BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
About 5 years ago I had hit a bottom in sobriety. I never knew they existed. I never knew that I would experience such pain and hopelessness without ever taking in a substance. No one ever talked about that. But, here I was almost 2 years sober, I’d worked the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I followed all the directions, and yet I wanted to die. How could that be? That wasn’t anything anyone ever spoke about.
I felt like I must be doing something wrong. It had to be me. I had reached a point as hopeless as the last day I drank and I was either going to kill myself or drink if something didn’t give. I couldn’t pray it away. I couldn’t do enough step work to cure it. I couldn’t submerge myself in helping others enough. There weren’t enough meetings I could attend to help stop the insanity. I believed I had completely failed recovery. This couldn’t be what it was going to be like all the rest of my days. If it was, I couldn’t do it.
I began having fantasies about dumping the radio in my bath; I stood in the stairwell of my townhome and imagined what it would take to hang myself; I envisioned driving my car straight into a light pole at full speed. The thoughts were getting out of control. They were in fact down right scaring me. I had suicidal thoughts years ago but not like this. They were more “poor poor me” thoughts. Now I was formulating a plan. This was new.
From what I’d heard from others, this wasn’t a good sign. Keeping it to myself was even worse. I was treading dangerous waters in my head. I remembered the part in the big book that stated sometimes we will need to seek outside help. So, I reached out to my doctor at the university I was attending and immediately she suggested I take a “day at the spa” right then and there. I didn’t question her. I called my best friend and headed to the resort.
When I was checking in, the nice lady said that I was the first person she had ever had that came in as a preventative measure. I didn’t care. All I knew was I didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to drink. Here I would be safe from both.
Every day I would lock myself up in my room and write inventory after inventory. I refused calls and visits from most everyone. I worked fast and hard to get it figured out. Every night my sponsor would come to visit with me and I would do a 5th step with her. Inventory after inventory that I wrote the pattern began to jump out at me like a 3D picture. I couldn’t deny it any longer.
On the final night of my fabulous stay at my 5 star resort, my sponsor made one last visit. I read the last of my inventories to her. After I was done she looked at me and asked what I’d figured out through all that work. It was all there in black and white. I was codependent. I mean I was really sick with it. It dominated my every move. I confessed this to her and sobbed until I couldn’t anymore.
She patiently waited for me to experience what I was experiencing and when I was done she simply said, “I was wondering when you were finally going to see that.” She had seen it, she explained, from the very beginning. But just like the wonderful sponsor she is, she let me have my spiritual experience. She then told me that she needed me to be sober long enough and have a good solid grasp on my sobriety before we got to the real reason I drank to begin with. She helped me to see that I may never know if the disease of alcoholism came first or the disease of Al anon came first, but that it was clear that I had been raised in a very Al anon home. I was bread for this. She helped me to see that as a child my life was insane and completely out of control. The only thing I had control over was what I drank or used. Until I couldn’t anymore. It was my go-to when I needed to escape from the powerlessness I had over other’s actions. I couldn’t fix what was happening around me so I found another alternative that could solve my problems.
I drank because I was codependent. If I looked back over all my inventories I could see that every time I got anxious or afraid, every time I couldn’t control others I drank or used. How sad and even more so, how confusing.
She lovingly smiled at me as all of this unfolded before me. Then she reached in her bag and pulled out a small pile of books. She handed them to me and said, “you are what we call a double-winner, you now get two sponsors.” I was lost. What did that mean?
The books she handed to me were Al anon approved literature. She explained what it was and that now I needed to go to a meeting, find a sponsor, and work the steps of Al anon – immediately. I was to treat this as I treated my first day in Alcoholics Anonymous – with the desperation of a drowning woman. If I didn’t, I would surely drink or worse, die. She told me this disease for me was deadly. She told me I was not alone, that there were many of us in the rooms and probably even more that need to be in both programs.
They told me in the rooms that more would be revealed. That statement has always maintained its truth. I was grateful that now I had an explanation for what I was experiencing. I was also scared of what that meant. I now knew there was a solution and a name to go with it. I no longer was just a recovering alcoholic; I was now considered a double-winner.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~