Secret Society vs. Vaudeville Circuit
by John W.
“We of Alcoholics Anonymous believe the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities … to actually practice a general humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us …” ~Twelve and Twelve, p. 192.
Not ready to stop fighting
My first Christmas without drinking: “It was the worst of times.” Still as fresh in my mind as breakfast this morning. My four siblings and their families, with my family of 3 all under age 11, at a mid-afternoon dinner at Grandma’s. We sat around her tree enjoying the Spirit of the Season.
Grandma asked the kids, “Did Santa visit your house last night?” The children said, “As soon as Daddy got back from his meeting.” What meeting was that? Who could have a meeting on Christmas morning? The stigma of being an alcoholic was alive and well in my family. My mumbled reply and changing the subject addressed the silence of the room, but not the cacophony between my ears.
“Principles before personalities” means more than ignoring the belligerent drunk, or the old timer who loved to say how much better A.A. was way back when. The principle of anonymity actually helped heal my soul from the stigma of alcoholism. I gravitated to A.A. the last time because it was anonymous. I certainly wanted no one to know I was an alcoholic—fighting words for sure.
Christmas only got worse when I retreated to the bottle later that night after kids were tucked safely into bed. I was not ready to cease fighting everyone and everything. I didn’t want more, but I was unable to stop with less. Amazingly, the attraction of my 7:00 a.m. homegroup got me there the day after Christmas. I was told: Don’t drink, work the steps, and your life will change.
Don’t drink, work the steps, and your life will change
On my first sobriety anniversary, St. Patrick’s Day, I received was a license plate with my sobriety date. Not quite shouting from the rooftops, but no longer a secret either. Certainly a vivid, daily reminder of that which saved my life and has kept me alive since. What I have witnessed in myself is how I have changed about admitting I am an alcoholic. I no longer feel isolated by stigma. Rigorous honestly compels me to admit I have yet to label myself a “grateful alcoholic.” Yet I can see hope on the road I trudge.
I had been the arrogant drunk who knew it all. No one was going to separate me from the daily indulgence I “earned,” even though I knew it was separating me from all I held near and dear. So if there had been no anonymity at the beginning, I might never have gotten in the door. If I had to get out on the circuit and proclaim to any within earshot how it was working for me, I do not believe I could have stayed in the rooms.
Flash forward to Christmas afternoon, two years later, in the same place, with the same cast of characters and the same questions for my youngest. She told grandma about calling that morning to tell Daddy (living elsewhere due to the divorce) what Santa had left and the celery his reindeer had half eaten, right after he “got back from his A.A. meeting.” This time there were no strained silence and no shoe stares, just a couple of high fives and a warm hug with a grateful alcoholic Daddy and his daughter. It was the best of times.