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.

We Just Have Today

What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent
on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

~p.85, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

We hear this quoted at meetings all the time.  But what does it really mean?  As an addict when I wanted something, I did anything to get it and I wanted it two weeks ago.  It didn’t matter who I manipulated to get it, who I hurt in the process and if it took long I went somewhere else to get it. In recovery, we learn to slow down, “One Day at a Time.” Therefore, what must I do on a daily basis to stay sober?

My daily routine can be lengthy but it works for me.  First, when I wake up I thank my Higher Power I’m alive and sober.  Second, I ask for my Higher Power to guide me throughout the day to stay sober.  Afterward, I immediately do Step Three:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over
to the care of God as we understood Him.”

This is very important to me.  It’s been my experience when I try to control anything, it tends to always fall apart.  I give up control to my Higher Power, knowing whatever happens today, my Higher Power is there to help me through any situation. All I have to do is ask.  To stay in this positive influence I turn music on.  Something soothing, like meditation music on Pandora, Spotify or other various tracks I have on my external drive.  This sets me up for today.

Once the coffee is on my desk, headphones in, I start to post the Daily Reading on this blog.  It’s various readings which bring meaning to me.  For instance, today’s readings as a whole reminds me of tolerance and humility.  As I read and post them I make it a point to try to practice whatever actions they inspire me to do today.

My present circumstances allow me to attend usually two meetings per day. Typically I attend “the Nooner” and an evening meeting.  I have a few coffee commitments during the week.  Recently, I’ve been asked to chair meetings despite my early recovery.  I attend business meetings for two home groups and I recently attended a District Meeting for our area.

Lastly, I am currently working with a Sponsor through the Steps.  This Sponsor is giving me a new perspective on recovery.  Instead of just going through the Steps, as my last Sponsor did (which wasn’t a bad thing at all), my current Sponsor and I have read the Big Book for the very first page.  He also references Joe and Charlie’s Big Book Study , which is another resource I was never aware of in my previous sobriety.  Now knowing the totality of the program, its progression throughout the 80+ years, has strengthened my commitment.  If those people back then, with everything they experienced in their lives, can do it then there is absolutely NO reason I should EVER have to pick up a drink!  They bring me inspiration to stay sober one day at a time.

However & But . . .

I do have to remind myself on a daily basis of a few things.

First, I am grateful to be in a program where I’m able to have the support and the opportunity to strengthen the foundation of my sobriety.  I do not take this for granted!  There are those who are not able to get into such programs and they have to work much harder to keep sober one day at a time.  I’m not saying I don’t struggle some days.  But for those who are getting sober, working and who have families, my hats off to them.  Honestly, I don’t know if I could do it.

Second, old timers consistently remind us (those who are in a halfway house/supportive living program) the real test in our sobriety is when we get out into the real world.  It does scare me simply because I’m not there yet.  I’m working with someone to make sure I make the right decisions and go down the right path consistent with my sobriety goals.  However, today I’m right where I’m suppose to be.

Lastly, to be aware.  This is something new to me.  I’m more aware of my own actions:  how I talk to people, how I react, what I do in certain situations, etc.  I don’t want pride and ego to resurface like it has in the past.  Yes, I did have ten years of sobriety; the knowledge is still there.  But I relapsed.  I need to concentrate on myself (keep pride and ego at bay) and work on my codependency issues because those two reasons help led me to my relapse.

I believe in the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I know that it works, if you put the required effort to work the steps and follow the suggestions.  I’ve seen it in myself and others.  However, I only have today.  Yesterday is already written, it can’t be changed.  Tomorrow isn’t here yet, so who knows what will happen.  Today, I embrace my sobriety and do those things required of me to keep me sober.

Just for Today!