My old sober friend Joe said that short phrase to me one day many years ago. It stuck, I was tattooed. It was what he tried to do each day sober in his own life. "Seek peace and be a right guy" is what was passed on to him from some other AA member who's name I can't recall, maybe his sponsor.. He wasn't a brainwashed Big Book thumper like me, no. He was a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. The fellowship? The 12 Steps? The meetings meetings meetings, all of it.
There was a kind of validation in being an extremist for me. A mixed message, one to tell myself and one to express to others. I was one of the chosen few? Yet would act much too humble to mention it. Big Book was the only way? Yet I openly admit we are all children of God and have a right to be here. When I heard someone say at a meeting that we are only as sick as our secrets? I was pegged. But misery loves company so as long as someone else was pegged like me? I was ok. The old adage, a drunk safe cracker comes to AA and becomes a sober safe cracker was always good for a chuckle but the truth was there, right there. There was more to this whole Alcoholic thing than the alcohol. As if I considered myself royalty for being such a life long royal screw up.
My defects ran amok. I did change sure, as many were removed while others became obsolete. Some remained for a time, some simply absorbed by enablers, some needed daily attention. Lots of change but not always for the better. (Better) being my ability to seek peace and be a right guy. I could face facts like, I didn't actually hate any particular individual anymore, I just hated everyone equally. I knew this was not recovery, it was more like recoverage. The knack of covering everything up. My recovery was just change, creating security in the familiar. The problem was still there, the negativity. The comfort in the chaos. The resentment, anger, frustration. People in my way? A breathtakingly haunting past of unresolved issues always circling the mile marker? My mind still raced uncontrollably even in my freshly painted on sober suit of patience love and tolerance...
I was hate, still. I brought the hate. Hate was power, hate was the power of resentment I wasn't ready to completely let go of. I wanted to sure. I wanted to let go of it all! But kept on arranging and manipulating, I could not completely let it go. I hung on to my "self". Actually some of the worst flaws in my character I could not let go of.. And did my best to validate myself by leaving this selfishness behind for others in ever so subtle ways. Oh, I'm spreading the love. No, not at all. I cannot seem to leave the self seeking behavior behind. I can't let go of the power. Like a male dog peeing on bushes everywhere he goes? I'm marking my meetings as he marks his territory. Always looking for an emotional security boost by selfishly manipulating the security from others. Making others pay with their souls the price of my involvement as if I am here now. Kiss the ring. Like me? Accept me? So I can "like" myself..If not? I will make you pay for how I feel about myself so, one way or another you will be mine. I appear to welcome you when I am sucking you in long enough to get my emotional needs met.
Alone I am still full of contempt. Self pity. I blame life itself for my malady. An extreme example of self will run riot. Alone there is nothing to like. Everyone is a threat to my self serving need for control, for power. It's me against the world and I'm the worst enemy.. I am screwed and cannot hide from myself. The frustration is incredible.
A grateful AA member or group? No. Not real if it's not like I am, they must be proven ungrateful. I'll find something wrong somewhere. Then I'll feel better. Maybe the AA member who doesn't go to enough meetings isn't a real AA member. As if walking through the hall with a assets and liabilities people checklist. Acknowledging to myself that everyone is in one way or another screwed up and "check" I'm not. Still a self seeker even when appearing to be kind. Telling myself I'm just taking everyone's inventory so I can better be of service. When in reality? I am constantly jockeying for position. Full of fear. Arranging people, AA members to suit myself. I am what the Book refers to as the producer of confusion. Yet when I pass by a mirror I see a Bill Wilson looking back. I am protected by my delusions of grandeur. Which is a nice way of saying, people are afraid of me and it's ok.
So, aside from the fact that I could act out in fear and probably screw up a free lunch? Besides the fact that I still trust no one and will always look a gift horse in the mouth. Besides the fact that I was knocked off balance as a child and spent my life bringing my surroundings to my own level of acceptance in order to find control? Besides the fact that I have done extensive work in the Big Book 12 Steps and a fellow AA member guy who has really no 12 Step experience has put me in my place? Exposed me as the still hopeless alcoholic that I am? Flushing me out with an act of honest kindness? All that aside? What am I going to do about it! This isn't recovery? This certainly isn't recovered as those who have accepted the process profess and quote.. What really scares me? I don't think this is temporary. I've been screwed up for a while now. I really believe I'm on the wrong track so deep that I may never find the right one or my way back.
Actually? I could drink again. I don't want to but living the way I feel? It's really just a matter of time when my arrangements don't stay put and my manipulation of people places and things fails to hold my fear in check. I will drink again. I'll put everything I have into anothers acceptance of me and they'll leave and take me with them! I will believe it will be different this time? That's a given. I will blame but when I am alone and afraid? Who knows? I'll see only my selfish need to overcome the extreme self centered fear by finding a hiding place. Somewhere to shut it all off, make myself go away. Me, the forever lonely loser trying to again get away from themselves.. The failure at life. The unloved pariah in my fathers eyes. The real me. Make me die, make me go away, make my mind leave me alone. Booze. High powered drugs. I've been there, I know it works. Yep. I could drink again. Hey..It happens.
