Contentment: A gift to be disrupted – Online Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous

Contentment: A gift to be disrupted

Hi, my name is Anita, and I am an Alcoholic; I have a home group, a sponsor and my sobriety date is 1/15/1991 and I became sober in the United States.

Hitting bottom before my sober date took every bit of those experiences a real alcoholic has to have to become willing to seek a solution. The heaviest part of my bottom took place over the holidays when social norms collided with powerlessness over the first drink and all that ensued.

Starting with Thanksgiving and going through New Years, I and my life were a mess. Like so many other, alcoholics, it was cataclysmic- a perfect storm. The level of external and internal chaos matched the same level of pressure being applied by a loving Higher Power, to face reality of my powerlessness over alcohol; my once sought after friend. When it stopped working and I could not control the lit flame which burned everyone and everything I touched, the unbearable pressure forced me to consider death- at 23 years old.

My people, places and things were chaotic, and chaos was the norm for me. It was familiar and when by the Grace of God, I was able to head toward the shelter of sobriety and lean into the guts of AA to surrender, this is where the seeds of contentment started to show up.

This new lifestyle of not drinking, no matter what, required me to start relying on the WE of the program of AA by attending meetings. It is in meetings where the home group was explained to be where I went to meetings consistently for a targeted period of time. This allowed me to get to know people by listening to their words. It was also where I greeted people or put up the chairs and I started to get to meetings early and stayed a little late. I became a member in that way and started taking the responsibility for my recovery.

Attending meetings was not easy but I had nowhere else to go. So, I attended, and I looked at the floor; filled with shame and self-hatred. No one made me look up or sit in a specific place, I could just simply show up and absorb.

Eventually as the alcohol left my body and it reset itself, my nerves kicked in and the level of fear increased very quickly. It did not always show up as fear, it showed up as anger, rage, or indifference. The slogan Acting as If, and then the concept of not comparing my insides with other people’s outsides shifted my fear just enough to hear increasingly.

Without knowing how it was happening, it was happening, the desire for the familiar chaos became an identifiable ploy for me to work toward a drink. The humor of the members in my home group modeled to me that it was okay to laugh at that instead of being terrified I would get struck drunk. Which early on is the beginning of reverence for the dis-ease of alcoholism.

So, I named my love of chaos and now I know it as stinking thinking, to be Create a Crisis Anita or CACA. Yes, you guessed it, the stinking thinking of a piece of my second step became identifiable, humorous and something that now, I could turn over to the group of drunks (GOD) in my home group.

Suddenly, as I kept swimming after what the group members had, and away from the insanity of working toward the first drink, it was clear there was more work to be done than what had been implemented. It was time to take this program of recovery to the next level. It was time to surrender to the core work of the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Well, what an order, I cannot go through with it. My goodness I did not want that ninth step to destroy me. I wanted to avoid going to prison, giving up money, or the old idea of denying I was really that bad.

So, I found myself seeking guides in AA who were not equipped to take me through to the 8th and 9th steps, unknowingly. You cannot give away what you do not have, and I was drawn to those who were like me in recovery at that time. When life handed me the option of being a mother; the love for that unborn child in recovery gave me the desire to fully surrender and get to it. I was finally through the turning point.

For the first time in my life, I could do something about my conduct and how it could impact others if I simply took that third step with a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous who had a gleam in their eye from the freedom, they received by facing everything and recovering. This was one of the most monumental times in my recovery when nothing other than LOVE, which is now my version of the Higher Power, was clear to me and the self-hatred started to drop off, the contentment still not identifiable was seeding itself.

This sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous brought me to the fourth step inventory and gave me a period of time when we would meet to start the work of the fifth step. We used the Big Book outline to complete the work of those two steps and when I started to share my inventory, it was clear that she too had similar situations when it came to drinking or being sober and living life on life’s terms. I was no longer unique, in a way that would continue to take me toward a drink. Another building block into the 1st and 2nd steps was added to my foundation and the surrender of the third was the cornerstone for me.

After the work of the fifth step, she instructed me to read the work outlined in the Big Book on the 6th and 7th steps. I went home and read it, I unplugged my phone from the wall and sat reflecting on our discussion for one hour, then I promptly got on my knees, by choice, and said the seventh step prayer.

The pressure of sitting for that hour, in contemplation of who I was, what I was capable of and who I could be if I kept on with this drinking stuff or not doing the work sober, was just what I needed to say that seventh step prayer with sincerity.

The next step was to face the fear and work on that list of harm done from the inventory. Surprisingly, I was not willing to make amends to all of those people or institutions and there were some people, places and things which were not on the inventory that may need to be added. When I balked at the order, an intuitive thought came, lets just make columns of amends I would make, amends I would never make, amends to be made to me and a list of indifferent amends. Surely presenting them organized like this would help our discussion when I reviewed them with the same sober woman, I did my recent 4th and 5th step with.

Well, I have no idea how that came through but, it worked, the first time I opened my mouth in recovery to a woman and said the truth. I could not make a complete list on my own and be willing, I just could not. Later on, I realized this is the subtleness of working the program and not the problem and how the gift of trudging through actually paid off. I was not halfway through the work and did not come in on thinking the promises would ever do anything for me. Yet here they were starting to come through.

