What You Need To Learn For True Freedom

Jail Cell
Jail Cell (Photo credit: Casey Serin)

What You Need To Learn For True Freedom 

We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 70)

This a segment from the part of the Alcoholics Anonymous book that describes the things that should have happened if you did your Fourth Step correctly.  In other words if these things have not happened, you are absolutely not done with your Step Four and should not be trying to move on to Step Five.  The change you were looking for has not happened.  Or, should I say, the change the authors felt you needed t get sober have not happened.

Look at this passage describing one of the focuses of Step Five:

They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 73)

The implication of this passage is that one of the reasons that there is a Step Five is to help each person get rid of MORE egoism, get rid of MORE fear, and get more humble.  This means that a big part of Step Four is to get humility, fearlessness and more honesty according to passage.  Step Five merely takes you deeper.

Consider this passage from a page before we start actually reading about doing the Fourth Step:

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

Selfishness and Self-centeredness!  The archenemy of every alcoholic and addict is self focus.  This is supposed to be addressed in Step Four directly.  If you do not deal with the selfishness and self-centeredness then you stay the same.  If you stay the same then you are the same and can expect the same results at some point.  In other words:  If your recovery does not change you deeply, then you have gone through recovery and come out the same.  If you are the same you can expect to do the same at some point no matter how long you manage to put it off.

Indeed, the attainment of greater humility is the foundation principle of each of A.A.’s Twelve Steps.  For without some degree of humility, no alcoholic can stay sober at all.  Nearly all A.A.’s have found too, that unless they develop much more of this precious quality than may be required just for sobriety, they still haven’t much chance of becoming truly happy.  (12 Steps and Twelve Traditions pg. 70)

The focus of Step Four and Step Five (and in reality of all of the Steps) is the attainment of humility.  I know I have crossed this bridge a few times, but because it is such a key focus of all we do this topic has to be more of a bridge we cross over daily in our commute to our one day at a time recovery instead a bridge we pass over and never look back at again. 

The obvious question that comes up when having this humility conversation is:  “What about the people who are not humble who have sobriety time?”  I say to that question:  “Bring three of those people to your mind.”  (I personally know a bunch)  How do you like to be around those people for a long time?  Honestly speaking, those people make me want to gag myself with a jackhammer.

Some are so miserable and angry about everything they encounter that I kinda have to resist the natural urge to avoid conversation with them.  The kind of person who gets up to share and describes how jacked up life is and the world and on and on yet throwing in the but I’ve been sober “X” amount of years (and people clap and cheer etc.).  Not to say that their recovery time is a bad thing.  I’m also not talking about the fact that all of us have those days and periods of time.  I’m describing the person who meeting after meeting, day after day, conversation after conversation and year after year has the same attitude and those same conversations.

I remember thinking to myself, when hearing guys like that over and over again; “If that is all there is to recovery, then I would rather keep using.  If sober is that miserable and being miserable is my motivation for wanting to be sober I’m stuck choosing between sober and miserable and drunk/high and miserable.

This passage says that sober and miserable is not the goal at all and that gaining humility is the answer. 

Another form of this being not “truly happy” because of not getting enough humility is seen in these people who cannot fell comfortable or good unless they are taking control of everything.  They always know more or have to get a word in or have to declare constantly how great they are etc.  Is not all of that truly the diametric opposition to humility.  The most opposite you could possibly get to it. 

If a person were this “truly happy” why would said person be so unhappy (or the disguise they use for this “uncomfortable”) when not in control?  Translation:  What kind of “truly happy” person needs to derive any kind of positive feeling from the manipulation of others.

I spoke on this previously so I will not go over this passage in detail but if you want to truly get a look at this kind of person look at pgs. 60, 61 and 62 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  The passages that use the example of the actor who wants to run the show and thinks if everyone would just act the way he/she wants them to all would be fine.

This person is not “truly happy.”  This person is sick (still sick) and manipulative.

I am not saying:  “Ooooh, you evil person!”  I’m saying there is a key obstacle that still has not been overcome that desperately needs to be (for your own good and the good of those around you).

Now back to what all of this has to do with the Fourth Step.  What does killing your selfishness, self-centeredness and gaining more humility look like in Step Four?

Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man’s. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

The book asks you (as a resentment list) to write down everyone you have ever been angry at in your life.

