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The Door


Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

Practicing Step Three is like the opening of a door which to all appearances is still closed and locked. All we need is a key, and the decision to swing the door open. There is only one key, and it is called willingness.

Why do I continue going to A.A. years after putting down the bottle? I go to be reminded. Reminded of who I really am and what will happen if I drink again. I need the reminder. Several times a week in fact. If I don’t continue to go to meetings I am pretty sure that I will soon conveniently forget that I’m an alcoholic. Once I do that I’ll start drinking again and all bets are off. The only thing I know for sure is that it will end disastrously, if not fatally.

The other day I went to a meeting to hear my friend Jane speak. She told a story that brought home the fact that although different on the outside (age, background, religion, profession, upbringing) Jane and I are exactly the same on the inside. Where it counts. When Jane went off to college she was originally assigned a double room that she’d heard was in the “non-cool” dorm. Being a typical incoming freshman (and an alcoholic in training) the idea of not being in the “cool dorm” AND having a roommate was more than she could handle. So Jane requested, and was given, a single room in the desired cool dorm.

On the day that she arrived to move in (with her father in tow) Jane was horrified to see that some kind soul, most likely the dorm’s R.A., had decorated all of the doors for the incoming freshmen. Jane's door was covered with cute flower and rainbow stickers, brightening up the typically dreary grey dormitory door. But even worse than the (not cool!) decorations stuck everywhere was the sight of her name. Bright and bold and smack dab in the center was a large bright JANE sticker.

Jane was horrified. Even before unpacking she went at that door. She dropped her bags and started desperately clawing and scratching at the stickers. Not the flowers and unicorns and rainbows so much, those could stay. It was her name that bothered her. That huge cheery JANE, announcing to everyone on the floor who she was.

Jane's father, already exhausted by the college-move-in trip, was baffled as he watched his daughter angrily attack her name on the door with her fingernails, scraping and peeling and cursing the damn thing. He asked her what she was doing to which she snapped “I’m getting this off my door! I need to get this off my door now”.

“But why?” he asked, genuinely confused. “That’s how the other students will get to know you. They will get to know your name on the door and then they will get to know you.” “Exactly!!!” snapped Jane, turning her back on him and scratching away. “That’s the problem. I don’t want them to know me. It’s none of their business who I am.”

And that, dear friends, is a very alcoholic sentiment if I’ve ever heard one.

I, confusingly, am an extroverted misanthrope. I should wear a big sign around my neck that says COME HERE! NOW GO AWAY! I want connection, but it frightens me. I want friends, but friendships demand authenticity and patience. I want love, but from a distance. I want intimacy and vulnerability, but on my ground and on my terms. And not too much of either please. I want to be touched, but only on my weenis, that weird part of the elbow where you can't really feel anything anyway.

I don’t hate people per se, as true misanthropes do, but they do confuse me. They do scare me sometimes. I feel about humans the same way I feel about large jungle cats like lions and tigers and panthers. They are amazing, and beautiful and fascinating to watch. I certainly would like to get closer but I’m not entirely sure it’s safe.

That’s why I love A.A. We get to creep in slowly. We don’t need to say a word. We can just sit there in silence and watch people slowly open up. We can witness people share the deeply intimate details of their internal lives and nothing happens. They are not judged or struck down when sharing so honestly. There are no punishing lighting bolts hurled from the heavens, leaving nothing on the cheap folding chair where Vinnie was just sitting but a styrofoam cup of bad coffee, a pair of reading glasses and a pile of ash.

No. Instead, in early recovery we learn that it’s okay to share. It’s safe to share. It’s beautiful to get to know people and it’s beautiful to get to be known. So we learn, slowly and in the sacred space of the rooms of A.A., what it is to open up to others. To let them get to REALLY know you. And we come to realize that opening up that door (or in Jane's case leaving her name on it) does not have to be that scary after all.


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