“Not drinking is just the beginning.” These are the words that my sponsor told me when I first came into the program of recovery.
What was presented to me as a way of living was often counterintuitive for me. I was so accustomed to managing the world around me to fit my way of thinking that it was hard for me to trust anyone but myself for the longest time, including God. But the truth of the matter was that most of the time I was simply holding my breath, trying to manage a low level of anxiety that was my constant companion in life, often causing highs and lows that felt completely out of my control.
Many of us in recovery, myself included, started using alcohol and other substances at a young age. I think it’s safe to say that my emotional development, what maturity I may have developed as I moved from adolescence to adulthood, was short circuited by the progression of my disease. It was certainly true for me that I developed a multitude of ineffective ways of getting my core needs met. Those coping mechanisms did not miraculously transform into healthy, helpful responses simply because I had put down a drink, as astonishing a blessing as that was.
In the January 1953 edition of the Grapevine, AA founder Bill Wilson talked about his own challenges in developing emotional sobriety, “I think that many oldsters who have put our “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.”
Daily, when I petition God with the words, “relieve me of the bondage of self”, I have this very real sense of being bound by scraps of cloth, like Lazarus emerging from the burial cave, newly born, given another chance at living, but still wrapped in the clothing of the grave. It’s so significant for me to notice that Jesus does not tell Lazarus to remove the scraps of cloth from his limbs. He tells the crowd of stunned onlookers, “Unbind him”. There always remains work for me to do in recovery, but I must remember I never need do it alone.
Through trusting in the process of the Twelve Steps, taking suggestions from people whose sobriety I admire, and learning to listen, in other words, doing the work, I become open to the possibility that I can let go and grow. I needed to learn how to breathe deeply again. Prayer and meditation and practicing mindfulness helps me to develop self-awareness. More than talking the talk…walking the walk in all my affairs.
A favorite poet, Mary Oliver, once wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Today, I trust that my Higher Power has the best of intentions for me, leading me toward the life I was meant to be living and uncovering the person I was created to be.