Getting clean and sober is one thing. Staying and growing in sobriety is most definitely something else entirely! I was living in a treatment center close to 18 years ago. While there I was extended some wisdom from one of the house monitors. He told me that I only had to change one thing in order to stay sober. I can certainly change just one thing, I thought. I'm game. "What's that one thing?" "EVERYTHING!" he exclaimed. He told me that if the only thing I was to do was to stop drinking then the only thing that has changed in me is the smell of my breath. In other words, I had to start thinking and living differently than I was when I was in active addiction. He told me that there were 3 things that are essential for a program of recovery. Those being: Honesty, Open Mindedness and Willingness. Also known as the H.O.W of the program. He told me that by applying these in my life I would lay the groundwork for a change in my personality. I plan to blog about all three and how ,when followed diligently, I began to initiate and maintain new behavior. I started with trying to be a little more honest and then rigorously honest in all my affairs.
I kept hearing that if I couldn't be honest with myself then I couldn't be honest with anyone else. That made sense. All the times I lied to myself. Telling myself over and over that I really didn't have a drinking problem. So, how did I respond to someone when they told me I was a drunk? "No I'm not!". I lied. I always lied to cover up something I knew I had no business doing or was ashamed of. I've learned (through practice) to do the next right and honest thing. That way I don't have to lie about it. If I don't do dirt then I don't have to hide it under the carpet from you. Once I stopped lying, it brought about a whole new freedom. I no longer have to remember which lies I tell someone and make up more lies to cover those up. Being honest improved the connection from my brain to my heart. I'm no longer double minded and I have a clear conscience. Having a painful and restless conscience is something I use to drink over. The best way for me to eliminate those thoughts of dishonesty and self disgust was to blot them out with tequila and beer. I haven't experienced a sleepless night due to my conscience bothering me for a long time. By practicing rigorous honesty in all my affairs I began to run into tests everyday. How can I practice it unless given the opportunity for application?
It started with people giving me too much change back when I'd buy something. I had to return the excess amount of money they gave me. This happened to me a few times. The first time it happened I walked out of the store thinking "I should really give this back to the cashier..naw!" Not taking that action to change an old behavior actually had me thinking about it all night. I remembered what I heard in treatment, "..if you"re not honest you"ll get drunk!" I didn't return it that time but I made sure I returned the excess amount immediately when the occasion presented itself again. Another time, I remember sitting in a meeting and the guy in front of me had reached into his pocket for something. When he pulled his hand out a twenty fluttered to the floor. I sat there and stared at it for a few minutes and finally tapped him on his shoulder and pointed it out to him. In the old days that twenty wouldn't have hit the floor! The more I change my actions; the more my actions change. How do you change something? (They asked in treatment) By doing something different; is the answer.
One last story about my rigorous honesty in early sobriety. I had spent 104 days in treatment and immediately went to transitional housing (The Salvation Army) for what was called "further treatment". I stayed in the Salvation Army PASS Program for eight months. My third month there I was able to get a part time job. One day after work I was starving and decided to use the drive thru at Burger King. This was during my "I'm eating meat now because I wasn't eating anything but Little Debbie's in my addiction" days. I ordered a cheeseburger and a small fry. I drove away and opened the bag. Instead of one cheeseburger I saw two. My first thought was' Dag, I'm lucky!" My second thought was to return the extra cheeseburger. "If you're not honest you'll get drunk!" I turned my car around and went back thru the drive thru and tried to return the extra cheeseburger. The guy looked at me like I was crazy and asked me to move along because there were people behind me. I pulled off, parked my car and went inside with the cheeseburger. I asked to speak with the manager. I explained that I had purchased a cheeseburger and they gave me an extra one and I wanted to return it. She looked at me like I was crazy too and said she couldn't take it back. I left it on the counter and walked out. I felt proud and patted myself on the back for doing something different and sticking to my plan to change my actions and stay sober! I leaped in my car feeling lighter than a cloud. On my way out of the parking lot I glanced at a sign out the corner of my eye. It read: "Cheeseburgers .. two for $1.50"!!