When London Breed posted instructions to nest in place eight months ago, I figured it would be easy-peasy for this alcoholic. Isolating was easy. It was most comfortable to go it alone and block out the outside world. The first month I read four books, watched a ton of videos, caught up with American’s Got Talent and perused a bunch of TED Talks. I figured out how to get Netflix on my phone (passwords can be a challenge). Netflix, Amazon, HBO and I became best friends. Isolation would be a piece of cake—although I never thought of the flip side, depression.
Then an email arrived. My home meeting was online and I might attend on Zoom. Okay, I knew a bit about Zoom from online classes, but I was certainly not ready to announce my alcoholism to the world in general or to the world of Zoom and held off attending. After a few irritable hours I decided to hover around the meeting, you know, anonymously. It was like sitting in the back of the room when I forged into my first meeting.
After a few irritable hours I decided to hover around the meeting, you know, anonymously
There’s a lot to using Zoom, such as finding the link and then muting or unmuting and talking while muted. You know, all those early learning experiences I thought an experienced person like me should instinctively know. I didn’t. The deal is, I wasn’t drinking but old friends like depression and irritability were hovering around the corner. The word “insidious” comes to mind.
I became my less-than-charming self. My husband developed unbecoming habits I had to point out to him. Never mind that he’s not changed over the forty-plus years I’ve known him.
During the seventh month he passed away and all thoughts of his imperfections, my community or my program seemed to go with him. As always I knew I didn’t want to drink. That was a given, but I also didn’t feel like eating or being. Living was an effort.
I could not to present myself to a room full of caring friends. Isolation seemed to work. Luckily, once again, the A.A. program came through as my sponsor and my sponsee had both lost a partner within the last four years. They told me: get to a meeting. It will take time. Hang on one day at a time.
A secretary asked me to speak. My first thought was no. I was too broken
The eighth month, a secretary asked me to speak. My immediate thought was no. I was too broken. I had lost my dear husband and had only sadness and grief to talk about. That was when my sponsor told me the purpose of sharing was not to show how much I had it together. She was right, as usual. So I did tell my story and felt better. It’s the mystery that comes with every meeting. I feel better after than before.
Meetings always offer hope. Yesterday I went over to Golden Gate Park amphitheater. Haven’t been there for ages. It was great, outdoors under the trees, social distancing and I felt better. Today as I look to the ninth and tenth months, I have increased gratitude for A.A. It’s gotten me through the hard stuff and continues to be the place I lean into while continuing to trudge the road of happy destiny.
Keeping My Side Clean
by Marcello C-B
This journey started with much difficulty. Self-absorbed. Darkness needed to come to light. In the process I found step 1 that I was able to do 100%. I had no problem doing so because life before was absolutely unmanageable. I proceeded to go into step 2 without any difficulty with who my higher power was since I already believed he can restore me back to sanity. Then followed step 3 where I made the decision to give myself fully to the care to God how I understood him. Being Catholic I grasped that concept easily. Yet Step 4 always scared me. Making a fearless, moral inventory of myself originally meant I would get here and lie about it because I didn’t want anybody to know my fears, how damaged I was and full of darkness my past had been. So I always held back everything, danced and two stepped around the subject because survival depended on it in the old lifestyle. I was trying to defend myself from others.
I didn’t want anybody to know my fears, how damaged I was
Much to my amazement I started on step 5 and divulged all these fears I was holding on to for God-knows-what reason. Facing the exact nature of all my wrongs freed me from all the dark secrets with God and another human being who is still my sponsor today. The 6th step got me ready for God to remove defects of character. Now I’m not saying all of them were removed since I’m still working on them today. So then I followed with step 7 and asked God to humbly remove my shortcomings. I never thought that I would be making a list of all people I had harmed for Step 8. This was a shocking moment for me yet I somehow became fully content and willing to make amends to them all. For Step 9, without any holding back, I started to make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Now we were in a place I never thought I would reach. It was shockingly new to me to feel this way.
