I went to see the gypsy a few weeks ago. I sat down at her table and we talked.
She – I am not going to tell you how long you will live.
Me – No problem, I already figured it out based on a magazine survey that I would live till I am 94.
She – (with a bit of a smile) Good.
In our conversation, she held up a metaphorical mirror so they I could see my self and answer the questions I had.
I think of how some folks never gave up on me in my active addiction. I think of how some folks took a chance with me early on in recovery. I think of how I drove some 800 miles to go back to my first home group on my 20th AA anniversary. My first sponsor was there, but he did not remember me, nor did anyone else at the meeting. I try to remember those kinds of things today too. I try to realize my insignificance balanced with the importance of me carrying the message.
Perhaps one of the greatest joys I have is being in relationship with folks as they try to find their way down the road taken, or not taken. In so doing, I see the path I must take as well. This living is all about reciprocity – of self-discovery, that comes from being in community with others – a luminous web of interconnectivity. I get that from my recovery, in sharing my experience, strength, and hope. I receive that very same experience, strength and hope back from those with whom I share.
In last night’s meeting relapse was the topic. A common comment in relapse discussions is that the further one is away from their last drink, the less they remember the results of that drink and thus are more prone to relapse. This statement is at odds with my experience in recovery. To me there is a certain self-fulfilling prophecy about this idea.
Over the years, I have often heard folks say that the natural state of the alcoholic is to use alcohol as a way to escape living life on life’s terms, thus the return to the bottle and relapse.
Although I am a recovering alcoholic, I am also a human being. The natural state of humans, at least in the ideal, is to live productive and meaningful lives. I am not interested in a single drink in a social situation. Rather, my use of alcohol is to escape living, and in fact is a slow act of suicide. Everything about my existence today – emotionally, spiritually, and physically is incompatible with my use of alcohol. Simply put, were I to choose to use mind altering drugs today, I would immediately lose my family, my career, my health, my serenity, along with my sobriety, choosing to simply exist as a biological organism waiting to die.
What keeps me sober today is that I do truly enjoy living life on life’s terms – the good and the bad. A gift of recovery is knowing that my choice to drink alcohol would be the final stage or the ultimate statement in a relapse process. For me the relapse process begins when I develop resentments, am angry, choose to avoid taking responsibility for my own actions, or simply begin behaving in a way that is not consistent with my true self. I am grateful for the last number of years that relapse process has never reached the final stage where I choose to pick up the bottle. Although I realize that I am sober just one day at a time, I am now blessed with over 10,000 days of experience that demonstrates living into my true self is incompatible with drinking alcohol. That commitment and desire to live into true self is what keeps me from reaching the final stage in a relapse process.
We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. AA Promises
The last couple of weeks have been very stressful for me. The details are unimportant. Most of the stress came down to life not going the way I wanted it to go. I kept saying “if there is any justice in the world” then this issue will resolve itself. On a couple of occasions resolution seemed near, but then fell apart. I reconciled myself to the reality that the issue was not going to be resolved the way I wanted. Effective this morning the resolution turned out the way I believed it should go, “there is some justice in the world” and life goes on with a great deal of stress and anxiety removed.
Here are a few of my takeaways from the last couple of weeks of stress:
- First and foremost, I did not drink. Yes, I fed my compulsive overeating – I am still dealing with that active addiction even in the best of times. However, during my active alcohol addiction, I would have simply climbed into the bottle in trying to avoid the stress.
- I did not say anything or throw any temper tantrums that I would regret later when dealing with the stressful issue. During my active alcohol addiction, I would have gone on a campaign to explain how the world was out to get me, life sucks and then you die, that I was not appreciated . . . .
- In a calm and reasoned way, I did explain the logic behind my argument with the “powers that be” and was willing to negotiate and compromise to best accommodate everyone’s interest.
So the issue resolved itself well and I can feel a tremendous gratitude for recovery. Surely, during my days of active alcoholism, the outcome would have been different. In fact, I would not even be in the position to have experienced this stressful situation as I would still be stuck in the bottle. Perhaps what I learned most from this recent period of stress was that I was able to prioritize those issues that were most important and act on them. I was fully prepared to live with the less favorable outcome and make the best of the situation – to live life on life’s terms.
Life can be good with either outcome, so long as I remain sober.
Self-seeking will slip away. AA Promises
This AA Promise seems to really show the paradox that we must give it away to keep it. The understanding reminds me that addiction is a disease of isolation and recovery is being in community. If I choose to isolate with my problems, then I am moving into a state of relapse. If I choose to be in community, then I am living in recovery and my problems seem to deal with themselves. Therefore, it seems that by being in community and getting out of myself, I achieve the serenity and the sense of being in the right place that I seek.
I appreciate that after time in recovery, getting out of self process can become an automatic response. Yesterday had a very stressful start. When I sat in my problems, the situation only got more stressful and anxiety producing. To get out of my situation, instead I had lunch with family members, had a conversation with someone working in a shop, then wrote an email to their employer saying how good of a job they were doing, and hung out with my wife in the evening. By getting out of myself, I was better able to think about and handle the stress issue.
I often find the getting out of self to be an automatic process. Like the surrender of Step 1 “admitted we were powerless over alcohol . . .” the surrender of self-seeking leads to a renewed sense and purpose of self.