Where’s My Reward? – Grapevine Article September 2005 by Christine P.

Sober twelve years, an AA wonders when she’ll get the big pay-off

This coming October will mark my twelfth year of sobriety, but even with the passage of time, the inner demons of the alcoholic mind don’t roll over and die that easily.

As my AA birthday draws near, a lot of old stuff has been coming up, a lot of thoughts and feelings that I associate with my alcoholic identity. There’s a mindset around drinking that still haunts me from time to time, and that’s the whole “reward” aspect. I so clearly remember being twenty-four years old and driving home from my receptionist job over the canyon on a Friday night thinking, Yep, I put in a good week and now it’s time to party! I’d stop off and pick up a twelve-pack of my favorite beer and that would be the beginning of yet another lost weekend. It was my reward for having trudged through all those days. My own personal pat on the back that I couldn’t seem to reach any other way.

There were many people coming and going in my life then, but my constant companion–the one thing I could count on–was getting high. Drugs and alcohol were the things that kept me going and the yummy twins that awaited me for a threesome at the end of every long week. It’s been a long time since my life was anything at all like that, but I still have thoughts of, Okay, tomorrow is Friday and I made it through another week. Where’s my reward?

It’s not a twelve-pack, an ounce of weed, or a vial of pills … so what is it now? Candy? Sex? A trip to Starbucks? Gimmee, gimmee, get me, get me! Something new, something tasty, something, some thing!

In contemplating this, what I realize is that this is still alcoholic thinking holding me hostage. I’m looking outside of myself yet again for something to fill that void. The road has gotten narrow lately in a way I can’t describe. I’ve come to a certain plateau, and there’s resistance to continuing the journey. It’s not even that it’s such a struggle, it’s that I feel like I’m looking at this bleak, blank vista ahead of me and I have no desire to take another step.

There are things that new (like teaching) and things that are challenging (like being in a relationship), and yet there’s a part of me that’s always looking for the treat. Give me something quick and easy! Give me something that’s going to instantly make me feel good and give me satisfaction. None of this long-term goal stuff will do!

I sometime feel that I live with a constant, churning impatience with myself and with those around me. Tonight, it’s right here, right on the surface demanding answers, demanding satisfaction. When I came home from work tonight I was exhausted, so I decided to take a nap. As I was falling asleep, a very loud car alarm went off down the street and it continued to shriek as I slept. It was an excellent metaphor for the way I feel, the way I continue to feel in times like this.

Lately, I feel as though there’s always this shrieking alarm going off inside of me, wanting something. I can live with it, I can even sleep through it, but it’s always there setting my nerves on edge and making me aware of the inner tension of my own hunger, my own insatiable demand for satisfaction.

I want to scream “Shut up! Shut up!” I want to throw rock through the window of the car making the noise. It still wouldn’t stop the shrieking, but it might move some of this energy I can’t seem to tame.

So here I am. One more night I go toe-to-toe with this thing, wrestling in a grudge match with a faceless, nameless demon that says, “I want, I want, I want …. “

What I have learned in the past twelve years is that my relationship with God and my spiritual practice is the only answer, even when I’m not sure of the question. I am finally in the relationship with the higher self I had been seeking through drugs and alcohol all along. My relationship with God, with myself, is all there is. All there will ever be.

Am I strong enough? Am I willing to commit my life and my heart at an even deeper level to doing whatever it takes to keep moving forward? Am I willing to walk off this damn plateau?

As I write this, I have no cutesy conclusion. All I have is the willingness to accept myself as I am in this moment. I also have the spiritual conviction of knowing the next step I take, whatever it will be, will be sober, and I know I am not alone in this courageous walk.

Thank you, all of you, seen and unseen members of AA, for continuing to take this walk into the unknown with me. You are the treat I truly savor.

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