by Marnie S.
Editor’s Note: Marnie’s essay is one of the gems from our TGIF vault, featured in the Many Pathways to Spirituality volume of Renascent’s Road to Recovery TGIF Anthology series. To get your own personal copies of Road to Recovery or for more information, visit renascent.ca/books.
Throughout my 20s and 30s I felt that I needed something “deeper” in my life. I couldn’t define what that was, yet there seemed to be something missing from my core. Growing up with an alcoholic parent and living with addicted partners added to the “God-sized” hole in my spirit. My low self-esteem and recurring sense of insecurity and abandonment were draining me. What could help alleviate this emptiness?
In my 40s, I was about to move to a new city to be with a man I had reconnected with after many years. He was one year sober and attended AA diligently. I figured I had finally hit the jackpot. An amazing person and he didn’t drink?! Being with a sober person was foreign to me. All my previous experiences in relationships had been with drinkers. I was up for the challenge — after all, I thought, doesn’t love conquer all?
I didn’t know anything about AA, but I had heard of Al-Anon years before when my sister had told me that she attended meetings and that our father was an alcoholic — a statement that I laughed at, but silently questioned. So I figured that I would attend a few Al-Anon meetings with the hope of being fully prepared for my new relationship. My two intentions were to find out what AA was all about and to get instructions on how to keep my partner from drinking.
At the first meeting I attended, I heard a lot about God. I was skeptical. I heard people laugh and I heard people cry. I sat very silently with my pen and paper, ready for the answers I was hoping to hear. Those specific answers didn’t come, but the shares I heard were like nothing I had heard before. Stories of struggles, triumphs and self-discovery. There was vulnerability without judgment happening all around me. I could barely say my name for fear of saying something silly. When the meeting finished, I darted quickly out of the room. I figured I wouldn’t be there long; no need to get to know anyone.
I moved to the new city a few days later and began attending more meetings, mainly because my partner was often out at AA meetings. It also gave me an excuse to figure out my way around the new city. I still sat silently in those meetings, not knowing how to articulate my thoughts and feelings, still waiting to hear how to keep him sober.
Slowly, something started to happen. I began to leave those meetings feeling pretty good. I began thinking less about my partner and his plight and more about me and my actions/reactions. I started to have the occasional “spring in my step” and I would even feel moments that I can only describe as “joy.” My soul felt as though it was beginning to defrost.
I read the literature, took service positions and attended meetings regularly. I was feeling a greater sense of connection with members and the literature, but after a few years, the little faith I had gained began to falter. I wasn’t moving any deeper into recovery. I was stuck. I started building up walls again, went to meetings less often and began to feel alone, distrustful and blaming. I had meeting recovery, but no spiritual connection. I became so hopeless about life that I considered not wanting to be in this world.
There I was, learning a new way of living through a 12-step program and I was hitting my own bottom? How could it be? The truth slowly became clear: I hadn’t worked the whole program, just bits and pieces of it. I hadn’t been willing to get a sponsor and work the Twelve Steps, two of the most important tools of the program! I hadn’t been willing to ask for help.
After weeks of pain, I mustered the courage to ask a member to be my sponsor. Slowly, I began to work the Steps with her. I still couldn’t fully grasp the parts about God but I kept trying (often with resistance and skepticism). Eventually, I got some momentum and moved through the Steps.
Sharing one-on-one with someone through the Steps brought me the priceless gift of trust. Beginning to trust someone with all my secrets and character defects allowed me to start to see that if I could have trust in her, I could have trust in a power greater than me. It was clear that she trusted a greater power, people in the rooms of AA did, why couldn’t I?
Having trust in a sponsor has helped me to shelve my will and let God and others in. The more I began practicing new behaviours and letting go of my need to control outcomes (and what my partner may or may not do), the more I would get these small zaps of awakening delivered in the forms of less worrying, more compassion and more self-esteem. I began to feel a deeper connection to a power in my life. It was sort of like the wind — I could feel it but I couldn’t see it.
Connecting and sharing what is truly going on inside with someone one-on-one has taught me about relationships and what healthy ones are. I believe that my universal spirit delivers messages through others, and being willing to listen has granted me fresh outlooks. These changes in perception are my spiritual awakenings.
I still haven’t heard the answer to my initial inquiry of “how to keep my partner from drinking.” But I no longer seek the answer to this. It’s funny how the reason I sought help in recovery was because of my partner’s sobriety and now the truth of why I stay is for my own emotional sobriety.
Today, I am more aware of the tools available for me to connect with my Higher Power, to be able to have those “aha” moments. I have choices such as getting to a meeting, praying, sharing with others or calling my sponsor. As long as I practice staying open during a crisis, I know that I am headed out of the valley and towards the peaks in life.