Family, Dating and Marital Relationships in Recovery

In spite of your new-found happiness, there will be ups and downs. Many of the old problems will still be with you. This is as it should be. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 117)

It always amazes me that both a person in recovery as well as that person’s significant other and family often get this strange idea that if the person does well in recovery all problems will vanish. As if recovery goes well all the problems of the past will disappear and the future will be one without any troubles or pain. This is not only a problem, but a set up for disaster.

If you and your husband find a solution for the pressing problem of drink you are, of course, going to be very happy. But all problems will not be solved at once. Seed has started to sprout in a new soil, but growth has only begun. In spite of your new-found happiness, there will be ups and downs. Many of the old problems will still be with you. This is as it should be.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 117)

It always amazes me that both a person in recovery as well as that person’s significant other and family often get this strange idea that if the person does well in recovery all problems will vanish.  As if recovery goes well all the problems of the past will disappear and the future will be one without any troubles or pain.  This is not only a problem, but a set up for disaster.

The truth is that the pains of the past are yet to be fully resolved if resolved at all.  For example, if a person was cheated on and one or the other finishes a recovery program, there will still be pain.  One or both of the parties may be better prepared to start working through the pain involved, but there is still hurt and confusion.  As the passage on page 117 states:  “Many of the old problems will still be with you.”  This is the absolute truth.  There will still be some of the old problems and, “This is as it should be.  ”

Why is it that this “is as it should be”?  Because, the discomfort and pain one feels when these old problems come up are not evil, they are actually opportunities in disguise.  Here is the fact:  Pain and discomfort are not your enemy!!  Pain and discomfort are neutral. 

Think of a thermometer.  If you stick on in your mouth and it states that your temperature is 98.6˚ you are doing fine.  If however, you stick the thermometer and it reads 106˚, you have a problem.  It would be foolish to get mad at the thermometer and yell at it or do everything you can to avoid the thermometer or to avoid talking about what the thermometer says.  The thermometer reading 106˚ simply indicates that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with just like the coughing, sneezing, stomach ache etc. that probably brought that person to the thermometer also were indicators of a problem that had to be dealt with.

These uncomfortable feelings and emotional pains that will come up are the same.  They are not evils to be yelled at or avoided, they are indicators of something that is wrong and needs to be properly dealt with.  Just like yelling at or avoiding the information on the thermometer, not only do such actions not help, the problem usually gets worse when not properly dealt with.  The discomfort and pain are not the problem.  That is what the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book mean when they say “This is as it should be.  ”

The faith and sincerity of both you and your husband will be put to the test. These work-outs should be regarded as part of your education, for thus you will be learning to live. You will make mistakes, but if you are in earnest they will not drag you down. Instead, you will capitalize them. A better way of life will emerge when they are overcome.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 117)

These uncomfortable events that arise are called “work-outs” here.  Think of what working out is.  In the case of weight lifting, a person gets resistance in the direction a muscle moves which tears down the muscle tissue.   This tearing down of the tissue allows the muscle to be rebuilt larger and stronger.  These uncomfortable events may feel like they are tearing you down, but they are simply allowing everyone involved the opportunity to be rebuilt stronger if confronted.

But what about if not confronted or if confronted improperly? 

Some of the snags you will encounter are irritation, hurt feelings and resentments. Your husband will sometimes be unreasonable and you will want to criticize. Starting from a speck on the domestic horizon, great thunderclouds of dispute may gather. These family dissensions are very dangerous, especially to your husband. Often you must carry the burden of avoiding them or keeping them under control. Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. We do not mean that you have to agree with your husband whenever there is an honest difference of opinion. Just be careful not to disagree in a resentful or critical spirit.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 117)

What may seem like a little thing can be blown way out of proportion in a hurry and the result will be far more tearing down than building up for everyone involved.  As far as the resentment or improperly handled issues every person in the situation, including the person in recovery carries “the burden of avoiding them or keeping them under control.”  That does not mean not confronting things, that simply means; “be careful not to disagree in a resentful or critical spirit.”

