Discouragement is Not the Problem

Discouragement is Not the Problem

Bitterly discouraged, he found himself in a strange place, discredited and almost broke. Still physically weak, and sober but a few months, he saw that his predicament was dangerous. He wanted so much to talk with someone, but whom?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 154)

Of course he couldn’t drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? After all, had he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks – no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity – that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 154)

But what about his responsibilities – his family and the men who would die because they would not know how to get well, ah – yes, those other alcoholics? There must be many such in this town. He would phone a clergyman. His sanity returned and he thanked God. Selecting a church at random from the directory, he stepped into a booth and lifted the receiver.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 154-155)

In recovery and in life discouragement and discouraging situations are just a part of the normal ups and downs of what it means to be alive.   Everyone on earth has their bad days and bad seasons of life.  That is not a question.  The problem is not that there are discouraging periods of life, the problem is what we do to manage our discouragement during those times.

Do we sit and feel sorry for ourselves and gradually drift into enough misery to make life intolerable.  Do we get a bad attitude and try to take control of the situation or just to make other people feel the pain we feel.  These are major problems for those of us in recovery.  Both of these and many other possibilities are in reality evidence of us sinking into ourselves, selfishness and self-protective behavior.

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

In other words our natural response to being down and discouraged is to sink deeper into the worst and most destructive part of our problems and in effect make our problems worse.  Being down and being discouraged are not the enemy, our responses to them is the enemy.  Sinking into self-protection and self focus are the biggest enemies.

As a first thought, the passage at the opening describes Bill W. as needing someone to talk to.  That is an excellent place to start:  Someone to talk to who will understand and be supportive.  The lifestyle of a person who desires to remain sober and not absolutely miserable requires some kind of support system that you can turn to in these kinds of times. 

This is one of the deep purposes of what we call “support groups”:  Support!  If what you are calling a support group does not offer you this kind of support either you are not connected enough in the group or it is not the right “support group” for you.

These kinds of groups are something you find and maintain.  These are people you see regularly and have some level of personal connection with.  These are people that care about and care for one another. 

These are also something you want to find and maintain before you are bitterly discouraged so that when those periods of life arise you know exactly where to go. 

Secondly, Bill became interested in helping another person.

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

As part of seeing the root of our troubles as self focus we find that one of the tasks that is most helpful in overcoming a self focused period is to focus on helping another person.  Think of the passage as reading this way:  “Nothing will help you more with being self focused as helping someone else.”

A key to what you read in the story Bill W. is telling is that he understood this so much that when he was just about to use because of it, he stopped and actively engaged in searching for a person to help.  He desperately sought out a person to help as combat against his sickness rooted in selfishness.  To use the recovery language of today, he went on a desperate search for someone to sponsor.    

This kind of mindset/attitude was the mark of the first groups and is still described in the materials as a major part of what makes us able to remain sober.  Dr. William D. Silkworth describes this kind of attitude as one of the most noticeable aspects of the early groups that made them different from other recovery groups and programs.

We feel, after many years of experience, that we have found nothing which has contributed more to the rehabilitation of these men than the altruistic movement now growing up among them.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. xxviii – 4th Edition)

Altruism = the attitude of caring about others and doing acts that help them although you do not get anything by doing those acts: (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

Altruistic = showing a wish to help or bring advantages to other people, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

The idea that selfishness and self-centeredness were at the root of our problems was combated by creating an environment of unselfishness and teaching the individuals to care about and help others.

So the idea is that an unselfish support group and unselfish actions are the best way to overcome discouragement, depression and our addictions and alcoholism. 

Near the end of the program portion of the book you find the following paragraph:

Still you may say: “But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book.” We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 164)

If you cannot find the kind of support system described here, then you may have to search out the individuals and “create the fellowship you crave.”  If you are in one of those periods of discouragement, you may have to go out and find someone to be helpful to.  In either case you need to be out looking for all of this before you run into the times of discouragement so you are prepared for those moment when (not if) they come up.

Stay sober my friends

Wade H.

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How to Survive The Holidays Pt 4 – Ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

How to Survive The Holidays Pt 4 – Ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

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)

Many people have all kinds of things to say about things that are important to recovery, yet this extremely important point is often missed.  All of us using at these heavy levels are concerned with “ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity.” 

