By focusing on my alcoholic I avoided looking at myself

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.

Very few people live a “charmed life”

There has been so much written about Codependency. On the internet alone there are thousands of articles explaining and defining Codependency. Most of those articles are written by the “experts” and the “professionals” who are trained and educated on Codependency. Many of them have workshops, clinics and write books on the subject. And then there are people like me who blog and write about it. I am not a trained professional and therefore I can only write about what I know from my own personal experience.

Based on everything that I have read, my life is a textbook example of a Codependent Life. I write this blog because I can’t not write it. When the idea first came to me I bought a book about blogging. The book said that if you can’t spell, if you don’t understand grammar and punctuation don’t waste your time blogging because no one will read it. My immediate reaction was to forget the blogging idea. So I canned the idea for several years.

You see, I am dyslexic. I am dating myself here, but when I was growing up we never even heard of that word. So I struggled in school. I was punished for my grades because I was “not trying,” “I was not paying attention,” and I was even considered not very smart. Dyslexia is not just reversing letters and numbers. For example, we can know that the proper word is “know” but we will write NO. We will read it many times and never see that we wrote NO instead of know. We “know” the difference between to and too and two but we may not see it when we write it. We may write it twenty times correctly and then write it ten times incorrectly and never see that we did it that way on paper. And of course there is the punctuation nightmare. I do know how to use a period, question mark and an exclamation point. Other than that I am totally lost. This problem has made me feel vulnerable all of my life.

Like I said earlier there is something in me that makes me write this blog and I believe that it is just my way of overcoming “one more” problem area in my life. I believe that I could be Codependent because of this one problem alone – even if I had not been raised in a dysfunctional home and even if I had not married an alcoholic. This one problem, at times, has made me feel dumb and inferior, and I have no doubt in my mind that I could have become a card carrying Codependent because of this one problem.

Regardless of the reason, heartbreak is heartbreak. I guess what I am trying to say this morning is that there are a lot of reasons why we become emotionally fragile in our lives. I have come to realize that very few people live a “charmed life.” Most of us experience heartbreak, disappointment, pain and suffering at one time or the other in our life time. Those experiences can make us or break us. We can learn from those experiences and own them or they will own us.

It wasn’t until I found my way to a 12 Step recovery program that it ever occurred to me to be an overcomer. Until then I had been resigned to be inferior to everyone else walking the planet. The acceptance, understanding and peace and happiness that I now enjoy is why I have such a love affair with my recovery programs. I know there are other ways, but the hope that I needed came through the 12 Steps. Each step helped me to peel back a layer of doubt, fear and insecurity. This blog is a “12” Step for me. The transparency I try to communicate on this blog is my way of carrying the message to others and practicing these principles in all my affairs. I want the walking wounded out there to know that they are not alone and that there is hope.

The death of a marriage

Without a doubt one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was to walk away from my marriage. Eighteen years; It took eighteen years for our marriage to die a slow painful death. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not been in recovery I would have hated him when it happened. Recovery helped me see that our divorce was another form of detachment with love. He would always be in my heart, but it was time that he was no longer in my life.

This decision did not come easy. There were many times that I fantasized about it and thought how much better my life would be without him in it. Others times I had nightmares and I was afraid of him leaving me and our family. I guess you could say that was all part of the love hate that came with living with an alcoholic. I did not want to be divorced and I did everything in my power to avoid it. There were even times that I thought that I had sold my sole to the devil to avoid it. But when it did happened, there was no screaming, yelling or drama. Both of us knew it was time.

My husband had almost three years of sobriety when he started drinking again. He also had a very sick heart that was caused by his drinking. When the doctors told him about his heart, they gave him about two and a half years to live. They told him to stop drinking and it may help him to live longer. When he started drinking again he told me he did not want any lectures. I told him there would not be any, he knew the consequences. He had been going to AA. I had been in my recovery program long before he stopped drinking. Both of us knew that I was powerless over his drinking and that he was the only one that could do anything about his drinking.

