Alcoholic Redemption - A Story of loss, curse, and the sound of perseverance.
12 Steps to a Better Way of Living Life
Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron, Ohio by Dr. Bob Smith and his friend, Bill Wilson. This alone has laid the ground work to the idea that you can have a meeting with as little as two people that is perpetuated all over the globe by Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I have personally tried and tried, again and again, to beat this affliction of mine all by myself because I am a very proud "stand up" guy. It was until about 5 years ago that I finally found out and actually realized that you can not do this alone. I have led my life into this mess and I expected to lead myself away from the mess that I left in the wake of my addiction.
The idea of sharing with total strangers and friends alike about my personal issues with the drink alcohol and all of the issues that have ensued since inheriting the inevitable disease of alcoholism was very foreign and frightening to me. The people that I would share my horror stories with would judge me I thought. These people would go around and tell everyone about all of the bad stuff I have done while using alcohol. I could not have been more wrong. I found a fellowship within the rooms of A.A. that I would never in a million years have found within the rooms of a bar or band practice room. Little did I know but I was ready to find a better way and means of dealing with my own life on a day to day basis. I had it all figured out before I found A.A. but what I did not know is that the things I "thought" I had figured out were all wrong. I evolved my human form into seemingly some sort of monster by revolving my entire life around alcohol and the life that goes with the territory. With that said, once you took the alcoholic drink away, I was left a shell of a man, empty and void. Total prohibition of my soul through consumption of alcoholic beverage led me to a time and place in life where I lost everything. I lost my relationship with my daughter's mother, my daughters, soured my intimate family relationships, only had friendships based on the ol' drink special of the day, lost jobs, and least importantly at this point in this article, I lost myself along the way. I say I lost myself is least important because in the long run and looking back in retrospect, I was not important to the world as I thought but that was clouded by a false idea due to total fidelity of ego feeding, party going.
The hardest part that I never expected was when I discovered what is at the end of the disease of alcoholism, before death anyway. Alcohol-ISM. I. Self. Me. That is what was awaiting me at the end of the day when tit came to tat and all that was left was only that. After all the damage I have done to myself and others was caused by me. My oh My, how could that be? This was nearly something that crushed me and drove me back into the bar. I had new good friends now though. I could share with them. They would listen and offer their opinion and I could take it or leave it but I usually took a little something from everyone who I heard share, from that I allowed my mind to open enough to form a Frankenstein's Monster to do battle with the monster that I had created within myself, metaphorically speaking of course. This time around I knew I did not have to feel guilty and then try to drown my sorrows and guilt. This time around I could go to war within myself and conquer some demons because I was promised by The Big Book that if I made this effort and just did not use day to day, that life would reveal some answers to me that would pave a road to a path towards a better means of living that I have not tried yet. Open mindedness is key. So as you venture further into this article I advise you to keep an open mind. Enough of the "I. Self. and Me." right now. Onward into the discussion about the "12 steps" and how I personally was awarded the sight to see them.
In Need of Help?
Are you or someone you know/love suffering from addiction?
Step 1 - "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable." - The Big Book - Bill W.
In my mind's eye I "just knew" that I had no other option. I knew I was an alcoholic and everyone was telling me that. Everyone who gave a damn anyway. What I had struggles with was being "powerless" over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable. I thought for the longest time that I could control my drinking by only drinking on the weekends. I could hold a steady job so that did not seem unmanageable to me. I drink, I drank, and I got drunk, day in, day out. I was left sick, hungover, facing the same tragic self inflicted maladies all caused from my drinking though so enough was enough. Something better had to happen before I took this further and followed this trail I was on into the true despair of death. After seeing the future of where I was heading and coming to terms with the facts that I could not solve any of the problems I created and still stay drinking, it was then that I accepted STEP 1 and came to know it as "gospel". My life had become unmanageable and no matter how hard I would try, I had absolutely no control over alcohol. I was truly powerless to a simple drink. A sponsor I had early on told me these words and they ring louder in my head everyday, "We all know what the problem is, now what do we do about finding the solution? Then just focus on the solution instead of living in the self pity party of the problem.". That one phrase floored me to the cold concrete of my rock bottom, it was the most sobering thought I have ever heard. I felt shivers run up my spine, felt pressure lift from my chest, and my eyes began to water up. I knew from this point forward that "the program" was far more worth exploring than another night out at the bar getting hammered. I was 25 or so at this point and had over a decade of HEAVY drinking under my belt and all the damage was already done. I destroyed my life more in this short of a time at that age then most people could try to do willingly by their entire life. I would have died soon after if I did not take a break and give myself fully, unabashedly to the 12 step A.A. program and actually do what I was told instead of doing what I told myself to do. I am not a Christian these days, nor was I then. The "religious" aspect people fear of A.A. really needs to be disassociated as soon as possible for those of you that are put off by that thought. It just is not there. Don't use it as an excuse like I did for so many years. You have a chance at a better life if you can admit to yourself this first step.
