Five (5) Months Sober

Yesterday, I attended a meeting out of town with my Sponsor. In reality, I wanted to have the day to myself. I’ve been to eight meetings of various Fellowships in the last three days plus regular appointments. However, someone reminded me in a meeting one night, “I jump at opportunities, when they are presented, when it comes to my sobriety.” Today, my life is dependent on the following:

“What we really have is a daily reprieve
contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
– Alcoholic Anonymous, p. 85

Today, I have a heart of gratitude for the things in my life. While I may be in a temporary situation (a chemical dependency residential program living on state funding for food and shelter), it provides me the opportunity to ensure my foundation of sobriety is firm before I attempt to become a productive human being of society again. I’m thankful for the assistance I receive, the support groups I’m involved in and mostly the new found friendships I have developed in the last five months. But it wasn’t all red roses when I got here.

There are those who are not so fortunate or those who are still in the place I came from, thus I must not forget where I’ve been. Seven months into a relapse, I had almost lost everything a second time. I knew what I must do but I couldn’t because the guilt, shame, fear, etc. was so overwhelming, I did want any alcoholic does – I drank to oblivion!

I was living an insane life. With no job, no transportation, living on my last paycheck completely isolating myself in my home, I was digging my own grave. I was in the midst of this physical allergy to alcohol. From the first drink it created this physical craving; once I started drinking I could not stop no matter what or how many times I tried.

As time went by I developed a mental obsession. Constantly, all I did was obsess about how much alcohol I had, where I was going to get it, when I was going to get it so I didn’t run out, worried whether or not I had enough money to buy some more, planning ways to lie, cheat, steal or manipulate those close to me so I can get my next 12/18 pack. I would do anything to get my next fix!

There was a moment in time when I ran out of money, scared as crap, “Oh My God, how the hell am I going to get my next case of beer?” This time around, my mind wandered to something else – another substance. I knew my old friend had stashes around the house because I had previously found a few. I was on the verge of using other substances because I couldn’t get my beer. That is how desperate I became in my addiction. Sad really.

My last day drunk, I was walking back from the mini-mart where I had just bought a 12 pack. Halfway home I stopped in my tracks on a bridge crossing a river, “I can’t do this anymore!” I looked up and said, “I know I’m not in the best spot to ask right now, but can you help me out?” I don’t know what came over me but I threw the 12 pack in the river and continued home.

When I got home I was a mess crying for at least 30 minutes or more. My phone started to go off. It was a treatment facility I had been talking to about admission to their inpatient program I hadn’t heard of in a week. The person offered me a bed at their facility the next day and had already arranged for a service to pick me up early in the morning. I cried all over again for the next hour or more.

Today, “I don’t regret, my past nor do I shut the door on it” (a 9th Step promise). Soon enough I will have to “face” those things in the past which I must take action. Am I scared? Of course. Will it cause me to drink today? No. There is a time and place for such things to happen but for me it’s not today.

My Sponsor and I are readying the Big Book word for word, another new experience for me. Since November we tried to meet on a weekly basis but life throws us curve balls, otherwise known as “living life on life’s terms”. We just started Chapter 4, “We Agnostics”. So technically I’m starting Step 2. Am I disappointed I’m not further along in the Steps? Absolutely not. I’m right where I need to be today remembering “progress rather than perfection”.

When I woke up, and just a moment ago I told a roommate, I decided I wasn’t going to a meeting today. After writing this, I’m getting off this duff of mine and going to a meeting at noon. Do I need one? Not really. All I have to do is listen. I have the whole rest of the day to do whatever I need. But, as this way of life has shown me time and time again, there is probably going to be a newcomer or someone struggling at the meeting, so I’m probably going to say something because talking to another suffering alcoholic is what keeps me sober today!

Balance in Recovery

Based on my own experience in the past, I know immersing myself into recovery can be beneficial but it can also be dangerous. To much recovery one can become overwhelmed. So the point is to achieve a balance in recovery and our mundane lives. It’s called “me time”.

During my last recovery period, I dove into recovery with such a passion, I hardly made time for myself. Though the circumstances were different, as it was my first time in recovery, everything about my life became about recovery. In a sense, I lost a part of me.

As one comes back from a relapse one must ask themselves, “What is going to be different this time around?” With my codependent issues, I need to take time for self care. From time to time, we need to step back to ask ourselves, “Are we doing to much?” The real question is just how much is to much?

