Coming into recovery has been a life-altering experience for me. I struggled in the beginning to completely surrender myself to the AA way of life. The program was a new experience for me, and I was full of fear. To cover my fears, I had perfected staying drunk every day.
As a part of working my AA program, I had to go back and find the reasons why I chose to stay drunk. Was it the inadequacies I felt over losing custody of my four children? Was it getting shot five times by an abusive ex-boyfriend? The only thing I knew was that I felt nothing. I no longer had any ambition to better myself, nor did I believe I could ever rid myself of my discontent or my sense of myself as a failure.
I soon realized that my guilt about abandoning my four children when they were small was keeping me down. I had to accept the reality and consequences of my past. Despite what had happened, I had to learn I was still worth something. I stopped looking back and started to work forward. My sponsor told me the one thing I had to hold onto was that, no matter what, my children would one day be back in my life. But, first I had to get well. She was right. Today I talk to my children regularly; and more importantly, they talk to me. As soon as they turned eighteen they each moved to Prescott, AZ, to be near me.
I also had to understand and accept that being shot by my ex-boyfriend was not my fault. In September 1997, when the shooting incident occurred, I was blamed for putting myself in a position to be shot. I was told the attack was my fault and I deserved what happened to me. I was a survivor entangled in the lies of others. Staying drunk allowed me to separate myself from this terrible event. Eventually I came to understand that other people’s ignorance is not my responsibility.
I had been trying to get the help I needed to stop drinking. I had tried everything from controlled drinking to going back to the Navajo Reservation where I originally lived. I was unsuccessful each time and would find myself wasted and homeless again. On July 31, 2004, while incarcerated for the umpteenth time, I finally got sober for the first time.
I moved to Prescott, AZ, in October 2004 and attended a seven-month program at Women in New Recovery. While at the halfway house, I was told that recovery was unity; we each had failed; but now we had support groups to help and encourage us. I learned to accept my life the way it was which was a huge concept to accept. Other alcoholics showed me that living life on life’s terms was going to release me from my past. I was given the exercise of looking into a mirror at myself. This helped me learn to love who I was again.
I didn’t know what was the “next right thing” to do until someone told me to take the “next indicated step”. That worked for me. I did a moral inventory of myself with my sponsor. I learned how to be still and to let feelings and emotions process through me. That may seem easy, but I had a hard time with it since I had avoided my feelings by drinking.
Accepting and forgiving myself has been a gift from God, my Higher Power. This relationship with God is an experience I have never had before. I actually talk to Him. The scars from getting shot are still there; they will never go away; they are reminders that God is doing for me what I cannot do for myself.
March 18, 2009, is my actual sobriety date. That was the day I fully and wholly surrendered to the AA program. I wear AA as a badge of honor; everyone I know is aware that I am a recovering alcoholic. Admitting to myself and to others that I do not know how to drink releases temptations that may be around the corner. It lets me off the hook.
I am a walking example of a survivor. I empathize with other women who have been abused. Blaming one’s self for what happens in an abusive situation is a disease; I know that now. What others say about me is none of my business. I like that saying because it reminds me that, no matter what, I can mind my own business. When I own what I do, I make my life my business.
My sponsor sat with me and consoled me. She sometimes would say to me, “Belinda, you stay sober no matter what. Job or no job, kids or no kids, man or no man. As long as you stay sober, everything else will fall into place.” She never gave up on me and always said there was something about me worth saving.
I have five years of sobriety. At times it has been tough going, but I know that my worst days in sobriety are still better than my drinking days. I take life one day at a time and try to live my life to the fullest. I know that all things happen for a reason. For me, each day sober is a miracle. I never want to forget how it was when I drank; I never want to discredit the hard personal work I have done.
I know today that drinking is but a symptom of my underlying problems. For me, working through them takes away the need to drink. Every person who comes into the rooms of AA is a miracle. There are many who don’t make it. I am so grateful I found AA – AA is the reason I am alive today.