The Illusion and the Bull-Droppings

The Illusion and the Bull-Droppings

Spanish Fighting Bull II by Alexander Fiske-Ha...
Spanish Fighting Bull II by Alexander Fiske-Harrison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics. This is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.

We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking. We know that no real alcoholic ever recovers control.  All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals – usually brief – were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)

 

I have been pondering this idea for a couple of weeks in the midst of several encounters with people struggling with alcohol/drug challenges who insist that the alcohol/drugs are not the problem.

Many of these encounters were conversations I was not directly involved in, but were taking place in a way that I was allowed to observe or I simply was not noticed.

As I watched these conversations I kept thinking to myself:  “If it is such a small thing to you, that you can take it or leave it, why don’t you just stop, just in case you are wrong?”

Then the word “delusion” from the preceding passage had new meaning to me that a definition cannot truly capture.

The cases I was observing were extreme cases where extreme cases where there were things like physical problems associated with excessive alcohol/drug use, history of excessive problems like arrest, violence, public and family embarrassment, spouse and family distress and complaining and on and on.

All of the people I witnessed had some level of functionality and thought they were managing their use.  I suppose in terms of the clinical idea of “harm reduction” these people are not nearly as bad off as they could be and their ideas of “managing” their alcohol/drug use have yielded some change in their amount of use.

The challenge I was noticing with these particular situations is that there were other people who had both past and more importantly present problems related to alcohol/drug use.

This is not always a perfect measure of ones using as the people around us as alcoholics/addicts could just be messed-up too and as such be just vomiting their crazy on us as we try to get better, but as I listened to these particular situations, I had to say that the basic points the friends and family in each situation were making sounded like valid concerns.  The problems they mentioned sounded like valid and immediate problems.

Then I remembered a couple of concepts that I was told in my recovery that I found to be key:

“I am not the right person to determine how good or bad my using is or my recovery is going”

“One of the first indicators that I am getting out of control or that I am out of control is that my using begins to bother others around me.”

“The self-diagnosis that I have it all under control is a part of the sickness of being an alcoholic/addict.”

“Lying to myself and others is a major part of the sickness and one of the biggest obstacles to recovering.”

These key concepts as a backdrop change the way I would have the same conversations if I was the person who was using.  If my relatives, friends, spouse, children, parents, etc. say that my drinking is starting to concern them, I have to assume that that is true, because I HAVE PROVEN THAT I AM NOT CAPABLE OF JUDGING IF I AM MANAGING ALCOHOL/DRUG USE MYSELF (one of the reasons I simply don’t use at all and plan to never drink alcohol or use drugs again).  I would be forced to respond as if it is a proven fact and stop, assuming that my drinking/using is at least a major part of the problem(s) if not the source all together.

This brings me back to a story I have used a few times here in different posts that I think has to be considered in this conversation:

Our behavior is as absurd and incomprehensible with respect to the first drink as that of an individual with a passion, say, for jay-walking. He gets a thrill out of skipping in front of fast-moving vehicles. He enjoys himself for a few years in spite of friendly warnings. Up to this point you would label him as a foolish chap having queer ideas of fun. Luck then deserts him and he is slightly injured several times in succession. You would expect him, if he were normal, to cut it out. Presently he is hit again and this time has a fractured skull. Within a week after leaving the hospital a fast-moving trolley car breaks his arm. He tells you he has decided to stop jay-walking for good, but in a few weeks he breaks both legs.

On through the years this conduct continues, accompanied by his continual promises to be careful or to keep off the streets altogether. Finally, he can no longer work, his wife gets a divorce and he is held up to ridicule. He tries every known means to get the jay-walking idea out of his head. He shuts himself up in an asylum, hoping to mend his ways. But the day he comes out he races in front of a fire engine, which breaks his back. Such a man would be crazy, wouldn’t he?

You may think our illustration is too ridiculous. But is it? We, who have been through the wringer, have to admit if we substituted alcoholism for jay-walking, the illustration would fit us exactly. However intelligent we may have been in other respects, where alcohol has been involved, we have been strangely insane. It’s strong language – but isn’t it true?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 37 – 38)

As I listened to these various conversations, I had to ask myself a huge question:  “At what point does a person have to face the fact that their efforts at managing alcohol/drug use are failing and look at stopping altogether?”

When each person I listened to was planning their efforts at managing alcohol/drug use their mind allowed them “set the bar” at “As long as annihilation of my entire world has not happened ALREADY, I am doing a good job of managing.”

