Lucky 13 (Months)

This past month has been full of growth and milestones and pain and overwhelming feelings of gratitude.  I've been humbled.  I've been pissed off.  I've been on a "pink cloud" and I've been punched in the gut by darkness and a deep funk.  I've been all over the map in terms of where I'm at on this journey towards a sober way of living.  

My friend Laura McKowen often says this phrase + I now believe it.  You can read her words on her blog

My friend Laura McKowen often says this phrase + I now believe it.  You can read her words on her blog

I'm struggling to string together coherent sentences this morning to fully encapsulate what helped me stay sober over these past 30 days.  It's gonna be a long, rambling post.  Maybe you should grab a cup of coffee of tea before you start?  Ok.  Let's begin.

My best friend came out the first week of February to help celebrate my one year of sobriety milestone (2/3/16) and to accompany me to see and hear Cheryl Strayed speak in San Francisco (click here for link to podcast).  She ended up tagging along with me to my Tuesday night AA women's meeting.  At the end of the meeting, when it was my turn to read The Promises out loud to the group, I sat in my chair in the back row and sobbed.  I felt so much in that moment that I could barely find my voice.  I almost handed the reading over to someone else to finish up for me, but I stopped myself.  I took a moment to wipe away my tears, collect myself and eventually stood up, tucked my hair behind my ears, found my voice and pushed through to the end of the reading.  It was emotional, revealing and enlightening.  I truly believed the words that I was reading aloud and I finally believed that I deserved them, too. 

The AA Promises
1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
12. 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 always materialize if we work for them.
— Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book, Page 83-84
My morning ritual + a few of Holly's mantras

My morning ritual + a few of Holly's mantras

To know with 100% certainty that those 12 Promises were actually coming true in my life, well, it shook me to my core.  I felt raw and torn open.  I felt held in that room on that night.  I felt loved.  Yes, loved by a group of women, most of whom were strangers to me, that also shared a bond of sisterhood through sobriety.  It was humbling and empowering all at the same time.  It was the closest thing I've ever felt to a higher power being present in my life.  It felt divine.  I felt reborn.

Writing this feels uncomfortable.  All of my life I've struggled with calling myself an atheist, an agnostic, a Catholic, and a Mormon.  I currently struggle to some degree with calling myself an Alcoholic, too.  I do it, but it's not comfortable - yet.  But the thing is, if I'm being honest, I've been seeking a power greater than myself for my whole entire life. And now that I'm at this phase of my development (Promise #1), it's true, I AM amazed before I'm halfway through.  

It's been a fucking miracle.

The God-thing almost made me walk right out of the rooms six months ago.  It was all I could do to make myself stay seated in those cold, metal folding chairs and listen to people talk about their higher powers, their God, and calling themselves Grateful Alcoholics.  I thought I couldn't possibly believe any of this shit.  Never.  Not me.  Nope.  I'd just stay on my side of the street and judge the hell out of the program, the people and the bad coffee.

And then something started to happen.  By forcing myself to just sit down and listen to their truths, their stories - a shift started occurring in my life.  I slowly started revealing myself in these meetings, too.  I shared where I was at in the process, told them I didn't believe in God and that I wasn't going to call myself an Alcoholic.  And you know what they did?  Nothing.  They let me say whatever it is I believed at the time.  They just listened and let me spill my truth and moved on.  I've never experienced anything like it.  To tell the truth without reservation or worry about repercussions or judgment was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.  And the fact that I get to do it over and over again at meetings has been astonishing to me.

All of the Promises mentioned above have slowly started coming true for me, but AA isn't the only route I've taken to obtaining sobriety.  I've been reading books on spirituality, memoirs by other women struggling with alcoholism, reading blogs, listening to recovery podcasts and connecting with sober women outside of the AA program with daily texts and phone calls.  I'm using every tool in my sobriety toolbox.  

Over the past eight weeks, I've also been participating in Holly Glenn Whitaker's Hip Sobriety School (HSS) and absorbing a shit-ton of information about addiction.  Holly is a selfless, well-informed teacher.  She has put together a program of recovery that she herself used to get sober and kick her addictions to the curb.  She shares it all, week-by-week, and holds nothing back.  She is a giver and has a heart so big that I don't know how she keeps it in her chest.  Her daily emails and mantras helped guide her Hip Sobriety School tribe down a path towards ritual and routine, self-love and forgiveness, education, better nutrition and spiritual practices, and so much more.  If you don't think AA is for you, then I highly recommend checking out Holly's blog and learn more about her approach to sobriety and addiction.  And even if AA is for you, you can glean so much from Holly's 8-week course.  She is nothing short of a miracle worker.  

I think I'll end with that.  She is a honest-to-goodness real life miracle worker.  

I bookended this 13th month of sobriety with AA and Hip Sobriety School.  I worked through the 4th and 5th step with my sponsor (which was so freaking hard) and I graduated from HSS with a notebook full of incredible tools and resources to pull from when I need to expand my physical, mental or spiritual practice surrounding my sobriety.

The abundance I have in my life right now is a direct result of doing all of this hard work.  If you are reading this and thinking - Wait, what?  You do AA and use other ways to stay sober?  Is that allowed?  Can you do that?  My answer is a simple YES.  100%, yes.  I'm doing whatever speaks to me right now.  I'm wide open.  I'm willing.  I'm accepting life on life's terms.  I'm listening to my heart more because my head oftentimes gets me into trouble with negative self-talk and fear creeps in.  I'm forgiving myself.  I'm shifting my way of thinking and seeing the world.  I'm far from perfect in any of these pursuits, but I'm starting to see my part in things and what I can do to make changes in my attitudes and actions.

Selfie with no filter - yesterday 3/3/16

Selfie with no filter - yesterday 3/3/16

I am the luckiest.