I have issues with AA and its philosophy as it stands now. Nothing unique, same issues that people who have issues with AA have. But I've always had a deep respect for the teaching of Dr. Bob, Bill W, Joe Hawk, etc. To me they taught the 'real' AA and not the tweeked version seen at most AA meetings these days. They taught the program, not the human interpretation bs and I was lucky enough to learn the program from someone who is an old-timer, if you will.
There are many recovery related blogs who claim to be 12 step but are so far from the real 12 step essence that I've read only a few posts and moved on until I found Mr. SponsorPants. You were the voice of reason to me. My immediate response to your posts was one of understanding and gratitude that you seemed to speak my language.
And then you vanished. Not a word. Gone. I thought the worst.
Then the worst thing happened. My [sibling], a single parent, a loving member of our family passed away unexpectedly. I replay, in my head, all the things they are missing, or have missed, since dieing.
I'm just now emerging from the fog and yesterday again, I thought of you and if perhaps something tragic had happened to you and if your family is feeling the same way I feel. So I checked Mr. SponsorPants and viola, there you are...
I was happy to see you back until I found your first post, post disappearance. I can't tell you the anger I felt and still do. Are you kidding me? My bullshit detector is still in overdrive. You wrote everyday without fail and if you missed a day you'd post remotely or give an explanation. You answered emails promptly and then nothing and your reason is you just didn't check. I don't believe you and what is more disturbing is all the AA enablers commenting without once saying, BULLSHIT.
Your reasons are you reasons Mr. SP. It's none of anyone's business why you did what you did and explained it away the way you did but know this, I can no longer read your posts (cause I've tried) with the same respect and sense of understanding that I used to. I really thought you were better than all that. What a shame...
I'm very sorry for your family's loss. In a life full of hard things and a world full of frightening headlines the unexpected death of a close family member -- one who leaves behind children -- especially a single parent... is true tragedy and something that forever changes the people involved.
There have been a few emails which have come my way that expressed similar anger and disappointment over my unannounced blogging absence. The reason that I have printed yours here (with, as always, any identifying details edited or blurred to the best of my ability) is the same reason I print any email, ultimately: To serve as the starting point in a discussion of solutions to things many of us face as we get and stay sober -- and to offer whatever I can from my experience which might help.
And, in much of what you say, you are right. It was self involved and lazy and careless of me. Whether it's the mark of being an alcoholic (which smacks of both accurate explanation and rather slick excuse) or just the kind of man I can be, this is definitely not the first time in my life where I have been casual in my regard for others and caused people hurt -- and though I'd hope it will be the last I fear that is an unlikely thing. As I said before, would that I had a more dramatic reason than the feeble truth I must own. I can say that within me my ego and my self-esteem see-saw sickeningly back and forth around this. Although I've experienced powerful and humbling feedback while writing this blog in both the comments section and in emails -- feedback which I have been moved and incredibly grateful for -- it honest-to-god did not occur to me, as I ran out of momentum and then procrastinated about putting fingers to keyboard again, that my absence would be hurtful to anyone in the way some people have expressed that it has.
Certainly as an alcoholic people-pleaser who, when he got sober, was able to view having low self esteem as progress from having no self esteem, the idea that anyone, anywhere, is upset with me can push some buttons. The inward-darkness: Guilt (I did something bad. Again.) Shame. (Thus I am a bad and permanently damaged person.) And the outward, lashing-out darkness: Defensiveness: (It's you not me!) and Anger: (Fuck you!) All of which is deeply disingenuous and none of which serves us or is true.
I am inching slowly towards something grandiose and egotistical with each paragraph and that's not why I posted your email.
Among my sponsors over the years I have had two who, while they were clean and sober, struggled mightily with sexual addiction, sometimes succumbing to that aspect of the ism and creating terrible collateral damage in their lives and the lives of their families and partners. I have also had two sponsors who were afflicted with terrible eating disorders and damaged their health from that disease well into their sobriety, and who, while acting out in that regard were able to give me some good guidance in working the 12 Steps but were not completely reliable or honest about some things as they struggled. I myself, as I wrote... oh, somewhere in here... "borrowed" from not one but TWO AA treasuries in my sobriety. (Amends have been made, for the record. Deeply humbling public amends of both the practical and spiritual kind.) In short, for great reasons or petty, with good explanations or poor ones, people will let you down. Most don't mean to, but most do. I assure you, I am not, as you say "better than all that..." I (and anyone who works the 12 Steps), have made amazing progress in every area of my life -- and you can trust me with a lot -- but I guarantee I will continue to fuck it up royally; though now I like to think only occasionally. What I can guarantee is I'm not alone in that. People are messy and sober alcoholics in AA are far from exempt.
