Making Hard Decisions

Three weeks ago, a gentleman asked me to be his Sponsor. Three weeks, two weeks, I honestly don’t remember. It’s been a while but the point is I have to make a hard decision to let him go.

When I sponsor people in AA, I did as I was taught. First, like my old Sponsor, Joe, asked me, “If there is anything I ask you of this program right now are: honesty – with yourself, me and your Higher Power, when you come to believe in one; open-minded – take suggestions I and others offer you; and willing – trying new things in your life because you’re here because the old way didn’t work” From my own experience it is only with those three principles do I first tackle any problems or even just the days activities.

Second, as most people do in the AA program, try to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. From my experience, I didn’t know anything about how the AA program really worked. Listening to others, their stories and how they “practice these principles” in their lives even today as saved my life on many occasions. Meetings for me are an important part of my program because without them, I will drink.

Third, making and sticking to commitments. In my past, I would agree to do something but not do it. Alcoholics Anonymous has taught me to be responsible and accountable for myself. First, I made the commitment – not to drink “One Day at a Time”. Second, I went to meetings as suggested. Third, I make a coffee commitment so I learned to get to know others in the program so I had someone to help me and perhaps, I ended up helping someone else.

These three things, for me, are the cornerstone of my recovery. They, in addition to working with my Sponsor through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, have kept me sober. Therefore, this is what I pass down to those people I sponsor in AA.

Unfortunately, a person I sponsor is not following through with any of these suggestions. While I attempt not to take someone’s inventory, I don’t believe he is being honest – I can see it in his actions. Two, he’s not going to meetings. Three, he agreed to make coffee one night a week (Friday) and hasn’t done it in two weeks. I have to question his desire to stay sober.

What he has done is come over to chat when he is going through difficult times. Again, I’ve been honest, open-minded and willing to help him. On the other hand, I have a feeling of being a door mat. I was there in my early sobriety when my Sponsor finally said, “Mike, you have to work the program. I can’t help you get sober unless you help yourself.” I feel it is time for both him and I to part ways.

This is part of the program which is hard for me because of my codependency. I want to help him but I just don’t see that “desire”. I recognize I can’t get another person sober unless they have this “desire” and for now, it’s just not there. Thus, I have to do what I believe is best for both of us.

A Few Surprises in Life

As mentioned yesterday I reached a minor milestone of eight months sober. I’m filled with a lot of gratitude for where I am today. As I went through my day, a couple things happened. I have made a conscious decision to quit smoking. My roommate is finally getting out of his depressed state watching a few episodes of the The Shannara Chronicles with me and dropped some news about our possible future. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance sent me an “Overpayment Notice”. During the Winter I fell off the healthy lifestyle not going to the gym, so has my roommate – that is now changing. Last night, I signed up for a membership at Planet FitnessLastly, at a sister Fellowship meeting (CoDA) the message was clear, “Trust in the process . . . “

I Quit Smoking

Just like my drinking, I have tried to quit smoking. I’ve never made a conscious decision to “stay stopped”. For the last couple of days I’ve been questioning “why” I’m still smoking giving myself excuse after excuse after another excuse. I recognized I’ve been increasing my smoking because of stress (14 meetings or more a week, Sponsorship and just living life on life’s terms). When I walk to the local Price Chopper up the street or take other long walks I become extremely short of breath, sometimes having to stop and sit. I know I’m killing myself and it needs to end.

After writing and posting my Daily Readings, I sent a note to my doctor asking for her to call in a prescription for NRT (nicotine replacement therapy). I had three other scripts waiting for pickup at Walmart. I wasn’t sure the process but got a email back later in the day, it was waiting for me at the pharmacy. I also had to make an appointment in June for a follow-up. So I picked all my scripts up later in the day.

