Pen and Paper

IMG_5783I purchased this beautiful journal for myself after Christmas.  Before Christmas I had purchased myself a lavender leather journal, and thought it was so pretty I gave it to my daughter.

Last night I sat down with a pen and this journal and did a lot of writing.  I guess you could call it an inventory of sorts.  Plans, dreams, present state, problems looming on the horizon, fears that seem to have taken over, and mostly regrets about so many decisions I have made in my life.  A delayed existential crisis, a dark night of the soul, a profound sadness – none of these to be confused with depression.

Although I am glad I got sober and got sober when I did, I profoundly regret the way I embraced popular AA culture without question.  I won’t call it “the program,” because it isn’t.  The program is sound.  The way we interpret it is a bit sick.

I went to meetings every single day, sometimes more than one, when I had children at home who needed me.  When I was at home, I was constantly on the phone with women I sponsored, my ego let me say “yes” to everyone who asked (whenever, wherever….), and there were far too many.  My kids designed Forms – yes, forms with multiple choice boxes to check – so that they could ask me questions while I was “helping” others on the phone.   I spent precious money on down and out drunks instead of spending it on shoes for my children, or food for our table.  I took responsibility for everything, which is a bit narcissistic, and didn’t even acknowledge my pain or hurt – I really didn’t even know I had it.  I am now facing it popping up all over the place.  I could rationalize all of this in the name of recovery from alcoholism.  Now I see it as a way I took a good thing WAY too far.

I feel that I spent the first 20 years of my sobriety this way.  In the last 8 or so years, I have had inklings of how very wrong I was.  I have tried to change my ways, but I no longer have children at home who need me.  I have adult children who were neglected by their mother.  That is a terrible feeling.  I don’t get to have a “do over.”

So now I am in a different place.  Very grateful to be sober, but very regretful of the stupid way I misinterpreted the program to the detriment of my life and the lives of those I love.  I have a deeper faith, but one that makes demands upon me.  I don’t just get to believe in a blonde, blue-eyed Jesus who loves me just the way I am and forgives everything I do.  I have a God who will forgive me when I repent.  Not when I justify my wrong-doings in the belief that I don’t have to do anything.  I was shocked to learn about this God when I formally studied the Bible for four years.  Or as an AA speaker I heard long ago named Father Hillary said:  “God created man in his image, unfortunately, man returned the favor.”

I abandoned my old blog because I came to feel like a phony.  I started it when I was still in the dogma mode.  I was all about AA.  In the years intervening I came to question many of the things I believed.  Maybe some of that was due to coming to know a few of you and realizing that we can’t just put down a set of “rules” that will work for everyone, because that doesn’t work.  And when we act so hard-assed, we drive people away, which means we are pushing them off the fatal cliff of alcoholism.

And for those of you who may be concerned about me (and those of you who just like to drop in here and tell me how I should be sober), yes, I still go to meetings.  Yes, I still have a sponsor.  Yes, I still sponsor women (and I make sure to tell them not to neglect their families).  I still do the basics, like “ask Him in the morning, and thank Him at night.”  I am no longer part of the service structure because I actually care about the traditions, and they talk about the principle of rotation.  And the rest of the organization would be in much better shape if the “bleeding deacons” would get out of the way and let new people experience what they have.

This is not where I intended to go with this post, but here it is.  All of this is part of what I wrote in my little journal, with a pen, last night.

The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.  — Ecclesiastes 12:13


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12 Responses to Pen and Paper

  1. atomicmomma says:

    I appreciate your wisdom here, especially as a homeschool mom who climbs the walls someday and wants more time to do her stuff. You gracefully remind me our little boy won’t be 8 years old forever. Thank you for sharing your hard earned wisdom. It is easy to look back with all the facts though and beat yourself up. You did what you had to do at the time. I do appreciate your brutal honesty here.

    Do you ever read Ann Lamott? She wrote about a great quote from her pastor that has stayed with me: “You know you’ve made God in your own image when he hates all the same people you do.” I really ponder that. I also find it interesting when I share it with other “Christian” friends their response to this quote: some go wow, some go silent, others kind of get mad at me.

