One of the things I am most grateful for is that I was never asked, in sobriety, to conform to anything, other than what I truly wanted to commit to. The only conformity I was mildly uncomfortable with was eliminating drinking from my life – which I wanted, but was not sure I would be able to do. Everything else was a suggestion – I was able to take what I wanted and leave the rest. Especially in the beginning, when I had no concept of a higher power, no understanding of a single one of the steps and no desire to crack open the daunting ‘Big Book’ that sat facing the crowd at every meeting – I was grateful that no one pushed anything on me or told me I had to do anything.
I was pretty unsure and uneasy my first few months of sobriety. I was skeptical, judgmental and ready to pounce on any hypocrisy I heard. I know now that this is not an uncommon perspective and it’s normal – becoming sober I was coming back to a more present and aware mind, but one that was damaged, hurt and lost – so of course I would be skeptical. Being allowed the freedom to feel whatever I felt during my first months of sobriety saved me from walking out the doors. It truly was, for me, the support of the women in recovery around me that reassured me that I could and should find my own path within this program. Today, I know there is a prescribed path – a suggested prescription of tools and attitudes that will make sobriety not only easier for me, but more joyful as well. I can choose this path every day, or I can choose my own way. I think that’s why Step 3 is so early on the list.
I couldn’t understand the concept of a higher power, so how could I surrender my will to him? And why would I want to give up my will?
First of all, I had to really recognize where exactly following my own will and my own lonely path had gotten me. And that was not a happy place. That is what propelled me to go back after my first meeting – I heard the promises, the tales of people who all seemed to proclaim “my life has improved tenfold!” or “I have a happiness now that I never knew possible”. That was when I knew I wanted what they had. My will had brought my to my knees, in a place of absolute unhappiness, anxiety, distant from any knowledge of my true self or inner peace. I wanted escape for so many years, and my route was only ending in more pain. I was willing to try anything, if it meant I got a shot at what all of these happy, sober people said that they had. For me, that was a tough part, but I knew that there was a reason I had encountered it so early on – I had to give up my allegiance and commitment to being the one who knew best. I surrendered. (And it didn’t feel like weakness!)
I remember reading somewhere in the literature that the people who successfully get sobriety from AA, they’re not always the ones who need it most – but they are the ones who want it most. This doesn’t mean that those who don’t get it or have slips don’t want it but it does mean, for me, that as long as I actively pursue my sobriety, I will be successful. I will get the things that are meant for me in my life if I choose to align myself with a place of spiritual, emotional and physical health.
It’s almost been a year and a half for me now, and things are not what I had imagined. Life has not resumed where it left off before I started drinking, but rather I have found a life for myself that never existed in my mind or reality before. I enjoy the prospect of being healthy – in all ways – that my lazy, responsibility-avoiding, drunken mind could never have known previous. I am aware of the condition of my disease, and the medication and treatment that it requires (meetings, spiritual health, fellowship, physical health, a daily reprieve) in order to stay under control and manageable. That is a success for me. Not having an unhealthy, bitter, lazy, regretful or selfish perspective about the potential of life is a gift and a success for me.
I read a couple of days ago that we are either moving toward that first drink, or moving away from it. Today, I choose to move away from the drink. I make active choices, decisions and take the steps necessary to ensure that my disease stays manageable. It’s not easy, but it’s a success that I got to wake up this morning and thank God for no hangover and no regrets. It’s a success that I do not have a desire to drink today. It’s a success, for me, that I know I am able, willing and worth recovery.
And so are you. I truly believe the biggest success of my sobriety, recently, has been my awareness through my relationship with a higher power, that innately and absolutely – we are ALL worth the happiest, most joyful and most free life that we want.
But you have to really want it and be willing to do the work.
It works if you work it. (Another ‘slogan’ which I laughed off in the beginning that now comes to mean something important, resonant and essential to my recovery.)
My wish for you, if you are reading this, is that you know how thankful I am that you have joined me in some way, in recovering from alcohol. More than that, I wish you peace, serenity, love and sobriety for the next 24 hours.
Anyone can fight the battle for just one day.