by Dale H. (Walker 1995)
There is a character in Saul Bellow’s “Henderson the Rain King” who is haunted for years by a voice from deep within him that says only “More … more … more …” He did everything he could to silence the voice. He drank at it, he ran from it, but it was always with him. Sometimes he’d scream out loud in desperation: “More WHAT???” The only answer was the relentless repetition, “More … more … more …”
I had the exact same voice inside of me through all of my drinking days: I never got enough. Not enough attention, not enough love, not enough understanding – not enough of anything. I always wanted more. More of what, I couldn’t have told you at the time. I didn’t even know that this was my story, because I was stuck in it – but my story it was until I found recovery.
When I finally found my way to Renascent and to AA, and stayed sober long enough for the fog to lift and to do some step work, my story – my understanding of myself, my life, my relationships and my place in the world – began to be revealed to me, ever so slowly. I was no longer the lost girl who somehow managed to “succeed” on the outside while I was dying on the inside. My self-identification as a recovering, sober alcoholic provided a new context for the events of my life.
Clancy I. has a wonderful speaker tape called “Alcoholism: The Disease of Perception” and I learned early on from him that my story of myself was just plain wrong. And when I looked at my story while doing my first 4th and 5th Steps with my sponsor, I had one of those “aha” moments: I saw with startling clarity how my misperceptions had affected my thoughts, feelings, behaviours, actions and relationships. For the first time in my life, I began to see myself as I really was and how I could be who I am amongst all of you.
“More shall be revealed,” they tell us in the rooms. This has certainly been my experience. Telling my story in countless AA rooms over the years has enabled me to recognize when my vision of myself has become muddled or stuck – and to develop a new clarity, a deeper awareness of where I am in my life story and where I need to take action. The facts of my back story essentially don’t change but my understanding of them does. My story has changed, shifted, expanded in the fertile ground of recovery. Telling my story to you – and hearing yours – continues to be my way of making sense of my past and my present.
I do have to be careful when I share my story from the podium. I can still have a need for you all to like me. I also have to remind myself before I speak at that I am not performing or entertaining. What I’m doing is keeping myself sober and perhaps – perhaps – helping another alcoholic/addict stay clean and sober. I need to remember that the reason why Bill Wilson first went to share his story with Dr. Bob was not to sober up Dr. Bob, but to keep himself sober. I always hope that something I say might help someone else in the room, but I do know that at least one person – me – is definitely staying sober because I’m up at that podium.
The most precious gift of recovery is that I get to hear your story. This gives me a great sense of belonging and kinship; of understanding and being understood; of being “part of” rather than “apart from”; of our common humanity. I recognize myself in you. I feel connected to you on a soul level. This feeds my Spirit and gives me strength and hope. And for that I continue to be eternally grateful.