Leaning on the Program.
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is rooted in earlier concepts used by the Oxford Groups, and before them the Masons. And I’m sure that the basic concepts – honesty, self-investigation, personal responsibility – are as old as humanity. The process of getting sober is about recognizing why we drink, what it does for us, and how we need to repair the imbalances it’s created in our lives. Staying sober is about being honest, humble, contrite, and hardworking.
But in more modern times, there’s a lot of analysis of the program that places it into the “cognitive behavioral” school of psychotherapy. It was one of the earliest organizations of “group therapy”. Though, one without a leader or trained facilitator. Functionally, recovering alcoholics look at our feelings, how they influence our behavior, and deploy strategies for calming or quelling the fears and anxieties before the result in disruptive, destructive behaviors.
And that process isn’t just for alcoholism. When there are shocks to my systems, disturbances, turbulence, I can rely on the tools I learned in the program to quench the fires before they rage our of control. And that’s what I’m doing now.
In sobriety, I have dealt with divorce, with deaths of family members, with career uncertainty, with changing jobs and cities, with personal injuries. With the suicides of several friends in the program. I’ve also coped with triumph and joy and excitement, which is often as dangerous to alcoholics as the miserable shit we go through. In the past week I’ve been by turns horrified and terrified, slightly relieved, only to be horrified again.
I’ve reached out for mental health counseling. And that’s a good thing. but I also need to remember that I have tools I’ve spent years cultivating. I know how to sit with my feelings, process them, let them wash through me and then move forward through them again. I am no good to anyone if I am not able to take care of myself. Some people feed and thrive on dedicating themselves to conflict. That’s fine if it’s what drives you. I used to do that. But I cannot any more.
My need is to be calm and peaceful, so that I can then dedicate myself to advocating for what I believe from a place of serenity and wholeness.