The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become

unmanageable.

  1. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to

sanity.

  1. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  1. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  2. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature

of our wrongs.

  1. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  2. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  3. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make

amends to them all.

  1. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do

so would injure them or others.

  1. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly

admitted it.

  1. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with

God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us

and the power to carry that out.

  1. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to

carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our

affairs.

Copyright  1952, 1953, 1981 by Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing

(now known as Alcoholics Anonymous World Services,

WHAT TO EXPECT AT ALCOHOLICS & NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS MEETINGS

If you have never gone to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting, it can be a little scary at first.  You don’t know what to expect because it is a new experience. You may have heard a lot of negative things about meetings from other using addicts. Some people are court ordered to go to meetings and may feel negatively about them because they resent being forced to go. Remember that everyone in AA and NA had to walk into their first meeting at some point so you are not alone in feeling scared. People who go to meetings regularly are aware of this and often try to be very welcoming when they see someone new enter a meeting.

Where Do Meetings Occur and How Do I Find One?

 

Many meetings take place in church basements, treatment facilities, hospitals and recovery clubs. You can find a list of meetings online at the Alcoholics Anonymous website and the Narcotics Anonymous website. In addition, most counties have a drug and alcohol commission to help people in their county locate treatment. You can find the number for your local drug and alcohol commission in your phone book or online. They often have local meeting lists available in their offices. Any local treatment facilities would probably provide you with a free local list of meetings too.

Once you find your first meeting, you will be able to get a list of other meetings there. The meeting list will let you know the name of the meetings, time and place of the meetings and what kind of meetings are available in your area. The best way to find good meetings is to ask people in recovery who go to meetings. They can help you find the kind of meeting you want to go to. For example, there are meetings just for people who are new to AA and NA.

What Are the Different Types of Meetings?

  • Discussion meetings – These meetings usually are focused on a particular topic or two or  three topics which can be chosen by the chairperson of the meeting or the group itself. Group members take turns talking one at a time about the topic that is chosen.
  • Speaker meetings – These meetings have a speaker who is a member of AA or NA. The speaker tells their story of alcoholism/addiction and how they found recovery. These meetings can be very inspiring because you can learn that you are not alone and recovery is possible.
  • Beginner meetings – These meetings are for people who are new to AA/NA and want to learn more about the program.
  • 12 Step and 12 Tradition study – These meetings help you to learn more about the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. Members usually read a chapter from the book and then discuss it.
  • Big Book or Basic Text meetings – These meetings are about studying the Big Book which is the main text of AA and the Basic Text which is the main book of NA.
  • Men’s and women’s meetings – These meetings are specifically designed for either men or women. These are great meetings to meet more members of your own gender, which is important for finding a sponsor.
  • Candlelight meetings – These meetings often take place in the evening and are lit by candles. It can be a different and fun change from regular meetings.
  • Open meetings – These meetings are open to anyone. Family and friends of addicts can attend as well as addiction professionals who want to learn more about the program of AA/NA.
  • Closed meetings – These meetings are only for people who have an alcohol or drug problem.

What Happens During the Meeting?

<p>The Beginning of the Meeting</p>

Some meetings vary the order of the format, some are more formal or more laid back but the following is generally what happens at most meetings.

Opening the Meeting

The chairperson of the meeting will open the meeting usually by pounding on the table and announcing the meeting is starting. Everyone who isn’t already seated takes a seat. Seating is sometimes in a circle or around a square or rectangle table. However, large meetings can have seats throughout the room. People are often chatting before the meeting but they get quiet when the meeting starts.

The Serenity Prayer

The chairperson asks everyone to help him/her begin the meeting with the Serenity Prayer. Don’t worry if you don’t know it. You will learn it in time. Only the first four lines of the Serenity Prayer are spoken.

This is the Serenity Prayer:

  • God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Readings

The chairperson will ask for the readings. Somewhere in the meeting room will be a table of free pamphlets and books for purchase. You can find a booklet there which includes all the readings. The chairperson will either ask people to do the readings before the meeting starts or sometimes they are placed around the room and anyone sitting by one can choose to read.

You never have to read if you feel uncomfortable with it. If you see a reading at the seat you chose, you can ask someone else to read it or move to another seat. Even if you are asked, no one will be offended if you say you would rather not read.

