In the midst of a larger discussion about his most recent resentments, and how alcoholic thinking can warp perceptions, the Skateboard Pup became a little wistful and asked me about my AA meeting history.
SKATEBOARD PUP: Have you ever, you know, stopped going to meetings for any real length of time?
He wasn't challenging when he asked. He was genuinely curious. I had to think about it for a minute.
MR. SPONSORPANTS: Well, once, after I had moved from [major city] to [another major city] when I was eleven or twelve years sober... Of course I went to a couple of meetings right away after I hit town, but the move put me so off my routine -- and to be really honest I felt a little giddy and weirdly free from all my 12 Step commitments -- that I drifted pretty quickly. One week led to another, and before I knew it a month had gone by and I hadn't been to a meeting.
First he looked skeptical, then surprised.
SKATEPUP: You? Really?
MR. SP: What do you mean "me, really?" I'm not bulletproof. Commitments and relationships keep me in the middle of the lifeboat as much as anything else. Sure, I almost always feel better after going, but I'm as vulnerable as anyone when it comes to bullshit rationalizations about why I can skip them. Or if my life goes upside down -- like after that big move -- putting it off till suddenly I'm adrift.
SKATEPUP: Huh. I never really thought of you not going to meetings. Or skipping 'em or... whatever. You seem so "in it."
MR. SP: So "in it?" Please God, don't put me on a pedestal or anything.
SKATEPUP: Oh my god, no danger of that. Seriously, absolutely no danger of that. Couldn't possible happen. You've been very free with what a mess you can be, there is absolutely no way...
MR. SP: Okay! Okay! Verrrrrry funny.
SKATEPUP: No I'm serious.
MR. SP: Yes. Great. Got it. Thanks loads. Anyway, in short order I was probably a month without a meeting -- maybe even a little more.
SKATEPUP: How did you feel? I mean, what happened?
MR. SP: How did I feel? Well, if I recall correctly, I felt great! I had a big job that had just moved me to a new city. I had a gigantic, glamorous two bedroom apartment all to myself, for something like two-thirds the rent I had been paying for a studio before. And suddenly it felt like I had all this free time! I didn't have anything extra in my schedule. I didn't have to spend time meeting with anyone or anything like that. My whole life was suddenly all about me, and the only question I asked was what did I feel like doing. I felt like I got my nights and weekends back... and I felt entitled to it. Like I had paid my dues before the move by being "good" and this was my reward. And I was making pretty good money at the time, too -- that sure as hell didn't hurt. Seriously, I felt great. But also -- and I remember this as clearly as the all that other stuff -- a weird thing started to happen. I mean, I was very conscious of it as it happened.
SKATEPUP: What? What was weird?
MR. SPONSORPANTS: Well, suddenly everybody else in the world was an asshole. My boss, my co-workers, my family... they all started acting like total assholes. And all the new people I was meeting were either too far beneath me to be worth making friends with -- so they were like loser-assholes I thought -- or intimidated me too much for me to approach them -- so they were all stuck up-assholes. But mostly I remember thinking that suddenly the whole world was just full of real assholes.
SKATEPUP: So... that got you to go back to meetings?
MR. SP: Well, I had to do something. If they were all assholes I figured the least I could do is go back to meetings just to help 'em all out.
SKATEPUP: That was so, so big of you.
MR. SP: Yes. as I think you know by now, I'm a giver.
SKATEPUP: So then suddenly... the world wasn't so full of assholes?
MR. SP: Practically overnight. Damnedest thing.
Lately, when talking to a new sponsee -- not The New Sponsee of previous entries, he is still in the mix, but a different new sponsee -- one who slipped past my defenses (tattered tissue paper things that they are) and added themselves more recently to the sponsee Dance Card (through the usual Backstage Pass of real willingness to do the deal and abject fear of the power of their alcoholism), I am struck by just how low our self esteem can go. Just how much we can loathe ourselves. How deeply we've internalized messages over the years which evolve into an internal chorus which subtly, constantly, undermines our growth.
