“We shall get rid of that terrible sense of isolation we have always had. Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness.Even before our drinking got bad and people had cut us off, nearly all of us suffered the feeling that we don’t quite belong.Either we were shy and dared not draw near others, or we were apt to be noisy good fellows craving attention and companionship but never really getting it-at least to our way of thinking” The Twelve Steps and Traditions (57).
I am well aware that AA is not for everyone, and I completely respect that. However, as I celebrate my fifth month of sobriety today, I cannot help but be drawn to the Fifth Step in AA. The above is an excerpt of what can happen when we purge ourselves of our fears, resentments, and disappointments. For many alcoholics in recovery, the thought of opening up to another person and spilling our guts is maddening. Many people avoid the Fourth and Fifth Steps for months for this reason. My struggle was not so much with the disclosure- my God, I am an open book and those who were around me when I drank know more about me than I do! No, my struggle came in the idea that so much that has happened is my fault. I deserved to feel bad. I brought all of the negativity into my life. I was responsible for any misery that came my way. For all intents and purposes, I was alone. No one had ever felt like I did. How could they possibly understand the feelings of isolation I had?
Having to rehash my shit to another human being without the safe confines of a confessional box seemed daunting. It would be utterly necessary to connect with another human being, in a sober state. VULNERABLE. I do not like not feeling in control, but we all know, when I tried to control my own life, I made a shambles of it. Time for this girl to do something different. I would have to take a good hard look at myself- SOBER- admit the garbage, own the garbage, let it settle a bit, and then throw the garbage out. Permanently.
When I was drinking, I could be in a bar full of people- noise, laughter, sports blaring in the background, juke box humming away and feel like I was the only one in the room. I could not connect with others. So I drank more. With each gulp (I never sipped), the toxins would eat away at me and I would fool myself into thinking the reason I couldn’t talk to other people is that I wasn’t interesting. Who would want to be bothered with my stories? I wasn’t worth it. So I would melt into my bar stool and act as if I were totally engrossed in whatever was on the bar tv. Occasionally, some brave soul would enage me in conversation. I would either respond with sarcasm, humor directed at myself as a put down, or conversation about other people- and never in a nice way. The isolation I felt inside was stifling. I kept chasing the notion that if I drank more, I would become interesting, intelligent, a guru of verbal magnitude. It never happened thus continuing the cycle. The only sure bet was a hangover, further remorse, additional notches on my “Wall of Shame” and a deepening sense of disconnectedness and isolation.
When I began my Fifth Step with my sponsor, she told me under no circumstances to hold back. “Get it all out! If I haven’t heard of what you’ve done before, I know someone who has. This step is to cleanse and to restore balance.” I immediately felt a sense of community. What? Other people have done what I have done??? I am NOT alone?? So I trudged through and after four hours, I was exhausted, but I felt clean. I felt connected. To what I still am not sure. But the deep-rooted feeling of being by myself in this big ole world was lifted. I have a purpose. I have a right to be here on earth. I have a voice. My attitude is completely different. I have a coworker who does not know I am in recovery. She on an almost daily basis will step back and look at me and say, “I don’t know what you are doing, but you are completely different. You are so professional, calm and serene.” Why, yes I am. Thank you.
The best gift I can give to this world is to give the best of myself. I used to think giving would destroy me. But that was when I didn’t know who I was. I felt I had nothing TO give. Today, at five months sober, I know better. I do have worth. I do have value.I do have a voice worth hearing. I can accept my mistakes and know that although flawed, I am not alone. Making peace with my Higher Power and me were the best gifts I could give not only to me but also to my family, friends, coworkers, and community.
Today, I no longer feel alone even when I am alone. I have myself back, and to be honest, I like her.