What if went to a meeting today, raised my hand and said, “Hi, my name is Jennifer and I simply AM?” What would the people in the room think? Would there be an awkward silence followed by a few snickers and then some sweat beads mounting on the heads of those who follow the rules of the program without falter? Some people do go in there and state their names without the alcoholic label at the end, and it’s obvious to us that they are newcomers. Some newbys are uncomfortable with that label, and that’s just fine with me. I didn’t particularly like it in the beginning either, but then I just succumbed to the program because it works. However, it’s not who I am, and I think most of us in the rooms know that it’s not who we truly are… or perhaps we don’t. I mean, have you really thought about this? Do you walk around kind of shaming yourself (or gloating) for being an addict, an alcoholic, a junkie, a drunk? I sometimes wonder why we need to keep reminding ourselves of the past. Why not state that we are “recovering” instead? Or “I am recovering from…” This is not only removes the labeling of ourselves, but it affirms that we are in movement. It declares that we aren’t stuck in time, and we aren’t just that one dreaded thing that separates us from the rest of society.
But we don’t question the program because it’s worked for so many people. In fact, we don’t question a lot of things. Once we get on our feet and find our own balance in our recovery, we should really start taking a look at what works for us and what doesn’t. I’m tired of calling myself “an alcoholic.” At work I’m a “Transaction Coordinator.” At home I am a “mom.” In my own mind I am a runner and a writer, but what if all these things were suddenly removed from me? What would I be then? What if I lost the ability to form a sentence from some terrible accident where my children were taken from me? What if I could no longer work or run because my body was paralyzed? What would my new labels be then? I would be looked upon as a paralyzed woman who “used to be…” so many different labels. But what if I saw myself as whole, and what if I realized that my challenges were set in motion so that I could realize who I truly was without all the labels?
How do you label yourself? How do others label you?
It’s a question worth asking because without labels, a lot of us don’t know who we are. How many people retire from their lifelong careers and discover themselves completely lost? They spent their lives believing that their career was who they were. It’s what we do and it isn’t right. I mean, it’s another form of separating ourselves from others, which is one of the themes I’ve been writing about this week. We should take it from a master and follow the statement of “I AM,” without a label to follow. Jesus wasn’t just stating that “HE WAS.” He was always pointing us back to ourselves, but people who claim themselves to be “sinners” (another label mind you) seek outside of themselves for the truth. I AM was a statement of being. It was a gift of knowing… the way, the truth and the life. (For those of you who know your scripture). If I AM… then the way, the truth and the life is within my own being. And if no one can go to the father (God) except through “ME,” then I must have to enter into my own being in order to meet my maker. Talk about lost in translation! The road to truth is narrow because it is an internal experience. This is so important to understand, because the other way around is what most people follow and most people (if you’ve noticed) are really lost, though they will disagree with this statement because no one likes feeling lost when they believe they have found the truth. They would rather be in a state of denial than to look at themselves honestly. But we all do this. I constantly have to remind myself to look in the mirror. I’m blind to myself too, which is why I ask a lot of questions and why I appreciate being challenged by the people in my life who point things out to me, although it kind of sucks in the beginning. If I hadn’t been challenged by my counsellors and peers in treatment, I would still be suffering today.
It’s important to ask questions even in a program that has worked for a lot of people. It also hasn’t worked for a lot of people. That’s why it is imperative to really understand who you truly are, with a knowing that goes beyond a belief. If everything was suddenly removed from you, you need to know that you could remain sober because you no longer are that alcoholic label, or that addict label. You are in movement. You are in recovery. You are not a stagnant being. You are always in motion, so I challenge you to stop labeling yourself and to walk in the wholeness and completeness of yourself. And I’m going to stop announcing that I am an alcoholic in those rooms. Tonight, I’m Jennifer and I AM in recovery.