The Power of Addiction


Written on Day 36 of Sobriety

Never underestimate the power of addiction, no matter what you are addicted to.  As I write this it’s pouring rain (red zone on the radar) and my 70+-year-old neighbor is sitting outside in the rain to smoke, literally risking pneumonia.  That’s not joy, that’s addiction.  While I am disgusted by smoking I cannot judge her because I understand addiction is physical.

If you’ve read my blog long (or scroll back) You’ll see that I’ve had some domestic violence issues in my past.  Addiction fueled them.  He’s in a live-in treatment facility, and I am working on my program.  I go to family violence court with him.  It’s been enlightening for so many reasons.

Yesterday for the first time in my six months of attending, there was a female defendant.  She carried herself like a competent professional woman, well dressed, well spoken.  She did not look like an addict or an abuser. When her time to speak came up, I learned that after her initial release from jail she missed court and was remanded.  As part of the remand, they tested her and she was positive for Meth, she made bail and was tested two additional times (once there’s a dirty test, “random” testing is super frequent)  both of which were dirty.  She’s been trying to get a bed at a treatment facility and can’t due to overcrowding.  She was crying and begging for treatment.  So sadly, she ended up back in jail, which given the destructiveness of her addiction is the safest place for her to be for herself and her family.

Only after fighting alcohol, telling myself I can use like normal more than once only to be reminded I am not normal, can I empathize with her.  I don’t know her full story, I may not even like her, but I do know that the appeal of that drug is so strong that knowing it could send her to prison, knowing she could lose the ability to see her children, knowing she was going to be tested, she could not keep herself from using.

Alcohol isn’t meth, in my mind, it’s worse because you can’t buy meth at the grocery store and (presumably) it’s not served at dinner parties, but it kills 89,000 people a year and steals 2.5 million hours of life each year.  Meth isn’t candy, it killed 70,000 people in 2017 but still less than AL.

We are so very lucky to be here, to have each other and to work the program.  But for the Grace of God I found this sobriety, a sponsor and support.  I am blessed that I realized the danger I was in before my bottom included having to be incarcerated to protect me from my addiction.  I cried as I watched her testify and I’m not a mushy person.  It was physically and emotionally painful.  She will forever be in my toolbox because one more drink could be the one that puts me on a relapse that ends my ability to live life on my terms as a free woman.

I love chocolate, I keep a bowl of dove milk chocolates at all times for the safety of others.  It soothes me when I’m moody (this is science y’all),  but if I knew that one of those chocolates in this bowl or a future bowl would kill me or someone I love, I’d have no problem throwing them away and learning a new way to cope. That’s exactly what a drink is – the first one will be fine — then what?  Not worth it.


Snowflakes are All Made of Snow

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 8.04.48 AM

Written on Day 31 of Sobriety

One of my close friends is constantly lamenting “the snowflake generation.”  For a couple years I’ve just let her vent and not really thought about it.  But recently, while sitting in a meeting, I was hit full-force with the realization that being alone is a selfish choice that enables us to wallow in hyperbolic dispair.

In our hyper-connected world, authentic connection is a rare gift, but it doesn’t have to be.  I have no idea how many nights I sat at home with a bottle of wine, the TV and my dogs thinking nobody understood me, I was unloveable and had no purpose.  Meanwhile, somewhere nearby people were connecting and saying, “come over here, there’s light and laughter and we want to share it.”

“Those people” were sitting in an AA meeting.  They had “real” problems.  I cataloged all the differences between them and myself.  They were batshit crazy, drinking kool-aid, and living in denial of the “real world.”  I didn’t belong because my problems were special.  I was special.  I am special.

Who hasn’t watched Jerry Springer or some other show to feel “normal?”  Every episode of Intervention reminded me I wasn’t a real alcoholic because I didn’t do A, B and C like the person on the show.  I was a very selfish, unique, and dazzling snowflake with an outstanding talent for finding differences instead of commonality with others.  I was too good for admitting I had a problem (in my own mind).  I’m ashamed to say it, but if I don’t name it I cannot move forward, so there it is in all its ugly honesty, PRIDE.

