We had a rude awakening when we became sober. Yes it’s true that a lot of the drama we experienced in our lives dissipated once we gave up our drug of choice. That part was certainly good. What we discovered to our chagrin was that many of our old bad habits still dogged us. Just because we stopped using, didn’t mean that a lot of that negative behavior which we had collected along the way would magically disappear. In fact we found the opposite to be the case. It became quite a challenge for us to modify or give up some of those habits. For example, we might have peppered our conversation with profanity in the past. Most likely this predated our drinking or drugging careers. Perhaps we had used profanity to fit in or to prove how macho we were. In the program we attended meetings where the group chair would announce that, “we refrain from profanity at this meeting”. After our share, from the way people were looking at us we realized that our profanity habit had kicked in. Once we moderated our tongue, we uncovered lots of other bad habits that needed attending to. Part of our healing took place as we shattered some of these negative behaviors.
Personal Reflection: What habit of mine still needs attending to?
Every year thousands of students look forward to the month of June. That is when they graduate from high school or college. Especially in the case of college, there is often a collective sigh of relief. By that point, many of the students have reached their quota of exam taking and term papers. They want to graduate, begin paying off their student loans and hopefully enter the work force. Many of them never want to open a text book again. They certainly never want to enter a lecture hall again. For them, they have closed the chapter on their education career.
We in the program probably had similar feelings about our formal education. However, when it came to our recovery we felt vey differently. As we began to embark upon our pathway of self discovery, we quickly realized that there was no graduation date. Each day we saw that we needed to go deeper and deeper into our healing. In particular, we found that as we pursued emotional sobriety, it gave us unlimited opportunities for daily work. We also found that when we failed to work on ourselves on a daily basis, we definitely observed slippage. Some of those old character defects came roaring back.
Personal Reflection: What aspect of my recovery am I currently working on?
Many of us viewed our addictive behavior as a victimless crime. We would often make statements such as, “I’m not hurting anyone because of my drinking or drugging or compulsive overeating”. This of course was far from the truth. As our disease progressed we began to meet disapproval of our behavior from spouses, family members, friends and employers. We were threatened with everything from divorce to arrest, to loss of employment. As a result, to “satisfy” everyone and get them off of our backs, we finally entered into a 12 step program. Initially, this worked for us. At least we had crossed the threshold of a 12 step room. Perhaps our family and friends finally left us alone. We quickly realized that entering the program for another was only a stop gap measure. We learned that the program had nothing to do with satisfying the desires of our loved ones to have us stop using. The program was a plan for daily living. It was a blueprint for personal transformation. Upon personal reflection we came to see that our actions had impacted the lives of others. Looking even more deeply, we realized that we had done great harm to ourselves. The program became a vehicle for us to heal ourselves and through doing so rebuild our relationships.
Personal Reflection: How have I healed in sobriety?
At the beginning of every meeting a “friend” is asked to read a short statement on anonymity. Part of the text notes that anonymity is a “spiritual foundation” of the program.
Early on, when we heard that anonymity was a concept that would be treated with the utmost respect, our minds were set at ease. Many of us had a lot of shame upon entering the program. We had done and said things which we deeply regretted. Part of our healing process was to be able to openly share about our past, as well as talk about the present and plans for the future. If we did not feel that we were in a safe place, many of us would have held back what was really going on in our lives. For an alcoholic or addict, a meeting is probably the only place that he or she can truly be themselves. That daily dose of honesty is only able to exist because of our respect for anonymity. We take this concept very seriously. When we meet someone from program in a social or a work setting, an outside observer might think we were meeting for the first time; though in actuality we have sat next to each other at a meeting for the past ten years.
Personal Reflection: How do you safeguard the anonymity of others?