Do I Tell People Why I Stopped Drinking? – Progress Not Perfection

 

How do I handle social situations where alcohol will be there and I might be judged? – What do I say to non-alcoholics?

I will go to social gatherings where people are drinking and I am at a point where the alcohol doesn’t bother me, but what bothers me is how others treat me because I am not drinking.  I am not bothered to the point I want to drink over it, but it is annoying, really annoying.

I understand that this is everywhere across the board.  I have a niece who is a vegetarian and my in laws would always make a huge deal about it to her and put a negative cloud around the fact she did not want to eat meat.  They made a point of making ridiculous comments and asking her idiotic questions.  I felt so much sorrow for her in those situations.  Especially because this started when she was still a teenager.

“Oh, you’re a vegetarian?”, “That is just so weird.  Oh my goodness is it okay if I eat my sandwich in front of you now?”, “Do you think we are murders now?” type of comments.  It was very apparent they did not understand or approve of her choice and made it known without literally telling her they thought she was making a horrible choice.  People fear what they do not understand or that which makes them uncomfortable.

When you are not doing what is expected or is the social norm at the time, the reaction is usually unpleasant.  I have experienced this in my sobriety.  It is good to have ways to cope with that now and go into a situation expecting some of those

reactions from people who are not alcoholics and still drink socially.  I am optimistic and do not assume anyone is going to treat me differently, but I am now prepared for it if and when the situations and comments present themselves.

I now have the expectation that, yes not drinking isn’t the social norm, yes I might get some stare, yes I might be asked questions a few times.  I am not ashamed of saying I do not drink because I am an alcoholic.  If anything I feel quite the opposite.  I feel empowered and a sense of freedom when I respond to those questions with honesty about my sobriety and recovery.  

I have even had wonderful opportunities for some amazing conversations with fellow alcoholics, addicts, or those who have loved ones and friends suffering from the disease of alcoholism.

I am proud of where I have been and where I am now.  During my alcoholism I struggled with shame all of the time.  I was ashamed of the fact I couldn’t drink and even felt, in the beginning, that it was this weakness.  Now I don’t see it like that at all.  Again, I am very proud of where I am today and I can answer those questions with no hesitations.

I can look at them,the non-alcoholics, and realize they are being the asshole.  I have walked out of the shame corner.  I now have a different mindset thanks to sobriety and working my 12 Step program.  My reaction now is somewhere along the lines of this:  “Clearly you have a problem if you feel compelled to carry this conversation with me any further than what I told you.”

Prepare yourself before to receive blessings.  Look further into life for richness.  I cannot expect great things to happen in my life if I am not preparing to accept great things to happen in my life.  For me, it starts within myself.  You have probably heard “it’s an inside job” thrown out around the halls of AA a time or two or even in various addiction and alcoholism recovery programs.

It might be a cliche, but the truth is the truth and it really is an inside job.  If I just expected things to happen in my life without being open and ready to accept them, then it won’t happen.  Even if it does happen, I won’t be in a place where I would even recognize the blessing for what it is because I haven’t prepared myself and accepted that good things can and will occur in my life now.

 “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”  –   Henry Ford

 

This quote is amazing and for the person I am now, very eye opening.  It reminds me, in the past where I have failed to recognize or take advantage of opportunities that have presented themselves, I do not have to do that anymore.  I can choose to believe nothing good will happen to me and live my life unable to see opportunity or hear it knocking at my door.  Instead I choose to be open minded, believe, and accept the possibility and the reality of better situations, opportunities for success, and take action.

I believe in “progress not perfection” and continually improving my outlook and it is so worth it and my choice to believe and take action to live this way just like everyone else.

 

How Do I Forgive And Let Go?? – Acceptance, Patience, Forgiveness, and Tolerance in Recovery

 

I decided to forgive, because it was slowly killing me and I realized I was the one holding the knife.

 

When I got to a point in my sobriety and recovery where I was more concerned about the homeless man walking down the street and what I could do for that person, it made me feel so good.  I felt, wow, because I know that is not something that I felt on my own, that is something that came directly from a higher power.  Something greater than me was working through me.  Even years before I was heavy in my drinking and alcoholism, if you wronged me or even looked at me in a wrong way, that was it for you.  I was conniving.  I was going to seek my vengeance.  I came up with some pretty elaborate ways to get back at people and even followed through with some of them.

