Why Long Term Sobriety Hasn’t Worked for Me, and Why That Shit’s OKAY

So I figured this was a pretty good one to jump right out in front of. No, I do not practice a life of sobriety, but sobriety is a big part of my journey. I would not be who or where I am today if it were not for the 12 steps of AA. The relationships I built there were unlike any other I have ever, and probably will ever have for the rest of my life. Relationships with other humans, with myself, and with the Universe. For anyone already familiar with the works and teachings of AA, you understand why, and can probably skip the next paragraph or two. Those of you unfamiliar, I’m going to do the best I can to explain it in as few words as possible.

This is going to be a challenge… Alcoholics Anonymous is this huge, all encompassing, conglomerated BEAST that takes over your entire life – if you’re doing it right. It’s the polar opposite of the way its depicted on TV and in movies. No dank, dark basement meetings once a week full of dismal people barely hanging on to life. No. We have our moments, but the AA community is full of vibrancy, and hope, and love for life. Of course, there are very serious, ‘sobering’ moments. But there is a lot of laugher too, and a lot of friendship and comradery and SUPPORT. An alcoholic can walk into any AA meeting anywhere in the world and say “hey, I’m new here, I need a little help” and people will literally be lining up to  give out their phone number or take her out for coffee. It is a truly, wonderful community. And we make miracles happen. The way AA REALLY works (that you NEVER see in the  movies) is by actually working the 12 steps, with the Big Book. This is the magic. And the best part- you don’t have to know ANYTHING about it to get started. Just follow simple direction from someone with a whole lot more experience who takes you under her wing. Now bear with me, I’m not going to get all preachy about this. I just want to help people understand where people like me come from, and also why I ended up leaving such an amazing community.

I always have used this analogy when it comes to getting sober. The entire time you are using drugs, your life gets really, really simple. All you have to worry about is ONE THING. Drugs, duh. So it’s essentially like driving a car, and every issue that you should be dealing with (debt, stealing your moms wallet, cheating on your boyfriend, the list goes on forever) you toss in the backseat like trash. So you’re driving, and you’re driving possibly for years and all this shit is piling up in the back seat. Then you get sober, and start working a program, and its like you literally just slammed on the brakes and ALL THAT SHIT comes FLYING forward and you’re surrounded by it and TOTALLY overwhelmed. This mess seems impossible, there’s no way you can fix it. So what do you do? You pick up one. item. at. a time. You go to a meeting, and you get a sponsor. YOU GIVE SOMEONE ELSE THE REIGNS. That way you are no longer in control of your choices. Please girl, just sit down. You’ve done enough. This can only be done by someone so exhausted by themselves that they are willing to put total trust in a complete stranger (someone who has gone through this themselves and found a way out). And then the real work begins.

In very general terms, we are asked to admit that we don’t know what we’re doing, and that someone else does. We must believe in some sort of underlying power of the Universe (the G word is too touchy and masculine for me, but whatever works) and recognize how small we are and that the world will go on without us- seems simple, but you have no idea how much people struggle with this. And here is the biggest, scariest, most transforming part of this process: you take inventory of ALL your resentments, fears, and sexual transgressions. Everything, going back as far as elementary school. And then the hardest, most revealing part of the ENTIRE process. You FIND YOUR PART in every single one of those! And giiiiirl, let me tell you. I was SHOOK. We then take accountability for those mistakes and go about amending them in various ways. And then, at the very end, the student becomes the teacher, and you pass what you’ve learned along to someone else. Keep in mind, these are very loose terms. It is my intention to take this one ‘step’ at a time, but revise it in a way that can be applied to everyone.. not just people with addiction. Everyone should be able to transform themselves, and let me tell you, addicts have the manual, it just needs to be translated.

A big part of why I started this blog was that I left AA before I had a chance to be a sponsor (ok I had one but I butchered her and I am so sorry girlfriend- it was way too soon). I took and took and took from the program, and left before it was my turn to give back.

But that lifestyle was not sustainable for me. Some people go into AA, fall in love with it, and make that their life forever. I never EVER liked the idea of that. I just didn’t know how else to survive myself. And for anyone who’s ever been inside the rooms, you know that it is very black and white. There is no room for grey areas, you either get sober or you die. And to have that idea pounded into your head over and over and over again especially when you are so vulnerable and impressionable, that you absolutely believe it. I didn’t know that another way was possible. How could I have known? Every time I tried to do it on my own I failed, and I was one hot shot away from being another statistic. So obviously I believed them, and I didn’t want to die. So I hung around for a while this time. I did the work. I had a total psychic change.

But then something started to happen… I started becoming resentful against the program, instead of grateful for it. Going to meetings felt like a chore instead of something I enjoyed. Doing step work made me angry instead of refreshed. And let me tell you that this was all MY SHIT. AA didn’t change, it was just as wonderful as it had always been. But my thoughts and opinions of it changed. It felt more like restriction and punishment than reward and spiritual freedom. So I decided to step away. I didn’t drink right away, but I took a break from the meetings. And then gradually I started to drink when I went out with my friends (I have normal, non-alcoholic friends btw). And at first, the guilt and shame were R-E-A-L. I felt like I failed. Just like every other relapse. Keep in mind, AA drills into your head that a sip of wine is just as bad as a shot of heroin  “a relapse is a relapse”. But I decided to stick with my choices and keep going, taking little baby steps. Soon, the shame faded away and I began to feel more confident in my ability to handle this. Each time I drank without picking up a drug was another small victory, and I started to believe that I was actually capable of this. It has been well over a year now since I have touched an opiate, more than twice as long as I’ve ever made it before. And that’s happened by applying balance.

Disclaimer, I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS WITHOUT THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA.

The ONLY reason that I have been able to take that path that I have, without nosediving into a pile of dope, is because not only did I have an ESSENTIAL spiritual, mental, and emotional transformation as a direct result of the 12 steps of AA. But while I was doing all of that work, I was ALSO building a life that I was PROUD of. I was not in sober living, (We will spend a lot of time talking about how broken that system is). I somehow got a job that I wasn’t qualified for that allowed me to financially support myself. I also met my best friend at that job, who introduced me to her friends, who have since become my family away from home. That then opened a door for me to move over to the company I work for now, which I absolutely love. And I also embarked on the first and only healthy relationship my black little heart has ever known. They empowered me. And then I became empowered by myself and my ability to not only stay alive this long, but to actually thrive. Despite every opportunity that should’ve ended me.

That last paragraph was not meant for me to toot my own horn. I heard zero success stories about people who stepped outside of the AA community, because they simply weren’t AROUND to tell me their stories! Duh! So that led me to think that it was impossible. Another HUGE reason that I wanted to write this blog was because I want people to know that there IS another way. There is a third option. And I am going to help people find it.

This is not a blog about sobriety, or how to maintain it. There is already a perfect program for that. This is about regular humans being regularly fucked up and wanting to figure out how to be better at life. I gotchu.

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