“There can be times in our recovery when we focus more on what we’re doing wrong than on what we’re doing right. While it’s certainly important to find and correct the things that made us unhappy in life and with ourselves. It’s equally important to see the good things we do. Eventually, as this process continues. We find less things that need correcting. More things to be happy about. And more reasons to love ourselves.”
I celebrated 21 years of continuous sobriety this month. I went from calling myself a high bottom alcoholic, to a recovered alcoholic, and at some point I called myself a self-proclaimed alcoholic. But eventually it no longer mattered what I called myself. The bottom line is that I was a problem drinker who needed to be something I wasn’t, full of fears and insecurities that made me unhappy, and I was often quite lonely and sad.
Thankfully that all changed after waking up hung over on April 27th, 1996, sick to my stomach and afraid that the argument I started with my wife the night before had cost me my family. Fortunately, it somehow didn’t, and the rest is history as they say. But I’ll add that it was hard and scary along the way at times.
I didn’t drink every day, and I was far from the stereotypes one sees in movies and on TV, bottoming out and losing everything. But I had bottomed out emotionally and spiritually, and at the time I only knew of one place I could go to get help—Alcoholics Anonymous.
I wrote about my experience there in my book, and how the Twelve Steps helped me to love myself and be happy in life. And I wrote about some of the answers I found outside the rooms of AA that helped me find even greater happiness. But this post isn’t about AA or my book. It’s about the two answers I didn’t find.
It frightens me some days that there may not be something after we die. And I’m still not sure what my true purpose is in life.
Yes I have a book and a blog. Yes I help people with substance use problems. And yes I currently work helping people with mental illnesses. But I have to wonder why my prayers of being able to financially support myself while writing more books and helping more people haven’t been answered?
One might say that vanity has something to do with it. If I get a swelled head and begin to think I’m more important than what I am, I could end up drinking again, right? But I’ve ruled this out. A lot of things have contributed to my growth and my happiness, and I know drinking would rob me of that. Plus I have never been more humble in my life. I don’t have a lot of money, an expensive car, or a big home. And I’m aware that I still have a lot more growing to do, both spiritually and as a person.
So what is it then? Why haven’t I achieved my dream yet? No god? Not my purpose to help the many people suffering from what has become better known as a chronic, progressive disease of the brain? Maybe I’m just not qualified? Maybe a book and blog doesn’t make me an expert on addiction and helping others? And if there is a god of some kind. Maybe I’m not supposed to be famous or well-known in the field of addiction?
I’m not sure if the answer as to whether or not there’s a god will ever be answered. And I can only hope that the term “when preparation meets opportunity” becomes a reality for me. But I can honestly say that there have been some signs that I’m on the right path in life.
I celebrated 21 years of continuous sobriety this month. I went from calling myself an alcoholic, to a recovered alcoholic, and at some point a self-proclaimed alcoholic. But it no longer matters what I call myself. I don’t need to be something I’m not, and I’ve learned how to overcome my fears and insecurities. I’m no longer lonely. And although I feel sad on some days, finally being happy with who I am sustains me during those times and the sadness never lasts.
So I guess I’ll simply keep trying to believe that something created life and the universe for a reason and that we do have a purpose while we’re here. And not worry about the answers.
If my sobriety has taught me anything, it’s that we can create our own happiness, and that living in the present moment is one of the best ways to achieve it.
I enjoy helping others. It makes me feel good about myself, and gives me a sense of achievement.
The definitions listed below are why I think most people’s troubles come from insecurity, and not ego like many spiritual gurus state. The third definition of ego comes from insecurity. It is a false sense of ego used to overlook our fears and insecurities, and help us feel better about ourselves. I should know. I had a false ego all through my life—even into my early sobriety. It was in my sobriety, however, that I was able to become more self-confident and grow to love myself. I also found greater happiness in life. Especially after finally becoming happy with who I was.
It is those things that I want for others. It’s why I do what I do to help people. Not because of ego. And not because of insecurity. But because of who I’ve become.
ego: 1. A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. 2. The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity. 3. An overly high opinion of oneself
insecurity: 1. Uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.
Being an only child, I have a lot of fun by myself and do some pretty immature things for my personal amusement. I sometimes make up words to songs I’m listening to and even sing to them in a foreign language that’s unrecognizable because it’s made up.
