“Guys, I’m eating junk and watching rubbish! You better come out and stop me!” — Kevin from Home Alone.
My dad, rest his soul, called the television “the idiot box” – in inference to the watcher, not the actual programming. As I have aged, I have come to appreciate his perspective as I find myself sometimes lost in what looks like reality, but it's so far from the circumstances that are my real life. For example, I have yet to stumble upon a program depicting an individual sitting isolated and in silence for an hour - lost in depression, fear, and anxiety—the program where no words are spoken, but the pain is visually conveyed. You can't sell advertising for that shit.
This post was crafted to draw the line of similarity between the unreality of TV programming and Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization. There is a thought in our heads, and we wish to convey a message of hope with the following observations:
We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.” -- Orson Welles
We love this quote. This is the reality of life. Most of our existence is spent alone, often even when we are in the company of others. This is our story and our experience. We process our reality through a lens that considers our unique personality, personal history, and belief system.
“They,” say that we are social beings; we guess we must agree with this assessment; however, we would argue that by default, we prefer isolation. Interacting with ourselves can be tricky but interacting with others has stressful challenges.
The world did not need a pandemic to prove that isolation can be dangerous. According to one web reference: “Emerging studies during the COVID-19 lockdown suggest that social distancing has had considerable psychological and behavioral consequences. These include elevated levels of anxiety and depression, deterioration of mental health, changes in diet, and increased suicidal ideation, in addition to less physical activity and higher levels of experienced loneliness.”
Damn, that pretty much describes my existence pre-pandemic.
This is where things get dicey as research suggests that socialization is the best alternative lifestyle, but we are left with dealing with fallible human beings. In short, society will let us down if our expectations are not set appropriately.
Add our desire to remain sober, and things can get unbalanced.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. – AA Preamble
Let us look at the words: “AA is a fellowship of people.” People are not perfect—people judge. People succeed, and people fail. People support, and people betray. People are not perfect.
To be clear, these people referenced are not professional counselors. They are not crisis experts. They're not relationship psychotherapists. Nor are they financial specialists. They congregate to share their experience, strength and hope with each other. They gather to help others, but sobriety is presumably their number one priority. Remember that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Experiencing a meeting should be likened to taking in a documentary on the idiot box, where we should gather knowledge applicable to our recovery journey. And we contribute (think interactive TV) to help the next struggling alcoholic.
The bottom line is that if you are looking for a sanctuary in the rooms of AA, tread carefully and be prepared to be the change - to be the hope.
The secret sauce - How to make this thing work: (Ingredients)
What follows is what we have found to be the three essential elements to making AA work for us.
1. Accountability through a real relationship(s)
A real relationship is defined as a relationship that is built on 100% honesty and transparency. For us, this went against the grain of our self-sufficiency and self-reliance. We were to live this life solo with the least amount of accountability possible.
It is important to reiterate that these relationships will not be perfect, as humans are imperfect. Expect to be disappointed. Expect to be let down. But you can also expect to be lifted. And you can expect a high level of reliability if the relationship is built on honesty.
To be clear, this does not have to be someone within the walls of AA. It just needs to be someone. It could be a friend, or it could be a family member. It just needs to be somebody who can see through your bullshit. It has to be somebody who cares for you and supports your sobriety. It could be somebody that you meet with face to face regularly, or it could be somebody that you connect with online.
Genuine connection is the goal here. The only requirement is a shared commitment to each other's mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Like anything else worth anything valued, genuine work and honesty are required from both parties.
As we say, people need help reading the label on their own jars. It takes an outsider’s vantage to see the detail within the container.
Find a reader!
2. Understanding and self-love
12-step recovery is not a one-and-done proposition - It is an ongoing lifestyle. You can find fulfillment in the direction spelled out within the book titled Alcoholics Anonymous or find it in a plethora of other books available on self-understanding and awareness.
The goal is to get connected with yourself and achieve a level of self-understanding and self-love.
Once acceptance of self is accomplished, the healing process accelerates.
Learning to love ourselves it's not as easy as it sounds, as childhood trauma, complex relationships, or other painful experiences sometimes seem emotionally insurmountable.
Navigating the process of healing could absolutely require the assistance of professional help. We blew through the stigma of asking for help, faced our fears honestly, and found excellent guidance and comfort in specialized counseling.
Consider the call today!
3. We need never be alone
Here comes that Higher Power thing. This is our story, and we must share what has worked for us. We are not here to pitch our version of a higher power to you. We are not here to convert you to follow any particular deity. We are simply suggesting that when we embrace a concept of a creator of all that cares about our existence that we will never again have a feeling of loneliness.
There could be little downside to establishing a real relationship with a loving, caring, forgiving, gracious Higher Power. One who loves unconditionally. One who is always there to listen and always with us during tough times.
Take the "leap of faith"!
Whether you take the advice laid out above or continue on your sobriety journey as you have been, we love you for who you are as we understand where you came from, how you got to where you are today, and most importantly, we are excited to share what has worked for us. With the help of a real soul mate and a Higher Power that you call friend, we hope you find authentic success and serenity in this made-for-tv world we live in.
“This is it. Don’t get scared now.” — Kevin from Home Alone
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a conversation with Rachel R.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own