February 26, 2014 8:30 am
I just sat here and really thought about what it really means to me. I can not help but just well up with tears.
2192 days of continuous sobriety…. is 6 years. Today is a very important day because it celebrates the day that I was brought back from the dead. It celebrates the day that my entire life changed and an entire new world opened right in front of me.
I was thinking about it earlier today and talking to a friend about how I really didn’t think that 6 years was that big of a deal. I was thinking back on my 4th sobriety birthday and how I really didn’t think that it was that special. I was looking forward to my 5 year birthday that would come the year after. That was a really big one…. but every single on of them are big. Every single second of every single day is nothing short of a miracle.
Right now I am just filling up with a whole bunch of different feelings… but the word that keeps coming into my head is gratitude. I feel so much gratitude right now.. for so many different things. Gratitude was something that I don’t think that I ever really knew the true meaning of before I started this journey 6 years ago. Now it is something that is so ingrained in me that I know that I cannot live without it.
So many different things have crossed my way in the last 6 years that have guided me along this path. Thats the way that this thing works. The people and the places that dictate your path . All of the faces and phrases that filled the Carriage House at the Beacon HouseSM.. and the Fellowship Hall in Downtown Monterey…. and to the Vista Lobos room in Carmel will always guide me wherever I go.
I never would have imagined that I would get sober… it a 7am meeting in Carmel, California. I would be at that meeting… everyday at 7am….. because that was what was suggested. Good Morning never felt so good as it did in Carmel.
All that I knew was that I was willing to do anything to not feel the way that I was feeling. I wanted to not feel like I wanted to die.. all the time. I had no idea what was happening and I didn’t know what to do. I was so very scared and the only way that I could picture relief was through my own death. I knew that I really didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. I knew that there was something more for me then wasting my life away in 6 am bars and dirty gutters. I was 28 years old.. and I was not done yet.
Recovery is the most amazing thing on the planet. Really it is. There is nothing that is more powerful then someone admitting that they need help and reaching their hand out for that help. There is something so amazing about the people who reach out their own hand to hold on to those people. It makes me teary eyed just thinking about it. There is nothing more powerful on this earth… then one booze hound alcoholic all-star reaching his or her hand out to another who knows EXACTLY what that person is going through.
I didn’t want anyones help when I was in that spot… but that all changed when I was forced into that position. When I almost met my maker… a weeee bit too early. I was brought to my knees and I had to make a pretty simple choice. Do you want to live or die, Rich.. black or white. I would try to do all that I could do to try to figure my way out of it without having to make the choice. There must be someway that I can keep doing this. Can’t I just dry out?… and maybe just drink wine on the weekends?
I tried a little research… I relapsed and was right back where I started. That is what it took to make me truly admit to my innermost self… that I was an alcoholic. I was one of those people that booze just did not get along with. I had lost the privilege to drink like a gentleman.
I came back to the peninsula and knew what I had to do. It was really pretty easy. There were a lot of people who had done it before. They knew what they were doing. I had not idea what the hell that I was doing… so I just did what they did. This is how the program works. Its really not rocket science. The program was designed so that any old drunk could make the easy decision of a spiritual life over an agonizing alcoholic death.
I am really glad that I made that decision… or that the decision was made for me and that decision stuck. I cant imagine where I would be if I did not walk into Dana’s office at the Beacon HouseSM.. at 8:30am… on February 26th of 2008.That is why this post will be published exactly 6 years to the day.
Death would have taken me… and I would have never have been given the opportunity to share my experiences with you in this blog.
My name is Richie… and I am a grateful, bright, sparkly, joyful alcoholic.
February 24, 2014 9:52 am
I remember when I first got sober and I had all of these amazing plans for myself. I was going to get an awesome job and the best car… I was also going to have the most beautiful girlfriend in all the world at my side.
Things were going to be amazing… I was the best planner.
We all know how this works out in the end. My plans being comety blown out of the water and replaced by much more amazing plans… Provided my my higher power. It always seems that all of the plans that I manage to make for myself are always just done so much better by my higher power. Keeping my trust and faith in my higher power is something that is very hard and it is only getting harder.
