On July 25, it will be two years since I’ve kissed an old, old boyfriend. He is a modern man, with a hyphenated last name. His first name is Johnny and his last name is Walker-Red.
I chose my sponsor because she was beautiful, poised, brilliant, a mother (a prerequisite as I have three children)and, most importantly, a “Country Club Drunk,” just like me. Mrs. Rum Pot…just put it on my tab….Everything tastes better in Waterford!
The dear woman took on a hell of a lot more than guiding a dazed and confused Hazelden grad when I asked her if she would sponsor me. She is an angel in my life and her quiet presence and frequent phone calls keep me vertical. We also share a somewhat ironic, some may say twisted, sense of humor.
Recently she called me and asked, “Here’s one for you kiddo–have you ever heard of Emotions Anonymous?” We thought it was screamingly funny….”We are powerless over our emotions….Our lives have become unmanageable.”…Who in the Sam Hill would need these meetings and what kind of people go there?
Me. I now have two E.A. meetings under my belt, I’ve purchased “The Big Book” and a daily meditation tome.
I went to some meetings to do research for this article and realized that this was just where I needed to be in my recovery journey: I have initiated divorce proceedings after years of deliberation. The gentleman who did my intake assessment at Hazelden said, “I’m not going to label you as an alcoholic. You decide that, but…you are clearly abusing alcohol to numb the pain of a miserable marriage.”
I won’t point fingers or explain or blame. My purpose is to illuminate for you, dear reader, what E.A. is about. My illustrious therapist, Suzanne, contends that codependency is the basement of addiction. Our relationships and what we bring from our past into adulthood, can cause addicts to become “comfortably numb.” I assert that our emotions are the cellar or basement beneath the basement. (Suzanne agrees.)
What drives us imperfect human beings? Perhaps our belief systems drive us, and emotions emanate from these. The definition of <emotion> in my Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus states: n. strong mental or instinctive feeling such as love or fear. Further to that, a feeling is defined as: 1 a. capacity to feel: sense of touch. b. physical sensation. 2 a. emotional reaction. For some of us, emotions become way too big. I’ve learned in a Psychic Development class, taught by Cindy Lehman, a beautiful woman who vibrates on an ethereal plane, that emotions are pure energy. They need to be named, owned and dealt with or one will become stuck. I’m a self-proclaimed expert in this, having suffered a clinical depression after the birth of my third child. I have lived in the dark side.
As good as it gets
I am also continually amazed by people in A.A. who said that when they stopped drinking or using, they started to feel their emotions. I’ve felt my feelings so intensely that I’ve worked hard to go away on “mini-vacations.” They were always there, my feelings and emotions,larger than life. My sterling sponsor says, “we don’t have a drinking problem, we have a thinking problem.” The Twelve Steps are simply a recipe to become a grownup. And, what loftier goal might there be in becoming a grownup,but to become emotionally healthy and respond to life on life’s terms and people in an appropriate, responsible, honest and compassionate way?
My first Emotions Anonymous meeting was amazing. It was a very small group–perhaps six people. They were very kind and welcoming. They gave me a newcomers packet which included: “Welcome to a New Way of Life, E.A.’s Twelve Step Program and Newcomer Orientations.” Additional pamphlets covered the rest-resentments, fear, anger, indecision, love, shame (a biggie for Lutherans), anxiety, depression, forgiveness, perfectionism, self-esteem and grief, Hot dang this is as good as it gets!
I cried so hard that I choked while briefly telling my story. The sadness of my impending uncoupling stunned me. I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t know how to forgive myself for my part in the slow decay of a union that was entered into with great hope, immense love and starry eyes. I didn’t know how to take the hair shirt off.
A lovely woman gave me a hug at the end of the meeting, a hug that I desperately needed. She’s got about 30 years working the E.A. program. She seemed so serene, like many people in Alcoholics Anonymous, which E.A. gratefully models themselves after–a program of attraction rather than promotion.
At my second meeting I felt a bit more prepared. I arrived early and made small talk with the attendees. I was the last to speak. I said, “Hi my name is Kathy. I am powerless over my emotions.” I think I’ve waited my entire life to make that simple declaration. I broke down again. But I felt peaceful and safe, and knew that this was the place where I needed to be.
Getting sober for me was huge. No one liked to drink more than me. Starting the divorce process and living through these feelings with no anesthesia, save for my detested Marlboro Lights, blows getting sober out of the water.
I can’t go back. I choose not to drink the pain away. It is much like one of my favorite children’s books, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams: “What is real?” the Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, you become Real. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and you get very shabby.”
“I suppose you are Real?” said the Rabbit, “The Boy’s uncle made me real many years ago,” said the Skin Horse. “Once you are Real, it lasts for always.”
Once you become real and emotionally healthy, you can be present and give to those whom you love with all your heart.
Discovering Emotions Anonymous was no accident, I’m quite sure, I believe in Divine Intervention. I’m thankful for the phone call from my sponsor, and our initial giggle over E.A. I’m thankful for my Higher Power. And I’m thankful that I’m becoming authentic.
There’s that old familiar phrase, “keep coming back.” I will. For more information on Emotions Anonymous, call 651-647-9712 or visit www.emotionsanonymous.org.
Kathryn Chase is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, MN
This article first appeared in the June 2006 issue of The Phoenix Spirit.