Addiction for me personally, is all encompassing. When I came into AA 18 months ago, I knew I had a drinking problem. I even knew I had a "life" problem. I just wasn't coping & as much as I tried to tell myself, & the world I was, I was slipping, & fast. My living habits were worsening, I was staying up all night drinking, & then self-medicating in order to sleep through the day. My day began at 4pm & ended at 5am. I then would abuse all my prescription drugs just to knock myself out, then begin again as soon as I woke, that time using drink. It was a vicious cycle. It meant that my mood was incredibly unsteady. Diagnosed as Bipolar, the drinking to medicate, & misuse/abuse of the medication I was given, only worsened everything. I knew that, & yet I carried on. Why? I guess the only answer I have to that is because I am an addict. Not because I just 'felt like it.' Or because I should have 'just stopped.' Had it have been that simple I would have done that.
What I have learnt through attending AA, & more recently NA, is that I could never 'will' myself better. Those ideas were the same ones keeping me in addiction. Unless I took action, I was not only going to stay ill, I was, progressively, going to get worse.
Could it have gotten worse for me? Sure. If I was to go off experience it is clear I don't know when to stop. I have been not only addicted to drugs & alcohol, but through the course of my life, I have been addicted to starvation, purging, laxative abuse, over-exercising, self-mutilation, over dosing, suicide attempts, relationships, & anything notoriously bad for me... anything to escape myself, & in one way shape or form, provide a get out for life.
My history is not pretty, & it is one, even this many years on, I shudder at. I have been diagnosed & given the label; Anorexia Nervosa, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Mood Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, & perhaps more accurately & most recently, Bipolar Disorder. I identified with those labels, & in many ways either too much, or I denied their existence completely. Such is the nature of most mental illness, we will deny deny deny. Even when it is clear our denial is just a lie, we still deny. I no longer live in denial. I know my history, I know the self-destruction, & I know, from personal experience, if I live a label I will be that label. In the past the dark place of my thoughts were going to inevitably lead me to destruction as long as I told myself they were true. It is dangerous territory for me.
Medication is its own story. I have been on almost all psychiatric medications, that much I am sure. They have changed & shifted & moved since I was 19 years of age. It is a huge ask to be off them, even in sobriety. I had to vow to myself to take them 'as prescribed.' not as 'I prescribe.' I also withdrew off medications like benzos & sleep meds, even pain killers, as I knew they would always compromise any sobriety I gave myself. Some I could stop immediately, others with time. But all under medical supervision.
Since joining AA, I have been able to see myself for me. Only a few years ago I was catatonically depressed, followed months later by a period of mania I am still ashamed to talk about. It is around that time my drinking worsened. I had taken myself off medication & abused the medication I did have. It was a period of carelessness, an inability to accept responsibility, destroying not only myself but those around me.... it is a place I never wish to return.
On Monday 21st of April 2014, I called AA. I was hung over, dry wretching, depressed & I flat out ripped apart & literally on my knees begging for whatever salvation was out there for me.
Two hours later, I walked through the doors of AA. Well, actually, Slimming World as has it! Given I went to the wrong place! Another call too AA, another clarification of location, I walked in through the back door of a local church. I remember it, & yet it is a haze. I know I was embraced with love immediately, hugged, & given stories of why other addicts in the room were there. It was a Step 11 meeting which meant for 30 minutes I was to sit still. In those days, not one inch of me sat still. It was as though my whole body was being consumed by an electric current. My heart, my head, & my skin, just scratching to get out.
Following that meeting, I did what was advised. Came back. For the next 90 days I would attend at least one meeting a day. I was living alone, not working, & the commitments I had were put on hold. All I knew for 90 days, was AA. By May 7th I had relapsed. I was scared, confused, & had so much knowledge it terrified me. I didn't have a program. I didn't have drugs or alcohol or any of my other addictions. It was just me.It was too much. And so I drank. I remember that night, & I know form the following day I haven't drank since. I couldn't tell you about the days that followed. They are a blur. I did learn to reach out. To pick up the phone. To share in meetings. To do service at meetings to endure I went. I slowly learnt to live in a way I never had before.
Very early on I got a sponsor. Someone recommended another woman in the fellowship, & so I asked. She served as a great teacher to me. I would seek out other sponsors from then on, but what I will say is this. You don't have to jump on the first person you see to sponsor you. Take your time. Make contact with those you trust & connect to, but take your time with a sponsor. I went through the first three steps with three different people. The first woman I asked is someone who caused me great pain. Following that experience, I took to going abroad for many weeks. I was bat shit crazy over those couple of months. I was in pain, I was resentful & I was angry. My first sponsor had done what had been done to me time & time again, walked away. Just as I began to trust, I was left alone. That was a hard & painful blow given my past history. The second woman was again someone at my early meetings who was willing to make the time to help guide me when I didn't know where to turn. She in fact is the same woman who dragged me back to meetings when stubborn as hell I was convinced I was leaving AA & didn't belong there. The last person, I did all my steps with, & she continues to act as a sponsor/spiritual guide to me now. I needed to get the steps done & in an act of desperation I showed up on a fellow members door step & completed step 1-9 in a very long afternoon & evening. The same woman is an integral part of my recovery today. She has stood by me since the very first meeting I met her. Her recovery & spiritual path is one I admire & wish to follow. I found someone's whose recovery was the recovery I wanted. I wanted what she had, & so I did what she told me to get it. Today, I have daily contact with a few of the members from that first meeting. All are massive parts of my on going recovery & all have played a massive part in helping me get to where I am today. Last minute phone calls, emergency meetings when I most need it, randomly showing up at a coffee shop just out of chance when I am crying into my drink. All have served not only as amazing teachers, but beautiful examples of recovery.
I was only a couple of weeks in when I started the steps initially. I was desperate for the "toolbox" of this life saving & changing program. In hindsight I don't know if I was ready or not. I don't even fully know why the sponsorship didn't work. Sometimes you don't gel, other times you get too close, & sometimes, someone can give you the start you need to progress further. I trust & believe all those events early in my sobriety were just the experiences I so needed to help me grow, learn & progress.
They sure as hell didn't feel like it at the times, & when I came to my 8th step & 9th step amendments, I was finally set free from the struggles of early sobriety, & all those experiences in my history I had yet faced.
For me, early sobriety was hell. Those first 6 months were some of the most painful days I can remember. But I carried on. I kept coming back. I built a spiritual toolkit & I persisted, even when I wanted to have a tantrum & spit my dummy out - of course there were times I did that too! But I didn't drink or use. I stayed sober. I lived life on life's terms. I endured. By the time I was 9 months sober, life had balanced out. I felt freer, less weighed down. I was in a place of far greater acceptance, of myself & others. I was learning to let go. One day at a time.
Hitting a 1 years sobriety was hugely anxiety provoking for me. To this day, I am still not too sure why. This build up the weeks before & the relief in the weeks following. Since then, I have flown. Soured higher than I could ever dream. I am now 18 months sober & in the past couple of months, I have let go of toxic relationships, learnt the art of saying no, & I am slowly emerging brighter, fitter, stronger & more whole.
Every morning as I wake, I take time for my yoga practice & time to be in meditation.
A daily ritual of yoga & meditation is key for me.
Time in nature, time with those close to me, & time for myself also are vital parts of my day.
Every night before I sleep, I take account of my day, meditate on my handling of the day, & write as many gratitudes as I can. The most essential for me being;
Another day, sane, sober & safe.
I am truly blessed.