(Originally written Monday, July 27, 2009 at 8:28 p.m.)
THE A.A. PROMISES
(From the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, pages 83-84)
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 selfpity 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.Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
I added the bold and underlined part in the above quote from the Big Book. All of the above promises are gradually coming true for me, but the part I highlighted is especially important as I contemplate retirement. Just a few months ago I sat in fear of even paying my bills between paychecks! That hasn't happened to me in 25 years. But thanks to the AA program and my recovery, I've been very lucky to regain my financial security. Well, at least I'm on the way to it.
It's amazing how much money I used to spend on alcohol. I didn't drink it all myself! I was one of those guys at the bar who had to always buy for his friends. And if I was drunk enough, which I frequently was, I'd buy rounds for the entire bar. Not to mention hosting the party condo for a couple of summers. It didn't matter; isn't that why credit cards were invented?
Two and a half years and $30,000 later I was suddenly drinking because financial problems were in my life, right? Not so, not so. It was my alcoholism. That was the root of all my problems. My disease, over which I had no control, was running rampant. I could see in the distance that it might eventually impact my retirement but I thought I had plenty of time to put the brakes on, whenever I thought I was ready to stop.
The fear of financial insecurity paralyzed me last November/December. I knew I would be eligible to retire in May this year and I felt I was fizzling out mentally and emotionally and on the verge of burnout; I needed to retire. But I wouldn't be able to with my financial situation the way it was. Worse still, my health was deteriorating.
In a way, that was the more fortunate, if you can call it that, wake-up call. If my health had not been threatened I doubt I would have hauled myself to detox when I did. There were a host of events, thought processes, emotional issues, etc., that lead to the decision to admit myself to detox. The bottom line was this. I didn't want to die. All I knew was that I had to get sober. I didn't know how that would happen after I got through detox, but I knew I had to make the first step.
It was during detox and rehab that I was introduced to AA. I haven't regretted the decision to join "the cult," as many people like to call it, jokingly or not. Whatever you want to say about it, one thing is true. Go to enough meetings and they will certainly interfere with your drinking! LOL
Thanks to AA I not only have my physical sobriety back, buy my emotional and spiritual sobriety as well. Working the steps and continuing the meetings keeps me grounded and centered. I made the decision just in time, back in December, because my health has completely recovered. I've gradually regained my sanity and serenity. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on drinking and buying drinks, I am paying off credit card debt and planning for retirement.
Am I where I could have been without alcoholism in my life? Of course not. Am I even where I wish I could be now? No way. But I have achieved something in seven months of sobriety I never expected. The fear of economic insecurity has left me. That's a significant improvement.
I will be able to retire soon! In fact, the official date is January 2, 2010, 159 days from today. My civil service retirement will be intact, although my thrift savings fund, which was already significantly impacted by the economic crisis of the past year and a half or so, will be seriously depleted in order to pay off my remaining debt when I retire. What's left (mortgage, car payment, etc.) I will be able to manage comfortably without having to work, unless I want to. I'll have some left over to continue saving and a cushion for trips, or maybe that extravagance I've got my eye on - a big-screen TV.
Considering how it could have turned out, I feel extremely fortunate! Don't think that money is the most importing thing in my life by any means, everyone. This is a topic currently in the forefront of my mind because I've been actively researching retirement the past few weeks, but trust me, my recovery through AA has more to do with my health, family relationships, friendships, emotional and spiritual wellbeing than my financial stability!