January 29: One Day, One Hour, One Moment at a Time

Topic: One day, One Hour, One Moment at a Time

In just a few days (God willing!) I will be celebrating 8 years of sobriety.  When I think back to the very beginning of this journey, I recall being a white knuckler – i.e., it was a struggle to just get through the day.  Between 4pm and dinnertime was the hardest because this was when I would normally dive into my liquid serenity, just to ‘take the edge off’.  For many years, I would only skip this ritual if I was in a place where alcohol just wasn’t available.  By design, I didn’t let that happen often.

So these 2-3 hours every day were challenging to say the least, the ‘edge of life’ was very hard to deal with booze-free.  Going out for dinners with family members that made me anxious and reaching for the drink was especially challenging.  I would watch everyone order their drinks and have myself an inner pity party, green with envy.

What got me through that first year was two things. First, I kept my hands busy with a hot cup of tea instead of a wine glass, and second was the expression that I read and heard a lot: take it one day at a time.  I had to dig a little deeper during the rough hours, telling myself if I can just get through this one hour or this one moment, I could make it to dinner and then eventually to bed without alcohol.  Honestly, if I had to accept that I would never be able to drink again I’m not sure I would have stuck with it.

AA is filled with so many helpful people and tools, but I’m so grateful that I had the sense to focus on this concept of time in the early days.  That is truly how I managed to stay sober. I’ve learned so much more on this rich journey, but were it not for the simple basic lessons learned at the beginning I might not be here today. And, I’m happy to report that with enough days, hours, moments of sobriety, my knucles eventually returned to a healthy skin tone 😊.

Wherever you are in your sobriety journey, how important is taking life one day, one hour, one moment at a time?  I’m ready for your stories ladies!

Grateful for all of you,

Susan P.

 

January 22: Personality Change

Topic for the week: Personality Change

“It has often been said of A.A. that we are interested only in alcoholism. That is not true. We have to get over drinking in order to stay alive. But anyone who knows the alcoholic personality by firsthand contact knows that no true alky ever stops drinking permanently without undergoing a profound personality change.” [As Bill Sees It; p. 1]

I have two daughters, both grown now. When my youngest was in college, and before I was scheduled to arrive for a visit, she was describing me to a friend and said, “Mom can be … “‘extra’.” (I know this because her friend is now my friend, too, and she told me!) I, of course, thought: “Oh, like, extra fun, extra cool, extra sweet!?” Came to find out that “extra” meant “over the top,” as in “buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”

My emotional life before sobriety was a roller coaster, for me and anyone who breathed in my general vicinity. I felt my feelings screaming out loud and flapping my arms in the air. Sobriety has gifted me with the temperance of my emotions. Sober, I have the bandwidth to feel my feelings rather than zoom past them in a blur, process them from the stable foothold of the Steps, and to respond rather than react. I’m off the emotional carnival ride!

My youngest and I were looking at her sister’s wedding pictures recently, and she said, “Mom, you look like a completely different person now.” That’s because I am a different person – not completely, but I’m on my way.

What has been the most profound personality change that sobriety has gifted you? Thank you for the opportunity to chair and share.

Gratefully,

Julie K

January 15: Connections/Passing it on

Topic for the week: Connections / Passing It On

Hi again, I’m still Mari Ann and I am an alcoholic.

I woke up in the middle of the night last Monday filled with awe and gratitude at being 35 years sober and that it has been connections with other women in the program that made it possible.

I was a loner my whole life. Growing up I waited for the spaceship from my home planet to swing down and retrieve me because I sure didn’t belong wherever I was.  Once I went out on my own, I learned to like being independent and alone.  Fast forward to decades later when I was in treatment. The topic in one of the group sessions was the slogans. The one I was given said “you never have to be alone again”. Yeah, right.   I preferred being alone, I wanted nothing to do with you people.

That was then. Two events in recent months made visible to me just how different my life is today.  Last October I attended a dinner/meeting where one of my sponsees spoke on her actual 25th soberversary.

