For the last several months, I have been working with a new sponsor. No, I haven’t dumped the dear friend who taught me so much through my twenty years working the 12-Steps, I’ve just added a second mentor who lives locally, one I can meet with every week and see at my meetings. It gives me a level of accountability that I can’t get long distance and I communicate better in person than on the phone. He’s younger than I am and has fewer years in program, as we like to say. It’s a nice antidote to the kind of inflexibility that can set into an old brain. We’ve begun working through the Steps again in a book that didn’t even exist when I first did them with my first sponsor. Each chapter covers a Step and ends with a set of questions. My new sponsor told me, If you were a newcomer, I’d have you journal on each question but I’ve never worked with someone with 20 years in the program. I said, That sounds good to me.
I’m doing what he does with newcomers because it seems like a good way for us to get to know each other … even better than we have sitting in meetings together for 8 years. But answering questions on paper also comes very naturally to me because it’s a form of journaling that I’ve used for 25 years. Freeform journaling like Morning Pages is an amazing vehicle for self-discovery, but sometimes, I need to know my opinion on a particular issue. Does that sound strange, know my own opinion? Who else’s opinion would I know? Sometimes, the committee in my head has a number of opinions and they are all shouting at once. Sometimes, I have just one opinion on what seems like a complex issue, which scares me a bit. And other times, it’s just chaos in there. That’s when it’s time to write down the Question in a notebook. And write about the Answer. Note: I didn’t say write down the Answer. I write about the Answer. Then write some more. I don’t stop to think, that allows my censor to get involved … I let anything that occurs to me to find the page. I write until something surprises me. I argue with myself. I tell the loudest voices to shut up for a moment. And I write some more.
Something happens when I write down the Question and write about the Answer that goes beyond thinking. My brain can operate in warp-drive, creating a swirl of thoughts in which only certainty and shoulds survive. Forcing those thoughts through my pen-tips slows things down … and once that certain thought, that imperious should, is written, I can move on to quieter thoughts. Sometimes, that’s where the Answer lies. And then there’s that bullshit filter in my elbow. It’s just hard to kid myself in ink.
It works. But only if I keep an open mind. Not, of course, so open that my brains fall out.