Three years ago today I had my last drinks, so tomorrow is my anniversary of being completely sober for 3 years, second time around. In past post I have shared quite a bit about my relapse and the shame that I used to justify staying in the disease, the fuel for denial. This post is about my return to recovery, how I got my sponsor and a couple of things about the first few months of recovery. My first month in recovery can be called nothing less than the act of a God working in my life. Like a lot of you out there I am a miracle produced by the Divine One.
Just in case you are aren't aware, I had 9 years of active recovery, I went to no less then 3 meetings a week, had coffee with my sponsor and others in recovery weekly, I was respected and loved. I moved from the safety of the town I as a part of recovery in, I was going through a divorce, bankruptcy, I was a single parent to a 5 year old, the people in AA in the new town were not overly friendly to strangers and I wasn't good about reaching out to them either. One thing lead to another, I stopped going to meetings, stopped picking up the 2 ton phone and eventually picked up a six pack. That 6 pack lead me to 10 years of insanity that was far worse and more damaging than my other period of drinking, I am living proof of the progression of the disease of alcoholism.
November 2006, I was on probation for my second DUI, driving under the influence of alcohol, my daughter had spent the summer in a foster home, due to a suicide attempt that was related to my alcoholism, I lived 30 miles away from where I worked and did not have a drivers license and had to rely on the generosity of friends to get me back and forth from work. My DUI had not slowed me down by any means. I was suppose to be going to out patient treatment but kept making excuse to my probation officer why I hadn't done so yet and knew I was on the verge of probation violation which meant more jail time and more missed work. My employer put up with me because it was a small company and I was the only one in my position and completed my work, but didn't excel what so ever, I have a feeling I was on shaky ground and it wouldn't have taken much to be fired. A couple of weeks prior to Thanksgiving on a Sunday night I was arrested at my house for a bad check, second time in about 2 months, my daughter once again watched her dad being cuffed and hauled away in a sheriffs car. Once I got to jail I called my sister who had came and got my daughter, to see if she would bail me out of jail, she explained how angry she was with me and refused to help me, my daughter also got on the phone and expressed her anger. The town I lived in only had 700 people so my poor daughter was faced with the embarrassment of having her dad once again being arrested. As I laid in that jail cell, I honestly thought about the damage I was doing to my daughter, the fear and heartbreak my parents where going through. I also realized how I had pretty much reached the end of my rope and was headed for far worse trouble than I was already in if I didn't get help. That night I made up my mind to go to treatment, I still didn't want to quit drinking, still didn't admit I was an alcoholic, my intention for going to treatment was to get my drinking under control, the Big Book talks a lot about me during this stage of my addiction. Upon my release from jail the next day, I made the phone call necessary to get me admitted to a treatment center, one I had known about via my ex wife having been there, it was also only 1-1/2 hours from my home which would allow my daughter to visit me, my entrance date was November 29th 2006, I drank like usual the night prior to I leaving for treatment., My mom, oldest sister and daughter took me there.
Really quickly here was my drinking pattern, I drank beer anytime I wasn't working, I had a part time job and would drink between the time I got off work at my regular job until the time I had to go to work at the part time job, the job was in a convenience store so I was able to steal beer and wine from it plus smokes, sometimes if it was slow I would drink in the cooler, I had peanuts stashed to try and cover my breath. On an average day I would drink probably 15 to 20 beers, on weekends I would start at 10 or 11 am and drink until after midnight, no flipping clue how much I drank on those days. I was a chronic beer drinker, drinking beer consumed my life. When I had a vehicle I carried a cooler of beer with me. My use of other drugs was sporadic mainly because of the expense.
The treatment center I went to was fairly structured, which is what I needed and even though I didn't want to quit drinking my subconscious mind told me I needed a very structured environment if I was going to receive any help at all. We were not allow to have any music with us, no books other than the Big Book, NA basic text or other GSO books. We could not leave the facility other than to smoke outside in a designated area or on Saturdays we would walk to a meeting as a group. Our time was controlled from 7:30am until 10:30pm, we had education groups, relaxation groups, therapy sessions and 1 meeting a night. The only time we could use the phone was on weekends, and your first weekend there this wasn't allowed. The meetings alternated between AA and NA, one night AA one night NA. God was working in my life because I was able to jump back into recovery after only being there a few days, the Hope and sense of belonging I had once felt in recovery returned to me. I was reconnected with the God of my understanding once again. Towards the end of my last years in recovery unknown to me was the fact that I was building up a resentment towards those who used the Christian form of God and thought others needed to believe in this concept of God as well, being a non-Christian this was troubling to me but I was never honest enough to share this. In my drinking I would use this resentment as a warring excuse not to return to AA. A couple of days into treatment I reread We Agnostics and was reawakened to the knowledge that it is about the God of our understanding no matter how another may perceives it or tries and persuade someone differently. It is because of this experience that I am still to this day a faithful defender of the statement "God of our understanding". I stand strongly on the need and necessity of spirituality in order to get and stay sober and for the newcomer or the confused I stand just as strongly on one's own personal understanding of God, I never want to see another person have the resentment I once had.
