Thursday, February 25, 2010

The conditions under which I can get/stay sober...

Continuing in my curmudgeonly vein... It always shocks me to hear people talk about their sobriety in terms of "if". You know, you hear it all the time... "IF that had been my first meeting, I would have walked out and never come back." "IF that was my sponsor I would get drunk." "IF I didn't go to rehab (and spend $40,000.) I never could have gotten sober."

In other words, conditions have to be just right for a person to get and stay sober.

I beg to differ.

"Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he an get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 98

I was fortunate to come into arguably the worst group in the Denver Metro area at the time. It was a new group. It was at a club. The group and the club were not separate, so what got put into the basket went to the club. The club amassed great amounts of money - serving food and having HUGE dances every weekend. There was a massive feud over the money, as you can imagine. There were only a couple of old guys with more than a couple of years of sobriety - and they happened to be the ones who were feuding over the money. The group and the club dissolved when I was 5 months sober, and the members started another group and club - this time trying to pay attention to what AA tradition suggests about such things.

In this environment, I found other AA members to first help me, and then other AA members to help. My first sponsor suggested I not work the steps for a couple of years, so I found another sponsor. I had many many bad experiences, but I knew that I wanted to stay sober more than anything in the world, so I kept coming back. And I kept doing what I was supposed to do. There were a bunch of us in our first couple of years back then. We hung out a lot. We talked a lot. We became students of the traditions when that group fell apart, and then remained students of the traditions when the new group was forming. We were all encouraged into "service" of one sort or another, I was elected treasurer of my first group - which was insane, but it kept me coming to that noon meeting because I had to get the money! We washed ash trays, washed cups, set up chairs, etc. We drove all over God's green earth to 12 step other suffering alcoholics. Sobriety was not spoon fed to us by some "elders," we were responsible - and right away.

We were all in the same boat and we stuck together. We might have screwed up - all the time, but for the most part our hearts were in the right place and we learned through all the craziness. When I drive back up north to my old home group on Saturday or Sunday mornings, I see a whole lot of those people sitting in the room - with between 20 and 30 years of sobriety. Something about that group worked, despite all of its problems.

I have my opinion about what worked. I think it was because we were all trying to get sober. We didn't have any resident experts. We just simply didn't use any literature outside of the big book and the twelve and twelve. We really did the deal. We had a couple of guys in the meeting who would tell people to shut up when they were sharing crazy stuff that had nothing to do with AA. Oh, that is so offensive to people now, but let me tell you , you learn really quick if you are serious about staying sober and someone tells you to shut up in a meeting. You call everyone you know and find out if "he" was right and are so sad to find out that "he" was.

So, my experience is: IF I wanted to stay sober, which I did, I would find a way to do so. Despite conditions. I might be more grateful for my bad experiences early on than I am my "good" experiences early on. The bad ones taught me that my sobriety is dependent on my trust in God and cleaning house.

It is just that simple.
(sorry to have written such a long thing - and if you have read it all, thanks for your attention)


Pam said...

Oh girl, when I had 8 months sober, our group treasurer ran off to Mexico with our money. We could not buy chips for birthday night and we made "home-made" chips out of paper and carried on. We had one car between 4 of us and it did not have a reverse...we made it to 2 meetings a day for months in that car. One of us 4 died sober, and the remaining 3 still go to some on the same meetings.
I agree...when we want it we go to any lengths to get it.

Lou said...

I learn so much from you. You are the real deal.

wendy said...

I read all the way through and I, too, am grateful for the bad experiences of my first year - mostly in the nature of back-stabbing and gossip. Without those I wouldn't have found real sober support and I may never have straightened out my priorities. I certainly never would have learned to have faith in anything other than myself as the orchstrator of my life. thanks for sharing.

AnyEdge said...

I don't know what might have happened if I had attempted to get sober differently than I had. And I don't much care. God did for me what I could not do for myself.

Whether he did that by getting me to rehab, or that my rehab led me to AA, or that I found a great sponsor, or whatever, is utterly unimportant to me.

I got sober because God showed me what to do, by putting new people, new places, new things, in my life. So do I have a lot of 'ifs'? Probably. But my life is my life. I don't have to worry about what would have happened 'if'. It didn't happen. I'm sober.

dAAve said...

I think "bad" experiences provide the most valuable learning opportunities. That's why I can handle just about anything that happens. Almost.

Ed G. said...

It seems like, when AA is working well, it provides a great laboratory to work out all of our "stuff" and realize that there is a God that presides over it (us) all. We learn from our mistakes and then we let others learn from their mistakes. Crazy, this.

Thanx for posting this with honesty and candor.

Blessings and aloha...

Kim A. said...

Ditto what Lou said. Really ditto.


Syd said...

I appreciate your honesty and love for the program of AA. I wish that there were more people who shared your "purity" about the program. I learn something from every experience, but I realize that God speaks through those who truly are ready and willing.

Scott said...

I agree with you MC! It's most definitely NOT about the surroundings, its about the principles and the willingness to change our lives and not take the first drink.

People have gotten sober under all sorts of circumstances.