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.
What I perceive is merely what I perceive.
As the chapter "We Agnostics" talks about in the Big Book, our ability to see all that comprises the physical universe is severely limited -- I experience the results of the laws of the physical universe but I cannot always perceive them -- I do not actually see solar radiation, but I sunburn -- so why might not the same be true of the spiritual universe? I can experience the results of spiritual laws, but I may not always perceive them. At best I see a spiritual result and then try to work backwards and deduce what spiritual principles might exist to produce it.
Consider: Before people understood magnetism they could witness its result. They could use it without knowing about polarity, or that the force is basically the result of an alignment of electrons at the atomic level, or any of the other basic facts about the phenomenon that we know -- or can easily find out -- today. (Thanks Wikipedia!)
To their eyes, sometimes the metal stuck to the (lode)stone, and sometimes it didn't. Sometimes there was an attraction and sometimes there was a repulsion. Some metals retained a magnetic charge strongly and others not at all. Of course from these observations two things naturally happened: One is that people began to understand how magnetism works, and the other is that along the way to understanding, many inaccurate theories and false conclusions were reached.
Speaking for myself, I need to remember this when I consider God, the universe, the Great All and how Spiritual Laws may work. I -- and others -- observe and experience, and along the way we may become quite convinced of things which are, in fact, inaccurate theories and false conclusions.
Thus I must strive to keep an open mind, even when I feel comfortable or connected to my Higher Power. It is important that I always work to remain a student.
I listen for the still, small voice inside. I meditate and I pray -- because I do not need to understand how these things work in order to experience that they do work.
The human mind is designed to question, to seek understanding, but in this case I do not need to achieve it -- in point of fact I actually cannot.
I just need to live one day at a time by the spiritual principles laid out in Alcoholics Anonymous (which echo so many other spiritual schools of thought) and when I do I experience these results: A reprieve from my addiction, a peaceful mind and a miraculously open heart.
I consider it a good way for me to live.
He came into the room just as I finished pouring my green tea. I'd been on a kick lately. It didn't have quite the oomph a cup of coffee packs, but I was enjoying the change in my morning beverage routine.
"Oh good. You're sitting down. Otherwise I'd have to tell you to sit down before I told you this." he announced.
"Let me check." I made a show of inspecting my chair. "Good to go. Shoot."
He lifted his chin and with no small amount of fanfare announced. "I called my sponsor yesterday. I am meeting with them tonight."
"Awesome!" I said. "Finally!" I thought.
"Yes, as you know..." he recapped the past month or so of difficulties. Some legitimately outside of his control, but much of it interwoven with alcoholic thinking. He was a couple of years sober and made it to one meeting a week. I did not volunteer my opinion on that front as A) he didn't ask, and B) he knew well enough what it was.
Recently, when we had been discussing our weekend plans, I had pointed out -- gently! -- how he was maybe denying himself a wonderful thing by not committing to a regular meeting on the weekends. At least one. Some of those early morning discussion meetings of a Saturday or Sunday are full of real humor, warm fellowship and truly useful ideas about AA in our everyday life. For me they remain an absolutely fantastic way to take my medicine and connect. In response to this passionate-yet-gentle suggestion I pretty much got the standard, "yeah, yeah, right" which I think we can all agree generally translates into "sounds good but I'm not gonna do it -- and are you done talking yet?".
As he wound down recapping his most recent frustrations I echoed my earlier positive reinforcement. "I'm glad for you that you made the call. I bet you anything your sponsor will have some great suggestions that..."
"Oh, wait. Suggestions?" He held up his hand in a mock Stop! gesture. "I'm not looking for any suggestions. I mean, I hope he doesn't suggest I do anything basic like... go to meetings, or be of service or anything!"
He was kidding, his tone and the glint in his eye made that clear. He is not above yanking my chain a little on all things 12 Step.
Two can play at that game, however.
"Hey! I have a great idea!" I announced, my hearty tone immediately putting him on his guard.
"What's that?" He squinted his eyes and tilted his head a little, both playacting and serious in his suspicious tone.
I picked up a piece of paper and tore a postage stamp sized piece out of it.
"Here." I said, handing him the tiny square. "To save you and your sponsor some time, why don't you make a list of all the things you're willing to do."
He looked at the tiny scrap between his fingers and burst out laughing. "Okay. Okay. Fair enough."
I bobbled my tea bag in my mug for a moment and took a satisfying sip. "I'm just sayin'" I said. "That's all. I'm just sayin'."
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.
And for me, it is the spiritual journey AA launched me upon in which I find this to be such a powerful truth.
Think to ask? In the beginning I didn't even know what to ask.
One day at a time things are very different for me today -- and yet, in many ways, this is still true of my journey as it continues.
And it probably always will be.
I used to be haunted by a chorus of negative voices in my head.
Who ya gonna call?
It's not that kind of haunting.
It took a while but I finally discovered a startling and important fact:
They're not really ghosts!
They're puppets! Masks! Ventrilloquists' dummies!
The person berating me in my head is not actually in my head!
(Well, obviously, you might say, but when I realized this it was a Big Realization Moment.)
Sometimes it's a memory but more often it's a fantasy. A phantasm.
A creation of my mind in my mind.
A life event happens -- sometimes an incredibly trivial one -- and my mind seizes on it, pulling out the puppets and dummies and lining them up, feeding them their lines in a now familiar and uncomfortably comfortable script:
Judging, mocking, undermining, questioning, doubting... all the best, most toxic "ings" imaginable.
At first I thought this was evidence of low self esteem.
And in one important degree I was right.
But ultimately I have come to see that it is really just a facet of my