On Saturday, I met my mother and sister for lunch and later that night I attend an AA meeting. This particular meeting is a “Big Book” study. The members go around the room and read a few paragraphs from the book and then share their thoughts on what they have read.
This is what I read:
The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so- called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.
The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.
“A hot stove.” Yes. I am familiar.
The lunch with my family had put me on edge. Ever since last year, since the election of Trump and my parents unwavering support for him, there is a (mostly) unspoken tension between my mother and me. She knows how I feel. I know how she feels. There is no solution. No closure. And no real acceptance from either one of us toward the other. Just a silent detente and, on my part, a real sadness. I feel as though I have been wronged by my parents – as if they cheated on me by supporting Trump. It feels very personal and intimate.
The name “Trump” rarely comes up in conversations with my family, and yet it is so often present. I can go days without thinking about their support for him, but then I will read an outrageous headline or see the latest tweet storm and bam!, I am right back into a nasty, judgmental thought spiral.
Our visits can feel like a conversational land mine. On Saturday, a honey bee buzzed by the lunch table and before you know it we are arguing about Monsanto, the plight of small farmers and who really benefits from ethanol. WTF?! This is not a moment I want to be sharing with my 70-year-old mother, you know?
Because we both want very much to be together, we quickly moved on to other, more important topics. But on the drive home I became increasingly agitated. Later that night, when I drove to the AA meeting, I was purposefully NOT driving to the liquor store. When I read that except from the Big Book, I focused on the hot stove and the power of choice.
I can choose not to drink. I can choose to change the conversation. I can choose to change my thoughts – about my parents, about Trump (hard one, that), about the future. Neither me or my mother really knows anyway. We are both just afraid … afraid for the bees, for the farmers, for each other.
At the meeting a man named Steve celebrated his 20th (sober) birthday.
“How did you do it?,” the meeting leader asked him.
“When I first came to AA, I couldn’t imagine 20 days, let alone 20 years,” Steve said, a huge grin on his face.
“There have been a few times in my life when I felt like everything was going to be ok,” he continued. “The first time was when I went to live at an orphanage when I was a young boy. When I woke up that first morning I just knew everything was going to be ok. The second time was when I walked into my first AA meeting and heard people sharing with such honesty. I just knew everything was going to be ok.”
Twenty years later, there he stood in the middle of this meeting. Sober, happy, humble.
“Everything is going to be ok,” he said again. And I chose to believe him.