Learning to Let Go
By John Cassap
Like most things in recovery "Letting Go" hasn't came easy to me. Its an ongoing process just like getting honest. The crazy thing is that I know the benefits, I've experienced them on many occasions since I first got sober 4 and a half years ago. But time and time again I find myself at that place were its let go or be dragged. Why? Letting go is simple, a child can do it, just open your hand and let it slide...Simple but never easy. Its like I'm holding on to a rope tied to a motorbike and I'm been pulled at speed face down along the Tarmac. I know I have to let go but its the fact I cant stop holding on that's the problem.
Recalling the analogy of the actor in chapter 5 of the Big Book... Wanting to live by self-propulsion, run the whole show and forever trying to arrange the lights, ballet and scenery etc etc. I've never met anybody in the fellowship who cant identify with that story, control freaks myself included. I can honestly say I've moved on from that somewhat. As for mastering the art, well that will be forever progress not perfection. But I have to cut myself some slack here and practice some of that self-love that gets bounded about in the rooms. I'm doing OK.
Why am I talking about this? What's my point and what has this got to do with my blogs usual theme of staying present and living in the moment? Let me elaborate...All things change! Humans in general have a fear of change, especially when feeling they have arrived at that place they were always looking for - the job, big house, sports car, perfect partner and any other BS illusion of Utopia. A comfort zone is a beautiful place its just nothing grows there. In my case it was that feeling of inner peace and serenity that I found after accepting the first step in its entirety... I am unmanageable, no matter how much drink and drugs I cram into that hole in the soul. The more I try to manage my life myself the deeper into the shit pit I sink. However, when living fully in the moment and staying present I'm free from past and future. There's so much going on in the here and now even when it doesn't feel like it. Letting go of the past means no guilt and no shame, the future is yet to arrive so what really is the point of fear? Learning to unlearn can only happen in the now, there's plenty going on in the present, like I said even when it doesn't feel like it. I have to let go of those old niggling resentments if I mean to stay connected with that Power Greater than myself. If I want that inner peace and serenity to be more than fleeting. I cant anesthetize them with liquor anymore (Funny how I cant remember any resentments from back in my drinking). As for fear, alcohol is fantastic for pushing that shit down. Rarely was it an issue during those decades of remaining topped up but it started to make an appearance during those long periods of isolation those last few years. It really introduced itself in a big way a couple of years into sobriety, 30 years worth of it. Letting go meant accepting the FACT that it was all just False Evidence Appearing Real and that I could either F**k Everything And Run or Face Everything And Recover. It felt like a tough choice. I choose correctly.
I've been aware of all this for some time now but a couple of things this week got me thinking about it all. Firstly an old friend checked out last week. For whatever reason he decided enough was enough. If he had realized just how much love for him was felt by the massive crowd of people crammed into that church then maybe he would have reached out to one of us. Who knows.
Anyhow this also meant meeting up with my old friends, guys I drank with for years. Not your typical "never hear from them again" once you get sober, they're more like brothers who call up from time to time. It works both ways, I love them very much, we just tread different paths now. It had to be like that.
So we meet early in the bar, just after opening time. In between rounds of drinks and them chopping lines of coke (closest I got to either was Diet Pepsi) the conversation is in full flow. Stories of the insanity we got up to, them always returning afterwards to their family's whilst I just kept at it alone. We remembered our fallen warrior and laughed at some crazy memories we shared of him. It was nice for a while. This carried on at the wake before I made a decision to make an exit and leave them to it. Its at this point that change and letting go came to mind. Euphoric recall is a dangerous mind set. Its OK for me to share war stories and old memories with those who were there with me, it feels good but I needed to remind myself that my life long relationship with the drink was just that, a relationship. One who seemed wild, sexy and exciting when I was younger but later turned out to be harsh, demanding and wicked as the years past. One who refused to let me go!
Back at my place alone I thought over this and what it means just to let go of that rope attached to the motorbike. Its the struggle to stop holding on that's really the problem. I made a meeting later that night and listened to a "Mutual friend of Bill" share about a situation he had found himself in, one very similar to an experience of mine. I identified with it totally, its powerful how this works and we joked about it together at the break.
Second thing to get me tuned into letting go was I returned to my full time role at work this week. I had been seconded for a couple of months to a rehab owned by the organization I work for as a homelessness outreach worker. The two roles differ massively. As a project worker in a treatment center I was surrounded by positivity, clients who had found their way to their own personal rock bottom and were accepting help. If they have been blessed with the gift of desperation then who knows, I will look out for them at meetings. Having been through a treatment center myself it was a real joy to be able to view the whole experience again as a worker. Getting them engaged in discussions relevant to the step workshops I presented was fascinating and uplifting. So was seeing them struggle with various things including each other and suggesting to them in 1-2-1 sessions that maybe they could consider trying the things I had learned from similar situations during my time in treatment.
A real bonus to this part of my journey was the two incredible young women I was working alongside. Since sobering up I've found it a little uncomfortable talking to members of the opposite sex who are not in the program. It was no problem when I was drinking, give me a few drinks and I can charm the best of them. Give me a few more and I start insulting them. Either way it all seemed like a good idea at the time. But now, I mean what do you say? It was no big deal, after a few days it was like I had known them forever. Conversations were fun, witty and intelligent if not sometimes crazy. I loved it! That's change and growth right there and it feels awesome.
It was always a temporary role and who knows what the future holds. Maybe someday. I've done plenty service in my time as a member of the fellowship and I practice the principles in all to the best of my ability, but working with those clients and helping them with the steps I felt like I finally took the twelfth step in its full entirety. I need to keep that on as I haven't sponsored in a while. No man can help another without helping himself. Trust God clean house help others!
So again letting go of something that was new and felt so good. Returning to something familiar with a more negative client group (understandably so) and colleagues who are a little less attractive (only joking guys). I still have no idea why I'm here and where I'm going. But I'm even more convinced than ever before that I'm exactly were the Universe wants me at this exact moment in time. The time is always now and its a gift we call the present, I'm slowly learning to Let Go of all the other shit!
If your clean and sober the miracle has already happened, stick around a while the impossible takes a little longer.
"When nobody around you seams to measure up, its time to check your yardstick" - Bill Lemley.
"We grow in time to trust the future for our answers" - Ruth Benedict.
My name is John (46) and I am a very grateful alcoholic. I live in Sunderland in the north east of England. I have been in the 12 Step Program for almost 5 years. It has been challenging at times but extremely rewarding in so many ways. I love Recovery, I love Life.
I am a father to two amazing boys – Warren (24) & James (9).
I came into Recovery after finding my way to Rock Bottom via a multitude of disasters and painful situations, you know how it goes!! Nothing could have prepared me for this amazing journey, one that I had no idea I was about to embark on in those last painful months of my drinking.
The treatment centre I was placed in is owned by the organisation I now work for. I am an assertive outreach worker for the homelessness team in my local area, this allows me to work with others, people with multiple and complex needs. It helps take me out of self and that’s always a good thing.
One of the many wonderful gifts I have been blessed with since getting sober is that I was awarded a traveling fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. I travelled to the USA. My project and report was entitled “A fresh approach to homelessness, lessons from the United States”.
It was suggested I submit my blog to Drunkless by a friend on Twitter. I feel honoured that this excellent website found it up to standard.
Staying sober one day at a time thanks to the strength and guidance I receive from a Power much Greater than myself.
John - 2017