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 Do You Stay Sober For Over 30 Years? – An Inspiring Story of Hope From a Recovering Alcoholic

What Does An Alcoholic Look Like???   –   Danny M. 

 

Danny M. is now the second fellow alcoholic who will be sharing part of his experience, strength, and hope on getsoberbitch.com and I am truly grateful for his honesty and enthusiasm.  It has been a pleasure getting to know him and he is truly an inspiration to me and reminds me that some bridges can be rebuilt stronger and better than they were before, through living life in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Danny has decades of sobriety under his belt and he still comes to at least one meeting everyday.  He reminds me that is a process not an event and my journey of recovery will have hills and valleys, but one thing remains and that is the open door of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I worked at a large company and was paid very well.  After working there for 10 years, I realized I had nothing to show for it.  I had nothing because I was always out shooting pool, drinking, and hanging around bars.  It got so bad that my wife had to go out and get a job and I went to work for my dad at his shop.  Even then, we still couldn’t make it and I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t make it.  When I sobered up I found out why we were struggling.

All my checks were going to bars.  $20 here, $50 there, all of the “high-class” places I was spending my time.  I found out real soon that the company I worked for didn’t appreciate my drinking.  I was laid off many times because of my drinking and they fired me twice because of my disease of alcoholism.

 

When I walked in the company I thought this is the job for me.  The other guys all had bottles in their back pockets and I thought I was in the right place.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to quit.  When I started drinking I would always drink to the extent, to the extreme.  I was mean and shit.  When I sobered up they told me I was real lucky.  I got to my bottom pretty young.  I was living with a woman who was much older than me.  She owned a bar and I was selling all sorts of hot stuff out of there.  The boosters around town would all come to me with anything and I would sell it off.

After coming into the program I learned what to do with all that money I had been carrying around in my pocket.  I bought my first house, my first car, and that was great.  This was very different than the life I had been living before when I was in my addiction to alcohol.  I hung out at bars and lied so much to all the other guys in there that I didn’t know what was what anymore.

We would be sitting around talking about going to Vegas and I’d lie my ass off.  I would chime in, “Oh Yeah, I’ve been to Vegas.”  “Which one d’ya go to?” they would ask.  “Oh, I went to the downtown strip and went here and did this and that.”  Hell, I had never been to Vegas in my life.  But I lied so much I got to believing all of the lies.  Today is different.  I’ve been coast to coast and to Vegas.  My house is paid for, all of my cars, and other toys are all paid for, but I wouldn’t have any of it if I hadn’t quit drinking.

I was married to this gal and after she let me hit bottom, she divorced me because of this disease called alcoholism.  I didn’t know I had it when I showed up at my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting near me 3 years later.  I remarried this woman 12 years later and we have now been married for 24 years and she says “I’m the nicest woman and always have been, he’s the one that’s changed.”

 

I am very grateful for the program and it has given me so much more than I ever thought could have been possible.  I’m not bragging about what I have or trying to boast, the point is that if I can do it, then you can too.  One day at a time for me and it will always be that way.

If all of these things would have happened overnight and it would have come easy I probably would have gone out in 6 months and said screw it.  Gone out and got drunk because it would have been too easy.  But I had to get to my bottom and I had to realize that I was a drunk and could not handle alcohol on my own.

So I showed up at AA without knowing anything about the 12 steps or the program.  I had never even heard of Alcoholics Anonymous or any type of addiction recovery program or alcoholism treatment.  I realize I never went as low as a lot of people and I have heard many stories about living on the street, losing houses, getting arrested, serving time in jail and prison but I just got as low as I wanted to go.

I feel very fortunate that I cried out to God and got on my knees and he showed up.  Three guys showed up over 30 years ago now and I realized I was an alcoholic after having some long conversations with them and I haven’t had a drink since.  I’m not bragging on that again, the idea of it is, if I can do it you can do it too.  I don’t care how far your gone or how much trouble you feel you’ve put yourself in it’s about where your headed.

