Keep a Paddle in the Water.

April 29, 2011

This is where that five-minute tutorial really pays off.

    Before they set you loose on grade four rapids at one of those white water rafting rides, they give you just enough of a lesson to presumably keep most of the people in the boat for the duration of the ride.  It usually works. Usually.

SON OF A...*gurgling sounds*

      The most important thing, they say, is to keep paddling. The act of keeping the paddle in the water has the effect of pushing you back into the boat. When you are in the boat and hit your first rapid, your instincts tell you to move to the center of the boat, pull your paddle out of the water, cower in the middle of the raft, and pray to your god of choice, lest you die a violent and terrifying death at the bottom of a rapid hydraulic (the scariest word I had ever heard when it was explained to me as we put our boat in the water).

    The last thing you want to do when panic sets in – and it always does set in – is keep your paddle in the water. The right thing to do in white-water rafting, as the right thing to do is wont to be, is completely counterintuitive. Recovery can be equally counterintuitive. One of the critical parts of treatment, is getting used to attending AA meetings (or NA meetings) on our own. These meetings take place off site, and we go to at least two a day every day we are in treatment. The idea is to get us in the habit of spreading our wings and taking the reins of our own recovery.

    As a newcomer, our instincts, when we appear at these meetings – which can admittedly be intimidating – is to cower on the back row and not participate. “I’m just here to listen, pass.”  Sometimes, that feels like the respectful thing to do, to defer to the veterans. And perhaps for the first time, or even the first few times, that is okay.

     But I believe our best bet for a lasting recovery is to put our paddle in the water. I have chosen to participate. I’m gonna say stuff. Even if it feels like the wrong stuff. After all, AA is predicated on giving away sobriety: newcomers are the lifeblood of the group. I would propose that newcomers should feel welcomed to participate (at most meetings). If I for some reason do not, I think it’s time to find a room where I do. I have come to the determination that this is something that is critical to my treatment.

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