One of her sponsees caught my eye and gestured from me to my sponsee, then to herself, then to her sponsee who then pointed to her sponsee and ultimately to that one’s sponsee. Six levels of sponsoring at one large table. Six levels of one woman passing her experience, strength and hope to the next in the desire to stay sober herself!   It still gives me goosebumps.

The second event was this week when a local woman celebrated 45 years the day after my 35. I wrote a card to her in which I explained that she, at about 5 years sober, attended a meeting crying about how awful she felt because her son had been killed in an accident and she wanted to drink so badly that she came to a meeting instead.

I wrote how her example – at that meeting – inspired my own sponsor (who was newly in the program) to stay sober too. As my sponsor said, “If that woman could stay sober after her son was killed, I had absolutely no reason to justify ever picking up a drink again.”

My sponsor celebrated 40 years last October also.  It was only after listening to her share at a lot of meetings, I came to the conclusion that she had probably faced all the same kind of demons that I was facing and she stayed sober so maybe she could show me how to do it. At which time I asked her to be mine.

Putting all that in the card made me shiver with awe and gratitude again for the miracle of one woman, daring to be honest and share her truth at meetings to save her own sobriety, actually wound up saving many more.

I am richly blessed with a host of women I can call on locally, across the country, and a few who’ve been godsends from overseas. Every single share I read or hear adds something to my own recovery. Every phone call, WhatsApp text or call strengthens another connection.  You may not know me personally, but you have enhanced my own program and recovery every time you share.

One of my wise women said she really liked a hardware store ad because of how well it fit the AA program. The ad said “You can do it; we can help”.

May Serendipity bless all of you for all of you helping me.

<done>  <=== from the old chat room meetings

 

January 8: Practicing Gratitude

Topic for the week: Practicing Gratitude

My name is Karen and I’m an alcoholic, sober today through the grace of God and AA. Welcome to all.

My efforts to incorporate a daily practice of gratitude ebb and flow. My life feels particularly challenging right now and I know it’s a time I need to be vigilant in my sobriety. Practicing gratitude is something I can do every day and even though it seems such a simple thing, I know that when I’m in a state of gratitude I’m not going to dark places in my head.

Like many of the tools we learn about in AA—aren’t we the lucky ones😊—practicing gratitude can be a powerful tool for anyone. Studies have shown that people who tend to be more grateful have more brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area associated with learning and decision making. The effects can be long lasting and people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. A focus on gratitude can take the focus off those toxic emotions of resentment and envy that this alcoholic tends to gravitate towards.

I love this quote from author Melody Beattie ~ “ Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity … it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

I struggle with keeping up a conscious gratitude practice. I know that it’s a journey, not a destination. I know that real gratitude is feeling the emotion, not just saying “thank you” or “I’m thankful for” without any real feeling attached. I’ve tried to keep a gratitude journal and will keep it up for a while, but it can start to feel rote.

In the past months I’ve realized that for this alcoholic it was time to put a gratitude practice front and center. I’ll share a few things I’m trying to help me consciously bring more gratitude into my life.

Sometimes I read what I have written in my gratitude journal aloud. Just as writing it in the journal helps me FEEL it more than just thinking it, saying aloud what I am grateful seems to help me be more present with the practice.

I like to meditate and find the ambience I create can really add to the practice—lighting, a candle, music. I’ve tried this with my gratitude practice a couple of times when I’ve needed something more and it’s been powerful. Kind of a meditative mantra of gratitude.

My children are grown and when we are together at Thanksgiving we spend some time saying what we are most grateful for in the past year. This idea came from the kids and it’s something we all love; the sharing is heartfelt. When we share our gratitude with others it helps us feel connected. For me, that helps with both acknowledging that yes, sometimes my life is tough but I’m part of the shared experience of humanity. Expressing gratitude for what I have to others and expressing gratitude for what they give me helps me to feel connected and I know isolating in grief is not a good place for me to be. I hope to make this practice more than an annual one and am thinking of all the people that are important to me and how much I have to thank each of them for. My goal is to send a couple of these hand-written expressions of gratitude in the mail each month. For me that extra step of making it more than a text or email will help me really think about what they have brought to my life.

