Dear Mr. Sponsor Pants,
I have heard that some people say taking anti-depressants is not ok for sobriety. Is that true? What do you think about this.
You should only take medical advice from a doctor.
You should NOT be taking any kind of medical advice from people in AA -- no matter how much time they have sober or if they call themselves (or you call them) your sponsor or not.
And by "medical advice" I mean any instructions or suggestions about what medication or treatment you should or shouldn't have. Only a doctor should give you suggestions about treatment.
So, to be clear, you should only take medical advice from a doctor.
Who should you take medical advice from?
A) A doctor.
B) A doctor.
C) A doctor.
D) All of the above.
I came upon your web site while prowling about the net; funny stuff... You made a statement about "people pleasing" that I found interesting and since I want to sound interesting and look good I was wondering if you might expound on the statement..."If you can't say no, then your yes means nothing"
For the new kids, this is the post DS is referring to wherein I broached the dreadful subject of "People Pleasing."
Firstly, thanks for the kind words, DS, and I appreciate your wit as well.
When I first heard folks share about people pleasing in AA meetings I immediately thought, "My God! Yes! That's me!" It was one of those healing moments in which something that I hadn't even known about myself was named and brought forth into the light of awareness.
Full disclosure: This is a topic I must work hard to remain objective on, as I once proposed to someone and they said yes, only to call me the next day and tell me "actually, after talking to my therapist, I realized that I didn't want to say 'yes' I was just people pleasing."
Not one of my better days in sobriety. (When people brightly chirp in meetings that "My worst day sober is better than my best day drinking!" I certainly understand and appreciate the sentiment, but I sometimes think back to that day and want to go up to them after the meeting and say, "Live a little more, honey, and then get back to me on that one." Not bitter, just bruised on occasion. Pain is the touchstone of our spiritual growth.)
Thus, my own personal experience not withstanding, I believe, as with any idea, it can be either a healing insight or a rampant justification -- and because of alcoholics' unique vulnerabilities to both fear and rationalization it is a slippery concept. Pun intended.
To answer your question more directly, I think, as it so often does, it comes back to being honest with myself, and determining if my motives are fear based or coming from love.
In other words, if I am afraid to say no, for whatever reason -- afraid of losing you, afraid of being shamed, afraid of looking bad -- maybe that's where I lose my choice, and it is about people pleasing.
But I would argue that being reluctant to say no out of a right-sized understanding of someone's need for help is not about fear, it's about compassion.
Or not saying no because we're trying to be of more service to others in an effort to walk our talk about ego smashing and getting out of ourselves is not about fear, it's about practicing the principles in all our affairs.
Or understanding that the effort I'll expend in saying yes is minimal to me, while the no would create some real difficulty for you, is not about fear, it's about relative perspective.
Those are just some examples of how I try to navigate this issue -- though to continue on would become just an exercise in word play I think.
Ultimately, if I don't have a choice, that is, if I can't bring myself to say no to something, then I didn't actually say yes, I was, through fear and spiritual sickness (synonymous, I know) coerced.
People pleasing is one of those things that can lead to deeply suppressed but powerful resentment in alcoholics, (not to mention a serious trigger for super toxic passive/aggressive behavior) so it's always been, for me, a very worthwhile thing to examine.
Again, thanks for emailing, DS, and I hope that was of some help to you in your own self examination too.
They called me the next afternoon.
"I wanted to follow up on your offer to talk more. I feel like I need to talk to someone who understands. Is this a good time?"
"Sure, in fact I just finished making some tea, your timing couldn't be better." I grabbed my mug and the pot and sat on the sofa. "I'll help any way I can."
"Thank you." They sounded like they might have been crying before they called, or it could have been the cell connection. In the 21st Century we can talk anywhere we are, just not very well sometimes. "You know the South American was honest with me from the very beginning."
"Oh? In what way?" I asked.
"Well, they told me that after the cruise they were going to try to work things out with their ex."
I was silent for a bit. I took a deep breath and said to myself, "Gentle tone. Remember, gentle tone." The cat jumped up on the sofa and gave me a long look. "What?" I mouthed at her. "I said gentle tone!" She began washing a paw, dismissing me entirely.
