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  • Alumni Perspective: Don’t leave before the miracles happen

    by Leslie H. (Munro 2003)

    “They knew all about the fierce, silent battles that need to be waged in the “walled-up fortress of the heart” if true freedom is ever to be gained.”

    – from Stage II Recovery: Life Beyond Addiction by Ernie Larsen

    It’s probably no accident that the initials of restless, irritable and discontent spell out RID. I need to free myself to be relaxed, easygoing, serene and contented. When I add “Understand Ego”, these initials turn into the word RESCUE.

    I believe my ego is the chief disturber of my serenity and the main root of my negative self-talk. EGO also stands for edging God out. If I let God in, work my program and keep close to others, I can break the cycle of negativity.

    When I was 15, I didn’t know I had a cycle that needed breaking. From the first moment I got drunk and high, I felt great! The feelings, “I’m not pretty enough, popular enough, good enough” weren’t on my radar. When I used, I fit in, felt smart, and at home in my skin.

    Negative talk centered on you – what you should or shouldn’t be doing, how you were a pain or an idiot or both and how, if you just did what I thought you needed to do, everything would be great. And things appeared great for a long time.

    Change happens as time progresses. As time ticked away, my disease progressed. The book Alcoholics Anonymous calls alcoholism a juggernaut, meaning a huge or overwhelming force or object. When I think of a “juggernaut”, I think of a tank, ever-so-slowly rolling along and crushing everything in its path.

    My alcoholism not only was crippling me physically, but also destroying me emotionally and spiritually. My emotions – by now almost totally negative toward myself – were being ignored, stuffed and dramatized. The resulting pain – and my inability to tolerate even the minutest amount of discomfort – demanded that I drink and use. Spiritually I was almost finished. The God of my understanding hated me and said, “You made your bed, now lie in it!”

    The Doctor’s Opinion sums it up. “Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false.” [Emphasis mine.]

    I drank and drugged for 33 years before a recovering alcoholic and addict was sent to me (through the grace of God, I believe) to show me the truth and to offer me hope. It took another three years of trying to do it my way before I made it to the rooms.

    What am I like now? I am moved to grateful tears of joy as I write this. I have miles to go in this lifetime program, but I have come miles from the person who called herself worthless, miserable and pathetic.

    Every day it gets a little easier to look in the mirror and smile. I am no longer the person who felt herself unlovable and unloving. Every day it gets more pleasurable to talk with my Higher Power in prayer. Slowly, I am changing from the woman who’d cry, “nothing ever works out for me” into someone who sees life as rich, magical and miraculous.

    Recovery is progressive, just like my disease. To me this means that even on the more challenging days – those days when I’m consumed with growing pains – that if I am clean and sober and reaching out for help, then I am healing. Here’s what helps me:

    Breathe and don’t panic. I know this sounds funny, but when I was first clean and sober I had to be reminded constantly to keep my shoulders down and to take long, slow breaths. I still need to practice this.

    Suit up and show up. To get better, I need to stop using. Suiting up for me is not using, one day at a time. Showing up is regularly getting to meetings.

    Get a sponsor and use her. We talk daily. I am open and honest with her, and follow her directions. Often my sponsor can see my negative self-talk before I do, and set me straight.

    Get a Higher Power and use it. Bill W. said the greatest gift he was ever given was this suggestion from his friend: “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?”

    Work the Steps. I don’t get better and then work the Steps. I work the Steps and get better. For me, 12-Step recovery is like reprogramming. Every day I have choices between old ways (negative and blaming) and new ways (an attitude of gratitude combined with action).

    Use the slogans. Easy does it, one day at a time.

    Choose to live in the solution. The same alcoholic and addict who said, “Acceptance was the answer” also said, “Okay, God. It is true that I — of all people, strange as it may seem, and even though I didn’t give my permission — really, really am an alcoholic of sorts. And it’s all right with me. Now, what am I going to do about it?” The lyrics to a song by “Trooper” offer a reply:

    “If you don’t like
    what you got
    why don’t you change it
    if your world is all screwed up
    rearrange it.”

    Don’t leave before the miracles start happening. The promises do come true. Hang in there.

    About the Authors

    Renascent Alumni
    Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email alumni@renascent.ca.