Whether you are in recovery or simply want to live in better health and awareness, this app delivers a daily message, easy-to-follow exercise videos, an audio meditation, and stories from our community.
Bumper sticker philosophy at its best. We can all use a little help to get us moving, inspire us into action, and give us something positive to think about. Here are 365 insights to receive one day at a time.
Raise your arms, take a breath — you are doing qigong (pronounced "chee gong"). Do it again and you have a practice! Learn to move your body in a mindful and gentle way by following a set of meditative movements that are easy to learn, and fun to practice.
The Guanqifa Qigong (pronounced "Gwan chee fa chee gong") is designed to soothe the mind and calm the nerves, using pure and clean energy to wash through the body. This audio meditation will keep you focused while empowering you to explore your limits.
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I have 22 years of sobriety. I have a sponsor, my sponsor has a sponsor. I pray every morning. I meditate occasionally. I frequently read page 449 to end in the Big Book — I understand acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. Neither of my sons, 18 and 16 years old, show any signs of this disease. I have a steady job in my chosen profession; I can pay my mortgage and afford a daily latte. I should be telling how I've arrived and all is well as a result of the fellowship of AA.
The truth is I'm a mess.
I have a series of bad decisions strung along behind me like toilet paper stuck to my shoe. It's so annoying. These missteps and miscalls remind me it is progress, not perfection, despite the fact that I'm not feeling the progress.
Today I am present, even for the lousy stuff. Today I know my actions affect others. Sobriety gives me that awareness. Having hung out in the rooms of AA for many years, I also know that this dip won't last long, even though it feels like it's already lasted too long. Today I know there is another side, and I will regain my usual self, only better for the experience. I have made my verbal amends; I have taken action to heal the wound I created. I have learned a great deal about myself, most of which is not pretty. Yes, more will be revealed.
Exactly how does this program work in my daily life? Recently, not so well when viewed from the surface — but digging deeper, the truth is: exactly like it should. Now I feel the ill effects much sooner than in my early days of sobriety. Today, when these periods of bad behavior or times of self-recrimination occur, I know I have to take an action in order to set things right, to set me right.Today, I have a healthier emotional life, where mostly I can identify what I am feeling fairly quickly. This is progress. When I first got sober, it took me three days to connect my emotions to an event. That is how distant my heart was from my head. It is progress to report that the head-to-heart distance is much smaller and much more comfortable.
As I write this and as time has passed, it is just as I knew, already my life is better. This is a short window of three weeks but when in a downturn, it feels like forever. By "my life," I mean how I am feeling and reacting on the inside, as very little has changed on the outside. I make the distinction because I have enough years, both in AA and in life, to know that the important stuff happens internally.
What internal psychological change could happen so quickly? None, for me; it has always been slow, two steps forward, one step back. But now I can say there are some changes that I feel are here to stay. By claiming my seat in AA, I have learned to claim my seat in the world. By being willing to not drink today, willing to call and listen to my sponsor, willing to work the steps even during this slump, I no longer believe I take up too much space in the world. I no longer believe I am not deserving of the many gifts and blessing I have received. I do believe it is okay for me to make mistakes, if I own them, atone for them, and then move on from them. I do believe it is okay to ask for help. I believe I bring my own brand of humor, kindness, and intelligence to the world. These are words I could never have written even 10 years ago. I know times of great joy await me. There will also be times of great sorrow. That's the human condition. I embrace it all. That, it seems to me, is the point: to experience the human condition with dignity, integrity, joy, and honesty. I don't ask for more.
I was jolted out of a blackout by the airbag of my car hitting me in the face. Later that night, after a long conversation with police officers at my parents' kitchen table, I tried to take my own life. A few weeks later I entered the first of what would be many treatment centers for my alcoholism. I was 19.
After six weeks of treatment, I relapsed almost immediately and continued to live in my addiction for another year. I then returned to treatment for another six weeks and then lived in a recovery house until I was one-year sober. Then I relapsed again.
I could never stop drinking on my own. I went to college at 22 and spent my three years there making up for lost time. I would drink at the slightest hint of a special occasion and for the final two years of the program, I drank every day. Incredibly, I managed to maintain a relationship for those two years as well as finish on the honor roll. I'm not really sure how. I even landed a job in my field of study before I graduated. When I moved off campus, I told myself that it was time to grow up. I felt confident that once I was away from the party-filled atmosphere of college, my drinking would taper off on its own.
