Joy, happiness and freedom EVEN UNDER PRESSURE AND DIFFICULTY; these are alien concepts to so many of us. If you are in the world for any period of time it wont take long to realize that the world is like a game of cards: There are good hands and there are bad hands and you gotta know how to deal with both.
One thing that is also true of us working through recovery is that we really don’t have the luxury of freaking out. We either learn to deal with the good and the bad or we haven’t really learned to deal with life.
I was very specific when I said BOTH because some of us cannot handle the bad without freaking out and some of us cannot handle the good without self-destructing.
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)
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)
Some of us fall flat on our face from things going too well also. We gotta learn to handle the good and the bad. We have to learn to have happiness and remain free in both. This is something that comes through the process (the passage from page 83 is from “The Promises” that are for those almost through with Step 9), but we have to be aware of it also.
And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)
Of course, the timeframe mentioned here is after Step 9 is completed, but this is key also. We are not fighting people and life, we are taking life on life’s terms, one day at a time. We are looking to gain the courage to change the things we can change, the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the wisdom to know the which are the things we can change and which are the things we cannot.
If you are not at this point, three things are evident:
Getting through the Steps up to Step Nine seems to be a prerequisite to the expectation of a lot of this, so vigorously working or reworking your Steps is a key
Then there is this:
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 desperate, working with somebody else is a must. If you are feeling uncomfortably bad or uncomfortably good it is not just a choice, it is a must.
It is not about you!!!! The planet and all the people in it were not specifically placed here to keep you comfortable.
If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 60– 61)
You cannot try to force or manipulate the world into keeping you comfortable and you cant allow yourself to get angry, indignant, self-pitying or so otherwise uncomfortable that you are in danger.
Joy, freedom and happiness that can sand pressure and discomfort are offered to you. There is hope, but you have to take action to get it.
Henry Ford once made a wise remark to the effect that experience is the thing of supreme value in life. That is true only if one is willing to turn the past to good account. We grow by our willingness to face and rectify errors and convert them into assets. The alcoholic’s past thus becomes the principal asset of the family and frequently it is almost the only one! (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 124)
Something that has to be a change in the way we think for all of this to work is how we see the past. It is astonishing how many people will skirt around truly working the steps as outlined simply to avoid having to look at the darkest areas of their past. The fear of looking at the past makes it clear that what we are calling the “past” is still the present. If it was not a problem in the present, there could be long detailed discussion and the angry, deeply saddened or seriously uncomfortable feelings would not come up.
In other words the things in your past are either resolved or they are not. If they still create some kind of negative emotions, these are still problems. If you find yourself having to manipulate the way you work your steps to avoid even talking about this and that from your past, then those things are some of your deepest unresolved problems in the here and now.
We cannot remain afraid of our past and hide that fact by saying things like: “Nothing can be done about that, why bring it back up” or “I’m over that, I just don’t feel like talking about it” or “Why do I need to talk about that, I’m not the person who did something wrong there” etc.
Then there are those who think that all of this is right and that the people working them through recovery and the people who wrote the Twelve Steps didn’t really understand this particular situation so I just won’t say anything to these people and will not put it on my Fourth or Eighth Steps and ignore it.
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. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs.83– 84)
For those who are familiar with what are called the Promises, this is the first part of these “Promises.” Did you notice the “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” Part? If you are trying to ignore parts of your past of just act like these major events did not happen, you are heading in the wrong direction. You are choosing to stay in bondage to alcohol/drugs and to painfully limp along to a slow and dragged out, miserable death with nothing but insanity and pain along the way.
A few might be strong enough to get many years of sobriety with this same misery only to eventually find that nothing satisfies your life and eventually relapsing. These may seem like sweeping generalizations, but they do happen to be my observations and also happen to be the point the authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book are making here.
If you are even beginning to think that you should just not talk about or deal with some things from your past, freak out and begin trying to deal with those specific things with a sponsor right then and there. The freaking out is warranted if you actually grasp the seriousness of the consequences if you do not deal with these things.
THE PAST IS ONLY THE PAST IF THESE THINGS DO NOT AFFECT YOU NEGATIVELY IN THE PRESENT AND WILL NOT IN THE FUTURE!!!
