M(3), 4/24/2017: Relationships are Everything
I was draggin’ my wagon to the meeting today. It was a busy weekend, and I’m not feeling 100%. It is dreary and cold, which is atypical (I think, maybe not) for late April. I slept well, but could definitely use some more. It’s a very busy week coming up, and downtime is always a good thing.
The actual only thing that kept me from finding a substitute is that I had to miss last week, since braces came off my son. And I just didn’t have the heart to miss back-to-back meetings. It’s a freaking hour out of my life, time to pull up the boot straps.
And, as always, I’m so glad I did, and for a variety of reasons.
It was a larger than usual group of late, closer to the high of 20 than it was the average of 12. There were at least 3 people I have never seen before, and new blood is always a good thing for meetings. A regular that had been missing was back, and that’s always reassuring.
Most importantly, the shares that came out of today’s reading took an unexpected and positive turn that I would have never predicted.
Every once in awhile I post about meetings that have more to do with “life” issues than with alcoholic ones; today’s meeting was that to the extreme. The word alcohol rarely even came up in today’s meeting. I love this kind of meeting the most, because it reassures me of what I’ve believed (and written about) for a very long time: the 12 steps do more than keep you sober, they help to improve your whole life.
The reading, taken from the book Forming True Partnerships, is a tale about a husband and wife who got sober together, and weathered 17 years of a sober marriage, after 4 years of an alcohol-fueled one. As I was reading the story, I was a bit concerned, as the story takes some dark turns. I was concerned it would negatively affect the mood of the group. I could not have been more wrong, which shows I should possibly stop worrying so much, and trying to think for other people so much 😉
For the record, what I got out of the reading was this: applying the 12 steps to your whole life works. It helps you get through challenging times, it improves relationships, it creates a peace that otherwise would not exist.
The author writes of her various attempts at controlled drinking prior to sobriety, and describes these attempts as similar to “switching seats on the Titanic.” That not only made me laugh, since I had not heard that before, it made perfect sense to me.
She writes about how sobriety positively impacted both her marriage and her parenting skills; I can relate to that as well.
Finally, the author shows a remarkable ability to turn tragedies into learning experiences that make for a better future. It was inspirational to read such a tale, and I am energized to put things into better perspective as a result.
Rather than make a bunch of bullet points as I have been doing all year, I am going to sum up the groups’ shares as a generic whole. Because it was in listening to the various members of the group that I was enthralled. Every person focused on the fact that our lives are comprised primarily of relationships. In the case of the reading it was a husband and wife, but the truth is our happiness, or lack thereof, is almost solely based on the quality of the various relationships we hold. If we are married, then the primary one is often a spouse, but just as easily it could be a significant other, a child or children, a parent, even the relationships formed in the rooms of our 12-step fellowship.
It would stand to reason then, that learning the proper care and maintenance of these relationships is paramount to our happiness. And once again, the 12 steps play a huge role. By applying the 12 steps, we look to clean up our side of the street, and focus on that which we can control… ourselves. As soon as we make this important shift, absolute miracles happen all around us. We feel happier, more settled, more confident. We make better decisions, we are less impulsive, we pick less fights. We are so much quicker to acknowledge our part in any situation.
As a result, we earn respect in a way that is unprecedented. People see and feel the shift within us, and we get positive reinforcement. And so the upward spiral begins.
And of course, we are human, and as such we are prone to error. But the 12 steps take that into account as well… we look for progress, not perfection. And we take things one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time, so now’s a great time to restart. And if not now, a minute from now. And so on…
Hopefully someone was as slow to read this post as I was to go to my meeting, but has read it through and feels better for having done so!
The reminder that life is a journey, and not a destination. I am given what I need, both in terms of blessings and challenges. It is my choice with what to do with each!
M(3), 1/30/2017: 5 Years Later
A happy Monday to all! Today we read from Forming True Partnerships, a book that talks about the various relationships and how recovery impacts each. Today’s reading came from the chapter on friendship, and the author wrote both eloquently and compellingly on the friendships formed within the 12-step fellowship, and how that connection keeps her coming back.