This is one of the most key messages that we all need in recovery, yet is the one people ignore the most.  Here is the problem; there are few times throughout the year as tempting to a person overly concerned with “ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity” as the Christmas holiday.

If a person is selfish and self-centered in the most traditional sense of the words that person will be completely focused on what others give to him or her.  If that is your focus there can only be a tremendous let down.

If a person is more of a self-pity type, that person may be a codependent who is obsessed with getting others stuff for Christmas and find himself or herself depressed at the inability to get purchase the happiness or appreciation of others.  This is a person who will believe himself or herself to be as unselfish as you can be with the obsession for doing things for others when in fact there is something that person is looking for in return for the gifts and services rendered etc. 

If a person is seething with resentments or in bondage to the hurts of others from the past, then the family gatherings and Merry Christmas stuff from the very same folks you are uncomfortable with (openly or secretly resentful towards) are the recipe for inner turmoil and torment.  This person may not have any problems with the gifts received or given as there may be neither to worry about.

Before going any further into this, it is important to remember just because you feel something that does not mean it is true or sensible.  Some of the things you feel may just be a part of your being an addict or alcoholic. 

If the root source of all things Twelve Step states that “the root of our troubles” is “selfishness – Self-centeredness” then it is probable that as an addict or alcoholic everything you feel may be filtered through an exaggerated focus on yourself.   That also means that one of the main focuses of everything in the Twelve Steps is to overcome this “root of our troubles.”

Wherever you are in working your steps, you may not overcome this struggle prior to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  A good place to start is by first recognizing that the problem may be simply a problem of your perspective and not one dealing with the reality of the situation or situations.

A problem so big that it is described as “the root” of your problems is not the kind of thing that you can read a cure in a two or three page blog posting:  But, the steps were originally written as a cure for this root struggle.  I understand that each of us may be in different places in our recoveries, but before you even consider dealing with the whole Christmas thing, this is an excellent time to greatly increase your efforts in your recovery.  Do more of and more quality recovery activities.  From Steps to meetings with your sponsor and other mentors to general recovery meeting attendance increase the amount and quality during the holiday season.  Get some strong people in place that you can meet with regularly to reality test your thoughts (because we cannot trust our own interpretations). 

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

In an extremely simplified most basic sense retaliation and argument are not options for us.  We are not ready to judge what to respond to with our distorted understanding of events.  We must focus on how to be helpful to those people we feel these kind of feelings for and not expect any appreciation or acknowledgement from these people.  I understand that this is easier said than done, but in considering that Christmas is this week it is the best way to go. 

Make this Christmas be about making the holidays better with you around than it would have been without you around and have no expectation of appreciation or acknowledgement.  Do it only as part of your recovery and as part of staying healthy.

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 89)

One more thing… 

Find someone else who is struggling like you and help that person.  The exact things that are going on with you and I during the holiday season will be going on with millions of addicts and alcoholics around the world for similar reasons.  Take the focus off of ourselves and devote some of your time to the service of someone else struggling with the same insanity that threatens us during this season.  Who better to talk to about these things than one of us who knows the same struggles?  You may not feel like you understand all of this all that well, but you may understand it a whole lot more than the next person and be extremely helpful to another person. 

And…

May you have the happiest and most sober Christmas you have had to date,

Wade H.

Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 2)

 And the first thing you know I was lifted right out of the A.A. group, and I floated higher, and higher, and even higher, until I was way up on a pink cloud which is known as Pink Seven, and I felt miserable again. So I thought to myself, I might just as well be drunk as feel like this.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 304 – “Physician Heal Thyself)

“Why, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’ve been sober for three months, been working hard. You’ve been doing all right.” But then he said, “Let me say something to you. We have here
in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?” “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere. Why don’t you go home and get the Big Book and open it at page seventy and see what it says?” So I did. I got the Big Book and I read it, and this is what it said: “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The word “thoroughly” rang a bell. And then it went on to say: “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.” And the last sentence was “We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
“Complete abandon”; “Half measures availed us nothing”; “Thoroughly follow our path”; “Completely give oneself to this simple program”—rang in my swelled head.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305  – “Physician Heal Thyself)

So, what is the solution to this “pink cloud” and the worst cases of this “pink cloud” called “the Pink Seven?” 