Step 2 - "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." - The Big Book - Bill W.
After I had become fully aware that I was powerless over alcohol this was the next step for me to take, so they say. It took me months before I could get past this step. Since Alcoholics Anonymous is a lifelong program and you can never "cure" yourself. Be patient, do not get in a rush to hurry and get to the end and complete the program because guess what, there is no end, ever. Scary idea eh? It can be if you allow it to be. Take your time with each step because trust me, throughout your entire life, you will be revisiting these steps more than you will expect at the beginning. Do not get intimidated. I doubt you were ever intimidated by all the money you spent on a night out getting drunk. Were you ever intimidated by the damage done or issues that arose due to problem drinking? Well then this is nothing compared to facing a D.U.I. or anything that may or may not have came to you in your career as an alcoholic. I take a no "BS" approach to alcohol recovery because after having sponsors and dear friends of mine take the same approach, sometimes even more strict, I have found that for the newcomer this approach seems to work best. Remember, you are not being judged.
You made it to STEP TWO so now that you have admitted that you really are powerless over the concept of alcohol, what next? How do we pick up the pieces? We can not do it alone. You have to find something to believe in regardless of any religion. I do not care if you believe that the chair that you are sitting in at an A.A. is the power greater than yourself that will restore you to sanity, then so be it. For me, it was nature and the surroundings around me, it was my family, my children, and not just them in person or physical form. It was the thought of never seeing them again and never having them see me in this bad of a state ever again. This power I found in that idea was so strong that I truly believed that it was greater than myself and could restore me to sanity. All of the years in the program gave me the gift of perspective through other people's eyes and lives. I have seen people come, people go, people come back, people die right next to me at a meeting where I needed to call the ambulance to pronounce them dead, and after all of that the single most jacked up thing I have come across was the young people coming into A.A. from strong religious backgrounds. These people did not necessarily believe in the same things their parents did and the parents would harp on them for "not finding God" within the room's of A.A. and it bothered me but it is what it is and it is life on life's terms, not my terms or those parents terms, or those young people's terms. Just come into the meetings and stick around a while, don't share if you don't want to but whatever you do, just listen if that is all you can do. It will pay off. Come to believe in a power that is greater than yourself and it might take awhile to do so but after you do you will start to "get it".
Do you think that A.A. is a religious group?
Step 3 - "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." - The Big Book - Bill W.
The hard part has now commenced. A lot of times this part turns into a debate about if "God" exists or not and if so, what is "God" and what religion..blah. Blah. Blah. Do not over complicate things. The program is simple to understand but yet hard to "work". If you can bring yourself to find a power greater than yourself, then in essence, that HIGHER POWER is "God" as is states in this step. STEP THREE is put in place to answer the question of, "So what next since I am powerless?". Simple, stick to the program and just do not use. That is all you have to do. The rest will reveal itself to you with time.
For me, this was my hardest decision I have ever made in life. I had to go back to STEP ONE and see if I REALLY was all that powerless. After a near fall, I decided firmly that yes, even though I might be stubborn and proud, I am powerless over this thing called alcoholism and yes, I am indeed an ALCOHOLIC. With no power for myself I had to declare myself without any willpower as well. My willpower was weak all through my addiction and it still is. That will never change. This leads me to to say this, this step is not about "willpower". This step is about "self will" and everything that drives you, me, and everyone into the mindframe of doing whatever "we think is best" for us with no regard to if it will work out or not. I mean come on, it is "our" idea so it "has" to work, right? No. STEP THREE told me to ALIGN my self will with the will of my Higher Power(H.P.). This meant to me that the universe has a plan for me and as long as I do not go putting my hands all over things and just learn to give up and concede, forfeit, wave the white flag, surrender, then allow the program to work for me and align my will with "God's" will for me, then everything will be ok. To find faith in the program fully and stop trusting yourself and stop trusting your own decisions before at least trying someone else's way is the best thing that I got out of STEP THREE. This is only my interpretation of this step and it is open to however it "hits you" personally. Go ahead and give it a shot, what do you have to lose anyway?