If you need to avoid just talking about something because the feelings that arise are too uncomfortable, then not only are you imprisoned by this thing from your past, but you have left a time bomb in your life that can go off at any moment and destroy you. It will eventually come up and you will probably not be in an environment where you are working through those sorts of things when it does.
Leave no stone unturned, leave no incident from your past off of your inventories and leave no past issue in your life unresolved.
If you deal with all of these things and resolve them to the point where they can come up without those destructive or fearful feelings then the rest of this “Promises” stuff will apply to you (the promises appear at the end of Step Nine in the Alcoholics Anonymous book). You are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. You will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace; and so on.
To set up a better future you will have to deal with those things from the past that are waiting to subtly destroy that future.
A final note to consider about the first passage here is that the passage is speaking of the entire family, not just the alcoholic/addict. If there is to be any healthy growth in the family, all will have to deal with the past until all things are resolved in this manner.
The excuses that “He/she is the alcoholic/addict, I shouldn’t have to do this” is a cop out. You are protecting your own self destroying time bomb that will destroy your family, the person working recovery and possibly you too.
The Shortcuts and By-paths of Friends and Loved Ones
The alcoholic, his wife, his children, his “in-laws,” each one is likely to have fixed ideas about the family’s attitude towards himself or herself. Each is interested in having his or her wishes respected. We
find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.
And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give?
Cessation of drinking is but the first step away from a highly strained, abnormal condition. A doctor said to us,” Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.” Let families realize, as they start their journey, that all will not be fair weather. Each in his turn may be footsore and may straggle.There will be alluring shortcuts and by-paths down which they may wander and lose their way. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 122– 123)
For the friends and loved ones around the alcoholic/addict each life is incredibly altered by the fact of having an alcoholic/addict in their world. Some people act as if not affected, but most often this is simply a massive misconception that will only be unraveled somewhere down the road with significant amounts counseling or a significant shock to that their system.
The behaviors, thoughts, interactions etc. of the alcoholic/addict in relation to those around him/her cannot help but impact all who come in contact.
An illness of this sort – and we have come to believe it an illness – involves those about us in a way no other human sickness can. If a person has cancer all are sorry for him and no one is angry or hurt. But not so with the alcoholic illness, for with it there goes annihilation of all the things worth while in life. It engulfs all whose lives touch the sufferer’s. It brings misunderstanding, fierce resentment, financial insecurity, disgusted friends and employers, warped lives of blameless children, sad wives and parents – anyone can increase the list. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 18)
The alcoholic is like a tornado roaring his way through the lives of others. Hearts are broken. Sweet relationships are dead. Affections have been uprooted. Selfish and inconsiderate habits have kept the home in turmoil. We feel a man is unthinking when he says that sobriety is enough. He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife, he remarked, “Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowin’?” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 82)
These are the worst case scenarios, but all are affected to some degree or other from those who have a permanent raised eyebrow for that individual to those who suddenly feel the urge to vigorously bludgeon the person past death and past a state of rigor mortis simply because that person’s name was mentioned.
Here is a newsflash that most of us, particularly those of us with no alcohol or addiction problems: If you do not deal with (or have not dealt with) whatever negative effects that person’s using has had on you, YOU WILL BECOME ONE OF THE OBSTACLES TO THIS PERSONS RECOVERY AND GENERAL GROWTH IN LIFE.
You may have had no blame whatsoever in this person’s previous using, you may have been the codependent enabler of this person, or you might have been the direct cause of this person’s use, but at this moment you are either becoming a part of the solution or a part of the problem.
The person who has been building resentment for years that this person would never pay any attention to your protestations probably should not take the first moment of clarity to vomit up every injustice this person has ever done to you up to the point of dry-heaving insanity upon this person in his/her first hard fought moment of clarity.
I am not saying there is not a need for a time and a place to confront and resolve each injustice, but weaponizing your confrontation of legitimate issues for this first opportunity to act out an effective ambush is probably not the way, unless your goal is to utterly destroy this person. If your goal is to utterly destroy this person, you need to leave this person alone and go get help NOW!
