My World is Shifting But I’m Strong Enough to Stand

GlobeI was incredibly lucky during my first year of sobriety, in that life around me remained consistent. While I waged a war internally, running through a thick forest of long-suppressed feelings, battling the demons of addiction and the realities of decisions I made within addiction, the sun rose and set every day without a hitch. Little hiccups occurred along the way, but overall, external forces were kind to me.

Fast forward to day 399: the world around me is starting to shift ever so slightly.

My husband is quitting his job today to start with a new company at a 40% pay reduction.

My sponsor has asked to meet with me at my home tonight. I believe she is going to tell me she can no longer sponsor me. She’s been struggling at a dangerous level lately and I don’t think it’s a smart idea for her to be a sponsor right now. I think she’s realizing that now, too.

400 days ago the ball of angst would have started building in my stomach, my mind would try to remember how much vodka I have left and how soon I can get to it without arousing suspicion, and my body would automatically drive to the closest liquor store (my mind not catching up to my body until I’m pulling into the parking lot).

Today, I’m able to calmly and objectively review both of these imminent changes. To me, that’s a testament to the work I’ve done this year in therapy and AA. Sure, my head is swimming a little when I think about how my husband and I will have to adjust to this significant drop in income. And yes, there is a butterfly or two where previously the ball of angst would have been, as I anticipate the uncomfortable conversation when my sponsor “divorces” me. But I’m taking a moment to reflect on how I’m feeling and comparing it to how I think I would have felt had this day happened a little over a year ago. The difference is extraordinary and I am proud of myself.

Even that small piece of self-awareness is enormous. To have the clarity to stop and reflect, instead of falling off a proverbial cliff into a pity party, is a significant change.

I am proud of that, as it makes the work I’ve done feel tangible. Until now, it’s been an abstract awareness of the work I’ve done.

I’ve heard people in meetings say that they’re grateful to be alcoholic because it brought them to AA where they’ve learned how to change their lives and they’ve become part of a supportive family that will absolutely help you when you need propping up. I suppose that’s how some alcoholics in recovery have survived unthinkable tragedy and stayed sober.

If people before me can stay sober through the unthinkable, then surely I can get through whatever I need to today. Again, I am incredibly grateful that my world stayed so stable for that year while I learned how to be a strong enough person to continue standing when the world becomes a little unstable.

 

With Clarity, Analysis Must Come

For years I drowned any and all feelings with vodka. When that stopped working a year ago, I spent the year focussed on simply not drinking. I didn’t think about tomorrow, I only thought about today. After stringing together a few hundred sober 24 hours, I started feeling confident in sobriety. That’s when the focus shifted.

It’s time, now that I can look at the world with more clarity, to look at my life and truly analyze if it’s the life I want in the future. I had a session with my therapist last night and this came up unexpectedly. The emotion that poured out of me as we talked about my marriage was raw. It’s a clear indicator that I need to explore the viability of this relationship.

From the outside looking in, there’s no reason to consider leaving: there’s no adultery, abuse or visible problems. But inside the relationship, we’re little more than roommates. I can’t say that I want more, because I don’t know what “more” is. I’m challenged to describe what a good marriage is.

My therapist has asked me to begin exploring what a good marriage looks like to me and whether or not this relationship has the ability to become that. It’s entirely possible that we’ve run our course.

It’s opened the floodgates to feelings that I used to drown and I’m raw. Emotions are at the surface and it’s scary. Alcohol isn’t a thought today, but some of the related behaviours are there. Relapse happens long before the first drink is taken. It’s important to be vigilant and honest about red-flags in sobriety. I know that exploring the survivability of my relationship has the potential to trigger relapse. So it’s time to double up: double up on meetings, double up the contact with others in program, and double up on therapy.

But first, I think I’ll double up on some Advil and take a nap. It’s no surprise that my head is pounding and spinning at the same time.

Maintaining Tradition vs. Group Evolution

Every long-standing institution, at some point in its longevity, needs to decide whether it’s going to hold steadfast to its traditions or if it’s willing to evolve with the generations. Alcoholics Anonymous is no different. With its beginnings rooted in 1930’s ideology, it seems as though it must naturally go through its own evolution of sorts to “get with the times.”

One piece of evidence of its evolution is the establishment of women-only meetings. The 70’s and 80’s saw droves of women coming into program, to a point where women equal or outnumber the men.

I regularly attend a women’s meeting and think of it as a safe, friendly and warm place to share and listen. This past week, one woman attended for her first time. She’s been in program for 25 years and is an “AA purist.” She’s told people over the years that she doesn’t believe there should be women-only meetings.

We’ve gently altered the readings, scrubbing gender references to use more neutral language. This enraged our purist. She grandly stood and proclaimed to the world that we should all be ashamed of ourselves and she wished us fitful sleeps. For reals.

For whatever reason, she decided to return to the meeting after dramatically storming out. She remained (relatively) civil for the remainder of the meeting until afterwards when one woman attempted to apologize for the “offensive” readings. The purist’s response was: “I hope you don’t die today for what you’ve done.”


Know Your Meme

It’s sparked a conversation among some of us about whether or not AA needs to evolve. Arguments can be made on both sides. I believe it needs to evolve to integrate aspects of the 21st century that the founders never could have considered (technology and social media, the loosening bond between church and state, etc.). Others believe the program is a complete package that works because of its traditions and should not be tinkered with.

I know I’m not the first to come into program, believing I can “make it even better” but I do want to be part of the evolution. There isn’t an agnostic meeting in my city and I want to explore the possibility of starting one this year. A lot of leg work will need to go into researching the local appetite for such a meeting and seeking out the right location (the traditional church basement doesn’t seem appropriate), but it could end up being a worthwhile project for me this year.

I wonder how the AA purist will react to an agnostic meeting? Is it wrong to secretly hope it causes her some anxiety? Yeah, I know… it’s wrong!

(My apologies if the shocked Daschie above is distracting as you’re reading, but he’s just so perfect for the reaction to “I hope you don’t die today”!)

Day 393