Matching Calamity with Recovery

Matching Calamity with Serenity

I have come to the conclusion that good students make bad AAs. No, this has nothing to do with intelligence. I think super smart people are often terrible students. I am talking about the front row sitters with their hand in the air, apple for the teacher type students. Here is my thought: there are the answers that are right and there are answers that are truthful. And those aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Last week, my love needed a heart catheterization. While the procedure is fairly routine, it feels scary. It feels like something that should not be done. I was calm when we heard the news, calm on the way to the hospital, calm checking him in. The cath was to take a few hours. I had my Big Book. And I won’t lie, I started writing my blog entry right there, right up in my own head: matching calamity with serenity. Ahhhh….

And then I got to the waiting room. As I entered the room, I immediately assessed the situation. The room was smaller than my bedroom, with chairs lined around the periphrases. There were no windows. The air hung heavy with smells of people and food and hospital. Two ladies were simultaneously talking on their phones in different languages. The TV, set to a local morning news show, added another certain comedic element as I imagine the beautiful people laughing along from the safety of their kitchens. I had no choice but to enter, to follow my love to two seats in the corner. Because it was my job. Because it is what we do. But right before the door shut behind us, I felt my serenity say, “No way, I’m not doing this. Meet you at Starbucks.”

A short time later, they called my love away to be prepped. They told me to continue to wait and I could see him before the procedure. I waited in the room with no air until I could not handle it anymore, and then I decided I was just gonna have to wait in the hallway. I honestly picked what I thought was the least obtrusive spot and sat down. It was about three minutes later that a man told me I would have to move, that I would have to wait in the room with the teenagers engaged in hilarity and the sunny talk show hosts and the smells. And that’s when I started to cry.

I know what the correct answer is. I remember doing my first 1st step. My sponsor made me do worksheets. One of the questions was, “What are you powerless against?” I didn’t understand the question, but I knew the correct answer had to do with alcohol. So, I answered it alcohol and she said “Good,” and we moved on. Because I never asked, I never understood there was a deeper question and a more profound answer.

It was not until I stopped answering correctly and instead answering honestly, that I felt recovery. Over time, I have learned that AA is not about memorizing the Big Book or sounding good in meetings. It is about humility and time and quiet. It wasn’t until I asked for help, that I got it. It wasn’t until I admitted that I had no conception of powerlessness, did I begin to regain my strength.

So, instead of writing the “right” blog about matching serenity with calamity, I write this honest one: I did not match calamity with serenity. I was not the embodiment of stoicism nor grace. I cried and then wiped my nose on my sleeve.

But after I cried, I washed my face and bought a cup of coffee. And then I walked into the “Spiritual Care” office and spent some time talking to a chaplain. He was kind and reassuring. He said he didn’t know if AA existed in the hospital, but he would be sure to find out. And he did.

I left the hospital that day, not secure in the knowledge that I have reached total spiritual enlightenment, but that I never necessarily have to. I never have to be a beacon of independent strength because I’m never alone. I didn’t match serenity with calamity. But I matched egotism with humility. And together, we matched calamity with recovery. And today, that’s good enough.

AA’s All Over This One

Bookmark IV

“We can laugh at those who think spirituality is the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength,” (Big Book 68).

I was in conversation with a friend of mine a couple of days ago. Her father passed away last week, and though I should have been the one to call her, she called me. She called me, not to receive strength but to give it. She called to offer me hope. My parents are of an age that hospital visits are becoming more frequent. While understandable, and on some level expected, it is none-the-less emotional business when we are faced with our parents’ mortality. My friend reached out to me in the spirit of offering hope to say, that when the worst does happen, it will be okay, “Because AA is all over this one.”

“AA is all over this one.” I thought about that simple sentence for all of yesterday and most of today, because, here is the thing, my friend did not really explain what she meant by that sentence. But here is the other thing, she didn’t have to.

I often think back to a conversation I had with my parents about ten years ago. I had just moved from Boston back to Houston. I was sitting on the couch in tears over my inability to handle life. It wasn’t the big things like death that had be so beaten down. No, forget about the life altering changes. I had no idea how people managed the small, everyday things. I didn’t understand how people had jobs and paid bills and cleaned houses and washed clothes. At the end, I needed a cocktail just to go to the grocery store. Life was one continual tidal wave of chaos. I couldn’t deal with people or responsibility or sunny days. I couldn’t deal with laughter.

I really like the concept that AA is not about the not drinking. I mean it is. First we have to put down the bottle. But it’s the everything else that really messes us up. Causes and conditions.

I’ve thought a lot about whether one can be sober through means other than AA. I mean not me, but someone out there has stayed sober through church, Bikram yoga, horse therapy, or cross addiction. I had a friend once that was sober through good, old-fashioned willpower. She told me, she wasn’t like me. She didn’t need AA to say sober. What I didn’t say, what I should have said, is I don’t need AA to stay sober either. I went to a meeting today, but had I not gone, I’m 99.9% sure I would still be sober. AA doesn’t keep me sober. It keeps me sane. It keeps me happy. My fear is not that I will stop going to AA and drink. My fear is that I will stop going to AA and become unhappy and fearful and crazy, and then I will drink.

What my friend didn’t realize then, still probably doesn’t realize now, is AA doesn’t make us weak. Dependence on the group, the program, has made me everything I am today: it’s given me the courage to write, to be myself, to have faith, to be a daughter and a friend. AA has taught me how to have priorities and do laundry. It’s taught me how to get the stickers renewed on my car.

I think anyone that has given recovery a real shot knows what it is like to have the strength through the program. Alone I am but just one individual plodding along in life. But as a group, I have a wealth of strength and support from which to draw.

Yep, AA’s all over this one.