Life before and after sobriety

Before, life was meaningless, drink was the only thing I thought about.

My partner was just someone who passed me by in the kitchen, lounge and bedroom. He suffered 24/7. The gentle giant… who took me away from working, and made me a lady of leisure, looked after me, worked to buy my drink, then slowly but surely gave up on me and I know he wished I would either give up the drink, or move out.

After, life is so wonderful, the gentle giant also has “a life beyond his wildest dreams”.   I have so many friends (true friends)  and the true miracle is, I don’t want or need a drink anymore.

The mornings are a welcome sight instead of a dread. Thank God I found AA … it saved my life and the life of my gentle giant. We now live a wonderful life and he doesn’t have to stay awake at night to make sure I get to bed safely.  I look forward to him walking in the door with a smile on his face instead of a growl, thanks for everything.

The Gift

Hilda, Florida

Hi, my name is Hilda, and I’m a grateful recovered alcoholic. I believe with my whole being in that statement today. And let me say, that it has taken a long time to get there.

My date of sobriety is Sep 14, 1992. When I got here I was broken physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I had no clue what was to be in my future. I don’t believe I wanted a future because all I could even fathom was dark and void of any kind of love.

But, my God had other ideas, and I was brought to the AA fellowship. I was given a sponsor who focused on the steps. I was told in order to not drink again I would have to work these steps.

So my journey began. We all have life experiences that seem only heavy and sad. It has been my experience that without those I might not be where I am today.

I remember coming back into the program two days before my daughter’s twelfth birthday. There were no words or feelings that I could have offered to change her world and perception. She absolutely hated me and didn’t believe me — and wasn’t going to. My older daughter had married to get away from me.

I remember saying if I made it to my sixteenth anniversary of sobriety, that this then-12-year-old would get my medallion because she deserved it. You see, her birthday was on the 16th.

When I reached that anniversary, I went to visit her on that birthday, her 28th, my 16th celebration of sobriety. I intended this to be her celebration. She turned it around — she’d bought me a special, recovery medallion and put it in a wooden frame for me.

You see, she loved me and trusted me and accepted me again. Healing is precious and in God’s time. We just take the steps and live a better way, one day at a time. My feeling low was changed to feeling love because I chose to begin my journey of loving me so that I could love you.

This lovely daughter said to me then, “Mom, it’s time to quit being guilty about me and my sister’s life. We are grown, the choices are ours and so also the responsibility of them.

And today, I have to let go of a granddaughter, who lives with her other grandmother. The legal system didn’t go the way I wanted, and she and we leave the results to God.

You see, each of us, me, my daughter, and granddaughter all have our own journeys. I’m still learning to stay in my sandbox. When feeling low, my mind tells me it would be different IF I had lived differently. But my heart tells me to let go and let God and live life today.

I have family issues, financial issues, relationship issues, living issues and with God I overcome myself, not others. I am far from being able to have this attitude all the time, but I have humbled myself to accept that God will always carry through, no matter what.

I was also introduced to the precious traditions, which today I hold so dear to my heart. Tradition 1 reads: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity. The experiences of everyone who shares in AA touch my heart. The way I keep this gift today is working with others. The gift isn’t mine.

My life is no longer lost, dark, void. I found love in a God that had always been there, and I was willing to go to any length to stay sober and have been given love, forgiveness, compassion, and still remain teachable because I am not cured.

What I know today is that I’m no longer under the bondage of the physical allergy and the mental obsession of the drink controlling my mind. That has been removed by God’s love and grace through my willingness to do his will.

I have been given the fulfillment of a spiritual awakening as a result of working the steps. I am completely aware that this gift of love is only there today if my spiritual connection to this power is in fit condition.

This daughter recently told me, “You are not the person before, or after you drank. You are entirely different.” Is that so bad? I asked myself. No. I am who God sees. I hope I always will be.

Glad there is another way

John D, Massachusetts, USA

I’d like to believe that AA got me, I didn’t get AA.

My first exposure to AA was around 1982. I had just got arrested for DWI. The court appointed me to a program called CASP. I believe it stood for Court Appointed Study Program.

Anyway, they labeled me a “problem drinker.” Not to be funny (it was really naive of me) I bluntly said to the counselor

“I don’t drink over my problems, so how could you say I’m a problem drinker?”

