I know I’ve milked this 17 years of sobriety thing for an entire week now, and for that I’m sorry. If you are sick of hearing about it, I don’t blame you in the least.. But you are my friends and I want to be 100% transparent with you.
January 3rd is my official DOS (date of sobriety). I was going to pick up my chip on the 1st but it was special order and hadn’t arrived yet, which was fine with me. Because I really – for the first time ever – had zero enthusiasm for collecting that !little token of time earned through sobriety.
I rather resent the past year, which has been the most difficult to avoid relapse, if I’m honest. I made it – but by the skin of my teeth. At one point, I even opened a bottle of brandy I found that my husband had had for years and sat it on my bedside table. I curled up on my bed and cried. Then I opened the bottle. And I smelled the brandy, which smelled like an old friend, or how a grandpa used to smell when you were a kid. I never should have smelled that Brandy. Then I cried some more. I had words with God, and he listened so patiently, and I could feel His Spirit near me and in me, and it aggravated me to no end because without that presence I could pick up that bottle and just let the dragon have his way. I was so exhausted from fighting it and running from it.
See, having an addiction is a lot like having a dragon follow you around everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Your deepest thoughts. Your stress and anxiety. The crapper. EVERYWHERE. He taunts you, sometimes far more aggressively than others, This past year,, he has been practically crawling up my ass. One thing after another after another. In that moment in a fetal position on my bed with a bottle of Dragon Sedative sitting RIGHT THERE, so close – I wished God would bugger off.
But, that sliver of my soul that so values the life I’ve been granted – this beautiful second chance – gave voice above the din of my disgruntled sobbing. My lips said “please.’ Just “please;” that’s all. Over and over and over and over until I wasn’t crying anymore, and the brandy starting stinking, and I could feel my father’s arms around me. I wiped off the snot and tears, took the bottle to the bathroom sink, and poured it’s contents down the drain. I didn’t feel victorious. I felt nothing at all.
Soon after, that damn dragon was on my heels again. But I started trying to self care a little better – including joining my tribe at meetings. As the big anniversary approached, I felt unworthy of going through the ceremonial celebration of Chipdom, whereas I had ALWAYS looked forward to picking it up every other year. I’ll be sober 17 years. Cherrio! (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of “The Crown.”) Yay. Blargh. I don’t deserve it. I’ve been a terrible role model for recovery lately.
But something happened between last week and this week. Clear up until the moment I arrived at the meeting (with one of my daughters, who came for moral support,) I felt that same malaise.
The program is the same each week, as it was tonight: Worship, the reading of the 12 Steps, announcements, and then The Bestowing of the Chips.
Two people went up to pick up surrender chips, and my heart melted for them. I remember picking up that chip and finally admitting I had been drinking myself to death. I kept going – 90 meetings in 90 days – collecting chips with awe and wonder every noteworthy time chips were given.
Today is January 8, 2018. I can remember when I could only make it one day without drinking and having to start over. I remember when a month was an eternity, but a wonderful eternity of self-discovery. The whites of my eyes lost the yellow tinge. I worked on ME. And most importantly, I didn’t drink.
Well guess what? 2017 was a dadgum BITCH. Every thing in our lives changed, and not for the better. I had 6-10 migraines per month. I’ve still not found employment. A million stressful circumstances riled up my dragon like crazy.
But I did not drink. By God’s GRACE.
Tonight – when my friend who was giving out chips asked with a wink if anyone here tonight has 17 years, I felt like the conflab Grinch himself – my heart started expanding.
OH MY GOD. 17 YEARS.
And despite the suckiness of 2017, I DID NOT DRINK.
I became suddenly exhilarated beyond explanation. My daughter stood and applauded as I approached the stage to pick up my chip. I gave my friend a hug and he put the brass chip in my hand.
And I sobbed because the weight of it felt like lead. It felt like all the weight I’d been carrying on my shoulders for a year, but as golden treasure, not the heart-heaviness of dragon bullying. I became giddy, ya’ll. I’ve never been so happy to pick up a chip in my whole entire recovery life, and I’ve had some doozies of difficult years. The dragon has tried to push me off the wagon many, many times, but today?
God flipped the script. All the ways I felt I’d failed this year felt instead like victories. Yes, I had close scrapes, but God gave me the strength to carry on and hold fast to my precious recovery – the thing that has made all other good things possible. The reason my children are not motherless. The reason I’m not 6 feet under. The reason I get to watch my grandchild grow up.
So ya’ll….I think this chip is my FAVORITE chip. Of. All. TIME. The hardest earned. Ultimately, the most gloriously received.
Oh God, thank you.
Thank you for getting me through, even if my the skin of my teeth. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t relapse.
(And it could not have happened without the boundless grace of God. And WONDERFUL friends. And my tribe – my homegroup. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband.)
Happy New Year, dear Readers! I hope your 2017 was awesome, but for me it was a virtual cascade of sh*t storm after sh*t storm. So SEE YA, 2017. And welcome 2018. Please Lord Jesus, make it better!
Last night, I picked up my 17 year recovery chip. THIS IS A MIRACLE. I’m not sure anyone outside of the program understands the significance and representation of a simple coin with no value outside of recovery circles. Anyway….
At tonight’s 12 Step Meeting, I got to say a few words to the crowd – what an honor- and I didn’t sugarcoat a thing. It went a little something like this:
How did i do it? Stay over 17 years?
Even a year ago, I would have said it’s only Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
But this year my answer is different.
God’s grace is always, always available to us, but let’s face it. Most of us are here because our natural default is to numb out. Grace or no grace, obliterating can be our inclination. I don’t care how long you’ve been sober, and that’s the truth.
As a matter of fact, this past year year was the hardest to maintain recovery ever. Shit hit the fan repeatedly and with endless supply. Yes, it is Jesus, Jesus,Jesus that’s kept me hanging on by the skin of my teeth, but I play a part in it too.
I learned I have to supply the willingness to surrender DAILY. Because there ain’t no graduation day for this. That’s my responsibility. I have to keep up with self care. I have to surrender my will. I have to remember what a sick drunk I was and how many people I hurt.
The rigorous honesty truth of the matter is that recently, I’ve gotten lazy about working the steps as I should. Last year kicked my ass, y’all. But I never survived any of it alone.
Holy Ghost is a gentleman in that his teaching is gentle. But he has also given us another way to ensure we are never alone. We have each other. I need you; you need me. We need our tribe, because we all GET it. We get how difficult surrender is.
No one ever woke up after a relapse grateful. But I’m grateful to have this place and so glad to be here.
Those things that kick your butt and make you doubt your recovery will always happen.
But they always pass.
Keep your recovery. It’s your choice to make it priority. Minute by minite if necessarily.
Greetings, readers – I want to wish each of you a very happy new year!
Earlier this week, something earth-shattering happened. I attended my 12-step home group and picked up my 16 year chip. Sixteen years! I didn’t even know they made chips in that denomination, but alas, here it is. It’s made of metal, even. Isn’t it beautiful?
To others, it may look like a regular token, but it’s actually much more than that. In the 16 years I’ve been in recovery from alcoholism, I cherish picking up every single one each year. From the blue, plastic surrender chip that began the whole journey, to all of the AA and Celebrate Recovery chips collected in between. You might wonder – what’s the big deal about a little chip?