The readings are either read from the person’s seat or sometimes from a podium. Before each person reads, they announce their name and that they are an alcoholic or addict. It is customary to say you are an alcoholic at AA meetings and an addict at NA meetings. However, you can say you are an alcoholic and an addict or cross-addicted. The readings can vary somewhat from meeting to meeting and are a little different at AA and NA meetings but they both read the 12 steps and 12 Traditions. NA changes “alcohol” to “addiction” in their readings.

Announcements

There may be a time during the meeting for announcements, which may include anniversary meetings, new meetings, meetings needing home group members or other business related to AA or NA. The group may be asked if they have any announcements related to AA or NA.

Introductions

The chairperson will ask if there is anyone from out of town or new to the meeting. The chairperson may say “this is not to embarrass you but to help us get to know you better.” If you are a newcomer or haven’t been to this particular meeting before, feel free to stand up, say your name and that you are new. Everyone will welcome you and tell you to “keep coming back.”

Talking about Cravings

There will also be a point during the meeting when the chairperson will ask if anyone feels like drinking/using. Some people will announce themselves (name and I’m an alcoholic/addict) and admit that they are feeling like drinking or using drugs. We call this “telling on yourself.” People often do this because talking about cravings helps you to not follow through and actually drink or use drugs.

Talking about it also lets group members know you may need more support. They may come up and offer their phone numbers to someone in need. Or pass around paper for people to write down their phone numbers for a newcomer. The chairperson also may say that if you didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with the group, get with someone after the meeting to talk.

Don’t be afraid to approach someone after the meeting and tell them you feel like drinking or using drugs and need more help. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. You have to speak up and ask for additional help to get it.

Clean Time

What is clean time and why is it important?

AA/NA meetings celebrate clean time at every meeting by giving out coins or keychains. There are different colors for different months and years of sober or clean time. The first coin/keychain is for “24 hours sober/clean or the desire to start a new way of life.”

Anyone can get this coin/keychain. If you are a newcomer, I recommend getting your first coin/keychain. You can expect lots of applause, people welcoming you, telling you to “keep coming back,” shaking your hand or hugging you. This will help you feel welcome and at home in the meetings. It is also meant to help you realize that you have made great progress just by attending a meeting.

The purpose of clean time is not to make people feel that some members have more seniority but to let everyone know that recovery is possible. It is meant to inspire newcomers and let people know that you can reach multiple years of clean time. Some meetings ask anyone with more than a year clean to stand up. This is also to show that recovery is attainable.

The Middle of the Meeting 

The middle of the meeting varies whether it is a discussion meeting, a book meeting or a speaker meeting.

  • For discussion meetings, some go around the room to give everyone a chance to speak. You can introduce yourself and say “I pass.”  No one will make you share.  People introduce themselves by saying “I’m (Your Name) and I’m an alcoholic/addict” or a variation of this.
  • At other meetings, anyone can choose to speak after the meeting is opened to discussion. Each person usually speaks for about 3 to 5 minutes so everyone has a chance to speak. When someone finishes speaking, they may say, “with that I pass.”  Members respond with “thank you” or “thank you for sharing.” There is no crosstalk during the meeting. One person speaks at a time.
  • Book or 12 Step/12 Tradition meetings read from the chosen book or read a Step/Tradition and may discuss the reading at the end.
  • Speaker meetings have a speaker who tells their story of alcoholism or addiction and how they found recovery.

The End of the Meeting

Most meetings close with members forming a circle and reciting The Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer. AA meetings usually join hands and say the Lord’s Prayer while NA meetings put their arms around each other and say the Serenity Prayer.

<p>Some Tips for Meetings</p>

  • The meeting will usually begin exactly on time.
  • Cross talk is not acceptable.
  • You can be asked to leave if you disrupt the meeting with cross talk, cell phones, inappropriate behavior, etc.
  • Please turn your cell phone off during the meeting.
  • It is acceptable to bring children to most meetings but you may need to bring something for them to do. If they are not quiet, you may want to remove them from the meeting so as to not disrupt the meeting. Some meetings have child care available during the meeting so ask around if you need to bring your children. You may be able to find a group member who will watch them so you can get the most out of the meeting.
  • AA members usually shake hands more often while NA members hug more.
  • Most meetings are non-smoking but may have a section for smokers.
  • Try to come early and stay late to meetings when you can. What happens before and after the meeting can be as important as the meeting itself. This is a time to socialize, get support, help others, get phone numbers or find a sponsor

 

THE SOLUTIONS FOR DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

WHAT CAN I DO TO OVERCOME DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY?

