Today's episode is with Ben S. from Center City, Philadelphia. I know Ben from my meetings and from our city. I met Ben as he was attending one of his first meetings out of treatment. He relates this story and talks more about what commitment in recovery means to him. Truly inspirational and I'm grateful to be walking the same path at the same time.
Good morning. Today is February 16th. How's it going, Mike?
Oh, it's going so well, great day today. How are you doing?
Doing great. And I'm very excited today. We have with us Ben S he's from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and here to talk about the daily reflection on commitment, credo and Ben.
Well, thank you, Ben. It's great to have you on the show. Thanks for having me. So, you know, the drill, we usually get started by having the guests read the daily reflection for the day. So you want to get us, get us rolling. So literally February 16th commitment understanding is the key right principles and attitudes, and right action is the key to good living, 12 steps and 12 traditions. Page one 25. There came a time in my program of recovery. When the third stands of the serenity prayer, the wisdom to know the difference became indelibly imprinted in my mind, from that time on, I had to face the ever-present knowledge that my every action word and thought was within or outside the principles of the program. I can no longer hide behind the self rationalization nor behind the insanity of my disease. The only course open to me if I was to attain a joyous life for myself and subsequently for those I love was one in which I imposed on myself in effort of commitment, discipline, and responsibility. Good job. Thanks for reading that. I was sitting here thinking, and especially as
You got to reading about the third stanza and how that's got to be in line with the principles of the program tell me what it means to you. What is this daily reflection mean to you? Ben
Mike, when I was chosen to do this, I had looked at the list of daily reflections and the first one at the top of the list was commitment in bold letters in parentheses. And I want to talk about that for a sec. It really stuck out to me when I was in a mere Mont treatment facility and about to leave, my counselor had sat down with me and he said, we're going to recommend four days of IOP and eight meetings a week. And I looked at him and I said, eight meetings a week. There's only seven days. He said, yeah, four days of IOP and eight meetings a week. And I repeated that again. I said, there's only seven days in a week and this went back and forth a few times. And finally he looked at me and he said, you know what? That, that eighth meeting is for.
He said, that's for commitment. And it stuck with me and it's still sticks with me to this day. And I will never forget it. When I came into this program prior to prior to getting sober I was the opposite of commitment. I committed the least amount to something I could in able to be passable, you know, and that goes back to my childhood and school. I was like a BC student and not because I wasn't smart, it was that I just didn't apply myself. If it was a topic that I cared about, I would get an a, if it was something I did not care about, it was a D just to pass. And you know, that stuck with me for a very, very long time of how I lived my life and coming out of recovery, what will, let me back up, going into rehab.
I joke about saying that I graduated from recovery with a 4.0 GPA. Cause it was the first time in my life that I went in and fully committed to something, you know, out of the gate, they kind of test you when you're, when you're in rehab, you go in and you're in there and they, you know, in the beginning, it's kinda like they feel you out where, okay, how much time is this guy gonna spend in his room? And how much time is he gonna kind of go out and be a part of society and do the things we're asking. And I entered into rehab in the evening. One night got a late meal. It was basically a saran wrap. Ham sandwich, went to my room, fell asleep, woke up the next morning. And the guy who was my roommate, who I didn't even see in the evening we woke up together and I said, where are you going?
He said, Oh, we, we, we have a meeting. And then we go to lunch. And then none of this was explained to me. And and none of this was told that no one said, this is what I had to do. I had no idea what I was walking into. And I got up, I got myself together. I went to the cafeteria. I did meet, I call it the end of that morning meeting because I just wasn't up in time for it. But from that moment on, I made everything that they asked me to do. I got a schedule. I stuck to that schedule. When I was asked to write something, I would write it when I was asked to be somewhere, I would be there early. I would stay till the end. And that carries. That is where I'm at today. My sobriety date is October 5th, 2017. And here I am a little over three years of sobriety and I pretty much follow that level of commitment, not only in my recovery, but it
Congratulations on three years of sobriety, that's pretty big deal. Thank you. What do you think gave you that willingness out of the gate going into rehab?
This, this was not my first time getting sober, although it was my first time in a program of any type I had. I've experimented with many substances, 40 years old and through my teens and my twenties, you know, I, I tried, you know, just about everything. And I smoked pot from a teenager right up until I got sober when I was 37 years old as a daily thing. But I got tangled up in some substances that were highly addictive about 10 years ago. And I didn't think I had a drug problem. I just thought I got mixed up with the wrong substances and that they were highly addictive and I just needed to free myself from these. And I would be okay with the help of an addiction doctor or specialist, a psychiatrist. I was able to get myself sober off of this substance.
