While reading the title of this post is shocking I hope, even more shocking was the experience of it in real time. May those that sponsor newcomers strongly consider the experience of a former newcomer who was severely misinformed as to what the program of Alcoholics Anonymous was. May someone out there feel like they are not alone.
Joining the fellowship of AA (local to me and my experience and not by any means the entire global fellowship) led me away from and went as far as warning me against following God’s direction. Always out of love and sharing the only experience fellowship members could – this is not the program of Alcoholics Anonymous as stated in the text documenting exactly how to recover. I did find love and acceptance, no matter what, in most rooms and would do it all over again because it was all a needed part of the journey. If you have experienced the fellowship not a sufficient substitute for your suffering, there is hope and you are in a class to really help dissolve the confusion of sobriety being the ultimate goal of 12-step recovery, as our text states – “…alcohol is but a syptom…”! You do not have to change your sobriety date to begin life with a new surrender and you also do not have to suffer from the disease of addiction to suffer from a spiritual malady. Many members mental and emotional health disorders brought them to their knees seeking recovery from their spiritual malady not just alcoholics and addicts. Our most recent member is recovering from a paralyzing financial hopelessness.
When I came to AA, this time, I had begun working as a server. I got my first DUI during a fashion week when I was 21 years old that was my brief introduction to AA and I quickly learned to signed my own meetings and never looked back. Coming from being a successful model with disposable income from the age of 14 to my late 20’s – by the time I left jail crawling into the rooms on a court card, I had no work experience that was going to come close to the income and lifestyle that had been all I knew. Then God directed me to the bartending and service industry.
My therapist saved me from AA in the nick of time, I was about to quit my job! On bad days in early sobriety, the serving of bottomless mimosas during popular Sunday brunch gave me cravings. To appease the judicial system I had to pay for a therapist specializing in relapse prevention, and I thank God for her today. It was to Lori that I shared these cravings with and I did as she suggested and shared about them at my regular meetings. I was swarmed, people who knew so little about me, my financial situation, my relationship with God (and did not ask), advised me to make my sobriety the most important thing in my life by quitting my job and finding something that was not such a slippery place. I was given the phone number of someone who was a bartender and had to demote themselves because of their cravings stating how their sobriety was the most important thing to them.
I was scared. I responded to this fellowship and let them know I made more money in cash tips doing what I was doing than any other field I can imagine, considering the limited time and resources I had to work due to the all of the classes, counseling, and other court mandated obligations I was still fulfilling. At the time I was bringing home almost $4,000.00 a month paying off my dui debt, alcohol classes, probation fines, and rectifying all the financial wreckage of my past…I became terrified that this was a test or something and I was going to have to quit my job…there must be another way.
No other way I was told by many “old timers” in the program and then was warned that the first thing I put in front of my sobriety I would lose. I was scared I was taking steps backwards in sobriety. I do not even know what that means but I accepted it.God disguised as my therapist saved me from following that particular direction and told me that I was not having a craving but seeking relief. What a revelation!!
“Why would you be craving something as deadly as alcohol when you have accepted and believe you have the allergy that alcoholics are afflicted with?”
“Does that sound like insanity you just may need to surrender to?”
Lori asked me to consider if I was seeking was relief when my brain said I was craving a mimosa, a drink I never drank. I considered whether I was seeking relief from the pain and suffering that I had been “working” at my whole life, relief from the present reality my disease created and my physical sobriety awakened me to, and it was emotionally painful. I experienced the truth! I was not craving alcohol I was suffering in my emotions and seeking relief.
Lori educated me on the habit I created in my brain over the previous couple of years of drinking alcoholically. Any unwelcomed feeling told my brain it needed relief STAT! Until my brain created new habits they were just thoughts passing through that I did not have to give power to, there is One who has all Power and I surrendered to that Spirit of the Universe and did not have to be afraid. I had to trust God and watch God work. Cravings were a response to my spiritual suffering and became opportunities for me to surrender and accept the results.
What is a slippery place? I may be in a rare class but life was a slippery place for me. I lived next door to a liquor store, alcohol was in grocery stores often with the soda, at restaurants people drank happily around me, if a slippery place was something I had to worry about I would be drunk the rest of my life, silently suffering in a fellowship I felt I needed, or alone on a mountain avoiding slippery places and people until I die. I did not need to demote myself or quit my job, I needed to trust God and follow divine direction. Had that direction told me to quit, so be it, but I was never told to ask God and never did. My God was my fellowship because I did not trust myself or my thinking…long into sobriety. When people stopped recovering and began accepting a lifelong alcoholic sentence, they started giving sponsor directions instead of directing others to seek and follow God’s direction.