A couple of years after my divorce, I remarried. I had been remarried about five months when my first husband died. His death broke my heart. He would not see his girls grow up, or see them go off to college, walk them down the aisle, of hold his grandchildren. Even now it makes me sad that he missed out on so much because of that hateful disease.

According to the American Medical Association alcoholism is a disease. Alcoholism does not discriminate between young or old, male or female, rich or poor, educated or not, and it certainly doesn’t care what color your skin is. It destroys lives, jobs and careers, families, and friendships. I have no doubt in my mind that both my husband and myself tried to embrace the concepts of our recovery programs. He knew and I knew that his drinking was not a personal act toward or against me. We also knew that he was in a battle for his life.

My present husband, that sounds kind of funny doesn’t it, sounds like I have had a revolving door of husbands, but honestly I have only had the two, anyway my present husband thought that my first husband and I were very “civilized” in our divorced relationship. In many ways we were. I am not saying that we agreed on everything or that we never had “spirited debates” over anything, because we did. But because of what we had learned about alcoholism in our recovery programs, because we were taught to turn our will over to God, because we had a sponsor to help us see things realistically, we navigated the post divorce issues pretty well.

Our sponsors and our program taught us to look at our motives. Our marriage no longer worked and we knew that it was time to go our separate ways. Love had nothing to do with it. I loved him and he loved me, but love could not fix our problems. At that moment in time we were better off separate than we were together. It was time for each of us to look deep inside and come to terms with our history and what we wanted in our future. We had no desire to try and hurt each other.

According to the big book of AA self-honesty is critical to recovery. Jon was sober two years when he died. I believe that with the three years he had before his relapse and the two years after that, that he became a changed man. He was the man I knew he could be and not the diseased. Even though I write about our past life together, I do so to share the experience, strength and hope that my recovery program gave to me. But in all honesty when I look back at the life that I shared with him, I choose to hold onto, and cherish, the good moments of the man and not dwell on the disease the man had. There is no way I could separate the two without having my life transformed through the 12 Steps process.

This post is not advocating divorce. Believe me we did everything we could do to avoid it; our divorce was a last resort decision. We did not make that decision lightly. The death of our marriage was heart breaking and sad. The death of the man was devastating. He was a child of God as much as I am a child of God. Even though we were divorced and I had moved on I wanted him to fine peace and happiness in his life too. I do not believe that I could have had compassion an empathy for him if I had not had healing that I got through my recovery program.

Wisdom of the Serenity Prayer

There is so much wisdom in the Serenity Prayer. This prayer guides us through the chaos and the pandemonium in our lives. The only problem with this prayer, for me, was the way it had become a chant in my mind and not a resource to help me find a solution to my distress. I would say the words over and over again but at the same time my mind was running ahead trying to solve my problem. Eventually it dawned on me that I was only parroting the words. I need to sincerely pray the words.

“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” In the beginning, I really struggled with the past and I prayed this prayer because I could not let the past go. Self-pity was smothering me. I had to deal with the past to be able to move on. I can’t rewrite history; I can’t change the past. The only thing I can do with the past is change my attitude about my past. This attitude adjustment did not happen just because I said this prayer; But, saying this prayer did help me to have a sense of peace about what I had to do to be able to let the past go.

“Courage to change the things I can,” The operative word is “things.” The prayer does not ask for courage to change people, it ask for courage to change “things.” I am powerless over my alcoholic’s drinking and the insanity that comes with it.  I am powerless over his, as well as other people’s, behavior. I am not powerless over how I am going to respond to it. I can allow myself to get sucked into the chaos if I want to, or I can detach. Most of the time when I allow myself to get sucked into the chaos, it is not long before that chaos escalates into a full blown catastrophe because I allowed their chaos to make me crazy!!!  It is not easy to detach from their insanity. It takes courage to stand up to my fears of “What if?” But the real reality here, is that they are going to do what they want to do whether I like it or not. I can hang on to trying to control the uncontrollable or I can stand up to my fear over what they are doing and mind my own business. So for me it was like praying, God, grant me the serenity to have the courage to not get sucked into their insanity again.

