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The Sober Pagan

March 1st, 2018

The One Thing That Keeps Me Sober

 

(Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash)

 

It’s been a terrible winter for me. The weather has been working against me. We had a very snowy and windy winter here in Buffalo – which honestly, isn’t that unusual here – but we also had to contend with a lot of freezing rain and icy conditions on the roads and sidewalks. As a pedestrian who owns a really good pair of boots, I can deal with the snow but ice will keep me indoors since I don’t want to fall and break a bone. So there were many days I would have gotten out but I stayed indoors.

There were AA meetings I would have gone to but between the weather and the local bus service running “Sunday service” on Monday holidays, I have yet to get to a meeting this year! Yes, I know I could go to other meetings but you know how it is when you find a meeting you really like. This one isn’t that far from my house but I do need to take the bus to get there.

The other thing is that at the end of January, I got that terrible flu that’s been going around. If you haven’t gotten sick from this flu, count yourself lucky. Or blessed. I know people who got flu shots and they got wicked sick. I haven’t gotten a flu shot in over ten years and I rarely get sick – a cold every winter and a sinus infection or two – a reminder of my cocaine days – but I haven’t gotten “The Flu” in a long time. But this year, I was so sick, not only did I think I was going to die, I really wanted to. My lungs have never hurt so badly in my life. I thought of my friends who smoke cigarettes and have COPD and I wonder how they deal with this! My son called me everyday and bitched at me for not going to the ER. But I didn’t have the energy to go anywhere. I lost nine pounds in four days. I drank bottle after bottle of spring water. I sipped chicken soup. Eventually I got better. I started eating again. The cough hung on for three weeks. But that’s subsided now, too.

A persistent depression has dogged me these past few days. My aunt, who is 88 years old, had a stroke this summer and is now going into assisted living, since she is always falling and getting tangled up in her walker. She can’t cook for herself anymore. My aunt is the picture of sober living – she never smoked cigarettes, drank, ate very sparingly, and of course never did drugs. But here she is – at age 88 – totally incapacitated and dependent – not to mention depressed and angry. I was thinking about this. What’s the point to live such a sober life, just to end up all messed up anyway?

Of course, this is classic “stinkin’ thinkin’” and how you start on the road to relapse. I know that I had better get to a meeting right quick or at least call one of my sober friends or open the Big Book or one of my other recovery books. And the main thing I have to remember is:

It isn’t about when I am 88 years old. It isn’t about some time in the future that may or may not happen. Or something – like having a stroke – that may or may not happen. It’s about now. It’s about having a good life now. That’s the real meaning of “One day at a time” – it doesn’t mean don’t plan for the future – because we all have to make plans or else we won’t have a future – but it means to live fully in the now.

To me, if there’s one thing that keeps me sober on a daily basis, it’s the fact that I passionately hate hangovers. I used to take them with a grain of salt – they were the payment for having a really good time, right? But now – I don’t want to wake up feeling like that at all. When I was sick with the flu, I thought that I would rather have a hangover but honestly – I don’t want to be sick with the flu or a hangover. And the thing with hangovers – they’re preventable. All you have to do is don’t take that first drink.

Hopefully, I’ll have something a happier report next month. Until then – hang in there and stay sober. Brightest Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Recovery Spiral and the Spiral Steps

If you hang around AA for any amount of time, you will no doubt hear that you have to acquire a “Big Book” – the text of Alcoholics Anonymous – and read no other book – unless it’s the “Twelve and Twelve” – the AA book about the Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions – or one of the other “approved” literature that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services puts out. I myself own a Big Book and a Twelve and Twelve. Like everything associated with AA, there’s a lot to love about these books and a lot that honestly pisses me off about them. My own personal copies have color-coded tabs stuck on the edges of the pages so I know where to look for help and I’m not wasting my time with stories that I don’t need. And many times, reading something in the “Big Book” or the “Twelve and Twelve” has kept me sober for one more day.

But I own many other recovery-based books. Not for one minute have I ever believed that “The Big Book” was the only reading material for an alcoholic or an addict any more than I ever believed that the Bible was the only reading material for a Jew or a Christian. There are many places in which you may find wisdom and enlightenment – some are not even within the covers of a book! By all means, read “The Big Book” but read everything else as well!

One of my favorite recovery books is The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash. This book talks about recovery in Buddhist terms. You don’t have to be Buddhist to identify with the issues Ash brings up or his path to recovery. He covers the Twelve Steps and how to deal with them in a non-theistic way. It was an important book in my early recovery and one that I go back to again and again.

Another favorite is Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps by Charlotte David Kasl. (All her books rock). I especially like how she discusses faith development, links patriarchy and addiction, and looks at various recovery groups. She lists various “steps” – the Twelve Steps of AA, the Thirteen Steps of Women for Sobriety, and the Sixteen Steps she herself came up with. She also talks about toxic groups and sexual abuse within groups – it’s an incredible book. It was published in 1992 and it would be great if she came out with an update – things have changed in twenty-five years.

