Turning Myself Inside Out

There is always a bit of worry when a fellow drunk doesn’t pick up the phone. Blue went off radar and it did turn out she was back on the juice, although last I heard she had it under control and was only drinking socially and during the weekend. I genuinely hope she is someone who can do that because God knows I tried that strategy over and over and over again and it did NOT work out that way for me. For a while perhaps, yes, but it never took long for the Sauvignon Blanc to spill over into school nights. I will ping Blue a text, if nothing else to say I hope she’s OK and if she isn’t I’ll always be here and will never judge.

Because AA never clicked for me, I stopped going. First it trailed off and I’d just end up going to my favourite meeting once a week but then that tapered off too. It felt like going to a meeting to get support in abstaining from something I didn’t want to do in the first place and therefore a little pointless. Amongst other things that didn’t sit right with me for various reasons. But anyway, during the time I did go regularly I did make a few AA friends that I’d regularly be in touch with. One of those friends is Ivy. We’d text and call each other several times a week and occasionally meet up for a coffee before a meeting. We’re totally different and our boozing careers are like night and day too, but I truly really adore her and sometimes you’re just drawn to people. Ivy is a lovely, lovely lady. Last I heard from her was a couple of weeks ago, just checking in with each other and she was “fine but busy”. All good. Then I texted her a couple of days ago and haven’t heard back. That’s very unlike her and so there’s a distant but persistent warning bell ringing at the back of my mind.

Part of me wonders if she is just focusing on AA and doing the steps and doesn’t want to tarnish her existence with someone like me who hasn’t followed the same path, drinking or not drinking. Perhaps it is frowned upon to stay in touch with those who don’t go all in for the program? That part of me feels I should just leave it there – I’ve reached out and if she replies I’ll be happy to hear from her, but if not that’s cool too and her choice. Then there’s that little part of me that wonders if she’s OK. Do I text her again? Say something along the lines of we don’t have to be in touch but can she just let me know she’s fine? I don’t know.

Actually, I do know. I will text her. Now. ………..done. Just a short line – “Hi sweetie, just wanted to check you’re OK? Xx” Short and sweet.

This I did find about AA, with the exception of Willow who I consider an Actual Friend, that it’s all under veils of AA-yness. Almost like some things are OK to say and some not, parroting scripture and adhering to one way of viewing things. Willow was the first and only person I felt broke through that stuff, and whilst AA has really worked for her (as it does for so, so many people) she never made me feel I had to defend myself for not quite getting it or agreeing with everything. It’s much easier to open up and have a frank conversation with someone on those terms, when both parties are genuinely keen to hear and understand the other view point and then discuss it all. I love that! What I don’t love is saying how I genuinely feel and wearing my heart on my sleeve only to be chuckled at and minimised. I am not a good actress so didn’t see any point in mimicking a love for a Higher Power and praise this for my sobriety where I failed myself. Cannot do it. Don’t get me wrong – I believe in a Higher Power. I also consider myself an alcoholic and believe this to be an irrefutable fact that will never change in my lifetime. But that’s as far as it goes because I believe any changes have to come from within ourselves and anything else is in direct conflict with what I believe.

There is a lot in AA and its teachings that I agree with and believe is both sound and logical, it’s just that there’s stuff that I find hard to accept and/or truly see as true for me. Doesn’t matter though. I will repeat for the umpteenth time – I think AA is a wonderful and massively important organisation that is a life saver for many alcoholics. I just don’t believe it’s for everyone and don’t like the AA stance that where someone can’t get sober through AA it’s because there’s something wrong with them. That’s all.

One of the most uplifting and hopeful things you hear in AA are told by those who were in some cases quite literally at death’s door – I’ve heard AA members talk of extended hospital stays, liver transplants, almost successful suicide attempts and the like – who find their way into the rooms and get sober. Through AA they finally find the way to get their lives back and remain sober when everything else has failed. These are stories sometimes told by people who recall how at one point it has seemed easier to kill themselves than stop drinking. And AA has saved their lives. In the truest sense, AA is the reason they now have meaningful, joyful lives that when they first came into the rooms they did not think possible. Those are powerful stories and testament to how magnificent AA is as an organisation. I cannot stress this enough – AA is in many cases the difference between a wasted life and one fulfilled beyond someone’s dreams.

