Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Sober life: Making amends to oneself

Today’s random-play soundtrack:

“Vertigo” by U2

Yeah, so a week ago I wrote about how crazy this past week was going to be.

Managed to rent the apartment next door. Husband left town Wednesday; school let out Thursday; got house-sitters and garden-people ready to look after the home-place so The Kid and I can fly across the pond and join Big Daddy, whose parents have moved to a nursing home.

Meanwhile, this week, beloved father-in-law fell inside the nursing home, confirming that he needs full-time care… So once The Kid and I arrive, we will be helping pack up the house to show it to buyers.

I’d written about how afraid I was of the OTC codeine in the UK… It’s like muscle-memory: “Go to UK, buy codeine.” It wasn’t an obsession, it was just knowledge, an insistent possibility, a niggling at the back of my mind, what is sometimes called “squirrelliness.” I felt squirrelly.

Tried to get out of my own head by focusing on what I could do to Help. But beyond pack stuff up, shred documents, whatever, what could I really do?—not much. I can’t do anything to change their overall situation. I love them, and their condition is deteriorating inexorably. I can’t save them. It presses on my Fear Of Abandonment, one of my primary defects.

So, I did what one of my sponsors trained me to do: I put my hand up at meetings and I asked for help.

After Monday’s meeting, my friend C came up to me. She’s 73, exceedingly physically fit. She could probably outrun me in a 5K. Has more than 20 years. She always takes my calls and even though there are lots of people with my name (believe it or not) in the meetings, she always knows which one I am when I call. (Like, maybe she has it marked in her phone? duh.) … She’s always going somewhere. In a couple of weeks, she’s off to another state to teach. I want to be like C when I grow up.

“I know exactly how you can help this family,” she says urgently.


“You can STAY SOBER,” she says, shaking my arm. “That’s the first and best way you can help them. If you use, you will abandon yourself, and you’ll be unable just to be present for them, which is a great service in and of itself.

What a way to keep it simple.

I realize, my addiction tells me, if I can’t heal fractures, if I can’t cure dementia, if I can’t personally pack up the entire house in four days and maybe even find a buyer—if I can’t Fix It, I’m not Helping. I like the Big High.

And the thing about Abandonment. C said,

If you use, you will abandon yourself.

I’ve been sitting with this all week.

When we identify a character defect that is a harm, I was taught, we pray that our Higher Power will remove it and replace it with its opposite. If one of my primary defects is impatience, I pray for this to be removed and to be replaced with patience.

If my character defect is Fear Of Abandonment—specifically abandonment of myself—then the opposite would be… a Return To Self. Acceptance that I’m enough as I am.

No matter what, I never have to leave myself again.

Making amends to oneself is controversial depending on whom you talk to. For example AA’s book doesn’t mention it; AlAnon’s does. I’ve decided that if there is one last amend I have to make, it is this one. As I said in a women’s (AA) meeting Friday, this feels so major, and yet at the same time really simple, and lots of heads were nodding.

Bear with me as I take a day or two off to make the journey and get settled…


  1. I thought that the existence of opiate receptor phenomena was well documented everywhere. I first learned of this in a week long conference in 1990 in Orlando FL of Toxicologists and “CSI” type people including one infamous dentist. Working in the field of toxicology is thankless and demoralizing when you run into people who do not give a damn.
    I was told by an endearing Emergency Department director Dr. Joyce R. that I was “opiate insensitive” after I tried to destroy a gurney bed’s bars with my first kidney stone event and “enough to put down an elephant” of demerol on board. My very own family doc gave me all the codiene he had on hand after a back strain event knowing that I wasn’t an abuser type (wait til I purposefully intoxicated with ETOH after 25 years strict sobriety) and I eventually threw the tablets in the garbage. “Addictives” find a spot in our brains where love belongs I believe and a strong and powerful love can drive out the fake substance. First I must become lovable and that is what the 12 steps should be doing for me.

  2. Greetings from Mid Missouri!

    I don’t know what your particular experience with dementia is, but my father was recently diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease, sort of a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s with a lot of hallucinations. Along with that diagnosis, my mother has renal failure and requires dialysis three times per week. I thank my HP every day that I was able to sober up and just be here for them. I feel strongly that I got sober just in time for this period in my life and I had enough sober time to handle all of this without drinking again. A great deal of my experience was learning to forgive myself for being human, as well as being an alcoholic.

  3. guinevere

    June 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Beth… my father-in-law also has Lewy Body Disease. … Today I stayed away from the pharmacy and cleaned cupboards and rain gutters and put myself to use for my beloved mother-in-law. I felt truly free from my “old manager” … for the first time it occurred to me I might be able to go anywhere in the world and not be threatened by the possibility of “having” to use. Because I don’t have to anymore.

    Appreciate your words about forgiveness of self…

    Meeting fellow-travelers helps. I met some here last night, and I’m thankful to meet you… –G

  4. I was the first on the list to make amends to and my Higher Power was next. I had to do that in order to make amends ot others.

  5. 12 &12 pg 79. *In many instances we shall find that though the harm done others has not been great, the emotional harm we have done ourselves has. Very deep, sometimes quite forgotten, damagingemotional conflicts persist below the level of consciousness.*
    Not quite amends to oneself but clearly by the time the 12 & 12 was written the need for acknowledging the damage we do to ourselves was there.

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