Happy Leap Year 2016!
Today’s meeting was a study in contrasts: at the start of the meeting we had 3 people, by the end we had twelve. A variety of interpretations of each reading, yet each person’s viewpoint became the springboard for the next person to share. A tremendous disparity in sober time (one gentleman celebrating 34 years, another one celebrating 21 months, a woman with a few days under her belt), yet the appearance of complete understanding of one another’s viewpoints.
If only the rest of the world could work this way.
We read from the book As Bill Sees It, and the theme of each reading was growth. To tell the truth we only read about two paragraphs; today was more about sharing, less about reading. Which is pretty much my favorite kind of meeting.
The first point to which everyone agreed: growth cannot begin until active addiction is arrested. In other words, getting sober is priority number one. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people attempt to put the cart before the horse, and think that the work of recovery can be done while still drinking.
Several attendees shared their “most essential tool” used in getting sober. One talked of the value of the fellowship in teaching him how to get and stay sober… as he says, “My broken brain couldn’t fix my broken brain!”
Another attendee found great comfort and logic in the 12 steps of recovery. He needed something to replace his drinking, and found the work of doing the steps to be a healthy alternative.
Although agreeing that the need to get and stay sober is a critical first step, most of the shares went in different directions after this point. One attendee said that once she got sober, her growth came in the work she did on finding balance in her life. While drinking, she lived in an all-or-nothing state. In sobriety, she had to learn to live in the middle, and it is an ongoing process.
Another gentleman found his growth in learning to find assertiveness outside the bottle. For years the only way he could speak up and voice his own opinions was while drunk. In sobriety he had to learn to articulate his resentments, decide which were important to address, and which were okay to let go, and, most important, speak his mind in a productive manner. Sober for 38 years, he still considers this an lifelong journey!
Another member of the group shared his growth will be in addressing those character defects that led him to alcoholic drinking in the first place. Because it is not conditions that cause us to drink, but rather our reaction to the conditions in our lives. He thinks in many ways the work he is undertaking now is more challenging than it was to put down the drink in the first place.
Another woman who recently celebrated four years of sobriety shared her struggle with trying to stay focused on the present when friends and family remind her of her actions in active addiction. She would prefer to leave that chapter of her life behind her, and wishes others would too. The growth she seeks is in learning to accept that which she cannot change with her loved ones so she can enjoy the serenity that she’s earned in these past four years.
One attendee spoke of the blessing of active addiction. Without it, he would not have the gift of recovery; without recovery he feels certain he would not have lived up to his potential. For it was the skills he learned within the fellowship of our 12-step program that allowed him to achieve all his greatest successes. It is because of the gift of sobriety that he holds the unshakeable belief that all things are possible now that he is sober.
As always, everything that everyone shares is meaningful to me, and relatable in some fashion to my life experience. What stood out most, in the readings and shares, is the notion that an awakening is an ongoing process. There’s no finish line, no graduation ceremony, no box to check off. It seems counterintuitive, really: aren’t you done if you’re sober? What else is there to do, really?
I see sobriety similar to an ongoing housecleaning. Did you ever decide to clean out a drawer, and in finding homes for all the miscellaneous items, discover a whole new set of cleaning and organizational projects?
That’s the way I’m finding sober life to be. Sobriety has opened my eyes to all the different areas in my life I can choose to improve, as well as give me the confidence to let go of the things that no longer serve me.
And of course it’s not always fun. In fact, often it feels like I’m wearing an itchy wool sweater in the heat of summer. But as my friend above stated so eloquently, there’s a profound sense of hope that all things are possible in sobriety!
A friend from the beginning of my journey to recovery is back in our fellowship; seeing her her this morning, hearing her share about the profound changes that commitment to sobriety has brought, reaffirms my own recovery!