Night before last I was in the dumps – just tired of frickin’ everything. So I threw a party. I shit you not.
This is the principle we hear of a lot in the rooms – to do the opposite of what we feel like doing. I’ve been around long enough to know it pays off, and to understand that the loudest voice in my head is usually not the wisest.
Take day before yesterday, I was sitting in my empty house in the same old chair where I always frickin’ sit, looking out the same damn window at that same damn tree. I was also looking at the weeks ahead – the darkest of the year (in Seattle, dusk begins to fall around 3:30). I don’t do well in the dark. My brain’s amygdala gets its mitts on a little fear-powered megaphone, so it was broadcasting loud and clear like this:
“What is my life, really? Work. Pay the damn mortgage – house falling apart. More work. Buy groceries, eat ’em, pay the damn sewage bill. Clean my ever-dirty house. Exercise to fight getting old. Get old. Ach! – how much longer do I have to do this shit?! I’m 54, so… like… 35 years, and then maybe I’ll get put in a home. God, I hope I don’t Facebook there! I am SO sick of EVERYTHING.”
At that point, some little alarm light tripped in a different part of my brain. It said, as god often does, “BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT! Re-examine! Spot inventory!”
Scanning myself, I realized I was angry – unconsciously hurt and angry. I’d been planning a weekend with my boyfriend on the beautiful island where he lives, even rearranged clients so I could catch an early ferry, then he texted that he was being sent to Copenhagen. Boom. Empty weekend. My son would be at his other mom’s. I’d be alone.
Somehow, the part of my brain that’s been paying attention in Al-Anon kicked in, saying: “Let it begin with me! Your happiness does not depend on what Grayson does. Your life is rich and you are loved by many. Be grateful! Spend time with friends!”
Jesus, what bunch of goodie two-shoes platitudes!
Here, dear reader, is where one has to have eaten one’s spiritual Wheaties. Because it takes a huge surge of faith to hoist yourself out from that dark groove fear has carved, turn away, and begin to do the thing you least feel like doing. I know that loving other alcoholics helps me. I know my house is very near my homegroup. So I reached for my phone. The dark voice threw everything in arm’s reach at my head as I texted a homegroup friend.
ME: If I have a game night tomorrow after the meeting will you bring games? I don’t have any fucking games.
ROB: Sounds great.
ME: Should I do it? I’m depressed so it seems like a huge deal. I just want to sleep.
ROB: Me every day.
ME: But will you come over even if nobody else does? We can just play hangman or tic tac toe.
ROB: I’ll bring Suspend.
I took that as a Yes. That’s all I needed – just one friend who understood. Forcing myself, and with the dreariest look on my face, I created an Event entitled, “Post-Meeting Games and Shit” in our local Facebook AA group, which promptly invited all 97 members. By the next day, my best friend, a sponsee, and one other person had accepted. The dark voice gloated about my pathetic neediness, how I should just watch TV alone like normal people. It buzzed in the background like a big zizzy fly while I cleaned my house and bought four jugs of spiced apple cider. Just getting the dining room table cleared of clutter for games took literally hours!
After the meeting I checked in with some non-Facebook friends, who had other plans. A few said they might be over. So I went home and plugged in the Christmas tree. I turned on Pandora carols and set a big pot of cider on the stove. My dog looked at me. I got down a bunch of cups while the voice warned, “You’re going to feel so stupid putting these away again!” No one came. I added a bunch of wood to the fire. The carols played on. My dog scratched himself.
Then, finally, he barked. The doorbell. One or two at a time, a dozen homegroup friends plus two newcomers climbed those freshly swept steps with food in their arms and light in their eyes, and they brought… god. That’s the only way I can say it. Because I loved them! All ages; all walks of life; all sober. Each had overcome their own dark voice to show up. Rob unpacked Suspend on the shining wood table where people gathered talking about how Bing Crosby beat his kids or how expensive that bakery up the street is, and, wait, what are the rules again? Before long we were ooing and ah-ing at daring Suspend feats.
Human voices, their teasing, their laughter filled up my lonely house – and I remembered what life is, saw it like a forgiven lover. I am so in love with my life! We went through the cider. We ate the food. My sponsee’s gift was an updated Trivial Pursuit that a bunch of us played in the living room, awarding pie slices that people hadn’t even won because fuck it! That question was dumb! I saw the goodness, the vulnerability of the new people joining in, and the beauty of my friends in ever-more subtle colors.
The dark voice shriveled, its megaphone dead.
Last night rekindled something in me – Love – enough to carry me through the darkest days ahead. Once again I remember that all my difficulties – my loneliness, my endless bills, my sorrow at getting older, and stings of life’s disappointments – are not mine. They’re ours. We do this thing together.
“We know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself, ‘I’m jittery and alone. I couldn’t do that.’ But you can. You forget that you have just now tapped a source of power much greater than yourself.” (A Vision for You, 163)
Life is yours. Go n’ git it!
5 responses to “Doing the Opposite: A Christmas Story”
Wow, beautiful post!
Thank you. I needed to read that today.
It is about love! Check out the Jim Carrey commencement speech on YouTube if you haven’t already. It was a holy shit moment for me. From beginning to end, his speech summed up my eight year sober journey and the conscious choice I make today.
I watched it just now and it was awesome. Thanks so much for the tip! My favorite thing he said:
Our eyes are not just viewers, they are also projectors that are running a second story over the picture we see in front of us all the time. Fear is writing that script, and the working title is, “I’ll never be enough.”
(For others, he really gets rolling about 10 minutes into it)
Great post! Very inspiring as well