4 Tips for Facing Fear When Overcoming Addiction

change_aheadI felt sick.  I pulled my head from the toilet and collapsed on the floor.  I knew I needed to change.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I had a problem with alcohol.  I felt the cold panic of fear engulf me.  I felt desperate.    I knew, if I didn’t make a change right then, I would lose the people and things in my life that truly mattered to me.  I reached a crossroads.  I had to make a decision and I finally admitted defeat.  I had tried over and over again to change and I had failed.  I reached bottom.  I accepted that I couldn’t do it alone.

Have you ever felt fear?  I mean the kind of fear that overtakes you and makes you wish you could run away from life.  Just disappear for good.  I suspect you have, especially if you wrestle with addiction.

At that moment, with my head in the toilet, I don’t know which option I feared more.  I was petrified that I would keep drinking and that my wife would leave me.  If that happened, I would lose my children, and, if I kept going, I would eventually lose my business too.  But, the fear of living life without alcohol was equally frightening.  I couldn’t imagine life without booze.  What would I do if I didn’t drink?  How would I deal with my problems?  Would my drinking buddies still hang out with me?  How would I get through the shakes and withdrawal pains that always came when I tried to stop?  How would I relax?  How would I have any fun?  I couldn’t imagine life would be better without alcohol; I thought I would only be harder.

Fear is a real challenge, especially for people with an addiction.  Just like me, you may be afraid because you can’t imagine what life will be like without your drug of choice.  The changes you are facing may seem too overwhelming, too frightening.  You may be afraid that things will not turn out the way you hope.

I promise you that life without addiction is better, more fulfilling.  However, it is a process and, although blessings are there, you may not see them right away.

So How Do You Get Rid of Fear?

Unfortunately, fear doesn’t just go away.  When fear kicks in, you cannot blow it off.  You have to face it.  These four tips can help you make it through.

You are not alone.  Every person in recovery has had to face fear.  As you sit in meetings,  you will hear countless stories where recovering addicts reached a crossroads before gaining sobriety.  I often tell addicts when they are struggling in recovery, “When the pain of living becomes greater than the pain (fear) of change, change can happen.”  As you work your recovery one day at a time, I encourage you to use the success you see in other people’s recovery as evidence that the process works.  If it works for them, it will work for you.

Grieving is part of the recovery process.  As odd as it sounds, you will need to grieve the loss of your addiction.  You are changing your life and giving up something you believed you needed.  It was your crutch, your friend.  When feelings of loss, panic and fear surface, it is important to recognize what is happening and continue with your program.  The feelings of panic and loss will subside over time.  Don’t use them as a reason to pick up.

Anger is part of the grief process.  You will experience anger during your recovery.  I was angry with the world for the first four years of my recovery.  Anger is a natural part of the grief process.

As you begin to recover, emotions will surface that will be overpowering at times.  You may begin to have questions such as:  “Why me?  I did not deserve this.”; “Why can’t I control my addiction?  I need it to survive.”; or, “Why don’t they understand?”.  All of these questions can trigger anger.  To recover, each of us much work through our anger and let it go.

Anger can also trigger fear.  Fear arises when we don’t want to examine what angers us.  This is dangerous because unresolved anger can lead to resentment.  Resentment makes us dig in our heels and causes us to struggle against the recovery process.  I know this too well.  During my first four years, I had many feelings surface about my father.  The anger, at times, was so strong that it overwhelmed me.  I became stuck.  I didn’t go back to the alcohol, but my life and my relationships didn’t improve at all.  I had to face my feelings about my dad.  Once I did, I felt an enormous weight lift from me and positive things began to happen in my life.  When you feel anger, recognize it for what it is and do your best not to hold onto it.  Talk about it with your sponsor.  Write about it.  Work through it and let it go.

Fear leaves as faith grows.   In the beginning of recovery, it is hard to believe that you will succeed and that life will improve.  The past tells a different story; it may scream, “You cannot change!”  Life can be deflating and traumatic; it can take us to our knees and seem to hold us there.  It takes faith to believe things can be different.

I just finished renovating a house.  When it was done, the yard was dirt, no lawn was left.  So, I threw down some grass seed.  Then, I took care of it.  I knew if I did nothing the seeds would not grow.  The sunlight would help, but without water, the seeds wouldn’t take.  Every day my family watered the seeds.  At first, nothing happened, but as the days went by, we began to see a few shoots of grass.  Then, there were more and more until most of the lawn was covered with delicate blades of green grass.