Then there is the stuff I find so depressing I want to turn myself inside out.

One such story I listened to at the Thursday women’s meeting. This chick shared how wonderful sobriety is. She had been on a trip to India and had been terrified of going, scared to death she’d relapse. She’d taken all her AA literature, organised to dial in to online meetings and looked up local meetings in the places she was going to visit and so on. That’s not freedom as far as I’m concerned – that’s a prison. How can you claim to be free and sober when you’ve really just replaced one dependency with another, even if it IS the lovely AA you’ve put in its place? I can’t think of anything WORSE than feeling petrified at going on a trip, lugging literature with me to read in order to chase bad thoughts away and plan various meetings. Fuck that. I’m sorry, I’m not a strong enough person to live that way – if I had to you’d see me reaching for the bottle quicker than you can say “grant me the serenity”.

And so where does this leave me? Well. Perhaps I am dumber than what should be humanly possible and perhaps the way that I feel is precisely what’ll see me relapse and drink myself to death – I couldn’t tell you what tomorrow will bring, but then nor can you. All I know is that for me, what worked was to unpack what alcohol is for me, what I thought it was and did and really work out the sum total. And I discovered that for ME, alcohol was all an illusion and in fact did none of the things I thought or felt it did. I discovered it had added nothing good, and once that became clear I was suddenly out of reasons to pour that glass of wine. It’s that simple.

There is lots of merit in attempting to be a better person, to be true to yourself and honest at all times, put effort in to doing good and approaching everything with love and light. The 12-step program is probably a hugely positive thing and at a guess something we’d all – alkies and non-alkies – benefit from completing and practising. Again another thing I think AA has got SO right. Absolutely bang on the money. I just don’t believe I’m an alcoholic because there is something inherently wrong with ME as a person. Don’t get me wrong, I have more shortcomings than you can shake a cocktail mixer at, but I just don’t buy that alcoholism affects “a certain type”. I don’t consider the fact that I’m an alcoholic to be a defect in ME but in my BEHAVIOUR – I don’t consider an alcoholic a defective person but a person whose behaviour is. Just my view. And behaviour can only be changed by unpacking what reasons we had to engage in it in the first place, and for me personally it was my skewed view of what alcohol was and did for me. I’m not saying it’s like that for everyone, I can only ever speak for myself and I’m not so foolish as to believe that my way is going to be everyone’s way. Thank God we’re all different! I should also point out I don’t consider myself “above” AA or better (or worse for that matter!) than anyone who prefers and thrives on following AA’s program.

Gosh, I’m clearly really anxious to give a lengthy defense speech on why AA doesn’t click for me. I suppose it goes back to how my ex-sponsor reacted to how I felt and left me feeling minimised, belittled and shut down. I suppose I’m also very keen to not offend anyone and therefore really eager to emphasise that this is just my own view and how I feel. From one drunk to whoever reads this. Something like that. So apologies if I’ve said something that either pisses you off or even gets your back up – I don’t claim any of this to be universal truths, only my own. And I’m always more than willing to hear yours.

Anyway. Happy Friday everyone and have a lovely weekend.

….Ivy hasn’t responded yet. It’s only been a short while but she’s usually quite quick and that little tinge of worry is right there in my chest. I hope she is OK. Either way I’d much rather she won’t be my friend than eventually find out she lost grip of her sobriety so I hope with every fibre of my being that she’s just busy soul searching and putting her all into whatever step she is working on….

Today I’m not going to drink.