Then a funny thing happened, I became vulnerable and authentic.  I went to a meeting and listened with an open mind.  Then another and then another.  And this amazing yet very basic recognition hit me — we are all fighting the same demons.  The very same bastards that were stealing my joy were crippling others.  All the people in the room with me in one way or another had felt like they weren’t enough, they were in pain, and they needed to silence the voice in their head. For a period of time, alcohol was an effective numbing agent. (of course, until it wasn’t and became a life-threatening problem).

So I stopped focusing on the fact that I’m a snowflake and started focusing on the fact that I’m in a world made of snow, instead of my uniqueness I’m focused on finding commonalities and looking at ways to connect.  This allows me to take what someone has to offer (in terms of advice, wisdom, and compassion) and use it to better myslef and feel joy.  I’m taking off my mask of perfection and admitting that I have some big flaws and that’s OK as long as I work on them.  And the more I admit that, the better connections I’m forming with people I never would have met otherwise.

My goal is to build a life so rich that I don’t want to miss a second of it by drinking.



The Miracle of One Alcoholic Working with Another


“Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks to another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength and hope” — Alcoholics Anonymous (Forward to Third Edition p. Xxii)

“Sponsorship is a bridge to trusting the human race, the very race we once resigned from. In learning to trust, we are strengthening our sobriety.” A Means to a Beginning, Grand Island, Nebraska, February 1984, One On One: AA Sponsorship in Action

Day 14 of Sobriety

It’s rare to find an alcoholic who one day resolved to stay sober and successfully held this resolve in perpetuity. As many times as I’ve heard that alcoholics are stubborn people, this seems counterintuitive. If we’re stubborn and determined to do something, then it should be a given that we’ll do it right?

Apparently not. Success rates for recovery are hard to come by because study methodologies are inconsistent. But one thing is obvious, the statistics are dismal. A study published in the journal Addiction stated that long-term relapse rates of untreated alcoholics are as high as 80%. The study included “non-problem drinkers” which likely paints an even more dismal picture for alcoholics.

With a doom and gloom outlook like this, some people may think to themselves why try or hope? Well first and foremost because their very life depends on it! No child ever says I want to grow up and die due to alcohol, yet according to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, almost 89,000 people every year do exactly that. By their estimation, alcohol steals 2.5 million potential hours of life every year.

I’ve been immersed in the fellowship of people trying to stay sober for the past year and there’s a common thread in all of our stories, loneliness wrapped in despair and we drank to numb this pain. Unfortunately, the lethal side effects weren’t obvious to us when we started this practice. Eventually, we became mentally and physically ill, dependent on this substance to function. Recent science indicates that binge drinking alters DNA making it even harder to abstain because your body is genetically programmed to fight you.

In a situation like this, you need a miracle to succeed. Luckily there is one, it’s connecting with other alcoholics. According to American Addiction Centers, people in AA stay sober longer and in greater numbers than untreated alcoholics. A 2014 study of 6,000 members by AA showed that 59% of members were sober (defined as abstinent) over one year (22% of respondents had over 20 years of sobriety).

People who are successful using AA are unwavering in their belief that the program saved their lives and those of countless others. I am becoming one of those people. In these quiet gatherings, people do something remarkable, they share the worst moments of their lives with a group of strangers. And even more remarkable, they are not judged, they are loved! Some people share the struggle they are currenlty facing and others talk about what their life was like when they were abusing alcohol and what it’s like now, becoming beacons of something every alcoholic desperately needs: HOPE!

At the end of each meeting, we join hands in a circle say, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it!” Newcomers introduce themselves so that those with long-term sobriety can (and do) introduce themselves. If a newcomer wants, they can get a sponsor, someone who will guide them through the 12-Steps. In my mind, this is the miracle of working together. Selecting a sponsor is one of the most important things you’ll do in AA. Suddenly you are not alone, you are understood and you understand.

