Anxiety and Fear

Woke up around 4 a.m. and just sat in bed. Finally got up this morning around 5 a.m., made some coffee and started my daily routine. I have three major things on my mind: oral surgery on Friday, Penn State and CRPA. I found myself depressed yesterday and it showed.

I’m not embarrassed to say I have bad oral hygiene. Perhaps “it’s in the genes” because my mother had the same problem our obsession with coffee and alcohol. During the time I was sober for ten years, I visited the dentist, Wilson Dental, three times: initial exam, deep cleaning and to have small cavities filled. It was a horrible experience, so I didn’t return. Nor, after getting employment, was I offered a low cost dental plan. I need a lot of work done, so I’m taking the opportunity to get as much done as I can.

After seeing my new dentist, he referred me to Wilson Dental in a neighboring city to remove seven teeth. While I’m not happy with any other choice in the matter, I made the appointment for Friday. I know my insurance (Fidelis – Dentaquest), as with most insurances, does not cover sedation (general anesthetic). Who knows, they might have some new method which doesn’t require GA. My anxiety level is about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. Despite this I’m going anyway and deal with the financial repercussions later.

After I accepted my admissions offer to Penn State, there were a few things to do before registering for classes. I had to complete a New Student Orientation, as well as a math placement test. The NSO was completed quickly. The math placement test I balked for two days. Despite my knowledge of geometry, calculus and statistics, I haven’t consistently used such methods in a long, long time. The placement test reflected this, so I have to start back at College Algebra. It will take me two years of math classes just to get to the level of math needed to start my degree.

I ended up creating a schedule of classes. Apparently my Associates didn’t cover some of the general education requirements either. After I enrolled, I checked the financial aide and my fears came true. Financial aid will only cover half of the total cost. I have to come up with another $6000. So I know I have to look for scholarships but part of me doesn’t even want to bother.

Which leads me back to the Certified Recovery Peer Advocate program (CRPA). There is an organization locally offering classes but again, I would need funding. Recovering addicts are given an education support option called Access VR. I have an appointment in July to start this process again. Many of us have bad experiences with the representative but at this point I don’t have any other options.

For now, I’ve tabled Penn State until the beginning of next week. I see my case manager today to discuss the CRPA program which my roommate has also been approved. Honestly I don’t particularly want to get back in this field but everyone is telling me I should and when completed, they would hire me immediately. So why not give it a try? Lastly, I heard from another Wilson Dental does “put you completed out” for major surgery, so it lessens my anxiety a little but not by much.

Alright – meeting time at the top of the hour. I really need to go and listen.

“You don’t like Authority . . .”

A good thing about Sponsorship is they can call you out on your crap. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been bring up my continued frustration with those in authority of all levels. My sponsor keeps saying, “You don’t like authority, do you?” In addition, at many of the meetings I attend, the topic of acceptance is brought up. Of course, I bring up a specific paragraph in the Big Books which specifically addresses this topic but practicing it in my own life is the difficulty.

Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing 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. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept my life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

Big Book, “Acceptance is the Answer”, p. 417

In the past eight months living in this chemical dependency residential program there has been plenty of crap I have to put up with from “the program”. I have learned to simply let the other residents live their lives whether they are people I sponsor or not. No longer do I get involved in gossip or drama; I’ve learned from my past it’s just a waste of time. I have developed a healthy habit of just listening and letting it go.

On the other hand, staff is another issue. There is an expectation when they say to do something we jump. Nope, not with me. Give me some respect I deserve for where I am at today before you f**king demand something be done. For instance, the other day I was asked to submit for a drug test. The staff member told another resident to tell me, “Mike needs to see me.” When I see him to explain I’ll be back later after some appointments he just turns waving his hand in the air, “Whatever…” I come back two times after my appointments but he or another is not able to do it. I’m okay with that. The third time I come he says, “it’s been five hours since I asked for a UDS [drug screen]”. Oh I wanted to pop off at him. I didn’t. It got done and I left.

Problem one – don’t ask another to do your dirty work, do it yourself. Problem two – I took me own time out of my day in an attempt to get it done. Problem three – don’t talk down to me like I’m some little child.

