I was standing in the coffee line at a good sized local AA open speaker meeting one night. Basically? A mess from fighting my way through the people forest all day by myself.. I arrived late and was scanning the hall for a open seat. I saw one up front and thought, no way. No protection there. I'm too self centered right now to negotiate the labyrinth of people who generally would not mix, right? To get there, smack dab in front of the podium.. I was on the outside looking in at this point. Like the untreated looking for treatment. Wondering what this meeting can do for ME. The thought of what I could bring? It was blocked by self centered fear. It just wasn't there. No courage. People dominated me.
The speaker at the podium is basically engaged in a full on profanity laced verbal assault on AA's spiritual principle. Live without the let live part. Also selfishly thumbing his nose at the letter sent around the halls from home base New York for the group secretary to read at the beginning of each AA meeting. Respectfully suggesting to please be conscious of profanity as it's not a very positive reflection of the AA spiritual program. He didn't care. It wasn't a spiritual program to him, anyone could see it was all about him first before any God or Gods. Here he was, the Alpha-holic..Telling "his" way as if pitching a kitchen magician infomercial. Doing his best to overwhelm you, control, box you in.
Or, if it was spiritual? And he had some conception of God that empowered the fragmented dictatorship he presented? Or had that whole gutter mouth and God relationship I hear about sometimes. Like God and he are buds and he and God shared profanity laced prayers because well? They are that close.. He was obviously entitled to do or say, act any way he wished as his free speech as he saw to express it, was more important than silly small time AA where some of us are here to clean up our acts. That makes no difference if you can't see you're dirty or bow out of the brainwash.. I get it. That whole "I'm here to stop drinking only" thing... So any one there was basically at a Bob's Anonymous meeting or Joe's maybe.. Whatever the speaker's name was? This was not an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I thought to myself what's next? Podium politics! Global gossip? The speakers view on Syrian gas attacks? Gun control?The guy I recently bought a new truck from was Russian...Should I change my sobriety date?
My first reaction was, what did I just walk into? The usual negative banter at the Wise Cracker Lounge on payday? Raising our glasses and self esteem to those fools who aren't divorced or fired or broken hearted parents like us? No holes barred here! Everyone is screwed up and we're ok tonight.
One after another he flattened boundaries as he overtook the room.. Napalm, Dynamite, Gun powder, Toxic gas, Small arms fire, Character assassination.. We were pinned down and getting hit hard by this act of self will run riot, surviving at best.
Oddly, I looked around and noticed some were laughing as if this was a late night def comedy jam? X rated entertainment? While others were obviously uncomfortable. Confused. There was no medicine being passed around the hall in the speakers share. Unless it was some kind of new "abusive love" tactic? The next level of tough love maybe? Nope, it was the equivalent of loud gangster rap at the senior center.. Which for the most part as far as I could tell? Wasn't what the people were here for. They wanted experience strength and hope with maybe a entertaining drunkalog kicker. Some good old "I did that" humor to identify with. Or someone's miraculous rise from the gates of hell to live sober and free backed up with a plug for AA.. After all it was a Saturday night AA open speaker meeting. And to be fair? Sure these attendees were older and probably still used words like "rickets" or "salve", "rheumatism". Where were you the day Kennedy was assassinated in their shares but, don't think for one minute they didn't howl at the moon while blind in one eye unable to see out of the other on their last days drinking. While all their lonely howling did finally show them the way back to the pack. The AA pack.
The pretty coffee maker gal was staring at me from the other side of the counter looking for a reaction. The look on her face was, this was not Alcoholics Anonymous? Who is this clown puncher anyway? This was an out of town commitment from the south shore of Boston somewhere. Some wannabe tough guy from Southie giving the meeting an emotional workout. Certainly not an AA members experience strength and hope? What it was like, what happened? And what it's like now living sober in the fellowship while working the 12 Step program? It was more like a obscenity laced fish story. I could hardly believe any of it. He reminded me of the annoying self seeker full of fear and trying desperately to fit in. The guy who nervously laughs at anything. As opposed to me, Mr. Sensitive. The guy so extremely self centered and co-dependent I'm afraid to blink and ruin your fine impression of me. I can lose control of my surroundings and be all alone again in a heartbeat. I felt as if she was on my side here. I had a co-signer. Me and her against the speaker.
