Sobriety is a glorious thing. Whether alcohol, drugs, food or some other substance called you, letting go of them was truly a blessing. Initially some thought that refraining from their drug of choice would be the end of their journey. Once the obsession to use had lifted, they thought their work,was done. Unfortunately, many of them had to discover the hard way that this was not the case. In relatively short order they found that they were miserable and that they were making others miserable. Perhaps their defects of character were no longer fueled by drugs or alcohol; but many of those defects still rose to the surface. They had become classic dry drunks. All of that anger, rage, fear, jealousy, guilt, and shame just bubbled to the surface.
Hopefully after a particularly nasty meltdown, they realized that being part of the program was much more than just abstaining from their drug of choice. It involved daily work which included personal inventories, working the steps, attending meetings, frequent outreach and service. When those tools began to kick in, they finally began to taste true sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Is my behavior sometimes still that of a dry drunk?
We say that we practice life one day at a time. Part of the reason for this is that new issues are going to arise every single day. Yes it’s true that yesterday we worked our program diligently and that work helped keep us physically and emotionally sober. The problem is that we need to have our batteries recharged every day. The work we did yesterday helps, but within a short period of time, it’s benefits dissipate. The only way we can jump start our program is to do work on a daily basis. Probably one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to make as many meetings as possible each week. Every time we go to a meeting, that program voltage meter gets activated. If we are having a particularly challenging day, all of the inspiration and wisdom from those meetings can be drawn upon. However, when we have neglected going to meetings, our program battery has been drained. When that happens, we begin to make decisions that are impulsive, reckless and sometimes even dangerous. Before we know it, we are acting like a dry drunk. The path to picking up suddenly seems a lot closer than we thought. When that happens, get back to your meetings.
Personal Reflection: Am I making enough meetings?
At a meeting you will invariably hear someone speak about their bottom. This was the point where they were most active in their addiction just prior to coming into the program. Those bottoms had many levels. Some people had reached low bottoms which included serious health issues, problems with the law and broken relationships. Then there were those with high bottoms. These were people who were still able to maintain some degree of functionality. They entered the program as well because they realized that alcohol, drugs and food would ultimately result in a continued downward spiral.
There is another kind of bottom which can be found in the rooms of AA, NA and OA. In it, are people who have given up their drug of choice; so as far as substances go, they are technically sober. Yet the reality is that they are far from it. They are the ones who refuse to work their program. They rarely call their sponsor. Long periods go by without their attending a meeting. The steps are something they take to go up a flight of stairs as opposed to 12 guidelines for emotional sobriety. Once you become a dry drunk, having a slip becomes a much greater possibility. We need to be truly sober in all of our affairs.
Personal Reflection: Do some of my behaviors fit that of a dry drunk?
It definitely hurts when someone wrongs us. Sometimes we don’t quite understand why it is necessary for us to forgive them. It’s not like we are going to seek them out and tell them we forgive them for their actions. If anything we are the aggrieved party. They should be the one coming to us and asking for forgiveness. What exactly is the point of our saying to ourselves that we forgive a particular person for a perceived wrong which was committed.
Forgiveness does have purpose. When we forgive someone, as long as it is sincere, we short circuit any resentments that we have. To an alcoholic or drug addict, resentments are like pouring gasoline on a fire. They are the springboard for the launch of all of our other character defects. The ultimate outcome of a resentment is a slip or a major dry drunk episode. When we are able to release those resentments, we help maintain physical, emotional and spiritual sobriety.
On those occasions when someone comes to us with an amends, in most instances we should immediately forgive them. The process of forgiveness helps us maintain our humility. It also gives us an opportunity to take a look at our part and where necessary make amends as well.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to work on being more forgiving?
We are unabashed defenders of a belief in our Higher Power. This belief for many of us did not come easy. We had tried to stop using our drug of choice without success. It was only when we had reached our bottom, that we surrendered and asked G-d to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Some of those bottoms were pretty severe. We only looked up for our Higher Power when their was no other direction to go.
Perhaps initially we thought that this turning to G-d was a one shot deal. OK, now that we were out of the woods, we could rely solely on ourselves again. What we found was that there were all other kinds of bottoms, that did not involve drugs or alcohol. We could be abstinent so to speak, and still walk around like we were intoxicated. This was the dilemma of the dry drunk. When we were in this state, we were hurtling ourselves like a runaway train towards all other kinds of emotional bottoms. The brakes were shot; and there was but one alternative; to turn to the G-d of our understanding. After repeated, brake failures, we began to turn to our Higher Power when the train had only begun to pick up speed.
Personal Reflection: Is my train picking up speed?
A women was sharing about an incident from her early days of sobriety. She was a few minutes late for work. When the timekeeper from the firm saw her, she was informed that she would be docked for her tardiness. The program member exploded in anger. She got into a full blown screaming match, first with the timekeeper, then with the manager and finally with the owner. She was lucky she didn’t get fired. Later in the day she relayed the incident over to her sponsor. The then newcomer said, “How dare they dock me. I was only a few minutes late. I give so much to that firm. I got caught in traffic and that was why I was late”. When she finished her tirade, her sponsor responded and said, “that wasn’t very sober behavior was it? The sponsee sheepishly admitted that indeed her behavior had not been sober. She might not have been drinking or drugging, but all her actions belied that fact.
It is so easy to fall into the “how dare theys”.
How dare they double park.
How dare they go before me.
How dare they speak to me like that.
You can fill in the blank for your own personal “how dare they”. It’s important to remember that how dare they thinking is the antithesis of emotional sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I still engage in “how dare they” thinking?
We are all going to have one of those days. From the moment we get up, nothing seems to go our way. We spill the coffee, are late for the bus, and late for a big meeting at work. And, it’s not even 10am in the morning yet. Later in the day, one too many things happen to us and we lose it. All our emotional sobriety gets thrown out the window. Right after that we toss out the Big Book. Forget about “let go and let G-d. We find ourselves right back to the way we used to be before we entered the program. However, there is a difference. We do have the capacity to catch ourselves. It make take 5 to 10 minutes or even half an hour, but we can return to our sober equilibrium. Once we do, we immediately make amends to whoever we might have hurt with our outburst. We also do a quick self inventory and see which defect of character emerged earlier. It would probably be a good idea to call our sponsor and talk about what happened. Many of us find journaling, prayer and meditation beneficial as well after such an event. We take comfort in knowing that we can reclaim our emotional sobriety whenever we are ready.
Personal Reflection: How do I reclaim my emotional sobriety after one of those days?
Years ago, I went with my sponsor to a meeting. He said, “Do you see those people over there”? I nodded my head in acknowledgement. “They don’t drink and they go to meetings; and you don’t want to be one of them”. At first I was confused. I knew a number of people from the group he had mentioned, and they had long-term sobriety. Over the next few weeks and months, I came to see why he had made his statement. In listening to their shares and observing their behaviors I came to realize that it was true that they didn’t drink. However, emotional sobriety had eluded them. Many of them were what we called “dry drunks” They exhibited many of the characteristics of the addict without using. They were still bundles of fear, resentment, pride and self-centeredness. They were certainly not people who I wanted to emulate. On the other hand, there were people in the rooms who really had transformed their lives. They were the ones who were honest in their dealings, humble, open and given to doing service. Many of them today are my friends. Personal Reflection: Are you one of the winners?