You are to damn lazy to get off your fat ass walk across the street and talk to me in person. It doesn’t have to be done exactly at any moment in time. A drug screen needs to be done within 24 hours. Give me credit for following up with what I promised you – I would get it done unlike other clients. Never have I had a bad urine screen, so you shouldn’t be worried. Lastly, give me respect of where I am in my recovery right now. Don’t talk to me like I’m some piece of shit coming right off the street. You may have to deal with a majority of people who might be like that but I’m not one of them.

Accepting my situation at times is difficult. Changing my attitude is key. Part of me feels its not about me – it’s them. Another part realizes perhaps, just maybe, if I change my attitude things might not be so bad.

One Day at A Time

As I look at my past ten years of sobriety, then my relapse, I have to look at what didn’t work. I had a good program going until I started to do what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted to do things in my life. Since I restarted my journey in sobriety, I only concentrate on “One Day at a Time” literally. I’ve developed a daily schedule, simple yet effective, which helps me to stay sober and allows for peace and serenity in my life.

At the ten year mark, I was in my own place, where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted. There wasn’t a thought I had my alcoholism “licked” because I knew better. It was waiting patiently, waiting for the right time to come back and kick my arse. That it did! Hence, the saying, “..cunning, baffling and powerful”. It wasn’t like drinking my first beer ever in life. I started right back from where I left off ten years ago: one beer the first day, three the next but the end of the week a 12pk, next week I was drinking a good 30 pack a day AGAIN. Remember its a progressive, chronic disease. It never stops until we are DEAD!

When I walk through the doors this time around, I made a commitment LIVE ONE DAY AT A TIME. Honestly, I had reservations whether I was going to stay sober until I walked into my first AA meeting – I was home again. So the first thing I do daily is practice gratitude:

  • I’m grateful for my Higher Power for waking me up (I’m alive)
  • I’m grateful to be start another day sober
  • I’m grateful to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous

If you’re reading this, you know the second thing I do daily to keep myself sober – I take the time to post my daily readings. Why? My sponsor the first time I was sober told me to write each Step down. If we write things down, we have to face them. I do this process with my readings. Instead of just reading them, I actually type them out here. It helps me to remember, perhaps, those things I can work on for my sobriety today.

For instance, as you know I have codependent behaviors, hence the Language of Letting Go readings. These principles are vital in my sobriety. Just like my alcoholism, I must practice these principles daily. One of my roommates takes something out and doesn’t put it back where it belongs. He wakes up in the middle of the night, makes himself a snack leaving the peanut butter jar open with the knife on top. He habitually leaves not one but multiple glasses laying around the house empty after drinking its contents. Deep down it infuriates me. He’s a f**king slob. However, it is NOT my job to clean up after him. Even after multiple times of asking (politely) to clean up his own messes, he just doesn’t want to change. So, daily I remind him, “Mr. X please put X in the sink to be washed.” I can’t change him; he has to be willing to change himself. I have no control over what he does or doesn’t do. The point is I’m not going to “save or take care of” him. I have to practice acceptance, tolerance and pity (an AA principle) – meet him where he’s at, keep my calm and recognize he’s just sicker than me.

The Three
AA Legacies

I recognize from my own past when I am not involved in Alcoholics Anonymous in any way, shape or form I’m walking toward my next drink. No matter what my mood, no matter who may or may not show up, no matter how much I may despise people, how they share their non-existence of experience in meetings or what the weather is outside, I have to attend meetings. I also have commitments; I have responsibilities to show up, not only for myself, but for others. Every meeting I attend, I hear a message I can learn and apply in my own life. Luckily for me, there are at least two meetings a day I can attend to help me stay sober no matter what is going on in my life. Again, this is a vital “action” needed for recovery – going to meetings on a regular basis.

I’m grateful for the residential program where I currently reside because honestly I’m not sure if I could stay sober without the continued support I receive on a daily basis. At times, I may despise this program. For instance, a staff member just came into the house. He didn’t knock or say, “Hello! Is anyone home?” He just came in, ignored me, walked around the house, then proceeds to tell me, “Please sweep the floor” as he’s walking out of the house. I would never just walk into someone’s house. When I worked in the chemical dependency field, we practiced respect for our clients. Again, I have to recognize, my values may not be the same as others and this is a temporary situation. For my sobriety I just bite my tongue, take a breath and move on.

