Monday: Day One (and AA Shouldn’t Suck)

I woke up grumpy and pessimistic this morning. I walked into the living room, sat in the recliner, and gave myself at least a dozen justifiable (okay, somewhat justifiable) reasons for not starting a healthier routine today.

I sipped my water, smoked my vape, and commenced brooding. And then suddenly, amidst the clamor of excuses to be a slug today, the thinnest, annoying little voice whispered, If you just do it, it’ll be done, ya’ big dummy. And you’ll probably feel better for it.

Begrudgingly I pulled on my pajama pants, turned on Zelinda from The Yoga Room, and started her seven day challenge for beginners. After just twenty-six minutes of practice I felt better. I ate a yogurt afterwards, started that load of laundry I’ve been putting off, and got showered and dressed for the day.

Then I checked my phone, and called (not texted, called) a friend who said she was feeling a little blue… and by the end of our conversation, she didn’t sound quite as sorrowful as when she answered, and (bonus!) my own spirits were lifted.

I found myself frustrated, however, by one of the reasons for my dear friend’s sadness… members of AA. And here’s the thing, folks: AA should not be a source of dissatisfaction in one’s life.

Often, when I hear folks speak about problems in the program, one issue resurfaces again and again: sponsorship.

Sponsorship is a challenge. It means different things to different folks. It’s misunderstood by some, and gets abused and/or misused by others.

Sponsors are not priests, clerics, clinical therapists, nor financiers. Sponsors are not fairy godmothers (or godfathers) that can wave a wand and fix all your problems for you. And sponsors are not your mother (or father).

As I mentioned before, the word “sponsor” doesn’t even appear in the program portion of the Big Book. All that is truly required to work your program is a close-mouthed friend to call on when step work (of life) gets challenging.

I further advise women to create a network of people they can call, because my experience and/or suggested solution to a problem may not always be the one they need. (The proverbial “It takes a village…” perspective.)

There should never be a hierarchy between sponsors and those they guide through step work. (i.e. If you’ve become a housemaid, chauffer, or laundry attendant for your sponsor, something has gone terribly awry.) All a sponsor should do is guide other members through step work — and the daily challenges of life — by sharing their own experience of having (hopefully) done the same.

If you expect your sponsor to listen to hours of “poor me” lamenting, or to confirm that you are in fact a victim of the cruel outside world, then you aren’t really looking for sponsorship. You’re looking for someone to co-sign your bullsh*t, and all that indicates (to me) is that you may not be ready to get yourself straight.

Sadly, this is where a lot of folks are when they enter the rooms. They cling to the delusion that their problems are of someone else’s making, and therefore, only someone else can solve them.

News flash: Bad things happen. People can be cruel. And I have yet to meet a fellow female in the program who has not been a victim of sexual abuse. But as a sponsor, I don’t have the expertise to walk someone through trauma or grief recovery. That’s what mental health care professionals are for.

And don’t leave with the impression that I don’t care about what you’ve gone through in this life. I absolutely care! But I can only share — and then keep — that which I freely give away… and if I spend all my time feeling burdened by events I am not qualified to walk through, both parties suffer for it.

I end up grouchy and resentful, and the person on the other end of the line hasn’t been offered the help they truly need. Thus, the cycle repeats. Leaving each of us emotionally and physically exhausted.

That’s not how AA should leave you feeling. The fourth and the fifth step can be tough (and daunting)… but if you’re working with someone who has done the work themselves, it can be easier to understand, gentler to approach, and I promise… there is nothing so terrible it can’t be faced.

AA is a simple program. It requires only two things: self-reflection and taking responsibility.

It’s work, people. Challenging work? Yes, but well worth the reward. Ultimately, it is the reconstruction of one’s self.

So. If you aren’t ready to pull yourself from the desolate mire of thought that fuels that desire to be rid (restless, irritable and discontent) of self, then… Don’t. Call. Me.

I cannot afford to return to the twisted, snarling vines that choke the alcoholic in their lonely mental swamps. I have absolutely no desire to do so… and I hope to help others feel the same. That is the power of program.

“We absolutely insist on enjoying life!”

Sunday: I Feel Better When…

I feel better when I shower upon awakening and then brush my teeth.

I feel better when I write each day, when I read each day.

I feel better when I reach out and talk to a friend or loved one.

I feel better when I eat healthy and take a walk each day.

Why are such simple things sometimes so damn hard to do?!?!

Those of you who have mental health afflictions and/or addictions understand how baffling — and downright plaguing — a question this can be.