I arrived at treatment on a Wednesday which was NA meeting night. Thursday was AA, I took my seat a few rows back and when the meeting started I hear this voice introduce herself and my first thought was "oh shit!!". The voice was that of a woman I had known when I was in recovery before, she was actually one of my ex's sponsor's. I hadn't seen this woman in 15 years, when I moved in recovery it was 60 miles away from where her and her husband who is also in recovery, lived. Something I carried around with me during my drinking years was a shame for having once been an active member of AA, I always feared meeting someone from AA in a store, so here I was in treatment and who should be chairing the meeting but G. After the meeting I swallowed my fear and approached her, showed her my hospital bracelet and told her that I had been out for 10 years, she smiled at me and gave me a huge hug and said welcome back. G and her husband K still lived where they use to, which as God would have it was 10 south of where I was living at the time, they were both going to college in the town where the treatment center was and G made it a point to come to the treatment center meetings while waiting for K to finish with classes and also to do service work. I told her to tell K hi for me. I would see G a few more times before I left treatment.
Saturday mornings we went to a meeting outside of the center, a few blocks away. My first Saturday at this meeting, as we where leaving I notice a small older woman and again I had an "oh shit" moment. Here was a woman from my old home area, where I was at prior to going out. She was the wife of my grand sponsor and someone I admired greatly. Once again I swallowed my fear and approached her, to this day I can still see her eyes light up and the beautiful smile she gave me, her expressions where those of pure love. We embraced as old friends, talked for a minute and she told me she would let some old friends of mine know I was in treatment, they would eventually come see me the following Saturday. She told me her husband had died a few years ago, he died with over 30 years of sobriety, I was sad that my active alcoholism stopped me from saying goodbye to this wonderful man.
What these 2 women showed me has not been forgotten. Yes it sucks when someone goes back out but I need to always welcome someone back the way I was welcomed back. I need to reassure the person who has relapsed that there is no shame in relapsing, that the main thing is they have made it back. I try to show them the same love that was shown to me. If one of these two woman would have chastised me for having relapsed I may have lost hope, I know it would have reinforced my self loathing, my shame over the things I did when I was out there, both women knew my daughter and also my ex and I shared a bit of that part of my sickness with them because I needed to share it with someone I could trust, God put 2 angels I could trust in my path when I needed them most. I believe that people who live the 12 steps of recovery are some of the least judgemental people on earth, we hate the disease but not the one afflicted with it.