Here on Mr. SponsorPants -- and of course in my own recovery -- I have reflected on how the real danger of low self esteem for an alcoholic is not the low part, it's the self part. How the nearly obsessive focus on self is a fertile playground for our addiction to keep us walled off from any real recovery.
That doesn't mean, however, that the "low" part of "low self esteem" shouldn't be addressed at all. Lately, in discussions with this most recent sponsee, I've been especially moved to hear them begin working through some of the mental self abuse so common in an alcoholic's thinking.
Needless to say, I identify with the journey.
Not long ago they were at my place for our regular weekly meeting, and we'd had a particularly good conversation about the 12 Steps; especially about the way the lights were "coming on" for them. Willing but fearful (which, I just thought as I typed that, might be an excellent title for my autobiography some day: "Willing But Fearful") they sort of collapsed in on themselves and said something like, "It makes sense when we talk about it, but sometimes, when I'm home, it seems pointless. Like it just doesn't matter if I get sober, after... Like there's no point in trying or getting better or anything because... well... just because I always... just because, I guess."
We talked about that, and got a few things reconsidered and reconfigured (not the least of which was, "For God's sake CALL ME when you feel that way..."), but after they left I stood at the door for a while, unable to stop replaying what they'd said. The expression on their face. How many times had I felt that way over the years, or heard people, either in meetings, or sitting right there on my sofa, express similar fear... doubt... pain? Too many, maybe.
So I sat down and I wrote the following. And now, each week before they come over, I pull it out and read it, and say a little prayer that I can infuse absolutely everything I say to them with this message as we go through the Big Book and the 12 Steps together.
(I think it would be weird to just straight up read this to them. Or give it to them. It would be, probably, "too much" right now.)
When I wrote this I had not intended it for Mr. SponsorPants. It was, like some things I've written over the years, a more personal exercise; one equal parts a request for a Divine Guidance and a desire for personal clarification.
But "exigent circumstances" -- which have nothing whatsoever to do with this particular sponsee -- have prompted me to share it on the blog after all:
You are worth saving.
Set aside for a moment the question of God's Will and paths taken and opportunities squandered and mistakes and choices poorly made and the sometimes terrible unfairness of the Universe. Those questions, while very deserving of consideration at different stages of our spiritual growth, are right now nothing more than giant abstracts and distractions, pulling you into the past or creating a bogeyman of the future.
Regardless of what we did, and what they did, and what we should have done, and what they should have done... the fact is, there is only this one you, this incarnation, with all its dents and scars and experiences. It -- you -- are a thing unique in all Creation, and thus a thing of immeasurable value.
We only have this version of You to treasure.
Right now you are exactly how you are supposed to be. Not one single molecule of wrong.
You are not supposed to be more than or less of anything in this moment.
Because who you are now is the absolutely perfect place from which you can grow: Grow to be the authentic, graceful, healthy, ultimate You that all souls have a pull to reach towards and the potential to achieve.
And where does growth begin? From a seed.
You are a seed.
The seed of tomorrow's healthier, happier you. And a seed, with all it's promise of Becoming, could never be "wrong," right?
A seed is just itself. It's not "less" than what it should be, because it has to be this perfect thing before it can be the next (perfect) thing it can -- and is supposed to -- be.
Today, in this day -- and every day -- we are all seeds. Not Wrong Things, but exactly the kind of seed we need to be to become whatever biggest and best outcome is possible for us.
And regardless of God and paths and then and them, should haves and shouldn'ts, the confounding, mind blowing truth is that today you are yesterday's biggest and best outcome, yet at the very same time you are the seed of tomorrow's same.
So you are not damaged goods, or bad news, or a walking mistake. How could you be, given that!
You are growing exactly how you are supposed to be growing Thus, even the mistakes are not mistakes.
And those dents? Those scars?
Credentials! Proof of character, measure of humanity and badges of honor.
You are worth saving.
