By: Mike Murphy, TTC Manager of Alumni Services
Anyone who has ever been involved with A.A. can tell you, there is a list of things you will hear over and over again about the program. Think “one day at a time” or “keep coming back.” For the most part, they make sense and you wouldn’t think twice about them. Sounds easy enough, right? After all, “a simple program for difficult people” is another one.
But, there was one I kept hearing in my first year that always kinda puzzled me. And Lord knows everyone with a heartbeat that was present when I picked up my one-year medallion just had to stop and tell me, “the second year is WAY harder than the first.” I would just politely smile and nod my head in agreement. All the while in my head thinking, “there is NO FREAKING WAY that the second year is harder than what I just went through.” But, like most things I have found in my recovery, I have no clue what I am talking about until I have actually done it.
My first year was tough. There is no denying that. Hell, for almost twenty years (half my life) I was drinking every day/night. So, to just stop and change my way of life and thinking was incredibly difficult and often downright uncomfortable. And let’s be honest here… I was not exactly where I had imagined myself to be at this stage of my life. You know in job interviews where they ask you stuff like, “where do you see yourself in five years?” Well, I think it’s safe to say nobody answers with, “leaving rehab after two months, moving into a halfway house with no job, money, car, or even a working cell phone.” Yet there I was. And in all honesty, I was ok with it. That giant burden I had been carrying around was lifted off me.
My anxiety and depression were becoming more manageable and not crushing me. I was making less money than I ever had as an adult at my new job. But again, I was ok with it. I was attending meetings almost daily and continuing to work on myself. My actual self, not the character I had created in my head for almost 20 years. Another one of the ever-popular A.A.’isms is “The Pink Cloud” that some of us tend to be riding on when new into recovery. You’re on top of the world on this pink cloud. Nothing can touch us, we are damn near invincible. Now, I don’t know if I was ever on that pink cloud, but I was pretty close, and time was FLYING by. Sometimes too quickly. I wanted it to slow down a bit so I could finally enjoy this life.
Soon after I reached my one-year mark, I was still riding high. I had that same job but was making a little more money than when I had started, I was living in a beautiful house in Ft. Lauderdale, had some sponsees, A FREAKING CAR…the list goes on. And then, I had the opportunity to come work at Transformations! The same place that helped save my life. I had an opportunity to try and help others just like me. People that were coming to the same place I did for the same problems I have. Good things were happening all around me. I would think to myself, “The Promises! This is what they are talking about!! It’s not a load of crap!” Pink cloud, yellow cloud, blue cloud…who gives a shit!? (As I am writing this I am instantly thinking of Happy Gilmore talking about the yellow jacket he’s trying to win against Shooter McGavin) I was riding on something and it was great.
Then almost as if it were written, right on cue…I started feeling less and less great. Things were not as wonderful as they had been. There were days when I wouldn’t want to get out of bed. Socializing? Nope. Go to a meeting? Nah, I’m good. Now, I had absolutely zero urge to go out and drink, but I also didn’t have much of an urge to do anything. Even some accomplishments weren’t worth celebrating. I remember this one Saturday, specifically, I had gone out and bought a few things including this gigantic black lounge chair I found on Facebook marketplace. I took myself out for a nice lunch and after that, I stopped by the car dealership and paid off my car. Now to most normal people (I use that term very loosely nowadays), this would be an amazing day. But, I found myself driving around that night just miserable. The thing is, while this was one specific day, these types of days were becoming more frequent.
Earlier in this blog, I was talking about the things you hear constantly in A.A. and in the rooms. Usually, you hear these things from people with good intentions, and they themselves are usually doing pretty good. But, what about the things you hear from those that aren’t doing too hot? Why don’t those stand out as much? They should. Or, maybe they are being said and we just can’t hear them all the way up on our clouds. But occasionally you would hear the fellow who would come back in after a relapse and almost always, the answer was the same…”I stopped working my program. I thought I had it figured out. I stopped being a part of the community.” Crap.
Welp, that same pity party Saturday I was talking about, that night I made a trip to my old home group to attend the 5:30 meeting. The 5:30 meeting was my jam and it did its magic. I got to reconnect with some familiar faces and get some valuable advice and some perspective. Fortunately, one of the housing managers from my old halfway was there and he was quick to remind me that just because I was working in recovery, that I wasn’t bulletproof. I could not substitute other people’s recovery for my own, I had to continue working on myself. I needed this meeting more than I knew. And it came at just the right time.
I just celebrated my two years, and it feels great. And sure, some days suck. I would be a liar if I said otherwise. But, who DOESN’T have any days that suck?? What I do know is this, my good days greatly outweigh my bad ones. I also know that if I want to keep that momentum going, I have to continue doing what was taught to me while I was here at TTC, what I learned those first few months in the rooms. I can’t lose my sense of perspective. And that even though I am surrounded by recovery, I need to also get my fill. But most importantly, I can’t forget where I came from. And, make sure to not float too high up that I can’t hear all the messages. Not just the good ones.
Here’s to the tumultuous threes! Is that a thing?