If you are the more passive, not wanting to set this person off, kind of person, that has a whole other set of issues that arise. The fact for those of us in recovery is expressed in this passage written to help us focus our efforts to fix the past. This is how we should be looking at dealing with you on these issues:
Under no condition do we criticize such a person or argue. Simply we tell him that we will never get over drinking until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past. We are there to sweep off our side of the street, realizing that nothing worth while can be accomplished until we do so, never trying to tell him what he should do. His faults are not discussed. We stick to our own. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 77– 78)
If we do not get better “until we have done our utmost to straighten out the past” hiding the past from us or minimizing it is the equivalent of hiding our recovery from us. We need your true feelings and emotions to have any hope of recovery. We need your reality to understand how to correct the filters we use for our perception of reality.
A person working Step Nine should not be allowed to blame you or manipulate you into minimizing what you feel or what happened. Each person in recovery needs to work on preparing to look at the worst of his/her past, preparing to do whatever is humanly possible to repair each thing in the past and desperately and vigorously use that experience as the fuel to grow to a point of never repeating the same destructive behaviors ever again. This person is supposed to be learning to be far less self focused and more humble in a healthy and balanced way.
That is the task that must be undertaken at some point. There are appropriate times and places and processes of preparation that one must work through (Step Eight for example where you work towards each amends that you actually carry out in Step Nine) before each confrontation happens, but they have to happen or the recovery process has broken down completely. The uncomfortable process that will serve as the motivating energy behind the radical changes the Twelve Step process requires to work simply does not exist if this is not carried out properly. The change cannot happen and if you are not changed, you are the same and can expect the same results. That means relapse and worse!
All of this needs to be confronted at the right time, in the right way.
Now, back to the family and the passage we started with (why we are really here):
We find the more one member of the family demands that the others concede to him, the more resentful they become. This makes for discord and unhappiness.
And why? Is it not because each wants to play the lead? Is not each trying to arrange the family show to his liking? Is he not unconsciously trying to see what he can take from the family life rather than give? (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 122)
According to this passage, the alcoholic/addict in recovery may not be the only selfish and self-centered person in the mix. This may not apply to you specifically, but each person needs to honestly ask himself/herself the question HONESTLY. There is no excusing your self focus because that person has been more selfish or deserves it or is stupid or whatever. Either you are being selfish and self-centered or you are not.
If you are the person who has to confront this right now however you feel it needs to be confronted two things are evident:
This confrontation has nothing to do with any aspect of helping that person get better it is all about finding some sense of victory while that person is in a weakened state.
This confrontation has nothing to do with finding any real solution to the problem or you would be looking for the right time when the person would be properly prepared to really get together with you and do whatever it takes to resolve each issue.
If you are one of the people who will act as if everything is fine and none of that mattered or the “well I just don’t want to make his recovery tougher” people: STOP IT NOW!!!
You are robbing this person of their recovery simply so you won’t feel uncomfortable or feel responsible if they freak out. If this person does freak out, there are really two possibilities:
That person is simply not ready to deal with these issues properly yet and cannot consider his/her amends to you completed
This person is so used to manipulating you that he/she can avoid any discomfort he/she perceives is related to you by manipulating you into feeling guilty until you shut-up. (That is another area that that person would need to make amends for).
Either one is a situation that needs to change for that person to get recovery.
The truth is that the archenemy of the alcoholic/addict is selfishness and self-centeredness in any form. Granted, that person has to learn to live with the fact that the planet finds itself covered with more selfishness than it has land for all of the selfish people to stand on and is highly unlikely a person could figure out a path in life that avoids all selfishness. The question is not one about fixing all of the selfishness on the planet however, the question is firmly: “Are you as an individual a part of the problem or of a part of the solution for this person?”
As I said before, you may have never do much as lifted a finger to cause this person to use ever before this. That’s awesome, but please don’t start being a part of the problem now!!! We all struggle with an alcoholic/addict and their thoughts and behaviors to some degree or other. We need to be willing to struggle through some discomfort for their health and you will probably find that actual resolutions to the problems will do wonders for your mental and emotional health also. Focusing on ensuring that you are not selfish or self-protective can’t hurt either.
I suppose there are those people who have all of this in line and struggle with none of these issues. I commend you and I am thankful that you are on our planet as an example to the rest of us. I do however, present to you the idea that individuals cannot judge such things about themselves safely without at the least the consultation of a few folks that understand what we are looking at and can honestly tell you the truth.
