The dysfunctional family mid summer cook out. I show up with my diversion, the BBQ ribs. It's been 30 odd years sober for me and still anyone who was alive in my drinking days doesn't really trust me. They go along with a joint skepticism, assuming even now that at any time, anything could happen to derail the days events. I know this and use it to prove them wrong. I'm kind considerate modest and self sacrificing like the Book says. All things to all people.
The young ones do their best with handed down mixed messages of drunkenness and cruelty, all before the invention of the cell phone so it's safe now apparently.. At best the general consensus is I'm weird but weird is the new fun so, I'm in.. Ripping into an ear of corn like an electric typewriter, poking fun at gramma's dollar store flip flops purchased on a wild shopping spree. I'm surviving here, my stage is set. My script demands a curtain call of goodbyes, smiles, hugs and handshakes. Last minute validation. Did I do ok? Did everyone like me? Ok. I can go. Thank God that's over..
I don't really need a meeting but I'm bored. Lonely really. It's lonely at the top. Left to worship people for my validation. The old familiar like me so I can like myself self seeking behavior. The meeting is the only place I can roll up on my Hog and demand attention. An emotional security boost. Then came Bronson.. Me, the once homeless bum, now sober man with his beautiful motorcycle. A 12 Step hybrid of sorts, a power of example and an example of power as if all things to all people at all times. In this case? The AA meeting..
Although I don't smoke I settle in staking claim to the warn patch of grass known as the smoking area. My stage is set shucking and jiving around the butt can, jockeying for position with the homies from my Thursday night group. Running my mouth, picking interesting topic after topic. Shocking really. I am demanding attention as my experience sober spills over the top. All eyes and ears on me. I'm working the crowd. I even stop abruptly and pick up a butt that missed it's mark. Tossing it in the can I am paving the way to proper butt can etiquette.
Blindsided by a self imposed crisis? Evidently I was gossiping while complaining about the AA gossip? All seemingly centered around my long gone AA romance. Yeah, I heard she was all screwed up but I wish her the best of course. Yeah, too bad for her. Going on and on as the voice of experience having survived as the one who didn't drink, the one who got the Saturday night Step meeting in the divorce while she got her old bedroom at her mothers via a short stint in dual diagnosis camp. A local mental health facility where everyone leaves dual addicted, happier than they came. With a coffee cup with the words "special orders don't upset us" scribbled on it.. Then shot out into "big box recovery", the AA warehouse, the only suitable aftercare regiment available for the uninsured..
Anyway, Mr. mohair cardigan, a cool AA guy friend of HER'S more than OUR'S who was always threatening because he refused to take sides? Was there puffing away as if smoking was good for you if you knew his secret. I felt the nervousness come in as a short blast of fear but assured myself I was more important than him, at least I didn't smoke anymore. I quit and he couldn't so naturally he couldn't hurt me. Not here anyway, here in my AA element. I continued to impress myself and others when he broke into MY conversation with a quick comment. A planned shot over my bow with the deadly accuracy of a woman scorned. He said hey, maybe it's not all about you! His words resonated in a cloud of cigarette smoke. My face flushed. It almost took me out. What? He likes her more than me now? Enough to blurt this out in public? But I knew that right? He's defending her? He always did want to be with her! He can't be trusted! I search my emotional munitions dump, my arsenal for hurtful condescending replies. I am full of fear and prepared for battle. I commence to take my head game to the next level. I'm in survival mode now. Messing with me here is definitely not recommended. Obviously he has forgotten who I am. I am the one eyed man on the island of the blind.
I was threatened, over Booked. He may as well have said "we talked of intolerance while we were intolerant ourselves". Power tripping me with a first strike slinging the Big Book lingo. General AA bumper sticker stuff I could handle. Like "live and let live" or "turn that frown around" but Big Book innuendo's? It hurt. It cut me deep. The unsweetened sour taste of my own medicine. All I heard was a fragmented truth about myself like, I know everything about everything except when to shut my mouth! As if I was caught seeing myself, aware of my conduct for the first time, again.. I was hurt, wallowing in fear, off balance and quickly began to back peddle with nothing to go back to.