I soon found out the opposite: My problem was about to get worse.
Instead of being surrounded by social situations at which to drink, I was now in my apartment drinking by myself. Every day. I drank myself out of my job in less than six months and was back living in my parents' basement. My dad offered me a job working in his warehouse, which I accepted under the premise that it was temporary, until I found another job in my field. After a few months, I found an apartment and moved out, but pretty soon I stopped looking for another job. It wasn't that I enjoyed the warehouse work; it was just that warehouse work was easier than looking for something else. Most important, I now once again had my own place to drink whenever I wanted.
After a year, I tried to return to treatment, but left after five days because I knew I wasn't ready. The following year I tried again — this time, I stuck through four weeks at the treatment center, only to relapse in less than 48 hours. I was completely hopeless after that. I became convinced that there was nothing that I could do about my drinking. It seemed no matter how badly I wanted to stop, I couldn't.
In November of 2009, I quit working and became a full-time drinker. I stayed up all night drinking and smoking weed, and slept during the day, often setting my alarm so that I didn't miss my chance to go to the beer store. I'd spend 23 hours a day in my apartment. The first few hours of my day were devoted to either throwing up or trying hard not to. My television became my only real friend. I was so depressed that I spent most of my nights out on my balcony trying to convince myself to jump, and the fact that I couldn't just made me feel like a coward. Of all the regrets I would constantly mull over in my head, my biggest became the fact that my suicide attempt at 19 had failed.
Then my mother came to me with what was essentially a final offer: I could go to a treatment center again, under one condition — that I stay there for an entire year. Almost without thinking, I agreed.
The first few weeks, I felt just as shitty as always. I constantly wanted to leave. Then one day I realized that there was nothing for me to go back to. I wasn't missing any parties. There were no friends waiting for me to come home. There was literally nothing but a slow death waiting for me back in Toronto. That's when I started to take the program seriously. I did 90 meetings in 90 days. I started to exercise. And the real key: I started to cut myself a bit of a break. For the first time in my life I started to be able to let go of the past — and this led me to be more open about the idea of finding a higher power.
I got a home group and a sponsor and began to work the steps. I became active in service at my home group. Slowly I started to act more like the person I wanted to be.
It's now been almost a year and a half, and it amazes me on a daily basis how much different my life is now. I work at the treatment center and help newcomers every day. I have two home groups and most weeks, go to four or five meetings. I've lost more than 50 pounds since I got sober and instead of struggling with a flight of stairs I now run half marathons. Most importantly, all of the friends I have today are in recovery as well — I've done my best to surround myself with people who actively work a program.
For the first time in my life, I have hope and optimism for the future. I'm 29 years old and feel like I've been given a second chance at life.
When the cases of liquor arrived before Christmas, my mother and sisters and I would hide half of the bottles, especially the Lambs Navy Rum, around the house — linen cupboards, the attic, the basement. This event was not out of the ordinary and we never asked why we were doing it; we just did what Mother told us to do and it seemed reasonable, given who our Dad was and given that she was always trying to control everything. This was just more of the same.
My Dad used to shut himself in the kitchen at night and rant to unknown (to me, anyway) beings — long soliloquies punctuated by colorful swearing diatribes. Mother would be busy doing something — laundry, harassing her three daughters to do homework or get to bed — or she would be talking on the phone to her mother, whom she apparently hated and feared. I was 10 years old.
At the family "do's" at Auntie Betty and Uncle Bruce's, there was always lots of singing and music made by "the Boys" — my Dad and his brothers, all musicians — and lots drinking, smoking, laughing and, as the evenings wore on, fighting on the front lawn. This was the 1950s and then the '60s and we — my sisters and cousins and I — were kids and later, teenagers, drinking what the adults left behind in the kitchen. It was wickedly delicious and tasted awful. Those were the days of Dean and Frank and Sammy, our Dad's idols. We lived in a mix of Fancy Houses, Fancy Cars, Fast Boats, Beautiful Mothers, Handsome Fathers — all fueled by alcohol and money — heady times.
In the photos and home movies of those times we, "the Kids," all look shell-shocked in our party dresses and bow ties, and we were.
