When the principles of 12-Step recovery began to seep into my everyday life, I also learned to appreciate how my new way of living had enabled me to cope with life’s other challenges.
My earliest challenge in recovery was simple: not drinking. Nothing else mattered. I knew, that if I picked up a drink, all else would be lost.
In time though, after getting a sponsor and working the Steps, I found that “practicing these principles in all our affairs” was much more than a catchy collection of words. It was a call to take personal action.
Living Sober Was More Than Enough
I never imagined that the result of “practicing these principles” would be better than living sober—because living sober (at least in the beginning) was more than enough. Having more money in my pocket, waking up without a hangover, feeling healthier, not worrying about where I was the night before and what I did . . . these were all a direct benefit of simple sobriety.
But today I know that I am equipped to do more than face my addiction. I am able to face other life challenges too. And right now, life’s other challenge happens to be one of our kids.
Life Wasn’t Easy for Our Adopted Child
Our adopted daughter had it rough for the first four years of her life.
She lived in homeless encampments with her birth mother, and suffered abuse and neglect. The last time she was brought to emergency foster care, someone found her on the streets, alone, with a full diaper, barefoot, and looking for food in a trash can. Mom was passed out in the vehicle—the vehicle they called home.
When we first met her, we quickly saw that she was a survivor. We could see she was strong and intelligent despite her speech impediment.
Her speech therapist asked me what I attributed her “accent” to because she didn’t recognize it. I told her I thought it sounded more like a drunk slurring her words. “You know, I think that’s it!” she said.
This 4-year-old girl eventually became our adopted daughter and quickly overcame her external appearances of homelessness and abuse. A year of speech therapy got her ahead of other kids her age.
Then Came Adolescence
Her shiny teeth caps due to bottle rot would fall out and become healthy adult teeth. She overcame her fears of water and of men. She made honor roll at school—then came adolescence.
The child who practically took care of herself for four years was suddenly becoming a teenager. Growing up in a healthy environment did not mean that she left those four years of mental, physical, and emotional trauma behind her.
Those years began to manifest themselves in some alarming ways, so we sought therapy. She was diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder. It made perfect sense to us. All the pieces fit. But what was the treatment and where was the cure?
A Suicide Plan
There is none. Well, not really, but some of that responsibility was to be taken out of our hands for a time. Because we uncovered our daughter’s plan for suicide.
We sent her to a weeklong stay in an observation ward for teens. The professionals told us that the her weekly hour of therapy wasn’t going to cut it any more. Instead, she required a 24/7 boarding school where she could be safe and observed around the clock.
It’s been over a year now, and our daughter still takes three steps forward and then two steps back . . . and then sometimes it’s four steps back.
Yet We Find that We Are Grateful
It’s one of the toughest challenges two sober parents can have. Never mind the economic downturn and having to close our business, sell our home, move and change schools; losing a parent and a sponsor along the way. No. This is the tough one.
Yet we find that we are grateful.
Our adopted daughter continues her struggle at a therapeutic boarding school. We stay present and engaged in her healing process. We are grateful for the staff that keeps her safe and who are so committed to teaching her about living her life on life’s terms.
We can continue to be present for our other daughter from whom so much time and attention was taken over the years. We can enjoy watching her blossom into the young woman she is becoming.
We can accept without guilt the new peace in our home. We are thankful for the principles by which we can live happy, joyous, and free.
Without Our Sobriety, We Have Nothing
There is “acceptance,” because we can do all we can and it still may never be enough to change what we want to see changed.
There is “willingness” to do the hard things that have to be done.
There is “humility” for sometimes only our higher power can do what we cannot.
Through all of this, though, we have “hope” and gratitude that we remain sober. Because without our sobriety we have nothing to give anyone.
Author: Tom W. is a recovering addict from the Bay Area.