Me Agnostic

planet
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

 

In our family, we were baptized into a particular religion, but did not practice it except on Christmas and Easter. I believe back in the day (& maybe even still today?) some would say we were heathens.

Since dad didn’t live with us, I wasn’t even sure what he was so I asked my mom one day.

“Your father is an atheist.”

“What does that mean?” I asked at age 13.

“Well….because he saw so many awful things when he was in the war, along with his terrible childhood, he came to the conclusion there is no God,” my mom explained.

“What?!?”

I was surprised by this information. I didn’t even know you COULD believe that.

This bothered me so one day I had to ask him myself.

“Dad, mom said you are an atheist. Is that true?”

At this time my dad was in his mid 50’s and I suppose he may have soften a bit as he replied, “I don’t know. I used to think that but now I’m not sure.”

“So does that mean you’re NOT an atheist?”

“Yes.”

“Then what are you?”

“Since I’m not positive of whether or not there’s a God, that would make me an agnostic.”

I resonated with that answer and said, “I think that’s what I am too, Dad.”

And the topic of what I really believed in didn’t come up again until I got sober at age 31. Besides yelling, screaming and blaming “god”, I didn’t have much more to do with it.

Thankfully, nobody in AA cared what I believed as it took me some time to try and wrap my head around this ignored subject, let alone expecting reliance from a Higher Power. But I had to start somewhere.

Being agnostic was a perfect place to start.

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Impossible to Believe

cocoon

When the need for a higher power was realized by me, I had a hard time of it. In fact, it seemed impossible.

People at the meetings kept trying to reinforced the idea that I didn’t have to really KNOW anything. They said being open to the idea was enough.

And apparently it was. I was stringing together days and weeks and soon months and the only way I could see this happening was because I was following a few “suggestions”.

I got on my knees and prayed (to what I didn’t know-I prayed to the air), read some literature regarding the disease of alcoholism (Big book & 12&12 mostly), called people to see how they were doing (maybe for a millisecond I’d stop thinking about me, me, me & my problems), and go to meetings.

This was keeping me sober and functioning.

And although they promised me I didn’t have to worry about this higher power/god business that I could take it easy on that – I had an inquiring mind and I NEEDED to know!! Plus something wasn’t sitting right with me. I knew there was something else going on here than just the power of Alcoholics Anonymous alone.

Something was instinctively brewing.

And then one day I was on my knees praying it came to me that I wasn’t God per say, but there WAS something powerful going on within me.

Some kind of truth or honesty or goodness or love. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it was pure, reminding me of when I was a curious, trusting young child.

I was beginning to discovering although I’d felt dead inside for a long, long time, It never left me but was just buried under layers of anger, resentment, sadness and pain.

 

 

image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/freedigitalphotos.net

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My Love Affair

I once had a love affair.

It was one of the best experiences I ever had. It took care of ALL of my wants and needs. At the same time….truly rare.

It filled me with joy, confidence, love, acceptance and well being. I went back every chance I could get.

More, more, more….

THIS was true love. The love I’d been looking for my whole life. The answer to all my questions.

Until the change

It wasn’t taking care of me anymore. The certainty it once gave me was fading away. But oh boy you better believe I wasn’t going to let that happen! No! This can’t be happening!

So I hung on

My beautiful love that once gave me EVERYTHING was now dragging me through the dirt. WHY!!! WHY are you doing this to me??? I gave you my whole heart! I screamed.

To no one

It was over but I could not accept it. I WOULD NOT ACCEPT IT!!

But it didn’t matter what I would or would not accept. It was OVER and my heart was BROKEN. I WAS BROKEN and I felt that I would die. Life as I knew it was over.

And  from the ruins arose an untouched spirit that whispered, I love you…..

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Higher Power

beauty sky

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Makes sense, if I’m powerless and insane when it comes to drinking (& I am) that I WILL NEED SOMETHING to pull me out of the vicious cycle.

But I did not come upon this easily. A friend of mine used to wear a t-shirt with a picture of Garfield on it that said  everything I let go of has nail marks all over it.

Me too, Garfield.

So as I was trying to “let go” the truth of being powerless really hit me hard & I panicked!Why? Because the rubber hit the road and I knew I didn’t have a “god” in my life. Not one that I really believed in anyway. Sure I figured there was something going on in the universe with the stars, oceans, sky – but a real source of power for me?

Nope.

But out of sheer desperation,  I kept showing up in Alcoholics Anonymous. As I stayed sober, some kind of “fog” started to lift and I saw how alcohol had truly been my POWER.