 

For me, it was about finally seeing where I was headed and I was afraid of going to the penitentiary and I was doing all the wrong things.  The cops were starting to show up and ask people if they knew who I was and where I was.  I was still involved in selling drugs and everything else and I got to the point where I wanted to change my life and I did.

I made a commitment to God and to myself and I came into AA and paid attention, wrote things down, took it seriously.  But it took time and you have to be careful not to rush it.  I think it is important for newcomers to ask questions and to work the steps in order, because I went from Step 1 admitting I was powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable to Step 9 trying to make amends to everyone.  It doesn’t work that way.  I was just trying to feel better about myself, but you have to do the steps in the order listed and there is reason behind it.

This program of Alcoholics Anonymous has worked really well for me over the years and I still go to several meetings throughout the week and share my story of experience, strength, and hope.  I have gained a wonderful life and so much I can never repay back because of this program.

 

 

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

 

 

What If This? What If That? What If, What If, What If? – Worry Is A Cancer

How do I stop the constant worries from clouding my mind?  Is there anything I can do?

Worry – Do you have a problem?

  • No.  Then, don’t worry.
  • Yes.  Can you do something about it?
  • No.  Then don’t worry.
  • No.  Then don’t worry.

Worry grows like a cancer inside our heart and mind and will slowly consume you bit by bit.  These worrisome thoughts that grow inside us will never ever change the outcome of a situation, make something happen, or change some else’s mind.  Worry will not solve any problems, but will only take a peaceful mind and twist and twist until it is broken.  Anxiety can become the result of too much time spent in worry and anxiety occurred for me when I thought I had to figure out everything all at once.  My anxiety had a tight grip and control over my actions and my being that I was paralyzed.  I could not leave my home to go to the grocery store most days.  I was solely focused on what could go wrong, what others were thinking about me in their mind, what questions I might be asked by others, etc . . .

Over thinking, anxiety, and worry ruined life for me.  It twisted reality around so much that it ruined the way I saw life and made it impossible to see and think clearly.  Did I enjoy those feelings?  No.  Did I want and need some change?  Absolutely.  Living in the present and doing things for others helps me keep the anxiety and worry at bay.  Exercise has been very helpful as a way to distract my mind from worrisome thoughts and now I attend many AA meetings that pull everything back into a great perspective and remind me to meditate and read if I find my mind wandering down that particular road.

Do something for somebody else without being found out.  Don’t even let them know that you did it.  I remember a story a friend shared with me a while back about doing things for strangers.  Her grandmother grew up with nothing in her childhood and was also

a very giving woman.  She could never pass up a hitchhiker.  My friend never understood why she would do those things and was afraid her grandmother was going to be hurt or robbed by one of these strangers.  Eventually she became concerned enough and asked “why do you keep picking these people up Grandma?”.  Her grandmother couldn’t have put it better and simply replied, “Because someday darlin’, it might be me.” and left it at that.

I couldn’t stand myself when I drank.  I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror without feelings of hatred, shame, grief, and others.  Giving to people, and I mean giving without any expectations at all, fuels me with peace.  You can give material possessions, time, money, several other options exist.  Remember, once you let it out of your hands and give it to somebody else, it is theirs.  It is not yours anymore.  I had to learn that I had no control over the gifts I gave also.  I would have expectations for the gifts I gave.    The recipient might waste it, throw it away, leave it on the floor.

“I have had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” – Mark Twain.  Worry jars can be helpful tools as well.  You simply write down any situations you are worried about as they come and then fold up the paper and place it into an empty coffee container, mason jar, or any other type of vessel you have to hold them.  Then, at a predetermined time in the future, maybe a few months, maybe a year, you open the jar and read back through what you wrote down.I have used a “worry jar” in the past and I will tell you honestly, most of the worries I wrote down never came to pass or fixed themselves.  I had even forgotten some of them.  If you are struggling with worry you might even give this a try also.  Write down what you believe your life will be like a year from now.  After one year, pull out what you have written and see how it measures up.  If you have been current with your sobriety and working your program of recovery, I would be willing to bet you will cut yourself short.  Try it again for another year and I am positive you will sell yourself short again.  We live a life better than we ever could imagine.