Despite small inconveniences throughout the day, I manage to live a simple yet meaningful life. I may not have a job, my own home, money in my pocket, etc. But I am sober and enjoying life today. It reminds me of the 9th Step promises:

“We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will materialize if we work for them.”  

Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, pg. 83 and 84

Making Hard Decisions

Three weeks ago, a gentleman asked me to be his Sponsor. Three weeks, two weeks, I honestly don’t remember. It’s been a while but the point is I have to make a hard decision to let him go.

When I sponsor people in AA, I did as I was taught. First, like my old Sponsor, Joe, asked me, “If there is anything I ask you of this program right now are: honesty – with yourself, me and your Higher Power, when you come to believe in one; open-minded – take suggestions I and others offer you; and willing – trying new things in your life because you’re here because the old way didn’t work” From my own experience it is only with those three principles do I first tackle any problems or even just the days activities.

Second, as most people do in the AA program, try to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. From my experience, I didn’t know anything about how the AA program really worked. Listening to others, their stories and how they “practice these principles” in their lives even today as saved my life on many occasions. Meetings for me are an important part of my program because without them, I will drink.

Third, making and sticking to commitments. In my past, I would agree to do something but not do it. Alcoholics Anonymous has taught me to be responsible and accountable for myself. First, I made the commitment – not to drink “One Day at a Time”. Second, I went to meetings as suggested. Third, I make a coffee commitment so I learned to get to know others in the program so I had someone to help me and perhaps, I ended up helping someone else.

These three things, for me, are the cornerstone of my recovery. They, in addition to working with my Sponsor through the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, have kept me sober. Therefore, this is what I pass down to those people I sponsor in AA.

Unfortunately, a person I sponsor is not following through with any of these suggestions. While I attempt not to take someone’s inventory, I don’t believe he is being honest – I can see it in his actions. Two, he’s not going to meetings. Three, he agreed to make coffee one night a week (Friday) and hasn’t done it in two weeks. I have to question his desire to stay sober.

What he has done is come over to chat when he is going through difficult times. Again, I’ve been honest, open-minded and willing to help him. On the other hand, I have a feeling of being a door mat. I was there in my early sobriety when my Sponsor finally said, “Mike, you have to work the program. I can’t help you get sober unless you help yourself.” I feel it is time for both him and I to part ways.

This is part of the program which is hard for me because of my codependency. I want to help him but I just don’t see that “desire”. I recognize I can’t get another person sober unless they have this “desire” and for now, it’s just not there. Thus, I have to do what I believe is best for both of us.

Movie: Conversations with God (2007)

As my roommate, Mr. N, emerges from whatever he is going through I recommended we watch Conversations with God. Originally I saw this during my first sobriety recommending it to others throughout the years. It has a very strong message, if one is willing to really listen.

Again, I am not a religious person, nor is this movie. It is truly spiritual in nature. From what I remembered it tells the story of a gentleman who falls on hard times, becomes an alcoholic and during his drinking spree begins to talk to a God of his understanding which helps him turn his life around. After watching it a second time, that scenario is not exactly true to my surprise.

There is no drinking involved, nor is the gentleman an alcoholic. Simply, he has experiences in his life where he becomes homeless and hopeless. Later on in his life he recognizes something helps guide him to a better life, if he is willing enough to listen.

It’s truly an inspiring story for anyone. Even Mr. N made a comment, though there was no drinking, he could relate to many parts of the movie. Perhaps, maybe, it will help him with whatever he is going through in his life. I know, for me, the message rings clear. Living a “God-conscious” life instead of “Self-conscious” life can change people, whether you are an alcoholic, addict or just another human being going through tough times.

“Chronicles the dramatic true journey of a struggling man turned homeless, who inadvertently becomes a spiritual messenger and bestselling author.”

