They are hidebound, I can adapt


Good afternoon. 

One lesson that hit me the most often over the years is adaptability. There are no set rules in recovery or life. Something that works today may not or likely will not work tomorrow. I learned that alcohol abused me as much as I abused it. I learned that psychiatric medications were not the solution to my alcohol problem. I learned that my worst character defects were killing me. I had to adapt.

I am not an intellectual. I barely passed high school. I never went to college. I learn hard, and I often forget the lessons learned. Yet, this lesson, somehow stayed with me. Like the Big Book, let me give you some examples from my own history.

When I came into AA, my local recovery community was a small one of two meetings per week. I began to supplement my recovery, eventually by going to meetings 30 miles away. I was warned about this group, being told that it was too incestuous. I learned quickly that the person who shared that information with me was correct. The group was excessivelyclicky. I became swamped immediately in the fray. 

Part of the problem I faced was my personal religious beliefs, my history of mental illness, and my status of surviving a man who beat me for going to meetings. There were several in the group who wanted me out. Add in a not so passing addiction to prescriptions, and I was in trouble. I survived, and thrived under fire.

How did I do it? 

Tradition 3, and the help of a couple of old timers. One old timer would not let me use my mental illness as an excuse to not recover or work part of the program. I had to work it all or not at all. I adapted. I learned, and I succeeded. 

Another person wanted me out because of my religious beliefs. She went so far as to call all of the churches in the area, busting my anonymity, and letting them know of my religious beliefs. I was not Christian at the time. A close friend warned me of this, who was a deacon in his church. 

I learned Tradition 3 and Tradition 10. I started bringing them up in meetings. When the meeting topic was God, I spoke often that there is no requirement for AA membership that states a specific religious connection. When I spoke of my religious affiliation, I made it so broad and general that most newcomers would not know of it, except by being told by “well meaning” old timers.
Another was certain that once I became free of the marriage that would have taken my life, I would immediately seek out all of the men and sleep with them all. That is just gross and disgusting. I had to fend off some not so appropriate touches and hugs from several men. I was not as choosy as I am today, but I survived.

I also dealt with one of the major sponsors in the area spreading her own personal cult of recovery. Thank God I no longer was in her sponsorship line. I did the best I could with what God handed me.

Over time, my religious beliefs aligned more ‘properly’ with the group’s ideals, through my own exploration of the steps and my relationship with God.

Then came the pogram of kicking out the addicts, and the fellowship war. At this point I belonged to two fellowships in the area, qualifying via the 3rd tradition for 3 different active fellowships. Like a turd, I swirled the bowl, but did not sink. What helped me here was faith in God and faith in the twelve steps and traditions.

I kept coming back, and they could not bar me from the rooms. 

I am no angel. I am not a saint. However, I am a survivor, and not a victim. I learned the traditions, like a badge, I wore them on my chest. I adapted, sometimes floating while the group swirled around me, but I survived.

The most important lesson I learned is to not worship at the altar of someone’s sobriety date. One of the sickest people I ever met claimed over 20 years. Our biggest argument came the day I asked them, “And what step are you working?” 

Everyone in life has the right to recover. Everyone has the right to work a program of action. Everyone has a right to live alcohol and addiction free. 

If your home group is as poisonous as my old home group was, then maybe learning a few traditions may help you. May the good Lord be with you on your journey through recovery and life.

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