LifeRing Recovery: a self-help alternative for recovery from alcoholism and other chemical dependency. Group support for abstinence from alcohol and “drugs” by empowering the sober self within you. Completely secular: no prayers, Higher Powers or Steps.
Up at 5am watering the garden because we are in the middle of a heatwave here at the tip of Africa. I'm still grateful for waking up clearheaded and energised each morning, no cotton mouth or rush for analgesics to take the edge off the hangover etc.
I was thinking about my own take on belief systems. When I was 23, I converted to Catholicism for all the wrong reasons. I stayed in the church because I hoped it might help me control my drinking or remove the desire to drink. Most of my prayers were just a form of reiterated verbal panic and I wasn't prepared to do anything concrete to change my life.
But I learned a great deal about Catholicism as a belief system and as a practice. In the West, Catholicism still presents itself as monolithic, unified etc. In Africa, as in Latin America, the liberation theologies have changed the Church - practices that involve sexism and racism are not acceptable and the emergence of small basic communities reading the Bible from the underside of history have brought conflict out into the open. The cultural imperialism of Rome is not accepted and many varieties of contextualisation are taking place.
When I came into AA in an urban African city, it was still run on Western lines, but in the area where I live, more rural and mostly black, AA is very different from Western models. People have to walk many miles to reach meetings and everything said has to be translated into two or three languages. Because many members are illiterate, the Big Book is not used. There is no sponsorship because people don't have phones or cars and don't meet outside of meetings. There is also a suspicion of the paternalism and dependency issues involved in sponsorship. So we share our narratives and that is what works. Meetings last for four or five hours with all the translating and singing. Most members are nominally Christian but also animist and the younger members are more political and agnostic, so there is no Lord's Prayer or piosity. There is a great deal of singing. And many members get sober and stay that way.
When I had to go to New York on business late last year and attended AA meetings in Manhattan, it was completely foreign to me and I was appalled by the lack of independent thought and the controlling behaviour. I know it is not like that elsewhere overseas becaue I have been to many meetings in the UK and the presence of strong sober women and off-beat humour made me feel quite at home!
Like other belief sytems or self-help approaches, AA is evolving differently in different places. I found and still find AA immensely helpful, the 'partial truths' conditioned by the time in which the 'founders' wrote and worked, have some valuable insights. I take what works for me and leave the rest. I don't have an iota of fundamentalism in my nature, which may or may not be a good thing. It has never occurred to me to accept AA or the Big Book lock, stock and barrel. There needs to be a meaningful critique and change, but the kinds of change needed has to do with the place and the needs of the communities where AA is located. There are more than enough anarchic free-thinkers in the AA meetings I attend for me to make friends and not feel an outsider.
I don't know if this global diversity is true of other approaches to recovery. Most treatment centres in my part of Africa have a very wealthy clientele, relying heavily on foreigners from the US and UK whose parents can afford to send them across the world for a few months rehab. Otherwise there is no affordable and humane environment for treatment -- a few narcotics 'farms' where inmates are locked up ad dried out -- and Christian-run groups like Alcoholics Victorious are very popular, more so than AA.
I have only experienced AA and am interested in hearing about other alternatives that work -- the more alternatives the better!
Sorry for such a long and abtruse post --
"Sorry for such a long and abtruse post"
Not at all Mary, in fact that was one of the most interesting posts I've ever read on here! It's always fascinating to me to hear about how different cultures interpret the "same" things.
Thanks for the comment Jem, it seemed a heavy post for a newcomer to this site, but it might help lay the groundwork for other remarks I make later and help people to understand the 'otherness' of where I am posting from.
In some ways the secomd year of sobriety for me has been more difficult than the first, not in terms of wanting to drink, but becase I feel better and normal and don't see why I need to remind myself of the incipient alcoholism. But I have also noticed that if I don't participate within a recovery community, I tend to forget my vulnerabilities and battle to deal with anger and isolating. So I keep telling myself -- 'You need that morning walk. You need that muesli for breakfast. You need to tell F you re pissed off with her. You need to stop procrastinating on the project. And all this connects with you not having a drink today, no matter what.'
