Someone told me once that the Twelve Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous works because you can make it into whatever sort of healing experience you need.
For me, Twelve Step is bearable group therapy. Within its usually gentle, nonjudgemental rooms, I have found space to examine and begin to exorcise the worst of my self-sabotaging social behaviors.
In my experience, alcoholism is not so much a psychological disorder as a relationship malaise. It evolves, at least to some degree, out of a damaged ability to become close to others.
It is a truism of human interaction that liquor, when consumed modestly, can be a social enhancement. Small amounts of alcohol imbibed by non-alcoholics can loosen inhibitions fairly harmlessly, making certain gatherings more agreeable and festive.
When one drinks to excess it is often because one’s shyness cannot be cured by the temporary blurring of social boundaries. One feels the need to down cocktail after cocktail in order to connect.
It stands to reason that when one seeks to recover from alcohol abuse one not only needs to repair the damage to the body, and break free of physical addiction, but also heal oneself as a social being.
For me, and I am sure for many, this growing sense of a saner connection to others is one of the miracles that occurs over time as one sits in the circles of the Twelve Step program, listening and telling stories about recovery.
At first, trying to bond without the crutch of alcohol is a frightening reminder of how socially vulnerable one is. When I first started going to AA meetings, all my awkward feelings surfaced and spilled over. I experienced suspicion, fear, attraction, jealousy, anger, competitiveness, love, rivalry, triumph and defeat. Oh, and embarrassment about being such a Drama Queen. There was plenty of that. Sometimes I felt so hyped up after a meeting that I had to hasten home, lie down and just try to get my heart to stop pounding.
Over time I have realized that most of these dramas are of my own making–not pure invention but inflation, enhancement and neurotic reenactment of the past. When a powerful feeling emerges, I try to explore what I might be projecting or replaying out of my own personal history.The most important thing for me to remember is that revisiting these scenes and feelings helps me get better.
I am so grateful to the God of my understanding for leading me to this place. For years I ran screaming from the idea of a support group. Now, no matter what happens, I follow the AA adage to “keep coming back.” I have managed to hang in so far–and feel better for it. I look forward to the lessons still to come.