Tag Archives: thepoint_202006

Stuff Happens in Sobriety

by Kathleen C.

Audio by Navarre

When I first got sober, twenty years ago, I thought sobriety meant the end of all my problems. Now I know that it is only the end of my drinking and the beginning of a new life. With tools for dealing with all the stuff that happens to ordinary people.

When I was two years sober my father died of cancer after a year and a half of illness. Within a year I was diagnosed with cancer myself. I had surgery and radiation and spent the next year dealing with issues of disfigurement and pain. I called my sponsor and the Oncology nurse when I wondered if I would overdose on pain meds. I prayed and people prayed for me. People helped me and I let them, with gratitude.

Tools for dealing with stuff that happens to ordinary people

When I was seven years sober one of my twin daughters came to me one morning and said, “Mom, my mouth feels funny and I can’t taste anything.” By noon the whole side of her face was paralyzed. Bell’s Palsy. The pediatrician told us there was no treatment – just watching to be sure that she didn’t develop an infection – she might have to wear an eye patch if her eye wouldn’t close at night.

She was supposed to go to summer camp the next day. Could she go? The doctor said yes, the camp nurse watched over her and her best friend made sure nobody made fun of her because she couldn’t smile. I shared with my sponsor and at A.A. meetings how angry I was at God for doing this to my child. 

When I was nine years sober I came home one evening to find my husband curled up in bed with injuries from a motorcycle accident. Only the next day, when he finally agreed to go to the hospital, did we discover that he had a broken collar bone, six broken ribs and a collapsed hemorrhaging lung. He was in the hospital for four days. He could have died. I had to turn him over to my Higher Power. I couldn’t keep him safe.

When I was eleven years sober, my other daughter severely injured her knee skiing and had to have surgery. I sat by her bed in the Recovery Room watching her pale face and closed eyes and praying she would be all right. Then a month later I fainted and had heart palpitations which led to a diagnosis of severe anemia. The ultimate result was a hysterectomy. Then a spot on my upper lip turned out to be an invasive skin cancer and I had extensive surgery on one side of my face. All in one year. I had to admit I couldn’t handle this alone. I got help, from family and friends in A.A. and outside it.

A happy occasion – cause for celebration

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I am not going to drink over a big crisis. I am going to drink because somebody hurts my feelings or makes me angry and I have no mental defense against the first drink. I am just as likely to drink over something good in my life. 

Last year, when I was nineteen years sober, both daughters graduated from college. A happy occasion – cause for celebration. The closest I came to drinking was at a lunch for them and our family and friends.

My husband and I wanted to thank everyone for all they had done for the girls. Everybody raised their glasses of champagne, except me and my sober sister, the same one who Twelve-Stepped me, all those years before. As she and I raised our glasses of sparkling water I felt different from everybody else and a little sad that I couldn’t raise a “real” toast to my daughters, when I was so proud of them. But I had said my prayers that morning and been to a meeting the day before, and talked to my sponsor and several of my sober alcoholic friends in between. Alone, I couldn’t stay sober. Together with my fellow A.A.s and working a program, I can stay sober no matter what life throws at me, good or bad. 

Which Door did you Use?

by Bree L.

My sponsor described coming through the side door of Al-anon. I knew I hadn’t come in the front door as a binge drinker, because I’d been dry and controlled for five years. I fought coming to A.A. I believed I could never be an alcoholic. My entrance must have been through a side door. That was twenty-four years ago. Which doors have others come through? A couple of members describe their entrance. 

Patty talks of coming through the generational door thanks to two alcoholic parents. She was eleven when her Dad joined the program. Her mother got sober shortly before she died. 

Patti remembers her father drinking all during her early childhood. Her family had an about face when he joined A.A. Today she says he was just doing what the program recommended, getting a sponsor and working through the steps. “I had a picture of what A.A. was like,” she said, “beginning at age eleven.” Many may see the down side of our disease but Patty saw the upside in recovery. However, that did not mean she was bent on racing into A.A. It took her awhile. 

