Blessings

I write to stay free so I go to meetings of AA to hear the voices of freedom,  and I take walks on the beach to experience the feelings of freedom. I have to feel things and when the going gets tough, I count my blessings. I learn that from people who are sober alcoholics. I also began saying a simple prayer in the morning for God to put people in my life that I can help. The blessing is that He does, but I must aswer the call. Stronger men than me have been taken by the undercurrents of addiction far too soon.  I was in bondage in every sort of way but especially to the emotive part of me. I was clueless that I was using alcohol just to get some peace of mind…and then the very friend I found inside the bottle turned on me. Allowing others to walk beside me in my times of distress is a way of serving them, while also allowing them to serve me. It’s the 12th step of AA. As a result of working steps 1 thru 11, we then have an opportunity to share with others the blessing of hope, but we can’t transmit something that we don’t have. Some days it is just a matter of faith. What I’ve learned is that if I want to stay sober then I have to do what sober people do. It takes faith, courage, and a heaping dose of humility. Sprinkle in a little gratitude, and there is a recipe for learning how to live sober one day at a time. Life happens, change is inevitable, and growth is optional. Counting my blessings is one sure way that helps me to stay away from the first drink…good day!…b

Friends and addiction

“Wanna find out who your friends are? Get sober.”This anonymous quote reminds us of a powerful, often-painful truth: When we change, our relationships to the people around us change too. Often when we first get sober, we may find ourselves feeling isolated so we attempt a new relationship without getting to know our true sober selves. Some friendships and connections fall away, and we’re not sure what will take their place. When that happens, it helps to be able to hear from others who have gone through the same thing. It helps to be reminded that we’re not alone, that many people have walked the road before us. Today, I thank God for these people. They taught me what codependent thinking FEELS like and that has made all the difference. I got caught and trapped there for most of my life. Many of us in recovery find that controlling, obsessing, and caretaking do not work in any type of relationship. Oftentimes, the strangeness of some friend in recovery relapsing causes us to have to pull back. It is healthier to set those boundaries early but always reminding them that my hand is still there when they reach for help. I have to remember that my life is at stake. Some tragically never make it back. It is a sad ending to what once had been a happy life. Friends will ebb and flow thruout our lives, and some friendships will grow stronger thru the years. Some may even turn into courtship and marriage.  Others we may lose to the natural order of life. Recovery principles work in harmonious relationships when I do my part to see how I can improve myself. It takes a village of friendly networks wherever I go to help me stay sober. I have found it to be one of life’s simple pleasures…good day!…b

Recovery tools

Nothing can assure that I won’t take that first drink as much as writing down or mentally focusing on a good ol gratitude list, saying a prayer, attending a meeting, or a conversation thru out my day with other alcoholics in recovery. Growing my recovery network has been foundational to me staying sober as well. Reading recovery literature and spiritual material is also helpful in keeping my mind from racing and thinking only about myself. These are recovery tools; those important parts that glue together when the seams come unraveled. Staying centered is key for me along my recovery road. Accepting others as they are, and realizing that we all struggle with something makes me human. It is exactly why I need God. It is easy to get complacent with life when times are good, but a blip on the radar occurs and suddenly I can gravitate toward the negative, fear filled side. It is almost ingrained that is where my mind goes. Maybe I lose a contract or the car battety is dead. Maybe the kids get sick, or my bicycle chain breaks. All these events have happened and more, but the people that I know that are the happiest are the ones who accept it and let it go quickly.  They have recovery tools they use to stay sober…..I’m visiting my old stomping grounds for a few days, so I visited my CA homegroup. I”ll make a 9:30 meeting this morning and see my friends there before I leave town. Some are the very ones I walked into the rooms with just months apart. They are staying sober as well. That gives me hope that the program outlined in the book really does work for helping me stay straight. You see, I can”t do this by myself. I need the help of a sponsor and others who have experienced the chaos that alcoholism creates. They somehow find joy and meaning by helping others. A psychic change occurs and they no longer obsess over people, places, or things. Now I know that we are free because we pick up the spiritual toolkit laid at our feet….good day!…b