This meeting was a celebratory one for me, as I announced my 5-year sober anniversary to the group this morning. The actual anniversary took place a few days before (Friday), and I already received my coin, but I was able to pass that coin around to my main sober network, and get their good wishes instilled into the metal. At least, that’s the tradition in our neck of the 12-step woods.
The reading was a poignant one for me. Nowadays my main network is, as I just mentioned, my Monday meeting group. But since my anniversary was Friday, I had the option of attending a meeting that was vitally important to me in my first year of sobriety. I don’t think I missed more than one or two of those Friday meetings that first year, and I went a heck of a lot in my second year as well. By year three, I was tapering them off, as the commute had become unbearable.
So this year the coincidence of the anniversary falling on the same day the meeting was held had me considering the trek down-county. That particular morning I had a horrible night’s sleep, and strongly reconsidered. I was tired, cranky, I knew I could just as easily celebrate with my Monday peeps, plus there was a fear lingering in the background… it had probably been at least a year since I had seen a single one of those meeting attendees… what if I walk in and I know no one? What if things are intensely awkwards since I had not been around in such a long time?
Finally, the correct thought hit me: I don’t attend meetings so I can be heralded, I go to share my experience, strength and hope. So with a prayer that my anniversary and whatever I was to share might help another, I set out.
Of course, none of my fears came to pass (which leads me to wonder… do they ever?). With the exception of one or two, all the old regulars were there, plus a handful of delightful newcomers (at least, new to me). I happened to arrive on the anniversary of the meeting, which meant good eats were there, and an incredible speaker who shared her story. I left with more energy than I ever would have gotten from sitting around bemoaning my previous night’s sleeplessness. I reconnected with old friends, was asked to speak at a future meeting, and left feeling a renewed sense of the fellowship.
All of which I shared at my meeting this morning, along with my most delicious homemade cake that I make (pound cake with buttercream frosting, my way of thanking this group for all their wonderful support through these 5 years). Here are some other wonderful pearls of wisdom shared:
- The value of the fellowship, and of connecting with other human beings, taps into an essential part of the human condition: the need to be seen for who we are.
- The reading, and the extolling of the fellowship within it, is reminiscent of our program’s 1st tradition. Just like we have 12 steps, we also have 12 traditions. The first one is “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on AA unity.”
- Every aspect of our fellowship is a beautiful experience that is vastly different from the relationships we build in almost any other setting. When we gather at a 12-step meeting, most of the time we are a group that would not interact in the “outside world” by a long shot. We come from vastly different social circles, socio-economic classes, even geographically there can be differences. Yet when we sit down for our 12-step meeting, we are virtually a family. We have an inherent understanding of one another before we speak a word. It is truly a priceless gift.
- One part of the story referenced the television show from the 80’s, Cheers. Specifically, the author writes about when the character Norm walks into the bar and, as the theme song sings, “everyone knows his name.” For many of us, our 12-step group is much like that, where everyone not only knows our name, but pays attention to our innermost thoughts, and sincerely wants the best for us.
- The fellowship is an amazing resource for those of us who consider ourselves introverts, shy, or have a hard time developing friendships. It’s simply a matter of coming back and becoming a regular part of a meeting… the friendships take care of themselves organically.
- The quality of friendships within the fellowship is often markedly better than the relationships formed with our drinking buddies. Some noted that when the drink is taken out of the equation, the “buddies” go away, whereas the friendships within the fellowship have staying power.
- A common expression used in meetings is “keep coming back.” And the reason for that expression is that, in many cases, that is all that’s needed for success… just keep at it, and amazing things happen!
When I said that my Monday meeting peeps are my main source of support, I do my blogging circle of friends a disservice. I started this blog at 3 months sober. It is a freaking miracle that I am still writing this same blog 5 years later, and I owe it all the incredible friends I’ve made in the blogosphere along the way!