There Is Power In the Seeking

Yesterday, during approximately the last 15 seconds of an AA meeting, a dude chimes in with this nugget:

“The power isn’t in ‘knowing’ God. The power is in the seeking of God.”

And I was all, “Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit over here quietly. Mind BLOWN.” Because YES. It’s this that I have been trying to put my finger on for weeks. This is what called  me back to AA. This seeking.

In theory, I’ve always been a seeker. I revel in pondering big questions about God, humanity, and purpose. In fact, I gravitate to these conversations–but try to engage me in small talk & I’m a hot mess. (SO BAD AT IT. Tragic, really). But I’ve struggled with how to do more than just ponder the big questions abstractly. Distantly. I don’t always know how to engage with them, get hands-on about them, and turn them into practice.

That was what AA gave me the first go-round: a set of steps (a guideline) for connecting with my Higher Power. There was work to be done, it turns out. I mean, relationships are beautiful–but GOOD GOD, they are work. My relationship with my HP requires work. And that work is the seeking. And that’s where the power lies.

For a long time, I stayed connected with the Universe (God…whatever…) through really traditional Christian practices. I had a community that pushed me to examine and expand my spiritual practices–that offered me accountability. That sense of community was central to my seeking. But that’s not where I am at the moment. Right now, church is–for me–about celebrating God, lamenting and rejoicing in community, and striving for more justice & mercy in the world. But I’ve been missing that one-on-one connection that pushes me to do the work, to seek.

I wish I could excel as a solo seeker. It sounds so cool. And mystical.

But it’s really not who I am. I process life by talking about it. A lot. And I strive for stronger connection with my own spirituality when I watch other folks live out theirs in ways that wow me.

There’s a line in “How It Works” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that says, “If you’ve decided you want what we have, and are willing to go to any length to get it…” I always thought of that line as a “do you want to see the world through something other than the bottom of your pint glass?” situation. And OBVI, the answer was yes.

But, at this point in my own evolution, the question seems much weightier. Like a spiritual question. Am I ready to seek “conscious contact” with God (the Universe… whatever…)?

And that’s how I ended up sitting in AA meetings (after an 8 year hiatus). Because so many of the folks there ARE seekers. They’re examining their actions, their motivations, their spirituality–taking stock of it all and seeking to be better, to be more connected with their own Higher Power (whatever they understand that to be).

There’s power in the seeking. That’s my current mantra. So now I’m curious: what drives you to connect to something bigger than yourself (whatever that something may be)?

A.A. (The Return)

When I walked into AA almost 10 years ago (in my cowboy boots and jeans, hair pulled back neatly into a ponytail, with a Big Book in hand, because I like to be valedictorian of everything), I was willing to show up. And that was about it.

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When I walked into AA almost 10 years ago (in my cowboy boots and jeans, hair pulled back neatly into a ponytail, with a Big Book in hand, because I like to be valedictorian of everything), I was willing to show up. And that was about it.

I didn’t want a sponsor. Because, I mean, how do you even go about picking someone that’s going to shape your spiritual formation? In all the meetings, they were always on and on about “spiritual fitness” and how one day my relationship with my higher power would be all that stood between me & a drink. That’s BIG. How did I know if any of these jokers were even qualified to help me dig through all this emotional baggage to get (and stay) sober?

And I sure as hell didn’t want to call people. The AAs seemed to want me to call people just to say hey. To talk about…whatever. Uh, no thanks. I had friends for that.

And sharing in a meeting? No. Definitely not. I mean, first of all, most people just rambled on and on and said nothing of any significance. Then, if I did decide I wanted to share, I couldn’t hear anything anyone said over the roar of “DON’T FUCK IT UP” in my own head. So, no. Sharing wasn’t going to happen. Not for this alcoholic.

I showed up for two years. I did work the steps–mainly because I found a sponsor who didn’t want a relationship with me at all. She wanted to get me through the steps quickly and thoroughly so I could stay sober. She did. And I did. (She was precisely what I needed in that moment in my life. And I’m so grateful for her.)

But then I was done with AA. I stuck around because I believed the line that if you stop going to meetings, you’re going to get drunk. Then I gave myself some credit, continued to practice the principles and work on my relationship with my Higher Power–and quit AA.

