Last night I spoke to my new sponsor for the first time. While it was an initial conversation, I felt so comfortable that I knew early into the chat that she was would be a sponsor that would support me and that I could learn from. I ended that conversation inspired, hopeful and so very grateful that our paths had crossed in Hong Kong. She gave me some good tips and open-ended ideas for approaching Step 4. And she told me I couldn’t do it wrong, how refreshing! One approach she talked about was focusing on one person at a time to try to get it all out. And Dad seems to be a good place to start.
This morning, I did my normal reading from The Book of Awakening and it really couldn’t have been more perfectly aligned with my diving into Step Four:
This past week-end I went to Hong Kong for a workshop and it happened to be the same week-end as the AA Hong Kong Convention. I wouldn’t have traveled to Hong Kong for it, I know myself, but I was there and should check it out, right? Again, I had such trepidation about it and at many points along the way I was tempted to abandon ship and wander around Hong Kong some more. But I made it there and I’m so glad that I did.
It did what it was supposed to do: make me feel connected to a caring community who sees me for the struggles I have had and the strength I tap to create a more authentic life without drinking. Speakers who shared their stories about the lows of their lives and the shame of their behavior and what they have done to make amends with others and the most difficult: themselves. I felt the magic of AA this time around and how it offers support in a way that addicts can accept and that they need. I saw the love, it all its odd forms, from people who have some years to those who were there shaken and uncertain in their decision and in themselves. The amount of gratitude I heard from people towards AA was so powerful: thank you, thank you, thank you…I might not be alive if it wasn’t for my sponsor, my group, my people, a loving God, a higher power…
There was a workshop for walking through Steps 4 and 5 and I joined a table that was all women with intention. Stapled worksheets were passed out, people talked about approaches, their experiences, the purposes of it, variations. So helpful, even in the face of how daunting the inventory tasks seem: resentments of people, then institutions and groups, then principals, then fears, then harms I caused others. The following day, Ann, an American, who is also based in China, came to me to offer her help with Step 4. She heard my brief sharing how I got stuck on the steps with a sponsor who told me I was doing it wrong and how I have let it stall my progress. We have a video call tonight to get to know each other and approach step 4. If things go well I hope to take her on as my sponsor. It feels like a big deal.
I keep hearing more and more about how much happiness is connected to relationships. I get it and I believe it BUT I feel stuck with building better community connections. Let me map out some of my obstacles and then discuss how I plan to get around them, theoretically.
God damn I am a wet blanket! I used to be so much more fun!
Why do want to host friends over anyways?
Ways around the obstacles:
A Promise to do the work
I am on the cusp of 6 months of continual sobriety. I go to an AA Meeting once a week, I don’t have a sponsor and I haven’t jumped into to Step 4 since my old sponsor broke up with me this past July. I have let myself get stuck here, maintaining my health habits but not continuing to do the work to pull away more veils and expose what needs light, air, and some nurturing. Obviously, I have let my sponsor resentment keep me from working on my resentments.
Last week's meeting I pledged in front of the this small intimate, quirky group of men (yes, I’m the only woman who consistency shows up) that I will begin my work on Step 4. I’m now ready. I have known for a while about how beneficial this work will be, but but but. I found reasons and other things to keep myself busy. Productivity is a great distraction for me.
I have my dog walking friend, who is a coworker and an AA member tell me many times that he will be my sponsor if I want, just ask at any time. I’ve been resisting asking, I am nervous that it will taint our friendship, that I will not be able to handle the “expectations” set forth in the sponsor-sponsoree relationship. He is much more open than my last sponsor, but he still goes to meetings a couple times a week and he has 10 years of sobriety. The traditional ways of AA have served him well. I think I will see if he will meet me where I’m at: step 4 and 5. I don’t want to wallow in my understanding of Steps 1-3. I’m good with being powerless and letting go of the control to something bigger than me. I'll see if he is receptive.
Part of the work of doing the steps is reviving this processing space. I have missed it.
Gratitude List (new habit I have wanted to try, first go)
My feelings are hurt. Even though I knew things weren’t going well and that I was considering ending my sponsorship too, it stung. The teacher gave up on me. Yes, I was a difficult student who asked a lot a hard questions, but still…teachers are supposed to meet their students where they are at, right? I guess I don’t really know how sponsorship is supposed to work, but she wanted me to follow her guidance without question. I brought my baggage to the table as I tried to grapple with it as I went through the steps with her. I wanted a teacher; it seems she wanted a disciple.
This a minor example of how I feel from my last post. I tried to be so honest with my Sponsor and in the end she rejected me. If I would have “faked it” a bit more and played by her rules she would have accepted me, but then I wouldn’t have been myself.
Well, here I am: sponsor free, out on the prowl, no strings attached! I’m a free agent. I can look into all sorts of traditions that will nurture my sobriety without being told I’m doing it wrong. I’m going to embrace this freedom, once I stop crying over being rejected.
I’m newly back in China after a lovely visit to Portland. It was easy and fun to be sober there. I went to a few 7am AA meetings and found my people there. Such a Portland quote from the meeting, “If you are a man, or identify as a man, you are welcome to come to the Men’s meeting on Wednesday.” People were warm and welcoming, we were in a Church basement, there was another women crocheting like me, I ran into a woman I taught with at the high school there, I left with people’s phone numbers and left with warm feelings towards everyone, it was worth getting up and driving 20 minutes to get there.
I also went to one Refuge Recovery meeting. It was 20 minutes of yoga, 20 minutes of guided meditation and 20 minutes of reading and shares. I loved this meeting style, I guess it was only born a few weeks ago and already there were about 20 people there. I went out afterwards for fellowship with the yoga instructor, chair and her boyfriend afterwards at a gluten-free and vegan bakery. I saw how they could be part of my community if I lived there. I could have sober friends easily. I missed how my life could be if I lived there, I felt homesick for really the first time in the 8 years I have lived aboard.
Well, here I am. I’ll go to my weekly AA meeting, I will start my step 4, I will do yoga and foster meditation. I’m equipped to stay sober.
I used to drink with the best of them, but I don't anymore. My life is so much better for it.
-Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp