Destination Hope Blog » Podcast #2: The Hope Shot

Podcast #2: The Hope Shot

Good morning everybody, I’m Jim Magner

And this is John Reeck.

Welcome to The Hope Shot

Jim:

So, John, we were just talking a couple minutes ago, before we got started here, and you came up with a pretty interesting topic – being uncomfortable in early recovery.

John:

And long-term recovery.

Jim:

Recovery is uncomfortable a lot of times.

When you’re sitting there talking about it for a minute and I start to think. When I think about recovery…it’s doing the things that we don’t always want to do…that are going to better our lives. And that’s always uncomfortable.

John:

The anxiety that comes along with… and still it’s not like that goes away, but I’ve definitely learned how to cope more effectively with my anxiety. My anxiety used to paralyze me and prevent me from experiencing so much that life has to offer. The gifts that we get in recovery. Thank God for the people in recovery that came before me that literally forced me to attend spaghetti dinners and gratitude dinners and get involved in service at these big events. It was not a comfortable situation for me. I remember shaking like a leaf, stuttering when people talked to me, sweating like an animal because of the anxiety. But then not wanting to let my friends down, my sponsor down and pushing through that. And thank God for that, because I missed so much of life because of my anxiety.

Jim:

It’s funny. I can remember early recovery. I was a guy in my 20s that went to rehab three times. I was never one for suggestions. The first couple of times I had gone to treatment, and by the time I was so beaten and broken down, that last run I was willing to do whatever it took. So, the suggestions hadn’t changed from the first time I tried to get sober to when I finally got sober, but I was finally willing to get a sponsor, get a home group. I can remember just getting a sponsor and going up to complete strangers: I’m from Massachusetts – I’m down here in Florida. I’ve got my treatment counselor telling me “tonight at the meeting, you need to go find five men with over two years clean and introduce yourself to them and get their phone number.”

John:

I don’t know about you, but growing up in my neighborhood, you really didn’t do that. Introduce yourself to strangers.

Jim:

I always had this “Oh I can go talk to girls.” Even when I had zero confidence and self-esteem. The challenge in me and the ego – I’ll go get a girl’s number. But now, all of a sudden, it was real – go talk to a man and try and get better. It’s just weird to me, but again I was at that point and so I can remember going to these meetings and shaking. I was sweating during the meeting – Oh my God, I wish this meeting would… the fire alarm would go off and we’d have to leave. As they’re getting ready to do the serenity prayer at the end – I’ve got to go up to five guys after this meeting and I don’t know who has two years clean; I don’t know who to ask for their numbers.

John:

Are they going to like me? What are they going to think of me…Are they going to judge me? Do they like the way I dress…all those insecurities.

Jim:

I felt like the nerd in high school asking the prom queen out – what am I doing here? And I remembered saying f**k it, I’m going to do it. This was the challenge that was presented to me and it was very uncomfortable but walking through that discomfort helped me grow. I remember going into group the next day and seeing my counselor…and I only got two numbers the first time. So, I failed because I was supposed to get five. But it was progress, because at least I was willing to try. So one of the things we talked about at group: “Jimmy why didn’t you get five numbers.” The excuses started to pile up instantly – I didn’t know five people that had two years clean. The first thing he said was “why didn’t you ask the guy who gave you the first number if he knew of anybody.” I could have made it real easy.

I was just so terrified and just trying to get this f**king guy’s number so I could just be done. Let me get out of here, let me half-ass this assignment. He’s like, “now you got to get seven.”

John:

Two things come to mind for me. I think of the blessing of having a sponsor that was at the same meeting every day. It was a 5:30 meeting and I got the opportunity to sit with him every day and he literally eased me into this stuff. The first thing he told me – I remember this… “You’ve been around a while; now you’re getting through some steps, but I’ve never heard you share. You never raised your hand. Tonight, I want you to try that. I mean, you don’t have to, but I want to see if you can do it. Raise your hand and share.”