For instance, here is an example of a typical Monday:

  • 8:00 am – Wake up, get coffee, meditation music, pray, write in my journal
  • 9:00 am – Take care of myself (shower, shave, brush teeth, etc.)
  • 10:00 am – Meet with my case manager for a weekly one on one
  • 12:00 pm – Noon AA meeting
  • 3:00 pm – Outpatient treatment group
  • 8:00 pm – Evening AA meeting
  • 12:00 am – 2 am – Put the head to the pillow

In summary, five hours of my day is involved in recovery. But I’m also living in a supportive living program, so I’m always bumping to guys and talking recovery at other times, let’s say another two or three hours. In the end, my life in recovery is a full time job. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to concentrate on my sobriety in such a fashion.

But there are days, like yesterday, I have to step back and say, “Michael, enough is enough. Take a time out for yourself.” After treatment group, I walked with a guy from our program to the gym. The Dollar Store was next door, which is where I headed to pick up some things for my CoDA meeting tonight. It’s a little over a mile, approximately a 20-25 minute walk. I needed such a walk to decompress.

I didn’t go to a physical meeting at all. Unfortunately I missed the noon meeting because my case manager was on vacation, so another individual did my one on one but I had to wait for a bit (which I understand). In the evening after the long walk, I was simply done going anywhere. It’s rare I go to the Monday evening meeting if I’ve gone to the noon meeting. Last night, I put personalities before principles (my bad, I know).

Instead, I found a online CoDA meeting at 9pm. It was an interesting experience. The person who ran the group did a really good job of driving the meeting, keeping people on topic and avoiding cross talk. Since we only have one meeting a week here, I might put one or two in my schedule.

I had a few things to do such as getting paperwork ready for the CoDA meeting. I volunteered to print up the “readings” since we don’t have formal ones and we’re still reading out from a brochure. I also bought sheet protectors and a binder. All courtesy of the Dollar Tree, something I can work with on my budget. I also pumped out two short letters to previous employers about my address change for my W-2’s.

A friend of mine, I’m sure I’ve spoken about him here, who I have codependent issues in the past, is at the tail end of a prison sentence. He is scheduled to be release in March 2019. Throughout the years, he’s been to quite a few facilities. I double checked to find where he was only to see he was at a prison that is 30 minutes from me. Honestly, I got excited. But, recognizing my feelings, I had to step back and ask, “Mike, do you really want to open this door?” It’s been suggested by many I shouldn’t. But I wrote a letter anyway. It was just a short note of what happened, where I am and to see where he’s at. I will only write to him depending on how he responds, if he responds.

Lastly, I’ve gotten back involved in a game called Achaea . It’s a role playing, text-character based MUD (Multi-player User Dungeon). Here’s a screen shot:

I’ve been playing a variety of characters since late 1997 when it was new to the then “gaming industry”. The company, Iron Realm Entertainment, has done a good job of keeping the material fresh. Over the years, there have been a lot of changes. Some good, some bad. The producers (as they like to call themselves), do listen to their players. We, the players, have some input on how the game is run! This is my life away from the mundane world and at times it can be stressful, so all in moderation too!

Oh goodie (squeal)! A friend just let me know she won’t need my help for something today. This means, besides two AA meetings, I have a completely open day all to myself. But I have a few must-do’s, so I’m going to take care of them right now. I’ve been up since 6:30 am too, so a nice nap after the noon meeting may be in order too! ** rubs hands greedily**

Let’s get this day rolling . . .

An Uncomfortable Feeling

Something is going on with me, whether it is physically, mentally or spiritually. It started yesterday. I had a nice lunch with another sober friend and when I got home – something just changed. Suddenly I’m feeling restless, irritable and discontent.

This is a mental dump of what is going on in my brain, so it’s long. I’m just having a bad day

Yesterday when I woke up, I felt tired as I do most mornings now. There is a problem with my room getting enough, if any, amount of heat during the night. The landlord came over who I had never met before but was warned about his attitude After this experience I hope I don’t have to see again. He reminded me of a typical slum landlord – one who just wants the money and scoffs are the idea when you bring up a problem. So I deal with the circumstances – wearing two shirts to bed with a sweatshirt, sweatpants, sock and a heavy blanket. This arrangement will only be for a couple of months but I do need to start planning naps during the day to compensate for the lack of sleep at night.

