Uncomfortable Truths (…or are they?)

When it comes to AA this week has been a bit of a downer for me. I’m still very much taking care to hear and absorb the similarities, but I’m finding that there are things that really don’t sit right with me. I have a questioning nature but it sometimes takes a while to catch up with me as I’m also extremely trusting. This tendency to trust with abandon often means I am easily sucked in and carried away but my curiosity and inner rebel always catch up eventually and this week that seems to be the case. With AA, I have thrown myself right into it and sworn allegiance to the program without questioning even the bits I don’t particularly feel right about. Well, until now that my thoughts and questioning side are finally getting up to speed, that is. I touched upon a couple of things in my previous post that I find hard to accept, namely: 1) that alcoholism is an incurable disease, and 2) that to stay sober I will always have to stay in AA and practice the 12 steps and 12 traditions.

I’ve thought some more. Plenty more.

It’s with an open mind and heart I have thrown myself into this. If I didn’t think my drinking was out of control I would never have found myself seeking out the rooms – I just want to be very clear on this point. Honesty doesn’t scare me and I’ve never been scared to FEEL. Hell, I feel everything so fucking strongly it’s quite exhausting sometimes but that’s always been me, sober or otherwise (and ‘otherwise’ has mostly been the case over the past decade when I was busy drinking myself to pieces), but I’ve always accepted that to be who I am and I’ve never attempted to feel less or more or in a way that isn’t what makes me ME. I don’t mean to be obnoxious but taking a good look at myself isn’t something I’m scared of. Sure, I have battled with alcoholism for many, many years but it wasn’t down to reluctance to admit I had a problem because I knew that for a long time. The issue for me was that life appeared a little dull if I were to remove the booze – dumb as hell, yes, but that’s all it was when I peel away the layers, fear of removing something I have for a large part actually enjoyed. With that said, no, I didn’t hit rock bottom but I got a good look at what rock bottom looked like and decided that I didn’t much fancy ending up there. I got to a point where plunging towards that dark place and fear of inevitably ending up there overtook the enjoyment, it’s no more complicated than that.

When I reached the decision and knew in my heart I needed and wanted to do something about my drinking and found the rooms, it was with such relief. I’ve felt amazing for almost a month now and it’s all because I’m sober. As I have a tendency to do initially – and of course I was also full of gratitude and joy so probably even more likely to just get gobbled up by the philosophy of AA – I took everything I heard and read as gospel and made a promise to myself that I would follow the program to the letter. And I have. I’m doing the praying, calling others in the fellowship, reading and all the things I’m meant to do. I am doing it with a sense of trust and confidence. Still, I’m coming across things that are in direct conflict with my most fundamental values and beliefs.

Because I dove in and got myself a sponsor – Sparks – I suppose she’ll eventually start to take me through the 12 steps. For those who aren’t familiar with AA and its program, these steps are basically a mish-mash of something along the lines that you admit you’re an alcoholic and powerless, then hand yourself over to a Higher Power that’ll remove your flaws, admit your wrongs and then put them right, then “do service”. Something like that. The last part I think is basically passing on the gift – sobriety – that you have been given to other alcoholics by helping out with anything from serving the coffee at meetings to sharing, chairing, sponsoring and so on. I know I’m sounding incredibly negative at the moment and it really isn’t my intention, I’m just being me: honest. I’m genuinely seeking answers, not attempting to hinder my own recovery even though it might look that way. I mean, stop asking questions – just trust the program because it works! Sorry, it’s just how I am – I’m quite happy to give of myself and trust in stuff, but I do also have a genuine desire to understand the whats, hows, wheres and whys. Throw in a few ifs and buts too and we’re good. Bit of a control freak, you see.

So in these 12 steps there is one about asking God (or, as it goes, “as you understand Him”) to remove the defects in you. This is where I want to scream! I’m human – am I not MEANT to have defects? Isn’t that one of the very fundamental freaking cornerstones of what makes me human in the first place? I have grown up believing what I was raised to believe, namely that all our qualities – good and bad – are part of who we are and what makes us US and therefore by definition if you start removing parts we’re no longer who we were meant to be. I was raised to always look for truths in any criticism and see if I could see any, and if so raise my hands and admit I’ve been a twat if I have been and do my best to do or be better. But never to think of even wrong doing or less than good qualities as “defects” that need exorcising somehow.

Even marriage vows tell us “for better for worse” so to me it would be a bit like removing how freaking nosy my husband is – he just can’t help himself, goes through everything, has to know everything and I’ve had to change passwords, create secret folders in my e-mail and create a digital Fort Knox in order to keep where I’m taking him on his birthday a secret. Annoying as HELL. But it’s cute and endearing and I don’t want to change a THING about this beautiful person I am fortunate enough to call my husband. OK, so being a little nosy doesn’t exactly compare with Raging Alcoholic which is what “for worse” means in my case and what he has to contend with, the poor soul! To be fair, however, it’s part of who I am – or at least it’s been part of my journey – so I am willing to hazard a guess that if you asked hubby he might actually say that EVEN THAT he would not change. I know, right? He’s unbearably wonderful. A unicorn.

Point is though that I wouldn’t be Sophie with parts removed, be it my drinking or that I have a huge arse. With that said, I believe it’s the right thing to do to try to improve things that are bad for you or others. I just don’t believe in or understand what could possibly be gained by removing “defects”. They are part of who I am and I am a fallible human being! Improve, grow, learn and develop – yes. Erase, deny, forget, remove – no.

Also, as willing as I am to hold my hands up and make honest admissions (saying I’m an alcoholic isn’t a defeat to me, it’s a victory so here’s my battle cry once again: I’M A BIG, FAT ALKIEEEEEEEE!!!), I don’t like labels. I really don’t. In fact I despise labels. Labels are for jars, not people surely? Hm, no, that doesn’t work for me. That contradicts my beliefs MASSIVELY. Almost to a point that I just won’t accept it because then by default that would mean that my one criminal act – stealing a chocolate bar at the age of 10 – would irreversibly define me forever. But it doesn’t. It was an act of defective BEHAVIOUR. Not an inherent defect in me as a being. I am a human being who has got faults and shortcomings like any other – no more, no less. My drinking is a BIG problem, but I struggle to label myself any more than I would label any other person and I believe in our own power to make changes and do better when we’ve fucked up. It all comes back to ownership and responsibility that I prefer to place at my own door, not in a mysterious disease (that’s incurable at that!) or some elusive Higher Power.

But I’ll go with it for now because I’ve not found any other solution to a problem that will kill me unless I keep on the straight and narrow – clear? Good. Just want to underline that I’m going with this until proven wrong but that doesn’t mean I can’t question its logic where it doesn’t agree with me. That’s all.

I’ve exchanged texts with Sparks this morning and I’ve told her I’m full of thoughts. Immediately she told me to “use” her, that she’s here for me and that I can call her anytime with any thoughts, any doubts or anything else I need to get off my chest. I think all of this would be really good to bounce around with her. Help me make sense of it, really. Well. After all, she’s been exactly where I am now, experienced the drink monster just like I have and therefore likely to have battled with these exact thoughts too and look at her now: happily sober for years and her joie de vivre is utterly contagious. I’ll have what she’s having, please. 

And once again – for all my thoughts and even doubts – all I know is this: I woke up this morning feeling grateful that yesterday was another sober day and I will strive to make today another one just like it.

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