"Are you still there?" he asked.
"Yes! Sorry, just ... taking a deep breath. I'm so sorry, I understand just how much this hurts, because my history and yours are even closer than ... look, the greatest emotional pain I've had in sobriety is when I willfully, adamantly refuse to deal in reality. And that's what you did from the beginning of this. From the very first, this relationship was based wholly in fantasy."
"No! That's not true! We had something really intense and ..."
I jumped in (gently) "Hey, I'm sorry, but ... intensity does not equal reality."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I am not saying you didn't have an intense connection. I'm just saying you were in fantasy the whole time. Daydreaming. Wishing. Even plotting and scheming. The South American said that there was an expiration date on your relationship, and somewhere along the way you decided that you would just make that not true. I've done that, and it's a horrible place to be. To just ignore all the evidence that disproves what you want reality to be. To 'unhear' things. To sweep what we don't want to be true away with a tidal wave of words and rationalizations. It's just the advanced version of the 'self will run riot' the Big Book describes us as when we were practicing ... wait, maybe advanced is not the right word, since it's sicker, actually..." I trailed off.
"Okay, I ... I can accept that I guess. But now we're going to be friends -- just friends. But ..."
There was genuine anguish in their voice, and that, I assure you, was not the cell connection.
"But what?" I asked, with no need to remind myself to be gentle this time.
"But I'm getting ... I mean I'm going... I mean I don't even know what I ... we're both on [popular internet service provider], so I can see when they're on and they can see me and I just log on in the morning and wait for them to log on and then I send them messages like, all day, and then just sit and wait for them to respond and ... I don't know what to do."
"Well," I sighed (I once had a sponsee tell me that whenever I started a sentence with "well" he knew he wasn't going to like whatever came after it. I don't seem to be able to break the habit though) "I have a suggestion, but I it will be difficult."
Guardedly he asked, "Okay, what's the suggestion?"
"Get rid of [popular internet service provider]. Just remove it entirely from your computer. They're not the only ISP out there by a long shot. And ..."
"Okay, and what?"
"And tell the South American that you need a year of no contact."
"I heard you that's ... too extreme. I said to them that we could still be friends and I meant it."
"And how's that workin' for you?" I asked.
"Hey now, don't be flip." They shot back.
"I'm not. I'm asking you seriously. How. Is. That. Working. For. You. Ask yourself that and give an honest answer, because it's obviously not working for you and ... well, if you give yourself an honest answer to that question it will be the first honest answer you've given yourself about this painful mess in a while."
"What do you meant by that?"
The cat had moved on to the other paw and stopped for a moment, giving me another look. I checked my tone and volume.
"I mean" I said, taking a breath "that you are not being honest with yourself with this 'want to be friends' business. Because you don't want to be friends. You want to be together. Romantically. You want to be joined at the hip, living and sleeping together. You want a relationship, not a friendship."
"So you're saying I should cut them out of my life?"
"I'm saying you should tell them you made a mistake, that you can't handle being friends, that it's killing you, and you need a year of no contact. Then change ISP's and..."
He jumped in, passionately explaining how what I was suggesting was crazy, too much, too extreme, wrong, rude ... a thousand other angles. It became a rant, and I poured more tea and let them go on, hearing underneath it the addict's terror of losing their fix. The cat, having lost interest in ignoring me from the sofa, stretched and yawned and then jumped down and ignored me from the floor.
Finally I interrupted, "So, you're saying you can still be friends with them because it's not that you're attached to them, it's that being with them awakened in you the desire for a significant relationship, but not with them, so the friendship's okay they're just some sort of symbol."
"Oh bullshit." I said. My rope for being on the receiving end of rants has gotten considerably shorter over the past few years. "Utter bullshit."
"How do you know?" They challenged. "I can step back, create a safe boundary, process everything with..."
"Ohmygod, please stop." I had to interrupt. "You are smart, and you are articulate, and all that's happening here is you are using all that to one more time try to shape reality to fit you, rather than adjust yourself to reality. All that verbal ability is very dangerous, because you can spin and sell yourself -- and others, I'm sure -- on whatever you like."
