Can I stay sober and sane with long term health issues? – By Greg R

I hear a lot about staying sane in ‘fellowship’ situations. Staying sane, while staying sober is quite difficult. Add long term ill health issues on top of that and the difficulty rating rises quite significantly.

Hardly any of us ‘get away with it’ in our addiction. We come round, come to and then come to find that bits of our physiology and psychology have suffered damage from our disease. With me, it’s bone density and damage, which causes Chronic Pain, having to walk with assistance, and a stonking case of ‘M.E.’, (more commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and a few other things besides. For all of these conditions, I’ve had to seek help from qualified and experienced specialists in their respective fields.

Within the fellowship I’ve had experience where sponsors suggested that their protégé cease taking their medications. I did this, once, and that is the operative word, once. My sponsor at the time told me to stop my medications, and me, being the dutiful sponsee, promptly did so.

Bad move…..not only was my sponsor not medically qualified and experienced, I too, had little experience of sobriety or knowledge of the medications I was on and what they were for. I was very nearly hospitalized on a long-term basis with the consequences of my actions.

Needless to say, that person is no longer my sponsor. I’ve even heard of people, in my own AA district, coming close to death and having to be hospitalized. Today, I listen very carefully to my doctor. I follow instructions. If something is prescribed, I stick to the prescription. Abuse of a prescription is just as bad as going out there and getting street drugs. Today, I trust myself to follow directions, and that’s only because of 12 steps and a Higher Power that I choose to call God.

I don’t talk much about my conditions, I just accept them, follow sane suggestion, both medically and program-wise, and manage the best I can. Some of the things in my daily routine are difficult for me to do which involve lifting and shifting. It makes the household cleaning interesting.

This is where priorities come in, and that’s where the 12 Steps help. I’m powerless to do most simple things when my condition is poor. It’s frustrating, I can tell you. I have to keep asking myself the question, is it important?….and work my way toward acceptance of my situation.

It’s really tough some days, but  I do what I can, when I can. As long as I apply the principles of the program on a daily basis, I cope. I treat my conditions A Day at a Time too. Recently I reached 12 years of sobriety, which goes to prove we can do it! No matter what the personal situation, be it health, finance, relationship, no relationship…whatever the case. We can stay sober.




About Greg R

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  1. Greg, what a great piece! Thank you so much! I have been a nurse for 27 years and now a patient for one year due to an accident and a severe orthopedic injury. I am codependent but I have seen to many people go down with prescription meds and I don’t want to be one of them, nor do I care to live in unbearable pain. The key is HONESTY– if you do have a substance issue you must be honest with your medical team so a plan can be formed for you. If you do not, only take exactly what you need, follow your instructions and keep any medications with a potential for abuse locked up. Again, GREAT post!
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you for your comments Alana. I also suffer from CHRONIC procrastination! I keep saying to myself, ‘ I MUST remember to reply to my comments, and EVERY time, I forget!! So here I am, incredibly busy and suddenly, whilst working on the site design and updates, there is my post and comments! Why not do it now?
      ‘Co-dependency’ is looked at as an ‘ugly’ word, do you not find? Yes, I’m a recovering alcoholic, however, FIRST, I’m a human being and in some respects, humans were CREATED’ co-dependant…there is someone for each one of us in this world. My co-dependency was just ‘unhealthy’. |Now-a-days, it’s what I can BRING to a situation, not what I can rely on to get out of said situation, person, or thing.
      I found I had to let go of my extremes. Co-dependency is just the extreme of relying on a Person, Place, or Thing.
      Today, I know I can rely on TWO things. 12 Steps and my Higher Power. If I can add just a little bit of identification to another, or help in any way, I can, and DO!
      Hope you’re condition is better and continuing to improve.
      Love in fellowship


  2. Greg R. , Thank you for sharing you ESH on this topic with us. I think that there are people outside of the program who when thinking of getting sober find themselves painting a very unrealistic picture of what sobriety will or would be like if they could pull it off. The cold hard facts paint a very different back drop. I do not mean to downplay sobriety and all it has to offer compared to being a full blow alcoholic and selling off valuables to buy your next fifth of whiskey, or closing down the local bar on a nightly basis and going to work a few hours later still very drunk.
    Sobriety has many perks, that very from person to person……and much is left up to what you make of any given situation (glass half full/half empty).But health is not a given, good or bad and as you said many times our past actions will play a significant role in what awaits in sobriety.Just as we have to make amends to those we have harmed and keeping our OWN side of the street clean we also have to tend to our own physical health. I suffered two heart attacks with in a 12 month period . After the first heart attack ( really even before) I was told by more then a couple doctors that I needed to lower my cholesterol numbers and loss weight. I was told to pay more attention to what I eat and eat less (much less). I had became a type 2 diabetic and my glucose numbers as well as my A1C was dangerously high. While in the hospital for back surgery I suffered the second heart attack.
    This caused me two take a hard look at my health and my life in general. At this point i was two and a half years free from the whiskey bottle, doing service work and working a good program of AA. But I had also seen two of my brothers and my father pass away with/from heart disease, and I honestly felt at that point that I was going to be next and it was going to happen soon unless I made some very big changes. So I did just that, I went to my primary care doctor and asked her to please help me, I didn’t want to be the next one in my family to chisel there name in stone . She helped me get cardiac rehab, then physical rehab that led me on a journey that has seen my life turn completely around. I have loss 100 lbs, my cholesterol is now normal and borderline low…….. my A1C went from 10.2 to 4.8, I m off of insulin and my daily glucose numbers are that of a non diabetic . I used the basic principles from AA 12 steps and 12 traditions and applied them to my physical problems and with earnest and diligence and a lot of pain and suffering that has all paid off in a big way.
    Life in sobriety is what you make of it daily, just as we have make a decision daily to drink or not to drink we also have to make the same commitment on our health I believe.

  3. Avatar
    Cassandra or gowithhp

    Greg I am so glad that you wrote this article. First of all you did an excellent job! Secondly, there are so many people in recovery that need to hear this message. I too know of an incident where someone was told to stop taking their medication. Unfortunately, the young woman suffered from severe depression and had bouts of suicidal thoughts. She did as she was told. She stopped her medication and committed suicide in early recovery. That taught me a vital lesson. Take whatever medication you really need to take and like you said; follow your doctor’s directions. We have pamphlets on medication and should only take medical advice from our doctor.

    I am also glad to have read this now because I am sick right now but not as sick as I have been before. You gave me some gratitude to put in my attitude. Slowly but surely I’m learning to have patience with myself. God is in charge and not me. Thanks again. I have asthma and other conditions that I must take medication for or end up in a hospital. The program and God are my means of making right choices.

  4. I have bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders which can trigger ups, downs or psychosis if I do not take my meds I would be hospitalised needlessly. I have not had a sponsor tell me to stop taking my meds, gratefully. I think some people just don’t understand chronic illness. I am glad you brought this up and great article Greg.

  5. I have been dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis for 10 years (I’m now 12 years sober) I do what my Dr. suggests and I must limit my physical activities, I help my 80 year young mother run the family ranch, I recently went into debt to buy a “soaking tub” I’m installing it now. We can do the things that are needed, REMEMBER who is in charge- It’s not me. My Creator has not allowed me to live through all I have in my 60 years, just to “Drop me on my head”- NEVER give up, Give Hope, help others who deal with limits. It all comes back around

  6. I also have a chronic disability, medication is a must. Thanks for writing this piece. Many will benefit from it.

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