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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Washed in the Waves of Sobriety

I recently attended a 12 Step conference in Las Vegas.  I did not realize how odd that sounds until my last day there.  On the drive to the airport, sitting comfortably in the front seat of a nice Range Rover, the Uber Driver asked, with all sincerity, "Is it a good idea for you people to come to Las Vegas for a conference?". 

At first I was confused, and even a little offended.  What do you mean by "You People"?

Then it dawned on me that, to someone not afflicted with the disease of alcoholism it probably does seem strange to pick a Las Vegas hotel as a destination spot for people battling that disease.  It also underscores, to me, the 'us' and 'them' concept of the disease model used by the 12 Step program to which I belong and in which I have found my relief .

Even in the rooms it is sometimes difficult to discover people who buy into the idea that I am fundamentally different from a person who does not suffer from the disease of alcoholism.  It wasn't always that way, of course; when I arrived in the rooms back in 1990 we were still using terms like 'normies' to distinguish ourselves from those are not alcoholic.  At some point that went out of style (I suspect as a result of treatment centers intent on restoring self-esteem) but it seems to be gaining traction once more.  I am glad.  Personally, it was a relief to discover that one of the reasons I could not hold to my resolve to 'drink like a lady' no matter how hard I tried is because I have an abnormal reaction to alcohol. I did not find that offensive and I did not think that referring to my mother as a 'normie' means I think she is better than me.  I do think she is better than me, but that's because she is my mother and I think she is amazing, but that's another blog post.

Once I was able to be relived of the burden of immorality under which I had labored when it came to my ridiculous drinking, I was able to focus on what I needed to do to not drink.  I could address those defects of character that get me in trouble; oversensitivity, selfishness, self-centeredness and actions fueled and motivated by fear.  I could look at my tendency to be lazy and overbearing, to want to be thought well of without having to put out much effort and my reluctance to ever admit I might be wrong as pitfalls rather than permanent states.  I could address my problems by asking for help from God and taking appropriate action.  I found that, when I concentrate on that relationship with God my obsession with drinking was lifted.

I also re-discovered my Catholic Faith.  Nothing I had been taught as a child was incompatible with the principles being offered to me through the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of my program.  In fact, being a Catholic made those principles make a lot more sense to me.  Grace abounds in a Sacramental and Liturgical Life.  Grace is what keeps me sober. 

I can attend meetings three times a week not as a way to GET but as a way to help someone suffering from the same affliction I have right now.   I can be in service, sponsor, speak from the podium, set up chairs and make gallons of coffee not just as a member of the program but as a Catholic practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  When I shake the hand of a newcomer, I am doing so in persona christi even though they just see an old lady with a big smile.

Many people find their way back to their religion and no longer see a reason to sit in the rooms.  I don't mind that anymore because I suspect there is a good chance they don't have what I have - a seemingly hopeless case of mind and body.  In fact there is a really good chance that what got them to the rooms in the first place was a lot of hard drinking rather than actual alcoholism.  Once they reconnect to God and feel safe they don't need the program like I need the program.  They can drop in once in awhile, sit in a meeting, take what they want and leave the rest.

However, if you are like me, you need something extra.  If you are like me, you need to connect with another one like me.  You need to sit in the rooms, work with another one like yourself, listen to someone with the same disease and laugh at the tragedy that was your life.  You need to cry at the good news you experience today.  You need to be able to nod your head when a speaker shares what it was like, what happened and what it's like now.

And if the place you do that is in a hotel in Las Vegas, you go there.  You go there with confidence because you know you are going to be surrounded by like-minded and similarly afflicted people.  You will leave the conference to go to Mass with another member who also wants the Grace offered only through the Sacramental and Liturgical Life.  And you do all of this with a smile.

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