The conversations I overheard involved ideas such as divorce, death and other terrible occurrences in a way that sounded imminent.  The persons in question seemed to feel that as long as they could make some kind of argument that either shut the worried person(s) up or that made some other problem seem like a bigger problem alcoholism/using can be taken off of the table completely.

To be completely honest, the best way I can describe the conversations I was hearing is to LOOSELY quote an old saying that many of us have heard:

“IF YOU CAN’T DAZZLE THEM WITH BRILLIANCE, BAFFLE THEM WITH BULL-DROPPINGS!”  

The conversations sounded like one person grasping at every straw imaginable, and using every trick in the book to avoid one possible conclusion at all costs.  That conclusion is the one that says:  “My alcohol/drug use is a part of and possibly the source of this problem.”

I have come up with a new concept that may be a general rule for all of us:

If you have to argue, discuss, debate or otherwise convince others that your drinking/using is not a problem then it most likely is a very serious problem!

I believe there are people who are not as advanced as I was who can moderate or stop drinking/using with a little guidance, but I also believe there are those of us so far advanced that there is no longer a safe amount of alcohol/drugs we can use ever.  Those of us in the second category seem to often believe ourselves to be in the first category and this is what is known as “The Great Obsession”.

Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)

If you are not sure where you stand and others are concerned, I would advise assuming the worst and seeking treatment that will help you learn to stop using alcohol/drugs all together.  It would seem considerably better for a few people who could have moderated to stop completely then for several people who might have been saved to absolutely destroy their own lives and possibly even die thinking they are “moderating”.

 

Stay sober my friends,

 

Wade H.

Facing Humility

Facing Humility

AA Big Book
AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was interested and conceded that he had some of the symptoms, but he was a long way from admitting that he could do nothing about it himself. He was positive that this humiliating experience, plus the knowledge he had acquired, would keep him sober the rest of his life. Self-knowledge would fix it.

We heard no more of Fred for a while. One day we were told that he was back in the hospital. This time he was quite shaky. He soon indicated he was anxious to see us. The story he told is most instructive, for here was a chap absolutely convinced he had to stop drinking, who had no excuse for drinking, who exhibited splendid judgment and determination in all his other concerns, yet was flat on his back nevertheless.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 40)

This passage from the Big Book demonstrates one of the more serious and more common problems in recovery.  Sobriety time grows into confidence, overconfidence, and then to outright pride.  This pride is what set this man up for a massive relapse and can be what sets all of us up for a massive relapse.

Staring at the basic root we have to go back to the root problem:

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

If you have read my blog before you have probably run across this concept at least once and it seems to be at the root of most (if not all) of our alcohol/drug related problems to some degree.  In this case it is clear the role that self-focus plays.

What I want to focus on in this article is not self-focus but overcoming it.

The focus on himself and belief in his ability to stay sober because he had learned a bunch of recovery stuff is in fact what set him up so perfectly to fail so miserably.

Before moving on, let me state one fact:  INFORMATION WILL NOT KEEP YOU SOBER!  Information, in and of itself will not keep you sober although it is where a lot of recovery does start.  If the information is not used to cause major change in your life you are simply the same person with more information and can expect the same results except for more guilt.

Back to where I was going:  This man fell into the pit of pride and woke up at the bottom.  Having various struggles in recovery is part of the process of recovery.  For most I hope they are not this serious, but all people in recovery are going to have struggles.

It is not the absence of struggles that demonstrates that you are getting stronger in your recovery; it is the growing ability to face and overcome the struggles that come up.

There are many things a person has to do to grow their ability to face and overcome struggles, but the most basic root solution begins with humbly being honest.  Being brutally honest and then taking drastic action!

In this man’s case the action may not look that drastic when reading the story, but the most drastic action he took was admitting he was beaten (the powerless concept) and going back to the people who knew it best and told him what would happen.

They had said that though I did raise a defense, it would one day give way before some trivial reason for having a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, for what I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all. I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow.

“Two of the members of Alcoholics Anonymous came to see me. They grinned, which I didn’t like so much, and then asked me if I thought myself alcoholic and if I were really licked this time. I had to concede both propositions. They piled on me heaps of evidence to the effect that an alcoholic mentality, such as I had exhibited in Washington, was a hopeless condition. They cited cases out of their own experience by the dozen. This process snuffed out the last flicker of conviction that I could do the job myself.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 42)

In the most extreme cases, a person who has been working recovery relapses like this man and is way too embarrassed or way to prideful to go back and face the people who had been helping him or her.   It also may mean facing people that looked up to him or her for how well he/she was doing in recovery and letting them know that you are not invincible.

