“Until we had talked with complete candor of our conflicts, and had listened to someone else do the same thing, we still didn’t belong.”
~ TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS, p. 57
What a strange world. Never feeling like you’ve belonged anywhere until entering the four walls of A.A. Yet, inevitably, when the meeting ends, reality sets in. This is your journey to travel, and the meetings are merely rest stops along the way. A new sense of belonging may be the outcome at the end – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after a terrible storm, if you will – but man, when that storm is raging, it’s a pain and loneliness that strikes like lightning bolts and hail. Sometimes without warning or reason.
Because, outside of these rooms, no one understands. Outside of these rooms, people don’t see you for the struggles that you may share, or other commonalities that brought you together. No, outside of these rooms we’re just another human. Outside of these rooms, we’re just a person that someone else needs or wants something from – a task to be delivered or a deadline to be met.
People, after all, have their own lives to live with their own daily struggles that we know nothing about. We’re merely extras on the sets of their lives, lucky if we get a mention in the credits. So yes, dear reader, a new sense of belonging will come at the end of all of this. Don’t give up, you are on the right track. But today, in this moment, where I am at in the steps, I’m just not there yet. Maybe, like so many of us, I’m still searching for validation.
Validation takes on many forms. For some, it’s praise. For others, it’s time spent. A different version of the five love languages. But someone at a meeting said something to me that perhaps shouldn’t have been so profound to me, but it was. She said, “The only validation that is going to satisfy our need for validation is self-validation!”
Self-validation. So important, yet so often unaccomplished. It goes back to measuring our worth using someone else’s measuring cup. Their metrics will be different from ours. We must learn to develop our own metric system for measuring and validating our own worth – by our own set of standards. We must accept ourselves as we are. Because no one else can make us feel loved, accepted, seen if we refuse to love, accept, and see ourselves.
Seeing ourselves may be the hardest part. Really seeing ourselves, not the lies that we’ve learned to believe about who we are. But, unlike our vision, that kind of sight takes work. I’m talking the blood, sweat, and tears kind of work.
Today marks 81 days sober. It may seem like 81 days is an insignificant number, but that’s 81 days of reflections. 81 days since I hit my rock bottom. 81 days since my life was changed. 81 days of emotional ups and downs with indescribable twists and turns. But, despite the nausea from the emotional roller coaster I’d strapped myself into, in those 81 days I completed Steps 1-3 of The Twelve Steps. To an outsider of the program, those steps look simple. In theory, they are simple. But, in practice – well, that’s a bit different.
Step One: I can’t.
I can’t. Saying those words, saying that my life had become unmanageable. Well, let’s just say, that was not coming off my lips easily. I didn’t want to say that I couldn’t handle my life. I didn’t want to admit that I was struggling and that I needed help. Because that would mean that I was sick. That would mean that I would have to actually do something about it. Admission requires action. Action that I simply did not want to take.
But within the walls of these meetings, miracles happen. Walls are broken down. And even the most stubborn, prideful of souls are able to come to grips with their truth. I can’t do this alone.
Step Two: He can.
I can’t. But, He can. This was easier for me. I’ve always believed in God. I always believed that He had a bigger purpose for my life. I was just too damn stubborn to acknowledge him. But you can only say, “I’ve got this” so many times with Him allowing you to be okay before He says, “Enough!” At that point, we have choice to make. Ya know, the whole free will thing. Are we going to accept defeat and allow God to lead our steps, or will we continue down our dark path believing our way is the only way?
Step Three: I’m gonna let Him.
I don’t know about you, but at this point in my story, it’s time to start a new chapter. So, I’m gonna let Him. This part is a bit trickier. I’ve heard it said that Step 5 is the first action step, but I disagree. Step 3 is very much an action step. Step 3 requires you to pause, and rather than doing what the old you would do (ya know, what the little drunk demon inside of you would do), it requires you instead to seek direction from God (or, if you prefer, your Higher Power). Because if we can’t, but He can – we have no other choice than to LET HIM. If He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. So just take a pause, breathe, and let Him do His work.
That brings us to Steps 4-9: Let’s clean it up.
Recovery is like preparing to move into a new home. Each step is another box to pack up. Some of those boxes will be neatly packed up for safe transport to your new home, while others will be thrown together, oftentimes not even taped closed, to be tossed out with this week’s garbage or dropped off at a donation center. The point is, not every piece of us is meant to stay with us.