Now the Winter of Our Discontent

As I look out today, the sun beats down on my deck, chewing away at the melting edges of the heaping snow. Indeed, this winter has been a difficult one for many in recovery. Isolation, depression, and boredom sometimes conspire to challenge even those with years of recovery from alcoholism. We are sick of being shut up in our houses, curbing our activities, not able to go to the gym, and missing  family and friends get-togethers, parties, and social events which seem like part of a distant world nowadays. Zoom meetings, although better than nothing at all, seem a little too sanitary, a little too distant. Alcoholics need the connection of other alcoholics. Bill and Bob understood this well when Bill sat down with Bob at their first meeting on May 12, 1935. While Bill was at the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, he had the option of going to the bar and drinking like he always had, or find another alcoholic to work with. Luckily, he chose the latter, starting a progression of events that have brought us to today, with millions getting and staying sober through the very simple principle of one alcoholic working with another, guided by the steps and traditions. We have Bill and Dr. Bob, and the first 100, for forging ahead against all odds to deliver a solution for the alcohol problem.

One of the major lessons I have learned in my 20 years of being in the program is that no matter what happens–loss of a loved one, a job, freedoms, money–whatever, it may be, nothing constitutes a good reason for me to pick up a drink. Life will happen whether I am sober or not, but dealing with it sober, in a positive, constructive way, instead of hiding in the bottle, always leads to better outcomes and less stress in the end. Sometimes it takes having to go through the full force of grief or loss, without being blunted by alcohol or drugs. Indeed, in the short term, anesthetization by alcohol or drugs may seem like the only solution. But what I learned from my own drinking career is that the avoidance of “dealing with it” delivered to me by King Alcohol was only temporary and in the end, always contributed to greater suffering than had I not picked up. So often, I prolonged the hurt and compounded a bad state of mind by pouring gallons of a depressant on it. Seems to make a lot of sense now, but it didn’t then.

Yeah, this winter has been tough. We have lost so much. It shouldn’t be this way but it is. I can fight with the reality of the pandemic and the chaos it has wrought, or I can choose to turn it over and let my higher power take over as it states in Step 3. Supposedly, if I am in recovery I have learned to do this already. More easily stated, “Let Go and Let God.” But sometimes I don’t. I whine about having to wear masks, about restaurants being closed, about getting or not getting the vaccine, about how inept our politicians have been at handling the whole disaster and on and on. However, distasteful the current situation may be, fighting with the reality of it will only prolong my suffering, and allow me to add to the ongoing self-pity party. This is a dangerous place for alcoholics and drug addicts.

Despite this winter of discontentment, how I deal with challenges is up to me. I do not have to be a victim of my own alcoholic thinking that will convince me that I need to take a drink. I am the architect of my own recovery, and am responsible to do what I need to do to get help. In so many ways, working the steps and gaining confidence that I can stay sober no matter what, and that my life is worth living has reinforced the little power that I do have. And that is the power to make choices about how I behave and react to the things I can change, and I can give up the fight and leave the rest to my higher power. One thing I do know for sure, is that as the Doctor’s Opinion states in the Big Book on page xxix, “They are restless, irritable, and discontented unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes a once by taking a few drinks. . . . .once a psychic change has occurred, the very same person who seemed doomed, who had so many problems he despaired of ever solving them, suddenly finds himself easily able to control his desire for alcohol, the only effort necessary being that required to follow a few simple rules”, I do not have to drink today as long as I work the steps, stay engaged in the program and rely on a higher power–the very things that caused a psychic change in me in the first place.  I don’t have to be restless, irritable and discontent today.   BJ

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