I was suddenly released from treatment after only 2 weeks, the reports from my counselor to the insurance company showed enough progress on my part that the insurance company felt they didn't need to spend anymore money on me. I feel when insurance companies do this type of things they are acting very dangerously, in my case it turned out alright but I am an exception to the rule, via the grace of God. I had no way of getting home once I was released, it was early in the morning, my mom lived 3 hours away and anyone else who might give me a ride was working, so I called G. G gladly gave me a ride, I told her I wanted to ask her husband to be my sponsor, so she arranged for him to meet me at my house later that night. K and I started this wonderful journey of sponsor and sponsee that evening. The miracle was that K and G where able to give me rides home during the week days, I would get a ride to work, then stay at a friends house, one who supported my sobriety because she had witnessed first hand my destruction, I would go to meetings, sometimes meeting K and G at the meetings other times waiting after the meetings for them to come through town and give me a ride home. It was on these rides home that K and I started bonding. I hadn't lost a lot of recovery knowledge while I was out there it just needed to be reactivate and dusted off, plus K gave me some new prospectives to look at and wonderful guidance. On these drives I really opened up about my troubles with my ex and not loving her, K shared his understanding of love with me. K always says to me either at the end of a phone conversation or upon parting, I love you, it took a couple of years to reply back the same. K and G are involve in service work and I went along with them when I could, I learned a lot about area service work from them and met a lot of people in recovery throughout the state of Nebraska this way, it was via attending area functions that I first met people from Lincoln, in doing so when I need to find a good meeting in Lincoln these people where there for me. I have worked my steps with K, he has been there with me through thick and thin; he was there for me when my daughter was sent away to a girls group home because the damage I did to her was so severe I couldn't correct it while she lived at home, he has been the voice of reason when dealing with my daughter, a voice I have the choice to heed or not, K allows me to have free will so that I can learn from my mistakes, K rode with me to my father's funeral, K has been instrumental in my resent career change, we have talked about my strengths and weakness and about the obstacles I would face, the fact that he is a drug and alcohol counselor was another hidden blessing from God that 3 years ago I was unaware of. K is still my sponsor, I have no reason to find a sponsor in Lincoln, K knows me better than anyone else since he has been with me basically from the beginning and also was part of my past, I call him at least every 2 weeks, more if I have questions or fears. I do have other people in my life I can call and talk to, people I trust as much as I do K but K is special so for now I will keep our relationship as sponsor and sponsee going. K taught me a lot about compassion, K re instilled how important it is to be of service, to give rides to those that need them, to take newcomers to fellowship events if they are remotely willing, K has been my example of what it means to live the 12 steps of recovery. I am grateful that my God put K in my life, I may have made it without him but it would have been a helluva a struggle.
My first year was like most peoples full of peaks and valley's. Most of the lows came because it was the year my daughter's alcoholism started getting her in deeper trouble. My troubles with the law had ended and hers where kicking into high gear. It was during my second year that via the grace of my God once again that things would finally start to change for her, that change came in the form of an unplanned pregnancy. God has blessed me by rebuilding a relationship with my daughter, one that 3 years ago was on very unstable ground. When I got out of treatment after only 2 weeks, my daughter via the influence of my sister who was in the last stages of her own life as a sick alcoholic, had no faith in my ability to stay sober what so ever, to put it bluntly she was Pissed. I can't blame her, she was only 5 when I started again so she never know the life I once lived, her life was filled with fear, disappointment, anger and embarrassment. Now she is proud of her old hippy dad as she jokingly calls me today, she is interested in my work and proud of what I do. Her spiritual path is weirdly similar to mine, she is firmly Agnostic but accepts others beliefs but just like me at 18 she doesn't know about spirituality in her own life, she just does her best to treat others as she would have them treat her, which is all that really matters, the journey is hers to travel, I can give guidance when asked and I can also live by example one day at a time.
I look back over those first few months and year in total awe at the gift's I was given by my God. God took a sick alcoholic and once again showed him hope and love, once again put the right people in his life at the right time. I am a miracle and I am one of the blessed, this is said in with completely humility.
Short gratitude list to end a long post.
I am grateful for the unpleasant deeds I did that got me to the place of surrender, they are
a reminder of where I came from and where I can return to.
I am grateful for the 2 angels who showed up at my very first meetings welcoming me back into recovery with loving open arms.
I am grateful for We Agnostics, the chapter in the Big Book that has saved my life more than once, for God inspiring Bill to write those wonderful words for those of us who have trouble with the "God Thing"
I am grateful for K, whose love nurtured my back to healthy sobriety and continues to do so.
I am grateful for all the people I have met in recovery past and present, they have all left a mark on my heart.
I am grateful for starting this blog and all the wonderful people I have met through it.
I am grateful for the little dog I got a couple of months prior to getting sober who has been my constant companion ever since.
I am grateful for the healthy relationship I had with my dad during his last years, for the healthy relationship I have with my mother today.
I am grateful for the wonderful relationship I have with my daughter and of course my beautiful granddaughter, and know that I have a chance at having the same relationship with the unborn child now living in my daughter
I am grateful for my job, which allows me to be of serve to God and recovery. Thanksgiving one of the clients wanted to leave treatment, she was full of fear, God allowed me to be a messenger and along with other messengers we changed her mind and she stayed, God worked through us, so even though I didn't get to spend Thanksgiving with the ones I love, I was blessed in spending Thanksgiving where I was needed.
Well campers, I hope everyone has had a great and wonderful weekend!!!
Peace Love and Light of the Spirit
2 days ago