Step 4 - "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." - The Big Book - Bill W.
The big and scary STEP FOUR! Many fear this step but remember, be patient, you have all the time in the world as long as you keep coming back and just don't use alcohol or other substances. I tried to write a VERY long and in depth catalogue of all of my wrongs, as scary and damaging they might be but I found out that it did not help until I shared it with a sponsor. I was on STEP SIX before I did that. A searching and fearless moral inventory. Think on that for a minute.
After I had gotten over the fear of sharing something so intimate and in detail of all the graphic, lurid things I have done during my drinking career, I was told, "Hey! Where are the good parts??". My jaw hit the floor and it took me days to fully understand. A moral inventory is not only all of the things and situations that you have guilt over but you also must list what is good about yourself in this. That blew my mind! Wow! You will never fully be complete with STEP FOUR in my opinion. I have seen people in the rooms work their STEP FOUR every April. After a year or two in the program, it is a fun and awesome idea to spend each month doing each step which corresponds with what number month you are in. Coincidence? Or is it designed this way? You be the judge. It works for many people and it worked for me and that is all that matters. Simple. Character defects, character flaws, character traits, and just your personal thoughts on each situation in life that you think you could have handled better or that you handled very good are all things that one should include. You will continue adding to this moral inventory long after you are sober and/or working a program. You will see. It works if you work it!
Step 5 - "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." - The Big Book - Bill W.
Very briefly I mentioned this step with my writing on STEP FOUR. Getting a sponsor is key to recovery. I think that STEP FIVE exists to ensure that you share your STEP FOUR with another person, your sponsor. It seems pretty simple to understand that much huh? Now you see what I was talking about when I said that it is a very simple concept to understand. This is the hard part for some people, it was hard for me. I had to come to terms with everything in my moral inventory, good and bad, and accept it for what it was. You have to accept the damage done and accept that some things you may never get back to where you might envision them. Just LET IT GO and give it over to your Higher Power, whomever and however you understand them.
It takes a lot of guts to admit our wrongs in gory detail to ourselves. So sharing this stuff with another person could be challenging but yet rewarding. You are not going to be judged by your sponsor. The worst thing that could happen depending on the nature of "your wrongs" is that your sponsor will politely refer you to another sponsor that he/she may know of. This would only happen if "your wrongs" hit too close to home for them or involve something that they may be biased on and could not give you an unbiased, unjudged opinion. Fear not though. Fresh face to the rooms or veteran to the grand scheme of things, you will eventually make it through this with the help of your sponsor, your higher power, and your ability to keep an open mind and work the program. All you have to do is not give up before the "miracle" happens. Too many times I have seen people go back out and use right before they would have seen some of the "promises" of A.A. start appearing and the "spiritual awakening" occurs. Do not use, day to day.
Yesterday is gone, you will NEVER get it back so just LET IT GO. You can not put a foot in yesterday and a foot in tomorrow and expect miracles in the current day. Live your life 24 hours at a time and do not use. If that means to count down every gruelling minute of every single mundane hour just not to have your next drink, then by all means, DO IT. The goal here is to learn 1 thing everyday and then wake up every morning without having a drink the previous day.
The Following Steps and My Personal Opinions
I am going to go ahead and write my rough interpretations of the following steps although I am still coming to terms with them.
Feel free to disregard anything I say and do not take it too seriously. Read the following with an open mind, a light heart, and still you might find something useful herein.
A Few Words Before I Continue.
I want to share this now that as human beings, we are naturally faulty beings. Perfection is an illusion. The following STEPS are steps that I am still going through. Like I said prior, take your time and be patient. You have all the time in the world.
Keep coming back to the meetings.
Do not use.
