Making Amends to Ourselves — a Path to Self Forgiveness

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of self forgiveness lately. I think that self forgiveness presents a challenge for many people, in and out of recovery. As humans, we often judge our own actions through an unrealistic lens and are particularly hard on ourselves.

According to Freud, we all have three parts of our personalities — the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The id being the part of our personalities that is responsible for our animal instincts, sexual desires, and aggressive drives. The super-ego is the part of our personalities that functions as the moral compass and the ego is the part that mediates between the id and the super-ego. Perhaps it’s the ego that can’t accept that we might say or so something that falls outside out ethics governed by the super-ego.

Now, I am not a psychologist, and I’m not sure that Freud got it all right, but this model may be somewhat useful as we explore the concept of self forgiveness.

When we do something that we regret, the idea of forgiving ourselves can be difficult. We act as the prosecutor (super-ego), defense (id), judge and jury (ego) in our own minds. Rarely do these disparate roles agree about an action that we regret. In fact, this internal conflict that arises between these three parts of our personalities may be the very essence of regret.

When this conflict is strong within us, forgiving ourselves may seem impossible. Perhaps the strength of the voices of our internal judge and jury make us feel that we are unable to forgive ourselves. But, I’ve learned it’s important not to confuse ability with willingness. We can always forgive — even ourselves — the question is are we willing to do so or not.

Steps 8 and 9 are all about making amends and hopefully receiving forgiveness. When we get to step 8, we often look back at step 4 to make our list of people based on our moral inventory — it makes sense that we would look to address our amends to the people who were affected by the items on the list. This list may include our friends, spouse, children, other family members, business associates or supervisors, former lovers, and even former friends or others to whom we are estranged because of our behaviors while drinking.

There is one person that I think is excluded from the list more often than not and I believe this is unfortunate. That person is ourself.

How often does the amends list include ourselves? Why should this list include ourselves? Don’t we owe it to others to make things right first? What does making amends to oneself even look like?

While it may appear egotistical to make amends to oneself at first glance, I believe that it is foundational to making amends with others. I believe it is foundational to loving oneself. Just as one can’t truly love another without loving oneself, I believe that one must make amends and forgive oneself in order to truly grow in the program.

If we go about our lives regretting the past and thinking horrible thoughts about ourselves then we can’t truly change as a person. Brené Brown says, “we become the stories we tell ourselves.” If we are constantly telling ourselves that we are no good because of our past or that we are defined by our past, we come to hold this as a core belief about ourselves. And if we believe in our core that we are unworthy, then we will live as if we are unworthy. We will act as if we are unworthy. We will hold in to and repeat those old behaviors.

One of the promises is, “we will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.” When we are newly sober this promise may seem the most extravagant of them all. How on earth could we not regret our past? It’s exactly what got us here. Our past is defined by problems, poor choices, misbehavior, and pain. How do we get to a point where we don’t regret it? The magic that makes this possible exists in self forgiveness. And self forgiveness begins with making amends to ourselves.

So, how do we do this? It starts, as all amends do, with an assessment of what when wrong and how it could have been handled differently — the core difference between an empty apology and an amends being that an amends tries to make things right, by fixing the mistake of possible and by ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. So in order to make an amends to ourselves we need to know how we hurt ourselves and how we might fix it, as well as have a plan not to do it again. Then we tell ourselves that we are sorry for what we did, acknowledging how it was hurtful, and explaining how we will avoid it in the future. That is what making an amends to ourselves looks like.

Suppose that we hurt ourselves emotionally and spiritually by putting ourselves and others in danger by driving under the influence. We now see that our behavior was reckless and dangerous and we may feel bad about it. We may feel a deep sense of regret and fell like we can’t forgive ourselves. We need to make an amends.

To do this, we could write ourselves an apology letter explaining that we can’t change the past, but we can ensure that we never drive under the influence again, which should be easy since we are not drinking. We could even take it further by promising ourselves that we wouldn’t drive under the influence even if we did have a slip. If writing a letter to ourselves seems strange, we could record ourselves making the amends and listen to it, or even say the words to ourselves with a mirror. And while this all sounds a little strange, there is something powerful about making this concrete rather than simply thinking about it.