Let me just boast about my weakness for a moment:
A chip represents an entire 365-day span of time in which I felt every single one of my pesky feelings without reaching for a drink.
It’s a keepsake that reminds me to boast on my weakness, because God’s grace is enough; it’s all I need. HIS strength comes into its own in my weakness.
It commemorates another entire trip around the sun in which my craziness did not defeat my sobriety. And my craziness can be very persistent, believe you me.
It is a tangible totem of what the Grace of Almighty God looks like.
It’s a little, round harbinger of possibility. I made it another year without picking up. I can do it again.
It’s a metal manifestation of tribal-ness. Picking up a chip is cause for rounding applause from others in the meeting (who are also feeling every pesky feeling and understand, but are doing it one day at a time, too.)
It’s a trophy for devil-slaying. And no, I don’t think I’m being a drama queen by making that statement. Seriously, ya’ll.
It’s a souvenir of a life led a little more manageably.
It is a reminder that God is still in the miracle business, because in some of the tougher years, I held on by the skin of my teeth.
What might appear to be a silly little token is so much more.
“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, Mygraceis enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
I may have wanted to drink several times over the past year, but as I hold this chip in the palm of my hand, I’m so glad I didn’t. I’m so glad that I asked God for help. I’m especially grateful that I have learned not just how to ask for help, but to ACCEPT it, as well.
It’s a big deal because it represents hope and accomplishment and another solid year of learning, and lurching, and learning again. A year of (largely) moving in a forward direction.
I am praising God for this little chip that’s not JUST a chip. Grateful.
And grateful to share these musings with you, dear readers.
This week, I would love to explore the oft-overlooked issue of Self-Care, and what it really means to care for yourself in the tenderest way. I welcome all comments, as I’d love to start a conversation about how God figures in your journey. Taking care of yourself isn’t just for those in recovery – I think all of us struggle with it at times. Women especially – the mothers and grandmothers and caretakers – are often expected to put their needs last. It may not be an audible and clear message, but the societal expectations buoy it up all the same. When we don’t self-care, we have nothing to pour out. God bless you in this new year!
By: Jana Greene
Have you ever just gotten lazy about something? Like really taking care of yourself – Mind, body and soul?
This time of year, we are all thinking about priorities. That’s all New Year’s resolutions are, right? Putting priority on one healthier endeavor and maybe letting other, less healthy habits slip down a notch or two.
For me, going to 12 Step meetings is my re-boot.
When I say I don’t have time to go, I’m suggesting to myself that I’m not worth making the time.
When I say I’m too sick or tired to go, I am opting out of an experience that may not heal my body, but will certainly be a salve to my soul.
When I want to hide away under my duvet cover and eat a box of Thin Mints instead of going to a meeting, well …. that should be a big, red flag.
I was raised with the notion that you don’t want to think too highly of yourself, and I get that. I understand why that is a slippery slope – God is God and I am not. I’m not talking about being self-righteous or pious. Any righteousness I might have certainly doesn’t stem from my own actions, but by the willingness to surrender my will to God’s. That’s not what I’m talking about at all.
I’m talking about how easy it is find your own heart and mind and spirit on the bottom rung of the priority ladder. You may not even notice the slippage happening. You may have been too busy caring for everyone else to see it. You may have stacked up box after box of codependency to reach your top priorities. Without a basis of loving self-care, it will topple and take you with it.
I’m terrible at self-care, true self-care. I’m really good at showing myself love by giving into it’s appetites. Isn’t that what care is about? If I want a cookie, I want the box. If I want to treat myself to something on Amazon, 10 things end up in my basket. Stay up late to watch “Call the Midwife” on Netflix? ALL NIGHT LONG.
Somewhere my psyche learned to equate moderation with deprivation.
If one is good, twelve is better. Except for that’s hardly ever true.
“Self-Care” that makes you feel awful afterward is not self-care. This may seem rudimentary, but this morning as I write this post, it’s kind of an epiphany to me.
I’ve gotten lazy with self-care, cheapening it. Worse, when someone I love needs help or care, I’ve got only a dry well to draw from.
This January 3rd, I will celebrate 16 years of consecutive sobriety. For my Recovery’s Sweet Sixteen, I’m going back to the basics. Because that’s where I find God most of the time. Like most teenagers, my recovery often likes to think it knows everything. But oh how wrong that mindset is!
I still have SO much to learn!
So, as we enter a New Year, I’m going to try to take better care of myself and re-arrange the rungs on the priority ladder. If you’ve forgotten how to truly self-care, join me on the intentional journey to care for yourself. Take time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write out some self-care statements. Here are mine:
I will seek out one-on-one time with my Heavenly Father. That doesn’t mean carving out an Instagram-worthy devotional time, but authentic conversation with God. (Authentic conversation means listening, too. I forget that.)
I will not apologize for showing myself the same level of kindness as I would a friend, or even a stranger.
I will not call myself names, deriding myself for being ‘so stupid,’ for example. Even when just kept in the confines of own mind, putting myself down takes a toll.
I will make the time and effort to make at least one Celebrate Recovery per week. I will ask God to help me out of the rut of making excuses to avoid going. At the meetings, I will LISTEN and learn, and love on my tribe.
I will make a sincere effort to consider that moderation and deprivation are not the same thing. I need Holy Help on this one, because it is ingrained very deeply. Honestly, it stems from a place of fear, of being without. And that isn’t what faith in the Lord looks like. It’s what trusting in only this world looks like.
I will get up and walk at least once every day. Jesus, walk with me and talk with me as I strive to make the changes my physical health so badly needs implemented.
I will listen to my body, and try to heed what it’s telling me. I have limitations that I’ve been fighting against for years. Maybe it’s time for acceptance.
I will maintain boundaries to protect my sobriety.
I will become more intuitive about what I REALLY need, and feed myself that which cares for it best. The Word of God. Spending time with friends. Investing in my marriage. Bringing my anxiety straight to Jesus instead of rolling around in it first.
I will give myself permission to enjoy life. And I will rely on God to help me do that. All evidence points to doom in the worldly estimation, but all truth says that He has already got this. He’s GOT it, already.
I will make the cup of tea the right way, not the microwave way.
Take the bubble bath.
Enjoy the funny cat memes.
Sometimes self-care is so simple.
Father God, praise to you for my sobriety, and for my tribe of recovery warriors. Thank you for friends and readers, and family. In this new year, reveal yourself to us in our ordinary days and through extraordinary circumstances. We need to feel your presence. Help us to actually BELIEVE that we are worth the care, the way YOU say we are worth caring for.
Note: this post has nothing whatsoever to do with Donald Trump. Or politics, for that matter. Well, I suppose it could, if politics make you want to drink / use … I totally get that, if they do. In which case I highly recommend fasting the news entirely. Is it important to be up on current events? Sure. Is it worth you sobriety? No freaking way.
By: Jana Greene
Just a little bump. That’s all I need.
A little something to get through this feeling of pain / elation / worry / regret / boredom. (Really, any strong feeling will do.)
Feeling are so…I don’t know…FEEL-FULL.
I never used street drugs, and I’m not bragging about that. It is purely by happenstance that I didn’t go that route. I do love me a good high. Alcohol was my drug of choice. But its a drug nonetheless.
A bump can be anything, really.