I didn't listen to the suggestions. As far as you should go to an AA, you should, or an any meeting or you should join a 12 step fellowship or you should get a sponsor. All these things. I threw out the window. I said, I am not an alcoholic. I am not a drug addict. I'm just stuck, you know, in this, in this loop that I was put into. And I just didn't think that I was, you know, one of you guys, right. And so I got sober from these substances, but I never followed a program. Never did anything. And within three years, four years of being sober from those substances, I found myself right back where I was, if not worse off than where I started not with those substances, but primarily alcohol and some other substances that a regular part of my life to the point that I was, you know, you hear this all the time.
I would work throughout the day. I would start getting the shakes around noon one o'clock I work on the road, I'm a contractor. So I mean all different locations, but it did not matter where I worked. I knew where every liquor store was. I knew where bar was that I can take out a six pack to go. And I found myself, you know, once it was noontime on, I was rushing to finish my day to get to somewhere where I can get liquor or beer or whatever, whatever it was and be cracking the bottle open by the time I got into my car and be drinking on my way home. And in some cases I would get two bottles. So I'd walk in the house with a sealed bottle and leave the bottle I opened in the car. So no one would think I had a problem. So yeah.
Yeah. You know, I think the common thing in your story there, a common theme is that you needed a solution. Right. And you found that solution in a bunch of different things. How does that work with you today? What's your solution today?
So the, you know, the reading about commitment, you know, I just look, we were told in this program to take it one day at a time, I was always trying to look months in advance and, and just overwhelm myself with so much stuff. And I found that if I just try to get through one day at a time fully, you know, get up in the morning, eat healthy, workout, get to meetings be a part of this community, get my work done, not lie, not steal, not cheat, you know, do all those things that I'm able to follow a very good path. And it's a better path than I've ever been on before in my life. You know, I always go back to where I, what I said in the beginning, I would always try to cut corners and you know, do as little as possible to get through things.
And when I just started to really apply myself, that's when my life really, really started to change and opportunity started to come. And then, you know, what grew with that as a bit of patience as well, I started to gain a patients that I never had before. I would always rush through everything. And, and, you know, being sober, I've learned to have a little bit of patience where, you know, some of these offers and things that have come my way because of my sobriety, I've been able to take the time and actually think about and make the right decisions on the right things for myself, the right things for my family. I was never able to do that.
So in the daily reflection, it says the wisdom to know the difference became indelibly imprinted in my mind. And from that time on, I had to face the ever-present knowledge that my every action or thought was either within or outside the principles of the program. How do you know what's inside or what's outside? I think what's cool. It's like, how do you, how do you gut check it?
Something I saw when I came into this you know, and I never shared this with Mike when I would, I would come to sunrise semester, men's meeting on Saturday mornings at 8:00 AM, and it was one of the first meetings I went to. And I still try to go to a little less often now because the zoom, but you know, when it was in person, I was there pretty regularly, regularly. You know, we would all raise our hands in the beginning. You know, if you were a newcomer or if you had an anniversary and whatever the case may be. And I would see Mike sitting there and, you know, somebody raised their hand for an anniversary. He would get up and he would walk around the back. And I didn't know what he was doing at that time. And I saw him go in and get a clipboard and get a little sobriety certificate and a coin.
And he would fill out the information on it and then he would pass it around and he would do that for whomever needed that information. Also, when people came in the room that were newcomers and needed a, a beginner's packet, you know, he would go and do those things. And I've never shared this with him, but seeing somebody get up and do something for others, not being told to do it, that was huge for me in the beginning to be able to follow somebody to see somebody do something like that. And, and to kind of say, okay, I can, I can do that too. I, I can actually reach out my hand and help somebody, you know, that was big for me and today working with a sponsor and following, you know, doing the steps and really learning a lot about myself. I feel like I've been able to learn what's really right and wrong in my life. Not only, you know, where, where my life took me when I wasn't sober, but now where my life is taking me today, as I am sober.
I love that. So you have a child, dear?