Click here to read SOLUTIONS

HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE….YES BUT

Hurt people usually hurt themselves first and foremost by their limited ability to accept new people, new places, and new things.

What do we do if we are so hurt from our addict driven past and horrific childhood that we are unable to Love and accept others?  And why is it that a lack of acceptance and the alcoholic go hand in hand?  Our parents didn’t teach us healthy emotional coping skills or we would not reach for such destructive emotional survival skills like the drink and drug.  The thing is as long as our using (drug abuse) and blame-based coping skills worked to keep us reasonably numb & feeling shame-free we had no reason to stop using them….right? 

Why is it that the serenity prayer is an addicts most valuable coping skill known far and wide?  The Big Book reads that a lack of power was our dilemma.  Meaning when we feel we are not in control within and without we buck, we freak.  We lack acceptance when we are sick and suffering on such a grand scale that we block new, different people and ideas out of our lives.  We can’t cope with any kind of change…it’s too scarey.  But again Why? (Oh I’m not supposed to know the answers to any “why’s”? that’s first 90 days sober AA jargon.  If we are going to really be healed of our underlying emotional issues we must allow ourselves to seek & find some knowledge.)

Blame, criticism, and looking for the wrong and the bad in other people and their ideas is the most wide-spread destructive emotional coping skill on the face of the Earth used by addicts and normies alike.  AS LONG AS I CAN PUT A “BAD” LABEL ON SOMEONE TODAY MAYBE I WON’T HAVE TO SEE THE PAIN LIVING INSIDE ME.  IF I CAN JUST BE “RIGHT” AND FEEL THAT I AM “BETTER THAN OTHERS” THEN I WON’T HAVE TO SEE THE SICKNESS THAT LIVES IN MY SOUL.

I need to ask myself some questions…how long have I been sober and why am I still having anxiety attacks and suffering from intense rage and depression?  Why am I having repeated migraines?  Why have I pushed all the people I love out of my life?  Why am I still isolating and beating myself up?  Have I left something out of my program? Could my prejudices toward religion and therapy be hindering my healing? What can I do to really overcome depression and anxiety?

The serenity prayer and twelve step work are two grand survival skills for us.  When we share our story of what it was like what happened and what it is like now, if sincere & heart-felt processes out a little bit of our pain and sickness bit by bit.   Telling our story builds self-worth and confidence.  However it also feeds our ego and can be a deflection from our own emotional wounds.  Step 12 and chairing meetings are mere band-aids covering a wound that needs far more healing and medicine.  We need a deep and searching moral inventory we need to address our underlying issues or the infection in our soul will just keep hurting us and those around us.  The symptoms that are screaming at me are depression and anxiety.

SO WHAT THEN?  WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS TO DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY AND HOW DO I APPLY THEM IN MY LIFE?  Know this solutions will go against the grain of the disease and make us feel very uncomfortable.  PLEASE KNOW THERE IS NO WRONG FEELING, ONLY WRONG ACTIONS.  EVERY FEELING IS BECAUSE OF A REASON, AN EXPERIENCE, A REACTION TO AN EVENT THEREFORE WE SHOULD NEVER SAY…I SHOULD NOT FEEL THAT WAY.  YOUR HEART IS THE PLACE THAT FEELINGS COME FROM AND YOUR HEART DOES NOT LIE.  WE WILL NO LONGER BE ASHAMED OF WHO AND WHY WE ARE OR HOW WE ARE.  BUT WE CAN LEARN TO OVERCOME AND WORK THROUGH NEGATIVE FEELINGS RATHER THAN ALLOWING OUR FEARS AND FEELINGS TO PARALYZE US.

SOLUTION 1
Well firstly I need to work the steps more thoroughly starting with my spirituality and lack thereof.  I need to seek God with every fiber of my heart and being.  Ask my Higher Power to guide my step-work and my actions.  God answers the heart, every testimony of spiritual experience I have ever heard or had began with an intense seeking of God with one’s heart, mind and very depth of soul.  Please, shallow prayers reap shallow rewards.  Then I keep seeking, I go to churches, tent revivals, Unity God-self type temples,  Mausks, Catholic church.  Any place that people congregate to find and become closer to God, that is where I need to seek Him/It/Her, not just AA.  People are not on their knees praying in meetings, people are not crying out at the alter for healing in meetings.  If I am not willing to take this action to seek my Higher Power then I must not be depressed enough or maybe I have just gotten comfortable in my depression.  Depression is anger without enthusiasm to that I can attest.