Most of us made it out alive. We have very funny and very scary family stories. We are like survivors of some weird camp where we were held prisoner by "the Family." Because it was all that we knew, when we finally, one by one, slipped through the gate, we were astounded by what we found: Adults who were predictable — wow — who knew? A world that expected us to behave in a reasonable fashion to normal life events, be they happy or sad — yikes, we couldn't let anyone know that we didn't have a clue how to do this.
Most of us gravitated to other survivors of similar backgrounds who, unconsciously, just felt familiar somehow: lots of drinking and laughing and partying and crying and sometimes fighting on the front lawn — extreme everything — and lots of sports, money, houses, cars, lifestyles. And we created families of our own. We didn't think at the time that they looked anything like our "camp" of origin. In fact, they were the same — lots of laughing and drinking and smoking and yelling and fighting and making-up and extreme everything — plus politics, art, love affairs, holidays, spiritual seeking, and the added thing of drugs.
I am the eldest of the cousins and sisters and hence should always have "known better" or so I was told. I am the only one in Alanon or any AA program, for that matter. I have had three husbands, all fine men and all addicts of one stripe or another. Some of my children are alcoholic and some are members of the AA community and, thank God, clean and sober today. They are living proof that the cycle can be broken.
The challenge to do the next right thing, to access circumstances and respond in a rational and honest way, is ongoing. The challenge to trust is a life-long journey for me.
I am grateful every day for the grace delivered to me by the design for living of Alcoholics Anonymous, my touchstone. As a survivor, I know that my life depends on it and so do the lives of those around me. Being co-dependent makes me very dangerous to addicts. I will help you to kill yourself with whatever your substance of choice happens to be — drugs, alcohol, self-pity, or any other worrying ailment. I will enable you until you can't think for yourself or have any self worth left. It's interesting to me that I have such a large family. It just feels familiar, I guess.
Growing up as the youngest of three, I was led to believe that the enemy is on the outside. With the benefit of hindsight, reflection, and many years of recovery, though, I came to discover that in fact the enemy was on the inside — alcoholism. I didn't really understand the insanity that existed in my family of origin until I read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It helped to make sense of the insanity of the disease of Alcoholism. And this paved the road to healing, allowing a forgiveness of self and others that until then had been a concept that I couldn't comprehend.
I had always felt physically and mentally different. Although successful in many ways and in spite of many accomplishments, I still often felt irritable, angry and discontent.
There were early signs that I lacked balance and was prone to extremism, like having three jobs by the age of 12. Or like the first week that I played golf: With little regard for rules or etiquette I charged around obsessed, hitting a little white ball from 6:30 a,m. until 9:30 p.m. one day, 72 holes on a full-size course. When channeled properly, this single-mindedness could contribute to success. When I introduced myself to alcohol, however, the negative consequences became predictable. On New Year's Eve of Grade 12, my first three beers left me puking and blacking out in someone's garden in the dead of winter. My friends took me home and put me to bed and my parents were none the wiser. But the experience was so bad that I didn't drink again for some 17 months.
University afforded me many opportunities both to succeed, and to drink. I was captain of the University of British Columbia soccer team that won the Canadian Championships in 1974. Alcohol was the magic elixir that allowed me to feel taller, smarter and handsome. Normally awkward and somewhat shy, alcohol allowed me to get comfortable in my own skin.
From college, I was drafted into professional soccer and played four years for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League. The ego is fed highly in this environment, but if inside, you're low in self-esteem, then the incongruence between what you're presenting to the outside world and what you feel about yourself grows into a chasm. I drank to fit in and feel a part of something — and consequently, I learned to drink copious amounts of alcohol while not vomiting, a rite of passage known as "holding your liquor." The violation of values and core beliefs was well underway. The phrase, "What goes on the road stays on the road" became one of my many survival skills.
Getting my teaching degree, playing professional soccer, getting married, and having children only served to widen disconnect between my inner and outer beings. On the outside, I presented as someone who's very social and well regarded. Inside, however, inside I felt alone and scared, with a constant feeling that something bad was about to happen. Progressive drinking allowed this to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "Build it up only to eventually blow it up" became a common theme in my life.
On the way home from being fired as a high school teacher and counselor, I had an epiphany: I realized that alcohol had killed my grandfather, who died on Vancouver's Skid Row at age 57. He had choked on his own vomit and been robbed of his gold watch. I somehow knew that the same sad ending could be in store for me should I not stop drinking. I opened my community resource book and right there on the page I opened was the phone number of Alcoholics Anonymous. I picked up the phone and talked to a member of A.A. named Bob K. He listened while I had that meltdown and admitted that I was an alcoholic. He asked if I could get to an A.A. meeting that night. I said that I would try. At first I sat outside the meeting crying and shaking, but finally I summoned the courage to go in.