Are you boastful in your recovery? Are you waiting for acknowledgment? – Serving without selfish motives is a freedom.

Are you a “Coin Collector”?  – Are you boastful and only acting to receive compliments on your sobriety?

If one side of a boat gets too far out of the water, it is likely to tip over.  I must always be careful not to build myself up too much and expose myself to falling and failing.  I have to be careful of having too much success so I do not allow for any over confidence in my abilities to remain sober and never to measure my recovery in lengths of time instead of the quality of the sobriety.

My goal can not be measured in achieving one year, five years, ten years and so on of sobriety, because as soon as that is accomplished, where do I go from there?  What do I do then?  Overconfidence is a very dangerous beast.  It has fooled me into believing I am capable of things I am not.  I am very good at convincing others I am someone different, and worn many masks to hide my true self and intentions.  With much gratitude and a hard look in the mirror, I have stopped hiding in my own head and lying to myself about who I am.

Oscar Wilde said, “confidence is good, but overconfidence always sinks the ship” and Norain went on to add that “overconfidence will drown you in the sea of reality”.  They are both so right.

Am I doing things because it is the right thing to do or are my intentions selfish?  Does the question, what is in it for me, occur in my mind?  I need to have the desire to be a part of something, not because it helps me, not because it only makes me feel better, but more importantly, because it needs to be done and it is the right thing to do.  I do not live my life with the thought of receiving recognition.  I speak with the hope it will help others and help AA as a whole.  When I apply this mindset in all of my affairs, I feel better, and great things happen in my life.

I do not feel it is boastful or braggadocios to say my sobriety date.  I am proud of my recovery date because there was a long time, many years in fact, I could not get one day together.  I could not comprehend the understanding of 24 hours as a start for the longest because I was always thinking about what had happened and what was going to happen.  What about my court date?  What about my kids?  What about my husband?  What about, what about, what about?  I was always in the future or I was always in the past, never in the present.  Never in the 24 hours.  I am better about that today and it is because of the Alcoholics Anonymous program and the other recovering addicts and alcoholics that I share a table with.

I need my AA hall to keep my changed way of thinking.  When I was drinking I was selfish.  I was constantly trying to figure out what I was going to take from someone, what I was going to get out of it. Doing something for nothing carries so much freedom with it.  I need AA to survive with a selfless way of thinking and I find that through service work and offering anything I can without the thought of how it will benefit me.

This perspective includes not expecting anyone to say thank you either.  I serve to serve.  I serve because it is the right thing to do for my heart.  I needed to learn how to choose my thoughts in the same way I was picking out what to wear everyday or what to eat for lunch.  If I want to have control over the things in my life, I must first start with my mind and my attitude.  Those are truly the only things I can control and should be trying to better.

What can I read about AA and addiction? Where to start if you feel lost in recovery.

 

Big Book – A new freedom and a new happiness

Here you will find several titles including the “Big Book” and the “12 & 12”.  While these two titles are the most popular, there exist several other great guides, historical books, biographies, and supplemental guides to help you understand the program of AA better and to assist you in your own sobriety and recovery or the recovery of another.

I will also be adding some great links to audio material if you are not a reader or have difficulty visually.  I encourage you to at least pick up some recovery and sobriety material.  My mother was able to email me the first 164 pages of the “Big Book” while I was in jail so I could begin to read and it brought me a hope that was otherwise unavailable in the county jail I vacationed at.

I am amazed at the number of titles that do exist and I applaud all of the authors who take the time to contribute, organize, interview, assess, and wrap everything up for us in great informational sobriety booster shots.  I have not read through every title listed here, but am working my way through one day at a time.