SOLUTION 2

Therapy, I need to open up my deepest and most vulnerable self to me and a therapist.  I need to share my fears that I am ashamed of, I need to share my feelings that I think are wrong, stupid, weak and I am ashamed of.  I need to share my shame and guilt.  Not just in my journal but also out loud to a human or in group.  I need to let down my emotional protection in a safe place and tell people who I really am.  The child within needs to be heard.  If I was abused I need to talk about it.  If I was neglected and rejected and need to share it.  If I was sexually abused or abused others sexually I need to share it.  First write it down that makes saying it outloud much easier.  My deepest darkest shames need to be exposed to the light.  I need to get real about who I resent.  I need to put myself and God (most likely) on my resentment list.  My fourth step should have “The cause” or what happened to start the resent ment and delve into what my fears are behind the resent me.  Do I think I am unlovable, ugly, stupid, not good enough, that the person who accused me is right?  There is always an insecurity and fear of some sort crouching behind the hate for mankind.  I need to get at my own insecurities and express them on paper and then out-loud.  I need to accept my weaker-self and make myself vulnerable to others.  This isn’t part of the fourth and fifth steps it’s part of a honest and thorough fourth and fifth step.  Notice the “(fear)” and “(self-esteem)” that was written in the fourth step grid in the Big Book?  What I am explaining to you…the shame the feeling of not good enough that is what’s meant by self esteem and fear in  that fourth step grid.  If we can’t address this stuff we most likely will not heal from depression and anxiety.

SOLUTION 3

STEP 12, I need to allow the steps to work in my life.  I need to open up and say what’s really going on with me in meeting.  If I am depressed I need to share it, If I am happy I need to share it, if I am angry I need to share it, I should confess all my resentments not leaving out organizations and groups of people.  People with certain appearances.  And the big one I need to write down and confess anything I am ashamed of and am keeping secret.  I should work these 12 steps in an orderly fashion with a sponsor that will not shut me down.  I should attend step-study-meetings.  I should regularly go to jails or institutions of some type to tell my story of what it was like, what happened and what it is like now.  I should do a very thorough step 6 & 7.  Out of the problem into the solution.  Every day I should shower, put on my shoes and do at least TWO things towards my recovery.  I should clean my house and do my dishes.  I should get sober phone contacts and call people.  If I have an emotional upheaval and think I have been wronged I call someone and talk about it.  And of coarse if I want to drink or drug I confess it in a meeting and or call someone.

SOLUTION 4

I keep doing what works, I don’t stop, I don’t slow down.  I am relentless.  Four meetings a week, Church of some sort (meetings are not church) one day a week.  

SOLUTION 5

I learn and practice real meditation.  I lay down, I get quiet, and I do a mantra by trying repeatedly over and over to concentrate on only one thought.   When my mind drifts I reel it back in and concentrate on only the mantra.  I picture each sentence in my mind.  If my mantra is the Lord’s Prayer I picture each line, I see my father in heaven I think about his/her sacred name.  I picture his kingdom-coming etc. etc.  I practice meditation daily for at least a half hour a day.  I begin my meditation with a prayer.  I can use crystals or props, candles, and incense I make it a ritual.  My mind will wonder but eventually I will train my mind to stay on one thought.   After practicing for quite some time my mind will naturally empty…and I will hear God.  I will be more patient, self-aware, more tolerant, more likely to think things through rather than being sporadic and impatient.  Sometimes in the beginning it’s necessary to just moan during meditation.  When trying to lye till and quiet because of the negative energy living inside it’s hard to be still.  I remember feeling like there was an alien inside of me trying to get out so I moaned like I was taught to do to release that energy.  Then I can better concentrate on the mantra and meditate.

SOLUTION 6

GUTERAL SOUNDS

Release guttural sounds from your body on a regular basis in private in your car, alone at home.  Guttural sounds come straight from core and underlying issues of the emotions and the soul.  Moaning, Screaming, shrieking, and sound that needs to come out.  Try it, it will feel weird and insane but it works to get out the very energy that is causing the depression and anxiety.  Do it for years as long as needed.  It releases the poison from our bowels that we have stored there by pushing down our anger and hurt until it makes us sick.

SOLUTIONS 7

Diet, exercise, and nature.  These are self explanatory stick to natural foods as much as possible and to to the beach or just take walks in the woods but get outside and exercise.  Get fresh air daily, drink lots of water.  Eat lots of fruits and veggies.  Sometings exercise alone relieve a huge part of our anxiety.

