Clean and sober: now what? 90 meetings in 90 days, read the book, get a sponsor, write out your steps longhand, read the Morning Reflections, change everything and did I mention;” Go to meetings”? I thought that getting sober was going to be a long slog from one recovery oriented duty to another.
Sure, the stories at the meetings were often funny and entertaining. Some shares were worthy of stand up comic bookings. Others were so tender and painful it seemed as if every heart in the room would break. Tears could render the meeting absolutely silent: hearing a pin drop would be a cannon boom.
The reading! It seemed it would never end. The first 164 pages being the foundation of the program (I started in AA and it is my primary fellowship), then there are the stories at the back, which are taken often as “gospel”. Those, being seen as critical to my understanding of being an active alcoholic and the gifts of sobriety as the first section of the book. The “12 and 12” (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions); another sobriety text book to read, share and understand. In my first few years I felt I did nothing but study recovery. I thought life was to be boring if I wasn’t to slip and relapse. I didn’t see that this investigation and dedication would become the bedrock for my future.
There was a point when I got tired of all the introspection, meeting attendance, and one on ones with my sponsor. I felt that my whole life was being swallowed up in my recovery and that I actually didn’t have a life.
I know this is where the sponsors among you will say “Without recovery you wouldn’t have a life.” “You should be grateful for your meetings, your friends and sobriety!” “If you aren’t grateful you will use and drink again.” “Meeting makers make it.” And so on.
I am here to tell you that it’s all true! I stuck with it (even the boring repetitive parts, the parts where that person at that meeting gets up and says that same thing, where that “deacon” shares, telling you about how serious the program used to be, and that we are all a bunch of lightweights. I stuck with going through the steps when I felt I had nothing left to say (and then miraculously did.) I stuck with it when my sponsor moved and I had to find, and get used to, another one. I stuck with it when I moved and had to get used to totally new meetings. I stayed for the miracle.
The miracle was that the program infiltrated my core; the teachings and my learnings crept into me. I didn’t have to decide each day if I were going to do something recovery related. The practice of the principles had morphed so that recovery was inside my life. I had developed ethics and values, self esteem and self respect. I had uncovered my own internal compass for moving toward the healthy and away from the destructive. Now I was ready to take it on the road!
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” When I was ready, I was able to follow those sober people who returned to school to gain or change careers. I was able to take on challenges I never thought I was capable of. I was able to travel without fear of relapsing, to assume leadership roles in my profession. I was able to expand my horizons with arts and crafts, to write, to change careers again. And, very important to me, I was able to trust others and myself. I was finally able to enter into a relationship in which I could be as well as accept support, to give as well as to accept love, to challenge as well as to be challenged.
I have an amazingly BIG LIFE. I have been rocketed into a fourth dimension. When I first sobered up I could never have imagined this life. I didn’t know what I didn’t know; I could not conceive of a life as full as this. We say in the rooms that “If I had been able to plan and write my life in early recovery- I would have short changed myself completely.” That has been the case for me. I have come to know a new freedom and a new happiness. I do have a big life, a life outside of the rooms, the literature, and even the dyads of recovery that we practice.
My recovery has given me tools to deal with life without fear of relapse. After nearly 20 years of debauchery I needed to heal. I couldn’t get well in a moment; it took time. I did what was suggested. I did it for longer than I wanted to but enough to get me a fantastic life. And it only took me several years.
Don’t give up – build the platform for YOUR rocket. And tell us where yours has taken you!