Theft of an AA Book

So our cars were “broken into” last night. I say broken because it really involved them opening a door cause we’re horrible at locking them. I first noticed when I saw my make up bag on my drivers seat, then looking around realized the car was a mess (items were pulled out of my first aid kit, trash was pulled out of where it had been tucked).

I still haven’t gone through it carefully but it seems two items are missing from each car. An envelope full of change from mine as well as a couple of dollars in loose change from my husbands, a knife, and an AA Book (the 12 & 12). Oddly I’m not particularly bothered by the theft. I did similar things in my youth when I was at my worst, and I know I leave my doors unlocked far too often.

I actually appreciate the things that were left and the fact that they seemed to just take what they’d use. I hope the book benefits them.

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Passion

A friend posted a quote in a facebook group she runs today, “Do it with passion or not at all.” While I don’t at all mean to say anything negative about her positing it, it did bring up some strong thoughts for me. It sounds so like something I would have said, even that I would say now at times, without thinking. A part of me craves to live my life with passion, with intensity, with noticing how amazing every sounds, sight, sensation, and person I encounter is. I want to devour life and suck the marrow from the bones, to live in technicolor. Those are all things I’ve said and felt.

The problem is that is the type of thinking that gets me craving intensity to the point where I will sacrifice being healthy to get it. It is the type of thinking that leaves me dissatisfied with the simple beauty that is everyday life, that offers a different type of happiness, comfort, and fulfillment.

It is also the type of thinking that gives me an excuse to give up on things. The things that are challenging to learn, and not fun to practice but offer a longer term reward at the end of the journey. I think of passion as short and fleeting and there are few things I personally consistently feel “passionate” about. Were I to “do it with passion or not at all” I wouldn’t do much of anything for very long.

I still love the moments of getting caught up in a passion. I still want to have them, but I can’t accept it being ok to not do something because I’m not feeling passionate in the moment, and I can’t have the desire for momentary passion override the desire to fulfill my commitments. For now in my life I need to focus on living consistently with my morals, contributing to my communities in the most positive ways I can, and finding peace more than passion.

Reactions to Sharing…

I shared Friday that it was my 90 day anniversary, and that I “celebrated” by telling a large number of people in my life who had no clue I was struggling with sobriety that I was. Here are some of the responses I got. More than one made me cry.

“I just have to say that I absolutely love you and am so proud of you. I had no idea you were struggling with any of this and I can only imagine how much strength this must take. I wish I could give you a huge hug right now! I am honored that you would share this with me. If you ever need anything let me know. I love you hun!!!!!! I am not without my own demons. I used to cut myself…a lot. I don’t anymore, but every once in a while when I get stressed I still get urges. We all have things that we struggle with, but you are a truly beautiful person and you should never forget that. You welcome everyone into your heart and home and make them feel safe. You do soooo much good. Never doubt yourself or forget that.”

“Thanks for sharing.

Sometimes its too easy to look at other people and think their lives are so much better than your own, or that they have no problems of their own.

Everyone has something going on, something they could do without and make their life better. Often its things outside of their immediate and quick control – work issues, self control issues, relationship issues, etc. Being reminded that everyone has stuff they are dealing with makes it somewhat comforting. So in reading your post, it reminded me that no matter how there are things in my own life that I am not happy with right now (and can be downright depressing at times, especially of late) there is a commonality in the world between all people. My problems are no worse or better than anyone else’s.

Of course, the reverse of that is that Angie needs to remember that other people are going through similar things in their own lives even if they are different in specifics. This is not to say that Angie’s issues are diminished by that fact, but rather that Angie is not alone. She is not “doing something wrong” nor is she “one messed up person”. No, she is like everyone else, dealing the best they can.

Now the thing is, there are a lot of people who respect you. Saying something like you did today will have the opposite effect than what you fear. People are not going to look down on you, instead they will again look at you for inspiration. “If Angie has issues and is dealing with them in a positive manner…maybe I can too.”

So again, thanks.”

“as one of the people who has been worried about you and this for years….i couldnt be more proud to call you my friend for doing this for yourself and for continuing to walk down the hard path even when it sucks”

“Hey….been trying to think of something to say since you shared that note with me, but I’m having trouble thinking of the words…. I just want to say that I’m honored and humbled that I was one of the ones you chose to share with, and I want to tell you that I think you are a brave and amazing person…,it takes so much guts to share things like that with your friends and I really admire your courage both to share it and to commit to sobriety which I know is a struggle. I saw that post over the summer but did not realize there was more to it. I am so happy that you hit the 90-day mark and I want to let you know that we are here if you ever need anything. Again, not sure if that came out right but basically I wanted to say thank you for sharing, congrats on 90 days, and I really admire your courage, bravery, and determination and I think you are a strong, amazing, kick-ass lady”

“I read. I love you. I’m a very imperfect person and I appreciate the lengths you go through to improve yourself. You really do inspire me. I still want to hang out and be silly. You are the best.”