In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 64)

Without going too far down this rabbit trail, you list angers because people generally do not know all of their resentments off of the top of their heads.  Most people have five or so they can think of and that’s it.  But, if you list every time you have been angry (even if the other person never knew) then you are likely to realize that many of those (if not most) are some level of resentment, some of which you try to hide from yourself.

So if done like this, you end up with a massive, itemized list of every person who has ever ticked you off throughout your whole life.  Have you begun to “learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even your enemies” or have you just unearthed a whole lot of uneasy feelings, many of which you had neatly packed away to not think about.  When do you start looking at them as “sick people” you have hurt by your conduct and become willing to straighten out the past?

This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.  Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 66– 67)

First we look at them as people who are spiritually sick.  Sick in ways that are much deeper than just being the messed up person who chose to tick me off.  Two pages before, the authors use this same “spiritually sick” concept to describe the problem that has made us alcoholic/addicts and that made us hurt other people. 

The question here is, “Could it be that these people are suffering from a similar inner sickness that you suffer from.”   Is it possible that their real problem is that they need help that they may not even know they need like you and the rest of us recovery folks? 

Then you are asking for tolerance, pity, and patience.  The kind you show a sick person who accidently does something that you do not like because it is some symptom of their sickness.  Like a friend who has a week to live who vomits on your clothes.  What kind of person gets mad at that person and beats the terminally ill person up or cusses them out?

Next you are looking to be helpful to that person.  Instead of being a part of the problem, you are looking to be a part of the solution.  In other words; you are a sick person and this is a sick person.  You are trying to get better and have some ideas now about what it takes to get better.  You have encountered a person who is trapped in a similar sickness and you know how to point that person in the direction of getting better.  You can choose to overcome the urge to retaliate and look for ways to truly be helpful (even if it’s just dropping a tidbit of information that person may not even consider for many years) or you can just jump on the crazy train with that person and fan the flames of craziness in that person’s world while restarting whatever fires have been put out in you.

The fire starters and the people who fan the flames of others are continuing down the path of selfishness and self-centeredness and away from the key focus of Twelve Step recovery:  “The attainment of greater humility”.

Key to all of this is to seek freedom from the anger that normally rises.  They did not say resentment, the authors stressed “anger”.   Anger is really the feeling that there is this right to be angry which is really the spiteful desire to punish another person between your own ears in your head.  You may spew some of your own crazy on that person or others (or you may not) but in reality in trying to beat them up inside your head, you are in truth only beating a hole in the rock that is on top of your neck. 

That person did something to you:  “How dare they hurt someone as important as you?”  Forget the “sick” person part and the “how can I be helpful” to this person part.  This person had the nerve to hurt ME!

Another fine definition of “selfishness and self-centeredness” which is the root of our troubles.

After listing every person who has ever angered you in your life, you need to go over this with each and every person on the list.  You need to take this view of every person on the list and find an answer to the question:  “How can I be helpful to him” or her?

Then comes the deep part:  There is a test to see which ones you have been successful at making these changes on and the ones you haven’t so you can go back and work on those ones some more.

Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man’s. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)  

Now, you take this list of every person who has ever ticked you off ever and ignore that very fact completely.  All you have right now is a list of what is wrong with everyone else in the world and you may or may not have included yourself a few times on this list.  What did you do before or during whatever thing is listed to the listed person(s) that was in some way just not right?  If nothing what did you do to this person that was not right after this thing occurred (instead of looking for “How can I be helpful to” this other sick person)?

Is it not true that if you were not helpful to this person you were probably hurtful? 

The situation or the person may have required a calm discussion.  It may have needed a firm but caring confrontation.  It may have required the police be called and an abusive person arrested for their own potential growth and you to leave so that that person has opportunity to see that being abusive is not okay (even though he or she may never see it you focused on trying to be helpful instead of retaliation etc.) .  It may mean telling parents, principles and proper authorities about being abused as a child to get that person proper help and to save other children from such abuse. (An abused child will not have done anything to the person as a child but often as adults abuse themselves with resentments.  Those who were abused as children often also never even begin to think about how to be helpful to that person.  This is a deep part of the resentment and the self-protection manifesting.  That may mean demanding that person get help or you will expose them etc.  An abused child is never to be blamed but as an adult we have to take on responsibility to be free and to be helpful).

