I think there is a misconception about the nature of ‘anonymous’ in 12-Step programs. The way I was taught was that I am welcome to share my recovery with anyone I choose and I can be as open about it as I want. It is just not okay for me to disclose other people that are in recovery and in the program or to talk about the things we share privately inside the rooms of meetings. If I run into you in a meeting, obviously, I will not tell everyone I saw you there. It is your anonymity and your choice to make how open you want to be with that information.
For me, when I got sober I was so proud to be a part of this organization. For the first time in my life I felt like I found my spot where I fit in. Everyday I sat in a meeting and I listened to every word from every person. And every day I had one of those light bulb moments. I spent my whole life feeling as though I was broken, and I felt certain I was not fixable.
I knew that every problem I had was because of my drinking but I couldn’t stop. It was like having a first row seat out-of-body experience watching my self destruction and demise. And all I wanted was to die because I was trapped, and broken, and not fixable.
I did not enter sobriety easily and I did not give up drinking without a fight. My alcoholism worked overtime to beat me into submission until I finally understood that drinking was not an option any longer. Alcohol tried to kill me and, unfortunately, I almost killed someone else. That was the moment, bloody, scared, and desperate, that I knew I had to stop. I didn’t mind hurting myself, but I never dreamed I could hurt someone else and that was the end for me.
I work with a lot of people who love to tell me the 25 reasons they don’t like AA and don’t want to go. And I will listen intently because I understand where they are coming from and I know it is not an easy thing to do, and it feels weird, and it is uncomfortable, and none of us wants to do it. But here’s the truth– when I wanted to heal, not just get sober but get BETTER, I knew I had to take serious action. This was no time for half-assing things and making excuses and being an all-around sissy. I had to shut my mouth, stop worrying about what other people were doing or thinking or saying, and I had to focus on feeling better. And that’s what I did.
I will never tell you that I love every piece of Alcoholics Anonymous and there were a few AA ‘rules’ that I had to twist around a little bit to make them work for me. I will always tell you, and anyone who asks, that AA is by far one of the greatest blessings of my life. And I am so grateful I had the ability to walk in the room, sit down, and just listen. I didn’t have my list of 25 reasons I don’t want to go to AA, I just knew it was where I needed to be and I was happy to have a solution.
Listening and soaking in all the incredible wisdom and experience in those rooms is what allowed me the opportunity to grow up. This is where I learned the importance of being present, showing up, being committed, and at some point I started to like myself again. I learned to listen instead of talk, I learned to wait instead of freak out at every situation and lose my temper or my mind, I learned to be considerate of other people after 33 years of only considering myself, my wants, and my needs. I learned that one of the most incredible gifts in life is to be available to another person that needs support and I learned how to become teachable. We alcoholics like to think we know everything and we don’t need any help, and don’t tell me how to do this or that, I got this… and finally, I learned to shut up and let people with more knowledge and strength show me the way. Being teachable and willing to learn from others is one of my favorite things I got with my sobriety.
So, I guess I have always been a little challenged when it comes to being ‘out’ about my recovery. It is truly one of the best things that has happened in my life and it has allowed me to grow into a person I never thought was possible. From the early days of my sobriety I always knew that this would also be my work. Obviously, I am not very good at hiding it, lol. I knew that all I wanted to do was help other people get some of the gifts I got from getting sober. I want that experience to be amazing for everyone, I want everyone to feel the joy I feel when I get to say I am a member of AA. I was put on this earth to help people, and I didn’t know that until I helped myself.
It turns out, I was fixable.