I don't really feel anything is wrong with someone in recovery bulldozing their way in and through their new way of living sober. Most are all over the map not used to following any kind of direction.. They're still into surviving. Carving out sobriety as their new high road, paving it with the new found AA fellowship. Hey, whatever works right? It's safe to say that when I was first introduced to the fellowship and 12 Steps? I had no idea what the heck was going on, no idea at all. I know I was rescued, I had got lucky really, my extreme self centered ignorance was bliss for me when I was new to Alcoholics Anonymous. A huge distraction with new stimulus.
I had found a new way to forget who I was and where I had been. My past seemed behind me finally. And it was. It was behind me waiting. I'd be back.
New friends everywhere? Even a place to be besides the bar room everyday, a safe place. A reason for living that offered me purpose I had lacked when obsessed with daily drinking. The meetings shared change. I was changing too. I heard the Titanic analogy one night at a meeting. I was switching seats on a sinking ship? Settling for less as I shuffled around the deck with wet feet. Was my new sober life like this also? Banging out AA meetings to avoid the impending doom? As if sure I can putt the booze down but live without it forever? Doubtful. How could I? My mind still raced uncontrollably. The only thing I could really focus on was getting to the AA meeting, everything else was a crap shoot. Money, food, a place to sleep. These things seemed as if they were falling out of the sky.
One thing for sure. I was safe in AA. Safe from who I was or had been or who I thought they think I had been, whoever they were. Yup. I could laugh at my history in the meetings. Shuck and jive at the butt can telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty as if harmless banter. I could leave the reality of my life at the door with a nudge and a wink.. I was here now, safe and protected, no need for unresolved issues surrounding constant script re-writes, no. I was the star. All of AA loves me.
There was talk of 12 Step recovery where my entire self would be ironed out. I could or would be all fixed? Cleaned and pressed as if a fresh new shirt. I would tell myself "no pressure" I was ready when God was. God will direct me. Preferably after the Saturday night AA dance that Ann the new pretty girl is going to meet me at if her new mean old sponsor doesn't intervene.
As if making plans would excuse me from taking action now. Making the plans or simply thinking about the 12 Steps was as if I was actually doing them. I didn't know? I was talking and discussing like I thought everyone else was . This was AA 12 Step recovery right? Talking sharing and discussing everything? Ninety meetings in ninety days and then I'm an addiction therapist. Eh..It's not taking others inventory if you're trying to help right? It's a "we" program.
It was all good until the day when there was nothing left to discuss. The day when I was the same guy sober as I was when I was drinking. I sat alone with my past seeping through the door. My past was too close now to live sober. Not sure how but it was creeping in again. I needed to run but where? I would try drinking again? Moving away to maybe get a fresh start somewhere sober? It was hard to come up with new ideas. Hard to find new people to use or arrange on my stage. I was not only boxed in at my AA meetings now but my past was everywhere outside waiting for me. The fear was overwhelming. I couldn't shake it. My new found daily affirmations in AA no longer made sense. I was back. The loser. The failure at life. The bar room brawler. I was here now. Same as it ever was. Clean shirt? Honesty at the podium? Squishy hugs from the Thursday night mothball meeting grandma. People places and things. Nothing mattered anymore as if I was my own scapegoat. I was going to pay. There was no way around it. I guess you could say I had bottomed out sober. It was time to pay my dues and no one was there for a collection. Just me and mine.
And pay I did. I got into the Big Book 12 Steps as if my life depended on them. Nothing but willingness like I had never felt really. The drowning man thing. The Big Book was my lifeline now, my hope. My life. I was in it now, deep. I cared little of what others thought or said and did. It was fly or die now. I jumped headfirst into the 12 Step work as it was laid out in masterly detail in the Big Book. I didn't want to let go of people but saw how I was only addicted to them mostly anyway. I could see how I used them, needed them and when they didn't meet my needs? Abused them. They had to go. The whole people thing had to go. Not change, go. It was a God thing now, A Higher Power thing. There was no longer any security in the AA fellowship nest. I was full of fear and hated everyone equally, constantly taking a dump in my supposed dinner plate. I saw myself and swallowed some hard truths interwoven into my rancid past.