I do. I have a three-year-old. So you had her in sobriety, him, his name is miles. No, that's all right. Yeah, you probably see, I don't know if you see it on the zoom, but I have toys. We, my wife got pregnant when, before I got sober and, you know, she had asked me for a long time before, before you know, she got pregnant, you know, are you going to stop drinking? Are you going to stop doing this? You're going to stop doing that. And yeah, yeah, I'll do it. I'll do it. And I would try to stop one substance for a little bit and just use another substance. I would, okay. I'm not going to drink beer. I'm just gonna smoke pot or, okay. I'm not going to drink liquor. I'm just going to drink beer. And you know, that whole thing went on for quite frankly, a few years.
And then it dawned on me, which is, it's just, I kind of had this spiritual experience. You know, some people have it when, when they get sober. I had a spiritual experience when I was still using, and it was the last day I ever used. And my wife was about five months pregnant. And I realized like everything came crashing down on me. And I just realized that I could not do this on my own. There was no way possible. And you know, all the subtle hints that I had gotten in the past about, you know, going to rehab or go into an AA meeting or all these different things, just like all hit me at one time. And I ended up checking myself into a emergency room at Brinmar rehab or through more hospital cause they have a good psych program and I spent the night there and then the next day I was in Miramar treatment facility.
And you know, I did my time there and now here I am in the rooms and part of this fellowship, my son has never seen the old me, the me that, you know, the drinking me, the drugging me. And that's huge, huge part of my life. Before I got sober, I was literally in the hospital with my wife, going into the bathroom while she's there for a checkup for our child and doing cocaine in the bathroom. Okay. That that's, that's what I, that's where I was. And today to be a part of his life for every moment that he has been alive. There's not words that can explain something like that. You know, that, that I'm here and I'm held accountable. And I've been a part of every moment of his life that I can, that I can be, of course, you know, I can't be next to him all day long, but I'm present and I was not, I was not present before and I don't have to cut off or cut out to go drink or drug somewhere just to be comfortable with sitting in a room with my child or at a birthday party or whatever it might be.
I see you show up in meetings and I've seen you out there in the world with your wife and your, and your son. And it's beautiful. It's an amazing thing. And I think it's, you know, going back to the daily reflection, it's like the only course open if you want to attain the joyous life is to do these things, right. What's your program look like today? Are you, are you attending daily meetings? Are you, do you do commitments? What's your sponsorship family look like?
I'm actually really glad you asked these questions. So a few months back, you know, we're all in this zoom phase. You know, if someone's listening to this in the future, it is 2021 and we are still in a pandemic. And when, you know, when this whole zoom thing happened, I was fighting it in the beginning. I, you know, I'm, I'm there in, literally in the room by myself at an AA meeting with a phone because I don't want to be committed fully to zoom. You know, after a few months of zoom, I kind of backed off of this program. I would only maybe attend one, maybe two meetings a week. And I found myself after a few months of that really having a lot of resentments and you know, not able to sit with myself and not able to like handle simple situations that I used to handle before.
I would say in October, I started to do a 90 90 again, cause I knew, you know, Hey, I got to hit more meetings. I really got to tap back into my program. So I started doing a 90 and 90 and I started going to a lot more morning meetings. So I'd wake up and, and get to a meeting. And as well as I would do some afternoon meetings. So, you know, here we are in February and I'm definitely, you know, I've surpassed the 90 and 90 date count, but I've well surpassed the 90 and 90 meeting count as well. I was doing honestly too many meetings, but at least one to two meetings a day. And all of a sudden all my problems started to get fixed. I was able to sit with myself again you know, things that I was trying, I started to put aside all of a sudden started to get done and I started feeling much better with myself.
As far as sponsorship, I do have a sponsor. He has a sponsor, you know, I've only sponsored one guy and I'm not currently sponsoring him now. He wasn't in the program for that long. And he went back out. I do know, cause I do keep in touch with him. He entered back into a rehab facility and he is coming back in the rooms and we do keep in touch. But I haven't really been sponsoring people now, you know, this is to all the people that are out there that aren't sponsoring people. I really want you to hear this. You know, I am fully involved in this, in this program of alcoholics anonymous. I chair meetings whenever given the opportunity, I speak my story whenever, given the opportunity I've speaking, I spoke at IOP groups. I take on the for COVID I took on regular speaking commitments at local hospitals, the VA hospital Presbyterian hospital.
