May 1, 2012 (this day)

Today I have 28 years of sobriety.

There’s so much I could say about it, and I’ve thought about what to say, but someone posted a comment to an old post and I think there’s no better way to mark my anniversary than to try and answer this.

From How Did You Replace the Alcohol?  Sharon writes:

Hi. I’m new to AA, and constantly hear people say as you did “I relapsed many times before I “got it.” But no one ever says what “got it” means. Over 30 meetings in 30 days, I have tried to figure out the purpose of the meetings (my group just sits around sharing horror stories of their drunken past). I learned someone asked (behind my back) to another group member if he thought I would ever “get it.” I don’t understand what I need to do because no matter what I do seems to be wrong. I shared every meeting because I copied what I saw others doing. Since I have no horror stories, I instead shared things I was learning from the Big Book and my journey to recovery. No one ever talked about moving forward. And on and on. I’m absolutely baffled at how others’ behavior, words, etc are all correct, but I “don’t get it.” What don’t I get? Other things happened that made me feel humiliated and isolated from the group, to the point where I spiralled into depression. For now I have stopped going to meetings. Can you please help me understand?? Thanks!

What “getting it” means to me is having a spiritual awakening, becoming a “reformed” alcoholic (and actually re forming).

Unfortunately, this takes much, much longer than 30 days.

It means

  • having the humility to accept that, even with all of their glaring faults, the folks at an AA meeting have something more than I do, they have a way to stay sober, and I don’t
  • working the steps, all 12, but especially (at the beginning) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
  • identifying, not comparing, and seeing how much we all have in common (these folks have, along with me, survived a metaphoric shipwreck after all)

Sharon (and others who are struggling) “it” is a way of life, and it takes time to learn this way of life.  And it’s difficult.  The only reason I “got it” was that I had no other choice.   Most people I know will not truly do the tough stuff of the program unless they have been driven to their knees, or lower.  It was only when I lost all hope of a drinking future that I could really accept a non-drinking future.

I know that most people won’t “get it,” partly because they won’t work for it.  If you want what I have then you’ll do what I did, and what I did was hang around far, far beyond the first 30 days.  It is the biggest blessing and most important fact of my life.

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5 thoughts on “May 1, 2012 (this day)

  1. 1st – CONGRATULATIONS on 28 years sobriety!!! How amazing is that?!

    Thanks so much for your reply – it helped immensely. Indeed, I’m blocked at the steps of turning over everything about myself and my life over to a “higher power” even though I know I can’t overcome my addiction through my own power. From what I understand, if I can’t complete those steps, I’ll just keep on drinking.

    The comment about “having the humility to accept that, even with all of their glaring faults, the folks at an AA meeting have something more than I do, they have a way to stay sober, and I don’t” was a bright light bulb for me! It’s worded perfectly and shows me that I went into meetings thinking I was smarter or in some way better than everyone else. Time for a new perspective 🙂

    “Getting it” taking much longer than 30 days makes me wonder even more why someone would ask if I’ll ever get it and say that it’s apparent to the group that I don’t get it after I’d attended meetings for only a short time.

    My psychiatrist 1st told me 90 in 90, but because I was so overwhelmed by what I saw as a goal beyond my reach, he made it 30 in 30 (he and I both knowing it would go on from there, but for now let’s set something attainable for me in my present mental and emotional condition.)

    Can I please ask your help on one other thing?

    I’m curious why I have yet to hear 1 success story in a meeting (been to several different groups in order to make 30 in 30). The horrific stories are all the members talk about – definitely many positives to those stories being shared! That being said, I leave the meetings more depressed than when I came in. (And yep, I’m a chronic slipper). I came in looking for hope and help, and discussion of moving forward, and wonder why people don’t also talk about the good stuff!

    With that method, I feel I have nothing to contribute to the group and the meetings. I don’t understand what to share and what not to share and when, etc. I guess I don’t get exactly how the meetings work no matter how hard I try – bottom line.

    Again, congrats on your anniversary and thanks again for your help, time, and insight!

