Monthly Archives: June 2011
The recovery community has a lot of confusing lingo to a newcomer, especially in the 140 character world of Twitter.
First of all there’s the dang hashtag, which turns all things to nerdspeak: #alanon, #sanetown, #meetinginmpocket.
Then there’s the abbreviations: #xa, #aa, #BB, #HP. #xa is a way to search others in recovery. The x stands for “anything – name your particular addiction” and the a is for “anonymous” which has been urbanized to equate with recovery. So #xa means recovering from any addiction. (If you’re confused about the hashtag, take a quick moment to read this recent article explaining its evolving use: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-06-13/social-media/29652792_1_hashtag-messages-search)
#aa is obviously “AA” (duh), and after a few months of following recovery folks on Twitter I figured out that “BB” means “Big Book”. I might have learned that sooner if I was in AA but I am Lone Ranger-ing this sobriety thing (ill-advised, many will tell you). The Big Book is a collection of stories and lessons about alcohol addiction that is essential reading for those in AA. Many #aa-ers seem to treat the Big Book with the same reverence as the Bible. (Just this morning I read the enthusiastic tweet: “No matter where I open it to, it’s exactly what I need to hear at that moment! #xa #BB”) I do have a copy of the Big Book on my nightstand. I purchased it on eBay early in my recovery journey, however I have yet to crack it open. I am sure my house cleaners are fascinated by its presence. No one else seem to have noticed it, although to be fair it is stacked with four other books I have also yet to read.
#HP took me a while to figure out. “H” often refers to someone’s husband (“Date night for me and my H”, “H’s turn to cook tonight – ordering pizza!”). Sometimes you’ll even see DH (dear husband). So admittedly the “H” threw me since I assumed it referred to a husband and started trying to figure out the “P”: Husband’s Problem? Husband’s Pal? Husband’s Pecker?
I tried out various meanings as I read my Twitter feed: “I am having a great day thanks to my #HP!” Read: “I am having a great day thanks to my Husband’s Pecker!” Certainly true for many women on any given day and yet an unlike tweet. I knew I was off track.
Eventually I figured it out – HP = Higher Power – the respectfully non-specific term that AA’ers use to avoid alienating one another with individual belief systems. It doesn’t really matter what you believe in, as long as you recognize that something other than yourself is in charge. This is a really important part of the 12-step recovery process. Although I am not involved in the program myself, I appreciate and respect many aspects of it. I have learned an enormous amount from others who regularly tweet succinct lessons and insights. Fellowship is one of the most fundamental components of recovery, and I have found it through the online community.
All I had to do, was reach out and learn to speak the language.
Somewhere in my basement is a box of treasures from my childhood. A doily crocheted by my grandmother, a poetry project from sixth grade, a wallet from my dad’s foray into leather-tooling, a doll dress my mom sewed by hand. In amongst them, (I assume though I haven’t looked through the box since our last move in 1999), is a red autograph book I was given for my eighth birthday.
My friends and I all had these little books and we would sign one another’s with poems and jokes, trying to sound wiser and worldlier than the children we were.
“Tulips in the garden! Tulips in the park! The kind of tulips YOU like best is TWO LIPS in the dark!!!”
None of us had yet moved into the world of kissing “for real” but we could see the humour and frankly couldn’t wait to grow boobs, get periods, and kiss boys.
I would have tossed the book long ago but for one special entry in that distinctive cursive of one who went to school long before, when handwriting was taught as a discipline reflective of character. Dear old Mary, a friend of my mother’s mother – the link to a grandmother who’d died before I came along. I remember her delight when I asked her to sign my book, as if it was a great honour to be included. She paused thoughtfully and then wrote:
“Those who spread sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from their own”
I took that phrase to heart and think of it often. Of course, I now know it is a paraphrase of Scottish writer James Matthew Barrie’s work but the sentiment is more important than the exactness of the quote. I took it to my young little heart and did good deeds in earnest, knowing my own life would be better for it. Just by smiling at a stranger, I’d feel happiness back.
Ah but careful, careful there little one. The mind is tricky, and will start to keep score. It quietly takes stock of every time you give more than you receive and lays a thin, gossamer layer over your heart. Eventually those layers build to a film that grows so gradually you hardly notice the change, but it’s there. Your smile feels brittle, your heart aches but you don’t know why. You grow bitter, and you know it’s wrong so you tamp it down and hide it under more smiles and achievements.
I can see it now, how I let that happen to me. I became an approval junkie, a sunshine whore. I barfed freakin sunshine all over the place in hopes some would splash back on me.
I took a lovely notion, a truly sincere sentiment from a dear old lady and warped it with my mixed up mind. I couldn’t see it for most of my life and considered myself beyond criticism because – what? You’re going to criticize me for all the selfless good I’m doing?
I am still reeling from the recent lessons learned about expectations and resentments. I sit and write this now with my sobriety goggles firmly in place. If you do good things with the expectation of return on investment, you’ll eventually be disappointed. Continue that behaviour long enough and you’ll have yourself some nice resentment brewing. Throw in a box or two of wine per week and you’ll be…well, see my first few posts.
That said, I still believe in the power of sunshine. I know dang well old Mary had it right. I see it here, in the feedback from this blog. I see it in others who bless me with their kindness. I know it in my heart; I just have to trust that it’s true without holdings expectations.