So now the pressure was on. Just the thought of it made me sweat and I’m sitting there and – I got to do this, I got to do it. He’s suggesting I do it. So, what I did is while the speaker was speaking, I was not focusing because I kept saying to myself “I could share on that; I could share on that” and all these great things I was going to share. Then they opened up the meeting and I remember…I raised my hand and I just drew a blank and I shared something I don’t remember. But I remember, after I was done, I beat myself up in my head – I’m like: “that’s not what I wanted to say.” I was supposed to say this … I say that. I talked to my sponsor about it afterward he said “listen John, you said exactly what was supposed to be said. Don’t worry about it.”

Jim:

It took me it took me about two months. but I was lucky my sponsor actually wouldn’t let me raise my hand in a meeting. Not that I was going to, but he told me straight up you’re not going to speak in these meetings.  When I was going to raise my hand, I needed to sound like the most profound…I needed everyone to be like oh my god Jimmy understands everything.

John:

Nothing less than that is acceptable… I have to be that.

Jim:

So, there was no chance I was going to raise my hand and share at any moment in early recovery. Thank you, Mo, for not asking me to do that. But I kind of wish that I had, cuz I know once I started to raise my hand and share, it became so freeing. Even when I was just relating to what the speaker would have to say and it would hit me….

John:

I think for me that made me feel more a part of. I’m doing what everybody’s doing around me. I’m doing what people in recovery are doing and it made me start to feel a part of.

Jim:

I think about all the discomfort that comes with the suggestions and recovery. We’re sitting here talking about – get a sponsor, ask a guy for help, if you’re female ask a female for help. Start to build those relationships. Those seem like the most uncomfortable things in the world when we were in early recovery. But just getting sober – you talk about uncomfortable – like heroin addicts, opiate addict, alcoholics, detox.

John:

Dude, I remember day one in treatment. I guess fathoming the rest of my life – I could never feel that escape again. I have to feel like this.

Jim:

But just the detox feeling of just shaking and shivering and just like oh my god, am I gonna live through this. With all that discomfort, you finally get past the shakes and the sweats and everything else and you’re starting to feel physically a little bit better. I can remember I couldn’t taste food. So, when all of a sudden, I could taste food again a week later it was, wow, you take stuff for granted.

John:

Then you start psychologically decompensating because of the reality of what’s going on

Jim:

Right and so with all that that discomfort…and now all of a sudden, they give you these suggestions of how to continue to stay sober and clean for the rest of your life. And that becomes too difficult. It just makes me laugh at times.

John:

It’s mind-blowing how the mind, how the brain can just be so dysfunctional.

Jim:

That’s where I love the disease concept. When my head goes to that awful stinking thinking that they call it – the disease, the disease, the brain disease.

My head had me out there forever. And, when they talk about how simple it really is to get clean and sober. It really is – just take the suggestions. Stop using, build a support network of people that understand what it takes…that have been there. Open up to them and let them know what’s going on, Now, it took me a while…

John:

Thank God for the people that are mentoring us. Our sponsors that know how to read us and know what we need. My favorite uncomfortable memory: My sponsor tells me – we’re at step three – and there’s a prayer involved with step three. My sponsor tells me: “look, I want you to get with Kevin” – Kevin is one of my sponsee brothers. I tell Kev what Thomas says and he says, “all right, come on, let’s go to go to my apartment.” We go in his bedroom – so this is another man and me in a bedroom. Each of us have our big book and he goes “hey, let’s kneel by the bed.” So, I’m on one side; he’s on the other side. So, now you’ve got two men kneeling at the bed – talk about uncomfortable – to pray together. He says, all right open up to page 63. He says, “let’s read the prayer.”

Jim:

Lemme ask…were you religious at this time, because I know you can…

John:

I’m not an extremely religious person, but I had a pretty clear understanding of who my higher power was.

Jim:

I only asked that because now, all of a sudden, there’s this whole stigma in the rooms when it comes to religion. And it’s a spiritual program not a religious program – now here you are, early recovery, with another man in a bedroom, opening up your big books to kneel before God.

John:

We read the prayer and it starts… “God I offer myself to thee to build with me and to do with me now as you will” And after that it says, “sometimes a great feeling was felt at once.” And Kevin looked at me…he goes, “You feel anything?” And I looked at him and I said I don’t feel anything. And I almost felt like this isn’t working. It didn’t work. Something was supposed to happen here, and it didn’t work.

