My AA Crush

snails

I ran into one of my AA crushes this week. I just turned around, and there she was. Wow. I should tell you this woman has no idea I crush on her. In fact, she would consider us friends.

I first met my crush when I had just a few months sober. I remember being introduced to her because I was like, “There is NO way that girl is an alcoholic.” She was, and still is, extraordinarily pretty with the kind of smile that lights up a room. Additionally, she had all the accoutrements that I wanted: friends, respect, an apartment in a non ghetto part of Houston. She had a career and a man and a dent free car. When she came around, I got a little giddy. When she spoke, I clung to every word. When she started acknowledging me, I was so proud. I wanted everyone to know I was sane enough or something enough to elicit the conversation of my fated guru. “Look everyone! Look who’s talking to moi!”

One of the character flaws that AAs have in common is a tendency to judge those around us. I think it stems from the idea that while in our diseases, we scrutinized others to see if they were really keeping it together, or if they were just better at hiding their skeletons.

When we get into the rooms, that behavior continues. We are told, “If you want what we have, do what we do.” I think most people crush on their sponsors. Sometimes, though, I think the crush just might be a person from across the meeting whose shares you love almost as much as her purse.

But here is the thing, you have to get to know your crush. You have to ask them out to coffee. You have to have a heart to heart. Because crushes are just that, a fictitious infatuation. There is no substance to it. Its just a person across the room with thirty years who doesn’t look like a jackass in those barefoot sneaker things that have all the toes.

Over the years , I’ve gotten to know my crush. We have participated in service work together, and in the process, have managed to get to know one another. As if would turn out, my crush, my
girl on the pedestal is very normal. No, no, I know what you are thinking, but it’s true. In fact, one might even venture to say she is a teeny, tiny bit alcoholic-y. Maybe just a smidgeon of perfectionism lingers under her surface which causes her to be the most minutest bit controlling. And possibly, though I’ll deny it if I’m asked, she might have slightly unreasonable expectations. Gasp. Swoon.

I think we have to learn that our crushes are not superhuman AA gurus but people. I’ll see it in meetings when the guy with thirty years says something totally crazy train that leaves everyone scratching their heads. I’ve heard people say, “But he has so much time. How can he be crazy?” He’s crazy because he’s alcoholic. The book tells me I have “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition,” (BB 85). In my mind, that means today I may be sane, but tomorrow I may be crazy. Sometimes, I have many crazy days in a row. Then I share and the girl next to me elbows her friend and does the finger twirl to the head. Time and security and cars do not make us sane. They make us people with time, security, and cars. Sanity makes us sane. Working the steps makes us sane.

So, yeah, I saw my crush a few days ago. I walked up to her, said hello. We hugged and talked for a few minutes. She asked about my writing. I asked about her family. And I departed.

As I walked out into the hot, sunny Houston day, I smiled. But I smile because I know my crush is over. I realized this week that I saw my friend for who she really is and not who I wanted her to be. I smiled because although my guru is still beautiful and successful and kind and awesome, she is now also a person.

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.

 

Part Three: Why I Write about my Alcoholism.

I have been writing today’s post on and off again for the last week. It has been very difficult. I think the reason is that I am walking a fine line of between explanation and justification. I keep slipping into a defensive tone, like I am on guard against possible recriminations. So, with a deep breath, I am going to start over.

Today’s writing is the third in a series of posts. If you are just joining the conversation, you might want to look to the right hand side of the screen. It should show Post One, “How I became an Alcoholic” and Post Two, “What it’s like Now.” They will explain my backstory and my motivation for writing this little series.

So, this third part addresses the final question: Why I write so publicly about my alcoholism.

Let me start off by saying that I truly enjoy writing. I have always enjoyed voicing my thoughts on paper. In fact, I think I write more coherently than I speak. In my mind, my words are clean and precise, but when I speak, they come out in a jumble. When I get the chance to write, edit, rephrase, and yes, start over when I begin to sound defensive, I feel a lot calmer.

AA teaches me to be honest today. And I honestly do not care about if anyone knows I am a recovering alcoholic. Additionally, I am not supposed to live in fear. The only reason I could come up with for not proclaiming my alcoholism is fear of what other alcoholics would say. “What? Oh no!” you say. “Other alcoholics? You meant Normies.” No, no I did not. I’ve run that one over and over again in my own head. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. I have never had anyone condemned my recovery to my face. Usually, people are quite nice and supportive. Maybe a little shocked, but encouraging none-the-less. Alcoholics, though, man, we can be ruthless. Alcoholics, by and large, are generally really intelligent people and we are not afraid to pass judgment and speak our minds. We are kinda a scary organization, to be quite honest. Thank gosh our main objective is staying sober and not world domination.