When you forget that, or when you don't believe that, remember instead the people who can remind you, and talk to them.
Talking with you helps them remember the same is true for themselves, too.
There are more essays like this in "Mr. SponsorPants: Adventures in Sobriety and The 12 Steps for AA's and Others." Available as an eBook on Kindle via Amazon. Download the Kindle reader app for free on any device or platform, from PC to Smartphone.
Don't take my word for it.
The research is overwhelming.
1. Overcomes stress. (University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2003.)
2. Boosts Creativity. (Science Daily, 2010.)
3. Improves physical intimacy. (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009.)
4. Supports the cultivation of healthy habits which lead to better food choices. (Journal Emotion, 2007.)
5. Improves digestion and lowers blood pressure. (Harvard Medical School, 2012.)
6. Decreases risk of heart attack. (The Stroke Journal, 2009.)
7. Helps overcome anxiety, depression and anger. (The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, 2009.)
8. Increases focus and attention. (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007.)
9. Decreases perception of pain and improves cognitive processing. (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, 2010.)
10. Increases synaptic connection and thickens cortical walls. (Harvard University Gazette, 2006.)
In years past, these students were largely out of control... Absenteeism rates were among the city's highest, as were suspensions... Now these students are doing light years better. In the first year of [scheduled meditation] the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent... within four years daily attendance rate climbed to 98%... Grade point averages improved... While [scheduled meditation] is no panacea, it's a game changer for many students who otherwise might have become dropouts...
...neuro-imaging and genomics technology... allowed scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail... one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress...
Sustained meditation leads to neuroplasticity... increased gray matter... better than sleeping... profound effect on blood pressure... protects telomeres (protective caps at the end of our chromosomes)... pain relieving properties can beat morphine...
A friend called me pretty much the minute I walked through the door from my Tuesday night meeting. We had been very close once, but in the past several years had drifted out of each other's immediate orbits.
After some cursory small talk and a surface attempt to ask how I was doing they launched into a 20 minute diatribe about their life, and all their trials and varied tribulations.
THEM: So... what do you think?
I sighed a little and pinched the bridge of my nose. It had been a long day. The headache, which had been somewhat successfully kept at bay for most of it, had begun to lightly caress my cerebellum with its hot, aching fingers. A sure promise of more to come.
ME: I don't know. What I think is... I'm not too sharp right now. Long day and a bit of a headache. Maybe it's more important what you think...
THEM: I just told you what I think. I want to know what you think.
ME: Why? What difference does it make what I...
THEM: I just do.
ME: You know, that just means that you believe you know what I'm going to say anyway -- so this is either about confirming what you already think is true, or I am about to become the straw man in an argument you're already having in your head.
THEM: Look, don't get all Yoda on me. Just tell me what you think.
I sighed again, though more sub-vocally. They wanted to know what I think? Fine.
ME: I think you are hypersensitive to everyone's behavior around you. I think your ego is pretty inflated because you have no Program going on to speak of. I think you've devolved down to the First Step -- you have no issue with remembering you are powerless over alcohol, but you're not doing shit for any other AA work. You don't go to meetings. If I had to guess there is little prayer and no mediation. Since you're not going to meetings there's no 12th Step work going...
THEM: Look, maybe some of that is true, but my job is really taking a lot of...
ME: Tough shit.
THEM: Tough shit? Seriously?
ME: Yes. Tough shit. Listen, you are a real alcoholic. A blackout drinking, car totalling, drink sneaking, breakfast drinking alcoholic. You wouldn't even HAVE that job if you hadn't gotten sober. And though you tried -- if memory serves what you've told me in the past -- you couldn't do it on your own, or in rehab -- or multiple rehab, now that I'm remembering -- and AA worked for you. Now you're too damn busy for AA. Fine. Then be too busy. This story is as common as dirt. Hopeless alcoholic gets sober in AA, life improves dramatically over the years, now sober alcoholic can't be bothered with AA anymore and then... whatever. It's your life, man. But honestly, when you were talking, all I could think about was... well, it's on pg. 52 of the Big Book.
