At an AA meeting, you hear people tell their stories. These are often stories of great dereliction culminating in hope and gratitude. In group and individual sessions, patients talk about their hopes, dreams, and fears. Why is telling “The Story” so important?
“The poets say that this world is not made of atoms; it is made of stories … Sometimes in a world that is changing so rapidly the only security is in finding the elements of one’s own story and understanding the world through the story that brought each one of us here.”
Storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade on the meaning of stories in our lives.
On Saturday, September 16, 2000, I crawled through the doors of 501 Detox. I had no idea that my life was about to drastically change. I was sick, tired and afraid. A counsellor told me that if I did not go to treatment directly from detox, I would die. I knew he was right and so I entered Renascent’s 21-day residential program at the Graham Munro Centre. I have been volunteering at detox centres since I was three months sober and it’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
If you have been clean and sober for a period of time and it is all getting to be boring, then before you become complacent or get “restless, irritable and discontented,” I suggest you find the time to work with newcomers who come to your group, visit hospitals and treatment centres and offer to carry the message of recovery to the suffering alcoholic/addict. Even if they have not reached out for help, yet!
Service keeps me mindful of the grave nature of alcoholism. I am reminded of the true malady, which is excessive self-centredness, and which often streams through many forms of self-seeking and selfishness. When I am committed to the process and working with another or giving back, I seem to have a reprieve from this terrible malady. Over these past few years, I have grown to surrender to this idea more and more.
Treatment is only the first step in achieving and maintaining sobriety, and bridging the gap between leaving treatment and entering the recovery community can be extremely difficult. Contacts serve as that bridge in many ways. Having a Contact who reaches out and actively supports a graduate can smooth the transition out of Renascent and make it far less frightening a prospect.
“I used to have only two speeds,” she said to us. “One-hundred-sixty-klics-per-hour speed or dead-stop-paralysis speed.” It was the first time I heard this woman speak at a 12-Step meeting but it was as if she reached into my soul and found me. I identified.
The people who crumble between the second and third years seem to fail because they reach their goals. The real tragedy is, they simply didn’t understand that their “me and my family” goals were just not big enough goals. They got what they wanted, and something inside was still empty and craving, because “me and mine” is not enough to make a whole, happy human being.
It’s a blessing to be able to come together as a community of like-minded souls. We’re choosing to engage in our community so that we can remember who we are and who we are to each other, and serve not from hierarchy or separation but from love and compassion and the understanding that we are one.