This is how faith works.  When I threw seed on the ground, I didn’t know for certain that I would end up with a lawn, but I had hope that I would.  Our neighbors had lawns and so I suspected the soil was fertile.  Then, I followed instructions.  I knew seeds need sun and water to grow.  I planted the seeds in the sun and then I watered them.  Again, I had faith in the process.  When I began to see a few shoots, I was encouraged to continue watering the seeds.  My faith grew and so did my excitement.

Eventually, the seeds finished growing and there were a few bare patches.  I simply re-seeded those areas and continued the process.

The same happens in recovery.  It is a process and faith is an essential component.  It is a gift that comes as you take life one step at a time.

Sometimes, we will have a spiritual awakening, an epiphany of sorts that strengthens our belief in the process.  I had that experience on the night I reached my crossroads.  Defeated, I prayed, “God, you’ve got to help me.  I can’t do this anymore.”  My prayer came from the pit of my stomach and a feeling came over me that everything would be all right.  You may experience a similar moment.

Most often, however, faith grows slowly over time as you see other people’s successes and experience recovery for yourself.  Most people in recovery find that, as they change, fear of the unknown subsides and belief in the process grows.

Fear is normal. Do not let it control you.  Remember, fear is in the mind.  Let fear of the past be a motivator to help you face your sober future.

I have often said that the second step — “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  — is the hardest step to experience.  Surrendering ourselves to a higher power can be daunting.  At first, it seems impossible that an invisible force can change you.  I promise you it can happen.

It begins by praying for acceptance of our addiction and by asking for help.  Your prayer doesn’t have to be long or fancy.  Even if you struggle with the concept of God, you can reach out and simply say, “God, I do not believe you are here with me.  If you are, help me.”

I encourage you to face your fears and begin the journey of recovery.  I cannot promise you it will be easy, but I know it will be worth it.

Come see what it is all about.  Life is meant to be lived. We grow by learning from each other. I invite your comments and stories so we can help each other on our journey to discover life beyond addiction. I also invite those of you who live on the North Fork of Long Island to join me at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport NY each Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM for an open discussion about God as our Higher Power.  The purpose of these discussions are not to convert anyone to an organized religion rather it is meant as a vehicle to developing a personal relationship with God.

– Deacon Austin

For Those Living with an Alcoholic

Since I was the alcoholic in the family, I cannot give a first-hand account of what life for my family was like.  I can only speak from my perspective.

I imagine I was difficult to be near.  While I was in the throws of my addiction, I would not listen to criticism of my life style.  Alcohol was my friend.  It was my medication.  Alchohol helped me cope with life.   It sheltered me.  I defended my alcohol use and anyone who challenged me had to be put in his place.  By being loud and overbearing, I could shut down the opposition.

I was a bar drinker.  I surrounded myself with other bar drinkers who all thought the same way I did.  They justified my thinking, my behavior.  They gave me cover and supported my life style.  They fostered my belief that everyone else was crazy.

The alcoholic mindset does not change easily.  It takes severe consequences before an alcoholic begins to consider that their drinking may be the root of the problems in their life.  My wife took stern stands with me and challenged everything I did.  My children would run away from me when I was drunk.  At work, I began to realize that I could not perform the simplest duties.  Even then, the realization that alcohol was a problem came slowly.  I am one of the lucky ones.  I saw the insanity of my life style and sought help before I lost everything.  Unfortunately, it sometimes takes losing everything before an alcoholic is ready to accept change in his life.

For those of you who live with guys (or gals) like me, you have to stand firm.  You may even have to leave.   You might have to go through an intervention with the desired goal being that the alcoholic go to a treatment program.  For the alcoholic, recovery can only take place after he has been separated from the alcohol for a period of time.  The craving has to stop before the tougher work of healing the mind and soul can begin.

Most importantly, you must take care of yourself.  I strongly urge you to go to Al-Anon, get a sponsor for yourself, and go through the Twelve Steps.  You have to find peace and develop a support system.  There are no guarantees that your loved one will ever gain sobriety and recovery.  That part of the equation is up to the alcoholic and beyond your control.  What is within your control is what you do for yourself and for the rest of your family.   Your health and well-being are important.  You cannot take care of others without first taking care of yourself.

Friendship: Quantity versus Quality

When we were active, we thought we were popular.  We thought we had a lot of friends.  Didn’t we?  Our bar buddies always welcomed us so that meant we had lots of friends and that we were important.  But, how strong were those friendships?  How much did those people really care about us?

