Posts Tagged ‘AA’

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The President Precedent

May 23, 2009

My greatest discomfort before attending a meeting of Al-Anon or AA, was “the god part.”  I could deal with the emotional stories, I could deal with the stigma of telling friends where I was going, I could deal with all the unknowns associated with a new experience, but “the god part” was a huge hindrance.

I should note, I am not an Atheist.  Somewhere between western science, Agnosticism, Humanism and a few eastern spiritual modalities lies my own personal religion, which can basically be summed up by the expression, “Beats the shit out of me!”  I do pray, but in that charming non-Theistic way we Buddhists have, and admit to being generally uncomfortable with the word “prayer.”

Luckily, I have a friend (or, as I more accurately think of him, my own personal Buddha) who has been going to meetings for years, and talked me through why “the god part” shouldn’t be an impedance.  By the time I went to my first AA meeting (last week) and my first Al-Anon meeting (last night) I was well prepped for what I heard.

However, I still felt myself wince a little whenever I heard the words ‘god’ or ‘higher power.’  Even though I consider myself a spiritual person, my body has a physical reaction to these words that I have a hard time controlling.  I mean, it’s subtle – I’m not flailing my arms or twitching in my seat – but I can feel myself react, despite attempts in my head to substitute a just-something-bigger-than-myself-out-of-my-control lower-case ‘g’ in place of the white-guy-long-beard-sitting-on-a-cloud capital ‘G’.

It occured to me after watching this happen in my body a couple times, that this is the same way I currently react to the word, “President.”  Whenever someone refers to “The President” my body still has that clenching, “man, that guy’s a douchebag” reaction, because for 8 years, that is all my body knew.   It always takes a second for me to go “oh no! That word means really smart guy now!  That word means guy you voted for now!!  That word means hope and thoughtfulness and a potentially bright future for your country now!”

And physically conditioned precedents are really hard to overcome.  I have a complicated past with religion.  The “god” I came to know as a child (ask me some time about how I used to think god looked like Ronald McDonald; then ask me about my fear of clowns) through my young brain’s synthesis of what I learned in the Catholic Church was a mental formation of judgment, unattainable perfection, and a set of eyes and ears constantly on me, in whose perception I was born a “sinner” and to whom I had to “confess”.

I don’t place unmitigated blame on the religion itself – though I admit I have a a healthy dose of anger toward the church.  But a confluence of factors in my developing mind contributed to a warping of this conception.  After leaving the church at 15, I went through a decade of life getting defensive at the mention of god and shirking away from anything that smelled of spirituality.  It was only once I began studying Buddhism and practicing yoga that I found I could let a little slip back in. It is thanks to this basis of re-spiritualizing that I am able to reap the benefits of a recovery program like AA or Al-Anon.

Ultimately, now, my job is to keep hearing the words President and god, and simply noting how my body reacts, until eventually new patterns can form and new reckoning can take over.  The nice thing about this path to recovery beginning at the same time my yoga practice is actively deepening, is I’m basically spending the next month of my life doing little other than noting what’s happening in my body.

It does make me curious if there are other words or concepts to which I have a physical reaction and of which I am not even mindful yet. But luckily, thanks to my President, I believe in change.

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On The Road Again

May 21, 2009

So here I go again. For the third time in my life, I’ve quit drinking. Just like last time I hope it’s for good… but then again there was a Last Time.

Many have questioned why I have to give it up completely, why I can’t place my aim on a less ascetic goal. But the problem with drinking even just a little, is that alcohol is inextricably linked to sex for me. Even when it isn’t – when it’s just sharing a glass with my mother or a pint with a friend – that one drink sends my mind into that spiral of longing which I’ve found ultimately leads to more drinking.

It certainly makes sense. Where, to date, my sex life has almost exclusively happened in the context of alcohol, alcohol, then, always makes me think of sex: of how long it’s been since I’ve had it and of where it might come from next. And then, as the night gets darker, or perhaps upon the hang over in the morning, the thoughts further sour to how my sex life till the present has been loveless, to how I’ve only once had sex sober, to the irrational but overwhelming fear that it will never happen again, and in general to that desperate longing for something more.

Ok, well the fact is I kind of have all those thoughts all the time; alcohol just makes it about a thousand times worse. Unfortunately, the soul-sucking effect sobriety has had on my already arid romantic life just makes things worse. They don’t call it “drying out” for nothin’… It feels like the social life of a single 20-something is staunchly predicated on bars and booze, and even if I’m comfortable toting my water bottle around a party, I can sense the discomfort of the drinkers around me with my abstinence. People just don’t like being around the chick who isn’t drinking. I get the sense I make them nervous, angry, self-aware; perhaps that’s projection, but after spending a couple occasions standing around alone at parties, my suspicions have been buoyed if not exactly confirmed.

Furthermore, guys don’t hit on The Sober Girl. Not that I’m all that good at recognizing when I’m being hit on at all, but I can certainly spot when there is a complete void of attention. I mean, shouldn’t I be text-book low hanging fruit: the bored girl sitting by herself watching the world go by? Isn’t that every creep’s dream? But I think they can smell a clear head a mile away, and I can imagine what I’m projecting – misery and loneliness as I watch my friends become more confusing and less intelligently capable – isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac.

Ultimately, the problem is I’m outgrowing this boozing culture, without knowing what to grow into. It’s hard to find new friends who don’t drink, I don’t know what you do on a Friday night instead of belly up to a bar, and I don’t have a Central Perk at which to plunk down and know my witty friend Chandler and wacky friend Phoebe will eventually arrive for a Saturday night latte. What’s most disconcerting is I’m scared I don’t really know what “I had such a great time last night” means when it doesn’t involve alcohol. I have to redefine completely for myself what “fun” is.

So, I’m calling in the big guns – I’m going to AA. Believe me, there’s almost nothing that feels more ridiculous than the idea of raising my hand and saying “Hi, my name is Lynne, and I’m not an alcoholic, but…” but I’ve been assured by friends who have traveled this path that I wouldn’t be the first. My only hope for the third time really being the Last Time is if I find a community with whom to share the struggles that come with choosing this road in this world. Even if I one day decide to have the occasional single drink (I really, really love wine), not returning to multiple drinks on multiple nights will take a significant change in my social sphere.

Of course, I’d be lying if I denied an ulterior motive: if alcohol offered sex with a lack of love, then maybe a lack of alcohol could offer sex with love…hell you can’t get less than the none I have now so at least I have nothing to lose. So yeah, I admit, I’m hoping to meet a man at AA. Or at least I’m hoping to meet a man in some connection to AA – whether that be specifically in a meeting, or in discussions about the subject, say, at a tea tasting or yoga class.

To this effect, I’ve made a funny little deal with myself: I’ve decided I will not have that single glass of wine I think I can handle, until I find myself in a relationship which I believe has forward momentum, for at least a month. That could be a loooong time from now; the way things have gone to date I may be waiting till my 40th birthday. Or, it could happen within the year and I’ll decide to skip the glass anyway, content in my abstinence.  I must say, having begun AA, there’s a lot of motivation never to drink again.  But… I mean. Wine is such a great art….

All I know is my next partner has to arrive in my life independent of any sort of intoxication, and I have to figure out attraction, confidence and sexuality outside of the bottle. If my life is just a huge map of First Times and Last Times, I’m hoping drinking is I-84, and healthy love life is the Pike.

Yeah. I don’t know either.