 

And remember “OUT OF THE PROBLEM INTO THE SOLUTION”

Don’t stay I the problem spinning around.

REMEMBER NOTHING CHANGES IF NOTHING CHANGES.

THE TOOLS TO STAY SOBER IN ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Staying Sober, The Same Things I did to stay sober nine years ago I do to keep me sober today.

Is anyone having a hard time staying sober today, we in Alcoholics Anonymous ask?

THE SAME THINGS I DID TO STAY SOBER NINE YEARS AGO I DO TO KEEP ME SOBER TODAY.  TEMPTATION STRIKES AT NINE YEARS SOBER!  DOES THAT MEAN MY SOBRIETY IS NOT QUALITY SOBRIETY?  

List of Sobriety Tools link

I used to love to drink the frothy brown head on the top of a cold Amber Bock or Dark Heineken beer.  I preferred my beer nearly frozen.  I would chug down the first one till I remember getting a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Then I felt the alcohol coarse through my veins almost like a shot of heroin straight into my blood stream.  I would sit around with my friends connecting on a level that made me feel brotherhood and a sense of belonging.  I had found my place in life and it took alcohol to get me there.  

So when I walked to my neighbor’s house yesterday to pick up my little dog I was a bit taken by the ice cold cooler full of Amber Bock and the fellowship that I found.  At nine years sober I must admit my mind went to a place where I asked myself, “Can I safely drink?  After all I am a different person now.”  When they kindly offered me a beer I laughed and told them that I quit nine years prior and that drinking got me in trouble.  They laughed and said, “We thought that was the whole reason TO drink….to get in trouble that is”.  I kindly laughed-back enjoying the prospect of being enabled by alcohol to do the things that my pesky conscience wouldn’t allow.  And is that the “why” behind the wealthy man’s reason to drink as well as the poor man’s?  Who knows?  All I could remember were the good times and that’s ok temporarily that is.   I did have some good memories of drinking and met some wonderful people.

The counselors at Bridge house Rehab gave us a little sobriety tool called “play it through”.  This tool, if you really do want to be free from the miseries drinking brings, works.  It works for me and it works for those I got sober with back in 2006 who are still around.   

My brain’s travelling neurons then took an abrupt turn into an exit ramp and caught my pain-staking-ly built sobriety bridge.  By doing the “next right thing” and by God’s grace I have built a bridge over the carved out and well used roads in my brain labelled “This way to Hell”.  After nine years of recovery my minds neurons have learned to travel on the well-lit highways or “neural-pathways” of sobriety.  And what did I find on my well lit road leading me away from the Hell that I have had enough of?  You guessed it, I found awareness.   I recovered the memories of the hangovers, the regrets, the wrongs I committed, and my destructive actions.   I found memories of throwing up, of waking up so thirsty from a black-out that was so deep it could only have been induced by poisoning my brain.  I remembered crashing my vehicles, and the regret of sleeping with countless men just so I could feel I had some value.  I remembered the jails.   I remembered my moral compass and self-esteem being crushed even further into the dirt.  I remembered doing the things that a hurt child of God does while just trying to make sense of a young life filled with betrayal, evil, hurt and pain.  And so I knew then as I sat on my neighbor’s porch that drinking was not my choice, not today and hopefully never again.

SO IS MY SOBRIETY QUALITY?  I DIDN’T DRINK, I USED THE TOOLS, I DIDN’T DISRESPECT OR JUDGE MY DRINKING NEIGHBORS, I AM NOT ASHAMED OF WHO I AM AND MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS.  QUALITY SOBRIETY HAS MANY FACES INCLUDING A FACE OF PAIN.  BUT THROUGH IT ALL IT HAS A FACE THAT HAS EYES TO SEE PAST THE EVIL INTO THE GOOD.  YOU BE THE JUDGE.

AA “Get In The Middle Of The Boat”

They say in AA to “Get in the middle of the boat” if you want to get and stay sober.

 

  

Important suggestions for early sobriety.The first thing we should do is put ourselves out there in a meeting.  Introduce ourselves as a newcomer and share our fears, feelings, and any other struggles we are having.  This will attract people to us and make us approachable.  We must get to know people.    Just what and where is the middle of the boat.  Firstly we go to 90 meeting in 90 days that way we will establish some new relationships with sober people…soooo important.  We need to find out who and how people are staying sober. We should join a “home group” for sure, it’s important to feel “a part of”.  After all we have earned our seat in the rooms of AA and NA by our history, we have been in a war with ourselves that has not been easy…it is time to surrender to our hearts call. 