Next week I will have 6 years of continuous sobriety. Things that used to be really second nature to me take a back seat sometimes. I know that they cannot take a back seat because these are the things that make up the foundation of my recovery. These are the things that got me through all of the super hard stuff at the beginning… and I can never forget that.
February 14, 2014 10:00 am
I was reading an article lately that was authored by a Phd about recovery and 12 step programs. I always love to read what people have to say about some of the things that saved my life. I might be getting a little controversial here but whenever I hear of someone who portrays themselves as knowing a lot about recovery and 12 step programs talk about 12 step programs as “Christian” I have to take a second look.
One of the main reasons why I really love 12 step programs and why they have had such a huge impact on my life is because of that complete lack of structure when it comes to a “higher power”. I don’t know how many times that I have heard people talk about how they kept themselves out of the program because they thought that it was some kind of religious cult.
I love how no one has a monopoly on a higher power in this game. Everyone gets to choose their own higher power… as long as its not them. That was my problem for the longest time.. I was my own higher power.
I remember someone asking me about my higher power and what it was like. They asked me to take out a piece of paper and write down all the great attributes that you would want in a higher power. I wrote things like….. kind, understanding, caring, loving, warm, gentle, wise… etc. When I was done writing I remember thinking that i had found my higher power. It was right there written down on this piece of paper in front of me.
Today.. when I am asked to define my higher power I always reply that if I try to do that then I am trying to put it in a box. When I do that I am trying to control my higher power… and you know where that leads…. trouble for Richie.
I just wanted to bring this up to everyone and see how you felt about it. I would love for this to start a discussion about what your higher power and what it means to you.
February 10, 2014 9:39 pm
There are people that you will always remember from the beginning of the journey.
There are people that share the same hopes and desires when it comes to the struggle to stay sober. These are the people that you gravitate to and are told to stick with because they are the winners.
Max Cushing was a winner.
During the early days of my sobriety I really tried to hold on to each and every relationship that I had. This was because I was basically remaking my life from the ground up. Thats what everyone suggested that I do… change everything. I would take bits and pieces from all of the different people that were involved with my rise from the ashes. Some of the most important of these people were the ones who were there with me in the Beacon HouseSM. Everything was so raw and so new that having people around you who were there for a common purpose was something that I can never put a value on.
People were in the house for many different reasons. Some were there for a significant other, for their kids, to not lose their job or to not lose everything that they had built up around them. I was there to not die. There were people who were there with me who seemed to understand this life and death struggle because everything else in their life had just fallen away and all that was left was this battle. The battle to relearn how to live and to become what we knew we could be.
The first time that I met Max I can remember that it was inside the Carriage House at the Beacon HouseSM and he looked really pissed off. I can remember being a little scared of the guy the first time that I ever looked at him. To my surprise Max was one of the nicest and warmest human beings that I would ever know. I walked up to him and put my hand out and introduced myself. I think that he had only been around for a couple of days and was still in that ever present fog that all of us newly sober and in rehab experience.
There are a few people that I know right off the bat that I am going to know for a very long time. I knew that I was going to know Max for a very long time.
I remember going to the Wednesday Mens group when it had moved to the church down Pine Street. It was one of the first times that it had ever been held at the church and was usually held on the first lawn of the Beacon HouseSM. This was a couple of months after I had been out of the Beacon HouseSM and was living in my SLE. Max walked in and it was like our relationship had not even missed a beat. We had not seen each other in a couple of weeks but it was like there was no time lost between us. We gave each other a huge hug… like you would give a friend that you were going to know for a long time. After the meeting we stayed around and talked about the ups and downs of recovery. We talked about the things that we had lost and the people who we had gained back.
One of Max’s favorite things to talk about was his son Jack. I always loved to hear Max’s stories about his son. I always looked up to Max for that because he was a man that was in early sobriety and he had a beautiful son. He was doing the work that had to be done for himself and for his family. I always thought that was one of the most noble things that a man could do.