4 thoughts on “Turning Myself Inside Out

  1. My response to this, I hope, will enhance the conversation.

    I have similar views of AA – it’s not for everyone. In fact, I was reading something not too long ago that put’s the success rate of AA at about 3%. In other words, today for every 3 people that receive a 10-year sobriety chip, there were 100 that received a 24-hr chip 10 years ago. That sounds like a really horrible statistic. I’ve listened to a lot of speakers on this topic, as well, and one of the things many of them note is that the AA meetings of today are absolutely nothing like they were in the early days of AA. Of course, most people that go to AA today are nowhere near being on death’s doorstep, whereas in the early days, almost everyone had been severely affected by alcoholism. Many of these speakers also note that most of the meetings nowadays are discussion meetings where everyone goes around speaking about their drunk-a-logs, and in the early days the meetings were specifically focused on the step-work and working with a sponsor (which is typically referred to as a “closed-mouth friend”). A lot of these speakers have expressed that it’s important that newcomers feel welcome and accepted, but the open discussions do nothing for the program and that the success of the program depends on the step-work.

    Yesterday, I was speaking with my sponsor and he mentioned something about this, as well, but added that the real work is done when you are working with someone one-on-one. He was mentioning that maintaining that contact with another alcoholic and keeping each other accountable is what is successful about the program.

    What I feel about AA has a lot to do with the fact that I have a hard time tolerating excuses. It drives me up the wall when I hear someone say, “I wouldn’t have hit my wife, if it wasn’t for this disease…” My reaction (always quietly in my head) is, “No, fucker! You beat her because you wanted to, the all the alcohol did is remove the gutless barrier you have keeping you at bay. You’re fucked up and you can’t fix it until you admit you’re fucked up.” For me, I had an extremely difficult time calling alcoholism a disease, because I always felt a disease is something you have no control over and in my mind we could always CHOOSE not to drink. This took a long time for me to accept and get over. My sponsor had me look at it differently, and said, that if you break up disease into two parts – “dis” means opposite and “ease” means comfort, so it meant alcoholism is the opposite of comfort. It’s something we feel, it’s something that is within us – the idea that we match calamity with something other than serenity is the epitome of disease. This was something I can grasp. In that respect, I could see that the alcohol was just the symptom of the lack of comfort I felt about a lot of things.

    Last thing and then I’ll shut up…lol

    A lot of gung-ho people in AA forget that the only requirement to attend AA is a “desire to stop drinking”, there is no requirement to follow the steps, no requirement to be an alcoholic, no requirement to accept God or a Higher Power. And because of that, there are a lot of people that show up that don’t need it, but want it. I have come to accept that too – sometimes I don’t want to go and that’s okay. Sometimes I do and that’s okay. A lot of times, people will suggest certain things to do, but they don’t always work.

    I’m a huge fan of the idea that you have to pick what works for you – we’re not exactly the same and my experiences are different than someone else’s, which means my solution for alcoholism isn’t going to be the exact same as someone else’s.

    Just my, much more than, 2 cents…

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    • Thank you for your input – food for thought! I totally agree with “pick what works for you” and I suppose that’s what I’m doing. I don’t know if AA groups are different in different places (an American friend of mine did say her meetings in California are a lot more upbeat and positive compared with the melancholy meetings here in London – her impression and view of course) but I’ve found that anytime someone in AA has asked me how I’m getting on with meetings etc they seem to disapprove when I 1) tell them I go once in a while, 2) don’t have a sponsor, and 3) honestly tell them I’m not struggling with sobriety. It’s almost like they like you better if you’re having a hard time, which I have found ever so strange. Anyway. Appreciate your input and am always interested to hear your view. Sophie

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      • I’m speculating, of course, but I would suspect they don’t view you as a “real alcoholic”, but they are not supposed to be taking your inventory… Of course, there’s the idea that working with another alcoholic is what will keep them sober, so they could very well see it as a disappointment for themselves that you don’t need their help.
        Either way, in the long run, all that matters is what works for you…you take what you need and leave the rest for those that need the other stuff.
        That’s just my opinion.

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