There is a strange and rather unhelpful pattern to my sobriety journey. The better I’m doing and the more confident I become as a soberista, the more likely I am to stop doing all the things that I need to do to avoid drinking.
It inevitably starts with thoughts like: “I’ll miss Thursday’s meeting because I have XXX that I want to do.” and quickly progresses to “I don’t need to do all this reading, it doesn’t actually help – I’m just doing it because someone else thinks I should”. Here is where things are starting to get really dangerous, my alcoholic mind knows best!
The next step is to start to resent AA and all the time I’m wasting going to meetings. I miss more of them and start thinking about changing my home group because it’s not “doing it for me” (but in actual fact in order to become anonymous and get away with not doing what I need to). Of course my alcoholic mind thinks that all the people in my home group are constantly thinking about me and what I should be doing to stay sober!
Now that I’ve dropped all the readings, stopped thinking about resentments (other than creating new ones) and gratitude lists or going to meetings, my alcoholic mind has decided that a great injustice has been done to me by these terribly sad individuals who, like sheep, are following all these steps and reading all these passages without any thought or free thinking. I start thinking about how I would keep people sober differently (there is of course no substance to this for two reasons: 1. I have no idea about how to keep myself sober, let alone anyone else. 2. My alcoholic brain isn’t actually interested in anyone else, and certainly doesn’t care about my sobriety!).
As these thoughts are rushing in, my mood is on the floor. I’m irritable and restless and, guess what, I’m thinking about drinking!
The thing is with AA is that it’s a simple programme. Do the suggested things and you’re more than likely going to be able to stay sober. However, my alcoholic mind likes nothing more than complicating the simple things in life, and AA is just asking for it!
As I was contemplating how my mind makes even the simplest task complicated, it reminded me of the tea and coffee job at AA meetings. This was my first service in AA – chosen for me by my sponsor “to get to know people”, although my alcoholic mind told me “Ah, so he thinks I need humbling does he? Giving me a lowly job is he?”.
Well, I decided that I would make some serious improvements to the tea and coffee station. First of all we needed better biscuits; I sourced the finest biscuits and only opened a packet at a time so that they were fresh at the beginning of each meeting. Then I decided that we needed to improve our range of teas, some herbal tea, good quality because that stuff matters. I made sure that every tea spoon was cleaned after use and put back in a little holder ready for the next user, cup rings were wiped up immediately and good order was kept throughout. My tea and coffee would be the best AA had ever seen!
Then something extraordinary happened, some people wanted to make their own drink because they were ‘very particular’ about how it should be, others complained that the tea was too strong, others still that it was too weak! Some people wanted cake, not biscuits, some wanted full-fat milk instead of half-fat and the list went on. “It’s just a drink” my mind was shouting, and then it hit home; it’s easy to overcomplicate even the simplest things in life. Since giving up the tea and coffee job I have noticed that each person that comes along will do it slightly differently, they make it more complicated than it needs to be, perhaps, but essentially it brings into clear focus the difference between what we need and what we want.
AA offers me what I need and it’s up to me to accept it or not, but as soon as I start changing it to suit me, the less able I am to reap its benefits.
“Keep it simple, stupid”
It was a straight-talking friend who made me call my sponsor and get to a meeting during my latest blip, but I cannot afford to keep pushing the limits of this programme. Like it or not, I need to do the suggested things to stay sober, one-day-at-a-time.
Contributed by @SobrietyMatt