The past-tense word recovered is used in several places in the beginning of the book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This was pointed out to me in early sobriety, and in my mind, indicated that if I worked the 12-steps with a sponsor, and service work became a part of my life, that I too will be recovered. I also thought as my life improved and the obsession to drink was taken away that recovered meant that the obsession wouldn’t ever return.
I was wrong. In early 2006, I left a relationship of four years when I found out my fiancé was using again and didn’t want his sobriety back. The obsession to drink returned briefly with thoughts like, “If he can go out again, why can’t I?” or “I really wasn’t that bad, I can have just one drink.” I didn’t listen to these thoughts (and they were merely just thoughts) so I moved on. I continued going to my meetings, being a part of district service work and my role as GSR, as well as praying daily, and working with a sponsor and sponsees. I was able to walk through it, as the thoughts slowly dissipated back into clear-headed thinking.
Then later that same year, in November, 2006, my brother passed away suddenly and my whole foundation fell from beneath me. Not only did the obsession to drink come back, but it came back with physical and mental cravings. What I had read regarding the grief I was experiencing described this type of loss as “a sudden shock to the system” and “your world suddenly getting ambushed.”
The family unit I knew for 30 years suddenly shifted without warning. Memories came flooding back, both good and bad. Unresolved issues, painful and overwhelming ‘new’ emotions took over. Questions like, ‘“Why my brother? Why so young at 27? Why did this happen, God?” tossed and turned in my mind. And then, waiting months for the autopsy results, I wanted to self-destruct. It is no surprise that the phenomena of craving came back and threatened to wipe out two years of strong sobriety. I thought I had recovered! Why was this coming back if I had recovered?!
I became resentful at that word recovered. That maybe it only applied to those in the past who wrote the Big Book and not to me. As if I was the only one who had ever gone through something like this. I felt trapped in recovery and frustrated that this was my life. That I wouldn’t be fully recovered until I died, and until that point, I would be working hard in recovery. I was feeling low and overwhelmed and taken down. It didn’t take long for me to reach a vital place where it was pointed out to me by several people that if I stayed where I was, I risked relapse; that I had the tools right before me and I was making a choice not to pick them up. The word choice rang through my mind for days. I have a choice. I have a choice to stay sick, or I have a choice to get better.
When I choose to turn and make the right choice my higher power is there for me. At times I had felt so disconnected from God, even from fellowship, but it was me that was isolating and slipping away. I had to recognize that the enemy was trying to take me down in my vulnerable state. I had a choice, to be in God’s light and not listen to the enemy’s lies, or to listen to the obsession and jeopardize everything I have in my life today.
I came into AA broke, unemployed, living with my parents, and emotionally/ spiritually void. Through working the 12 steps with a sponsor, and doing the next right thing for my recovery, even working another 12-step program, I have gotten a good job, regained financial stability, repaired relationships and found a new love for myself.
I was really confused why I felt so low with all this hard work behind me. I was going to meetings, working with my sponsor/sponsees, and doing service work. I was doing everything I had been doing for the past 2 years. Why wasn’t it working? I had already done so much work in the program, what was I lacking?
When I was confronted about why I wasn’t doing 90 meetings in 90 days, I realized that my ego was getting in the way. Why would I need to do a 90 in 90? I had already done so much work, gone to so many meetings, and I was doing fine before this happened. I thought I should be above that. I wanted to be where I had been instead of accepting where I was. I was frustrated, but started the 90 in 90 anyway.
Over time my routine that I knew so well since I had gotten sober started to change. I started going to new meetings, working with a new sponsor and what had weighed on me so heavily started to lose its power. By changing it up and starting new things in sobriety (as scary as that was) the word recovered began to have new meaning to me.
Yes, I am still in recovery and when something threatens my sobriety I have to jump start it or risk losing it. However, when I recognize today that I have choices, my impulsive thoughts or physical cravings no longer need to control me. As long as I remain honest and open about my struggle and willing to do the next right thing in recovery, things get better. This will only stay strong as long as I keep cultivating it. If I become complacent, which I had, a sudden change threatens it all to pieces. I have learned a lot about myself through this experience but the number one thing is not to be afraid of learning or doing something new.
Recovered now means to me that I have choices, that I am willing to learn new things about myself and accept, through God’s guidance, that all things work together for good. Recovered means that I am willing to work through tough emotions and troubled times to learn what I need to learn. Recovered means that I am using the AA tools to find a better way to live.
If you have a first person story or essay to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.