Lori reminded me that I had nothing to do with my sobriety anyway, so I did not have to fear losing it. As a matter of fact, I could not stop drinking on my own. Meetings did not help, the drunk-a-logs (stories shared by alcoholics that talk about what their drinking was like and never get to recovery) often flared up my cravings in the beginning. Getting on my knees and asking God to remove the obsession to drink is the only thing that worked after I had a full working knowledge of the disease I was afflicted with and accepted the truth. Sometimes I got on my knees to pray in public bathrooms I was so desperate for emotional relief. Bending my knees was an important action to bending my rigid human mind to accepting the spiritual solution offered to me.
Don’t Follow God, Follow the Fellowship
I continued in the fellowship for years got busier than ever doing everything I was told in meetings:
“If you want what we have you will do what we do.”
“Yes is the most spiritual thing a newcomer can say.”
I wanted to do whatever I had to do to clear away court issues, custody issues, financial issues, and the suffering that afflicted me for as long as I can remember and I knew that began with physical sobriety.
In surrendering to the fellowship, I completed 90 meetings in 90 days, got a sponsor, got commitments, got sponsees, went bowling when they bowled, laughed when they laughed, cried when they cried, and a bunch of other things I was told to do if I wanted to stay sober. Contrary action was a big one that I did for so long fighting God’s intuitive direction I’m pretty sure I became a liar. The social demands of sobriety were in direct conflict with my spiritual and biological makeup and I did not know what or who to trust. [ A woman with decades of recovery and very dear to me much later told me about the liar behind contrary action once we have surrendered and been restored to sanity – I knew that had been me. Thanks Nancy 🙂 ]
I continued to followed a fellowship of sobriety that taught me to fear going too long without a meeting or “I would self-destruct.” My sobriety always had to come first and that meant always knowing what meeting I was going to next, staying in the middle of the herd, never taking a break from commitments and regular meetings, always sponsoring people, stay in contact with a sponsor…and many other suggestions or directions that had nothing to do with following God’s direction for my life and surrendering to intuitive direction. I was taught to work hard for my sobriety, then I accepted God given recovery. AA fellowship tried to force down my throat that I was never going to be well and always always an alcoholic. All of the references of ex-alcoholics and recovery and recoiling from alcohol as one would a hot flame were never talked about by the Old Timers but some of the sentences that lights up the eyes of someone suffering in their disease.
I could not speak at a meeting without verbally telling everyone in the room my entire being was the disease that had been in remission for more than 3 years. ” I am Anneca and I am an Alcoholic.” Every single time you open your mouth to read or speak you are supposed to verbally identify your being as the disease you are taught you are Powerless over and not responsible for. I often heard God say, “everyone knows why you are in a meeting of AA, if you are not suffering from alcoholism chances are you are not a part of the fellowship, what they do not know is how long I have restored you to sanity and that nothing you did worked, get in the book and speak the truth. Follow Me not the fellowship of people.”
A man 40 years sober at the time who has also recovered told me not to stop speaking the truth and said there is spiritual warfare in the rooms of AA and very little recovery. We are responsible to let God use us and I am so grateful for him even though I did not listen to God’s direction for some time to come. I remained a suffering and sober alcoholic, and busy!
My gut often told me to run in the opposite direction of the fellowships local to me, but I convinced myself it was my “stinking thinking” as I had been warned for so long. I had enough experience to know enlightenment and being rocketed into a 4th dimension of existence was possible.
I found a women with 40+ years of sobriety who sounded like she hated people as much as I hated myself and she was so revered that people with less time than her got up and moved for her to sit in what was “her seat” when she was present. I asked her to sponsor me.
This highly respected old timer told me my dreams were not realistic and everyone gets sober and wants to fulfill the many passions God gave me as a child. I accepted it was my ego and I needed to enroll in college. I needed to be self supporting and a job as a waitress was not going to cut it, she said. I needed to enroll in college by the next time we spoke. Just say yes and take contrary action I told myself. I was desperate.