At around 11 p.m. last night I smoked my last cigarette. I prayed to my Higher Power to help remove the craving and obsession. I literally said, “Goodbye, old friend. I’m done!” as I walked back to the house. This morning I promptly put a patch on and have not had a craving yet but I feel a need to walk, so after I get done with this post, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

No Expectations – Little Disappointment

My roommate has not been himself for the last couple of weeks. He’s been isolating in his room, not going to meetings, basically being a recluse. Why? Because his recent break up with a woman was especially hard on him and he thinks believes he’s an unworthy human being, “. . . a complete piece of shit”. Of course my codependency wants to kick in but I’ve been working on that since I’ve met him in so many ways. As painful it is to watch I’ve keep my mouth shut only to open it at times to say I’m here for support if need be.

Yesterday he and I spent some quality time watching the Shannarah Chronicles as both of us like this genre – fantasy, science fiction. I actually enjoyed his company and he appeared different. Not once did he mention “the other woman” or made comments of himself. It was just nice to see him emerge from his extreme depressive state.

Yet, at the same time, he always tends to tell me things last minute. At first, we had plans to move out, get jobs and move on with our lives as roommates in August. This was delayed, his own decision, until the first of the year. Now, he tells me, certain entities are “pushing him” to leave in the next couple of weeks. I “suggested” he advocate for himself, telling the truth he doesn’t feel ready to do so getting all entities involved in that decision. However, I did remind him, “It’s not happening today is it? Let’s just watch Shannarah”. I really do feel it helped.

How does this affect me? It does and doesn’t. Part of me will be disappointed, yet part of me has a plan if things fall through. I applied for college at Penn State for my Bachelors in Software Engineering (awaiting entrance approval). It’s a four year online program where I would be able to stay where I’m at, get a job but also live with the various supporting organizations, at least for a while, to help me through the transition. I’ll be disappointed we won’t be living together because we both have been through a lot, supporting each other in our new journeys. But if it comes to us living separately, I’m okay with it. He knows I’m just a phone call away, I’m willing to go to meetings and no matter what I’ll still be a supporting friend in all his endeavors. Perhaps, just maybe, my Higher Power’s plan all this time is for me to learn from my experiences with him and grow from them.

NYS Tax Department – Impending Dreed

After filing my taxes this year, NYS withheld them. I conveniently forgot about a large tax bill back in 2014-2015 when I cashed out a retirement plan. My alcoholic mind convinced me I had paid those back taxes. However, yesterday I received a letter. A sense of dreed come over me – what now? As I carefully glanced over the notice it stated an overpayment. I had to read the notice THREE TIMES to make sure I was understanding it. Apparently with last years tax refund, I paid the remaining balance and they owe me a partial refund (**dances with excitement**). When and how it will get paid, I don’t know. It’ll happen when it happens. It was just some unexpected news in so many ways.

Back to the Gym

Back in Winter, my roommate and I were going to the gym. The weather got really cold, my roommate didn’t go, so I couldn’t go either as he had the membership, so i was his guest. Planet Fitness sent me an email about $1 down and $10 a month. I had to really think about it but late last night made a decision to sign a two-year contract. I’m doing this for me – period.

I still have goals to lose a few pounds and want to gain muscle strength. I walk everywhere I go, so my weight has not changed drastically. The point of going to the gym with my roommate was to turn the fat into muscle – tone the body. The problem now is that my roommate tends to go and do his own thing on the spur of a moment. I’m a more organized, planning type of guy. I do things according to my schedule. It’s hard for me to just get up and go do something. Now with the membership I’m no longer dependent on him. I know I can do this and I’m willing to. The struggle for me is getting comfortable getting in a routine and sticking to it. But in a way, this is what sobriety has taught me – getting comfortable with the uncomfortable part of me – becoming a accountable and responsible with myself.

Finally – Trusting in the Process

Last night at my CoDA meeting, the message I heard was, “trusting in the process”. Since I’ve been going to CoDA meetings and concentrating on my codependent behaviors, I have seen within myself some dramatic changes. I trust in the process of both AA and CoDA. I “believe” in the principles of both programs having seen them work in my own experiences. But this work is never ending, I always have to be aware of what is going on taking action when needed. I have been given a chance of a new life, so I’m using those “spiritual gifts that are laid at my feet”. I trust in the process.