The “wisdom to know the difference” of what I can and cannot change is key to my sanity. I have to confess their have been times that I have tried to change something that I could not change before I got the “wisdom to know the difference.” For me, their has been no clear rules to follow. Asking myself if this is my responsibility; Asking myself what is best for me; Asking myself if I can live with the consequences if things turn our different from how I want them too helps me to have the wisdom to know the difference. But the most important thing is asking for God’s guidance and for Him to help me understand what his will is for me in this situation.

I have found that earnestly praying this prayer has given me a sense of peace that allows me time and a clear head to take the action I need to take that gives me peace in my life.

For too long I let pride stand in my way

I have made some pretty bond-headed decisions in my life. And then when the reality caught up with me, I found myself struggling with pride issues. Admitting that I had made a colossal mistake was not easy; even to myself. Even when the reality and the truth was staring me in the face, for some reason I cannot explain, I did not have the courage to admit I was wrong and to walk away or to make the changes that I needed to make.

My first husband had red flags of warning all around him, but I was so desperate to leave my childhood home that I ignored the warnings. I told myself that I loved him and that he loved me, and that together we could conquer or fix anything. But I soon learned that two wrongs do not make a right. I was broken, he was broken and together we did not make either one of us whole. I had not waited for God’s guidance in my life. I took matters into my own hands and made decisions trying to for a solution that I thought that I wanted. There is a saying to be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

So what did I do when I realize that I had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire? Did I admit my mistake and walk away? Heck No! I tried harder to force a solution that would support my decision. But nothing I did worked. The harder I tried, the more obvious it became that I had made a titanic mistake. You would think I would be ready to throw in the towel and admit my mistake, but unfortunately that was not the case.

For as long as I could remember I saw myself as a victim. I was so sure that all of my problems were someone else’s fault. It never occurred to me that I contributed to the problems in my life. I was lonely and afraid and I could justify all of my bone-head decisions in my mind; But, I could not admit that I had made a mistake. I could not admit that I added gasoline to the fire. I could not admit that I was wrong.

Did you see all of the “I’s” I used. Everything was all about I, I, I, and me, me, me. Poor me! Self-pity and self-will ran me on a merry goose chase. I could blame the world for all of my problems as long as I lived in denial. But, in order for me to heal and grow, I had to look honestly at myself, and my life, and at the “decisions that I made.” And guess what I found when I did that? I found that I was the root or that I was involved in many of the problems in my life.

Even when I knew that I made a mistake, even when I knew what I needed to do to get back on track, I still would not let go and admit that I had made mistakes that exacerbated the other insecurities in my life. Pride and fear had a strangle hold on me. I did not want to admit how wrong I was and I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of never having anyone special to care about me. I was afraid of having all of the responsibilities of the kids all by my self. I was wore out and exhausted trying to do it all.

I was facing a pretty daunting decision. I could save face and commit myself to a life time of misery because I was not willing to admit I made some pretty bad mistakes, or I could face the truth and rebuild my life by putting my will and my life into God’s care and guidance. Neither decision was going to be easy and things would not be pleasant for a good while. In the end I chose to face up and refocus my life toward healing and recovery. Sure there was pain in the decisions I paid. But the way my sponsor put it to me that it was it was necessary to go through that show term pain in order for me to experience the joy and peace in my life in the long term.

The self-honesty my recovery programs require is what helped me let go of my false pride. It was only through Steps 6 and 7 (becoming entirely ready for God to remove my character defects) and (asking for God’s help to remove those short comings) that I was able to get my life back on track.

My recovery programs have a powerful influence over how I live my life.

