When I started this whole journey I really didn’t know what to expect. I remember that I was scared and that I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew that I did not want to die but I couldn’t imagine myself with or without alcohol in my life.
When I came back to the Monterey Peninsula after I relapsed I knew that I was beaten by King Alcohol. I was in the gutter, face down in the mud. I had learned many things the first time that I went through the Beacon HouseSM…. most importantly was that there were people who knew what they were doing. They had done it before and they were willing to show me what they did so I could get better.
When I returned I knew that I was safe because I was surrounded by people who had the knowledge and experience that was going to help save my life.
I am always interested in sayings from the past. One of them that I learned lately came from the generation that fought during World War II. I consider this generation to be the greatest generation because of the total effort that they put into the war effort. They dropped everything in their lives for something that was bigger then them. They called it, “Putting your shoulder to the wheel.”
When I came back….. that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to, “Put my shoulder to the wheel” and get my life back again. In the above video are a couple of people that I consider great people in my life or recovery.
Carol was someone who I could always hear in my head during my first year in recovery. I can always remember thinking of situations in terms of whether they were going to be positive or negative for my recovery. The way that I viewed relapse and how it is a process and not just an event. I realized that my relapse had been planted in my head long before the day that I took that drink.
Having positive examples of people in my life is something that I value so much now. People that lead by example and shine the light on the path in front of you. That is how I think of Noah… someone who is always a most amazing example of living life with purpose.
I love thinking back on my life and how it was before I went into recovery. I think about how impossible I thought that getting sober was going to be. Now that I am sober I can look back at how impossible I thought it was going to be and use that as an example for other seemingly impossible things in front of me.
If I can get sober… I can do anything. To me, that is putting your “Shoulder to the wheel.”
I was at a meeting with a great group of people tonight. I wanted to go to this meeting because of the day that I was having. I have been getting really irritated at very small things that I have no hope of controlling lately. It seems that is pretty much what all of my time is spent doing over the past two weeks.
I have been cussing, fist-clenching, foot stomping… pretty much everything that you do when you are frustrated over that time. I feel that I have been frustrated a lot lately. I am frustrated at how things are going in my life and the position that I am in currently.
These are all things that I have really no control over. I have been trying to remember that I need to recite the Serenity Prayer… this is what my brain needs to be narrating.. over and over. Somehow the words of the prayer are not sinking in past the levels of this frustration.
I knew that no matter what, I needed to be around my people tonight. There was something there that I was going to hear that would really put the way that I was feeling into context. This is what had always happened over the past 5 or so years of my recovery. I had heard something at a meeting that made it all make sense. Something that I would not hear in the normal world. Something that would shine a light on my self-imposed gloomy two week long prision… and show me the path that needed to be walked down.
This is what I heard……
“When I am restless, irritable and discontent….. this is the time that I am trying to take my power back. Then I get resentful that I can’t take it back. This is when I remember that I have a disease and that I need to give that power over to my higher power”
So I am paraphrasing what I heard tonight at the meeting but its really the way that the words hit me that is whats important really.
I have been trying to hold this world of mine in the palm of my hands…. trying to balance it as it moves from side to side. No matter what I do and no matter how hard I try I just don’t have the ability to keep the thing balanced… and it is falling off.
My life is unmanageable and I know this to be one of the many truths of my life. When I try to manage it I get resentful and waste my time with frustration and self deprecating thoughts and feelings…..
This is what I really needed to hear, when I let the words of the speaker tonight just seep a little bit deeper.
My life is pretty amazing. When I sit down and think about the things that I cannot change and how there are things that I need to let go of… I feel a peace come over me. Like the feeling of that slight breeze in your hair as you hear it pass through the trees. That kind of peace.
Recently, I have heard a couple of people say to me…. “The program does not work for me. I have gone to meetings. I have read the book. I have been to several rehabs. I have even lived in sober living houses. None of it works.”
It has all happened to me in sort of a flood over the past couple of days. There have been people who I used to drink and use with and then there are people that are closer to me. Some of them are very close and I have known them for a better part of my life.
I am having trouble not getting mad at these people when they say these things to be. I am a very patient person most of the time but for some reason when I hear these words I start to tense up. Sometimes I think that it is my natural reaction when I hear someone talk bad about AA or NA. Then other times I just want to last out at them and tell them that they really have not tried anything.
My Higher Power puts the right things in front of me right when I need them. Maybe its a friend that I have known for a long time suddenly asks me for a little help and now he is a little over 2 weeks sober. Maybe it is a blog post from a fellow recovery blogger. I came across this post in a great blog called, “Sobriety Junkie” by George Kayko.
“You haven’t ‘tried’ anything, Jake.” I said. “You’re like everyone else who says they can’t stay sober or that AA doesn’t work. You’ve been a lot of places — treatment, rehab, sober houses — and you’ve been to a lot of meetings, but all you’ve ever been is a visitor. You’ve never actually done anything.”