A drink. A pill. A random sexual encounter. A binge at a slot machine. An impulsive buy on Amazon to make yourself feel better. And then another. And then another and another. Anything to distract you from All The Feels.
Trading endorphins for guilt later is never a good deal.
The only thing I’ve ever known to trump the bump is a prayerful flooding of the Holy Spirit.
I have a theory, but it’s a working theory. And it goes like this:
High is the state in which we were born and built to function.
But not on drugs or drink, which are counterfeit, temporary conduits of “high.”
Kind of like the Texas saying, the higher the hair, the closer to God? I like to think “the higher the propensity to use drugs and alcohol, the more desire to be close to God.”
I’ve seen it too many times for it to be coincidence. The people most entrenched in addiction are the most sensitive to feelings and thought. They are usually Seekers. The hungrily fill the void with all manner of self-soothing behaviors.
Just a bump, you see. It always starts out with just a bump. And that’s the first lie to oneself, that shortcoming.
The thing about seeking is, there’s nothing wrong with it. We were born to seek, born to crave the high. The problem comes in when we use our own wits to fabricate it. It’s called “sin” in the Bible, but we don’t like to cal it that anymore. In truth, it doesn’t matter what you label it, so long as you realize what it is.
This is also known as Step 7 recovery work:
“Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
My default setting is to numb out in lieu of asking for help to overcome my shortcomings. As an alcoholic, that’s what my body and mind want to do. I would love to say that after 15 years of sobriety, drinking never crosses my mind, but that would be such a lie. It’s sneaky, that addiction. Much like a computer that has been programmed to ‘default’ to a certain setting, something in me – the genetics for addiction? – There is a pattern of negative thinking that leads to default. I’m just wired that way.
But that’s not a mistake. I am also wired to bask in the presence of the Creator. That’s why ‘high’ is our preferred state, and that’s my story – I’m stickin’ to it.
I have to change the settings, ‘manually’ – reprogram.
The best high I’ve ever known has been Holy Spirit high. For those of you who are unchurched (or Baptist…a little humor there, I was raised Baptist, so I can joke….) there is this perfect state of nirvana that comes from being filled with the spirit of God.
Religion may be the opiate of the masses, as Karl Marx is famous for having said. But RELATIONSHIP with God is the Ultimate High.
God is, simply put, Love Incarnate. Jesus Christ came as God in a human body to show us how to do life on life’s terms – and with victory, even!
When you are too busy trying to figure God out or justify reasons not to believe, there is no room for the Spirit. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.
Throw everything that turns you off to God from the table. It’s probably man-made anyway. The cheap stuff. Do yourself a favor and:
Go ahead and feel your feelings.
Ask the living and loving God of the universe for a little something to get through this feeling of pain / elation / worry / regret / boredom. (Really, any strong feeling will do.)
Leave room for the Spirit of Love to move into the spaces that counterfeit, temporary ‘highs’ leave empty.
Lather, rinse, repeat … as often as your brain tries to default to numbness through any number of destructive behaviors.
SUCH PEACE can overcome you in God’s presence. Almost like you were MADE to seek it.
The thing about seeking is, there’s nothing wrong with it. We were born to seek, born to crave the high. The ultimate Good News is that it was planted there by a Creator who loves us more than anything, and who poured Himself over bone and under flesh to prove it.
Ain’t no high like the Holy Spirit High. Trumps the ‘bump’ every time.
Go ahead and be FEEL-FULL. It’s alright. No numbing agent required.
I’m so grateful for that.
I never smiled with teeth showing before I got sober.
When you are trying to shrink back into yourself, your smile can’t be genuine.
For a while, every photo album I had seemed to have this ONE photograph of me from the year 2000. It was taken at work, and as my job was in an elementary school, it was quite literally an awkward school picture for the directory.
On the cusp of my 32nd birthday, hair bleached blond, face bloated, eyes downcast, and a slight close-lipped smile for the camera. The whites of my eyes were slightly yellowed. I was afraid of my own shadow; afraid of myself.
It was taken two weeks before I got sober and stayed sober.
For years, every time I’d come across a copy of that one picture, I’d throw it out. It brought up such primal feelings of disgust. Now, I wish I could find it to share with you.
The image is burned into my brain. I’m not disgusted by that young woman anymore. I just feel sad for her. I know she is me, but she is also kind of a stranger.
I want to reach back in time and hold my active-in-addiction self. Tell her she will be okay.
“You wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose right now,” I’d say.”But one day you will be wild and free. And smile with TEETH showing, even.”
I would tell her that she will not drink herself to death. That she doesn’t need alcohol to function. That the drug is LYING to her.
I want to tell her that its LIBERTY to be free of protecting secrets.
I want to let her know that she will feel like she is dying when she divorces the drink, but she won’t die.
I would implore her to go ahead and FEEL all of those feelings instead of numbing them. They have a right to be felt.
I would tell her that major boundaries are going to have to be built, but that she will survive the fortifications.
I would tell her she will one day be okay with being fully HERSELF – crazy and silly and ridiculous. And that the people who really love her stick around are not repulsed by the real self, but drawn to it.
I would tell her that her daughters will not be ashamed of her. That she isn’t a terrible mother, just a sick one. That one day those children would be proud of her sobriety.
I would tell her that life doesn’t get easier, but she gets more able to deal with life on life’s terms. For real.
I would tell her that she would experience a happy marriage – something recovery would make directly possible. That there is so much to GAIN from living a life free of addiction.
I would tell her to cut herself a freaking break, already. (And that she would be working on this one for quite some time…and that’s perfectly okay.)
I would tell her that God is more than capable of getting her through a recovery life. So capable, in fact, that she one day will not SHUT UP about Him and His infinite goodness and GRACE, and that grace will become the platform of her entire life. A good life, made possible by active recovery.
I would tell her she will smile with teeth, genuine-like.
And I would tell her she is loved. That I love her.
I forgive her.
I cannot find a single copy of the ‘before’ picture, but I can show you the ‘after.’
I can assure you that all of the things I would tell my old self are also true for you, that recovery is there for the taking. That God’s grace is available in the the same measure to you, no matter where you are on your journey or what you are recovering from.
I don’t really have a story or a pithy piece of sentiment to accompany this blog entry. That will come later this weekend, God willing and the creek don’t rise…
But I’m so excited to share my evening with each of you. What a supportive, amazing, wise and compassionate group of readers God has blessed me with.
So it will be short and sweet.
Earlier this evening, I attended my Celebrate Recovery home-group at a meeting to pick up a chip.
My 15 year sobriety chip.
Fifteen years of recovering from alcoholism.
I never thought my recovery would ‘stick,” but I keep surrendering my will to God’s (it is sometimes still a struggle), and He keeps bolstering me in supernatural ways, and somehow….here we are. If I am not vigilant and committed, it could become un-sticky. I respect my disease.
Had I not gotten sober, I would be dead. No doubt about that.
But through Christ, I am an OVERCOMER.
Not only was I given a lovely 15 Year chip commemorating my continuous sobriety, but this nifty bracelet (read the backstory, it is SO cool….) – THE JESUS NUT. Yep, that’s me!
I keep sobriety by letting others know it is available to them, too.
One day at a time. Still, always…one single day at a time.
This piece ran in last winter’s edition of In Recovery Magazine.
I pray it blesses you, and as always – feel free to share the link.
