Amends?

It’s been 4637 days since my last drink. That’s 12 and 1/2 years if you add them all up. I didn’t want to get clean and sober. Well I didn’t want the pain, sickness and shame, but was terrified of living without drugs and alcohol. How did people do that? How to cope with all the emotions? The fear. The anger.

The work of recovery was something I feared deeply. Those damn emotions and all that accountability! There were meetings, therapy, physical care and mental health support. I began to realize that if I did what people who knew how to be sober suggested that maybe, just maybe, I would learn to be grateful and possibly happy.

An integral part of this process was about making amends. During active addiction I caused enormous destruction and pain. In recovery I could no longer place blame on others for my actions, had to own my mistakes, and do what I could to right those wrongs.

The idea behind making an amends is to clean up your side of the street. I wronged another person, and now had do my best to make it right, and we all move on. Whether they accepted my apology or not wasn’t something in my control. My role was to respect them and their wishes and carry on with my life. As hard as it was I did the work. Most people, over time, accepted my amends and relationships were repaired. Most. Not all. Friendships ended and I mourned. Mourned what I did. Mourned what I lost. That none of it could be undone.

Family relationships were the most important to me. These were the people I had impacted most, but also loved the deepest. Besides my husband and children it was my Mom and sister that carried the most importance. Those amends were terribly difficult. It’s hard to listen to what you’ve done so it can be made right. The blessing of being a blackout drinker is that you don’t have the burden of memory. The drawback is that not remembering comes off as denial to those looking for answers.

For a long time I thought my sister had accepted my amends. That we were working on our relationship. We had some great times in these past 12 years. Hard ones too – and during one of those tough times she came clean that she couldn’t forgive me. What I come to realize is that sometimes the damage is simply too great. That hurt informs everything going forward . Hurtful actions can’t be undone. No amount of me wanting things to be different is going to change that. Not even with a cute vision board!

So what do you do when your closest living relative can’t forgive you? I’m supposed move on. Respect her wishes and get on with my life. Clearly I can’t “make it right”. Can’t fix hurt and pain. Time can’t be turned back. I’m going to try my best to move on, grieve the loss and stop wishing for a resolution the other person doesn’t want. There is no denying that it sucks. I had held onto this idea that we could get beyond this and hike together when I attempt another AT thru next year. Just have to let it go.

I am committed to not going back to the life I once lived. To show with living amends that I am not that same person who caused all that damage. I am grateful. I am happy. Also sad. The good thing is … I won’t drink over it.

Life Shows Up

IMG_5745Life shows up. Sometimes it shows up with no warning, while you’re cruising along under the belief that everything is peachy. That happened this week with a vengeance.

Let me be clear – as I have in the past – that AA saved my life. Combined with other forms of evidenced based treatment, everyday contact with a  network of people who had traveled a road similar to mine was invaluable. I went to  7 meetings a week for 5 years. I worked the steps. I read the big book. I had several excellcent sponsors. (Long story). My sponsor had a sponsor. Her sponsor had a sponsor. Then I moved to Houston, struggled to find a home group and lost face to face connect with AA. My personal program of recovery has remained strong and with this move to Greenville I’ve had a desire to reach out to a community once again.

During those five years one of our kids came into sobriety. As someone who found AA so important in early recovery I wanted that for this kid too. Those steps felt like the key to learning how to live for me and who wouldn’t want that for thier child? So much of my present life wouldn’t be possible without the program and I wanted that for them.

In a college environment with a heavy schedule the infrequent meetings just weren’t on the cards, but when summer came and there was a move to the new town they decided to attend meetings. For the first time the reports back were really positive.

Even with about 21 months sober 4 weeks in AA is pretty new. Having grown up around the program there is lot of indirect knowledge but getting a sponsor and working the steps is a whole different enchilada. In just that short month a 49yr old man with 11 years of sobriety befriended our kid, who is essentially new to the rooms,  and 13th stepped them.

Being away for so long I had forgotten about the people who aren’t highly effective and supportive of recovery. Those people who are deeply imperfect and remain very ill – no matter the group’s good intentions.

It’s not surprising when people with shared goals, and experience, are together regularly there can be a certain amount of flirting. It’s human nature. However when that becomes a more experienced member – male or female – pursuing a romantic relationship with a new member it’s called 13th stepping.  In early sobriety, recovery and/or step work one should always be working to create the strongest foundation for lifelong recovery. Needless to say, the 13th Step rarely offers that foundation. Or erodes what has already been built. The behavior, in my opinion is also damaging to the reputation, goals and purpose of individual groups along with the fellowship of 12-Step groups as a whole.

When life showed up our kid was behaving out of character, making changes to life that seemed extreme and worrying the crap out of us. Using empty buzz words and lashing out when questioned. Ultimately  packing a bag and moving in with a stranger who is old enough to be her father.

For the first time Martin and I realized we need  to head to Alanon because our child is the qualifier. Not to support recovery but to detach with love.

Life showed up and slapped me in the face. I don’t want a drink. I want to cry. I will. I have. Because in recovery I learned how. I got taught in the rooms because noone interfered. My hand was held. I was given guidance. I will also be present in my life – laugh, run errands, eat and get on with the business of living.

Today I will let go and let God because what the hell else can I do.