What is your favorite book to read about recovery?  Is there a specific author or title that provides you with hope and inspiration in your recovery?  Please comment below or email me at getsoberbiatch@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do We Inspire Gratitude?

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  –  Melody Beattie

 

I would like to share with you a wonderful article about gratitude.  I know for myself, in my addiction, I was not grateful for anything I had.  I was focused only on myself and could really not see past the end of my own nose and did not want to.  I now try to live my life in gratitude and at times this is difficult.  Reading this article allowed me to refocus on how I want to live my life now and to give thanks for sobriety and the opportunities it has afforded me.

If any of you feels like you have lost your focus of gratitude or is struggling with how to have a thankful mindset, please read this article.  Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” and there is really no way to explain the word than the definition.  Do I have the quality of being thankful today?  Do I have a readiness to really show others my appreciation for the things they do and say?  Finally, do I have the readiness the desire to return the kindness I receive?  

I believe gratitude is a necessary tool to carry in the Sobriety Toolbox.  How can we have success in recovery without gratitude?  I do not believe we can.  When people are grateful for what they have, they will experience a great deal of happiness in their life. When the individual is constantly lamenting their lot and living in self-pity, it will be impossible for them to find peace of mind.

Gratitude is not about what people have or do not have. There are billionaires who still do not feel satisfied and poor people who feel they have everything they need. The tendency to feel grateful is a mental attitude that can be developed. It is particularly important that people recovering from an addiction try to cultivate this positive outlook, because it can help to ensure their success in the future.

Some believe, if people are grateful to be sober, it is unlikely that they will relapse back to their addiction. This is because they will have the motivation to do what they need to in order to protect their sobriety.  A grateful attitude will mean that people can face the challenges that confront them in recovery calmly. They will tend to see problems as a chance to grow rather than some type of attitude. This positive way of dealing with things will lead them towards the ultimate goal of recovery, that is, complete serenity.

Self absorption can be a huge problem for people in recovery. When people are addicted to alcohol or drugs, they will spend most of the time only thinking about their own needs. When these individuals become sober, they may continue to be preoccupied with themselves. Self-absorption and self-pity make life difficult.  When people feel grateful, they have less reason to be so selfish. They feel satisfied that their own needs are being met so they can now focus at least some of their attention on the needs of other people.

So, if you do not know what happened with your gratitude tool, please search it out and ask others to help you find it.  If you need help knowing where to begin, check out the article by Kat Charles.  When discovered, use it.  Tools do us no good if they are not put to use.  As always I would love to hear from you and welcome your thoughts on gratitude, how to find it if it is lost, and what ways you practice to show gratitude.

 

 

 

3 Ways to Foster Gratitude in Your Home

 

Friday Film Festival – Movies featuring addiction and recovery

 

Addiction is a compelling topic for literature, art and film.  It feels like alcoholism adds layers of the story and gives a dark edge to it. Sometimes, we disgust such characters while in other instances, we pity them. Either way, they bag a lot of attention.

It’s a subject that speaks to the human condition and translates through every culture and society. Many movies have tackled the subject of addiction and obsession. Some of these movies can be hard to watch. For obvious reasons, this subject doesn’t always have the most upbeat and positive story lines. However, many of these films will leave a lasting impact on you as a human being.

Let us not forget that without Bill and Bob, none of these great movies would have happened and I would not have this topic to write about!

Let us also remember to take a moment of silence for the still suffering addict/alcoholics. Their struggle is real and the road is long. Hope to see them soon.

Please add your thoughts about these movies and any other films about addiction, sobriety, and recovery you enjoy.  Thank you.