In other words, if you are a friend or loved one of a person in recovery, PLEASE seek some outside assistance or advice from someone who understands these things (assume you would like to be a part of the solution or at least not be a part of the problem). And never EVER EVER EVER EVER use the sentence “He/she is the person with the problem, why do I need to…” That statement in and of itself is an indicator of just being concerned with yourself and not doing anything for this person.
You can be a huge part of the healing process for your friend or loved one and all it takes is to unselfishly confront the issues at the time that is best for the person and for you. Yes there is discomfort, but at least the discomfort is along the path to freedom and closure. You may have been a hero in this person’s life standing by them all of this time and they may not have truly even noticed, but this is an opportunity to be a beacon of hope and freedom for a person in desperate need at the moment it will count the most to him/her. You just have to stay off of the shortcuts and by-paths.
If you are the person in recovery, consider your responsibilities in all of this and the challenges those around you will have confronting these issues with you at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. Don’t try to protect yourself from discomfort by avoiding any of these amends. If you are not ready, then diligently work (with the help of others) on getting ready to make the amends.
There is a solution, and all of us involved can be a part of it.
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. Their chances are less than average. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)
This is a fairly well known passage from the Alcoholics Anonymous book and it contains some key concepts that are often missed by those claiming to be working or to have worked recovery. The really odd thing here is that the key parts are put out there so clearly that it would seem that you would have to work pretty hard to miss those key points.
The first sentence says it just about as clearly as it could be. It basically says; if you want the recovery program to work you have to do the actual recovery program. “It works if you work it!” and it wont work if you don’t work it!!!
You have to “thoroughly follow” the same “Steps” that the people who are writing here took. You have to do the same if you want to expect the same. If you do something different, then you can expect something different.
I have recently encountered and have heard a few discussions about people who did a bit of this and a bit of that from the Twelve Steps and then believe; “all will be fine.”
I would have to say that that if I went to a recovery program (in this case a Twelve Step Program) and put my future in the hope that what those people offer is my hope then I would have to do whatever they wanted me to do.
Many people go into recovery with this hope and somehow don’t do what the people tell them they are supposed to do. Then such a person person decides not to do what they tell him/her to do to as recovery or only some parts of it? If this person is not doing the program they outline, what exactly is this person doing? Is just being around people working recovery doing nothing or just the few things you are comfortable enough to get sobriety really a recovery program?
The supporting evidence these people use for this reasoning are reasons like: “I’ve been sober six months now”, “I feel like I’m better, so I don’t need this stuff”, “I am losing interest so that means I’m done” and on and on.
The truth is that these people are not working recovery and not doing recovery, they are avoiding the work of recovery.
The minute you start cutting corners happens to be the minute you cease to be working recovery. Either you completely give yourself to the simple program or you do not. There is no kinda doing it.
All of this cutting corners and justifying it to yourself is really foolish when you look at the facts. The fact that you decided this program would work and went there and did something else is foolish enough without lying to yourself and others to keep it that way.
Lying to yourself is not being honest with yourself. According to this passage those who cannot be honest with themselves are doomed to epic failure.
If your recovery program finds its foundation in lies you tell yourself and to others, how can you possibly hope to grasp and develop “a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.” If you are not doing the things that you felt could help you change and then lying about it knowing that one of the key goals is a lifestyle that demands rigorous honesty, you are making the choice to fail.
For any of you who are going into recovery or are already in recovery here are some facts to consider:
If you don’t trust that the people you are working with or the program you are working with can give you recovery; why would you waste your life and time and everybody else’s lives and time.
If you do trust them and what they do and yet do not do everything they tell you to do are you really trusting them? NO!!! You do not really trust them (refer back to the previous statement)
If you do trust them and what they do and yet do not do everything they tell you to do as the path to freedom can you really expect the results that are supposed to come from doing those things? NO!!! Expect some other results (such as relapse perhaps)!!!
If you have done recovery like this and do not see any problems (yet), please go back and do whatever it is that you trusted until you started to trust the lie. Do not allow yourself to be one of those “unfortunates”!