#1, “vs. the many people who are successful, healthy and balanced”. These people don’t exist. Seriously. They don’t. EVERYONE has something that they struggle to balance. #2, “I’ll never be considered someone who is perfect, without flaws, or mistake free”. This goes hand in hand with #1. No one expects you to be. It’s impossible. Look, we all have things we work on. And I can’t speak for everyone on your list (cause I don’t know them all), but I know a LARGE majority of them would do just about anything for you. Period (and yes I’m one of them). I certainly understand the drinking thing. Alcoholism runs in my family, so I know all to well how this can be difficult for you. But know that we are here for you, and I have no intention of treating you any different, knowing the above information. ::MAJOR HUGS::” (the quotes above were from my initial note”

“Congratulations, 90 days is FUCKING HUGE. I feel I have so much to say and yet can’t say it all. So, I’m going to leave it at Congratulations. 90 days is FUCKING HUGE.”

Ang, first I want you to know how incredibly proud of you I am on several levels…opening up like this is such a brave thing to do, and I think as hard as it was to say these things out loud it will help you along in your journey. I can appreciate the difficulty and anxiety of choosing not to participate in an activity that can be SUCH a major part of social gatherings. On the flip side I realized after reading this, it was causing me some anxiety not knowing where you were with things… so thank you again for sharing.

If it is EVER something that would be helpful for you I will abstain from drinking if you need a fun sober hang out person at a party. I want you to know this offer is not made out of pity, it will not make me have LESS fun at said party, and I don’t feel “obligated” to make the offer. Along with being someone you can come to, I feel like this is something I can offer to help someone who I love very much in a moment of time. There are amazing super fun times to be had my friend, and we don’t need to have alcohol to enjoy them. Love you lots and sending lots of hugs”

I haven’t gotten a single slightly negative comment, and no one seems odd or awkward around me as far as I can tell.

Grateful Alcoholic

When I first went to meetings and started to hear people say they were “grateful alcoholics”, I couldn’t see any reason why you’d feel grateful to be an alcoholic, and the phrase always made me feel cranky, even though I knew that they at least in part meant grateful to be a sober one. Since being sober I’ve come to feel a little bit grateful for being an alcoholic and a bit more appreciative of AA (verses my original resentment of the need to go).

Everyone in the world has their own shit and issues. Mine happen to be so big and screw up my life so much that I don’t really have a choice but to put the time and work into facing and working on them. I suspect at the end of the day I’ll be healthier and live more consistently with my values than I would have had I not had an issue that significant.

And AA it really does have a great program for looking at your “defects of character” and where you’ve harmed others and making amends. Along with the program there are people that support you as you work through the actions. You get to hear their intimate stories and realize how much everyone has in common in terms of feelings and emotions.  How great is that?? There are so many “normal drinkers” that I wish had similar steps to go through and the same level of support.

The other thing is AA is teaching me to be more open minded and not judge people based on appearances. I’m not the richest, most educated, or best looking person attending meetings. There are many people that you would never suspect have substance issues based on appearances. I’m not trying to perpetuate stereotypes, so I want to be clear to say that before I also share that there are some people who are obviously having a hard time, homeless, far from clean and well dressed, and smell a little funky. In hearing them speak with an open mind, I’ve learned that many of them are also well educated, well traveled, and well read and have found both wisdom in their words and things I identify with. Again a pretty special thing. I feel like I’m getting a gift by learning to look beyond the superficial.

Day 90

Celebrating in 3 ways. I’m chairing my first AA meeting tonight, My husband bought me a lovely pair of earrings.  I shared the facebook note below with 29 of my closest friends.

The group that can see this post is eclectic. There are many I’m very close to, but it isn’t necessarily why I’m sharing with you. There are some I’m close to that I didn’t include. There are some I’m not as close to that will probably be surprised they were included.  There are a few of you I was nervous about including and added and deleted a few times- Don’t let my openness here mislead you, I still have a lot of anxiety about sharing.  The commonality is you are someone I trust to be respectful, compassionate, and sympathetic (even if you are unable to be empathetic).  I wouldn’t dream of saying the information here is something you should consider confidential at this point, but if you do opt to share please do it in a respectful way, for a reason, and with others who will also be respectful OR you think it would benefit them in some way to be aware.

Some of you know all this information in detail and I mainly included you so you’d understand I took the step of sharing it with others. Some of you know bits and pieces but might be surprised by a detail or two. Many of you know nothing about it, or perhaps if you were observant saw my post back in late June about taking a break from drinking.

Today is a special day for me. It is my 90th day of continuous sobriety. While there are people it wouldn’t be a big deal for, it is something that wasn’t done lightly and wasn’t easy in my case.

I was truly at a point where I couldn’t control my drinking, despite multiple attempts to, for years. While it wasn’t threatening my job or having a negative financial impact, I did crash a car while intoxicated, hurt myself, had some moments of violence towards others (that were happening more frequently), hurt my relationships, and behaved in ways that were selfish, self-centered, manipulative and not consistent with my morals. It made me feel like shit about myself on a regular basis. Despite that, and putting real effort into it, I was unable to get it under control.

