I remember the first time I heard someone introduce themselves as a “grateful recovering alcoholic” at an AA meeting. I thought to myself, “What are you, nuts? How can you be grateful to be an alcoholic? What a terrible fate this is! I’ll never be grateful for this!” How wrong I was. That was before I had learned all of the tools of recovery that have gotten me through those difficult first years of sobriety, and through these past few difficult months of the pandemic as well.
I can now see what they meant, because I too am a grateful recovering alcohol. I’m grateful that I invested in myself by learning how to uncover and deal with all of the things that were behind my drinking. I’m grateful that I learned the simple things that “normies” seem to have no problem with, like asking for help. The same tools that I learned in recovery are the same tools that I’m accessing now, as I come to terms with the changes that have been brought about by the global pandemic of coronavirus. In some ways, they’re not really that unsimilar, coronavirus and my addiction. They both could kill me. I’m powerless over alcohol, and I’m powerless over the virus. But there are things I can do to mitigate both. I can not take the first drink. I can wash my hands and social distance. I can accept the situation, and I can live my life to the best of my abilities, one day at a time. And just maybe I can help someone else along the way.
Acceptance has been a huge tool for me. In recovery, I had to accept that I was powerless over alcohol, and that my life had become unmanageable. Since the pandemic, I’ve had to accept my powerlessness over certain things, like where I go, who I see, how I manage my program of recovery, even whether or not I can go to work. But my life is still manageable, because I’ve been able to accept the restrictions and changes. I couldn’t do that before I learned acceptance in recovery. It would have been all about me, all about how I was inconvenienced, all about how unfair it was that I had to change my vacation plans… I would have been kicking and screaming about everything. Today, since I have learned acceptance through my program of recovery, I can be at peace with the changes in my life, knowing that the only thing that really matters is that I am sober and able to look beyond my selfishness and personal inconveniences so that I can be present for my family, friends, and neighbors.
I’ve had to accept changes in the way I practice my program of recovery. I can’t physically go to a meeting and get my fill of coffee and hugs. But through a power greater than myself (aka Zoom) I am still able to connect with other people who understand. They understand because they’ve been through what I’ve been through. Different details and particulars for sure, but the same feelings. These people, who don’t look like me, who are older than me or younger than me, who come from different economic situations, have all learned the principles of the program of recovery. Some have been fortunate enough to attend a treatment center like Bridging the Gaps. Others have learned the principles through AA meetings, fellowship and sponsors. We’ve all learned to listen to each other, with acceptance.
If anything, over the past couple months I feel closer to the people within my fellowship circles. Maybe it’s because we all have been affected by the changes in our lives that we have had no control over. But over and over again, I hear acceptance, gratitude, and hope that this too shall pass. We will get through this, together, and we will be stronger for it. As we wait for effective treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, we will lift each other up when each of us is having a particularly tough day. Why? Because that’s what we do. That’s what we have learned in recovery. We ask for help when we need it, and we give each other support when we have extra strength to offer, knowing someone’s hand will be out there for us when we need it.
As my sponsor often has to remind me, my toolbox is full. All I have to do is reach in and grab something… anything. And if that doesn’t work try the next tool. And the next. And eventually, something will work. It worked to keep me sober so far, and now it’s working to keep me relatively sane in the midst of a crazy, unpredictable, sometimes frightening, new and different way of life. I’ve accepted the fact that meetings might be different for a while. I’m beyond grateful to all of the people who worked so hard to build up our virtual support community. It still works, if you work it!