Let’s break down the page he was referred and see how it relates to solving this issue:

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.  Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 58-59)

The first point seems to be that it is “too much for us.”  We cannot recover on our own.  But, why was that so important to getting past the “pink cloud” experience?  If you
glance at the rest of page 59, the rest of the page lists Steps One through Eleven this idea seems to revisit Step 1.

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

The “old-timer” that had gotten a hold of him led him to a place where he could see that first and foremost, no matter what Steps or recovery stuff he thought he was doing, he had drifted to a place where he thought he had found the power to stay sober on his own power.  He may have been working Step 4 or 5 maybe 8 or nine, but the “old-timer” felt the breakdown in his recovery that led to his “Pink Seven” was a breakdown in Step 1.

People who have been around me in recovery settings have probably heard me say this “Many of the times that people experience breakdowns of some kind in their recoveries are really experiencing a breakdown in Step 1.”  I am not saying that this is the magic fix all, but whenever I start to struggle, I start by looking at Step 1.  In other words I refocus on the idea that I cannot overcome this on my own power.   All the recovery “stuff” I do or am doing does not give me the power, all of it gives me access to the power or more specifically better access the one who has the power.

Here is the real question to the person riding the “Pink Seven” is:  “What are you so excited about?”  Being sober for a bit is a huge accomplishment for many of us, but any excitement should be about the long journey I am about to take not as much about the journey I have already taken.

Think of it this way, I am about to fly overseas on a trip I really want to take.  Starting recovery and remaining sober for a period of time is like buying the ticket.  It is an exciting moment, because the journey is finally real.  Now, imagine being so excited that you bought the ticket that you go out and celebrate having the ticked so hard that you never actually make the journey.  You would be so busy celebrating the journey and the progress you had made towards making the journey, that you lose focus on the rest of the journey.  The excitement itself is not a problem until it becomes so much of a focus that it becomes a distraction from taking the rest of the journey.

The point is that this distraction is another part of our addiction or what keeps us in our addictions.  Simply put distractions that keep us from working on our recovery are a part of the problem and a normal part of our recovery that must be overcome.

Then this short paragraph moves on to Step 2:

Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

Part of looking at the rest of the journey and a big part of refocusing on being powerless is to realize that there is power available so you can refocus on deepening your connection to that power instead of celebrating out on “the Pink Seven.”

The Second thing that “old-timer” was trying to show this man through this short read was Step 2:

2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

If there is no escape from something terrible, and suddenly you find out there is a possible escape, should you celebrate the fact there is a possible escape so much that you never actually escape.  That is what “pink cloud” riders are doing.  The truth is that if you are stuck in something terrible where there is no escape and suddenly you hear that there is a possible escape, celebration should be brief if there is any celebration at all.  You have to get on with the business of actually escaping.

Then the passage this man was referred to goes on to say:

…there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon. 
(Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

This man was at the “turning point.”  He either had to do something different or keep doing what he had been doing and expecting different results.  Two key points here seem to be:  “asked His protection and care with complete abandon. And “Half measures availed us nothing

All of this brings us to Step 3:

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

The one who has “all power” is God and we each need to focus on deepening our relationship with Him.  Some of us know nothing about God, some of us know a little about God (or at least think we do) some of us know a lot about God (or at least think we do), but whatever level of access to this power that we each have, we need more.  You do not have to have a super-deep and super-clear understanding of every detail about God to be able to work all of this out, but you do need to focus your efforts on deepening your relationship with Him.  As it is stated on Pages 99 and 100 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book:

Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 99-100)

This relationship is stated as what your whole recovery depends upon.  You may not have it, understand it, and in some cases may be opposed to it, but that does not change the fact that this relationship is the point: 
May you find Him now.

Those were three of the points that the “old-timer” seemed to be making to this man, but there is one more point that is much more overarching. 

We have here in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?”  “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305 – “Physician Heal Thyself”)

The funny thing about this part of the conversation is that if you read through page 304 the man on the “Pink Seven” is already a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and has all the literature etc. that is a part of it.  As a matter of fact he was one of the people most excited about Alcoholics Anonymous.  That explains his response:  “What do you think I’ve been doing?” 

