Cannot Differentiate the True from the False

People Pleaser

It is pretty rare whenever I am in a meeting and the topic is not one I have already heard a hundred times. I am not disparaging the tried and true meeting topics; they’re classic for a reason, but whenever I hear a new one, my ears perk up just a little bit. I listen closer and think a little harder. Recently, I was in one of these meetings. The topic was, “Things people told you about yourself, things that were not true, that you believed.”

Many moons ago, when I lived in Boston, I had a friend who was studying criminal justice. This required her to take a variety of psychology and sociology classes, the kind of classes that makes one feel like they are experts in topics in which they really have zero understanding. One night we were talking, and in one of those moments of clarity, I said to her, “I think I am an alcoholic.”

My friend looked at me quizzically, paused, and in all earnestness said, “No, you are just a problem drinker.”

“Aha!” I thought, “I am a problem drinker!” And although deep down I knew it was not true, I clung to that idea for the next several years of my life.

Problem drinker… I don’t even know what that means.

The absurdity of the thing is, I always believed other people’s interpretations of me, good and bad. When I was told I didn’t have standards, when I was told that a degree in English was a waste of money, when I was told I wasn’t pretty because I weighed too much… all that. I believed all that. And a part of me still does.

“… [Alcoholics] cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false,” (Big Book xxviii).

I do not know why we are so bound to believe other people’s interpretations of ourselves, even over our own instinctual understanding of our own natures.

I have another memory, and that is the memory of when I first started this blog. I did not know what I was going to write about or how the blog would manifest. I just knew I needed to do it. I began to trust my own instinct rather than the words of others. For the first time in my life, I felt I was walking down the right path. I felt aligned and good. I felt like I was doing exactly what I was always meant to be doing.

The steps and recovery, the honesty I have with the women in my life, the ability to process, to meditate, to think, and to slow down have given me the ability to begin the process of knowing my true self- not the self that other people would like to believe I am, nor the person I wish I was, but my actual self.

And as awkward as it may be to admit… it’s been a real pleasure getting to know her.

Wife or No Wife

By: Anonymous

“Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job- wife or no wife—we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God” (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 98).

Cake or No Cake

The above statement is a powerful reminder to me that despite my material and external gains or losses, I simply did not stop drinking. I often would attend church services on Sunday, getting drunk at church brunch afterwards. By Monday, I would be in a state of confusion on where my spiritual juice went that I had received at church. It was covered by alcohol. I still was not putting a dependence on God, even when I desired to seek God. Naturally, I stopped going to church. God was not there. Ironically, many years later, my first AA meeting was in that very same church. I picked up my one and only desire chip there 8 years ago.

Hard knocks.  No one told me that hard knocks were going to cease when I got sober.  I was often told “It will get better” and “Things will change and get different.” I remember being over a year sober when I screamed in frustration at someone and said, “What is ‘It,’ that gets better?!” The person calmly looked at me and said, “You; you get better.” Lightbulb on.

I did get better. I worked the steps, sought outside help, worked with a sponsor, attended meetings, worked with others, and changed my behaviors, actions, and playgrounds. Hard knocks of life still occurred as they always will. No one is immune to this. How I handle the hard knocks is what the major difference between the sober alcoholic I am today and the drunk alcoholic I was.

“It is only when boy meets girl on A.A. campus…,” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions 119). I’m not sure when someone stole my 12 & 12 and inserted this page, but I surely do not recall reading it on any previous occasion. It is underlined, so I am sure a sponsor pointed it out at some point.

I found love on A.A. campus. Then after 6-years of dating, relationship, and marriage, I woke up on January 27, 2016, to my love being done with the marriage. 3 days later, she was gone and all of her belongings were in the spare room. 7 days later, all of our finances were untangled, and by Valentine’s Day every essence of our marriage and her presence was gone. 2 weeks. 2 weeks to undo 6-years. In many ways, I am grateful it was quick. In another way, I feel like I’m living out a bad nightmare that I must surely wake from soon.

I found myself thinking about that statement “wife or no wife.” I know with every fiber in my body that no matter what, I don’t drink. “Job or no job- wife or no wife,” I simply do not pick up a drink, and I put my dependence on God. This is not a new solution that applies for divorce, death, or any other hard knock. The solution and design for living is exactly the same as it was in the beginning. However this time, I had 8-years’ worth of spiritual tools at my feet to pick up. I talk about my feelings (argh), feel my feelings (double argh), meditate, journal, listen to music, read the literature, and pray. Then, I work the steps, seek outside help, meet with a sponsor, attend meetings, do service work, and change my behaviors, actions, and playgrounds. And it works.  It really does….If you work it.

Higher Power Auditions

Higher Power Auditions

 

After some conversation yesterday, I learned that not one person had any idea what my cartoon was about. So today, I tried to clarify. (PS- The silver thing is suppose to be a doorknob.) (PPS- I think if one has to explain a cartoon, it might not be that successful )  🙂

-AGK

Let Go Absolutely

Let Go AbsolutelyIt is fairly rare that someone says something new in a meeting that I have not heard before, but this is exactly what recently happened. The observation came from a line in “How it Works.” “Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely” (58). The gentleman in the meeting said that his old ideas included a sense of worthlessness, of insecurity, and feelings of less than.

