An Abundance of Anniversaries

Many of us have busy schedules from Halloween to the New Year. Veteran’s Day (for some), Thanksgiving,  and Christmas are all observed. Parents get uptight around this time of year because the kids are off for Winter break from school. Finally, in rural New York, the deer are rutting (mating), hunting season (shooting) begins, temperatures are beginning to fall and you can smell the sweet pine and oak burning in fireplaces all day long. In addition, I celebrate four anniversaries myself: CNA certification, 10 years of sobriety and this site, The Wandering Enigma, will be a year old.

Today in 2016, I passed the New York State, Department of Health,  Certified Nursing Assistant exam. For once in my life, I wasn’t nervous about the exam. The instructor drilled us on the skills and material we needed to pass the exam, so much of the credit I give to her. It was worth all the effort.

On December 1, 2017, I will be celebrating ten(10) years of sobriety. It brings tears to my eyes. I can distinctly remember pounding a beer on the table in the late 1990’s saying, “If I could stop drinking this, my life would be a hold lot different.” But I never imagined what I’ve been through since day, both the good and bad times.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to viewers to publish parts of my old journal entries from the beginning of my sobriety. Where was my head ten years ago, say today?  I wrote it all down either electronically or on paper. Yes, I have kept both for ten years but only periodically have a gone back to them. It’s time to dust them off.

In addition, I am going to start publishing my experiences of working the 12 Steps with my Sponsor. It will be a monthly series.  I can publish my own material while at the same time gathering material from other sources for reference. Perhaps start discussing our own stories and experiences too?

Lastly,  this site will have its first anniversary on December 4, 2017. The purpose of this site was to provide unedited experiences of my journey through sobriety. In addition,  providing other relevant material on sobriety.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to do the later because I’ve been self-absorbed in my personal journal. But at some point, I hope to expand the site to include material and references.

Our journey in sobriety is ALWAYS a work in progress.  ~ Mike Kolodziej

A 12 Step Series

For the last couple of years, I have thought about publishing my own experiences through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Why would I publish the most intimate details of my life to the public? The primary goal of this blog is to give the reader, “An inside look into the world of a recovering addict”.

The goal is to publish the Twelve Steps as a series in the next year. Each month will concentrate on a particular Step. What I haven’t thought through is what I should include or what the structure should be. For instance, I would start with the Step itself, quoting the Chapter and page of the Big Book for reference. Perhaps highlights from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. My background as it applied to the Step. Then a description of what I exactly did – written, oral, prayer, meditation, etc. Lastly, the ending results. The goal is to provide a complete picture “from the eyes of a recovering addict” of my experiences when I went through the Steps.

Now that I really begin to think of this process, perhaps this will take on two parts: My Story and The 12 Steps, I’m not going to actually publish my whole story right now. However, the process may help this future endeavor.

This whole process will be beneficial (I hope) to new readers but myself too. Honestly, I’ve only gone through the Steps once. But I practice them to the best of my ability every day to “apply those principles in all out affairs”. I might even surprise myself with something new or perhaps something I’ve held on.

This may be too much for me right now.  I just started something very important in my own spiritual practice which may take a lot of my time. It’s a THOUGHT I’m taking into consideration. I hope I made my intentions clear enough.

For those who have read this far: Discussion!

I would like any comments, questions or concerns regarding this post. For instance, what were you thinking when you read this? What are any of your thoughts about doing this? We talk about honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, so GIVE IT TO ME. The honest, blunt, to the point TRUTH.

Ready . . . Set . . . Go . . . Let’s Begin . . .


Let’s Talk Religion in Recovery

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” 
— Dalai Lama

The discussion of religion tends to be a taboo subject; religions are beliefs and practices of a very personal matter. People avoid the topic at all costs unless surrounded by like-minded individuals. Figuratively, people start to bring out their pitchforks and stakes at even the hint of such a discussion. For those in recovery, it is the pink elephant in the room rearing its ugly head. Can you imagine my thoughts, in early sobriety, when the topic of Christianity was discussed when I knew I was gay and a practicing pagan?

Recovery programs were founded with the principles of Christian beliefs in mind. However, the founding members recognized the diversity of those seeking recovery, insisting recovery should be a spiritual program. And yet, people tend to forget those of us who are just beginning our journeys in recovery either: lost faith in our religion (whatever that may be); tried a religion as a solution finding that we drank again; didn’t have a set of religious beliefs to begin with; or, like myself, having a strong belief system and/or a strong self-identity, were shunned because those beliefs don’t conform to those who set down the guiding principles of the program.

When I began my journey in recovery I was a broken human being: physically, mentally and spiritually. I didn’t know who I was, where I was going nor a sense of purpose in life. My addiction took all that away. The concept of spirituality was foreign to me. Like most, when the topic of religion was thrown into the mix, I was more confused on how a program of recovery was going to help me.

Spirituality is the cornerstone of a recovery program. A recovery program is not simply going through the 12 Steps with a Sponsor and “applying those principles in all our affairs”. Recovery is a process of finding yourself and your purpose in life, no matter what your religious beliefs, if any.