Me? Control issues? Come on man! I did not have control issues!!! I was just doing what I had to do trying to control my out of control life; but I wouldn’t classify what I was doing under the “control issues” column. I was merely running interference trying to minimize chaos and destruction in my life. But control? Never! I was completely unaware and oblivious that I had a little, well maybe a lot, of manipulation going on. I was simply trying to survive the best way I knew how without drawing attention to myself.

As a child I was completely defenseless against the rules and decisions my parents made for and about my life, especially when those matters hurt me and left me feeling insecure. As an adult I tried to do everything in my power to ensure that I would not feel that hurt and insecurity any more. As a child I was not allowed to have a voice or an opinion. “Children were to be seen and not heard.” What that overpowering control taught me was to be stealthy and antonyms when I was trying to make my hopes and dreams come true. It was not a conscious behavior on my part. It was just something I learned as a child to survive.

Transparency and honesty in my relationships never occurred to me. Nowhere in my life had anyone been interested in what I felt, what I thought or what I wanted. I knew that I was powerless, but I hated feeling powerless. So I tried desperately to control the uncontrollable through manipulation and subterfuge. Of course ninety-nine point nine percent of the time it didn’t work. The few times that it did work my victory felt hollow and I was always waiting for the other shoe to fall and destroy what I thought I had gained.

To say I was confused was an understatement. My burning desire was to be accepted, but I never trusted the real me with anyone. I was constantly trying to be all things to all people. In away, I kept the very people that I wanted to like me at arms length so that they would not have the opportunity to hurt or reject me. I know the whole thing sounds confusing. It was confusing to me too! By the time I started going to my recovery meetings I had no idea who the real me was.

This kind of life taught me that a life without honesty was shallow and insecure. Emotionally crippled, I did not have the skill set to have real honest to good healthy relationships with anyone. In recovery I learned that I had a choice of how I was going to allow my past, or the hurt in my present circumstances, define me and how I lived my life. The scary part was that I knew how to survive in the hurt; it was the only life I knew. In the beginning I was afraid and intimidated to reach out for something better. It was through my recovery programs that I learned how not just how to survive, but I learned how to thrive and be happy.

My recovery programs have a powerful influence over how I live my life. Through my programs I found I had a whole tool chest full of all of just the tools I need to survive and thrive. I talk about the 12 Steps all the time and how they transformed me. But there is more in my tool chest than the 12 steps. I had all of these little slogans that I could grab onto to help guide me through turbulent waters in my life. I was constantly reminded that Rome wasn’t built in a day – this is a One Day At A Time program. I did not get this way overnight and I was not going to wake up tomorrow and instantly be changed from the inside out. My sponsor constantly reminded me to look at my motive. Was I doing the right thing for the right reason?

Slowly over time I began to learn how to trust which led me to the most powerful tool in my tool box; The 3rd Step. Turning my will and my life over to God’s care took the lid off of the pressure-cooker that was my life. Getting the wisdom to know the difference from the Serenity Prayer was turning every issue great or small over to God’s care. Taking that 3rd Step also made manipulation and control very uncomfortable for me. Trusting God with my will and my life takes daily action on my part. As long as I trust God with the decision making process in my life I am fine. Now, I recognize that my feelings of insecurity are directly portionable to how willing I am to let go and let God be in control of my life. When I am obsessed with trying to force the solution that I want my emotions are like a yo-yo. I am way either up or way down.  Trusting God is the only way I can face life’s challenges and still keep my sanity.

At the top of my gratitude list is my alcoholic

Before I ever even meet my alcoholic, I felt so insignificant in my own eyes that it never occurred to me to do something to help myself. So I waited, and I waited, and I waited for somebody to save me from my painful life. I waited, and I waited, and I waited for someone to say or do something to make me feel good about myself. On the grand scheme of things I believed that I was inferior to everyone else and I was too afraid to believe in happy ever after.

