Inspirational · Recovery

The Changing Room

By:  Jana Greene

Embarking upon recovery from alcoholism years ago, I realized that everything about my thought process had to change from the inside-out.

But how?

From my experiences, I had already learned that the ways ‘tried and true’ were not always true for me.  If I were to get sober, I would be scrapping my own blueprint for my life.  When I chose sobriety, I felt like an infant who lacked even the most basic instincts for survival, since what I had counted on to survive had nearly killed me.

The standard learning model did not work for me in early recovery, because alcoholism is not a rational disease.  Despite having read every self-help book I could get my hands on (there it is again…..self) and having listened to motivational speakers, preachers, and my own bullhorn of self-condemnation, I had failed repeatedly to get sober.

Then I attended some AA meetings.  It was not until I surrendered my own strategy and listened to other addicts in 12-step meetings that I began to accept that recovery was not about learning to change at all.

It was more about changing to learn.

In that room, I changed.  I listened.   I heard from people who somehow – and this is the miraculous part – did not drink.   They did not drink, but sometimes still wanted to….and when this occurred, they looked to 12 remarkable steps for living and to each other,  and it saved their lives.  They worked on recovery even when it wasn’t fashionable to be in recovery, when they really didn’t feel like it, when nobody else understood.  And they committed to sobriety in a way I never imagined possible, because they would never, ever be able to drink “like everyone else”, no matter how many meetings they went to.  Until this point, I thought meetings were a kind of means to an end….like perhaps once you “graduate”, you can celebrate with a Zima or something.

But no.

I would never graduate from alcoholism, and that was depressing.

But I would gradually LIVE, fully and joyfully….and that was exciting!

The successfully sober people I met were from all walks of life, but they all  had one thing in common:  they just didn’t pick up a drink.  No matter what.

“If your ass falls off on Main Street,” I remember one Old-Timer saying.  “Don’t pick up.”

I really never forgot that, and I’ve felt like my ass was going to fall off too many times to count, truly.

I also felt like I would die from the shakes or from the pain of de-toxing alcohol.  I felt like I would die of isolation because nobody close to me knew – or understood – the magnitude of what I was facing.  I felt incredible shame as a mother for all the nights I put my kids to bed early so that I could start drinking early.

I felt, felt, felt, felt… every nerve ending in my body was on fire and every piece of my spirit was shredded.    When will all of this FEELING end?  (Thankfully never, because I learned how to feel GOOD things, too 🙂

I kept feeling, but I didn’t pick up.  I tried to gather up all the nerves and soul-shreds and bring them to God, but I missed a few pieces in the process.  No matter; He found the ones that needed to remain a part of me and we decided to discard the ones that kept me in bondage, and bit by bit He is still restoring me.

I’m still a hot mess in some regards, but I’m God’s hot mess and I’ve decided to spend the rest of my life letting people know that He is utterly faithful and sobriety is a crazy-wonderful-life-saving thing.

Nearly a dozen years into recovery (thank you, Jesus – and one day at a time), I am still changing in order to learn. I have a long way to go yet, but the learning; it just keeps coming.   No matter what.

Because nothing changes if nothing changes.  Yeah, I learned that in a 12-step meeting, too.

12 thoughts on “The Changing Room

  1. Oh Jana, you are amazing? I loved this post! Can you believe that I walked into my first meeting in a church that had both an AA meeting, and an Alonon meeting the same night. God must have been guiding me, as I approached some dear older lady and asked where the Al Anon meeting was? She asked me do you have a problem with drinking? I said, yes but my husband drinks too much too! She said you go into the AA room, and when you get your act together, you are welcome to go into the Al Anon room. I did try them later, and hated those people because they were not my kind of people (they whined about their drunkend spouses). Just keep going to those meetings it only gets better.
    January 28,1979


  2. Wow. I think this is my favorite post of yours and I’ve loved them all. This message is so important to those of us who are working our recovery. I have to admit, only 10 months into my sobriety, that forever feels like a long time sometimes but the trade offs are immense. My kids are worth it. I’m worth it.


  3. Hi, Stevie. I haven’t been to a meeting in a long time, either…but the second I need it – I will be there. I use the tools learned in the program, well…every day for some thing or another. Just coping. Thank you for sharing your experience with sobriety. God bless you on your journey!


  4. All those years ago, you and I also learned together in the changing room right here on the internet – our wonderful chat group “Alcoholism In Women.” (which AOL stupidly re-named “Conquering Alcoholism”) I remember pouring over the posts in early sobriety, and then as other “newbies” joined our group, how good it felt to be able to offer our own experiences and advice and watch how they grew into their own sobriety.

    You’ve always been a blessing and inspiration to me, even though we’ve never met “in real life.” Thanks for always sharing your ESH so openly and honestly with the world. 🙂

    Love ya!


  5. Dear (((Gwynn)))I remember those days well. My sisters there were a constant encouragement. We white-knuckled it together – all of it…the good, bad, ugly and victorious. God bless you, my AIW friend -chethank you for reading this blog – and I send love to you.


I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s