This humble “facing the music” is not an option amongst other options, this humble return is the only option.

The opposite of the selfishness and self-centeredness is humility.  Any time you are struggling in recovery, start with humility.  You have to overcome the idea that some self-serving concept or action will help the situation and run towards humility at all costs.  Protecting yourself from things you are uncomfortable with or that you fear is not recovery, it is choosing to remain in the bondage.

The rule is we must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 74)

Self-protection and fear are not a part of the recovery they are obstacles to recovery.  The man in the story faced it and grew from it.  That is one of the most key points to the whole story.  This has to not only be something you do, this has to become a way of life in recovery.  This is a lifestyle of humility which is the opposite of a lifestyle of self-focus.  Does it seem like being really hard on yourself?  Absolutely!  That is why it is something we have to learn and not just something we all magically start doing.

We all need to develop the anxiousness to see those who will honestly help us move forward when it is the hardest to do so.

Remember this key idea:  YOU HAVE TO FACE IT TO START TO BE FREE OF IT!!!

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

In Recovery Remember “MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!”

In Recovery Remember “MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!”

Last Touches on the Mussle
 (Photo credit: goodnight_photography)

Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin. (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 162 – 163)

You may be just one man or one woman with this book, but that is at least enough to begin.  The reason that is the case is because all things Twelve Step have their beginnings in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.

It will probably require the help of others who know what is in the book to really get beyond just beginning.

The key to all of this is the Alcoholics Anonymous book.  The writers of the book intended it to have all the information needed to do whatever it took for them to get the miracle of recovery that was supposed to be impossible for them.

Those of us who live in large cities are overcome by the reflection that close by hundreds are dropping into oblivion every day. Many could recover if they had the opportunity we have enjoyed. How then shall we present that which has been so freely given us?

We have concluded to publish an anonymous volume setting forth the problem as we see it. We shall bring to the task our combined experience and knowledge. This should suggest a useful program for anyone concerned with a drinking problem.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 19)

To show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW WE HAVE RECOVERED is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.  (Alcoholics Anonymous – Forward to the First Edition)

Let me get take a slight detour then get to the real point here:

One of the biggest problems that these writers thought we have is the need to have things our own way.

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)

People who are at the worst level of alcoholism/addiction like to do things their own way in spite of what others around them tell them to do.  That is one of the major aspects of our sickness.  We do crazy stuff that causes all sorts of problems simply because we want to and in spite of what anybody says, proves and even in spite of past terrible results.

This brings us to why there was the need for a book in the first place.  There was a need for a standard of information that showed the course for recovery instead of letting people just do whatever they thought would work.  Most people who are starting recovery have already tried a few of their own ideas and failed miserably and that is exactly why he or she is in recovery to begin with.

Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums – we could increase the list ad infinitum.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 31)

I mention this to clarify the idea that recovery is strongly based on not doing what we want to do or what we think is right but that it hinges on being so desperate to get better that we are willing to do things that we absolutely do not want to do or that we find terribly uncomfortable.

Keeping all of that in mind; I finally get to my point.  People in recovery are by nature drawn to cutting corners and doing things incorrectly to keep themselves from being uncomfortable.

If we go through recovery just listening to this person’s and that person’s ideas and concepts of recovery we each will find what we believe is the best way by picking the parts of what each person tells us that we are each most comfortable with.  In other words we will use the commentary of others in recovery to search out our own ways to cut corners and do things incorrectly to keep ourselves comfortable.

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)

The fact that people in recovery are usually looking for “easier” ways is not the exception to the rule, it is the rule and must be the rule for getting recovery advice from other individuals.

The only concept that could be used to combat such a universal problem is to come up with a standard of information that could be used both guide a person through recovery and to judge if the information one is getting in recovery is correct or not.  There has to be a standard of information that is both the source and measure of all related information.

That is precisely why the alcoholics book was written and why it is a must for all persons pursuing Twelve Step recovery of any kind.

I am regularly astonished by the number of people who I encounter who are either brought to my attention as experts or are self-proclaimed experts that know very little about what is in the Alcoholics Anonymous book.