I also talk to myself and find I’m actually good company.
An example of this would be the other morning. I was pouring orange juice into a glass (a daily drink I find both tasty and refreshing) and almost knocked the glass over. I immediately stopped pouring and said out loud. “That was a close one,” before resuming my quest to add just the right amount. However, when I did, I actually spilled some all over the counter and exclaimed. “That was even closer!”
Maybe you don’t see the humor in this, but the only child in me thought it was funny and quite witty.
The reason for sharing this is that at one time in my life—a time I call my drinking days. I would have gotten angry over something like this and used a few select words that grownups call swearing. Not that I don’t still get mad at times and curse. I find using the F-Bomb can be very therapeutic under certain circumstances. But it feels good to be able to laugh at things like this and to be able to laugh at myself. (Being able to laugh at ourselves is a sign of growth and a great asset to have in one’s life.)
Although I act immature at times, and have “only child syndrome”—a term I coined to explain my goofy behaviors. The growth I’ve experienced in my sobriety has done more than just allow me to laugh at myself. It has also enabled me to love myself.
I never thought about whether or not I loved myself as a child. (Maybe that’s just part of being one.) But I know I didn’t love myself as a teenager, and certainly not as an adult.
It took several years of sobriety and the growth I mentioned to achieve self-love. And even then it took a couple of more years to be happy with who I was.
An only child who not only finds them-self to be good company. But someone who has learned to find humor in things that aren’t worth getting upset about.
For those wondering if any bad things they may have heard about Alcoholics Anonymous are true, well, let me say that some things could be better about it. However, the black eye many give to AA isn’t always fair. Self-promoting authors may put down this program, but it has saved countless lives over the years. Usually, such an author is trying to sell a book about how best to recover from addiction, and sometimes he or she even has an alternative program that costs money. (AA is free, so their way has to be a lot better, right?) There’s even a film being made about the horrors of AA. What has perhaps hurt AA’s reputation the most, though, is the often mandated attendance of meetings for those charged with DUI violations. These are people who would never have gone to meetings on their own. They include good people, not-so-good people, and those with criminal backgrounds.
Another fact is that people have changed a lot since 1939 when the first official book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was published. Also referred to as “the Big Book,” it could be said it was like a bible for many alcoholics. I use that word because, despite the mention of a higher power that people can use to help them remain sober, there is a lot of talk about God in it. I’ve personally met people, with and without substance-abuse problems, who shy away from conversations about God, and others who get angry if you bring up the idea that there is one. Imagine how people like that could feel if they’re told they have to go to AA meetings, on top of the fact that they don’t even have drug or alcohol problems. The truth is, getting a DUI isn’t proof that someone has a problem. In fact, statistics bear out that people who get DUIs usually learn from their experiences and drink more responsibly after that. Statistics also show that many people get sober on their own. No counseling. No therapy. And certainly no twelve-step meetings.
Alcoholics Anonymous worked for me because I did exactly what was suggested in another book written for AA called the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. It was published in 1952 to help people who were high-bottom alcoholics—they didn’t drink every day or lose everything. They were people like me who remained in AA long enough to be emotionally well on their own. Not perfect people, but ones who became stronger, more confident, and more caring in their lives through meetings and by practicing the Twelve Steps as presented in that book.
There are different paths that people with alcohol and drug problems can take that better suit them than Alcoholics Anonymous. As I said, there are some things that could be better about AA. But the same can be said about the whole recovery field in general. All I wanted to do here is to put some ice on the black eye that Alcoholics Anonymous has received, in my opinion, somewhat unjustly. This black eye they won’t try to take care of themselves, because they won’t change with the times. For example, among other outdated ideas, they still believe in the principle of attraction for the organization to survive (rather than promotion).
I get it. What they had to offer definitely attracted me. I liked the idea of there being a god of some kind, and I liked the idea of living a more spiritual life. What I don’t like is when any program that can help save someone’s life is attacked. In this case, it’s a program that hasn’t done anything wrong except for pretty much staying the same all these years.
“I created a lot of turmoil during my drinking days, and found it easy to blame alcohol and others for the often insane behaviors I exhibited. However, once I stopped drinking and begin to see how wrong thinking was actually to blame. With help, I was able to change my thoughts and behaviors, and create a better life.”