Step Zero to Step 13, in less than 700 words

Reading Anne Lamott’s Small Victories and came across this gem:

“Addicts and alcoholics will tell you that their recovery began when they woke up in a pitiful and degraded enough shape to take Step Zero, which is: ‘This shit has got to stop.'”

I love this sentiment for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it makes me feel like I’ve already made progress and am onto the next step. In AA, of course, the next step is Step One: admitting one is “powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”

AA. Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’m on board with the “Alcoholics” part of AA. Got it, check, understood.

I’m only this week understanding the second part and it’s personal meaning and importance. “Anonymous” for me is not necessarily my own anonymity, but the anonymity of the other people in AA.

The meeting I attended earlier this week, in this tourist town, was truly anonymous. I knew no one. They did not know me. But I loved them – both the stories and the anonymous people sharing the stories. They were helpful and safe and familiar.

In the few meetings I’ve attended at home over the past few months, the familiarity was in both the stories and the faces. I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed – I understood when I went into the meeting room that there was a real possibility of seeing someone I knew. What I was surprised about was my reaction to seeing them.

One is a neighbor who, despite his decades-long sobreity, is a total waste as a father and a provider.

I am uncomfortable sitting in a room with him. That I share a common alcohol retardation with him is one thing, but I am uneasy sharing anything else with him, including personal stories.

Because of the length of his sobriety and his success in AA, he is greeted by the members of the meetings like some AA God. It’s difficult to watch him move about the room like a golden, sober politician, when I know just how shitty he is to his kids and his wife. Even more difficult is reconciling that, despite his decades-long sobriety, he is still so shitty to his kids and his wife.

I thought we went into the program to stop being shitty to our families. Is he the best AA can do?

I have lived across the street from him and his family for years. When I say “shitty” what I mean is this: he is an emotionally absent father and cannot keep a job. His staying sober is the most he can offer them. Years of sobriety, and he just STAYS SOBER.

I don’t want to just STAY SOBER. Just like I don’t want to STAY A DRUNK, I want to move beyond my alcohol retardation into a meaningful life.

I read my words and know that I am over-reaching my own (so-far inadequate) abilities to stay sober and am under-estimating the amount of work required to have the success this neighbor has, let alone move beyond it.

But the belief that I can move beyond it is a key motivator for me. I need to believe that one day, I will see all of this mess in my rearview mirror, not just always out the side view.

All of that is too much, right? Somehow, in one blog post, I have gone from Step Zero to Step 13, whatever that is …

Is the lesson here that I need to put aside my snobbery (always, always) and just deal with the fact that this neighbor is my (throwing up here a little bit) my people? Please say no.

Or, maybe I just need to drive a little further away and find a meeting where I don’t know anyone – and let the familiar stories work their magic, without the familiar faces. At least initally.

That sounds like a better plan.


9 thoughts on “Step Zero to Step 13, in less than 700 words

  1. Perhaps listening to his story will teach you something. Maybe he had abusive parents. Maybe he struggles with mental illness. Maybe he is just an asshole. Whatever it is, you neither have to follow his example or learn from him. You just have to let him talk.
    Is is much harder to have compassion for people we don’t like than people we do. But both can help us.

    We are all just people. We are all our people. Go to the next meeting with an open mind.


  2. Anne. I published this post, went for a run, came home and reread it with new eyes. I can see that I’m making this all about other people and their choices, instead of about me and my choices. I think it’s Wolfie’s voice: “You can’t go to that meeting or listen to that man or be in any way like him, b/c he’s an asshole. And that would make YOU an asshole.”

    Pretty sure that I’m the asshole, at least for today.

    Thanks for your kind, non-judgmental comment. It’s something for me to aspire to.

  3. In sure you are no morr an asshole than the rest if us!
    Earlier this year i was anti everything. Esoecially AA.
    I find the things i respond to the strongest have actually been the most helpful.
    Life is strange that way!

  4. Hey, I’m not in AA, but for what it’s worth, I’ve heard that Step 13 isn’t part of the deal – it’s when old-timers hit on young, vulnerable newbies. So I hope you didn’t really go from Step Zero to 13. 🙂

    I can understand why that guy pisses you off. Nobody likes a hypocrite. Annie is right, though, that he is not your role model for anything but sober time. If nothing else, imagine how much more of a jerk he probably was when he was drinking, and how much better he probably feels about himself now, even though others (and he himself) may think he still has a long way to go.

    • Hahahaha! So pretty much, all around, Step 13 seems to be one to avoid!

      The neighbor may have a long way to go…but I think it’s best if I just concentrate on me for now.

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Hi No More Sally – I’ve read your whole blog and it is like reading about myself, thank you for your honesty. It sounds like you are headed in a positive direction, good for you. I’ll be back in a day or so but I just wanted to say hi and thanks.

  6. Pingback: I’m right, damn it. Now let’s drink. | NoMoreSally

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