Gratitude for a Second Chance

At fifteen months of sobriety, I didn’t imagine I would be still living in a chemical dependency residential program. One would think by now, I would have moved on. But this just isn’t the case. Matter for fact, I will be here for a couple more months as I continue to take care of some dental issues.

Living one day at a time and practicing patience with the process can be difficult at times. Yet, I continue to believe I am here for a reason. Therefore I’m grateful for the continued support I receive while I go through this process, as frustrating and difficult as it may be at times.

Back in August, I finally stepped in a dental office to take care of some plaguing dental issues. I went through two surgeries, ten teeth extractions to remove “problem” teeth. I thought I was in the clear to move on with a partial denture and the rest of my life. Again, this wasn’t so. After going back to my regular dentist, they decided it would be best just to have the rest of my upper teeth all removed and a full denture placed. Back to the oral surgeon I went to schedule two more surgeries.

Monday, the first surgery was completed. Yesterday, I went for a follow up. I was surprised I was in no pain and cleared for the last surgery to be scheduled on November 20th or sooner (I’m on the cancellation list). Immediately after my appointment I got a call from the dentist to schedule the impression for my full upper denture in early January. There is a four to six week healing period after the last surgery. It’s my understanding after the impression is taken, again there is another lengthy period of time before the actual placement of the upper full denture. So, reality sets in as I may not be moving on until February or March of 2020. Despite this, I’m okay with it.

During this whole time I have seen a lot of people come and go for various reasons. Many leave on their own accord, only to relapse because they thought they were ready. They did what they wanted to do and they failed. I don’t want to be that person – again. As someone reminds me in meetings, “[this program] is the last house on the block for me. Either I stick with this time around or I may not be back and probably end up dead”.

I am not squandering this second change of changing my life, as this may be the last chance. I am grateful I developed “a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty”. I have learned, “Living on Life’s Terms” can be difficult at times. I don’t want to be here, I want to move on. Yet, I have to remember I’m here for a reason. Perhaps there are life lessons I’m getting a chance to refine before moving on. So, every day as I review my day I ask, “What lesson(s) did I learn today?”

The point I am trying to make is, no matter what life may throw at me, I have the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, a Higher Power, a Sponsor and a network of sober people to help me stay sober every day. Without these things in place, I know I would be dead or living a miserable existence. Instead, today I’m grateful to be alive and sober.

One Day at A Time

As I look at my past ten years of sobriety, then my relapse, I have to look at what didn’t work. I had a good program going until I started to do what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted to do things in my life. Since I restarted my journey in sobriety, I only concentrate on “One Day at a Time” literally. I’ve developed a daily schedule, simple yet effective, which helps me to stay sober and allows for peace and serenity in my life.

At the ten year mark, I was in my own place, where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted. There wasn’t a thought I had my alcoholism “licked” because I knew better. It was waiting patiently, waiting for the right time to come back and kick my arse. That it did! Hence, the saying, “..cunning, baffling and powerful”. It wasn’t like drinking my first beer ever in life. I started right back from where I left off ten years ago: one beer the first day, three the next but the end of the week a 12pk, next week I was drinking a good 30 pack a day AGAIN. Remember its a progressive, chronic disease. It never stops until we are DEAD!

When I walk through the doors this time around, I made a commitment LIVE ONE DAY AT A TIME. Honestly, I had reservations whether I was going to stay sober until I walked into my first AA meeting – I was home again. So the first thing I do daily is practice gratitude:

  • I’m grateful for my Higher Power for waking me up (I’m alive)
  • I’m grateful to be start another day sober
  • I’m grateful to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous

If you’re reading this, you know the second thing I do daily to keep myself sober – I take the time to post my daily readings. Why? My sponsor the first time I was sober told me to write each Step down. If we write things down, we have to face them. I do this process with my readings. Instead of just reading them, I actually type them out here. It helps me to remember, perhaps, those things I can work on for my sobriety today.

For instance, as you know I have codependent behaviors, hence the Language of Letting Go readings. These principles are vital in my sobriety. Just like my alcoholism, I must practice these principles daily. One of my roommates takes something out and doesn’t put it back where it belongs. He wakes up in the middle of the night, makes himself a snack leaving the peanut butter jar open with the knife on top. He habitually leaves not one but multiple glasses laying around the house empty after drinking its contents. Deep down it infuriates me. He’s a f**king slob. However, it is NOT my job to clean up after him. Even after multiple times of asking (politely) to clean up his own messes, he just doesn’t want to change. So, daily I remind him, “Mr. X please put X in the sink to be washed.” I can’t change him; he has to be willing to change himself. I have no control over what he does or doesn’t do. The point is I’m not going to “save or take care of” him. I have to practice acceptance, tolerance and pity (an AA principle) – meet him where he’s at, keep my calm and recognize he’s just sicker than me.

