Sobering Thoughts

Archive for the month “October, 2012”


I had no idea when I first decided to join the Recovery community that I was insane. I had certainly lost “hope”  and sensed that I was “powerless” over Alcohol as it said in the 1st Step. However, “unmanageable” was not a word I could use to describe myself because I had not yet lost anything material. It has been my experience that until I lose things, I can live in an alternative reality that I create from my own lies.  I learned, and continue to learn by working the 2nd Step, that I am broken, that my life is made up of pieces that do not fit together anymore.  As I came to believe in a “power greater than myself,” I was able to see how my will was the culprit.  My will made only eg0-based decisions that allowed me to believe that life was a game of survival of the fittest and everyone was my enemy.  When everything is about survival, winning, and out-smarting your foes it becomes more and more clear that you are insane.  So,  I have had to learn how to align my will with God’s will.  It is hard to accept this reality, because it requires me to trust that God has my back, and this faith is a life-long pursuit.  It has also been my experience that people think this that  an individuals will does not matter; I couldn’t disagree more!  This alignment of wills has shown me that survival is not recovery.  Thriving is what recovery is about – learning in the Rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous to be in relationship with other people and then going back into the world to “practice the principles in all our affairs.”  Today I know that I have “come to believe that a power greater than myself” and that this power has “restored me to sanity.”  Sanity, which comes from Sanskrit, means “wholeness.”

Illuminate the Dark

It wasn’t long into  Sobriety when I learned that the problem was how I lied to myself.  I wasn’t long into Sobriety before I began to learn the life saving importance of sharing my secrets. My idea of peace prior to getting Sober was to go home, close the door, and silence the voices in my head with alcohol.  This place of isolation was rich with opportunities to create stories that said I was not okay and therefore must lie to everyone to make them believe I was someone else.  The honesty that comes with working Step 1 allowed me to begin to unravel the twisted path I had traveled to fit in.  Since many of us carry the feeling inside us that we are less than others it is easy, once in the Program, to see that the need to exaggerate was a lie, but the only option we could see since we were focused on the darkness in our souls rather than the light.  Through working all of the Steps to uncover the patterns I engaged in while using, by focusing specifically on the 5th Step where I shared my dark secrets with God and another human being, I have come to a place where exposure, not retreat,  is the only way to grow and change; imagine trying to grow anything in the dark!  Long before I fully understood it, I entered a room of drunks and “we” agreed to stop lying to ourselves and to others in order to protect our secret: Alcohol. Today, I use my 11th Step to continually seek the light and not relapse into old ways of thinking that want to sabotage a life of light, where acceptance and peace govern my thinking instead of deception.

“No Opinions on Outside Issues”

Part of our Recovery  literature discusses the importance of avoiding outside opinions (political, social, etc.) during meetings; the 12 Traditions which are the guidelines for our groups and similar to the 12 Steps which are guidelines for the Alcoholic, make it clear that the group conscience not the individual conscience govern us. For obvious reasons this focuses the meetings on things pertaining to getting and staying sober by working the 12 Steps.  I suspect this is also why, when we share our “experience, strength, and hope” it is through the lens of our life with alcohol and our new life without it – with specific attention given to what happened during our “psychic change.”  The importance of our “common purpose” cannot be overstated here.  I have recently become concerned, however, that  because of social media and Facebook’s friends this concept is becoming harder to uphold. I used to have a Sponsor who said: “We must love everybody in Recovery, but we cannot or should not like everyone.”  I hear these words in my head repeatedly this last few weeks as I read the venomous filled posts of people I have allowed to call me their friends.  How can I possibly listen to them with any seriousness when they claim they will be there for me when I am going through a difficult time in Recovery? Yes, I too make posts, and what I haven chosen to post are opinions on outside issues.  In my defense, however, I read and research the facts first and do not ask everyone to be my friend. But the larger point here, is that we need to be careful. The larger question is why are we chosing friends based on acquaintance or affiliation (haven’t we learned this from the problems our kids face on these websites?).  We should be chosing friends because we trust and value them as people.  Social media, like Facebook, is a place to share ideas, thoughts, images, and stories. I have decided it is not a place to build trusting relationships for Recovery. In fact, I have unfriended people who will lead to the disintegration of my Recovery because they violate the fabric of trust that I need in place to stay “honest and open and willing” in my meetings.  In other words, when I go to a meeting it is important that I reach out to any and all newcomers; this action of service helps me stay sober.  The reality is that I do not need to know the beliefs of a newcomer to help them. However, I am now becoming aware that the longer someone stays sober and the more they share about themselves and their opinions on outside issues, the harder it is for me to believe or trust them.  As a therapist once said, you must discern in real life what you will let in.  I am for All people and for All human rights because Recovery has taught me we are all the same.  More importantly, I do not want to live separate lives anymore, I want to practice principles in All aspects of my life.  Recovery gives me choices and I have made the choice today to start choosing my friends differently. When I was in the gutter drunk someone stepped down from their perch to help me. I sincerely wonder if some of the people in Recovery speaking with such disdain for those less fortunate, would do the same.  Ask yourselves if reading these messages helps or harms your Recovery and act.


The word paradox literally translates to unbelievable and the unbelievable truth is that some people stay sober and some do not.  It makes me incredibly sad when this happens, but the truth is I cannot stay sober for someone else and it is not my job to “carry” the alcoholic.  The Recovery program is full of paradoxes, another of which is that when someone else drinks I learn how to stay on the right track by listening to what happened to them and avoiding their mistakes.  To an outsider this may seem harsh, but to an Alcoholic in Recovery it means that “the sermons we see not the sermons we hear” are our greatest teachers. So when I help another Alcoholic through service like sponsorship, leading meetings, and giving leads, it is I who am saved even when they may drink.  To me this is the greatest paradox; through my actions toward others I receive the grace of God and continued Recovery.  This bittersweet truth about the nature of Recovery is that our actions keep us sober.  In the end then we learn that our individual actions, purposeful thinking is what keeps us sober.  I believe the obsession of the mind is broken when we turn toward others and away from self.  If this chain of thinking and behavior is not broken, however, we continue to live in isolation as it is says in the Big Book chapter “A Vision For You.”

“Never could we recapture the great moments of the past. There was an insistent yearning to enjoy life as we once did and a heartbreaking obsession that some new miracle of control would enable us to do it.  There was always one more attempt – and one more failure.”

This line describes the awful paradox of needing a drink and not being able to drink. Until this thinking is replaced and a psychic change occurs the Alcoholic is doomed to failure.  However, the Recovering Alcoholic must continue to reach out to these people (we were once them) to save ourselves.

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