Saturday, December 2, 2017

Step by step

In AA the 4th step tells you to do a personal inventory.

It is not pleasant or easy, it takes time and honesty. I've done more than one of these inventories in my nearly thirty years of sobriety.

I've learned that unmet expectations is my downfall. Or perhaps having high expectations of others. Expecting people to show up, do what they say they are going to do and know that things will run smoothly, without surprises.

Growing up my life was never predictable. I was a latch-key kid, parents divorced when I was in the third grade. My mom left. My dad drank. The television was my babysitter. My brother, older by two years was either my partner in crime or my worst enemy. I learned at a very early age to take care of myself. Mothers leave. Fathers disappoint you. We are on our own.

If I took care of myself, then I wouldn't have to depend on anyone else, thus relieving me from the worry of being disappointed. This way of living worked well as a survival technique for a long time, until it didn't.

Even after getting sober in high school, I was on my own. My counselors in treatment encouraged me to get a sponsor, call your network of friends, stay connected. No thank you, I'd say in my head. "I got this." I'd decided long before.

So I did, I lived my life essentially alone. I always seemed to have a boyfriend and some work friends, but I never depended on anyone, because I knew better. Friends leave, family disappoints you.

I suppose I was always a mystery to others, hard to get to know, tough, confrontational and hiding behind my sarcastic wit. But I didn't know any other way to live. There have been a few that have broken through, tried harder than others and I let them in bit by bit. But it took years and I was always uncomfortable and scared they'd find out I wasn't worth it.

The step four comes into play for the second time. I'd been sober for 18 years and had never followed my treatment counselors advice to get a sponsor. My second son was 18 months old, never going to walk or talk and I was defeated. I had found my point of surrender. It came to me on a
November evening, sitting in my sunroom. I was either going to have to risk asking someone for help, or run away from my family because the future was so grave I couldn't see myself handling it.

I asked for help, a phone call I'd been trying to make for months finally happened. I asked for help and the woman on the other line answered. We started at Step One. We started from the beginning. we met every week, she showed up for me. Every week. I started to trust people again. I built my foundation up from Step one, and over the next 18 months I got thru all those 12 steps. I acquired a tremendous amount of grace, patience, compassion and courage.

I had found the personality change,(i.e. Spiritual Awakening) I'd been working towards. I liked who I was, I was comfortable in my own skin and could look other people in the eye. I shared my newfound change with others, I began to help others get sober and find their own personality change, I was fulfilled.

As with most things that are good in life, they need to be cultivated. Meetings must be attended, routines must be established, the work must be done, every day. But when things are going good, I tend to slack off, which means that when things aren't so good, I'm not equipped to cope as well as before.

I think of my sobriety every day. I cherish it. I am grateful for it. But life hasn't been easy the last couple years and my tool box is in need of a refresh. Those routines have gotten stale, the meetings are weekly, and the rest has taken a backseat to life.

Life has dealt many blows the last couple years. Loss, crisis and trauma have thrown me out of whack.

I imagine myself as walking down a path. With each new crisis I trip. An ambulance ride for Dermot's seizures, a family trip gets cancelled, a friend doesn't call back, a race to Dermot's school to discover his broken femur, Mom leaves early for home, Dad forgets my son's name on a phone call, major surgery for Dermot, best friend moves away, another ambulance ride, hospital stay, a beloved teacher gets cancer, our family alone again on a holiday, the cat dies, watching the O2 monitor constantly.

By now, I've tripped too much. I'm not even on the path. My coping mechanisms aren't sufficient anymore.

It's time to modify, time to ask for help again. I can't do this alone. I need people, as much as I'd rather not have to depend on anyone, I have to try.

My sponsor suggested that I put the twelve steps in context of dealing with Dermot's illness. To write it out.

Step one: I admitted I am powerless over Dermot's illness and that my life has become unmanageable.

I am suffering from depression and anxiety. I see two therapists for different issues and I started taking Lexipro. I've asked for help. I am scared. I am hopeful. I am a kick ass human being dealing with extraordinary circumstances and I can't do it alone...