On March 8, 2015, I celebrated 15 years of sobriety. I owe my sobriety and this new life to Women for Sobriety (WFS), an organization that both saved and changed my life.
In early 2008, I made a Lenten promise to give up smoking and drinking. I asked for God’s help because I had failed at this goal in the past. I was so tired, so sick and so ready to let go; yet I didn’t know how – I had floundered so many times before.
The last twelve years had been a revolving door of stopping and starting. I desperately wished to be off that rollercoaster! I went to the Internet in search of something, anything, and discovered the WFS online message board. This message board proved to be the strength, support and encouragement that became the foundation of my recovery.
The Thirteen Statements of Acceptance of the WFS New Life Program became the blueprint for my new life. I felt an immediate attraction to them; I could relate. Maybe I was just ready – in the right place at the right time. This time everything came together for me.
I was sober and rediscovering myself. I checked in daily with the WFS message board, reading for hours after work, soaking up wisdom, making friends and learning how to be sober from other WFS women. These women were generous with their experience and shared freely. They gave me a hand up – they believed in me and saw something good in me before I saw it myself.
That message board was a concrete form of support. A meeting was waiting for me whenever I needed it. I’d wake up and go to the board and check in with my sisters. Instead of the debate in my head whether or not to stop after work for wine, I’d rush home and check in again. This was more than friendship and hanging out, although that was certainly part of it. I was learning to work the New Life Program, let go of the past, lose my negative thoughts and take responsibility for my actions. I was learning to allow others to love me and how to enjoy my new sober life.
I had been waiting for this help without really knowing it. I jumped in with enthusiasm and was giddy with excitement about being sober. That’s what was different – for the first time I was actually excited about being sober! I loved my new friends, the online meetings I attended in my pajamas, the email loops with my sober sisters, the daily check-ins, practicing the Statements and really understanding how they related to my life.
As I stretch and grow in my recovery, the Thirteen Statements of Acceptance have taken on new meaning. Some of my favorites are:
Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to.
I am what I think.
The past is gone forever.
I am responsible for myself and for my actions.
They weren’t just words or slogans to recite; I took them to heart. I was ready to hear them; but more than that, I was ready to take action. In my past attempts at sobriety, it never occurred to me to actually do something, to work for my sobriety. I wanted sobriety; but beyond sitting in a group or a meeting, I really didn’t make much of an effort. In fact, I looked at getting sober as temporary; something to give my body a break, dry out and become healthier so I could go back to a more manageable drinking life.
This time was different – I was motivated to change. The women on the message board inspired me, and the Statements provided a strategy of sorts. I realized how negative I was and how everything bothered me. I lived in the past, never once considering that my thoughts created my reality. Being responsible for myself and my actions was off my radar; I blamed my circumstances and everyone else for the negative things that happened in my life. It just wasn’t my fault!
In WFS I found a completely new way of thinking. Without the alcohol clouding my judgment, I was able to open my mind and welcome this new approach to life. It felt fresh and freeing! I was participating willingly in my sobriety, making an effort to incorporate new thought processes into my life.
My body was happy and relieved to no longer be saturated with alcohol. For years I had been either drunk or hung over. It had been increasingly more difficult to get up for work and I had begun calling in sick. The weekends found me drinking a beer just to get out of bed, and my husband was weary of picking me up off the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. I was no longer a high-functioning drinker and could no longer excuse my behavior. I had become a common drunk.
My new normal, my sober self, is waking up early and going for walks in the park. There I rediscovered God, which added another beautiful layer to my life. I began to bead and create jewelry. I discovered Reiki – my new career path. I was healthier on all levels – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
When Lent ended, I never went back to drinking or smoking; I had no desire to return to that life of lies, illness and self-pity. Armed with 40 days of clean living, the Statements, my sisters and the WFS message board, I had a firm foundation. I moved forward as the caring, capable, competent and compassionate woman I was becoming.
I could not have done this without Women for Sobriety. Their program awakened something in me that had long been dormant. It appeared exactly when I needed it and gave me exactly what I needed. Timing was everything. But it was also more than that – more than being ready and wanting it. It was the connection I felt with the women and WFS that took my desire to get better and moved me forward, one day at a time.
I have a life-threatening problem that once had me – “had” being the operative word. I will continue to progress if I remain grateful and vigilant. I am happy and healthy in my new life, sharing the gift of sobriety with others, being of service, being the best me I can be – a far cry from the woman who first stumbled onto that message board those many years ago!