After making the amends to ourselves, we are in a better position to forgive ourselves. Again, making it concrete is valuable. Actually saying the words “you’re forgiven” is invaluable. Repeating them to ourselves when we are triggered about the past is also valuable. We become the stories we tell ourselves.

While it’s certainly not required, I believe that when we’ve forgiven ourselves for our past mistakes — when we believe the story that we are making changes and living a better life — then we are in a better position to make amends to others. Our belief in ourselves inside shows on the outside and we carry ourselves differently because we have a new found sense of self respect. Our self respect builds and becomes love of self and we are able to show others that we have changed, and it is per cicely these changes that enable us to make amends.

And what are amends, if not an act of love?

1827 — Five Years, One Day at a Time

One thousand, eight hundred, twenty-seven days without a drink — one day at a time. But who’s counting?

Well, I am.

Five years is a long-ass time without taking a drink, considering that I drank daily for seven years, and at least weekly for 25 years, leading up to September 23, 2015.

It has been a rough road, especially in the first year and in the last two years. The first year was, well, the first year. I spent months walking around in a fog. I sometimes forgot what I was saying mid-sentence. I craved booze, especially in the first six months. Everything was a trigger. Having a good day, I wanted to drink. Having a bad day, I wanted to drink. The weather was cold, the weather was warm…you get the picture.

The last two years have included family and societal trauma. I went through some things that no parent should ever go through. I watched my son suffer and he showed me what resilience looks like. I’ve been living in the same pandemic as you are and 2020 has been a shit-show with one hit after another. But I’ve always held on to hope and faith that things will get better. And I’ve stayed sober through it all.

These last five years have also been a time of self reflection, rediscovery, growth, and joy. I uncovered the root of my addiction. I discovered that I could let go of the God of my childhood and embrace an understanding of the universe that made room for the mystery without subscribing to a particular dogma. I began running at the young age of 45.

I am grateful that I am now living a life that I couldn’t have imagined back in 2015. I am safe, secure in who I am, have a loving family and a wide circle of friends. I’ve traveled and enjoyed making new friends. I’ve been a better dad and a better husband. I have truly discovered a new freedom and a new happiness. I don’t regret my past; I can look at it honestly and openly. I’ve found peace and I know that my experience can help others. I do not fear people or economic insecurity. My whole outlook on life has changed. These are only a few of the AA Promises, and I am here to tell you that they do come true.

I couldn’t have gotten here without help and hope. Hope and faith that things would be better. Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” I came into the rooms with only a grain of a mustard seed of hope but I had a why. My reason to live was for my son and may family, quite simply, I wasn’t ready to die and I knew that dying was on the agenda.

I often think about the darkness and despair that I felt as I walked into that 6:00 AM meeting in 2015. I think about the newcomer, and all those out there who are struggling, often in silence — our stories may be different, but we have a kinship of common suffering. We also have a kinship of a common solution.

And so I want to leave you with this as I celebrate my fifth anniversary of choosing to live —

If you are struggling,
If your world feels dark and lonely,
If you look in the mirror and hate the person you see there,
If you can’t imagine living without alcohol or drugs,
If you can’t imagine another day of drinking or using,
If you know that you’re killing yourself with your addiction,
Know that this is how I felt,
Know that others have been right where you are,
Know that you are not alone,
Know that there are ways out,
Know that people want to help,
Know that they can help,
Know that you can accept their help,
Know that you are worthy,
Know that you can overcome this,
Know that you can not only make it, but thrive.

It all starts by surrendering, accepting the fact that you can’t continue to live like you have been, and asking for help.

Skiing with the Scouts

A mounting sense of dread came over me as the weekend approached and I came to terms with the facts. I’d be driving four hours each way to a scout trip where the main activity would be skiing or snowboarding. I’d be giving up control of my weekend for the sake of my son and that of the troop.

