In nuclear physics, it’s defined as the amount of fissile material needed to support a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. In social dynamics, it is when enough people have adopted an innovation to create a self-sustaining rate of adoption and growth. In the world of the addict, it is when the fear of staying the same becomes greater than the fear of change. Critical mass is the tipping point, the final straw, the AFGO.
I first heard the term AFGO about a year into my sobriety and immediately identified with it and adopted it into my vernacular. AFGO stands for “Another Friggin’ Growth Opportunity.” Of course, you can use just about any “F” word you’d like, but I am often reminded that profanity is not a requirement for sobriety. It is that point where the pressure of life becomes greater than your stubborn resistance to change and you finally realize that something has to give. They are painful, horrid experiences which result in new wisdom, renewed spirituality, a new outlook and/or a new direction for our lives.
I’ve been sitting in an AFGO for some time now and finally snapped to it. I’ve been letting myself get overwhelmed by life’s circumstances and finally decided it was time to make a couple of changes. Of course, the thought came that if I had made these changes back when they were first presented to me, I would be about 3 years further along instead of just starting out. But it happens when it happens. And with alcoholics of my type, that means it often doesn’t happen until we’ve reached critical mass.
Sometime around November of 2007, I was headed to a job interview when I switched lanes without checking my blind spot, and bumped into another car, nearly driving him off the road into a telephone pole. We pulled over into the little strip mall where the accident occurred so that we could exchange insurance information. No one was hurt, neither of us had been drinking or using (which was rather surprising considering when this happened), so we went our merry way and thought nothing of it aside from filing the insurance claims. Right around Thanksgiving 2008, I was about 4 months sober, standing outside one of my regular meeting halls with this guy I was seeing (yes, I was that girl) waiting for the meeting to start when a truck got T-boned as it was trying to pull into the lot. My guy looks over and says, “That’s a dangerous spot! I nearly got run off the road there about a year ago.” My head slowly turned and I replied, “I nearly ran someone off the road there a year ago.” We stared at each other for a bit, then realized, “Holy crap, that was you!” Yes, somehow these two drunks had had a car accident right in front of an AA meeting they didn’t know existed shortly before they came into the program.
In that year before I got sober, there were so many instances like this when I think God was trying to give me the nudge, or at least giving me a little awareness and opening me up to receive the gift of sobriety. I didn’t grow up in an alcoholic home. I didn’t know anything about AA. I was completely clueless about all of it until I started getting these nudges. If I had gotten sober when I had that car wreck, I would’ve saved myself and my family the most miserable 8 months of our lives. If I had stayed with the guy I had been dating the few months before that – the first sober alcoholic I ever met (who I met in a bar, strangely enough) – instead of ditching him for the hot dude who turned out to be a heroin addict, I would’ve saved myself from ever even starting down that road. Shoot, God even used Jeopardy to give me a sign when one of their clues referred to “Friends of Bill W.” I thought the phrase so quaint that I went in to work the next day and told my boss about it. That was less than a month before I hit my rock bottom.
Every time I got these nudges, though, things were okay. Even that last one came during a brief dry spell where everything was starting to look alright again. I do find the timing of these events interesting. I do note that if I had recognized the calls when they came, then my life would be much different today. I don’t beat myself up for it, though, because it took what it took. While yes, it would’ve been nice not to have to experience those traumatic final moments of my addiction, it is those moments that cemented me in recovery. If I had sought out help for my addiction before I knew for certain that I was unable to control it, I may still be out there trying to prove all these Big Book Thumpers wrong.
It takes what it takes. Yes, if I had made the changes I’m making today three years ago, I could’ve saved myself a whole lot of misery and confusion. But even sober, I’m still a stubborn alcoholic and I will still run myself ragged trying to prove I can have my cake and eat it, too. Plus, if I had answered the call back then, I would’ve missed out on a lot of amazing opportunities… and I wouldn’t be writing to you good folks on this here blog. We don’t always hear the voice of God guiding our every step. Sometimes, we reach a fork in the road where we just can’t figure out which way to go. He is there, though, and when it matters we will hear Him. We can’t go back and change the past. Nor should we, if we could. When we finally reach that tipping point where the fear of staying the same is greater than the fear of change, that is when we can no longer ignore God calling us to step out on the stormy sea.