It was nighttime but she knew someone would answer

During her early years she didn’t have the desire to drink. The one time she did get drunk, she remembers it. “It seemed like the greatest thing that could happen,” she says. “It took me twenty more years to get some traction.” As early as her late thirties, she knew she was an alcoholic and belonged in A.A. but she avoided it. “I just wasn’t ready to stop drinking,” she says. Then one night sitting on her couch she saw where she was headed. Thanks to her Dad she knew who to call. It was nighttime but she knew someone would be there to answer the phone and talk to her. 

She didn’t get sober immediately but came to meetings while continuing to drink for a couple more months. However, once she made that final decision, she had a sponsor by the end of that day. Within a week she completed the first step and within a month had a service commitment (coffeemaker).

Patty says, “Our family went from utter chaos to a different life. The pivotal point was my Dad’s recovery and I am eternally, actively grateful.” Today she is coming up on twenty-two years of sobriety.

photo credits available from thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Kent B. says he came in through the “revolving door.” He describes it as a merry-go-round of alcohol, crystal meth and sex. His work demanded odd hours on duty with longer periods off. His pattern was to prepare for random drug testing by quitting three days prior to returning to work. Rather than do drugs, he’d drink. When he couldn’t stop drinking, he’d call in sick. There were non-stop days of using without end, and days without sleep. His handy solution was to drink: “So I could get some sleep.” When the drinking got too heavy, he’d take a bump of speed to kill the buzz. It was a nightmare.

Gratitude the revolving door never closed

He came to A.A. in 2008 and soon realized that alcohol was his core addiction. After that first meeting he says his obsession to drink left. A counselor at an early rehab facility asked, “What are you addicted to?” “Alcohol,” he answered.

“What are you addicted to?” The counselor repeated.

“Speed,” he said.

“What are you addicted to?” The counselor hammered again with the same questions.

“Sex,” he said in frustration.

“No,” the counselor said and asked again, “What are you addicted to? I was addicted to altering my state of being,” the counselor said. That hit home. “I was afraid of any discomfort and would resort to my drug of choice to avoid it.”

Today Kent says, “One drink and I break out into sex and/or crystal.” He speaks with gratitude of that ever-revolving door that never closed. He knew he was always welcome.

Got Money, Property or Prestige?

by Carla H.

An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose. Tradition Six

Only after some time (and the miracle happening) could anyone, especially me, see the reason for this Tradition. When I was new I had so much enthusiasm for everything about A.A. I wanted to bring the message to the world, and cash in on my life-changing seminars that people would pay handsomely for. But I had no path forward.

I really had no ability or desire to make plans or take steps to make anything real. That would involve actual work. No, thank you. All I wanted to take was the easy way. Which meant doing nothing and hoping something good like fame and fortune would come of it.

Literature has at least one example of an A.A. money-making scheme that failed

When A. A. was new, some members may have had thoughts like mine. After all, this is a life-saving program. Who wouldn’t want to share the joyous news with whoever would listen? The world could be a better place and we can make that happen. We might even get rich and famous trying! Especially if someone has been poor, or lost everything due to alcoholism, they might want to profit from sharing this miracle cure with others.

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Our literature gives at least one example of a money-making proposition that failed: A.A. hospitals. The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions states that the hospitals project “bogged down because you cannot put an A.A. group into business; too many busybody cooks spoil the broth.” It also states that A.A. got involved in legislative committee meetings and “agitated for legal reform … We saw we’d soon be mired in politics.”

Tradition Six reminds us of our primary purpose

Fortunately, those experiences became cautionary tales early A.A.s heeded after losing money and serenity trying to profit from what we have to offer. I often hear in meetings from fellow A.A.s who think the traditions are dull. I find them so useful in reminding me to be right-sized, to respect the members who came before and remember those around me today. Tradition Six reminds me our primary purpose, to stay sober and help others who want to recover, comes first. What’s more, our primary purpose really is our only purpose. And we don’t need money, property or prestige to pursue it.

To the Center Line

by Rick R.