This is a deep and often painful look at what is wrong with you and not everyone else.  The “How can I be helpful to him” or her part is not just some cool psychobabble that the Twelve Step people invented.  It is the end zone for this part of Step Four.  It is the “attainment of greater humility” overcoming “Selfishness and self-centeredness” part.  If you don’t get this change, you are the same except now you have an itemized list of everything and everyone that ever worked your nerves. 

Or you might even be worse; you may be one of these people who has like three or four people listed and ramble on and on about not having resentments only to either relapse or to white-knuckle struggle your way through some abstinence while selfishness and self-centeredness keeps you never able to enjoy the world for what it is.

If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 70)

This is a lot of work and a tremendous amount of stress.  Well one would expect there to be a tremendous amount of work and a tremendous amount of stress in the process of getting a tremendous amount of freedom.

A person chained up in a cage can get free from the chains and become free to roam within the cage and some can even get to roam around the whole prison which are levels of freedom but are not truly free.  We want true freedom and it is possible.

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was a vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.

Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 63– 64)

We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 65– 66)

Stay sober my friends;

Wade H.

Volcano-Vomit and Huge, Pink, Dancing Elephants in Our Rooms?

volcano erruption at the mirage
(Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison))

Volcano-Vomit and Huge, Pink, Dancing Elephants in

Our Rooms?

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

Okay, before I start, I just wanted to warn you that I am about to go off on a rant, so consider yourself duly warned.

Here is the background to all of this.  I was at a meeting that I don’t normally attend and right before the meeting a couple of seemingly important woman came hurriedly in, taping little notes everywhere.  

They seemed a bit distressed and very urgent about their task and since nobody else tripped on it besides me; I assumed I must be correct about them being important.

They started to have a few conversations with people in the room who I assume to be regulars, but the conversations they were having were the passive aggressive, I want everyone to hear my point kind. 

You know the kind where you are talking to somebody, but you are not looking at that person, you are looking at the other people around with that intense, tightened eyebrow, stair that is some sort of nicer evil eye.  I suppose it is the passive aggressive, unspoken version of, “You better listen here all of you, or else!”

So I figured I ought to listen to any message that was important enough to be preceded by so much passive aggressive intensity.  Turns out, the were in all bent out of shape because a couple of people at some previous meeting had mentioned drug use and they were determined to make sure that nobody ever made such a terrible assault on them again.

As I watched I realized these ladies were on a witch hunt and were trying to campaign to get enough support to vote to have the meeting be a closed meeting and allow no addicts unless they only discussed alcohol.  So their anger had become this volcano and the minutes before the meeting became a time to vomit lava on all of those they knew in attendance that would listen (and apparently on those of us they didn’t know also)

Now, covered in the vomit-lava of the group conscience vigilantes all I could think was:  Someone needs to do a Fourth Step (or I guess both somones).  Then I started pondering the Twelve Traditions and recordings I have of statements from founding members about this whole topic and then my mind switched.   Didn’t Dr. Bob and Bill W. both mention use of other substances besides alcohol in their stories.  So before I go on, Lets take a look:

A doctor came with a heavy sedative. Next day found me drinking both gin and sedative. This combination soon landed me on the rocks. People feared for my sanity. So did I. I could eat little or nothing when drinking, and I was forty pounds under weight.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 6– 7)

Keeping in mind that it hadn’t been all that long that they had taken cocaine out of soda or that cocaine was prescribed to treat morphine addiction I am of the assumption that the sedative that when added to Bill W.’s alcoholism made him hit bottom must have been some pretty strong stuff.

After Bill started mixing this stuff, he then lost weight and crazy as he had clearly been, this suddenly was the point where the people around him freaked out about his well being and even desperately started trying to get him to help.

I bet if I told the similar story in this meeting there would be rolling eyes and groans until finally somebody would rudely let me know that we only discuss alcohol at these meetings.

Dr. Bob’s mention was not as key to his story or demise, but it is still there in a clear way and is a pertinent part of his story:

During the next few years, I developed two distinct phobias. One was the fear of not sleeping, and the other was the fear of running out of liquor. Not being a man of means, I knew that if I did not stay sober enough to earn money, I would run out of liquor. Most of the time, therefore, I did not take the morning drink which I craved so badly, but instead would fill up on large doses of sedatives to quiet the jitters, which distressed me terribly.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 175 – 4th Edition – Doctor Bob’s Nightmare)

Dr. Bob would use drugs to keep him going when he couldn’t drink.  Drugs to keep him going until the liquor could begin flowing! 