Ladies, thank you for listening to me. I would love to hear from each of you on how you practice gratitude.

Tight hugs,

Karen H

January 1: Step 1

Topic for the week: Step 1

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

I was in complete denial until the very end of my drinking even though there was ample evidence demonstrating my complete powerlessness over alcohol. I believe I was an alcoholic from the first drink; I was a prime candidate considering I had a strong desire to escape reality as often as I could starting at about age 12. I turned to drugs first as they were, oddly enough, easier to get. But by the age of 17 I could pass for 21 – the legal age to drink in Pennsylvania in the late ’70s – so I started hanging out in bars with people (most of whom were a lot older than I was) who drank like I did.

I liked alcohol because it allowed me to come out of my shell and “be myself”, or so I thought. I cultivated the image of a bad-ass who was reckless, refused to obey authority, and could out-drink anyone. The reality of the situation was that I slept with friends’ boyfriends, I stole items from friends and stores (and got arrested for that once), I had no plan for my life so I drifted from job to job and place to place, I wallowed in self-pity most of the time and when really drunk I often cried, and I had almost no people/social skills, which was most evident when I was drinking. I was filled with remorse, embarrassment, shame, and unhappiness most days so I drank to make it all go away, not seeing that I was only making matters worse.

I remember once sitting in a bar, alone, looking at all the bottles behind the bartender and the thought came to me that I wanted to have them ALL…all of the 70 or so bottles of alcohol that were in front of me! It didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t normal to think that way. I remained in denial for about ten years, until the day I woke up/came to one morning after blacking out – again – and heard a voice in my head that said, “That’s it.” I’d woken up not knowing where I was and was trying to get dressed when I heard this voice. I thought, what does “That’s it” mean? I heard it again, in the same measured tone, and knew instantaneously that I was an alcoholic and that if I continued to drink I’d end up in a morgue, jail, or some kind of institution. After figuring out where I was, I took the train home and within a few days called George, a guy my mother had been seeing who just happened to have six years of sobriety. I’d been to an AA meeting with him two months prior to this but it had had no noticeable affect on me. But the voice did, and I can only think it was my HP doing for me what I could not do for myself.

From that day in August 1989 until now I’ve never doubted I’m an alcoholic, thankfully. My sobriety date is April 8, 1991 though because I continued to use drugs until April 7th; it wasn’t until I eliminated all mind- and mood-altering substances that I truly got sober so I changed my sobriety date to reflect this.

My life was unmanageable for a long time and a severe case of denial prevented me from seeing the cause – alcohol. Accepting Step One was such a relief; I finally knew what the problem was! And knowing the misery, confusion, and difficulties alcohol causes in my life has made it relatively easy to refrain from picking up a drink. Once in a while I get flashbacks regarding things I did while drunk and I inevitably shake my head and wonder how I could have done such a thing…that wasn’t the “real me”, it was the “drunk me” and I don’t want to be that woman again. Starting with Step One, I’ve learned who I really am, I’ve learned to live life on life’s terms, I’ve learned to think more of others than of myself, and so much more. Alcohol took so many things from me, important things, but sobriety has given me some of those things back. But I could never have started on this road to recovery if I hadn’t accepted my powerlessness over alcohol – this was the key to everything as far as my sobriety and following the AA program.

We are all invited to share on Step 1. The steps are our blueprint for living sober lives.

*** Step 1 ***
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This step is listed in Chapter 5, How it Works, from the book, Alcoholics Anonymous (affectionately known as the Big Book) (see p. 59). There’s more – the Big Book opens with Bill’s Story (which details how one of the A.A. founders found that he was powerless over alcohol and that his life was unmanageable) and I think Chapter 3, “More About Alcoholism” talks about this in detail. There’s even more about it in the book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

*** Where to get the books, Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions ***

You can find these books at many f2f AA meetings; you can order them online from many places. And they are available from the AA General Service office, to read online, in English, French, and Spanish. See www.aa.org/