From the beginning, communication in A.A., has been no ordinary transmission of helpful ideas and attitudes. Because of our kinship in suffering, and because our common means of deliverance are effective for ourselves, only when constantly carried to others, our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart. A.A*
I won’t go so far as to say that, when I came into A.A., I didn’t have a heart. I did. However, it was a selfish and self-centered heart that heard and responded to what made me feel good. I enjoyed the Fellowship, and, at some level, I wanted what those in the Fellowship had, but there was a wall between me and them; there was a blockage between my head and my heart, and I was unaware of it.
I was much more comfortable in my head. I wanted to learn about the disease of alcoholism. I wanted to learn about addiction; about the spirituality of the program; the history of AA and especially the founders. If I knew all that then I might not need A.A.
The problem was that the more I learned the more convinced I was that I had this disease of which I was in denial even though I had confessed to my boss “I think I have a drinking problem.” And., a few months later, stated “I think I need to go to treatment.” That was the day he was planning on doing an intervention.,
The helpful information was useful. Now I could talk about the disease with a sense of authority. I could talk about Bill W. and Dr. Bob, and (mis)quote them. I told sufficient of my story to feel I belonged and yet, I did not feel connected to the story I was telling. It was not me as I thought I knew me. I was not carrying a message or the message to another alcoholic. I was sharing at a superficial level. There was no way I could connect with people who had been in jail, had multiple DUIs, and many other issues related to their abuse of alcohol.
After one noon meeting, I asked the chairperson, “Why is John asked to come here so often and tell his story? I practically know it off by heart. Is this his way of getting out of jail for a couple of hours once a week?” His response was, “What is your problem with John?” I quickly responded that John was an emotional wreck. That led to an “intervention” of sorts. Over coffee, this person let me know that, from his listening to me, he concluded that I was more locked up within myself than John was in jail, and that I wouldn’t recognize a feeling if it sat on my lap.
I was angry. I felt insulted. How dare this individual tell me I was locked up inside myself and that I wouldn’t know a feeling if it sat on my lap. I knew however, he was telling the truth that I did not want to face. He essentially told me what the therapist had told me to do in treatment, take the books you are reading and apply them to myself.
I preferred to think of myself as being different. I had not lost a job, a vehicle, a roof over my head. Now, as I read the books, I began to identify emotions that I had buried for so long. Feelings of loneliness; emptiness, low self-esteem, resentment, jealousy, self-pity, and more. Now, instead of listening at the meeting to catch those phrases that said “you don’t belong here” I was hearing statements with which I could identify. “That sounds like me,” “I know how that feels.” Now I was truly listening to all that was being shared. I was listening with my heart.
Now I had a “kinship in suffering.” I knew how these individuals felt and, even though we had different jobs, and different consequences, the emotions matched – loneliness is loneliness, low self-esteem is LSW, self-loathing is self-loathing no matter where we are on the socioeconomic ladder or the place of employment.
These men and women whom I wanted to think were so different from me, were the ones who helped me connect the dots together as they carried the message to me, and it was not an intellectual journey. It was the language of the heart that, once I learned it, I felt different, I felt alive, I did not need alcohol of any kind to be who I am and who I want to be. The language of the heart connects us to one another as Dr. Bob said of Bill W” He spoke my language.”
*As BILL SEES IT. 195.