Many A.A. meetings I have been to have been have been filled with people who are either empty handed or who have brand new, pristine copies of the Alcoholics Anonymous book on their lap (which means they own it, but have never read it).

Often there are one or two people with well worn books who are sitting in these same rooms shaking their heads or rolling their eyes at some of the things people are saying, but politely trying to be supportive of whoever because at least he or she is there and trying.

All of us need to stop it and get back to whatever the standard is supposed to be.  Owning an Alcoholics Anonymous book is not enough; we need to read it and learn it (and pass what is in it on to others).   We cannot grow in environments where everyone is creating his or her own “softer, easier way” of recovery and expect anything but foolishness.

Let me share a word of warning before you go on however.  IN THE LAND OF THE INSANE THE SANE PERSON LOOKS LIKE THE IDIOT!!!!

If you begin to learn what the Alcoholics Anonymous book actually says recovery is, do not suddenly become this angry crusader for truth yelling out page numbers over speakers at meetings.  The truth is that many you encounter will not want anything to do with what you have to say simply because it challenges the softer easier path they are on no matter how nice or how rudely you express it to them.

Just share the facts and those who truly are desperate to follow the path that is actually laid out will seek more and will get what they are supposed to be getting.  Those that do not care to hear it may be on the path to failure.  The bottom line is it is either the Twelve Steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book or it is not.  Doing whatever you want because it is comfortable to you is not.

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 58)

Many of us live by the rule “It’s my way or the highway” which means things either go the way I want or something is wrong and has to go.  I am proposing almost the dead opposite.  Just think of this small statement as the bottom line:  MY WAY IS THE GET HIGH WAY!!!

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

The Insanely Insufficient New Year’s Excuse

The Insanely Insufficient New Year’s Excuse

New Year's Eve
New Year’s Eve (Photo credit: volantwish)

Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as ever. If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.  (Alcoholics anonymous pg. 33)

Here we are, it’s almost New Years Eve.  If you are reading this, you have survived the Mayan calendar end of the world, Y2K, the 1999 end of the world, the cold war and if you are in the United States you might be bracing yourself t go over a “fiscal cliff”, yet you are a survivor.

If you are recovering from alcohol or drug use however, you need to know that these things are not your biggest concern.  Your end of the world can be summed up in seven letters:  R-E-L-A-P-S-E.

As the world prepares for the new beginning that is signified in a new year one of the biggest dangers to people in recovery looms on the horizon:  New Year’s Eve.

That night in many places is a time of celebration that is unmatched throughout the rest of the year.  For many of us in recovery, that same night might contain danger that is unmatched throughout the year.  How many people in my life (some well meaning, some for some evil reason and some just not caring or paying attention) have tried to offer me alcohol and drugs on New Year’s Eve?  Some have gone so far as to apply peer pressure and the power of public humiliation to attempt to nudge me into the direction of relapse and inevitable self-destruction.

Conversations about why this or that substance or this time doesn’t count. Why champagne does not count or why New Year’s Eve is somehow a magic time where using will not affect my recovery.  Why the New Year’s Eve celebration is somehow a safe environment to use and on and on.

Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing. Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)

There is no safe reason for or safe place for a person in recovery to use.  ANY USE AT ALL IS A RELAPSE NO MATTER WHERE OR WHEN IT IS.  YOU ARE EITHER SOBER OR NOT!  Any hiding place you find that you think makes it safe for you to use is only a hiding place from reality.  Any magic formula you find to use safely is only a formula for foolishness.

But even in this type of beginning we are obliged to admit that our justification for a spree was insanely insufficient in the light of what always happened. We now see that when we began to drink deliberately, instead of casually, there was little serious or effective thought during the period of premeditation of what the terrific consequences might be.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37)

Any reason for using (even on New Year’s Day) is “insanely insufficient” in light of the reasons you are in recovery in the first place.  There is no magic minute, hour, day, place or group of people that makes it safe for an alcoholic/addict to use again once in recovery.

Every use in the life of a person in advanced alcoholism/addiction comes with the probability of unleashing a tornado of chaos in the lives of every person who’s life has any contact with the person (including that person himself/herself) that may end with the absolute annihilation of any environment this person comes into contact with.  RELAPSE IS OUR END OF THE WORLD.

Once a person is in recovery, that person is on a path that is founded on two basic thoughts:

  1. Using intoxicating substances is absolutely destructive to my life and the lives of those around me.
  2. I must stop using intoxicating substances at all costs to be free.

