From – March, 2010
If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried. We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn’t there. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 45)
Many times when people are confronted with a person with addiction or alcoholism related issues the more obvious problems tend to be the way these people seem to act without regard for themselves or others or they simply seem to just not understand how life is supposed to work (or the depth of the problem).
How many times people have said to us: “I can take it or leave it alone. Why can’t he?” “Why don’t you drink like a gentleman or quit?” “That fellow can’t handle his liquor.” “Why don’t you try beer and wine?” “Lay off the hard stuff.” “His will power must be weak.” He could stop if he wanted to.” “She’s such a sweet girl, I should think he’d stop for her sake.” “The doctor told him that if he ever drank again it would kill him, but there he is all lit up again.” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 20)
This appearance of being morally bankrupt or just not getting life are the obvious symptoms of the addict/alcoholic but are not the totality of the problem. Many who want to help us try to force us too see how flawed our thinking is or try to ram morality down our throats. The truth of the matter is many of us know our actions may not make sense and deep down inside many of us are angry at ourselves for not being better morally.
In a vague way their families and friends sense that these drinkers are abnormal, but everybody hopefully awaits the day when the sufferer will rouse himself from his lethargy and assert his power of will. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 23)
All of this implies that the totality of the problem with addicts/alcoholics is a problem of self control. Self control is a problem for all of us in addiction/alcoholism but there is so much more. That means that the things listed above are true to some degree, but if those thoughts are the only changes that happen, it will not be enough of a change for those f us in the advanced stages of chemical dependency.
Some of us filling our heads with such information will make us feel better and more knowledgeable only to almost immediately find ourselves using in spite of our newfound knowledge. Some of us can use such information and training to stay sober for long periods and then suddenly find ourselves devastated by our own relapse again. We emerge either with odd excuses that make no sense or with the honest reality that we have no idea why no matter how much we really wanted to stop we have no idea why I did it again.
If you ask him why he started on the last Run, the chances are he will offer you any one of a hundred alibis. Sometimes these excuses have a certain plausibility, but none of them really makes sense in the light of the havoc an alcoholic’s drinking bout creates. They sound like the philosophy of the man who, having a headache, hits himself in the head with a hammer so he can’t feel the ache. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 23)
Teaching us logic would only work if we used some sort of logic to start using. We often remember no sensible thinking when we went on a run. We can plan and scheme to get whatever we use, but often that is the full extent of logical thought. This is a big part of the idea of being powerless.
This does not excuse this behavior, but it does show that just new ways of thinking are not the totality of the cure. If a person has knowledge but at times cannot get the brain to process that knowledge that means that more knowledge may not be the solution. That may just be more that the brain may not process at those certain times.
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 fro a Higher Power. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 43)
The point here is that if you cannot trust your own brain and cannot trust your own brain to use the input of others what can help. Something stronger than what people or you can put into your brain. Something must become more powerful in your life than your brain (sort of like how drugs, alcohol, or both have become).
The point can be summed up in this sentence:
But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual way of life-or else. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 44)
That is the power for the powerless in very brief form: “A spiritual way of life”
“Fearless,” “Thorough” and “Brutally Honest” From The Start!
…we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 58)
According to Miriam-Webster
- Fearless = free from fear : brave
- Thorough = 1 : carried through to completion : exhaustive
2 a : marked by full detail b : careful about detail : painstaking c : complete in all respects
d : having full mastery (as of an art)
We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 65)
According to Miriam-Webster
- Honesty = adherence to the facts: sincerity
To work a recovery program particularly a 12 Step program means change. If you are in recovery and stay the same then you can only expect the same things to result simply because of who you are (still).
The process of change is uncomfortable. This is because the process of change begins by stepping out of actions and thoughts that are comfortable and stepping into thoughts and activities that seem (and probably are) very uncomfortable.
Recovery requires many conscious decisions to just push yourself through activities, thoughts, and interactions that will cause you a great deal of discomfort and in some cases emotional pain.
This pushing yourself through what you see as terribly uncomfortable is the essence of the word fear as it is used here.
The truth is that we all would prefer if we could be the way we are and the world around us just change. There is a certain security in the idea of staying basically the same but just having a few problems go away. A man named John Lilly said it best when he said:
“Our only security is our ability to change.”
Somehow most of us find ourselves shying away from these uncomfortable experiences and from the changes we need to make. The early A.A.’s didn’t just ask, they begged you to be fearless in facing the uncomfortable and in facing the change that is to be the new you. Somehow most of us find ourselves shying away from these uncomfortable experiences and from the changes we need to make. The early A.A.’s didn’t just ask, they begged you to be fearless in facing the uncomfortable and in facing the change that is to be the new you. If you stay the “same old” you, will get the “same old” results. If you become a new you, you can expect new results. EMBRACE THE CHANGE!
