May 31: Powerlessness/Unmanageability

When I volunteered to chair a May meeting, I was looking forward to celebrating my 20-year AA birthday. However, around the first week in May, I abruptly stopped going to my home group’s Zoom meetings. Since then I’ve been struggling with finding a topic that sounds like “good AA,” one that won’t sound like I have a problem with AA at 20 years of sobriety. I don’t want to scare any newcomers, for one thing. But then it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be honest if I don’t tell you, my trusted friends, what is going on with me.

What has been bothering me most is that all I’ve been able to hear in meetings and see in the literature is negativity. I see only the should’s and ought-to’s and commands, as if the literature itself is yelling at me. My old “pal” shame has come back, telling me as it always does that I’m not a real alcoholic, my drinking didn’t take me to places it would have if I were a real alcoholic like you, my story isn’t bad enough for you to relate to. I feel like I’m rebelling against what has been the single most positive thing in my life. What is that about??

Perhaps this is alcoholism — my dis-ease poisoning my thought process, pushing me towards differences and negativity and isolation…and, probably at some point, a drink. Pair that with my other dis-ease, codependence, and you have a recipe for self-destruction that for me is just as cunning, baffling and powerful.

I suspect my mother’s death and the year I spent caring for her have something to do with this. I’m just beginning to recognize how I turned myself inside out trying to please her and keep her happy and how impossible that was (powerlessness and unmanageability, anyone?). Years ago when my dad died, I realized that his voice had become my own voice of negativity; I now see that it also has come from my mom, whose criticism was much more subtle. Both of those voices are gone, and what is left? The voice, my voice, in my head that has always told me I’m not enough, I don’t do enough — the voice I tried to silence with alcohol (and that came roaring back at me when I stopped drinking but had not yet found AA). But it’s not my parents or the literature or the program that’s yelling at me, it’s my own inner voice. It’s the one that always resurfaces when I want to escape the truth: I spent over a year trying to fix, manage and control my mom (thinking I was doing the “right thing”) and when I couldn’t, I turned on myself. Apparently, when I forget that I’m powerless, my life becomes unmanageable — imagine that! I suspect, too, that my complete exhaustion after my experience with my mom contributed to my inability to remember the basic principles of the program.

I want you all to know that, in spite of my distaste for AA Zoom meetings, at no time have I lost my connection with my higher power. I just kind of forgot to turn everything over. I have not lost the knowledge that I am an alcoholic, and I have not lost all the gratitude I hold for how much AA and everyone I’ve met along the way have done to change my life for better and better. Best of all, I have not stopped coming to GROW every day, and I think you all are what has kept me from going off the deep end.

I’m coming to see that this is another opportunity to love and be gentle with myself as never before. I don’t need to punish myself with AA. It’s time for me to let go of that negative, imaginary voice and be open to hearing only the loving voices of my higher power and my fellow AAs. Though it has taken 20 years for me to arrive at this point, that 20 years could only have started because of putting down the drink and coming to AA.

Thank you for letting me chair, and share (at length!).