I attended the meetings just to satisfy the court and to get through it. Little did I know that the seed had been planted in me. I did go and listen, but I didn’t try to identify with any of the speakers. I continued thinking I was in the clear, and that I just needed to watch out from then on.

I went on with my routine, but something had changed. I started to actually think about the pattern that I had gotten into. I would start considering what days I would drink and what days I wouldn’t. I thought about what I should drink and how much. I know now that social drinkers probably never put limits or expectations on drinking.

Anyway, I would continue on for another 4 years of “controlled drinking” if you will. In August of 1986, I was on a spree that I hope was my last. I woke up on Monday morning, I didn’t talk to anyone or see anyone, I just got in my car and drove around aimlessly. I don’t even know if I had been heading to work or not, it just didn’t matter.

Later that morning I found myself sitting looking out at a lake, thinking and feeling that I was going to die. I didn’t know how or when, I just knew I was going to die. I headed home, but first I needed to get something to eat. As I waited for my food, a thought or an inner voice came to me and said, “you’ve got to stop drinking.”

For some reason, I followed through with that thought. I went to a rehab and did what they told me to do. I was released and attended several meetings, but I had a hard time with it. I still had denial. I didn’t believe I was an alcoholic. I just wanted the insanity to stop and to try and put my life in order.

I started slowly to pull away from AA, but the Grace of God had other plans. Two of my co-workers were in AA, and they saw right through me. One gave me Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and the other handed me his Big Book. I asked, “What am I going to do with this?” He replied, “Figured you might need something to read on a Saturday night.”

I had asked my other co-worker if we could get together and talk, and she said, “Yeah, sure, how about Friday night? I’ll meet at this church for an 8:30 meeting.” I really didn’t want to attend the meeting, I just wanted to talk with someone, although I’m not sure what my reasons were.

I did attend that meeting and wouldn’t you know they had set the meeting up just for me (so I thought). After asking my friend if she had told these people I was attending that night, she clearly told me what was happening is that I was identifying.

Amazing — I could swear I must have associated with the speaker at some point during my drinking career. I was identifying. I finally was able to hear what was happening to me every time I drink. I am one of the lucky ones really, I feel.

I was able to get a sense of belonging. I attended more meetings. I became involved. I got a sponsor, I got a Higher Power, and I was able to get involved with the steps and follow the path to recovery. That is why I am glad there was another way of living.

I thank my Higher Power each day and realize how the promises had come true as were presented in the Big Book. I am so grateful that I had the willingness to grow in this fellowship. For sure I know I would have died not knowing there was another way.

Thank you, John D grateful alcoholic.

The lifelines saving me

MaggieGail, Boston, MA

For me, alcohol played a huge role in my anger. On the outside amongst friends and family, I was a “happy” drunk. My everyday nature was happy, funny, lovable, kind and all that. The more sober I become, the more I know that I am a good person and I do still possess those qualities.

However, the person closest to me (my husband) was not always kind to me and then he changed. He sought help. I remained the same and never forgave him. When he was mean to me I never said anything, I just held it all inside and became a nervous wreck and used it as an excuse to drink more. I could see myself becoming more and more less confident, more dependent on him (for some strange reason), I had no clue “where” I went!

Then after a couple of years I went “crazy” with anger at him. EVERY night I would come up to our room drunk and I would grill him, abuse him, anything I could to let him know how much I hated every bad word, every bad action he had ever made towards me. I was like the devil. I know that may sound strange, or maybe not, but I was now the “cruel, abusive person” that I hated in him.

The pathetic thing about it is that I repeated the same stories over and over again at him, night after night, year after year. I didn’t even know who I was. The evil that emerged was frightening, especially to him, because I was too drunk to care. He literally begged me to get help to keep our marriage together and I still didn’t care.

I thought, damn you, you’ll pay for everything you’ve ever done wrong to me. I broke TV’s, threw cell phones in the water, ripped up love letters he had given me (right in front of him), ripped beautiful jewelry off my neck and wrists, anything. Because I was angry.

When I would open my eyes in the morning, the first thoughts were horror. What did I do? What did I say? How bad was I? The cycle was too much now. I was becoming more depressed and more anxious because I was drinking more and more knowing that once I hit that point of no return, I would forget how I had acted yet just to do it all over again.