Some of them got me in trouble.  “Well, who did that?”  “We know who did that, Elizabeth did that.”  People began to know who I was and steered clear of pissing me off.  But, when I really took a look at myself in the mirror, I did not want to be that person.  So, I decided not to be.  Some people are always going to say and do things to hurt my feelings, make me angry or try to make life difficult for me, but to have that spirit of forgiveness and acceptance is paramount for me.  It is essential to my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual sobriety and recovery from alcoholism.  When I can forgive someone for wronging me and not respond to that with anger, this is a blessing.  When I can respond with love it makes the situation easier and makes me feel spiritually whole.

 

I hope that others can do that for me too.  Life is hard and I would like others to have a spirit of forgiveness too.  Give me a hug every once in a while or a kind word.  We are all still human beings and love and forgiveness is something that makes all of our lives happier.  I have heard a lot of people ask for help with forgiveness and patience.  I have been fortunate enough to have lived through situations, before and during my alcoholism, that have allowed me to develop patience, tolerance, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness and acceptance go hand in hand for me.  I do not believe you can have one without the other.  When you won’t forgive, you are only inflicting pain upon yourself and I had to ask myself how much pain I was willing to tolerate.  I tend to look at most situations very logically and remove the emotions from them when I am making a decision.

Forgiveness, in my opinion, is just that.  It is literally a decision, no justification or cause needs to happen.  Forgiving has nothing to do with accepting the other person’s behavior, approving of it, justifying, rationalizing, or understanding it.  It is a simple decision I make whether or not to accept what is, forgive, and move on with freedom.

 

“Life will mean something at last.  The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.”  –  Pg. 152 Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous

 

Today I have a lot of patience and tolerance but it took living through some very upsetting and difficult situations to gain these qualities.  I wish I knew how to give these qualities or gifts away to others, but I can’t.  There is no book or manual or simple phrase I can share with anyone that will all of a sudden, allow them to be forgiving, patient, accepting, or tolerant.  For me, it had to come with experience.  One situation that was very difficult for me was many years ago when my two oldest children were very little.  I filed for divorce when my youngest, at the time, was less than a year old.  During the 3 years or so the divorce proceedings took, their father decided to keep them hidden from me for weeks and sometimes months at a time.

This occurred on several different occasions and every time I got them back I always let them go to their visitation time with their father, knowing full well I didn’t know when I would see them again.  During these years, there was nothing legally I could do because we both had equal rights and permanent custody and visitation was not decided until we finally went to trial.  After trial was over and I was awarded custody I still held on to that for a long time.  I felt that I was owed and could do whatever I wanted because he had practiced parental alienation and had played all of these games refusing to let me see my children or know where they were.

All this did was eat away at me, little by little.  It took a long time to realize that, but forgiveness is for me not for the other person.  I had to forgive to move on because I didn’t want this stranglehold any longer.  Holding on to what he did, to my resentment, was trapping me in t

he past and I had to decide if I was going to continue to let him have that power over me.  I needed to let go and accept what happened and forgive to move on and have peace and happiness.

Sometimes forgiveness is accepting an apology you are never going to receive.  In that situation I have never apologized to him directly, but I paid my attorney a whole lot of money not to have to talk to him anymore.  He is a great dad and he is a great person but we would never be friends, would have never been friends.  I’ve forgiven him for doing those things and supporting him now with decisions with the children and things like that is my way of practicing that forgiveness.  I realized, by holding on to my anger and hurt, I was robbing my kids of time they could have had, experiences they could have had because I was still resentful of him taking the children and taking that time away from me.

Again, forgiveness was a decision I had to make.  By the grace of God, there go I.  Do you want to be stuck here or do you want to forgive this person?  And, whether they know it or not doesn’t matter, because the acceptance and forgiveness is for me, so I can move on without all of this baggage I’m trying to drag with me.  I realized what I was doing.  I realized I was hurting myself and my children and in a greater sense all of the other people around me.  Kids are like dogs . . . they can smell fear and can feel tension in uncomfortable situations.  I began to see that my children were always uncomfortable if an event required their father and I to be in close proximity.  They knew that I had such dislike for their father even though I was careful never to say anything negative around them.

My step father told me a long time ago that when it comes to children of dissolved relationships, you should never say anything bad about the other parent in front of the children because the children are always an equal part of the mother and the father.  So, if you are bad mouthing the other parent, at some point in time the child is going to feel if they are half of dad and dad is an “asshole”, maybe I am half an “asshole” too.  Or if my grandma thinks my mom is a “bitch” then she must think that I am a “bitch” too, or half a “bad person”, a “drunk”, “worthless, etc . . .  I have 5 children now and I know with my experience raising my own children, they hear things you don’t think they hear.  They feel things, you don’t think they could ever pick up on.

