By: Christine Campbell BSW, MS
“There’s no reason that anything should ever become obsolete, whether it be VHS tapes, celluloid film, print books or even the previous versions of a computer operating system, as long as even just one person still wants them around.
After all, one thing leads to another, older inventions are the basis for new ones, inventors and designers and scientists and hobbyists worked hard to create all these things, so don’t they deserve some respect, enough not to have their ideas buried in the dust by the latest trends and fads?” ― Rebecca McNutt
In the Beginning
In about three weeks, I’ll celebrate 25 years in recovery. I look back in utter amazement and gratitude, often humbled by the spiritual family that cared enough, and loved me enough, to call me out on my BS. I was raised old school AA ―structure, traditions, service positions, always involved in some fashion. When I would call my wonderful sponsor and go on and on about the unfairness of life, my mother, and mean people, her standard response was, “Really—they need a treasurer at Tuesdays noon meeting—go sign up”.
Both of my sponsors have made their transition, but I still hear them talking to me, reminding me in the same patient voice about what truly matters. When there are blanks on the calendar for open speakers or a chairperson, I can only pass it by a couple times before remembering what my sponsor would want me to do ― sign up. They were unselfish in their love and service, and they expected me to be, too.
I thank the many old timers who asked how I was doing, making sure I knew how much my sponsor loved me, and trying to lighten my obvious pain when she passed with 34 years of solid sobriety.
Moving Forward and Looking Back
There is a man on a recovery Facebook site trying to start a group that is titled ‘Like it used to be’… I know exactly what he means. Structure, giving, respect for the traditions, the content, and the passing down of what was freely given is sometimes missing in recovery meetings today. I can feel this man’s frustration, but don’t verbalize it as he does.
The disrespectful responses he gets hurts my soul—”Look ‘ole man… the book is NOT RELEVANT anymore and neither are you old people”.
Cowards hide behind various means of technology, and the all caps speaks volumes. I’m glad they can’t hear my comments as I recoil in horror at this disrespect, no regard for these wonderful people, and with their dismissive attitudes, they are truly missing the point.
I have learned to not even get into any debates: medication assisted treatment, marijuana cards, court ordered shouting matches, anxiety, ADD, depression….I sometimes find myself thinking, “You could pace the f’in floor as we did for six months’, but I keep those thoughts right where they are — to myself.
When I resigned from the counseling field with burnout and compassion fatigue a few years ago, I moved back here to Northern Michigan from the Twin Cities to regroup, heal, and figure out what on earth happened. Mandatory tests with no real answers, except the doctor’s suggestion that I take pain meds or prescriptions that would threaten my sobriety. I refused. Frustrated, the doctors threw up their hands and asked me “What’s this all about?” I stayed sober, but was beyond tired.
Old school friends that were there years ago when I started this journey asked me to please consider the DCM position that has been vacant for years, but cautioned me that it was now “black county AA”. I had never heard this in all my years and involvement, but God did I find out what it was —no traditions, no sponsorship, no real accountability, and I saw what those can do to a group.
Coffee and bullshit is an understatement. A man announced that he had 600 one dollar bills in his underwear drawer-—just wanted the group to know where the basket money went!
I did indeed try to ‘be the change’ here in the black county, but I am only one person, and God forbid, a woman. I was often shouted at, questioned, and snubbed by the group. In my using days, I was running with the Rock and Roll scene ―married to a raving lunatic musician, and today I cringe when one asks ‘so what famous people did you meet?’
My answer in my head is, “Clancy, Father Martin, Peg Martin, James Houck —the last living member of the Oxford group… I smile and bite my tongue as strongly suggested by my sponsors.
Maybe that’s some of the reasons that I’m siding with this old timer from FB —now what do we do? I started from scratch in the ‘black county’ with applying for a group number and the name with the GSO in New York. I did take the treasurer spot for 2 separate meetings for a couple years and gave that up recently. Whew.
Regrouping and Reviewing the Beginnings
A few months ago, I scribbled the 6 tenets of the Oxford group. I long stopped sharing these gifts with the black county—instead, I printed off the information that was often ignored, or shoved into the bin with books, baskets, and a few dollar bills. There was a shortage of funds, so ink and printing were costing me, and they went into the trash one too many times. I quit printing information that people didn’t value. However, if I’m passionate about something, I want to share it with others. This life-saving program has worked for millions, and perhaps there’s a wider audience online.
- Complete deflation is the 1st step.
- Dependence and guidance from a higher power-steps 2, 3, 6, 7, and 11.
- Moral inventory 4 and 10.
- Restitution 8 and 9.
- Continued work with others —12.
Simple? Yes, for a group of know it all’s — not so much. However, it is simple, and since 1939, with the publication of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s worked for millions of people, including this insane acting alcoholic.
Another gift was a recent Father Martin clip posted online a few weeks ago. I stopped in my tracks, put down whatever I was doing, listened, and took notes. Ahhhhhhhhh I said to myself. Relief, gratitude, and peace. Thank you, thank you, thank you, my sponsor, often said. My sentiments exactly, when I listened to this Father Martin talk:
A sponsor is to guide me in the living of these Steps.
- Powerless is no ifs, ands or buts! Total surrender— lose the battle to win the war.
- Acknowledgment of one’s condition—IT handles me and it is terminal. We must admit a colossal weakness. Alcohol controls 95% of the alcoholic’s mind. In the second step, it depends on how one accepts step 1. No need to get back in the ring with Tyson-you will never win.
- A power greater than the self—a room full of recovered alcoholics! The insanity of an alcoholic is one that picks up and chooses to consume a drug that is killing him. We must shift our being to the care of God—I can’t—he can—I think I’ll let him.
- I will do a total overhaul of the human being. Step 4—so make a searching and moral inventory—the disease is not immoral-the behavior is immoral.
- I have to resolve the guilt of the past pride. I am a nothing-really? And yet I have been singled out to get well. I have a talent to touch others-find it.
- Who I am or who I think I am—the real self is the simplicity of self
- Prayers while drunk were answered—I’m here! A soul in pain is the prayers of a drunk and God loves those.
- We’re commanded to share with others—I offer to others that which God gave to me and I show my gratitude by staying sober.
- There is a spiritual awakening as the RESULT of the other 11 Steps!!!
- Step 12 is walking beside the weak
Sobriety is a priceless jewel. It is gratitude in action, and I am eternally grateful that 24 years ago, school was in session when I needed an education on how to live.
About: Christine Campbell BSW MS
I am so humbled and grateful for my sobriety, my peaceful life, and for all my ‘spiritual family’. Many men and women saw one wounded woman crawl into the rooms and couple decades ago. I am so grateful for all I have and for all that I don’t have.
I have come a long way from life in the fast lane, struggling to find myself, be a mother, and stand proud and discover what really matters.
My story is raw and honest-painfully shared-but a story about the ability to live life to the fullest and pass on what was so freely given to me- no matter what life brings you.
Retiring as a mental health practitioner, I celebrated 25 years last January and live a peaceful life in Northern Michigan. I write, blog, and stay connected with the wonderful people in recovery.
Link for book, With Vigilance-a woman in long term recovery
Writing, and recovery heals the heart