I pondered what response I would get from sharing a story like this from in front of this meeting.  Probably some rolled eyes and angry groans, but I suppose it was not intense enough to give the volcanoes enough time to erupt into volcanic vomit all over me.

Well, that’s just two of the founding members and may be an anomaly (even though I just showed you that that lightening struck twice in each story of the two founding members).  What if I told you this sort of thing was what the founding membership considered the norm of a person who was an alcoholic?  What if I told you that this was so strongly considered a part of the definition of an alcoholic that they agreed to allow this to be written in the Alcoholics Anonymous book?

As matters grow worse, he begins to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet his nerves so he can go to work. Then comes the day when he simply cannot make it and gets drunk all over again. Perhaps he goes to a doctor who gives him morphine or some sedative with which to taper off. Then he begins to appear at hospitals and sanitariums.

This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic, as our behavior patterns vary. But this description should identify him roughly.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 22)

The general definition and description of what they considered to be an alcoholic included the fact that he/she was a person who probably goes to a doctor to get 1930’s doses of morphine or some crazy 1930’s sedative and THEN he/she will appear at hospitals and sanitariums. 

This was at least a normal part of the description.

I couldn’t help but think that:   “Well, that was a long time ago and the fellowship has changed until I reflected back to a story I recently read in the stories included in the current Forth Edition of the Alcoholics Anonymous book that can only lead me to believe the topic of drugs is not a forbidden subject in Alcoholics Anonymous:

I asked myself what I would do for a patient who felt this rotten. The answer came right back:  I’d give him something to pep him up.  So I immediately started taking and shooting pep pills.  Eventually, I was taking forty-five milligrams of the long-acting Benzedrine and forty-five of the short acting just to get out of bed in the morning.  I took more through the day to increase the high, and more to maintain it; when I overshot the mark, I’d take tranquilizers to level off.  The pep pills affected my hearing at times: I couldn’t listen fast enough to hear what I was saying.  I’d think, I wonder why I’m saying that again–I’ve  already said it three times.  Still I couldn’t turn my mouth off.

For the leveling of process, I just loved intravenous Demerol, but I found it hard to practice good medicine while shooting morphine.  Following an injection, I would have to keep one hand busy scratching my constantly itching nose and would also have sudden  uncontrollable urges to vomit.  I never got much effect out of codeine and Percodan and the tranquilizers.  However, for a period of time I was injecting Pentothal intravenously to put myself to sleep.  That’s the stuff used when the oral surgeon puts the needle in your vein and says, “Count to ten,” and before you get to two, you’re asleep.  Instant blackout was what it was, and it seemed delightful.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 410 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer)

 

I would put the needle in my vein and then try to figure out exactly how much medication to inject to overcome the pep pills while adding to the sleeping pills while ignoring the tranquilizers in order to get just enough to be able to pull out the needle, jerk the tourniquet, throw it in the car, slam the door shut, run down the hall, and fall in the bed before I fell asleep.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 410-411 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer)

Wow!  I wonder if I stood at this same meeting, with the volcano-vomit ladies in the room and told this story (that is in the Alcoholics Anonymous book) as if it were my own, what their response would be.

My next words might be something like:  “Who are all of those people with pitchforks and torches?” 

There is a message in this story that many of us alcoholics (using the definition that the founding members used of alcoholic as found in the Alcoholics Anonymous book) need to hear.  That message:

Today, I find that I can’t work my A.A. program while taking pills, nor may I even have them around for dire emergencies only.  I can’t say, “Thy will be done,” and take a pill.  I can’t say, “I’m powerless over alcohol, but solid alcohol is okay.”  I can’t say, “God could restore my sanity, but until He does, I’ll control myself with pills.  Giving up alcohol alone was not enough for me; I’ve had to give up all mood- and mind-affecting chemicals in order to stay sober and comfortable.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 411 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer)

I don’t go to meetings to go along with whatever the most recent volcano-vomiting has manipulated a group into believing or not believing, liking or disliking.  There is a book for a reason.   That is the basis of all of the information.

