March 31: To Thine Own Self Be True

Topic for the week: ‘To thine own self be true.’

AA medallions are given for lengths of sobriety and some have the saying ‘To thine own self be true’ on one side; I happen to have one. One night, after more than 20 years of sobriety, I found myself considering whether or not to start drinking with my English boyfriend. My medallion helped me to choose sobriety.

That evening, Steve and I had gone to a pub. As I sat across from him, the thought came to me that perhaps we could get “closer” if I drank with him instead of always being sober while he got drunk (we’d had many discussions about alcoholism and several times I’d told him I thought he was an alcoholic – he always disagreed). I’m not sure why I didn’t just order a pint right there and then, but instead I chose to go for a walk…perhaps that ‘think, think, think’ slogan was subconsciously at work. I took a short walk then sat down. Again, I’m not sure why I did it, but I took my medallion out of my wallet and read both sides.

I knew of the quote ‘To thine own self be true.’ and believed in its message, which I interpreted to mean be honest with myself, be accountable for my behavior, and follow through on what I say I’ll do. But that evening my sobriety was on the line, so after reading the quote my thoughts were: who was I, really – the alcoholic Michele or the sober Michele? What should I do to “be true” to myself – drink or not drink? These thoughts were swirling through my head for only about a minute before I had my answer: being true to myself meant staying sober. I didn’t want to go back – back to blacking out, being full of self-pity and angry at the world, creating problem after problem for myself, and alienating family and friends. Sobriety is difficult at times, but I wanted to keep the serenity I’d found in my years in AA, the trust I’d re-built with family and friends, and the belief that, in sobriety, I was becoming the person my Higher Power wants me to be, which was a far cry from the person I was as an active alcoholic.

Having made my decision, I got up and walked back to the pub. Steve was playing billiards with some people; I smiled at him and sat down at our table. I never told him about my thoughts, and since that time have never felt the need to reconsider my sobriety. He and I stayed together for about another year then parted ways, as friends. I often think of him at the beginning of meetings when we have a moment of silence for those alcoholics in and out of the rooms still suffering.

I believe that what pulled me through my moments of doubt and questioning include, in no particular order, my Higher Power, the many meetings I’ve attended, the numerous shares I’ve heard, AA’s slogans, service work, friendships in AA (making me feel I belonged), doing the Steps and gaining their benefits, developing a more right-sided view of myself (i.e., neither loathing myself nor having an inflated ego), and being at peace with myself knowing that I’m striving for personal and spiritual progress as I go through life.

I couldn’t be true to myself when I was drinking as I didn’t want to be honest, accountable, unselfish, and let go of resentments. In early sobriety I learned to once again listen to my conscience – I’d tuned it out as an active alcoholic – as I began to trust and believe in what my conscience was telling me…had always been telling me, i.e., tell the truth, be responsible, learn to let go of anger in an appropriate way, and so on.

I’m so grateful I had that medallion, that I thought to take it out and read it, and that I made the decision to remain sober. I’m also grateful for that moment of doubt and going through the thought process of considering who I wanted to be, what was important to me, and what I wanted in my life. In that short space of time I re-affirmed my commitment to staying sober, to being the person I believe I’m meant to be, and to giving myself the chance to be happy, joyous and free as a result of following the AA program.

The meeting is now open. Please share on what it means to you, as a sober woman, to be true to yourself, or how any of AA’s slogans/sayings have helped you stay sober. Thanks for letting me share.