We are all born with a conscience and an ego. We all have instincts. We, as human beings are also born with the use of practical reasoning. The degree to which these assets and liabilities affect our behaviors differ in all of us.  “Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper function” (Twelve and Twelve, Step 4). Most normal people make mistakes in their lives. That is normal since no one is perfect. Most alcoholics, however, take their life to the brink of destruction before they become desperate enough to look into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most alcoholics have deeper emotional problems that exceed the normal range. Some troubles can be rectified simply by acknowledging they exist and being willing to change our motives and behavioral habits.

Sometimes people would rather live with the symptoms

A certain percentage of our fellowship have deeper-rooted problems that cannot be cured simply by A.A. principles alone. They are often masked by the use of alcohol.  When a person stops drinking and starts dealing with behavioral problems, these things rise to the surface in the form of PTSD or others that can require medications. In some cases, people would rather live with the symptoms. Not knowing this, we sometimes misunderstand the people stricken by these deeper-rooted mental conditions and believe, by their sharing, that they are arrogant or egotistical when displaying behaviors the average person is not afflicted with. These conditions are not always at extreme levels.

Most of us, being alcoholics, have a degree of behavioral problems outside of the normal range, or else why would we attend meetings? For the sake of argument, let us consider the normal range to be 5 degrees on either side of the center line. The extremes of the abnormal behavioral problems may extend out to 50% on either side of the centerline.

Practicing the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous can bring us back to the center line

Take fear as an example. Some people are afraid to leave their homes, while others are so fearless that they may walk in front of a bus. These are the extremes. We all fall somewhere in between. Those of us who are fortunate enough not to be afflicted by these maladies are blessed. Practicing the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous can bring us back towards the center line and we can lead a somewhat normal life.

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

Other people can stay sober, but behaviors will still be still apparent. We must recognize and replace the habit of judging them by their outward behavior. Excessive judgment is also outside of the normal range. When we replace the habit of being judgmental with the habits of compassion and empathy we are somewhat closer to the center line.

We can change alcoholic behaviors when we recognize them simply by looking deeper into the motives for our actions. Steps Six and Seven begin this process of recognizing our defects of character, based on our thinking, and changing the actions that result from those thoughts. “There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” (Big Book, p. 58). My question is: do we have the capacity to be accepting when we recognize that some of us have these deeper-rooted issues? We cannot compare them to ourselves and be judgmental about these difficulties. Suffering people need our understanding. Love, compassion and empathy are the center line positions in these cases.

Willingness

by John W.

Click for audio by John B.

Except for those unfortunately rare moments when, after drinking “just the one,” I would decide not to drive somewhere and instead call a cab, I seemed always ready, willing and able to agree to have a drink. To say “OK, just one more,” or “Make it a short one.” Sadly, I was absolutely unwilling to hear any negative comments about there being anything wrong with the way I drank. Arrests, DUIs and my history of blackouts were in my view not an accurate reflection of the real me. I was unwilling to hear any suggestions I needed to do something about my drinking from cops, judges, therapists, my wife or our children.

Never have another drink? You have got to be joking.

The concept of willingness was a mental one which had great impact on my physical response. I physically was powerless over alcohol. I could not stop drinking. All those I loved were being affected. I was in denial about consequences and that wreckage was driving me to the edge of the abyss – the heat from hell was scorching my face. These were my wings of victory which carried me to A.A.’s doorstep, again. This last time it was for real, even though I did not yet fully appreciate the life and death I was confronting. When I opened the door to enter the Log Cabin for that 7:00 a.m. meeting, I was indeed willing. How that seed was to sprout into the principle of willingness was the miracle that awaited me, though my eyes were yet too blind to see it, my mind yet too dead set against it and my heart was yet still too frozen in numbness to embrace it. Never have another drink for the rest of my life? You have got to be joking.

Thankfully for me, in the life-saving fashion to which any sober A.A. can attest, the attractive warmth of that principle of willingness began to defrost my frozen spirit. I do not believe it did so because of anything I was doing, except attending meetings daily, since I continued to drink. Yet undaunted by the difficulty of its task and plied by the honesty of the A.A.s I met at those meetings, willingness began to creep into my waking consciousness. The more I attended meetings, even though I continued to drink and to avoid that fact by refusing to announce myself as a newcomer, the more I began to see those who had what I wanted. When willingness to be truthful about my drinking hit me physically and I spoke that embarrassing, damning and freeing truth, I started to change from that guy who had only been willing to come in through the door.