By: Jana Greene
In the Twelve Steps of Recovery, my Higher Power gave to me . . .
There is something cool about the number “twelve.” It makes me think of the number of recovery steps; a dozen fresh, hot doughnuts; the number of beloved disciples of Jesus; and the Twelve Days of Christmas (even though that never made much sense to me – having little appreciation for a Partridge in a Pear Tree or Lords a-Leapin’).
But I do have all the appreciation in the world for addiction recovery. In my twelfth year of active recovery and in celebration of the Twelve Steps, I composed a “Twelve Days of Christmas” redux.
In the First Step of Recovery, Higher Power gave to me – a serving of humility.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.
It was difficult to admit that I had zero power over a silly substance – alcohol – truly humiliating, but in the best way possible. I had to learn how to bite off one single day at a time without drinking, then another and another – in complete surrender to God. I continue to approach sobriety this way.
I came across the funniest thing on Pinterest today. It was a pin picturing a 50’s housewife smiling absently with the caption “Some days, I’m the Queen of Serenity – and other days separating coffee filters pushes me over the edge.”
I “lol’d.” Hard.
Oh the truth!
I once participated in a group therapy exercise in which Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) distress tolerance skills were addressed.
Sometimes I think we addicts and alcoholics have a super high threshold for substances to soothe our distress (it takes so much), and super low tolerance for dealing with distress without those substances (it takes so little.)
That’s kind of addiction in a nutshell.
Fifteen years into this lifestyle called recovery, I am still learning so much. I have not ‘arrived’ – not even close. But I am alive to keep learning, and that’s everything.
I’m still amazed at people who can simply shrug off very distressing issues. How do you DO that?
I’m learning, but it’s a process. I’ve let the tools I learned get a little rusty.
Distress tolerance is the idea that some of us find certain emotions overwhelming and unbearable.
And how well does that jibe with our drinking and using? It is such a natural FIT, so convenient…
“Oh, I feel THIS way and it’s uncomfortable. I will do anything to stop feeling this distress. ANYTHING rather than FEEL it.”
That is the road that leads to destruction. That is the road that leads to death.
And there is so much to be distressed about in our world. Separating coffee filters not-withstanding. So many heavy things, like refugees and war…and health issues and job issues. You know, life stuff.
I’m dusting off my years-old practice of distress tolerance now, because the negative is starting to be awfully prevalent in my life.
No matter what length of time of sobriety one has, it the absolute tolerance is breached, we are not safe from our prior way of doing things.
If life gets too itchy, we want to scratch it.
“People with a low tolerance for distress can become overwhelmed at relatively mild levels of stress, and may react with negative behaviors…
Many traditional treatment approaches focus on avoiding painful situations, but in the distress tolerance module of DBT….people learn that there will be times when pain is unavoidable and the best course is to learn to accept and tolerate distress.
A key ingredient of distress tolerance is the concept of radical acceptance. This refers to experiencing the situation and accepting the reality of it when it is something the person cannot change.
By practicing radical acceptance without being judgmental or trying to fight reality, the client will be less vulnerable to intense and prolonged negative feelings. Within the distress tolerance module, there are four skill categories:
Improving the moment
Focusing on pros and cons
These skills are aimed at helping individuals cope with crisis and experience distress without avoiding it or making it worse.”
Wait, doesn’t ‘radical acceptance’ mean denial? On the surface, it may seem so
But just under the surface, when we really explore the concept, it becomes apparent that it is the balm for that terrible itch of distress.
It’s the okay-ness of feeling whatever we feel, while acknowledging that feelings are not facts.
I’m going to intentionally work on the four skill categories. I hope to share my experiences here on the blog. I hope I can be brave enough to do that.
To enter to win one of two signed copies of “Edgewise – Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God,” click and follow the prompt in the middle of the page. Oh, and feel free to share it, too!
Synopsis: Can a believer in Christ also be an addict or alcoholic? On the edge of active disease and surrender, Jana Greene shares her recovery journey in a collection of raw and honest essays. Somewhere during the process, she let God get a word in edgewise, and plunged into a spiritual awakening that she could not have had any other way. D.T. Niles is famously quoted as having described Christianity as “One beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” This book is a telling of Jana’s journey to find food for the spirit, and inviting others to follow. “Because,” she says. “When I couldn’t love myself enough to lift myself up, I crawled to Jesus, and he said, “You look hungry … come to the table!” Redemption is the best feast ever.
There are some things that normal people just don’t understand … like an active recovery life.
You can’t really blame them. If I hadn’t the experience with making everything about drinking, I wouldn’t understand either. Recovery Warriors are a hard-core bunch, making everything about getting and staying well.
Recovery, recovery, recovery.
I’m absolutely certain that many people – even those who love us dearly – harbor the secret thought “Get over it, already! You’re sober now….why the obsession with recovery?”
What they don’t know and cannot understand is that we addicts and alcoholics have two speeds only: Active disease or active recovery.
Those are our two only choices.
Yes, you can stay sober without putting a recovery spin on all areas of your life. You can be dry and clean. But in order to grow and thrive in a spirit that you’ve previously pickled and poisoned, you need to find alternate ways of dealing with Life on Life’s Terms, which I think we can all agree is brutal.
Our disease affected everything!
Because everything was about alcohol when I was active in my disease and something had to fill that empty space when I left it’s sorry ass.
Every day you wake with breath in your body, you have two choices.
A) Obsess about your drug of choice – Keep everything about your addiction.
If you are drinking or using and are an addict, this is your default setting. You do it without thinking, even though it’s all you think about. Woven into choosing this choice are the possibilities of destruction, irreparable shame, sickness, and self-hatred. It is too often the route to death, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and even physically.
Most every minute of the day is spent either partaking in your drug of choice, feeling shame for having partaken in your drug of choice, and spending all available energies on obsessing about when you can do it again, which you swear you will never do again each and every time. And then you wake up the next day obsessed with doing it again.
B) Obsess about Recovery – Keep everything about becoming WHOLE
When you make the right choice, you lose your relationship with the abusive spouse of drink or drug. But that is ALL you lose, and when you get far enough away from it, you will more clearly see how abusive your default setting really was.
Doing the work of recovery is a life-long pursuit – just as active addiction was.
It is not a 90-day long stint in rehab, or an event you can attend and then move on to other things. If your sobriety is not nurtured and tended to, your spirit will turn back to it’s default setting of using.
In a victorious recovery life, most every minute of the day is spent maintaining that beautiful gift, learning new and healthy coping skills for dealing with issues, celebrating your clarity and ability to appreciate who God has truly intended you to be. It is time well spent, I promise.
Gratitude fills the space shame used to occupy. Clarity spills into the cracks where denial used to reside.
Recovery affects everything!
There is no magic pill to fix addiction. But there is an antidote to it:
It is active recovery.
It has to become what you are all about.
Who in their right mind would bring their deepest, darkest secrets out into the light for all to see?
Someone who has a story to tell that might help others out of the pit of despair that is obsession with using.
And somebody somewhere needs to know about your recovery story, Recovery Warrior.
I’m working on releasing a collection of essays exploring how the 12 Steps have played out in my own life and how to apply them to life in a practical manner.
