You may not like to admit it, but following the steps and working the AA program is a systematic way of progressing through recovery in a very meaningful and thoughtful manner. The steps ensure that you address all of the areas that alcoholism affects. The program provides an answer to all of the defenses that try to convince you that a life of drinking is a better life. By following the steps, you will soon be able to have genuine relationships, become closer to a higher power, and start understanding how you fit into the bigger picture.
As a drinker, when someone gave you the side eye, you brushed it off because it meant they just weren’t as informed as you were. When someone rolled their eyes at one of your confabulated stories, you decided they just weren’t worthy of listening to your wisdom.
One of the most obvious changes that you will notice is your anger towards others and yourself. Before starting step work, everyone was a target. You would get mad at anything and anyone who wasn’t perfect. There is nobody more perfectionistic than an alcoholic, and nobody less perfect than an alcoholic: that is why you drink. You are always an alcoholic and forever in recovery because you never have been, never are, and never will be, perfect. At the heart of it, your anger at others is really anger with yourself. You choose to turn it against others to protect your fragile, imperfect self from the raging perfectionist that you have become.
Tolerating imperfection is AA’ Step 1. If you start off by admitting that you are powerless, then you don’t have to make yourself powerful and perfect. You start to leave a little room to notice how other people react to you and you begin to authentically question if all of these narcissistic defenses are serving your ultimate good. As a drinker, when someone gave you the side eye, you brushed it off because it meant they just weren’t as informed as you were. When someone rolled their eyes at one of your confabulated stories, you decided they just weren’t worthy of listening to your wisdom. When people pushed back against your narcissistic bs, you became irritated, angry, or even enraged that people don’t treat you well and you started the classic alcoholic whine. That “poor-me” attitude is what justifies you having another drink and this is how you perpetuate the cycle of addiction.
But hold onto your pants and grab a good support system because this is going to be grueling work.
Once you are ready for Step 1, and you decide that you are going to look at your messy, imperfect, sad, enabled self- that’s when the magic starts. But hold onto your pants and grab a good support system because this is going to be grueling work. Work that makes you question everything you know and makes you wish you had never been around to know it in the first place.
Being in recovery is tough and during the first months of my sobriety, you will convinced that life was better before you became sober. The first few AA meetings that you go to, you may looked around and think “wow, these people are so messed up, their lives are falling apart, I don’t even belong here.” You may feel so superior to them. But when you get sober, all of the shitty parts of your life fly right into your face. You start to realize that your life is completely and totally unmanageable and you have lost control over every single aspect of your life.
This is fierce work that you do. It is excruciatingly painful and infinitely difficult.
Stick with recovery, keep going to meetings, find a good sponsor who will call you on your alcoholic behaviors. Take Step 1 seriously and open the door ever so slightly so that you can consider the opinions of others and take a good look at how others react to your actions and words. Take a few bricks off of the wall of defenses that you have built up around yourself. This is fierce work that you need to do. It is excruciatingly painful and infinitely difficult. But there are prizes to be won if you fight the good fight, stick to the program, and keep coming back.