 

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Jack Lemmon plays Joe Clay – a PR guide who falls in love with Kirsten (a secretary played by Lee Remick). Joe introduces Kirsten to the joys of social drinking, they get married and have a daughter named Debbie. Unfortunately Joe cannot keep his drinking to social drinking. His habit escalates until he is a full blown alcoholic and gets demoted at work for shoddy performance. Kirsten similarly finds refuge in booze and nearly burns the house down. The pair are desperate to be sober and they manage sobriety for a while until the lure of alcohol makes them drink. Joe goes to rehab and joins AA. The road is not easy – he has many lapses. But he is determined to work and look after his child whilst Kirsten is totally lost to the bottle. The ending of the film shows her entering a bar. Kudos to the film for being realistic in its portrayal of alcoholism. It shows the many attempts a lot of drinkers have to go through before they achieve sobriety – it is not an easy road as Joe’s travails demonstrate. And further kudos to the film for its depiction of Kirsten’s relentless addiction – there isn’t always a happy ending with alcohol. The film does much to demystify the attraction of alcohol – showing how stupid drunk people really are when they think they are being clever and witty. The chemistry between Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick is incredible and makes the film all the more depressing as a warped love story. Probably one of the best films by director Blake Edwards.

 

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Ben is a Hollywood screen writer who has lost everything due to his affliction with alcohol. He heads to Las Vegas to drink himself to death and while he is there, he forms a relationship with Sera, a street prostitute. They come to an uneasy pact – Ben is not allowed to mention Sera’s line of work, and Sera is not allowed to get in the way of Ben’s drinking. Director Mike Figgis is careful never to make a moral judgement about his characters. They are who they are and that is their choice. The film never sinks to sentimentality. It is a graphic and honest display of alcoholism and those who have lost all hope. Nicolas Cage really deserved the Oscar for his role of Ben – he manages to convey self destruction and doom in some agonising acting. The chemistry between him and Elizabeth Shue is amazing, and she gives a fantastic performance as a woman trapped in a terrible situation, yet totally accepting of its ramifications. Bleak, realistic and depressing, but a fascinating film.

 

The Lost Weekend (1945)

Directed by Billy Wilder, this film was the first Hollywood movie to feature alcoholism as a major component of a film. Don Birman is packing to go away for the weekend with his brother Wick. He reels in a bottle hanging outside the window. Yes folks, he is a drunk. His girlfriend Helen arrives. Don loves Helen but the relationship has serious problems due to his drinking. Don is thrust into a hellish weekend trying to get money to sustain his habit. This leads to thorough degradation. After he falls down the stairs, he is taken to hospital where he sees at first hand the horrors of alcoholism. Eventually, Don decides to stop his drinking. Ray Milland gives a tremendous performance as Don. He transforms himself into a raging addict and he is not scared to show the desperation and seediness of the alcoholic’s existence. Drinking habits lead to darkness, despair and destruction. In 1945, this would have been a very shocking film, alcoholism was something that went on behind closed doors, it wasn’t discussed in the open. Billy Wilder portrayed accurately the inability of the alcoholic to pull himself together and also the problem of enabling the alcoholic through protecting him from the worst excesses of his problem (for example, paying his rent and his bills). A darker film than most of Wilder’s output, The Lost Weekend is an honest and daring movie.

 

Everything Must Go (2010)

Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is an example of how NOT to work a recovery program. Anyone who has been a stubborn drunk who’s unwilling to comply with family, work and society will identify with this film. I am not sure anyone other than Will Ferrell could pull this off.

Movies like this offer hope to the many who are labeled “Hopeless”. Especially, considering the many souls who walk into AA with said label, eventually finding themselves branded “Miracles”.

 

Withnail and I (1987)

The tale of two struggling actors who live in a grotty flat while they wait for their careers to take off. Withnail is a flamboyant alcoholic who is disgusted at life and its injustices. He rails and rants the entire film. Marwood (the narrator) is Withnail’s fellow actor buddy who lives with him and tries to mitigate his worst excesses. They go to stay in a cottage owned by Withnail’s eccentric homosexual uncle Monty where Marwood narrowly escapes Monty’s attentions. Withnail just keeps on drinking his uncle’s fine wine. Called back to London for Marwood’s audition, on the way back home Withnail is discovered driving while intoxicated. Marwood gets the job and Withnail gets the bottle. Withnail and I is considered to be one of the greatest British cult movies ever made. With lots of quotable dialogue and an hysterically funny turn from Richard E Grant as Withnail, the film is a terrific comic experience to watch. It is, however, due to Withnail’s alcoholism, quite a sad story too with lots of pathos – such as Marwood disappearing off into a better life and Withnail left with his wine bottle. He quotes Hamlet at the end of the movie, which makes Withnail a figure of tragedy and he knows it. Alternately funny and melancholy.

