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.

Thoughts on My Mind

After writing here yesterday, a few things happened which are on my mind and even more things are stuck in my head. The purpose of this blog is two fold. First, this blog is for myself to write things down. In effect(?) putting them on paper so I can deal with them – using Step 4 or Step 10, if need be. Secondly, showing how my program of recovery works to others. It really falls back to the AA Preamble and Step 12.

Oh goodness where do I start . . .? First, if anyone has comments, suggestions, concerns or thoughts, I am always open to ANY. I don’t take things personally. I’m learning in my own sobriety through other people’s experience how things works, so “suggestions” are always welcome. With that, here we go.

WARNING – THIS IS A LONG POST

Now I think about it, perhaps I should put each of these as one post each instead of a GIANT POST. Thoughts?

Sponsorship

First, I will never disclose what I talk about with those I sponsor, as it should be. However, I don’t think I’m crossing a line when I write about what is going on with me. Here is such a case.

As mentioned, I have someone I sponsor. While I have experience in my past, I don’t want to repeat it. To make necessary changes so it does’t happen again, I apply the “honesty, open-mindedness and willingness” principles.

As I look at those past experiences today, I can say I was NOT a good sponsor. Not because they didn’t stay sober. Instead, I really didn’t do what a good sponsor is suppose to do when you take on this responsibility. Instead of thinking, “I got this . . .” This time I’m going to be working closely with my Sponsor taking his suggestions. Lastly, I’m willing to listen to those suggestions and try new things. Only through this process, in my own experience does this process work.

Typically a new sponsor guides this new “protege” as he/she was taught by their sponsor. I am willing to do the same. When I met with my sponsor, I shared where I have been, then he did the same. It was only after that, when we have a common connection, did we move forward with reading the Big Book line by line starting with the Preface.

In the meantime, the person I sponsor has been speaking to me daily. We all have issues at the beginning. I didn’t know how to live a sober life. That is what a sponsor is for – to help another alcoholic guide you and point you in the right direction.

Codependency

As this process continues, I noticed some codependency issues starting to emerge. Codependency to me is like the role of a care-taker. Instead of focusing on myself, in my past I went to any length to ensure those I sponsored had a needed everything no matter what the cost to me. It was a relapse just waiting to happen, which it did in the end. But I had to go through that experience. I’m grateful I did because today I’m more aware of those destructive codependency behaviors.

I’m involved with a local Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) which meets weekly. Again, I was grateful for the meeting later in the evening. Another point to be made – if I’m willing to receive messages from my Higher Power, I just have to listen. In the meeting, I discussed my concerns, we did the readings and BAM – there is was in print, yet again. My solution – let go of my past! When necessary talk to other codependents about your past and ask your Higher Power to relieve you of your past mistakes. Simply, let it go!

Al-Anon

Right after my CoDA meeting is another AA Big Book Study meeting. Last night we read “To The Wives” from the Big Book. I didn’t plan on speaking because I don’t have an experience. But someone brought up how this chapter was the starting point for Al-Anon. Oh – I have experience with them!

When I had four to five years of sobriety in my past I was enrolled in a chemical dependency degree program at a local community college. The chairperson and professor of the core class – Chemical Dependency I (first year) we were required to attend various “fellowship” meetings. One term paper at the end of the semester was all about what we learned.

The professor is a member of AA, I knew well. She knew me and my experience in AA. She brought me aside after class one day saying:

“Michael, for the final project paper, I want you to do something different. I know you have knowledge of AA and NA. I don’t want that because you won’t learn anything. I would like you to seek other fellowships, whether its Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous, Over-eaters Anonymous, SMART recovery meetings, etc.”

I told her I would seek Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous and SMART Recovery. She warned me certain groups and/or members of Al-Anon are NOT receptive to recovering alcoholics in their meetings. Learning from my sponsor, I didn’t set expectations.

I went to a local Al-Anon meeting which was in an office next to an the auditorium which we held our local AA meetings. Struggling with myself – do I want to really do this, should I do this, I have other options – I reluctantly sat down and introduced myself. But I lied.

The first thing out of the chairperson’s mouth to start the meeting was, “We are family members who either had or live with an active addict in our homes. Therefore, if you are in recovery yourself, we ask that you leave as this meeting is not meant for you.” I was shocked – what discrimination, right? Do not judge, I thought. So I kept my mouth shut and listened.

Halfway through the meeting I started to cry. I cry openly these days. When there was a pause between people sharing, the chairperson asked, “Are you okay?” I said, “Yes. But I lied to everyone here. I’m a recovering alcoholic.” There weren’t moans or groans, no eyes rolled, no huffs and puffs. I was asked to continue sharing, thus I did.

My experience at that meeting was one of the most humbling experiences in my sobriety. I know what I did to those around me (or as I know refer to it as ‘what I thought I did’). In all honesty, I didn’t realize the magnitude of destruction I may have caused to others in my own active addiction. This experience brought me a better understanding of the pain and suffering those around me went through when dealing with me in my active addiction.