I am not saying that there should never be any closed meetings that only discuss alcohol.  But, really?  Are this many meetings really containing a majority of people who use alcohol only?  In my discussions with people I have found that the majority of people (in my area) that are in Alcoholics Anonymous meeting use alcohol and some kind of drugs as well as alcohol.  If you took those people out of the equation in my area, there would be no meetings to speak of because nobody would be meeting.

It’s this big, pink, dancing elephant in the rooms that we are told to ignore and never talk about.  If you are able to ignore the big, pink, dancing elephant, something is really wrong with your ability to observe or something is not clicking on all cylinders with you. 

The next part of the conversation that many of those reading this will want to start is the “Don’t they have other meetings for that stuff?”  (I’m not sure, at least in my area, who the “they” are as the “they” seems to be the majority of the “us”?)  

First off, everything Twelve Step is an attempt to interpret what is written in the Alcoholics Anonymous book to sound relevant to a person with some other particular problem.  If this source document of all of the other Twelve Step programs covers all of the problems I suffer from and the meetings are supposed to be based on what is in this book, shouldn’t this be the meeting for me?

Now to my point:  If the majority of the group is suffering from both drugs and alcohol addiction shouldn’t we discuss our problems as such?  At least to the levels the founding members did in the Alcoholics Anonymous book as we read?

Isn’t what the man in the Acceptance Was The Answer story in the Alcoholics Anonymous book correct for most of us when he states:  “I find that I can’t work my A.A. program while taking pills,”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 411 – 4th Edition – Acceptance Was The Answer).

Just like how mixing drug use with alcohol use was bottom for founding member Bill W. and for much of what the founding membership called and alcoholic,  mixing quitting drug use with quitting alcohol is probably the best road out.

Remember the passage I started with:   

Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

As far as group conscience etc. the group conscience had to keep the idea that our real purpose (as individuals and as such as a group when we collect together) is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service.

What does that mean if we are voting to close a meeting so nobody can talk about drug use when most of the group uses both drugs and alcohol?

In this instance (and some other similar instances I have seen) all of this stems from one or two people who were made uncomfortable and rallying the troops behind himself/herself for the cause.

I would say that if a person only wants to be made comfortable and never wants to hear or encounter that which makes him/her uncomfortable in a meeting that person is completely missing the major target that we are aiming for in Twelve Step recovery.  That person is ruled by the deepest part of our problem:

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

That is a person so interested in controlling the environment for his/her comfort that he/she is entirely willing to damage the recovery process of some segment of the group and future newcomers without a second thought.  That person is only seeking to be of maximum service to himself/herself and is deeply rooted in the root of our problem. 

The answer seems to be the title of the story that had all of the detailed drug references and it is something we all need to consider:  “Acceptance Was The Answer!”

Let me just put it out there:  THERE IS A HUGE, PINK, DANCING ELEPHANT IN OUR ROOM AND WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT OR LOTS OF PEOPLE WILL GET HURT!!!  STOP COMPLAINING AND BE HELPFUL TO SOMEBODY!!!

Just a funny side note:  There were two gentlemen that arrived late to this meeting who both turned out to be from a local recovery program and introduced themselves as being both alcoholics and addicts. 

My Cheshire Cat grin and super villain nod in agreement were my moments of passive aggressive delight as I brushed the volcano-vomit off. 

 

Stay Sober My Friends (from Alcohol and Drugs)

Wade H.

The “No Matter What The Consequences” “Go To Any Length” Promises

Arguing

 The “No Matter What The Consequences” “Go To Any Length” Promises

Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 77)

I have discussed this before a few times in various ways (see Relapse and Recovery & Change The Past In The Present To Change Your Future. & “In The Face Of Expert Opinion To The Contrary, We Have Recovered”), but it seems to be a never-ending debate (especially with those who are supposed to be working Steps Eight and Nine).

It is always amusing to me how many people ask me, doesn’t the Big Book tell you to, “make amends unless making it will harm you or them?”  They always have this look as if I have suddenly had my mind wiped clear of all recovery knowledge when I firmly answer them with a flat-out “NO!”  Then they always want to convince me that it does say that.  Then I casually refer them to page 79 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book and read:

Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 79)

Then to page 59 which is the step they are terribly (and possibly fatally) misquoting:

9.  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

The correct quote is “except when to do so would injure THEM or OTHERS.  The Step and the book say absolutely nothing about avoiding the making of an amends because it might harm you.  As a matter of fact, the passage we looked at from page 79, we are to make all emends, “no matter what the personal consequences may be.” 

