I am an addict. It doesn’t matter what substance I used, how often or how long I used it, or how long it’s been since I’ve used it. I am and always will be an addict. I am grateful that I have some time in my program, but I must always be aware that I am just a couple of bad decisions away from a crash and burn. I know from hearing others in meeting rooms how easy it is to slip up and what can happen if I do go out again, and it won’t be pretty. I have never heard of someone who came back to their program talk about how wonderful it was while out there using or drinking again. “The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker.”(Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 30) This idea must be crushed and obliterated from my mind. My ego tells me I can be different from everyone else. Experience, my own and others, warns me that I am not.
It’s not sobriety that has brought about the changes in my life. It’s the spiritual awakening that is the result of working and living the 12 steps. Not drinking and not using may mean that I am sober and clean. But they don’t give me sobriety. In my early thirties I stopped on my own once for about five years. But I wasn’t really sober: I was fighting against my desires to escape life. I really wanted to have a beer with friends, a glass of wine with dinner or share a joint, but I knew I shouldn’t. And I wasn’t the nicest person to be around because I still had all of the ego charged character traits that I always did, only now they weren’t being softened by that gentility of the first pipeful or shot. My recovery was missing something.
That something, I believe, was the spiritual experience, or awakening. A psychological shift in thinking that has allowed me to surrender, stop trying to control everything, and realize that I was the greatest threat to my existence. I was drowning in the river of life and still trying to swim upstream. If I wanted to really live, I had to understand that when it came to certain things, I was completely powerless. If I just stopped thrashing about, I could at least float with the current.
Surrender on this existential level wasn’t that hard. There really wasn’t much left to give up. I had lost my dignity and self respect. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My liver was enlarged and who knows what other physical problems I was on the verge of encountering. I had alienated most of the people around me and was finding comfort in gloomy establishments with people who were living much like I was. My life was circling the bottom of the toilet bowl. Somehow I still had enough sense to see that I was on the path of losing myself. So in spite of my misgivings and preconceptions of what recovery was all about, I showed up at a local meeting and took my place at the table.
I understand that I was ready to surrender, to try something else because my way wasn’t working. A friend of mine calls it his Gift Of Desperation. I was powerless and I couldn’t manage my own life. That was my first baby step into the program. The eleven remaining steps helped me to recover and slowly brought me about to a more awakened state of being and opened me to a relationship to a Higher Power.
My life today is changed from what it was before. My sobriety today is of a different quality than I had when I quit solo for five years. It is different because I work at living a twelve step program. I know that this is a lifelong process, and it is one I do willingly because I like the changes in my life and my being. Today I like who I am and I can look at my reflection in the mirror without cringing. The changes in my life are not because I am put down the bottle or the pipe. They are a result of working all twelve steps of the program and awakening to the spirit. I am finally enjoying the trip down the river.
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