Kayko talks about the steps and some peoples reluctance to actually take them. The steps are the program of recovery. They are where the rubber hits the road. I asked the same questions that he asked Jake on that night.
Have you ever done a 4th Step inventory or have you ever done a 9th Step amends? Have you ever really worked with a sponsor. These are some of the questions that I have asked the people in my life that say that the program does not work for them.
Some people just don’t want it. There may come a time when they come to a situation or point in their life when they will want it. That time may not be right now.
I tried to get sober in AA way back in 2006 and I lasted about 2 weeks. I remember going to a meeting by myself and becoming very annoyed with everyone there. To me it was a horrible experience and I needed to do something about it. I promptly left that meeting and got drunk. I was drinking “AT” those people that were in that meeting. I was punishing them by getting drunk. That is alcoholic logic right there… in full force.
I have this one friend that I met in Monterey when I was just out of the Beacon HouseSM. He has a story that reminds me of the people that I was talking about from earlier. He had been to something like 26 rehab facilities since he was 13. He had been in and out of trouble with the law. He had his best friend die during one of the times that he escaped from a lockdown facility. He was the perfect example that you could hold up that recovery and AA did not work for some people.
Today, that same person has been married to an amazing woman for over 2 years. That same person just graduated from a very major university with a very major degree. He is one of the strongest people that I know in recovery. He is a person that I am very proud to call a “brother in recovery”.
Something just clicked for him and I was there to watch it. Having someone like that right beside you when you are going through those early stages of recovery is amazing. He had been through so many things and had tried so many times. Now here we were on the same road to recovery together.
All that I am saying is that I agree with George Kayko…… There is a solution to your problem… If you want it.
My father said to me once….. “Son, sometimes it comes down to wether you want to live.. or die.”
Sometimes it just as simple as that. I really just didn’t want to die.
One thing that I don’t remember thinking a lot about during the last couple years of my drinking was about inspirational thoughts. Well, maybe I would have a fleeting thought that might feel like it was entering one ear and then flying out the other. There might be something that I would watch on television and feel somewhat inspired but it would never stick. Sometimes there were late nights when certain music videos would come on and I would have a good cry. I wouldn’t say that I felt inspired. It would never really cause me to act on what I had just seen. Usually, I would just forget what I had seen all together.
I would think to myself… “this is a great idea that I should share with others, to make someone’s day or change their world in someway”.
Nothing would ever come out of it and I would always just go get another drink, continuing to make far fetched bar plans that never came to be.
One reason that I really love my sobriety is that I can act on these feelings of inspiration and incorporate them into my daily life. Maybe before it was because I had a overwhelming feeling of failure, that nothing that I could set my mind to could be accomplished. I knew that there were actions that needed to be taken to improve my way of life… but that could wait until I had another drink. There was always a reason to postpone actions that were going to improve my way of life. I could always think of something that I would rather be doing than working on myself. This usually involved drugs or alcohol.
I was forced into recovery by my body and my near death. I had the desire to want to get sober but I had no idea how I was going to do it. I could not imagine my life with or without alcohol.
The Big Book calls this, ” the jumping off point.”
Now that I have some time in recovery and I can look back on the events that brought me to the Beacon HouseSM and the road to recovery, I can say that I am appreciative for all of the events that took place to get me here. They have led me on a path to inspiration. I know that I can accomplish things that I once thought were impossible. I have learned through doing a through 4th Step that pretty much everything in my life has something to do with fear.
As I make my decisions on a daily basis I try to remember these things. I think to myself, ” am I coming from a place of love or fear.”
I have the ability to be inspired by many things around me. I can take the way that I feel about these inspirational moments and tap into that power and have it be part of the fuel that moves me through my day. Above I have included a video that has been on YouTube for a little over a year. There are a lot of people that have seen this video.. over 9 million so far. If you have not seen it this is one of those inspirational examples that makes me think about how I approach situations on a daily basis. I hope that you enjoy it. I watch this video all the time.. sometimes I just need a little more fuel.
Right now I am sitting in the home that I grew up in and so many different memories are coming up for me. When I look at pictures on the wall I see myself in different times and in different places. I think about the way that I felt about life then and the thoughts of all of the amazing things that were going to happen for me in my future. Right now it is graduation time… and I am seeing all of the kids that are graduating from my former high school walking down the streets of the downtown district with their caps and gowns on. They are thinking the same thing that I was thinking back then. Hot summer days that are full of sunscreen, summer clothes and unlimited optimism and potential for the future.
Last night I was having a talk with a family member about the circumstances that surrounded my drinking and using. We were discussing where and when the entire thing started. We talked about the night that I went into the hospital and what my family was feeling at that time. We talked about the things that I want to do in the future and where my heart’s direction really lies. It was a great conversation.
It is amazing to me the conversations that you can have with people when you choose to be open, honest and even vulnerable.
Was This All My Fault
Some people blame themselves for their family members drinking and using. I think that was what was happening in my family when they saw how truly far down that it could take me. Did my path down the long road of alcohol start when I was in high school or did it really progress when I was much older? I was asked that question last night by one of my family members.