I really, really enjoy doing that. And I really enjoy giving back. Since zoom I've only had the option or opportunity to do that once, but, but given the opportunity, I absolutely would do it again. A matter of fact, I miss it. Back in October when I was not really involved in this program, that was one of the first things I did. I found a service commitment and took it and immediately started feeling better about myself. You know, before COVID things were a little different where you set up chairs, you take down the chairs, you make the coffee, you greet people. I am fully involved in all of that. There's only so much you can do when you're on these zoom meetings. I try to do the best I can, but it, it is tough. It is very, it is really tough it's and it's tough to meet people too, you know, at meetings, I try to give my number out, you know, whenever I can, I try to raise my hand when they ask, you know, if you're willing to be a sponsor, I put my hand up all the time.
But it's just, it's been a little bit more difficult in this time to find sponsees. And, and for them to find me, quite frankly,
I hear so much service in not only your program, but just who you are as a person. Now, it's just such a cool thing to see that happen. And people, you know, in just a few years going from so selfish to, to now serve as being just one of your top values, what would you suggest to the newcomer coming in?
Well, first off you got to show up to meetings. You gotta, you gotta just show up it's. That was the toughest thing for me to walk in the door. But once I walked in the door and let me, let me explain my first experience with AA cause that's important. Especially for a newcomer to hear my first experience with AA. I got out of rehab on a Saturday morning and I made it to a Saturday evening meeting in Rittenhouse at Holy Trinity church. And I walk up and there's a group of people standing outside and the doors were locked. They were having another event in the room where the meeting was. And I knew nothing about AA. I knew nothing about how to find meetings. One of the guys looked at me, he recognized that I was not a familiar face, know Philadelphia AA community.
And he said, are you new here? I said, yes, I got out of rehab today. She said, Oh, where'd you go? And he went to Miramar and I went to Miramar and he said, he looked, Michael, appreciate this. He looked at his app on his phone and found another meeting, which was started in 20 minutes and it was only a few blocks away. And he said, I'm going to take you to this meeting. And we walked down the street together and that was my first experience with the meeting. So the doors were left wide open and people's arms were wide open to kind of draw me in and bring me into this whole thing. So the people that like are kind of frightened by it, there's nothing to be scared about. You know, you got to show up to your first meeting and once you do that, it really opens up the door to a whole new realm of possibilities.
So you show up that's number one, you just keep coming back. That's a statement I write on everybody's anniversary certificate. Keep coming back. You just gotta keep coming back. The miracle will happen. You know, it does, for some people, it takes years for some people, it doesn't take as long. Some people, you know, there are people in this program with 40 plus years of sobriety and they're still tripping over themselves, but they keep coming back and they haven't had a drink. So that's that's number one, the most important I was at my third or fourth meeting and a guy who has been in and out of this program quite frequently, since I've been in it. He said to me, after a meeting, he said, do you have a sponsor? And I said, no. He said, well, you should get a temporary sponsor.
And the very next meeting I went to, I liked what somebody said when they add a share. And after the meeting, I asked him to be my sponsor and coincidentally, it was a business meeting of that group. So he said, can you stick around for the business meeting? And we go out to pizza afterwards. He said, would you like to come? I said, absolutely. So I stuck around for that business meeting, which immediately put me into service, which I didn't even know that I, what I was doing at the time. And then we went out to pizza and I've been going out to dinner with the same group of people every Wednesday night since then. And that, you know, so, so get a sponsor. That's super, super important. He also told me, listen, you got to call other people. You can't just rely on me.
So I would get numbers to other, you know, other people in AA. And my phone is full of phone numbers for me to call. And these people, I do call some people are just people I know from the meeting that, you know, I only seen in the meeting, others have become my very good and hopefully lifelong friends. And I do call them all the time. And then, you know, obviously get yourself in service. Service was so big for me in the beginning, just to be a part, to feel included in something. Again, you know, my drinking and drug drugging led me down a road where I was just alone all the time I was drinking and drugging by myself. I couldn't do anything. No one wanted to do anything with me. And all of a sudden I started opening up to people and I had all these people that wanted to open themselves up to me. And that really changed my life. Just getting into service, meeting a sponsor, you know, you'll get through the steps. Don't be scared about the steps. Don't be scared about the whole God thing. You know, that comes. You might, you know, you may figure it out. You might not it's okay. You'll get through it.
I love that advice.
Fantastic. I want to thank you so much. You're a rock star, man. You're an inspiration for real. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Ben. Amen. Thanks so much to Ben for stopping by sharing his experience, strength and hope. Hope you enjoyed it.