I enrolled in college, again. I had been taking classes since I was 16 because a degree was going to fix me at one point. Community college and that women did not stick in my life. People told me I was sponsor hopping to find someone to cosign my bullshit, I was nervous but I could not take her anymore. When God directed me to take an action towards fulfilling one of many passions I shared in a meetings and with my fellowship I was told I had an overdeveloped since of justice and cautioned that would get me drunk. I told them I went to school with someone who had an overdeveloped since of justice and she co-founded #blacklivesmatter…to which I was reminded “you’re an alcoholic” “and to stay right sized.” I chose to accept these peoples fears . [ One of the first questions Dr. Montgomery asks people as they begin their journey is “what are the desires of your heart.?” This is how we know what gifts God gave us and once we shed the thoughts, opinons, and fears of others – we are free to fulfill our spirits purpose.]
I found another fellowship and found my people, I thought.
“I can’t wait to hear my sponsees 5th step…hahahaha” “F*@!ing Fa**ot”
I met my soulmate along my journey who found my design for living so appealing through all of the hell God was carrying me through in my first few years of sobriety, he toogot sober to seek a recovered life. A woman I had watched and followed for a couple years was about 20 years sober, and I thought I wanted everything she had so when she asked who was sponsoring him and I said I was guiding him through the experience of the steps, she told me I “…could not sponsor my friend.”
I was scared, again. I told her what the results had been thus far which were him coming to believe in a Power greater than himself in spite of the Catholic God his parents and Catholic school forced him to concede to which he denounced long ago. “ It doesn’t matter you can’t sponsor each other.” I was sad. I was sentenced to a life AA and with years of sobriety was always warned against following any intuitive direction. I reminded myself what I learned in AA meetings and fellowship – I think I know it all and want to control, manage, and direct things, so she was right. Everyone spoke in meetings about how this Sober Queen was a perfect example of the program and she had been sober well over a decade more than me…who was I to question her loving suggestion to save us from something I later found out she experienced. Must be my “stinking thinking” coming back I told myself.
It was suggested by someone who would be a good sponsor for my friend and it was the same guy using the word faggot among other derogatory, offensive, oppressive, and far from spiritual conversation and behavior. These people had sponsees and were spoken of in meetings by old-timers as “…great examples to watch in the program.” The casual use of racist and hateful speech used so casually may not be the worst thing I heard from this group – and I am a black woman who has been gifted an “overdeveloped since of justice” for all of humanity, enoys her sexuality, and my best friend is a gay male. The most disgusting thing I heard from one of the upcoming pioneers of the program was that he could not wait to hear one of his sponsee’s 5th step. Gossiping with people about what type of pain and agony this particular man was carrying around that would written about on step 4 of this 12-step recovery program. The pioneer spoke to others of his sponsor’s (at the time) sexual diseases and more I am sure was not meant to be shared in this capacity. I was shocked. Where was the honesty, loyalty, and spiritual commitment that is the relationship between sponsor and sponsee. My best friend and I were stiff as a board, confused, and waiting for the right time to back out of that hell. When we got into the car we decided to never fellowship with people from that group again and to welcome isolation – I continued to sponsor my best friend. Today, he is a recovered alcoholic and has gone on to show many the road he traveled – he lives free.
Don’t trust God, You Might Get Drunk!
At 3 years sober my worst nightmare/my biggest reservation/my biggest “what if,” happened to me and all of the work I had been so busy doing in my years of sobriety was not a sufficient substitute for this low spot I found myself suffering in. I made a habit of taking action to control my emotions God used to direct to get my attention. Rather than facing and growing through the pain I continued to run. When I felt pitiful I got into gratitude reminding myself feelings aren’t facts, when I did not feel well I got a commitment, when I felt worse I was told to get a sponsee and got into working more with others. I had a really heavy tool bag of tools to keep me distracted from a truth that never left. [ Funny side-note Dr. Montgomery knows someone with almost 30 sponsees who is still accepting more…lol]
I met Dr. Gloria Montgomery early on but her recovery was the exact opposite of everything everyone said in meetings so I stuck with the fellowship until I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I went to her house one day, exausted.
The obsession to drink had not returned in spite of me not because of me. All I wanted to want to do was die and this was many months after the event occurred. Right after the event occurred, I happened to be leading a meeting that evening and got a sponsee and got right into action. I stayed busy, got more commitments, wrote, read, meetings, new meetings I did it all. Nothing I was doing worked and I gave up. I felt so free.