I believe there are spiritual windows in time that make it easier for us to stay sober within a certain starting point…as if it were a spiritual call.  Trying to get sober without that spiritual window things just don’t “click” like they do when the window is open.  Don’t worry you will feel it when it happens.  For instance I got sober and arrested on Good Friday in 2006 which also fell on Easter weekend.    I must say many times people that stay sober for years and years have a sobriety date that is either a holiday or some kind of special date.  Just a little factoid.  People stay sober, the program works regardless of the date in time.  Do not be discouraged.

Secondly after a few months of exposure we should get a sponsor start working the steps.  Also we should make a commitment to one of the activities that AA-ers do like chair a meeting once a week or speak at a jail or institution.  None of these commitments will feel natural. Oh contraire it will feel uncomfortable but you will be growing both emotionally and spiritually because of it.  Taking meetings into detox is the easiest place to begin with to share your experience of how sobriety is for you.  When we see those sick and suffering addicts in detox it works like magic to keep us sober.  It makes us remember all too well what it was like and we realize how far we have come.  We addicts in recovery usually need reminding that we are doing well.

After 6 months of sobriety and a completion of working the 12 steps we should definitely volunteer to sponsor newcomers.  This process happens very quickly.  Don’t worry too much if you are on probation, I have found that probation actually helps build a structured life in the beginning of sobriety and gives us something to focus on odd as that may sound.  Not to mention the drop tests aid in keeping us sober.  Sobriety is not for sissies it is a challenge that we can meet with hope.  One day at a time.

Fear of people will leave us, Ninth Step Promises

STEP ONE OF AA

NINTH STEP PROMISES

“THE FEAR OF PEOPLE WILL LEAVE US”

When I first got sober & clean I was emotionally numb. I had separated myself from my feelings. I was dragging them behind me like a dead rag doll so full of pain, hurt and fear that my ego refused to own.  I rejected my own truths, I white-washed my fears with my shallow tough-girl persona.  I denied every deep and precious pain I ever felt.  I refused to be myself instead I made up a false identity who was socially acceptable in my eyes.  I had to create this other person because my true identity was weak, bad, ugly , and wrong in my eyes.  That’s what I was taught in my formidable years and that’s what I believed.   I laughed when I was nervous. I smiled as I told my new recovery counselor about my near death experiences during addiction.

But wait! Why did I smile when I recalled the tragic events of my life? I refused to feel because feeling is what scared me the most. Sharing my true feelings was a vulnerability I would not chance! Why would I?  Every time I showed my true self I was cut down at the knees.  My vicious older sister made certain of that.  My parents were not evil but they knew nothing about emotional nurturing.  So I laughed at my pain.  But no, WAIT!  To recover I had to make myself vulnerable. I had to tell someone my true feelings and who I was to release the pain that my poor inner child was lugging around behind me…me the ego self, me the tough girl.  I had a bucket full of sick emotional survival skills that took no account of hurting others.  I could blame every failure every wrong and dishonest deed on the beast of burden of my choice.   And usually that meant a boyfriend or a husband.  If I didn’t make my own choices then I wasn’t responsible for the outcome.

When I got sober at first the only feeling I knew was intense fear of facing life and other people without my drugs. I was completely out of touch with my true inner feelings and inner-man. I was walking around in-body with my soul and emotions dragging behind me like carrying a rag-doll by her hair that drags behind me on the floor. I remember telling my counselor after attending a women’s issues group that I didn’t belong in that group. All the women were crying and talking about their pain while I was numb…completely numb and I really thought I had no emotional pain. Little did I know I had a boatload of pain it was just…I had separated myself from it.

I remember one day in therapy telling a horrific story to a counselor about a traumatic event in my life and I held a protective smile on my face subconsciously thinking to myself…”I refuse to feel what I am talking about”. The counselor said to me “Laura why are you smiling?  That is a tragic event you are telling me about.” At that very moment my soul re-connected with my body along with all my baggage and feelings.   The rag-doll and all she carried came crashing down in an epiphany of just how terrible things had really been.

My heart at that moment began to thaw out.  But still, it took months before I was able to cry, really let it out.  I had froze myself up so well when the tears finally came they didn’t stop for, well I think I cried for about two years regularly, every time I was alone in my car.  I didn’t know that crying is a healthy emotion.  I didn’t know that feelings are to be honored and felt and then released.  Denying my feelings and repressing them made me sick and full of wrath.  But finally I was able to cry that poison out of my soul.