Somehow most of us find ourselves shying away from these uncomfortable experiences and from the changes we need to make. The early A.A.’s didn’t just ask, they begged you to be fearless in facing the uncomfortable and in facing the change that is to be the new you. Let’s move on to the next word; “thoroughness,” by taking the example of cancer treatment. I am no surgeon, but my understanding of cancer surgery is that the goal is to get out all of the cancer. If you cut out some of the cancer and leave some the removal of the cancer is just a temporary solution or a postponement of the problem. It will return. The more you leave the faster it will probably return even though it is actually not a return because in truth it was never gone.
Somehow most of us find ourselves shying away from these uncomfortable experiences and from the changes we need to make. The early A.A.’s didn’t just ask, they begged you to be fearless in facing the uncomfortable and in facing the change that is to be the new you. Let’s move on to the next word; “thoroughness,” by taking the example of cancer treatment. I am no surgeon, but my understanding of cancer surgery is that the goal is to get out all of the cancer. If you cut out some of the cancer and leave some the removal of the cancer is just a temporary solution or a postponement of the problem. It will return. The more you leave the faster it will probably return even though it is actually not a return because . If you do not get all of the causes of your negative behaviors and thoughts, they come back (or never really leave). You need to get as much of the root problem(s) as possible out. Your need to get the ones that lead to your destructive thoughts and actions and change them. This will change you which changes what you do. That really is the thoroughness needed for recovery. Everything you do in the recovery process must be “marked by detail” and you must be “careful about” the details just as the dictionary definition describes.
Now about honesty. I like to describe what they are talking about here as “brutal honesty.”
Recovery requires a commitment to being honest with yourself no matter how painful it is.
In some cases this may require professional treatment due to the depth of what some of us have been through. The fact is that telling yourself something is not there does not make it disappear. It must be dealt with at all costs.
All of us have lied to ourselves at times. We are all capable of this. The truth is however, that in recovery there is no room for this. Any area that we are not honest about is an area where we will not see the need to change. That becomes the cancer left behind after the surgery.
Not doing or changing these things almost certainly leads to failure.
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 58)
You must fearlessly and thoroughly follow the path and face everything with brutal honesty until you grasp and develop a manner of living that is rooted in this kind of brutal honesty. This new you will get the new results.
To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 93)
In recovery and especially in all things 12 Step there is much debate about spirituality and what that should look like in the recovery process. Can a person use a chair or a doorknob as a “higher power.” Is the “higher power” in recovery just a crutch that you use until you finish the rest of the recovery process then you just let that go and go to meetings, and on and on.
One word in this statement changes all of that and that word is “vital.” From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary we get the following definition:
concerned with or necessary to the maintenance of life
Something that is vital is in effect something that is necessary for your life. The faith that you base your recovery on and the object of that faith must be understood as necessary for life like air, food, water, or blood pumping through your heart. It is not just a formality, the faith in a power greater than yourself is the faith in what will be the absolute foundation of your life from now on.
Next this sentence describes an attitude and type of action that comes from having this “vital” kind of faith. If the faith you have and the object of that faith are indeed “vital” then a change will occur in you and will be expressed in all you think and do. If you change something that is vital and improve on it the results will also change.
If you go from smog to clean air you will breathe better. If you go from drinking dirty water to clean water you will be healthier. If you have contaminated blood in your system don’t they try to get more pure blood into your system so you can run better. If you make these changes and something better is not happening, then there is a problem.
Notice that the words “self sacrifice” and in describing the actions we make afterwards “unselfish” are used. Pg 64 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book states clearly:
Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles (Pg 62).
Addiction and alcoholism is about a focus on “what I think makes me comfortable.” This faith in God changes it over to what I think (and learn) makes God comfortable. This change in my attitude is measured by how much change there is in my actions. If I am feeling like I am unselfish, but my actions are very selfish, are my feelings correct or is the evidence as seen through my actions correct. The actions are the true measure!
In other words, No matter how you feel, if you are not different, you are the same.
Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 98)
There is a recovery process and it is summed up as 2 things:
- Trust in God
- Clean House (Step 4)
In other words, faith and action as described above.
If a repetition is to be prevented, place the problem, along with everything else, in God’s hands. Alcoholics Anonymous pg 120
The point is unselfish faith in God and the resulting unselfish actions are the marks of recovery and in reality are the recovery process.