Freud said that neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity. I have found that one of the most wonderful things about accumulating sober experience as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous is that my ability to tolerate ambiguity has increased (exponentially).
I wonder if it is a particularly alcoholic trait to have a tendency to draw lines in the sand. Alcoholic geniuses cannot resist trying to summarize the twelve steps into simple "rules." I wouldn't even speculate as to how many books have been written to "explain" the twelve steps. There are then the unwritten "rules" about what to do, or more importantly what NOT to do, in AA.
I am so grateful that I didn't have a perfect experience when I got to AA. I might then think that my sobriety was contingent upon the people of AA, the steps of AA, and the perfect combination of each. The big book says "the only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." (p.98)
When I came to AA, desperate to quit drinking, I came to a group that was full of con men, thieves, strippers, even prostitutes! There were men who hung around, looking for young vulnerable women like me. I remember one saying he was looking for a "blonde with lobotomy eyes." I had sponsors betray my trust, some of whom I have written about here. I had people steal from me. I slept with more than one of those "13th stepping" men. I went to terrible meetings, where having 30 days myself, I would be the longest sober person in the room.
I stayed sober. I wanted to stay sober and so I did. I relied upon God. I quickly learned that He was the only reliable one. I learned to reach out to other alcoholics - not FOR help, but TO help. I learned that when I was feeling bad, instead of "venting" or whining, I was better off trying to think of who I could help. I am so grateful for these experiences.
All that said, I do believe that there are good common sense suggestions about what to do in early sobriety. Go to 90 meetings in 90 days. Get a sponsor. Women stick with the women, and men stick with the men.
Is that my experience? Hell no. I did go to lots of meetings and still do. I went to at least 180 meetings in my first 90 days. Why was I so motivated to go to meetings in the early days? Well, I wanted to stay sober, but there were also MEN at those meetings. Men who paid attention to me! It had been years since anyone had paid attention to me. When I first slept with one of those men, definitely a 13th stepper, I realized that I could stay sober, that I WANTED to stay sober. Really. (I had an old friend, now sober 35 years, who used to say that more alcoholics were saved by the 13th step than all the other 12 put together.)
Was that the right thing to do? Hell no. Was I ready to do the right thing? Hell no. God speaks to us in our own vernacular, and I believe he got my attention in my own language. Was it awful? yes. Do I act like that now? NO SirEE!
In my own group I am now watching a man with "double-digit" sobriety having an affair with a woman who cannot stay sober. As I watch this, I see the harm that is done. I hate to be radical, but the woman is just doing what she does. The man, however, has grown a beard, keeps his eyes down, and doesn't talk to people like he used to. He used to smile and greet me when I walked into the room, now he looks down and mumbles. I usually only see him once a week, and he looks a little sicker every time I see him. He knows what he is doing is frowned upon. It looks like his guilt is eating him alive. I pray to God that he can stay sober. I think the woman either will or won't, but I don't think this affair will affect her much. But the "13th stepper"? I think grave harm is being done to him... by himself.
Here's more Sunday morning radical Mary Christine:
I don't believe there is a RIGHT way to work the steps.
I don't believe there is a RIGHT way to have a meeting.
I don't believe there is a RIGHT way to be or have a sponsor.
I think when we talk about the "work", we are taking credit for our own sobriety. I could not and cannot create a sober Mary Christine. Only God can do that. I need to care for the gift that God has given me, my sobriety, but I did not make it happen by all my "work." Only by the Grace of God.
"Job or no job - wife or no wife- we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God." -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 98