He is in treatment three days a week. Additionally, He is required to attend a minimum of two AA meetings each week, and must have found an AA sponsor by the end of this first six weeks as a condition of being able to receive what is euphemistically called "continuing care." T and I are attending required "family" sessions on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Nominally, these are supposed to help the two of us to recover from the effects of living with alcohol use. The ongoing admonition is that we ought to be going to Al Anon meetings and getting our own sponsors and working the steps toward our own recoveries.
And here's the thing... I am all tangled up in a wash of emotional reactions and feelings and intellectual arguments and moral outrage. Try as I might, I cannot make any sense of it all. It all rattles around in my brain, refusing to stay put, fall into some sort of orderly pattern, or rest quietly. It makes my head hurt...
- I know this whole AA thing is anachronistically handed down, almost entirely unchanged from what was envisioned by a couple of former alcoholics from Akron, Ohio in the early 1930's.
- I believe that those men stumbled upon a formula that touched on elements that, together, can work to help pull an alcoholic out of the mental and physical quicksand that booze creates, and there is a part of me that doesn't care about the patently superstitious basis of the whole business. At this point, I am more than happy to take what works. I am.
- But, the whole thing is so clumsily and unashamedly religious, in the worst possible, mainline Christian and cliched "white-bearded God in the sky" way, that it makes me cringe every time I encounter it. I cannot pretend to believe all that mumbo-jumbo.
- And, all the AA'ers, when confronted about that, will insist to me that it is a program that is "not religious, but rather spiritual." To which I want to respond -- "You are kidding, right?" Because there is that whole business from the Big Book, and the 12-steps that exhort us to: ...believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity... turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we
understood Him ... Admit ... to God ... the exact nature of our wrongs ... have God remove all these defects of character ... asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- And, if you've never been to an AA meeting (or an Al Anon meeting) then you will perhaps be as surprised as I was to find that they all leap to their feet when the meeting ends, hold hands, and recite The Lord's Prayer. Feels like church to this poor heathen.
- It also feels dishonest. I go to church. Every week. With my students as part of my employment. I teach in a Catholic school, and attendance at mass is just part of the routine. It doesn't give me pause. I don't have an issue with it. It isn't consistent with my spiritual practice or beliefs, but I go and sing the hymns and say the prayers with my students. I make choices about the level of my participation, but I do participate. I don't buy into all of their beliefs, but I can be a guest in their worship services precisely because they do not dissemble about what they are about. I know they'd try to convert me if they could -- and they know I know.
- And that isn't the end of it either. There is no end to it. This will become the way of life. Always and forever. AA and meetings and forever in "recovery --" a lifetime of making amends and carrying "the message" to other poor suffering alcoholics.
- That makes me long for "the way life used to be;" for the us that was and is now forever lost.
- But I don't want that either. The way life used to be was scary and unpredictable and just crazy. Thre is no going back.
- I want Him to be well and strong and healthy and maybe someday happy again. I do think this is the way for that to happen. I hope.
- I want us to all be able to live our lives and enjoy and trust and love. But now we are in the hands of the powers of the dominant culture who cannot comprehend our lives and who insist that we give lip service to their way of doing it... to God as "we understand him."
- But my spirituality demands that I try to live in integrity. How can I reconcile what I believe is the nature of the universe and my own understanding of the divine with this childlike, chauvinistic, Christian thing that we are now required to buy into?
And round and round and round I go. Making no sense -- even to myself. So. I go to the meetings. Go to the therapy sessions. Try to be polite. Try to make some sense out of it all.