With Step 10 I continued to take personal inventory and when I was wrong promptly admitted it. This is the step I mainly use today because it keeps me in my own lane. If I’m tempted by any type of wrongdoing, my awareness of what it was like before lets me “play the tape” over as a reminder. I need to keep myself on the right path. This allows me to live free from the bondage of alcohol which I’ve abused many times over.
The good thing about this step is that if I’m raveled up I can always go back and make a personal inventory. I get myself focused and back on course with the true agenda. Today even though I want to behave out of line or act out in anger because I feel cheated, I choose not to act on it. Step 10 fortifies me plus it lets me examine what I need to fix, so situations like that don’t occur again. Just like this passage from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions says, “Only the closest scrutiny will reveal what our true motives were. There are cases where our ancient enemy, rationalization, has stepped in and has justified conduct which was really wrong. The temptation here is to imagine that we had good motives and reasons when we really didn’t” (p. 94). This passage has always stuck with me. My conduct in the past had been to minimize. Today I need to look realistically at my behavior. Last time I got loaded in Marin I was in self-destruct mode. I was living at a shelter and didn't let them know where I was. When I got back to the shelter they kicked me out. Basically I lost my housing because I wanted to get high and ended up at Helen Vine Detox. Today I look honestly at my old behavior and avoid rationalization. Inventories help identify the patterns so I avoid repeating them.
If I'm tempted, I “play the tape over” as a reminder
Step 11 was where I sought prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God, praying for knowledge and to get back down to earth. I tell myself that he has this and I need not worry. Now I was on step 12. Once I had been a frightened, shameful, vengeful, chaotic individual. The darkness had once kept me going. I finally was able to walk away from it by having a spiritual awakening from the steps. I continue to carry the message to other alcoholics and continue to practice this principles no matter what. The steps are a true gift. They are saving my life today. Without them and the many that stood behind me I wouldn’t be here. Thank you all.
During my drinking days I used to deal marijuana. I gave a good deal for the money and my dope sales funded my drinking. Fast forward to double digit sobriety.
No more dealing, right? Well, not exactly. When the Fourth Edition of the Big Book came out, copies were scarce. I heard there was a shipment coming in to Central Office so I called and reserved a case. At Central Office I put the treasure chest in my car trunk and headed for a meeting in my neighborhood.
I put the treasure chest in my car trunk and headed for a meeting
After the meeting I whispered to one of my “babies” that I had a box of the new Big Books in my car, and did she or any of her sponsees need one? She followed me outside. Furtively, we opened the trunk and lifted a couple of the precious volumes from their hiding place.
Soon the word spread. Others from the meeting began to gather around. Eying the growing crowd, my sponsee chuckled and then laughed out loud. “I can’t believe it,” she cried. “My sponsor is dealing Big Books out of the trunk of her car!” Definitely a good deal for the money.
Body of Work
by Brenda T.
My work in recovery has been very humbling, energizing and healing. During the past 14-plus months I’ve often find myself delighted by the simple beauty of the program. It has not only relieved my alcoholism but also given me tools to address body issues that haunted me since my youth. Unlocking the prison I built around sexual trauma and abusive parents has been a revelation.
Walking with women in graceful recovery has gently loosened the tight corset of addictive behaviors that provided me with false confidence and temporary comfort. Allowing voice around my pain let me connect with others struggling with parallel addictions from trauma—a breath of fresh air in a garden of recovery.
I just wanted relief
At my lowest point, I felt suicidal and so broken. I was given the chance to heal, to listen and to rest from running away. At first I was scared, sick and seeking anything but another day of isolated drinking. I just wanted relief. Shedding my obstinacy concerning A.A. methods and listening at my Kaiser outpatient treatment program helped. I found a better way to live.