It will be a very informal booklet – easy to read one bite at a time – and includes the biblical comparison for each step, a study verse for each, and a simple prayer at the conclusion of each essay. Just something simple to bless you on your own recovery journey…whether you are recovering from alcohol or substance abuse, co-dependency, or any other hurt, habit or hang-up (I think that’s just about ALL of us!)
“Practical to Tactical – Lessons from a 12 Step Life” will release on Amazon and for Kindle in November.
I will post more details when it is published.
A thousand thank-yous to each of you for your readership.
There is something so humbling about attending a 12-Step meeting, thinking “Whew! I’m glad I’m not THAT crazy person anymore!” and then waking up to walk on a carpet of pork rinds in your own bedroom. It kind of really drives things home.
I haven’t had a drink in nearly 15 years. As an alcoholic, I cannot afford to have even one.
That’s the truth about my drinking.
The truth about my ‘everything else?’ Its a little more complicated. I’ve heard it said that recovery is like peeling an onion – you address one issue and another is exposed. It’s so true.
Like this morning. I stepped out of bed, and into a pile of miscellaneous crumbs. They are miscellaneous because I parked out in bed last night (after a day battling chronic illness and a plethora of other minutia) I decided to binge on potato chips, pork rinds (pork rinds!) AND pickles, mindlessly, like a glassy-eyed Cookie Monster. Oh, wait. There WERE cookies involved too. I get so INTO food sometimes that I forget to taste it, and tasting it was not the priority anyway.
Eating my feelings was the priority. I am still – after all these years of NOT drinking – learning what to DO with all of these FEELINGS. There are so many of them, all the time.
The evidence of a ‘morning after’ eating binge can be just as distressing as a morning after alcohol binge. You wake up with that ‘what did I do last night?’ introductory thought, followed by deep shame and guilt when you remember (IF you remember, because sometimes I get so into it, I don’t even.)
I did not take into account last night that I was not actually really hungry, or that I would wake up the next day bloated and angry at myself.
No, because that isn’t how this thing works. You do not think ahead.
You are only thinking …
“I feel bad. I want to feel better. What will make me feel better RIGHT NOW?“
That’s kind of a summary of ALL ADDICTION, even in it’s most seemingly-innocent forms: I MUST feel better right NOW.
One cup of coffee? What is the POINT? Three gets the blood pumping.
Nothing wrong with a sleeping pill on occasion. But I have a high tolerance, you see. It takes more for me. And more than occasionally.
Exercise? No, thank you. UNLESS I work out far past exhaustion, and only in rare spurts.
All or nothing. No moderation. One of anything is insufficient…..candies, hugs, books, cups of coffee, cats. One is too many and a thousand not enough, as they say.
It is a miracle that I’ve not had a drink and I love knowing that sobriety is a real, actual thing…that God can enable ANY of us to live. I have not had a drink in 15 years, but the beast is only debilitated.
My alcoholism recovery is not a means to an end, in and of itself. I’ve de-clawed a Komodo Dragon, in a manner of speaking. Have you ever seen a nature documentary featuring one of those giant lizards? They have razor-sharp claws that can shred an animal bigger than itself in one swipe. They have super-sharp teeth, too. And the worse thing is that their spit is toxic as hell and if the bite doesn’t take you down, they wait patiently for the poison spit to infect and fell you.
So, in this glorious recovery from alcoholism, I’ve de-clawed the dragon. But I have to stay on guard. It has more than one destructive mechanism. It is always poised to pounce.
There is so much work to be done on my inside. The parts that demand instant gratification, while complaining it ‘takes too long’ (as the great Carrie Fisher – herself a recovering addict – has noted.) I want to feel better RIGHT NOW.
That’s not how this thing works.
I’m still that ‘crazy person’ and that’s the truth about me. But I now know that I don’t want to be the feeling-stuffer / eater / drowner / deny-er.) I cannot afford to keep doing that. If I do, the alcoholism is just waiting to infect and fell me.
I want to actually taste life, and think ahead. Look forward. I need to continue to learn how to be kind to myself and gentle with all of my parts. And to heck with what anyone else thinks.
You cannot please everyone and get well at the same time, of this I am sure.
That’s why I’m sharing this today, because you are only as sick as your secrets, and I’m ready to slay that damn dragon.
Here’s what the Bible has to say (insert Lion instead of Dragon, and this is actually kind of scriptural, even!)
“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” 1 Peter 5-8 (MSG)
“We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out”
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” – Colossians 3:16
This post took me forever to write, and that is not coincidence. I really struggle with how to best illustrate Step Eleven.
I struggle with it because I have a preconceived notion of what conscious contact with God is supposed to look like.
And it looks all Instagram-y.
You know ….
I wake up refreshed in the morning hungry for the Word of God. The very first thing I do is make a picture-perfect cup of coffee in the Keurig (for extra effect the coffee cup should be emblazoned with the words “Hope” or “Faith” or “Love” and – in finer print – a scriptural reference.) Taking my place on the sofa, I pray for God to expand my understanding during this special time with him as the kitty cats snuggle in next to me. I open The Message, and hey, looky there! I flip open my Bible and it ‘just happens to’ turn to a verse so very pertinent to my current circumstance. It is already highlighted even!
Thank you, Lord! Your will be done.
It’s so tidy. So picture-perfect.
Tidy, yes. But not an improvement over my current contact with God. And in recovery, improvement trumps tidiness every time.
I have ADD to a pretty good degree, and I find it hard to focus long enough to even make a cup of coffee on some days. It is easy to lose the essence of Step Eleven when we allow our preconceived notions of what conscience contact with God looks like.
How do I even know what to ask for? God is the perfect parent. He knows what I need before I even ask for it. Seeking Him isn’t about knowing what I need when I sit down to a perfect cup of coffee!
Going into my fifteenth year of sobriety (all glory to God, still one single day at a time) a more accurate illustration of my Step Eleven work might be as follows:
I wake up grateful for another day sober, but perhaps a little bit frustrated about a given circumstance. I Say, “Good morning, God. Can you help a sister out today? I need you.” Make a cup of coffee in the Keurig (most likely in either the “Life’s a bitch and then you die” or – my personal favorite – “I thought I was having a hot flash, but my boobs were in my coffee” cup). Accidentally piddle around too long on my way to the sofa doing stupid stuff around the house (Sorry, God.) Get to the sofa, only to find the cats in my spot unwilling to share the space. Hump back to the kitchen table, sloshing coffee on the floor. Pray for God to expand my understanding of Him this day, and open The Message. Hey – LOOKY!
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9 (NIV)
It’s highlighted even!
And the more I delve into what God has to say in His love letter, the more His message becomes apparent.
I want to help you. I want you to know Me.
I LOVE YOU.
Step Eleven in recovery isn’t about getting it right. It’s about seeking right exactly where you are today.
We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Biblical Comparison: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Corinthians 10:12
I like to call Step Ten”The GPS Step” because it is so directional. It reminds us that recovery is not a destination but a journey.
Taking my personal inventory is much like plugging in my address to a GPS system. There are many possible routes, but only one destination.
One of the first times I used my GPS was on a trip to visit my cousin in another state. I am a late-comer to this technology. My two adult daughters were accompanying me, and before we departed, they showed me how to pull up the GPS and ask the Very Knowledgeable Lady who lives in it how to get to our destination.
“How?” I asked my tech-savvy offspring.
