When I look back at my experience through the 12 steps, I feel a sense of gratitude, accomplishment and strength. These are things I’ve never felt before in my life. The only feelings I’ve identified with before going through this work were fear, jealousy and depression. And I know I can list a whole paragraph of just those feelings, but I feel like that would end up looking like my fourth step inventory…and we are not here for that!
Another cloud I felt consumed with was this state of numbness. That was the scariest of all. NOT feeling. But isn’t that the whole point of substance abuse? By that point it had done its job. I wasn’t feeling the affects of drugs and alcohol anymore. I lived for that! The sad irony in that last sentence reminds me of the place I’ll end up if experience relapse. It’s my responsibility to stay sober and do everything I can to make that happen.
Which brings me to my next point. I didn’t do this alone. We do this together. I simply followed other people’s suggestions. Because my substance abuse had beat me to a state of willingness, I did what others told me to do.
I remember asking my sponsor why she was so happy? It left me wondering how do I make friends? How do I trust in the decisions I have to make in general? Well, she had some of those answers and simply directed me to continue doing the work of the 12 steps, reach out to others, be helpful, and keep in contact with others in recovery. When fear came up (and sometimes still does) she would ask me how my relationship with God was lately. Was I relying on a power greater than myself to help me make those decisions I felt I had to make? Was I trusting he’s got my back no matter what? And, she would ask, have you ever meditated?” When I had no answer for her or I replied with a shrug of the shoulder, it was only then that I learned about my part in this process. The continuous actions necessary to help me like focusing on my breathing when I am anxious, centering myself, setting my intention for the day, caring about my health, and more importantly working with others new to recovery. The chain cannot stop! This is the beautiful cycle the twelve steps of recovery. One alcoholic helping another is so simple and also so productive.
I remember thinking something was really wrong with me. Actually, come to think of it, my family thought it first. I didn’t attribute any of my behavior to anything specific. It was east to just blame my parents for my problems and played the victim role for a very long time. They would send me to therapy, psychiatrists, and rehabs. The doctors would put me on anti-depressants and I would try to play the drug seeking game claiming to “need more for my anxiety,” yet they were never giving me the right meds or enough of them.
Now I can see that I was looking for help that no human aid could have given me. I was truly spiritually bankrupt. I had no interests or any ambitions for my future. It became clear that I envied others that seemed to have a purpose for this struggle called “life” that I felt I was doomed to suffer through. I mean talk about being a victim! This is how the spiritual malady, that I was unaware I had, manifested in my life. The substances I was using were my solution to this malady. It was a lesson of learning how to be compassionate towards myself, that I wasn’t just a loser or failure, and that I could get better if I took certain actions.
I had to get to a state of complete surrender and chose to give up fighting the good old fight. I made a decision one day and forced myself to go into treatment. It literally felt that way. I started to see the world and time as it really was. I observed my breaths and put one foot in front of the other. I swore by the serenity prayer (it has saved me!)
This is my experience, and I know everybody’s experiences are different but our feelings as alcoholics and addicts seem to be so similar. Which is why I love being able to get together with others that have suffered like me at some time and be able to relate with each other. We talk about what we used to be like and what we are like now. I no longer feel alone.
Another intriguing gift or promise of doing the work in the twelve steps is this psychic change that we will experience. It’s like a whole retraining of the brain. My perspective of others and myself was dramatically shifted!
It is my intention to have three years of sobriety in September. I will continue utilizing the steps for as long as these promises keep proving to be true and so far, so good. Writing out resentments and fears when I need to is helpful and I make amends for those moments when my defects of character show their ugly little faces. I keep track of balancing my life while prioritizing my sobriety and I notice and articulate my feelings then share them with those that I trust. I pay attention to myself (in a healthy way) by living a healthier life style.
All I am seeking now is peace and love and offering it to others. I realize I have one shot at life today. In the past I wasn’t eager to live; but my present state proves otherwise. Frankly, that nothing short of a miracle! I didn’t do that on my own. I have my part, but my friends in recovery, my higher power and especially the twelve steps have had equal parts. For these gifts I am truly grateful!