God willing, I’ll be sober today. Tomorrow? We’ll see. I decide one day at a time. In the last couple of years, I’ve decided that I don’t identify as an alcoholic, but I do know that for me alcohol is habit-forming and a downer, so I treat it with respect and take it in small doses. Mindful drinking has been good for me. But I could not do it on willpower alone. I pray to stay sober.
Even though I drink sometimes, I still go to AA meetings. But I’m not following the path of lifetime abstinence, so I try to choose an “open” meeting – open to non-alcoholics – and I don’t speak. I just listen. I hope they don’t mind.
What I really crave from an AA meeting are the stories. Instead of stories about Buddha or Moses or Jesus, I hear true tales from men and women about human-scale catastrophe, faith, redemption, and recovery. I’m always moved (usually to tears or laughter) and I leave the room feeling humble, nourished, and alive.
When I get out of line, I go to a meeting. In that space, I have a chance to realign myself with God, with myself, and with others — in that order. It doesn’t work the other way around.
In the last two years I’ve attended storytelling circles led by my friend Elaine Cohen. I realized that even more than talking (which I dearly love) I like listening to others tell stories. Stories make the magic of an AA meeting and form the heart of Hidden Roots, my new work.
Like trees in an ancient forest, we are connected by hidden roots. Skin color, nationality, faith, age, gender, sexuality, money, status, motherhood, mental health, or menopause — all these differences (and more) disappear when we listen deeply to each other, one voice at a time.
I hope you tell — and hear — some good stories this year. Join me for a storytelling circle.
Happy New Year.
Photo: Zach Reiner via Unsplash