Meals would be planned, and I wasn’t the planner. Sleeping arrangements would be first come, first served. I would not be the only one snoring in the bunkhouse. There would be communal bathrooms. The key to scouting is to keep the kids fully engaged, which meant that there would be very little downtime. And with 21 kids on the trip, it was going to be loud. I knew all of this when I’d signed up, but I had still volunteered to be a chaperone because I knew that if I didn’t, it was unlikely that my son would agree to go on the trip, and I wanted him to go on the trip.

It had been a while since he’d been on a Scout trip and his enthusiasm was waning. Over the weekend, I told another parent and a leader “Scouts teaches many meaningful life lessons to boys, not the least of which is that meetings suck but are required for successful outcomes.” My boy had only been to scout meetings and service hours since September. Not surprisingly, he was beginning to hate Scouts and frequently refused to go to the weekly meetings in January and February.

And then there was the the inherent risk of the main activity. No, not the risk of serious bodily injury. While there is risk associated with snow sports, that was not my main concern. My son wants to be an instant expert at everything that he tries and frequently when he isn’t an instant expert, he grows frustrated, talks negatively about himself, and gives up. I’ve witnessed this many times before and I knew that the probability of the weekend ending this way was statistically high.

Two weeks ago, in an effort to head this off, we’d gone on a snowboarding trip over Presidents’ Day weekend. I knew that the weekend would be busy on the slopes and so I’d done all the right things. I’d booked private lessons and paid for rentals and lift tickets in advance. When we arrived at the resort Friday night we’d picked up our rental equipment the night before our first day so as to avoid the clusterfuck that would certainly be the rental lines in the morning.

I had gone into that weekend with high hopes that we’d both learn enough to enjoy a few runs down an easy trail on the mountain. I’d envisioned myself snapping selfies of the two of us on the chair lift, and gently carving down the hill together. A real 2020 Norman Rockwell father and son kind of weekend. It was a shit show.

When it became clear to the instructor that my son needed more help than me, he directed his attention to my son. I was grateful for that. Hugo worked diligently with Mr. Grey for nearly 90 minutes. And at the end, Mr. Grey still could not get up on the board on his own, let alone slide down the bunny slope. I suggested that we take a break and get some lunch. That’s when I discovered that my wallet was missing. (After much panic on my part, my wife found it at the lost and found, complete with all my credit cards and money.)

After lunch I worked with my son for a while, but when he was getting frustrated enough that he was yelling at me, and I was starting to yell back at him on the side of the slope, we called it quits. I can’t recall if we’d even tried on day two or not. I think we did, but I have blocked it from my memory.

Expectations can be a killer for a guy like me. When my expectations were not met, I found myself wanting to go down to the lodge bar and order a bucket of bourbon. I’ve found that when I give those cravings space to exist, and then voice them, they go away, which is what I did that afternoon.

So, I had been ruminating on the events of Presidents Day going into this past weekend. And I was expecting disaster.

Mr. Grey and I had separate lessons. About mid way through my lesson, he showed up in tears on the side of the hill. There was no doubt about it, my lesson was over. And I was okay with that. I’d already fallen on my tailbone and I was beginning to doubt whether I really wanted to learn to snowboard or not, considering that I knew I could ski.

Over a Cherry Coke and a Kit Kat bar, we discussed whether or not to try more boarding or to get skis. Mr. Grey said he wanted to try skis. So we went back to the rental shop and traded in our boards for skis and went outside just in time for a leader to tell us that it was time to meet as a troop for lunch.

While at lunch, I discussed the situation with the leader who had organized the trip, who was also an avid skier. Brian agreed to try to teach Mr. Grey to ski and spent about 45 minutes with him before Mr. Grey threw in the towel. It was 1:30 on Saturday. We had the rest of the afternoon and the evening to fill and I was worried.

I fully expected my son to say that he wanted to go home, which would have been impossible because we had another scout in our car and there was no other car with space for him to ride home. I also fully expected that my son was going to demand that I stay by his side for the rest of the day. In an instant I saw not one but two ski trips gone south.

Mercifully, before I could get caught up in my own head, some of the scouts my son’s age were also tired of skiing and he synced up with them to go tubing and to play video games for the rest of the afternoon.