Then one day my husband brought me home a card that read on the outside “One day at a Time, One Step at a Time”. On the inside, he wrote “We … can make it!” I’m begging you MaggieGail, I will be by your side, I will pray with you, I will do anything if you can try to see what alcohol is doing to you, to us. If not, we cannot go on like this. I want “you” back. I love you, James. (By the way, I keep that card nearby all the time :)

I can’t say that was the “turning point” for me, but I had been praying to God for a “sign”, anything that would make me stop for even a moment, and THINK, what are you doing? So regardless if it was the card or not, I’m here, not there.

It was the next day I found you. I was scared to death, because now I knew that if I was going to release myself of alcohol, I was going to have to “look” at myself and I didn’t want to, but I did (with A LOT of kneeling, praying, crying) and, of course, I still am and will be for a long while I would think. I am sober today by the grace of God, I know, and the help I’ve been so blessed with having – the support of “you” and the person I love very much.

Today, I have an appointment with a therapist to also help channel me through some of my anger issues and how to better deal with them sober. I have a co-sponsor online as well, which is helping me a lot. When I see her name in a message to me it makes me happy, it makes me feel a bit more at peace. What I’m learning is that in fighting this addiction there are numerous lifelines out there for me. I just need to keep on grabbing on to each and every one that is thrown my way.

One Day at a Time ….

Peace and Love, MaggieGail

Smashing the delusion

Dean, California

It’s been an interesting week.

Last Saturday, at 6:35 p.m. Pacific Time USA, I hit 23 years of sobriety. I’ve been sober longer than I drank, and I’ve lived a number of years longer than my father, who died a nasty alcoholic death when I was still a child.

Yesterday afternoon I got a collect call from the county jail from a guy we’ll call Richard. I accepted. I’ve known Richard for over a decade, was his sponsor for a brief time, until we figured out that I wasn’t helping.

Richard’s incarceration problems began many years ago when, while drunk, he broke into someone’s house to steal stuff but instead fell asleep on their couch. The residents found him the next morning, snoring, and the police took him away.

Heroin or alcohol, jails, and prisons were home for most of a decade. Before his recent troubles, he had managed to get all the way through his probation. Eight years on the outside, except a few weekends in county lockup.

Now he’s awaiting transport to the California penal system’s screening program where they’ll decide which facility will be his home for the next two years or so. He’s most familiar with Folsom and says that is his hope. And he asked if he could write to me and if I’d put a few dollars on his books so he could get some necessities.

I said, sure, to both. Richard is a nice guy, not dumb, doesn’t hurt people when he gets stupid with alcohol or drugs. He just won’t surrender, admit defeat. During our conversation, Richard thought to ask how I was doing, what was new, etc. I told him.

For the past three days, I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with my son Paul’s mother (my ex-wife, who lives in San Antonio and whom we’ll call Pat) and with Paul’s girlfriend (the mother of his son Brandon, who lives in the San Diego area and whom we’ll call Teresa). A couple of years ago, Paul decided that he’d rather drink than do anything else in the world. He’d tried rehabs and churches and counselors and . . . AA, kind of.

Teresa, whom he’d been with for 13 years, gave him an ultimatum (because he was unemployed and had started stealing her stuff and selling it to buy alcohol). Stop drinking or leave, she told him. She had two kids to take care of, Brandon and a daughter by a previous marriage.

Paul began living with the homeless folks on the streets. Now and then he’d call his son, or someone would see him around town. Until April of this year (2010). Three days ago, Teresa was in the Social Security office retrieving Brandon’s number. She asked if the woman could look up Paul’s information. The woman did and informed Teresa that the records showed Paul as deceased.

It turns out that on the night of April 23, Paul and his homeless buddy Steve were in a city park, drinking, and Paul got violently ill. Steve got someone to call 9-1-1 and Paul went to the hospital.

Steve told the hospital folks that he was Paul’s cousin, his only living relative. The hospital took Paul in, managed to resuscitate him and moved him to the ICU where he was in and out of a coma. He died on May 5 from “alcohol-related illnesses.” He had cardiopulmonary “complications,” his liver shut down, and the list doesn’t stop there I’m told.

Paul’s homeless pal Steve signed off on what to do with the body. Paul was turned over to the county, cremated, and his ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Steve also claimed what few possessions Paul had.

Girlfriend Teresa and Mom Pat now officially hate each other, for all sorts of reasons. Since they’re not alcoholics, they need someone to blame for not saying the magic word or offering that one last idea or strategy that would have saved Paul from an alcoholic death. Pat is also furious with the hospital and the county for not looking a little further for actual relatives.