Soul searching

Doing the daily work it takes to remain sober can be challenging at times. It is difficult for me to admit my faults and confess my shortcomings, but I have come quite aways in a few short years. It is required if I want to become the man that I had always pretended to be. I lived a double lie until I accepted my alcoholism and got honest about it. Getting sober was hard but because I had never really worked the steps, I can’t say my benders were relapses. They were just more of the same: drinking against my will, changing brands and types, and trying to control my intake was and still would be a dismal fail. I had to concede that I was just doing what I hated most and that was lying about it. Noone I know now cares much about a liar. I thought I was covering my tracks, but in the end I couldn’t even pretend. Asking for help takes courage but my pride and ego will step in and tell me to act as if I know. Soul searching can be tricky when I’ve lied so much that even I believed them. I wrangled with delusional thinking until my mind began clearing up. Today, it takes working the steps and working with others to keep myself in check. I had to get down to causes and conditions realizing all the while that I wasn’t fooling  anyone but myself. My disease is a spiritual one and I now know that I need help to stay out of bars and off the bottle. There is nothing left there for me but pain and misery. I don’t always do life right, but when I do some soul searching…its a good, good thing….blessings, b

Same story

What qualifies me as an alcoholic is that I could not stop drinking when I started and never could quit entirely even after swearing off. I struggled for a quarter of a century accepting that fact. It is a warped mental deception to believe that I was drinking for the fun of it. It wasn’t always miserable early on, but somewhere I crossed the line into complete powerlessness. Nobody could stop for me, and no man or woman could threaten to cut me off to make me stop. Chasing the idea that I could control and manage my drinking became the great obsession. I could run, but I always ended up with the same type problems: no money, bills piling up and always at odds with my fellow man. I could white knuckle it for a while, and then invariably I had no defense against the first drink. It’s the same story that I hear others share in the rooms of AA. For me to always think I was different, much of who I am now is very similar to others; their struggles, their pains, their heartaches are mine. No one I’ve ever met in recovery got there because life was really going so well. I was maladjusted, the book says, and today it makes perfect sense. I need the help of God and others to stay sober but it is my pride and ego that will tell my mind that I’m still different. At an early age, I began to use people and love things and I got it all backwards for a long, long time. My tolerance level increased, and so did my consumption. I slipped deeper into my addiction until I learned that it was my secrets that had haunted me until I worked the 12 steps. For years, I thought I was incapable of ever quitting for good. Today, I just live day to day with the end in mind. The two parts of my alcoholism are mental and physical. The mental obsession would trigger the physical cravings. It is the same stories I hear, feel, see, and experience in the rooms. I am no different in most respects and now I look for the common traits of others with my addiction. I always wanted to come clean and finally I told my worst secrets. Putting on a front or facade finally eroded around me, and all I was left with was me. No flip flops, sleeping on others couches, and starving to death couldn’t convince me. I had to find hope from others in order to finally surrender to the idea that I could not drink like normal people…good day!..b

Alcoholism

Anything that hurts you can teach you, and if it keeps hurting you, it’s because you haven’t learned. ~ Unknown

