With my step 2 in the bag coming to believe that:
There is a way I can live sober without constant emotional pain.
I found that the third step flowed quite naturally. ‘God, as I understood Him’ was an ideal. A possible future I could work towards. I wish I could tell you there was more too it, but resolving to continue working with people in the program was my step 3. My way of life had landed me into a pile of emotional pain. Also some mental damage that, I’m rather happy, mostly reversed itself after 6 months.
I was grateful for some parts of my subconscious that were still running and offering me raw data on what I needed. It had always been there as sort of a little voice or intuition and mostly presents as impulses like thirst, loneliness, exhaustion and urges to resolves conditions like that. So, in that way, I knew I needed to heal for a while. Whether I liked it or not I had brought myself to a place where I could no longer handle the fast paced life i had built for myself. I moved back to my home town and into my parents house (Humility bordering on humiliation for the self-made engineer with plans of being a millionaire by 25.)
The best way I could see to turn my will and my life over was to offer my time and work. So, I threw myself into the young people meetings and committees and adapted as best I could to find a place for myself there. Web design still seems to be a rare and arcane skill in AA in my area so I did a lot of that kind of stuff. Hanging out at sober dances, helping organize events, and generally “doing what these people do” was how I did it. I had no god to guide or comfort me so I doubled up on people. Little did I know what a big favor I was doing myself. At the time I thought I was making up for a lack in myself, what I now know is I that I was doubling up on the most important part.
I’m lucky in that I’ve had a lot of experience in working with people I didn’t agree with on all things. I had practice on cutting out what we didn’t agree on and focusing on the work. I really got to work those muscles in my first year and had a lot of great conversations as a result. One thing I should mention is I wasn’t confident about what I was doing while I was doing it. I went insane every time I thought about an interventionist god and as far as I knew I was missing an essential part of the program. So I was very cautious about how I proceeded and never adopted a belief until I had tested it under criticism of people whose opinions I valued. One thing I agree with an acknowledge as true is that alcoholics in general don’t seem to do well alone with their thoughts, at least not with practice. I’ve seen fellow members isolate and skip meetings for weeks, then come back with some real hair-brained crap. This includes and maybe especially is true among professionals with higher IQs. I saw this pattern in others and was resolved to not let my new system of living contain the same flaws. ( I was QA engineer for a while. I think it’s helped my recovery. I know it’s irritated a few members in the process. Bringing up things like my recoveries ‘fault tolerance’ in meetings can bring a few odd looks, but fortunately a few smiles too. )
So while building this new system, I was experiencing a lot of depression. I tried some medication but found that it only shifted my emotional difficulties rather than solving them. So I decided to fix my original problem rather than the ones brought on by my medications. I was more familiar with them and felt closer to a lifestyle solution through that path. So, I essentially participated in distracting myself from the emotional pain and mental phenomenon with service work for a couple years. There were long period of times where I thought that being distracted for the rest of my life was the only way to survive sobriety. I felt better than I did before and I was being appreciated for my work which was a familiar and validating experience that I enjoyed.
I had many conversations that I’m happy now to be sharing some of the fruits of, about the nature of God as others understood it and how it was working for them. I occasionally found myself falling back into religious arguments, trying to disprove dogmas or show their inherent stupidity, but more and more I found these arguments were useless for me and for my fellows. I was seeing the beginnings of what would become my compassionate humanism. We were both running simulations based on insufficient evidence, a natural human reaction to realities our conscious minds are incapable of handling. Mental coherence is a real human need, without it we are very irritable in the short term or risk mental collapse in the long term. In short; we all need an idea of the world around us that we can live with.
I heard something in a meeting only yesterday that really stuck with me and seemed topical. I’m fond of metaphors and am surprised I’ve used so few thus far.
This person described journeying north through a forest at night by following the north star, Polaris. He follows that star because he knows it will lead him where he needs to go, but he has no delusions he’ll ever reach the star.
I was immediately overcome by an idea, of travelling through that same forest but in a group of people. Some of these people knew what I knew, some believed they would reach the star some day. Others didn’t care about the star or what it was, only that it would get them where they needed to go. And still others believed the star moved every night, leading them to where it will. Knowing what I know I was able to recognize the real importance; We are all walking through the woods together, trying to find our way home.