So, why did this guy describe Alcoholics Anonymous to him as if he had never heard of it?  He was being sarcastic as a way to make a huge point.  He had all the Alcoholics Anonymous stuff that the others used and went to meetings and talked the lingo, but he was not actually even close to doing what the others were doing.  He was just acting like he thought a person in recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous should and “talking a good game.”  He had all the emotion and little of the correct action.  Even with the right things he was doing, he was not ding those things correctly or with the right mindset.  That is why the page he referred him to not only covered some very important points about why he was struggling but also was the page that included the steps.

Working recovery is not about acting like your sober, or like your in recovery, it’s not about acting like you are an expert in recovery, it’s not about acting like you are an expert in recovery; it is about
really working on the recovery.  I understand the concept of “faking it til you make it,” as a starting point, but faking it will not give you recovery.  It will only work if you work it. 

I suppose the big underlying point to take away from this is that feeling sober and better is not the same as being sober and better.  Sometimes the “crazy” of our addictions or alcoholism can give us a false feeling of great success that is actually intended to keep us using.  This is the “pink cloud” and in the worse cases the “Pink Seven.”

If you are there are you are wondering if you are there, go to pages 304-305 and 58-59 and take some time to ponder them.  Get with your sponsor or a sponsor and begin working/reworking the Steps beginning with focused work on the first three Steps.

If you are a friend of loved one of someone that may be on a “pink cloud” where he or she is feeling great, talking recovery, and even looking better, but is not doing anything to grow his or her recovery, you may be right to be concerned.  Conversations about the first three Steps are good place to start.  Think of your friend or loved one’s recover like a person walking the wrong way up a down escalator.  To make progress the person has to do a lot of work.  For that person to stay where he or she is requires continued work also. 
The moment the person decides he or she can stop working, that person will immediately begin going backwards (Happy or not.  If happy, the person will just be going backwards with a smile).

If your friend or loved one starts recovery and after a few days or weeks says something like; “I don’t need that stuff any more, I have this under control” or “I feel better now that the problem is gone” there is a good chance that person is off on a “pink cloud” and possible on “the Pink Seven.”  It may take a sudden depression or a relapse (or two) for the person to realize that there is far more to be done.  My advice to you is to talk to this person about these things (although it is highly unlikely they will get it yet) and for you to keep your hope in that person’s recovery but always keep a
watchful eye for things like this so you can be helpful as well as hopeful.  The hope without the help will lead to terrible disappointment for you.

Pink Clouds & Pink Sevens? (Part 1)

And the first thing you know I was lifted right out of the A.A. group, and I floated higher, and higher, and even higher, until I was way up on a pink cloud which is known as Pink Seven, and I felt miserable again. So I thought to myself, I might just as well be drunk as feel like this.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 304 – “Physician Heal Thyself)

A “pink cloud” that is called the “Pink Seven,” what does that mean?  If you have never really experienced these terms in the recovery sense, they may be a little strange and alien to you.  But, many of us know or may even be experiencing the emotion that these terms describe.

I have stumbled across these terms periodically in older 12 Step literature and in my travels inn recovery circles (mostly used by “Old Timers”).  The usage suggests that the term describes a feeling of being better since starting recovery that comes soon after starting recovery.  It isn’t just a normal feeling good that is a result of being sober, the usage describes a euphoric feeling that convinces a person that he or she is better than cured.  It is often described as an “emotionally high” that often convinces a person new to recovery that he or she is so strong n his or her recovery that relapse seems impossible and that he or she is now some kind of expert in recovery.

Part of the idea conveyed in this term is the idea that this “pink cloud” is just the build up to a big letdown.  The point is that it is an overly emotional feeling that makes a person think he or she already has what he or she desperately needs and thus that person will not work his or her recovery. 

I have periodically (mostly with younger 12 Steppers trying to use the term) heard this term used for anyone that is felling better at all in early recovery.  I don’t know that I would use a term like this for everyone that feels a little better due to sobriety, but it is something that all of us should watch for in early recovery.

The author above is describing the worst cases of “pink clouds” as the “Pink Seven” (like the term “Seventh Heaven” = extreme happiness or bliss) and gives us a brief description of the feeling.  A feeling like he was lifted out of the group and such joy that it could only be described as floating.  Then suddenly, he felt miserable and some of know that crazy idea that comes next:  “If I’m gonna be miserable anyway, why not be high or drunk?” 