Some friend he is! Doesn't he know I wasn't gossiping? I was talking about my experience with others in an effort to help. Kind of like the Step 10 cloak of unaccountability. That whole what I say here stays here thing. I am the victim. This guy is holding me down. Forcing accountability on me. I'm just trying to share my experience strength and hope! This is an AA meeting right?
Shaken and stirred now, people are watching me in my delusion of self centeredness. I make my way into the meeting. My mind is still racing in fear. The unresolved issues surrounding my AA relationship. My self esteem is dropping like a rock, bouncing off everyone in the room on the way down. Can I get some support here? Can anyone save me? Will anyone recognize me? No eye contact. As if I'm using the 2 second stare rule. Anything over 2 seconds and they see through me and know too much.
The things I said to her years ago, the unresolved issues surrounding my resentment coming back at me. So what? She's gone. she's not here! I won! I walk in the hall as if greeted by a faceless ticket tape parade. Exchanging pleasantries with other AA members I never acknowledge. The strange super skinny overeater chick who tattooed me with her "I never eat anything with a face" comment last year. The sweaty mental health guy who always wears shirts that are a size too small.
Hello my family, my people! Look here! I am AA. Proving myself, I'm the hand of AA. I decide to get a half cup of coffee for a new guy sitting in the front row. I've got plenty of witnesses. I'm working my program, I'm working "the" program. I consider handing out my phone number but the meeting is starting. I sit myself down safely in the back by the door. The self centeredness is strong. Everyone knows I'm here yet acting as if I am invisible as if I must look at them first before they can acknowledge me. I know the game. The, if you don't call me I'm not calling you game. My mind still racing in self centered fear from the butt can incident. It owns me. I loose any and all eye contact and stare at the floor. Everyone owns me. All of them. I cannot escape my self imposed crisis. I sit here like a medieval fortress, walls up, bridge closed, mote stocked with selfishness and fear. No one comes in or out. Who can help? Who here can speak fluent crazy? Anybody? Can we talk my way out of this? Eh.. no. Not this time.
The speaker makes no sense. I'm too self centered to listen never mind understand and identify. No help here. I'm caught in the AA meeting trap, too self centered to simply get up out of my chair and leave.
A girl I know comes in and sits next to me. She smiles and shakes my hand. There it is, she likes me. I am going to be ok. Just like that I'm ok. She offered herself to me and I took it. She obviously has more power than the butt can guy. My strength has been restored. I now care enough about myself to take action. To care for myself. Then she whispers something about God. Something about the grace of God. The God of her understanding. She believes. It seems safe for me to believe also. My secret comes out of hiding. I can see myself. I am beyond human aid yet I use her and it's good. I get away with it. I feel better with her next to me as if she's a security blanket. She's my mommy. She will save me. She "is" saving me. Saved by Suzie.
As if I am climbing out of a deep pit of despair I begin to feel hope. Maybe she gave it to me? Maybe I stole it? I can't be sure but I do know it is here now. Hope is here now! I am realizing I am far away from my Spiritual path. I am lost deep in the dark Thursday night 12 Step people forest. I want to come back. I am willing. I pray for direction over the speakers voice. Over the laughing and clapping of the meeting crowd. Over my jammed mind still stuck on the guy outside, the woman next to me and all the selfish thinking I was doing for everyone else. It became quiet. I became quiet. I was changing, downshifting gears. Everything was becoming clearer. I seemed to understand where I was.
Step 11 was ringing in my mind. I picked up, I answered the call. I was agitated and doubtful like it said I would be yet I had taken no suggested action. I had been self will run riot, also like the Book said? I didn't think so, again with the Book. I didn't think the problem was me. It had to be everyone else. And Step 10? I had let my guard down, dropped it actually. Instead of continuing to watch for resentment or fear or being dominated by people like I was prone to be? I waited until I got caught. That whole pull up my boot straps give it to me I'll fix it thing. Only once again my action had me backed into a corner. Which I suppose it better than nothing but made way for lots of suffering that could have been avoided had I remained willing to follow directions in the Book. Yes, I was the producer of confusion rather than harmony. I was once again a victim of my own delusion. That I could achieve happiness if only I managed my life well. Apparently for me? I need to learn this everyday. Or at least again today.
