This is my thoughts on the second part of the first step of AA, (first part). Was my life truly unmanageable? Sometimes yes, sometimes no – but the longer I drunk alcohol and used drugs the more unmanageable my life became. I didn’t come from a settled background, something that seems typical of a lot of people I have met in Alcoholics Anonymous. The idea that at fifteen years old I would have had any idea what to do with my life and how to get there was not something that crossed my mind.
So in essence I started way down in having any trust in the future and learned early on to grab everything I wanted as soon as possible. This though didn’t make me an alcoholic, drinking did and then I learned what real unmanageability was.
What is a Manageable Life?
I have seen this around me all my life. At school most of the kids did their homework and turned up to attend.
At work colleagues did what they said they would.
I saw husbands and wives keep promises to each other and look after each other.
I watched as some of my friends bought a house, bought a car and were not in crazy financial predicaments all the time.
I saw people save money. SAVE! And head off on vacation with it all paid before they went, not using their credit cards at the last minute trying to get the cheapest week somewhere.
So It’s All About Humiliation?
No. I really don’t believe that anything in Alcoholics Anonymous is about humiliating me. It is about finding out the truth. I lived in a world for so long that was full of deception and lies. On top of that I had never acquired the life skill of getting to know myself, (there were a few others also).
For me the first step in AA is about starting to clearly see the past for what really happened. It is about seeing that I am responsible for my own life.
Thinking further ahead than tonight’s drink, the monthly pay check, or what I wanted didn’t occur to me. Any thought of being able to manage my emotions was never a thought that crossed my mind.
I think that a lot of the problems of managing my life were simply the result of never being able to bear pain and manage any emotion. I ran from everything. I noticed during my first few years of being in AA that I could sit with things – the contrast was stark – before AA and in the early years of being sober I had to talk to someone as soon as I was upset in anyway.
I was not able to function effectively. My feeling and emotions governed me – and were indeed a higher power than my rational brain. If someone upset me I had great trouble to keep my anger to myself, people would have agreed with the statement “you know when he is upset”.
Seeing the miss-management of material things was easy, seeing the miss-management of my own self was and is harder.
Drink was not my only obsession. I could obsess about anything. I remember once reading a review of a book, I thought that this book would help me – I was always looking for something to fix me. Anyway I started phoning all the local libraries to see if any of them had this book. One said they had and I drove there to find out that they did not have it. I wasted a whole afternoon and some money trying to get this book that would help me – I was obsessed with getting my hands on the cure for my problems. I was continually thrown from one thing to another – I just thought that was how life was. I didn’t know any better.
I had many of these obsessions, from people to sports to money to work – it invaded every area of my life.
The idea of taking one thing and working with it or on it for a long period of time was too much for me. I had to be running, running to something, but mostly away from myself – I couldn’t stand myself.
Was I prepared to admit that my life was unmanageable? Yes. But while having to do this I had my eye on the next step and that didn’t look very appealing – I think before hand none of AA’s twelve steps looked appealing – afterwards they were fine.