With AA’s suggested Twelve Steps, as with everything else in AA, we can take what we like and leave the rest, but what if removing what we feel we need to remove is like pulling on a single thread that causes the whole tapestry to become unraveled?
My first few days, weeks, and months newly sober, my emotions were raw. They often swept me away. Moments of peace rare. Fear was ever-present. My life seemingly teetered on the brink of spinning out of control to that place of ‘no return’ several times a day.
As a child, I had the common experience of growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent. My step-father was a daily drinker who was incapable of forming a loving relationship with me or my younger brother. When my stepfather had been drinking he seemed to resent us and was emotionally abusive.
Love and intimacy have taken on new meaning for me these days. My spouse and I, in many ways, are an improbable, imperfectly perfect match. It’s not the first marriage for either of us. We produced no children together, meeting when our children were teenagers. The Brady Bunch we were not. With time, patience and acceptance, our family is one full of love.
Somewhere between my consciousness and subconscious, I knew that this was a question that I was even afraid to ask - this the power that fear held in my life. I’ve had a long pattern of avoiding as a way to cope.
The Dark Night of Recovery, by Edward Bear is a delightful tale of recovery from dependence on alcohol. Told in thirteen chapters, a prologue, and then each of AA’s twelve steps in a form of conversations between an iconoclastic and wise sponsor and a somewhat skeptical sponsee.
My earliest experiences in recovery started the same way that most of these journeys begin, at a meeting. Going down a short flight of stairs into a very large church basement with smoke thickened air (it was, after all, early 1987 when there were still smoke-filled rooms) and seeing an old DC drinking buddy at the bottom of those stairs who immediately said, “What the fuck took you such a long time to get here?”
When I returned to a 12 Step recovery group four years ago, 30 years after walking into the fellowship’s rooms for the first time, both the program and I had changed. Phone meetings made up a large proportion of all fellowship meetings, affording me the opportunity for recovery in my new home, a state with no face to face meetings.
Of late I’ve been in several 1st step post relapse meetings. The shame in the room is palpable – from the person coming back and all too often, beneath the veil of sympathy from those responding.