    -Sharon

  2. Congratulations! Twenty-eight years of continuous sobriety is inspiring. I read here. I don’t always comment. I first commented at six months of sobriety, perhaps less? Having 16 months of sobriety helps me see that I know nothing. And in that knowing nothing, I am liberated from that previous jail of having to know everything at all times. For me, that is the third step. Letting go of the need to know God’s plan, or any plan, and just trusting that if I work these steps, keep my own house in order and help the suffering alcoholic,I am doing God’s will to the best of my ability. I listened to this speaker talk about surrender, and he said a soldier that surrenders, puts his weapon down, does not look back at it, He just sits and waits for direction. I take direction, and because of that, I am not steered wrong. If something sounds off to me, I ask someone else. Not to get the answer I want, but to get the answer that is consensus. And I am happy.

    For Sharon, I can just say that getting it is practicing, understanding, and living the first step every day. I feel for you. Our egos are so delicate, particularly when we are detoxing from alcohol. If you can just not take what they say personally, try not to. They are saving your life, if you let them. They saved mine.

  3. Hey newcomer, don’t fret! If you are truly seeking recovery, You will find it in AA. First of all, don’t believe for a moment that everything you hear at a meeting is correct…..that is simply impossible. It is by no coincidence that anyone finds themselves in AA so congratulations! You have been chosen to “Get It” but first you must “Want It”. If you want it you will do the work weather you like it or not. I do “the work” everyday and this is what I got:

    A clear and true understanding of who and what I am. The ability to become the best I can be. A purpose in this world that is valuable to all humanity. A higher power that defines me daily. The love and affection of others that I can now help. Gratitude for even the toughest of lessons. The ability to bring hope to the hopeless. I got this and much more after finally doing the work (taking the suggestions, taking the actions).

    The actions: Pray daily even if you don’t believe. Read the AA literature even if you don’t understand it. Reach out to other AA’s even if you don’t like them. Make an AA meeting even if you don’t want too. Get a sponsor to guide you through the steps immediately. Do this and you will “Get It” before you “Know It’.

    Keith M.
    Miami, Florida

  4. Wow, thanks so much guys! What you’ve given is what I want so badly- people sharing what they’ve learned, insight, food for thought, support, encouragement, acceptance, and being positive. Reading your posts also set off more light bulbs than I can tell you – thanks for that!

    It’s also most helpful when people say things constructively as you all have – much appreciated.

    I’d forgotten how easily I take things personally – thanks for the reminder. I not only took things personally, but was also hurt that people didn’t say anything to my face. They talked behind my back and later I found out by accident. That bothers me a lot. If they’re saving my life, wouldn’t they be talking to me directly? There’s another part to this too- I stayed after meetings to socialize with everyone. The last 2 weeks or so, no one came up to me to chat, so I approached others to visit. When I came up to them, it felt really awkward, and the people would stop their conversation within a minute or so, say they had to go, and split. Then I’d drive home re-playing in my mind whatever I could recall of the events, trying to figure out what I did (or didn’t do) such that others won’t even talk to me socially! I don’t know how to take all that but personally. What am I missing? (besides my mind 🙂 )

    Speaking of which 🙂 I’m sure things are coming into play from mental disorders. I did share with the group that I’ve had bipolar2, severe depression, chronic depression, panic attacks, and a little obssessive-compulsiveness my whole life, made several attempts on my life (1st at age 8), been hospitalized, see a psychiatrist, and must be on several meds for life. I thought it important to share this in terms of not hiding things, it’s a huge part of me and my life, and also hoped the group would understand. Every day is a fight, and I’ve worked very hard over the years on these things. My emotional maturity is much better than it used to be, but still lags far behind my actual age (which we won’t discuss LOL). Things AA seem to be one-size-fits-all, and partially because of the above, I don’t know that I can fit myself into that size, or even if it’s a good idea to do so! And hey like anyone else, I want to be accepted as I am now, warts and all 🙂

    28 years is just so amazing! I can’t even imagine! You all have helped me so much – I’m now in the hell 🙂 of day 5 of being sober because of you – thank you! 🙂

    -Sharon

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