In meetings, we’re careful not to take credit for our sobriety. Newcomers thank their higher power for however many days they’ve cobbled together and old-timers stress a one-day-at-a-time reprieve from alcohol, nevermind if those days number in the tens of thousands. Our sobriety is always a gift.

If anyone is thinking “I resisted the urge to drink for the last six months because I am a strong person,” a meeting is not the place to share that. It’s not particularly helpful because it hoists responsibility back on me and I didn’t do so good with alcohol before. If both my arms are broken, isn’t it wise to let someone else do the driving?

So why do some people “get” sobriety right off the bat while it takes others years to string together a year of sobriety? Why do some people never call themselves alcoholics despite DUIs and health problems? Why do some people acknowledge a problem but continue to struggle until they die?

I find myself thinking about this a lot lately. Recently someone who attended meetings in my area died from alcohol-related complications. From what I’ve pieced together, he used to belong to my home group and he was a chronic relapser, but his name doesn’t ring a bell. It bothers me that my home group is suddenly packed with people paying respects to a man who hadn’t been to meetings in some time and never found what he needed there anyway. One mourner was missing teeth and kept having distracting side-conversations with another oddball and I kept thinking I don’t want what he has and If I start drinking again, maybe I will lose teeth and my mind.

Meetings are like that, a mix of people I look up to and cautionary tales. What difference is there between a chronic relapser and someone whose grandchildren (or children!) have never seen them take a drink?

Is it intelligence or education? Absolutely not. I have a close family member I’m sure has at least a 15 IQ points on me, and he can’t seem to stay sober.

Is it self-awareness, then? Is it self-discipline, which is another word for willpower, which makes me think of the dreaded self-will (see second paragraph)?

Does recovery depend on your threshold for pain? I wanted to stop for my children and long-term health, but wicked hangovers with nausea and emotional blackness pushed me to stop before I suffered any real consequences. Were my hangovers the real gift?

What if your sober support network is weak? What if you attend meetings but are more withdrawn than involved? What if your friends and family drink but you swear it doesn’t really bother you?  Asking for a friend, of course.

What else affects sobriety? Oh yeah. Spirituality. This is the only factor that feels weightier than the rest. If my heart is anchored in something bigger and better than me, that feels more useful than how much I know about addiction or how sober my spouse or parents are. But how do affirmed atheists stay sober and happy? Because I know they do.

I don’t think there’s any pat answer here, by the way. The formula that works for me might not work for the 20-something black guy I sat next to at a meeting last night. When we held hands at the end and recited the lord’s prayer, he knew the words and I did not (except for the part about trespassing…always dug that part). Hopefully recovery is not dependent on the ability to memorize prayers.

I choose to view my sobriety as a gift because one day I decided it was easier not to drink anymore and I hadn’t woken up in jail or a hospital and the sun was shining exactly as it had the day before. It was a gift I hadn’t asked for and I don’t know where it came from, but it’s up to me what I do with it. I wonder why other people don’t get this gift or why they get it and throw it away, but right now I try not to think about how fragile I know it to be and just hold tight.

6 thoughts on “Gift

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  1. I totally love this perspective on getting and staying sober. My journey has been much like yours while I have a sister who is still very active in her addiction. What’s the difference? I’ve stopped trying to figure that one out – all I can say is Thank You God.



  2. Wow. I really enjoyed your curiousity and self-reflecting in this post. If those questions could be answered, then sobriety would be easily attainable to everyone.

    I often think it has to do with self-control, but like you said about IQ, I know people that can’t come of the bottle that have more self-control than me. Unfortunately, there is no single answer to ‘why,’ and there is no silver bullet to becoming permanently sober.

    And there has always been a correlation between people having higher IQs (greater than 150) and being more likely abuse multiple substances. It’s probably because they have no other way to cope with us less intelligent beings (referring more to me being in the less intelligent category).


  3. I’m really enjoying your curiosity here as well. This is very thought-provoking post and interesting (if not a little nerve-wracking for me) because I feel like I’m doing this through my own strength alone. No groups. No great sense of spirituality. I think a lot has to do with overall levels of present happiness & past regrets. In other words, what other baggage does a person have to deal with aside from an alcohol addiction? If they can focus on just the alcohol problem because everything else is running along smoothly, then sobriety is easier to achieve. Or maybe not. I dunno. xxxx


    1. You know, my first thought was that you’ve found your group here. I kind of double up in that way, haha, but honestly you are expressing your feelings and drawing on the experience, strength and hope of others online. And spirituality is something I find hard to define, so my experience may not be spiritual at all by another’s definition. But I find your writings speak from the heart and so feel spiritual to me.


  4. Terrific post. Like you I look about and I don’t understand the different stories at times. A lady I thought “had it” recently has gone back out there… but another friend came in, listened, has battled with up and down emotions but is 8 months this week.

    I listen to old guys (and ladies) who’ve been around a long time. Many say things I really like and I talk to them for advice… then there are others, same or longer sobriety – they teach me stuff… often what I don’t want my sobriety to be like. Their choice, I don’t knock it but I found by not fighting the world and my place in it is best for me.

    Some of us just reach that point “the jumping off point” and it is just right there and then… can’t say for me it wasn’t a struggle esp. in early sobriety but I was ready and willing


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