Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Take what you need...

This post is probably going to come off a little ranty, but I need to get something off my chest.

Just because a person is sober, even if they have long term sobriety, doesn't mean they are wise, kind, or even good people.  Most sober people I have met both in and out of the program are good people, some of the best people I know are in the program. But getting sober and maintaining sobriety does not automatically make someone a good role person.  Or as I like to say, 'there are assholes everywhere, even in AA'.  Sadly though, it seems that too often people act as if the word of a recovering alcoholic is scripture.  Let me clue you in though, getting sober does not make you God.  Sober people are still people.  They have opinions and they make mistakes.  They can give us great advice and act as an example of how to recover and how to live a sober life and even how to be a good person but they can also still make mistakes and occasionally give us bad advice.  And you know what, that's okay.  It's okay if your sponsor, your sober role model, sometimes messes up.  AS LONG AS YOU ADMIT THEY CAN MESS UP. 

There's an old phrase in the program that doesn't get used often enough; 'Take what you need and leave the rest'.  It means that when you are sitting around a table (or on an internet forum) and listening to all the different stories you should pluck the nuggets of gold out, the things that resonate with you, and leave the rest behind.  People express a lot of opinions and not all of them are right, yet so many people seem to think that they have to agree with everything an old timer says, that they have to do everything a sponsor tells them to.  They think there is only one way to work the program (their way!).  That is just not the case folks!  Different people need different things.  A wise sponsor will recognize what their sponsee needs and help them in that way, or, if they can't provide that, tell the sponsee kindly to find someone else to guide them.  I am blessed that I have such a sponsor, but time and again I see people say things that boil down to "it's my way or the highway".  Maybe that worked back in the 30's and 40's, but humanity and society have changed so much since then. My sponsor recently told me that the recovery rate back then for people in the program used to be 1 in 10, now it's1 in 30.  I have to wonder if it's the abrasiveness and, forgive the word, cruelty of some of the members that is part of what is driving people away.

I have seen people at meetings yelling in other people's face.  I have heard them tell others to shut up.  And I have heard the most horrifying advice being given to some of the most fragile people; advice given as if it were the word of God rather than the opinion of a flawed human being.  That is not the sobriety that I want, and I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that is what they have to put up with to get sober.  I will continue to stick up for the fragile ones, when they are getting bad theology crammed down their throats, and remind the others that we are all unique in our path of recovery.   It's sacrilegious to many, to question the program, to question someone when they claim how they learned to recover is they only way, but in my opinion it's a critical thing to learn in order to continue becoming one's true self. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Revelations: Part 1

I've been avoiding writing this for a couple of days now.  I've been avoiding writing anything about my recovery, except little snippets in my online recovery group, for a long time.  My last post here was 2 years ago, for Pete's sake.  And just because I'm writing now, doesn't mean I'm back to this blog.  No guarantees, but I'll try.  In the meantime I need to get some stuff out and this is the best stage for my drama.

Quick update- my girls are now 9 and nearly 12 years old.  I have 3 years and 9 months of sobriety.  I'm still married, still working, still attending AA- although not nearly as much as I should.  I have religion, but I haven't attended my house of worship in over a year.  My spiritual well has just about done run dry, but I'm working on that.  This post will explain more.

Let's start with Saturday night.  I haven't been feeling well (went to Urgent Care yesterday and I have bronchitis and a sinus infection).  My fuse is extremely short when I'm sick or in pain.  My younger daughter, who is for better or worse so much like me, has the same issue.  So Saturday night we were at each other's throats.  She yelled at me, I yelled at her, she tried to manipulate me with guilt and how she feels so unloved, I yelled at her for being selfish and manipulative.  Not my finest moment.  She locked herself in the bathroom sobbing, I was still so angry!  I sent my husband to talk with her, he bailed, he actually left the house.  Legitimately we needed toilet paper but did we really need it right then?!  I was pissed that he left.  But later on I was so glad he did...

At some point while her dad was gone, my daughter came down the stairs.  I can't remember how our conversation started, but it ended with both of us lying on the couch, arms wrapped around each other, sobbing our eyes out.

As she came down the stairs, I remembered how my dad used to yell at me, how terrified I was of him.  He had a key chain with tons of keys that he wore on his belt and it would jangle when he walked.  I'd get a knot of dread in my stomach every time I heard those keys come jangling down the hall. He was always yelling at my sister and I, screaming at us, taking all his own frustration and resentment and anger out on us.  He wasn't an alcoholic, but he had PTSD from Vietnam, a bad marriage, an abusive mother, and a horrible work situation in which he was being badly bullied.  He had a lot of rage and we bore the brunt of it.  Looking at my crying child, I realized I was doing the exact same thing.  I have a lot of frustration, resentment, sadness, and anger in my life right now, which I won't go into at the moment.  I can't take it out on my husband, or my colleagues, or my clients, so I take it out on my kids.  I hate that.  I hate myself when I do it.  Logically I know I am perpetuating childhood patterns and that I have the power to not repeat my parent's mistakes, but emotionally that old track just takes over when my defenses are down.  I'm not making excuses, just telling it like it is.  I want to change, but I don't know how.  I think I took a step in the right direction that night though...

Standing there, I told my daughter some of these things.  I told her how my dad treated me, how bad it made me feel.  I told her I didn't want her to feel that way.  I told her about my other fears, how she is so much like me but I don't want her to turn out like me.  I want her to have so much more, so much better of a life than I have had so far.  We both cried, a lot.  Every time I started crying again she'd start crying again because she didn't want me to cry!  I realized just how much of myself I am projecting on her, and how much of myself I still hate about myself. 

Brutal honesty here- I tend to think of her as selfish, manipulative, rude, and arrogant.  I assume she is an alcoholic in the making and I worry that her attitudes and behavior will take her to very dark places in life.  I worry she will die young from reckless, addictive behavior, or that she will live a lonely, sad life with no one to love her.  I realized in this night that all of those things are how I see MYSELF.  When I see her throwing a tantrum or worrying needlessly over something small  I see myself at that age in my head, throwing the same type of tantrum, having those same worries.  I see where that stinking thinking, even at such a young age, took me in life and I do not want that life for my children!  I've always thought this was fear, and it is in part, but it's also anger.  This is where my disease comes in...

I realized I still judge myself, still think of myself, as the person I was before I got sober.  In my mind I am still a terrible person and when I say I don't want my daughter to be like ME it's that drunk me that I don't want her to be like.  But I'm nearly 4 years sober, that isn't me any more!  Can I learn to love myself AS I AM NOW?  Can I forgive that old me, accept that I am changed, and be happy with who I am?  Can I see myself as a role model for how I would like my daughter to be someday?  The sober me?  Honestly I don't know, but I'm trying.

 I'm also trying not to look at my daughter as my mirror.  I'm trying to see her for HERSELF, not as a mini-me.  I'm trying to focus on her good traits, and she has so many!  She is smart, beautiful, talented, kind, generous, honest, loving, and gentle. She is so much more than her anxiety and her temper, and if I can focus on that I believe our interactions will be a lot more peaceful.  One step at a time, one day at a time, we can make our relationship stronger and I can, I WILL, be a better mother to her.