I have a superpower, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Not because my superpower is not valuable, but because the road for attaining it was so miserable.
My superpower is my ability to sense when someone is grappling with an addiction. To be honest, it’s usually not that hard to spot. But you might be surprised by how much a human can deny.
Here’s how my superpower came about. Most notably, it did not arise from all the years of chaos growing up, related to my father’s alcoholism. Rather, it started to develop after my dad went to treatment for alcoholism for the first time, when I was in sixth grade.
More accurately, it came from all of his relapses, each of which I saw—or sensed—coming. And of course, massive chaos always ensued.
By the time I left for college, my superpower was imprinted.
A chance to be of service
One thing about this superpower is not knowing when it will surface. For example, I was living in Washington D.C. in 2015 when someone knocked on my door. It was a relative of my neighbor who had locked herself out of the apartment. And she was drunk. In the middle of the morning.
Like I said, it doesn’t take a genius…
While waiting for my neighbor to come home with a key, I shared with my new friend that I am a recovering alcoholic. She shared that her husband had died, and now she drank a lot. The next day, she knocked on my door again and asked me to go to an AA meeting with her.
I had been sober 26 years by then, after having religiously gone to weekly AA meetings for the first 15 of those years. But I hadn’t been to a meeting in over 10 years.
So I said, “Yes.”
Revisiting Alcoholics Anonymous
The AA meeting space was on the second floor above a busy street in Georgetown. But if you knew what you were looking for, you could find the staircase that led the way up. As we walked in, I was struck by how familiar it all looked. Like I had stepped back in time to 1989, the year I got sober. Nothing had changed.
My recollection of AA meetings is that they are very by-the-book. Meaning, in your sharing, you aren’t supposed to reference any kind of teaching that does not come from AA-approved literature. This made a lot of sense.
But now, 25 years down the road, it all felt old and tired to me. I sat there wondering, “Would this be able to keep me sober today?”
Since the advent of AA, many other recovery programs have cropped up. Some are specifically designed to sidestep the issue of God, which hangs up for so many people coming into recovery.
I mean, why do we need God anyways to recover from addictions like alcoholism?
Alcoholism is an ego illness
I heard in AA meetings that alcoholism in an ego illness. Now, thanks to the wisdom from the Pathwork Guide, I understand what this means. Back then, I just knew I needed AA to set myself in a better direction.
AA is full of pithy and poignant sayings. Like, “alcoholics like to find a rut and start decorating.” And it’s our egos that are lined with ruts. Which makes for a very cramped existence.
Eventually the ego gets so exhausted by itself that it wants out. But it doesn’t want to do the truly hard work of clearing away our inner pain and disharmonies. Even though this is the only way to find God within, which is what rests at the core of our being.
Instead, the ego lets go into addiction.
Anyone who has ever been around someone battling with an addition knows that this is not a good plan.
While recovery asks our ego to develop more healthy habits, living in the state of the ego is not our end goal. If we stop there, in fact, we won’t find the true nature of our being. We won’t learn what my one-year AA chip suggested: To thine own self be true.
For, alas, the limited ego is not our true self.
Recovery is a gift
When people come to AA, they are often told to expect to go to AA meetings for the rest of their lives. This is right, directionally, but maybe misses some salient points.
And let me add that many people in recovery continue to go to meetings for a very long time. They do this largely to give back and also to extend the hand of AA to new people who are struggling. I applaud each and every one of them.
But if we do recovery right and learn to create a connection with the divine within us, we’ll have access to everything we need. This is not a switch that gets flipped from one day to the next, so it takes time to develop a reliable conduit to our inner light.
Then, most importantly, we must learn to follow the guidance that flows effortlessly and eternally from within. This is what keeps things fresh.
It’s a fine study to discern which messages align us with God’s will, and which come from our faulty ego mind. But if we take advantage of the many gifts that recovery can offer—to be sure, it gives back far more than we give up—we can end up further ahead than if we had never gotten lost in an addiction.
At the age of 26, alcoholism was teeing up to rob me of my life. Today, as I celebrate 34 straight years of sobriety, I am deeply grateful to be free from the addiction of alcoholism.
Truly, being sober has given me my life back.
Read more about my journey with recovery in my memoir, Walker.