rise above the fog of addiction

Seeing the Forest through the Trees

I was an everyday drinker. I didn’t have blackouts, didn’t get a DUI, didn’t go to jail, and have never been in trouble of any sort as it relates to my drinking career of 26 years.  My alcohol consumption started when I was 18, and I found the courage to drop the bottle and become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous at age 44. When I attended my first meeting, I was still looking at the trees and wondering if I really had a problem with alcohol, because I hadn’t done the things I thought alcoholics do.  I could see that my life was certainly unmanageable, but was I really powerless? Well, I took the advice of fellows and “kept coming back” and the more stories I heard in the rooms of recovery the more I found myself.

Attending meetings in early recovery, I spent most of my time in my own head, feeling pitiful and sorry for myself. The trees I had to learn to look past wanted me to stay unhealthy, and in a place of darkness and suffering.  Alcohol is not my only problem, you see. I suffer from mental health disorders, including depression, PTSD, and anxiety. These are very large trees in my forest, so large that I cannot look past them most days. Recovery has helped me to see another way, and it was through service work that I started to see more of the forest, and less of the trees.

I started chairing meetings at 3 months sober.  It was life-altering, exciting, and gave me the strength to keep moving forward and stay sober. I went from being a passive participant, focused on myself, to an active participant through service, devoted to helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety. I chaired meetings, made sure the coffee pot was never empty, greeted newcomers and those returning to the rooms after a relapse. I have chaired meetings at the Alano Club during the Holidays and became the chair of the Great Outdoors Group of AA in November of 2022, a meeting which I still co-chair today. I’ve attended potlucks, helped set-up and take down events, and have volunteered at numerous events.

It was through service work that I finally saw the forest. The new growth represented the progress I’ve made thus far. Established trees were the friendships I’ve made along the road of recovery. These friendships hold me up when I want to crash down to my knees and give up. And the dead wood represents the baggage I carry into every meeting and service opportunity.

I am slowly clearing away the dead, to make room for fresh growth, but it’s not easy. My alcoholic brain and mental health disorders have brought me to some dark places, including suicide attempts, self-harm behaviors, overdosing on medications, and standing in front of the craft beer isle at my local grocery store with my mouth watering. We all have trials and tribulations. I know I’m not alone in my struggles, but sometimes my mind goes back to the edge of the forest, and I can no longer see my value.  It’s these times when service work becomes crucial to my continued sobriety – when I least want to help others, and instead become that same selfish asshole that drank every day to mask and hide my mental health challenges, or any amount of stress in my life.

Service work helps me get out of my own head. I’m excited to see how service looks and works within this hybrid community of recovery. I look forward to the unique challenges we will face together through outdoor activities, the community of support we will build, and of course, service work!