Ten months

My last post was 11 months ago.  Last December was a bad month.  I was depressed, angry, and often suicidal (yeah, I know, just like every other post I have written).  December ended with the beginning of what will hopefully turn out to be my last drinking bout.  My last drink was on January 7 of this year, and I’m a week shy of 10 months of continuous sobriety.  Ten months beats the hell out of my previous record of 60 days.

A lot has happened in the past ten months.  I’ve worked my way through the 12 steps, and now try each day to practice the principles of the steps in my daily living.  I’ve been through some pretty significant health issues.  I’ve spent about one month out of the ten lying on the floor because of lower back problems.  I’ve been offered a promotion…and then passed over for it.  I’ve been in 2 car accidents (no…not drinking and driving, and neither was my fault).  In short, I’ve gone through things that in my drinking days I never imagined that I could get through without drinking, and yet I’ve remained sober.

I guess all of this begs the question…what happened that I could remain sober through all of these things when last year I couldn’t put together more than 2 months of sobriety?  I think that the day of my last drink can help shed some light on that.  I had started drinking again on the day after Christmas.  On January 7, I was at a party that one of my coworkers was hosting at his home.  After being there for a couple of hours, I broke down and poured myself a drink.  Bourbon and coke, one of my old favorites.  I took a couple of sips…and suddenly a realization came over me.  If I drank that drink, I would invariably have another.  And another.  And who knew when or if it would ever end.  This realization was nothing new, of course.  I knew that I was a drunk.  The really startling realization was that I had the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to live…and potentially die…this way.  I poured the drink out.  I don’t know that I had ever poured a drink out before.

AA oldtimers say that this was a moment of spiritual awakening.  Maybe so.  All I knew at that moment was that I desperately wanted to be free from my addiction and that I was not moving in the right direction for that to happen.  Something had to change.  For me, this was a moment of complete surrender.  I was willing to do anything to keep from having to drink again.

I’ve worked damn hard in the past 10 months.  The steps demand rigorous honesty, intense self-evaluation, and willingness to admit faults and make restitution.  There are days when it doesn’t seem like it’s worth all the hassle, and, honestly, there are days when I slack off and don’t do the kind of work that I need to.  I know today that this is okay, as long as I am able to wake up the next day and get back on the beam.

I’ve done things in the past 10 months that I never imagined myself doing.  I’ve attempted to make amends to people that I frankly never wanted to speak with again.  I’ve started meditating and even have joined a meditation group.  I went on a spiritual retreat with a couple hundred other sober men.  I even led a special Memorial Day AA meeting at 3 in the morning.  I’ve worked to address my character flaws and have become less cynical, less angry, and less afraid.

The payoff to all this work?  The biggest clearly is that I’m sober.  Not only am I not drinking, I can honestly say that I don’t have those crazy, obsessive, “Oh my God I’m going to die if I don’t get a drink” feelings anymore.  Beyond that, though, for the first time in my life I am developing a deep assurance that no matter what happens in my life, I can be okay.  That doesn’t mean everything in my life will be okay, just that I can handle whatever life throws at me today because I have the tools and resources necessary to deal with it.

I am intensely grateful to AA and to the steps of recovery for these gifts.  Learning to trust that the program does “work if you work it” has allowed me to surrender and stop fighting, which in turn has allowed me to begin to experience true sobriety.  I’ve not arrived.  In fact none of us ever do.  I’m beyond doubt still a work in progress.  Not every day is good.  But today I’m convinced that if I work my program of recovery I will not have to drink and will have a reasonably peaceful existence.  I’m also convinced, though, that the wolf is still at the door, just waiting for me to get lax in my recovery.  I don’t want to be back where I was last December, so I’m going to keep plugging along at this recovery journey, one day at a time.

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