Alcoholism and addiction destroy and distort many relationships. Even after we achieve sobriety and try to maintain it, there can be new damage done within families and between friends and acquaintances. It is not easy to find a bridge toward someone we have distanced. There is very little that counts as black or white in human relations. Nearly everything is complex and nuanced, layers of meaning wrapped around guarded fears and hidden truths.

Before I had AA, I had no way to apologize. I never knew how. It also never seemed to be worth the risk of being shamed, diminished, and weakened. I also grew up with the impression that other people’s opinions of me were very important, that I had an image to uphold. In stark contrast to this, AA taught me that what other people thought of me was “none of my business.” As time has gone by, I have looked at this statement with more discernment. It is not my job to get everyone to like me, or to be distraught if they don’t. That part is none of my business. But when I encounter hostility or criticism, I do need to look for any truth that may lay in the rubble. I need to take what is valid and disregard the rest.

AA has taught me that great things can be achieved when I am willing to give up my self-importance and my desire to control others. It has taught me that there is no danger in risking another’s rebuke or rejection. I have learned the peace that comes with knowing I have tried the best I can to reach out. I have relationships that remain a frozen, barren landscape. I do not know if the ice will ever melt, if the ground beneath our feet will once again be a lake on which we sail our boats together. But unless I cross the ice, I will never give it a chance.