Extremely early in my own recovery, while I was still angry and in a whole lot of pain, I heard a little old woman who had been sober for over 40 years share something that blew my mind in a way I didn’t see coming.
She began to share about how life guards are trained. I remember thinking to myself, “What the hell does this have to do with anything???” She began by saying that when they train life guards, they train them not to jump right in to save the drowning person, they have to let them struggle first. I could feel myself getting aggravated and thought to myself, “This is bullshit, pure bullshit, it has nothing to do with drinking at all.” She seemed to talk forever and went on and on about how a drowning person in a panic can pull a lifeguard down with them if they rush in. The guards are trained to wait until the person has to surrenders to their situation before rushing in. By this time, it felt like she was talking forever and a very irritated little me almost shot off at the mouth but then she said something that made complete sense and hit me like a battering ram. She said that’s how recovery works, you have to completely surrender before you will allow someone to come in and help you and unless you do and admit defeat, you’ll just keep drowning yourself in alcohol. Of course then, I felt like hell for cursing the woman out under my breath. With 40 years of sobriety under her belt you’d think I’d realize she actually may have something significant to say. Of course I didn’t.
The more I thought about what she said, the more it festered in my brain. I thought about how many times over the years that most people in my life treated my drinking like the elephant in the room nobody wanted to talk about, but when they did, I would get angry and defensive. Thinking they didn’t know what they were talking about and how I wasn’t hurting any one. Then I thought about the defeat and pain I felt when I saw the video tape of what turned out to be my last drunk. I saw what I turned into when I was drunk and the pain I was causing my wife. I was like Humpty Dumpty when he fell of the wall. I was completely broken and had no amount of denial left in my body. My pain was finally more debilitating than my fears . I finally surrendered to the fact that I had a problem and needed help.
In order for any kind of recovery method to work, you must first admit that it’s YOU that has a problem, your life is out of control and you need help to fight the addiction. I don’t care what your choice of poison is; drugs, pills, booze, the outcome is all the same. If you continue to live in denial or try to convince yourself that you can do this on your own, you’ll always remain a part of the vicious cycle of addiction. You ride that dangerous roller coaster long enough, sooner or later it will derail and end up killing you. In order to get and stay sober, you must be willing to admit that you have a problem and do whatever it takes to work on your sobriety. Willingness is also a major part of recovery. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes in order to maintain your sobriety, then you will end up back where you started. Your sobriety MUST come before everything else, your wife, your husband, your kids, your job etc…..If you do not put your recovery above all that, than you’ll be no good to them when you go back out. The first thing you put before your sobriety will be the last thing you lose.
If you continue to live in denial, the disease will kill you, if you continue to feel sorry for yourself, the disease will kill you, if you continue to think you can do it on your own, the disease will kill you. Those are just pure facts. You MUST first Surrender before any kind of changes are made. Those changes don’t come fast either, you didn’t become an alcoholic over night, you’re not going to put your life back together over night either. Some take a bit longer to get things on track depending on how long you were out there and how much damage you caused. The length of time it takes to repair your life doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing what needs to be done in order to stay on track. What’s your rush? You have the rest of your life.
I haven’t seen that woman since that day but I think about her often. It sounds crazy, but I sometimes think she was put there just to teach me a lesson I needed to learn. Today I carry her words to my own sponcees and all those who are new to the recovery process. Over the years, I’ve seen “me” in other newcomers and I get this smile on my face because I remember feeling that fear and uncertainty. I also remember the first time I opened my eyes and suddenly felt a wave of hope come over me rather than dread. I remember the first time I found myself looking forward to the day. I remember all to well the first time I felt a wave of gratitude for the fact that I finally surrendered.
AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist