April 28: Purpose

Topic for the week: Purpose

In an advice column I read the other day, a woman was asking how to handle her upcoming empty nest – her kids were going off to college, and she wondered what her purpose would now be. It took me back to some of the bleakest days of my life. I had stopped drinking (for reasons that only later in the context of AA made sense to me) when my dad died, and at the time, my daughter was about to go to college, my son was considering boarding school, and my husband had just taken a job in a different state and would be home only on weekends. I had quit my teaching job, which had been my only source of social contact outside my family. You can probably imagine why I got so attached to the family dog…In retrospect, I’m pretty sure only an act of my higher power kept me from drinking through the next two years (not to mention having relieved me of the obsession in the first place).
It wasn’t until right after 9/11 (on that day I was as alone as I could possibly be, except of course for my dear dog) that I finally allowed myself to investigate AA. When I started going to meetings, it became apparent to me that I’d never really had my very own support system before. Here was an instant support system! My life slowly began making sense – I was going to say again, but it had never made sense to me before anyway. I found that alcohol had been the common denominator in creating the chaos and misery in my life – and here were people who knew all about that. I was also handed a primary purpose – something I’d also never had before. Needless to say, those two years without a drink and without a program had brought me to a brand-new low. My purpose had been all jumbled up in the roles I played – wife, mother, sister, daughter, teacher (and a few other professions I’d sampled) – which all fought for priority. I considered myself a jack (or jill?) of all trades, but was failing at all of them, and I constantly questioned what or who I was supposed to be. I latched onto AA’s primary purpose – “all” I had to do was to stay sober and help another alcoholic – before I even fully grasped that I was an alcoholic.
I suppose I had been confusing purpose with identity. AA’s primary purpose shows me that it’s not what I do that makes me who I am. It’s not my purpose to be anything other than myself. My identity can be made up of all those things I mentioned – including an alcoholic – but none of those is a primary purpose. My purpose is to re-open the gift of sobriety every morning and follow the instructions. Of primary importance is staying connected with the higher power I became acquainted with, and one of the best ways to do that is by staying connected with my fellow AAs, and specifically the amazing women of GROW.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject or anything else that is pressing for you right now. Thank you for letting me chair this meeting.