An Open Letter

I’m sorry, I don’t recall your name.

See, I wasn’t expecting you to jump into a diatribe about how God doesn’t exist and that willpower is the only reason why Erin was able to be celebrating her 4 years of sobriety last night and that we should all be mindful that this program only works for a very small minority.  You kind of pissed me off.  I kind of let  you piss me off.

But, I’ve been where you are.  Well, not exactly where you are — you said you were at the meeting against your own will and no one ever dragged me to a meeting — but I think we could find common ground.

I had a great deal of pain when I first came into the rooms.  There was a lot that didn’t make sense to me.  The trite little sayings — they were cliche’s that I didn’t need.  And I was convinced that “the program” might not work for me either.  I’d read the literature.  I’d also read the articles in the Atlantic and in the New York Time about how AA really doesn’t work for most people. And God, well God had nothing to do with keeping me sober.

What kept me sober was not going into the liquor store.  True story.

If I didn’t go to the liquor store, I didn’t have bourbon to drink.  And if I didn’t have it to drink then I was sober.  And miserable.

As I said, I struggled with the God thing.  Some days I still do.  And I won’t pretend that it’s not all over the literature, it is.  The literature was written in the 1930s by white men with largely protestant backgrounds.  It’s there and can’t be denied.

There were some, even then, who argued that the words needed to be tamed.  That’s how the words “Higher Power” and “as we understood him” got introduced to the text.  Oh, and those folks who talk about spirituality and not religion, but then go on to talk about a clearly Christian understanding of a higher power, yeah, they irritate me too.  Still do.

And yet, I’m six months sober.  And in those six months, I’ve explored a great many things related to recovery.

I’ve looked to see if there is an alternative to AA that might make sense.  And there might be some, but they aren’t as accessible to me.  Refuge Recovery looks great, but the closest meeting is 75 miles from my home.  And Smart Recovery, looks great, but there’s only one meeting a week and it happens to be at a time that doesn’t work well for me.  But AA, well, those meetings are everywhere.

I’ve looked into my understanding of a higher power.  I’m not sure that I’d call it God, or god, or anything that anyone else might call it.  But I know that there is something mysterious out there that’s bigger than me.  And that nugget of faith that there might be something more powerful than me, well, its terrifying and comforting at the same time.

Do I think that God is keeping me sober?  Hell, no.

Do I think I can do this by myself purely on my own will as you suggested last night?  Hell, no.

Will I keep coming back, as we suggested to you?  You better believe it.

Why, you ask?

I’ve come to believe that there are three components to my success at sobriety this go round: some sense of what’s right and wrong, my own actions and in-actions which lead to results and consequences, and the community of people with whom I surround myself.

I’ve come to believe that maybe, just maybe, these folks are on to something.  See, I couldn’t stop drinking on my own.  In the end, I drank against my own will.  I clearly remember telling myself while pouring my first drink of the day, “this might not turn out so well…” and it usually didn’t.

I said that often.

I haven’t said that in six months, and things are turning out a whole lot better for it.



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