Cunning, baffling, powerful is how the Big Book of AA describes it. King Alcohol, or “alkehaul” as a guy in the downtown group known as JAFI clubhouse calls it. I watch others now battle with the phenomenon that we call cravings with a new found respect for the substance that kills more people in our country than anything else. The problem with the death certificates is that they list the causes of death as liver failure and heart failure, or the like, and not alcoholism or acute alcohol poisoning. In former times, a man would get locked up permanently in an insane asylum and the cause would be listed as “bad whiskey.” Imagine that, a disease so subtly strong that it kills with the labeled warning still on the bottle. A pickle can’t read the outside label from inside the jar I heard a man say the other night. The same guy I watched for months struggle to quit drinking, finally seeking help thru rehab in a 30 day program out west. He’s determined to make 90 meetings in 90 days, which is admirable, but he won’t call his sponsor and ask for help. I know him better than most because I got an earlier start by age in AA than he has. I didn’t call any of my sponsors while making meetings on and off for twenty years, and you guessed right if your thoughts are that I couldn’t stay sober. I’d drink again and become more baffled and puzzled than before. A sponsor is someone who walks you thru the 12 steps of AA. It’s advisable for men to sponsor men and women to sponsor women for obvious reasons. My experience was that until I became humbled by drinking enough alcohol did I become willing to ask for help. Alcohol tricks my mind into believing that I’ll quit tomorrow. It’s persuasive and cunning like that. To someone who drinks and doesn’t experience the phenomenon of craving, they may not understand, but once I take a drink, my mind begins to obsess over more, and my body craves it to the point of pure annihilation and destruction. That is what separates me from the pack. I accept that today I have to run with a group of people  who also have a desire to stay sober.  I don’t explain it away, …….I work the steps, stay connected, and tell others how I am feeling so I won’t pick up a drink thinking it will be different this time around….good day!…b

 

 

First things first

C.S. Lewis wrote in the early forties to…”put first things first, and the second things will come, put second things first and I will lose them both”….Steven Covey wrote that I should begin each day with the end in mind.  I read the A.A. Big Book that tells me to ask God to direct my thinking at the start, and the Great Teacher once told the legal minds of His day to “put the Kingdom of God first, and everything else will be added.” It really is a much better way to approach my anxiety, stress, and angst. I drank it away, but that created more and more problems. You can easily see how my thinking gets me troubled. Waking up to a head full of noise can be a crippling, fear filled experience if I do not have a sufficient substitute. And I have found that it is the Creator of all that is beautiful and good that helps me when I cannot, for one single breath and the life of me, find my way. A common peril is what brought me to the rooms of recovery. Finding hope and hearing God expressed thru others’ experiences has catapulted me into a newer appreciation of space and time. Time and space are both infinite, and both are way above my understanding. It is best that I take each for face value and play the only cards I have…..the ones that I have been dealt. Acceptance is a hard task when I don’t think that my life is shaped like I had supposed.  I have to pause and remember that there are others who think much like I do because they have the sober mind of a chronic alcoholic, too. A mind that if left unchecked, goes off to the races and won’t show back up for  days, weeks, even years. I know because my mind has told me, “you got this.” It has always been the first drink that got me, just like the first cut. Beginning each day fresh is where I start, and letting go of all circumstances, people, and events that are outside my control is healthy. It reminds me that it will all play out just like it was meant to be as long as I remember to stay out of the way. I simply cannot wake up and go thru my day without remembering to put the most important parts first if I want to be at peace….good day!…b

the Director

I’ve always wanted to run the show as far back as I can remember. Even farther back than when  Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams said, “just build it and they will come,” but we all know a  rudderless director is like a ship with no captain when the sails give way. It’s every man to himself looking to find the answers to questions like, “how do I move on from here?” I had to hit bottom before I sought help.  I had tried it for twenty five years my way, and found that even alcohol and drugs couldn’t fix me. It’s been a long hard row to hoe. I simply had to learn to stop trying to control and stop playing God. I am blessed today with a Father who still loves me and an earthly father, who at 85, still sets a good example of what love, faith, and hard work can do….and he credits God. At 35, a father and son of drinkers, he found God on his terms, and to my knowledge has never had a drink since. He has never left any doubt in my mind who the Director is in his life. I had to drink a lot more for a little longer and lose at the game to be convinced that I was no longer good at managing my own life. Coming to terms with that has taken a lifetime of lessons in humility. If I remain willing and stay humble, only then do I have a chance;however,  I am grateful for those lessons that I learned doing it my way. I could share all that I’ve lost and then some, but that is not my point. Let me share with you what I’ve gained…peace, serenity, and a happy soul. If I had not learned the lessons on what wasn’t working, I’d be stuck or dead, of that I am certain. God gave me my life back when I became willing to let Him direct the show. It’s hard for others to follow the leader when the one who thinks he runs the show doesn’t show up. What is attractive to me now is watching other’s lives change when they begin to follow the dictates of a Higher Power, God, in His infinite wisdom showing up to direct and lead when the student is ready.  Not a day before or a minute after, but always right on time to take away an obsession so powerful that it had warped me into believing that it wasn’t killing me. It’s much easier now learning to walk in harmony while I watch the show unfold without having to put all of the pieces together in a scene that would only seem to be just right…good day!…b 

