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Day 191 - Alcoholics Save the World...or Something Like That...

Ok, so maybe that is a little grandiose and out there but it seems to me that my fellow recovery people have a chance right now to pay back the universe for all we took when we were in our disease. I mentioned this concept a while ago but have further developed and deepened my resolve. I want to thank my friend Jeff for sending me a list that helped me further my idea. I would give credit to the author of the list, but as usual, they are anonymous...


I am sure you are asking yourself “How in the world could alcoholics, save the world...they can barely tie their own shoes? Or find their own shoes. Or not be stealing someone else's shoes?"


Well, I am talking about sober alcoholics with some time under their belt. See those of us lucky enough to have been around for a while, have a lot of experience that the whole world could use right now. We are used to battling an unseen illness every day. We are used to something we can’t see and touch trying to kill us. We have learned to live through that every single day. Happily most of the time I might add...


We can use this experience right now to help others. I mean really give to others the skills and tools we have learned to live relatively peaceful lives taking things as they come, one day at a time. Because we have had to do this to save our own lives, we could now help others. We have a tradition of what is freely given, freely give. In fact, our entire lives depend upon us giving away all that we have learned in order to help save another. Now it seems that the whole world could use some of what we have got.


We are used to living in isolation. Alcoholics are some of the loneliest people I have ever known. Most other people, would look at the alcoholic and say “they are surrounded by people who love them and care about them - how could they ever be lonely?” Alcoholism and drug addiction, I would go so far to say, any addiction, is a disease of perception. The alcoholic isn’t lonely because they lack friends and family, it is because they cannot accurately perceive the love that is all around them all the time. After some years (or decades) of our acting out behavior, the family and friends and employers have to let us go because our lives are too destructive to be around, the collateral damage seems to follow us wherever we go, the people who love us, have to leave us to save themselves.


Alcoholism and drug addiction is such an awful disease, in that by the time the addict and alcoholic is finally done, everyone who ever loved them usually pretty much hates them. It is because of this "disease of perception" that the alcoholic and addict are the loneliest of lonely...it doesn’t matter whether they are surrounded by love or lack it completely, the feeling they feel is the same. So surviving the disease requires also surviving loneliness which doesn’t just go away when they enter recovery. We continue to have the distorted perceptions about the world we live in until we die. That is why we have to treat our disease daily, lest it take hold of our minds root and branch and we are off the races again as they say...


Alcoholics and addicts are used to quarantine. We spend an inordinate amount of time in jails, institutions, detoxes, treatment centers and the like. For some of us, the doors of these places just revolve to accommodate our repeated entrance and exit. I once had a client who got his seventh DUI on this way to treatment...none of us were surprised. We all knew the moment he decided to get himself there, that that was the likely result. And he was quarantined still, not the nice rehab his family worked hard and paid a lot of money to get him into, nope he landed in the county jail instead. The accommodations were not as nice but the affect remained the same. Locked away from his life, family, job, friends, society...the ultimate social distance.


When I was newly sober I strenuously objected to the idea of a higher power - didn’t need one, wasn’t going to get one! You couldn’t trick me into become a believer! I was adamant. Yet, I stayed with the people who seemed to have the answers I lacked, they seemed to have resolved the drink problem together, which I could not do alone. They told me that I had to find some higher power that I could do business with...and eventually I did. It started with me realizing that alcohol was my higher power for a long time. I turned everything over to it: my life, love life, friends, family. Alcohol made all my decisions for me, I just a benevolent follwer. Thanks to a lot of crusty old timers who said things that made me want to beat them senseless in the parking lot...I stayed long enough to see where they were right and found a path to something greater than myself other than booze. I am sure mine doesn't look like yours or anyone else's for that matter, but that is the greatest part, that is totally ok, it still works. In my early sobriety, there was a girl that believed in Sky King, this elaborate cartoon super hero she created. Worked for her! So we are used to turning things over to something greater than ourselves and perhaps now we might help others do the same. We have found a path for hope and faith. Perhaps now we can assist others find their own...

One of the first things you learn on the road to recovery is that there is a lot going on in life that you can’t control. I mean, pretty much everything. Every drunk I have ever met, rails against their own disease for decades before seeking any kind of treatment. The voice in their head that this time it will be different, so loud that it crowds out all the other voices. We learn to turn it over...we learn to let go of all the very many things we can’t control and focus on what we can control...our attitude. That is really all we can do in the end. Control how we think about things, which is a precursor to our being able to control our behavior.


We are also used to working every day to help save others. We keep hope alive by helping others find the path. To help them when their disease becomes chatty and formidable. Perhaps we could use this legacy of service to help others who perhaps are not drunks, but could really use some assistance right now. Perhaps we can be a voice of reason when fear abounds. We can listen. We can pray. We can help in whatever way seems doable in our current environment. Even if the person isn’t actively asking for help, we can pray that they be given whatever they need to get through the moment and if there is something tangible we can do, then do that. We alcoholics survived because others that came before us paid it back. We develop an attitude of also paying it forward, hell we like to pay it in every direction possible because we are most afraid of the madness returning...


We have a lot of experience fighting every day against an unseeable enemy that wants us drunk but will take us dead. We work against the odds every day and then, when we barely have turned the tide ourselves, we begin to help others. Seems like we can do that now also. We can help those who are sick, worried about being sick, living in fear, isolation, loneliness. We have been there, perhaps, maybe because of a different reason, but man, we have been there...


What I feel is that we recovering alcoholics have the best skill set in the world to make it through this. We accept the things that we cannot change, work to change the things we can and have the wisdom to know the difference between the two. I am going to try to practice my skill set wherever I go with whomever I meet. I am going to try to give away what was so freely given to me. I am going to use my tools to shore myself up emotionally, to help others do the same. This seems about the best use of my life that I can think of - besides not burning it to the ground...

In this crazy, unprecedented time, we are all afraid, worried, and stressed. Many of us can also see the blessings that are popping up all around us. Many of us are focusing our attention on changing who we are and how we live our lives to be of better use to others. We are all looking for a container to hold the pain and joy, fear and acceptance, love and hate. It is a full time job on top of many other full time jobs that are now being deployed from our kitchens, living rooms and couches. But what I know for absolutely sure, the results will always come if we work for them.


"If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity, and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God (or whatever you come to believe in) 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.




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