So, is there a better way? I do believe so. A psychic change sufficient to solve the drink problem and overcome my extreme selfishness and self centeredness. A way out of my self offered in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous? Yes. I am back. I'm on the path. Just like that I feel ok, I am equal to my surroundings as if simply another piece in the puzzle of life. I have lost my need to be extreme! I look around the meeting hall. I am a part of this. This is good.
Holy crap! It's been a rough day.
But I'm not done, it's not over yet. Everything I said and did. Every way I acted. It wasn't all ok or good now just because I had gotten myself back on the beam without permanent injury to myself or others. No. I was no longer that important. No longer a legend in my own mind. My mess of dishonesty was spread out everywhere with blunt forced trauma. What a jerk. Stigma worries? No. I may as well write JERK on my forehead in black marker. I felt the need to be accountable. I prayed for courage and strength, for direction. I felt overwhelming relief. Sure I was a jerk but hey, I could change!
Thinking about my Step 10 was not the same as practicing it in real time. Let me get that straight. I began by approaching the butt can guy who was still there in total control of the smoking circle. I walked up and waited my turn. I told him I saw myself as a gossip earlier in the night and was ashamed of myself thereby becoming defensive in my fear. I get intimidated by people that seemingly knew my ex more than I did. Who seemed to be friends while I just had a need for control. And all the hurtful sarcasm directed at him, and for that I am sorry. God willing the conduct won't be repeated. Honestly? Who am I to deny them a relationship.
Well? No handshakes. He didn't care and was still resentful toward me for bad rapping my ex (his friend) and making sport of him but I couldn't change that. I could however change myself from here on forward and showed him a willingness to do so. There was no last word in, no need to control. I simply offered an honest explanation and left it at that. I felt the power of courage, the power of honesty.
I told the girl sitting next to me how I was a absolute mess hiding in the back row all paranoid when she arrived and thanked her for her kindness. It was key in letting me see just how far off track I was. Her kindness hit me like a brick to the face. The wake up call offered in AA more than not, for me. The ability to at the seemingly last minute of selfishness and extreme self centeredness pull up on the stick and avoid crashing into the drink. I thanked her for being there. On the way out I thanked the chairperson for the meeting. I was in a thankful mood now. I liked it, it felt genuine like I was now again the person I wanted to be no matter my surroundings. That new attitude and outlook on life 9th Step promises thing in the Big Book..
I got home safe. I was in my comfort zone my element, and ready to retire. What a day. What an emotional roller coaster. I began my page 86ish Step 11 review. I remember asking for help in the morning. Praying for direction too but when thinking about the 24 hours ahead as suggested? I stopped. I couldn't go in there. I began the day with denial. I was praying for direction but the signal was jammed when I came to thinking about the family cook out later that day. The people who would be there mingling with my history of good and bad. I mean that's how I saw myself, Good and bad. nothing consistent really. No actual leg to stand on. I was just going to be what I thought they thought of me. What each one thought. I hadn't been willing to prepare myself for my dysfunctional family. The revised scripts, the costume changes, the whole show centered around me. Upon awakening to a perfectly good new day? I am the Big Book 12 Step sponsor who now becomes the Spiritually weak untreated alcoholic once again dominated by people. The man who denies himself as he whirls around in his life of unresolved issues making sense of the chaos..
My family with no boundaries or lifelines. My family who basically is out for themselves. I forgot that when I'm in it? I'm like them and at times worse when I go back to that emotional way of thinking they have no problem with. It's what they know. They can handle it. It's my alcoholism, not there's. They don't need to change. They all seemed to have a great time being who they were while none showed shame over who they had been. Me? I was basically a mess just knowing I was going there never mind being there for 4 hours. A telepathic genius I am not. Even though I can tend to believe everything I think especially when I am afraid? I am now as I probably always will be, an undisciplined alcoholic. I either take my Spiritual medicine? Or I don't. When I do I seem to have a chance? When I don't it's always the same. I'm on my own.
I'm going to be negative, selfish, discontented and any number of things that go along with the trial and error of living life. It's not always going to be hat's and horns. It's the extreme's I can't handle today. Without the extreme's I have a pretty good shot at living life to the fullest sober today. Or, so far anyway and so far has become quite a long way.
I am willing today. I am willing to be good to my self that others may benefit.