When I got sober in 1986, my life changed radically and immediately. I loved AA (even though I didn’t understand most of what was being taught) and a group of us, who all had about the same amount of sobriety, became friends. One day, someone in my new circle of friends, suggested we go out to a bar. Our reasoning was that we were now sober and could go anyplace we wanted. Wasn’t that what freedom was about? Didn’t it even say in AA that we shouldn’t be afraid to go anywhere if we had the right purpose for going?
So we went to a bar to listen to a band. At one point, I was walking to the phone to call my husband, and I literally felt wobbly, just like I did when I drank. I also noticed that other, less wholesome, thoughts were surfacing; I started feeling flirty and cocky, just like the old days. I didn’t drink that night but still woke up the next morning feeling hung over.
It took me a long time to realize who I was without the influence of alcohol. When I first got sober, my thoughts and feelings were so chaotic that I had a hard time distinguishing healthy and unhealthy people to associate with; I gravitated toward those who were similar to me.
After several years, as I actively tried to change; to see myself more clearly, stop talking about others, and began to clean up my thought life, some relationships just didn’t work anymore. They were uncomfortable for everyone. One friend called me a “goodie two-shoes”, and I felt hurt and angry, but it didn’t stop me from working to change my life from one of chaos, drama, and disorder, to a calmer, more centered, life. I never did go to a bar (to socialize) again, and I noticed as the years passed, and I worked with many women who wanted to grow and change, that the ones who kept going to bars, either drank again or were never able to lift themselves (or be lifted) out of unhappy life situations.
There are certain places where the “atmosphere” is heavy, dark and unhappy, and this is as true of some churches, family gatherings and AA meetings, as it is for bars, or any place where human beings gather for a purpose. We tend to energetically bond with those who are around us. A woman whom I became very close to in the early days of sobriety, and I’m still friends with, told me to choose my sponsor* based on how she lived her life. She said to ask myself the question, “Do I want what she has?” (in AA this means, do I admire or like the kind of person she/he is).
I’ve become a lot more aware of my own thoughts and feelings since those early days of sobriety. Now, if I am wondering whether or not to become involved with someone, or a group activity, I can ask myself the questions, “How do I feel around them regarding this specific issue/purpose? Does this feel open-hearted and honest? How do I feel when I leave their company? Do I feel more myself; better, calmer, happier, stronger? or am I feeling less sure, less myself, more confused?, and when I get quiet inside, I always know.
“Your mind surely absorbs the kind of thought it is most with. If you are with the successful you absorb thought which brings success. The unsuccessful are ever sending from them thoughts of lack of order, lack of system, lack of method, or recklessness and discouraged thought. Your mind if much with theirs will certainly absorb these thoughts exactly as a sponge does water.” pp 89 , from Thoughts are Things by Prentice Mulford, originally published in 1889.
* AA’s brochure defining sponsorship www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf