Admitting What We Are.
I went to a very powerful meeting on Sunday. One difference I’ve noticed between meetings in ECC and in St. Louis is that the meetings here are much less frequently speaker meetings. Back in St. Louis, most of my regular meetings involved one person speaking for 10-20 minutes, and then discussion of the talk or whatever else was relevant to our sobriety that day. Here, the meeting chair (still a rotating position), introduces a topic, or we read from some literature, and then discuss it, or whatever else is relevant to our sobriety that day. It’s not a big difference, but speaker meetings let me get to know people a little faster, and in greater depth, I think. At least, if the speaker is a regular at the meeting.
My Sunday meeting is a topic/discussion meeting except for the last week of the month, when it’s a speaker meeting. So, yesterday, I heard a talk. The speaker was an older black man, in his 70s and perhaps just beginning to loosen his grip on presence and awareness. His talk was a bit disjointed, and jumped around in time. But it wasn’t hard to follow. In fact, it was riveting. Because of the gruesome honesty it contained, and the pain he still feels about what he spoke about.
The man was a batterer. He talked about having been abused, horrifically, as a child, beaten by a parade of step-fathers. He alluded to other abuses very obliquely. And how he grew up with no concept of where to put his rage. And so, when he was an adult, and women didn’t behave the way he’d like them to behave, he lashed out. Even, and this was the hardest part for me to hear, in sobriety. Even into his beginning years as a sober man, he continued to beat his succession wives.
Eventually, he went to a program for batterers, and stayed there for two years. He talked about learning to control his anger, not to lash out.
I don’t know where to put these kinds of talks. One woman in the meeting said: “Your talk was hard to listen to. But let’s face it, this isn’t called We Made Great Decisions Anonymous.” Everyone laughed. But it isn’t funny, of course. I go, a couple of times a week, and sit in rooms full of killers and thieves, reprobates and villains. And I belong among them.
I have no standing to judge anyone. Everything that another drunk did, I might yet do if I return to alcohol. I am vodka’s marionette. We recover, slowly, emerging from pits of slime and degradation, by admitting what we are, and confronting what we do. Honesty is the first step towards change. We tell our stories so that we can recover, and so that we can carry the message to others, that recovery is possible. It is a work of progress. There remain things I have not addressed. Things I cannot confront head on yet.
But I’m making progress. Step by step. Pain by shame. I stand upright in the wan light and do not blink. But I’m not yet ready for the whole full light of day.