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Alcoholism: Acceptance & Gratitude

“I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” - Mark Twain

I recently had to travel for a family funeral with 24 hours notice. In the past this would not have been thought impossible as alcoholism incapacitated me to an extreme extent. I learnt in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous that 'life on life's terms' isn't just a short saying to motivate a fellow into remaining sober, it's a way of interpreting acceptance. When I received the sad news less than a week before Christmas I automatically thinking of barriers to attending the funeral. However, I knew it was the right thing to do, I had an obligation and responsibility to at least try my best to get there. My passport had expired so I explored alternatives and discovered I could travel by ferry. It was a lot more inconvenient as opposed to flying but I accepted the situation and was grateful there was a way.

This is an extreme example of how working the 12 Step program has enabled me overcome challenging situations. The maintenance steps:

Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Honestly, the thought of travelling during Christmas week for such a sad occasion filled me with reluctance. I was wrong to give up so easily and become disheartened but as soon as I confronted these feelings I became emboldened to strive for a solution.

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 and the power to carry that out.”

I accepted the expense and time it would take to travel at short notice weighed against the responsibility to attend, provide support and represent family ties. I acknowledged the integrity gifted to me through recovery as I pondered the challenges involved even before the funeral. I recalled hearing in the rooms of AA that God goes before you to make things ok before you arrive and I found this comforting as I felt anxiety set in.

Step 12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

As a recovering Alcoholic I knew the expectation to drink from family members I hadn't seen in years could be a challenge. My main defence against relapse is Step 1; my life becomes unmanageable when I drink and I'm powerless over alcohol. I was able to set an example of sobriety, competence, integrity, compassion and empathy because I had an absolute defence against the first drink. The gratitude I felt when asked to do a reading during the funeral was genuine, no ego or anxiety, just a willingness to assist and support my family and friends during a very emotionally charged and painful time. This experience encapsulates the meaning of recovery to me and proves that the Promises have materialised after working for them.

Without shame, I disclosed to family members I had not seen for decades that I am an alcoholic. I was receptive to questions emerging from their curiosity and I didn't fear being judged for not drinking, as I knew deep down where alcohol would take me. I intuitively knew how to handle this situation and I knew I had the spiritual connection to accomplish something amounting to purpose.

AA Promises

Promise 1: We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.

Promise 2: We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.

Promise 3: We will comprehend the word serenity.

Promise 4: We will know peace.

Promise 5: No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

Promise 6: The feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.

Promise 7: We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

Promise 8: Self-seeking will slip away.

Promise 9: Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.

Promise 10: Fear of people and economic insecurity will leave us.

Promise 11: We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.

Promise 12: We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Wretchedness consumed me when I was ravaged by alcoholism. The thought of reaching out, connecting with people, was abhorrent to me and felt unbearable. The contradictory plight was compounded when I wept for belonging and acceptance. There was no bridge until I approached AA and discovered my people. I share my experience, strength and hope to let go of the alcoholic toxicity and also in the hope that my fellows can relate in solidarity. It is only in the last year or so that I have understood the phrase 'you have to give it away to keep it'. I have attended meetings for more than 5 years whereby I would take my 90 minutes of sanctuary without giving anything back. I would often leave the meeting feeling resentful and weary. I brought resentments and weariness to the meeting and took them home afterwards but when I share I become free and the prize is joy. I like this analogy; gold is discovered and the founder has to give away every last nugget until their dying day in order to keep the wealth. Spiritual wealth is the peace of mind I receive from appreciating my life and having purpose.

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