Any reason you have for using or for feeling it is safe to use is an “insanely trivial excuse” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37).

No matter what you hear, where you are at, what everyone else is doing, how miserable or happy you may be at the time:

The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 30)

There may be champagne drinking, drug using people who appear just fine by the next day and seem to move on with life.  That I of no matter to those of us in recovery simply because:  WE ARE NOT THEM!

There have been people who have jumped off of bridges and lived, should I go and do it too and expect to be fine.  There have been people that have been shot in the head and lived, should I shoot myself in the head.

The question is not if other people can or cannot use safely.  The question for those of us in recovery is if I have accepted that I can never use alcohol/drugs safely.

If you have not fully accepted this then New Year’s parties are among the worst places on earth for you to be.  If you have accepted this then keep in mind that New Year’s parties are still one of the most dangerous places on earth for you to be.  Even in these cases you may find temptation so great that you have to excuse yourself, make your way to an exit and run for dear life as fast as you can.

If these facts bother you (as it does most of us at some point) look at these words from founding member Dr. Bob had to say about those feelings:

I used to get terribly upset when I saw my friends drink and knew I could not, but I schooled myself to believe that though I once had the same privilege, I had abused it so frightfully that it was withdrawn. So it doesn’t behoove me to squawk about it for, after all, nobody ever had to throw me down and pour liquor down my throat.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 181 – Dr. Bob’s Nightmare)

No matter what we were like before or how well others seem to handle it, we can never safely use again period.  Any of us who do not completely get this must not risk such events or gatherings.  It would be far better to spend New Year’s Eve with others in recovery and around strong support to carry us through this challenge.

If you have accepted this, it is still important to have people in place wherever you are that know if you are struggling and are strong enough to stop you if you begin to walk down the road to the stupidity of relapse.

One important point to remember also is that no matter if you decide it is safe to go out on New Year’s Eve or not, you must be willing to be a support for others in recovery also:

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)

Sober Christmas, Sober Holidays, and Sober New Year’s…

Stay Sober My Friends…

 

Wade H.

The Christmas Promises

The Christmas Promises

Christmas gifts.
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Those who have been to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or have a Twelve Step Background will know this passage to be a passage from what are called the Promises.  Those things that are the awesome goals that are described as what life looks like when you have worked your recovery properly (through the Ninth Step into Steps Ten, Eleven and Twelve).

This passage is very important to consider during this time of year.  For much of the world, including the United States, we have begun counting down the days until Christmas.  By that I mean that many of us are counting down the minutes until that special moment when your friends and loved ones get together and give you free stuff.  There are other wonderful aspects to th holiday season and especially Christmas, but for many of us the gift receiving is most enjoyable part.

I know that, a bunch of people who are absolutely thinking like I just described are telling themselves right now that this dos not describe them.  Telling themselves “Thank God I’m not one of those people.”

Before you get yourself too far down that road, ask yourself this and ponder it honestly:  If for no apparent reason, nobody got me anything this Christmas or even really paid me much attention, how would I feel.

Would you not notice at all?

Would you notice and be thankful for the opportunity to focus on others without the distraction of them noticing you?

Would you think of how great it is that everyone is focusing on more important things finally?

or would you:

Be angry and bitter?

Be frustrated that here comes another Christmas and nobody is thinking of you again?

Think that the reason you are not getting gifts is because you didn’t get them nice enough gifts and plan how to get them better gifts?

Feel a tremendous amount of self pity, because you messed up so bad that they don’t even give you gifts?

If you would notice and feel anything like the second group of responses you might have an area that needs to be looked at.  Losing interest in selfish things and gaining interest in others.  Having your self-seeking slip away is a new attitude that is the mark of progress in your recovery.

The self seeking is at the rood of alcoholism/drug addiction:

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)

On Christmas, birthdays or other times where many people expect gifts and people to honor them are you concerned with yourself, your resentments or your self-pity.

This is a big jump for a lot of people, but what would it be like for you on Christmas to truly not want anything from others and to be only concerned with how you can help or bring joy to all that you encounter.

Many of us have an incredibly hard time imagining that to be freedom and imagine that kind of thinking to be the thinking of someone who is all messed up.  While mentally measuring the people around you by what they give you on a specific day or days of the year makes perfectly good sense to you.

I know there are those out there who try to manipulate others to show emotion towards them by giving people big gifts etc. and that is not what I am talking about.  If a person does that then the gift they are looking for is the emotional response and that is a whole other sickness in and of itself.  That sickness is disguised by calling the expected gift “appreciation.”