Even though I generally zone out as “How it Works” is read, for the past week, I have thought about little else. I have always thought those lines had to do with drinking, about my old thoughts with alcohol, about the thoughts of whether or not I could ever drink like a lady. Never once had I considered all the other old ideas I had been holding on to. Now I can think of little else.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving. Letting go of old ideas also means letting go of the family that exists only in my imagination. My family is not the Norman Rockwell idealized greater version of ourselves. We are messy and dysfunctional and alcoholic and brilliant and interesting and funny. My family loves with a big heart, yet shows it in ways that are often misguided and uncomfortable. We think we know what we do not know. Words and deeds, meant to help, often lead to hurt feelings, arguments, and the taking of sides.

I think on some level we all suffer from this misconception of what families and the holidays are suppose to be rather than what they are. There seems to be a certain level or denial or delusion that comes with the holiday season. We gift wrap hurt and cover it with large bows of dysfunction because anything less would be to acknowledge that life is not perfect. “Just smile through it and whatever you do, don’t drink.”

This Thanksgiving, though, my love and I did something totally different. Instead of the traditional meal with family, we went to a friend’s house. While the food was incredible, it was the people that softened me. My friend and her husband are both in the program. And so is her family. And so are our friends. Throughout the day, the program was not sidestepped, but embraced. Gratitude was on everybody’s lips and in their hearts.

I really do not think I have ever had a better Thanksgiving, and yet, it didn’t feel like a “real” Thanksgiving. So, even though I had an amazing day, there is a little asterisks by it as if to say, “Really fantastic runner-up Thanksgiving.”

And that is the idea I need to let go of absolutely.

Measuring my insides by other people’s outsides is bad enough; measuring them to my own expectations is a nightmare. If my life or my holiday season does not go the way that I plan it or wish it does not make my life any lesser than it would be otherwise. It does not speak to some sort of failure. Those are the ideas that exist only in my head. Those are the thoughts of envy and fear. They are the ideas of some insane form of unattainable perfection. They are the thoughts that will get me nil results because they do not amount to anything of value.

What does give me results, what does add value to my life are the same things that give me results and value the rest of the year: AA, my higher power, the steps, service. Those are the ideas worth holding on to. When I can stay in the moment and purely appreciate the people and love that continually show up for me, I realize I am so incredibly blessed. It is that feeling of gratitude that I need to carry forward into the remainder of this season.

Lydia: Day 14

Lydia 14

Over the past couple of weeks, as the alcohol slowly left her system, she had been overcome with emotions. Feelings of anger gave way to self-pity, which quickly became elation. The day before, having gotten off the phone with her daughter, Lydia found herself in the awkward place of simultaneously crying and laughing. There was such a pall of depression and despair that clung to her life. And yet, for the first time in a very long time, there was also hope.

She had heard in the meetings that sobriety could only be reached when the pain of today exceeded the fear of tomorrow. That seemed to sum up so much for Lydia. She was worried about her impending divorce, about being poor and alone. The sensation was so acute, it made her body her body ache with the desire to drink. If she thought long enough about it, her palms would start to itch and sweat would break out on her upper lip. But it was also this gut wrenching, physical need to escape that had managed to keep her dry for the past two weeks. Lydia didn’t know much, but she knew anything that powerful, that existed inside of her, calling for her own self-destruction, was not good. She knew, in these moments, that if she gave in, she was likely to kill herself. And that terrified her.

The AA club had very quickly become a bastion of security for Lydia. As soon as she pulled into the parking lot, a wave of warmth and security began to replace her fear and insecurity. The club, though not especially lush, had a certain feel of comfort. Three overstuffed couches huddled in the far corner of the main room, next to a flat screen TV. Two tables sat in the middle. It was not uncommon for Lydia to see groups of twos or threes eating lunch, doing schoolwork, or playing a game.

But the people who attracted Lydia’s attention the most were the ones huddled over the hard covered, blue book. It was not very difficult to ascertain who was the sponsor and who was the sponsee. Lydia sat near them sometimes, sipping on her tea, trying at decode the meaning of their conversations.

Sometimes it would appear as if the sponsor and the sponsee were reading together. They would occasionally stop and point to certain lines of the Big Book and have a soft discussion followed by much head nodding.

Sometimes, the women looked like they were having fun. The conversation would revolve around a cup of coffee and a laugh. There seemed to be a comradery about these women and a genuine sense of care and affection. Lydia wondered to herself if she had ever had a relationship such as these women seemed to have. Certainly, she never had it with her own mother and she didn’t have any sisters.

But sometimes the conversations seemed earnest and serious. The two huddled together conspiratorially as the sponsee read from some sort of list or another. Sometimes there was crying. Sometimes a pat on the back. Once Lydia saw both women get on their knees and pray right there in the room. No one else took much notice, as if this sort of thing happened everywhere. But to Lydia, who was never much of a pray-er, this had a profound effect. Like her first meeting and her first sober phone call, Lydia wondered if she would ever get to a point where she would feel comfortable praying. It was right then and there, though, that she decided that if prayer would keep her sober, she would do it.

A few minutes later, as Lydia sat in the meeting, she decided it was time to take the step and ask a woman to be her sponsor. She knew the woman she wanted to ask: Tracy, the college professor. Lydia didn’t know what it would feel like to be beholden to another woman or what it might feel like to confide one’s deepest darkest secrets. A part of her recoiled at the idea, tempted to run away. But another part of her was curious. There was only one way to find out. And besides, the pain of today was greater than the fear of tomorrow.