Acknowledging my feelings was the first step in my recovery. That was the beginning of my healing from “grave emotional disorder”. Nine years later….I have learned how to become and stay healthy emotionally and it took the 12 steps….a year of therapy…and regular spiritual maintenance.  Coupled with fellowship & meetings to get better.

STEP ONE ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

 STEP ONE, SPONSORSHIP, THE TWELVE STEPS OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

Step One

 

A sponsor is a person who has completed working the 12 steps and now teaches others to work them.  One common first step assignment is to read “How it Works” and “The Doctors Opinion” in the Big Book of AA.  Another assignment is to write five examples of powerlessness over alcohol or drugs in our own lives.  And so we have begun the journey of recovery with a sponsor who has managed to stay sober themselves.  What this first assignment does is brings our  addiction into the light by listing our powerlessness it keeps us from forgetting we are addicts and prevents us from lying to ourselves by saying…”Yes I can drink responsibly…this time.”

The Doctors opinion shows us that we are definitely not alone and we are not the only ones who have experience the powerlessness of addiction.  Powerlessness and the “insanity” of addiction are hard to differentiate between.  All powerlessness associated with addiction is insanity but not all inanity exhibits powerlessness.I promised myself I would only have one drink however I woke up after a three day bender asking myself “What in the hell happened?”  I promised myself I would never drink or drug again but I did it anyway.  I promised myself I would never hurt my loved ones by my addiction yet, again I stole money from my daughter’s piggy bank to buy crack.  Ouch!  That is serious powerlessness.

Premeditated and guiltless thievery to support my addiction is insane but it is not a show of powerlessness.  Accusing my ex-husband of being the reason that I drink and drug because of the way he treats me is insanity but it is not powerlessness.  Good luck with your step work!

When we write our examples of powerlessness we should write also how it made us feel. The thing is we addicts usually want to be in complete control.  Most of us have intense control issues even.  And so we internally beat ourselves to a pulp when we cannot stick to our own using guidelines.  Simply put we are expecting ourselves to control something that we are completely incapable of controlling. 

We find ourselves in a subconscious state of self-loathing by which we hate us and the world.  We did not create our powerlessness nor did we sign up to become addicts.  We have no right to condemn ourselves for our powerlessness.  We merely accept it and move on to step two.

OUT OF THE PROBLEM INTO THE SOLUTION! 

 

Encouragement, Hope, and the gift of desperation

STEP ONE

THE GIFT OF DESPERATION

HOPE

Back when I was drinking and drugging I went through the pains of withdrawal so many times.  I went through so many sleepless nights of misery I cannot count.  I went through so many fights, betrayals, fears, and neglects and abuses to me and by me both.Now I am older, eight years ago I ran out of gas you could say, I was just done with that life.
I sat in one of my first AA meetings scared to death and shaking filled up with so many issues that I had never faced about me.  I honestly had no idea who I was.  I had developed emotional survival skills that were killing me now it was time to learn who I am and a new set of healthy coping skills.I held the gift of desperation in my heart and the open-mindedness of humble and sacred Hope sparkling like a diamond among a dense darkness.
That Hope had to be carefully nurtured or it would be buried alive by darkness and fear of the future.
The people in AA said things like, “This minute are you ok do you have what you need?”  And I did. They told me “It’s completely natural to be afraid its ok”.  They said “If I weren’t afraid something [was] wrong”.  They said “Go to two or even more meetings a day if you need to”. They told me to “Express your fears because we are as sick as our secrets”…so I journaled.

Slowly my self-confidence rose by working step 12 chairing meetings regularly. I was a sponge that absorbed every recovery tool I could.
Through it all I prayed fervently for God’s help and guidance. My Higher Power does not always do things the way I think He/She/It should.  However that little bit of Hope that was there in the beginning is stronger now.  The darkness that surrounded it is commanded to stay back.

I still must nurture that Hope unto the end.  I choose today to endure to the end no matter how scary life looks. I get up I put one foot in front of the other and I go on unto the end of my days.  So I live on and keep that darkness at bay through faith, Love & Hope.  Fear would have me take my end into my own hands but be reassured things always, always, get better if we endure and hold on to Hope and Faith.

Meditation: There is one thing true that will end a man before his time that is the fear of the future and a lack of trust in a Higher Power that does Love Him.  Surely if I choose Love how much more will a God of my own understanding of Love save me from the throngs of death and suffering in this natural life and lead me unto a better eternity.