 

Candy (2006)

Drug users often times become just as addicted to each other as they do for their drugs.  There is an intoxication in love that is fueled by drug use. Candy tells this story in a deeply realistic way.  A poet falls in love with an art student who gravitates to his bohemian lifestyle, and his love of heroin. Hooked on one another as much as they are the drug, their relationship alternates between states of oblivion, ecstasy, self-destruction and despair.  Throughout all the pain and heart ache that you feel in this film, it leaves you with a sense of empowerment and gives testimony to the inner strength that addiction and pain can build. Great movie.

 

How do I stop isolating myself?

Isolation and Addiction Go Hand in Hand

 

“Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness. Even before our drinking got bad and people began to cut us off, nearly all of us suffered the feeling that we didn’t quite belong. Either we were shy, and dared not draw near others, or we were noisy good fellows constantly craving attention and companionship, but rarely getting it. There was always that mysterious barrier we could neither surmount nor understand” (A.A. Twelve and Twelve, 57).

Did we drink because we were lonely and could not form healthy relationships or were we lonely because we drank? It is hard to pinpoint which caused which and it isn’t even necessary. What we see is that alcoholism and isolation are partners in crime. As we give up alcoholism in favor of sobriety, we must also strive to give up isolation in favor of fellowship.

The A.A. founders clearly saw the need for a program that would help the alcoholic reconfigure his or her entire life—including relationships. Many of us have never known how to have healthy relationships. We have used others or sought to control them but we haven’t known how to love and have equal partnerships with the people around us. Recovery teaches us a new way.

The following suggestions drawn from the 12-step program and the insights of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous give direction to the newly recovering addict seeking fellowship and friendship in this new world of sobriety and recovery.

Go to meetings. Here you will find the people who are like you, the people who have lived what you have lived, and who are learning to live a new life in sobriety. The newcomer may feel reluctant to trust this new gang. Who are these seemingly happy sober people? Did they ever really battle addiction? Have they ever struggled? Don’t let their cheeriness and sense of contentment fool you. They have been where you are now but hey have discovered a new life and a new way of living, better than anything they knew in addiction. The addict who desires recovery will continue to attend meetings with an open mind. In time, he or she will see miracles occur.

“Life takes on new meaning in A.A. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends—this is an experience you must not miss” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 89).

Take phone numbers and call. While the meeting is a great place to begin connecting with friends in recovery, the phone allows for the more in-depth conversations that lead to relationships. Afraid you don’t have anything to say? Ask a question. Tell the person on the other end of the line that you are new to the program and would love to hear their recovery story. Do they have a few minutes to chat? Then let the conversation flow naturally. Ask if you may call again sometime or invite him or her to call you in the future.

Find a sponsor. A sponsor will walk through recovery with you on a daily basis. You no longer need to handle life’s ups and downs on your own. Responding to life in a way that enhances and enriches your recovery does not come naturally, thus it is highly recommended that addicts at all stages of recovery seek out and maintain a relationship with a sponsor.

Confess. It is often said, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” Our guilt and shame keeps us isolated from others. We fear that if people really knew us they could not love us nor welcome us into fellowship. So we continue to live behind a mask and deprive ourselves of real fellowship.

This is where the confession and honesty required by the Fifth Step become our most important weapons in the fight against isolation.

“When we reached A.A., and for the first time in our lives, stood among people who seemed to understand, the sense of belonging was tremendously exciting. We thought the isolation problem had been solved.

