Managing My Life

When I broke my leg, the mending of the bones was done with a titanium plate, screws and some time for it all to knit together. In seven weeks I was cast free and was hobbling around pretty much normal. However, the process of the healing of the tendons and ligaments that were stretched, ripped and misaligned was a much longer process.  It took several months of physio therapy and exercise to gain back strength and heal the soft underlying tissue. So while it looked like I was healed from my broken leg, no more cast or crutches, there were still a lot of underlying issues that had to be looked after.

When I came into recovery the First Step talked about my need to admit my addiction and that my life had become unmanageable. Cutting out those substances that brought me into recovery was one thing. The process of learning how to manage my life, well, that is still ongoing. The main problem seemed to be solved: I wasn’t consuming, but like the underlying soft tissues, my life was still far from manageable and I needed some more recovery time for that to happen.

For many years leading up to recovery, my addiction was my method of dealing with most everything. I was now without anything to cushion my personality and some unpleasant character traits from an unsuspecting world. My therapy, my work at managing my life, consisted in continuously working the steps, going to meetings and meeting with my sponsor.

Even with a few years in recovery, I still find myself doing things that aren’t responsible management. For example. I procrastinate. I put things off. I don’t take the time to complete the task when it first comes up and it then becomes a mountainous deed that Hercules wouldn’t be able to tackle. I am unsure why I do this. I know–I can see the waste of time. How much time do I waste? Too much. I allow a small item to take up a whole lot of space in my head and waste a lot of time thinking about doing it, not doing it, how to do it, why to do it, when to do it etc. Time I could use in a more productive manner ‘if’ I would only attend to these little items as soon as they come up.

I am grateful that I have a recovery program that allows me to see these faults, shortcomings or whatever you wish to call them. And it gives me tools to deal with them on a daily basis. Sometimes just realizing how much time I’ve already wasted thinking about something I should have done is enough to motivate me to do it. I am grateful that there are fewer things that I procrastinate about. And I’m grateful that my program teaches me to look at other areas of my life that I wish to improve and use what I’m learning to improve those situations as well.

I doubt that I will ever get out of life management therapy. I spent a lot of years in my disease of addiction and it will take many more years of recovery to smooth out the ripples and waves that I made. It’s a task that I take on gratefully because I have seen the results in many areas of my life. It’s still one task at a time, one step at a time and one day at a time.

 

Unmanageability

Step One invites us to admit two things: that we were powerless over alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc., and that our lives had become unmanageable. I had a hard time with the unmanageability part. You see, when I first got sober, a lot of the things that I wasn’t able to manage in my life suddenly became manageable. The first couple of weeks were a bit tough financially and I remember wondering where I would have gotten the money to feed my habit for the rest of the month had I not quit, but in truth, I know that I would have found the funds somehow.

After a few weeks, I discovered that I now had the money to pay all of my bills without juggling the monies around credit cards and accounts so no one was on my tail about paying up. I  began to do necessary repairs and maintenance on the property and so tenants weren’t at my door complaining. My little ‘fiestas’ had stopped. I was keeping the house clean, doing laundry and even finding time to read again. Things were turning around so quickly that it was easy for me to see how my addiction had caused all of the unmanageability in my life.

But then something changed. I ran into a problem and I didn’t know how to deal with it. My first thought was to find something to take the edge off. That had been my ‘modus operandi’: using something to help me forget the problem and pretend that it wasn’t a problem after all. But hanging around the folks at meetings must have been helping because I knew that probably wasn’t a good option. I got on my motorcycle and drove. I headed out to the country and just drove and repeated over and over again the Serenity Prayer.

Gradually the emotion that had taken control of my mind began to subside. Slowly I calmed down. Like a mantra, the prayer helped rid me of distraction and to focus on what I needed to do: go to a meeting and talk to my sponsor.

I learned through this and other experiences that manageability is more than paying bills and doing what I should have been doing all along. It’s easy to have a manageable life when things are running along smoothly.  They don’t always. Manageability has to do with living life on life’s terms and accepting what comes along and dealing with it as it arises. I had to learn new ways to manage my life. I need the program not to iron out my life but to help me face it. I needed, and still do need my recovery program to guide me when things don’t go according to my plan and problems arise.

I still get overwhelmed at times. Something seem to be insurmountable and I feel I can’t deal with it. Stepping back, walking the dogs, and still driving on my motorcycle help me to clear my head and put a plan in place. While I can still spiral down into unmanageability, I now have solutions to help me make the turn around and I have my program to thank for that.

 

Embracing our Addiction

I was talking to a fellow this morning who was with the four horsemen: Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. He had been sober for six months until Christmas and then decided to join the festivities. He now finds himself with no job, no home and few resources. It’s never his fault: someone else is always to blame for the soap opera that he’s living. It’s work, relationships or politics.  All fingers always point away from him. We’ve talked about program in the past, about rehab, but he’s always sure that he can do it on his own. He believes that his relationship with his Saviour will save him.  Only it doesn’t seem to be happening this way.

I’ve seen him repeat the process of sobering up, cleaning up, getting along okay for several month and then binging out of control until he comes to, one morning, realizing that they’re back again. I hope someday soon he’ll be ready to stop trying and start doing.  I’ve learned in recovery that I cannot give him my sobriety. I can only tell him my story and hope that he can relate to it enough to make changes for himself. We carry the message, not the mess.

How do we stop and stay stopped? I believe it is by embracing our addiction. I believe that what I resist in my life will persist. If I resist the changes in my life, I will be faced with lots of changes. If I resist conflict, I will be surrounded by conflict on all sides of me. If I resist anger, then people, places and things that I cannot control will be all that I see. I have to stop resisting these things and embrace them, accept them,  and ask myself what I can learn about them.

When I resist something I am putting my focus onto it. I resisted before I arrived at the meeting rooms. I told myself I could manage this, I could control it, I could function, I wasn’t living on the streets. I was focused on trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t one of those people. Only, of course, I was. Coming into the program of recovery I embraced my addiction: I accepted it as a part of me and I accepted that ‘I’ wasn’t able to do anything about it alone. I dropped my resistance and that allowed me to change my focus onto recovery, but first I had to realize that I needed recovery.

My buddy who is facing the Four Horsemen? He’s still resisting. He’s still focused on his disease and unable to admit he can’t control it; he’s trying to push his disease away. I hope that someday soon he will make the choice to accept and embrace his addiction. Once he does, I’m sure that he can leave behind the Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration and Despair that have been stalking him and find his own long-term serenity in recovery.

Peace my friend.