“Just ask Siri,” they told me.
I did ask Siri, and – wonder of wonders – a magical map appeared that pinpointed my exact location (which was kind of scary.) I then told her the address of my cousin’s house and the entire 200-mile route to her house appeared with my journey clearly marked.
“Take a left on Highway 17,” The Very Knowledgeable Lady helpfully chirped. “And take exit 12 in 70 miles.”
I laid my cell phone down on the console and drove in awe as we traveled the thick blue route line. We were the little digital thumb tack on the screen, chugging down the road! Here’s where it got interesting.
Several times on the trip, I picked up the phone to make sure Siri knew what she was doing, even though I did not know the way myself! And although I had no reason to distrust the voice telling me where to go to arrive in the most efficient manner, I even stopped at a fast food place when we arrived in the destination city to ask for directions to her street!
My kids kept telling me, “Mom, just follow the route already mapped out.”
It has to be more complicated than that, I thought.
Have you ever trusted Siri to get you someplace and ended up somewhere else? That happens too. Once I drove six hours to attend a Blogger Conference in the mountains of North Carolina and instead of taking me to my Hampton Inn late at night, it led me down a dark road to what appeared to have been an old, abandoned sock factory. Really. It was in middle of nowhere! When I pulled in to reboot the GPS, The (not so) Knowledgeable Lady tried to save face with her response.
“Rerouting.” Like she meant to do that.
Although she had mistakenly taken me someplace else, she then had to re-route because my starting point was different from where I’d left six hours prior.
There are many, many routes to take on the recovery journey. Re-routing is always a possibility. The two important things to remember when continuing to take your personal inventory is to keep moving in a forward direction and don’t back-track and return to bad places. Promptly admit when you are lost.
In the GPS analogy of the tenth step, you can replace the Very Knowledgeable Lady in the cell phone to God Himself, who is more than happy to direct your path if you allow him to.
But you have to ask. And keep asking. He will not take you to a dark place (or an abandoned sock factory, for that matter) You have to ask, and you have to trust that His direction is perfect.
Throughout the previous work of Steps 1-9, you have pinpointed your exact location (and that can be a little scary, too.) The tenth step is insurance that we don’t revisit the dangerous places that led us down the wrong paths, even though our journeys are not always so clearly marked out.
It has to be more complicated than that, right?
Only it isn’t.
It is plugging your coordinates back in. Being honest with yourself about your stinkin’ thinkn’. Reaching out. Spending time in self-reflection. Going to meetings. Asking for directions. And when wrong, promptly admit it.
When do you arrive?
That is of less importance, everyone’s route is different. Don’t you see? We were absolutely built to travel – collecting wisdom and experience and fellowship and memories along the way.
We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
BiblicalComparison: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31
Protected behind presumably bullet-proof, fire-proof glass, there it was – one of 14 original official copies of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States.
My husband had surprised me by taking me to our local museum where it was showcased as part of a national tour. I’m a hopeless history nerd; it was a very thoughtful surprise.
Leading up to case that displayed the bill were velvet ropes with tassels on the posts. It was all so fancy. You knew you were headed for something special just walking towards it.
The Constitution was an incredible and liberty-bestowing document, but it needed amending to increase the freedoms in America. It doesn’t take away from the original document to be amended. Rather, it adds value.
The definition of ‘amend’ is:
Change, modify, reform.
Remedy. Revise. Alter.
Correct. Enhance. Improve.
Mend. Reform. Repair.
The definition of ‘amendment’ is: An alteration or addition.
Making a list of persons we have harmed is hard enough, but being willing to make amends to them all is even harder. By taking pen to paper and making your list, it’s important to include each:
Person who has been harmed as a result of your active addiction
Memories of harm done
Thoughts resulting from the harm – perhaps the thoughts that are continuing to haunt you as a result
Intentions you now have in making things right
Amends that you can make to help repair the damage
Making amends with those you’ve harmed is not a privilege for the more spiritually enlightened among us, but a right as a person in recovery. Making amends increases your freedom.
It’s easy to get stuck here on Step Eight.
There might be relationships that survive addiction that will not survive recovery. Step Eight work is not about extending the amends yet, but about becoming willing to make them. You are setting up the velvet ropes to healing relationships, and letting others in on making history in your recovery.
Step Eight is change, modification, revision or correction to bring about an alteration or addition to your spirit.
It’s not about taking away from what’s been done to you, but owning what you’ve done to others.
It doesn’t take away from your recovery, but adds value.
Amendments modify our existing plane to create a higher existence.
You are heading for something special, just by walking toward it.
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Biblical Comparison: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10
Many years ago, when I was a boat owner, I learned the adage “a boat is a vessel that you keep pouring money into.” It seemed like the maintenance for a salt-water vessel was never-ending. Each season, there was barnacle-scraping to be done.
The thing about barnacles is that if you never lifted your boat out of the water, you may never know they were even there. You would only be able to tell because every little barnacle affects the ‘drag’ of the vessel….making it slower and less reactive, and steering less accurate. Even though you cannot always visibly see them, they are disruptive and – if unchecked – can multiply in number and destruction.
They have to be dealt with every season. Not only are the little critters unsightly when a boat is lifted out of the water, they have a horrible stink.
And scraping them off is a very unpleasant experience. They seem glued to the surface and have to be scuffed off one-by-one. Work on too many at a time, and you don’t get them fully removed.
The stench makes you wonder if you shouldn’t have just left the boat in the water and pretended not to notice them. But the boat is on dry land now, there is no turning back.
Barnacles remind me a lot of Sixth Step work. They are much like our defects of character. If you are in recovery – even for one day – your boat has been lifted from the water. The cleaner your vessel becomes, the more you realize how encrusted it had been and how much it had been affecting your ‘drag’ – your life force.
Is it your season to scrape off the barnacles? The hard-shelled, parasitic character flaws that are slowing your recovery down?
Are you entirely ready to be free of those hangers-on of stinking thinking?
Ask God to remove your defects of character and he will lift you higher. Ask him to be gentle but effective, and ask him to make you mindful of destructive thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes they have been hitching a ride in us for so long that we don’t even realize they are there. Own every single one of your issues; you can’t work on what you don’t own. Pray for peace in the process. It will take time. That’s okay. There is no turning back now.
The scraping might be unpleasant and stinky, but there is nothing like the smoother sailing experience when you are seaworthy again.
If you had never been lifted from the water, you might have never been able to sail so free. There will be maintenance. But there will be a season to deal with those in due time.
A spirit is is a vessel that you keep pouring love into.
Everyone (even pop culture) seems to know that “admitting you have a problem” is the First Step proper. But does that admittance look like? And what about after Step One? And what does “Step Work” look like in practical living?
This series has been on my mind and in my heart for quite some time, because I know how confusing step work can be. The following blog entries will explore the traditional life-changing and oft-intimidating 12 Steps through observations made along the way. Each day will invite you to ponder a different step. It is only sharing my own experience, strength and hope, nothing more. Take what you need and leave the rest, as they say in the rooms. If the 12 Steps can help me, they can help anyone. I promise.
“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
The first time I darkened the door of an AA meeting, I was a 20 year-old. I wanted recovery, but I wanted it yesterday, and my understanding of the program reflected my impatience. These are actual thoughts I experienced when I first walked into my first 12 Step meeting:
“Well, Step One…..check! I admitted I have a problem, so that one is done. On to Step Two.”