I used to think that because I had a successful business and attended all my sons’ events at school made me “functioning.” Yet counting the hours until I could get home to drink most nights meant I wasn’t spiritually conscious. My old corset of behaviors kept me from finding spiritual solutions. The outward reflection was diametrically opposed to the actual reality of my insanity in alcohol and eating.
Allowing my language to naturally form around my spirituality loosened the tightly wound threads of addiction I held on to for so long (workaholism, pride and codependency). Breath through prayer, meditation, walking and dance have given me relief from my compulsion to drink and opened up a beautiful, natural world in recovery. Surrendering to the power of acceptance is so empowering. Cultivating a beautiful network in fellowship through service has given me a new hope and relaxed my depressive and manic reactions.
I laugh a lot easier now
Life has still shown up in painful ways: COVID, family, food, business barely recognizable in this “new normal,” death, divorce and a friend’s serious illnesses. By the grace of God-Universal love, light, compassion, forgiveness and hope, I have found myself more comfortable in my spiritual body. I no longer need that constricting corset anymore. God is also the Great Out Doors, music and my Home Group. And my concept of a higher power is still expanding. A.A. has a wealth of literature and Zoom options to explore individual paths in recovery. Now I have more tips for loosening ties to old behaviors.
I often look at the faces in my loving home group, Each Day a New Beginning, and feel like weeping at the power of our work. They are like spirit boxes: safe, compassionate windows of hope at all different lengths of time in their sobriety journeys. I laugh a lot easier now that I am showing up more authentically. It’s a blessing to release the secrets of abuse. The cloak of addiction I held on to in survival mode was so ill-fitting and uncomfortable. It is great to know I can always access serenity in prayer and service. Weaving my new cloak of recovery blankets me in much warm love and colorful hope.
by Nora C
Had I not had an intensely defeating, paradigm-shifting dose of humility, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Humility has made me the whole person that I am today: one that is filled with gratitude and an appreciation for a life I no longer take for granted.
I used to live life mindlessly. Driven by ego and hedonism, I followed liquor to the next bar meet-up or patio booze-session thinking I was something special. Even with two alcoholic parents I thought was untouchable and could never be sullied by the word alcoholic. I was, after all, your standard ambitious young professional and stuff like that didn’t happen with my high-achieving friends.
I’d have to excuse myself at 11 a.m. to go hurl
In some sense, we all feel invincible until we’re brought down to earth by a world-shattering event. Too clever for our own good, we’d had so many close encounters and gotten so good at lying we’d averted most consequences. But eventually we come to realize that yes, we can get fired, an engagement can be broken off, or we can be whisked away in an ambulance from alcohol poisoning. We’re not so special. The collateral damage will catch up to us.
I would go out and party four nights a week and then roll out of bed in time to sit in my cubicle next day for the rat race. Never mind I’d have to excuse myself at 11 a.m. to go hurl in the toilet, hung over. I was eager for success and prestige and I could do it all! I was winning work awards, thousands of dollars in scholarships, and was selected for prestigious internships in grad school. It felt like I was on an upward trajectory. I was terrified of leading a boring life and detested the idea of a long, slow fall into mediocrity, but I was blind to the wheels I was putting in motion.
I started drinking to celebrate my successes, then drinking to ease anxiety from pressure, and then drinking alone. I drank in the mornings until 3:00 a.m. Finally I drank just to keep water down and to control the shakes enough to lift the glass to my lips.
There was a fall from grace. When I entered rehab I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to make a withdrawal from an ATM. My friends and family were either fed up or had long since disappeared. I’m sure you know the story all too well so I won’t retell it for you.
Those first few weeks I felt acute humiliation, anger and helplessness. The rehab center provided a $40 stipend per month for laundry. I had to make that stretch to cover niceties like deodorant, bus tickets and candy (of course). I hated it, but I was still a selfish ungrateful person. Slowly my mindset shifted from experiences like my weekly treat of a single Diet Coke. After checking what felt like every bodega in the Mission, I found the cheapest vendor and for $1.46, I would twist off the top and enjoy a few minutes of escapism and pure bliss. That was learning an appreciation for small pleasures.