Don’t get me wrong, poor pitiful me would lash out at times and demand that life treat me right, but at the first little bit of resistance I would fold. There were also times I held on so tightly to what I thought I needed to be happy that I missed other opportunities to live out my fantasy life. Fear immobilized and incapacitated my ability to make good decisions. Many times I could not make a decision at all; which we all know means, that in not making a decision I deciding to allow things to continue as they were.

SO! At the top of my gratitude list is my alcoholic. Without him I would never have gone to those 12 Step recovery meetings. I was so insulated in my survival bubble that for a while I could not grasp what they were saying to me in those meetings. What the heck did they mean that I was powerless, somebody had to stop him from self-destructing. Being happy whether the alcoholic was drinking or not; give me a break. Who are you kidding? Changing what I can – ah — that would be me. I don’t think so.  I have tried to be all things to all people,  what more could they ask of me? Just the thought of trusting God with my will and my life scared me half to death. Trust God? Where has He been all these years of my pain and suffering? What did I do that was so wrong? Who knows why He did not save me.  Maybe He has been punishing me for all these years.

Then there was that whole inventory thing and sharing it with another person. Are you kidding me? There was no way in this world that I was going to talk about the wounds inside me with someone else. As far as my defects of character were concerned, I admit it I am a mess, I am broken. To many defects to count. Not fixable! The only people I hurt are the ones that deserved it. Most of the time they were the ones that had hurt me first. Sure sometimes I lashed out at the wrong people, but anyone would that had to live in the bad dream that I was living. I was under a lot of pressure and stress and my negative actions could not be helped. Just the thought of having to make amends ticked me off. What about all of the people who had hurt me? Who was going to hold them accountable.

I had to sit in several meeting before the fog of war began to be lifted enough for me to hear that I was powerless over his drinking and it was not my fault. There was no need to stress myself trying to do the impossible.  Learning to make myself a priority taught me to be happy in my life. My happiness was not contingent on anyone else affirming my worthiness. God was a loving God; Not a punishing God. I am not a bad person, but I am not perfect. God loves me no matter what, but he will use all of my hurts to help me learn to be at peace with myself. I made some bad decisions, from time to time, and I am responsible for my decisions, just like my alcoholic, and every other person on the planet is responsible for their decisions. The only way I can heal and move on is to make right what I can, and forgive and ask for forgiveness over transgressions in my life, because forgiveness allows me to move on.

I lived in denial and make believe for a long time. But no matter how much I denied the problems in my life it did not change the problem. It was only when I faced the truth that I could give myself an opportunity to make the choice of how I was going to allow the truth to affect my life. I could allow the truth to cripple me or use it to launch a new and wonderful beginning.  Yep!  it was time to stop floating down the river of denial and start living.   All of the 12 Steps have been building blocks in my life. Each one built and reinforced the other. What was also interesting to me was the timing. It seemed that each step was timed to reveal enough of the truth to me to allow me to take the next step that I needed to take to become whole.

Learning how to believe in me

I used to believe that if I just understood why that I could solve all my problems. Understanding why did not fix my problems. Besides there were somethings that obviously I was not meant to understand the why of. Understanding why I was insecure did not stop me from being insecure. Understanding why I could not control my husbands drinking did not stop me from trying to control his drinking. Understanding why I was fearful, needy and lonely did not stop me from being fearful, needy and lonely. You get the drift here.

Understanding why was not the solution. The damage had been done; my self-esteem had taken a serious hit. The damage created a vacuum, a void, inside of me that at times I tried to fill with people, places and things. It didn’t work. I felt inept, inadequate, inferior and alone. How could anyone else like me when I did not even like me? Nothing on the outside could heal the hurt on the inside of me. It could not stop my compulsive behavior to make other people like and except me. It did nothing to make me feel secure in my own skin.

