The Idiot in My Mirror

Mirror Mirror (EP)
Mirror Mirror (EP) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My drinking assumed more serious proportions, continuing all day and almost every night. The remonstrances of my friends terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf. There were many unhappy scenes in our sumptuous apartment.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 3)

This passage makes a key point that many of us who struggle with alcoholism/addiction struggle deeply with but it is often missed.  There are a couple of reasons why the points of the passage are missed so often and one of them is the language.  One of those reasons is wordiness.  The way it is written it is just one of those things that many brains just tune out as if this passage were simply some kind of background noise.

Let’s start with two of the key words:  Remonstrances and row.

Remonstrance:

a protest or reproof, esp. a petition presented in protest against something

Row:

noun

1. a noisy dispute or quarrel; commotion.

2. noise or clamor.

verb (used without object)

3. to quarrel noisily.

So that turns:  “The remonstrances of my friends terminated in a row and I became a lone wolf.”  Into: The petitions of my friends against how bad my using was getting ended in a noisy quarrel or commotion and I became a complete loner with no more friends.

This may not be exactly what has happened to you, but it does describe a major problem.  That problem is that we tend not to listen to the people who are trying to help us (and who are often right) and we tend to act as if they are the problem.

I had a completely unrelated experience the other day that opened my mind to the idea of how we perceive the people around us incorrectly.

I was driving in the morning commute near my house and there was an inordinate amount of traffic on the streets in the direction you go to get to the freeway.

I moving along in the herd from stoplight to stoplight (emphasis on the word STOP) when I noticed that all of the cars had moved except for the car in front of me and those behind me.  Then the ones behind me started zooming into the other lane trapping me behind this person.

As they were passing me I seemed to be getting several versions of the evil-eye and some looks that could only be described using the comic book term “#*@*%*^” if you get my drift.  Horns were honking, people were yelling and I did nothing but get stuck behind some idiot.

Finally, the idiot in front of me looked up from texting, setting the GPS, twiddling her thumbs, doing her nails or whatever she was doing and started down the road.

I was fuming, but was doing a good job of trying to talk myself down because people like us cannot afford to let other people’s crazy be contagious.

I was just about to speedily change lanes and pass this woman when I noticed that she was not only driving slowly but swerving into the other lane repeatedly in a way that could only be described as driving like a wino.

She was swerving from lane to lane and slowing down keeping me trapped behind her and practically going nowhere.

As time progressed (which seemed like forever by now) I was losing my ability to keep myself calm.  Finally, whatever was distracting this person was finished and she finally had a chance to pass this idiot.

I was still trying to keep myself calm and apparently decided that I would get myself over it and not let it ruin my day but not until I let out my frustration in the form of a serious look of distain.  I was going to get my revenge by giving her the evil-eye she had caused me to get.  I was going to give her deep discomfort (if only for a few seconds) as punishment for her evil.

So that seemed like a great compromise; give her the evil look and then, having my revenge, I would be able to free myself.  So I did this.

I zoomed into a position next to this woman and looked over with my best evil-eye.  The Freddy Kruger, Jason about to kill you look!  She looked like she knew immediately and had a deep look of embarrassment and regret.  MUHAHAHAHA, my evil plan had worked.  I had won.

Then I turned to go back to look at the road and turned just in time to notice that I had swerved slightly to the left and at this point was about two inches away from crashing into the concrete divider in the middle of the road.  (They have been redoing the roads near my house and I could normally drive this section of the road with my eves closed, but part of what they did was widen the center divider)

So now I had to react in a hurry.  I swung the wheel rapidly to the right, swerving to the right towards her car and narrowly missing the center divider and wobbling down the road a bit.

Now I was really angry.  LOOK WHAT THAT IDIOT MADE ME DO!  Then suddenly it dawned on me:  Looking at her for five seconds of revenge almost cost me my car and I am calling her an idiot.

