Jan 10: Complacency v Willingness

Not every year sober is note-worthy, but this past one certainly has been. Yesterday I celebrated 33 years in recovery. Since I was an every-day drinker, I think of it as being sober 12,053 contiguous days. I could not not-drink under my own power and will. It wasn’t until I finally surrendered, went to treatment and joined Alcoholics Anonymous that I could get through a whole day without drinking. It still awes me that this program works, and works so well.

In early sobriety I had the gift of desperation to open my ears and shut my mouth to learn how to do this. It was from people in the room sharing their experience-in-the-raw that taught me how to tackle anything without having to drink. No Matter What.

I didn’t have a Higher Power in those early days but knew I was not staying sober on my own so each morning I would ask TWIMC (To Whom It May Concern) for help to stay sober this day, and every night I would thank It for another day sober.

Once I had a few years in the program I feared picking up a drink less, and learned to fear complacency more. I’ve known people relapse who die before they make it back in. I know people who decided AA was not their chosen path and dropped the program. One of whom had 30 years. All of whom stopped attending meetings long before they relapsed. And then COVID-19 hit and all the meeting places closed.

I believe “meeting makers make it” so what happens when we can’t meet? On-line AA has been part of my recovery since 1997. Through it my program was enriched by all the women who share their experience-in-the-raw in emails to the group who show me how we do this thing one day at a time. I’ve been blessed by being able to meet some of you in person; become friends with some of you through the 20+ years since. I often hope that women who are just discovering our group manage to develop long-lasting friendships with other women in the group like we early-timers did.

But what about local newcomers who are given that gift of desperation in a pandemic? Where do they go to find a welcoming group in an AA meeting room? At a time when it would have been so easy to feel complacent about staying sober after all this time, COVID-19 sparked a resurgence of 12 step work instead. Within 2 days, people had set up zoom equivalents of many of our local face-to-face meetings. The state AA website was updated with zoom credentials as fast as meetings were set up. Those of us who had lots of email addresses sent out notices of zoom meetings to everyone we could, and asked others to pass them along to their contacts.

As a result, we have some newbies who have never been to a face-to-face meeting but are staying sober and learning how to work a program of recovery via virtual meetings. In my local meetings we have three women, one had 8 months, one who had 10 months and another who celebrated a year sober all in December. Bearing witness to their willingness to do what it takes to learn how to live a sober, joyful life is a privilege. It knocks complacency out of my attitude like brushing snow off my shoulders.

I think complacency and willingness-to-learn are flip sides of the coin of sobriety. These youngsters struggling to understand our program, the steps, daring to pick up the phone and establish connections with others, and not drinking for one more day really are the most important people in the room. They keep it Kelly green for me and remind me that I don’t ever want to have to repeat one moment of early sobriety ever again. And to do that, all I need to do is pay attention and be willing to learn from others.

As always, feel free to share on topic or whatever is impacting your sobriety right now. This is your meeting.

Thank you for letting me chair the meeting this week. Thank you for helping keep me safe and sober. Thanks to all our Trusted Servants who make this meeting possible.

Mari Ann

Jan 03: Step 1

I was in total denial of my alcoholism for most of my drinking. There was a lot of evidence confirming how unmanageable my life was due to alcohol, but I would not – could not – accept that I was an alcoholic. I felt justified in the amount of alcohol I consumed because if you’d been through what I’d experienced while growing up you’d also drink the way I drank! And of course, hanging out with people who also drank alcoholically allowed me to pretend I drank normally, even though the non-alcoholics in my life knew otherwise and occasionally tried to tell me. The fact that I was never an everyday drinker, I’d never lost a job due to alcohol, and I never drank in the morning fuelled my denial, helping me to refuse to believe I was an alcoholic.

However, after drinking alcoholically for about ten years I started blacking out almost every time I drank. I also got behind the wheel of a car more frequently when drunk. But even the horrors I went through after coming to from a blackout, e.g., not knowing how I ended up wherever I was, not knowing what I’d done with the person sleeping next to me, being so physically ill that I couldn’t even keep down water (I believe I came close to poisoning myself one time with the amount of alcohol I’d drunk), couldn’t penetrate my denial. I wasn’t an alcoholic, and there was no way I was going to give up a substance that allowed me to be “the real me” – hah!

 And then I came to one morning in mid-August 1989 in an apartment in South Philadelphia; I had no idea how I’d got there. As I was stumbling around trying to get dressed I heard a voice in my head which said in a measured tone, “That’s it.”, and I thought, “What does that mean??” Once more the voice said, “That’s it”, and instantaneously I knew I was an alcoholic and that if I continued drinking I’d end up in jail (I’d already been in jail briefly in CA), an asylum, or a morgue. I left that apartment and called George, a guy I believe my HP had put in my life in order to help me but in the guise of being my mother’s boyfriend (he’d been sober six years when she started dating him). And while I’ve never had a drink since that day, I continued taking mind and mood-altering substances until April 1991 so I changed my sobriety date to the first day I was alcohol and drug-free, which is April 8, 1991.

 I feel fortunate that I’ve never wanted to do more “research” regarding my inability to control my drinking. The veil of denial was lifted completely that day in August 1989, for which I’m extremely grateful. And even though the thought of taking a drink (or two, or three…) has entered my mind a few times over the years, I’ve been able to think it through and see that the problem, person, etc. that’s making me want to escape into alcoholic oblivion is not going to disappear after I take a drink, and the situation will surely only get worse. Do I want that? NO! That’s the difference between now and when I was in denial; I never thought it through, never questioned what the end result would be once I started drinking. Thank God the result is very clear to me these days, due in part to memories of the excruciatingly embarrassing, physically dangerous, and at times criminal acts I committed while drinking. The person who did those things is not the person I want to be, and the only way I can continue to move toward the person I want to be is by continuing to go to meetings, practicing the steps/principles in all my affairs, doing service, and following my conscience, which is something I rarely did before getting sober.

 I’ve heard many stories of how people came to accept Step 1, each one different from the other. But no matter how we come to embrace it (and perhaps have to go back to it), I know from my experience that I had to fully accept my powerlessness over alcohol before I could continue with the other Steps and gain an understanding of all that AA offers.

 Thanks for letting me be of service. The meeting is now open to those who would like to share on the topic of Step 1.