There’s someone specific on my mind for several reasons. I’m going to call her Phyllis for this post. She came to us a few years ago when she was 70 years old. Circumstances had made her think it was a good time to stop drinking.
She went to lots of meetings and she stopped drinking and using other drugs – pretty much. She sort of asked someone to be her sponsor, and that didn’t work out. She kind of tried to work a step or two but that also didn’t work out completely well. She stopped going to meetings for a time, then came back. She goes to a few meetings a week now and hardly does any drugs or alcohol. She doesn’t have a sponsor and she isn’t working steps. Maybe, she tells us, if she had started out when she was younger. But at this time, what’s the point?
And what’s the point of AA meetings for someone like this? She tells us all the time, just about every time she’s at a meeting, that she comes because of the people. I’ll point out also that no one to my knowledge tells her she can’t come, doesn’t belong, or is making her own quick doom.
Now I haven’t asked Phyllis about this, and I never spent any time at all in bars, and I imagine that drunken disclosures can be quite personal. If they’re true. I know the things I said when I was drunk were not always rooted in reality. But the things Phyllis has disclosed to us over these few years are amazing. I just bet that she never imagined she would tell strangers the things she has told us. Most of us aren’t strangers, of course, but at an open meeting, there could be any number of strangers.
I don’t have any secrets. I have one wacky circumstance wherein my work partner does not know I’m in AA, and I just feel ridiculous after all this time telling her. I conceal one other fact from her, a friend I have whom I know she disapproves of, but I don’t hide it to the point of lying. And for some strange reason I feel like I even have to only record those things because if I don’t, my wife will call me on them.
At times I’ve hidden my cigarette smoking from my children and my mother. Thank goodness that hasn’t been an issue for quite some time. I might not exactly hide, but not exactly broadcast it, if I cheat on my diet. Smoking and eating in a disordered way. Those things are sick, I think. In those cases I am as sick as my secrets.
The fifth step has us disclose everything, at least once, to at least one person. The exact nature of our wrongs. Then then tenth has us admit when we are wrong. It’s my own mind that is putting together secrets with wrongs.
I’m trying hard and I think all I have these days that I don’t want to disclose are sometimes disturbing dreams or thoughts. At other times I don’t want to tell someone what I’m doing or what I’ve done because I know the person will disapprove or be angry, but I don’t usually feel I’ve done something wrong. I haven’t seen it, in the rooms, where people are encouraged to confess all kinds of personal stuff to strangers, I really haven’t. I have seen them, again and again, actually do so, though. It seems natural to me to question why I or someone else wants to keep something a secret. Something very personal, like a trauma or a medication or something, I can understand keeping close, and having few people who know about it. That isn’t the same to me as a secret.
The level of disclosure I’ve experienced over the years is amazing. Mary writes about a man who lived a good and productive life all the way through until an early death, a life uninterrupted by alcoholism. I feel even luckier than that. My life was interrupted and almost ended by alcoholism, but I have had so very many years of not just sobriety, but living the steps and knowing the wonderful people of the program it makes it more than worth it. I can’t find words to explain the good fortune. After all this time I still get to meet and know and pray for and worry about people like Phyllis.