I myself suffer from a myriad of mental health issues: ADHD, Addiction/Alcoholism, Borderline Personality Disorder, Mild Depression, and OCD. (And those are just the ones with which I’ve been officially diagnosed. 🤦‍♀️ )

Most days I function like any other human being. If you were to encounter me in a meeting you might think, That lady seems to have it figured out a bit. And on occasion, I do. But more often than not, it’s simply a product of putting on a good front.

There are days when getting out of bed is a monumental task. Never mind the rest of it. Mitchell has been with me long enough to recognize the signs of such days, and the poor man has become adept at walking on eggshells (and enduring the tumultuous storms of my moods).

On good days, I get out of bed and brush my teeth. I shower and dry my hair. I put on clean clothes. I go to a meeting. I read. I write. And I used to eat healthy and take a walk each morning.

Initially, Mitchell and I stopped walking because Tucson in the summer is akin to living on the threshold of hell. (One of my husband’s friends once said that it was so damn hot a hobbit stopped by his home, knocked on the door, and threw a ring at him. LOL!) But the heat doesn’t excuse my lapse from Yoga and YouTube aerobic videos for the more fluffy among us.

The plain truth is that it is easier to give in to despair than it is to pull yourself out of it. And unfortunately, I tend to take the easy route first… that is, until I hit brush so thick that I have to fight it — tooth and nail — with a machete and frenzied bouts of exertion that often lead to injury. (I.e. I tend to learn things the hard way.)

You would think after forty-three years on this earth I would’ve come to the decisive conclusion that “doing the next right thing” is far more satisfying than the self-flagellation that comes the morning after a rice krispy treat binge in dirty pajamas with oily hair, but goddam it! Those chewy little suckers are just so damn delicious. 😂

In pondering over such thoughts this morning, I realized that my obvious outside has never matched my metaphorical inside.

When I was thin, and relatively pretty, I was riddled with insecurity and fear. Now that I have the budding self-confidence that comes with working a sober program, I’m a chubby housewife that rarely bothers with cosmetics.

I’d like to say that it doesn’t bother me… but dishonesty can plunge a person into the rabbit hole of active addiction. So let me be plain. It absolutely bothers me. On a daily basis.

I didn’t want to write about it. Writing puts it out there where I have to look at it… and I cannot sit in a mess for long before I hurriedly set about cleaning it up.

And yet, here we are.

I did get up this morning and brush my teeth. I showered and dried my hair. I put on clean clothes (though I confess I’m wearing Mitchell’s shirt in lieu of doing the laundry). I sat down and started to write. And now?

Now I have work to do… and because I’ve shared my woes with you, Dear Reader, I must try to right them… and there’s no take backs on commitments anymore. AA taught me that.

Saturday: AA Can Sometimes Suck

I had intentions to attend my homegroup in AA this morning… and then thought back on the terrible week I’d had within the program, and allowed myself to stay home instead — preferring a day of leisurely reading and documentary watching to one that could quickly turn to twenty-four hours of ridiculous drama.

When I entered the program of AA — more than three years ago, now — I had an unrealistic expectation (one that I have come to find is common among our membership): I assumed that folks with long-term sobriety were all solid, mentally healthy people. I was quite shocked to find this belief to be a reckless and unreliable one.

You mean alcoholics and addicts tend to be somewhat unstable? Duh, dummy.

I have come to find (rather reasonably, in retrospect) that the membership of AA is but a microcosm of the larger world outside its doors. In fact, there may be an even denser portion of the AA community that is mentally unstable than there is in the community at large. But, I digress…

I am now at a point in my sobriety where I am sponsoring other women in the program, and am saddened by the number that have been betrayed by a sponsor. (And might I point out that the word “sponsor” never appears in the original portion of our Big Book.)

If you have been unfortunate enough to find the need to join our ranks, and have actually worked the steps, then you know the intimacy that is required of the fourth and fifth steps. To lay one’s soul bare to another, and to then have those transgressions whispered of behind your back, is the cruelest of deceptions.

I have seen the shock, and fallen tears after such events; and it is never easy to witness.

For those who dare to try again, it is difficult to enter into any future “close-mouthed friend” relationships with an expectation of confidence. Picking up the pieces and attempting to put them back together again is a strain for everyone involved… and in theory, shouldn’t ever be necessary.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not think myself pious, or even a pillar in program. I haven’t done things perfectly, and definitely wasn’t honest when I first entered the rooms… but I eventually came to understand the idealistic humanity to which AA aspires. I attempt to “practice these principles in all my affairs”, and hope that in doing so, I move closer toward that ideal each time my sobriety closes the door on another twenty-four hours.

We practice sobriety as “an avocation”, and there are few in the fellowship who can profess with integrity to be mental health care professionals. Newcomers should know that we are little more than sober fools. The somewhat less-blind leading the newly blind. Just something to keep in mind…