My life changed in ways I couldn't have even imagined as I proceeded in the 12 Steps.. This whole new attitude and outlook surrounded me. I was living life sober? I was really living life sober! I was cleaned up in AA once again. Seemingly welcomed back to the nest willing to share my endless supply of worms. Life is better than good. I'm looking at Step 8 now. I have my 8th Step list from the thorough 4th Step. I am willing. If I'm not? Then I am praying for willingness. Then it happens. I start listening to people again. Not sure why really? A self esteem thing? Security maybe. I want to be liked. I want to like others. So, somebody says just keeping sober is making amends. I like that idea. Someone else says they just make amends to family members. Sounds great! It's as if I no longer remember what I was doing this work for in the first place. I'm back to discussing my recovery. I'm accepted so I'm part of the gang, the guys. The fellowship.
So I unknowingly cut a deal with my recovery. I make amends to family and some others who are blaring like, money owed and such. But as far as the list from my 4th goes? All the amends from my life of selfishness and self-centeredness? I scrap it. Way too much work. Why make life so difficult now? Why be so hard on myself. I did a thorough 4th and 5th, I've done a lot of work on myself. I'm living happy joyous and free most of the time sober in AA and if others can't see this is a good thing, well. Nothing I can do about it. Water under the bridge as they say.
Well? This new 9th Step (I like you so you will like me now) attitude does come back to bite me and bite me hard. It may have worked for others sure but I seemed to forget that I'm not others. I'm me. This isn't some night course on living sober at the college or credit toward my counseling certificate. I'm in this because way back when I was lost in desperation I made an admission of hopelessness. I am an Alcoholic of the hopeless variety especially when it comes to Alcohol, this was clear! I can't tell right from wrong with the booze or otherwise.. I really thought my only way out was death as if that was right and living was wrong. I am not simply a problem drinker or a little bit Alcoholic. But as usual. If I rely on people to direct my thinking? You can't tell me anything. I'm constantly jockeying for position doing my best to create some self worth. They like me so, I like me.
I'm doing alright really. Steps 10 11 and now 12. Getting out there in life and carrying the 12 Step message. Sponsoring men in the 12 Steps. A trail guide. I'm all over it really. Life is good until that half assed 9th Step shows itself. Where I seemed to break from thoroughness and honesty.
I kind of knew it would, I just never knew how or when. But here it was in my face. I was supposed to pick up a new guy who wanted help with the Big Book work. The directions to his house are in the same neighborhood as the store I used to steal constantly from when I was a kid. Hey, so what right? The store has been under new management a few times I'm sure. But it's not about them or the store. It's about me. Cleaning up my past. My side of the street. I forget that part. I'm the one who thinks about all the stuff I stole every time I go by there. It's not them. They don't know me?
So I'm on my way to pick up this new guy. I read over Step 12 so I can be of service to him. I want to help him with the work. But all the sudden all the recovery Big Book 12 Step stuff I can think about with him is cloaked in my own guilt and shame from when I was a thieving kid. Damn! I drive by the store and am trying to wish it away as if this time the dream away plan will work because I'm here to help another Alcoholic? Now that is some selfishness that is. Dishonesty. Like telling God if I can win the lottery I'll by my poor mother a house. I'm on a 12 Step call so I should be let off the hook for stealing.
I get away with it through the out of sight out of mind plan. The guy doesn't work out anyway. Was it because I wasn't spiritually fit and wallowing in my own fear laced unresolved issues? My fragmented 9th Step? Maybe. I mention the evening to a friend leaving out my stealing issues and we decide he just wasn't ready. I like that one. He just wasn't ready. Yeah. It's easy to fill in the blank spot by turning it on them. Their fault. Why be accountable if you don't need to or your not caught.
