Flight … Not “from,” but “to.” That distinction may not mean much to some people, but for many in recovery, the distinction is monumental. Many of us have made a career of flight. Flight from the law, from our families, from success, from love, and especially, flight from the many places where we’ve torn through the lives of others so much like human tornadoes.
Last month, I was “in flight” with my two wonderful children “back to” the world where I grew up. Not only to the locale—a small town in Connecticut—but also to the people and the psyche and the dynamics that constitute the fundamental dementia that informed my youth. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the people and the places I visited and introduced my children to—essentially for the first time. But that doesn’t make that world any less demented, magical, or revelatory than it always has been once I put my mind to interpreting it.
A few weeks ago, Ryan, a visitor to Realtime Recovery, asked a series of provocative questions about identity. The most straightforward of those questions: Do you really know who you are? As we began our descent into Hartford and my home state of Connecticut, Ryan’s question kept popping into my head: Do you really know who you are?
In his comment on the post, “There is a Solution,” Ryan described us as slaves to our addiction. I couldn’t agree more. He also asked if I’d learned anything having gone through my divorce sober. I believe I have and hope I’ve intimated through recent posts that I believe the answer to most of our human dilemmas is in service to others. When I arrived at the doors of AA, I was told my ego had to be smashed and that the fastest way to diminish the ego is to be of service. It took me well over 10 years to embrace that reality, but, in this past year, if I’ve embraced any axiom AA has to offer, it’s that service outside myself is an antidote to many of the self-serving fears that got me here in the first place.
Do I know who I am? Hell no. But I do know that today I’m much more a servant than I am a slave, and being a servant today is a path to a gratifying kind of freedom, the freedom to help and not harm others. Last month, my purpose was to deliver two of God’s children to their 84-year-old grandmother—a miracle she herself never imagined possible as the mother of an alcoholic who, until 12 years ago, seemed hopeless and destined to drink himself to death or to the unruly gates of insanity.
It was amazing that first night in Connecticut to witness how instantly an 8-year-old granddaughter and a 5-year-old grandson could bond with their 84-year-old grandmother. All I had to do to facilitate the process was stay the hell out of the way. I had worried about the moment of introduction for months in advance. Would Grace remember anything about her grandmother whom she hadn’t seen since she was 18-months-old? Would my mother’s missing teeth frighten my son Adam who, at 5, knew my mother only as a disembodied voice at the other end of a telephone. Would my mother be strong enough to handle Adam if he were not frightened and decided to bowl her over with a hug? All pointless concerns.
Less than an hour after we landed, I pulled into the driveway of the two family house where my mother occupies the second floor, and the kids bolted to the woman standing at the door. Before I could say a word to anyone, let alone orchestrate introductions, my mother and my two children disappeared into the foyer. By the time I hauled our bags to the second floor apartment, the threesome was parked at the kitchen table, each of them talking at the same time trying to tell each other too much too fast. I’ve never been so happy to be left out of a conversation in my life.
Am I any more certain who I am today than I was before I took my kids on their maiden voyage to their father’s homeland? Hell no. Do I have a sense of purpose? Hell yes. (“Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.” Alcoholics Anonymous, 20.) Am I in flight? You bet. “To” that fourth dimension of existence we’re all promised if we simply pick up the kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet the day we arrive in AA.