Notice in the beginning of this passage I quoted:  “If you and your husband find a solution for the pressing problem of drink you are, of course, going to be very happy.”  That is because every person has growing that he or she should be doing.  If you have been around an addict or an alcoholic, it is often the case that you have problems that either helped in making this person worse or that are a result of this person’s problems.  Blame, anger, resentment and so on will not do you or that person any good and may erupt into terrible harm.  The absolute truth is:  YOU CANNOT FIX ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, BUT YOU CAN WORK ON FIXING YOURSELF!!!  Along with that is the fact that you cannot fix another person, you can however do great harm to another person. 

The bottom line is that the discomfort, pain, disagreement and such are probably not bad; they are most likely just opportunities in disguise.  Confronting things in a “resentful or critical spirit” is the evil that will keep all involved from the “very happy” described here.

 Wade H.

Having Depression vs. Managing Depression???

A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling.

A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133) 

I was listening to a conversation today where somebody made a good point.  For this person, he always enjoyed the holidays and was fine emotionally throughout the holidays, but the period in January directly after the holidays is always a depressing time for him.  After all the excitement, hype, and gathering together of the holidays the abrupt stop that comes somewhere around January second always leaves him struggling.

Every year I try to address those struggling with the holidays, yet I have entirely missed this group.  The reality is that many of us in recovery suffer with bouts of depression at many different times.  The first thing to keep in mind is that this is normal and will not go away overnight.  Second, having ridiculous thoughts and responses to these bouts of depression (i.e. “twisted thinking”) will not disappear overnight either. 

In light of these two ideas, a great starting point for dealing with this kind of depression is to remember that they are a normal part of recovery and connect with others in recovery groups, church/spiritual groups, etc. who have similar struggles and share with them.

Another thing to remember when you are struggling with depression is found on page 89 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 89)

When you are struggling intensively working with others is always something to think about.  The truth is this is a huge part of recovery that many miss out on.  This should really be a normal activity that is part of your recovery and not just an emergency measure, but a bout of depression can serve as a reminder to those of us who have lost that focus.

Be careful to notice that the passage on page 89 is describing “intensive work” and not just “service” as what will ensure immunity.  Service of any kind is good, but is in reality not what is described here as being the focus of Step Twelve or what will “ensure immunity.”

Something else you can do:

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.” We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 87-88)

For me personally, I can honestly say that a lot of the circumstances that trigger my bouts of depression are based on the fact that something is not going the way I think it should be going or in a way that makes me comfortable.  These moments of meditation and prayer on the fact that; “It’s not all about me” are key to my sanity.  This is a big part of what Step 11 is about when you look at that Step practically.

These things often work for what may seem like insurmountable bouts of depression, but sometimes there is depression that is not as manageable with just these measures.  For whatever strange reason (some of which may be bad experiences) many of us in recovery are resistant to getting help from mental health professionals and sometimes even from recovery professionals.

But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 133)

The passage describes “fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners” and I understand that all of them are not “fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners” but they do exist and you should “not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.”  Ask around, do research and find one.  This could save you a lot of unnecessary struggle and pain and in some cases may save your life.

The bottom line is that experiencing depression is a normal part of recovery; it happens to most if not all of us.  It is going to happen to you and I at some point (if not regularly) the question is how you manage the depression.

Where to Begin in Recovery – “Hitting Bottom”

Wait for the end of the spree, or at least for a lucid interval. Then let his family or a friend ask him if he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so.  If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered. You should be described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part of their own recovery, try to help others and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 90)

 Throughout the recovery world there is lots of discussion about the idea of “hitting bottom.”  Some say you have to wait until someone hits bottom to work with him or her.  Some old-timers say that you don’t wait for that person to hit bottom you have to “raise their bottom” or in other words, help that person reach bottom sooner.  Some say that hitting bottom is often too late and that we need to be like a bungee cord that pulls a person back before he or she hits bottom.  If a bungee cord lets you hit bottom, it is definitely too late.  Some others say to ignore the bottom idea all together. 