In my humble opinion, to use the foibles and failures of others in sobriety as a means to quarrel with AA is not too far from wondering if a vial of antibiotics is no good because the doctor who prescribed them committed Medicare fraud.
AA's 12 Steps embody a plan of acting on spiritual principles which have worked in many ways for many people and cultures since perhaps man first became self aware. Owning and admitting a problem, asking for help, being willing to follow direction, looking within, identifying one's own part in problems, working on improving the elements in one's nature which do not serve, admitting wrong doing and making restitution, seeking an elevated mind through elevated thought and meditation... AA didn't invent -- and never claimed to invent -- any of this. As you know, what Bill and Dr. Bob did (you've got me on Joe Hawk, I have no clue who he is, though he's got a hella cooler name than I do) is practically (or Divinely) luck into laying out a plan of action along those spiritual lines which spoke to alcoholics in a way other methods previously perhaps did not. The immediate result of which was the ability to refrain from drinking and the larger result of which was a spiritual experience -- or, if you prefer, a profound internal (often gradual) transformation.
Your issues -- the "usual issues" -- with AA -- or perhaps it is more accurate to say with the people in AA -- though I understand them, I do not embrace them. I respect them, and your hurt and your anger, but the 12 Steps are not vulnerable to what may or may not be happening in Meetings. They are deceptively simple but pretty bullet proof (if almost a hundred years of addicts can't break 'em I think we're good). Nor are they a fragile, ephemeral plan for spiritual awakening, as their principles and suggested actions can even be viewed through a completely non-spiritual lens and still offer practical healing and help. (I was moved to write this once in response to that line of discussion.)
You and your family have suffered a terrible loss and my experience with the death of loved ones -- even when it is somewhat expected -- is that it is a gradual process cycling through those famous stages many times. You may think it is more bullshit on my part but I am sensitive to that in your email and in what I'm trying to express here.
But I find this whole "AA in the good old days was the real AA and what we have today is some watered down 'human interpretation' thing" to be utter crap. Yes, there are a ton of 12 Step Meetings which are filled with pounds of nonsense. Rooms held hostage to people playing the victim or the expert. Rooms where someone's special bias or ignorance colors the format and the sharing. But I suspect, knowing alcoholics, that there were as many, if not maybe more, "back in the day" as there are today. Of course we have no way of knowing, but I offer for anyone's consideration that the reason the 12 Traditions ever came into being was because back in those "good old days" the AA meetings all over the country were fragmented, prejudiced things making up their own rules, excluding whomever they didn't like or believe, getting off track (what we call our Primary Purpose today)... Yet while there may be that metric ton of sloppy anarchic nonsense out there in 12 Step rooms there is also, without doubt, proven by the ongoing recovery of many thousands of people, some wonderous and powerful healing going on.
Meetings, and sharing, have evolved as people's understanding of addiction and psychology and the impact of family of origin and biology and mental illness... and... and... and ... has evolved. Yes, the Program is in the Book. I stick pretty damn close to the Big Book when it comes to charting my service and my sobriety (and thus my life). But if you believe nothing else I've ever written or write here now, if you call bullshit then fair enough, be that as it may, I urge you to try and view the nonsense -- what you perceive as dilution -- in meetings with some compassion. Foolish people, yes, but at least coming together in an attempt to get better and maybe help others. That is perhaps not such a bad place for someone with anger in their gut and raw grief in their heart to hang out for a while.
Both my experience and my observation is that an AA meeting can offer, inter-mingled with the patience-trying foolishness, solutions or comfort we didn't know we needed. Be disappointed in me, in AA, in whatever, but I hope you don't sit in that disappointment alone. 12 Step meetings, therapy, grief support groups ... most alcoholics, when deeply hurt, withdraw. I hope you don't do that.
Nothing here is meant or said with disrespectful intent, C. I've re-written this maybe five times now. I keep combing through it looking for my ego, anger, defensiveness, passive/aggressive phrases... it's too long an essay for a blog, probably, and still I smell my ego all over the damn thing.
But after writing as much Mr. SponsorPants as I have -- even with the break (ooops! I think there's that passive/aggression again) -- I've learned that eventually, if I was moved to write it, to let it stand and let it go and maybe someone out there will get something from it, and if not, well, all this writing kept my hands off the bag of chips in the cupboard which has been calling to me since I got home from work.
For what it's worth, whether you think it's bullshit or not, I'm grateful you wrote, C.