Once again it dawned on me this was a public forum that was advertised in the newspaper. On AA meeting lists. In a non profit meeting hall and yes open to the public. The "open" AA speaker meeting where "all are welcome to attend". Family and friends, water testers, anybody interested in AA. Anybody connected the alcoholic or problem drinker are welcome. Anyone involved in the addiction recovery industry? Anyone with any alcohol related issue of any kind from any source? Tour bus? School trip? Extra College credits? Come on in, this is what AA is all about. We're here for you! The group members show up set up and clean up. Mostly all are willing participants. It's an AA group. The reflection of the AA fellowship.
After a particularly garbled 2 minute rant, I started getting fragmented blurbs from the Big Book pages as if he was losing the audience.. This always alerts my Spidey senses. Big Book. The sacred text. I was looking for validation but didn't care about motives. I thought to myself, he better not screw this up! Knowing when and how to give? OK. See to it that my own house is in order? OK. Obviously I cannot transmit something I haven't got. OK not bad. He can quote the Book. Not good but not bad either. He's read the Book. But I still knew something he didn't know even on my Big Book turf. You don't just read it, you do it!
He kept on with the Big Book and I began to mount a counter assault in the name of AA and alcoholics everywhere. The self delusion of the extreme codependent.
He said, understanding the whole giving taking thing? It can be a long process. Then there's that whole ( I may be constitutionally incapable of being honest with myself ) paragraph in the Book where heads in the audience bobbed in agreement. I myself was constitutionally incapable for a long time in AA. A sober monkey with a machine gun just clearing my own path each day as I try not to drink. People in my way? People always in my way. Believing this AA thing won't work for me, I'm way to screwed up! I soon realized as soon as I had admitted to myself I had a problem and was willing to do something about it? I became capable. Pretty simple really. He went on to assure the crowd he was not a perfect alcoholic. Was this humility? Or had he just realized he had been lobbing F-bombs like a frustrated mom alone in a minivan cut off in traffic.
Now, the Big Book suggests using everyday language when working with the new man. I suppose everyday language is based on who is behind the message and their everyday moral fiber. Our daily conduct is a moral issue right? Our daily spiritual reprieve? Character restoration? I myself have worked with a new man and let go the "full monty" as we discussed my experience and his, in privacy. Private conversation. We will not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it? If we have good purpose? Working with the new man? Maybe even a bit of mirror image to comfort the sufferer.. But I must remember he's living in it still while I've grown out of my malady for today. He's still in his hopelessness and despair while I stop by to share some hope and come back.
I had forgotten all about the first part of his share with the F-bombs and such. He was talking AA now. Maybe he was just nervous and was acting out on self centered fear at first. Whatever. Still no excuse to dump offensive aggressive language on a group of people looking for peace. Or maybe he just doesn't know any better. Or that non profanity shares are any better? That there even is a better? Like the mother going off on her 4 year old in the grocery store with a profanity laced shocker that just stops you in your tracks? Poor kid! Poor mother! What's wrong with you talking to a kid like that! I don't care if it's yours of not! Throwing F-bombs at a 4 year old can't be good power of example. It's certainly not on my civilized societies key ring. Important things for a 4 year old to know and understand.
Yes the new man is the most important person in the room. "Not" because I want anything they have whirling around the mile marker in their head, that's for sure. I'm not here for the drama. I'm not a forensic sobrietist or code breaker. I'm here to offer a way out. Not decipher or even solve your puzzle. I have an opportunity to offer the new man the suggested 12 Step program of recovery offered in detail in the first half of the Big Book. Basically? A spiritual path leading them out of their bondage. Offer them the ability to free themselves by way of the AA suggested spiritual path..
I have seen and done things while drinking that have never actually gone away. They can only be expressed publicly from a frightened alternative ego. Dark sarcasm uncovering layers of infected emotional tissue that has been reopened time and again, never allowed to heal.. Some that nolonger hurt really, just bleeds like a cancer. It never goes away. Out of the blue? Once in a while for no real reason bleeds again like a reoccurring emotional open and closing wound. I may not always be in fit spiritual condition and caught off guard will seek a quick fix. As if medicating my soul. I rely on my self centered mind to fix my spirit. As I look through my once spiritual tool box, the patience love and tolerance is missing. Willingness is unavailable. No spirit. All I find is people. So there it is. I'll use people to fix me, why? Because it's all I got, all I know. But self reliance can fail at the first sign or guilt or shame. I will again do the same self will thing expecting a different result. It's on me now. And again I'll fix myself with insanity..Chaos will divert my attention to something new. Some person place or thing to take my pain away.
