Editor’s note: This month we hear stories of recovery, relapse and Step 11. Happy fall!
On the 17th July 2016, after a few days of continuous drinking, a voice from deep down within said ‘you’re dying, you’re committing suicide via alcohol’. I came back to Alcoholics Anonymous the following day. I asked for help from a sponsor who suggested I need structure and to start looking at Step 10 and 11. As I look back my attempts to practice Step 11 were dreadful, but I did make an honest effort. It involved various mobile applications, trying different ‘techniques’, searching for different ‘gurus’. Helpful, but ultimately, I was trying to fix myself.
Step 11, like Step 3, requires persistent and consistent effort. I have found 10 minutes of quiet time when I wake is simple and doable. I look at the plans I made the evening before and ask, are these spiritual in nature or am I just looking out for myself. Very often the thought of a service assignment or a newcomer I should call comes down the pipes. I can become erratic and come up with all kinds of bright ideas! There are several tools I can use and practicing them helps identify which to use when. What to do next? Relaxing before putting first things first helps. I really thought pausing would come automatically, it hasn’t, I’ve needed to practice pausing and asking, is this agitation or doubt? It’s always one or the other.
Reviews can be done at any time, I’ve found early evening works. They don’t need to be written and need not take longer than 10 minutes. What’s the situation, where am I wrong, and what corrective measures need to be taken? Whilst a great deal of behavior has been straightened by the programme, the wrong often stems from how I’m thinking about a situation. The corrective measures ought to be very practical. I share them with someone further along in the programme and following their guidance.
Practicing Step 11 need not be made into a complex matter. I’ve found spiritual principles to be simple when I remain ready to apply them.
When I came to AA two years ago, I was pretty sure that God didn’t exist, and if he did, he certainly didn’t like me. I disliked religious and spiritual people, I felt threatened by them and at the same time envied them for what they had.
When I found out that I could invent my own Higher Power in step three, I was relieved. I started praying to the Higher Power of my understanding, and it felt good.
I have worked the twelve steps, and by doing so, I am making experiences that strengthen my trust in my Higher Power (I now call it God). I have realized that nothing in the material world can fix me. No career, no fame, no husband can relieve me of my fear and self-hatred. Only God can do that.
Here is what I do every day in order to have conscious contact with God: In the evening, I write a gratitude list of at least 10 points. I reflect about the day and ask God to forgive the mistakes that I have made and to give me guidance and strength to do better tomorrow.
In the morning, I say the Third Step Prayer, then I write two to three “morning pages”, where I just let my thoughts flow onto the paper. This is my form of meditation right now. While writing, I become aware of the emotions and thoughts that are within me at that moment. Sometimes, the pages turn into a spot-check inventory, or into a letter to God. I often wake up upset and I feel like my heart is closed and hard. While writing and praying, I get soft for a moment, I feel connected to God and shed a couple of tears.
After that, my boyfriend and I read the step eleven part in the big book “Upon awakening…”, and other 12-step literature. During the day, I pause and ask God what he wants me to do next, or to help me deal with my emotions, or other people’s emotions.
I have been struggling with step eleven recently because there are so many things that I have heard about, that other people do, and I can’t fit it all into my day. I was relieved when my sponsor said that there is no wrong way to do step eleven. As long as I spend time with the intention to connect to God, I’m good, she said. So I’ll continue doing that.
That’s all. Bye.
I drank my last beer on November 28, 2001. Before that, I drank alcohol or did some form of drugs, everyday of my life for 26 years.
In my drinking days I felt trapped by my job, marriage and family. I felt overwhelming pressure to perform.I felt inadequate, overwhelmed and stressed. I felt like I was drowning. I got relief from those feelings in alcohol.
During those drunken sprees I wasn’t very nice to my family. I said things to my wife and kids I should have never said. The kids couldn’t have friends over because of dad’s condition. All the while, I kept working and earning a living until one day, even that came to an end. I was fired. I was 42 years old, unemployed, weighed 119 pounds and was in debt. I had to decide how I was going to live without alcohol. I sobered up long enough to walk into a psychiatric hospital and told them “I may have a problem with alcohol.”
