But, not picking up a harmful thought, word or action keeps me away from an emotional state that leads me to relapse…
Let’s face it, returning to A.A. after relapsing can be extremely uncomfortable, and I should know because I’ve been a periodic “slipper” over the past 20 years. But now, after three lengths of serial sobriety, (5 years, 8 years and now, over 3) and two nearly fatal relapses, there is no doubt in my mind that I need A.A. in order to survive.
But, how to make it work this time?
When I returned to A.A. in 2015, I was not only in the throes of physical withdrawal, but I was also beset with toxic levels of self-pity, anger and jealousy that were blocking me from getting any real relief. For instance, when a dear friend took an anniversary cake for double-digit sobriety, I wallowed in self-pity that I had “lost my time” instead of being happy for him.
It took numerous calls to my sponsor to decipher my feelings from the fact that I’m nothing more or less than a jealous, self-obsessed alcoholic, which was quite a relief. And, I was worried that there was something seriously wrong with me! LOL Here’s where a thorough 4th Step came in. Sorting out who did what to whom and my part in it was essential, but not as a means to browbeat myself for my defects of character. With Steps 4-7, I did something constructive with those flaws – namely to identify my wrong thinking, be ready to change it and pray like hell to have it removed.
It’s taken years for me to put my life together again, but remembering that A.A. is a one-day-at-a-time venture on a long-haul journey is essential for my recovery. Going to meetings and not picking up a drink or drug is essential. But, not picking up a harmful thought, word or action keeps me away from an emotional state that leads me to relapse – and that’s my hard-won fact.
True, I haven’t done it perfectly. But, as Ethel Merman once said, “Sure I’ve made mistakes! But, that’s why they put erasers on pencils!” We returnees are also the life-blood of A.A. and we’ve got a lot to contribute. Our stories provide our fellows with unique insights into staying sober where we went off the rails, and we can return to “the happy road of destiny” if we’re willing.
I’m happy to report that the program hasn’t changed, but my willingness to maintain a spiritual solution to my self-obsession problem has.
By Pete A. LACOAA Zone E Delegate, Los Angeles A.A. Central Office Magazine, Fall 2018