A member with 120 days describes some of the things that proved difficult
I am fond of saying, “Life does not stop while you’re recovering.” For me that saying applies to both failures and successes. Just because you decide to get sober does not make you immune to life’s challenges. Life is an endless sea of ebb and flow.
How we choose to deal with these trials has a direct correlation with our adherence to the 12 Steps. The irony of living a sober life is that we, as alcoholics, have come to expect disappointments over success. Our condition has brainwashed us in believing we do not deserve success and now when we experience a personal triumph our first instinct is to reward ourselves by drinking. As alcoholics, the trappings of success can make us vulnerable to relapse. But it does not have to. We deserve success just as much as the next person. The Twelve Steps and our fellow members teach us how to not become a victim of success. For me all it took was an open mind, a closed mouth and a healthy dose of humility.
The seismic event that would shape my sober life both personally and financially was the loss of my job of 13 years. My identity was wrapped up in my career as a freelance television producer and documentary filmmaker. The job was one of great demands and high stress but I managed to achieve and often exceed my objectives.
During the months before I came to AA, I did a lot of damage to my reputation. Although I never drank while working, my nerves and self-confidence had unraveled. Common situations I use to handle with ease became impassable obstacles. So, before I could get gunned down, I hung up my spurs and traded them in for the bottle.
Without work to get in the way of my drinking, my condition spiraled and I found myself regularly treated at the emergency room for alcohol poisoning. I would often look in the mirror and see a different man staring back at me. These were the sort of thing I imagined by younger self might say to the wreck I had become:
“How did you end up like this?”
“I’m ashamed of you.”
“You are no longer in control your life.”
“You need help.”
Eventually, I found my way to AA and began the long journey of recovery. I decided that my full-time job for the first 30 days would be to stay sober. I would attend meetings, read the Big Book, battle urges and heal my battered body.
The days seemed endless and the nights sleepless, but with every passing day, I felt the fog gradually lifting. When I received my 30-day chip, something unexpected happened. I felt like drinking. My alcoholic brain was sending message after message to reward myself for a job well done.
Between 30 and 60 days, my finances dictated that I could no longer afford the luxury of living in a self-imposed bubble of sobriety. It was time to rejoin the ranks of the workforce. But it wasn’t going to be easy.
After many fruitless attempts to find work in my field, I took a part-time job at a warehouse pulling orders and making deliveries. The job in all its simplicity was exactly what I needed at the time: mindless, physical and stress-free.
However, the pay was unlivable and I reluctantly sought help in the form of food stamps. My pride took a beating the day I received my EBT card in the mail but my belly was about to be full of joy. It was a lesson in humility.
The days of wining and dining with rock stars and artists were replaced by a carefully spent $6.50 daily food allowance and eating with my blue collar co-workers.
I experienced a lot of tough days between days 60-90. That’s when I came to grips with the idea that sobriety was not a passing fancy but a deeply held commitment. I found little solace in the words heard around the tables and readings from the Big Book could not keep me safe from my own mind, which seemed intent on seeing me back in the same old squirrel cage.
It was during this time, I wandered into a local college to explore the possibility of taking a few night classes, if for nothing else, to help fill the empty nights. To my stunned disbelief, I qualified for a financial aid that would allow me to attend college and pay for my books free of charge. My pride began to swell with this wonderful news but at the same time fear and doubt began to creep in. I had never attempted college and I didn’t know if I had the discipline to work, attend school and study simultaneously. I worked through these conflicting emotions by using mediation techniques I had been slowly. I came to believe that if I worked The Steps and continued attending daily meetings, I could handle these challenges.
The days leading up to my 120-day mark would continue to challenge my resolve. I was content with leaving the media world behind but when an unexpected job offer to teach TV production at a local community college surfaced, I began questioning my new found plans to attend college.
I was hired without an interview based on my online demo reel and previous awards. My chest filled with pride and my mind filled with bad intentions. This was as close as I would come to throwing my sobriety out the window for a quick fix but instead I picked up the phone and used the tools I acquired in AA.
As fate would have it, the teaching position was postponed until the following semester. This allowed me the necessary time to adjust to my new life as a full-time student and worker.
Now, as I approach my fifth month of sobriety, I have experienced a series of both positive and negative aftershocks from my drinking life. It is without reservation that I know I owe my ability to deal with these challenges to my daily attendance at AA meetings and the lessons I learned from the Big Book.
The program and the people have given me the tools to help navigate the unseen pitfalls that lay in wait for me in the days ahead as I strive to be happy, joyous and free.