I hated AA and everything the fellowship stood for. I flashed through all of the gossiping I questioned, the old timer men that grabbed my butt and called me a hot piece of ass as a newcomer, I thought of all of the cheating and affairs within long-term sobriety I watched profess from the podium to have open and honest relationships and sobriety dates, I thought of old-timers in the program telling newcomers these sexual predators (many have come forward since I began to speak out loud of my experience) were great examples of the program. I had traveled to meetings and fellowships all over Los Angeles County for months at a time seeking recovery and a new fellowship to surrender to. I had eaten myself to gaining more than 80 pounds in sobriety and health issues, I was so exhausted, and I finally surrendered to God.I left the fellowship pretty disgusted and the freedom was indescribable.
I walked out of a meeting with my best friend and we agreed we were never going back. I experienced the best time of my life when I hit that total spiritual surrender with a willingness I had never before been able to muster. I surrendered to God and it was painful! Dr. Montgomery calls it spiritual surgery but it hurt so good. I was recovering safely in God’s hands and had been given everything I needed. God had been telling us both to stop going to meetings for a while asking “ are you done yet?” we were done. We felt worse every time we left meetings and everyone else felt better, they shared. God began to guide us both individually from then on out as God had been, but now we ceased fighting, questioning, and seeking confirmation from humans around us.
God said I was going to do everything I had been fighting for so long. I laid on the couch and cried, I do not know for how long but I gave up. We watched movies and continued to enjoy our life while we both experienced recovering together. We asked for God’s help and did what we wanted. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we prayed, we worked, we went to magic mountain, and we healed following Gods direction the whole time. We got to know ourselveds and out Higher Powers and experienced the program working in our lives. I found myself with a pen and paper in my hand again and my hopes and dreams returning.
I went to the gym and started to blog about how losing weight had nothing to do with working out. Nobody in their right mind would eat themselves into an unacceptable weight or healthy state and an underlying problem needed to be addressed rather than dieting to treat the symptom of the real problem, and everything else including weight loss would fall into place. I documented my “journey to a flat tummy” showing others to trust God and not a workout plan and the results were real. I began to actually trust God and apply these principals to every area in my life. I accepted the experience of a set of spiritual steps and saw how they worked in my life rather than working so hard at the the program. I no longer feared alcohol or losing my sobriety but I did begin to accept responsibility for my recovery. My fear of alcohol became a respect, I was free. I started seeing old friends the fellowship told me not to see because it was slippery, and got back so much of the life I was taught to fear in AA meetings local to me.
I touched base with Dr. Montgomery to confess to her I left and hated meetings. She told me I was recovering and God was carrying me through the pain of my emotions. She told me I finally stopped relying on the fellowship and was starting to trust God.
I was going to start a bartending business. I shared with friends I was going to start a bartending business using my best friend’s mixology training and national bartending experience along with his business management degree. That experience and education in combination with mine and we thought it was a great idea, more warnings.
As business took off and we remained sober recoiling from alcohol as we would a hot flame. I got a part time job across the street from my house serving at a little coffee shop to supplement my income while business took off and I saw Sober Queen there. I was so happy to see her and tell her of how well I was doing following Gods will, I remembered her being the person whose direction I followed for so long hearing her speak often. I told her of my first sober orgasm….my first orgasm ever really. I told her of the 3 bedroom townhome my best friend and I were given by God. I was so excited to experience the new pair of glasses that was my new prescription and outlook in life I did not know I had until I saw someone from the rooms I left months before…she asked if I worked outside the place I was standing and when I confirmed, she said “good…I am so glad you got out of serving alcohol, you shouldn’t have been doing that.” I smiled, so grateful for my freedom.
Back To AA – Recovered
Dr. Montgomery guided me to how God would be my sponsor for the rest of my life. I stayed in touch with her over these few months but did not rely on her, I asked for Gods help and trusted I had been restored to sanity and accepted my recovery, I shared the results with her and we grew together. She had always thought I should stop following the fellowship and follow God’s direction and at around this time in life as I was recovering with, loving, and trusting God, she told me that I would be given the responsibility to share the truth about what God had done for me in my life. I was willing but not jumping at the chance. I HATED AA meetings so much…little did I know how deep into them God was going thrust me within 2 days of Dr. Montgomerys heads up.