THEM: Oh fuck you. Just tell me. Don't get all cute with page numbers.
ME: No. I won't tell you. Instead I will bet you a dinner at my old restaurant that you cannot, in the next five minutes of this phone call, even put your hand on your Big Book to look it up. I bet you don't even know where your Big Book is right now.
THEM: They never charge you at your old restaurant! That's not much of a bet.
ME: So what. You're the one with the big job. I'm too smart to let you pick the terms. Tick tock, tick tock. Can you even put your hand on your book or not?
THEM: ... Fine. No. But...
ME: Stop. Please. YOU called ME. I've said it a thousand times, I'm not selling anything. You asked what I thought and I told you. What I also think is that I'm worried for you and if you just make meetings a priority...
THEM: Okay! Okay! I'll go to a meeting!
ME: Number One. Don't do me any favors. Again, I'm not selling anything. You don't want to come, then don't come. Find the willingness or don't. Two. One meeting is hardly going to do anything for you. That's like saying I'll go to the gym once. Do it like you used to. Get out the Directory and pick four or five meetings in the week and plan the rest of your time around them. Early in the morning, late at night, on the weekends... there are tons to choose from you can make it work if you're willing.
THEM: Okay. Okay. But... I have to confess something to you.
I got afraid for them for a moment -- afraid they would say they'd already slipped or something.
THEM: I DID know what you were going to say. I guess I just wanted to hear someone I trusted say it.
ME: Okay. Fair enough. Shall I save you a seat on Thursday night?
THEM: I can't this Thursday... but I can the one after. And I'll see you Sunday morning for sure.
ME: Okay. I look forward to it.
We exchanged some more pleasantries and hung up.
Maybe I'll see them at the meeting Sunday. Maybe I won't.
The important thing from all this is that I know I'll be there.
As with previous Lightning Rounds, I mean no disrespect to those who have emailed these questions by including them in a Lightning Round. It does not mean I think less of you, the issue(s) you raise or your request for input. As always, emails are condensed for brevity, clarity and anonymity. (But if you write feel free to go on as much as you need.)
Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I was told that if I stop going to Step Study meetings I will drink. Is this true?
No. I love Step Meetings and I like to keep them in my mix as much as possible, but they are not the magic, secret pixie dust of sobriety. If you stop going to meetings altogether, then I think you're in trouble.
Dear Mr. SP,
I have a resentment against my sponsor. What should I do?
Write an inventory. Then read it to them. Or, if reading it to them is a problem, read it to someone else. We deal with our resentments by setting them on paper. That's what the Big Book suggests and doing that has always brought me clarity.
Dear Mr. SP,
How do I know if I'm an alcoholic?
AA's Big Book suggests you try some controlled drinking. If you find that, when you honestly don't want to drink you do, or if you try to stop abruptly and cannot, then you may be an alcoholic. When my first sponsor suggested this to me he said, "You know, controlled drinking. Try having two and a half glasses and then stop half way through the third glass. Could you do that with milk?" I answered, "With milk? Yeah." He went on, "Could you do it with liquor? Say, Vodka? Screwdrivers?" And without thinking I answered with the most alcoholic thing I could possibly have said: "I don't know. How big a glass?"
Dear Mr. SP,
I feel uncomfortable with the attention I get from men in AA meetings, but I have a hard time going to Women Only meetings. What should I do?
My suggestion is to go to Women Only meetings and work through whatever issues you have with other gals before you deal with issues you may have with the opposite sex. Maybe if you are in an area where there are gay meetings you could go to some of them, and possibly find a neutral territory for your issues. Regardless, I suggest going to meetings.
Dear Mr. SP,
I have a very strong sex drive. Does that mean I am a sex addict?