I wondered what the cars behind both of us were thinking when one wino driver who was holding us all up was upstaged by another one that was not only holding us all up but was going to cause a wreck and stop us altogether.

Reality struck and I realized that I am at least the bigger idiot if not the only one.

In the passage we started wit, founding member Bill W. has friends that are concerned who are trying to tell him is getting out of control (if you read the whole story, nobody could have guessed how right they were).  Bill gets so mad at them that he gets into noisy fights with them.  Such big fights that he drives them away from himself completely and ends up with few, if any friends left.

They were trying to help him and to him they were the idiots who were interfering with his happiness.  In other words, in his mind they were the idiots.  The problem is, when you read the rest of the story you realize that they were not the idiots, Bill was.  It was perception that kept him in bondage to the point of a wreck.

Those of us who are in recovery or in need of recovery do not have the luxury of declaring people idiots.  We get confused and wreck (our lives, our cars and many other things).  The truth is that we need to deal with the idiot in the mirror before we go exacting our revenge upon all of the other idiots on earth.  If you really get what you are supposed to get out of recovery, you will find that revenge is the punishing of yourself in most cases and is not worth it.

Stay sober my friends from the idiot in my mirror,

Wade H.

The Crazy Train and Our Inner Stupid

crazy train - 1
crazy train – 1 (Photo credit: adotmanda)

The Crazy Train and Our Inner Stupid

The door opened and he stood there, fresh-skinned and glowing. There was something about his eyes. He was inexplicably different. What had happened?

I pushed a drink across the table. He refused it. Disappointed but curious, I wondered what had got into the fellow. He wasn’t himself.

“Come, what’s this all about?” I queried.

He looked straight at me. Simply, but smilingly, he said, “I’ve got religion.”

I was aghast. So that was it – last summer an alcoholic crackpot; now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion. He had that starry-eyed look. Yes, the old boy was on fire all right. But bless his heart, let him rant! Besides, my gin would last longer than his preaching.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 9)

Bill has been trying everything imaginable to get sobriety.  He has failed miserably and is in a deep depression because of it deciding that his only hope is to never draw a sober breath to be forced to think about it.

How is it that when the first opportunity arises to meet a person who he knew was a s bad as he was that found the elusive answer to his problem comes along he does everything he can to destroy this person and then decides that person is somehow worse off then using.

One of the biggest problems we have in alcoholism/addiction is ourselves.  We blame circumstances, other people, the zodiac, God, bad luck, being cursed and on and on.  The truth is we are on the crazy train and we have gotten kinda comfortable there.  So comfortable that although we suspect things might be better if we get off, we also are partially convinced that anyone who is not on the crazy train is somehow missing out and lying about being happy about that.

Our alcoholism/addictions lie to us to keep us trapped, but the liar is not an intimate bottle or pipe or needle or pill etc.  The liar is a part of our brain that has to be overcome to even start recovery.

Bill W.’s goal here was not to listen to the miracle and see if he could do the same thing.  Bill’s goal was to prove that nobody could do it if he couldn’t.  Once that failed, rather than take in what he was saying and really work for it, his next goal was to ignore him as background noise to use to in spite of the fact that this person had come to blow his high.  He decided that what he had to say would be a distraction but he felt he had more alcohol than this person (Ebby T.) had time and talking energy.

Recovery requires a lot of overcoming, a lot of decisions, and a lot of actions that follow those decisions.  One of the first is the decision not to listen to your own crazy.  You have to decide to get off of the crazy train.

You are going to have ridiculously stupid thoughts and idea about recovery, in recovery and in fact you will have some throughout your life sober or not.

When starting recovery, you are not yet equipped to pesh these ideas to the side, s in the beginning you just have to not listen and get in contact with people who can help you overcome your inner stupid.

In this case, the man just kept going and would not give up.  Some of us are not lucky enough to have that person, yet we still need recovery.  You need to go find those people.  They are at meetings, in online groups, in residential and outpatient recovery programs at your local clinic etc.  Be desperate to find those people.

I am a person who has mixed emotions about the concept of ninety meetings in ninety days, not because it is a bad idea, but because it is misleading.  It is not just being in the building that helps (although it is a huge step in the right direction).  It is what you take in and respond to (as well as what you do not take in or listen to).  You have to seek out the right people and avoid the bad people and bad information.

Desperately seek out the people who will help you stop listening to the inner stupid and run from the people who will do all they can to call out the inner stupid.  Some will be like Bill was and do more to try to destroy you rather than seek to help.  You are supposed to be that helper to them when you are ready.

There is help, but it starts with not listening to the stupid that we all have going in then we are able to learn how to be stronger than that inner stupid and get off of the stupid train once and for all.

Stay sober my friends,
Wade H.

The Dubious Luxuries of Normies – But Not Me!!!

Anger Controlls Him

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

This is a key concept that seems to be missed in many recovery circles.  I regularly hear people share that seem as though mad at everyone.  I don’t have a problem with a person in recovery experiencing those feelings, the problem I have is that nobody seems to feel that it is necessary to try to help these people find freedom from this or to even discuss the fact that these kinds of feelings are death to people like us.  That is a long, miserable, prolonged, sinking in quicksand kind of death.

If nobody has noted this important idea for all of us in recovery and for all people working the Twelve Steps to you, let me be the first:  ANGER, NEGATIVE FEELINGS AND NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ARE POISON TO YOUR WORLD AND TO YOUR RECOVERY!

That can be multiplied exponentially for one of our worst archenemies; resentment.

It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 66)

Resentment is a big killer for those of us in recovery.  We have absolutely no room for this ridiculous mess in our lives.  Not only can we not have this in our lives we need to take time at the end of each day to search out these kinds of feelings and desperately do all we can to be rid of them before we lay our heads on the pillow and transition into the next day.

When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 86)

Whatever it takes, no matter how drastic the response may seem, we cannot allow ourselves to keep anger and resentment.  If you truly understand resentment as a terrible poison for your life then this statement will be painfully clear to you. Whatever it takes, no matter how drastic the response may seem, we cannot allow ourselves to keep this terrible poison in our system.

Sometimes when this is discussed, a few people come to believe that expression of the feelings is the cure and go off on a whirlwind tangent of crazy assaults on all unsuspecting passers by they deem to deserve it.  I am not saying that there will never be an instance where you might need to stand up for something or someone, but angry outbursts are simply the same poison in a different color.

And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

And more clearly and directly stated:

We avoid retaliation or argument.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

Did you notice how in the passage from page 84 “fighting anything or anyone” is directly tied to interest in relapsing.  Both are tied together with the concept of sanity.  Fighting anything or anyone and relapse are insanity and by the time a person gets to Step Ten sanity should have returned.  By Step Ten these kinds of feelings and outbursts should be a thing of the past and on the rare occasion that they almost come up, they cause a recoil.  The kind of recoil that a person has when they are not paying attention and their hand accidentally touches the hot stove.

Look at  these definitions from Dictionary.com for the word “recoil”:

  • to draw back; start or shrink back, as in alarm, horror, or disgust.
  • to jerk back, as from an impact or violent thrust
  • …to draw back in fear, horror, or disgust: to recoil from the sight of blood

That is not to say that angry, frustrated, resentful, etc. are not a part of you are now.  What all of that says and what I am saying is that those things absolutely cannot be a part of who you need to become to get recovery.

Who you have been is the problem and who you are supposed to become through the recovery process is the solution.  Staying the same is not an option.  If you stay the same inevitably you will do the same.  If you do the same, you will eventually get the same results.

This may be quite a tall order for some of us and I do not disagree with that assessment.  The fact it is hard to change or even hard to want to change however, does not somehow make it okay to stay the same.

