Posted in Alcoholics, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery

Old Friends, Beauty and Second Chances

Several months ago I briefly sponsored a sweet kid in her early 20s. She wanted sobriety badly, but wasn’t quite ready to work the program. She had a lot of issues, as many of us do, and wrestled with problems that included gender identity, and how to fit that into her very real love of God. Yes, she loved God, but never really believed God loved her in return, thinking her sexuality a deal breaker in the eyes of her higher power.

I remember how badly I wanted her to love herself, accept herself, and truly believed if she could learn to live an authentic life, one that was true to the identity that felt most real to her, it would go a long way towards dealing with that some of that which made her drink and use.

I also knew she struggled with depression and bi-polar disorder, and thankfully understood I was out of my wheelhouse when it came to addressing those issues. I would wisely advise her to follow her doctors’ advice.

No matter how hard I pushed (I know better than to push so hard these days), I couldn’t get her past step 2. I offered to take her to LGBTQ meetings, we met in coffee shops to read and discuss the 12 steps together.

I got the distinct impression that like many of us, she simply didn’t feel she deserved sobriety, and the freedom, serenity and the 2nd chance at life that comes with recovery. I couldn’t force her to see her worth, and as a result, I watched her slowly drift away, becoming less and less engaged.

Eventually, the phone calls stopped, and she vanished. Her phone stopped going to voicemail, and I could no longer send her text messages or call her. Her social media pages were deactivated. She stopped coming to meetings, and no one had any idea where she was, or what happened to her.

Given her depression, and history of relapse, I was afraid she was dead. I worried to the point of panic, but there was nothing I could do. I had no one I could call to inquire after her- the nature of our program is that of anonymity, so once she cut ties, all that could be done was say a prayer and hope for the best.

Months passed, and I still thought of her, but life moved on, and the panic slowly subsided. I’d wonder whatever happened to that sweet young girl I’d cared so much about, but over time it became a passing thought, and not much beyond that.

Today, as I was walking across the parking lot towards the building to attend my weekly Saturday meeting, I saw her.

I stopped dead in my tracks, almost afraid to believe my eyes.

Yes, it was definitely her. She’d changed, for sure. Gone was the innocence, the sweet “girly” essence she’d tried so hard to portray to the world, that only a few of us knew was a lie. The pink nail polish and childish stud earrings had been replaced. She now sports short, gender-neutral hair, a tattoo on her wrist, and gender-neutral clothes. She was smoking a cigarette, and her eyes were…

… hard.

I almost dropped the things I held in my hand, so happy to see her.

I grabbed her and hugged her tightly. “You’re back,” I whispered in her ear, tearfully.

We spoke at length, and I was completely stricken by what she shared.

Her story is heartbreaking. I won’t tell it, because it isn’t mine to tell. Suffice it to say she’s been to hell and back these last months. A few times, really. She’s knocked on death’s door, and more than once, she was pissed it didn’t take her.

She looks so different because she IS different.

I’m glad she looks the way she does. She finally looks real. Authentic. She certainly no longer looks like a kid who’s trying be something she isn’t. She isn’t trying to make anyone else happy by projecting an image that she’s anything other than what she actually is.

That’s my definition of beauty. She’s beautiful.

She made my day, and she reminded me, through her story and perseverance why we dance this dance, each and every day:

For people like us, if we don’t, there are only two possible outcomes- death or jail.

Today, I am so grateful for my friend. I am grateful she found her way back, and I’m grateful I got to witness it. I’m thankful for my program, and I’m thankful that program was here for her, and that it was here for me too, when we both needed it the most.

We all have another relapse in us, but not all of us have another recovery in us. Mostly, I’m thankful she has got another chance.

Posted in Alcoholics, Alcoholism, C-Haze, Recovery, Sobriety

Step 1, Powerlessness and Manageability

Last week we talked about step 12, so this week it only makes sense to start over, and begin with step 1.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I relapsed because I simply could not get step 1 right initially.

First, I couldn’t admit I was powerless over alcohol. I tried to control my drinking on my own in every possible way. I tried total abstinence, I tried only drinking on weekends, I tried eliminating liquor and switching to wine, I tried drinking measured amounts (literally breaking out measuring cups), everything. I went to outpatient rehab in 2007, and was drunk within 24 hours of graduating from the program. I went to countless meetings over the years, I got sponsors, I got fired by sponsors (which isn’t even supposed to be a thing, but I was so hellbent on doing everything my own way, I was impossible to work with). I joined 12 step programs, I joined non-12 step programs, I went to therapy, I switched therapists, I quit therapy. I even went to church for a while, which, if you know me, you know how radical this was. For me, anyway.

I’d get up every morning, swearing I would not drink that day… only to be drunk by 6 PM, wondering what the hell happened.

Nothing worked.

Second, I couldn’t admit my life had become unmanageable, and when I finally could admit it was unmanageable, I refused to acknowledge alcohol had anything to do with it. I had been divorced twice, was almost in financial ruin (even as I had a great job, with excellent benefits, and a way higher-than-average salary), had just been put on probation at work, barely knew my kids anymore, and I had terrible health issues. My liver enzymes were elevated to dangerous levels, and in my late 30s I was getting weird ailments like shingles, unexplained high fevers that left me hospitalized for days on end, and mysterious infections that almost left me septic.

Worse, my soul was in ruins. I was dishonest. I was a hermit. I avoided life, love, companionship or anything else fun. I had no joy.

No one in my life was using the word “alcohol” to describe the reasons these things were happening (mostly because I was lying to them about its existence), so I was fine to stay in denial too, and pretend my drinking had nothing to do with any of it.

I just figured, you know, God or the Universe or whatever hated me. None of it had anything to do with me, my bad decisions, my bad behavior, and definitely nothing to do with the 5th of vodka I was drinking every single day.

Finally, I hit my rock bottom. A series of events occurred, and I knew I was finished. I was going to get honest, get help, or die. It was as simple as that. I stopped drinking, and I crawled to a meeting.

By that point, surveying the absolute colossal mess my life was in the moment, I had no problem admitting it was unmanageable. What I still had trouble admitting was that I was powerless over alcohol. I reasoned that only I could stop the drinking- who else was going to do it for me, after all?

What I learned is that in order to stop drinking, I have to admit complete and total defeat. If I’m a boxer and alcohol is my opponent in the ring, I’m going to get my ass kicked – TOTAL KNOCK-OUT – Every. Single. Time.

I am powerless over alcohol, and I will always be powerless over alcohol.

My life has become unmanageable.

It is because of my need to control everything – my drinking, my life, other people, other places, other things, that I was in this mess.

Finally, it was time to let go.

I am powerless, and knowing that has become the most freeing thing in the world.

Step 1 is what got me stopped drinking. Later, working step 4, doing an inventory of all the messes I’d made of my life over the years while I insisted on being in control of everything, is what helps to keep me stopped. It helps me understand that my life was always unmanageable, at least for as long as I insisted on trying to be in control, as long as I insisted on being in the driver’s seat.

It will always be that way. I now know that I need to stay out of my own way, and stay out of the driver’s seat. I let my Higher Power drive, while I’m happy controlling the dials on my side of the car, in the passenger seat. I can control my own actions, and nothing else, ever – and even then, I am only in control of myself as long as alcohol is not part of the equation.

Step 1 is the beginning of a new life- but we have to do the work every single day. It’s the only step we have to get 100% right, 100% of the time.

Our lives depend on it.