Grasping for truth

imageNothing at this juncture is more pivotal in my recovery than the attempt to be as honest as I know how. I’ve never believed that I was a natural born lier, but let me drink enough, and I can’t tell truth from fiction. My world gets distorted, thinking gets skewed, and my perceptions get warped really fast. Thanks to willingness and open mindedness for helping me unravel the madness of my own alcoholism. It takes courage to get honest, do a self appraisal, work on character defects, make amends, and give freely to my brothers and sisters. In it all, is an honest search for truth………I found myself running from life. Today, sober, I face the truth and the truth hurts sometime. It’s hard being rigorously honest. It’s harder to accept that within me lies most of the creator of the problems that I’ve encountered. I also know that I am not alone. Who else would lie, manipulate, and con thru life but a drunk because at first glance, it’s the easier, softer way. But I had to get honest, first with God, then myself, and now with others. If something hurts me, I have to get it out whereas I used to hide the pain in a bottle. I don’t always get it right, but today I trust that God is working in my life on a far grander scale when I am honest with myself and others. He already knows the truth, so I trust Him with the process. Doing a personal inventory taught me that most of my troubles lie in three areas: childhood of origin, family of origin, and religion of origin. But none of those are reasons for me to pick up a drink. I have no excuses, and that’s the whole truth of the matter. I must carry a hope and vision to accept my past, learn from it, and move forward determined not to repeat those same mistakes. I simply cannot plow ahead when my focus is over my shoulder.  I’ve learned that one the hard way, and lying to cover up a lie is stress filled and hard work. It is my responsibility to walk with purpose when under duress, and that is a trudge that I am honestly trying to practice along my journey good day!….b

Never Ends Well

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I’ve been making meetings, check. I’ve been working with newcomers, check that one too. I read my AA big book and got up to go to church this morning, called a friend once I realized no one was there only to hear him tell me, “it’s Saturday, dude.” I do all of that sober stuff,  so just imagine how freaking effed up it got when I was drinking, doing pills, and lying. Today’s nightly topic was being true to oneself, the AA mantra, but throw me a squirrel and I’ll put him in a cage and watch while he dies frantically trying to escape. That is the mind of a chronic alcoholic, wheels always churning on a lost highway. I’ve missed the point most of my life, and when I felt my first drink I got a euphoric feeling. Most people take a drink, get a buzz, and go to bed. Nuh uh, not me. Then, I drink the euphoric feeling into complete bleakness. It’s a numb place there, living to drink and drinking to live. So, what happens when a man makes a decision to stop? My experience is that I had to get God into it quickly and surrender my will. Treating a 7 day a week drinking habit with no spiritual connectivity is like putting a band aid on a bullet hole; bleeding to death trying to get someone else to take the key and free my soul. I ran into myself today when after a meeting a guy drove up, got out of his truck, and frantically and honestly told me my relapse story. I knew his face but had forgotten his name. Today, I realize our stories are much the same, and our names could all be the same as well. More, more, more is what our brains tell us, so we reach for the pipes, stay gone for three days, and then wonder why our loved ones don’t want us back. So, we grab a shovel, dig our bottoms deeper, clench our teeth, and fight to the death trying to free our minds from the insanity of that first one. I know him well, I fought tooth and nail to prove I was different, only to find out that the first one never ends well. I simply have to pray for willingness and take action today  in order for my experiences to change….. good day!…b