I have been hanging around 12 Step programs for many sunsets now. Unfortunately, most people consider me an old timer. Let me be perfectly clear here, I don’t consider my self old so much as seasoned – BaHaha. Anyway, it is not the time we have in recovery that makes a difference in the quality of out life, it is our willing to change and be changed. Our circumstances may not change for the better, but that does not mean that we can’t change for the better.
When I first started, I was so sure of what I thought had to happen for me to find peace, joy and happiness in my life. Boy I was wrong. I was so focused on what I thought other people had to do, that it did not occurred to me to mind my own business and to take care of myself. Right away they told me that this program was for an about me and not my alcoholic. I heard what they said, but I did not “hear” what they said. Stubbornly I held onto what other people needed to do for me to be happy.
I learned to talk the talk pretty well. I felt good in the meeting and then I went home and went right back to my old stinking thinking. They say in our program that when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired you will do something about it. For several years I went to meetings and just talked the talk and waited for other people to change. I talked the powerlessness of the first step and seemed to skip right over all of the insane things I was doing trying to control his drinking. I believed there was a power greater than me and I even surrendered my will and my life to Him. Of course I also believed that God helped those who helped themselves. So when I did not get the results that I wanted, in the time frame I wanted it, I believed that God needed my help and I jumped right in there trying to fix everything.
The breakthrough for me came when I hit the wall; the point of no return. I simply could not stand my life the way it was any longer. Existing was not acceptable anymore. I called my sponsor and cried out all of my hurt and frustration. She asked me if I was finally ready to take the first step. Letting go of trying to control was very scary. My sponsor told me to name one thing that I had tried to control my alcoholic and his drinking that had worked. I could not think of one. She asked me what else I thought that I could do that I haven’t tried yet. I could not think of a thing. In fact I was doing a lot of the same things over and over again.
When I finally took that first step I was surprised because I felt free. I had always been afraid that if I accepted my powerlessness, that I was also accepting a life without hope for happiness.
Accepting my powerlessness was not giving my approval. It was just finally accepting that this is the way that it is and there is not a darn thing I can do about it. I was so surprised at the sense of peace this step gave me. For the first time I felt free of the mental anguish and torture of trying to anticipate his every action, so that I could come up with a counter action to neutralize the problems he created. In taking that first step I gave him permission to make all the problems he wanted and permission to take care of any problem he created. I was no longer the clean up crew. It was his little red wagon and he had to pull it all by himself.
I had been going to meetings long enough, that I knew that who that I had the power to change was staring at me in the mirror. There is no recovery without self-honesty. It dawned on me that by putting all of my focus on my alcoholic I was avoiding looking at myself and the changes I needed to make. Once I took the focus off of my alcoholic and off of my childhood, I did not have an excuse anymore to fine happiness in my life. I had negative things about myself I needed to change, and I had positive things about myself that I needed to develop. My excuses were gone. There was no more sidestepping my responsibility to myself. My circumstances during this time in my life never changed for the better. But the positive changes in me were dramatic.