The conversation itself is an attempt to convince me of a path to recovery that is completely opposite to we are being told.

All those “Promises” that we are all taught through repetition to use as the carrot on our recovery stick.  These “Promises” are waved around as the big happy ending for us.   The point in our story where we got to the “and he/she lived happily ever after” part. 

I am not saying these promises are not true or that they are not a good goal to shoot for.  These are the truth and definitely an awesome goal to shoot for.  The problem is that people miss the fine print.  The disclaimer like the mumbling at the end of a commercial that tells you what is really going on with this contest, free gift or potential side effects of this medication.

The fine print that so easily slips by particularly clear in the first sentence of the paragraph containing these “Promises”.

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 83)

For some of you that are reading this, it is not the first time you hear me discussing this, but it is important to ask yourself; “Which phase of my development is the “this phase” that is described here?”  That is because the promises are only for those who are painstaking about that “this phase”.

But before we get to that lets look at another passage that many of us may be familiar with, but often miss what it is really saying.  The paragraph after the paragraph containing the promises:

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Notice the “work for them” part.  If there is a “this phase of our development” then that is really the focus of what we are working hard at to get these “Promises”.

The next two sentences are a change of thought but also a continuation of the same thought. 

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

The change of thought is that we are transitioning from a discussion about Step Nine and moving into a discussion about Step Ten.  The continuation of the same thought is the fact that it states that you started to really work on your Step Ten as you were working on your Step Nine.

Making your amends is not just a step you check a box for, it is a major part of starting your new “way of living”.  If you only do a partial job of making amends, you only do a partial job of starting your new way of living.  That means that the amends you leave out has left behind some of the old you and that is the old you that will drive you to do what the old you does.  That means a relapse or other fits of stupid. 

IF YOU ARE PAINSTAKING ABOUT STEP NINE – NO MATTER WHAT THE PERSONAL CONSEQUENCES MAY BE – THEN THE PROMISES ARE WHAT ARE BEING PROMISED TO YOU!  That does not mean however that not getting beat-up, not getting yelled at, not getting spit on, not going to jail etc. are promised to you.  Those are contained on the promises.  Freedom that comes from being an entirely new you is what is promised unless you only do a partial job of starting your new way of living.

So, to answer that question once-and-for-all (yeah right, someone will read this and immediately try to tell me I am not reading it right):  There is no passage that says to make amends unless it might hurt you or make you uncomfortable.

In fact the amends that will have the most effect in your life are the ones that are the most uncomfortable and the most risky.

That whole concept that you don’t do it if it is somehow uncomfortable or risky is a lie from the darkness of your root problem:

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

Not making amends to someone you did something to is totally about protecting yourself from physical harm or from being emotionally hurt in some way.  It is a completely selfish act.  If you have so latched on to the root of your problem you are locked on to the very thing which is destroying you, but you don’t want to let go. 

There are awesome promises for you, but only if you are painstaking bout making ALL OF YOUR AMENDS!!!

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.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past. We have entered the world of the Spirit.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 83– 84)

Stay Sober My Friends,

Wade H.

Getting The Right Glasses on the Right Way

Getting The Right Glasses on the Right Way

 

Anachrome Aviator+ 3D glasses
Anachrome Aviator+ 3D glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Though you are providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 143)

Recovery is not just a change of if you use or not:  RECOVERY IS A CHANGE OF YOU!    You must change your way of thinking and change your attitude which both lead to your actions.  The way you see things and thins and reasons for why you see things that way must change if you expect to change.  If you feel and think like an alcoholic/addict you will gravitate towards the actions of an alcoholic/addict (even if you keep resisting it you will still be drawn to these activities).  Your whole world view must change.

Then, one day in A.A., I was told that I had the lenses in my glasses backwards; “the courage to change” in the Serenity Prayer meant not that I should change my marriage, but rather that I should change myself and learn to accept my spouse as she was.  A.A. has given me a new pair of glasses.  (Alcoholics Anonymous 4th Edition pg. 419)

This thought immediately makes me think of watching a 3D movie without the 3D glasses verse with the 3D glasses.  When I look at the screen without the glasses I can kinda see the picture and can pretty much tell what is going on.  The problem is that I am not seeing it correctly.  I actually wear prescription glasses and if I put on my prescription glasses and do not put on the 3D glasses I can see a bit clearer, but they are still not the 3D glasses so I still am not seeing clearly enough to be seeing it correctly.  The prescription glasses are a start, but the 3D glasses are a must to see clearly.

