Sunday, February 06, 2005

Out of Control

It came to me in the shower this morning that I've completely lost control of my recovery and my program.

It then came to me that that's a good thing.


The last week or so I've found myself feeling a lot of hostility and resentment toward people in my AA meetings -- a few I know well, including my sponsor, some I know a bit from chatting before and after meetings, some I merely recognize and know from what they share in meetings. I've been pissed off at them all: smug, self-satisfied, arrogant, sneering, know-it-all hypocrites (it seemed to me), giving me unsolicited, monumentally bad advice. "Well, my kids are in prison, my wife has been gone for years, I have no friends outside of AA, but I haven't had a drink in 20 years so you should do what I tell you." Or, "I don't have a driver's license, I live in a halfway house, and my kids refuse to have anything to do with me, but my last relapse was over two years ago so I know just what you need to do with your life." "You're a newcomer, I'm not, therefore you're an idiot and I'm a genius." These are the things I've been hearing (leaving aside whether they were actually said).

And don't even get me started about my scheming, greedy, self-absorbed, cynical, manipulative, unforgiving, hypocritical, untrusting, untrustworthy wife...

In AA, we call this "taking someone else's inventory," a reference to Step 4. I've been doing this for days. I've been through a period like it before in recovery, and I recognize it as dangerous ground for an alcoholic, but I haven't been able to stop. Yesterday I sought out a couple meetings I hadn't been to before, just to get out of this routine with the same familiar guys, get some fresh perspective, hear some new stories. (I know that, no matter what, I have to stick with AA -- Principles Before Personalities -- so NOT going to meetings is a suicidal option for me.)


Meanwhile, I made the decision, over the past week, that it was time for me, in the language of my religion, to accept and welcome Christ into my life as my personal Lord and Saviour. [Bossco says, "Hurray!" ;)] I wasn't looking at it specifically as Step 3, but as a point in my spiritual journey that has become independent of, even though it was initiated by, my recovery from alcoholism in AA. The irony did not escape me that I had reached this point even while harboring decidedly un-Christ-like attitudes toward many of my fellow sinners. But I was getting reassurance from many sources that Jesus isn't looking for perfect people to follow Him -- and that I don't necessarily have to start voting Republican, loving guns or watching NASCAR -- just take the plunge and trust God.

So, in the shower, I was thinking, should I take the plunge in church today? And it suddenly struck me: I already have. In my heart, in my soul, in how I'm struggling to think and act, in where I look for guidance in what to do next.

It's only my intellect that hasn't caught up yet, hasn't figured out what it means, and why, and identified categories to make sense of it, and where are my halo and wings, and how can I say I have turned my life over to God when I haven't expunged every trace of doubt, when I am still a sinner, when I'm not PERFECT???

Oh, that alcoholic intellect! As we say in AA, "stinking thinking." God persuaded my heart to be just a little bit willing, gently nudged my beer-addled brain out of the way for just a little while, then barged in and took over while I wasn't looking!

And, clearly, obviously, God sailed me through Step 3 at the same time. I wasn't ready. My step workshop is only on Step 2 this week. Step 3 is the following week, God, will You kindly sync up with the timetable and work Your will according to my schedule!?!


I blogged before my relapse that I struggle to cross these seemingly mountainous obstacles that are the steps -- then suddenly realize that I'm already across, and it really wasn't hard at all. I've maintained this illusion that each step is a summit I will reach through my own directed efforts. But so far, each step has happened TO me when I wasn't expecting it. The work and effort I put into it are certainly related to the outcome -- but only indirectly, there's never an expected outcome resulting from specific things I do.


So, holy mackerel, here I am at Step 4, right here, right now, right in the shower. Until that moment, Step 4 was always at a comfortable distance in the future. And I remembered a remark an oldtimer made to me -- which I hadn't paid much attention to, because I was pissed off at the arrogant old know-it-all for something else he had already said -- after a meeting last week. "The characteristics we most hate in others are often the things that are our own worst character defects. So we can use those feelings and judgments we have about others, and test if we aren't holding up a mirror to ourselves."

And so that oldtimer's remark clicked right into place. I've already been working Step 4 without realizing it. All of these good people have been kindly holding up mirrors for me, to help me see clearly the character defects I have that I need to inventory. All I have to do is write down these judgments I've been making about all these people in the past couple weeks, and I'll have a pretty good start on the first 20 or 30 pages of my Step 4.


I woke up this morning thinking I was working Step 2. I guess my Higher Power has His own plans. I'm not in control of it -- and thank God for that!


At 2/11/2005 12:21:00 PM, Anonymous Angel said...

I like your blog! Congratulations on starting your recovery! I have loads of alcoholics and drug addicts in my family circle so I know recovery is no small thing to take on! I have tried going to Al-Anon but I found somewhat the same was mostly people who think they've got it all figured out. And who really DOES have it all figured out? If someone has it all figured out, then what's the point of living anymore? Good luck!

At 2/12/2005 12:00:00 AM, Blogger Phil said...

Thanks for your comment, Angel. As the Big Book says, "We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us." And, "We claim spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection." Along the lines of your comment, a guy in the Fellowship once pointed out that once we reach perfection, we'll go out and get drunk again! :)

I read your blog -- God bless you in your struggle with Asperger's Syndrome. I had never heard of it before, and it sounds truly heartbreaking and challenging.

I haven't heard stories like those of your family since -- well, since earlier tonight at an AA meeting! ;) The details vary, but it's all typical, familiar stuff.

A lot of people seem to have the same initial response to Al-Anon that you did. I went to one meeting myself, and I was underwhelmed. For one thing, in AA there seems to be more urgency -- we're not seeking to improve the quality of our lives, we're fighting to save our lives. I think it's just plain harder to "get" the program if one is codependent without the addiction: that urge to drink or use gives immediate feedback on how well your program is working! Without the addiction itself, it seems you have to gauge how you're doing from your emotions and "condition of spirit" alone -- which are precisely where we are fucked up to begin with!

Nevertheless, a LOT of people, including some who are also recovering alcoholics, have told me Al-Anon and AlaTeen have been as life-changing as AA for them. If you don't relate to one group, try another group; stick with it and "keep coming back"; get a sponsor; work the steps; be patient and don't leave before the miracle happens. That is, all the same stuff the good people in AA tell me to do!

God bless you!

At 2/14/2005 05:01:00 PM, Blogger recoveryroad said...

Hi. I see you linked my blog...I've repaid the compliment.

Keep on keepin' on!

warm regards in Fellowship



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