I know I need to look at myself, the problem is I don't have the courage. The ability to care enough about myself to help myself. This courage and strength can't come from people. I'm too quick to use people. This can't come from me alone? I am dominated by extreme self centered fear and unable to see past it. I am convinced I can't help myself. I am weak and pathetic really, wallowing in my own impending doom. So I suppose what now...I am beyond human aid? Again? Like the Book talks about? But I did that part! I'm past that! Aren't I? Maybe not. Maybe I've been working this AA 12 Step Big Book stuff like it's a college program. An advanced class of sorts for the "real" alcoholics. Maybe I really never did let go of my egoism and fear. Maybe I simply painted it a nice periwinkle blue in an effort to be pleasing to all people. A scientific cure, an intellectual cure, anything but the spiritual process suggested.
Maybe I've been treating my Big Book 12 Steps like a hell of a guy award. Hey everybody! I accept this award and would like to thank all the little people I step on that keep me up here. Yup..Egoism and fear. The Book suggests a weak 5th Step in it's troubleshooting suggestions. That's it then. I must go back. I will pray for the courage and strength to go back and take a closer look. If I can find it? Change it? I can seek peace and be a right guy. This is really all I want. To be good to myself that others can benefit. I just don't understand what I don't understand.
I will trust in my God and go back to the inventory. Back to the surrender. I must have been unwilling to let go of something big to throw me for such a self centered loop. Probably something to do with not letting go of people. Probably still the people worshipper. Probably still afraid to let go and rely on my God. Probably still selfishly grip the instant gratification of manipulating others to suit myself. That whole "if my arrangements would only stay put everybody including myself will be pleased" thing in the Book.
The God thing can take time, faith, willingness. If I get someone to like me right away the problem is fixed! But nomatter how I look at it I'm still worshipping people over my God. Yup. It's egoism and fear. I guess letting go of my self is going to be more complicated than I thought. Or, "I" am more complicated than I thought.. Maybe I really am a hopeless alcoholic beyond human aid. Maybe this isn't a dress rehearsal. This is real! Something must be done like right now! Today! My mind races uncontrollably again. I begin to panic. I decide to dig deep for any chip of willingness I can find. I get lucky.
I got out my pen and notebook and hit my knees. Which is basically what I would suggest to another suffering in my condition. My first true act of humility? Do as I say, I do as I say..Praying for courage and strength to see myself as I was. I did get the feeling I was on to something not only familiar but healthy. I wanted to see where I had stepped off the spiritual path that for a time was a lifeline of emotional security offered freely in AA. I began to get the picture. I had stopped working on myself. I was helping others sure. I was sponsoring, hearing fifth steps, tenth steps. Picking up the new guys and offering the hand of AA. The steps, the fellowship, all of it. I had done sufficient work on myself and was honestly seeking peace and trying daily to be a right guy in all my affairs. Just like my friend Joe. But I'm not Joe. Oh, I may be alcoholic like Joe sure but I am not of Joe's character.
Some people grow into their lives slowly. Some seem to have support, encouragement. They learn as they go developing coping skills along the way. Sure there are bumps in the road but with their dynamic seemingly already in place? Family? Friends? School? Church? They survive and keep on. I came into the game from an entirely different angle. Sexually manipulated as a child and exposed as the problem rather than the victim. This adult child fear passed onto me set in motion a train of circumstance that had me removed from Sunday school, removed from Boy Scouts, and living as a runaway at 15, hitching alone from Boston to L.A. with only a pocket full of blond hair and blue eyes to pay my fare. I didn't care. I hated myself anyway. No schooling? A 9th grade drop out and reform school graduate. Church was not even considered. This is who showed up in AA for the last gasp of life at 27. I had to look there without the blame. I couldn't avoid it. The fact that before AA, before AA Big Book 12 Steps? I was a complete mess. And the unfortunate truth is I could rise to the king for a day on the smallest of positive affirmation. The slightest thing that goes my way is a sign that I am completely fixed! As my days of sobriety added up I began to experience things that others seemed to just take for granted. Like a car that was not only mine but registered and insured in my name with a current inspection sticker. I had arrived! The Harleys, boats, rental by the ocean. Money. My stage presence grew. My name constantly on the marquis. This was my show now. I was the director and it was ok as I hobnobbed with the other AA directors. Shuckin and jiving at the butt can rather than sit for a whole meeting. I was the director. I knew the script.
There's a saying. If you give five people a thousand dollars? In a month those who were broke before the money came will be broke again while those who already had a thousand will still have theirs. I was kind of like that. I was broke and rescued by AA, the option of living a day of sobriety gave me my thousand. A month later I was broke again. I was like a kid in group of kids in a candy store who was the only diabetic. I did what others did expecting the same result unaware of who I am myself. I'll do what they do and do it better! All I saw was others and filled myself with them in hopes of being them or what I believed they were. They always appeared better off than me so, I want this and that and another of these but unlike the others, I always find myself sick. Fall down and want to die sick.