“The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.” – Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 60.

I am NOT saying a religion should not be part of a person’s recovery program. (Nor am I suggesting that “God” be removed or renamed for any reason.) For some, a religion provides more inclusion and strength. However, in early sobriety, it is suggested, “[We] Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This understanding doesn’t happen overnight. Spirituality, a belief system of a religion, and continuous sobriety are life-long practices.

We should remind the newcomer to build their foundation of spirituality (not an understanding of a religion) in Steps 1, Step 2 and Step 3. The first three Steps are essential to continuous sobriety. Even after, we cross the bridge to much harder work within ourselves with the help of their Higher Power and their Sponsor. Lastly, we start to resolve issues within ourselves. Perhaps, only after all Steps are completed and they have begun “practicing these principles in all our affairs” it would be appropriate to breach the subject of religion.

What are your thoughts about discussing religion with newcomers to the program? Should the discussion of religion take place in early sobriety?

Reveal or Not Reveal

Another follower at Guitars and Life raised an interesting question to a recovery minded podcast, BUZZKILL Pod. The question posed is “Reveal or Not Reveal?”. The discussion revolves around views whether recovering addicts should or should not reveal themselves as such, a person in recovery? Those of us in recovery have different views on the subject. For those interested, this is my view on the topic.

Recovery programs were established in the early 1930’s. Since then people in need of recovery from around the world come together to discuss a new way of life as a recoverying addict. Due to the stigma surrounding addiction, these meetings are typically held in private. Anonymity is of upmost importance. A tradition was put in place, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” The tradition was placed as a means of protecting those in recovery from the stigma.

With the help of advanced sciences, the understanding of addiction has changed, yet the stigma still relatively remains the same. Ken Hensley, an English singer-songwriter, puts addiction in perspective, “It is hard to understand addiction unless you have experienced it.” In other words, unless your an addict or a recovering addict, most likely you truly do not understand what we are going through. For instance, a large view of the population asks, “Why can’t you just stop?” We wish it was just that easy. Others still view addicts as helpless criminals who should be locked away. Another stigma, not all addicts are criminals. These views need to be changed, otherwise those in active addiction may never find recovery.

In recent years a movement to bring a better understanding of addiction through promotion of prevention and education by recovering addicts has become prevelant in the media. Thus, the controversy in the recovery community over disclosure. Some believe such disclosure violates the tradition, “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion . . .” The key word here is “promotion”. In addition, “. . . we always maintain anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.” We now hear about addiction in all types of media. Where should people draw the line? Traditions tend to change over time. For instance, you have a Christmas tradition surviving in your family for generations. Do you follow the exact tradition from when it was started? Of course not. As time goes on, the tradition changes in some form or another due to circumstances.

In today’s society, circumstances have changed. One can find a host of information on the Internet about “trends in addiction” using Google. Historically, one type of addiction will be prevelant for years, while other wanes. For instance, at the time the tradition was written, alcoholism was the most prevelant addiction known. During other times, marijuana, cocaine, meth or another drug was prevelant. Today, we are currently experiencing an epidemic of herion addiction.

Finally, here are my thoughts on disclosure. Yes, I believe in upholding the tradition, while on the other hand it is my responsiblity to practice the 12th Step, as a recovering addict. Self-disclosure is a personal choice. Some disclose their recovery to no one, keeping to the tradition of self-protection. Others choose to disclose their recovery to others for various reasons. For instance, in a 12-Step program, the 12th Step states, ““Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics/addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

All active addicts become hopeless – we hit “rock bottom”. Our addiction takes us places we never through imaginable. We are shrouded in shame, guilt, anger, selfishness, etc. All those things made me feel alone; the only person on this Earth in a revolving cycle of destruction to myself and those around me. Recovery brought me hope; recovery is a way of living with my addiction.

Early in my recovery, I learned disclosure should only be done to those who were in recovery. I had to learn a different way of living. Therefore I only could learn through other recovering addicts. But there was a point in my recovery where I felt disclosure of my recovery was necessary to more than just recovering addicts. I was comfortable with who I was, where I was in my own recovery. It is my choice to open my life to others for two reasons.

Most importantly to another active addict. Doing so gives them an opportunity to learn what I’ve been through. Hopefully, they decide for themselves to learn more about recovery and a new way of life with addiction. Second, my disclosure to the general public is a hope to help them better understand of who we are as addicts (both recovering and active). By sharing my experiences both in active addiction and recovery giving them a chance to walk in my shoes. Perhaps this would give them an insight of feeling exactly where I’ve been and/or what I’m going through in my daily life.

For me, I won’t be here today, if I had not embraced sobriety. It was my personal choice to live another way because where I was and what I was doing wasn’t working. Enevitably, it would (and could) led to death if something didn’t change. Plain and simple. But I’m not one to force my beliefs or views on anyone. So I leave you with this,

I am Responsible. When Anyone, Anywhere
Reaches Out For Help,
I Want The Hand Of A.A. [or another program]
Always To Be There.
And For That,
I Am Responsible !

Help continue this discussion in the comments but please be civil. We all have different views.  Any and all comments are appreciated!