11 years and counting
I have been sober 11 years today, 11 years. It does not seem possible that 11 years has passed since I used alcohol or drugs. At the same time it seems like just yesterday. I am extremely grateful for my sobriety. I know that I am one of the lucky ones. Although I lost a lot through my addictions, almost everything, I have been blessed in these 11 years to receive back so much more than I lost. It is not easy to be sober, I work at it every day. I know if I don’t, relapse is certain. So how do I stay sober? Why have I been able to maintain 11 years of continuous sobriety when so many others haven’t? I don’t know the answers to those questions but I thought today I would focus on the things I do to stay sober.
I recently met a nurse who is struggling terribly. She is unable to stay sober. She has been trying to get sober for about a year now. She was caught drunk at work and fired a couple weeks ago. One would think that would be her bottom. I’m not sure it is. I have seen so many nurses in this same situation. Things are as bad as they can get, loss has been felt on so many levels…family, friends, job, nursing license…and yet they can’t stay clean. I remember well the feelings of hopelessness. In my blog last week, I talked about the obsession. It is so strong when despair and hopelessness are a constant companion. I see that despair in my new nurse friend. She wants sobriety but she can’t accept it. She can’t face who she is or what she has done. She needs treatment, but without a job, without insurance, she can’t afford it. She is on depression medication, but can’t afford the refills. Once her current prescription is gone, then what? I am so concerned for her. I pray for her and I let her know I am here for her whenever she needs me. I know she won’t call, she can’t. I have seen it so many times, too many times. For me, it took a 4 month stay at the House of Correction in Franklin Wisconsin, not a nice place. Once there, when I was completely removed from those substances I could not quit using, my mind cleared and I could accept the help that was offered to me. I have been clean and sober since. That was my bottom. I wish I could give sobriety as a gift, I wish that was possible. Tie it up into a bow and give it to every struggling addict I come across. Unfortunately it is not that easy. But I can try, and I do. I will continue to try while I am on this earth. I will not give up. If I can help one person, then all of my struggles were worth it.
So this is what I do to stay sober…
- Each morning when I wake, before I get out of bed, I pray for my sobriety.
- Once I have my coffee, I read my daily meditations and ask God to show me his will for me and to give me the ability to carry that out. I also read a few pages from a book, either Alcoholics Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, The Bible or A Course in Miracles. Anything that supports my contact with God works.
- Each weekday, I have a reminder set on my calendar. It is the third step prayer broken up into 5 pieces. I snooze this reminder each hour. When the reminder appears I stop for a few seconds and focus on those words. A great reminder throughout each day to rely on God. This is how I break them down…
- Monday-Build with me and do with me as thou wilt
- Tuesday-Relieve me of the bondage of self
- Wednesday-Take away my difficulties
- Thursday- Bear witness to those I would help of thy power they love and thy way of life
- Friday-May I do thy will always.
- The third step prayer in its entirety: God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do thy will always! (Alcoholics Anonymous page 63.)
- I speak to the three people I sponsor each morning. I speak to the two people that sponsor me each afternoon. I need this contact with those who understand me. Most days they are short conversations, sometimes longer. Keeping in close contact makes it easier for me to reach out when I need help, something I do not like to do. I have learned I must do this to survive.
- I go to meetings, 2-3 each week. These meetings are the cornerstone of my recovery. They are where I listen, I share and I learn. I can quickly forget the pain I went through. It is so much easier to leave it in the past. Because I have the brain of an addict, I need reminders of the things I need to do to maintain my sobriety. I always hear something I need to hear at these meetings, they are my favorite part of the week. Afterwards, I feel energized, ready to face another day.
- I take an AA meeting into a local prison twice a month. I can’t tell you how much these gentlemen need AA. What they need is a resource for when they leave the prison. They need to know where they can go if they no longer want to be controlled by their addictions. It is possible to stay out of prison, if you have resources and support. I cannot tell you what those meetings meant to me when I was incarcerated for those 4 months. I owe a debt of gratitude to the women who came and shared their recovery with me that I try to repay each time I go into the prison. You have to give it away to keep it.
- I speak at meetings whenever asked. I do not much like public speaking and I would love to just sit and listen. But others need to hear my story. They need to hear and see what sobriety looks like, that it is possible. I can’t keep it to myself if I want to keep it, again, you have to give it away. So I put aside my fears and just do it. I always feel amazing after I share my story with a group.
Is this a recipe for sobriety? I do not know. What I do know is that it has kept me clean and sober for the last 11 years. Maybe the struggling nurse should give it a try. You never know what it will take to get sober. My hope is she doesn’t need incarceration to get sober. There are even worse things than that. I hope she will listen, surrender and accept. I hope she will find peace and serenity. I pray those things for her and for all who struggle. There is a solution, you just have to grab it and never let go.