Silence on the line. "You still there?" I asked.
"Yeah." He said.
"Okay, look, really, all that's happening here is that you feel like there's a hole in your gut, as alcoholics" without a program, I thought to myself "often do. And you have decided, on some level, that it's a relationship-shaped hole. And if you just find, or create, the right relationship you will be able to fill the hole and feel complete. But what we learn in AA is that we don't have a relationship-shaped hole, or a job-shaped, or a money-shaped, or any-other-of-those-things-shaped hole. What we have is a God-shaped hole. And to feel complete, in other words, to fill the hole, we have to bring God, as each of us understand God, into our lives. Ironically of course, the only way to fill a God-shaped hole is to give, not to get. To reverse the flow, and give of ourselves. That's how you fill a God-shaped hole. And then, weirdly, wonderfully, the more you give the more you get, and the smaller the hole becomes, until eventually there are whole days where you feel complete. That's why I asked you the other night if you had service commitments, or sponsees. That's the only way I made it through what you're going through now."
More silence. "You still there?" I asked again.
"Yeah." He answered.
Still more silence. "Okay then, I ... I guess that's all I can suggest. That's ... I hope that helped."
"Yeah." He answered, but to be honest it sounded a little perfunctory.
Doesn't matter though, because while I don't know if he truly heard what I said, I sure did.
And so, so often, that's really how it works.
They wound up sitting next to me when a half dozen of us went out after the Saturday night meeting (for the new kids that's generally referred to as going out for "fellowship," a word which makes it sound like we're Quakers at a quilting, but there it is.)
I'd known them on and off for about ten years. Not sure if they've been sober that whole time or not, but they had some time under their belt, regardless.
"How are you?" I asked.
With a wry grin they answered, "I'm in the worst emotional pain of my life."
"Ah." I said.
"Yeah, I've been obsessed with this South American I met on a vacation cruise. I can't get them out of my head -- in fact, I just got back from down there and ... I'm just ... I don't know how to get out of this pain. And this obsession."
The tale went on, full of passion and romantic intrigue, moonlit make-out sessions on the Lido Deck, breathless descriptions of the intense "connection" which grew between them.
"Well," I interrupted, "I'll wager there was something very intense that grew between you -- and it certainly rhymes with 'connection' -- but unless you're going to pitch me on a past life relationship I think we both know, if you're dealing in reality, a week on a cruise ship is a long way from knowing who someone truly is. But I understand ... I've been in that kind of pain, that kind of obsession. Except, you know, without the luxury cruise ship. Or the glamorous international part."
"Don't you believe in ..." And here they launched into a long, wistful recitation about love and passion. "We were just so ..." they went on, making their time on the cruise ship sound like Liesl von Trapp and her young Nazi suitor, jumping around a gazebo in the rain.
I'd had a moment of weakness when ordering my grilled cheese sandwich, and went for the french fries rather than the salad. I picked one up and pushed the glob of ketchup on my plate around till they wound down.
"I believe you're in terrible pain. I think our experience lines up, and I understand how awful it is. What really saved my ass when I was going through it was my sponsees. Trying to help them, listen to them, be there for them ... it got me out of my pain, my self ... and my self obsession." I caved and, knowing it would lead to the inevitable, put the first french fry in my mouth. I have never known half measures when it came to eating french fries. "Are you sponsoring anyone right now?" I admit, it was a set up. I would have bet you any amount of money that they weren't. "Do you have any service commitments?"
They raised their chin in the universal body language of alcoholic defensiveness. "Yes, I have service commitments."
"Well good." I said. "Lean into them."
"And, you know, there are people I help, although I'm not, you know, their sponsor..."It was an act of will to stop pushing french fries into my mouth to respond. "Well," I said, and caught myself reaching for another without thinking. I consciously put my hands in my lap. "I'm sure you do and sometimes we're even more helpful to each other without a big label on it, I totally get that. But sitting down with someone, taking them through the Big Book, taking them through the Steps, keeping tabs, checking in ... that's what addressed the pain I had, akin to what you're going through now."
We were swept into the conversation at the table for a bit, and I devoured the rest of my fries.