I came across The Spiral Steps quite by accident. I was looking for tarot readings that corresponded to the Twelve Steps and somehow I found a page out of The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing by Cynthia Jane Collins – I think it was on Google Reads or maybe Amazon. I can’t really remember. But I was instantly intrigued. As soon as I could, I bought the book.

It has become one of my very favorite recovery books. It addresses all kinds of problems – not just drugs and alcohol – but overeating, shopping, gaming, sex, working out – whatever it is. The First Step of the Pagan Twelve Steps reads, “We admitted we were harming ourselves and others and our lives had become overwhelming.” (Collins, 3) I don’t know about you but I find this much more appealing that AA’s First Step with its insistence on powerless and unmanageability. And whereas Step Two in AA is a plea to a “Power” greater than any of us peons on earth to “restore” our “sanity”, the Pagan Step Two reads, “Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.” Not sanity – balance.

Here are the complete Pagan Twelve Steps:

  1. We admitted that we were harming ourselves and other and that our lives had become overwhelming.

  2. Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.

  3. Made a decision to move our wills and our lives toward that Divine Presence.

  4. Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.

  5. Admitted to ourselves, to the Divine Presence, and to others the exact nature of our harm.

  6. Were entirely ready to have our harmful patterns replaced by ethical coping skills.

  7. Asked the Divine to transform us, giving us rebirth in our lives.

  8. Made a list of all beings we had harmed, beginning with ourselves and including our world, and became willing to make amends to them all.

  9. Made direct amends to all whenever possible, except when to do so would violate the Rede.

  10. Continued to take personal ethical inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it and corrected it.

  11. Sought through action and meditation to improve our conscious knowledge and contact with the Divine Presence, seeking only to choose in harmony with the greatest good.

  12. Having had spiritual awakenings as results of these steps, we offered this opportunity to others and practiced these principles in our lives.

As you can see, these steps keep the hard-hitting self-development that the original steps had but they remove the Christian flavor that leave a bad taste in our pagan mouths. If you want, you could easily remove “Divine Presence” and put in the name of whatever deity that you personally work with. Certainly – some deities are more conducive to sobriety than others!

The book is filled with stories of people in recovery and people using the steps and the Tarot readings in various ways. Although the Tarot readings are designed to be used with a sponsor, you can do them on your own. The back of the book had Tarot readings and how to use them. There is also a Recovery Spiral Book of Shadows. This has step rituals, a workbook for each of the steps, chants, and spells. There’s also an awesome bibliography. It’s worth checking out some of the books she lists, if you haven’t read them yet and reacquainting yourself with the ones you’ve read years ago. I know that’s what I plan to do.

If you live in a place like I do – where the sober pagans are few and far between – it might be a good idea to invite the few sober pagans that you do know over to your home for a sober evening. Do a ritual from The Recovery Spiral – chant the Pagan Twelve Steps – raise some sober power. Perhaps this could be the start of the one and only Pagan meeting in your area.

But until that happens – I’m continuing to be the solitary sober Dianic Wiccan that I am.

Brightest Blessings!

References

Alcoholics World Services. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001

Alcoholics World Services. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. NY: Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1981

Ash, Mel. The Zen of Recovery. NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1993.

For Amazon information, click image below.

Collins, Cynthia Jane. The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing. NY: Citadel Press, 2004

For Amazon information, click image below.

Kasl, Charlotte Davis. Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. NY: HarperCollins, 1992

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

**

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Issue of Powerlessness

It’s a beautiful fall day and I am on my way to an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. It’s not easy for me to get to meetings, because I don’t have a car and public transportation in the Western New York area leaves a lot to be desired. To attend a one-hour meeting means traveling at least forty-five minutes to an hour each way on the bus. For years, this dead time on the bus kept me from attending meetings at all and of course, I invariably ended up drinking again. I had to get real with myself – what’s the difference between wasting time with public transportation or wasting time in a bar?

My name is Polly and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.

I once had eight years of sobriety but I went “back out”, as they say in AA, and I’ve been “in and out” ever since. I’ve been trying very hard since I moved back to Buffalo, mostly for health reasons. I have to admit, I really like drinking. It’s really – drinking doesn’t like me. That’s the truth of it. It’s like being in love with an abusive man. I always thought domestic violence was a lot like addiction.

