After writing yesterdays post and reflecting on my early-days-in-recovery higher power, I’ve realised that my homely made-up source was quite appropriate. Writing my letters to ‘Invisible’ was also very similar to telling my story in a 12 step meeting. And there was that air of mystery; was someone there? Did I have a reader? It’s rather the like the question: Does God exist? A mystery.
The aim was to write, to make a commitment to writing. The aim was readers, at some point in time. It was a commitment that wasn’t too hard to fulfil because it was based on desire. A desire to write stories that may one day be published. And it was dependent on my sobriety because my topic was recovery and alcoholism, as well as art and culture. Also, I never got much writing done when I was drinking. Even on my relapse, I had to abstain when I was required to produce essays or my dissertation. I recognised that booze clouded my thinking in an unhelpful way.
Why was I so judgemental about my own higher power? Why did I think that something that was working for me wasn’t good enough?
Some of it did have to do with peer pressure. I had two sponsors who said I should believe in God. That my higher power was not a proper one. So then it isn’t hard to work out the source of that judgment. I looked up to these women, they had more sobriety time than I did, and so I jettisoned my own authentic beliefs that worked for me in favour of other people’s version of ‘God’ that did not work for me. This was obviously the ‘old behaviour’ that we are advised to avoid in recovery, but I was afraid of loosing these relationships if I didn’t conform.
When I was twenty I was assessed by a treatment centre after I relapsed on booze the first time. I remember the woman there, I think she ran the treatment centre, she told me that recovery was all about boundaries. I’d never heard that before, and it shocked me. But when she said that I could recognise that I was severely lacking in healthy boundaries.
If I had had healthy boundaries, I would not have judged myself for my beliefs, I would have stuck to my guns. But, not having those healthy boundaries that I needed, I caved.
Boundaries are still, thirty years later, an issue for me. I get overwhelmed by the strong feelings of other people. When something doesn’t feel right for me I sometimes ignore these feelings; like someone else ignoring my feelings. That said, I am better than I was. And in many ways I do feel the extent of my recovery is dependant on having these boundaries. The woman in the treatment centre seems right to me, I believe what she had to say about recovery. What she said has stayed with me, even after thirty years.
So what does having readers symbolise? It’s about reaching out to others. It’s about being strong enough to be vulnerable, but not too vulnerable. It’s about having a certain amount of confidence and belief in the value of my own perspective; not as more valuable that another’s point of view. Of equal value. You might disagree with what I have to say, but I don’t necessarily have to change my beliefs because of that. At the same time, a fair amount of challenge is OK.
The schema of this writing practice obviously applies to living life. I write about life. This may seem obvious enough, but sometimes stating the obvious is worthwhile. Writing is celebrating. It’s according one’s life experiences, fantasies, dreams, thoughts, beliefs and relationships value. A piece of paper is a box for treasure.
Scrolling through blogs on the WordPress site, I notice a lot of people stating that they write about mental health and what not to help other people. This seems to me to be a worthwhile enterprise, but I don’t write to help other people. I write this blog because I need help! I need to be seen and heard and to not feel so alone. And I need readers. At this point in time. After a good couple of decades or so, I need you. Writing to myself isn’t enough. It’s one of my powers greater than my own. But not the only one.
I also need AA meetings. I don’t think I need therapy, but I think I get along better if I do have therapy. I need medication. I need other people. I need to write. I need to not drink alcohol. I need to be involved in AA. I need to talk with other recovering alcoholics. Today, these are my boundaries. These are the things I need to feel happy, or content and fulfilled. I think that’s right, but tomorrow I may change my mind.
Truth is only what is true at the time of writing. Sometimes I look back on things that really felt true to me when I wrote them, I re-read what I have written and think: Oh my god! What was I thinking! But some things do stand the test of time. So perhaps, some things are only true with the benefit of hindsight; that wonderfully clear-eyed vision existence on planet earth affords. Life as it is lived is so much a case of grappling about in the dark, in my experience.
Not sure quite how to end today’s speculations, so I think I’ll just stop.