They leaned into me, and dropped their voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "This may sound crazy, but ... I feel like God gave me all these things to work on, and until I clear my plate I shouldn't sponsor anyone. Does that sound crazy?"
I looked them in the eye. "Yes. It sounds crazy. And selfish. You're sitting on a pot of gold, life-saving gold, with your sober experience." They seemed a little taken aback that I hadn't said, 'Oh, no, I understand, we each have our own paths, our own understanding of a Higher Power...' or something.
They shrugged. "I worry, too, that I'll just work on their crap and try to help them and not work on any of my own issues."
Give me credit, I did not roll my eyes. Not a flicker.
"Really." I said. "Well, for me, the gravitational pull of Planet SponsorPants is enormous, and to achieve escape velocity I need a lot of help. I need to get involved with other alcoholics to get a respite from constantly thinking about my own crap. Like it sounds like you're spending all your time doing.""I'm in the worst emotional pain of my life!" They said. Unfortunately, it was said in the same tone as something like "I am willing to donate a kidney to this worthy homeless man!"
My dead sponsor's words came back to me, "Never underestimate the power of the alcoholic ego. Never never never." I could imagine him very highly amused at the exchange I found myself in, shaking his head and chortling around his cigarette."Look, I believe you. But if you put it out there at meetings, start to reach out to new people and offer to take them through the Big Book, even though as you do it you don't believe it will help, my experience is that it really heals. It assuages the pain and it alleviates the self obsession."
Fortunately the check arrived -- and it was time to head out.
"Thank you." they said.
"You have my number, call me any time."
We all walked out, carrying on and making a cheerful scene at the register, followed by rounds of handshakes and hugs in the parking lot.
On the way home, a friend in the car, who had been sitting on my other side and listening with half an ear to our exchange, said, "You didn't let them off the hook. You were really direct with them."
"Yeah." I said.
When I got home I thought about the evening -- it had been mostly fun, and filled with laughs. But I reviewed the exchange in the restaurant in my head, and wondered if somewhere along the way I've become a middle-aged, one-note, blow-hard. I worried I lectured, hectored, bullied. It struck me that maybe I wasn't carrying the message, maybe I was being an ass. Then again, the people who helped me the most over the years were the ones that gave it to me straight -- gloves off. Even if they were wrong, their honest desire to help shone through. I hoped that had been the case tonight.
The cat jumped up on the desk, and began her nightly negotiation for treats and attention. "Well," I said to her, "if I've become a middle-aged ass, the one bit I can't do anything about is the middle-aged part. But the rest I can work on -- I think I may need to develop my patience and compassion. I fear it's eroded over time."
Unimpressed with this insight, but certain in her way that if there was a problem I was at the bottom of it, she deigned to let me scratch her head. I did, and resolved to pray for a more gentle tone with my fellow alcoholics in the future. I looked out the window for a bit, admired the crescent moon, wished suddenly that I had more french fries, and then wrote this.
It feels good to do the right thing.
Being disappointed about something is not the same thing as self pity -- and a little disappointment sometimes is just part of life, no matter how much you pray or meditate or eventually accept.
Not knowing is always scarier than knowing. Always.
In the book "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions," in the chapter which talks about the 6th Step, it wonders why we are often "...angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact and accepting it..." It can be hard to find that line, to find the wisdom to see where trying to summon your courage to change might not be the right course -- to discern that it is time to just accept some things about yourself. And sometimes it's hard to shake the feeling that "accepting" is just a fancy word for "giving up." Heroic characters in movies never give up. But we are not characters and real life is not a movie. With all that said, though, some days just staying sober is indeed heroic.
No matter what else may be going on with them, sometimes the bravest person in an AA meeting is the one who has slipped many times, and keeps coming back. They are also often the most desperate, and are working hard not to show it.
It isn't that some people are not willing to tell the truth, it's that they don't know how to tell the truth. They never learned. Or somewhere along the way they learned it wasn't safe to do so. Before AA, or anyone in AA, can help them, they must learn how to do this. The problem can be complicated by the fact that they don't know that they don't know how to tell the truth.
Mean people may be spiritually sick, and whatever their trip is it isn't about me, but still, mean people suck.
Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I can't stop cheating on my wife.
Guilty & Sober
Dear Guilty & Sober,
You will notice I boiled your quite lengthy and informative email down to seven words which I believe cuts to the heart of it.
I commend you for offering me a (very) thorough background to your situation, but it was so detailed that I felt there was no way to print it here without identifying guilty parties, both yourself and others -- and to obfuscate the details to such a degree so as not to do so seemed like a pointless academic exercise. Hence the "newspaper headline" summary of what you wrote. Hope that's okay.I've got my sponsor pants on, and this is, after all, an AA sponsor blog, so my opinions on the issue of fidelity and marriage are actually not very relevant, thus I'll try to keep them to a minimum. What I am bound to offer you instead are my experiences with this issue, as close as I can come, coupled with my experience in using the tools of Alcoholics Anonymous to address how this behavior will impact your sobriety.
Because believe me, it will.
You said that you've been a regular reader for some time, so I assume you're ready for the tough questions. As you can imagine, I have several.
First off, does your wife read this blog as well? Because as I mentioned before, the level of detail was so extreme in your email that about half way through reading it my sponsor sense started tingling. Are you using this vehicle as a craven -- sorry, reading sword and sorcery books again -- cowardly would be the modern term -- passive/aggressive way to get caught in your infidelity? Or sicker still, are you actually Mrs. Guilty & Sober writing in, pretending to be your own husband, whom you suspect of cheating, so that when he reads this he'll go, "My God! She knows!"? Whew! It would be just so breathtakingly twisted if that were the case I must both salute you and urge you to seek professional counseling as quickly as possible. Either way suffice to say that the email was extremely detailed, and it is a little hard to believe that whomever wrote it wouldn't consider the idea that anyone who knew the parties involved wouldn't easily identify them. But for the sake of discussion I will assume that, fueled by an extremely guilty conscience and no one else to talk to about this, when you sat down to write it all just came pouring out, and there is no other passive/aggressive agenda operating on that front. At least not consciously.
Tell me, Guilty, are you familiar with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"? It is a brilliant piece of writing, actually groundbreaking in its way -- first person, the narrator reveals almost nothing about themselves, except they insist that they are sane but suffering from a condition they call "over-acuteness of the senses" -- which is perhaps Victorian-speak for being "too sensitive." Sound like any group we know? Hmmm...
This sensitivity causes the narrator to eventually snap and murder someone. Stuck with how to dispose of the body (always the problematic part of a murder) they dismember it and hide it under the floorboards. When the police come round to ask a few questions, the narrator believes they can hear the victim's heart still beating under the floor ... thump-thump ... Thump-Thump ... THUMP THUMP! Louder and louder until they snap and confess.
And that, Mr. Guilty, is what is starting to happen to you, I think. The noise in your head is getting louder and louder. You are thinking more and more about your secret, and that is very dangerous, because when you're thinking more and more about your secret you are in fact thinking more and more about yourself. And alcoholism is a disease of self-obsession. So regardless of whether or not you or I or anyone reading this thinks it is morally wrong to break your marriage vow, that is secondary to the concern that you are feeding your self obsession, and that will very possibly lead you to drink. Wait. Let me change "possibly" to "likely."
As far as your sobriety is concerned, the issue is not the infidelity it is the dishonesty.
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that in sobriety you can have any kind of sex life you want, so long as you are not dishonest, selfish or self-seeking, and not purposely arousing jealousy, bitterness or suspicion.
So you can have an open relationship -- an open marriage -- though I admit the traditional marriage blueprint doesn't typically allow for that -- but as long as everything is aboveboard and there's no lying involved it is likely not going to make the noise in your head any louder. If you can't find a way to communicate to your wife what you want and need sexually (and I find myself wanting to type the word "craven" again here, but I'll hold back) then go to a trained, qualified couples counselor to help facilitate that communication between you. You can move forward on that front separately from the question of whether you discuss in that forum the fact that you are already unfaithful.