When unmistakably, and completely out of the blue, I knew I needed to go back to AA meetings, it wasn’t because I wanted a drink. Or because I was afraid I’d drink. I mean, I if I say God told me to, are we gonna be able to take me seriously after that. Because that’s what happened. I stayed sober because I have been maintaining that relationship with my Higher Power all along—and so I knew I, undeniably, that I was being called to go back.

I still have no idea why.

But I do know this. I am so different than I was 8 years ago.

Look, AA meetings are all about sharing experience, strength, and hope with a whole group of (mostly) likeminded folks. These are people who have gotten a daily reprieve from their own self-inflicted hell. And the only way they get to keep that reprieve is to work on their spiritual life–striving toward selflessness, connection, service. HOW COULD I NOT LOVE THAT?!? It’s literally almost everything I love & strive for in my own life. And folks are just sitting around, talking freely about their struggles & triumphs, supporting each other & pushing each other to grow. It’s kind of miraculous, really.

But it comes down to willingness. 8 years ago, I wasn’t willing to do shit. I wasn’t willing to share my vulnerability, to admit that sometimes I might not exactly know everything. I wasn’t willing to let people see me. And you can’t exist in AA without being seen.

The program hasn’t changed at all. But my perspective has. I have.

It’s like my buddy said after a meeting, “It took me a long time to understand, but it’s all just love in here, man. It’s just love.”

Avoiding Anvils

What happens when an AWOL AA goes back to a meeting? She remembers how damn good it is to be sober.

Euphoric. That’s how drinking always made me feel.* (Until it didn’t.)

The trouble with euphoria, though, is that I didn’t really feel anything. I just kind of existed in this heightened buzz of emotion. So, something as still & quiet as intuition… yeah, I couldn’t use something as subtle as intuition at all. Everything seemed like a good idea when I was drunk. And drinking made me bulletproof–so I could do anything. Which really meant I could sit on a barstool and talk about how easy it would be for me to do anything.

The actual doing? Yeah, it never got done.

I’m a bit more capable of honing in on things like intuition now. Like when I got the nudge about AA. I felt it. I tried to ignore it. But I felt it alright.

And I kept feeling that same nudge over & over again. Until I finally pulled my shit together and showed up at a meeting today.**

Post AA Meeting (in a Rocket Designs Shirt)
Check the recovery shirt. Simon designed it.***

The topic? Helping others (skillfully). Which boils down to this: it doesn’t matter how much I want someone else to get sober. They ain’t gonna until they’re good and ready. Sure, I can beat someone over the head with my sobriety. I can shame them about their behavior. I can point out the fact that they are RUINING THEIR LIVES.

But that’s a bunch of sanctimonious bullshit. And I know it.

I remember every cutting, cruel comment people made about my drinking during the worst of it. And I was an awful drunk. I cried. I puked. I slept with other people’s significant others. I hurt everyone around me. People were fed the fuck up with me. I get it.

But I also know now that the level of shame a drunk feels about their own behavior far surpasses what anyone else can pile on.

So, if shame didn’t work, what did?

Nothing really.

But I do also clearly remember my boss (yes, I held a job. Yes, they should have fired me. No, I don’t think they did me any favors by shielding me from the consequences of my drinking. But I also get that it was hard to know what the right thing was in that time and space. Nobody likes to see someone else self-destruct in front of them) telling me stories about the insanity that transpired when she was drinking. Funny stories. Stories I could whole-heartedly relate to. And then she’d invite me to an AA meeting. Real chill like. I always said no. In fact, I didn’t get sober until 5 years after I’d left that job. But she kept inviting me. And she kept living her sober, happy life out loud in my presence.

And when I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired (the AAs LOVE to say this), I knew where to go.

That boss that stuck it out, that never shamed me, that just kept inviting to meetings… she’s a huge part of my sobriety. Not because she’s in my life now. But because, without shame or judgement, she offered me a lifeline.

She couldn’t get me sober. She couldn’t save me. No one could. But her kindness–her gentle, super-chill invitations to AA meetings–showed me that she believed I was worth saving. When my time came, I believed her, and took the first steps toward saving myself.

 

*At least for the first hour or so. After that, all bets were off. One of Simon’s infamous one-liners was “It’s HAPPY hour, not crying hour.”

**Totally glad I went. Will probably go again even. WHO AM I?!?

***Need one of these shirts? Of course you do. Head over here to get one. Want a different design? No worries. There’s other rad stuff there, too.