“And I believe that a Power Greater than Myself can restore me to sanity, on account of I’m clearly not in charge here. So, worked that step already. Next!”
“Turning my will and life over to the care of God? Okay, I’m down with that. ‘God, I turn my will over.’ This isn’t so hard…..”
“Step Four: Making a fearless and moral inventory of myself……yikes.”
And with this one, I was stuck. Trust me when I tell you that Step Four cannot be done in one afternoon, even if you have the whole day off. Truly. You can take an inventory haphazardly, but not a searching and fearless one. This is where the rubber meets the road, right here on Step Four. (And sadly, yes … I actually believed that I had ‘worked’ Steps 1-3 in the course of a one-hour meeting. Ta daaaaa! Of course I only believed that because of, um….denial reasons.)
It would be many years before I would get serious enough about working the 12-Steps to truly explore what they look like in ‘real time,’ how they play out as workable ways to live life on life’s terms. Now, in my fourteenth year of continuous sobriety, I am just starting to get it. Here are some of the stones that I picked up on my ongoing walks with God. With them, I am building a future; and a good future at that!
Musing on 12 Step programs:
You will work the steps more than once. If you had a flow chart that depicted each of your issues and where you are Step-wise on each, well, there wouldn’t be enough ink or paper on the planet to print it out. Seriously, there wouldn’t. It is an overused analogy, but recovery really is peeling an onion. One layer gets addressed and another is exposed. I’ve employed the steps in a number of situations in my life and will continue to do so, and personally, I think they are applicable for anyone – addict or not – to apply. Unless your life is perfect, in which case you can go ahead and stop reading now, because you will not be able to relate to me at all.
Our addictions may look differently, but the root causes that trigger them are almost always similar. Alcohol was my drug of choice, heroin might be yours. I really don’t care because it matters little what you drink, smoke, or shoot, because I would venture to bet that the core issues that drove you to do so are pretty identical to mine. The answer is the same for all of these problems, as well. Without my Highest Power Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t have survived my addiction to tell the tale. One of the things I love most about the Celebrate Recovery program is that it is for anyone to experience the overcoming of any hurt, habit, or hang-up. In my estimation, if an issue or addiction is coming between me and God, it’s a problem worthy of applying the 12-Steps to. Alcohol, drugs, food, porn, gambling….you can learn a new way to live as an Over-comer with any struggle.
There is no schedule for working the 12 Steps. Oh how I wished for a timetable for the 12-Steps when I first got into recovery! Someone to say, “Okay, you will do A, B, and C, and then you will never want to drink again.” It does not work that way, at all. You will, if you are honest, become ‘stuck’ on a step. This used to frustrate me to no end, until I learned to think of the phenomenon as “marinating” in step work. “Working the steps” alludes to putting in time and energy and waiting for the quittin’ time whistle to blow. Marinating in a step brings to mind a soaking-up, a “take-your-time because it’s gonna be worth the wait” mindset. A good marinade cannot be rushed. For it to become part of the meat, it needs time. But you don’t want to spend your entire life in a bowl of marinade either.
If you can find a Step Study Group, by all means, please explore it! It is not for the faint of heart, it is for the determined to survive. But under guidance from a Step Study Leader and some very fine workshop materials, an in-depth study of each of the steps can be a game changer. No longer floating about in the Program of Your Understanding, but in a group in which everyone has Experience, Strength and Hope, and everyone brings it to the table in order to get well. You will bring ESH to your group that only you can bring. The value of having people delving into the steps one-by-one alongside you cannot be overstated. Find a group in your area and ask if Step Studies are being done. They are a separate animal altogether from the meetings, but incredibly worth your time.
There are no two recoveries alike. They are the snowflakes of the wellness world – each and every one is different. One of the slipperiest slopes out there is to see someone else’s recovery journey and decide they are not doing it right. Trust me when I say that your own side of the street is enough to keep clean. Don’t be passing judgement on someone else’s sidewalk, just stay on yours, keep it clean, and lead by example. I have had people tell me that I’m not really sober because I don’t have a sponsor. I’ve been told a plethora of things by a myriad of people; people who are – just like me – learning to live life on life’s terms. You just do you, and I’m going to do me.
Put one foot in front of the other and ask God to bless your footfalls. And marinate in this new way of living.
Celebrate Recovery 12 Steps and Biblical Comparisons
1) We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18
2) We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:13
3) We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1
4) We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:40
5) We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
6) We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10
7) We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” – 1 John 1:9
8) We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31
9) We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24
10) We continue to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – 1 Corinthians 10:12
11) We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” – Colossians 3:16
12) Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
A long time ago, when I was just a new human being, I decided that I wanted to go places. As I grew, I came to realize that I could not merely transport myself to that place called Destiny; I would need a vehicle.
I made up my mind that I would take the fastest route there. It would need to be sleek, and “smart” enough to get me around in unfamiliar places. I needed it to know where I was going, since I had no clue.
Fast modes of transportation are fun for a while, aren’t they? “Wheeee! I’m headed for Happy and nobody is going to stop me!”
The vehicle I chose was alcohol, and the disease it led to was addiction. For many years, alcohol fueled the fast rattle-trap that took me everywhere, and oiled all the bothersome squeaky parts.
It never really took me to Happy, of course, although I saw tons of directional signs claiming I was getting close. It always started off in the right general direction, promising to get me where I needed to go. But it lost its way every single day. Sometimes it took me to places that could pass for Happy, if you squinted really hard and were in pretty deep denial. Sometimes it got me worse than lost, landing me in neighborhoods of darkness and despair. It even tried to kill me a few times. Every night as I lay my head down to sleep (or black out), I swore I would never ride in that vehicle again. Never. Never. Never.
Still, every new morning, I stepped into the same means of transport, chiding it to take me to Happy, and to remember the way this time.
“My destiny awaits!” I would tell it, every single day. But it couldn’t hear me over the bravado of it’s own engine.
I was so cocky in my disease, so confident that I was calling the shots. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The transportation I stepped into every day by choice was addiction. And every day, for many years, alcohol fueled that fast, rattle-trap, and oiled all the bothersome squeaky parts.
If you choose not to disembark from your addiction, you will miss all of the amazing sights. And that’s tragic, because the scenery is breathtaking. The things you do manage see in addiction, you will not remember.
If you choose not to disembark, accept that your vehicle only seats one. It’s a lonely mode of transportation. You will crush many under your wheels while you self-destruct, but you will sit by yourself in active disease.
If you choose not to disembark, you will continue to delude yourself that you – and your addiction – know The Way. “Wheee! I’m headed for destruction and nobody can stop me!”
Essentially, isn’t that what we do?
Nobody could stop me from drinking.
Except me.Backed by the power of God Himself.
Nobody can stop you from using, except you. Backed by the most Powerful Force in the Universe and His mighty angels, the gates of Hell itself cannot prevail against your recovery.
You have the power to get out of that vehicle. There is a handle on the door. You might have to feel around for it. You might mash a few buttons or pull a couple of levers accidentally. That’s okay. AH, there is, the handle! I know it feels as if you aren’t powerful enough to pull it, but I promise you that you are. Don’t worry about what will happen when you open the door to step out. The future is nothing to fear.
