Monday, October 30, 2006

My False Self

Early on in my sobriety I remember sitting at an open AA meeting next to a woman of wisdom. She was nearing 80 years of age and when she spoke we were all mesmerized by her humility and wisdom. I remember asking God to infuse me straight away with some kind of similar wisdom before it was my turn to talk. Ya, right. Not exactly the way it works is it?

At that point in my life there were two thoughts that were constantly at the edge of my consciousness. One was that AA meetings were the only place on earth that was safe and real. That reality alternately scared and thrilled me. The other was wondering why I couldn't handle living in that reality. Why could I not just say how it was with me without it having to be about image? My image. I found myself jockeying for position - a position that came from within me - not one that anyone was trying to compete with me for. Eventually the group I was in disbanded and there were several reasons I didn't seek out a new one. None of them good or justifiable. Had I gone to a different group I am sure I would have either been confronted with truth that I couldn't side step and I would have either welcomed it or used it as an excuse to get drunk. With no sponsor (still thinking I could go it alone) there was also no one to answer to. I walked away from it thinking I had enough years of sobriety behind me that me and God could handle my soriety solo.

Well, that I could handle it solo and would call on God only when it was obvious that I wasn't handling life on my own too well. What followed was nearly 10 years of mostly a dry drunk. Occasionally I walked the talk. More often than not I didn't. More often than not today, I still don't.

I can type that without beating myself up. I do have regrets about not having gone to meetings for the past 10 years. I came close to losing my sobriety this past June and in desperation I went back to meetings. When I did I came in contact with people with the same amount of sobriety as me and I got to see what sobriety, in its fullness, could be. I'm willing to learn not to mourn those years too much but I still stumble over the words we read aloud at every meeting:

"We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it."
I feel like I am newly sober. I want the serenity others have. I want to know what it is to say how I am without dressing it up a bit. To be able to own up to my humanity without being self condemning. It could be someone newly sober or someone with 22 years of sobriety that God uses to speak truth to me. It took at least two months of meetings for me to ''get it'' that years of sobriety didn't count for much, it was living it in this moment that really mattered. And when I heard someone with 2 days of sobriety worry less about image and more about reality than I was capable of - that got my attention.

Which brings me to today. Wondering what it says to have 18+ years of sobriety behind me and not one day of abstinence when it comes to either bingeing or sexual addiction. There is a bit that we read at every meeting that has been haunting me lately. It reads like this:

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men or women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest."

I used to read that bit in the big book and think of my brother-in-law who went through rehab like it was a revolving door. He died over two years ago, sober on the night of his death, but not in sobriety. I used to think what a pity it was that he couldn't get honest while patting myself on the back for my own. These days I hear the above read at meetings and more often than not the words are hitting me so hard I am unaware of anyone else in the room. I pray I can learn to be so rigorous. I worry that I won't.

I told someone the other day that there was no way I wanted to be an 80 year old woman still stuck in her addictions. But do I want freedom bad enough to do the hard work? It seems I keep coming back to the truth that this life is lived only one fucking day at a time and I keep trying to live the rest of my life at one go. It feels like paying attention to this moment is an impossibility. I am scared to find out how that feels. I have heard enough at meetings to know I will never do it perfectly. But can I be willing in the moment, to be in the moment? I get exhausted just thinking about it. It makes me feel like I will have to spend the rest of my life like some guard standing at attention when all I want to do is slump against the wall.

The other day a piece of the puzzle came into focus for me. I have read of ego and have heard others speak of it at meetings but I never really understood it for myself. It was while reading this the other day that I got it finally. I sat there and realized it was my ego all along that has been in the way of being honest or being me at meetings. In love with my false self and protecting it at all costs. It was what others at meetings had faced in order to be rigorously honest. There was a time - let's say oh, 2 weeks ago - when having that revelation would have propelled me into action - trying to fix it and prove to anyone who cared that my real self truly leads the way. Today I can simply acknowledge the revelation for the gift it is, saying a hesitant amen to these words:

"If we are blessed God will destabilize and begin to 'break down' this false self."

I keep on hoping that it is possible to string together days of abstinence like my friend bobbie has. I do however, question whether I want it bad enough to make it a reality. I wonder if going to AA meetings and learning what I am there will make me come to the end of myself in these other areas or whether I will be one of those unfortunates who is unwilling to be honest with themselves. Some days I wonder who the hell do I think I am fooling. I'd rather have some miraculous cure from Jesus than face doing the hard work of recovery. But something tells me that hard work is the only way serenity and abstinence and true sobriety is ever going to be my reality. And that by stringing together one day at a time's worth of any of it really is a miracle.

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