Back to a New Norm?

I’m the Registrar for our AA District. I’m responsible for keeping in touch with General Service Representatives (GSR’s) about the various Alcoholic Anonymous Groups in the area. Since March, all of meetings were closed. However, I’m getting word some now are choosing to open again. This new norm (social distancing, wearing masks, etc.) is going to be interesting and a challenge. But those of in recovery are use to challenges.

Honestly, I can’t wait to reconnect with many of the people with whom shared their lives with me last year. Some of are the old generation who don’t have smartphones or they are “technology challenged”. There are others who have disappeared from FB – that is usually a warning sign. There are a small group of us who keep in contact via text and such. I miss them all because we worked together helping each other to keep sober.

But this pandemic is going change things. For me, it’s going to be more of a challenge than most. Not to seem selfish, so let me explain.

I have a 70%+ loss of hearing in my right ear since before I was a teenager. Over the years I have developed skills to ensure I’m hearing what is said. If there is noise going on in the background on my left side, it’s very hard for me to hear any conversation at all. For instance, if I’m walking down a street with a friend, they have to be on my left side for me to hear them. But if the road is on the left side too and there is traffic, forget it, I can’t hear them at all. So you can imagine the challenges I face with people in masks.

Some of the larger groups have 30+ people on a regular basis. How is this all going to fit in with “social distancing”. I highly doubt anyone is going to say, “Sorry but we’re at capacity”. It’s just not something we do. Anyone is welcome at any time for any reason under any circumstance as long as they remain respectful of others.

It’s my experience and understanding a lot of people went back out drinking during this pandemic. At some point I read a couple articles predicting recovery meetings were going to be “packed with people” trying to recover either newcomers or those who relapsed.

Well that time is here. Some rooms are back open. It’s going to be interesting to see how groups handle some of these challenges. It’s going to interesting to see how I handle my challenges. But in the end . . .

We can do this together!

Just Today

In Alcoholic’s Anonymous we talk about, “One Day at A Time”. That phrase kept me sober for a long time the last time. I have been living such since I began my new journey. Sometimes, as of late, I get overwhelmed with sobriety; I feel like I’m doing to much. But my past experience shows me if I get farther away from AA, I will drink. Again, another slogan, “Keep it Simple” comes to mind. Here is an example.

Yesterday is written in stone; I can’t change what happened yesterday. Tomorrow is not here; anything can happen tomorrow, whether I want it to or not, so why worry about it. When I concentrate on just today, what I need to do to stay sober, life tends to run more smoothly.

Last week, my Sponsor and I completed Step 7, Step 8 and Step 9. Step 7, I did alone, asking my Higher Power to “remove shortcomings”. For a long time I didn’t know what it meant by “shortcomings”. I later learned, it simply means those defects of character (on Step 4) that can be removed quickly. I trust my Higher Power will do that, when I’m ready, while other defects may take longer, even a lifetime. Step 8, I made my amends list based on my list in Step 4 (moral inventory) and talked with my Sponsor about how I was going make my amends to such people. Step 9, making those amends, may not happen all at once. It may take years or they may never happen and I may have to find an alternative way (“a living amend”) to make such amends.

If you’ve been following me, I use the following analogy to explain the steps:

Think of the 12 Steps as a house; we are relearned to rebuild our lives. Steps 1 through Step 3, is our foundation; if we do not have a solid foundation or there is a crack in it, our house is going to fall down (relapse). Step 4 through Step 9 is like building a new frame, getting new plumping and electrical, etc.; we have looked at our part in our past, recognize we have faults (defects of character), but are willing to “set things right” (amends). Lastly, Step 10 through Step 12, we put on a new roof, fill our house with new things (new behaviors) and open the front door for others to come in (sponsorship and helping others).

With that in mind, I talked to my Sponsor about sponsoring others. We both felt confident at this point in time I was ready. Our recovery community is small with a halfway house, so those willing or who can sponsor are extremely limited. The point is I would not be only helping myself but helping others which ideally is in part what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about – “Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety (AA Preamble)”. Lastly, once I put that out there, I already have an individual to sponsor.

