I know some of this is redundant with what I have posted in the past, but I am submiting this post for possible publication with a recovery magazine, plus sending it to some people who don't read the blog but have been a part of my recovery.
On November 28th 2006 I drank my last drink of alcohol. The day was normal in all aspects with the exception that I was packing my stuff for a trip to a drug and alcohol treatment center the following day. I don’t know how much I drank probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-18 beers which was fairly normal. I went to treatment with no real plan of quitting, I was going because my drinking was out of control and I was having frequent run ins with the law, also my daughter was getting really worried about me and starting to hate the life we lived. Basically my back was up against the wall I needed to do something, but the something was to regain control over my beer consumption not quit, yep I was sick. I had found myself in similar situation in 1987, that time it was my mental state and fear of getting into trouble with the Air Force, doing something to solve that situation lead to 9 years of sobriety which overall were damn good. This time 10 years of constant drinking had lead me to heavy denial about how bad my drinking had become. I can go into the morning drinking, the drinking and driving, the drinking while working, the tardiness and all the rest but won’t. What I want to do is reflect back on what has happened and why the cravings left me a few days after entering treatment and have not returned something I don’t analyze much but since I have an AA anniversary coming up and will receive a chip on Wednesday night I have been thinking about lately.
Probably the first thing I can think of that happened was within a few days of treatment I reconnected with my Higher Power, which was minimized once I started drinking, fact of matter was I never wanted to stop drinking so the Higher Power wasn’t there to aid me, just something to keep me somewhat sane during times of despair. My Higher Power first showed up in the form of me being a part of a group of others who where having problems with alcohol and drugs, then in the face of someone I know from my past life as a sober member of AA, she showed me love and compassion rather than the scorn and shame I was afraid my former AA friends would show. During my years of drinking my old dislike for organized religion reared its ugly head and I even came to resent AA as an extended arm of organized religion. When I entered treatment I was given a copy of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) I skim read “Bill’s Story”, devoured “There is a Solution” and “More About Alcoholism” when I started reading “We Agnostics” my mind was reopened to why I had such great respect for AA back in 1987 and one of the attractions that kept me coming back; that was the freedom of find and worshiping a God of our own understanding. My old prejudices and resentments started to fade fast after reading that chapter, I accepted that the God as we understand him message is sometimes diluted at meetings especially in rural areas where Christianity was strong and members tend to drift towards it and less towards open ended spiritualism. I walked out of treatment after only 2 weeks different, revitalized and compulsion free, my insurance wouldn’t pay for the whole 4 week stay.
From December to April I was without a driver’s license and a car, I lived 25 miles from work and AA meetings. I depended on a friend to get to work, I would stay with the only close friend left over from the drink days after work, neither her or her husband were heavy drinkers, I would hang out at there house until meeting time, then walk to the meeting and catch a ride home with my sponsor or my sister, or occasionally my friend would give me a ride home. The Higher Power blessed me with a sponsor who lived fairly close, who was going to college in an other town but drove through the town where meetings were held a few times a week, we would either meet at meetings or he would pick me up on his way home. This wasn’t an everyday thing, usually a 2-3 times a week, this way my daughter wasn’t home alone every night, but by now she had gotten used to running her own life, which would cause problems down the road. My sponsor would ask me to go with him if he was going to an AA event on the weekends but for the most part I spent the weekends at home alone, reading or watching movies with my dog for company, since there were no meetings in the town I lived in. I was an avid reader for a long time but during the last years of drinking alcohol robbed me of my ability to sit and read, I lost comprehension over what I read and patience for sitting and reading so it was a joy to sit and read again. Never once during those times of being alone without wheels did I crave a drink. Being without wheels served a few purposes it taught me how to be comfortable being alone, allowed me time to reflect and mediate, write. Another thing is that one of my old hobbies was to drive around the back roads with beer, now without wheels if I was having emotional turmoil in recovery I couldn’t just hop in a vehicle and cruise around which might have triggered picking up a 6 pack, I was forced to stay put and deal with what was going on or use the 2 ton phone.
The first year of sobriety was what it was, 1 year of living full of highs and lows. My daughter got into some trouble which eventually lead to her being place in a group home for girls. I got closer to my parents and in doing so realized that they needed to move closer to where my sister and I lived so we could help them out as their age and health was starting to cause difficulties. There was the sharing of myself with my sponsor, my fears, my regrets, my insights and such, working the 12 steps. There was the building of my spirituality, probably the strongest thing to come out of this was understanding perceptions and how I couldn’t base my understanding of a Higher Power on how I perceived others based theirs. Once I broke through this perception I was truly spiritually free.
So what has happened in the last year, my second year in recovery? I found a spiritual foundation for living via Buddhism. The irony of my finding out that Buddhism was a religion that I could learn to practice and dedicate myself to came via a prayer by a Catholic monk, St Francis. I read the prayer of St Francis in the book 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, I wrote the prayer out long hand, taped it next to my front door, and would read it every morning prior to leaving the house. From my prior dabbling in Taoism and brief readings of Buddhism I recognized the eastern religious undertones to the prayer, the complete abandonment of self, services of other, and by doing these things one would find contentment and freedom.