I am talking about truly not expecting anything in return.

On the news, I have been hearing stories of people who anonymously pay off thousands of dollars of layaway items for others in stores.  There are people who could not afford to buy something, so they put it on a payment plan at the store.  Then some unnamed person goes in and pays for what they owe and they get the item for free and don’t even know who to thank.  The person who paid off the item truly expected nothing in return.  I know that because none of the people that had their items paid for can even give anything to this person du to th fact that they do not know who the person is.

This is a person who has a true interest in their fellows and has lost interest in selfish things.

There are these sorts of individuals on the planet and if you are in recovery, becoming one of these individuals is a art of what you should look like in the end.  I am not saying to run out and fake it right now or to get all emotionally excited because you just read this and run out to some store and buy people stuff.

I’m asking each of us to take an honest look at where we are at relative to this goal and to diligently work towards honestly being that kind of person.

If faking it for now is the best you can do on the way to becoming that person,  then by all means, get to it.  If working Steps harder throughout the holiday season is the path for you, get to that.  If reflective thought with your sponsor, counselor or group is the best you can do this year, then let get to that.

The key is not that you have to be perfectly unselfish by tomorrow morning.  The key is that this is the goal and you always measure your progress by your distance from the goal not by how good you feel or how good other people think you are.

If you really are not even beginning to get over selfishness, A GOOD PLACE TO START, is to find someone else in recovery to invest your time in over the holiday instead of what you usually do.  It may be just you and that person, there may be other sponsors/people in recovery or whatever, but focus on helping another person instead of what you can get.  Forget what stuff you can get or how much attention you can get and focus on what you can do for someone who probably won’t give you anything in return.

This concept is not only good for shooting towards those promises that say you will feel better than you ever have felt before.  This concept is a key one to staying sober:

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

To be helpful is our only aim.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

If you are still looking for something you can take from the holidays, then I have the most awesome gift for you:  Growth in your recovery!  We can drink, smoke, snort or inject away all of the other gifts we get, but growth in each of our own recoveries is priceless.

Be useful this holiday season and the feeling of uselessness will truly disappear.  The more you do things for others without expecting anything in return, the more self-seeking will slip away.  The more you find joy in what you give and less in what you get the less you will have to feel self pity about.  This is the change of our whole attitude and outlook on life that we are shooting for.

Focus on this passage as the promises for future holidays including Christmas:

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

Happiest of holidays in ne freedom and stay sober my friends…

Wade H.

Holiday Gatherings: Explain or Avoid

Holiday Gatherings:  Explain or Avoid

Why sit with a

Jazz band playing at New Years Day party, New ...
Jazz band playing at New Years Day party, New Orleans. Shown are Clive Wilson, trumpet; Tommy Sancton, clarinet; Seva Venet, guitar, and Lawrence Batiste, drum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

long face in places where there is drinking,

sighing about the good old days. If it is a happy occasion, try to increase the pleasure of those there; if a business occasion, go and attend to your business enthusiastically. If you are with a person who wants to eat in a bar, by all means go along. Let your friends know they are not to change their habits on your account. At a proper time and place explain to all your friends why alcohol disagrees with you. If you do this thoroughly, few people will ask you to drink.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 102)

This passage demonstrates an important point that we all need to keep in mind during the holiday season, all the way from Thanksgiving in the United States, to Hanukkah, Kwanza and so on all the way through New Years Day.  This concept is that we need to be open and truthful about our condition to others and to ourselves.

This passage applies to being around alcohol (assuming you are far enough along that you can be around it for periods of time without issue) and does not apply that the crack addict should spend Christmas at the local crack house, with a group of celebrating (yet nodding off) heroin addicts, or at a bar full of strangers trying to fight off the urge to relapse.

If there is a family gathering and a few people having a few glasses of wine with dinner, you may be able to handle the situation with the proper precautions in place.  On the other hand, if ten minutes into the gathering everyone breaks out the one hundred and ninety-five proof moonshine and begin passing the crack pipes it may not be a good idea to visit.  If you feel you need to go then a ten minute visit may be all you can do.

Either way, openness and honesty are a must!  Not only in terms of appropriately telling the friends, family and others you will be with.  This means being open and honest enough to ensure that a couple of people that will be in attendance are enlisted to watch you and make sure you do not use.

