"There's a simple litmus test we can use to get clarity. Here it is. Fantasy is an idea we cling to in order to escape reality. Faith is an idea we cling to in order to have that courage to face it. Simple as that."
I have some surgery coming up. I really have to have it, and the recovery is supposed to be very painful. I'm in my second year of sobriety and I'm really worried about taking pain medication. Should I tell my doctor I'm an alcoholic? Won't that then be on my record somehow? If I take the pain medication will I relapse?
In Pain and In Fear
I completely understand your concerns -- surgery can be scary, knowing you're going to be in great physical pain is scary, and the idea you might spin out of control and relapse after putting in all the hard work you have to get clean and sober... man, that is REALLY scary.
First, remember this: No points are awarded for needless suffering.
People take medicine before and after serious medical procedures. It's often an important part of their recovery in fact. Being in extreme pain can actually work against your healing properly.
If it were me, I would take the pain medication...
I would tell my doctor that I am an alcoholic. (Whenever the subject of medication comes up -- or whenever they're doing anything which measures my liver function, I tell my doctor I'm an alcoholic). Will it get on my "record?" Maybe. It is the age of Information after all. But I'm more concerned with staying sober than my file being flagged as an addict (not to mention, if you relapse it's just as likely you'll get a record of some other kind).
Not all doctors have the same understanding about addiction, but I would still speak up. And I would ask about the different pain medications available, and request a non-narcotic one if at all possible.
Also, when it comes to taking medicine, what I do with sponsees who have been in similar situations is I suggest they make a log and record exactly when they take each pill. This is so that people don't confuse themselves: "Wait, did I take one at 1:30? Oh my God, I took one three hours ago not four! Did I relapse? I relapsed! Oh my God! Wait... did I?" What a wicked, horrible head trip to put yourself on -- especially when you're in physical pain and already not too clear. A log keeps you honest and prevents you from psyching yourself out.
Another idea is to have someone else whom you trust hold the medicine for you and give you your pills/dose/whatever on a schedule, so you don't even have to think about it. While not everyone's life allows for that I've known a number of people in recovery handle this issue that way, too, and it worked very well for them.
Addicts take drugs whenever and however we feel like it; but patients take medicine as prescribed, on a schedule, following all directions from the doctor, the pharmacist and on the bottle of medication. In this instance you're a patient. (And in recovery, when we don't need the medicine any more, if there is any left over, we flush it.)
This is an opportunity in your sobriety to do that horrible, awful, excrutiatingly painful thing -- that thing which is quite probably even more painful than your medical issue or your post-surgery recovery: Admit you need help. You don't have to manage this issue alone -- and you probably shouldn't. In my life, God works best through other people, so when I'm in trouble, the more peeps I have working on Team SponsorPants the better. Give your Higher Power some resources to work with by asking for help and accepting it.
As I said before, I really, truly understand your concerns, but I want to assure you, you absolutely can, one day at a time -- one hour at a time, if need be -- stay sober through this. Talk about it with your support group, get help, set yourself up to be clear with what you're taking, and make sure the medical professionals involved understand your situation. Try not to spend a lot of time alone while you're convalescing -- even when I'm at my best, a lot of time alone with my head is probably not the greatest plan for me.
I received an email over the weekend from someone requesting that entries in the Comments Section which included their name be taken down from the blog.
At first I thought they meant comments they themselves had posted, so I was at a loss because I could not find any.
Then the correspondent directed me to Comments on Mr. SponsorPants which contained their name and some potentially identifying information in the body of the comment.
I removed the Comments, and I believe it was lax of me not to do so when they first went up.
I removed them not because I agree or disagree with what was said. And not solely because they were negative in nature, though that tone is not in keeping with what I hope to accomplish here. But ultimately because I have no way to verify one way or another the truth of such things -- plus, frankly, I do not think the Comments Section of a 12 Step Blog is really the right place for disparaging commentary of third party individuals.
(And I'm sorry, but "It's true! Just ask anyone in [name of town]!" doesn't quite cut it when it comes to veracity.)
To be clear: There is no conspiracy at work here -- no suppression of some "other sentiment." My side of the street is clean as far as allowing dissenting opinions on Mr. SponsorPants -- if you don't think so, then read around. Over the course of my Posts and the Comments I've let the anti-AA people speak their mind, and I let the couple of Fundamentalist people who swung by to tell me that I was going to burn in Hell keep Commenting for a while, until I felt it was abusive and responded in the Comment Section that I would no longer allow them to post if they kept it up -- but I did not Unpublish their original Comments. They were speaking to me about me, or about their personal faith, or about their experience of AA meetings or philosophy in general. They did not identify any other persons or groups.
Third party character assassination is unacceptable, and I will Unpublish Comments I deem to be such as soon as I come across them.
If you know something to be true, or you have a problem with someone in AA (or out of it, for that matter) then start your own damn blog and write to your heart's content about it. Starting a blog is free, and if you keep the "basic" package it remains free -- there are a number of hosting companies for you to choose from.
I'm not a spokesperson for AA (there is no such thing). I'm a silly middle-aged sober alcoholic writing on my personal blog as anonymously as possible a variety of essays about my 12 Step journey -- and when I can I am happy to respond to emails I receive (though my track record for the turn-around time on that is pretty spotty).
I'm sure if someone were crazy enough or small enough they could become a nuisance and spam the Comments -- but it is my hope that while some people might be angry or hurt or afraid they can be bigger than those feelings, and they will understand the point I am making -- and even if they do not agree with my 12 Step world view in general, respect my right to express it here in the manner of my choosing, and no longer put disparaging Comments about third parties on this blog.
In addition, there is a difference between honest anger and mean spiritedness, and a BIG difference between disagreement and abuse. In sobriety, while I sometimes struggle with people pleasing, I have learned that I'm nobody's doormat -- so abusive comments will be deleted as well.
Okay. That's it for the housekeeping.
We now return you to our regular blogging content.
Never underestimate how much being in H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) can mess you up. If I'm in just one of them I'm off my game. Two and I am prone to make poorer decisions. In any three and I should keep my damn mouth shut. All four? If I'm in all four then it's not an acronym it's an instruction.
The less I keep score, the happier I am.
A character asset with the volume turned up too high has probably morphed into a character defect.
Prestige is not self esteem.
Humility is not about being less, it's about being right-sized.
What I think the problem is often is not what the problem actually is. That's okay, though, since the solution is spiritual anyway, whether to the problem I think I have or to the problem that it actually is.
Dancing around your living room to old Motown will always make you feel better.
"What matters most is how well you walk through the fire."
"Maybe, Chuck. I can't deny you did it a fair amount and wrote about it brilliantly. But what matters most to me is how well I walk through the fire, sober, and then look back and see how often I was the one pouring gasoline and striking matches."