So I'm speaking at a Big Book 12 Step meeting at the podium. Step 11. I'm all over it as if playing a tape. I'm quoting this and that as if I myself wrote the Book. I'm the professor. The Big Book 12 Step guy to know. Mr. Spirituality. I'm about half way into my spiel and right in front of me staring up is the ex- husband of a girl I made a move on years ago who ending up at the beach parking lot with me till the early hours. I knew she was married and they were fighting but didn't care at the time. My selfish crap caused a bigger fight between them and they got divorced. Probably not actually my fault but I certainly didn't help matters. She went out and drank again, got into the pipe. Disappearing for years. So here he is now in AA and right in front of me. I couldn't think. I lost my train of thought. This guy had some serious power over me. My selfishness, my guilt and shame. The overwhelming unresolved past was taking me over. One more amends from my previous 4th Step list that made it to my 8th Step but I blew it off believing I'll never see them again or don't know where they are so cut and move on..
Now years later? Man, he looked rough. He was in trouble. Is it too late? No. I knew it wasn't because I wanted to set it straight with him. I wanted to admit my fault. My willingness was there once I got a grip over the initial shock of seeing him there. I didn't want to fight or hurt him or myself. I basically wrapped up my spew and at the meeting break asked if I could talk to him for a minute out in the hall. I could tell he was afraid too, but reluctantly agreed. I asked for help to not say anything that would hurt him. I only wanted to explain myself and show what I can live up to from today forward. I said some years ago I wanted to date your wife when you were apart. I wasn't capable of understanding that you were fighting and could use support. I had no support for anybody. I was very immature and had basically no coping skills to speak of so I just couldn't see others or their feelings. I selfishly pushed my way through peoples lives unaware of what was going on in their lives. Everything was about me. The world revolved around me and me only.
I finished by telling him I deeply regret my conduct and have learned much about myself in the 12 Steps. That when I saw him tonight, speaking to him was the most important thing to me and I'm thankful he gave me the time. He said he was freaked out to see me tonight also. I said please be comfortable here. Don't let my selfish conduct be the norm here, it isn't. You're welcome here, it's a safe place to get sober. We shook hands. We were good.
Not long after I got out my 4th Step and made a new 8th Step list. There were many names I needed to be accountable for. They were everywhere really. Some big some small but all had some kind on impact on me. All had a way of derailing my recovery especially when working with the new man. As I wrapped up the list? I became free. I could come and go as I pleased with simple maintenance Steps. I could go anywhere and serve the suffering new guy. I remember one day I was in my ex wife's neighborhood to meet a new guy for coffee.. A place absolutely avoided like the plague for years. The fear and guilt from my life as a husband was overwhelmingly painful. I couldn't imagine ever seeing her again after failing her so terribly. I had devastated her and my daughters life by drinking and not participating in anything that didn't concern me. I was a royal screw up. Scum of the earth really. Stunted immature selfish teenage prick in a mans body. I honestly believed this could never be set right or any where near right.
She was on my new amends list. I had made an appointment and spoken to her after many years. I explained myself and my amends was clear. We left on ok terms and again hadn't seen her in years.. When I drove by her standing in her yard on my way to coffee? Her neighborhood, her street? To meet the new guy for some 12 Step conversation? Sure it was a little weird but I wasn't afraid anymore. Without thinking I waved. I was happy to see her out in her nice yard. I was happy she met a good man and remarried. And as I looked at her for that second? She recognized me and waved back.
Oh, I'm thinking about my conduct at the 5/10 store. I figure I had stolen maybe 40 dollars of model stuff when I was a kid. I asked for help and spoke to the store manager. I said I'd like to make amends for shoplifting about 40 odd years ago. She laughed. I said really. If I could make an anonymous donation of 50 dollars to the store if would mean the world to me. I'm in a 12 Step recovery program and making amends is a big part of my sobriety. She wasn't sure what to do so I left the fifty on her desk and said thank you, I walked away a free man. It felt so good to pay that back.