Another thing that happened was my watch broke and I decided not to get a new one. I had a bad habit of looking at my watch a lot, being over obsessed with what time it was or how long something was taking. I still am conscience of time, when to go to work, when my breaks are, when a meeting starts and the normal things but gradually I have eased up on the obsession of how much time is going by when something is happening, how long or short of time some thing is taking, I still have a long way to go but I am getting better.
So my whole second year of sobriety is a direct result of my adapting Buddhism into my life and not wearing a watch. I understand that suffering is inevitable, it happens whether we want it to or not, suffering is caused by desires/selfishness, by applying the Eightfold path in my life, I can control how the suffering effects me and my actions have a direct effect on those who come in contact with me, either positive or negative, with positive being the desired effect. Because I no longer wear a watch I am becoming more at ease with living in the moment, the right here and right now, I don’t fidget as much, don’t get worked up as much over how much time is left or how little of time is left, time is as it time and it is up to me to use it constructively. Here are a few situations that have happen to me in the last year. When it was decided that my daughter would be moved to a group home and be there for at least 8 months I moved to the town where I work at and attend most of my meetings which by the way is also the town where my parents live. The move created a conflict between my daughter and me, she wouldn’t accept the move because she had set her mind on graduating with the kids she had went to school with since 2nd grade, being a teenager she would not listen to my reasoning based on economics and the uncertainties of her situation, there was no certainty when she would be allow to move back home with me. I over came my stress of upsetting her by extending my support group, becoming a ware of my emotions via prayer, mediation and use of AA steps and suggestions. In the end she accepted the move though a bit begrudgingly in the beginning, lesson learn things work out if we give them time and stop adding fuel to fire (re-stirring dead embers). In December my daughter found out she was pregnant, I accepted this without getting overly upset, what was done was done, abortion and adoption where not options, not for religious reasons but out of personal reasons. The pregnancy proved to be a building block for a stronger relationship between my daughter and myself, she started taking her own fledgling sobriety more seriously, wanting to attend meetings with me instead of just “going along”. The damage of the past was repaired by our spending more quality time together and phone calls, she also noticed that some of the girls in the group home had no positive interaction with their parents and that her old man wasn’t that bad after all. Again it was through living in the now that I was able not to get overly emotional unstable during all this which also consisted of mixed feeling towards the father of the baby. My granddaughter was born on a beautiful July 4th morning, the city of Lincoln was quiet and peaceful, standing outside I was awed by the beauty of nature intensified by her birth. My daughter had to have a C section but all went well and my granddaughter’s father was there for her birth. I am forever grateful that I was sober that morning, and that I was able to be there for my daughter, that there were no resentments between us, I owe this to spirituality, fellowship and the 12 steps of recovery. I spent those days she was in the hospital in complete contentment not overly concerned with what time of day it was or trying to find something to do. My daughter and granddaughter moved back to the town I live in after their release from the hospital, she had successfully completed the requirements of the group home, she was then moved to an independent living program which she is still part of. I do my best to let her live her own life, giving suggestions without being a dictator, I baby sit when need be which isn’t constantly. My granddaughter is an intelligent and content baby, I believe this is due to the harmony in her life, the harmony of having a sober mother who tries to stay away from drama and the harmony of a grandpa who is peaceful and serene most of the time. The last major thing that has happened to me many would say would be the hardest to deal with and that was watching my dad’s health slowly get worse and then watching him die. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t sad and troubling at times but the sadness was never overwhelming. The way I got through this was by understanding my suffering and his and that we were both powerless over it, no matter how hard I wanted to make life easier for him it wasn’t in my power to do so. While I was watching him die I kept thinking to myself I wish this could be his last breath, to counter that I had to remind myself I wasn’t in control and was being selfish, I focused on the moment instead of getting into a bunch of useless projecting. As sad as his final last breath was, I knew he was at peace, no more pain, physical or mental. The other thing was we had made our personal peace with each other. Being sober I was there to help my dad when he couldn’t help himself or things were too much for my mom to handle. There are other things that have happened that some would find stressful but I have been able to handle with relative ease.
I don’t very excited about too much anymore, I have learned to handle stressful situations at work, to mentally fend off the negative energy created by my supervisor and some of my fellow workers, I don’t caught up in the game of blaming others or belittling others, even my financial situation which isn’t the best at times is manageable if I don’t give in to the stress of it and use awareness to figure out what I can and can’t do. I have learned with a little prayer, mediation and living in the moment that even when life gets tense and crazy that I can stay fairly serene and sane. My new journey has just begun but as long as I remember that it is practice and sometimes slow progress that my life will be filled with happiness and joy no matter what the situation is. The choice is mine today whether I dwell in the house of suffering watching my watch or whether I accept the suffering, move on and live in the moment at hand.
3 hours ago