When One Door Closes

TRUSTING GOD IS A PROCESS

STEP THREE

“When one door closes another door opens;

but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed-door, that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Alexander Graham Bell“When one door closes another one opens” Once we have done our Third Step our lives are in God’s care but we don’t always remember that. After living a life of addiction littered with betrayal and lies suddenly we are challenged to trust that God has our needs covered.

Trusting God is a process usually consisting of walking through uncomfortable and downright scary changes. If we lose our job we end up with a better one, if we lose our spouse by divorce we adjust and realize we are better off in many ways. Even when disaster occurs things can end up better than they were, we could end up with a better house or a better car or a fresh appreciation for what we do have. Suddenly we no longer take for granted our blessings.  When terrifying changes strike we draw closer to God, often times that’s the only reason we draw nigh unto our Creator.

Once we put ourselves in God’s care He, [She or It] has our back. We can now sit back and let worry, manipulation, and grasping fearful behaviors go. God has a way of pulling us close to Him so we don’t stray back into self-destruction.

It takes practice to build trust in God and unfortunately that trust is usually built by trial and tribulation. Just as we have to get to know people before we trust them; it’s hard to admit we also need to get to know our Higher Power and watch Him save our ass a time or two before an unshakable trust is built.

“PLAY IT THROUGH”

PLAY IT THROUGH!

THINK, THINK, THINK!

CLEAN & SOBER

“Play It Through” “Choose Your Battles”

Here are two very good recovery tools taught in rehabs and 12 Step Programs alike. The first one is “Play it through” meaning that before we pick up that desired drink, drug, cake, scratch-off, addictive sexual encounter or harmful relationship we pretend that we get what we want.  

We play it out in our head we drink & drug.  But we don’t stop the movie there.  Since we know ourselves well enough to be in recovery we can play out the harmful consequences of our imaginary actions in our mind like a horrible b movie.

We watch as the phenomena of craving takes over our will. We stand still as we watch our hard earned money dwindle down the drain. We observe as our children cry and scream “I want my mommy!” or “I am hungry”.  We are sickened by the guilt feelings that we know will consume us followed by the sabotage of the self-esteem we worked so hard to build, we watch as it crashes. We stand in horror and shame while our new found friends look at us picking up yet another white key-tag or chip.

Ok now what do we do? That was a horrible gut wrenching movie and we are now grateful we did not drink. Next we move a muscle change a thought. We call someone, we go to a meeting, we work on our ninth step amends and write a letter to our children…not about how we will never hurt them again or never drink again, and we have not earned their trust, YET. But instead we acknowledge our wrongs, we tell them we are so, so, sorry with NO BUTS after it.

We journal the intense feelings that are coming up in us that are the reason we wanted to drink and drug to begin with. We are in recovery, we don’t let anybody tell us we should not feel pain or remorse we have survived Hell and there is no wrong feeling in our hearts because they are from our experience. Actions are the only things that can be labeled right or wrong. We have hurt people we love and we are sick about it. The solutions are in the steps, we need not only the people that will call us on our BS we also need those that will allow us to feel our pain, talk about it, express it well with feeling, then let it go. We need someone we can tell anything to who will listen without judgment.

We are on the road to a new life! We know what drugging will bring us, yes we know it well. However we have no idea what wonderful and exciting blessings sobriety has in store for us. We do not know the future but we do know that we are not going to drink today and we have learned another useful tool.
As for the lesson: “Choose your battles”, we can make a battle out of anything anybody says or does or we can choose to just let it go. We ask ourselves; HOW IMPORTANT IS IT? We then laugh at ourselves because we remember rule #62 which is; “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”

Our recovery life is a journey in which we have way more choices than we thought we did. We are learning that we can choose to not pick up a battle to fight because right now we don’t have time for that bullshit. Instead we are picking up a new life, we are chosen, we have survived hell, we are more important than we know, we have spiritual gifts, it is time to explore those gifts and step in to who we really are!

WE NO LONGER FEAR OUR FEELINGS TO THE POINT THAT WE LET THEM RULE US! WE ARE NOT ALONE.  When we share our fears they lose power over us.  We do not obsess on talking about our fears we merely let them out of the secret place that we have them locked away in.  It is our false pride and ego that fears other people will belittle us if they find out who we really are that puts us in denial about our fears.  We find out by sharing that we are not so different than our fellows.  (See “fear list” in Big Book step four)