Here's another tough question, Guilty:
Based on your general description there is almost no risk of getting another woman pregnant or contracting HIV in your extra-marital dalliances -- but there is certainly plenty of risk for contracting gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, genital warts, craps, scabies and what they used to call non-specific urethritis back in the day when they didn't know what else to tell you when you had a few uncomfortable symptoms. I applaud you for the good basic knowledge of birth control and safe sex, but I'm afraid I have to call you out for being a dirty scumbag and exposing your wife to whatever else is out there. As an adult it's okay for you to take whatever risks you choose, it is most definitely not okay to make that decision for someone else.I know you're sorry, and I know you are afraid -- but sorry doesn't always cut it in sobriety -- and it doesn't change the medical facts. We make lots of mistakes in sobriety, but we face them. You don't have to do it alone, but you do have to face them. At the very least get a regular panel of STD tests IMMEDIATELY so you can keep the voices in your head -- the angry, self-condemning, guilty voices -- which, for a change when it comes to an alcoholic's thinking are actually dead on in your case -- to a minimum. The fear of not knowing will be more acute than the pain of knowing. And if you can't stop fooling around with others then stop fooling around with your wife till you get those results. You can find out in about ten business days if you go to a free clinic -- likely faster if you go to your doctor.
Now, here's the elephant-in-the-room question: Should you tell your wife? There is a very good, quite detailed discussion of this on pages 81 and 82 of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book). Bill was speaking not just from wisdom and compassion but, by all accounts, some genuine experience on this front as well, so the advice it offers is excellent. I will not retype all that it says here, but only pull this which I think best applies to our discussion:
"Perhaps there are some cases where the utmost frankness is demanded. No outsider can appraise such an intimate situation." -- Big Book, pg. 82
I would never presume to tell you to keep the secret or tell it. Get more counsel and pray about it and the right course will reveal itself, if you sincerely want to both stay sober and resolve this issue.
But to carry on as you are will very likely lead you back to drinking, as the 12 Steps and our "moral" code is less about being "good" people as it is about not turning up the volume on the noise in our heads and giving alcoholism a fertile ground to grow -- both of which is in play right now with you.
In 1952 Mr. Hank Williams penned the great ode to infidelity, "Your Cheatin' Heart." The first stanza is:
Your cheatin' heart / will make you weep / you'll cry and cry / and try to sleep / but sleep won't come / the whole night through / your cheatin heart / will tell on you.
Allow me the liberty of customizing that just for you, Guilty:
Your cheatin' heart / will make you drink / of nothin' else / you'll always think / serenity / stays out of reach / your cheatin' heart / will cruelly teach.
(And you're lucky I kept that short -- I was dying to rhyme "marriage schism" with "alcohol-ism"). There's a lesson here, Guilty, and like most of us I'm afraid you'll learn it not from reading a blog, but by living the pain of your mistake. I do not think you are a bad man, but you are right now doing a bad thing.
Two last tough questions, one quick one not quite:
Guilty, you know who I trust least of all in this world?
I have motives under my motives. In quiet moments when I can be still enough to really look inside I can see that while today I have made amazing progress I still have the ability to, as it says in the 12&12, "hide a bad motive under a good one." But you know what is an even better way to hide a bad motive? Under another bad motive, since the drama of the one neatly hides the sickness of the other. Isn't it possible that this is all just an elaborate set-up to go out and drink again? Mightn't this not be about cheating at all, but rather about creating a situation in which you are in so much pain that you can then justify drinking?
That was actually one question. Here's the other:
At the very end of your email you briefly float the idea that you might be a sex addict. Maybe you are. For God's sake, go to some SLAA or SCA meetings and find out, rather than dither about it! Sex addiction, while not well understood, is a real thing. BUT are you starting to engage that idea a little, not so that you actually explore the issue, but so that you have a pre-fab, iron-clad, 12 Step based excuse, in case you get caught? "Honey, yes, I cheated, but ... it's not my fault! I'm a sex addict!"
Again, sex addiction is very real, and if you have a larger pattern that you did not share with me in your email you should absolutely check out as much as you can about it. But the very afterthought way you mentioned it leads me to suggest you look long and hard at what's underneath that idea, and ask yourself if you're not just lining up your excuses -- I know that's how I like to work.