The Codependency Trap

For the most part, I had a relaxing day yesterday as my schedule has changed leaving me more time for myself. I still attended my three Fellowship meetings, one being CoDA (Codependent Anonymous). I’m glad there was one because yesterday afternoon I almost fell into a codependency trap.

Many of us as addicts like to focus on other issues instead of ourselves. For instance, I drank to escape the feelings of anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, guild, shame, etc. As I grew up as an adult, I began to focus on the well being of someone else, trying to fix them and their problems. In turn I felt it helped me fix my problems. In reality, I only destroyed many relationships with other people, as well as myself. I was just inviting more insanity into my life whether I was in active addiction or in recovery.

Here is a good example of a codependent based on what happened yesterday with me and one of my roommates. I knew the previous day my roommate wasn’t feeling well. I saw him briefly in the morning. However, throughout the day I began to worry. I wasn’t sure if he was busy with things he needed to do, therefore was out and about. Or was he was still laying in his bed all afternoon either sick or in a depressive state.

Late in the afternoon before my CoDA (Codependent Anonymous) meeting, which he usually attends, I sent him a text, “out and about or in your room?” No response. I asked around. No one had seem him all day. I knocked on his door – still no response. Fear crept in – was he in another depressive state, was he so sick he really should go to the doctor, is he possibly dead? I started to panic while attempting to tell myself, “It’s not my life. I have no control over other people (Step 1 of CoDA). I’m not getting involved.” So off to the CoDA meeting I went explaining my codependent issues were in full swing, thus grateful for the meeting.

But, I had to do one more thing before the meeting got started. It was an automatic response. I sent a text to my other roommate, “Can you knock on [roommate]’s door and peek in to make sure he’s okay?” Then I didn’t look at my phone until later in the meeting when I felt that buzz (a message). I never look at my phone during a meeting. The chairperson even looked at me sideways. But my other roommate responded, “I’m not going to knock on his door and just barge in . . . he say’s he’s okay, so I ran LOL”. Whew. Now I was complete.

These are behaviors I’m working on with both programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and Codependent Anonymous. One, I’m not going to pick up a drink and I can’t control other people. Instead I went to both a CoDA meeting and an AA meeting right after. Two, I made a mental note to write a journal entry of the experience. Now it’s in front of me, I won’t forget it and I can learn from the experience. Three, I need to identify those feelings I was going through, feel them but not act on them.

In other words, it’s okay to worry about another’s well being. However, if I believe in a Higher Power, knowing my Higher Power has a plan, I don’t need to get involved not matter what happens. Everything is going to be okay as it should be. That in itself, is the real message I need to hear and learn before falling into another codependent trap.

Balance in Recovery

Based on my own experience in the past, I know immersing myself into recovery can be beneficial but it can also be dangerous. To much recovery one can become overwhelmed. So the point is to achieve a balance in recovery and our mundane lives. It’s called “me time”.

During my last recovery period, I dove into recovery with such a passion, I hardly made time for myself. Though the circumstances were different, as it was my first time in recovery, everything about my life became about recovery. In a sense, I lost a part of me.

As one comes back from a relapse one must ask themselves, “What is going to be different this time around?” With my codependent issues, I need to take time for self care. From time to time, we need to step back to ask ourselves, “Are we doing to much?” The real question is just how much is to much?

For instance, here is an example of a typical Monday:

  • 8:00 am – Wake up, get coffee, meditation music, pray, write in my journal
  • 9:00 am – Take care of myself (shower, shave, brush teeth, etc.)
  • 10:00 am – Meet with my case manager for a weekly one on one
  • 12:00 pm – Noon AA meeting
  • 3:00 pm – Outpatient treatment group
  • 8:00 pm – Evening AA meeting
  • 12:00 am – 2 am – Put the head to the pillow

In summary, five hours of my day is involved in recovery. But I’m also living in a supportive living program, so I’m always bumping to guys and talking recovery at other times, let’s say another two or three hours. In the end, my life in recovery is a full time job. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to concentrate on my sobriety in such a fashion.

