I was so exhausted. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent. And so demoralized. I just could not figure out a path of recovery to stay sober. With every relapse I became more and more convinced that I was doomed to the hell of an alcoholic death. Long, slow, lonely, and certain. I did not know that I had to find my own path of recovery.
What was so incredibly frustrating was that I did everything that I was told to do. Go to AA meetings -check. Get a job at the meeting – check. Get a sponsor -check. Suit-up, show-up, and shut-up – check. Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth – check. Go to ninety meetings in ninety days – check. And still I relapsed.
I tried living the slogans: meeting makers make it; one day at a time; let go and let God. Still I relapsed.
There were so many caring, nice, thoughtful people along the way in the halls of AA. They really wanted to help. And I really wanted what they had. Yet it seemed unattainable to me for reasons I could not fully grasp or understand. It was so frustrating!
I was tempted to think that I was somehow uniquely broken and outside the bubble of lasting help and sobriety. But I heard the stories of so many others who had come before me and I realized that I actually had a pretty high “bottom.” I did not lose my job, go to jail, or get divorced. Don’t get me wrong. I was suffering from isolation, lack of confidence, and intense feelings of anxiety, discontent, fear, and anger. Yet my ending was not as harsh as many others.
It was very confusing to try and figure out why I kept relapsing and the person in the seat next to me in the AA hall did not. We were doing the very same recovery path yet I was always somehow deficient and picked-up a drink.
I started to see that I was going to need something either instead of AA meetings and my twelve-step work or in addition to those efforts. I was desperate to find out what it was that kept me turning to alcohol to take away the reality of the present moment. This was not a sudden “aha” moment. I cannot even say for sure when it actually dawned on me. It sort of snuck up on me. This slight inclination began to take roots and grow as I become more and more convinced that something more than AA was necessary for me to stay sober.
Many people in AA talked about seeing a therapist. That sounded like a good idea to supplement my attempts at sobriety. So I found someone who took my insurance and made an appointment. The first couple of visits were exhausting as I went through my life history including events that I had not talked about or thought about in years.
Then I started discussing my day-to-day ups and downs not realizing at the time that I was avoiding looking at and talking about the patterns of thinking and feeling that made a drink look like a good idea. I was reluctant to go for the deep dive that was keeping me stuck. This reluctance was not showing itself to me at all. I thought I was just supposed go in and talk about my day. Eventually, my therapist slowly began to pry open my willingness to be vulnerable and the past revealed itself like a ragged and sharp edge rock. Over time, I began to see one major characteristic that kept me in an insane people-pleasing loop – a lack of boundaries. I had no ability to say no to anyone for fear you might not like me. Without adequate boundaries, self-care was virtually impossible. Like a dog chasing his tail. The major gift those therapy sessions and that skilled therapist taught me was how to have healthy boundaries.
As I started to put together a little bit of sober time, I decided to try yoga. I was gaining weight from having my appetite back and I thought yoga would help lose some weight. What I actually found was that with regular practice I started to feel strong and was getting my balance back. Both figuratively and literally. Over time, I began to be acutely aware of the nuances in my emotional demeanor. When I was drinking I either felt good or bad. And both were an excuse to drink. Now, I was noticing that fear felt different than anxiety and anger felt different than sadness. They seemed to penetrate different areas of my body with various sensations. For so long I had numbed myself to the wisdom of my body. With yoga I was starting the journey of making peace with my emotions. I started to notice when my emotions were rising up and I could calm myself or reach for acceptance. As a result, I entered a whole new world of deep healing.
One of my yoga teachers always ended class with a seated meditation. His cues were so specific and clear. He would lead the class on a path of awareness that created incredible clarity for me. I began to notice that most of thoughts throughout the day were either in the past or in the future. I found that I was quite uncomfortable in the present moment! With the guidance of this teacher, many books, lectures, and eventually silent retreats, I found a penetrating inner peace deep in my body and my mind. I was ecstatic! Finally I had a place inside of me that I could access and dwell in without wanting to run away.
Skills For A Lifetime
Perhaps if I had known that I had to find my own authentic path of recovery I would not have lived through the hell of multiple relapses. Not to mention the pain and suffering I would have spared my family. It is possible that even if someone did tell me, I would not have been ready to hear it. I know now that I had to find a path that was unique to me and only I could discover.
I know that if I take the time and make a serious commitment to discovering my own supports to sobriety, then I have a much better shot at staying sober. And I have not collected anymore twenty-four hour coins in quite awhile!
What I have learned is that no one can tell me what to do to stay clean and sober. I should listen to all suggestions; however, I must go have the direct personal experience myself in order to know what works and what does not work for me.
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