If you are of the impression that feeling like you wont use or that having been abstinent for some amount of time guarantees you will remain abstinent, you might not be ready for these kinds of gatherings.   If you think you will be safe if you use just a little bit and stop:  PLEASE DO NOT GO, YOU ARE IN GRAVE DANGER IF YOU DO.

The bottom line is that you are either abstaining or not, you are either sober or not, you are either in recovery or not.  If you are planning to drink or use some other possibly intoxicating substance you have simply planned your relapsed and somehow convinced yourself that doing the same thing you and others have done before which ended in misery will somehow end differently this time.

Think of yourself as a person making the decision on holiday gatherings like a person who cannot swim being invited on a small boat.  It is dangerous, but can be managed.

  • If the person is sensible, wears a life-jacket, and makes sure there are others aboard the boat that can swim well enough to save him/her and are informed of the fact he/she cannot swim, it should be okay.
  • If this person not only cannot swim, but keeps jumping in the water when nobody is looking to the point of having almost drowned several times before, then the boat trip is probably an incredibly horrible idea.  Especially if the person says that he/she plans on jumping in for a swim again this trip:  “but, only a little one.”
  • If the person goes on the trip, but nobody on the boat knows that he/she cannot swim then why would anyone think it important that this person is not wearing a life-jacket and is sitting on the rails at the back of the boat?
  • If the person is invited aboard small boat in incredibly rough waters where everyone must work on the deck through the storm, it is probably too dangerous for a person who cannot swim and will probably cause more problems for everyone else by being there.

I’m sure many of us get the symbolism here, but for those who don’t.  The sensible person is the person who let’s everyone know and takes precautions like staying away from drinking games, beer runs etc.

The person who will keep telling himself/herself that it will be okay to swim when nobody’s looking even though it is ridiculous in light of past experiences is the person who feels the same way about using just a little.  That person is an unnecessary risk just by thinking about drinking or using, much less by being around it.

The person who goes on the boat, yet tells nobody and doesn’t use a life-jacket is the person who goes to gatherings, but is afraid or uncomfortable telling anyone about his/her alcoholism/addiction.  That person puts himself/herself in undue risk that could be easily eliminated by just being open to others and really to himself/herself.

The people inviting the person who cannot swim to a small boat in incredibly dangerous waters are like the friends and family that use and abuse alcohol/drugs that are inviting you to party with them.  That kind of gathering is the kind of gathering that should probably be avoided at all costs.  There is way too much at risk and way to little to gain to make the whole thing worth while.  If you have to go to this boat stay on the shore and see them off.  In other words say your hello’s and then when the alcohol, pipes and needles come out say your goodbye’s.

The bottom line is that it is possible to go to gatherings if you are far enough into your recovery, if you take the right precautions and if you are open and honest with others and yourself.

To truly know if you are ready for this in any particular situation you will need to consult your sponsor, your, counselor or clinician, members of your recovery support community, your friends and family etc.  But, do not just trust your own judgment as our own judgment as alcoholics/addicts has show the possibility of breaking down (or just not working at all in some cases).

So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has had experience with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting Providence, but it isn’t.

You will note that we made an important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, “Have I any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places?” If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away, whichever seems best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 101 – 102)

An important final note from this passage:  If you are in recovery or were at some point in your life an alcoholic/addict then you cannot afford to go to a gathering to just think of having fun, because this is not really the proper venue for your fun.  Don’t get me wrong there will be fun at such an event for you, but a part of the focus has to be how you can be helpful to others.

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

Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

Don’t only look at what you can take out the gathering but also focus on what you can contribute to the lives there and how that can best be done.  The counterintuitive part is that if you do this (once you get used to it) you will, in most cases actually find the gatherings more enjoyable.  More important, you will be more likely to keep your sobriety intact.

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

Treated as an Alcoholic/Addict or Weirdo During the Holidays

Treated as an Alcoholic/Addict or Weirdo During the Holidays

In time they will see that he is a new man and in their own way they will let him know it.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 134)

Baretta

With the holidays whizzing by us at a pace that is too much for many of us to handle, that statement is one that every one of us who has ever used alcohol or drugs must keep in the front of our minds.  In time, our loved ones (and some not so loved ones) will finally understand that we are new people.  In time those around you will believe that you are a completely different person than you were when you were using.  That is, if in fact you have actually been changed through recovery, which is clearly implied as the objective in this passage.