Foolish decisions, over indulgence. In a nutshell? Selfish denial. I was a nothing drunken failure and yet here I was sober with a beautiful Chevelle super sport at a car show accepting my trophy with the others who owned their beautiful cars? Living my dreams? Girls wanted me! People wanted me to sponsor them! My willingness to balance my days with spiritual understanding fell away eventually and I relied of people once again to do for me, provide for me what I could not generate for myself. My selfish daily self esteem boost. My arrangements, my self seeking behavior. It was a horrible trip back to the beginning. Past the toys and people I had used. It was all there on paper in black and white. Back to please like me so I can like myself. I was again the hopeless empty hole except I had a nice car to cruise the hiway to hell in.
It was clear, clear as it once was. It, me, everything? I was beyond human aid! Why can't I keep that in the forefront! This was the God thing. The spiritual path suggested. The spiritual realm is all things with no specific special treatment. I needed to be special and kept throwing my spiritual belief away for some instant gratification, some fix me make me happy right now scheme usually involving people. Entitling me to a new found better philosophy of life because I have shine things now. I was again convinced. There was no talking myself out of it. This is who I really was sober or not. This was the ism, the bondage buffet. The selfishness and fear. The image of a true alcoholic survivor. Me and my best thinking that got me here to begin with? I am getting it..
Well? The first thing apparent was that all is not lost. If I can see where I fell I can find myself and pick myself back up. This I did because I wanted to, not because I was boxed in and in trouble. I wanted to live right. I wanted to seek peace. I wanted to serve the suffering man in and around AA. I wanted to have purpose. I just had to get it through my thick skull it was not for me alone to make happen. Hey, I could plaster a wall or rebuild a big block chevy, fix stuff, sure. But live sober on my own merit? Nope. I couldn't fix this. It's as if there were just too many parts missing and my great running well oiled machine would inevitably begin leaking profusely until it just stopped working. Over and over. Different people, faces. Lifestyles. Always the same result. Life is great on Monday, hey! look at me! By Friday I want to die.
The selfishness was right there, even my selfish conduct with my friend Joe. The fear. He had something that would take away from my Big Book 12 Step lifeline. He had regular AA. The meetings worked for him. The Matt Talbot retreat with his sponsor. The meeting every night picking up a new comer and making coffee for his group. I couldn't give it up. My identity. I was the hopeless alcoholic. I was the sickest of the sick. I had found the only way to recover in AA. More egoism and fear. More of my own thinking I hope will never see the light of day but there it was. The real me. The secret. I am not at all who I claim to be.
I remember feeling as if God came right over to me and smacked me upside the head with a Big Book. I could see! These steps were to seek peace and be a right guy! These steps were to allow me to recover so I can in turn help others seek a way out of their spiritual malady. Yeah! It's a spiritual thing! How could I have forgotten that one I just can't say. The selfishness and self centered fear got me. I gave in to it. I got a bit of God I n my life and like anything else? I used it for my own gain. Just like I mimicked people? I mimicked what I believed God was too. Not a peaceful daily demonstration or power of example, no. A judge. Or THE Judge.. As if I believe in God so I speak for God now! I am the judge. Do as I say God would say and not as I do. Yep. Rearranging life daily to suit myself and others in hopes of also suiting me. Basically? It's all about God so it's all about me. The co-dependent. I know what God wants so I'll tell you and make you pay if you can't comply. Well...That didn't work out too well for me or Jim Jones.
WHAT IT'S LIKE NOW
It always amazes me just how bound up in selfishness and fear I can get and come back to the Spiritual path. How I can be utterly hopeless and then in a simple act of honest humility show up for life. The little things are what show me I am recovering again. I'm ok, I'm alright. Look at all this stuff I have, here! Have some!
The return of phone calls, the daily responsibilities around the house. The showing up for work and really putting effort into doing a decent job. Saying hello to a odd neighbor. Sharing what I find each day with others without judgement. Being grateful to just be a part of this life and not afraid of it. Seeking peace and being a right guy. Not regretting the past and wearing my future like a thorny crown. As if I am to blame for the worlds troubles.
Nope..I feel good today. Sober, free.. Apparently life is worth living sober in AA when I am willing to let it be and today? Right now? I am willing. I woke up this am with Step 11 upon awakening. I'm alcoholic so I follow the directions suggested for alcoholics. It's good really. I step onto the spiritual path right away. I feel the giving in the world and not just the taking. I have balance. I have a few bucks in my pocket so I'm going to make up a pile of sandwiches to offer a downtown AA tonight. It's good. I'm excited in a weird way right? The bright spot of my life today is to make a bunch of sandwiches for those who may not have what I do. To me? It's what a right guy would do. Give of himself any way he can that another may benefit. And the seek peace part? I don't care who eats them.