One of my favorite things about recovery, is that it is changing all the time. When I entered the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous I had great concerns about some of the things I assumed about the program. There are many things that are suggested as a course of action, there are ways to do things and ways we are encouraged not to do things.
I spent a very long time in recovery feeling guilty about my program. I felt that if I didn’t do it exactly the way everyone else did, then I was doing it wrong. And plenty of people loved to share with me their concerns about my choices and their fears about my inevitable relapse. People love to judge your program and how you are working it, and it always hurt me because I was so involved in recovery.
When I got sober I was a bartender. I had been a bartender my whole adult life and I continued to be a bartender as I was getting sober. To me, it wasn’t that strange. I lived on the West coast for a long time and had always worked next to bartenders that were in the program, or cocktail servers that were in the program. It didn’t seem odd to me to be a sober bartender. But apparently, to other people, it is very strange. From the very beginning I made a deal with myself about my job. I knew that if it were too difficult for me to tend bar, then I would give it up. I also knew that absolutely nothing was going to stand in the way of my sobriety.
I found a home group and I went to meetings every single day. I loved going there. I loved seeing the people, and I couldn’t wait to get there everyday and tell them that I was still sober. From my first day I saw people with 20 years and 30 years and they were there every day. I made a mental note that the obvious key to success was to go to a meeting every day. I would listen to each person share their thoughts as the topic traveled the room, I would listen to my new friends, and I would learn things. I was learning about myself and my behavior, I was learning that I was not unique, and that I had found a place where I fit in and could be myself. I loved every delicious moment of it. Then I would go to work at the bar and share with all my friends the amazing life lessons I was learning.
I have enjoyed my sobriety. I have worshiped it and savored it. I have not taken a drink nor have I had any desire to take a drink. I have been active in my community, I have been of service to my fellows inside and outside of recovery. I had a beautiful, nurturing, life-changing, and enlightening sponsorship relationship with a male sponsor for many years, and now I have the same relationship with a female sponsor. I bought my own bar, and lost my own bar. I was financially devastated. I had a car reposessed, have dealt with death, break-ups, and the IRS. And I have remained sober. And I have remained a bartender.
You see, my AA suits me. There have been many people share their thoughts and concerns with me about my job, as well as about my male sponsor. I smile, and say ‘thank you for your concern’, when I really want to say ‘fuck you and mind your own business’. But I don’t say that. I don’t say that because I am comfortable in my sobriety and I am firmly planted in the steps and traditions of my program, that my male sponsor taught me.
My program is strong, I am dedicated, I am unwavering, and recovery is my entire life. From my formal education, to my career, my hobbies, my spare time, and my friends. It’s all recovery. I’m not saying that anyone should do things the way I have done them. I understand that most people wouldn’t be comfortable in the roles I maintain. But I am free to work the best program for me just like everyone else is free to work the best program for them. AA is where we are supposed to learn acceptance and love, progress not perfection, and principles before personalities. Let’s practice that.