It took some time and for me to become aware of what was beyond the tip of my own nose to see that I was being selfish and I was acting like an asshole and ultimately penalizing my children because I wouldn’t forgive.  One day, I just woke up and I saw the reality and as soon as I did let those resentments go and find acceptance and forgiveness I began to feel better.  The weight was lifted.  Some people will be blessings and some people will be lessons and unfortunately you don’t know until later.  My experience was both a blessing and a lesson.  I feel it is much easier for me to live now that I understand patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and acceptance.  I hope anyone who is struggling with any of these today finds some sort of comfort from my story.

 

How Can I Accept The Things I Cannot Change? – Serenity Prayer at Work

 

Acceptance is Difficult and Painstaking but Provides a Freedom I Must Have to Live Today.

 

 

The topic of acceptance is definitely a popular one.  I have struggled with acceptance and realizing that I can not control the outcome of situations long before I ever took my first drink.  Control was always a big deal for me from a very young age.  I did not like being told what to do and if you really wanted me to do something, you simply had to tell me I couldn’t or I shouldn’t.  It am so thankful for the hand of Alcoholics Anonymous and truly grateful the chairs around the tables of the AA halls are there because through this program I have learned acceptance.  I have been able to solve problems that had nothing to do with my alcoholism by simply learning how to accept the things and situations in my life.

In a conversation a few weeks ago an AA friend of mine was sharing some thoughts on acceptance and peace with me and he said, “I can be an asshole, even with 5 years of sobriety, but it makes my day miserable.  When I’m at not at peace, don’t have peace of mind, I feel miserable.  After all the years in Catholic school and all the years in Catholic church, the Serenity Prayer has been the most helpful to me and it was something I never heard in either of those places.  The Serenity Prayer made the most sense to me and it was something shared with my mother in Alanon and she shared with us when my father was dealing with his alcoholism.”

I use the Serenity Prayer quite often when I find something in my life unacceptable and at times there are several things I find unacceptable, and it is perfectly okay for me to find some things unacceptable.  I can change my reaction to the thing.  I can change my response to the thing.  I can change my connection to the thing, but I can not change the thing.

However, there are actions I can take.  I can choose to go sit in the corner and do nothing or take steps to see that I do not place myself in that uncomfortable and unwanted situation again.  I can take steps to make sure the pattern does not continue where I am finding myself dealing with unnerving things.

 

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.  When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, or situation – some fact of my life  – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.”  –  Pg. 417 BB Alcoholics Anonymous

 

 

When I drank I didn’t have any set of standards or boundaries and I found myself in places that were unwanted.  It still amazes me to this day, I survived certain experiences.  I do not live like that today and have no desire to ever go back to anything remotely close.  I have standards and boundaries because of the things I have learned living in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and I know I have choices.

Other people, if they wish, can do that as long as they don’t have their hand on my leg dragging me down.  These are gifts, of knowledge, I have received from the AA halls and other alcoholics like me.  I share my experiences and the lessons I have learned with the hope they will not fall on deaf ears and truly be the tipping point for someone else who might be in the same horrible place I once was.

 

“Before A.A. I judged myself by my intentions, while the world was judging me by my actions.”  –  Pg. 418 BB Alcoholics Anonymous

 

 

On my own, I could fuck things up so bad, there wasn’t anything left do but drink.  I wasn’t practicing any program.  My loved ones are packing their “bags” and getting ready to leave.  My kids don’t want to be around me.  The story went on and on because I created my own problems until I finally put my foot down and gained some acceptance.  It was helpful for me to then realize that sometimes by not doing anything, things come out a lot better.  Keeping my mouth shut was a difficult task for me to learn how to do.  I put it in to practice daily now, and it amazes me how calming, peaceful, and better I feel when unwanted or uncomfortable situations are hard for me to accept at first.

 

I had to chill my attitude out a little bit at a time until my head was cleared of all the shady characters that used to live there.  It was a bad neighborhood I didn’t even want to walk around in.  Acceptance has been the key for me in clearing out those nasty characters and sweeping out the clutter and trash.  AA meetings and hanging out with other alcoholics has been a key to unlocking these lessons for me.  I have been really reading and studying the Big Book and the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions material over the last several months and they too are a necessary part of my recovery from alcoholism and maintaining my sobriety.

 

“It helped me a great deal to become convinced that alcoholism was a disease, not a moral issue; that I had been drinking as a result of a compulsion, even though I had not been aware of the compulsion at the time.” . . . “At last, acceptance proved to be the key the my drinking problem.”  –  Pg. 416 BB Alcoholics Anonymous