May 2, 2019
If you’ve been to a 12-Step Program, you’ve heard the phrase “half measures availed us nothing.” The phrase comes from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, “How It Works.”
That phrase can and should be used in every phase of sobriety. So, on our first sober day, remember half measures will most likely not land us with a full 24 hours away from the drink or a drug. This stands true for the first year of recovery.
Sobriety gets easier as we build up time. The first day, week, and months are hard because we don’t yet have the tools we need, we don’t have the support system we need, and for many other reasons.
As newcomers, it’s so helpful for us to go into treatment where other like-minded individuals surround us, and we have a staff that helps us stay the course. Breakthrough Recovery Outreach provided me that initial stabilizing environment. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that when I met Chris Jacobs, I did not intend to build a relationship with him. I did not believe I could stay sober. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to, but I did want SOMETHING. I desperately wanted to heal my relationship with my family, and that desire kept me under the roof Chris offered me. I wanted it badly enough to give it my ALL. I didn’t know it at the time, but there were no half measures in my first sober days.
If you are newly sober, you may not yet know why you want sobriety. That’s ok. Trust the people that have gone before you and understand that many of them discovered why they got sober after they had 30 days, 60 days, or more. Most of all, trust that if you put as much into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous as you put into your drinking and drugging, you will get much more out of it than you can imagine.
This week, I went to two meetings. The first was a speaker meeting, and the man telling his story had 30 years of sobriety. He shared that he still missed the burn of whiskey hitting the back of his throat, yet is a good liar, still finds many situations intolerable, and still feels uncomfortable in his skin. When discussing parts of his life with his sponsor, he was asked to handle the unacceptable for 24 hours and then again in another 24 hours. That’s is not really how recovery works.
Another common phrase in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is “take what you need and leave the rest.” I listened to the man’s story, but I left 95% of it in the room. Here’s why:
I’ve been sober for 13 years. The thought of whiskey hitting the back of my throat is horrifying to me. I am no longer a good liar – I’m not a liar at all – and I certainly do NOT believe that Alcoholics Anonymous offers a TOLERABLE life. It offers a life that is filled with purpose, fellowship, and joy. While hard times may come, recovery offers us the tools to get through them and still feel joy.
I cannot judge that man’s sobriety. That’s between him and his God. But I can tell you that the Big Book says that we will come to recoil from alcohol as if from a hot flame and that has happened for me. Step Ten says this:
“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time, sanity, will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame.”
That entire sentence has come true for me and millions of others because we did not half-measure our recovery. We gave it our absolute all, and the miracle occurred. Am I going to say that the thought of using or drinking NEVER enters my mind? Once in a blue moon, I’ll have a thought about drinking. But, it’s just a thought. The miracle, though, is that when I’m out or at an event, if I smell alcohol, I feel nauseous. Even if I WANTED TO DRINK, the smell of alcohol is disgusting to me. I’d rather eat a snail. And I hate snails. That’s the promise that AA offered me and it has come true one thousand fold.
Few alcoholics or drug addicts come into recovery with a happy story. Seldom do you hear a speaker say, I grew up in a joyful home, there was no alcohol around me, my parents doted on me and loved me, I did well in school, went to college and immediately got a fabulous job.
Most of the time, we hear stories about people who were molested, abused, and broken BEFORE they ever took a drink or a drug. Substances calmed their pain, and they chased that feeling of numbness as long as they could to avoid facing emotional pain.
To get well, REALLY WELL, we must work the twelve steps thoroughly and walk through the pain we have never allowed ourselves to feel. If we shortchange ourselves, by not moving through that pain, life will feel tolerable. A tolerable life is NOT the goal.
The Promises tell us we will find a newfound happiness. In the Big Book’s chapter, “The Family Afterwards,” it says:
“Joy, at our release from a lifetime of frustration, knew no bounds.”
I was 40 years old when I got sober. And, like most of us, I had multiple traumas to work through. I was able to do that with the help of the community at Breakthrough Recovery Outreach, my sponsor, and my faith. Was it the easiest thing I’ve ever done? No. Was it the best thing I’ve ever done? YES.
Today, my cup runneth over every day. Trauma no longer defines me. I dealt with it all and with the help of the program have put it where it belongs. In my past. Ahead is a bright green pasture. You will have a pasture too from working the steps and in it, you can plant any seeds you want.
Put your all into sobriety. Work those steps like your life depends on it because it does. And, if you do, please know that life is much more than tolerable. It’s beautiful, joyful, and rewarding.
Call us at Breakthrough Recovery Outreach at (770) 493-7750 and let us open our doors to you.