Is life not slowing down enough for you to step out? Open the door and jump out. It will be the first of many incredible, supernatural feats of faith you will employ. The Father will catch you!
By choosing Holy Spirit to take me where I need to go and surrounding myself with others who want to arrive at Happy, I am loving the journey.
The drinking and using life will never get you to your Destiny, only to Destruction. You can only squint so hard to confuse the two destinations. God is okay with the rattles and squeaks in our spirits. He isn’t bothered by them in the least. He is not impressed with sleekness, nor with getting there the fastest.
My first mistake was in choosing that particular vehicle in the first place.
My next mistake was choosing to get into it every day, expecting it to take me to a different place. (And that, folks, is the very definition of insanity.)
I had to kick around a few tires before I chose my new transportation. That’s okay, too. There is a huge learning curve to this Recovering Life. It isn’t about arriving at your destination all in one piece, but experiencing the journey in One Peace.
In recovery, you are a new human being again, with places to go, people to see, things to do. Don’t even entertain thoughts of your old ways and means. They literally took you nowhere but down. They have no part of getting you to Happy.
Daily ask God to direct you in all that you do.
Daily take the time to stretch your traveler’s legs.
Gather with others, who – like you – are on the way to Happy. And don’t forget to enjoy the views.
On January 3rd, I will celebrate thirteen years of continuous sobriety. In getting ready to publish my testimony in full, I wanted to share what ‘hitting bottom’ was for me. I need to remember these things, so I am not doomed to repeat the past.
And I need to share it with you – in case you have touched bottom yourself, or know someone who is there now.
“Bottom” is a terrible place to be, but it is the only place that gives you enough leverage to push off.’
Hitting bottom enabled me to anchor on the true Rock, instead of drowning in the dark abyss.
I am still – forever – an alcoholic, and still – forever – in need of Grace. It is only by the grace of a savior who is willing to crouch down on the bathroom floor with me that I am saved.
It is by His grace that I live now, one day at a time.
By: Jana Greene
My prayer was simple and desperate, my head spinning.
Crouched down against the unfamiliar toilet – in the home of the hostess for the Christmas party where I was employed.
How did this happen again? How did I let this happen again? I was so careful, careful with the first drink, nursing it politely while milling awkwardly about the crowd of coworkers. I wanted to gulp it down to ease my nerves. I was shaking when I arrived alone at the party, because I was sober then.
Sober always meant shaking.
The second drink went down a little quicker. But my hands slowly stopped quaking and with the warm fire of the drink came slight nausea. Ironic that I must drink every day now – even though my body was starting to reject alcohol vehemently.
In those days, the whites of my eyes yellowed and face bloated, every day ended with a violent vomiting session.
Every day ended with the words, “Please Jesus, please.”
Be careful, I reminded myself while I poured the third. But I was just starting to feel “normal”, laughing with the other partygoers…maybe even fitting in, just a little bit. For just a few moments…joviality. The warmest place. Then, just as always, the relaxation turned to spinning and whirling.
I worked for an elementary school that year – my coworkers were also my children’s teachers, principal and librarian. My daughters were in Kindergarten and second grade respectively. I had to be careful with the drinking on this occasion. I’d been able to hide the extent of my drinking to my coworkers, friends, husband – the world. Or so I earnestly believed. I passed off hangovers as stomach bugs and headaches as minor inconveniences. I thought I was such a clever girl.
It had been less than an hour since I’d arrived at the party, when I had my fourth drink. I was proud that I was pacing myself so well. But by the sixth (or seventh?) drink, I casually wove to the guest bathroom, taking care to lock the door behind me.
And then the sick. The warmest place filling my throat and choking me.
I hate myself, I thought, shaking with another retch. Vomit quietly!
How did I even let this happen?
I tried to asses the situation soberly, rationally. But I kept forgetting where I was. Worse, someone had gone in to the bathroom with me! I could feel the presence of another person, but I couldn’t focus enough to identify who it was. I wished they’d leave! Having someone see me at my weakest was my worst fear. I was not alone….that much I knew.
Through the door, I can tell that voices were rising over the holiday music in the living room.
Now, someone is knocking at the bathroom door! I am laying on the cold tile now, convulsing in dry-heaves, but I can still hear the knocking. I whisper to whoever is hunkered down in the bathroom with me, “Shhhh…please, don’t open it!” Pulling myself to myknees, I can see that the bathroom floor is a mess, the lovely white rug splattered with the evidence that I cannot control myself.
“Just a minute,” I say louder, trying to articulate the words.
Another knock, and then a woman’s voice. “Are you okay?”
It sounds like the school’s principal. Oh no.
“Yes,” I respond, but it sounds like “yesh.” Hot humiliation burns my face.
“Okay then….” the voice says, unconvincingly. “Okay.”
Get up, I tell myself, pulling myself up to the counter. Get up, damn you…. and fake sober!
I’d taken such care to prepare for this evening, having bought a new “little black” dress, curling my hair, and wearing just the right makeup. But my shoes are missing….where are my shoes?
If I could pull of looking okay on the outside world, I could still be okay on some level. And this night, while driving to the party, I had repeated a mantra: paceyourselfpaceyourselfpaceyourself….you can do it if you try!
This night, I promised I wouldn’t cross the line between “relaxed drunk” and obliterated, which is what always (every single day) “happened to me, in the privacy of my own home. As long as no other human being knew my secret, I was safe.
Insanity is thinking that you would be just fine, as long as nobody knew – and I could find my shoes.
Now, on the bathroom floor, I remembered it was not only my professional reputation at stake, but my children. The party-goers were same people in the first line of defense for children, my children. They would pity my beloved daughters at the very least, perhaps even … I cannot even imagine. Oh, my sweet girls – how I love them. How much better they deserve.
I raise my eyes up to the bathroom mirror, and my reflection paid homage to my dread. Eyes ringed in crimson, makeup sloughed off with sweat.
This is the mother of my beloved daughters.
I tried to wipe my face with a wad of toilet paper as best I could, and then kneeled back down to clean the floor. It was difficult with the room spinning.
I hear a strangled whimper rise from my own throat and it swells to an involuntary sob. I try to muffle it while I rummage around in the cabinet under the sink for air freshener to cover the stench of vomit, but it is not use. The only think under the sink is a small toilet plunger and a very old bottle of White Shoulders perfume, half-full and orange with age.
I still feel whoever is in the room with me when I am misting the perfume around the bathroom. He is crouched down on the floor with me, but I still cannot discern his identity. Whoever it is, I owe him an apology. “I’m sorry,” I cry in a whisper. “I’m so sorry.”
I stand up, wobbly, and smooth my hair.
I can make slight eye contact with myself in the bathroom mirror now and hold the sad, strange gaze. I am just beginning to feel like the un-numb version of myself again, the hiccup in my buzz was rapidly becoming the itch of sober reality, immediately uncomfortable. Never mind, I tell myself.
Opening the door, my boss and coworkers – my children’s teachers – are standing around casually, trying not to stare at the wreck that emerged from the bathroom.
And my thought process is simple and desperate in that moment of sickness. I have stopped politely imploring Jesus to help me, afraid that he might – and what that might mean.
Instead, I am thinking, “I need just one drink.” After all, I’m not the first person to get drunk at a company Christmas party. It’s practically expected. I will just pace myself.