Okay, here are the main reasons I get for not proclaiming myself an alcoholic. 1) The second A of AA. Anonymity. I think it is a sticky widget. According to the preface of the Big Book, the reason for anonymity is simple. “It is important to stay anonymous because we are too few, at present to handle the overwhelming number of personal appeals which may result from this publication.” The amount of personal appeals I have received is zero. And I have plenty of time. 2) The Eleventh and Twelfth Traditions. Okay, you may have me here. I’ve read them a few times, and yet, I am still not clear on the ideas. But I know I am not promoting. I’ve said time and again, I speak for no one other than myself. 3) The idea that if an alcoholic is public and then relapses, the public will assume AA as an organization, and not the individual, is somehow to blame. I’ve never really gotten this argument either. Alcoholism and drug addiction are so life consuming that for a person to stop for even a week or a month is a huge accomplishment. To disregard this clean time as a blanket failure of AA is near sighted at best. Besides, I have never actually heard this said by a single Normie ever. It is always said to me by an AA speaking on behalf of society. Has anyone ever actually heard the news condemn AA when a celebrity has failed to maintain sobriety? I should YouTube it.

So, why I write about my alcoholism… (I cringe a little as I write this because I fear that some might find me morally grandstanding. That is not the case at all. I am a flawed individual. I own every part of that.) I think that publically proclaiming my alcoholism is the morally right thing to do. That’s it. I write about my alcoholism because I think I should. Pure and simple.

“Alcoholic” is a very heavy label. Because alcoholism and drug addiction is so stigmatized in modern society (especially for women), most people keep their anonymity for fear of societal backlash. In fact, just today I had lunch with a friend who told me she is worried that if her boss knew she was an alcoholic, the boss would use that information against my friend. I absolutely get that. Not for a second do I judge my friend for her decision to maintain anonymity.

My personal feeling, though, regarding just me, is that if I truly believe that my alcoholism is genetically predisposed, which I do, then I should be no more ashamed or embarrassed by my disease than I am of my hair color or my skin tone. I am not responsible for my disease. With that said, I am 100% responsible for my recovery, what I do with my disease once I am diagnosed. If I choose to disregard my alcoholism and indulge in my obsession, I will no doubt commit ludicrous and outrageous acts, cut myself off from those who love me, lie, cheat, and steal. Then, I should absolutely be ashamed of my actions. But stopping, asking for help, living by a moral code and a set of principles, and proclaiming a belief in something holier and deeper than the material is not, nor should it be, shameful. The reality is, I do not think it is embarrassing that I am a recovered alcoholic. The embarrassing part is if I had never stopped.

I belong to a small minority that feels that by clinging to anonymity, we alcoholics help perpetuate the stigma of an alcoholic rather than the creating a new discourse about recovery. I remember a person saying in a meeting once, “I didn’t care about my anonymity when I was out there drinking.” That’s the language I understand. I have the luxury to be in a situation where I can proclaim my alcoholism, but even if I couldn’t, I probably still would. I think it is important. I write because I think I should. If I treat my disease as a source of embarrassment and shame, why in the world would I be surprised when others do the same?

 

 

 

 

What its like Now: The Miracle Part

If you want a free bookmark, email me at agkroger@gmial.com

If you want a free bookmark, email me at agkroger@gmail.com.

So, here we are again. Sunday night.

Here is the story: Last week, I told three of my very favorite people about my blog. At the time I told them, I had the opportunity to explain my alcoholism and why I was discussing it in such a public forum, but I chickened out. I failed. The timing was awkward. I was a little uncomfortable. Friday’s post, “How I Became an Alcoholic” was meant to rectify some of this error. Today’s blog was supposed to address the second question, “Why do I write so publically about my alcoholism.” After I wrote it though, I realized there was a problem. In AA, we often talk about what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now. I did the first two, but never did the third. So, my two part series is now three parts. Tonight, I address “What it is like now.”

 

My early days of sobriety were really tough. I had quit my job. My family was disappointed in me. I was scared and alone.

At first I sat in the back row of the AA club and just listened. I honestly and truly did not think AA would work. How could it? In its base form, AA is a room full of people, some steps on a wall, and a lot of talk about God. I didn’t believe in God, so that, I knew, was going to be a total disconnect. I just remember thinking, “I am so fucked.” And then one day, I remember an older gentleman, Paul, coming up to me and asking, “Where do you go in the afternoons?”

“I go home,” I said.

And he replied, “Stay here. It’s safer.” Somehow in my heart, I knew he was right. I was safer inside the confines of AA.

I was terrified of living alone and I was about to lose my apartment. One afternoon, at the 3:15 meeting, a beautiful fairy princess named Paula told me about a magical place where newly sober people could go to live. It was called a halfway house. I immediately moved in. About a month after that, a guy at the club said he needed someone to work for him at a little bakery. I immediately took the job. And that was more or less my first year of sobriety. Meetings, bakery, halfway house.