The real questions are:

  • What is this “hitting Bottom” and
  • Why is it important.

The idea of hitting bottom is not as important as the concepts that are stated in the passage above although many (if not most) cannot answer yes to the two questions in the passage above until they fell all is lost and it is hopeless.

The idea of having lost all and having no hope are the key things that most are describing when speaking of “hitting Bottom.”   Bill W. described his experience this way:

This was the finish, the curtain, it seemed to me. My weary and despairing wife was informed that it would all end with heart failure during delirium tremens, or I would develop a wet brain, perhaps within a year. She would soon have to give me over to the undertaker or the asylum.

They did not need to tell me. I knew, and almost welcomed the idea. It was a devastating blow to my pride. I, who had thought so well of myself and my abilities, of my capacity to surmount obstacles, was cornered at last. Now I was to plunge into the dark, joining that endless procession of sots who had gone on before. I thought of my poor wife. There had been much happiness after all. What would I not give to make amends.  But that was over now.  No words can tell of the loneliness and despair I found in that bitter morass of self-pity. Quicksand stretched around me in all directions. I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 7-8)

Soon after this is when Ebby T. (Bill W.’s sponsor) came to Bill to start him on working recovery the way members of the Oxford Group had worked with him. 

Notice how bill describes all of this as “a devastating blow to my pride”.  The idea that “I can beat this all I need to do is ________ “  is one of the first problem.  Even after several failed attempts to stop, many of us still think ourselves strong enough to stop ourselves while Steps 1 through 3 (and in reality all of the Steps) want us to let go of the idea of controlling it.  The first Step you encounter in any 12 Step program looks something like this:

1.   We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

The resistance that most of us have to this is pride, plain and simple.  In the case of Bill W. “hitting bottom” came at the point where he states:  “I had met my match. I had been overwhelmed. Alcohol was my master.  ”

Until that point is reached, Step 1 is impossible.  Many people say that they are hopeless, powerless and so on, but in fact never really reach that level understanding.  They never “hit bottom” in this sense.  They may go on to work lots of steps, go to many meetings, programs and such, but still are ruled by pride and as a result still ruled by addiction.

The two questions listed in the original passage above:

  1. Do you want to quit for good and
  2. Will you will go to any extreme to do so

Test for two key things:  

  1. Are you at a point where you can see that the problem needs to go completely or are you just trying to find a way to continue your addiction without having the problems that are usually the result?
  2. Are you at a point where you are willing to give up your pride and do whatever it takes to have your life changed?

If a person is not at either of these points that person is definitely not ready to change (or to let go of who you are to become who you can be).  That person wants to stay the same while at the same time become different.  The program requires changing and this is a person who wants sobriety but does not want change. 

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 83-84)

Notice the words “Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.”  Change is a huge key and that pride we discussed earlier is the enemy.  The term “hitting bottom” then is really about a person who has been enabled through the experience of painful circumstances to let go of everything and go through a process of complete change.

Those two questions are key and if you cannot answer both of them with this understanding then no matter what you think you are doing in recovery you are either stuck in the process of working step one or you may not be ready to work recovery yet.  You may not have “hit bottom.”

The New Blog – Older Posts

Since the old version of the blog Crashed, I have built this new one and added as many of the posts from the old blog as I could find.  I hope these posts are helpful and meaningful to you.

I am still trying to retrieve mor of the old posts (if you have copies, please send them to me or contact me).

Wade H.

Special Holiday Encouragement

From – Monday, December 4th, 2006

Happy holidays to all. I hope that as you are reading this you are experiencing the joy that we all are supposed to experience during this season. After all the Christmas story is a story of hope, faith, and love.

This season is always a challenge for me and many of those in recovery at all stages of the process. If you are one of the people struggling as you read this, please never give up hope. Like our big “Alcoholics Anonymous” book states, “How dark it is before the dawn!” (BB pg8). And it goes on to say “I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.” I find it an tremendous thought that a challenging time may simply be the indicator that happiness and peace are soon to come.