But we soon discovered that, while we weren’t alone anymore in a social sense, we still suffered many of the old pangs of anxious apartness. Until we had talked with complete candor of our conflicts, and had listened to someone else do the same thing, we still didn’t belong.

Step Five was the answer. It was the beginning of true kinship with man and God” (A.A. Twelve and Twelve, 57).

Living honestly before the world allows us to connect to that world in new and authentic ways.  Coming out of isolation and establishing the sort of community you desire will take time and effort, but it is well worth it. A strong fellowship around you strengthens your recovery and makes life in sobriety more enjoyable. Many of us have never known the joys of healthy relationships and partnerships. But it is never too late to start.

 

Explore your identity. Get to know who you really are and let others know you as well. Many addicts, having spent so many years tethered to the bottle or some other fix, have failed to develop as people, and thus have very little understanding of their own identities. Now that you are sober, it is time to start forming a relationship with yourself. Who are you? What do you like to do? What makes you happy?

And as you get to know yourself, you can allow others to do the same. Begin to open up and experiment with a little vulnerability. When asked a question, give a full response. Allow yourself to be engaged in conversation. Don’t be afraid to let people in for fear of what they may think of you and your past. You have many gifts to offer and recovery allows you to begin exploring, developing, and sharing them.

Attend recovery-based social events. Most addicts are used to structuring their leisure time around alcohol, drugs, or the other activities from which they are now sober. Does this mean there is no more fun to be had in this life? Not at all! In recovery you will find a fellowship of people who, like yourself, have also had to find a new way to enjoy life. Most groups arrange periodic social events. Ask program friends what they do for fun now that they are sober.

Know God and develop a relationship with Him. The truest form of fellowship is that which we have with God Himself. Regardless of the number of friends you have or the busyness of your social life, if you do not know fellowship with God, the old loneliness and sense of isolation will persist. Through prayer, meditation, and the reading of the Bible, you can begin to know the God who has rescued you from the disease that sought to kill you. He is a personal God eager to have a relationship with you.

“When I was driven to my knees by alcohol, I was made ready to ask for the gift of faith. And all was changed. Never again, my pains and problems notwithstanding, would I experience my former desolation. I saw the universe to be lighted by God’s love; I was alone no more” (Bill W., letter, 1966)

The beginning steps of faith bring us into partnership with God. You can never be alone if you allow God’s presence to surround you.

Join a church and become involved. In addition to the fellowship you will find among program friends, joining a church can provide the opportunity for friendships with like-minded individuals and a host of activities and events that can help you to deepen your sense of community and belonging, as well as your faith. Rather than simply attending services and then slipping out the door unnoticed, linger and try to strike up conversation with other attendees. Is there a welcoming committee? Try to connect with them to find out how you may become involved.

Take on a service position. If you want to know people, help people. Does your meeting have any open service positions? Is your church looking for volunteers? Working side by side with others helps you to form relationships and partnerships around shared goals, purposes, and interests. As you work together, ask the occasional personal question. Take an interest in people and their stories, and friendships will soon develop.

When the service is Twelve Step based, the addict is further strengthening his recovery by sharing the solution with others. This is some of the most important service we do and the means by which our most important relationships and our lasting sobriety may be forged.

“‘Faith without works is dead.’ How appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic fails to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he cannot survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he does not work, he will surely drink again, and if he drinks, he will surely die. Then faith will be dead indeed” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 14-15)

What does an alcoholic look like??? – Christa L.

A huge thank you to Christa for being the first contributing writer to GetSoberBitch!  I am so thrilled you reached out to me and wanted to share your story of alcoholism.  I truly appreciate the honesty and openness you had in our conversations yesterday and look forward to having more updates as to your progress and your encouraging thoughts about sobriety and recovery.

I don’t know how to begin sharing my story…but let me start by introducing myself.  I am a “newly-turned” 31-year-old mother of a rambunctious 4 year old daughter and one adorable baby boy who is 11 months old.