Let me reiterate: When it comes to staying sober, the issue is not fidelity, the issue is HONESTY. If you cannot find a way to be honest then your sobriety will be shaky at best. I understand there are extenuating circumstances where you live, but find one person you can trust and with whom you feel safe -- just one -- they don't have to be in the Program -- and start to tell them the whole truth. In my experience this will help you find clarity and develop a willingness to change. And in my opinion if you don't do this you are in grave danger of drinking. And then you won't have one problem, you'll have two.
That is, if you live.
And again, you are not a bad person, Guilty, but you're headed for trouble -- and by doing something dramatically "bad" you get to think of yourself as a bad person, which, to come back to where we started, means you get to think about yourself. And that's bad.
I suspect you knew what to do even before you wrote me. So get busy.Good luck.
The voice mail from a sponsee detailed a challenging (but rewarding, I sensed) 12th Step call.
In the course of leaving the message he explained that he hadn't made it to a meeting that day because of this selfsame 12th Step call. His commitment to himself right now is 90 meetings in 90 days (which, for people who are new, or who need to build a better relationship with AA, is an excellent thing to commit to doing.) He framed it in such a way as to suggest that since he was doing something AA-related (and indeed, 12th Step work is one of the most important things a sober alcoholic can do) then that would sort of "count" as his meeting for that day.
This sort of recovery-tools barter is not uncommon, and virtually every sponsee I've had tries it at some point, particularly about going to meetings. "Since I went to Central Office to buy Literature for my service commitment tomorrow I don't have to go to a meeting today, I figure..." or "I was at my General Services Representatives meeting this morning, so I don't have to go to an AA meeting tonight, right?"
On the one hand, that all sounds eminently logical -- and you can certainly do whatever you damn well please, as far as I'm concerned.
On the other hand, there's my dead sponsor.
My dead sponsor, the one who truly shaped how I do AA (and who's wise counsel I miss every single day of my life) was pretty clear on this point of trading on some other AA activity as "credit" for meeting attendance. I have clear memories of many times I would be deftly weaving an excuse for not going to a meeting into a larger story about some other AA activity, and he would, depending on how much he was enjoying his coffee, let me go on a little. Then he would take a long hit on his cigarette, tilt his head back to blow the smoke straight up into the air, smooth his toupee down a bit (it was a pretty good one, actually, and in all the years I knew him I never found it offputting) and then fix me with that look he had sometimes and say, "All your little phone calls with other people in the Program, and your coffee and Big Book time with sponsees and the rest of it... is not a meeting. A meeting is a meeting." And he would brook no further discussion on the topic. I never even bothered to try to "yes, but..." him after a few months, he was so adept at shutting them down. (A skill I need to foster, as I continue to sponsor).
And that's how I run my own Program today. A meeting is a meeting.
As for Mr. 12th Step Call ... well, my suggestion will be that he double up and do two meetings tomorrow, to be back on track for his 90 in 90. For myself, I must be disciplined about these things, and that is what I try to pass on to others.
Service work is important, sponsorship is important, fellowship is important -- hell, it's all important -- but a meeting is a meeting.
As they talked about their trip, they described meetings in this country (they'd been there before). "Low bottom people" and "very depressing" -- they "don't get a lot out of them."
I listened, keeping my face impassive (though I caught myself shaking my head a little in dismay, and stopped it immediately). Man, they just don't get it I thought.
What about going to those meetings and seeing what you can give? Seeing if you can take some of the positivity that you feel in your home meetings and share it with those people?
What about not approaching the whole thing as an opportunity to get but rather a chance to give? Because, as it says in about a million places in the AA literature, when we give, that's when we get.
I don't blame them, exactly. Alcoholics are by nature selfish people -- and I see myself in that statement, rest assured. It was AA that changed how I view things, overall, seeing almost every experience as a way to be of service -- from crap jobs to bus rides to waiting rooms to supermarket lines. When I approach those things as someone willing to be of service to the people around me, then suddenly the jobs aren't crap and the rides and waits and lines aren't so bad.
I'm not sure exactly when this change occurred in me, but it feels like I've been given the key to true happiness. No one can do it perfectly of course, but my experience is, the more I live this principle the more joy I feel.
True for me then true for anyone...