More Needs for Recovery
Step 6 - "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." - The Big Book - Bill W.
Now is the time that the work begins. Since everyone works a different program as far as fitting it to your own personal beliefs, I will not write much about STEPS 6-12 individually because I feel that it is now UP TO YOU to do the work in the program. I helped you get started by sharing with you how it helped me. I would love to hear from you as to how you choose/chose to work these steps that are more tailored to suit the "individual in recovery".
Do you firmly believe in the power of your HIGHER POWER? This is the test to that faith. LET IT GO and give it over to your Higher Power.
Step 7 - "Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." - The Big Book - Bill W.
Now that we are humble from sharing our moral inventory with a sponsor, with a group, and with our Higher Power, we must allow H.P. to remove our character defects so that we may start fresh and sober. A new life is on the way and the promises are going to start coming true.
DO NOT USE and keep going to meetings.
Step 8 - "Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all." - The Big Book - Bill W.
Making a list of everyone I have harmed in my drinking career was difficult at best. The willingness to make amends to those people came naturally thanks to my HP and the alignment of our willpower together. I did not have to work too hard on this step but you may find it difficult. It is different for everyone depending on personal beliefs and backgrounds. Think real hard about who you may have affected negatively and that you might need to make amends to. You MUST go down to the person next to you in an A.A. meeting that you may have disagreed with early on and said something that you NOW regret saying. It could even mean writing down the cashier at the store that was too slow for your liking and then get yourself, with the help of your sponsor and HP, ready to make amends.
Do not use and Keep going to meetings. Try some different meetings if you can and if you have not done so yet. Different groups of people in A.A. can provide different insight into certain things and will give you maximum benefit from the program.
Prepare for the next step.
Step 9 - "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." - The Big Book - Bill W.
I did most of these amends through a hand written letter, sealed in an envelope, and delivered by hand to that person with a smile. Some people you will not ever see again but stay willing to make amends because you never know who you might run into. To each, their own. Stay positive, open minded, and keep humble with this step.
Don't pick up and use and hit some meetings!!
Step 10 - "Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." - The Big Book - Bill W.
Life will never be perfect and will rarely continue on where you left off before using. I found this to be a pretty accurate statement so accept it and know that sometimes people will still say hurtful things, do insensitive things, etc but now you can admit to it and make amends right then, right there. Just keep doing the next RIGHT thing and the promises will keep revealing themselves to you. Things in life keep getting better no matter what as long as you do not use and you go to meetings.
Step 11 - "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us an
For me, I like to "center" myself by going through LONG walks through the woods or in a quiet, serene place. Serenity is the key here. I have seen a lot of people try YOGA for the first time or first started exercising and getting into shape. I like to think of this step as "the thinking step". Leave a lot of time for yourself to reflect on life now compared to life when you were out and about, using freely and ignorant to your own misery. Think, GRATITUDE. Stay hungry for more recovery, stay sober, and stay in meetings. Try out doing some fellowshipping by staying late at meetings and doing some service work. Clean up the place, make some coffee, or offer someone a ride home if it is cold or you know that they are down on their luck and could use it. You gotta start giving back if you want to keep what you have. Think back to when you first entered the program. Stay fresh, stay focused.
Step 12 - "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all
Talk to some of the fresh faces at the meetings before and after the meeting started. You might click with them in a way to help both of you stay in recovery. You never know. This is how your sponsor found you if you did STEP 11 and used time to reflect on life before, after, and during. The promises will keep coming to you. Stay sober!
REPEAT STEP ONE!
I wish you all the best. If you are using and are affected by alcohol/drugs, then find help now before it is too late. If you have a family member who is still "out there" do not judge them, it will not help them. All of us come around when it is our time to do so. Little do any of us know that our Higher Power has been there the entire time, it is when we finally acknowledge the H.P. that our eyes are opened and stay open.
REMEMBER : Relapse IS NOT "part" of recovery. A common misconception for the newcomer these days. Relapse does not END recovery either. Once we enter into recovery, no matter what, we are always in recovery until we are here on earth no more in human physical form. Good luck to anyone who is struggling and reading this. Get the help you need, it IS out there. This program DOES work for ALL different types of people. You do not have to fit into any certain "mold" to be in recovery and for the program to work for you.