Alcohol, in one form or another, has been a part of my life for the past 14 years.  At first, I didn’t realize I had a problem – and once I did, I felt like it was too late.  I have been arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct a few times and was able to pick up a few DWI charges as well.

When I was ordered to go through my first treatment program I was resistant.  “I did not have a problem with drinking”, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But as the classes went by and I spent night after night wide awake in that empty room I realized a few things about myself.  I thought I might suffer from depression, but I had never gotten medical help for it.  I used alcohol as a coping mechanism and through the therapy sessions forced upon me during my stay, I desperately wanted to get rid of my problem.

The only time I have stayed sober for an extended time was over the 9 months I was pregnant with my daughter and even then it was very hard.  I thought about alcohol throughout the whole pregnancy and I couldn’t wait to start drinking again.  As excited as I was about having my baby, it was the thoughts about finally being able to drink again that really kept me going.  I celebrated in the maternity ward the evening after my daughter was born with a bottle of champagne, meant for us to take home, and a 6 pack of Bud Light.

It is true, I had my first drink in the hospital; my ex husband brought the beer for us to celebrate and the champagne had been a take home gift.  I waited until my ex fell asleep and couldn’t hold out any longer.  Opening the bottle was a struggle, but using the various medical tools available in the room, I was able to crack it open and quench my thirst.  I was breastfeeding at the time, so I wasn’t supposed to have much.  That night I didn’t even think about my new baby, only myself.  Truth be told, I only breastfed my daughter for 3 months because I wanted to drink more often. I felt ashamed everyday, but somehow I just couldn’t put the bottle down.

Alcohol addiction has kept me separated from my family.  My isolation began while on maternity leave the first time and just continued even when I returned to work.  I came home and began drinking before I even started dinner.  When I became pregnant withe my son I hid the pregnancy for months so I could keep drinking and then pretend I had no idea I saw the positive pregnancy tests months before and had already heard the heartbeat of my second baby.

I drank off and on throughout the rest of my pregnancy and this led to many fights with my now ex husband.  I just didn’t care enough to try and save my marriage or care for my daughter.  This eventually led to our divorce.  I felt like I had lost my

worth as a human being – and as a wife mother – due to alcohol.  Everyday was painful, knowing that my little ones would never grow up living with a mom and dad who were together but this still wasn’t enough hurt to stop my alcoholism.

I sometimes thought about ending my life, but the leaving my children motherless was too much.  Everyone outside of my marriage believed I was an amazing mother just doing the best I could after my ex left.  The “shit hit the fan” when I was arrested for a second DWI and I had to call my parents this time, not my husband, to pick me up from jail.  I remember the shame I felt when I saw them and the fact that children’s service was now involved was the tipping point for me.

I had a lot of people fooled.  My daughter was the happiest child you have ever come across and my son was a beautiful newborn.  I wanted to be able to lead a normal life, keep my children, and find relief from my isolating, crippling depression.  With the help of my parents, I went into a treatment program again and this time my attitude was different.  I had to do it to keep my children and my sanity.  I was really ready to deal with my depression and find help for my alcoholism.

To be honest, I wish I would have waited to have my children until after I overcame my problem.  The hard part was that I did not recognize I had a problem at all.  I wish my ex husband would have held a mirror up to my face when I could not and drug me to counseling, but he didn’t.  My family deserved my undivided attention and I just could not distract myself from the bottle long enough to see that I was the one who abandoned them first.

I’m a recovering alcoholic single mother of two children now. My hope for the future is to make it to 1 year of sobriety and keep going from there.  The other day, my social worker said I could have a career in being a social worker because I understand children’s needs. If she only knew everything that really happened.  Her thoughts do give me encouragement and hope for the future though.  If other women in my situation can learn from my mistakes and struggles, that is who I want to help.  I am 8 months sober today and taking classes part time in social work.  I never thought I would live with my parents again, but they are a strong support system for me and their patience is amazing.

I’m sharing my story to figure out how I can offer help to others.

I want to be free. I will not give up on myself.