Nervous humor laced with F-bombs. Free speech outside the spiritual guidelines suggested.. Stealing really? Both myself and the new man going a little closer to the edge in an effort to gain eachothers trust as if you're bad? You've been bad? Well, I'm bad too. Creating a sense of security. Validation. Yes we have lived in the alcoholic pit of despair, yes we both sweat, spit, and swear. Sure, you jump I'll jump. Comforting each other as we jump together into a fellowship of bottom feeders. We both agree, we must start somewhere. It's cards on the table time so I throw out a tidbit that may sting if exposed to the world but won't land me in jail. I have primed the pump. The conversation flows..
Sometimes, to identify with another's deep dark and haunting past an F-bomb is used to dredge up and kick the guilt and shame out into the light. Restraining it, tying it up with shocking power words that will overwhelm it, hold it there for another to see until it burns in the light of day. Turning it to ash in an act of humility. It may not be gone forever but for now at least I'm splitting it with you and you're taking it. You are on my side and I am validated. As I sit here listening I am getting a lesson in self. How could I know so much about the speaker if I myself wasn't like him?
The F-bombs keep coming from the podium. The Alpha-holic. I want to speak of intolerance while being intolerant myself! I'm ready to stand up and say HEY! Enough with the language! Clean it up!! There's people here! What's the matter with you! Well? I do know what his problem is actually. He said he was an alcoholic. And well? I'm alcoholic too.
The co-dependent who talks at you, dumps on you in hopes of filling you up with themselves. Reels you in and you don't even know you're caught. This seemingly like minded hopeful with their AA membership certificate of approval is really just a garbage mouth speaker, force feeding you their fear. A mouth full of shock to cover themselves.. Spreading their selfishness, their agenda. Their constant need for control. Do they have your attention! Now what? Nothing.. Like the adult child up at the podium screaming hey look! Look at me! Look what I can do! So you look and they see your attention as acceptance. You love them you really love them! You mumble how it was great to hear them because you're hiding behind others and what you think they think and would do or say. May as well just kiss the ring now. When in actuality? You feel used, manipulated. You hope you never see him again. It worked. Now you are afraid. Of what? Confrontation? They won't like you? What?? They own you and you are talking and making decisions based on selfishness that is dominating you, hurting you. Spiritually empty, self reliance is gone. You're acting like them now and don't know why. Another self imposed crisis you can't postpone or evade. It's become obvious and just in time. You are beyond human aid! So concerned with taking someone's inventory to validate yourself you forgot about Step 2!
The thief and his thieving spew? More selfishness to combat self centered fear? More stealing from others. Or, more sucking the emotional security out of the room by spewing vulgar language from the AA podium? This is nothing more than a clock watching, toe tapping, change jingling, styrofoam cup fingernail piercing, fifteen minute yarn describing untreated alcoholism. The mixed message. An obscenity laced barrage of what it's unfortunately like for them living the spiritual AA 12 Step program of recovery. Rarely do they speak for themselves. They are comforted in the "we" part of the fellowship.
Yes, you're an alcoholic when you say you are, and also in recovery when you say you are. You work the 12 Steps when you say you do. You're abstinent if you say you are also. So it's basically all on you to become willing to be honest with yourself first then with others. To grow in understanding and effectiveness with the God of your understanding or Higher Power. Under it all? In the foundation? There is no accountability to build on. There is no house to keep in order or Step 12 program to practice in all your affairs. There's only you and your selfish arrangements to hopefully meet your needs.
Yes.. There is hope. I can become a power of example through surrender and not forcing arrangements as a example of power. Bounce back by way of willingness and surrender. Break from the self seeking behavior trap. Skip right over the easier softer ways as they constantly present themselves..
Progress not perfection? A 12 Step furlough? Sure, it's the AA get out of jail free card. You lob F-bombs around AA with absolute unaccountability. There's nothing wrong with it? It's all about you.This is how you communicate. Others will have to just deal with it because you certainly aren't going to change for them. To thyne own self be true right? And there's the whole right to say what I want when I want thing..Don't like it? Don't listen! Got a resentment? Get a coffee pot and find another hall. Validate yourself!