As a matter of fact, many of the tasks of recovery are hard to change or hard to want to change (like the fact of using and the need for recovery itself).  If you are not willing to run towards these kinds of change and desperately work towards them at all costs, you can count on little if any recovery.  A person who will not change has decided to stay the same and can expect the same results.

There are also those who have found some degree of freedom and yet have not found the real freedom we are promised.  In many of these cases these attitudes are evident and often dismissed as the result of this lack of freedom yet seldom are these looked at as possibly the reason for the lack of freedom.

Before you can be free of the poisons that the world is trying to shove into your life you have to deal with the poisons you shove into your own life.  These angers, frustrations, resentments etc. are the luxuries of the people who do not use, but they are not for us.  For us these are among the most painful and prolonged forms of self torture and suicide there can be for us.  On the other hand, freedom from these may be your keys to freedom from many evils that poison and devour your life.

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

Sober is “But a Beginning”?

united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web
united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web (Photo credit: kevindean)

Sober is “But a Beginning”?

He is straining every nerve to make up for lost time. He is striving to recover fortune and reputation and feels he is doing very well.

Sometimes mother and children don’t think so. Having been neglected and misused in the past, they think father owes them more than they are getting. They want him to make a fuss over them. They expect him to give them the nice times they used to have before he drank so much, and to show his contrition for what they suffered. But dad doesn’t give freely of himself. Resentment grows. (Alcoholics Anonymous page 126)

This all describes a normal part of the family recovery process while also revealing some other aspects of the problem that may not be dealt with directly in recovery.  By family recovery process, I mean what the entire family experiences when an individual in that family is working through the process of recovery.   This example is specific in using the husband/father as the person in recovery, but the results are often similar with any family member.

But, let’s not focus on the other family members (in this description the wife and children), let’s focus on the trouble facing the person working recovery and what problems he/she may have that abstinence in and of itself may not fix.

What I am talking about are problems that the person in recovery may have had long before recovery and possibly even before using.

If a person has a collection of bad habits that existed prior to or outside of his/her using, it is possible that the bad habits are a separate set of problems from the using  (although they may contribute to one another).   In other words: If you had the problems before using alcohol/drugs or when without alcohol/drugs then simply going without alcohol/drugs, logically speaking, will not solve those problems.  ABSTINENCE WILL NOT SOLVE PROBLEMS THAT YOU ALREADY HAVE HAD WHEN ABSTINENT IN THE PAST.

One of the reasons for the entire chapter that the passage above is in (Alcoholics Anonymous page 126 – The Family Afterward) is to help both the family and the person understand the fact that there is a lot work necessary for that person’s recovery and for the sanity of everyone in the family as part of the recovery process.  Abstinence is not the end all, be all of recovery.

We feel that elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 19)

Many people get frustrated with the feeling of doing everything he/she can to be functional and abstinent because people around them seem to still not be satisfied.   It is awesome that you may feel like you are doing everything you can to fix everything, but even if you do not get the reception you think you deserve, there is no excuse for running back to dysfunction.  Recovery is about change and if you are not getting better, then you are staying the same and you should expect the same.  By the same I am describing the expectation that if you have not change you are still in your alcoholism/addiction.

In the example we started with, getting the wrong response was a trigger to resentment for the man in the story.  The expectation of a certain response was not met, leading to frustration and eventually leading to deeperand far more self-destructive feelings.  Ponder this thought:

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.

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 64)

This man in the first story’s response to what he saw as his family’s inability to look at the efforts he is making and leave him alone (in other words, for them to bow down in worship of how awesome he is now) could be considered alcoholic/addict suicide.   I mean, after all, if the recovery information states that something destroys more alcoholics than anything else, it is assumed that you will do your best to avoid that something.   That something is having resentment and this guy’s expectation (unrealistic expectation) led to frustration and then to this destroyer that has the possibility of eating his recovery alive and in the end, eating his life up too.

Now here is a huge thought: a lot of people always think that their friends and family are not being fair to them because they keep focusing on the past.