I went skiing.

I hadn’t been skiing in 17 years, but it came back like riding a bike. I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the slopes with a few other adults from the troop. We had dinner (taco salad which was surprisingly good) and went back out under the lights. I hadn’t skied at night since grade school, but it was fantastic. I skied until 8:30 when I was tired and cold. I called it a night after the fastest run down one of the steepest slopes and returned to the cabin.

The next morning, after breakfast, we skied for another two hours and then drove the four long hours home. I arrived home around 5:30 and my son told me that he was bummed that the weekend was over. He said he didn’t want to go to school. I told him that I didn’t want to go to work either.

While we were on the first trip, Mr. Grey asked me, “Dad, why did you stop doing all the cool things you do?” I asked him what he meant. “Well, you played guitar and stoped. You skied and stopped. You were an artist, and you stopped drawing.” I looked at him and said, “Well, sometimes when someone starts drinking, they stop doing all the cool things they used to do. But, I’m picking up those old things again now that I’m not drinking.”

There is a part of me that gets a bit regretful about that. But I do not regret my past. I’m just grateful to be able to do these things again. And as I reflect on this past weekend, I’m overwhelmed by my good fortune. We only have a short time on this stone hurling through space and we might as well make the best of that time.

Step 9: It Must Be More than an Apology

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Most of us are taught from an early age that we must apologize when we do something wrong. We hear the words of a parent to a toddler:

“You shouldn’t take toys from your friends, say you are sorry.”

“That hurts! Don’t pull mommy’s hair. Say you’re sorry.”

“Daddy doesn’t like it when you talk back to him, please apologize.”

In our modern society, apology frequently never amounts to change. We see it at the micro and at the macro levels. People in our everyday lives apologize to us and move on to their next affront. Think of the person who rudely brushes past you to get into a better position in the line. Chances are they’ve done it before and will do it again, even if they apologize. At the macro level, we see this behavior from large corporations that make apologies when they are caught skirting the law, but they’ll do it again if it means better P&L numbers and a higher stock price. We see it in our world leaders who make embarrassingly insincere statements or even deny any wrongdoing whatsoever only to continue to support policies that enable their wrongdoing and insincerity, over and over, again and again.

It’s as if we’ve been conditioned to think that saying we are sorry is all that matters. And so, upon first glance at the steps it’s easy to read this step as “apologize for your wrong doings.”

This reading misses the mark.

Fundamentally, the steps are a guide to living that revolves around changing our patterns of behavior. Apologies without change are meaningless. If we don’t course correct, and do better in the future, we are still acting like the toddler, the chairmen, or the world leader.

It is the resolve to make a change, to do better, that moves an out words from an apology to to the action of making amends. We are trying to right our wrongs rather than seeking forgiveness so that we feel better like a petulant child.

I’m not good at this. There are patterns of behavior that are deeply rooted in my life experience. They are my “go to” behaviors. I have learned that some of them are part of my trauma response. They are defense mechanisms that are almost instinctual, originating deep in my “lizard brain” — the amygdala. Changing these reactions is a big part of my personal work. I work with practicing the pause daily, with varying degrees of success.

The final words of this step are potentially dangerous. “Except when to do so would injure them or others” sounds like an escape clause. Many of us are good at finding the escape clause, in fact people with addictions are often masters the loophole. We must be conscious of this when we evaluate whether or not making an amends would cause harm. In most cases, making amends will not cause harm. In most cases making amends will help a relationship.

It is important to ensure that we do not confuse things — that we don’t hide behind this clause as a protective mechanism for ourselves. Indeed, there are some cases where it genuinely would cause harm to make an amends, and care should be taken to do no further harm, but we must be careful to ensure that we aren’t simply avoiding the amends process.

The best way to figure out whether or not an amends would cause harm is to discuss the situation openly and honestly with someone who we trust and who will be honest with us when we are clearly looking for an excuse to avoid doing the difficult work at hand.

This step can be miraculous. Indeed it is within the discussion of the ninth step that we are introduced to the AA Promises:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

— Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, Pages 83-84.

