What happens when your program seems stale or hits a plateau and you find yourself sidelined in a recovery rut? Bored to tears with program slogans or tired of seeing the same faces, sharing the same stories? I know I’ve hit this speed bump when I hear circus music playing in my head as I pull into the parking lot of my home group. I’m blessed to live in an area where there are numerous meetings; day and night – spanning several fellowships. So why complain about sobriety being mundane? Normally when I feel this way I sit next to the most appreciative, corny, happy-go-lucky soul I can find and pray I can hold their hand at meeting’s end while I mumble the Serenity Prayer. But that plan only works if I actually make it to a meeting. The problem is, addicts as a group are easily bored and despise change. These two worlds don’t mix well. Especially when my expectations are high or I’m lacking a core nugget of knowledge. Which is – I’m a spiritual midget; in a 12 step spiritual program which requires me to do step work, be of service to others, avoid resentments and face my fears.
So why would I question whether or not I need a meeting or whether to call my sponsor? Why do I hesitate to send out a quick text, “hey not in a good space, you around for a meeting or coffee?” At first I delayed because I was so damn gun shy from decades of letting my disease dictate my every move. I didn’t trust my instincts. When my cat is hungry it bellows with high-pitched pleas, “Feed me, I’m hungry.” I on the other hand tend to stay silent when I’m craving help. Mostly it’s because my new found freedom and happiness has afforded me a busy life and I’m a self-centered ego maniac. I have a hard time following through with a prescription for a healthy life style. The only recipe or script I ever immediately filled, followed or finished was the one my doctor wrote for a Fentanyl patch or the drink the bartender gently slid my way. If it doesn’t come with a guarantee, quick reward or payoff or requires any pain I can be skeptical. I gambled and wasted away so much of my time. My spine shivers with shame when I think of my loved ones’ blood, sweat and tears that I abused. So when I finally woke up in the ICU, I was one very impatient, angry consumer. I was scared mostly. Honestly, a 110% shattered. Hope seemed like a four letter word to me. I should have come with a warning label that read: WARNING – Please don’t add liquor or opiates – This one is very needy. Oh, and very untrusting. Impatient. Open carefully!
After my head defrosted and my heart followed suit, I started reaching out to people. I became more social and started finding these “things” in my phone contacts called friends. Real friends. Sober souls. I started spending time with my daughter and family. I began to write again, fell in love and my recovery found itself seated in coach instead of first class. I couldn’t even spell the word gratitude, let alone compile a list of my blessings. I only knew foxhole prayers and I wasn’t chanting or petitioning any higher power when I finally began to feel good. Sounds pretty selfish and stingy, huh? Yes, it was! I had heard the saying, “a grateful alcoholic will never drink again.” I leaned in closer when an old timer said, “I never picked up a drink without thinking of myself first.” Gratitude is an action word, just like I’m sorry is a verb in my book. But I felt so empty when I first got sober. Like there was this huge Grand Canyon-sized void running smack through the center of my soul. When I left the half-way house I attended for 9 months I started grabbing onto anything (aside from a drink or drug) to fill that void. I was like an old lady on a bus clutching her handbag. Unsteady, walking on new sober terrain. During breaks from my job I would watch toddlers play that game where they spin around blindfolded and then laugh as they watch each other try to walk a straight line. That was me! Lost like a puppy. With no GPS except my old logic telling me to find something, anything that would make me feel loved or invisible or just plain human please!
The curse of the “egomaniac with an inferiority complex” was screaming at me. Love me, love me, love me, but please don’t get to know me in the process. Love me from the outside and don’t get too close because you may find out how damaged I’ve really become. Once I figured out that my new job, boyfriend, home or pair of boots wasn’t making me feel better I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that the issue was ME! All our workaholic, shopaholic, sexaholic, fill in the blank – void filling activities were only making the void bigger. That Grand Canyon sized ditch wasn’t being filled with spiritual solutions or step work but with quicksand – quick fix rewards. All my half measures availed me was a big fat lie. One that whispered to me, “the recovery world may not be your cup of tea”. My disease is like a toddler that’s been placed in time out. It’s pissed. Or sneaky and mentions the notion of “just isolate and spend some quality time alone”. Not sitting in meditation alone or solace but just sitting in my fair, smelly share of shit.
Thankfully, there was a small window of grace that told me to recharge my recovery. I was living on borrowed time. The second chance I was given needed to be polished and praised like an old family heirloom. Why do addicts think that the rules of society and nature of a progressive disease don’t apply to them? For some reason death and stats of relapse didn’t scare me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “I’ve got this, my addiction is in remission now”, but I know for sure I’ve smelt the smoke rising from someone’s head as I slowly watched them talk their way out of a recovery program. And that smell stinks! It’s deadly. The salvaged addict who comes back always has a horror story which is rated “R” and terribly worse than the opening number.
One of the first things I do in the morning, before I start scribbling, is I head back to the same half-way house I completed nearly 7 years ago. I take a fellow addict who’s suffering just like me to a meeting. Why? First off, because Crawford House saved my life; but secondly because my capacity to remember how horrible the tail end of my addiction had truly become can fade. I was a very lucky maiden sailing on a ship of fools. And I need to remind myself of that in so many ways. Every day. Just like the way I used. Every day. I don’t care if it’s in reading some recovery literature or calling someone you know who “isn’t feeling it”. I’m always at my best when I’m giving back. How dare I be spiritless walking on a planet filled with miracles! I’m engulfed by hope and fear all day. What I devour each moment speaks volumes in my attitude. My advice, pay forward second chances; they usually work wonders.