Everything is starting to annoy me. I try to not let things get under my skin, no matter how small. Stupid little things are going to happen throughout the day. Yet more often than not I find myself saying, “WTF?” Afterwards I’m irritable because I can’t get things done the way I want them done (selfishness, I know).

For instance, yesterday as I’m attempting to post my readings on this blog, I noticed the editor changed to this “block style”. Okay, WordPress warned us, let me give it a try. I spent two hours formatting the damn thing. Fine. I’ll just change to HTML and make the corrections. Unfortunately, just like Microsoft, WordPress has put there own crap in the coding. UGH. Grudgingly, I admit defeat. So be it.

Lately I’m getting tired of treatment groups. Since I started I have made all appointments and groups. I intentionally missed a treatment group yesterday and even right now.

The whole process with this facility has been laughable. It took me a month to get in there right out of rehab. My counselor is always forgetting our individual appointments by not telling me he changed the appointment and forgetting to tell me or double books me with someone else. He doesn’t take me out of groups as we discussed and agreed upon. Meanwhile, I get weird looks or questions from staff, “Mike is everything okay? Oh, you missed group(s), so you have to wait to talk to Mr. X. Mike, this isn’t like you, you usually call us if you missed group. It happens at least once a week and its frustrating.

Luckily I have an individual appointment with my counselor on Friday. I would like to discuss dropping me down to two groups per week. Honestly, group therapy is not working because I’ve been through it. Hell, I use to teach it at an old job. Even a group facilitator jokes, “I know Mike has the answer . . .”

One group I would like dismissed is Men’s group. Either the facilitator talks most of the group or one particular person runs his mouth off about something we hear week after week after week. Sadly, the facilitator happens to be my counselor too. Besides, I have no interest in talking about women (Hello – gay and obviously my counselor knows this) nor do I want to talk about football, construction or cars.

The other group is Stress Group. Every group we “check in” with our stress level from one to ten. My response every week, “Zero”. I’m grateful to have certain things taken care of for me. However, I do respect the frustration of the rest of the group who doesn’t have this opportunity. I’ve been in their shoes. So I offer my experience. But again, its hearing the same thing over and over week after week from the same person. Most of them aren’t in a 12 Step program either. Hey, it’s there lives. So be it. But its stressful for me just being in a Stress Group where no one wants to listen!

Lastly, I’m really trying hard to work on codependency issues. In the last couple of weeks, a few of the guys in the residential program relapsed. For me, it was something I knew it was coming. All I can do is wish them the best and if approached offer my experience, strength and hope. However, most don’t believe in 12 Step programs anyway. The problem is other sober people are not handling it well and I can see it on their faces, as well as in their own behaviors. Perhaps even my own. I want to jump right in and “fix” it. I can’t, I won’t. I have my own issues right now.

My roommate and a friend of ours in the rooms had a troubled past with each other. They thought it was a good idea to get involved with each other. My roommate learned his lesson after weeks of turmoil. Our friend, on the other hand, has a host of issues of her own to deal with. I’m trying to keep an arms distance with her because I don’t want to be sucked into her own drama and shit. But I still want to be a friend and a listening ear. She was the one I had lunch with yesterday. All we spoke about was either my roommate or her issues (which she claims are mental health issues). It’s draining to listen to it all. I offer suggestions yet get a response, “Oh, that’s not going to work…” I end the lunch with, “What happened to honesty, open-mindedness and willingness?” Then I was honest saying I was tired, it was time to take a nap when in reality I just wanted to run away.

I’m uncomfortable. I don’t like it. This dump has helped some. But I really need to take an honest look at what is really going on (selfishness, self-pity, etc.). I’m DEFINITELY going to a meeting to bring up this topic than quietly listen! Hopefully, I can change this mood around.

We Just Have Today

What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent
on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

~p.85, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

We hear this quoted at meetings all the time.  But what does it really mean?  As an addict when I wanted something, I did anything to get it and I wanted it two weeks ago.  It didn’t matter who I manipulated to get it, who I hurt in the process and if it took long I went somewhere else to get it. In recovery, we learn to slow down, “One Day at a Time.” Therefore, what must I do on a daily basis to stay sober?

My daily routine can be lengthy but it works for me.  First, when I wake up I thank my Higher Power I’m alive and sober.  Second, I ask for my Higher Power to guide me throughout the day to stay sober.  Afterward, I immediately do Step Three:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over
to the care of God as we understood Him.”

