I have attended many AA meetings in an attempt to make my life better, but although I still meditate on some of the gems in the Big Book, I feel I have to stay away from meeting since I often end up identifying so much with everyone else, that it only confuses me and hurts my, (what I consider) my healthy self esteem. Those working the program of course, are referring to one’s ego centered self esteem, like the rugged individualism that so many Americans seem to revere, as well as the ability to “succeed,” or manage their lives without help from others (i.e. the sentiment expressed by Janis Joplin in her song titled something like, “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”).
To me it has been depressing to realize I can empathise with so many different members of AAA, and yet am expected to strive to give up all self esteem or else become lost in “selfish self esteem” Ironically, it seems that many of the Alcoholics who benefit from the program often tend to cut themselves down, in an attempt to be humble, rather than risk dealing with self-centric esteem or self like. I don’t believe that word “self,” is always negative, and I suppose neither do most people in the program, But when I find myself understanding nearly everything said by many other mentally ill alcoholics, it only make me doubt my sanity all the more. Consequently, though I did not drink, I would come home depressed and agitated, rather than serene.
However, because much of what Bill and Doctor Bob wrote made sense to me, I now have not had a drink for 27 years, and amazingly I have not smoked a cigarette for about 25 years (thanks to the nicotine patch). I feel that rather than force myself to go to meetings while bummed, and then come home feeling even more bummed, left me with no real “love of self” esteem (as distinguished from pride and self centered esteem). Thus, I find it better to meditate on things that are in the big book and in the world around me every day and also from many other spiritual sources, including Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, the words of wise men everywhere, and my friends. So, if that’s what has kept me sober, then that’s what works for me.
One more thing, my wife and I struggled a long time with not wanting to take our meds or not taking them as prescribed, but long ago we have surrendered to the realization that enduring relatively few side-effects is well worth keeping our minds “on the rail” (as one therapist put it). But, we all have aversions or even allergies to certain foods or chemicals that we are better off doing without, and after more than twenty visits to the different psych wards over our long relationship, we don’t mind being a little numb or subpar in a few ways rather than become overwhelmed by our symptoms.
Thanks for reminding me that using writing as a vehicle with which to cope with mental illnesses, and as a possilble way to keep many of our moods from overwhelming us completely.
For more than 40 years I have written poetry and as I grow older I find also myself more concerned about sending letters of opinion to the editors of our local newspaper, and/or to magazines.
We also know we are really lucky to have been out functioning in the world for most of our lives, and its nice to connect with others who may know where we are coming from.