Being honest about the reality of our lives while at the same time being open-minded and willing to respond differently to these realities is the heart and soul of recovery whether you have 2 days , 2 months , 2 years , or decades of sobriety. We also become clear that our denials, fears, resentments, guilt and shame create distortions to this reality and our commitment to reality and sanity must confront what is out of proportion and distorted as we seek to live out being authentic and true to and with ourselves.
I think these two Grapevine articles are quite helpful in stimulating a discussion about how to discover and respond to whatever life brings with some useful, very adaptive ways of ‘wisely accommodating to life as it is’.
Toward Reality – Grapevine Article April 1980 by C.B.
THE SPEAKER at my group’s closed meeting recounted her sponsor’s advice for dealing with her fears: “Don’t drink, go to daily meetings, and nothing bad can happen to you.” Not long before this meeting, dear AA friends who don’t drink and do go to many meetings had experienced probably the worst thing that can happen to anyone–they had lost a beloved child through a tragic accident. Consequently, I was seriously put off by the remark. But it set me thinking nonetheless, and I have continued to ponder it. As I see it, everything both good and bad can happen to us no matter how conscientiously we practice the program, but that steady practice makes it possible for us to cope with whatever comes.
We are told from the beginning that AA is a simple program for complicated people, but to make the simple simplistic can lead to seemingly unyielding complications down the line. In our zeal to help newcomers cope with fear and anxiety, do we hold out unrealistic expectations and magical answers that bear little relationship to life and the world and people as they really are–a seemingly inseparable mixture of good and bad, true and false, just and unjust, creative and destructive forces?
When I had been sober in AA four months, the secretary of our group was murdered by an insane husband, who immediately killed himself. In a kindly effort to calm and soothe, an older member of the group told me that I should try not to question what happened and should instead accept it as God’s will. This was not the answer to me then, and it isn’t now. The God of my understanding suffers and grieves with me and is not the cause and source of my pain.
The beginning of maturing for me was becoming willing to try to face the realities of my own life, a day at a time, and letting go of my childhood fantasies of living happily ever after in a perfect world made up of perfect people.
AA’s Twelfth Step speaks of having a spiritual awakening as the result of practicing the first eleven Steps. This awakening is experienced in countless different ways by AA members. For me, it was a gradual realization that I was emancipated from the comatose state of my drinking years, so that I could respond to and perceive the world without the anesthetic of alcohol. In a sense, we are more fortunate–better armed, better prepared–than most people are in facing the suffering and problems that no one can escape, because we, in our own deep sickness, have already experienced the darkest kind of trouble and have been led out of it by a Power greater than ourselves and, by way of the Twelve Steps, into the light.
We have a proved way through the AA program to face whatever life sends us, a day at a time, with the hope that the way will be smooth and with the belief that we won’t walk the rough spots alone.
This Is Life – Grapevine Article by Shannon C.
Facing life on life’s terms, she asks not what AA can do for her—but what she can do for AA
It’d been a couple of weeks since I’d received some overwhelming bad news. Actually, these past couple of years have consisted of one devastating blow after another. Just when I thought I was on the other side of one heartbreak, another would hit. I had to admit, though, the latest one threw me over the top. I went through all kinds of emotions for the next few days, from desolation to disbelief and denial, grief, guilt, fear and all the other nasty feelings that can get an alcoholic like me into big trouble.
Then I became very angry with my Higher Power. I was more than angry. I was livid. I was ready to give it all up. I was ready to give up prayer, meditation, the 12 Steps, meetings, the Fellowship and service. I wanted to quit everything that was good in my life.
Instead, I called and met with my sponsor and then I went to a meeting. I wanted to talk about my venom and toxic attitude as a topic for the meeting. But when the chair asked for a topic, someone else beat me to it. Her topic was: “What has AA done for you?” Humph! She then started to describe all the wonderful things that she now has in her life since she’s been sober. Eventually, the meeting turned into a gratitude meeting and slowly my anger and fear started to become right sized and acceptance and surrender began to set in.
This is life. Life happens. Life can suck sometimes. I am not immune from the troubles and woes in life just because I got sober. The difference today is how I walk through these life dilemmas.
So, I began to assess my thoughts of what AA has done for me, beyond sobriety, during the most difficult of days.
I realized that it has taught me how to have a relationship with a kind, loving and tolerant Higher Power on a level that I would call a friendship. And like some friendships, it can be tumultuous at times. But I also know I can’t live without it, and that my Higher Power will be here for me and will carry me through. I use to live without faith and it took me to a very dark place. I know I don’t want to go back to that emptiness and despair.
I use to run from my feelings because I couldn’t stand how painful they were. Today, I can be, for the most part, comfortable in my uncomfortableness. I am realizing just how empowering acceptance and surrender can be. I am open to the mystery of how it can all turn out better than I could have ever imagined it could be.
I can live in the now. I don’t have to have the guilt or regret of yesterday or the fear of what the future holds. Even though I still travel to both yesterday and tomorrow, I can always bring myself back to the now. By doing that, I get some sense of serenity even when calamity surrounds me.
You all have taught me how to walk through (not around) these obstacles one step at a time, one day at a time, without hurting myself or anyone else in the process. And then you all have taught me how to turn these difficulties into something that I can use to help another alcoholic and my loved ones. That is such a gift! To be able to help someone else through the same thing that I am going through or have gone through.
The question was: “What has AA done for you?” With all that it has given me, I should be asking: “What can I do for AA?” I’m sure that I will never feel like I can pay back what has been given to me, but I’ll keep trying. I love you and I love Alcoholics Anonymous. Thank you for keeping me sober (and sane) today.