As I look back on my own active years, I have come to believe that those friendships were very shallow.  How many times did I go to the bar thinking I was so important, but, when I think back, I hate to admit to the numerous times those same friends did not show up for the significant moments in my life.  In particular, I remember one day when I was over three years sober.  I was at a church function at one of my favorite watering holes.  As I was going to the wash room, I passed the bar and there they were, all my old drinking buddies.  Their reaction was typical.  They called out to me inviting me to join them.  It was like I just came from the wash room instead of going to it.   It was like they hadn’t even noticed I hadn’t been there for the past three years.  I was hit by how superficial it all was.

When we are active, our idea of friendship is distorted due to our addiction.  What we think is friendship really isn’t.  So, what exactly is friendship?  Friendship asks us to care about the wellbeing of someone other than ourselves.  A  recent discussion in my Alpha 2 group focused on the concept of friendship as found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  In Philippians, Paul states that our relationship with God is the foundation of friendship.  The idea is that the closer our relationship with God, the better our relationships are with our friends.

Friendship has four components.

  1. We must take a genuine interest in the other person.  Dale Carnegie in “How to Win Friends and Influence People: wrote, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”  Developing friendships through the program is the best way to pass on the good news of recovery and God’s love.   When people see you living the program of recovery, it helps them become willing to risk change.
  2. Another component of friendship centers on having a common focus.  In recovery, the program provides that common focus.  Recovering addicts find strength and encouragement by focusing on the gifts and promises of the program.  For this reason, the program stresses sponsorship and having a small group of friends.  These tools make it easier to stay on target.
  3. Bonds between people are strengthened as they serve together.  In recovery, we serve each other by supporting one another, by helping each other through difficult times, and by striving to maintain our goals of recovery daily.
  4. Friends stick together at all costs.  Never give up on friends.  By helping each other through difficult times, we bind together.  Like a rope with many strands, it is hard to break.

Trust is an issue for most people entering program and this lack of trust can keep us from making friends.  When we were active, trust was elusive.  It was really hard to trust because we were short-changed so many times.  However, trust is essential if we wish to build friendships and attain a sober life.  Friendship from those, who want to help us without looking for anything in return, can help us to surrender our will.  I had that happen to me five months into program.  The small group of men, who took me under their wings and stuck by me no matter what, helped me to realize how much I needed them and, through their unselfish giving of themselves, enabled me to develop trust where there was none before.

When we have experienced the Twelfth Step Spiritual Awakening, we come to realize how God is working in our lives and that He is the strength that enables us to do His will.  It is through the program that we learn what real friendship is.

Come see what it is all about.  Life is meant to be lived. We grow by learning from each other. I invite your comments and stories so we can help each other on our journey to discover life beyond addiction. I also invite those of you who live on the North Fork of Long Island to join me at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport NY each Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM for an open discussion about God as our Higher Power.  The purpose of these discussions are not to convert anyone to an organized religion rather it is meant as a vehicle to developing a personal relationship with God.

– Deacon Austin

Back in the Fifties… The Secret to My Inspiration

Ten years ago, when I was asked to lead a recovery group at the DWI facility, I was faced with a daunting opportunity.   I was nervous and a bit intimidated.  I knew that I did not want to run an AA group, but I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do with the group.  I knew I was meant to do something different for these men.

One night, as I contemplated what to do, I ran into a long-ago sponsor at a meeting.  I asked him what he thought of my new calling.  He told me to look at the Preface of the 1955 Big Book.  The next week, when I saw him at another meeting, he asked me if I had looked at the Preface.  I answered, “No.”  I could not imagine that I could learn something by reading the Preface of the 1955 book.   The next time I met him he asked again and once again I said no.  Then he said, “I guess you do not want to know what my suggestion is.”  After I thought about his comment, I decided to read the Preface.  When I saw him next, I answered his question.  I said that I thought he wanted me to read the statement that “50% of those who came into AA obtained recovery and that 25% got it after some convincers and the rest never got the Program”.   He said,” Yes.”  Then he said something that I have spent the past 10 years contemplating.  He told me that, if I could figure out why the statistics were what they were, then I would know what my contribution could be.

After 10 years, I have some thoughts on the subject.