I think of no glasses as me using, I think of wearing the prescription glasses as me just abstaining, but not changing,  Using the prescription glasses and then the 3D glasses on top is me starting with abstinence then actually changing the way I see things completely.  Just as seeing more clearly allows me to better enjoy the movie in the good and bad parts; being able to see the world more clearly in the good and bad parts lets me enjoy life.

This sort of new filter for how I view life and feel about life is the focus.  In the tidbit above the man has been focusing on how bad his marriage is and how messed up his wife was and the problem seemed to grow. 

But then as I drank more and more, the alcohol seemed to affect my vision:  Instead of continuing to see what was good about my wife, I began to see her defects.  And the more I focused my mind on her defects, the more they grew and multiplied.  Every defect I pointed out to her became greater and greater.  Each time I told her she was nothing, she receded a little more into nowhere.  The more I drank, the more she wilted.  (Alcoholics Anonymous 4th Edition pg. 418)

His focusing on his wife’s problems led to his verbalizing what he was seeing.  His verbalizing what he had been focusing on was making the problem he observed get worse and worse making his marriage worse and worse and in effect making his life worse and worse.  Making his life worse and worse would only serve to make his desire to use worse and worse which made him notice more and more wrong with his wife and on and on.  Is this not a cycle of insanity? 

It’s funny that in all of this the implication is that she is looking more and more terrible as if she won a prize being married to this guy (and staying with him).  Let’s catch up to reality a bit:  He is a drunk, regularly abusive and admits to being the verbal misery spreader of the home and if you go through the rest of the story you will find that he is a person who always wants to have everything in his control and arranged the way that makes him comfortable.  His wife’s problem (from his perspective) was that she doesn’t just sit around reading his mind and making sure whatever he wanted or was feeling at any given moment was satisfied. 

The filter he was looking through was that one that wanted his wife (and ultimately the world) to be some sort of psychic slave labor with some added benefits.  This filter (the glasses he had been looking through) said that he was supposed to be seeing a world that did what he wanted so he could remain happy.  If a person is waiting for the whole planet to sit around trying to do everything it can to keep him/her comfortable there is massive disappointment at every turn in that person’s future. 

Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 60)

Is his thinking clearly exactly what we are supposed to be confronting as the “first requirement” of working Step 3.   He is looking through the self-will glasses and needed a new pair of glasses that would change his way of thinking and his attitude to break his cycle of insanity.

If you go through recovery and end up basically the same person that were but are just not using right now, you might find yourself a bit better off, but still miserable.  Sober and focusing on what is wrong with his wife all the time and then telling her could never end with happiness:  SOBER OR NOT!  

Trying to do recovery and to decide what changes you are and are not going to make and deciding which parts you are comfortable with and ignoring the parts you are uncomfortable with happens to be exactly the same kind of self-seeking motivations that we are describing as part of the sickness.  It’s like going to the doctor because you were poked in the eye and the doctor telling you to heal the pain from being poked in the eye by repeatedly poking yourself in the eye.  We can’t cure our crazy using crazyness.

First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 64)

This is the key to the idea of having the lenses in your glasses in backwards:

I was told that I had the lenses in my glasses backwards; (Alcoholics Anonymous 4th Edition pg. 419)

They are backwards because they are focused on peace for yourself and what is wrong with the world when the focus is supposed to be peace for the world and what is wrong with you.  That is recovery.  This is also the starting point for Step 3.  Get the right glasses and get them on the right way…

 

Stay sober my friends;

Wade H.

More Than Willpower

End No Alcoholic beverages.
(Photo credit: Eleventh Earl of Mar)

More Than Willpower

I do not hold with those who believe that alcoholism is entirely a problem of mental control. I have had many men who had, for example, worked a period of months on some problem or business deal which was to be settled on a certain date, favorably to them. They took a drink a day or so prior to the date, and then the phenomenon of craving at once became paramount to all other interests so that the important appointment was not met. These men were not drinking to escape; they were drinking to overcome a craving beyond their mental control.   (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. xxix – xxx [4th Edition “The Doctor’s Opinion”])

This is a very interesting concept that must be considered by all of us in recovery, all of us who work with others in recovery and all of us who are around alcoholics and addicts.

