Those of us in AA/NA share a common problem. We’re all alcoholics/addicts. However, the similarities tend to end there. We come from all walks of life. Alcoholism and addiction don’t recognize fame or wealth. They don’t discriminate when it comes to race or gender. Alcoholism/addiction can affect anyone, no matter their status in life.
It’s true what the AA Big Book says – we’re all passengers on a sinking ship, looking for a life raft. Ordinarily, you would probably never find us associating with each other. But because we share this common malady – because addiction has brought us all to the same point of desperation – here we are in spiritual unity, helping each other shuffle down the higher road of happy destiny.
It’s not realistic to expect that everyone you meet in AA will think and believe exactly as you do. Yet, it seems I held that belief. And now I find myself feeling like the odd one out.
I believe part of me viewed AA as a kind of church where everyone conformed to the same tenants and principles. And while this might be basically true (there are the 12 steps and 12 traditions), people in AA are completely free to think, feel, and believe whatever they want – including ideas and beliefs I personally find intolerant and racist.
Interestingly, I really only see this on Facebook – one of the many places on the Internet where one can voice his or her opinion via the latest alternative news sources and memes.
After all, who wouldn’t want to know what I think and how I feel about the latest political trends and cultural happenings? How else will I receive validation for my beliefs? On the other hand, how else will I get the confrontation I sometimes crave?
It used to be impossible for me to watch the evening news without exploding in utter rage and disgust at what was going on in the world. It never failed that something would set me off (of course, I was also drunk, so that didn’t help). Now, I’ve found some measure of sobriety, and I can watch the news in relative peace – but I still feel that urge to voice my opinion.
My husband will share his opinion. And I will take a mouthful of my dinner to avoid starting an argument. Because our opinions differ. If I can learn to live in peace with my husband, surely I can learn to be at peace with my acquaintances in AA.
Yet, I still feel that urge to shout at people on Facebook. To tell them that their posts are offensive and hurtful (if not downright untrue).
I want to be right.
I want to be heard.
But I have a more important, pressing problem than whether or not my Facebook friends know what I think about their latest posts.
Sobriety is a selfish journey
Ultimately, my sobriety is my responsibility. I cannot allow anything to come before my sobriety. Not even the causes and beliefs I hold to be worthy of support.
The fact is, I must guard my sobriety more selfishly than I guarded my drinking. I did whatever it took to drink. I must do whatever it takes to stay sober. In this case, that means keeping my mouth shut on Facebook.
I must practice restraint of pen and tongue. My thoughts and emotions are not sober – they are reactive versus responsive. My capacity for sober thought and voice is severely limited because I do not have much sobriety built up.
There will come a time, perhaps, when I can confront people, soberly, but for now, I must guard my emotions carefully. Even the slightest misstep, or the adrenaline rush of confrontation, could lead to another relapse.
Check my ego
Something I’ve heard in the rooms of AA is that “ego” stands for “Edging God Out.” So often when I start voicing my opinion, it’s about my need to be right and my need to be validated. It’s not about seeking greater understanding or promoting kindness. It’s about shouting louder than everyone else.
My ego likes to run away with my mouth and pen. My ego likes to be in control. But I need to relinquish control if I am to stay sober. I need to let go of all pretense to intelligence and wit. I need to let my Higher Power be in control of what I say and do.
Remember the St. Francis prayer
When all else fails, and I am at the end of my rope, there is a prayer I have memorized that helps me through the day. It was written long ago by St. Francis of Assisi.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace! That where there is hatred, I may bring love. That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness. That where there is discord, I may bring harmony. That where there is error, I may bring truth. That where there is doubt, I may bring faith. That where there is despair, I may bring hope. That where there are shadows, I may bring light. That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted. To understand, than to be understood. To love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.
Remembering this prayer helps me put my goals into perspective. There is nothing in this prayer that says I am allowed to put myself above another. Nothing in this prayer says anything about being right or being heard.
It is about understanding, not being understood. My purpose in life is not to cause more strife and discord, but to bring harmony. I want to be kind. I want to be loving.
My sobriety journey is not about shouting my opinion/perspective from the rooftops. My sobriety journey is about finding peace with myself. I will never be satisfied with validation from others. I must learn to find validation within myself.
Towards emotional sobriety
Sometimes it’s about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Sometimes it’s about having the wisdom to keep your mouth shut.
Not every situation requires a confrontation. Facebook is certainly one of those places on the Internet where emotional sobriety would do all of us a world of good.
I do admit that I am struggling. There are a few people who I will never look at the same way again. We see the world through different lenses.
But the primary goal remains – sobriety above all else. It doesn’t matter whether or not I feel like the odd one out in my AA circle – so long as I can rest in the strength and grace of my Higher Power, knowing I am cared for and loved exactly as I am.