At that first A.A. meeting, on December 2nd 1993, I heard "Machine Gun Gerry" describe himself as an "EGO maniac with an inferiority complex." He described doing many amazing things in his life only to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors with alcohol because he didn't feel deserving or worthy. Bingo!
Besides identifying with the speaker, that night I experienced another miracle that was a sign that I was destined to get help through A.A. I sat beside a man named Stephen. We met the next morning for breakfast and what he described about himself allowed me to see that I'm not unique. Stephen, too, had lost his teaching job due to his alcoholism. Just like me, he had been a high school Physical Education teacher and counselor. He, too, had used external accomplishments like university degrees to try and build up immunity to the disease of alcoholism. His father Dave was a violent raging drunk. Bingo again. He had a brother who drank far more than he did. Just like me. His mother was severely co-dependent and affected by alcoholism. Me, too. I finally felt like someone understood me, and that there was a way out. Stephen 12-stepped me and carried the message of hope that is Alcoholics Anonymous. I asked him to take me to the leader, only to find out there are no leaders, just trusted servants. Almost 18 years later, Stephen remains my mentor, sponsor, and the one who showed me how to get — and stay — sober.
The literature, especially the Big Book, gave me the insight and awareness to see that I had been suffering from a disease that went undetected and untreated for 25 years. I discovered that I was physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually sick. Consequently, recovery would have to address these areas and to compensate for the damage done. I was ready to learn how to obtain comfort in my own skin.
Relieved for having stumbled upon the problem and therefore a possible solution, I went to any length to get and stay sober. Recovery is not for the faint of heart. It demands hard work and discipline and taking direction. The saying, "You can tell an alcoholic, but you can't tell him much," typifies my life up to age 41.
I have never messed with the formula that was given so freely to me; SPONSOR, HOME GROUP, STEP GROUP, SERVICE and MEETINGS! While the first several years of sobriety were difficult and challenging, I always found relief and the answers to all my problems in the Big Book, meetings, sponsorship, or in helping others.
Early in sobriety I used to ask my sponsor, "Why me?" like I was some martyr or victim who was powerless to change. He responded, "Because you have experienced the Grace of God, so be grateful and allow your life to be a shining example of recovery from alcoholism through the 12 steps and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous." So I try, One Day at a Time, to carry the message to those who still suffer from this disease.
A.A. taught me to listen, to have compassion, and to consider forgiveness of self and others as the road to freedom. One long-timer commented to me while I was in the midst of dealing with the wreckage of my past, "That's okay Sonny, if your sobriety has been forged in fire then she be strong like steel." He was right. My current attitude of gratitude is a far cry from those days when I had such a sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude.
A.A. delivered on its promise and guarantee that I will not find it necessary to pick up that first drink under any and all conditions, if I maintain my spiritual condition. The first ten years of my sobriety included my father's sudden death, the long and drawn-out death of my mother, the loss of my teaching job and career, some jail time and lots of adverse local publicity. For some time, A.A. was my safe harbor in the storm of life. It asked little of me and has given me so much more in return. Therefore I see it as my responsibility to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety. I'm indebted and so I pay my debt off by staying sober one day at a time, and by giving hope to those that have none.
This disease is a killer. It killed not only my grandfather, but also my father, who died at age 70 on the roadside from a massive alcohol-induced heart attack. Alcoholism is suicide on the installment plan. My brother, who is 2 years older, suffers from cirrhosis of the liver. His quality of life is not great and he remains bitter, angry and resentful.
Alcoholism is also a family disease, one that has adversely affected my wife and two children. Fortunately, they have sought and received help through the Al-Anon Family Programs. They work the same steps and consequently they, too, try to clean their own side of the street. We all know that looking inward rather than looking outward for the problem, and also the solution, results in living life in harmony.
Yes, a life in recovery is different than anything I had known or expected. I had a history of resisting wellness while letting in the bad. Drinking is only a system of many other problems lying below the surface. Therefore, as an alcoholic I have to experience a profound spiritual awakening that is available to anyone who does and then continues to practice all 12 steps O.D.A.T.