The “community” has asked that a person with six months sobriety or more chair meetings. A majority of those with long term sobriety attend meetings in surrounding areas but do occasionally, some regularly, drop in but they have no interest in chairing the meeting. Then there are those who have more than six months, who just don’t want to chair meetings – period. It’ s becoming a regular schedule for me to chair, on average, of four meetings a week. Unfortunately, I can’t get any relief. Two groups are part of my home group (Wednesday and Saturday), one group I started two months ago (Friday night) and Sunday night people tend to insist if no one else runs it, I do it even grudgingly. However, it honestly gives me time to sit, listen and reflect (relax in a way) of where I’ve been and where I am now. In a way its my time out but can be overwhelming responsibility if I let it get to that point.

We also had a local AA District business meeting this past weekend. I volunteered for two positions. The district website and the registrar. Neither are overwhelming, if I choose not to overwhelm myself. For instance, the website hasn’t been updated in a while. My own selfishness wants to bring everything up to date. Really? If anything, what are two things most important to a person who visits an AA website? One, a list of local meetings. Two, local recovery events. In all honesty, the rest of the information on the website doesn’t matter to most visitors (it shows in the statistics). There is no need to overhaul or change it – this is what “I” want to do, my own selfishness. Instead, I need to concentrate on being useful to others.

*** Break time – went to meeting and guess who chaired – LOL **

The point to my whole rambling is as an addict I could complicate all this like the cliche, “Making a mountain out of a molehill”. It is only through my experiences, if I do can become insane. Instead, I take one thing, one day at a time. What really is important is my sobriety today? Keeping things simple in my life instead of living in a chaotic mess. With that comes much gratitude. I can enjoy the little things in life – my new freedom and happiness.

What A Sponsor Does for Me

My Sponsor and I have known each other for over nine years now. We have a strong relationship. As mentioned, after receiving my nine year medallion, he is one of three people who saved my life. He’s been there, night and day, through my “growing pains” of sobriety, thus I am eternally thankful. However, there are times the relationship feels as if I’m about to jump off a cliff; the relationship doesn’t seem to be working. Yet, there are times, like yesterday, when I’m reminded why he’s my Sponsor.

After an exhausting week at work, due to Storm Stella, the plan was to stay at home.  With my job as a CNA, I don’t have a luxury of two days off together. Three days off, like this weekend, is exceptionally rare. I wanted to make the most of it getting things done of my ever growing personal to-do-list. But my Sponsor always seems to put a dent in my plans.

This is the part where I feel the relationship is no longer working.  At the age of 76, I’ve noticed an increasing number of signs attributed with his age.  He tends to be very forgetful, yet insistent he’s always right.  That in itself just drives me nuts, as I just grind my teeth and bare it.Over the years I’ve known him, I have learned he can be a hypocrite.  Another annoying side of him. Lately, he’s become needy and dependent on me.  Every day off he “suggests” I come help him with tasks he should do for himself.  Of course, I indulge him, only regretting my decisions every time.

But there is another side of him – the reason he’s my Sponsor.  While his suggestions can become numerous, he’s typically spot on. For instance, I haven’t been to a meeting in quite a long time.  Yesterday, he made the strong suggestion I need to attend more meetings. Part of me struggles accepting his suggestion, while the other part of me knows he’s exactly right.

A while ago, I made a commitment to attend the noon meeting at a local church daily to myself.  I made it a couple of times, then just stopped going. Excuses: I was to busy having more important things to do; I wasn’t getting any messages for myself there; it was a waste of my time. Then almost every day, I ridicule myself for not going. As I look back, selfishness rears its ugly head putting me on the pity pot. Houston, we have a problem!

But the more I think about it, my Sponsor is right. I need to get involved going to meetings to share my experience, strength and hope.  I’ve seen to many people go down that road never to return again. It’s my experience meetings are an essential part of your recovery – it is a must and should not be ignored.

Therefore, I need to get back to reality. I need to stop thinking and just DO it. That is why I have a Sponsor – to give me a reality check and help me keep my sobriety in tact.