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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.