Like all non-Abrahamic religious people – Pagan, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all the non-believers – I have many issues with AA. Unfortunately, in Buffalo – like many cities – it’s really the only game in town. There are a few SOS (Save Ourselves, or Secural Organization for Sobriety) meetings but nothing that I would be able to attend, given my disability. Rational Recovery stopped meeting in Buffalo back in the 1990’s. Women for Sobriety, the recovery group founded in 1975 by Jean Kirkpatrick as a women’s alternative to AA, also has no meetings in the Buffalo area, but I do subscribe to their weekly newsletter. I have tried to stay sober on my own – doing sobriety spells, daily meditation, working out, white knuckling it. Invariably I drink and drug again.

I once had a sponsor who told me, “Meeting makers make it.” So I am getting on the bus and going to a meeting. Even if it takes up my entire morning. Again, what else am I doing? If I drink, then I’m drinking for the entire day. I’m a daytime drinker – I start around 11 in morning and stop around dinner time – that’s how I do it. And then I’m going to be sick for my entire tomorrow. So why am I bitching about a meeting taking up my entire morning? I can go home after the meeting and have the afternoon to write and create art. And I’ll feel good tomorrow. Hello? I have a problem with that?

I think what most of us Pagans and Wiccans have an issue with – first thing – is the idea of being powerless over alcohol and drugs and everything else in the world – an idea that is stressed over and over again in AA and all the “anonymous” groups. After all, the whole idea of being a witch – I consider myself to be a witch, I don’t if you do – is to own your own power. So the idea of admitting powerlessness goes against the grain of everything we have been working toward as Pagans and Wiccans.

However – when we are wasted on alcohol – when we are hungover and puking and have headache that would split the atom – that’s not powerful. Be honest. How many times has someone taken advantage of you when you’ve been wasted on drugs? For me, it’s too many times to count. Too many terrible things have happened to me and I bet, to you, too. That’s what powerlessness is about.

I was on the bus the other day and it flashed to me – one of those lightbulb moments – instead of thinking about being powerless over alcohol, I would think of it as “Sobriety is powerful”. My power is in being sober. I can make better magic, stronger spells, have more meaningful meditation sessions when I am sober. And I mean sober on a daily basis.

If you want true freedom – and that’s what being Pagan is all about – you have to be sober, too. I truly believe that. It took me years to get here, but I’m here now. If you want what I have, well, be here next month and I’ll have something else to share with you.

Brightest Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Yuletide Sobriety

Who doesn’t party during the holidays? Scrooge? The Grinch?

But when you’re in recovery, holiday parties – whether they are office parties at work, family parties around a table groaning with food and drink or coven Yule rituals with “cakes and ale” – are a challenge, to say the least. What do you do? How do you navigate these chilly, choppy waters?

I’ll be honest with you – I’ve relapsed over the holidays more than once.

It’s so easy to see everyone else – those so-called “normal” people – with drinks in their hands – laughing, happy – and want what they seemingly have. Yeah! Just one drink. How simple that sounds.

Don’t go there.

If you’re like me, it’s never “just one drink” and it’s never that simple. It’s always a night of drunken manic craziness and a morning of migraine suicidal depression. Even if I’m just mildly hungover, I’m so tired I can’t do a thing.

And then, of course, I have to start all over all again.

I don’t work anymore so office parties are a thing of the past but I still have family. Luckily for me, about half of my family are now in some phase of recovery, so there’s lots of sober support there. I don’t have to go to any party that I don’t want to anymore – that’s a perk of being old and ornery.

But – if it’s a case where I have to go to a holiday party, here is the list of ideas I’ve compiled to help me get through the ordeal. Some I’ve heard at meetings, some I’ve read in books, and some I’ve gotten off of various websites. They were on a list in my diary.

  1. Arrive late and leave early. Say you have somewhere else to go, if people ask you why you’re leaving. You’re not lying. You’re going home, right?

  2. Bring a sober friend with you.

  3. Bring a bottle of ginger ale or coke or something else non-alcoholic to drink. Ginger ale mixed with cranberry juice is a fabulous holiday drink.

  4. Remember HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Don’t let yourself get out of balance in any of these areas.

  5. Remember TAMERS – Talk about recovery, Act on recovery, Meditate & minimize stress, Exercise & eat well, Relax, Sleep

  6. Be careful what you eat – lots of cookies, especially, have alcohol in them – my mother makes a killer fruit cake FILLED with booze! One piece and you’ll be wicked buzzed! So be careful!

  7. Go to meetings! Especially if you’re out of town – meetings are different in every city, so it’s always cool to check out that aspect of AA. And everyone loves the out-of-towner.

  8. Get outdoors. No matter what the weather is doing, it’s always good to get outside and walk off whatever emotions you are feeling. Believe me, you are going to feel better! And it’ll work off all those cookies you’re eating!

So please – Have the Happiest Yule Ever and a safe and sober New Year! Brightest Blessings!

Images found on Pinterest with the exception of the picture of the Niagara River Rapids photo © polly macdavid

***

About the Author:

 

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

 

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