I’d rather live sober and struggling than drunk in a downward spiral
It took working three jobs and another two years before I finally pulled myself out of the financial hole I’d created. It took several more years to establish a sober community, build solid friendships and repair broken family bonds. I learned humility, self-sufficiency, the importance of hard-work and the value of money. I learned I’d rather live sober and struggling than drunk in a downward spiral of despair. Fortunately I also learned that when I’m sober I’m stronger and more stable. Every year has gotten exponentially better. This story isn’t really about a fall from grace, but finding graciousness.
I’ve come to treasure the transformation that took place. Those raw, naked moments in early rehab were a gift. I am writing this story on the eve of moving out of a sober living environment into my new studio apartment. Even speaking the words, “I can’t believe this place is mine” out loud to a loved one brought me to tears of joy. I am so grateful for this new life I have built. Today I begin a new chapter of self-sufficiency, a realization of the beauty around me, and an appreciation of the Promises coming true (Big Book, p. 83-84).
Principle of Spirituality
by John W
No stranger to the inside of a church, I had been an altar server in third grade. I learned my Latin well enough to handle it. My notion of spirituality was like nothing from my past. When I read “The Doctor’s Opinion” in the Big Book I was drinking daily. Hitting bottom was imminent. Warnings had echoed in my mind for months and my only spirituality was a game of shadows. I stalked that deadly first drink during waking hours, then consumed until blackout. As with Sisyphus and his rock, I woke each day to have the cycle begin again.
A game of shadows
I had missed the doctor opinion’s discovery. Mine was not simply a lack of mental control. Survival required essential psychic change. In my state, it was naturally lost on me that any hope of re-creating my life must be grounded in a power greater than myself. A befuddled sailor, alone in the South Pacific on a dingy with only oars, had a better chance of navigating through the Golden Gate than I on my Titanic. My waking hours were solitary stupors. On the outside, I was a happily-married father of three who paid bills and ran a successful business. I fancied myself a pillar of the community. But on the inside, that spirit which had once burned so bright was dying. There seemed to be nothing I could do. If I gave it any thought, it was: This is the way it is. Those Four Horsemen the Big Book describes were my posse. Together we were chasing death and gaining, one drink at a time.
Whether it was a great universal spirit or the group itself did not seem to matter
The seed of willingness took root in me after I began attending daily A.A. meetings. Lack of power was my dilemma. I still could not manage a day without a drink. Others stayed sober not just for a day, a couple of weeks or a month. Some had been abstinent for years. Unbelievable.
It became obvious to me they had not gotten there alone. Each described in their own terms how they found a Higher Power to help say “no” to the first drink. Whether that was a presence I had found in my church, one some of them saw in theirs, a great universal spirit, or the group itself did not seem to matter. If it was something greater than they were, it worked. They talked about how they were not alone anymore. This power became their defense against the first drink. This was an attractive proposition.
After months in the meeting rigors, my miracle of sobriety hit. I grabbed it like a line thrown to a drowning man. Here was the sunlight of the spirit I had heard described, but had never known. I now call it a spiritual awakening. Loneliness no longer dominates my psyche. I know I am not alone. I have an alternative that works.
In this presence there is a peace, a serenity I had not known before. I need only seek it out and embrace it. This task has become as easy as taking a breath in a healthy moment. Others guided me by telling stories about the certainty of this presence. I also rely on it in times of trouble. This power greater than me has literally never failed me. Spirituality in sobriety means I am no longer alone in a hostile world. A loving higher power watches over me, cares for me and cares for those around me. This is spirituality in real time, a whole new attitude and outlook upon life. With this fulfilled promise, I am each day a grateful alcoholic.
Once more. The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink… His defense must come from a Higher Power (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 43).
Point Honors | November 2020
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