Back in the 1950s, there was a revitalization of Christian thought.  Churches were being started up everywhere and people, in general, had a deep belief in religion.  At that time, spirituality and religion were synonymous and individuals who came into the program did not have as difficult a time accepting God (a Higher Power) as people do today.  Today, access to recovery programs is easier and socially more accepted.  Unlike the 1950s, people can check themselves into rehabilitation centers.  They can look up a phone number to a recovery group using their cell phones and be connected to recovery programs online.  On the surface, it would seem more accessibility would make the recovery process easier.   However, today, the connection between spiritualilty and religion is not as straightforward.   While some people’s faith is based in an organized religion, others gravitate toward a less structured expression of spirituality and a growing number of people have had little to no experience with any concept of God.  The combination of easier access and a less clear concept of a Higher Power actually puts addicts today at a disadvantage.  I believe people in the 50s came into the program from the position of a much lower bottom.   As a result, people entering program in the 50s were in more pain and were more desperate than many who come into program are today.  If the pain is severe enough and if a person already has at least some belief in God, it is easer for them to surrender to the God concept.  Since many individuals entering program in the 50s did have a belief in God, they had an easier time surrendering their will.

I have stated in many of my blog posts that I believe the Second Step is the most difficult step in the Program.  While we might not struggle too much with the idea that there is a Higher Power out there that can help us, it is more challenging to accept that this Being is more powerful than us and that we need His help.  Our own egos and our need to “control” everything around us can be a major stumbling block in recovery.

In the early days of the Program, alcoholics came searching for recovery when they were desperate.   Oftentimes, they were so desperate that they immersed themselves in the Program and were ready to surrender their will (their ego) to God.   I have learned that until we surrender our will, recovery is impossible.  Learn from the past.  If it worked back in the 50s, it will work today.

For the past ten years, I have been leading Alpha programs for those in recovery.  My goal has been to help recovering alcoholics move past their bottom, through their pain and discover the promises that come as they learn to surrender their will to God.  Most of those individuals who have participated in the Alpha program remain sober today and are on the path of change.  Coming to believe that God’s Spirit lives within us is the greatest influence in our recovery journeys.  It is the secret.

Come see what it is all about.  Life is meant to be lived. We grow by learning from each other. I invite your comments and stories so we can help each other on our journey to discover life beyond addiction. I also invite those of you who live on the North Fork of Long Island to join me at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport NY each Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM for an open discussion about God as our Higher Power.  The purpose of these discussions are not to convert anyone to an organized religion rather it is meant as a vehicle to developing a personal relationship with God.

– Deacon Austin

My Spiritual Awakening

I’ve talked before about the slide I experienced between my fourteenth and sixteenth years in program. I’ve written about my spiritual awakening and how it has helped transform my life. However, I have not yet shared what happened.

My Pastor and Bishop both were strongly encouraging me to participate in the Deaconia Program for the Lutheran Church. I resisted, strongly at first. It was a big commitment and one I didn’t think I wanted to make. However, after they both persisted, I finally surrendered to their request and agreed to be trained as a Deacon. This happened toward the end of my fourteenth year of sobriety.

Everything changed for me just before my sixteenth anniversary. I was in the last five weeks of my Deacon training. The class was watching a video from the Alpha program. As I watched, it was like the room lit up and I had an epiphany. I said to myself,”This is why I am sober.” It became clear to me that I was to help suffering Alcoholics find their higher power. This revelation has been an incredible gift to me. For the past ten years, I have presented the Alpha course to those suffering from addictions with great results. I also have been a counselor and chaplain at the Suffolk County DWI facility for the same length of time.

My Spiritual Awakening has been a gift that has completely changed my life. It gives me purpose. It energized me. I brings me fulfillment. I now know that living the Twelve Steps gives us a life beyond our wildest dreams.

I encourage you to stay with the program. Meetings are necessary, but a willingness to change everything about ourselves is a must. I am an example, but your journey will be your own. You do not have to take sixteen years to achieve your Spiritual Awakening…

The Blessings of Sobriety

To Austin’s faithful readers, a quick heads-up.  This week’s blog has been written by me, his oldest daughter, Kate.  Usually, Dad forwards his latest post to me.  I edit it for him and post it to his blog.  However, when I read his draft for this week, I realized that the blessings he and our family have received since he stopped drinking might be best illuminated by an interested, third party.  Dad has a hard time “tootin’ his own horn”.  So, I’ll do it for him.  My wish in writing this post is that you will see the miracle God worked in our family through my father and his recovery and that you will want it for yourself.

Dad’s Active Days

We had addiction all around us.  I knew my grandfather had a drinking problem.  My grandmother would make him get rid of all his alcohol and he would hide it in the greyhound pens behind their house.  I knew my uncle was an alcoholic.  I never saw him eat much.  He mostly drank.  I saw my Dad drunk at family parties and there was the time my parents had to stay over a friend’s house on New Year’s Eve because my Dad backed the car between two trees and it got stuck.  But Dad didn’t really drink much in the house.  He hid it from us.