But there are days, like yesterday, I have to step back and say, “Michael, enough is enough. Take a time out for yourself.” After treatment group, I walked with a guy from our program to the gym. The Dollar Store was next door, which is where I headed to pick up some things for my CoDA meeting tonight. It’s a little over a mile, approximately a 20-25 minute walk. I needed such a walk to decompress.

I didn’t go to a physical meeting at all. Unfortunately I missed the noon meeting because my case manager was on vacation, so another individual did my one on one but I had to wait for a bit (which I understand). In the evening after the long walk, I was simply done going anywhere. It’s rare I go to the Monday evening meeting if I’ve gone to the noon meeting. Last night, I put personalities before principles (my bad, I know).

Instead, I found a online CoDA meeting at 9pm. It was an interesting experience. The person who ran the group did a really good job of driving the meeting, keeping people on topic and avoiding cross talk. Since we only have one meeting a week here, I might put one or two in my schedule.

I had a few things to do such as getting paperwork ready for the CoDA meeting. I volunteered to print up the “readings” since we don’t have formal ones and we’re still reading out from a brochure. I also bought sheet protectors and a binder. All courtesy of the Dollar Tree, something I can work with on my budget. I also pumped out two short letters to previous employers about my address change for my W-2’s.

A friend of mine, I’m sure I’ve spoken about him here, who I have codependent issues in the past, is at the tail end of a prison sentence. He is scheduled to be release in March 2019. Throughout the years, he’s been to quite a few facilities. I double checked to find where he was only to see he was at a prison that is 30 minutes from me. Honestly, I got excited. But, recognizing my feelings, I had to step back and ask, “Mike, do you really want to open this door?” It’s been suggested by many I shouldn’t. But I wrote a letter anyway. It was just a short note of what happened, where I am and to see where he’s at. I will only write to him depending on how he responds, if he responds.

Lastly, I’ve gotten back involved in a game called Achaea . It’s a role playing, text-character based MUD (Multi-player User Dungeon). Here’s a screen shot:

I’ve been playing a variety of characters since late 1997 when it was new to the then “gaming industry”. The company, Iron Realm Entertainment, has done a good job of keeping the material fresh. Over the years, there have been a lot of changes. Some good, some bad. The producers (as they like to call themselves), do listen to their players. We, the players, have some input on how the game is run! This is my life away from the mundane world and at times it can be stressful, so all in moderation too!

Oh goodie (squeal)! A friend just let me know she won’t need my help for something today. This means, besides two AA meetings, I have a completely open day all to myself. But I have a few must-do’s, so I’m going to take care of them right now. I’ve been up since 6:30 am too, so a nice nap after the noon meeting may be in order too! ** rubs hands greedily**

Let’s get this day rolling . . .

Codependency – A New Focus


“excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.”

I would have been eleven years sober today if it wasn’t for my relapse in April 2018.  Could of, would of, should of . . . I don’t beat myself up about it.  It happened. I can’t change the past.  I need to concentrate on moving forward.  However, what I learned in the last ten years of my sobriety is for me to stay sober I must develop codependency  skills.

In 2008, when I was in treatment for the first time for my alcoholism, a counselor pointed out a huge part of my life revolved around others, therefore causing more harm than good in my own life.  I had never heard of the term codependency. She asked me to read, “Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself” by Melody Beattie.  Just after two pages of opening her book I thought, “Oh my God, this book is all about me!”

During all those years of sobriety I didn’t take action on my part when my codependency problems cropped up.  It was the same cycle for my alcoholism. I knew I had a problem but I didn’t do anything about it.  This time around, I am because codependency is part of the reason I’m starting over in my sobriety.

I am reading “Codependent No More” and working through the exercises.  I also had the companion workbook on hold at my local library.  Lastly, there is a CoDA meeting which just started up in the area I’m attending on Wednesday nights.  Therefore, like sobriety, I’m immersing myself in reading and learning all about codependency.

If you have any experience in the matter, I look forward to any comments, suggestions, or thoughts you have.