Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Comment From Anonymous

This was posted today as an anonymous comment to an old post on this blog. I want to highlight it here, hoping the poster will read this and benefit from any advice other readers may have.

Here's what our friend wrote:

This is my 36th day of being sober. Well, it depends on who you talk to; maybe I’m just a dry drunk.

I went into detox, obtained a sponsor, and completed steps 1, 2 and 3.

Since my release I have been attending 2 to 3 AA meetings a week, attending an aftercare program and have stayed sober. Still, I am harassed by my sponsor that I am not attending enough meetings and just making excuses. He said that AA comes before EVERYTHING! Is that really the case? He said that there has to be a substitute for alcohol, whether it is coffee, cigarettes or AA. If I AM making excuses and need a substitute for alcohol, does my daughter not count? Before I even started this program, I had commitments with my daughter.

I’m supposed to be married in November, should I just scrap the whole thing and start going to AA 7 nights a week. I really don’t think that is practical is it? Maybe to some that is there only option.

My life has never been out of control. There has been some bumpy times, but certainly not unmanageable by any means. I went into this program on my own, no trouble with the law or anything. I paid for it on my own, insurance wouldn’t cover it. I just felt that it would be a good thing for me to do, for my health, and my family.

Now I’m feeling very good about myself. My problem is with the way I have been treated by my sponsor. Nothing like “good job for staying sober for 30 days”. Nothing but belittling me. That doesn’t feel very good or rewarding.

I let my sponsor go last night and will be looking for a new one. I’m not counting out AA at this point; I want to give it another chance. Just not sure what is expected of me.

For the record; the ONLY time I really wanted a drink during the past 36 days was when I felt pressure from that sponsor. That’s pretty sad when you think about it.

First, I'll say: Congratulations on 36 days! It IS something to celebrate! Congratulations on going to meetings, getting a sponsor, and working the steps. These are all GREAT things to be doing.

It's not uncommon to change sponsors early in recovery. You need a sponsor you can work with effectively. It's also common (universal, maybe!) to resent and be pissed off at your sponsor sometimes. You're the only one who can determine if you have the right sponsor. Based solely on what you've said, my gut says stick with him for now. He's doing the steps with you, he's got you going to meetings and encouraging you to be involved in the Fellowship -- this is all "by the book," classic sponsor behavior, and it's gotten a lot of sponsees not just sober, but happy, joyous and free.

If your decision to dump your sponsor is final, get a new sponsor RIGHT AWAY. Make sure your new sponsor is committed to continue working the steps with you.

I don't know what your relationship is with your fiancee. November is a long way away. Make no mistake -- you are not just a dry drunk, you ARE in recovery. If you continue working your program with the commitment you have so far, you will see a very different man in the mirror in November than you do today. By November you may feel closer and more in love with your fiancee than you can imagine right now. On the other hand, you may feel that marrying her may not be the right thing to do at that point.

The way I look at "AA comes first:" if I decide to have a drink, I will get drunk, and I will continue to get drunk, and I will lose everything. When I was 36 days into sobriety, I didn't really see clearly how much I had already lost and/or thrown away by drinking, or what thin ice I was skating on. Just six months into sobriety, I have already seen some things restored to me, and I have more hope and optimism than I've had in decades. AA gives me tools I need to stay sober; I have to stay sober to keep from sinking into, at best, suicidal misery, and losing everyone I love and everything I care about; I WANT to stay sober because of the blessings and happiness I've received already and the promise of more to come. Put it all together, and AA is the lynchpin, or keystone, I absolutely have to have. It HAS to be my priority.

You wonder if your daughter counts as a substitute for alcohol. I've gone through a similar thought process with my son. I had a period of focusing on my son as motivation for sobriety, a substitute for alcohol. Essentially, my son was my Higher Power. I had it backwards: he's a tiny boy, and I have a responsibility to be, in very tangible and concrete ways, his "higher power." My Higher Power has to be God. It's my responsibility (and, I've discovered, a marvelous gift from God) to do my best to be a conduit of God's purpose, God's love, God's nurturing for my son.

For me, the God of my understanding, my higher power, is the substitute for alcohol. God works with me, teaches me, and shows me my purpose, through my sponsor, through AA meetings, through working my steps, through my son, through myriad ways each day -- to the extent that I am diligent in maintaining my spiritual fitness, and have adequate humility to receive the message and not short-circuit or overwhelm the message with my own agenda.

