Not clinical separation anxiety, obviously, but anxiety just the same, and one facet of it seems to be separation from external control. I’ve been on supervised probation for something like 19 years, and it is just about to be over. I’ve been completely sober for nearly 6 of those years and the training wheels are about to come off, and I hear… I hear that people in my circumstance frequently feel anxiety; frequently have thoughts of drinking. Drinking wasn’t my thing, after all. It seems like I should be able to do it. That’s the “great obsession of every alcoholic,” right? That “somehow, some day, he will control and enjoy his drinking.“
I have been sober long enough to understand that this is exactly the insane idea that I have to be on the lookout for. Fortunately I am able to experience this with some level of mindfulness and while the thought is there, the desire is not.
It isn’t just the pending disappearance of my external control mechanism that is dogging me. My life has gotten very much bigger recently. It has gotten so much bigger that I’m exposed to some seriously inimical commentary, a rash of ad hominem attacks, and vipirish attacks on the comments of numerous blog posts and news reports – none of which I was ready for. Not at all. Even the people who were nice were mean. (Go to minute 14:20 for a taste.)
I see a whole future in front of me – one that just as promised when I got sober, is beyond anything I dared to hope for myself – and I have the skills to stay sober, but I feel completely unprepared for what is in front of me. I have to hope that the new people in my life are going to be kind enough to point the way. But I still internalize the things that other people say about me. Every one of them resonates with an internal fear. Every one of them is mimicked by my own internal critic; the voice in my head that won’t shut up about what a loser I am, what a disappointment I am, what a waste I’ve made of my life. Under more ordinary circumstances I’ve gotten okay at battling that voice and at being kind to myself. But these haven’t been ordinary circumstances.
I’m also troubled by the fact that after 6 years in what is supposed to be a spiritual program, my spiritual life and my conception of a higher power is as insufficient as ever. Looking back I can see there is kind of a pattern of this thinking that happens around this time every year. Maybe I should take a look at that. The depression and anxiety have been enough that I’ve sought “outside help” and the doctor I talked to said it sounded to her like I was in full spiritual crisis–not depression. My annual reminder of the absence of religious practice (Christmas) coupled with the experiences I have had recently, have made me feel more like I need to be building a larger community of love and support around me. I feel like I wish I had a church.
I feel like I need some spirituality and some community that is not 12 step meetings. I mean, those are great and everything, but I think I’m missing something that is different from 12 step. I have a fondness for the religion of my youth, but at the level I’d be permitted to practice it is pretty sterile, and they do sort of insist that you drink the Kool-Aid and believe their version of Truth. And I just can’t do that. The thing that attracts me, and has ever since the first time I was exposed to it at Christmastime in Sweden, is high church. I love the architecture and the music and the art and the stained glass. I love the costumes and the smell of incense. I love the ritual.
How do you join a church, though? How do you even “shop” for one? How do you go and make friends and become a part of it, especially when it is entirely alien to you? And truth be told, the only reason that I feel like I can even admit the idea of church into my consciousness is the fact that there is this guy I really like and he happens to be religious. And the fact that he has faith and a spiritual practice is really attractive to me. I probably could have coasted without growing if I hadn’t met him, but I don’t really see that as an option now. At least not one that is acceptable to me.
It’s time to grow. It’s time to grow a lot.