And rightfully so.

Didn’t it perform miracles when it worked? Transforming an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan and all? Hadn’t it been my best friend? I turned to it for EVERYTHING. Good times, bad times (you know I’ve had my share).

And if I’m REAL HONEST, didn’t it turn ME into a kind of God?

It started to feel to me that because I didn’t have or believe in any REAL Power I wouldn’t be able to stay sober.

THANKFULLY  THAT’S  NOT  HOW  IT  WORKS!!!!

Little by little (some of us are slower & sicker than others), the messages began to seep in through tiny open cracks easy does it, they said, take it piecemeal.

They said, “Hey use the group for cripes sake! You’ve been coming here and not drinking? SOMETHING must be going on. Something has stopped you from the insanity of the first drink. Now that’s some kind of power greater than you by yourself. Right? Right?

“Yes but I’m not stupid!!!  I know you guys are talking about a real God and well….I don’t have one.”

“WE DON’T CARE!!!!! Now go make the coffee!”

So I kept going to meetings, kept going to meetings, kept going to meetings when one faithful night, a man who was sober as long as I had been alive said from a podium, “I still don’t understand God.”

AHA! So if HE doesn’t and he’s STILL sober and there’s really nothing “special” about him (except his Irish brogue that I could just listen to forever!!!) then…..

Maybe there’s Hope for me, too.

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Insanity

So what happens to someone who has the insane type of thinking that cripples their chances to stop drinking – leading them back to the bottle, igniting the phenomenon of craving?

Usually we are abandoned to things like death, institutions or jails – literally or figuratively.

Or we get sober.

For me, there was a brief moment when I succumbed to the fact that I wasn’t going to figure this out on my own and I wasn’t going to die. Instead I’d continue to live on the hellish merry go round I called my life.

It was time to ASK FOR HELP.

“Damn it!” said my egotistical, ignorant, prideful self. “Anything but that! I’m a lone wolf you see….”

But after my third relapse and my desire to die, but not being able to accidentally or purposely perform the act – not to mention – the noise in my head that I’d surely be put away for if you only knew – did I finally become open to listening to what the people who were “doing the deal” in Alcoholics Anonymous were really saying.

And they said a lot.

Thank God I didn’t have to understand it all right away or I would have crawled up in a corner and drooled on myself until the bad men came to take me away.

And I’m not trying to be cute (although I’m not opposed to that either), but the mental part of the disease of alcoholism is very real to me. Besides the glitch in my brain that forgets I shouldn’t drink cuz bad things happen when I do, there’s also the incessant thinking about not only drinking but about EVERYTHING.

Here’s a small illustration from my life, two months into sobriety, going to my son’s open house at school:

Okay so I’m just going to go to school to meet the teacher, right? Okay no problem, no big deal. Oh she’s talking to a mom and dad and doesn’t’ see me yet, that’s cool. Hmm, wow, what are they even talking about, it’s just a meet and greet. Okaaayyyy, she still isn’t even acknowledging that I’m in the room. I bet she knows. She knows I’m a drunk. She knows I’m the single mom. She knows I’m no good. She’d rather just keep talking to the cute couple. The mom and dad . Oh how nice, the perfect family. Coming together to the open house, taking up all the teacher’s time, while I sit here waiting and waiting. Fuck this, I’m so out of here. Oh wait, my turn. That’s it? All she said is hello, nice to meet you? Didn’t she want to ask me anything? See, this is why I don’t come to this stupid shit.

By the time I walk back to my house, rehashing over and over and over all those lovely thoughts I feel like I want to jump out of my skin. I’m such a raw nerve, it doesn’t take much to set me off. And when I get home, I close the door and stare out the window at the garage with the car in it and think….hmmm. What if?

Only this time, because of relapse or God’s grace or whatever you want to call it, instead of going in the garage, or the liquor store or in the bed, pulling the covers over my head while the pain eats me alive – instead –  I remembered something “those AA people” said about a hundred times.

Pick up the phone.

So I call this lady I called “sponsor” and some how, she knows EXACTLY whatever it is that’s spewing out of my mouth. And not only that…..somehow…..I KNOW she KNOWS something. And for the first time ever…I’m not alone. Someone “gets it”. Someone “gets me”.

Maybe I wasn’t insane enough for a straight jacket, YET. But maybe this is what alcoholism really looks like……….minus the drink.

Scary yet hopeful at the same time.

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Will power?

There’s seems to be a false idea regarding addiction and will power. Even my own mother will still say to me, “I can’t believe you haven’t drank in such a long time. You really have a lot of will power!”