But I now can see that the behaviors were there.  Dad was always stressed.  He owned his own business with my uncle which created alot of tension.  But his stress went way beyond that.  He was volatile.  His anger would explode.  He would rage.  Then, moments later, he would be fine and he would act like nothing happened.   I would get so upset and angry.  I couldn’t understand how he could pretend that nothing happened when minutes before he was screaming at me or my brother or my sister. The fights could be over the silliest of things.  I remember fighting over homework.  I would make the mistake of asking for help.  Dad would show me what to do.  I would say that wasn’t how we were supposed to do it.  We’d get into a fight.  I do it his way and then redo it on the bus going to school the next morning.   A few minutes after I’d finish my work his way, he’d be asking me if I wanted icecream.  I’d be fuming inside and he’d be laughing.  I’ve since wondered if he was drunk at those times.  I have no way of knowing for certain, but his behavior was so erratic that I suspect he was.

My house was filled with either rage or silence.    Sometimes it felt like a tomb.  Other times it felt like a war zone.  No one talked about how they felt or talked through problems or really shared stories.  My Dad was very distant and unpredictable.  And toward the end, he started missing things.  For example, he missed the dinner when I received a varsity letter for cheerleading.  He was out drinking with his buddies.  I’d actually forgotten about it until my Mom brought it up years later.  I don’t remember all that much of my childhood.  Things here and there.  I think it’s because I was always on edge.  I hated being home because I couldn’t predict what was going to happen and I hated being away from home because I was afraid something would happen.

I knew things weren’t great between my parents.  There was a coldness and separateness that seemed to hang between them.  I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until one day, the summer before Dad got sober, Dad arrived home falling-over drunk.  He stumbled onto the deck, saw me and begged me not to tell Mom.  He said she would leave him if she saw him.  I don’t think I told her, but I really don’t remember.

The Early Years

Dad stopped drinking the beginning of my sophmore year in college.  I was away from home and so you would think it wouldn’t have affected me, but it did.   While Dad didn’t change all that much for quite a while, he did make some changes.  He was out of the house more than before going to meetings.  He was still incredibly angry, but I don’t remember him raging as much.  As he made little changes, situations that played out in the family didn’t go exactly as they had in the past.  I no longer needed to play the role I had played for nineteen years.  My world fell apart.  Alcoholism is a family disease.  It impacts everyone.  When Dad stopped drinking, I discovered I had no idea who I was.  I had lived my life for my family, to play my role in the dance.  I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite color was.  I ended up taking a leave of absence the spring of my senior year of college.  I finished the next fall, but I needed the break.

I actually give Dad a lot credit for persevering.  We didn’t make it easy for him.  I suspect it would have been easy for him to come up with an excuse for picking up again.  The whole family was so angry with him that it took years before the walls started coming down between us.  My brother took a break from the family for a little bit.  I moved out to Arizona.  My sister went away to college early.  I’ve come to realize that Dad truly hit his bottom when he asked for help and got sober.  I believe his love for his family outweighed his love of alcohol.  And I believe it was that love for his family that helped him persevere until he finally got the first three steps.  Just like it took Dad about 4 years before he surrendered to the program, it probably took us about the same amount time before we were open to accepting him.

26 Years Later

If you told me twenty-six years ago that I would be telling people that my parents were the two people I most admired, I would have laughed.  But it’s true.  My parents are my greatest role models.  I could go on about both of them, but I won’t since this piece is about my father.

Since my Dad took his last drink, so much as changed.  My father has control over his temper.  He allows other people to have opinions that differ from his.  He is peaceful and comfortable with himself.  He is wise and he is gracious.

My father is incredibly busy giving service.  He helps his children and his grandchildren.  He is active in Alcoholics Anonymous.  He is a Deacon for the Lutheran Church and provides weekly church services at a local nursing home.  He also serves as a chaplain and mentor at the County’s DWI facility.  He hosts the Alpha program at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church and he helps run a support group for former inmates.

My father is a living example of love.  He taught me that love is a verb.  If you love someone, you show it through your actions.  He demonstrates daily the principle that family members support each other, teach each other, and serve each other.  He has learned to have relationships with his family that are healthy and not co-dependent.  He is present in his relationships which is very different from what I remember as a kid.