Despite what it says in the Big Book, these are extravagant promises, but it has been my experience that they do materialize just as the book says. In a few weeks I plan to begin a series on the Promises.

The Plan that Wasn’t a Plan

What a difference time makes! Two years ago, I sat on this same ferry and typed out a post about the ferry that wasn’t a ferry and how much I’d wanted to drink that day. While that trip turned out amazing, and I didn’t drink despite that misadventure, it wasn’t an easy time. So much has changed for the better in the last two years.

Our trip to Martha’s Vineyard just wouldn’t be complete without some sort of mishap with the ferry. When we made the decision to return to the island last spring, we eagerly booked our hotel without confirming the ferry for the day we’d arrive in advance. A rookie mistake, despite not being rookies. We found that there were no slots available on the actual day we’d planned to check in — so we booked for a day earlier and requested to be waitlisted for Saturday.

Now, I’m a nervous guy and despite being a fairly seasoned traveler, I get uncomfortable when the plan is not a plan. Winging it is not in my nature. So I stressed. I worried about what we would do if that Saturday reservation didn’t come through.

And then we got a call a few weeks before with a message of good news. There was a better ferry available. My heart leapt and then I heard that it was a better time but still on Friday. We’d never been waitlisted for Saturday. So we requested that again. But I knew that the chances were slim.

Luckily, we were able to make arrangements to arrive a day early with the hotel, and so that meant that all we needed to do was get 454 miles from home to Woods Hole by 11:00AM on a Friday. Clearly we’d need to leave on Thursday or get up around 1:00AM for a 9 hour drive. We opted for leaving after work with a goal of getting to Providence, RI.

Mrs. TKD gets home around 3:00 and I was able to arrange my meeting schedule so that we could leave as soon as she got home. Now leaving the greater Annapolis area around 3:00 is not without risk. Leaving at that time and heading up I 95 means that you risk traffic in Baltimore, around Newark, DE, any place along the he’ll known as the NJ Turnpike, NYC and the mess that is caused by everyone leaving big for Connecticut. That’s roughly five places where you can get seriously hung up and have a trip get delayed by an hour or more.

We lucked out. Probably because it was Thursday, we didn’t hit any serious traffic until we got to NYC and even that want too bad. We got across the George Washington bridge and decided to stop for dinner in Larchmont, figuring that the CT mess would clear up by the time we got back in the road. All this time we didn’t have a hotel reservation. We had a loose plan that wasn’t a plan. At dinner I made a reservation in Providence.

And then we got back on the road to find that there seemed to be construction every two miles throughout Connecticut. We arrived in Providence around midnight and I struggled to fall to sleep knowing that we needed to leave by 9:00 to make our 11:00 ferry.

If this had been my adventure two years ago, I’d have been in knots. I’d have certainly been thinking about a drink. But today, that thought barely registers. What I really want is some lunch, a good cup of coffee, and a nap.

And then maybe I’ll go for a run after the nap.

Yes, we do recover. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, the promises will always materialize if we work for them.

A Change is Afoot

Over the past month or so, I have not written much here. Perhaps you noticed. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, or that I’ve been isolating, or that I’ve fallen back into the patterns of my past. In fact, I have big news that I haven’t been able to share because, well, lots of people read this blog.

About a month ago I got an email from a recruiter at a competitor about a job opportunity that was interesting and I began talking with them. Over the course of the conversations there were many times when I felt like I was going to burst. There were many times when I really needed to write about it.

See, writing about my life is how I reflect. Writing is how I process things. Writing is how I share news with people around the world. And I wanted to write about all the ups and downs of the past month, in the moment.

But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t because there’s something deep in my lizard brain that loves the instant gratification of publishing my thoughts. I don’t know exactly what it is, but when I write, it doesn’t feel complete until I push the publish button. It’s not as strong as the craving for the initial drink back in the day, but it’s not completely dissimilar either. And I couldn’t publish the fact that I was talking about leaving my then current company because that would have jeopardized my job, my income, and my family.