AA is comprised up of “Twelve Steps” that one is supposed to do in order to connect to a higher power (or God). Additionally, the steps help one to get to the root causes of why one drinks and help us to clean up the mess we have all made of our lives. We also have a “Sponsor” that guides us through these steps. It took me a very long time to work the steps. I didn’t get a real sponsor. I asked a friend, a girl who I could manipulate, to be my sponsor. She didn’t know what she was doing, and I knew she didn’t know what she was doing. But I thought I knew what I was doing, so I did it. I was wrong. After some really poor behavior and acting out, I decided to get a real sponsor. And I worked through all the steps. I tell other people to not live by my example. Yes, I remained sober by the tippy tops of my fingernails, but it was not an enjoyable way to live. AA has a saying about being “Happy, joyous, and free.” I believe that is attainable for even the most anxiety ridden, fearful, angry, rotten, mischievous, stubborn, and depressed of us. But it takes a little bit of faith and a whole lot of working the steps.

I think the question Normies ask the most is, “When do you get to stop going to meetings?” I love that normal people think nothing could possibly be more painful that sitting in a room of sober drunks while they complain about not being able to drink. Gosh, I agree, what a nightmare. The reality is, AA is a surprisingly funny and ridiculous place. Alcoholics tend to be shockingly intelligent. They have often lived interesting lives filled with amazing stories, both incredible and tragic. But what’s more, what I love about AA, is that at any given time, a roomful of people are saying, “Just for today, I am going to try to be a better person than the person I was yesterday.” Many days, we fail. But someday, well, it is nothing short of awesome.

The city of Houston has roughly 2,000 AA meetings a week. Think about that for a second. It’s an astonishing number. 2,000. If every meeting had 10 people, that’s 20,000 people. 20,000 people who are trying to live a life of purpose. 20,000 people who are trying to help another 20,000 people get sober. 20,000 who believe that there are things and ideas that are of greater importance than any one of us.

Why would I ever want to stop attending that? That’s the best part of my day. That’s the miracle part.

 

Friday: Part Three. Why I speak so publicly.

Free Bookmarks

BookmarkII

Hey everyone,

First of all, thank you, as always, for reading. So, I made these bookmarks. I thought a good idea and fun to make (it was), but now I do not know what to do with them. If you want one or ten (there are a few different styles), shoot me an email with your name and address. I will mail them to you. Free of charge. You do not have to do anything. You don’t even have to sign up to receive my blog via email or comment, even though that’s what I really want, because I just cannot really bring myself to ask anyone to sincerely do that. I wouldn’t do it. But I might be inclined to send an email if I got a nifty bookmark out of the deal.

Best Regards,

AGK

Agkroger@gmail.com

 

Fear does not get to Win

The Fear Problem

Fear… “This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it,” (Big Book 67).

There lives, deep within my chest, a small black tarball of fear. I can feel it. It exists, not where my heart is, but where a child thinks her heart is. Smack in the middle of my chest. Right behind my breastbone. If I think on it, it grows. I can feel it blossoming right now, as I type this, winding like a slow vine throughout my body and into my fingertips. It says, “Don’t write about me. Don’t acknowledge me, because then I become real. I become real and they will know… They will know you are years sober and still I live within you. You have not conquered me.”

I remember walking into the rooms, dazed, reeking of vodka (really, they should stop telling burgeoning alcoholics that vodka doesn’t smell). I just wanted to stop drinking. Maybe not even stop entirely forever. Just stop for the moment. Stop blowing up my life. Stop getting into trouble. I sat there lost and disturbed as people spoke of how fear had invaded their daily lives.

And I thought, “Poor people,” cause I knew what it meant to be brave. I was seven feet tall and in total control of my life. I remember my sponsor telling me to list my fears on my first fourth step. I wrote something like 1. Drinking. 2. Cockroaches. And there the list abruptly ended. I had zero conception or understanding that I drank largely out of fear. I mean, I read it in the Big Book and my sponsor told me it was true. The rooms told me it was true. But I had no idea how to internalize that information. I didn’t understand that I drank out of a fear of facing reality. Fear of what others thought of me. And fear of what I thought of myself.

Fear is insidious and cunning. It fights dirty. It comes at once, full force, slamming into my body. Then again, waiting until I am lying in bed late at night, it subtly and mischievously burrows into my soul. Fear will tell me I am not good enough or pretty enough. It will tell me my life a foolish, quixotic endeavor doomed to end in a fiery ball of disappointment and failure. It will tell me I will drink again, so why not drink right now.

But then, I remember that fear is not real. I may feel it. It may exist, oozing out from the pit in my chest to momentarily hijack my thoughts, but it no longer gets to dictate my actions. That’s what recovery has given me: steps and people, a higher power, and the knowledge of second thought. It has given me time and perspective and understanding. Recovery may not have cured the neurosis, but it has given me a fighting chance. No, fear does not get to win, not today.