I was talking the other day to my daughter and said something about how my Dad was very loud and would get into arguments with his brothers often.  My daughter said, “Who?  Pop?  That’s not Pop.  Pop’s not loud.”  To me, it speaks volumes that my children know a very different person as a grandfather than I knew as a dad.

When I think about God and how He has his hand in each of our lives, I often think of Him as a master sculptor.  We are the stones that he chips and chisels on working to create the masterpiece He sees us becoming.   When I look at my Dad’s life, I see a person who has learned to trust in his maker and the masterpiece the Father is creating is amazing!

I thank Heavenly Father every day for answering my Dad’s prayer to become sober and for walking with him throughout his transformation.  I know my Dad’s recovery was not easy for him and that he struggled at times, but I am grateful that he kept at it, that he learned to have faith in God.  As a result, the whole family has benefited from the work he has done for himself.

Finally.. I Want To: Recovery Comes in Stages

At some point, the “I have to” has to change to “I want to”.   I have come to realize that, when you do something because you have to, resentments usually develop; however, when you do something because you want to, the result are more positive.  For me, the change in mindset happened in stages.

I look back and see how arrogant and ego-centric I was when I first came into program.  I had one goal and one goal only:  to stop drinking.  I believed that was the only thing I needed to change in my life.   As I have mentioned in prior blogs, a group of men took me under their wings when I first entered the program.  They told me exactly what to do and I did exactly what they told me to do.  I knew I had to if I was going to stop drinking.   About four months into my recovery, I found myself walking up and down Main Street with my support group.  I had been doing exactly what I was told to do and I found myself listening to them telling me that, if I didn’t change, I was going to self-destruct and wind up going out again.  I initially responded with anger.  I believed I was sober.  I was doing what I had to do and didn’t see the need for more.  I was angry that I was being told that I would drink again if I didn’t make changes.  Then, I began to reflect on what they were saying.  These men told me that they didn’t like me.  They didn’t like who I was and how I behaved.  Yet, they showed up every night to encourage me to stay sober.  I realized that they honestly cared about my future and that they were truly concerned.  That night, the first “willingness” switch turned on.  From that moment forward, I ceased going to meetings because I had to and instead I went because I wanted to go.  I began to change.

For four years after that “ah-ha” moment, I went to meetings, chaired meetings, became a master coffee maker, picked up people who needed a ride to meetings, and did whatever I was asked.  I grew from those experiences.  I saw changes, but my relationship with my family did not really improve.  In many ways, my life was still out of control.  Then one night, I went to talk with my son and make my amends.  He told me to get out of his room and he called me a drunk.  His reaction and comment stopped me in my tracks.  The second “willingness” switch turned on as I realized that I needed to make greater changes; I needed to change my thinking.   I surrendered; I now wanted to change.  It was that spark that ignited a whole new Austin.

Over the next six years, I became a new person.  I embraced change.  I faithfully worked the steps.  I worked on building stronger and closer relationships with my wife and children.   Then, I went into a slide.

One night at a meeting I was sitting next to a young woman who was going through some serious issues.  Her conversation made me very uncomfortable and I started to move away from her.  A few days later she committed suicide and I took it very hard.  I blamed AA, her sponsor, the women of the group and I started to drift away.  My prayer during that time was “God, why am I sober?”  When this tragedy occurred, my discomfort intensified.

I now realize that I was struggling with the Eleventh Step at time.  While I was praying to understand what God’s will was for me, I was also afraid to hear the answer.  I was afraid that I might not like what He wanted me to do.  As I worked through my feelings, I came to realize that  I wasn’t really angry at AA or the women in the group for not helping the young lady who committed suicide.  I was angry with myself.  I was upset with me because I hadn’t tried to help her.  I had hidden behind the AA taboo that men and women do not work with each other, but the truth was I did not have enough faith to face this woman’s hurt.   Then, as I approached my sixteenth anniversary, I experienced my Twelfth Step Spiritual Awakening.  As I surrendered my heart to God, I realized that my purpose is to help anyone with recovery regardless of sex.  God’s gift of faith and confidence gives us the ability to take on anything.

For me, change came in three steps.  First, I changed my behavior.  I became willing to work toward change and recovery.  Then, I changed my mind.  I then wanted to change/recover.  Finally, I changed my heart and now I live for God and, through Him, I have purpose.  The Big Book states at the beginning of the Tenth Step that we have to live the first nine steps everyday of our lives.  When we do this, the fear of everything, even a drink, will leave us and we will live our lives naturally and automatically.