Getting a taste for AA
AA is strong medicine. It needs to be strong medicine. I think nearly everyone tried other alternatives. Well meaning altruistic folk asking ”so how are you feeling now?” “much better thanks..”, then skipping down the pub. Various self help books. Exercise, occasionally jogging against the maelstrom of the tormented mind. Guaranteed to build up a good hearty thirst.
But for me as for other alcoholics of my type, these were ineffective in shifting the central apex of my existence…getting another drink.
Strong medicine doesn’t always taste so nice to begin with, its an acquired taste. Acquired through consistent practice. The Hindus would describe going on any effective spiritual and educational pursuit as action in the mode of goodness. This usually tastes like poison in the beginning, but becomes like nectar. Actions centered around self will and intoxication can be like nectar in the beginning but always end up as poison. A shift in direction is certainly needed.
I hold up my hands and confess, I didn’t find AA easily to begin with. It was difficult, tedious, awkward and worst of all prevented me from getting down the pub. To make matters worse I had a sponsor who gave me “suggestions”, had expectations and would always have a big grin when deflating my ego.
I agonised in meetings, listening to chapter 5 three times a week. “Um..sounds familiar” I thought. Then by week 11 “not chapter 5, anything, please read something else. Anything – even Biggles goes loco in Acapulco – anything, but not chapter 5…again!!”
But, after time (aided by being strapped in Seany’s special chair, to stop me licking the windows), the words sank in and became relevant..I listened as opposed to knowing everything….related more and more. Repetition is the mother of learning.
I allowed myself to be guided because I had experienced true desperation, the despair of a man facing a speeding juggernaut armed only with an invisible cape. They say “no man is an Island”, yet I had been paralysed in a state of isolation. My home group lifted me out of this. I recall a poster of a Basset Hounds’ face, saying “I don’t need to lot of love, just a regular supply”. Psychologists call this “positive strokes”. Shaking hands, the camaraderie, being ‘a part of’ and essentially for me, thinking of others and having a frame work for service.
This has enabled me to have a change of perspective, not be so painfully sensitive, hold my head up and not feel at the mercy of fair-weather friends.
Doing my suggestions each day and getting to meetings with accruing consistency gives my life a rhythm.
Water doesn’t have a taste, but is the best slaker of thirst and the healthiest liquid.
I’ve found service and steps have become more succulent with passing time
Being a cog in a recovery machine that rolls up its sleeves and gets on the business of helping alcoholics find a way out of loneliness, despair and according to the World Health Organisation the biggest killer above and beyond AIDS, keeps me spiritually grounded like nothing else I have ever encountered. And happier, able to face life, hold down a job, be valued as a professional employee and have self esteem . The AA promises are real.
I count myself fortunate to have found a home group with structure and discipline, totally committed to tradition 5.
Imagine. Drunk man goes for a walk with a bottle of single malt. Falls off cliff edge. Wakes up on a crumbling outcrop ledge, dazed, slightly concussed and hung over. Hears voices shouting down , “we’re going to lower a rope, just grab the rope and pull yourself up, hand by hand. Don’t look down, just keep focused, we can get you up!”
A half bottle of Whiskey a precarious ledge below could be emptied conveniently (shame to waste) and used against the annoying seagulls who’ve really had it coming. The dazed man looks around, still confused. The rescue team (those AA action men) shout again “don’t hang about, the cliff is crumbling, just grab the rope!!” A helicopter looms overhead and a bounder shouts out with a megaphone “don’t listen to them, take your time, no-one has the right to tell you what to do!”
I’m glad I have a taste for old fashioned AA, action-based recovery.
Sean, Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth, Feb 2014