Suggestions Only

I got a slow start to my sobriety and recovery. I stopped drinking and started spending time with others working on the same mission of sobriety. I didn’t dive in head first though, or even step in with both feet. People had suggestions for me, but I was stubborn and took my own path.

That path led to raging workaholism. I was working myself ragged and consumed by unreasonable expectations. The hole in my soul that I used to fill with excessive drinking  was now being filled by excessive work. I was isolating in a different, but just as deadly, way.

The escape and release I could attain in a few drinks were no longer an option. But continuing to live the way I was would lead me back to alcohol sooner or later. Wound tight and stuck in an unhealthy pattern, something would have to give. Change was needed.

I was nearing three years sober when I took a different job in a new location. It was going to be vital to make some changes in my approach to work, and also in my approach to recovery. My stubbornness was making me thirsty.

When I started my new teaching and coaching job, I also started seeking stronger connections to others in recovery.

One of the key people in my life at this critical time was my friend Phyl. (Her full name was Phyllis, but Phyl fit her.) Here she is in March of 1993, in the first months that I knew her:


We met among other recovering people. Phyl was as serious about recovery as I needed to be. She started a recovery house and offered space for recovering alcoholics and addicts to gather. Through her, I witnessed the value of working with others and being of service. Numerous times in that house I saw the raw pain of the newly sober. My pain was the same, but different.

On a personal level, Phyl became one of my first spiritual advisors. My ego was impeding my progress, though I didn’t fully understand that at the time. Her suggestions and our conversations helped me get on track with right efforts and right sources of support. I started getting out of my own way.

My recovery started to blossom, and her sound advice helped. It was just what I needed then. One of her suggestions was to see a substance abuse counselor. She wasn’t the first to recommend this, but she was the first who compelled me to take action.

I saw a very good counselor numerous times over the next 18 months. I worked hard discovering and discarding some of the messy emotions of my childhood. It helped me tremendously.

I continue to follow through on one of her other recommendations to this day. That recommendation was to study and discuss with others in recovery the books and readings about how to live life on life’s terms; not only sober, but also sane and even serene at times. This has led to much growth, learning, and acceptance for me, and there is more awaiting if I continue to follow the suggestions of Phyl and other wise souls. Putting down the drink is only a beginning.

Phyl has made such a difference in my life in the years I knew her and since. Her advice, though suggestions only, came along just when I was ready to go deeper into the work of recovery. The Great Spirit crossed our paths, knowing that Phyl and I would help one another. I will forever be deeply grateful to Phyl and this kind and loving Great Spirit she helped me find in my own life.

We didn’t always see eye to eye on things, and as our recoveries progressed, we grew apart in ways. We lost touch after I moved away, about 5 years after we met.

Years later, I went looking for her in hopes of connecting, and so I could send her a gratitude letter. In my search, I found something I didn’t want to find…her obituary. She died in 2009, sober, having touched many, many lives in many, many ways.

I regret that we didn’t get to have another conversation, that I couldn’t tell her face to face what her support and suggestions mean to me. Her wisdom and her deep desire to help others find sober and useful lives is being carried on, in me and many more.

Thank you from the bottom of my sober and sane heart Phyl!

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