You gotta love her. And people like her who still believe (and sometimes as addicts we think this way too), that staying away from the drink is all a matter of willpower.

If that were the case I would have stopped way sooner. I wouldn’t of waiting for pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization to take me down. Right?

But maybe for some people it really is a matter of will power. Not me. In fact trying to use my will power nearly killed me.

It’s kind of  ironic for me and all the alcoholics I know, we are the most strong willed people around. Hmmph. So interesting.

No wonder why so many of us have a hard time grasping this idea. And no wonder why we need to hit that personal bottom before we will even attempt to accept the fact that we need help.

Alcoholics Anonymous big book has the only explanation that I’ve ever found that makes any sense (if sense is to be made of this insidious disease) of what the hell is going on here.

The book says things like when it came to staying away from drink  my human resources were not sufficient, they failed utterly and lack of power is my dilemma.

That’s me. How many times did I try and fail???

But wait…there’s more…

Besides the physical allergy regarding alcohol (my ability to drink any guy under the table) it was pointed out to me that before I picked up a drink –  I was stone cold sober. So another component of the vicious cycle is in my mind. Didn’t I proved that through my times of abstinence?

Not a drop in me when obsessive thinking propelled me, called me, romanced me to go ahead – just have one.

I have an inability to think straight when it comes to drinking therefore cancelling out my will power.

Even though the jury was in and my cup overfloweth with evidence of bad things happening when I drank, not to mention the times I really, really, really wanted to stay stopped (will power), my thoughts easily jumped tracks over to the crazy train blazing the trail of   maybe this time it’ll be different.

In other words, I’m not weak-willed. I’m insane. Well that explains a lot. But not everything.

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Bottom=Hope

dark before dawn

Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping off place. He will wish for the end.  Big Book, p 152.

I heard it said in a meeting once, that every time we “go back out”, we lose a little something more.

The obvious answer as to what we lose would be more brain cells, but that’s a given. What I have found in my experience, the more critical thing we lose is that feeling of hope.

Hope that this will work for us. Hope that we are capable of being honest with ourselves. Hope that we are worthy of sobriety.

We really need this feeling of hope as it’s the bridge that crosses us over.

As far as what type of alcoholic I am, I’m actually willing to test that fate. I treated life as a game. Easy come, easy go – that’s how I rolled. Why would it be any different when I’m new in AA? I thought, as far as my “slips” went, I’ll just come back, if and when, it gets too bad.

In other words, I’m willing to play Russian roulette. And mind you, I’m raising two children along the way. THIS is what my alcoholism “looks” like.

So after my first eleven months in the program, my alcoholism started “talking” to me and it said, “you know….maybe you weren’t that bad. I mean you never drank as bad as your brothers…”

Two months of “controlled” drinking followed…..

Back in again and with four months of sobriety under my belt, I went off to Ireland – and well – I am Irish…….four months of sobriety flushed right down the Guinness toilet. (Now this is a story for another post.)

Back in the program again and a couple of months into this sobriety my perception of life “appears”  hopeless as I gaze out the window at my garage with a strong desire to turn the car on and end it all.

I was going totally insane with the pain from the noise in my head while loneliness gnawed at my gut.

THIS IS WHAT LIFE CAN LOOK LIKE TO AN ALCOHOLIC WHO PUTS THE DRINK DOWN. This is what newly sober with alcoholism feels like. It aint pretty.

But here’s the thing, if we hang in there and follow the others on the path of recover, these awful feelings do not last.

It gets better! Perception eventually gets restored to rightness and dare I say goodness. But here’s the catch, we can’t quit!

I thought for a long time the drink was my problem, but have since learned it was my solution. My solution to how to deal with this life. Living life was my REAL problem. And what I found later, living life without an unwavering Higher Power.

But first I had to be out of all answers. I had to accept I had this sickness that was messing with me physically, mentally and spiritually. And for me it took that last relapse (God willing), for me to realize what I was actually dealing with and I finally gave the disease the credit that it deserved.

It kicked my ass and it will always kick my ass. IT is stronger than ME. Alone, I am powerless.

But by grace, a mustard seed of hope was scraped up and I pray not to drop it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find it again. With sobriety this time, I’ve grabbed on with both hands to the WE of it all and started following a sponsors guidance and direction – without picking and choosing – starting with Step One.

It’s not easy coming back and thankfully the doors are always open. I’ve since chosen not to see them as revolving anymore as our Big Book promises us; Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path….

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