I carried around a lot of baggage when I came into this program. I had contempt and self-pity for myself – anger, resentment and jealously for others. My perception of myself was wrapped up in my problems, in my alcoholic and in other people’s opinions of me. It was a long time before I could believe that other people, places and things did not define me.

Every time I sacrificed my needs for someone else’s wants it peeled another strip away from my self-esteem. Every time I allowed other people to use and take advantage of me it stripped a piece of my self-esteem off. Every time I accepted someone else’s ugly words directed at or towards me I lost another piece. The more of myself I lost, the more vulnerable and susceptible I became to be used and manipulated by other people.

Once I bought into someone else’s hurtful words and actions toward me then I joined the band wagon and began to say ugly things toward myself too. In order to experience healing and restoration in my soul, I had to learn to talk differently to myself. I learned that the private conservations I have with myself determine the direction of my life. In order for me to change it became necessary for me to learn to talk lovingly and kindly to myself. Even though I cannot always control the thoughts that popped into my head, I do control whether or not I am going to keep thinking about them and allowing them to take root in my mind.

Learning how to “live and let live” was not easy for me. There was no quick fix. It took a conscious effort on my part to just be me and allow other people to be whatever they wanted to be. I did not have to make someone else bad or wrong for me to be right. We could be two people with two different opinions. Probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life was to not get sucked into explaining and justifying myself to others. I could say no thank you without giving a reason. I could choose something different, I could like something different or want something different and that was okay.

More times than not I have been my own worse enemy. Through denial and berating myself for past mistakes, I made this harder than it had to be. The wisdom of Step 4 helped me uncover the way I disrespected myself. In Step 7 I ask for God’s help to stop the self abuse and in the 8th Step I found myself at the top of my amends list. Forgiving myself in Step 9 allowed me the freedom to live and be happy in ways I never dreamed were possible.

I have a choice – the solution or the problem

Human Hand Drawing Check on Solution and X on Problem Boxes. Isolated on Gray Background.

I don’t know how it is, or has been for others, but for me, my Codependent patterns, many times, were at odds with each other. Sometimes I was in complete denial about my reality and how I felt about it. Other times all of my feelings were screaming and raging about the injustices that I felt. So many times I ran around trying to take care of everyone and everything, even when I wasn’t ask. Then I would feel like others took advantage of me and used me. Sometimes i could not make a decision and other times I made impulsive and rash emotional decisions not even based on fact. Many times I comprised my wants, needs, feelings, and beliefs to avoid anger or rejection. Other times I would reject others before they had a chance to reject me. All of these things are only a small sampling of some of the angst and apprehension that I struggled with on a daily basis.

After years of working to overcome some of these crippling character defects, I realize now that they were nothing more than symptoms of a broken heart and broken trust. They were my way of camouflaging or denying the reality that I lived. But even though I was in denial the reality did not change and therefore my reality rescripted and transformed my views on life in a negative way. You see, denying my reality did not change my reality, but it did harm and change me.

When I first started writing my 4th step inventory I was overwhelmed with emotions. My hands moved quickly across the page laying out all of the hurt, pain and rejection that I felt. I thank God for the 5th, Step because the 4th Step left me raw and exposed. It was thought the 5th Step – that my sponsor, with love, gave me honest feedback in a way that encouraged me helped me look back at my past objectively. There was still a lot of pain, but now I could see that the injustices in my life were in no way my fault. I was not responsible for someone else’s flaws.

In my 5th Step my sponsor also helped me to see my own wrongs and my own character defects without justification and without censure and condemnation. There is a saying that two wrongs don’t make a right. Regardless of what other people did or did not do I was still responsible for my own behavior. Through this process I learned that I was not responsible for cleaning up anyone else’s behavior but I was responsible for cleaning up mine. Therefore, in order for me to move on in my life I would need to forgive others and I would need to forgive myself.