Internet Movie Database (IMDb) – Conversations with God (2007)

No Butts

For many addicts we have one vice we have a hard time just letting go. For many in recovery it is smoking. As non-smokers can understand, you arrive or leave an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting only to be overwhelmed by all the smokers who tend to hang out at the front door. I was one of them. But I, just like alcohol, made a decision to stop for the rest of my life. It’s not easy saying goodbye to your best friend you’ve had for 37 years. But I can relate. It’s just like any other addiction. For me, it’s “One Day At a Time”.

To my surprise, the first day without a cigarette was relatively easy. Honestly, I had three strong cravings all day. The first walking to my first AA meeting of the day. The next after I ate dinner at night. Finally the last, when I was done with my day and heading off to bed.

I did not go cold turkey, as I immediately have put a NRT patch upon waking up. Based on my own experience of trying to stop smoking in my past, the patches helped me “stay stopped” successfully. The challenge right now is filling my hands with something to do when the cravings start.

As I shared at a meeting yesterday, I am applying the same principles of AA to quit smoking. While I’m looking for some positive reinforcement in my decision to do so, many dismiss me. Doing so just makes my determination stronger. An old timer, who’s been smoke free for many years now, pointed to the toothpick he always chews when at an AA meeting. I responded with, “I’ll try that…I’m being honest, open-minded and willing, just as I am in AA”

Just like when I quit alcohol, the first few hurdles are the physical craving and mental obsession. The cravings come when my body says, “Hey, we’re missing something here.” My body is expelling those toxic chemicals, just like alcohol, that in the end want to kill me. For those who quit cold turkey, I applaud you because without the NRT, I highly doubt I would have gotten through the first 24 hours. The mental obsession as we know from our addiction takes time. Dammit, I want it all to go away, NOW! **great laughter** . I’ve been down this road before haven’t I?

Right now, it’s all about Step 1 to Step 3. I know I’m powerless – if I smoke one, I’m off to the races again and I can’t stop. Step 2, I “believe in a Power greater than myself WILL restore me to sanity” – I trust this will happen, giving it time. Lastly, Step 3, I “turn my will and my life over to the the care of God (or Higher Power) as I understand Him”. I’m not alone, my Higher Power is there to help me, if I let Him.

I say this as another craving sets in because I’m about to walk to outpatient treatment. Typical routine – smoke a cigarette. But just writing those three Steps, the obsession is NOT there, the physical craving has already lessened and I’m not even out the door. I know the program works, I just have to trust the process.

A Few Surprises in Life

As mentioned yesterday I reached a minor milestone of eight months sober. I’m filled with a lot of gratitude for where I am today. As I went through my day, a couple things happened. I have made a conscious decision to quit smoking. My roommate is finally getting out of his depressed state watching a few episodes of the The Shannara Chronicles with me and dropped some news about our possible future. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance sent me an “Overpayment Notice”. During the Winter I fell off the healthy lifestyle not going to the gym, so has my roommate – that is now changing. Last night, I signed up for a membership at Planet FitnessLastly, at a sister Fellowship meeting (CoDA) the message was clear, “Trust in the process . . . “

I Quit Smoking

Just like my drinking, I have tried to quit smoking. I’ve never made a conscious decision to “stay stopped”. For the last couple of days I’ve been questioning “why” I’m still smoking giving myself excuse after excuse after another excuse. I recognized I’ve been increasing my smoking because of stress (14 meetings or more a week, Sponsorship and just living life on life’s terms). When I walk to the local Price Chopper up the street or take other long walks I become extremely short of breath, sometimes having to stop and sit. I know I’m killing myself and it needs to end.

After writing and posting my Daily Readings, I sent a note to my doctor asking for her to call in a prescription for NRT (nicotine replacement therapy). I had three other scripts waiting for pickup at Walmart. I wasn’t sure the process but got a email back later in the day, it was waiting for me at the pharmacy. I also had to make an appointment in June for a follow-up. So I picked all my scripts up later in the day.

At around 11 p.m. last night I smoked my last cigarette. I prayed to my Higher Power to help remove the craving and obsession. I literally said, “Goodbye, old friend. I’m done!” as I walked back to the house. This morning I promptly put a patch on and have not had a craving yet but I feel a need to walk, so after I get done with this post, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

No Expectations – Little Disappointment

My roommate has not been himself for the last couple of weeks. He’s been isolating in his room, not going to meetings, basically being a recluse. Why? Because his recent break up with a woman was especially hard on him and he thinks believes he’s an unworthy human being, “. . . a complete piece of shit”. Of course my codependency wants to kick in but I’ve been working on that since I’ve met him in so many ways. As painful it is to watch I’ve keep my mouth shut only to open it at times to say I’m here for support if need be.

Yesterday he and I spent some quality time watching the Shannarah Chronicles as both of us like this genre – fantasy, science fiction. I actually enjoyed his company and he appeared different. Not once did he mention “the other woman” or made comments of himself. It was just nice to see him emerge from his extreme depressive state.

Yet, at the same time, he always tends to tell me things last minute. At first, we had plans to move out, get jobs and move on with our lives as roommates in August. This was delayed, his own decision, until the first of the year. Now, he tells me, certain entities are “pushing him” to leave in the next couple of weeks. I “suggested” he advocate for himself, telling the truth he doesn’t feel ready to do so getting all entities involved in that decision. However, I did remind him, “It’s not happening today is it? Let’s just watch Shannarah”. I really do feel it helped.

How does this affect me? It does and doesn’t. Part of me will be disappointed, yet part of me has a plan if things fall through. I applied for college at Penn State for my Bachelors in Software Engineering (awaiting entrance approval). It’s a four year online program where I would be able to stay where I’m at, get a job but also live with the various supporting organizations, at least for a while, to help me through the transition. I’ll be disappointed we won’t be living together because we both have been through a lot, supporting each other in our new journeys. But if it comes to us living separately, I’m okay with it. He knows I’m just a phone call away, I’m willing to go to meetings and no matter what I’ll still be a supporting friend in all his endeavors. Perhaps, just maybe, my Higher Power’s plan all this time is for me to learn from my experiences with him and grow from them.

NYS Tax Department – Impending Dreed

After filing my taxes this year, NYS withheld them. I conveniently forgot about a large tax bill back in 2014-2015 when I cashed out a retirement plan. My alcoholic mind convinced me I had paid those back taxes. However, yesterday I received a letter. A sense of dreed come over me – what now? As I carefully glanced over the notice it stated an overpayment. I had to read the notice THREE TIMES to make sure I was understanding it. Apparently with last years tax refund, I paid the remaining balance and they owe me a partial refund (**dances with excitement**). When and how it will get paid, I don’t know. It’ll happen when it happens. It was just some unexpected news in so many ways.

Back to the Gym

Back in Winter, my roommate and I were going to the gym. The weather got really cold, my roommate didn’t go, so I couldn’t go either as he had the membership, so i was his guest. Planet Fitness sent me an email about $1 down and $10 a month. I had to really think about it but late last night made a decision to sign a two-year contract. I’m doing this for me – period.

I still have goals to lose a few pounds and want to gain muscle strength. I walk everywhere I go, so my weight has not changed drastically. The point of going to the gym with my roommate was to turn the fat into muscle – tone the body. The problem now is that my roommate tends to go and do his own thing on the spur of a moment. I’m a more organized, planning type of guy. I do things according to my schedule. It’s hard for me to just get up and go do something. Now with the membership I’m no longer dependent on him. I know I can do this and I’m willing to. The struggle for me is getting comfortable getting in a routine and sticking to it. But in a way, this is what sobriety has taught me – getting comfortable with the uncomfortable part of me – becoming a accountable and responsible with myself.

Finally – Trusting in the Process

Last night at my CoDA meeting, the message I heard was, “trusting in the process”. Since I’ve been going to CoDA meetings and concentrating on my codependent behaviors, I have seen within myself some dramatic changes. I trust in the process of both AA and CoDA. I “believe” in the principles of both programs having seen them work in my own experiences. But this work is never ending, I always have to be aware of what is going on taking action when needed. I have been given a chance of a new life, so I’m using those “spiritual gifts that are laid at my feet”. I trust in the process.