9th Step Work, Al-Anon, and Emotions…

I have just returned from an Al-Anon for Alcoholics meeting in a nearby town. It’s what is called a “double winner” meeting, meaning that it’s both programs rolled into one, and it can be pretty brutal for me. The sharing that goes on heads right for the jugular and there are no rehabbers around to distract the message. A woman qualified and her story was very similar to mine: because of how I was raised, and exposed to unsafe and unhealthy situations along the way, I sought out people throughout my life that would be able to duplicate many of those experiences. Regardless of the depth of the relationship (friend, lover, employer, etc…) I always volunteered to be the victim, knowing that this position would insure attention, and what I told myself was love. This pattern continued throughout adulthood, culminating in a scenario of violence and dark sexuality wherein I allowed myself to be emotionally sucked dry. For some reason I realized that it wasn’t right for me, that I wasn’t receiving the kind of attention I wanted (pain, punishment, and a justification of my inner shame) and so I split from that scene. Two years later AA found me and gave me the gift of sobriety.

My sponsor is having me work on some very difficult and frightening 9th Step work around some of these issues and I think it’s beginning to freak me out. I’m not doing this work alone, thank the gods. My therapist is helping me with most of it, but the eventual amends will be on my plate. No, I am not going back into that dark fold and confronting those who would hurt me again, but I am trying to understand the depth of the emotional scars I have worn for many years, and over which I acted out sexually, drank myself into oblivion, hurt others and denied any true intimacy or trust with my fellows.

So I think I’m at a point in my sober journey where feelings are coming back. I’m really not sure what to do with them all the time except, of course, ignore them, but that is the old way of life. Right now it’s hard enough to just feel them. I’ll know what to do with them when I am ready to know. All I want to do right now is hide in my office and not deal. Luckily it’s almost time for bed, so I can wait another few hours, hit the sack, dream what I dream, and tomorrow see my sponsor and talk to him about these new growth spurts.

I remember when I was a little boy and I’d have these horrible cramps in my legs during the night. My mother would come in with a hot-water-bottle and lay it across the top of my shins. The growing pains would magically vanish and I would fall back into the slumbers of a childhood, rapidly edging away towards adolescence and adulthood. Would that I had that panacea now…


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Johnnyboy is a queer recovering alcoholic. For the moment he is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who suffers from age-related cognitive impairment. She is happy as a lark and is surrounded by a crew of sober women which gives him the freedom he needs to get out of town. When he is not at home in Somewheresville, he is searching out the proper path to travel for happiness and joy. He is a photographer who believes in the digital age, but feels that film is still where its at. He has a darkroom and works in it. He is single and is in remarkably great physical condition for all the damage he has submitted his body to. His cardiologist is very happy. Johnnyboy is over the age of 35.

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