It was through the openness and transparency of the 4th and 5th Step that I began to see a new me emerge. It was in these two steps where I truly began to take ownership for my life and my actions. Up and until then, I saw myself as a victim and to a degree I had been a victim. But now that I knew better, it was up to me whether I was going to sacrifice the rest of my life to the sins of others from my past, or was I going to take back my life. I had this amazing sponsor who encouraged me and made me feel embolden to change my life. I was not born a loser and it was time for the real me to finally be revealed.

Every once in a while I can still be blindsided by stinking thinking but it never last very long, because of that 10th Step that requires me to continue to take inventory of events in my life and when I am wrong to promptly admit it. Even then, sometimes, I just don’t want to let those negative feelings go and I will have to stew in my own misery juices until I am ready to let it go. The problem is now I know better and I know I am wrong. There is this little voice in my head calling my bluff and telling me to get over my bad self. That is when I call someone in my program to talk it out. Now that I have had a taste of peace, joy and happiness in my life I just don’t like being unhappy anymore.

Don’t give up – Because it works if you work it

Young sad girl sitting alone in an empty room

Living with alcoholism is daunting to say the least. For the people who live with a loved one, or someone, who struggles with alcoholism the uncertainty and the helplessness of daily exposure to that environment leads to fear and resentment. As long as I was angry I pushed myself to survive. In my mind I was going win over the chaos in my life. But when I finally hit the wall of despair and helplessness, I lost hope. Even my anger could not push me to keep going. I just did not care what happened anymore. I did not believe there was anyway out of the pain and shambles of my life.

I know that this is not going to make any sense, but even though I felt hopeless, I simply could not let go and walk away from my alcoholic. At that time I did not know that my life was separate from his life. I saw myself as an extension of him. Even though I dreamed and fantasied about being free and away from him, at the same time I could not imagine my life without him. There is no doubt that I had some pretty messed up thinking. I could not explain it to myself, and I sure as heck could not explain it to all of my family and friends who were constantly trying to tell me what to do.

When I first heard that first step – “We admit that we are powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable” – I though great, just another nail in my coffin! I knew there was no hope. What the heck did I come to this stupid meeting for! I did not want to be told that I needed to accept powerlessness! Darn it! I wanted a message of hope and that first step was just confirming what I already faced day in and day out. There was no hope.

That type of negative thinking is just one of the reasons they encourage new people to go to meetings for 6 or 8 weeks before they make a decision about the recovery program. Back when I started they encouraged us to go a minimum of 90 meetings before we made any type of decision about whether we were going to continue or not. Believe me, I need all 90 meetings to hear the true meaning, the meaning of hope, from the first step.

It was through those 90 meetings that I “heard” that I was not an extension of him. A seed of hope had been planted. I was not only not an extension of him, but I was not responsible for him and the decisions that he made. Another ray of hope. It was also through those 90 meetings that I heard that I was responsible for me. Even though I heard it, I did not have the courage at that time to act on it. Interestingly enough they closed every meeting with the phrase “keep coming back – it works if you work it.”

So I kept going back. I really did not have anywhere else to go. I had angered and worn out all of my family and friends. They didn’t want to hear it anymore and I didn’t want to hear their advice anymore either. That was one of the things about my recovery program that I liked. No body told me what to do. They shared what their life was, or had been, like. They told me what they did to help themselves. And, they shared how they lived their life ,each day, living in the same kind of chaos that I lived in. I wasn’t judged for not “working the program.” They shared the beauty of the program and allowed me the dignity to accept it or not. They helped me stay in the moment and live One Day At A Time, and when necessary, one moment at a time.

I would get so frustrated with myself because I wanted to follow the guidelines and go from defeat and pessimism to hope and optimism overnight, but that is not how it happened for me. They explained to me how I did not get this way over night . I needed to keep and open mind and I needed be kind to myself. This type of acceptance and unconditional love carried me, and lifted me up when I was fragile and barely hanging on at times. And over time I learned that they were right, you can’t give up because “it works if you work it.”