When I was a kid growing up, my mother (and my grandmother) used to constantly berate me for being like a bull in a china shop. It was one of the first humiliations I wrote about in my inventory many years ago…the feeling of not ‘fitting’ in my world, in my body, on the planet. I don’t know why I woke up this morning thinking about that. Have you ever felt like you were walking through someone else’s delicate life on your tippy toes…just trying not to screw something up? Or like you were an enormous sack of a human being wobbling here and there on a tightrope scooping up piles of yourself so as not to crush the world below you in which everyone seems to know their place? Did you feel put in a corner? Or maybe you just crawled there through the cliché of choice.
The thing that strikes me about being an addict is that gradually, little by little, we become the voiceless fringe on the edge of society, and whether we shout from the rooftops that we want to be there, or we grumble and complain about how misunderstood we are and how no one could possibly feel what we feel, the end result is the same. We become powerfully silenced by the disease. Step 5 is (to me) about starting to reverse that silence.
There’s no shame in our game. If I’ve learned anything in my sober days, it’s that we’re a pure force of nature. I just watched JM live his normal life (which is by definition insane) then leave and go manage sets at the SuperBowl for 13 days, fly in at 6 p.m. on a Monday night and roll out of bed Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. for an exam in his first class…score a B on that exam, go to class all day, come home, eat a little, sleep a little, and roll out of bed at 5 this morning to go train a bootcamp on Lake Travis. Pure force.
We start to wake up in sobriety, in all kinds of ways. When this awakening coincides with our dreams and ambitions, it’s an amazing thing to watch. When it coincides with our innermost fears and our darkness, it’s a terrifying thing to experience. My childhood didn’t make me an alcoholic, but it probably didn’t help things any. In Step 5 (the first time and many times since) I learned to begin to say out loud the things that humiliated me, frustrated me, made me feel powerless and put in a corner.
Maybe a bull in a china shop is just a child with a soft soulful ballooning spirit too big for her body. A woman in the program told me that. In Step 5 she helped me begin to tell a different story. I slowly edged my way off the tightrope. It’s a l o n g process. Sometimes we just wake up there…not really sure what happened, or how to get down. We wobble here and there to find our footing in a groundless world. We may be so desperate that we call out for god, or whatever our understanding of god is. Sometimes god is skin (yours and mine). Telling someone is a part of acknowledging that we are not alone. Unity is our first tradition. It is the common burden of our disease that makes it possible; the power to share our recovery that makes it meaningful.