When I spoke that embarrassing, damning and freeing truth, I started to change

With this beachhead of willingness firmly established, I made the mental advance to be prepared to get a sponsor. All the smart guys and gals had one, swore by theirs, and confirmed they were indispensable. One or two even confided in me that a sponsor could be helpful despite my then-stated opinion that I was different, I really didn’t need a sponsor, I had the Big Book, I could read it, and I would get this program just fine by myself, thank you. How the principle of willingness overcame these pillboxes of arrogance, pride and stupidity only Steps 4 and 5 revealed.

photo captions available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

I had then reached the moment where taking this book down from our shelf, I reflected upon my status in this phase of development, to assess if I was truly being painstaking (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 75). Only upon reflection do I see now where physically putting my hand on the Big Book to take Step 6 finally melted my frozen soul and allowed the principle of willingness free and unfettered access to it.

While my spirit healed, it would be false to assert the door of willingness has not swung shut even once since then. But my soul has heard I am not to be discouraged as I seek spiritual progress, not perfection. So I am willing to be guided by this principle. I am willing to accept it as the tool to open the door to my daily reprieve, to my survival. As this sober day dawns I am grateful for the reality it shines on. The arch I am building to walk through is right there in front of me with each new day. My task is a plain and simple one: I need be willing to take my first step to start my sober journey today.

Step 6: Becoming Entirely Ready

by Marcello C-B

Following through with Step 5 meant letting my sponsor know about my past. I put my trust in another human being and God to be absolutely truthful not only with him but with myself. Only then was I able to start with Step Six. I took a good look at my past, unhealthy lifestyle and its many defects of character. 

I didn’t realize how defects of character damaged relationships

Before I drank and used daily without a care in the world. I didn’t realize how my defects of character damaged relationships with friends, girlfriends and family. It had become a normal thing for me. I had to take a hard look at my actions toward other people. 

I started to realize I had a lot of work to do. I didn’t know until I had become “entirely ready” like it says in the Twelve and Twelve (Page 64). I continued looking at certain behaviors I personally wanted to change within myself. Almost like putting a car into reverse. I then started to practice letting go and working on myself, which it has not been an easy task. It’s a formidable challenge.

As I started to look at myself more, I started to practice more positive behaviors on the street. It has not been easy. ​Some of the things I used to want to do in my past life still baffle me to this day. One ​behavior I’ve been trying to get under control is keeping my eyes down when a beautiful woman walks by. I do look, but not for an extended time (which can feel like self-sabotage). That’s how my mind works—like it’s done on purpose. But that’s just me and I want to respect the person I’m talking to. So I continue to try harder. Some days are easier than others.

I had to change the goals I had once aspired to since that lifestyle became self-destructive. It was time to open a new chapter of life and vigor. I started hanging out with people I would normally wouldn’t have in the past. 

Like putting a car into reverse

photo credits available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

The result was a much different outlook. I still have friends that have been down the same path as me. The difference is that today they also seek a better way of life. I’ve learned that not everything in the past has to be let go because it’s still useful in day-to-day functionality. It pays to keep one’s mind open. Most importantly, I changed my environment. Now I frequented places I used to think had no value.  

A key point in my new way of thinking is: today I realize that if I hang out with good people, I receive good vibes back. I can see the differences my choices make. So even after all this time, I am looking forward to what else is in store for me. 

Like a true alcoholic I longed for more. So much has changed in the past eight months. I didn’t want to change because I thought the thug mentality would keep me from getting into trouble. But today I can use my past experiences for a much better purpose: to help people like myself move forward with positive changes instead of staying stuck. I am glad that working these steps gave me a better way of looking at life today.

Ever since I fully committed to my recovery I have found a multitude of options. Change has helped regardless of whether I wanted it in the beginning or not. Today I continue to look for the right path. Today I feel like I am one step closer to the life I was meant to live. Thank God for the people in my life today.