So anyway, I was focusing on the old lady in front of me in line. Well dressed maybe later 70's and reeked of cigarette smoke as if she rarely bathed and her today's appearance was painted on over yesterday's. Whatever, now I'm the AA hygiene police? I laughed to myself. Man am I a self will run riot control freak tonight! The F-bomb throwing speaker had me negative right from the start. My problem I know, but it's much easier to blame him especially when I am unchallenged.. I just hadn't recognized it yet. I was feeling like the victim of a drive by.
Anyway, this lady turned to me and smiled and the second I had her attention? I said it's time for this guy to wrap it up. I was chomping at the bit waiting to say it to somebody so I was ready to retaliate. Make others co-sign me, even pay for how I feel by spreading my criticism and controversy as I jockey for control of my self centeredness. And here she was right in front of me! She was quick to cosign me with a nod and wink. Great! Now it's me and her against him. I feel better already. I thought for a second, is it the swearing that bothers me or do I need a self esteem boost and he's just in my face right now and ready to use?. Nomatter. I said man, this guy is sure throwing some gutter balls. She turned and said she was here to get out of the gutter, not keep living in it. She'd been there and done that! She used to curse like a Catholic in contempt but now days? She has left it behind and hardly uses vulgar language especially in public. Never in an AA meeting. Yeah.. I agreed. Never in an AA meeting. We were now much healthier, more spiritually fit than everyone else especially the speaker so, I felt good on our hilltop as we looked down on the crowd. Especially anyone who was listening and identifying.
By the time he sat down and another speaker got up? My mind had stopped. I was worn out from the racing struggle to find a self esteem boost. I needed a nap.
The next speaker started off with some fun laughs and as I looked around the room those who thought the other guy was funny weren't laughing. I thought we really don't mix just because we're here tonight. I thought how it really is a power play of sorts. The whole jockey for position in AA. Create my own validation with selfishness and self seeking behaviors. It was me! It's always me..I'm the one with the daily reprieve contingent on my spiritual willingness to grow in understanding and effectiveness. I'm the one responsible for carrying the AA message as I see it, as I understand it.
I saw the F-bomb guy head outside alone. I followed him to the smoking area, the butt can. I wanted to walk over and talk to him. He was at once engaged in loud conversation with a few guys that were already there. They were laughing, shucking and jiving as they tossed F-bombs around the can. It hit me as I watched a younger girl smoker staring in silence.. This is who he is. Trying to make him act as I wish is only me selfishly trying to arrange him to suit myself. I'm not the AA police or the moral rule of thumb by any means. I basically came to the meeting and first off tried to arrange it to meet my needs. Make me comfortable so I feel better about myself. I shook my head. Man I've got a bad case of alcoholism. Right? I can't even see that I'm the Alpha-holic! I almost immediately think it must be him if he's the one in my way! I can't see that I'm the one pushing my way through my day or night. I'm the one trying to overcome my self centered fear with self seeking behavior. I felt good enough to make eye contact with a few people, Say hello and goodbye. Leave them with a genuine smile. I may have shown up as an extreme example of self will run riot who really did need a meeting but now? As I walk to my truck? I feel good, right sized. Not absolutely sure how but aware my willingness had been restored. I surrendered and now have the power to see myself so I know what can change.
I went home and in my Step 11 nightly inventory I reviewed and prayed. I was grateful I could see myself as I really was. The extreme selfishness I saw clear as a bell in my 4th Step so many years ago but by the 10th I was supposed to be working today? Was a slippery slope for sure. The blame. The user. The selfish producer of confusion rather than harmony as suggested. The taking everyone's inventory in hopes of raising my self esteem as I lower theirs. Yep another day it was me against the world and as usual I fell down a few Steps. Tripped and rolled off the spiritual path back into my own puddle of selfishness and fear that has never dried up completely. Apparently it will always be there. But today? I know I can do better. By the grace of my God and the program? I may have been gasping for air sure but I didn't drown. I was grateful. I reminded myself how I have never dropped an F-bomb online. It felt good, like an accomplishment. Something I can see and have proof of. To others that's no big deal but to me? It's huge!