One hundred percent miserable! That would be the best way to describe my feelings that everybody wanted to know for some reason.
Why don’t you give up everything that you have known up to this point and see how you feel, I shouted to myself and absent outpatient counselors as I drove home from the meeting.
I chuckled to myself realizing that they had already given up their personal addictions and that’s why they were counselors and I was a client.
Between my sponsor, my counselors and new acquaintances in AA I was sick and tired of hearing that I had to change everything about my life.
The one thing I knew for sure is that the way I went about things didn’t turn out very well so maybe it was a time for a shift.
Let go and let God, said Bob the counselor.
WTF? I said internally.
Quit driving the bus Johnny; let someone more powerful than you take over.
Obviously he didn’t realize that the world would come completely to a stand still if I wasn’t controlling it.
Just try it.
Okay, I said.
Outpatient was coming along pretty well and my relationship with my Father was drastically improving.
I saw Angela on the way out that night from outpatient and she asked how everything was going.
Miserable, I replied.
It will get better Johnny I promise you. The promises will come true.
Man, these AA guys and counselors speak a different language.
Where are these promises Angela?
Go read your Big Book, the Alcoholics Anonymous Book. Look in there.
I went home and looked up these so-called promises.
THE A.A. PROMISES
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
If the promises do come true it will be awesome but I was nowhere near any of that coming happening.
As I stated earlier that my program is mostly a social program and the people in AA mean everything to me. The next morning Debbie, a new AA friend, asked if I wanted to come play Dominos at her house that night.
Sure, I replied.
I couldn’t think of anything worse but I was starting to understand the concept of trying new things. Dominos without drinking? Heck, I didn’t even play Dominos drinking.
You know what? I went and had an okay time, not great, not good, but okay. It was the first social thing I had done without drinking since I was 15 and I survived. I still remember Domino Debbie to this day with fondness. Because of her, I learned that I didn’t have to drink to do social activities.
That was such a foreign concept to me. I didn’t do a thing without a drink for 25 years. You can ask any of my previous friends or girlfriends and they will tell you the same thing.
The next day Paul asked if I wanted to hang out, drink coffee and play bubble hockey that night. And that is exactly what we did and continued doing that for the next few months almost every single night until 3 am in the morning.
Paul, not his real name, has become one of my best friends in AA. He will probably read this blog so I want to make sure I am accurate. I beat him every time in bubble hockey, ha-ha. I love Paul and honestly without his help and knowledge of AA I really question if I would have made it. So, thank you Paul, from the bottom of my heart.
Soon others were joining us and our ranks were swelling. I think at one time there were 25 of us hanging out and hanging onto each other for sobriety.
I was starting to have fun. I was looking forward to the AA meetings and outpatient. Things were changing.
I don’t know about promises, but things were changing.
That’s 13th stepping, Angela barked at me.
What is? I asked.
Wanting to take a girl out before each of you has a year of sobriety.
There is no 13th step!
It is an understood step!
Understood by whom?
Those who have come before you and understand how the program works. Our deal was no dating for a year.
I just don’t think that is going to work.
Are you trying to personalize your program again?
Probably, but a year? Don’t you think that is a little extreme?
Trust the process.
I sulked out of Angela’s office and decided that I would try it their way but if anything gets funky then I am out of here.
My social calendar was filling up. On the weekends Paul and I were attending the, “stupid AA dances”, and once again having an okay time. The guys were on one side and the girls on the other. Here we were, 40 year olds acting like grade school kids. They say your maturity level stops at the age you start drinking or drugging addictively and wow are they right. I felt like a teenager but was staring to have fun like a teenager as well.
About this time I learned about the acronym HALT, hungry, angry lonely and tired. To this day the first three really do not bother me but T is a killer and I have to be very vigilant that I do not let myself get worn down. Between the dances and the late night bubble hockey/coffee nights I was wearing down.
Part of being sober or acting like a sober man is to learn to take care of yourself, which was not a priority when I was active. Addicts have the worst health, especially dental. I made a dental appointment and then an appointment to have a physical through my primary care physician. Thank God they were a few weeks away. I definitely did not want the results due to my reckless behavior.
A couple of girls Tina and Patti, part of our group, asked if we wanted to go out to the bars/clubs with them but suggested that if you didn’t have 6 months sober to not go.
I protested but as everything in AA, it was a suggestion not a demand.
I decided to listen to their advice and did not go. A few of the other guys went and although not immediate, they all relapsed.
I didn’t understand relapse or a slip at the time but I was very angry. How could they start drinking again, we had a great group?
I do understand relapse today and I have a tremendous amount of compassion for those who go through it. For 90% – 95% of the addicts trying to get sober they don’t make it their first year.
The failure rate is extremely high for addicts. Treatment, outpatient and AA seem to represent the best possible solution to addiction. Once again my opinion is backed up by many years of observation and research. There are other directions an addict can take but I have to stick to my experience.
Of those 25 or so in our group I believe there are only 5 of us that have never relapsed. Others have come back in and have many years of sobriety, some have dropped off the face of the earth and some have died.
In the first few months of my sobriety 2 guys from my high school died from this disease. One from a conscience decision to drink himself to death and the other committed suicide. Addiction is such an awful disease.
Since that time there have obviously been many more that have succumbed to the disease. But on a brighter note there are a few of us who have excelled, reached out and helped others and have incredible productive lives today.
There also seems to be a direct correlation between reaching out and helping others and long term sobriety.
All of a sudden things were actually improving. I still had a mountain of problems in front of me but there was faint light at the end of the tunnel where previously there was no light. AA might not be a death sentence. That I could have fun despite my previous thoughts above giving up alcohol was a blessing.
I want you to write a letter.
Perfect. To who?
She’s dead, you know.
Of course I know.
What’s the point?
Please trust the process and write a letter to your Mother.
To be continued