The Three
AA Legacies

I recognize from my own past when I am not involved in Alcoholics Anonymous in any way, shape or form I’m walking toward my next drink. No matter what my mood, no matter who may or may not show up, no matter how much I may despise people, how they share their non-existence of experience in meetings or what the weather is outside, I have to attend meetings. I also have commitments; I have responsibilities to show up, not only for myself, but for others. Every meeting I attend, I hear a message I can learn and apply in my own life. Luckily for me, there are at least two meetings a day I can attend to help me stay sober no matter what is going on in my life. Again, this is a vital “action” needed for recovery – going to meetings on a regular basis.

I’m grateful for the residential program where I currently reside because honestly I’m not sure if I could stay sober without the continued support I receive on a daily basis. At times, I may despise this program. For instance, a staff member just came into the house. He didn’t knock or say, “Hello! Is anyone home?” He just came in, ignored me, walked around the house, then proceeds to tell me, “Please sweep the floor” as he’s walking out of the house. I would never just walk into someone’s house. When I worked in the chemical dependency field, we practiced respect for our clients. Again, I have to recognize, my values may not be the same as others and this is a temporary situation. For my sobriety I just bite my tongue, take a breath and move on.

Despite small inconveniences throughout the day, I manage to live a simple yet meaningful life. I may not have a job, my own home, money in my pocket, etc. But I am sober and enjoying life today. It reminds me of the 9th Step promises:

“We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will materialize if we work for them.”  

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, pg. 83 and 84

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!

 

Adopting the Minimalist Lifestyle

minimalism-min

Most of my life, both in active addiction and recovery, I have stockpiled crap. During my active addiction, it was like another obsession, “I could always use this later . . . ” However, during my sobriety, its more on the lines of, “I don’t want to lose this . . .” With my pending move to a new home, I’ve decided to adopt a new minimalist lifestyle. As Step 12 suggests, “. . . , practicing these principles in all our affairs.”

First, I put a twist on the most common slogan, “One Day at a Time”. In this case, taking the monumental task of just one section of the current home. After reading hundreds of articles on a minimalist lifestyle, I finally got my arse up away from the computer to tackle the walk in closet.

I took a tape measure out from a toolset (one I’ve never opened) measuring the space to be approximately 5 feet deep by 7.5 feet tall. It was stacked with stuff about 4 feet. Bags of JUNK from front to back. There are old computer parts (printers, screens, misc., etc.) and bags of unknown origins. So I took the most difficult step for me – throwing it all away. While some of it sits in the front room, a quarter of it sits in my car ready to be hauled to a willing commercial trash can.

It was a difficult task. Part of me, the new me, didn’t want to bother looking into the bag. If I didn’t know what it was – trash pile. On the other hand, there were strong impulses to go through each bag, “Just in case, you may need something . . .” It reminded me of my early days of sobriety. So, I adopted the same principles like I do in my sobriety:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol the compulsion to save things –that our lives had become unmanageable.

Like in sobriety, I admit complete defeat. My Gods, I’ve buried my Self in a pile of JUNK over 4 feet high! Why? Because of my fear of losing things in my life again. I’m accepting the truth of the situation. I don’t and can’t live this way anymore. There is no need. I’m attempting to hold on to material things which, in reality, have no meaning in my life anymore. They are just things. I should no longer fear losing everything. I have to let it go!

Already, I have a sense of relief and sadness. I’m relieved the task if over. It’s been years, day after day, I told myself I would get rid of everything. Now the junk is out on the floor and ready to go! It’s like writing Step 1 on paper. Yet, part of me feels sad I’m throwing a part of my life away. Am I? Perhaps I’m not “throwing a part of my life” but simply “closing another chapter in my life, getting ready to write a new one”!

I made a promise to myself of change. I”m moving to a brand new place with the absolute minimum. It’s like writing a new chapter in my life on a blank page. I’m actually excited. I don’t know what the future holds, as it has yet to be written. But I do know this, We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” That is the goal and I’m just one Step, closer!