“The great part about recovery is that you can feel again. The lousy part of recovery is that you can feel again.” 

My goal, when I was still in my disease, was to numb the feelings that flowed through my head. I wanted to escape how I felt about myself, about others and about situations. I couldn’t deal with how I was feeling so I tried to eliminate them completely. Loneliness, depression, fear, anger and resentment were some of the stronger feelings I felt more or less at any time and often in a combination of two or three. I had only one way to deal with them, and near the end, even that didn’t work. I didn’t know how to live with them. I guess I missed that course in life: Dealing with Feelings.

For the first three or four months in recovery I was on the proverbial ‘pink cloud’ where everything was wonderful. Then it hit me. I had started to work on Step Four and I was realizing all of my defects of character. As the saying goes, a sober horse thief is still a horse thief. I might have been in recovery, but I was now a ball of emotions and feelings that I had to learn to manage. I had begun to feel again. I remember going on a bit too long at one meeting. Afterward, another member asked me it I had a sponsor. “Of course I do!” I replied somewhat proudly. “Maybe you should use him,” suggested the member.

It was in the heart to heart discussions with my sponsor that I first started to learn that to deal with feelings I first had to accept them. Using examples of his own life, he showed me how he worked through those strong feelings in early recovery, just as I was doing: by working with his sponsor, by talking about them and by discovering their source, the ‘exact nature’ of those feelings. Why was I angry? Who or what was I angry at? Was there threat to me? What can I do to diminish my feelings of anger? I learned how to do the same with other feelings as well.

Analysing my feelings helped to diminish their strength and power. I learned that I needed to acknowledge what I was feeling and where it was taking me. I didn’t have to allow the feeling to take me into depression or loneliness, anger or fear. I had a choice. My feelings didn’t have to dictate my reaction. If I was lonely, I could go meet a friend or pick up the phone and call someone.  I  didn’t have to wallow in loneliness, allowing it to spiral me downward into deeper and deeper sadness. Often I would just get on my motorcycle and drive and drive and say the Serenity Prayer over and over until I felt peace replacing the strong feelings that threatened my recovery.

My life is manageable today and I lived more in tranquility than chaos. The frequency of those strong feelings is diminished. Strong feelings still do come up but not as often and I know that I can’t avoid them. I have to deal with them. It’s my choice when I do so, but sooner rather than later works for me and frees me to enjoy my life and not be burdened by it. I am grateful.


Secrets of the Soul

A former sponsor of mine used to say, “I’m as sick as my secrets.” It took me a long time to really understand what he meant and after a few years in recovery, I think I have a better handle on it. We all have some secrets and they have the power to lead us deeper into darkness.

The secret of my sexuality kept me from living a full and healthy life before I emerged from my closet. ‘What if they find out? What will they think? I have to be careful so that no one will find out.’ These thoughts were constantly with me. It lead to a distrust of others. It kept me isolated, alone and lonely. The only time I felt that I could be released from my secret, earlier on, was when I was high. The rules and norms of society be damned. When I was high I didn’t care what anyone really thought.

Of course, the next morning arrived and along with the spitting headache I had the moral hangover of regret. Over the years, my secrets changed and varied, but they were always there, guarded and hidden. I wouldn’t say I was dishonest and openly lying, only that I wouldn’t disclose my real truth about what I felt or thought about situations. I rationalized that what I really wanted and how I really felt were best left unsaid. I didn’t want to cause pain in others but was unable to see the pain I was causing in myself because I wouldn’t open up. I felt it was better to keep that inside.

I kept my secrets bottled up so that everyone would like me and so that they wouldn’t feel hurt. I wasn’t able to see that they were making me sink deeper and deeper into addiction. My thinking was inverted: I didn’t want to cause you any pain, but it was okay to cause my own and for me to suffer in silence. And my ‘suffering’ was always a good reason to self medicate.

Through the program of recovery I am able to see that my ‘suffering in silence’ was an ego trip, as if my suffering would save the rest of the world. It was all about me and all about my justification for loading up. In the process of Step Five, sharing my past and the ‘exact nature’ of my character with another person, I was sharing my secrets. And a funny thing about a secret: once it is told to another person, it’s no longer a secret.

I didn’t realize how much energy I was using to keep my past thoughts, feelings and actions hidden until I stopped. Going through Step Five, sharing with another person helped me to open up to another person and prepared me for Step Nine where I made amends to those I had harmed. My program of recovery helps me to recognize when I am falling into the same patterns creating little secrets by hiding my feelings and thoughts and to know when I need to talk to my sponsor again about these things. I know that keeping things bottled up inside will lead to resentment, anger, fear and a relapse. The sooner I disclose my secrets, the sooner I return to health.

Thank you Marshall.

Stepping through Fear


Reams of paper have been used to expound on the subject of fear. The more I delve into discovering more about fear, the more material I find. It is pervasive in people’s thoughts and it subtly, and sometimes obviously, colours our actions. It changes how we feel and react to others. It causes arguments and wars. It runs the spectrum from a small anxiety about say, meeting a new person, to full blown paranoid phobias that can paralyze completely.

With all fear is the sense of a threat to me, my self, my ego and I allow it to affect me, how I feel about myself and what I do. ‘What if?’ ‘Maybe?’ My ego is always telling me that dismemberment and death is just around the corner, that everyone is trying to get me, that I will disappoint and that I can never do that! Fear is my ego saying to me: “That’s going to destroy, or belittle me in some way! Avoid it at all costs!” It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, real or imagined, fear, once it’s in charge is felt the same way and will take charge.

So…What happens?

I stay in my tiny comfort zone. I don’t try new things. I miss out on experiences. I don’t trust others. I don’t trust myself. I don’t risk anything.

So….Nothing happens.

Live in the moment!

When I am in fear, I am not in the present, rather, I am in the future. I am think of what ‘might’ happen. I am in the realm of endless possibilities and I can allow my fears to stop me cold.

“You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.”  Eckhart Tolle

I am learning that I will never be able to cover all the bases, make sure that all the contingencies are in place. I can’t know the unknown; I can’t project what will happen in the future.  My ego says to me that I dare not go and my faith tells me to go boldly forth. Yes faith. I am learning to trust my Higher Power.

When I look back on my life, I can see that my Higher Power has always been there. The fact that I am here today writing this is proof that I have always been looked after by something greater than me. If that is true: I am here today,  and I know it, then why would I think that my Higher Power is going to suddenly vanish and stop looking after me tomorrow?

I am finding it much easier to simply live in the moment: in the NOW and not in the future. I can face and cope with what I need to do right now. Spending time in the future can stop me from doing anything in the now. If I focus on tomorrow I am losing the beauty of today.

Some days I am more successful than others. I usually see when I am focused on fear and can do something about it, like looking at the task at hand, staying in the now. I don’t know if I will ever wipe fear out of my life, but I can open the door to let faith in. Ego may always be there insisting that there are threats everywhere. My Higher Power is always there too giving me the courage to step through fear and move forward, knowing that I can cope with whatever is happening now.

I am grateful.