Tag Archives: gift of desperation

Cinco de Derby

7 May

Cinco de Mayo Friday. Kentucky Derby Saturday. To me, that used to mean Margaritas and Mint Juleps. Not anymore. I just hit 1800 days of sobriety. A good friend pointed out, ironically, that 1800 is also a tequila. So cheers to those of you enjoying those drinks, and cheers to me.

There was always a reason to drink. For me, it used to be just because it was a day that ended in “y”. Or Arbor Day—there’s cause right there to celebrate. The Ides of March also brought an excuse to party.   You name it—I could find a reason to drink. I was depressed so I thought a drink would help make me happier. I was stressed so I thought the drink would take the edge off. I was frustrated, angry, resentful – whatever – and always thought a drink would make it all better. It might have provided some temporary relief and distraction, but it never made things better. Usually quite the opposite.

But this year, I didn’t pull the covers over my head and hide from these occasions like I did early in my sobriety. This year, I went to a good friend’s birthday party on Cinco de Mayo and a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday. A few years ago, I wasn’t able to do anything of the sort.   Was there drinking at both parties?   Yes. But the wonderful thing for me was that being surrounded by alcohol didn’t really bother me. I had my own special drinks and enjoyed them. I could actually relax and not be overcome with anxiety about the temptation.   Progress. Lots of progress.

I know that I have to be grateful for the progress, which comes with a great deal of hard work, but not get too cocky. I need to remember what it used to be like. The miserable hangovers, the forgotten nights (and days), the drunken screw-ups. It is often referred to as “the gift of desperation”. We remember what brought us to admit our alcoholism and to get help. And became willing to accept our powerlessness over alcohol and the fact that our life had become unmanageable. I went to a meeting almost every day this past week. Meetings help keep me grounded. Often it is too easy to let life get in the way of working on my sobriety. I can’t do that. Without my sobriety, there is no “life” to get in the way.

I gave a talk at our public library last week. I was touched by how many people came out to hear it and support me. Despite the fact that the talk ended on a very positive note, one woman, whom I have known for many years, was in tears. She said it was hard to hear all that I went through and that she couldn’t believe she didn’t know or realize my struggle while I was in the middle of it. I’ve heard that from several people. I guess I was pretty darn good at putting on a happy face. But now you see the real me. Hopefully you see a humbled, grateful and genuinely happy recovering alcoholic.

Three weeks from today, God willing, I will be celebrating 5 years of sobriety. Memorial Day. And the weekend before, I’ll be in NYC, where I found my “gift of desperation” on the street corner at 4am. There’s a big reason right there to celebrate. Sparkling cider for everyone is on me.

 “The gift of willingness is the only thing that stands between the quiet desperation of a disingenuous life and the actualization of unexpressed potential.” – Jim McDonald

 

 

 

Advertisements

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

14 Sep

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “Life begins outside the comfort zone”. A very dear friend suggests doing one thing every day out of your comfort zone. I started to think about my journey through recovery and thought about how much of it has been outside what I would consider my comfort zone.

From the very moment when we admit our weaknesses, in my case being powerless over alcohol, we become vulnerable and take a giant leap of faith outside our comfort zone. Alcohol was my comfort zone. I turned to it when I was sad and depressed, I turned to it when I was happy and wanted to celebrate, I turned to it for pretty much everything. Admitting that my life had become unmanageable because of alcohol was step one out of that territory.

The next monumental step for me was walking into the rooms of AA. I’ll never forget how desperate I was for help (often called the “gift of desperation”) but how scared I was to walk into my first meeting. I sat outside in my car on the phone with my friend who told me to go in because I would be with people who understood exactly what I was going through. She was right. Next step out of my comfort zone was saying the words out loud—“my name is Martha and I am an alcoholic”. I could barely get them out of my mouth.

As I continued on my path to recovery, there were several other turns away from what had become my norm. Asking someone to be my sponsor. Sharing at a meeting. Leading a meeting. Working the twelve steps. Surrendering and turning things over to my Higher Power. Asking for the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Making a searching and fearless moral inventory of my character defects. Making a list of all the people I had harmed when I was drinking. Making amends to those people. And now, trying to help others as they go through this process or similar ones. It doesn’t have to be alcohol. Whatever your demons are, having the guts to face them and working to overcome them inevitably takes you out of your comfort zone.

As human beings, familiarity and routine are comforting to us.. Breaking out of those can be scary, sometimes terrifying. But without making a decision as to which path to take at the crossroads, and often choosing the more difficult one, we cannot grow. Another friend of mine often says “Sometimes the only form of transportation available to us is a giant leap of faith”. We can stay on the path of what is familiar and comfortable, even though in my case it could be fatal, or we can take that road filled with potholes and bumps which leads to a better life.

Growth and emotional maturity are the rewards of that step outside the comfort zone. But it takes work. Michael Barbarulo said “God has given you the power and desire to change but you still need to be willing to do the work. Doing the work means facing your fears and getting out of your comfort zone.” It has also been said that courage is not a lack of fear, but rather a mastery of fear with the help of your Higher Power. Although the work can be challenging to say the least, we don’t have to do it alone. We can use the resources available to us to smooth the potholes and bumps in the road and help us along our journey.

“Life is a never ending journey of reaching out of our comfort zone. We can always reach new levels.”
― Matthew Donnelly

%d bloggers like this: