The Lonely Road to Recovery
The road to recovery can be very lonely. During my first year of sobriety I was alone most of the time. I’m not exaggerating when I point out that the only two people playing a prominent role in my life from before my last drink are my two sons. I’m not complaining but only using the fact to explain the reality of my story and how lonely in can be especially early on.
It doesn’t help that the stigma of alcoholism made me hate myself for the damage I caused to my family. I felt I deserved to be alone. My destructive actions during the height of my run didn’t have to define me. Was I just a degenerate, a liar, morally weak person who chose booze over everything else? That’s how I felt but what I realized was … I was just like everyone else in recovery. I was an alcoholic, an addict. I was afflicted with the disease of alcoholism and there was a simple solution. Life got a lot easier when I realized that I wasn’t alone and there were many people just like me. The more I joined these others traveling the same road to recovery the easier it was to get out of my own negative head and focus on the positive.
During my first 18 months coming around AA I was unsuccessful at staying sober as I tried to do it on my own. As most people do when they first come in to the halls I was a LIFO newcomer…Last In First Out (sorry for stealing the old inventory term but I’m a finance guy). I didn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t get cell numbers. I tried to rely on my flawed pride, self-will and pure determination to stay sober. And it just wasn’t enough. Many alcoholics go through this same stage and fail miserably. Realizing that we can’t go it alone and that it takes being an active member of the AA Fellowship is critical and why Unity is one of the three legacies of the program.
The Circle and the Triangle
“The circle stands for the whole world of A.A., and the triangle stands for A.A.’s Three Legacies of Recovery, Unity, and Service.” The Recovery represents the 12 Steps and the spiritual solution they lead to as the foundation of our program which is why it’s on the bottom of the pyramid. The Unity side is the fellowship I’m blogging about today. It’s described so well at the beginning of Chapter 2 in the Big Book; There Is A Solution.
“We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds. We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful. We are like the passengers of a great liner the moment after rescue from shipwreck when camaraderie, joyousness and democracy pervade the vessel from steerage to Captain’s table. Unlike the feelings of the ship’s passengers, however, our joy in escape from disaster does not subside as we go our individual ways. The feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. But that in itself would never have held us together as we are now joined. “
The Secret Society
Newburyport Market Square:
This Fellowship is real! I live 40 miles north of Boston in the historical seacoast small city of Newburyport. It’s a vibrant, upscale community, a scene out of a Dickens novel, that hosts year round events in it’s Market Square. It also hides a secret society and I’m not referring to the Illuminati or Free Masons. At last Tuesday’s “Hotdog Meeting” (yes, free hotdogs!) a resident of our recovery home in town, The Link House, who was celebrating his one year anniversary and credited in part our “secret society”. I knew exactly what he was referring to. There is something so comforting early in the program and as much today for me when you bump into ‘one of us’ around town. The first time it happens it’s as shocking as seeing your teacher at the supermarket as a school kid. You’re afraid to make eye contact as to give away a hint of the anonymity but as you accept your place in the program and appreciate the importance of the fellowship these daily meet ups are so comforting.
I live literally above Market Square in what my boys and I refer to as the Crow’s Nest. We call it this not just because I’m raising pirates but because I have the top floors above our charming dive bar the Thirsty Whale.
I can’t walk out of my door without running into members of our secret society and it always makes my day! I see Maggie at Starbucks, Barry on a Mkt Sq bench, Katie working in a nautical cloths shop across the street, Kat walking a baby she’s nannying, Steve cooking at a restaurant, Diana being her positive social butterfly self will stop to kiss me on the cheek. TJ will take a break from waiting at an Italian eatery to say hi when I walk by with my son, and there’s always the guys from the Link House everywhere downtown. During one of my dark nights in the first few months of my recovery I thankfully bumped into Doug, sent with the timing of an angel, who sat next to me on one of the benches as I cried my eyes out. This fellowship is real and such an important part of our program.
Just as powerful as my local fellowship has been the online Twitter recovery community. I say ‘just as important’ because there are many hours a day when I’m truly all alone. Since around the time of my last drink I rarely sleep through the night. Like clockwork I’m awake at 3 A.M. each and every early morning. There’s nothing worse than not being able to fall back to sleep because you’re lost in your own fears and resentments. It’s this community of many twitter users on the same path to recovery that have saved me at my most vulnerable times.
Over time I’ve added to my Twitter list called “Friends of Bill” which today has 177 members from around the world and different stages of recovery. Just as at my local meetings I’ve followed the old timer’s advice of ‘sticking with the winners’ and most of these friends have successful recovery. It’s their posts, blogs, podcasts, meme’s and advice that have continuously reminded me that I’m not alone.
My Twitter friend, Tami (@tamiharperwinn) writes on an amazing blog called Drunkless.com (how cool a name is that?) and just yesterday shared her latest post, “My Birthday 5th Step” in which she discussed her 6 year sobriety anniversary as we do in our 5th step Tami sharing the exact nature of her wrongs over the past year of sobriety. It was so powerful to me and she addressed so many issues that hit home particularly how we deal with the personal trauma we go through in our final drinking days and early sobriety. I’ve never discussed with anyone else what she touched on yesterday and it meant so much to hear her describe exactly what I feel.
She also shared this video yesterday that had two messages that stood out to me. The first was that “anyone who truly works a program stays sober” and thinking for a while about it I had to agree. When we hear about someone’s relapse it’s always because they were away from the program. The second related message was the importance of searching out your sober brothers and sisters! They also promoted using the hashtag #soberwins to find positive stories of recovery.
For anyone who doesn’t know a #hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. This makes it even easier to find posts from people in recovery if you were to search online for something such as #sober, #aa, or #recovery. I have this great list of users however it’s still not easy to follow everyone’s content. I conducted a poll this week asking for their favorite recovery hashtag we could use on our posts. The winner was #recoveryposse. It’s perfect since a POSSE is a group of people, typically armed, who have a common purpose. We are all armed with the tools from this program. So if you’re looking to grow your fellowship just search #recoveryposse and we’re here for you!