Before I got sober, just shy of my twenty-fourth birthday, the last thing I felt was the freedom and happiness that the promises speak of. I was sick: not just physically sick from the amount of chemicals in my system, but soul-sick, completely bereft of a sense of spirit or purpose beyond finding a way to meet the day’s craving.
I remember very little about my first 12-Step meeting beyond crying and shaking so hard I could barely hold on to the cup of really bad coffee I was given. I certainly couldn’t fathom why the people who gave me that coffee and then helped me find a seat would have any interest whatsoever in caring for the wreck I had become.
But I let them lead me nonetheless, because I had reached the very bottom of my particular hell.
I wasn’t a skid-row drunk. I was a middle-class, puke-every-morning-until-I-could-get-the-day’s-first-drink-to-stay-down, off-to-the-races-for-the-day-and-night kind of drunk. I was quite a functional alcoholic actually, which confused and worried my family, friends, and employers all the more because they couldn’t grasp how I could be so messed up and still show up for things—mostly on time and ready to do what was called for at any given moment.
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That doesn’t mean I was any good at anything. Quite the contrary, I was just good enough to give everyone a glimpse of some greater potential, just good enough to compel everyone to keep me around; just good enough to get by.
So nobody saw any need to intervene with me because I stayed one tenuous step ahead of any real consequences of my addictions.
I Just Didn’t Know What To Do About It
I mixed my chemicals in a way that had me up when I needed to be up, down when I needed to come down, and completely wasted when that’s what it took to keep up with the people I ran with. For years, I chose to associate with only the people, places, and professions that I could manipulate to support my addictions.
In the end, I drank and drugged because I couldn’t not drink or do drugs. I drank and used whether it was sunny or rainy, life was good or not so good, because it was Tuesday or because it wasn ’t.
All along, deep inside me, I knew something was wrong, that how I interacted with alcohol and drugs wasn’t right or good or normal. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
Getting Sober, Staying Sober, and Living A Life Of Joy
In this book, I tell my story of recovery, as suggested by our 12-Step programs: I will tell you what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now, not with “drunkalogues” to convince you of my qualifications, but with stories, sayings and strategies that might help you or someone you know get sober, stay sober, and live a life of joy.
That is my life today. It’s not a perfect one, but it is a joyous one, because no matter what is happening on any given day, I never lose sight of the amazing blessing of my sobriety; the incredible freedom it gives me to be who I want to be, to go where I want to go, and to serve others in ways I had never imagined. I know that reaching out in this way gives me yet another day of peace.
For that, and for so much more, I am grateful.
Experiencing A Very Important Personal Shift
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.”
This sentence leading into the 9th Step Promises opened my eyes to the fact that if I carefully and methodically did the work, I would see significant progress in my recovery in a very short time.
At the time I first read that passage, my downs dramatically outweighed my ups, and I was way more accustomed to being horrified and ashamed than to being amazed. So that was my first real sense of promise from the 12 Steps: that if I were thorough in my inventory, in humbly sharing that inventory, in making my amends, and in doing whatever was necessary to repair the damage of my past, I would start to experience a very important personal shift.
But, I couldn’t figure out what amazement would be like exactly—would it be a big, onetime, burning-bush moment? Or an ongoing, smell-every-rose, daily zest for life?
I didn’t know how to answer those questions; I just knew that I desperately wanted to replace the sadness and uncertainty that I felt most days, and amazement sure sounded like a great alternative.
But before I could truly know any of the 9th Step Promises, amazement included, I first had to go through the eight preceding steps. The first step—admitting that I was powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanageable—was the easy one; I had plenty of evidence.
After all, it was the powerlessness and unmanageability I felt with alcohol and drugs that had led me to a 12-Step meeting to begin with.
Seeing My Life Evolve Into Something Beautiful and Useful
The next seven steps gave me quite a bit more trouble, and it took me more than a year to work through them. But, by the time I had finished, I was starting to feel what it meant to be amazed, which was this pervasive wonder from seeing my life evolve into something beautiful and useful.
My amazement—and usefulness—grew with each formal pass through the steps, which I did three times in the first five years of my sobriety. Along the way, my life turned from an unrelenting horror into this remarkable daily experience to look forward to.
And each subsequent time I have worked these steps, whether formally or informally, I have become more and more willing to be searching, fearless, moral, and honest, and my life and ability to serve others have improved proportionately.
WHICH IS AMAZING. STILL.
©2013. Jenifer Madson. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
This article was adapted with permission from the introduction to the book:
Living the Promises: Coming to Life on the Road to Recovery
by Jenifer Madson.
Living the Promises is a personal, warm 365 reader includes quotes and exhortations, celebrations and lists of gratitude's, and all manner of real-life inspirations. Each month begins with a promise and each day explores that promise. Living the Promises is the first meditation book to be based specifically on the 12 promises of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is the perfect daily guide for anyone in recovery seeking peace and healing.
About the Author
Jenifer Madson is an award-winning Author, Speaker, and Success Coach whose journey in recovery from addiction has informed every aspect of her work in the personal development field. She uses lessons from her unique story of redemption to help people from all walks of life -- from at-risk youth to Fortune 100 executives -- awaken to their highest potential. She lives in New York City, and when she's not working or traveling, can be found on the dance floor or out exploring the countless wonders of the city.