I was standing in my kitchen, thanking my Higher Power for bringing me back to my senses, as I had just opened the first alcohol in over 27 years; I had intended to drink it. The smell of it made me sick and I had poured it down the drain, without one drop touching my mouth. That was too close! "My God" I thought, "what has happened to me?"
In the following days, I had to come to terms with just what had gone wrong. The first thing I remembered was how frightened I was when, a few months before, I had had a heart attack. I'd been fortunate, there was no damage, but I was told that it was a warning. I was under a lot of stress and I had to alter the way I was living. I didn't know what they were talking about. I mean, sure I was living with an active alcoholic/addict, but that was necessary, as I had been raising her son, born addicted to alcohol and cocaine. I couldn't leave him, I thought. No more than I could turn him away when my daughter was about to lose custody of him to the State when he was born.
How could I abandon them? I could not. And so, I got right back into stressful living as we were in the process of moving from Miami to Hollywood (both in Florida). My daughter had found an apartment and I was left to do the moving, for the third time in the last four years. My grandson was four years old.
I had not recognized that I had slipped in my CoDA program, that I'd become a puppet in my daughter's unmanageable life. She'd just survived a horrible auto accident. The nurse I spoke to at the hospital had said "your daughter was overdosed on drugs", to which I had said, "not MY daughter" .... I was heavy into denial. I had believed her when she told me the accident occurred as the result of her trying to miss a cat in the road. I didn't mind that my car was totaled, all I was concerned about was that she was okay. Of course she wasn't, she'd slipped in AA, and I wasn't, because I'd slipped in CoDA. All my time and energy had been used to make my adult child and grandson happy. I had been in charge too long to let go of the reins. I didn't know how. So I kept at it, then the attack that almost took my life occurred, only this time, I was put in ICU, not expected to survive. I have never remembered any part of that stay in Intensive Care, but I did remember being transferred by ambulance to a second hospital; this is where they were going to operate on my heart. There were other close calls, other stays in ICU.
Broken and bleeding inside, I finally made it back to CoDA, after that nightmare where I had almost lost my sobriety. At that time, my daughter had taken her son and sneaked away; I'd reported this to the police, I was so frightened, and since I was just recovering from heart surgery, it was especially traumatic for me.
When I was released from the hospital, I'd returned to an empty apartment, all my furniture, clothes, etc. were missing. There was a notice on the door that the management was taking over our apartment, for lack of payment. Not knowing what to do, I lived out of my car for awhile, then drove back to Miami and some friends took me in at their small trailer. I had checked with the police and learned that my daughter was planning to bring kidnapping charges against me. "This is crazy" I thought. Then I realized that she was still sick and needed help and also, that I had no legal right to my grandson, so there wasnothing I could do to try to find them. The police were not being cooperative. I had come to the end.......
They say it usually has to get worse before it gets better; that someone in denial has to have a crisis to wake them up. I had had more than one. When I came back to CoDA, I just wanted to find a way to live without my family, until I could be reunited with them!
Slowly, I began to find my way back. It wasn't easy, but it was simple. I had to work on my CoDA steps; I picked up a white chip and vowed to begin again, with the help of other CoDAs. They kindly explained to me that this wasn't about getting my family back, this was about finding myself again.
By the time I started to CoDA again, I had learned that my daughter was sober in AA; that they were living in West Palm Beach; that my grandson had regressed terribly. He had been speaking well, was drawing and coloring, and was a beautiful, happy little boy. Now he could hardly speak in sentences, could not draw or color. I had trouble trying to talk to him on the phone. It was so sad. This family had all been in crises. We would all have to begin again. Only this time, I was separated from them. I had to find a way to accept this. CoDA taught me that I had to love myself, care for myself. I found this to be Unacceptable, but if I was to survive, I had to come to terms with this and find a way to accept it. I had to believe that the God of my understanding cared for me; that He was not punishing me, indeed, he was helping me to live life again. There were many layers of negative aspects built into my life with this unhappy experience. I had to stop looking at what my daughter had done wrong, and come to terms with where I had been at fault.
The first thing I began to understand, was that I was "playing God". I thought I knew what was best for everyone. I had thought that if I loved them enough, I could accomplish anything. I learned that I had stopped loving and caring for ME, so how could I help anyone else?
I had many questions, and I knew the answers were in the 12 Steps. It was easy to take Step One, for I had finally realized that I was powerless over others. Seeing my insanity in not heeding the warnings about my physical wellbeing, and knowing how mentally tortured I had become, almost to the point of drinking again, I was then able to take Step Two. When we discussed Step Three, I realized that I had let up on my spiritual program, had stopped asking God to lead me on a daily basis. So, once more I began to say the Third Step Prayer. The CoDA group I had belonged to some eight years prior to leaving CoDA, had decided to close the meeting with the Third Step Prayer, so we memorized it for this reason. I was glad I'd been there to do this. It was comforting to start using this prayer as a basis for living, one day at a time. I had to keep it in the NOW, for when my thoughts led me into the past, the pain was unbearable; I began to think I could not go on. It took a lot of meetings and especially the Step Meetings, to accept myself again, to stop lingering in the past.
