.” (Agreed.)
The Internet’s pointers were probably so overwhelming because I only had a vague idea of where my flaws were stemming from. The difference now, is I’m taking it day by day. My version of bookmarking a page is going to a meeting to be reminded. And, there’s one AA suggestion that calms me down every time: Keep it Simple.
Day 274: 9 MONTHS TODAY!
To lessen the pain of my first sober Halloween in over a decade, I impressed myself by coordinating and purchasing tickets for an event called “The Blaze.”
I proposed the idea to fellow sober-rovers, and some asked if it was a weed convention; why else would “blaze,” in the title? I told them no, it was a pumpkin extravaganza, with over 5,000 hand-carved jack-o-lanterns. Despite not knowing any details about the thing, several of us RSVP’d and began planning our Halloween costumes.
My getup consisted of rainbow suspenders, combat boots, a white tutu, and an electric blue wig over two and a half feet long. In case there was any confusion about what I was supposed to be (a rainbow) I bought 3 boxes of Skittles and shook them vigorously.
Batman aka my partner in crime arrived at my house in a Patagonia jacket and jeans; not exactly the Batman costume I was hoping for. He said his Bat-suit had turned into more of a sweat suit, but assured me he would change at the event. I would’ve protested longer but there were 150 pieces of candy in the Bat mobile.
Thirty chocolate bars and 45 minutes later we arrived, parked, and within seconds realized we were the only adults dressed up—actually I was the only adult dressed up, because my friend Batman was still a version of “Bruce Wayne” from the suburbs. He opened the trunk and looked at his bat-armor reluctantly.
“You have to wear it,” I said, as a family not sporting any Halloween-wear walked by.
We struck a deal that made me feel better. He wore just the Batman head and black rubber gloves with his regular attire, and held a light-sabor that made noise like a broken barcode scanner. While walking with the rest of the foot traffic, laughing at the sheer ridiculousness, I had a perplexing moment of clarity; I didn’t care what anyone else was thinking…which was good, because of what happened next.
Half-assed Batman and I got in line behind an array of teenagers waiting to enter The Blaze. As the laws of waiting in lines go, we idly moved forward even though no one had advanced. Our friends hadn’t showed up, but we were anxious to get going since it had started raining. People in line kept glancing at us, probably because we looked like challenged adult-children, who got lost trick-or-treating. Also I figured my wig was probably pretty straggly at that point.
Finally folks started moving, but not forward…everyone was dispersing; suddenly Batman and I were standing on a cleared patch of grass, facing a plastic orange fence between the event and the woods.
We hadn’t been waiting in a line at all, just standing awkwardly close to a group of strangers who were all friends. No wonder they were looking at us! I bet they went through a round of, “Do you know that guy with the batman head and toy light-sabor? No? Why is that girl shaking a box of Skittles?”
Once the situation dawned on us, we doubled over in laughter. Batboy had to rip off his mask and I just about passed out from laughing so hard; I’m almost certain that any and all bystanders perceived us as wasted or on drugs.
The rest of the night was equally as comical and disastrous. By the time we met up with our friend (dressed as an astronaut), found the real line, and entered the much anticipated Blaze, half the jack-o-lanterns had been snuffed from the rainstorm and the path was jam packed to a standstill with normal folks who had enough foresight to bring umbrellas.
After a unanimous “let’s come back next year” we retreated in high spirits.
The best part about last night was that our plans totally failed, but Halloween was still a complete success. Blow and whiskey were my short cuts to feel self-assured, and converse “normally” without my thoughts interjecting doubts every two seconds; last night I stuck out like a sore thumb with complete confidence, and had a blast.
For the first time since God knows when, my mind wasn’t littered with unfounded suspicions about what “everyone” was thinking. I don’t have to point figures in unnecessary self defense. Who knew wearing a tutu could be so freeing.
This morning I woke up with a raging hangover. Sugar hangover that is. I’m going to revisit step one and add candy to my list of powerlessness…and The Blaze will go on my list for next year.
“Hyperawareness,” best describes Step 6 for this alcoholic. After spending seven weeks on Steps 4 & 5 with my sponsor, I got my five character defects in return. Now I am obnoxiously cognizant and wary. Was I born with greed and attention seeking? Where does my disease start and where do I end? How interchangeable are the two? I don’t know how defects work, or whether or not as a group we alchy’s and addicts have predispositions to the same defected idiosyncrasies, but I do know which ones have been running my show. Now I just want them to stop.
I took the whole, “searching and fearless moral inventory,” thing pretty literally. I’m sure I’m searching a little too far forward and far back, which is probably why I feel like a vulnerable, exposed, creature of chaos. I feel like Medusa, actually, and all those crazy snakes that live on her head are my defects. Plus she was kinda crazy, really angry, and hideous; I feel all of these things now that Step 6 has brought such defined character flaws to the surface.
The alcoholic part of my mind tells me I was the last to know about my defects; that I’ve been a walking human deformity forever, and should be embarrassed. This new hyperawareness has my mind running in circles; when I’m loud, I wonder if it’s because I’m seeking attention or because I’m naturally a boisterous individual, when I buy something I shouldn’t, I beat the crap out of myself for being greedy. I hounded a lady today because she left her Starbucks table an absolute mess. “Are you going to clean that up?” I said more rhetorically than questioningly.
Was that my pride? Do I have to give up pride? This is what I mean by hyperaware. Yikes.
The serenity prayer says “grant me the knowledge to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” If I can figure out what those differences are, I’ll be set…
1. You have best friends but you don’t know their last name, and you know their sobriety date; not their birthday.
2. When you refer to the Big Book, you’re not talking about the bible.
3. What’s moderation?
4. You can relate to meth heads and heroin addicts more than you can your own mom.
5. Spending $20 on candy for yourself on a Friday night is completely justifiable because, “you’re not consuming all those calories you would if you were still drinking.”
6. You find yourself standing around in a lot of parking lots.
7. Over half your friends live with their parents.
8. You just found out that you’re selfish.
9. Being spiritually fit is more important than being physically fit.
10. Beer commercials have ruined football, forever.
11. You can’t help but grin manically at people suffering from a hangover.
12. Holidays are the leading cause of isolation.
13. You feel like you’re growing up, and down, at the same time.
14. You have to be reminded to sleep and eat and ask when you need help.
15. Almost everything is your sponsor’s fault.
16. You probably already hate your first sponsor.
17. You’re still a little embarrassed to admit that you pray.
18. There are probably a dozen other addicts and alcoholics in your family.
19. When you tell people you’re going to a meeting and it has nothing to do with work.
20. You’re sick of phrases like, Let go and Let God.
21. When going to a meeting is more important than saving yourself from the apocalypse.
22. You are strongly suggested to stay away from the opposite sex, so naturally you are extra tempted to gravitate toward the opposite sex.
23. Seeing someone from the program around town makes you feel like you guys should have a secret handshake.
24. There is never a time you don’t smell like coffee grounds or cigarettes.
25. You are becoming increasingly okay with going to bed at 9:30.
26. You have some sober friends who don’t understand, and say things like, “it’s all about will power,” referring to your addictions and alcoholism.
27. Everyone is out to get you.
28. If a door is closed, the people on the other side are definitely talking about you.
29. Salt looks like cocaine. Ice water looks like vodka on the rocks.
30. V8 will never not smell like a bloody mary.
31. You often feel like you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
32. When a friend switches home groups, it’s like he or she has died.
33. Your conversations consist of everything from crack cocaine and death to rainbows and butterflies.
34. If you go through the day without making a gratitude list you feel like you’re on the brink of relapse.
35. You can probably relate to everything on this list.