    I don’t write a blog but follow you, Syd, Mr Sponsorpants and so many other blogs. I wonder if it is time for me to write a bit for all of you since I know you guys get burnout and need a blog yourself to check into.

    Hope you have a great day.

    • I have heard that quote about God hating the same people as you. I think it is a good reality check. Thanks for the kind words, and I would love to read your blog. Be sure to let me know if you start one! I think you would enjoy it.

  2. Kelly says:

    Oh my –where to start. You probably already know I am also a middle aged Mom with many regrets. We are only able to even have these regrets because we now see what we didn’t then. We were in very different places then. For myself, and from what I have read, perhaps you also–it was a place of ignorance, yes, but also brokenness.
    It is honesty to feel the pain now, but God does not want you to live there! That would be to deny all He has done in and for you. You would not be any good to yourself or your family. We are examples of the love and grace of God who allowed that past suffering and also redeemed us, is healing us and our families, and wants us to live in His joy, freedom and grace. Allow THAT person to live before all you meet. He brought us out of our darkness for a purpose! Not only for our own good, but also for His greater purpose.
    I stand in solidarity with you in your pain. We don;t want to forget it, because it grounds us and keeps us humble. Feel it, offer it, but don’t wallow.
    My thoughts, prayers and hugs for you today.
    The joy of the Lord is our strength.

    • You are so right Kelly. Thank you for that reminder.

      The other thing that I should remind myself of is this: When asked, all three of my children will say that I was (and still am) a great mother. They accept my failings better than I do! Thank God.

  3. Hope says:

    That is a a beautiful journal. Love the colour and the design.

    Your honest reflection is a gift for me. Thank you. I wish it wasn’t so. I know you understand what I mean by that. One mother identifying with another in that place where we hold our children close forever.
    I sat with a friend the other day as she spoke about her anguish after an adult child blasting her for his childhood. We talked about how we can’t give our children a better past but would if we could. And because we can’t there will always be that tension between that and the now. When you first wrote about the way it was when you sobered up and the time lost with your children it gave me permission to look honestly at the things that haunt me about the way I raised my kids, the stuff that I thought because I still was haunted, meant I wasn’t living a very good program. It helped me be gentle with myself while being brutally honest. God bless you.

    • I have had long conversations with my sponsor about this very thing. We are not supposed to regret the past or wish to shut the door on it. However, I think of that as my drinking – not my sobriety. I can’t call my whole life “my past,” and then just forget it every day.

      I never have been very good at being gentle with myself. That too, I thought was working a good program, the book says we should be hard on ourselves and easy on others.

      I hope to always carry the message to new people, especially women, not to neglect their families if they can avoid it.

  4. patty says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this Mary. You helped me today 🙂

  5. just a quik note about your thoughts….I’ve got 28 years sober also but the last 6 years of mine has been focused in AlAnon. What I realized after getting into that program is that AA is actually missing an aspect of the disease when they don’t focus on codependency at all. I had early on heard about it in treatment, and went to ACOA, and AlAnon but had decided to remain focused on my more pressing recovery in AA, so dropped the other groups. Like you, the unaddressed issues came back to bite me later. It’s not your fault, or AA’s fault. Some (a lot of) people need the single-minded determination to keep themselves sober that AA provides.

    • I think probably a lot of long-term sobriety people move away from AA when they discover more help in other places. I have always felt that if I only have so much time in a week, I want to spend that time in AA. Now I am branching out a bit – therapy, etc. But still going to meetings.

  6. Syd says:

    I feel the same way about Al-Anon–I go to a few meetings a week, but I want to have my life be balanced which means that I do those things that I enjoy outside of meeting such as being on the boat, photography, etc. I don’t have to have all I do revolve around the program. I can say decline to do something and feel okay with that. Balance in life is good and something that I learned through the 12 steps and traditions.

  7. Mary LA says:

    So much insight here Mary Christine. When I was first sober, an older man who was quite active in AA told me that AA is a bridge back to real life, not real life in itself and that helped me look elsewhere for the therapy I needed. Because I live in such a geographically isolated place I have had to rely on online AA and that is another kettle of fish when it comes to Loner mailing lists and forums. But I have made many friends and tried to understand why AA in some places is so different and how it has evolved or declined depending on different areas and cultures. AA in the UK was an eye-opener for me.

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