After ten years of sobriety, the College of B.C. Teachers reviewed the recovery I had achieved through A.A. The board decided to restore my teaching certificate and grant me the privilege of teaching in the schools of B.C. God, however, has ultimately directed me to work in the field of recovery. I went back to school and got another degree, this one the most meaningful. I have been a drug and alcohol counselor, an Interventionist, and a Program Director for a wonderful holistic, healing recovery center. I am blessed to be a member of a wonderful team of passionate, talented caring team who make a huge difference in the lives of others who are affected by the disease of alcoholism and addiction.
I'm like the song "Amazing Grace," which includes the lines "that saved a wretch like me" and "I once was blind but now I see." I'm grateful that I experienced the perfect storm — I drank enough to get to A.A. but not enough to kill myself. Desperate as only the drowning can be, I managed to grab hold of the life preserver that was sent my way. And having grabbed on to the tried, tested, and true formula that has saved my life and countless others, I don't ever intend to deviate from it. Alcoholism may be a curse, but through it I have discovered that the greatest blessing bestowed on me was becoming a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
My day begins the same way most every day. I wake in gratitude, go outside, and take a deep breath. Usually I stand quietly for a few moments, I stretch, and then slowly I begin to move. They say that doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results is a form of insanity. I find doing the same thing over and over again, with a mindful presence, has become a practice that restored me to sanity. The regular practice of Tai Chi and qigong is a vehicle, a moving meditation, and an education that has taken me from being a lost, ignorant drunk to a participating member of society. This practice is an imperative part of my sobriety and my story, helping me discover a life worth living.
I grew up in a small town in the mountains of New Mexico. I had two brothers and I was the youngest. My parents were both schoolteachers and were consumed with their own lives and left the raising of their children to chance. I say that because I really only remember a few times where I had any actual guidance from either parent.
One of my first clear childhood memories is my first drink. I was 13 years old and I drank enough to black out. I woke the next morning in my room and in my bed, with two black eyes and a missing belt. I have no memory of the night.
School was a challenge. I struggled to understand what was being taught. Nothing made sense, and no one seemed to notice. Often I would go home during recess, and skipped classes altogether. I hung out at my house and watched TV.
In high school I drank whenever I had the opportunity. I was part of the party crowd. We'd ditch class and head into the mountains to camp and drink. I felt popular and well liked, but I never had a real boyfriend. Still, after a few drinks I would usually "go with" a boy. I have vague and blurry memories of being in the backseats of cars or on the ground by some campfire. I know I did things that I did not want or plan to do. Being drunk though, I never said no. I experimented with marijuana, LSD, cocaine and other drugs, but I preferred alcohol.
Deep down I was afraid of overdosing with drugs; it never dawned on me that every time I blacked out, I overdosed.
Once I had one drink, I had another, and wouldn't, couldn't stop until I passed out or blacked out. I tried not to guzzle drinks and would try to slow down by filling baby bottles with booze, so I could "nurse" my intake. This was one of the first of many games I played on myself to control my problem. I've never had a typical "social" drink.
I think because I grew up in a small town where everyone knew each other and with schoolteachers for parents, I was protected or shielded by neighbors, teachers and the community in a way that was of no help. My parents divorced when I was 5 and then again when I was 12. No one spoke about it.
When my dad left my mom, he married a woman who hated his children and asked him to start a new life. He did. Later he told me, he had to leave my mother because she was unaffectionate and cold. I asked him why he left his children with such a woman. It had never dawned on him to do otherwise.
My mother was a reluctant single parent of three, with a full-time job. It wasn't until after her death in 2003 that I learned of her mental illness. Growing up, I didn't notice, I thought my life was normal.
In my senior year, my mother remarried and moved to Colorado with her new husband. I lived with my father and his wife my last year of school. I had been drinking and drugging for several years, but that year, I picked up the pace. One night I faintly remember friends dumping me from a car on to our front lawn. I woke up in my bed. When I saw my father at breakfast, he mentioned I'd put on some weight. I assumed he had to carry me from the lawn to my bed — I don't know. Nothing more was ever said. Another time, I remember falling down in the kitchen once when I was on acid, and all he said was, "Looks like Jan is flying around the room again." Even when the vice-principal at the school caught me smoking pot in the school parking lot, nothing was said. I guess I got away with it all.
