Even though I have not touched alcohol in more than 18 months, I have only been going to AA for about a year. I have learned so much in that time and wanted to get some of it out here before I forget–or better yet–before my alcoholic thinking takes over.
1) The work doesn’t stop after you put down the drink–it’s just begun. I don’t say this to sound dreadful but I actually didn’t properly acknowledge this for my first six dry months. I even find my username a little ironic and don’t think I thought fully about what it means to be dry versus sober.
2) Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. I hadn’t heard this saying before. AA really doesn’t promote beating yourself down and reminding yourself of what a mess you are–it’s changing your brain’s focus to the bigger picture and to being of service to others (even if that second part may be driven by the selfish motive to stay sober yourself). It’s easier to get through life knowing you are not the center of the world…you get to let go and let your higher power determine what’s next. I certainly believe in free will and in being proactive, but it’s not up to me to control the results. And that is so damn liberating.
3) Forgiveness is letting go of hope for a better past. I’ve discovered that I carry a lot of anger against people in my life and have a hard time letting go of it. I want to, but it’s hard because that resentment has kept me comfortably quilted in the feeling of self pity and deservedness. But I also resent myself and my own past actions. All of these resentments need to be acknowledged and then I can only ask my higher power for help in removing them.
4) Don’t get too bogged down by AA technicalities. “Higher Power” doesn’t have to be a judgmental bearded man. In my case, it is a spiritual feeling. It’s okay to not have faith in any higher power as long as there is willingness to work the steps and keep an open mind.
5) Humans are not capable of reading the minds of others. Fear seems to underly a lot of my character defects, so I go into many situations (work, family functions, even meetings!) on the defense. I am looking for reasons to feel wronged and hurt and justified in drowning my feelings with booze. But people are only human and most of the time mean well.
6) You can go from not believing in any higher power to being willing to believe but still doubtful to feeling a sense of peace and serenity (that, to me, is my higher power). That sense is not something I preach about to others or even disclose to many others, but I will tell you it is the spiritual feeling that makes me feel grateful to be alive. More than anything in the world, I am off that awful roller coaster of drinking heavily, harming others, feeling intense remorse, erasing what just happened, and drinking heavily again. We are human and sometimes we slip, but there is a way to live a happy, joyous, and free life even if it seems like life is forever destined to be controlled by alcoholism.
7)Alcoholism will always be something I have to respect and work on. A year into AA and I still haven’t passed Step 6. In fact, I recently ate pot-laced chocolate and my sponsor (and others in the program) suggested I restart my time. I am no better or worse than anyone for having more or less time–we are all fighting this battle.
AA is a program that works for some, but not all. It works for me. It gives me regular boosts of hope and encouragement to keep working on making a better life for myself and other people I encounter.