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Post Info TOPIC: Al Anon Atheist, part 1


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Al Anon Atheist, part 1
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My husband and I met drunk, fell in love drunk, married drunk, and loved each other the same and were happy sober in that lovely underflow lie all drunks live in when they're sober--knowing the next drink will come soon enough, and believing that means we're just as happy sober as drunk, and therefore certainly not alcoholics. When I learned that the term blackout did not, as I'd always thought, describe the Bowery wretch passed out on the sidewalk in his own vomit, but blackout did mean what happened 2-3 times a month when I'd wake up safe in our bed at home, and ask myself which train did we take to get home? I'm obviously undressed and I can tell I even took off my mascara--but when? I must be groggy, I'd tell myself. When I learned these were blackouts, I panicked, and the dark sick hangovers I was used to became intolerable and I finally quit, without AA, which was out of the question for an atheist. The gift, the illumination. the Fresh Mind World of sobriety became a curse because my beloved kept on happily drinking. I cursed my marriage with my sobriety. Why wasn't love--for me, for our future--enough to bring him over to my side, where the world is fresh and sharp and bright? Nothing prepared me for the bizarre one-sided life of being the sober half of a drunken marriage: it's like being in a little boat with your favorite person but only your side is pitching, water getting in,  it's going to capsize any second now, and his side of the little boat is calm as glass, smooth sailing, "What rough seas?" he says, and with true love. I went to therapists for help and each told me, with no particular concern , that of course the issue was leave him yes-or-no. But that wasn't the issue. There'd be no leaving; how can I steady my side of the boat for the foreseeable rest of my life? Confusion, guilt, distance, guilt, unhappiness, resentment, guilt became everyday feelings. How could the victory of sobriety cause this much unhappiness? When denial, habit, and shutting-down  felt like the only peace I'd ever know, I decided to try Al-Anon, where at least I'd meet people who know what this is like. I was certain my fears would be confirmed in the first meeting: Being an atheist of of the Hitchens-Dawkins variety, I'd alienate myself and end up leaving almost everything and taking almost nothing. 

This did not happen and what did happen was so unexpected and logical that I want to spell it out to encourage other nonreligious men and women who are suffering in drunken marriages (although Al-Anon is designed for any relationship with an alcoholic, this is what I know, and the pessimism and unhappiness of this  state is what I can reach out to in others) that Al anon will give you more than a compromise. The program's foundations are autonomy and accountability. My understanding that a supernatural sentience is a fiction is essential to my Al Anon experience--to both my personal and social Al-Anon experiences. The 12 Steps can easily be revised to the vocabulary of intransigent reality, and I found that the literature, the Steps, and the famous serenity prayer, all in fact insist on self-accounting, self-attending, and self-development. Instead of blipping over the spoken or written references to a higher power, I can see it for what it is: the conjuring of a state of rest and humility for people suffering every day from what they can't change. People who have in fact worked harder than I have yet to distinguish between what they can and cannot change. They rest, they strengthen and press on, in conjuring a sentience that knows exactly what they can never know, and is at work composing a purposeful narrative for their suffering. I meet them directly and truthfully and with fellowship and friendship in their truthful and direct facing-down of a suffering I get. Everyone here is finding the words, and then doing the hard work of naming their own responsibilities and freedoms regarding the same material nightmare that brought us all to the meeting. You will reach out to your companions in their material nightmare, and they'll reach out to you in yours, and, as usual, reality will be the only presence in the room.

The work of revising the steps and the literature entirely into the real is creative and valuable: when you see the inspiring emphasis on autonomy in, specifically, Courage to Change, tweaking the language to insist on the truth value that's already there will feel crucial to your own recovery work and not just a corrective.

I can't take for granted that any meeting I attend in New York is taking place in communities accustomed to spectrums of religions, philosophies, as well as ambiguous or antipathetic attitudes towards religion. I also lucked into a Courage to Change group and have yet to bring my *orientation* to a 12 Step group, where higher power language may be more prevalent, and  I might have to work harder to foreground reality without transgressing the crosstalk rule. 

Ultimately, I'm calling out to atheists in support of Al Anon: the work of manifesting reality in the meetings and through the literature is much more creative, effective towards your own growth and discovery, and loving than you might think. If Al Anon will not post this message, I will find another recovery forum for it. I have become an advocate for a special role for Al Anon in atheists' recovery and discovery, and I intend to promote my viewpoint. And if they do publish this, and anyone would like to see my revised 12 Steps, please just let me know.



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I've been down where the vultures feed I would have gone deeper But there wasn't any need
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