Over the next couple of years I lost contact with Max but I would think of him often… especially when I see some of the stuff that we was doing for work. Max was a photo-journalist… and I though that was one of the coolest things that anyone could ever be. We talked about things most people don’t talk about with each other. There was always something more with Max…. there was always something deeper. We talked about the emotions and feelings that drove our decisions. We talked about the things that really made up the human experience to us. I guess going through the struggles that we had gone through gave us a different appreciation. I know that Max took that understanding into his work as he would capture the range of human emotions with his camera.
Max reached out to me on Facebook at the end of 2012 and told me that he had read a post from my personal blog on a huge breakup that I was going through. He told me that he had relapsed but was back in the programs and was going through a divorce. He told me that he related with how I was feeling and was thankful that I had written it. All that mattered was that he had been back in for 2 months and that things were on the right track. We always talked to each other with that kind of optimism when it came to the future. It might not have been all sunshine and rainbows be we always knew that things were going to be alright.
I found out today that my friend Max had died last year. I had no idea that he was gone but when I found out I could just feel that there was just a little less in the world knowing that Max was not in it. I am not certain of how my friend died but I know that there are people out there that think of him everyday.
There are people out there that my heart connects with on a different deeper level. They are a very special group in my life… Max was one of those people. I will miss him very much.
I have learned from all of this that I cannot take anyone for granted. I need to do a better job at hanging on to those kind of people in my life because they are not going to be there forever. They may not be there tomorrow.
February 2, 2014 10:05 am
I though that everything would just get better with me when I stopped drinking and using. That if I just took the chemicals out of my body that all of my problems would just leave me one day.
I wanted to get better so bad. I just wanted to be normal.. whatever that means. As time went on things were changing a lot slower then I though that they were going to and I was getting frustrated with my progress. Thats just the way that I am. I know now that this was my alcoholic mind just trying to mess with me. It is always trying to destroy me.. no matter what I am doing.
When I was getting sober… like in my super early sobriety I had a lot of trouble just doing the simple things, like reading. The state that my body was in when I came into the Beacon HouseSM was pretty bad. I could not stop shaking and it would not subside for almost a month. Not being able to connect a couple of words together would really get me down. Something that has always been so easy to me was now almost impossible. It was so bad that I would not want to read the readings at meetings because I was so self conscious.
I thought that this would never end. I did not know what was happening to me. Would I always be like this? Would I not be able to read and hold another persons hand without them giving me a strange look?
I learned in the Beacon HouseSM about P.A.W.S….. Post-acute Withdrawal Syndrome. This was pretty much everything that was going on with me in one nice simple package. It explained pretty much everything that was going on with me. It was a diagnosis for the some of the reasons that I was feeling the way that I was. There was obviously other mental things that were going on in my head also… but this was a pretty good start.
What the heck is Post-acute Withdrawl Syndrome, you ask?
Here it is in a pretty basic easy to understand nutshell…. When I was drinking and using for all of those years I did a lot of chemical changes to my brain. My body is trying to compensate for the lack of the drugs and alcohol. My brain has to take some time to revert back to its natural, normal state. Of course there is much more to the definition then what I just explained there but Im not a doctor… I’m and alcoholic.
Here is a link to the Wikipedia page for P.A.W.S.
If you look at the symptoms that come along with PAWS… it pretty much reads like a picture album of the first couple of years of my recovery. Lets really quick go through the greatest hits list.
- Emotional Outbursts or Disturbance
- Pessimistic Thoughts
- Inability to think clearly
- Memory problems
- Lack of initiative
- Problems with multitasking
- Impaired concentration
- Physical coordination problems
I came across a really great article that really explains what P.A.W.S is and what it means for alcoholics and addicts in recovery. It breaks it down in really easy to understand terms.. because that is what I needed in early sobriety. Most importantly it talks about different ways that you can help your body recover through diet, meditation, and physical activity. Check out the article and tell me what you think
What I am trying to get across with this post is that it gets better. Look.. I am writing this now so I can obviously read again. I can connect a couple of words to make a sentence. Your everyday life will improve as time goes on.. but there are things that you can do to improve your situation. You can be proactive in helping your body recover.