ODAAT – Really
A beautiful young woman walked into a recovery workshop I led over a year ago. She seemed a little frazzled, which made sense when she said she had two kids under the age of three and was happy to have a respite. It made even more sense when she said she was newly sober and working hard at it, but not really finding her path. She was in a struggle mode.
She was attending AA meetings like a good girl and was doing what she was told, but already had resentments toward some of the negativity she felt there. She was looking for more, and was drawn to the spirituality and positive focus we were discussing.
She felt that some of the women at the meetings were not friendly to her. She felt that she somehow wasn’t measuring up to something she didn’t know she was supposed to measure up to. She felt she was being judged, and was therefore harshly judgmental about the program (that is a clue.)
We talked about what it would be like if she listened with the intention of catching something helpful for her and not something that would offend or annoy her. We talked about what if she approached the woman who said that thing and told her how she positively related. We talked about not demanding of AA that it be the end-all absolute solution, but part of a bigger picture. Letting the wisdom come to her in a way she could hear it. We affirmed that yes, it was fantastic and appropriate to honor the serenity she found in her yoga practice, her hiking, and other things she was doing in addition to AA meetings, but were dismissed by some of the fundamentalists.
I could relate. While I have found some amazing and treasured friendships in AA, not every meeting or group has been that way. Example: there is a very established ongoing women’s step group around here. I jumped into it to do my second round of steps in year fourth of my sobriety (took me into my sixth to finish…) Some of it felt brilliantly helpful, eye-opening, and inspiring. Some of it felt repetitive and rooted in negative stories and emotions. I know that recognizing our negatives is part of the recovery process but even those more seasoned and solid in recovery would tell the same stale stories over and over. It felt like I was forced to listen to and repeat “what it was like” and guess what? “What it was like” was that it was like crap. The leader seemed very controlling and didn’t emanate anything close to joy. She seemed miserable even when she laughed, which wasn’t often. I often came out of there feeling worse than when I went in. Wrong-o! I want to feel uplifted and empowered after a meeting, not defeated, insecure, and doubtfully questioning myself.
But the process of staying there for over a year taught me something I needed to learn: Take what I can, and let the rest slip away. And get over automatically deferring because someone else says so. And (still challenging to this day) – try not to be judgmental about it. Many women love it there and continue to grow. Some people just do it differently and that doesn’t make theirs bad and mine good. It doesn’t make them wrong and me right.
So what about the beautiful young mom? I heard from her a few weeks ago. She sounds like a different person. She is full of joy and gratitude. She is sober and loving life with her kids and husband. She suggested we attend a meeting or maybe take a hike together. So glad she didn’t throw in the towel but instead made slight changes day by day to fast forward to a happy today and fantastic tomorrow.
“Be the change” – thank you Gandhi. That’s really true; once I begin to act a certain way, I will attract more of it in. My experiences will reflect back to me what I’m expressing to the world. One day at a time…
In gratitude, harmony and support,