Then someone who had more “clean time” and had seen all of this a few times helped him understand:

“Why, there’s nothing wrong with you.  You’ve been sober for three months, been working hard. You’ve been doing all right.” But then he said, “Let me say something to you. We have here
in this community an organization which helps people, and this organization is known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Why don’t you join it?” I said, “What do you think I’ve been doing?” “Well,” he said, “you’ve been sober, but you’ve been floating way up on a cloud somewhere. Why don’t you go home and get the Big Book and open it at page seventy and see what it says?”
So I did. I got the Big Book and I read it, and this is what it said:
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The word “thoroughly” rang a bell. And then it went on to say: “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point.” And the last sentence was “We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”
“Complete abandon”; “Half measures availed us nothing”; “Thoroughly follow our path”; “Completely give oneself to this simple program”—rang in my swelled head.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 304-305  – “Physician Heal Thyself)

This person was giving him a hard time, but he definitely made his point.  The guy in the story had been working on recovery and started feeling great until he “felt miserable.”  He was feeling kinda better but he was having a “Pink Seven” experience and the whole feeling was more of a fake experience that can only lead to bigger problem.  The guy who pulled him to the side lets him know that he had been doing good stuff and had a few months of sobriety but, that he was not yet down to earth

The man in the story had been working through recovery stuff but had gotten so excited in recovery he had separated himself from what the program actually was.  He had been feeling so good that in his feeling good he had missed the point. 

The guy who redirected him in his recovery referred him to page 70 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  If you go to page 70 in the Alcoholics Anonymous book you will not find any of these terms there.  That is because in the first printings of the Alcoholics Anonymous book “The Doctor’s Opinion” which is currently not on normally numbered pages was the beginning of the book at page 1.  In the current editions of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, the page that is referred to is page 59:

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely. 

Remember that we deal with alcohol-cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power-that One is God. May you find Him now!
Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
(Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 58-59)

So, what is the solution to this “pink cloud” and the worst cases of this “pink cloud” called “the Pink Seven?”  So far this is just food for thought, In my next post, we will look at this a bit deeper to get a better understanding.

Having Depression vs. Managing Depression???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something else you can do:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting the Greatest Enemies

From – August 18th, 2010

The greatest enemies of us alcoholics are resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear.  Alcoholics Anonymous pg 145

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 66

These emotions are a fairly normal part of life, but are very dangerous to those of us coming out of addiction and alcoholism.  Many of us in recovery are prone to overreactions related to the emotions mentioned above. 

Some of us have the obvious immediate overreactions that lead us to act out in some way or other.  Others of us have more subtle reactions.  Maybe we show no response to those that we feel cause our negative feelings.  Those are the ones of us who let the feelings pile up inside until it becomes unbearable and we explode in one way or another.

No matter how hidden or obvious our reactions to resentment, jealousy, envy, frustration, and fear are the biggest problem is not our reactions.  Our reactions are just a symptom of the real problem.  No matter the reaction the real problem is allowing such feelings to have enough power in your life to cause a self destructive response.

Feelings such as these will come up in all of our lives.  It is the response that an individual has that makes the difference.

One extreme is to have an outburst or to make some attempt to manipulate the other or others involved.  This is really about deciding that you should make the other person or person uncomfortable because that is what was done to you.  “That person hurt me that means that person must be hurt back.” 

It’s funny how we have allowed ourselves to be trained that because one person acts crazy we have to allow “crazy” to be contagious.  That also assumes that the person is even being crazy in the first place and we are not just overreacting (in that case the only one who is really crazy is me). 

This is the application of the old adage of “fight fire with fire.”  The problem is that although there are instances where a real fire is fought with fire, fire is most often fought with water.  If someone catches fire isn’t it better for you to be the water that helps put their fire out than be another fire spreading throughout the world. 

The idea that if a person hurts me I must hurt them back is really rooted in being concerned with nobody but yourself.  Because after all you are the center of the universe and all other people are here to make sure you are comfortable at all times.  Anyone daring to make you uncomfortable must be punished. 

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

In cases where there someone causes you these kinds of feelings the first thought should be similar to those noted in Step 4 on page 67 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book: 

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.”

How can I help put out the fire by being the water instead of making the fire worse by being another fire?

The other extreme is the person who doesn’t want to make the problem worse so that person just keeps the feelings to his or herself.  Instead of fighting the fire with water or fire, this person sees the fire, freaks out and drinks poison.  Holding those kinds of feelings in without resolving them is poisonous to your life socially, mentally, emotionally and inevitably physically.