There is a common idea that is often verbalized that people who are alcoholics/addicts are basically people who do not have the willpower or are not focused enough to use their willpower to stop using.  Amongst many of us that are working recovery many of us focus on the idea that I have to just decide not to use and if I am about to use I just need to decide harder.

I am not saying there is not some truth to this, but I also think there is more to it.  It does strike me strange that so many people think that that is where a person is going in recovery when it is also where most of us start in recovery.  For example most recovery programs require you to use your willpower to stay sober while in the program yet they also assume you still need the program in spite of the fact that you are “willpowering” sobriety from the start.  

It seems ironic that so many people decide that the very things that were the bare minimum to start recovery are to become the finish line and magic cure also.

The real problem is that quite a few of us have enough willpower to abstain for periods of time, yet periodically, without warning we relapse.  Some of us have a knack for waiting til the worst moment imaginable to relapse.

He has a positive genius for getting tight at exactly the wrong moment, particularly when some important decision must be made or engagement kept. He is often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor, but in that respect he is incredibly dishonest and selfish. He often possesses special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and has a promising career ahead of him. He uses his gifts to build up a bright outlook for his family and himself, and then pulls the structure down on his head by a senseless series of sprees.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 21)

People think it must be a stupid person or a person who should just be put away in a padded room somewhere that cannot willpower himself/herself sober.  That goes double for a person that is doing great on his/her willpower then suddenly at the worst possible moment relapses.  Take a glimpse of how this was worded in the 1930s:

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.”

Now these are commonplace observations on drinkers which we hear all the time. Back of them is a world of ignorance and misunderstanding. We see that these expressions refer to people whose reactions are very different from ours.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 20)

These statements contain some truth, and most of us who have lived through the worst levels of alcoholism/addiction have had to admit at times we have been stupid and probably should have been in a padded room for our own protection.

The truth is that we are not stupid (although there is probably a good case for temporary insanity) and there is hope outside of a padded room.  The problem is that that hope cannot lie solely in our ability to use willpower or whatever abstinence we do get will break down sometimes at the worst possible moment.

Willpower cannot be the solution because there are parts of your mind that fight for that one more buzz or high while other parts of your mind are mortified by the idea.  There are things going on in your body that make you want to use sometimes desperately.  There is obviously more to all of this than just changing your pattern of thinking and using willpower more.  We have to change whatever causes us to think the things we think and to act the ways we act.  There has to be some kind of change at the core of our being that leads to changes in why we think what we think which means it causes change in what we think.

The doctor said: “You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.” Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.

He said to the doctor, “Is there no exception?”

“Yes,” replied the doctor, “there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 27)

The ideas, emotions, and attitudes which have been the guiding forces of our lives have to be cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives has to dominate us.  IF WE ARE NOT CHANGED WE ARE THE SAME AND CAN EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS!  The alcoholic/addict who is still the same but is using willpower to remain abstinent has not found the answer.  That is a person who is just making the first baby-steps towards beginning the process.  Abstaining by willpower is not the end zone. Abstaining by willpower is more like getting dressed to get on the field and hopefully, get in the game. 

This change has to be a massage change of everything about the person from the deepest level’s of his/her being.  This is the measure of this “vital spiritual experience” that Dr. Jung is talking about in this discussion.

Recovery cannot be measured by how sober you are:  YOU CAN RELAPSE AT ANY MINUTE AND HOW SOBER YOU WERE THE MINUTE BEFORE WILL NO LONGER MATTER!  How deep you are changed and how changed you are is a better measure.

There is more to the process and a lot more detail to getting to the depth of change we have been describing here.  The main point is that just using mind control to force yourself to do something that your mind has probably failed miserably at on previous occasions is absolutely not the solution to your problem of alcoholism/addiction.  We are talking about a completely new way of living that includes abstaining from alcohol and drugs as a byproduct of the change:

I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 42– 43)

I beg of you, if you are seeking recovery seek more than just abstaining by willpower.

 

Stay sober my friends…

Wade H.