Here’s the text for the 19 Feb 2021 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Jane Middlemiss on BBC Radio 2. You can listen to the audio clip here on the BBC website.
The first time I went to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was doing research for a sermon on addiction. From my own experience of active alcoholics in my family, I expected to hear a load of whingeing and blaming other people for their problems.
But this meeting felt different. Laughter filled the room. I was welcomed, given a coffee. Someone helped me find a seat.
The meeting started with celebrating sober anniversaries. One guy said, it’s been hard but today it’s a year without a drink. And the crowd clapped and whistled.
Other folks said: it’s been 90 days, or it’s a decade, or today I’ve got a week sober.
I could feel a lump forming in my throat.
Then people told deeper stories – of what had gone down in their lives, stuff they’d done, what they’d lost, the secrets that were killing them.
But also stories of how things had changed when they found the courage to be honest, when they shared the secrets, when they admitted they had a problem.
Their stories were diverse, but there was a common theme: everyone who was getting better had realized they couldn’t get better by themselves. They couldn’t make it alone. Instead of blaming other people for their problems, they’d discovered that other people could actually help. Someone said: Welcome to being human.
That lump in my throat had turned into tears.
A woman offered me a tissue. I said, thanks, I don’t know why I’m crying, I’m not an alcoholic, I’m just here for research purposes. She looked at me, she looked into me, really. She said, okay baby, okay. She knew.
I knew, though It took me two more years to admit my drinking problem.
But the biggest obstacle to recovery for me was asking for help, learning that I need others.
My biggest temptation still is control freakery. I think I can sort it all out by myself. If I work hard enough, focus, organise, do enough yoga, I can fix anything. I’m a recovering alcoholic, but I’m also a recovering control freak.
But I’ve come to believe that everybody’s addicted to something. If we’re honest, we all struggle with some substance or behavior or attitude that’s just draining the life from us, and we cannot fix it on our own.
But that is actually good news: because it pushes us outside of ourselves. And help is only another human away.