For much of my time in A.A. I have disparaged my sobriety. Hell, for a long time I lived in the woods. Even today, I live in a tent in Tivo’s back yard. 15+ years since my last drink and I don’t even have a driver’s license or a car. It’s easy to look at my financial status and derive my worth as a human being from that. At least it is for me.
To make it easier, I’m not a spiritual guru. I suppose if I shaved my head, wore an orange robe and walked around begging for rice it would be easier to see me — my path — as something approaching spirituality. But that’s not me. That’s not what I am. I’m not seeking enlightenment. I’m just really poor. It’s easy for me to feel like a failure. It’s been a long time since my last drink, but it hasn’t been that long since I’ve told myself I was a worthless piece of shit.
A.A. has cute little sayings like “If you want what we have…” and “You have to give it away to keep it…“. Shit… Even *I* didn’t want what I had. And I couldn’t give it away, no one else wanted it, either! They were trying to get rid of what I was trying to give away!
But I need to remember there was a time I could not go one damn day without one damn drink. I need to remember that there was a time I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling disgust. I could not live in my own skin.
That was in fact why I could not stop drinking: because *I* could not stop drinking. The “me who was” would never be able to stop drinking. He had to drink just to live with himself. But I could “not drink for one day” and hear about how other people had changed the “them who was” into someone else; someone who didn’t need to drink. I did that every day, and little by little I became someone who didn’t hate himself. Then into someone who didn’t mind being me. Finally, I became “Jim: a pretty good guy“.
I think that’s what the steps did for me. They allowed me to become someone new. Someone I could be proud of.
Also, when they got to the part in How it Works where they say: “There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders…” I used to raise my hand. Partly so the women couldn’t say I never warned them, but mostly because I’m a fucked up puppy and I need to own that. I’ve got anger issues and abandonment issues and unresolved mother issues and father issues and God issues… Left to my own devices I’m a crack head and a sex addict – probably even addicted to Facebook – I’ve even been known to eat carbs after 8:00 P.M.. I’m a mess!
But if you find an alcoholic who claims his only problem is that he drinks too much, you RUN! He’ll probably lie to you again. You can’t become an alcoholic – and cause the kind of chaos in the lives of every single person who loves you — without having a bucket full of mental problems. Selfishness, self-centeredness, self-will run riot: these are just the tip of the iceberg for most of us in the rooms.
I remember when I found out Real Ron and I were dating the same woman. I’d known both of them for 10 years – and thought the world of both of them — and there I was hoping that they traded venereal diseases or got into a car wreck on the way to pick up condoms…
I called my sponsor crying: “I’m such an horrible person! How could I wish harm on two people who are just trying to find happiness?”
He told me: “That’s great news! Glad to hear it!”
I said: “You don’t get it! I made a list of all the qualities I want to have – even think I have – but my thoughts and actions don’t reflect that person at all! I’m a real asshole!”
“Yes,” he said. “and that shows how much progress you’ve made. Crazy people never question their own behaviour.”
So when I used to say I had “shitty sobriety”, I don’t think I get to do that. I don’t think I get to disparage my — or anyone else’s — sobriety. I can’t look at these miracles and say: “Well, that guy over there won a million dollars in the lottery, so that’s a ‘Great Big Kick-Ass Miracle‘, but I’ve been sober for a decade and a half — under some pretty difficult circumstances — but that’s just a ‘Shitty Little Miracle‘.” I don’t think I get to do that.
In fact, what kind of ungrateful fuck would even try? I need to remember that not having to drink — even when bad things happen (for long periods of time) — is a ‘Great Big Kick-Ass Miracle’! Being the kind of man I can be proud of is just icing on the cake.
There’s so much that I like about myself today. I like my hair. I wish I had more of it – and that it wasn’t so grey – but I’ve got a lot more than most people my age. I like my face. The scar tissue under my eyes and my nose – broken over a dozen times – are proof that I have completely fucked up a lot of people’s knuckles, but it’s a face I’ve grown to love. I’ve got a few extra pounds – that I’m in the process of losing, again! — but this body’s holding up damn well considering everything I’ve put it through. I like my sense of humor. I often make jokes at my own expense, but I never use it to make other people feel bad about themselves, or look silly or inconsequential to others. I like my mind. Sometimes it can be my worst critic, but it’s allowed me to create a man of high moral fiber — who can be a good friend – and I can assure you I didn’t have much to work with when I began that project.
I don’t have a wife today — or even a girlfriend — but I am a good man worthy of a good woman. If you don’t believe me, you can ask my ex-wife and ex-girlfriend. They’ll both sing my praises. Some of my children are mad at me, but I’m a good Father. In fact, one of them is mad at me because I’m a good Father, imparted my advice without judgement and set personal boundaries with her.
So to all those who have heard me say “I have shitty sobriety“, I would like to apologize.
To all those who have a hard life, I would like to say that if you tried really hard today, whether you won the battle or not — even if you feel pretty beat up — there’s something about you that I love. I love your courage and your conviction. I love that you stood up for yourself or someone else. You woke up this morning, faced a mountain of hardship and did not despair. You told yourself: “I will make what progress I can today” and you moved forward. I am proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself. You’re a Miracle, and there are no “Shitty Miracles”.