A clue is found in the Alcoholics Anonymous book in the discussion of how to work Step 9.   

We go to him in a helpful and forgiving spirit, confessing our former ill feeling and expressing our regret.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 77)

Notice the words “confessing our former ill feeling”. This eludes to two things.  The first is that during the process of working the previous steps you should have dealt with these feelings and second that the feelings need to be discussed with the person directly.  But, notice the attitude that you are supposed to have when this is confronted: 

  1. Helpful
  2. Forgiving
  3. Regretful (that you had such feelings towards this person)

This feeling also is tied to selfishness and self-centeredness.  It is often an attempt to avoid confrontation.  This is really a fear of confrontation.  In describing fear, the Alcoholics Anonymous book states: 

This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 67)

Looking at both of these extremes and considering all of various levels of this in between the solution seems to be rooted in one common idea.  Learning how to look for ways to be helpful to the other person when they seem crazy instead of acting out or holding in “ill feeling.”  If the root of our troubles is selfishness and self-centeredness (even if disguised as self protection) then would being of honest help to others who seem to be hurting (“going crazy” for some reason) be at least part of the solution. 

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

Remember when you feel one of those feelings, before you decide how to respond to the person or people who caused those feelings: 

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 pg. 67)

Making it through the Tough Times

From – Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

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

To set the stage for today’s entry, I will simply say that I am going through a bad time in my life with a few deaths in my family and friends, some seriously ill family members, my wife and child are both sick, and I have a feeling of just too much going on and I began to sink into a depression. 

Then I thought about what I would tell others in such situations. 

First, all people suffer from periods of  “excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions” at times, but for us who have in the past alleviated such feelings through some form of artificial “escape from reality” these things can often be exaggerated.  Our emotions can be at times an overreaction.  What I am trying to say is that if a stress in our life would normally get 2 units of anger or worry, we experience 10 units of anger or worry and then respond at that level of desperation. 

That all sounds great, but what should one do?  One of the greatest gifts the founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous® gave us, is FELLOWSHIP.  The popular term to describe such fellowships is “support groups”  There are people within the groups we attend and the circle of those in recovery that are strong and wise that can be of great assistance in the hard times.  The key is that we need to have a deeper more personal relationship with them than simply the sharing we do at meetings and an occasional discussion at the coffee pot.  Simple talks with some friends (preferably those who are wiser and working good programs) in recovery can sometimes be a great help in the hard times.

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)

Intensive work with others in recovery does many things which are of great assistance to each of us in recovery.  One of the keys is the idea of going back to the basics of our own steps and our own program.  The old saying spoken by “old-timers” throughout the world  states:  “You gotta give it away to keep it!”  This is so true.

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

This is one of the most important things we can do and in reality the first thing to do:  Stop, talk to God, and look and listen for some kind of answer.  The “Big Book” states on page 62 that selfishness and selfishness are the roots of all of our problems.   The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book tells us on page 70 that the goal of every step in the program is to gain humility.  It goes on to say, that not only is the gaining of this humility a must for sobriety, but:  “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.”    Key word is happy.

A simple look at this from the bible (the book early A.A.’s used before there was a “Big Book”):

“…GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”  (James 4:6b NASB)

In other words the same pride described in the “Big Book” as “selfishness, Self-centeredness!” is the key to finding yourself in direct opposition to God.  This passage also states that humility is the key to closeness to God.  “I am no longer running the show, God let your will be done” is our mantra.  With this closeness to God our joy and peace are gifts from Him along with the self-control that will keep us sober.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…  (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB)

This praying, seeking others that can listen and mentor me in these tough times, and continued work with others are what keep me standing and sober in these periods where emotions threaten to overtake me.  I am far enough in my recovery where the idea of craving seems a thing of the distant past and I do not have any urge to use at all, but the reality is that much stronger people than me have relapsed.  I need to focus on these things when any troubles or discomforts arise.  If I were to wait until I felt a deep craving or realize that I have been having cravings it may be way too late.

Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.   (Alcoholics Anonymous® pgs 87-88) 

This has been carrying me through the day and I hope this will be of assistance to all who read this….

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God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.  (Alcoholics Anonymous® pgs 164)