I have no idea if you are a sex addict or not. What AA's Big Book suggests when looking at our sexual behavior during the 4th Step Inventory process is to see where we were selfish, self centered or dishonest, and where we purposely aroused jealousy, bitterness, anger or suspicion in regards to our sexual conduct. Having a strong drive, or having a lot of sex is less likely to be an indicator of sexual addiction than looking at the why and the how of your sex life; quality not quantity, if you will. There is a host of writing and several good mainstream films about sex addiction out now. Perhaps reading/viewing some of those will give you insight. And also, if this question is profoundly troubling it's time to check out SCA or one of the other 12 Step sex/love addiction programs.
Dear Mr. SP,
I have a lot of damage from my fundamentalist religious upbringing that I am working through, and the idea of God or prayer is something I can't even deal with right now. Does that mean AA won't work for me?
NO! That does not mean AA won't work for you. AA CAN WORK FOR YOU. Let the collected sober experience of AA's writing and fellowship be your guide, your "Higher Power." When you encounter suggestions about God don't let that chase you away, just say to yourself, or anyone else, "I'm not there yet" and focus on taking sober actions: Writing, service, sharing, etc. And if some people push you just say "I'm not there yet so thank you for wanting to help but please shut the f*ck up." You may eventually feel differently, but you may not, and that's ok too. Just keep coming back and be honest with yourself and other people you feel safe with about your background and issues. Also, please remember, meditation is a secular thing, and has nothing to do with any religion at all. In place of active prayer you can develop a meditation practice which I guarantee (strong word but I'll stand by it) if you are disciplined about you will have an immensely positive result.
Don't pick up the first drink, keep an open mind, don't let anyone bully you and keep coming back.
Dear Mr. SP,
I have heard that some AA's say that people should not take antidepressants or other medications. Is that true?
I have heard that some AA's say all kinds of foolish things. Two things: 1. Don't listen to what people say that people say in AA. Check the Big Book and other AA literature for what AA says. 2. ONLY A DOCTOR SHOULD GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE.
Dear Mr. SP,
Do you think it's a slip to eat dishes in restaurants that are cooked in wine or anything like that?
Is it a slip? Probably not, but of course it depends. Something well cooked? Probably no alcohol in it. Some dessert where all they've done is drizzle the brandy over the ice cream or something similar? That's a whole different animal, to me. Personally I do not order or eat any dishes with alcohol involved in the creation/baking/glazing/soaking/basting etc., in any way. It takes a lot longer to "cook" the alcohol out of something than many believe, and regardless of time tables I just don't want that nagging question in my head. For me it's just easier to skip them.
Dear Mr. SP,
I am newly sober and have a very expensive wine collection. My sponsor thinks I should sell it, but I look at it as an investment. While it's true I did a lot of drinking from this collection at home, I do not have any desire to do so now. Do you think it's slippery to keep it?
Let me ask you this: If you don't have burial insurance could the sale of your wine collection pay for your funeral expenses? Because IF you keep it and IF it turns out that your sponsor was right and this is a dodge by your alcoholism to set you up for relapse then that might be a good reason to keep it. Otherwise, I think I'm with your sponsor on this one.
Dear Mr. SP,
I want to talk to people who relapse and don't come back to AA about their experiences. I'm not convinced that AA is for me and I thought talking to some of them would help. Do you have any ideas where I might find them?
Is this question a set up? I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and answer straight. Where do I suggest you look for alcoholics who relapse but don't come back to AA? Emergency Rooms, Jails and Graveyards. But that's just my opinion.
Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
My question is in regards to changes in sobriety dates.
I have swallowed beer. I was a couple of years sober and at a bar with coworkers. I had ordered a root beer and was surprised when my taste buds registered beer. Rather than spit it out in front of everyone I swallowed it.
I also smoked something knowing it was not a good idea. Almost three years ago I was overseas and was told it was medicine that would help with sex. I remember wondering what it was going to feel like and wondering if it was going to have any effect on my mood. I knew what I was doing was not a good idea. I don't remember any effect on either my mood or my libido. I did not want to get high and even prayed for God's help before smoking. My behavior in regards to sex was my motivation. I have recently had an awakening in regards to my behavior with women and along with my change in perspective is a desire to share these occurrences.