Changing jobs is stressful. There is so much that is unknown. No matter how well you vet things, there’s always something that catches you off guard when you join the company. You can’t know the soft underbelly of a company until you’re on the inside. And I’ve struggled with that mightily over the past few weeks.

The truth is that my job had become a little too comfortable and I was stuck in a rut. I spent six and a half years at the old company; the longest I’ve ever spent at a company. It was a great ride, with the exception of a year when we tragically had a CEO who didn’t understand his ass from a hole in the ground. I remember getting the email that he’d moved on while having dinner in a pub in Chertsey, England, while on a business trip — the news was amazing and it called for more whisky, of course. But I’m digressing.

I struggled with the decision to move on for a variety of reasons. See, there was nothing wrong at the old company. The company has great products, a great culture and most importantly, great people. I have great friends at my old company. It feels strange to call it my old company. But even with all that, there were some challenges.

My industry, enterprise IT, has transformed significantly in the past six years. It continues to transform. A huge driver has been cloud adoption. This has had significant impact on how the enterprise behaves and buys; when you’re selling to the enterprise, how they buy is very important. So, I found myself in a place where my company (at least in my eyes) was beginning to lose relevancy in my market segment. The fact is that enterprises aren’t building massive data centers in 2017, they are consuming infrastructure rather than owning it.

Over the last few years, there has been an emphasis on a set of skills that frankly I didn’t have and wasn’t really that interested in pursuing. As the enterprise has shifted from build to buy, the skill set of the engineers has shifted towards this thing called devops which is an amalgamation of development and operations. I am not a programmer or a script writer. Don’t get me wrong, I can hack my way through a shell script, a perl script, and even some python. I can decipher xml output, and I can read and understand JSON. But I don’t like to code. In fact, I pretty much hate it.

As I looked at the landscape changing before my eyes, I knew that I needed to move up the stack. And I saw three paths; resign myself to learning to code (which may still be a requirement), move to a software company (which I’d done in the past and knew that it wasn’t what I wanted to do at this point), or jump back into my roots in Internet Security. Now, there may be other paths that I didn’t consider (like moving into management), but these are the paths that I saw as viable.

It is the third path, returning to my roots in Internet Security, that I’ve chosen.

I still believe in coincidences, though as my good friend Hearon told me, “coincidences can have meaning.”

I picked up my 18 month chip recently, and on the same day, I got the nod that the offer would be forthcoming. Now, that’s not the coincidence.

On September 22, 2015, I took my last drinks after I’d gone to a face to face meeting with this new company for a different position. I wanted the job badly and I knew that the role was perfect for me, except for one thing. Not a single customer was closer than 60 miles away and they were all on the other side of the DC beltway. As I drove home that afternoon, I knew that I could not accept the job.

I’d made a resolution the day before to start going to meetings, and failed on that commitment, but I hadn’t drank. I didn’t have my go to bottle of bourbon at the house and I knew it, but I had beers. As I approached the liquor store, I reminded myself that I really shouldn’t buy a bottle and somehow I managed to hold myself to that. But upon getting home, I drank every last beer in the house and found myself in that familiar pit of despair, blanketed in an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

It was that evening, while sitting on my couch that I had my first vision of hope after a friend posted a video on her Facebook page and I resolved to get up the next morning and go to the Wake Up Group.

I know that there were many reasons why that particular opportunity wasn’t right. The geography was just the tip of the iceberg and I had many great achievements left in my role at the last company. I now know that I needed to get sober before undertaking such major life change. I can only imagine what would have happened if I’d made the change while in the midst of my active addiction. I suspect that the outcome would not have been good.

Over the past month, I kept quiet about this move, for obvious reasons. And I couldn’t manage the stress by writing. I’ll admit there were a few times when a drink might have sounded good but not so good that I was willing to take one. In fact, I knew in my heart of hearts that a drink would do me no good. So, without my two preferred crutches, I had to find other ways to manage the stress.

I didn’t realize it, but I was relying on my tools from my program throughout and the promises rang true.