This is very important to me.  It’s been my experience when I try to control anything, it tends to always fall apart.  I give up control to my Higher Power, knowing whatever happens today, my Higher Power is there to help me through any situation. All I have to do is ask.  To stay in this positive influence I turn music on.  Something soothing, like meditation music on Pandora, Spotify or other various tracks I have on my external drive.  This sets me up for today.

Once the coffee is on my desk, headphones in, I start to post the Daily Reading on this blog.  It’s various readings which bring meaning to me.  For instance, today’s readings as a whole reminds me of tolerance and humility.  As I read and post them I make it a point to try to practice whatever actions they inspire me to do today.

My present circumstances allow me to attend usually two meetings per day. Typically I attend “the Nooner” and an evening meeting.  I have a few coffee commitments during the week.  Recently, I’ve been asked to chair meetings despite my early recovery.  I attend business meetings for two home groups and I recently attended a District Meeting for our area.

Lastly, I am currently working with a Sponsor through the Steps.  This Sponsor is giving me a new perspective on recovery.  Instead of just going through the Steps, as my last Sponsor did (which wasn’t a bad thing at all), my current Sponsor and I have read the Big Book for the very first page.  He also references Joe and Charlie’s Big Book Study , which is another resource I was never aware of in my previous sobriety.  Now knowing the totality of the program, its progression throughout the 80+ years, has strengthened my commitment.  If those people back then, with everything they experienced in their lives, can do it then there is absolutely NO reason I should EVER have to pick up a drink!  They bring me inspiration to stay sober one day at a time.

However & But . . .

I do have to remind myself on a daily basis of a few things.

First, I am grateful to be in a program where I’m able to have the support and the opportunity to strengthen the foundation of my sobriety.  I do not take this for granted!  There are those who are not able to get into such programs and they have to work much harder to keep sober one day at a time.  I’m not saying I don’t struggle some days.  But for those who are getting sober, working and who have families, my hats off to them.  Honestly, I don’t know if I could do it.

Second, old timers consistently remind us (those who are in a halfway house/supportive living program) the real test in our sobriety is when we get out into the real world.  It does scare me simply because I’m not there yet.  I’m working with someone to make sure I make the right decisions and go down the right path consistent with my sobriety goals.  However, today I’m right where I’m suppose to be.

Lastly, to be aware.  This is something new to me.  I’m more aware of my own actions:  how I talk to people, how I react, what I do in certain situations, etc.  I don’t want pride and ego to resurface like it has in the past.  Yes, I did have ten years of sobriety; the knowledge is still there.  But I relapsed.  I need to concentrate on myself (keep pride and ego at bay) and work on my codependency issues because those two reasons help led me to my relapse.

I believe in the 12 Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I know that it works, if you put the required effort to work the steps and follow the suggestions.  I’ve seen it in myself and others.  However, I only have today.  Yesterday is already written, it can’t be changed.  Tomorrow isn’t here yet, so who knows what will happen.  Today, I embrace my sobriety and do those things required of me to keep me sober.

Just for Today!


Now After A Relapse

For those of you reading, I relapsed in February 2018 (The Relapse) after ten years of sobriety.  I knew full well it was coming. I became hopeless and just gave up. On September 14, 2018, I got back into sobriety.  I’m fortunate to live in a chemical dependency residential program, working with a Sponsor and have a strong sober network.

First and foremost, I wasn’t involved in my own sobriety. First, like most if not all people that relapse, I wasn’t attending recovery meetings (AA or NA).  I made excuses not to go.  Second, my Sponsor and I grew apart, thus I wasn’t calling him regularly.  Lastly, I wasn’t “practicing the principles in all my affairs”.  I was a dry dunk after moving from Binghamton in July 2017. I wasn’t drinking but I wasn’t apply a spiritual program to my life either.

Working as a CNA was the worst decision of my life.  While it can be rewarding at times, the amount of stress involved working in that field is tremendous, therefore I will not be working as a CNA again.  I saw so much abuse, neglect and injustice, I literally went insane.

Second, I really never worked on my codependency issues.  Unfortunately, those reared their ugly heads time after time.  This last time was devastating to me because I got involved in a relationship with another active addict after my relapse.

So what am I doing now?