To come clean is it selfish? Should I change my sobriety date? I have not had a drink in more than 20 years nor have I ingested, smoked nor in any way tried to change my mood. I pray almost every day, try to share the message and practice these principles. However, I feel like a hypocrite for not telling on myself. That I am not being honest. I have the most sobriety in my home group and I am afraid that ego may be keeping me from disclosing these events.
I have been praying for an answer and need some counsel before puking this all up on my friends and home group.
Don't Want To Be A Hypocrite
Dear Don't Want To Be A Hypocrite,
First off, let me congratulate you on your commitment to staying sober, to being honest, and to working to look within and consider if or how your ego may be involved with the issues you are addressing.
As has been said many times here -- but always bears repeating -- I am not a spokesman for AA. There is no such thing. It is a happy anarchy where often it seems the inmates are running the asylum. There is much autonomy at both the group and the individual level, but while there are a number of strong suggestions there are no real hard and fast rules one must follow.
I can do for you what AA has done for me: Share my experience with these issues, but I cannot tell you what to do.
There are, I am sure, no shortage of people - in or out of AA - who would be happy and feel powerful! telling you what to do. But really, the spirit of AA when it comes to a request for help is to share what has worked for us, and to offer whatever personal insights we've gained from walking through the same, or similar, circumstances. After that it's up to you and your Higher Power. I've often found that I know the right course of action well before I am ready to admit it to myself when faced with dilemmas. I'm usually just not ready -- willing -- to own it.
With that said, let's get down to talking about what you wrote.
This is not a question of math; how much time you have or you lost or whatever. Nor is it a a simple question of chemistry -- what you drank, what you smoked. It's more than that. It's a question of rigorous honesty (with yourself and others), and of willingness.
Right up front let me say that I understand your process, and you'll find no judgement from me on this stuff. I've had my own relapse-without-drinking experiences (and the living-with-the-secret piece too). It is a measure of your desire to live clean that you are troubled by these two things and are also considering where your ego may be at play clouding the issue of what to do.
You have two moments, two decisions you made which are torturing you, so let's take them in order.
First, the sip of beer swallow. This one's pretty straightforward. My motto is this: First Sip's a surprise, Second Sip's the slip. If you didn't know it was beer when you picked it up and put it in your mouth, it's an honest mistake. To actively spit something out -- especially in a work situation -- is to overcome an awful lot of social programming. You are lucky you didn't trigger the phenomenon of craving, and hopefully you learned to pay better attention to what you pick up and drink at social occasions, but for me, if you didn't know what was in that cup when you raised it to your lips it was an honest mistake, but not a relapse.
You don't specifically say it, but I am assuming you did not finish the drink "just to be polite" and it was just the one sip. If you drank more after that sip which identified it as beer then, to me it's a slip. We're not in a religious order, the reason we do not have the first drink is so that we do not trigger a physical reaction which drives us to keep drinking; not as some sort of I'm Keeping Pure For The Lord tally sheet. We count the days -- I count the days -- for a lot of different reasons: To remind myself of my commitment to sobriety, to see how far I've come, to try to be an example to others that AA works, because that's how they did it when I showed up (and it works, so I'm not going to change it)... lots of reasons.
I wouldn't refrain from sharing about the incident, it can be instructive to others -- a kind of cautionary tale -- but I don't think it's a slip.
Now, about the smoking thing while you were overseas...
DWTBAH, let me just say, that if we were close sober friends, and you shared with me about smoking something, and that you didn't even know what it was, just to give your sex performance a little boost while you were in a foreign country... well, while I am possibly one of the least physically aggressive men you are likely to meet (Exhibit A), I would probably grab you by the shoulders and shake you like a friggin' rag doll, quite possibly shouting "Are you INSANE? What the hell's the matter with you!" about six inches from your face.
