Throughout my life, I always thought I had to do it alone and that I was the only one that had felt so isolated and alone. I thought that I was unique in my circumstances and if I shared that with others, it would alienate me even further. These feelings came into being even before evidence of alcoholism and addiction presented themselves. It felt like there was an underlying truth to the fact that I was different.
Not being an alcoholic or addict, yet being in relationships with them, I chose to be the incredible “go it alone” kind of person. I never knew how things were going to roll in my home with my Dad’s drinking, so I choose to avoid those potential embarrassing situations. I thought my problems set me apart from everybody else. It was not the embarrassing details of what happened in our home, it was the shame and fear factor that was the problem. So it truly was about my reaction and what going on in my heart and soul that was the crux of the problem. I learned that once I was able to reach beyond those shameful details, I could reach out and grab the hand of other people affected by alcoholism and drug addiction and find a common ground and a common solution. I wasn’t really interested in sharing all the finer details of my youth and adulthood and rehash all of it in a support group or Al-Anon. Yet, I had tried to do it alone for years and I was just stuck on me. I made it about me and my specific situation, my feelings, my thoughts, my perceptions and that I didn’t get a fair deal and I didn’t get what I thought I deserved! I was saddled with fear, doubt and insecurity on many levels. I didn’t trust you, nor did I trust myself. Poor me…right! I lived and breathed this way for decades.
I was forty seven years old and was sick and tired of feeling hopeless and self pity was dictating my life. I believe life forced me into a state of willingness. I found a group of people just like me with very similar experiences and reactions. It was a group who shared their experiences and spoke from their hearts .They offered a new approach to living. A design for living that worked for me during tough times. They used a blue book, which was the the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The book was written for the Alcoholic sufferer. It helped me to understand my Dad and it also helped me to see my own issues and disease. It was in this group that I found what I was always looking for, connection. It meant opening myself up to having a new experience and putting everything I thought about myself, my Dad, the 12 Steps and even God, to the side for awhile. Honestly, I was not initially looking to be part of a new group and to even find new friends. My initial motive was to make all the alcoholics and addicts in my life change their behavior. The problem was not mine, it was theirs! So I didn’t necessarily want to find friends or get anybody’s phone number, in fact I was quite averse to the suggestion! My intention was to find out what they did, get some answers and be on my way. That is not what happened. This group helped me to go from feeling apart from to being a part of!
Going from the “Me to the We “was pivotal for me. It began in East Dorset Vermont at the birthplace of Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA. I went away with a group for a weekend workshop with some recovered alcoholics and some family and friends of alcoholics. I’m not sure what inspired me to go since I was such a loner, but my spouse showed interest and I thought maybe it could benefit me. It changed my life! I wanted what they had. The fellowship, love, connection and their way of living seemed like the answer. I came back from that weekend and I found a sponsor and started to read the book with her and I was able to identify with her experiences. It was not an overnight matter. I had a set of life long conceptions that I had to reconsider. My ideas were not working for me. So I set out on a path of discovery. A rearrangement was in order: “Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them” (Alcoholics Anonymous, pg 27, 4th Edition). I started slow and came to realize that I was yearning to feel a part of something and wanted to be part of the greater good. As embarrassing as it may seem and sound , I had no specific ideas of how alcoholism affected me until I became a part of this group and started to hear their stories. It was not in my nature to admit that I needed help. Needing help from others was synonymous with inadequacy or weakness. I was the helper not the one needing help! I was the “answer “person all my life and now here I am needing direction. How uncomfortable to admit this for the first time in my life. I was out of ideas. My fear was that if you really got to know the real me, you would surely bail on me because I was beyond help. I had decades of experience of people coming in and out of my life and not sticking around for any length of period of time.
As a result of my connection with these folks, trust started to creep back into my life. I became willing to consider recovery and the 12 steps and to just do what the book suggested. I experienced a change in my reaction to life. “He finally realized that he has undergone a profound alteration in his reaction to life; that such a change could hardly have been brought about by himself alone. What often takes place in a few months could seldom have been accomplished by years of self discipline” (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 567, 4th Edition). I lived in the self help section of every bookstore I ever visited, I gave therapy a try, I was in a religious cult for ten years and I sought ways of making myself feel better and seeking love in all the wrong places. One of the benefits of recovery for me is finding the answers from living life from the inside out and not the outside in. Prior to recovery, my answers came from making my world perfect and managing you and feeling like I was in control. Now I live my life resolving confusion, hurt feelings, and overall discontentment by relying on a power greater than myself and understanding that it is not my place to have all the answers. Finding friends in the fellowship and being able to be rigorously honest and vulnerable is a gift of the program. We speak the same language, language of the heart. Nothing is perfect, life doesn’t always go the way I want it to. People aren’t perfect and neither am I. I make mistakes everyday, and I get up and try again. I don’t fall into the bitterness and self pity that I once did. I strive to live my life based on a sound set of guiding principles. Even this past week I was confronted with some difficult emotions and deep sadness around some unkindness that came my way. I don’t have to pretend that I am okay or put on a good facade . I feel them ,talk about them and pray about them. I have to go through them and not deny or dodge the truth. I lived a life of avoidance, but today I strive to live honestly. I have to dig deep and know that I still need to show up with loving kindness and have my heart in the right place. I worked it out with the help of others and the spiritual tool kit that has been laid at my feet. Simple but not easy is a common expression that I find myself saying. We can all read a set of instructions, but living a principled life is another matter all together.
The benefits are endless as long as I stay in fit spiritual condition. I stay connected to my Higher Power, the fellowship and I try to pass my experience on to help others . Giving the gift to others is one of the greatest benefits. Life has taken on new meaning. I have watched family members of alcoholics and addicts recover and I have seen them help other people. Loneliness is not apart of their lives any longer. They have a host of friends that are reliable . They no longer feel apart from but a part of. I have fun today and try not to take myself too seriously.
It is a good life!