I started attending AA daily. As I got sober, slowly, many bad behaviors I had done while drinking came back to me. These memories were filled with uncomfortable feelings of guilt, shame and remorse. I didn’t want to live with these memories. What I did want was another drink. But, for some reason, probably the lack of money, I didn’t go get any alcohol.
One morning I was alone in the house. The sun was coming up and flooding the kitchen with light. Noticing the flood of light and being very still, I heard an audible voice. It said “If I can forgive you, why can’t you forgive yourself. Who do you think you are?”
Today I work in that same psychiatric hospital that I walked into 22 years ago. Because of what God has done for me and my family I have prayed for the patients. I pray their minds can be healed and their spirit restored. These people have suffered unimaginably. Some are adults and others are children. What they all have in common is, they want to die. They do not want to live if that means continued suffering.
I have witnessed many of these patients, like myself, recover. They came back from what appeared to be a seemingly hopeless state of mind. They regain their strength. Many go on to help others, just by telling their story. Then they help others to get out of the same dark place they have survived.
The cycle of people helping people becomes the miracle of God’s healing power. Today, I am a licensed therapist, helping people overcome addiction in the very same room, in the very same hospital that I walked into 22 years ago. I’m telling you this so you can know God’s mercy, grace and love are endless. God healed us for no particular reason other than we believed he could. We wish everyone could tell their story of healing. We know if they do, God will be on all of them. On December 20, 2023 we will have been married 42 years.
Some say that relapse is a part of recovery, and many addicts have found this to be true. Do you know firsthand what it’s like to put together days, weeks, months, or even a year of sobriety and then somehow find yourself back in active addiction? You’re not alone. I do too. Despite your propensity toward relapse, you can find freedom from addiction and victory in recovery. There is a solution.
I started using drugs and alcohol as a teenager, with friends whenever the opportunity presented itself. Unlike many of my peers, for me it quickly turned into a daily habit that dominated every aspect of my life. At twenty years old, I finally admitted that I couldn’t manage the issue on my own and asked for help. My first attempt at staying sober lasted about ninety days. I attended meetings off and on, but I never stuck with it because I believed I could handle recovery on my own. Over the next fifteen years I would feel hopelessly stuck in a never-ending cycle of sobering up and then relapsing back into active use. The discouragement became seemingly insurmountable. This pattern only worsened as I got older. Being a good wife, becoming a mom, working hard, going back to school, and even going to church never saved me. When I started attending meetings regularly I finally found long-term recovery and it truly transformed my life.
The change really stuck for me about three years ago. I committed myself to following a weekly meeting schedule and incorporated it into my routine. I tried to put as much effort into my recovery as I had into my addiction. Meetings help me stay in the solution and remind me I can only experience recovery one day at a time. When I stay plugged into Alcoholics Anonymous, I am making a choice to connect with others. Doing so has given me a sense of purpose and responsibility. Recently, a friend of mine from AA was struggling with self-harm and suicidal ideation, and I was able and available to support her in getting the help she needed. AA has taught me I have a duty to go to meetings and stay sober so that I can carry the message of hope to the next suffering alcoholic or addict. I no longer live in poverty or need financial help and my children have everything they need and even some of what they want. Through Alcoholics Anonymous I have found joy, contentment and peace beyond what I ever imagined. I have become the person I always intended to be.
We need to remember that the disease of addiction cannot be cured and if we do what we have always done, we will get what we’ve always gotten. Attending meetings regularly has enabled me to build a life that I don’t want to lose, I’m not willing to trade and that I don’t need to escape from. I promise you that the pattern of relapse doesn’t have to continue. By going to meetings, you can find the same freedom and victory that I have. You can live the rest of your life clean and sober, one day at a time.
– Rachel P.