My heart wasn’t opened, I didn’t feel God’s presence, I didn’t feel energy running through me. I didn’t feel any of that and I wanted it because the book said it could happen. And yeah, it’s not happening for me. If this won’t happen, I’m going to have to go back to the misery. I was so determined to do what I needed to do. I got scared, went back to my apartment and I literally cried. I was crying. I opened up the book and I went back to that prayer and I read it, and I read it again, and then I read it again and then it hit me: “Relieve me of the bondage of self.” That’s when the tears came. That’s when I cried, and something happened. In hindsight, my reading comprehension wasn’t very good back then. I was never a big reader. I could read but comprehend – I had to go back…and I was like, “that’s why.”

I was so uncomfortable kneeling with Kevin, reading, that there was no comprehension of what was going on. I was just anxious just to get through the moment – anxiety filled moment – to do what my sponsor said to do. But when I was alone and at peace with my higher power, it happened, and I cried and then it was joy in my heart. Now I get it, I get it. But yeah that’s one of my favorite uncomfortable moments and it’s funny…there’s a lot of stuff people could relate to – the feelings of discomfort; the anxiety.

Jim:

We’re going to put this on the website; the alumni page. I’m hoping the alumni will listen to this and share their thoughts on what are some of the things that you guys out there have been uncomfortable with in early recovery; in the past; whatever it is. This is all about opening up and talking. Early recovery; one of the things that was uncomfortable for me was just figuring out the bus system in Florida. Living in a halfway house with eight other men and just trying to survive. I was 29 years old; this wasn’t where I was supposed to be in my life. There are a lot of uncomfortable things that happen in early recovery and in life in general.

John:

How about this one. Being in the sober house and being uncomfortable because the guys in the house are doing sh*t you’re not supposed to do and co-signing it.

Jim:

Because you’re not telling on them.

John:

And then the other thing is getting the courage up to say you know what, this has got to stop. Don’t do it around me. If you do, I’m telling.

Jim:

I lived in the sober house with rules and structure because I needed rules and structure in my life. And if people were violating those rules and structure, you got to go.

John:

Thank God, again I keep going back to having a great sponsor, because I remember talking about it.  He says, “John, you just be a watcher in AA.” You watch what happens to those guys that aren’t doing the right thing for their recovery. They’re going to exit your life one by one. Sure enough, literally, over the course of the next few weeks to a month – Bink – they disappeared.

Jim:

I was real fortunate in early recovery. We had a great house that I lived in with the guys. It wasn’t a perfect house by any means. I go back to people places and things. I surrounded myself with the right people, going to the right places and doing the right things. For me, that meant hanging out with guys that went to meetings every day and had sponsors and worked steps. So, there were guys in our houses that were hopping in the car and going to the casino, going to the strip club, going here, going there.

John:

You come back and everybody had the girls in the house and you’re like, what’s going on?

Jim:

Those beds that they slept in…there was a different face that slept in that bed every day or week.  We had 12 guys in the house, I think, at one point and eight of us ended up staying clean for at least five years. A couple of us have now been clean for over a dozen years. Myself and my best friend, 13 years and counting. It was because we took those simple suggestions. It was uncomfortable – it didn’t always seem like we were going to make it, but we did and so I’m grateful for those experiences.

John:

I’m sitting here thinking… me and you, prior to this, come from two different states, two different walks of life. There’s so many synchronicities and commonalities between me and you and then also working two different fellowships. I remember we used to break each other’s chops a lot. Now realizing, we don’t do that anymore. We’ve grown a lot.

Now our differences just stem from football season.

Jim:

We’re going to wrap this up right now. I’m happy for everyone that wants to listen. Do us a favor, if you listen and when you listen to this podcast – like it, share it, comment…let us know what’s going on. Tell me some of the things that are uncomfortable in recovery for you. Tell me some of your fears, tell us what’s going on and let us know what you think. We appreciate your time. Thank you guys.

John:

I just want to say…don’t forget the circus is still in town.