What's expected of you in AA? "The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking." Anything else anyone says (including this post you are reading now) can be taken as a suggestion or an opinion. Your standing as a member of the Fellowship is exactly the same as anyone else. You are not required to go to meetings, do the steps, believe in God, have a sponsor, have AA commitments, or anything else -- they merely represent the successful experience others have had staying sober. Each of us is free to make AA what we need it to be for us to stay sober.

God bless you, and may He grant you many more days of sobriety!

I welcome and look forward to reading what others have to say.


At 8/03/2005 06:13:00 AM, Blogger Andy said...

Good response! I have had problems myself with the fundamentalist you-must-go-to-a-90-meetings-in-90-days-or-you-are-doomed mentality. That is nowhere in the Big Book.

But there is a flip side; first of all, the person giving this advice is probably tellingthier sponsee what worked for them. I think it is a mistake to dismiss it out of hand. There was a reason why they felt this was important.

Your commenter has done steps 1 - 3. IMO that is a dangerous time to be without a sponsor. There is a pattern I have seen among those who do not stay sober: most of them do not do Step Four for one reason or another.

I would recommend getting another sponsor rapidly. I would also recommend that if this sponsor says the same thing as the first sponsor, give it a try. Best wishes to your commentor.

At 8/03/2005 09:50:00 AM, Blogger recoveryroad said...

AA comes first. Just like your drink used to.

No AA, no nothing else either. And possibly prison or insanity or death. Pretty shitty, either way.

At 8/03/2005 10:21:00 AM, Blogger Eddie said...


At 8/03/2005 08:09:00 PM, Blogger Jane said...

there are a lot of hard-core, black-or-white, AA nazis out there.

in my opinion, there is no perfect "program" or recipe for recovery. everybody is different and what works for one person may not work for another.

"take what you like, and leave the rest".

it's all about balance. i believe that recovery is a constantly shifting state. some weeks i may need more formal involvement, support, and advice. other times i need to explore my own truth. this is not a common opinion among AA members. there is strong pressure to conform. the general vibe i get is something like "shut your mouth and listen. we know what is good for you. you know nothing."

if two meeting a week is sufficient why go to four? AA should equip you with skills to help you stay sober, not become an escape or substitute for real life.

it is important to explore yourself. to know why you do what you do, and change the beliefs and behaviors that have hurt yourself or others. AA can help. but don't be scared to think for yourself.

my advice? be with your family and enjoy your recovery. find a sponsor you respect. do the steps. go to a meeting when you need one. and honor the strength of your own voice.

At 8/03/2005 09:13:00 PM, Blogger Trudging said...

I had trouble with the black and whiteness of A.A. for years. I din't want to drink however, so I stayed around. Today I realize that at least some of the Black and Whiteness was me. Not always you can meet some real nut cases in the rooms.

At 8/04/2005 10:35:00 AM, Blogger recoveryroad said...

What is an "AA Nazi"??????????

At 8/04/2005 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...

LOL Around here we refer to "Big Book nazis" -- the guys who can quote the book by page and paragraph, who say that every answer to every question or problem in anyone's life can be found in the book.

Most of them are harmless, some of them are terrific guys, a few are downright dangerous. The handful who tell people they aren't "sober" if, say, they continue taking their meds for schizophrenia ought to be shot, in my humble opinion... (and I can't find anything in any AA literature that even implies such a thing. Even the definition of alcoholism as an "allergy" is acknowledged to be merely a useful metaphor, not a medical description, in Living Sober.)

Fortunately, these wackos are pretty rare in my town. I guess you could call it more of a benevolent anarchy than a tyrannical gerontocracy. :)

At 8/05/2005 09:05:00 PM, Blogger Scott W said...

Thanks for sharing this. I hope your anonymous commentor asks some others what their requirements for sponsee/sponsor relationship is so they can find someone that understands their particular position. For me sobriety comes first, that means what keeps me sober naturally comes first. The program of AA that I work keeps me sober. My program is not for anyone else but me.

If you work the steps, in order, you will get the spiritual awakening it takes to stay sober.

At 8/06/2005 10:01:00 PM, Blogger soberInsanity said...

my advice: your recovery MUST come first. only then will you be able to effectively be there for your daughter and fiancee. find a sponsor, go to meetings and form a network. it will work if you work it.



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