April is Alcohol Awareness month.
Are you aware that 80,000 deaths a year are attributed to excessive use of alcohol? It ranks as the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines excessive alcohol use as 14 or more drinks per week for males and 7 or more drinks per week for females. Every day in our country 18% of the men and 11% of the women drink excessively. If you are experiencing unwanted consequences as a result of your drinking there is hope.
Several years ago I started working with Anne who was recovering from the devastation of alcohol addiction. With permission I am sharing part of her story, in her own words: “Hi my name is Anne and I am an Alcoholic. I have been sober for over 10 years.
When I first went to AA I just wanted to figure out how to stop drinking for a while. I learned that through recovery I could begin a life time journey of self reflection and healing.
My recent sobriety anniversary gave me reason to pause and look at what my life had been like, what happened and what my life is like today. I experienced a sense of wonder and gratitude at the miracle of my unfolding life story.
Early in recovery I learned my pain was not unique. At my first meeting I found myself in a room full of individuals who claimed to be suffering from the same addiction I had but many of them were laughing! They taught me that my life experiences, due to the addiction, were specific to my personal background but there were hundreds, even thousands, of people who had experienced the same kind of emotional, spiritual and physical devastation that I was experiencing.
They taught me that the first step in reclaiming a sense of self worth was to accurately Name what was going on. I could then take steps to rectify the situation. If I was willing to depend on a God of my understanding that God would guide and direct me each step of the way. I did not even need a plan. I could live it one day at a time and trust the process to unfold in my best interest.
Today as I reflect on my journey of recovery I realize that the 12 step foundation provided me with a blue-print for living a Life that I could not have imagined possible. For me the 12 steps are summarized as a three part creation process.
A. Name It
B. Claim It
C. Celebrate it
It was in the Naming “My name is Anne and I am an Alcoholic” that I was able to say YES, over this I am powerless. Step 1.
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol that our lives had become unmanageable.
In the Claiming it became necessary to descend into the chaos of the past and make an honest attempt to rectify the wrongs I had caused myself and others. There was no shortcut, the only way out was through. Steps 2 – 9
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Once I had done that I could begin to reframe my life and give new meaning to the old pain (gratitude).
The Celebration steps provided a foundation to build my sober life on. Step 10-12
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I still attend 12 Step Meetings. AA was the healing form that was given to me and I still feel a responsibility to help hold that form. In the last 10 years, however, my Higher Power has called me out of the safety of the 12 step environment into the community at large. It was a frightening passage at times and I needed to do it in a way that honored the original vehicle while I stretched and grew into a new identity.
In 12 step language, today I am living the promises of recovery. I do experience a new freedom and happiness. I intuitively know how to handle situations that use to baffle me. Today, one day at a time, God is doing for me what I could not do for myself.
The names I use today to describe myself are quite different but the focus of my life work continues to be spiritual growth and development. Am I recovered? I don’t know. I continue to find issues in my life which challenge me to humbly take a look at who I really am. My very humanness continues to provide me with many opportunities for growth. What I do know is that none of this would have been possible if I had not had the courage to own what was really happening 10 years ago.
Today I am grateful for all of my life lessons.”
When Anne called me she was at a point in her recovery where she was Spiritually searching. We worked together to redefine her next step.
Over time, by building on her 12 step foundation, she has moved into her newly defined Life Work.
The facts speak for themselves. Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.3 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually. That is an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death. Every year there are more than 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive drinking.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not the only solution. If you are questioning your drinking behavior The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholic’s brochure Rethinking Drinking is a great resource. Like Anne you can find new hope in a life that today feels unmanageable.
Diana Blagdon is a contributing author at Om Times Magazine and a Psychic Life and Business Coach in private practice. She can be reached through her website www.dianablagdon.com or join her in person in Denver on May 18 at www.conqueringconsciousness.com.