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M(3), 2/6/17: D.E.N.I.A.L.

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Somebody astutely pointed out this morning that last night’s Super Bowl excitement took a good chunk out of our usual attendance.  It was strange at first to see such a low number of meeting attendees, but by the end of the meeting I was grateful.  I forget the intimacy a smaller meeting brings.  Every single person got to share on his or her take on the reading, and a few of us shared twice.  It was a lovely, nostalgic hour for me.

Being the first Monday of the month, we read a personal story from the book Alcoholics Anonymous entitled “Crossing the River of Denial.”  A compelling tale of a woman whose ability to deny her alcoholism knew no bounds, this story touched a nerve with each of us in the meeting this morning.

I was hooked from the synopsis of the story, located directly below the title:

She finally realized that when she enjoyed her drinking, she couldn’t control it, and when she controlled it, she couldn’t enjoy it.  – pg. 328, Alcoholics Anonymous

That line took me back to the thick of active addiction.  Many a time I convinced myself that I had no problem, because when I chose to I could control how much I drank.  What I failed to notice that on those occasions (that, by the way, became less frequent as time went on) when I controlled my drinking, I was generally not enjoying the occasion at all.  I was too focused on keeping my drinking at pace with someone else, or counting the drinks I had, or making sure I drank water in between glasses.  It’s fairly difficult to stay present when you are that preoccupied with the amount of liquid you are consuming.

Another theme of the story is the depth of denial one is capable of experiencing.  The author suffered rather dire consequences, and hit lower and lower “bottoms,” and continued to deny her responsibility for her behavior.  It was always someone else’s fault, there was always someone whose problems were worse than hers, there was always a justification for her actions.

Again, this theme brought back painful memories for me, as I was an expert at dodging blame.  Either it wasn’t as bad as you were making it out to be, it wasn’t your business to be noticing, or why are you talking to me when you should be talking to (fill in the blank, someone whose behavior was far worse than mine).

Of course, all personal stories in the Big Book end happily, and this one was no exception.  Once she was able to hear for herself that she was not alone in her thoughts and feelings, that others had gone before her and changed the course of their lives, she knew she wanted what they had.  She jumped in with both feet, and her life is dramatically different today.  She’s not sure which part of her 12-step work is keeping her sober, and she doesn’t really care.  All she knows is that it works, so she keeps at it, one day at a time.

What a message of hope, and a great reminder not to get too caught up in the “why’s” of any given situation.  Do what works, and give the result up to the Universe.

Some other great insights from this morning’s meeting:

  • One of the great lines from the reading speaks to the idea of doing the next right thing:

“… the Big Book had no chapters on “Into Thinking” or “Into Feeling” – only “Into Action.”  -pg. 336, Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Some of us think that the great hope is to control our drinking, but upon further investigation we realize it’s not that we wish to control our drinking, but to drink as we wish and escape consequences.  And when we are able to honestly acknowledge that, we are well on our way to choosing sobriety.
  • The story is a good reminder of the value of keeping things green.  It is easy to forget, as time goes by, how difficult and painful active addiction truly is.  By reading the depths this woman experienced before choosing sobriety, we remember ourselves how painful it was for us.
  • The unacceptable becomes acceptable is yet another theme of the story that is poignant for those of us in recovery.  Almost all of us can point to a time where we said that we are not alcoholic because we didn’t (fill in the blank).  As time went on and we continued to drink, those same statements became null and void.  Because this is a disease of progression, all those things we claim we haven’t done become a “yet…”  things that will eventually come true if we continue to live in denial.
  • The word denial itself can be used as an acronym:

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Happy Monday to all!

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