The truth is: If the problems are not resolved for everyone involved, whatever problems you are talking about are not the past.  If those problems are things that are not resolved with someone in your home; that goes double!   If it something you have done, been doing, or did two minutes, two days, two weeks, two years or two decades ago is still bothering someone around you it cannot be called the past; it is a problem for them NOW!  If it creates a problem in the present, then it is a present problem not a past problem!

Let’s put this idea into family perspective:

The head of the house ought to remember that he is mainly to blame for what befell his home. He can scarcely square the account in his lifetime. But he must see the danger of over-concentration on financial success. Although financial recovery is on the way for many of us, we found we could not place money first. For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never preceded.

Since the home has suffered more than anything else, it is well that a man exert himself there. He is not likely to get far in any direction if he fails to show unselfishness and love under his own roof. We know there are difficult wives and families, but the man who is getting over alcoholism must remember he did much to make them so. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 127)

We all have our shortcomings and once a person begins to use heavily, those problems are multiplied exponentially.  This brings us back to the key change necessary for each of us to have any hope:

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. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

Self-focus is the enemy.  The idea that these problems are the past is based on the fact that you simply don’t want to deal with those things or to discus those things.  If they are coming up the people around you feel differently about those things.  They want to make some attempt to deal with those issues that they have right now that may have to do with things from the past.  Ignoring these things is to say that you would like to ignore dealing with the things they want to deal with and that you do not care if they work through the things that they are going through simply because their desired topics make you uncomfortable.  Your comfort is far more important to you than their resolution of the problem they have right now (at least in your mind that is true).

That can only lead to disaster and that kind of selfishness is recovery poison.  It is a wholesale plunge into the fiery abyss that is the root of our troubles:  Selfishness and self-centeredness.

Let’s look at another side of the problem the guy in the story had.  Another problem he has is this idea that that focus on recovering fortune and reputation were good enough focuses to say he was doing all he could.  The truth is, if a person is truly trying to repair the damage of the past with the family start by looking at what they would like you to do to repair the damage done and not just on what you feel like doing for them or what you think is enough.

If they are not onboard with the plan to fix everything that you have is it really a plan to fix everything or just to make you feel good about yourself.  Isn’t this man’s plans described as a desire to feel responsible and respected.  Not evil things in and of themselves, but if there is no balance of efforts to repair the damage done in the home, you are failing in some pretty serious recovery tasks (such as Steps Eight and Nine for example).

I do also understand that some people are unreasonable etc. (and that may go double for some of our family members) , but as a person recovering from alcohol/drug abuse, you have to constantly remind yourself that it is not okay for you to allow other people’s crazy to be contagious.  We do not have such luxuries as building resentment or being crazy because my family is being crazy.   Those are high dive plunges into the fiery abyss of misery and possible relapse.

The authors of the Alcoholics Anonymous book described the proper attitude for dealing with all of this as part of the latter stages of the recovery process (particularly at the point of working Step 10 but also parts of Steps Eight, Nine and Four) starting with:

Love and tolerance of others is our code.

And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

This is your response no matter how they are acting.  This is our code, not theirs.

There are actually some instructions for the families, but there is no guarantee that they will follow these instructions:

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

If you are the one of the family members, it is important to consider the incredibly positive or incredibly negative role you can play in this person’s recovery.  Everyone plays a part in the growth and change, it is just that an unselfish and not dysfunctional environment is key.  The challenge for everyone involved is to not slip into a self focus which then is converted into the “What have you done for me lately” mindset or into resentments.  If you are the family member, please do not transform into a relapse generating machine as soon as we start trying to change!

There is much more to all of this  and I could go on and on, but remember this (which is not just about a husband, but anyone in recovery can be substituted:

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

Reality is reality and it a much easier pill to swallow if you are realistic with yourself and with others. There is a great hope of freedom, but just being abstinent, although a very hard point to get to, is not enough. There is so much more to recovery and in knowing that there is so much more, there is so much more hope.

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.