  1. Early on in the process I talked about this change at a meeting, sharing that I had the opportunity and that it brought up a great deal of anxiety because I was afraid of the unknown.
  2. I spoke with my sponsor about the decision on several occasions, and as usual, his sage advice proved wise. Even if there had been no advice, just talking about the challenges helped me to get through the process.
  3. I spoke with two of my good friends who I met through my activity on twitter about the change. Their listening ears proved invaluable.
  4. I conducted myself with transparency toward the new organization throughout the process. When I had questions that I thought would be too tough for them to answer, I found the strength to ask the tough questions. When I wasn’t sure about the role, I told them so, even up to the point that I nearly withdrew from consideration. In turn, I believe the people I spoke with returned the favor of transparency.
  5. When the time was right, I was transparent with my former employer about the factors that went into my decision. I made every attempt to carry myself with integrity through out the process.

And because I used my tools, fear of people and of economic insecurity left me; I comprehend the word serenity and I do know peace.

Do I still have fear and trepidation about this change? Of course I do, it’s a major life change; but I know that I’ve done the best that I can in making the decision and I know that I’ll be okay.

Old Habits Die Hard — Feelings, Self Pity, and Regrets

From a very early age, I harbored a deep sense that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t fit in somehow, that I was less than. Growing up in the country, my early feelings of unworthiness stemmed from the fact that my family didn’t have a farm, that I didn’t have my own bb gun, that I didn’t have a pocket knife and of all things, that I didn’t have a down vest. See, those were the things that the “cool” kids seemed to have.

As a kid, I was oblivious to the good things that I had. It didn’t matter that my father was a world renown instructor at the National Fire Academy. Never mind the fact I was sent to private school because my parents desperately wanted to make sure that I got an education in a town where education wasn’t valued as highly as a set of antlers mounted on the wall of your living room.

When I reached the age that little boys start to think that it might be nice to be around little girls, I felt like all the girls wanted nothing to do with me — and for the most part I think that was true. I asked the same girls to “go with me” over and over and got the same response every time, “no.” Not even a “thank you.” It didn’t help that my options were limited to about 15 girls in my class, but I didn’t understand that.

Years later, I still struggled with this. On the night that I met my wife, I was so convinced that she wouldn’t want to see me again that I struggled to ask for her phone number — after talking to her for nearly two and half hours at a bar in DC. Finally, in desperation she pulled out her card and said, “Call me” before leaving for the night. See, my feelings of unworthiness were so strong, perhaps only outweighed by my fear of rejection, that I’d never asked for a girl’s phone number in a bar. I was 31 years old and couldn’t work up the nerve to ask for her number.

At times, those feelings are still strong in my recovery. Continue reading

Three Life Changing Words

“fear of people…will leave us”

Once I got sober I quickly found that I could drop many the things that I feared. I was no longer trying to hide the facts of my alcoholism. I was making positive changes that had big and immediate impacts on my daily life. I slept better, which meant I felt better. I quickly found that everyday pains and gut issues were subsiding. The physical wellness that arose out of my sobriety is a wonderful gift. And yet, there have been other, more important gifts – loss of shame, less irritation with life, less anger. Perhaps the gift I’m most grateful for is that the fear of people left me.

I recall hosting meetings for my team in my hometown about three weeks after I surrendered. I was nervous for sure. I couldn’t take the guys out to the best bars in Annapolis. I couldn’t drink with my team. I knew that would be difficult, and it was. I remember the team dinner seemed to drag on and on, well after I was ready to call it a night. But I also remember talking with the valet parking attendant at the hotel for about twenty minutes before dinner. I had no room at the hotel because I was going home to my house. I had no business grabbing a drink at the hotel bar and it was nice outside so I’d gone out to catch some fresh air while the team got ready to go to dinner.

I don’t recall the specifics of the conversation but I do remember that I recognized that I was actually connecting with this young man. Continue reading

A New Freedom and a New Happiness

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness

April may be the cruelest month, but August is a close second — at least in my book.  Here in Maryland, August is hot, humid, and oppressive.  This year, it was even more so with record temperatures and long periods of no rain.  But that’s not why August was so hard for me this year.

It was the constant flood of memories of how things were last year. Continue reading