I used to wake up with hangovers so bad they made me never want to drink again… for about a day. After that, I was good to go another round. I tried switching what I was drinking, counting my drinks, then counting the wine bottles, and limiting myself to drinking on a strict schedule. None of these methods worked, and then one day my body said “ENOUGH”, put me in ICU, and so began the most hellish, enlightening, tragic, and painful year and a half of my life.
I never really wanted to quit drinking. I liked my wine, I liked the buzz, I liked doing shots with my friends and feeling warm, confident, and chatty. I was dragged kicking and screaming into sobriety, with the choice of quitting or dying. I followed a couple of my friends into AA, one was sober for 6 years, the other for just a couple of months. Still, both of them already knew what I was not willing to admit… I had suffered a drinking-career ending injury to my pancreas, and the only way I was going to make peace with sobriety was to go to those damn meetings.
There’s a little AA story of a newcomer asking an old-timer “How long do I have to go to these meetings?” The old-timer replies “Until you WANT to.” I like meetings now. Suddenly there are people in the program that I can relate to, and it’s working for me. I don’t know how or why, but it’s working. I’ve survived being uncomfortable around “those people”, I’ve learned which meetings have the comfiest chairs, I know what works with my schedule, and like the other recovering drunks in those rooms, I want to hear the stories. I’ve learned to share my own insights, and I learned that I needed identify myself as an alcoholic when I wanted to speak. I listened to people say “Hi, my name is so and so, and I am an alcoholic. Alcoholics talk a lot about what they are thankful for, and it really irritated me at the beginning because damn it, why me? Why can’t I drink like a normal person? I saw no reason to be thankful for any of the shit going on in my life at the time.
I still haven’t seen anyone walk into the program and feel totally comfortable with every aspect of it, particularly the spiritual aspect of it, so I’ve learned to roll with it. They tell you to take what you need and leave the rest. Somewhere along the way you reconcile what you are learning with what you already knew in your heart….I was just too drunk to care much of the time.
I don’t understand people who have just one or two. What the hell is that? For me, a thimbleful of booze is too much, and a bathtub full is not enough. Experienced AA’ers tell you to fake it til you make it. I figured what the hell…I’ve faked orgasms, I’ve driven drunk with one eye open, smoking a cigarette and talking on the cell phone, surely I can fake this GOD and Higher Power shit.
Something happened, though. One day I woke up and realized that I really was an alcoholic. The passenger side of my bed is loaded with books like “New Beginnings… Daily Meditations for Women”, “Return to Love”, and even “Chicken Soup for the Recovering soul.” Who knew?
My best friend and I went with her family on a vacation to Branson. We unpacked in our bedroom and we had both arrived with the exact same bottle of lavender scented pillow spray and worn copies of “Nightlight” , bedtime meditations. Just because we’re sober doesn’t mean we aren’t still a little crazy. We decided it would be fun to check out a meeting in Branson. We were pleased to meet a group of warm, welcoming alcoholics there, There is comfort in the rituals of AA. The meetings open and close in the same way. The stories and thoughts being shared are just like our meetings here. Okay, there may have been considerably fewer teeth in that room, but the people were really really nice.
Most meetings open with the Serenity prayer, and close with the Lord’s Prayer, with a little encouraging cheer at the end. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It’s a simple prayer, but not an easy one to live… I want a higher power that changes the things I don’t like, gives me the courage to accept the things that come easiest to me, and the wisdom to pick out winning lottery numbers.
Most meetings end with the Lord’s Prayer. I worry about this. I worry that it excludes some and alienates others. Most people I know that are new to AA are totally freaked out by the concept of a higher power, or god as we understand him. For me, it’s some sort of cosmic energy of the universe that is constantly changing and powerful. It’s a sort of universal mosaic of the energy that we as humans put forth. I seem to be very attached to the idea that we all put out good energy and bad energy, and that prayer and meditation are simply ways of channeling that energy toward things that we want or need. I’m often not aware of exactly what it is that I need, but somehow the universe always gives it to me.
It’s in the profound statement from a fellow alcoholic that touches my heart in some important way.
It’s in the beauty of the world around me when I stop and breathe and open my eyes to it.
It’s in the love and positive energy that I get from my friends and family, if only I am open to receiving it.
So I’m slowly becoming ok with the Lord’s prayer. It’s the moment we stand, (right after my butt has fallen asleep) we form a circle or some close approximation, we join hands whether we want to or not, and we speak together in one voice… to me it’s that moment that matters, not the actual words.
I’ve learned that everyone’s higher power seems to be unique. I think we each create or discover exactly what we need in a higher power. No one’s going straight to hell if they don’t pray to the higher power I think they need. I get to keep my side of the street clean, and continue to strive to be a better person.
In AA, everyone must find their own higher power. This is not easy. I’ve never seen a “higher power” section in the yellow pages. I googled higher power and it took me to an aviation page that trains jet pilots. They weren’t comfortable with me praying to them, either.
You can’t place a higher power want ad in the back of the Pitch… you could, but you’d probably end up getting spanked.
You’re not going to run into your higher power at the Java Break or at Dirty Dillons. (and if you did, would you have to use your frequent shopper card?)
Your higher power will not do your dishes. I know, I’ve asked.
You probably won’t see a vision of your higher power in your morning piece of toast, or find it weeping blood in some remote village.
My higher power puts me at ease when I feel like I am the only person drinking lemonade on the Free state Porch. It reminds me to live in the moment rather than worrying about yesterday and tomorrow. It keeps me aware of where I’ve been and where I want to go.
As a feminist, it bugs me that the language of much of the AA texts is old fashioned and patriarchal. However, I can roll with that, also, with the understanding that it’s reflective of both the era (1935) that it was written in, and the two men who wrote most of the program. I think no one really wants to change it too much cause it works, and it’s been working for over 70 years.
Admitting powerlessness over alcohol also bugs me. But by admitting that alcohol kicked my ass both mentally and physically, I’ve gained a new freedom and power.
I will probably never have a one night stand again.
I probably won’t get my first DUI.
I probably will continue to learn and grow both physically and mentally, rather than marinating in Chardonnay, tequila, and Jagermeister. (No, that’s not all one cocktail…if it is, I don’t recommend trying it at home.)
I’ll probably never fall down on Mass Street again, lose a tooth in a bar, or take March 17th off of work to ride around town on a bus drinking all day.
I hope I never get so sick again that my ultimate hangover resulted in 18 hospitalizations, 2 major surgeries, and numerous painful procedures in one year.
I’ll never taste black tequila or Corona in a can.
I’m ok with all of this, because I’m not doing it on my own. I’m privileged to get to sit in church basements with other drunks, drinking bad coffee and learning good tools to deal with life on life’s terms.
My name is Kalli, I am a recovering alcoholic, and I’m grateful to be here.