When I am around others in earlyish recovery from alcoholism (up to five years sober) I feel encouraged by their commn sense and enjoyment of life. And I sometimes feel I am able to encourage or inspire others. I don't know quite how this works beyond the obvious factors, but it does.
I spent some time this morning reading through the Lifering website and found it interesting. Many key suggestions are identical or similar to those in AA and I don't find the recounting of experiences or 'advice' offered on this forum to differ much from that given in AA. I might be wrong because I am very new here.
It wouldn't bother me to call myself a non-drinker rather than an alcoholic so long as I am not drinking. Sober, the term alcoholic has no stigma for me. If I started to drink again, the term 'alcoholic' would take on a very ngative meaning. Sober I can call myself teetotaller, abstinent, recovring alcoholic, non-drinker or anything else I like.
It mentioned that in 'skin meetings' of Lifering cross-talk is permitted (can't say I would care for that) and no drunkalogues. The term 'Drunkalogue' for me is a reference to the old-fashioned and mostly male habit of recounting great gory tales of how much they drank, how they fought, how they went to prison, how many cars they crashed, all that undisguised bragging that shows very little insight into why drinking did not work for them. Drunkalogues are characterised by gaping ommissions. I have only heard recovering men talk a few times about how they battered or raped women while in near-blackouts but Alanon women talk about it a great deal.
In many of the groups and meetings of AA I have attended, drunkalogues are sen as something of a joke, but they may still be popular in more conservative older communities..
The Lifering emphasis seems to be on how Lifering members have stayed sober in the past week, which keeps things very much in the present.
What I am finding more and more as I stay sober and share on sobriety on my blog and with frineds is how much I enjoy living sober. The honesty and depth of personal relationships has improved enormously since I stopped drinking myself into a coma every other day. Not surprising, but I would hate to lose that intimacy and renewed trust.
Woke up this morning shaking with fear from a nightmare about my father. He has been in a coma and hospitalised for eight months on a distant Hawaiian island for eight months.
I blogged about this and feel calmer but I have been thinking that living sober entails needing to 'feel' much more pain and emotional distress than meandering around drunk and numbed out. Sometimes I have the capacity to hold that pain but sometimes it still feels as if I have not yet found anything to replace the alcohol as an anaesthetic. I don't as yet know how to 'hold' or contain distress.
I love being able to feel everything more intensely and subtly. But the painful realities make me flinch.
I suppose I will get used to it or develop better coping skills as the years go by. Very late and belated learning curve...
"I suppose I will get used to it or develop better coping skills as the years go by"
Yes you will, and then you'll really believe the saying that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
Last April, in the course of a week, my wife left me and my dad died. I've never felt raw pain like that before but, even as I felt it, I KNEW it wouldn't crush me and that I now had the tools to deal with both situations.
Most importantly, I was 200% certain that booze wouldn't improve the situation at all.
Hope everyone is having a really enjoyable weekend. It is ferociously hot here and just want to sleep or immerse myself in cold water for much of the day. (I know how strange that sounds for those in a colder hemisphere!) But in the evenings I've been enthralled by the sight of a huge Gemini moon hanging over the back garden. I go outside and just bask in the moonlight.
When I was drinking I had a problem with time. I intended to do so much and never got around to it. Most of what I managed to do was done despite feeling ill and panic-stricken. As a daily drinker, that drinking took up much of my time. For an hour or so I would be energised and exhilarated and then I would be blurry and melancholy and pissed off and too drunk to do anything at all. And the next day I would be waiting to feel well enough to start drinking again.
Now it is such a pleasure to simply be available for whatever comes up and able to respond to opportunities. Friends call and ask me to join them on a picnic,and I am not lying with an ice pack on my forehead or disguising my drunkeness on the phone. I can plan out the day and that is how the day will go. I spend an hour or two in the garden before the heat gets unbearable. I pick up the book I was reading last thing at night and remember what was going on when I put it down! I invite friends around for a brunch, I go swimming in the river above the village, I take armfuls of flowers around to the old age home. Everything flows -- and it still feels like a miracle.
your mention of basking in moonlight made me get this Swampy Cree poem off my bulletin board:
All the warm nights
sleep in moonlight
keep letting it
go into you
all your life
you will shine outward
in old age
the moon will think