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.
As I want to work on this forgiveness aspect of my recovery I am realizing I have been doing some wordsmithing and jumping over the work that I ultimately need to do. Forgiveness is an act of love, right? I haven’t been able to really think about how to forgive myself for what I did while drinking because it is so tied up with why I drank in the first place: seeking acceptance while self-loathing. How do I forgive myself for hating myself?
When I think back to my family, how my identity formed as a teenager, I came to think of earning love through achievement and that turned into love through competency. I am competent. And when I’m not I have no value. Sadly, I truly believe that, and then I’m resentful of it. Even in my marriage I see elements of this: I take care of the bills, travel, dogs, etc., and that’s how I earn my love, through being of use. When I was in high school I thought if I were to be an animal I would be a worker bee, a fucking drone doing my part to keep things in order among the other faceless masses. Useful, needed, uncelebrated. How uninspiring.
I have created a divide within myself through the façade I have used for decades of a successful confident woman. “Fake it until you make it” has worked well for me to get hard times, and I fake it all day long, then cry myself to sleep with self-loathing, anxiety, and overwhelming fatigue. I carry resentment toward people who I have felt I had to earn my love with them through my achievements, but I set it up this way. I know that I have isolated myself from true connection by acting the part. I have thought, “you don’t really know me, you know what I have shown you. If you did really see me for what I am me, you would hate me.” How do I get at that to pick it apart?
How do I get at that? Writing this out. Asking for help (don’t know how to do that yet). Talking to my inner critic and cultivating a better dialog with myself about myself. This is the work at hand to reconstruct my self-worth beyond a function for others to use.
Here I sit at two months, a gift that I need to give myself is the time to write in this blog today. I have fallen out of practice and it has been squeezed out with other “work” I have been doing for my sobriety and stupid shit I have to work on not related to my sobriety.
I feel like sharing the path that got me to the resources that I want to share with you and where I am at this 2-month mark.
I am “working the steps” in AA, but I’m kinda on pause since the expat group I am a part of here have all gone on vacation around the world, including my sponsor. I have continued with my own program, which needs to include more blogging! Grace, thank you for the email that nudged me to get into the blogging saddle, I appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me.
I’m reading and listening to the book Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction by Noah Levine to supplement my AA program. I read last night about importance of meditation for recovery, especially forgiveness meditation. Start with forgiveness? To me this feels like the hardest part, to forgive myself for being myself, to forgive those that fuel my resentments and previous addictions. Yes, I know these are deep rooted causes from my drinking, but I have to start at the hardest most tender place??? What do I do when faced with these tasks? I ask the internet for help. I now have a few new meditation apps to try out since not one what suited specifically to what I wanted. Why aren’t there meditation apps geared around recovery: forgiveness, resentments, cravings, letting go, self-love, strong emotions, etc.? There is a market to explore out there people!
After meditating for 10 minutes I took the dogs out for a walk and listened to the Edit Podcast, where Jolene and Aidan mentioned “judging others’ outsides by your insides” and mentioned a site where a woman posted pictures from her own Facebook Account and wrote what was going on in her life during the beautiful pictures. I pulled the dogs over and went to this site immediately, since this theme of not judging myself against others has helped me be less self-loathing. I found a new blog to follow (thanks Laura McKowen)! This post made me tear up on the street. At the bottom of this post was this link: On forgiveness (looking for love in all the wrong places) and that made me down right cry in public. This is the point of my post today: I was led to what I needed to receive on how to start forgiving myself. I still haven’t emotionally recovered from these two posts, which tell me they were the truths I needed today to be present where I am: 2 month sober and learning to love imperfect self. And soon learning to meditate on forgiveness.
My first time reaching 1 month sober I was so excited. It was monumental. This time around I’m not excited, I’m not bored with it, I just have one month. Relief? The month went by so quickly, maybe that I don’t feel I really earned it. It was too easy? Was it easy? Yeah, it was easier than the last “first month” because I wasn’t as steeped into the bottle this time around, I was faking normal drinking. And this time around, I got a shiny red coin to prove my month.
I’ve almost completed my drunkalogue. It is not book worthy! The lows are not the lows that are the hallmarks of a woman spinning out of control for years. It’s a thousand of little cuts into my integrity, self-worth, relationships and health. I’m not trying to compete I know, but sometimes I still wonder, maybe I’m not an alcoholic after all. Even writing that, eek! But indeed my life had become unmanageable, I could control how much I drank. I often blacked out.
A couple of revelations came out of writing this narrative of my drinking history.
I’m still going to meetings, mostly I like them, but I continue to bristle at some parts of it. Especially when people seem to discredit those who stopped drinking without AA by calling them a “dry drunk”. I did a lot of work on myself last time around without the formalized steps and that counts, dammit. But I like the community and support and it can’t hurt my sobriety, right? I also can bare to introduce myself every time I speak to the 3 other people there, and follow my name with “I’m an alcoholic” I can’t buy into it as of yet, but I’ll keep going back until something better comes along, or summer starts and all the group chairs go to other countries for 6 weeks.
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