I attending one to two meetings per day.  I’m also involved in a chemical dependency outpatient program.  I mentioned I live in a chemical dependency residential program which I moved from a 3/4 house to a supportive living program.  I also got a Sponsor the second month I was here and we are working through the 12 Steps of AA.  In addition I’m also attending CoDA (Codependents Anonymous) and GA (Gamblers Anonymous).

My Sponsor is giving me a new perspective of the Big Book.  Instead of just going through the Steps, we actually started reading from the first page (pg. xi – Preface).  We take turns reading the Big Book. He also references Joe & Charlie’s Big Book Study which I had never heard of until now.  He agreed we will probably just review Step 1-3 since he feels I still have a good handle on those Steps.  Step 4 onward, I’ll be doing the Steps all over again.  I have absolutely no problem doing ALL Steps over again.

I just left a 3/4 house (seven guys in one house, we all share a bedroom except the senior who gets his own) I’ve been living in since October when I got here.  I’ve moved in a separate apartment with just three guys.  The other two guys don’t participate in a 12 Step program.  However, one of them is leaving and then one of the guys from the 3/4 house is coming here next week.

Outpatient treatment isn’t doing a damn thing for me.  It took me a month to get into it.  I wasn’t impressed with the process of admission at all.  There is a constant turn around with clients (I mean I hardly see the same people in my groups week to week).  One counselor didn’t know how to run a group properly but she has not left the practice. Recently I removed myself from a group because I had no reason for being in that group to begin with as none of the subject matters pertained to me – at all. Despite the negative experiences, I am still participating and will continue to attend groups.

While I attend AA or NA groups once or twice a day, I also have been attending CoDA and GA meetings.  CoDA just started a meeting in the area.  I’m glad for this meeting because now I’m more aware of my codependency issues.  GA meetings are supposedly on Sunday but the last time I attempted to attend, no one showed up.  This surprises me since I live very near Turning Stone Casino.  Despite this, I’ll keep trying.

I haven’t had any dire circumstances arise as of yet.  There were a few groups which brought up resentments which I identified.  This is the first Christmas without my old Sponsor (since his passing in April 2018), so I’m still processing those feelings.  But overall, I’m doing really good.  I’m right where I’m suppose to be, doing what I’m suppose to be doing.

I have hope again!


2019 Goals


As I travel on my road in recovery I’m trying new things.  In a meeting a good sober friend keeps a “working” goal list. He lists things he wants to accomplish throughout the year working toward them each day.  In addition, I learned good setting includes a “target date” suggested to achieve this goal, thus they are more attainable. As goals are accomplished they will be crossed out.

I’m starting my own list here:

Last revised:  December 25, 2018

  • Send Christmas cards to family
  • Celebrate six months of sobriety (March 15, 2019)
  • Celebrate one year of sobriety (Sept 15, 2019)
  • Complete chemical dependency treatment (May 2019)
  • Go back to college LPN, Masters CSIS (August 2019)
  • Finish 12 Step work with Sponsor/Tim (Dec 2019)

Are the Gods Playing a Joke?

Every morning I turn my will and my life over to the care of the Gods as I understand Them when I wake up.  I am also grateful for waking up sober another day.  But sometimes, as few as they are, I wonder if the Gods are playing a cruel joke on me?

Unexpectedly, there are great changes in store for me not of my own doing.  Friday my laptop decided to take a dive for the worse and stop working.  I’ve exhausted all avenues of trying to fix it.  Perhaps it’s for the best. I am reminded of a quote, “You Don’t Know What You Have Until It’s Gone”.  This is so true for me right now.

I’m lost; I’ve become so dependent on technology I don’t know what to do with myself without it.  I’m  not sure if the Gods are playing a joke on me or whether they are, yet again, testing the strength of my sobriety?  With technology in my hands I could keep my mind focused on recovery or my hobby of programming.  Now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my spare time.  It scares me.

I don’t like rushing through life, as I feel like I am now writing this because of my limited time at the library on a “public computer”.  I have become so relaxed and peaceful in the last couple of weeks.  Now I feel that serenity is shattered.  Someone has thrown a stone throw the mirror.  The pieces lay broken at my feet and I’m paralyzed unable to do anything.  Oh Gods, help me get out of my head.  This is my fear.

Despite this new experience, I trust I will get through it and learn whatever the lesson.  I have a 1-on-1 with a counselor, two AA meetings and treatment group today.  Thus, if I take it, I have opportunities to talk about what is going on.

I just wish this was a cruel joke and I would just wake up . . .