What they don’t tell you in AA

You make fast friends in AA the moment you walk in the door for the first time. What they don’t tell you is that not all of those friends will maintain their sobriety. However, there is no way to communicate that to you. It wouldn’t be fair, and there’s no real way to figure out who will “go back out” as they say.

They don’t tell you that “coming back” means you are “coming back” from “going back out” and drinking. No one will tell you this. You have to figure it out on your own. They often ask at meetings, “Who’s coming back, and wants to acknowledge it?” You raise your hand for quite a few meetings there in the beginning as you take the question literally. You think to yourself, “Well, sure I’m back. Aren’t we all coming back?” No wonder you had all sorts of attention from the old timers. They must have thought you were picking up a drink very regularly after meetings. One day you realize your mistake when another man raises his hand when you do, and starts talking about drinking the night before.

They don’t tell you that not every meeting will be inspiring or even useful, but you still keep coming back because you’ll miss out when it is useful or inspiring if you are not there.

They don’t tell you that some sponsors are megalomaniacs, and see themselves as bigger and more important than your doctor or clinician. No one tells that that there may be a time when you have to reach down into your judgement circle deep down inside of you to see if your sponsor is right, or if they are, indeed, a megalomaniac. You are afraid because you know that you are not known for your best judgement. After all, you don’t even have 90 days sober. But, after deeply considering the situation you decide that your sponsor is fucked in her thinking. You land here … taking Trazodone is not equivalent to picking up a drink. You do not have to change your sobriety date. No one will tell you that you will have this crisis.

No one will tell you that mentioning taking psychotropic drugs during an AA meeting will divide the room in half, and render the meeting a Girl Interrupted version of The McLaughlin Group. Without even realizing it, you unveiled one of the biggest controversies within AA, the role of psychotropic drugs in sobriety.

No one will tell you that when you tell your sponsor that she is fired that you will want a drink, and you will only have yourself to rely on during that crisis. You will have that moment when you envision yourself picking up the drink, and you will desperately want the taste of that Crown Royal. There will be no one there to talk you out of it, or help you. You will see the clarity in the midst of it with the realization that taking that drink could get you back to that very bad place you were in when you put down the drink. All you know in that moment is that you want a better life, and you are not going to pick up a drink because of a sponsor with flawed and mistaken ideas. In the end, it will only be your fault if you take a drink.

No one will tell you that people who occasionally come to AA are considered to be “around the program”  and not “in the program.” Sponsorless people and people without a step meeting in their repertoire are also considered to be “around the program.” There’s countless criteria for being “around” instead of “in.” No one will outline the rules for you. You have to observe and watch in order to figure it out. In fact, if you ask what the rules are someone is likely to say it’s a program of “suggestion.” Perhaps that’s the case to some people, to others it is a program of rules.

No one will tell you that there will be a day when you will miss the camaraderie, the terrible basement rooms, and the hope in the air. You will go back to the program in those times of wanting to return, but you will always return to that same place in your heart where you realize that AA is not for you. Sobriety is for you though. Sobriety is a heavenly gift, but the program of AA was not meant for you. You wish it was. You will spend the rest of your life explaining to people that you are indeed sober without AA. You cherish your sobriety, and “people in the program” will look at you suspiciously.

No one will tell you that years later you will run into that sponsor with the wrong-headed ideas about psychotropic drugs. All the statements that you had swirling around in your head for a long time after your parting will come to you in that moment when you see her. Instead, you will smile and hug her because you realize that she was only doing what she thought was right. She will walk away after a brief conversation with you, and in that moment, you will realize that this is sobriety.

As I said before, I am a bad friend …

It has taken me five days to compose this post. That’s how hard it’s been to write about this.

In a previous post I recounted the ways in which I am a bad friend. Well, I had a revealing conversation today that gave more evidence of that. A friend of mine asked me how my Memorial Day weekend was, and she could tell it was not a good weekend for me. I told her that it was a hard weekend because I found myself recounting previous Memorial Days when she and I were closer, and I missed it. I then went on tell her that I felt she and the rest of the group of friends abandoned me when I really needed them.

She then shocked me by telling me that was not the case, that she, in fact, called me frequently during the time after I had my traumatic incident. She then went into detail about lengthy conversations we had on the phone, and I recall none of it. She has no reason to lie to me, and she gave too many details for it to be a lie. Plus, it’s not like her to tell anything but the truth.

And in that vein, of always telling the truth, while I was still grappling with the fact that she did, in fact, keep in contact with me, she called out the elephant in the room. She said to me, ” You never visited after my son was born. You only held him once. You disappeared as soon as my son was born, and I never understood why that happened.”

So there it was, just like that, she called it out. After nearly 5 years of walking around the elephant one of us finally called it out. I decided to go with it, and tell her after all this time why I did what I did.

Nearly five years ago I hit rock bottom. I was drinking and carelessly putting myself in unsafe situations. This behavior culminated in a sexual assault from someone I knew, and that person held a job in high esteem. My friend says that I she and I had long conversations about this attack where she implored me to report it. I do not recall these conversations, but the fact the she knew so many details indicates that we did have these conversations. I can only attribute my memory loss to my DID.

Shortly after my assault my friend adopted a newborn baby. My hitting rock bottom and crawling into the rooms nearly dovetailed with the arrival of her son. And I couldn’t deal, couldn’t and wouldn’t go see the baby. All of a sudden I had an aversion to her baby. It flummoxed me because I love babies. But I could not come near this baby without getting twitchy and freaked out.

The baby was not at fault for my body’s reactions. My friend was not at fault for my body’s reactions. Although I knew that, I was powerless to change my reactions. I could not function around this poor child, and found myself avoiding going to her house to see him. I avoided this new lovely child because of the reaction my body had around this precious being. But the fallout was my friendship with this person whom I cherished. That friendship took a very bad hit, and then, eventually, the friendship was no longer alive. There were no words exchanged about it, it just became a long goodbye.

Now it is all out in the open, and the realization of the impact of my conditions on friendships has hit me hard. I have a better understanding as to why I’m largely alone. It’s hard to swallow, but it makes sense.

once an addict, always an addict …

You had dinner with Jack tonight, and you’ve assessed that the two of you are better off as friends. In fact, the more time you spend with him the more confident you become in that assessment. There’s nothing obnoxious about him, you wouldn’t be friends with him if there was. It’s just that the two of you are incredibly different in terms of lifestyle, and what you want out of life.

However, today at dinner you found your mind starting to stray into that murky territory of attraction. But, big but here, you know that an addict is always an addict, especially a sex addict. You know, in that wise mind of yours, that you were starting to lust after him, simple as that.

You know all too well that if you had met Jack four years ago before you hit rock bottom with alcohol and sex that you would have devoured him and spit him out by now. He would only have lasted two weeks at the most in your life, and that was by design. You preferred it that way. You were in control, that is, until you weren’t in control at the very end.

He walks you to your car after dinner.You think about kissing him. Instead, you give him kale and beets from the farm share box in your car. Jack is a very good friend, and you’ve come to value friendship in recovery.