The day I graduated high school, I left without plans for what I'd do next. I got in a car with some friends and we drove. We ran out of money in Ohio and when my friends decided to go back to New Mexico, I stuck my thumb out, and jumped into a truck with a couple of hippies. We went north, drove across parts of Canada, and came down through Maine to a small town in Massachusetts. I got out there.
I started drinking and partying at the beach with local kids. One boy invited me to his house for dinner. I couldn't believe that his entire family sat around a table together to eat. It was the first time I felt apart of a family. Eating together and sharing in conversation was just incredible to me. I fell in love with that boy and longed to be part of his family. I was happy there, but I didn't stop drinking.
And then I kept moving — a lot.
One night I left Massachusetts and moved to Florida. I became the first female telephone installer in the state of Florida, driving a Ma Bell truck and climbing telephone poles in Miami. I told people my name was Ruth Morgan. I don't know why.
Six months later, I left and moved to Colorado. I got into a small school in Glenwood Springs and took a graphic communications program. That worked out well for me. There were only five people in the program and instead of us all attending classes together, the instructor mentored each of us one day a week. Saturday through Thursday, I skied and drank. On Fridays, I went to school. I was taught how to run a printing press. I loved the one-on-one attention I received in the course. I was teachable! If you showed me how to do something, I could get it. It was the part about writing papers and reading textbooks that, like in high school, sent me into a frenzy. Everything seemed like a jumble, so I'd put it aside and either have another drink or go skiing.
I graduated from that College's two-year program in one year with a certificate of graphic communications. I was hired at the local newspaper and became the first female pressman in the state of Colorado. Unfortunately, I believed my boss was a genius, and therefore I accepted the verbal and physical abuse he tossed my way. One night, I was raped by a co-worker in my own home. The next day I left town.
I drove across the U.S. getting odd jobs in Indiana, Wyoming, and Missouri; then at the drop of a hat, I'd leave. The rape had left me pregnant, and I became one of the first to benefit from Roe vs. Wade in Oklahoma. I never told anyone. I got a job at a newspaper in the pressroom in Kansas. Again, I was the only woman in the back shop and the first woman in the state to become a journeyman, cameraman and pressman, — and man, man, man... and man, I drank with the men.
I married, moved to Virginia, Oklahoma and back to Kansas. One day I left that marriage and moved back to New Mexico. I worked as a graphic illustrator until I was fired for passing out drunk at my drawing board in the afternoons. I left and moved to back to Colorado.
By the early '80s, I had lived in 17 states, changed my name three times and continued to drink and leave, drink and leave. I found it easier to move than to apologize, talk, or stay.
Then I met Ken. We went out to dinner one night, spent the weekend together, and I moved in with him. I liked this guy, and did not want to screw things up with him.
So I hid my drinking from him. I drank at home, alone and in secret. When Ken would go to work in the mornings, I would swear to myself that I wouldn't drink. But I did. I prayed for sobriety and stayed drunk. I really tried to stop drinking, but it was too hard and before I knew it, I would be drunk when he came home from work.
I wanted to stay with Ken, but... one day, I was watering houseplants and accidentally poured water down the back of his TV set. I was so disappointed with myself, because I felt sure that, with this mishap, I had ruined the best relationship I ever had. I made ready to leave. When Ken came home from his work, I was waiting by my packed car — I wanted to say goodbye. I thought that was the least I could do and I thought it was very grown up of me — usually I would just leave.
I'm not sure who was more surprised by what happened next. I'd been sure Ken would fly into a rage and I could be long gone before the first blow would land. (He never once had given me any reason to think this way — never — but that is the way my messed-up mind thought.) Instead he asked why I was leaving; he was so sincere. I confessed to breaking his TV and he simply said, "Get it fixed." Get it fixed, don't just leave! It was the first time I realized that you could make a mistake, and make it right. Amazing! He wanted me to stay and I could just fix the stupid TV. Wow! I stayed.
That was a moment of clarity. I knew if I were to stay, I would need to stay sober.
I phoned AA. I asked for help. I asked Ken to take me to the meeting, but he said it was my problem and therefore I would have to be the one to get there. I walked into my first meeting on August 20, 1984. On that first day, I was told I would never have to feel the way I felt again if I didn't want to.