So, we talked it through, and I tell you this, I became ready and willing to make amends to them all. Of course, there were ones I could not make amends to, as it would make their and other burdens increase. Thoroughly, I thought I created the list and omitted one potential amend. It is so interesting how the spiritual guidance of the Higher Power gave me exactly what I needed to confess that omission to the sober woman who went through my 4th, 5th, 8th steps with me.

Sitting next to the door and in a Step Book meeting reading the 5th step, I was about to read aloud, the first full paragraph of page 56, and my sober step guide walked in as I read: “Even A.A. old-timers, sober for years, often pay dearly for skimping on this Step.” My eyes nearly blew out of my head as she walked in. We made eye contact and she smiled; she had no idea I had skimped and had no idea what we were reading.

Right after that meeting I went home with a sense of urgency to call her, to tell her what had happened. She listened, as I told her my one piece I had left out. She did not kick me out of AA, she did not judge me, nor did she have a clever story to placate me. She simply asked if I were willing to make amends and whether I thought it would be on my eighth step list. I took the responsibility and said yes.

This new freedom took over my entire body, I was still borrowing faith to get the work done, I did not have a clear understanding of God and could not accept I was worthy of calling upon one for myself. So, I sat with her, organized what type of amends would be made to whom and within a specific period.

The catharsis of taking action to approach someone or institution to admit my wrongs and make proper amends for it, was not present for the amends I could not make due to the burden to others. The book clearly states, we do not make amends to make ourselves feel better and others worse or create unanticipated harm as a result of trying to make ourselves “white as snow.” No, hovering on steps 6 and 7 for a year once without going to step eight made it clear that being made “perfect” would not give me spiritual amnesty.

The action of following the good orderly direction of that guide to deal with the amends to be made for the instance which I could not approach a person, was clear and final. For years it would resurface, and I would struggle and talk to her about why. It became clear that it was like a log at the bottom of a lake. A lake will flip over once a year and the debris from the bottom comes to the surface. It is a way to break down the debris on the bottom which feeds the rest of the ecosystem.

For a gift to be found in something done drinking, did not come all at once. Each year it naturally each surfaced only to be made smaller. The action of the surfacing and me not drinking removed difficulties from my character I could not identify. Each year as it surfaced, it pushed me into seeking spiritual contentment and what the message was about staying sober that moment.

Doing the work of the ninth step was my responsibility and doing it without the sober step guide regulating my efforts was remarkably interesting. She did not want to officiate the process; she was there as a sounding board and not as the AA police making sure I did my own step work. If she had done so, then she would be taking responsibility for my recovery, and we all know what happens when an alcoholic gets something for which they did not work! It goes out the window and we do not respect it when the chips are down. When life starts happening and we have no skin in the game. We have the propensity to work closer to the drink than ever before.

After the core work was completed and we spoke of the living amends to be made and how to live life on life’s terms, the 10thand 11th steps came to the stage. A daily inventory as outlined on page 84-86 in the Big Book has become a mainstay for me. When I first started the inventory of the 11th step, I was very confused, I still had that all or nothing thinking that seemed to fail me on every question. For instance, “Were we kind and loving toward all?” Oh, what an order, I could not go through with that one! So, I said no, and as I kept practicing this program a day at a time, the pressure to be perfect started to leave a little bit more. Then I found myself using percentages to say, I have made progress and 85% of the time today, I was kind and loving toward all.

Progressing and not being perfect started to be okay, and more elusive contentment started to slip into my daily life. Each moment, I found myself seeking the Higher Power which became love and contentment, with more fervor and desire than ever before. This does not mean I had started to act like Mother Theresa. No, I still had more spiritual development to do, and when the opportunity to be of service and be useful to other recovering women in AA happened for me, I was floored. Me be useful! Are you kidding? Another order I could not deal with but, it happened. It continues to happen, and the contentment of my heart has replaced the self-hatred and fear of living life on life’s terms without having the alcohol muscles of alcohol.

Standing still in sobriety after a period of time of practice, practice, practicing this program and not the problem has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It is harder without the We part of the program.

I have been afraid of people for a long time in the program and I am learning, I can take small steps toward trusting the process of the program and not the individuals in the program to work the release of the old ideas I still cherish. Those old ideas are still being removed as I stay sober a day at time.

What is happening for me, is I have employed the “fabulous five rule” this is where I as a woman, identify five women at any given time that I would call or talk too. Those women I count on my drinking hand and that helps keep that hand busy when life is really happening. Now that I am clear on my motives in relationships, I also can have five men on the other hand.

So, when my contentment gets disrupted and I do not know which end is up, I can be lovingly reminded that only God could and would if sought. My entire being starts the seeking, not only in prayer, but by calling and seeking with wisdom to know the difference. Seeking in meetings to hear the principles through all of the imperfect personalities and get the message of hope for that very moment when all is too much to bear. It makes me compassionate!

Today, I know I am a garden variety alcoholic no matter my background and I have surrendered to the fact: I do not have power over stopping myself from taking the first drink. The gift here, is that no human power can relieve my alcoholism and the seeking comes alive.

With the contentment of my God in my heart, I can love, be useful and still unfold and be given the solution of recovery which was so freely given to others in AA. When I celebrate this time I celebrate the program of recovery, and how it has transformed me from CACA to contentment and usefulness. It is in the seeking of continuing to find contentment in the storm and letting go of old ideas, which keeps me coming back to AA so I can be the hand should someone reach out. Thank you AA!!