It is hard to accept you can’t drink like a “normal” person. I wish more than anything I could. Stopping is scary, and while there is a chance I’ll get to a point where I can go back to moderate drinking there is a very real possibility I won’t be able to. I am so sad that there are all sorts of amazing alcohols and drinks I won’t get to try. I worry about being left out of things because people assume I wouldn’t want to be a part of them if there is drinking there, or think I won’t be fun to have involved if I’m sober. I worry even if I’m physically there it will be emotionally different and I won’t bond with my friends if I’m not a part of the silly drunken fun.  I worry about being judged more negatively for the choice or need to be sober than I was for the stupid stuff I did when I was drunk. I worry people will think I’m judging them and get self-conscious being themselves around me.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate that Jason has been an AMAZING support, and I have a couple other people who have been pretty limitless in their patience of listening to me ramble, because my first 30 day were pretty ugly… and I still have moments of hard. I beat myself up A TON. I had anxiety attacks. I was overwhelmed with emotional ups and downs.  I had to go through tons of “firsts”- first sober party, first sober wedding, first sober holiday, first sober big heavy drinking realms event.  Everyone came with its own group of anxiety and fear. There will still be more in the coming months- first sober Christmas, first sober Uncle Cecil’s, first sober New Year’s, etc.  I’m learning how to be a part of things in a new way.

I have been going to meetings and at the advice of my doctor went onto a 9 month cycle of anti-depressants for my adjustment period. Both have helped a lot. I feel some level of shame and embarrassment that I need to use these tools to be successful. I wish I could just “be stronger”.

So why would I opt to celebrate my 90 days of sobriety by telling a bunch of people this? There are three reasons, first, because as I mentioned, I feel a lot of shame. It is core to who I am. I started off feeling shame about having a severely mentally ill mother. I evolved into feeling ashamed I was picked on and didn’t have friends. That shame and insecurity led me to be overly easily to influence and having a period where I used drugs, broke laws, and behaved horribly.  I moved on to adult shame about my drinking and how I behaved when I drank. Shame has been at the root of almost all my negative behaviors and choices. Secrets breed shame for me.  I’ve found as I share things, people usually let me know the fears of judgment and rejection are exaggerated in my mind.

Second because shame isn’t limited to me. There is a movement within it the recovery community to speak out and share stories, a belief that when people hide their recovery unless they can’t the world develops an incorrect perception of what it means to struggle with addiction.  That people see the stereo types and failures vs. the many people who are successful, healthy and balanced.   Every one of us who admits what we’re going through to our friends, families, and communities provides a more realistic, robust picture of what the experience is and means.

Third because they say that one of the best ways to stay sober is to help others with their sobriety, and I suspect all of you know me enough to know that is and will be especially true for me.  I WANT to be an example of someone who consciously worked to be the best person I could be. In that context I consider my challenges blessings, as I get the chance to be an example of someone who has worked through and continues to work through some pretty big hard stuff. I’ll never be considered someone who is “perfect”, “without flaws”, or “mistake free”, and very little has come easily for me. I like to think that makes me more empathetic and able to help others. So the third reason I’m sharing is so if you think what I’m doing might help someone else, I want you to know I’m doing it so you can feel free to have them contact me.

I’m not going to get preachy. I totally get that there are many healthy drinkers (of whom I’m very jealous). I’m not asking for any changes in what anyone else does or feels. I’m not sharing looking for anything particular back from people. I just consider moving towards more openness a step in my recovery. Thank you for reading and being a part of it.

Happiness

I went to a discussion meeting yesterday where the topic was happiness. For those that don’t go to AA, discussion meetings are where a topic is thrown out and people take turns speaking on it.  I didn’t speak yesterday. It was a big group and I still feel a bit shy in it, so I listened despite having a lot to say.

I didn’t really get sober to be “happy” at least not happy in the way I’ve always thought of it as. I always had this mental picture of happy being a like a sit com or romance novel. I’ve come to view those desires as unrealistic.

I got sober to not be miserable. To not be up and down. To not have crying fits and violent episodes. To not pass out. To not pee in public. To not make choices and act in ways inconsistent with my morals. Someone expressed it as not seeing happiness but Serenity. To me it is less about being happy than about being sane.

Sane is super foreign to me though. It feels awkward and weird. I feel like I’m in a pause waiting for life. I have trouble accepting calm as good.

I’m staying sober though. I’m waiting to get comfortable being here.

Day 86

Regrouping

It feels like it is time to regroup and put some focus back on my sobriety. It has been 74 days. There are times I’m fine now and ways I’ve adjusted. I’ve gotten smoother about not drinking without feeling the need to babble and explain or draw attention to the fact I’m not.

I had another dream about drinking last night though so I wouldn’t say the urges have completely passed.

This past weekend I did Mudderella, a 5 mile mud run with obstacles  (and I’m not naturally athletic so doing it at all was a big deal). At the end you get free hard cider. I took mine and took pictures toasting with my team of friends, then discreetly and quickly passed it off to a spectator friend who knows I’m not drinking. It was the single hardest drink to turn down thus far, but I never seriously thought about drinking it.

Trying to avoid too much pride and take it one day at a time though.