image credit.. james porto
i went to an al-anon meeting with a friend last night for the 1st time in a coupla years. of course, they focus on the 12 steps around trying to "fix" or "take care" or "manage" their own lives and the lives of the loved ones who are entrenched in addiction.
it was a larger meeting with over 25 people sharing their experiences, strengths, and hope around their own insanity. and again i found these people telling my story. growing up around a family of self-medicating bi-polars taught me to look beyond my own intuition and consider keeping secrets, silencing angers, and troubleshooting potential eruptions.
so many of my family members used alcohol heavily. my mother seemed to be caught on a teeter-totter of self- destruction and secret sadness. i had an uncle that drank so heavily that he got into vehicular accidents more than once, including one that left many in our family with a belief in miracles. my grandfather had kept a bottle of whiskey hidden in the garage his whole life because he managed better with whiskey in him regularly. and my grandmother was always trotting down to the local bar to drag his ass home before she hit the sack.
these are simply the building blocks of my own brand of insanity. i was a survivor of sexual abuse at a very young age and became what could be perceived as a predator. being fatherless had created a void where this sexual interest by males seemed something to covet- and covet i did. and the more men i snared, the more validation i got and with that came a warped sense of power. so it didn't matter that these guys didn't respect me, or betrayed me, laughed about me, told stories about me- or so i thought.
actually, all that public and private humiliation did take a toll. a great cost actually. i am still paying in many ways. so as i read step one aloud last night in that room- 1) we admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable, i realized that i am (and always have been) powerless over my reactions to my life and that although my life has changed over the years, my responses to these situations are instinctual and ancient.
one of the main gifts of sobriety for me is the ability and grace to recognize my instincts and refrain from indulging them. this is my understanding of the gift of desperation- that my reactions to life only cause me pain and grief and that i need to find to move beyond instinct and learn to ask for help and do things differently.