When I began to feel stronger emotionally, my physical healing began. Every day that I worked the program, I felt stronger. Every time I shared, I became more dedicated to the teachings of CoDA, and began practicing them in my daily life.
In the months that followed, I knew I could not go on carrying the weight of past mistakes that I had made, so I began writing about them, on a daily basis. I would begin by writing at least 5 things I had to be grateful for. It was very hard in the beginning, but I persisted, so that I could find those 5 things each day. It helped so much, because I became grateful for what I had, and my acceptance, my sanity, my health was being restored in every way by this Power I call God. I began to believe that if I was willing to "let go and let God", I would not be alone in this program, in this life.
Gradually, as I listened to others who were in more pain than I, and as I shared more, going back to my childhood, admitting openly in the group, that my own mother had been my sexual abuser, the weight was being lifted. The first time I talked honestly about my childhood, that which I could not do in the past, I thought that the building would surely rock, or that at least lightening would strike. But I finished, and I felt at peace; something I'd never even considered as being an influence in the way I had been handling life, became very clear to me. Yes, those ideas that had been instilled in me as a child, when I was the "caretaker" for my mother, I realized, was what had finally taken over my life; now I was fighting to make sense of why this was true.
This led me to continue with my writing, putting down on paper, the things I had feared as a child, the resentments I had brought with me into my adult life. They talked about their "inner child", which I had certainly heard about in those years I'd spent in CoDA before, but that had never meant anything to me. Now it became a very important part of my program. If I was to recover, I had to learn to love "BJ, the child". My sponsor suggested that I get a teddy bear for my child and I did. I sat on the bed at night with her and told her she was pretty and sweet, and that I loved her very much. I began to see myself as a child
abused in every way, with no one to come to her rescue; I began coming to her rescue, with words of love and appreciation for the child that was. I laughed when I held her, and she began to respond and learn about joy within.
Continuing on my 4th Step was important; I wrote for months on my fourth step; I put down every way I had been abused; I put down all my resentments, my fears, my guilt......
And, of course the day came when I was simply overflowing with the need to share all that I wanted to overcome, and all that I had learned about "BJ" , with my sponsor. There was a lot of pain in this journey through my recent past; I had not managed well, and I was being hard on myself. My sponsor reminded me that I was not being mean or stubborn, that I was a sick person, and that many of the things I did were as the result of how I had been misunderstood and knocked about as a child. She reminded me that I had performed to the best of my ability at that time!
I came to terms with the fact that my inner child had been punished enough. She had simply taken on more than she could handle, and she was not a failure. She now understood she didnt have to carry the burden anymore. I had so much love for the child within, once I could see this. I knew that "we" deserved to live a normal life, realizing that we were powerless, but that God had all power and we could finally "Let Go and Let God".
There were many tears as I went through the fifth step. But my sponsor, a beautiful lady who had been through all the CoDA steps and who is a wonderful example of what this program can accomplish in an individual, was patient and kind. She encouraged me to go ahead and cry, get it all out of my system once and for all. I believe I did this.
Therefore, I was now ready to take Steps 6 and 7. I had always believed what the Big Book of AA said about these steps. They were so much alike that we should combine them, at least as a way of facing them mentally, and as something to follow quickly once we have finished the fifth step. Then we could say that (having finished a good fifth step), we were "entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character". As we let the meaning of what we had uncovered about ourselves sink into our souls, we could readily say, we were humbled before God, that we stood, completely free of the past and the mistakes of the past, and could "humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings". This sets us up for Step 8.
At this juncture of my program, I realized that now I had come to a fuller understanding of myself. There was much more work to be done, but I had been restored in mind and body. The God of my understanding reined once more in my heart and soul, and He was guiding me in every area of my life, making it possible for me to reach out and help others, especially those who are new to CoDA. I began to give back what had been so freely given to me.
I'm not worried about the steps that are now approaching me; I am ready to make my list, of those I have harmed. I'm grateful there are not pages of those, but the one I owe the most amends to is to myself. Day by day, I am doing this, by not putting myself down (and not allowing others to); by being patient with BJ, understanding that I am a Child of God, not God, and therefore, I can lose patience, but God does not; so I lean on Him for this. And, I pray to understand, rather than to be understood. For today, I am not as fragile as I thought I was, and that others living in their own problems, may say things that at one time would have destroyed me, but not today. I am stronger than that; I can take things lighter, live life more fully because of that; and never, never feel sorry for myself, for I know that I am truly blessed. For when my world ended, my life was saved. I was physically, mentally and spiritually bankrupt, and because I had no earthly home, I began to find a "home within myself", where I could truly rest, fully and freely. Those outside forces cannot rule me, as long as I remember all the things I've learned in CoDA. They told me that I could set boundaries which others could not step over irrespective of my feelings. For today I can "feel my feelings" and I am not afraid to share them with anyone, and by the same token, I don't have to allow you to abuse me. I am growing and unfolding daily. And, I remembered to take time for my inner child, to give her all the love and patience no one gave her before. I don't apologize for this, quite the contrary, I'm proud of me, proud of her, and very proud to be a member of CoDA.