I find that the words that need to be keyed in on the most in this passage are the words “in time.”  The implied fact being that it will take some time and will not be immediate because you tell those closest to you that you did some recovery things and now think you are all better.

The flip side of that statement is the idea that there will be a period of time (possibly a long one) where the people around you will not believe that you are a new person and will treat you in a way that you will have to be reminded that “in time” they will see you as a new person and act differently.

Guess what that means for gatherings of family and friends.  That means they may treat as the most jacked up person in the room because of your past or because of what they think your past means.

As each member of a resentful family begins to see his shortcomings and admits them to the others, he lays a basis for helpful discussion.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 127)

Notice that the passage does not say:  “As each member of a resentful family tells other members to admit their shortcomings.  The passage speaks of “each member” admitting his/her own difficulties to the others.  Each person is responsible to admit his/her own difficulties regardless of what the other people are doing in the hopes that sooner or later a conversation will occur that has no criticism or resentment but is actually constructive to everyone involved.  This could mean years of gatherings and talks before it is helpful at that level.

There was a saying when I was a child (I believe it came from the television show Baretta’s theme song):  “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”  That I believe to be a fitting statement for this topic.

The crime is becoming an alcoholic/addict and the time is the seemingly insane amount of effort it takes to be free of this seemingly inescapable bondage.  That makes the saying:  Don’t become an alcoholic/addict if you cannot handle the insane amount of effort and discomfort it takes to later get free.

I know that may be a little on the harsh side and that those of us who are already alcoholics/addicts reading this get that now, but it still has to be stated.  In talking to the proverbial “man of the house” alcoholic in the Alcoholics Anonymous book this idea is stated:

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.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 127)

The “head of the house” here did the crime so he has to do the time, however much it is because no amount of time is enough and any amount of time is being let off easy.

I you are treated as an alcoholic/addict or weirdo during the holidays, whose fault is that really?  Is it the fault of the people who think you are an alcoholic/addict or is it the fact that you have been the alcoholic/addict they suspect you still are?

Such it is with all of our loved ones.  Is it possible that we may find some or all of those closest to us seemingly unfairly looking down on us or otherwise treating us badly.  ABSOLUTELY!  Is it our responsibility to desperately try (for however long it takes) to clean up what we did either directly or indirectly to them:

Yes, there is a long period of reconstruction ahead. We must take the lead. A remorseful mumbling that we are sorry won’t fill the bill at all. We ought to sit down with the family and frankly analyze the past as we now see it, being very careful not to criticize them. Their defects may be glaring, but the chances are that our own actions are partly responsible.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 83)

We focus of what it takes for us to get better and not on what it will take to make them stop doing this or that.  We are to focus on undoing what we did to them and on what is wrong with ourselves.  That probably means, lots of uncomfortable, family gatherings, conversations and interactions, but that is a part of the price we pay for freedom.

Some of us have family and loved ones that can already accept that we are completely different.  How awesome that is and we need to continue changing so as not to dash those hopes and make it considerably harder for them to trust change in us later.

Those of us who have family and loved ones that have yet to accept you as completely changed, start with the BIG question first:  AM I REALLY A COMPLETELY CHANGED PERSON OR AM I JUST THE SAME PERSON TRYING TO BE ABSTINENT?  Because, if you are the same, it is insanity to expect people to see you as different!  The same person, thinking in the same way will sooner or later do the same things.

If you are convinced that you are a totally different person on a completely different footing then the fact that others do not believe it is actually part of the process of continuing to change.  It is a matter of time.  Time in which you sustain this change to the point that those around you can actually and honestly say, that the old you is completely gone and clearly will never return.  If you used heavily, that might be a bit of time because of what those around you saw from you.  If you even consider the concept of a person being an alcoholic or addict, then you have to accept that even the words convey the idea that change is elusive and should be trusted with caution.

In case nobody has ever told you:  DO NOT TRUST EVERY PERSON WHO IS AN ALCOHOLIC/ADDICT WHO SAYS THEY HAVE BEEN THROUGH RECOVERY AND ARE COMPLETELY CHANGED.  The proof is in the test of time.

It is also true of each one of us.  So, if your family and loved ones do not fully accept that you are a different person, do not be angry at them.  In actuality that would do more to prove their disbelief to be true.  Stand strong in knowing that you are one day closer to the day that each one of them will believe and be thankful for the opportunity to grow.

Happy Holidays and Stay Sober My Friends;

Wade H.