Truth in Sobriety
My choice of topic has been influenced by particular events and before I say much more, I would like to pay tribute in this share to the memory of Pat O. A charismatic, yet gentle spiritual man with an amazing service record in AA. Pat suicided with forty-three years of continuous sobriety. It saddens me deeply to tell you that nobody saw it coming.
Pat O was one of the first people I met when, after drinking and drugging from age 13 to 31, I walked into the rooms of AA. In those early years I remember listening so gratefully to all the things he shared about his story and the lessons he had learned.
I have been sober now longer than I was practicing and thank God for this miracle one day at a time. I am grateful that these days my challenges do not relate to thinking about drinking or not drinking.
I know with all my heart that the disease of addiction is just under the surface and always will be, that my worst day sober is still better than my best day drinking, and no matter who is sharing about alcoholism I can always relate to the emotions and those instincts run amok being spoken about.
The illusion, delusion, and obsession is part of me just as it is written about so often in the Big Book. With this in mind, I take a deep breath before making the following comments. Once I might have said whatever might be most popular, the cool thing, or the right thing. Today I know there is only one thing I can say, and that’s the real thing. What goes around in my head! Anything else will not keep me sober. So here goes.
There are some days where I can scarcely reconcile who I am now with who I was pre-AA. The memories are hazy and it is like I am talking about someone else. On those days, talking about it feels more like living in the problem than the solution, and I tend toward silence because I am reluctant to dredge up the memories.
I find myself wondering what kind of challenges Pat O had in his recovery. Things he did not speak of. So in my recovery there are those living day to day kind of concerns, and challenges like making the time commitment to go through the Big Book and the steps again with a new sponsor (because I know I need to), or being vigilant for other kinds of sabotage in sobriety.
I have to work on remaining enthusiastic and on task throughout the long work hours in my chosen career while my brain is sending out urgent messages, trying to kick start my one remaining ovary with next to no estrogen left in my body. And a new turn up very recently has been dealing with the addiction to sugar and wheat that I let slip under the radar for so long. That is a different story full of triggers and emotional discomfort, although it has common threads within our disease of addiction and the same dependence on a power greater than me.
I have been thinking a lot about Pat O and I think those who have been in AA for years can just be so very vulnerable. We are all newcomers to the current challenges in our lives. I do so often feel distant from my drinking days and I am glad about that. I wish there was some way to say this without sounding so ungrateful, but sometimes, I just get tired of talking about my life as it relates to alcoholism.
I can always relate in a meeting but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough. I find myself asking is that all there is? How else could I have spent my time? I give heart-felt thanks every day, and yet it is almost like I have other changing needs and issues in sobriety that take my focus.
When I look around the rooms, I do not see any of the people I got sober with. Over the years many have relapsed and have not returned, while others have simply drifted away. Recently I was reading an article about a well-known celebrity with twenty years in recovery who has re-admitted himself back into rehab. To fine tune his sobriety, he says, and to seek more growth along spiritual lines. Yes, yes! I can relate to that, it is relevant to me.
Because I am so grateful for my sobriety however, and so aware of my responsibility to help keep the doors open for the newcomer, I hesitate before complaining or sharing in what might be considered a step away from our singleness of purpose. There is a trend I think, for longer sober members to share in a way that helps the newcomer to identify.
Who speaks left or right of centre, of living challenges like pain medication, menopause and depression, the challenge of keeping recovery fresh outside of AA, day in and day out (with no long service leave), or the little nagging things that knock on the door where my disease of addiction lives.
For me, I try to stay upbeat, positive and grateful, so I rarely speak of these things in a meeting. And often it doesn’t occur to me to ask another longer sober member if they are getting enough sleep, if they have a sponsor or have enough phone numbers. Or perhaps ask how they are they currently practicing step eleven. At present, I am grateful to have all of those things, although I haven’t always had them.
I think what I am trying to say is that if we make a bee line for the new comer, attend meetings, say sensible and or potentially inspiring things born of trial and error, serve and sponsor, determined to ensure that the hand of AA is always there for the newcomer, are we making sure to give equal time to discovering how to take best care of ourselves beyond what might be suggested or looking out for other longer time members?
AA needs all of us, whether we are sober an hour, a day, a decade, or more. With permission, I mention a woman I am coming to know, who recalls serving in an ever-increasing capacity to the point of resentment and relapse at fifteen years. She was out for three years and found she just could not put the drink down. Thankfully, a spiritual experience brought her home again.
It is said we can judge any society by how it treats its older folk. Do we look our longer sober members (not necessarily older) in the eye and ask them what is going on for them right now. And listen intently for their truth. Perhaps my point simply illustrates the need for an engaged sponsor and an active network regardless of how long we have been in the fellowship.
As a topic for discussion and exploration this week I pose the following questions.
If as a longer sober member you found yourself struggling, isolating and keeping it to yourself, who in AA would truly know you well enough to see through your words and call you on it? Does attending meetings and serving within the fellowship fulfill all of your needs and desires for growth? Are you really honest about your challenges today when you share at meetings or does our singleness of purpose limit your sharing (what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now)? Are you addressing every issue that may impact you and subsequently your disease of addiction? And if you are new to the fellowship, what do you expect your sober life might be like in a couple of years from now? Perhaps in five years, ten years or twenty.
What kind of impression do you get from those who seem to have been around forever? Do they seem to have it together? Do you suspect or expect that living sober gets easier with time? I invite you to join with me in a discussion about what Truth in Sobriety means to you, or to write about anything else that may come up for you.