I heard the words "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path." I was told to not drink, to read the Big Book, and to go to meetings. My heart fell because I knew I would never make it — I could not do what was asked of me. Maybe I could get to meetings, but I didn't know how to not drink, and worse —my biggest secret ever — I was 28 years old, the daughter of schoolteachers and I couldn't read. But, I was tired of running, tired of leaving, and tired of being tired. I was at the turning point. I turned to the lady next to me and told her my fears and my secrets.
Polly D., big-haired and perfumed, hugged me and said, "Oh baby," as she opened the Big Book. "Look, we'll focus on the black part of the book, those are the words." She said, "Don't drink and call me, don't drink and go to a meeting, don't drink and I'll hold your hand. Together, we will learn to live sober. Put your seat belt on." And I did.
During my first year of sobriety, I enrolled in a Tai Chi class. In AA, they suggested I find a higher power. I have never believed in a god and yet I trust the people in AA. So I did what they suggested, I asked for help to stay sober and I whispered thank you at the end of the day. My concept of a higher power changes as I change. I've come to understand that a higher power is whatever works at the time. What works best for me is a daily mindful practice. I continue to study martial arts and have learned to soothe myself with gentle movement. Today I make my living teaching internal arts seminars and private lessons. I created a daily qigong program for clients being treated for drug and alcohol abuse at a local treatment center.
I also make quilts, baskets, and glass beads. I read and write as a practice everyday as well. My words have been published in magazines and I've been featured in documentary films — not as a loser, but as a teacher.
I've stayed with Ken and I've stayed sober. We have a simple and good life on a small island near Vancouver. We have an orange cat and a goofy dog. My life is good — I am still here.
My name is Martin and I am an alcoholic. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1959 to a seemingly normal family, which unfortunately was my only example of defining what "normal" was. Family life was full of addiction, with my father becoming very violent, unstable and physically abusive when drinking and my poor mother trying to hold the family together at all costs. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back now, I see how she was a wounded soul herself and weakened by the constant abuse meted out by my father. While growing up I wanted to be adopted since I didn't want to belong to that family.
By the time I was 15, we had moved to 12 different cities on three different continents. I didn't know what a friend was as each time I found one I would move and have to start again. By the time I came into recovery I had a good relationship only with five computers and two dogs.
I followed in my father's footsteps in more ways than I liked — we are both engineers and both developed a talent at drinking. I guess I wasn't adopted after all.
Shortly after my brother was born, we moved to England, where I was found to have a high IQ and ended up at a private boy's school where my courses were geared toward math and science — subjects that I excelled at throughout my career as an engineer. At that school I developed a passion for rugby. Both the rugby and the engineering gave me ample opportunity to practice my talent of drinking.
My first drink was shandy (beer and ginger beer), a drink that was usually given to old ladies in England. Since I was only 12, this was the only drink that we would have after playing rugby, while the adults would get the real thing. I quickly found that half a dozen would give me a good buzz and left me wanting much more.
I found myself in Winnipeg at age 15, which would become my home for 11 years. At high school, other sports and drugs were added to the mix. Due to the difference in schooling between England and Canada, I didn't really need to study and could concentrate on my addiction.
Somehow I graduated high school and was accepted into a four-year engineering course at the University of Manitoba. University gave me the opportunity to drink like a man. During my first year, I moved into a fraternity, where I would live for most of the seven years that I took to complete the four-year degree. My drinking was accelerated to abusive levels and I found myself blacking out at almost every occasion. I still have a mug that I proudly won for drinking 40 beers during one engineering celebration, not that I remember anything after the first dozen. I used speed to get myself going on the days that I did go to the university. I would fail a year and then pass a year in an attempt to graduate.
Toward the end of my degree, I developed a resentment toward my girlfriend, and to get back at her I ended up marrying her best friend, who had decided we had been married in a previous life. She was destined to become ex-wife number 1.
We moved to Vancouver as there were no jobs available in Winnipeg. I worked my way up the ladder as an engineer, but quit four years later after another resentment — something I was becoming very skilled at developing. I didn't consult my wife before doing this and we had to make a hasty exit to Calgary to live with her parents. I quickly found employment at an engineering firm there, but within four months, I quit and took a job in Lethbridge. I didn't let my wife know until I had moved to Lethbridge and told her to come down. This became a reoccurring theme: I made the decisions without consulting anyone else. Shortly after that move, my wife decided to leave me. The way I saw it, I was free to drink since during our marriage she tried to control how much I drank, with limited success.