One of the biggest keys to our individual survival is that all of us must continue to get together with others like ourselves to support each other and we all must seek to find those in need of the recovery gift we have been given and pass it on. “…nothing will so much ensure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when all other activities fail” (BB pg 89).

I hope to personally be in your circle of recovery friends (if I am not already). Please email me through this website keep in touch throughout this holiday season. I hope we can strengthen each other through this season and beyond.

As far as an update on my recent events; what a couple of months this has been. I have just recently returned from a trip to assist with the rebuilding of the south after 2005’s hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It was tough to see so many still living in trailers with still devastated homes, but thanks to the generosity of people like yourself our organization has been able to send teams of skilled laborers and purchase supplies to assist in the rebuilding of homes and lives in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The holiday season always brings with it great opportunity for service of many sorts. We always like to have events to give to the poor and needy of our communities and this year, as every year, we have had no shortage of opportunities to serve. There has been Thanksgiving food boxes for low-income families, thanksgiving dinners for the homeless, warm winter jacket and clothing giveaways, toy giveaways for underprivileged children and many other awesome events of this nature. I am thankful to have been allowed to participate in such a great means of service and such an awesome tool for maintaining sobriety. I hope that this will become a part of the recovery of many others, especially as a part of the holiday seasons. These selfless acts are a huge part of our ability to keep on the right path throughout the holidays. Remember = “Selfishness – Self-centeredness! That we think is the root of our troubles.” (BB pg 62) Selfless acts are an awesome strengthener.

“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” (BB pg 83) I hope that this Christmas brings the hope and promise of freedom for all of us from addictions and despair as the Christmas story has brought the promise of hope and freedom to the world for the past 2000 years.

Being Baffled and Step 1

From – August 10th, 2010

There was a tremendous urge to cease forever. Yet we found it impossible. This is the baffling feature of alcoholism as we know it – this utter inability to leave it alone, no matter how great the necessity or the wish.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 34)

“The Baffling Feature” is the inability to quit using no matter how great the necessity or wish.  This is a painful reality for many who have managed to work themselves to the point where they finally desire to quit.  There are many using alcoholics and drug addicts who have no desire to quit and that is a totally different issue. 

Once reaching a point of desperate desire to quit many find it still impossible.  That is because that desire is not even an arrival at Step 1.  The reality that comes after that desire is what Step 1 is all about.  The reality that no matter how much I want to quit I cannot:  I AM POWERLESS. 

STEP 1 – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable

There are some people who can quit once such a desire is reached and that is an awesome thing but that is a person whose recovery will look quite different from those of us who suffer from this “Baffling Feature.”  The Twelve Steps were designed for those of us who do. 

In many minds, once hearing this information, the focus of that person’s recovery will become a desperate effort to show him or herself as part of the group that can just stop so as to only have to do what seems like an easier version of recovery.  The same idea as trying to convince oneself that he or she is not an alcoholic or addict.   

Certain drinkers, who would be greatly insulted if called alcoholics, are astonished at their inability to stop. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 33)

Either you are the powerless kind of alcoholic or addict or not.  The Alcoholics Anonymous book describes three kinds of alcoholics on pages 20 and 21:  The Moderate Drinker (User), The Hard Drinker (or User), The Real Alcoholic (or Addict): 

The Moderate Drinker (User):

Moderate drinkers have little trouble in giving up liquor entirely if they have good reason for it. They can take it or leave it alone.    

The Hard Drinker (or User):

Then we have a certain type of hard drinker. He may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair him physically and mentally. It may cause him to die a few years before his time. If a sufficiently strong reason – ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor – becomes operative, this man can also stop or moderate, although he may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention. 

The Real Alcoholic (or Addict):

But what about the real alcoholic? He may start off as a moderate drinker; he may or may not become a continuous hard drinker; but at some stage of his drinking career he begins to lose all control of his liquor consumption, once he starts to drink.

