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Alcoholic Musings, Part 3

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One of the upsides of writing online is that it helps me work ideas through in a forum where friends can pop in as they please and check up on me. One of the downsides is that you never know who else might find you, what they might think, and furthermore how they might react. I dealt with negative criticism quite a bit during my Culture Bully days — it would seem that few things in this world get people more worked up than the suggestion that their favorite band sucks — but over time my skin grew thick(er): Haters gonna hate, especially on the Internet.

That said, there’s a particular breed of people who won’t comment in public (not even anonymously), who instead take it upon themselves to send emails to the author addressing them personally in private before systematically breaking down every conceivable point of their argument (regarding whatever it is they’ve taken offense to), typically injecting vile personal attacks along the way to keep the pace of their message spirited and flowing. Since I’ve escaped to my own sheltered pocket of the web with this blog — where very few even visit, let alone comment — the threat of receiving a harsh email regarding ideas I post hasn’t crossed my mind. That was until late last night I received a message simply titled, “Alcoholic musings.”

But what followed wasn’t soul-crushing I’m-right-you’re-wrong hate rant, but a cool email from someone who found my blog through this Infinite Jest challenge I’m attempting, and could relate to where I was coming from, offering some constructive recovery feedback. During our still-ongoing discussion I asked if I could post some of what was said (anonymously, of course) as it touches on something at the crux of where I’m at right now.

The only thing you HAVE to do in AA is admit that you cannot control your substance use. You really have to ‘surrender’ and admit you need some help. If you’re not there, cool. But after that AA is just a) a pretty decent program to actually put the substance down so you can get to the real part of AA which is b) becoming a better human being. Having a community of people who understand the horrific place you’ve been, who understand what people who can have one and a half drinks in a night do not understand. A community of people who have lots and lots of experience of how they got their shit together. Who actually go to work every day on time, who have normal relationships with people, who have rejoined the human race. A community that wants to help you be a better person, and needs your help in being a better person. Learning that you are not the center of the universe and that you need people and they need you. Be kinder to yourself and other people and try to help someone who is also struggling. The End.

If someone wants help, there’s a group of people that are willing to help. Some suggestions will be wacky, but most will really work. All the saying[s] are corny, but you’ll read in IJ something to the effect that the most banal saying[s] contain the deepest truths. DFW has amazing things to say about recovery. … It’s so unfortunate that he’s no longer around, because he really got AA. It’s not about God or The Big Book. It’s about getting your shit together so you can be a productive member of the human race. Getting sober is hard and living life sober is harder. AA is just a bunch of tools and experienced people to help you navigate. Don’t sweat the fanatics, almost all of them are just trying to help.

About a week and a half ago I met with my “sponsor” for breakfast and we discussed working past the first step (which I begrudgingly accepted) and into the second and third.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Going in I felt that this would be the end of the line as far as step-work was concerned. I knew what I wanted to ask, and I knew I could trust the response as my friend seems to be someone who has a healthy relationship with honesty (which is part of why I reached out to him in the first place). I had questions, he had answers, and they didn’t ultimately line up for me — we had a solid conversation, but our time working together was ending.

One of the things that I didn’t expect though was his immediate reaction. Though brief, he muttered something about how if I wasn’t ready I was more than welcome to try drinking again to see if it would work out for me this time. That was kind of a snarky comment, I thought, and I told him that drinking was the last thing on my mind (which is funny in retrospect, considering our entire relationship revolves around the subject). His was kind of an odd statement, but understandable — a little defensive, maybe, but still just words from someone trying to help.

It’s been about ten days or so since I last went to a meeting, but I’ll be back. I’m starting to enjoy the community of it all, and I like the fact that regardless of how fanatical or downright crazy some people might be about their beliefs, they’re no more fanatical or crazy than people are outside of those A.A. meetings. (Especially in the South!) But for the time being I’m working on getting my shit together so I can be a productive member of the human race again (as if I ever really was one). I’m also learning how to be kinder to myself and other people and am trying my damndest to finish a project that I think could really help others who are also struggling. After all, that’s what it’s all about, right?