And little Brandon, who’s 6, is brokenhearted.

From pages 30-31 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous:

Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death. We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.

My mornings are simpler

Amy, Florida

Good morning all. Another day and another morning of knowing exactly what I did last night. Awesome! I’ve been really busy with work, meetings, breathing, sleeping, eating, and putting one foot in front of the other.

A few weeks ago I was doing the newbie routine at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting: Why is this so hard? Why me? Why-why-why? Blah blah blah.

One of the guys said, “Did you get out of bed this morning, brush your teeth, and eat breakfast?”

Yes, of course.

“Well did you find any of that to be particularly difficult?”

I impatiently replied, “Uh, no!”

To which he said, “Tell me about a typical morning when you were drinking.”

Ahhhhh! As my dizzy brain went back to those mornings after, I slowly realized what he was pointing out. I don’t know about y’all but my mornings went a little something like this:

Wake up at 4 a.m. ’cause the booze wore off and my nerves were screaming. I’d have a class-A headache, desert dry mouth, and a stomach that felt like I’d ingested bleach the night before. I’d crawl to the medicine cabinet; find something, anything, to quiet the war in my skull. Crawl to the kitchen for the last thing my stomach wanted but my brain knew would help — a couple of huge glasses of water. By now I’m dizzy, about to hurl. There’s a twenty-one gun salute going off in my head, and I’m promising God and everyone on the planet that I ain’t gonna do that anymore. Next, I crawl back to bed to wait for death or relief, whichever comes faster; I don’t care at that point.

I’d awaken again by 6:30 a.m. My partner would be home from work soon. I’d have to get rid of the evidence from the night before. I’d get up again, stumble into some clothes, gather all the empties, and take them out to the trash. I live in a downtown residential-business district, so I’d usually sneak over to the office next door and use that trash can. Then I’d creep back to my place as the neighbors retrieved their morning papers, jogged, walked their dogs, headed off to work, and tried not to stare at that nut job in her pajamas, hair sticking straight up, stumbling around the yard, taking the garbage out again this morning — and why does she take it next door? I’d slink back inside, brush my teeth and find some peanut butter. Yeah, peanut butter worked wonders. It masked the toothpaste, which masked my alcohol breath. At the time, it made perfect sense. Then I’d hop back in bed and fall asleep until the afternoon when I would get up, take more aspirin, and go to work.

After sharing that, my friend in the meeting said, “Isn’t this much easier?”

I had to laugh and agree. My mornings are much simpler, thank you. And, frankly, I can make the case that every square inch of my life is easier than the old planning, scheming, manipulating days of getting it, using it, hiding it, and recovering from it. I love this group.


Ann S, Sweden

I never made New Year’s resolutions, as a rule, but since I got sober in January of 1987 maybe the New Year had an influence after all.

I was trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps after an awful experience where I felt I reached my bottom. I was working 3 jobs, to fill my time so that I wouldn’t go off the deep end again, and to prove myself worthy, in somebody’s eyes.

The bottom happened the previous spring. I was lying curled up in a fetal position mewing pitifully for help, surrounded by people I cared about then: artsy types (I thought) who gave me the drugs and the alcohol with that everything-can-go-to-hell-and-I-don’t-care mentality. I looked up to them, wanted to be like them, was willing to change my life to be recognized by them.

Drinking, however, seemed to have much more impact on me than any of them. That night proved it, as I was reduced to a baby’s behavior. I was needy, unable to take care of myself, and desperate for human consolation.

But my obvious helplessness didn’t endear me to my crowd. These people, the people I lived with, the people I had trusted, followed and imitated, watched me cry with disgust in their eyes. They didn’t know what to do with me, and I couldn’t tell them.

After that and other huge embarrassing jackpots, they left me. It seems I’d caught up with their drinking use and abuse, and surpassed them. Maybe they didn’t want to be around me anymore, but I didn’t feel slighted. Instead, I felt a strong competitive reaction. Somehow I’d “show them” — I’d prove they were wrong to give up on me, I’d “make it” and they’d wish they still knew me. Such ego!

I got back my old movie-theater job, worked weekend mornings at a deli and started a professional life as assistant activities director for a non-profit elderly care organization. I struggled to stay away from anything threatening my new direction, including drugs and alcohol.
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