Only someone who has completed the steps can guide another through them, it’s a sometimes painful and scary journey of personal discovery that when embraced, transforms the alcoholic into someone who doesn’t want to drink because they’ve built such a rich life. The benefits are equal to the “Sponsee” and the “Sponsor” and the numbers prove this. Anybody with over a year of sobriety in AA is a sponsor (*generally speaking*, as the requirement to sponsor is to complete the 12-steps and most people do this within a year). I’ve met people with nine “generations” of sponsees. Imagine knowing you helped that many people reclaim their lives and seeing them transform from broken and scared to confident and happy!

People are hard-wired to need connection, we are pack animals. Further, we are hard-wired to resist change. Anybody who’s tried to exercise more, eat healthily or cease a habit will tell you, it’s hard. Pack-animals want to fit in, and we are constantly on the look-out for our tribe. Once you decide to join the ranks of a tribe, you want to belong, so you follow the rules. In the case of AA, this gives members a strong incentive to stay sober. But there’s so much more.

For me, having a sponsor is having a living breathing person who I admire in front of me proving that it can be done. I can’t bullshit her into thinking my situation is “special” because it’s not. Looking at her and other sponsors, I can’t bullshit myself into saying sobriety is impossible, because clearly, it’s not. Sponsors don’t tell a fairytale that life becomes perfect when you stop drinking, rather they tell you that if you surrender, accept you are powerless against alcohol, and rely on a higher power to restore sanity, life becomes enjoyable and MANAGEABLE. My life was definitely unmanageable.

I like to write down tidbits of what people say during shares at meetings, yesterday a man said that he cannot talk to himself about himself because he has no perspective, so he talks to other AAs. DUH – our brains will do whatever it takes to convince us the thing we want is the right choice because of the need for immediate gratification. The reason tell our kids “Do as I say, not as I do” is because we know better – it’s just really fucking hard to do better. Sponsors are DOING better. Through connection, we help each other do the next right thing.

Another thing I heard recently from a sponsor is that every time they take a sponsee through the steps they learn about themselves too. Being a sponsor keeps the AA close to their journey. A lot of sponsors tell me that working with someone reminds them how hard recovery really is so they don’t want to relapse. I buy that, but I really think it’s ancillary to the continued self-discovery and the everyday practice of the steps and the wisdom. Human beings need to practice to continue to be successful. Elite athletes train with coaches to maintain their edge. Writers work with editors. Therapists see therapists. We have to get outside our own head and be reminded of the fundamentals. Almost every successful person says their “secret” is to stay true to the fundamentals. How simple is that — the fundamentals are called that for a reason. The 12-steps are the fundamentals and staying grounded in them is the only way to succeed long-term, the sponsor-sponsee relationship provides that grounding and practice.

Having a sponsor and trusting my higher power takes me out of the driver’s seat. Because if I’m honest, my life was a shit show when I was trying to be the ringmaster. So many things are out of our control but we still try to control them like crazy people. I personally accepted the steps out of order. I reestablished my relationship with God and began to trust his will, then decided to accept that I’m powerless. I haven’t felt this free in 15 years!

Shame, guilt, judgment — I’ve never seen those in an AA room. I’m new, I’ve heard it happens but not in my experience. If you find that, just find a new meeting. It’s this magic mix of people who you’d likely never see in the same room cheering each other on. Last week, I followed a man in a car worth a quarter of a million dollars to a meeting where I sat next to a person just out of jail living in a shelter. At meeting’s end, this motley crew held hands and cheered each other on. We found common ground and treated each other with compassion.

I know I can’t do it alone, and even if I could it’s so much better doing it with support.

*I’m working two programs right now. AA is helping me immensely due to the face-to-face connection. Additionally, I participate in Women For Sobriety’s online forums where I receive wisdom and support from many wise women.