Rugby and drinking became my only joys in life, although after a bad injury I was forced to quit playing rugby and at age 34 started learning to skate in an attempt to play hockey — another sport that would assist in my drinking.
I moved back to Calgary and chose my second wife on the assumption that my first marriage had ended not because of my drinking, but because we didn't have kids. Wife number 2 had two children whom my drinking would also take hostage. Over the course of our relationship, we moved between Calgary and Lethbridge five times — each time without consulting her. Soon I had ex-wife number 2.
That divorce rapidly accelerated my drinking and a rapid decline into demoralization. It started with an impaired charge and ended up with waking up on my kitchen floor in several bodily fluids and not remembering the previous six months. Everyone needs to hit a unique bottom and this was mine. My sponsor told me that "you hit your bottom when you decide to stop digging" — I guess that was when I decided to stop digging.
My sobriety date is July 22, 2003. A few days later, I was able to drag myself to my first AA meeting. I wasn't happy to be there and didn't even want to be there. I couldn't call myself an alcoholic and told myself that I was only there just to learn how to drink without forgetting what I did the night before. At that meeting I didn't relate to anyone except Dave, who was 62 days sober and who put his TV on so he didn't feel so alone. I did the same thing.
I was told to go to meetings and get a Big Book. Because I was embarrassed and didn't want anyone to know that I didn't have one, I bought it at Chapters for over double the price AA would have sold it to me. Over the years I have learned not to be embarrassed and to ask for help.
Shortly after that first meeting I started doing service — something I credit in keeping me sober over the years. My first service job was making coffee and setting up my home group. I got the job by complaining about the coffee and was given the key to the meeting room to show that I could do better. (I did in my own humble opinion!) When I tried to give the key back, I was told to give it to whoever complained about the coffee. Over the next few weeks I would try everything possible to get someone to complain about the coffee, but no one did ... so I continued this service over that first year, and stayed sober.
Over the years I have been secretary, chair, treasurer, Intergroup Rep, GSR and Westword (Calgary AA newspaper) editor.
During the first five months of my recovery, I went to meetings, did my service, and carried my Big Book everywhere I went. I didn't open it because no one told me to read it — just to get one. For those five months I practiced "MA" — Martin's Anonymous, which removed any step that had the word GOD, Higher Power, or Spirituality. About the only thing I did right during those five months was not take a drink.
In December, 2003, I was sent to Recovery Acres (1835 House), a men's treatment center in South Calgary. In that treatment center I learned humility, to ask for help and most importantly, to read the Big Book as it contains all the instructions for practicing the program of recovery. After completing my program and I returned to real life on January 1, 2004 —fully entered into the program of recovery in AA.
I would like to say that since leaving treatment, I have practiced this program perfectly, but I didn't. I work it to the best of my ability, making daily progress. I spent many days arguing with my sponsor about the "God" issue always looking for a "technical" answer. At one time he remarked that he had never seen someone too dumb to get recovery, but he had met a few that were "too smart" to recover and that I was possibly one of them. Ultimately I developed my own idea of a Higher Power and this was the last day that I had a conscious desire to have a drink. That is one of the many promises that are hidden throughout the Big Book.
It is now 2011 and I no longer work as an engineer, as I struggled with working in that career and staying sober. Deciding to do anything I needed to stay sober has meant changing everything in my life that wasn't working for me, and that turned out to include the career that I'd worked at for over half my life.
I started working first as a volunteer and then as an employee at the Calgary Drop-in and Rehab Centre. This fuels my passion for working on the front line with people in addiction. Life there was good and starting to get better, but I've since made still another move … hopefully my last. I met a lady in AA and we decided in 2007 to move to Bowen Island, which is where she started in her recovery. I now work at the treatment center that she came to.
Living on Bowen Island has offered me a lot of help in the "God" issue as I started to learn to sail. My Higher Power has morphed into nature over the years. (GOD is my acronym for "Great Out Doors.") Sailing allows me to get closer to my Higher Power through being on the water just about every day I don't work. A close friend who succumbed to this disease earlier this year once told me, "You can't control the wind, but you can adjust the angle of your sails." These words are as true for life as they are for sailing.
Life continues to happen, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes up, sometimes down, but it always changes. These days I continue to work my program to the best of my ability and try to have balance in my life. I work, continue to be active in AA, and sail any day that the weather and my time permits.