Each of these may look just as bad at times but some are worse off than others.  The key is either you are the “Real Alcoholic or Addict” spoken of here or you are not.  If you find that you need to spend a lot of time to try and figure out which one you are, it is probably safe to assume or at least useful to assume that you are in the “Real Alcoholic or Addict” group.

Answering that question is a big part of what Step 1 involves.  If you are still in this struggle to figure out if this is truly you, it is okay if you understand that you are in the process of working Step 1 and are working towards understanding what it means to be powerless.

The truth about Step 1 however is this:

The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 30)

I must be able to say that at least in terms of drug and alcohol use, I am not normal.  What ever normal is, I am not it.  There are people who have some control over alcohol or chemical addictions, but I am just not one of those people.  I AM POWERLESS!

However, it is also important to remember that there is hope, but this is just the first step and if done correctly it can be a very uncomfortable reality check.

Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 43)

Can I Go To Family and Work Gatherings Where There is Drinking

From – Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Every year I get rush of questions about going places where people are drinking (like family gatherings, company parties etc.).  I hope the following thoughts may be of help.  If you have some sort of mentor, counselor, sponsor or someone otherwise working with you in your recovery, please consult with them before going to any gathering that may be a danger to your recovery.

Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. People have said we must not go where liquor is served; we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink; we must avoid moving pictures which show drinking scenes; we must not go into bars; our friends must hide their bottles if we go to their houses; we mustn’t think or be reminded about alcohol at all.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 100-101)

Going into the holiday season, we need to have a good idea how far along each one of us is in our recoveries.  This also means ensuring the proper safeguards are in place if you are somehow obligated to be in a situation dangerous to your sobriety.

  • Will you never again be able to go to a Christmas party or a Thanksgiving dinner because there is alcohol there?
  • If there are one or two members of your family who still use heavily does that mean you can never again attend a family function?
  • Can other members of your family have a glass of wine with a holiday dinner at your home?

There is no perfect answer to these questions.  One of the main points to make here is that the answers to these questions depend completely upon where you are in your sobriety.

I am not totally convinced that each of us is capable of making a full assessment of our ability to be around these things, but there are some who are better able.  Some examples include:

  • A good sponsor who knows you real well
  • Any person that has been given a mentoring role in your life such as a pastor, priest, adviser, and so on.
  • A Professional counselor if you have one that you have been seeing for a while.

If you find that you have nobody in this sort of mentoring role in your life you have a gaping hole in your recovery and need to deal with that first.

The next thing to ask is why do I want to be in this place?

  • So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 101)
  • You will note that we made and important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, “Have I any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places?”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 101-102)

The question to ask yourself is why am I going to this function when I know it may be dangerous for me?

Are you only thinking about yourself in attending.

  • Selfishness – Self-centeredness! That we think is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 62)
  •  Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead! (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 102)

Can you be there focusing on helping someone else and not just to have fun?  In other words, just because there is darkness does not mean that you have to be dark also; why not be a light in the darkness?

  •  Your job now is to be at the place where you may be of maximum helpfulness to others, so never hesitate to go anywhere if you can be helpful. You should not hesitate to visit the most sordid spot on earth on such an errand. Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 102)

Can you be open about why you will not use to everybody?

  •  Let your friends know they are not to change their habits on your account. At a proper time and place explain to all your friends why alcohol disagrees with you. If you do this thoroughly, few people will ask you to drink.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 102)

If you tell everyone why you are not using and that you need their help you should either get a positive response at least from most of those in attendance or the people you are going to be around may not be the safest people for you.  If they cannot respect your desire to be a better person they do not truly care about you.

Is your spiritual condition solid?

  •  But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 102)
  • Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 102)

Do you have a spiritual advisor or mentor who can help you assess your spiritual condition

 These are just some ideas from the Big Book.  I am quite sure there are other things to look at and to think about.  I am hopeful that these tidbits will help you and anyone you may be working with in decided what is appropriate and not appropriate.

These types of gatherings can be an important part of life and of your recovery when you are ready.  The very same gatherings can be destructive and hurtful if you are not.  May God keep you.

—————————————————————————————————– 

Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 102)