Now, I might decide I needed to make amends for that outburst shortly after the fact, because while it is certainly honest, and born of fear for a friend (if I knew you and we were close, that is) it's still a little judgey and not exactly very supportive. Honest, yes, but not helpful.
Looking at this rationally, through a 12 Step lens, there are two kinds of medicine we take: Medicine that effects us from the neck up, and medicine that effects us from the neck down.
Regardless of what kind a person takes, you should only accept direction or advice about taking, changing, starting or stopping medication from a DOCTOR. From a TRAINED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. Not from a sponsor, or from your group's old timer or resident guru or the Mayor of AA Town where you live. CONSULT A DOCTOR with any questions about what you take. Should you consider whether your doctor is a skilled health care provider, with an understanding of issues specific to people in recovery? Yes. Should you listen to the experiences other people in recovery have personally had around medication? Sure, as a way to learn more about what you should ask your doctor regarding your meds. Should you read AA's excellent, balanced writing in several brochures and in "Living Sober" on taking medication? Absolutely. But when it comes down to making decisions about starting, stopping or changing medication, your Doctor should be your only hardline resource and you should follow their direction, not some well meaning, (or ego-driven), AA.
So here's how I look at your incredibly foolish action to smoke a "sexual enhancer" overseas:
Taking Viagra (or Cialis, or anything in that family of meds) to address sexual performance issues is not a slip. From what you write your intention was to enhance your performance in some way, not to change your mental state. So while what you did was (if I haven't made it clear already) wildly, incredibly stupid and foolish (Dude. Seriously.), I'm not convinced it was a relapse. It was shady as all hell, but I'm not sure it was a slip. And I think at this point we should be sure and mention that people - men especially - can be prone to doing incredibly stupid and foolish things around sex sometimes. You are not the only guy who's listened to the wrong body part when making an important decision.
There is another troubling element to this, however. If you were to take a pill prescribed for you by YOUR doctor, that's not a slip. But by my standard, generally speaking, taking medicine prescribed for someone else certainly can be. Not always -- I'm not talking about someone's left over ampicillin to save a few bucks instead of running to the doctor if you think you might have strep and want to try and knock it out yourself and save your copay or something -- while that's pretty stupid that's not a slip -- I'm talking about a little casual self-medication with other people's meds -- and again, sorting medication into above/below the neck is a good place to start when discussing these things. Taking someone else's antibiotics? Stupid, but probably not a slip. Browsing through your Mother-in-Law's medicine cabinet and taking some of her anxiety meds to, you know, take the edge off a family visit? Slip City.
Given the circumstances there is a lot of self examination required to find your answer, which is why at the beginning of this whole thing I said that ultimately, after considering the counsel of others, it's probably going to come down to what feels clean in your heart, after some serious prayer and reflection.
But I can tell you this: It's not the Did-I-or-Didn't-I slip that's really eating at you.
It's the secret.
And you know you can start to share this with people before you decide what to do. Start to dismantle the secret and the right answer will probably be easier to see. Certainly you'll start to feel better.
For what it's worth I have deep respect for your willingness to bring this up and not bury it under layers of ego and justification. That's a big sign that you will make a clean decision about this, whatever that decision may be.
It's a strange thing though, I will give you that as well. Time sober in AA both doesn't and does matter. It is a bit of a paradox.
But I assure you, it is the quality of your time which will change your life and allow you to help others far more than the quantity. I relapsed on pot -- smoking only once -- at about 90 days, and then two years later, driven by the guilt of that memory, did amyl nitrate. And then I kept it a secret for a while. Damn near drove me insane. I know with absolute certainty that if I hadn't come clean about those things when I did I would not be sober today.
One last thing: You never know who else is tortured by something they're afraid to bring to the group. You might save a lot of lives moving forward if you get honest about this problem at group level. You might begin speaking for someone who has yet to find their voice, and who desperately needs to be heard.
Good luck. Remember that ultimately, all we have is today.
I'll keep you in my prayers.