“Was if my fault for letting you go out and hang out with your friends? Was it my fault for not keeping a closer eye on you when you were out there with your friends?”
I can say that I had my first drink when I was in high school. That was the first time that I ever tasted alcohol but it did not have the same effect on me as it would years later. I tried to explain that the progression of the disease and how it was very evident in me. When I was in high school I was someone who was just trying to fit in and would do almost anything to accomplish that. Drinking was one of those things that I did to fit in. Toilet-papering my rival high school was also something that I would do to fit in. When I was drinking in high school all that I can really remember about it was not being in control and waking up in the back of my Chevy Blazer the next morning with a really big headache. The loss of control was very clear to me. It is funny, because later on that was one of my favorite parts of drinking and using. The notion of not being in total control and letting the chips “fall where they may” was very attractive to me.
Loss of control was something that I had never experienced before when I started my drinking in high school. Now, not having to really worry about the control, because I have given it up to my higher power, is something that I truly cherish.
The progression of my disease really kicked into a higher gear with the loss of my first major relationship. I had been with the same person from when I was 17 years old until I was just over 21. With the loss of that person from my life I think that I created this attitude of anger and resentment that resulted in me trying anything that I could get my hands on. Most people will experiment with using drugs and alcohol in excess when they are in college… I think that this happened for me at the end of my first relationship. I was not in school and I was in San Francisco, and that was a perfect breeding ground for my alcohol and drug addiction.
I told my family member that I don’t think that it had anything to do with her letting me hang out with my friends. I know that there are many aspects that go into how a human develops and there could of been something there that attributed to my disease but I believe deep in my heart that there was nothing that my family member did to accelerate my disease.
That Night in the Emergency Room
We talked about the night that I went into the Emergency Room at the hospital in Santa Barbara. I knew that I was pretty close to death and that the doctor had told my family that I was not expected to make it through the first night. What I had never experienced before was hearing it from my family members and really seeing the emotions that were on their faces as they retold it.
“The doctor came out and told us that you were probably not going to make it”
I had heard that before and I had retold that story to many people over the course of the last 5 years of my life, but I had never heard it come out of my family members mouth while watching their faces when they said it. It was truly heartbreaking to me. Tears were coming down my face for sure. I though that I had come to grips with how I had affected my family during that time but then I started to put myself into their shoes. How would I like it if I had just brought my brother into the ER for what I thought was “drinking too much”. Then after they had taken him away someone came out and told me that he would probably never open his eyes again and that he was likely to die. Unimaginable, that was the first thing that came across my mind. We were just at a family Christmas party and now we are in the waiting room of a hospital and I have just been told that my brother was going to die because he drank too much.
This really made the range of my emotions come to the surface and I am glad that I could hear how it made them feel.
What The Future May Hold
The last part of the conversation was about what the future was going to hold for me. What was I doing in my life and what was the direction that I was going to take? I can remember thinking about the things that truly set my heart on fire. There are feelings that I have experienced that are unlike any others that I have experienced. They are always having to do with something that takes place in recovery. I think that answering a phone call or a text message from someone that needs help is the most amazing feeling in the world. Taking someone to their first meeting and seeing them announce themselves as an alcoholic for the first time is a feeling that many never feel. I remember how it felt for me the first time that I announced myself and the relief that my heart felt after that moment. To see a friend do the same thing and then talk to them after about how it made them feel… is purely magical.
I have been working in customer service for a long time. It is what i am good at and it is what has paid the bills. I know that ultimately there is more that will happen with me. What that will entail and how it will manifest in the future is unknown. All I know is that if I want to do something in my life that I am passionate about… it is going to be in the recovery field.
Lots of good things have come up for me in the last couple of days and I am glad that I have the opportunity to share them with you.
I was reading through some recovery blogs that I follow and I came across this on a site called Recovery Reflections. I have added the entire text of the article below.
The worst story gets the most attention.
“You can’t recover in public. Addicts are good at faking it and will do what it takes to look good and be validated. To think that someone who has for years covered every emotion up with drugs or alcohol can then, all of a sudden, reveal their most hidden secrets publicly is dangerous and stupid. It is in the isolated room or office, one-on-one with a trusted friend or therapist that walls are shattered, trust is built and real growth in recovery occurs.”
The reason that I wanted to bring this article into this forum is because I want to know how you feel about it…. how does this make you feel? Do you think that it is a true statement?
I think that part of the statement is true, and remember that I am not a counselor. There is a lot of amazing work that was done when I was one-on-one with my counselors. For me, true recovery started when I reached out to someone and made the decision that I was done and that I surrendered. For me I had to make that statement in a public forum. It was out loud to my family and to my friends.
I do understand what the post is saying though… addicts and alcoholics are really good at faking it and love the attention. I love the attention. There is a very fine line when it comes to truly asking for help and seeking attention.