Crossing a Line

I’ve brought up before I’m really working on my codependent issues. In my past, I watched people fall and I was there with a shovel to scoop them off their ass back on their feet. Not today. I can’t force sobriety on someone else. At the same time, if I know someone is struggling, I have to let them live their life, yet be supportive when and where I can. I can’t save them.

I live with two other guys who have problems of their own. I have been there to support them but I have not gotten involved – period. Right now, the roommate who wants to move in with me after our completion of this residential program ( now at the first of next year) is in a really bad place. Not only myself see it, our other roomate is concerned (who is very codependent himself – again, I stay completely out of it) and many of our friends in recovery ask about his welfare, “Where is X? I haven’t seen him in meetings? Is X okay?” I can only say, “I saw him walk to the bathroom today, so I now he is alive and breathing. That is all I can say.” I leave it there.

But it’s been three days. He has not gone to a meeting. All of his time has was spent in his room with his door closed. He usually cooks at night which he didn’t do either. His anger is increasing as things crash here and there with “F******K”. The very few times we have spoken, we speak very little if anything at all. Everyone knows the issue he is going through – a failed relationship.

Update quickly 10:30 am:
Actually there is a bit of a change because he’s sitting right next fixing his bike. He went somewhere (an appointment) came back, started to joke with me about where I’m going this afternoon (another post for sure). But when we ask, “Are you okay?” Grunt – complete shutdown. UGH!

He and I share the same sponsor. I’m been asked by others in the community to speak to our sponsor because they are concerned. But I’m conflicted as to where or not I should. Part of me feels like a scapegoat for the others who don’t have the balls to talk to our sponsor themselves. Even though I can tell them, “Tell him yourself.” I doubt anyone has done it. Yet, part of me feels an obligation because my roommate at this point has completely shut down. My sponsor may already know this. The question is, do I even cross the line? Really I don’t have an answer, so I’m going to ask my Sponsor anyway.

Update 4:30 pm:
My roommate came out, made a smart remark to me, out of no where, which I ignored. My other roommate just came home is hungry so I asked this one, “Are you doing to make dinner or do you want X to make dinner?” Response, “I don’t care.” Another question from me, “Do you want to eat now or later?” Response, “I don’t care”. Now I’m disappointed because I thought he was better than this? **head to desk**

18 Years Sober Living in a Halfway House

Perhaps I shouldn’t write this but I’m making the choice to do so. No I’m not taking this guy’s inventory. What this gentleman is doing is not only harmful to himself but to others. Mr. XYZ recently arrived at the halfway house from rehab. Honestly, I don’t even think he’s been here a month or just over a month. He’s really testing my tolerance, pity and patience.

At our anniversary meeting, where medallions are handed out for milestones in recovery, he stands up to pick up his 18 year medallion. Usually there is clapping when someone picks up a medallion. Not for him. We were all shocked and many of us just shook our heads. That’s right “18 years alcohol free”, his words. He’s at the halfway house “because of drugs” which he categorizes as “x months free from [this drug] and I relapsed on pot that’s why I’m here.” He said that openly the other day at yet another meeting. I thought the chairperson of the meeting was going to lose it! When he’s at a meeting and the chair asks for “people willing to sponsor” he raises his hand. I just learned today that THREE people at the house, all brand new to recovery are under his wing. Seriously? Oh, I have major issues with his complete disrespect of how the program(s) should work. Again, practicing tolerance, pity and patience. Also, what do I do? I don’t know – I ask my Sponsor.

Two New People to Sponsor

So while writing this I went to a noon meeting. Two of the guys from the halfway house, both at the same time, asked if I would sponsor them. I said “Yes” because I believe my Higher Power would not have put these people in my life unless I was ready. However, in the future, I am going to have to decline because three on my plate is going to be enough to juggle.

Drug Court

Lastly, when I was sober before working in the chemical dependency field, I had heard so much about Adult Addiction Treatment Court (aka “Drug Court”). I found that these sessions where public so I ended up going to a few, out of curiosity, not to judge anyone. Another eye opener. How could I not judge when people were telling a judge one thing and I knew another. Wow, the balls these people have. Sad really. Ok, I am judging. Today I went to a local DC. Same experience. Despite what I think, they will get what they deserve in the end. It’s not my decision, it’s not the judge’s decision, they are only doing it to themselves. I pains me to see these people who are given a chance under the strict circumstances to change their lives, yet STILL they don’t take the opportunity they are given.

AA’s literature “How it Works” partially reads:

” . . .Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with
themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, Chapter 5 – How it Works, pg. 58

Conclusion – I Swear!

As I look back at the above, perhaps there are things I need to work on just a little better, perhaps not. Yet, right now I feel all these things are happening for a reason. Perhaps I’m meant to go through this to learn “how to” or “how to not” handle these situations in the future. Obviously I failed in the past, otherwise I would be where I am today. I feel better writing them all down here. They are out. Now I have to take action whatever that action might be.

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.