I was 20 years old when I got sober. The powerlessness over my alcoholism and the journey over the last 26 years has been ever-changing. Life continues to happen when you get sober. I’ve been through tough times and amazing experiences; sometimes at the same time.
Getting sober can change you. It’s supposed to. A new design for living that recovery can offer you is an opportunity to create a life that brings you deep heart-centered connections that just don’t happen outside of recovery. Within the rooms of my 12-step program, I have developed relationships with people who understand how my alcoholic mind works, what thoughts lead a person to addiction and what it means to embrace life with goals of trying to be a better version of yourself.
On the surface, it can look like an alcoholic just doesn’t know how to stop drinking. Some think the physical obsession that is so powerful encompasses everything about what alcoholism is. The idea that if an alcoholic could just stop the physical act of drinking, they would be fine, is a misconception. It runs much deeper than that. Alcoholism is a symptom of a much greater problem. My much greater problem had very little to do with the substance of alcohol and everything to do with me. The insanity of the alcoholic mind — that I now refer to as the disease of perception — is cunning, baffling and powerful, as we learn in Alcoholics Anonymous. This disease of the mind is what led me to drink. As a form of self-medicating, I used alcohol to give me the ease and comfort I never could feel in life.
When you are on a journey of recovery and using the principles of a 12-step program, it can seem like a foreign concept to anyone outside of the program. The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) have been my soft place to land, where I can share openly and honestly without judgement. I can learn about my disease, stay sober and be of service to others which all keeps my alcoholism at bay.
Even though I have been sober for many years, I still have the same mind that led me to misuse alcohol. I am always only an arm’s length away from that first drink. Because of this, there are certain things I must do every day to ensure that I stay sober and have peace of mind. I regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, I actively help and support other alcoholics walking the same path as me, and I don’t drink, one day at a time. I keep coming back to the fundamental principals of AA that have guided me to the spiritual practices of recovery that have changed my life.
With the pandemic of COVID-19, the things an alcoholic does to stay sober and well have been challenged. With social distancing restrictions, self-isolation and the inability to attend meetings, Alcoholics Anonymous had to immediately get creative to sustain sobriety and reach out to suffering alcoholics. 12-step groups were beginning to close their doors for the first time in history as part of the fight against the global pandemic. Within the first few weeks of isolation, Alcoholics Anonymous began to organize themselves on social media platforms spreading the word that meetings would continue and recovery would not be cancelled. Fellowship groups began to hold meetings online just as they would in person by video and audio.
In my 12-step fellowship of AA, we have a responsibility pledge that states, “When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA to always be there and for that I am responsible.” Amidst the chaos and fear of this pandemic, I have witnessed and been part of a monumental Alcoholics Anonymous movement that has turned fear into faith and a problem into a solution. This is no surprise considering AA’s backbone of recovery is sharing experience, strength and hope with each other. We always find a solution.
For many men and women new to recovery who have been struggling during these early days of sobriety, while this physical separation has distanced us from you, please know that we got you. For those of you that have been around for a while and find themselves struggling with coping during such a unique time of uncertainty, we got you, too.
The other day I celebrated 26 years of sobriety, and I explained to someone that it has been a process of growing, learning, paying it forward, repeat — one day at a time for 26 years. I would not have been able to get this far without the relationships I have with other Alcoholics who understand me.
There is a constant connection right now at a time when you think it would be the opposite. There are meetings every day, several times a day, and for those who don’t have computer access, it is a normal practice that members of AA call and check in on others. It is just what we do. 12-step communities continue to foster life-saving connections and that is a testament to the solidarity of our fellows. You are no longer alone.