the lesson continues …

Cover of "The Four Agreements: A Practica...

Amazingly, I actually went to an AA meeting. I parked, got out of the car, opened the door, and stepped right in! Though as soon as I did that I ran to the bathroom. I really did have to use it, but I am guilty of hanging out in there 3 minutes longer than needed. I found a place to sit in the meeting room, and made myself remain seated. A nice woman whom we’ll call Lori came up to me and introduced herself.

Then the meeting chair rang the little bell and the meeting commenced. As she was talking, the heat and haziness in the room started triggering my dissociation. Unfortunately, heat triggers my PTSD. My therapist and I can only conclude that it’s because most of my trauma happened in a desert climate, which is what I grew up in until I left home at 18. As I felt myself start to drift into that parade float feeling I just told myself where I was, and made myself listen intently to whomever was speaking. It worked to a certain extent. The floaty feeling didn’t entirely disappear until I left the meeting, but I was able to be present most of time.

At the end of the meeting Lori came up to me, and asked me if I had been to that meeting in the past. I said I had, but lied and said that Sundays were hard for me. She then said that Sundays used to be hard for her until she relapsed, and after her relapse nothing came between her and her meetings after that.

After a few more minutes of conversation, I then told her it was great meeting her, and left. I got in my car, and started thinking about the interaction as soon as it was over. I cocked my head, and wondered what was different. I knew something was different, but I couldn’t immediately identify it. Then I realized that I wasn’t offended by Lori’s remark about Sundays being hard for her before she relapsed. Previously, I would have been offended by her remark. I would have over thought it, and presumed that she was telling me I needed to attend more meetings, or I was at risk of a relapse.

It dawned on me that perhaps I’m finally starting to soak in what a number of people have been telling me for years about what people and say and do, and that is the fact that what people say and do is not about you, or in this matter, me. It is about them. What people say and do is about them. What Lori shared with me was about her experience, not mine. This is similar to what Cindy was trying to tell me about Cate.

All of this also got me thinking about an old friend I made when I first go into AA. I became friends with an Irish chef, whom we will call Brian. I used to drive Brian nuts talking on and on about how my supervisor at work (this was at a previous job) was insensitive to me. I felt she was very insensitive in her manner towards me.

One day after Brian had enough of my complaining he had me meet him at a cafe before a meeting. On cue I started complaining about my boss. He then pulled out a book, and handed it to me as a gift. The name of the book was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. As he handed it to me he brought my attention to the second agreement in the book:

“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

This was a revelation to me. Actually, all of the the agreements were a revelation. But it was the second agreement that was immediately applicable to my life. I got what Brian was trying to tell me, and for a few days I was able to follow the second agreement. But it was very hard to carry on long term. I shortly forgot about it, and it wasn’t until today that I realized the second agreement was applicable to my sister Cate, and Lori at the AA meeting. Cindy, my therapist, and Brian, the chef, were all trying to tell me the same thing, but in different ways. Cognitively, it’s easy for me to get the concept, but being as sensitive as I am, it is an altogether different story in applying it on a regular basis. I hope it’s finally sticking in my brain.

Cover via Amazon

just open the door and step right on in …

The doors of LIFE[Day183]*

This seems like a simple enough concept. You intend on going somewhere, and once you get there you just open the door and step right on in … However, depending on the place, that’s not always how it goes for me.

Almost four years ago I made myself walk into an AA meeting because I knew I had reached the end of my rope. Groups of people can be a trigger for me though, and I never truly felt comfortable there. After nearly four years I still feel sick to my stomach going into a meeting. You would think I would be past this stage by now, but I’m not.

Which brings us to today … Right now I am in a Starbucks very sick to my stomach because I intended to go to an AA conference which is taking place down the street from here. The closer I got to the conference the sicker I felt. Finally I just came in here instead. I decided to bag the whole thing. I feel like a failure over it, but physically I feel better now that I decided that I am not going.

A person may ask why I try so hard to go to AA. Well, I see people in there that are genuinely happy, and I really don’t want to drink again. Basically, I want what they have. Many of them seem peaceful, sober and happy. When I am able to sit through a meeting without leaving I often hear things that resonate with me. But it is often very painful for me to sit through meetings because of my anxiety of being in a group. There are countless times when I drive all the way to a meeting, and then I turn around and drive home because I can’t make myself go inside.

Truthfully, I’ve had some negative experiences in AA. But I don’t attribute my anxiety to that because I felt this way before I even had those experiences, and I know that those experiences were not unique to me. I know that a number of people have had negative things happen in AA. By the same token, I’ve had some positive experiences as well. Just wish that I could get myself in there to experience more of it, positive or not. I’ll never know until I start going again.

But for today I am going to try to stop beating myself up over it. I feel better now, and that’s not a bad thing.

(Photo credit: Chapendra)